Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Read Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson: Chapters Two and Three

On November 17, 2020, The Stormlight Archive saga continues in Rhythm of War, the eagerly awaited fourth volume in Brandon Sanderson’s #1 New York Times bestselling fantasy series.

Tor.com is serializing the new book from now until release date! A new installment will go live every Tuesday at 9 AM ET.

Every installment is collected here in the Rhythm of War index.

Once you’re done reading, join our resident Cosmere experts for commentary on what this week’s chapter has revealed!

Want to catch up on The Stormlight Archive? Check out our Explaining The Stormlight Archive series!


 

 

Chapter 2
Severed Cords

Next, let the spren inspect your trap. The gemstone must not be fully infused, but also cannot be fully dun. Experiments have concluded that seventy percent of maximum Stormlight capacity works best.

If you have done your work correctly, the spren will become fascinated by its soon-to-be prison. It will dance around the stone, peek at it, float around it.

—Lecture on fabrial mechanics presented by Navani Kholin to the coalition of monarchs, Urithiru, Jesevan, 1175

 

“I told you we’d been spotted,” Syl said as Kaladin flared with Stormlight.

Kaladin grunted in reply. Syl formed into a majestic silvery spear as he swept his hand outward—the weapon’s appearance forcing back the singers who had been searching for him. Kaladin pointedly avoided looking at his father, to not betray their relationship. Besides, he knew what he would see. Disappointment.

So, nothing new.

Refugees scrambled away in a panic, but the Fused no longer cared about them. The hulking figure turned toward Kaladin, arms folded, and smiled.

I told you, Syl said in Kaladin’s mind. I’m going to keep reminding you until you acknowledge how intelligent I am.

“This is a new variety,” Kaladin said, keeping his spear leveled at the Fused. “You ever seen one of these before?”

No. Seems uglier than most though.

Over the last year, new varieties of Fused had been appearing on the battlefields in a trickle. Kaladin was most familiar with the ones who could fly like Windrunners. Those were called the shanay-im, they’d learned; it roughly meant “Those Ones of the Heavens.”

Other Fused could not fly; as with the Radiants, each type had their own set of powers. Jasnah posited there would be ten varieties, though Dalinar—offering no explanation of why he knew this—said there would be only nine.

This variety marked the seventh Kaladin had fought. And, winds willing, the seventh he would kill. Kaladin raised his spear to challenge the Fused to single combat, an action that always worked with the Heavenly Ones. This Fused, however, waved for his companions to strike at Kaladin from all sides.

Kaladin responded by Lashing himself upward. As he darted into the sky, Syl automatically lengthened her shape into a long lance ideal for striking at ground objects from the air. Stormlight churned inside Kaladin, daring him to move, to act, to fight. But he needed to be careful. There were civilians in the area, including several very dear to him.

“Let’s see if we can draw them away,” Kaladin said. He Lashed himself downward at an angle so he swooped backward toward the ground. Unfortunately, the fog kept Kaladin from going too far or too high, lest he lose sight of his enemies.

Be careful, Syl said. We don’t know what kinds of powers this new Fused might—

The fog-shrouded figure in the near distance collapsed suddenly, and something shot out of the body—a small line of red-violet light like a spren. That line of light darted to Kaladin in the blink of an eye, then it expanded to re-form the shape of the Fused with a sound like stretching leather mixed with grinding stone.

The Fused appeared in the air right in front of Kaladin. Before Kaladin could react, the Fused had grabbed him by the throat with one hand and by the front of the uniform with another.

Syl yelped, fuzzing to mist—her lance form was far too unwieldy for such a closequarters fight. The weight of the enormous Fused, with his stony carapace and thick muscles, dragged Kaladin out of the air and slammed him against the ground, flat on his back.

The Fused’s constricting fingers cut off Kaladin’s airflow, but with Stormlight raging inside him, Kaladin didn’t need to breathe. Still, he grabbed the Fused’s hands to pry them free. Stormfather! The creature was strong. Moving his fingers was like trying to bend steel. Shrugging off the initial panic of being yanked out of the air, Kaladin gathered his wits and summoned Syl as a dagger. He sliced the Fused’s right hand, then his left, leaving the fingers dead.

Those would heal—the Fused, like Radiants, used Light to repair their wounds. But with the creature’s fingers dead, Kaladin kicked free with a grunt. He Lashed himself upward again, soaring into the air. Before he could catch his breath, however, a red-violet light streaked through the fog below, looping about itself and zipping up behind Kaladin.

A viselike arm grabbed him in an arm triangle from behind. A second later, a piercing pain stabbed Kaladin between the shoulders as the Fused knifed him in the neck.

Kaladin screamed and felt his limbs go numb as his spinal cord was severed. His Stormlight rushed to heal the wound, but this Fused was plainly experienced at fighting Surgebinders, because he continued to plunge the knife into Kaladin’s neck time and time again, keeping him from recovering.

“Kaladin!” Syl said, flitting around him. “Kaladin! What should I do?” She formed into a shield in his hand, but his limp fingers dropped her, and she returned to her spren form.

The Fused’s moves were expert, precise as he hung on from behind—he didn’t seem to be able to fly when in humanoid shape, only as a ribbon of light. Kaladin felt hot breath on his cheek as the creature stabbed again and again. The part of Kaladin trained by his father considered the wound analytically. Severing of the spine. Repeated infliction of full paralysis. A clever way of dealing with an enemy who could heal. Kaladin’s Stormlight would run out quickly at this rate.

The soldier in Kaladin worked more by instinct than deliberate thought, and noticed—despite spinning in the air, grappled by a terrible enemy—that he regained a single moment of mobility before each new stab. So as the tingling feeling rushed through his body, Kaladin bent forward, then slammed his head back into that of the Fused.

A flash of pain and white light disrupted Kaladin’s sight. He twisted as he felt the Fused’s grip slacken, then drop. The creature seized Kaladin by his coat, hanging on—a mere shadow to Kaladin’s swimming vision. That was enough. Kaladin swept his hand at the thing’s neck, Syl forming as a side sword. Cut through the gemheart, the head, or the neck with a Blade, and—great powers notwithstanding—the Fused would die.

Kaladin’s vision recovered enough to let him see a violet-red light burst from the chest of the Fused. He left a body behind each time his soul—or whatever—became a ribbon of red light. Kaladin’s Blade sliced the body’s head clean off, but the light had already escaped.

Stormwinds. This thing seemed more spren than singer. The discarded body tumbled through the fog, and Kaladin followed it down, his wounds fully healing. He breathed in a second pouch of spheres as he landed beside the fallen corpse. Could he even kill this being? A Shardblade could cut spren, but that didn’t kill them. They re-formed eventually.

