Chapter 24 – The Way of Knowing
Later that afternoon, when it seemed increasingly unlikely that the Empire would launch an attack from Dras- Leona in the few remaining hours of sunlight, Eragon and Saphira went to the sparring field at the rear of the Varden camp.
Yes, obviously the enemy only attacks when it’s day, because they don’t want to do a surprise attack at night, with the darkness as cover and magic as a way to stop the watch. After all if they attack at night the heroes don’t look smart when they do it, henceforth the enemy won’t attack at night. Q.E.D.
Eragon went to the sparring camp to train with Arya, something that they have been doing since they arrived in the city. They agreed to use shields beforehand, because it’s closer to the reality of actual combat, and it introduced variety into their duels. Except that I doesn’t remember a single battle where Eragon always had a shield, and I think that he don’t even own a shield and just picks one off the dead when the plot dictates that he needs a shield. Also, if using a shield is closer to the reality of actual combat why do they only train with shields as a change of pace? Wouldn’t always training with a shield be, I don’t know, a more logical course of act-… Nevermind I got it.
Anyway Eragon is battling with Arya not because he wants to get better, but because there was something profoundly intimate about staring into Arya’s eyes, without blinking, without wavering, and having her stare back at him with the same degree of focus and intensity. It could be disconcerting, but he enjoyed the sense of connection it created between them (i.e. because he wants to bone her, in a really creepy way), which breaks any interest that I could have had for this chapter. Because now I won’t be reading about badly written swordplay, but badly written romance about a guy trying to bone a girl through swordplay.
And then Arya defeats Eragon before he is able to have more creepy thoughts. It happens in a span of a second, which makes me happy, and when Eragon asks why he loses so much Arya replies with something that makes sense:
“Because,” she replied, and feinted toward his right shoulder, causing him to raise his shield and leap shoulder, causing him to raise his shield and leap backward in alarm, “I’ve had over a hundred years of practice. It would be odd if I weren’t better than you, now wouldn’t it? You should be proud that you’ve managed to mark me at all. Few can.”
It makes me sad to see this reply. Because when I look at it I understand that Paolini had the potential to become a good writer, but didn’t because the people around him told him that he already was one. But otherwise it’s a nice piece of logic in the chaos that the Inheritance Cycle is. Though I still think that Eragon will beat her at some point, because he is just that special.
They fight some more and Eragon loses some more, and asks Arya why she didn’t just magic him into a better fighter. It goes as follows:
“If you know so much about swordsmanship,” he said, “then why can’t you teach me to be better?”
Her emerald eyes burned with even greater force. “I’m trying,” she said, “but the problem is not here.” She tapped her sword against his right arm. “The problem is here.” She tapped his helm, metal clinking against metal. “And I don’t know how else to teach you what you need to learn except by showing you your mistakes over and over again until you stop making them.” She rapped his helm once more. “Even if it means I have to beat you black-and-blue in order to do it.”
Arya is the worst teacher ever. Any teacher worth their salt knows that if you have to explain the same thing over and over again you have to do it in different ways, because if the student didn’t understand the first time around he won’t understand if you just repeat it again, so you have to explain the same thing in another way. But I do like that she wants to beat Eragon black-and-blue, because it’s something that I want to do sometimes. That we all want to do sometimes.
They fight more, and Eragon get his ass kicked a few more times, even though Saphira tries to save him some of those times. He doesn’t want her help, because it is his mountain to climb. It’s… noble of him, wanting to defeat obstacles through his own strength, except that he never climbed any mountain, because everyone was always putting him right at the top through magic. He was always just that special, learning swordsmanship in 3 months, magic in the same 3, learning a whole language that uses ideograms in writing to the point of poetic perfection in less than a year, and having the one thing that was troublesome and a real obstacle be magicked out through a dragon tattoo on the back of naked elven chicks. And because of this I don’t think that he will climb this mountain, but will just fly through borrowed wings, and in the end it will not make any difference.
