Tor.com is pleased to offer the following excerpt from Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, book two of The Stormlight Archive. Be sure to check back for further excerpts and sneak peeks in the weeks to come, leading up to the book’s release on March 4th!
Following the events of The Way of Kings, Sanderson returns us to the remarkable world of Roshar, where the war between humans and the enigmatic Parshendi will move into a new, dangerous phase.
Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end the war. Shallan is set on finding the legendary and perhaps mythical city of Urithiru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. Kaladin struggles to wear the mantle of the Windrunners as his old demons resurface. And the threat of the Voidbringers’ return hangs over them all…
Also, we’ve opened up a spoiler thread here for discussion of the new chapters.
Soldiers reported being watched from afar by an unnerving number of Parshendi scouts. Then we noticed a new pattern of their penetrating close to the camps in the night and then quickly retreating. I can only surmise that our enemies were even then preparing their stratagem to end this war.
—From the personal journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
Research into times before the Hierocracy is frustratingly difficult, the book read. During the reign of the Hierocracy, the Vorin Church had nearabsolute control over eastern Roshar. The fabrications they promoted—and then perpetuated as absolute truth—became ingrained in the consciousness of society. More disturbingly, modified copies of ancient texts were made, aligning history to match Hierocratic dogma.
In her cabin, Shallan read by the glow of a goblet of spheres, wearing her nightgown. Her cramped chamber lacked a true porthole and had just a thin slit of a window running across the top of the outside wall. The only sound she could hear was the water lapping against the hull. Tonight, the ship did not have a port in which to shelter.
The church of this era was suspicious of the Knights Radiant, the book read. Yet it relied upon the authority granted Vorinism by the Heralds. This created a dichotomy in which the Recreance, and the betrayal of the knights, was overemphasized. At the same time, the ancient knights—the ones who had lived alongside the Heralds in the shadowdays—were celebrated.
This makes it particularly difficult to study the Radiants and the place named Shadesmar. What is fact? What records did the church, in its misguided attempt to cleanse the past of perceived contradictions, rewrite to suit its preferred narrative? Few documents from the period survive that did not pass through Vorin hands to be copied from the original parchment into modern codices.
Shallan glanced up over the top of her book. The volume was one of Jasnah’s earliest published works as a full scholar. Jasnah had not assigned Shallan to read it. Indeed, she’d been hesitant when Shallan had asked for a copy, and had needed to dig it out of one of the numerous trunks full of books she kept in the ship’s hold.
Why had she been so reluctant, when this volume dealt with the very things that Shallan was studying? Shouldn’t Jasnah have given her this right off? It—
The pattern returned.
Shallan’s breath caught in her throat as she saw it on the cabin wall beside the bunk, just to her left. She carefully moved her eyes back to the page in front of her. The pattern was the same one that she’d seen before, the shape that had appeared on her sketchpad.
Ever since then, she’d been seeing it from the corner of her eye, appearing in the grain of wood, the cloth on the back of a sailor’s shirt, the shimmering of the water. Each time, when she looked right at it, the pattern vanished. Jasnah would say nothing more, other than to indicate it was likely harmless.
Shallan turned the page and steadied her breathing. She had experienced something like this before with the strange symbol-headed creatures who had appeared unbidden in her drawings. She allowed her eyes to slip up off the page and look at the wall—not right at the pattern, but to the side of it, as if she hadn’t noticed it.
Yes, it was there. Raised, like an embossing, it had a complex pattern with a haunting symmetry. Its tiny lines twisted and turned through its mass, somehow lifting the surface of the wood, like iron scrollwork under a taut tablecloth.
It was one of those things. The symbolheads. This pattern was similar to their strange heads. She looked back at the page, but did not read. The ship swayed, and the glowing white spheres in her goblet clinked as they shifted. She took a deep breath.
Then looked directly at the pattern.
Immediately, it began to fade, the ridges sinking. Before it did, she got a clear look at it, and she took a Memory.
“Not this time,” she muttered as it vanished. “This time I have you.” She threw away her book, scrambling to get out her charcoal pencil and a sheet of sketching paper. She huddled down beside her light, red hair tumbling around her shoulders.
She worked furiously, possessed by a frantic need to have this drawing done. Her fingers moved on their own, her unclothed safehand holding the sketchpad toward the goblet, which sprinkled the paper with shards of light.
She tossed aside the pencil. She needed something crisper, capable of sharper lines. Ink. Pencil was wonderful for drawing the soft shades of life, but this thing she drew was not life. It was something else, something unreal. She dug a pen and inkwell from her supplies, then went back to her drawing, replicating the tiny, intricate lines.
She did not think as she drew. The art consumed her, and creationspren popped into existence all around. Dozens of tiny shapes soon crowded the small table beside her cot and the floor of the cabin near where she knelt. The spren shifted and spun, each no larger than the bowl of a spoon, becoming shapes they’d recently encountered. She mostly ignored them, though she’d never seen so many at once.
Faster and faster they shifted forms as she drew, intent. The pattern seemed impossible to capture. Its complex repetitions twisted down into infinity. No, a pen could never capture this thing perfectly, but she was close. She drew it spiraling out of a center point, then re-created each branch off the center, which had its own swirl of tiny lines. It was like a maze created to drive its captive insane.
When she finished the last line, she found herself breathing hard, as if she’d run a great distance. She blinked, again noticing the creationspren around her—there were hundreds. They lingered before fading away one by one. Shallan set the pen down beside her vial of ink, which she’d stuck to the tabletop with wax to keep it from sliding as the ship swayed. She picked up the page, waiting for the last lines of ink to dry, and felt as if she’d accomplished something significant—though she knew not what.
As the last line dried, the pattern rose before her. She heard a distinct sigh from the paper, as if in relief.
She jumped, dropping the paper and scrambling onto her bed. Unlike the other times, the embossing didn’t vanish, though it left the paper—budding from her matching drawing—and moved onto the floor.
She could describe it in no other way. The pattern somehow moved from paper to floor. It came to the leg of her cot and wrapped around it, climbing upward and onto the blanket. It didn’t look like something moving beneath the blanket; that was simply a crude approximation. The lines were too precise for that, and there was no stretching. Something beneath the blanket would have been just an indistinct lump, but this was exact.
It drew closer. It didn’t look dangerous, but she still found herself trembling. This pattern was different from the symbolheads in her drawings, but it was also somehow the same. A flattened-out version, without torso or limbs. It was an abstraction of one of them, just as a circle with a few lines in it could represent a human’s face on the page.
Those things had terrified her, haunted her dreams, made her worry she was going insane. So as this one approached, she scuttled from her bed and went as far from it in the small cabin as she could. Then, heart thumping in her chest, she pulled open the door to go for Jasnah.
She found Jasnah herself just outside, reaching toward the doorknob, her left hand cupped before her. A small figure made of inky blackness—shaped like a man in a smart, fashionable suit with a long coat—stood in her palm. He melted away into shadow as he saw Shallan. Jasnah looked to Shallan, then glanced toward the floor of the cabin, where the pattern was crossing the wood.
“Put on some clothing, child,” Jasnah said. “We have matters to discuss.”
“I had originally hoped that we would have the same type of spren,” Jasnah said, sitting on a stool in Shallan’s cabin. The pattern remained on the floor between her and Shallan, who lay prone on the cot, properly clothed with a robe over the nightgown and a thin white glove on her left hand. “But of course, that would be too easy. I have suspected since Kharbranth that we would be of different orders.”
“Orders, Brightness?” Shallan asked, timidly using a pencil to prod at the pattern on the floor. It shied away, like an animal that had been poked. Shallan was fascinated by how it raised the surface of the floor, though a part of her did not want to have anything to do with it and its unnatural, eye-twisting geometries.
“Yes,” Jasnah said. The inklike spren that had accompanied her before had not reappeared. “Each order reportedly had access to two of the Surges, with overlap between them. We call the powers Surgebinding. Soulcasting was one, and is what we share, though our orders are different.”
Shallan nodded. Surgebinding. Soulcasting. These were talents of the Lost Radiants, the abilities—supposedly just legend—that had been their blessing or their curse, depending upon which reports you read. Or so she’d learned from the books Jasnah had given her to read during their trip.
“I’m not one of the Radiants,” Shallan said.
“Of course you aren’t,” Jasnah said, “and neither am I. The orders of knights were a construct, just as all society is a construct, used by men to define and explain. Not every man who wields a spear is a soldier, and not every woman who makes bread is a baker. And yet weapons, or baking, become the hallmarks of certain professions.”
“So you’re saying that what we can do…”
“Was once the definition of what initiated one into the Knights Radi68 ant,” Jasnah said.
“But we’re women!”
“Yes,” Jasnah said lightly. “Spren don’t suffer from human society’s prejudices. Refreshing, wouldn’t you say?”
Shallan looked up from poking at the pattern spren. “There were women among the Knights Radiant?”
“A statistically appropriate number,” Jasnah said. “But don’t fear that you will soon find yourself swinging a sword, child. The archetype of Radiants on the battlefield is an exaggeration. From what I’ve read—though records are, unfortunately, untrustworthy—for every Radiant dedicated to battle, there were another three who spent their time on diplomacy, scholarship, or other ways to aid society.”
“Oh.” Why was Shallan disappointed by that?
Fool. A memory rose unbidden. A silvery sword. A pattern of light. Truths she could not face. She banished them, squeezing her eyes shut.
“I have been looking into the spren you told me about,” Jasnah said. “The creatures with the symbol heads.”
Shallan took a deep breath and opened her eyes. “This is one of them,” she said, pointing her pencil at the pattern, which had approached her trunk and was moving up onto it and off it—like a child jumping on a sofa. Instead of threatening, it seemed innocent, even playful—and hardly intelligent at all. She had been frightened of this thing?
“Yes, I suspect that it is,” Jasnah said. “Most spren manifest differently here than they do in Shadesmar. What you drew before was their form there.”
