Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Fifty-Five

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Hey, my Cosmere Chickens, it’s Thursday again—time for another Rhythm of War reread chapter. Welcome back, as we rejoin Kaladin for some sober conversation with Syl, and some very sneaky sneaking around the Tower. Also an Observation, and a realization that leads to a very tense mission… which we’ll get to in another three weeks. 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.

There are no Cosmere spoilers in the post this week; no promises about the comments, though!

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

Vedeledev (Vedel). Edgedancers. Loving/Healing. Role: Healer.

A: I’m not terribly confident in this, but my best guess is that Vedel is here for Kaladin’s skillful care-taking of the unconscious Teft, and possibly for the mental-health-and-grieving discussion with Syl. Palah… maybe for his search for information about the Oathgates, or his creative use of Adhesion in pursuit of that information? Or could she be a subtle hint that eventually Dabbid will join the Truthwatchers? (If so, I’m betting he’ll be like Renarin and Rlain in bonding one of Sja-anat’s children.)

Icon: Banner and Spears for a Kaladin POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 6 undertext:

We must not let our desires for a specific result cloud our perceptions.

P: This sounds like Raboniel, since I don’t feel that Navani has any expectations.

A: I agree. It’s all so new for Navani; she’s never had this much freedom to explore possibilities before. Raboniel, on the other hand, is looking for something very particular; she’s the one who needs to be careful not to bias her interpretation of data based on what she hopes to find.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHEN: 1175.4.6.5 (within an hour or so after Chapter 49)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: With Stormlight to see by, Kaladin arranges Teft suitably for hospital care, giving him water which he takes eagerly. As he works, Syl asks some reflective questions, and reveals her grief over the loss of her first Radiant, whom she now remembers. Kaladin helps her understand herself in human terms, and then they hear noises at the door. Dabbid is outside with broth, sent by the Sibling. Kaladin leaves him feeding Teft and begins his search for information about how the Fused are working the Oathgates. Using Adhesion to attach handles and his boot toes to the outside of the tower, he descends some nine levels before he sees the Oathgate flash with a dark light. A group of singer scouts (which he’d had to avoid once already) begin packing up their spyglasses, and he realizes that he’s not going to get a chance at the Oathgates this night. Then he realizes that, since they appeared to have been watching for Windrunner scouts to make sure no one saw them using Voidlight to activate the Oathgate, they must be using spanreeds, which means they have Voidlight fabrials, which is really what Navani needs, which means he needs to steal it…

Overall Reactions

With Stormlight, Kaladin had been able to investigate his little hideout, finding it slightly larger than he’d pictured.

P: I was so relieved at this point that Kaladin had Stormlight. Hugely relieved. Not that Kaladin without Stormlight is entirely helpless, but when you’re up against creatures like the Pursuer and an occupying army, Stormlight is a handy thing to have, even for one whose powers are limited.

A: It’s also nice to see him with a little light. It may not be the daylight and open skies he craves, but it’s much better for him than being in the dark. (Also intensely practical, for things like putting Teft in a position and clothing that makes it easier to care for him, and for getting that water syringe actually in his mouth…

Teft lapped up the contents eagerly. He seemed so close to coming awake, Kaladin expected him to start cursing at any moment, demanding to know where his uniform had gone.

Syl watched, uncharacteristically solemn. “What will we do if he dies?” she asked softly.

“Don’t think about that,” Kaladin said.

“What if I can’t help thinking about it?”

“Find something to distract you.”

A: What a contrast between Teft and Syl here! Teft, normally the grumpy one, is so hopeful, looking like he might wake up—and wouldn’t that be fantastic? And then Syl, the always-perky-and-cheerful one, is fearful, worrying that Teft might die.

P: This is so heart wrenching, to have Syl thinking this kind of thing. While I know the situation in the tower is likely weighing heavily on her, she’s also showing more human behavior.

A: We saw just a hint of this in her Interlude, and now it’s really expanding. While it’s wonderful character development, it’s also rather painful to watch her learning to deal with grief.

“I’ve… been remembering what it was like when Relador, my old knight, died. How it made me sleep for so many years, straight through the Recreance. I keep wondering, will that happen to me again?”

P: Nobody likes to think of Kaladin’s possible death, least of all, me… but it’s obviously something that weighs heavily on Syl’s mind. I can’t imagine what it would do to her to lose another knight.

A: This really brings it home: She has no other spren to turn to for help (at this point). She’s the only previously-bonded honorspren to survive the Recreance, and there aren’t many from other spren families either. If the highspren were more communicative, they could (perhaps) share some insight into the process of dealing with repeatedly losing their human partners, but… perhaps not. They don’t seem to have the same kind of relationship with their humans as the honorspren do.

