From a sporking standpoint, it’s a far better chapter than 3. Lots more stuff that made me go “Whaaaaaaaat?”
We start with Roran having a staring contest with Nasuada’s Nighthawk guards. If you remember, they’re a mixed group of dwarves, humans and Urgals. They’re imagining how to best kill Roran, Roran’s plotting out their murder too. Zany.
(Since when is Roran this hard-core? No, really. He's not a career hitman, you know, or a psychopath... probably.)
I can’t really comment on Roran’s plans, except that I still can’t believe he thinks throwing his hammer is a good idea.
Furthermore, I wonder why all six Nighthawks stand arrayed beside the door to Nasuada’s office instead of spreading out around the room to better cover all the angles.
A page invites Roran in, managing to distract the Nighthawks enough so that Roran could have killed at least 2 (!!!). Roran… has really come a long way from a farm boy. A long, long way.
Nasuada is in fine form yelling down some big strong men. Despite being a woman, you know. Roran is impressed. Nasuada is so great. Mm-hm.
Eight of the twelve men leave. So keep in mind that they still have an audience. Then Nasuada sends off another page (9/12) with a letter to a dwarf and a threat to be assigned “to the Urgals to fetch and clean for them.”
Roran isn’t really well rested, though at least he didn’t stay up the whole night. Nasuada is asking because she’s sending him off on a new assignment. (This is the beginning of the super questionable habit of having Roran do things half-dead from exhaustion. Which makes perfect sense, naturally.)
He’s going to take over the siege at Aroughs from Captain Brigman (They have captains?!). Roran is to ride as fast as he can to Feinster, changing horses every ten miles (Horses get tired now?), and then to Arough, though he needs to find his own steeds on this stretch.
(Aroughs, just so you know, in down south, about as far from Feinster as Feinster is from Belatona, maybe a bit further. It’s on a peninsula, basically cut off from the empire now.)
He needs to reach Arough in four days.
And then end the siege in three days
I’m not going to say anything about this time table. I actually don’t know what to say.
Also, watch Nasuada emotionally blackmail Roran by telling him that, if he fails, she’ll have to send Eragon, thereby leaving Katrina (and the rest of the Varden main army) unprotected against Murtagh or Galbatorix. So you better do a good job, Roran. Or else your wife gets it.
Roran admits he knows jack-all about sieges. But someone else, like Martland Redbeard, can’t go because he can’t gallop with just one hand (Should’ve had that hand reattached when you could, eh, Marty?). (And actually, do you really need two hands to gallop?)
But, hey, Roran is great. Sure there are guys with more experience, more training, but that doesn’t matter in a real battle, “it’s whether you can win.” And Roran does (because he’s a Main Character). Also, he’s lucky. (Yes, she really says that. Take that, everyone who said Roran is more awesome because he doesn't have guardian angel dragon ghosts looking out for him. Roran doesn't need no guardian angel dragon ghosts. He's got luck.)
So now Roran’s a captain. With about eight hundred (out of a thousand, initially) men under his command. For sieging a city.
This is total bullshit.
Nasuada is rushing Roran like this because they really, really need the eight hundred men over at Aroughs for later campaigns. Except that Galbatorix’s army at Burning Planes was 100,000. Even assuming the Varden was out numbered 5 to 1, that puts them at 20,000. Is 800 really that important?
Then, it seems incredibly stupid to use Roran like this. If he wasn’t a Main Character, he would have totally died by now. The horses apparently get too tired now, but the people just deal. Roran’s not even a dragon-powered elf mutant like Eragon. I’m not sure on what grounds Nasuada expects so much of him.
She even later admits she didn’t expect him to succeed! So she sent Eragon's cousin-like-a-brother off to die... on a whim.
You know, I don’t even like Roran, but I’m starting to seriously feel sorry for him.
He also takes some Carvahall guys with him. (They all get horses too.) But he can’t see Eragon to renew his wards because Eragon is stretched too thin.
You know, I don’t remember seeing much of that. In fact, the most tiring thing Eragon seems to have done was healing that baby. Which Nasuada disapproves of, since it was a terrible waste of both his energy and valuable rest time.
They reference the audience with the werecats, which probably would have worked better if Paolini hadn’t cut the part where Eragon was so far gone as to be hallucinating. The current chapter 4 doesn’t really show Eragon as all that tired.
Worse yet, Nasuada already plans to make Eragon rest for days after this, so the whole point is practically moot. Roran’s a pretty important guy (both to the Varden and to Eragon personally). For that matter, why is Eragon wasting energy protecting Arya? She can take care of herself.
Either way, Roran will just have to do without wards. (Also, more emotional blackmail from Nasuada, rather blatant this time.)
Roran also gets “a map of Aroughs and its environs, as well as a larger map of Fenmark Province.” (Environs? They have Provinces?! Run by an earl, by the way.) Also, his commission and his orders. (Commission?)
But too bad Roran doesn’t know how to read. He’ll have to take her word at it. Nasuada orders him to learn how to read, if he wants to advance in the Varden. Now, that’s all well and good, but reading is pretty hard to learn. How long do they expect this war to last anyway? (And when would he find the free time?)
Nasuada’s parting words: “Try not to burn down Aroughs, would you? Cities are rather hard to replace.”
So, that’s chapter 11. Roran gets a new mission: Aroughs. That’s it. I, personally, learned a lot about how the Varden and the Empire work. Also, about how Nasuada works. But still, now horses can get tired? Amazing.