Thu
Sep 12 2013 12:00pm
The Way of Kings Reread: Chapter 30

Brandon Sanderson the Way of Kings Surprise, faithful rereaders! The Way of Kings reread is back, and I’m back with it. This week I’ll cover Chapter 30: Darkness Unseen. Kaladin drills his bridgemen while innovating new ways to keep them safe, while Gaz watches unhappily. Yes, that’s right, this chapter features Gaz as a viewpoint character. If you’re curious about what our least-favorite one-eyed foul-tempered bridge sergeant has to say, please, read on.

Chapter 30: Darkness Unseen
Setting:
The Shattered Plains
Points of View: Kaladin, Gaz

What Happens: Kaladin leaves the barracks at daybreak, his bridgemen walking behind him. He has recruited them all, even if the last straggler was probably convinced by Rock and Teft’s threats instead of Kaladin’s morale-building, and has begun training their bodies and drilling them to run together. As he runs them through their stretches and exercises, soldiers watch and laugh. Gaz looks on as well, far less amused.

Ever since he lost his eye, Gaz has been haunted by the darkness of his half-blindness. He is convinced that something is lurking there: “Spren that would drain his soul from his body? The way a rat could empty an entire wineskin by chewing the corner?” He looks left to scatter the darkness and sees Lamaril, his direct superior.

Lamaril waves him over and Gaz pays him a bribe of a topaz mark, only half what he owes his boss. Lamaril has some kind of hold over Gaz, and is using it to extort him. Lamaril tells him that Kaladin is a problem, that men with that much initiative are rarely satisfied with their lives. He places Sadeas’s edge at risk by not sticking to his position in the structure.

Gaz privately doubts whether the bridgemen actually understand their place in Sadeas’s plans. Thye’re really nothing more than live bait for the Parshendi. Gaz hates himself for being part of this, but that’s just another reason for self-hatred in a long list.

He offers to get Kaladin killed, but Lamaril says no. They can’t risk martyring him. Instead he has to arrange for Kaladin to die on a bridge run. Gaz agrees, secretly terrified that without Kaladin’s bribes he will never keep ahead of his own payments to Lamaril.

He watches Bridge Four run by, still amazed by the spectacle of a bridge crew practicing. He believes this shouldn’t have been possible, especially not through Kaladin’s empty promises of protection. Dreading becoming a bridgeman himself one day, he continues to watch, the darkness waiting for him.

Kaladin leads his crew through a bridge placement exercise, giving them infrequent, hard-earned praise. They are shaping up, and the practices are undeniably helping; in the past two weeks only two bridgemen have died, with only two more being wounded. Still, that’s too many. The wounded are dragging on Kaladin’s resources, and he can’t stand to let anyone die at all.

Syl flies to him, reporting that Gaz and Lamaril had been talking. She doesn’t trust their tone or expressions. Kaladin doesn’t trust the situation because Lamaril is a lighteyes, but is aware that he can’t do anything about it.

As he and Syl talk about the nature of soldiers and carpenters, revealing how much better she’s getting at observing humans, Kaladin runs his hands over some smoothed makam wood. It’s strong and lightweight, perfect for shields, and he wonders again why the bridge crews aren’t allowed any kind of protection. He realizes that he could use the bridge itself as a shield, and sets his plan in motion.

Kaladin begins drilling his bridgemen, who he’s come to think of as soldiers, in carrying the bridge in new, strange positions. It’s not easy; the bridge is intricately designed to be carried normally, and Kaladin isn’t ready to explain his plans to his men yet. Before the drills begin, he meets with the four men he’s chosen as his sub-squad leaders, Rock, Teft, Skar, and Moash, to brief them on the procedure.

After the briefing, Moash stays behind to ask why he’s a sub-squad leader. Kaladin says it’s because he resisted his leadership longer than anyone else, and because he’s capable, intelligent, and strong-willed. Moash replies that, while this is alright, he still doesn’t trust Kaladin. He’s only obeying him because he’s curious.

