Eragon wakes up the next morning and starts examining his bedroom, which sounds awfully modern for a medieval kid who shouldn't have much spare time.
Beside the bed was a row of shelves covered with objects he had collected.
And pray, who built the shelves?
"Hey, Uncle Garrow, I want a bunch of shelves so I can put up random crap I find."
"Forget it. Go plow the field."
There were twisted pieces of wood, odd bits of shells,
…. They aren't that close to the ocean or a large body of water, are they? The only ones I can think of aren't exactly friendly to shellfish.
The rest of the room was bare, except for a small dresser and nightstand.
Awfully modern room, isn't it? I suppose this is how Paolini imagines a "poor" room, without taking into account that not only would a medieval hovel not have separate bedrooms, but it wouldn't have frivolous furniture like a nightstand. Hell, medieval peasants wouldn't have much of anything to put IN a dresser.
And I'll give the movie credit, it did do that right. The hovel in that movie actually looked like a hovel.
It was near this very hour, sixteen years ago, that his mother, Selena, had come home to Carvahall alone and pregnant.
Star Wars moment approaching! DUN-DUN-DUN!
Lessee, a skilled farm boy raised by his uncle in the butt end of nowhere, with mysterious origins. Wanna bet his uncle dies in a fire by the hands of the Evil Minions? Oh, the suspense is just killing me!
She had been gone for six years, living in the cities. When she returned, she wore expensive clothes, and her hair was bound by a net of pearls.
My first thought would be, "expensive prostitute." But I'm mean that way.
She had sought out her brother, Garrow, and asked to stay with him until the baby arrived. Within five months her son was born. Everyone was shocked when Selena tearfully begged Garrow and Marian to raise him.
And then she died of grief, and Obi-Wan took Eragon to Tatooine… wait, sorry, wrong story. I don't know why I keep doing that.
When they asked why, she only wept and said, “I must.” Her pleas had grown increasingly desperate until they finally agreed. She named him Eragon, then departed early the next morning and never returned.
This is pretty much a requirement for the Rand Al'Thor/Richard Cypher brand of douchebag hero - his origins must be mysterious, presumably so he can turn out to be something super-awesome. Because of course, all heroes must have dramatic origins - it's not nearly as cool if a simple shepherd or farmer has to work his way up to the top. Nah, he should have an "in" from the start.
"Mine is an epic destiny!"
Anyway, Eragon goes through some rather by-the-numbers wangst about how his aunt and uncle eventually blurted out the truth about how his mom was rich and insisted they keep him, then vanished forever. This, of course, causes Deep Wangst, because a Rand/Richard hero must have some hinted tragedy or abandonment issues. He should also preferably be adopted.
Of course, it doesn't answer the question of WHY they first kept it a biiiiiiiig secret, then bothered to tell him. It seems that they had no real reason to (like a parent coming to demand him). He was a kid, not even a young adult. And I'm pretty sure no medieval village is going to have people who care deeply about child psychology. So why did it only come out when Marian was dying and not before?
Eventually he had learned to live with it, but he always had a nagging suspicion that he had not been good enough for his mother.
That would be a more convincing source of wangst if the story didn't make it clear that she was sad to leave him, and that obviously something bad was going down and she didn't have a choice. If she had just said, "Because I don't want the little runt interfering in my life of hedonistic fun," he might have some reason to feel that way."
One other thing bothered him: Who was his father?
Let me guess…
Selena had told no one, and whoever it might be had never come looking for Eragon. He wished that he knew who it was, if only to have a name. It would be nice to know his heritage.
Now, a smarter kid than Eragon who had heard the story might suspect that his dad might not be such a great guy, and that having him come looking for him might be a bad bad thing. That said, this is an obvious set-up for his father to turn out to be a bad guy, or at least an important character…. because "Your mom got knocked up by the alcoholic married chauffeur and was too embarrassed to admit it" isn't terribly heroic-sounding. And epic heroes never seem to have normal parents.
He sighed and went to the nightstand, where he splashed his face, shivering as the water ran down his neck.
What a poor person he is, to not have hot running water! Never mind that an actual medieval peasant would have had to go out to the well.
Refreshed, he retrieved the stone from under the bed and set it on a shelf. The morning light caressed it, throwing a warm shadow on the wall. He touched it one more time,
That said, how big and heavy is this egg? Considering its contents, you'd think it would be REALLY heavy… but it isn't tipping over or pulling out a shelf?
Garrow and Roran were already there, eating chicken.
… what the HEEEEEELLLLL?
There was all that shrieking and wangsting about how his family needs meat meat MEAT or they'll starve all winter, and how Sloan was such a meanie for not trading it for a pretty rock. Yet they're killing a presumably egg-producing chicken for BREAKFAST on any random day?!
