Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Forty-Six

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Welcome back to the Cosmere, my peeps and chickens! This week we rejoin Navani and Kaladin as they face their “new normal” in their own places and their own ways. Politics, spren, fabrials, nightmares… all this and more. Join us for the discussion, won’t you?

Reminder: We’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of The Stormlight Archive (this includes Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

This week’s discussion contains no external Cosmere spoilers.

A: Before we get started, I’d like to thank you all for your understanding and support last week. Dementia is a killer. It destroys your brain—not just the ability to think clearly or remember things, but also the ability to make your body work properly. I’ll say one thing for it; by the time someone dies from dementia, it’s a relief for everyone. You’ve done your grieving along the way as you watched them slowly disappear, and when they’re gone you can’t help being glad they’re no long suffering the pain, confusion, and fear. Still hard to say goodbye, but… there it is. Anyway, thank you all.

Heralds: Palah (Pailiah, Paliah). Truthwatchers. Learned/Giving. Role: Scholar.

A: The obvious connection is Navani’s agreement to lead her scholars under Raboniel’s “observation.” Kaladin, while his section is significant for other reasons, doesn’t reflect much of any of the Heralds in this chapter.

Icon: The Banner and Spears for a Kaladin POV, though it starts with Navani.

Epigraph: Rhythm of War, Page 1.

I approach this project with an equal mixture of trepidation and hope. And I know not which should rule.

A: I still don’t know whether this is Raboniel or Navani, but I can’t help thinking Navani would be unwilling to express her concerns on paper. Especially not in a notebook she was sharing with Raboniel.

P: I agree that this sounds more like Raboniel. Though I reserve the right to change my mind later!

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani, Kaladin
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1175.4.6.5 (morning of the day after Navani surrenders)

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are mostly using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: The day after the fall of Urithiru, Navani meets with Raboniel to begin her new role as leader of the human scholars under Fused rule. The initial conversation reveals new ideas and understanding to each of them, hinting at new ideas to come but complicated by the danger of giving them to the Fused. Meanwhile, Kaladin wrestles with a nightmare—apparently the first of the Moash-Odium collaboration—in which Moash again pushes Kaladin toward suicide. He wakes to the memory of the invasion, and is deeply relieved when Syl returns from her explorations through the ventilation system. Together, they prepare to set of in search of supplies and weapons.

Overall Reactions

A: The opening section of this chapter has Navani and Raboniel doing their best to manipulate one another, and it’s… not exactly hilarious, because too much hangs on it, but it’s fun to watch. It starts with the lack of servants, and I adore Navani:

So Navani allowed herself a small moment of pride when she stepped out of her rooms on the first full day of Urithiru’s occupation. Her hair was clean and braided, her simple havah pressed and neat, her makeup done.

A: I love this. She told Raboniel earlier that she had washed clothes and carried water before, and was not ashamed to do it again—and I think she has a right to a moment of pride here. Just a small moment, in light of all the larger issues, but a real one.

P: See here, I can dress myself!

A: I wonder how hard a havah is to get into… I can attest that braiding your own hair and having it look good when you haven’t done it for a while can be a bit of a trick, though. I don’t blame her at all for a sense of satisfaction in showing Raboniel that she’s perfectly capable of doing without servants.

Navani bowed precisely, just low enough to indicate obedience—but not low enough to imply subservience.

A: I know I’m kinda gushing about this (sorry), but I admire her resolution. She made the decision to surrender rather than get more people killed unnecessarily, but she’s also clear that she’s not humiliated by that choice, and absolutely not broken by it. She’s making clear and pragmatic decisions, and every one of them is a combination of protecting her people and maintaining as much independence as she can possibly finagle, for herself and for her people.

P: She’s very much, “I recognize your current superiority,” while also not submitting wholly to that superiority.

“I will organize my scholars, Ancient One,” Navani said, “and continue their research under your observation.”

“The wiser choice, and the more dangerous one, Navani Kholin.”

A: Dangerous, playing politics with a 7000-year-old politician, but… a worthwhile risk.

P: She’s definitely outclassed but in the long run, she does remarkably well.

