Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com

Words of Radiance Reread: Chapter 84

Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan located the Oathgate, Adolin made good use of a slain rock, and Kaladin struggled to stand between Elhokar and Moash. This week, Shallan begins to figure out the Oathgate, Adolin proves his dueling prowess, and Kaladin… Kaladin stands.

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!

 

 

WoR Acrch84

Chapter 84: The One Who Saves

Point of View: Shallan, Adolin, Kaladin
Setting: The Oathgate, the Central Plateau, the Pinnacle
Symbology: Spears, Jezrien

IN WHICH … Shallan’s team is stunned by ancient beauty; Renarin behaves strangely; Pattern warns of clashing storms; they gain a clue to activating the Oathgate; messengers are sent to bring the armies to the Gate.

… Adolin dances a duel with Eshonai; a storm approaches from the west; he sacrifices parts of his armor to maneuver her to the edge, then knocks her into the chasm, and is barely saved from following; he seeks his father and information; he finds Assassin in White.

… Kaladin is drained, but tries to defend Elhokar; Moash punches Kaladin, breaking bones and organs; Kaladin collapses, but hears a distant, familiar voice; he finally realizes why he must protect Elhokar; he stands again, though he cannot fight; he hears voices, arguing; he speaks Words; at Syl’s command, he stretches out his hand and she becomes a living Shardblade; all his powers return and he heals in an instant; Moash and Graves flee, but Graves drops an ominous hint from the Diagram on the way out.

Quote of the Week

May I please just copy half the chapter in here? Please?

The Words, Kaladin. That was Syl’s voice. You have to speak the Words!

I FORBID THIS.

YOUR WILL MATTERS NOT! Syl shouted. YOU CANNOT HOLD ME BACK IF HE SPEAKS THE WORDS! THE WORDS, KALADIN! SAY THEM!

“I will protect even those I hate,” Kaladin whispered through bloody lips. “So long as it is right.”

A Shardblade appeared in Moash’s hands.

A distant rumbling. Thunder.

THE WORDS ARE ACCEPTED, the Stormfather said reluctantly.

“Kaladin!” Syl’s voice. “Stretch forth thy hand!” She zipped around him, suddenly visible as a ribbon of light.

“I can’t…” Kaladin said, drained.

“Stretch forth thy hand!”

He reached out a trembling hand. Moash hesitated.

Wind blew in the opening in the wall, and Syl’s ribbon of light became mist, a form she often took. Silver mist, which grew larger, coalesced before Kaladin, extending into his hand.

Glowing, brilliant, a Shardblade emerged from the mist, vivid blue light shining from swirling patterns along its length.

Kaladin gasped a deep breath as if coming fully awake for the first time. The entire hallway went black as the Stormlight in every lamp down the length of the hall winked out.

For a moment, they stood in darkness.

Then Kaladin exploded with Light.

It erupted from his body, making him shine like a blazing white sun in the darkness. Moash backed away, face pale in the white brilliance, throwing up a hand to shade his eyes.

Pain evaporated like mist on a hot day. Kaladin’s grip firmed upon the glowing Shardblade, a weapon beside which those of Graves and Moash looked dull. One after another, shutters burst open up and down the hallway, wind screaming into the corridor. Behind Kaladin, frost crystalized on the ground, growing backward away from him. A glyph formed in the frost, almost in the shape of wings.

Graves screamed, falling in his haste to get away. Moash backed up, staring at Kaladin.

“The Knights Radiant,” Kaladin said softly, “have returned.”

Ahhhhhhh. This is another scene that never fails to elicit tears… because it’s so fulfilling after all the egocentric rationalization of the past umpteen chapters.

Also, yes. Yes, I did copy and paste that entire thing, even if it’s almost a quarter of my target word count. (Which, never fear, I shall completely ignore and go way over. Again.)

Off the Wall

111 825 101 112 712 491 512 101 011 141 021 511 711 210 111 217 134 483 111 071 514 254 143 410 916 149 149 341 212 254 101 012 512 710 151 910 111 234 125 511 525 121 575 511 123 410 111 291 512 106 153 4

—From the Diagram, Book of the 2nd Ceiling Rotation: pattern 15

Translation*: “Hold the secret that broke the Knights Radiant. You may need it to destroy the new orders when they return.”

“Hold the secret…” implies that Taravangian knows that secret, right? Presumably, with the Palanaeum being the analog of the Library of Alexandria, Taravangian’s researches have given him the information he needed to work that out. (I can’t identify the right person to credit, but don’t I remember someone pointing that out recently?) It occurs to me that while genius-Taravangian understood the secret, there’s no guarantee that normal-Taravangian does, although he certainly might. Also, does anyone else think this secret seems likely to be “that wicked thing of eminence” which was discovered way back when?

“… broke the Knights Radiant” implies that the discovery which caused so much consternation was a single element of sufficient import to make all but one Order of Radiants abandon their oaths back then. I think.

“… to destroy the new orders when they return” has a couple of aspects to consider. One, it seems that the secret which caused such mass abandonment “back then” could be expected to have the same effect now—or at least genius-Taravangian thought it would. Two, he apparently thought it might be necessary to destroy the returning Radiants in order to save humanity. Why?