Frankly this is sounding like Eragon's family is a pretty well-off and even wealthy (especially given their multi-roomed, well-furnished house), but for some reason Eragon is obsessed with hunting down meat. Maybe that's the REAL reason Garrow doesn't want people buying them giant lumps of dead animal - they obviously can afford their own, yet Eragon has this weird mental fixation on their alleged poverty.
Roran was two years older than Eragon, muscular, sturdy, and careful with his movements. They could not have been closer even if they had been real brothers.
Yo, Paolini: one of the most important rules of writing is "Show, don't tell."
So then Eragon starts wangsting about how hard and horrible his trip was, while gorging himself on chicken. Then Roran starts getting all fidgety about Katrina, and is upset that Eragon is playing "telephone" with his messages.
"If I wanted everyone to know about it, I could have built a bonfire and used smoke signals to communicate."
Strictly speaking, this is not an anachronism since smoke signals have been used for a very long time and by multiple cultures. But it IS weird, in that you'd expect a medieval peasant to not mention such ancient methods of communication.
“Horst will be discreet,” assured Eragon. “He won’t let anyone fall prey to Sloan, least of all you.”
Because lest anyone forget, Sloan Is A Super Meanie and everybody hates him.
The sun was cold and pale, providing little comfort. Under its watchful eye, the last of the barley was stored in the barn. Next, they gathered prickly vined squash, then the rutabagas, beets, peas, turnips, and beans, which they packed into the root cellar. After hours of labor, they stretched their cramped muscles, pleased that the harvest was finished.
The following days were spent pickling, salting, shelling, and preparing the food for winter.
Again, WHAT THE HELL? They clearly have huge amounts of food that can keep them comfortably fed throughout the winter, and which seem to include plenty of staple foods like barley and beans. They're also taking measures to make sure these foods won't rot or spoil. Yet apparently if they don't have a couple of dead deer that they aren't even preserving, they will STARVE. Oh woe and wangst of misery!
Anyway, they barely get the harvest inside and preserved in time, because then a blizzard hits the entire valley and they're trapped indoors. They apparently have plenty of fuel for the fire, and they have WINDOW SHUTTERS. Yet clearly they are super-impoverished. Eventually the storm blows itself out.
"We’ll give them a chance and wait before going to Carvahall. But if they don’t show soon, we’ll have to buy any spare supplies from the townspeople.” His countenance was resigned.
And clearly that is a fate worse than faux-poverty, because it's SO awful to actually buy stuff from the nearby town from people you know instead of buying it from random strangers.
They grew anxious as the days crept by without sign of the traders. Talk was sparse, and depression hung over the house.
It's never really made clear what is so horrible about the idea of buying supplies in Carvahall? Is it poorer quality? More expensive? What?
Anyway, all the wangsting turns out to be for nothing because the traders DO arrive in Carvahall, so the little trio goes off to the town to do stuff. Eragon even packs his shiny rock on the assumption that of course it's valuable and someone will want to buy it. What for, I have no idea.
The traders had made camp in an empty field on the outskirts of town. Groups of wagons, tents, and fires were randomly spread across it, spots of color against the snow. The troubadours’ four tents were garishly decorated. A steady stream of people linked the camp to the village.
Crowds churned around a line of bright tents and booths clogging the main street. Horses whinnied at the noise. The snow had been pounded flat, giving it a glassy surface; elsewhere, bonfires had melted it. Roasted hazelnuts added a rich aroma to the smells wafting around them.
That doesn't sound like a merchant caravan to me. It sounds more like a circus or fair - I mean, troubadours, tents, booths and snack foods? All it needs is some elephants and clowns riding in a little car.
Or maybe it's the medieval version of a RenFaire.
Anyway, Eragon and Roran are given some pocket money by Garrow, and for some reason Roran is supposed to be at Horst's house in time for dinner. I assume this comment is supposed to be something important to his character, but it feels like Paolini left out some important details.
while nearby their husbands examined a new latch, hook, or tool.
Why the hell do they have a blacksmith if he can't make these basic items?
Anyway, the whole trader fair circus thingie is very nice and shiny and has lots of stuff to buy, but Eragon notices that the traders are looking kind of scraggly, and all the adults have swords and daggers. He makes such a big deal of this that apparently this is supposed to be significant.
So then he goes hunting for a jewelry seller named Merlock, which just makes me think of "Morlock" or "Merlock Holmes." I'm betting this guy will also be a jerk because he wore a goatee, held himself with ease, and seemed to regard the rest of the world with slight contempt. Wanna bet he isn't willing to give Eragon a king's ransom for his shiny rock?
With a twirl he pulled out a delicately carved silver rose of excellent workmanship.
It would have to be excellent workmanship, because I'm pretty sure people don't carve silver to make that kind of jewelry. It seems like an awful lot of work for the same results. Anyway they go into the nearby tent that Morlock Holmes lives in, which is described in detail even though we are never going to see it again.
