Chapter 20: A Song For The Road
Guys, I’ve got some very exciting news. This chapter has a song.
I’ve talked before about how a lot of fantasy authors think they can make poems and maps and languages and shit because Tolkien did it, apparently assuming that the mere act of writing fantasy confers those abilities on a person. Well, we’re about to get an absolutely sterling example of the phenomenon.
Eragon asks Brom what the ocean is like for no apparent reason, and he responds by spouting a load of faux-poetic nonsense:
“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts
to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.
But these words alone aren’t enough to capture the majesty of the ocean, so a few paragraphs later we get this:
O liquid temptress ’neath the azure sky,
Your gilded expanse calls me, calls me.
For I would sail ever on,
Were it not for the elven maid,
Who calls me, calls me.
She binds my heart with a lily-white tie,
Never to be broken, save by the sea,
Ever to be torn twixt the trees and the waves.
I’ll just let you all bask in that, sans commentary.
“There is much more to that song, the ‘Du Silbena Datia.
That name sounds vaguely familiar, although I can’t figure out from where.
It tells the sad tale of two lovers, Acallamh and Nuada, who were separated by longing for the sea.
Nuada is the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann from Irish mythology. He tends to make cameo appearances in fantasy-related media, including Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy 2.
“It’s beautiful,” said Eragon simply.
Hot tip: never have a character praise something you yourself created*, especially if it does not in fact possess the qualities the character is ascribing to it.
*(This only applies if you actually show the thing to the reader. If someone in your book writes a novel and everyone gushes about how it’s the greatest novel ever written, that’s fine; just don’t actually quote from it unless you have in fact written the greatest novel of all time)
The Spine was a faint outline on the horizon when they halted that evening.
After this sentence there’s a break, and then the chapter continues as though the scene never happened, which makes me wonder what the point of it was in the first place. Then there’s another short story fragment about Brom and Eragon travelling along the Spine for days, followed by another break. The structure of this book really needed some work before it was ready for showtime.
The long days and strenuous work stripped Eragon’s body of excess fat. His arms became corded, and his tanned skin rippled with lean muscles. Everything about me is turning hard, he thought dryly.
Too much information, dude.
“Because in the middle of the mountains rests the Woadark Lake.
“Why is everything green?” asked Eragon. “Don’t they have winter here?”
“Yes, but the season is mild. Mist and fog roll in from the sea and keep everything alive.
I have no idea what Brom is going on about here. Temperate areas with mild winters still experience seasonal changes like leaves shedding from trees and changes in growing patterns. “Mist from the sea” isn’t going to keep everything alive through the winter season.
Anyway the chapter ends with absolutely nothing of note happening, as though it was only written to reassure us that Brom and Eragon are, in fact, still travelling.
Chapter 21: Age of Teirm
Our dynamic duo arrive at a big port city, which makes me wonder why they were travelling through empty wilderness for so long. Cities tend to be surrounded by cultivated land and towns, not desolate wildland.
On the way into the city they’re questioned by some guards, which results in whatever the fuck all this is:
“I’m called Neal,” said Brom in a wheezy voice, slouching to one side, an expression of happy idiocy on his face.
“And who’s th’ other one?” asked the guard.
“Well, I wus gettin’ to that. This’ed be m’nephew Evan. He’s m’sister’s boy, not a…”
The guard nodded impatiently. “Yeah, yeah. And yer business here?”
“He’s visitin’ an old friend,” supplied Eragon, dropping his voice into a thick accent.
“I’m along t’ make sure he don’t get lost, if y’ get m’meaning. He ain’t as young as he used to be—had a bit too much sun when he was young’r. Touch o’ the brain fever, y’ know.” Brom bobbed his head pleasantly.
I think this is supposed to be The Vernacular Of The Common People (in which case why doesn’t Eragon speak this way all the time?), but it sounds more like they’re drunk.
They go to a tavern and Brom does the whole bribing scene (“what if I gave you a few more coins to refresh your memory”, that sort of thing) that you’ve all seen a million times before to try and locate a man named Jeod. To my surprise, Paolini actually puts a pretty clever twist on the set-up:
“Could be,” he replied, lowering his voice, “but my memory takes a great deal of prodding.”
Brom’s face soured, but he slid more coins onto the bar. The bartender sucked on one side of his cheek undecidedly. “All right,” he finally said, and reached for the coins.
Before he touched them, the man missing two fingers called out from his table, “Gareth, what in th’ blazes do you think you’re doing? Anyone on the street could tell them where Jeod lives. What are you charging them for?”
Brom swept the coins back into his purse.
How about that! Originality.
The dude who saved Brom’s money tells them that certain merchants have been suffering a decline in business as a result of their ships being sunk by unknown nefarious sorts, including Jeod. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect the story to veer from bog-standard Tolkien rip-off territory into some sort of mercantile detective yarn, but I’m assuming it won’t last long.
Brom and Eragon took their leave and headed to the west side of the city, a nicer section of Teirm. The houses were clean, ornate, and large. The people in the streets wore expensive finery and walked with authority. Eragon felt conspicuous and out of place.
What the hell is with these chapter endings? Was there even any need for a chapter break here, given that the next chapter begins with Brom and Eragon arriving at the place they were setting out to go to during that paragraph?