So thankfully we cut to the next morning, when people are having breakfast and talking about Arin's vision, and THANK YOU GOD Arin doesn't recount the whole thing in detail.
Arin shook her head. "I seem to recall there were other images, yet what they were I cannot say."
DAMMIT, she can't even remember her vision?! She didn't mention this before!
So at present they're at breakfast with Elora, Aldor and Rael. There, too, were Silverleaf and Talarin. Talarin suffered much from blue balls, since he apparently wasn't getting a honeymoon due to this not-very-imminent crisis. Also, why didn't McKiernan just list everybody in the room in one sentence?
Aaaaaand it's time for a description of Talarin, a character who is only notable for being a ripoff of Celeborn, and who has absolutely no importance in this story. He could have been left out of this scene completely and his lines given to other people, and it would make NO difference.
Like Rael, he, too, had golden hair, but his eyes were green.
Also, his skin was purple and he had two noses.
"That I have seen none of this is of no moment, my Coron, and does not make it less true, for Visions are heedless as to whom they show their sights. 'Tis likely no two seers in a thousand will view the same image, or so said Elgon the Mage."
- The first sentence MAKES NO SENSE. Period!
- Of course, we're talking about the ONLY two natural seers in the entire species, which no other species seems to be able to do. With that few, you can't make assumptions!
- Oh, and that mage? Yeah, HIS SPECIES CAN SCRY.
- And it's NOT a random "let's see what's interesting" kind of scrying - it's more like magical surveillance which they can direct themselves. But he claims that none of them will see the same image even if they scry it?!
Arin cleared her throat. "Dara Rael, can Seen events be set aside, avoided?"
"If thou callest upon Alice Cullen, certainly."
"I have never tried," answered Rael at last. "To do so would be to tamper with Fate ... and who knows what would happen then? Mayhap the Wizards ... but not I."
"So... when we got struck with lightning, invaded by hungry orcs and visited by my mother-in-law, you saw it coming but just didn't tell me?"
"Yea, for to do so would be to tamper with fate!"
Also, this sounds like an epic cop-out. For all she knows, tampering with "Fate" might be what she's supposed to do.
"Like thee, Dara, I too have never tried. Yet this vision of mine, it seems as if something must be done to negate the oncoming doom."
"But to do so would be to tamper with FATE!"
"Uh, millions will die horribly in a world war."
"But tampering with FATE.... we can't do THAT!"
So Arin quizzes the other Elves about the stone and what it might be, and nobody has ever heard of it. They start suggesting that maybe the Mages made, or the Dwarves. Well, skipping ahead several books in the chronology, it's actually a dragon artifact. I don't think McKiernan ever really explains where the hell the thing came from or WHY it exists, but... there's really no reason why NOBODY would have heard about it.
Oh, and the actual Dragonstone? It has VERY little to do with this book's plot.
"Perhaps it is a thing of the Drimma," conjectured Talarin. "They work gem and jade and stone, and from thy description it could be any of these."
"They hath many paperweights and tchotchkes!"
"True," replied Arin. "Yet I have not seen its like among any artifacts of the delvers."
If it were such a powerful item that it could END THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, I think they wouldn't just let anyone saunter in and look at it.
"It just struck me: mayhap it is a creation of Magekind," volunteered Perin.
Biren turned to his twin. "Why would they do such? To what end?"
Perin shrugged. "Who knows the ways of Wizards?"
LAME. You don't get to bring up possibilities and then just shrug them off with, "Oh, wizards are mysterious, so I don't need to come up with a reason!"
Aldor slowly shook his head. "Whatever it is—Drimmen or not, Wizards or not, or even the gods themselves—this green stone would seem to be a true token of power."
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
So Aldor decides that he's going to start asking around among the dwarves and Lian, and that Arin should go find a wizard. We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Blahs.... or rather, the wizard Elgon.
"He knows of seers and seeing?"
"Somewhat... though it was not his, um, specialty."
"Perhaps I should seek him out, then," suggested Arin.
Rael shook her head. "I know not where he dwells."
"Rwn? Black Mountain?"
Rael shrugged. "Mayhap."
This entire conversation is like watching someone tread water. And no, Elgon has absolutely no impact on the plot at all. He isn't even MENTIONED again for the rest of the book.
So finally somebody suggests someone USEFUL: Dalavar, who is a sort of weird mage who lives in the middle of Darda Vrka. And no, nobody really knows anything about him until the last books in the series, when he unloads his whole backstory all at once.
