Hi. I’m back with the next chapter in the community spork of Inheritance. Sorry to be away so long; and I figure I ought to give a little explanation: after my last misadventure a few months ago, I decided I needed to quiet down and stop typing my opinions on posts, mainly because I tend to say things to cause ill-feeling about thirty-percent of the time. Sorry about that.
And sorry that I’m late at posting this spork--especially since I was the one that said people ought to have them written up beforehand!
So I opened the green book and flipped to a random spot in chapter forty. Not three sentences in, I was annoyed:
Solembum hissed, and the hair on his head fluffed and spiked so that it resembled the blossom of a thistle. If you still had your body, old one, I would cut off your tail for that.
You, little cat? You could not have done more than scratch me.
Glaedr has just finished doing something bad to the werecat, and now he adds insult to injury. I think it’s interesting how Paolini writes as if he is more concerned for the appearance of the hair on Solembum’s head than Glaedr’s attitude.
What was Glaedr doing? I’ve already read the chapter weeks ago: he was invading all of the werecat’s private places. Or, in straight terms, he mind-r**ed the cat. It brings to my mind something from a certain blue book which I requested for my birthday a long time ago:
"Come now," chided Brom, "you should know the answer to that. You could have discovered Trevor’s purpose in the same way that you communicate with Cadoc or Saphira. The minds of men are not so different from a dragon’s or horse’s. It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s a power you must use sparingly and with great caution. A person’s mind is his last sanctuary. You must never violate it unless circumstances force you to. The Riders had very strict rules regarding this. If they were broken without due cause, the punishment was severe." --Brom’s words, Eragon, in the chapter titled Daret. Underlining mine.
It has occurred to me however, that hypothetically, a defender of Glaedr’s behavior might say that he did not actually invade the werecat’s mental sanctuary; rather, what he did might be comparable to a dog coming very close to a person in order to catch the person’s scent so that the dog knows who the person is. My problem with this explanation is that there is circumstantial evidence which points to Glaedr having gone into parts of the cat’s mind that he shouldn’t have: Solembum does not act as if he's just been ID-checked. He acts as if he has had his private spaces violated, and appears righteously indignant.
Again Solembum hissed, and then he turned on his heel and stalked toward the entrance, his shoulders hunched close to his ears.
[. . .]
So it seems, but I [Solembum] have no memory of it, and I hope that whatever is on Vroengard singes your whiskers and burns your paws.
He looks and sounds humiliated. A pox on you, Glaedr! But I’d better start from the beginning . . . .
Chapter Forty: Questions Unanswered
The chapter starts with Eragon, who is searching The Dominance of Fate for more information, after finding out the location of the Rock of Kuthian in the previous chapter. He doesn’t find anything he deems important, except that somebody named Kuthian was the first Rider to explore Vroengard Island. My very first thought after reading through it was this: was Kuthian merely the first Rider to explore the island, or was he the first intelligent being to do so? The series has a previously established record of granting the credit for science, discoveries, and exploration to everyone who is NOT human (nope, Riders--even those who were once human--are not human)--and to elves in particular.
For instance, in Orrin’s own words:
"It completely invalidates Vacher’s theories and means that Ládin was actually a genius. Blasted elves always seem to be right." --Eldest, A Maze of Opposition.
Elves--what a ridiculous Mary Sue race. They’re on the same tier as dragons, who apparently know about the relationship between matter and energy (see later in the fourth book)--despite having absolutely NO civilization, NO technology, and NO real culture (other than to behave like animals; see Saphira, also later in the fourth book) to speak of!
They talk some more, and then the werecat decides he’s had enough with book, which is not surprising considering how he was mind-enslaved by those hiding in the Deus Ex Machina Bunker in just the last chapter so Eragon would know what page to read. As he leaves he spouts off some semi-cryptic references, which of course Eragon would know nothing of but many of Paolini’s readers probably would.
There are many strange forces at work in Alagaësia, Shadeslayer. I have seen things that defy belief: whirlwinds of light spinning in caverns deep below the ground, men who age backward, stones that speak, and shadows that creep. Rooms that are bigger on the inside than the outside. . . .
If Paolini isn't careful, his Doctor Who references are going to rip a hole between realities and let the Daleks into Alagaësia. Now I am imagining Daleks killing dragons. Daleks blasting away at the Beor Mountains. Daleks laying waste to the great forest of Du Weldenvarden. Listen! I can hear their machine-like voices on the wind, crying out their that their will is to exterminate all life not their own.
When the canon references get this thick and this blatant, in my opinion they’re dangerous. You can never tell what will come through the inter-dimensional rifts such “homages” may create in a universe. Readers may now officially imagine whatever interactions they want between Alagaësia and Doctor Who, because rules are apparently off.
