Tendrils of Darkness — Epilogue
Epilogue With No Man’s Land finally behin...
Tendrils of Darkness — Epilogue
Epilogue With No Man’s Land finally behin...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 50: Final Confrontation
Final Confrontation Years of sentinel train...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 49: Secrets Revealed
Secrets Revealed Circling Copius, the owlbe...
Over at Tor.com they have released 6 Chapters (prologue + 5) from Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. If you are one of those who want to get everything as soon as possible then read away. Others like me…it’s all or nothing!
Edit: Thanks to a punter, chapters 6, 8 and 9 have also been added. No sight of Chapter 7 though.
Six Years Ago
Jasnah Kholin pretended to enjoy the party, giving no indication that she intended to have one of the guests killed.
She wandered through the crowded feast hall, listening as wine greased tongues and dimmed minds. Her uncle Dalinar was in the full swing of it, rising from the high table to shout for the Parshendi to bring out their drummers. Jasnah’s brother, Elhokar, hurried to shush their uncle—though the Alethi politely ignored Dalinar’s outburst. All save Elhokar’s wife, Aesudan, who snickered primly behind a handkerchief.
Jasnah turned away from the high table and continued through the room. She had an appointment with an assassin, and she was all too glad to be leaving the stuffy room, which stank of too many perfumes mingling. A quartet of women played flutes on a raised platform across from the lively hearth, but the music had long since grown tedious.
Unlike Dalinar, Jasnah drew stares. Like flies to rotten meat those eyes were, constantly following her. Whispers like buzzing wings. If there was one thing the Alethi court enjoyed more than wine, it was gossip. Everyone expected Dalinar to lose himself to wine during a feast—but the king’s daughter, admitting to heresy? That was unprecedented.
Jasnah had spoken of her feelings for precisely that reason.
She passed the Parshendi delegation, which clustered near the high table, talking in their rhythmic language. Though this celebration honored them and the treaty they’d signed with Jasnah’s father, they didn’t look festive or even happy. They looked nervous. Of course, they weren’t human, and the way they reacted was sometimes odd.
Jasnah wanted to speak with them, but her appointment would not wait. She’d intentionally scheduled the meeting for the middle of the feast, as so many would be distracted and drunken. Jasnah headed toward the doors but then stopped in place.
Her shadow was pointing in the wrong direction.
The stuffy, shuffling, chattering room seemed to grow distant. High-prince Sadeas walked right through the shadow, which quite distinctly pointed towardthe sphere lamp on the wall nearby. Engaged in conversation with his companion, Sadeas didn’t notice. Jasnah stared at that shadow—skin growing clammy, stomach clenched, the way she felt when she was about to vomit. Not again. She searched for another light source. A reason. Could she find a reason? No.
The shadow languidly melted back toward her, oozing to her feet and then stretching out the other way. Her tension eased. But had anyone else seen?
Blessedly, as she searched the room, she didn’t find any aghast stares. People’s attention had been drawn by the Parshendi drummers, who were clattering through the doorway to set up. Jasnah frowned as she noticed a non-Parshendi servant in loose white clothing helping them. A Shin man? That was unusual.
Jasnah composed herself. What did these episodes of hers mean? Superstitious folktales she’d read said that misbehaving shadows meant you were cursed. She usually dismissed such things as nonsense, but some superstitions were rooted in fact. Her other experiences proved that. She would need to investigate further.
The calm, scholarly thoughts felt like a lie compared to the truth of her cold, clammy skin and the sweat trickling down the back of her neck. But it was important to be rational at all times, not just when calm. She forced herself out through the doors, leaving the muggy room for the quiet hallway. She’d chosen the back exit, commonly used by servants. It was the most direct route, after all.
Here, master-servants dressed in black and white moved on errands from their brightlords or ladies. She had expected that, but had not anticipated the sight of her father standing just ahead, in quiet conference with Brightlord Meridas Amaram. What was the king doing out here?
Gavilar Kholin was shorter than Amaram, yet the latter stooped shallowly in the king’s company. That was common around Gavilar, who would speak with such quiet intensity that you wanted to lean in and listen, to catch every word and implication. He was a handsome man, unlike his brother, with a beard that outlined his strong jaw rather than covering it. He had a personal magnetism and intensity that Jasnah felt no biographer had yet managed to convey.
Tearim, captain of the King’s Guard, loomed behind them. He wore Gavilar’s Shardplate; the king himself had stopped wearing it of late, preferring to entrust it to Tearim, who was known as one of the world’s great duelists. Instead, Gavilar wore robes of a majestic, classical style.
Jasnah glanced back at the feast hall. When had her father slipped out? Sloppy, she accused herself. You should have checked to see if he was still there before leaving.
Ahead, he rested his hand on Amaram’s shoulder and raised a finger, speaking harshly but quietly, the words indistinct to Jasnah.
“Father?” she asked.
He glanced at her. “Ah, Jasnah. Retiring so early?”
“It’s hardly early,” Jasnah said, gliding forward. It seemed obvious to her that Gavilar and Amaram had ducked out to find privacy for their discussion. “This is the tiresome part of the feast, where the conversation grows louder but no smarter, and the company drunken.”
“Many people consider that sort of thing enjoyable.”
“Many people, unfortunately, are idiots.”
Her father smiled. “Is it terribly difficult for you?” he asked softly. “Living with the rest of us, suffering our average wits and simple thoughts? Is it lonely to be so singular in your brilliance, Jasnah?”
She took it as the rebuke it was, and found herself blushing. Even her mother Navani could not do that to her.
“Perhaps if you found pleasant associations,” Gavilar said, “you would enjoy the feasts.” His eyes swung toward Amaram, whom he’d long fancied as a potential match for her.
It would never happen. Amaram met her eyes, then murmured words of parting to her father and hastened away down the corridor.
“What errand did you give him?” Jasnah asked. “What are you about this night, Father?”
“The treaty, of course.”
The treaty. Why did he care so much about it? Others had counseled that he either ignore the Parshendi or conquer them. Gavilar insisted upon an accommodation.
“I should return to the celebration,” Gavilar said, motioning to Tearim. The two moved along the hallway toward the doors Jasnah had left.
“Father?” Jasnah said. “What is it you aren’t telling me?”
He glanced back at her, lingering. Pale green eyes, evidence of his good birth. When had he become so discerning? Storms… she felt as if she hardly knew this man any longer. Such a striking transformation in such a short time.
From the way he inspected her, it almost seemed that he didn’t trust her. Did he know about her meeting with Liss?
He turned away without saying more and pushed back into the party, his guard following.
What is going on in this palace? Jasnah thought. She took a deep breath. She would have to prod further. Hopefully he hadn’t discovered her meetings with assassins—but if he had, she would work with that knowledge. Surely he would see that someone needed to keep watch on the family as he grew increasingly consumed by his fascination with the Parshendi. Jasnah turned and continued on her way, passing a master-servant, who bowed.
After walking a short time in the corridors, Jasnah noticed her shadow behaving oddly again. She sighed in annoyance as it pulled toward the three Stormlight lamps on the walls. Fortunately, she’d passed from the populated area, and no servants were here to see.
“All right,” she snapped. “That’s enough.”
She hadn’t meant to speak aloud. However, as the words slipped out, several distant shadows—originating in an intersection up ahead—stirred to life. Her breath caught. Those shadows lengthened, deepened. Figures formed from them, growing, standing, rising.
Stormfather. I’m going insane.
One took the shape of a man of midnight blackness, though he had a certain reflective cast, as if he were made of oil. No… of some other liquid with a coating of oil floating on the outside, giving him a dark, prismatic quality.
He strode toward her and unsheathed a sword.
Logic, cold and resolute, guided Jasnah. Shouting would not bring help quickly enough, and the inky litheness of this creature bespoke a speed certain to exceed her own.
She stood her ground and met the thing’s glare, causing it to hesitate. Behind it, a small clutch of other creatures had materialized from the darkness. She had sensed those eyes upon her during the previous months.
By now, the entire hallway had darkened, as if it had been submerged and was slowly sinking into lightless depths. Heart racing, breath quickening, Jasnah raised her hand to the granite wall beside her, seeking to touch something solid. Her fingers sank into the stone a fraction, as if the wall had become mud.
Oh, storms. She had to do something. What? What could she possibly do?
The figure before her glanced at the wall. The wall lamp nearest Jasnah went dark. And then…
Then the palace disintegrated.
The entire building shattered into thousands upon thousands of small glass spheres, like beads. Jasnah screamed as she fell backward through a dark sky. She was no longer in the palace; she was somewhere else—another land, another time, another… something.
She was left with the sight of the dark, lustrous figure, hovering in the air above, seeming satisfied as he resheathed his sword.
Jasnah crashed into something—an ocean of the glass beads. Countless others rained around her, clicking like hailstones into the strange sea. She had never seen this place; she could not explain what had happened or what it meant. She thrashed as she sank into what seemed an impossibility. Beads of glass on all sides. She couldn’t see anything beyond them, only felt herself descending through this churning, suffocating, clattering mass.
She was going to die. Leaving work unfinished, leaving her family unprotected!
She would never know the answers.
Jasnah flailed in the darkness, beads rolling across her skin, getting into her clothing, working their way into her nose as she tried to swim. It was no use. She had no buoyancy in this mess. She raised a hand before her mouth and tried to make a pocket of air to use for breathing, and managed to gasp in a small breath. But the beads rolled around her hand, forcing between her fingers. She sank, more slowly now, as through a viscous liquid.
Each bead that touched her gave a faint impression of something. A door. A table. A shoe.
The beads found their way into her mouth. They seemed to move on their own. They would choke her, destroy her. No… no, it was just because they seemedattracted to her. An impression came to her, not as a distinct thought but a feeling. They wanted something from her.
She snatched a bead in her hand; it gave her an impression of a cup. She gave… something… to it? The other beads near her pulled together, connecting, sticking like rocks sealed by mortar. In a moment she was falling not among individual beads, but through large masses of them stuck together into the shape of…
Each bead was a pattern, a guide for the others.
She released the one she held, and the beads around her broke apart. She floundered, searching desperately as her air ran out. She needed something she could use, something that would help, some way to survive! Desperate, she swept her arms wide to touch as many beads as she could.
A silver platter. A coat.
And then, something ancient.
Something ponderous and slow of thought, yet somehow strong. The palace itself. Frantic, Jasnah seized this sphere and forced her power into it. Her mind blurring, she gave this bead everything she had, and then commanded it to rise.
A great crashing sounded as beads met one another, clicking, cracking, rattling. It was almost like the sound of a wave breaking on rocks. Jasnah surged up from the depths, something solid moving beneath her, obeying her command. Beads battered her head, shoulders, arms, until finally she exploded from the surface of the sea of glass, hurling a spray of beads into a dark sky.
She knelt on a platform of glass made up of small beads locked together. She held her hand to the side, uplifted, clutching the sphere that was the guide. Others rolled around her, forming into the shape of a hallway with lanterns on the walls, an intersection ahead. It didn’t look right, of course— the entire thing was made of beads. But it was a fair approximation.
She wasn’t strong enough to form the entire palace. She created only this hallway, without even a roof—but the floor supported her, kept her from sinking. She opened her mouth with a groan, beads falling out to clack against the floor. Then she coughed, drawing in sweet breaths, sweat trickling down the sides of her face and collecting on her chin.
Ahead of her, the dark figure stepped up onto the platform. He again slid his sword from his sheath.
Jasnah held up a second bead, the statue she’d sensed earlier. She gave it power, and other beads collected before her, taking the shape of one of the statues that lined the front of the feast hall—the statue of Talenelat’Elin, Herald of War. A tall, muscular man with a large Shardblade.
It was not alive, but she made it move, lowering its sword of beads. She doubted it could fight. Round beads could not form a sharp sword. Yet the threat made the dark figure hesitate.
Gritting her teeth, Jasnah heaved herself to her feet, beads streaming from her clothing. She would not kneel before this thing, whatever it was. She stepped up beside the bead statue, noting for the first time the strange clouds overhead. They seemed to form a narrow ribbon of highway, straight and long, pointing toward the horizon.
She met the oil figure’s gaze. It regarded her for a moment, then raised two fingers to its forehead and bowed, as if in respect, a cloak flourishing out behind. Others had gathered beyond it, and they turned to each other, exchanging hushed whispers.
The place of beads faded, and Jasnah found herself back in the hallway of the palace. The real one, with real stone, though it had gone dark—the Stormlight dead in the lamps on the walls. The only illumination came from far down the corridor.
She pressed back against the wall, breathing deeply. I, she thought, need to write this experience down.
She would do so, then analyze and consider. Later. Now, she wanted to be away from this place. She hurried away, with no concern for her direction, trying to escape those eyes she still felt watching.
It didn’t work.
Eventually, she composed herself and wiped the sweat from her face with a kerchief. Shadesmar, she thought. That is what it is called in the nursery tales.Shadesmar, the mythological kingdom of the spren. Mythology she’d never believed. Surely she could find something if she searched the histories well enough. Nearly everything that happened had happened before. The grand lesson of history, and…
Storms! Her appointment.
Cursing to herself, she hurried on her way. That experience continued to distract her, but she needed to make her meeting. So she continued down two floors, getting farther from the sounds of the thrumming Parshendi drums until she could hear only the sharpest cracks of their beats.
That music’s complexity had always surprised her, suggesting that the Parshendi were not the uncultured savages many took them for. This far away, the music sounded disturbingly like the beads from the dark place, rattling against one another.
She’d intentionally chosen this out-of-the-way section of the palace for her meeting with Liss. Nobody ever visited this set of guest rooms. A man that Jasnah didn’t know lounged here, outside the proper door. That relieved her. The man would be Liss’s new servant, and his presence meant Liss hadn’t left, despite Jasnah’s tardiness. Composing herself, she nodded to the guard—a Veden brute with red speckling his beard—and pushed into the room.
Liss stood from the table inside the small chamber. She wore a maid’s dress—low cut, of course—and could have been Alethi. Or Veden. Or Bav. Depending on which part of her accent she chose to emphasize. Long dark hair, worn loose, and a plump, attractive figure made her distinctive in all the right ways.
“You’re late, Brightness,” Liss said.
Jasnah gave no reply. She was the employer here, and was not required to give excuses. Instead, she laid something on the table beside Liss. A small envelope, sealed with weevilwax.
Jasnah set two fingers on it, considering.
No. This was too brash. She didn’t know if her father realized what she was doing, but even if he hadn’t, too much was happening in this palace. She did not want to commit to an assassination until she was more certain.
Fortunately, she had prepared a backup plan. She slid a second envelope from the safepouch inside her sleeve and set it on the table instead. She removed her fingers from it, rounding the table and sitting down.
Liss sat back down and made the letter vanish into the bust of her dress. “An odd night, Brightness,” the woman said, “to be engaging in treason.”
“I am hiring you to watch only.”
“Pardon, Brightness. But one does not commonly hire an assassin to watch. Only.”
“You have instructions in the envelope,” Jasnah said. “Along with initial payment. I chose you because you are expert at extended observations. It is what I want. For now.”
Liss smiled, but nodded. “Spying on the wife of the heir to the throne? It will be more expensive this way. You sure you don’t simply want her dead?”
Jasnah drummed her fingers on the table, then realized she was doing it to the beat of the drums above. The music was so unexpectedly complex— precisely like the Parshendi themselves.
Too much is happening, she thought. I need to be very careful. Very subtle.
“I accept the cost,” Jasnah replied. “In one week’s time, I will arrange for one of my sister-in-law’s maids to be released. You will apply for the position, using faked credentials I assume you are capable of producing. You will be hired.
“From there, you watch and report. I will tell you if your other services are needed. You move only if I say. Understood?”
“You’re the one payin’,” Liss said, a faint Bav dialect showing through.
If it showed, it was only because she wished it. Liss was the most skilled assassin Jasnah knew. People called her the Weeper, as she gouged out the eyes of the targets she killed. Although she hadn’t coined the cognomen, it served her purpose well, since she had secrets to hide. For one thing, nobody knew that the Weeper was a woman.
It was said the Weeper gouged the eyes out to proclaim indifference to whether her victims were lighteyed or dark. The truth was that the action hid a second secret—Liss didn’t want anyone to know that the way she killed left corpses with burned-out sockets.
“Our meeting is done, then,” Liss said, standing.
Jasnah nodded absently, mind again on her bizarre interaction with the spren earlier. That glistening skin, colors dancing across a surface the color of tar…
She forced her mind away from that moment. She needed to devote her attention to the task at hand. For now, that was Liss.
Liss hesitated at the door before leaving. “Do you know why I like you, Brightness?”
“I suspect that it has something to do with my pockets and their proverbial depth.”
Liss smiled. “There’s that, ain’t going to deny it, but you’re also different from other lighteyes. When others hire me, they turn up their noses at the entire process. They’re all too eager to use my services, but sneer and wring their hands, as if they hate being forced to do something utterly distasteful.”
“Assassination is distasteful, Liss. So is cleaning out chamber pots. I can respect the one employed for such jobs without admiring the job itself.”
Liss grinned, then cracked the door.
“That new servant of yours outside,” Jasnah said. “Didn’t you say you wanted to show him off for me?”
“Talak?” Liss said, glancing at the Veden man. “Oh, you mean that other one. No, Brightness, I sold that one to a slaver a few weeks ago.” Liss grimaced.
“Really? I thought you said he was the best servant you’d ever had.”
“Too good a servant,” Liss said. “Let’s leave it at that. Storming creepy, that Shin fellow was.” Liss shivered visibly, then slipped out the door.
“Remember our first agreement,” Jasnah said after her.
“Always there in the back o’ my mind, Brightness.” Liss closed the door.
Jasnah settled in her seat, lacing her fingers in front of her. Their “first agreement” was that if anyone should come to Liss and offer a contract on a member of Jasnah’s family, Liss would let Jasnah match the offer in exchange for the name of the one who made it.
Liss would do it. Probably. So would the dozen other assassins Jasnah dealt with. A repeat customer was always more valuable than a one-off contract, and it was in the best interests of a woman like Liss to have a friend in the government. Jasnah’s family was safe from the likes of these. Unless she herself employed the assassins, of course.
Jasnah let out a deep sigh, then rose, trying to shrug off the weight she felt bearing her down.
Wait. Did Liss say her old servant was Shin?
It was probably a coincidence. Shin people weren’t plentiful in the East, but you did see them on occasion. Still, Liss mentioning a Shin man and Jasnah seeing one among the Parshendi… well, there was no harm in checking, even if meant returning to the feast. Something was off about this night, and not just because of her shadow and the spren.
Jasnah left the small chamber in the bowels of the palace and strode out into the hallway. She turned her steps upward. Above, the drums cut off abruptly, like an instrument’s strings suddenly cut. Was the party ending so early? Dalinar hadn’t done something to offend the celebrants, had he? That man and his wine…
Well, the Parshendi had ignored his offenses in the past, so they probably would again. In truth, Jasnah was happy for her father’s sudden focus on a treaty. It meant she would have a chance to study Parshendi traditions and histories at her leisure.
Could it be, she wondered, that scholars have been searching in the wrong ruins all these years?
Words echoed in the hallway, coming from up ahead. “I’m worried about Ash.”
“You’re worried about everything.”
Jasnah hesitated in the hallway.
“She’s getting worse,” the voice continued. “We weren’t supposed to get worse. Am I getting worse? I think I feel worse.”
“I don’t like this. What we’ve done was wrong. That creature carries my lord’sown Blade. We shouldn’t have let him keep it. He—”
The two passed through the intersection ahead of Jasnah. They were the ambassadors from the West, including the Azish man with the white birthmark on his cheek. Or was it a scar? The shorter of the two men—he could have been Alethi—cut off when he noticed Jasnah. He let out a squeak, then hurried on his way.
The Azish man, the one dressed in black and silver, stopped and looked her up and down. He frowned.
“Is the feast over already?” Jasnah asked down the hallway. Her brother had invited these two to the celebration along with every other ranking foreign dignitary in Kholinar.
“Yes,” the man said.
His stare made her uncomfortable. She walked forward anyway. I should check further into these two, she thought. She’d investigated their backgrounds, of course, and found nothing of note. Had they been talking about a Shardblade?
“Come on!” the shorter man said, returning and taking the taller man by the arm.
He allowed himself to be pulled away. Jasnah walked to where the corridors crossed, then watched them go.
Where once drums had sounded, screams suddenly rose.
Jasnah turned with alarm, then grabbed her skirt and ran as hard as she could.
A dozen different potential disasters raced through her mind. What else could happen on this broken night, when shadows stood up and her father looked upon her with suspicion? Nerves stretched thin, she reached the steps and started climbing.
It took her far too long. She could hear the screams as she climbed and finally emerged into chaos. Dead bodies in one direction, a demolished wall in the other. How…
The destruction led toward her father’s rooms.
The entire palace shook, and a crunch echoed from that direction.
No, no, no!
She passed Shardblade cuts on the stone walls as she ran.
Corpses with burned eyes. Bodies littered the floor like discarded bones at the dinner table.
A broken doorway. Her father’s quarters. Jasnah stopped in the hallway, gasping.
Control yourself, control…
She couldn’t. Not now. Frantic, she ran into the quarters, though a Shardbearer would kill her with ease. She wasn’t thinking straight. She should get someone who could help. Dalinar? He’d be drunk. Sadeas, then.
The room looked like it had been hit by a highstorm. Furniture in a shambles, splinters everywhere. The balcony doors were broken outward. Someone lurched toward them, a man in her father’s Shardplate. Tearim, the bodyguard?
No. The helm was broken. It was not Tearim, but Gavilar. Someone on the balcony screamed.
“Father!” Jasnah shouted.
Gavilar hesitated as he stepped out onto the balcony, looking back at her.
The balcony broke beneath him.
Jasnah screamed, dashing through the room to the broken balcony, falling to her knees at the edge. Wind tugged locks of hair loose from her bun as she watched two men fall.
Her father, and the Shin man in white from the feast.
The Shin man glowed with a white light. He fell onto the wall. He hit it, rolling, then came to a stop. He stood up, somehow remaining on the outer palace wall and not falling. It defied reason.
He turned, then stalked toward her father.
Jasnah watched, growing cold, helpless as the assassin stepped down to her father and knelt over him.
Tears fell from her chin, and the wind caught them. What was he doing down there? She couldn’t make it out.
When the assassin walked away, he left behind her father’s corpse. Impaled on a length of wood. He was dead—indeed, his Shardblade had appeared beside him, as they all did when their Bearers died.
“I worked so hard…” Jasnah whispered, numb. “Everything I did to protect this family…”
How? Liss. Liss had done this!
No. Jasnah wasn’t thinking straight. That Shin man… she wouldn’t have admitted to owning him in such a case. She’d sold him.
“We are sorry for your loss.”
Jasnah spun, blinking bleary eyes. Three Parshendi, including Klade, stood in the doorway in their distinctive clothing. Neatly stitched cloth wraps for both men and women, sashes at the waist, loose shirts with no sleeves. Hanging vests, open at the sides, woven in bright colors. They didn’t segregate clothing by gender. She thought they did by caste, however, and—
Stop it, she thought at herself. Stop thinking like a scholar for one storming day!
“We take responsibility for his death,” said the foremost Parshendi. Gangnah was female, though with the Parshendi, the gender differences seemed minimal. The clothing hid breasts and hips, neither of which were ever very pronounced. Fortunately, the lack of a beard was a clear indication. All the Parshendi men she’d ever seen had beards, which they wore tied with bits of gemstone, and—
“What did you say?” Jasnah demanded, forcing herself to her feet. “Why would it be your fault, Gangnah?”
“Because we hired the assassin,” the Parshendi woman said in her heavily accented singsong voice. “We killed your father, Jasnah Kholin.”
Emotion suddenly ran cold, like a river freezing in the heights. Jasnah looked from Gangnah to Klade, to Varnali. Elders, all three of them. Members of the Parshendi ruling council.
“Why?” Jasnah whispered.
“Because it had to be done,” Gangnah said.
“Why?” Jasnah demanded, stalking forward. “He fought for you! He kept the predators at bay! My father wanted peace, you monsters! Why would you betray us now, of all times?”
Gangnah drew her lips to a line. The song of her voice changed. She seemed almost like a mother, explaining something very difficult to a small child. “Because your father was about to do something very dangerous.”
“Send for Brightlord Dalinar!” a voice outside in the hall shouted. “Storms! Did my orders get to Elhokar? The crown prince must be taken to safety!” Highprince Sadeas stumbled into the room along with a team of soldiers. His bulbous, ruddy face was wet with sweat, and he wore Gavilar’s clothing, the regal robes of office. “What are the savages doing here? Storms! Protect Princess Jasnah. The one who did this—he was in their retinue!”
The soldiers moved to surround the Parshendi. Jasnah ignored them, turning and stepping back to the broken doorway, hand on the wall, looking down at her father splayed on the rocks below, Blade beside him.
“There will be war,” she whispered. “And I will not stand in its way.” “This is understood,” Gangnah said from behind.
“The assassin,” Jasnah said. “He walked on the wall.”
Gangnah said nothing.
In the shattering of her world, Jasnah caught hold of this fragment. She had seen something tonight. Something that should not have been possible. Did it relate to the strange spren? Her experience in that place of glass beads and a dark sky?
These questions became her lifeline for stability. Sadeas demanded answers from the Parshendi leaders. He received none. When he stepped up beside her and saw the wreckage below, he went barreling off, shouting for his guards and running down below to reach the fallen king.
Hours later, it was discovered that the assassination—and the surrender of three of the Parshendi leaders—had covered the flight of the larger portion of their number. They escaped the city quickly, and the cavalry Dalinar sent after them were destroyed. A hundred horses, each nearly priceless, lost along with their riders.
The Parshendi leaders said nothing more and gave no clues, even when they were strung up and hanged for their crimes.
Jasnah ignored all that. Instead, she interrogated the surviving guards on what they had seen. She followed leads about the now-famous assassin’s nature, prying information from Liss. She got almost nothing. Liss had owned him only a short time, and claimed she hadn’t known about his strange powers. Jasnah couldn’t find the previous owner.
Next came the books. A dedicated, frenzied effort to distract her from what she had lost.
That night, Jasnah had seen the impossible.
She would learn what it meant.
To be perfectly frank, what has happened these last two months is upon my head. The death, destruction, loss, and pain are my burden. I should have seen it coming. And I should have stopped it.
—From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
Shallan pinched the thin charcoal pencil and drew a series of straight lines radiating from a sphere on the horizon. That sphere wasn’t quite the sun, nor was it one of the moons. Clouds outlined in charcoal seemed to stream toward it. And the sea beneath them… A drawing could not convey the bizarre nature of that ocean, made not of water but of small beads of translucent glass.
Shallan shivered, remembering that place. Jasnah knew much more of it than she would speak of to her ward, and Shallan wasn’t certain how to ask. How did one demand answers after a betrayal such as Shallan’s? Only a few days had passed since that event, and Shallan still didn’t know exactly how her relationship with Jasnah would proceed.
The deck rocked as the ship tacked, enormous sails fluttering overhead. Shallan was forced to grab the railing with her clothed safehand to steady herself. Captain Tozbek said that so far, the seas hadn’t been bad for this part of Longbrow’s Straits. However, she might have to go below if the waves and motion got much worse.
