Eragon, Chapter 48: Flight Through the Valley
The next morning Eragon and Murtagh split up – Eragon flies with Saphira, while Murtagh takes the horses. Eragon finally talks to Saphira about what happened with the slavers, and she clearly agrees with what Murtagh did. Eragon seems to think that if Murtagh had given the slaver a chance to fight back or surrender, it would have been better, but Saphira points out that either way he was outmatched and would have died anyway. (Also, what were you going to do with him if he surrendered? Tie him to a horse and turn him over to the Varden?) Saphira actually has some good advice, telling Eragon:
Learn what you can about Murtagh from this. Then forgive him. And if you can’t forgive, at least forget, for he meant you no harm, however rash the act was.
The character development is, unsurprisingly, put to a stop as Eragon notices that the Urgals are catching up to them. He discusses the situation with Murtagh, but the situation doesn’t look good. They’re a good three days from where they need to be, but they have to reach the Varden in a day or they’ll be caught. Murtagh points out that this is probably going to get them all killed, considering the horses will probably drop dead from exhaustion before they make it, then offers to take off on his own, which would not only allow Eragon to fly on with Saphira at a much faster pace but also draw some of the troops off their trail. Eragon won’t hear it, though, even though he admits to himself that “I like him […] but I’m no longer certain if that’s a good thing.” Again, this is all over Murtagh killing a man who was a danger to their entire party without giving him a chance to fight back. Way to completely ignore everything he’s done for you, Eragon.
Anyway, the plan is basically for them to ride as hard as they can to the Varden and have Murtagh ditch them at the gates. They spend the night forging ahead, while Eragon tries to make sense of the images he got from Arya’s mind and still manages to get them lost. When morning comes, Eragon says he’ll fly ahead with Arya if they’re not “reasonably close by noon.” Why not have Saphira fly ahead with her and meet you there? She’s got a direct link to your mind, you could just show her the exact images you’re using to get there and that way Arya would get medical attention that much faster. Eragon also makes Murtagh promise to take the stupid horse with him, because we were all dying to know what happens to Snowfire, right?
They finally come across the valley where the Varden are located and try to hide from the Urgals, who have been steadily gaining on them this entire time. There are old “but not friendly” trees (because we had to slip another reference to Lord of the Rings in here somehow), and Totally-Not-Fangorn-Forest is filled to the brim with birds and animals none of them have ever seen before. This valley is apparently a self-contained ecosystem.
As Saphira jumped toward the sky, Eragon said, Do you think you could fly up to one of those peaks? We might be able to spot our destination, as well as a passage for Murtagh. I don’t want to listen to him griping through the entire valley.
Oh fuck you, you sanctimonious little weasel! If the man wants to complain because you led him into a deathtrap with an army of poor-man’s orcs on his heels, he very well has the right. You can shut your cakehole while you find him a way out.
In their attempt to reach the peak, Saphira and Eragon find out the hard way that it’s balls-ass cold up there and the atmosphere’s too thin for them to breathe. Saphira gets them down safely, but Eragon blacks out from a lack of oxygen and then laments the fact that they can’t cross the mountains and would have to leave the same way they came in.
Why did we run out of air? How can we have it down here, but not up above?
I don’t know, but I’ll never dare to fly so close to the sun again. We should remember this experience. The knowledge may be useful if we ever have to fight another Rider.
Hooray for clunky foreshadowing! Now, however Paolini handles it, he’s screwed himself. Either he uses it later and it becomes very obvious what he was doing, or he never uses it and this aside is completely pointless. Good job, dude. Also, that sounds like something Brom should have warned him against. I mean, the man can beat him half to death with a stick but he can’t say “Yo, don’t fly too high or you’ll die, kid”? Did he think the lesson wouldn’t stick unless Eragon almost died?