After Solembum leaves, Eragon releases his breath. I take it then that he had been holding his breath the whole time, even while talking? Wait, that doesn’t make sense. If Paolini meant that Eragon began breathing easier, why didn’t he just say so?
He wakes Saphira up and tells her what he's learned. A normal person would probably assume that he had learned not to grab a werecat’s paw. Such a normal person might also wonder why Eragon couldn’t wait until Saphira was awake of her own accord before trying to tell her anything, considering how waking her up right now isn’t going to make anything happen any faster. I’m putting it down as further evidence that Saphira is really just a glorified pack horse.
Saphira, probably still half-asleep, agrees with Eragon that they should go to Vroengard and the Vault of Souls. This makes Eragon feel a “sense of purposeful direction”, apparently the first he’s felt since Nasuada was turned into a POW. That’s hardly astonishing--Nasuada was captured not more than a few days ago, which would mean that Eragon spent a few days feeling like he doesn’t have a purpose. Big deal.
Or did Paolini slip in a few weeks while I wasn’t looking? Because on the other hand, a few weeks of feeling like that can do strange things to a person.
So then Eragon and Saphira decide to tell Arya and Glaedr about their plan to fly to Vroengard. Cue magical memory manipulation! Neither Arya or Glaedr can remember what Eragon is trying to tell them, right after he tells them it. This drives Eragon nuts. We also get a few lines in which Eragon and Saphira finish each other’s sentences. As Roran complained in Brisingr--ouch! It’s a mysterious conversation that ends with Saphira mentioning “deep magic” and makes a reference to the hidden names of the forsworn dragons.
Something that bothers me: why were the dragons’ names hidden (and the dragons turned into animals), but their Riders (and Shrukian) left unaffected? Oh, where is the logic!
But you haven’t forgotten about the Rock of Kuthian, have you?
Of course not, she said, her mind flashing green with pique. How could I when we are so closely joined?
1. Doesn’t this come from Pern?
2. “Joined”? Methinks that word does not mean what somebody thinks it means.
3. Anything that reminds me of that scene in the last book of the Harper Hall of Pern (I’ve never read any of the other series, oh goody) makes me sick.
4. What does being joined have to do with a person’s memory?
5. Yuck. Moving on.
Eventually Arya and Glaedr notice that Eragon and Saphira have hidden their thoughts from them, and they ask why. Eragon decides to ask them in the Ancient Language if they trust him. Apparently he has some small difficulty in switching languages. This is probably the second time I have heard since starting the fourth book that Eragon is not a super linguist. Now I just want to point to those scenes in Eldest where Eragon’s ability to learn was praised and praised and praised (by the text) over and over again. He has even written a master’s level poem (so said the elves) in the Ancient Language!
Shall I, or shall you? Eragon quickly asked Saphira.
You want to tell them, so tell them.
A chance for Saphira to assert that she has a mind somewhere inside her skull and can do explaining, but she passes the task to Eragon and plays the part of the unthinking pack horse.
Eragon tells Glaedr and Arya that their memories are being manipulated by a spell. Naturally they have trouble with this.
“How else can I prove it? You won’t remember if I tell you the name or share my memories with you. You could question Solembum, but again, what good would it do?”
What good? For one, we can prove that you haven’t been tricked or deceived by something that only appeared to be Solembum. And as for the spell, there may be a way to demonstrate its existence. Summon the werecat, and then we shall see what can be done.
. . . And I come to the part of the chapter where Solembum comes to the doom of his dignity, which I wrote about already before the actual beginning of this spork. But I didn’t tell you that he’s eating a bit of roast goose, and the grease is splattering all over his chest (he’s in human form). Yuck. Just so you know, I was not referring to Solembum’s physical dignity. I also think the whole scene is totally pointless, but I’ll explain why later.
Then Glaedr starts mistreating the cat in the name of security. Solembum doesn’t like it one bit, oh, not one bit at all! He yowls and spits and jumps, and Eragon puts his hand on Brisingr, even though Solembum’s reaction is perfectly normal. I’m more worried about the dragon.
Glaedr finishes, ‘apologizes,’ and after a few indignant remarks from his victim, Solembum leaves, and I come to a facepalmingly bad (but fortunately short) conversation. Here I go, quote-by-quote.
Eragon stood and, with the toe of his boot, pushed the scrap of half-eaten meat out of the tent.
That’s how Paolini describes Eragon’s initial reaction to Glaedr’s treatment of the cat.
“You should not have been so rough with him,” said Arya.
I had no other choice, said Glaedr.
Liar. Your other choice was to not do it at all. It proved exactly nothing. You mind-r**ed the cat, and gained absolutely nothing from it.
“Didn’t you? You could have asked his permission first.”
Arya, that’s a “sideways” answer. It doesn’t move your point forward at all.