Shallan exhaled and tried to relax as the ship settled. A chill wind blew, over the ship, and windspren zipped past on invisible air currents. Every time the sea grew rough, Shallan remembered that day, that alien ocean of glass beads…
She looked down again at what she’d drawn. She had only glimpsed that place, and her sketch was not perfect. It—
She frowned. On her paper, a pattern had risen, like an embossing. What had she done? That pattern was almost as wide as the page, a sequence of complex lines with sharp angles and repeated arrowhead shapes. Was it an effect of drawing that weird place, the place Jasnah said was named Shadesmar? Shallan hesitantly moved her freehand to feel the unnatural ridges on the page.
The pattern moved, sliding across the page like an axehound pup under a bedsheet.
Shallan yelped and leapt from her seat, dropping her sketchpad to the deck. The loose pages slumped to the planks, fluttering and then scattering in the wind. Nearby sailors—Thaylen men with long white eyebrows they combed back over their ears—scrambled to help, snatching sheets from the air before they could blow overboard.
“You all right, young miss?” Tozbek asked, looking over from a conversation with one of his mates. The short, portly Tozbek wore a wide sash and a coat of gold and red matched by the cap on his head. He wore his eyebrows up and stiffened into a fanned shape above his eyes.
“I’m well, Captain,” Shallan said. “I was merely spooked.”
Yalb stepped up to her, proffering the pages. “Your accouterments, my lady.”
Shallan raised an eyebrow. “Accouterments?”
“Sure,” the young sailor said with a grin. “I’m practicing my fancy words. They help a fellow obtain reasonable feminine companionship. You know— the kind of young lady who doesn’t smell too bad an’ has at least a few teeth left.”
“Lovely,” Shallan said, taking the sheets back. “Well, depending on your definition of lovely, at least.” She suppressed further quips, suspiciously regarding the stack of pages in her hand. The picture she’d drawn of Shadesmar was on top, no longer bearing the strange embossed ridges.
“What happened?” Yalb said. “Did a cremling crawl out from under you or something?” As usual, he wore an open-fronted vest and a pair of loose trousers.
“It was nothing,” Shallan said softly, tucking the pages away into her satchel.
Yalb gave her a little salute—she had no idea why he had taken to doing that—and went back to tying rigging with the other sailors. She soon caught bursts of laughter from the men near him, and when she glanced at him, gloryspren danced around his head—they took the shape of little spheres of light. He was apparently very proud of the jape he’d just made.
She smiled. It was indeed fortunate that Tozbek had been delayed in Kharbranth. She liked this crew, and was happy that Jasnah had selected them for their voyage. Shallan sat back down on the box that Captain Tozbek had ordered lashed beside the railing so she could enjoy the sea as they sailed. She had to be wary of the spray, which wasn’t terribly good for her sketches, but so long as the seas weren’t rough, the opportunity to watch the waters was worth the trouble.
The scout atop the rigging let out a shout. Shallan squinted in the direction he pointed. They were within sight of the distant mainland, sailing parallel to it. In fact, they’d docked at port last night to shelter from the highstorm that had blown past. When sailing, you always wanted to be near to port—venturing into open seas when a highstorm could surprise you was suicidal.
The smear of darkness to the north was the Frostlands, a largely uninhabited area along the bottom edge of Roshar. Occasionally, she caught a glimpse of higher cliffs to the south. Thaylenah, the great island kingdom, made another barrier there. The straits passed between the two.
The lookout had spotted something in the waves just north of the ship, a bobbing shape that at first appeared to be a large log. No, it was much larger than that, and wider. Shallan stood, squinting, as it drew closer. It turned out to be a domed brown-green shell, about the size of three rowboats lashed together. As they passed by, the shell came up alongside the ship and somehow managed to keep pace, sticking up out of the water perhaps six or eight feet.
A santhid! Shallan leaned out over the rail, looking down as the sailors jabbered excitedly, several joining her in craning out to see the creature. Santhidyn were so reclusive that some of her books claimed they were extinct and all modern reports of them untrustworthy.
“You are good luck, young miss!” Yalb said to her with a laugh as he passed by with rope. “We ain’t seen a santhid in years.”
“You still aren’t seeing one,” Shallan said. “Only the top of its shell.” To her disappointment, waters hid anything else—save shadows of something in the depths that might have been long arms extending downward. Stories claimed the beasts would sometimes follow ships for days, waiting out in the sea as the vessel went into port, then following them again once the ship left.
“The shell is all you ever see of one,” Yalb said. “Passions, this is a good sign!”
Shallan clutched her satchel. She took a Memory of the creature down there beside the ship by closing her eyes, fixing the image of it in her head so she could draw it with precision.
Draw what, though? she thought. A lump in the water?
An idea started to form in her head. She spoke it aloud before she could think better. “Bring me that rope,” she said, turning to Yalb.
“Brightness?” he asked, stopping in place.
“Tie a loop in one end,” she said, hurriedly setting her satchel on her seat. “I need to get a look at the santhid. I’ve never actually put my head underwater in the ocean. Will the salt make it difficult to see?”
“Underwater?” Yalb said, voice squeaking.
“You’re not tying the rope.”
“Because I’m not a storming fool! Captain will have my head if…”
“Get a friend,” Shallan said, ignoring him and taking the rope to tie one end into a small loop. “You’re going to lower me down over the side, and I’m going get a glimpse of what’s under the shell. Do you realize that nobody has ever produced a drawing of a live santhid? All the ones that have washed up on beaches were badly decomposed. And since sailors consider hunting the things to be bad luck—”
“It is!” Yalb said, voice growing more high pitched. “Ain’t nobody going to kill one.”
Shallan finished the loop and hurried to the side of the ship, her red hair whipping around her face as she leaned out over the rail. The santhid was still there. How did it keep up? She could see no fins.
She looked back at Yalb, who held the rope, grinning. “Ah, Brightness. Is this payback for what I said about your backside to Beznk? That was just in jest, but you got me good! I…” He trailed off as she met his eyes. “Storms. You’re serious.”
“I’ll not have another opportunity like this. Naladan chased these things for most of her life and never got a good look at one.”
“This is insanity!”
“No, this is scholarship! I don’t know what kind of view I can get through the water, but I have to try.”
Yalb sighed. “We have masks. Made from a tortoise shell with glass in hollowed-out holes on the front and bladders along the edges to keep the water out. You can duck your head underwater with one on and see. We use them to check over the hull at dock.”
“Of course, I’d have to go to the captain to get permission to take one.…”
She folded her arms. “Devious of you. Well, get to it.” It was unlikely she’d be able to go through with this without the captain finding out anyway.
Yalb grinned. “What happened to you in Kharbranth? Your first trip with us, you were so timid, you looked like you’d faint at the mere thought of sailing away from your homeland!”
Shallan hesitated, then found herself blushing. “This is a somewhat foolhardy, isn’t it?”
“Hanging from a moving ship and sticking your head in the water?” Yalb said. “Yeah. Kind of a little.”
“Do you think… we could stop the ship?”
Yalb laughed, but went jogging off to speak with the captain, taking her query as an indication she was still determined to go through with her plan. And she was.
What did happen to me? she wondered.
The answer was simple. She’d lost everything. She’d stolen from Jasnah Kholin, one of the most powerful women in the world—and in so doing had not only lost her chance to study as she’d always dreamed, but had also doomed her brothers and her house. She had failed utterly and miserably.
And she’d pulled through it.
She wasn’t unscathed. Her credibility with Jasnah had been severely wounded, and she felt that she had all but abandoned her family. But something about the experience of stealing Jasnah’s Soulcaster—which had turned out to be a fake anyway—then nearly being killed by a man she’d thought was in love with her…
Well, she now had a better idea of how bad things could get. It was as if… once she had feared the darkness, but now she had stepped into it. She had experienced some of the horrors that awaited her there. Terrible as they were, at least she knew.
You always knew, a voice whispered deep inside of her. You grew up with horrors, Shallan. You just won’t let yourself remember them.
“What is this?” Tozbek asked as he came up, his wife, Ashlv, at his side. The diminutive woman did not speak much; she dressed in a skirt and blouse of bright yellow, a headscarf covering all of her hair except the two white eyebrows, which she had curled down beside her cheeks.
“Young miss,” Tozbek said, “you want to go swimming? Can’t you wait until we get into port? I know of some nice areas where the water is not nearly so cold.”
“I won’t be swimming,” Shallan said, blushing further. What would she wear to go swimming with men about? Did people really do that? “I need to get a closer look at our companion.” She gestured toward the sea creature.
“Young miss, you know I can’t allow something so dangerous. Even if we stopped the ship, what if the beast harmed you?”
“They’re said to be harmless.”
“They are so rare, can we really know for certain? Besides, there are other animals in these seas that could harm you. Redwaters hunt this area for certain, and we might be in shallow enough water for khornaks to be a worry.” Tozbek shook his head. “I’m sorry, I just cannot allow it.”
Shallan bit her lip, and found her heart beating traitorously. She wanted to push harder, but that decisive look in his eyes made her wilt. “Very well.”
Tozbek smiled broadly. “I’ll take you to see some shells in the port at Amydlatn when we stop there, young miss. They have quite a collection!”
She didn’t know where that was, but from the jumble of consonants squished together, she assumed it would be on the Thaylen side. Most cities were, this far south. Though Thaylenah was nearly as frigid as the Frostlands, people seemed to enjoy living there.
Of course, Thaylens were all a little off. How else to describe Yalb and the others wearing no shirts despite the chill in the air?
They weren’t the ones contemplating a dip in the ocean, Shallan reminded herself. She looked over the side of the ship again, watching waves break against the shell of the gentle santhid. What was it? A great-shelled beast, like the fearsome chasmfiends of the Shattered Plains? Was it more like a fish under there, or more like a tortoise? The santhidyn were so rare—and the occasions when scholars had seen them in person so infrequent—that the theories all contradicted one another.
She sighed and opened her satchel, then set to organizing her papers, most of which were practice sketches of the sailors in various poses as they worked to maneuver the massive sails overhead, tacking against the wind. Her father would never have allowed her to spend a day sitting and watching a bunch of shirtless darkeyes. How much her life had changed in such a short time.
She was working on a sketch of the santhid’s shell when Jasnah stepped up onto the deck.
Like Shallan, Jasnah wore the havah, a Vorin dress of distinctive design. The hemline was down at her feet and the neckline almost at her chin. Some of the Thaylens—when they thought she wasn’t listening—referred to the clothing as prudish. Shallan disagreed; the havah wasn’t prudish, but elegant. Indeed, the silk hugged the body, particularly through the bust—and the way the sailors gawked at Jasnah indicated they didn’t find the garment unflattering.
Jasnah was pretty. Lush of figure, tan of skin. Immaculate eyebrows, lips painted a deep red, hair up in a fine braid. Though Jasnah was twice Shallan’s age, her mature beauty was something to be admired, even envied. Why did the woman have to be so perfect?
Jasnah ignored the eyes of the sailors. It wasn’t that she didn’t notice men. Jasnah noticed everything and everyone. She simply didn’t seem to care, one way or another, how men perceived her.
No, that’s not true, Shallan thought as Jasnah walked over. She wouldn’t take the time to do her hair, or put on makeup, if she didn’t care how she was perceived. In that, Jasnah was an enigma. On one hand, she seemed to be a scholar concerned only with her research. On the other hand, she cultivated the poise and dignity of a king’s daughter—and, at times, used it like a bludgeon.
“And here you are,” Jasnah said, walking to Shallan. A spray of water from the side of the ship chose that moment to fly up and sprinkle her. She frowned at the drops of water beading on her silk clothing, then looked back to Shallan and raised her eyebrow. “The ship, you may have noticed, has two very fine cabins that I hired out for us at no small expense.”
“Yes, but they’re inside.”
“As rooms usually are.”
“I’ve spent most of my life inside.”
“So you will spend much more of it, if you wish to be a scholar.” Shallan bit her lip, waiting for the order to go below. Curiously, it did not come. Jasnah gestured for Captain Tozbek to approach, and he did so, groveling his way over with cap in hand.
“Yes, Brightness?” he asked.
“I should like another of these… seats,” Jasnah said, regarding Shallan’s box.
Tozbek quickly had one of his men lash a second box in place. As she waited for the seat to be ready, Jasnah waved for Shallan to hand over her sketches. Jasnah inspected the drawing of the santhid, then looked over the side of the ship. “No wonder the sailors were making such a fuss.”
“Luck, Brightness!” one of the sailors said. “It is a good omen for your trip, don’t you think?”
“I shall take any fortune provided me, Nanhel Eltorv,” she said. “Thank you for the seat.”
The sailor bowed awkwardly before retreating.
“You think they’re superstitious fools,” Shallan said softly, watching the sailor leave.
“From what I have observed,” Jasnah said, “these sailors are men who have found a purpose in life and now take simple pleasure in it.” Jasnah looked at the next drawing. “Many people make far less out of life. Captain Tozbek runs a good crew. You were wise in bringing him to my attention.”
Shallan smiled. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“You didn’t ask a question,” Jasnah said. “These sketches are characteristically skillful, Shallan, but weren’t you supposed to be reading?”
“I… had trouble concentrating.”
“So you came up on deck,” Jasnah said, “to sketch pictures of young men working without their shirts on. You expected this to help your concentration?”
Shallan blushed, as Jasnah stopped at one sheet of paper in the stack. Shallan sat patiently—she’d been well trained in that by her father—until Jasnah turned it toward her. The picture of Shadesmar, of course.
“You have respected my command not to peer into this realm again?” Jasnah asked.
“Yes, Brightness. That picture was drawn from a memory of my first… lapse.”
Jasnah lowered the page. Shallan thought she saw a hint of something in the woman’s expression. Was Jasnah wondering if she could trust Shallan’s word?
“I assume this is what is bothering you?” Jasnah asked. “Yes, Brightness.”
“I suppose I should explain it to you, then.”
“Really? You would do this?”
“You needn’t sound so surprised.”
“It seems like powerful information,” Shallan said. “The way you forbade me… I assumed that knowledge of this place was secret, or at least not to be trusted to one of my age.”
Jasnah sniffed. “I’ve found that refusing to explain secrets to young people makes them more prone to get themselves into trouble, not less. Your experimentation proves that you’ve already stumbled face-first into all of this—as I once did myself, I’ll have you know. I know through painful experience how dangerous Shadesmar can be. If I leave you in ignorance, I’ll be to blame if you get yourself killed there.”
“So you’d have explained about it if I’d asked earlier in our trip?”
“Probably not,” Jasnah admitted. “I had to see how willing you were to obey me. This time.”
Shallan wilted, and suppressed the urge to point out that back when she’d been a studious and obedient ward, Jasnah hadn’t divulged nearly as many secrets as she did now. “So what is it? That… place.”
“It’s not truly a location,” Jasnah said. “Not as we usually think of them. Shadesmar is here, all around us, right now. All things exist there in some form, as all things exist here.”
Shallan frowned. “I don’t—”
Jasnah held up a finger to quiet her. “All things have three components: the soul, the body, and the mind. That place you saw, Shadesmar, is what we call the Cognitive Realm—the place of the mind.
“All around us you see the physical world. You can touch it, see it, hear it. This is how your physical body experiences the world. Well, Shadesmar is the way that your cognitive self—your unconscious self—experiences the world. Through your hidden senses touching that realm, you make intuitive leaps in logic and you form hopes. It is likely through those extra senses that you, Shallan, create art.”
Water splashed on the bow of the ship as it crossed a swell. Shallan wiped a drop of salty water from her cheek, trying to think through what Jasnah had just said. “That made almost no sense whatsoever to me, Brightness.”
“I should hope that it didn’t,” Jasnah said. “I’ve spent six years researching Shadesmar, and I still barely know what to make of it. I shall have to accompany you there several times before you can understand, even a little, the true significance of the place.”
Jasnah grimaced at the thought. Shallan was always surprised to see visible emotion from her. Emotion was something relatable, something human—and Shallan’s mental image of Jasnah Kholin was of someone almost divine. It was, upon reflection, an odd way to regard a determined atheist.
“Listen to me,” Jasnah said. “My own words betray my ignorance. I told you that Shadesmar wasn’t a place, and yet I call it one in my next breath. I speak of visiting it, though it is all around us. We simply don’t have the proper terminology to discuss it. Let me try another tactic.”
Jasnah stood up, and Shallan hastened to follow. They walked along the ship’s rail, feeling the deck sway beneath their feet. Sailors made way for Jasnah with quick bows. They regarded her with as much reverence as they would a king. How did she do it? How could she control her surroundings without seeming to do anything at all?
“Look down into the waters,” Jasnah said as they reached the bow. “What do you see?”
Shallan stopped beside the rail and stared down at the blue waters, foaming as they were broken by the ship’s prow. Here at the bow, she could see a deepnessto the swells. An unfathomable expanse that extended not just outward, but downward.
“I see eternity,” Shallan said.
“Spoken like an artist,” Jasnah said. “This ship sails across depths we cannot know. Beneath these waves is a bustling, frantic, unseen world.”
Jasnah leaned forward, gripping the rail with one hand unclothed and the other veiled within the safehand sleeve. She looked outward. Not at the depths, and not at the land distantly peeking over both the northern and southern horizons. She looked toward the east. Toward the storms.
“There is an entire world, Shallan,” Jasnah said, “of which our minds skim but the surface. A world of deep, profound thought. A world created by deep, profound thoughts. When you see Shadesmar, you enter those depths. It is an alien place to us in some ways, but at the same time we formed it. With some help.”
“We did what?”
“What are spren?” Jasnah asked.
The question caught Shallan off guard, but by now she was accustomed to challenging questions from Jasnah. She took time to think and consider her answer.
“Nobody knows what spren are,” Shallan said, “though many philosophers have different opinions on—”
“No,” Jasnah said. “What are they?”
“I…” Shallan looked up at a pair of windspren spinning through the air above. They looked like tiny ribbons of light, glowing softly, dancing around one another. “They’re living ideas.”
Jasnah spun on her.
“What?” Shallan said, jumping. “Am I wrong?”
“No,” Jasnah said. “You’re right.” The woman narrowed her eyes. “By my best guess, spren are elements of the Cognitive Realm that have leaked into the physical world. They’re concepts that have gained a fragment of sentience, perhaps because of human intervention.
“Think of a man who gets angry often. Think of how his friends and family might start referring to that anger as a beast, as a thing that possesses him, as something external to him. Humans personify. We speak of the wind as if it has a will of its own.
“Spren are those ideas—the ideas of collective human experience— somehow come alive. Shadesmar is where that first happens, and it is their place. Though we created it, they shaped it. They live there; they rule there, within their own cities.”
“Yes,” Jasnah said, looking back out over the ocean. She seemed troubled. “Spren are wild in their variety. Some are as clever as humans and create cities. Others are like fish and simply swim in the currents.”
Shallan nodded. Though in truth she was having trouble grasping any of this, she didn’t want Jasnah to stop talking. This was the sort of knowledge that Shallanneeded, the kind of thing she craved. “Does this have to do with what you discovered? About the parshmen, the Voidbringers?”
“I haven’t been able to determine that yet. The spren are not always forthcoming. In some cases, they do not know. In others, they do not trust me because of our ancient betrayal.”
Shallan frowned, looking to her teacher. “Betrayal?”
“They tell me of it,” Jasnah said, “but they won’t say what it was. We broke an oath, and in so doing offended them greatly. I think some of them may have died, though how a concept can die, I do not know.” Jasnah turned to Shallan with a solemn expression. “I realize this is overwhelming. You will have to learn this, all of it, if you are to help me. Are you still willing?”
“Do I have a choice?”
A smile tugged at the edges of Jasnah’s lips. “I doubt it. You Soulcast on your own, without the aid of a fabrial. You are like me.”
Shallan stared out over the waters. Like Jasnah. What did it mean? Why—
She froze, blinking. For a moment, she thought she’d seen the same pattern as before, the one that had made ridges on her sheet of paper. This time it had been in the water, impossibly formed on the surface of a wave.
“Brightness…” she said, resting her fingers on Jasnah’s arm. “I thought I saw something in the water, just now. A pattern of sharp lines, like a maze.”
“Show me where.”
“It was on one of the waves, and we’ve passed it now. But I think I saw it earlier, on one of my pages. Does it mean something?”
“Most certainly. I must admit, Shallan, I find the coincidence of our meeting to be startling. Suspiciously so.”
“They were involved,” Jasnah said. “They brought you to me. And they are still watching you, it appears. So no, Shallan, you no longer have a choice. The old ways are returning, and I don’t see it as a hopeful sign. It’s an act of self-preservation. The spren sense impending danger, and so they return to us. Our attention now must turn to the Shattered Plains and the relics of Urithiru. It will be a long, long time before you return to your homeland.”
Shallan nodded mutely.
“This worries you,” Jasnah said.
“Yes, Brightness. My family…”
Shallan felt like a traitor in abandoning her brothers, who had been depending on her for wealth. She’d written to them and explained, without many specifics, that she’d had to return the stolen Soulcaster—and was now required to help Jasnah with her work.
Balat’s reply had been positive, after a fashion. He said he was glad at least one of them had escaped the fate that was coming to the house. He thought that the rest of them—her three brothers and Balat’s betrothed— were doomed.
They might be right. Not only would Father’s debts crush them, but there was the matter of her father’s broken Soulcaster. The group that had given it to him wanted it back.
Unfortunately, Shallan was convinced that Jasnah’s quest was of the utmost importance. The Voidbringers would soon return—indeed, they were not some distant threat from stories. They lived among men, and had for centuries. The gentle, quiet parshmen who worked as perfect servants and slaves were really destroyers.
Stopping the catastrophe of the return of the Voidbringers was a greater duty than even protecting her brothers. It was still painful to admit that.
Jasnah studied her. “With regard to your family, Shallan. I have taken some action.”
“Action?” Shallan said, taking the taller woman’s arm. “You’ve helped my brothers?”
“After a fashion,” Jasnah said. “Wealth would not truly solve this problem, I suspect, though I have arranged for a small gift to be sent. From what you’ve said, your family’s problems really stem from two issues. First, the Ghostbloods desire their Soulcaster—which you have broken—to be returned. Second, your house is without allies and deeply in debt.”
Jasnah proffered a sheet of paper. “This,” she continued, “is from a conversation I had with my mother via spanreed this morning.”
Shallan traced it with her eyes, noting Jasnah’s explanation of the broken Soulcaster and her request for help.
This happens more often than you’d think, Navani had replied. The failing likely has to do with the alignment of the gem housings. Bring me the device, and we shall see.
“My mother,” Jasnah said, “is a renowned artifabrian. I suspect she can make yours function again. We can send it to your brothers, who can return it to its owners.”
“You’d let me do that?” Shallan asked. During their days sailing, Shallan had cautiously pried for more information about the sect, hoping to understand her father and his motives. Jasnah claimed to know very little of them beyond the fact that they wanted her research, and were willing to kill for it.
“I don’t particularly want them having access to such a valuable device,” Jasnah said. “But I don’t have time to protect your family right now directly. This is a workable solution, assuming your brothers can stall a while longer. Have them tell the truth, if they must—that you, knowing I was a scholar, came to me and asked me to fix the Soulcaster. Perhaps that will sate them for now.”
“Thank you, Brightness.” Storms. If she’d just gone to Jasnah in the first place, after being accepted as her ward, how much easier would it have been? Shallan looked down at the paper, noticing that the conversation continued.
As for the other matter, Navani wrote, I’m very fond of this suggestion. I believe I can persuade the boy to at least consider it, as his most recent affair ended quite abruptly—as is common with him—earlier in the week.
“What is this second part?” Shallan asked, looking up from the paper.
“Sating the Ghostbloods alone will not save your house,” Jasnah said. “Your debts are too great, particularly considering your father’s actions in alienating so many. I have therefore arranged a powerful alliance for your house.”
Jasnah took a deep breath. She seemed reluctant to explain. “I have taken the initial steps in arranging for you to be betrothed to one of my cousins, son of my uncle Dalinar Kholin. The boy’s name is Adolin. He is handsome and well-acquainted with amiable discourse.”
“Betrothed?” Shallan said. “You’ve promised him my hand?”
“I have started the process,” Jasnah said, speaking with uncharacteristic anxiety. “Though at times he lacks foresight, Adolin has a good heart—as good as that of his father, who may be the best man I have ever known. He is considered Alethkar’s most eligible son, and my mother has long wanted him wed.”
“Betrothed,” Shallan repeated.
“Yes. Is that distressing?”
“It’s wonderful!” Shallan exclaimed, grabbing Jasnah’s arm more tightly. “So easy. If I’m married to someone so powerful… Storms! Nobody would dare touch us in Jah Keved. It would solve many of our problems. Brightness Jasnah, you’re a genius!”
Jasnah relaxed visibly. “Yes, well, it did seem a workable solution. I had wondered, however, if you’d be offended.”
“Why on the winds would I be offended?”
“Because of the restriction of freedom implicit in a marriage,” Jasnah said. “And if not that, because the offer was made without consulting you. I had to see if the possibility was even open first. It has proceeded further than I’d expected, as my mother has seized on the idea. Navani has… a tendency toward the overwhelming.”
Shallan had trouble imagining anyone overwhelming Jasnah. “Stormfather! You’re worried I’d be offended? Brightness, I spent my entire life locked in my father’s manor—I grew up assuming he’d pick my husband.”
“But you’re free of your father now.”
“Yes, and I was so perfectly wise in my own pursuit of relationships,” Shallan said. “The first man I chose was not only an ardent, but secretly an assassin.”
“It doesn’t bother you at all?” Jasnah said. “The idea of being beholden to another, particularly a man?”
“It’s not like I’m being sold into slavery,” Shallan said with a laugh.
“No. I suppose not.” Jasnah shook herself, her poise returning. “Well, I will let Navani know you are amenable to the engagement, and we should have a causal in place within the day.”
A causal—a conditional betrothal, in Vorin terminology. She would be, for all intents and purposes, engaged, but would have no legal footing until an official betrothal was signed and verified by the ardents.
“The boy’s father has said he will not force Adolin into anything,” Jasnah explained, “though the boy is recently single, as he has managed to offend yet another young lady. Regardless, Dalinar would rather you two meet before anything more binding is agreed upon. There have been… shifts in the political climate of the Shattered Plains. A great loss to my uncle’s army. Another reason for us to hasten to the Shattered Plains.”
“Adolin Kholin,” Shallan said, listening with half an ear. “A duelist. A fantastic one. And even a Shardbearer.”
“Ah, so you were paying attention to your readings about my father and family.”
“I was—but I knew about your family before that. The Alethi are the center of society! Even girls from rural houses know the names of the Alethi princes.” And she’d be lying if she denied youthful daydreams of meeting one. “But Brightness, are you certain this match will be wise? I mean, I’m hardly the most important of individuals.”
“Well, yes. The daughter of another highprince might have been preferable for Adolin. However, it seems that he has managed to offend each and every one of the eligible women of that rank. The boy is, shall we say, somewhat overeager about relationships. Nothing you can’t work through, I’m sure.”
“Stormfather,” Shallan said, feeling her legs go weak. “He’s heir to a princedom! He’s in line to the throne of Alethkar itself!”
“Third in line,” Jasnah said, “behind my brother’s infant son and Dalinar, my uncle.”
