Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Fifty

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It’s another Reread Thursday, my chickens and peeps! This week, we’re back with Dalinar and Jasnah for some carefully planned and coldly executed shenanigans. (Is that a contradiction in terms? Can you plan shenanigans, or do they just have to happen?) In any case, Dalinar does a lot of musing this week, and gets thoroughly disrupted by Jasnah and Wit taking care of business. Come on in and join the discussion!

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.

In this week’s discussion we also make one reference to Mistborn in the Overall Reactions section, so if you haven’t read it, watch out for the spoiler tag.

Heralds: Joker (Wild Card); Shalash (Ash), Herald of Beauty. Lightweavers. Creative/Honest. Role: Artist.

A: In this case, the Joker really does indicate significant involvement by Hoid, though it doesn’t always mean that. He’s definitely got some wild-card action going this week. Shalash is more difficult; the only lightweavers that are even implied in the text would be the ones who might be messing with the appearance of things at Urithiru. So maybe it’s a hint? Beyond that, I have no idea why she’s here.

Icon: Kholin Glyphpair, for a Dalinar POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 3 undertext:

When in such a state, detachment is enviable. I have learned that my greatest discoveries come when I abandon lesser connections.

P: The bit about “lesser connections” smacks of Raboniel to me.

A: Exactly what I thought. I’m beginning to suspect that, at least for these opening pages, the text is written by Navani, and the undertext by Raboniel.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar
WHERE: Emul
WHEN: 1175.4.7.1 (Two days after Chapter 47)

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

RECAP: In the new headquarters village of Laqqi, Dalinar muses on war in general and this war in particular, with a feeling that he’s missing something important; he needs to pull away from being a warleader and figure out how to grow as a Bondsmith. Messages from Navani and the scouts seem reassuring, and the remaining Veden troops seem disinclined to attempt to rescue their erstwhile king. The assembled monarchs, generals, and government representatives agree that their current push to regain Emul should be continued for the time being. Jasnah, being one of the monarchs present, ostentatiously involves herself in the planning and approval, pushing it hard once the non-Alethi leaders leave the room. Ruthar, still resistant to Dalinar and Jasnah, and now angry about her intrusion into Masculine Business, loses control and falls headfirst into her trap. Wit provokes him into a challenge of trial by combat, then chooses Jasnah as his champion “so Ruthar doesn’t risk the consequences of killing the Queen’s Wit.” Ruthar throws down his sword because it’s “demeaning” to fight a woman, so Jasnah stabs him through the throat, then summons Renarin to heal him. His title and possessions are forfeited to his heir (who is firmly supportive of Jasnah), and the last highprince who opposed the Kholins is gone. Dalinar considers asking Jasnah and Wit to help him figure out how to bait Odium into a similar trap, but for today he’s had enough of their machinations.

Overall Reactions

Two days after defeating Taravangian’s traitors, Dalinar stood in the war tent, helping prepare for the larger offensive against the singers in Emul.

P: I really love this chapter. It seems like our Dalinar chapters are just chock-full of stuff happening. And this one is no different. We have a great summary of the armies and fleet, we have monarchs all together (mostly), we have Jasnah flexing her crown. It’s glorious. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

A: I enjoyed Dalinar’s reflection on his own journey, at the beginning of the chapter:

When he was younger… he’d wanted to be on the battlefield, Blade in hand …

Then he’d begun to see the armies behind the little squares on the sheets of paper… how the movement of troops was more important than winning a given battle in person…

War… no longer excited him… he had discovered a greater duty.

How do we win?

A: It’s so reflective of his growth as a person. From the Blackthorn, to a general, and now to a Bondsmith, he’s learned that battle lust and war games are not valid ends in themselves. His goal now is to end the war. (Which… sounds uncomfortably like Raboniel, later in the book, now that I think about it.)

Just behind him stood Szeth in disguise. Nobody gave the man a second glance; Dalinar often had members of the Cobalt Guard with him.

P: I can’t help but wonder why Dalinar hasn’t created a Tower Guard for himself and Navani. It wouldn’t seem that the king of Urithiru would use the Alethi monarch’s guard for himself. Just my thought.

