Galbatorix was born in 7867 A.C. in the province of Inzilbêth, Alagaësia. When he was ten, the dragon Jarnunvösk hatched for him. The Rider excelled at his studies—both mental and physical—and showed great promise, quickly outpacing his peers. Those who were leery of his rapid ascent to power were ignored by the rest.
Upon the conclusion of their training, Galbatorix (now nineteen years old), his dragon, and two friends ventured into the Ugralgra’s territory in the Spine. They camped there on a glacier, confident in their abilities to repel any attack. The group was ambushed by a band of Urgals, who butchered Galbatorix’s buddies, their dragons, and mortally wounded Jarnunvösk with an arrow through the heart. Only Galbatorix survived, and he did not have the knowledge to heal his winged friend. His madness began when he found himself alone in the threatening wilderness, surrounded by the corpses of his companions, his arms wrapped around the still form of his beloved dragon.
A Madman is Born
Inconsolable, Galbatorix wandered through the mountains, looking for annihilation, but it would not come. It is thought that Galbatorix met Durza during this time. The Shade, or rather the spirits trapped within, taught him dark magic that would later facilitate the Rider’s rise to power. In return, Galbatorix helped Durza restrain the spirits. This was the beginning of their tenuous partnership. (From Durza’s spirits, the betrayer learned a devious spell that he would later teach to Kialandí, who would later use it on Oromis. The spell prevents a magic user “from touching and manipulating the flow of energy around him, and thereby to prevent him from using magic…No one had done such a thing before and of those still living, only Galbatorix now knows the secret of it.” (Glaedr, 1st deluxe edition Inheritance, page 435)
An idea took hold in Galbatorix’s mind after a time: he could get another dragon from the Riders. Many months passed as he made the arduous journey out of the Spine. A farmer eventually found him unconscious in the mud, barely alive. The Riders were summoned and Galbatorix was nursed back to health. For four days he slept. When he finally awoke, he was brought before the ruling council of Dragon Riders to answer for the ill-fated trip to the Spine. Galbatorix demanded that he be given a new dragon, but the intensity of his petition revealed that he had not returned from his ordeal mentally stable. He was denied. In that instant, Galbatorix’s hatred and loathing of his colleagues and all that the Dragon Riders stood for hardened. He convinced himself that they were responsible for the death of Jarnunvösk.
Galbatorix began plotting to destroy them all. He lured a sympathetic Rider to his cause by using the dark magic learned from Durza to inflame perceived past wrongs. They killed an elder together, and then Galbatorix murdered his ally as well. Other Riders rushing to the scene saw the madman scream, hands dripping with blood, as he escaped into the night. He cleverly escaped capture and hid in the wastelands for seven years. Searches for his whereabouts petered out.
Galbatorix eventually met a young Rider named Morzan whom he convinced to leave a gate open in Ilirea. Galbatorix stole a young dragon hatchling, Shruikan, and disappeared with Morzan. Hiding in evil places other Riders didn’t dare go, Galbatorix tutored his disciple in dark, forbidden magics. Shruikan was bound to Galbatorix’s will through spells—a blasphemous imitation of the traditional union of dragon and Rider—and forced to grow at an accelerated rate. (During the events of the Inheritance Cycle, Galbatorix appeared to be in his forties, which means he was aging much faster than typical for a Dragon Rider and slower than an unmodified human. Christopher has explained that this is because the king’s bond with Shruikan was a perversion of a healthy dragon-Rider bond and so he was aging at a rate much like Brom, who had lost Saphira.)
Rise to Power
Galbatorix and Morzan began their offensive against the Riders covertly in the winter of 7896 A.C., ten years after the death of Jarnunvösk. Through trickery and subterfuge, they killed increasing numbers of not only of their brethren, but also wild dragons. Galbatorix personally hunted down and slaughtered former mentors/teachers. Twelve other Rider pairs eventually joined the betrayers’ cause. Along with Morzan, they became known as the Thirteen Forsworn. Galbatorix and the Forsworn acquired as many of the slain dragons’ Eldunarí as they could, thereby augmenting their powers.
The penultimate assault on the Dragon Riders took place on Vroengard. Vrael, the oldest and wisest leader of the old order, confronted Galbatorix outside the gates of Doru Araeba and nearly bested his foe. But he hesitated to deliver the killing blow, and Galbatorix took the opportunity to wound Vrael in his side. Vrael was forced to retreat to Edoc’sil on Utgard mountain in hope that he could heal and then finally defeat the usurper. But Galbatorix and his cronies won the Battle of Doru Araeba. They sacked the city, claiming the remaining Eldunarí and three dragon eggs located there. Galbatorix also raided the great library; he hoarded the works he found of use and destroyed the rest (as he did to the library in Ilirea). In Domia abr Wyrda, Heslant the Monk described this wanton destruction of knowledge as among the most harmful acts against humanity in history: “He destroyed the only existing copies of innumerable plays, histories, mathematical treatises, ancient spell books, and other unique documents, and we must regard what was contained within their pages as forever beyond recovery. Our race is diminished as a result.” (1st edition deluxe Eldest trade paperback, page 682) It is incalculable how much knowledge was lost in flames.
Galbatorix found Vrael shortly thereafter. Still weak from his injuries, Vrael fought hard but to no avail. The betrayer kicked the elder in the fork of his legs and then decapitated him. The Dragon Riders were effectively no more. Edoc’sil’s name became Ristvak’baen (“Place of Sorrow”) thereafter. Galbatorix took Vrael’s sword, Islingr (“Light Bringer”), for his own use and renamed it Vrangr (“Awry”).
Galbatorix and the Forsworn finally set their sights on Ilirea. Oromis and Glaedr had survived an ambush by Formora and Kialandí and were able to warn the city of the impending attack. (All Eldunarí residing there were transferred to the island of Vroengard for safety just prior to the Battle of Doru Araeba). The elves and the dwarf clan Dûrgrimst Az Sweldn rak Anhûin lent their numbers to the defense of Ilirea. It was all for naught. Elf king Evandar, human king Angrenost, many elves, and nearly the entire dwarf clan were killed. Galbatorix claimed the throne and the Broddring Kingdom. Ilirea was renamed Urû’baen and became the seat of Galbatorix’s power. (He would increase the city walls’ width and height and bolster the fortifications during his time there.)