“This one is not very impressive.”
“Yes. I will admit that I’m disappointed. I feel that we’re missing something important about this, Shallan, and I find it annoying. The Cryptics have a fearful reputation, and yet this one—the first specimen I’ve ever seen—seems…”
It climbed up the wall, then slipped down, then climbed back up, then slipped down again.
“Imbecilic?” Shallan asked.
“Perhaps it simply needs more time,” Jasnah said. “When I first bonded with Ivory—” She stopped abruptly.
“What?” Shallan said.
“I’m sorry. He does not like me to speak of him. It makes him anxious. The knights’ breaking of their oaths was very painful to the spren. Many spren died; I’m certain of it. Though Ivory won’t speak of it, I gather that what he’s done is regarded as a betrayal by the others of his kind.”
“No more of that,” Jasnah said. “I’m sorry.”
“Fine. You mentioned the Cryptics?”
“Yes,” Jasnah said, reaching into the sleeve that hid her safehand and slipping out a folded piece of paper—one of Shallan’s drawings of the symbolheads. “That is their own name for themselves, though we would probably name them liespren. They don’t like the term. Regardless, the Cryptics rule one of the greater cities in Shadesmar. Think of them as the lighteyes of the Cognitive Realm.”
“So this thing,” Shallan said, nodding to the pattern, which was spinning in circles in the center of the cabin, “is like… a prince, on their side?”
“Something like that. There is a complex sort of conflict between them and the honorspren. Spren politics are not something I’ve been able to devote much time to. This spren will be your companion—and will grant you the ability to Soulcast, among other things.”
“We will have to see,” Jasnah said. “It comes down to the nature of spren. What has your research revealed?”
With Jasnah, everything seemed to be a test of scholarship. Shallan smothered a sigh. This was why she had come with Jasnah, rather than returning to her home. Still, she did wish that sometimes Jasnah would just tell her answers rather than making her work so hard to find them. “Alai says that the spren are fragments of the powers of creation. A lot of the scholars I read agreed with that.”
“It is one opinion. What does it mean?”
Shallan tried not to let herself be distracted by the spren on the floor. “There are ten fundamental Surges—forces—by which the world works. Gravitation, pressure, transformation. That sort of thing. You told me spren are fragments of the Cognitive Realm that have somehow gained sentience because of human attention. Well, it stands to reason that they were something before. Like… like a painting was a canvas before being given life.”
“Life?” Jasnah said, raising her eyebrow.
“Of course,” Shallan said. Paintings lived. Not lived like a person or a spren, but… well, it was obvious to her, at least. “So, before the spren were alive, they were something. Power. Energy. Zen-daughter-Vath sketched tiny spren she found sometimes around heavy objects. Gravitationspren—fragments of the power or force that causes us to fall. It stands to reason that every spren was a power before it was a spren. Really, you can divide spren into two general groups. Those that respond to emotions and those that respond to forces like fire or wind pressure.”
“So you believe Namar’s theory on spren categorization?”
“Good,” Jasnah said. “As do I. I suspect, personally, that these groupings of spren—emotion spren versus nature spren—are where the ideas of mankind’s primeval ‘gods’ came from. Honor, who became Vorinism’s Almighty, was created by men who wanted a representation of ideal human emotions as they saw in emotion spren. Cultivation, the god worshipped in the West, is a female deity that is an embodiment of nature and nature spren. The various Voidspren, with their unseen lord—whose name changes depending on which culture we’re speaking of—evoke an enemy or antagonist. The Stormfather, of course, is a strange offshoot of this, his theoretical nature changing depending on which era of Vorinism is doing the talking.…”
She trailed off. Shallan blushed, realizing she’d looked away and had begun tracing a glyphward on her blanket against the evil in Jasnah’s words.
“That was a tangent,” Jasnah said. “I apologize.”
“You’re so sure he isn’t real,” Shallan said. “The Almighty.”
“I have no more proof of him than I do of the Thaylen Passions, Nu Ralik of the Purelake, or any other religion.”
“And the Heralds? You don’t think they existed?”
“I don’t know,” Jasnah said. “There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. For example, there is some slight proof that both the Stormfather and the Almighty are real creatures—simply powerful spren, such as the Nightwatcher.”
“Then he would be real.”
“I never claimed he was not,” Jasnah said. “I merely claimed that I do not accept him as God, nor do I feel any inclination to worship him. But this is, again, a tangent.” Jasnah stood. “You are relieved of other duties of study. For the next few days, you have only one focus for your scholarship.” She pointed toward the floor.
“The pattern?” Shallan asked.
“You are the only person in centuries to have the chance to interact with a Cryptic,” Jasnah said. “Study it and record your experiences—in detail. This will likely be your first writing of significance, and could be of utmost importance to our future.”
Shallan regarded the pattern, which had moved over and bumped into her foot—she could feel it only faintly—and was now bumping into it time and time again.
“Great,” Shallan said.
The next clue came on the walls. I did not ignore this sign, but neither did I grasp its full implications.
—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
I’m running through water,” Dalinar said, coming to himself. He was moving, charging forward.
The vision coalesced around him. Warm water splashed his legs. On either side of him, a dozen men with hammers and spears ran through the shallow water. They lifted their legs high with each step, feet back, thighs lifting parallel to the water’s surface, like they were marching in a parade—only no parade had ever been such a mad scramble. Obviously, running that way helped them move through the liquid. He tried to imitate the odd gait.
“I’m in the Purelake, I think,” he said, under his breath. “Warm water that only comes up to the knees, no signs of land anywhere. It’s dusk, though, so I can’t see much.
“People run with me. I don’t know if we’re running toward something or away from it. Nothing over my shoulder that I can see. These people are obviously soldiers, though the uniforms are antiquated. Leather skirts, bronze helms and breastplates. Bare legs and arms.” He looked down at himself. “I’m wearing the same.”
Some highlords in Alethkar and Jah Keved still used uniforms like this, so he couldn’t place the exact era. The modern uses were all calculated revivals by traditionalist commanders who hoped a classical look would inspire their men. In those cases, however, modern steel equipment would be used alongside the antique uniforms—and he didn’t see any of that here.
Dalinar didn’t ask questions. He’d found that playing along with these visions taught him more than it did to stop and demand answers.
Running through this water was tough. Though he’d started near the front of the group, he was now lagging behind. The group ran toward some kind of large rock mound ahead, shadowed in the dusk. Maybe this wasn’t the Purelake. It didn’t have rock formations like—
That wasn’t a rock mound. It was a fortress. Dalinar halted, looking up at the peaked, castle-like structure that rose straight from the still lake waters. He’d never seen its like before. Jet-black stone. Obsidian? Perhaps this place had been Soulcast.
“There’s a fortress ahead,” he said, continuing forward. “It must not still exist—if it did, it would be famous. It looks like it’s created entirely from obsidian. Finlike sides rising toward peaked tips above, towers like arrowheads… Stormfather. It’s majestic.
“We’re approaching another group of soldiers who stand in the water, holding spears wardingly in all directions. There are perhaps a dozen of them; I’m in the company of another dozen. And… yes, there’s someone in the middle of them. Shardbearer. Glowing armor.”
Not just a Shardbearer. Radiant. A knight in resplendent Shardplate that glowed with a deep red at the joints and in certain markings. Armor did that in the shadowdays. This vision was taking place before the Recreance.
Like all Shardplate, the armor was distinctive. With that skirt of chain links, those smooth joints, the vambraces that extended back just so… Storms, that looked like Adolin’s armor, though this armor pulled in more at the waist. Female? Dalinar couldn’t tell for certain, as the faceplate was down.
“Form up!” the knight ordered as Dalinar’s group arrived, and he nodded to himself. Yes, female.
Dalinar and the other soldiers formed a ring around the knight, weapons outward. Not far off, another group of soldiers with a knight at their center marched through the water.
“Why did you call us back?” asked one of Dalinar’s companions.
“Caeb thinks he saw something,” the knight said. “Be alert. Let’s move carefully.”
The group started away from the fortress in another direction from the one they’d come. Dalinar held his spear outward, sweating at his temples. To his own eyes, he didn’t look any different from his normal self. The others, however, would see him as one of their own.
He still didn’t know terribly much about these visions. The Almighty sent them to him, somehow. But the Almighty was dead, by his own admission. So how did that work?
“We’re looking for something,” Dalinar said, under his breath. “Teams of knights and soldiers have been sent into the night to find something that was spotted.”
“You all right, new kid?” asked one of the soldiers to his side.
“Fine,” Dalinar said. “Just worried. I mean, I don’t even really know what we’re looking for.”
“A spren that doesn’t act like it should,” the man said. “Keep your eyes open. Once Sja-anat touches a spren, it acts strange. Call attention to anything you see.”
Dalinar nodded, then under his breath repeated the words, hoping that Navani could hear him. He and the soldiers continued their sweep, the knight at their center speaking with… nobody? She sounded like she was having a conversation, but Dalinar couldn’t see or hear anyone else with her.
He turned his attention to the surroundings. He’d always wanted to see the center of the Purelake, but he’d never had a chance to do much besides visit the border. He’d been unable to find time for a detour in that direction during his last visit to Azir. The Azish had always acted surprised that he would want to go to such a place, as they claimed there was “nothing there.”
Dalinar wore some kind of tight shoes on his feet, perhaps to keep him from cutting them on anything hidden by the water. The footing was uneven in places, with holes and ridges he felt rather than saw. He found himself watching little fish dart this way and that, shadows in the water, and next to them a face.
Dalinar shouted, jumping back, pointing his spear downward. “That was a face! In the water!”
“Riverspren?” the knight asked, stepping up beside him.
“It looked like a shadow,” Dalinar said. “Red eyes.”
