Can't wait to read Brandon Sanderson's next Stormlight book? Well, here's a big tease....
The book will be out in various formats, such as ebook, in March.
The book will be out in various formats, such as ebook, in March.
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.
SIX YEARS AGO
The world ended, and Shallan was to blame.
“Pretend it never happened,” her father whispered. He wiped something wet from her cheek. His thumb came back red. “I’ll protect you.”
Was the room shaking? No, that was Shallan. Trembling. She felt so small. Eleven had seemed old to her, once. But she was a child, still a child. So small.
She looked up at her father with a shudder. She couldn’t blink; her eyes were frozen open.
Father started to whisper, blinking tears. “Now go to sleep in chasms deep, with darkness all around you…”
A familiar lullaby, one he always used to sing to her. In the room behind him, dark corpses stretched out on the floor. A red carpet once white.
“Though rock and dread may be your bed, so sleep my baby dear.”
Father gathered her into his arms, and she felt her skin squirming. No. No, this affection wasn’t right. A monster should not be held in love. A monster who killed, who murdered. No.
She could not move.
“Now comes the storm, but you’ll be warm, the wind will rock your basket…”
Father carried Shallan over the body of a woman in white. Little blood there. It was the man who bled. Mother lay facedown, so Shallan couldn’t see the eyes. The horrible eyes.
Almost, Shallan could imagine that the lullaby was the end to a nightmare. That it was night, that she had awakened screaming, and her father was singing her to sleep…
“The crystals fine will glow sublime, so sleep my baby dear.”
They passed Father’s strongbox set into the wall. It glowed brightly, light streaming from the cracks around the closed door. A monster was inside.
“And with a song, it won’t be long, you’ll sleep my baby dear.”
With Shallan in his arms, Father left the room and closed the door on the corpses.
Unfortunately, we fixated upon Sadeas’s plotting so much that we did not take note of the changed pattern of our enemies, the murderers of my husband, the true danger. I would like to know what wind brought about their sudden, inexplicable transformation.—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jesesach 1174
Kaladin pressed the stone against the wall of the chasm, and it stuck there. “All right,” he said, stepping back.
Rock jumped up and grabbed it, then dangled from the wall, bending legs below. His deep, bellowing laugh echoed in the chasm. “This time, he holds me!”
Sigzil made a notation on his ledger. “Good. Keep hanging on, Rock.” “For how long?” Rock asked.
“Until you fall.”
“Until I…” The large Horneater frowned, hanging from the stone with both hands. “I do not like this experiment any longer.”
“Oh, don’t whine,” Kaladin said, folding his arms and leaning on the wall beside Rock. Spheres lit the chasm floor around them, with its vines, debris, and blooming plants. “You’re not dropping far.”
“It is not the drop,” Rock complained. “It is my arms. I am big man, you see.”
“So it’s a good thing you have big arms to hold you.”
“It does not work that way, I think,” Rock said, grunting. “And the handhold is not good. And I—”
The stone popped free and Rock fell downward. Kaladin grabbed his arm, steadying him as he caught himself.
“Twenty seconds,” Sigzil said. “Not very long.”
“I warned you,” Kaladin said, picking up the fallen stone. “It lasts longer if I use more Stormlight.”
“I think we need a baseline,” Sigzil said. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a glowing diamond chip, the smallest denomination of sphere. “Take all of the Stormlight from this, put it into the stone, then we’ll hang Rock from that and see how long he takes to fall.”
Rock groaned. “My poor arms…”
“Hey, mancha,” Lopen called from farther down the chasm, “at least you’ve got two of them, eh?” The Herdazian was watching to make sure none of the new recruits somehow wandered over and saw what Kaladin was doing. It shouldn’t happen—they were practicing several chasms over—but Kaladin wanted someone on guard.
Eventually they’ll all know anyway, Kaladin thought, taking the chip from Sigzil. Isn’t that what you just promised Syl? That you’d let yourself become a Radiant?
Kaladin drew in the chip’s Stormlight with a sharp intake of breath, then infused the Light into the stone. He was getting better at that, drawing the Stormlight into his hand, then using it like luminescent paint to coat the bottom of the rock. The Stormlight soaked into the stone, and when he pressed it against the wall, it stayed there.
Smoky tendrils of luminescence rose from the stone. “We probably don’t need to make Rock hang from it,” Kaladin said. “If you need a baseline, why not just use how long the stone remains there on its own?”
“Well, that’s less fun,” Sigzil said. “But very well.” He continued to write numbers on his ledger. That would have made most of the other bridgemen uncomfortable. A man writing was seen as unmasculine, even blasphemous—though Sigzil was only writing glyphs.
Today, fortunately, Kaladin had with him Sigzil, Rock, and Lopen—all foreigners from places with different rules. Herdaz was Vorin, technically, but they had their own brand of it and Lopen didn’t seem to mind a man writing.
“So,” Rock said as they waited, “Stormblessed leader, you said there was something else you could do, did you not?”
“Fly!” Lopen said from down the passage.
“I can’t fly,” Kaladin said dryly.
“Walk on walls!”
“I tried that,” Kaladin said. “I nearly broke my head from the fall.”
“Ah, gancho,” Lopen said. “No flying or walking on walls? I need to impress the women. I do not think sticking rocks to walls will be enough.”
“I think anyone would find that impressive,” Sigzil said. “It defies the laws of nature.”
“You do not know many Herdazian women, do you?” Lopen asked, sighing. “Really, I think we should try again on the flying. It would be the best.” “There is something more,” Kaladin said. “Not flying, but still useful. I’m not certain I can replicate it. I’ve never done it consciously.”
“The shield,” Rock said, standing by the wall, staring up at the rock. “On the battlefield, when the Parshendi shot at us. The arrows hit your shield. All the arrows.”
“Yes,” Kaladin said.
“We should test that,” Sigzil said. “We’ll need a bow.”
“Spren,” Rock said, pointing. “They pull the stone against the wall.”
“What?” Sigzil said, scrambling over, squinting at the rock Kaladin had pressed against the wall. “I don’t see them.”
“Ah,” Rock said. “Then they do not wish to be seen.” He bowed his head toward them. “Apologies, mafah’liki.”
Sigzil frowned, looking closer, holding up a sphere to light the area. Kaladin walked over and joined them. He could make out the tiny purple spren if he looked closely. “They’re there, Sig,” Kaladin said.
“Then why can’t I see them?”
“It has to do with my abilities,” Kaladin said, glancing at Syl, who sat on a cleft in the rock nearby, one leg draping over and swinging.
“I am alaii’iku,” Rock said, raising a hand to his breast.
“Which means?” Sigzil asked impatiently.
“That I can see these spren, and you cannot.” Rock rested a hand on the smaller man’s shoulder. “It is all right, friend. I do not blame you for being blind. Most lowlanders are. It is the air, you see. Makes your brains stop working right.”
Sigzil frowned, but wrote down some notes while absently doing something with his fingers. Keeping track of the seconds? The rock finally popped off the wall, trailing a few final wisps of Stormlight as it hit the ground. “Well over a minute,” Sigzil said. “I counted eighty-seven seconds.” He looked to the rest of them.
“We were supposed to be counting?” Kaladin asked, glancing at Rock, who shrugged.