“If you could improve the lives of your people manyfold, is that not worth abandoning self-governance? Look what we’ve done in mere minutes by sharing our knowledge.”

Shared only because of your threats, Navani thought, careful not to show that on her face. This wasn’t some free exchange. It doesn’t matter what you tell me, Raboniel. You can reveal any secret you desire—because I’m in your power. You can just kill me once you have everything you want.

A: I mean, Raboniel’s suggestion would be appealing to a lot of people, right? All sorts of new technology to make your lives easier, and all you have to give up is your freedom. Forgive me, but I’m just too cussed-western-independent to buy that line. It’s probably part of what makes me love Navani so much: She’ll make the pragmatic decision in the moment, but she’s not stupid. She knows perfectly well that Raboniel would cheerfully kill her and all the rest of humanity if it suited her ends, and she’s not going to let that happen if she can help it.

P: Our Navani definitely isn’t going to lie down and give humanity to the Fused. She plays her part, and perhaps too well later on, but the steel in her spine is strong, and she holds her own against Raboniel.

A: It’s absolutely delightful to see Navani making a few… pointed remarks, too:

“I would like to check on my scholars, Lady of Wishes, to see how they’re being treated, and find out the extent of our … losses.” That made one point clear, Navani hoped. Some of her friends had been murdered. She was not simply going to forget about that.

A: There is indeed steel there, as Raboniel is going to find out.

This was going to require a delicate balance, with both of them trying to play one another. Navani had to be explicitly careful not to let herself be taken in by Raboniel. That was one advantage Navani had over her scholars. She might never be worthy to join them, but she did have more experience with the real world of politics.

A: I can’t help thinking that her level of experience is… well, honestly, kinda pathetic compared to what we know of Raboniel’s experience. Still, politics is politics, and Raboniel’s position of supposed superiority sometimes makes her overconfident.

P: Raboniel is definitely overconfident, as are all of the Fused. Yet she still marvels at how much the humans have accomplished since the last desolation, in that they’ve discovered things the Fused know nothing about. It’s nice to see her impressed with Navani’s knowledge.

A: It really is. While she sometimes seems to sneer a bit, she has no hesitation in acknowledging and applauding the breakthroughs in technology.

At this point we wouldn’t know, but Navani’s resistance will be very real—sometimes misguided by lack of information, sometimes brilliant, with lots of ups and downs—and ultimately successful.

Then she got to work on the real problem: planning how she was going to get them out of this mess.

A: That’s a real queen, right there.

Now to our Windrunner, last hope of Radiants in Urithiru:

Kaladin was awakened by rain. He blinked, feeling mist on his face and seeing a jagged sky lit by spears of lightning frozen in place—not fading, just hanging there, framed by black clouds in a constant boil.

The frozen jagged lightning bolts didn’t give off much illumination. Hadn’t he been in a place like this once? With omnipresent light, but a black sky?

P: And here is the first of Moash’s visions. I talk more about this in Bruised and Broken but I do want to say that Moash certainly starts out with a doozy of a dream for Kaladin. Jerk.

A: The descriptions here make me wonder if this is a real place that Odium is using as a setting, populated by Moash’s knowledge of Kaladin’s past. If so, where is it? Braize? It would be appropriate.

The swirling mist evaporated off the fallen figures and he found three young messenger boys in Amaram’s colors, killed by Kaladin’s spear. Three corpses, including his brother.

P: Of course, this is how Moash would begin. Let’s spear Kaladin through the heart first thing by having him kill his baby brother.

A: Horrible, cruel, vicious fiend. (But for the overall narrative, seeing Tien here is a reminder to the reader that Kaladin does feel responsible for Tien’s death, just as much as if he had held the spear. It’s that “all my fault” mentality that he needs to let go of, ultimately.)

I’m in the tower, he thought, remembering the events of the previous day. Storms. The place is controlled by the Fused. I barely got away.

P: I hated that Kaladin didn’t remember this during the dream. He knew it wasn’t real, but I think remembering the invasion might have grounded him instead of him flying into a panic.

