Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Fifty-Eight

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Welcome back to the Sanderson Reread channel, my peeps! We’re here this week with another episode of the Kal-and-Syl show, with disguises, distractions and thefts, oh my. Also tension, PTSD, and yet another call for protection. Our poor boy just never gets a break, does he? Jump 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 there are no Cosmere spoilers.

Heralds: Jezrien (Jezerezeh, Yaezir, Ahu), Herald of Kings. Windrunners. Protecting/Leading. Role: King.

Chana, (Chanarach), Herald of the Common Man. Dustbringers Brave/Obedient. Role: Guard.

A: These seem fairly straightforward, for once! Jezrien for the Windrunner, and Chana for… well, two possibilities (so maybe not straightforward after all?). My first thought was that she’d represent Kaladin being called on to guard the Sibling from Raboniel when the Regals found a node. But she could just as easily represent the way Sylphrena guards Kaladin throughout this chapter, keeping him from discovery while making their way to and from the spanreed hub. Maybe both?

P: Both make sense to me. Syl is so amazing in this chapter, I suppose we could give her all the credit. *wink*

A: Indeed we could!

Icon: Banner and Spears, for Kaladin’s POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 6 undertext:

I find this experience so odd. I work with a scholar from the ancient days, before modern scientific theory was developed. I keep forgetting all the thousands of years of tradition you completely missed.

A: Well, there goes an otherwise fine theory… This is very obviously Navani writing, so it looks almost like they’re having a conversation in the undertext. Which… okay, I can see that. The text is “scientific observation” more or less, and the undertext is both of them writing personal thoughts?

P: I had this marked in my notes as Navani, too.

A: Back to what she actually said, though… That would feel so weird. Working with an ancient scholar, one who has hundreds of years of experimentation under her belt, yet doesn’t know anything about the thousands of years of theory development and scientific method… It would be a bizarre mix of learning and teaching for both of them, I think. No wonder it’s so absorbing!

P: I love how Raboniel is so amazed with the advances that humans have made and so impressed with Navani.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Kaladin
WHEN: 1175.4.6.5 (immediately following Chapter 55, and apparently quite soon after Chapter 56)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: Having failed to get close to the Oathgates on his expedition, Kaladin decides to pursue the possibility of stealing a Voidlight-charged spanreed for Navani. As he and Syl work their careful way into the third floor of the Tower, she discovers that their quarry has returned to a large spanreed hub on the other side of a guard post with four very alert guards. Syl disguises herself as a “super annoyed” Voidspren to get them all away from their position, and Kaladin sneaks past. Luckily, he finds one of the larger ventilation shafts down a side passage between the guard post and the spanreed hub, and he’s able to get in and peer down at the hub room from a vantage point near the ceiling. When the attendants are distracted, he uses Adhesion to swipe a bundle of fresh, paired Voidlight spanreeds. Before he can work out how to return to his hiding place on the eleventh floor, though, the Sibling calls him in a panic: They’ve found a second node, and if Kaladin can’t stop her, Raboniel will use it to corrupt the Sibling and fully control the Tower.

Overall Reactions

Kaladin landed on the balcony with a muted thump. Syl was a glowing ribbon of light farther into the building. He couldn’t see the scouts who had packed up and left with the spanreeds, but he trusted Syl was watching them.

P: *cue Mission: Impossible theme song again* And we’re off to steal some spanreeds! I love Syl in this chapter!

A: She’s amazing. Even with the limitation that she can’t get far from Kaladin, she’s resourceful and creative in finding ways to help him.

This section of the tower was a large laundry facility, where darkeyes could come to use public water and soap. He passed several large rooms without doors where the floor was shaped into a sequence of basins.

P: This is a cool feature, I think. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the Tower has such a thing. I can’t wait to see how these specialized rooms function once the Tower is jumpstarted.

A: Seriously! On a bet, there are some things they’re using for completely the wrong purpose, but there are some that seem really obvious. The “sequence of basins” does seem like a good laundry set-up… maybe with water-heating fabrials? But I digress. (Shocking, I know.)

Follow those singers with the spanreeds. Hopefully their rooms are nearby. If they split up, pick the one with the blue havah—the embroidery indicates she’s the more important.