"His is a shaggy forest. . . and warded."
I'm sorry, but neither of those words fit the word "forest."
Rael frowned. "Warded?"
"Aye. By the Draega, by the Silver Wolves."
I'm assuming that everyone there knows what the Draega are. So, how come they mention that they are "silver wolves" even though it doesn't add anything? This whole sentence would have been better if the third-person omniscient narrator had just TOLD us what the Draega were.
"Draega in Mithgar?" exclaimed Ruar. "I thought they all dwelt in Adonar."
"Evidently not," said Silverleaf,
I'm sorry, but maybe I'm not clear on this. We're told in various books that the only way for anybody to go from one plane to another is through some kind of ritualized dance. How can a wolf or bird do that?! How do they know WHERE or WHEN to do it?
My brain hurts.
We're also told that Darda Vrka is northeast and eight hundred leagues away, and even more by the route they'll be taking... which, if you're curious...
... is about 2,400 miles. Holy shit, just think about that. Just to ask ONE QUESTION. For an idea of how far that is, Washington DC and San Diego are approximately 2600 miles apart! They're traveling almost the width of the North American continent just to ask some guy if he knows anything about a green rock!
And they don't actually have any reason to think that he WILL know anything! They could go there, ask him, and he could say, "Sorry, no se." He might not even be home!
Arin sighed. "And Black Mountain—where does it lie?"
"Beyond Darda Vrka," said Rissa. "Another two hundred leagues or so. In the realm of Xian."
DEAR HOPPITY FUCK! That's another 600 miles! Which admittedly isn't much compared to the width of one of the largest countries in the world, but that's still the distance between Charleston and Miami!
You know, I usually don't rate Christopher Paolini over other authors, but this is an area he admittedly did better. Sure the scrying-communication thing is kind of clumsy, but at least the characters don't travel for MONTHS AND MONTHS AND MONTHS just to ask someone a one-line question!
Arin thought a moment. "Can we save time by riding the dusk and the dawn?"
"That might be a little difficult since dusk and dawn aren't physical objects."
But no, apparently going to Adonar and back won't shorten the journey. And they can't even sail to the wizard island of Rwn because the Rovers of Kistan are blocking the place. The Rovers of Kistan are basically faceless pirates that McKiernan trots out whenever he needs bad guys who aren't very imposing but can cause inconvenience.
"Aravan's ship," said Arin, her eyes brightening. "He would give us passage."
"And since we're all elves, we'd get a 50% discount!"
But no, Aravan's SueShip Of Suey Awesomeness isn't accessible because he's already broken through the blockade, and the High King is planning to do stuff to stop the Rovers... but like any government, they're going to take their sweet time. HOLY SHIT, is McKiernan taunting us with how long and boring he can make the trip? You're supposed to find shortcuts to allow your heroes to GET ON with their mission, not arrange things so they spend months riding across a continent.
"Rwn or Darda Vrka or Black Mountain in Xian," said Arin, sighing, "no matter our choice, it will take time."
And that Doomsday Clock is just tickticktickticking away.
So while they're rehashing stuff they've already said, somebody comes riding in blowing a bugle.
Again the bugle sounded, closer this time.
"It sounds like... yes, it's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'!"
So they all grab their weapons and scuttle out the door, which is Aldor's opportunity to... say exactly what they all said two minutes ago.
"Let me say this to thee, Dara, ere it is pushed from my mind by this clarion call:"
"It's... damn, the bugle just made me forget everything."
"I would suggest that thou and thy companions follow the counsel of Dara Rael and hie to Darda Vrka. Seek out this Dalavar and ask his advice. And if Dalavar cannot help ye, then go on to Black Mountain beyond, for none—"
Now the ringing of the bugle became strident.
"—none here knows of the green stone, but the Wizards may. Meanwhile, I will do all in my power to uncover its import."
YOU SAID ALL THAT ALREADY. Seriously. The whole chapter has been about SAYING THIS SHIT. You needed to say this right away because you might forget to tell her WHAT YOU WERE ALREADY SAYING?!
A horse and Elven rider came thundering into the thorp, a brace of remounts running behind on long tethers.
- If you're making your "fresh" horses run with you, doesn't that mean they'll be tired? I'm confused.
- Then again, I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about horseback riding. Except you can break your neck if you once played Superman.
- Also, STOP SAYING "THORP." Nobody knows what it means.
