Eragon, Chapter 58: Battle Under Farthen Dûr
Arya and Murtagh tell Eragon the Urgals are coming. Why couldn’t this have been added to the end of the last chapter? It would have made for an actual cliffhanger and Paolini wouldn’t have had to rewrite anything.
The first wave of Urgals comes out of the tunnels, and immediately they get boiling pitch dumped on them, which then gets set on fire. The rest of the Urgals pour out onto the field, and there’s a pitched battle. Eragon and Saphira jump in, and at one point Eragon gets knocked off Saphira and has to fight on foot. It’s at this point that Paolini’s tendency to constantly refer to Eragon’s sword by name gets really annoying. Zar’roc is mentioned four times in as many paragraphs. And Paolini keeps making creepy references about the sword…
Zar’roc’s crimson blade seemed to gleam with delight as blood spurted along its length.
Four more Urgals succumbed to Zar’roc’s thirsty bite […]
I get it – the sword used to belong to Morzan and it supposed to be creepy and evil. That’s great. You don’t have to give the sword an actual personality, though.
Murtagh pulls Eragon out of the fray and they make their way over to Saphira, who’s surrounded by Urgals.
The sight of Saphira’s blood enraged Eragon.
Did he forget this was a battle? Or did he not think Saphira would get injured?
Anyway, Eragon helps her kill the Urgals, and they fly over the battle and start buzzing Urgals from behind. You’d think the Urgals would have had some sort of contingency plan – they had to have known the Varden had a dragon on their side – but no, they have no way to counter Saphira and Eragon.
Eragon uses his vantage point over the battle to tell the Twins what’s going on. The battle is split into three separate fights thanks to the Urgals coming out of three different tunnels, and while the Urgals are clustered into their own clans there’s no obvious leader for the whole army. The Twins order Eragon to go help Hrothgar. That goes well for a while, with Eragon fighting on Saphira’s back, until he almost falls out of the saddle and gets attacked by a Kull. The Kull is about to kill him (hooray!) until he’s saved by Angela (BOO!).
The witch wore a long red cape over outlandish flanged armor enameled black and green. She bore a strange two-handed weapon – a long wooden shaft with a sword blade attached to each end. Angela winked at Eragon mischievously, then dashed away, spinning her staff-sword like a dervish. Close behind her was Solembum in the form of a young shaggy-haired boy. He held a small black dagger, sharp teeth bared in a feral snarl.
Well, that’s just peachy. Even in the middle of the climactic battle, Angela has to be quirky. Really adds to the atmosphere.
After a few hours of fighting*, the Twins tell Eragon that they think the Urgals are trying to dig into the city, and he and Arya need to go collapse any tunnels they’ve dug. Eragon plucks Arya out of the battle, and Saphira starts to take off, but an Urgal smashes an axe into her chest. It’s not a mortal would, but her armor’s been crushed and is pressing into her chest, making it hard for her to move.
Saphira manages to get up to the dragonhold and lands on top of the giant sapphire, “where the Twins were supposed to be watching the battle, but it was empty.” Two things: wasn’t there only supposed to be one Twin up there? I thought the other one was supposed to be on the battlefield to relay information to Ajihad. And why doesn’t anyone find it suspicious that no one is up there now? The Twins have left their positions and completely disappeared, and Shades is going to show up in a couple minutes, but no one ever puts two and two together.
Arya stays with Saphira to help get her armor off, and Eragon decides he’s going to take the slide instead of the stairs. It still takes him ten minutes (!!!) to get to the bottom, but I guess it’s faster than running. When he gets to the bottom, a section of the floor explodes and Urgals come pouring out of the hole, accompanied by Shades.
Madness burned in his maroon eyes, the madness of one who enjoys power and finds himself in the position to use it.
This is a 3rd-person limited POV and that is WAY too much information being conveyed through the eyes. For shame, Paolini, for shame.
Durza slowly approached Eragon with a triumphant expression. “So, my young Rider, we meet again. You were foolish to escape from me in Gil’ead. It will only make things worse for you in the end.”
“You’ll never capture me alive,” growled Eragon.
“Is that so?” asked the Shade, raising an eyebrow. […] “I don’t see your ‘friend’ Murtagh around to help you. You can’t stop me now. No one can!”
Fear touched Eragon. How does he know about Murtagh?
Well, he works for Galbatorix, and Galby kind of raised Murtagh, so… yeah. If you’re wondering how he knows Murtagh is here, well, there was that one guy Murtagh ran into who probably ran his mouth, so that could be it.
Eragon taunts Shades and refuses to tell him where Saphira is, which causes Shades to attack. At the same time Eragon is fending him off physically, Shades attacks him mentally as well, managing to break past Eragon’s defenses. Eragon gains the upper hand and knocks Shades down with his shield, Captain America-style. And then this happens:
Eragon thrust at the Shade with his mind and drove through Durza’s weakened defenses. A flood of images suddenly engulfed him, rushing through his consciousness–
Durza as a young boy living as a nomad with his parents on the empty plains. The tribe abandoned them and called his father “oathbreaker.” Only it was not Durza then, but Carsaib – the name his mother crooned while combing his hair. . . .