Sweat poured down Kaladin’s face, his heart thundering inside him. Though Stormlight urged him to move, he stilled himself and watched the fog, searching for signs of the Fused. They’d gotten far enough from the city that he couldn’t see anyone else. Just shadowed hills. Empty.

Storms. That was close. As close to death as he’d come in a long, long while. Made all the more alarming by how quickly and unexpectedly the Fused had taken him. There was a danger to feeling like he owned the winds and the sky, to knowing he could heal quickly.

Kaladin turned around slowly, feeling the breeze on his skin. Carefully, he walked over to the lump that remained of the Fused. The corpse—or whatever it was—looked dried out and fragile, the colors faded, like the shell of a snail long dead. The flesh underneath had turned into some kind of stone, porous and light. Kaladin picked up the decapitated head and pressed his thumb into the face, which crumbled like ash. The rest of the body followed on its own a few moments later, then even the carapace disintegrated.

A line of violet-red light came streaking in from the side. Kaladin immediately launched himself upward, narrowly avoiding the grasp of the Fused that formed from the light beneath him. The creature, however, immediately dropped the new body and shot upward after Kaladin as a light. This time Kaladin dodged a little too slowly, and the creature—forming from the light—seized him by the leg.

The Fused heaved upward, using his powerful upper-body strength to climb up Kaladin’s uniform. By the time the Sylblade formed in Kaladin’s hands, the Fused had him in a powerful grip—legs wrapped around his torso, left hand grabbing Kaladin’s sword hand and holding it out to the side while he shoved his right forearm up into Kaladin’s throat. That forced his head up, making it difficult to see the Fused, let alone get leverage against him.

He didn’t need leverage, however. Grappling with a Windrunner was a dangerous prospect, for whatever Kaladin could touch, he could Lash. He poured Light into his enemy to Lash the creature away. The Light resisted, as it did when applied to Fused, but Kaladin had enough to push through the resistance.

Kaladin Lashed himself in the other direction, and it soon felt like two enormous hands were pulling the two of them apart. The Fused grunted, then said something in his own language. Kaladin dropped the Sylblade and focused on trying to push the enemy away. The Fused was glowing with Stormlight now; it rose off him like luminescent smoke.

Finally the enemy’s grip slipped, then he shot away from Kaladin like an arrow from a Shardbow. A fraction of a second later, that relentless red-violet light darted from the chest and headed straight for Kaladin yet again.

Kaladin narrowly avoided it, Lashing himself downward as the Fused formed and reached for him. After missing, the Fused fell through the mists, vanishing. Again Kaladin found himself low on Stormlight, his heart racing. He breathed in his third—of four—pouch of spheres. They’d learned to start wearing those sewn into the inside of their uniforms. Fused knew to try to cut away a Radiant’s sphere reserve.

“Wow,” Syl said, hovering up beside Kaladin, naturally taking a position where she could watch behind him. “He’s good, isn’t he?”

“It’s more than that,” Kaladin said, scanning the featureless fog. “He’s attacking with a different strategy than most. I haven’t done a lot of grappling.”

Wrestling wasn’t often seen on the battlefield. At least not a disciplined one. Kaladin was practiced with formations, and was growing more confident with swordplay, but it had been years since he’d trained on how to escape a headlock.

“Where is he?” Syl asked.

“I don’t know,” Kaladin said. “But we don’t have to beat him. We only need to stay out of his grasp long enough for the others to arrive.”

It took a few minutes of watching before Syl cried out. “There!” she said, forming a ribbon of light pointing the way toward what she’d seen.

Kaladin didn’t wait for further explanation. He Lashed himself away through the fog. The Fused appeared, but grasped empty air as Kaladin dodged. The creature’s body fell as the line of light ejected again, but Kaladin began an erratic zigzag pattern, evading the Fused twice more.

This creature used Voidlight to form new bodies somehow. Each one looked identical, with hair as a kind of clothing. He wasn’t being reborn each time—he was teleporting, but using the ribbon of light to transfer between locations. They’d met Fused that could fly, and others that had powers like Lightweavers. Perhaps this was the variety whose powers mirrored, in a way, the traveling abilities of Elsecallers.

After the creature materialized the third time, he again briefly gave up the chase. He can teleport only three times before he needs to rest, Kaladin guessed. He attacked in a burst of three each time. So after that, his powers need to regenerate? Or… no, he probably needs to go somewhere and fetch more Voidlight.

Indeed, a few minutes later, the red-violet light returned. Kaladin Lashed himself directly away from the light, picking up speed. Air became a roar around him, and by the fifth Lashing, he was fast enough that the red light couldn’t keep up, and dwindled behind.

Not quite so dangerous if you can’t reach me, are you? Kaladin thought. The Fused evidently came to the same conclusion, the ribbon of light diving downward through the fog.

Unfortunately, the Fused probably knew Kaladin intended to return to Hearthstone. So, instead of continuing, Kaladin flew down as well. He came to rest on a hilltop overgrown with lumpish rockbuds, their vines spilling out liberally in the humidity.

The Fused stood at the bottom of the hill, looking up. Yes that black wrap he wore was hair, from the top of his head, wound long and tight around his body. He broke a carapace spur off his arm—a sharp and jagged weapon—and pointed it toward Kaladin. He had probably used one of those as a dagger when attacking Kaladin’s back.

Both spur and hair seemed to imply he couldn’t take objects with him when teleporting— so he couldn’t keep Voidlight spheres on his person, but had to retreat to refill.

Syl formed as a spear. “I’m ready,” Kaladin called. “Come at me.”

“So you can run?” the Fused called in Alethi, his voice rough, like stones grinding together. “Watch for me from the corner of your eye, Windrunner. We’ll meet again soon.” He became a ribbon of red light—leaving another crumbling corpse as he disappeared into the fog.

Kaladin sat down and let out a long breath, Stormlight puffing in front of him and mingling with the fog. That fog would burn away as the sun rose higher, but for now it still blanketed the land, making it feel eerie and forlorn. Like he had accidentally stepped into a dream.

Kaladin was hit with a sudden wave of exhaustion. The dull sense of Stormlight running out, mixed with the usual deflation after a battle. And something more. Something increasingly common these days.

His spear vanished and Syl reappeared, standing in the air in front of him. She’d taken to wearing a stylish dress, ankle-length and sleek, instead of the filmy girlish one. When he’d asked, she’d explained that Adolin had been advising her. Her long, blue-white hair faded to mist, and she didn’t wear a safehand sleeve. Why would she? She wasn’t human, let alone Vorin.

