Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Eighty-Five

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Hey there, my friends! Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread—and welcome to one of my personal favorite chapters! This is another in the Bridge Four sequence, where Kaladin’s arc (and more) is seen from the perspective of various B4 members. This week, it’s Dabbid. Prepare for a wonderful combination of heartbreak, pathos, and joy as we see pieces of several character arcs touching.

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.

Heralds: Vedeledev (Vedel). Edgedancers (Abrasion, Progression). Loving/Healing. Role: Healer.

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

A: Vedel is pretty obvious: Her Edgedancer heals both Kaladin and Teft, and it’s a beautiful thing. Chana is maybe a little less obvious, but I think Dabbid as Guard in this chapter is pretty solid. I wonder… could he become a Dustbringer, but a good and loyal one instead of the selfish, untrustworthy type like Malata?

Icon: Bridge Four. This is used for any chapter where the primary POV is a member of Bridge Four, except for Kaladin; this week, it’s Dabbid.

Epigraph:

Why would I want to remember?

A: Just a reminder that this harks back to last week’s epigraph, where Kalak notes that Midius (a.k.a. Hoid, Wit) had told him he could use Investiture to avoid so much memory loss. For Hoid, that’s obviously a good idea: He has goals and plans, and he needs a functioning mind and memory to make progress. For the Heralds… maybe not so much? Kalak, at least, remembers mostly that he wants to get out of this system, and obviously has no desire to remember all the centuries of torture or the more recent centuries of guilt.

P: Yeah, he has a lot I’m sure he wants to forget. I can sympathize.

A: I sometimes want to smack the Heralds around a bit for abandoning their task, but at the same time… yikes. I honestly can’t blame them for buckling. It’s been a long and painful time.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dabbid
WHEN: 1175.4.9.2 (Or thereabouts, given that this isn’t the official Karen-Ahlstrom-approved timeline. In any case, this is just a few minutes past chapter 83, after Dabbid had brought the guards their lunch to distract them from Venli’s extraction of Lift from her cell.)
WHERE: Urithiru

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

RECAP: Dabbid reflects on the origin of his disabilities and the various troubles it has caused him over the years, resulting in his choice to let everyone think he was mute from battle shock rather than risk the truth. Meanwhile, he leads Rlain to the point where they agreed to meet Lift, then takes both of them to Kaladin’s hiding place. With great effort, Lift drives out the infection and heals Kaladin’s physical wounds, then defends Dabbid’s choice to remain silent even though Rlain sees it as a form of lying. Finally the two men turn to replacing Kaladin’s blankets and making him comfortable. Lift surprises them by healing Teft as well, and then Kaladin wakes up. Dabbid takes great joy in having been able to help rescue Kaladin despite all his limitations.

Chapter Chat—Dabbid Different

A: I’ll say right up front that this chapter gets me in the feels every single time I read it. I have a 21-year-old son with Down Syndrome, and… well, I really see a lot of him in Dabbid’s thoughts. So yeah, I get emotional. You have been warned. (Also, yes, I may be using the word “disability” and possibly a few others that are currently considered politically incorrect. If a term is clinically accurate, I see no reason not to use it clinically.)

P: I don’t personally see anything wrong with the word disability, though I know that some do. I’m not officially disabled but not for lack of trying.

“Different.” He liked that word. It didn’t try to pretend. Something was different about him.

A: I like it too—partly because it’s honest, and partly because “different” doesn’t mean “bad” or “unacceptable” or what have you; it just means… different. I would love to have people realize this more. Most of us learn to adapt our behavior and thought patterns to social/cultural norms, but it’s harder for some than others, and some are never able to do it because of limitations beyond their control. That doesn’t make them useless or stupid or of no value; it just means they function differently. Dabbid thinks about some of the “differences”—delayed and slurred speech, difficulty with math, trouble tracking lengthy instructions, inability to process social expectations rapidly, and so on. They make him “Dabbid different.” Depending on my mood, it either makes me chuckle or makes me angry, because there are a lot of people who have one or another of those limitations; it’s just that the majority are able to cover it up better than they can. Sigh.

