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Roran picks up some soil, considers it, and decides that it's good soil for farming. This sets his thoughts to Palancar Valley, and he thinks that is where he should be, plowing the earth and raising a family with Katrina, rather than fighting in an army, killing people. His newest captain, Edric, tells him put an end to his dawdling. Roran gives him a "Yes, sir!" but secretly suppresses a dislike for the man, who is a competent commander, but has an abrasive personality that discourages creativity and invention. He thinks that maybe Nasuada assigned him to this particular captain as a test.
He mounts his horse, Snowfire, and joins the front of the column of two hundred and fifty men, whom Edric has given him temporary command of. Their mission is to eliminate a group of Galbatorix's troops that has taken to pillaging the countryside of Surda since Nasuada and King Orrin withdrew the bulk of their forces from there. The initial estimate was three hundred men, but it was recently discovered that the number is closer to seven hundred. Carn comments to Roran that "We should overtake them before our shadows are longer than we are tall." Roran mutters that just once he'd like for them to outnumber their enemies and Carn smiles grimly that "It is always thus with the Varden."
Six hours later, Roran and his company sit before a gray-sided village of no more than twenty houses, later named as Deldarad. Roran muses that if he were in command, he would reveal their presence to the villagers and try to enlist their help. Edric, however, rejected that idea when he suggested it. Roran contemplates his company and asks Carn if he can tell if any of the Empire's soldiers are men who cannot feel pain. Carn replies that he wishes he could; that Eragon might be able to, but he is a poor spellcaster and he dares not test the soldiers. The two share a private joke and then Roran winces at an old injury. Carn asks him if he's all right, and he replies that it won't kill him... "Well, maybe it will, but I'll be blasted if I'm going to wait here while you go off and cut those bumbling oafs to pieces."
The Empire's soldiers reach the village and three of them emerge from a house dragging three people, an old man, a young woman and a boy. One of them then decapitates the man and then Edric gives the order to charge. He does it in such a calm voice that Roran at first doesn't recognize it as a command, but once he does, he gives the order to his own troops. So does Sand, in charge of another contingent, and the battle begins.
Roran soon hears a series of strange, metallic twangs, followed by screams. He wonders if they could be metal bows and realizes that the attack has already gone badly wrong. He finds himself facing a difficult dilemma: it no longer seems wise for he and his men to directly charge the western flank as ordered, but Edric gave Roran no alternate plan should this not prove a good idea. To change the plan would mean that he would face possibly punishment for insubordination. He decides that he will do whatever is necessary to win and orders his men to take cover. They do and find themselves pinned down, such that they cannot step back into the open without being massacred. His men ask him what to do, seemingly not the least bit bothered by his defiance of orders. He tells one group of them to climb onto the roof, but stay out of sight until he gives the order, then start shooting until they run out arrows or every soldier is dead. He tells the rest that can't fit on that particular roof to go find others of their own, and for Harold to spread the word to everyone else, plus find ten of their best spearmen and swordsmen and bring them to him.
Everyone heads off to obey and then Harold returns with the requested warriors. Roran tells them once the arrows start flying, they're going to attempt to rescue Captain Edric. Everyone acknowledges their orders and the second phase of the battle begins. They soon discover that Edric is still alive, to Roran's surprise, and Edric leads the charge as they clear the warriors around Edric. He calls everyone back to the houses and Edric calls his intervention "timely and welcome," but asks why he's not riding out from among the soldiers, as ordered. Roran explains the situation and Edric scowls, but does not chastise him. He tells him to order the men down from the roofs so that they can now dispatch of the remaining forces of the Empire with "honest bladework." Roran protests that there are too few of the Varden left for them to mount such a direct assault. Edric responds by questioning Roran's courage and ordering him to do what he's told and not question him again. He takes a group of warriors and rides away, leaving Roran to fume. He realizes that it would be inappropriate for him to confront Edric, but decides that he's not going to obey his misguided orders either. He turns to the men that have been left to him, delighted to see Carn, and tells them that he disagrees with Edric's orders. He asks if they will follow him, stating that he will take responsibility for the insubordination, but tells them to think carefully.