“Ninety-one seconds,” Lopen called. “You’re welcome.”
Sigzil sat down on a rock, ignoring a few finger bones peeking out of the moss beside him, and made some notations on his ledger. He scowled.
“Ha!” Rock said, squatting down beside him. “You look like you have eaten bad eggs. What is problem?”
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Rock,” Sigzil said. “My master taught me to ask questions and find precise answers. But how can I be precise? I would need a clock for the timing, but they are too expensive. Even if we had one, I don’t know how to measure Stormlight!”
“With chips,” Kaladin said. “The gemstones are precisely weighed before being encased in glass.”
“And can they all hold the same amount?” Sigzil asked. “We know that uncut gems hold less than cut ones. So is one that was cut better going to hold more? Plus, Stormlight fades from a sphere over time. How many days has it been since that chip was infused, and how much Light has it lost since then? Do they all lose the same amount at the same rate? We know too little. I think perhaps I am wasting your time, sir.”
“It’s not a waste,” Lopen said, joining them. The one-armed Herdazian yawned, sitting down on the rock by Sigzil, forcing the other man over a little. “We just need to be testing other things, eh?”
“Like what?” Kaladin said.
“Well, gancho,” Lopen said. “Can you stick me to the wall?”
“I… I don’t know,” Kaladin said.
“Seems like it would be good to know, eh?” Lopen stood up. “Shall we try?”
Kaladin glanced at Sigzil, who shrugged.
Kaladin drew in more Stormlight. The raging tempest filled him, as if it were battering against his skin, a captive trying to find a way out. He drew the Stormlight into his hand and pressed it against the wall, painting the stones with luminescence.
Taking a deep breath, he picked up Lopen—the slender man was startlingly easy to lift, particularly with a measure of Stormlight still inside Kaladin’s veins. He pressed Lopen against the wall.
When Kaladin dubiously stepped back, the Herdazian remained there, stuck to the stone by his uniform, which bunched up under his armpits.
Lopen grinned. “It worked!”
“This thing could be useful,” Rock said, rubbing at his strangely cut Horneater beard. “Yes, this is what we need to test. You are a soldier, Kaladin. Can you use this in combat?”
Kaladin nodded slowly, a dozen possibilities popping into his head. What if his enemies ran across a pool of Light he had put on the floor? Could he stop a wagon from rolling? Stick his spear to an enemy shield, then yank it from their hands?
“How does it feel, Lopen?” Rock asked. “Does this thing hurt?”
“Nah,” Lopen said, wiggling. “I’m worried my coat will rip, or the buttons will snap. Oh. Oh. Question for you! What did the one-armed Herdazian do to the man who stuck him to the wall?”
Kaladin frowned. “I… I don’t know.”
“Nothing,” Lopen said. “The Herdazian was ’armless.” The slender man burst into laughter.
Sigzil groaned, though Rock laughed. Syl had cocked her head, zipping over to Kaladin. “Was that a joke?” she asked softly.
“Yes,” Kaladin said. “A distinctly bad one.”
“Ah, don’t say that!” Lopen said, still chuckling. “It’s the best one I know—and trust me, I’m an expert on one-armed Herdazian jokes. ‘Lopen,’ my mother always says, ‘you must learn these to laugh before others do. Then you steal the laughter from them, and have it all for yourself.’ She is a very wise woman. I once brought her the head of a chull.”
Kaladin blinked. “You… What?”
“Chull head,” Lopen said. “Very good to eat.”
“You are a strange man, Lopen,” Kaladin said.
“No,” Rock said. “They really are good. The head, he is best part of chull.”
“I will trust you two on that,” Kaladin said. “Marginally.” He reached up, taking Lopen by the arm as the Stormlight holding him in place began to fade. Rock grabbed the man’s waist, and they helped him down.
“All right,” Kaladin said, instinctively checking the sky for the time, though he couldn’t see the sun through the narrow chasm opening above. “Let’s experiment.”
Tempest stoked within him, Kaladin dashed across the chasm floor. His movement startled a group of frillblooms, which pulled in frantically, like hands closing. Vines trembled on the walls and began to curl upward.
Kaladin’s feet splashed in stagnant water. He leaped over a mound of debris, trailing Stormlight. He was filled with it, pounding with it. That made it easier to use; it wanted to flow. He pushed it into his spear.
Ahead, Lopen, Rock, and Sigzil waited with practice spears. Though Lopen wasn’t very good—the missing arm was a huge disadvantage—Rock made up for it. The large Horneater would not fight Parshendi and would not kill, but had agreed to spar today, in the name of “experimentation.”
He fought very well, and Sigzil was acceptable with the spear. Together on the battlefield, the three bridgemen might once have given Kaladin trouble.
Kaladin tossed his spear sideways at Rock, surprising the Horneater, who had raised his weapon to block. The Stormlight made Kaladin’s spear stick to Rock’s, forming a cross. Rock cursed, trying to turn his spear around to strike, but in doing so smacked himself on the side with Kaladin’s spear.
As Lopen’s spear struck, Kaladin pushed it down easily with one hand, filling the tip with Stormlight. The weapon hit the pile of refuse and stuck to the wood and bones.
Sigzil’s weapon came in, missing Kaladin’s chest by a wide margin as he stepped aside. Kaladin nudged and infused the weapon with the flat of his hand, shoving it into Lopen’s, which he’d just pulled out of the refuse, plastered with moss and bone. The two spears stuck together.
Kaladin slipped between Rock and Sigzil, leaving the three of them in a jumbled mess, off balance and trying to disentangle their weapons. Kaladin smiled grimly, jogging down to the other end of the chasm. He picked up a spear, then turned, dancing from one foot to the other. The Stormlight encouraged him to move. Standing still was practically impossible while holding so much.
Come on, come on, he thought. The three others finally got their weapons apart as the Stormlight ran out. They formed up to face him again.
Kaladin dashed forward. In the dim light of the chasm, the glow of the smoke rising from him was strong enough to cast shadows that leaped and spun. He crashed through pools, the water cold on his unshod feet. He’d removed his boots; he wanted to feel the stone underneath him.
This time, the three bridgemen set the butts of their spears on the ground as if against a charge. Kaladin smiled, then grabbed the top of his spear—like theirs, it was a practice one, without a real spearhead—and infused it with Stormlight.
He slapped it against Rock’s, intending to yank it out of the Horneater’s hands. Rock had other plans, and hauled his spear back with a strength that took Kaladin by surprise. He nearly lost his grip.
Lopen and Sigzil quickly moved to come at him from either side. Nice, Kaladin thought, proud. He’d taught them formations like that, showing them how to work together on the battlefield.
As they drew close, Kaladin let go of his spear and stuck out his leg. The Stormlight flowed out of his bare foot as easily as it did his hands, and he was able to swipe a large glowing arc on the ground. Sigzil stepped in it and tripped, his foot sticking to the Light. He tried to stab as he fell, but there was no force behind the blow.
Kaladin slammed his weight against Lopen, whose strike was off-center. He shoved Lopen against the wall, then pulled back, leaving the Herdazian stuck to the stone, which Kaladin had infused in the heartbeat they’d been pressed together.
“Ah, not again,” Lopen said with a groan.
