Eragon stood on the dais in the main hall of the keep, directly to the right of Lord Bradburn’s throne, his left hand on the pommel of Brisingr, which was sheathed. On the other side of the throne stood Jörmundur—senior commander of the Varden—holding his helmet in the crook of his arm. The hair at his temples was streaked with gray; the rest was brown, and all of it was pulled back into a long braid. His lean face bore the studiously blank expression of a person who had extensive experience waiting on others. Eragon noticed a thin line of red running along the underside of Jörmundur’s right bracer, but Jörmundur showed no sign of pain.
Between them sat their leader, Nasuada, resplendent in a dress of green and yellow, which she had donned just moments before, exchanging the raiment of war for garb more suited to the practice of statecraft. She too had been marked during the fighting, as was evidenced by the linen bandaged wrapped around her left hand.
What a wonderful way to start up a new chapter. We have these mysterious creatures called werecats that we’ve only seen two of throughout the entire series and a whole group decided to drop by for a visit and some negotiations concerning the Varden. We don’t know who these people are or what motives they have, so I’d imagine that anyone in a well-written piece would be at least nervous. Here, there is absolutely no set up or any mood. This is all just telling us where everyone is situated, which can help visualize the scene if it were accompanied by body language that tells us how they feel.
Concerning details, why not call that “thin line of red” blood, and how is Jörmundur a senior commander now? Wasn’t he the second-in-command while under Ajihad’s (oh god what a terrible name) leadership, meaning that he was supposed to be the next one in charge if something happened to Ajihad? So, did Jörmundur go down a rank or two, or am I just showing my ignorance in this detail?
In the meantime, our heroes speculate over what the werecats’ motives could be.
“What will they want in return, though?” asked Jörmundur. “Our coffers are near empty, and our future uncertain.”
Her lips barely moving, she said, “Perhaps they wish nothing more of us than a chance to strike back at Galbatorix.” She paused. “But if not, we shall have to find means other than gold to persuade them to join our ranks.”
“You could offer them barrels of cream,” said Eragon, which elicited a chortle from Jörmundur and a soft laugh from Nasuada.
Haha. Ha. Ha. Yeah. The leaders, who will have to negotiate an alliance with these fantastic sentient beings, are cracking unoriginal racist jokes against said fantastic sentient beings.
In most well-written pieces, insulting prideful fantastic beings or beasts usually results in injuries against the insulter.
After that, the werecats arrive, announced by a page with the strange mention of the Varden’s emblem using the word “standard” (which is correct, but sounds odd considering current usage) despite the fact that there has never really been any mention of the Varden having some sort of symbol. King Grimrr Halfpaw is announced followed by his four titles and a little italicized dialogue between Eragon and Saphira. Through the dialogue tags, we find out that Saphira is resting in the castle keep rather than being somewhere in the room where something important is happening since she is the only dragon allied to the Varden.
We get several paragraphs of description concerning Grimrr, as per usual of any Inheritance character, starting with these two sentences: Grimrr Halfpaw, however, looked unlike any person or creature Eragon had ever seen. At roughly four feet tall, he was the same height as a dwarf, but no one could mistaken him for a dwarf, or even for a human.
Hey, Paolini, the Department of Redundancy Department would like to speak with you over the second sentence in this quote. They believe that the only unique piece of description in this quote is “roughly four feet tall” while the rest fits their requirements for filing entries.
Despite the delicacy of his features, there was no doubt that Grimrr was male, given the hard, sinewy muscles of his arms and chest, the narrowness of his hips, and the coiled power of his stride as he sauntered down the length of the hall toward Nasuada.
So I’ve been having some problems with dialogue tags. I learned that using fancy replacements of “said” as if “said” were a taboo no-no as painful as dip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a sign of an amateur writer. To solve this and avoid using “said” like a broken record, I started using action rather than dialogue tags whenever tone is apparent in the dialogue. However, during my creative writing class, my professor told me to start using dialogue tags every time dialogue comes up, and he seemed to have a preference for creative dialogue tags. Keep in mind, though, that he’s very by-the-book and flipped out when I wrote a fictional short story in third person present tense.
. . . What? Oh, we’re not talking about my life and my problems concerning writing? I guess I forgot while I was reading this chapter during the four large paragraphs of pointlessly detailed description.
So the werecats ignore everyone to the side with the exception of Angela. They all hiss at her and their fur stands on ends at the very sight of her. Angela, in the meantime, just stares at them like she’s bored and only responds with “Cheep cheep.”
. . . What?
Paolini, you should have told your sister to come up with something else, since she is the one who comes up with Angela the herbalist’s dialogue in place of you. That made absolutely no sense whatsoever, and that’s a record concerning your dialogue.
Angela’s line turns out to aggravate the werecats even further. Eragon even thought that [Grimrr] was going to attack [Angela]. Instead of telling Angela to leave and asking Grimrr why there’s this severe conflict, Eragon simply tells/thinks to Saphira when she asks about “Cheep cheep” instead of asking about why there’s conflict, “Who knows why Angela does or says anything?”