“It’s here, then,” the knight said. “Sja-anat’s spy. Caeb, run to the checkpoint. The rest of you, keep watching. It won’t be able to go far without a carrier.” She yanked something off her belt, a small pouch.
“There!” Dalinar said, spotting a small red dot in the water. It flowed away from him, swimming like a fish. He charged after, running as he’d learned earlier. What good would it do to chase a spren, though? You couldn’t catch them. Not with any method he knew.
The others charged behind. Fish scattered away, frightened by Dalinar’s splashing. “I’m chasing a spren,” Dalinar said under his breath. “It’s what we’ve been hunting. It looks a little like a face—a shadowy one, with red eyes. It swims through the water like a fish. Wait! There’s another one.
Joining it. Larger, like a full figure, easily six feet. A swimming person, but like a shadow. It—”
“Storms!” the knight shouted suddenly. “It brought an escort!”
The larger spren twisted, then dove downward in the water, vanishing into the rocky ground. Dalinar stopped, uncertain if he should keep chasing the smaller one or remain here.
The others turned and started to run the other way.
Dalinar scrambled back as the rocky lake bottom began to shake. He stumbled, splashing down into the water. It was so clear he could see the floor cracking under him, as if something large were pounding against it from beneath.
“Come on!” one of the soldiers cried, grabbing him by the arm. Dalinar was pulled to his feet as the cracks below widened. The once-still surface of the lake churned and thrashed.
The ground jolted, almost tumbling Dalinar off his feet again. Ahead of him, several of the soldiers did fall.
The knight stood firm, an enormous Shardblade forming in her hands.
Dalinar glanced over his shoulder in time to see rock emerging from the water. A long arm! Slender, perhaps fifteen feet long, it burst from the water, then slammed back down as if to get a firm purchase on the lakebed. Another arm rose nearby, elbow toward the sky, then they both heaved as if attached to a body doing a push-up.
A giant body ripped itself out of the rocky floor. It was like someone had been buried in sand and was now emerging. Water streamed from the creature’s ridged and pocked back, which was overgrown with bits of shalebark and submarine fungus. The spren had somehow animated the stone itself.
As it stood and twisted about, Dalinar could make out glowing red eyes—like molten rock—set deep in an evil stone face. The body was skeletal, with thin bony limbs and spiky fingers that ended in rocky claws. The chest was a rib cage of stone.
“Thunderclast!” soldiers yelled. “Hammers! Ready hammers!”
The knight stood before the rising creature, which stood thirty feet tall, dripping water. A calm, white light began to rise from her. It reminded Dalinar of the light of spheres. Stormlight. She raised her Shardblade and charged, stepping through the water with uncanny ease, as if it had no purchase on her. Perhaps it was the strength of Shardplate.
“They were created to watch,” a voice said from beside him.
Dalinar looked to the soldier who had helped him rise earlier, a long-faced Selay man with a balding scalp and a wide nose. Dalinar reached down to help the man to his feet.
This wasn’t how the man had spoken before, but Dalinar recognized the voice. It was the same one that came at the end of most of the visions. The Almighty.
“The Knights Radiant,” the Almighty said, standing up beside Dalinar, watching the knight attack the nightmare beast. “They were a solution, a way to offset the destruction of the Desolations. Ten orders of knights, founded with the purpose of helping men fight, then rebuild.”
Dalinar repeated it, word for word, focused on catching every one and not on thinking about what they meant.
The Almighty turned to him. “I was surprised when these orders arrived. I did not teach my Heralds this. It was the spren—wishing to imitate what I had given men—who made it possible. You will need to refound them. This is your task. Unite them. Create a fortress that can weather the storm. Vex Odium, convince him that he can lose, and appoint a champion. He will take that chance instead of risking defeat again, as he has suffered so often. This is the best advice I can give you.”
Dalinar finished repeating the words. Beyond him, the fight began in earnest, water splashing, rock grinding. Soldiers approached bearing hammers, and unexpectedly, these men now also glowed with Stormlight, though far more faintly.
“You were surprised by the coming of the knights,” Dalinar said to the Almighty. “And this force, this enemy, managed to kill you. You were never God. God knows everything. God cannot be killed. So who were you?”
The Almighty did not answer. He couldn’t. Dalinar had realized that these visions were some kind of predetermined experience, like a play. The people in them could react to Dalinar, like actors who could improvise to an extent. The Almighty himself never did this.
“I will do what I can,” Dalinar said. “I will refound them. I will prepare. You have told me many things, but there is one I have figured out on my own. If you could be killed, then the other like you—your enemy—probably can be as well.”
The darkness came upon Dalinar. The yelling and splashing faded. Had this vision occurred during a Desolation, or between? These visions never told him enough. As the darkness evaporated he found himself lying in a small stone chamber within his complex in the warcamps.
Navani knelt beside him, clipboard held before her, pen moving as she scribbled. Storms, she was beautiful. Mature, lips painted red, hair wound about her head in a complex braid that sparkled with rubies. Bloodred dress. She looked at him, noting that he was blinking back awake, and smiled.
“It was—” he began.
“Hush,” she said, still writing. “That last part sounded important.” She wrote for a moment, then finally removed pen from pad, the latter held through the cloth of her sleeve. “I think I got it all. It’s hard when you change languages.”
“I changed languages?” he asked.
“At the end. Before, you were speaking Selay. An ancient form of it, certainly, but we have records of that. I hope my translators can make sense of my transcription; my command of that language is rusty. You do need to speak more slowly when you do this, dearest.”
“That can be hard, in the moment,” Dalinar said, rising. Compared to what he’d felt in the vision, the air here was cold. Rain pelted the room’s closed shutters, though he knew from experience that an end to his vision meant that the storm had nearly spent itself.
Feeling drained, he walked to a seat beside the wall and settled down. Only he and Navani were in the room; he preferred it that way. Renarin and Adolin waited out the storm nearby, in another room of Dalinar’s quarters and under the watchful eyes of Captain Kaladin and his bridgeman bodyguards.
Perhaps he should invite more scholars in to observe his visions; they could all write down his words, then consult to produce the most accurate version. But storms, he had enough trouble with one person watching him in such a state, raving and thrashing on the ground. He believed in the visions, even depended upon them, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t embarrassing.
Navani sat down beside him, and wrapped her arms around him. “Was it bad?”
“This one? No. Not bad. Some running, then some fighting. I didn’t participate. The vision ended before I needed to help.”
“Then why that expression?”
“I have to refound the Knights Radiant.”
“Refound the… But how? What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything; I only have hints and shadowy threats. Something dangerous is coming, that much is certain. I have to stop it.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. He stared at the hearth, which crackled softly, giving the small room a warm glow. This was one of the few hearths that hadn’t been converted to the new fabrial heating devices.
He preferred the real fire, though he wouldn’t say it to Navani. She worked so hard to bring new fabrials to them all.
“Why you?” Navani asked. “Why do you have to do this?”
“Why is one man born a king, and another a beggar?” Dalinar asked. “It is the way of the world.”
“It is that easy for you?”
“Not easy,” Dalinar said, “but there is no point in demanding answers.”
“Particularly if the Almighty is dead.…”
Perhaps he should not have shared that fact with her. Speaking of just that one idea could brand him a heretic, drive his own ardents from him, give Sadeas a weapon against the Throne.
If the Almighty was dead, what did Dalinar worship? What did he believe?
“We should record your memories of the vision,” Navani said with a sigh, pulling back from him. “While they are fresh.”
He nodded. It was important to have a description to match the transcriptions. He began to recount what he’d seen, speaking slowly enough that she could write it all down. He described the lake, the clothing of the men, the strange fortress in the distance. She claimed there were stories of large structures on the Purelake told by some who lived there. Scholars had considered them mythological.
Dalinar stood up and paced as he moved on to the description of the unholy thing that had risen from the lake. “It left behind a hole in the lakebed,” Dalinar explained. “Imagine if you were to outline a body on the floor, then watch that body rip itself free from the ground.
“Imagine the tactical advantage such a thing would have. Spren move quickly and easily. One could slip in behind battle lines, then stand up and start attacking the support staff. That beast’s stone body must have been difficult to break. Storms… Shardblades. Makes me wonder if these are the things the weapons were truly designed to fight.”
Navani smiled as she wrote.
“What?” Dalinar asked, stopping in his pacing.
“You are such a soldier.”
“And it’s endearing,” she said, finishing her writing. “What happened next?”
“The Almighty spoke to me.” He gave her the monologue as best he could remember while he paced in a slow, restful walk. I need to sleep more, he thought. He wasn’t the youth he’d been twenty years ago, capable of staying up all night with Gavilar, listening with a cup of wine as his brother made plans, then charging to battle the next day full of vigor and hungering for a contest.
Once he was done with his narrative, Navani rose, tucking her writing implements away. She’d take what he’d said and have her scholars—well, his scholars, which she’d appropriated—work at matching his Alethi words up with the transcriptions she’d recorded. Though, of course, she’d first remove the lines where he mentioned sensitive issues, such as the Almighty’s death.
She’d also search for historical references to match his descriptions. Navani liked things neat and quantified. She’d prepared a timeline of all of his visions, trying to piece them into a single narrative.
“You’re still going to publish the proclamation this week?” she asked.
Dalinar nodded. He’d released it to the highprinces a week ago, in private. He’d intended to release it the same day to the camps, but Navani had convinced him that this was the wiser course. News was seeping out, but this would let the highprinces prepare.
“The proclamation will go to the public within a few days,” he said. “Before the highprinces can put further pressure on Elhokar to retract it.”
Navani pursed her lips.
“It must be done,” Dalinar said.
“You’re supposed to unite them.”
“The highprinces are spoiled children,” Dalinar said. “Changing them will require extreme measures.”
“If you break the kingdom apart, we’ll never unify it.”
“We’ll make certain that it doesn’t break.”