Small trinkets and strange pieces of furniture, such as a round bed and three seats carved from tree stumps, filled the tent.
Which is odd because Morlock Holmes took great care to stick all his trinkets in a trunk and LOCK it before leaving them alone. Yet for some reason he leaves his jewelry crap all over his tent… and tents are not usually the most secure structures in the world. There's even a dagger with a RUBY on it, just lying around! This guy is an idiot!
But he takes a look at the shiny rock. He weighs it, looks it over with a jeweler's glass, hits it with a hammer, and even tries to scratch it with a diamond. Then he announces that he doesn't know what the hell it is: "But I can tell you this much: the white veins are the same material as the blue that surrounds them, only a different color. What that material might be, though, I haven’t a clue. It’s harder than any rock I have seen, harder even than diamond. Whoever shaped it used tools I have never seen—or magic. Also, it’s hollow.”
In case you haven't figured it out yet, it's an egg. Shiny Rock = Egg.
The big problem here is the idea that said egg is "harder even than diamond." I'm pretty sure the entire point of an egg's shell is to protect the embryonic creature, until the embryonic creature breaks its way out. And well, it's a big difficult to break through a layer of HARDER THAN DIAMOND stuff without a tool made out of HARDER THAN DIAMOND STUFF. So this egg is basically a deathtrap, since the creature inside can't escape.
Anyway, Morlock Holmes proves his point by hitting it with the flat of a dagger blade… which apparently is supposed to have the same effect as a tuning fork. Eragon freaks out because he has the attention span of a shrimp and has thus forgotten that the sparkly rock is HARDER THAN DIAMOND, so Morlock points out that he couldn't damage it if he wanted to.
Which, incidentally, makes it a lot less potentially valuable as a gem. If you can't break it, you can't put the pieces in a pretty necklace for a rich lady who will pay lots to buy it. Nobody want to hang a foot-long chunk of very dense rock around their neck, no matter how pretty it is. Not even Elizabeth Taylor!
Then because Eragon has the attention span of a shrimp (have I mentioned that?), he starts asking what it's worth. Morlock responds by cracking him over the head with the economic realities of the world
“I am sure there are people who would pay dearly to have it, but none of them are in Carvahall. You would have to go to the southern cities to find a buyer. This is a curiosity for most people—not an item to spend money on when practical things are needed.”
And he's got a point. He's not in business to make others money, just himself - and let's face it, the area is pretty poor, so he'd have to lug this big weird rock around the country with no guarantee of a market for it. It sounds like he thinks it's fascinating, but doesn't think the damn thing will necessarily sell.
“It’s not worth the risk. I might be able to find a wealthy buyer during my spring travels, but I can’t be certain. Even if I did, you wouldn’t be paid until I returned next year."
You'd think our dumbass hero would have taken that into account, since he apparently hoped the traders would provide his family with MEATMEATMEATMEATYMEAT all winter long. Or did he think that Morlock Holmes would make a special double-back trip in order to bring them money? Or he'd be so enamored of the sparkly blue rock that he'd pay them a small fortune on the spot?
Morlock asks why they have to have this conversation huddled in a private tent, and Eragon says that it's because he found the blue rock in the Spine, and that people around there are spooked by the Spine. That doesn't really explain why they live right next to it if they're so freaked out by it.
And pray, why would people freak out if Eragon tried to sell an outsider a blue rock from the Spine? Would they fling their bodies across his stall, crying out, "Don't buy it, idiot! He found it on the EVIL MOUNTAIN RANGE!"? I doubt Morlock really cares.
Merlock gave him a startled look. “Do you know why my fellow merchants and I were late this year?”
Non sequitur, Paolini. Look it up. And so completely out of the blue, Morlock reveals that WAAAAAAAAAAA their journey has been filled with bad luck.
"Chaos seems to rule Alagaësia. We could not avoid illness, attacks, and the most cursed black luck."
Presumably this is meant to be symptomatic of the Evil King's Evil Reign. Even though, y'know, there's no way this could be his actual fault - unless he's having people sneak in to tip over their breakables and sneeze on their food.
"Because the Varden’s attacks have increased, Galbatorix has forced cities to send more soldiers to the borders, men who are needed to combat the Urgals."
So basically the Varden are terrorists who are undermining the good of the entire country. And these… are supposedly the heroes.
The weird thing is that apparently the Varden are supposed to be fighting WITHIN the borders of Galby's kingdom, but…. that isn't what it sounds like here. It sounds like they're a force from a NEIGHBORING kingdom, or at least someplace outside it. Otherwise, sending soldiers to the borders would be… kind of futile. It's almost like Paolini had something different in mind for the Varden originally, but ended up changing it later on without altering all the references.