Sigzil had fallen face-first in the water. Kaladin barely had time to smile before he noticed Rock swinging a log at his head.
An entire log. How had Rock lifted that thing? Kaladin threw himself out of the way, rolling on the ground and scraping his hand as the log crashed against the floor of the chasm.
Kaladin growled, Stormlight passing between his teeth and rising into the air in front of him. He jumped onto Rock’s log as the Horneater tried to lift it again.
Kaladin’s landing slammed the wood back against the ground. He leaped toward Rock, and part of him wondered just what he was thinking, getting into a hand-to-hand fight with someone twice his weight. He slammed into the Horneater, hurling them both to the ground. They rolled in the moss, Rock twisting to pin Kaladin’s arms. The Horneater obviously had training as a wrestler.
Kaladin poured Stormlight into the ground. It wouldn’t affect or hamper him, he’d found. So, as they rolled, first Rock’s arm stuck to the ground, then his side.
The Horneater kept fighting to get Kaladin into a hold. He almost had it, till Kaladin pushed with his legs, rolling both of them so Rock’s other elbow touched the ground, where it stuck.
Kaladin tore away, gasping and puffing, losing most of his remaining Stormlight as he coughed. He leaned up against the wall, mopping sweat from his face.
“Ha!” Rock said, stuck to the ground, splayed with arms to the sides. “I almost had you. Slippery as a fifth son, you are!”
“Storms, Rock,” Kaladin said. “What I wouldn’t do to get you on the battlefield. You are wasted as a cook.”
“You don’t like the food?” Rock asked, laughing. “I will have to try something with more grease. This thing will fit you! Grabbing you was like trying to keep my hands on a live lakefish! One that has been covered in butter! Ha!”
Kaladin stepped up to him, squatting down. “You’re a warrior, Rock. I saw it in Teft, and you can say whatever you want, but I see it in you.”
“I am wrong son to be soldier,” Rock said stubbornly. “It is a thing of thetuanalikina, the fourth son or below. Third son cannot be wasted in battle.”
“Didn’t stop you from throwing a tree at my head.”
“Was small tree,” Rock said. “And very hard head.”
Kaladin smiled, then reached down, touching the Stormlight infused into the stone beneath Rock. He hadn’t ever tried to take it back after using it in this way. Could he? He closed his eyes and breathed in, trying… yes.
Some of the tempest within him stoked again. When he opened his eyes, Rock was free. Kaladin hadn’t been able to take it all back, but some. The rest was evaporating into the air.
He took Rock by the hand, helping the larger man to his feet. Rock dusted himself off.
“That was embarrassing,” Sigzil said as Kaladin walked over to free him too. “It’s like we’re children. The Prime’s own eyes have not seen such a shameful show.”
“I have a very unfair advantage,” Kaladin said, helping Sigzil to his feet. “Years of training as a soldier, a larger build than you. Oh, and the ability to emit Stormlight from my fingers.” He patted Sigzil on the shoulder. “You did well. This is just a test, like you wanted.”
A more useful type of test, Kaladin thought.
“Sure,” Lopen said from behind them. “Just go ahead and leave the Herdazian stuck to the wall. The view here is wonderful. Oh, and is that slime running down my cheek? A fresh new look for the Lopen, who cannot brush it away, because—have I mentioned?—his hand is stuck to the wall.”
Kaladin smiled, walking over. “You were the one who asked me to stick you to a wall in the first place, Lopen.”
“My other hand?” Lopen said. “The one that was cut off long ago, eaten by a fearsome beast? It is making a rude gesture toward you right now. I thought you would wish to know, so that you can prepare to be insulted.” He said it with the same lightheartedness with which he seemed to approach everything. He had even joined the bridge crew with a certain crazy eagerness.
Kaladin let him down.
“This thing,” Rock said, “it worked well.”
“Yes,” Kaladin said. Though honestly, he probably could have dispatched the three men more easily just by using a spear and the extra speed and strength the Stormlight lent. He didn’t know yet whether that was because he was unfamiliar with these new powers, but he did think that forcing himself to use them had put him in some awkward positions.
Familiarity, he thought. I need to know these abilities as well as I know my spear.
That meant practice. Lots of practice. Unfortunately, the best way to practice was to find someone who matched or bested you in skill, strength, and capacity. Considering what he could now do, that was going to be a tall order.
The three others walked over to dig waterskins from their packs, and Kaladin noticed a figure standing in the shadows a little ways down the chasm. Kaladin stood up, alarmed until Teft emerged into the light of their spheres.
“I thought you were going to be on watch,” Teft growled at Lopen.
“Too busy being stuck to walls,” Lopen said, raising his waterskin. “I thought you had a bunch of greenvines to train?”
“Drehy has them in hand,” Teft said, picking his way around some debris, joining Kaladin beside the chasm wall. “I don’t know if the lads told you, Kaladin, but bringing that lot down here broke them out of their shells somehow.”
“How did you get to know people so well?” Teft asked.
“It involves a lot of cutting them apart,” Kaladin said, looking down at his hand, which he’d scraped while fighting Rock. The scrape was gone, Stormlight having healed the tears in his skin.
Teft grunted, glancing back at Rock and the other two, who had broken out rations. “You ought to put Rock in charge of the new recruits.”
“He won’t fight.”
“He just sparred with you,” Teft said. “So maybe he will with them. People like him more than me. I’m just going to screw this up.”
“You’ll do a fine job, Teft, I won’t have you saying otherwise. We have resources now. No more scrimping for every last sphere. You’ll train those lads, and you’ll do it right.”
Teft sighed, but said no more.
“You saw what I did.”
“Aye,” Teft said. “We’ll need to bring down the entire group of twenty if we want to give you a proper challenge.”
“That or find another person like myself,” Kaladin said. “Someone to spar with.”
“Aye,” Teft said again, nodding, as if he hadn’t considered that.
“There were ten orders of knights, right?” Kaladin asked. “Do you know much of the others?” Teft had been the first one to figure out what Kaladin could do. He’d known before Kaladin himself had.
“Not much,” Teft said with a grimace. “I know the orders didn’t always get along, despite what the official stories say. We’ll need to see if we can find someone who knows more than I do. I… I kept away. And the people I knew who could tell us, they aren’t around any longer.”
If Teft had been in a dour mood before, this drove him down even further. He looked at the ground. He spoke of his past infrequently, but Kaladin was more and more certain that whoever these people had been, they were dead because of something Teft himself had done.
“What would you think if you heard that somebody wanted to refound the Knights Radiant?” Kaladin said softly to Teft.
Teft looked up sharply. “You—”
“Not me,” Kaladin said, speaking carefully. Dalinar Kholin had let him listen in on the conference, and while Kaladin trusted Teft, there were certain expectations of silence that an officer was required to uphold.
Dalinar is a lighteyes, part of him whispered. He wouldn’t think twice if he were revealing a secret you’d shared with him.
“Not me,” Kaladin repeated. “What if a king somewhere decided he wanted to gather a group of people and name them Knights Radiant?”
“I’d call him an idiot,” Teft said. “Now, the Radiants weren’t what people say. They weren’t traitors. They just weren’t. But everyone is sure they betrayed us, and you’re not going to change minds quickly. Not unless you can Surgebind to quiet them.” Teft looked Kaladin up and down. “Are you going to do it, lad?”
