Inheritance Spork, Chapter Eighteen – A Toss of the Bones
The chapter starts back in Roran’s POV. One of the sentinels is yelling that one of Arough’s gates are opening.
Roran looked up from the map he was studying as one of the camp sentinels burst into the tent, red-faced and panting.
“Which gate?” Roran asked, a deadly calm settling over him. “Be precise.” He put aside the rod he had been using to measure distances.
Please for the love of all that is holy, Paolini, don’t use the word ‘rod’. Not sure whether it’s my own dirty mind being at fault here, but whenever you’re this vague about long and hard things in your character’s hands my mind goes places obviously not intended by the original prose. What’s wrong with: “He put aside the ruler.”? since a rod used to measure distances IS a ruler and – oh wait, this is Mr Purple Prose we’re talking about here, who am I kidding?
Roran then pulls his hammer out from under his belt. Excuse me? How small is this hammer? Perhaps I have not been paying proper attention at all to Roran’s POV chapters, but… I expected something like this (y’know: BIG):
Not like this:
Also, Roran’s getting pretty predictable. Faced with sudden news of childbirth? GRAB MY HAMMER AND GO. Faced with sudden news of impending danger? GRAB MY HAMMER AND GO. Wonder how many more times during this book we get to see Roran GRAB HIS HAMMER AND GO.
Roran sees a ton of cavalry riding out from the gate. His immediate thought is “OHSHIT”.
Only a hundred fifty or so of his men remained in the camp, and many were wounded and unable to fight.
Only a hundred fifty. Because I’m not quite sure about this, bear with me. Is this grammatically correct? This – to me, anyway – just sounds so Americanised. *shields face* My brain keeps wanting to put the ‘and’ in between ‘hundred’ and ‘fifty’. Needless to say, though, ‘hundred fifty’ is FAR more preferable than ‘fifty and one hundred’ (which I would not at all be surprised to see in this book).
All of Roran’s other battle-fit men are at other places looking for ways to make Roran’s EXTRA SUPER SECRET plan succeed. Wow, fail. That’s like in Starcraft sending out all your Hydralisks away from your base to scout for extra positions and then getting pwned by the enemy’s Marines before you can order your troops back to defend, save for a few Zerglings which get mowed down in an instant. I know this is slightly unfair of me and all since Roran’s never had the chance to play StarCraft (and I’ve never been in an actual war) but geez; if you know Aroughs can see you, and you need to send away the majority of your forces for recon, why not come up with some other defensive tactic in the meantime?
When he sent the men on their missions, Roran had been aware that he was leaving the camp vulnerable to a counterattack. However, he had hoped that the city folk would be too cowed by the recent assaults on their walls to attempt anything so daring—and that the warriors he had kept with him would be sufficient to convince any distant observers that the main body of his force was still stationed among the tents.
Oh, that’s why. Roran ‘hoped’. Haha, why is he the leader again?
Whether the defenders of Aroughs were aware of his ruse, he was not entirely sure, but he thought it likely, given the rather limited number of horsemen gathering in front of the city.
Limited? Previously the force of cavalry was mentioned to be ‘several hundred’ in number. That’s a whole lotta horses and men.
Roran is then joined by Baldor, Carn and Brigman. That’s Roran’s underling, the magician, and the asshole – for those who can’t be bothered remembering characters who don’t matter all that much.
Brigman insists they retreat. Roran says that they wouldn’t be able to outrun the cavalry and they’d have to leave their wounded behind, so he’s not going to retreat. This argument continues on until Roran tells Baldor to hold Brigman at sword point and stab him if he tries anything. That’s just wonderful, Roran.
Roran has five minutes to come up with a plan. He realises pretty quickly there’s no possibility of them finding any advantage in the area. Can’t use fire, can’t use smoke. He asks Carn to conjure up an image of Saphira roaring and breathing fire. Yeah, sure that’ll convince them; having a random dragon just appear in mid-air from nowhere.
The spellcaster’s thin cheeks drained of color. He shook his head, his expression panicky. “Maybe. I don’t know, I’ve never tried before. I’d be creating an image of her from memory. It might not even look like a living creature.” He nodded toward the line of galloping horsemen. “They’d know something was wrong.”
