Welcome back to The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com. In the last chapter, Kaladin spoke “The Words” and changed the world, bringing back something that had been lost for ages.
This week we tackle the fallout from both that and Sadeas’s actions. Dalinar is stuck on the plateau, but Kaladin is coming for him come hell or Highstorm. And nothing stops Kaladin from his goals; once he sets his mind to something he gives it his all, even when confronted with the first Parshendi Shardbearer we see in action.
Chapter 68: Eshonai
Points of View: Adolin / Dalinar /Teft / Kaladin
Setting: The Shattered Plains, The Tower plateau
What Happens: Adolin is still in the thick of battle with the Parshendi after being marooned by Sadeas’s forces, but they push; thanks to the lone bridge team, they have a chance now. Adolin and Dalinar are doing everything they can to keep the Parshendi forces from totally overwhelming the remaining Kholin army, but they are still losing men. So far they’ve lost at least 1,000 soldiers, but the only choice is to fight. The Parshendi never leave any survivors, so they must get to that bridge.
Teft is in awe Kaladin as he defends the bridge; Kaladin holds his ground against the Parshendi that keep attacking him two or four at a time. Stormlight streams off of him, making him quick and strong. But Teft remembers:
It was more than the Stormlight. Teft had only a fragmentary recollection of the things his family had tried to teach him, but those memories all agreed. Stormlight did not grant skill. It could not make a man into something he was not. It enhanced, it strengthened, it invigorated.
Teft knows though that this is a true master at work with the spear, Stormlight or no. Teft orders two teams to support Kaladin while teams three and four help him take the right side. Lopen is to keep Kaladin supplied with spears as he is going through them with his strong strikes, breaking not only the Parshendi but the spears themselves.
Dalinar feels the weakening of his armor due to all the cracks and leaking Stormlight, and the weight of the suit bears down upon him more and more. Dalinar fears this was all for naught and that the bridgemen are already dead, but he takes solace that his men died trying and fighting for a goal. Dalinar finally reaches open ground and sees a group of Parshendi fighting the bridgemen, to his astonishment. Adolin soon catches up and Dalinar summarily orders him to support the bridgemen and hold it.
Dalinar turns back to the main battle and sees the Parshendi forces split to reveal a Parshendi Shardbearer. He moves forward, saying something Dalinar doesn’t understand. Dalinar is in no shape to fight a Shardbearer, but he tries to gain the advantage on the unsteady ground. Dalinar takes a blow to his forearm, shattering the plate. He then shears the rock under the Shardbearer, causing the Parshendi warrior to fall with it. Dalinar drops the broken gauntlet, then cuts another section of the rock which falls on the Shardbearer. Dalinar climbs down in hopes of getting to the Shardbearer before he recovers, but he is too slow due to his injured right leg. The Shardbearer stands and squares off with Dalinar while other Parshendi circle around to watch.
Kaladin is in his element with his spear against the Parshendi. As he twists around with the spear, energized with Stormlight, Syl twirls around him quicker than ever before. He moves smoothly from one attack into the next, never stopping. After he breaks a spear beyond use, he throws the remains at a Parshendi and catches a fresh one from Lopen.
Kaladin notices that the Parshendi focus on him and Moash instead of the injured fighters such as Skar or Teft. The Parshendi come at him in pairs, but never more than four at a time; eventually the attackers come without gems, so Kaladin can’t draw fresh Stormlight as before (though he still has plenty for the time being). The warpairs seem to respect his skills and he finds them more honorable then the Alethi. Finally some of the Kholin soldiers break through the Parshendi ranks, giving Kaladin and his men a moment to catch their breath. Kaladin dials back his Stormlight glow when he sees the first soldiers and fatigue catches up with him, but he remains standing. Kaladin asks for a report and learns they lost Malop, Earless Jaks, and Narm, along with five other wounded that Rock and Lopen are looking after. He orders his men back across the bridge except for Moash, who will accompany him.
