Tue
Dec 10 2013 1:00pm

Words of Radiance: “Lift” (Excerpt)

illustration by dominick saponaro

Lift Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Excerpt

Words of Radiance is coming, and we're delighted to be able to share with you this stand-alone excerpt from the book!

“Lift,” by Brandon Sanderson, is an interlude chapter from his upcoming novel, but new readers or those afraid of spoilers need not fear; it introduces a new character and a new land entirely removed from the plot of The Way of Kings, and stands very well on its own.

Lift, a young thief who augments her skills with some magical “awesomeness,” infiltrates a palace where a council of viziers is choosing their new supreme leader from a large pack of applications. She wants to steal their dinners, but is being chased by a terrifying lawman she calls “Darkness.”

What kind of magic is she using? Is the word “awesomeness” commonplace in this part of Roshar? Read on!

 

Lift

Lift had never robbed a palace before. Seemed like a dangerous thing to try. Not because she might get caught, but because once you robbed a starvin’ palace, where did you go next?

She climbed up onto the outer wall and looked in at the grounds. Everything inside—trees, rocks, buildings—reflected the starlight in an odd way. A bulbous-looking building stuck up in the middle of it all, like a bubble on a pond. In fact, most of the buildings were that same round shape, often with small protrusions sprouting out of the top. There wasn’t a straight line in the whole starvin’ place. Just lots and lots of curves.

Lift’s companions climbed up to peek over the top of the wall. A scuffling, scrambling, rowdy mess they were. Six men, supposedly master thieves. They couldn’t even climb a wall properly.

“The Bronze Palace itself,” Huqin breathed.

“Bronze? Is that what everythin’ is made of?” Lift asked, sitting on the wall with one leg over the side. “Looks like a bunch of breasts.”

The men looked at her, aghast. They were all Azish, with dark skin and hair. She was Reshi, from the islands up north. Her mother had told her that, though Lift had never seen the place.

“What?” Huqin demanded.

“Breasts,” Lift said, pointing. “See, like a lady layin’ on her back. Those points on the tops are nipples. Bloke who built this place musta been single for a looong time.”

Huqin turned to one of his companions. Using their ropes, they scuttled back down the outside of the wall to hold a whispered conference.

“Grounds at this end look empty, as my informant indicated would be the case,” Huqin said. He was in charge of the lot of them. Had a nose like someone had taken hold of it when he was a kid and pulled real, real hard. Lift was surprised he didn’t smack people in the face with it when he turned.

“Everyone’s focused on choosing the new Prime Aqasix,” said Maxin. “We could really do this. Rob the Bronze Palace itself, and right under the nose of the vizierate.”

“Is it...um...safe?” asked Huqin’s nephew. He was in his teens, and puberty hadn’t been kind to him. Not with that face, that voice, and those spindly legs.

“Hush,” Huqin snapped.

“No,” Tigzikk said, “the boy is right to express caution. This will be very dangerous.”

Tigzikk was considered the learned one in the group on account of his being able to cuss in three languages. Downright scholarly, that was. He wore fancy clothing, while most of the others wore black. “There will be chaos,” Tigzikk continued, “because so many people move through the palace tonight, but there will also be danger. Many, many bodyguards and a likelihood of suspicion on all sides.”

Tigzikk was an aging fellow, and was the only one of the group Lift knew well. She couldn’t say his name. That “quq” sound on the end of his name sounded like choking when someone pronounced it correctly. She just called him Tig instead.

“Tigzikk,” Huqin said. Yup. Choking. “You were the one who suggested this. Don’t tell me you’re getting cold now.”

“I’m not backing down. I’m pleading caution.”

Lift leaned down over the wall toward them. “Less arguing,” she said. “Let’s move. I’m hungry.”

Huqin looked up. “Why did we bring her along?”

“She’ll be useful,” Tigzikk said. “You’ll see.”

“She’s just a child!”

“She’s a youth. She’s at least twelve.”

“I ain’t twelve,” Lift snapped, looming over them.

They turned up toward her.

“I ain’t,” she said. “Twelve’s an unlucky number.” She held up her hands. “I’m only this many.”

“...Ten?” Tigzikk asked.

“Is that how many that is? Sure, then. Ten.” She lowered her hands. “If I can’t count it on my fingers, it’s unlucky.” And she’d been that many for three years now. So there.

“Seems like there are a lot of unlucky ages,” Huqin said, sounding amused.

“Sure are,” she agreed. She scanned the grounds again, then glanced back the way they had come, into the city.

A man walked down one of the streets leading to the palace. His dark clothing blended into the gloom, but his silver buttons glinted each time he passed a streetlight.

Storms, she thought, a chill running up her spine. I didn’t lose him after all.

She looked down at the men. “Are you coming with me or not? ’Cuz I’m leaving.” She slipped over the top and dropped into the palace yards. Lift squatted there, feeling the cold ground. Yup, it was metal. Everything was bronze. Rich people, she decided, loved to stick with a theme.

As the boys finally stopped arguing and started climbing, a thin, twisting trail of vines grew out of the darkness and approached Lift. It looked like a little stream of spilled water picking its way across the floor. Here and there, bits of clear crystal peeked out of the vines, like sections of quartz in otherwise dark stone. Those weren’t sharp, but smooth like polished glass, and didn’t glow with Stormlight.

The vines grew super-fast, curling about one another in a tangle that formed a face.

“Mistress,” the face said. “Is this wise?”

“’Ello, Voidbringer,” Lift said, scanning the grounds.

“I am not a Voidbringer!” he said. “And you know it. Just...just stop saying that!”

Lift grinned. “You’re my pet Voidbringer, and no lies are going to change that. I got you captured. No stealing souls, now. We ain’t here for souls. Just a little thievery, the type what never hurt nobody.”

The vine face—he called himself Wyndle—sighed. Lift scuttled across the bronze ground over to a tree that was, of course, also made of bronze. Huqin had chosen the darkest part of night, between moons, for them to slip in—but the starlight was enough to see by on a cloudless night like this.

Wyndle grew up to her, leaving a small trail of vines that people didn’t seem to be able to see. The vines hardened after a few moments of sitting, as if briefly becoming solid crystal, then they crumbled to dust. People spotted that on occasion, though they certainly couldn’t see Wyndle himself.

“I’m a spren,” Wyndle said to her. “Part of a proud and noble—”

“Hush,” Lift said, peeking out from behind the bronze tree. An open-topped carriage passed on the drive beyond, carrying some important Azish folk. You could tell by the coats. Big, drooping coats with really wide sleeves and patterns that argued with each other. They all looked like kids who had snuck into their parents’ wardrobe. The hats were nifty, though.

The thieves followed behind her, moving with reasonable stealth. They really weren’t that bad. Even if they didn’t know how to climb a wall properly.

They gathered around her, and Tigzikk stood up, straightening his coat—which was an imitation of one of those worn by the rich scribe types who worked in the government. Here in Azir, working for the government was real important. Everyone else was said to be “discrete,” whatever that meant.

“Ready?” Tigzikk said to Maxin, who was the other one of the thieves dressed in fine clothing.

Maxin nodded, and the two of them moved off to the right, heading toward the palace’s sculpture garden. The important people would supposedly be shuffling around in there, speculating about who should be the next Prime.

Dangerous job, that. The last two had gotten their heads chopped off by some bloke in white with a Shardblade. The most recent Prime hadn’t lasted two starvin’ days!

With Tigzikk and Maxin gone, Lift only had four others to worry about. Huqin, his nephew, and two slender brothers who didn’t talk much and kept reaching under their coats for knives. Lift didn’t like their type. Thieving shouldn’t leave bodies. Leaving bodies was easy. There was no challenge to it if you could just kill anyone who spotted you.

“You can get us in,” Huqin said to Lift. “Right?”

Lift pointedly rolled her eyes. Then she scuttled across the bronze grounds toward the main palace structure.

Really does look like a breast...

Wyndle curled along the ground beside her, his vine trail sprouting tiny bits of clear crystal here and there. He was as sinuous and speedy as a moving eel, only he grew rather than actually moving. Voidbringers were a strange lot.

“You realize that I didn’t choose you,” he said, a face appearing in the vines as they moved. His speaking left a strange effect, the trail behind him clotted with a sequence of frozen faces. The mouth seemed to move because it was growing so quickly beside her. “I wanted to pick a distinguished Iriali matron. A grandmother, an accomplished gardener. But no, the Ring said we should choose you. ‘She has visited the Old Magic,’ they said. ‘Our mother has blessed her,’ they said. ‘She will be young, and we can mold her,’ they said. Well they don’t have to put up with—”

“Shut it, Voidbringer,” Lift hissed, drawing up beside the wall of the palace. “Or I’ll bathe in blessed water and go listen to the priests. Maybe get an exorcism.”

Lift edged sideways until she could look around the curve of the wall to spot the guard patrol: men in patterned vests and caps, with long halberds. She looked up the side of the wall. It bulged out just above her, like a rockbud, before tapering up further. It was of smooth bronze, with no handholds.

She waited until the guards had walked further away. “All right,” she whispered to Wyndle. “You gotta do what I say.”

“I do not.”

“Sure you do. I captured you, just like in the stories.”

“I came to you,” Wyndle said. “Your powers come from me! Do you even listen to—”

“Up the wall,” Lift said, pointing.

Wyndle sighed, but obeyed, creeping up the wall in a wide, looping pattern. Lift hopped up, grabbing the small handholds made by the vine, which stuck to the surface by virtue of thousands of branching stems with sticky discs on them. Wyndle wove ahead of her, making a ladder of sorts.

It wasn’t easy. It was starvin’ difficult, with that bulge, and Wyndle’s handholds weren’t very big. But she did it, climbing all the way to the near-top of the building’s dome, where windows peeked out at the grounds.

She glanced toward the city. No sign of the man in the black uniform. Maybe she’d lost him.

She turned back to examine the window. Its nice wooden frame held very thick glass, even though it pointed east. It was unfair how well Azimir was protected from highstorms. They should have to live with the wind, like normal folk.

“We need to Voidbring that,” she said, pointing at the window.

“Have you realized,” Wyndle said, “that while you claim to be a master thief, I do all of the work in this relationship?”

“You do all the complainin’ too,” she said. “How do we get through this?”

“You have the seeds?”

She nodded, fishing in her pocket. Then in the other one. Then in her back pocket. Ah, there they were. She pulled out a handful of seeds.

“I can’t affect the Physical Realm except in minor ways,” Wyndle said. “This means that you will need to use Investiture to—”

Lift yawned.

“Use Investiture to—”

She yawned wider. Starvin’ Voidbringers never could catch a hint.

Wyndle sighed. “Spread the seeds on the frame.”

She did so, throwing the handful of seeds at the window.

“Your bond to me grants two primary classes of ability,” Wyndle said. “The first, manipulation of friction, you’ve already—don’t yawn at me!—discovered. We have been using that well for many weeks now, and it is time for you to learn the second, the power of Growth. You aren’t ready for what was once known as Regrowth, the healing of—”

Lift pressed her hand against the seeds, then summoned her awesomeness.

She wasn’t sure how she did it. She just did. It had started right around when Wyndle had first appeared.

He hadn’t talked then. She kind of missed those days.

Her hand glowed faintly with white light, like vapor coming off the skin. The seeds that saw the light started to grow. Fast. Vines burst from the seeds and wormed into the cracks between the window and its frame.

The vines grew at her will, making constricted, straining sounds. The glass cracked, then the window frame popped open.

Lift grinned.

“Well done,” Wyndle said. “We’ll make an Edgedancer out of you yet.”

Her stomach grumbled. When had she last eaten? She’d used a lot of her awesomeness practicing earlier. She probably should have stolen something to eat. She wasn’t quite so awesome when she was hungry.

She slipped inside the window. Having a Voidbringer was useful, though she wasn’t completely sure her powers came from him. That seemed the sorta thing a Voidbringer would lie about. She had captured him, fair and square. She’d used words. A Voidbringer had no body, not really. To catch something like that, you had to use words. Everybody knew it. Just like curses made evil things come find you.