Gaz watches dumbfounded as Bridge Four practices carrying the bridge to the side. He calls Kaladin to him and demands to know what is going on. Kaladin is terse and cagey, and Gaz struggles not to be intimidated by the bridgeman towering over him. Eventually Kaladin explains that they’re working on learning how to carry the bridge in other positions, to shift the weight distribution in case half a crew dies.

This perks Gaz up. He encourages Kaladin to make a bridge approach carrying the bridge that way, hoping the awkward, exposed position will get the crew killed.

Quote of the Chapter:

Lamaril shook his head. “Bridgemen exist for one purpose, Gaz. To protect the lives of more valuable men.”

“Really? And here I thought their purpose was to carry bridges.”

Lamaril gave him a sharp look. He leaned forward. “Don’t try me, Gaz. And don’t forget your place. Would you like to join them?”

Wow. This chapter in general, and this scene in particular, does a wonderful job of turning my impression of Gaz around. Yes, he’s a petty, small-minded, cruel man, and I think he would have been even in good circumstances. But he doesn’t have good circumstances. He’s being extorted by his direct superior, he’s in danger of ending up on a bridge, and he’s being haunted by the loss of his eye. You have to feel some sympathy for him here, especially because he can’t quite hide how much the structure of the bridge crews is tearing him up inside.

Commentary: The side-carry method that Kaladin is developing here will be crucial to his arc in this part, and despite that, I think it’s by far the least interesting element of the chapter. It’s innovative, clever, and shows how much he’s able to get his men to try, but it wouldn’t even be possible without the transformations he’s putting his men through. Bridge Four is no longer the mob of apathetic sad sacks waiting around to die that we used to know. They now run together, work to improve themselves, eat together, drink together, and laugh together. They’re evolving through Kaladin’s leadership, and it shows how ambitious Kaladin is that he knows this can’t be enough.

Syl is evolving in parallel. She understands facial expressions better, and is interpreting and intuiting human emotional responses with increasing accuracy. She likens this process to “remembering” things she used to know about humanity, which is fascinating, but it’s not the focus here either.

The undeniable focal point of this chapter is Gaz. He represents many aspects of the military experience. He’s caught between men who hate him and superiors who scorn him.

He’s scrounging money from below while trying to pay his debts to his superiors. He’s also interesting for the way he represents disability.

Gaz comments that he would rather have lost a hand or an arm than his eye, which is very unusual from an Alethi perspective. It seems like Gaz would have preferred a kind of disability he can navigate around, even though it would significantly reduce his martial capacity, to the darkness that he is always reminded of.

It probably doesn’t help him at all that his blindness is attracting some kind of magical madness. I passed over it in my initial reading, but now that I’m watching for it I can’t find it in myself to believe that his description of some spren waiting to eat his soul is anything but a massive hint that something’s off. Theories about Gaz abound, and we’ll get a few more hints about him later in the book. For now it’s enough to read him as someone who is mentally and emotionally compromised, and knows it. In a series full of tortured heroes, he’s a necessary counterpoint.


Carl Engle-Laird is the editorial assistant and resident Stormlight correspondent for Tor.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.

37 comments
Sean Dowell
1. qbe_64
I think my favourite thing about this re-read is that it's always posted exactly on time. 12pm Thursday, set your watch.

