Chapter Thirty-Five – By the Banks of Lake Leona
And at long last, we get to this chapter, where Eragon truly reveals himself to be an utterly despicable human being.
Eragon is stalking through camp with his fists clenched and jaw set. We learn that he’s been in a big conference over the last few hours with the head honchos of the Varden. Then they telepathically contacted Queen Islanzadi to tell her Wyrden is dead.
Eragon had not enjoyed explaining to the queen how one of her oldest and most powerful spell casters had died, nor had the queen been pleased to receive the news (page 336).
Her initial reaction had been one of such sadness, it surprised him; he had not thought she knew Wyrden that well (page 336).
That’s our Eragon. Surprised when people are saddened by death. Then, this is the guy who plays with knocked-out teeth on the battlefield.
Anyway, this has left Eragon in a “foul mood”, so he stalks around the camp looking for his “prey”. And eventually he finds Elva, sitting there making a cat’s cradle. For awhile he stands there looking at her, until finally Elva calls him out and tells him not to lose his nerve. And Eragon lets her have it:
“You killed Wyrden – you killed him as surely as if you had stabbed him yourself. If you had come with us, you could have warned him about the trap. You could have warned all of us. I watched Wyrden die, and I watched Arya tear half her hand off, because of you. Because of your anger. Because of your stubbornness. Because if your pride… Hate me if you will, but don’t you dare make anyone else suffer for it” (pages 337-338).
Let’s back up a little bit here. As you may remember, Elva is a year and a half old. She’s spent essentially her entire life in unbelievable, constant agony because she can feel the pain of everyone around her – and being on the move with an army fighting frequent battles only exacerbates that. Elva, entirely due to Eragon’s dumbassery, has lived a life more horrible than any person in all of existence. In her own words, from Brisingr:
“Night and day I have no respite from the pain of the world. Since Eragon blessed me, I have known nothing but hurt and fear, never happiness or pleasure. The lighter side of life, the things that make this existence bearable, these are denied me. Never do I see them. Never do I share in them. Only darkness. Only the combined misery of all the men, women, and children within a mile, battering at me like a midnight storm.”
I honestly don’t know what Elva hasn’t committed suicide already, because suicide sounds like a much more pleasant alternative to the life Eragon gave her.
Now let’s go back to the conversation they had when they were talking about bringing Elva along in the first place. Even Nasuada, who is a despicably unlikable character when it comes to Elva, has a moment of humanity:
“I dislike the thought of sending a child – even one as gifted as Elva – into battle.” (page 266)
Of course, she still is okay with Eragon asking Elva to accompany them.
Angela even makes a rational argument:
“As long as the pain of those around her doesn’t overwhelm her,” said Angela. “The last few battles have left her curled in a ball, barely able to move or breathe.” (page 266)
Okay, so they have a toddler who is a loose cannon, who may or may not be of any help and likely will be rendered inert by the fact that they are sneaking into a hostile city and there will be people brutally killing each other. In addition, this toddler is someone who has lived a life of unimaginable pain and misery. She owes them nothing, and she does not have any responsibility to help them in any way, shape or form. Were Eragon and Nasuada compassionate people, they’d send her away from the battles to a nice village on a mountainside where she could live her life in peace and not be subjected to unspeakable pain every single day of her life. But no: because she can help them in their fight, they want her to help them. Because someone who is a year and a half old should be forced to choose sides in a war she has absolutely no part in. Because it’s Wrong to be, I dunno, neutral?
Anyway. It didn’t work:
Elva had laughed and refused when he had asked for her help. He had argued with her long and hard, but to no avail (page 268).
Saphira even comes down to intimidate and bully Elva into helping, but it doesn’t work.
So. Back to present. Clearly, the only reason Elva refused to go into a killing zone with them was because of her anger, her pride, and her stubbornness. It couldn’t be that she was afraid for her life. Or didn’t want to experience the excruciating pain. Or just doesn’t give a fuck about helping the Varden. All of which are perfectly legitimate excuses for not going along. And so, of course, Eragon decides to go out and blame her – a little girl – for the death of someone, because he thinks that she might have been able to prevent it. Yes: he tells her, to her face, that SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF A TRAINED MAGICIAN WHO WILLINGLY WENT INTO BATTLE FIGHTING FOR WHAT HE BELIEVED IN.
How does Paolini not understand how cruel this is? Blaming someone for the death of another person is ridiculously cruel, let alone blaming a little girl, let alone blaming her for something that is not even remotely her fault.
Eragon is a fucking asshole.
Wait, no, he isn’t. He’s the Hero. So…Elva agrees with him, because Eragon is always Right:
Elva seemed to struggle with herself. Then she nodded, and Eragon saw that she was crying, tears overflowing from her eyes. He took no pleasure in her distress, but he felt a certain amount of satisfaction that his words had affected her so strongly.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered (page 338).
And back to a life of misery for Elva!
Eragon strides away and Saphira immediately congratulates him on a job well done. And he basks in just a moment of feeling awesomely mature about himself:
Upbraiding Elva had been an unusual experience for Eragon. He remembered when Brom and Garrow had chastised him for making mistakes, and to now find himself doing to chastising left him feeling…different…more mature (page 338).
Hooray, Eragon, you just totally chewed out a toddler!
Nasuada leaves a small detachment to guard the city, and the Varden immediately leaves and marches north. Before they go, they find Wyrden’s body, and they all search for Eragon’s magic belt but can’t find it. They bury Wyrden next to a creek and plant an acorn above his body, and then all the elves sing the acorn into a tree that is twenty feet tall. Eragon likes the burial:
If he had to die, he decided that he would want an apple tree planted over him, so that his friends and family could eat the fruit born of his body (page 340).
That just sounds vaguely perverted.
Eragon also frees all the slaves, which is nice of him, and then he hangs out with Arya for a bit. Then he invites Arya into his tent [!!!] and she accepts and pulls out a bottle of liqueur, which apparently she found among Wyrden’s belongings and so she wants to enjoy it with Eragon. Apparently among the elves, when someone dies that means everyone else gets to steal their shit.
He and Arya proceed to get drunk together. We get lots of description about exactly what it feels like to be drunk. I have a feeling that this chapter was written about Paolini got drunk for the first time and felt like writing about it.
Anyway, one thing leads to another and suddenly Arya turns and kisses Eragon, and he kisses her back and then they start tearing off each other’s clothes with the pent-up aggression of two lifelong virgins – wait, never mind. That was actually what I expected to happen when I first read this chapter. Instead, Arya gets up and starts dancing to this music that is playing, and Eragon watches because that’s what he does.
You know, it’s funny, right after Eragon gave Elva a dressing down for not doing her imagined duty, here are he and Arya getting shitfaced together. Let’s not forget the Varden are on the warpath and they could be attacked at any time. Given their importance to defending the Varden, it seems pretty fucking irresponsible to just get wasted, when they both have a duty to the Varden – a real duty, not an imagined one.
Still, Eragon can do no wrong, so imagine nothing will come of this – nope, suddenly there’s a roar of a dragon, and he realizes it’s not Saphira.