But Eragon is still fighting and still losing and it pisses him of. He only won two times, and through near suicidal strategies that worked through luck instead of skill. Since he wants to win one more time, and is really pissed, he prepares to throw his sword, as he might do to a battle-axe. I like that at least one time Paolini noticed that sword throwing relies more in lucky than skill and is near suicidal. But before Eragon does this stupidity Glaedr appears out of nowhere and stops Eragon.
Everyone is happy that Glaedr got over his depression, because it really is something that happens because Eragon was sparring. Yeah, Paolini really wants us to believe that Glaedr, the one dragon that lost his rider (i.e. half of his mind) and died (i.e. lost his body with some horrible pain and all nasty things that happen when you die) and then was put in a glowing stone whose only way to interact with the world is by thrusting his thoughts (i.e. Fate Worse Than Death And I Must Scream) got over his depression because Eragon was training. No Paolini, it’s too much, even by “its better be dead than ugly” standards. He got over his depression because the plot needs him too. And also because we need a super jarring scene to make sure that the chapter is really, really bad.
Anyway Glaedr’s motive for telling Eragon to stop is that it is very unlikely that he will fight Galbatorix with swords. He will fight him with his mind, so he must train his mind, not his arm. Even though Galbatorix has, like, 9223372036854775808 dead dragon souls to do his bidding and crush the mind of anyone that tries to fight him, and so no one can stand a chance. Except Eragon after he opens the Vault of Souls and finds 18446744073709551616 dead dragon souls, but since we are supposed to not know this Glaedr’s “You should train your mind” makes no sense. And I just noticed that the book second title is “The Vault of Souls”, but 250+ pages into the book and the Vault of the Souls, which is likely the main plot of the book, has never appeared. But I digress.
Anyway Eragon says that no, he should train his body because, in the unlikely chance that he fends off Galbatorix and the Eldunari, the final battle may still be decided by the sword. I wonder what would happen if this was not the case (Because we all know it will be, it’s the most dramatic way to happen), and the final battle was decided by magic or mind fight. Eragon would be totally trashed, and the world would be a better place. Also Eragon wants to kill shades with impunity, and talk about the shade Varaug that appeared out of nowhere in the of Brisingr, and Glaedr is all like “Who is Varaug?”, because
he doesn’t have the black brick to check things out just in casewas so closed to the world that didn’t noticed anything that was going on. But still noticed that Eragon was training. Right.
They talk some more, going back and forth about whether or not Eragon should train his body, Glaedr is pro-mind but Arya and Eragon are pro-body. In the end Glaedr makes a Good Point about why training the mind is better and asks why the elves did nothing and let him train his body. Then the furry elf, that is the only one that has a personality aside from Arya, answer to him saying that he is the teacher, they won’t take over his job even if he is neglecting it. Though I suspect that you can just give up your job if one of your loved ones die and/or you die. But it could be just me. Anyway apparently furry is saying this just to piss Glaedr off so badly that he won’t become depressed again. Great mental care here. Pissing off someone that died. What if it doesn’t go as planned and he starts sobbing and become in a worst state than he was before? Or worse, uses magic to kill himself (Again)? It’s not safe to piss off depressed people, it’s safe to say how special they are and how everyone loves them.
Glaedr is really pissed with furry and furry pisses Glaedr off even more, and Glaedr starts going berserker, threatening to destroy the minds of anyone nearby. When he is so pissed that Eragon sensed something unpleasant taking shape that, if allowed to reach fruition, might be the cause of much sorrow and regret, Saphira flatters him and he starts cooling down. Indeed she acts very nice and all, but very un-Saphira like:
Then Saphira spoke, and her mental voice cut through Glaedr’s churning emotions like a knife through water. Master, she said, I have been worried about you. It is good to know that you are well and strong again. None of us are your equal, and we have need of your help. Without you, we cannot hope to defeat the Empire.
