Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Seventy

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Well, hello there! You’re here? It must be Thursday again, then. Well, what a deal—we’ve got a new chapter to reread together! This one is all about Kaladin being surprised by a bunch of soldiers and their leader, so let’s get on in there and see what took him off guard.

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. This week we’ll be meeting a certain worldhopper from Nalthis, so of course we’ll talk about her all through the discussion. If you haven’t read Warbreaker and ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHERE: Kholinar—Wall Guard barracks
WHEN: 1174.1.10.5 (immediately following Chapter 69)

Kaladin takes the Wall Guard up on their offer of a free meal with no strings, and enjoys eating stew with them (though it’s not as good as Rock’s, and they’re all lighteyes to boot). He talks with a handful of soldiers while they eat, stalling in the hopes of meeting this “Highmarshal Azure” person. It works, and he discovers to his shock that the Highmarshal is a woman. She takes him up to the wall to show him the besieging army and gives him a motivational speech, after which he returns to the lighteyes tent at the party and then accompanies the rest of the team back home.

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Title

“Highmarshal Azure” is pretty self-explanatory.

Heralds

Chana is our only Herald this week. She is associated with the role of Guard, the Order of Dustbringers, and the divine attributes Brave and Obedient. Considering that this chapter is all Kaladin hanging out with the Wall Guard, the choice is fairly obvious. When you think about his conversation with Azure, it’s even more obvious.

Icon

Banner and Spears for another Kaladin chapter

Epigraph

Something is happening to the Sibling. I agree this is true, but the division among the Knights Radiant is not to blame. Our perceived worthiness is a separate issue.

—From drawer 1-1, third zircon

AA: This is the third statement from this Elsecaller’s recording, and it’s building an interesting picture. They don’t necessarily read like a continuous statement, but I’ll post it here that way anyway, just to see what we see.

“My research into the cognitive reflections of the spren at the tower has been deeply illustrative. Some thought that the Sibling had withdrawn from men by intent—but I find counter to that theory. The wilting of plants and the general cooling of the air is disagreeable, yes, but some of the tower’s functions remain in place. The increased pressure, for example, persists. Something is happening to the Sibling. I agree this is true, but the division among the Knights Radiant is not to blame. Our perceived worthiness is a separate issue.”

Related to this, our own frequent flyer commenter Austin recently asked Brandon about the proximity of the enslavement of the parsh with the Recreance, and whether said enslavement played a role in the decision. Sanderson’s answer, paraphrased, is that:  Update: I’ve replaced my paraphrase with the exact quote as provided by Austin:

AR: How close is the enslavement of the Parshmen to the Recreance, timeline-wise?
BWS: Fairly close, as timeline issues go. But still many decades.
AR: Did it play any kind of factor in the decision?
BWS: Absolutely. Absolutely. But we’re not talking about it happening next year. But it was a factor, how about that?

ETA: That has an interesting effect on the speculation. The epigraphs are decades before the actual Recreance, and we don’t know quite how soon they proceed with the plan to trap Ba-Ado-Mishram. Hmmm. I expect this will shape some of our future discussion of the gemstone archive.

So… the spren seem to be affected by something, the Sibling is being pushed away, there is discord among the Radiants, and no one knows if or how those things are related. I like the theory that the Unmade are taking advantage of Honor’s (probably ongoing, at this point) splintering to try to infiltrate Urithiru. While we don’t see evidence in the archive of all the same kinds of issues Kholinar is facing, the presence of multiple Unmade would undoubtedly have an effect. If Sja-anat is there, she could be corrupting both sapient and natural spren. We know Re-Shephir was at some point actually trapped there by a Lightweaver. We don’t know much about the effects of several of the Unmade, but it certainly seems possible that a general air of dissatisfaction and disagreement might be a result of, say, an entity referred to as the Dustmother… (that would be Chemoarish, if you care).

Bruised & Broken

“Aren’t you afraid I’ll desert?” Kaladin asked. “Or worse, that I can’t control my temper? I might be dangerous.”

