Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Eighty-Two

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Hey, it’s Thursday again, and time to get back to Shadesmar! This week we get a lot of irritation from Mraize’s manipulation of Shallan (and Radiant, and Veil), as he persuades her to do more of his dirty work. Then Adolin gets a series of disappointments from a legendary deity, as the High Judge turns out to be… less than reasonable.

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, we mention the true name of the Ghostblood leader, who is known from the Mistborn series. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?

Heralds: Kalak (Kelek). Willshapers (Transportation, Cohesion). Resolute/Builder. Role: Maker.

Nalan (Nale), Herald of Justice. Skybreakers (Gravitation, Division). Just/Confident. Role: Judge.

A: On a bet, both Heralds represent Kalak in this chapter: Kalak, because there he is, and Nalan, because Kalak holds the office of High Judge for the honorspren in Lasting Integrity.

Icon: Pattern, for a Shallan POV.

Epigraph:

Oh… Father… Seven thousand years.

A: Irritating as I find Kalak in this chapter, this thought really makes me feel awful for all the Heralds. Seven thousand years of battles, torture, and the guilt of giving in to human weakness and leaving one to suffer for them all. It really is incomprehensible.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan, Adolin
WHEN: 1175.4.9.5 (Immediately following Chapter 78)
WHERE: Lasting Integrity

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

RECAP: Radiant and Veil take turns yelling at Mraize for withholding information about their mission, since he obviously knew Restares was actually Kalak. Despite recognizing Mraize’s tactics as manipulation, Shallan is drawn to his suggestion that she kill Kalak and take his place as High Judge, ensuring that Adolin wins his case. Meanwhile, Adolin meets Kalak, and is distinctly underwhelmed by the High Judge. He requests “trial by witness” and Kalak agrees, setting the date and location as the day after tomorrow in the forum. Adolin is disturbed by the implication that the outcome is a foregone conclusion, but there’s nothing he can do about it.

Chapter Chat—Crazy Heralds, or “Oh, look who’s here!”

“How could you not tell me this?” Radiant demanded as she knelt and shouted at the cube on the floor. “Restares is not only the honorspren’s High Judge, he’s one of the storming Heralds!”

A: Shallan/Radiant/Veil’s reaction to Kalak’s identity is simultaneously hilarious and completely justified. While in one sense I can understand Mraize keeping that secret, because she probably wouldn’t have taken the job, it’s almost scary to think what could have gone wrong if she’d asked the wrong questions of the wrong people.

P: Yeah, I’d be up in arms, too. To sic them on a Herald and not bother to tell them is so slimy, just like Mraize himself.

“You told us we’d know what to do when we found Restares,” Radiant told Mraize. “Well, we are here now and we have no idea how to proceed.”

“What did you do the moment you found out?” Mraize said.

“Cursed your name.”

“Then?”

“Contacted you directly to curse at you some more.”

“Which was the correct choice. See, you knew exactly what to do.”

A: Much as I loathe Mraize, this exchange was pretty rich. I mean… I hate to admit it, but he is intelligent in a serpently sort of way.

P: I cracked up at “Cursed your name.” I pretty much do that anytime he’s on screen.

A: And well deserved, too.

“Your refusal to give me important information makes me question what else you held back. Now I’m questioning if what I’m to do here is possibly against my interests, and the interests of those I love. So let me ask plainly. Why am I really here? Why are you so interested in Kelek? And why—explicitly—should I continue on this path?”

Mraize did not respond immediately. “Hello, Veil,” he finally said. “I’m glad you came out to speak with me.”

“Answer my questions, Mraize.”

A: Go Veil! I love her response here (even though I didn’t quote all of it). Answer. My. Questions. Unfortunately, his way of answering questions is a matter of manipulating her to do what he wants, as always. At least it takes a bit of work on his part, this time.

P: She really gives it to him here. And she’s right. What else is he holding back from them?

A: Right? You know there’s a ton—and no matter what promises he makes about letting her into all the secrets, you know there will be things he’ll decide she doesn’t need to know. At least for the moment, she’s holding out for more information, so good for her.

“If you want me to do this, I need to know why. What specifically do you expect to learn from him?”

