Selena was born and raised in Carvahall. Her life was quiet and likely focused on agricultural pursuits with her parents and brother, Garrow. Then the Forsworn Morzan passed through the village on the king’s business. She was besotted and left with him to travel for a time before he took her with him to rejoin Galbatorix’s court. (We don’t know exactly where all of Selena’s travels took her, but certainly to Teirm. There she encountered Solembum, who chose to speak with her. In light of the werecat’s regard for Selena, Angela the herbalist offered to read her fortune. It was a bleak vision, and Selena certainly regretted knowing, at least in part, what was to come, although perhaps she didn’t believe the foretelling until certain aspects began coming true.)
The Black Hand
Selena fell deeply in love with Morzan, though it’s doubtful she knew the truth of his past actions. Her feelings created too good an opportunity create a loyal servant, so Morzan took advantage of her affection to bind her to his will. By the time Selena realized the true nature of his character, it was too late. She was his slave in all but name. He used her true name to swear her allegiance, allowing her enough freedom to use her own ingenuity and initiative to carry out his orders, and taught her rudimentary magic. He expected her love would ensure her loyalty as or better than any oaths. She was extremely effective as his spy/assassin.
Known only as the Black Hand throughout the land, Selena’s reputation preceded her. Jeod explained, “Morzan only used her for missions that were so repugnant, difficult, or secretive that no one else would agree to undertake them. She was his Black Hand, and her presence always signaled imminent death, torture, betrayal, or some other horror. She was utterly ruthless, devoid of either pity or compassion. It was said that when she asked Morzan to enter his service, he tested her by teaching her the word for heal in the ancient language—for she was a spellcaster as well as a common fighter—and then pitting her against twelve of his finest swordsmen. She healed them of their fear and their hate and all the things that drive a man to kill. And then while they stood grinning at each other like idiot sheep, she went up to the men and cut their throats . . . . ” It was this effectiveness that Galbatorix would later endeavor to replicate with his spy network called the Black Hand.
Three years after she first met Morzan, Selena became pregnant with her firstborn, Murtagh. Morzan had protected her identity from all of Alagaësia, especially from the rest of the Forsworn, but knew the danger the child put him in. He spirited her to his castle northwest of Leona Lake in the foothills of the Spine and laid powerful enchantments preventing anyone from entering his estate, except for a few servants. Only Galbatorix knew of the baby. Once Murtagh was born, Morzan had even more control over Selena. If any love lingered in her heart for him, it was surely erased in the ensuing weeks. His cruelty and sociopathy continued. She was only allowed to visit her son every few months—the rest of the time he was cared for by a wet nurse—and she was expected to continue her work. For three years things continued in this manner, culminating when Morzan, prone to drunken rages, nearly killed Murtagh by throwing a sword at the toddler, leaving a violent scar across the boy’s back.
Shortly thereafter, Brom infiltrated Morzan’s castle, intent on killing the woman known as the Black Hand. Perhaps his initial plan was to seduce her out of spite for Morzan, but most unexpectedly, they fell in love. Selena secretly visited Brom during the times she was allowed to visit Murtagh after a mission. Her attachment to her lover and her son changed her true name, freeing her from the Forsworn’s control. When Brom revealed his identity, Selena didn’t betray him, but instead fed him information for the Varden about Morzan, Galbatorix, and the Empire. Things continued in this manner for another three years.
Then Selena was sent on another of Morzan’s months long errands. While away, she discovered she was carrying Brom’s child. She was desperate to protect the unborn babe from the Forsworn, so she returned to Carvahall six years after she had left, dressed in finery, with pearls in her hair, alone and pregnant. She stayed with her brother Garrow and his wife, Marion, until she gave birth five months later. Weeping, she begged Garrow to raise her son, Eragon, as his own. When asked why, all she said was, “I must.” When they finally agreed, she left the next morning, desperate to return to Murtagh and Brom.
She arrived at Morzan’s castle terribly ill and would not tell anyone why she was sick or where she had been (even Galbatorix hadn’t been able to find her during her disappearance). The birth and swift return proved too much for her, and despite the healers’ best efforts, she died two weeks later, mere hours before Brom returned from having killed Morzan and his dragon.
Eragon would later wonder if his mother was a good person—Jeod’s description painted her in a terrible light. However, others disagreed with Jeod’s assessment of her behavior. Brom said, “She was full of dignity and pride, like Garrow. Ultimately it was her downfall, but it was one of her greatest gifts nevertheless. . . . She always helped the poor and the less fortunate, no matter what her situation.” Torn, Eragon didn’t know who to believe, but perhaps Oromis assessed things most clearly, “Love can be a terrible curse, Eragon. It can make you overlook even the largest flaws in a person’s behavior. I doubt that your mother was fully aware of Morzan’s true nature when she left Carvahall with him, and once she had, he would not have allowed her to disobey his wishes…Accounts of past atrocities are often exaggerated and distorted. That much you should keep in mind. No one but your mother knows exactly what she did, nor why, nor how she felt about it, and she is not still among the living to explain herself…When you asked Brom about your mother, he told you what he thought were her most important qualities. My advice would be to trust in his knowledge of her. If that does not quell your doubts, remember that whatever crimes she may have committed while acting as the Hand of Morzan, ultimately your mother sided with the Varden and went to extraordinary lengths to protect you. Knowing that, you should not torment yourself further about the nature of her character.”
Like this article? Check out other Encyclopedia Alagaësia essays here!