The surgeons hadn’t been able to say the reason. They said some people are just different. He was always going to be like this. The midwife, when she heard about him later, said the cord was wrapped around his neck when he was born. Maybe that was why.

A: Of course it is. He wouldn’t understand it, but I’d assume the surgeons would if they knew: Brain damage from oxygen starvation is a very real thing, and could happen to anyone in various circumstances. It’s just that for him, it happened at birth, so no one has ever known what he’d have been like without that damage. (Hopefully we’ll find out some day…)

It had gotten worse when his mother died. People had become meaner on that day.

A: GRRRRRRR. They do, too. Someone like Dabbid, if unprotected, becomes everything from a target for bullying to a scapegoat for the sins of others, and worse. (When my son was a toddler, there was a local incident in which a middle-schooler murdered a classmate with DS. He wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone, so he picked the kid “no one would miss.” The expendable one. Yes, I get pretty protective of my son and anyone like him. No, I never trusted that school system with him.) In Dabbid’s case, he got shoved around a lot, ended up doing laundry for some lighteyed officer or soldier, and then got blamed for that guy’s wife’s infidelity. The expendable one. We don’t know whether he was accused of rape or whether she just claimed it was him instead of revealing the identity of her lover, but my money is on the former. I don’t really see a lighteyed lady admitting to having an affair with Dabbid. So off to Bridge Four he was sent.

P: This just infuriates me. He’s blamed and he doesn’t even have the capacity to defend himself. Not that it would help if he did, really. He’s a darkeyes and he would never be believed over a lighteyes. Grrr.

A: Infuriating is the word. “He’d explained that they were wrong…” and as you say, when the lighteyed lady says one thing and the darkeyed “idiot” says another, you know who wins. Makes me want to bite something.

He hadn’t ever really lost [his battle shock]. Who could? People clapping sounded like bow strings snapping. Footfalls sounded like hooves. Or he’d hear singing, like the Parshendi, and he was there again. Dying.

A: That’s pretty brutal. Understandable, sadly.

P: PTSD is brutal, yes. And those triggers would render him helpless to his past trauma, for sure.

He didn’t like it when people used the word “stupid” for the way he was. People called one another stupid when they made mistakes. Dabbid wasn’t a mistake. He could make mistakes. Then he was stupid. But not always. He couldn’t think fast like others. But that made him different, not stupid. Stupid was a choice.

A: Hear! Hear! I don’t even have anything to add, just those things to emphasize. No person is a mistake. And no honest mistake or ignorance is “stupid.” Stupid is when you choose to do something… stupid.

P: I love this! Stupid definitely means something other than differently abled. It’s a conscious choice to do something stupid, and the most able people are capable of it.

In the past, his speech had told people he was different. […] So… with Bridge Four… he’d just kept on not speaking.

That way they wouldn’t know. That way they wouldn’t realize he was Dabbid different. He could just be Bridge Four different.

A: Oh, my heart.

P: ALL of the feels.

So today, he tried not to think about his mistakes. He tried not to think about how if he’d been stronger, he could have helped Kaladin fight. He tried not to think about how he’d lied to the others by pretending he couldn’t speak. He tried to focus on what he could do to help.

A: What can I say but… Well done, Dabbid! Never let mistakes of the past keep you from trying to do the right thing in the present.

P: It has nothing to do with being stronger or being smarter, and everything to do with doing what’s right when you’re needed. He’s the only one there to help Kaladin, so he does what he needs to do and wins the day because he was brave in the face of insecurity and indecision. Go, Dabbid!

Dabbid led them the rest of the way. He felt more anxious now. Was he too late? Had Kaladin died while he was gone? Was he too slow to help? Too different to have realized earlier what he should have done? […]

[…] Kaladin. On the floor, wrapped in blankets. Thrashing. Still alive.

Still alive.

