Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Sixty-Nine

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Oh, hey, it’s Thursday again, and time for another installment of the Rhythm of War Reread! We rejoin Navani in her lab this week, and I promise not to geek out on the physics this week. Or only a little, anyway. It’s not like there aren’t other things to talk about—like the formation of Towerlight, and Navani’s inadvertent and wholly unintentional betrayal of the Sibling. Come on in and join the discussions!

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.

No Cosmere spoilers this week.

Heralds: Battah (Battar). Elsecallers (Transformation, Transportation). Wise/Careful. Role: Counsellor.

A: I’ll admit I expected to see Pailiah for this chapter, since Navani is so focused on being a scholar. However… there’s a lot of consultation with the Sibling, too. My thinking is that this is one of the times the Herald is used to point out the reverse or misuse of her role, and Battar represents the abject failure of Navani’s attempt to shield the Sibling by prying out information about the third node. More on this below, of course.

Icon: Fabrial Gemstone, for Navani’s POV.

Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, page 27

I leave you now to your own company.

A: Ouch. I think (this being the last recorded page number) this is Raboniel’s final note to Navani, when she has taken all the research and is preparing to make anti-Stormlight, to kill the spren and destroy the Radiants.

P: This sounds right. Raboniel has what she wants and she’s ready to cut out.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHEN: 1175.4.7.5 (Two days after her previous efforts in Chapter 65.)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: Navani performs a series of experiments, attempting to mix the different Lights; each attempt fails. Interspersed with her work, she consults the Sibling for more ideas on the concepts involved. In her continuing efforts to both protect and understand the Sibling, Navani finally persuades them to tell her the location of the third node; she hopes to send Kaladin to seal up the node with crem or protect it in some other way. As she muses further on the properties of light, the Sibling’s light begins to flash in panic: the Fused have found the node.

Chapter Chatter—Navani and the Sibling

“Tell me again about Towerlight,” Navani said.

This is growing tedious.

“Do you want to be saved, or not?”

…Fine. Towerlight is my Light, the Light I could create.

A: I’m… really conflicted about the Sibling in this scene. They’re so childish, for all they’re an ancient and powerful spren. I mean, I get it that they’ve tried to tell her everything useful already, and it feels like she’s asking the same thing over and over. That gets tedious for anyone—and especially an intelligent child. At the same time, there has to be so much that the Sibling knows, but doesn’t know will help Navani. The best way for Navani to gain information is to ask the same kinds of things, but in different ways and different contexts. All in all, scenes like this make me impatient with the Sibling. Like, what else was it going to do today? Sit and worry about Raboniel, like that does any good?

P: Seriously. This definitely frustrates me about the Sibling, how they’re so unwilling to give Navani any information that might actually help them. I get being concerned about betrayal, but the situation is kind of critical and they should be more cognizant of that fact.

A: They even acknowledge that their only hope of survival is whatever Navani can do; why the reluctance to help?

“Did you need a Bondsmith to make it?”

No. I could make it on my own. And my Bondsmith could create it, through their bond with me.

A: We mostly knew the first part, right? That the Sibling could make Towerlight without a Bondsmith? IIRC, the Sibling used to go for long periods without a Bondsmith, until they found another they deemed suitable, but that in the meantime Urithiru still functioned. But how cool is this? The Sibling’s Bondsmith could also create Towerlight himself or herself, not merely draw on what the Sibling created. That’s pretty wild. Dalinar can open a perpendicularity to bring Stormlight into the physical realm at will, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing as creating it himself. And I don’t think it’s all that similar—though perhaps closer—to what Lift does when she metabolizes food into Lifelight. I’m so confused by all this… but I love it anyway.

P: It is confusing, and fascinating. I can’t wait to see the Tower working correctly and to see how Navani creates Towerlight!

A: That’s one of my favorite scenes.

“And that Light, in turn, powered the tower’s defenses.”

Not only the defenses. Everything.

[…]

I can make only a tiny amount of Light, enough to power a few of the tower’s basic fabrials.

