Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, everyone threw temper tantrums and Kaladin landed in prison. This week, we jaunt across the continent to Azir’s capital, where we’ll meet with an unexpected style of proto-Radiant. Warning: This chapter qualifies as a novelette all by itself, so the reread is both extra-long, and completely inadequate.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here.
Click on through to join the discussion!
Interlude 9: Lift
Point of View: Lift
Setting: The Bronze Palace, Azimir
Symbology: Copia, Vedeledev, Nalan
IN WHICH Lift and her spren Wyndle enter the Bronze Palace through an upper window, and assist a small group of thieves to enter as well; while the others search for disposable goods, Lift sets off in search of food, followed by the awkward Gawx; he chooses to raid the viziers’ quarters, while she aims for the party food; she succeeds, but is followed and captured by Darkness and his henchmen; she escapes, but they have also captured Gawx and present him as hostage; she calls their bluff, but it wasn’t a bluff; she escapes, but returns to perform her first Regrowth to keep Gawx from dying; Darkness prepares to execute her, but Gawx, now named the new Aqasix, declares her pardoned of her thievery; Darkness departs.
Quote of the Week
“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.”
There were plenty of bits in this chapter that I liked a whole lot more than this, but I had to use it. It doesn’t even have much to do with Lift… but it has everything to do with Nalan and what he’s doing. It’s worth noting that he doesn’t actually answer her question the first time; he merely gives his excuse: “In the name of justice.” Yes, he’s hunting “in the name of justice”—but he’s not hunting to serve justice. He’s hunting proto-Radiants, because he believes that what they do can bring the return of a Desolation. I could be wrong, but I think he really believes that.
Then again, I think he’s also quite, quite mad.
Lift is just way too much fun… although I suspect that if I had to be around her for any length of time, my attitude would be much more like Wyndle’s long-suffering restraint. I mean, aside from calling him Voidbringer all the time purely to annoy him, this:
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.
Naturally. No point in stealing things you can sell and then buying food. Just steal the food in the first place. Oy.
Okay, she does have a point, actually; she breaks into rich people’s places because they have the best food, and then she eats their dinner—but it’s not like she’s taking anything irreplaceable, or even anything she has to worry about fencing carefully. Especially with the rich folk, she’s not even stealing anything they actually value.
Her interactions with Wyndle are generally hilarious—except that I keep getting irritated when she interrupts his lectures. She might not be interested in what he was going to say, but we are! We want to know how things work, but we just get hints, because she won’t let him finish a sentence. Silly girl. (Not that he was telling us anything we hadn’t already more or less figured out, but it was interesting to read his explanations nonetheless.)
After all that insouciance, it was unexpected to read something like this:
“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 indeed? “Someone has to care,” she said, starting down the hallway. “Too few people care, these days.”
And this sequence, which in one way seems so out of character, and in another way perfectly in character:
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.”
“You’ve seen much death,” Wyndle said. “I know it. Aren’t you accustomed to it?”
She shook her head.
Who would cry for Gawx? Nobody. He’d be forgotten, abandoned.
“Why do you care?” Wyndle asked again. He sounded curious. Not a challenge. An attempt to understand.
“Because someone has to.”
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.
And then, at the end:
“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…”
Despite whatever her back-story might be—and it sounds horrific—she chose to care. She’s an Edgedancer by nature, I guess.
Also? I really, really want that back story. What is with Rall Elorim, anyway?
In other news, Azir has a most interesting way of choosing a new leader at the best of times. Everyone who’s interested fills out a bunch of paperwork and writes an essay, and the viziers choose the best one. At this worst of times, it’s downright bizarre, with everyone who “ought” to be a candidate doing their level best to be a lousy one. Gawx does have a fair point, though: it beats the bloody-succession-war method. Ironic, then, that he is chosen — as a result of being the only person to bleed.
The timeline isn’t specific on this one; it just says, “Before the Weeping,” which means it’s roughly concurrent, give or take a few weeks, with the main plot events.
Wyndle! Wyndle cracks me up. What a mismatch in personality between spren and human! Due to other recent thoughts on the subject, I specifically noticed his reactions to Lift’s continual references to him as “Voidbringer.” Aside from generally being offended (which is only natural) the tone of his objections really fits with the concept that the Voidbringers are a type of spren, rather than a race of physical beings.
Despite his claim to have holes in his memory due to the Realmatic transition, there’s a boatload of good information in Wyndle’s words. Just a few points:
• He did not choose his bond-mate; she was chosen for him by “the Ring,” presumably a group made up of the Edgedancer-bonding spren. Whether by agreement or because it’s not possible to disagree, he accepts the assignment.
• Lift was chosen because she had “visited the Old Magic” and “Our mother has blessed her.” This has so many possible implications, the most prominent being that Lift went to see the Nightwatcher and (corollary) the Nightwatcher is closely tied to Cultivation. This could be wrong, of course, but it does seem reasonable.