A: Hmm. I think the Cobalt Guard was more a House Kholin thing than an Alethi Monarch thing—it’s just that since the king (and now the queen) happened to be a Kholin, the lines got blurred.

 His armies in Jah Keved seem not to care much about him, Dalinar thought, reading the displayed battle reports and figures as if they were whispered explanations in his ears.

P: Of course Jah Keved doesn’t care, they were never meant to. They’re a pawn as much as Taravangian at this point. The only reason they turned is because of who Taravangian put in positions of power and of course, he did that at Odium’s behest.

A: One of the things that both frustrates and fascinates me in this section is how close Dalinar is to the truth, without realizing it. He keeps seeing that there’s something off about it, but can’t quite grasp what’s wrong.

The real prize was Taravangian himself. Someone Dalinar already held captive.

P: Well, we all know how I feel about this.

A: The funny thing is, at this point Taravangian has become completely useless to anyone (except Cultivation, but we won’t know about that for a long time yet). Dalinar is so focused on him, as if he were a real prize, when in truth he’s a spent bullet—but he’s still a distraction. Odium, and Taravangian himself, fully expected Dalinar to kill him, and not a single person was seriously going to be bothered. Except, apparently, Dalinar.

But he worried that somehow all of this was according to Taravangian’s plans, and Dalinar was second-guessing himself at every point.

P: Stop worrying about it and realize that it was according to T’s plans and that he’s not the big player here! Wake up, Dalinar, and quit second-guessing yourself… I say as I know that he won’t, indeed, wake up or think through the matter on a deeper level. He holds on to his supposed friendship with T too much. There was never a friendship, Dalinar, honey. Never.

A: I think Taravangian wished there could have been a friendship, but his Diagram was always more important than relationships. What Dalinar saw was Taravangian’s longing, not the real thing. Meanwhile…

Jasnah nodded. “I would like to see your battle plans, General Dieno. I give my initial approval to our continued offensive into Emul, but I will want details. Losing access to the Oathgates is going to prove disruptive.”

P: Ya think? Even discounting that Dalinar’s wife and the queen’s mother is in the malfunctioning Tower, the Oathgates are the key to the war effort. Those should be secured at all costs, I would think. They should be a higher priority than they’re being afforded, I think.

A: It’s irritating to see this almost casual response. They’re assuming that it’s just a temporary malfunction, and Navani will get it sorted out, and Jasnah is merely a little impatient about it. They’re still accepting the messages at face value—they have no clue how thoroughly they have lost the Oathgates at this point.

P: *laughingcrying.gif

It also bothered him that so much of what Queen Fen did was subject to the whims of a bunch of merchants and guildmasters. If they did win this war, he’d see if he could find a way to help her wrest control of her kingdom from those eels.

P: Dalinar, you’re so Alethi it hurts. Leave Fen and the Thaylens to do their thing how they do their thing. The Alethi monarchy hasn’t exactly been a beacon to the world. Get over yourself.

A: Heh. This is one of those changes that I’m seeing as thematic to at least this chapter. Jasnah sees the other forms of government and their value, while Dalinar is firmly stuck in Monarchy. I suspect that as his Bondsmith persona grows, he’ll begin to see why it’s a bad idea to have a single person controlling an entire nation, and discover the value of balance.

Why was it Nale so often stayed out of battles, overseeing his Skybreakers from afar?

P: Seeing Nale’s badassery in Dalinar’s last chapter does leave one to wonder why he watches from afar rather than participating personally.

A: It does—though Dalinar’s own badassery in facing him was pretty intimidating too.

He stilled himself, then glanced about the room. She shouldn’t have confronted him here, where representatives of the other monarchs might hear. Knowing Jasnah, that was part of the reason she had done so. With her, every conversation was a little contest, and she always considered the terrain.

P: That’s our Jasnah, no hair out of place, perfect lipstick, and armed to the teeth with her wits and cunning.

A: It is very Jasnah, but I’ll admit that there are times I get tired of her “every conversation is a contest” approach; in this case, Dalinar’s reasons are better discussed privately. But we’ll talk about that particular change down in Oaths and Powers.