“Brightness, I have to ask. Why Adolin? Why not the younger son? I—I have nothing to offer Adolin, or the house.”
“On the contrary,” Jasnah said, “if you are what I think you are, then you will be able to offer him something nobody else can. Something more important than riches.”
“What is it you think that I am?” Shallan whispered, meeting the older woman’s eyes, finally asking the question that she hadn’t dared.
“Right now, you are but a promise,” Jasnah said. “A chrysalis with the potential for grandeur inside. When once humans and spren bonded, the results were women who danced in the skies and men who could destroy the stones with a touch.”
“The Lost Radiants. Traitors to mankind.” She couldn’t absorb it all. The betrothal, Shadesmar and the spren, and this, her mysterious destiny. She’d known. But speaking it…
She sank down, heedless of getting her dress wet on the deck, and sat with her back against the bulwark. Jasnah allowed her to compose herself before, amazingly, sitting down herself. She did so with far more poise, tucking her dress underneath her legs as she sat sideways. They both drew looks from the sailors.
“They’re going to chew me to pieces,” Shallan said. “The Alethi court. It’s the most ferocious in the world.”
Jasnah snorted. “It’s more bluster than storm, Shallan. I will train you.”
“I’ll never be like you, Brightness. You have power, authority, wealth. Just look how the sailors respond to you.”
“Am I specifically using said power, authority, or wealth right now?” “You paid for this trip.”
“Did you not pay for several trips on this ship?” Jasnah asked. “They did not treat you the same as they do me?”
“No. Oh, they are fond of me. But I don’t have your weight, Jasnah.”
“I will assume that did not have implications toward my girth,” Jasnah said with a hint of a smile. “I understand your argument, Shallan. It is, however, dead wrong.”
Shallan turned to her. Jasnah sat upon the deck of the ship as if it were a throne, back straight, head up, commanding. Shallan sat with her legs against her chest, arms around them below the knees. Even the ways they sat were different. She was nothing like this woman.
“There is a secret you must learn, child,” Jasnah said. “A secret that is even more important than those relating to Shadesmar and spren. Power is an illusion of perception.”
“Don’t mistake me,” Jasnah continued. “Some kinds of power are real— power to command armies, power to Soulcast. These come into play far less often than you would think. On an individual basis, in most interactions, this thing we call power—authority—exists only as it is perceived.
“You say I have wealth. This is true, but you have also seen that I do not often use it. You say I have authority as the sister of a king. I do. And yet, the men of this ship would treat me exactly the same way if I were a beggar who hadconvinced them I was the sister to a king. In that case, my authority is not a real thing. It is mere vapors—an illusion. I can create that illusion for them, as can you.”
“I’m not convinced, Brightness.”
“I know. If you were, you would be doing it already.” Jasnah stood up, brushing off her skirt. “You will tell me if you see that pattern—the one that appeared on the waves—again?”
“Yes, Brightness,” Shallan said, distracted.
“Then take the rest of the day for your art. I need to consider how to best teach you of Shadesmar.” The older woman retreated, nodding at the bows of sailors as she passed and went back down belowdecks.
Shallan rose, then turned and grabbed the railing, one hand to either side of the bowsprit. The ocean spread before her, rippling waves, a scent of cold freshness. Rhythmic crashing as the sloop pushed through the waves.
Jasnah’s words fought in her mind, like skyeels with only one rat between them. Spren with cities? Shadesmar, a realm that was here, but unseen? Shallan, suddenly betrothed to the single most important bachelor in the world?
She left the bow, walking along the side of the ship, freehand trailing on the railing. How did the sailors regard her? They smiled, they waved. They liked her. Yalb, who hung lazily from the rigging nearby, called to her, telling her that in the next port, there was a statue she had to go visit. “It’s this giant foot, young miss. Just a foot! Never finished the blustering statue…”
She smiled to him and continued. Did she want them to look at her as they looked at Jasnah? Always afraid, always worried that they might do something wrong? Was that power?
When I first sailed from Vedenar, she thought, reaching the place where her box had been tied, the captain kept urging me to go home. He saw my mission as a fool’s errand.
Tozbek had always acted as if he were doing her a favor in conveying her after Jasnah. Should she have had to spend that entire time feeling as if she’d imposed upon him and his crew by hiring them? Yes, he had offered a discount to her because of her father’s business with him in the past—but she’d still been employing him.
The way he’d treated her was probably a thing of Thaylen merchants. If a captain could make you feel like you were imposing on him, you’d pay better. She liked the man, but their relationship left something to be desired. Jasnah would never have stood for being treated in such a way.
That santhid still swam alongside. It was like a tiny, mobile island, its back overgrown with seaweed, small crystals jutting up from the shell.
Shallan turned and walked toward the stern, where Captain Tozbek spoke with one of his mates, pointing at a map covered with glyphs. He nodded to her as she approached. “Just a warning, young miss,” he said. “The ports will soon grow less accommodating. We’ll be leaving Longbrow’s Straits, curving around the eastern edge of the continent, toward New Natanan. There’s nothing of worth between here and the Shallow Crypts—and even that’s not much of a sight. I wouldn’t send my own brother ashore there without guards, and he’s killed seventeen men with his bare hands, he has.”
“I understand, Captain,” Shallan said. “And thank you. I’ve revised my earlier decision. I need you to halt the ship and let me inspect the specimen swimming beside us.”
He sighed, reaching up and running his fingers along one of his stiff, spiked eyebrows—much as other men might play with their mustaches. “Brightness, that’s not advisable. Stormfather! If I dropped you in the ocean…”
“Then I would be wet,” Shallan said. “It is a state I’ve experienced one or two times in my life.”
“No, I simply cannot allow it. Like I said, we’ll take you to see some shells in—”
“Cannot allow it?” Shallan interrupted. She regarded him with what she hoped was a look of puzzlement, hoping he didn’t see how tightly she squeezed her hands closed at her sides. Storms, but she hated confrontation. “I wasn’t aware I had made a request you had the power to allow or disallow, Captain. Stop the ship. Lower me down. That is your order.” She tried to say it as forcefully as Jasnah would. The woman could make it seem easier to resist a full highstorm than to disagree with her.
Tozbek worked his mouth for a moment, no sound coming out, as if his body were trying to continue his earlier objection but his mind had been delayed. “It is my ship…” he finally said.
“Nothing will be done to your ship,” Shallan said. “Let’s be quick about it, Captain. I do not wish to overly delay our arrival in port tonight.”
She left him, walking back to her box, heart thumping, hands trembling. She sat down, partially to calm herself.
Tozbek, sounding profoundly annoyed, began calling orders. The sails were lowered, the ship slowed. Shallan breathed out, feeling a fool.
And yet, what Jasnah said worked. The way Shallan acted created something in the eyes of Tozbek. An illusion? Like the spren themselves, perhaps? Fragments of human expectation, given life?
The santhid slowed with them. Shallan rose, nervous, as sailors approached with rope. They reluctantly tied a loop at the bottom she could put her foot in, then explained that she should hold tightly to the rope as she was lowered. They tied a second, smaller rope securely around her waist—the means by which to haul her, wet and humiliated, back onto the deck. An inevitability, in their eyes.
She took off her shoes, then climbed up over the railing as instructed. Had it been this windy before? She had a moment of vertigo, standing there with socked toes gripping a tiny rim, dress fluttering in the coursing winds. A windspren zipped up to her, then formed into the shape of a face with clouds behind it. Storms, the thing had better not interfere. Was it human imagination that had given windspren their mischievous spark?
She stepped unsteadily into the rope loop as the sailors lowered it down beside her feet, then Yalb handed her the mask he’d told her of.
Jasnah appeared from belowdecks, looking about in confusion. She saw Shallan standing off the side of the ship, and then cocked an eyebrow.
Shallan shrugged, then gestured to the men to lower her.
She refused to let herself feel silly as she inched toward the waters and the reclusive animal bobbing in the waves. The men stopped her a foot or two above the water, and she put on the mask, held by straps, covering most of her face including the nose.
“Lower!” she shouted up at them.
She thought she could feel their reluctance in the lethargic way the rope descended. Her foot hit the water, and a biting cold shot up her leg. Stormfather! But she didn’t have them stop. She let them lower her farther until her legs were submerged in the frigid water. Her skirt ballooned out in a most annoying way, and she actually had to step on the end of it—inside the loop—to prevent it from rising up about her waist and floating on the water’s surface as she submerged.
She wrestled with the fabric for a moment, glad the men above couldn’t see her blushing. Once it got wetter, though, it was easier to manage. She finally was able to squat, still holding tightly to the rope, and go down into the water up to her waist.
Then she ducked her head under the water.
Light streamed down from the surface in shimmering, radiant columns. There was life here, furious, amazing life. Tiny fish zipped this way and that, picking at the underside of the shell that shaded a majestic creature. Gnarled like an ancient tree, with rippled and folded skin, the true form of the santhid was a beast with long, drooping blue tendrils, like those of a jellyfish, only far thicker. Those disappeared down into the depths, trailing behind the beast at a slant.
The beast itself was a knotted grey-blue mass underneath the shell. Its ancient-looking folds surrounded one large eye on her side—presumably, would be its twin on the other. It seemed ponderous, yet majestic, with mighty fins moving like oarsmen. A group of strange spren shaped like arrows moved through the water here around the beast.
Schools of fish darted about. Though the depths seemed empty, the area just around the santhid teemed with life, as did the area under the ship. Tiny fish picked at the bottom of the vessel. They’d move between the santhid and the ship, sometimes alone, sometimes in waves. Was this why the creature swam up beside a vessel? Something to do with the fish, and their relationship to it?
She looked upon the creature, and its eye—as big as her head—rolled toward her, focusing, seeing her. In that moment, Shallan’s couldn’t feel the cold. She couldn’t feel embarrassed. She was looking into a world that, so far as she knew, no scholar had ever visited.
She blinked her eyes, taking a Memory of the creature, collecting it for later sketching.
Our first clue was the Parshendi. Even weeks before they abandoned their pursuit of the gemhearts, their pattern of fighting changed. They lingered on the plateaus after battles, as if waiting for something.
—From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
A man’s breath was his life. Exhaled, bit by bit, back into the world. Kaladin breathed deeply, eyes closed, and for a time that was all he could hear. His own life. In, out, to the beating of the thunder in his chest.
Breath. His own little storm.
Outside, the rain had stopped. Kaladin remained sitting in the darkness. When kings and wealthy lighteyes died, their bodies weren’t burned like those of common men. Instead, they were Soulcast into statues of stone or metal, forever frozen.
The darkeyes’ bodies were burned. They became smoke, to rise toward the heavens and whatever waited there, like a burned prayer.
Breath. The breath of a lighteyes was no different from that of a darkeyes. No more sweet, no more free. The breath of kings and slaves mingled, to be breathed by men again, over and over.
Kaladin stood up and opened his eyes. He’d spent the highstorm in the darkness of this small room alongside Bridge Four’s new barrack. Alone. He walked to the door, but stopped. He rested his fingers on a cloak he knew hung from a hook there. In the darkness, he could not make out its deep blue color, nor the Kholin glyph—in the shape of Dalinar’s sigil—on the back.
It seemed that every change in his life had been marked by a storm. This was a big one. He shoved open the door and stepped out into the light as a free man.
He left the cloak, for now.
Bridge Four cheered him as he emerged. They had gone out to bathe and shave in the riddens of the storm, as was their custom. The line was almost done, Rock having shaved each of the men in turn. The large Horn-eater hummed to himself as he worked the razor over Drehy’s balding head. The air smelled wet from the rain, and a washed-out firepit nearby was the only trace of the stew the group had shared the night before.
In many ways, this place wasn’t so different from the lumberyards his men had recently escaped. The long, rectangular stone barracks were much the same—Soulcast rather than having been built by hand, they looked like enormous stone logs. These, however, each had a couple of smaller rooms on the sides for sergeants, with their own doors that opened to the outside. They’d been painted with the symbols of the platoons using them before; Kaladin’s men would have to paint over those.
“Moash,” Kaladin called. “Skar, Teft.”
The three jogged toward him, splashing through puddles left by the storm. They wore the clothing of bridgemen: simple trousers cut off at the knees, and leather vests over bare chests. Skar was up and mobile despite the wound to his foot, and he tried rather obviously not to limp. For now, Kaladin didn’t order him to bed rest. The wound wasn’t too bad, and he needed the man.
“I want to look at what we’ve got,” Kaladin said, leading them away from the barrack. It would house fifty men along with a half-dozen sergeants. More barracks flanked it on either side. Kaladin had been given an entire block of them—twenty buildings—to house his new battalion of former bridgemen.
Twenty buildings. That Dalinar should so easily be able to find a block of twenty buildings for the bridgemen bespoke a terrible truth—the cost of Sadeas’s betrayal. Thousands of men dead. Indeed, female scribes worked near some of the barracks, supervising parshmen who carried out heaps of clothing and other personal effects. The possessions of the deceased.
Not a few of those scribes looked on with red eyes and frazzled composures. Sadeas had just created thousands of new widows in Dalinar’s camp, and likely as many orphans. If Kaladin had needed another reason to hate that man, he found it here, manifest in the suffering of those whose husbands had trusted him on the battlefield.
In Kaladin’s eyes, there was no sin greater than the betrayal of one’s allies in battle. Except, perhaps, for the betrayal of one’s own men—of murdering them after they risked their lives to protect you. Kaladin felt an immediate flare of anger at thoughts of Amaram and what he’d done. His slave brand seemed to burn again on his forehead.
Amaram and Sadeas. Two men in Kaladin’s life who would, at some point, need to pay for the things they’d done. Preferably, that payment would come with severe interest.
Kaladin continued to walk with Teft, Moash, and Skar. These barracks, which were slowly being emptied of personal effects, were also crowded with bridgemen. They looked much like the men of Bridge Four—same vests and knee-trousers. And yet, in some other ways, they couldn’t have looked less like the men of Bridge Four. Shaggy-haired with beards that hadn’t been trimmed in months, they bore hollow eyes that didn’t seem to blink often enough. Slumped backs. Expressionless faces.
Each man among them seemed to sit alone, even when surrounded by his fellows.
“I remember that feeling,” Skar said softly. The short, wiry man had sharp features and silvering hair at the temples, despite being in his early thirties. “I don’t want to, but I do.”
“We’re supposed to turn those into an army?” Moash asked.
“Kaladin did it to Bridge Four, didn’t he?” Teft asked, wagging a finger at Moash. “He’ll do it again.”
“Transforming a few dozen men is different from doing the same for hundreds,” Moash said, kicking aside a fallen branch from the highstorm. Tall and solid, Moash had a scar on his chin but no slave brand on his forehead. He walked straight-backed with his chin up. Save for those dark brown eyes of his, he could have passed for an officer.
Kaladin led the three past barrack after barrack, doing a quick count. Nearly a thousand men, and though he’d told them yesterday that they were now free—and could return to their old lives if they wished—few seemed to want to do anything but sit. Though there had originally been forty bridge crews, many had been slaughtered during the latest assault and others had already been short-manned.
“We’ll combine them into twenty crews,” Kaladin said, “of about fifty each.” Above, Syl fluttered down as a ribbon of light and zipped around him. The men gave no sign of seeing her; she would be invisible to them. “We can’t teach each of these thousand personally, not at first. We’ll want to train the more eager ones among them, then send them back to lead and train their own teams.”
“I suppose,” Teft said, scratching his chin. The oldest of the bridgemen, he was one of the few who retained a beard. Most of the others had shaved theirs off as a mark of pride, something to separate the men of Bridge Four from common slaves. Teft kept his neat for the same reason. It was light brown where it hadn’t gone grey, and he wore it short and square, almost like an ardent’s.
Moash grimaced, looking at the bridgemen. “You assume some of them will be ‘more eager,’ Kaladin. They all look the same level of despondent to me.”
“Some will still have fight in them,” Kaladin said, continuing on back toward Bridge Four. “The ones who joined us at the fire last night, for a start. Teft, I’ll need you to choose others. Organize and combine crews, then pick forty men—two from each team—to be trained first. You’ll be in command of that training. Those forty will be the seed we use to help the rest.”
“I suppose I can do that.”
“Good. I’ll give you a few men to help.”
“A few?” Teft asked. “I could use more than a few.…”
“You’ll have to make do with a few,” Kaladin said, stopping on the path and turning westward, toward the king’s complex beyond the camp wall. It rose on a hillside overlooking the rest of the warcamps. “Most of us are going to be needed to keep Dalinar Kholin alive.”
Moash and the others stopped beside him. Kaladin squinted at the palace. It certainly didn’t look grand enough to house a king—out here, everything was just stone and more stone.
“You are willing to trust Dalinar?” Moash asked.
“He gave up his Shardblade for us,” Kaladin said.
“He owed it to us,” Skar said with a grunt. “We saved his storming life.”
“It could have just been posturing,” Moash said, folding his arms. “Political games, him and Sadeas trying to manipulate each other.”
Syl alighted on Kaladin’s shoulder, taking the form of a young woman with a flowing, filmy dress, all blue-white. She held her hands clasped together as she looked up at the king’s complex, where Dalinar Kholin had gone to plan.
He’d told Kaladin that he was going to do something that would anger a lot of people. I’m going to take away their games.…
“We need to keep that man alive,” Kaladin said, looking back to the others. “I don’t know if I trust him, but he’s the only person on these Plains who has shown even a hint of compassion for bridgemen. If he dies, do you want to guess how long it will take his successor to sell us back to Sadeas?”
Skar snorted in derision. “I’d like to see them try with a Knight Radiant at our head.”
“I’m not a Radiant.”
“Fine, whatever,” Skar said. “Whatever you are, it will be tough for them to take us from you.”
“You think I can fight them all, Skar?” Kaladin said, meeting the older man’s eyes. “Dozens of Shardbearers? Tens of thousands of troops? You think one man could do that?”
“Not one man,” Skar said, stubborn. “You.”
“I’m not a god, Skar,” Kaladin said. “I can’t hold back the weight of ten armies.” He turned to the other two. “We decided to stay here on the Shattered Plains. Why?”
“What good would it do to run?” Teft asked, shrugging. “Even as free men, we’d just end up conscripted into one army or another out there in the hills. Either that, or we’d end up starving.”
Moash nodded. “This is as good a place as any, so long as we’re free.”
“Dalinar Kholin is our best hope for a real life,” Kaladin said. “Bodyguards, not conscripted labor. Free men, despite the brands on our foreheads. Nobody else will give us that. If we want freedom, we need to keep Dalinar Kholin alive.”
“And the Assassin in White?” Skar asked softly.
They’d heard of what the man was doing around the world, slaughtering kings and highprinces in all nations. The news was the buzz of the warcamps, ever since reports had started trickling in through spanreed. The emperor of Azir, dead. Jah Keved in turmoil. A half-dozen other nations left without a ruler.
“He already killed our king,” Kaladin said. “Old Gavilar was the assassin’s first murder. We’ll just have to hope he’s done here. Either way, we protect Dalinar. At all costs.”
They nodded one by one, though those nods were grudging. He didn’t blame them. Trusting lighteyes hadn’t gotten them far—even Moash, who had once spoken well of Dalinar, now seemed to have lost his fondness for the man. Or any lighteyes.
In truth, Kaladin was a little surprised at himself and the trust he felt. But, storm it, Syl liked Dalinar. That carried weight.
“We’re weak right now,” Kaladin said, lowering his voice. “But if we play along with this for a time, protecting Kholin, we’ll be paid handsomely. I’ll be able to train you—really train you—as soldiers and officers. Beyond that, we’ll be able to teach these others.
“We could never make it on our own out there as two dozen former bridgemen. But what if we were instead a highly skilled mercenary force of a thousand soldiers, equipped with the finest gear in the warcamps? If worse comes to worst, and we have to abandon the camps, I’d like to do so as a cohesive unit, hardened and impossible to ignore. Give me a year with this thousand, and I can have it done.”
“Now that plan I like,” Moash said. “Do I get to learn to use a sword?”
“We’re still darkeyes, Moash.”
“Not you,” Skar said from his other side. “I saw your eyes during the—”
“Stop!” Kaladin said. He took a deep breath. “Just stop. No more talk of that.”
Skar fell silent.
“I am going to name you officers,” Kaladin said to them. “You three, along with Sigzil and Rock. You’ll be lieutenants.”
“Darkeyed lieutenants?” Skar said. The rank was commonly used for the equivalent of sergeants in companies made up only of lighteyes.
“Dalinar made me a captain,” Kaladin said. “The highest rank he said he dared commission a darkeyes. Well, I need to come up with a full command structure for a thousand men, and we’re going to need something between sergeant and captain. That means appointing you five as lieutenants. I think Dalinar will let me get away with it. We’ll make master sergeants if we need another rank.
“Rock is going to be quartermaster and in charge of food for the thousand. I’ll appoint Lopen his second. Teft, you’ll be in charge of training. Sigzil will be our clerk. He’s the only one who can read glyphs. Moash and Skar…”
He glanced toward the two men. One short, the other tall, they walked the same way, with a smooth gait, dangerous, spears always on their shoulders. They were never without. Of all the men he’d trained in Bridge Four, only these two had instinctively understood. They were killers.
Like Kaladin himself.
“We three,” Kaladin told them, “are each going to focus on watching Dalinar Kholin. Whenever possible, I want one of us three personally guarding him. Often one of the other two will watch his sons, but make no mistake, the Blackthorn is the man we’re going to keep alive. At all costs. He is our only guarantee of freedom for Bridge Four.”
The others nodded.
“Good,” Kaladin said. “Let’s go get the rest of the men. It’s time for the world to see you as I do.”
By common agreement, Hobber sat down to get his tattoo first. The gaptoothed man was one of the very first who had believed in Kaladin. Kaladin remembered that day; exhausted after a bridge run, wanting to simply lie down and stare. Instead, he’d chosen to save Hobber rather than letting him die. Kaladin had saved himself that day too.
The rest of Bridge Four stood around Hobber in the tent, watching in silence as the tattooist worked carefully on his forehead, covering up the scar of his slave’s brand with the glyphs Kaladin had provided. Hobber winced now and then at the pain of the tattoo, but he kept a grin on his face.
Kaladin had heard that you could cover a scar with a tattoo, and it ended up working quite well. Once the tattoo ink was injected, the glyphs drew the eye, and you could barely tell that the skin beneath was scarred.
Once the process was finished, the tattooist provided a mirror for Hobber to look into. The bridgeman touched his forehead hesitantly. The skin was red from the needles, but the dark tattoo perfectly covered the slave brand.
“What does it say?” Hobber asked softly, tears in his eyes.
“Freedom,” Sigzil said before Kaladin could reply. “The glyph means freedom.”
“The smaller ones above,” Kaladin said, “say the date you were freed and the one who freed you. Even if you lose your writ of freedom, anyone who tries to imprison you for being a runaway can easily find proof that you are not. They can go to Dalinar Kholin’s scribes, who keep a copy of your writ.”
Hobber nodded. “That’s good, but it’s not enough. Add ‘Bridge Four’ to it. Freedom, Bridge Four.”
“To imply you were freed from Bridge Four?”
“No, sir. I wasn’t freed from Bridge Four. I was freed by it. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.”
It was crazy talk. Bridge Four had been death—scores of men had been slaughtered running that cursed bridge. Even after Kaladin had determined to save the men, he’d lost far too many. Hobber would have been a fool not to take any opportunity to escape.
And yet, he sat stubbornly until Kaladin drew out the proper glyphs for the tattooist—a calm, sturdy darkeyed woman who looked like she could have lifted a bridge all on her own. She settled down on her stool and began adding the two glyphs to Hobber’s forehead, tucked right below the freedom glyph. She spent the process explaining—again—how the tattoo would be sore for days and how Hobber would need to care for it.
He accepted the new tattoos with a grin on his face. Pure foolishness, but the others nodded in agreement, clasping Hobber on the arm. Once Hobber was done, Skar sat quickly, eager, demanding the same full set of tattoos.
Kaladin stepped back, folding his arms and shaking his head. Outside the tent, a bustling marketplace sold and bought. The “warcamp” was really a city, built up inside the craterlike rim of some enormous rock formation. The prolonged war on the Shattered Plains had attracted merchants of all varieties, along with tradesmen, artists, and even families with children.
Moash stood nearby, face troubled, watching the tattooist. He wasn’t the only one in the bridge crew who didn’t have a slave brand. Teft didn’t either. They had been made bridgemen without technically being made slaves first. It happened frequently in Sadeas’s camp, where running bridges was a punishment that one could earn for all manner of infractions.
“If you don’t have a slave’s brand,” Kaladin said loudly to the men, “you don’t need to get the tattoo. You’re still one of us.”
“No,” Rock said. “I will get this thing.” He insisted on sitting down after Skar and getting the tattoo right on his forehead, though he had no slave brand. Indeed, every one of the men without a slave brand—Beld and Teft included—sat down and got the tattoo on their foreheads.
Only Moash abstained, and had the tattoo placed on his upper arm. Good. Unlike most of them, he wouldn’t have to go about with a proclamation of former slavery in plain view.
Moash stood up from the seat, and another took his place. A man with red and black skin in a marbled pattern, like stone. Bridge Four had a lot of variety, but Shen was in a class all his own. A parshman.
“I can’t tattoo him,” the artist said. “He’s property.”
Kaladin opened his mouth to object, but the other bridgemen jumped in first.
“He’s been freed, like us,” Teft said.
“One of the team,” Hobber said. “Give him the tattoo, or you won’t see a sphere from any of us.” He blushed after he said it, glancing at Kaladin— who would be paying for all this, using spheres granted by Dalinar Kholin.
Other bridgemen spoke out, and the tattoo artist finally sighed and gave in. She pulled over her stool and began working on Shen’s forehead.
“You won’t even be able to see it,” she grumbled, though Sigzil’s skin was nearly as dark as Shen’s, and the tattoo showed up fine on him.
Eventually, Shen looked in the mirror, then stood up. He glanced at Kaladin, and nodded. Shen didn’t say much, and Kaladin didn’t know what to make of the man. It was actually easy to forget about him, usually trailing along silently at the back of the group of bridgemen. Invisible. Parshmen were often that way.
Shen finished, only Kaladin himself remained. He sat down next and closed his eyes. The pain of the needles was a lot sharper than he’d anticipated.
After a short time, the tattooist started cursing under her breath.
Kaladin opened his eyes as she wiped a rag on his forehead. “What is it?” he asked.
“The ink won’t take!” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. When I wipe your forehead, the ink all just comes right off! The tattoo won’t stay.”
Kaladin sighed, realizing he had a little Stormlight raging in his veins. He hadn’t even noticed drawing it in, but he seemed to be getting better and better at holding it. He frequently took in a little these days while walking about. Holding Stormlight was like filling a wineskin—if you filled it to bursting and unstopped it, it would squirt out quickly, then slow to a trickle. Same with the Light.
He banished it, hoping the tattoo artist didn’t notice when he breathed out a small cloud of glowing smoke. “Try again,” he said as she got out new ink.
This time, the tattoo took. Kaladin sat through the process, teeth clenched against the pain, then looked up as she held the mirror for him. The face that looked back at Kaladin seemed alien. Clean-shaven, hair pulled back from his face for the tattooing, the slave brands covered up and, for the moment, forgotten.
