Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, we saw Stormform Eshonai sorting her people into stormform-wannabees and everyone else, leaving us to wonder whether the real Eshonai was somehow trying to protect the remnant. This week, we rejoin Kaladin in his cell for story-time with Wit. Bafflement ahoy!
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!
Chapter 59: Fleet
Point of View: Kaladin
Setting: Kholin warcamp prison
Symbology: Spears, Nalan, Joker
IN WHICH Kaladin complains about his too-nice prison cell; he hears a lot of unintelligible shouting down the hall; he considers trying to draw Stormlight from the lamp outside his cell; he also considers the possibility of breaking out; he argues with Syl about Dalinar, Elhokar, and Syl’s statement that it would be different this time; Wit makes snarky remarks from a bench outside the cell; Kaladin is surly about it; Wit begins playing his strange musical instrument, asking Kaladin what he sees; Kaladin finally responds, and Wit builds the story of Fleet around Kaladin’s responses; the interpretation is unclear; Wit leaves.
Quote of the Week
“Dalinar can go rot. He let this happen.”
“He tried to—”
“He let it happen!” Kaladin snapped, turning and slamming his hands against the bars. Another storming cage. He was right back where he’d begun! “He’s the same as the others,” Kaladin growled.
Syl zipped over to him, coming to rest between the bars, hands on hips. “Say that again.”
“He…” Kaladin turned away. Lying to her was hard. “All right, fine. He’s not. But the king is. Admit it, Syl. Elhokar is a terrible king. At first he lauded me for trying to protect him. Now, at the snap of his fingers, he’s willing to execute me. He’s a child.”
“Kaladin, you’re scaring me.”
“Am I? You told me to trust you, Syl. When I jumped down into the arena, you said this time things would be different. How is this different?”
She looked away, seeming suddenly very small.
“Even Dalinar admitted that the king had made a big mistake in letting Sadeas wiggle out of the challenge,” Kaladin said. “Moash and his friends are right. This kingdom would be better off without Elhokar.”
Syl dropped to the floor, head bowed.
It’s impossible, now, not to see the beginnings of the broken bond in this argument. ::sniffle::
Also: Kaladin, if things aren’t any different this time, it’s your own storming fault. Quit blaming everyone else—especially Syl—for the results of your impetuous behavior. Sure, Elhokar did something stupid. But you did something stupid first, setting up the situation. Stop playing I’m Just A Victim Here, and admit your own culpability.
Question: Why doesn’t Syl point this out to him? Does she not see it? Or is she not allowed?
Thus begins Part Four: The Approach. While the title may have many other implications, the most transparent is that this entire Part is leading up to the march on Narak and the Everstorm. The last chapter in Part Four includes the final bit of decision-making, and the first chapter in Part Five is the staging of the combined armies.
For now, though… here sits Kaladin, sulking in his cell, convinced that everything is someone else’s fault—the lighteyes, the king, the spren, anyone but himself. He’s a bitter, bitter man right now, and that bitterness is already beginning to work its way out in all manner of downward-spiraling ways. It’s not only making him miserable, it’s making Syl miserable, and it’s eating away at their bond. He’s letting it interfere with the truths he knows about Dalinar, and blocking his ability to see new truth as it is presented. I’m actually surprised that Wit managed to get through to him at all, in this state. I guess there’s something to be said for a captive audience.
(Okay, groan. Yes, I know. I did it on purpose.)
The thing that’s really bugging me is that, in general, I like Kaladin, and I like all he’s set up to become. He’s a natural leader in many ways, and he’s all about protecting those he considers his responsibility. That’s great, and it suits a Windrunner very well. What I dislike is that he thinks he wants to be a team player—but he wants to do it on his own terms. It doesn’t work that way—especially when you aren’t qualified to be the coach.
Moving on… I had to snicker a bit at Wit’s appearance.
Kaladin scrambled up to his feet. Wit sat on a bench by the far wall, outside the cell and under the spheres, tuning some kind of strange instrument on his lap made of taut strings and polished wood. He hadn’t been there a moment ago. Storms… had the bench even been there before?
It’s a good question. Heh.
I love the way Wit goads Kaladin into making suggestions about the story: he plays his harp (or whatever it is—electric guitar?) and waits for Kaladin to tell him what the music provokes in his imagination. Each time Kaladin makes a statement, Wit turns it into a versified chant, expanding on it and explaining the a background for the suggestion, never actually going beyond what Kaladin said. Then he waits until Kaladin moves the story forward again. So in large part, it’s a story about Kaladin, or at least about Kaladin’s frame of mind.
Essentially, it’s a story about a legendary runner named Fleet, who could outrun anything, even the Herald Chanarach. Eventually, with no one left to challenge, he challenged the highstorm itself, running before the storm across the entire continent. It almost caught him in the central mountains, but then he reached the divide and gained ground. Again, it almost caught him in the mountains guarding Shinovar, but he managed to stay ahead of it, if only just. His strength finally failed and he collapsed… but the storm was spent as well, and could not pass the point where he fell.
