Chapters The Burning Plains, The Clouds of War
We begin with Eragon going down through the smoky cloud layer coughing. Apparently the air clears once they get closer to the ground. Which is ridiculous as the fumes don't magically appear in the air without traversing the space in between. They should be smelling and dealing with it all the way down. Especially since the fumes are coming from the ground. Two armies are arrayed on the ground below them. The Varden and Sudra are entrenched behind a defensive perimeter while Galby's army, "was so large, it measured three miles across on its leading edge and how many in length it was impossible to tell, for the individual men melded into a shadowy mass in the distance." (page 582)
As Eragon goes down to the Varden's camp he "felt instead was the sudden panic that overwhelmed the Varden's sentinels, many of whom, he realized, had never before seen Saphira. Fear made the ignore their common sense, and they released a flock of barbed arrows that arched up to intercept her." (page 582) Let us look at this from the Varden's point of view. They know that enemy has a dragon and may attack them with it. They don't know who Saphira is. So, they think that they're attacking an enemy. This isn't ignoring common sense, this is a perfectly rational response to a perceived threat. However, since Eragon knows that he's not a threat, he expects that everyone else should know that he's not a threat. He manages to magically divert the arrows from hitting him, and then catch a straggler from mid air with his bare hands.
Once he lands he's surrounded by a bunch of admiring soldiers, which is odd, because just a minute ago they thought he was a threat. But since he's back among his own people, he's obviously not a threat but instead a hero. The leader of the soldiers, Fredric, declares that the honor of the men who shot at Eragon has been besmirched. For doing their job protecting their camp. The soldiers have been taken off of duty and be punished and reduced in rank. For doing their job.
Nobly Eragon says that he wants to talk to them. He goes over and reads their minds, deciding that they were honorable and praises them for defending the camp. Something that their commander should have realized they were doing in the first place. But instead of this, Eragon is able to show that he is good kind and wonderful by letting them know that they did a good job. The scene is entirely unnecessary except for the fact that Paolini wants to show how wonderful Eragon is, and how well he knows people.
Fredric takes Eragon to Nasuada. As they walk, Eragon opens up his mind to get a feel for everyone there. He has this thought, "How easy it is to view these men as nothing more than objects that I and a few others can manipulate at will. Yet they each possess hopes and dreams, potential for what they might achieve and memories of what they have already accomplished. And they all feel pain." (page 585) Here again is another point showing that Eragon is detached from reality. If Eragon wasn't detached from reality he wouldn't be thinking that people are objects in the first place. The thought wouldn't be there at all. Instead he should be uncomfortable at feeling all these people's thoughts and inner emotions. He is invading their privacy and everything. Instead he is able to see people as things to be manipulate and has to remind himself that they aren't but instead living breathing individuals with lives and feelings of their owns.
When he finally sees Nasuada and Arya who is with her, he's surprised to see that they're wearing armor, like men. Which is silly because they're on a battle field and getting ready for a battle. Wearing things like dresses and normal clothes would be foolish. Both women are delighted to see him. There's the obligatory "What happened to you Eragon" and the "Well this is what happened to me and I'm now Eragon version 2.5, newer and better."
They discuss Galby's army and Eragon is wondering how they got a hundred thousand people to volunteer for the army. First of all there's the problem of where all these men came from. Discussing this we have an article on Anti-Shturgal.com, by Shinobaka "In Eldest, Paolini put Galbatorix’s army at 100,000 men. Ignoring the utter chaos that supplying this host would take, we know that in the history of Earth, armies of this size were not exactly common in medieval Europe. In fact, most of the examples of armies of this size in the Medieval Ages come from the Muslim world, which at its smallest controlled an area at least seven or eight times that of Galbatorix’s empire. In one example, the second Arab siege of Constantinople —which took place during the height of the Umayyad Caliphate—the loss of a mere 80,000 troops was enough to severely stunt the Muslim expansion. More recent examples circa fourteen and fifteen hundred AD come from the Ottoman Empire, which also vastly dwarfs Galbatorix’s area of control. Couple this with the extreme lack of cities, and Galbatorix’s army of 100,000 seems increasingly unfeasible, especially considering that we are undoubtedly due to be greeted by an even larger army towards the end of the third book. The closest population figure yielded by a quick internet search was one of about 5-7 million people in England circa 1300. Since the Empire is somewhat larger than England, we can estimate its population at about 8-9 million, making Galbatorix’s draft seem like 100,000 men were taken from New York City overnight, and never came back." (http://www.anti-shurtugal.com/shinobaka2.htm) Then there's the idea that well, since Galby is the King, he's allowed to conscript people into his army. And this is a perfectly reasonable thing for him to do when he's trying to eliminate a terrorist threat. The Varden army, however, is filled with volunteers. This is to show that their cause is righteous and people are willing to fight for them, unlike Galbatorix's cause because he has to conscript people.
Then Saphira and Eragon meet Elva. Eragon apologizes to her for what he did to her. Elva accepts his apology and then goes on to bitch at him at how horrible her life is to torture his conscious. Which is a wasted effort because Eragon has no conscious. In fact he's not even bothered by this because he tells her, "I can fix it." She says "We'll see, but do it after the battle."