The Mink listened to her suggestions, but likely wouldn’t take many of them. He seemed to find her fascinating. Well, Jasnah was a rare gemstone for certain. Was her show for the Mink? No… this had to do with Ruthar, didn’t it?

P: Dalinar was never the dumb one; he was just always influenced by the Thrill and his bloodlust. Give him a few decades and he smartens right up!

A: The part I find funny is that in this case, Jasnah couldn’t care less whether the Mink sees her suggestions as valid. They’re just part of the show, and they’re serving her real purpose, which is to antagonize Ruthar. It’s one of the few times I can recall where Jasnah doesn’t mind publicly making (possibly) irrelevant comments.

“Wit,” Jasnah said. “Harsher.

“How dare you!” Ruthar roared, shoving away the attendant who tried to control him. Angerspren rose around his feet, like pools of bubbling blood. “I demand trial by swords! Me versus you, stupid fool. Or me against your champion, if you’re too much of a coward to face me!”

P: Ruthar was baited so easily it’s embarrassing. He really should have held his cool better, being a highprince. But I guess that violet wine will do you in every time. Don’t drink and piss off Jasnah, Ruthar!

A: MISTBORN SPOILER(ISH): I’ve seen some speculation that sounds way too plausible. We know Wit is an Allomancer now, having consumed that bead of lerasium; is it possible that he’s Rioting Ruthar here? It would certainly explain some things, like how he went from irritable to completely irrational shouting in (what comes across as) a matter of a minute or so.  END SPOILER(ISH)

P:  Ooh, I like this!

“Your Majesty?” Wit said. “If you don’t mind?” He cocked his sheathed sword to the side, hilt out, as Jasnah brushed past and drew the weapon—a thin, silvery blade that Dalinar didn’t think he’d ever seen unsheathed.

“I refuse this,” he said, tossing his sword aside. “I will not face a woman in combat. It is demeaning.”

And so, Jasnah stabbed him straight through the throat.

A: Just… don’t mess with Jasnah. She never plays games. Ruthar should have known better.

This plan was extremely well designed. It took into account all of Ruthar’s likely reactions. She even planned for his death, making sure he lived to face his disgrace. I could almost feel sorry for him, because they played him like a fiddle—but he’s been asking for it all along, and he kinda needed to be dealt with.

“A draft of a new law,” the short man said. “Forbidding trial by sword. How unexciting.”

Jasnah plucked the paper from his fingers. “I will use my own unfortunate experience today as an example of why this is a terrible tradition. Ruthar’s blood will be the last such spilled. And as we leave this era of barbarism, each and every attendant at court will know that Alethkar’s first queen is a woman unafraid of doing what needs to be done. Herself.”

A: Change upon change! A monarch serving as their own Wit’s champion. A Queen fighting a Highprince (and winning). Trial by sword to remove a highprince, replacing him with his own son while he lives in disgrace. And after all that, she changes long-standing Alethi tradition by making trial by sword illegal.

I almost feel sorry for Dalinar; he wasn’t expecting any of this, but he shouldn’t be surprised. He did help make her Queen of Alethkar, after all…

P: I wonder if he regrets that at all. LOL.

A: Heh. I wouldn’t be surprised if he still wishes Adolin had taken the job, for a number of reasons. This wild-card aspect would not be the least of them.

How did one intimidate a creature as powerful as Odium? What, on all of Roshar, could a god possibly fear or hate so much? He’d have to bring up the matter with Jasnah and Wit. Though… not today.

Today he’d had enough of their machinations.

P: Surely he has had enough, but he desperately needs their help and it’s good that he sees it.

A: We know he’ll come back to this, but for now, I can really see his point.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

Some of Taravangian’s scholars had activated a device like the one Highmarshal Kaladin had found.

P: Taravangian is nothing if not a good scapegoat for the Fused. It seems that Dalinar is so blind when it comes to King T that he can’t see past the betrayal to think for a second.