Of the old Rider rule, only Oromis, Glaedr, and Brom survived. The elder Rider and dragon were forced to hide their existence due to injuries. Brom set himself on a path of revenge.
The elves placed wards on Du Weldenvarden and retreated, but not before two of their cities were destroyed: Éwayëna and Luthivíra. The dwarves withdrew to the Beor Mountains. Galbatorix and the Forsworn later hunted the area, seeking to eradicate any dwarves they encountered; the population was forced to relocate to Tronjheim or other underground locations. (Galbatorix tried to extract the location of Farthen Dûr from several Riders, but they chose to die before betraying the information. He wasn’t able to capture any dwarves live either.) The elves were better defended within the warded boarders of Du Weldenvarden. (Galbatorix had never visited either Ellesméra or Tronjheim before the death of Jarnunvösk, but he likely learned of their locations from the many Eldunarí in his possession.)
By 7900 A.C., victory seemed absolute. With most of the Riders massacred and their leader dead, Galbatorix (augmented by the Eldunarí) became one of the most powerful beings in Alagaësia. He declared himself king, and his holdings came to be known as the Empire, whose borders stretched beyond those of the Broddring Kingdom. His sigil was a twisting flame, embroidered on the attire of military personnel: “Like every member of Galbatorix’s army, the soldier wore a red tunic embroidered with gold thread in the outline of a jagged tongue of fire. The thread sparkled as he moved.” (Narrative, 1st deluxe edition Brisingr, pages 128-129)
At some point during this time, Galbatorix made a pact with the Ra’zac to serve him. Because the creatures had been hunted to near extinction by the Riders (only two remained), they had not been seen around Alagaësia prior to his rise to power. In exchange for his protection, a magically bolstered hideaway, and a regular ration of their favorite food, they became his trusted dragon hunters. If there was a rumor of a free dragon roaming the land, the Ra’zac were sent to investigate. The king also secretly hid a number of the creatures’ eggs and entrusted two to a human cult based in Dras-Leona. The High Priest of Helgrind, worshiper of the foul creatures, elaborated on their partnership:
“The Old Ones have always nested on Helgrind, but in the time of my grandfather’s father, Galbatorix stole their eggs and killed their young, and he forced them to swear fealty to him lest he eradicate their line entirely. He hollowed out the caves and tunnels they have used ever since, and to us, to their devoted acolytes, he gave charge of their eggs—to watch and to hold and to care for until they were needed. This we have done, and none may fault us for our service.” (1st edition Inheritance, page 290)
Perhaps unbeknownst to the priests of Helgrind, the Dragonkiller king also took some of the Ra’zac eggs to secret locations that no one found during the events of the Inheritance Cycle.
But victory was not as absolute as Galbatorix thought. Before the Battle of Doru Araeba, Vrael, Oromis, Glaedr, Umaroth, and a few others knew they must protect the future of the Dragon Riders and the dragon race. Galbatorix’s activities had put bonded and wild dragons perilously close to extinction, so dragons from around the land deposited their eggs in the hatchery located in Doru Araeba. But Vrael and the others knew this wouldn’t be enough. Eldunarí and eggs had to be hidden away. So they build the Vault of Souls deep within Mount Erolas to hide the last hope of the Riders: 135 Eldunarí and 243 dragon eggs. With permission, related knowledge was magically wiped from the minds of those involved in order to protect the information from Galbatorix. The Rider Thuviel agreed to immolate himself near the hatchery to explain the missing eggs and Eldunarí, should the Battle of Doru Araeba not go well. The radioactive fallout would also prevent Galbatorix from settling on the island. The plan worked, though unfortunately many Riders had no awareness of the impending explosion and died in it. Galbatorix and the Forsworn had a moment of warning and so were able to shield themselves. Little did the betrayer know that his downfall was hidden deep within the bowels of the nearby mountain.
Having claimed his throne, Galbatorix was now free to rebuild the Riders as he saw fit . . . or so he thought. He entertained himself with the details of the Forsworns’ activities:
“Galbatorix knew the intimate details of the Thirteen’s lives: their plots, their fights—and most importantly—their thoughts. He enjoyed watching them battle each other and often helped one or the other for his own amusement.” (Murtagh, 1st edition deluxe edition Eragon, page 388)
The problem with that hobby was that all of the Forsworn would eventually die from infighting, as well as from assassination, suicide, and the overuse of magic. You see, they had not escaped repercussions from their actions during the war against the Riders. Once the dragons realized that thirteen of their own were seeking to eliminate their race, they banded together and wrought the Banishing of Names. The dragons bonded with the Forsworn were stripped of all their names, true names, birth names, nicknames, family names, and titles. No one could utter their names:
“…those who remembered the names soon forgot them; and while you can read the names in scrolls and letters where they are recorded and even copy them if you look at only one glyph at a time, they are as gibberish. The dragons spared Jarnunvösk, Galbatorix’s first dragon, for it was not his fault he was killed by Urgals, and also Shruikan, for he did not choose to serve Galbatorix but was forced to by Galbatorix and Morzan.” (Arya, 1st deluxe edition Brisingr, page 206)
“And as a result, the thirteen were reduced to little more than animals. No longer could they say, ‘I like this’ or ‘I dislike that’ or ‘I have green scales,’ for to say that would be to name themselves. They could not even call themselves dragons. Word by word, the spell obliterated everything that defined them as thinking creatures, and the Forsworn had no choice but to watch in silent misery as their dragons descended into complete ignorance. The experience was so disturbing, at least five of the thirteen, and several of the Forsworn, went mad as a result.” (Arya, 1st deluxe edition Brisingr, pages 206-207)
Galbatorix raged over the loss. Left with only three eggs, he was hard-pressed to enact the second stage of his grand plan for world domination. They were not hatching.
Further complicating matters, Galbatorix sent his army into the Spine to destroy the Urgals for killing his dragon, Jarnunvösk. But during the Battle of Stavarosk, the Urgal Tulkhqa lured the humans to a narrow passage deep within the mountains. There the Urgralgra slaughtered the king’s troops, killing well over half of them. After that defeat, Galbatorix left them be for a time.