A: So… we knew (or at least hypothesized) that the Sibling controlled the myriad functions of the tower, right? And we learned earlier that the Sibling could make Towerlight by some synthesis of Stormlight and Lifelight. What fascinates me now is that, even though the humans had figured out how to power some of the tower fabrials with Stormlight, it was originally all powered by Towerlight, with the Sibling not only providing the energy, but also controlling all of them at a detailed level.

(Slight rabbit trail… As we learn much later, the metal and crystals of the fabrials that perform all the functions of the tower are essentially the Sibling’s Investiture made physical—sort of their own godmetal. Given how the Sibling basically is the fabrials, it might be a little more understandable that they found the creation of modern fabrials to be so horrible. It might be just a non-sentient flamespren trapped in a ruby, but then some human splits the ruby and thereby splits the spren in two; it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the Sibling to think of someone attempting to do the same to them. And in a way, is that what Raboniel is attempting in trying to unmake the Sibling? If all that is the case, their mistrust of Navani makes a lot of sense.)

P: I get the mistrust, I really do. But when you look at the situation the Sibling is currently in, who is the lesser of two evils here? On the one hand, they have Raboniel trying to corrupt them with Voidlight and on the other hand, they have Navani trying to protect them. Not really a difficult choice, methinks.

A: So very, very true. Navani might fail, but at least she’s trying to help, not harm!

“Two tones of Roshar?” Navani said. “There are three.”

No, there are two. One from my mother, one from my father. The tone of Odium is an interloper. False.

A: YES, THANK YOU. Well, okay, not really, because there are three—but also, Odium is an interloper. He came for the sole purpose of destroying the two who came peacefully together, so… yeah. Unwanted, but for some reason accepted. (Question: Was Odium’s tone accepted because of the people who accepted his presence, Investiture, or purpose? Or just because he hung around long enough for the system to adjust to his presence? Thoughts?)

I know I’m being a bit inconsistent, but this is one case where I like the Sibling’s intransigence. It’s rather childish, yes, but at the same time there’s a natural resentment toward the obnoxious being who came to kill their parents—and succeeded with one. I totally understand the Sibling’s refusal to accept the one who has done so much damage.

P: That makes a ton of sense. And I definitely don’t blame the Sibling for thinking that Odium is an interloper. I happen to agree wholeheartedly.

“Could part of the reason you lost your abilities relate to that tone becoming a pure tone of Roshar? Odium truly becoming one of the three gods?”

I… don’t know, the Sibling admitted.

Navani noted this hypothesis.

A: I don’t think Navani’s hypothesis is valid, and she should know it. She’s already learned that the three tones were part of the “three-note scale of the ancients” (we’ll talk about it below), and she knows that the Tower didn’t shut down until around the time of the Recreance. The timing doesn’t work out, unless she believes “the ancients” were that recent. Also, though of course she doesn’t know this part yet, we later learn that the Sibling was unable to hear Honor’s tone after he was splintered; when Navani is able to sing Honor’s tone and rhythm (learned from Raboniel, ironically enough), the two of them create Towerlight again.

“Tell me, do you know anything of the explosion that happened on the day of the invasion? It involved two of my scientists in a room on the fifth floor.”

I felt it. But I do not know what caused it.

A: While I know it’s a narrative device, I love the way Navani keeps returning to this event, trying to figure out what was in that sphere. (I also love the time that it takes to understand it, much less replicate it, because I get annoyed when people figure things out too easily and cheaply.)

P: It’s a good reminder that the matter of the explosion has weighed heavily on her. And I’m glad she’s keeping that incident at the front of her mind so that she doesn’t repeat it.

A: YES. Even in this chapter, though I didn’t dig into it, she takes significant precautions just in case her experiment works. She makes them bring in that box thing, so she can watched the effects through heavy glass and any explosion will at least be directed upward. She’ll do other things later, too, to make sure an explosion is… well, either contained or directed where she wants it to go.

“Do you know how Towerlight is mixed from Stormlight and Lifelight?”

They don’t mix, the Sibling said. They come together, as one. Like I am a product of my mother and father, so Towerlight is a product of me. And stop asking me the same questions. I don’t care about your “investigative methods.” I’ve told you what I know. Stop making me repeat myself.

