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Now we get bit more about Eragon's background. We're starting to see that he's our protagonist (if the title didn't make that clear enough).
Sixteen years ago (to the day), his mother, Selena, showed up at her brother Garrow's farm. She was four months pregnant. She gave birth to Eragon, but then begged Garrow and his wife Marian to raise him. She left the farm and never returned.
So that's depressing.
Marian died, but Eragon still remembers what it felt like to learn that she wasn't his real mother, and that Garrow isn't his real father. He's been plagued with doubts about his parents ever since. (Obvi.)
He heads down to breakfast (chicken—no waffles) where he finds Garrow and his cousin Roran. What is with these names, by the way?
Eragon catches Roran up on the stone (in case you're just tuning in!), and then they all head out to work in the fields. Winter is on its way and they need to get the harvest in.
Sure enough, nine days later a blizzard blows in. Garrow is worried that the traveling traders might not show up now to help them price the stone. But eventually, they roll into town; Eragon, Garrow, and Roran head to Carvahall to meet them.
Roran heads off to amuse himself, while Eragon and Garrow check out the traders' market. Eragon notices that the traders and their families seem warier and more beaten-down than usual. We're picturing a pretty grey scene here.
He and his uncle find Merlock, a trader who specializes in jewelry (and, apparently, magical stones that show up out of nowhere with powerful explosions).
They tell Merlock that they are selling, not buying, but that they don't want to show him what they have in public. Top secret mission, you know.
Back in Merlock's tent, they show him the stone, which he weighs, measures, and examines carefully.
After all that (drumroll, please) he tells them that he has no idea what it's worth (great detective work, Merlock!). He does tell them that it's harder than any rock he knows of, though, and also it's hollow.
He tells them that the stone is simply not a practical thing to buy. If they want to sell it, they should head to the southern cities. (You know, where people are less practical?) Then Merlock asks them why they wanted to show him the rock in private.
Garrow explains that it comes from the Spine, and that makes the villagers nervous. (We're starting to think that every time we say the word "Spine" we should insert some spooky sound effect.)
Merlock shares that the merchants have seen some dark times, too: "illness, attacks, and the most cursed black luck" (3.49). Some group called "the Varden" has increased its attacks, so King Galbatorix has forced cities to send more soldiers to fight them. The Urgals are apparently on the move, too. Worst of all, there are rumors of a Shade being seen. Not good.
(Don't worry if you're a bit confused—things will become much clearer, trust us.)
Garrow thinks that this is all nonsense, but Merlock tells them that they're isolated in the village and aren't exposed to what's happening in the wider world. You know, bubble syndrome.
On that cheery note, Merlock takes his leave.
Garrow goes off to see if he can find more about what's happening, leaving Eragon to wander around the marketplace. We're picturing Aladdin, minus the Hammer pants.
Eragon sees that jerk-face Sloan, so he ducks into Morn's, a tavern.
Morn, the bartender, is happy to see Eragon, but soon he's griping about the merchants. He claims that they're not paying a fair price for the grain they've got to sell. They're also telling a bunch of wild stories that are scaring the villagers. Bottom line: without the benevolent protection of King Galbatorix, the whole village would end up as Urgal-food, or worse. Gulp.
Eragon sees that the local bar patrons are arguing with some traders about whether or not these threats are real. The crux of the argument centers around the rebel group, those Varden we heard about before. The traders say that they are spies looking to destroy the Empire, but the locals disagree.
Eragon finally challenges a trader to prove that the Varden are the bad guys, but the trader blows him off. (Which, as we textual-evidence lovers know, means he can't prove it.)
It looks like the folks in Carvahall are no fan of the Empire. They are remote enough that they don't like Galbatorix and don't think he's done anything to keep them safe.
A bit about the Varden: they are a rebel group that has been attacking the king's forces for more than a century (when Galbatorix first rose to power). So far, the king has been unable to find their hideouts and end the threat.
Eragon leaves the tavern, and the arguments, and walks outside. He finds Roran and Katrina all hugged up and talking to each other. Ooh la la.
Katrina runs off before Eragon reaches them, but Roran sticks around. He's worried about how Sloan will react if he finds out that his daughter is seeing him. He thinks that it would come to blood between them—and Eragon can't disagree.
And on that note… dinner time!
They go to Horst's, where a great spread is set out. Then they all head over to the traders' camp to watch the minstrels perform plays and do tricks. Awesome.
After those shows, Brom the storyteller is up. He has a white beard, and is known to spin a pretty good yarn.
The one he tells now is about the Dragon Riders. Pay attention—this one will come in handy later.
Long ago, these immortal warriors fought for goodness and justice. Under their protection, a golden age of peace and prosperity reigned. Humans were friends with elves and dwarves, everyone had enough food to eat and money to spend, gas was $1 a gallon…oh, wait. That was 1999.
Then a young rider named Galbatorix came to power. He was the most powerful rider ever, but he was reckless. He took a trip with two friends, deep into Urgal territory. They were ambushed. The friends died, and so did Galbatorix's dragon.
Mad with grief, our man G wandered, lost, killing everything in sight. Eventually, he tried to make his way back home through the Spine. He was found, near death, and nursed back to health by his fellow riders.
When he recovered, Galbatorix demanded a new dragon, but the council of the Riders basically said, "so, you want us to give you a new dragon to replace the one you rode into an ambush and got killed? Um… no."
Ol' G was not happy. He plotted revenge and recruited another Rider to help him. Together, they killed an elder, and then as thanks, Galbatorix killed the Rider who had helped him. Nice guy!
After the foul deed was discovered, Galbatorix fled to the wastelands, only to return after he convinced another Rider named Morzan to help him. (Apparently he wasn't paying attention to what happened to the last guy.)
Morzan helped Galbatorix steal a dragon hatchling, and together they went off to learn the dark arts.
After a while, Galbatorix, with his black dragon Shruikan and best buddy Morzan, began to wage war against the Riders. They were powerful enough to attract twelve other Riders to their cause, and, with Morzan, they became known as… let's just do some quick math… the Thirteen Forsworn.
The Thirteen Forsworn were tough and nasty. They fought elves and humans until Vrael, the leader of the Riders, bested Galbatorix in combat. But for some reason, he hesitated and didn't drop the killing blow on Galbatorix. (Has he never seen a movie or TV show? Kill the guy while you still can!)
In that moment, that dastardly G wounded Vrael in the side. Then he chased Vrael down and found him recuperating from his wound at Utgard Mountain. There, in another fight, "Galbatorix kicked Vrael in the fork of his legs" (3.109). That's right, a crotch shot. We interrupt this story, Shmoopers, to bring you this unsolicited editorial: "NOT COOL." Okay, back to the tale.
After dealing this low blow, the dirty, despicable Galbatorix lopped off Vrael's head.
And that's how Galbatorix became king. (Cue the chorus of boos.)
Thus concludes Brom's cheery little tale.
Eragon thinks that he spies a tear on Brom's cheek. Garrow informs him that, if the Empire heard that Brom was repeating that tale, he'd be put to death. Ooh, forbidden stories!