"No one knows why and it wouldn’t concern us, except that they’re passing through populated areas. They’ve been spotted on roads and near cities."
Uhhhhh… not to nitpick…. but are they going THROUGH populated areas, or NEAR populated areas? There's a big difference between those… sort of like the difference between getting shot and getting grazed.
"Worst of all are reports of a Shade, though the stories are unconfirmed. Not many people survive such an encounter.”
I bet two generic fantasy gold coins that Eragon does.
Oh, and apparently this is a recent occurrence, only in the last few months. And as a result, Eragon's village doesn't have the faintest idea that HEY GUESS WHAT whole villages are having to evacuate because of possible starvation. WHERE they're moving to is not specified, since I doubt there are many places that would or could spare enough food to feed entire villages.
This is actually a pretty semi-realistic portrayal of how news would have traveled in a medieval society, so I'll award Paolini that much.
“We haven’t seen any Urgals; the only one around here has his horns mounted in Morn’s tavern.”
Small world! Now he owns his own bar instead of just hanging around other people's!
Morlock Holmes basically says that it won't last, that they've been safe this long because Carvahall is hidden by the mountains and nobody notices it.
"I only mentioned this because strange things are happening here as well if you found such a stone in the Spine.”
Because sparkly magic rock = Urgal attacks on random villages. Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, Eragon then goes shopping and quizzes all the people there, and eventually buys a tiny cherry pie (It's McYeOldeDonald's!) and some candy, which sounds kind of frivolous for a farm boy. You'd think he'd want to buy something that will last more than fifteen minutes.
Eragon was impatient for evening, when the troubadours would come out to tell stories and perform tricks.
Once again, is this a merchant caravan or a circus? I can't see why the merchants would want to have some extra mouths to feed, especially if those extras don't contribute anything tangible. For that matter, why do they even need troubadours? They don't need the advertisement, since they're pretty essential to every place they pass through!
He loved hearing about magic, gods, and, if they were especially lucky, the Dragon Riders.
Just once I'd like the hero of such a piece to not be part of the elite Jediesque organization, but a capable and smart sidekick to them… just once.
Anyway, Eragon goes scuttling into the Generic Fantasy tavern when Sloan passes by, and it sounds a lot like the Prancing Pony in the Lord of the Rings movie, plus random additions.
"Scuse me, that ripoff in the corner…. what is it?"
The shiny-black Urgal horns, their twisted span as great as his outstretched arms,
The Urgals must have some freakish neck muscles if they not only can lift those, but can rush around doing lots of damage.
The bar was long and low, with a stack of staves on one end for customers to carve.
… wut? So the dude who owns the place just randomly puts a bunch of wooden staffs so his customers can leave wood shavings all over the floor? It seems pretty weird to me - not only is he going to extra trouble for a service that won't get him any more money, but it has NOTHING to do with the main purpose of a tavern. You know, eating, drinking and so on. It's not a freaking craft club.
Plus, he'll have to sweep up all the crap left behind from the people who decide to take him up on the free-staves offer. I'm starting to think that Sloan is the only semi-smart businessman in Carvahall...
The bottom half of his face was short and mashed, as if he had rested his chin on a grinding wheel.
This would be easier to envision if we were told what the hell a grinding wheel is. I assume he doesn't mean the current post-industrial ones - those wouldn't smash up his face, they'd grind it to paste.
“Grain buyers. They bought everyone’s seed at ridiculously low prices, and now they’re telling wild stories, expecting us to believe them.”
Eragon understood why Morn was so upset. People need that money. We can’t get by without it.
Yes, Eragon. That is how it works. And here's a bit of news: people who buy products from farmers ALSO need money, and THEY can't get by without it either. This is called "commerce."
I'm going to call this attitude the Meat Mentality - nobody except The Hero and his friends could need money, food or anything else, and obviously if anyone else gets a great deal on anything they're just evil cheating swine who are ripping off the common folk.
Anyway, a pair of grain traders are apparently telling stories and spreading pro-monarchist propaganda, which is reacted to with unusual scorn.
“They say the Varden have formed a pact with the Urgals and are massing an army to attack us. Supposedly , it’s only through the grace of our king that we’ve been protected for so long—as if Galbatorix would care if we burned to the ground. . . . Go listen to them. I have enough on my hands without explaining their lies.”
This might be a plausible reaction from a modern person with access to news reports, the Internet, and other forms of mass media. That's pretty much how I feel about the current president and his predecessor, y'know?
But guess what: that isn't how it worked in medieval anyplace. These people are basically cut off from the world and don't have the faintest idea what's going on in villages near them, let alone what the Varden are doing. So for all they know, the Varden ARE teaming up with the Urgals - they certainly aren't informed enough to really doubt it.
