This chapter is called “the way of knowing”. I think you forgot the rest of that, Chris. It should be “…you’re a hack who shouldn’t get paid after writing his name on the back of a check because he‘d screw it up.” But that might not have fit in the chapter index so it had to be trimmed a bit.
We remain with Eragon and, in true Paolini fashion, there is no reason to be alarmed or tense or even mildly concerned. Eragon is still just putzing his way around the camp. In fact, the first paragraph tells us just how unconcerned Chris and everyone else is with the whole battle thing.
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.
Yeah, because the Imperials would only ever attack when you expect. Wait, maybe Chris learned everything he knows about battle from turn based strategy games. That would explain why the Varden are waiting for the empire to make their move. Until they do, the Varden can’t take their turn or do anything. Meanwhile, Gabby can move about and do things because he’s not engaged in battle while the heroes are and stuck by the rules. It’s certainly an abuse of the system but damn clever.
Chris tells us that Eragon met with Arya, as they’d done every day since arriving at the city. How long have they been waiting, exactly? Chris doesn’t say but he does mention that Eragon and Arya are now practicing with shields because it’s closer to real combat. What?
Back the hell up, Chris. Did you even think about that for a second? Why the hell has Eragon been practicing without one? And since when has Eragon fought with a shield? I remember him mostly just jumping headlong into battle and swinging his magic sword like a cat he was trying to shake the fleas off of. I know Roran uses a shield, or did in the last battle. But the vast majority of the fights have been Eragon using just a sword.
Which is fine. Eraogn doesn’t really need a shield. He’s beyond fast and strong and he can deflect arrows with magic. Plus he can use his sword to block anything and it won’t break because it’s also magic. But if he’s going to add a shield then he needs to practice a different way of fighting all together and his magic sword might not fight well with a shield. But because Chris just realized that shields were kind of a big deal, Eragon uses one.
So they start their sparring, again. Arya and Eragon chat while they slap at each other with their metal sticks until Arya puts him in an arm bar. When Eragon gets free he has to jump back a hundred feet to give himself time to react because elves are so much faster and stronger than humans.
Wincing, he disengaged, seeking a temporary reprieve. One of the challenges of fighting elves was that because of their speed and strength, they could lunge forward and engage an enemy at distances far greater than any human could. Therefore, to be safe from Arya, he had to move nearly a hundred feet away from her.
And once again, Chris reminds us how wonderful and special the elves truly are. You know, I’m really starting to think Gabby’s the hero and I don’t blame him for anything he’s done. In fact, I don’t care if he’s had hundreds killed or tortured. That was all collateral damage in his campaign against the elves and their dominance over everything. Yes, I’m saying the ends justify the means if it means I don’t have to hear about elves being just so much better.
They continue slap fighting, because I refuse to picture them doing anything else, and Eragon whines. He asks Arya that if she’s so good why can’t he teach her. She says she’ll keep showing him his mistakes until he learns from them. Then Saphira starts helping by sending him mental cues and he berates her for it by saying this is his mountain to climb. Saphira points out that victory is victory and Eragon just ignores her until she backs off.
The problem here is that Eragon hasn’t been show to hold himself to a strict moral code. He kills, he drinks, he steals and tortures people. Whatever he feels, he does without paying the consequences for it. So the sudden determination to win on his own and unaided feels like a hollow attempt to remind us that Eragon is the good guy.
Eragon loses a lot but keeps telling us how helpful Arya is. Just as he’s about to throw his sword at her, because that’s the sound tactical reasoning Eragon plys to everything, Glaedr speaks to everyone, again. I think the Matrix has glitched, Chris, I’m getting déjà vu.
Glaedr tells everyone to shut up when they start asking him questions. Apparently Glaedr only has two settings for his telepathy; off and bullhorn. He tells Eragon that he is wasting his time because “The sword in Galbatorix’s hand is not what you need fear the most, nor the sword in his mouth, but rather the sword in his mind.” Ah, so the image of a rapier in his mind is more dangerous than the one in his hand. All Eragon needs to do then is make Gabby think of a pink elephant.
Glaedr asks why Eragon is dicking around, Eragon says “swords be useful” in a long winded way. Then he lists the people he couldn’t defeat on his own and mentions Varaug among Sam and Murtagh. Even Glaedr asks who Varaug is and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who had no idea. Eragon reminds us that it was the shade that he killed in the last book, the one who had a lifespan shorter than a fruit fly and half as productive. Then Eraogn also updates Glaedr on everything and it’s, mostly, skimmed for us.
