Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. All of Roshar is Weeping this week, as we reach chapter 44. Due to the great length and significance of the next two chapters, I’m only going to cover one chapter this week, but I think you’ll find that even this shorter chapter has plenty to discuss.
Join me as I explore more of Kaladin’s past, going with him to a time of constant rain, hopeful opportunities, bitter disappointments, and terrible vengeance.
Chapter 44: The Weeping
Setting: Hearthstone, Five Years Ago
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: The Weeping, an annual, four-week-long period of constant rain, has come, and Kaladin is patching the roof of his family home. Unlike most people, who welcome the long reprieve from Highstorms, Kaladin hates the Weeping and the feeling of dreary weakness it brings him. Not only does he miss the sun and sky, he even misses the intensity of the Highstorms.
Having finished with his work, Kaladin stays on the roof, staring at the sky. Since the hunt, Roshone has been a shut-in. The people of Hearthstone are terrified that he will explode with rage, but like with a Highstorm, Kaladin would prefer that to a slow grinding suspense.
Tien finds Kaladin and joins him up on the roof. As usual, Tien knows how to bring his brother out of a funk, and this time he accomplishes that by staying with him in silence. Kaladin surfaces to ask if Tien actually likes the rain. “Yeah,” Tien replies, but it’s “hard to stare up at like this, though. I keep blinking.” Kaladin smiles, roused by his brother’s simple enthusiasm for just about everything.
Tien gives Kaladin something he made at the carpenter’s shop: a beautiful wooden carving of a horse, already sealed against the rain. Kaladin thinks it’s beautiful, even if Tien got in some trouble with his carpenter master for making decorative presents when he was supposed to be making a chair. Kaladin wonders how his little brother can remain cheerful while his family is being starved and his master treats him poorly. He tries to explain the desperation they’re facing, now that Lirin is being forced to slowly spend spheres, but Tien persists in being cheerful. He firmly believes that “things are never as bad as they seem.”
Despite himself, Kaladin feels his fears and cares lighten. The two boys are soon joined by their mother, who climbs up onto the roof and sits with them. Kaladin tries to convince her that the whole family should leave Hearthstone when he goes, since Roshone is strangling them, but Hesina explains that Lirin is intentionally spending spheres, to make it appear that they’re broken and prevent Roshone from seeking vengeance for the death of his son. Everything is going according to plan, and soon Kaladin will be able to disappear into his schooling, wealth safely in the holding of the ardents.
Hesina and Tien talk excitedly about all the things Kaladin will be able to learn, with his mother even saying that he can train to be something other than a surgeon if he wants. He could join the ardentia if he turned out to love scholarship, or become a stormwarden. Kaladin finds the idea of predicting the weather slightly horrifying, but strangely appealing. However, he maintains that he is training to be a surgeon.
At this point Lirin finds them, bemused at the fact that his entire family is sitting on the roof in the rain. He calls them down with the news that Roshone has called for a town meeting in the square, and they head off to attend. The whole town is gathered, gossiping. Kaladin sees some boys who he used to call friends, and is more acutely aware than ever that Hearthstone isn’t really his home anymore. Roshone’s carriage arrives, and he steps out, followed by an unknown lighteyes who Kaladin suspects is Highmarshal Amaram, and finally Laral, the woman Kaladin was once expected to marry. She has only grown more beautiful over the years, but there is one thing about her appearance that shocks Kaladin’s parents: she’s wearing a bride’s prayer. They consult, and speculate that Roshone must have decided to marry Laral himself, staking a claim to her dowry and connections now that he can no longer marry her to his son.
Roshone introduces Amaram, commander of the defense force protecting Sadeas’s borders in his absence. He addresses the town, heavily but perhaps unconsciously condescending to them, and tells them that he’s there to look for recruits. A few boys and men step forward, but not nearly as many as Amaram needs, so he calls for Roshone’s list. At Roshone’s urging, a scribe calls out five names. The last name she calls is “Tien, son of Lirin.”
Hesina cries out, and Lirin steps between Tien and the recruiters. Amaram, seeing that Roshone has used him for his “petty, small-town politics,” asks if there’s some other boy who will do. Roshone holds to his rights, vindictive in his victory. Amaram promises that he’ll use Tien as a runner for a couple of years, to keep him from the fighting. He prepares to leave with his recruits.
Kaladin steps forward, suddenly sure of what to do, and asks to take his brother’s place. Roshone vehemently refuses, as he’s made his choice by right, so Kaladin volunteers to go in addition to Tien.
