Chapter Twenty-Eight – Under Hill and Stone
This chapter is called “Under Hill and Stone.” I have no idea why none of his proof readers stopped to say “Hey, doesn’t ‘Under Hill’ sound a lot like ‘Underhill,’ the fake name Frodo used?” Or maybe they did, and Paolini just giggled about how clever he was. In any case, I don’t think it was a good move.
Eragon rolled his shoulders, trying to get his mail hauberk to rest comfortably under the tunic he wore to hide the armor.
Darkness lay all about them, heavy and oppressive.
Okay, why is Eragon trying to hide his armor? As I recall, they’re infiltrating the city through underground tunnels—no one is going to notice whether Eragon is wearing armor or not.
Also, is Eragon two people now? Who is “them”?! A few sentences later, it reveals that Angela and some elves are there, but for the rest of the paragraph, I’m left wondering who “they” are.
Angela is holding a “werelight.” I’ve been wondering this for some time, but never got around to asking: where did the term “werelight” come from? Googling got me a reference to Earthsea and a lot of My Little Pony stuff, but no definitive origin. The concept certainly isn’t new; there’s a rather large article about will-o’-the-wisps on Wikipedia. I cannot, however, find any mention of the term “werelight” to describe this outside of the Earthsea books.
It really only makes sense as a lift from Earthsea. Paolini takes a lot of concepts from Norse mythology (when he’s not ripping off books or adding Japanese sword-making techniques), so I immediately thought that “were” was supposed to mean “man,” as in the term “werewolf,” but that doesn’t make any sense!
Moving on, before I get even more sidetracked:
The air was humid, and once or twice, Eragon felt a few cold drops of rain strike his cheeks.
Elva had laughed and refused when he had asked for her help.
This is what bothers me the most about Inheritance. Paolini will start a scene with something trivial (like adjusting clothing) and then decides to include important scenes in freaking flashback. He STILL hasn’t learned how to prioritize! If anything he’s gotten worse about this sort of thing.
The text calls Elva a “witch-child” (boo, hiss) and then mentions how when Eragon’s arguing skills fell flat, Saphira decided to try straight up intimidation by sticking her giant head into Elva’s personal space.
Elva had not had the temerity to laugh then, but she remained obdurate in her refusal. Her stubbornness frustrated Eragon. Still, he could not help but admire her strength of character; to say no to both a Rider and a dragon was no small thing. Then again, she had endured an incredible amount of pain in her short life, and the experience had hardened her to a degree rarely seen even in the most jaded of warriors.
I sure would have liked to see that scene. Sigh. There’s so much telling instead of showing here. And I gotta love how Eragon almost dismisses her courage by mentioning how she’s been hardened.
The next paragraph describes them putting on cloaks, which are meant to hide their weapons.
They are apparently on the edge of camp. Even though it’s so dark that earlier on the page Eragon said that without Angela’s light, even the elves wouldn’t be able to see anything, they can see Varden members preparing amongst the tents. Also, Nasuada, Jormundur, and Saphira are there, even though they weren’t mentioned earlier.
They get moving, and Angela dims her light. Eragon has a hard time seeing where he’s going.
Hey, I’ve got an idea! Why don’t you look up “dark-vision” in your ancient language dictionary, you moron?
Angela mentions how she thinks they’re there, but she can’t be sure because of the “gloom.” Apparently, she is also not bright enough to do the obvious thing and just cast a vision spell.
An elf in their group, Wyrden, starts casting a Find Secret Underground Tunnels spell that he learned from a dwarven magician. It’s too bad the magician didn’t also teach him See Where You’re Going In Underground Tunnels.
An owl hoots in the distance, and Eragon reaches for his sword. He stops himself and mentally curses, saying “Barzul,” which is “Orik’s favorite curse.”
I don’t think I ever recall Orik saying “Barzul,” do you? And why has Eragon picked this up? Is this a character trait of his, he hears someone cursing and mentally saves it to use in dangerous situations?
