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Brisingr Part Seventy Nine

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Mind Over Metal Edit

This is the sword making chapter. I claim absolutely no ability on knowing how to make a sword. But I'll get to that in a little while. First I'd like to look a bit at Rhunon's oath and what she does. It goes to the idea of the letter of the oath and the spirit of the oath.

The letter of the oath is that she will not make a sword ever ever again. She gets around this by using Eragon as a puppet to make the sword. She doesn't physically make the sword, she just sticks her mind into Eragon's body and uses his body. This lets her get around the oath. But she still is making a sword, isn't she? She's not instructing Eragon how to do it, but instead just using a different body. Did her oath then mean just her body couldn't make it? Or her mind. After all, I think the mind and spirit is what is making the oath. Not her body. Not only that, but she's also violating the spirit of her oath. She said she did not wish to make anymore swords because ... I can't find the reason. I think it so that she doesn't allow another Galby out into the world. By making a sword? I don't know.

In any case, the breaking of the spirit of the law and sticking to the letter is something that tricksters often do. A great and favorite example of mine is in Gargoyles. Demona, a gargoyle who dislikes humans, has summoned Puck. Yes, the Puck from Shakespeare, and demands that he get rid of "that human", Eliza Maza. Clearly what she meant was that Puck should wipe her from the face of the earth. What he did instead is to turn Eliza into a gargoyle and make her think that she was always a gargoyle. When Demona ask if he did it, Puck says yes, he did. But he doesn't tell her what exactly he did do. Delighted Demona wants him to do the same to every human in the city. Puck does what she asks. He turns all the humans into gargoyles. This, of course, pisses Demona off. She didn't want the humans to be gargoyles. So she demands that Puck turns the gargoyles into humans. Puck does that. He turns the original gargoyles into humans. Of course, hilarity ensues the entire episode. In the end everyone is pretty much restored as to how they started before the mess started.

This is Puck following the letter of what Demona wanted instead of the spirit of what she wanted. He was playing around with her and doing it because it was fun. He was a fey and you don't fuck around with the fey. Puck is also, of course, a trickster. This is what Tricksters do. Rhunon, on the other hand, is not a trickster. She is presented as an honorable smith, one who values her work and honestly feels pain that her work was used for the slaughter of dragon and dragon rider kind. I would say that her oath in spirit, still binds her, because Eragon plans to use the sword on Galby and Murtagh, thus enforucing the circle of death and violence that she turned away from. Galby may be evil, but he is still a dragon rider and still a bearer of her sword. Murtagh is an innocent victim in this and if Eragon were to kill him, it would also break her oath. Thus making the sword would break the spirit of the oath. However, the word of her oath, the exact letter of it, is hard to know if she's breaking it, because we don't know what it is. We're not told, so we can only speculate.

Still, Rhunon should be, seems like to be, the sort that would follow the spirit and the letter of the oath, no matter how much she wishes to make a new sword. There should be other options given besides a sword. Perhaps instead of a sword, a different weapon? Who knows. The problem is that Paiolini has written himself into a corner with this inviolate oath and now has to hack around it. And the way he comes up with it is, is rather... unpleasent.

To the chapter itself!

Rhunon is rather surprised to see the bright steel. I almost put star metal which is from Conan the Adventurer. Fun cartoon. When she learns, she says that Eragon was very foolish or brave. There is, however, enough to make several swords. Which is a yay for Eragon. When he asks how she's going to make a sword without violating her oath, she says that he shouldn't worry about it for now. Instead they have to make the sword! And they have to make it by tomrrow. Normally it would take weeks, but they're going to use maaaagic. So, all is well.

Eragon takes off his shirt and gets an apron that was treated so that it was impervious to fire. The thing is, it's just an apron. What happens if the fire hits your other bits? Just saying. They don't use gloves because gloves are for clumsy blacksmiths. I don't know the veracity of this statement. Personally, I think gloves would be useful to protect your hands from the hot stuff, but the pictures I've found on google search shows a lot of them without gloves.

Now wearing aprons to protect themselves from fire they go and .... build a smelter. Because a smith like Rhunon who works in the forge all the time wants to spend time building and taking apart her smelter...

  • walks over to the wall.*
  • WHUMP*
  • WHUMP*
  • WHUMP*
  • WHUMP*
  • Crack...*

Ooowww.... I think I'm stuck.

Feanor has developed a nervous tick and his sharpening his Mithril Spork of Eru's Doom right now in response to this so called "elf smith".

However the one big thing that a lot of this chapter reminds me of is Moby Dick. And not in the good god it's literature sort of way, but in the why is he giving me every nuanced detail about whaling? In this case we're building a smelter so that Paolini can show off that he knows how to build a smelter. Want to see?

Of course you don't!

Too bad.