“Well,” she said, hands on hips, “we showed him.”

“He almost killed me twice.”

“I didn’t say what we showed him.” She turned around, keeping watch in case this was a trick. “You all right?”

“Yeah,” Kaladin said.

“You look tired.”

“You always say that.”

“Because you always look tired, dummy.”

He climbed to his feet. “I’ll be fine once I get moving.”

“You—”

“We are not going to argue about this again. I’m fine.”

Indeed, he felt better when he got up and drew in a little more Stormlight. So what if the sleepless nights had returned? He’d survived on less sleep before. The slave Kaladin had been would have laughed himself silly to hear that this new Kaladin—lighteyed Shardbearer, a man who enjoyed luxurious housing and warm meals—was upset about a little lost sleep.

“Come on,” he said. “If we were spotted on our way here—”

“If?”

“—because we were spotted, they’ll send more than just one Fused. Heavenly Ones will come for me, and that means the mission is in jeopardy. Let’s get back to the town.”

She waited expectantly, her arms folded.

“Fine,” Kaladin said. “You were right.”

“And you should listen to me more.”

“And I should listen to you more.”

“And therefore you should get more sleep.”

“Would that it were so easy,” Kaladin said, rising into the air. “Come on.”

***

Veil was growing increasingly upset that nobody had kidnapped her.

She strolled through the warcamp market, in full disguise, idling by shops. She’d spent more than a month wearing a fake face out here, making exactly the right comments to exactly the right people. And still no kidnapping. She hadn’t even been mugged. What was the world coming to?

I could punch us in the face, Radiant noted, if it would make you feel better.

Levity, from Radiant? Veil smiled as she pretended to browse a fruit stand. If Radiant was cracking jokes, they really were getting desperate. Usually Radiant was as funny as As

Usually Radiant is as lighthearted as a chasmfiend, Shallan offered, bleeding to the front of their personality. One with a particularly large emerald inside…

Yes, that. Veil smiled at the warmth that came from Shallan, and even Radiant, who was coming to enjoy humor. This last year, the three of them had settled into a comfortable balance. They weren’t as separate as they’d been, and swapped personas easily.

Things seemed to be going so well. That made Veil worry, of course. Were they going too well?

Never mind that, for now. She moved on from the fruit stand. She’d spent this month in the warcamps wearing the face of a woman named Chanasha: a lowborn lighteyed merchant who had found modest success hiring out her chull teams to caravans crossing the Shattered Plains. They’d bribed the real woman to lend her face to Veil, and she now resided in a secure location.

Veil turned a corner and strolled down another street. The Sadeas warcamp was much as she remembered it from her days living in these camps—though it was somehow even rougher. The road needed a good scraping; rockbud polyps caused nearby wagons to rattle and bump as they passed. Most of the stalls had a guard prominently stationed near the goods. This wasn’t the sort of place where you trusted the local soldiers to police for you.

She passed more than a few luckmerches, selling glyphwards or other charms against the dangerous times. Stormwardens trying to sell lists of coming storms and their dates. She ignored these and moved on to a specific shop, one that carried sturdy boots and hiking shoes. That was what sold well in the warcamps these days. Many customers were travelers passing through. A quick survey of the other merchants would tell the same story. Rations that would keep for a long trip. Repair shops for wagons or carts. And, of course, anything that wasn’t reputable enough to have a place at Urithiru.

There were also numerous slave pens. Nearly as many as there were brothels. Once the bulk of the civilians moved to Urithiru, all ten warcamps quickly became a seedy stopover for caravans.

At Radiant’s prompting, Veil covertly checked over her shoulder for Adolin’s soldiers. They were well out of sight. Good. She did spot Pattern watching from a wall nearby, ready to report to Adolin if needed.

All was in place, and their intelligence indicated her kidnapping should happen today. Maybe she needed to prod a little more.

The shoe merchant finally approached her—a stout fellow with a beard striped with white. With that contrast, Shallan had an urge to draw him, so Veil stepped back and let Shallan emerge to take a Memory of him for her collection.

“Is there anything that interests you, Brightness?” he asked.

Veil emerged again. “How quickly could you get a hundred pairs of these?” she asked, tapping one of the shoes with a reed Chanasha always carried in her pocket.

“A hundred pairs?” the man asked, perking up. “Not long, Brightness. Four days, if my next shipment arrives on time.”

“Excellent,” she said. “I have a special contact with old Kholin at his silly tower, and can unload a large number if you can get them to me. I’ll need a bulk discount, of course.”

“Bulk discount?” the man said.

She swiped her reed in the air. “Yes, naturally. If you want to use my contacts to sell to Urithiru, I’ll need to have the very best deal.”

He rubbed at that beard of his. “You’re Chanasha Hasareh, aren’t you? I’ve heard of you.”

“Good. You’ll know I don’t play games.” She leaned in and poked him in the chest with her reed. “I’ve got a way past the old Kholin’s tariffs, if we move quickly. Four days. Any way you can make it three?”

“Perhaps,” he said. “But I am a law-abiding man, Brightness. Whyit would be illegal to avoid tariffs.”

“Illegal only if we accept that Kholin has authority to demand these tariffs. Last I checked, he wasn’t our king. He can claim whatever he wants, but now that the storms have changed, the Heralds are going to show up and put him in his place. Mark my words.”

Nice work, Radiant thought. That was well handled.

Veil tapped the reed on the boots. “A hundred pairs. Three days. I’ll send a scribe to haggle details before the end of the day. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Chanasha wasn’t the smiling type, so Veil didn’t favor this merchant with one. She tucked her reed into her sleeve and gave him a curt nod before continuing through the market.

You don’t think it was too blatant? Veil asked. That last part about Dalinar not being king felt over the top.

Radiant wasn’t certain—subtlety wasn’t her strong suit—but Shallan approved. They needed to push harder, or she’d never get kidnapped. Even lingering near a dark alleyway—one she knew her marks frequented—drew no attention.

Stifling a sigh, Veil made her way to a winehouse near the market. She’d been coming here for weeks now, and the owners knew her well. Intelligence said they, like the shoe merchant, belonged to the Sons of Honor, the group Veil was hunting.

The serving girl brought Veil inside out of the cool weather to a small, out-of-the-way corner with its own table. Here she could drink in solitude and go over accounts.

Accounts. Blah. She dug them out of her satchel and set them out on the table. The lengths they went to in the name of staying in character. They had to perfectly maintain the illusion, as the real Chanasha never let a day go by without reconciling her accounts. She seemed to find it relaxing.