“Our master, Thaidakar, has an… affliction similar to that of the Heralds. He needs access to a Herald to learn more about his state so he might save himself from the worst of its effects.”

“That’s not good enough,” Veil said. “Radiant and Shallan won’t let me do your dirty work for such a petty reason.”

A: Heh. Both petty, and not petty… Kelsier wouldn’t call it petty at all, though we don’t know a lot about his current state of mind. But I can certainly see why Veil (and Radiant and Shallan) would balk at stabbing a Herald just because he might be able to provide some small amount of information about being a Cognitive Shadow for some unknown “master.” He may be Mraize’s master, but Shallan has zero allegiance to him—and probably would have actual antipathy if she knew him.

P: Yeah, I doubt Shallan would care much for Kelsier were she to meet him. And Mraize’s explanation for why they should help isn’t quite persuasive enough for what he expects them to do.

He, along with the other eight, abandoned their Oathpact and stranded Talenelat—the Bearer of Agonies—alone in Damnation, to withstand torture for thousands of years. The enemy has returned, but have the Heralds come to help? No. At best they hide. At worst, their madness leads them to hasten the world’s destruction.

A: Gah. Serpent. Snake-in-the-grass. (Snake-in-the-rockbuds?) I despise this man. He’s twisting everything about the Heralds to make it sound like the current Desolation is their fault, even though Taln was profoundly grateful to the rest for letting him keep things at bay for 4500 years. On top of that, he’s pretending that he actually cares about what happens to Roshar—as if he weren’t perfectly happy to work with Raboniel (or any other Fused) to further his own ends.

P: Snake is right. He’ll say anything that he thinks might sway Shallan, et al. into doing his bidding. Even lying.

“If only there were a way that someone—having locked away Kelek’s soul—could take his place. Wear his face. Pass judgment, vindicating your husband and commanding the honorspren to join the war again. If only we had sent a person capable of single-handedly turning the tide of this war through the use of a targeted illusion.”

In that moment, Veil lost control to Shallan.

A: AAAAAAAAA! He makes me want to scream. (I know this is more about Mraize than Kalak. Sorry.) Manipulative, weaselly parasite. He knows exactly how to get to her: Give her a way to guarantee Adolin’s safety, and she’ll try it. Never mind that a) she doesn’t know enough to pull it off and b) if she fails to pull it off, it will guarantee exactly the opposite. He squashes all her objections before she can work them out, and even though she recognizes the manipulation for what it is, she accepts it. Sigh. I can’t even entirely be angry at her, though it drives me nuts that she does this. She’s constitutionally incapable of thinking straight at this point in time, poor child.

P: Of course, he brings up Adolin, knowing that will pull Shallan in, if nothing else will. She’d do anything for Adolin and Mraize knows it. He is foul.

“So I will revise the deal as requested. […] you will not only have access to the knowledge you seek, but also have a say in what we are doing. Our grand plans.”

Inside, Veil perked up at this.

A: In return for stabbing Kalak—which, as we learn from the epigraphs, wouldn’t work as intended anyway—she gets information and influence. Sigh. The things she’s always felt were just out of her grasp, no matter how much magical stuff she can do.

P: It makes me wonder about the hierarchy of the organization if she can gain such power (just) by killing a Herald. No small feat, I know, but with her Surges and her skills, it would be relatively simple.

A: Somehow I doubt she’d be given all that much control, though he might be able to convince her that she had. She might get more information, but there’s no way she’d get all of it, and her “say in what we are doing” would likely be manipulated by what information he chose to give her.

“Strike at a Herald,” she said. “It sounds wrong, Mraize. Very wrong.”

“You are weak,” he said. “You know it.”

She bowed her head.

A: UGH. I’m so glad she came to her senses before she did it. It would be wrong for her to kill (or just trap) Kalak, and she knows it. I was furious at Moash for killing Jezrien (and many other reasons, of course), and I think I’d have been nearly as furious if Mraize manipulated Shallan into killing Kalak. (Does this make me unfair, if I blame Moash and not Shallan? If I blame Mraize and not the Fused? Not sure, but if I am, I guess I am.)