He thinks about Glaedr and emotion-training exercises, and then remembers this exchange that he had with Glaedr:
Glaedr had said: Beware of the shadows, Eragon. Strange things lurk in dark places, which, Eragon thought, was hardly an encouraging statement.
I was thinking that this might have been a LOTR reference (“Be on your guard. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world”) and then I thought maybe it was a Doctor Who reference (“Stay out of the shadows!”) and then I realized that no, it wasn’t really a reference to anything in particular; it’s just horribly cliché and doesn’t really say anything.
The leather of his glove was warm and smooth against his skin.
This is, of course, a crucial piece of information and not just Paolini pounding out whatever comes to mind on his keyboard.
Eragon hooks a thumb into his belt, which gives Paolini an excuse to talk about how Eragon filled up his powergems at the slaughterhouse that morning, and how he feels bad about animals being slaughtered. Sorry, not buying it Mr. Juices-Running-Down-His-Chin.
Eragon thinks about how his belt is “valuable beyond gold, on account of the dozens of lives that had gone into filling it.”
Here’s a thought. Why doesn’t Eragon fill his belt with Saphira’s energy? He could take enough of her life-force to make her tired, but not really hurt, wait a couple hours/days for her to recover, and then do it all over again. She’d have a lot more energy than a cow or two, and if they were attacked, Eragon could just pour the energy he took back into Saphira to rejuvenate her again. Or, heck, why doesn’t he just go into the woods and kill some plants? Plants don’t feel pain, and forests grow back after a while. He doesn’t even need to kill them, just take some energy from each plant—it would still be a massive amount.
And now I’m contemplating a Dragon Rider cult that supplies a Rider with life energy as they worship him. Now THAT would make for an interesting book.
They find the tunnel entrance, and Angela increases her light’s brightness. Eragon, Arya, and Wyrden search for the entrance, and Eragon keeps hitting his shins against fallen logs.
He wished he was wearing bracers, but he had left them behind, along with his shield, because they would have attracted too much attention in the city.
There is so much fail in that, I’m not sure where to start.
Well, for one, bracers go on your arms. The term you’re looking for is greaves, or perhaps chausses or, if you’re feeling especially fancy, schynbalds. This isn’t hard to get information; I’m using wikipedia for this.
Secondly, if you are capable of hiding a hauberk under a tunic, you shouldn’t have much trouble hiding greaves with some modified boots or hose or strips of cloth or something. Or heck, use magic to make them look like boots. If some elves can make thin air look like a dragon, you can do this.
Thirdly, you’re traveling with a bunch of elves, who haven’t seemed to do anything to change their appearance. They would stick out far more than any “bracers” you’d wear on your legs.
Seriously, why don’t they just magic themselves to look like peasants and walk into the city in the middle of the day? Why all this cloak-and-dagger stuff? This is not the best way to go about this, y’all. Heck, they could pull the old steal-the-guards’-clothing trick and it would be a better plan.
They find the entry to the tunnel, which is five foot by three foot. I sure hope this isn’t a reference to The Hobbit.
Angela points out that there’s been recent traffic through the tunnel. Wyrden says that they should proceed with caution, which Angela mocks.
“How else were you planning to proceed? With blaring trumpets and shouting heralds? Really.”
You know, Angela is kind of a bitch.
Eragon asks why the elves respect Angela and that someday she’ll have to tell him about herself.
“What makes you think that?” And she pushed past him to enter the tunnel, her cloak flapping like the wings of a Lethrblaka.
I’m imagining Angela holding her cloak and flapping it, making “Caw! Caw!” sounds, because that’s the only way that simile has any reason to exist.
The tunnel is so short that “Eragon had to hunch like an old man with rheumatism”. I’m not sure why Paolini felt that he had to specify the rheumatism bit, but then again, this is Paolini we’re talking about.
The passageway smelled like damp straw and moth wings.
There is no straw in the passage, and I have no idea what “moth wings” are supposed to smell like.
I got to go through a natural cave a few years ago. You want to know what it smelled like? Mud and rocks. Not like straw, not like dead bugs. Because it contained neither of those things, you crazy person!
The tunnel echoes pretty badly.