Kaladin looks at all the incoming Alethi soldiers—not one without a wound of some kind—and starts to send them across the bridge, but many just stand about. He asks for someone in command, but it seems all the leaders are dead or elsewhere. He sees Adolin Kholin in the distance, but he’s busy fighting. Kaladin needs someone in command to order the retreat so he tells one soldier he has been promoted via field commission. The soldier questions it, but Kaladin tells him someone has to. The man salutes Kaladin and gets to work spreading orders to retreat over the bridge. Kaladin removes his carapace armor and goes in search of more leaders. He finds someone who looks important and asks why they aren’t moving more men across the bridge. Turns out the man is in the Cobalt Guard and they won’t leave while Adolin is still fighting, but they don’t know where Dalinar is right now. Kaladin sees no choice but to help in the battle to get the men across sooner. He breathes in more Stormlight from the Parshendi nearby, but not enough to make him glow brightly; he is still wary of revealing himself to the Alethi. He quickly tears an opening in the Parshendi forces and gets close to what looks to be a very tired Adolin in punctured armor.
Kaladin asks Adolin to sound the retreat, but Adolin won’t without his father. Kaladin says he will go for Dalinar, but Adolin has to fall back with his men to hold the bridge. Adolin orders a group of soldiers to go with Kaladin, and Kaladin orders Moash to go with Adolin. Kaladin fights through the Parshendi line and jumps out to open ground, then runs across to where more Parshendi are near Dalinar and steals more stormlight. The Alethi soldiers trail far behind.
Dalinar notices his horse is nearby, but he can’t get to it. A kick from the Parshendi shardbearer takes him down, followed by a blow to the helm. His helmet shatters and he drops his Blade, letting it evaporate. The Shardbearer stands over him and says:
“It is you,” the Parshendi Shardbearer said. “I have found you at last.”
Dalinar is dazed and can’t believe the Parshendi is talking to him—he thinks it has to be the blow he took to the head. He notices something going on behind him and briefly thinks it is Sadeas come to save him, but it turns out to be a man with a spear who looks like he’s glowing.
Kaladin arrives and immediately slams his spear into an opening in the enemy’s Shardplate near the knee, causing him to drop his Shardblade into mist. Kaladin then slams the spear into the opening again, dropping the Parshendi. Some of the Parshendi speak the words “Neshua Kadal” and begin singing a song, but Kaladin has no idea what it means. Kaladin pulls Dalinar’s horse over to the Highprince.
Dalinar is still dazed, but sees the Shardbearer is down. He goes to the man with his horse who orders him to get on. Dalinar wants to finish the Shardbearer, but Kaladin will not do so telling Dalinar:
“Well, your men won’t leave without you, and my men won’t leave without them. So you will get on your horse and we will escape this deathtrap. Do you understand?”
Dalinar nods in assent and shouts the retreat. He makes it atop his horse, but only barely. He pushes the horse forward and soon finds the spearman and his soldiers behind him. They reach the bridge and cross into relative safety. The Parshendi don’t follow, but do start singing the song signalling the Alethi retreat. From across the Plateau, Dalinar sees the Parshendi Shardbearer saluting him and returns the gesture. He orders triage setup for the injured, sure that the Parshendi won’t attack them again. He then eyes the bridge team and their leader, who had somehow faced down a Shardbearer. As he approaches he sees Kaladin sewing a wound closed on someone; this spearman is not only a skilled warrior, but knows healing as well. He also notices his slave brands on his head.
He commends the bridgemen on returning for him, but asks why there was only one bridge. He soon learns they came of their own volition, against Sadeas’s orders. Kaladin tells him they had planned to escape across the plains, but Dalinar offers to take them to the safety of his camp. Kaladin doesn’t think it will be that easy, as they are Sadeas’s property and it would mean war between Dalinar and Sadeas. Dalinar promises he will make it right and get them released, and Kaladin agrees to bring his men with Dalinar. Dalinar ponders the possibility of this action shattering the Alethi alliance.
Quote of the Chapter:
“He’s like a part of the wind itself,” Drehy said. “Pulled down and given life. Not a man at all. A spren.”
“Sigzil?” Skar asked, eyes wide. “You ever seen anything like this?”
The dark-skinned man shook his head.
“Stormfather,” Peet whispered. “What... what is he?”
“He’s our bridgeleader,” Teft said, snapping out of his reverie.
