Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Read Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson: Chapter Thirteen

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.

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Chapter 13
Another Hunt

Advanced fabrials are created using several different techniques. Conjoined fabrials require a careful division of the gemstone—and the spren inside. If performed correctly, the two halves will continue to behave as a single gemstone.

Note that rubies, and flamespren, are traditional for this purpose—as they have proven the easiest to divide, and the quickest in response times. Other types of spren do not split as evenly, as easily, or at all.

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


The morning after the wedding party, Shallan had to deal with Veil’s alcohol abuse. Again. Her head throbbed, and much of the late night was a blur in her mind. Storming woman.

Fortunately, with some Stormlight and some herbs for headaches, she was feeling better by the time she finished meetings with her accountants and ministers. She was wife to a highprince, and though their lands in Alethkar were under enemy control, she and Adolin had a tenth of Urithiru to tend.

Considering Shallan’s Radiant duties, they’d put several trustworthy women in control of finances—their husbands overseeing police and guards. The meeting mostly involved Radiant dispensing a few decisions and Shallan auditing the accounts. She’d have more work to do in the future, but for now things were in hand. Adolin said she was supposed to be taking some time off following the mission anyway.

He was using that time to go ride horses. Once the scribes withdrew from her audience chamber, Shallan found herself alone—and for the first time in weeks, she didn’t have a role to play. She went through her letters and spanreed communications for a while, and eventually froze on a certain one that had arrived a day before she returned.

The deal is set and arranged. The spren will come.

She held this one for a moment, then burned it. Feeling a chill, she decided she didn’t want to be alone in her room any longer—so went to visit her brothers.

Their quarters weren’t far from hers. Jushu was the only one there when she arrived, but he let her in and chatted with her about her mission. Then, as usually happened when she visited, Shallan found her way to the room’s hearth to draw. It felt… natural. Visiting her brothers didn’t necessarily mean talking to them the entire time.

She nestled in the blankets beside the hearth, and for a blessed few minutes could imagine she was home in Jah Keved. In her fantasy, a fire crackled in the hearth. Nearby, her stepmother and her father chatted together with some visiting ardents—men and women of the church, which meant her father was being well-behaved.

Shallan was allowed her sketchbook, as Father loved to show off her skill. Eyes closed, she drew the hearth—each brick engraved in her mind from the many times she’d drawn here. Good days. Warm days.

“Hey, what’re you drawing?” Jushu asked. “Is it the hearth from home?”

She smiled, and though the real Jushu had spoken, she incorporated him into her mental image. One of her four older brothers—because in this memory, she still had four. Jushu and Wikim were twins, though Jushu laughed more than Wikim did. Wikim was thoughtful. And Balat, he would sit in the chair nearby, pretending to be confident. Helaran was back, and Balat always puffed up when the eldest Davar brother was around.

She opened her eyes and glanced at the little creationspren gathering around her, imitating mundane things. Her mother’s teakettle. The fireplace poker. Objects from her home in Jah Keved, not objects here—somehow they responded to her imaginings. One in particular made her feel cold. A necklace chain slinking across the ground.

In truth, those days at home had been terrible times. Times of tears, and screams, and a life unraveling. It was also the last time she could remember her entire family together.

Except… no, that wasn’t the entire family. This memory had happened after… after Shallan had killed her mother.

Confront it! she thought at herself, angry. Don’t ignore it! Pattern moved across the floor of the room here in Urithiru, spinning among the dancing creationspren.

She’d been only eleven years old. Seven years ago now—and if that timeline was correct, she must have begun seeing Pattern as a young child. Long before Jasnah had first encountered her spren. Shallan didn’t remember her first experiences with Pattern. Other than the distinct image of summoning her Shardblade to protect herself as a child, she had excised all such memories.

No, they’re here, Veil thought. Deep within, Shallan.