Fortunately, they had Shallan to handle this part; she had some practice with Sebarial’s accounts. Veil relaxed, letting Shallan take over. And actually, this wasn’t so bad. She did doodles along the sides of the margins as she worked, even if it wasn’t quite in character. Veil acted like it was imperative that they keep absolutely in character at all times, but Shallan knew they needed to relax a little, now and then.

We could relax by visiting the gambling dens… Veil thought.

Part of the reason they had to be so diligent was because these warcamps were a tempting playground for Veil. Gambling without concern for Vorin propriety? Bars that would serve whatever you wanted, no questions asked? The warcamps were a wonderful little storm away from Dalinar Kholin’s perfect seat of honesty.

Urithiru was too full of Windrunners, men and women who would fall over themselves to make sure you didn’t bruise your elbow on a misplaced table. This place, though. Veil could get to like this place. So, maybe it was better that they stayed strictly in character.

Shallan tried to focus on the accounts. She could do these numbers; she’d first trained on accounting when doing her father’s ledgers. That had begun before she

Before she

It might be time, Veil whispered. To remember, once and for all. Everything.

No, it was not.

But…

Shallan retreated immediately. No, we can’t think of that. Take control.

Veil sat back in the seat as her wine arrived. Fine. She took a long drink and tried to pretend to be doing ledgers. Honestly, she couldn’t feel anger at Shallan. She channeled it instead toward Ialai Sadeas. That woman couldn’t be content with running a little fiefdom here, making a profit off the caravans and keeping to herself. Oh no. She had to plan storming treason.

And so Veil tried to do ledgers and pretend she liked it. She took another long drink. A short time later her brain started to feel fuzzy, and she almost drew in Stormlight to burn off the effect—but stopped. She hadn’t ordered anything particularly intoxicating. So if she was getting light-headed

She looked up, her eyes growing unfocused. They’d drugged the wine! Finally, she thought before slumping over in her seat.

***

“I don’t understand how hard it can be,” Syl was saying as she and Kaladin drew close to Hearthstone. “You humans sleep literally every day. You’ve been practicing it all your lives.”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you,” Kaladin said, landing with a light step right outside town.

“Obviously I would, since I just said so,” she replied, sitting on his shoulder, watching behind them. Her words were lighthearted, but he sensed in her the same tension he felt, like the air itself was stretched and pulled tight.

Watch for me from the corner of your eye, Windrunner. He felt a phantom pain from his neck, where the Fused had plunged his dagger into Kaladin’s spine over and over.

“Even babies can sleep,” Syl said. “Only you could make something so simple into something extremely difficult.”

“Yeah?” Kaladin asked. “And can you do it?”

“Lie down. Pretend to be dead for a while. Get up. Easy. Oh, and since it’s you, I’ll add the mandatory last step: complain.”

Kaladin strode toward the town. Syl would expect a response, but he didn’t feel like giving one. Not out of annoyance, but more a kind of general fatigue.

“Kaladin?” she asked.

He’d felt a disconnect these last months. These last years It was as if life for everyone continued, but Kaladin was separate from them, incapable of interacting. Like he was a painting hanging in a hallway, watching life stream past.

“Fine,” Syl said. “I’ll do your part.” Her image fuzzed, and she became a perfect replica of Kaladin, sitting on his own shoulder. “Well well,” she said in a growling, low-pitched voice. “Grumble grumble. Get in line, men. Storming rain, ruining otherwise terrible weather. Also, I’m banning toes.”

“Toes?”

“People keep tripping!” she continued. “I can’t have you all hurting yourselves. So, no toes from now on. Next week we’ll try not having feet. Now, go off and get some food. Tomorrow we’re going to get up before dawn to practice scowling at one another.”

“I’m not that bad,” Kaladin said, but couldn’t help smiling. “Also, your Kaladin voice sounds more like Teft.”

She transformed back and sat primly—clearly pleased with herself. And he had to admit he felt more upbeat. Storms, he thought. Where would I be if I hadn’t found her?

The answer was obvious. He’d be dead at the bottom of a chasm, having leaped into the darkness.

As they approached Hearthstone, they found a scene of relative order. The refugees had been returned to a line, and the warform singers who had come with the Fused waited near Kaladin’s father and the new citylady, their weapons sheathed. Everyone seemed to understand that their next steps would depend greatly upon the results of Kaladin’s duel.

He strode up and seized the air in front of him, the Sylspear forming as a majestic silver weapon. The singers drew their weapons, mostly swords.

“You can fight a Radiant all on your own, if you’d like,” Kaladin said. “Alternatively, if you don’t feel like dying today, you can gather the singers in this town and retreat a half hour’s walk to the east. There’s a stormshelter out that way for people from the outer farms; I’m sure Abiajan can lead you to it. Stay inside until sunset.”

The six soldiers rushed him.

Kaladin sighed, drawing in a few more spheres’ worth of his Stormlight. The skirmish took about thirty seconds, and left one of the singers dead with her eyes burned out while the others retreated, their weapons shorn in half.

Some would have seen bravery in this attack. For much of Alethi history, common soldiers had been encouraged to throw themselves at Shardbearers. Generals taught that the slightest chance of earning a Shard was worth the incredible risk.

That was stupid enough, but Kaladin wouldn’t drop a Shard when killed. He was Radiant, and these soldiers knew it. From what he’d seen, the attitudes of the singer soldiers depended greatly upon the Fused they served. The fact that these had thrown their lives away so wantonly did not speak highly of their master.

Fortunately, the remaining five listened to Abiajan and the other Hearthstone singers who—with some effort—persuaded them that despite fighting bravely, they were now defeated. A short time later, they all went trudging out through the quickly vanishing fog.

Kaladin checked the sky again. Should be close now, he thought as he walked over to the checkpoint where his mother waited, a patterned kerchief over her shoulder-length unbraided hair. She gave Kaladin a side hug, holding little Oroden—who reached out his hands for Kaladin to take him.

“You’re getting tall!” he said to the boy.

“Gagadin!” the child said, then waved in the air, trying to catch Syl—who always chose to appear to Kaladin’s family. She did her usual trick, changing into the shapes of various animals and pouncing around in the air for the child.

“So,” Kaladin’s mother said, “how is Lyn?”

“Does that always have to be your first question?”

“Mother’s prerogative,” Hesina said. “So?”

“She broke up with him,” Syl said, shaped as a tiny glowing axehound. The words seemed odd coming from its mouth. “Right after our last visit.”

“Oh, Kaladin,” his mother said, pulling him into another side hug. “How’s he taking it?”

“He sulked for a good two weeks,” Syl said, “but I think he’s mostly over it.”

“He’s right here,” Kaladin said.

“And he doesn’t ever answer questions about his personal life,” Hesina said. “Forcing his poor mother to turn to other, more divine sources.”

