Chapter 38: A Maze Without End
So, Eragon just was a part of a “conclave of kings” where while the Varden has resolved to continue to Mordor—I mean Urubaen (sorry—just saw Return of the King with my sister last night, and it was awesome!) , they know that they’re kind of screwed. (Remember, Nasuada is gone! OH NOES!)
Eragon and the others spent the rest of the conclave discussing practicalities…
They discuss fun stuff like communication, assigning duties, rearranging sentinels, blah blah blah. Okay, fine. I can understand that they’d need to work this out. But then we have this:
By consensus they agreed to hold off announcing what had happened to Nasuada until the following day; it was better for the warriors to get what sleep they could before dawn brightened on the horizon.
A personal anecdote: This past year, a teacher at my school was arrested for a pretty bad crime. The school sent out an email right when they found out. All of my friends heard about the email, but my parents wanted the school to tell me about it the next day like the email said. So I was in the dark until the next day about what had happened. And I was annoyed that I didn’t know right when everyone else found out (although I do understand where my parents were coming from).
Fine, maybe it’ll trouble the army and they won’t get much sleep. Maybe they can’t do anything about it. But they won’t be happy if they find out that Nasuada was kidnapped and they weren’t told straightaway. After all, they’re the ones fighting for her! By telling the Varden about the crisis straightaway, Eragon could show them that he trusts them, and even if they’ll be flummoxed, at least they’ll appreciate that they knew right away.
…Oh, this book is so much fun. We can waste so much time on the first paragraph of a chapter. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure not to do that for everything.
So we have that, and then we learn that they’ve decided not to rescue Nasuada, because the only way to free her would be to seize Urubaen, and by then she would probably be dead, injured, or bound to Galbatorix in the ancient language. So they avoided the subject entirely, as if to mention it was forbidden. Okay, I concur with this logic. They’re nowhere near ready for Urubaen anyway. Nevertheless, she was a constant presence in Eragon’s thoughts. Every time he closed his eyes… he sees Murtagh and Thorn taking her away. And it makes him even more miserable. Okay, I can understand that too.
Jormundur warns Eragon that the Council of Elders might give Eragon some trouble, because he’s not as good at politics. (Wow, and Nasuada was always so great too—Werecat: “We will be free allies.” Nasuada: “What can we pay you? In cream that normal cats like? Ha ha I’m racist”) I don’t remember the Council being that important before, or troubling Eragon too much, and I doubt it will here. (SPOILER: It doesn’t, as far as I remember.) Saphira says, No one shall get the better of him while I watch. As modest as can be, isn’t she? /sarcasm
Then people leave, and Eragon asks Roran if he believed what he said about Eragon VS Murtagh and Galby being a battle between gods. Roran says yes, because they’re all too powerful for anyone to defeat. “It’s not fair.” Like Roran isn’t overpowered himself, although I suppose he’d say that he gets it from protagonist powers, not magic. He also complains that Eragon has killed too many soldiers, and that the world is unbalanced because people are at the mercy of others.
News flash, Roran! 1) How many people have YOU killed singlehandedly? Isn’t it well over 100? 2) Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that people are at the mercy of others, even in our not-magical world (i.e. dictatorships). Get used to it.
Eragon is pretty darn miserable now, due to both his appointment as leader of the Varden and Roran’s comment. Mainly the former, but a bit of the latter. (Roran, what were you thinking? You’re just adding more stress to an already stressed-out guy!) He goes outside, reluctantly followed by the Nighthawks, and sits with Saphira (who falls asleep… author reason: she’s tired, my reason: in order to avoid having to cheer up Eragon). He can’t believe that he’s leader of the Varden, especially since he was once a poor farm boy. Yes, he does think that. (And he’s thought that before in regard to being a Rider. It’s getting old.)
What was Nasuada thinking when she chose me as her successor? He wondered. (…) Did she really believe I can take her place? Why not Jormundur? He’s been with the Varden for decades, and he knows so much more about command and strategy.
Exactly, Nasuada! For once, I agree with Eragon. A leader of an enormous army can’t just be someone who has Mary-Sue powers! It has to be someone with experience, trained in ‘command and strategy’, to quote the book. It probably takes YEARS to be proficient in those things. (Wait, Nasuada was appointed leader right after her father Ajihad died… Um, did she have experience? I guess she might’ve picked up things from her father, but… The leader of an army shouldn’t be a hereditary position. It should go to those who really deserve it!)