“They’d hate me, wouldn’t they?” Kaladin said. He couldn’t help noticing Syl, who walked through the air until she was close, studying him. “For what the old Radiants did.” He held up a hand to stop Teft’s objection. “What people thinkthey did.”
“Aye,” Teft said.
Syl folded her arms, giving Kaladin a look. You promised, that look said.
“We’ll have to be careful about how we do it, then,” Kaladin said. “Go gather the new recruits. They’ve had enough practice down here for one day.”
Teft nodded, then jogged off to do as ordered. Kaladin gathered his spear and the spheres he’d set out to light the sparring, then waved to the other three. They packed up their things and began the hike back out.
“So you’re going to do it,” Syl said, landing on his shoulder.
“I want to practice more first,” Kaladin said. And get used to the idea.
“It will be fine, Kaladin.”
“No. It will be hard. People will hate me, and even if they don’t, I’ll be set apart from them. Separated. I’ve accepted that as my lot, though. I’ll deal with it.” Even in Bridge Four, Moash was the only one who didn’t treat Kaladin like some mythological savior Herald. Him and maybe Rock.
Still, the other bridgemen hadn’t reacted with the fear he’d once worried about. They might idolize him, but they did not isolate him. It was good enough.
They reached the rope ladder before Teft and the greenvines, but there was no reason to wait. Kaladin climbed up out of the muggy chasm onto the plateau just east of the warcamps. It felt so strange to be able to carry his spear and money out of the chasm. Indeed, the soldiers guarding the approach to Dalinar’s warcamp didn’t pester him—instead, they saluted and stood up straight. It was as crisp a salute as he’d ever gotten, as crisp as the ones given to a general.
“They seem proud of you,” Syl said. “They don’t even know you, but they’re proud of you.”
“They’re darkeyes,” Kaladin said, saluting back. “Probably men who were fighting on the Tower when Sadeas betrayed them.”
“Stormblessed,” one of them called. “Have you heard the news?”
Curse the one who told them that nickname, Kaladin thought as Rock and the other two caught up to him.
“No,” Kaladin called. “What news?”
“A hero has come to the Shattered Plains!” the soldier yelled back. “He’s going to meet with Brightlord Kholin, perhaps support him! It’s a good sign. Might help calm things down around here.”
“What’s this?” Rock called back. “Who?”
The soldier said a name.
Kaladin’s heart became ice.
He nearly lost his spear from numb fingers. And then, he took off running. He didn’t heed Rock’s cry behind him, didn’t stop to let the others catch up with him. He dashed through the camp, running toward Dalinar’s command complex at its center.
He didn’t want to believe when he saw the banner hanging in the air above a group of soldiers, probably matched by a much larger group outside the warcamp. Kaladin passed them, drawing cries and stares, questions if something was wrong.
He finally stumbled to a stop outside the short set of steps into Dalinar’s bunkered complex of stone buildings. There, standing in front, the Blackthorn clasped hands with a tall man.
Square-faced and dignified, the newcomer wore a pristine uniform. He laughed, then embraced Dalinar. “Old friend,” he said. “It’s been too long.”
“Too long by far,” Dalinar agreed. “I’m glad you finally made your way here, after years of promises. I heard you’ve even found yourself a Shardblade!”
“Yes,” the newcomer said, pulling back and holding his hand to the side. “Taken from an assassin who dared try to kill me on the field of battle.”
The Blade appeared. Kaladin stared at the silvery weapon. Etched along its length, the Blade was shaped to look like flames in motion, and to Kaladin it seemed that the weapon was stained red. Names flooded his mind: Dallet, Coreb, Reesh… a squad before time, from another life. Men Kaladin had loved.
He looked up and forced himself to see the face of the newcomer. A man Kaladin hated, hated beyond any other. A man he had once worshipped.
Highlord Amaram. The man who had stolen Kaladin’s Shardblade, branded his forehead, and sold him into slavery.
Mateform meek, for love to share,
Given to life, it brings us joy.
To find this form, one must care.
True empathy one must employ.—From the Listener Song of Listing, 5th stanza
It’s been a while,” Adolin said, kneeling and holding his Shardblade before him, point sunken a few inches into the stone ground. He was alone. Just him and the sword in one of the new preparation rooms, built alongside the dueling arena.
“I remember when I won you,” Adolin whispered, looking at his reflection in the blade. “Nobody took me seriously then, either. The fop with the nice clothing. Tinalar thought to duel me just to embarrass my father. Instead I got his Blade.” If he’d lost, he would have had to give Tinalar his Plate, which he’d inherited from his mother’s side of the family.
Adolin had never named his Shardblade. Some did, some didn’t. He’d never thought it appropriate—not because he didn’t think the Blade deserved a name, but because he figured he didn’t know the right one. This weapon had belonged to one of the Knights Radiant, long ago. That man had named the weapon, undoubtedly. To call it something else seemed presumptuous. Adolin had felt that way even before he’d started thinking of the Radiants in a good light, as his father did.
This Blade would continue after Adolin died. He didn’t own it. He was borrowing it for a time.
Its surface was austerely smooth, long, sinuous like an eel, with ridges at the back like growing crystals. Shaped like a larger version of a standard longsword, it bore some resemblance to the enormous, two-handed broadswords he’d seen Horneaters wield.
“A real duel,” Adolin whispered to the Blade. “For real stakes. Finally. No more tiptoeing around it, no more limiting myself.”
The Shardblade didn’t respond, but Adolin imagined that it listened to him. You couldn’t use a weapon like this, a weapon that seemed like an extension of the soul itself, and not feel at times that it was alive.
“I speak so confidently to everyone else,” Adolin said, “since I know they rely on me. But if I lose today, that’s it. No more duels, and a severe knot in Father’s grand plan.”
He could hear people outside. Stomping feet, a buzz of chatter. Scraping on the stone. They’d come. Come to see Adolin win or be humiliated.
“This might be our last fight together,” Adolin said softly. “I appreciate what you’ve done for me. I know you’d do it for anyone who held you, but I still appreciate it. I… I want you to know: I believe in Father. I believe he’s right, that the things he sees are real. That the world needs a united Alethkar. Fights like this one are my way to make it happen.”
Adolin and his father weren’t politicians. They were soldiers—Dalinar by choice, Adolin more by circumstance. They wouldn’t be able to just talk their way into a unified kingdom. They’d have to fight their way into one.
Adolin stood up, patting his pocket, then dismissing his Blade to mist and crossing the small chamber. The stone walls of the narrow hallway he entered were etched with reliefs depicting the ten basic stances of swordsmanship. Those had been carved elsewhere, then placed here when this room was built—a recent addition, to replace the tents that dueling preparation had once happened in.
Windstance, Stonestance, Flamestance… There was a relief, with depicted stance, for each of the Ten Essences. Adolin counted them off to himself as he passed. This small tunnel had been cut into the stone of the arena itself, and ended in a small room cut into the rock. The bright sunlight of the dueling grounds glared around the edges of the final pair of doors between him and his opponent.
With a proper preparation room for meditation, then this staging room to put on armor or retreat between bouts, the dueling arena at the warcamps was transforming into one as proper as those, back in Alethkar. A welcome addition.
