Chapter Eight: Winged Tidings

So, now that Nasuada, leader of the Varden and one of the few hopes that they have to free the world from the Evil Galby has critically injured herself by losing lots of blood in some stupid tribal ritual we get to deal with the aftermath. IE she keeps on passing out because of said blood loss. Jörmundur, her right hand man who I shall now call Jordan for easier spelling, wakes her up worried. And there's an interesting bit of conversation.

Nasuada says that she's fine and Jordan says, "And my uncle is an elf". Her response is, "Isn't he?" Which seems to indicate that there are elf/human relationships, because Jordan never corrects her. Does this mean that there are half-elves out and about? If so, where are they? What are they like? It's such an off-handed comment and it raises so many questions that I'm actually interested in knowing this bit about Paolini's world. See, this was a subtle way to bring up a part of the culture in his world. It's dropped in as part of the conversation as opposed to being thrown at the reader like a falling piano. There's no LOOK LOOK LOOK!!! I CREATED CULTURE!!! EVEN IF IT WASN'T THERE BEFORE!!! Of course, it's likely he did it by accident in a moment of Aren't I Clever? Because it feels like an Aren't I Clever moment.

She kicks out her maid servant and Jordan after asking for Angela to come and tend to her arms. They protest, not wanting to leave her alone and unprotected. Which makes me wonder, what's up with those guards? Are they just for show? No, it's just an excuse for more of Paolini's pretty prose.

“No,” she said gently. Seeing the hurt and indignation that appeared in Jörmundur’s eyes, she continued. “It’s not that I doubt your loyalty—far from it. Only, this I must have for myself. For the sake of my own peace of mind, I need to have a dagger no one else can see: a hidden weapon tucked up my sleeve, if you will. Consider it a flaw in my character, but do not torment yourself by imagining my choice is in any way a criticism of how you perform your duties.”

It sounds impressive, doesn't it? It feels like a characterization moment, but things don't quite make sense. Especially when we discover what this weapon is. I dislike the stilted language, "Consider it a flaw in my character... do not torment yourself by imagining my choice..." It's supposed to be formal but it sounds wooden and fake.

The maid servant and Jordan leave and after a minute Elva appears with one of Paolini's over stretched similies. "Then, from behind her, there came a slight rustling, like that of a mouse nosing about for food." It's not just a mouse but it has to be a particular mouse doing a particular thing, because they make particular noises doing particular things.

Elva is our creepy child. In book one she was an infant and then Eragon blessed her and Saphira gave her a dragon mark. What the mark does? It turns her into a Sue.

The girl’s unnatural growth had continued. When Nasuada first met her but a short while ago, Elva had appeared between three and four years old. Now she looked closer to six. Her plain dress was black, with a few folds of purple around the neck and shoulders. Her long, straight hair was even darker: a liquid void that flowed down to the small of her back. Her sharp-angled face was bone white, for she rarely ventured outside. The dragon mark on her brow was silver. And her eyes, her violet eyes, contained a jaded, cynical air—the result of Eragon’s blessing that was a curse, for it forced her to both endure other people’s pain and also try to prevent it. The recent battle had almost killed her, what with the combined agony of thousands beating upon her mind, even though one of Du Vrangr Gata had placed her in an artificial slumber for the duration of the fighting, in an attempt to protect her. Only recently had the girl begun to speak and take interest in her surroundings again.

She wiped her rosebud mouth with the back of her hand, and Nasuada asked, “Were you ill?”

Liquid void. I'm thinking oil here, crude oil, like what tankers carry and when it spills it kills lots of things. Hair is not liquid. It shouldn't be described as such. Hair may be described as flowing but that doesn't make it liquid. Oh dear lord, it's long enough to reach her back. Do people not realize how difficult it is to have hair that long? At least it's not Blake long but really, keeping that tangle free is a mess and a half. Not that we ever see it. Sue hair is always perfect. I've yet to see people shave or comb their hair. I've seen bathing, and I wished I didn't. It's probably things like this that makes people like that guy in my graduate creative writing course say, "I didn't realize wizards went to the bathroom" when I included a scene of a wizard shaving. Of course that guy also thought that writing a short story five times and not including a specific vowel was high art. But I digress.