P: If you’re wrong, then so am I. I already hated Moash by the time he killed Jezrien, but that was like the cherry on top of the crem sundae of loathing.

He should probably feel reverence for the High Judge. … Many people back home thought of him as the Stormfather, and though that had never been true, he was one of the most ancient beings in all of creation. A god to many. An immortal soldier for justice and Honor.

He was also short, with thinning hair. He felt like the type of man you’d find administering some minor city in the backwater of Alethkar.

A: LOL. “Minor bureaucrat” is exactly the vibe he gives off. I hope in one of the books we get to see what the Heralds were like at the beginning of the Oathpact. We’ve never really seen Kalak being anything but weak, and it always makes me wonder. Was he always one of the weakest ones? Did he (like his iconography) always seem a bit of a child compared to the others? Was he a heroic figure, once upon a time?

P: I mean, they all had to have been heroic figures, right? At least in my mind, which I admit only works half as well as it should.

[…] Ash or Taln, the two Heralds who now resided at Urithiru…

Well, his acquaintance with those two caused Adolin to lower his expectations in this particular case.

A: I have to admit, they’d be pretty disappointing to someone who was raised on Rosharan legends! All those stories about the Heralds and the Tranquiline Halls and all… At the same time, I suspect they earned those legends, back in the day. Just thinking about what they agreed to when they accepted the Oathpact gives me the shivers. I so badly want to see them that way, whether it’s in someone’s flashbacks, or Leshwi’s memories, or whatever. I’d just like to see them being heroic. (I guess we got a tiny moment when Dalinar connected to Nalan. I’d like more.)

P: I’d like more, too! I want to see them all in their glory! I want to see who they were before they reached the point at which they abandoned Taln.

A: That’s exactly it. I want to see their glory days.

“This is Adolin Kholin, son of Dalinar Kholin.”

“The Bondsmith?” Kelek said, and shied away from Adolin. “Good heavens! Why have you let him in here?”

A: Sigh. Oh my. And why, pray tell, is the son of the Bondsmith so fearsome? Is Kalak afraid the Bondsmith can reach him somehow, or has he heard about Adolin’s reputation as a duelist and fears being stuck with pointy things (even if they can’t kill him)? I’ve got to assume it’s something about Dalinar’s powers, but… I sure don’t know what. Maybe he thinks Dalinar will Come For Him (cue scary music) when his hiding place is found out.

P: This struck me as odd, too. I can’t fathom why a Herald would shy away from Adolin, or from Dalinar’s name.

“Your current battle? Against Odium?” Kelek laughed. “Boy, you’re doomed.”

A: Um… okay… So much for being afraid of Adolin, but what a reaction! Even if Kalak is a wimp and a nutcase, that’s got to be a bit discouraging for Adolin to hear.

P: Completely discouraging. He’s there to seek assistance from the honorspren and their “leader” (who happens to be a Herald) scoffs at him and tells him he’s doomed? Poor Adolin.

“You’re going to try him for the Recreance?” Kalak asked, looking around uncertainly at the others near him. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”

“He offered, Holy Lord.”

“Not a smart one, is he?”

A: I don’t know quite why, but this cracks me up. Kalak is a bit… mercurial. Maybe Mraize is right—he’s so erratic, perhaps Shallan could get away with impersonating him!

P: They do share a bit of eccentricity with one another.

A: And as pinball as his behavior is, who’d be able to tell anyway?

“Trial by witness?” Kelek said. “Well, that would make this mess end faster. What do you think, Sekeir?”

“I don’t think this would be a wise—”

“Hold on; I don’t care what you think,” Kelek said. “…Fine, boy, trial by witness it is. We can start it… um, the day after tomorrow? Is that acceptable for everyone?”

A: I’m just laughing and shaking my head. What an incredible “High Judge” they have. I wouldn’t let him judge a turtle race.

P: That would certainly be unfair to the turtles.

“Um… let’s have it at the forum, shall we? I guess everyone will want to watch, and that has the most seats.”

“Object to this,” Blended whispered to Adolin. “Do not let it be. You don’t want to have to persuade the audience as well as the judge.”