Every bump and scrape echoed, filling the air with a multitude of overlapping whispers that seemed to murmur and sigh with a life of their own. The whispers made Eragon feel as if they were surrounded by a host of disembodied spirits who were commenting on their every move.
The first sentence would have been fine on its own, but again, Paolini feels he has to explain the imagery for the reader.
They don’t fix this problem with magic, either. These mages really suck.
The gloom seemed almost palpable, like a heavy cloth draped over the world.
You know what would make it less gloomy? Dark-vision. Yup.
Just as he was about to continue forward, he caught a glimpse of two large eyes gleaming in the shadows, like a pair of copper colored moonstones. He grabbed Brisingr and had already drawn the sword several inches from its scabbard when Solembum appeared out of the murk, padding along on silent paws.
Hey, look! It’s a creature with both dark-vision and sound-padded feet!
It was established very well in Eldest that mages can sense life-forces, even those of creatures as small as ants. They are aware that this tunnel has had recent traffic, and yet they are caught by surprise here. Shouldn’t they use their sensing-powers to make sure they won’t run into a band of enemies in the middle of the tunnel?
The tunnel is perfectly straight. This should make their party worried, as they have no place to hide, but it doesn’t. Eragon believes that the tunnel was “designed to channel waste out of the city.” If that is true, I’d suspect there’d be more than a bit of dirt on the floor, and they’d smell a lot more than straw and moth wings.
The floor of the tunnel gets more muddy and slick. Eventually, the tunnel opens into a “large, rectangular chamber with a ridged, half-dome ceiling over fifteen feet high at its apex.” There’s a rotten barrel and three doorways in this chamber.
Wyrden asks which path they should choose, and Angela puts in her two cents.
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked the herbalist. “The left one. It’s always the left one.” And she strode toward that selfsame arch even as she spoke.
You know, her “quirkiness” is really getting irritating.
Eragon could not help himself. “Left according to which direction? If you were starting from the other side, left—”
“Left would be right and right would be left, yes, yes,” said the herbalist. Her eyes narrowed. “Sometimes you’re too clever for your own good, Shadeslayer.… Very well, we’ll try it your way. But don’t say I didn’t warn you if we end up wandering around here for days on end.”
That was so enormously clever. I’m glad you pointed it out.
Eragon thinks that actually, he wanted to take the straight path, but since he doesn’t want to argue with Angela, they took the right path. I’m so glad this was solved with sense and reasoning instead of “meh, let’s take this one.”
The right path opens up to another large room, which leads to more arches.
Why am I reminded of Dungeon Siege?
Angela leads the group and always takes a right, which everyone follows because they have no idea where they’re going and aren’t bothering to see where other paths lead. These tunnels weren’t carved by the same dwarf who dug the first tunnel, so they are completely aimless.
They eventually get to a circular room with seven equally spaced doorways. Angela tells Eragon to mark the direction they came, which he does “with the tip of Brisingr’s cross-guard.” This made me want to cry a little bit; that’s an abuse of his sword if I’ve ever heard of one, and it’s so awkward, too. Why couldn’t he just pull out a knife and use that, or use magic to make one of the bricks pink colored?
Eragon notices that Solembum has gone missing, and contemplates searching for him with his mind, but stops himself because “if anyone else felt him groping around, it might alert the Empire to their location.” Has it been established that ordinary people can sense when they’re being magically detected? I didn’t think they could; that’s why Eragon had an anti-scrying doohickey in an earlier book.
As they blunder aimlessly about, suddenly Angela stops and takes a look at the ceiling. Turns out that there are rows of strange runes up there. Eragon recognizes some of them.
The elf, Wyrden, says that it’s an ancient form of the human’s language in a dialect of “the zealot Tosk.” Eragon recognizes the name because some of the evil cultists mentioned a “book of Tosk,” which is apparently the bible for the cult. Wyrden says that the writing on the ceiling (which he can read, for some reason) is Tosk’s history.
Why would anyone, even a cult of crazy self-mutilating crazies, write their prophet’s history on the ceiling of dark caves? Why?!