A: Infuriating, isn’t it? The lie hidden in a semi-truth is working way too well on him. In that way, the fact that Kaladin kept the fabrial in the first place has worked in favor of the Fused. The humans know how it works, so they have plenty of reason to believe that it’s the same kind of device, and that Taravangian’s betrayal is to blame. Raboniel is a clever one, for sure, and she’ll make use of everything for her own ends.

Unfortunately, Dalinar’s scouts had proven the device’s effectiveness. If they drew too close, they not only lost their powers, but dropped unconscious.

P: I’m envisioning Windrunners falling from the sky. Not a good thought, not at all. Hopefully they caught the first guy and then landed to test the boundary.

A: I think that’s what happened to Lyn, maybe, though she says she “stepped” through the boundary. In any case, she collapsed and the “soldier” had to drag her back outside the effect.

Dalinar rubbed his chin in thought. Navani’s messages seemed trustworthy, and she cautioned patience. But passcodes were not foolproof, and something about this just felt wrong.

P: Sorry not sorry for beating a dead horse, but Dalinar, honey… *sigh*

And how would Raboniel have gotten Navani’s passcodes? Maybe one of her scholars was threatened and gave them up?

A: Apparently they at least had passcodes, so that’s not nothing. It’s possible that if they were written down, the Regals searching Navani’s quarters found them, I guess. It’s also possible that a Fused lightweaver (what are those called? The Ones of Masks?) disguised as a high-level human scribe either asked for the codes, or instructed someone who knew the codes to send a message “from Navani”… It’s hard to underestimate what could be done by highly experienced lightweavers when it comes to weaseling out necessary information.

Relationships and Romances

At first, he’d found being able to remember Evi to be novel—but the more the memories settled with him, the more they felt comfortable, like a familiar seat by the fire. He was ashamed of so much of what he’d remembered about himself, but he would not trade these memories again. He needed them. Needed her.

A: He doesn’t really expand on this, but it’s interesting nonetheless. One of the things Dalinar seems to have learned is that all of his experience is worth remembering, because it’s all a means of becoming… more, I guess. In order to grow, you need to learn from experience.

” I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the last true Alethi monarch.”

“What would your father say, hearing you talk like that?”

“I suspect I could make him understand,” she said. “He was interested in his legacy. Building something that would span generations. His goals were laudable, but his methods … well, our kingdom has been difficult to maintain. A king ruling by the gauntlet and sword can easily see it slip away when he weakens. Compare this to the Azish system, where a bad Prime is unable to single-handedly ruin their government.”

P: I don’t think that Jasnah could have made Gavilar understand. Not truly. He was only interested in his own glory and accomplishment and he was of too small a mind to see things from her enlightened perspective.

A: I agree. She has an idealized vision of her father; Navani allowed that adoration to stand, so Jasnah doesn’t know what kind of man Gavilar really was. Yes, he was very much interested in his legacy, but… I don’t think he’d have been happy with the direction Jasnah is taking it. Maybe if she’d moved it toward a separation of powers, but with him as the local god…?

“Am I the only one seeing this?” Ruthar asked a little too loudly to his attendants. “I didn’t say anything when she was made queen. Other nations have queens. But are any of them in this room interrogating a general?”

“Wit,” Jasnah said, her voice cold.

P: I know the whole thing was planned in advance, but reading this for the first time was so exciting for me. What did Jasnah and Wit have up their sleeves, I wondered. How were they going to bring this dog to heel? I was not disappointed.

A: As I recall, we’ve had a few hints before that Jasnah and Wit were working together very closely, that he was at least as much adviser as Wit. (And… perhaps more.) But this one… they’d clearly worked this out to the nth degree and played it out in perfect coordination. The chilling part (for me) comes at the end:

Dalinar often found Wit with a grin on his face, but not today. Today the man looked cold, emotionless. His eyes were deep voids, their color invisible in the dim light.

A: That scares me, just a little. I’m reasonably confident that he’s highly committed to Jasnah, if only because she’s the perfect companion for his larger schemes… but I also have no doubt at all that he’d abandon her if it seemed necessary for his larger goal, whatever that is. He might do it regretfully, but he’d totally do it. That coldness is in his soul.

P: Oh, he’d absolutely do it. As taken as he is with her, he’d see Roshar burn if it was necessary.