A: I keep trying to find an analogy for this, and I can’t find anything better. Navani will have to learn, along with Raboniel and the reader, how to make two distinct tones and rhythms adjust to one another to form one new tone and rhythm.

I should probably wait until we get to the appropriate chapter, but that’s a long way away. So I’ll point out here and now: This “coming together” the Sibling describes will happen, when Navani sings Honor’s song while the Sibling sings Cultivation’s, and they make Towerlight together. The only way Navani can get to that point is through the difficult process of understanding the Lights, the Tones, and the Rhythms—but because of her work with the Sibling and with Raboniel, she will be able to help the Sibling make Towerlight before becoming a Bondsmith. It’s not until after they’ve joined their voices and made the Towerlight that the Sibling accepts the Words Navani is speaking. Which is… just way cooler than I have words to describe.

P: So very cool! I love seeing Navani learning to sing the tones, and I think she impresses the Sibling when she does. When she will. Oh, we’ll get there!

I can only hear things near a few people that are relevant. I can see the Windrunner. I think the Edgedancer has been surrounded by ralkalest, which is why she’s invisible. Also, I can see one particular Regal.

“Any ideas on why that is?”

No. Regals weren’t often in the tower in the past, and never this variety. She can speak all languages; perhaps this is why I can see near her. Though she vanishes sometimes, so I cannot see all she does.

A: Oh, this is so much fun. We know far more than they do, here, and it’s delicious. The Sibling can still see Kaladin because he’s a (conscious) Windrunner. They can’t see Lift anymore because of the aluminum-reinforced prison cell. They can see Venli part of the time because she’s a Radiant, not because she’s an envoyform—and the times when they can’t see her are probably when she’s actively using Voidlight. Which means, of course, that the Sibling can’t see her Surgebinding. If they could, I wonder if they’d realize that she’s Radiant, or if they’d just assume that she’d somehow gotten some Fused powers. Probably the latter.

P: Aha… I hadn’t thought that the times she couldn’t see her, Venli was using Voidlight. That makes a ton of sense.

A: It’s just a theory, but it’s the only thing I’ve thought of that makes sense.

You are foolish to presume to know what one of the Fused wants. She is thousands of years old. You can’t outthink her.

“You’d better hope that I can.”

A: Too true! Without Navani outthinking Raboniel, the Sibling is done for. I wish they could manage a little more cooperation on the strength of that realization.

P: The Sibling is so frustrating here! I mean, I get that they don’t know if they can trust Navani, but WE know that they can! Of course, we don’t yet realize that their conversations aren’t private.

A: ::sniffle:: That revelation was absolutely crushing to me. And to Navani, obviously.

“What if we found you someone to bond, to make them Radiant? We could—”

No. Never again.

“Hear me out,” Navani said. “You’ve said you’ll never bond a human again, because of the things we do to spren. But what about a singer? Could you theoretically bond one of them?”

A: Honestly, for much of the book, I really expected this to happen. Navani suggests Rlain, and he would be an excellent candidate in many ways. The Sibling’s reaction to bonding a singer is pretty funny—“that seems insane!” And on the surface it does.

And yet… I can easily see how it could have been written this way: have Rlain assigned as Navani’s guard, she “demands” that he help with her experiments so that he learns the three tones and rhythms, and then at the critical time he would be the one there to sing Honor’s song to make the Towerlight. But the author had other things in mind, so that story wasn’t the one written.

P: Brandon’s gonna do what Brandon’s gonna do!

Beyond that, since I cannot create Towerlight, they will not be able to either.

A: HAH!! That’s all you know, my dear. (I’d forgotten about this line while I was writing that bit about them creating Towerlight before bonding. Having thought about it, though, this is now hilarious foreshadowing.)

P: Things like this are why rereads are so much fun!

“If I knew the nodes were being defended, that would take the pressure off me. Tell me where one of them is. I have a list here of plans to protect it.”

A: And suddenly we’re brought back down with a thud. This is the downside of rereading: knowing just how bad an idea this is, and that it’s going to backfire immediately and with terrible consequences.

P: Immediately! And it’s so upsetting to learn that they had singers/Fused eavesdropping on them this whole time.

A: Brutal.