She couldn’t see those memories; didn’t want to see them. As she shied away from them, something dark shifted inside her, growing stronger. Formless. Shallan didn’t want to be the person who had done those things. That… that person could not… not be loved…

She gripped her pencil in tight fingers, the drawing half-finished in her lap. She’d buckled down and forced herself to read studies on other people with fragmented personas. She’d found only a handful of mentions in medical texts, though the accounts implied people like her were treated as freaks even by the ardents. Oddities to be locked away in the darkness for their own good, studied by academics who found the cases “novel in their bizarre nature” and “giving insight to the addled mind of the psychotic.” It was clear that going to such experts with her problems was not an option.

Memory loss was apparently common to these cases, but the rest of what Shallan experienced seemed distinctly different. Importantly, she wasn’t experiencing continued memory loss. So maybe she was fine. She’d stabilized.

Everything was getting better. Surely it was.

“Storms,” Jushu said. “Shallan, that’s some… some weird stuff you’ve drawn.”

She focused on the sketch—which she’d drawn poorly, since her eyes had been closed. It took her a second to notice that in the fireplace back home, she’d drawn burning souls. One might have mistaken them for flamespren, but for the fact that they looked so similar to her and her three brothers…

She snapped the sketchbook closed. She wasn’t back in Jah Keved. The hearth before her now had no flames; it was a depression with a heating fabrial resting in it, set into the wall of a Urithiru room.

She had to live in the present. Jushu was no longer the plump, readily smiling boy from her memories. He was an overweight man with a full beard who had to be watched almost constantly, lest he steal something and try to pawn it for gambling money. They’d twice caught him trying to remove the heating fabrial.

The way he smiled at her was a lie. Or maybe he was simply trying the best he could to remain upbeat. Almighty knew she understood that.

“Nothing to say?” he asked. “No quip? You almost never make wisecracks anymore.”

“You aren’t around enough for me to make sport of,” she said. “And no one else is quite as inspiring in their incompetence.”

He smiled, but winced, and Shallan immediately felt ashamed. The joke was too accurate. She couldn’t act like when they’d been kids; then, their father had been a great unifying enemy, making their gallows humor a way to cope.

She worried about them drifting apart. So she visited, almost defiantly.

Jushu rose to get some food, and Shallan wanted to try another joke. She let him go instead. With a sigh, she rummaged in her satchel and brought out Ialai’s little notebook. She was piecing some of its meanings together. For instance, Ialai’s spies had caught members of the Ghostbloods talking about a new route through the Sea of Lost Lights. That was the place she and the others had traveled in Shadesmar a year back. Indeed, an entire three pages were filled with locations from the mysterious world of the spren.

I saw a map, Ialai had written, in the things of the Ghostblood we captured—and should have thought to copy it, for it was lost in the fire. Here is what I remember.

Shallan made some notes at the bottom of Ialai’s crude map. Whatever skills in politics the woman had possessed, they had been offset by a dearth of artistic ability. But perhaps Shallan could find some actual maps of Shadesmar and compare?

The door opened, admitting Balat and a friend returning from their duties as guardsmen, though Shallan’s back was to the group. From the quiet voices, Eylita—Balat’s wife—had met them somewhere in the hallway, and was laughing at something Balat said. Over the last year, Shallan had grown surprisingly fond of the young woman. As a child, Shallan remembered being jealous of anyone who might take her brothers away—but as an adult, she saw better. Eylita was kind and genuine. And it took a special person to love a member of the Davar family.

Shallan continued her study of the book, listening with half an ear as Balat and Eylita chatted with their friend. Eylita had encouraged Balat to find an occupation, though Shallan wasn’t certain becoming a guardsman was the best match for him. Balat had a tendency to enjoy the pain of other creatures a little too much.

Balat, Eylita, and his friend made their way to the other room, where a cooling fabrial kept some meats and curries chilled for meals. Their life was growing so convenient, and it could be even more so. Shallan’s elevation to wife of a highprince could have awarded this home dozens of servants.

Her brothers, however, had grown distrustful of servants—and they had grown accustomed to living without in the lean days. Besides, these fabrials did the work of a dozen people. No need for someone to chop or carry wood, no need for a fresh trip to the tower kitchens each day. Almost, Shallan feared, Navani’s artifabrians would make them all lazy.