Navani looked him up and down, then smiled. “I am fond of this more confident you, I must admit. Now, if I could just borrow a little of that confidence in regards to us…”
“I am quite confident about us,” he said, pulling her close.
“Is that so? Because this traveling between the king’s palace and your complex wastes a lot of my time each day. If I were to move my things here—say, into your quarters—think how much more convenient everything would be.”
“You’re confident they won’t let us marry, Dalinar. So what else are we to do? Is it the morality of the thing? You yourself said that the Almighty was dead.”
“Something is either right or it’s wrong,” Dalinar said, feeling stubborn. “The Almighty doesn’t come into it.”
“God,” Navani said flatly, “doesn’t come into whether his commands are right or wrong.”
“Careful,” Navani said. “You’re sounding like Jasnah. Anyway, if God is dead—”
“God isn’t dead. If the Almighty died, then he was never God, that’s all.”
She sighed, still close to him. She went up on her toes and kissed him—and not demurely, either. Navani considered demureness for the coy and frivolous. So, a passionate kiss, pressing against his mouth, pushing his head backward, hungering for more. When she pulled away, Dalinar found himself breathless.
She smiled at him, then turned and picked up her things—he hadn’t noticed her dropping them during the kiss—and then walked to the door. “I am not a patient woman, you realize. I am as spoiled as those highprinces, accustomed to getting what I want.”
He snorted. Neither was true. She could be patient. When it suited her. What she meant was that it didn’t suit her at the moment.
She opened the door, and Captain Kaladin himself peered in, inspecting the room. The bridgeman certainly was earnest. “Watch her as she travels home for the day, soldier,” Dalinar said to him.
Kaladin saluted. Navani pushed by him and left without a goodbye, closing the door and leaving Dalinar alone again.
Dalinar sighed deeply, then walked to the chair and settled down by the hearth to think.
He started awake some time later, the fire having burned out. Storms. Was he falling asleep in the middle of the day, now? If only he didn’t spend so much time at night tossing and turning, head full of worries and burdens that should never have been his. What had happened to the simple days? His hand on a sword, secure in the knowledge that Gavilar would handle the difficult parts?
Dalinar stretched, rising. He needed to go over preparations for releasing the king’s proclamation, and then see to the new guards—
He stopped. The wall of his room bore a series of stark white scratches forming glyphs. They hadn’t been there before.
Sixty-two days, the glyphs read. Death follows.
A short time later, Dalinar stood, straight-backed, hands clasped behind him as he listened to Navani confer with Rushu, one of the Kholin scholars. Adolin stood nearby, inspecting a chunk of white rock that had been found on the floor. It had apparently been pried from the row of ornamental stones rimming the room’s window, then used to write the glyphs.
Straight back, head up, Dalinar told himself, even though you want to just slump in that chair. A leader did not slump. A leader was in control. Even when he least felt like he controlled anything.
“Ah,” said Rushu—a young female ardent with long eyelashes and buttonlike lips. “Look at the sloppy lines! The improper symmetry. Whoever did this is not practiced with drawing glyphs. They almost spelled death wrong—it looks more like ‘broken.’ And the meaning is vague. Death follows? Or is it ‘follow death’? Or Sixty-Two Days of Death and Following? Glyphs are imprecise.”
“Just make the copy, Rushu,” Navani said. “And don’t speak of this to anyone.”
“Not even you?” Rushu asked, sounding distracted as she wrote.
Navani sighed, walking over to Dalinar and Adolin. “She is good at what she does,” Navani said softly, “but she’s a little oblivious sometimes. Anyway, she knows handwriting better than anyone. It’s one of her many areas of interest.”
Dalinar nodded, bottling his fears.
“Why would anyone do this?” Adolin asked, dropping the rock. “Is it some kind of obscure threat?”
“No,” Dalinar said.
Navani met Dalinar’s eyes. “Rushu,” she said. “Leave us for a moment.” The woman didn’t respond at first, but scuttled out at further prompting.
As she opened the door, she revealed members of Bridge Four outside, led by Captain Kaladin, his expression dark. He’d escorted Navani away, then come back to find this—and then had immediately sent men to check on and retrieve Navani.
He obviously considered this lapse his fault, thinking that someone had sneaked into Dalinar’s room while he was sleeping. Dalinar waved the captain in.
Kaladin hurried over, and hopefully didn’t see how Adolin’s jaw tightened as he regarded the man. Dalinar had been fighting the Parshendi Shardbearer when Kaladin and Adolin had clashed on the battlefield, but he’d heard talk of their run-in. His son certainly did not like hearing that this darkeyed bridgeman had been put in charge of the Cobalt Guard.
“Sir,” Captain Kaladin said, stepping up. “I’m embarrassed. One week on the job, and I’ve failed you.”
“You did as commanded, Captain,” Dalinar said.
“I was commanded to keep you safe, sir,” Kaladin said, anger bleeding into his voice. “I should have posted guards at individual doors inside your quarters, not just outside of the room complex.”
“We’ll be more observant in the future, Captain,” Dalinar said. “Your predecessor always posted the same guard as you did, and it was sufficient before.”
“Times were different before, sir,” Kaladin said, scanning the room and narrowing his eyes. He focused on the window, too small to let someone slip in. “I still wish I knew how they got in. The guards heard nothing.”
Dalinar inspected the young soldier, scarred and dark of expression. Why, Dalinar thought, do I trust this man so much? He couldn’t put his finger on it, but over the years, he’d learned to trust his instincts as a soldier and a general. Something within him urged him to trust Kaladin, and he accepted those instincts.
“This is a small matter,” Dalinar said.
Kaladin looked at him sharply.
“Don’t worry yourself overly much about how the person got in to scribble on my wall,” Dalinar said. “Just be more watchful in the future. Dismissed.” He nodded to Kaladin, who retreated reluctantly, pulling the door closed.
Adolin walked over. The mop-haired youth was as tall as Dalinar was. That was hard to remember, sometimes. It didn’t seem so long ago that Adolin had been an eager little boy with a wooden sword.
“You said you awoke to this here,” Navani said. “You said you didn’t see anyone enter or hear anyone make the drawing.”
“Then why,” she said, “do I get the sudden and distinct impression that you know why it is here?”
“I don’t know for certain who made it, but I know what it means.” “What, then?” Navani demanded.
“It means we have very little time left,” Dalinar said. “Send out the proclamation, then go to the highprinces and arrange a meeting. They’ll want to speak with me.”
The Everstorm comes.…
Sixty-two days. Not enough time.
It was, apparently, all he had.
The sign on the wall proposed a greater danger, even, than its deadline. To foresee the future is of the Voidbringers.
—From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jeseses 1174
“. . . toward victory and, at long last, vengeance.” The crier carried a writ with the king’s words on it—bound between two cloth-covered boards—though she obviously had the words memorized. Not surprising. Kaladin alone had made her repeat the proclamation three times.
“Again,” he said, sitting on his stone beside Bridge Four’s firepit. Many members of the crew had lowered their breakfast bowls, going silent. Nearby, Sigzil repeated the words to himself, memorizing them.
The crier sighed. She was a plump, lighteyed young woman with strands of red hair mixed in her black, bespeaking Veden or Horneater heritage. There would be dozens of women like her moving through the warcamp to read, and sometimes explain, Dalinar’s words.
She opened the ledger again. In any other battalion, Kaladin thought idly, its leader would be of a high enough social class to outrank her.
“Under the authority of the king,” she said, “Dalinar Kholin, Highprince of War, hereby orders changes to the manner of collection and distribution of gemhearts on the Shattered Plains. Henceforth, each gemheart will be collected in turn by two highprinces working in tandem. The spoils become the property of the king, who will determine—based on the effectiveness of the parties involved and their alacrity to obey—their share.
“A prescribed rotation will detail which highprinces and armies are re84 sponsible for hunting gemhearts, and in what order. The pairings will not always be the same, and will be judged based on strategic compatibility. It is expected that by the Codes we all hold dear, the men and women of these armies will welcome this renewed focus on victory and, at long last, vengeance.”
The crier snapped the book closed, looking up at Kaladin and cocking a long black eyebrow he was pretty sure had been painted on with makeup.
“Thank you,” he said. She nodded to him, then moved off toward the next battalion square.
Kaladin climbed to his feet. “Well, there’s the storm we’ve been expecting.”
The men nodded. Conversation at Bridge Four had been subdued, following the strange break-in at Dalinar’s quarters yesterday. Kaladin felt a fool. Dalinar, however, seemed to be ignoring the break-in entirely. He knew far more than he was telling Kaladin. How am I supposed to do my job if I don’t have the information I need?
Not two weeks on the job, and already the politics and machinations of the lighteyes were tripping him up.
“The highprinces are going to hate this proclamation,” Leyten said from beside the firepit, where he was working on Beld’s breastplate straps, which had come from the quartermaster with the buckles twisted about. “They base pretty much everything on getting those gemhearts. We’re going to have discontent aplenty on today’s winds.”
“Ha!” Rock said, ladling up curry for Lopen, who had come back for seconds. “Discontent? Today, this will mean riots. Did you not hear that mention of the Codes? This thing, it is an insult against the others, whom we know do not follow their oaths.” He was smiling, and seemed to consider the anger—even rioting—of the highprinces to be amusing.
“Moash, Drehy, Mart, and Eth with me,” Kaladin said. “We’ve got to go relieve Skar and his team. Teft, how goes your assignment?”
“Slowly,” Teft said. “Those lads in the other bridge crews… they have a long way to go. We need something more, Kal. Some way to inspire them.”
“I’ll work on it,” Kaladin said. “For now, we should try food. Rock, we’ve only got five officers at the moment, so you can have that last room on the outside for storage. Kholin gave us requisition rights from the camp quartermaster. Pack it full.”
“Full?” Rock asked, an enormous grin splitting his face. “How full?”
