Eragon: Chapter 49

Eragon, Chapter 49: The Horns of a Dilemma

Last time, on Dragon Ball Z Buffy: the Vampire Slayer Eragon, our heroes engaged in more pointless bickering while fleeing for their lives. They got to the valley where the Varden are located only to find a dead end, and now Murtagh’s revealed that his dad was the fantasy equivalent of Joseph Goebbels.*

Eragon was speechless.

Can he please stay that way?

Disbelief roared through his mind as he tried to reject Murtagh’s words. The Forsworn never had any children, least of all Morzan. Morzan! The man who betrayed the Riders to Galbatorix and remained the king’s favorite servant for the rest of his life. Could it be true?

Woah, hold your horses there, Exposition Sally. First off, where did anyone say none of the Forsworn had kids? Was it buried somewhere in Brom’s riveting tale about Galbatorix kicking a dude in the crotch? Second, we already know all this – if we didn’t remember it from the beginning of the story, Murtagh’s just reminded us who Morzan was – so I don’t know why you’re giving us all this pointless backstory.

Saphira’s own shock reached him a second later. She crashed through trees and brush as she barreled from the river to his side, fangs bared, tail raised threateningly. Be ready for anything, she warned. He may be able to use magic.

You’ve been traveling with this guy for weeks without incident! If he wanted to hurt you, he had ample opportunity to do so.

Murtagh is so frantic to show Eragon he’s trustworthy that he takes off his shirt (whoo baby!) to reveal a huge scar across his back. Turns out Daddy dearest gave him that scar with the very sword that Eragon is carrying. Dun dun DUUUUUN! So you see, he has no reason to be working for the Empire or Galbatorix because his dad was a dick who liked to throw swords at toddlers when he had too much to drink. Because all fantasy villains are soulless sadistic Nazis, and we as a culture have not quite managed to realize that Hitler wasn’t the only evil dictator in history.

They finally remember that they’re being chased and start running:

Saphira stayed by Eragon’s side, easily keeping pace with her long legs. You could walk unhindered in the riverbed, he said as she was forced to smash through a dense web of branches.

I’ll not leave you with him.

Yeah, he might decide to murder you, just like all those times he didn’t try to kill you when you two were alone together. Or while you were sleeping. Or while you were drugged-up in prison.

Saphira and Eragon halfheartedly interrogate Murtagh while they’re running, and he points out that he could have just left Eragon in prison if he wanted to capture him, had plenty of opportunity to kill him, and has no reason to stick with them if he just wanted to lead the Urgals to the Varden. Then Eragon says maybe he’s an assassin, and my opinion of his intelligence falls even further. Who’s he going to assassinate? It’s not Eragon, clearly, and if everyone in the Varden knows who he and his dad are, no one’s going to trust him enough to give him a chance to kill anyone. If Eragon would just apply the tiniest bit of critical thinking, he would realize that Murtagh would make a shitty assassin based on his reputation alone.

Saphira? Eragon asked simply.

Her tail swished over his head. If he wanted to harm you, he could have done it long ago.

You just said you wouldn’t leave Eragon alone with him less than a page ago! Make up your damn mind – is he trustworthy or not?

A branch whipped Eragon’s neck, causing a line of blood to appear on his skin. The waterfall was growing louder. I want you to watch Murtagh closely when we get to the Varden. He may do something foolish, and I don’t want him killed by accident.

Oh, yeah, Murtagh’s the one who’s gonna do something stupid. This coming from the kid who can’t think about how his actions are going to influence events five seconds into the future. And considering how much he doesn’t want to be around the Varden, and he’s all but admitted they hate him on sight, I’m gonna bank on his death being anything but an accident.

I’m just gonna nitpick the POV here and point out that Eragon can’t be describing blood appearing on his neck. This is a third-person limited POV, not third-person omniscient. While the story is described by an outside narrator, we’re still seeing through Eragon’s eyes. And unless his eyes are on stalks, he can’t see his own neck unless he looks in a mirror. And if a tree branch hit him hard enough to draw blood, shouldn’t he be describing the pain first?

They finally get out of the woods and come across the waterfall, which has a lake in front of it that they have to edge around. (The lake is, of course, needlessly named, because a body of water that features in one scene clearly needs a clunky name with unnecessary punctuation. As does everything in a fantasy novel.) Halfway around the lake, the Urgals catch up with them and start flanking them. Saphira attacks one group of Urgals, giving Eragon and Murtagh time to make it to the waterfall.

“What do we do now?” Murtagh demanded coldly.

“I don’t know. Let me think!” cried Eragon, searching Arya’s memories for her final instructions.

