Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Interlude Eight


Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread, where this week we get to hang out with our favorite little larkin, Chiri-Chiri. Oh, and Rysn, of course. And Vstim. For those who haven’t read Dawnshard recently, we’ll be doing a brief review of what happened with Chiri-Chiri and Rysn in that story. For those who haven’t read it at all… you might want to skip this week. The chapter itself has implied spoilers for Dawnshard, and the discussion will be a veritable free-for-all of explicit spoilers. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! With that, come on in and join the discussion (unless you want to avoid those spoilers)!

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. As noted in the introduction, this week will be a total spoiler-fest for Dawnshard, so… that’s a thing.

Because we’re talking about Dawnshards, there are obvious implications for the wider Cosmere, and we do talk about that. There aren’t any actual spoilers, just speculation, though.

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

A: Is the Scholar here because Chiri-Chiri is so clearly intent on learning? Or because she’s growing in especially Progression-related ways? Or because she’s doing it all in a spirit of giving, both to Rysn and to the duties of the Guardians? Or all of the above? … Or something else?

Icon: The Larkin—Chiri-Chiri’s first ever POV! The icon was used for Rysn’s chapters in Dawnshard, first. I expect we’ll see it used for both in the future, since we’ll most definitely be seeing more of these two. In the first three books, Rysn’s chapters used the Double Eye of the Almighty icon, which is generally used for minor characters or chapters with many different POVs; I doubt that applies any longer.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Chiri-Chiri
WHEN: Indeterminate. Sometime after 1174.9.3.4—probably at least a month later, to give the Wandersail time to return to Thaylen City—and presumably not much later than our current timeframe of 1175.4.8.2. So… likely sometime in the first half of 1175?
WHERE: Thaylen City

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

RECAP: Chiri-Chiri, finding that she’s gotten too large for the pot of grass she used to sleep in, settles first in her box and then on Rysn’s arm. She listens to the conversation between Rysn and Vstim, in which Rysn has apparently been explaining the events of Dawnshard to her babsk. Chiri-Chiri is only superficially interested in the talk, until a rhythm from the planet itself seems to tell her that she has a greater task to perform. To that end, she concludes that she needs to learn to communicate with the humans, and shocks Rysn when she does so.

Dawnshard Redux

Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!

Before we get into the Interlude, it seems like a good idea to revisit Dawnshard and remind ourselves (briefly, if possible) what happened to Rysn and Chiri-Chiri in that book. If you haven’t read it, this will spoil everything.

The book opened with Rysn worrying about Chiri-Chiri, the larkin she was given by the Reshi island. Though she’d grown well at first, lately she had become listless and had lost her color; she was clearly not healthy. The only advice of any worth comes from the Reshi prince Talik, who tells her she must take the larkin to her ancestral home in Aimia—to the lost city of Akinah.

Coincidentally, Queen Navani has recently issued a request for ships to investigate an area near Aimia—a region where a permanent storm seems to prevent passage, rumored to hide the ruins of Akinah. Rysn makes arrangements to make the voyage, and despite a number of obstacles prepared by the Sleepless to deter her and her crew, they do finally reach Akinah.

Chiri-Chiri becomes more alert as luckspren swirl above and around them. She suddenly takes off and dives into the water, following the stream of luckspren into the depths. Soon, though, the Sleepless swarm the ship, preparing to kill them all; Cord takes Rysn and dives into the water, following Chiri-Chiri’s path to an underwater cavern. They discover a small chamber containing Shardplate, a number of Soulcaster fabrials, and an amazing mural which draws Rysn’s attention irresistibly. As she studies it, she senses a presence in it, seeking something. She accepts its request, and power moves from the mural into Rysn herself. With Cord gone searching for gemstones to power the Plate they found, Rysn hears the arrival of the Sleepless and arranges herself to negotiate.

The task of the Sleepless, since the larkin—the ancient Guardians—were thought hunted to extinction, has been to guard the treasure of Akinah from those who would seek to use the Dawnshard as a weapon. As Nikli (the Sleepless representative) and Rysn begin trying to work toward a solution that will meet both their needs, Nikli realizes that the real treasure of Akinah has not only been discovered, it has joined Rysn: She has become the Dawnshard they had been hiding. He intends to kill her, hoping that will return the Dawnshard to the mural, but Chiri-Chiri appears and refuses to let him touch Rysn. Now completely healthy and with her color restored, she is still small but very determined to protect her friend.

