Chapter 43: The Hall of the Soothsayer
So after our last chapter of Nasuada POV we get another chapter of Nasuada POV. Huzzah!
This one is marginally better.
Only marginally though, and even that is debatable
Chapter starts with Nasuada waking up as the jailer enters the room. She notices that he is carrying a copper brazier with long irons in it, so it must be torture time. I have to wonder though why would Galbatorix use a copper brazier to torture a prisoner, but then again he did serve her on a silver plate.
And we get some description.
She tried to catch his eye, but the man refused to look at her as he took flint and steel from a pouch on his belt and lit a nest of shredded tinder in the center of the brazier. As sparks smoldered and spread, the tinder glowed like a ball of red-hot wires. The man bent, puckered his lips, and blew on the incipient fire, gentle as a mother kissing her child, and the sparks sprang into lambent flames.
For several minutes, he tended the fire, building a bed of coals several inches thick, the smoke rising to a grate far above. She watched with morbid fascination, unable to tear her gaze away, despite what she knew awaited her. Neither he nor she spoke; it was as if they were both too ashamed of what was about to take place for either to acknowledge it.
He blew on the coals again, then turned as if to approach her.
Don’t give in, she told herself, stiffening. She clenched her fists and held her breath as the man walked toward her … closer … closer …
A feather-like touch of wind brushed her face as he strode past her, and she listened to his footsteps dwindle into silence as he climbed the stairs and left the room.
A faint gasp escaped her as she relaxed slightly. Like lodestones, the bright coals drew her gaze back toward them. A dull, rust-colored glow was creeping up the iron rods that stuck out of the brazier.
She wet her mouth and thought how nice a drink of water would be.
One of the coals jumped and split in two, but otherwise the chamber was quiet.
Now there are several problems with this description, besides the usual. For starters, there is nothing that she could do to catch his eye, since she is tied and cannot even move her head. At best she could try to talk to him, but then she wouldn’t be catching his eyes, but instead his ears.
Then the unwilling of the jailer to talk has nothing to do with shame, and more with the fact that it is not generally a good idea to have any sort of empathy with someone that you are going torture (or that you know that is getting tortured).
And at last, but not least it makes no sense that Nasuada is able to make out so many details! The girl cannot move her head so she only has the vision of one eye in an awkward angle and SOMEHOW she notices that the brazier that is several meters away is copper, how exactly the man is making the fire and that exactly one of the coals jumped and split into exactly two! Indeed that is so jarring that I kind of forget that she is having an actual human reaction of fear in response of imminent torture and focus on the fact that someone has information that it shouldn’t have.
There is also the line about the water that comes from nowhere, adds nothing, and disappear in the same instant. The line could have been cut down and it would have no difference whatsoever.
And after that she hear footsteps and the torturers enter the room. And Paolini loses an perfect opportunity at description.
Right here, before the torturers arrival, would be an perfect place to add 4 or 5 pages of description, that, if well handled, would create a great mood for the scene. We would have Nasuada looking at the eight sides of the room getting more anxious by the second, with the reader and her knowing that she is getting tortured pretty soon but with both unable to do a thing about it, and each new paragraph would only increase the anxiousness, and when the torturers finally came we would be on our toes for sheer anticipation.
But then again I’m not sure if Paolini could have pulled it off, so maybe it is for the better. But it is still odd that Mister Overdescreption did not overdescript in a scene where it would fit.
But anyway the torturers arrive! Two pair of footsteps enter the room, someone put an carved wooden chair at the very edge of her vision and a man sit on it.
KIng Galbatorix finally makes an appearance after over 1800 pages! Let’s see what he looks like.
He was large: not fat, but broad-shouldered. A long black cape hung draped around him. It looked heavy, as if backed with mail. Light from the coals and from the flameless lantern gilded the edges of his form, but his features remained too dark to make out. Still, the shadows did nothing to hide the outline of the sharp, pointed crown that rested upon his brow.
So Nasuada can make out an coal jumping and splitting into two but conveniently can’t make out the forms of Galby, although she conveniently can make out the crown so we know that it is actually Galby? I’m not buying it. Either she can’t make out things because she is tied and therefore has a very limited camp of vision or she has superpowers and can make out even in how many pieces a coal broke into. You can’t have both.
Also the other man got the fire and starts stirring it. The Galby take out his gauntlets and she conveniently is able to make out the color of his skin.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. I. DON’T. EVEN.
DO I REALLY HAVE TO GO OVER THE WHOLE “YOU CAN’T EAT YOUR CAKE AND HAVE IT TOO” AGAIN? HOW HARD IS IT TO LAY BACK ON A BED AND TRY TO SEE HOW MUCH YOU CAN SEE WITHOUT MOVING YOUR HEAD? REALLY PAOLINI, REALLY?
The fact that Galby skin is tarnished bronze does no favors to Paolini also.
And then we have this.
When he spoke, his voice was low, rich, and commanding. Any bard who possessed such a mellifluous instrument would have his name praised throughout the land as a master of masters. The sound of it caused her skin to prickle; his words seemed to wash over her like warm waves of water, caressing her, beguiling her, binding her. Listening to him, she realized, was as perilous as listening to Elva.
