Eragon: Chapter 41

Eragon, Chapter 41: Fighting Shadows

It was dark in Eragon’s cell when he sat up with a start, electrified. The wrinkle had shifted! He had felt the magic at the edge of his consciousness for hours, but every time he tried to use it, nothing happened. Eyes bright with nervous energy, he clenched his hands and said, “Nagz reisa!” With a flap, the cot’s blanket flew into the air and crumpled into a ball the size of his fist.

Yeah, uh, that bold bit? I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. I have two guesses, though. The first is that the wrinkle refers to Eragon’s current inability to cast magic. Why it would be called a wrinkle, I don’t know – this terminology is never used again, so that’s a point against that hypothesis. My second guess is that Eragon has been staring at the blanket, trying to make it move, and the wrinkle shifting on its own is a sign that he can once again use magic. Which also makes no sense because (a) it’s dark and I highly doubt he can see well enough for that, (b) if he’s on the cot with the blanket he may have accidentally nudged it with his foot, and, oh yeah, (c) MAGIC DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY IN THIS UNIVERSE. Paolini spends pages upon pages belaboring his magic system in this series, emphasizing the fact that you have to know the precise words for what you want to do in the ancient language. It’s possible to cast spells silently, but not only does Eragon not know that yet, he would still have to think the words in his head, not just stare at the blanket until it moves. It’s been made abundantly clear that this is not like Harry Potter, where magic is not bound entirely by language and many wizarding children cast their first spells unintentionally. So, again, this makes no sense in context. That line has absolutely no purpose.

Eragon unlocks the cell door and steps out into the hall, finally remembering to contact Saphira.

He silently berated himself for not contacting her sooner. That should have been the first thing he did after getting his power back.

Actually, the first thing he should have done was come up with a plan. Maybe then he wouldn’t have stood outside his open cell talking to Saphira for the guards to find him. And maybe he would have had a better strategy than hoping they’re too scared of him to fight, then standing his ground when they attack and hoping he has enough juice left to take out six armed men. Luckily for him, a guy who is clearly Murtagh wearing a fake beard (who else is going to rescue him?) takes out most of the soldiers. Eragon convinces him not to kill the last guy so they can question him.

The man was breathing hard; the whites of his eyes showed. He seemed to understand that his life was being spared.

Well, yes, generally when you hear someone shout “Don’t kill him!” it’s pretty obvious they’re sparing your life.

“You’ve seen what I can do,” said Eragon harshly. “If you don’t answer my questions, the rest of your life will be spent in utter misery and torment. Now where’s my sword – its sheath and blade are red – and what cell is the elf in?”

The man clamped his mouth shut.

Eragon’s palm glowed ominously as he reached for the magic. “That was the wrong answer,” he snapped. “Do you know how much pain a grain of sand can cause you when it’s embedded red hot in your stomach? Especially when it doesn’t cool off for the next twenty years and slowly burns its way down to your toes! By the time it gets out of you, you’ll be an old man.” He paused for effect. “Unless you tell me what I want.”

The soldier’s eyes bulged, but he remained silent. Eragon scraped some dirt off the stone floor and observed dispassionately, “This is a bit more than a piece of sand, but be comforted; it’ll burn through you faster. Still, it’ll leave a bigger hole.” At his word, the dirt shone cherry red, though it did not burn his hand.

Holy shit, Eragon, what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously, where did he even get the idea to threaten a man with severe, long-lasting torture from in the first place? Even if he’s bluffing, that’s fucked up. Threaten to kill him, maim him, cut off body parts even – that’s still messed up but at least it’s kind of understandable. We’re clearly supposed to see Eragon as a badass in this scene, but this is just disturbing. And it’s even worse that this straying into anti-hero territory is never brought up again, and he’s never treated as though he’s done something wrong for it.

The soldier is (rightly) terrified and blurts out where the elf and Eragon’s weapons are, and Eragon knocks him out. Murtagh reveals himself, and they find the elf’s cell. She stares Eragon down for a second, and then collapses. We get a mention of how she smells like “freshly crushed pine needles,” which will get just as old as the constant mentions of how beautiful she is (which happens in the very next line! How creative!).

They head upstairs and for some reason find themselves in a banquet room. Why is there a banquet room in a prison? This might be a fortress, which would excuse the presence of the banquet room, but then why is it located directly above the prison? If it’s for the soldiers, then it would be a mess hall.

Anyway, petty pedantry aside, Murtagh asks Eragon to tell Saphira to “wait another five minutes,” and then Eragon hides under a table with the elf when some soldiers run through the room, barely checking for the escaped prisoners. Good job, guys.

Eragon leaned against a table leg, sighing. The respite made him suddenly aware of his burning stomach and parched throat. A tankard and a plate of half-eaten food on the other side of the room caught his attention.

Eragon dashed from his hiding place, grabbed the food, then scurried back to the table. There was amber beer in the tankard, which he drank in two great gulps. Relief seeped through him as the cool liquid ran down his throat, soothing the irritated tissue. He suppressed a belch before ravenously tearing into a hunk of bread.

Oh man, that was bothering me. Thanks so much for letting us know Eragon finally got something to eat! That was so important to the narrative just now. And the fact that Eragon risked discovery makes him seem so much smarter, too!

Murtagh comes back with their weapons. He was going to wait until the guard changed to make their escape, but that plan’s scrapped when Eragon tells him that there’s a Shade on the premises. Why didn’t you tell him that sooner? That is a vital piece of information and Murtagh would not now be telling you that Saphira needs to be here NOW.

Of course Shades finds them at exactly that moment (it wouldn’t be appropriately dramatic otherwise), and Eragon fights him to give Murtagh a chance to escape. He’s pretty badly out-classed, which is kind of refreshing. There’s a lot of commotion outside, which leads to this:

The Shade stared down at him haughtily. “A powerful piece you may be in the game that is being played, but I’m disappointed that this is your best. If the other Riders were this weak, they must have controlled the Empire only through sheer numbers.”

Eragon looked up and shook his head. He had figured out Murtagh’s plan. Saphira, now would be a good time. “No, you forget something.”

“And what might that be?” asked the Shade mockingly.

There was a thunderous reverberation as a chunk of the ceiling was torn away to reveal the night sky. “The dragons!” roared Eragon over the noise, and threw himself out of the Shade’s reach.

Yeah, Shades is kind of dumb. He should have been on the lookout Saphira as soon as he got his hands on Eragon. I know people supposedly focus more on the Riders than the dragons, but the dragons kind of make the Riders, so that’s a really big thing to forget about.

Murtagh shoots Shades in between the eyes, which causes him to turn into mist and vanish. Eragon thinks Shades is dead, but Murtagh isn’t convinced. Either way, soldiers pour into the room, but before they can attack Saphira rips off the rest of the roof and jumps into the room. She has enough time to marvel over the fact that there’s an elf with them (couldn’t that wait until after they escape?), and then they all climb on and she flies off, heading east.

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