Eragon wonders if he can make hard decisions like Nasuada had, like allying with the Urgals. Since that was the greatest idea ever and created absolutely no problems. /sarcasm
(I will admit it was difficult for her, though, since like the text here reminds us, they killed her father. And the Urgals helped the Varden… I think…)
Then he soon falls asleep, although it’s not really sleep because he’s SPESHUL. I’m not a fan of the waking dreams. It only serves to make Eragon and the elves less relatable to us than they already are. He has some dreams, and then—oh, a SPESHUL SPESHUL dream that he sees even while awake!
A dark and lonely plain lay before him, cut by a single strip of water that flowed slow-moving to the east: a ribbon of beaten silver bright beneath the glare of a full moon…
I don’t think that a flowing river would look like ‘beaten silver’, since silver doesn’t move. It continues:
Floating on the nameless river,
“Nameless”—was that really necessary? Maybe the river has a name and Eragon just doesn’t know it. Or maybe it’s really nameless. But in a dream, how could you know either way?
A ship, tall and proud, with pure white sails raised and ready… Ranks of warriors holding lances, and two hooded figures walking among them, as if in a stately procession. The smell of willows and cottonwoods,
Hmm… Can you smell in a dream? Sorry, got sidetracked there.
And a sense of passing sorrow… Then a man’s anguished cry, and a flash of scales, and a muddle of motion that concealed more than it revealed. And then nothing but silence and blackness.
That sounds familiar! Oh, (spoiler for LOTR) is it from the end of Return of the King? Quite possibly yes! But it’s also from Eragon—you know, the prophecy/dream he has: He watched as a group of people on proud horses approached a lonely river. Many had silver hair and carried tall lances. A strange, fair ship waited for them, shining under a bright moon. The figures slowly boarded the vessel; two of them, taller than the rest walked arm and arm. Their faces were obscured by cowls, but he could tell that one was a woman. They stood on the deck of the ship and faced the shore. A man stood on the pebble beach, the only one who had not boarded the ship. He threw back his head and let out a long, aching cry. As it faded, the ship glided down the river, without a breeze or oars, out in the flat, empty land. The vision clouded, but just before it disappeared, Eragon glimpsed two dragons in the sky. (Thanks to Inheriwiki for the quote, I have a copy but don’t know where it is in the book.) While in Eragon it’s somewhat more in-depth, it’s the same prophecy! Why is Paolini repeating it? To remind us of it, since he might make it important here? (Must resist… urge… to spoil ending…)
Hinting to the reader in advance of an event is called foreshadowing, as you probably know. I personally think foreshadowing using a prophecy/dream is annoying.
Anyway, does Eragon remember that he saw this event in a dream before? I’d say yes, but that would be lying. Seriously, he doesn’t remember? Why don’t you THINK, Eragon?! He just wonders whether he just saw a future event or an event happening currently, and if it’s important to him.
So now he can’t sleep. Good job, whoever gave him the prophecy. So he paces around for a while talks with a Nighthawk about how six of them died, and generally is upset over leading the Varden. I could understand a character being overwhelmed by this. He angsts about rescuing Nasuada, eing responsile for so many people, and he even considers praying to a dwarf god, which we know are real because of “In the Beginning”, but vetoes that since it’s his responsibility. (I guess he’s not elf-atheist?) But still, two or so more pages of him going on and on about himself and the Varden and Nasuada get a bit tiring.
Then—OMG!—he remembers Solembum the werecat’s (that is such a strange name!) advice from the first book: Listen closely and I will tell you two things. When the time comes and you need a weapon, look under the roots of the Menoa Tree. Then, when all seems lost and your power is insufficient, go to the rock of Kuthian and speak your name to the open the Vault of Souls. (Credit to Inheriwiki again.)
So he decides that: If ever my power was insufficient, and if ever all seemed lost, it is now. In other words, he’s going to go plan to find the Vault of Souls. But how? In order to find out, he calls Solembum to his tent and waits.
So that’s this chapter. Not terrible. I mean, I nitpicked somewhat, and the whining gets annoying. But for once, Eragon is a sympathetic character. We can understand the terror a sixteen year old would feel when so much responsibility is placed on his shoulders, even if they are Gary Stu shoulders. But like everything good in the cycle, really—can these events be streamlined a bit so we don’t get bored?
Chapter 39: Fragments, Half-Seen and Indisctinct
When we last left off, Eragon just realized that the Vault of Souls plot device introduced in Brick 1 could be helpful for him, since Nasuada’s been captured and all is not well. So he calls Solembum the werecat, annnnnnnnnnd… that’s where this chapter, Fragments, Half-Seen and Indistinct, starts.
