This chapter is called “dras-leona”. And no matter how many times I see that name I keep thinking it’s one of Leona Helmsley’s hotels. Then I start picturing her standing atop a tower throwing small, yappy dogs at Eragon and Saphira while shouting “here comes Trouble!”. Which I think would be damn fine entertainment.
The sun was climbing into the sky, as was Saphira, when from his place on her back, Eragon spotted Helgrind on the edge of the northern horizon. He felt a surge of loathing as he beheld the distant spike of rock, which rose from the surrounding landscape like a single jagged tooth. So many of his most unpleasant memories were associated with Helgrind, he wished he could destroy it and see its bare gray spires fall crashing to the ground. Saphira was more indifferent to the dark tower of stone, but he could tell that she too disliked being near it.
Wait, his most unpleasant memories are from Helgrind? You mean the couple of hours he spent in there slowly murdering the last of a species? Oh yes, and let us not forget about how he took a blind man at the edge of death and then cursed him to go live among elves. That was after he’d spent weeks in a cell being tortured and starved while his daughter made it out in one piece.
And how can Saphira be indifferent and dislike it? There aren’t degrees of indifference even an iota of emotion one way or the other means it’s not indifference. It would have been better to say that Saphira disliked it but not as much as Eragon and explain why with a quick note. Personally, I would have thought it would have angered her more being as she fought the two adult Ra’zac on her own and actually took some injuries while Eragon escaped without a scratch after committing genocide.
For no apparent reason, the second paragraph has night falling on Dras-Leona. I suppose Eragon just flew around all day, squandering Saphira’s energy. Meanwhile, Eragon is watching refugees fleeing to larger cities as Dras-Leona is about to come under attack. But we get some more insight into Eragon’s head and it only confirms that he’s crazy.
Dras-Leona seemed as foul and evil to Eragon as when he had first visited it, and it aroused in him a lust for destruction such as he had not felt at either Feinster or Belatona. Here he wanted to lay waste with fire and sword; to lash out with all of the terrible, unnatural energies that were at his disposal; and to indulge in every savage urge and leave behind him nothing but a pit of smoking, blood-soaked ashes. For the poor and the crippled and the enslaved who lived within the confines of Dras-Leona, he had some sympathy. But he was wholly convinced of the city’s corruption and believed that the best thing would be to raze it and rebuild it without the taint of perversity the religion of Helgrind had infected it with.
Right. That’s usually the thought process of a mad man just before he puts his plan for genocide into motion, not a hero about to liberate people. I can’t wait until he decides that even the people are infected by the corruption and they must be cleansed with fire. And it’s nice to see Chris and Eragon admitting that magic is an unnatural gift that gives Eragon an advantage he doesn’t need.
As Eragon fantasizes “about tearing down the cathedral”, he realizes that he doesn’t know the name of the religion they practice around there. He goes on about knowing the name giving power and so on but it all comes across as disingenuous. Besides, I’d bet it won’t impact the story in the least if we do. It’d be better if Chris just skips it.
Then the Varden set up camp and begin fortifying their position. I can’t imagine how much that costs them in material and work hours. Not to mention what it takes out of their attack while putting them in direct range of retaliation by the enemy. But strategy be damned, they make camp and put their siege engines together.
Eragon decides to help out and he starts by flattening a bunch of crops. Well, not just Eragon. The Varden have decided to camp out in the field near Dras-Leona. Eragon mentions how they’re not cutting the wheat down, rather they’re just flattening it and planning on sleeping on it. He says it’ll make it as fine as any mattress. Which means not only are they depriving the locals of their livelihood but they’re also wasting food. But remember, they’re the clean, shining people wreathed in light and utterly incorruptible while Gabby is the man of shadows and carrion and hate who puts people through unnecessary cruelty.
Saphira isn’t allowed any rest either. In addition to carrying Eragon’s lazy ass around and surveying the land, now she has to help them build camp. She digs big furrows in the ground and piles the dirt at the edges. And then she sets fire to anything which could give the Imperials cover like trees and houses. That puts Sahpira’s cool points back up to a solid one for the moment.
It was late at night when the Varden finally finished their preparations and Nasuada ordered the men, dwarves, and Urgals to bed.
Yes, commander mom. Did she really need to order them to bed? And does that go for everyone or are there people who get to stay up on guard? Or was that part of a trap? Maybe she told everyone, very vocally, to go to bed and they’re all just hiding in their tents with the lights out. Then when the Imperials attack the Varden will turn the surprise on them.