As if having servants hasn’t already made most lighteyes lazy, Shallan thought. Focus. Why are the Ghostbloods so interested in Shadesmar? Veil, any thoughts?

Veil frowned, absently turned around to put her back to the wall, then tucked her foot through the strap of her satchel to prevent it from being pulled away. When she became Veil, the colors in the room… muted. The colors didn’t change, but her perception shifted. Shallan would have described those strata lines as rust colored, but to Veil they were just red.

Veil kept one eye on the door to the balcony. Balat, Eylita, and Jushu had all moved out there, and were joking with that other guardsman. Laughterspren moved in front of the door. Who was this friend? Shallan hadn’t bothered to check.

Sorry, Shallan thought. I was distracted.

Veil studied the words in the notebook, picking out the relevant pieces. Maps, names of places, discussions of the cost of moving items through Shadesmar. Shallan’s first mission for the Ghostbloods—back when Veil had been no more than a drawing in a notebook—had been to spy on Amaram, who had been trying to work out how to find Urithiru and the Oathgates.

The Oathgates—though primarily used to quickly move troops and supplies—had another function. They had the ability to send people back and forth into Shadesmar, a usage that Dalinar’s scholars and Radiants had slowly managed to unlock during the past year. Was that what Mraize had wanted?

Veil saw the pieces of something grand in Mraize’s moves: find the Oathgates, attempt to secure unfettered—perhaps exclusive—access to Shadesmar. Along the way, try to remove rivals, like Jasnah. Then recruit a Radiant who could look into Shadesmar. Finally, attack other factions who were trying to discover the secrets.

She would have to… Wait. That voice.

Veil’s head jolted up. The guard her brothers were talking to. Damnation. Veil snapped the book closed and tucked it the pocket of her dress, then stood and had Shallan make her hair red again, though Veil kept control.

She peeked out onto the balcony to check, but she already knew she’d find Mraize there.

He stood tall, with his peculiarly scarred face, wearing a gold and black uniform like Balat. Those were colors of the Sebarial Princedom—the house Shallan had chosen to align with before marrying into the Kholins. She’d once seen Mraize in a similar uniform, serving Ialai and her house a year ago.

Mraize didn’t fit the uniform. Not that it was poorly tailored, he was simply… wrong in it. He was at once too lofty and too jagged a person for the job. Predatory, where a guardsman should be obedient—yet also refined, when being a guardsman was one of the more lowly jobs for a lighteyes.

He saw her, of course. Mraize always watched the doors; she’d learned the trick from him. He didn’t break character, laughing at what Balat said, but he didn’t fake nearly as well as Shallan could. He couldn’t keep the haughty tone from his laugh, or the bite from his grin. He didn’t reside in the character; he wore it as a costume.

Veil folded her arms and lounged by the doorway. A cold breeze blew in off the mountains, making her shiver. Mraize and the boys pretended not to be cold, though their breath puffed in front of them and coldspren grew like spikes on the balcony railing. Odd, how in this tower it could feel so much warmer inside, even if you left the door open. Indeed, Eylita soon made an excuse and went in, passing Veil with a smile and a wave, which Shallan returned.

Veil kept her attention on Mraize. He clearly wanted her to see him interacting with her brothers. He rarely used overt threats, but this was a warning. He had been the one to bring the young men here safely, a reward for her services rendered. What he had given her, he could remove. As a guardsman, he’d train each day with the sword near Balat. Accidents happened. Shallan panicked slightly at this discovery, but Veil could play this the game, even if the pieces were people she loved.

We need to be ready to make a move, Radiant thought, to put our brothers where they will be safe.

Veil agreed. Did such a place exist? Or instead should she gather a few pieces of her own to use? She needed information—about the Ghostbloods, and about Mraize himself. Despite their time working together, she knew next to nothing about the man.

She was curious to see how Mraize would create an opportunity for the two of them to speak together alone. It would be strange if he—supposedly a lowly lighteyed soldier—were to request time with Shallan.