A: The relief in his thoughts is palpable. He’d thought earlier that he was sure going to Rlain for help was not a mistake—but there’s a real fear that Kaladin might have died because he didn’t think sooner about doing that. Poor guy. (I can’t even imagine the guilt he’d feel if that had been true!)

P: His insecurity makes me want to hug him. Seriously, he’s too precious, our Dabbid.

[Lift] furrowed her brow and bit her lip. Dabbid did the same. Maybe it would help.

A: Oh, crikey. I just want to hug him. He’ll gladly do anything to help!

P: Lol! Hugs! This was my thought on the last section!

“First off, why have you been keeping quiet when you could speak?” […]

“I’m sorry,” Dabbid said softly. “I just… didn’t want you to know I’m… different.” […]

“Touched,” Lift said. […] “It happens.”

“It happens,” Dabbid agreed. “It happened to me. But you didn’t know. So you couldn’t treat me like I was… wrong. You know about being extra different, right Rlain?”

“I guess I do,” he said. “You shouldn’t feel that you have to hide what you are, though.”

A: I had a hard time not quoting the whole conversation here… I waver between wanting to smack Rlain, and wanting to hug him. He’s so big and disapproving, and it seems unfair to get on Dabbid’s case for finally telling the truth about his situation. At the same time, Rlain seems to really not see it as a problem. “You’re just you, so be you” sort of thing, which is really pretty cool. I’d like him to remember that he spent a lot of time pretending to be a parshman (to be fair, he was spying, so lying is expected). Beyond that, I can’t help thinking that while it was hard to be the oddball, he didn’t really have a choice about everyone recognizing that he was different: carapace and red-and-black-marbled skin are hard to hide. For Dabbid, it was less about hiding and more about just… not telling. Lift seems to get that in a way that Rlain does not.

P: Yeah, Dabbid has to remind Rlain that he knows about being different and in doing so, hopes that Rlain understands why he didn’t “speak up” sooner.

“Becoming Radiant will heal me, because my brain isn’t supposed to be like this. I was hurt after I was born. The tower said so.”

A: This was so exciting to read. I have to admit, at this point I began to think that maybe Dabbid would be the new Bondsmith! (Quick disclaimer: I do not think Dabbid would have been a better choice than Navani. Her understanding of physics, mechanics, and fabrials really makes her the ideal Bondsmith for the Sibling; they can do far more together than pretty much any other combination except maybe Rushu. But I do want to see Dabbid get a spren, and the sooner the better.)

P: This was exciting to read! Dabbid doesn’t see his different state as normal for him. So if he could bond a spren, perhaps he would be healed of the injury he suffered at birth.

A: YES. So much of healing in the Cosmere is self-perception, and he sees his disability as an injury, not an identity—meaning it can be healed.

Dabbid wasn’t Radiant. He wasn’t brave. He wasn’t smart. But today he hadn’t been stupid either.

Once, Kaladin had pulled Dabbid out of Damnation itself. It felt good to return that act of heroism with a small one of his own.

P: No, Dabbid… it was a huge act of heroism on your part. HUGE.

A: For. Sure. I mean… think about how much courage it took to reveal that he was “Dabbid different” instead of “Bridge Four different.” Add the risks he ran in speaking to Rlain, in creating the distraction for Venli, in leading two other people to Kaladin’s hiding place—not to mention the past weeks of smuggling food and supplies up here, and… no, it wasn’t a small act of heroism at all. He wasn’t Radiant yet, but he was both brave and smart today, and one day we’ll see him Radiant too.

Bruised and Broken

He could just be Bridge Four different.

Then everyone had started getting spren. Except him. And then the tower had started talking to him.

A: “Bridge Four different” sure seems to involve trauma… But of course it does. Things are different these days, but back in the day when the bridges were cruel punishment and Bridge Four a virtual death sentence… I sometimes forget how awful it was back then, because I think of Bridge Four as the people who form the core of the Windrunners, not the dead-end bridge crew.

I wonder why none of the windspren chose Dabbid. I can only think that he has a different orientation, that instead of being a Windrunner, he’ll become… what? I could actually see him as the third Bondsmith, or the only human Willshaper, or… Hmm. The fact that the Sibling saw his potential and spoke to him says something; I’m just not sure what it says!

