Eragon, Chapter 46: A Path Revealed
Seems I mis-read the end of the last chapter – they were a league away from the foothills of the mountains, not a league away from the edge of the desert. So they’re out of the desert, at least. They’re also sitting around patting each other on the back, which I think is celebrating way too early considering they don’t know if they’re still being followed.
The first page of the chapter is this weird little summary of what’s happened to Eragon over the course of the book – the book that the reader has presumably been paying attention to, so they already know all this:
He had been born in the Empire, lived his entire life under Galbatorix’s rule, lost his closest friends and family to the king’s servants, and had nearly died several times within his domain.
Did Eragon even have any friends outside of Brom and Saphira? From what we’re told of his life before Saphira’s egg showed up, he doesn’t seem to have been particularly close to anyone in the village, outside of his family. We don’t even know if there were any other children his age. (Also, is Paolini implying that he was closer to Garrow than “like a brother to me” Roran? Because Eragon knows Roran is still alive.)
Now Eragon was free. No more would he and Saphira have to dodge soldiers, avoid towns, or hide who they were. It was a bittersweet realization, for the cost had been the loss of his entire world.
If he seriously thinks that Galbatorix’s men will stop hunting him just because he crossed the desert into lands that aren’t directly controlled by the Empire, Eragon is sorely mistaken.
He looked at the stars in the gloaming sky. And though the thought of building a home in the safety of isolation appealed to him, he had witnessed too many wrongs committed in Galbatorix’s name, from murder to slavery, to turn his back on the Empire. No longer was it just vengeance – for Brom’s death as well as Garrow’s – that drove him. As a Rider, it was his duty to assist those without strength to resist Galbatorix’s oppression.
We do not need to be reminded why he’s seeking vengeance. We’ve read the death scenes. We know why he’s fighting the Empire. And I thought he came to this realization already. How many times is Eragon going to think “Oh man, I know I just wanted revenge for the death of my uncle and mentor, but I guess I should fight the Empire for all these noble reasons too”? (Probably as many times as he’s going to cry about how cruel and unfair life is because people die.)
Eragon ends this pointless drivel to think about the elf, and he happens upon an idea: probe her mind like he does with animals to see if her memories will turn up any clues to what happened to her. Which isn’t a totally bad idea; he even acknowledges the fact that Brom told him not to do it unless it was an emergency, and this does qualify as an emergency considering she still hasn’t woken up after a week and they have no idea what’s wrong with her. But that’s about as much credit as Eragon gets, because he doesn’t tell Murtagh or Saphira what he’s up to. It’s hard to tell if this is intentional or not (the line starts “Without speaking of his intentions to Murtagh and Saphira,” which could go either way as to whether or not he meant to hide what he was doing), but either way it’s damn stupid of him.
Eragon closed his eyes and extended a tendril of thought, like a probing finger, toward the elf’s mind. He found it without difficulty. […] Suddenly an icy dagger drove into his mind. Pain exploded behind his eyes with splashes of color. He recoiled from the attack but found himself held in an iron grip, unable to retreat.
See? Stupid. You don’t go traipsing around in the brain of an unfamiliar being without some backup.
He flails around for a bit before saying he’s a friend in the ancient language. This is about the point where I started wishing that the ancient language had a name, because you can only read “he said in the ancient language” so many times before you start dreading it. Paolini also does this thing I really hate with foreign languages, where he writes a sentence in the language, then re-translates it into English. All while saying that Eragon spoke in the ancient language. It’s redundant, it’s stupid filler, it drives me up the wall.
Anyway. Blah blah blah, the elf’s mind is dark and alien and it freaks Eragon out, but “through all the sensations shimmered a melody of wild, haunting beauty that embodied her identity.” Because there can’t be something about the hot elf chick that isn’t beautiful. Eragon finds out her name is Arya and tells her they were both imprisoned in Gil’ead and he helped her escape. Arya tells him she’s been poisoned and she put herself in what is essentially a self-induced coma to slow it down, but she needs to get to the Varden to get the antidote and she’s got four days to get there, max. Eragon asks where the Varden are, and naturally Arya’s a bit reluctant to just give out the location of the only resistance group on the continent*:
I will tell you – if you give your word that you will never reveal their location to Galbatorix or to anyone who serves him. In addition you must swear that you have not deceived me in some manner and that you intend no harm to the elves, dwarves, Varden, or the race of dragons.
What Arya asked for would have been simple enough – if they had not been conversing in the ancient language. Eragon knew she wanted oaths more binding than life itself. Once made, they could never be broken. That weighed heavily on him as he gravely pledged his word in agreement.
Okay, I can understand some trepidation in swearing a magical oath, but there’s nothing for him to even worry about here. The only part that should give him some pause is the bit about revealing the Varden’s location to Galbatorix or his servants, and that really depends on the nature of the oath. Does it count as breaking his oath if it’s unintentional (he tells someone who turns out to be a spy, or Galbatorix manages to overhear him or rip the information from his head)? What happens if he breaks the oath? Can the oath be broken? Is he rendered physically incapable of speaking if he tries to tell one of the emperor’s minions? Does his blood boil in his veins if he succeeds? None of these questions will be answered, so let’s just move on, shall we?