Can I be this man again? he thought, reaching up, touching his cheek. This man died, didn’t he?
Syl landed on his shoulder, joining him in looking into the mirror. “Life before death, Kaladin,” she whispered.
He unconsciously sucked in Stormlight. Just a little, a fraction of a sphere’s worth. It flowed through his veins like a wave of pressure, like winds trapped in a small enclosure.
The tattoo on his forehead melted. His body shoved out the ink, which started to drip down his face. The tattooist cursed again and grabbed her rag. Kaladin was left with the image of those glyphs melting away. Freedom dissolved, and underneath, the violent scars of his captivity. Dominated by a branded glyph.
The woman wiped his face. “I don’t know why this is happening! I thought it would stay that time. I—”
“It’s all right,” Kaladin said, taking the rag as he stood, finishing the cleanup. He turned to face the rest of them, bridgemen now soldiers. “The scars haven’t finished with me yet, it appears. I’ll try again another time.”
They nodded. He’d have to explain to them later what was happening; they knew of his abilities.
“Let’s go,” Kaladin said to them, tossing a small bag of spheres to the tattooist, then taking his spear from beside the tent entrance. The others joined him, spears to shoulders. They didn’t need to be armed while in camp, but he wanted them to get used to the idea that they were free to carry weapons now.
The market outside was crowded and vibrant. The tents, of course, would have been taken down and stowed during last night’s highstorm, but they’d already sprung up again. Perhaps because he was thinking about Shen, he noticed the parshmen. He picked out dozens of them with a cursory glance, helping set up a few last tents, carrying purchases for lighteyes, helping shopowners stack their wares.
What do they think of this war on the Shattered Plains? Kaladin wondered. A war to defeat, and perhaps subjugate, the only free parshmen in the world?
Would that he could get an answer out of Shen regarding questions like that. It seemed all he ever got from the parshman were shrugs.
Kaladin led his men through the market, which seemed far friendlier than the one in Sadeas’s camp. Though people stared at the bridgemen, nobody sneered, and the haggling at nearby stands—while energetic—didn’t progress to shouting. There even seemed to be fewer urchins and beggars.
You just want to believe that, Kaladin thought. You want to believe Dalinar is the man everyone says he is. The honorable lighteyes of the stories. But everyone said the same things about Amaram.
As they walked, they did pass some soldiers. Too few. Men who had been on duty back in the camp when the others had gone on the disastrous assault where Sadeas had betrayed Dalinar. As they passed one group patrolling the market, Kaladin caught two men at their front raising their hands before themselves, crossed at the wrist.
How had they learned Bridge Four’s old salute, and so quickly? These men didn’t do it as a full salute, just a small gesture, but they nodded their heads to Kaladin and his men as they passed. Suddenly, the more calm nature of the market took on another cast to Kaladin. Perhaps this wasn’t simply the order and organization of Dalinar’s army.
There was an air of quiet dread over this warcamp. Thousands had been lost to Sadeas’s betrayal. Everyone here had probably known a man who had died out on those plateaus. And everyone probably wondered if the conflict between the two highprinces would escalate.
“It’s nice to be seen as a hero, isn’t it?” Sigzil asked, walking beside Kaladin and watching another group of soldiers pass by.
“How long will the goodwill last, do you think?” Moash asked. “How long before they resent us?”
“Ha!” Rock, towering behind him, clapped Moash on the shoulder. “No complaining today! You do this thing too much. Do not make me kick you. I do not like kicking. It hurts my toes.”
“Kick me?” Moash snorted. “You won’t even carry a spear, Rock.”
“Spears are not for kicking complainers. But big Unkalaki feet like mine—it is what they were made for! Ha! This thing is obvious, yes?”
Kaladin led the men out of the market and to a large rectangular building near the barracks. This one was constructed of worked stone, rather than Soulcast rock, allowing far more finesse in design. Such buildings were becoming more common in the warcamps, as more masons arrived.
Soulcasting was quicker, but also more expensive and less flexible. He didn’t know much about it, only that Soulcasters were limited in what they could do. That was why the barracks were all essentially identical.
Kaladin led his men inside the towering building to the counter, where a grizzled man with a belly that stretched to next week supervised a few parshmen stacking bolts of blue cloth. Rind, the Kholin head quartermaster, to whom Kaladin had sent instructions the night before. Rind was lighteyed, but what was known as a “tenner,” a lowly rank barely above darkeyes.
“Ah!” Rind said, speaking with a high-pitched voice that did not match his girth. “You’re here, finally! I’ve got them all out for you, Captain. Everything I have left.”
“Left?” Moash asked.
“Uniforms of the Cobalt Guard! I’ve commissioned some new ones, but this is what stock remained.” Rind grew more subdued. “Didn’t expect to need so many so soon, you see.” He looked Moash up and down, then handed him a uniform and pointed to a stall for changing.
Moash took it. “We going to wear our leather jerkins over these?”
“Ha!” Rind said. “The ones tied with so much bone you looked like some Western skullbearer on feast day? I’ve heard of that. But no, Brightlord Dalinar says you’re each to be outfitted with breastplates, steel caps, new spears. Chain mail for the battlefield, if you need it.”
“For now,” Kaladin said, “uniforms will do.”
“I think I’ll look silly in this,” Moash grumbled, but walked over to change. Rind distributed the uniforms to the men. He gave Shen a strange look, but delivered the parshman a uniform without complaint.
The bridgemen gathered in an eager bunch, jabbering with excitement as they unfolded their uniforms. It had been a long time since any of them had worn anything other than bridgeman leathers or slave wraps. They stopped talking when Moash stepped out.
These were newer uniforms, of a more modern style than Kaladin had worn in his previous military service. Stiff blue trousers and black boots polished to a shine. A buttoned white shirt, only the edges of its collar and cuffs extending beyond the jacket, which came down to the waist and buttoned closed beneath the belt.
“Now, there’s a soldier!” the quartermaster said with a laugh. “Still think you look silly?” He gestured for Moash to inspect his reflection in the mirror on the wall.
Moash fixed his cuffs and actually blushed. Kaladin had rarely seen the man so out of sorts. “No,” Moash said. “I don’t.”
The others moved eagerly and began changing. Some went to the stalls at the side, but most didn’t care. They were bridgemen and slaves; they’d spent most of their recent lives being paraded about in loincloths or little more.
Teft had his on before anyone else, and knew to do up the buttons in the right places. “Been a long time,” he whispered, buckling his belt. “Don’t know that I deserve to wear something like this again.”
“This is what you are, Teft,” Kaladin said. “Don’t let the slave rule you.”
Teft grunted, affixing his combat knife in its place on his belt. “And you, son? When are you going to admit what you are?”
“To us. Not to everyone else.”
“Don’t start this again.”
“I’ll storming start whatever I want,” Teft snapped. He leaned in, speaking softly. “At least until you give me a real answer. You’re a Surgebinder. You’re not a Radiant yet, but you’re going to be one when this is all blown through. The others are right to push you. Why don’t you go have a hike up to that Dalinar fellow, suck in some Stormlight, and make him recognize you as a lighteyes?”
Kaladin glanced at the men in a muddled jumble as they tried to get the uniforms on, an exasperated Rind explaining to them how to do up the coats.
“Everything I’ve ever had, Teft,” Kaladin whispered, “the lighteyes have taken from me. My family, my brother, my friends. More. More than you can imagine. They see what I have, and they take it.” He held up his hand, and could faintly make out a few glowing wisps trailing from his skin, since he knew what to look for. “They’ll take it. If they can find out what I do, they’ll take it.”
“Now, how in Kelek’s breath would they do that?”
“I don’t know,” Kaladin said. “I don’t know, Teft, but I can’t help feeling panic when I think about it. I can’t let them have this, can’t let them take it—or you men—from me. We remain quiet about what I can do. No more talk of it.”
Teft grumbled as the other men finally got themselves sorted out, though Lopen—one armed, with his empty sleeve turned inside out and pushed in so it didn’t hang down—prodded at the patch on his shoulder. “What’s this?”
“It’s the insignia of the Cobalt Guard,” Kaladin said. “Dalinar Kholin’s personal bodyguard.”
“They’re dead, gancho,” Lopen said. “We aren’t them.”
“Yeah,” Skar agreed. To Rind’s horror, he got out his knife and cut the patch free. “We’re Bridge Four.”
“Bridge Four was your prison,” Kaladin protested.
“Doesn’t matter,” Skar said. “We’re Bridge Four.” The others agreed, cutting off the patches, tossing them to the ground.
Teft nodded and did likewise. “We’ll protect the Blackthorn, but we’re not just going to replace what he had before. We’re our own crew.”
Kaladin rubbed his forehead, but this was what he had accomplished in bringing them together, galvanizing them into a cohesive unit. “I’ll draw up a glyphpair insignia for you to use,” he told Rind. “You’ll have to commission new patches.”
The portly man sighed as he gathered up the discarded patches. “I suppose. I’ve got your uniform over there, Captain. A darkeyed captain! Who would have thought it possible? You’ll be the only one in the army. The only one ever, so far as I know!”
He didn’t seem to find it offensive. Kaladin had little experience with low-dahn lighteyes like Rind, though they were very common in the warcamps. In his hometown, there had only been the citylord’s family—of upper middle dahn—and the darkeyes. It hadn’t been until he’d reached Amaram’s army that he’d realized there was an entire spectrum of light-eyes, many of whom worked common jobs and scrambled for money, just like ordinary people.
Kaladin walked over to the last bundle on the counter. His uniform was different. It included a blue waistcoat and a double-breasted blue longcoat, the lining white, the buttons of silver. The longcoat was meant to hang open, despite the rows of buttons down each side.
He’d seen such uniforms frequently. On lighteyes.
“Bridge Four,” he said, cutting the Cobalt Guard insignia from the shoulder and tossing it to the counter with the others.
Soldiers reported being watched from afar by an unnerving number of Parshendi scouts. Then we noticed a new pattern of their penetrating close to the camps in the night and then quickly retreating. I can only surmise that our enemies were even then preparing their stratagem to end this war.
—From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
Research into times before the Hierocracy is frustratingly difficult, the book read. During the reign of the Hierocracy, the Vorin Church had nearabsolute control over eastern Roshar. The fabrications they promoted—and then perpetuated as absolute truth—became ingrained in the consciousness of society. More disturbingly, modified copies of ancient texts were made, aligning history to match Hierocratic dogma.
In her cabin, Shallan read by the glow of a goblet of spheres, wearing her nightgown. Her cramped chamber lacked a true porthole and had just a thin slit of a window running across the top of the outside wall. The only sound she could hear was the water lapping against the hull. Tonight, the ship did not have a port in which to shelter.
The church of this era was suspicious of the Knights Radiant, the book read. Yet it relied upon the authority granted Vorinism by the Heralds. This created a dichotomy in which the Recreance, and the betrayal of the knights, was overemphasized. At the same time, the ancient knights—the ones who had lived alongside the Heralds in the shadowdays—were celebrated.
This makes it particularly difficult to study the Radiants and the place named Shadesmar. What is fact? What records did the church, in its misguided attempt to cleanse the past of perceived contradictions, rewrite to suit its preferred narrative? Few documents from the period survive that did not pass through Vorin hands to be copied from the original parchment into modern codices.
Shallan glanced up over the top of her book. The volume was one of Jasnah’s earliest published works as a full scholar. Jasnah had not assigned Shallan to read it. Indeed, she’d been hesitant when Shallan had asked for a copy, and had needed to dig it out of one of the numerous trunks full of books she kept in the ship’s hold.
Why had she been so reluctant, when this volume dealt with the very things that Shallan was studying? Shouldn’t Jasnah have given her this right off? It—
The pattern returned.
Shallan’s breath caught in her throat as she saw it on the cabin wall beside the bunk, just to her left. She carefully moved her eyes back to the page in front of her. The pattern was the same one that she’d seen before, the shape that had appeared on her sketchpad.
Ever since then, she’d been seeing it from the corner of her eye, appearing in the grain of wood, the cloth on the back of a sailor’s shirt, the shimmering of the water. Each time, when she looked right at it, the pattern vanished. Jasnah would say nothing more, other than to indicate it was likely harmless.
Shallan turned the page and steadied her breathing. She had experienced something like this before with the strange symbol-headed creatures who had appeared unbidden in her drawings. She allowed her eyes to slip up off the page and look at the wall—not right at the pattern, but to the side of it, as if she hadn’t noticed it.
Yes, it was there. Raised, like an embossing, it had a complex pattern with a haunting symmetry. Its tiny lines twisted and turned through its mass, somehow lifting the surface of the wood, like iron scrollwork under a taut tablecloth.
It was one of those things. The symbolheads. This pattern was similar to their strange heads. She looked back at the page, but did not read. The ship swayed, and the glowing white spheres in her goblet clinked as they shifted. She took a deep breath.
Then looked directly at the pattern.
Immediately, it began to fade, the ridges sinking. Before it did, she got a clear look at it, and she took a Memory.
“Not this time,” she muttered as it vanished. “This time I have you.” She threw away her book, scrambling to get out her charcoal pencil and a sheet of sketching paper. She huddled down beside her light, red hair tumbling around her shoulders.
She worked furiously, possessed by a frantic need to have this drawing done. Her fingers moved on their own, her unclothed safehand holding the sketchpad toward the goblet, which sprinkled the paper with shards of light.
She tossed aside the pencil. She needed something crisper, capable of sharper lines. Ink. Pencil was wonderful for drawing the soft shades of life, but this thing she drew was not life. It was something else, something unreal. She dug a pen and inkwell from her supplies, then went back to her drawing, replicating the tiny, intricate lines.
She did not think as she drew. The art consumed her, and creationspren popped into existence all around. Dozens of tiny shapes soon crowded the small table beside her cot and the floor of the cabin near where she knelt. The spren shifted and spun, each no larger than the bowl of a spoon, becoming shapes they’d recently encountered. She mostly ignored them, though she’d never seen so many at once.
Faster and faster they shifted forms as she drew, intent. The pattern seemed impossible to capture. Its complex repetitions twisted down into infinity. No, a pen could never capture this thing perfectly, but she was close. She drew it spiraling out of a center point, then re-created each branch off the center, which had its own swirl of tiny lines. It was like a maze created to drive its captive insane.
When she finished the last line, she found herself breathing hard, as if she’d run a great distance. She blinked, again noticing the creationspren around her—there were hundreds. They lingered before fading away one by one. Shallan set the pen down beside her vial of ink, which she’d stuck to the tabletop with wax to keep it from sliding as the ship swayed. She picked up the page, waiting for the last lines of ink to dry, and felt as if she’d accomplished something significant—though she knew not what.
As the last line dried, the pattern rose before her. She heard a distinct sigh from the paper, as if in relief.
She jumped, dropping the paper and scrambling onto her bed. Unlike the other times, the embossing didn’t vanish, though it left the paper—budding from her matching drawing—and moved onto the floor.
She could describe it in no other way. The pattern somehow moved from paper to floor. It came to the leg of her cot and wrapped around it, climbing upward and onto the blanket. It didn’t look like something moving beneath the blanket; that was simply a crude approximation. The lines were too precise for that, and there was no stretching. Something beneath the blanket would have been just an indistinct lump, but this was exact.
It drew closer. It didn’t look dangerous, but she still found herself trembling. This pattern was different from the symbolheads in her drawings, but it was also somehow the same. A flattened-out version, without torso or limbs. It was an abstraction of one of them, just as a circle with a few lines in it could represent a human’s face on the page.
Those things had terrified her, haunted her dreams, made her worry she was going insane. So as this one approached, she scuttled from her bed and went as far from it in the small cabin as she could. Then, heart thumping in her chest, she pulled open the door to go for Jasnah.
She found Jasnah herself just outside, reaching toward the doorknob, her left hand cupped before her. A small figure made of inky blackness—shaped like a man in a smart, fashionable suit with a long coat—stood in her palm. He melted away into shadow as he saw Shallan. Jasnah looked to Shallan, then glanced toward the floor of the cabin, where the pattern was crossing the wood.
“Put on some clothing, child,” Jasnah said. “We have matters to discuss.”
“I had originally hoped that we would have the same type of spren,” Jasnah said, sitting on a stool in Shallan’s cabin. The pattern remained on the floor between her and Shallan, who lay prone on the cot, properly clothed with a robe over the nightgown and a thin white glove on her left hand. “But of course, that would be too easy. I have suspected since Kharbranth that we would be of different orders.”
“Orders, Brightness?” Shallan asked, timidly using a pencil to prod at the pattern on the floor. It shied away, like an animal that had been poked. Shallan was fascinated by how it raised the surface of the floor, though a part of her did not want to have anything to do with it and its unnatural, eye-twisting geometries.
“Yes,” Jasnah said. The inklike spren that had accompanied her before had not reappeared. “Each order reportedly had access to two of the Surges, with overlap between them. We call the powers Surgebinding. Soulcasting was one, and is what we share, though our orders are different.”
Shallan nodded. Surgebinding. Soulcasting. These were talents of the Lost Radiants, the abilities—supposedly just legend—that had been their blessing or their curse, depending upon which reports you read. Or so she’d learned from the books Jasnah had given her to read during their trip.
“I’m not one of the Radiants,” Shallan said.
“Of course you aren’t,” Jasnah said, “and neither am I. The orders of knights were a construct, just as all society is a construct, used by men to define and explain. Not every man who wields a spear is a soldier, and not every woman who makes bread is a baker. And yet weapons, or baking, become the hallmarks of certain professions.”
“So you’re saying that what we can do…”
“Was once the definition of what initiated one into the Knights Radi68 ant,” Jasnah said.
“But we’re women!”
“Yes,” Jasnah said lightly. “Spren don’t suffer from human society’s prejudices. Refreshing, wouldn’t you say?”
Shallan looked up from poking at the pattern spren. “There were women among the Knights Radiant?”
“A statistically appropriate number,” Jasnah said. “But don’t fear that you will soon find yourself swinging a sword, child. The archetype of Radiants on the battlefield is an exaggeration. From what I’ve read—though records are, unfortunately, untrustworthy—for every Radiant dedicated to battle, there were another three who spent their time on diplomacy, scholarship, or other ways to aid society.”
“Oh.” Why was Shallan disappointed by that?
Fool. A memory rose unbidden. A silvery sword. A pattern of light. Truths she could not face. She banished them, squeezing her eyes shut.
“I have been looking into the spren you told me about,” Jasnah said. “The creatures with the symbol heads.”
Shallan took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “This is one of them,” she said, pointing her pencil at the pattern, which had approached her trunk and was moving up onto it and off it—like a child jumping on a sofa. Instead of threatening, it seemed innocent, even playful—and hardly intelligent at all. She had been frightened of this thing?
“Yes, I suspect that it is,” Jasnah said. “Most spren manifest differently here than they do in Shadesmar. What you drew before was their form there.”
“This one is not very impressive.”
“Yes. I will admit that I’m disappointed. I feel that we’re missing something important about this, Shallan, and I find it annoying. The Cryptics have a fearful reputation, and yet this one—the first specimen I’ve ever seen—seems…”
It climbed up the wall, then slipped down, then climbed back up, then slipped down again.
“Imbecilic?” Shallan asked.
“Perhaps it simply needs more time,” Jasnah said. “When I first bonded with Ivory—” She stopped abruptly.
“What?” Shallan said.
“I’m sorry. He does not like me to speak of him. It makes him anxious. The knights’ breaking of their oaths was very painful to the spren. Many spren died; I’m certain of it. Though Ivory won’t speak of it, I gather that what he’s done is regarded as a betrayal by the others of his kind.”
“No more of that,” Jasnah said. “I’m sorry.”
“Fine. You mentioned the Cryptics?”
“Yes,” Jasnah said, reaching into the sleeve that hid her safehand and slipping out a folded piece of paper—one of Shallan’s drawings of the symbolheads. “That is their own name for themselves, though we would probably name them liespren. They don’t like the term. Regardless, the Cryptics rule one of the greater cities in Shadesmar. Think of them as the lighteyes of the Cognitive Realm.”
“So this thing,” Shallan said, nodding to the pattern, which was spinning in circles in the center of the cabin, “is like… a prince, on their side?”
“Something like that. There is a complex sort of conflict between them and the honorspren. Spren politics are not something I’ve been able to devote much time to. This spren will be your companion—and will grant you the ability to Soulcast, among other things.”
“We will have to see,” Jasnah said. “It comes down to the nature of spren. What has your research revealed?”
With Jasnah, everything seemed to be a test of scholarship. Shallan smothered a sigh. This was why she had come with Jasnah, rather than returning to her home. Still, she did wish that sometimes Jasnah would just tell her answers rather than making her work so hard to find them. “Alai says that the spren are fragments of the powers of creation. A lot of the scholars I read agreed with that.”
“It is one opinion. What does it mean?”
Shallan tried not to let herself be distracted by the spren on the floor. “There are ten fundamental Surges—forces—by which the world works. Gravitation, pressure, transformation. That sort of thing. You told me spren are fragments of the Cognitive Realm that have somehow gained sentience because of human attention. Well, it stands to reason that they were something before. Like… like a painting was a canvas before being given life.”
“Life?” Jasnah said, raising her eyebrow.
“Of course,” Shallan said. Paintings lived. Not lived like a person or a spren, but… well, it was obvious to her, at least. “So, before the spren were alive, they were something. Power. Energy. Zen-daughter-Vath sketched tiny spren she found sometimes around heavy objects. Gravitationspren—fragments of thepower or force that causes us to fall. It stands to reason that every spren was a power before it was a spren. Really, you can divide spren into two general groups. Those that respond to emotions and those that respond to forces like fire or wind pressure.”
“So you believe Namar’s theory on spren categorization?”
“Good,” Jasnah said. “As do I. I suspect, personally, that these groupings of spren—emotion spren versus nature spren—are where the ideas of mankind’s primeval ‘gods’ came from. Honor, who became Vorinism’s Almighty, was created by men who wanted a representation of ideal human emotions as they saw in emotion spren. Cultivation, the god worshipped in the West, is a female deity that is an embodiment of nature and nature spren. The various Voidspren, with their unseen lord—whose name changes depending on which culture we’re speaking of—evoke an enemy or antagonist. The Stormfather, of course, is a strange offshoot of this, his theoretical nature changing depending on which era of Vorinism is doing the talking.…”
She trailed off. Shallan blushed, realizing she’d looked away and had begun tracing a glyphward on her blanket against the evil in Jasnah’s words.
“That was a tangent,” Jasnah said. “I apologize.”
“You’re so sure he isn’t real,” Shallan said. “The Almighty.”
“I have no more proof of him than I do of the Thaylen Passions, Nu Ralik of the Purelake, or any other religion.”
“And the Heralds? You don’t think they existed?”
“I don’t know,” Jasnah said. “There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. For example, there is some slight proof that both the Stormfather and the Almighty are real creatures—simply powerful spren, such as the Nightwatcher.”
“Then he would be real.”
“I never claimed he was not,” Jasnah said. “I merely claimed that I do not accept him as God, nor do I feel any inclination to worship him. But this is, again, a tangent.” Jasnah stood. “You are relieved of other duties of study. For the next few days, you have only one focus for your scholarship.” She pointed toward the floor.
“The pattern?” Shallan asked.
“You are the only person in centuries to have the chance to interact with a Cryptic,” Jasnah said. “Study it and record your experiences—in detail. This will likely be your first writing of significance, and could be of utmost importance to our future.”
Shallan regarded the pattern, which had moved over and bumped into her foot—she could feel it only faintly—and was now bumping into it time and time again.
“Great,” Shallan said.
The next clue came on the walls. I did not ignore this sign, but neither did I grasp its full implications.
—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
I’m running through water,” Dalinar said, coming to himself. He was moving, charging forward.
The vision coalesced around him. Warm water splashed his legs. On either side of him, a dozen men with hammers and spears ran through the shallow water. They lifted their legs high with each step, feet back, thighs lifting parallel to the water’s surface, like they were marching in a parade—only no parade had ever been such a mad scramble. Obviously, running that way helped them move through the liquid. He tried to imitate the odd gait.
“I’m in the Purelake, I think,” he said, under his breath. “Warm water that only comes up to the knees, no signs of land anywhere. It’s dusk, though, so I can’t see much.
“People run with me. I don’t know if we’re running toward something or away from it. Nothing over my shoulder that I can see. These people are obviously soldiers, though the uniforms are antiquated. Leather skirts, bronze helms and breastplates. Bare legs and arms.” He looked down at himself. “I’m wearing the same.”
Some highlords in Alethkar and Jah Keved still used uniforms like this, so he couldn’t place the exact era. The modern uses were all calculated revivals by traditionalist commanders who hoped a classical look would inspire their men. In those cases, however, modern steel equipment would be used alongside the antique uniforms—and he didn’t see any of that here.
Dalinar didn’t ask questions. He’d found that playing along with these visions taught him more than it did to stop and demand answers.
Running through this water was tough. Though he’d started near the front of the group, he was now lagging behind. The group ran toward some kind of large rock mound ahead, shadowed in the dusk. Maybe this wasn’t the Purelake. It didn’t have rock formations like—
That wasn’t a rock mound. It was a fortress. Dalinar halted, looking up at the peaked, castle-like structure that rose straight from the still lake waters. He’d never seen its like before. Jet-black stone. Obsidian? Perhaps this place had been Soulcast.
“There’s a fortress ahead,” he said, continuing forward. “It must not still exist—if it did, it would be famous. It looks like it’s created entirely from obsidian. Finlike sides rising toward peaked tips above, towers like arrowheads… Stormfather. It’s majestic.
“We’re approaching another group of soldiers who stand in the water, holding spears wardingly in all directions. There are perhaps a dozen of them; I’m in the company of another dozen. And… yes, there’s someone in the middle of them. Shardbearer. Glowing armor.”
Not just a Shardbearer. Radiant. A knight in resplendent Shardplate that glowed with a deep red at the joints and in certain markings. Armor did that in the shadowdays. This vision was taking place before the Recreance.
Like all Shardplate, the armor was distinctive. With that skirt of chain links, those smooth joints, the vambraces that extended back just so… Storms, that looked like Adolin’s armor, though this armor pulled in more at the waist. Female? Dalinar couldn’t tell for certain, as the faceplate was down.
“Form up!” the knight ordered as Dalinar’s group arrived, and he nodded to himself. Yes, female.
Dalinar and the other soldiers formed a ring around the knight, weapons outward. Not far off, another group of soldiers with a knight at their center marched through the water.
“Why did you call us back?” asked one of Dalinar’s companions.
“Caeb thinks he saw something,” the knight said. “Be alert. Let’s move carefully.”
The group started away from the fortress in another direction from the one they’d come. Dalinar held his spear outward, sweating at his temples. To his own eyes, he didn’t look any different from his normal self. The others, however, would see him as one of their own.
He still didn’t know terribly much about these visions. The Almighty sent them to him, somehow. But the Almighty was dead, by his own admission. So how did that work?
“We’re looking for something,” Dalinar said, under his breath. “Teams of knights and soldiers have been sent into the night to find something that was spotted.”
“You all right, new kid?” asked one of the soldiers to his side.
“Fine,” Dalinar said. “Just worried. I mean, I don’t even really know what we’re looking for.”
