Enjoy this excerpt from Words of Radiance, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive fantasy series. The long awaited sequel to The Way of Kings is currently schedule to debut this coming January and now that the first draft is in, we’ll be previewing and discussing all the various aspects of the series. Keep the Tor.com Stormlight Archive series and The Way of Kings Reread bookmarked for all the latest.
This short interlude from Words of Radiance, previewed at various readings this year, concerns Taravangian, the king of Kharbranth. Read on....
Taravangian, king of Kharbranth, awoke to stiff muscles and an ache in his back. He didn’t feel stupid. That was a good sign.
He sat up with a groan. Those aches were perpetual now, and his best healers could only shake their heads and promise him that he was fit for his age. Fit. His joints cracked like logs on the fire and he couldn’t stand quickly, lest he lose his balance and topple to the floor. To age truly was to suffer the ultimate treason, that of one’s body against oneself.
He sat up in his cot. Water lapped quietly against the hull of his cabin, and the air smelled of salt. He heard voices in the near distance, however. The ship had moored on schedule. Excellent.
As he settled himself, one servant approached with a table and another with a warm, wet cloth for wiping his eyes and hands. Behind them waited the King’s Testers. How long had it been since Taravangian had been alone, truly alone? Not since long before the aches had come upon him.
Maben arrived with his morning meal, stewed and spiced grain mush. It was supposed to be good for his constitution. Tasted like dishwater. Bland dishwater. She stepped forward to set out the meal, but Mrall—a Thaylen man with shaved head and eyebrows—stopped her with a hand to the arm.
“Tests first,” Mrall said.
Taravangian looked up, meeting the large man’s gaze. Mrall could loom over a mountain and intimidate the wind itself. Everyone assumed he was Taravangian’s head bodyguard. The truth was more disturbing.
Mrall was the one who got to decide whether Taravangian would spend the day as king or as a prisoner.
“Surely you can let him eat first!” Maben said.
“This is an important day,” Mrall said, voice low. “I would know the result of the testing.”
“It is his right to demand this, Maben,” Taravangian said. “Let us be on with it.”
Mrall stepped back, and the testers approached, a group of three stormwardens in purposely esoteric robes and caps. They presented a series of pages covered in figures and glyphs. Mathematical problems devised by Taravangian himself on one of his better days.
He picked up his pen with hesitant fingers. He did not feel stupid, but he rarely did. Only on the worst of days did he immediately recognize the difference. Days when his mind was thick, like tar, and he felt like a prisoner in his own mind, aware that something was profoundly wrong.
That wasn’t today, fortunately. He wasn’t a complete idiot. At worst, he’d just be very stupid.
He set to his task, solving the mathematical problems he could. He was not stupid, fortunately. Neither was he a genius. Today...he was average.
That would do.
He turned over the problems to the stormwardens, who consulted in low voices. They turned to Mrall. “He is fit to serve,” one proclaimed. “He may not change the Diagram, but he may interact outside of supervision, may change policy, and pass judgment.”
Mrall nodded, looking to Taravangian. “Do you accept this assessment and these restrictions, your majesty?”
Mrall nodded, then stepped back, allowing Maben to set out Taravangian’s morning meal.
The trio of stormwardens tucked away the papers he’d filled out, then they retreated to their own cabins. The testing was an extravagant procedure, and consumed a good hour each morning. Still, it was the best way he had found to deal with his...condition.
Life could be tricky for a man who awoke each morning with a different level of intelligence. Particularly when the entire world might depend upon his genius, or might come crashing down upon his idiocy.
Words of Radiance © Brandon Sanderson 2013