Thu
Apr 17 2014 11:00am

The Way of Kings Reread: Chapter 68

Brandon Sanderson The Way of Kings reread 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.

It perfected.

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.

Commentary:

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.


Michael Pye 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.

22 comments
Adam S.
1. MDNY
Great action, BWS in his element. I was glad that the Lopen had something to do, never count out a Herdazian just because he has one arm (He's " 'armless" to borrow a Lopen joke from WOR). The chapter title threw me off a bit, I had no clue what it referred to until some post-reading contemplation.
Teft really is in his element in this chapter, just like Kaladin. It seems that Kaladin really did end up with the perfect group of men to help him on his journey through the series. They are all men of honor (and Honor is central to the series, being one of the key shards.)
I wonder if there is some deeper purpose to the parshendi wearing gemstones in their beards....haven't read anything about that yet, but it still makes me wonder....
Deana Whitney
2. Braid_Tug
The Brandon cascade! in POV change form.
It's rather odd to have the "enemy" realize what you are before your fellow soldiers.
But this was just one of those amazing moments in print. You just see the movie Brandon had in his head while writing it.
Nadine L.
3. travyl
I still don't really understand why the Parshendi just watch as Kaladin pulls Dalinar to safety, instead of trying to get another set of Shardblade and plate.
Kaladin ist just great in this chapter, you could even say awesome, but that might be spoilerific ;) I especially like how he "promoted" the Lighteyes and of course the end, where he and Dalinar talk.

I have one minor problem, and that is with mathematics:
Eight had marched to battle, and they became eight again—though several had only a few hundred members remaining.
I know it's not truly an error, but 2600 surviving men, divided by 8 gives an average of 325 men, so the statement "several had only a few hundreds" feels wrong to me. It' be more likely that some had barely a hundred members left) ...
Walker White
4. Walker
Why are you still claiming that Talenel's sword is a spear? Where did this become canon?
James Briggs
5. traveler
The spear was a good description of a Halbard which is a shaft with half of a sword at the end. I dont know if any one rread the WOT but the description also matches the Ashendari that Matt Cauthon fought with and matt was an expert with a cuarter staff.
James Briggs
6. traveler
3Travyl , I think that it was a matter of honor not to get involved with shard bearers , and she didnt chalenge Dalinar until his plate was almost spentso kaladin coming in glowing startled them
Leeland Woodard
7. TheKingOfCarrotFlowers
Chapter 68 is titled "Eshonai" for the Parshendi shardbearer.

The herald icons for the chapter are Chach/Shash.

The divine attributes for Chach are brave/obedient. I would assume that this is there for the men more than anything else. We get PoVs from some of Kaladin's men, and it obviously took a lot of bravery for them to hold a bridge against a whole army.

The divine attributes for Shash are creative/honest. We don't often see Shash outside of the Shallan chapters, and I didn't really see any particular reason for its inclusion here, but there must be one, or I would assume that Jez (protecting/leading) or Tanat (dependable/resourceful) would have been the icon here. Perhaps in this chapter, Shash is representing destruction rather than creativity. Anyhow, all that is just a fancy way of saying "I don't know what that's doing here."

Oh, also, something interesting that I noticed that is a slight WoR spoiler: Did anyone else catch Teft saying that his wound didn't hurt as much as it should have? I'm pretty sure this is the squire abilities starting to manifest in Kaladin's men. Totally didn't notice it until now, but it seems pretty clear to me that Teft was getting some minor healing.
Andrew Berenson
8. AndrewHB
I take it that by the Parshendi Shardbearer's comments, that individual did not recognize Dalinar at first. Otherwise the Parshendi would not have started to fight with Dalinar. I do not have the text at hand and it is unclear from the above summary who started to fight first -- but what is clear is that the Parshendi Shardbearer was battling Dalinar before the Parshendi Sharbearer realized whom Parshedi Shardbearer was fighting.

Thanks for reading my musings,
AndrewB
Blue Print
9. Blue Print
#3. Never expect an author to do that kind of mathematical literacy. I still am bothered by Heinlein's Starman Jones, when the ship jumps 105, 487, and 19 lightyears to achieve a straight line distance of less than 250 lightyears (which isn't mathematically possible). Just ignore it and enjoy the story. Perhaps Brandon should put a mathematician on retainer. (Note: I will do it for free just to get advanced copies of his books).
Blue Print
10. Jasuni
@3 math - if 5 of the companies had a little over 200 soldiers survivng, the remaining 3 companies could have around 500 soldiers each. I think the math works out very well here.

@7 the second icon is actually Betab, which has the divine attributes of wise and careful.
Leeland Woodard
11. TheKingOfCarrotFlowers
@10

Dangit, I have been making all kinds of mistakes with this recently.

Well, the wise/careful thing is probably there because of Kaladin's insistence that they retreat as soon as possible. Dang, that makes more sense.
Alice Arneson
12. Wetlandernw
Re: the numbers - No call to be snarky about authors being unable to do basic arithmetic. Just keep in mind that this is Dalinar's very tired mind, immediately after escaping the Tower and confirming that the Parshendi won't follow, thinking that "several (battalions) had only a few hundred members remaining." How clearly can he see all his troops? Can he tell at a glance that none of the battalions have more than a few hundred remaining?