A: It just hurts to know things he can’t recall. Still, it’s very realistic. I’ve had dreams where I couldn’t remember what had happened IRL, and it would have made a big difference.

Storms. The weight of what Kaladin had done hung above him, nearly as oppressive as the weight of the tower. He was alone, lost in the darkness, without Stormlight or anything to drink—let alone proper weapons. He needed to take care of not only himself, but a man in a coma.

P: Kaladin coming to grips with his situation in the occupied Tower is profound. He’s realizing how dire his situation actually is, and it’s complicated by Teft and the need to care for him. He’s got to balance his fugitive status with that of a surgeon and a Captain. He’s understood that the road ahead will be rough.

A: It clearly makes his life harder, having to balance those needs. At the same time, I suspect that without Teft to protect, Kaladin might very easily give in to despair. The necessity of caring for Teft drives him to move forward, and IMO he needs that impetus.

Why? Why couldn’t he have let go? Why did he keep fighting? Was it really for them? Or was it because he was selfish? Because he couldn’t let go and admit defeat?

P: This is Moash, influencing Kaladin as he’d hoped to do. “Don’t fall for it, Stormblessed!” I rant, even as I know he won’t. Life before death! Oh, Honor, I have so many feels!

Moash. He stood on the edge of the chasm near Kaladin. The man turned, and Kaladin saw his eyes—black pits. “People think you were merciful to us. But we both know the truth, don’t we? You did it for you. Not us. If you were truly merciful, you’d have given us easy deaths.”

P: I probably sound like a broken record but Moash can storm off forever. Kaladin did so much good in Bridge Four. For Bridge Four. He gave those slaves purpose, gave them companionship and community. He gave them something to live for, and Moash dares to undermine that and try to make Kaladin think his motives were selfish? *all the swears*

A: Moash doesn’t understand—or rather has repudiated—the human need for hope. Even in an unsurvivable situation, it’s better to die with hope and purpose. (Oh, storms, I just reminded myself of “full of hope” and now I’m choking up.)

“I found a way out,” she said, taking the shape of a soldier wearing a scout’s uniform.

P: I simply adore Syl. She’s out there scouting while Kaladin is asleep, protecting him, gathering information for him. And I love it when she does things like wear a scout’s uniform, or a soldier’s uniform. She’s adorable. Thank you Brandon, for Syl.

A: Hear hear! The way her clothing reflects what she’s thinking or feeling or doing is so much fun—especially when she changes it mid-scene because her purpose changes.

“Do you have any idea what that light was that led me in here?”

“I … have a theory,” Syl said. “A long time ago, before things went poorly between spren and humans, there were three Bondsmiths. One for the Stormfather. One for the Nightwatcher. And one other. For a spren called the Sibling. A spren who remained in this tower, hidden, and did not appear to humans. They were supposed to have died long ago.”

P: Spren infodump FTW! While we already know about the Sibling at this point, this is a handy method of letting Kaladin know what’s up with the light that led him to the room.

A: Heh. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of who knows what. It’s nice when they all catch up with each other!

He touched the gemstone. Despite the fact that he didn’t have any more Stormlight, light appeared deep inside it. A white light that twinkled like a star. It expanded into a small burst of Stormlight, and the door silently split open again.

Kaladin let out a long breath and felt a little of his panic wash away. He wouldn’t die in the darkness.

P: I’m glad we got this little bit of info, I was seriously worried during the beta about how Kaladin was going to get out of that dark room. It was nearly panic-inducing for me, thinking about him in there, essentially alone.

A: Being trapped in there would have been awful. It’s a pity the Sibling can’t pump Light into specific locks as needed, but… that will come later.

He couldn’t afford to think about the long term yet. Those daunting questions—what he was going to do about the tower, the dozens of Radiants in enemy captivity, his family—would need to wait. First he needed water, food, Stormlight, and—most importantly—a better weapon.

P: This was just about a stand up and cheer moment. Like, yass, Kaladin… get it! Once that door opened and his panic ebbed, he was all about getting something done and it’s sooo good to see. And heck yeah, go kick someone’s ass and get a weapon!