She cut off as a faint scraping sounded outside, from near the doorway. Immediately Kaladin reached for his scalpel. Syl came alert, zipping up into the air around him as a ribbon of light. Kaladin crept toward the door. He’d covered up the gemstone in the wall on this side with a piece of cloth. He didn’t know if his light would shine out or not, but wasn’t taking any chances.

But he could hear. Someone was out there, their boots scraping stone. Were they inspecting the door?

P: You want to talk about gut-wrenching fear … this terrified me during the beta, thinking that the Pursuer might have found Kaladin.

A: Kaladin too, apparently. But yeah, the idea that his lovely little hideout might be compromised already was terrifying.

He made a snap decision, slipping his hand under the cloth and pressing it against the stone, commanding it to open. The rocks began to split. Kaladin prepared to leap out and attack the singer on the other side.

But it wasn’t a singer.

It was Dabbid.

P: And then the moment of exultation… not an enemy at the door, but a friend. What a huge relief!

A: Intense! I can’t remember: Does Kaladin know at this point that Dabbid has been working for the Sibling? In any case, it’s a delight to start seeing the pieces coming together, as the Sibling is creating links between these three humans and their arcs are aligning.

Regardless, he was a wonderful sight. Kaladin had been worrying about leaving Teft. If Kaladin died on a mission, that would be a death sentence for Teft, too. Unless someone else knew about him.

He got Dabbid situated, then showed him the use of the syringe and had him start feeding Teft.

P: As confident as we are that Kaladin will survive, this is still reassuring. Leaving Teft alone in the dark made me squicky.

A: Alone and unconscious in a locked dark room… ::shudders::

“Tower spren?” he asked.

Yes.

“Is there a way I can lock these doors, so they can’t be opened by just anyone?”

It was once possible to attune them to individuals. These days, I must simply leave a given door so it can be opened by anyone, or lock it so none can open it.

Well, it was good to know that—in a pinch—he should be able to ask the Sibling to lock the door. For now, it was enough that Dabbid could get in and out.

P: It’s somewhat worrisome that it’s all or nothing, really. But I guess that you take what you can get with a broken tower and an enemy occupation.

A: Yeah, it’s a bit much to ask that things would work in all the most helpful ways immediately… But it’s nice to hope that over time, this also will change.

Navani had asked Kaladin to observe the Oathgates up close as they were activated. To see if he could figure out why they functioned when other fabrials did not.

Instead, he wanted to try climbing along the outside of the tower. Before he’d learned to fly, he’d stuck rocks to the chasm wall and climbed them. He figured he could do something similar now.

P: I know that he’s got Stormlight to heal, but there’s no telling if it would heal him if he fell. The thought of Kaladin clinging precariously to the side of the tower gives me vertigo and makes my stomach clench.

A: For sure. He may be on the side of the tower where there would be fields on the first level, but falling eleven stories would not be good for his health. I seem to recall getting awfully tensed up reading this, as if I could help him hold on!

Standing here, part of him wanted to jump, to feel the rushing wind. It wasn’t some suicidal tendency, not this time. It was the call of something beautiful.

P: Super glad that he can think this without it being a suicidal thought.

A: It’s so hard to see him restricted like this—crawling on the wall instead of soaring through the air like he should be. I wonder if Brandon put this in specifically to foreshadow the time when he would dive off the top of the tower in a hopeless, desperate attempt to save his father. It’s good, though, that he isn’t suicidal here; he’s just totally focused on the task at hand and finding a way to accomplish it.

He found footholds on the stone, but they were slippery. Once, there had been a great deal of ornamentation on the rock out here—but years of highstorms had smoothed some of that out. Perhaps Lift could have climbed it without help, but Kaladin was glad he had Stormlight.

P: Maybe he’s only commenting on how lithe and light on her feet Lift is, but I found this an interesting thought considering how Lift can use Wyndle to do this very thing!

A: I’m assuming he’s seen her climb sometime? (I suppose I could go search…) But whether he knows how she does it is another question. Interesting thought.

He’d release one brush from the wall, then slide it into place while holding on with only one hand, then move his feet before moving the other.

P: This sounds excruciatingly slow and difficult.

A: Doesn’t it, though? Exhausting!

He felt her concern through the bond; when Syl was a Blade, they had a direct mental connection—but when she was not in that shape, the connection was softer. They’d been practicing on sending words to one another, but they tended to be vague impressions.