Similarly, how would they even know enough about the king to know what he thinks about his subjects? Thus far, we haven't seen anything that actually indicates that the king is doing a bad job, except be labelled as the Designated Villain. The people of Carvahall seem to be doing pretty well, when you consider that they're all blithering idiots with zero business sense. So exactly what cause would they have for such cynicism, especially since they're totally unaware of what's going on outside their village?
Anyway, the traders are of course sinister and ugly and fat, as well as being rich (as evidenced by the gaudy jewels on their hands). Don't forget - fat/ugly people are evil, and so are rich people. No attractive people could possibly work for the Designated Villain, because good looks indicate moral purity.
And like Morn, who should really be silent if he's the dude from Star Trek, apparently has the same anachronistic attitude as the rest of the village. When the traders insist that the king is a good guy and he's working for them, like shills for any modern politician, the people are all jeering about how the king doesn't give a crap and everyone can take care of themselves. Clearly this is why a farm boy is obsessed with meat, there's a butcher's shop that nobody frequents, and everyone claims to be poor despite having modern houses.
“You’re angry with the Empire for treating people unfairly, a legitimate concern, but a government cannot please everyone. There will inevitably be arguments and conflicts. However, the majority of us have nothing to complain about."
Which actually seems to be true. We haven't heard of any frivolous wars, we haven't seen any gross displays of neglect or malice, and nobody seems to be starving despite claims to the contrary. The country is peaceful, seems fairly secure, and is apparently pretty stable. Apparently the Designated Evil King is doing a pretty good job - imperfect as all governing jobs are, but good.
Hell, the MOVIE had to create some extra villainy just so the people of Carvahall would have a real reason to be pissed.
"Every country has some small group of malcontents who aren’t satisfied with the balance of power.”
“Yeah,” called a woman, “if you’re willing to call the Varden small!”
Well, they apparently are, since apparently nobody in either Carvahall or the traveling caravan has actually seen them or knows much about them.
Additionally, it doesn't exactly support the Ebil Tyrant of Tyranny image that the Empire is supposed to have if the people have FREE SPEECH. Perhaps Paolini is unaware of this, but free speech is a pretty modern concept - and if the Empire were that bad, you'd expect people to be cowering and watching their words in fear of being accused of being one of the Varden, not howling support for them in the taverns to complete strangers.
Anyway, the Fat Evil Rich Guy keeps insisting that the Varden are evil and selfish, and they're trying to overthrow the king so they can nab all the Empire's land. People are starting to agree with him for no particular reason, so as the Designated Hero Eragon has to step in to open his mouth:
“How do you know this? I can say that clouds are green, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Prove you aren’t lying.”
- Which is kind of a dumb thing to demand. What, are they supposed to haul around a Varden prisoner with a Varden ID who's confessed everything?
- And it's pretty hard to prove that a person ISN'T lying. You can prove that they are not telling the truth, intentionally or unintentionally, but not that they are actively lying.
- And how does Eragon know that they AREN'T evil, selfish and scheming to stage a coup? He can't prove HIS position either, so HE can't know that the Varden are good. Hell, he has LESS of a leg to stand on, because at least traders have gotten outside this little hole of a town.
- Also, Paolini needs to learn the difference between "lying" and "having a difference of opinion."
But of course the traders have no evidence, real or fictional, to bolster their opinions, and they claim it's merely common sense. You can tell Paolini's never been in a real political debate, because there is ALWAYS lots of stuff that either side can use to their advantage.
And of course, noble rebel groups are all pure-hearted and utterly good - there's no one in them who fights selfishly, hurts anyone except the Designated Bad Guys, or does anything questionable at all. Because they're Noble Rebels, like in Star Wars.
Eragon returned to the bar with a sour taste in his mouth. He had never before met anyone who favored the Empire and tore down its enemies.
He's clearly a very, very sheltered kid. And so is Paolini - after all, Hitler was legitimately elected into office by a democratic vote. No matter how bad a ruler/regime, there are gonna be a lot of supporters of it and its leaders, and Galby apparently hasn't done anything bad enough to alienate nearly enough people.
Anyway, he starts ranting about The Ebil Empire and how much the people of Carvahall just HATE them… which is rather weird, since they are basically in the backside of nowhere, know absolutely nothing about what's going on outside their village and wouldn't really be expected to know anything about politics.
The Empire never helped them during harsh years when they nearly starved, and its tax collectors were heartless.
So… basically your average medieval monarchy, huh? It's not like they're slaughtering babies, burning villages at random or turning the place into an infertile wasteland. Waaaaa, they're taking taxes and they don't sprain themselves rushing to the rescue of a tiny, remote village of unusually stupid peasants right near the place that the king wants to AVOID with good reason! THOSE BASTARDS!
In fact, this area seems to be doing well - everybody's living in absurdly luxurious houses, they've obviously got lots of food (even if most of it isn't meat), and they don't seem to be threatened by wars, crime or general oppression. It seems like the king is doing a pretty decent job, and he's obviously pretty tolerant if he's allowing people to riot against him in tavern with no repercussions.