P: This is an obviously Vorin affectation and not a singer thing, but have we seen mention of this before? It feels like an afterthought in this scene, as well. But I suppose Syl had to know who to follow in case they split up!

A: Well, we’ve seen the Alethi-raised singers wearing havahs before; I’m not sure if we’ve run into them specifically using the same kind of status-symbol effect, but it’s logical. Sanderson has made a point of showing the singers reflecting the cultures in which they’d lived—even though they were slaves there, it’s the only culture they’ve known, and it feels “natural” to them. So the female Alethi singers wear a long left sleeve and/or a glove, the Azish singers get picky about  the bookkeeping, etc. It’s both amusing and very accurate—and rather melancholy, I think. Even though there are a few who deliberately rebel against whatever human culture they had lived in, most of them put into practice all the things they saw while their minds were blocked.

“If they get too far away from you though, I’ll lose myself.…”

“Return if you start to feel that,” he said. “We can try another night.”

P: Nothing is so important to risk that. Nope. Not even spanreeds for Navani. The thought of Syl losing herself wrenches at my heart.

A: Foreshadowing… and the more painful here, because now we know that they’re going to be separated later, and it will be awful. I hadn’t registered that before; it was sort of a Chekhov’s gun, though. She’s mentioned it several times now, so of course it’s going to happen eventually.

Syl led him carefully to an intersection. He peered right, to where four guards blocked the way, two at either side of the hallway. Spears at the crooks of their arms, they wore Alethi-style uniforms with knots on the shoulders.

P: Of course they’d be Alethi singers. So that Kaladin will know what to expect of them. *wink* But this is also necessary so that we can see Syl’s upcoming awesomeness!

A: It’s also perfectly logical, continuing the thought from above. While the female Alethi singers covered their safehands and learned to read and write, the male Alethi singers mostly became soldiers—so now they’re the guards stationed all over the tower. Back in Chapter 51, Venli and Raboniel even had a conversation about how her staff are “culturally Alethi”—Raboniel thought it was stupid that only the femalen had learned to read. It’s a pretty cool detail, all things considered. (Also, in looking back at that earlier conversation, it’s one of the moderately amusing bits where Venli takes a quiet poke at Odium’s/the Fused’s intentional extermination of the listener culture. She subtly points out that they really can’t complain about the current singers’ lack of education, given that they killed all their people who had once been free. They left themselves only the slaves to work with, so it’s their own fault.)

She cocked her head, then changed her clothing so she was wrapped in phantom cloth. That bled to a deep red, making her entire form glow with that color.

She inspected her arms. “Do you think it will fool them?”

“It might,” Kaladin said. He pulled a length of rope from his sack, then Lashed it to the wall. “Go order all four of them to come with you, then pull them over here to look at this.”

“But… doesn’t that rope risk causing a bigger disturbance? Like, what if they go for backup?”

P: So she has to cover all of her “skin” in order to appear similar to a voidspren. Hey, whatever works, right? Anything to look like a super annoyed voidspren!

A: Isn’t it priceless? Very creative of her. And super annoyed!

P: And while we know that the rope isn’t what’s going to get Kaladin into trouble during this escapade, it is a valid concern. Leaving things lashed to walls will definitely draw the Pursuer.

A: Yeah… about that… It apparently doesn’t occur to Kaladin at this point that the Pursuer would… well, pursue… any indication of a Windrunner in the Tower. He’s thinking they’ll just send in a report and maybe someone higher up might come take a look; it’s not until he hears them making their report about “something the Pursuer told everyone to watch for” that it registers. Methinks our boy is overtired, and probably more affected by the suppression field than he realizes.

She drew near to the post, then spoke loudly enough that he heard her easily. “You there! I am super annoyed! Super, super annoyed! How can you stand there? Didn’t you see?”

“Brightness?” one of them said, in Alethi. “Er, Ancient One? We are to—”

“Come on, come on! No, all of you. Come see this! Right now. I’m really annoyed! Can’t you tell?”

P: I honestly didn’t know whether to put this in Overall reactions or Brilliant Buttresses. It cracks me up so, so much. Syl, “garbed” all in red, ranting about being “super annoyed” because that’s the evilest thing she can muster. I adore this scene!!

