Greetings, good folk of the fandom! Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, in which a city goes up in flames and so do your friendly neighborhood rereaders. Well, not quite… This is a tough chapter, though. We return one last time to the Rift, when all the bad things go down.
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There is no wider Cosmere discussion this week, but if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
Also, Lyndsey’s back!
WHEN: 1162 (About 11 years ago, the same night as chapter 75 and into the following morning)
Dalinar and Sadeas review their battle plan—to completely destroy Rathalas as a message to every highlord in the kingdom that defiance is not an option. They attack immediately, at night; once the walls are taken, the Kholin troops torch the entire city from the top and the bottom. Dalinar takes Kadash and a squad of elites to personally burn out the hiding place where he found Tanalan Sr. 22 years ago. Not long after, he sees Tanalan trying to reach his family in the palace, and brings him up for a final confrontation. Tanalan reveals that the hiding place is now a prison, and he’d put Evi there after she came to him to plead for his surrender. Once her body is recovered, Dalinar instructs his scribes to let it be known that Evi had been assassinated the previous night, allowing everyone to think that Rathalas was destroyed as retribution.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
Title: An Animal
“I,” Dalinar said softly, “am an animal.”
“An animal,” Dalinar said, “reacts as it is prodded. You whip it, and it becomes savage. With an animal, you can start a tempest. Trouble is, once it’s gone feral, you can’t just whistle it back to you.”
AA: Under the influence of the Thrill, he’s not exactly wrong. Tanalan didn’t realize what he was starting.
AP: Not wrong at all. And after Dalinar realizes what he’s done in killing the prisoners, he believes it himself as well.
Chana (Dustbringers, Guard, Brave & Obedient, Spark, Fire) and Nalan (Skybreakers, Judge, Just and Confident, Vapor, Smoke/Fog)
AA: Like last week, I don’t see much of Nalan except as Judgement Descendeth, and the antithesis of Justice when Dalinar orders the envoy shot without a meeting. Oh, and there’s plenty of smoke to go around…
Chana, like Taln in the previous chapter, is everywhere. The soldiers on the wall guarding their homes. Dalinar’s elites guarding him. The courage and obedience on both sides. Evi’s courage in making one last effort to negotiate peace. Sparks. Fire.
Kholin Glyphpair, inverse for a Dalinar flashback
AA: This week, we’re using this section to collect most of the discussion of the battle, starting with the planning and moving all the way through until the fighting is over.
L: I’m going to be doing a bit of talking about the military strategies at play here, and how they relate to the ethics of the situation at hand. War and ethics are very sticky conversations to have, so be aware of that going in.
The generals had drawn up a new set of battle plans to take the city walls, as instructed by Sadeas. Dalinar inspected and made a few changes, but told them to suspend making plans to march down into the city and clear it. He had something else in mind.
AA: “Something else” indeed. Soulcasters who can make oil are tremendously useful when you want lots of fire.
“An envoy is leaving the city. Flying the flag of truce.”
“Shoot them dead,” Dalinar said calmly.
“Arrows, woman,” Dalinar said. “Kill anyone who comes out of the city, and leave their bodies to rot.”
Sadeas nodded in approval…
AA: The plan, though they haven’t explicitly said so, is that every single person dies. No negotiations, no surrender, no survivors. You can sort of (maybe) see Dalinar’s point in destroying the envoy, and we won’t learn until the end of the chapter what the envoy was there to discuss.
AP: I think that plan is pretty clear, and definitely so after the order to kill the envoy. I do wonder why no one noticed that Evi was missing though. Surely she should have been missed prior to the battle?
AA: She should have, and the fact that her guard wasn’t standing outside her tent should also have been noticed. But Dalinar was focused on his own goals, and assumed that she would go where he’d ordered—and stay there. I don’t think he spared her another thought after ordering her away. It seems that no one else thought to check on her later, or send her breakfast, or anything.
L: I’d assume that everyone was just way too busy preparing for the upcoming battle to even consider her. Even the people preparing food and such would be focused on the soldiers, if they weren’t going off to fight themselves. Regarding the killing of the envoys though… this is a d*ck move by all accounts, and (as we will see) very unsound from a military point of view. How differently would this battle have played out, should Dalinar have done the right thing and actually learned that his wife was a prisoner of war?
