Durza, born as Carsaib, spent the early part of his life with a nomadic tribe on the plains. His father committed some act that earned him the title of “oathbreaker,” and as a result, the tribe left the family to survive alone. Eventually a group of men murdered Carsaib’s parents, leaving the boy to fend for himself. He tried to commit suicide by wandering into the desert, but the elderly sorcerer Haeg found him close to death and nursed him back to health. Carsaib, who Haeg called “Desert Rat,” eventually convinced the old man to teach him how to control spirits. They practiced magic for weeks, hunting lizards for sustenance. One day a spell malfunctioned, injuring Haeg, and Carsaib spent over a fortnight nursing Haeg back to health, only to watch bandits kill his mentor a short time later. He thought he could summon spirits to wreak vengeance on the attackers but was possessed by the spirits instead. The Shade Durza was “born.”
Nothing is known of the time before Durza encountered Galbatorix somewhere in the wilds following the death of Jarnunvösk. The Shade taught him many dark secrets (such as the spell Forsworn Kialandí later used to disrupt Oromis’s ability to access magic) and helped Galbatorix bend the first captured Eldunarí to his will. This skill was key to destroying the Dragon Rider order.
Once the Empire was established under Galbatorix’s rule, Durza served the king’s bidding. He was merciless and committed many atrocities. No one came close to destroying the Shade for one hundred year . . . except Ajihad. The Forsworn Endurial’s chief steward broke his oath to Endurial, attempting to kill Durza in the process. He was only so successful as to leave a deep scratch on the Shade’s sword. The incident rankled Durza greatly.
During the events of the Inheritance Cycle, Durza received a message telling him that Arya, Fäolin, and Glenwing were in transit with a dragon egg stolen from Galbatorix. The Shade waylaid the travelers with a contingent of Urgals. He knew that his targets would be well guarded with wards, so he enchanted the arrows with dark magic so they would pierce those kinds of protective measures. But it wasn’t as simple as that. The elven horses spooked, sensing something was amiss, and Durza was only able to kill Fäolin and Glenwing. Arya escaped long enough to magically teleport Saphira’s egg to Brom in Carvahall. (Unbeknownst to her, the Eldunarí hidden in the Vault of Souls diverted the spell to make the egg appear in front of Eragon while he hunted in the Spine.) But Durza’s ambush was not a complete failure.
The Shade captured Arya and brought her back to his fortress in Gil’ead where he tortured her daily (many times almost to death) for any information she would divulge. She later told Eragon:
“Durza sated the bloodlust of the spirits that controlled him by doing the most horrible things he could imagine to me. Sometimes, if he went too far, he would heal me so he could begin anew the following morning. If he had given me a chance to collect my wits, I might have been able to fool my jailer, as you did, and avoid consuming the drug that kept me from using magic, but I never had more than a few hours’ respite.
“Durza needed sleep no more than you or I, and he kept at me whenever I was conscious and his other duties permitted. While he worked on me, every second was an hour, every hour a week, and every day an eternity. He was careful not to drive me mad—Galbatorix would have been displeased with that—but he came close. He came very, very close.” (Arya, Brisingr Deluxe, page 198)
She would say nothing. Durza’s luck turned when a patrol of Urgals ambushed Eragon, Murtagh, and Saphira (now hatched) as they skulked outside the city limits. The Shade immediately drugged the young Rider to prevent him from accessing magic and threw the boy in a cell. But Eragon figured out not to eat or drink, dumping the food out the window, and the effects of the toxin slowly wore off.
Galbatorix had ordered that no one talk with the prisoner, which Durza ignored. During their first meeting, Eragon was more clever than anticipated. When asked, the boy pretended his true name was “death of the shadows.”
The Shade thought that Eragon was still drugged and may have believed his words. It was a topic he planned to bring up again, but first he had other things to attend to. (Durza had designs to usurp the king and instructed the boy to consider allying himself with the Shade instead of Galbatorix.)
Once Eragon was able to use magic again, he escaped his cell and then encountered Murtagh mid-rescue in the hallway. The two rushed to free Arya (Eragon had seen her being moved back to a cell) and then waited for Saphira to arrive. Durza confronted the group in the banquet hall, where Murtagh was able to shoot him in the forehead with an arrow. The Shade’s body dissolved into a cloud of dissipating dark smoke, and the adventures fled Gil’ead, thinking they may have defeated a mighty foe. In actuality, Durza healed and rematerialized—the only way to kill a Shade is with a sword through the heart.
The king decided to end the Varden insurrection once and for all. He sent Durza, in command of an Urgal army, through the many tunnels of the Beor Mountains to lay seige to Tronjheim. The Varden and dwarves received advanced warning and so prepared for the attack. When the Battle of Farthen Dûr began, the Shade found Eragon in the city and very nearly defeated the Rider by slashing his back. Before Durza could kill Eragon, Arya and Saphira broke Isidar Mithrim, distracting Durza long enough for Eragon to pierce the Shade’s heart with flaming Zar’roc. The three spirits trapped in Carsaib’s body fled the confines of his flesh and disappeared into the distance.
But Durza’s influence still lingered. His mind and Eragon’s had been linked for the latter portion of the final confrontation, and though the young Rider survived his wound, Carsaib’s tortured history and the Shade’s toxic memories clouded Eragon’s thoughts, threatening his sanity. Only when Oromis telepathically cleared the remnants from Eragon’s mind was Durza finally, truly, no more.
Like this article? Check out the rest of the Encyclopedia Alagaësia series!