“See,” Syl said, now prancing around as a cremling. “She knows how to treat me. With the dignity and respect I deserve.”

“Has he been disrespecting you again, Syl?”

“It’s been at least a day since he mentioned how great I am.”

“It’s demonstrably unfair that I have to deal with both of you at once,” Kaladin said. “Did that Herdazian general make it to town?”

Hesina gestured toward a nearby building nestled between two homes, one of the wooden sheds for farming equipment. It didn’t appear terribly sturdy; some of the boards had been warped and blown loose by a recent storm.

“I hid them in there once the fighting started,” Hesina explained.

Kaladin handed Oroden to her, then started toward the shed. “Grab Laral and gather the townspeople. Something big is coming today, and I don’t want them to panic.”

“Explain what you mean by ‘big,’ son.”

“You’ll see,” he said.

“Are you going to go talk to your father?”

Kaladin hesitated, then glanced across the foggy field toward the refugees. Townspeople had started to drift out of their homes to see what all the ruckus was about. He couldn’t spot his father. “Where did he go?”

“To check whether that parshman you sliced is actually dead.”

“Of course he did,” Kaladin said with a sigh. “I’ll deal with Lirin later.”

Inside the shed, several very touchy Herdazians pulled daggers on him as he opened the door. In response, he sucked in a little Stormlight, causing wisps of luminescent smoke to rise from his exposed skin.

“By the Three Gods,” whispered one of them, a tall fellow with a ponytail. “It’s true. You’ve returned.”

The reaction disturbed Kaladin. This man, as a freedom fighter in Herdaz, should have seen Radiants before now. In a perfect world, Dalinar’s coalition armies would have been supporting the Herdazian freedom effort for months now.

Only, everyone had given up on Herdaz. The little country had seemed close to collapse, and Dalinar’s armies had been licking their wounds from the Battle of Thaylen Field. Then reports had trickled in of a resistance in Herdaz fighting back. Each report sounded like the Herdazians were nearly finished, and so resources were allocated to more winnable fronts. But each time, Herdaz stood strong, relentlessly harrying the enemy. Odium’s armies lost tens of thousands fighting in that small, strategically unimportant country.

Though Herdaz had eventually fallen, the blood toll exacted on the enemy had been remarkably high.

“Which of you is the Mink?” Kaladin asked, glowing Stormlight puffing out of his mouth as he spoke.

The tall fellow gestured to the rear of the shed, to where a shadowed figure—shrouded in his cloak—had settled against the wall. Kaladin couldn’t make out his face beneath the hood.

“I’m honored to meet the legend himself,” Kaladin said, stepping forward. “I’ve been told to extend you an official invitation to join the coalition army. We will do what we can for your country, but for now Brightlord Dalinar Kholin and Queen Jasnah Kholin are both very eager to meet the man who held against the enemy for so long.”

The Mink didn’t move. He remained seated, his head bowed. Finally, one of his men moved over and shook the man’s shoulder.

The cloak shifted and the body fell limp, exposing rolls of tarps assembled to appear like the figure of a person wearing the cloak. A dummy? What in the Stormfather’s unknown name?

The soldiers seemed equally surprised, though the tall one merely sighed and gave Kaladin a resigned look. “He does this sometimes, Brightlord.”

“Does what? Turns into rags?”

“He sneaks away,” the man explained. “He likes to see if he can do it without us noticing.”

One of the other men cursed in Herdazian as he searched behind nearby barrels, eventually uncovering one of the loose boards. It opened into the shadowed alley between buildings.

“We’ll find him in town somewhere, I’m sure,” the man told Kaladin. “Give us a few minutes to hunt for him.”

“One would think he’d avoid playing games,” Kaladin said, “considering the dangerous situation.”

“You don’t know our gancho, Brightlord,” the man said. “This is exactly how he treats dangerous situations.”

“He is no like being caught,” another said, shaking his head. “When in danger, he is to vanish.”

“And abandon his men?” Kaladin asked, aghast.

“You don’t survive like the Mink has without learning to wiggle out of situations others could never escape,” the tall Herdazian said. “If we were in danger, he’d try to come back for us. If he couldn’t well, we’re his guards. Any of us would give our lives so he could escape.”

“Is no like he needs us a lot,” another said. “The Ganlos Riera herself couldn’t catch him!”

“Well, locate him if you can, and pass along my message,” Kaladin said. “We need to be out of this town quickly. I have reason to suspect a larger force of Fused is on its way here.”

The Herdazians saluted him, though that wasn’t necessary for a member of another country’s military. People did odd things around Radiants.

“Well done!” Syl said as he left the shed. “You barely scowled when they called you Brightlord.”

“I am what I am,” Kaladin said, hiking out past his mother, who was now conferring with Laral and Brightlord Roshone. Kaladin spotted his father organizing some of Roshone’s former soldiers, who were trying to corral the refugees. Judging by the smaller line, a few seemed to have run off.

Lirin spotted Kaladin approaching, and his lips tightened. The surgeon was a shorter man—Kaladin got his height from his mother. Lirin stepped away from the group and wiped the sweat from his face and balding head with a handkerchief, then took off his spectacles, polishing them quietly as Kaladin stepped up.

“Father,” Kaladin said.

“I had hoped,” Lirin said softly, “that our message would inspire you to approach covertly.”

“I tried,” Kaladin said. “But the Fused have set up posts all through the land, watching the sky. The fog unexpectedly cleared up near one of those, and I was exposed. I’d hoped they hadn’t seen me, but” He shrugged.

Lirin put his spectacles back on, and both men knew what he was thinking. Lirin had warned that if Kaladin kept visiting, he would bring death to Hearthstone. Today it had come to the singer who had attacked him. Lirin had covered the corpse with a shroud.

“I’m a soldier, Father,” Kaladin said. “I fight for these people.”

“Any idiot with hands can hold a spear. I trained your hands for something better.”

“I—” Kaladin stopped himself and took a long, deep breath. He heard a distinctive thumping sound in the distance. Finally.

“We can discuss this later,” Kaladin said. “Go pack up any supplies you want to take. Quickly. We need to leave.”

“Leave?” Lirin said. “I’ve told you already. The townspeople need me. I’m not going to abandon them.”

“I know,” Kaladin said, waving toward the sky.

“What are you” Lirin trailed off as an enormous dark shadow emerged from the fog, a vehicle of incredible size flying slowly through the air. To either side, two dozen Windrunners—glowing bright with Stormlight—soared in formation.

It wasn’t a ship so much as a gigantic floating platform. Awespren formed around Lirin anyway, like rings of blue smoke. Well, the first time Kaladin had seen Navani make the platform float, he’d gaped too.