• It seems that Lift’s “boon” was the ability to gain Investiture directly from food… or was it the ability to see and touch things that are only in the Cognitive Realm? Or was it both? That would be unusual, wouldn’t it, to have two gifts from the Nightwatcher? And what was the curse? Or… is one the boon and one the curse? In which case… which is which?!
• In the Cognitive Realm, Wyndle appears like a vine which grows very quickly in whatever direction he wants to go, and sometimes forms a face through which he speaks to Lift. In the Physical Realm, the vine-trail he leaves behind hardens as if briefly becoming solid crystal, which people sometimes see—which sounds to me very like what Ym sees. As noted a few weeks back, Brandon will neither confirm nor deny this theory. (Here’s one case where I’m in disagreement with what I perceive as “most of the fandom”—I think Ym was a proto-Edgedancer, but most seem to think he was a Truthwatcher. Brandon almost promised that we’ll find out… or at least, that we’ll eventually find out for sure what kind of spren creates the effect Ym’s spren did. I suspect we’ll get it from someone who sees either Glys or Wyndle in the Physical Realm.)
• In the Cognitive Realm, he was apparently a master gardener, since “Cryptics and honorspren alike came to see the crystals I grew from the minds of your world.” The minor point is that, despite the political issues which make Cryptics and honorspren tend to not get along well (is that because they’re opposite each other on the circle of Surges/Orders?), they all admired his work. The major weirdity is the thought of growing crystals in the Cognitive world from the minds of those in the Physical world. How does that even work? (I’m afraid my mind just knocked all his pretty crystals down, flailing about to make sense of this.) Also: would the Edgedancer-spren be known as Gardeners, or is that just Wyndle? He notes that his choice of human would have been “an accomplished gardener” Iriali grandmother; again, is that his personal preference, or are all of his “type” gardeners of one sort or another? If they are, I’m betting that their non-sentient counterpart would be lifespren—which would also make sense for Edgedancers.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
The poor little larkin… I’m curious as to whether its forlorn appearance is due to its captivity in general—wings bound, and stuffed in a bag—or to the fact that they seem to have a means of preventing it from taking in Stormlight except when they want it to. Is it basically starving all the time, so that when it finds a source of Investiture, it will instinctively suck it all in no matter the consequences to anyone else? Or… How intelligent are these creatures, anyway?
So this is what an Edgedancer does—superslides, supergrowth, and superhealing. Well, this one, anyway… “Darkness” implies that she’s barely an amateur compared to the skills they once displayed, but with no one except a spren with holes in his memory to train her, I think that can be forgiven.
“Abrasion” (friction) is seen mostly in its absence; Lift makes herself frictionless to move quickly and to escape clutching hands. I can’t help wondering if there might be a connection between her climbing the walls with Wyndle forming hand- and foot-holds for her, and using friction to make herself “sticky” instead of “slick”… but we’re not given anything. In fact, Wyndle is seriously puzzled by her ability to touch him and actually use the grips he provides, so it doesn’t seem likely that the Edgedancers of old did anything quite like this.
“Progression” seems to be a relatively new skill, according to Wyndle’s lecture, but it certainly works well! I know a lot of people find it irritating that Lift should be able to make the seeds grow without knowing what to do, and even more so that she can heal Gawx with Regrowth. I have a few theories, though for anyone determined to be annoyed they won’t be enough. One is that some forms of Investiture seem to be more intuitive than others in this grand Cosmere, and Roshar seems a place where that’s the case. Another is that since Cultivation is still alive, and Progression is definitely Cultivation-linked, it may be even more intuitive than some Surges. A third is that with her odd connection to the Cognitive Realm, Lift has a unique ability to just know what to do. Your thoughts on the subject?
Oh, one more thing:
I will remember those who have been forgotten.
I notice that the Coppermind wiki identifies this as the second Ideal of the Edgedancers, but I’m questioning that, myself. Given how much she can already do at the beginning of the Interlude, it seems at least equally probable that this would be the third Ideal, and we just don’t yet know what the second one was. Anyone have a WoB stating that Lift has only said two of the Ideals? Because in lieu of that, I hold to the idea that this is more likely the third.
Vedeledev = Edgedancers and Nalan = Nalan. Need we say more?
Lift uses “stormin’” a few times, but her favorite cuss-word seems to be “starvin’.” Suitable, for a street waif who needs food not only for survival and the inevitable teen growth spurts, but who needs extra food because she turns too much of it straight into Investiture.
“Kadasixes and Stars!”—a very Azish turn of phrase; Kadasix apparently translates as Herald.
Y’all can have a nice debate over whether “May he lead in wisdom. If he ever stops drooling” refers to “Yaezir, Herald of Kings” or “Gawx, Aqasix of Azir.”
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when we join Szeth for some contemplation atop Urithiru. Well, this should be cheerful.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. If she seems strangely absent from the comments this week, it might have something to do with the rumor that Bands of Mourning is going into gamma-reading this week.