- Also, we shortly find out that this guy hasn't actually ridden that far. Maybe a day at most. How many times does he need to switch horses?!
Aldor stepped out the door, the others following after.
Except for Crazy Eddie. He jumped out the window.
Actually, the characters we've seen in this chapter seem to be the ONLY ones who come out to see what the hell is going on. This guy has been tootling loudly on his horn for awhile, but apparently none of the other elves bothered to come out.
"Is that an alarm?"
"Eh, probably. Pass the dip."
"Shouldn't we go check if we're being invaded?"
"Oh, who cares? They sound the alarm if dinner is late."
"Put on the next MST3K episode."
So what is this crisis? "the Rûpt along the Grimwall, they have felled in malice nine of the Eld Trees."
The horror! The bad guys chopped down trees! SOMEONE ARRANGE A FUNERAL FOR THE TREES! Invite the beech, the elm, the oak and the weeping willow trees to come mourn for them! Clearly nothing so horrible has happened in the history of the WORLD!
And no, I'm not exaggerating (much).
"Blœ!" spat Elora, her look grim. "Too easy. They should have suffered."
Uh, can I point out that these are TREES? I know that elves are supposed to be hippy-dippy tree-huggers in tune with nature and all that, who are able to paint with all the colors of the wind and talk to trees and crap like that. But this is kind of excessive.
I've read the whole series, and there are a lot of Elves who die. I mean, one of Rael's kids is not only murdered by the bad guys, but he's TORTURED to death on a rack. How do the other characters, including that character's TWIN BROTHER, to whom he's psychically linked, react? Well, they get a little woozy, are mildly sad, and just sort of wander off on the rest of their mission. They're not even that gung-ho for revenge... for a family member!
But chop down some of their favorite trees? KILL KILL KILL KILL KILL...
Aldor ground his teeth. "The Rûpt: Rucha, Loka, Ghûlka, what?"
... does it matter?
... again, why does this matter?
So it turns out that this happened a couple night ago, which is when Arin had her dream about screams and blades. This.... really doesn't actually add anything to the story. And actually, this whole incident is pretty much pointless. The only reason it was included was because McKiernan mentioned it in a previously-published book.
Vanidar said we are somehow connected, and connected we are: they sense our presence; I sensed their pain.
Um... how? Why? Is there any sort of explanation for this anywhere? Is there a specific reason why they seem to value these trees more than their RELATIVES?
"We were bloodlust mad with grief and the Rûpt were all dead ere we thought to take prisoner."
Silverleaf slapped his leg and said to Aldor, "More than simple killings need answer this rape."
"Of that I am aware," replied Aldor, his eyes narrowing.
"We must uncover the ones behind this vile deed and bring a hard message home unto the Foul Folk."
"Retribution," growled Elora, baring her teeth. "Swift and hard. This must never happen again."
AGAIN, these people barely react to actual ELVES being murdered, let alone members of other sentient species! At most they're a little sad, boohoo, on with eternal life. And I'd like to remind you that these elves are IMMORTAL. You would think that to them, ANY OF THEM dying would be a huge deal and a cause for massive grief.
Just think about Arwen in Lord of the Rings' appendices. She clearly doesn't understand or cope well with the idea of death, because she is an elf! Until she married Aragorn, she was immortal. So she can't cope when someone close to her is dying, and she can't deal with the idea that they'll be reunited later on. It's unnatural for her.
Or think about the scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies when Legolas is confronted by Gandalf's death or Aragorn's APPARENT death.
So first Legolas is shocked and sad because of Gandalf's death. He seems to be off in a world of his own after they leave Moria, and even when Aragorn tells him to make the hobbits get up, Legolas barely reacts. He just sort of stands there tugging at a hobbit's hand, as if he doesn't think they should.
Now while in Tolkien's mythos it might not be a huge deal for an elf to die, since they will be given new bodies and send back to the physical world, remember that Legolas is not used to being around mortals. When they die, that's it. Gone. Forever. No coming back. Even if he waits for the rest of his immortal life, he will not see them again until the God of Middle-Earth allows everybody to see each other at the end of the world.
And this reaction is carried over in a very logical manner. Legolas is still unhappy and dazed in Lothlorien, and acts in a more subdued manner. He seems to value the lives of the people who are with them even more, crying when Boromir dies even though he didn't really know or like Boromir much. When they think Merry and Pippin are dead, he looks physically sick and actually grabs onto Gimli for support, like he's going to collapse. And when Eomer threatens to cut off Gimli's head, Legolas goes completely ballistic and AIMS AN ARROW at the guy, in such an over-the-top way that even Gimli is shocked.