Glaedr says that fighting shades is hard and wanting to best them alone is like wanting to fly higher than the sun. Oh, so it’s a dream that is only possible through the use of technology. Good to know. Eragon says that Gabby is stronger than shades and that he uses them recklessly. Not really, because there have only been two across three books and the first one made himself unlike the second one. I’d say Gabby was rather prudent in their use and creation. Then Arya chimes in.
Ebrithil, said Arya,he is right. Our enemies are deadly in the extreme … as you well know —this she added in a gentle tone—and Eragon is not at the level he needs to be. To prepare for what lies before us, he has to attain mastery. I have done my best to teach him, but mastery ultimately must come from within, not without.
Ah, that’s a bit of condensed stupidity. Are their enemies just deadly or are they deadly…to the extreme! Why am I picturing guys in armor skyboarding while thrusting cans of Mountain Dew at the camera? Damn it Chris, deliver on the nineties extreme soldiers. At least then the book could be fun in a campy/nostalgic sort of way. And of course, true strength comes from within. You know, unless you built a suit of powered armor. Then strength comes from the awesome.
Glaedr’s response is “well fine, but the mind is more important because I have advanced knowledge of the coming plot and, yea, it will be boring.” Then Glaedr calls out the elvish bodyguards and asks why they haven’t gotten down to the business of teaching Eragon Occlumency, I mean making his mind stronger. The elves say that they’ve tried to help him but that it’s not their place to tell him what to do. They probably heard what he did to Sloan and figured it was better to shut up. Then he says it was Glaedr’s job.
Of course the head elf, that’s the wolfelf, was apparently rude in saying this to Glaedr but Eragon excuses it. Wolfelf only did it because he wanted to draw Glaedr out so it’s okay. See, elves are perfect even when they’re a bag of dicks. Wolfelf continues to piss Glaedr off which is great until Saphira soothes him by assuring him that they can’t survive without his guidance and help. And what help do they need from him again? Oh right, they need him for the dragon bikini modeling contest. What’s funny is Chris mentions this is an obvious ploy.
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.
This means the dragons are more flawed than the elves. Wow. Then she offers to take him flying but begs for his help in teaching Eragon how to use a sword like a sword and not like a shovel. But though she’s begging, she still keeps her dignity. Because nothing would ruin a character like losing their dignity. Especially when Saphira has so much dignity to lose in the first place. Did I mention this chapter is huge?
Glaedr says he will before they go for a spin. Meanwhile, Eragon sends a mass email to his WussHumanMagicians address book letting everyone know that he’ll tell them about it later. That’s after they start bugging him wanting to know why the world wnet like it wanted to be balanced on the nose of a giant seal and then fell over. He doesn’t want to tell them anything because he doesn’t trust them and worries about Imperials spies. Right, because an elf would never betray the Varden, only humans.
Take up your positions as before, Glaedr rumbled, and Eragon and Arya separated and paced off
twenty feet in either direction.
Now Glaedr makes them dance like puppets and has Arya whack Eragon in the head until his skull fractures. Glaedr says he can teach him right now but he’ll have to listen harder than ever before. Eragon wonders how that could be, being as he’s a dragon and he’d only know about sword fighting from Oromis. I figure that Glaedr will just dump Oromis’s memories into Eragon’s head and call it a day.
Glaedr senses doubt form Eragon and tells him that all fighting is the same. The form and proper stances are all meaningless as long as you have “imagination and thoughtfulness”. No, if you stop to imagine or think in the middle of a fight you’ll be laid down in a pine box. Glaedr insists that all warriors share those qualities even if they use different weapons. Tactics, skill and strength? All a bunch-a hooey. Imagination is what gave Genghis Kahn the ability to carve through anyone he met.
Eragon doesn’t understand so Glaedr explains that Arya and Murtagh were able to beat him because they understand him. He says Eragon has to know his enemy to defeat them. Thank you, Scale Tzu. Eragon looks at Arya and wonders if he really knows her as well as he thinks. Maybe all that time watching her bathe really hasn’t taught him anything. Then Glaedr tells Eragon that he’s allowed himself to be too angry in a bit that’s just too funny.