Looney half-baked not-even-thought-out theory: Is it possible that the “wicked thing of eminence” was the Splintering of Honor? Tell me why—or why not.

*Note: Needless to say, a whole lot of folks went nuts over this epigraph, trying to break the code. Sadly, it didn’t take the hive mind quite as long as Brandon had hoped… The key was the previous epigraph (Book of the 2nd Ceiling Rotation: pattern 1); each letter in pattern 15 is identified by the numerical position in which it first occurred in pattern 1. But I have no idea why genius Taravangian thought it was necessary to encrypt this bit. (Oh, and the groups of three digits are not in the text; it’s an artifact of copying from Kindle, and I left it that way so line breaks are less awkward.)

Commentary

Okay, I have to say, I feel really bad about this. Shallan and Adolin each have very cool stuff going on, but I just want to get their bits out of the way so we can talk about Kaladin. Sorry…

So we’ll take them in order. Shallan, artist that she is, has to forcibly remind herself that she’s not here to admire the ancient art. Perfectly preserved inside a building sealed for millennia with layers of crem, everything is still as beautiful as the day it was abandoned. Well, except the lamps, because of course the gemstones in them are dun. Nice for Shallan—a little study of the artwork is needed to figure out where to start.

Combining her various skills and her instincts, she identifies what looks like a large keyhole; with a little judicious testing by Renarin, she concludes that it’s made of the same stuff as a Shardblade. Unfortunately, nothing happens when Renarin inserts his Blade—beyond the keyhole reshaping itself to match the sword. Little details… You know.

In any case, she’s clearly found the Oathgate, so she sends soldiers off to fetch Dalinar & the armies, while she and the scholars try to figure out how to make the thing function. And there we leave her until next week.

Adolin, meanwhile, has found a fight much more to his liking than slaughtering semi-oblivious, singing Parshendi. He still feels no Thrill (!), but can sense it in Eshonai; whether that sensing is solely due to her observable eagerness for the kill, or if there’s another way he can recognize it, I don’t know. In any case, lack of Thrill doesn’t diminish his skill: using Windstance, he finesses Eshonai, shifting toward where he had originally crossed to this plateau. He thinks of her being “difficult to maneuver,” and yet he does so, isolating her from her army, his own soldiers keeping hers back from them and too busy to interfere.

Granted that she’s caught in the Thrill and perhaps not as clear-headed as she could be, Adolin’s dueling expertise shines in this scene. He transitions from Windstance to Flamestance, for the head game as much as for the physical fight… and it works. Sacrificing some critical parts of his Plate, he backs her right to the edge of the chasm—and knocks her in with a prime rugby tackle.

She’s probably not dead, though.

Fortunately for our handsome prince, he has fantastically dedicated guards—if they hadn’t been right there to grab him, he’d have followed her down… and he assuredly would not have survived the fall. But he does, and they were, and he didn’t. Whew.

By now, of course, the battle is total chaos, there’s a nasty-looking storm coming in from the west, and another from the east, so Adolin goes searching for Dalinar. Instead, he finds Szeth… and there we leave him. Until next week.

Back to the Pinnacle—in more ways than one! (And yes, I’m going to quote some more…)

Kaladin, bleeding, exhausted, barely able to stand on his wounded leg, attempts to use his spear as a weapon instead of a crutch; it’s not much against a Shardbearer. Moash, aside from being far too pigheaded for his own good, makes some foolish decisions along in here. I’m glad he does, of course, but objectively speaking, it really is stupid of him to yak for a while, punch Kaladin, and yak some more. Doesn’t he know he’s in a story, and you should never ever take time to yak when you’re confronting the protagonist? It always comes back to bite you.

So Moash and Graves waste their advantage, while Kaladin hears a familiar voice, very distant, yelling at someone. Syl? His thoughts return again to Fleet, and to the First Ideal:

“I ran until… until I couldn’t any longer,” Kaladin whispered. “End of… the race.”

Life before death.

He looks at the king, unconscious but alive, and he finally understands where he went wrong. He had thought that he could decide who to protect and who not to, based on whether or not he considered them worth protecting. His personal preferences had become his ultimate standards.

I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.

It made sense, now, why he’d had to make this choice. Kaladin rolled to his knees. Graves and Moash were arguing.

“I have to protect him,” Kaladin whispered.

Why?

“If I protect…” He coughed. “If I protect… only the people I like, it means that I don’t care about doing what is right.” If he did that, he only cared about what was convenient for himself.

That wasn’t protecting. That was selfishness.

That’s not the way of Windrunners; they don’t use their gifts to serve their own ends. So, powerless and shattered, he stands anyway, to defend what is right with his last breath.

It made sense now.

That was why he’d come back. It was about Tien, it was about Dalinar, and it was about what was right— but most of all, it was about protecting people.

This was the man he wanted to be.

Kaladin moved one foot back, touching his heel to the king, forming a battle stance. Then raised his hand before him, knife out. His hand shook like a roof rattling from thunder. He met Moash’s eyes.

Strength before weakness.