She had to get out a sphere—a diamond mark, her lucky one—to see properly in here. The small bedroom was decorated after the Azish way with lots of intricate patterns on the rugs and the fabric on the walls, mostly gold and red here. Those patterns were everything to the Azish. They were like words.

She looked out the window. Surely she’d escaped Darkness, the man in the black and silver with the pale crescent birthmark on his cheek. The man with the dead, lifeless stare. Surely he hadn’t followed her all the way from Marabethia. That was half a continent away! Well, a quarter one, at the least.

Convinced, she uncoiled the rope that she wore wrapped around her waist and over her shoulders. She tied it to the door of a built-in closet, then fed it out the window. It tightened as the men started climbing. Nearby, Wyndle grew up around one of the bedposts, coiled like a skyeel.

She heard whispered voices below. “Did you see that? She climbed right up it. Not a handhold in sight. How...?”

“Hush.” That was Huqin.

Lift began poking through cabinets and drawers as the boys clambered in the window one at a time. Once inside, the thieves pulled up the rope and shut the window as best they could. Huqin studied the vines she’d grown from seeds on the frame.

Lift stuck her head in the bottom of a wardrobe, groping around. “Ain’t nothing in this room but moldy shoes.”

“You,” Huqin said to her, “and my nephew will hold this room. The three of us will search the bedrooms nearby. We will be back shortly.”

“You’ll probably have a whole sack of moldy shoes...” Lift said, pulling out of the wardrobe.

“Ignorant child,” Huqin said, pointing at the wardrobe. One of his men grabbed the shoes and outfits inside, stuffing them in a sack. “This clothing will sell for bundles. It’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

“What about real riches?” Lift said. “Spheres, jewelry, art...” She had little interest in those things herself, but she’d figured it was what Huqin was after.

“That will all be far too well guarded,” Huqin said as his two associates made quick work of the room’s clothing. “The difference between a successful thief and a dead thief is knowing when to escape with your takings. This haul will let us live in luxury for a year or two. That is enough.”

One of the brothers peeked out the door into the hallway. He nodded, and the three of them slipped out. “Listen for the warning,” Huqin said to his nephew, then eased the door almost closed behind him.

Tigzikk and his accomplice below would listen for any kind of alarm. If anything seemed to be amiss, they’d slip off and blow their whistles. Huqin’s nephew crouched by the window to listen, obviously taking his duty very seriously. He looked to be about sixteen. Unlucky age, that.

“How did you climb the wall like that?” the youth asked.

“Gumption,” Lift said. “And spit.”

He frowned at her.

“I gots magic spit.”

He seemed to believe her. Idiot.

“Is it strange for you here?” he asked. “Away from your people?”

She stood out. Straight black hair—she wore it down to her waist—tan skin, rounded features. Everyone would immediately mark her as Reshi.

“Don’t know,” Lift said, strolling to the door. “Ain’t never been around my people.”

“You’re not from the islands?”

“Nope. Grew up in Rall Elorim.”

“The...City of Shadows?”

“Yup.”

“Is it—”

“Yup. Just like they say.”

She peeked through the door. Huqin and the others were well out of the way. The hallway was bronze—walls and everything—but a red and blue rug, with lots of little vine patterns, ran down the center. Paintings hung on the walls.

She pulled the door all the way open and stepped out.

“Lift!” The nephew scrambled to the door. “They told us to wait here!”

“And?”

“And we should wait here! We don’t want to get uncle Huqin in trouble!”

“What’s the point of sneaking into a palace if not to get into trouble?” She shook her head. Odd men, these. “This should be an interesting place, what with all of the rich folk hanging around.” There ought to be some really good food in here.

She padded out into the hallway, and Wyndle grew along the floor beside her. Interestingly, the nephew followed. She’d expected him to stay in the room.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he said as they passed a door that was open a crack, shuffles sounding from inside. Huqin and his men, robbing the place silly.

“Then stay,” Lift whispered, reaching a large stairwell. Servants whisked back and forth below, even a few parshmen, but she didn’t catch sight of anyone in one of those coats. “Where are the important folk?”

“Reading forms,” the nephew said from beside her.

“Forms?”

“Sure,” he said. “With the Prime dead, the viziers, scribes, and arbiters were all given a chance to fill out the proper paperwork to apply to take his place.”

“You apply to be emperor?” Lift said.

“Sure,” he said. “Lots of paperwork involved in that. And an essay. Your essay has to be really good to get this job.”

“Storms. You people are crazy.”

“Other nations do it better? With bloody succession wars? This way, everyone has a chance. Even the lowest of clerks can submit the paperwork. You can even be discrete and end up on the throne, if you are convincing enough. It happened once.”

“Crazy.”

“Says the girl who talks to herself.”

Lift looked at him sharply.

“Don’t pretend you don’t,” he said. “I’ve seen you doing it. Talking to the air, as if somebody were there.”

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Gawx.”

“Wow. Well then, Gaw. I don’t talk to myself because I’m crazy.”

“No?”

“I do it because I’m awesome.” She started down the steps, waited for a gap between passing servants, then made for a closet across the way. Gawx cursed, then followed.

Lift was tempted to use her awesomeness to slide across the floor quickly, but she didn’t need that yet. Besides, Wyndle kept complaining that she used the awesomeness too often. That she was at risk of malnutrition, whatever that meant.

She slipped up to the closet, using just her normal everyday sneakin’ skills, and moved inside. Gawx scrambled into the closet with her just before she pulled it shut. Dinnerware on a serving cart clinked behind them, and they could barely crowd into the space. Gawx moved, causing more clinks, and she elbowed him. He stilled as two parshmen passed, bearing large wine barrels.

“You should go back upstairs,” Lift whispered to him. “This could be dangerous.”

“Oh, sneaking into the storming royal palace is dangerous? Thanks. I hadn’t realized.”

“I mean it,” Lift said, peeking out of the closet. “Go back up, leave when Huqin returns. He’ll abandon me in a heartbeat. Probably will you, too.”

Besides, she didn’t want to be awesome with Gawx around. That started questions. And rumors. She hated both. For once, she’d like to be able to stay someplace for a while without being forced to run off.

“No,” Gawx said softly. “If you’re going to steal something good, I want a piece of it. Then maybe Huqin will stop making me stay behind, giving me the easy jobs.”

Huh. So he had some spunk to him.

A servant passed carrying a large, plate-filled tray. The food smells wafting from it made Lift’s stomach growl. Rich-person food. So delicious.

Lift watched the woman go, then broke out of the closet, following after. This was going to get difficult with Gawx in tow. He’d been trained well enough by his uncle, but moving unseen through a populated building wasn’t easy.

The serving woman pulled open a door that was hidden in the wall. Servants’ hallways. Lift caught it as it closed, waited a few heartbeats, then eased it open and slipped through. The narrow hallway was poorly lit and smelled of the food that had just passed.

Gawx entered behind Lift, then silently pulled the door closed. The serving woman disappeared around a corner ahead—there were probably lots of hallways like this in the palace. Behind Lift, Wyndle grew around the doorframe, a dark green, funguslike creep of vines that covered the door, then the wall beside her.

He formed a face in the vines and spots of crystal, then shook his head.

“Too narrow?” Lift asked.

He nodded.

“It’s dark in here. Hard to see us.”

“Vibrations on the floor, mistress. Someone coming this direction.”

She looked longingly after the servant with the food, then shoved past Gawx and pushed open the door, entering the main hallways again.

Gawx to cursed. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“No,” she said, then scuttled around a corner into a large hallway lined with alternating green and yellow gemstone lamps. Unfortunately, a servant in a stiff, black and white uniform was coming right at her.

Gawx let out a “meep” of worry, ducking back around the corner. Lift stood up straight, clasped her hands behind her back, and strolled forward.

She passed the man. His uniform marked him as someone important, for a servant.

“You, there!” the man snapped. “What is this?”

“Mistress wants some cake,” Lift said, jutting out her chin.

“Oh, for Yaezir’s sake. Food is served in the gardens! There is cake there!”

“Wrong type,” Lift said. “Mistress wants berry cake.”

The man threw his hands into the air. “Kitchens are back the other way,” he said. “Try and persuade the cook, though she’ll probably chop your hands off before she takes another special request. Storming country scribes! Special dietary needs are supposed to be sent ahead of time, with the proper forms!” He stalked off, leaving Lift with hands behind her back, watching him.

Gawk slunk around the corner. “I thought we were dead for sure.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Lift said, hurrying down the hallway. “This ain’t the dangerous part yet.”

At the other end, this hallway intersected another one—with the same wide rug down the center, bronze walls, and glowing metal lamps. Across the way was a door with no light shining under it. Lift checked in both directions, then dashed to the door, cracked it, peeked in, then waved for Gawx to join her inside.

“We should go right down that hallway outside,” Gawx whispered as she shut the door all but a crack. “Down that way, we’ll find the vizier quarters. They’re probably empty, because everyone will be in the Prime’s wing deliberating.”

“You know the palace layout?” she asked, crouching in near darkness beside the door. They were in a small sitting room of some sort, with a couple of shadowed chairs and a small table.

“Yeah,” Gawx said. “I memorized the palace maps before we came. You didn’t?”

She shrugged.

“I’ve been in here once before,” Gawx said. “I watched the Prime sleeping.”

“You what?”

“He’s public,” Gawx said, “belongs to everyone. You can enter a lottery to come look at him sleeping. They rotate people through every hour.”

“What? On a special day or something?”

“No, every day. You can watch him eat too, or watch him perform his daily rituals. If he loses a hair or cuts off a nail, you might be able to keep it as a relic.”

“Sounds creepy.”

“A little.”

“Which way to his rooms?” Lift asked.

“That way,” Gawx said, pointing left down the hallway outside—the opposite direction from the vizier chambers. “You don’t want to go there, Lift. That’s where the viziers and everyone important will be reviewing applications. In the Prime’s presence.”

“But he’s dead.”

“The new Prime.”

“He ain’t been chosen yet!”

“Well, it’s kind of strange,” Gawx said. By the dim light of the cracked door, she could see him blushing, as if he knew how starvin’ odd this all was. “There’s never not a Prime. We just don’t know who he is yet. I mean, he’s alive, and he’s already Prime—right now. We’re just catching up. So, those are his quarters, and the scions and viziers want to be in his presence while they decide who he is. Even if the person they decide upon isn’t in the room.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Of course it makes sense,” Gawx said. “It’s government. This is all very well detailed in the codes and...” He trailed off as Lift yawned. Azish could be real boring. At least he could take a hint, though.

“Anyway,” Gawx continued, “everyone outside in the gardens is hoping to be called in for a personal interview. It might not come to that, though. The scions can’t be Prime, as they’re too busy visiting and blessing villages around the kingdom—but a vizier can, and they tend to have the best applications. Usually, one of their number is chosen.”

“The Prime’s quarters,” Left said. “That’s the direction the food went.”

“What is it with you and food?”

“I’m going to eat their dinner,” she said, soft but intense.

Gawx blinked, startled. “You’re...what?”

“I’m gonna eat their food,” she said. “Rich folk have the best food.”

“But...there might be spheres in the vizier quarters...”

“Eh,” she said. “I’d just spend ’em on food.”

Stealing regular stuff was no fun. She wanted a real challenge. Over the last two years, she’d picked the most difficult places to enter. Then she’d snuck in.

And eaten their dinners.

“Come on,” she said, moving out of the doorway, then turned left toward the Prime’s chambers.

“You really are crazy,” Gawx whispered.

“Nah. Just bored.”

He looked the other way. “I’m going for the vizier quarters.”

“Suit yourself,” she said. “I’d go back upstairs instead, if I were you. You aren’t practiced enough for this kind of thing. You leave me, you’re probably going to get into trouble.”

He fidgeted, then slipped off in the direction of the vizier quarters. Lift rolled her eyes.

“Why did you even come with them?” Wyndle asked, creeping out of the room. “Why not just sneak in on your own?”

“Tigzikk found out about this whole election thing,” she said. “He told me tonight was a good night for sneaking. I owed it to him. Besides, I wanted to be here in case he got into trouble. I might need to help.”

“Why bother?”

Why indeed? “Someone has to care,” she said, starting down the hallway. “Too few people care, these days.”

“You say this while coming in to rob people.”