Retiring to his tent, Eragon meditated until his mind was clear, as had become his habit. Instead of practicing his penmanship afterward, he spent the next few hours reviewing the spells he thought he might need the following day, as well as inventing new ones to address the specific challenges Dras-Leona presented.
Oh yeah, Chris? Like what? What kind of unique challenge will Dras-Leona present? Like one legged soldiers who don’t fear anything or that stumpy priest without limbs? Eragon drifts off and has some “waking dreams” and says he feels anxious while Saphira is excited.
When the morning comes, Eragon surveys the soldiers while feeling sad about their upcoming deaths. He also tries to convince us that they’re carrying battered equipment and mismatched armor and weapons. Right, that makes sense. Especially since the Varden could afford to equip each werecat with their won custom armor. Clearly, their army is being held together with spit and twine.
The longer this drags on, he said to Saphira, the easier it will be for Galbatorix to defeat us when we arrive at Urû’baen.
Then we must not delay, she replied.
Gee, do ya think? Why don’t you get to work and start being a hero rather than letting the Varden throw waves of redshirts at the Imperials. We get told how everyone is standing ready for battle. Blah blah blah, Nasuada and Orrin are with their guards blah blah. The elves are hanging out near Eragon and they refuse to ride any mounts but the special elvish trained ones. Which means it’ll be that much funnier when they get trampled to death.
They go up to the city gate and Saphira says it smells wrong. Which is the animal equivalent of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. They don’t see any Imperials but they stop just in front of the gate and start calling out to the people inside. A single, unseen person responds back to Nasuada and Chris thinks he’s too good for simple dialogue. Everything they say back and forth is overly convoluted and embellished without sounding intelligent.
“Then we charge you to remind him that discussions of statesmanship are more properly pursued in the privacy of one’s own chambers rather than in the open, where any might hear.”
“I take no orders from you, lackey! Deliver your message—and quickly, too!—ere I lose patience and fill you with arrows.”
You know, I’ve had to yell at people and that’s not the time to waste a lot of words. When you have to shout like that, you’d want to be brief and concise. But the Varden offer peace to the people and they used to be Imperial citizens and don’t hinder them and you’ll be spared and good heavens does this go on. This Varden herald must have lungs the size beach balls to keep going on like he does.
Finally the bad guys appear and, surprise surprise, it’s the Helgrind priests. And yes, Priest Stumpy is present and he makes fun of them. Which I have to give him props for. It takes a lot of courage to laugh and mock an army equipped with a dragon when you have neither arms nor legs. Then Murtagh and Thorn appear from behind the wall and fly upwards. Thorn breathes some fire and claws at the air like he’s trying to catch invisible bugs in a ways that’s supposed to be intimidating.
In a mocking voice, Murtagh—for itwas Murtagh, Eragon realized—added, “Dash yourselves against the walls all you want; you will never take Dras-Leona, not so long as Thorn and I are here to defend it. Send your finest warriors and magicians to fight us, and they will die, each and every one. That I promise. There isn’t a man among you who can best us. Not even you … Brother. Run back to your hiding places before it is too late, and pray that Galbatorix does not venture forth to deal with you himself. Otherwise, death and sorrow will be your only reward.”
Ok, this is the second time you’ve done that, Chris. Stop, okay? When you tell us who speaks, you don’t need to tell us that the characters recognize them. We figured that out by the fact their name is present. Especially here where it’s not like anyone else would be riding Thorn around.
‘Oh my god, that’s Thorn! And I think he’s being ridden by former NBA star Kareen Abdul Jabbar!’ ‘No, that’s probably Murtagh.’ ‘You don’t know that!’ ‘Well, he just threatened us and he has a pretty distinct voice so, yeah I’m pretty sure.’ ‘Not now, windbag, the rider has gotten closer. It’s Murtagh! I am genuinely surprised!’
And why the hell does everyone have a bad case of blab in this story? Hey Chris? Did you realize that the more your characters talk, the worse the pacing is? The long, evasive manner of speaking doesn’t fit in every situation. Like when they’re about to fight, for example. I would expect that from the bad guy if they were sitting around a large table with a mediator at hand while they tried to negotiate wheat prices or taxes but before a battle? I have a feeling that Chris’s characters reflect him and that he too could stand to learn about shutting up once in awhile.
Did you know my mom bought this book?
Well, she did.
You know what I like to do now?
I like to read the first few paragraphs of the next chapter.
Yes, good old Roran. Who doesn’t love spending time with a character who has to be luckier than Eragon to survive?