Also, everyone, please remember that Paolini just established that most werecats absolutely despise Angela and are very hostile towards her in case he forgets about continuity, again, so something he deems “cool” can happen, again.
Grimrr finally speaks to Nasuada in a deep voice that’s somehow more akin to the low coughing roar of a wildcat, whatever a “coughing roar” is. Nasuada responds and informs the reader that King Orrin, the butt monkey that he is to the entire cast, is conveniently off to hold the western area, never to be seen in this important meeting.
“Even so . . . And to what do we owe the unexpected pleasure of this visit, Your Highness?
Werecats have always been noted for their secrecy and their solitude, and for remaining apart from the conflicts of the age, especially since the fall of the Riders. One might even say that your kind has become more myth than fact over the past century. Why, then, do you now choose to reveal yourselves?”
Good question! Let’s hear what Grimrr Halfpaw has to say to that!
“Because of [Eragon],” growled the werecat. “One does not attack another hunter until he has shown his weakness, and Galbatorix has shown his: he will not kill Eragon Shadeslayer or Saphira Bjartskular. Long have we waited for this opportunity, and seize it we will. Galbatorix will learn to fear and hate us, and at last, he will realize the extent of his mistake and know that we were the ones responsible for his undoing. And how sweet that revenge will taste, as sweet as the marrow of a tender young boar.”
If only Galbatorix would have captured Eragon and Saphira while he had the chance back at book 1 or 2 instead of sending the next more powerful villain like some idiot video game Evil Overlord.
And Grimrr still hasn’t answered why the werecats don’t like Galbatorix. Is it because Galby is evil? Just what has sweet ol’ Galby done? Does he reorganize the entire royal library just to confuse the academics living in his castle? Does he doodle phallic drawings on sleeping guards’ faces in permanent marker? Oh, I bet he shaves cats bald and only leaves little tuffs on places like the end of their tails and their little paws like a poodle! Yeah, that had to be it! Down with the evil tyrant!
To add as a note: What Nasuada was thinking, Eragon could not tell, but he and Saphira were impressed by the werecat’s speech.
Eragon = easily impressed dumbass
Saphira = poor soul raised by said easily impressed dumbass and doesn’t know better
Okay, here are the conditions that the werecats will join the Varden with. The werecats will send every able-bodied feline, werecats and cats both, into battle alongside the Varden, and that they go under a mind scan to keep spies out of the ranks. The Varden, in exchange, will provide food, armor, weapons, and a cushion right next to the throne for any werecat to sit on. Before Grimrr Halfpaw states exactly what he wants, Nasuada mentions this:
Then Nasuada said, “And what is it you desire of us in exchange for your assistance, King Halfpaw?” She glanced at Eragon and smiled, then added, “We can offer you as much cream as you want, but beyond that, our resources are limited.”
In case you still don’t get it, let me put this into perspective. Please forgive my bluntness.
Black person: I will help you in this project, but what sort of benefits do I get for helping you?
White person: I can offer you as much watermelon and fried chicken as you want, but other than that, my resources are limited.
See what I mean?
Since Grimrr doesn’t mind being insulted on a racial level and doesn’t leave the Varden to rot like he should, he demands a specific diet for every werecat and how said food (chopped liver) should be handled, a set of armor (two, actually, but it narrows down to one after some debate), and a dagger for each werecat. Nasuada comments that Grimrr bargains “like a dwarven lawgiver.” Why Nasuada is impressed by Grimrr’s bargaining when Grimrr was just asking for the bare essentials and the bare essentials only, I don’t know. It might be because she’s a dumbass. Speaking of which . . .
[On the subject of the mind scan to prevent spies entering the Varden] Grimrr sniffed. “You would be foolish not to. If anyone is brave enough to read our thoughts, let them. But not her”—and he twisted to point at Angela. “Never her.”
Nasuada hesitated, and Eragon could see that she wanted to ask why but restrained herself.
I was about to shout at the text that Nasuada should ask since this issue between the werecats and Angela could potentially cause some regrettable friction, but then I reminded myself that Nasuada is a dumbass. Then all was well.
Then they wrap up the alliance thing: “I am honored to form an alliance between you and the Varden, King Halfpaw.”
At her words, all of the humans in the hall broke out cheering and began to clap, including Angela. Even the elves appeared pleased.
Everyone started cheering for Nasuada and the new alliance with these fantastic sentient beings, because victory is never satisfying unless we overkill our enemies with more-than-powerful spells and an army of thousands of soldiers. Total dominance is the only answer, so we must have more pointless allies even if we’re doing fine with just three different stock fantasy races.
And that’s the end of this chapter.
At first, while I was going over the technical stuff, I thought Paolini improved. After all, he only says some fancy synonym for said about ten times while said itself is used thirteen times. Then after I took a look at the entire situation instead of seeing the forest for the trees, I must conclude that this dialogue tag improvement thing was only a fluke. Shame. I really had some hope that perhaps there was a bit of improvement too.
By the way, the word of the day is “dumbass,” in case you didn’t notice.