“Very,” Kaladin said. “We’ve been eating broth and stew with Soulcast grain for months. For the next month, Bridge Four eats like kings.”
“No shells, now,” Mart said, pointing at Rock as he gathered his spear and did up his uniform jacket. “Just because you can fix anything you want, it doesn’t mean we’re going to eat something stupid.”
“Airsick lowlanders,” Rock said. “Don’t you want to be strong?”
“I want to keep my teeth, thank you,” Mart said. “Crazy Horneater.”
“I will fix two things,” Rock said, hand to his chest, as if making a salute. “One for the brave and one for the silly. You may choose between these things.”
“You’ll make feasts, Rock,” Kaladin said. “I need you to train cooks for the other barracks. Even if Dalinar has extra cooks to spare now with fewer regular troops to feed, I want the bridgemen to be self-sufficient. Lopen, I’m assigning Dabbid and Shen to help you assist Rock from here on out. We need to turn those thousand men into soldiers. It starts the same way it did with all of you—by filling their stomachs.”
“It will be done,” Rock said, laughing, slapping Shen on the shoulder as the parshman stepped up for seconds. He’d only just started doing things like that, and seemed to hide in the back less than he once had. “I will not even put any dung in it!”
The others chuckled. Putting dung in food was what had gotten Rock turned into a bridgeman in the first place. As Kaladin started out toward the king’s palace—Dalinar had an important meeting with the king today—Sigzil joined him.
“A moment of your time, sir,” Sigzil said quietly.
“If you wish.”
“You promised me that I could have a chance to measure your… particular abilities.”
“Promised?” Kaladin asked. “I don’t remember a promise.”
“When I talked about taking some measurements. You seemed to think it was a good idea, and you told Skar we could help you figure out your powers.”
“I suppose I did.”
“We need to know exactly what you can do, sir—the extent of the abilities, the length of time the Stormlight remains in you. Do you agree that having a clear understanding of your limits would be valuable?”
“Yes,” Kaladin said reluctantly.
“Give me a couple of days,” Kaladin said. “Go prepare a place where we can’t be seen. Then… yes, all right. I’ll let you measure me.”
“Excellent,” Sigzil said. “I’ve been devising some experiments.” He stopped on the path, allowing Kaladin and the others to draw away from him.
Kaladin rested his spear on his shoulder and relaxed his hand. He frequently found his grip on the weapon too strong, his knuckles white. It was like part of him still didn’t believe he could carry it in public now, and feared it would be taken from him again.
Syl floated down from her daily sprint around the camp on the morning winds. She alighted on his shoulder and sat, seeming lost in thought.
Dalinar’s warcamp was an organized place. Soldiers never lounged lazily here. They were always doing something. Working on their weapons, fetching food, carrying cargo, patrolling. Men patrolled a lot in this camp. Even with the reduced army numbers, Kaladin passed three patrols as his men marched toward the gates. That was three more than he’d ever seen in Sadeas’s camp.
He was reminded again of the emptiness. The dead didn’t need to become Voidbringers to haunt this camp; the empty barracks did that. He passed one woman, seated on the ground beside one of those hollow barracks, staring up at the sky and clutching a bundle of masculine clothing. Two small children stood on the path beside her. Too silent. Children that small shouldn’t be quiet.
The barracks formed blocks in an enormous ring, and in the center of them was a more populated part of camp—the bustling section that contained Dalinar’s living complex, along with the quarters of the various highlords and generals. Dalinar’s complex was a moundlike stone bunker with fluttering banners and scuttling clerks carrying armfuls of ledgers. Nearby, several officers had set up recruitment tents, and a long line of would-be soldiers had formed. Some were sellswords who had made their way to the Shattered Plains seeking work. Others looked like bakers or the like, who had heeded the cry for more soldiers following the disaster.
“Why didn’t you laugh?” Syl said, inspecting the line as Kaladin hiked around it, on toward the gates out of the warcamp.
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “Did you do something funny that I didn’t see?”
“I mean earlier,” she said. “Rock and the others laughed. You didn’t. When you laughed during the weeks things were hard, I knew that you were forcing yourself to. I thought, maybe, once things got better…”
“I’ve got an entire battalion of bridgemen to keep track of now,” Kaladin said, eyes forward. “And a highprince to keep alive. I’m in the middle of a camp full of widows. I guess I don’t feel like laughing.”
“But things are better,” she said. “For you and your men. Think of what you did, what you accomplished.”
A day spent on a plateau, slaughtering. A perfect melding of himself, his weapon, and the storms themselves. And he’d killed with it. Killed to protect a lighteyes.
He’s different, Kaladin thought.
They always said that.
“I guess I’m just waiting,” Kaladin said.
“The thunder,” Kaladin said softly. “It always follows after the lightning. Sometimes you have to wait, but eventually it comes.”
“I…” Syl zipped up in front of him, standing in the air, moving backward as he walked. She didn’t fly—she didn’t have wings—and didn’t bob in the air. She just stood there, on nothing, and moved in unison with him. She seemed to take no notice of normal physical laws.
She cocked her head at him. “I don’t understand what you mean. Drat! I thought I was figuring this all out. Storms? Lightning?”
“You know how, when you encouraged me to fight to save Dalinar, it still hurt you when I killed?”
“It’s like that,” Kaladin said softly. He looked to the side. He was again gripping his spear too tightly.
Syl watched him, hands on hips, waiting for him to say more.
“Something bad is going to happen,” Kaladin said. “Things can’t just continue to be good for me. That’s not how life is. It might have to do with those glyphs on Dalinar’s wall yesterday. They seemed like a countdown.”
“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
“I remember… something,” she whispered. “Something bad. Seeing what is to come—it isn’t of Honor, Kaladin. It’s something else. Something dangerous.”
When he said nothing more, Syl sighed and zipped into the air, becoming a ribbon of light. She followed him up there, moving between gusts of wind.
She said that she’s honorspren, Kaladin thought. So why does she still keep up the act of playing with winds?
He’d have to ask her, assuming she’d answer him. Assuming she even knew the answer.
Torol Sadeas laced his fingers before himself, elbows on the fine stonework tabletop, as he stared at the Shardblade he’d thrust down through the center of the table. It reflected his face.
Damnation. When had he gotten old? He imagined himself as a young man, in his twenties. Now he was fifty. Storming fifty. He set his jaw, looking at that Blade.
Oathbringer. It was Dalinar’s Shardblade—curved, like a back arching, with a hooklike tip on the end matched by a sequence of jutting serrations 88 by the crossguard. Like waves in motion, peeking up from the ocean below.
How often had he lusted for this weapon? Now it was his, but he found the possession hollow. Dalinar Kholin—driven mad by grief, broken to the point that battle frightened him—still clung to life. Sadeas’s old friend was like a favored axehound he’d been forced to put down, only to find it whimpering at the window, the poison having not quite done its work.
Worse, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Dalinar had gotten the better of him somehow.
The door to his sitting room opened, and Ialai slipped in. With a slender neck and a large mouth, his wife had never been described as a beauty—particularly as the years stretched long. He didn’t care. Ialai was the most dangerous woman he knew. That was more attractive than any simple pretty face.
“You’ve destroyed my table, I see,” she said, eyeing the Shardblade slammed down through the center. She flopped down onto the small couch beside him, draped one arm across his back, and put her feet up on the table.
While with others, she was the perfect Alethi woman. In private, she preferred to lounge. “Dalinar is recruiting heavily,” she said. “I’ve taken the opportunity to place a few more of my associates among the staff of his warcamp.”
“What do you take me for? That would be far too obvious; he will have new soldiers under careful watch. However, much of his support staff has holes as men join the call to take up spears and reinforce his army.”
Sadeas nodded, still staring at that Blade. His wife ran the most impressive network of spies in the warcamps. Most impressive indeed, since very, very few knew of it. She scratched at his back, sending shivers up the skin.
“He released his proclamation,” Ialai noted.
“As anticipated. The others hate it.”
Sadeas nodded. “Dalinar should be dead, but since he is not, at least we can depend upon him to hang himself in time.” Sadeas narrowed his eyes. “By destroying him, I sought to prevent the collapse of the kingdom. Now I’m wondering if that collapse wouldn’t be better for us all.”
“I’m not meant for this, love,” Sadeas whispered. “This stupid game on the plateaus. It sated me at first, but I’m growing to loathe it. I want war, Ialai. Not hours of marching on the off chance that we’ll find some little skirmish!”
“Those little skirmishes bring us wealth.”
Which was why he’d suffered them so long. He rose. “I will need to meet with some of the others. Aladar. Ruthar. We need to fan the flames among the other highprinces, raise their indignation at what Dalinar attempts.”
“And our end goal?”
“I will have it back, Ialai,” he said, resting his fingers on Oathbringer’s hilt. “The conquest.”
It was the only thing that made him feel alive any longer. That glorious, wonderful Thrill of being on the battlefield and striving, man against man. Of risking everything for the prize. Domination. Victory.
It was the only time he felt like a youth again.
It was a brutal truth. The best truths, however, were simple.
He grabbed Oathbringer by the hilt and yanked it up out of the table. “Dalinar wants to play politician now, which is unsurprising. He has always secretly wanted to be his brother. Fortunately for us, Dalinar is no good at this sort of thing. His proclamation will alienate the others. He will push the highprinces, and they’ll take up arms against him, fracturing the kingdom. And then, with blood at my feet and Dalinar’s own sword in my hand, I will forge a new Alethkar from flame and tears.”
“What if, instead, he succeeds?”
“That, my dear, is when your assassins will be of use.” He dismissed the Shardblade; it turned to mist and vanished. “I will conquer this kingdom anew, and then, Jah Keved will follow. After all, the purpose of this life is to train soldiers. In a way, I’m only doing what God himself wants.”