A: Absolutely hilarious!! “Super, super annoyed!” LOL.

Kaladin thinks she sounds too lively for a Voidspren, which made me really glad this came right after the first meeting with Ulim in the previous chapter. Granted, he’s more snarky than perky—but if many of the Voidspren are like him, I’m not surprised that the singers don’t register Syl as being odd for a Voidspren. It’s all foreign to them, and I’m not sure they’d know enough about the different spren to think this sort of excitability is different than a Voidspren shouting at them. (Also, how many sapient Voidspren has Kaladin encountered, anyway?)

…here he finally caught a break. High up on the wall, near the ceiling, a dark cleft indicated a large ventilation shaft in the stone. Maybe big enough for him to squeeze through.

Syl returned—once again white-blue, and likely invisible. “They’re sending one of their number to make a report,” she said. “Like you said.” She peeked into the shaft in the rock Kaladin had found. “What is this?”

Ventilation? he thought, trying to send the idea to her so he wouldn’t have to make noise.

It worked. “Seems too big for that,” she said. “This place is so strange.”

P: It is so strange. I’ve said it before… like just a minute ago… and I’ll say it again. I can’t WAIT to see the Tower fully armed and operational in Book 5.

A: Hear! Hear! There is so much I want to know. (I’m a little worried that this kind of detail won’t merit explanation later, though, and that makes me sad. I want all the little answers.)

This ventilation shaft… was more than wide enough to the right and left, but it was barely high enough. He had to move using his brush handholds to pull himself along. He worried the scraping sounds he made would give him away—but he was rewarded when the shaft opened up to the left, revealing a small, well-lit room.

Kaladin was able to peek in—hidden mostly behind the stone—at the room from the top of the wall. Spanreeds stood poised on many pieces of paper, waiting for reports.

P: This is a great little peephole; it’s just too bad the entrance is right smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. The thought of him becoming trapped in there gives me palpitations. I’m surprised that he’s not having a moment of anxiety at the thought.

A: Kaladin’s state of mind is fascinating, isn’t it? At this moment, I suspect he’s outwardly focused enough (i.e. on the possibility of getting the spanreeds) that he’s subconsciously assuming his normal Windrunner powers will be enough, like always, to get him out of any mess that happens. I know that seems odd, when he had to use Adhesion on his brush handles just to get in here, but the mind can play funny tricks—and he’s only had a day or two without the powers that he’s been developing over the last couple of years. (Oh, for some of Lift’s “awesomeness” right here, though!)

The door opened and one of the guards entered, requesting a report be sent to his superior. They’d found what appeared to be the sign of a Radiant—something the Pursuer had told everyone to watch for.

P: Oh, oops. Kind of don’t need to attract that one’s attention. Especially whilst crammed into a sardine can. Again with the palpitations…

A: As I noted above, this seems to be the first time it registers with Kaladin that his ruse to get past the guards just might get the kind of attention he really needs to avoid! I guess it means he’s not perfect, eh?

Kaladin Lashed his rope to one of his brushes, then infused the flat of the brush with a Reverse Lashing—commanding it to attract certain objects only. In this instance, that leather case.

The femalens were so preoccupied that Kaladin felt his chance had come. He lowered the brush on the rope toward the table. As the brush drew near, the leather case moved of its own volition, pulled over so it stuck to the brush.

Heart thumping, certain he was about to be caught, Kaladin drew it up, the case sticking to the end, the spanreeds inside clinking softly. Nobody noticed, and he pulled it into the shaft.

P: Did this scene give anyone else a storming heart attack? No? Just me? Okay… *fan self* Oh, Honor, the anxiety this gave me. Let’s have some more Mission: Impossible music, just for fun.

A: That was tense. It sure looked like the perfect (for a certain definition!) moment for him to be spotted—trapped in a squished little ventilation shaft with only a scalpel for a weapon, and four guards all ready to surround him… Little did we know this was going to be the easy part of the night.

I need you, Radiant. Please. They’ve found me.

“You?”

One of the nodes! That protect me. Please. Please, you have to defend it. Please.

