Now we get to learn a little more about the Spine. People think that it's a cursed place. Apparently, King Galbatorix won't even go there, after having lost half an army in the place. But Eragon gets by just fine.
Eragon makes his way out of the mountains towards Palancar Valley. After a few days, he comes upon Carvahall, a lonely little village near the Anora River. (This is quite a world that's being created for us, that's for sure).
He makes his way into town at dusk, and heads toward the butcher shop. There he finds (appropriately enough) the butcher, a man named Sloan.
Sloan is small, with "a sallow, pockmarked face" and "suspicious" eyes (2.12)—in other words, not a real looker.
He makes fun of Eragon for not getting anything on the hunting trip. (Apparently, Sloan's not falling back on a winning personality.)
Eragon's there to buy meat, but Sloan wants the moolah up front.
His wallet is a little light (as in empty), so Eragon offers the stone instead.
Sloan only offers to fork over three crowns as payment. It's not much, but Eragon has to accept. But when he tells Sloan that he found the stone in the Spine, the deal is off. Sloan kicks Eragon out of his store without the meat.
As he turns to leave, Eragon sees Horst, the smith. Horst is a big, burly dude. Also coming into the shop is Sloan's daughter, Katrina.
Horst wants to know what's up.
When Sloan tells his side of the story (lies), and Eragon tells his (the truth), Horst decides that he'll buy Eragon's meat for him. What a guy.
Katrina also takes Eragon's side, but her father shouts at her to leave. Sloan still doesn't want to sell to Eragon, but he does it anyway.
Outside the butcher shop, Eragon offers the stone to Horst as payment for the meat, but Horst won't accept. Instead, he tells Eragon that he can come over and help him with his work at the forge next spring, working off the debt in Eragon's free time.
Eragon is psyched. Then he gives Horst a message from Roran, who is Eragon's cousin. The message is for Katrina, Horst's daughter. The takeaway is basically that Roran will be in town soon, and that he thinks Katrina is way, way pretty. Aw.
After delivering the mushy missive, Eragon heads for home. It's another ten miles out of the village. (This is when grandpa chimes in with "When I was a kid…".)
When he arrives home, his Uncle Garrow is there to greet him. When Eragon shows him the meat and tells him what happened, Garrow is not thrilled. When is Eragon going to get the spare time to work off the debt with Horst?
Eragon doesn't know. Or care, really. He's mostly just concerned with his cool rock.
The whole rock thing calms Garrow down a bit; he says they can find out what it's worth when the traders come to town.
Eragon wonders why Sloan was such a jerk about accepting the stone in the first place.
Garrow explains that Sloan's wife died in the Spine, and that Sloan hasn't been back since. Still, that's no reason to bark up Eragon's tree, he says. Eragon heads to bed, happy to be home.