After a short conversation, Mraize said, “I do admire your view here, Balat! I wish I merited a balcony room. Look at those mountains! Next time I walk the gardens below, I’ll glance up and see if I can find you. Regardless, for now I should be returning to my quarters.”

He pretended to see Shallan there for the first time, and hastily bowed to her. It was a fair effort, but overdone. She nodded to him as he retreated through their rooms and left. He’d want to meet her in the gardens, but she didn’t intend to rush off to do his bidding.

“Balat,” she said. “That man. Have you known him long?”

“Hm? What was that, small one?” Balat turned toward her. During their first months together, talking to him had felt so awkward. Balat expected her to be the same timid girl who had left searching for Jasnah. Being with them had made Shallan realize how different she’d become in their months apart.

It had been a fight, strangely, not to backslide when around these three. It wasn’t that she wanted to be the younger, timid version of herself. But it was familiar in ways these new versions of her were not.

“That man,” Veil said. “What’s his name?”

“We call him Gobby,” Balat said. “He’s old to be in training, but with the call out for new soldiers, lots of people who haven’t really held a sword before are joining up.”

“Is he good?” Veil asked.

“Gobby? Nah. He’s fine, I mean, but makes a lot of mistakes. Almost chopped a man’s arm off by accident last week! Captain Talanan laid into him for that one, I’ll tell you!” He chuckled, but Veil’s unamused face made him trail off.

She became Shallan and smiled belatedly, but her brothers left to go eat. She watched them chatting together and felt something stir inside her: regret. They’d found an equilibrium as a family, but she wasn’t certain she’d ever get used to being the adult in the room when they were together.

It made her want to go bother Adolin. She thought she could pick him out below, riding Dalinar’s horse on the field they’d dedicated to the animals. But she wouldn’t interrupt him—spending time with the Ryshadium was one of the purest joys of Adolin’s life.

Best to go attend Mraize, as he wanted.


“Garden” was too grand a term by far for the small field beneath the windows to her brothers’ quarters. Yes, some of the Alethi gardeners had begun growing shalebark ridges or other ornamental plants here—but the cold weather stunted growth. The result, even with the occasional use of a heating fabrial, was little more than a network of colored mounds on the ground, not the gorgeous cultivated walls of a true garden. She picked out only two small lifespren.

Mraize was a dark pillar on the far side, surveying the frosted mountain peaks. Veil didn’t try to sneak up on him; she knew he’d sense her coming. He seemed to be able to do that no matter how little sound she made. It was a trick she’d been trying to replicate.

Instead she stepped up beside him. She’d fetched her hat and cloak, the latter buttoned against the cold, but she’d covered that and her face with the illusion of a guard in Sebarial’s army. In case someone saw the two of them meeting.

“You,” Mraize said without looking at her, “are to be commended again, little knife. The Sons of Honor are basically defunct. The few remaining members have fled into hiding, separately. With Dalinar’s soldiers ‘restoring order’ in the warcamps, there is little chance of the infestation restarting.”

“One of your operatives killed Ialai,” Veil said, trying to pick out what Mraize was looking at. He was staring intently, tracking something out there. She saw only snow and slopes.

“Yes,” Mraize said.

“I don’t like the idea of someone watching over my shoulder,” Veil said. “It says you don’t trust me.”

Should I trust you three? I’m under the impression that at least part of you isn’t… fully committed.”

She finally picked out what Mraize was watching: a small dot of color soaring through one of the canyons. His pet chicken, the green one. Mraize whistled sharply, and the sound echoed below. The creature turned in their direction.

“You must decide,” Mraize said to her, “how long you are going to continue this flirtation, Veil. You tease us. Are you a Ghostblood or not? You enjoy the benefits of our organization, but refuse to get the tattoo.”

“Why would I want something that could reveal me?”

“Because of the commitment it represents. Because of the permanence.” He eyed her, noting her illusion. “Of course, with your powers nothing is permanent, is it? You deal exclusively in the ephemeral.”