This time, he got a sense of some distinct words… singers… with spyglasses… third-floor balcony… looking up…

P: It’s really nifty how they’ve learned to communicate like this. Or perhaps it’s just the bond growing stronger.

A: It makes me wonder. Is this an artifact of her becoming more human? Or an aspect of getting closer to the next Ideal? (Maybe at the 4th or 5th Ideal, the human and the spren gain a clearer mental connection?) Or is it, among Windrunners, something more unique to Kaladin and Syl?

Unfortunately, soon after he’d passed the third floor, a dark light flashed from the Oathgates. It was tinged violet like Voidlight, but was brighter than a Voidlight sphere.

Kaladin took a moment to rest, hanging on but not moving.

P: I don’t know what more Kaladin could glean from getting closer to the Oathgates. Sure, they’re using Voidlight but it’s not like he would be able to tell how they’re doing it.

A: True. At this point, he’s not knowledgeable enough to report more than “They’re using Voidlight” anyway. He could have observed that from a balcony on the 11th floor without all this climbing… but at the same time, I can see Kaladin not really thinking about that aspect. Besides, this way there’s a more useful option available! And fortunately, Kaladin sees it eventually.

Navani was trying to figure out how the enemy was operating fabrials. What if he could hand her one? Surely that would lead to more valuable information than he would get by observing the Oathgates.

Syl zipped over to the balcony the scouts had been using. “I can see them!” she said. “They’ve packed up, and they’re leaving, but they’re just ahead.”

Follow, Kaladin sent her mentally, then moved as quickly as he could in that direction. He might have missed the night’s transfer, but there was still a way he could help.

And it involved stealing that spanreed.

P: *Mission: Impossible music*

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

But the gate had flashed with Voidlight. So he knew they’d done something to the fabrial. He’d have to try again tomorrow …

But would getting close to the Oathgates tell him anything about what had been done to them? He didn’t feel he knew enough about fabrials.

P: This was my thought. They know that the Fused and singers are using the Oathgates, and now it’s obvious that they’re using Voidlight, but what hope would Kaladin have of gaining any knowledge of how they’re doing what they’re doing?

A: It’s true. It would have been interesting for the reader to know what they did to transition Oathgate usage from Moash and the Honorblade, to Voidlight and… what? What kind of “key” are they using? Are there Voidspren who can take on forms like the Radiant spren to operate the gates? But there’s certainly no narrative need for Kaladin to try to spy that out.

Kaladin paused, hanging from his handholds, as something struck him. Something that he felt profoundly stupid for having not seen immediately.

“The scouts on the balcony,” he whispered to Syl as she darted in to see why he’d stopped. “What would they have done if they’d spotted Windrunners in the sky?”

“They’d have told the others to stop the transfer,” Syl said, “so the fact that the Oathgate glowed the wrong color wouldn’t give away the truth.”

“How?” Kaladin asked. “How did they contact the Oathgate operators? Did you see flags or anything?”

“No,” Syl said. “They were just sitting there writing in the dark. They must have been using … a spanreed.

P: Again, yes, we know they’re using Voidlight to power some fabrials, but what good will that do, really? Navani wouldn’t be able to communicate with Dalinar using the Voidlight spanreeds.

A: But this is Navani we’re talking about. I’m assuming she’s thinking about the possibility of putting Voidlight into one of her already-paired spanreeds, if she can figure out how to make it work with the split spren. (Which is an interesting question… could one of these “split spren” operate with one half using Stormlight and the other using Voidlight? Or would that just destroy the spren altogether?) If nothing else, she wants more information to work with.

Spren and Shadesmar

“Humans thinking about the wind, and honor, might have given you shape from formless power—but you’re your own person now. As I’m my own person, though my parents gave me shape.”

She smiled at that, and walked across the shelf wearing the form of a woman in a havah. “A person,” she said. “I like thinking like that. Being like that. A lot of the other honorspren, they talk about what we were made to be, what we must do. I talked like that once. I was wrong.”

P: I wonder what the other honorspren thought they were made to be and what they must do. I wish Syl would elaborate a bit here.

A: I don’t remember off the top of my head whether we learn any more about this when we get back to Lasting Integrity; we’ll have to try and remember to watch for it.

Bruised and Broken

She sat on the stone shelf, hands in her lap. “Is that how you stand it? Knowing everyone is going to die? You just … don’t think about it?”

“Basically,” Kaladin said,

P: Yes, distracting oneself can be handy when dealing with depression. Though it’s not always effective. I do wish Kaladin had been able to offer Syl more sound advice.