“Ew, look at those blocky graphics. CARN, REMEMBER HARDER!”
Dude, stop screwing with your magic system. It doesn’t mean Carn would have to create her from memory at all. All he has to say in the Ancient Language is “make an exact illusion of Saphira, Eragon’s dragon” (that last bit so the Ancient Language doesn’t think Carn means Brom’s dragon) and it’ll just do it. Not sure how much magic would be needed for this so it might eventually kill Carn but surely it would look EXACTLY like the real Saphira since Carn said so in the spell. DUH.
Roran looks at the sky in hopes it’ll randomly rain. (no, really) There’s that hoping thing again.
Finally Roran has a breakthrough. He gets everyone to hide in their tents and shut up. I’m paraphrasing but that’s pretty much the gist of it. He then finds an old blanket and a log stool, runs out of the camp and calls for knucklebones, mead and his map table.
Roran sits down and can feel the vibration made by the charging horses. Carn brings all the random stuff Roran asked for and Roran then asks Carn to make the air shimmer on either side of him.
“… as it does above a fire on a cold winter’s day?”
For once, some nice imagery.
And then Roran starts playing knucklebones. Yknow, these:
Ok, I kid, I kid; I know that these ones would actually be real knucklebones and not just plastic, and certainly would not as colourful! (I remember playing with these in school)
He starts getting nervous and struggles to maintain a cool-as-a-cucumber demeanour.
What a strange way to die, he thought, and smiled grimly. Then he thought of Katrina and of their unborn child, and he took comfort in the knowledge that, should he die, his bloodline would continue. It was not immortality such as Eragon possessed, but it was an immortality of a sort, and it would have to suffice.
The cavalry finally reach him.
“Ho there, my fine fellow!” said the same man who had ordered the soldiers to halt. “Ho there, I say! Who are you to sit here this splendid morning, drinking and enjoying a merry game of chance, as if you hadn’t a care in the world? Do we not merit the courtesy of being met with drawn swords? Who are you, I say?”
Roran replies rudely and has a go at the rider for interrupting his game. The rider introduces himself as Tharos the Quick (in bed) and insists on knowing Roran’s name before he kills him. Roran looks to the company behind Tharos and recognises a magician.
“Stronghammer is my name,” he said. With a single deft movement, he gathered up the knucklebones, tossed them skyward, and caught three on his hand. “Roran Stronghammer, and Eragon Shadeslayer is my cousin. You might have heard mention of him, if not of me.”
This makes the cavalry uneasy. Theros asks how can they be sure Roran’s telling the truth. So Roran takes out his hammer from his belt again and hits the table with it. Haha this is so dirty. Theros mentions Roran’s killing spree (from Brisingr), and the death-count in the meantime has risen to three-hundred men, but Roran tells Theros that it was only (here’s this odd phrasing again) ‘a hundred ninety-three’ and that he was well guarded at the time.
Theros calls Roran modest. Roran shrugs and pretends to keep drinking the mead. Pretends because it’s apparently ‘potent dwarf brew’ and ‘could not afford to have his mind clouded’. What, so one swallow is going to get Roran tipsy?
“I fight to win, not to lose…. Let me offer you a drink, as one warrior to another,” he said, and extended the horn toward Tharos.
You fight to win, not to lose? ORLY, Roran? *shakes head*
Tharos gets off his horse and accepts the drink. Why? What’s going on? Is this meant to be political? So anyway Tharos doesn’t like the mead and admits to much preferring wine.
“ ’Tis sweet as mother’s milk to me,” Roran lied. “I drink it morning, noon, and night.”
Does anyone actually remember what breastmilk tastes like by the time they reach adulthood? I know it’s just a turn of phrase and all but… ALSO WHAT IS GOING ON?
Tharos gets back on his horse.
“My thanks for your hospitality, Roran Stronghammer,” he said, raising his voice so that his entire troop could hear. “Mayhap I will soon have the honor of entertaining you within the walls of Aroughs. If so, I promise to serve you the finest wines from my family’s estate, and perhaps with them I will be able to wean you off such barbaric milk as you have there. I think you will find our wine has much to recommend it. We let it age in oaken casks for months or sometimes even years. It would be a pity if all that work were wasted and the casks were knocked open and the wine were allowed to run out into the streets and paint them red with the blood of our grapes.”