(This is getting too long!! At this rate, it will be longer than the whole discussion about the chapter! Also, my apologies for any inaccuracies by omission, but… yikes.)

After extremely tense negotiations, an agreement is finally reached. Rysn will leave, with her entire crew intact (except the three who have already died), and will tell several layers of half-truths about her experiences. Navani’s team (Rushu, Lopen, Huio, and Cord) will open up the Oathgate and return with the obvious plunder—gemhearts, Cord’s new Shardplate, and eight Soulcasters—leaving the enemies who seek the Dawnshard to search the island for it in vain. Meanwhile, some of the sleepless will accompany Rysn, ostensibly to learn from the humans in exchange for the supposed treasures. The hope is that the truly dangerous enemies who seek the Dawnshard will never suspect that the Sleepless would allow it to leave the island in the form of a normal, random, human woman. Additionally, it’s possible that their search may reveal their identity to the Sleepless.

There are, of course, stipulations:

“You must never bond a spren to become a Radiant.”

“Also, you may not tell anyone what has happened to you,” Nikli said. “Unless you ask us first. I… explained to them that humans often need people to confide in. They pointed to Cord as one, but I suggested we might need more. If we are going to maintain this secret, and work with humans to protect the Dawnshard, there could be others we need. You will speak to us before you do these things, and you may only tell them what we agree to let you.”

Rysn agrees to these terms. Chiri-Chiri, having bonded with the specialized mandra of Akinah, is restored to full health. This apparently increases both her growth and her intelligence, as we’ll see in the Interlude.


Chapter Chatter—Chiri-Chiri, Rysn, and the Dawnshard

A: Chiri-Chiri!! I’m so excited about her POV. I know that technically all we know about her should go in Flora and Fauna, but… nope. She’s the POV character. She stays right here.

P: I was so tickled to get her POV in this book. And it’s so fun!

Chiri-Chiri tried to hide in her grass. Unfortunately, she was growing too big. She wasn’t like a regular cremling, those that scuttled around, tiny and insignificant. She was something grander. She could think. She could grow. And she could fly.

A: The trip to Akinah worked 100%, it seems. She’s not only healthy, she’s growing more—and the image of her getting too big for her pot of grass cracks me up. (How many of us had a kitten with a favorite pot, cup, bowl, basket, etc., that they kept trying to fit into when they were a full-grown cat?)

P: If I fits, I sits.

A: Exactly. That last bit, though… that gives me just a bit of goosebumps. I can’t help wondering just how big she’ll get, and how smart—and whether Rysn will be able to ride her. It’s one of my favorite hopes for a Stormlight character.

P: I fully expect it to happen eventually.

Chiri-Chiri did not always understand the mouth noises of the soft ones. They did not click, and there was no rhythm to them.

A: Anyone else wondering about “rhythm” here? Do larkin hear the same rhythms as the singers? Or maybe just the tones of Cultivation and Honor?

P: That’s definitely how I read it at first—that she meant the rhythms of Roshar.

Communication should be about moods, desires, needs. Not all these flapping, flapping, sloppy wet noises.

A: I’m irresistibly reminded of the old Star Trek episode where the crystalline entity referred to the humans as “Ugly bags of mostly water.” LOL.

The more serious side of this quote, though, is the joy of watching Chiri-Chiri “grow up” as it were—learning to not only understand, but value, the idea of communicating about things more complex than basic emotions.

Like the ones Rysn made now, talking to the old soft one who was like a parent.

A: Vstim! He’s such a wonderful mentor, even though he doesn’t think he did right by Rysn. One of the things I really enjoyed in Dawnshard was seeing Rysn think through new problems by looking back at the lessons she learned during her training with him.

P: Glad she still has her babsk to confide in. 

Chiri-Chiri understood some of the words. And his hushed tone, yet tense. Confused. That was confusion. Like when you are bitten on the tail by one you thought was happy.

A: Obligatory ::gigglesnort:: But again, it’s fun to watch her move through recognizing the emotions and beyond to the import.

P: She’s grown by leaps and bounds mentally!

“You’re saying these things… these Sleepless… are all around us? Moving among us? But they aren’t… human?”

