Chapter Six: To Walk the Land Alone Edit
This chapter is the one that decides Sloan's fate. I really admire Sloan here and my disgust with Eragon continues to grow to new heights.
It's the end of the day and Eragon has run himself out. He's in the middle of the desert and has come to the realization that he's in the middle of the desert with no supplies. This leaves him with the moral dilemma: He could drain the life force of the plants around him, "The price of doing so would be to leave a death-spot upon the earth, a blight where nothing, not even the tiny organisms in the soil, still lived." or he could hunt. I wouldn't think there's much of a dilemma there. One causes a lasting impact on the environment and the other doesn't. They both fulfill his need for sustenance but later isn't as damaging. \~/
Eragon, however, needs to convince himself this is a good idea. He continued to reassure himself with various arguments, yet disgust at the concept still squirmed within his gut. For almost half an hour, he remained rooted to the spot, unable to do what logic told him was necessary.
Dear lord boy, it's not that difficult of a decision. You need food. You don't want to ruin the landscape, eat the meat! \~/
Sorry. Wait. Moral dilemma. Never mind.
Finally he decides to go ahead and hunt and he does it rather humanely too. One of the things I've noticed is that Eragon never has any trouble finding food to eat. He's never missed a meal. He's either been able to hunt or been fed. Never had any food issues at all. He can just magic it up.
He kills himself two lizards and a fuzzy rodent thingy and then he cooks it, using flat stones to make an oven and then roasting the meat. After eating it, he decides that well, maybe eating meat a little was okay, just not in excess. Perhaps, he mused,perhaps when I return . . . if I am at Nasuada’s table, or King Orrin’s, and meat is served . . . perhaps, if I feel like it and it would be rude to refuse, I might have a few bites. . . . I won’t eat the way I used to, but neither shall I be as strict as the elves. Moderation is a wiser policy than zealotry, I think. He got over that quickly didn't he? \~/ It's not "I'm only eating this because I need to survive" it's "Oh, hey, I like eating meat still, so I'll just pretend to be a vegan except when I don't want to be." The problem he faced here would have been more impressive if he ate the meat, decided he still liked it, but decided that he would only eat it when he needed to. That, I think, is what Paolini is going for but he missed it.
Contemplating Sloan, Eragon notices that despite having been starved and tortured, the butcher still has lean and hard muscles. \~/ I do not think that starved and tortured means what Paolini thinks it means. He doesn't want to let Sloan go because he's afraid of him going after Katrina and Roran, but he also thinks that Sloan needs to be punished for his crimes. Because getting tortured and starved and your eyes eaten isn't punishment enough. \~/ Punishment, I suppose, only counts when it's coming from the Hero as opposed to other people. Eragon never thinks that Sloan has suffered enough. Instead he thinks of the fact that he needs to punish Sloan for killing the watchman, someone Eragon personally knew. Which makes it "crueler" than if it was just anyone that Sloan killed.
He doesn't want to become executioner. Just an arbitrator of justice because he knows nothing about law. And that just makes so much sense, it does. He won't kill someone, but he'll decide their fate. Who put him in charge? He's doing this so that the watchman's family can have justice, even if they never know about it. What's the point of justice if you don't know about it? None. \~/
Sloan is woken up and given food. When he asks where he is, Eragon gives the most obnoxious, Look at me I've made up all these interesting names isn't it a great world I've made answer:
“The elves—and also the Riders in days gone by—called this place Mírnathor. The dwarves refer to it as Werghadn, and humans as the Gray Heath. If that does not answer your question, then perhaps it will if I say we are a number of leagues southeast of Helgrind, where you were imprisoned.”
\~/ \~/ Why, yes, I think that's the think Sloan wanted to know. The last one. The rest of it is just... well who the fuck answers questions like that? Sloan didn't want a history lesson of the names of the places. Paolini just put it in there to make his world look all cultured like.
And now things get ... get... yes. They go sour.
Sloan is beyond grateful for his rescue:
“Thank you, strange sir, for your hospitality. It has been so long since I had a proper meal, I think I prize your food even above my own freedom. . . . If I may ask, do you know of my daughter, Katrina, and what has happened to her? She was imprisoned with me in Helgrind.” His voice contained a complex mixture of emotions: respect, fear, and submission in the presence of an unknown authority; hope and trepidation as to his daughter’s fate; and determination as unyielding as the mountains of the Spine. The one element Eragon expected to hear but did not was the sneering disdain Sloan had used with him during their encounters in Carvahall.