Around fifteen minutes later (the book points this out), Solembum comes into Eragon’s tent, sits down, and licks his paws. Well, to be precise, the webbing between the claws of his right paw. Thrilling! Then he says, I am not a dog to come and go at your summons, Eragon. Um, asking someone to come to you if you need them doesn’t mean they’re using you like a dog. Even if you have a rude personality, you’d probably just sigh and say, “What is it?”
Eragon responds, saying that he just needs the cat’s help, and he makes a magical light for them. Then he notices that Solembum’s eyes are blue, when they were some other color before.
Fun fact: I very recently heard in a Paolini interview that he gave Solembum different eye colors in books 2 & 3—which is a trivial, but still annoying consistency error—but he said he’ll make up an explanation for it in book 4. Well, here it is:
“Weren’t your eyes a different color?” he [Eragon] asked.
Solembum blinked once, and his eyes changed from blue to gold.
Whoopee, werecats can change their eye color on demand. So exciting. Isn’t it great to fix your consistency errors by giving a character/race a new power?
After this, they finally get to the point—Solembum asks Eragon what he wants. Eragon reminds Solembum of what he told him in book 1 about the Rock of Kuthian/Vault of Souls/Plot Device Storage Facility. Then he asks Solembum,
“So, where can I find the Rock of Kuthian, how do I open the Vault of Souls, and what will I find inside it?”
Tsk, tsk. Eragon, you should know better than that. You’re not going to find all that out immediately, because of course, Solembum doesn’t know. Eragon freaks out a little (“You don’t know?” “How can you not know?”) and Solembum shows his trademark rudeness (“Must you repeat everything I say?”).
Now, here’s the first quiz I’ll give you in this spork: How would a normal human being react? Maybe he/she would be upset, but he/she would calm down, maybe talk some more to Solembum, and then try to find the answers elsewhere. Not everything works out in life, after all.
But this. Is. ERAGONNNNNNNNNN! (Couldn’t resist.) So, how does our sociopathic ‘hero’ react? I’ll give you a moment to think.
(Hums Jeopardy tune…)
Leaning forward, Eragon grabbed Solembum’s large, heavy paw. The werecat’s ear flattened, and he hisses and curled his paw inward, digging into Eragon’s flesh. Eragon smiled tightly and ignored the pain. (…) “No more riddles,” Eragon said. “I need the truth, Solembum. Where did you get this information and what did it mean?”
Um, when someone doesn’t know something, you can react like this? I’m going into high school this fall, and this almost makes me scared to get a question wrong.
“Student, what’s the capital of Yugoslavia?”
“Sorry, I don’t know.”
Leaning forward, the teacher grabbed the student’s thin hand. The student’s ears flattened, and he hissed and curled his hand inward, digging into the teacher’s flesh. “No more riddles,” the teacher said.
I’m joking around, of course, but this is somewhat of a strange and violent reaction to “I don’t know”. First, how is it a riddle at all? Second, threatening someone isn’t neccesarily going to make them more likely to answer you—it might make them more defensive. Third, why his paw? It’s just… strange.
Solembum is naturally unhappy and threatens Eragon, so soon Eragon releases him. Way to go, Eragon—not only did you accomplish nothing, but now you’re also bleeding! Then Solembum says that he really doesn’t know, and Eragon has him repeat that in the Ancient Language, which everyone seems to know, strangely. (Wasn’t it something that you have to learn?)
Eragon asks how Solembum knew about the Rock of Kuthian. His response:
Soon after the fall of the riders, a certain conviction came upon the members of our race that, should we encounter a new Rider, one that was not beholden to Galbatorix, we should tell him or her what I told you: of the Menoa tree and of the Rock of Kuthian.
And this certain conviction apparently came out of nowhere, as far as the cat knows (although he refutes the possibility that it’s Galbatorix. What a shame—it would be great if the VoS turned out to be a trap.). This is actually a bit sad—I mean, the Vault of Souls has basis earlier in the series, so it isn’t really a Deus ex Machina. But now that the ‘basis’ came from nowhere—a.k.a. a Deus ex Machina…
Then we get some stuff how the werecats probably had their memories erased, which they may have wanted or not, and that they got the knowledge because they’re the “friends of the riders”, and they were unsure whether they should give the knowledge to Eragon or not. (I bet they’re regretting that, now that he’s turned out to be a sociopath.)