“I’ve been able to stall the scribes,” Sadeas whispered, “as you ordered. Gavilar doesn’t know that you live. His orders from before were to wait and lay siege.”
“Do you think he could do what needs to be done here?” Sadeas fell silent.
“No,” he finally said. “No, not now. I wonder if you can either. This will be more than just death. It will be complete destruction.”
“There has to be someone in this kingdom capable of doing what needs to be done, and it can’t be the man sitting on the throne. Continue to hold the scribes back; it will be better if my brother can reasonably disavow what we’re about to do.”
AA: In those ellipses, Dalinar and Sadeas have a conversation about Gavilar, trust, betrayal, and plausible deniability.
AP: Saying without saying. Apart from the complete evil they participate in here, they do hold Gavilar in high regard, and want to insulate him from the consequences of their actions.
AA: It’s one of the few positive notes in this chapter, isn’t it?
L: This is such a difficult conversation, because often in war terrible things must be done in order to bring about peace. The question is, where is the line? How many innocents must die before that line is crossed from “necessary casualties” to “evil act?” I don’t envy anyone, either in real life or fiction, who needs to make a decision such as that.
“Time to attack.”
Amaram turned from where he stood with the other generals. “Now, Dalinar? At night?”
“The bonfires on the wall should be enough.”
“To take the wall fortifications, yes,” Amaram said. “But Brightlord, I don’t relish fighting down into those vertical streets in the night.”
Dalinar shared a look with Sadeas. “Fortunately, you won’t have to…”
AA: Hello there, slimeball Amaram. (I hate that man…) His presence here, though, explains a lot of his remarks to Dalinar in previous conversations.
AP: Yeeaahh… it’s got to be difficult for anyone who knew Dalinar at the Rift to square that with Dalinar on the Shattered Plains, much less Dalinar the Bondsmith.
The other thing I wanted to note about this moment is that a few paragraphs earlier, Sadeas was worried that word would get back to Gavilar before morning and he’d tell them not to do it. A lot of the officer’s wives had spanreeds linked to Kholinar, and there’s no saying some of them wouldn’t be sending messages to keep the court informed of what was happening. Rather than doing an end run around direct orders, they’re going to implement their plan before those orders can come.
L: “Better to ask forgiveness than permission,” indeed. There’s a lot of quotes from Sun Tzu’s Art of War that are applicable to Dalinar’s strategy here, but this one is particularly relevant to this part:
He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
AA: Wow. That gives me such weird vibes. Granted that the sovereign isn’t necessarily the best strategist, he’s (in most ways) still the one with the moral responsibility for what is done by his generals, and therefore ought to have (at least) veto power when they go too far. But you’re right, Lyndsey, it’s not easy to tell where the lines should be drawn. We get a little better perspective from hindsight, but even then it’s not easy.
No Shardbearers led this time; Dalinar was too weak, and his Plate was in shambles. Sadeas never did like exposing himself too early, and Teleb couldn’t rush in alone.
They did it the mundane way, sending men to be crushed by stones or impaled by arrows as they carried ladders.
Dalinar strode across the field, passing fallen men bloody and dead. They’d died almost in ranks where waves of arrows had struck. He also passed a cluster of corpses in white, where the envoy had been slaughtered earlier.
AA: Sigh. While I understand their reasoning in not leading with Shardbearers this night, their willingness to send so many of their own men to die for the sake of attacking right now really grates on me. (And I think it’s supposed to.) They could have chosen to give Dalinar time to recover, and they could have worked on regrowing his Shardplate. They could even have sent some scouts back along Dalinar’s route to retrieve as many original pieces as possible to reduce the regrowth time. But they wanted to attack before Gavilar could stop them, because they are convinced that they need to give the entire kingdom a Lesson.
AP: They couldn’t though. Not and keep Gavilar ignorant of what they were doing. And they knew it. The high casualties on their side underscore what a heinous move this is.
