Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread, as we reach the final events of Part Three. There are three chapters left (including this one) but they’re all the same set of events. This week is mostly Kaladin’s effort, with just a moment of realization from Navani. Kaladin’s effort, however, is extremely painful as well as exciting. It has its moments of triumph, but mostly, it’s painful. On that enticing note, 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.
This week’s discussion doesn’t address any wider Cosmere issues.
Heralds: Shalash (Ash), Herald of Beauty. Lightweavers (Illumination, Transformation). Creative/Honest. Role: Artist
A: I honestly have no clue why Shalash graces this chapter. There are no Lightweavers, no use of Illumination, no use of Transformation, no artistry or other notable creativity… I’m baffled. I can’t even think of any way where this chapter shows the inverse of any of her associated attributes. Anyone else? Help me out here…
P: I definitely don’t know why. Maybe someone in the comments can guess.
Icon: Banner & Spears for Kaladin’s perspective
Epigraph: From Rhythm of War, final page
Opposites. Opposites of sounds. Sound has no opposite. It’s merely overlapped vibration, the same sound, but sound has meaning. This sound does, at least. These sounds. The voices of gods.
A: For anyone who’s studied the physics of sound, or the mathematics of waveforms—even in a very rudimentary fashion—this epigraph is blatant foreshadowing of what the anti-Lights will be. Not much on just how Navani will get there, of course; we’ll have to read and find out. Without going into it now, I’ll just note that the concept of destructive interference is essential to the rest of the book.
P: And is this Raboniel? Or Navani? I can’t quite tell.
A: Oh, good question. I got so caught up in the maths implications I forgot about who was writing. It sounds to me like Navani, though that’s just a guess. It seems more like the way she thinks.
WHO: Kaladin, Navani
WHEN: 1184.108.40.206 (Immediately following the events of Chapter 69)
RECAP: Kaladin wakes from nightmare to the information that the Sibling is under attack. Navani, trying to distract Raboniel to give Kaladin more time, realizes that they were expecting her to do so. Kaladin uses Navani’s lift fabrial to reach the Well, where he has to fight off the Pursuer. He challenges Leshwi to shield himself from the Pursuer, allowing Syl to locate the node and guide him to it. He is able to destroy it before Raboniel can completely overwhelm the Sibling, but much damage has been done. Further, he is separated from Syl when she escapes the well and he doesn’t; he’s forced to use the fabrial to flee downward through the well and out through the reservoir. Wounded, with Stormlight healing almost completely non-functioning, he emerges into a group of humans and Regals. The only place to run is out into the highstorm.
Bruised & Broken (Kaladin’s Nightmares)
We’re moving this to the beginning of the discussion this week. Yes, it’s out of order, but it’s also in order. Hush.
He was in a dark place full of red light, and the shadows laughed and danced around him. They tormented him, flayed him, stabbed him again and again and wouldn’t let him die.
A: You know the really brutal thing about this? Not that the nightmare itself isn’t completely awful in itself, but what gives me the creeps is that it twists the actions of his friends and makes them part of the horror. Dabbid and Syl, trying to wake him, become shadows assaulting him. Dabbid, taking the spear and fabrial to do what Kaladin cannot, becomes a terrible shadow that becomes even more terrible when it vanishes. It’s horrible.
P: It’s absolutely horrible. It’s not as if the nightmares themselves being sent to him aren’t bad enough, but he’s incorporating his friends into the nightmare. Ugh, just completely awful.
The terrible laughter, the phantom pain, the whispers. His mind always interpreted those as Moash’s voice.
A: His mind is, of course, absolutely correct in this. I think that’s part of why the preceding bit is as infuriating as it is creepy: I can’t help thinking that Moash’s influence is part of why his friends become the terrors of his nightmares. I’m not sure Moash actually has enough control of the nightmares to do it on purpose, though I think that’s a possibility. It might also be that some part of Kaladin still thinks of Moash as a friend, and the internal conflict of friendship and betrayal from one key person bleeds over to everyone else when he’s in the throes of the nightmare. Either way (or both), it’s Moash’s fault and I despise him for it.
P: So do I. Utterly. Kaladin’s current situation is hard enough on him, but for Moash and Odium to be sending these nightmares to compound his troubles is infuriating. Light, but Brandon tortures this character!
He carefully relaxed his posture, embarrassed at how he must appear huddled up by the wall. Like a child frightened of the dark. He couldn’t afford to be a child. Too much depended on him.