“Not as dangerous as being short manned,” Beard said. “You know how to kill people? That’s good enough for us.”

AA: I can’t help thinking that these men would fit right into Bridge Four, light eyes and all. They really are desperate; I think many of them are broken enough to become squires or Radiants themselves, if only they ever got the chance.

“This is Kal, sir!” Noro said. “Found him haunting the street outside. Deserter, with a shash brand.”

“On a lighteyes? Storms, man. Who did you kill?”

“It’s not the one that I killed that got me my brands, sir. It’s the one I didn’t kill.”

“That has the sound of a practiced explanation, soldier.”

“That’s because it is.”

AA: Heh. We’ve heard this explanation a time or two, all right.

AP: I do wonder if his reception would have been different if he were a darkeyes with the brand. It’s possible they are giving him some benefit of the doubt because he is a lighteyes. But they are definitely desperate for recruits, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.

AA: It’s an interesting question, though. Do his eyes ever go back to being dark while he’s with them? I don’t think so—but if they did, the reaction would be more concerning the change itself than his darkeyed status. I guess we’ll never know.

Squires & Sidekicks

Kaladin instantly loved this place, and the state of the men spoke highly of Highmarshal Azure.

… Kaladin now picked out another undercurrent in the room. Men sharpening weapons that had chips in them. Armorers repairing cuts in leather—cuts made by lances in battle. Conspicuously empty seats at most of the tables, with cups set at them.

These men had suffered losses.

AA: I do like watching Kaladin get the feel of this place. We get to learn so much about them through his observations.

“I know Amaram,” the man with hairy hands said. “I did secret missions for him, back in my operative days.”

Kaladin looked at him, surprised.

“Best to ignore Beard,” Lieutenant Noro said. “It’s what the rest of us do.”

AA: I really don’t have anything insightful to say about Beard here, but… I just needed to include him.

Kaladin got a second bowl of stew, and as he settled back into his place, he realized something with a shock.

Storms. They’re all lighteyes, aren’t they?

Every person in the room, from the cook to the armorers, to the soldiers doing dishes. In a group like this, everyone had a secondary duty, like armoring or field surgery. Kaladin hadn’t noticed their eyes. The place had felt so natural, so comfortable, that he’d assumed they were all darkeyed like him.

He knew that most lighteyed soldiers weren’t high officers. He’d been told that they were basically just people—he’d been told it over and over. Somehow, sitting in that room finally made the fact real to him.

AA: You’re forgetting something, Kaladin… you aren’t darkeyed any more. Honestly, sometimes he’s so determinedly darkeyed that I’m surprised even his bond can turn his eyes light.

AP: It’s difficult to change your own self image. Kaladin is a darkeyes, he grew up as a darkeyes, and if his bond was broken for some reason, he would be a darkeyes again. This also makes me wonder, are lighteyes as a result of a nahel bond heritable? The people of Roshar have what we would consider to be unnatural eye colors, such as gold. Are these a result of their ancestors having brown eyes that were lightened by the bond?

AA: I have never figured out how the eye color caused by bonding (either a living or dead spren) gets into the DNA. Or maybe it doesn’t, but the fact that the bonding makes your eyes light gave everyone a reason to think that “light eyes” was the “best” form, and that became the de facto ruling class? I find that a singularly unsatisfactory explanation, though, because it requires an entire culture (several of them, even) to be incredibly stupid about agreeing on who is in charge.

Are you out there, Sah? Did they bring you and the others here? What of Sah’s little daughter, who had collected flowers and clutched playing cards like a treasured toy? Was Khen there, the parshwoman who had demanded Kaladin retain his freedom, despite being angry at him for the entire trip?

Winds send that they hadn’t been dragged further into this mess.

AA: Sigh.

AP: This makes me so sad, knowing what happens to them later.