The walk between the barracks and the king’s palace—which the king had started calling the Pinnacle—took an hour or so, which gave Kaladin plenty of time to think. Unfortunately, on his way, he passed a group of Dalinar’s surgeons in a field with servants, gathering knobweed sap for an antiseptic.
Seeing them made Kaladin think not only of his own efforts gathering the sap, but of his father. Lirin.
If he were here, Kaladin thought as he passed them, he’d ask why I wasn’t out there, with the surgeons. He’d demand to know why, if Dalinar had taken me in, I hadn’t requested to join his medical corps.
In fact, Kaladin could probably have gotten Dalinar to employ all of Bridge Four as surgeons’ assistants. Kaladin could have trained them in medicine almost as easily as he had the spear. Dalinar would have done it. An army could never have too many good surgeons.
He hadn’t even considered it. The choice for him had been simpler—either become Dalinar’s bodyguards or leave the warcamps. Kaladin had chosen to put his men in the path of the storm again. Why?
Eventually, they reached the king’s palace, which was built up the side of a large stone hill, with tunnels dug down into the rock. The king’s own quarters sat at the very top. That meant lots of climbing for Kaladin and his men.
They hiked up the switchbacks, Kaladin still lost in thought about his father and his duty.
“That’s a tad unfair, you know,” Moash said as they reached the top.
Kaladin looked to the others, realizing that they were puffing from the long climb. Kaladin, however, had drawn in Stormlight without noticing. He wasn’t even winded.
He smiled pointedly for Syl’s benefit, and regarded the cavernous hallways of the Pinnacle. A few men stood guard at the entrance gates, wearing the blue and gold of the King’s Guard, a separate and distinct unit from Dalinar’s own guard.
“Soldier,” Kaladin said with a nod to one of them, a lighteyes of low rank. Militarily, Kaladin outranked a man like this—but not socially. Again, he wasn’t certain how all of this was supposed to work.
The man looked him up and down. “I heard you held a bridge, practically by yourself, against hundreds of Parshendi. How’d you do that?” He did not address Kaladin with “sir,” as would have been appropriate for any other captain.
“You want to find out?” Moash snapped from behind. “We can show you. Personally.”
“Hush,” Kaladin said, glaring at Moash. He turned back to the soldier. “I got lucky. That’s it.” He stared the man in the eyes.
“I suppose that makes sense,” the soldier said.
“Sir,” the soldier finally added.
Kaladin waved his men forward, and they passed the lighteyed guards. The interior of the palace was lit by spheres grouped in lamps on the walls—sapphires and diamonds blended to give a blue-white cast. The spheres were a small but striking reminder of how things had changed. Nobody would have let bridgemen near such casual use of spheres.
The Pinnacle was still unfamiliar to Kaladin—so far, his time spent guarding Dalinar had mostly been in the warcamp. However, he’d made certain to look over maps of the place, so he knew the way to the top.
“Why did you cut me off like that?” Moash demanded, catching up to Kaladin.
“You were in the wrong,” Kaladin said. “You’re a soldier now, Moash. You’re going to have to learn to act like one. And that means not provoking fights.”
“I’m not going to scrape and bow before lighteyes, Kal. Not anymore.”
“I don’t expect you to scrape, but I do expect you to watch your tongue. Bridge Four is better than petty gibes and threats.”
Moash fell back, but Kaladin could tell he was still smoldering.
“That’s odd,” Syl said, landing on Kaladin’s shoulder again. “He looks so angry.”
“When I took over the bridgemen,” Kaladin said softly, “they were caged animals who had been beaten into submission. I brought back their fight, but they were still caged. Now the doors are off those cages. It will take time for Moash and the others to adjust.”
They would. During the final weeks as bridgemen, they’d learned to act with the precision and discipline of soldiers. They stood at attention while their abusers marched across bridges, never uttering a word of derision. Their discipline itself had become their weapon.
They’d learn to be real soldiers. No, they were real soldiers. Now they had to learn how to act without Sadeas’s oppression to push against.
Moash moved up beside him. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “You’re right.”
Kaladin smiled, this time genuinely.
“I’m not going to pretend I don’t hate them,” Moash said. “But I’ll be civil. We have a duty. We’ll do it well. Better than anyone expects. We’re Bridge Four.”
“Good man,” Kaladin said. Moash was going to be particularly tricky to deal with, as more and more, Kaladin found himself confiding in the man. Most of the others idolized Kaladin. Not Moash, who was as close to a real friend as Kaladin had known since being branded.
The hallway grew surprisingly decorative as they approached the king’s conference chamber. There was even a series of reliefs being carved on the walls—the Heralds, embellished with gemstones on the rock to glow at appropriate locations.
More and more like a city, Kaladin thought to himself. This might actually be a true palace soon.
He met Skar and his team at the door into the king’s conference chambers. “Report?” Kaladin asked softly.
“Quiet morning,” Skar said. “And I’m fine with that.”
“You’re relieved for the day, then,” Kaladin said. “I’ll stay here for the meeting, then let Moash take the afternoon shift. I’ll come back for the evening shift. You and your squad get some sleep; you’ll be back on duty tonight, stretching to tomorrow morning.”
“Got it, sir,” Skar said, saluting. He collected his men and moved off.
The chamber beyond the doors was decorated with a thick rug and large unshuttered windows on the leeward side. Kaladin had never been in this room, and the palace maps—for the protection of the king—only included the basic hallways and routes through the servants’ quarters. This room had one other door, probably out onto the balcony, but no exits other than the one Kaladin stepped through.
Two other guards in blue and gold stood on either side of the door. The king himself paced back and forth beside the room’s desk. His nose was larger than the paintings of him showed.
Dalinar spoke with Highlady Navani, an elegant woman with grey in her hair. The scandalous relationship between the king’s uncle and mother would have been the talk of the warcamp, if Sadeas’s betrayal hadn’t overshadowed it.
“Moash,” Kaladin said, pointing. “See where that door goes. Mart and Eth, stand watch just outside in the hall. Nobody other than a highprince comes in until you’ve checked with us in here.”
Moash gave the king a salute instead of a bow, and checked on the door. It indeed led to the balcony that Kaladin had spotted from below. It ran all around this upmost room.
Dalinar studied Kaladin and Moash as they worked. Kaladin saluted, and met the man’s eyes. He wasn’t going to fail again, as he’d done the day before.
“I don’t recognize these guards, Uncle,” the king said with annoyance.
“They’re new,” Dalinar said. “There is no other way onto that balcony, soldier. It’s a hundred feet in the air.”
“Good to know,” Kaladin said. Drehy, join Moash out there on the balcony, close the door, and keep watch.”
Drehy nodded, jumping into motion.
“I just said there’s no way to reach that balcony from the outside,” Dalinar said.
“Then that’s the way I’d try to get in,” Kaladin said, “if I wanted to, sir.” Dalinar smiled in amusement.
The king, however, was nodding. “Good… good.”
“Are there any other ways into this room, Your Majesty?” Kaladin asked. “Secret entrances, passages?”
“If there were,” the king said, “I wouldn’t want people knowing about them.”
“My men can’t keep this room safe if we don’t know what to guard. If there are passages nobody is supposed to know about, those are immediately suspect. If you share them with me, I’ll use only my officers in guarding them.”
The king stared at Kaladin for a moment, then turned to Dalinar. “I like this one. Why haven’t you put him in charge of your guard before?”
“I haven’t had the opportunity,” Dalinar said, studying Kaladin with eyes that had a depth behind them. A weight. He stepped over and rested a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder, pulling him aside.
“Wait,” the king said from behind, “is that a captain’s insignia? On a darkeyes? When did that start happening?”
Dalinar didn’t answer, instead walking Kaladin to the side of the room. “The king,” he said softly, “is very worried about assassins. You should know this.”
“A healthy paranoia makes the job easier for his bodyguards, sir,” Kaladin said.
“I didn’t say it was healthy,” Dalinar said. “You call me ‘sir.’ The common address is ‘Brightlord.’ ”
“I will use that term if you command, sir,” Kaladin said, meeting the man’s eyes. “But ‘sir’ is an appropriate address, even for a lighteyes, if he’s your direct superior.”
“I’m a highprince.”
“Speaking frankly,” Kaladin said—he wouldn’t ask for permission. This man had put him in the role, so Kaladin would assume it came with certain privileges, unless told otherwise. “Every man I’ve ever called ‘Brightlord’ has betrayed me. A few men I’ve called ‘sir’ still have my trust to this day. I use one more reverently than the other. Sir.”
“You’re an odd one, son.”
“The normal ones are dead in the chasms, sir,” Kaladin said softly. “Sadeas saw to that.”
“Well, have your men on the balcony guard from farther to the side, where they can’t hear through the window.”
“I’ll wait with the men in the hall, then,” Kaladin said, noticing that the two men of the King’s Guard had already moved through the doors.
“I didn’t order that,” Dalinar said. “Guard the doors, but on the inside. I want you to hear what we’re planning. Just don’t repeat it outside this room.”
“Four more people are coming to the meeting,” Dalinar said. “My sons, General Khal, and Brightness Teshav, Khal’s wife. They may enter. Anyone else should be kept back until the meeting is over.”
Dalinar went back to a conversation with the king’s mother. Kaladin got Moash and Drehy positioned, then explained the door protocol to Mart and Eth. He’d have to do some training later. Lighteyes never truly meant “Don’t let anyone else in” when they said “Don’t let anyone else in.” What they meant was “If you let anyone else in, I’d better agree that it was important enough, or you’re in trouble.”
Then, Kaladin took his post inside the closed door, standing against a wall with carved paneling made of a rare type of wood he didn’t recognize. It’s probably worth more than I’ve earned in my entire lifetime, he thought idly. One wooden panel.
The highprince’s sons arrived, Adolin and Renarin Kholin. Kaladin had seen the former on the battlefield, though he looked different without his Shardplate. Less imposing. More like a spoiled rich boy. Oh, he wore a uniform like everyone else, but the buttons were engraved, and the boots… those were expensive hogshide ones without a scuff on them. Brand new, likely bought at ridiculous expense.