Adolin stepped into the staging room, where his brother and aunt were waiting. Stormfather, his hands were sweating. He hadn’t felt this nervous when riding into battle, when his life was actually in danger.
Aunt Navani had just finished a glyphward. She stepped away from the pedestal, setting aside her brushpen, and held up the ward for him to see. It was painted in bright red on a white cloth.
“Victory?” Adolin guessed.
Navani lowered it, raising an eyebrow at him.
“What?” Adolin said as his armorers entered, carrying the pieces of his Shardplate.
“It says ‘safety and glory,’” Navani said. “It wouldn’t kill you to learn some glyphs, Adolin.”
He shrugged. “Never seemed that important.”
“Yes, well,” Navani said, reverently folding the prayer and setting it in the brazier to burn. “Hopefully, you will eventually have a wife to do this for you. Both the reading of glyphs and the making of them.”
Adolin bowed his head, as was proper while the prayer burned. Pailiah knew, this wasn’t the time to offend the Almighty. Once it was done, however, he glanced at Navani. “And what of the news of the ship?”
They had expected word from Jasnah when she reached the Shallow Crypts, but none had been forthcoming. Navani had checked in with the harbormaster’s office in that distant city. They said the Wind’s Pleasure had not yet arrived. That put it a week overdue.
Navani waved a dismissive hand. “Jasnah was on that ship.”
“I know, Aunt,” Adolin said, shuffling uncomfortably. What had happened? Had the ship been caught in a highstorm? What of this woman Adolin might be marrying, if Jasnah had her way?
“If the ship is delayed, it’s because Jasnah is up to something,” Navani said. “Watch. We’ll get a communication from her in a few weeks, demanding some task or piece of information. I’ll have to pry from her why she vanished. Battah send that girl some sense to go with her intelligence.”
Adolin didn’t press the issue. Navani knew Jasnah better than anyone else. But… he was certainly concerned for Jasnah, and felt a sudden worry that he might not get to meet the girl, Shallan, when expected. Of course, the causal betrothal wasn’t likely to work out—but a piece of him wished that it would. Letting someone else choose for him had a strange appeal, considering how loudly Danlan had cursed at him when he’d broken off that particular relationship.
Danlan was still one of his father’s scribes, so he saw her on occasion. More glares. But storm it, that one was not his fault. The things she’d said to her friends…
An armorer set out his boots, and Adolin stepped into them, feeling them click into place. The armorers quickly affixed the greaves, then moved upward, covering him in too-light metal. Soon, all that remained were the gauntlets and the helm. He knelt down, placing his hands into the gauntlets at his side, fingers in their positions. In the strange manner of Shardplate, the armor constricted on its own, like a skyeel curling around its rat, pulling to comfortable tightness around his wrists.
He turned and reached for his helm from the last armorer. It was Renarin.
“You ate chicken?” Renarin asked as Adolin took the helm.
“And you talked to the sword?”
“Had an entire conversation.”
“Mother’s chain in your pocket?”
“Checked three times.”
Navani folded her arms. “You still hold to those foolish superstitions?”
Both brothers looked at her sharply.
“They’re not superstitions,” Adolin said at the same time Renarin said, “It’s just good luck, Aunt.”
She rolled her eyes.
“I haven’t done a formal duel in a long time,” Adolin said, pulling on the helm, faceplate open. “I don’t want anything to go wrong.”
“Foolishness,” Navani repeated. “Trust in the Almighty and the Heralds, not whether or not you had the right meal before you duel. Storms. Next thing I know, you’ll be believing in the Passions.”
Adolin shared a look with Renarin. His little traditions probably didn’t help him win, but, well, why risk it? Every duelist had his own quirks. His hadn’t let him down yet.
“Our guards aren’t happy about this,” Renarin said softly. “They keep talking about how hard it’s going to be to protect you when someone else is swinging a Shardblade at you.”
Adolin slammed down his faceplate. It misted at the sides, locking into place, becoming translucent and giving him a full view of the room. Adolin grinned, knowing full well Renarin couldn’t see the expression. “I’m so sad to be denying them the chance to babysit me.”
“Why do you enjoy tormenting them?”
“I don’t like minders.”
“You’ve had guards before.”
“On the battlefield,” Adolin said. It felt different to be followed about everywhere he went.
“There’s more. Don’t lie to me, Brother. I know you too well.”
Adolin inspected his brother, whose eyes were so earnest behind his spectacles. The boy was too solemn all the time.
“I don’t like their captain,” Adolin admitted.
“Why? He saved Father’s life.”
“He just bothers me.” Adolin shrugged. “There’s something about him that is off, Renarin. That makes me suspicious.”
“I think you don’t like that he ordered you around, on the battlefield.”
“I barely even remember that,” Adolin said lightly, stepping toward the door out.
“Well, all right then. Off with you. And Brother?”
“Try not to lose.”
Adolin pushed open the doors and stepped out onto the sand. He’d been in this arena before, using the argument that though the Alethi Codes of War proscribed duels between officers, he still needed to maintain his skills.
To placate his father, Adolin had stayed away from important bouts— bouts for championships or for Shards. He hadn’t dared risk his Blade and Plate. Now everything was different.
The air was still chill with winter, but the sun was bright overhead. His breath sounded against the plate of his helm, and his feet crunched in sand. He checked to see that his father was watching. He was. As was the king.
Sadeas hadn’t come. Just as well. That might have distracted Adolin with memories of one of the last times that Sadeas and Dalinar had been amiable, sitting together up on those stone steps, watching Adolin duel. Had Sadeas been planning a betrayal even then, while laughing with his father and chatting like an old friend?
Focus. His foe today wasn’t Sadeas, though someday… Someday soon he’d get that man in the arena. It was the goal of everything he was doing here.
For now, he’d have to settle for Salinor, one of Thanadal’s Shardbearers. The man had only the Blade, though he’d been able to borrow a set of the King’s Plate for a bout with a full Shardbearer.
Salinor stood on the other side of the arena, wearing the unornamented slate-grey Plate and waiting for the highjudge—Brightlady Istow—to signal the start of the bout. This fight was, in a way, an insult to Adolin. In order to get Salinor to agree to the duel, Adolin had been forced to bet both his Plate and his Blade against just Salinor’s Blade. As if Adolin weren’t worthy, and had to offer more potential spoils to justify bothering Salinor.
As expected, the arena was overflowing with lighteyes. Even if it was speculated that Adolin had lost his former edge, bouts for Shards were very, very rare. This would be the first in over a year’s time.
“Summon Blades!” Istow ordered.
Adolin thrust his hand to the side. The Blade fell into his waiting hand ten heartbeats later—a moment before his opponent’s appeared. Adolin’s heart was beating more quickly than Salinor’s. Perhaps that meant his opponent wasn’t frightened, and underestimated him.
Adolin fell into Windstance, elbows bent, turned to the side, sword’s tip pointing up and backward. His opponent fell into Flamestance, sword held one-handed, other hand touching the blade, standing with a square posture of the feet. The stances were more a philosophy than a predefined set of moves. Windstance: flowing, sweeping, majestic. Flamestance: quick and flexible, better for shorter Shardblades.