 

Places & Peoples

Hush about it? Storms. This sort of thing simply didn’t happen in Vorin society. Not like in the ballads and stories. He’d been in three armies, and had never seen a woman holding a weapon. Even the Alethi scouts carried only knives. He’d half expected a riot when he’d armed Lyn and the others, although for Radiants, Jasnah and Shallan had already supplied precedent.

AP: Yaaasssss, I am here for it! I like how this was done in the narrative, and how they have to keep the “secret.” Alethi society is so messed up that they won’t promote the best people for the job, and reading about what a struggle it is for the women to be involved in any aspect of warfare can be frustrating. But to have the whole guard rally around Azure and do what they need to to preserve her authority and ability to command is awesome.

AA: It just occurred to me… Back in Words of Radiance, the assassin Liss carefully hid the fact that she possessed a Shardblade. (Shallan, of course, hid hers for many years as well, but that’s more complicated.) And we have the “masculine and feminine arts” shtick, which over time really shifted women away from even thinking about trying to get a Shardblade, or do any swordsmanship training. And yet… when it came down to the crunch, no one in the actual armies seemed to flip out about Shallan and Jasnah having Blades. Even when Shallan revealed her Blade to Vathah & co. when she killed Tyn, it seemed their reaction was more “you have a Shardblade!!” than “but you’re a girl!!” It’s almost like… when you’re fighting for your lives and homeland, you don’t really take time to care about who’s wielding the sword, if they’re good at what they do.

Not sure if that makes sense. But going forward, it’s absolutely certain that things will be changing. There are going to be a lot of women with Shardblades once the new Radiants start leveling up.

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“The highmarshal is a woman?” Kaladin hissed.

“We don’t talk about the marshal’s secret,” Beard said.

“Secret?” Kaladin said. “It’s pretty storming obvious.”

AP: It’s not though if you aren’t at the wall.

AA: But they keep hushing him even when it’s just Wall Guard. I wonder if they don’t talk about it—even among themselves—because they’re uncomfortable with it, or because they want to make sure no one slips and lets an outsider know.

Weighty Words

… his brands made something of a stir among them. Adolin and Elhokar finally emerged, their illusions intact. So what was wrong with Kaladin’s? The sphere Shallan had given him was still infused.

AA: We had fun talking about this in the comments, but we still have no proof. This eliminates one possibility: We know Kaladin didn’t drain the sphere carrying his illusion. Beyond that, we still don’t know for sure what messed up the illusion. This is obviously intentional: When someone asked Brandon about it, he said:

RAFO. (But don’t read too much into this particular RAFO.)

Whatever that means…

Meaningful/Moronic/Mundane Motivations

He went back to the mansion and forced himself to chat with some of the guards at the lighteyed tent, though he learned nothing, and his brands made something of a stir among them.

Kaladin gathered Drehy and Skar, then joined the king and Adolin as they started the walk home.

AA: So Kaladin goes back to the party, where he was supposed to be all along according to the plan. There are a couple of things I want to consider here…

One is the difference between the attitude toward his shash brand in the two different groups. The Wall Guard saw it as a good thing; they need dangerous men to face that army outside. The lighteyed bodyguards seem to find it much more disturbing—probably because their job is to guard their masters from people exactly like (they perceive) Kaladin, here within the city.

The other thing is the question of Kaladin playing fast and loose with the team plan. It’s pretty obvious that in terms of furthering their researches, he learned a lot more from going off script than he would have if he’d stuck to the plan. Does that justify his maverick tendencies—tendencies he would in no way tolerate in those who report to him? I could sometimes be tempted to accuse Brandon of Gary-Stuing Kaladin: When he disobeys orders and/or does his own thing, it generally turns out to have been a brilliant idea. The thing that mitigates against that accusation is that at least it sometimes fails because of other people’s behavior. (See also: Side Carry, which backfired spectacularly.) I wonder, though; was this intended to be a throw-away “Oh, that’s just the way it worked out” scenario, or are we supposed to be increasingly aware of Kaladin’s tendency to think that orders and plans don’t apply to him? And if the latter, where is this going…?