Oh poor unfortunate Gaz! Representing middle management everywhere. Scorned by those above and below, he's in a tough spot. No idea what Lamaril has over him, perhaps keeping him off the crews? I don't think we get another viewpoint from Gaz before he disappears. I don't think we get any insight as to whether Gaz's mood had changed between Lamaril being executed and Gaz disappearing. Unless the incoming light-eyes continued the extortion, you'd think Gaz's mood would have improved considerably. I kinda like Gaz, I hope he ends up being okay.
Adam S.
2. MDNY
This is a Kaladin chapter, but it's other characters that make this chapter really interesting for me. Most important is Syl, who does indeed seem to be getting more sophisticated by the minute. I loved the comment about a little translucent philosopher and sending her off to a monastery. Then there's Moash, the reluctant follower who proves himself capable. And of course Gaz. Wer're led to infer that Gaz died later, when he vanishes, but I'm not sure that's the case. Gaz seems too built up as a complex character, not entirely evil, as much a victim as the bridgemen. I'm not saying he'll return, but I wouldn't be shocked if he popped up again. I agree that the sense of something in the darkness seems significant, though I can't say what it implies.
Deana Whitney
3. Braid_Tug
Until you said something about Gaz's potential madness, I'd written him off and was not expecting to see him again.

Now I'm wondering when and how he's going to show up again.
David Foster
4. ZenBossanova
I don't think Syl is just "like remembering". I think she is actually remembering things that happened to her back in the age of Heralds.

But Gaz, yes, he is a realized struggling multidimensional character. But honestly, so was Hitler. That isn't an excuse that keeps you from being evil any more than the good things in Dalinar's life are his excuse for being good.
Andrew Berenson
5. AndrewHB
Carl, I have to disagree with your opinions about Gaz. I have no sympathy for Gaz or his situation. As my 5th grade teacher was fond of saying, "If you want sympathy, look it up in the dictionary."

Thanks for reading my musings,
AndrewB
(aka the musespren)
Dixon Davis
8. KadesSwordElanor
I empathize with Gaz much the same way that I empathize with Slayer from WOT. His past and disability do not excuse his cruel intentions, but they do help me empathize.
Robert Dickinson
9. ChocolateRob
On a side note I wonder if Kaladin is always able to tell Syl apart from other Spren. There are several examples of him identifying her in different forms, is it a part of their bond?
He never seems to think that there is anything odd about how he is able to recognise her, whatever shape she may be at the time. Could be a coincidence, could be foreshadowing, could be a complete fabrication of my tired brain.
Alice Arneson
10. Wetlandernw
@several - "I'm planning for you to find out what happened to Gaz. There are sufficient clues that you can guess. But it is not explicitly stated, and I'm not going to say it's as obvious as Robert Jordan implied Asmodean's killer is. I was tempted to spell it out explicitly, but there wasn't a good place for it. I will probably answer it eventually, maybe in the next book, but until then you are free to theorize."

ChocolateRob @9 - You know, I'd never thought about that before. Once he accepts her presence, he doesn't ever really wonder "if that's her" - he just know it is, even in different forms. I'd guess it must be part of the bond.
Robert Dickinson
11. ChocolateRob
I'm also wondering if Syl could pretend to be a Shardblade.
She only seems to become natural or living things but could she take the form of a Shardblade (which could be a living thing for all I know) in order for Kaladin to bluff his way out of a dangerous encounter?
I can just picture some hapless soldier's face when the unarmed man he is facing inexplicably pulls a sword out of thin air. If she could pull it off I doubt anyone would hang around to question its validity, how many explanations could there readily be for a guy summoning a strange sword from nowhere?
Alice Arneson
12. Wetlandernw
Maybe that's where Shardblades come from...

(originally, I mean)
David Foster
13. ZenBossanova
It seems to me that I heard Sanderson say something writing about talking swords, and giving his take on it. It strongly expect Syl will become either shardblade, armor or both. I think that is where all shardblades/shardplate comes from. Notice, that when in battle, she is always swirling around him, almost as if she is trying to do the job of Real ShardPlate.
David Foster
14. ZenBossanova
By 'him' I meant Kaladin, not Sanderson, not that I can really rule that out either.
Nadine L.
15. travyl
I don't think Gaz has a "magical madness."
Unlike with brain damage, if you lose an eye, you are aware of the loss. He truly has a restricted field of vision.
I can easily believe that his character - being distrustful, extorted by his superiors, accepting bribes from the one's he commands, but at the same time fearing them and everyone - leads to the fear of what he doesn't see because of the lack of his eye. The spren he mentions is "just" a further developement of his suspicious and distrustful personality. Hm, it could be some kind of madness (delusional or schizophrenic disorder) but I still don't see why it has to be magical.
Alice Arneson
16. Wetlandernw
Zen @13 - Well, there's a talking sword in Warbreaker already. Are you sure that isn't what he was talking about? (Not having read the quotation, I wouldn't know.)