Windstance was familiar to Adolin. It had served him well throughout his career.
But it didn’t feel right today.
We’re at war, Adolin thought as Salinor edged forward, looking to test him. And every lighteyes in this army is a raw recruit.
It wasn’t time for a show.
It was time for a beating.
As Salinor drew close for a cautious strike to feel out his opponent, Adolin twisted and fell into Ironstance, with his sword held two-handed up beside his head. He slapped away Salinor’s first strike, then stepped in and slammed his Blade down into the man’s helm. Once, twice, three times. Salinor tried to parry, but he was obviously surprised by Adolin’s attack, and two of the blows landed.
Cracks crawled across Salinor’s helm. Adolin heard grunts accompanying curses as Salinor tried to bring his weapon back to strike. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. Where were the test blows, the art, the dance?
Adolin growled, feeling the old Thrill of battle as he shoved aside Salinor’s attack—careless of the hit it scored on his side—then brought his Blade in two-handed and crashed it into his opponent’s breastplate, like he was chopping wood. Salinor grunted again and Adolin raised his foot and kicked the man backward, throwing him to the ground.
Salinor dropped his Blade—a weakness of Flamestance’s one-handed posture—and it vanished to mist. Adolin stepped over the man and dismissed his own Blade, then kicked down with a booted heel into Salinor’s helm. The piece of Plate exploded into molten bits, exposing a dazed, panicked face.
Adolin slammed the heel of his foot against the breastplate next. Though Salinor tried to grab his foot, Adolin kicked relentlessly until the breastplate, too, shattered.
Adolin halted, lowering his foot beside Salinor’s head, looking up at the highjudge. The woman stood in her box, face red, voice furious.
“Adolin Kholin!” she shouted. “This is a duel, not a wrestling match!”
“Did I break any rules?” he shouted back.
Silence. It struck him, through the rush in his ears, that the entire crowd had gone quiet. He could hear their breathing.
“Did I break any rules?” Adolin demanded again.
“This is not how a duel—”
“So I win,” Adolin said.
The woman sputtered. “This duel was to three broken pieces of Plate. You broke only two.”
Adolin looked down at the dazed Salinor. Then he reached down, ripped off the man’s pauldron, and smashed it between two fists. “Done.”
Adolin knelt beside his opponent. “Your Blade.”
Salinor tried to stand, but with the breastplate missing, doing so was more difficult. His armor wouldn’t work properly, and he’d need to roll onto his side and work his way to his feet. Doable, but he obviously didn’t have the experience with Plate to perform the maneuver. Adolin slammed him back down to the sand by his shoulder.
“You’ve lost,” Adolin growled.
“You cheated!” Salinor sputtered.
“I don’t know how! It just—It’s not supposed to…”
He trailed off as Adolin carefully placed a gauntleted hand against his neck. Salinor’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
Fearspren crawled out of the sand around him.
“My prize,” Adolin said, suddenly feeling drained. The Thrill faded from him. Storms, he’d never before felt like this in a duel.
Salinor’s Blade appeared in his hand.
“Judgment,” the highjudge said, sounding reluctant, “goes to Adolin Kholin, the victor. Salinor Eved forfeits his Shard.”
Salinor let the Blade slip from his fingers. Adolin took it and knelt beside Salinor, holding the weapon with pommel toward the man. “Break the bond.”
Salinor hesitated, then touched the ruby at the weapon’s pommel. The gemstone flashed with light. The bond had been broken.
Adolin stood, ripping the ruby free, then crushing it in a gauntleted hand. That wouldn’t be needed, but it was a nice symbol. Sound finally rose in the crowd, frantic chattering. They’d come for a spectacle and had instead been given brutality. Well, that was how things often went in war. Good for them to see it, he supposed, though as he ducked back into the waiting room he was uncertain of himself. What he’d done was reckless. Dismissing his Blade? Putting himself in a position where the enemy could have gotten at his feet?
Adolin entered the staging room, where Renarin looked at him wide-eyed. “That,” his younger brother said, “was incredible. It has to be the shortest Shard bout on record! You were amazing, Adolin!”
“I… Thanks.” He handed Salinor’s Shardblade toward Renarin. “A present.”
“Adolin, are you sure? I mean, I’m not exactly the best with the Plate I already have.”
“Might as well have the full set,” Adolin said. “Take it.”
Renarin seemed hesitant.
“Take it,” Adolin said again.
Reluctantly, Renarin did so. He grimaced as he took it. Adolin shook his head, sitting down on one of the reinforced benches intended to hold a Shardbearer. Navani stepped into the room, having come down from the seats above.
“What you did,” she noted, “would not have worked on a more skillful opponent.”
“I know,” Adolin said.
“It was wise, then,” Navani said. “You mask your true skill. People can assume this was won by trickery, pit-fighting instead of proper dueling. They might continue to underestimate you. I can work with this to get you more duels.”
Adolin nodded, pretending that was why he’d done it.
The Rhythm of Resolve thrummed softly in the back of Eshonai’s mind as she reached the plateau at the center of the Shattered Plains.
The central plateau. Narak. Exile.
She ripped the helm of the Shardplate from her head, taking a deep breath of cool air. Plate ventilated wonderfully, but even it grew stuffy after extended exertions. Other soldiers landed behind her—she had taken some fifteen hundred this run. Fortunately, this time they’d arrived well before the humans, and had harvested the gemheart with minimal fighting. Devi carried it; he had earned the privilege by being the one to spot the chrysalis from afar.
Almost she wished it had not been so easy a run. Almost.
Where are you, Blackthorn? she thought, looking westward. Why have you not come to face me again?
She thought she’d seen him on that run a week or so back, when they’d been forced off the plateau by his son. Eshonai had not participated in that fight; her wounded leg ached, and the jumping from plateau to plateau had stressed it, even in Shardplate. Perhaps she should not be going on these runs in the first place.
She’d wanted to be there in case her strike force grew surrounded, and needed a Shardbearer—even a wounded one—to break them free. Her leg still hurt, but Plate cushioned it enough. Soon she would have to return to the fighting. Perhaps if she participated directly, the Blackthorn would appear again.
She needed to speak with him. She felt an urgency to do so blowing upon the winds themselves.
Her soldiers raised hands in farewell as they went their separate ways. Many softly sang or hummed a song to the Rhythm of Mourning. These days, few sang to Excitement, or even to Resolve. Step by step, storm by storm, depression claimed her people—the listeners, as they called their race. “Parshendi” was a human term.
Eshonai strode toward the ruins that dominated Narak. After so many years, there wasn’t much left. Ruins of ruins, one might call them. The works of men and listeners alike did not last long before the might of the highstorms.
That stone spire ahead, that had probably once been a tower. Over the centuries, it had grown a thick coating of crem from the raging storms. The soft crem had seeped into cracks and filled windows, then slowly hardened. The tower now looked like an enormous stalagmite, rounded point toward the sky, side knobbed with rock that looked as if it had been melted.
The spire must have had a strong core to survive the winds so long. Other examples of ancient engineering had not fared so well. Eshonai passed lumps and mounds, remnants of fallen buildings that had slowly been consumed by the Shattered Plains. The storms were unpredictable. Sometimes huge sections of rock would break free from formations, leaving gouges and jagged edges. Other times, spires would stand for centuries, growing—not shrinking—as the winds both weathered and augmented them.