So good with words. Humans are like persuasionspren. I can’t speak with one of you without being changed.

Navani continued to wait. Silence was best now.

Fine, the Sibling said. One of the two remaining nodes is in the well at the center of the place you call the Breakaway market.

A: They go on to talk about exactly where it is, and the Sibling even explains to Navani how there were plans for many more nodes, but due to lack of time and resources, there are only four nodes, and they’re all on the first few levels. They refuse to give her the location of the final node until the plans for protecting the third node prove valid, but that’s small consolation in light of what happens next.

P: Poor Sibling. So mistrustful, and really, with good reason, but still…

She was browsing through those notes, walking idly among the stacks, when she saw the Sibling’s light flashing.

They’ve found the node in the well. We’re too late.

“What? Already?”

I am as good as dead.

A: Navani didn’t even have time to tell Kaladin about the plan, since they only confer once a day. Book time, it will only be a few more minutes before she puts it together and realizes that Raboniel was listening in. It’s truly heartbreaking.

P: So heartbreaking!

A: This is where I started thinking that maybe Battar is the Herald for the chapter because of the way Navani’s counsel backfires so horrendously. On a first read, it was so exciting to think that maybe Kaladin could get to the node and pour Stormlight into the system. Finally, the Sibling was willing to let them actually help! Then it was a real bummer that the Fused found it before Kaladin could get there. Then… then we find out that Navani’s persuasion in the hope of gaining time did just the opposite, telling the Fused the location long before they’d have found it on their own.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

A: As promised, I won’t go crazy with the physics here; if you like the information, you’ll reread the chapter, and if you don’t, you’ll skim. So… just a few notes, and some comments on Rosharan music.

P: This is much more your area of expertise than mine, so have at it!

A: For what it’s worth, I can see why this is boring to people who don’t get into the science aspects. On the other hand, I can see why Sanderson felt it needed to be included—and not just for the science geeks who enjoy the experiments. It’s another step in understanding how Investiture works in the Cosmere as a whole; this is important to the kind of fan who wants to dig into the foundations of the magic and make sense of things. It’s also important to the narrative itself, even though many readers who “just want the story” aren’t particularly interested: There has to be something more than “she worked at it and *poof* she figured it out.” Except to the most superficial of readers, simple handwavium is not a sufficient support for the story. I would argue that it’s also deeply important to Navani’s character development; this approach shows her natural scholarship, and also provides a contrast to and foundation for her later frenzy of experiment that results in her great breakthrough.

Anyway… Much of the chapter is Navani doing a series of experiments with Stormlight and Voidlight, all of which fail to achieve the faintest hint of mixing the two. However, some of the musical aspects she mentions here will later become Significant.

She’d spent several days working under a singular hypothesis: that if Stormlight reacted to a tone, Voidlight and Towerlight would as well.

A: That’s obviously going to be important—in fact, it’s the foundation of pretty much everything she discovers from here on out.

P: Yeah, it’s an obvious assumption, and so cool when she figures it out and does it.

The Alethi traditionally used a ten-note scale—though it was more accurately two five-note quintaves. This was right and orderly, and the greatest and most famous compositions were all in this scale.

A: I’m sorry, but this just cracks me up. Of course the Alethi found a way to make music fit a ten-note scale, and even better, it’s two five-note quintaves, just like The Stormlight Archive. And of course “the greatest and most famous compositions” use it… at least the ones Navani would consider greatest and most famous. Hah. I do wonder, though, if the quintaves have anything to do with the pentatonic scale, which seems to be built into humanity regardless of culture. I’m not theoretician enough to do the right kind of deep dive on this. (But y’all really ought to watch that link sometime; it’s very fun if you’re at all interested in music.)

P: Oh my Honor, neither am I. Though I did find the bit about the two quintaves interesting as, like you said, it matches up with the two arcs of the series.

The Thaylens, for example, preferred a twelve-note scale. A strange number, but the twelve steps were mathematically pleasing.

A: And that would be the one Earth’s western music is based on—very mathematical and orderly.