The Shade reeled wildly, face twisted in pain. Eragon tried to control the torrent of memories, but the force of them was overwhelming.
Standing on a hill over the graves of his parents, weeping that the men had not killed him as well. Then turning and stumbling blindly away, into the desert. . . .
Durza faced Eragon. Terrible hatred flowed from his maroon eyes. Eragon was on one knee – almost standing – struggling to seal his mind.
How the old man looked when he first saw Carsaib lying near death on a sand dune. The days it took Carsaib to recover and the fear he felt upon discovering that his rescuer was a sorcerer. How he had pleaded to be taught the control of spirits. How Haeg had finally agreed. Called him “Desert Rat.” . . .
Eragon was standing now. Durza charged . . . sword raised . . . shield ignored in his fury.
The days spent training under the scorching sun, always alert for the lizards they caught for food. How his power slowly grew, giving him pride and confidence. The weeks spent nursing his sick master after a failed spell. His joy when Haeg recovered . . .
There was not enough time to react . . . not enough time . . .
The bandits who attacked during the night, killing Haeg. The rage Carsaib had felt and the spirits he had summoned for vengeance. But the spirits were stronger than he expected. They turned on him, possessing mind and body. He had screamed. He was – I AM DURZA!
Why is this necessary?
Paolini has already established that Durza is evil because he’s possessed. He dies on the next page. What, exactly, is the point of shoving in all this backstory for a one-dimensional villain supposed to do? Is it supposed to make me feel sorry for him? Is it supposed to make me care? Because the time for that has long passed. If this had been presented even as late as when Eragon met Ajihad – if Ajihad had perhaps known Durza when he was still human, which would not only make Durza an enemy with an actual connection to the plot but a warning against working with spirits – then it might have worked. This just comes across as a cheap attempt to play to my sympathies.
You can make a villain sympathetic, but this is not the way to do it.
The sword smote heavily across Eragon’s back, cutting through both mail and skin. He screamed as pain blasted through him, forcing him to his knees. Agony bowed his body in half and obliterated all thought. He swayed, barely conscious, hot blood running down the small of his back. Durza said something he could not hear.
Durza attacked from the front. How did he manage to hit Eragon in the back?!
This is like that stupid explosion from Chapter One all over again. Oh well, who needs physics in a fantasy novel? Not Christopher Paolini!
In anguish, Eragon raised his eyes to the heavens, tears streaming down his cheeks. Everything had failed. The Varden and dwarves were destroyed. He was defeated. Saphira would give herself up for his sake – she had done it before – and Arya would be recaptured or killed. Why had it ended like this? What justice could this be? All was for nothing.
Of course the female characters would be unable to defeat Durza. Of course one would sacrifice herself for the male hero, and the other would just be incapable of fighting (even though it’s been clearly established she’s the best fighter AND magic-user in the Varden). Of course everything hinges on Eragon. It wouldn’t be a self-indulgent male power fantasy otherwise.
As Eragon’s weeping that everything he did was for nothing, the star sapphire hanging above the main chamber explodes, sending giant chunks plummeting to the floor. The reason it broke is because Saphira and Arya dove head-first through it (and it’s implied that Arya used magic to weaken/break it), and they’re divebombing Durza while Saphira breathes fire. Which is a really cool image and all, but if Saphira is breathing fire straight down while she falls, wouldn’t that just cause the fire to hit and damage her?
Everything goes slow-mo. Durza looks up points at Saphira and starts to say something, obviously attempting to cast magic. While he’s distracted, Eragon shouts “Brisingr!”, which sets his sword on fire, and stabs Durza in the heart. All before Durza can finish speaking. Durza explodes into … three balls of darkness? I don’t know, this is really hard to summarize without sounding ridiculous. Basically his body dissolves and the spirits inside him fly out of Tronjheim, never to be seen again.
Bereft of strength, Eragon fell back with arms outstretched. Above him, Saphira and Arya had nearly reached the floor – it looked as if they were going to smash into it with the deadly remains of Isidar Mithrim. As his sight faded, Saphira, Arya, the myriad fragments – all seemed to stop falling and hang motionless in the air.
How tall is that chamber? Like, is it realistic for Saphira to not have hit the ground at this point? How tall would it have to be? I guess it doesn’t matter since everything is scaled up to be ridiculously gigantic, so it’s possible there’s enough space that Saphira is still falling, but it bugs me.
Is anyone else not surprised that the ladies did all the hard work of destroying a giant sapphire and creating a vital distraction, but they didn’t get to even attempt to fight the bad guy? Arya justifiably has more reason to want to kill Durza, but it’s Eragon who gets the killing blow. Arya never even touches him. It’s pretty telling that the female characters are utilized in this scene purely for imagery, while all the action is attributed to the male hero.
It would actually be effective to end this scene with Eragon passing out if he didn’t pass out every other chapter. I’m so tired of this. Why must you torture me, Paolini?!
Last chapter is coming up! (I, uh, may have gotten my words mixed up when I said there were five chapters left. I meant to say there were five posts left. Whoops.) Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to this tale of idiocy.
*Would the battle even last that long if they were spending the entire time fighting? Even accounting for adrenaline and training, wouldn’t the soldiers eventually be too tired to fight?