Eragon, Chapter 51: The Glory of Tronjheim
Eragon is woken up by Saphira growling in her sleep. Aww, how cute! You’ve turned a sentient, intelligent creature capable of advanced thought and powerful magic into a giant sleepy puppy! That’s not insulting at all. Eragon and Murtagh whisper to each other about how long they’ve been in there, and then, because there’s nothing to do, Eragon naps some more and then walks around the room for a bit. He stops to inspect a lantern, which is described to us in minute, useless detail. Finally Baldy and Orik come back and tell them that their leader, Ajihad, wants to meet them.
“Where are our horses? And can I have my sword and bow back?” asked Eragon.
The bald man looked at him with disdain. “Your weapons will be returned to you when Ajihad sees fit, not before. As for your horses, they await you in the tunnel. Now come!”
I’d look at him with disdain too if he asked me such a stupid question. Here, I’ll give you the top three reasons why you can’t have your weapons back:
- You’re a prisoner – just because they’ve determined you’re not with the Empire doesn’t mean you’re not a threat
- You’re traveling with a guy who refuses to cooperate
- You’re going to meet the leader of the only resistance on the entire planet
So, no, you can’t be armed. But hey, at least the horses are coming back. They’re what keeps this story together, after all.
They head back to the main tunnel where the horses are waiting. Eragon tries to ride Saphira, but Baldy yells at him to “Ride your horse until I tell you otherwise.” While they’re heading down the tunnel, Eragon starts getting nervous about meeting this Ajihad.
The leader of the Varden was a shadowy figure to the people within the Empire. He had risen to power nearly twenty years ago and since then had waged a fierce war against King Galbatorix. No one knew where he came from or even what he looked like. It was rumored that he was a master strategist, a brutal fighter. With such a reputation, Eragon worried about how they would be received. Still, knowing that Brom had trusted the Varden enough to serve them helped to allay his fears.
Funny how we’re only hearing about this guy now. Shouldn’t Brom have mentioned him at some point when they were discussing whether or not Eragon should join the Varden? Or during his rambling last words, maybe he could have said, “Ask for Ajihad when you get there”? It reads like Paolini only just thought up this character as he was writing this chapter, and never bothered to go back and add in a couple sentences to make his writing more cohesive. This is why books need proof-readers, kids.
Also, why would Eragon know anything about the leader of the Varden anyway? No one outside the organization should know who he is or what he looks like – it’s supposed to be a secret because otherwise it would be very easy to find and kill him! In fact, there should be a lot of contradictory rumors floating about. The more misinformation there is out there, the harder it’ll be to pinpoint exactly what the Varden are up to, who their leaders are, or even where they’re located. But, then again, we’ve already established that the Varden are pretty dense, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
It takes them an hour to get to a pair of doors, where Baldy stops them and says Eragon needs to ride Saphira now, and warns him that “there will be people watching, so remember who and what you are” so he should try to fly away. I guess they’re trying to make an impression on both Eragon and the Varden, but if there’s a possibility that Eragon would try to fly off, and they don’t trust him with weapons at this point, then why would let him ride Saphira if they don’t trust him not to bolt at the first opportunity?
Anyway, the doors open to reveal that the mountain is hollow, and there’s a smaller, marble mountain inside that is actually a city that houses the Varden. There’s an overwrought description of the entire thing, but the important thing to note here is that the larger mountain, Farthen Dûr, is roughly ten miles across and just as tall, and the smaller mountain, Tronjheim, is a mile high. I still don’t know how Eragon can possibly give an accurate estimate of these distances, but whatever. Everything is huge, and scale is meaningless.
Orik gives a little speech about how no Rider has ever seen this sight before (I wonder how many times he practiced this in the mirror), and Eragon realizes that there’s a crowd gathered around the tunnel entrance, silently staring at him.
A bead of sweat rolled down Eragon’s face, but he dared not move to wipe it away. What should I do? he asked frantically.
Smile, raise your hand, anything! replied Saphira sharply.
Eragon tried to force out a smile, but his lips only twitched. Gathering his courage, he pushed a hand into the air, jerking it in a little wave. When nothing happened, he flished with embarrassment, lowered his arm, and ducked his head.
This part’s actually pretty decent. Eragon’s a kid from a small farming community, and from what we’ve seen he’s never been very popular or had a lot of friends, so it makes sense he would freeze in the face of all that attention. I mean, it’s rather silly that they have a crowd of thousands waiting for them, but the way he handled it is believable. Saphira knows how to play to the crowd, tough, puffing out smoke as she passes them.
But, uh-oh, looks like some people aren’t too happy to see our hero!
He stared curiously at the jostling crowd as she proceeded along the path. Dwarves greatly outnumbered humans . . . and many of them glared at him resentfully. Some even turned their backs and walked away with stony faces.
How dare those icky dwarves not worship at our illustrious hero’s feet?! (Also, get used to the rock/stone comparisons. They come up every time a dwarf is on the page.)
The humans were hard, tough people. All the men had daggers or knives at their waists; many were armed for war. The women carried themselves proudly, but they seemed to conceal a deep-abiding weariness. The few children and babies stared at Eragon with large eyes. He felt certain that these people had experienced much hardship and that they would do whatever was necessary to defend themselves.
Uh, shouldn’t the women be armed too? I know Paolini was too lazy to come up with a culture that doesn’t adhere to rigid, traditional gender roles, but if they’ve “experienced much hardship” to the point where all of the men are carrying blades, you’d think at least a couple of the women would want to defend themselves as well. I’m also pretty sure that most of those babies aren’t going to be able to focus on Eragon long enough to follow his progress down this path, let alone know enough to care that he exists.
The Varden had found the perfect hiding place. Farthen Dûr’s walls were too high for a dragon to fly over, and no army could break through the entranceway, even if it managed to find the hidden doors.
Well that’s just begging to be proven wrong. Is Paolini trying to broadcast the fact that Farthen Dûr will be attacked? And Eragon’s been here all of twelve hours at the most – how the hell can he be sure that there aren’t any holes in the defenses? How does he know magic won’t take those doors apart, or if Galbatorix’s dragon can’t fly higher than Saphira? You can’t just have your main character give us an objective statement when he isn’t fully informed, dammit!
They reach Tronjheim, and there’s a page-long description that ends with them in a hall that has a giant red sapphire in the ceiling – which is a cool set-piece, I guess. Eragon stares slack-jawed at everything like a tourist, until finally Baldy tells him where to go next.
The bald man walked in front of Saphira and said, “You must go on foot from here.” There was a scattered booing from the crowd as he spoke.
What – why? Why is the crowd booing? Were they really that excited to see some jackass sitting on a dragon? Are they pissed off that he has to go talk to Ajihad now? Is walking taboo in this culture? What the hell is going on?
Anyway, Eragon, Murtagh, and Saphira are all led down a giant hallway, and the chapter ends with Baldy opening a door behind which, presumably, Ajihad is. I wish it was a man-eating tiger instead.