Yet another hindrance was the formation of the country of Surda following the Empire’s defeat during the Battle of Cithrí . Oromis explained why it was possible for a group of humans to rebel with relatively little consequence:
“Galbatorix engineered his success by using the might and wisdom of the dragons against all of Alagaësia. At first he was unable to control more than a handful of the Eldunarí he had captured. It is no easy thing to force a dragon to submit to you, no matter how powerful you might be. As soon as Galbatorix crushed the Riders and had installed himself as king in Urû’baen, he dedicated himself to subduing the rest of the hearts, one by one.
“We believe the task preoccupied him for the main part of the next forty years, during which time he paid little attention to the affairs of Alagaësia—which is why the people of Surda were able to secede from the Empire. When he finished, Galbatorix emerged from seclusion and began to reassert his control over the Empire and the lands beyond. For some reason, after two and a half years of additional slaughter and sorrow, he withdrew to Urû’baen again, and there he has dwelt ever since, not so solitary as before, but obviously focused upon some project known only to him. His vices are many, but he has not abandoned himself to debauchery;” (1st deluxe edition Brisingr, pages 631-632)
Even more problematic was the formation of the resistance group, the Varden, headed by Brom. He was responsible for many of the Forsworn assassinations, either directly or indirectly, and orchestrated the theft of one of the king’s three dragon eggs with the anonymous help of the Eldunarí in the Vault of Souls. It was during this time that Galbatorix’s only remaining Rider, Morzan, was slain by Brom. (Prior to his death, the last Forsworn had a son named Murtagh, a fact he jealously hid from prying minds. Only Galbatorix knew of the boy’s existence, and he kept the knowledge secret for unknown reasons. Perhaps this was because Murtagh’s mother, Selena—also known as the “Black Hand”—was Morzan’s most effective agent/spy. A few years later, she disappeared for a number of months, during which not even Galbatorix could find her, and when she finally returned, she died of a mysterious illness later revealed to be complications from the birth of her second child. Since Morzan was killed by Brom shortly before or around the time of her death, the king arranged for Murtagh to be brought to the palace and Morzan’s castle, which was hidden in the foothills of the Spine nearby the north-western shore of Leona Lake, became one of the Galbatorix’s estates. The boy and Galbotorix had minimal contact.
Because of Durza’s unpredictability, Galbatorix had used the Shade for missions sparingly until Morzan’s death. Out of necessity thereafter, he relied on Durza for an increasing number of covert operations, making him a powerful figure in the Empire, second only to his master.
Lady Marelda of Surda and her descendants went on to rule the newly formed nation south of the Empire for one hundred years. As Oromis had mentioned, the Dragon King bided his time for many years during his reign, preferring to pursue his research, described below, rather than crush his remaining opposition. To keep an eye on his foes, he used magic, resources, and coercion to develop an impressive and far reaching spy network, the Black Hand, named after Selena. He was not above using surreptitious means to accomplish his goals. For example, when his double agents, the Twins, informed him that Jeod Longshanks and other merchants were rebel sympathizers (see paragraph below), the king instructed his followers to hamper the sympathizers’ business activities to the point of ruin. (Drail, another of his moles, would have assassinated Nasuada were it not for the intervention of Elva.)
The Search for Absolute Power
The Varden partnered with the Surdans for resources, safety, and some level of stability. Nonetheless, Galbatorix felt relatively secure in his position. He devoted his attention to searching for the true name of the ancient language within the hoard of information he had stolen from the great libraries at Doru Araeba and Ilirea. The knowledge would ensure that his power would be absolute. While the pursuit of this secret might sound straightforward, it was anything but, and he would end up dedicating many decades to finding it. In the meantime, the Varden forged an alliance with the dwarves, who gave the resistance sanctuary in Farthen Dûr. The rebels were desperate to take advantage of the dragon egg in their possession, so they ferried it back and forth between the Varden and elves for twenty years in hopes that it would hatch for one of their number.
Another complication, perhaps less obvious than the rest, came as a result of Galbatorix’s actions. The well-being of humans, elves, and dragons were intrinsically bound together. When one group declined, so did they all. Galbatorix, through his power-mongering, set in motion the steady deterioration of all three races.
During the events of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon asked why no one had simply found out what the king’s true name was and use it to defeat the usurper. Arya explained,
“Galbatorix’s true name is no great secret. Three different elves—one a Rider, and two ordinary spellcasters—discovered it on their own and many years apart…We can only speculate whether Galbatorix himself knows his true name…Either way, Galbatorix is certainly aware that he has a true name, like all creatures and things, and that it is a potential weakness. At some point before he embarked upon his campaign against the Riders, he cast a spell that kills whoever uses his true name. And since we do not know exactly how this spell kills, we cannot shield ourselves from it. You see, then, why we have all but abandoned that line of inquiry. Oromis is one of the few who are brave enough to continue seeking out Galbatorix’s name, albeit in a roundabout manner.” (1st deluxe edition Brisingr, page 208)
“We can only speculate whether Galbatorix himself knows his true name.” (1st deluxe edition Brisingr, page 208)
A few months before the events of Eragon took place, Galbatorix tricked the Urgals into aiding him. He promised lands and wealth, should they align themselves with him. Instead, he sent Durza to use dark magic on the Urgals to compel them to fight for his cause with no reward. They were to be his powerful, but disposable, units. The Dragon King sent them towards the Beor Mountains, encouraging them to slaughter peasants in their homes along the way. The blame for the the attacks would fall on the Varden, thereby turning public opinion against the rebels. Galbatorix thought it was high time to crush his opposition. Peasants knew little of this:
“Because the Varden’s attacks have increased, Galbatorix has forced cities to send more soldiers to the borders, men who are needed to combat the Urgals. The brutes have been migrating southeast, toward the Hadarac Desert. No one knows why and it wouldn’t concern us, except that they’re passing through populated areas. They’ve been spotted on roads and near cities. Worst of all are reports of a Shade, though the stories are unconfirmed. Not many people survive such an encounter…it only began a few months ago. Whole villages have been forced to move because Urgals destroyed their fields and starvation threatens.” (Merlock, 1st edition Eragon, pages 25-26)
“They say the Varden have formed a pact with the Urgals and are massing an army to attack us. Supposedly, it’s only through the grace of our king that we’ve been protected for so long—as if Galbatorix would care if we burned to the ground. . . .” (Morn, 1st edition Eragon, page 28)
As you can see, many in the Empire, especially in the the farther reaches, held no love for the king. “There was a deep-seated hatred of the Empire in Carvahall, almost hereditary in nature. The Empire never helped them during harsh years when they nearly starved, and its tax collectors were heartless.” (Narrative, 1st deluxe edition Eragon, page 29) Slavery was a common occurrence in the larger cities, particularly Dras-Leona. Galbatorix ensured that knowledge was hard to acquire and forbade historians from publishing accurate accounts of the past or from speaking about the time of the Riders. Heslant the Monk managed to publish Domia abr Wyrda before he was caught and executed for his efforts. The king made owning the book illegal, punishable by hanging, and any copies were burned. Duplicates of the tome managed to be circulated in secret nonetheless.