A: As we’ll see, this is less about depression and more about grieving. Even so, distraction is only a tool, and not a solution.

“Everyone dies eventually.”

“I won’t,” she said. “Spren are immortal, even if you kill them. Someday I’ll have to watch you die.”

“What brought this on?” Kaladin asked. “This isn’t like you.”

“Yup. Right. Of course. Not like me.” She plastered a smile on her face. “Sorry.”

“I didn’t mean it that way, Syl,” Kaladin said. “You don’t have to pretend.”

“I’m not.”

P: This is so painful. Syl wants to know how Kaladin feels so that she can help him, yet she wants to pretend that she’s perfectly okay. He should definitely recognize this behavior.

A: It’s that dichotomy between wanting help, and wanting to not demand help from someone who needs your help. I do feel for her—that’s a situation that takes serious working-through.

“Do you feel a darkness?” Kaladin asked. “A whisper that everything will always turn out for the worst? And at the same time a crippling—and baffling—impulse pushing you to give up and do nothing to change it?”

P: This kind of darkness truly is my old friend. I know just how Kaladin feels, as if there’s no point in even trying to improve the situation. It’s interesting that he brings this up to Syl when he himself so often pretends that he’s just fine.

A: It’s so familiar to him that he naturally applies the same cause to her behavior. Fortunately (for them as well as us) it’s not quite the same. She doesn’t have the same kind of depression he does; she’s just finally learning what it means to grieve the loss of a loved one.

“Like… I have a present I want to open, and I get excited for a little while—only to remember I already opened it and there was nothing inside.” “Sounds like how I used to feel when I remembered Tien was dead,” Kaladin said. “I’d get used to living life as normal, feeling good—only to be reminded by seeing a rock in the rain, or by seeing a wooden carving like the ones he used to do. Then my whole day would come crashing down.”

A: Wow. This one hit me right in the memories. (Warning, personal rabbit trail!) After my sister was killed in a car accident, this was me every single day when I’d check my mailbox. Back in the dark ages before email, college students tended to check their physical mailboxes every day, hoping for something interesting, and the brightest spots in my day would be the ones where I got letters from my sister. After a couple years of habitually but subconsciously flicking through to look for her handwriting before actually looking at what I’d gotten… well, every day without that handwriting was a reminder that it would never be there again. Which sounds to me very comparable to what Syl is dealing with, and even more what Kaladin did.

“It still hurts. Is something wrong with me?”

“That sounds normal to me. Healthy. You’re dealing with the loss when you never really did so before. Now that you’re coming fully back to yourself, you’re finally confronting things you’ve been ignoring.”

“You just told me not to think about it though,” Syl said. “Will that actually help?”

Kaladin winced. No, it wouldn’t. He’d tried. “Distractions can be helpful. Doing something, reminding yourself there’s a lot out there that’s wonderful. But … you do have to think about these things eventually, I guess.” He filled the syringe again. “You shouldn’t ask me about this sort of problem. I’m … not the best at dealing with them myself.”

P: Heh… you got him there, Syl. And it’s good that Kaladin admits that not thinking about it won’t actually help. And no, Kaladin, Syl should ask you about these things. Talking about it can be therapeutic, as you should well know.

A: Right? And precisely who else is she going to ask right now?

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

Once Syl returned, he resumed his climb. As he did, a couple of windspren drew near: little lines of light that looped about him.

P: I know this probably isn’t what I was hoping it was when I first read this scene, but in light of his leveling up later, this gives me little shivers.

A: Total foreshadowing. Now I really think this whole climb is intended to foreshadow the later event—as well as giving them a reason and means to steal the spanreeds, which will also be very useful later.

Speaking of foreshadowing, what do you suppose might come of this?

“You can become more things,” he said. “Like a syringe maybe? We talked about you becoming other tools.” “I think I could do it,” she said. “If I could manifest as a Blade right now, I could change shape to be like that. I think… you imagining it, me believing it, we could do even more.

A: There’s really not time for anything like this in Rhythm of War, but I can’t help wondering if they’ll make use of this in some spectacular way during the next book!

Humans

Other than Rlain, Dabbid was the only original bridgeman who hadn’t manifested Windrunner powers. So it made sense he was awake.

A: Nice little reminder for us here… and again, it makes me wonder if Dabbid will follow Renarin and Rlain in bonding a “touched” mistspren.

 

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 56, and back in Venli’s head, as she finds herself increasingly allied with humans in her efforts to be free of the Fused.

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, 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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