Cosmere Connections

He settled onto a long wooden bench, near a fidgety little ardent who was scribing glyphwards onto pieces of cloth for the men.

AA: I know, I’m probably just being paranoid, but… might this be Nazh? Any time there’s a random person who doesn’t seem to fit the scene, I get suspicious.

AP: I mean, maybe? But I don’t think he is out of place. Kholinar is a rough place for Ardents right now. The guard house is probably the safest place for him.

AA: Heh. Fair point. If you don’t want to be part of the whole Cult thing, you need some distance from the palace!

And then there’s this Highmarshal Azure person we were all waiting to meet.

“The highmarshal,” Noro said quickly, “is incredible. …

“He fought like a Voidbringer… We were almost overwhelmed, then Azure joined us, holding aloft a gleaming Shardblade. He rallied our numbers, inspired even the wounded to keep fighting. Storms. Felt like we had spren at our backs, holding us up, helping us fight.”

Kaladin narrowed his eyes. “You don’t say…”

AA: So what was that, anyway? It doesn’t sound like any Awakening I can think of, but it certainly sounds like Azure was doing something.

AP: She’s also definitely gotten a level up since we saw her last. No telling how many new tricks she’s learned.

The highmarshal wore an appropriately azure cloak—a lighter shade than the traditional Kholin blue—with a mail coif down around the neck and a helm carried in hand.

She was also a she.

Kaladin blinked in surprise, and heard a gasp from Syl up above.

AA: You know what I’m going to say, right? …  What was that? The mere fact of Azure turning out to be a woman might shock Kaladin, but hardly Syl. It seems like she must have seen something odd about Azure… but she never tells Kaladin what that is.

AP: That’s a really good point! What did Syl notice?

He couldn’t place her age, though the scars probably made her look older than she really was.

AA: Heh. I really, really doubt that, Kaladin. She’s far older than you think! But what did she do to get those scars, and why weren’t they healed by Breaths? How much Breath (or Stormlight) is she holding now?

“Damnation me if I blame a man for deserting that,” Azure said.

AA: I kind of assume that this awkward wording is supposed to be a “foreigner!” wink? Because… that’s just so awkward.

“I want you to think,” Azure said. “I tell the men—this Wall Guard, this is redemption. If you fight here, nobody will care what you did before. Because they know if we fall, this city and this nation will be no more.”

AA: There’s a lot more to her speech, which culminates with the conviction that Kaladin will come back and join up. What happened to her in the intervening years. I so much want to know what happened since she walked out of the Hallandren palace.

AP: It also makes me wonder just how many years it has been. Do we have any kind of timeline on that?

AA: As far as I know, we don’t have a timeline. We know that the Nightblood novel comes after Warbreaker, obviously, and the only thing I could find is a WoB from 2016 where Brandon said that he didn’t think there were any books set between Nightblood and The Way of Kings, chronologically.

“I think,” Kaladin said, eyes narrowed, “I might have found us another Radiant.”

AA: Heh. Something like that. Sort of. A little bit.

I recall in the beta discussion, totally jokingly suggesting that maybe Azure could be Vivenna, though the best possibilities seemed to be a new Radiant, or maybe a Herald (Chana, likely) at a stretch. It seemed much too visible a position for any of the worldhoppers we’ve seen so far. I thought she was a Lightweaver or an Elsecaller, so she could Soulcast food without drawing the screamers (on the theory that it was mostly the fabrials that got their attention) and I was… sorta kinda almost halfway right in that she was at least the one who was organizing the supply of the food to the city. Wrong about the rest of it, though!

Quality Quotations

  • But in here there’s always a stew bubbling and bread baking.

 

Okay, then. Let’s talk more in the comments! Next week, we’ll tackle chapter 71, going back in time with past!Dalinar as he arrives at Rathalas for the second time.

Alice is still busy with those drama props. High school musicals FTW! But at least the weather has warmed up, however temporarily.

Aubree is preparing for trouble, and make it double!

citation

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