Glaedr rumbled ominously, but he did not ignore, interrupt, or insult her. Indeed, her praise seemed to please him, even if only a little. After all, as Eragon reflected, if there was one thing dragons were susceptible to, it was flattery, as Saphira was well aware.
Without pausing to allow Glaedr to respond, Saphira said, Since you no longer have use of your wings, let me offer my own as a replacement. The air is calm, the sky is clear, and it would be a joy to fly high above the ground, higher than even the eagles dare soar. After so long trapped within your heart of hearts, you must yearn to leave all this behind and feel the currents of air rising beneath you once more.
The black storm within Glaedr abated somewhat, although it remained vast and threatening, teetering on the edge of renewed violence. That … would be pleasant.
Then we shall fly together soon. But, Master?
There is something I wish to ask of you first.
Then ask it.
Will you help Eragon with his swordsmanship? Can you help him? He isn’t as skilled as he needs to be, and I don’t want to lose my Rider. Saphira remained dignified throughout, but there was a note of pleading in her voice that caused Eragon’s throat to tighten.
Her willingness to give up control of her own body so Glaedr can fly again is really touching, and so is her pleading so Eragon doesn’t die, but it feels off. The Glaedr part is nice and all, and can be seen as character development or something, since he is her master and she had a crush on him early in the series, and Eragon is part of her soul and all, but looks like an Out of Character moment to me. Sure there are tons of ways to argue about why Saphira would do it, but I always saw her as a bloodthirsty beast, and the third book backed this concept to me, so I don’t believe in any of this, and she said it just so Glaedr can give Eragon the secret lore of battle and Eragon can use it to beat Arya.
Anyway Glaedr agrees to teach Eragon swordplay. How exactly a dragon will do it is beyond me, but we shall see. Trianna, a mage of the Varden, is panicking because a very strong mind tried to kill everybody just now, and Eragon says that everything is fine and will explain things later. Glaedr tells then to take positions and Eragon starts wondering how exactly Glaedr is going to teach him, to which Glaedr answers:
“All great fighting is the same, Eragon, even as all great warriors are the same. Past a certain point, it does not matter whether you wield a sword, a claw, a tooth, or a tail. It is true, you must be capable with your weapon, but anyone with the time and the inclination can acquire technical proficiency. To achieve greatness, though, that requires artistry. That requires imagination and thoughtfulness, and it is those qualities that the best warriors share, even if, on the surface, they appear completely different.”
What? How does that make sense? Could someone please explain what that mean? I understand the start, which pretty much says that all weapons are created equal, even if it makes no sense in a logical fashion, but I can understand what he means. But the greatness part totally lost me. I want an explanation, if someone can give one.
It’s dropped, and they go to the whole “You have to see what you are looking at”, and apparently it’s reading your opponent. Seriously:
“That I had to learn to see what I was looking at. And I’ve tried, Master. I have.
But still you do not see. Look at Arya. Why has she been able to beat you again and again? Because she understands you, Eragon. She knows who you are and how you think, and that is what allows her to defeat you so consistently. Why is it Murtagh was able to trounce you on the Burning Plains, even though he was nowhere near as fast or strong as you?
Because I was tired and—
And how is it he succeeded in wounding you in the hip when last you met, and yet you were only able to give him a scratch on the cheek? I will tell you, Eragon. It was not because you were tired and he was not. No, it was because he understands you, Eragon, but you do not understand him. Murtagh knows more than you, and thus he has power over you, as does Arya.
And still Glaedr spoke: Look at her, Eragon. Look at her well. She sees you for who you are, but do you see her in return? Do you see her clearly enough to defeat her in battle?”
So the secret lore of battle apparently is reading the others. I mean it is understanding what and why the othesr are felling and doing, so you can understand what they will do next and where you can strike. It is… pretty obvious. How come Eragon became a Master Swordsman without being able to read his opponents? It doesn’t make any sense! But wait, It gets better.