Galbatorix sent Durza to intercept one of the Varden egg transfers. The Shade, with a number of Urgal cohorts, successfully ambushed Arya and her elven companions, but she attempted to teleport the precious cargo in her care to Brom in the Spine before she was captured. Unbeknownst to all parties involved, the Eldunarí in the Vault of Souls altered her spell so that the egg actually appeared in front of a young farm boy named Eragon, resident of Carvahall.
When the dragon Saphira was sure she was safe, she hatched for Eragon, thereby making him her Rider. Galbatorix sent the Ra’zac in pursuit once he figured out roughly where the egg had gone. Eragon escaped with Saphira and Brom, but his uncle Garrow was killed during the Ra’zac’s attack (murdering Garrow was a hasty action taken by the Ra’zac that would likely raise Galbatorix’s ire). This instigated the young Rider’s eventual journey to defeat the king. Unsure of Eragon’s allegiances, Galbatorix had bounty notices posted throughout the land in hope of capturing the boy and swaying him to join his cause.
During the same time that Eragon was making his desperate escape from Carvahall, Murtagh, on his eighteenth birthday, was summoned for a private meal with Galbatorix. The Dragonkiller offered his friendship and Murtagh was swayed.
“The meal was sumptuous, but throughout it his black eyes never left me. His gaze was disconcerting; it seemed that he was searching for something hidden in my face. I didn’t know what to make of it and did my best to provide polite conversation, but he refused to talk, and I soon ceased my efforts.
“When the meal was finished, he finally began to speak. You’ve never heard his voice, so it’s hard for me to make you understand what it was like. His words were entrancing, like a snake whispering gilded lies into my ears. A more convincing and frightening man I’ve never heard. He wove a vision: a fantasy of the Empire as he imagined it. There would be beautiful cities built across the country, filled with the greatest warriors, artisans, musicians, and philosophers. The Urgals would finally be eradicated. And the Empire would expand in every direction until it reached the four corners of Alagaësia. Peace and prosperity would flourish, but more wondrous yet, the Riders would be brought back to gently govern over Galbatorix’s fiefdoms.
“Entranced, I listened to him for what must have been hours. When he stopped, I eagerly asked how the Riders would be reinstated, for everyone knew there were no dragon eggs left. Galbatorix grew still then and stared at me thoughtfully. For a long time he was silent, but then he extended his hand and asked, ‘Will you, O son of my friend, serve me as I labor to bring about this paradise?’
“Though I knew the history behind his and my father’s rise to power, the dream he had painted for me was too compelling, too seductive to ignore. Ardor for this mission filled me, and I fervently pledged myself to him. Obviously pleased, Galbatorix gave me his blessing, then dismissed me, saying, ‘I shall call upon you when the need arises.’ (Murtagh, 1st deluxe edition Eragon, pages 389-390)
“Several months passed before he did. When the summons came, I felt all of my old excitement return. We met in private as before, but this time he was not pleasant or charming. The Varden had just destroyed three brigades in the south, and his wrath was out in full force. He charged me in a terrible voice to take a detachment of troops and destroy Cantos, where rebels were known to hide occasionally. When I asked what we should do with the people there and how we would know if they were guilty, he shouted, ‘They’re all traitors! Burn them at the stake and bury their ashes with dung!’ He continued to rant, cursing his enemies and describing how he would scourge the land of everyone who bore him ill will.
“His tone was so different from what I had encountered before; it made me realize he didn’t possess the mercy or foresight to gain the people’s loyalty, and he ruled only through brute force guided by his own passions. It was at that moment I determined to escape him and Urû’baen forever.” (Murtagh, 1st deluxe edition Eragon, pages 390-391)
That night, Murtagh fled Urû’baen with his faithful teacher, Tornac. Galbatorix anticipated the escape and posted men to guard the gates. Tornac was killed, but Murtagh managed to elude capture, likely because the king did not expect the boy and his mentor to fight, and because he was distracted with Durza’s failure to retrieve Saphira’s egg from Arya. Alone, Murtagh decided to hide at the estate of an old friend for a time. Galbatorix knew where the young man was but decided to let him recover from the death of Tornac while he, the king, searched for Eragon and Brom. Things didn’t quite go as expected, however, because Murtagh slipped away when he heard there was a new Dragon Rider. He decided to track the Ra’zac while they hunted the newcomer down.
The evil leader left Urû’baen for the first time in ten years under the guise of scolding Lord Tábor of Dras-Leona for taking too many liberties with his elevated position. In reality, though Lord Tábor did receive the reprimand, the king went to see if he could reclaim Murtagh. But it wasn’t to be. Galbatorix sent his Urgals to capture Brom and his companions after the Ra’zac encountered Eragon in Dras-Leona’s cathedral. (Again, the king didn’t want to kill the young Rider but to conscript the boy and his dragon into service for the Empire.) Murtagh appeared, having eluded Galbatorix’s reach again, and rescued them from an attack just outside of the city, then joined the adventurers a portion of their journey. Brom was mortally wounded in another skirmish with the Urgals, and Eragon was captured and brought to Durza in Gil’ead.
