Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread on Tor.com. Today I cover Chapter 69, the final chapter in Part Four. Sadeas tells Navani a bunch of lies, gives his evil villain speech to Dalinar, and is rewarded in a somewhat surprising fashion!
My high school chanting of “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” leads to nothing, and the symbolism is big and obvious, but in the end what really matters is that Dalinar is a really weird dad to a bunch of people who aren’t actually his children. Why don’t you ever weirdly adopt daughters, Dalinar? Why? ANSWER ME!
Chapter 69: Justice
Points of View: Navani / Dalinar / Kaladin
Setting: The Shattered Plains, Sadeas’s Warcamp
What Happens: Navani barges through Sadeas’s warcamp, struggling to maintain her composure in the wake of the news from the plateau assault. The guards at the camp are unable to keep her out because they are forbidden from touching the king’s mother. She sees Sadeas in his untouched Shardplate consulting with officers and approaches his canopy, where guards at last manage to halt her progress. Navani hasn’t bothered to announce herself, and now Sadeas is stalling her to collect himself.
As she waits, Navani reflects on a time when she would have played this game of propriety perfectly. She was a natural at court, but all it got her was “a dead husband whom she’d never loved and a ‘privileged’ position in court that amounted to being put out to pasture.” She’s considering a screaming fit when she spots Renarin approaching.
The young man asks her if she’s heard anything, and she fills him in on the rumors of a rout. Sadeas allows them to approach at last, and tells Navani that Dalinar has died. Navani and Renarin reel, but Navani collects herself and orders him to explain. Sadeas delivers a number of lies, but swears vengeance for Dalinar with such earnestness that Navani almost believes him. She looks at Renarin and thinks that he is now a highprince, but shakes that off.
Navani calls for a brush and her “burn ink,” and begins painting. Dalinar has no daughters and no wife, no one to burn a prayer for him, so she makes one, losing herself in the act of creation. When she finishes, Sadeas’s warcamp has been adorned with a twenty-pace thath glyph: Justice. She burns it, sending the soul of the prayer to the Almighty.
The quiet of the watching crowd is broken when a messenger appears for Sadeas. The highprince takes him aside, and Renarin joins Navani. When Sadeas returns, furious, they follow the line of his vision and see “a creeping line of men limping back toward the warcamps, led by a mounted man in slate-grey armor.”
It’s gonna go down.
Dalinar approaches Sadeas’s warcamp riding Gallant and clad in his Shardplate, hastily patched with the remaining Stormlight from the army and augmented with Adolin’s gauntlet. Dalinar wants nothing more than to take up his Blade and kill Sadeas, but he knows he won’t. Alethkar takes precedence over revenge. He orders his wounded to be taken back to the Kholin warcamp, then to mobilize the remaining companies, prepare them for anything.
Dalinar turns and approaches the bridgemen, led by Kaladin. He suggests they accompany the wounded back to his camp. When Kaladin verifies that Dalinar plans to confront Sadeas, he says he’s coming too. Kaladin is no more successful in sending his own men away, and Dalinar is struck again by their discipline.
As they ride into the warcamp, he sees the crowd gathered around the glyph, and picks out Navani and Renarin among them. Both Renarin and Navani are overjoyed to see them, although Navani plays it cool at first. When he realizes how terrified Navani was, Dalinar grabs her in a hug, and tells her of his revelations on the battlefield, and tells her he’s realized something important.
But the time is not right to discuss it. Dalinar tells Adolin to keep his Blade as mist and the men calm, and approaches Sadeas. He demands to know why Sadeas betrayed him, and receives an evil villain speech in return. Apparently Sadeas thought that this betrayal was necessary to fulfill his oath to defend Elhokar and Alethkar, but he’s also in it for the power. Typical. He also reveals that he never tried to frame Dalinar for the saddle girth incident because it wouldn’t work. No one would believe he’d try to kill Elhokar, especially not Elhokar. The king apparently knew Dalinar didn’t do it. Dalinar ends their conversation by thanking Sadeas for showing him that he’s still a threat worth trying to remove.
