Chapter Forty Two: The Torment Of Uncertainty
I didn’t even realise this was the first kidnapped-Nasuada-POV chapter until now. Kind of excited now.
So how does this chapter start off? Let me guess, it’s a thrilling mental struggle as the three-dimensional character Nasuada tries to come to terms with the fact she’s been kidnapped by the Empire and plans on escaping. We get to see the deepest darkest corners of her mind as she is sent to hell and back by Galbatorix’s loyal people all intent on getting revenge for the Varden’s sins against their families. It’s a –
No. This is Paolini. Of course not. All Nasuada’s going to do when she wakes up is look at pretty pictures:
Nasuada opened her eyes.
Tiles covered the dark, vaulted ceiling, and upon the tiles were painted angular patterns of red, blue, and gold: a complex matrix of lines that trapped her gaze for a mindless while.
At last she mustered the will to look away.
DERP. Hellooooooooooo? Nasuada? Are you in there? Um, kidnapped?
Paolini takes the moment of description to add even more description. How the room is octagonal and there’s an orange light coming from behind her.
She swallowed and found her throat was dry.
Ugh. Who writes like this? Who honestly writes like this? It’s so clinical! This was this, that was that, telling not showing. Also, KIDNAPPED?!
Paolini describes where she’s lying for a paragraph. Also, she’s in a white nightie.
Then – thank all that is holy – Nasuada finally goes KIDNAPPED!!!! D:
Where am I?
The memories returned all at once, without sense or order: an unwelcome cavalcade that thundered into her mind with a force almost physical in its intensity.
This tells us nothing. Paolini’s trying to be so dramatic with this but just can’t escape the trap of telling us how she feels rather than showing it. It becomes impossible to connect with a character if all we can do is read the words. Paolini uses ‘cavalcade’: yes we all know what it means but for the love of Pete we don’t need that kind of thesaurus-overuse description. We don’t need it and we don’t want it. It brings nothing to the plate for readers except a wrenching out of the scene already set up (provided we were even feeling inside the scene to begin with!) and blasted instead with the unpleasant mental image of a giggling Paolini at his desk, brandishing his SUPER THESAURUS.
properly freaks out, she tries to sit up and only then realises she’s bound by the wrists, ankles and forehead. Gee, that’s something I think you’d realise straight away, right? After all, NasuadaPaolini takes the time to describe the uncomfortable slab she’s lying on in great detail, and the fact she’s cold, so you’d think she’d notice the sensation of being bound too.
There were padded manacles around her wrists and ankles…
F**K ME, PAOLINI, THIS ISN’T A BDSM DUNGEON. Furthermore, this is also the character who willingly sliced her arms up in Brisingr, so I don’t think she needs any authorial coddling at this stage.
She strained against her bonds, but they were too strong for her to break… For a moment, despair and self-pity bedeviled her.
I pointed out ‘telling, not showing’, and ‘thesaurus overuse’ but there were too many examples for me to retain my sanity.
So upon finding that she’s unable to escape, Nasuada instantly decides she’s about to die, and instantly mourns her incomplete life:
Not war, not love, not birth, not life. Her only offspring were battles and corpses and trundling supply trains; stratagems too numerous to remember; oaths of friendship and fealty now worth less than a mummer’s promise; and a halting, fractious, all-too-vulnerable army led by a Rider younger than she was herself.
Wow, ignoring the fact that this is a shitty run-on sentence with stupid word usages, that’s a clever metaphor! Right? Right? Or have I simply gone insane?
Then, of course, since Nasuada is a woman, she has to place further significance and stress on the fact that she hasn’t had any BEBES.
The thought pained her, and she berated herself for not having borne children when she could.