You have allowed yourself to become angrier than you should, said Glaedr softly. Anger has its
place, but it will not help you here. The way of the warrior is the way of knowing. If that knowledge requires you to use anger, then you use anger, but you cannot wrest forth knowledge by losing your temper. Pain and frustration will be your only reward if you try.
Right, so anger isn’t the right answer unless it is. Glaedr goes on to say that he has to empty his mind and blah blah and now Chris is tealing directly from the Wheel of Time as Eragon struggles to master the Void. Eragon must see all and act appropriately. Well, if he could do that all the time he’d be a god, not just an overpowered jerkass.
Eragon does a fast analysis of Arya and figures out who she is by considering her likes and dislikes and her routine. Wow, it’s amazing what you can do with someone’s Facebook page these days. In a matter of seconds Eragon figures Arya out. Then he wonders if he’s being overly simplistic. Being as she’s a character like you, I’d say you’re spot on, Eragon. She can’t be any deeper than you and you’re not even a puddle after a rainstorm.
So they go at it and Eragon “thinks” about his strategy as he fights. He almost gets her but his sword barely misses and he goes down for a second. Glaedr tells Eragon he doesn’t want to move slow or move fast but at just the right moment. Wow, that’s so perfectly vague that Eragon can’t really learn anything and could have been written by someone who’s never, ever been in a fight. Care to do some hands on research, Chris?
They go at it again and Eragon nearly has her. He lures her into making some stupid moves, but then again that’s not hard with these idiots. She returns the favor and wins once more. Glaedr says that was better but he still has too much anger and he needs to focus. Yes, focus on how you’re a failure that will never be likable. Glaedr also tells him to stop focusing on the eyes, Eragon says that’s what Brom told him and Glaedr says that was Brom’s style and it wasn’t flexible. Also his dad was a man-whore who was riddled with diseases even the elves didn’t have names for.
Glaedr tells Eragon to try once more and open his perception more. No, more damn it, perceive more! And because Chris follows the rule of threes, this will be the fight that Eragon wins. At least judging by the amount of paper left in this chapter. So they get down to the business of sparring.
Or not really. Eragon starts thinking and, being the author’s avatar, he can’t think concisely. This is a skill Chris really needs to learn but never will and it’s a problem I’ve seen crop up in amateur writing. There are times to be descriptive and a little purple and there are times when you need to strip the words to the bone. The middle of an action scene is when you keep it short so you don’t break the flow. Unless you want your reader to be focused on something else. But I’m guess as all of Eragon’s “thoughts”, as loosely gathered as they are, are about the match, I’d bet Chris wants us thinking action.
He realizes she’s probably expecting to beat him easily so he lets her think that. Arya attacks and Eragon blocks and pretends to stumble back as she wails on him while he tells us he’s call and cool. Nevermind that a second earlier he was “unsettled” by her growling at him. So he waits until she goes in for an overhead blow, misses and buries the tip of her sword in the ground.
Now, normally this is where the protagonist would take the advantage, hold their sword to their opponents throat and win. They might even finish the moment off by saying “you’re dead” really quietly. But Chris imagined Eragon maneuvering Arya into looking at the sun and being blinded, even if that meant ignoring the opening he gave Eragon already.
Which makes the fight turn even more awkwad when Eragon does exactly that. Eragon sidesteps so Arya must look in the direction of the sun and gets blinded by the light, though no word if she gets revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night. And Chris doesn’t trust us to understand what’s going on so he actually explains what happens to her in a paragraph.
Arya turned her head, so as to keep him in sight, and made the mistake of looking directly into the sun.
She squinted, and her pupils contracted to small, dark spots.
Whoa, she squinted and her pupils contracted? That’s like something that would happen to a human though! Aren’t elves immune to all the petty complaints and ailments which plague our frail bodies? Apparently not as Eragon finally uses the moment to whack her in the ribs.
Glaedr praises Eragon, for he feeds off of it like a vampire, and tells them again. Now that Eragon’s won, he’s able to beat Arya pretty easily. So he does it again, and then they tie and then they go one last time. This time they’re tired and Chris makes sure to tell us all about it rather than show. They fight to a tie, again and go one more time. This time they clash and their swords lock and neither can overpower the other.
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.
‘I see you Eragon.’ ‘I see you Neytiri.’ If six legged horses and glowing trees start showing up I’ll know it’s time to burn the book.