Other sue traits? Our lovely rosebud mouth and violet eyes. Also, she continues Paolini's incredible healing abilities. The battle was about a week -two weeks ago - and the trauma of feeling all those people die nearly killed her, but she's up and about. It wasn't even that she went catatonic she stopped taking an interest in her surroundings. Jean Grey, to make a small comparison, when her powers first appeared, she felt the death of her best friend in a car accident. She was in a coma for an unspecified amount of time. That was from the death of one person. If, as she says, she feels the pain of everyone who gets hurt she should have been much more damaged, magic sleep or not. But as usual, she's a cool character and so recovers remarkably quickly.

Elva is bitter and sarcastic, as would I be if I had to suffer under Eragon's mistakes, and practically rude to Nasuada.

She also lied about the Trial of the Long Knives. She saw that Nasuada would lose, but said otherwise so that she would have the fortitude to go on. Or as she says, “If I had allowed events to take their course, your nerve would have broken on the seventh cut and Fadawar would be sitting where you are now. So I told you what you needed to hear in order to prevail.” Which seems to me being little more than changing the odds. Rather like drugging a horse. She might not have seen anything. After this, I would have a hard time trusting her so called visions. She admitted lying, how would I know that she wouldn't lie the next time? Lying makes everything tricky. Nasuada feels only like she is even now more into Elva's debt.

I believe what Paolini was trying to show is that you can fight and defy fate. However, that only works if you know what fate your are trying to avoid. Instead, Elva is now an unreliable prophet. No prophet worth their salt would admit to being wrong. Because, as mentioned, it ruins their credibility.

Of course that's also why you're supposed to keep your prophecies vague. Annoying as it is, that way it can be the person who you give it to's fault instead of yours because they didn't understand it or interpret it right.

Angela then shows up with Serious Ass (sorry, Solembum). Angela, to refresh our memories, is based on Paolini's sister, right down to having the same name. She comes in with a bunch of luggage to tend to Nasuda's wounds. I think it's a bit odd she needs all this stuff, but um... it makes for a nice entrance.

Angela bustled into the pavilion, carrying several bags and baskets looped over her arms. As always, her curly hair formed a stormy cloud around her face, which was pinched with concern. At her heels padded the werecat Solembum, in his animal form. He immediately angled toward Elva and began to rub against her legs, arching his back as he did.

She looks like a big busy body and all professional like, with this entrance. Angela tends to Nasuada's arms complaining about how she seems to keep on patching people, like Eragon, doing silly things up. And she does the typical Men! always doing the violent way to decide things! speech. She sounds almost like a Yiddish Bubbie.

I have no idea if that was the image Paolini was going for.

I'm starting to wonder what the point of Nasuada's guards are. When they call out halt to stop someone to entering the pavilion, she and Angela immediately draw weapons. Because every person who is going to try and enter the pavilion is a hostile attacker who will be able to get past her trained guards and if they do then their two little daggers are going to be so much help. Right then. But it makes for drama. Especially because Paolini can show how special Elva is as she acts completely unconcerned about the person trying to get in. Obviously she has super uber special powers.

Instead it turns out some guy saw Eragon approaching. He doesn't even get to come into the tent, because one of their own soldiers is obviously a hostile target. As they all relax, Nasuada asks for Angela's assistance in getting dressed and then they have the most peculiar discussion.

Nasuada surveyed her arms and saw no trace of her bandages. “Should I hide or reveal my injuries?” she asked.

“That depends,” said Angela. “Do you think showing them will increase your standing or encourage your enemies, because they assume you are weak and vulnerable? The question is actually a rather philosophical one, predicated on whether when looking at a man who has lost a big toe, you say, ‘Oh, he’s a cripple’ or ‘Oh, he was smart or strong or lucky enough to escape worse injury.’”