AA: Right. They aren’t willing to risk Gavilar finding out too soon, so off goes the Light Brigade. As a side note… Something interesting came across my messages a while back that I think bears some attention in this regard. Brandon is an American citizen, raised with American values; while he does a better job than most of us of “getting into the head” of characters from a vastly different society, his ideals of honor and virtue are, at the core, essentially based in Judeo-Christian values, or what we commonly see as Western values. What Dalinar and Sadeas do in this scene is, I think, intended to make us react negatively.
This creates an interesting conflict of perspective when you get into a discussion with someone from a completely different background and value set: In some cultures, what they do here is the reasonable and correct action, and Gavilar shouldn’t try to stop them. They shouldn’t feel shame for these actions, because it was the right thing to do. I’m never quite sure what to do with that; in the interests of civil debate, I have to try to see their perspective, but at the same time it’s very jarring. You run into the conflict between “I strongly believe this is the right thing to do” and “You have a right to your own beliefs.”
It’s really hard, especially in a large group discussion, to get people to acknowledge that a) it’s okay to be sure you’re right, and at the same time b) the other guy has a right to disagree with you. (Worth noting: If you have an opinion at all, you should think you’re right. You’d be foolish to hold a position you think is wrong. That doesn’t mean you have to hate people who hold a different opinion.)
L: Perhaps it’s just because I’ve studied a lot of historical wars, but I can at least understand their reasoning here. It’s like Ender Wiggin’s philosophy from Ender’s Game.
“I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.”
If we’re going to look at real life analogies, we need look no further than the end of World War 2. There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between Rathalas and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. The allies could have chosen purely military targets for the atomic bombs, but they didn’t, in order to send a definitive message. They believed that the war would never end unless such a message was conveyed, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor was certainly in the backs of their minds when making that decision.
Terrible, terrible things are done in war in the name of trying to achieve peace. Innocents murdered. Cities wiped off maps. Who can say what is right, and what is wrong? Is it possible that if Dalinar hadn’t done what he had, that this spark of rebellion would have fueled a flame of war that would result in millions more dead? Would more innocents have suffered? There’s no way to know for sure.
AA: Too true. Even hindsight isn’t really 20/20, because you can’t know what would have happened if you’d done something else. We can say “might have” all day, but it’s still only a possibility, and “might not have” is just as valid.
Well, enough philosophizing (temporarily, anyway). Moving on…
He stopped at the edge of the cliff, looking down at a city built on platforms, rising up along the widening sides of the rift of stone. It was little wonder they thought so highly of themselves as to resist. Their city was grand, a monument of human ingenuity and grit.
“Burn it,” Dalinar said.
AA: Military decision or not, this just hurts my heart. I hate to see beautiful things destroyed for the sake of making a statement.
L: A statement that could save other lives, so understandable, but… yes. Seeing monuments, artwork, architecture that’s stood for hundreds (or thousands) of years destroyed always hurts my soul too.
“There are thousands of people in there, sir,” Teleb said softly from his side. “Tens of thousands.”
“This kingdom must know the price of rebellion. We make a statement today.”
“Obey or die?” Teleb asked.
“The same deal I offered you, Teleb. You were smart enough to take it.”
“And the common people in there, the ones who didn’t get a chance to choose a side?”
Sadeas snorted from nearby. “We will prevent more deaths in the future by letting every brightlord in this kingdom know the punishment for disobedience.”
AA: For the record, I love Teleb and I hate Sadeas, because even more than the city itself, these are people. Teleb considers the individuals involved—tens of thousands of people who have no influence over the decisions of their highlord, who would perhaps willingly or even gladly be part of Gavilar’s kingdom. Sadeas, as we’ve seen many times before, doesn’t care about people as such. They’re just numbers, unless he knows them personally (and sometimes even then). Whether it’s the innocent civilians dying to prove a point here, or the bridgemen dying because they make a good distraction for the Parshendi archers, Sadeas only values people for what they’re worth to him.
Dalinar… I’m angry at him, though he has some mitigating circumstances: He was ambushed and nearly killed, and he’s influenced deeply by the Thrill. That doesn’t make him less culpable, but it does make him slightly more sympathetic. But I deeply dislike this Dalinar.
AP: At the same time, Teleb goes along with it. He is also culpable in these atrocities. I also disagree that Dalinar is at all sympathetic here. Any sympathy I have for him is for the man I know he will become, not who he is now. All Alethi are influenced by the Thrill, not all of them commit war crimes.