Why would Sloan use sneering disdain against his rescuer? \~/ I mean really, he obviously doesn't know who Eragon is. And apparently he thinks that Sloan will default disdain with him, even if he doesn't know it is him or he always is disdainful.
Eragon lets him know that Katrina is with Roran and he's surprised but in no way indicates that her being with Roran is a bad thing. And then Sloan figures out that it's Eragon who is talking to him. \~/
For an instant, Sloan froze, as if he were stuttering with his entire body, and then his cheeks and mouth went slack and his shoulders caved in and he clutched at a bush to steady himself. He shook his head. “No, no, no. . . .No . . . . It can’t be. The Ra’zac spoke of this; they demanded answers I didn’t have, but I thought . . . That is, who would believe . . . ?” His sides heaved with such violence, Eragon wondered if he would hurt himself. In a gasping whisper, as if he were forced to speak after being punched in the middle, Sloan said, “You can’t be Eragon.”
Now my take on this speech of his is one of shock and disbelief. He doesn't know what's happened to Eragon since Eragon left, he hasn't heard about his adventures, just what the Ra'zac asked him about, or told him, but he had no reason to believe them. His response here is reasonable. He should be gently brought around to the truth and maybe even earn Sloan's gratitude.
Eragon fails at this. \~/
A sense of doom and destiny descended upon Eragon. He felt as if he were the instrument of those two merciless overlords, and he replied in accordance, slowing his speech so each word struck like a hammer blow and carried all the weight of his dignity, station, and anger. “I am Eragon and far more. I am Argetlam and Shadeslayer and Firesword. My dragon is Saphira, she who is also known as Bjartskular and Flametongue. We were taught by Brom, who was a Rider before us, and by the dwarves and by the elves. We have fought the Urgals and a Shade and Murtagh, who is Morzan’s son. We serve the Varden and the peoples of Alagaësia. And I have brought you here, Sloan Aldensson, to pass judgment upon you for murdering Byrd and for betraying Carvahall to the Empire.”
This is the speech you're supposed to give when you face down the big bad -Galby- and not the poor guy who's been tortured for trying to protect his daughter (the ungrateful wench). Sloan doesn't believe him so Eragon shows him. And turns out to be doing the same things that Galby does. Also, he uses the word thrust again. \~/
“Lie?” roared Eragon. “I do not lie!” Thrusting out with his mind, he engulfed Sloan’s consciousness in his own and forced the butcher to accept memories that confirmed the truth of his statements. He also wanted Sloan to feel the power that was now his and to realize that he was no longer entirely human. And while Eragon was reluctant to admit it, he enjoyed having control over a man who had often made trouble for him and also tormented him with gibes, insulting both him and his family. He withdrew a half minute later.
He forced, engulfed, enjoyed having control. This is mental rape here. \~/ \~/ \~/ He's dominating the man, humiliating him even. With Katrina, when he did something similar he made sure he was gentle, not wanting to do what the Twins did to him. But here, it's okay, with a man he doesn't like. And Eragon doesn't even try to reason with him with words first, share memories or things, he goes directly with magic, directly to the most violent action. \~/
Sloan tells him to fuck off. Instead, the butcher’s demeanor became cold and flinty. “Blast you,” he said. “I don’t have to explain myself to you, Eragon Son of None. Understand this, though: I did what I did for Katrina’s sake and nothing else.”
I LIKE Sloan!
I do! I do! I do!
He even tells Eragon that he doesn't care what is done to him, because Katrina is safe and that's what matters. And then he shuts up, not begging for mercy or pleading his case or anything. This impresses Eragon.
It should. This is a real hero here. This is the sort of person who's been through hell and back, is in the hands of an enemy who's just brutalized him and he's taking it, not backing down, and not giving in. Eragon has never been in this position before. He's always had an out. Sloan doesn't. He's completely in Eragon's hands, living or dying by his will. We're supposed to be wondering what will Eragon decided, how will he determine this man who he hate's fate without killing him. But instead I'm wondering what is going to happen to Sloan since he's in the hands of a man who hates him. \~/
If Paolini wanted to make Sloan less sympathetic he shouldn't have tortured him, starved him, and had his eyes poked out. He should have put him in a position of comfort, where he's enjoying himself while the other villagers suffer. Sloan should act cowardly and beg for mercy anything to avoid his fate. You can't help but sympathize for a man in Sloan's position.