Eragon took a minute to collect himself and consider everything he knew about Arya: her likes and dislikes, her habits and mannerisms, the important events of her life, what she feared and what she hoped for, and most importantly, her underlying temperament—that which dictated her approach to life … and to fighting. All that he considered, and from it he attempted to divine the essence of her personality. It was a daunting task, especially since he made an effort to view her not as he usually did—as a beautiful woman he admired and longed for—but as the person she actually was, whole and complete and separate from his own needs and wants.
Bolding mine. Apparently Eragon never thought about Arya as a person, but just an elf that he longs for. Seriously no, just no. How is it that you think about something that you want for such a long time as little more than an object? I don’t think that there is someone so sallow to think that way. But then again, I’m overly Idealistic sometimes, so it could be just me. But this is one more piece of evidence that Eragon is a Complete Monster.
Anyway he fights some more, and Glaedr gives some tips about what Eragon should do, which are all mildly pointless and repetitive. While fighting Arya uses Eragon’s feelings against him, even uttering a soft, catlike growl. I like this pragmatism of her, because it reflects the fact that she has fought enough battles to understand that she has to win at any cost.
They fight and fight, Eragon loses some battles until Eragon makes Arya face the sun and uses the moment of blindness to defeat her. It reminds me of the Gregor Clegane vs. Oberyn Martell fight in the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire, with the sun being used to give someone an advantage and all. Except that in the fight in A Storm of Swords, someone uses a shield to reflect the light into the eyes of the enemy, while in the Inheritance fight Eragon somehow makes Arya do a 180 degree turn, because anything less than that and she would have noticed where the sun was.
But whatever. Eragon wins one more fight, making two victories in a row. Afterward the fights have no clear winner, meaning that now Eragon suddenly learned how to read his enemies and is on the same level as Arya, the one that trained and fought for a hundred years. Because that is how Eragon does his thing, he makes someone teach him and instantly learns, beating his teacher at the same time. It makes so much sense…
The chapter closes with the following scene:
“Then, as they stood there, struggling back and forth without avail, Eragon said in a low, fierce voice, “I … see … you.”
A bright spark appeared in Arya’s eyes, then vanished just as quickly.”
Between the cat like growl and this passage this chapter feels horribly, horribly wrong.
Chapter 25: A Hearth-to-Hearth
This chapter starts just were the other left, with Arya and Eragon training. They fight two more times with no clear winner, just to rub of more the fact that Eragon is now Arya equal. Because really, all that you need to match 100 years of training is a dead dragon saying some random things that either a) Are so obvious that you should already know or b) Don’t make any sense. Though to be fair the whole series can be summed as a series of events that are either painfully obvious or illogical to the extreme, so I guess that this development is to be expected.
Eragon and Arya are so tired after the last duel that they have to rest for a while to be able to stand and walk. Which doesn’t make sense, since someone that is unable to stand and walk is also unable to fight. Then they pick energy from Saphira and heal their more painful injures, and return the ruined shield, that in no point until now were described as ruined, to the Varden weapon master, Fedric, that gives them a lecture about not destroying equipment. I like Fedric, because he makes sense. They are in a war and are supposedly short on money, so they don’t have money to spare and making shields costs money. Also he lectures Eragon about something that he did wrong and is neither evil nor proven wrong, so I like him.
After picking out new shields they go to Eragon’s tent, where Glaedr summoned then. When they arrive at the tent Nasuada is here, and wants to talk to them. She noticed that Glaedr woke up and wants to talk to him but is not sure if he wants to talk to her. And we get this:
“Ah, I knew it!” she exclaimed, sounding satisfied. Then her expression became uncertain. “May I speak with him? Is it … allowed, or will he only communicate with an elf or a Rider?”
Eragon hesitated and looked to Arya for guidance. “I don’t know,” he said. “He still hasn’t entirely recovered. He may not want to—”
So he recovered enough to teach the Secret Lore of Fighting but not enough to have a conversation with the leader of the movement that he supports? How that works? Oh wait, it doesn’t, it is just something that Paolini wrote on a failed attempt to make his characters seen concerned with Glaedr condition. But anyway it is all dropped because Glaedr goes and talk with Nasuada. Eragon answer by pointing to a patch of dirt by his bed.