So…. are we gonna see any evidence of evil from him?
Anyway, Eragon starts reflecting on how the Varden is a rebel group that is always attacking the Empire, and how nobody knows who started it or who's leading it. And since they are anti-Empire and Galbatorix hasn't nabbed them yet, people love them… which doesn't make much sense because the Varden aren't really doing anything for them. In fact, we see over the course of the series that the Varden don't really look out for anyone who isn't one of them.
Oh, and apparently if you're on the run from the Empire or hate the Empire, they'll just let you into the group. That suggests that the Varden are as dumb as the peasantry, since it basically means that
- A) they'll allow any common criminal into their group with no questions asked (like murderers and rapists?)
- B) they'll also welcome in DOUBLE AGENTS with no questions asked, as long as they yell about how much they hate the Empire.
Despite this brilliant policy, they apparently make it impossible for people to find them… so no underground network, no passwords, no nothing. You just have to be lucky enough to bumble across them. So we're a few chapters in, and we've discovered that our hero is a blithering idiot, our heroine is a snob, the Evil King is doing a pretty decent job, and the Noble Rebels are a band of brain-dead criminals. Who am I supposed to be rooting for again?
Anyway the idiot villagers are forming a lynch mob against the traders, which is apparently okay because the traders support the Designated Villain, and murder is totally an okay response to political differences. So Eragon scoots out of the building to let the villagers murder innocent people, and finds Roran and Katrina making out in an alley.
Okay, they're not making out, but they are in an alley. Which is weird because in a teeny tiny rural village, there shouldn't be an alley; we're not talking about an industrial city with lots of squished-together shops and houses. Anyway Katrina leaves and Eragon goes wandering off with Roran.
“Have you heard the traders’ news?” asked Eragon, following. Most of the villagers were indoors, talking to traders or waiting until it was dark enough for the troubadours to perform.
“Yes.” Roran seemed distracted. “What do you think of Sloan?”
“I thought it was obvious.”
“There’ll be blood between us when he finds out about Katrina and me,” stated Roran.
Clearly dialogue is Paolini's forte. This conversation is bouncing around like a cocaine-fueled gnat. Anyway Eragon can't think of anything to say about this comment, and of course since Sloan Is Bad he decides that Roran is sooooo right.
Anyway, despite the fact that it's cold and miserable out, they attend some sort of dinner party at Horst's, which Paolini neglected to mention before. Apparently there's lots of booze and laughter, but Paolini neglects to actually describe how it feels to be there or mention any of the people. And since it's nighttime in the winter in a place with no heating and snow everywhere, they go tramping out to a field.
And then the required Wise Old Guy comes out and scares away the Sand People… hold on, wrong story. It's actually the Wise Weird Old Hermit who lives out in the deserts of Tatooine…. wait, wrong again.
This is the storyteller Brom, who decides to ruin all the slapstick comedy and pantomime by telling pompous stories to the crowds. Amazingly, the crowds don't run for the hills.
A knotted white beard rippled over his chest,
Apparently combs are unknown to the people of this village. Either that, or Paolini was checking out deviantart pictures of Gandalf when he wrote this.
“The sands of time cannot be stopped. Years pass whether we will them or not . . . but we can remember."
Captain Obvious iz obvious. I suppose this is intended to be very deep and meaningful, but it…. well, it's kind of glaringly obvious, and cliches like "sands of time" don't help. They just make me think of… well...
"What has been lost may yet live on in memories. That which you will hear is imperfect and fragmented, yet treasure it, for without you it does not exist. I give you now a memory that has been forgotten, hidden in the dreamy haze that lies behind us.”
If this is how he normally talks, I'm genuinely shocked that Brom doesn't regularly put the villagers into comas. He basically says glaringly obvious banalities, dressed up in dense packets of cliche and silly imagery.
Of course, he glances at Eragon because he's the Designated Hero. Then he starts prattling about the Dragon Riders and how they were super-warriors, super-strong, immortal and utterly good at all times. They were SO awesome that they apparently taught the idiot masses to make cities and towers, the land flourished, and so on and so forth. I'm thinking about renaming them Dragon Sues.
"It was a golden time. The elves were our allies, the dwarves our friends. Wealth flowed into our cities, and men prospered."
- What is golden about it exactly? I mean, we know that they… well, they made stone buildings and they fought. That in itself is not so great.
- Fickle little bastards, ain't they? How come as soon as things aren't perfect, the elves and dwarves immediately dump our entire species?
- I'm not an expert at medieval economics, but is wealth flowing into cities (and thus away from the countryside) a good thing? I seem to recall Eragon whining about that happening in the tavern. Wealth flowing into city and men prospering sounds more like an industrial development, which is when cities as we know them (as centers of production, industry and moneymaking) started, rather than cities being filthy little clusters centered around a castle or whatever.