A: He would. I just wish I knew more about what defines “necessary” for him.

P: That’s the million dollar question.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

My powers as a Bondsmith are more valuable than we have known. I told you about how, in the battle, I touched Nalan and saw his past.”

“A feat you’ve been unable to replicate with Shalash or Talenelat.”

“Yes, because I don’t know what I’m doing!” Dalinar said. “I am a weapon we haven’t fully investigated. I need to learn how to use these powers—use them for more than merely renewing spheres and opening the perpendicularity.”

P: He’s 100% correct. He needs to figure out his powers STAT. He has no idea what he can do that might help in the fight with Odium, and he’s already at a disadvantage, many times over. He needs every weapon he can bring to bear, himself included.

A: It’s good to see him realizing this, isn’t it? Every time he does some cool new thing, it’s exciting, but he hasn’t actively pursued increased knowledge. Granted, the resources are terribly limited, but… he does need to advance.

Dalinar shook his head, focusing back on the task at hand. “Wit says we have to somehow persuade Odium we’re a threat. But I think the enemy is manipulating us. This entire trick with Taravangian has me unsettled. We’re dealing with a god, but we aren’t using all the tools at our disposal.”

He held up his palm. “With this, I can touch his world, the Spiritual Realm. And when I was fighting Nalan, I felt something, saw something. What if I could reforge the Oathpact? If the Fused stopped being reborn, would that not give us—at last—an edge over Odium? Something to force him to negotiate on our terms?”

P: I think Dalinar is onto something in talking about touching the Spiritual Realm. I think he’s this close to figuring out something to help him in the coming contest.

A: I hope so!

Jasnah folded her arms, pensive. Wit, however, leaned in. “You know,” Wit whispered, “I think he might be right. I feel ashamed to admit it, but the Blackthorn has seen further than we have, Jasnah. He is more valuable as a Bondsmith than as a general—or even a king.”

P: And no internal commentary from Dalinar on how Wit backed him up? Disappointing. It would have been good, and self-deprecating, I have no doubt.

A: I wonder about Wit saying this, though. Hoid, “ashamed to admit” that someone else has seen further than him? It’s out of character; I can’t help thinking he’s known this all along, but sees this as the best way to actually accomplish it—by making it seem like Dalinar’s own idea, rather than pushing him into it.

As he walked away, Renarin hurried over. “Sorry,” the boy whispered. “I didn’t know she hadn’t told you.”

“It’s all right, son,” Dalinar said. “I suspect that without you, she’d have gone through with the plan anyway—then left him to bleed out on the floor.”

Renarin ducked his head. “Father. I’ve… had an episode.”

P: I kind of hate that Renarin feels he has to call his visions “episodes.” As if they’re an illness. Sure, he’s different because of his spren, but he’s Radiant, dammit, and he shouldn’t feel that his powers are less.

And I hate that Dalinar, not brushes him off, necessarily, but doesn’t place Renarin high enough on his list of priorities.

A: I don’t think Renarin wants to talk about it right here, in any case; they’ll talk about it soon, and in private. He does get caught in the middle a lot, though.

Humans

He almost wanted to have one of the Windrunners fly him up to a higher altitude where he could get some proper cold air and think clearly.

P: Dalinar is acclimated to Urithiru. One might say that he’s no longer an airsick lowlander.

A: Heh. One might indeed say that.

One highprince was currently with Dalinar in Emul. Ruthar. Dalinar focused on the brawny, bearded man. He was the worst of those left; he fancied himself a soldier, but had never worn a proper uniform in his life.

P: Dalinar is so Alethi that it’s painful sometimes. Why is war the be all, end all. Alethkar is lucky to have Jasnah!

A: Dalinar is right about Ruthar, though; he pretends to be a soldier because it’s the highest Calling in Vorinism, but he’s not a soldier in any real way. He’s just a poser and troublemaker—and also an abuser.

Relis, Ivanar. Yes, I know them. I know a lot of things. Would you like to explain to the queen where Ivanar’s broken arm last month truly came from? Tell me, do you beat your children because you’re a sadist, or because you’re a coward and they are the only ones who won’t dare fight back? Or … oh, silly Wit. It’s both, isn’t it?”