“You. Will. Not. Have. Him.”

Kaladin felt exhausted. At least he’d stood up.

It was the end. The journey had come and gone.

And here, at the destination, his journey finally turns back onto the path he’d abandoned. Before him, Moash and Graves argue about who’s doing what, and how to make it look like Szeth was responsible. But in his head, Kaladin hears another conversation, shouting, arguing, two familiar voices, a determined honorspren defying the Stormfather himself. Moash takes another moment to apologize for not killing Kaladin quickly in the first place—like he would have if he were a competent antagonist, but he’s not—and summons his Shardblade.

Now… go back to the QOTW and read it again, because it is so storming brilliant.

Meanwhile, I’ll sit over here and consider what this whole thing looked like from Moash’s perspective. My former leader/ally has now turned against me; he has no magic left, he’s badly injured—and I’ve just done him further injury, with that punch that was harder than intended; I’m reluctant to kill him, but know it needs to be done to protect my new allies; I’m torn between that knowledge and respect for a man who should be dying but won’t stop getting in the way. I hesitate again, because Kaladin is trying to speak… and all of a sudden, mist becomes a whole new kind of Shardblade that makes my shiny Blade look like a dull mockery, everything goes dark, and then Kaladin is too bright to look at, too strong to stand against… and clearly no longer injured.

I could almost feel sorry for Moash. And I probably will, later. But for now, this is a moment of brilliance—literally! I love the frost-formed glyph behind Kaladin; dead Blades are always dripping with condensation when they are first summoned, but a live Blade brings frost. It’s like… a live Blade takes everything we knew about Shardblades and makes it more so.

Graves, the weasel, screams like a little girl and falls over his own feet trying to get away. In true dastardly-villain style, he then starts cackling over how he’s outmaneuvered Kaladin despite everything—and in the process, gives Kaladin vital information which will enable him to defeat another of Graves’s own purposes. It always makes me roll my eyes a little in movies: all villains must go to the same training academy, where they are taught the necessity of telling the protagonist all their cunning plans before killing him… but I love it here. I don’t even care if it’s the most standard trope in all of fiction—I love it.

It reveals that we know something they got wrong in interpreting the Diagram… and Graves doesn’t know that Kaladin can fly. In the immortal words: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Stormwatch

Day Zero, continued.

Sprenspotting

Sylphrena. Has. Returned.

Also, Pattern is aware of both the Everstorm and the highstorm, and that they will meet in a grand chaotic smash-up right here on this spot. And it will be very, very bad.

Ars Arcanum

Renarin dismissed his Blade, and oddly, as he did so, he let out a relieved sigh and relaxed against the outer wall of the building.

“It’s coming,” Renarin announced from the other side of the room, his quiet voice echoing across the domed chamber.

“Summon your Shardblade.”

He did so, wincing as it appeared.

Personally, I take the above as evidence, if not proof, that Renarin is indeed a valid Truthwatcher.

One, he hears the screaming of the dead spren, which we have thus far only seen happen to emerging Knights Radiant. Granted, the only person we know who is bonded to a Voidspren is Eshonai, and we don’t know whether the Parshendi would have the same reactions, but she doesn’t seem to have any trouble with her Blade. (Also: the quotations about Renarin & his Blade are blatant foreshadowing, in hindsight, but I’m pretty sure not many people picked up on it the first time through.)

Two, (and this is the Arcanum part) he really does see the future, which—despite Vorin tradition—is a known attribute of Cultivation. If the Honor-Cultivation-spectrum theory of sapient spren is correct, Truthwatchers would be most fully the spren of Cultivation, as the Stormfather is most fully the spren of Honor. In that light, I think it makes sense to accept that Renarin really is a Truthwatcher.

Your mileage may, of course, vary. I know many readers are still skeptical about Renarin’s claim to be a Truthwatcher, and I’m sure all the evidence could reflect a Voidspren bond instead of a whatever-Truthwatcher-spren-call-themselves bond. (We really need to pry more names out of Brandon someday.) Perhaps Oathbringer will give us more information.

Ars Mechanica

“See if you can find a chunk of my helm or forearm piece. Regrowing the armor will go faster if we’ve got a seed…”

We already knew this, to some extent, but this is the only time pieces of the broken Plate are referred to as seeds. This very much makes me wonder all over again just exactly how Shardplate works. It’s certainly not a normal fabrial; there are no spren trapped in gemstones making it work. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t spren involved, though…

Heraldic Symbolism

Jezrien: King; Protecting/Leading; Windrunners. All present here, although Elhokar is a pretty poor representation of a king. Kaladin makes up for it, protecting even the one he hates—and leveling up as a Windrunner in the process. I also find it mildly amusing that the “Body Focus” associated with Jezrien is “Inhalation”…

Kaladin gasped a deep breath as if coming fully awake for the first time. The entire hallway went black as the Stormlight in every lamp down the length of the hall winked out.

It’s hardly unique to Windrunners, but it’s still funny.

 

Wow. That is all. Tune in again next week, when the fighting takes another turn and the Avalanche continues.

Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader, and for once she’s run out of things to say.

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