The Shade had been torturing Arya for months, per Galbatorix’s orders, to learn where she had sent the egg and all she knew about Ellesméra. No matter how cruel the punishment, she would not tell her secrets. The king finally instructed his minion to bring her to Urû’baen, but Eragon’s arrival interrupted that. Durza ignored Galbatorix’s edict that no one was to speak with the boy; the Shade conversed with Eragon, making it clear he wished for the young Rider to align with Durza, as his servant, against the king. But Murtagh and Saphira successfully rescued the elf and Rider before any further harm could befall them. Pursued by Kull the entire way, the young adventurers rushed to the Varden in Farthen Dûr in order to save Arya’s life (she had been poisoned and the Varden had the cure). With the exception of Murtagh, they later decided to join the cause.
Whatever Galbatorix’s thoughts of Durza’s failure in Gil’ead, the king sent the Shade with the army of Urgals through the many tunnels of Farthen Dûr, hoping for a surprise attack. But that wasn’t to be. The Varden had killed the group of Kull that had tailed Eragon, Murtagh, Arya, and Saphira all the way to the entrance to Farthen Dûr. Among the corpses’ belongings, they found a coded note Galbatorix had written outlining plans for an ambush, though it was unclear what the target was. That is, until a dwarf encountered a group of the Urgals in the tunnels and rushed back to warn his brethren. The dwarves and Varden collapsed entry points and made preparations for the confrontation. The Battle of Farthen Dûr marked the first stunning defeat for Galbatorix—the Urgal army was routed, Durza was slain, and the spell that bound the Urgals to the Empire was broken. They scattered in confusion.
After the battle, Murtagh was kidnapped by the Twins and taken back to the Dragon King. (The Varden thought Murtagh had perished in an Urgal ambush.) One of Galbatorix’s two remaining eggs hatched for Murtagh, revealing the youngling Thorn. (The last egg held a male, making Saphira vitally important to the king’s breeding program.) The new Rider and his dragon were tortured to extract their oaths of allegiance. Murtagh could not stand watching the pain inflicted on Thorn and so he gave his promise. Galbatorix delved into the boy’s mind to learn his true name and taught it to the young Rider. It’s likely the same was done with Thorn, though Galbatorix also augmented the dragon’s growth with magic. The king set about training his unwilling new charges.
Galbatorix had also sent a group of Ra’zac and Empire troops back to Carvahall to look for Roran, Eragon’s cousin. The village refused to give him up, so ultimately the Ra’zac kidnapped Katrina, Roran’s betrothed, the town was destroyed by the soldiers, and the villagers escaped to Surda to join the Varden, despite the Ra’zac’s pursuit.
King Orrin of Surda openly lent his troops to the rebel cause following the Battle of Farthen Dûr. Bolstered by their victory, the Varden moved their headquarters to Aberon, Surda, where the dwarf and human allies prepared for all-out warfare.
Before the Varden entered Galbatorix’s land, they tracked the whereabouts of the king’s troops. The Dragonkiller, knowing that Varden loyalists would report any unusual activities, cast a complex illusion that deceived Varden spies based in Gil’ead into thinking that the majority of his forces remained in the barracks there. However, his tactics didn’t fool the resistance for long. Another rebel spy in Urû’baen spotted soldiers marching by in much greater numbers than the 16,000 that comprised the core of the king’s might. The spy estimated that there could well have been 100,000 or more and reported his findings to King Orrin. It was clear Galbatorix had bolstered his forces by conscription. The Varden decided to push forward into the Empire regardless.
The elves’ scrying had also been deceived by Galbatorix’s spell. When Lord Däthedr finally pierced the spell (after three days of effort) and realized the scope of the threat facing the Varden, the Fair Folk began preparations to join the rebels in openly attacking the Empire. Eragon and Saphira, who had been secretly training with Oromis and Glaedr since the victory at Farthen Dûr, set out to join Nasuada on the Burning Plains. The Rider and dragon were greeted with a forbidding sight on their arrival: “Galbatorix’s army was so large, it measured three miles across on its leading edge and how many in length it was impossible to tell, for the individual men melded into a shadowy mass in the distance.” (Narrative, 1st deluxe edition Eldest, page 582)
An unexpected outcome of Durza’s death was that the Urgals joined with the Varden before the Battle of the Burning Plains, determined to have their vengeance on the usurper. (They had been quite confused following the Shade’s death, so they sent Garzhvog’s brood mate to meet with the king to find out why he would break his word and magically enslave them. She never returned.) Even with the additional troops bolstering the Varden’s ranks, they were still outnumbered. Angela the herbalist poisoned thousands of the Empire’s soldiers to help even out the odds of winning.
Once the fighting began, Murtagh and Thorn suddenly appeared, striking down the dwarf king, Hrothgar, something Galbatorix had not instructed them to do. They also defeated Eragon and Saphira—largely because the red dragon and Rider had the assistance of captive Eldunarí. Murtagh took Zar’roc from Eragon, explaining that Morzan was father to them both and that he, as first born, was claiming the sword as his rightful inheritance. This statement was later proved incorrect. Meanwhile the battle raged, and Roran killed the Twins while the dragons and Riders looked on. Murtagh and Thorn exploited a loophole in their orders and left without bringing their counterparts to Galbatorix. Even with these setbacks, Galbatorix forbid his military from killing or permanently harming Eragon or Saphira.
(After the Battle of the Burning Plains and in subsequent clashes, the Varden took prisoners of war. It became complicated, however, since all the officers in the king’s army and most of his ordinary soldiers had been forced to give their oaths of allegiance to Galbatorix and the Empire in the ancient language. Individuals that sincerely wanted to defect to the Varden’s cause could not be trusted because of the actions their vows might compel them to take, willingly or unwillingly. Further, in each city the Varden conquered, all of the nobles, many of the officials, and random collections of ordinary residents were under oaths as well. The Dragon King used various tactics to compel obedience from his citizens. If he could not secure city leaders’ cooperation, he would find their true names and bind them to his will; Murtagh would later explain that Galbatorix had been creating name slaves since he first recruited Morzan. In order to keep cities under control, Nasuada had to leave many more troops than she’d anticipated and lock away so many residents that she had to divert resources from the resistance to prevent the inhabitants from starving.)
