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As noted near the end of Brisingr, Eragon learns that Galbatorix gains his power from

the Eldunari. For every Rider he killed during the Fall, he gained more power.

So he must be incredibly powerful. Why didn't he just confront the Varden, elves, and dwarves directly and butcher them, instead of waiting for them to combine armies and march on Urû'baen?

In Lord of the Rings, when he could, Sauron attacked Isildur's army before he got his ring got chopped off. In Star Wars, Vader did go into combat every once in a while. Why wouldn't Galbatorix do the same?

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He was overly cautious and didn't care enough about the Varden to even take a small risk

Why didn’t Galbatorix fly out to deal with the Varden? He had already found out the Name of Names and the Eldunari in his possession all were forced to obey him. His power was at its zenith. He could have killed off most of the Varden and enslaved the ones he liked/thought would be useful servants at any time he pleased. Even the Varden was like “we would all fall like leaves to a winter storm if Galbatorix ventured forth himself” or something like that. Was it simply madness on his part, or Galbatorix had other motives for letting the Varden run loose in his borders?

Christopher Paolini: A couple of reasons. Galbatorix was became quite cautious once he consolidated his power. For most of the risky stuff he used the Forsworn, and when they were gone, Durza and the Ra'zac. He rarely ventured out himself. Also, he'd only recently discovered the Name of Names. If Eragon/Saphira hadn't existed, he definitely would have gone out to fight the Varden himself. But until he had E. & S. under his control, he wasn't going to risk it (both to protect himself and because he didn't want to risk killing Saphira). Then too -- he just didn't really care what happened to the people under his rule. As long as he himself was safe, he was okay with the status quo.
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