“They are as far from human as a being can get, I should guess,” Rysn said,

A: I’ll go along with that! There’s a good bet that at least one is in the room with them, looking like something completely innocuous. In the epilogue to Dawnshard, she glances at a purple hordeling hiding in the shadows after her conversation with the ship’s captain, and I’m reasonably confident that she really is never alone since that moment. Never mind the Sleepless like Nikli, who can already pass as human (we don’t know how many are visibly training with her). There are almost certainly others—or at least hordelings belonging to the “training” ones—who are with her at all times and in communication with the rest, both for her protection and for surveillance.

P: And she must have gotten their permission to tell Vistm about the Dawnshard, because they explicitly told her not to tell anyone unless she asked them first.

A: That’s my bet. She’s not foolish enough to risk the bargain by telling Vstim all this without their approval.

“You saw opportunity in what others discarded. This is somewhat the same.”

“Pardon, Rysn—dear child—but this feels very different.”

A: I’m with Rysn here. Vstim doesn’t think her bargain is at all like anything he taught her, but (as we saw in Dawnshard) the reasoning is the same: “Don’t give them what they say they want. Give them what they need.”

P: She definitely brought all her skills to bear during that particular negotiation.

Chiri-Chiri turned to snuggle back into her blankets, but felt a vibration coming up through the ground. A kind of call, a kind of warning. One of the rhythms of Roshar.

A: Um… Does that answer my earlier question? I think maybe it does. And I really want to know more.

P: Aye! It wouldn’t surprise me to know that all the creatures of Roshar could hear the rhythms.

A: I hope that’s what we eventually learn, and we get to see it reflected in various species. Aside… I wonder if that’s why the Horneaters are so into poetry—they hear the rhythms to some extent, at least, with their singer DNA, and it comes out in their natural communication.

Chiri-Chiri could not hide. The rhythm whispered that she could not do only easy things. Dark times were coming, the hollow skulls warned. And the vibrations of that place. Encouraging. Demanding. Be better. You must be better.

A: Shivers!!! That’s just… It’s so exciting to imagine what Chiri-Chiri can become. But also, what rhythm is this? The planet? Cultivation? The Dawnshard? My money is on Cultivation, I think. At least, most of it is. I might have to put a side bet on “something unknown” and maybe another on the Dawnshard. The presence of the Dawnshard on Roshar, added to the clash of Shards and the clash of peoples, implies that many shadowy players are interested in what’s happening here—players whose reasons and goals we can’t really know yet.

“Why do I feel,” the old soft one said, “that you shouldn’t have told me about any of this? The more people who know what you’ve done, Rysn, the more dangerous it will be for you.”

“I realize this,” she said. “But… Babsk… I had to tell someone. I need your wisdom, now more than ever.”

A: I have a vague notion that the initial discussions of the book included people objecting to Rysn telling Vstim about it. That’s why I included the quotation from Nikli in the Redux: She’s not breaking the agreement if she was given permission, and I think we can assume she was. (See also: She’s never alone and she knows it.) I also included it because I love his understanding that humans need someone to confide in at times. There will, as he pointed out, also be times they need the assistance of others in some aspect of their labor; this time, though, Rysn simply needs a trusted friend and wise mentor who can help her work through the implications of what she’s got.

Also, I love that she turned to her wise old babsk. I honestly don’t think there’s a better advisor on the planet, though I wonder if perhaps Talik will come back into it later.

P: I’m so happy that she told him. She did need someone to confide in and this is a pretty big something to have to confide. She doesn’t even fully understand the implications so the more minds on her predicament, the better.

He took his hat and moved to leave, but hesitated and said a single word. “Dawnshards.” He imbued it with meaning somehow. Disbelief and wonder.

A: Considering that this is from Chiri-Chiri’s POV, I think it’s pretty fun. She understands the emotions already; now she’s increasing in her ability to interpret human tones and inflections.

P: I can’t wait to see if and when she understands what Rysn did by taking in the Dawnshard and what it means.

A: There’s a chance that, with time, she’ll understand it better than Rysn or the Sleepless. That would be fun.

To enjoy easy days, sometimes you had to first do difficult things. […]

“I need something to eat,” Rysn said. And Chiri-Chiri concentrated on the sounds, not the tired cadence.

Eat. Food.

“Eeeaaat.” Chiri-Chiri tried to get her mandibles to click the sounds, blowing through her throat and making her carapace vibrate.