travyl @15 - I tend to concur that Gaz's fear is normal and natural, all things considered. I'm not even sure I would classify this as madness, magical or otherwise. I still wouldn't rule out a spren being there, though. I mean, why not?
David Foster
17. ZenBossanova
Looking back, all I can find are references to Warbreaker. I hate to think that I had that mixed up all this time.
Alice Arneson
18. Wetlandernw
Well, Words of Radiance is coming. Maybe we'll learn something new. :)
Confutus
19. Confutus
The herald icons for this chapter are Tanat and Vev, which are the usual combination for Kaladin, although most of what he is doing in this chapter is acting the soldier. Healing isn't particularly prominent.
Lamaril's comment that the primary purpose of bridgemen is to protect more valuable (better trained, better-equipped) soldiers is interesting. It's stated clearly but unobtrusively, but out of Kaladin's hearing and the idea hasn't even entered his mind. That's a nice little bit of foreshadowing. I also notice that Gaz permits and encourages Kaladin to go ahead with his side carry practice, in hopes that it will lead to a fatal disaster, while apparently Kaladin takes it as evidence that Gaz isn't quite such a monster as he seems after all.
Flint Timmins
20. Giovanotto
Wow, it's been a while since I've been able to comment! Glad to be back.

Kaladin shows some real leadership in how he deals with Moash. He doesn't surround himself with sycophants but instead appoints those most capable to be his liutenants, with the idea that he can earn their loyalty in due time.

I like Gaz's little POV here. I personally think that he senses the "symbol heads" that Shallan and Elhokar sense.
Maiane Bakroeva
21. Isilel
Well, as I have pointed out already, the whole "canon fodder" idea doesn't work out economically, not after the first few months when all the nearby habitable areas have been emptied of cheap slaves. They are losing how many bridgemen per run when a battle actually happens? A quarter of the whole complement? Yea, not seeing it. Boring realsm, I know.
It would have been different if they were enslaving people during their campaign and thus had a glut of them right there with the army.

And given the above rate of loss, it really doesn't make sense worrying about making Kaladin a martyr. In a couple of months all the bridgemen who served at the same time with him would be dead, and it isn't like they are inclined to interact with each other, so formation of any kind of cult transmitted from one "generation" of bridgemen to another s right out.

Not that I'd want Kaladin to die or anything and it is always great to see his leadership in action.

Also, a cleverer man than Sadeas may have offered the bridgemen some kind of (unrealistic) carrot, like winning the Shards is for soldiers, to motivate them to run faster, etc.
His system is not only cruel, but also not nearly as efficient as it could have been. But then, we know that he has a sloppy camp, undisciplined troops, etc., so he is clearly not the hotshot that he sees himself as ;).

Gaz? Who cares about Gaz? Personally, I am not interested in what happened to him. He is the banal face of evil, "we were only following orders" type, but his petty woes don't make him attention-worthy, IMHO.

Spren turning into Shards? Hm... I somehow don't see it. They may be instrumental in their creation, of course, but there seems to be a material/technological component too.
Confutus
22. BigMikey
is it just me or is anyone else seeing some strong similarities between this series and WOT series. Gaz' "madness" sound alot like the taint on saidin to me, the part about seeing shadows not really there. But I think this chapter is one of my favorite chapters in the book if not the best, there's a chapter coming up though that I think takes the cake for the best.
Birgit
23. birgit
Also, a cleverer man than Sadeas may have offered the bridgemen some
kind of (unrealistic) carrot, like winning the Shards is for soldiers,
to motivate them to run faster, etc.