He did save that woman in the market, though, Kaladin thought, remembering the encounter from weeks ago. Don’t forget about that.
Kaladin wasn’t sure what to make of Renarin. The youth—he might have been older than Kaladin, but sure didn’t look it—wore spectacles and walked after his brother like a shadow. Those slender limbs and delicate fingers had never known battle or real work.
Syl bobbed around the room, poking into nooks, crannies, and vases. She stopped at a paperweight on the women’s writing desk beside the king’s chair, poking at the block of crystal with a strange kind of crabthing trapped inside. Were those wings?
“Shouldn’t that one wait outside?” Adolin asked, nodding toward Kaladin.
“What we’re doing is going to put me in direct danger,” Dalinar said, hands clasped behind his back. “I want him to know the details. That might be important to his job.” Dalinar didn’t look toward Adolin or Kaladin.
Adolin walked up, taking Dalinar by the arm and speaking in a hushed tone that was not so soft that Kaladin couldn’t hear. “We barely know him.”
“We have to trust some people, Adolin,” his father said in a normal voice. “If there’s one person in this army I can guarantee isn’t working for Sadeas, it’s that soldier.” He turned and glanced at Kaladin, once again studying him with those unfathomable eyes.
He didn’t see me with the Stormlight, Kaladin told himself forcefully. He was practically unconscious. He doesn’t know.
Adolin threw up his hands but walked to the other side of the room, muttering something to his brother. Kaladin remained in position, standing comfortably at parade rest. Yes, definitely spoiled.
The general who arrived soon after was a limber, bald man with a straight back and pale yellow eyes. His wife, Teshav, had a pinched face and hair streaked blond. She took up position by the writing desk, which Navani had made no move to occupy.
“Reports,” Dalinar said from the window as the door clicked shut behind the two newcomers.
“I suspect you know what you’ll hear, Brightlord,” said Teshav. “They’re irate. They sincerely hoped you would reconsider the command—and sending it out to the public has provoked them. Highprince Hatham was the only one to make a public announcement. He plans to—and I quote—‘see that the king is dissuaded from this reckless and ill-advised course.’”
The king sighed, settling into his seat. Renarin sat down immediately, as did the general. Adolin found his seat more reluctantly.
Dalinar remained standing, looking out the window.
“Uncle?” the king asked. “Did you hear that reaction? It’s a good thing you didn’t go so far as you had considered: to proclaim that they must follow the Codes or face seizure of assets. We’d be in the middle of a rebellion.”
“That will come,” Dalinar said. “I still wonder if I should have announced it all at once. When you’ve got an arrow stuck in you, it’s sometimes best to just yank it out in one pull.”
Actually, when you had an arrow in you, the best thing to do was leave it there until you could find a surgeon. Often it would plug the blood flow and keep you alive. It was probably best not to speak up and undermine the highprince’s metaphor, however.
“Storms, what a ghastly image,” the king said, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “Do you have to say such things, Uncle? I already fear we’ll be dead before the week is out.”
“Your father and I survived worse than this,” Dalinar said.
“You had allies, then! Three highprinces for you, only six against, and you never fought them all at the same time.”
“If the highprinces unite against us,” General Khal said, “we will not be able to stand firm. We’ll have no choice but to rescind this proclamation, which will weaken the Throne considerably.”
The king leaned back, hand to his forehead. “Jezerezeh, this is going to be a disaster.…”
Kaladin raised an eyebrow.
“You disagree?” Syl asked, moving over toward him as a cluster of fluttering leaves. It was disconcerting to hear her voice coming from such shapes. The others in the room, of course, couldn’t see or hear her.
“No,” Kaladin whispered. “This proclamation sounds like a real tempest. I just expected the king to be less… well, whiny.”
“We need to secure allies,” Adolin said. “Form a coalition. Sadeas will gather one, and so we counter him with our own.”
“Dividing the kingdom into two?” Teshav said, shaking her head. “I don’t see how a civil war would serve the Throne. Particularly one we’re unlikely to win.”
“This could be the end of Alethkar as a kingdom,” the general agreed.
“Alethkar ended as a kingdom centuries ago,” Dalinar said softly, staring out that window. “This thing we have created is not Alethkar. Alethkar was justice. We are children wearing our father’s cloak.”
“But Uncle,” the king said, “at least the kingdom is something. More than it has been in centuries! If we fail here, and fracture to ten warring princedoms, it will negate everything my father worked for!”
“This isn’t what your father worked for, son,” Dalinar said. “This game on the Shattered Plains, this nauseating political farce. This isn’t what Gavilar envisioned. The Everstorm comes.…”
“What?” the king asked.
Dalinar turned from the window finally, walking to the others, and rested his hand on Navani’s shoulder. “We’re going to find a way to do this, or we’re going to destroy the kingdom in the process. I won’t suffer this charade any longer.”
Kaladin, arms folded, tapped one finger against his elbow. “Dalinar acts like he’s the king,” he mouthed, whispering so softly only Syl could hear. “And everyone else does as well.” Troubling. It was like what Amaram had done. Seizing the power he saw before him, even if it wasn’t his.
Navani looked up at Dalinar, raising her hand to rest on his. She was in on whatever he was planning, judging by that expression.
The king wasn’t. He sighed lightly. “You’ve obviously got a plan, Uncle. Well? Out with it. This drama is tiring.”
“What I really want to do,” Dalinar said frankly, “is beat the lot of them senseless. That’s what I’d do to new recruits who weren’t willing to obey orders.”
“I think you’ll have a hard time spanking obedience into the highprinces, Uncle,” the king said dryly. For some reason, he absently rubbed at his chest.
“You need to disarm them,” Kaladin found himself saying.
All eyes in the room turned toward him. Brightness Teshav gave him a frown, as if speaking were not Kaladin’s right. It probably wasn’t.
Dalinar, however, nodded toward him. “Soldier? You have a suggestion?”
“Your pardon, sir,” Kaladin said. “And your pardon, Your Majesty. But if a squad is giving you trouble, the first thing you do is separate its members. Split them up, stick them in better squads. I don’t think you can do that here.”
“I don’t know how we’d break apart the highprinces,” Dalinar said. “I doubt I could stop them from associating with one another. Perhaps if this war were won, I could assign different highprinces different duties, send them off, then work on them individually. But for the time being, we are trapped here.”
“Well, the second thing you do to troublemakers,” Kaladin said, “is you disarm them. They’re easier to control if you make them turn in their spears. It’s embarrassing, makes them feel like recruits again. So… can you take their troops away from them, maybe?”
“We can’t, I’m afraid,” Dalinar said. “The soldiers swore allegiance to their lighteyes, not to the Crown specifically—it’s only the highprinces who have sworn to the Crown. However, you are thinking along the right lines.”
He squeezed Navani’s shoulder. “For the last two weeks,” he said, “I’ve been trying to decide how to approach this problem. My gut tells me that I need to treat the highprinces—the entire lighteyed population of Alethkar—like new recruits, in need of discipline.”
“He came to me, and we talked,” Navani said. “We can’t actually bust the highprinces down to a manageable rank, as much as Dalinar would like to do just that. Instead, we need to lead them to believe that we’re going to take it all from them, if they don’t shape up.”
“This proclamation will make them mad,” Dalinar said. “I want them mad. I want them to think about the war, their place here, and I want to remind them of Gavilar’s assassination. If I can push them to act more like soldiers, even if it starts with them taking up arms against me, then I might be able to persuade them. I can reason with soldiers. Regardless, a big part of this will involve the threat that I’m going to take away their authority and power if they don’t use it correctly. And that begins, as Captain Kaladin suggested, with disarming them.”
“Disarm the highprinces?” the king asked. “What foolishness is this?”
“It’s not foolishness,” Dalinar said, smiling. “We can’t take their armies from them, but we can do something else. Adolin, I intend to take the lock off your scabbard.”
Adolin frowned, considering that for a moment. Then a wide grin split his face. “You mean, letting me duel again? For real?”
“Yes,” Dalinar said. He turned to the king. “For the longest time, I’ve forbidden him from important bouts, as the Codes prohibit duels of honor between officers at war. More and more, however, I’ve come to realize that the others don’t see themselves as being at war. They’re playing a game. It’s time to allow Adolin to duel the camp’s other Shardbearers in official bouts.”
“So he can humiliate them?” the king asked.
“It wouldn’t be about humiliation; it would be about depriving them of their Shards.” Dalinar stepped into the middle of the group of chairs. “The highprinces would have a hard time fighting against us if we controlled all of the Shardblades and Shardplate in the army. Adolin, I want you to challenge the Shardbearers of other highprinces in duels of honor, the prizes being the Shards themselves.”
“They won’t agree to it,” General Khal said. “They’ll refuse the bouts.”
“We’ll have to make sure they agree,” Dalinar said. “Find a way to force them, or shame them, into the fights. I’ve considered that this would probably be easier if we could ever track down where Wit ran off to.”
“What happens if the lad loses?” General Khal asked. “This plan seems too unpredictable.”
“We’ll see,” Dalinar said. “This is only one part of what we will do, the smaller part—but also the most visible part. Adolin, everyone tells me how good you are at dueling, and you have pestered me incessantly to relax my prohibition. There are thirty Shardbearers in the army, not counting our own. Can you defeat that many men?”
“Can I?” Adolin said, grinning. “I’ll do it without breaking a sweat, so long as I can start with Sadeas himself.”
So he’s spoiled and cocky, Kaladin thought.
“No,” Dalinar said. “Sadeas won’t accept a personal challenge, though eventually bringing him down is our goal. We start with some of the lesser Shardbearers and work up.”