Eragon, however, continues to ponder about the horrible decision that he has to make. He thinks about Sloan and his, among other things, "overriding love for Katrina—obsessive, selfish, and generally unhealthy as it was, although it had once been something wholesome". \~/ I haven't seen anything non-wholesome about it yet. From what I can recall, he had no objections to Roran's courting of his daughter. Just of Eragon trying to get meat without money. He was even going to take the stone and give Eragon a little bit of meat, even though he wouldn't be able to sell or use it. And then later of daughter possibly getting caught up in the dangerous things happening around Roran. Not at all obsessive, selfish or unhealthy.
After some time pondering, Eragon believes that he can empathize with and understand Sloan. If he does, his later actions don't show it at all. \~/ In another one of those Eragon accidentally learns how to do something by doing something for no discernible reason, he figures out Sloan's true name, by speaking three words in the Ancient Language that he feels embodies who/what Sloan is.
True names are, for those that need the recall, the essence of something. If you know a true name you can make a person do anything. Galby figured out Murtagh and Thom's true names and forced them to swear oaths in the Ancient Language to make them serve him. Basically taking away their right to chose. Remember this for later in the chapter.
This is a fun line, It dawned upon Eragon that in order to guess Sloan’s true name, he must understand the butcher better than he did himself, for he had not the slightest inkling what his own might be. No, it's because you need to know Sloan's real name for Plot Reasons. If you didn't find out his true name, then you'd have to deal with Sloan on a human to human level. \~/
Knowing the true name gives Eragon the idea of what to do with Sloan.
He goes and creates a magic mirror out of water in a stone basin (No way related to the one Gladriel used) to talk to the Queen of the Elves (no way related to Galadriel) Islanzadí. When the queen comes out to talk, she apparently has blood on her hand. Enough blood to drip. The peace loving hippie elves are getting prepared to attack a human city for the death of trees. Admittedly trees that were going to be used as siege engines but they killed the people who were sent out to kill them. Likely people who were only following orders so they don't die. \~/
In fact they're taking a city that hates the empire. So, instead of becoming allies they're going to attack and over-run a human city for the fact that it's human... um... so... who's the terrorists? \~/ \~/ The queen even says that they have ways to make sure no one opposes them once they've taken over the Empire hating city...
I thought elves were supposed to be the good guys...? \~/
I hear negotiation is always good.
The Queen seems to forget that humans are animals too: “You have learned what it is like, Eragon-finiarel, to touch the life force of the plants and animals around you. Imagine how you would cherish them if you had possessed that ability for centuries. We give of ourselves to sustain Du Weldenvarden, and the forest is an extension of our bodies and minds. Any hurt it suffers is our hurt as well. I'm starting to think that humans are just lifeless husks walking around and bumping into things. That's how Paolini treats them. \~/ \~/
She then berates Eragon for running off to rescue Katrina and tells him that she's going to talk to Yoda about what to do with him. Yes, she's treating Eragon like a wayward child and Eragon gets pissy about it. Apparently he has trouble with the idea of someone not agreeing with his ideas and how wonderful they are. \~/
He gives the queen his request on what to do with Sloan and this is the exchange that follows:
The queen nodded. “Your survival is all that matters. I shall be furious after we are done speaking. . . .As for your request, such a thing is unprecedented in our history. If I had been in your place, I would have killed Sloan and rid myself of the problem then and there.”
“I know you would have. I once watched Arya slay a gyrfalcon who was injured, for she said its death was inevitable, and by killing it, she saved the bird hours of suffering. Perhaps I should have done the same with Sloan, but I couldn’t. I think it would have been a choice I would have regretted for the rest of my life, or worse, one that would have made it easier for me to kill in the future.”
...So... what was killing the last Ra'zac in existence then? And Arya killed the bird to put it out of its misery. He's saying here that he wants to keep Sloan in misery. He's taking "kill" to mean "kill" and not the different reasons to kill. Of course in Eragon's case it wouldn't be a mercy kill, because he doesn't want mercy for Sloan. Still, the words do not fit with what he does. \~/
In any case, she agrees to allow Sloan to live with the elves if he makes it to their kingdom. Note this.