During the battle, Dalinar went from winning, to betrayed, to realizing that his entire army was going to die right after he did. Even after he saw Bridge Four coming back, he knew there was only a slim chance at survival, then he was sure it was lost again; then just as he realized the bridgemen were still alive and holding, the Parshendi Shardbearer arrived, and everything looked lost yet again. Miraculously, he was rescued, and escaped with his son and what was left of his army. As they reassembled after escaping, he could see that several battalions, each of which had started with a full thousand, now only have a few hundred left. Later, as they marched back in formation, with the actual survivor counts, we're told the final numbers - he lost a full two-thirds of his men to Sadeas's betrayal. I think our peek into Dalinar's thought processes are used very deliberately to give us the same kind of high-low-high-low feeling, ending with a pretty grim tale.

Yes, this is the kind of numbers issue that beta readers try to catch; sometimes they don't catch it - and sometimes the author deliberately doesn't change it even if they do, because he did it that way on purpose. I wouldn't lean too heavily on it being error unless a subsequent printing changes the wording. I suspect this was a conscious choice.
Nadine L.
13. travyl
@12, I wasn't trying to be snarky and I did say it is n0t an error but a problem. (I'll post another problem/question at chapter 70, not math there).
For me, "a few hundred" felt too much, because it's the count of the companies that suffered the most casualties. In the state of mind I was (in Dalinar's head), I obviously felt even more depressed and pesimistic as Dalinar himself, and therefore I "suggested" barely a hundred (even if this would have been to few).
I'm n0t suggesting BWS has to change it though.
Alice Arneson
14. Wetlandernw
travyl @13 - I'm sorry, I didn't direct that, did I? The snark was @9, with the suggestion that authors are incapable of "mathematical literacy."

I honestly don't know (since I didn't beta WoK) whether that was something the beta readers caught but Brandon decided not to change, or if it's something they missed. I'm merely suggesting one path of reasoning that could lead to the wording as it stands. I know this kind of thing can indeed slip through, but I also know that Peter and Brandon are both quite "mathematically literate" - not to say obsessive about getting the numbers right - so I'm reluctant to dismiss it as "author fail" (see @9...).
Leeland Woodard
15. TheKingOfCarrotFlowers
@14

Yeah, I'd say that Brandon and Peter know and have figured out enough about the orbits of the planets in the Roshar system that I'm confident that they're decent with math. At least decent enough to understand Kepler's laws.
Alice Arneson
16. Wetlandernw
Also decent enough to base the Rosharan map on a Julia Set... which is way above my pay grade, and I'm an engineer! So while I'm not ruling out the possibility that it's as simple as "no one made the connection between the implied 3500-or-so in Ch. 68 and the 2653 specified in Ch. 69" - I certainly see the possibility that Dalinar's thought in Ch. 68 was not meant to be mathematically accurate. It even mentions in the next sentence that the officers were busy doing triage and getting survivor counts, so it seems like this may be deliberately vague.
Nadine L.
17. travyl
Yes in the light of "that" it seems clear that Dalinar made the wrong estimation about the remainder of the survivors and it was intentional by Brandon.
Jeremy Guebert
18. jeremyguebert
I'm pretty firmly in the "Brandon is brilliant and does what he does on purpose" camp, but one thing did seem odd to me regarding numbers in the last few chapters.

When they are preparing to head out to assault the Tower initially, Dalinar gives orders for the Fourth through Eight battalions to make ready. To my mind, that implies 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, for a total of five battalions. Yet, when discussing marching and survivor counts, etc., they refer to 8 companies. (I don't have the book with me, so I may have the exact terms they use for
battalion and company wrong, sorry). Having multiple companies per battalion makes sense to me, so I'm not bothered that there are more, per se, but I'm confused as to how five battalions split into these eight companies. If my assumption about the number of battalions being sent out in total is correct, this would imply that some battalions have different numbers of companies within them, which doesn't quite make sense to me. I'm no military expert by any means, but my understanding was that any similar unit should be the same as the next so that they can be used interchangeably.

Did anyone else notice that, or have a good explanation for this? Any insight would be appreciated, thanks.
Gerd K
19. Kah-thurak
@18 jeremyguebert
The batallions could belong to different troop types (engineers, heavy infantry, light infantry, cavalry, archers) which have different sub-structures.
Jeremy Guebert
20. jeremyguebert
Ah, okay. That would make sense, then. Unless Peter comes in and gives official word to the contrary, that answer works for me.

Thanks!
Christopher Ballew
21. Rybal
The separation of the batallions within each larger company could also explain why there would be an uneven distribution of the remaining soldiers following the battle.
Karen Fox
22. thepupxpert
Hi everyone, I'm pingponging between this reread and Wet's spoiler review of WOR and I still think this is one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring moments of both books. As a reader, I was left with my mouth hanging open along with Kaladin's bridgement as well!

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