Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Kaladin and Shallan acrimoniously began their trek through the chasms back to the warcamps. This week, once Shallan finds a way to distract the chasmfiend from trying to eat them, they plod mistrustfully on together.
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 70: From a Nightmare
Point of View: Kaladin, Shallan
Setting: the Chasms
Symbology: Spears, Chach, Kalak
IN WHICH Kaladin leads a mad dash through the chasms to escape the beast chasing them; Shallan suddenly goes the other way, forcing Kaladin to follow; she leads them back to where they first fell, distracting the chasmfiend with easy food; Shallan sneaks a peek while it’s feeding; they retreat and walk for hours in the darkness, trying to get as far away as possible; when they finally stop, Shallan draws a map of the chasms and begins the chasmfiend Memory drawing; after a few hours of sleep, they continue on, using her map to correct their direction; they continue the badinage, though with less hostility and more honesty; Shallan solemnly promises Kaladin that she means no harm to Adolin or his family; sunlight reveals that they’re going the wrong way again.
Quote of the Week
“All right,” Kaladin said. “Here it is. I can imagine how the world must appear to someone like you. Growing up pampered, with everything you want. To someone like you, life is wonderful and sunny and worth laughing over. That’s not your fault, and I shouldn’t blame you. You haven’t had to deal with pain or death like I have. Sorrow is not your companion.”
Silence. Shallan didn’t reply. How could she reply to that?
“What?” Kaladin finally asked.
“I’m trying to decide how to react,” Shallan said. “You see, you just said something very, very funny.”
“Then why aren’t you laughing?”
“Well, it isn’t that kind of funny.”
Oh, the irony. No, it isn’t that kind of funny at all. *sigh*
Not to thrash the expired steed, but I can’t wait until next week’s QOTW. Just sayin’. Kaladin’s blind assumptions about other people’s lives don’t stack up well against reality, and it’s about time he learned that.
Before we talk about this chapter, I just remembered something I left out of last week’s discussion, and it’s bugging me. Who were the Parshendi that showed up just as the bridge was dumped? Were they some of Eshonai’s stormforms out for a practice run? Were they Thude’s company of dissenters who refused stormform? Will we ever know? Does it matter?
Okay, now I’ve got that out of my system…
Here we go, running through the chasms, chased by a nightmare beastie that makes a noise like a thousand horns being blown. That would be… unnerving. Shallan has enough presence of mind to recognize when they’re close to the original landing area, and distracts the fiend with fresh corpses while she gets a good look and a Memory. Kaladin, meanwhile, sticks close to her because he refuses to abandon Adolin’s betrothed, and every time he stands still, he thinks about Sylphrena and how he can’t even feel the Stormlight in the spheres he’s holding.
I do feel sorry for him.
That said, as usual lately, I still want to smack him. He can be so infuriatingly ungracious for no reason. On the bright side, it gives Shallan the “bridgeman grunt language” for a running joke, so there’s that.
The shared terror of the chasmfiend chase, and the resulting exhaustion, seems to have a more salutary effect on them than merely sharing impossible survival from a 200-foot drop did. At least, they’ve stopped yelling, and while they’re still sniping at each other, neither of them is going at it wholeheartedly any more.
And really, they do begin to get on better. Their snark gets more… personal? Not sure what the word I’m looking for is, here, but over these few hours, the things they say are both more individualized and less hurtful—the kind of stuff you toss around when you’re just taking the mickey out of someone. It’s very, very like the best of the times she had with her brothers in the flashbacks, really, when a smart remark would pop into her head and they’d insist that she say it. Odd, in a way, that Kaladin should be the first person she can play this game with since she left home. She played it a little, with the sailors on the Wind’s Pleasure, but other than that, she’s really had to watch her tongue most of the time. Now, probably to distract herself, she’s treating Kaladin very much like a brother.
As their morning conversation reveals, Kaladin’s assessment of Shallan has been limited to a) flaky spoiled lighteyed woman or b) clever sneaky impostor threat. (How he reconciles those two is beyond me, though.) Anyway, down here in the chasms, with her hair frazzled, her dress torn and bedraggled, wearing boots because she put sanity before vanity, toughing it out right alongside him… he’s finally seeing her as a human being, not just an object of suspicion or class hatred. I suspect that Shallan’s ability to draw out a perfect map of where they’ve been—and the obvious value of that skill—is also a step in Kaladin seeing her as an actual person.
The reverse is also true: As they talk, she realizes that not only is he taciturn, he’s a contradiction. He’s clearly had a good education, demonstrated by the way he thinks and the way he speaks, and that really doesn’t jibe with the slave marks or the shash brand. Even though she continues to make jokes of everything, she does begin to see him as a person, not just “Adolin’s grumpy guard captain.”
It’s a start.
Before the chapter’s over, they’ll get downright honest with each other. To wit: He finally tells her point-blank that he doesn’t trust her, and she tells him a little of why she’s actually there, at the Shattered Plains—because of Jasnah’s research. Since the guards reported her asking Adolin about getting rid of the parshmen, that comes up too, and further conversation—actual conversation!—ensues on that subject before it fades back to the snarkfest. And then they have the conversation quoted above, in which Kaladin displays a complete (and unjustifiable, IMO) class-based analysis of her character and her past, telling her how wonderful and easy her life has been. The irony…
We could have a big knock-down drag-out fight about whose backstory is the more tragic or traumatic or painful, but that’s not the point. Both of them have horrible things in their past, and both of them have legitimate reasons to feel that life has been less than kind to them. As far as I’m concerned, the more important question is how they deal with the pain of past tragedy, and in this case I find Shallan stronger than Kaladin.