So Arya gives Eragon a mental slideshow on how to get to the Varden, then has to go back to sleep. Eragon wakes up to find Murtagh and Saphira leaning over him, worried because he’s been kneeling on the ground for fifteen minutes making pained faces. (And that’s the other reason he should have told them what he was doing, so they wouldn’t freak out.) He tells them about his conversation with Arya, which leads into probably my favorite scene in the book. Take it away, Murtagh:
“How far away are the Varden?” asked Murtagh.
“I’m not exactly sure,” confessed Eragon. “From what she showed me, I think it’s even farther than from here to Gil’ead.”
“And we’re supposed to cover that in three or four days?” demanded Murtagh angrily. “It took us five long days to get here! What do you want to do, kill the horses? They’re exhausted as it is.”
“But if we do nothing, she’ll die! If it’s too much for the horses, Saphira can fly ahead with Arya and me; at least we would get to the Varden in time. You could catch up with us in a few days.”
Oh yes, I’m sure Murtagh would just love to follow you straight into the Varden’s secret base after he’s stated multiple times that he won’t go anywhere near them. Especially since you’ll be sitting pretty up in the sky, while he’d have to force his way through the wilderness and deal with any bandits or wild animals that might attack him. That doesn’t sound like a bum deal at all.
Murtagh grunted and crossed his arms. “Of course. Murtagh the pack animal. Murtagh the horse leader. I should have remembered that’s all I’m good for nowadays. Oh, and let’s not forget, every soldier in the Empire is searching for me now because you couldn’t defend yourself, and I had to go and save you. Yes, I suppose I’ll just follow your instructions and bring up the horses in the rear like a good servant.”
Eragon was bewildered by the sudden venom in Murtagh’s voice. “What’s wrong with you? I’m grateful for what you did.”
He’s so grateful he suggested abandoning his friend in the wilderness! What a guy. Murtagh’s just being so unreasonable.
“There’s no reason to be angry with me! I didn’t ask you to accompany me or to rescue me from Gil’ead. You chose that. I haven’t forced you to do anything.”
“Oh, not openly, no. What else could I do but help you with the Ra’zac? And then later, at Gil’ead, how could I have left with a clear conscience?”
Dude’s got a point. He’s pretty much single-handedly saved Eragon’s ass since the moment they met.
Also I’d like to point out that if Murtagh had left him in Gil’ead, Eragon would never have let it slide. He would have taken it as a betrayal. And that’s assuming that Saphira wouldn’t have threatened Murtagh into rescuing him** anyway.
“The problem with you,” said Murtagh, poking Eragon in the chest, “is that you’re so totally helpless you force everyone to take care of you!”
Murtagh’s usually touted as the character all the fangirls love, presumably because he’s an attractive angsty loner, but I like to think it’s because he actually calls Eragon out on his shit.
Eragon doesn’t like this one bit (truth hurts, doesn’t it?), and they get into a fistfight that ends when Saphira pins them to the ground and orders them to talk it out. Surprise surprise, Murtagh’s angry because he doesn’t want to go to the Varden. That’s the third time he’s told Eragon this, by the way, and it’s still not sinking in because Eragon can’t understand why anyone would want to avoid the Varden. He keeps needling Murtagh to tell him why (“Did you steal something from them? […] Did you kill someone important or bed the wrong woman?”), and even after Murtagh makes it clear that he doesn’t want to talk about it, he won’t take no for an answer.
After a minute he sighed. “It doesn’t matter why I’m in this predicament, but I can tell you that the Varden wouldn’t welcome me even if I came bearing the king’s head. Oh, they might greet me nicely enough and let me into their councils, but trust me? Never. And if I were to arrive under less fortuitous circumstances, like the present ones, they’d likely clap me in irons.”
“Won’t you tell me what this is about?” asked Eragon. “I’ve done things I’m not proud of, too, so it’s not as if I’m going to pass judgment.”
REMEMBER THIS, folks. It will be important later. (Especially in light of Eragon asking if he’s killed someone.)
Murtagh finally decides to tell Eragon why he won’t go to the Varden, but before he can get any further than mentioning his dad Saphira spots an army marching toward them. An army of Urgals, whose chieftain Murtagh has fought before. I told you they were celebrating too early! Now they have to take off again, and Murtagh’s stuck accompanying Eragon to the Varden’s doorstep.
Cats almighty, I’m so sick of reading about traveling. Can this part be over with already?
* Why is there only one resistance group anyway? Wouldn’t it make more sense for there to be small enclaves of resistance fighters, who may or may not be working in tandem? Instead of one big organization with a remote base, there should be a vast network of small cells, preferably made up of locals who can blend in. And now I want to read fantasy espionage.
** And let’s not forget that he rescued Eragon at great personal risk. There was already one guy in the city who had seen him and told the authorities about his presence there.
Her consciousness lured him closer, inviting him to submerge himself in the lyric strains of her blood. (pg. 339) I just… what? What is that even supposed to mean?