Even though it was (at least in one sense) his own bad-tempered statement that ended the story there, Kaladin is shocked that Wit agrees with him, that Fleet died. But… the story isn’t over.
“Upon that land of dirt and soil,” Wit shouted, “our hero fell and did not stir! His body spent, his strength undone, Fleet the hero was no more.
“The storm approached and found him there. It stilled and stopped upon its course! The rains they fell, the winds they blew, but forward they could not progress.
“For glory lit, and life alive, for goals unreached and aims to strive. All men must try, the wind did see. It is the test, it is the dream.”
Kaladin stepped slowly up to the bars. Even with eyes open, he could see it. Imagine it.
“So in that land of dirt and soil, our hero stopped the storm itself. And while the rain came down like tears, our Fleet refused to end this race. His body dead, but not his will, within those winds his soul did rise.
“It flew upon the day’s last song, to win the race and claim the dawn. Past the sea and past the waves, our Fleet no longer lost his breath. Forever strong, forever fast, forever free to race the wind.”
Kaladin (and perhaps the reader) is left wondering what it means, because stories have meaning. But when he asks Wit, the answer is merely that since it’s Kaladin’s story, he must decide what it meant.
“The storm caught him,” Kaladin said.
“The storm catches everyone, eventually. Does it matter?”
“I don’t know.”
“Good.” Wit tipped his sword up toward his forehead, as if in respect. “Then you have something to think about.”
I love that ending. And I should probably have ended with it, but I have to comment. (Hey, it’s my job, right?) It’s an amazing story for a developing Windrunner, one who can indeed race the wind and win (as long as he doesn’t run out of Stormlight). Sadly, Kaladin is too lost in his own personal frustrations to see the connection, and we have no evidence he actually spent any time thinking further about it.
This chapter takes place on Kaladin’s third day in prison—the first being the day of the duel—so there are now 26 days left in the countdown.
Oh, my poor dear Sylphrena. Watching her droop in this chapter is painful, especially now that we know where this attitude of Kaladin’s is leading. *sigh*
There are a couple of other interesting notes, though. One odd tidbit I noticed was that part of Kaladin’s complaint about his cell was the lack of exposure; he missed the wind. The solitude wasn’t an issue, the lack of wind was. Is this significant of his connection to windspren through his honorspren? Or is it just a general lack-of-fresh-air problem?
Another (though it seems “old news” by now, we were pretty enthusiastic when we first saw it) was this one:
She lifted her chin. “I’m no highspren. Laws don’t matter; what’s right matters.”
Highspren have, I believe, been confirmed as the Skybreaker-spren; this highlights a major difference between honorspren & highspren—and therefore, between Windrunners and Skybreakers—and one that we should all be cognizant of, even for ourselves. There is sometimes a distinction between what is legal and what is moral; there is even, sometimes, a case where moral conduct requires opposition to an unjust law. Even more than real life (for most of us), Roshar seems to have plenty of these cases, from Alethkar to Shinovar. Realistic worldbuilding FTW?
It does make me wonder: in the old days, was there frequent conflict between Skybreakers who judged guilt or innocence solely according to law, and Windrunners who judged action according to moral values rather than legal? Where did the other Orders fit along this spectrum, or did they care?
Back to the chapter…
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Well, hello, Hoid. Lightweaving, or just personal insight and clever storytelling?
Also, this little Easter egg regarding other places he’s been and things he’s done:
Wit leaned down to tune his instrument, one leg crossed over the other. He hummed softly to himself and nodded. “Perfect pitch,” Wit said, “makes this all so much easier than it once was….”
I think we can take it as a given that he holds at least 200 Breaths, just in case you were curious. I suppose it’s possible there are other ways he could have acquired perfect pitch, but this is the sort of thing Brandon throws in for the obsessive overly detail-oriented very thorough among us to find and squee over.
Staging Note: the epigraphs of Part Four form a letter which responds to the letter of the TWoK Part Two epigraphs. Feel free to comment on them as we go, particularly if you notice a connection between the epigraph and the chapter content. I, however, will be dealing with them in total as a separate post at the end of Part Four, just before the next set of Interludes. Just so you know.
Nalan, Judge, Herald of Justice and patron of the Skybreakers. Because Kaladin deserves to be in prison? Because he doesn’t? Because Syl mentions the highspren? The Joker, wild card, jester, Wit. Because Wit.
Well. That was cheery. Let’s go hit the comment thread, and then come back next week for a much more positive chapter—at long last—as Shallan starts out practicing Scholarship and ends up practicing Lightweaving.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. Back when she started all this fandom business, though, it was with the Wheel of Time and Leigh Butler’s famous WoT Reread. It’s suitable, then, that she went out as Cadsuane last night to acquire a signed copy of the final release: the Wheel of Time Companion. Yes, of course Cadsuane.