Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here at Tor.com. Last week Dalinar and Adolin came back to the forefront of the story with one of the most memorable visions we’ve seen yet.
This week we tackle another sad episode in Kaladin’s life and Dalinar finally gets cleared—well sort of—in the case of the King and the slit girth.
Chapter 53: Dunny
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: Bridge Four is out on a bridge run and it is a messy one. The Parshendi continue to sing as they shoot at the bridge teams. An arrow scrapes Kaladin’s face, cutting it. Bridge Twenty falls to the Parshendi arrow onslaught, causing the men behind them to trip over their injured and dead bodies. As the Parshendi directly across from Kaladin aim at his crew, he screams and feels “a strange surge of strength as the arrows were loosed.” Ten arrows strike the bridge near Kaladin’s head, yet none hit him or his men. The Parshendi archers look dumbstruck and lower their bows as they stare at Kaladin.
Bridge Four makes it to the edge of the plateau and lower their bridge. The Parshendi take up their bows again, but even as they fire, Bridge Four slide their burden into place. The men of Bridge Four move nimbly and erratically like a trained soldier should. Kaladin hopes their training doesn’t show too much lest it bring down Gaz or some lighteyes’ wrath upon them.
Kaladin spots Dunny on the far side of the bridge with an Alethi arrow in his shoulder. Soon a second Parshendi arrow hits Dunny and he falls over, bleeding profusely. Kaladin makes to run out to the fallen bridgemen, but is pulled back by Moash. Sadeas’s cavalry overruns the bridge, trampling Dunny. Moash holds Kaladin down and apologizes, saying there was nothing he could have done to save Dunny. Even though Kaladin knows Moash is right, he blames himself for the young man’s death.
Kaladin walks to the edge of the chasm to watch the battle unfold as his men gather around him. Kaladin tries to pay attention to the battle, but he can’t concentrate and walks away. His men follow him over to where Bridge Eight is recuperating from the bridge run.
A member of Bridge Eight with a arrow through his leg crawls toward Kaladin’s group. Kaladin orders his men to start a fire and get the medical supplies to tend to the wound. Rock and some of the other men question why they should help a member of another bridge team; the other groups have never been nice to them and their own supplies are running low. Kaladin explains they must be better than the so-called “noble” lighteyes, and that the only man who truly had honor would help anyone, even those he hated. He then orders his men to work.
Kaladin removes the shaft from the man’s leg and sets about fixing it up. He tells the bridgeman they will carry him back to camp, which causes the man to cry and thank Kaladin. Rock and Moash bring over another wounded man whom Kaladin then tends to.
Teft worries about how many men they can bring back like this. For every answer Kaladin gives, Teft has another objection. Teft is silent for a moment before saying, “Kelek’s breath. It’s true. I never thought...” He asks if Kaladin is still carrying a pouch of spheres. Kaladin assumes there was something wrong with the spheres, as they seem to loose their energy quickly, and thinks it may have happened due to something out on the Shattered Plains. Teft points out they didn’t lose any men on the approach. Kaladin objects, given Dunny’s death, but Teft qualifies that Dunny died after the run.
Rock and his men bring three more injured men to Kaladin. One is too badly injured to save, but the others he fixes up as best he can. Kaladin then checks his own injury only to find that there is no wound under the blood on his face.
Moash approaches Kaladin and begins to speak, “About Dunny...” Kaladin interrupts and tells Moash that he was right to hold Kaladin back, especially as he had probably saved his life. Moash extends his hand to Kaladin, adding, “You’re a fool and an instigator. But you’re an honest one [...] If you get us killed, it won’t be on purpose.”
Quote of the Chapter:
“He must pick it up, the fallen title! The tower, the crown, and the spear!”
This epigraph was a mystery to me upon early readings, but now after all the attention it has to be in reference to Kaladin’s future. Kaladin will be instrumental in saving Dalinar and by extension House Kholin, whose house symbol is represented by a tower and crown. The spear could only be Talenelat’s dropped spear, which we’ll see much, much later. And finally the fallen title would be Knights Radiant or Windrunner though it could be something more specific such as their leader’s title if they have one.
Commentary: Poor, poor Dunny. That was another rough battle for Kaladin, given the death of one of his earliest supporters. Every death seems to hit him just as hard as the first, but if he didn’t take that loss so personally he wouldn’t be the hero Roshar needs. Bridge Four lost their singer, who I would have thought could have made things interesting later on, but alas youthful Dunny wasn’t meant to stick around.