“Sure. Ain’t gonna hurt them.”

“You have an odd sense of morality, mistress.”

“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “Every sense of morality is odd.”

“I suppose.”

“Particularly to a Voidbringer.”

“I’m not—”

She grinned and hurried her pace toward the Prime’s quarters. She knew she’d found those when she glanced down a side hallway and spotted guards at the end. Yup. That door was so nice, it had to belong to an emperor. Only super-rich folk built fancy doors. You needed money coming out your ears before you spent it on a door.

Guards were a problem. Lift knelt down, peeking around the corner. The hallway leading to the emperor’s rooms was narrow, like an alleyway. Smart. Hard to sneak down something like that. And those two guards, they weren’t the bored type. They were the “we gotta stand here and look real angry” type. They stood so straight, you’d have thought someone had shoved brooms up their backsides.

She glanced upward. The hallway was tall; rich folk liked tall stuff. If they’d been poor, they’d have built another floor up there for their aunts and cousins to live in. Rich people wasted space instead. Proved they had so much money, they could waste it.

Seemed perfectly rational to steal from them.

“There,” Lift whispered, pointing to a small ornamented ledge that ran along the wall up above. It wouldn’t be wide enough to walk on, unless you were Lift. Which, fortunately, she was. It was dim up there too. The chandeliers were the dangly kind, and they hung low, with mirrors reflecting their sphere light downward.

“Up we go,” she said.

Wyndle sighed.

“You gotta do what I say or I’ll prune you.”

“You’ll...prune me.”

“Sure.” That sounded threatening, right?

Wyndle grew up the wall, giving her handholds. Already, the vines he’d trailed through the hallway behind them were vanishing, becoming crystal and disintegrating into dust.

“Why don’t they notice you?” Lift whispered. She’d never asked him, despite their months together. “Is it ’cuz only the pure in heart can see you?”

“You’re not serious.”

“Sure. That’d fit into legends and stories and stuff.”

“Oh, the theory itself isn’t ridiculous,” Wyndle said, speaking out of a bit of vine near her, the various cords of green moving like lips. “Merely the idea that you consider yourself to be pure in heart.”

“I’m pure,” Lift whispered, grunting as she climbed. “I’m a child and stuff. I’m so storming pure I practically belch rainbows.”

Wyndle sighed again—he liked to do that—as they reached the ledge. Wyndle grew along the side of it, making it slightly wider, and Lift stepped onto it. She balanced carefully, then nodded to Wyndle. He grew further along the ledge, then doubled back and grew up the wall to a point above her head. From there, he grew horizontally to give her a handhold. With the extra inch of vine on the ledge and the handhold above, she managed to sidle along, stomach to the wall. She took a deep breath, then turned the corner into the hallway with the guards.

She moved along it slowly, Wyndle wrapping back and forth, enhancing both footing and handholds for her. The guards didn’t cry out. She was doing it.

“They can’t see me,” Wyndle said, growing up beside her to create another line of handholds, “because I exist mostly in the Cognitive Realm, even though I’ve moved my consciousness to this Realm. I can make myself visible to anyone, should I desire, though it’s not easy for me. Other spren are more skilled at it, while some have the opposite trouble. Of course, no matter how I manifest, nobody can touch me, as I barely have any substance in this Realm.”

“Nobody but me,” Lift whispered, inching down the hallway.

“You shouldn’t be able to either,” he said, sounding troubled. “What did you ask for, when you visited my mother?”

Lift didn’t have to answer that, not to a storming Voidbringer. She eventually reached the end of the hallway. Beneath her was the door. Unfortunately, that was exactly where the guards stood.

“This does not seem very well thought out, mistress,” Wyndle noted. “Had you considered what you were going to do once you got here?”

She nodded.

“Well?”

“Wait,” she whispered.

They did, Lift with her front pressed to the wall, her heels hanging out above a fifteen-foot drop onto the guards. She didn’t want to fall. She was pretty sure she was awesome enough to survive it, but if they saw her, that would end the game. She’d have to run, and she’d never get any dinner.

Fortunately, she’d guessed right, unfortunately. A guard appeared at the other end of the hallway, looking out of breath and not a little annoyed. The other two guards jogged over to him. He turned, pointing the other way.

That was her chance. Wyndle grew a vine downward, and Lift grabbed it. She could feel the crystals jutting out between the tendrils, but they were smooth and faceted—not angular and sharp. She dropped, vine smooth between her fingers, pulling herself to a stop just before the floor.

She only had a few seconds.

“...caught a thief trying to ransack the vizier quarters,” said the newer guard. “Might be more. Keep watch. By Yaezir himself! I can’t believe they’d dare. Tonight of all nights!”

Lift cracked open the door to the emperor’s rooms and peeked in. Big room. Men and women at a table. Nobody looking her direction. She slipped through the door.

Then became awesome.

She ducked down, kicked herself forward, and for a moment, the floor—the carpet, the wood beneath—had no purchase on her. She glided as if on ice, making no noise as she slid across the ten-foot gap. Nothing could hold her when she got Slick like this. Fingers would slip off her, and she could glide forever. She didn’t think she’d ever stop unless she turned off the awesomeness. She’d slide all the way to the storming ocean itself.

Tonight, she stopped herself under the table, using her fingers—which weren’t Slick—then removed the Slickness from her legs. Her stomach growled in complaint. She needed food. Real fast, or no more awesomeness for her.

“Somehow, you are partly in the Cognitive realm,” Wyndle said, coiling beside her and raising a twisting mesh of vines that could make a face. “It is the only answer I can find to why you can touch spren. And you can metabolize food directly into Stormlight.”

She shrugged. He was always saying words like those. Trying to confuse her, starvin’ Voidbringer. Well, she wouldn’t talk back to him, not now. The men and women standing around the table might hear her, even if they couldn’t hear Wyndle.

That food was in here somewhere. She could smell it.

“But why?” Wyndle said. “Why did She give you this incredible talent? Why a child? There are soldiers, grand kings, incredible scholars among humankind. Instead she chose you.”

Food, food, food. Smelled great. Lift crawled along under the long table. The men and women up above were talking in very concerned voices.

“Your application was clearly the best, Dalksi.”

“What! I misspelled three words in the first paragraph alone!”

“I didn’t notice.”

“You didn’t... Of course you noticed! But this is pointless, because Axikk’s essay was obviously superior to mine.”

“Don’t bring me back into this. We disqualified me. I’m not fit to be Prime. I have a bad back.”

“Ashno of Sages had a bad back. He was one of the greatest Emuli Primes.”

“Bah! My essay was utter rubbish, and you know it.”

Wyndle moved along beside Lift. “Mother has given up on your kind. I can feel it. She doesn’t care any longer. Now that He’s gone...”

“This arguing does not befit us,” said a commanding female voice. “We should take our vote. People are waiting.”

“Let it go to one of those fools in the gardens.”

“Their essays were dreadful. Just look at what Pandri wrote across the top of hers.”

“My... I... I don’t know what half of that even means, but it does seem insulting.”

This finally caught Lift’s attention. She looked up toward the table above. Good cusses? Come on, she thought. Read a few of those.

“We’ll have to pick one of them,” the other voice—she sounded very in charge—said. “Kadasixes and Stars, this is a puzzle. What do we do when nobody wants to be Prime?”

Nobody wanted to be Prime? Had the entire country suddenly grown some sense? Lift continued on. Being rich seemed fun and all, but being in charge of that many people? Pure misery, that would be.

“Perhaps we should pick the worst application,” one of the voice said. “In this situation, that would indicate the cleverest applicant.”

“Six different monarchs killed...” one of the voices said, a new one. “In a mere two months. Highprinces slaughtered throughout the East. Religious leaders. And then, two Primes murdered in a matter of a single week. Storms...I almost think it’s another Desolation come upon us.”

“A Desolation in the form of a single man. Yaezir help the one we choose. It is a death sentence.”

“We have stalled too long as it is. These weeks of waiting with no Prime have been harmful to Azir. Let’s just pick the worst application. From this stack.”

“What if we pick someone who is legitimately terrible? Is it not our duty to care for the kingdom, regardless of the risk to the one we choose?”

“But in picking the best from among us, we doom our brightest, our best, to die by the sword... Yaezir help us. Scion Ethid, a prayer for guidance would be appreciated. We need Yaezir himself to show us his will. Perhaps if we choose the right person, he or she will be protected by His hand.”

Lift reached the end of the table and looked out at a banquet that had been set onto a smaller table at the other side of the room. This place was very Azish. Curls of embroidery everywhere. Carpets so fine, they probably drove some poor woman blind weaving them. Dark colors and dim lights. Paintings on the walls.

Huh, Lift thought, someone scratched a face off of that one. Who’d ruin a painting like that, and such a fine one, the Heralds all in a row?

Well, nobody seemed to be touching that feast. Her stomach growled, but she waited for a distraction.

It came soon after. The door opened. Likely the guards coming to report about the thief they’d found. Poor Gawx. She’d have to go break him out later.

Right now, it was time for food. Lift shoved herself forward on her knees and used her awesomeness to Slick her legs. She slid across the floor and grabbed the corner leg of the food table. Her momentum smoothly pivoted her around and behind it. She crouched down, the tablecloth neatly hiding her from the people at the room’s center, and unSlicked her legs.

Perfect. She reached up a hand and plucked a dinner roll off the table. She took a bite, then hesitated.

Why had everyone grown quiet? She risked a glance over the tabletop.

He had arrived.

The tall Azish man with the white mark on his cheek, like a crescent. Black uniform with a double row of silver buttons down the coat’s front, a stiff silver collar poking up from a shirt underneath. His thick gloves had collars of their own that extended halfway back around his forearms.

Dead eyes. This was Darkness himself.

Oh no.

“What is the meaning of this!” demanded one of the viziers, a woman in one of their large coats with the too-big sleeves. Her cap was of a different pattern, and it clashed quite spectacularly with the coat.

“I am here,” Darkness said, “for a thief.”

“Do you realize where you are? How dare you interrupt—”

“I have,” Darkness said, “the proper forms.” He spoke completely without emotion. No annoyance at being challenged, no arrogance or pomposity. Nothing at all. One of his minions entered behind him, a man in a black and silver uniform, less ornamented. He proffered a neat stack of papers to his master.

“Forms are all well and good,” the vizier said. “But this is not the time, constable, for—”

Lift bolted.

Her instincts finally battered down her surprise and she ran, leaping over a couch on her way to the room’s back door. Wyndle moved beside her in a streak.

She tore a hunk off the roll with her teeth; she was going to need the food. Beyond that door would be a bedroom, and a bedroom would have a window. She slammed open the door, dashing through.

Something swung from the shadows on the other side.

A cudgel took her in the chest. Ribs cracked. Lift gasped, dropping face-first to the floor.

Another of Darkness’s minions stepped from the shadows inside the bedroom.

“Even the chaotic,” Darkness said, “can be predictable with proper study.” His feet thumped across the floor behind her.

Lift gritted her teeth, curled up on the floor. Didn’t get enough to eat...So hungry.

The few bites she’d taken earlier worked within her. She felt the familiar feeling, like a storm in her veins. Liquid awesomeness. The pain faded from her chest as she healed.

Wyndle ran around her in a circle, a little lasso of vines sprouting leaves on the floor, looping her again and again. Darkness stepped up close.

Go! She leaped to her hands and knees. He seized her by the shoulder, but she could escape that. She summoned her awesomeness.

Darkness thrust something toward her.

The little animal was like a cremling, but with wings. Bound wings, tied up legs. It had a strange little face, not crabbish like a cremling. More like a tiny axehound, with a snout, mouth, and eyes.

It seemed sickly, and its shimmering eyes were pained. How could she tell that?

The creature sucked the awesomeness from Lift. She actually saw it go, a glistening whiteness that streamed from her to the little animal. It opened its mouth, drinking it in.

Suddenly, Lift felt very tired and very, very hungry.

Darkness handed the animal to one of his minions, who made it vanish into a black sack he then tucked in his pocket. Lift was certain that the viziers—standing in an outraged cluster at the table—hadn’t seen any of this, not with Darkness’s back to them and the two minions crowding around.