Oh, that’s a great message to be sending to the female readers! Personally I’ve been able to have children for five years, and how STUPID of me not to have taken the opportunity before now! Who knows what might happen to me in the future? I SHOULD HAVE BEBES NOW IN CASE I CAN’T HAVE BEBES LATER DUE TO BEING KIDNAPPED BY THE LABOR PARTY!*
All sarcasm aside, um… why is Nasuada suddenly being broody and maternal and I-have-to-keep-the-family-name-going? She even verbally apologises to her father for not popping a kid. It just seems weird to me. If keeping the line going (and the fact Nasuada’s the last one left) was such a big thing, wouldn’t it have come up before now? Nasuada’s had a lot of near-death experiences before, she’s only the leader of the rebels. You’d think she’d have made plans.
I just had a look at how large this chapter is. I had better stop nitpicking about every small thing and just get on with it.
Nasuada gets over her ‘despair’ at the flick of a switch and vows to resist her interrogation- aargh! I can’t help it! How does Nasuada know that she’s going to be interrogated? She doesn’t ‘guess’, doesn’t ‘presume’, she just knows. Bad Paolini! Bad! *smack*
Nas meditates and clears her mind of information about the Varden, filling it instead with innocuous stuff.
In essence, she attempted to create a new and simpler identity for herself so that, when asked questions about this or that, she could, with complete honesty, plead ignorance. It was a dangerous technique; for it to work, she had to believe her own deception, and if she was ever freed, it might be difficult to reclaim her true personality.
What is that, completely brainwashing yourself? Is that even possible? Nas boo-hoos after this, because she knows that she has no hope of ever escaping or being rescued (uh-huh, we all know how long THAT will last) before saying a little prayer.
Gokukara, give me the strength to endure the trials before me. Watch over your little owlet, and should I die, carry me safely from this place … carry me safely to the fields of my father.
Er-hem. Let me quote something from Swankivy’s Brisingr Essay:
Don’t humans have gods? Didn’t Eragon ever get introduced to his own race’s religious beliefs?
Not sure, but at least we do. Someone called Gokukara:
“MY CONTEMPT FOR YOU IS OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAND!”
Oops. I guess not. According to Inheriwiki, Gokukara is a praying mantis goddess. That’s kinda cool. But mostly because I like praying mantids.
“First the Trial of the Long Knives, and now this? GURL, you be cray cray!”
Nas wonders which city she’s in. This takes three paragraphs. Then she waits a lot. That takes four. Then she sleeps.
Then the door opens and she wakes up feeling starving and parched.
A portly man dressed in a gray woolen tunic entered her field of vision, carrying a silver platter with an assortment of food: cheese, bread, meat, wine, and water.
Do you want that on a silver platter, Nasuada? Surprise! The Evil Empire can actually do that for you!
Nasuada looks at the man. This takes about four paragraphs. I found a picture for you instead.
Give him an underbite for good measure too. The man looks Nas up and down and she feels angry and embarrased. Nas asks for water but can only croak. The man takes off the manacles and Nas is quick to strike out at him. He defends by grabbing her wrists and so she lunges out and bites him on the arm.
Hot blood gushed into her mouth, salty and coppery. She choked but kept biting down even as blood leaked out from under her lips. Between her teeth and against her tongue, she could feel the muscles of the man’s forearm flexing like so many trapped snakes trying to escape.
Nas knows what biting so many trapped snakes feels like? So she eventually lets go and spits all the blood into his face. He doesn’t respond. Nas goes to kick him in the stomach but he lets go of one hand and slaps her across the face. It must have been a hard slap:
A white light flashed behind her eyes, and a soundless explosion seemed to erupt around her. Her head snapped to one side, her teeth clacked together, and pain lanced down her spine from the base of her skull.
Y’know, I’m not quite sure what Paolini’s message is here.
Nas recovers and doesn’t attack the man again.
She understood she needed to find something to cut his throat or stab him through the eye if she was going to overpower him.
The man cleans himself up with a handkerchief, then he leads Nas to a side door and into a bathroom.
So she did what she was expected to do…
Could that potentially be the most awkward way to tell the readers that Nas urinated?