Eshonai had discovered similar ruins in her explorations, such as the one she’d been on when her people had first encountered humans. Only seven years ago, but also an eternity. She had loved those days, exploring a wide world that felt infinite. And now…
Now she spent her life trapped on this one plateau. The wilderness called to her, sang that she should gather up what things she could carry and strike out. Unfortunately, that was no longer her destiny.
She passed into the shadow of a big lump of rock that she always imagined might have been a city gate. From what little they’d learned from their spies over the years, she knew that the Alethi did not understand. They marched over the uneven surface of the plateaus and saw only natural rock, never knowing that they traversed the bones of a city long dead.
Eshonai shivered, and attuned the Rhythm of the Lost. It was a soft beat, yet still violent, with sharp, separated notes. She did not attune it for long. Remembering the fallen was important, but working to protect the living was more so.
She attuned Resolve again and entered Narak. Here, the listeners had built the best home they could during the years of war. Rocky shelves had become barracks, carapace from greatshells forming the walls and roofs. Mounds that had once been buildings now grew rockbuds for food on their leeward sides. Much of the Shattered Plains had once been populated, but the largest city had been here at the center. So now the ruins of her people made their home in the ruins of a dead city.
They had named it Narak—exile—for it was where they had come to be separated from their gods.
Listeners, both malen and femalen, raised hands to her as she passed. So few remained. The humans were relentless in their pursuit of vengeance.
She didn’t blame them.
She turned toward the Hall of Art. It was nearby, and she hadn’t put in an appearance there for days. Inside, soldiers did a laughable job of painting. Eshonai strode among them, still wearing her Shardplate, helm under her arm. The long building had no roof—allowing in plenty of light to paint by—and the walls were thick with long-hardened crem. Holding thick-bristled brushes, the soldiers tried their best to depict the arrangement of rockbud flowers on a pedestal at the center. Eshonai did a round of the artists, looking at their work. Paper was precious and canvas nonexistent, so they painted on shell.
The paintings were awful. Splotches of garish color, off-center petals… Eshonai paused beside Varanis, one of her lieutenants. He held the brush delicately between armored fingers, a hulking form before an easel. Plates of chitin armor grew from his arms, shoulders, chest, even head. They were matched by her own, under her Plate.
“You are getting better,” Eshonai said to him, speaking to the Rhythm of Praise.
He looked to her, and hummed softly to Skepticism.
Eshonai chuckled, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It actually looks like flowers, Varanis. I mean it.”
“It looks like muddy water on a brown plateau,” he said. “Maybe with some brown leaves floating in it. Why do colors turn brown when they mix? Three beautiful colors put together, and they become the least beautiful color. It makes no sense, General.”
General. At times, she felt as awkward in the position as these men did trying to paint pictures. She wore warform, as she needed the armor for battle, but she preferred workform. More limber, more rugged. It wasn’t that she disliked leading these men, but doing the same thing every day— drills, plateau runs—numbed her mind. She wanted to be seeing new things, going new places. Instead, she joined her people in a long funeral vigil as, one by one, they died.
No. We will find a way out of it.
The art was part of that, she hoped. By her order, each man or woman took a turn in the Hall of Art at their appointed time. And they tried; they tried hard. So far, it had been about as successful as trying to leap a chasm with the other side out of sight. “No spren?” she asked.
“Not a one.” He said it to the Rhythm of Mourning. She heard that rhythm far too often these days.
“Keep trying,” she said. “We will not lose this battle for lack of effort.”
“But General,” Varanis said, “what is the point? Having artists won’t save us from the swords of humans.”
Nearby, other soldiers turned to hear her answer.
“Artists won’t help,” she said to the Rhythm of Peace. “But my sister is confident that she is close to discovering new forms. If we can discover how to create artists, then it might teach her more about the process of change—and that might help her with her research. Help her discover forms stronger, even, than warform. Artists won’t get us out of this, but some other form might.”
Varanis nodded. He was a good soldier. Not all of them were—warform did not intrinsically make one more disciplined. Unfortunately, it did hamper one’s artistic skill.
Eshonai had tried painting. She couldn’t think the right way, couldn’t grasp the abstraction needed to create art. Warform was a good form, versatile. It didn’t impede thought, like mateform did. As with workform, you were yourself when you were warform. But each had its quirks. A worker had difficulty committing violence—there was a block in the mind somewhere. That was one of the reasons she liked the form. It forced her to think differently to get around problems.
Neither form could create art. Not well, at least. Mateform was better, but came with a whole host of other problems. Keeping those types focused on anything productive was almost impossible. There were two other forms, though the first—dullform—was one they rarely used. It was a relic of the past, before they’d rediscovered something better.
That left only nimbleform, a general form that was lithe and careful. They used it for nurturing young and doing the kind of work that required more dexterity than brawn. Few could be spared for that form, though it was more skilled at art.
The old songs spoke of hundreds of forms. Now they knew of only five. Well, six if one counted slaveform, the form with no spren, no soul, and no song. The form the humans were accustomed to, the ones they called parshmen. It wasn’t really a form at all, however, but a lack of any form.
Eshonai left the Hall of Art, helm under her arm, leg aching. She passed through the watering square, where nimbles had crafted a large pool from sculpted crem. It caught rain during the riddens of a storm, thick with nourishment. Here, workers carried buckets to fetch water. Their forms were strong, almost like that of warform, though with thinner fingers and no armor. Many nodded to her, though as a general she had no authority over them. She was their last Shardbearer.
A group of three mateforms—two female, one male—played in the water, splashing at one another. Barely clothed, they dripped with what others would be drinking.
“You three,” Eshonai snapped at them. “Shouldn’t you be doing something?”
Plump and vapid, they grinned at Eshonai. “Come in!” one called. “It’s fun!”
“Out,” Eshonai said, pointing.
The three muttered to the Rhythm of Irritation as they climbed from the water. Nearby, several workers shook their heads as they passed, one singing to Praise in appreciation of Eshonai. Workers did not like confrontation.
It was an excuse. Just as those who took on mateform used their form as an excuse for their inane activities. When a worker, Eshonai had trained herself to confront when necessary. She’d even been a mate once, and had proven to herself firsthand that one could indeed be productive as a mate, despite… distractions.
Of course, the rest of her experiences as a mate had been an utter disaster.
She spoke to Reprimand to the mateforms, her words so passionate that she actually attracted angerspren. She saw them coming from a ways off, drawn by her emotion, moving with an incredible speed—like lightning dancing toward her across the distant stone. The lightning pooled at her feet, turning the stones red.
That put the fear of the gods into the mateforms, and they ran off to report to the Hall of Art. Hopefully, they wouldn’t end up in an alcove along the way, mating. Her stomach churned at the thought. She had never been able to fathom people who wanted to remain in mateform. Most couples, in order to have a child, would enter the form and sequester themselves away for a year—then would be out of the form as soon after the child’s birth as possible. After all, who would want to go out in public like that?
The humans did it. That had baffled her during those early days, when she’d spent time learning their language, trading with them. Not only did humans not change forms, they were always ready to mate, always distracted by sexual urges.