“Keep all spheres from her,” Darkness said. “She must not be allowed to Invest.”

Lift felt terror, panicked in a way she hadn’t known for years, ever since her days in Rall Elorim. She struggled, thrashing, biting at the hand that held her. Darkness didn’t even grunt. He hauled her to her feet, and another minion took her by the arms, wrenching them backward until she gasped at the pain.

No. She’d freed herself! She couldn’t be taken like this. Wyndle continued to spin around her on the ground, distressed. He was a good type, for a Voidbringer.

Darkness turned to the viziers. “I will trouble you no further.”

“Mistress!” Wyndle said. “Here!”

The half-eaten roll lay on the floor. She’d dropped it when the cudgel hit. Wyndle ran into it, but he couldn’t do anything more than make it wobble. Lift thrashed, trying to pull free, but without that storm inside of her, she was just a child in the grip of a trained soldier.

“I am highly disturbed by the nature of this incursion, constable,” the lead vizier said, shuffling through the stack of papers that Darkness had dropped. “Your paperwork is in order, and I see you even included a plea—granted by the arbiters—to search the palace itself for this urchin. Surely you did not need to disturb a holy conclave. For a common thief, no less.”

“Justice waits upon no man or woman,” Darkness said, completely calm. “And this thief is anything but common. With your leave, we will cease disturbing you.”

He didn’t seem to care if they gave him leave or not. He strode toward the door, and his minion pulled Lift along after. She got her foot out to the roll, but only managed to kick it forward, under the long table by the viziers.

“This is a leave of execution,” the vizier said with surprise, holding up the last sheet in the stack. “You will kill the child? For mere thievery?”

Kill? No. No!

“That, in addition to trespassing in the Prime’s palace,” Darkness said, reaching the door. “And for interrupting a holy conclave in session.”

The vizier met his gaze. She held it, then wilted. “I...” she said. “Ah, of course... er... constable.”

Darkness turned from her and pulled open the door. The vizier set one hand on the table and raised her other hand to her head.

The minion dragged Lift up to the door.

“Mistress!” Wyndle said, twisting up nearby. “Oh... oh dear. There is something very wrong with that man! He is not right, not right at all. You must use your powers.”

“Trying,” Lift said, grunting.

“You’ve let yourself grow too thin,” Wyndle said. “Not good. You always use up the excess... Low body fat... That might be the problem. I don’t know how this works!”

Darkness hesitated beside the door and looked at the low-hanging chandeliers in the hallway beyond, with their mirrors and sparkling gemstones. He raised his hand and gestured. The minion not holding Lift moved out into the hallway and found the chandelier ropes. He unwound those and pulled, raising the chandeliers.

Lift tried to summon her awesomeness. Just a little more. She just needed a little.

Her body felt exhausted. Drained. She really had been overdoing it. She struggled, increasingly panicked. Increasingly desperate.

In the hallway, the minion tied off the chandeliers high in the air. Nearby, the vizier leader glanced from Darkness to Lift.

“Please,” Lift mouthed.

The vizier pointedly shoved the table. It clipped the elbow of the minion holding Lift. He cursed, letting go with that hand.

Lift dove for the floor, ripping out of his grip. She squirmed forward, getting underneath the table.

The minion seized her by the ankles.

“What was that?” Darkness asked, his voice cold, emotionless.

“I slipped,” the vizier said.

“Watch yourself.”

“Is that a threat, constable? I am beyond your reach.”

“Nobody is beyond my reach.” Still no emotion.

Lift thrashed underneath the table, kicking at the minion. He cursed softly and hauled Lift out by her legs, then pulled her to her feet. Darkness watched, face emotionless.

She met his gaze, eye to eye, a half-eaten roll in her mouth. She stared him down, chewing quickly and swallowing.

For once, he showed an emotion. Bafflement. “All that,” he said, “for a roll?”

Lift said nothing.

Come on...

They walked her down the hallway, then around the corner. One of the minions ran ahead and purposefully removed the spheres from the lamps on the walls. Were they robbing the place? No, after she passed, the minion ran back and restored the spheres.

Come on...

They passed a palace guard in the larger hallway beyond. He who noted something about Darkness—perhaps that rope tied around his upper arm, which was threaded with an Azish sequence of colors—and saluted. “Constable, sir? You found another one?”

Darkness stopped, looking as the guard opened the door beside him. Inside, Gawx sat on a chair, slumped between two other guards.

“So you did have accomplices!” shouted one of the guards in the room. He slapped Gawx across the face.

Wyndle gasped from just behind her. “That was certainly uncalled for!”

Come on...

“This one is not your concern,” Darkness said to the guards, waiting as one of his minions did the strange gemstone-moving sequence. Why did they worry about that?

Something stirred inside of Lift. Like the little swirls of wind at the advent of a storm.

Darkness looked at her with a sharp motion. “Something is—”

Awesomeness returned.

Lift became Slick, every part of her but her feet and the palms of her hands. She yanked her arm—it slipped from the minion’s fingers—then kicked herself forward and fell to her knees, sliding under Darkness’s hand as he reached for her.

Wyndle let out a whoop, zipping along the floor beside her as she began slapping the floor like she was swimming, using each swing of her arms to push herself forward. She skimmed the floor of the palace hallway, knees sliding across it as if it were greased.

The posture wasn’t particularly dignified. Dignity was for rich folk who had time to make up games to play with one another.

She got going real fast real quick—so fast it was hard to control herself as she relaxed her awesomeness and tried to leap to her feet. She crashed into the wall at the end of the hallway instead, a sprawling heap of limbs.

She came out of it with a grin. That had gone way better than the last few times she’d tried this. Her first attempt had been super embarrassing. She’d been so Slick, she hadn’t even been able to stay on her knees.

“Lift!” Wyndle said. “Behind.”

She glanced down the hallway. She could swear he was glowing faintly, and he was certainly running too quickly.

Darkness was awesome too.

“That is not fair!” Lift shouted, scrambling to her feet and dashing down a side hallway—the way she’d come when sneaking with Gawx. Her body had already started to feel tired again. One roll didn’t get it far.

She sprinted down the lavish hallway, causing a maid to jump back, shrieking as if she’d seen a rat. Lift skidded around a corner, dashed toward the nice scents, and burst into the kitchens.

She ran through the mess of people inside. The door slammed open behind her a second later. Darkness.

Ignoring startled cooks, Lift leaped up onto a long counter, Slicking her leg and riding on it sideways, knocking off bowls and pans, causing a clatter. She came down off the other end of the counter as Darkness shoved his way past cooks in a clump, his Shardblade held up high.

He didn’t curse in annoyance. A fellow should curse. Made people feel real when they did that.

But of course, Darkness wasn’t a real person. Of that, though little else, she was sure.

Lift snatched a sausage off a steaming plate, then pushed into the servant hallways. She chewed as she ran, Wyndle growing along the wall beside her, leaving a streak of dark green vines.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

Away.

The door into the servant hallways slammed open behind her. Lift turned a corner, surprising an equerry. She went awesome, and threw herself to the side, easily slipping past him in the narrow hallway.

“What has become of me?” Wyndle asked. “Thieving in the night, chased by abominations. I was a gardener. A wonderful gardener! Cryptics and honorspren alike came to see the crystals I grew from the minds of your world. Now this. What have I become?”

“A whiner,” Lift said, puffing.

“Nonsense.”

“So you were always one of those, then?” She looked over her shoulder. Darkness casually shoved down the equerry, barely breaking stride as he charged over the man.

Lift reached a doorway and slammed her shoulder against it, scrambling out into the rich hallways again.

She needed an exit. A window. Her flight had just looped her around back near the Prime’s quarters. She picked a direction by instinct and started running, but one of Darkness’s minions appeared around a corner that way. He also carried a Shardblade. Some starvin’ luck, she had.

Lift turned the other way and passed by Darkness striding out of the servant hallways. She barely dodged a swing of his Blade by diving, Slicking herself, and sliding along the floor. She made it to her feet without stumbling this time. That was something, at least.

“Who are these men?” Wyndle asked from beside her.

Lift grunted.

“Why do they care so much about you? There’s something about those weapons they carry...”

“Shardblades,” Lift said. “Worth a whole kingdom. Built to kill Voidbringers.” And they had two of the things. Crazy.

Built to kill Voidbringers...

“You!” she said, still running. “They’re after you!”

“What? Of course they aren’t!”

“They are. Don’t worry. You’re mine. I won’t lettem have you.”

“That’s endearingly loyal,” Wyndle said. “And not a little insulting. But they are not after—”

The second of Darkness’s minions stepped out into the hallway ahead of her. He held Gawx.

He had a knife to the young man’s throat.

Lift stumbled to a halt. Gawx, in far over his head, whimpered in the man’s hands.

“Don’t move,” the minion said, “or I will kill him.”

“Starvin’ bastard,” Lift said. She spat to the side. “That’s dirty.”

Darkness thumped up behind her, the other minion joining him. They penned her in. The entrance to the Prime’s quarters was actually just ahead, and the viziers and scions had flooded out into the hallway, where they jabbered to one another in outraged tones.

Gawx was crying. Poor fool.

Well. This sorta thing never ended well. Lift went with her gut—which was basically what she always did—and called the minion’s bluff by dashing forward. He was a lawman type. Wouldn’t kill a captive in cold—

The minion slit Gawx’s throat.

Crimson blood poured out and stained Gawx’s clothing. The minion dropped him, then stumbled back, as if startled by what he’d done.

Lift froze. He couldn’t—He didn’t—

Darkness grabbed her from behind.

“That was poorly done,” Darkness said to the minion, tone emotionless. Lift barely heard him. So much blood. “You will be punished.”

“But...” the minion said. “I had to do as I threatened...”

“You have not done the proper paperwork in this kingdom to kill that child,” Darkness said.

“Aren’t we above their laws?”

Darkness actually let go of her, striding over to slap the minion across the face. “Without the law, there is nothing. You will subject yourself to their rules, and accept the dictates of justice. It is all we have, the only sure thing in this world.”

Lift stared at the dying boy, who held his hands to his neck, as if to stop the blood flow. Those tears...

The other minion came up behind her.

“Run!” Wyndle said.

She started.

Run!

Lift ran.

She passed Darkness and pushed through the viziers, who gasped and yelled at the death. She barreled into the Prime’s quarters, slid across the table, snatched another roll off the platter, and burst into the bedroom. She was out the window a second later.

“Up,” she said to Wyndle, then stuffed the roll in her mouth. He streaked up the side of the wall, and Lift climbed, sweating. A second later, one of the minions leaped out the window beneath her.

He didn’t look up. He charged out onto the grounds, twisting about, searching, his Shardblade flashing in the darkness as it reflected starlight.

Lift safely reached the upper reaches of the palace, hidden in the shadows there. She squatted down, hands around her knees, feeling cold.

“You barely knew him,” Wyndle said. “Yet you mourn.”

She nodded.

“You’ve seen much death,” Wyndle said. “I know it. Aren’t you accustomed to it?”

She shook her head.

Below, the minion moved off, hunting farther and farther for her. She was free. Climb across the roof, slip down on the other side, disappear.

Was that motion on the wall at the edge of the grounds? Yes, those moving shadows were men. The other thieves were climbing their wall and disappearing into the night. Huqin had left his nephew, as expected.

Who would cry for Gawx? Nobody. He’d be forgotten, abandoned.

Lift released her legs and crawled across the curved bulb of the roof toward the window she’d entered earlier. Her vines from the seeds, unlike the ones Wyndle grew, were still alive. They’d overgrown the window, leaves quivering in the wind.

Run, her instincts said. Go.

“You spoke of something earlier,” she whispered. “Re...”

“Regrowth,” he said. “Each bond grants power over two Surges. You can influence how things grow.”

“Can I use this to help Gawx?”

“If you were better trained? Yes. As it stands, I doubt it. You aren’t very strong, aren’t very practiced. And he might be dead already.”

She touched one of the vines.

“Why do you care?” Wyndle asked again. He sounded curious. Not a challenge. An attempt to understand.

“Because someone has to.”

For once, Lift ignored what her gut was telling her and, instead, climbed through the window. She crossed the room in a dash.