Rysn smiled. “I’m too tired. That almost sounded…”

“Rrrrrizzznn,” Chiri-Chiri said. “Eeeeaat. Voood.” Yes, that seemed right. Those were good mouth noises. At least, Rysn dropped her cup of tea and made a shocked vibration.

A: BAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA! I love this so much I don’t even know where to start. Measuring the success of her “mouth noises” by making Rysn drop her teacup is priceless.

The progress from recognizing the emotion, to understanding the sense of the words, to figuring out how to reproduce the sounds… that’s a huge (and difficult) leap for our little larkin. It’s going to be so much fun to see where they go with this. Two things are very clear: she’ll get more scratches when she wants them, and they will go back to Akinah before too many more years pass. Beyond that, we can only make guesses—and I won’t venture any here, because I really have no clue where Sanderson is going with the larkin or the Dawnshard.

P: I ADORE this creature! She’s so completely lovable. I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow and change. I expect we’ll have quite a different larkin in the back five.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

Rysn activated her chair—which flew a few inches off the ground, though it didn’t have any wings.

A: This is one of those lovely little things that came out of Dawnshard that I didn’t really cover in the Redux. Rushu was part of the team that Navani sent along, and with her interest in fabrial technology, she got absorbed in the challenges of Rysn’s mobility. Due to a slight accident on Huio’s part, they discovered a way to separate the directional components of conjoined gemstones—meaning that, for Rysn, a tiny bit of aluminum in the right place allows her to use the vertical lift of conjoined gemstones while not being constrained by the horizontal position. She’s got a hoverchair that she can move in any direction, as long as she has a way to push or pull it. Frictionless, too. How cool is that?

P: I’m so happy for her, having this chair! There was so much discussion about this in the Dawnshard beta read, I’m glad to see it come to fruition.

Spren and Shadesmar

A: Oddly enough, there seems to be no reflection of the mandras in Chiri-Chiri’s thoughts. Is that because they’re so much a part of her life that she just doesn’t think about them? Or is she not particularly aware of them yet? (Or did Sanderson just not feel that thoughts about them were helpful to the story?)

P: Though she does think of the remains of other larkins, which had to be an unsettling thing for her to witness.

A: Indeed. I assume she recognized them as her ancestors, and what she has the potential to become—and if she didn’t recognize them at the time, she does now. Her frequent references to “the hollow skulls” seems to indicate that she understands that she is taking up their shared task.

Cosmere Connections

A: Just a few thoughts on the Dawnshard, because why not. This chapter is much less about the Dawnshard than about the Sleepless—and both, much less than it is about Chiri-Chiri’s growth. I don’t think we should lose sight, though, of the potential role Rysn (and Chiri-Chiri) may play in the grand schemes of the Cosmere.

The end of the novella hinted at terrible enemies who would seek the power of the Dawnshard—and of course they would, if they know anything about it. The Dawnshards were, as Nikli explains, “the four primal Commands that created all things.” Then, somehow, they were used to tear Adonalsium apart, into the sixteen Shards. More recently, the power of one or more Dawnshards was used to all but destroy Ashyn, making it uninhabitable. All indications are that this Dawnshard came to Roshar with the human resettlement from Ashyn, and was somehow hidden here in the caverns of Akinah. Cord says that it came through the Pool in the Horneater Peaks… but we don’t know if that was this one.

So here’s a question. Honor, in his dying ravings, spoke of the Dawnshards, plural, as weapons used to destroy the Tranquiline Halls. Was there just this one, or were there really more than one on Ashyn? If there were more, where is/are the other(s)? Still on Ashyn? Or somewhere else on Roshar? (Probably not on Braize, or Odium would have figured it out and used it by now.)

Beyond that, how are the Dawnshards going to play into the upcoming Cosmere intrigues? My personal expectation is that the second half of The Stormlight Archive will involve other planets—at the very least, the other two in the Rosharan system, but I’m betting on expanding to other systems as well, at least by the last book. What of Rysn, then? Will she gain some form of extreme longevity from being the Dawnshard? Will she remain on Roshar, continuing to hide it from the rest of the Cosmere? Or will she join with others who can (safely?) wield it?

So. Many. Questions.


We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun! Next week, we’ll tackle Interlude 9… back in the head of Taravangian. Oh, joy.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. Luggage and costumes and sets, oh my. Tech week approaches rapidly…

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. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.


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