His parents are dumbstruck and crying, although Tien is unbelievably grateful. Kaladin swears, “by the storms and the Almighty’s tenth name itself,” that he will bring his brother back once their four-year tour is over.
Quote of the Chapter:
Lirin stepped forward, eyes full of anger. Highmarshal Amaram caught him by the arm. “Do not do something you would regret, darkborn. Roshone has acted according to the law.”
“You hid behind the law, sneering at me, surgeon,” Roshone called to Lirin. “Well now it turns against you. Keep those spheres! The look on your face at this moment is worth the price of every one of them!”
First, I found it striking how incredibly condescending and gross all of Amaram’s forms of address for the darkeyes he interacts with are. “Darkborn” and “darkwoman” just sound… terrible. They’re proper terms of address, I would assume, for a man of his station to use in these circumstances. They might even denote some kind of vague respect in context. But to us outsiders they seem to drip with contempt. Next, this forced irony on Roshone’s part is severely unflattering. He’s vindictive, which is almost understandable, but the form his vengeance his taken is being framed in the pettiest possible display of power.
Commentary: Kaladin’s hatred of the Weepings spells out pretty firmly in my mind that he’s been unconsciously absorbing Stormlight from highstorms for years, although some people have disagreed with that theory of mine in my recent Stormlight Grimoire article. Either that, or he has the Rosharan version of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or both. The Weeping is actually a very strange and interesting meteorological phenomenon. Rainy seasons exist on Earth as well, but my impression is that an annual four-week period of predictable and constant rain is somewhat less so. The Weeping is so regular, in fact, that it’s the event by which age is measured. Seasons are inconstant and of variable length, but the Weeping is always at the same time.
Tien is at the height of his adorability in this chapter, I think. We don’t get to know him very well, and only ever through the eyes of Kaladin, which is a biasing viewpoint. Kaladin loves his brother very much, but he also looks down on him somewhat. He buys into the common narrative that Tien is the stupid brother and Kaladin the smart brother. He’s smaller and less physically fit than Kaladin, and takes a less serious viewpoint towards the world. This chapter shows off his extremely meaningful talents, though. Tien could have been a capable woodworker and artist if he’d gotten the chance. He seems to have trouble applying himself, but he nevertheless crafted a wonderful horse for his brother. He’s an eternal optimist, unlike his brother and father, which is a form of emotional strength. He’s also masterful when it comes to understanding and supporting others. He knows how Kaladin works, and how to make him happy. Tien is also an expert rock-finder. That’s probably significant.
Lirin’s strategy still seems like he was making the right moves. He provoked Roshone more, perhaps, than was wise, but I still think he’s been manipulating his resources and Roshone’s expectations as well as anyone could. He still failed, however. Maybe he underestimated Roshone’s vindictiveness, but I think that the situation had gone beyond his ability to control; Roshone had all the power, so defeat was inevitable. I’m awaiting news about what happened to Lirin and Hesina after Kaladin and Tien left with a kind of horrified curiosity.
As for Hesina, let’s talk about her vision of the future. She’s clearly something of a freethinker, in a number of ways. She and Lirin have unorthodox religious views, Hesina went against her parents to marry Lirin, and in general she behaves differently from other women in her demographic. But the things she’s suggesting in this chapter are really rather revolutionary. She suggests to her son that he go into the most forward-thinking and cutting-edge profession available to a man and become a stormwarden. She sees the technology of Roshar progressing by leaps and bounds, and predicts that soon men will have to be taught how to read and write, to keep up with this pace. I think that’s just brilliant of her, although I think that the acceptance of male literacy will come via a different route. I bet that as women begin to accept martial roles due to the resurgence of the Knights Radiant, the strict divisions between the genders will become amorphous and obsolete, at a much faster rate than technological progress would bring. Still, it’s wonderful to see such an interesting and thoughtful anthropological prediction from Hesina.
Kaladin’s plan to protect Tien is pretty crazy, when you think about it. He’s underestimating the scope of war and overestimating his own ability to defend another in a battle. That being said, I don’t think it’s possible to really blame him for making such a strange choice. What he has done is collapse his parents’ strategy. A couple of weeks ago one of you commented that the strategy of putting an entire family’s resources behind the child most likely to be able to advance in society was a common and sensible practice for parents like Lirin and Hesina, and while no one could be expected to perform the cold emotional calculus needed to make a determination like this, throwing Kaladin’s life away for the slim chance of saving Tien’s is a losing proposition.
Well, we’ve seen just about all of Tien’s story except for how it ends. Check back next week as we explore a place that’s even stranger than the past: the Shadesmar.