Anciently, people had used a three-note scale, and a few of the compositions remained. The tone that drew Stormlight was the first of the three notes from this ancient scale. With some effort—it had required sending Fused to Kholinar through the Oathgate to raid the royal music conservatory—she’d obtained tuning forks for the other two notes in this scale. To her delight, Voidlight responded to the third of the three notes.

A: And will anyone be surprised to find that Lifelight responds to the second? LOL.

Also, I included the bit about raiding the royal music conservatory because I’m still slightly bemused by the way Navani can so readily get pretty much any of the materials she’d had access to as Queen in Kholinar. She might even have more access now, because she “wasn’t really a scholar” before—and she had very little time for scholarship because she was busy running the kingdom for Gavilar and the palace for herself. Aside from the minor detail of being isolated and essentially a slave, she’s got more scope for experimentation and discovery than she’s ever had before. What a mixed blessing.

P: Yes, Raboniel is giving her a lot of leeway so that she can be successful in her experiments.

No Alethi scholars seemed to know that one of these tones could prompt a reaction in Stormlight, though Raboniel had—upon questioning—said she’d known. Indeed, she’d been surprised to learn that Navani had only recently discovered the “pure tones of Roshar,” as she called them.

A: So much information was lost in the millennia since Raboniel last set foot on Roshar. Not only was humanity reduced practically to Stone Age technology after the last Desolation and Aharietiam, the devastation of the Recreance probably lost a lot of what had been known about Stormlight usage. It’s balanced, to some extent, by the developments in scientific method and theory, I suppose. Now it’s up to Navani to rediscover old knowledge, meld it with new methodology, and… well, the results are also pretty mixed.

Lifelight. She’d promised to get some for Navani.

“Did she say how she acquired this?” Navani asked.

The guard shook his head.

A: Like Navani, I have a guess. It has to be from Lift; though the actual mechanism is not specified, most likely they used the same fabrial on Lift that they use to drain Radiants of their Stormlight during battles. In a way, it’s exciting that Lift is supplying Navani with something she needs so badly. Even so, it’s infuriating that Raboniel is using Lift this way. It’s… dehumanizing.

P: Poor little Lift. I hope they’re at least keeping her fed well.

A: Heh. If they’re trying to get Lifelight from her, they have to! So at least there’s that.

Humans

If I make my discovery, Raboniel will know, since a guard is always watching. She’ll force the answer out of me, and so even in these attempts to escape, I’m furthering her goals—whatever those are.

…Her instincts said that this knowledge would come out eventually. And the ones who controlled it, exploited it, would be the ones who won the war.

A: Her instincts are correct, of course. This aspect of the story is so frustrating to me. Navani is the only one who has all the pieces to figure this out, but she can’t do a thing without Raboniel standing there, waiting and willing and able to take it all away and use it against Navani’s people.

P: The ability to permanently kill Fused seems a small reward for the high cost of what the Fused will be able to do. *sad face*

A: Exactly. Especially since the long this goes on, the more of the Fused go insane and ineffective. Seems like it would be a (very long) battle of attrition—until they suddenly have a way to perma-kill each other. I can’t help thinking that the Fused have an advantage in being able to develop and apply this on a large scale.

So, what if she created some fabrial weapons, then stored them in the hallway? Innocent-looking fabrials that, once activated, could be used to immobilize guards or Fused coming to stop her from working on the pillar?

A: While this should tell the attentive reader that she will make these and somehow use them, I’ll admit that I’d forgotten about them by the time they come into play. Clever, clever Navani. (I find myself disappointed that she wasn’t able to use at least one of them against Moash, though. That would have been delightful.)

P: Sooo delightful. Though what does happen is quite satisfying.

Brilliant Buttresses

Raboniel is trying her own experiments with the Light—and she hasn’t gotten as far as you have. This seems to frustrate her.

Curious. That did a little for Navani’s self-esteem.

A: I really had to laugh out loud at that one. Yes, that would be a boost for sure!

P: It does surprise me that in all of her previous incarnations, Raboniel has never been able to do this. I do like that she’s frustrated!

 

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 70, in which Kaladin fights Fused and Regals and Raboniel to get to the node, and Navani realizes the extent of her betrayal.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. Midwinter break is a lovely thing.

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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