AA: I’m not sure I’d concede that Teleb went along with it. He didn’t stop it… but he couldn’t have. He’s one of Dalinar’s elites, but he’s no highprince to overrule Dalinar and Sadeas. Could he have argued more? Maybe, but it still wouldn’t have done any good.
L: He could have walked away, not taken part. It wouldn’t have stopped the atrocities that occurred, but at least he wouldn’t have been a part of them.
AA: But that could be said of every single soldier on the field.
As for Dalinar… considering that I find him only slightly more sympathetic than Sadeas, of all people, that’s really not saying much for him! I just have to acknowledge that his physical injuries, combined with anger over the betrayal by his scouts and the double-cross by Tanalan, makes him more susceptible to bad decisions anyway, urged on by an oddly ever-present Thrill. So there are some minimally mitigating factors. Sort of.
L: It looks like I’m the only one who thinks that in addition to the Thrill and the anger from the ambush, there’s a valid military strategy here. Right or wrong? Who knows. But valid from a strategic perspective.
AP: It’s definitely a military strategy. The argument is whether it is a right/just course of action.
AA: Which brings us to the burning question: How do you balance “valid military strategy” with “just course of action”? The more I think about it, the less clear the answers become. I hate to say it, but I can almost approve Sadeas’s rationale more than Dalinar’s. Sadeas wants to make the point that it’s just not worth defying Gavilar’s rule, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that point. Dalinar is just angry and wants to pay them back for the double-cross. (I really hate to give credit to Sadeas!)
L: It’s possible that that’s all that is going on in Dalinar’s head… but I think subconsciously the strategy is there too.
Captainlord Kadash had fifty for him, along with two barrels of oil.
Dalinar led his group down one level to a location he remembered so well: the hidden door set into the wall. …
“Light those,” he said, pointing to the barrels. “Roll them down and burn out anyone hiding inside.”
Nobody tried to flee, though he thought he heard cries of pain inside. Dalinar watched as long as he could, until soon the smoke and heat drove him back.
AA: Oh, there’s Kadash! He’ll be back in a bit… Perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves that he was present at the previous Rift battle, but at that time he was body-guarding Gavilar and wasn’t with Dalinar when he broke into this tunnel. He may or may not know what Dalinar is trying to do here.
AP: At the same time, at least Kadash tries to atone for his errors here by becoming an Ardent. It certainly doesn’t absolve him completely, but in contrast to Teleb and Sadeas, at least he is trying to do better.
AA: I’m going to address that further down (in Squires & Sidekicks), because if you won’t give Teleb a pass, I don’t think Kadash gets one either.
AP: I absolutely do not give Kadash a pass. I merely note that of the people involved here, he is the one we know makes substantive personal changes as a result of this event. Dalinar does as well, but only by virtue of forgetting that it ever happened.
L: I’m with Aubree on this one. He is making real efforts to atone for his sins and not just conveniently “forgetting” (supernaturally or not) that they happened.
Just below the cliff here—one tier down into the city—was a beautiful white building. A palace. Farther out along the walkways, a group of people fought to reach the building. The wooden walkways were on fire, and preventing their access. Shocked, Dalinar recognized Tanalan the younger from their encounter earlier.
Trying to get into his home? Dalinar thought. Figures darkened the building’s upper windows; a woman and children. No. Trying to get to his family.
Tanalan hadn’t been hiding in the saferoom after all.
AA: Here’s the first big hint that the saferoom was significant in a way Dalinar didn’t expect. Whoever was screaming, it wasn’t Tanalan, nor his family. Who could it be?
Dalinar released a long breath, suddenly feeling his exhaustion even more deeply. “It is enough,” he said, turning toward Sadeas. “Let the rest of the people of the city escape out the mouth of the canyon below. We have sent our signal.”
“What?” Sadeas said, hiking over. …
“Dalinar…” Sadeas said. “I prepared a battalion below, with archers, per your orders.”
“You said to ‘Kill anyone who comes out of the city and leave their bodies to rot.’ I had men stationed below; they’ve launched arrows in at the city struts, burned the walkways leading down. This city burns from both directions—from underneath and from above. We can’t stop it now.”