It passed in front of the sun, casting Kaladin and his father into shade.

“You’ve made it quite clear,” Kaladin said, “that you and Mother won’t abandon the people of Hearthstone. So I arranged to bring them with us.”


 

Chapter 3
The Fourth Bridge

The final step in capturing spren is the most tricky, as you must remove the Stormlight from the gemstone. The specific techniques employed by each artifabrian guild are closely guarded secrets, entrusted only to their most senior members.

The easiest method would be to use a larkin—a type of cremling that feasts on Stormlight. That would be wonderful and convenient if the creatures weren’t now almost entirely extinct. The wars in Aimia were in part over these seemingly innocent little creatures.

—Lecture on fabrial mechanics presented by Navani Kholin to the coalition of monarchs, Urithiru, Jesevan, 1175

Navani Kholin leaned out over the side of the flying platform and looked down hundreds of feet to the stones below. It said a lot about where she’d been living that she kept being surprised by how fertile Alethkar was. Rockbuds clustered on every surface, except where they’d been cleared for living or farming. Entire fields of wild grasses waved green in the wind, bobbing with lifespren. Trees formed bulwarks against the storms, with interlocking branches as tight as a phalanx.

Here—as opposed to the Shattered Plains or Urithiru—things grew. It was the home of her childhood, but now it felt almost alien.

“I do wish you wouldn’t crane like that, Brightness,” said Velat. The middle-aged scholar wore tight braids against the wind. She did try to mother everyone around her.

Navani, naturally, leaned out farther. One would think that during over fifty years of life, she would have found a way to rise above her natural impetuous streak. Instead she’d rather alarmingly found her way to enough power to simply do as she chose.

Below, her flying platform made a satisfyingly geometric shadow on the stones. Townspeople clustered together, gawking upward as Kaladin and the other Windrunners backed them off to provide room for the landing.

“Brightlord Dalinar,” Velat said, “can you talk sense into her, please? She’s going to drop right off, I swear it.”

“It’s Navani’s ship, Velat,” Dalinar said from behind, his voice as steady as steel, as immutable as mathematics. She loved his voice. “I think she’d have me thrown off if I tried to prevent her from enjoying this moment.”

“Can’t she enjoy it from the center of the platform? Perhaps nicely tethered to the deck? With two ropes?”

Navani grinned as the wind tugged at her loose hair. She held the rail with her freehand. “This area is clear of people now. Send the order—a steady descent to the ground.”

She’d started this design using old chasm-spanning bridges as a model. After all, this wasn’t a warship, but a transport intended to move large groups of people. The end construction was little more than a large wooden rectangle: over a hundred feet long, sixty feet wide, and around forty feet thick to support three decks.

They had built high walls and a roof on the rear portion of the upper deck. The front third was exposed to the air, with a railing around the sides. For most of the trip, Navani’s engineers had maintained their command post in the sheltered portion. But with the need for delicate maneuvers today, they’d moved the tables out and bolted them to the deck in the right front corner of the platform.

Right front, she thought. Should we be using nautical terms instead? But this isn’t the ocean. We’re flying.

Flying. It had worked. Not just in maneuvers and tests on the Shattered Plains, but on a real mission, flying hundreds of miles.

Behind her, over a dozen ardent engineers tended the open-air command station. Ka—a scribe from one of the Windrunner squads—sent the order to Urithiru via spanreed. When in motion, they couldn’t write full instructions—spanreeds had trouble with that. But they could send flashes of light that could be interpreted.

In Urithiru, another group of engineers worked the complex mechanisms that kept this ship in the air. In fact, it used the very same technology that powered spanreeds. When one of them moved, the other moved in concert with it. Well, halves of a gemstone could also be paired so that when one was lowered, the other half—no matter where it was—would rise into the air.

Force was transferred: if the distant half was underneath something heavy, you’d have trouble lowering yours. Unfortunately, there was some additional decay; the farther apart the two halves were, the more resistance you felt in moving them. But if you could move a pen, why not a guard tower? Why not a carriage? Why not an entire ship?

So it was that hundreds of men and chulls worked a system of pulleys connected to a wide lattice of gemstones at Urithiru. When they let their lattice down along the side of the plateau outside the tower, Navani’s ship rose up into the sky.

Another lattice, secured on the Shattered Plains and connected to chulls, could then be used to make the ship move forward or backward. The real advancement had come as they’d learned to use aluminum to isolate motion along a plane, and even change the vectors of force. The end result was chulls that could pull for a while, then be turned around—the gemstones temporarily disjoined—to march back the other direction, as all the while the airship continued in a straight line.

Alternating between those two lattices—one to control altitude and a second to control horizontal movement—let Navani’s ship soar.

Her ship. Her ship. She wished she could share it with Elhokar. Though most people remembered her son only as the man who had struggled to replace Gavilar as king, she’d known him as the curious, inquisitive boy who had always adored her drawings. He had always enjoyed heights. How he’d have loved the view from this deck

Work on this vessel had helped sustain her during the months following his death. Of course, it hadn’t been her math that had finally made this ship a reality. They’d learned about the interactions between conjoined fabrials and aluminum from the Azish scientists. This wasn’t the direct result of her engineering schematics either; the ship was a fair bit more mundane in appearance than her original fanciful designs.

Navani merely guided people smarter than she was. So maybe she didn’t deserve to grin like a child as she watched it work. She did anyway.

Deciding upon a name had taken her months of deliberation. In the end, however, she’d taken inspiration from the bridges that had inspired her. In specific, the one that had—so many months ago—rescued Dalinar and Adolin from certain death, something she hoped this vessel would do for many others in similarly dire situations.

And so, the world’s first air transport had been named the Fourth Bridge. With the permission of Highmarshal Kaladin’s old team, she’d embedded their old bridge in the center of the deck as a symbol.

Navani stepped away from the ledge and walked to the command station. She heard Velat sigh in relief—the cartographer had tethered herself to the deck with a rope. Navani would have preferred to bring Isasik, but he was off on one of his mapping expeditions, this time to the eastern part of the Shattered Plains.

Still, she had a full complement of scientists and engineers. White-bearded Falilar was reviewing schematics with Rushu while a host of assistants and scribes ran this way and that, checking structural integrity or measuring Stormlight levels in the gemstones. At this point, there wasn’t a whole lot for Navani to do other than stand around and look important. She smiled, recalling Dalinar saying something similar about battlefield generals once the plan was in motion.