A: Huge relief, for sure.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

A: SO MUCH cool stuff about fabrials in this chapter, I’m almost giddy! But first, I have a question:

“I intentionally don’t keep priority schematics anywhere but in my own head,” Navani lied.

A: If this is a lie, then… where does she keep them, that she doesn’t expect them to be found and her lie revealed? Also, since she’s already thought this through and decided she needs to give up the secrets of the conjoined fabrials that make the airships work, why bother lying about not having full schematics drawn out? Are they just… I don’t know, maybe kept in the same place as some other things she thinks she can either hide or destroy before the invaders find them? So she’s pretending they don’t exist outside her head, to avoid revealing their location? I dunno, but it makes me wonder. In a situation like this, Navani is too smart to lie unnecessarily.

P: This was notable to me, too. She doesn’t hedge at all about sitting down and drawing the schematic so why tell the lie about keeping it only in her head?

A: Well, anyway… we won’t get that answered here, I guess. Meanwhile, I’m going to have a hard time not copying extended sections for this next bit.

“In the past, my kind found it difficult to persuade spren to manifest themselves in the Physical Realm as devices. It seems Voidspren are not as naturally … self-sacrificing as those of Honor or Cultivation.”

A: Heh. If Ulim is at all typical, I’d say definitely not. He’s as self-centered as they come.

P: He’s downright incorrigible.

Navani blinked as the implications of that sank in. Suddenly a dozen loose threads in her mind tied together, forming a tapestry. An explanation. …

Awespren burst around her in a ring of blue smoke. Soulcasters didn’t hold spren because they were spren. Manifesting in the Physical Realm like Shardblades. Spren became metal on this side. Somehow the ancient spren had been coaxed into manifesting as Soulcasters instead of Blades?

A: I’m very pleased with myself: Three years ago (August 13, 2018) I included in my list of “questions for Brandon” whether the ancient fabrials were formed in a way similar to Shardplate or Shardblades—living spren willingly taking on a physical form to enable humans to use them in a specific way, perhaps without needing a Radiant bond to do so. Granted, I was originally thinking more along the lines of the windspren forming Plate than the honorspren forming Blades, but I was thinking along the right lines. I never got the chance to ask the question, so it’s fun to see it confirmed here.

And back to the text, I’m torn between being happy that Raboniel said the right thing for Navani to make this connection, and irritation with her for being supercilious about it. Then again, the Fused weren’t around for the Recreance and are probably not familiar with the details of human history for the past 4500 years, so I suppose she can be forgiven for not knowing about the complete loss of communication with spren.

“You have to use this construction of aluminum wires, rigged to touch the gemstone. That maintains vertical position, but allows the gemstone to be moved horizontally.”

… “Over a year’s worth [of testing],” Navani admitted. “After the initial possibility was theorized.”

A: It appears that Huio’s fortuitous accident in Dawnshard came after the initial theory, but before they’d found a way to make it work. That would explain why Rushu was so immediately excited about what happened with that spanreed; she was at the very least aware of the problem they were trying to solve, if not directly involved in the research.

P: This is nice info to have, I had just assumed that Rushu was nerding out because she’s such a nerd!

A: Well, she is that!

“Did you by chance find any infused spheres in the wreckage?” Specifically, a strange Voidlight one?

“No, Brightness,” Rushu said. “You saw the place. It was in shambles. But I did darken it to see if anything glowed, and saw nothing. Not a hint of Stormlight, or even Voidlight.”

A: Oh, right, that explosion. The one we forgot about in all the chaos. The sphere is gone, but it still has a part to play…

P: Boy, does it ever have a part to play. *sad face*

Spren and Shadesmar

“Syl, where are you?”

P: Kaladin not being able to talk to Syl while he’s sitting in the darkness, lost and alone, is heart-wrenching. What a relief when she returns!

A: Right? There’s that fear, right along with Kaladin, that the Fused were somehow able to capture or incapacitate Syl. She may not be able to manifest as a weapon, nor give him access to Gravitation, but he needs her in so many other ways.

Her appearance brought with it a measure of his sanity. He released a shuddering breath as she flitted down and landed on his outstretched palm.