“You make the strangest comparisons.”

“Thank you.”

“The Trial of the Long Knives is a contest of strength,” said Elva. “That is well known among the Varden and Surdans. Are you proud of your strength, Nasuada?”

“Cut off the sleeves,” said Nasuada. When they hesitated, she said, “Go on! At the elbows. Don’t mind the dress; I shall have it repaired later.”

It would be one thing to reveal the scars but all she is revealing right now are the bandages. I imagine the talk in the camp would be enough right then, as she's not trying to impress her own people who are already loyal to her. But again, it sounds dramatic, doesn't it? The cutting of her fine dress to show the marks of her contest of strength. To show how much she cared about leading her people. In regards to the lost toe analogy... both are true and both are likely to be thought. They aren't comparable. One doesn't diminish the other.

The four of them go out and are surrounded by her useless guards, humans in the front, dwarves in the back and Kull the really big urgals who aren't at all related to the Ura-kai on her side. No sign of what instruments they're playing. I suppose it should be a lute and a harp. One of those little harps. They're wearing sprightly colors and caps with long feathers in them as they skip merrily... >.>


Paolini indulges in his thesaurus abuse to describe night falling onto the camp.

Dusk spread its gold and purple wings over the Varden’s encampment, lending a sense of mystery to the rows of canvas tents that extended beyond the limits of Nasuada’s sight. Deepening shadows presaged the advent of night, and countless torches and watch fires already glowed pure and bright in the warm twilight. The sky was clear to the east. South, a long, low cloud of black smoke hid the horizon and the Burning Plains, which were a league and a half away. West, a line of beeches and aspens marked the path of the Jiet River, upon which floated the Dragon Wing , the ship Jeod and Roran and the other villagers from Carvahall had pirated. But Nasuada had eyes only for the north, and the glittering shape of Saphira descending thence. Light from the fading sun still illuminated her, cloaking her in a blue halo. She appeared like a cluster of stars falling from the heavens.

Okay, that last sentence? Totally unnecessary. Pure and bright? Rather weird descriptions for fire. I am imagining angels now. But it sounds pretty.

The poor guy who called it out, tells Nasuada that see he told her so. The thing is, no one ever doubted that he saw it. He gets a name though Fletcher son of Harden as Nasuada asks for it and gives him her thanks. It would have been more impressive or important if someone actually protested the idea of Saphira being seen so soon or that no one else saw her when he did. The entire exchange however, without this previous one, is moot and confusing.

The landing field is filled with people who don't have better things to do than to watch the pretty disco ball dragon land. These include king Orrin, Narheim the dwarf ambassador left by Orik who had to go back home and tend to things, Jordan and the council of useless people and Arya, the elf.

The tall elf woman wove her way through the crowd toward Nasuada. Even with Saphira nigh upon them, men and women alike tore their gaze from the sky to watch Arya’s progress, she presented such a striking image. Dressed all in black, she wore leggings like a man, a sword on her hip, and a bow and quiver on her back. Her skin was the color of light honey. Her face was as angular as a cat’s. And she moved with a slinking, muscular grace that bespoke her skill with a blade, and also her supernatural strength.

Her eccentric ensemble had always struck Nasuada as slightly indecent; it revealed so much of her form. But Nasuada had to admit that even if Arya donned a gown of rags, she would still appear more regal and dignified than any mortal-born noble.

Arya appears to have gone all emo. She wasn't wearing all black last time we saw her. Slinking muscular grace does not equal skill with a sword. The way she handles a sword indicates skill with a sword. I'm sure there are many people who can slink around with a sword and not know how to handle one. Unfortunately there was no other way, I imagine, for Paolini to figure out how to put in how uber awesome she was with a sword. Or he could have said, she carried herself like a professional warrior long adjective and metaphor description to follow here.