His voice was sexy, and could arouse man and woman alike. Those who hear such an voice would do anything just to hear more of it.
Both those phrases say pretty much the same thing, except that one is three times longer than the other, and that one is more explicit about the sexual aspect than the other. I like mine better.
Also we have a theme of eloquence = Evil taking form here, with both Elva and Galbatorix being eloquent and “Evil” (Except that Elva became “good” after Eragon was an complete ass to her by calling her an murderer and all that). Double lols for the fact that both Eragon and Roran are eloquent in-universe.
Then Galby starts talking the usual “Welcome to my home sorry for not coming sooner but I was busy but now I am not so I will be an proper host” except that apparently he sounds like a claw emerging from his sheath. It must take a lot of skill to sound like that.
Also apparently his english sounds off, which, Nasuada theorizes, must be a side effect of living over a hundred years, since language changes over time. Except that no one, not even Oromis, ever had their way of talking described as such, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense in-universe. Which is a shame, since it could be a realistic consequence of long lives and lack of outside contact. Indeed my grandfather talks in an weird way and he is only 86 years old.
But I digress.
Galby goes and talk about how Nasuada is just a child, although everyone seems like children screwing around to him, and that an adult should lead them. She questions if he is the one that should lead them and he gives an good answer:
“Would you rather the elves ruled over us? I am the only one of our race who can hold them at bay. By their reckoning, even our oldest graybeards would be considered untested youths, unfit for the responsibilities of adulthood.”
This is an important point here. The ones that always seemed more eager to start the war and rise an Rider and dethrone Galbatorix were always the elves and the dwarves, even though the leadership of the Varden was human. The humans always seemed satisfied with Galby ruling, except for Carvahall, but we never got an good reason as to why they hate the Empire so much so they don’t really count, and the only reason the Varden were ever formed was because Brom did it for the sake of his vengeance. So maybe Galby has a point here about being the only fit to rule, since no one is complaining.
Nasuada then goes over about how the elves would also rule him as an child and he is like nope, I have seen more than their oldest, and she is like how come, and he rolls his eyes and say because of the Eldunari that is why. And then she is all scared because him talking about the Eldunari with her eliminated what little hope she still had that he ever intended to release her. And then I wonder how come Nasuada though that King Galbatorix, guilty of partial genocide of the dragons, the destruction of the riders and mind-raping people for fun and profit, and current Evil Overlord of the Evil Empire, would ever in any circumstance release her, the leader of the resistance. Seriously, there is no reason for that at all.
Then Galby starts going evil on screen:
“Before we proceed, you should know something of the history of this place. When the elves first ventured to this part of the world, they discovered a crevice buried deep within the escarpment that looms over the plains hereabout. The escarpment they prized as defense against the attacks of dragons, but the crevice they prized for an entirely different reason. By happenstance, they discovered that the vapors rising out of the crack in the stone increased the chances that those who slept near it might catch a glimpse, if however confused, of future events. So, over two and a half thousand years ago, the elves built this room atop the fissure, and an oracle came to live here for many hundreds of years, even after the elves abandoned the rest of Ilirea. She sat where you now lie, and she whiled away the centuries dreaming of all that had been and all that might be.
“In time, the air lost its potency and the oracle and her attendants departed. Who she was and where she went, none can say for sure. She had no name other than the title Soothsayer, and certain stories lead me to believe she was neither elf nor dwarf but something else entirely. Be that as it may, during her residency, this chamber came to be called, as you might expect, the Hall of the Soothsayer, and so it still is today—only now you are the soothsayer, Nasuada, daughter of Ajihad.”
Galbatorix spread his arms. “This is a place for truths to be told … and heard. I will tolerate no lies within these walls, not even the simplest of falsehoods. Whosoever rests upon that hard block of stone becomes the latest soothsayer, and though many have found that role difficult to accept, in the end, none have refused. You will be no different.”
The legs of the chair scraped over the floor, and then she felt Galbatorix’s breath warm against her ear. “I know this will be painful for you, Nasuada, painful beyond belief. You will have to unmake yourself before your pride will allow you to submit. In all the world, nothing is harder than changing one’s own self. I understand this, for I have reshaped myself on more than one occasion. However, I will be here to hold your hand and help you through this transition. You need not take the journey alone. And you may console yourself with the knowledge that I will never lie to you. None of us shall. Not within this room. Doubt me if you wish, but in time you will come to believe me. I consider this a hallowed place, and I would no more desecrate the idea it represents than cut off my own hand. You may ask whatever you want, and I promise you, Nasuada, daughter of Ajihad, that we shall answer truthfully. As king of these lands, I give you my sworn word.”
Now this is actually an decent piece of gloating. There is world building that is interesting and makes enough sense to keep the reader from drifting away from the story, while being short enough to not bore the reader. There is also character development showing that while Galby is evil and cruel, having tortured many in this room in a sort of dramatic way for no other apparent reason other than being his fancy, he also has (apparently) standards and costumes that he consider sacred, thus implying that he has an good reason behind his actions that hopefully will get explored. It also shows us how tempting his speeches are, since the last part pretty much shows him in an positive light while being the logical conclusion to everything that came before.