“A spren that doesn’t act like it should,” the man said. “Keep your eyes open. Once Sja-anat touches a spren, it acts strange. Call attention to anything you see.”
Dalinar nodded, then under his breath repeated the words, hoping that Navani could hear him. He and the soldiers continued their sweep, the knight at their center speaking with… nobody? She sounded like she was having a conversation, but Dalinar couldn’t see or hear anyone else with her.
He turned his attention to the surroundings. He’d always wanted to see the center of the Purelake, but he’d never had a chance to do much besides visit the border. He’d been unable to find time for a detour in that direction during his last visit to Azir. The Azish had always acted surprised that he would want to go to such a place, as they claimed there was “nothing there.”
Dalinar wore some kind of tight shoes on his feet, perhaps to keep him from cutting them on anything hidden by the water. The footing was uneven in places, with holes and ridges he felt rather than saw. He found himself watching little fish dart this way and that, shadows in the water, and next to them a face.
Dalinar shouted, jumping back, pointing his spear downward. “That was a face! In the water!”
“Riverspren?” the knight asked, stepping up beside him.
“It looked like a shadow,” Dalinar said. “Red eyes.”
“It’s here, then,” the knight said. “Sja-anat’s spy. Caeb, run to the checkpoint. The rest of you, keep watching. It won’t be able to go far without a carrier.” She yanked something off her belt, a small pouch.
“There!” Dalinar said, spotting a small red dot in the water. It flowed away from him, swimming like a fish. He charged after, running as he’d learned earlier. What good would it do to chase a spren, though? You couldn’t catch them. Not with any method he knew.
The others charged behind. Fish scattered away, frightened by Dalinar’s splashing. “I’m chasing a spren,” Dalinar said under his breath. “It’s what we’ve been hunting. It looks a little like a face—a shadowy one, with red eyes. It swims through the water like a fish. Wait! There’s another one.
Joining it. Larger, like a full figure, easily six feet. A swimming person, but like a shadow. It—”
“Storms!” the knight shouted suddenly. “It brought an escort!”
The larger spren twisted, then dove downward in the water, vanishing into the rocky ground. Dalinar stopped, uncertain if he should keep chasing the smaller one or remain here.
The others turned and started to run the other way.
Dalinar scrambled back as the rocky lake bottom began to shake. He stumbled, splashing down into the water. It was so clear he could see the floor crackingunder him, as if something large were pounding against it from beneath.
“Come on!” one of the soldiers cried, grabbing him by the arm. Dalinar was pulled to his feet as the cracks below widened. The once-still surface of the lake churned and thrashed.
The ground jolted, almost tumbling Dalinar off his feet again. Ahead of him, several of the soldiers did fall.
The knight stood firm, an enormous Shardblade forming in her hands.
Dalinar glanced over his shoulder in time to see rock emerging from the water. A long arm! Slender, perhaps fifteen feet long, it burst from the water, then slammed back down as if to get a firm purchase on the lakebed. Another arm rose nearby, elbow toward the sky, then they both heaved as if attached to a body doing a push-up.
A giant body ripped itself out of the rocky floor. It was like someone had been buried in sand and was now emerging. Water streamed from the creature’s ridged and pocked back, which was overgrown with bits of shalebark and submarine fungus. The spren had somehow animated the stone itself.
As it stood and twisted about, Dalinar could make out glowing red eyes—like molten rock—set deep in an evil stone face. The body was skeletal, with thin bony limbs and spiky fingers that ended in rocky claws. The chest was a rib cage of stone.
“Thunderclast!” soldiers yelled. “Hammers! Ready hammers!”
The knight stood before the rising creature, which stood thirty feet tall, dripping water. A calm, white light began to rise from her. It reminded Dalinar of the light of spheres. Stormlight. She raised her Shardblade and charged, stepping through the water with uncanny ease, as if it had no purchase on her. Perhaps it was the strength of Shardplate.
“They were created to watch,” a voice said from beside him.
Dalinar looked to the soldier who had helped him rise earlier, a long-faced Selay man with a balding scalp and a wide nose. Dalinar reached down to help the man to his feet.
This wasn’t how the man had spoken before, but Dalinar recognized the voice. It was the same one that came at the end of most of the visions. The Almighty.
“The Knights Radiant,” the Almighty said, standing up beside Dalinar, watching the knight attack the nightmare beast. “They were a solution, a way to offset the destruction of the Desolations. Ten orders of knights, founded with the purpose of helping men fight, then rebuild.”
Dalinar repeated it, word for word, focused on catching every one and not on thinking about what they meant.
The Almighty turned to him. “I was surprised when these orders arrived. I did not teach my Heralds this. It was the spren—wishing to imitate what I had given men—who made it possible. You will need to refound them. This is your task. Unite them. Create a fortress that can weather the storm. Vex Odium, convince him that he can lose, and appoint a champion. He will take that chance instead of risking defeat again, as he has suffered so often. This is the best advice I can give you.”
Dalinar finished repeating the words. Beyond him, the fight began in earnest, water splashing, rock grinding. Soldiers approached bearing hammers, and unexpectedly, these men now also glowed with Stormlight, though far more faintly.
“You were surprised by the coming of the knights,” Dalinar said to the Almighty. “And this force, this enemy, managed to kill you. You were never God. God knows everything. God cannot be killed. So who were you?”
The Almighty did not answer. He couldn’t. Dalinar had realized that these visions were some kind of predetermined experience, like a play. The people in them could react to Dalinar, like actors who could improvise to an extent. The Almighty himself never did this.
“I will do what I can,” Dalinar said. “I will refound them. I will prepare. You have told me many things, but there is one I have figured out on my own. If you could be killed, then the other like you—your enemy—probably can be as well.”
The darkness came upon Dalinar. The yelling and splashing faded. Had this vision occurred during a Desolation, or between? These visions never told himenough. As the darkness evaporated he found himself lying in a small stone chamber within his complex in the warcamps.
Navani knelt beside him, clipboard held before her, pen moving as she scribbled. Storms, she was beautiful. Mature, lips painted red, hair wound about her head in a complex braid that sparkled with rubies. Bloodred dress. She looked at him, noting that he was blinking back awake, and smiled.
“It was—” he began.
“Hush,” she said, still writing. “That last part sounded important.” She wrote for a moment, then finally removed pen from pad, the latter held through the cloth of her sleeve. “I think I got it all. It’s hard when you change languages.”
“I changed languages?” he asked.
“At the end. Before, you were speaking Selay. An ancient form of it, certainly, but we have records of that. I hope my translators can make sense of my transcription; my command of that language is rusty. You do need to speak more slowly when you do this, dearest.”
“That can be hard, in the moment,” Dalinar said, rising. Compared to what he’d felt in the vision, the air here was cold. Rain pelted the room’s closed shutters, though he knew from experience that an end to his vision meant that the storm had nearly spent itself.
Feeling drained, he walked to a seat beside the wall and settled down. Only he and Navani were in the room; he preferred it that way. Renarin and Adolin waited out the storm nearby, in another room of Dalinar’s quarters and under the watchful eyes of Captain Kaladin and his bridgeman bodyguards.
Perhaps he should invite more scholars in to observe his visions; they could all write down his words, then consult to produce the most accurate version. But storms, he had enough trouble with one person watching him in such a state, raving and thrashing on the ground. He believed in the visions, even depended upon them, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t embarrassing.
Navani sat down beside him, and wrapped her arms around him. “Was it bad?”
“This one? No. Not bad. Some running, then some fighting. I didn’t participate. The vision ended before I needed to help.”
“Then why that expression?”
“I have to refound the Knights Radiant.”
“Refound the… But how? What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything; I only have hints and shadowy threats. Something dangerous is coming, that much is certain. I have to stop it.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. He stared at the hearth, which crackled softly, giving the small room a warm glow. This was one of the few hearths that hadn’t been converted to the new fabrial heating devices.
He preferred the real fire, though he wouldn’t say it to Navani. She worked so hard to bring new fabrials to them all.
“Why you?” Navani asked. “Why do you have to do this?”
“Why is one man born a king, and another a beggar?” Dalinar asked. “It is the way of the world.”
“It is that easy for you?”
“Not easy,” Dalinar said, “but there is no point in demanding answers.”
“Particularly if the Almighty is dead.…”
Perhaps he should not have shared that fact with her. Speaking of just that one idea could brand him a heretic, drive his own ardents from him, give Sadeas a weapon against the Throne.
If the Almighty was dead, what did Dalinar worship? What did he believe?
“We should record your memories of the vision,” Navani said with a sigh, pulling back from him. “While they are fresh.”
He nodded. It was important to have a description to match the transcriptions. He began to recount what he’d seen, speaking slowly enough that she could write it all down. He described the lake, the clothing of the men, the strange fortress in the distance. She claimed there were stories of large structures on the Purelake told by some who lived there. Scholars had considered them mythological.
Dalinar stood up and paced as he moved on to the description of the unholy thing that had risen from the lake. “It left behind a hole in the lakebed,” Dalinar explained. “Imagine if you were to outline a body on the floor, then watch that body rip itself free from the ground.
“Imagine the tactical advantage such a thing would have. Spren move quickly and easily. One could slip in behind battle lines, then stand up and start attacking the support staff. That beast’s stone body must have been difficult to break. Storms… Shardblades. Makes me wonder if these are the things the weapons were truly designed to fight.”
Navani smiled as she wrote.
“What?” Dalinar asked, stopping in his pacing.
“You are such a soldier.”
“And it’s endearing,” she said, finishing her writing. “What happened next?”
“The Almighty spoke to me.” He gave her the monologue as best he could remember while he paced in a slow, restful walk. I need to sleep more, he thought. He wasn’t the youth he’d been twenty years ago, capable of staying up all night with Gavilar, listening with a cup of wine as his brother made plans, then charging to battle the next day full of vigor and hungering for a contest.
Once he was done with his narrative, Navani rose, tucking her writing implements away. She’d take what he’d said and have her scholars—well, his scholars, which she’d appropriated—work at matching his Alethi words up with the transcriptions she’d recorded. Though, of course, she’d first remove the lines where he mentioned sensitive issues, such as the Almighty’s death.
She’d also search for historical references to match his descriptions. Navani liked things neat and quantified. She’d prepared a timeline of all of his visions, trying to piece them into a single narrative.
“You’re still going to publish the proclamation this week?” she asked.
Dalinar nodded. He’d released it to the highprinces a week ago, in private. He’d intended to release it the same day to the camps, but Navani had convinced him that this was the wiser course. News was seeping out, but this would let the highprinces prepare.
“The proclamation will go to the public within a few days,” he said. “Before the highprinces can put further pressure on Elhokar to retract it.”
Navani pursed her lips.
“It must be done,” Dalinar said.
“You’re supposed to unite them.”
“The highprinces are spoiled children,” Dalinar said. “Changing them will require extreme measures.”
“If you break the kingdom apart, we’ll never unify it.”
“We’ll make certain that it doesn’t break.”
Navani looked him up and down, then smiled. “I am fond of this more confident you, I must admit. Now, if I could just borrow a little of that confidence in regards to us…”
“I am quite confident about us,” he said, pulling her close.
“Is that so? Because this traveling between the king’s palace and your complex wastes a lot of my time each day. If I were to move my things here—say, into your quarters—think how much more convenient everything would be.”
“You’re confident they won’t let us marry, Dalinar. So what else are we to do? Is it the morality of the thing? You yourself said that the Almighty was dead.”
“Something is either right or it’s wrong,” Dalinar said, feeling stubborn. “The Almighty doesn’t come into it.”
“God,” Navani said flatly, “doesn’t come into whether his commands are right or wrong.”
“Careful,” Navani said. “You’re sounding like Jasnah. Anyway, if God is dead—”
“God isn’t dead. If the Almighty died, then he was never God, that’s all.”
She sighed, still close to him. She went up on her toes and kissed him—and not demurely, either. Navani considered demureness for the coy and frivolous. So, a passionate kiss, pressing against his mouth, pushing his head backward, hungering for more. When she pulled away, Dalinar found himself breathless.
She smiled at him, then turned and picked up her things—he hadn’t noticed her dropping them during the kiss—and then walked to the door. “I am not a patient woman, you realize. I am as spoiled as those highprinces, accustomed to getting what I want.”
He snorted. Neither was true. She could be patient. When it suited her. What she meant was that it didn’t suit her at the moment.
She opened the door, and Captain Kaladin himself peered in, inspecting the room. The bridgeman certainly was earnest. “Watch her as she travels home for the day, soldier,” Dalinar said to him.
Kaladin saluted. Navani pushed by him and left without a goodbye, closing the door and leaving Dalinar alone again.
Dalinar sighed deeply, then walked to the chair and settled down by the hearth to think.
He started awake some time later, the fire having burned out. Storms. Was he falling asleep in the middle of the day, now? If only he didn’t spend so much time at night tossing and turning, head full of worries and burdens that should never have been his. What had happened to the simple days? His hand on a sword, secure in the knowledge that Gavilar would handle the difficult parts?
Dalinar stretched, rising. He needed to go over preparations for releasing the king’s proclamation, and then see to the new guards—
He stopped. The wall of his room bore a series of stark white scratches forming glyphs. They hadn’t been there before.
Sixty-two days, the glyphs read. Death follows.
A short time later, Dalinar stood, straight-backed, hands clasped behind him as he listened to Navani confer with Rushu, one of the Kholin scholars. Adolin stood nearby, inspecting a chunk of white rock that had been found on the floor. It had apparently been pried from the row of ornamental stones rimming the room’s window, then used to write the glyphs.
Straight back, head up, Dalinar told himself, even though you want to just slump in that chair. A leader did not slump. A leader was in control. Even when he least felt like he controlled anything.
“Ah,” said Rushu—a young female ardent with long eyelashes and buttonlike lips. “Look at the sloppy lines! The improper symmetry. Whoever did this is notpracticed with drawing glyphs. They almost spelled death wrong—it looks more like ‘broken.’ And the meaning is vague. Death follows? Or is it ‘follow death’? Or Sixty-Two Days of Death and Following? Glyphs are imprecise.”
“Just make the copy, Rushu,” Navani said. “And don’t speak of this to anyone.”
“Not even you?” Rushu asked, sounding distracted as she wrote.
Navani sighed, walking over to Dalinar and Adolin. “She is good at what she does,” Navani said softly, “but she’s a little oblivious sometimes. Anyway, she knows handwriting better than anyone. It’s one of her many areas of interest.”
Dalinar nodded, bottling his fears.
“Why would anyone do this?” Adolin asked, dropping the rock. “Is it some kind of obscure threat?”
“No,” Dalinar said.
Navani met Dalinar’s eyes. “Rushu,” she said. “Leave us for a moment.” The woman didn’t respond at first, but scuttled out at further prompting.
As she opened the door, she revealed members of Bridge Four outside, led by Captain Kaladin, his expression dark. He’d escorted Navani away, then come back to find this—and then had immediately sent men to check on and retrieve Navani.
He obviously considered this lapse his fault, thinking that someone had sneaked into Dalinar’s room while he was sleeping. Dalinar waved the captain in.
Kaladin hurried over, and hopefully didn’t see how Adolin’s jaw tightened as he regarded the man. Dalinar had been fighting the Parshendi Shardbearer when Kaladin and Adolin had clashed on the battlefield, but he’d heard talk of their run-in. His son certainly did not like hearing that this darkeyed bridgeman had been put in charge of the Cobalt Guard.
“Sir,” Captain Kaladin said, stepping up. “I’m embarrassed. One week on the job, and I’ve failed you.”
“You did as commanded, Captain,” Dalinar said.
“I was commanded to keep you safe, sir,” Kaladin said, anger bleeding into his voice. “I should have posted guards at individual doors inside your quarters, not just outside of the room complex.”
“We’ll be more observant in the future, Captain,” Dalinar said. “Your predecessor always posted the same guard as you did, and it was sufficient before.”
“Times were different before, sir,” Kaladin said, scanning the room and narrowing his eyes. He focused on the window, too small to let someone slip in. “I still wish I knew how they got in. The guards heard nothing.”
Dalinar inspected the young soldier, scarred and dark of expression. Why, Dalinar thought, do I trust this man so much? He couldn’t put his finger on it, but over the years, he’d learned to trust his instincts as a soldier and a general. Something within him urged him to trust Kaladin, and he accepted those instincts.
“This is a small matter,” Dalinar said.
Kaladin looked at him sharply.
“Don’t worry yourself overly much about how the person got in to scribble on my wall,” Dalinar said. “Just be more watchful in the future. Dismissed.” He nodded to Kaladin, who retreated reluctantly, pulling the door closed.
Adolin walked over. The mop-haired youth was as tall as Dalinar was. That was hard to remember, sometimes. It didn’t seem so long ago that Adolin had been an eager little boy with a wooden sword.
“You said you awoke to this here,” Navani said. “You said you didn’t see anyone enter or hear anyone make the drawing.”
“Then why,” she said, “do I get the sudden and distinct impression that youknow why it is here?”
“I don’t know for certain who made it, but I know what it means.” “What, then?” Navani demanded.
“It means we have very little time left,” Dalinar said. “Send out the proclamation, then go to the highprinces and arrange a meeting. They’ll want to speak with me.”
The Everstorm comes.…
Sixty-two days. Not enough time.
It was, apparently, all he had.
The sign on the wall proposed a greater danger, even, than its deadline. To foresee the future is of the Voidbringers.
—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
“. . . toward victory and, at long last, vengeance.” The crier carried a writ with the king’s words on it—bound between two cloth-covered boards—though she obviously had the words memorized. Not surprising. Kaladin alone had made her repeat the proclamation three times.
“Again,” he said, sitting on his stone beside Bridge Four’s firepit. Many members of the crew had lowered their breakfast bowls, going silent. Nearby, Sigzil repeated the words to himself, memorizing them.
The crier sighed. She was a plump, lighteyed young woman with strands of red hair mixed in her black, bespeaking Veden or Horneater heritage. There would be dozens of women like her moving through the warcamp to read, and sometimes explain, Dalinar’s words.
She opened the ledger again. In any other battalion, Kaladin thought idly, its leader would be of a high enough social class to outrank her.
“Under the authority of the king,” she said, “Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of War, hereby orders changes to the manner of collection and distribution of gemhearts on the Shattered Plains. Henceforth, each gemheart will be collected in turn by two highprinces working in tandem. The spoils become the property of the king, who will determine—based on the effectiveness of the parties involved and their alacrity to obey—their share.
“A prescribed rotation will detail which highprinces and armies are re84 sponsible for hunting gemhearts, and in what order. The pairings will not always be the same, and will be judged based on strategic compatibility. It is expected that by the Codes we all hold dear, the men and women of these armies will welcome this renewed focus on victory and, at long last, vengeance.”
The crier snapped the book closed, looking up at Kaladin and cocking a long black eyebrow he was pretty sure had been painted on with makeup.
“Thank you,” he said. She nodded to him, then moved off toward the next battalion square.
Kaladin climbed to his feet. “Well, there’s the storm we’ve been expecting.”
The men nodded. Conversation at Bridge Four had been subdued, following the strange break-in at Dalinar’s quarters yesterday. Kaladin felt a fool. Dalinar, however, seemed to be ignoring the break-in entirely. He knew far more than he was telling Kaladin. How am I supposed to do my job if I don’t have the information I need?
Not two weeks on the job, and already the politics and machinations of the lighteyes were tripping him up.
“The highprinces are going to hate this proclamation,” Leyten said from beside the firepit, where he was working on Beld’s breastplate straps, which had come from the quartermaster with the buckles twisted about. “They base pretty much everything on getting those gemhearts. We’re going to have discontent aplenty on today’s winds.”
“Ha!” Rock said, ladling up curry for Lopen, who had come back for seconds. “Discontent? Today, this will mean riots. Did you not hear that mention of the Codes? This thing, it is an insult against the others, whom we know do not follow their oaths.” He was smiling, and seemed to consider the anger—even rioting—of the highprinces to be amusing.
“Moash, Drehy, Mart, and Eth with me,” Kaladin said. “We’ve got to go relieve Skar and his team. Teft, how goes your assignment?”
“Slowly,” Teft said. “Those lads in the other bridge crews… they have a long way to go. We need something more, Kal. Some way to inspire them.”
“I’ll work on it,” Kaladin said. “For now, we should try food. Rock, we’ve only got five officers at the moment, so you can have that last room on the outside for storage. Kholin gave us requisition rights from the camp quartermaster. Pack it full.”
“Full?” Rock asked, an enormous grin splitting his face. “How full?”
“Very,” Kaladin said. “We’ve been eating broth and stew with Soulcast grain for months. For the next month, Bridge Four eats like kings.”
“No shells, now,” Mart said, pointing at Rock as he gathered his spear and did up his uniform jacket. “Just because you can fix anything you want, it doesn’t mean we’re going to eat something stupid.”
“Airsick lowlanders,” Rock said. “Don’t you want to be strong?”
“I want to keep my teeth, thank you,” Mart said. “Crazy Horneater.”
“I will fix two things,” Rock said, hand to his chest, as if making a salute. “One for the brave and one for the silly. You may choose between these things.”
“You’ll make feasts, Rock,” Kaladin said. “I need you to train cooks for the other barracks. Even if Dalinar has extra cooks to spare now with fewer regular troops to feed, I want the bridgemen to be self-sufficient. Lopen, I’m assigning Dabbid and Shen to help you assist Rock from here on out. We need to turn those thousand men into soldiers. It starts the same way it did with all of you—by filling their stomachs.”
“It will be done,” Rock said, laughing, slapping Shen on the shoulder as the parshman stepped up for seconds. He’d only just started doing things like that, and seemed to hide in the back less than he once had. “I will not even put any dung in it!”
The others chuckled. Putting dung in food was what had gotten Rock turned into a bridgeman in the first place. As Kaladin started out toward the king’s palace—Dalinar had an important meeting with the king today—Sigzil joined him.
“A moment of your time, sir,” Sigzil said quietly.
“If you wish.”
“You promised me that I could have a chance to measure your… particular abilities.”
“Promised?” Kaladin asked. “I don’t remember a promise.”
“When I talked about taking some measurements. You seemed to think it was a good idea, and you told Skar we could help you figure out your powers.”
“I suppose I did.”
“We need to know exactly what you can do, sir—the extent of the abilities, the length of time the Stormlight remains in you. Do you agree that having a clear understanding of your limits would be valuable?”
“Yes,” Kaladin said reluctantly.
“Give me a couple of days,” Kaladin said. “Go prepare a place where we can’t be seen. Then… yes, all right. I’ll let you measure me.”
“Excellent,” Sigzil said. “I’ve been devising some experiments.” He stopped on the path, allowing Kaladin and the others to draw away from him.
Kaladin rested his spear on his shoulder and relaxed his hand. He frequently found his grip on the weapon too strong, his knuckles white. It was like part of him still didn’t believe he could carry it in public now, and feared it would be taken from him again.
Syl floated down from her daily sprint around the camp on the morning winds. She alighted on his shoulder and sat, seeming lost in thought.
Dalinar’s warcamp was an organized place. Soldiers never lounged lazily here. They were always doing something. Working on their weapons, fetching food, carrying cargo, patrolling. Men patrolled a lot in this camp. Even with the reduced army numbers, Kaladin passed three patrols as his men marched toward the gates. That was three more than he’d ever seen in Sadeas’s camp.
He was reminded again of the emptiness. The dead didn’t need to become Voidbringers to haunt this camp; the empty barracks did that. He passed one woman, seated on the ground beside one of those hollow barracks, staring up at the sky and clutching a bundle of masculine clothing. Two small children stood on the path beside her. Too silent. Children that small shouldn’t be quiet.
The barracks formed blocks in an enormous ring, and in the center of them was a more populated part of camp—the bustling section that contained Dalinar’s living complex, along with the quarters of the various highlords and generals. Dalinar’s complex was a moundlike stone bunker with fluttering banners and scuttling clerks carrying armfuls of ledgers. Nearby, several officers had set up recruitment tents, and a long line of would-be soldiers had formed. Some were sellswords who had made their way to the Shattered Plains seeking work. Others looked like bakers or the like, who had heeded the cry for more soldiers following the disaster.
“Why didn’t you laugh?” Syl said, inspecting the line as Kaladin hiked around it, on toward the gates out of the warcamp.
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “Did you do something funny that I didn’t see?”
“I mean earlier,” she said. “Rock and the others laughed. You didn’t. When you laughed during the weeks things were hard, I knew that you were forcing yourself to. I thought, maybe, once things got better…”
“I’ve got an entire battalion of bridgemen to keep track of now,” Kaladin said, eyes forward. “And a highprince to keep alive. I’m in the middle of a camp full of widows. I guess I don’t feel like laughing.”
“But things are better,” she said. “For you and your men. Think of what you did, what you accomplished.”
A day spent on a plateau, slaughtering. A perfect melding of himself, his weapon, and the storms themselves. And he’d killed with it. Killed to protect a lighteyes.
He’s different, Kaladin thought.
They always said that.
“I guess I’m just waiting,” Kaladin said.
“The thunder,” Kaladin said softly. “It always follows after the lightning. Sometimes you have to wait, but eventually it comes.”
“I…” Syl zipped up in front of him, standing in the air, moving backward as he walked. She didn’t fly—she didn’t have wings—and didn’t bob in the air. She just stood there, on nothing, and moved in unison with him. She seemed to take no notice of normal physical laws.
She cocked her head at him. “I don’t understand what you mean. Drat! I thought I was figuring this all out. Storms? Lightning?”
“You know how, when you encouraged me to fight to save Dalinar, it still hurt you when I killed?”
“It’s like that,” Kaladin said softly. He looked to the side. He was again gripping his spear too tightly.
Syl watched him, hands on hips, waiting for him to say more.
“Something bad is going to happen,” Kaladin said. “Things can’t just continue to be good for me. That’s not how life is. It might have to do with those glyphs on Dalinar’s wall yesterday. They seemed like a countdown.”
“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
“I remember… something,” she whispered. “Something bad. Seeing what is to come—it isn’t of Honor, Kaladin. It’s something else. Something dangerous.”
When he said nothing more, Syl sighed and zipped into the air, becoming a ribbon of light. She followed him up there, moving between gusts of wind.
She said that she’s honorspren, Kaladin thought. So why does she still keep up the act of playing with winds?
He’d have to ask her, assuming she’d answer him. Assuming she even knew the answer.
Torol Sadeas laced his fingers before himself, elbows on the fine stonework tabletop, as he stared at the Shardblade he’d thrust down through the center of the table. It reflected his face.
Damnation. When had he gotten old? He imagined himself as a young man, in his twenties. Now he was fifty. Storming fifty. He set his jaw, looking at that Blade.
Oathbringer. It was Dalinar’s Shardblade—curved, like a back arching, with a hooklike tip on the end matched by a sequence of jutting serrations 88 by the crossguard. Like waves in motion, peeking up from the ocean below.
How often had he lusted for this weapon? Now it was his, but he found the possession hollow. Dalinar Kholin—driven mad by grief, broken to the point that battle frightened him—still clung to life. Sadeas’s old friend was like a favored axehound he’d been forced to put down, only to find it whimpering at the window, the poison having not quite done its work.
Worse, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Dalinar had gotten the better of him somehow.