Wait, hold on. Glaedr was all that time in a patch of dirt by Eragon’s bed, inside a box if memory serves. And said bed is in a tent only god knows how far from the training camp. And still, somehow, Glaedr noticed that Eragon was going to throw his sword. Right. I will try not to dwell too much into this, because I like my sanity.
Glaedr and Nasuada talk about how to defeat Dras-Leona and they come to no conclusion. It is all really boring, though, and nothing important happens. Indeed it is so boring that I started playing FreeCell, which is to say something. They talk, come to the conclusion that there is no way that they can take the city now.
Eragon goes, sits on his cot, while Arya sits on a short, three-legged stool, and wipes his palms on the knees of his trousers, because his hands feel sticky, as do the rest of him. Really:
Eragon relaxed somewhat as he sat on his cot, while Arya seated herself on a short, three-legged stool. He wiped his palms on the knees of his trousers—for his hands felt sticky, as did the rest of him.
Now why do we need to know that Arya is on a three legged stool, and that Eragon wipes his palms on the knees of his trousers? Does it means that later on Arya will explain why only three legs are needed and sometimes four legs don’t work, and that the knees of Eragon trousers will fall because he wiped his hands on it? And later on he will use the knowledge that only 3 points are needed to form a plane to wipe his hand in Galbatorix’s face and make it fall? Because if it didn’t this was completely unneeded (Bonus points by the fact that Eragon wiping Galbatorix face to defeat him is a marginally better fight than the one that happened. At least it would be funny.).
Eragon gives Arya some water, they drink, he is hungry but instead of asking Glaedr for a dinner break he just hopes that when the lesson ends there will still be warm food left. It’s a good thing that Eragon is not in charge, because if he was the only thing that everyone would be sitting on their thumbs and hoping that Galbatorix would die someday.
After the Rider and the elf drink their water Glaedr starts the mental training. First he says the theory then starts practicing. And the innuendos start appearing.
Glaedr started by testing Eragon’s defenses with attacks of ever-increasing strength, which then led to them engaging in all-out battles where they each struggled to obtain dominance, even if for only a moment, over the other’s thoughts.
Eragon loses and ends up being dominated by Glaedr, but it was only because he was tired of his activities with Arya beforehand. Glaedr makes some allowances for his condition, but says that he needs to be ready at any time, even while sleeping, because he can be attacked at any time, and he will most likely Galbatorix or Murtagh as tired as he is now.
After two more bouts, Glaedr gives his place to Arya. Arya is much better than Eragon in this kind of fights. Apparently it’s because she is an elf, and elves are just better. And we get a description of Arya x Eragon fight:
He and Arya wrestled with their minds for a few minutes —he seeking to escape her all-encompassing grip, she seeking to pin and hold him so that she could impose her will on his thoughts. She caught him several times, but he always wiggled free after a second or two, though he knew, had she meant him harm, it would have been too late to save himself.
And the whole time their minds were touching, Eragon was aware of the wild strains of music that wafted through the dark spaces of Arya’s consciousness. They lured him away from his own body and threatened to snare him in a web of strange and eerie melodies that had no counterparts among earthly songs. He would have happily succumbed to the bewitchment of the music had it not been for the distraction of Arya’s attacks and the knowledge that humans did not often fare well if they became too fascinated with the workings of an elf’s mind. He might escape unscathed. He was a Rider, after all. He was different. But it was a risk he was not willing to take, not so long as he valued his sanity. He had heard that delving into Blödhgarm’s mind had reduced Nasuada’s guard Garven to a slack-jawed dreamer.
So he resisted the temptation, hard as it was.