Unfortunately there is still no description of what his face looks like even though he just moved toward Nasuada and talked on her hear, and all his evil seems more like generic evil instead of eviler-than-Eragon evil.
Nasuada is flabbergasted at Galby speech and takes her a while to say. “I will never give you the information!”
At which point Galby goes even more evil..
A slow, deep chuckle filled the room. “You misunderstand; I didn’t have you brought here because I seek information. There’s nothing you could say that I don’t already know. The number and disposition of your troops; the state of your provisions; the locations of your supply trains; the manner in which you plan to lay siege to this citadel; Eragon and Saphira’s duties, habits, and abilities; the Dauthdaert you acquired in Belatona; even the powers of the witch-child, Elva, whom you have kept by your side until but recently—all this I know, and more. Shall I quote the figures to you? … No? Well then. My spies are more numerous and more highly placed than you imagine, and I have other means of gathering intelligence withal. You have no secrets from me, Nasuada, none whatsoever; therefore, it is pointless to insist upon holding your tongue.”
So we must assume that he going to torture her for just shits and giggles. Generic evil is generic.
But it turns out that not it isn’t for just shit and giggles. It is because he was tricked by the book and now believe that Nasuada is a Natural Leader and as such she could be useful as one of his generals. So he makes the Proposal™.
No he doesn’t want to marry her, although that would be an amusing twist. Maybe Nasuada would have his babies before the end of the history what could lead to some interesting situations. But I digress.
The Proposal™, on this context, consist basically on saying “Join me Leia, and together we shall bring a new era of peace to the Middle-Earth”. Except that Galby takes one whole page to make this proposal, since he is an character of Paolini.
Nasuada answer by spitting into the air. No really.
“I would rather let a thousand vipers bite me before I would agree to serve you.” And she spat into the air.
It hit her in the face shortly thereafter, so she spent the rest of the day with one eye covered with saliva and others nasty things.
So Galby goes over again on the Proposal™, on a slight different way, and Nasuada refuses again, but without spitting into the air this time. Guess she is getting smarter. And the Galby reveals that the guy over the brazier is Murtagh!
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN
I don’t know why the book make such a big deal of Murtagh being the one that manipulates the iron. I mean really, if Galby isn’t going to do this, who else is, if not Murtagh?
Galby goes on about how Murtagh is now evil and loves murdering, and Murtagh agrees with everything even though it is pretty obvious by his body expressions that he really doesn’t mean it. It is all generic evil so it is not very interesting. Then he says that it was Murtagh idea to make her join their club. Nasuada feels betrayed, how could Murtagh save her life and give her the hope to just deal with some torture before the Varden comes and she has a chance to escape instead of just murdering her? He is such an evil guy for saving someone else life at great personal risk. Not to mention that he never had any loyalty toward her, or the Varden for that matter.
Then Galby orders Murtagh to start the torture. Murtagh refuses because he is as evil as Nasuada believe him. Galby says one magical word that seems Speeshul, and Murtagh starts taking the iron and moving toward her. At which point we have the following exchange.
“I don’t understand,” she said to Galbatorix with feigned calm. “Aren’t you going to use your mind against me?” Not that she wanted him to, but she would rather defend herself from an attack on her consciousness than withstand the pain of the iron.
“There will be time for that later, if need be,” said Galbatorix. “For now, I am curious to discover how brave you really are, Nasuada, daughter of Ajihad. Besides, I would prefer not to seize control of your mind and force you to swear fealty to me. Instead, I want you to make this decision of your own free will and while still in possession of your faculties.”
“Why?” she croaked.
“Because it pleases me. Now, for the last time, will you submit?”
Evil for the sake of evil. At this point I’m starting to think that Galby is actually a decent person, but he goes out of his way to make himself seems evil to his enemies because of some plot of his. Maybe he is trying to pull and Leluoch here or something, you never know. And if we go with Paolini and assume that he is really that evil, he is still way better than Eragon, since he has you know, standards, and only does the really nasty stuff in war times or related times. Indeed even though we are supposed to believe that all that he is doing is the ultimate evil of the world it is actually war time stuff that goes on in real world wars all the time. Also he goes out of his way to not mind-rape people, so it is likely that his soldiers actually swear oaths of fealty out of desire to serve him, and the only ones that were forced into it were traitors that he conscripted to throw into the front line and save the lives of actual soldiers, which is also an tactic used in real life warfare.
You want me to believe that he is eviler than Eragon and should be hated with all the strength of my being? Make him mind-rape Murtagh into raping Nasuada, or something at this same level (NSFW link). It would be an horrible scene to read, but would actually put Galbatorix into the complete monster territory. And would actually top what Eragon did with Sloan, so we would hate him more than Eragon, what would be a lot of progress. But has of right now, with only some torture I’m hard pressed to believe that he is eviler than Eragon. Evil yes, because of what he did to Murtagh, but he still has space to excuses and motivation, while Eragon has not even that.
But I digress.
The chapter end with Nasuada being tortured and fainting in an horrible bit of description.