P: Perhaps he’ll bond one of Sja’Anat’s children. Some spren will surely want to bond him. He’s Dabbid, after all.

A: I was wondering about Sja’Anat’s children too. I’m not sure I see Dabbid as a Truthwatcher like Renarin and Rlain, but I’m assuming she’s probably working with other spren by now as well.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

“Storms,” LIft said, stepping over. Kaladin’s face was coated in sweat. His teeth were gritted, his eyes squeezed shut. He flailed in his blankets, growling softly. […] While there were scabs all along Kaladin’s side, the worst part was the infection. It spread across the skin from the cut. A violent redness. Hateful, covered in little rotspren.

Lift stepped back, wrapping her arms around herself. “Storms.”

A: Somehow this is so powerful, watching Lift’s reaction through Dabbid’s eyes. Seeing Lift step backward without even a smart remark makes it… so fearful.

P: She didn’t even react this way when going to heal Gawx. She just did it. Though her Abilities are definitely affected now.

Lift held out her hand, palm forward, and burst alight with power. Stormlight rose from her skin like white smoke, and she knelt. She shied away as Kaladin thrashed again, then she lunged forward and pressed her hand to his chest.

The redness immediately retreated, and the rotspren fled, as if they couldn’t stand the presence of her touch. Kaladin’s back arched. He was hurting!

Then he collapsed into the blankets. Lift pressed her other hand against his side, and the wound continued to heal, the redness fleeing.

A: The visual imagery here is so powerful. Again, watching Lift heal through Dabbid’s (very perceptive) eyes makes it just that much more highly charged. (Of course it’s Lifelight, not Stormlight, but Dabbid has no way of knowing that. Come to think of it, Lift probably doesn’t know either.) I love her determination.

P: She’s so young, yet so strong to do such wondrous things with her talents. And she’s so selfless. Storms, I adore our little Radiant.

A: I sometimes wonder how I’d feel about her if I were there, and I suspect I’d find her a little grating. But… wow, every time she does something like this, I can only love her. And she does it a lot. She really lives her Ideals of remembering the forgotten and listening to the ignored, and she simply cannot stand seeing anyone hurt. I went back to look something up, and was reminded that she once told Nale “I wanted to be like you, once. Didn’t work out. Wasn’t even like being alive.” She just cares.

P: She does care. And not just because certain people might be important but because she just cares about everyone. She doesn’t think anyone should be stepped on or overlooked or forgotten. She sees everyone as having value and that makes her amazing.

“That… was hard,” she whispered. “Even harder than when I saved Gawx.”

A: So… is that because he had a single slit wound, so that even though he was very nearly dead, it was more straightforward than this complexity of stabs, infection, bruises, and delirium? Or is it more due to the effect of the tower’s protections? (I’m guessing the latter, because IIRC Kaladin also had to work harder to make Adhesion function.) Or does her Progression work because she’s using Lifelight instead of Stormlight?

P: I personally think it’s a little of both. Gawx had only just been injured and wasn’t fighting the rotspren and the infection like Kaladin was. But also the tower has affected Lift’s abilities and so that made it difficult to fight through, as well.

A: Oh, I forgot about the immediacy of the injury—that sometimes affects it too. But yeah, it’s probably most reasonable to figure that it’s a combination of all those things.

“My awesomeness—the slippery part—doesn’t work anymore. But this does. Wonder why.”

A: I know we’ve talked about this before, but… let’s do it again. Why not? Raboniel claims that Adhesion (the upper Surge circled in blue below) is “not a true Surge” because it is of Honor alone, and the true Surges have to be of both Honor and Cultivation. But now we see that Progression (the lower blue-circled Surge) works as well. Does that mean Progression is of Cultivation alone? Could it be that Adhesion is mostly of Honor and Progression is mostly of Cultivation, but the tower’s inverted protections really only work well when the two Investitures are more balanced?