He held up his arm as the chicken returned, fluttering its wings as it landed, its talons clutching his coat. The chicken was one of the strangest varieties Veil had ever seen, with that large hooked beak and those bright green feathers. It carried something in its mouth, a small furry creature. It could have been a rat, but the look was wrong.

“What is that?” Veil asked. “What did it catch?”

“A mole,” Mraize said.

“A what?”

“Like a rat, but different. You know the word, mole? An informant? Comes from these creatures, which live in Shinovar and dig into places they’re not wanted. They’ve made their way across Azir over the centuries, then into the mountains.”

“Whatever,” Veil said.

The scarred man eyed her, a hint of a smile on his lips. “Shallan will find this interesting, Veil. Do you not want to ask, for her sake? An invasive species from Shinovar, slowly making a home in the mountains? Where Rosharan creatures cannot live. They lack the fur, the adaptations, you see.”

Shallan emerged as he said it, so she took a Memory. She needed to draw the little beast. How did it survive in this cold? Surely there wasn’t anything to eat up here.

“A hunter knows the advantages his prey relies upon to hide and to thrive,” Mraize said. “Shallan understands this; she seeks to understand the world. You should not dismiss this kind of knowledge so quickly, Veil. It has applications you may not anticipate, but which will serve you both well.”

Damnation. Shallan hated talking with him. She found herself wanting to nod, to agree with him, to learn from him. Radiant whispered truth: Shallan had lived her childhood with a father who had been paternal in all the wrong ways and none of the right ones. In Mraize, a part of her saw a substitute. Strong, confident, and—most importantly—willing to offer praise.

His chicken held its prey with one foot, eating almost like a person did with their hands. The thing was so strange, so alien. It stood upright, like no other beast Shallan had studied. When it chirped at Mraize, it sounded almost like it was talking, and she swore she could occasionally make out words. It was like a tiny parody of a person.

She glanced away from the brutal display of the feasting chicken, though Mraize watched the creature with an air of approval.

“I can’t join the Ghostbloods fully,” she said, “unless I know what it is you’re trying to accomplish. I don’t know your motivations. How can I align with you until I do?”

“Surely you can guess,” Mraize said. “It’s about power, obviously.”

She frowned. So… was it really that simple? Had she imagined depths to this man that weren’t there?

Mraize continued to hold his chicken on one arm, fishing in his pocket with the other hand. He took out a diamond broam, then handed it to her, wrapping her fingers around it. Her fist shone from within.

“Power,” Mraize said. “Portable, easily contained, renewable. You hold the energy of a storm in your hand, Veil. That raw energy, plucked from the heart of the raging tempest. It is tamed—not only a safe source of light, but of power that those with… particular interests and abilities can access.”

“Sure,” Veil said, emerging again. “At the same time it’s practically worthless—because anyone can get it. The gemstones are the valuable part.”

“That’s small thinking,” Mraize said. “The stones are but containers. No more valuable than a cup. Important, yes, if you wish to carry liquid across the dry expanse. But the value comes solely from what it contains.”

“What kind of ‘dry expanse’ would you cross?” Veil asked. “I mean, you can always simply wait for a storm.”

“Locked into your conditioned way of thinking,” Mraize said, shaking his head. “I thought you’d be able to see bigger, to dream bigger. Tell me, when you traveled Shadesmar, how valuable was a little Stormlight?”

“Very,” she said. “So… this is about bringing Stormlight to Shadesmar? What do the spren have that you want?”

“That, little knife, is the wrong question.”

Blast. Veil felt her temper rising. Hadn’t she proven herself? How dare he treat her as if she were some lowly apprentice.

Fortunately, they had Radiant to guide them here. She learned lessons Veil refused to. Radiant didn’t mind being treated like an apprentice; Radiant liked learning. She had Shallan bleed their hair to blonde, though they were still wearing a man’s face, and folded her hands behind her back, standing up straighter.

Ask a better question. “Nalathis,” Radiant said. “Scadarial. What are they?”