So she is seeking pin and hold him so that she can impose her will, eh? And she lets him free without doing anything because she doesn’t mean it, eh? And he is aware of the sounds that waft through Arya’s dark spaces, eh? And those sounds threaten to take him away of his own body and trap him on a place above the earth, eh? And he wants to go but Arya doesn’t let he in, and also he is afraid of how it could be with an elf, eh? And while it might not affect him because he is also not as human as he was before, there is still a risk that he will end up only dreaming about what happened here, so he has to resist the temptation, eh? I guess Paolini just give a new definition to mind fuck.
Afterward Glaedr has Saphira join the fray, sometimes against Arya, fending she off with easy and even subduing her one or two times, sometimes against Eragon, making he curls on a tight ball like a wounded animal (A comparison that doesn’t make that much sense, because I have yet to see an animal curling in a tight ball when wounded.) and reciting poetry until the end of the attack.
To close with a golden key Glaedr have then pair off, he with Arya, Eragon with Saphira, to fight as two Riders would fight in battle. All that I can see though is Eragon and Saphira fighting in a mental duel that sounds like something else against their crushes, both actual and former, what makes my mind g to even darker places than it was before.
In the end Eragon and Saphira loses, because Glaedr and Arya are older, stronger and everyone would rage if Eragon proved to be better than thou two chapters in a row, so he will beat them in a later chapter, most likely. Glaedr is no on a good mood though, because he thinks that even with all his protagonist powers Eragon will have no chance against Galbatorix, because they don’t have enough time to teach everything that Eragon needs to know in order to win. To Glaedr’s concerns Eragon answer this:
Then we will learn what we can and let fate decide the rest, said Eragon. Besides, Galbatorix may have had a hundred years to train his mind, but it has also been over a hundred years since you last taught him. He’s sure to have forgotten something in the interim. With you helping us, I know we can beat him.
Just hoping for the best and letting fate do his thing. That is the Eragon that we all know and hate.
Glaedr is pleased with Eragon and says that his tongue grew smother. Even though nothing of what he said is really that smother. Then Glaedr admonishes then to eat and sleep and withdraw himself to his gem-like thingy.
Eragon, Saphira and Arya discuss Glaedr‘s state. They agree that he is better than before, and that he is special for functioning rationally after losing his soul-mate and dying. Eragon also says that Brom was special too, because he kept going after losing Saphira, and Arya concurs. No one talk about Galbatorix, even though he is sane enough to rule an Empire during over a hundred years and keep the things running, with the only group rising against him being formed by a guy blind of hate. But he is evil and the text says that he is crazy, so I guess it’s expected that they don’t talk about Galbatorix.
They proceed and discuss whether or not Glaedr will want to keep living after Galbatorix is dead. Saphira and Eragon wants him too, but Arya says that it’s his choice, and uses logic again.
“I do not want him to die. No elf does. However, if every waking moment is a torment to him, then won’t it be better for him to seek release?”
Neither Eragon nor Saphira had an answer for her.
I’m starting to like Arya, because she says things that make sense. Also I’m starting to hate Eragon even more because he has to wonder if a Fate Worse Than Death is worse than death or not.
After their discussion Saphira lefts leaving Eragon and Arya to talk about something that may be significant. And it is what they will do after the war is over.
Eragon wants to build a home in the Palancar Valley, to have a place to call home when he and Saphira aren’t flying from one side to another. He also says that there will be plenty of things for him to do once Galbatorix is dead, so he has no problem with things to do in the future.
On other hand Arya will keep being the ambassador of the elves, because she doesn’t want to spend her whole life with the älfakyn, which is the name of the elves in the ancient language that never came up until now, and because there will be plenty of things too in order to make the world a just place even if they defeat Galbatorix.
After that Arya quickly makes her excuses and leaves, probably because she doesn’t want to spend too much time alone with her stalker. Eragon tries to stop her but she simply says “Good night, Eragon” without even looking to him. I like Arya because she keeps fighting against Paolini’s love subplot. It almost give me hope that they won’t stay together by the end.
After this Arya leaves Eragon sitting alone in the dark and the chapter ends.