Kaladin watches this conversation from the sidelines. Matal, in turn, watches him. Kaladin draws grim satisfaction from the fact that Matal didn’t kill him in time, but is mostly concerned that he doesn’t know what’s happening to him, and exhausted by the Stormlight drain. He’s intent on seeing things through.
The quiet conference between Sadeas and Dalinar breaks up, and Sadeas tells Dalinar to take his men back to camp, since their alliance has proved unfeasible. Dalinar says he’s taking the bridgemen with him, but Sadeas refuses to let them go. Kaladin watches with a sinking sensation, knowing that another promise is about to be broken. Dalinar bargains, offering to pay whatever price Sadeas named, but Sadeas insists that nothing will satisfy him. Dalinar tells Sadeas not to press him on this point, and the tension that had been easing between the armies resurges. Sadeas demands that Dalinar leave, and Kaladin turns away, hope dying. As he does, he hears gasps of surprise, and he whips back to see Dalinar standing with Shardblade in hand. The soldiers begin drawing weapons, but Dalinar takes a single step forward and plunges the Blade into the ground between him and Sadeas. He offers it in trade for all the bridgemen.
Sadeas is dumbstruck, but contemptuously takes the deal. Kaladin is stunned, and hurries after Dalinar, begging to know what happened.
“What is a man’s life worth?” Dalinar asked softly.
“The slavemasters say one is worth about two emerald broams,” Kaladin said, frowning.
“And what do you say?”
“A life is priceless,” he said immediately, quoting his father.
Dalinar smiled, wrinkle lines extending from the corners of his eyes. “Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me twenty-six hundred precious lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.”
Who could argue with that math? Dalinar proceeds to take care of his other business.
Dalinar approaches Elhokar in his palace, clad in Shardplate. He interrupts the king’s pleasantries by viciously assaulting him, kicking and punching his breastplate apart, leaving him helpless son the ground. Elhokar calls for his guards, but Dalinar tells him that those guards are his, men, trained by and loyal to him. No one is coming to save him.
Dalinar accuses Elhokar of cutting his own girth, and forces the confession. Dalinar goes on to say that, in his attention-seeking attempt to manufacture an investigation, Elhokar gave Sadeas the opportunity to destroy him. He determines, however, that since Elhokar didn’t put the cracked gemstones in his Plate, there may be an actual assassin out there. That doesn’t, however, mean he’ll let Elhokar up now.
Dalinar makes it clear how easily he could kill Elhokar. He’s strong enough and skilled enough that he could have killed him at any time, and no one would have stopped him. Most of the Alethi would even have praised the choice, been satisfied that the Blackthorn was finally taking over. “Your paranoia may be unfounded,” Dalinar says, “or it may be well founded. Either way, you need to understand something. I am not your enemy.”
Elhokar asks if this means Dalinar isn’t going to kill him, and Dalinar replies that he loves Elhokar like a son. Elhokar points out legitimate grievances with Dalinar’s parenting instincts (protip parents: don’t break your son’s breastplate with your hands and feet), but Dalinar says he was doing this to demonstrate that he doesn’t want Elhokar dead.
Dalinar tells him how things are going to go now. Elhokar is going to name him Highprince of War, they’re going to corral the highprinces, treat them like children until they can become adults. They’ll enforce the Codes, determine which armies go on which plateau assaults, take all gemhearts as spoil, and distribute them personally. Elhokar is worried they’ll kill them for this, but Dalinar has ideas about his guard detail.
Elhokar points out that Dalinar used to think it was wrong to force the Codes on people, but Dalinar says that was before the Almighty lied to him. He was treating the highprinces like reasonable adults, rather than bickering children, but now that he sees them as they truly are different tactics are called for. They’re going to turn Alethkar into a place of unity and honor, or die trying.
Oh, also Elhokar, Dalinar is totally dating your mom now.
DEAL WITH IT.
Dalinar drops the mic, and the chapter ends.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Much of what I told you, I learned from The Way of Kings. But I didn’t understand something. Nohadon wrote the book at the end of his life, after creating order—after forcing the kingdoms to unite, after rebuilding lands that had fallen in the desolation.