While Shallan has blocked out the first, worst event, she hasn’t blocked out all the years since then—all the years as her father spiraled downward, her brothers went psychotic, her family split, servants were abused, her stepmother was murdered, and she herself killed her father to try to save the rest. Those events are all in her active memory, and she deals with it by maintaining (some would say exaggerating) her sense of humor and by choosing to do what she can to fix things. It’s probable that she subconsciously holds herself responsible for all of it, without knowing quite why.
Kaladin, meanwhile, deals with his past by overtly holding all lighteyes responsible for everything bad that’s ever happened to him. This… bugs me. No end. It’s totally a realistic behavior, of course—it’s just not entirely valid, either for Kaladin or in real life. But… I’ve said all that before. One thing to add, though, which we’ll hit in more detail next week: Under his surface resentment of lighteyes, he half-unconsciously holds himself responsible for all of the bad things, whether they were really his fault or not.
Personalities. Human nature is just weird, you know?
Same night, and into the following day. At the end of this chapter, there are nine days left in the countdown. (We’ll just take several months to cover those nine days…)
“Those spren,” Shallan whispered, so soft he could barely hear. “I’ve seen those…”
They danced around the chasmfiend, and were the source of the light. They looked like small glowing arrows, and they surrounded the beast in schools, though occasionally one would drift away from the others and then vanish like a small plume of smoke rising into the air.
“Skyeels,” Shallan whispered. “They follow skyeels too…”
Referring back to Shallan’s skyeel sketches from The Way of Kings, the sailors call these “luckspren,” though she doubts that is their true name. So… what is their true name? Predatorspren?
Next question: are they the same as the spren that float away from the carcass of a dead chasmfiend? Those are described like wisps of smoke from a snuffed candle; these are like “small glowing arrows”… until they drift too far away. Then they sound like the same thing, vanishing like “a small plume of smoke.” Huh.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered
The chasmfiend gets the title for this chapter; it looks like something from a nightmare, according to Kaladin:
The beast filled the chasm. Long and narrow, it wasn’t bulbous or bulky, like some small cremlings. It was sinuous, sleek, with that arrowlike face and sharp mandibles.
It was also wrong. Wrong in a way difficult to describe. Big creatures were supposed to be slow and docile, like chulls. Yet this enormous beast moved with ease, its legs up on the sides of the chasm, holding it so that its body barely touched the ground. It ate the corpse of a fallen soldier, grasping the body in smaller claws by its mouth, then ripping it in half with a gruesome bite.
That face was like something from a nightmare. Evil, powerful, almost intelligent.
Seriously. What kind of mind dreams up critters like this?? I think I agree with Kaladin about the nightmare thing.
Shallan, of course, turns on her natural-history-scholar mode, and observes that although it eats carrion, it’s got all the equipment to be a predator. What it doesn’t appear to have is a reason to be hanging around the chasms after pupating. I can’t help wondering if this will prove to be Significant… Or maybe it’s just something that happens near the Weeping for some reason.
While we don’t see any Lightweaving, we certainly see the effects of Shallan’s bond with Pattern. The only way she kept ahead of the chasmfiend was by using Stormlight for agility, speed, and endurance. The only way they’re getting out alive is by using a map created with her bond-enhanced visual memory. So… I guess that qualifies as magic arts, okay?
You Have to Break a Lot of Rockbuds
Heh. No rockbuds were broken in the making of this chapter. It’s a good thing soldiers tend to be careful about carrying rations everywhere they go, even though chull-jerky doesn’t sound all that appetizing. I guess it keeps body and soul together. That’s not nothing.
Chach: Brave/Obedient, Guard. Kalak: Resolute/Builder, Maker. What do they have to do with this chapter? These are not Heralds normally associated with either Kaladin or Shallan, really. Chach-the-Guard represents Kaladin-the-bodyguard once in a while, but he’s not on duty here. Except… he repeatedly thinks of Shallan in terms of “Adolin’s betrothed” and, conversely, as a potential threat/spy/infiltrator to the Kholin family. So I guess Guard makes some sense? As for Kalak, “resolute” probably fits their determination to survive. Maybe? That’s all I’ve got for him.
Nah, I’m not gonna go there. Y’all know how I feel about it.
Well, that ought to keep us busy until next week, when we’ll dodge back to the warcamp with Teft, Sigzil, and Dalinar for a bit, before we return to the chasms, a few of my favorite moments, and… the chasmfiend. Big, big chapter next week.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. She’s both excited and highly amused that yet another Sanderson book is releasing next week, only three weeks after The Bands of Mourning. This time, it’s Calamity, the final book of The Reckoners trilogy, releasing next Tuesday. If you’re going to the Seattle signing at the University Bookstore next Wednesday, please be sure to say hello! She’ll be the tall master-servant accompanied by the somewhat shorter Mistborn.