“Nalthis. Scadrial.” He spoke the words with a different accent. “Where are they. That’s an excellent question, Radiant. Suffice it to say they are places in Shadesmar where our Stormlight—so easily captured and transported—would be a valuable commodity.”

Curious. She knew so little of Shadesmar, but the spren had vast cities—and she knew Stormlight was prized there. “That’s why you wanted to get to Urithiru before Jasnah. You knew the Oathgates would offer easy access to Shadesmar. You want to control commerce, travel, to these other places.”

“Excellent,” Mraize said. “Trade to Roshar through Shadesmar has been historically difficult, as there is only one stable access point—one controlled by the Horneaters, who have been unpleasant to deal with. Yet Roshar has something that so many other peoples in the cosmere want: free, portable, easy-to-access power.”

“There has to be more,” Radiant said. “What is the catch? The problem with the system? You wouldn’t be telling me this if there weren’t a problem.”

He glanced at her. “Excellent observation, Radiant. I find it unfortunate we don’t normally get along.”

“We would get along much better if you were more straightforward with people,” Radiant said. “Your type turns my stomach.”

“What?” Mraize asked. “Me? A simple guardsman?”

“One who has a reputation for being clumsy—for nearly killing other guardsmen. If you harm Shallan’s brothers, Mraize…”

“We don’t harm our own,” Mraize said.

So remain one of us, that indicated. Radiant hated his games, though Veil delighted in them. For now, however, Radiant remained in control. She was making progress.

“The catch?” she asked, holding up the broam. “The problem?”

“This power is something we call Investiture,” Mraize said. “Investiture manifests in many forms, tied to many places and many different gods. It is bound to a specific land—making it very difficult to transport. It resists. Try to carry this too far, and you’d find it increasingly difficult to move, as it became increasingly heavy.

“The same limitation restrains people who are themselves heavily Invested. Radiants, spren—anyone Connected to Roshar is bound by these laws, and cannot travel farther than Ashyn or Braize. You are imprisoned here, Radiant.”

“A prison as large as three planets,” Radiant said. “Forgive me if I don’t feel confined.”

Veil, however, was hiding. Things like this daunted her—such large-scale ideas and problems. Shallan though… Shallan wanted to soar, learn, discover. And to find that she was restricted in that discovery, even if she’d never known about the restriction, did bother her.

Mraize took the broam back. “This gemstone cannot go where it is needed. A more perfect gemstone could contain the Light long enough to go offworld, but there is still the Connection problem. This little flaw has caused untold trouble. And the one who unlocks the secret would have untold power. Literal power, Radiant. The power to change worlds…”

“So you want to unravel the secret,” Radiant said.

“I already have,” Mraize said, making a fist. “Though putting the plan into motion will be difficult. I have a job for you.”

“We don’t want another job,” Radiant said. “It is time for this association to be finished.”

“Are you certain? Are all three of you certain?”

Radiant drew her lips to a line, but she knew the truth. No, they were not certain. Reluctantly, she let Shallan emerge, hair bleeding to its natural auburn-red.

“I have news for you,” Shallan said. “Sja-anat contacted me while I was away. She agreed to your terms, and is sending one of her spren to the tower, where it will investigate your members for a possible bond.”

“Those weren’t the terms,” he said. “She was to promise me a spren to bond.”

“Considering where we started last year,” Shallan said, “you should take what you can get. It’s been difficult to contact her lately; I think she’s worried about how people are treating Renarin.”

“No,” Mraize said. “Odium watches. We must be careful. I will… accept these terms. Have you any other reports?”

“Ialai’s agents have a spy close to Dalinar,” Shallan said. “So the Sons of Honor might not be completely stamped out yet.”

“An interesting line of reasoning,” Mraize said, “but you’re wrong. The Sons of Honor don’t have an agent close to Dalinar. They simply managed to intercept some communications from one of our agents who is close to Dalinar.”

Ah… That explained a few things. Ialai didn’t have the reach to get close to Dalinar, but if she’d found a way to intercept intelligence from the Ghostbloods, the result would be the same.