The man leads her back once she’s done and Nas kicks and struggles when she realises she’s going to be bound again. But no dice.
His limbs were like iron beneath her blows, and even his seemingly soft paunch gave but little when she struck it.
Once she’s restrained again, the man gives her diluted wine and then feeds her bread and cheese. Nas asks his name but he doesn’t respond.
“Is this Urû’baen? Are you a prisoner like me? We could help each other, you and I. Galbatorix isn’t all-knowing. Together we could find a way to escape. It may seem impossible, but it isn’t, I promise.” She continued to speak in a low, calm voice, hoping to say something that would either gain the man’s sympathy or appeal to his self-interest.
Erm, he’s your jailer, sweetheart. He isn’t another prisoner. Nas waits for him to respond but he doesn’t even say anything. So Nas keeps on with trying to convince him until the man holds the bread and cheese on her lips and won’t move it away.
The nape of her neck prickled as she realized his manner was not an affectation; she really did mean nothing to him.
No, really? Once she realises this Nas gives in and eats the bread and cheese.
He fed her. Like a child. By hand, putting each morsel of food into her mouth as carefully as if it were a hollow orb of glass that might shatter at any sudden movement.
BAD SIMILE IS BAD.
She hated that Galbatorix, or whoever was overseeing her captivity, was trying to strip her of her pride and dignity. And she hated that, to a degree, they were succeeding.
Because of this, Nas vows to kill the jailer, because the only thing more satisfying than that would be her escaping. Once she’s finished eating the man leaves straight away.
For a while, she amused herself by tracing one of the lines painted on the ceiling and attempting to determine whether it had a beginning or an end. The line she chose was blue; the color appealed to her because of its associations with the one person whom, above all else, she dared not think of.
Um. That’s not how not-thinking about somebody works. When I say, “Don’t think of the pink elephant!”, what do you think of? By Nas thinking of the person she can’t think of (Eragon, and Saphira by proxy), she’s thinking about him!
After that she goes to sleep again. The guy comes back and Nas is pleased to see him but horrified at herself. The ritual begins anew. Nas notices that the bite has been healed. On her bathroom break Nas deliberately stumbles in an attempt to grab the knife from the platter, but no dice.
While he fed her, she studied his fingernails.
No really. She really does study them… like normal people would study a book, or a piece of music, or an artwork. She spends close to ten paragraphs on his FINGERNAILS, interspersed with harking back to her previous life (the one she is trying to mentally erase) at the Varden. Like this, only five times, going on and on about dwarves that she doesn’t know, and elves that she’s never spent time with:
His nails were thick and highly arched. They were set deep within the flesh, and the white moons by the cuticles were large and broad. In all, no different from the nails of many of the men and dwarves she had dealt with.
When had she dealt with them? … She did not remember.
I honestly can’t make up this stuff. Paolini is obsessed with fingers and nails:
Perhaps his nails were a way for him to exert a modicum of control over a life that was no longer his own. Or perhaps he felt they were the only part of himself that was or could be attractive. Or perhaps caring for them was merely a nervous tic, a habit that served no other purpose except to while away the hours.
Once Nas is finished eating, the man turns to leave.
She chewed and swallowed the bread as fast as she could without choking; then, her voice hoarse and creaky from disuse, she said, “You have nice fingernails. They’re very … shiny.” The man paused in midstep, and his large, ponderous head swiveled toward her. For a moment, she thought he might strike her again, but then his gray lips slowly split and he smiled at her, showing both his upper and lower rows of teeth.
Nas is creeped out by the creepy grin but after the man leaves she smiles herself.
If there was one thing she was skilled at, it was the ability to bend others to her will.
And modesty, don’t forget modesty.
The man had given her the tiniest of handholds—no more than a fingerhold, really, or rather a finger nail-hold, as it were—but it was all she needed. Now she could begin to climb.
Oh ho ho! Paolini, you wit, you!