The door to his sitting room opened, and Ialai slipped in. With a slender neck and a large mouth, his wife had never been described as a beauty—particularly as the years stretched long. He didn’t care. Ialai was the most dangerous woman he knew. That was more attractive than any simple pretty face.
“You’ve destroyed my table, I see,” she said, eyeing the Shardblade slammed down through the center. She flopped down onto the small couch beside him, draped one arm across his back, and put her feet up on the table.
While with others, she was the perfect Alethi woman. In private, she preferred to lounge. “Dalinar is recruiting heavily,” she said. “I’ve taken the opportunity to place a few more of my associates among the staff of his warcamp.”
“What do you take me for? That would be far too obvious; he will have new soldiers under careful watch. However, much of his support staff has holes as men join the call to take up spears and reinforce his army.”
Sadeas nodded, still staring at that Blade. His wife ran the most impressive network of spies in the warcamps. Most impressive indeed, since very, very few knew of it. She scratched at his back, sending shivers up the skin.
“He released his proclamation,” Ialai noted.
“As anticipated. The others hate it.”
Sadeas nodded. “Dalinar should be dead, but since he is not, at least we can depend upon him to hang himself in time.” Sadeas narrowed his eyes. “By destroying him, I sought to prevent the collapse of the kingdom. Now I’m wondering if that collapse wouldn’t be better for us all.”
“I’m not meant for this, love,” Sadeas whispered. “This stupid game on the plateaus. It sated me at first, but I’m growing to loathe it. I want war, Ialai. Not hours of marching on the off chance that we’ll find some little skirmish!”
“Those little skirmishes bring us wealth.”
Which was why he’d suffered them so long. He rose. “I will need to meet with some of the others. Aladar. Ruthar. We need to fan the flames among the other highprinces, raise their indignation at what Dalinar attempts.”
“And our end goal?”
“I will have it back, Ialai,” he said, resting his fingers on Oathbringer’s hilt. “The conquest.”
It was the only thing that made him feel alive any longer. That glorious, wonderful Thrill of being on the battlefield and striving, man against man. Of risking everything for the prize. Domination. Victory.
It was the only time he felt like a youth again.
It was a brutal truth. The best truths, however, were simple.
He grabbed Oathbringer by the hilt and yanked it up out of the table. “Dalinar wants to play politician now, which is unsurprising. He has always secretly wanted to be his brother. Fortunately for us, Dalinar is no good at this sort of thing. His proclamation will alienate the others. He will push the highprinces, and they’ll take up arms against him, fracturing the kingdom. And then, with blood at my feet and Dalinar’s own sword in my hand, I will forge a new Alethkar from flame and tears.”
“What if, instead, he succeeds?”
“That, my dear, is when your assassins will be of use.” He dismissed the Shardblade; it turned to mist and vanished. “I will conquer this kingdom anew, and then, Jah Keved will follow. After all, the purpose of this life is to train soldiers. In a way, I’m only doing what God himself wants.”
The walk between the barracks and the king’s palace—which the king had started calling the Pinnacle—took an hour or so, which gave Kaladin plenty of time to think. Unfortunately, on his way, he passed a group of Dalinar’s surgeons in a field with servants, gathering knobweed sap for an antiseptic.
Seeing them made Kaladin think not only of his own efforts gathering the sap, but of his father. Lirin.
If he were here, Kaladin thought as he passed them, he’d ask why I wasn’t out there, with the surgeons. He’d demand to know why, if Dalinar had taken me in, I hadn’t requested to join his medical corps.
In fact, Kaladin could probably have gotten Dalinar to employ all of Bridge Four as surgeons’ assistants. Kaladin could have trained them in medicine almost as easily as he had the spear. Dalinar would have done it. An army could never have too many good surgeons.
He hadn’t even considered it. The choice for him had been simpler—either become Dalinar’s bodyguards or leave the warcamps. Kaladin had chosen to put his men in the path of the storm again. Why?
Eventually, they reached the king’s palace, which was built up the side of a large stone hill, with tunnels dug down into the rock. The king’s own quarters sat at the very top. That meant lots of climbing for Kaladin and his men.
They hiked up the switchbacks, Kaladin still lost in thought about his father and his duty.
“That’s a tad unfair, you know,” Moash said as they reached the top.
Kaladin looked to the others, realizing that they were puffing from the long climb. Kaladin, however, had drawn in Stormlight without noticing. He wasn’t even winded.
He smiled pointedly for Syl’s benefit, and regarded the cavernous hallways of the Pinnacle. A few men stood guard at the entrance gates, wearing the blue and gold of the King’s Guard, a separate and distinct unit from Dalinar’s own guard.
“Soldier,” Kaladin said with a nod to one of them, a lighteyes of low rank. Militarily, Kaladin outranked a man like this—but not socially. Again, he wasn’t certain how all of this was supposed to work.
The man looked him up and down. “I heard you held a bridge, practically by yourself, against hundreds of Parshendi. How’d you do that?” He did not address Kaladin with “sir,” as would have been appropriate for any other captain.
“You want to find out?” Moash snapped from behind. “We can show you. Personally.”
“Hush,” Kaladin said, glaring at Moash. He turned back to the soldier. “I got lucky. That’s it.” He stared the man in the eyes.
“I suppose that makes sense,” the soldier said.
“Sir,” the soldier finally added.
Kaladin waved his men forward, and they passed the lighteyed guards. The interior of the palace was lit by spheres grouped in lamps on the walls—sapphires and diamonds blended to give a blue-white cast. The spheres were a small but striking reminder of how things had changed. Nobody would have let bridgemen near such casual use of spheres.
The Pinnacle was still unfamiliar to Kaladin—so far, his time spent guarding Dalinar had mostly been in the warcamp. However, he’d made certain to look over maps of the place, so he knew the way to the top.
“Why did you cut me off like that?” Moash demanded, catching up to Kaladin.
“You were in the wrong,” Kaladin said. “You’re a soldier now, Moash. You’re going to have to learn to act like one. And that means not provoking fights.”
“I’m not going to scrape and bow before lighteyes, Kal. Not anymore.”
“I don’t expect you to scrape, but I do expect you to watch your tongue. Bridge Four is better than petty gibes and threats.”
Moash fell back, but Kaladin could tell he was still smoldering.
“That’s odd,” Syl said, landing on Kaladin’s shoulder again. “He looks so angry.”
“When I took over the bridgemen,” Kaladin said softly, “they were caged animals who had been beaten into submission. I brought back their fight, but they were still caged. Now the doors are off those cages. It will take time for Moash and the others to adjust.”
They would. During the final weeks as bridgemen, they’d learned to act with the precision and discipline of soldiers. They stood at attention while their abusers marched across bridges, never uttering a word of derision. Their discipline itself had become their weapon.
They’d learn to be real soldiers. No, they were real soldiers. Now they had to learn how to act without Sadeas’s oppression to push against.
Moash moved up beside him. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “You’re right.”
Kaladin smiled, this time genuinely.
“I’m not going to pretend I don’t hate them,” Moash said. “But I’ll be civil. We have a duty. We’ll do it well. Better than anyone expects. We’re Bridge Four.”
“Good man,” Kaladin said. Moash was going to be particularly tricky to deal with, as more and more, Kaladin found himself confiding in the man. Most of the others idolized Kaladin. Not Moash, who was as close to a real friend as Kaladin had known since being branded.
The hallway grew surprisingly decorative as they approached the king’s conference chamber. There was even a series of reliefs being carved on the walls—the Heralds, embellished with gemstones on the rock to glow at appropriate locations.
More and more like a city, Kaladin thought to himself. This might actually be a true palace soon.
He met Skar and his team at the door into the king’s conference chambers. “Report?” Kaladin asked softly.
“Quiet morning,” Skar said. “And I’m fine with that.”
“You’re relieved for the day, then,” Kaladin said. “I’ll stay here for the meeting, then let Moash take the afternoon shift. I’ll come back for the evening shift. You and your squad get some sleep; you’ll be back on duty tonight, stretching to tomorrow morning.”
“Got it, sir,” Skar said, saluting. He collected his men and moved off.
The chamber beyond the doors was decorated with a thick rug and large unshuttered windows on the leeward side. Kaladin had never been in this room, and the palace maps—for the protection of the king—only included the basic hallways and routes through the servants’ quarters. This room had one other door, probably out onto the balcony, but no exits other than the one Kaladin stepped through.
Two other guards in blue and gold stood on either side of the door. The king himself paced back and forth beside the room’s desk. His nose was larger than the paintings of him showed.
Dalinar spoke with Highlady Navani, an elegant woman with grey in her hair. The scandalous relationship between the king’s uncle and mother would have been the talk of the warcamp, if Sadeas’s betrayal hadn’t overshadowed it.
“Moash,” Kaladin said, pointing. “See where that door goes. Mart and Eth, stand watch just outside in the hall. Nobody other than a highprince comes in until you’ve checked with us in here.”
Moash gave the king a salute instead of a bow, and checked on the door. It indeed led to the balcony that Kaladin had spotted from below. It ran all around this upmost room.
Dalinar studied Kaladin and Moash as they worked. Kaladin saluted, and met the man’s eyes. He wasn’t going to fail again, as he’d done the day before.
“I don’t recognize these guards, Uncle,” the king said with annoyance.
“They’re new,” Dalinar said. “There is no other way onto that balcony, soldier. It’s a hundred feet in the air.”
“Good to know,” Kaladin said. Drehy, join Moash out there on the balcony, close the door, and keep watch.”
Drehy nodded, jumping into motion.
“I just said there’s no way to reach that balcony from the outside,” Dalinar said.
“Then that’s the way I’d try to get in,” Kaladin said, “if I wanted to, sir.” Dalinar smiled in amusement.
The king, however, was nodding. “Good… good.”
“Are there any other ways into this room, Your Majesty?” Kaladin asked. “Secret entrances, passages?”
“If there were,” the king said, “I wouldn’t want people knowing about them.”
“My men can’t keep this room safe if we don’t know what to guard. If there are passages nobody is supposed to know about, those are immediately suspect. If you share them with me, I’ll use only my officers in guarding them.”
The king stared at Kaladin for a moment, then turned to Dalinar. “I like this one. Why haven’t you put him in charge of your guard before?”
“I haven’t had the opportunity,” Dalinar said, studying Kaladin with eyes that had a depth behind them. A weight. He stepped over and rested a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder, pulling him aside.
“Wait,” the king said from behind, “is that a captain’s insignia? On a darkeyes? When did that start happening?”
Dalinar didn’t answer, instead walking Kaladin to the side of the room. “The king,” he said softly, “is very worried about assassins. You should know this.”
“A healthy paranoia makes the job easier for his bodyguards, sir,” Kaladin said.
“I didn’t say it was healthy,” Dalinar said. “You call me ‘sir.’ The common address is ‘Brightlord.’ ”
“I will use that term if you command, sir,” Kaladin said, meeting the man’s eyes. “But ‘sir’ is an appropriate address, even for a lighteyes, if he’s your direct superior.”
“I’m a highprince.”
“Speaking frankly,” Kaladin said—he wouldn’t ask for permission. This man had put him in the role, so Kaladin would assume it came with certain privileges, unless told otherwise. “Every man I’ve ever called ‘Brightlord’ has betrayed me. A few men I’ve called ‘sir’ still have my trust to this day. I use one more reverently than the other. Sir.”
“You’re an odd one, son.”
“The normal ones are dead in the chasms, sir,” Kaladin said softly. “Sadeas saw to that.”
“Well, have your men on the balcony guard from farther to the side, where they can’t hear through the window.”
“I’ll wait with the men in the hall, then,” Kaladin said, noticing that the two men of the King’s Guard had already moved through the doors.
“I didn’t order that,” Dalinar said. “Guard the doors, but on the inside. I want you to hear what we’re planning. Just don’t repeat it outside this room.”
“Four more people are coming to the meeting,” Dalinar said. “My sons, General Khal, and Brightness Teshav, Khal’s wife. They may enter. Anyone else should be kept back until the meeting is over.”
Dalinar went back to a conversation with the king’s mother. Kaladin got Moash and Drehy positioned, then explained the door protocol to Mart and Eth. He’d have to do some training later. Lighteyes never truly meant “Don’t let anyone else in” when they said “Don’t let anyone else in.” What they meant was “If you let anyone else in, I’d better agree that it was important enough, or you’re in trouble.”
Then, Kaladin took his post inside the closed door, standing against a wall with carved paneling made of a rare type of wood he didn’t recognize. It’s probably worth more than I’ve earned in my entire lifetime, he thought idly. One wooden panel.
The highprince’s sons arrived, Adolin and Renarin Kholin. Kaladin had seen the former on the battlefield, though he looked different without his Shardplate. Less imposing. More like a spoiled rich boy. Oh, he wore a uniform like everyone else, but the buttons were engraved, and the boots… those were expensive hogshide ones without a scuff on them. Brand new, likely bought at ridiculous expense.
He did save that woman in the market, though, Kaladin thought, remembering the encounter from weeks ago. Don’t forget about that.
Kaladin wasn’t sure what to make of Renarin. The youth—he might have been older than Kaladin, but sure didn’t look it—wore spectacles and walked after his brother like a shadow. Those slender limbs and delicate fingers had never known battle or real work.
Syl bobbed around the room, poking into nooks, crannies, and vases. She stopped at a paperweight on the women’s writing desk beside the king’s chair, poking at the block of crystal with a strange kind of crabthing trapped inside. Were those wings?
“Shouldn’t that one wait outside?” Adolin asked, nodding toward Kaladin.
“What we’re doing is going to put me in direct danger,” Dalinar said, hands clasped behind his back. “I want him to know the details. That might be important to his job.” Dalinar didn’t look toward Adolin or Kaladin.
Adolin walked up, taking Dalinar by the arm and speaking in a hushed tone that was not so soft that Kaladin couldn’t hear. “We barely know him.”
“We have to trust some people, Adolin,” his father said in a normal voice. “If there’s one person in this army I can guarantee isn’t working for Sadeas, it’s that soldier.” He turned and glanced at Kaladin, once again studying him with those unfathomable eyes.
He didn’t see me with the Stormlight, Kaladin told himself forcefully. He was practically unconscious. He doesn’t know.
Adolin threw up his hands but walked to the other side of the room, muttering something to his brother. Kaladin remained in position, standing comfortably at parade rest. Yes, definitely spoiled.
The general who arrived soon after was a limber, bald man with a straight back and pale yellow eyes. His wife, Teshav, had a pinched face and hair streaked blond. She took up position by the writing desk, which Navani had made no move to occupy.
“Reports,” Dalinar said from the window as the door clicked shut behind the two newcomers.
“I suspect you know what you’ll hear, Brightlord,” said Teshav. “They’re irate. They sincerely hoped you would reconsider the command—and sending it out to the public has provoked them. Highprince Hatham was the only one to make a public announcement. He plans to—and I quote—‘see that the king is dissuaded from this reckless and ill-advised course.’”
The king sighed, settling into his seat. Renarin sat down immediately, as did the general. Adolin found his seat more reluctantly.
Dalinar remained standing, looking out the window.
“Uncle?” the king asked. “Did you hear that reaction? It’s a good thing you didn’t go so far as you had considered: to proclaim that they must follow the Codes or face seizure of assets. We’d be in the middle of a rebellion.”
“That will come,” Dalinar said. “I still wonder if I should have announced it all at once. When you’ve got an arrow stuck in you, it’s sometimes best to just yank it out in one pull.”
Actually, when you had an arrow in you, the best thing to do was leave it there until you could find a surgeon. Often it would plug the blood flow and keep you alive. It was probably best not to speak up and undermine the highprince’s metaphor, however.
“Storms, what a ghastly image,” the king said, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “Do you have to say such things, Uncle? I already fear we’ll be dead before the week is out.”
“Your father and I survived worse than this,” Dalinar said.
“You had allies, then! Three highprinces for you, only six against, and you never fought them all at the same time.”
“If the highprinces unite against us,” General Khal said, “we will not be able to stand firm. We’ll have no choice but to rescind this proclamation, which will weaken the Throne considerably.”
The king leaned back, hand to his forehead. “Jezerezeh, this is going to be a disaster.…”
Kaladin raised an eyebrow.
“You disagree?” Syl asked, moving over toward him as a cluster of fluttering leaves. It was disconcerting to hear her voice coming from such shapes. The others in the room, of course, couldn’t see or hear her.
“No,” Kaladin whispered. “This proclamation sounds like a real tempest. I just expected the king to be less… well, whiny.”
“We need to secure allies,” Adolin said. “Form a coalition. Sadeas will gather one, and so we counter him with our own.”
“Dividing the kingdom into two?” Teshav said, shaking her head. “I don’t see how a civil war would serve the Throne. Particularly one we’re unlikely to win.”
“This could be the end of Alethkar as a kingdom,” the general agreed.
“Alethkar ended as a kingdom centuries ago,” Dalinar said softly, staring out that window. “This thing we have created is not Alethkar. Alethkar was justice. We are children wearing our father’s cloak.”
“But Uncle,” the king said, “at least the kingdom is something. More than it has been in centuries! If we fail here, and fracture to ten warring princedoms, it will negate everything my father worked for!”
“This isn’t what your father worked for, son,” Dalinar said. “This game on the Shattered Plains, this nauseating political farce. This isn’t what Gavilar envisioned. The Everstorm comes.…”
“What?” the king asked.
Dalinar turned from the window finally, walking to the others, and rested his hand on Navani’s shoulder. “We’re going to find a way to do this, or we’re going to destroy the kingdom in the process. I won’t suffer this charade any longer.”
Kaladin, arms folded, tapped one finger against his elbow. “Dalinar acts like he’s the king,” he mouthed, whispering so softly only Syl could hear. “And everyone else does as well.” Troubling. It was like what Amaram had done. Seizing the power he saw before him, even if it wasn’t his.
Navani looked up at Dalinar, raising her hand to rest on his. She was in on whatever he was planning, judging by that expression.
The king wasn’t. He sighed lightly. “You’ve obviously got a plan, Uncle. Well? Out with it. This drama is tiring.”
“What I really want to do,” Dalinar said frankly, “is beat the lot of them senseless. That’s what I’d do to new recruits who weren’t willing to obey orders.”
“I think you’ll have a hard time spanking obedience into the highprinces, Uncle,” the king said dryly. For some reason, he absently rubbed at his chest.
“You need to disarm them,” Kaladin found himself saying.
All eyes in the room turned toward him. Brightness Teshav gave him a frown, as if speaking were not Kaladin’s right. It probably wasn’t.
Dalinar, however, nodded toward him. “Soldier? You have a suggestion?”
“Your pardon, sir,” Kaladin said. “And your pardon, Your Majesty. But if a squad is giving you trouble, the first thing you do is separate its members. Split them up, stick them in better squads. I don’t think you can do that here.”
“I don’t know how we’d break apart the highprinces,” Dalinar said. “I doubt I could stop them from associating with one another. Perhaps if this war were won, I could assign different highprinces different duties, send them off, then work on them individually. But for the time being, we are trapped here.”
“Well, the second thing you do to troublemakers,” Kaladin said, “is you disarm them. They’re easier to control if you make them turn in their spears. It’s embarrassing, makes them feel like recruits again. So… can you take their troops away from them, maybe?”
“We can’t, I’m afraid,” Dalinar said. “The soldiers swore allegiance to their lighteyes, not to the Crown specifically—it’s only the highprinces who have sworn to the Crown. However, you are thinking along the right lines.”
He squeezed Navani’s shoulder. “For the last two weeks,” he said, “I’ve been trying to decide how to approach this problem. My gut tells me that I need to treat the highprinces—the entire lighteyed population of Alethkar—like new recruits, in need of discipline.”
“He came to me, and we talked,” Navani said. “We can’t actually bust the highprinces down to a manageable rank, as much as Dalinar would like to do just that. Instead, we need to lead them to believe that we’re going to take it all from them, if they don’t shape up.”
“This proclamation will make them mad,” Dalinar said. “I want them mad. I want them to think about the war, their place here, and I want to remind them of Gavilar’s assassination. If I can push them to act more like soldiers, even if it starts with them taking up arms against me, then I might be able to persuade them. I can reason with soldiers. Regardless, a big part of this will involve the threat that I’m going to take away their authority and power if they don’t use it correctly. And that begins, as Captain Kaladin suggested, with disarming them.”
“Disarm the highprinces?” the king asked. “What foolishness is this?”
“It’s not foolishness,” Dalinar said, smiling. “We can’t take their armies from them, but we can do something else. Adolin, I intend to take the lock off your scabbard.”
Adolin frowned, considering that for a moment. Then a wide grin split his face. “You mean, letting me duel again? For real?”
“Yes,” Dalinar said. He turned to the king. “For the longest time, I’ve forbidden him from important bouts, as the Codes prohibit duels of honor between officers at war. More and more, however, I’ve come to realize that the others don’t see themselves as being at war. They’re playing a game. It’s time to allow Adolin to duel the camp’s other Shardbearers in official bouts.”
“So he can humiliate them?” the king asked.
“It wouldn’t be about humiliation; it would be about depriving them of their Shards.” Dalinar stepped into the middle of the group of chairs. “The highprinces would have a hard time fighting against us if we controlled all of the Shardblades and Shardplate in the army. Adolin, I want you to challenge the Shardbearers of other highprinces in duels of honor, the prizes being the Shards themselves.”
“They won’t agree to it,” General Khal said. “They’ll refuse the bouts.”
“We’ll have to make sure they agree,” Dalinar said. “Find a way to force them, or shame them, into the fights. I’ve considered that this would probably be easier if we could ever track down where Wit ran off to.”
“What happens if the lad loses?” General Khal asked. “This plan seems too unpredictable.”
“We’ll see,” Dalinar said. “This is only one part of what we will do, the smaller part—but also the most visible part. Adolin, everyone tells me how good you are at dueling, and you have pestered me incessantly to relax my prohibition. There are thirty Shardbearers in the army, not counting our own. Can you defeat that many men?”
“Can I?” Adolin said, grinning. “I’ll do it without breaking a sweat, so long as I can start with Sadeas himself.”
So he’s spoiled and cocky, Kaladin thought.
“No,” Dalinar said. “Sadeas won’t accept a personal challenge, though eventually bringing him down is our goal. We start with some of the lesser Shardbearers and work up.”
The others in the room seemed troubled. That included Brightness Navani, who drew her lips to a line and glanced at Adolin. She might be in on Dalinar’s plan, but she didn’t love the idea of her nephew dueling.
She didn’t say so. “As Dalinar indicated,” Navani said, “this won’t be our entire plan. Hopefully, Adolin’s duels won’t need to go far. They are meant mostly to inspire worry and fear, to apply pressure to some factions who are working against us. The greater part of what we must do will entail a complex and determined political effort to connect with those who can be swayed to our side.”
“Navani and I will work to persuade the highprinces of the advantages of a truly unified Alethkar,” Dalinar said, nodding. “Though the Stormfather knows, I’m less certain of my political acumen than Adolin is of his dueling. It is what must be. If Adolin is to be the stick, I must be the feather.”
“There will be assassins, Uncle,” Elhokar said, sounding tired. “I don’t think Khal is right; I don’t think Alethkar will shatter immediately. The highprinces have come to like the idea of being one kingdom. But they also like their sport, their fun, their gemhearts. So they will send assassins. Quietly, at first, and probably not directly at you or me. Our families. Sadeas and the others will try to hurt us, make us back down. Are you willing to risk your sons on this? How about my mother?”
“Yes, you are right,” Dalinar said. “I hadn’t… but yes. That is how they think.” He sounded regretful to Kaladin.
“And you’re still willing to go through with this plan?” the king asked.
“I have no choice,” Dalinar said, turning away, walking back toward the window. Looking out westward, in toward the continent.
“Then at least tell me this,” Elhokar said. “What is your endgame, Uncle? What is it you want out of all of this? In a year, if we survive this fiasco, what do you want us to be?”
Dalinar put his hands on the thick stone windowsill. He stared out, as if at something he could see and the rest of them could not. “I’ll have us be what we were before, son. A kingdom that can stand through storms, a kingdom that is a light and not a darkness. I will have a truly unified Alethkar, with highprinces who are loyal and just. I’ll have more than that.” He tapped the windowsill. “I’m going to refound the Knights Radiant.”
Kaladin nearly dropped his spear in shock. Fortunately, nobody was watching him—they were leaping to their feet, staring at Dalinar.
“The Radiants?” Brightness Teshav demanded. “Are you mad? You’re going to try to rebuild a sect of traitors who gave us over to the Voidbringers?”
“The rest of this sounds good, Father,” Adolin said, stepping forward. “I know you think about the Radiants a lot, but you see them… differently than everyone else. It won’t go well if you announce that you want to emu late them.”
The king just groaned, burying his face in his hands.
“People are wrong about them,” Dalinar said. “And even if they are not, the original Radiants—the ones instituted by the Heralds—are something even the Vorin church admits were once moral and just. We’ll need to remind people that the Knights Radiant, as an order, stood for something grand. If they hadn’t, then they wouldn’t have been able to ‘fall’ as the stories claim they did.”
“But why?” Elhokar asked. “What is the point?”
“It is what I must do.” Dalinar hesitated. “I’m not completely certain why, yet. Only that I’ve been instructed to do it. As a protection, and a preparation, for what is coming. A storm of some sort. Perhaps it is as simple as the other highprinces turning against us. I doubt that, but perhaps.”
“Father,” Adolin said, hand on Dalinar’s arm. “This is all well and good, and maybe you can change people’s perception of the Radiants, but… Ishar’s soul, Father! They could do things we cannot. Simply naming someone a Radiant won’t give them fanciful powers, like in the stories.”
“The Radiants were about more than what they could do,” Dalinar said. “They were about an ideal. The kind of ideal we’re lacking, these days. We may not be able to reach for the ancient Surgebindings—the powers they had—but we can seek to emulate the Radiants in other ways. I am set on this. Do not try to dissuade me.”
The others did not seem convinced.
Kaladin narrowed his eyes. So did Dalinar know about Kaladin’s powers, or didn’t he? The meeting moved on to more mundane topics, such as how to maneuver Shardbearers into facing Adolin and how to step up patrols of the surrounding area. Dalinar considered making the warcamps safe to be a prerequisite for what he was attempting.
When the meeting finally ended, most people inside departing to carry out orders, Kaladin was still considering what Dalinar had said about the Radiants. The man hadn’t realized it, but he’d been very accurate. The Knights Radiant did have ideals—and they’d called them that very thing. The Five Ideals, the Immortal Words.
Life before death, Kaladin thought, playing with a sphere he’d pulled from his pocket, strength before weakness, journey before destination. Those Words made up the First Ideal in its entirety. He had only an inkling of what it meant, but his ignorance hadn’t stopped him from figuring out the Second Ideal of the Windrunners, the oath to protect those who could not protect themselves.
Syl wouldn’t tell him the other three. She said he would know them when he needed to. Or he wouldn’t, and would not progress.
Did he want to progress? To become what? A member of the Knights Radiant? Kaladin hadn’t asked for someone else’s ideals to rule his life. He’d just wanted to survive. Now, somehow, he was headed straight down a path that no man had trod in centuries. Potentially becoming something that people across Roshar would hate or revere. So much attention…
“Soldier?” Dalinar asked, stopping by the door.