Nasuada introduces Eragon to the important people around, Eragon complaining that they're going to fight a large army and they're exchanging pleasantries, obviously not realizing the importance of diplomacy and meeting the important people around because you'll want them to support you and not think of you as a deranged blood thirsty lunatic. When they're done with that, Eragon says that he'll take charge of the magic users.
Dwarf is finally remembered and then ushered off the scene to take charge of the few dwarves in the encampment.
Finally Arya and Eragon confront each other. He apologizes for what he did on the night of the blood oath ceremony and promises not to do that again. We then have another contradiction in the rules of the ancient language for when Arya asks him how he's been since the celebration, he tries to lie in the ancient language "but the ancient language stopped the words dead in his mouth and rendered him mute," (page 593) Fiction is just as much a lie as telling a lie, in no case can it ever be true, no matter how much you want it to be. I would love for my novel to be true, but I realize that it's not. It is, in its basic form, a lie. I could read it with all the belief in my heart that it is true, but in reality it is not. So, even though Eragon believed that the story he read was true, he should have known really that it wasn't true and in was in fact a lie and shouldn't be able to say it at all in the ancient language, just as he's not able to speak a more plain lie. Arya leaves and Eragon is upset that nothing has changed between the two of them.
Eragon then runs into Angela. She's making poison. Though for what, we don't know. Instead she gives Eragon a leture on what a blockhead he was for what he did to Elva. When she pauses for breath, Eragon agrees with her and says he's going to fix it. Which shuts her up. Angela tells him that he looks "finished" now because of the changes. When Eragon asks her what she's doing she says that she's working on a little project. Eragon mentions that Orrin has a bunch of glass tubes in his tent and she's like "O RlY?" and vows to go and talk to him. She then shoos them off. The entire scene was pointless, really, except to show Angela hanging around.
Finally Eragon finds the magic users and tells them that he's taking over. They don't like this idea. They tell him that he didn't want the position before, so he has no right to take it from Trianna now. He says that Nasuada told him to do it. They said they're not under her control. Trianna says, we've been doing magic our entire lives, you less than two years, what do you know and what do you think we should do? Eragon says that we'll all link minds and look for enemy spell casters, when we find one, we'll blow them out of the sky. They're like...oh good plan. Eragon then realizes that Trianna thinks that Nasuada sent him to replace her because she's displeased with her leadership abilities. Finally he convinces her that no, he's just the best for the job.
He goes and talks to the magic users about how much they know about magic. Most of them haven't had a proper education, like he has and "most of the spellcasters knew little about the ancient language - none could truly speak it fluently - their beliefs about magic were often distorted by religious superstitions, and they were ignorant of numerous applications of gramarye." (page 602) Now, previously mentioned in Eragon we learned that the ancient language wasn't the only way to do magic, just one of them. The fact that they don't know much about the ancient language shouldn't mean that they're not good spell casters, just that they have a different technique. Also the fact that they have religious or superstitions shouldn't interfere with spell casting, if anything it could be a boon for them, because they use their religious beliefs to bolster their magic. But of course, they're wrong in believing this, because we all know that religion is for fools and clouds the true way of thinking and only Eragon's way is the correct way of doing magic.
Eragon gives the healers new spells and then started working on turning the spell casters into a cohesive fighting unit. Apparently one of the problems that Eragon has is that they're all in awe of him. Because of this he can't use his influence to smooth relations between them all. Which doesn't make sense. They should be jumping over their heads to do what he wants and not having interpersonal problems once he explains to them what he wants. He works with them all day until he's called to Nasuada's tent.
As he goes to her tent, he notices that a whole bunch of birds have started to circle over head. "What he saw was a giant flock of birds wheeling between the two armies. He spotted eagles, hawks, and falcons , along with countless greedy crows and their larger, dagger-beaked, blue backed rapacious cousin, the raven. Each bird shrieked for blood to wet its throat and enough hot meat to fill its belly and sate its hunger. By experience and instinct, they knew that whenever armies appeared in Alagaesia, the could expect to feast on acres of carrion." (page 604). There are several things wrong with this paragraph. First of all, he shouldn't have spent such a long description on the ravens when he didn't give such things to the other birds. It draws the ravens out as special, when they're not. They're just another bird that's circling over head. Nothing he says about them warrants a longer description. Then there's the fact that he has predatory birds circling over head. Eagles, hawks and falcons are not scavengers. They catch live prey and don't eat carrion. They're not the sort of birds you would find over a battle field as there's nothing for them to eat there. They're not built for carrion eating, but instead snatching and killing live prey. While ravens and crows are carrion birds are are likely to be at a battle field, they only show up after the battle to feed on the carrion. There's nothing about two armies that are going to attract them. Their instincts lead them to already dead things, and there's nothing already dead there. And none of these birds would have the experience of previous battle fields because they probably weren't alive at any previous battle. So, while this is certainly a dramatic image, there is absolutely no reason for these birds to be there, except for the fact that Paolini wanted a dramatic image.
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