A: Ouch. I mean… he’s right. The Tower and all the humans in it do depend on him. No one can afford childishness right now. At the same time, it’s not childish to struggle to waken from a nightmare, and it’s very sad to see him be embarrassed by appearances in this moment.
P: Ugh, I hate that he feels this way. I can kind of understand it as someone who self deprecates far too much, but I still hate it.
Screams from the nightmare echoed in his head, but he didn’t have time for weakness.
A: I won’t quote the rest of them, but this is a recurring theme throughout the chapter—the nightmare lingers with him all during the fall, the fights, and the flight to freedom, and it doesn’t really go away at the end.
P: Especially not when he’s heading out into another kind of nightmare.
Chapter Chatter—Kaladin’s Battles
He gripped the bar across his left hand and began to fall downward, almost as if he were Lashed. In fact, he was counting on it seeming like nothing was wrong with his powers—that he was a full Windrunner ready for battle. He wouldn’t be able to keep up such a facade for long, but perhaps it would gain him an advantage.
A: I’m almost amused that, despite the chaos in his head from the nightmare, he can still think tactically enough to do this kind of headfake. (Also, without quoting, make note that this all takes place during a highstorm. This becomes meaningful in the next chapter.)
P: He may not have practiced with it enough, but I think he has. At least enough to leap into the atrium as he did and trust that he wouldn’t turn into a splat.
A: Four days isn’t much, but I agree—at least he has some confidence in it! (Presumably he reset the weights every day after practice? Or at least once?)
He flew like a Windrunner, his body upright, left arm held at chest height, elbow bent. It might look like he was using Lashings. Though Windrunners sometimes dove and flew headfirst like they were swimming, just as often they would fly “standing” up straight—like he did now.
A: Heh. I get a kick out of this bit tossed in here—because we all wondered at some point just how they positioned themselves, but… is this really the time to think about it? I guess in one sense it does matter here, if only because there is a contrast between different scenes having to do with position and the strain on his arm.
P: Is this… is this a Superman pose? The thought makes me giggle.
“The Pursuer!” Syl said. “He was waiting by the other entrance.”
A: Because of course he was. Self-important git. And also proof that the Fused are using this as a Kaladin-trap as well as trying to break the Sibling. (It’s so heartbreaking to see all the tendrils of effect from that eavesdropping. We thought it was so secure, and… no.)
P: Yeah, the moment when Navani figures it out is a complete gut punch. And the Pursuer… growl.
“Your death,” the creature growled, crouched among terrified marketgoers, “is growing tedious, Windrunner. How is it you recovered all of your Lashings?”
A: Well, Kaladin’s headfake worked on the Pursuer, at least! So there’s that—although I haven’t heard anyone arguing that the Pursuer is among the brightest of the Fused, so there’s also that.
P: I’m just over here laughing too much to comment on his brain power, or lack thereof.
“When you die,” the creature said in his ear, “I will find the next Radiant your spren bonds and kill them too. As payment for the trouble you have given me.”
A: Self-important git.
Also, dude, you have no idea how much trouble he will ultimately give you…
P: I can’t WAIT to get there! In the meantime, Kaladin won’t make it easy on him.
He twisted—though he couldn’t move his left arm—and prepared his knife. This sudden motion made the Pursuer back off, however. Could the creature … be afraid? That seemed implausible.
A: Oh, I think it’s entirely plausible. Afraid, or at least cautious. How many times has the Pursuer been killed multiple times by the same person? Probably more than once, but not frequently? Even if it happened in one out of twenty cases, he’s at least smart enough to be careful with someone who has killed him… what is it, two or three times already? I can’t remember.
P: Surely someone can let us know in the comments, yes? What say you, Sanderfans? How many times has Kaladin killed that lame excuse for a Fused?
He raised his spear toward Leshwi, who hovered apart from the others, wearing clothing too long for practical battle—even in the air. This event had caught her unaware.
Please, he thought. Accept the fight.
That was his best hope. He couldn’t fight them all at once; he could barely face the Pursuer. If he wanted any chance of getting to the node, he’d need to fight a single opponent—one who wasn’t as relentless as the Pursuer.
A: Clever move, actually. There’s enough honor left that once a single-combat challenge is issued and accepted, they won’t be interrupted until it’s over.
P: Not sure if it’s honor on the Pursuer’s part, or that he doesn’t want to look like a complete ass in front of the other Fused. Hmm… not sure he’d care about that, actually.
