Eragon, Chapter 32: The Mire of Dras-Leona
Brom and Eragon are trying not to draw attention to themselves. It’s especially important after their latest encounter with Urgals. So why is it that neither of them seem to understand the importance of staying out of sight?
They lunched at Fasaloft, a bustling lakeside village. […] As they ate in the hostel’s common room, Eragon listened intently to the gossip and was relieved to hear no rumors of him and Saphira.
Now more than ever, it’s vitally important that the party not catch the attention of the wrong people and bring the wrath of Galbatorix or the Ra’zac down on their heads. They should be avoiding towns and villages unless absolutely necessary. Taking a leisurely lunch at a “charming” village next to the lake is not necessary.
After a few days’ more travel, our heroes reach Dras-Leona. Eragon is getting pretty excited about the chance to exact some revenge, but Saphira warns him that the Ra’zac may very well have spies looking for them. (Something she probably should have mentioned at their little luncheon, but whatever.)
We’ll do our best to remain inconspicuous, he told her.
Oh yes, you’ve been doing a real bang-up job of that so far.
Saphira tells him to follow Brom’s lead and be careful, then asks what he plans to do once the Ra’zac are dead; Brom will want to take him to the Varden, and Galbatorix isn’t going to be happy when he finds out who killed his servants.
Eragon rubbed his arms. I don’t want to fight the Empire all the time like the Varden do. Life is more than constant war. There’ll be time to consider it once the Ra’zac are gone.
Considering you’ve spent the last few months on a quest for revenge, I don’t think you have any room to talk.
As they pass into Dras-Leona, Brom points out a mountain east of the city called Helgrind, saying that it’s “unhealthy and malevolent”. When Eragon asks about a cathedral that resembles the mountain, Brom tells him:
“Their prayers go to Helgrind. It’s a cruel religion they practice. They drink human blood and make flesh offerings. Their priests often lack body parts because they believe that the more bone and sinew you give up, the less you’re attached to the mortal world. They spend much of their time arguing about which of Helgrind’s three peaks is the highest and most important and whether the fourth – and lowest – should be included in their worship.”
“That’s horrible,” said Eragon, shuddering.
“Yes,” said Brom grimly, “but don’t say that to a believer. You’ll quickly lose a hand in ‘penance.'”
Don’t tease us with the possibility of something interesting happening, Brom.
This religion would be a lot more interesting if Galbatorix either practiced it, or promoted it as a way of keeping the populace in line. A state-sponsored religion that practices human sacrifice and preys upon the lower class is much more effective at portraying a totalitarian dictatorship than vague implications of “oppression” that somehow include a complete lack of army presence (aside from the Ra’zac, the only servants of the empire we’ve seen were the two grain traders back in Chapter 3) and random monster attacks. It would also be more interesting if, instead of being a generic evil religion that kills people, the focus was more on self-sacrifice taken to the level of offering up your own body parts as tribute – like self-flagellation turned up to eleven.
A group of ragged children ran between the houses, fighting over scraps of bread. Deformed beggars crouched next to the entrance gates, pleading for money. Their cries for help were like a chorus of the damned. We don’t even treat animals like this, thought Eragon, eyes wide with anger. “I won’t stay here,” he said, rebelling against the sight.
Has this kid never heard of poverty? Has he never gone through a tough winter where they didn’t have enough food? Did he only stay in the rich areas of Tierm? Does Carvahall have an extensive social services network that ensures every child is fed, every beggar provided for? Is Eragon really so sheltered that the sight of children fighting over scraps incenses him more than the religion that drinks human blood?
This is like that stupid scene with the slaughtered villagers back in Chapter 18, meant to show Eragon realizing that the world is cruel and unjust. It’s not quite as bad (nothing can top that baby stuck on a pike), but it’s just as schlock-y and forced. I almost want to say that Paolini was going for an allusion to Siddhartha leaving his palace and encountering a poor man, a sick man, and a dead man, but I can’t give him nearly that much credit.
Brom convinces Eragon that “it gets better farther in” (where they can ignore the poor people, I guess?) and they find an inn for the night, then proceed to get drunk.
The inn’s food was barely adequate, but its beer was excellent. By the time they stumbled back to the room, Eragon’s head was buzzing pleasantly. He unrolled his blankets on the floor and slid under them as Brom tumbled onto the bed.
You’ve been drinking, came the accusing thought. […] Her disapproval was clear, but all she said was, I won’t envy you in the morning.
Hey, we haven’t had Saphira play out a stereotype in a few pages! Let’s end the chapter with her scolding Eragon for drinking. Women nagging men for drinking is comedy gold, right guys?