While Wyrden and Angela read the history, Arya goes to an archway and “began to chant a spell for finding and locating.”
. . .
Why are these characters so stupid?!
It’s like Paolini forgets his magic rules from scene to scene, or in this case, in the middle of a scene. Does he just forget? GAH!
A faint tickling on the back of his right hand caused Eragon to look down. A huge, wingless cricket clung to his glove. The insect was hideous: black and bulbous, with barbed legs and a massive, skull like head. Its carapace gleamed like oil.
This paragraph and bug, by the way, don’t have any relevance.
How exactly can you feel “a faint tickling” through a leather glove?
The path Arya chose leads nowhere. As they stand around, being useless, they hear a cat’s yowl and draw their swords. Eragon’s shiny palm mark starts itching and tingling to warn them of danger.
Yes. Eragon has spidey-sense.
Several hidden doors open, and thirty black-garbed mooks pop out. Seems Eragon elves don’t have a bonus to detecting hidden doors.
By the way, it isn’t explained where these guys came from. I have to assume that their job is to sit behind hidden doors all day, waiting for someone to walk by. What a boring life these cultists lead.
Wyrden shouts “Letta!” which means “Stop!” which causes the mooks to hit an invisible wall. Eragon jumps into the fray, chopping off heads. Eragon is relieved that the enemies don’t have any magic or armor protecting them. Our hero.
These dudes have the same “don’t-feel-pain” spell on them that Galby’s soldiers did.
Since these pose more of a threat to Eragon (because in these books, logic doesn’t exist), he has to fight as though they’re actually a threat. Eragon tries to use a death word, but the baddies are guarded against that. Eragon sends thrusts of air at them, using a spell that Murtaugh used once. This pushes them back far enough that Wyrden can use chain-lightning to hit them.
They try to run from the attackers. However, some of the baddies grab Angela and drag her through one of the secret passageways. Eragon, having seen the Star Wars prequels, sets his sword ablaze and tries to cut through the door. However, he realizes that his sword isn’t a lightsaber and realizes that he can’t open the door. Arya goes the Hermione route and tries to cast an unlocking spell. That doesn’t work though, and so they try to bolt. Arya casts a spell to make rocks explode.
Wyrden is ahead of them and steps into a trap in which amethyst spikes shoot out and kill him.
Nooooo, Wyrden! We knew so much about you!
This entire chapter seems like it’s straight out of a D&D campaign or a dungeon crawl. Seriously, amethyst spikes? Secret doors where enemies pour out? This is getting ridiculous.
Eragon is a little bit shocked. Not because he saw someone die on spikes, but because he’s never seen an elf die. The racist jerk.
He cuts through the spikes with his sword, since his sword isn’t affected by dark magic or something. They get through the crystals as Eragon hacks his way through them and find themselves in a big chamber.
A huge circular pattern of inlaid stone—marble and chalcedony and polished hematite—occupied the center of the floor. Around the edge of the patterned disk stood rough, fist-sized chunks of amethyst set within silver collars. Each piece of the purple rock glowed softly—the source of the light they had seen from the corridor. Across the disk, against the far wall, was a large black altar draped with a gold and crimson cloth. Pillars and candelabra flanked the altar, with a closed door on each side.
This really IS just straight out of a video game, isn’t it?
I love how Eragon, in the middle of a chase scene, analyzes a scene well enough to take stock of the types of stone within the circle—before taking note of the EEEEVIL black altar across the room.
Eragon’s momentum makes him enter the circle, and he thinks of Saphira, and then the chapter finally ends.
Good golly gosh. I cannot shake the feeling that Paolini was playing an RPG during this part of the book and got “inspiration” for it. Gem spikes? Enemies popping out of walls? It’s so cheesy. That, plus the bits where they decide to not cast spells that would help them out really makes me hate this chapter. While things happen, and stuff does get accomplished (we’re going by this book’s standards), it’s still not good. Conversations that we should have seen are summarized, scenes that we don’t care about are written out, and all of it is still in Paolini’s overwrought style.