AA: Too late to change your vicious strategy now, Dalinar. Too late in so many, many ways…
AP: Yep. However, this is telling and speaks to the character of both Dalinar and Sadeas. Dalinar hesitates, and relents. Sadeas is all in.
L: I’m glad to see this from Dalinar. Not only is it showing a spark of humanity, but… I hate to harp on it, but this too is a good military strategy. Allow your enemy a way to retreat and they won’t feel trapped, and won’t fight as hard. However, Sadeas, moron that he is, took Dalinar’s previous orders and ran all out with them without even stopping to question. A good soldier follows orders, but a great soldier questions those orders when they seem unsound if there is time to do so. Not every leader is infallible, and mistakes can be made.
AA: Does this go back to “Sadeas wants to send a message and doesn’t care about anything else?” It seems that his concern is with the long term effect, not the short term, so it’s valid. On the other hand, does it create a different long-term problem? As a visual symbol, will it make people surrender quickly, or will it make them resist more strongly because they assume they’re all dead anyway?
Dalinar set his jaw. Earlier today, the soldiers of his army—so carefully trained over the years to resist pillaging and the slaughter of civilians—had burned a city to the ground. It would ease their consciences to think that first, the highlady had been murdered.
AA: I don’t even know what to say about this. All those years of training his soldiers not to kill civilians, thrown away because he was angry, and now justified to them by a lie. While I can be glad that Gavilar and Dalinar had become more restrained after those early years, presumably in the interests of appearing benevolent compared to tradition (or something), the contrast with this battle is harsh.
AP: It absolutely is, and that’s the point, I think. It’s also a very weak lie. The Highlady was killed so every citizen of Rathalas had to die?
L: Well yeah. A noble’s life is worth way more than a simple commoner, duh. (Tons of sarcasm here in case that wasn’t clear.)
Stories & Songs
AA: This doesn’t really quite feel like the right place for the Thrill discussion, but… it is the influence an Unmade, so we’ll go with it.
He should hurt more. Shouldn’t he? Storms … he was so numb, he could barely feel anything, aside from that burning within, simmering deep down.
The Thrill was an unsatisfied lump inside Dalinar, but he was wrung out, worn down. So he continued to wait until finally, Teleb and Sadeas joined the fight…
Kadash’s men shot them down with shortbows. That annoyed Dalinar; all of this fighting, and nothing with which to feed the Thrill.
He drew his lips to a line, and shoved down the Thrill. He would not let himself enjoy this. That single sliver of decency he could keep back.
Wood cracked as more sections of city collapsed. The Thrill surged, and Dalinar pushed it away. “We’ve gone too far.”
Dalinar could feel that heat, so terrible. It mirrored a sense within him. The Thrill … incredibly … was not satisfied. Still it thirsted. It didn’t seem … didn’t seem it could be satiated.
Tanalan died with a smile on his lips. Dalinar stepped back, suddenly feeling too weak to stand. Where was the Thrill to bolster him?
Dalinar barely had the strength to stand. The Thrill had abandoned him, and that left him broken, pained.
AA: Okay, that’s a lot of quotations… but it’s interesting to read them all together. It almost looks deliberate—pushing him, supporting him, driving him, and then at the end dropping him, so that he’s left needing another fix.
AP: It reads to me that the Thrill drops him because he stops actively fighting. It’s trying to push him to become more involved.
L: I could see it going either way. Its motives are just so… foreign to us that it’s hard to get a read on it.
Relationships & Romances
“You should not have betrayed me,” Dalinar whispered, raising Oathbringer. “At least this time, you didn’t hide in your hole. I don’t know who you let take cover there, but know they are dead. I took care of that with barrels of fire.”
Tanalan blinked, then started laughing with a frantic, crazed air. “You don’t know? How could you not know? But you killed our messengers. You poor fool. You poor, stupid fool.”
Dalinar seized him by the chin, though the man was still held by his soldiers. “What?”
“She came to us,” Tanalan said. “To plead. How could you have missed her? Do you track your own family so poorly? The hole you burned … we don’t hide there anymore. Everyone knows about it. Now it’s a prison.”