A: Granted that I have a very low opinion of the guy… I’m not sure he’s capable of realizing how stupid he looks. Maybe?
“Our best chance to destroy the fabrial will be for me to break from this fight and fly straight down to it, then hit the device in one blow before anyone realizes what I’m doing. I’ll need you to guide me.”
A: Again, that’s pretty clever, especially spur-of-the-moment like this. Since Syl can’t become a spear or anything anyway, there’s not a lot she can do to help in the battle. (Well, there was that bit where she switched weights for him. That was pretty cool.)
P: She may not be able to manifest as a weapon, but she’s still a handy little sliver of a god.
He might be too late already. He could feel something changing. A greater oppression, a heaviness, was settling upon him. He could only assume it was the result of the Fused corrupting the Sibling.
A: Yeah, sure, just go ahead and increase the tension, Sanderson. Thanks a million.
P: He’s quite good at doing that, isn’t he?
A: I have a love/hate relationship with him at times…
“What is wrong, Windrunner?” Leshwi asked in heavily accented Alethi, coming closer. “Your powers fail you.”
“Fight me anyway,” Kaladin called up at her. As he did, he caught a glimpse of the Pursuer’s bloodred ribbon weaving out of a building below.
Leshwi followed his gaze and seemed to understand, for she raised her lance toward him in an attack posture.
A: Does she understand, or only seem to? In any case, she certainly seems to be more positively disposed toward Kaladin than Lezian. Not that she wouldn’t kill Kaladin if it seemed necessary, but she really dislikes Lezian.
Non sequitur here… I sometimes have trouble reconciling this sympathetic Leshwi with the one who appreciated Moash so much back in Oathbringer. Anyone have thoughts on that?
P: Oh, yes… I have trouble with that thought as well. This Leshwi is infinitely more likable than Oathbringer Leshwi.
A: Not just me, then. Good to know.
She put a knife to his neck. “This is a sham, Stormblessed,” she said in his ear. “This is no contest.”
A: Whatever the possible difference in the character, I really like her these days. She’d probably be willing to kill him in a fair fight, but not this way! Unlike Lezian, she’s not the least bit fooled by the fabrial.
P: Yeah, she knows something’s up. She may not know exactly what, but she knows he’s not 100%.
“Surrender,” she said. “If you give your weapon to me now, I might be able to get the Lady of Wishes to turn aside the Pursuer. Together we could start to work toward a true government and peace for Roshar.”
“A true government and peace?” Kaladin demanded. “Your people are in the middle of conquering mine!”
“And did your leader not conquer his way to the throne?” she asked, sounding genuinely confused. “This is the way of your people as well as mine.”
A: She’s not entirely wrong, but I can’t help wondering if she’s been Fused so long that she forgets individuality at times. “The way of your people” doesn’t necessarily mean all the people under the leaders agree with their approach.
That said, it’s a valid question. That’s exactly what Gavilar did—as well as most “great leaders” before him. It’s the way these things generally work, and if Leshwi could indeed do all that she implies, it would still be the same system Raboniel and Navani talked about—the Fused ruling, then the Regals, then the singers, then the humans. And who knows where the Radiants would fit into that hierarchy.
P: I’m not sure they’d suffer the Radiants to live, to be honest. They wouldn’t want anyone with comparable power to the Fused to be just wandering about when they’re supposed to be a conquered people.
A: Exactly. Obviously that’s why Raboniel wants a way to destroy the spren, or at least enough of them to convince the others that Radiants aren’t worth it. It may well be that the balance of Fused and Radiants is the reason no negotiations have ever worked. Neither group would be willing to have the others in charge, and neither would trust the others to remain “in their place” if they did come to an agreement. So long as both exist, the chances of “a true government and peace” are remote.
“I feel the need to point out that I didn’t agree to fight you below. I simply noted it was an option.”
“What is the distinction?” she called up.
“I’d rather you not see this as a broken oath,” he said, then disengaged the fabrial and pointed it right at Syl before launching himself that direction—straight over Leshwi’s head.
A: Bahahahaha! Sneaky Kaladin is sneaky.
P: And for the big dive!
Kaladin found that Navani’s fabrial worked far better in this environment. He could easily disengage it and swing it in another direction without dropping or lurching—and the added pull meant he easily outmaneuvered this Fused.
A: That’s really quite cool—and logical, too. It’s hard to say how it would work against a Windrunner in the water (or a Heavenly One), but it certainly works against Raboniel, who has to swim. Handy, that.