Out into the upstairs hallway. Onto the steps. She soared down them, leaping most of the distance. Through a doorway. Turn left. Down the hallway. Left again.

A crowd in the rich corridor. Lift reached them, then wiggled through. She didn’t need her awesomeness for that. She’d been slipping through cracks in crowds since she started walking.

Gawx lay in a pool of blood that had darkened the fine carpet. The viziers and guards surrounded him, speaking in hushed tones.

Lift crawled up to him. His body was still warm, but the blood seemed to have stopped flowing. His eyes were closed.

“Too late?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” Wyndle said, curling up beside her.

“What do I do?”

“I...I’m not sure. Mistress, the transition to your side was difficult and left holes in my memory, even with the precautions my people took. I...”

She set Gawx on his back, face toward the sky. He wasn’t really anything to her, that was true. They’d barely just met, and he’d been a fool. She’d told him to go back.

But this was who she was, who she had to be.

I will remember those who have been forgotten.

Lift leaned forward, touched her forehead to his, and breathed out. A shimmering something left her lips, a little cloud of glowing light. It hung in front of Gawx’s lips.

Come on...

It stirred, then drew in through his mouth.

A hand took Lift by the shoulder, pulling her away from Gawx. She sagged, suddenly exhausted. Real exhausted, so much so that even standing was difficult.

Darkness pulled her by the shoulder away from the crowd. “Come,” he said.

Gawx stirred. The viziers gasped, their attention turning toward the youth as he groaned, then sat up.

“It appears that you are an Edgedancer,” Darkness said, steering her down the corridor as the crowd moved in around Gawx, chattering. She stumbled, but he held her upright. “I had wondered which of the two you would be.”

“Miracle!” one vizier said.

“Yaezir had spoken!” said one of the scions.

“Edgedancer,” Lift said. “I don’t know what that is.”

“They were once a glorious order,” Darkness said, walking her down the hallway. Everyone ignored them, focused instead on Gawx. “Where you blunder, they were elegant things of beauty. They could ride the thinnest rope at speed, dance across rooftops, move through a battlefield like a ribbon on the wind.”

“That sounds...amazing.”

“Yes. It is unfortunate they were always so concerned with small-minded things, while ignoring those of greater import. It appears you share their temperament. You have become one of them.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Lift said.

“I realize this.”

“Why...why do you hunt me?”

“In the name of justice.”

“There are tons of people who do wrong things,” she said. She had to force out every word. Talking was hard. Thinking was hard. So tired. “You...you coulda hunted big crime bosses, murderers. You chose me instead. Why?”

“Others may be detestable, but they do not dabble in arts that could return Desolation to this world.” His words were so cold. “What you are must be stopped.”

Lift felt numb. She tried to summon her awesomeness, but she’d used it all up. And then some, probably.

Darkness turned her and pushed her against the wall. She couldn’t stand, and slumped down, sitting. Wyndle moved up beside her, spreading out a starburst of creeping vines.

Darkness knelt next to her. He held out his hand.

“I saved him,” Lift said. “I did something good, didn’t I?”

“Goodness is irrelevant,” Darkness said. His Shardblade dropped into his fingers.

“You don’t even care, do you?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t.”

“You should,” she said, exhausted. “You should... should try it, I mean. I wanted to be like you, once. Didn’t work out. Wasn’t... even like being alive...”

Darkness raised his Blade.

Lift closed her eyes.

“She is pardoned!”

Darkness’s grip on her shoulder tightened.

Feeling completely drained—like somebody had held her up by the toes and squeezed everything out of her—Lift forced her eyes to open. Gawx stumbled to a stop beside them, breathing heavily. Behind, the viziers and scions moved up as well.

Clothing bloodied, his eyes wide, Gawx clutched a piece of paper in his hand. He thrust this at Darkness. “I pardon this girl. Release her, constable!”

“Who are you,” Darkness said, “to do such a thing?”

“I am the Prime Aqasix,” Gawx declared. “Ruler of Azir!”

“Ridiculous.”

“The Kadasixes have spoken,” said one of the scions.

“The Heralds?” Darkness said. “They have done no such thing. You are mistaken.”

“We have voted,” said a vizier. “This young man’s application was the best.”

“What application?” Darkness said. “He is a thief!”

“He performed the miracle of Regrowth,” said one of the older scions. “He was dead and he returned. What better application could we ask for?”

“A sign has been given,” said the lead vizier. “We have a Prime who can survive the attacks of the One All White. Praise to Yaezir, Kadasix of Kings, may he lead in wisdom. This youth is Prime. He has been Prime always. We have only now realized it, and beg his forgiveness for not seeing the truth sooner.”

“As it always has been done,” the elderly scion said. “As it will be done again. Stand down, constable. You have been given an order.”

Darkness studied Lift.

She smiled tiredly. Show the starvin’ man some teeth. That was the right of it.

His Shardblade vanished to mist. He’d been bested, but he didn’t seem to care. Not a curse, not even a tightening of the eyes. He stood up and pulled on his gloves by the cuffs, first one, then the other. “Praise Yaezir,” he said. “Herald of Kings. May he lead in wisdom. If he ever stops drooling.”

Darkness bowed to the new Prime, then left with a sure step.

“Does anyone know the name of that constable?” one of the viziers asked. “When did we start letting officers of the law requisition Shardblades?”

Gawx knelt beside Lift.

“So you’re an emperor or something now,” she said, closing her eyes, settling back.

“Yeah. I’m still confused. It seems I performed a miracle or something.”

“Good for you,” Lift said. “Can I eat your dinner?”

 

Words of Radiance © Brandon Sanderson 2013

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102 comments
Mason Wheeler
1. Mason Wheeler
I have only one thing to say about that last line: Pure awesomeness!
Mason Wheeler
2. Colin Sweeney
That was fantastic. Glad to finally know what Investiture is...It was mentioned in the Mistborn Ars Arcanum but I don't think it was ever mentioned in the books. Can't wait to read the whole thing.
Kimani Rogers
4. KiManiak
I'm glad this was released beyond the Steelhunt, so that we can discuss Darkness, Wyndle, Edgedancers, Lift and her starvin' awesomeness in more of our discussions!
Walker White
5. Walker
This was from the Steelhunt, but it is great that this was released into the open. Lift is definitely posed to be a fan-favorite.
Mason Wheeler
6. EdB
I am ecstatic that "Darkness" was foiled for once. Maybe he will rediscover his humanity?
Mason Wheeler
7. Al G
@6. More like "Heraldity"
Boyd Meier
8. bwmeier
Wow. Lots of cool stuff here. The Edgedancers, the second ideal of "I will remember those who have been forgotten", the background information on the spren, etc.

Who is Darkness? That description is driving me batty it's so familiar.

Is Cultivation the mother of all of the spren, or just the ones like Wyndle?
Walker White
9. Walker
@8

Who is Darkness? That description is driving me batty it's so familiar.

There are many theories, but the prevailing one is that he is the Herald Nalan.
Mason Wheeler
10. Jack Israel
SO GOOD! Want to read the book so badly now! March won't come soon enough! Is this going to be another main character or more a continual interval one I wonder? The Knights Radiant will stand again!
Kimani Rogers
11. KiManiak
bwmeier@8 - In addition to what Walker said, you also may find the description familiar as it is highly likely that Darkness was one of the two unnamed persons speaking with Elhokar in the Prologue of the Way of Kings ("He was in conversation with two men, a dark-skinned Azish man who had an odd patch of pale skin on his cheek..."), when Szeth goes to assasinate Gavilar.
Jim Crumley
12. crumley
Nice excerpt!

For my tastes, though, Lift looks a bit too much like Han Solo in the illustration at the top.
Mason Wheeler
13. atheistcanuck
can I just say that I love Lift? She really is awesome and I hope she shows up in more then one chapter!!!
Cody
14. Tarcanus
I can't say I like the use of the word awesome like that - jars me out of the story - and there's still a crap ton of info-dumping, but I love everything else about this interlude! WoR is going to be pretty great.
Mason Wheeler
15. Studynot
EEEK, that was awesomeness!
Robert Dickinson
16. ChocolateRob
While Darkness being an ex herald makes the most sense I'm going to vote him as being one of the Auditors of Reality (Pratchett). That creepy-ass rule obsessed bastard. (Darkness, not Pterry)

That creature he used to suck away her stormlight, Is it the same creature that Rysn recieves at the end of her interlude in WOR?

Additionally - I will remember those that have been forgotten - is an absolutely beautiful oath. Cohen the Barbarian would be proud.

This is definitely my favourite interlude of either book.
John Brown
17. Seerow
I'm kind of disappointed this was an interlude.

Was hoping as reading it that it was the new prologue, so we'd be seeing more Lift. As an interlude, this is probably the only instance where we'll see her, and that is saddening.
Daniel Robertson
18. danr62
@17 Not so, some of the interlude characters from book one are showing up in interludes for book 2. One of them might even make it to the Shattered Plains.
Anneke van Staden
19. QueenofDreams
That was fantastic! I'm going crazy with excitement now. I love Lift, and I love learning more about the Old Magic, and how spren work. Wow, this was great.
Peter Ahlstrom
20. PeterAhlstrom
This is the only time Lift appears in this book. Remember that this is going to be a long series, and Brandon is still planting the seeds for future volumes.

However, there is one viewpoint character who has multiple interludes in this book.
Cory S.
21. Hungry_For_Hands
So does this confirm that the Nightwatcher is Cultivation? Or am I reading this incorrectly? Was this already known?

‘She has visited the Old Magic,’ they said. ‘Our mother has blessed her,’
John Brown
22. Seerow
@21 that was my reading as well. I was actually just checking some of the Wikis to see if that was something we already knew, but I don't see any indication of it. Interesting information regardless.
Mason Wheeler
23. :)
Lift as "Left" @

“The Prime’s quarters,” Left said. “That’s the direction the food went.”
Mason Wheeler
24. Jasuni
@9 why Nalan? Nalan is associated with learning and giving. The fifth herald (don't know his name, but its root should be Palah) is the one with the divine attribute of Just, which seems about the only thing Darkness really cares about. (And I wonder why he hasn't attacked the assassin in white yet.)
Rich Bennett
25. Neuralnet
mind=blown! Thanks TOR for this early Christmas present. love the tidbits of info on spren. She could turn food to stormlight... surprising even Darkness, very cool. hurry up March
Nick Hlavacek
26. Nick31
It definitely sounds like the mother of the spren (Cultivation?) is the same as the Nightwatcher.
“You shouldn’t be able to either,” (Wyndle) said, sounding troubled. “What did you ask for, when you visited my mother?”
So Lift visited the Nightwatcher. It seems her blessing is to be able to touch things of the Cognitive Realm; I wonder what her curse is?
Mason Wheeler
27. CaptD
I would definitely say "Darkness" is a Herald. Which, if true, makes his reasoning for hunting "Lift" down pretty interesting. ..

“Others may be detestable, but they do not dabble in arts that could return Desolation to this world.” His words were so cold. “What you are must be stopped."

How can the arts she's dabbling in bring back Desolation (not THE Desolation)? Also, if he is a Herald, why does a 13 year old girl who barely controls her powers elude him? Have the heralds lost their power or where they always incompetent?
Mason Wheeler
28. CaptD
were they always incompetent.
John Brown
29. Seerow
@26 I was actually thinking that Lift was completely unaware of being able to touch the Cognitive realm. Combine that with Wyndle going on about "Why would she give this ability to you?" struck me as the ability to interact with the Cognitive realm actually being Lift's curse, and we don't know what she actually asked for yet.
Anneke van Staden
30. QueenofDreams
I also have long thought that the Nightwatcher = Cultivation. So for me, this excerpt seems to confirm that thought. I agree that Darkness is probably a Herald, but wouldn't be able to guess which one. It seems to make sense that the Nightwatcher's blessings can touch the cognitive realm when you consider that the curses we've been told about all seem to affect the mind: memory (dalinar), perception (the guy who saw everything upside down) and intelligence (Taravangian).
Kimani Rogers
31. KiManiak
Jasuni@24 - re: Nalan: Actually, I believe that Nalan is associated with the Divine Attributes of Just, Confident. There was an error in the Ars Arcanum in The Way of Kings, initially.