Isn't there some rule that a bridgeman who survives enough bridge runs becomes a regular soldier, but nobody survives that long?
Dixon Davis
24. KadesSwordElanor
birgit

They get an assignment to a watch-post if they survive 100 runs.
Alice Arneson
25. Wetlandernw
Well, I'd say that qualifies as an unrealistic carrot...
Jeremy Guebert
26. jeremyguebert
Something I picked up on while reading this chapter was that Lamaril must have some really serious dirt on Gaz. Gaz is paying him for his continued silence, and it's this silence that is keeping him from being sent to the bridge crews. And, since we know that what would be a hanging offence in some armies gets people sent to the bridge crews here, I suspect he's done something rather unsavory that only he and Lamaril know about. It's not directly related to the story, and I suppose it's not really relevant, either, but still, I'm curious.
Maiane Bakroeva
27. Isilel
Birgit @23:

Yea, but survival is completely random in their situation, it is not a carrot that would push the bridgemen to excel and help make the runs more efficient. I was thinking about something more performance-oriented. And maybe not quite as unrealistic as the Shards... just very rare. In fact, having one or two success stories could have been rather helpful, IMHO.
Adam S.
28. MDNY
@Isilel: There is no reason for Sadeas to give the bridgemen performance-oriented goals. He has the mythical 100 runs reward, knowing that no one will ever survive 100 runs (though Kaladin might have if he had stayed and continued that long). Otherwise, he just needs men to run and distract the Parshendi from firing at the soldiers when they lay their bridges, and gets slaves (who are relatively cheap compared to arming real soldiers). The 100 run reward is just a way to get the bridgemen to continue their runs with a mythical carrot. There is no reason for him to get the bridgemen to perform better when the whole point of them is to die distracting the parshendi, and he needs new men generally within 4-5 runs (I'm not sure exactly what the half life of the average bridgeman is, but that's about what I would guess).
Confutus
29. Jasuni
@9 one time Kaladin took a moment to recognize her when she was human size (chapter 67)

@11 pretending to be a shardblade would go against Syl's nature. (too much like lying)

@21 not all of the bridgemen go on every run. And some runs don't have any bridgeman losses at all. With one or two bridge runs a week, Sadeas would be able to sustain this rate relatively easily. Once Sadeas teamed up with Dalinar, the bridge runs went to close to every day, which would strain the system, hence the parshman test. (bridge 4 surviving while only recieving injured from other bridge crews would help significantly) Also if Kaladin became a martyr, the bridgemen would rebel instantly (although whether bridge crews other than bridge four would participate is questionable)
andrew smith
30. sillyslovene
@21 - an additional point is made that Lamaril (and presumambly other light eyes) are concerned that normal soldiers are also taking note of Kaladin, presumambly respectfully. This could make all kinds of problems for the system, if a respectful relationship is built between regular soldiers and bridgemen, and then if the leader of the bridgemen who has earned that respect is 'martyred' you will have bigger problems, as it will not just be other condemned who will notice, but also your other soldiers.
Sean Taylor
31. Izzos
@28-I've been very curious about the half-life of bridgemen too. When we see Kaladin's second POV after becoming a bridgeman (I think) we are told that basically everyone in his original crew had died (except maybe one or two). I think he had been on the crew for about 2 weeks by then? Not sure on the exact numbers. At any rate, it seemed like a pretty high rate of turnover. By the time he becomes bridgeleader though, it seems that he has a pretty seasoned crew. By this time everyone is very clear on the rotation, the chore schedule, the fact that you have to bring your valuables with you on bridgeruns, the fact that you get unceremoniously searched after chasm duty, etc. They have also all had time to adopt the thorough despondancy charactersitic of bridgemen. So by appearences, it seems that the crew of B4 have been around for a while. But given the high rate of attrition, I also kinda thought that Kaladin was one of the most seasoned of bridgemen? But he's only been there for a month or so by this point. That means that whatever Teft, Rock, Moash et al did to earn bridgecrew fate, it happened fairly recently, ie the last few weeks? Don't have the text in front of me to confirm timelines, but does that sound about right?
Robert Dickinson
32. ChocolateRob
@ 29
He is shocked that there seems to be a person next to him but he still recognises her as Syl. I'm not saying that he always knows where she is, he simply seems to always recognise her when he sees her.