All this time you were being chased and you didn’t think to memorize these instructions so you wouldn’t be stuck going “I don’t know what to do!”? Way to drop the ball, dipshit.

Of course Eragon remembers the password phrase in the next sentence, because we can’t have a moment of actual tension in a scene that’s supposed to be action-packed. This is a more boring version of the scene from Fellowship of the Ring where they’re trying to enter the Mines of Moria, and half of that was Gandalf sitting around trying to remember the password. Anyway, nothing happens when Eragon says his line, and he and Murtagh are trapped.

Up close a Kull was as tall as a small giant, with legs and arms as thick as tree trunks.

Oh hey, I found a description that actually rivals “they looked human only different” in terms of uselessness! Did you know that unless you give some context, comparing one fantasy species to another isn’t going to actually give your readers a good basis for comparison? I have no idea how big giants are in this world. They could be twice the size of a human, or as tall as a redwood, or big enough to be mistaken for a small mountain. Not to mention that “small giant” is an oxymoron, and doesn’t really tell us much beyond the fact that Paolini doesn’t think twice about mashing contradictory words together.

Eragon raised his palm, shouting, “Jierda theirra kalfis!” Sharp cracks resounded off the cliff. Twenty of the charging Urgals fell into Kóstha-mérna, howling and clutching their legs where shards of bone protruded.

Yeah, he just snaps their legs like it’s nothing. I like how he struggles to figure out the precise phrasing needed to get water from the ground, and almost kills himself trying to wrench water from a stone, but a week later he can effortlessly fling out a phrase that, according to the glossary in the back of the book, literally means “break their calves” and not fall over dead because the spell targeted all the Urgals instead of just the first twenty or so. I also like that he’s able to accurately count how many opponents were brought down by that spell in the midst of all that chaos. And by “like”, of course, I mean “find completely unbelievable”.

Murtagh starts shouting at Eragon that he needs to wake Arya up and double-check that they’re where they need to be, and then Saphira realizes they’re on the wrong side of the lake and they have to go through the waterfall to get to the Varden. Saphira jumps over to the other side, and there’s an entire page of Eragon trying to get the horses through the waterfall. Why are these horses so fucking important? Do they cure dwarf-cancer or something?

Eragon almost drowns trying to get through the waterfall. Unfortunately, somebody pulls him out at the last second (BOO! HISS!) and he surfaces just in time to see a hail of arrows keeping the Urgals at bay. And it’s not Murtagh who pulled him out, like he assumed, but a dwarf!

A dwarf! Eragon drew Zar’roc and looked for Saphira and Murtagh. Two twelve-foot-thick stone doors had opened in the cliff, revealing a broad tunnel nearly thirty feet tall that burrowed its way into the mysterious depths of the mountain. A line of flame-less lamps filled the passageway with a pale sapphire light that spilled out onto the lake.

Good to know Eragon’s observation skills are unharmed by his impromptu trip to the bottom of the lake. I can barely eyeball how wide my desk is, and this guy can tell the exact dimensions of a tunnel he’s never seen before at a glance. Man, he must have some sort of cybernetic implants that measure all this shit for him.

Saphira and Murtagh stood before the tunnel, surrounded by a grim mixture of men and dwarves. At Murtagh’s elbow was a bald, beardless man dressed in purple and gold robes. He was taller than all the other humans – and he was holding a dagger to Murtagh’s throat.

So, should I assume that every man in this book has a beard unless otherwise specified? Because that’s what Paolini is implying with this description.

Eragon reached for his power

Must resist temptation to make a penis joke. Must resist temptation to make a penis joke…

Eragon reached for his power, but the robed man said in a sharp, dangerous voice, “Stop! If you use magic, I’ll kill your lovely friend here, who was so kind as to mention you’re a Rider.

Uh… wouldn’t the dragon be kind of a dead giveaway on that one? Also, clearly someone in the Varden likes Murtagh – why else would this guy call him lovely?

Don’t think I won’t know if you’re drawing upon it. You can’t hide anything from me.” Eragon tried to speak, but the man snarled and pressed the dagger harder against Murtagh’s throat. “None of that! If you say or do anything I don’t tell you to, he will die. Now, everyone inside.” He backed into the tunnel, pulling Murtagh with him and keeping his eyes on Eragon.

I love it when authors don’t separate the dialogue of one character from the actions of another. It ranks right up there with sudden tense changes as one of my top pet peeves.

And so our heroes are led into the mountain, never to be heard from again. Hah, I wish. Oh man, do I wish.

*Look, I was going to Godwin myself at some point. I’m just doing it a chapter earlier than I originally meant to.

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