And then we have Aragorn's false-alarm death in The Two Towers, where Legolas' reaction is similarly logical.
This scene takes place right after a runaway warg goes off a cliff, with Aragorn tied to its side. When they both go into the river, everybody assumes the worst. And when Theoden basically says, "Well, we have to get up and keep going," Legolas' reaction is perfect. He just STARES at Theoden with a mixture of outrage and disbelief, like he can't believe Theoden just said that.
It makes sense, because Theoden has been exposed to a lot of death in his lifetime, and he knows you just have to pick up and keep going even when people have died. He's more used to the idea of death and loss, especially since his son was just killed. He's not being insensitive, but it seems that way to Legolas, because the death of his close friend (and future king of Gondor) is something he simply can't cope with.
When you consider that Legolas has spent his whole life in a society where death is unnatural, it makes perfect sense that he would act this way. He values the trees and nature, but his friends (and presumably his family) come first in his priorities, and the idea of losing ANYONE to permanent death is a huge blow to him. I could easily see Legolas grieving or being angry if someone destroyed trees - especially the mallorn trees in Lothlorien. But I can't see him reacting more strongly to that than to the loss of Aragorn or the Hobbits.
But these elves? They go apeshit over the death of trees, but shrug off the deaths of fellow immortals whom they will NEVER EVER SEE AGAIN unless they also die, which will only happen if someone kills them. This doesn't make any sense!
Then Vanidar hops on board the "Merrily We Go To War" train, and we get reminded that he totally planted those trees. All of them, apparently. Don't mallorn eld trees germinate?
"Thy trees?" asked Talarin.
Vanidar nodded. "I was Coron when this forest was first set in the ground."
Now Talarin's eyes widened, and he said, "Then the claim of this Darda upon thee is greater than most here. I would be honored to ride at thy side when we wreak vengeance upon the Rûpt."
I'm sorry, but why do Elves never seem to know what the hell happened in the past?! I can maybe buy that Talarin wasn't alive when Vanidar planted all those trees, but do these Elves never TALK about anything? If the stupid trees are SO important that they'll go to war over them, shouldn't they know WHY those trees are there, HOW they got there, and WHO planted them?!
Look, immortality shouldn't mean that you automatically know everything. But for cryin' out loud, why do they not have ANY historical knowledge at all? I mean, just because they live forever doesn't mean that they shouldn't have history books, records, ANYTHING to show what still-living elves did in the past!
And this would be fine if the Elves were depicted as a stagnant society, or if they were sort of oblivious to the past. But no, they're a Sue Species. They just inexplicably don't like keeping records, history, or talking about IMPORTANT SHIT LIKE THE FOREST OF SUPERSPESHUL SUE TREES.
Everybody is planning to go off and kill some bad guys, but Arin says, "Silverleaf, as much as this felling of the nine pains me, I cannot sheer away from my first duty." So she tells the other elves to go fight the Convenient Baddies while she goes off to ask Dalavar if he knows anything about green rocks. Vanidar reluctantly says he has to come too.
Talarin, meanwhile, weeps because he's not getting laid anytime soon even though he got married yesterday.
"Loric, sound the muster. I would ride in force unto the Grimwall marches."
"And then I wouldst watch many silly superhero movies."
Arin says to Silverleaf, "I am sorry, Alor Vanidar, for thou didst engender this woodland, and if any should seek vengeance for the slaying, it should be thee." And... the scene ends. Vanidar doesn't say anything, doesn't react... it just ends.
Arin packs everything and just sort of hangs around, watching everybody else getting suited up to go to war over the FUCKING TREES. She also worries about whether the impending end of the world might be sparked off by this current conflict... which means it would be smarter of her to hang around HERE or accompany the war band. They don't have any actual reason to think the Mages know jackshit about the green stone; she's just assuming that they do.
So really, if you think the end-of-the-world scenario comes from this conflict, why not stay close so you can try to derail it?
Arin and her escort slowly rode out and away from Wood's-heart and into the twilit forest, while behind Rael watched them go, a troubled look on her face.
"She's so much more attractive than my husband!"
So they ride off... and off... and nothing more really happens, except we're told where they're going AGAIN. This is gonna be painful.