“Go back,” he shouted at his elites. “Search that hole. Go…” He trailed off.
AA: Poor, stupid fool indeed. Too late…
Dalinar is genuinely shocked and horrified at the thought that he killed Evi. I’m glad to see that much. I guess.
AP: To tie this in with the above, the Thrill also could not withstand the shock of Evi’s loss. Dalinar isn’t a complete monster, but damn.
Fool woman. The scribes didn’t know Evi well enough. She hadn’t been a traitor—she’d gone to the Rift to plead for them to surrender. She’d seen in Dalinar’s eyes that he wouldn’t spare them. So, Almighty help her, she’d gone to do what she could.
AA: For all the flaws in their relationship, Dalinar did understand his wife, and she understood him.
L: Yeah. Poor thing. I have to wonder if, deep down, she suspected that this would wind up being a suicide mission, but felt strongly enough about it to risk it regardless.
AP: She’s not stupid, she understood the risk. One of her main issues is that others underestimate her capacity and capabilities because she doesn’t know the language or culture. The fact that she does it anyway speaks to her underlying courage.
This is your fault, he thought at her. How dare you do this? Stupid, frustrating woman.
This was not his fault, not his responsibility.
AA: GAAHHHHHH! Dalinar, you rat. Although… okay, I have to be fair. It was her decision to go to Tanalan secretly, and without that decision, she would not have been imprisoned in the former saferoom. It was also Tanalan’s decision to imprison her rather than letting her return to Dalinar alone. And it was Dalinar’s decision not to accept any envoy from the city. This is not a place where it’s easy to define responsibility, to be perfectly honest.
“She did not betray us,” Dalinar snapped. “Keep the discovery of her body quiet, Kalami. Tell the people … tell them my wife was slain by an assassin last night. I will swear the few elites who know to secrecy. Let everyone think she died a hero, and that the destruction of the city today was done in retribution.”
AA: Why is it that “retribution for the assassination of the highprince’s wife” is a more acceptable rationale than “retribution for betrayal and attempted murder of the highprince”?
Anyway, this is probably the story Adolin and Renarin were told: Their mother was killed by assassins from Rathalas, and their father completely demolished the city as payback. It will be interesting to see their reactions to the truth…
L: I wonder how much of that “let them think she died a hero” business is to salvage his own reputation. Is there any glimmer of him wanting her to be remembered this way because he loved her, do you think? Or is it all posturing and excuses to cover his own ass?
AP: I think it’s CYA all the way. He would obviously rather be remembered as someone who loves his wife. But it’s mainly to cover up what really happened.
AA: I think there’s a kernel of concern for Evi in wanting her portrayed as a hero rather than (as Kalami assumed) as a traitor, but I also think that about 2% of that is about loving Evi, and 98% about how it would reflect on him.
Why didn’t he just tell them what he learned from Tanalan, that she went to him in a last-ditch effort to negotiate a surrender, and Tanalan imprisoned her? We’ve speculated a lot on how the world—and particularly his sons—will react to the fact that Dalinar (almost) personally killed Evi, rather than her being assassinated by the Rathalans. Now I wonder how they will react to learning that she died because Tanalan imprisoned an envoy (however unofficial), and that she was only there to make him understand that if he didn’t surrender, all his people would die. I think the boys might find a lot of encouragement in that, rather than merely hating Dalinar for unknowingly killing her in that saferoom. There are multiple layers of lies to be peeled back.
Squires & Sidekicks
“Then know this, Dalinar,” Sadeas said, low, his voice like stone grinding stone. “I would cut out my own heart before betraying Gavilar. I have no interest in being king—it’s a job with little praise and even less amusement. I mean for this kingdom to stand for centuries.”
AA: As we’re told in the earlier books, this is a lot of why Sadeas supports Elhokar; he doesn’t want to be king himself, but he definitely wants the kingdom run his way. He likes the role of “the power behind the throne” because you get most of the power without any of the responsibility when things go poorly. (At least, that’s my interpretation. There’s a point in Words of Radiance where Ialai starts talking about a coup, so maybe that was starting to change.)