She points out how awesome Nasuada was for doing what she did at the trial of the long knives.

“As the poet Earnë said, to place yourself in harm’s way for the sake of the people and the country you love is the finest thing one can do. I have known every leader of the Varden, and they were all mighty men and women, and none so much as Ajihad. In this, though, I believe you have surpassed even him.”

Nasuada didn't put herself into harm's way. Putting self in harm's way is when you push someone out of the way of an on-coming truck, not slicing your arm. But, it still sounds awesome. Angela continues to be mysterious by saying that she's very old, much like Galby. But before we can find out how old she is, Elva lets Nasuada know that Eragon isn't on Saphira, but Roran and Katrina are.

This alarms Nasuada and she clears out the field except for the important people. Arya assures her that Eragon is okay, because Saphira isn't upset.

Katrina is remarkably unscarred from her recent trauma.

Striding forward, Nasuada examined Katrina. She was curious to see what kind of woman could inspire a man to undertake such extraordinary feats in order to rescue her. The young woman before her was strong-boned, with the pallid complexion of an invalid, a mane of copper hair, and a dress so torn and filthy, it was impossible to determine what it might have looked like originally. In spite of the toll her captivity had taken, it was apparent to Nasuada that Katrina was attractive enough, but not what the bards would call a great beauty. However, she possessed a certain force of gaze and bearing that made Nasuada think that if Roran had been the one captured, Katrina would have been just as capable of rousing the villagers of Carvahall, getting them south to Surda, fighting in the Battle of the Burning Plains, and then continuing on to Helgrind, all for the sake of her beloved. Even when she noticed Garzhvog, Katrina did not flinch or quail but remained standing where she was, next to Roran.

Hello, tortured by evil creatures for who knows how long? And she's fine? She's only got a pallid complexion to show for it? What toll of her captivity? She shouldn't be able to tell what color hair Katrina has or if she was attractive or not. She should be cowering from the urgal who is supposed to be evil. Of course her just standing there all limp like could convey the fact that she's gone completely into shock, except for the strong gaze of hers. If she's supposed to be so powerful, why didn't she fight back against the Ra'zac? We are getting told all these things about Katrina that there's no way to prove it and she doesn't show it. She's just, to me, standing there like a limp rag.

It gets even sillier when we learn that people are already singing songs about Roran's devotion to her and that the men around them only had eyes for her. Nasuada noticed that the king had eyes only for Katrina, as did every man present, including the dwarves, and Nasuada was certain they would be recounting tales of Katrina’s charms to their comrades-in-arms before the night was out. What Roran had done on her behalf elevated her far above ordinary women; it made her an object of mystery, fascination, and allure to the warriors.

And that is just over doing it a little. Eyes only for Katrina makes it seem like she's being lusted after. And she hasn't been showing any sort of charms. She's just standing there. Doing nothing! Okay, she curtsied! But that's it! Nothing charming about that! She's just there. But of course, since she was rescued in a dramatic matter, it automatically makes her sexually interesting. Despite the fact that she should smell like shit. She doesn't. No mention of her smell is made at all. I would think it was an important part. Especially for Mr.Over Description. In fact she continues to be fine, even embarrassed about all the attention she's getting.

Nasuada is jealous and thinks about how she'd maybe like to end up with Orrin -in an arranged marriage thing, but doesn't have time for such things as marriage and romance, busy as she is.

Saphria wants to know who hurt Nasuada and promises to tear them into pieces for her. But Nasuada wants to know about Eragon. No one is happy to learn that he decided to stay in the Empire. After all, they need their dragon rider with them and not off chasing Ra'zac. Duh.

So! Arya decides to go and find him. By running and looking everywhere she can.

Or someone could um... use a spell and locate him. Or Saphria could use her bond to find him.

But that's not dramatic. And if there's one thing we know about Paolini, it's all about the drama! Logic always takes second place to the drama. So, before anyone could stop her, Arya's run off to find Eragon.

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