And Darkness was rather focused on justice (and quite confident).
Mason Wheeler
32. atheistcanuck
KiManiak: Correct (about the error)
Walker White
33. Walker
@27
Have the heralds lost their power or where they always incompetent?
There are possible answers to this question in the Prologue to WOR, which Brandon has read at some signings.
Mason Wheeler
34. jeffreyferson
I've missed Vin...so nice to see her reincarnated, and with extra spunk, too! :)
Alice Arneson
35. Wetlandernw
Nick31 @26 - Personally, I think Lift’s blessing from the Nightwatcher is to be able to convert food to Stormlight; touching the Cognitive Realm is more likely caused by her spren.

@ several – I’m not yet convinced that Nightwatcher = Cultivation. It’s possible, but it’s not really confirmed. There are still other possibilities.

@27 & @33 – I would suggest that the Heralds (knowingly or not) set aside their powers when they broke the Oathpact; whether they lost all their powers completely, or whether they atrophied, or whether they were left behind with the swords… we don’t know.
Mason Wheeler
36. theravenchilde
I care much, much less about theories and who people were/are and more aout HOLY MOTHER OF MAGIC USAGE
magic that literally works in accordance with the laws of physics and uses those laws to its own ends holy shattering glass Lift getting Slick was hands down the best part of the interlude just think of the possibilities
Mason Wheeler
37. bartbug
Wow. I wish they could've used a new piece of content, instead of just taking from the Steelhunt. Kind of devalues it, since this so far has kind of been the crown of that.
Alice Arneson
38. Wetlandernw
@37 - One: There just aren't that many bits of WoR that can stand alone like this. Two: So everyone who didn't get access to the Steelhunt should just have to be SOL? They had to wait a couple extra months to see it, but that's not enough? Three: Like KiManiak @3, I'm glad this is out in the open so we can talk about it.

There is so much good stuff in here: A new Order, a new Ideal, two new Surges, a new kind of spren - or possibly two, depending on what Nightwatcher turns out to be - more info on spren and spren bonds, someone able to convert food to Stormlight... I'm thinking this is a great "bone" to toss us at this stage. We've got a couple of months to go before we can reasonably expect previews of any more than this, but there is SO much here to chew on.
Kimani Rogers
39. KiManiak
Clearly I agree with Wet@38 re: the release of this Interlude.

@27, @33 and others regarding Heralds losing their powers: We don't have enough information about how powerful a Herald would be in their prime to guage whether they lost some of their powers (although I would consider it likely, as they gave up their Honorblades in the Prelude to the Stormlight Archive).

But clearly, they (or at least Darkness, assuming he's a Herald) still have some superhuman abilities left, as demonstrated in this clip from the text above:
She glanced down the hallway. She could swear he was glowing faintly, and he was certainly running too quickly.
This parallels the indirect benefits of being a Surgebinder that Kaladin displays when he's holding Stormlight. Whether this is all Darkness can do, or whether he has accesses to Surges (Gravity and Division, perhaps?), remains to be seen.


This was a great excerpt of WoR to whet the appetite for more. I am so looking forward to March 4th!
Jeremy Guebert
40. jeremyguebert
That was amazing. I literally laughed out loud at "He hadn’t talked then. She kind of missed those days."

Awesome relationship between Lift and her spren, totally different from Kaladin and Syl.

So much awesomeness here - I particularly loved the way that friction was used both negatively (reduce friction to slide around) and positively (increase friction to climb things).
David Foster
41. ZenBossanova
@14 I also found 'awesomeness' a bit jarring, but otherwise, it was highly enjoyable.

@21 The NightWatcher is NOT Cultivation. I asked Brandon at the Phoenix Comicon and that was all he would tell me. I suspect it is a character from Hoid's old world, but that is just my 2 cents.

I was a little confused about the mother. It sounded like we were partly talking about the Spren's mother - and I didn't know spren had mothers.
David Foster
42. ZenBossanova
@14 I also found 'awesomeness' a bit jarring, but otherwise, it was highly enjoyable.

@21 The NightWatcher is NOT Cultivation. I asked Brandon at the Phoenix Comicon and that was all he would tell me. I suspect it is a character from Hoid's old world, but that is just my 2 cents.

I was a little confused about the mother. It sounded like we were partly talking about the Spren's mother - and I didn't know spren had mothers.
Walker White
43. Walker
I am perplexed about the issues people had with "awesomeness". That is the character's voice. Brandon (or Jordan or GRRM) doesn't write with a uniform, characterless third person voice. This is exactly how Lift would understand her abilities.
Tian Kai (Thompson) Gao
44. tkThompson
@43. I think the issue with "awesomeness" isn't with the voice of the character, but with how "awesome" is used as a word. Putting the ability into a different term as the character perceives it is all well and good, like how Vin thinks of her power as Touch at the very beginning of Mistborn, but the issue with Lift's "awesomeness", at least the way I look at it, is whether "awesome" should be used in that modern sense (as opposed to the sense of "awe-inspiring"). I personally find using it that way is a little weird, but I can accept it. I mean, who knows, maybe they did use "awesome" that way wherever Lift grew up.

@42. There does seem to be a mystery here if Brandon confirmed that Nightwatcher is indeed not Cultivation. But I think there's strong evidence that the spren's mother is given the relationship between two ideas of "cultivation" and "growth", and we know that there are honorspren, and that there used to be a god called Honor.

Also, what does everyone think of the use of "Desolation" as Darkness used it? Could it be another Shard of Adonalsium? Or maybe another name for Odium? (That second one seems unlikely, I admit)
Mason Wheeler
45. MattK
That was incredible. I was hooked from the first line and it just got exponentially better from there.

I have no problem with "awesomeness," it was fun and in character. Lift is just great.

The only part that jarred me was "Gumption," though I'm not entirely certain if the cleaning product was named after the word, or the word came into usage as a result of the cleaning product. Chicken or the egg. I've always assumed the latter but could be wrong.

So many little nuggets of information in there. When she mentioned Darkness's "birthmark" I was initially thinking Demoux, especially since he had followed her from Marabethia and Demoux was last seen in that general vicinity, but with more details about the mark that theory was quashed. I'm on board with the Herald theory.

Shalash is still up to her defacing ways, she is truly troubled about something.
Mason Wheeler
47. Vestis E'toris Prime Targ
Awesome Interlude!! All through it I was thinking about the term Reshi. It seemed familiar but I just couldn't place it. Then it dawned on me, Bast (from the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss) kept referring to Kvothe as Reshi.

Is Brandon just inspired by Rothfuss or is is this some kind of collaborative world-building going on in secret?? Would love to find out. :)
Mason Wheeler
48. Wallyrocket
“I’m pure,” Lift whispered, grunting as she climbed. “I’m a child and stuff. I’m so storming pure I practically belch rainbows.” Best quote, but reads like it's from one of Brandon's YA novels. I guess that works since Lift is about 13?

I think her gift had to do with food. One of her frequent expressions is "starvin'" She may have been malnourished as a child and asked the Nightwatcher for something having to do with food.
Cody
49. Tarcanus
@44 I agree that "awesome" could be something Lift picked up whereever she grew up, but as far as an authorial choice to use the word "awesome" when it is so loaded as such modern meaning? I think it was a poor choice. I mean, Lift then immediately starts calling herself Slick instead of awesome after she "becomes awesome" so obviously there is a more 'in-world' way to describe it. Should've just used Slick the whole way through instead of jarring some readers with the word awesome.

But yeah, still an awesome segement displaying some really cool new info.
Alice Arneson
50. Wetlandernw
Tarcanus @49 - "Should've just used Slick the whole way through instead of jarring some readers with the word awesome." - But "slick" and "awesome" aren't the same thing, even in her mind. "Slick" is just what she does to herself when she wants to slide, but she uses her "awesomeness" to do other things as well. She doesn't know the words for it, but her "awesome" is using Stormlight in any way; "slick" is just one of several ways she uses the Surges she can access.

@several - Personally, I thought the double meaning of "awesome" in this interlude was great. Sure, it carries our modern dumbed-down meaning, but it means a whole lot more than that in context. If you were the only person you knew who could do crazy stuff like this, wouldn't you think it was "awesome" in the original sense, as well as the modern one? Additionally, I think it gives us an almost instinctive "feel" for the character, very much in keeping with the rest of her behavior.
Maiane Bakroeva
51. Isilel
Great stuff! And I liked the use of "awesomeness", so there.
Also this explains the relative lack of surgebinders in the recent past of Roshar, that has been troubling me.
It seems that a (former) Herald made it the goal of his (un?)life to eradicate all the burgeoning ones and assembled a posse to help him with this task.
I guess that Elokhar was lucky not to show any abilities yet when he was very likely talking with the unHerald.

Fascinating info about the spren, too - it seems that they have sentience and structured society on the other side, rather than being given consciousness and form by the people they bond to. They just lose most of both in the crossing. This also means that Syl likely isn't an orphaned spren of some Radiant, who has been hanging around as an amnesiac. Instead, she must have spotted Kaladin and chosen him from the other side, while still conscious and sentient.

So, yes, really intriguing and illuminating stuff and a nice Christmas present. Thank you, Tor!
Mason Wheeler
52. CuriousOmission
“What has become of me?” Wyndle asked. “Thieving in the night, chased by abominations. I was a gardener. A wonderful gardener! Cryptics and honorspren alike came to see the crystals I grew from the minds of your world."

I notice no one has mentioned this detail yet in the comments. Do we know what cryptics are? Are they the truthspren that haunted Shallan in WoK? And what does Wyndle mean about growing gardens in minds? A lot to contemplate unless I've completely missed something.... thanks ahead of time
Mike I
53. MikeyRocks
There is so much info on Spren here that I am going crazy with theories. I can't wait for this book. WOW!!!
Mason Wheeler
54. naupathia
@52 - Yes I believe it was confirmed by Sanderson himself that the "symbol heads" are Cryptics, a type of spren.

re: awesomeness: I think most people who don't like the word must be of an older generation, since "awesomeness" is quite a normal word among teens and young adults. And sure it's "jarring" to have read the voice of a 13 year old against the "normal" exposition but I think Sanderson weaves the two well enough.
Alice Arneson
55. Wetlandernw
Curious @52 - Yes (as naupathia says), the Cryptics are the "symbolhead" spren Shallan was seeing.

My understanding (limited as it is) is that Wyndle was speaking of his activities in the Cognitive Realm, prior to entering the Physical Realm. I have no idea what "growing crystals from the minds of your world" might look like there, though. Do the spren have some power (via the Cognitive Realm) over the actual thoughts of those in the Physical Realm? Or do they take the thoughts of sentient beings (since not all Rosharans are human) and make some kind of construct that is only visible by those who are consciously present in the Cognitive Realm? It's an interesting question.

naupathia @54 - Well, I can't speak for those who don't like the term "awesomeness" (obviously), but I can promise you that "an older generation" is not unanimously opposed to it. I doubt the like/dislike line coincides very cleanly with age lines, but that's just my guess.
Shaun Duquette
56. MorpheusStone
Also this explains the relative lack of surgebinders in the recent past of Roshar, that has been troubling me.
It seems that a (former) Herald made it the goal of his (un?)life to
eradicate all the burgeoning ones and assembled a posse to help him with
this task.


I don't think this is true.I believe he hunts those unworthy to receive the Nahael bond.Lift is a thief with pretty sketchy morals.Only when she revives her friend does she redeem herself somewhat.

Also in regard to Cryptics I believe they are what follow Shallan around.Some sort of alternate spren beings?
Shaun Duquette
57. MorpheusStone
Awesome Interlude!! All through it I was thinking about the term Reshi.
It seemed familiar but I just couldn't place it. Then it dawned on me,
Bast (from the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss) kept referring to
Kvothe as Reshi.

