Eragon, Chapter 53: Bless the Child, Argetlam
Hey kids, it’s time for more exposition! But it’s okay, because this is all dumped on us through sight-seeing and not through a long, boring conversation. Totally different, right?
Eragon runs into Orik outside Ajihad’s study. He apologizes for getting Orik in trouble and basically being the reason he’s now a glorified babysitter, but Orik says he actually wanted it this way. He can’t fight with the army, but as a subject of the dwarf king he’s still allowed to run around Tronjheim as he likes, and showing the new Dragon Rider around puts him in a pretty powerful position.
“Come on, lad, I’m sure you’re hungry. And we have to get your dragon settled in.”
Saphira hissed. Eragon said, “Her name is Saphira.”
Orik made a small bow to her. “My apologies, I’ll be sure to remember that.”
How dare Orik not instantly know Saphira’s name? It’s totally reasonable for her to hiss at him because he wasn’t introduced to her before now. I like to think that he’s being sarcastic here.
Eragon asks how many people in Tronjheim can use magic, and Orik says there’s a small handful who “can’t do much more than heal bruises”. They’re all attending to Arya at the moment, leaving the Twins to their own devices.
“She [Arya] wouldn’t want their help anyway; their arts are not for healing. Their talents lie in scheming and plotting for power – to everyone else’s detriment. Deynor, Ajihad’s predecessor, allowed them to join the Varden because he needed their support . . . you can’t oppose the Empire without spellcasters who can hold their own on the field of battle. They’re a nasty pair, but they do have their uses.”
So they’ve been with the Varden since before Ajihad took charge, but in over twenty years the Varden’s been unable to find any other mages willing to join up who weren’t useless on the battlefield? None of their allies in Surda can cause some magical damage? They’re just stuck having two incredibly powerful men they clearly don’t trust in their employ? Paolini, are you trying to make the Varden look incompetent or does it just come naturally?
You know what a better reason to keep them around would be? If they had been the first magic-users recruited to the cause, and through their connections have them draw in all the other spellcasters. That would keep them as the most powerful of the bunch, with the added bonus of giving them some charisma so they’re not so annoying to read about. THEN, have a couple scenes where maybe the Twins are threatened with being kicked out, and have them imply that if they go, they’re taking all their magic-wielding friends with them. Tadah! I’ve just given you a good reason to keep these two creepy jerks around, plus some bonus tension and possible drama about being forced to ally with unscrupulous people to achieve a mutual goal.
Orik leads Eragon outside of Tronjheim so Saphira can fly up to the weyr – oh, sorry, I mean “dragonhold” – located above the giant ruby, which is called Isidar Mithrim or the Star Rose. (I’m just glad it doesn’t have stupidly unnecessary punctuation.) Then they go back inside to eat, where Orik talks about how Tronjheim is mostly unused, and they only keep it occupied because it can house every single dwarf in existence if there’s an emergency. How… practical. Then Eragon asks how many humans have fled the Empire, and Orik says there’s four thousand here in Tronjheim, and the rest are in Surda. There’s some more talk about the dwarf clans, and when Eragon and Orik go to turn their plates in some dwarf bows and called Eragon “Argetlam.” Orik says it’s an elven word for the Riders that means silver hand. Why are the dwarves using an elven word? Don’t they have their own word for Riders?
Then Eragon takes a bath. Then he and Orik talk about how the dwarves essentially use lights and Morse code to get messages across Tronjheim. Then they go back out into Farthen Dûr to meet up with Saphira, which immediately causes people to come out to see the new Rider and his dragon. Apparently Orik didn’t expect this, because he gets antsy and tells Eragon to leave. Before he can get away, though, an old woman grabs Eragon and begs him to bless the baby she’s carrying.
Eragon had never blessed anyone. It was not something done lightly in Alagaësia, as a blessing could easily go awry and prove to be more curse than boon – especially if it was spoken with ill intent or lack of conviction. Do I dare take that responsibility? he wondered.
“Bless her, Argetlam, bless her.”
Suddenly decided, he searched for a phrase or expression to use. Nothing came to mind until, inspired, he thought of the ancient language. This would be a true blessing, spoken with words of power, by one of power.
So, what, all those other blessings aren’t real because they weren’t said using the magic words?
Who gives blessings in this world, anyway? What does a blessing even do? Is it supposed to be magic – and if so, wouldn’t they all be said in the ancient language? Do respected elders give blessings? Nobles? Clergy? Were the Riders known to give blessings? How often are strange young men asked to give blessings to babies they don’t know a thing about?
He bent down and tugged the glove off his right hand. Laying his palm on the babe’s brow, he intoned, “Atra guliä un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse skölir fra rauthr.” The words left him unexpectedly weak, as if he had used magic.
You used the ancient language to lay a blessing of protection and then suddenly feel weak. HMMM. I WONDER IF MAYBE YOU ACCIDENTALLY CAST MAGIC THERE. No no, don’t question it. This won’t come back to bite you in the ass at all.
Then Saphira touches her nose to the baby’s forehead, which leaves “a star-shaped patch of skin as white and silvery as Eragon’s gedwëy ignasia.” Then she flies away, saying that she gave the baby hope and Eragon gave her a future.
Eragon starts freaking out about being asked for blessings and pursued by powerful people at such a young age, giving us another convenient recap of what’s happened in case the reader developed spontaneous amnesia. Saphira basically tells him not to worry. There’s some more boring conversation about fate, and then Saphira lands on top of the giant sapphire and takes Eragon to the cave she picked out for herself, which conveniently has a bed set up for him. The chapter ends with Saphira giving yet another recap of the last two chapters and saying that they might not be able to stand independent of politics in the Varden. I don’t know why the characters have to constantly repeat what’s happened, but it’s been old since the first time it happened and it’s starting to smell.