Mraize didn’t lie to her, as far as she’d been able to determine. So…

“I don’t need to worry about two spies then,” Shallan said. “Only the one you have watching me, the one who killed Ialai. It’s one of Adolin’s guards, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be silly. We have no interest in men such as that. They offer us nothing.”

“Who, then?”

“I cannot betray this secret,” Mraize said. “Let’s just say that Lightweavers fascinate me, and leave it at that. And you should not fear if I did keep someone close to you. Such a person could be an… aid in times of need. Iyatil did the same for me.”

Shallan fumed. He all but promised the Ghostblood spy was among her Lightweavers, which did make sense. Mraize would want someone who could watch Shallan in places a soldier might not be able to reach. One of the deserters then? Or Ishnah? One of the newer squires? The idea made her sick.

“Iyatil has reported to Master Thaidakar,” Mraize said, “and he has accepted—after some initial anger—that we will not be able to control the Oathgates. I explained that there at least is a calming wind in this, like the riddens of a storm. With Dalinar controlling the Oathgates, he can prosecute the war against Odium.”

“And that helps your cause?”

“We have no interest in seeing the enemy rule this world, Shallan. Master Thaidakar wishes only to secure a method for gathering and transporting Stormlight.” Mraize held his broam up again. Like a miniature sun beside the real one.

“Why attack the Sons of Honor though?” Shallan asked. “At first I understood—they were trying to find Urithiru before us. But now? What threat was Ialai?”

“Now that is a brilliant question,” Mraize said, and she couldn’t suppress a thrill from Veil at being praised by him. “The secret has to do with Gavilar. The old king. What was he doing?”

“The same old question,” Shallan said. “I spent weeks researching his life under Jasnah’s tutelage. She seemed to think he was after Shardblades.”

“His aspirations were not nearly so lowly as that,” Mraize said. “He recruited others, promising them a return to the old glories and powers. Some, like Amaram, listened because of these promises—but for the same reason were as easily lured by the enemy. Others were manipulated through their religious ideals. But Gavilar… what did he truly want?”

“I don’t know. Do you?”

“Immortality, in part. He thought he could become like the Heralds. In his quest, he discovered a secret. He had Voidlight before the Everstorm—he carried it from Braize, the place you call Damnation. He was testing the movement of Light between worlds. And one close to him might have answers. At any rate, we couldn’t risk Ialai or the Sons of Honor recovering these secrets.”

Mraize’s chicken finished its meal. Though it had picked at and eaten the flesh, in the end it swallowed the rest of the corpse whole. Then it fluffed its feathers and hunkered down. Shallan didn’t have a lot of experience with the creature, but it seemed to dislike the cold.

So odd, how Mraize flaunted it. But she supposed that was part of who he was—he was never content blending in. Most would probably consider keeping strange exotic animals a quirk. Shallan couldn’t help but see more to it. Mraize collected trophies—she’d seen many odd things in his possession.

She blinked and took another Memory of the chicken on his arm, receiving a scratch at its neck.

“There is so much out there, little knife,” Mraize said. “Things that will rock your understanding, expand your perspective, and make into pebbles what once seemed mountains. The things you could know, Shallan. The people you could collect in your notebook, the sights you could see…”

“Tell me,” she said, finding an unexpected hunger within. “Let me see them. Let me know them.”

“These things require effort and experience,” Mraize said. “I could not simply be told of them, and neither can you. I have given you enough for now. To go further, you must hunt the secrets. Earn them.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “All right. What do you want this time?”

He grinned in his predatory way.

“You always make me want to do the things you ask,” Shallan said. “You tempt me not just with rewards, but with the secrets—or the dangers—themselves. You knew I’d be intrigued by what Amaram was studying. You knew I’d want to stop Ialai because of the threat she presented to Adolin. I always end up doing what you want. So what is it this time? What are you going to make me do?”

“You become a hunter in truth. I have known from the beginning your potential.” He looked to her, light violet eyes lingering on her still-red hair. “There is a man. Restares. You know the name?”