I think Reshi in those books means Master or Teacher.A title and not his race.
Alice Arneson
58. Wetlandernw
Isilel @51 - You know, I hadn't actually thought about that... If this guy has been going around executing prot0-Radiants, and especially if he's been doing it for hundreds (or thousands) of years, that really would explain some things, wouldn't it? I wonder why he missed Kaladin. (Uh... so far...)
Mason Wheeler
59. Jasuni
@52 Cryptics is the term Brandon Sanderson uses to refer to the truthspren (and here he used it in the book, which should set the term as final)

@58 Kaladin hasn't been using his powers for long, and Darkness will want to find a crime Kaladin has committed before executing Kaladin. Eventually Darkness will find Kaladin, but he won't do anything (other than watch) until he has the proper justification (and possibly a court order).

re: Lift's use of "awesome" gives her a strong personality (about as strong as Mat's personality in Wheel of Time. BWS was definately influenced by finishing Wheel of Time here)
David Foster
60. ZenBossanova
@56 I would not say Darkness is eliminating those unworthy to be Radiants. He is simply using her unworthiness as an excuse because what he worries about most is the Desolations returning -- that and having an unholy fixation on Justice.
Toby Firth
61. scio
@51
From this passage Syl might have been sent to Kaladin rather than chosen him herself. So What I want to know is what is the Ring that sent Wyndle to Lift.

Also Wyndle deffinately seems to link the nightwatcher wil the mother of the spren.
"Mother has given up on your kind. I can feel it. She doesn’t care any longer. Now that He’s gone...”
Although if the mother of the spren is cultivation (and so not the night watcher) that might imply why conditions are so harsh as Wyndle does say that she has given up on people.
And who is He, Honor (honour)?
Matt Spencer
62. Iarvin
@59 Finding a "crime" of Kaladin's will not be very hard. The story of him being a deserter and a murderer are simple reasons, and more probing would reveal that he was doing such things as stealing spheres while he was a slave, he was bribing Gaz (speaking of which - what if Gaz was a nascent surgebinder whom Darkness killed?), etc. I'm sure Darkness could come up with some reason to off Kaladin fairly easily.
Barry T
63. blindillusion
One of my favourite parts of the interlude...? Aside from Lift being awesome? The thieves. And what they're there to steal. Used clothing. Why go for the ultra guarded crown jewels when you can steal the King's slippers. Thieves in the fantasy genre always go for the biggest heist imaginable. It's somewhat refreshing...seeing average crooks go for an average (well somewhat...they are robbing a palace after all) score.

(And...I'm sorry, but Lift is written as an underfed 13 year old year who apparently grew up in a rough area and has been on the run for months. In what way is the drawing above supposed to represent that?)
Maiane Bakroeva
64. Isilel
The better question is, why isn't Darkness doing something about Szeth? But maybe he was there for both him and Lift? Or does being Truthless make Szeth immune from Darkness's view of justice?

Blindillusion @63:

Yep. Well, at least Lift isn't dressed in high heels and a battle nightie in the picture. You take what you can get...

Scio @61:

I am not sure about Syl. She clearly wasn't protected in her crossing and Wyndle's complaints about Lift show that he had another candidate in mind, but was strong-armed into picking her. Maybe spren are normally allowed to choose freely and cross over at their own discretion?
Dixon Davis
65. KadesSwordElanor
Does anyone remember if the Bronze Palace is mentioned anywhere in WOK?
Alice Arneson
66. Wetlandernw
@several re: the picture - Well, yeah. I wasn't going to say anything, but she does look a bit too well-fed, as well as a couple years too old. Other than that, though, the personality seems right. Love the way he even got the rope wrapped around her waist - which, incidentally, partially contributes to her looking rounder than she ought.

KadesSwordElanor @65 - Nope. It's not there. This is, as far as I know, the first mention of it as such. Kaladin probably saw it, though he mentions only the city, in "Child of Tanavast" when he had the flying-with-the-storm vision. That's all we have so far.
David Foster
67. ZenBossanova
There is the nascent suggestion that there are a lot more like Szeth in Shinovar, but perhaps it is the spren binding that most worries our ex-Herald. Szeth does not have a spren.

What is this Ring? Is this a counsel of Spren?

We have seen spren-like being (seons, etc) in other books, while we have only seen a Nightwatcher-like character in one book, so it makes sense that the parent of the spren is a Shard.

But if we have Honorspren and Wyndle is a Cultivation-spren, then what are Cryptics?
Nadine L.
68. travyl
This is a great, love it, including the "awesomness."

I'm not good with sublte hints, so thanks for the info about Darkness possibly being Nalan. Despite not catching those hints myself,
I immediately jumped to the conclusion of "Cultivation likely is Nightwatcher." Brandon must have intended this to be a false trail to let his readers speculate. So I'm not sure if I'm glad (to know) that Brandon already refuted the theory.

Ki @31, thanks for pointing out the error in the ARS Arcanum, my kindle version still has the wrong ARS - and so far I'd never noticed that my paperback had a different one. (Funny that the ARS is so relevant and both here and in Mistborn they got it wrong the first time).

Wet @38: We've got a couple of months to go before we can reasonably expect previews of any more than this
For sake of my mental health (nearly bursting with anticipation after reading this), I need to correct you ;) "a couple of months" seems far longer than the under 3 months we'll still have to wait for the book. More previews are likely in about two months... (In german this would be a couple with a capital C, but english doesn't make this distinction).
Nadine L.
69. travyl
Jezrien > Jezerezeh / Kadasix
While the name Kadasix is completely different from Jezerezeh it still feels as if they could have both been derived from Jezrien.
I really love what Brandon is doing here, changing the name "over time" and even apparenly differently for different cultures (depending on the pronounciations of their language).
Matt Spencer
70. Iarvin
@69 - Kadasix seems to mean "Herald" in their language.

The lead vizier says
"Praise to Yaezir, Kadasix of Kings"
To which Darkness Replies
“Praise Yaezir,” he said. “Herald of Kings. May he lead in wisdom. If he ever stops drooling.”
Did anybody else feel that Lift acts like a younger child than her stated age? To me she acts more like a precocious nine year old than an immature 13 year old.
Nadine L.
71. travyl
@70, Damn I messed up, because of Jezrien being the king of the Heralds.
I still feel like i can hear "Jezerezeh" echoing in Kadasix. (zeh becoming a choked up six ;)) - with this in mind I obviously didn't read the passages exactely enough.
Mason Wheeler
73. BMichaels
Wow, this was a fun read. This is exactly why Brandon is my favorite author right now. He makes me jealous of his writing, it makes me want to write but makes me feel inadequate at the same time.

@70 I don't think so. Lift may seem a bit immature for 13 year old, but given her background (an orphan?), it make sense to me. She also shows much more intelligence than a 9 year old, being able to plan her sneaking and escapes and this whole heist ordeal by herself.
Michael Beach
74. mgbeach
@73: If you haven't, definitely check out his fantasy-writing lectures on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyUHzyUE31r16wUL4vEVRJA
Toby Firth
76. scio
@64 How/why different spren are protected from the crossing will be interesting. Maybe something to do with the age of the person they are going to, although is probably rather a big jump to a conclusion.

@67 This council of spren does seem interesting. Maybe there are different rankings of spren and the ones that give knights radiant their power would be fairly high ranking spren. Although where the giant one that rises out of the sea in one of the interludes in WoK fits in I won't know.
Mason Wheeler
77. Tater
I just thought I'd add that from the perspective of (our world's) linguistics, Jezrien/Jezerezeh is actually very close to Yaezir.
J is often interchangeable with a 'yuh' sound;
Certain vowels changing is a very forgiveable act, linguistically speaking, so 'e' and 'ae' are a very good match;
The 'i' jumps around, but is still there;
The z and the r are both still present
And '-en' and '-ezeh' could both be language specific suffixes derived from historical changes.

i could be totally off in a number of ways, but thought I'd throw the thought out there.
Alice Arneson
78. Wetlandernw
@77 - Good point. "Jasnah" is pronounced with the J sounding like a Y, so why not Jezrien?
Nadine L.
79. travyl
@77 / 78, and it makes real sense too, in reference to the sentence, unlike my rushed claim. I like it.
Mason Wheeler
80. Vestis E'toris Prime Targ
Going through the story and the comments again, had a question:
If Darkness is a (former) Herald, would he hold a Shardblade? They gave up their Honorblades right? Would giving up an Honorblade and then picking up a Shardblade make sense in Roshar's system (as in how magic is supposed to work, and all)?

Also "I’m so storming pure I practically belch rainbows.” This cracked me up on re-reading. It is so ironical her saying this, because she can actually belch out (or at least breathe out) stormlight. Brandon really put some thought into these dialogues.
Mason Wheeler
81. Tomkel
The word awesome made this difficult for me to read and I personally feel that its use seriously undermines the worldbuilding.

Brandon normally uses such imaginative and context specific words as slang or swear words. Why not for awesome?

I'm sure he has his reasons for this exception, but, for me at least, this just seems so at odds with the unique world and sense of place he is trying to create.
David Foster
82. ZenBossanova
Now that we have met a few more spren, I really wonder why people couldn't bond to any miscellaneous spren out there. Why couldn't you bond to a windspren or a flame spren, or heaven forbid, a dungspren?
Alice Arneson
83. Wetlandernw
I suspect they have to be more sophisticated than that. Consider the concepts behind, for example, wind vs. honor. Wind is a fairly straightforward meteorological thing; honor is a much more complex philosophical concept. I don't know, really; it's just what makes sense to me.
Kimani Rogers
84. KiManiak
Vestis@80 – I don’t see why a Herald wouldn’t (or couldn't) have a Shardblade, if they so desired. Shardblades are still among the most effective and feared weapons on Roshar. We haven’t seen a lot of the magic on Roshar yet, but we do see Darkness appear to demonstrate some of the benefits of Surgebinding, by glowing faintly and running faster than normal. It doesn’t appear that Shardblades completely interfere with Darkness’s abilities, as far as we’ve seen.

Tomkel@81 and others re: “awesome” – It’s unfortunate that the use of “awesome” had that effect. I find it curious that one word/phrase has that effect on readers, but not other terms or slang like “cuz,” “ain’t,” “starvin,” “’ello” (shouldn’t one get a British vibe and hear the phrase “’ello, governor?” ), “nope,” “rubbish” (another British vibe?), “cusses,” “whiner,”etc. It seems these could stand out just as much as "awesome."

What about expressions and various types of learned behavior that are probably not universal to all humans? Lift fake yawning to express boredom? Lift shrugging her shoulders to express something’s not a big deal? Shouldn't those stand out, too?

It seems like there is potentially a lot of ways to be distracted from a story, if the reader allows it. For me, I look at the tone of voice the narration is providing based upon the perspective. Could a 13 year old girl on an alien world use various types of slang and expressions to convey a sentiment similar to what the author is conveying? Is the author likely translating those expressions into the closest approximation in English (or whatever language you read TWoK in) so that we get the idea of what the character says/means in a way that is realistic to a character of that age, experience, exposure, upbringing, etc? For me, the answer is yes.

Then again, I was also fine with Brandon’s version of Mat in The Wheel of Time, so feel free to factor that in… :-)
Mason Wheeler
85. Jasuni
@ 81 and others re: use of the word "awesome"

How many words are used in a way that has nothing to do with their actual definition in the real world? (examples that I've heard: "playing a musical instrument is cool", or "she's hot") I'm fairly certain there are other examples (especially in cultures I am unfamiliar with). Also, this isn't the first time Brandon Sanderson has made an exception (ex: Cett in the Mistborn trilogy)
Robert Dickinson
86. ChocolateRob
Not that I'm suggesting that he use it but would 'Amazingness' distract in the same way as 'Awesomeness' apparently does? What phrase/word would you all apply to a thirteen(ish) year old who is trying to express how awesome her powers are to herself. (I can use the word awesome here because I'm on earth.)
As others have pointed out she is not actually saying the word 'Awesome', she is saying whatever the equivalent word is in her language.
David Foster
87. ZenBossanova
What is really suspicious is how all these people on this planet all speak English! Furthermore, all the main characters looks very much like regular humans.

Ok, I am done trolling now. Awesome is a bit loaded for me, but not something worth dwelling much on, considering she is a one-off character.

Much more interesting, there was a post at 17th Shard discussing the idea that all the ex-Heralds are all living out lives with their own distorted virtures - ie Nalan (Darkness?) with a distorted focus on Justice, or Shalash whose focus on Creativity now just has her destroying art.