Galbatorix was furious with Murtagh for allowing Eragon and Saphira to escape. After Eragon, Roran, and Saphira successfully snuck into the Empire, invaded Helgrind, rescued the captive Katrina, and killed the resident Ra’zac and Lethrblaka in the process, the king murdered five of his servants and severely punished Murtagh and Thorn. The two were made to swear additional oaths that would ensure complete obedience. The king’s wrath would likely have been even stronger had he known that before one of the Ra’zac died, the creature told Eragon that Galbatorix had almost found “the name.” Though the young Rider didn’t understand what that meant at the time, the information could have jeopardized Galbatorix’s plans.
The Dragonkiller sent men to harvest twenty-eight ancient trees from deep within Du Weldenvarden to replace siege engines and battering rams lost on the Burning Plains. As the men attempted this, Queen Islanzadí and several of her rangers killed the interlopers. The elves would conquer Ceunon shortly thereafter.
Murtagh and Thorn returned to attack the Varden with a troop of the Laughing Dead at the Battle of Jiet River. (In exchange for financial security for their families, Galbatorix found soldiers willing to be enchanted to feel no pain. Called the Laughing Dead, the men were devoid of fear, fighting and cackling maniacally despite being maimed or mortally wounded.) The two brothers fought once more. It was at this moment that Eragon revealed information that would eventually lead to the king’s defeat: if Murtagh and Thorn changed the essence of who they were, their true names would change and they would be free of the usurper’s will. After conveying that vital knowledge, Eragon and Saphira were able to draw on the strength of Arya and the twelve elven spellweavers to best the red Rider and dragon. Murtagh and Thorn retreated.
Galbatorix didn’t create very many of the Laughing Dead. Martland Redbeard and his crew, Roran among them, would encounter a group of the painless men. The rebel group managed to defeat the king’s minions, and the Varden didn’t appear to encounter any more of the abominations during the Inheritance Cycle.
Murtagh and Thorn were sent to fight Oromis, Glaedr, and the elves at the Battle of Gil’ead. The king had long suspected that the elves had hidden a surviving Rider and dragon in Du Weldenvarden, and he was right. During the skirmish, Galbatorix assumed full control over Murtagh’s body to speak with Oromis and Glaedr. The dragons and Riders were held suspended in the air with the Dragonkiller’s spell. First the king attempted to compliment the elder Rider’s wisdom and pretended to be remorseful for the actions of his youth in an attempt to persuade the two ancient warriors to ally themselves with him. When they refused, Galbatorix’s pretenses dropped and he swore to enslave them. Still they would not cooperate. Then Oromis suffered a seizure, and Galbatorix used the opportunity to mortally wound the elder Rider. Glaedr attempted to carry Oromis back to the elves but was killed by Thorn before he could fly to safety. Fortunately, Glaedr’s Eldunarí was safely in the possession of Eragon and Saphira in Feinster. Even with the loss of the elder Rider and dragon, the elves managed to conquer the city.
The conflict at Gil’ead took place at the same time as the Battle of Feinster. The king had vowed to eliminate all resistance to his Empire. Galbatorix split his army into three units; one went to reinforce Aroughs (preemptively stocked with food and supplies before the Varden’s arrival), another to Feinster, and the last to Belatona. He hoped to drag out the war as long as possible and pull Varden leaders in as many different directions as possible. But the ensuing battles were all Varden victories.
“…Since Nasuada and King Orrin had withdrawn the bulk of their forces from Surda, Galbatorix had apparently decided to take advantage of their absence and wreak havoc throughout the defenseless country, sacking towns and villages and burning the crops needed to sustain the invasion of the Empire.” (Narrative, 1st deluxe edition Brisingr, page 506) Nasuada sent two hundred and fifty men, Roran among them, to end the incursions. It turned out that there were roughly seven hundred soldiers responsible for the damage, but nonetheless, Stronghammer and the rest managed to defeat the larger group.
Galbatorix was irritated with the Varden’s subsequent victory at Dras-Leona and the death of the two Ra’zac hatchlings hidden by the priests of Helgrind in the city’s catacombs. (The religious sect had tried to feed Eragon and Arya to the newborns rather than send them to Urû’baen. It’s unclear whether or not the king knew the priests of Helgrind had betrayed his orders.) Galbatorix, aware that Elva wasn’t guarding Nasuada as she used to, ordered the leader’s assassination. In an effort to save her life, Murtagh suggested that she would be an excellent ally: they should capture her and force allegiance with the Empire. At the king’s order, Murtagh and Thorn infiltrated the Varden camp and brought her back to the capital.
When Galbatorix first spoke with Nasuada, she felt the tone and timbre with which he spoke were a compelling mix (readers could reasonably infer that he had spelled his voice and words to be persuasive and charismatic, provoking listeners to hear his wisdom and seek his approval); he also had a slight accent, which she thought was likely due to the change his native language had undergone over the last one hundred years. Of himself he said, “I contain more than my share of years. The memories of hundreds are mine. Life piled upon life: loves, hates, battles, victories, defeats, lessons learned, mistakes made—all lie within my mind, whispering their wisdom into my ears. I remember eons. In the whole of recorded history, there has never been one such as I, not even among the elves.” (1st deluxe edition Inheritance, page 420)
Nasuada thought that Galbatorix wanted information from her, but quite the contrary, he wanted none. His spy network had exceedingly accurate reports on all details of the resistance. No, instead the king prized her leadership skills. Since the deaths of the Forsworn, he had struggled to find anyone he considered worthy enough to be his servant; Durza was limited, but Eragon, Murtagh, and Nasuada were prime candidates. And why suffer when she could simply acquiesce? She refused, so Galbatorix ordered Murtagh to torture her. (The king had met her father when Ajihad was Enduriel’s estate servant; the Dragonkiller never suspected that this seemingly unimportant man would go on to lead a resistance group, much less that his daughter would do so as well.) Galbatorix said, despite the fact that revenge was the initial impetus, he ultimately overthrew the Riders because they were stifling the progress of all the races through their rule. Nasuada pointed out that his own actions had been the same as those he abhorred—he horded information and did not share it with anyone else either. The king acknowledged this but claimed that his behavior was only because he had been preoccupied with the search for a secret that would allow him to control magic users in the land; he claimed once he found it, he would begin releasing the Riders’ knowledge. He planned to censor the use of magic in Alagaësia. Only the simplest and most beneficent magics would be possible. Only he stood between the elves, Urgals, and dwarves, preventing them from sweeping the humans away.