“How do you know? Have you told Brightness Navani?”

Please.

“Where?” he said.

Second level, near the central atrium. I will lead you. They realized that one of the nodes would be open to the air, to be renewed by Stormlight. They’ve sent for her. The Lady of Pains. She’ll take my mind. Please, Radiant. Protect me.

P: Our little Sibling has no issue asking help from a human when they obviously care so little for the humans. Maybe this is an “enemy of my enemy” type situation? Lesser of two evils? They’d definitely rather ask help of a human than be corrupted by a Fused. Which is good for our side of course. We don’t want the Tower to be corrupted, either. We want what the Sibling wants, at least we do in this moment. Protect the Tower. And what Kaladin do if not protect?

A: I have to say, I totally sympathize with not wanting to be meddled with by the Lady of Pains! Poor Sibling; they’ve tried so hard to just stay quiet and let everyone think they were dead, but here’s Raboniel turning up again like a bad penny, all primed to unmake them. While we don’t know details, it’s been pretty clear that the Sibling has had some kind of interaction with Raboniel before, and it wasn’t much fun (for the Sibling, anyway).

P: And, can we allow a small cringe that Venli likely helped them discover this node with her comment about renewing using Stormlight? Yeah. Yikes. It’s okay, Venli… we know you didn’t intend to do something bad.

This time.

A: She didn’t intend to, which in a way makes it worse. Or… not worse, just more painful. Intentional betrayal would have been worse, coming from a budding Radiant, but she really was trying not to help, and inadvertently gave away the gig anyway. It’s an odd mirror of Kaladin’s survivor’s guilt; for Venli, now matter how she tries, she keeps betraying the people she intended to protect.

“We’re going to need to find me a better weapon,” he said. “Quickly.”

P: This is either a quiet “Aw yiss!” moment or a raucous “WHOOP!” moment. But you have to be moved by the end of this chapter and how this man just will not stop regardless of how much he might want to or, really, need to. He’s the Energizer Windrunner. He keeps protecting, and protecting, and protecting, and protecting…

A: I find it so sad that he can’t just rest even though he’s so exhausted. Poor guy; he needs food and a solid night’s sleep, but instead he’s going to go find a better weapon and protect the Sibling. Because there’s no one else. But hey, it’s guaranteed to get really exciting up in here!

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

Judging by the way the rubies glowed with Voidlight, he was hopeful that they would work in the tower.

A: I almost forgot… The whole point of this little adventure was to grab these spanreeds for Navani in the hope that she’d be able to understand how to power other fabrials with Voidlight. The fact that he’s able to get a bundle of them, about 10 pairs, seems like they ought to be able to communicate with one another, too. (I don’t think anything ever came of that, though, did it? I don’t remember.)

The other thing I wanted to note here is that we still don’t know how they charge gemstones with Voidlight. It’s not just a matter of leaving them out in the Everstorm; Navani told us that earlier. We saw in the early chapters that the Fused do have to use up their Voidlight for certain things—healing, for one, and the Pursuer’s new body limitations for another. But where do they go to get more? Is it through the Cognitive realm somehow? I want to know.

P: I don’t know if anything ever came of that, either. I don’t even know if the spanreeds ever made it to Navani.

A: Um… good point. I have a vague idea he gives them to Dabbid to give to her, or something, but that might be just what I assume he’s planning to do? I guess we’ll have to RAFO.

Spren and Shadesmar

“There’s something else, Kaladin,” Syl said. “Look out the door, down the tunnel.”

Frowning, he did as she requested, peeking out and watching down the tunnel. He was confused, until he saw something pass in the air—like rippling red lightning.

“That’s a new kind of Voidspren,” he said. The ones he’d seen in the past that looked like lightning moved along the ground.

“It’s not, though,” Syl said. “That spren should be invisible to people, but something is off about its aura. It is leaving a trail that I noted the guards watching.”

P: So maybe in the same way that the secretspren don’t work right with the dampener on the Tower, the regular voidspren can’t stay completely hidden, either.

A: I assume this is one of those “chaosspren” the Fused were talking about a couple chapters ago, the ones that are normally invisible but now suddenly are visible to everyone. I love that the dampener field is creating problems for the invaders, even if the effects are much less devastating for them than for the Radiants.