I expect we will see that the ex-Heralds have in many senses, suffered more and been broken more completely, than Taln. He was the one who lived 5,000 years in hell, but they are the ones it will be the most damaged and broken.

Now, what will it be like when Darkness and Taln meet? That is going to be an interesting conversation.
Mason Wheeler
88. Tomkel
About 'Awesome' ...

Obviously, for the book to even be understood by us it must use mostly modern English words, but replacing and limiting the use of modern slang and colloquialisms facilitates the portrayal of an alternate fantasy setting. Just as 'Storm' in WoK and 'Light' in WoT evokes the setting, so does 'Awesome', for me, evoke modern day (America). I suppose it's just a matter of personal opinion where one draws the line.

I don't really have an issue with the word itself in real life (although it is overused!), I was just surprised to 'hear' it used in Roshar. I still very much enjoyed the actual story and will definitely be buying the book when it comes out.

@86 As I said, it's a matter of opinion, but I don't have a problem with 'Amazing' or 'Amazingness'. Just curious, and I'm definitely not suggesting this, but how would you (and others) feel about 'Badass' and 'Badassery' instead of 'Awesome' and 'Awesomeness'?

@87 The Parshendi don't seem too human to me, nor the spren. :)
Mason Wheeler
89. GroundPetrel
My thoughts on the interlude:

*WARNING: This comment contains much hypothesizing about Brandon's work, because I keep forgetting to just sign up at 17th Shard already*

Yep, it's Brandon Sanderson. Mind=Blown.

I love the Radiants and how they get their powers from being good people. This friction manipulation power is indeed awesome.

Re: Lift's matter-to-stormlight metabolism: That sounds like a direct connection to Cultivation to me. Matter to energy conversion, able to touch a spren that is strongly associated with growth and plants--seems likely to me.

Re: Darkness: He's definitely the guy who was talking with Ehlokar; the description is too similar. Motivation? If he's a Herald (likely, given his access to a Stormlight-draning creature or spren, which I hypothesize is an Odium-corrupted animal or spren, similar to thunderclast-animating spren as seen in Dalinar's vision excerpt), he knows what Odium (who he calls Desolation?) wants, and knows the threat that an incarnation of hatred poses to Roshar. He and several of his minions have Shardblades; this is unusual to say the least, and as to why a former Herald would be using a garden-variety Shardblade--I have no idea.

Why doesn't he go after Szeth? Szeth's Windrunner abilities do not seem to come from a spren symbiosis. Direct connection with Honor? Innate Shin property? This is definitely related to the spren-free and highly Earthlike nature of Shinovar. Darkness isn't interested in Szeth because Szeth, despite having Windrunner powers, isn't a Radiant in any way.

Also, is Darkness connected to Taravangian's plan, or to the Ghostbloods, or to both, or is he a solo operator? It seems likely that he's on Taravangian's side or is going solo. He probably wouldn't work with the Ghostbloods, who seem to be interested in bringing Odium back for the apocalypse.

Finally, where is Hoid? Where are Galladon, Demoux, and the other guy? Do the Scadrial people know of the cosmere at this point, and how is Sel faring? These all seem to be important questions. Nalthis is stable, although someone's agents are screwing stuff up there as of the end of Warbreaker. Is Odium attempting to take over/destroy the entire cosmere? (Seems likely, given its Intent and its natue as a being of pure hatred)
Birgit
90. birgit
Not that I'm suggesting that he use it but would 'Amazingness' distract in the same way as 'Awesomeness' apparently does?

To me awesomeness sounds better and I have no problem with it, but maybe that is because I am no native speaker and don't have cultural associations with the word.
Jordan Hibbits
91. rhandric
Something you said, GroundPetrol@89, made me make a connection that I had had when I read the excerpt the first time, but had forgotten about by the time I finished reading it/the comments. The winged cremling-like creature, that drains Lift of Stormlight, might not actually have a connection to Odium. The reason I say this is because, in Mistborn , Aluminum is an allomantic metal that drains you of metals. This winged cremling-like creature could be the Roshar equivalent.
Nadine L.
92. travyl
@87: I know you joked, but you forgot Numuhukumakiaki’aialunamor (Rock) (for example).

Funny enough, I find "badass" ... bad, so this "suggestion" helps me understand, why people might have problems with awesome. (Though one could say that a power such as Lift's really could evoke awe in the true sense as well.)
But still, this isn't WoT, where Brandon took up from an author with different writing style and vocabulary preferences, this is his very own fantasy-world and if he wants awesome or paranoid or whatever "newish american words" in it, I don't see any reason to criticize.
Mason Wheeler
93. GroundPetrel
@ rhandric (#91): Good point...Cultivation maybe? Or just a creature that has developed the ability to metabolize and feed off of Stormlight?
Mason Wheeler
94. STBLST
Hi, this is my opening foray into the Sanderson blogosphere. I greatly enjoyed the preview chapter about Lift, her character, powers, and rescue from the one called "blackness". It is a charming and informative interlude chapter of the forthcoming book. If it serves as a harbinger of the quality of the writing, "Words of Radiance" will be 'awesome'. Parenthetically, I have no problem with such language as used by a young teen-ager, Lift. It lends a certain charm and credibility to her depiction as an uneducated street waif.

I disagree with the speculation here about the nature of the seemingly malevolent individual whom Lift calls Blackness. He is not a Herald but a cosmere traveller who stands in strong opposition to Hoid. While Hoid attempts to encourage the development of Radiants like Kaladin, Blackness attempts to destroy them. The rationale appears to be that the renewal of the Radiants will trigger the corresponding rise of the Voidbringers and precipitate the destruction of the Roshar societies or the planet, itself. In this attitude, he is similar to king Travangian who also justifies evil in the name of a supposedly greater good. This attitude is the polar opposite of the first ideal of the Radiants (journey before destination), and reinforces my conclusion that Blackness is not a Herald.

This individual with Azish features and a cheek scar has been seen in other preview selections. He is the one who seeks to kill Ym when he discovers Ym's ambition and power of healing others. He is also one of the two 'diplomats' who are at the post-treaty party during which the Alethi king is assassinated by Szeth. I believe that he is also one of those (the one dubbed, Blunt) attempting to track down Hoid in the Ishiqq interlude in the current book.

I agree that Yaesir is Jezrein with the "J" having a "Y" sound. After all, he is denoted as the "Herald of kings". There is also a country named Yezir (spelling?) that borders on the Azish land. I should also add that Sanderson appears to make frequent use of Hebrew in names. The number 'shash' is equivalent to the Hebrew 'shesh', meaning six. The Last Desolation is called 'Acharietum' after the Hebrew 'acharit', meaning last. The radical, 'adon' or 'adin' in Ad0nalsium' or Kaladin is from the Hebrew 'adon', meaning lord. Even Yezier or Jezrien can be considered to stem from the Hebrew Yisrael (Israel) or its poetic equivalent, Yeshurun. There is more to be said on the subject, but this is quite enough for now.
Grainne McGuire
95. helen79
The "awesome" discussion: I personally have no problem with this but then I'm not American and it's not a word I use. It works quite well for me here - it conjures up the image of a young immature person who has some ... awesome abilities.

In a broader context I think this is always going to be an issue in fantasy books set in other worlds, that commonly used language may bring people out of the world. Writers often resort to other languages or things that look like other languages but even that doesn't always work when a reader is familiar with those other languages. Even using terms in different ways can be hard to deal with.

As an example, I read the early Shannara books years ago and found it very difficult to cope with male characters called Emer and Aine when these are female Irish names (as an aside, I met Terry Brooks once at a signing and asked him about this in a light-hearted way and he mentioned he might remember my name for future use. I didn't read any more Shannara books until a few years ago and then I came across Grianne Ohmsford so it seems he did remember the name and applied it to a female character).
Mason Wheeler
96. jeffreyferson
also, was this line intentional? I don't get it

"Fortunately, she'd guessed right, unfortunately."

Figure I'd point it out while the Tor editors can still fix it...
Mason Wheeler
97. RandallW
@96 Fortunately she guessed that Gawx would be caught, unfortunately Gawx was caught.
Mason Wheeler
98. STBLST
I hope that I didn't give the impression in my last (initial) post that I had unravelled the mysteries that Sanderson presented in the "Way of Kings" and in the excerpts from the new book in the Stormlight series. Among the remaining unknowns that I have are the identities and mission of the Ghostblood leaders (Thaidakar?), and how they differ from King Travangian. The former seemed to seemed to have always focused their enmity on the Kholin rulers of Alethkar and their supporters, while Taravangian belatedly selects Dalinar as a target of assassination. The question that I have is whether or not their motives are similar, i.e., to stop or protect against the rise of the Voidbringers. The objective of the Parshendi leaders is made more clear in the Eshenai excerpt. Their assassination of king Gavilar via their one-time servant, Szeth, is an act of desperation. Something the king told them at the treaty signing event, triggered an extreme reaction. It seems that Gavilar had initiated an event or events that they believed would lead to the resurrection the Voidbringers, if allowed to continue. That projected scenario would have led to the transformation of the otherwise honorable Parshendi to become the associates of those malevolent creatures, or the creatures, themselves. What did Gavilar reveal to them? I believe that he had used his mysterious stone to resurrect a Herald, Shalash. Her statue is missing from his halls, and there is a mysterious female figure in a WOK interlude who has command of a shardblade (not used) and is busy destroying figures in the Emuli land. One of the Cosmere travellers in the Jasnah excerpt (my conjecture) refers disappointingly to "Ash" who is not what she was. Some credence to my conjecture is lent by the observation in WOK that the dead of the rich and powerful are 'soulcast' to stone, whereas the 'thunderclast' monsters arise from stone.
Mason Wheeler
100. KD613
I think the problem with the word 'awesome' is that we are to used to the word in its modern context. I think the word is actually meant in its original meaning here. You can easily imagine a young Lift hearing of the 'awesome powers of the heralds,' or something similar. Since she has powers she must be awesome as well. Since her gifts make her awesome the powers are her awesomeness. I think that would very easily be a mistake a child would make. 'God and his Heralds are awesome and have awesome powers. I have powers, so I must be awesome too.' (Note: awesome means great, often with a connotation of wonder.)
geoff soper
101. geoff-again
The picture of Lift is, to my mind, totally wrong

Instead of portraying a 12 year old, often starving, girl (remember Wyndle saying/implying that she had no fat on her, because she habitually overused her "awesomness" & thus burning any fat off; both fat & food being the fuel for her "awesomness") we have someone who is at least 5 to 10 years older -- who is also quite voluptuously curved, & by no stretch of the imagination could be seen as not being physically a woman

The artist did get her face colour right, though other more minor problems are that her hair is neither straight nor does it reach to her
waist

I think the artist, misremembered &/or misinterpreted the description of Lift's face as rounded, & applied the roundedness to her body

Finally I'd like to point out, that Lift adds to line-up of possible female contenders for a later Kaladin romantic interest, & that she shares the compatable background with him, of not being trained/inclined to give undue reverence to light-eye authority-figures or to light-eye culture
geoff soper
102. geoff-again
The picture of Lift is, to my mind, totally wrong

Instead of portraying a 12 year old, often starving, girl (remember Wyndle saying/implying that she had no fat on her, because she habitually overused her "awesomness" & thus burning any fat off; both fat & food being the fuel for her "awesomness") we have someone who is at least 5 to 10 years older -- who is also quite voluptuously curved, & by no stretch of the imagination could be seen as not being physically a woman

The artist did get her face colour right, though other more minor problems are that her hair is neither straight nor does it reach to her waist

I think the artist, misremembered &/or misinterpreted the description of Lift's face as rounded, & applied the roundedness to her body

Finally I'd like to point out, that Lift adds to the line-up of possible contenders for a later Kaladin romantic interest, & that she shares the compatable background with him, of not being trained/inclined to give undue reverence to light-eye authority-figures or to light-eye culture
Mason Wheeler
103. SM
Love Brad's fresh, compelling approach. I just hope he doesn't inadvertently turn his series into just another installment of the Wheel of Time. Darkness in this excerpt seems too close to the relatively flat depiction of the Whitecoats in the Wheel.
Can't wait until March 4th!

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