The others in the room seemed troubled. That included Brightness Navani, who drew her lips to a line and glanced at Adolin. She might be in on Dalinar’s plan, but she didn’t love the idea of her nephew dueling.
She didn’t say so. “As Dalinar indicated,” Navani said, “this won’t be our entire plan. Hopefully, Adolin’s duels won’t need to go far. They are meant mostly to inspire worry and fear, to apply pressure to some factions who are working against us. The greater part of what we must do will entail a complex and determined political effort to connect with those who can be swayed to our side.”
“Navani and I will work to persuade the highprinces of the advantages of a truly unified Alethkar,” Dalinar said, nodding. “Though the Stormfather knows, I’m less certain of my political acumen than Adolin is of his dueling. It is what must be. If Adolin is to be the stick, I must be the feather.”
“There will be assassins, Uncle,” Elhokar said, sounding tired. “I don’t think Khal is right; I don’t think Alethkar will shatter immediately. The highprinces have come to like the idea of being one kingdom. But they also like their sport, their fun, their gemhearts. So they will send assassins. Quietly, at first, and probably not directly at you or me. Our families. Sadeas and the others will try to hurt us, make us back down. Are you willing to risk your sons on this? How about my mother?”
“Yes, you are right,” Dalinar said. “I hadn’t… but yes. That is how they think.” He sounded regretful to Kaladin.
“And you’re still willing to go through with this plan?” the king asked.
“I have no choice,” Dalinar said, turning away, walking back toward the window. Looking out westward, in toward the continent.
“Then at least tell me this,” Elhokar said. “What is your endgame, Uncle? What is it you want out of all of this? In a year, if we survive this fiasco, what do you want us to be?”
Dalinar put his hands on the thick stone windowsill. He stared out, as if at something he could see and the rest of them could not. “I’ll have us be what we were before, son. A kingdom that can stand through storms, a kingdom that is a light and not a darkness. I will have a truly unified Alethkar, with highprinces who are loyal and just. I’ll have more than that.” He tapped the windowsill. “I’m going to refound the Knights Radiant.”
Kaladin nearly dropped his spear in shock. Fortunately, nobody was watching him—they were leaping to their feet, staring at Dalinar.
“The Radiants?” Brightness Teshav demanded. “Are you mad? You’re going to try to rebuild a sect of traitors who gave us over to the Voidbringers?”
“The rest of this sounds good, Father,” Adolin said, stepping forward. “I know you think about the Radiants a lot, but you see them… differently than everyone else. It won’t go well if you announce that you want to emu late them.”
The king just groaned, burying his face in his hands.
“People are wrong about them,” Dalinar said. “And even if they are not, the original Radiants—the ones instituted by the Heralds—are something even the Vorin church admits were once moral and just. We’ll need to remind people that the Knights Radiant, as an order, stood for something grand. If they hadn’t, then they wouldn’t have been able to ‘fall’ as the stories claim they did.”
“But why?” Elhokar asked. “What is the point?”
“It is what I must do.” Dalinar hesitated. “I’m not completely certain why, yet. Only that I’ve been instructed to do it. As a protection, and a preparation, for what is coming. A storm of some sort. Perhaps it is as simple as the other highprinces turning against us. I doubt that, but perhaps.”
“Father,” Adolin said, hand on Dalinar’s arm. “This is all well and good, and maybe you can change people’s perception of the Radiants, but… Ishar’s soul, Father! They could do things we cannot. Simply naming someone a Radiant won’t give them fanciful powers, like in the stories.”
“The Radiants were about more than what they could do,” Dalinar said. “They were about an ideal. The kind of ideal we’re lacking, these days. We may not be able to reach for the ancient Surgebindings—the powers they had—but we can seek to emulate the Radiants in other ways. I am set on this. Do not try to dissuade me.”
The others did not seem convinced.
Kaladin narrowed his eyes. So did Dalinar know about Kaladin’s powers, or didn’t he? The meeting moved on to more mundane topics, such as how to maneuver Shardbearers into facing Adolin and how to step up patrols of the surrounding area. Dalinar considered making the warcamps safe to be a prerequisite for what he was attempting.
When the meeting finally ended, most people inside departing to carry out orders, Kaladin was still considering what Dalinar had said about the Radiants. The man hadn’t realized it, but he’d been very accurate. The Knights Radiant did have ideals—and they’d called them that very thing. The Five Ideals, the Immortal Words.
Life before death, Kaladin thought, playing with a sphere he’d pulled from his pocket, strength before weakness, journey before destination. Those Words made up the First Ideal in its entirety. He had only an inkling of what it meant, but his ignorance hadn’t stopped him from figuring out the Second Ideal of the Windrunners, the oath to protect those who could not protect themselves.
Syl wouldn’t tell him the other three. She said he would know them when he needed to. Or he wouldn’t, and would not progress.
Did he want to progress? To become what? A member of the Knights Radiant? Kaladin hadn’t asked for someone else’s ideals to rule his life. He’d just wanted to survive. Now, somehow, he was headed straight down a path that no man had trod in centuries. Potentially becoming something that people across Roshar would hate or revere. So much attention…
“Soldier?” Dalinar asked, stopping by the door.
“Sir.” Kaladin stood up straight again and saluted. It felt good to do that, to stand at attention, to find a place. He wasn’t certain if it was the good feeling of remembering a life he’d once loved, or if it was the pathetic feeling of an axehound finding its leash again.
“My nephew was right,” Dalinar said, watching the king retreat down the hallway. “The others might try to hurt my family. It’s how they think. I’m going to need guard details on Navani and my sons at all times. Your best men.”
“I’ve got about two dozen of those, sir,” Kaladin said. “That’s not enough for full guard details running all day protecting all four of you. I should have more men trained before too long, but putting a spear in the hands of a bridgeman does not make him a soldier, let alone a good bodyguard.”
Dalinar nodded, looking troubled. He rubbed his chin.
“Your force isn’t the only one stretched thin in this warcamp, soldier,” Dalinar said. “I lost a lot of men to Sadeas’s betrayal. Very good men. Now I have a deadline. Just over sixty days…”
Kaladin felt a chill. The highprince was taking the number found scrawled on his wall very seriously.
“Captain,” Dalinar said softly, “I need every able-bodied man I can get. I need to be training them, rebuilding my army, preparing for the storm. I need them assaulting plateaus, clashing with the Parshendi, to get battle experience.”
What did this have to do with him? “You promised that my men wouldn’t be required to fight on plateau runs.”
“I’ll keep that promise,” Dalinar said. “But there are two hundred and fifty soldiers in the King’s Guard. They include some of my last remaining battle-ready officers, and I will need to put them in charge of new recruits.”
“I’m not just going to have to watch over your family, am I?” Kaladin asked, feeling a new weight settling in his shoulders. “You’re implying you want to turn over guarding the king to me as well.”
“Yes,” Dalinar said. “Slowly, but yes. I need those soldiers. Beyond that, maintaining two separate guard forces seems like a mistake to me. I feel that your men, considering your background, are the least likely to include spies for my enemies. You should know that a while back, there may have been an attempt on the king’s life. I still haven’t figured out who was behind it, but I worry that some of his guards may have been involved.”
Kaladin took a deep breath. “What happened?”
“Elhokar and I hunted a chasmfiend,” Dalinar said. “During that hunt, at a time of stress, the king’s Plate came close to failing. We found that many of the gemstones powering it had likely been replaced with ones that were flawed, making them crack under stress.”
“I don’t know much of Plate, sir,” Kaladin said. “Could they have just broken on their own, without sabotage?”
“Possible, but unlikely. I want your men to take shifts guarding the palace and the king, alternating with some of the King’s Guard, to get you familiar with him and the palace. It might also help your men learn from the more experienced guards. At the same time, I’m going to start siphoning off the officers from his guard to train soldiers in my army.
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll merge your group and the King’s Guard into one. You’ll be in charge. Once you’ve trained bridgemen from those other crews well enough, we’ll replace soldiers in the guard with your men, and move the soldiers to my army.” He looked Kaladin in the eyes. “Can you do this, soldier?”
“Yes, sir,” Kaladin said, though part of him was panicking. “I can.”
“Sir, a suggestion. You’ve said you’re going to expand patrols outside the warcamps, trying to police the hills around the Shattered Plains?”
“Yes. The number of bandits out there is embarrassing. This is Alethi land now. It needs to follow Alethi laws.”
“I have a thousand men I need to train,” Kaladin said. “If I could patrol them out there, it might help them feel like soldiers. I could use a large enough force that it sends a message to the bandits, maybe making them withdraw—but my men won’t need to see much combat.”
“Good. General Khal had been in command of patrol duty, but he’s now my most senior commander, and will be needed for other things. Train your men. Our goal will eventually be to have your thousand doing real roadway patrols between here, Alethkar, and the ports to the south and east. I’ll want scouting teams, watching for signs of bandit camps and searching out caravans that have been attacked. I need numbers on how much activity is out there, and just how dangerous it is.”
“I’ll see to it personally, sir.”
Storms. How was he going to do all of this?
“Good,” Dalinar said.
Dalinar walked from the chamber, clasping his hands behind him, as if lost in thought. Moash, Eth, and Mart fell in after him, as ordered by Kaladin. He’d have two men with Dalinar at all times, three if he could manage it. He’d once hoped to expand that to four or five, but storms, with so many to watch over now, that was going to be impossible.
Who is this man? Kaladin thought, watching Dalinar’s retreating form. He ran a good camp. You could judge a man—and Kaladin did—by the men who followed him.
But a tyrant could have a good camp with disciplined soldiers. This man, Dalinar Kholin, had helped unite Alethkar—and had done so by wading through blood. Now… now he spoke like a king, even when the king himself was in the room.
He wants to rebuild the Knights Radiant, Kaladin thought. That wasn’t something Dalinar Kholin could accomplish through simple force of will.
Unless he had help.
Words of Radiance © Brandon Sanderson, 2014