What she wouldn’t have given to be able to go among them unnoticed, to adopt their monochrome skin for a year and walk their highways, see their grand cities. Instead, she and the others had ordered the murder of the Alethi king in a desperate gambit to stop the listener gods from returning.
Well, that had worked—the Alethi king hadn’t been able to put his plan into action. But now, her people were slowly being destroyed as a result.
She finally reached the rock formation she called home: a small, collapsed dome. It reminded her of the ones on the edge of the Shattered Plains, actually—the enormous ones that the humans called warcamps. Her people had lived in those, before abandoning them for the security of the Shattered Plains, with its chasms the humans couldn’t jump.
Her home was much, much smaller, of course. During the early days of living here, Venli had crafted a roof of greatshell carapace and built walls to divide the space into chambers. She’d covered it all over with crem, which had hardened with time, creating something that actually felt like a home instead of a shanty.
Eshonai set her helm on a table just inside, but left the rest of her armor on. Shardplate just felt right to her. She liked the sensation of strength. It let her know that something was still reliable in the world. And with the power of Shardplate, she could mostly ignore the wound to her leg.
She ducked through a few rooms, nodding to the people she passed. Venli’s associates were scholars, though no one knew the proper form for true scholarship. Nimbleform was their makeshift substitute for now. Eshonai found her sister beside the window of the farthest chamber. Demid, Venli’s once-mate, sat next to her. Venli had held nimbleform for three years, as long as they’d known of the form, though in Eshonai’s mind’s eye she still saw her sister as a worker, with thicker arms and a stouter torso.
That was the past. Now, Venli was a slender woman with a thin face, her marblings delicate swirling patterns of red and white. Nimbleform grew long hairstrands, with no carapace helm to block them. Venli’s, a deep red, flowed down to her waist, where they were tied in three places. She wore a robe, drawn tight at the waist and showing a hint of breasts at the chest. This was not mateform, so they were small.
Venli and her once-mate were close, though their time as mates had produced no children. If they’d gone to the battlefield, they’d have been a warpair. Instead, they were a researchpair, or something. The things they spent their days doing were very un-listener. That was the point. Eshonai’s people could not afford to be what they had been in the past. The days of lounging isolated on these plateaus—singing songs to one another, only occasionally fighting—were over.
“So?” Venli asked to Curiosity.
“We won,” Eshonai said, leaning back against the wall and folding her arms with a clink of Shardplate. “The gemheart is ours. We will continue to eat.”
“That is well,” Venli said. “And your human?”
“Dalinar Kholin. He did not come to this battle.”
“He will not face you again,” Venli said. “You nearly killed him last time.” She said it to the Rhythm of Amusement as she rose, picking up a piece of paper—they made it from dried rockbud pulp following a harvest—which she handed to her once-mate. Looking it over, he nodded and began making notes on his own sheet.
That paper required precious time and resources to make, but Venli insisted the reward would be worth the effort. She’d better be right.
Venli regarded Eshonai. She had keen eyes—glassy and dark, like those of all listeners. Venli’s always seemed to have an extra depth of secret knowledge to them. In the right light, they had a violet cast.
“What would you do, Sister?” Venli asked. “If you and this Kholin were actually able to stop trying to kill each other long enough to have a conversation?”
“I’d sue for peace.”
“We murdered his brother,” Venli said. “We slaughtered King Gavilar on a night when he’d invited us into his home. That is not something the Alethi will forget, or forgive.”
Eshonai unfolded her arms and flexed a gauntleted hand. That night. A desperate plan, made between herself and five others. She had been part of it despite her youth, because of her knowledge of the humans. All had voted the same.
Kill the man. Kill him, and risk destruction. For if he had lived to do what he told them that night, all would have been lost. The others who had made that decision with her were dead now.
“I have discovered the secret of stormform,” Venli said.
“What?” Eshonai stood up straight. “You were to be working on a form to help! A form for diplomats, or for scholars.”
“Those will not save us,” Venli said to Amusement. “If we wish to deal with the humans, we will need the ancient powers.”
“Venli,” Eshonai said, grabbing her sister by the arm. “Our gods!”
Venli didn’t flinch. “The humans have Surgebinders.”
“Perhaps not. It could have been an Honorblade.”
“You fought him. Was it an Honorblade that struck you, wounded your leg, sent you limping?”
“I…” Her leg ached.
“We don’t know which of the songs are true,” Venli said. Though she said it to Resolve, she sounded tired, and she drew exhaustionspren. They came with a sound like wind, blowing in through the windows and doors like jets of translucent vapor before becoming stronger, more visible, and spinning around her head like swirls of steam.
My poor sister. She works herself as hard as the soldiers do.
“If the Surgebinders have returned,” Venli continued, “we must strive for something meaningful, something that can ensure our freedom. The forms ofpower, Eshonai…” She glanced at Eshonai’s hand, still on her arm. “At least sit and listen. And stop looming like a mountain.”
Eshonai removed her fingers, but did not sit. Her Shardplate’s weight would break a chair. Instead, she leaned forward, inspecting the table full of papers.
Venli had invented the script herself. They’d learned that concept from the humans—memorizing songs was good, but not perfect, even when you had the rhythms to guide you. Information stored on pages was more practical, especially for research.
Eshonai had taught herself the script, but reading was still difficult for her. She did not have much time to practice.
“So… stormform?” Eshonai said.
“Enough people of that form,” Venli said, “could control a highstorm, or even summon one.”
“I remember the song that speaks of this form,” Eshonai said. “It was a thing of the gods.”
“Most of the forms are related to them in some way,” Venli said. “Can we really trust the accuracy of words first sung so long ago? When those songs were memorized, our people were mostly dullform.”
It was a form of low intelligence, low capacity. They used it now to spy on the humans. Once, it and mateform had been the only forms her people had known.
Demid shuffled some of the pages, moving a stack. “Venli is right, Eshonai. This is a risk we must take.”
“We could negotiate with the Alethi,” Eshonai said.
“To what end?” Venli said, again to Skepticism, her exhaustionspren finally fading, the spren spinning away to search out more fresh sources of emotion. “Eshonai, you keep saying you want to negotiate. I think it is because you are fascinated by humans. You think they’ll let you go freely among them? A person they see as having the form of a rebellious slave?”
“Centuries ago,” Demid said, “we escaped both our gods and the humans. Our ancestors left behind civilization, power, and might in order to secure freedom. I would not give that up, Eshonai. Stormform. With it, we can destroy the Alethi army.”
“With them gone,” Venli said, “you can return to exploration. No responsibility—you could travel, make your maps, discover places no person has ever seen.”
“What I want for myself is meaningless,” Eshonai said to Reprimand, “so long as we are all in danger of destruction.” She scanned the specks on the page, scribbles of songs. Songs without music, written out as they were. Their souls stripped away.
Could the listeners’ salvation really be in something so terrible? Venli and her team had spent five years recording all of the songs, learning the nuances from the elderly, capturing them in these pages. Through collaboration, research, and deep thought, they had discovered nimbleform.
“It is the only way,” Venli said to Peace. “We will bring this to the Five, Eshonai. I would have you on our side.”
“I… I will consider.”
Words of Radiance © Brandon Sanderson, 2014