I do find it interesting that the Surges that still work aren’t actually opposite one another on the diagram; the symmetry fails for some reason. It’s symmetrical on the horizontal axis, but not the vertical. Hmm. This seems like it should be significant, but I don’t know how.

“What in storming Damnation are you fools doing?” a gruff voice said from behind them.

Dabbid froze. Then turned around slowly. Lift was perched on the end of Teft’s shelf . . . She was pulling her hand back from Teft’s exposed foot, Stormlight curling off her body.

Teft, in turn, was pushing himself up to sit.

Teft was awake. […]

“What?” Lift said. “Wasn’t I supposed to heal the stinky one too?”

A: Bahahahahah! Of course she healed him, just as soon as she got some food. I also love how absolutely unexpected it was, even though I say “of course she healed him.” Honestly, I did not see that coming; to suddenly hear Teft’s voice and realize that she was able to help him, even though he wasn’t injured… WOW. What a lovely shock that was.

P: And she just assumed. He was unconscious, so she got a little food in her and thought, why not? I’ll heal this one, too.

“You can wake the Radiants?” Rlain asked, rushing over and seizing Lift by the arms. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“Huh?” she said. “Look, shellhead, I’ve been in a storming cage. […] I don’t know what’s been goin’ on in the tower. What’s wrong with the others?”

A: Nothing to do here but laugh. Her ability is (or seems to be) an answer to their burning need to heal/wake the Radiants, so you can see why Rlain wishes they’d known this before. At the same time… well, it’s not like she had a chance to try it out, much less talk to them, before Venli pulled her out! (There was a brief debate in the beta as to whether “shellhead” was unacceptably racist; on the whole, it seems to me like Lift instinctively “hitting back” at someone who was being unreasonable toward her.)

P: Yes, how could she have known that the Radiants were down? She was captured right away and stuck in a cell. She has no clue about what’s going on in the tower. So educate her, Rlain!

A: Related… I wonder if she is uniquely able to waken a Radiant because she’s using Lifelight instead of Stormlight. Did Kaladin try pushing Stormlight into Teft at the beginning?

Spren and Shadesmar

“My spren vanished, said he was going to try to get help, and I ain’t heard from him since. Bet he joined the Voidbringers, storming traitor.”

A: Heh. She’s had such a habit of calling him “Voidbringer” she still does it even when she doesn’t believe it. If she’d known what was going on in the tower, she’d have been worried sick about him, but as it is, he just vanished. Bummer. (I had to go look to see what happened to him. Apparently it was much the same as with Syl: He got too far from Lift and couldn’t maintain functionality. At least, Dalinar says that they found her spren once the tower was restored, and I don’t for a second believe he actually tried to abandon her.) Poor Wyndle; we don’t hear from him, so we don’t know what it was like for him, but I’m betting it was rather frightening.

P: I’m sure it was frightening for him, the poor little vine. He had no clue what was happening either, so he would have just gotten… lost. Poor Wyndle.

Brilliant Buttresses

“Funny. [Fused] need to eat. Suppose that means they poop, right?”

“I suppose,” Rlain said, sounding disapproving.

“Ain’t that a kick in the bits?” Lift asked. “You get made immortal; you can live through centuries. You can fly, or walk through rock, or something like that. But you still gotta piss like everyone else.”

“I don’t see the point of this conversation,” Rlain said.

A: I’m not sure which I find funnier—the oh-so-typical Lift observations on… earthy subjects, or Rlain’s stiffness about it.

P: I’m not sure which is funnier, either… this scene or the fact that Brandon wrote this scene. It’s hilarious, and all the more so because he wrote it!

A: His inner 13-year-old does break through sometimes… mostly when writing Lift. Or Alcatraz.

 

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 86, in which we go back to Venli in all her pre-storm-summoning arrogance, though there is a brief moment of hope before she squashes it.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids. Summertime, and the living is easy… At least it’s finally warmed up!

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. And she’s fully enjoying the fact that the Yankees have the best record in the league right now. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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