A: Which is, of course, what they end up with: a mostly hostile audience, all set on both judging and entrapping Adolin. And Kalak really doesn’t care. He already knows how it will come out—or at least he assumes he does. With, I’ll admit, good reason. No one could have anticipated Mayalaran’s incredible intervention.

P: I daresay that Maya gave the storming best testimony that any of them had ever seen.

A: I get the chills just thinking about it.

How on Roshar was that ever considered a deity? Adolin thought, in a daze. The Heralds had fallen so far.

Either that, or… perhaps these ten people had always been only that. People. After all, crowning a man a king or highprince didn’t necessarily make him anything grander than he’d been. Adolin knew that firsthand.

A: Good insight from our young highprince…

P: Good insight, yes, but still so very self-deprecating. I do this to myself all the time. I see you, Adolin Kholin.

A: It’s part of his charm; he knows he’s good at the things he’s worked hard to master (like dueling), but doesn’t recognize the value of things that are natural to his personality (like treating people well, irrespective of their social status). He’s such a funny combination of unconscious arrogance and humility, and the way he sees his “unfitness” for own role is both frustrating and endearing. But it definitely puts him in a position to recognize that the same can be true of others—even Heralds.

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

When she twisted that plane of the cube, it turned easily and came off, revealing a small compartment that contained an intricate metal dagger with a gemstone on the end of the grip.

A: This is very similar in description to the one Moash (curse him) used to kill Jezrien, and from Mraize’s instructions should do the same thing. So… why does Mraize have one of these? Did he get it from the Fused? If so, when? I’m… confused. I could believe he made arrangements for this sort of thing when he gave Lift to Raboniel, but that can’t be this knife, because Shallan was long gone before they had that conversation. Or can seons transport objects as well as voices? I don’t remember that…

P: I don’t believe they can, no. But it’s definitely curious how Mraize got ahold of one of those blades.

A: Is it safe to assume it’s modeled on the fabrials the Fused use to drain Stormlight from Radiants? If so, and if Mraize has some artifabrians of his own (or can commission fabrials from experts) and somehow got access to one of the Fused fabrials… but this is just speculation. It could just as easily be the case that scholars on some other planet have figured out how to suck the soul of a Cognitive Shadow into a gemstone, and now I’ve given myself a severe case of the creeps.

Spren and Shadesmar

“I have one day, it seems, to prepare you to be thrown into the angerspren’s den…”

A: That sounds… foreboding. Apparently angerspren in Shadesmar are, like painspren, “harmmore. Very harmmore.”

Bruised and Broken

But Shallan was surprised by how much she responded to that offer. A full Ghostblood? That was the way… The way to…

A: Oh, Shallan. We won’t actually learn what she’s thinking about for a few more chapters, but I’m reasonably sure this is about her idea of becoming the monster she believes herself to be. She’s got this idea that she can just be the thoroughly despicable person who could kill both her parents and her spren and not be hurt by the memories. Somehow, she sees the Ghostbloods as her means to escape her identity and disappear forever. I suspect she hasn’t considered that she might kill Pattern in the process, and that she might make herself useless to Mraize. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m betting that without her Lightweaving ability, Mraize would dump her in a skinny minute. But she’s desperate.

P: Desperate and oh, so damaged. You know, I never considered that she might want to be a Ghostblood because she felt she deserved no better from the things she’d done in her young life. That’s just heartbreaking.

A: Isn’t it, though? At least, that’s the way I read it—a combination of longing to be free from the painful memories, and feeling like she deserves to be known as an inhuman monster—and that she doesn’t deserve a single good thing she’s got. Especially Adolin.

Brilliant Buttresses

“The irony is quite poetic.”

“Mmm…” Pattern said from beside the door, where he was watching for Adolin.

“What?” Radiant asked him. “You like irony now too?”

“Irony tastes good. Like sausage.”

A: Pattern!!! You goof. I love this line.

P: Honor love our special little Cryptic. He makes me laugh so much when we see him in Shadesmar.

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 83, in which Venli does some very, very cool things.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, and hopes that summer will someday arrive. The rain is getting a bit much, this far into June.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. She’s thoroughly enjoying the Yankees so far this season. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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