Carn tells Roran that he may count on him and the others consent, in part because they do not want to be in battle without a spellcaster. Roran tells them to follow him and they get behind cover. He asks Carn if he can shield him and ten others from the bolts. Carn asks how long and Roran's response is "who knows?" He asks if it would be okay to simply deflect the bolts and Roran agrees. He tries three times and fails to cast the spell, but finally manages it after a small pep talk from Roran. Roran then mounts Snowfire, telling his men to protect his sides and back. He tells Carn to stay there, but to inform him beforehand if he feels that he can't maintain the spell any longer. He rides out into the middle of the street and his shot at by one of the quarrels, but it is deflected. He directs one of his men to block the street. He tells them to not let the soldiers attack them from the sides, but to thin out their ranks with arrows, then come join him once they run out. "Just don't shoot us by accident, or I swear I'll haunt your halls for the rest of time!"
He then bellows a challenge to the Empire's soldiers - "Where is your manhood, you deformed maggots, you bilious, swine-faced murderers?" and other such abuses. His torrent soon draws the attention of several soldiers, who rush to meet him, only to be shot down. A group of thirty approaches and Harold notes that there are so many of them, but Roran says that they won't all charge at once, as they're confused and their commander must have fallen. He tells him that they fight to protect their families, which is much more than the Empire's soldiers have. He thinks of Katrina and then... the proper battle begins. He swings into action and is soon joined by several soldiers who have run out of arrows. He has them make a pile of bodies and a funnel so that only two to three soldiers can approach at once. More soldiers advance and Roran cuts many of them down, aided by the other warriors. He bellows another challenge and more and more advance. The battle takes on a strange quality as Roran accumulates many injuries, but he continues to stand high, dealing out death to all that reach him. He becomes exhausted and finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate, but continues his pace anyway. Finally, there are only twelve men left. Four are shot down by arrows and three more are shot by spears. Five are left to reach Roran and he manages to defeat them all, but finds his strength flagging greatly. He delivers the final deathblow, then sways and collapses.
Roran awakes to find himself being lifted up, with Harold holding a wineskin to his lips. He asks how many soldiers he slaughtered and Harold tells him that he lost count after 32. He says that he's never seen what Roran did before done by a man of human abilities. Carn cries that it was 193 that Roran slew, or 194 if he counts the man that he stabbed in the gut before he was finished off by the archers. Roran jokes that just seven more and he could have had an even two hundred. Everyone laughs. Carn asks to tend to his wounds, but Roran replies that there are others with more pressing needs. Carn insists, stating that several cuts could prove fatal unless he treats them. Roran grudgingly relents and agrees to let Carn treat him. It leaves Carn gray-faced and shaking, but he says he will go to tend to the others.
Roran assesses the village and asks what happened to Edric and Sand. Nobody seems to know, so he leads a group to scout the village. They find a door and bang on it, asking if anyone in there is still alive, telling them that if they're of the Empire, to surrender. Instead, it is warriors of the Varden that emerge, a total of four-and-twenty. Edric is among the survivors, but he tells Roran that Sand was shot and died just a few minutes earlier. He states that Roran defied his orders. Roran acknowledges this and Edric holds out his hand for Roran to surrender his weapon. Harold protests, telling Roran that the men are his if he just says the word. Roran tells him to not be a fool. He gives his hammer to Edric, as well as his sword and dagger. Edric relieves him of command and asks for his word of honor that he will not attempt to flee, which Roran gives. He tells him to make himself useful, but otherwise comport himself as a prisoner, with Fuller assuming his position.
Roran works with the others in the aftermath of the battle. They are not able to find the woman and boy whose father was slaughtered, so Roran guesses that they were able to flee the village. As everyone gets ready to live, Snowfire trots back into the village and ties him to the packhorses, since it is not safe to ride the horse until he is fully healed. Snowfire at first objects to this, but Roran tells the stallion to behave himself and Snowfire relaxs. Roran takes his place at the rear of the line, ignoring glances, but pleased by murmurs of "Well done." He decides that he won't regret what he did and he and the other warriors ride west after Edric tells them to "Move on out!"