Chapters: A Clash of Wills, Flight through the Valley


So, Eragon and Murtagh ride through the night, non stop on horseback. It's a good thing that their horses are already dead because this would have killed them. Paolini seems to have forgotten the idea that horses are not mechanical, they can't ride all night. They will die on you. They will refuse to walk. They will drop dead.

[1]limyaael has this to say on horses:

"1) Animals are not machines. This is the one that, if I could only emphasize a single point about fantasy travel forever, would receive top priority. Most fantasy authors do use animals of some kind—horses most commonly, but also donkeys, mules, oxen, camels, dragons, unicorns, giant birds, and others—for transportation in their worlds instead of machines. However, they forget that there are at least four fundamental ways in which animals are unlike machines:

-Machines don’t need rest or food or water.
-Machines don’t have independent wills.
-Machines can stand up much better to the elements and to rough terrain.
-Machines don’t get sick.

a) A horse foundering from weariness or hunger might seem an overused obstacle in fantasy stories, but it’s almost never used where it needs to be—say, when the author has acknowledged that the heroes have been galloping for three solid days. The heroes are tired. The author acknowledges that. But what about those horses? Wouldn’t they be on the verge of collapse?

Why, yes, they would. A gallop is a horse’s fastest pace, and not normally one that can be maintained for very long. Soon, in spite of a rider’s repeated urgings, a horse would start dropping back from sheer physical inability to keep up. And without food, it would collapse. Horses need a lot of food—and a lot of water—to keep going. The author needn’t spend pages on acknowledging this (see point 5), but some mention of it would make it seem as if the heroes actually are using horses and not army transport vehicles in disguise."

Lengthy, but true. The only solution to this is the horses, as previously mentioned, are Zombies. Zombies do not need to rest, they don't stop, now normally they aren't that fast, but I'm sure since these are special zombie horses, we can make allowances for that.

They stop at a lovely little pond to water the horses. The horses are dead. Why are they doing this? Apparently so they can get attacked by slavers.

There's a lovely scene that reminiscent of when the Rohan circle Aragon, Gimli and Legolas on the plains of Rohan. They try to capture Eragon and Murtagh, (and this is the second time we hear of slaves. Second time in 351 pages) but Saphria spoils this. So instead of getting to know the joys of slavery Eragon and Murtagh run the slavers out. Snowfire doesn't panic at the fight despite not being a trained warhorse. Perhaps because it was a zombie by then. They rout all the slavers despite being totally outnumbered.

Then Murtagh cuts off the leader's head. In one stroke. While I'm sure that Murtagh has a very sharp sword, it shouldn't take one stroke. Putting that aside, Eragon throws a snit fit over this. He's not upset that it was the wrong thing to do or anything like that. And then he complains that Murtagh doesn't have any empathy.

If we recall a few chapters ago Eragon was threating a poor man with torture. Murtagh quickly killed a guy who was threatening them and was a slaver. The man that Eragon tortured was just doing his job.

But Murtagh has the empathy problems.

Murtagh actually has decent reasons for killing the man, like he was a threat and he was defending himself.

Meanwhile the Zombie horses melt away the leagues that they have to go. In fact Eragon has this to say, "They rode at a rate that Eragon would have thought impossible a week ago, leagues melted away before them as if wings were attached to their feet" (352). When your characters start admitting that they're doing something impossible, you know that there's something wrong. And this is ERAGON who is admitting that they're doing the impossible. And we all know how well he excels at the impossible. There is no explanation as to how they are doing this. They just are.

My zombie horse theory stands and is apparently gaining credibility as we go.

The next day Eragon flies with Saphira and angsts a lot about what Murtagh did. Elf Sue is apparently with them, but he doesn't indicate where. I'm going to assume that she's still tied to Saphira's belly. And now they're high up in the air. I hope those ropes hold!

They spot the Urgals, who are also apparently zombies because they are gaining on Murtagh and Eragon. There are a lot of zombies in this book. Very surprising for a fantasy novel.

Meanwhile Eragon has this lovely discussion with Murtagh.

"How far do we still have to go?" asked Murtagh, putting his hands against the sky and measuring the hours until sunset.

"Normally? ... I would guess another five days. At the speed we've been traveling, only three. But unless we get there tomorrow the Urgals will probably catch us and Arya will certainly die." (355)

Okay. They have five days of travel. On Zombie horses they have three days of travel. They need to get there tomorrow. I guess they're shit out of luck, right?

WRONG! Let's not let logic and things like physics and geography and the natural order of things get in the way of us rescuing our Mary Sue. We'll just somehow do it... with no explanation at all as to how we do it. It'll be mysterious! It'll be a proof of Eragon's special abilities! It'll be something to tell the kiddies, never mind the fact that it should be physically impossible! Do you know why? Because they don't have a choice! This is what Eragon says!

Do you know what this is called? Writing yourself into a corner and then getting yourself out very badly. Let's just ignore the rules that we have set down as true and do the impossible anyway. Never mind that we've just raped and beaten the rules of belief and logic. Hell, I don't think they've been murdered out right. And then gratuitously displayed for people to look in horror at. Admission should be charged for the viewing of the twist of non logic that is being applied here. They cross this distance because they don't have a choice.

Wouldn't that be nice if it worked like that in the real world? We need to find a cure for AIDS. We don't have a choice. Bing there you go. One cure.

Don't you wish you lived in Eragon land?

They continue on through the night, not giving their horses a chance to rest. Again it's a good thing that they're zombies or they might have dropped dead.

Because they don't have a choice, they reach the valley of the Varden. The Zombie Urgals have managed to catch up to them. We are now feeling tense. Will they reach the Varden before they they're captured by the Zombies? Will their horses fall apart? Will they make it in time to save Elf Sue? Do you really even care?

Eragon goes off flying with Saphira to keep an eye on the Urgals and to look for an out for Murtagh. Apparently he's not very happy about having to go to the Varden still. They try to reach on of the mountain peaks and fly so high that Eragon passes out again. Unfortunately he doesn't fall off.

They wonder how the Urgals are moving along so fast. (Apparently the idea that they are zombies never occur to them). Eragon tries to stop them using magic, but he's too far away and nothing happens except he drains himself of energy. He still doesn't die. Eragon and Murtagh are slashy at each other when Eragon vows that he will not leave Murtagh to die by himself.

Eragon then gets the brilliant idea to drop rocks on the invading army of Urgals. It would basically be like trying to stomp on an ant hill. But he drops rocks on them. And not very big ones because Saphria can't lift ones that would actually do damage. So basically the do nothing but let the bad guys know that they exist.

Finally they find the waterfall that they need to find to let the Varden know that they're there. Murtagh is reluctant to go still. Why...

Because he's the son of Morzan of the Forsaken.

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