And given him the opportunity to prepare? No. It is done; let it be, Arya.
I maintain that doing so gained you nothing of value regarding this mystery, Glaedr. (Why couldn’t Arya think of saying that?)
“I cannot. His pride is wounded. You should attempt to placate him. It would be dangerous to have a werecat as your enemy.”
Nope, instead Arya gives a morally bankrupt answer. Glaedr mistreated the cat and the best Arya can say against it is that gaining a werecat for an enemy is very dangerous? How about “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”? (Mat 7:12 NAS) Oh, excuse me, I made a mistake. Glaedr really thought he was accomplishing something by checking the werecat’s identity.
It is even more dangerous to have a dragon as your enemy. Let it be, elfling.
The obvious comeback to Arya’s bad answer, yet it also shows that Glaedr believes in “might makes right”. He’s also switched from calling Arya “Arya”, to calling her an “elfling”, where the “-ing” implies youngness in an insulting sort of way. Glaedr, I know you’re sad about losing your Rider after so many years, but that does not give you the right to make those around you suffer for it. They mourn Oromis as well, so stop acting like a child.
Troubled, Eragon exchanged looks with Arya. Glaedr’s tone bothered him--and her as well, he could see--but Eragon could not decide what to do about it.
What would you do, Eragon? Give Glaedr a lecture? Methinks that would only make the dragon angrier. He’s already unstable enough.
I’ve said that Glaedr did not succeed in proving anything of value by discovering whether or not the cat was the real Solembum. Now I will explain: even if Glaedr had discovered that Solembum was fake (remember that finding out if Solembum had deceived Eragon was Glaedr’s reason for scanning his mind in the first place), it would not have meant that the riddles fake Solembum gave Eragon were now invalid. For example, the riddle of the Menoa Tree turned out to be correct, and in retrospect it would have been correct even if Solembum was fake.
Neither, then, does the identity of the cat have anything to do with the truth or falsehood of the riddle of the Vault of Souls; in this case because the riddle as Solembum gave it lacked a location parameter--it was simply too vague. As for the discovery of its location in The Dominance of Fate--that information did not come from Solembum (real or fake) at all, but from an external entity, the identity of which Glaedr did not (and could not) discover at this time. If there is any deception then, it must come from the unknown entity, and not Solembum, even if Solembum is fake.
Hence, my conclusion that Glaedr’s treatment of the cat was pointless as well as wrong.
Next Glaedr has Eragon show him his memories of his talk with Solembum. Does that mean Glaedr got to see Eragon being condescending to the cat? If so, he doesn’t notice, because he says nothing. He sets up a test with Arya; if he forgets (he does) Arya gets to say something that sounds epic but probably isn’t, and this will tell Glaedr that he’s been fooled.
After discovering that the spell which manipulates their memories is real, Glaedr and Eragon decide that they’re going to fly on Saphira to Vroengard, but not with Arya. I was going to say, “oh, goody, no elf!” when I realized the reason given doesn’t make sense:
Eragon hesitated as he noticed a strange yearning in Arya’s gaze, and he realized that she wanted to accompany them as well. “Saphira will fly faster if she only has to carry one person,” he said in a quiet voice.
I am reminded of this quotation, from Eragon, Flight Through the Valley:
Let’s drop rocks on them! proposed Eragon. That should scatter them.
If their skulls aren’t thick enough to protect them. Saphira banked to the right and quickly descended to the Beartooth River. She grasped a mid-sized boulder with her strong talons while Eragon scooped up several fist-sized rocks. Laden with the stones, Saphira glided on silent wings until they were over the Urgal host. Now! she exclaimed, releasing the boulder. There were muffled cracks as the missiles plummeted through the forest top, smashing branches. A second later howls echoed through the valley.
Saphira does this repeatedly. Now consider how old she was at the time--not more than a year! Consider how fast she was growing at the time--Eragon found her egg only a few weeks before winter, and they left Carvahall with Brom near the end of that same winter; at that time Saphira was strong enough to carry Eragon. They probably spent somewhere around a two-thirds of a year in Du Weldenvarden (remember Elain’s over-long pregnancy?). Needless to say, my time-line is probably a bit fuzzy (I blame Paolini and his lack of seasons), but assuming I got it mostly correct, it means that Saphira should be easily big and strong enough to carry both Eragon and Arya across half of Alagaësia.
In short, I don’t buy Eragon’s reasoning. It would have made more sense if Eragon had told Arya that she, or even better, Jormundûr, would be in charge of the Varden while he’s gone (with Arya in charge of the elves).
And now, finally, I come to the close of the chapter, when Eragon calls Captain Garven into the scene. And I, finally, get to put this green horror down and go back to making sure I haven’t made any of these mistakes in my own fantasy writing.