Kaladin is again unconsciously channel Stormlight again Lashing arrows around him like we’ve seen before, but more people are noticing including the Parshendi. Teft really just needs to come out and tell Kaladin what is going on instead of all this beating around the bush he’s been up to for his last few appearances. It is coming, but a little too slowly.
What role will Shen play in the future? The story so far seems to allude that he will betray them somehow, but I don’t see it being that simple. He is working to be one of Bridge Four very hard. What would a Radiant Parshman be like? Or could he simply end up being the bridge between the Alethi and Parshendi?
Kaladin finally mentioned his father and in a much better light than I had been expecting.
“The lighteyes talk about honor. They spout empty claims about their nobility. Well, I’ve only known one man in my life who was a true man of honor. He was a surgeon who would help anyone, even those who hated him. Especially those who hated him. Well, we’re going to show Gaz, and Sadeas, Hashal, and any other sodden fool who cares to watch, what he taught me. Now go to work and stop complaining!”
With a child’s eyes Lirin probably appeared very weak, but now that Kaladin knows the value of life and healing he has no better role model. The warriors he so looked up to when he was young have turned out to be the worst thing that has come into his life. The lighteyed warriors failed him while his father helped build him into the man he is today. Kaladin’s actions today with the bridgemen that weren’t his own only cement his legend further.
What Happens: Dalinar is late to a dinner on the king’s feasting island. Upon arrival he notices a new type of fabrial that gives off heat. He passes by Navani, who turns away when he looks her way. Wit is missing from his usual station on a pedestal to greet incomers. All of the other highprinces are accounted for on the island; they give Dalinar a wide berth ever since he asked each of them to join him on plateau runs.
Dalinar sits at a table and orders food. Most others have already finished and are mingling. Dalinar has been waiting to hear Jasnah’s thoughts on his visions and Navani’s plan to verify some of the facts from them, but thus far his niece has been silent. He worried that Navani would use his visions against him some way, but realizes she cares for him—however, he doesn’t think her affections are properly placed. He doesn’t have many friends after inadvertently alienating all the highprinces with his talk of the codes and banding together. With Sadeas taking over and investigating Dalinar regarding the king’s saddle, he has even a wider gap between himself and everyone else.
A hooded Wit sits down next to Dalinar silently. Wit starts speaking about a whirlwind and how they are all a part of it, but don’t notice it. Dalinar doesn’t know what he is getting on about and says as much. Wit then asks him if he has heard of the term Adonalsium, which he had not. Wit goes on to say it was a nonsense word and then goes on a tear about pulling a man apart bit-by-bit and then putting him back together like a Dysian Aimian. Wit says you should call such a man like that Gibletish.
Dalinar wonders aloud if that is Wit’s real name, but Wit says he has given up his real name, though he can be called Wit or Hoid. He also mentions that Sadeas is planning on some sort of revelation tonight. Wit then tells Dalinar he’s leaving and he’ll be back if he lives, and maybe even if he doesn’t. He leaves Dalinar with these words:
“Watch yourself, Dalinar. Life becomes dangerous, and you’re at the center of it.”
Dalinar sends an order for Adolin to join him. When Dalinar tells him the news about Sadeas, Adolin wants him to leave immediately, but Dalinar says to instead prepare for the worst and get some of his guards on the island. Adolin does so while also mentioning many of the King’s Guard are also loyal to Dalinar. Dalinar passes the time by joining a group speaking with Highprince Hatham. With him are some lesser lighteyes as well as an ardent and a Natan man named Au-nak. Hatham brings up the conflict between the Tukari and Emuli. Dalinar describes it as a religious conflict, but Au-nak said it’s more economically motivated and if anything religion was a justification, but it was related to money all the same. Au-nak says the was really about Sesemalex Dar as it is a trade city controlled by the Emuli that the Tukari want. He also adds that Sesemalex Dar must be one of the Dawncities. Dalinar asks if any had heard of Feverstone Keep, which none had. Hatham asks what devotary Dalinar was part of. The Order of Talenelat is his answer, which Hatham thinks fitting given Dalinar’s dislike of talk of religion. This leads to the ardent questioning the vehemence of Au-nak’s devotion to the Vorin religion, if he only follows it when around his Alethi friends for trade reasons. Au-nak takes offense and leaves. Hatham quickly follows and the ardent reveals Hatham asked him to offend the Natan in order to get a trade agreement done quickly. The ardent tells this to Dalinar to show that he has goodwill towards Dalinar and that they will speak again in the future.