The Fourth Bridge set down, and the front doors of the bottom level opened to accept passengers. A dozen Edgedancers flowed out toward the town. Glowing with Stormlight, they moved with a strange gait—alternating pushing off with one foot while sliding on the other. They could glide across wood or stone as if it were ice, and gracefully leaped over stones.

The last Edgedancer in the group—a lanky girl who seemed to have grown an entire foot in the last year—missed her jump though, and tripped over a large rock the others had dodged. Navani covered a smile. Being Radiant did not, unfortunately, make one immune to the awkwardness of puberty.

The Edgedancers would usher the townspeople onto the transport and heal those who were wounded or sick. Windrunners darted through the sky to watch for potential problems.

Rather than bother the engineers or soldiers, Navani drifted over to Kmakl, the Thaylen prince consort. Fen’s aging husband was a navy man, and Navani had thought he might enjoy joining them on the Fourth Bridge’s first mission. He gave her a respectful bow, his eyebrows and long mustaches drooping alongside his face.

“You must think us very disorganized, Admiral,” Navani said to him in Thaylen. “No captain’s cabin and barely a handful of bolted-down desks for a command station.”

“She is an odd ship, to be sure,” the elderly sailor replied. “But majestic in her own way. I was listening to your scholars talk, and they were guessing the ship made about five knots on average.”

Navani nodded. This mission had begun as an extended endurance test—indeed, Navani hadn’t been on the voyage when it had begun. The Fourth Bridge had spent weeks flying out over the Steamwater Ocean, taking refuge from storms in laits and coastal coves. During that time, the ship’s only crew had been her engineers and a handful of sailors.

Then the request had come from Kaladin. Would they like to try a more rigorous stress test by stealing an entire town out of Alethkar—rescuing an infamous Herdazian general in the process? Dalinar had made the decision, and the Fourth Bridge had changed course toward Alethkar.

Windrunners had delivered the command staff—Navani included—and Radiants to the vessel earlier today.

“Five knots,” Navani said. “Not particularly fast, compared to your best ships.”

“Pardon, Brightness,” he said. “But this is essentially a giant barge—and for that five knots is impressive, even ignoring the fact that it is flying.” He shook his head. “This ship is faster than an army marching at double time—yet it brings your troops in fresh and provides its own mobile high ground for archery support.”

Navani couldn’t refrain from beaming with pride. “There are still a lot of kinks to work out,” she said. “The fans on the rear barely increased speed. We’re going to need something better. The manpower involved is enormous.”

“If you say so,” he said. The elderly man adopted a distant expression, turning and staring out toward the horizon.

“Admiral?” Navani asked. “Are you all right?”

“I’m simply imagining the end of an era. The livelihood I’ve known, the way of the oceans and the navy

“We’ll continue to need navies,” Navani said. “This air transport is merely an additional tool.”

“Perhaps, perhaps. But for a moment, imagine a fleet of ordinary ships suffering an attack from one of these up above. It wouldn’t need trained archers. The flying sailors could drop stones and sink a fleet in minutes” He glanced to her. “My dear, if these things become ubiquitous, it won’t only be navies that are rendered obsolete. I can’t decide if I’m glad to be old enough to wish my world a fond farewell, or if I envy the young lads who get to explore this new world.”

Navani found herself at a loss for words. She wanted to offer encouragement, but the past that Kmakl regarded with such fondness was well, like waves in water. Gone now, absorbed by the ocean of time. It was the future that excited her.

Kmakl seemed to sense her hesitance, as he smiled. “Don’t mind the ramblings of a grouchy old sailor. Look, the Bondsmith wishes your attention. Go and guide us toward a new horizon, Brightness. That is where we’ll find success against these invaders.”

She gave Kmakl a fond pat on the arm, then hastened off toward Dalinar. He stood near the front center of the deck, and Highmarshal Kaladin was striding toward him accompanied by a bespectacled man. This must be the Windrunner’s father—though it took some imagination on her part to see the resemblance. Kaladin was tall, and Lirin was short. The younger man had that unruly hair falling in a natural curl. Lirin, on the other hand, was balding, with the rest of his hair kept very short.

However, as she stepped up beside Dalinar, she caught Lirin’s eyes—and the familial connection became more obvious. That same quiet intensity, that same faintly judgmental gaze that seemed to know too much about you. In that moment she saw two men with the same soul, for all their physical differences.

“Sir,” Kaladin said to Dalinar. “My father, the surgeon.”

Dalinar nodded his head. “Lirin Stormblessed. It is my honor.”

Stormblessed?” Lirin asked. He didn’t bow, which Navani found undiplomatic, considering whom he was meeting.

“I assumed you would take your son’s house name,” Dalinar said.

Lirin glanced at his son, who evidently hadn’t told him about his elevation. But he said nothing more, instead turning to give her airship a proper nod of respect.

“This is a magnificent creation,” Lirin said. “Do you think it could quickly deliver a mobile hospital, staffed with surgeons, to a battlefield? The lives that could be saved that way

“An ingenious application,” Dalinar said. “Though Edgedancers generally do that job now.”

“Oh. Right.” Lirin adjusted his spectacles, then finally seemed to find a little respect for Dalinar. “I appreciate what you’re doing here, Brightlord Kholin, but can you say how long my people will be trapped on this vehicle?”

“It will be a several-week flight to reach the Shattered Plains,” Dalinar said. “But we’ll be delivering supplies, blankets, and other items of comfort during the trip. You’ll be performing an important function, helping us learn how to better equip these transports. Plus we’ll be denying the enemy an important population center and farming community.”

Lirin nodded, thoughtful.

“Why don’t you inspect the accommodations?” Dalinar offered. “The holds aren’t luxurious, but there’s space enough for hundreds.”

Lirin accepted the dismissal—though he again didn’t bow or offer respect as he strode away.

Kaladin hung back. “I apologize for my father, sir. He doesn’t deal well with surprises.”

“It’s all right,” Dalinar said. “I can only imagine what these people have been through lately.”

“It might not be over quite yet, sir. I was spotted while scouting earlier today. One of the Fused—a variety I’ve never seen before—came to Hearthstone hunting me. I ran him off, but I have no doubt we’ll soon encounter more resistance.”

Dalinar tried to remain stoic, but Navani could see his disappointment in the downturn of his lips. “Very well,” he said. “I’d hoped the fog might cover us, but that was plainly too convenient. Go alert the other Windrunners, and I’ll send word for the Edgedancers to hasten the evacuation.”

Kaladin nodded. “I’m running low on Light, sir.”

Navani slipped her notebook from her pocket as Dalinar raised his hand and pressed it against Kaladin’s chest. There was a faintwarping to the air around them, and for a moment she thought she could see into Shadesmar. Another realm, filled with beads of glass and candle flames floating in place of people’s souls. She thought, for the briefest moment, she heard a tone in the distance. A pure note vibrating through her.