Nasuada repeatedly refused to join him and mocked the soundness of his plan. (However, after Galbatorix’s death, she would come to enact a version of that very plan.) If, as he claimed, he had the people’s best interests at heart, why would he allow the Varden to roam the Empire without flying out to confront them? Why would he attempt to eliminate the Urgals in revenge for his dragon’s death? Why did he bring the dragons to near extinction and wipe out the Riders? And why would he torture and mistreat the Eldunarí? Galbatorix had no answer, but instead gloried in forcing Murtagh to torture her.
Murtagh, in turn, secretly eased Nasuada’s pain as much as possible. She attempted escape, killing several guards and her jailor in the process, only to be captured shortly after. Irate, Galbatorix told her she could not kill for spite against him and she could not do anything without his permission. He rewarded her actions by subjecting her to a burrow grub, a creature that listened to his commands and a torture tactic he had used on few, if any. He laughed as she suffered.
Galbatorix’s attention was briefly diverted from Nasuada by the rapidly approaching armies of the Varden and elves. For a couple days he oversaw the final preparations for Urû’baen’s defense and discussed strategies with Lord Barst (who he entrusted with a captive Eldunarí), commanding him to be sure to break every bone in Roran’s body should Barst encounter him. The king also laid enchantments on the city to ensure magic would go unpredictably awry within the capital’s walls and that the wards around the citadel would not allow invisible entry, much less unauthorized access by normal means. Those tasks complete, he focused his full attentions on Nasuada once more.
Galbatorix subjected her to immensely detailed illusions of many kinds. Only the secret assistance of Murtagh kept her from giving in. You see, the usurper was not able to replicate the feel of another person’s mind, so Murtagh would mentally contact her before the king started his illusions and after he ceased. The first rounds of hallucinations were subtle, followed by elaborate and more fantastical scenarios, but as she resisted, the details became more and more sloppy. The king sourced the memories of the captive Eldunarí and their deceased Riders as well as his own; as they or he grew tired, the illusions grew weaker. Galbatorix failed to break her will before the Battle of Urû’baen; it had been a long time since anyone had resisted him for so long and so well.
The Varden assaulted the capital city. Eragon, Saphira, Arya, Elva, Blödhgarm, and other elven spell casters entered the citadel, using Niernen to breach the perimeter’s wards. The hall to the throne room was booby trapped in numerous places, but Elva guided the group through, though Blödhgarm and the spell weavers were caught in a spell that whisked them away from the rest of their party (they weren’t harmed, merely captured). Eragon, Arya, Saphira and Elva located Galbatorix in his throne room. Stripping everyone of their wards with just one word, the king held them captive in one place, unable to move. Galbatorix revealed he had finally found the name of ancient language. He said, his voice more authoritative than Ajihad’s and more elegant than even those of the elves:
“With this Word, I can reshape spells as easily as another magician might command the elements. All spells shall be subject to me, but I am subject to none, except for those of my choosing.”
“I shall use the name of names to bring every magician in Alagaësia to heel, and no one shall cast a spell but with my blessing, not even the elves. At this very moment, the magicians of your army are discovering the truth of this. Once they venture a certain distance into Urû’baen, past the front gate, their spells cease to work as they should. Some of their enchantments fail outright, while others twist and end up affecting your troops instead of mine.” Galbatorix tilted his head and his gaze grew distant, as if he were listening to someone whispering in his ear. “It has caused much confusion among their ranks.” (1st edition Inheritance, page 665)
Galbatorix minimalized Eragon and Saphira’s achievements: Elva was ineffective against him; Niernen was useless; Durza’s death was no problem—Shades were easy to make and replace; the king had hidden other Ra’zac eggs somewhere in the land, so the creatures were not eradicated like the young Rider and dragon had thought; even Murtagh and Thorn were more powerful than Eragon and Saphira.
The Dragonkiller thought victory was sure, but in fact, he had set up his own demise. The king had taught Murtagh the Word, secure in the knowledge that the boy’s unbreakable oaths would prevent him from using it without permission. (Any others that heard it were enchanted to be unable to remember it.) However, Galbatorix didn’t know that the ancient language was not the only way to cast a spell, and that informational gap would spell disaster for his plan for world domination. He also wasn’t aware that before the Battle of Urû’baen, Eragon, Saphira, and Oromis’s Eldunarí had secretly travelled to Vroengard where they found the Vault of Souls, using clues left for them by the Eldunarí therein. Many of the Eldunarí opted to travel back to the mainland with Saphira and Eragon to aid in the final confrontation with the king. Galbatorix’s was certainly surprised when they finally revealed themselves.
Even though Eragon and the rest were bound in place, their Eldunarí were able to continue attacking Galbatorix and his Eldunarí. But the king had prepared for the confrontation by kidnapping two children from nobles in the area. He threatened to kill the kids if the mental jabs didn’t cease. Eragon, Oromis, and Glaedr managed to get the Eldunarí calmed so that no harm would come to the children. Even Eragon’s heated vow in the ancient language to kill the king was immediately nullified by the Dragonkiller’s use of the name of names.
The conversation that ensued confirmed that Galbatorix had no ethical lines he would not cross; his hunger for absolute power was insatiable; he was charismatic, narcissistic, intelligent, and would not stop until all bowed before him with no opportunity to rebel. He didn’t care how he won, only that he did. During the course of their discussion, in soon became apparent that Shruikan was there in the throne room with the assault party. He was enormous, even when compared with Saphira and Thorn. And not only was the black dragon in attendance, but Nasuada was there as well, chained to a large slab of stone.