P: *whew* Knowing that she’s okay and being her little Syl-self is so reassuring. It’s good to see Kaladin relax for a moment.

A: And regain a little hope, because as long as Syl is there, he can’t lose it completely.

Bruised and Broken

“You saved us so we could die,” a voice said from the darkness.

P: *cracks knuckles* This is the first we see of Moash invading Kaladin’s dreams and sending him horrific visions in order to push him to kill himself, which infuriates me. This is his grand plan to keep Kaladin from Odium’s clutches because—despite his self-admitted ideal circumstances—death for Kaladin is better than service to Odium. Huh. Let me see. How about neither, Moash, you murderous traitor! (Note that I refer to him as “Moash” here because that’s all Kaladin knows him as, and this is Kaladin’s POV.)

A: I was going to say how much I hate Moash thinking he knows what’s best for Kaladin, but then I realized that’s exactly what he’s accusing Kaladin of: thinking he knows what’s best for other people. The big difference is that Kaladin gave them hope (even if Moash thinks it was false hope) where Moash can give only despair, and that’s what really makes me angry.

A part of him knew this horror wasn’t real, but he could still hear the screaming. Accusing him. Why did you do this, Kaladin? Why have you killed us?

P: I know what you’re all thinking. Fark Moash. I can say that here, right? Right?

A: Indeed. Especially since Kaladin didn’t kill any of them, and most of the people in this dream are still alive, and glad to be so.

He’d been here. He remembered this place, this storm, lightly raining. This chasm. Where he’d nearly died.

P: I have so much anger toward Moash. I’m apoplectic.

A: I can’t say how many times Moash has sent me into a sputtering incoherent rage.

Moash took a step and dropped into the chasm. Kaladin fell to his knees on the edge, rain streaming around him. He stared down in horror.

P: I don’t know that I’ve ever hated Moash more than at this moment, goading Kaladin with his dilemma at the honor chasm. It’s so petty yet so poignant. Dropping into the chasm like that, as Kaladin was about to do before he decided to dedicate himself to helping the members of Bridge Four, and before Hoid intervened—have I said how this infuriates me? I have? Well good, this should punctuate that.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

“Why?” Sigzil asked, blood dribbling from his lips. “Why didn’t you let us sleep?”

“This isn’t real. This can’t be real.”

“You should have let us die on the Shattered Plains.”

“I wanted to protect you!” Kaladin shouted. “I had to protect you!”

“You cursed us…”

P: Turning Kaladin’s Oath against him in this vision is just heinous. His drive to protect literally saved his life, and now Moash is using that against him in an effort to get him to kill himself. Blood and bloody ashes, this makes me mad.

Singers/Fused

Raboniel hummed to a rhythm, but Navani couldn’t tell what it represented.

P: It sure would be nice to know which rhythms Raboniel was using in this scene. I’m guessing conceit was one. And maybe command.

A: This is one of the first times we see someone who really uses the rhythms all the time, interacting with a human who is unfamiliar with them. (Rlain does it some, but his use of rhythms is reflected more in his speech; at least around Kaladin, he rarely just hums a rhythm.) It’s kinda fun to see Navani’s impressions—first just “humming” but later describing things like “a quick and dismissive rhythm” and “a quick-paced rhythm.” There are so many, here and later, that we won’t really point them out, but it’s worth watching Navani’s awareness of the rhythms and their meanings develop.

Brilliant Buttresses

“I should like it if your spren were easier to capture in gemstones.”

“I’ll pass the request along,” Navani said.

A: Snort. I’m sure they’ll go along with it if you ask nicely.

P: Especially as enamored of humans as spren are nowadays. /sarcasm

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 47, in which we return to… Dalinar! Off to Emul, we are!

Alice is a Sanderson beta reader and administrator of two fandom Facebook groups. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, with extended family out back. Less extended family than before, though.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She works full-time, goes to school full-time, beta reads part-time, mods/admins 3 Stormlight-themed Facebook groups part-time, and writes part-time. She wishes sleep wasn’t necessary because there’s just too storming much to do! Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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