Eragon has never heard of the phrase, "Worse than death". He tells Sloan what he's going to do, Since my conscience prevents me from killing you, your punishment is to be the most terrible I could invent short of death. I am reminded of the Princess Bride and the Man in Black's "to the Pain".
"I’m going to tell you something once and then whether you die is strictly up to you," Westley said, lying pleasantly on the bed. "What I’m going to tell you is this: drop your sword, and if you do, then I will leave with this baggage here"—he glanced at Buttercup—"and you will be tied up but not fatally, and will be free to go about your business. And if you choose to fight, well, then, we will not both leave alive."
"You are only alive now because you said 'to the pain.' I want that phrase explained."
"My pleasure. To the pain means this: if we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms. The first thing you lose will be your feet. Below the ankle. You will have stumps available to use within six months. Then your hands, at the wrists. They heal somewhat quicker. Five months is a fair average. Next your nose. No smell of dawn for you. Followed by your tongue. Deeply cut away. Not even a stump left. And then your left eye—"
"And then my right eye, and then my ears, and shall we get on with it?" the Prince said.
"Wrong!" Westley’s voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep, so that every shriek of every child shall be yours to cherish—every babe that weeps in fear at your approach, every woman that cries 'Dear God, what is that thing?' will reverberate forever with your perfect ears. That is what 'to the pain' means. It means that I leave you in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more; so there you have it, pig, there you know, you miserable vomitous mass, and I say this now, and live or die, it’s up to you: Drop your sword!"
The sword crashed to the floor.
"That is what 'to the pain' means. It means that I leave you in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more." Humperdink lets himself be tied up rather than face this fate that Westley offers him. Why? It's a fate worse than death.
But Eragon, and perhaps, Paolini think that death is the worst thing that can happen to you. And in a life that is sheltered, where you have everything you need death can seem to be the worst thing that could happen to you. But for Sloan, death wouldn't be a bad fate. It's not a fate better than death Eragon offers him, but instead one where he wishes he could die. The fact that Eragon out right refuses to kill him out of the state of his supposed conscience shows that he has none. He doesn't think Sloan has suffered enough. He doesn't care that Sloan has nothing left. He's just going to make him suffer more.
Eragon's punishment? This: you shall not see, touch, or talk with your daughter again, even unto your dying day, and you shall live with the knowledge that she is with Roran and they are happy together, without you.”
Let's see, knowing his daughter is safe and happy? I think that was what Sloan was trying to do in the first place. Sloan tells Eragon, however, that he has no way to enforce this proclamation. Also, that he has to walk to the elf lands where he'll be safe and cared for.
Ah! But Eragon does!
“I’m not finished. I will enforce it by having you swear oaths in the elves’ tongue—in the language of truth and magic—to abide by the terms of your sentence.”
Wait... isn't that what Galby did to Murtagh? \~/
Wasn't that a bad thing? \~/
Ah, but we've hit up on the old double standard. It's okay for the hero to do it because he's the hero and he's doing it to an evil person. \~/ \~/ It's interesting thinking about it, that Galby didn't kill Murtagh, which is what he should do because he's evil, isn't it? Isn't that why Eragon is doing this to Sloan, so that he doesn't kill the butcher? So, they're both doing the same thing. Why didn't Galby kill Murtagh if that's what evil people do? Perhaps it's because he's not evil? Or perhaps because Galby is evil therefor anything he does is evil and since Eragon is good anything he does is good.
Sloan cusses Eragon out.
<blockqoute>“Don’t you have the guts to kill me yourself?” asked Sloan. “You’re too much of a coward to put a blade to my neck, so you’ll make me wander the wilderness, blind and lost, until the weather or the beasts do me in?” He spat to the left of Eragon. “You’re nothing but the yellow-bellied offspring of a canker-ridden bunter. You’re a bastard, you are, and an unlicked cub; a dung-splattered, tallow-faced rock-gnasher; a puking villain and a noxious toad; the runty, mewling spawn of a greasy sow. I wouldn’t give you my last crust if you were starving, or a drop of water if you were burning, or a beggar’s grave if you were dead. You have pus for marrow and fungus for brains, and you’re a scug-backed cheek-biter!” </blockquote>
This is why Sloan is my favorite character right now. He's the only one who can and does call Eragon on his bullshit. He's done it the entire time. Sloan is giving an honest human reaction to his circumstances. If slightly Shakespearean in coloring.