“Syl,” he whispered, “you’re getting better at changing colors. Do you think you could change your coloring to appear like a Voidspren?”

She cocked her head, standing beside him in the air, then scrunched up her face in a look of concentration. Her dress changed to red, but not her “skin,” even though it was simply another part of her. Strange.

P: Very strange. If her “clothes” are part of her essence, why is she unable to change her “skin” tone? Is it because, despite the dampener, she’s more a part of this world, closer to Kaladin?

A: I find it highly amusing that she can’t change the color of her skin, when her clothing is (apparently) the same substance as her entire physical being—but it makes sense in-world, because perception has a major effect, especially on spren. It might be a matter of her getting closer to the Physical realm, but it could just as easily be that she’s mentally bought into the concept of clothing being a separate thing which can be changed, while skin can’t. Which is funny, because she can turn into things like a flurry of leaves or a flame, but she can’t turn into a humanoid-looking spren with red skin.

No, a voice said. It had a middling pitch, not necessarily male or female.

A: I just have to say, “not necessarily male or female” is so appropriate for the Sibling. They don’t want to present as either of those, because spren don’t really need to have any identified sex at all. So, being a spren with the ability to choose, they avoid being either one. (Given their personifications, I’d hazard that Stormfather and Nightwatcher actually don’t have the ability to choose; they reflect the sort of “mother earth father sky” anthropomorphism of those who first thought of them as persons. They’re stuck. But they’re also unique; not many spren have that kind of model pressed into them.)

Bruised and Broken

He gripped his knife, darkness weighing upon him. The horror of the nightmares, and a fatigue that went far deeper than the earlier strain to his muscles. A tiredness that had been with him so long, he’d accepted it as normal.

When the door rattled again, he was certain it was a dark force come to claim him. He heard the sounds of bowstrings, and of Gaz yelling for the bridgemen to run. Screams of men dying, and… And…

P: Trapped in the darkness, enemies on the other side of the door, and flashback. The PTSD is strong with this one. Our poor Kaladin. He’s exhausted, which is one reason he regresses a bit here, but the thing about PTSD is that it’s always there, lurking below the surface, threatening to take hold of your mind when you least expect it. And this is what happens to Kaladin here. I just want to hug him.

A: It’s brutal, isn’t it? I’ve never experienced it, but I have friends who have lived with the combat nightmares for years, and… well, hard to know what to say, but it’s really painful to imagine.

He lowered his hand. He was so tired.

But today, he couldn’t afford to be tired. He had to be Kaladin Stormblessed. Kaladin Stormblessed fought anyway.

P: Oof. In a storming heart wrenching callback to his moment in the chasms with Shallan when he was so amazed that “she smiled anyway,” here we see that, regardless of how tired he is, how wrung out and beaten down he might be… Kaladin fights anyway.

Ahem. This is where you cheer.

A: I’m sorry, this is me feeling so sad for him that it’s really hard to cheer. It may be a swell-with-pride-in-my-boy moment, but it’s also incredibly disturbing. (I suppose that might be partly because I was just thinking about his survivor’s guilt… Kaladin Stormblessed fights anyway, and he survives when he shouldn’t, and too often the people he’s trying to fight for don’t survive despite his best efforts, and… ow.)

Brilliant Buttresses

…he soon heard voices—and peeked to see a pair of singers with baskets walking down the hallway. Even an occupying force of ancient evil soldiers needed to do laundry, it seemed.

P: This about made me laugh out loud! I hear it in a gruff voice with dangerous sounding music… “an occupying force of ancient evil soldiers…” then they just needed to do the laundry. I love the way Brandon sticks humorous little moments into random places. It makes them all the more funny.

A: And these are the Azish singers, irritated that some idiot has locked the wrong door and they can’t put their stuff away properly. LOL.

 

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 59, in which Kaladin sneaks, fights, outsmarts, destroys, and escapes. Yikes.

Oh, one housekeeping note: There will be no post on Thursday, 25 November (2 weeks from today), as we take a break for the USA Thanksgiving holiday. Thought I’d give you a heads-up on that.

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. Also, volleyball is over for the year.

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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