“Sir.” Kaladin stood up straight again and saluted. It felt good to do that, to stand at attention, to find a place. He wasn’t certain if it was the good feeling of remembering a life he’d once loved, or if it was the pathetic feeling of an axehound finding its leash again.
“My nephew was right,” Dalinar said, watching the king retreat down the hallway. “The others might try to hurt my family. It’s how they think. I’m going to need guard details on Navani and my sons at all times. Your best men.”
“I’ve got about two dozen of those, sir,” Kaladin said. “That’s not enough for full guard details running all day protecting all four of you. I should have more men trained before too long, but putting a spear in the hands of a bridgeman does not make him a soldier, let alone a good bodyguard.”
Dalinar nodded, looking troubled. He rubbed his chin.
“Your force isn’t the only one stretched thin in this warcamp, soldier,” Dalinar said. “I lost a lot of men to Sadeas’s betrayal. Very good men. Now I have a deadline. Just over sixty days…”
Kaladin felt a chill. The highprince was taking the number found scrawled on his wall very seriously.
“Captain,” Dalinar said softly, “I need every able-bodied man I can get. I need to be training them, rebuilding my army, preparing for the storm. I need them assaulting plateaus, clashing with the Parshendi, to get battle experience.”
What did this have to do with him? “You promised that my men wouldn’t be required to fight on plateau runs.”
“I’ll keep that promise,” Dalinar said. “But there are two hundred and fifty soldiers in the King’s Guard. They include some of my last remaining battle-ready officers, and I will need to put them in charge of new recruits.”
“I’m not just going to have to watch over your family, am I?” Kaladin asked, feeling a new weight settling in his shoulders. “You’re implying you want to turn over guarding the king to me as well.”
“Yes,” Dalinar said. “Slowly, but yes. I need those soldiers. Beyond that, maintaining two separate guard forces seems like a mistake to me. I feel that your men, considering your background, are the least likely to include spies for my enemies. You should know that a while back, there may have been an attempt on the king’s life. I still haven’t figured out who was behind it, but I worry that some of his guards may have been involved.”
Kaladin took a deep breath. “What happened?”
“Elhokar and I hunted a chasmfiend,” Dalinar said. “During that hunt, at a time of stress, the king’s Plate came close to failing. We found that many of the gemstones powering it had likely been replaced with ones that were flawed, making them crack under stress.”
“I don’t know much of Plate, sir,” Kaladin said. “Could they have just broken on their own, without sabotage?”
“Possible, but unlikely. I want your men to take shifts guarding the palace and the king, alternating with some of the King’s Guard, to get you familiar with him and the palace. It might also help your men learn from the more experienced guards. At the same time, I’m going to start siphoning off the officers from his guard to train soldiers in my army.
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll merge your group and the King’s Guard into one. You’ll be in charge. Once you’ve trained bridgemen from those other crews well enough, we’ll replace soldiers in the guard with your men, and move the soldiers to my army.” He looked Kaladin in the eyes. “Can you do this, soldier?”
“Yes, sir,” Kaladin said, though part of him was panicking. “I can.”
“Sir, a suggestion. You’ve said you’re going to expand patrols outside the warcamps, trying to police the hills around the Shattered Plains?”
“Yes. The number of bandits out there is embarrassing. This is Alethi land now. It needs to follow Alethi laws.”
“I have a thousand men I need to train,” Kaladin said. “If I could patrol them out there, it might help them feel like soldiers. I could use a large enough force that it sends a message to the bandits, maybe making them withdraw—but my men won’t need to see much combat.”
“Good. General Khal had been in command of patrol duty, but he’s now my most senior commander, and will be needed for other things. Train your men. Our goal will eventually be to have your thousand doing real roadway patrols between here, Alethkar, and the ports to the south and east. I’ll want scouting teams, watching for signs of bandit camps and searching out caravans that have been attacked. I need numbers on how much activity is out there, and just how dangerous it is.”
“I’ll see to it personally, sir.”
Storms. How was he going to do all of this?
“Good,” Dalinar said.
Dalinar walked from the chamber, clasping his hands behind him, as if lost in thought. Moash, Eth, and Mart fell in after him, as ordered by Kaladin. He’d have two men with Dalinar at all times, three if he could manage it. He’d once hoped to expand that to four or five, but storms, with so many to watch over now, that was going to be impossible.
Who is this man? Kaladin thought, watching Dalinar’s retreating form. He ran a good camp. You could judge a man—and Kaladin did—by the men who followed him.
But a tyrant could have a good camp with disciplined soldiers. This man, Dalinar Kholin, had helped unite Alethkar—and had done so by wading through blood. Now… now he spoke like a king, even when the king himself was in the room.
He wants to rebuild the Knights Radiant, Kaladin thought. That wasn’t something Dalinar Kholin could accomplish through simple force of will.
Unless he had help.
We had never considered that there might be Parshendi spies hiding among our slaves. This is something else I should have seen.
—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jesesan 1174
Shallan sat again on her box on the ship’s deck, though she now wore a hat on her head, a coat over her dress, and a glove on her freehand—her safehand was, of course, pinned inside its sleeve.
The chill out here on the open ocean was something unreal. The captain said that far to the south, the ocean itself actually froze. That sounded incredible; she’d like to see it. She’d occasionally seen snow and ice in Jah Keved, during the odd winter. But an entire ocean of it? Amazing.
She wrote with gloved fingers as she observed the spren she’d named Pattern. At the moment, he had lifted himself up off the surface of the deck, forming a ball of swirling blackness—infinite lines that twisted in ways she could never have captured on the flat page. Instead, she wrote descriptions supplemented with sketches.
“Food…” Pattern said. The sound had a buzzing quality and he vibrated when he spoke.
“Yes,” Shallan said. “We eat it.” She selected a small limafruit from the bowl beside her and placed it in her mouth, then chewed and swallowed.
“Eat,” Pattern said. “You… make it… into you.”
He dropped down, the darkness vanishing as he entered the wooden deck of the ship. Once again, he became part of the material—making the wood ripple as if it were water. He slid across the floor, then moved up the box beside her to the bowl of small green fruits. Here, he moved across them, each fruit’s rind puckering and rising with the shape of his pattern.
“Terrible!” he said, the sound vibrating up from the bowl.
“What? No, it’s how we survive. Everything needs to eat.”
“Terrible destruction to eat!” He sounded aghast. He retreated from the bowl to the deck.
Pattern connects increasingly complex thoughts, Shallan wrote. Abstractions come easily to him. Early, he asked me the questions “Why? Why you? Why be?” I interpreted this as asking me my purpose. When I replied, “To find truth,” he easily seemed to grasp my meaning. And yet, some simple realities—such as why people would need to eat—completely escape him. It—
She stopped writing as the paper puckered and rose, Pattern appearing on the sheet itself, his tiny ridges lifting the letters she had just penned.
“Why this?” he asked.
“Remember,” he said, trying the word.
“It means…” Stormfather. How did she explain memory? “It means to be able to know what you did in the past. In other moments, ones that happened days ago.”
“Remember,” he said. “I… cannot… remember…”
“What is the first thing you do remember?” Shallan asked. “Where were you first?”
“First,” Pattern said. “With you.”
“On the ship?” Shallan said, writing.
“No. Green. Food. Food not eaten.”
“Plants?” Shallan asked.
“Yes. Many plants.” He vibrated, and she thought she could hear in that vibration the blowing of wind through branches. Shallan breathed in. She could almost see it. The deck in front of her changing to a dirt path, her box becoming a stone bench. Faintly. Not really there, but almost. Her father’s gardens. Pattern on the ground, drawn in the dust…
“Remember,” Pattern said, voice like a whisper.
No, Shallan thought, horrified. NO!
The image vanished. It hadn’t really been there in the first place, had it? She raised her safehand to her breast, breathing in and out in sharp gasps. No.
“Hey, young miss!” Yalb said from behind. “Tell the new kid here what happened in Kharbranth!”
Shallan turned, heart still racing, to see Yalb walking over with the “new kid,” a six-foot-tall hulk of a man who was at least five years Yalb’s senior. They’d picked him up at Amydlatn, the last port. Tozbek wanted to be sure they wouldn’t be undermanned during the last leg to New Natanan.
Yalb squatted down beside her stool. In the face of the chill, he’d acquiesced to wearing a shirt with ragged sleeves and a kind of headband that wrapped over his ears.
“Brightness?” Yalb asked. “You all right? You look like you swallowed a turtle. And not just the head, neither.”
“I’m well,” Shallan said. “What… what was it you wanted of me, again?”
“In Kharbranth,” Yalb said, thumbing over his shoulder. “Did we or did we not meet the king?”
“We?” Shallan asked. “I met him.”
“And I was your retinue.”
“You were waiting outside.”
“Doesn’t matter none,” Yalb said. “I was your footman for that meeting, eh?”
Footman? He’d led her up to the palace as a favor. “I… guess,” she said. “You did have a nice bow, as I recall.”
“See,” Yalb said, standing and confronting the much larger man. “I mentioned the bow, didn’t I?”
The “new kid” rumbled his agreement.
“So get to washing those dishes,” Yalb said. He got a scowl in response. “Now, don’t give me that,” Yalb said. “I told you, galley duty is something the captain watches closely. If you want to fit in around here, you do it well, and do some extra. It will put you ahead with the captain and the rest of the men. I’m giving you quite the opportunity here, and I’ll have you appreciate it.”
That seemed to placate the larger man, who turned around and went tromping toward the lower decks.
“Passions!” Yalb said. “That fellow is as dun as two spheres made of mud. I worry about him. Somebody’s going to take advantage of him, Brightness.”
“Yalb, have you been boasting again?” Shallan said.
“ ’Tain’t boasting if some of it’s true.”
“Actually, that’s exactly what boasting entails.”
“Hey,” Yalb said, turning toward her. “What were you doing before? You know, with the colors?”
“Colors?” Shallan said, suddenly cold.
“Yeah, the deck turned green, eh?” Yalb said. “I swear I saw it. Has to do with that strange spren, does it?”
“I… I’m trying to determine exactly what kind of spren it is,” Shallan said, keeping her voice even. “It’s a scholarly matter.”
“I thought so,” Yalb said, though she’d given him nothing in the way of an answer. He raised an affable hand to her, then jogged off.
She worried about letting them see Pattern. She’d tried staying in her cabin to keep him a secret from the men, but being cooped up had been too difficult for her, and he didn’t respond to her suggestions that he stay out of their sight. So, during the last four days, she’d been forced to let them see what she was doing as she studied him.
They were understandably discomforted by him, but didn’t say much. Today, they were getting the ship ready to sail all night. Thoughts of the open sea at night unsettled her, but that was the cost of sailing this far from civilization. Two days back, they’d even been forced to weather a storm in a cove along the coast. Jasnah and Shallan had gone ashore to stay in a fortress maintained for the purpose—paying a steep cost to get in—while the sailors had stayed on board.
That cove, though not a true port, had at least had a stormwall to help shelter the ship. Next highstorm, they wouldn’t even have that. They’d find a cove and try to ride out the winds, though Tozbek said he’d send Shallan and Jasnah ashore to seek shelter in a cavern.
She turned back to Pattern, who had shifted into his hovering form. He looked something like the pattern of splintered light thrown on the wall by a crystal chandelier—except he was made of something black instead of light, and he was three-dimensional. So… Maybe not much like that at all.
“Lies,” Pattern said. “Lies from the Yalb.”
“Yes,” Shallan said with a sigh. “Yalb is far too skilled at persuasion for his own good, sometimes.”
Pattern hummed softly. He seemed pleased.
“You like lies?” Shallan asked.
“Good lies,” Pattern said. “That lie. Good lie.”
“What makes a lie good?” Shallan asked, taking careful notes, recording Pattern’s exact words.
“Pattern, those two are opposites.”
“Hmmmm… Light makes shadow. Truth makes lies. Hmmmm.”
Liespren, Jasnah called them, Shallan wrote. A moniker they don’t like, apparently. When I Soulcast for the first time, a voice demanded a truth from me. I still don’t know what that means, and Jasnah has not been forthcoming. She doesn’t seem to know what to make of my experience either. I do not think that voice belonged to Pattern, but I cannot say, as he seems to have forgotten much about himself.
She turned to making a few sketches of Pattern both in his floating and flattened forms. Drawing let her mind relax. By the time she was done, there were several half-remembered passages from her research that she wanted to quote in her notes.
She made her way down the steps belowdecks, Pattern following. He drew looks from the sailors. Sailors were a superstitious lot, and some took him as a bad sign.
In her quarters, Pattern moved up the wall beside her, watching without eyes as she searched for a passage she remembered, which mentioned spren that spoke. Not just windspren and riverspren, which would mimic people and make playful comments. Those were a step up from ordinary spren, but there was yet another level of spren, one rarely seen. Spren like Pattern, who had real conversations with people.
The Nightwatcher is obviously one of these, Alai wrote, Shallan copying the passage. The records of conversations with her—and she is definitely female, despite what rural Alethi folktales would have one believe—are numerous and credible. Shubalai herself, intent on providing a firsthand scholarly report, visited the Nightwatcher and recorded her story word for word.…
Shallan went to another reference, and before long got completely lost in her studies. A few hours later, she closed a book and set it on the table beside her bed. Her spheres were getting dim; they’d go out soon, and would need to be reinfused with Stormlight. Shallan released a contented sigh and leaned back against her bed, her notes from a dozen different sources laid out on the floor of her small chamber.
She felt… satisfied. Her brothers loved the plan of fixing the Soulcaster and returning it, and seemed energized by her suggestion that all was not lost. They thought they could last longer, now that a plan was in place.
Shallan’s life was coming together. How long had it been since she’d just been able to sit and read? Without worried concern for her house, without dreading the need to find a way to steal from Jasnah? Even before the terrible sequence of events that had led to her father’s death, she had always been anxious. That had been her life. She’d seen becoming a true scholar as something unreachable. Stormfather! She’d seen the next town over as being unreachable.
She stood up, gathering her sketchbook and flipping through her pictures of the santhid, including several drawn from the memory of her dip in the ocean. She smiled at that, recalling how she’d climbed back up on deck, dripping wet and grinning. The sailors had all obviously thought her mad.
Now she was sailing toward a city on the edge of the world, betrothed to a powerful Alethi prince, and was free to just learn. She was seeing incredible new sights, sketching them during the days, then reading through piles of books in the nights.
She had stumbled into the perfect life, and it was everything she’d wished for.
Shallan fished in the pocket inside her safehand sleeve, digging out some more spheres to replace those dimming in the goblet. The ones her hand emerged with, however, were completely dun. Not a glimmer of Light in them.
She frowned. These had been restored during the previous highstorm, held in a basket tied to the ship’s mast. The ones in her goblet were two storms old now, which was why they were running out. How had the ones in her pocket gone dun faster? It defied reason.
“Mmmmm…” Pattern said from the wall near her head. “Lies.”
Shallan replaced the spheres in her pocket, then opened the door into the ship’s narrow companionway and moved to Jasnah’s cabin. It was the cabin that Tozbek and his wife usually shared, but they had vacated it for the third—and smallest—of the cabins to give Jasnah the better quarters. People did things like that for her, even when she didn’t ask.
Jasnah would have some spheres for Shallan to use. Indeed, Jasnah’s door was cracked open, swaying slightly as the ship creaked and rocked along its evening path. Jasnah sat at the desk inside, and Shallan peeked in, suddenly uncertain if she wanted to bother the woman.
She could see Jasnah’s face, hand against her temple, staring at the pages spread before her. Jasnah’s eyes were haunted, her expression haggard.
This was not the Jasnah that Shallan was accustomed to seeing. The confidence had been overwhelmed by exhaustion, the poise replaced by worry. Jasnah started to write something, but stopped after just a few words. She set down the pen, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. A few dizzy-looking spren, like jets of dust rising into the air, appeared around Jasnah’s head. Exhaustionspren.
Shallan pulled back, suddenly feeling as if she’d intruded upon an intimate moment. Jasnah with her defenses down. Shallan began to creep away, but a voice from the floor suddenly said, “Truth!”
Startled, Jasnah looked up, eyes finding Shallan—who, of course, blushed furiously.
Jasnah turned her eyes down toward Pattern on the floor, then reset her mask, sitting up with proper posture. “Yes, child?”
“I… I needed spheres…” Shallan said. “Those in my pouch went dun.”
“Have you been Soulcasting?” Jasnah asked sharply.
“What? No, Brightness. I promised I would not.”
“Then it is the second ability,” Jasnah said. “Come in and close that door. I should speak to Captain Tozbek; it won’t latch properly.”
Shallan stepped in, pushing the door closed, though the latch didn’t catch. She stepped forward, hands clasped, feeling embarrassed.
“What did you do?” Jasnah asked. “It involved light, I assume?”
“I seemed to make plants appear,” Shallan said. “Well, really just the color. One of the sailors saw the deck turn green, but it vanished when I stopped thinking about the plants.”
“Yes…” Jasnah said. She flipped through one of her books, stopping at an illustration. Shallan had seen it before; it was as ancient as Vorinism. Ten spheres connected by lines forming a shape like an hourglass on its side. Two of the spheres at the center looked almost like pupils. The Double Eye of the Almighty.
“Ten Essences,” Jasnah said softly. She ran her fingers along the page. “Ten Surges. Ten orders. But what does it mean that the spren have finally decided to return the oaths to us? And how much time remains to me? Not long. Not long…”
“Brightness?” Shallan asked.
“Before your arrival, I could assume I was an anomaly,” Jasnah said. “I could hope that Surgebindings were not returning in large numbers. I no longer have that hope. The Cryptics sent you to me, of that I have no doubt, because they knew you would need training. That gives me hope that I was at least one of the first.”
“I don’t understand.”
Jasnah looked up toward Shallan, meeting her eyes with an intense gaze. The woman’s eyes were reddened with fatigue. How late was she working? Every night when Shallan turned in, there was still light coming from under Jasnah’s door.
“To be honest,” Jasnah said, “I don’t understand either.”
“Are you all right?” Shallan asked. “Before I entered, you seemed… distressed.”
Jasnah hesitated just briefly. “I have merely been spending too long at my studies.” She turned to one of her trunks, digging out a dark cloth pouch filled with spheres. “Take these. I would suggest that you keep spheres with you at all times, so that your Surgebinding has the opportunity to manifest.”
“Can you teach me?” Shallan asked, taking the pouch.
“I don’t know,” Jasnah said. “I will try. On this diagram, one of the Surges is known as Illumination, the mastery of light. For now, I would prefer you expend your efforts on learning this Surge, as opposed to Soulcasting. That is a dangerous art, more so now than it once was.”
Shallan nodded, rising. She hesitated before leaving, however. “Are you sure you are well?”
“Of course.” She said it too quickly. The woman was poised, in control, but also obviously exhausted. The mask was cracked, and Shallan could see the truth.
She’s trying to placate me, Shallan realized. Pat me on the head and send me back to bed, like a child awakened by a nightmare.
“You’re worried,” Shallan said, meeting Jasnah’s eyes.
The woman turned away. She pushed a book over something wiggling on her table—a small purple spren. Fearspren. Only one, true, but still.
“No…” Shallan whispered. “You’re not worried. You’re terrified.” Stormfather!
“It is all right, Shallan,” Jasnah said. “I just need some sleep. Go back to your studies.”
Shallan sat down on the stool beside Jasnah’s desk. The older woman looked back at her, and Shallan could see the mask cracking further. Annoyance as Jasnah drew her lips to a line. Tension in the way she held her pen, in a fist.
“You told me I could be part of this,” Shallan said. “Jasnah, if you’re worried about something…”
“My worry is what it has always been,” Jasnah said, leaning back in her chair. “That I will be too late. That I’m incapable of doing anything meaningful to stop what is coming—that I’m trying to stop a highstorm by blowing against it really hard.”
“The Voidbringers,” Shallan said. “The parshmen.”
“In the past,” Jasnah said, “the Desolation—the coming of the Voidbringers—was supposedly always marked by a return of the Heralds to prepare mankind. They would train the Knights Radiant, who would experience a rush of new members.”
“But we captured the Voidbringers,” Shallan said. “And enslaved them.” That was what Jasnah postulated, and Shallan agreed, having seen the research. “So you think a kind of revolution is coming. That the parshmen will turn against us as they did in the past.”
“Yes,” Jasnah said, rifling through her notes. “And soon. Your proving to be a Surgebinder does not comfort me, as it smacks too much of what happened before. But back then, new knights had teachers to train them, generations of tradition. We have nothing.”
“The Voidbringers are captive,” Shallan said, glancing toward Pattern. He rested on the floor, almost invisible, saying nothing. “The parshmen can barely communicate. How could they possibly stage a revolution?”
Jasnah found the sheet of paper she’d been seeking and handed it to Shallan. Written in Jasnah’s own hand, it was an account by a captain’s wife of a plateau assault on the Shattered Plains.
“Parshendi,” Jasnah said, “can sing in time with one another no matter how far they are separated. They have some ability to communicate that we do not understand. I can only assume that their cousins the parshmen have the same. They may not need to hear a call to action in order to revolt.”
Shallan read the report, nodding slowly. “We need to warn others, Jasnah.”
“You don’t think I’ve tried?” Jasnah asked. “I’ve written to scholars and kings all around the world. Most dismiss me as paranoid. The evidence you readily accept, others call flimsy.
“The ardents were my best hope, but their eyes are clouded by the interference of the Hierocracy. Besides, my personal beliefs make ardents skeptical of anything I say. My mother wants to see my research, which is something. My brother and uncle might believe, and that is why we are going to them.” She hesitated. “There is another reason we seek the Shattered Plains. A way to find evidence that might convince everyone.”
“Urithiru,” Shallan said. “The city you seek?”
Jasnah gave her another curt glance. The ancient city was something Shallan had first learned about by secretly reading Jasnah’s notes.
“You still blush too easily when confronted,” Jasnah noted.
“And apologize too easily as well.”
“I’m… uh, indignant?”
Jasnah smiled, picking up the representation of the Double Eye. She stared at it. “There is a secret hidden somewhere on the Shattered Plains. A secret about Urithiru.”
“You told me the city wasn’t there!”
“It isn’t. But the path to it may be.” Her lips tightened. “According to legend, only a Knight Radiant could open the way.”
“Fortunately, we know two of those.”
“Again, you are not a Radiant, and neither am I. Being able to replicate some of the things they could do may not matter. We don’t have their traditions or knowledge.”
“We’re talking about the potential end of civilization itself, aren’t we?” Shallan asked softly.
“The Desolations,” Shallan said. “I know very little, but the legends…”
“In the aftermath of each one, mankind was broken. Great cities in ashes, industry smashed. Each time, knowledge and growth were reduced to an almost prehistoric state—it took centuries of rebuilding to restore civilization to what it had been before.” She hesitated. “I keep hoping that I’m wrong.”
“Urithiru,” Shallan said. She tried to refrain from just asking questions, trying instead to reason her way to the answer. “You said the city was a kind of base or home to the Knights Radiant. I hadn’t heard of it before speaking with you, and so can guess that it’s not commonly referred to in the literature. Perhaps, then, it is one of the things that the Hierocracy suppressed knowledge of?”
“Very good,” Jasnah said. “Although I think that it had begun to fade into legend even before then, the Hierocracy did not help.”
“So if it existed before the Hierocracy, and if the pathway to it was locked at the fall of the Radiants… then it might contain records that have not been touched by modern scholars. Unaltered, unchanged lore about the Voidbringers and Surgebinding.” Shallan shivered. “That’s why we’re really going to the Shattered Plains.”
Jasnah smiled through her fatigue. “Very good indeed. My time in the Palanaeum was very useful, but also in some ways disappointing. While I confirmed my suspicions about the parshmen, I also found that many of the great library’s records bore the same signs of tampering as others I’d read. This ‘cleansing’ of history, removing direct references to Urithiru or the Radiants because they were embarrassments to Vorinism—it’s infuriating. And people ask me why I am hostile to the church! I need primary sources. And then, there are stories—ones I dare to believe—claiming that Urithiru was holy and protected from the Voidbringers. Maybe that was wishful fancy, but I am not too much a scholar to hope that something like that might be true.”
“And the parshmen?”
“We will try to persuade the Alethi to rid themselves of those.”
“Not an easy task.”
“A nearly impossible one,” Jasnah said, standing. She began to pack her books away for the night, putting them in her waterproofed trunk. “Parshmen are such perfect slaves. Docile, obedient. Our society has become far too reliant upon them. The parshmen wouldn’t need to turn violent to throw us into chaos—though I’m certain that is what’s coming—they could simply walk away. It would cause an economic crisis.”
She closed the trunk after removing one volume, then turned back to Shallan. “Convincing everyone of what I say is beyond us without more evidence. Even if my brother listens, he doesn’t have the authority to force the highprinces to get rid of their parshmen. And, in all honesty, I fear my brother won’t be brave enough to risk the collapse expelling the parshmen might cause.”
“But if they turn on us, the collapse will come anyway.”
“Yes,” Jasnah said. “You know this, and I know it. My mother might believe it. But the risk of being wrong is so immense that… well, we will need evidence—overwhelming and irrefutable evidence. So we find the city. At all costs, we find that city.”
“I did not want to lay all of this upon your shoulders, child,” Jasnah said, sitting back down. “However, I will admit that it is a relief to speak of these things to someone who doesn’t challenge me on every other point.”
“We’ll do it, Jasnah,” Shallan said. “We’ll travel to the Shattered Plains and we’ll find Urithiru. We’ll get the evidence and convince everyone to listen.”
“Ah, the optimism of youth,” Jasnah said. “That is nice to hear on occasion too.” She handed the book to Shallan. “Among the Knights Radiant, there was an order known as the Lightweavers. I know precious little about them, but of all the sources I’ve read, this one has the most information.”
Shallan took the volume eagerly. Words of Radiance, the title read. “Go,” Jasnah said. “Read.”
Shallan glanced at her.
“I will sleep,” Jasnah promised, a smile creeping to her lips. “And stop trying to mother me. I don’t even let Navani do that.”
Shallan sighed, nodding, and left Jasnah’s quarters. Pattern tagged along behind; he’d spent the entire conversation silent. As she entered her cabin, she found herself much heavier of heart than when she’d left it. She couldn’t banish the image of terror in Jasnah’s eyes. Jasnah Kholin shouldn’t fear anything, should she?
Shallan crawled onto her cot with the book she’d been given and the pouch of spheres. Part of her was eager to begin, but she was exhausted, her eyelids drooping. It really had gotten late. If she started the book now…
Perhaps better to get a good night’s sleep, then dig refreshed into a new day’s studies. She set the book on the small table beside her bed, curled up, and let the rocking of the boat coax her to sleep.
She awoke to screams, shouts, and smoke.
The familiar scraping of wood as a bridge slid into place. The stomping of feet in unison, first a flat sound on stone, then the ringing thump of boots on wood. The distant calls of scouts, shouting back the all-clear.
The sounds of a plateau run were familiar to Dalinar. Once, he had craved these sounds. He’d been impatient between runs, longing for the chance to strike down Parshendi with his Blade, to win wealth and recognition.
That Dalinar had been seeking to cover up his shame—the shame of lying slumped in a drunken stupor while his brother fought an assassin.