Eragon thinks that Sloan is egging him on to kill him. Which is probably true. But Eragon refuses to do so, because Sloan needs justice, not a quick and merciful death. When he's told that he has no right to do this? Eragon's response? "I am a Dragon Rider. I have as much right as any king or queen.”
According to who? \~/ Who's laws gives him that right? The current laws don't. The laws that Eragon grew up under don't. Not even the Varden's laws do. He has no right except in his own mind. He believes that he is a law unto himself because he's a dragon rider. But he has no authority, no real power except that which he gains through brute force, such as here. He's a bully. \~/ \~/ \~/
So, Eragon casts his spells on Sloan, hardening his heart to the pain and misery that they're causing Sloan and to add insult to injury drawing the energy needed to cast them from Sloan. So he's not even taking on the burden of his choice. He's not going to suffer for his decision to make Sloan the way he is, take responsibility for it.\~/
When he's finally done
<blockqoute>Pity and guilt welled up inside of Eragon; it gave him no pleasure to see Sloan reduced to such a low state. He was a broken man, stripped of everything he valued in life, including his self-delusions, and Eragon was the one who had broken him. The accomplishment left Eragon feeling soiled, as if he had done something shameful. It was necessary, he thought,but no one should have to do what I did.</blockquote>
My GOD yes, it was shameful! \~/ No it wasn't necessary! \~/ Read the words on the page! You've broken this man, taken away everything in his life, YES it is a shameful act! Not it WASN'T Necessary! This constant black and white mentality makes Eragon truly despicable. And the fact that he thinks it is necessary is even WORSE!\~/ \~/
Oh, and it gets better. After Sloan begs to be killed to be taken out of his misery, Eragon tells him that he is not without mercy.
whispered, “I am not without mercy, so I give you this hope: If you reach Ellesméra, you will find a home waiting for you. The elves will care for you and allow you to do whatever you want for the rest of your life, with one exception: once you enter Du Weldenvarden, you cannot leave. . . . Sloan, listen to me. When I was among the elves, I learned that a person’s true name often changes as they age. Do you understand what that means? Who you are is not fixed for all of eternity. A man could forge himself anew if he so wanted.”
Bolding mine. \~/ Yes. IF you reach. A fool's hope. \~/ And how is that a mercy? He still can't see his daughter again, he still has to travel the land blind even if Eragon's put an enchantment on him so all the critters will feed him (which leads to very weird Snow White imagery) to get to the land of the elves and he still can't leave. It'll be a gilded prison. \~/ \~/
Ten bucks says by the end of the fourth book Sloan will be reformed and thankful for the chance Eragon gave him to restart his life.
In the morning Eragon wakes up and Sloan is gone. He's taken the staff Eragon gave him and started his blind wanderings towards the land of the elves. Eragon has the most ... I'm not sure what the word is... shallow thoughts about this. \~/
I want him to succeed,Eragon thought with mild surprise.I want him to succeed, because it will mean we may all have a chance to redeem ourselves from our mistakes. And if Sloan can mend the flaws in his character and come to terms with the evil he wrought, he will find his plight is not so bleak as he believes. For Eragon had not told Sloan that if the butcher demonstrated that he truly regretted his crimes, reformed his ways, and lived as a better person, Queen Islanzadí would have her spellweavers restore his vision. However, it was a reward Sloan had to earn without knowing about its existence, else he might seek to trick the elves into bestowing it prematurely.
This is supposed to be the moral of our story here. If you do good and reform, you'll come free out of the darkness that evil has sent you. \~/ Sloan is blind now but has a chance for redemption to come into the light. That's rather religious if you think about it. \~/ But I don't think that's the reward Sloan would want. He's not that shallow. A better reward would be for him to see his daughter again, daughter and grandchild. That is something that he would want, he could live without sight. Notice no where did he ever plead to be able to see again, it was only Katrina. Being able to see will not reward him at all. The fact that Eragon believes this to be true shows that he's shallow and doesn't really understand Sloan at all. \~/ \~/Sloan made his decisions, right or wrong, out of desire to protect his child.
Why did Eragon do what he do to Sloan? Revenge and some petty cause he says is justice.
Eragon leaves with a look over to where Brom, his father figure, is buried and promises to return before running off.
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