The ardent leaves and Dalinar is joined by Adolin who confirms their soldiers are in place in case anything should happen. Dalinar decides to confront Sadeas. He walks up to Elhokar and Sadeas and asks for an update on the investigation into the King’s saddle and cut girth. Sadeas at first hesitates, but with the King’s urging he reveals his findings as the Highprince of Information. The separate leather workers said it had been cut, and not by accident. Sadeas then brings forth Fin, a groom who works for the king. Sadeas brings up that eight of the infused sapphires in the king’s Shardplate had broken during the battle, which was very unusual. It is common to lose a few stones during a battle, but not eight. Fin explains that he had prepared the saddle the day of the hunt, but when he saw the horse later it was wearing a different saddle, which could have only been done in the King’s complex. That should rule out Dalinar and his men as suspects.
Sadeas’s concludes that someone was trying to frame Dalinar for attempting to kill the king, and may also have been responsible for putting flawed gemstones in the king’s Shardplate. Sadeas reaffirms his belief that Dalinar could not have done any of this, though the real culprit may be someone Dalinar has offended.
Dalinar thanks Sadeas for his findings. Sadeas says he was trying to prove him innocent all along and no matter what people would still talk about Dalinar as a suspect. Sadeas says he still thinks there is someone trying to kill Elhokar and that the same people might be responsible for the chasmfiend showing up when it did. He can’t accept eight gems breaking during one battle as a coincident. Dalinar again says he owes Sadeas and that he was sorry how he treated him the last six years. Sadeas asks if he is still trying to abandon the Vengeance Pact. Dalinar says he had given that up, but that he is tired of fighting and wants to beat the Parshendi for good. Dalinar asks Sadeas to join him on a plateau run. Sadeas isn’t interested at first, but Dalinar promises the first Shardblade to him with the first Shardplate to go to Renarian, but that any gemhearts would be split with two-thirds going to Sadeas. Sadeas eventually agrees and tells him to send details by a messenger.
Quote of the Chapter:
“Ally with me,” Dalinar said after him.
“You know I’m not going to betray you, Sadeas,” Dalinar said. “You trust me as the others never can. Try what I’ve been trying to get the other highprinces to agree to. Jointly assault plateaus with me.”
NO! Dalinar don’t do it! D’oh!
Commentary: Dalinar narrowly avoided one pit of snakes only to situate himself with the Highprince of Snakes, Sadeas. We all know how that is going to come back to bite him. So Dalinar is a devotee of Talenelat, which makes all kinds of sense. The epigraph to the chapter also seems to be a reference to Talenelat. Dalinar definitely embodies the essence Talenelat is associated with being so dependable and resourceful though it seems Dalinar has focused on the former instead of the latter.
Wit was quite interesting this go around, but he always seems to be. Point blank Wit asks Dalinar if he knows about Adonalsium. It seems he wanted to test Dalinar’s knowledge though he had none on this subject. Yet Wit does seem to know about Dalinar’s visions in some fashion with all the talk of foolishness of men who care, but is Wit part of the group exploiting people in the first group? In a fashion that does make sense as Wit knows more about what is going on than probably a few others on Roshar. It does seems convenient that tonight is when Wit, now fully revealed to be Hoid, is leaving the side of Elhokar and it makes me think he had a part in the slitting of the girth, especially in light of Sadeas figuring out the changing the saddles could only of happened in the king’s compound. Though the only reason I can think he did it was to pay someone back for something. Still I think the likelihood of Hoid wanting to do harm to Elhokar are unlikely, but him wanting to make the situation more complicated for his own purposes? Absolutely.
Wit mentioned the Dysian Aimian, a race alluded to earlier that we will have to see at some point that sound like some crazy looking shapeshifters. He also mentions the cosmere as he is leaving though that is an accepted term on this world. I think this is one of the few times in my life I’d enjoy a long theology discussion, but it would have to be with Jasnah, Wit, or a fairly open ardent.
Speaking of ardents the one Dalinar encounters is definitely up to something. My first guess is he is with the Ghostbloods or perhaps with whatever group Kabsal was part of, if they weren’t in fact the Ghostbloods. This man surely has some sort of interest in Dalinar that won’t end here.
Throughout The Way of Kings we have mentions of old fabrials such as the Soulcaster and even the Regrowth related one Dalinar sees in one of his visions, but it seems that this world is at the crux of its own technological revolution with fabrials. There are the proximity alarms seen in an early Interlude as well as the heat fabrials seen in this chapter in addition to the biggest military entrant: the so-called half-shard shields first seen in Szeth’s bloody run in Jah Keved. I can’t wait to see what else is yet to be revealed with these wondrous devices.
Join us next week when Carl will be back to tackle the next Kaladin chapter.
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.