Speaking of Brom, Eragon has apparently been gifted with a memory like a sieve, because he attempts to slow down the Urgals by creating a giant wall of mist, drains so much of his strength that he can’t even sit upright, and only remembers after the fact that Brom told him distance affects magic and how much energy you use. Saphira scolds him for it, and I can’t help liking her a little bit in this scene. Then again, all you need to do in this book for me to like you is tell Eragon off for being an idiot. (I guess it wouldn’t have done any good for Brom to tell him not to fly too high, anyway – Eragon could get his hand chopped off pulling a stupid stunt like this and still not learn his lesson.)
We also learn that these are Kull, “elite of the Urgals.” Eight-foot-tall monsters that can run for days without tiring and still fight afterward, who “never leave their caves except for war” – gee, that doesn’t sound like the Uruk-hai or anything, does it? This is a totally original Always Chaotic Evil race* that is not influenced by Tolkien in any way, shape, or form! Also there are giant wolves in the forest, apparently.
“I know you can’t enter the forest, but could you circle above me and the horses? That should keep these beasts away. Otherwise there may only be enough left of me to roast in a thimble.”
“Humor, Murtagh?” asked Eragon, a quick smile coming to his face.
Uh, Eragon? That’s not humor. ‘Humor’ implies he said something funny. It’s not a synonym for hyperbole.
Arya’s not doing so well, and Murtagh says they should really fly ahead to the Varden if they want to save her, but Eragon insists that he won’t leave Murtagh behind. So glad her life is so important to him. Also, why the fuck won’t they leave the damn horses behind already?! If they’d set the horses loose earlier and just had Saphira fly them to the Varden, they wouldn’t have to deal with this stupid situation! It’s not like the horses are vital to the plot (just the word count).
And then, of course, Eragon has to shove this in Murtagh’s face:
“Help me save her. We can still do it. Consider it a life for a life – atonement for Torkenbrand’s death.”
It is not your place to make Murtagh atone for anything, you self-righteous little shit. You do not get to decide what he atones for or how he does it. Jesus tap-dancing Christ on a cracker, this kid is taking the law-enforcement role of the Riders a little too seriously for someone who joined up less than six months ago. How about you figure out your own morality first before you go trying to push it on others? And while you’re at it, maybe stop freaking out and acting like Arya’s life is worth exactly as much as the life of a guy who wanted to sell all of you into slavery?
Murtagh storms off, clearly as irritated with Eragon’s moralizing as I am, and Eragon asks Saphira if they could drop Arya off with the Varden and rescue Murtagh afterward. She shoots that down, pointing out that they’re going to be none too pleased to find an army of Urgals on their doorstep. They decide that instead they’ll drop boulders on the Urgals to slow them down. Not a bad idea. It doesn’t stop them completely, but it does let Murtagh stay ahead of them. As night falls, they reach the waterfall where the Varden are supposed to be located, and Murtagh catches up with them. Unsurprisingly, he’s not pleased that there’s no way out of the valley, and his only options are the Varden or the Urgals. And while he’s freaking out, our wise and noble hero decides that now, while the enemy is bearing down on them, is the best time to grill him about his issues:
“What’s your quarrel with the Varden? It can’t be so terrible that you must keep it hidden even now. Would you rather fight the Kull than reveal it? How many times will we go through this before you trust me?”
I don’t know, how many times are you going to berate him for choosing to kill instead of being killed? How often are you going to press him to reveal what he clearly doesn’t want to and you have no right to demand? How long before you learn to respect other people’s boundaries – oh wait, that’s never.
Finally Murtagh turned to Eragon. His breathing was hard and fast, like that of a cornered wolf. He paused, then said with a tortured voice, “You have a right to know. I . . . I am the son of Morzan, first and last of the Forsworn.”
*GASP* What a tweest!
Yeah, even if you didn’t predict this specific plot point, Murtagh’s pretty obviously got “Tortured Past” tattooed on his forehead. And we’ll find out more about it next chapter.
* Yes, I know that later they join up with the Varden. For the purposes of this book, from the POV of our main character, they’re Always Chaotic Evil. Considering the way he handles the plot later on, I highly doubt that Paolini planned for the Urgals to join the “good” side.