The usurper refused to fight Eragon personally, instead forcing him to duel Murtagh, brother against brother. Galbatorix was surprised when Eragon revealed that he and his brother shared only a mother. The young Riders were well matched, but Murtagh quickly bested Eragon and nearly struck a fatal blow. Galbatorix chided the young man for attempting to kill Eragon and the duel continued. Both suffered increasing numbers of cuts and bruises. Eragon, using the technique called the Way of Knowing, realized that Murtagh was not only a slightly better swordsman, but that he also ascribed much more importance to the duel than Eragon did. With this understanding, Eragon knew what he needed to do in order to end the fight: he deliberately gave Murtagh a slight opening in his defensive stance. Murtagh fell for the ploy, cutting Eragon along the ribs, then Eragon, in turn, gave his brother a belly wound. Galbatorix finally ended the duel, announcing Eragon as the winner.
The king ordered them to approach the throne to be healed, but Murtagh and Thorn suddenly realized that their true identity had changed because Murtagh had fallen in love with Nasuada during her incarceration. (This was the reason for his determination to win the duel—the hope of securing her freedom.) The young dragon and Rider were no longer beholden to their oaths. Murtagh aided Eragon by using the name of names to strip Galbatorix of many of his wards. As these protective measures were ripped from the king, there were a number of flashes of light. Thorn leaped onto Shruikan.
The king cut off Elva’s subsequent attempt to affect him with her words. Murtagh yelled that Galbatorix had been stripped of his wards, but the Dragonkiller magically silenced and knocked the young Rider unconscious. He was furious: he had cut his cape and gloves from the wings of Belgabad, stripped his crown from King Angrenost, and pilfered his sword from Vrael, yet this youngling was trying to defeat him? “You need to be taught a lesson in humility, boy,”…“I shall enjoy having you in my service,” (Galbatorix, 1st deluxe edition Inheritance, page 717)
The usurper was able to rebind everyone, but this time Eragon, Arya, Saphira, and the free Eldunarí were now able to target Galbatorix and his unwilling accomplices. But none were a match for a king who was a master of breaking into his opponent’s consciousness because he took perverse pleasure from doing so. Galbatorix ordered the captive Eldunarí to cease their attack on Eragon and focused all of his skill and attention on piercing the mental barriers of his foe. Eragon could not stop Galbatorix’s mind from invading his own like a laser. The young Rider described Galbatorix’s mindscape as “a terrible, shadow-ridden vista swept with bitter cold and searing heat—ruled by bars of iron, hard and unyielding, which portioned off areas of his consciousness.” (1st deluxe edition Inheritance, pages 715-716)
The king demanded his submission six times, increasing his onslaught all the while. Eragon despaired but knew that if he were to spend the rest of his days in forced servitude to Galbatorix, he wanted the power-hungry man to understand the outcome of his treacherous actions—the pain he had caused:
“It was a spell without words, for Galbatorix’s magic would not allow otherwise, and no words could have described what Eragon wanted, nor what he felt. A library of books would have been insufficient to the task. His was a spell of instinct and emotion; language could not contain it.
What he wanted was both simple and complex: he wanted Galbatorix to understand . . . to understand the wrongness of his actions. The spell was not an attack; it was an attempt to communicate. If Eragon was going to spend the rest of his life as a slave to the king, then he wanted Galbatorix to comprehend what he had done, fully and completely.
As the magic took effect, Eragon felt Umaroth and the Eldunarí turn their attention to his spell, fighting to ignore Galbatorix’s dragons. A hundred years of inconsolable grief and anger welled up within the Eldunarí, like a roaring wave, and the dragons melded their minds with Eragon’s and began to alter the spell, deepening it, widening it, and building upon it until it encompassed far more than he originally intended.
Not only would the spell show Galbatorix the wrongness of his actions; now it would also compel him to experience all the feelings, both good and bad, that he had aroused in others since the day he had been born. The spell was beyond any Eragon could have invented on his own, for it contained more than a single person, or a single dragon, could conceive of. Each Eldunarí contributed to the enchantment, and the sum of their contributions was a spell that extended not only across the whole of Alagaësia but also back through every moment in time between then and Galbatorix’s birth.
It was, Eragon thought, the greatest piece of magic the dragons had ever wrought, and he was their instrument; he was their weapon.” (Narrator, 1st edition Inheritance, pages 720-721)
Even if the king still had a few residual wards, they did not defend against this spell because the magic was not an attempt to harm but to communicate. Galbatorix could not continue to hold his foes immobile and they all sprang into action. Arya, Saphira, and Thorn went after Shruikan, while Eragon faced the Dragonkiller alone. The young man managed to repel a few sword blows from the king and landed a few of his own. All the while, Galbatorix could not stop the overwhelming onslaught of feelings and emotions from thousands of individuals affected by his actions. Saphira and Thorn held Shruikan’s head down and Arya plunged Niernen through the black dragon’s eye, killing him. The commotion distracted Eragon enough that he was nearly mortally wounded by a swing of the king’s sword, but Elva’s timely warning gave the young Rider a chance to duck and retaliate by stabbing Galbatorix through the abdomen.
Unable to stop the agony of thousands flowing through his being, Galbatorix begged Eragon to stop the spell. When refused, the king committed suicide by transforming his body into explosive pure energy. Perhaps he hoped to wipe out his enemies with the atomic blast, but even that was not to be. Eragon, aided by the allied Eldunarí, cast a spell that protected those in the throne room from the blast and any falling debris.
Nuclear fallout and radiation sickness spread throughout Urû’baen but were contained and healed with magic. Even so, it would take a long time to repair all of the damage done to the city and its people. To Alagaësia, for that matter. Blödhgarm and the elven spellcasters survived the blast and were freed by Arya before the palace collapsed. The imprisoned Eldunarí began the long, and perhaps impossible, journey to recovery, with the elves’ help. Many treasures—including an unhatched dragon egg (Fírnen), Dragon Rider swords, magical artifacts, book, scrolls, and more—were either retrieved or scheduled for extraction. Several revenge assassination attempts on important members of the Varden were foiled. Thorn and Murtagh flew to remote reaches to heal from their traumas. Nasuada was crowned high queen. It seemed that Galbatorix’s reign was finally ended.
Only Eragon, Arya, Murtagh, and the dragons knew the name of names. Balance seemed to return to the land. But Galbatorix’s influence lingered on. No sign of the Ra’zac he had hidden in Alagaësia emerged, though they were surely alive. And Nasuada began to enact much the same plan for magic users that the Dragonkiller had outlined during her time in captivity.
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