“The book was written to embody an ideal. It was given to people who already had momentum in doing what was right. That was my mistake. Before any of this can work, our people need to have a minimum level of honor and dignity. Adolin said something to me a few weeks back, something profound. He asked me why I forced my sons to live up to such high expectations, but let others go about their errant ways without condemnation.
“I have been treating the other highprinces and their lighteyes like adults. An adult can take a principle and adapt it to his needs. But we’re not ready for that yet. We’re children. And when you’re teaching a child, you require him to do what is right until he grows old enough to make his own choices. The Silver Kingdoms didn’t begin as unified, glorious bastions of honor. They were trained that way, raised up, like youths nurtured to maturity.”
This speech is cool and all, but what it mostly reveals is that Dalinar’s Intentional Parenting Style is… super condescending and corporal. See also Elhokar. Maybe don’t power-armor-kick your son across the room. Maybe don’t.
ON THE OTHER HAND PROBLEMATIC METAPHORS ASIDE, I think we all agree at this point that the highprinces need some reeducation. The best wisdom in this speech is Dalinar realizing that the lessons he’d been trying to apply to them weren’t anything they were ready for yet. Now he can correct his pedagogy.
Dalinar confronts Sadeas! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight… fight… fight? Fight… no fight.
Anyone else disappointed that, when these two men met in the middle of a ring of soldiers, standing on top of a giant symbol of justice, clad in armor, they didn’t brawl it out? Come on now, let me see those hands. DON’T YOU LIE TO ME.
Yes, I know it would have been a terrible plan on Dalinar’s part. His army has been thrashed, and Sadeas’s is at full strength, and those considerations don’t even take into account that Dalinar doesn’t want to split the kingdom in half. But the blocking of this scene still seemed to demand it.
As weird as the Elhokar scene is in retrospect, and hoooo boy is Dalinar’s dictating terms going to bring problems in Words of Radiance, there are some moments of amazingly fatherly wisdom from the Blackthorn. His fledgling relationship with Kaladin is explicitly paternal, and it’s very sweet to see. Kaladin already had a doctor daddy, but it’s great that he’s getting a battle daddy as well. I know how prone Kaladin is to expect betrayal, so I can forgive him reading Dalinar’s determined stance during the bridgemen argument as a preface for betrayal. It’s all worth it for the shock of Dalinar trading his Shardblade away.
Let’s talk about Navani, though. Her viewpoint proves how important it is to get points of view from the characters you’re unsure of. Navani always maintains a strong front, which contributes to the predatory feeling of her relationship with Dalinar, but this chapter completely humanizes her. This is a woman who played the political game at her own expense, made a marriage that she felt was best for her kingdom and herself, and put aside the man she was actually in love with. She lost her husband, but she still can’t be with Dalinar because of Gavilar, and she wants to push the politics of the world, but her position doesn’t allow for that. In a way she gets nothing that she wanted out of that marriage. And now, when she’s finally brought things around to where she wants them, she hears that Dalinar is dead?
Her response is perfect. The prayer is completely within her rights as a woman, guarded from criticism as an act of grief, but also politically biting. She burns the injustice that Sadeas has committed into the ground, demanding from the Almighty and his fellow men that what he did be witnessed and recognized for what it is. And then Dalinar comes back and sticks Oathbringer in the middle of the glyph.
It’s not subtle, but it is powerful.
So, Dalinar’s plan. Is it a good one? Is it actually an evolution of his character? Or is he just giving in to his long-held certainty that he’s the one who is right. His attitude, as I’ve hinted, will bring big problems in Words, and his plans themselves will also stir up a ton of trouble. There’s a rough road ahead, but at least he has a ton of bridgemen now!
And with that, we reach the end of Part Four, and approach Part Five, by far the shortest section. We’ve passed the climax, and the characters have all resolved themselves, set in the paths that will take them into Words of Radiance. What did you think of Part Four? I’ll see you in the comments!