Darn right, Teft. No matter what Kaladin may be he is their leader. Kaladin has been unleashed like never before, but awe is the first reaction. I wonder if this will be indicative of the kind of reaction Kaladin will engender when he reveals himself more fully in the future. Somehow it will probably be a bumpier road with some Alethi denying what he is while others may fall over themselves thinking he is the Stormfather reborn.
The men of Bridge Four don’t know how to take Kaladin in this moment. To them he would be close to a warrior god right now, which really isn’t far off from what a Radiant is. Though the team has come to know Kaladin through his words and actions they—well most of them—weren’t expecting anything like this. They’re the first (along with the Parshendi across the plateau) to see a Radiant in action in thousands of years and they’ll most likely be the ones to help spread his legend in the future as they get deeper involved in the coming Desolation. Because these men are being set up as this generation’s heroes and Kaladin is going to doing is best to make them ready to face what comes.
That was a hard chapter to read from Dalinar’s point of view, but just so enthralling. The fractured nature of the views—four POVs this time—again puts the grandeur and importance of the battle in perspective. Dalinar could have died many times and part of me during the first read through thought he very well might and be the one to inspire Adolin and Kaladin to “unite them.” But our hero Kaladin came to his rescue letting Dalinar live to fight another day.
Examining the reasons for Kaladin rescuing Dalinar isn’t about saving the man, but making sure he saves the most people with Dalinar. He wants those soldiers off the plateau or else he put his whole team at risk for nothing. He already lost men coming back and just wants to save any lives he can with a retreat.
Kaladin could sure use Talenel’s spear at this point or at least something hardier that could keep up with him, but at least it gives Lopen something to do. Kaladin finally faces foes he feels are worthy and they show him respect, which he has never had from Alethi enemies he faced on the battlefield. Kaladin quickly realizes something that most Alethi haven’t: that the Parshendi aren’t merely some backward tribe, but trained and effective warriors working in tandem with one another even beyond the warpairs. The Parshendi also seemed to have given him a name “Neshua Kadal” and although we don’t have much to work with I would bet it is a reference to Kaladin being a Radiant or at least his Windrunner/Surgebinging skills. They clearly realize he is channel Stormlight, which is what sets him apart from the rest of bridgemen and Alethi they see during the battles.
I’m not going to get deep into it, but things with the Parshendi Shardbearer are not exactly as Dalinar and Kaladin see it. Words of Radiance enlightens us much in regards to who this particular warrior is and their aims. The title of the chapter is linked to this as well as it was one of the most enigmatic titles in all of The Way of Kings.
The Shardbearer and other Parshendi let Dalinar and Kaladin retreat. If they really wanted to destroy the Alethi Highprince why stop? There are deeper reasons at work here with the Parshendi and only time will let their true motivations. Is it honor or something more? The Shardbearer was trying to talk to Dalinar and gave up opportunities to kill him outright, especially at the end when they were looming over Dalinar. Dalinar never paid the Parshendi the same service and even at the end considered trying to finish them off and take their armor for Renarin. That man sure does love fulfilling his promises doesn’t he?
The clarity and familiarity of the old spear forms, learned during the most terrible time in his life.
It is interesting to see Kaladin considers not his time in the bridge crew the worst time of his life, but the period around when he lost Tien. That says a lot given what we’ve seen him go through. In this regard Kaladin should only have better days in Words of Radiance as his position in life will have changed greatly. I’m sure he’ll have hardships and loss, but hopefully nothing that cuts as deeply as the loss of Tien. One thing that may work against him is his attitude. Kaladin sure is surly towards every lighteyes he talks to from the Cobalt Guard to Adolin and Dalinar. He orders each of them about though it is funny that Adolin and Dalinar acquiesce more so than the Cobalt Guard did though they were in dire straits at the time. What will it take to lighten Kaladin up? Or will he never have someone like Tien in his life to make his smile again?
Dalinar and Kaladin have finally come together. His promise to Kaladin is important to them both more than either realizes. For Kaladin it will mean trusting a high born lighteyes for the first time in a very long time. For Dalinar it means his honor, which is above all other things to him. They must do good things together and Dalinar will get the ball rolling with the next chapter when he confronts Sadeas.