It was gone in a moment, but she wrote her impressions anyway. Dalinar’s powers were related to the composition of Stormlight, the three realms, and—ultimately—the very nature of deity. There were secrets here to unlock.

Kaladin’s Light was renewed, wisps of it steaming off his skin, visible even in daylight. The spheres he carried would be renewed as well. Somehow Dalinar reached between realms to touch the Almighty’s own power, an ability once reserved solely for storms and the things that lived in them.

Appearing invigorated, the young Windrunner stepped across the deck. He knelt and rested his hand on the rectangular patch of wood that stood out from the rest—not newly cut, but dinged and marked from arrows. His old bridge had been embedded to be flush with the rest of the deck. The Bridge Four Windrunners all enacted this same wordless ritual when they left the airship. It took only a moment, then Kaladin launched into the air.

Navani finished her notes, covering a smile as she found Dalinar reading over her shoulder. That was still a decidedly odd experience, for all that she tried to encourage him.

“I’ve already let Jasnah make notes on what I do,” Dalinar said. “Yet each time, you pull out this notebook. What are you looking for, gemheart?”

“I’m not sure yet,” she said. “Something is odd about the nature of Urithiru, and I think Bondsmiths might be related to the tower, at least from what we read about the old Radiants.” She flipped to another page and showed him some schematics she’d drawn. The tower city of Urithiru had an enormous gemstone construction at its heart—a crystal pillar, a fabrial unlike any she’d ever seen. She was increasingly certain the tower had once been powered by that pillar, as this flying ship was powered by the gemstones her engineers had embedded within the hull. But the tower was broken, barely functioning.

“I tried infusing that pillar,” Dalinar said. “It didn’t work.” He could infuse Stormlight into ordinary spheres, but those tower gemstones had resisted.

“We must be approaching the problem in the wrong way. I can’t help thinking if I knew more about Stormlight, the solution would be simple.”

She shook her head. The Fourth Bridge was an extraordinary accomplishment, but she worried she was failing in a greater task. Urithiru was high in the mountains, where it was too cold to grow plants—yet the tower had numerous fields. People had not only survived up in that harsh environment, they had thrived.

How? She knew the tower had once been occupied by a powerful spren named the Sibling. A spren on the level of the Nightwatcher or the Stormfather—and capable of making a Bondsmith. She had to assume the spren, or perhaps something about its relationship with a human, had allowed the tower to function. Unfortunately, the Sibling had died during the Recreance. She wasn’t certain what level of “dead” that meant. Was the Sibling dead like the souls of Shardblades that still walked around? Some spren she interviewed said the Sibling was “slumbering,” but they treated that as final.

The answers weren’t clear, and that left Navani struggling to try to understand. She studied Dalinar and his bond with the Stormfather, hoping it would offer some further clue.

“So,” an accented voice said from behind them, “the Alethi really have learned to fly. I should have believed the stories. Only your kind are stubborn enough to bully nature herself.”

Navani started, though she was slower to respond than Dalinar, who spun—hand on his side sword—and immediately stepped between Navani and the strange voice. She had to peek around him to see the man who had spoken.

He was a short fellow, missing a tooth, with a flat nose and a jovial expression. His worn cloak and ragged trousers marked him as a refugee. He stood next to Navani’s engineer station, where he’d picked up the map that charted the Fourth Bridge’s course.

Velat, standing at the center of the desks, yelped when she saw him, then reached over to snatch the paper away.

“Refugees are to gather belowdecks,” Navani said, pointing the way back to the steps.

“Good for them,” the Herdazian man said. “Your flying boy says you’ve got a place for me here. Don’t know what I think of serving an Alethi. I’ve spent most of my life trying to stay away from them.” He eyed Dalinar. “You specifically, Blackthorn. No offense.”

Ah, Navani thought. She’d heard that the Mink wasn’t what people expected. She revised her assessment, then glanced toward the Cobalt Guardsmen who were belatedly rushing up from the sides the ship. They appeared chagrined, but Navani waved them off. She’d ask some pointed questions later about why they’d been so lax as to let this man sneak up the steps to the command station.

“I find wisdom in men who knew to avoid the person I once was,” Dalinar said to the Mink. “But this is a new era, with new enemies. Our past squabbles are of no concern now.”

“Squabbles?” the man asked. “So that’s the Alethi word for them. Yes, yes. My mastery of your language, you see, is lacking. I’d been mistakenly referring to your actions as ‘raping and burning my people.’ ”

He pulled something from his pocket. Another of Velat’s maps. He glanced over his shoulder—to check that she wasn’t watching—then unrolled it and cocked his head, inspecting it.

“What remains of my army is secluded in four separate hollows between here and Herdaz,” he said. “I have only a few hundred left. Use your flying machine to rescue them, and we’ll talk. Alethi bloodlust has cost me many loved ones over the years, but I’d be a fool not to admit the value in pointing it—like the proverbial sword’s blade—at someone else.

“It will be done,” Dalinar said.

She didn’t miss that—despite claiming earlier that the Fourth Bridge was Navani’s ship—he agreed to fly it per the Mink’s request without so much as consulting her. She tried not to let things like that bother her. It wasn’t that her husband didn’t respect her—he’d proven on numerous occasions that he did. Dalinar Kholin was simply accustomed to being the most important—and generally most capable—person around. That led a man to surge forward like an advancing stormwall, making decisions as the need arose.

Still, it irked her more than she’d ever admit out loud.

The first of the real refugees began to arrive down below, herded gently by the Edgedancers. Navani focused on the problem at hand: making certain each person was settled and comfortable in the most economical and orderly way possible. She’d drawn up a plan. Unfortunately, the welcome was interrupted as Lyn—a Windrunner woman with long dark hair worn in a braid—slammed down onto the deck.

“Incoming Fused, sir,” she reported to Dalinar. “Three full flights of them.”

“Kaladin was right, then,” he said. “Hopefully we can drive them away. Storms help us if they decide to harry the ship all the way to the Shattered Plains.”

That was Navani’s worst fear—that flying enemies would be able to strike at and even disable the transport. She had precautions in place to try to prevent that, and it looked like she’d get to witness their initial test firsthand.

Excerpted from Rhythm of War, copyright ©2020 Dragonsteel Entertainment.


 

Join the Rhythm of War Read-Along Discussion for this week’s chapters!

 

Rhythm of War, Book 4 of The Stormlight Archive, is available for pre-order now from your preferred retailer.
(U.K. readers, click here.)

citation

Back to the top of the page

51 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.