Then Rhunon led him to a low, grotto-like chamber set within the trunk of one of the trees out of which her house was grown. Inside the chamber were bags of charcoal and loose piles of whitish clay bricks. By means of a spell, Eragon and Rhunon lifted several hundred bricks and carried them outside, next to the open-walled forge,then did the same with the bags of charcoal, each of which was as large as a man.

Once the supplies were arranged to Rhunon's satisfaction, she and Eragon built a smelter for the ore. The smelter was a complex structure, and Rhunon refused to use magic to construct it, so the project took them most of the afternoon. First they dug a rectangular pit five feet deep, which they filled with layers of sand, gravel, clay and charcoal, and which they embedded a number of chambers and channels to wick away moisture that would other wise dampen the heat of the smelting fire. When the contents of the pit were level with the ground, they assembled a trough of bricks on top of the layers below, using water and unfired clay as their mortar. Ducking inside her house, Rhunon returned with a pair of bellows which they attached at the base of the trough.

Aren't you glad you read that? I know I am.

Yes. There you go. How to make a smelter. However, I would suggest waiting for the clay to dry before setting fire to it. Otherwise it might crack and fall apart on you, which is never good.

Of course, they don't. They have lunch - sorry a brief repast - and they start to to melt the ore.

As it will take a while for the ore to be a proper consistency to shape into a sword they have some time on their hands and they work on what sort of sword Eragon wants.

First we learn that Eragon prefers to fight with a shield if possible.

Clearly this is news to me, because I can't recall him ever using a shield to fight with. Maybe he just got the shield proficiency feat recently? He doesn't want a two handed sword because it would be too big for fighting indoors. I like how this is a consideration for him. It's not something I would think of when getting a sword for me. Instead they go for a hand and a half sword, because Murtagh used to carry one. I think Eragon is making fun of him. Eragon wants the blade to be wider at the gaurd than Zar'roc because it would look better. Rhunon laughs at him saying he should never make a change to a sword to make it look pretty.

"Never ask me to alter a weapon merely in order to improve its appearance," admonished Rhunon. "A weapon is a tool, and if it is beautiful, then it is beautiful because it is useful. A sword that could not fulfill its function would be ugly to my eyes no matter how fair its shape, not even if it were adorned with the finest jewels and the most intricate engraving." The elf woman pursed her lips, pushing them out as she thought. "So, a sword equally suited for the unrestrained bloodshed of a battle field as it is for defending yourself in the narrow tunnels under Farthen Dur. A sword for all occasions, of middling length, but for a hilt, which shall be longer than average."

  • wanders off to go and look at a screwdriver. (Not the sonic or laser one)*

Um. Not seeing it.

A sword only fulfills its function when it's going around hacking things into bits. So that would mean she would find the sword she made that's on display by one of the elf families ugly, yes? The idea that she is going for, I think, is that of form and function. If its form is suitable for its function then it is a beautiful object. However, that is not what she says. It's what I'm thinking she says. Because what she is saying doesn't quite make any sense.

She measures him around and then they spar with pokers so that she can see how he fights. I'm not sure how this is supposed to help, nor how is using a poker a sufficient way to tell as it has completely different handling, weight, balance, purpose, than that of a sword. But what do I know? It sounds cool.

And then Eragon learns how she plans to make the sword:

A twinkle of amusement appeared in Rhunon's eyes. I won't. You shall make the sword instead of me, Shadeslayer."

Eragon gaped at her for a moment, then sputtered and said, "Me! But I was never apprenticed to a blacksmith or a blade smith. I have not the skill to forge even a common brush knife."

The twinkle in Rhunon's eyes brightened. "Nevertheless, you shall be the one to make this sword."

"But how? Will you stand beside me and give me orders as I hammer the metal?"

"Hardly," Said Rhunon. "No, I shall guide your actions from within your mind, so that your hands may do what mine cannot. It is not a perfect solution, but I can think of no other means of evading my oath that will also allow me to ply my craft."

Eragon frowned. "If you move my hands for me, how is that any different than making the sword yourself?"

Rhunon's expression darkened and, in a brusque voice, she said, "Do you want this sword or not, Shadeslayer?"

I don't know about you, but I think my first reaction to someone saying they're going into my mind and using my body as a puppet would not be "Isn't that going to break your oath?" but more along the lines of OHMIGAWD WHAT?! HOW NO!!! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DO THAT!!! THAT'S A COMPLETE INVASION OF MYSELF AND ALMOST LIKE RAPE!!!! HOW COULD YOU EVEN SUGGEST SUCH A THING!? DON'T YOU HAVE AN APPRENTICE WHO COULD DO IT INSTEAD OF TAKING OVER MY BODY!?

And then I'd back away very slowly from the person until I could run far far far away. But we've already long established that Eragon does not have normal reactions to things. So, instead, he shows 'worry' over her breaking her oath more than worry over her suggesting she invade his mind and being freaked out about it, even for a little bit. Just a sentence would have been nice.

I'm going to stop here for now. Next is the actual forging.

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