P: Probably a lot gentler on his arm, as well.
A: True, true! That’s got to be a relief.
What was that rumbling? He saw light shimmering above, but it was shrinking. Syl made it out, but she didn’t seem to have realized he was lagging behind her. And the light was vanishing.
A lid, he realized with panic. They’re putting a lid over the top of the well.
A: As one who’s always had a fear of drowning… this is absolutely terrifying. I can feel a tinge of panic just writing about it. ::shudders:: I totally see Kaladin’s nightmare closing in again.
P: This was utterly terrifying to me the first time I read this during the beta. I nearly panicked on Kaladin’s behalf.
Hav’s voice. Kaladin’s old sergeant, from his days as a recruit.
Panic on the battlefield kills more men than enemy spears. Never run. Always retreat.
This water came from somewhere. There was another way out.
A: I really love this bit. That is all.
P: Even in this situation, despite his PTSD, he can think logically. Storms but I love this character.
He started to breathe in more Stormlight, but stopped himself. Underwater, he risked getting a lungful of liquid. But … he had no idea how to get Light when submerged. How had they never thought about this?
A: Oops…. Actually, I’m pretty sure someone else talked about it (probably Shallan) in some context where you had to draw in Stormlight without breathing—but there’s a good chance Kaladin either didn’t hear any of the discussion, or never paid any attention because the thought of fighting (or Windrunning) underwater wasn’t part of his mindset.
P: Who would have thought that it would ever be a situation a Windrunner would find themselves in?
A: Right? Windrunners fly, not swim. They ride winds, not water.
Lucky for Kaladin, the fabrial doesn’t draw Stormlight from him! Since it still works, it gets him down to the depths, and then back up to the ceiling of the underground reservoir cavern. Probably, come to think of it, the same one where Shallan was practicing with her “Unseen Court.”
He crawled out onto dry stone. Amusingly, he was enough a surgeon to worry about how he’d contaminated this drinking water. Of all the things to think about right now …
A: Yep, had to chuckle a bit. Also, there was a bit of a debate about hydrostatic pressure and fabrials in the beta; I’m of the opinion that it’s okay for this cavern to be well below the level of the well, because… well, fabrials. It works for me, even if there is a continuous water passage. (But we can discuss the physics in the comments.)
P: Leave it to him to worry about bleeding in the drinking water.
A: I wonder if the Sibling has water-purification fabrials.
The storm rumbled in the near distance. Several of the soldiers turned toward him. Kaladin had a moment of profound disconnect, as if he couldn’t believe he was still alive. As if he’d thought that trudge up the stairwell had been his climb to the Tranquiline Halls.
A: That’s quite the mental image. I really like it, though I don’t have anything profound to say about it.
P: And he’s got to be utterly exhausted after fighting nightmares and then the Pursuer, all the while having his arm practically torn off by the fabrial, and then nearly drowning. Poor guy.
He turned and ran, holding that stolen spear, drawing in Stormlight from lanterns—but feeling it do nothing at all to heal him. Even the slow healing from before had apparently stopped working. Either he’d further undermined his powers somehow by destroying the fabrial, or—more likely—the Sibling was too far gone toward corruption.
A: He’s mentioned this a couple of times throughout the chapter—that the Stormlight healing was slowing even more. Given his injuries at present, this could be very bad.
P: Seriously bad. Especially considering where he’s headed.
Today, Kaladin reached the winds.
And like everything else today, they tried their best to kill him.
A: What an ending line. And we don’t get to find out anything more for the better part of the next chapter—a chapter which, fortunately for my sanity, is somewhat shorter than this one!
P: And when we do find out what happens, it’s so storming amazing!
Spren & Shadesmar
Syl zipped down to his left wrist and took the shape of an eel, pushing against the raised section at the center of the dial. She could turn a page, lift a leaf. Would she be strong enough to—
P: I adore this bit. Unable to manifest as a weapon for Kaladin has got to make her feel helpless, and this was extremely helpful!
A: Extremely helpful. He was totally stuck until she did that!
The only thing he felt was Syl, so distant now, terrified. He thought that would be his last sensation.
A: While we knew he (narratively) couldn’t die here, this was still excruciating. Syl hasn’t been able to function at any kind of distance from Kaladin since the very beginning of the invasion, and it’s probable that, like everything else, it got worse with the fall of each successive node. Poor Syl, who will now be all but mindless. And poor Kal, who will be without his closest friend, confidant, and helper.