Syl not liking lies is not an absolute, she does not like killing but she recognises its neccessity at times. It she can help Kaladin avoid killing by bluffing I believe she would do it wholeheartedly. Do not forget that her initial personality is of a prankstress. She simply does not like Kaladin lying to his men as it is dishonorable, lying to his enemies is something else entirely.

Syl seems to have two contrasting personalities, that of a prankstress and that of an Honorspren. I fix this in my mind as her not being an Honorbeforereasonspren. She is honorable but also recognises a need for humility in it. Not rigid adhearance to tradition as some cultures may view honor (I'm looking at you Klingons) but simply as doing the decent thing as best you can while living life to the full as best you can.

Anyone up for a massive debate on the nature of Honor (or as I'm English - Honour) as seen through different, real or imagined, cultures? Jasnah we need you now.
Who wants to take on the errorgant role of member of the Assuredness Movement?
James Briggs
33. traveler
I think that Syl is to truthful to allow Kaladin or herself to use to much subterfuge when dealing with others. She may play pranks but when push comes to shove she was glad when Kaladin tells the truth ,
Alice Arneson
34. Wetlandernw
There's a big difference between a prank and a deception. While it's true that they don't have to be mutually exclusive, I don't think we've seen Syl do anything deceptive.
Robert Dickinson
35. ChocolateRob
The closest example I can think of for Syl using deception for a prank is when she leads Rock to a pile of dung instead of reeds. She lets him believe she is doing one thing but simply for her own amusement she does something else. It was harmless as deceptions go but it was a form of lying.

I think if she could pretend to be a Shardblade and if in doing so she could avoid someone's death she would. A bluff is a minor lie but it could save lives.
Obviously I don't know if she could do such a thing and even if she did it would likely have unpredictable repurcussions but it is an interesting idea.
Alice Arneson
36. Wetlandernw
Kaladin sighed. "This would be a lot easier if I could pin the duty change on Gaz."
"That wouldn't be very honest," Syl said, affronted.
"Why do you care so much about honesty?"
"I just do."
"Oh?" Kaladin said, grunting as he moved back to his work. "And leading men to piles of dung? How honest is that?"
"That's different. It was a joke."
"I fail to see how..."
They don't come back to this converstion again, but there are a couple of other times when the subject of honesty comes up, and Syl - particularly as she matures - seems to feel that personal honesty is of the highest value. I would not be at all surprised if she held it higher than life, even her own life.
andrew smith
37. sillyslovene
I don't know why (I certainly never paid attention to it consciously), but I have the impression/perception that as Syl continues to "develop," i.e. (re)gain memories, knowledge, etc, that the number and frequency of her pranks decrease. I really don't remember her doing much of anything prank-wise after Kaladin get's strung up... I guess I would need another re-read to know for certain. Anyone have anything specific? Or a count on her pranks and when/where they occur?

If that is the case, then that might say something important about the nature of the bond from her side of things: K gets phenomenal cosmic powers, she gets the opportunity to grow up/become mature/gain knowledge&experience?
Confutus
38. NightowlKnitter
Again, very late to the party, but for anyone who might be reading late like me, I would hazard that Syl would be very UNlikely to model herself after a shardblade, knowing how much she loathes them.

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