(Strangely, one of Eragon’s lines is italicized and without quotation marks, as if he’s thought-speaking, but the rest of his aren’t italicized and have quote marks. Editing fail.)
Then Solembum mentions that there may be a way to find out the answers he wants. Apparently, he was the one who arranged for Eragon to get Domia abr Wyrda, the history book that so far has been useless in the series. He had a ‘strange feeling’ that Eragon should have it. (I’m not a fan of this ‘strange feelings’ and ‘convictions’ thing. It just seems like a convenient way to make things happen. SPOILER: Turns out Eragon had a guardian angel/dragon spirit/thingy that gave the werecats the advice and pretty much orchestrated a bunch of main plot points.)
Then, for nearly two pages, Eragon gets upset because it’s too hard to read, angsts that Solembum should’ve told him earlier about this, worries that he’ll never find anything useful in the book in time, and keeps yelling at Solembum that he MUST KNOW SOMETHING ELSE ABOUT HOW TO STOP GALBY!
Stop it, Eragon! Just stop! Please! The cat obviously doesn’t know anything else about stopping Galby or about the Plot Device Facility. Give it up already! If he knows nothing more, will yelling at him change anything?
A quote from this irritating section:
“Think, then! If I can’t find some sort of help against Galbatorix, we’ll lose, Solembum. (…)”
Solembum hissed. ‘What do you expect of me, Eragon? I cannot invent help where none exists. Read the book.’
(…) “You have to, or we’re doomed!”
Quiz number 2! What happens now? I’ll give you four choices.
- A) Eragon goes outside and hunts for more answers on his own, asking other people who might know something.
- B) Eragon speed-reads the book and does find something, so he apologizes to Solembum.
- C) Well, Paolini wrote himself into a corner, so… DEUS EX MACHINA TIME!
- D) Eragon decides that the Varden just has to keep on going towards Urubaen, even though it really seems hopeless. Turns out that the whole Rock of Kuthian/VoS thing was a clever red herring that didn’t matter in the end.
If you chose D… You’re wrong, although that would be a surprising (and nice) twist. The answer, of course, is C!
Basically, Solembum freezes, and then says, Chapter forty-seven. Page three. Start with the second passage there. Wow, that was easy. Instead of Eragon actually needing to put in some effort, he gets the answer given to him out of nowhere. (SPOILER: It’s also from the freaking guardian angels. *headdesk*) Of course, the cat doesn’t remember saying that.
“What do you think it means? [Eragon asked.]
How stupid is this Rider? What do you think it means? READ THE BOOK!
‘It means that we should look and see what’s on page three of chapter 47.’ [Solembum]
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
So Eragon looks at the page (from a chapter about after the fall of the riders), reads aloud a tiny boring bit about the island and its climate (Visit Vroengard today!), whines that it’s irrelevant, and then keeps reading. The book talks about the beautiful, wonderful, awe-inspiring elven (surprise) city of Doru Araeba on the island of Vroengard. I’ll skip over the section for your sanity. Suffice to say that it sounds like an impressive city, but I don’t read fantasy for nearly a page of boring city description.
Then Eragon stops and whines again, although this time I’ll let him since the passage bored me too. Solembum convinces him to keep reading, still aloud. The next passage from the book talks about how the ‘greatest thing in Doru Araeba’ (not an exact quote, of course) is its library. Blah blah blah, has all sorts of knowledge, like the libraries in Star Wars, and it’s located near…
The Rock of Kuthian. Yay! We know where it is! Eragon is awe-inspired, since
Some person or some thing had arranged for him to learn this particular piece of information…
Then the chapter ends with him wondering what awaits them on Vroengard, and he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.
Yawn. I mean, this chapter might be important plot-wise, but it moved kinda slowly.
An idea—couldn’t this chapter and the last chapter be combined into one concise chapter the length of this one? Think about it… It begins with Eragon worrying about what he’ll do. Then he remembers about the VoS, and calls Solembum. Solembum doesn’t know anything more, but he gets the deus ex machina, Eragon finds out about the Rock of Kuthian. True, you’d have to cut some dialogue and scenes, but it would be worth it. Still, since when is Paolini’s writing ‘concise’?
And did the name of this chapter really fit it? I mean, what was so “half seen and indistinct” about anything in it? Mysterious, maybe. Irritating, for sure. But it seems to me like another case where the chapter name just sounds cool, which is why he uses it, even though in retrospect it doesn’t really fit the chapter… (Fragments? Of what?)