The setting of a plateau run was uniform: bare, jagged rocks, mostly the same dull color as the stone surface they sat on, broken only by the occasional cluster of closed rockbuds. Even those, as their name implied, could be mistaken for more rocks. There was nothing but more of the same from here where you stood, all the way out to the far horizon; and everything you’d brought with you, everything human, was dwarfed by the vastness of these endless, fractured plains and deadly chasms.
Over the years, this activity had become rote. Marching beneath that white sun like molten steel. Crossing gap after gap. Eventually, plateau runs had become less something to anticipate and more a dogged obligation. For Gavilar and glory, yes, but mainly because they—and the enemy— were here. This was what you did.
The scents of a plateau run were the scents of a great stillness: baked stone, dried crem, long-traveled winds.
Most recently, Dalinar was coming to detest plateau runs. They were a frivolity, a waste of life. They weren’t about fulfilling the Vengeance Pact, but about greed. Many gemhearts appeared on the near plateaus, convenient to reach. Those didn’t sate the Alethi. They had to reach farther, toward assaults that cost dearly.
Ahead, Highprince Aladar’s men fought on a plateau. They had arrived before Dalinar’s army, and the conflict told a familiar story. Men against Parshendi, fighting in a sinuous line, each army trying to shove the other back. The humans could field far more men than the Parshendi, but the Parshendi could reach plateaus faster and secure them quickly.
The scattered bodies of bridgemen on the staging plateau, leading up to the chasm, attested to the danger of charging an entrenched foe. Dalinar did not miss the dark expressions on his bodyguards’ faces as they surveyed the dead. Aladar, like most of the other highprinces, used Sadeas’s philosophy on bridge runs. Quick, brutal assaults that treated manpower as an expendable resource. It hadn’t always been this way. In the past, bridges had been carried by armored troops, but success bred imitation.
The warcamps needed a constant influx of cheap slaves to feed the monster. That meant a growing plague of slavers and bandits roaming the Unclaimed Hills, trading in flesh. Another thing I’ll have to change, Dalinar thought.
Aladar himself didn’t fight, but had instead set up a command center on an adjacent plateau. Dalinar pointed toward the flapping banner, and one of his large mechanical bridges rolled into place. Pulled by chulls and full of gears, levers, and cams, the bridges protected the men who worked them. They were also very slow. Dalinar waited with self-disciplined patience as the workers ratcheted the bridge down, spanning the chasm between this plateau and the one where Aladar’s banner flew.
Once the bridge was in position and locked, his bodyguard—led by one of Captain Kaladin’s darkeyed officers—trotted onto it, spears to shoulders. Dalinar had promised Kaladin his men would not have to fight except to defend him. Once they were across, Dalinar kicked Gallant into motion to cross to Aladar’s command plateau. Dalinar felt too light on the stallion’s back—the lack of Shardplate. In the many years since he’d obtained his suit, he’d never gone out onto a battlefield without it.
Today, however, he didn’t ride to battle—not truly. Behind him, Adolin’s own personal banner flew, and he led the bulk of Dalinar’s armies to assault the plateau where Aladar’s men already fought. Dalinar didn’t send any orders regarding how the assault should go. His son had been trained well, and he was ready to take battlefield command—with General Khal at his side, of course, for advice.
Yes, from now on, Adolin would lead the battles.
Dalinar would change the world.
He rode toward Aladar’s command tent. This was the first plateau run following his proclamation requiring the armies to work together. The fact that Aladar had come, as commanded, and Roion had not—even though the target plateau was closest to Roion’s warcamp—was a victory unto itself. A small encouragement, but Dalinar would take what he could get.
He found Highprince Aladar watching from a small pavilion set up on a secure, raised part of this plateau overlooking the battlefield. A perfect location for a command post. Aladar was a Shardbearer, though he commonly lent his Plate and Blade to one of his officers during battles, preferring to lead tactically from behind the battle lines. A practiced Shardbearer could mentally command a Blade to not dissolve when he let go of it, though—in an emergency—Aladar could summon it to himself, making it vanish from the hands of his officer in an eyeblink, then appear in his own hands ten heartbeats later. Loaning a Blade required a great deal of trust on both sides.
Dalinar dismounted. His horse, Gallant, glared at the groom who tried to take him, and Dalinar patted the horse on the neck. “He’ll be fine on his own, son,” he said to the groom. Most common grooms didn’t know what to do with one of the Ryshadium anyway.
Trailed by his bridgeman guards, Dalinar joined Aladar, who stood at the edge of the plateau, overseeing the battlefield ahead and just below. Slender and completely bald, the man had skin a darker tan than most Alethi. He stood with hands behind his back, and wore a sharp traditional uniform with a skirtlike takama, though he wore a modern jacket above it, cut to match the takama.
It was a style Dalinar had never seen before. Aladar also wore a thin mustache and a tuft of hair beneath his lip, again an unconventional choice. Aladar was powerful enough, and renowned enough, to make his own fashion—and he did so, often setting trends.
“Dalinar,” Aladar said, nodding to him. “I thought you weren’t going to fight on plateau runs any longer.”
“I’m not,” Dalinar said, nodding toward Adolin’s banner. There, soldiers streamed across Dalinar’s bridges to join the battle. The plateau was small enough that many of Aladar’s men had to withdraw to make way, something they were obviously all too eager to do.
“You almost lost this day,” Dalinar noted. “It is well that you had support.” Below, Dalinar’s troops restored order to the battlefield and pushed against the Parshendi.
“Perhaps,” Aladar said. “Yet in the past, I was victorious in one out of three assaults. Having support will mean I win a few more, certainly, but will also cost half my earnings. Assuming the king even assigns me any. I’m not convinced that I’ll be better off in the long run.”
“But this way, you lose fewer men,” Dalinar said. “And the total winnings for the entire army will rise. The honor of the—”
“Don’t talk to me about honor, Dalinar. I can’t pay my soldiers with honor, and I can’t use it to keep the other highprinces from snapping at my neck. Your plan favors the weakest among us and undercuts the successful.”
“Fine,” Dalinar snapped, “honor has no value to you. You will still obey, Aladar, because your king demands it. That is the only reason you need. You will do as told.”
“Or?” Aladar said.
Aladar started as if slapped. Ten years back, Highprince Yenev had refused to accept the unification of Alethkar. At Gavilar’s order, Sadeas had dueled the man. And killed him.
“Threats?” Aladar asked.
“Yes.” Dalinar turned to look the shorter man in the eyes. “I’m done cajoling, Aladar. I’m done asking. When you disobey Elhokar, you mock my brother and what he stood for. I will have a unified kingdom.”
“Amusing,” Aladar said. “Good of you to mention Gavilar, as he didn’t bring the kingdom together with honor. He did it with knives in the back and soldiers on the field, cutting the heads off any who resisted. Are we back to that again, then? Such things don’t sound much like the fine words of your precious book.”
Dalinar ground his teeth, turning away to watch the battlefield. His first instinct was to tell Aladar he was an officer under Dalinar’s command, and take the man to task for his tone. Treat him like a recruit in need of correction.
But what if Aladar just ignored him? Would he force the man to obey? Dalinar didn’t have the troops for it.
He found himself annoyed—more at himself than at Aladar. He’d come on this plateau run not to fight, but to talk. To persuade. Navani was right. Dalinar needed more than brusque words and military commands to save this kingdom. He needed loyalty, not fear.
But storms take him, how? What persuading he’d done in life, he’d accomplished with a sword in hand and a fist to the face. Gavilar had always been the one with the right words, the one who could make people listen.
Dalinar had no business trying to be a politician.
Half the lads on that battlefield probably didn’t think they had any business being soldiers, at first, a part of him whispered. You don’t have the luxury of being bad at this. Don’t complain. Change.
“The Parshendi are pushing too hard,” Aladar said to his generals. “They want to shove us off the plateau. Tell the men to give a little and let the Parshendi lose their advantage of footing; that will let us surround them.”
The generals nodded, one calling out orders.
Dalinar narrowed his eyes at the battlefield, reading it. “No,” he said softly.
The general stopped giving orders. Aladar glanced at Dalinar.
“The Parshendi are preparing to pull back,” Dalinar said.
“They certainly don’t act like it.”
“They want some room to breathe,” Dalinar said, reading the swirl of combat below. “They nearly have the gemheart harvested. They will continue to push hard, but will break into a quick retreat around the chrysalis to buy time for the final harvesting. That’s what you’ll need to stop.”
The Parshendi surged forward.
“I took point on this run,” Aladar said. “By your own rules, I get final say over our tactics.”
“I observe only,” Dalinar said. “I’m not even commanding my own army today. You may choose your tactics, and I will not interfere.”
Aladar considered, then cursed softly. “Assume Dalinar is correct. Prepare the men for a withdrawal by the Parshendi. Send a strike team forward to secure the chrysalis, which should be almost opened up.”
The generals set up the new details, and messengers raced off with the tactical orders. Aladar and Dalinar watched, side by side, as the Parshendi shoved forward. That singing of theirs hovered over the battlefield.
Then they pulled back, careful as always to respectfully step over the bodies of the dead. Ready for this, the human troops rushed after. Led by Adolin in gleaming Plate, a strike force of fresh troops broke through the Parshendi line and reached the chrysalis. Other human troops poured through the gap they opened, shoving the Parshendi to the flanks, turning the Parshendi withdrawal into a tactical disaster.
In minutes, the Parshendi had abandoned the plateau, jumping away and fleeing.
“Damnation,” Aladar said softly. “I hate that you’re so good at this.”
Dalinar narrowed his eyes, noticing that some of the fleeing Parshendi stopped on a plateau a short distance from the battlefield. They lingered there, though much of their force continued on away.
Dalinar waved for one of Aladar’s servants to hand him a spyglass, then he raised it, focusing on that group. A figure stood at the edge of the plateau out there, a figure in glistening armor.
The Parshendi Shardbearer, he thought. The one from the battle at the Tower. He almost killed me.
Dalinar didn’t remember much from that encounter. He’d been beaten near senseless toward the end of it. This Shardbearer hadn’t participated in today’s battle. Why? Surely with a Shardbearer, they could have opened the chrysalis sooner.
Dalinar felt a disturbing pit inside of him. This one fact, the watching Shardbearer, changed his understanding of the battle entirely. He thought he’d been able to read what was going on. Now it occurred to him that the enemy’s tactics were more opaque than he’d assumed.
“Are some of them still out there?” Aladar asked. “Watching?”
Dalinar nodded, lowering his spyglass.
“Have they done that before in any battle you’ve fought?”
Dalinar shook his head.
Aladar mulled for a moment, then gave orders for his men on the plateau to remain alert, with scouts posted to watch for a surprise return of the Parshendi.
“Thank you,” Aladar added, grudgingly, turning to Dalinar. “Your advice proved helpful.”
“You trusted me when it came to tactics,” Dalinar said, turning to him. “Why not try trusting me in what is best for this kingdom?”
Aladar studied him. Behind, soldiers cheered their victory and Adolin ripped the gemheart free from the chrysalis. Others fanned out to watch for a return attack, but none came.
“I wish I could, Dalinar,” Aladar finally said. “But this isn’t about you. It’s about the other highprinces. Maybe I could trust you, but I’ll never trust them. You’re asking me to risk too much of myself. The others would do to me what Sadeas did to you on the Tower.”
“What if I can bring the others around? What if I can prove to you that they’re worthy of trust? What if I can change the direction of this kingdom, and this war? Will you follow me then?”
“No,” Aladar said. “I’m sorry.” He turned away, calling for his horse.
The trip back was miserable. They’d won the day, but Aladar kept his distance. How could Dalinar do so many things so right, yet still be unable to persuade men like Aladar? And what did it mean that the Parshendi were changing tactics on the battlefield, not committing their Shardbearer? Were they too afraid to lose their Shards?
When, at long last, Dalinar returned to his bunker in the warcamps— after seeing to his men and sending a report to the king—he found an unexpected letter waiting for him.
He sent for Navani to read him the words. Dalinar stood waiting in his private study, staring at the wall that had borne the strange glyphs. Those had been sanded away, the scratches hidden, but the pale patch of stone whispered.
Sixty-two days to come up with an answer. Well, sixty now. Not much time to save a kingdom, to prepare for the worst. The ardents would condemn the prophecy as a prank at best, or blasphemous at worst. To foretell the future was forbidden. It was of the Voidbringers. Even games of chance were suspect, for they incited men to look for the secrets of what was to come.
He believed anyway. For he suspected his own hand had written those words.
Navani arrived and looked over the letter, then started reading aloud. It turned out to be from an old friend who was going to arrive soon on the Shattered Plains—and who might provide a solution to Dalinar’s problems.
Kaladin led the way down into the chasms, as was his right.
They used a rope ladder, as they had in Sadeas’s army. These ladders had been unsavory things, the ropes frayed and stained with moss, the planks battered by far too many highstorms. Kaladin had never lost a man because of those storming ladders, but he’d always worried.
This one was brand new. He knew that for a fact, as Rind the quartermaster had scratched his head at the request, and then had one built to Kaladin’s specifications. It was sturdy and well made, like Dalinar’s army itself.
Kaladin reached the bottom with a final hop. Syl floated down and landed on his shoulder as he held up a sphere to survey the chasm bottom. The single sapphire broam was worth more by itself than the entirety of his wages as a bridgeman.
In Sadeas’s army, the chasms had been a frequent destination for bridgemen. Kaladin still didn’t know if the purpose had been to scavenge every possible resource from the Shattered Plains, or if it had really been about finding something menial—and will-breaking—for bridgemen to do between runs.
The chasm bottom here, however, was untouched. There were no paths cut through the snarl of stormleavings on the ground, and there were no scratched messages or instructions in the lichen on the walls. Like the other chasms, this one opened up like a vase, wider at the bottom than at the cracked top—a result of waters rushing through during highstorms. The floor was relatively flat, smoothed by the hardened sediment of settling crem.
As he moved forward, Kaladin had to pick his way over all kinds of debris. Broken sticks and logs from trees blown in from across the Plains. Cracked rockbud shells. Countless tangles of dried vines, twisted through one another like discarded yarn.
And bodies, of course.
A lot of corpses ended up in the chasms. Whenever men lost their battle to seize a plateau, they had to retreat and leave their dead behind. Storms! Sadeas often left the corpses behind even if he won—and bridgemen he’d leave wounded, abandoned, even if they could have been saved.
After a highstorm, the dead ended up here, in the chasms. And since storms blew westward, toward the warcamps, the bodies washed in this direction. Kaladin found it hard to move without stepping on bones entwined in the accumulated foliage on the chasm floor.
He picked his way through as respectfully as he could as Rock reached the bottom behind him, uttering a quiet phrase in his native tongue. Kaladin couldn’t tell if it was a curse or a prayer. Syl moved from Kaladin’s shoulder, zipping into the air, then streaking in an arc to the ground. There, she formed into what he thought of as her true shape, that of a young woman with a simple dress that frayed to mist just below the knees. She perched on a branch and stared at a femur poking up through the moss.
She didn’t like violence. He wasn’t certain if, even now, she understood death. She spoke of it like a child trying to grasp something beyond her.
“What a mess,” Teft said as he reached the bottom. “Bah! This place hasn’t seen any kind of care at all.”
“It is a grave,” Rock said. “We walk in a grave.”
“All of the chasms are graves,” Teft said, his voice echoing in the dank confines. “This one’s just a messy grave.”
“Hard to find death that isn’t messy, Teft,” Kaladin said.
Teft grunted, then started to greet the new recruits as they reached the bottom. Moash and Skar were watching over Dalinar and his sons as they attended some lighteyed feast—something that Kaladin was glad to be able to avoid. Instead, he’d come with Teft down here.
They were joined by the forty bridgemen—two from each reorganized crew—that Teft was training with the hope that they’d make good sergeants for their own crews.
“Take a good look, lads,” Teft said to them. “This is where we come from. This is why some call us the order of bone. We’re not going to make you go through everything we did, and be glad! We could have been swept away by a highstorm at any moment. Now, with Dalinar Kholin’s stormwardens to guide us, we won’t have nearly as much risk—and we’ll be staying close to the exit just in case…”
Kaladin folded his arms, watching Teft instruct as Rock handed practice spears to the men. Teft himself carried no spear, and though he was shorter than the bridgemen who gathered around him—wearing simple soldiers’ uniforms—they seemed thoroughly intimidated.
What else did you expect? Kaladin thought. They’re bridgemen. A stiff breeze could quell them.
Still, Teft looked completely in control. Comfortably so. This was right. Something about it was just… right.
A swarm of small glowing orbs materialized around Kaladin’s head, spren the shape of golden spheres that darted this way and that. He started, looking at them. Gloryspren. Storms. He felt as if he hadn’t seen the like in years.
Syl zipped up into the air and joined them, giggling and spinning around Kaladin’s head. “Feeling proud of yourself?”
“Teft,” Kaladin said. “He’s a leader.”
“Of course he is. You gave him a rank, didn’t you?”
“No,” Kaladin said. “I didn’t give it to him. He claimed it. Come on. Let’s walk.”
She nodded, alighting in the air and settling down, her legs crossed at the knees as if she were primly seating herself in an invisible chair. She continued to hover there, moving exactly in step with him.
“Giving up all pretense of obeying natural laws again, I see,” he said.
“Natural laws?” Syl said, finding the concept amusing. “Laws are of men, Kaladin. Nature doesn’t have them!”
“If I toss something upward, it comes back down.”
“Except when it doesn’t.”
“It’s a law.”
“No,” Syl said, looking upward. “It’s more like… more like an agreement among friends.”
He looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“We have to be consistent,” she said, leaning in conspiratorially. “Or we’ll break your brains.”
He snorted, walking around a clump of bones and sticks pierced by a spear. Cankered with rust, it looked like a monument.
“Oh, come on,” Syl said, tossing her hair. “That was worth at least a chuckle.”
Kaladin kept walking.
“A snort is not a chuckle,” Syl said. “I know this because I am intelligent and articulate. You should compliment me now.”
“Dalinar Kholin wants to refound the Knights Radiant.”
“Yes,” Syl said loftily, hanging in the corner of his vision. “A brilliant idea. I wish I’d thought of it.” She grinned triumphantly, then scowled.
“What?” he said, turning back to her.
“Has it ever struck you as unfair,” she said, “that spren cannot attract spren? I should really have had some gloryspren of my own there.”
“I have to protect Dalinar,” Kaladin said, ignoring her complaint. “Not just him, but his family, maybe the king himself. Even though I failed to keep someone from sneaking into Dalinar’s rooms.” He still couldn’t figure out how someone had managed to get in. Unless it hadn’t been a person. “Could a spren have made those glyphs on the wall?” Syl had carried a leaf once. She had some physical form, just not much.
“I don’t know,” she said, glancing to the side. “I’ve seen…”
“Spren like red lightning,” Syl said softly. “Dangerous spren. Spren I haven’t seen before. I catch them in the distance, on occasion. Stormspren? Something dangerous is coming. About that, the glyphs are right.”
He chewed on that for a while, then finally stopped and looked at her. “Syl, are there others like me?”
Her face grew solemn. “Oh.”
“Oh, that question.”
“You’ve been expecting it, then?”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
“So you’ve had plenty of time to think about a good answer,” Kaladin said, folding his arms and leaning back against a somewhat dry portion of the wall. “That makes me wonder if you’ve come up with a solid explanation or a solid lie.”
“Lie?” Syl said, aghast. “Kaladin! What do you think I am? A Cryptic?”
“And what is a Cryptic?”
Syl, still perched as if on a seat, sat up straight and cocked her head. “I actually… I actually have no idea. Huh.”
“I’m serious, Kaladin! I don’t know. I don’t remember.” She grabbed her hair, one clump of white translucence in each hand, and pulled sideways.
He frowned, then pointed. “That…”
“I saw a woman do it in the market,” Syl said, yanking her hair to the sides again. “It means I’m frustrated. I think it’s supposed to hurt. So… ow? Anyway, it’s not that I don’t want to tell you what I know. I do! I just… I don’t know what I know.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, imagine how frustrating it feels!”
Kaladin sighed, then continued along the chasm, passing pools of stagnant water clotted with debris. A scattering of enterprising rockbuds grew stunted along one chasm wall. They must not get much light down here.
He breathed in deeply the scents of overloaded life. Moss and mold. Most of the bodies here were mere bone, though he did steer clear of one patch of ground crawling with the red dots of rotspren. Just beside it, a group of frillblooms wafted their delicate fanlike fronds in the air, and those danced with green specks of lifespren. Life and death shook hands here in the chasms.
He explored several of the chasm’s branching paths. It felt odd to not know this area; he’d learned the chasms closest to Sadeas’s camp better than the camp itself. As he walked, the chasm grew deeper and the area opened up. He made a few marks on the wall.
Along one fork he found a round open area with little debris. He noted it, then walked back, marking the wall again before taking another branch. Eventually, they entered another place where the chasm opened up, widening into a roomy space.
“Coming here was dangerous,” Syl said.
“Into the chasms?” Kaladin asked. “There aren’t going to be any chasmfiends this close to the warcamps.”
“No. I meant for me, coming into this realm before I found you. It was dangerous.”
“Where were you before?”
“Another place. With lots of spren. I can’t remember well… it had lights in the air. Living lights.”
“Yes. And no. Coming here risked death. Without you, without a mind born of this realm, I couldn’t think. Alone, I was just another windspren.”
“But you’re not windspren,” Kaladin said, kneeling beside a large pool of water. “You’re honorspren.”
“Yes,” Syl said.
Kaladin closed his hand around his sphere, bringing near-darkness to the cavernous space. It was day above, but that crack of sky was distant, unreachable.
Mounds of flood-borne refuse fell into shadows that seemed almost to give them flesh again. Heaps of bones took on the semblance of limp arms, of corpses piled high. In a moment, Kaladin remembered it. Charging with a yell toward lines of Parshendi archers. His friends dying on barren plateaus, thrashing in their own blood.
The thunder of hooves on stone. The incongruous chanting of alien tongues. The cries of men both lighteyed and dark. A world that cared nothing for bridgemen. They were refuse. Sacrifices to be cast into the chasms and carried away by the cleansing floods.
This was their true home, these rents in the earth, these places lower than any other. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, the memories of death receded, though he would never be free of them. He would forever bear those scars upon his memory like the many upon his flesh. Like the ones on his forehead.
The pool in front of him glowed a deep violet. He’d noticed it earlier, but in the light of his sphere it had been harder to see. Now, in the dimness, the pool could reveal its eerie radiance.
Syl landed on the side of the pool, looking like a woman standing on an ocean’s shore. Kaladin frowned, leaning down to inspect her more closely. She seemed… different. Had her face changed shape?
“There are others like you,” Syl whispered. “I do not know them, but I know that other spren are trying, in their own way, to reclaim what was lost.”
She looked to him, and her face now had its familiar form. The fleeting change had been so subtle, Kaladin wasn’t sure if he’d imagined it.
“I am the only honorspren who has come,” Syl said. “I…” She seemed to be stretching to remember. “I was forbidden. I came anyway. To find you.”
“You knew me?”
“No. But I knew I’d find you.” She smiled. “I spent the time with my cousins, searching.”
“Without the bond, I am basically one of them,” she said. “Though they don’t have the capacity to do what we do. And what we do is important. So important that I left everything, defying the Stormfather, to come. You saw him. In the storm.”
The hair stood up on Kaladin’s arms. He had indeed seen a being in the storm. A face as vast as the sky itself. Whatever the thing was—spren, Herald, or god—it had not tempered its storms for Kaladin during that day he’d spent strung up.
“We are needed, Kaladin,” Syl said softly. She waved for him, and he lowered his hand to the shore of the tiny violet ocean glowing softly in the chasm. She stepped onto his hand, and he stood up, lifting her.
She walked up his fingers and he could actually feel a little weight, which was unusual. He turned his hand as she stepped up until she was perched on one finger, her hands clasped behind her back, meeting his eyes as he held that finger up before his face.
“You,” Syl said. “You’re going to need to become what Dalinar Kholin is looking for. Don’t let him search in vain.”
“They’ll take it from me, Syl,” Kaladin whispered. “They’ll find a way to take youfrom me.”
“That’s foolishness. You know that it is.”
“I know it is, but I feel it isn’t. They broke me, Syl. I’m not what you think I am. I’m no Radiant.”
“That’s not what I saw,” Syl said. “On the battlefield after Sadeas’s betrayal, when men were trapped, abandoned. That day I saw a hero.”
He looked into her eyes. She had pupils, though they were created only from the differing shades of white and blue, like the rest of her. She glowed more softly than the weakest of spheres, but it was enough to light his finger. She smiled, seeming utterly confident in him.
At least one of them was.
“I’ll try,” Kaladin whispered. A promise.
“Kaladin?” The voice was Rock’s, with his distinctive Horneater accent. He pronounced the name “kal-ah-deen,” instead of the normal “kal-a-din.”
Syl zipped off Kaladin’s finger, becoming a ribbon of light and flitting over to Rock. He showed respect to her in his Horneater way, touching his shoulders in turn with one hand, and then raising the hand to his forehead. She giggled; her profound solemnity had become girlish joy in moments. Syl might only be a cousin to windspren, but she obviously shared their impish nature.
“Hey,” Kaladin said, nodding to Rock, and fishing in the pool. He came out with an amethyst broam and held it up. Somewhere up there on the Plains, a lighteyes had died with this in his pocket. “Riches, if we still were bridgemen.”
“We are still bridgemen,” Rock said, coming over. He plucked the sphere from Kaladin’s fingers. “And this is still riches. Ha! Spices they have for us to requisition are tuma’alki! I have promised I will not fix dung for the men, but it is hard, with soldiers being accustomed to food that is not much better.” He held up the sphere. “I will use him to buy better, eh?”
“Sure,” Kaladin said. Syl landed on Rock’s shoulder and became a young woman, then sat down.
Rock eyed her and tried to bow to his own shoulder.
“Stop tormenting him, Syl,” Kaladin said.
“It’s so fun!”
“You are to be praised for your aid of us, mafah’liki,” Rock said to her. “I will endure whatever you wish of me. And now that I am free, I can create a shrine fitting to you.”
“A shrine?” Syl said, eyes widening. “Ooooh.”
“Syl!” Kaladin said. “Stop it. Rock, I saw a good place for the men to practice. It’s back a couple of branches. I marked it on the walls.”
“Yes, we saw this thing,” Rock said. “Teft has led the men there. It is strange. This place is frightening; it is a place that nobody comes, and yet the new recruits…”
“They’re opening up,” Kaladin guessed.
“Yes. How did you know this thing would happen?”
“They were there,” Kaladin said, “in Sadeas’s warcamp, when we were assigned to exclusive duty in the chasms. They saw what we did, and have heard stories of our training here. By bringing them down here, we’re inviting them in, like an initiation.”
Teft had been having problems getting the former bridgemen to show interest in his training. The old soldier was always sputtering at them in annoyance. They’d insisted on remaining with Kaladin rather than going free, so why wouldn’t they learn?
They had needed to be invited. Not just with words.
“Yes, well,” Rock said. “Sigzil sent me. He wishes to know if you are ready to practice your abilities.”
Kaladin took a deep breath, glancing at Syl, then nodded. “Yes. Bring him. We can do it here.”
“Ha! Finally. I will fetch him.”
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.
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