“I’ve heard of him. He was connected to the Sons of Honor?” Though she might have heard the name before getting Ialai’s book, it was written several times in there. The woman had been trying to contact him.

“He was their leader, at one point,” Mraize said. “Perhaps their founder, though we aren’t certain. Either way, he was involved from the beginning—and he knew the extent of what Gavilar was doing. Restares is perhaps the only living person who did.”

“Great. You want me to find him?”

“Oh, we know where he is,” Mraize said. “He has asked for—and been granted—asylum in a city no other Ghostblood has been able to enter.”

“A place you can’t enter?” Shallan asked. “Where is security that tight?”

“The fortress named Lasting Integrity,” Mraize said. “Home and capital city of the honorspren in Shadesmar.”

Shallan let out a long whistle of appreciation. The chicken, curiously, mimicked it.

“This is your mission,” Mraize said. “Find your way to Lasting Integrity. Get in, then find Restares. There should be no more than a handful of humans in the city; in fact, he might be the only one. We don’t know.”

“How am I supposed to accomplish that?”

“You are resourceful,” Mraize said. “You and yours have connections to the spren that no other Ghostblood has been able to manage so far.” His eyes flickered to Pattern, who sat on her coat, silent as usual when others were talking. “You will find a way.”

“Assuming I am able to do this,” Shallan said, “what should I do with the man? Are you sending me to kill him?”

“Don’t be so hasty,” Mraize said. “When you find him, you’ll know what to do.”

“I doubt that.”

“Oh, you will. And once you successfully return from this mission, your reward will be—as always—something for which you hunger. Answers. All of them.”

She frowned.

“We will hold nothing back,” Mraize said. “Everything we know becomes yours after this.”

Shallan folded her arms, weighing her desires. For well over a year now, she’d told herself that she only continued with the Ghostbloods to find out their secrets. But Veil liked being part of them. The thrill of the intrigue. Even the suspense of potentially being found out.

Shallan, however, had always been seeking answers. Real secrets. Surely even Jasnah couldn’t be too angry with Shallan. She was infiltrating them, seeking to find their answers. Once Shallan learned everything the Ghostbloods had been hiding, she could go to Jasnah. What good would it do to pull out when the ultimate prize was so close?

I sense another reason you’re doing this, Shallan, Radiant thought at her. What is it? What aren’t you sharing with us?

“Aren’t you afraid?” Shallan asked Mraize, ignoring Radiant. “If I know your secrets, you’ll no longer have power to keep stringing me along. You won’t be able to keep bribing me.”

“If you do this, little knife,” he said, “you won’t need to be bribed any longer. Once you complete the mission with Restares and return, you may ask me any questions, and I will answer with what I know. About the world. About the Radiants. About other places. About you, and your past…”

He thought to tease that last one. But at it, Shallan shuddered, trembling deep inside. Formless grew stronger each time she thought about that.

“After getting your answers,” Mraize continued, “if you decide you no longer desire our association, you may leave us as Radiant wishes. She is weak, but everyone has weakness within them. If you succumb to yours, then so be it.”

She folded her arms, considering.

“I’m being sincere,” Mraize said. “I cannot promise you will be safe if you leave; other members of the organization do not like you. I do promise that I will not hunt you or yours, nor will my babsk. We will discourage others.”

“An easy promise,” Shallan said, “because you are certain I will never leave the Ghostbloods.”

“Find a reason to visit the honorspren,” Mraize said. “Then we shall talk.” He lifted his arm and threw the bird off toward another hunt.

Shallan gave no promise, but as she walked away, she knew he had her. They’d been hooked as soundly as any fish. For in Mraize’s mind were answers. About the nature of the world and its politics, but more beyond. About Shallan. The Davar house steward had belonged to the Ghostbloods. It was possible Shallan’s father had as well. Mraize had never been willing to speak of that, but she had to think they’d been grooming her—and her family—for over a decade.

He knew the truth about Shallan’s past. There were holes in her childhood memories. If they did what he asked, Mraize would fill them.

And maybe then, at long last, Veil could force Shallan to become complete.

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

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