A: If you didn’t despise Ruthar before, you’re free to loathe him now, okay? (Yes, this is the Relis who led the 4-on-1 “duel” against Adolin, but more has become clear now. With a father like that… and he got a lot better once he was away from Ruthar.)

Brilliant Buttresses

A: With a Wit-intensive chapter, of course there are quotations here…

“Ah, delightful,” Wit replied, holding up his palm and mimicking writing something down. “I’ll just make a note that you’d like to win. Yes, how foolish of me not to realize that, Blackthorn. Total victory. Over a god. Who is currently holding your homeland, and recently gained the allegiance of one of the strongest militaries on the planet. Shall I also have him bake you something sweet as an apology for this whole ‘end of the world’ mess?”

P: Oh, Wit, how I adore you. His sarcasm is so sharp that it leaves you bleeding but it’s so on point that you can’t help but slow clap.

“Did you really have to come with us, Wit?” Dalinar asked. “I…” He trailed off. Then shook his head.

“What?” Wit asked.

“Never mind. Saying anything would provide you with more rocks to throw at me.”

“And you’re supposed to be the dumb one,” Wit said, grinning.

P: I don’t know how people can say that Brandon can’t write humor. He has a wonderful sense of humor! Just read anything Wit says and it’s undeniable. The man is brilliant. Both of them.

A: As I’m sure I’ve said before, it’s not that Brandon can’t write humor. It’s that he writes different characters with differing styles of humor, and too many readers don’t register that just because they don’t like one particular style, that doesn’t mean the author has failed. It merely means that the reader doesn’t like that style of humor, and it’s probably true IRL as well as in the books. (For example: I don’t like Wayne’s style of humor IRL, so I don’t enjoy it in the books either. I understand it, and it suits the personality of the character, but it’s a style I don’t find funny.)

Dalinar frowned. “What is a cow?”

“Big, juicy, delicious. Wish I could still eat them. You don’t seem to have them around here, which I find amazing, as I’m sure there was one somewhere in Sadeas’s lineage. Paternal grandfather perhaps.”

P: At least Wit went with a male forebear rather than a female. And yes. Delicious. Medium rare, if you please.

A: And a sly reference back to the time before Wit held a Dawnshard and it made him unable to eat meat. Or harm another person, which is why Jasnah had to be his champion. (Yeah, there’s a reason for inserting this joke in this chapter.)

Both Wit and Jasnah pointedly ignored the horrified expressions of the room’s attendants. The standout exception was the Mink, who was grinning at the show. Dalinar almost expected him to begin applauding.

P: I wish he had! The Mink applauding would have been hilarious, especially amongst the horror in the room!

“As you have died tonight, and I have bested you legally in combat, I name you forfeit of your title. It will pass to your eldest son, who has been speaking quite frankly with Wit recently. It seems he will make a far more fitting highprince.”

“That bastard!” Ruthar croaked. “That traitorous bastard!”

“Not yours then, is he?” Wit said. “That explains why I like him.”

P: Honor love you as Wit, Hoid. He’s so delightful. And he doesn’t make cheap jokes, there’s always a deeper meaning that really make his comments cut.

A: That was brilliant. Nothing like turning the insult back on him!

Wit dropped his bloody handkerchief before Ruthar. “How remarkable,” he said. “If you spend your life knocking people down, you eventually find they won’t stand up for you. There’s poetry in that, don’t you think, you storming personification of a cancerous anal discharge?”

P: You didn’t think we’d leave out the cancerous anal discharge joke, did you? Of course not!

 

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 51, in which Venli tries to play both ends against the middle, but doesn’t get burned. Yet, anyway.

Alice is a Sanderson beta reader and administrator of two fandom Facebook groups. The Storm Cellar is specifically oriented to the people who reread here on Tor, though it’s not limited to them, and allows discussion of all Sanderson works. The Stormlight Archive group is, as you might guess, all about The Stormlight Archive, so discussion of other books has to be hidden behind spoiler tags. Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids.

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 (join us in Bridge Four for some awesome support!), 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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