- And usually things start sucking in the countryside when THAT happens.
Anyway, he starts talking about how, of course, the good guys got their asses kicked.
“Though no enemy could destroy them, they could not guard against themselves."
Don't see why not. Is it so hard to keep an eye on their recruits?
Anyway, Galbatorix (which apparently means "fat chief" or "fat king" or something like that) was born in a province that isn't important, and he turned out to be strong in the Force. Er, they found he had great power, which apparently is all it takes to become a Rider. No wonder these morons got overthrown.
Anyway Galby was apparently some sort of prodigy and quickly got promoted - which apparently Paolini thinks is a sign of arrogance by the people doing the promoting. I'm not sure why he thinks somebody who is skilled, smart and capable should be held back when they're good enough.
“So it was that soon after his training was finished, Galbatorix took a reckless trip with two friends."
… where they drank beer until they threw up and rode dirtbikes through the woods. Or whatever.
No, actually Galby and his buddies went on a joyride to the Urgals' territory and immediately got ambushed. Galby was the only survivor, since his friends and their dragons all died.
"Tragically, during the fight a stray arrow pierced his dragon’s heart."
Does Paolini not know what "stray" means? If you're trying to shoot someone, it's not a stray arrow. It would only be a stray arrow if Galby himself had fired it, and since there's no mention of that, I can only assume that the Urgals did.
"Without the arts to save her, she died in his arms. Then were the seeds of madness planted.”
- She must have been a very small dragon. Or he had very big arms.
- Given that it's established later that dragons and Riders have intimate mental connections, I'm not sure why it's so shocking that somebody might be unbalanced by the DEATH of their dragon, which they would FEEL in its entirety.
- We also later find that healing spells are FRIGGIN EASY.
- In fact, you would think that warriors on dragons would be EXTENSIVELY trained in how to heal wounds before being allowed to do ANYTHING.
Anyway, if you aren't feeling sorry for Galby yet, he apparently went meandering through the Urgals' land, killed everything that he fought, spent months WALKING back to the Dragon Riders, almost starved and was found by a farmer in a DITCH... all because the poor guy was hoping they would give him another dragon. So… thus far, the only sign of his villainy is that he made a youthful error in judgement (and didn't even make it alone).
Anyway, the Riders fixed him up and after he woke up, he said he wanted another dragon. Here's where the weirdness kicks in.
“The desperation of the request revealed his dementia, and the council saw him for what he truly was."
I'm not quite sure how being desperate equals being evilly insane. I mean, he didn't take a baby hostage and threaten to kill it unless they gave him a new dragon. At worst, it sounds like he may have been a bit disrespectful - and even then, normal people would have cut him some slack considering what the last several weeks or months were like and the devastating losses he had suffered.
And frankly this entire story isn't really making Galby look evil - it's just making the Riders look like inept bastards. Why did they refuse to let him have a new dragon? He's a freaking DRAGON RIDER. There's no reason given for them deciding not to assign him a new dragon, so they just come across as a bunch of arseholes who like to flex their power.
Now given his dumb joyride I could understand putting him on a probationary period BEFORE giving him a new dragon, so they could make sure he understood the severity of that error. But apparently they've decided for no real reason that he should remain dragonless forever merely because he wants another dragon companion after his old one died. What is WRONG with that? Does Paolini think that someone who badly wants a new dog after the old one dies must be insane too?
"Denied his hope, Galbatorix, through the twisted mirror of his madness, came to believe it was the Riders’ fault his dragon had died."
Or he was just pissed because they decided to take away any hope of having a new one.
Anyway, Galby conspired with another Rider who dared to sympathize with him, and they killed an elder, then Galby killed his sidekick. Then the Riders showed up and Galby runs off into the night.
Presumably this is to show that Galby is supposed to be batshit insane. The problem is that, as pointed out before, he's actually governed Alagaesia quite well for the last century. Mad monarchs don't tend to be nearly this competent or orderly, and they don't tend to last long (especially in turbulent times). So the entire story is starting to sound like propaganda. "Oh yes, the Riders were all good and noble and perfect, and that means it was fine for them to treat the Designated Villain like crap."
After that, Galby apparently spent years hiding in random wastelands, and the Dragon Riders apparently neglected to start any kind of profiling, testing or security measures because of these events. I told ya they were all idiots. And then he made friends with some dude called Morzan, stole a dragon hatchling, and hid in someplace that the Riders didn't wanna go to. Of course, Paolini neglects to mention WHERE this place of Darkity Mean Evilness actually is or why the Riders were too scared to go there.
"There Morzan entered into a dark apprenticeship, learning secrets and forbidden magic that should never have been revealed."