P: Yeah, and the thought of feeling her terror being his last sensation is just horrible. And our poor Syl, I feel so awful for her here and how she would start to lose herself, especially with how far she’s come.
Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened
His spear was gone from beside the door. …
“Where is my spear!”
“The Sibling contacted us,” she said, still sitting on the floor. “That’s why Dabbid tried to wake you. Another node has been found—inside the well in the market. The enemy is there already.”
A: This is just phenomenal. Dabbid is such a hero. He knows he can’t do this job, that it needs Kaladin with his spear training and his practice with the fabrial and all that—but Kaladin can’t wake up, and someone needs to at least try. His existing relationship with the Sibling probably makes him feel more strongly about it, but it is incredibly brave of him to take the spear and the fabrial and go, terror notwithstanding.
P: Honor love our Dabbid. He’s so completely brave.
A: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the choice to do the right thing despite the fear.” (or something like that)
The shorter bridgeman stood with the spear and fabrial held close to his chest, staring down with a panicked expression. …
“Dabbid, you barely know how to use a spear,” Kaladin said, quickly strapping on the fabrial.
A: I really wish text could convey tone of voice. I’m telling myself that Kaladin’s voice must be expressing admiration for Dabbid’s willingness to try anyway, but my first inclination is to hear dismissiveness. How do you read it? Tell me I’m just being cynical…
P: I’m sure he’s in awe of Dabbid’s willingness to go try to fight.
A: Well, the next interchange gives me hope that there’s more appreciation than admonition in that comment, because this is awesome:
Kaladin took [his spear], then gave the Bridge Four salute.
Dabbid returned it. Then, remarkably, said something, in a voice soft and gravelly. “Life. Before. Death.”
Storms. Those were the first words Kaladin had ever heard from the man. He grinned, gripping Dabbid by the shoulder. “Life before death, Dabbid.”
A: This is a stunner on the first read, and thrilling on a reread. Now that we know what Dabbid’s life was like, and what hope we have for his future, this is a gorgeous moment. One of my favorites in the whole book.
P: This makes me cry every time. It’s so wonderful to see Dabbid speak here.
A: Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at the beta comments—my only way to remind myself how much I/we had figured out at any given point in the book. Turns out that as a result of this particular moment, the great debate was whether the Sibling would bond Rlain or Dabbid.
P: I remember that conversation. *nod* I thought Dabbid might be the one.
A: I did too. He already had a strong connection with the Sibling, and it seemed like a beautiful solution for both of them.
“I’ll see if I can reach her via spanreed,” the Fused said. “I’ll tell her it is most urgent.”
Storms. They were expecting an attempted distraction from Navani. …
They’d known Navani would attempt something like this. But how had they known that she would know that …
She stepped back, her eyes widening as the terrible implications struck her.
A: She won’t spell it out in her thoughts until her next chapter (72), but it’s clear right here that she understands the possibility that every bit of her communication with the Sibling and with Kaladin has been compromised from the beginning. Terrible implications, indeed.
P: So terrible. Just gut-wrenchingly terrible. I hated this moment and it doesn’t get easier on a reread.
[The Breakaway market], truly cavernous, was four stories high and packed with shops along the ground. Many were along roadways that Navani—reluctantly adapting to the will of the people—had laid out in the way they wanted.
A: And on a more humorous note… Remember when Navani had Adolin trying to get everyone to set up their shops in an orderly fashion back at the beginning of Oathbringer? Heh. That seems like a long, long time ago. Apparently she gave in eventually.
P: I figure she’s had bigger fish to fry.
Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light
If Navani ever wanted these devices to be useful in aerial combat, she had a lot of work to do.
A: I had to laugh a little at that. Navani had never intended these to be useful in aerial combat; that’s what Windrunners are for. This was just supposed to be a lift, with sideways motion to make it more useful when you want to reach a destination not vertically aligned to your initial position. That said, it will be interesting to see what the next iteration looks like. I vote for a sort of waistcoat effect—something you could wear under your jacket if you want.
P: And that would be a lot less taxing on the body, I imagine. No tearing your arm out of the socket when you used it.
A: A minor side benefit, of course… ;)
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 71, in which Dalinar rides the storm and does some amazing gymnastics.
Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. All-state honor choir (and midwinter break) are now behind; senior ski trip is next up. Senior year is exhausting for the parents.
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. And she’s super worried about the state of Major League Baseball at the moment. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.