Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. After this week’s post there are only two chapters left in Part 3, which we’ll tackle after a short break for the holidays.
Last week we saw Kabsal’s downfall, and now we’re going to cover Kaladin training the men of his bridge squad in the art of war—from the onset he’s doing it differently than most Alethi. He wants to instill in them what he sees as the most important attributes a soldier can have. Namely, he tries to teach them the importance caring about something and, let’s not forget, also how not to get pushed over. Like I said, important stuff.
Down into the chasm we go.
Chapter 49: To Care
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Kaladin and his team are on permanent chasm duty, but they have different plans; Kaladin will begin training the men to be warriors with the hopes of escaping the Shattered Plains, knowing they may have to fight their whole way. Kaladin still has hopes of a clean getaway through the chasm or some other avenue that would present itself, but he’ll prepare his men as best he can.
As they walk in the chasm, Teft probes Kaladin with questions about feeling strange such as “odd surges of strength” or “feeling that you’re light,” which Kaladin hasn’t. The questions remind Kaladin’s of people who sought the Old Magic, including Extes, who had sacrificed his son to the Voidbringers and would suffer everyday by having his arms torn off. The boon Extes had wanted was to know what happened the day he was fated to die. Sometimes Kaladin feels as if he only lived under the auspiciousness of some evil spren that kills everyone around him while he lives.
Kaladin has the men line up and tells them that most trainers would cut down new recruits to toughen them up, but this was unnecessary as the crew are all more than tough for surviving this long. Instead, they must learn that it is okay to care and find a reason to fight. This is their first lesson of the day and one Kaladin hopes the men will remember even if they don’t understand it just yet.
The second lesson is all about stance. Kaladin calls Skar up to try and throw Kaladin off balance. Skar fails, and so Kaladin asks Moash and Drehy to help Skar. All three try to force Kaladin to lose his balance, but he easily uses their own force against them, all the while explaining to the group that losing your balance would likely mean death in combat. Skar, Moash, and Drehy begin to work more in unison, but Kaladin calls them off.
He breaks the group up into pairs and and begins teaching them how to maintain their stance, not lock their knees, and also how best to hold their center of balance. When Kaladin orders Teft, Teft answers so swiftly and affirmatively that Kaladin can tell Teft had military training. Kaladin is glad to have someone else besides himself who had been in the military, though it seems Teft wishes he hadn’t given himself away.
Kaladin then speaks to Rock, who has been standing by the side, clearly not intending to join in the training because he believes fighting was beneath him. When questioned about this, he replies that he isn’t a fourth son and that only fourth sons become warriors. Though Kaladin would prefer to have Rock with them in a fight, he comes up with an alternate plan: Kaladin asks Rock to take Dabbid, Lopen, and Shen to complete the crew’s salvage mission with Syl’s help; she will find the caches for them as she did when they were looking for reeds. Syl reveals herself to Lopen for the first time. Kaladin assures Lopen he still plans on training him, but needs him now as a scavenger more than another spear.
Kaladin asks Rock to draw a map of the chasm in hopes of finding a way out eventually. Rock is worried about Chasmfiends, but that was a worry anyone who went into the chasms faced. Their best chance will be escaping to the east from the chasm, but they will still face the possibility of Chasmfiends, spotters for the Alethi, and perhaps even the Parshendi.
For the next few hours, Kaladin watches the men and gives tips as they practice their stances. Moash, Skar, and Drehy take to the training quickly. As Kaladin looks around, he realizes Sadeas had inadvertently given him the best new recruits he had ever trained.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Our passion is what makes us human. We have to fight for a reason. So I say that it’s all right to care.”
Instead of cutting his troops down like most sergeants Kaladin’s aim is to build them up. To give them back their humanity so when battle comes they have a reason to fight besides for the sake of the fight. Use your words, Kaladin. Use your words.
It is hard out there for a Radiant, especially when you don’t realize you are one.
Kaladin is still in the dark about what he can do and even though Teft has more than an inkling he’s keeping that close to his chest. I think that’s half because he doesn’t want to be seen as a loon and half because he is scared of the truth. Both about his past and what will happen if he is right about Kaladin. But honestly at this point how can he have any doubts? For Teft it is more about finding out what Kaladin knows, which is next to nothing. Teft prods him with:
“I don’t know. Just… anything odd?” He coughed. “You know, like odd surges of strength? The… er, feeling that you’re light?”
C’mon Teft just come out and say it already!
Kaladin still innately knows the most important part of being a Radiant and he is already trying to instill those virtues in his men. Kaladin wants his men to fight for a reason. To care. Not just be mindless killers, which is as he sees most Alethi warriors. He’s starting the first training camp for Radiants in thousands of years without even realizing it. It seems clear that in the long term some of these men are destined to become a Radiant of one school or another.
This section reminds me of the early Dalinar flashback chapter where he was fighting the Midnight Essence and the Radiants he encounters invite him to train to join them. The Radiants saw in Dalinar the qualities and skills needed to fight the Voidbringers and Kaladin has happened into a group of men who he will instill in the qualities needed to literally form the vanguard of the Knights Radiant.
One interesting tidbit we get is about Rock’s society.
“First son and second son are needed for making food,” Rock said, raising a finger. “Is most important. Without food, nobody lives, yes? Third son is craftsman. This is me. I serve proudly. Only fourth son can be warrior. Warriors, they are not needed as much as food or crafts. You see?”
Though vastly different in appearance Rock’s people do seem to have many similarities to the Shin. The Shin too put the growers and cultivators of food on a higher level than everyone else along with both groups putting warriors on the lowest rung. Only time will tell if the history behind both groups have a similar origin, but my bet is this is a Sanderson fake out. The Horneaters will have arranged their society for practical reasons as food is tough to find and grow in mountains while something more sinister is likely behind the Shin’s abhorrence of its warriors.
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on an anthology project and is hoping to find a good publishing home for it soon.