L: It’s as if he wants to be like Littlefinger from A Song of Ice and Fire, except Littlefinger was a master at reading people and manipulating them. Sadeas has the desire, but not the skill to pull it off.
Kadash was on his knees, looking woozy, a pile of vomit on the rock before him.
AA: I want to address an earlier exchange here. Kadash has taken an active part in torching the city. Just a few paragraphs prior to this moment, he was standing at the edge of the Rift, looking at the destruction; we’re not told what he’s thinking, but he’s just standing there watching it burn, with no apparent dismay. It’s not until he realizes who was down that tunnel that he has this reaction. He was just fine with destroying the city—he “went along with it” if you will—so he’s just as much guilty of war crimes as anyone. It was only the discovery that he (or at least, the squad of elites under his direct command) had burned Evi alive that turned him away from soldiering and to the ardentia. His “repentance” had little to do with killing tens of thousands of people; it had everything to do with killing one person. Does that make him somehow better than Teleb? I don’t see that it does.
L: We don’t know what he was thinking, though. It’s entirely possible that he was deeply disturbed by everything he was doing and only going along with it because he trusted Dalinar so deeply; but the realization of what happened to Evi was the final push that made him realize his leader wasn’t infallible after all, and if that was true… Without getting a POV section from him, we really can’t know for sure which way his thoughts were going.
AA: Well, I specifically asked Brandon about this after we discussed it back in the Chapter 4 comments. (I got to see him at ECCC 2018 just a few days after that discussion, so it was on my mind!) There were a lot of people saying that Kadash was sickened by the destruction, and I was arguing that it was Evi’s death that turned him. Brandon agreed with my point. Kadash was right there near the end of the battle, bringing the oil and the torches to one of the few areas that wasn’t already on fire, so I don’t think there’s much in his defense.
Teleb’s wife, Kalami, led the discussion; she thought that Evi must have defected.
Kalami smiled at him, a knowing—even self-important—smile. His lie would serve a second purpose. As long as Kalami and the head scribes thought they knew a secret, they’d be less likely to dig for the true answer.
AA: I find this scene unsettling. I sort of liked Kalami, but this side of her… I guess it’s pretty typically Alethi, but I find it decidedly unpleasant. Then again, we really saw almost nothing of her until this book; the death of her husband at Narak may have changed her attitudes considerably.
Bruised & Broken
As he departed, he strangely heard the screams of those people in the Rift. He stopped, wondering what it was. Nobody else seemed to notice.
Yes, that was distant screaming. In his head, maybe? They all seemed children to his ears. The ones he’d abandoned to the flames. A chorus of the innocent pleading for help, for mercy.
Evi’s voice joined them.
L: Ouch. At least he feels regret for his actions, and not just because of Evi. He hears the children first.
Diagrams & Dastardly Designs
“You were right about the scouts who turned traitor. We bribed one to turn on the others, and will execute the rest. The plan was apparently to separate you from the army, then hopefully kill you. Even if you were simply delayed, the Rift was hoping their lies would prompt your army into a reckless attack without you.”
AA: I wonder just what it took to bribe that one scout. Was that one just easily bribed by either side, or did they pick a likely candidate and put… pressure… on him/her? Torture wouldn’t at all surprise me as part of Sadeas’s approach to bribery.
AP: I assumed whoever flipped first got the deal. But then again, I watch way too much Law & Order.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
He watched as the fires spread, flamespren rising in them, seeming larger and more … angry than normal.
AA: What do you think? Is Dalinar imagining it, or is it true? If true, why would these flamespren be larger and more angry?
AP: Whenever we have weird spren or other supernatural activity, I immediately assume Unmade influence. They react to emotion, and the Thrill is certainly whipping emotions here into a frenzy.
AA: Good point!
Well. That was… interesting, and somewhat wrenching. It’s just never straightforward, is it? But that’s what makes it good writing—it reflects the complexity of real life, albeit without the same consequences.
Join us again next week for Chapter 77, in which there is not much action, but a whole boatload of information to discuss. For now, dive into the comments and let’s see how we can make sense out of this mess.
Alice is enjoying spring and a few non-crazy days to catch up with life.
Aubree is measuring this trench coat for non-owl related reasons.