“That would indeed be a shame,” Roran replied, “but sometimes you cannot avoid spilling a bit of wine when cleaning your table.” Holding the horn out to one side, he tipped it over and poured what little mead remained onto the grass below.
Wait, is this meant to be metaphorical?
And then Tharos snarls angrily and whirls his horse around and orders the cavalry back to Aroughs.
WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED? NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!
Roran starts to breathe normally again and notices his hands are trembling. This would be all the more effective if we’d known he’d actually been scared and worried not just slightly nervous about the whole thing and if this had not simply been discarded during the talking with Tharos and picked up again after the cavalry had left. Roran is even described as ‘amused’ when he asks Tharos about the taste of the mead! One does not get amused when one is so afraid they’re going to be killed and never see their wife again!
So all the guys pour out of their tents and crowd round, and everyone’s grinning and happy and amazed and WOOH PARTY!
In the noise, Roran asks Carn about the shimmering air and Carn’s rather proud of himself with the effort (fair enough too, given that he’d never done that before). Roran asks if Carn attacked the cavalry’s magician since he hadn’t looked so crash-hot by the time the cavalry had left.
Carn’s smile broadened. “It was his own doing. He kept trying to break the illusion he thought I had created—to pierce the veil of shimmering air so he could see what lay behind—but there was nothing to break, nothing to pierce, so he expended all his strength in vain.”
Roran lols until a sentry shouts a warning at someone approaching the camp. ‘Someone’ turns out to be one of Roran’s men, riding back from the banks of the canals.
To Roran’s annoyance, the man remained silent until he was only a few yards away, whereupon he jumped off his mount and presented himself before Roran, standing as stiff and straight as a sun-starved pine, and, in a loud voice, exclaimed, “Captain, sir!” Upon closer inspection, Roran realized that the man was actually more of a boy—that, in fact, he was the same scraggly youth who had grabbed his reins when he had first ridden into the camp. The realization did nothing to sate Roran’s frustrated curiosity, though.
“Well, what is it? I haven’t got all day.”
“Sir! Hamund sent me to tell you that we found all the barges we need and that he’s building the sleds to transport them across to the other canal.”
Barges? Barges? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING BARGES!
The boy keeps dropping ‘sir yes sir’ into the conversation and there’s a fair amount of unnecessary awkwardness about the whole thing. Finally, Roran asks the able bodied men to dig trenches around the camp just in case the cavalry do decide to attack anyway. Carn warns Roran about tiring them out before tomorrow.
“I know,” Roran replied, also in a soft tone. “But the camp needs fortifying, and it’ll help keep them from brooding. Besides, no matter how worn out they may be tomorrow, battle will give them new strength. It always does.”
THAT’S NOT HOW THE HUMAN BODY WORKS, PAOLINI.
Roran thinks more about his plan and realises that there’s too much preparation for not enough time. He starts getting worried again. Seems to me like Roran needs to do some more work to keep from ‘brooding’. Though at dusk work picks up again and the situation is looking a little better. And by complete darkness they’re done.
What? Dude, what? Why would you do that? Write about Roran being doubtful and worried the plan is going to work and kicking himself for his overconfidence IS A GOOD THING! IT IS CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Having the reader doubt alongside Roran that they are actually going to be able to take Aroughs? THAT IS ALSO A GOOD THING! It is not interesting at all if Roran is standing with his men a paragraph later ‘having completed all of the arrangements needed if they [are] to capture Aroughs before the end of the following day.’
Roran uttered a short laugh of relief, pride, and incredulousness as he gazed upon the object of their toils.
Then he congratulated the warriors around him and bade them return to their tents. “Rest now, while you can. We attack at dawn!”
And the men cheered, despite their evident exhaustion.
Readers rely on tension and intrigue to draw them into the story. Paolini created tension and intrigue with Roran’s doubt at their success, then completely wasted it when he assured readers that ‘Hey, it’s all good; Roran got the job done, ain’t he so cool?’ We don’t need assurance!