This sounds very cool, but it's still not making sense. Who taught Morzan all these secrets and forbidden magic? I assume it's supposed to be Galby, but where did HE learn them from if he was living "like an animal" in abandoned wastelands? Did he happen to trip across Evil Magic Books that somebody carelessly left out in the middle of nowhere?
Oh, and Galby's new dragon is called "Shruikan." Bet he has brothers called Katanaa and Nunuchk.
Anyway, Galby and Morzan join forces with Twelve other rebel Riders and start attacking the regular Riders, who are completely destroyed by them.
... OKAY, WTF?
Paolini made a big show of telling us how the Riders were morally perfect uber-warriors with great wisdom and all that crap. If they were guardians of Alagaesia, there must have been a lot of them. Yet they ALL got their asses kicked by a dozen malcontents who weren't really any better fightingwise than they were! What, were they too scared to get on their dragons and fight back?
This is the sort of stuff that HEROES in high fantasy do - lead a little band of their compatriots against the Big Overwhelming Powerful Opposing Forces, and take them out despite the odds being stacked against them. It's not what villains do!
Now this sort of thing actually made sense in Star Wars, because the Jedi weren't up against just Darth Vader and Darth Sidious (who wasn't an exile, he was basically the prime minister of the whole GALAXY). They were up against the brainwashed Clone army. They were up against the entire planet they were stationed on. They were against EVERYBODY that the Republic controlled. So it actually makes sense that Palpatine could wipe them all out.
… THIS, this is a whole vast army against A DOZEN GUYS.
"The elves, too, fought bitterly against Galbatorix, but they were overthrown and forced to flee to their secret places, from whence they come no more."
Apparently the elves are as pathetically ineffectual as the Riders. Once again, there are presumably a LOT of elves, but they got their perfect shiny asses handed to them by fourteen dudes on dragons.
I'm starting to think that it was inevitable that the Designated Villain takes over, because frankly all of Paolini's Designated Heroes seem to be blithering idiots who probably have trouble putting on their pants correctly. How much of a golden age could the Riders have provided if they were so stupid and weak that fourteen men could overthrow them AND the elves completely? Or is their mere presence supposed to magically make the entire land prosperous?
And then Galby went toe-to-toe with the Riders' leader Vrael, who apparently wasn't a very good leader if he had kept the Riders security-free, without any kind of psych evals, and so weak and disorganized that FOURTEEN GUYS could kill them all AND their dragons. So while he was having a big dramatic fight with Galby, he inexplicably held back and didn't just kill Galby. No idea why.
Anyway, Galby did what any half-decent swordsman would do and injured Vrael, who presumably cried like a little girl before running off to some Nordic-named mountain. Galby finds him, they fight, and Galby defeats Vrael.
By kicking him in the crotch.
I am for serious here. He actually did that. No joke.
Yup, that's the stuff of epic fantasy. HE KICKED VRAEL IN THE CROTCH.
I don't know why Paolini even included that bizarre moment, because it's so out of place - it's like reading one of those big dramatic fight scenes in an epic fantasy book, only to have one of the combatants hop on a rooftop and start raving about the Red Baron. Presumably the crotch-kicking is supposed to show what an EVIL HORRIBLE TREACHEROUS BASTARD Galby is, but it just ends up making you feel like Epic Fantasy Fight has turned into a lowbrow comedy skit. This is like Monty Python!
“Then as power rushed through his veins, Galbatorix anointed himself king over all Alagaësia.
“And from that day, he has ruled us.”
- Why is he King of an Empire? Why not kind of a kingdom? Or emperor of an empire?
- Just because Star Wars has an Empire doesn't mean Paolini needs one too.
- I'm still waiting for evidence that he's doing a bad job. Okay, he usurped control of Alagaesia from the Riders. But so what? They seem to have been weak, pathetic bastards with no real virtues except "We R the Coolz! We haz DRAGONS!"
- Just because someone took over a country doesn't mean they're a bad ruler, or even morally in the wrong. That's how a LOT of good rulers took the throne.
- And for that matter, Alagaesia's government up til that point can't have been very good if FOURTEEN GUYS ON DRAGONS could take over the entire country just by bumping off the Riders. You'd expect there to be regular armies. Kings. Dukes. Chieftains. Rebel factions forming immediately. Bureaucracies. Civil organizations.
- Even in times of yore, they had plenty of these - and it took a LOT more effort to take over a country.
Anyway, Brom has FINALLY finished his ridiculous story, and walks off with a tear on his cheek. This is part of a continuing trend, so keep an eye on those single tears.
Garrow said to Eragon and Roran, “Consider yourselves fortunate. I have heard this tale only twice in my life. If the Empire knew that Brom had recited it, he would not live to see a new month.”
I don't see why they'd bump him off, honestly. There are people being much more seditious at the local tavern and apparently not fearing for their lives at all.