Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Ninety-One

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Hey, it’s reread day! A fan-fave chapter this week, as we return to the Bridge Four novella. Part Four has only one POV from Kaladin: the nightmare that Wit disrupted. The rest of his arc is told from the perspective of various members of Bridge Four. This week, it’s the newly-wakened Teft, reflecting on his progress and what it means to be Bridge Four. We also learn more about his traumatic past, as he sees it from a new angle, and watch as they work through various plans of action.

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 there are references to the real identity of Thaidakar in the Epigraph comments, so if you’ve still avoided the spoiler, avoid it again by skipping that paragraph.

Heralds: Jezrien (Jezerezeh, Yaezir, Ahu), Herald of Kings. Windrunners (Adhesion, Gravitation). Protecting/Leading. Role: King.

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

A: The obvious connections for Jezrien are the two Windrunners, as well as the protecting/leading attributes demonstrated by all four members of Bridge Four. Vedel is just as obvious this time, with her Edgedancer present and actively healing people. Arguably, she also represents Teft’s inner healing.

Icon: Bridge Four, this time for Teft’s POV.

Epigraph:

And so, I’ll die.

Yes, die. If you’re reading this and wondering what went wrong—why my soul evaporated soon after being claimed by the gemstone in your knife—then I name you idiot for playing with powers you only presume to understand.

A: Heh. I have no idea whether Kelek knows who is behind the actual attempt being contemplated, but as far as Mraize goes, I’ll cheerfully concur with Kelek’s estimation. He is playing with powers he only presumes to understand, and on a bet he’s come up with this scheme as a way to win favor with Kelsier rather than being under specific orders. I wonder what Kelsier would think about the idea. Creeped out by the idea of being trapped in a gemstone and then fading to the Beyond? Or perfectly happy with the idea, as long as it’s someone else’s Cognitive Shadow being trapped?

Chapter Recap

WHO: Teft
WHEN: 1175.4.9.4 (Technically, “a few days” after Chapter 85, but probably relatively accurate. The timeline has this as the same day as the Voice of Lights moment, and also the day Kalak arrives in Lasting Integrity.)
WHERE: Urithiru, Kaladin’s hiding place

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

RECAP: Teft recalls waking up, his assumption that he’d OD’d again, and his relief on discovering that this time, his condition is not his own fault. Those gathered (including Teft’s spren) evaluate the situation and try to determine a course of action. In the end, they decide to wait and watch, with Rlain attempting to get in touch with Navani as one of the servants who deliver her food and water.

Chapter Chat — To Be Bridge Four

When he’d woken up naked and sickly, he’d assumed he’d gone back to the moss. In that moment, he’d hated himself.

Then he’d seen Dabbid and Rlain. When he saw their joy—more heard it in Rlain’s case—Teft knew he couldn’t truly hate himself. … The others loved him. So, whatever he’d done, he would get up and make it right.

A: This was such a beautiful passage. The Third Ideal has worked on him in much the same way it worked on Kaladin: When you determine to protect even the one you hate, you find the hatred fading. So even before he knew the truth, he was able to accept that a bad decision—even multiple bad decisions—didn’t make him irredeemable or worthless.

P: While it’s heartbreaking for him to think that he was responsible for his state of unconsciousness, it is heartening to see the change in his attitude when he realizes how happy the others are to see him awake.

A: Right? I know it’s not always the case for an addict to respond to knowing other people care about him, but I love that for Teft, for Bridge Four, it does help.

Then he’d found out the truth. He hadn’t broken. … For once in his storming excuse for a life, he had been kicked to the gutter and woken up with a headache—and it hadn’t been due to his own weakness. … Almost seven months with no moss.

A: His reaction is… wow. So believable, and so incredibly touching. He’s not even “proud of himself” in the normal sense; he’s just glad that he’s still clear, and glad he didn’t betray his friends, even though he realizes they wouldn’t see it as betrayal. Being Bridge Four, almost as much as his Windrunner Ideals, has made him a different man.

P: It really has. And being Radiant and saying his Ideals. He can see that he has worth and that’s something he hasn’t felt in many, many years.

Never count those years, Teft, he told himself as Dabbid brought him some soup. Count the ones you’ve been with friends.

A: I don’t even have anything to say about it; I just love this paragraph. Leave the past behind.

P: It’s nice to see him realize that he’s worthy of love.

They hadn’t pushed Dabbid too hard on the fact that he could talk. It wasn’t a lie, keeping quiet like he had. Not a betrayal. They each fought their own personal Voidbringers, and they each chose their own weapons. When it had come time to face the storm, Dabbid had done right by Teft and Kaladin. That was what mattered. That was what it meant to be Bridge Four.

A: To be Bridge Four means to do right by one another. I really love his phrasing, how each of them choose their own weapons for fighting their personal Voidbringers. It’s a fantastic way to view coping mechanisms, especially when you know it is a coping mechanism.

P: So many of us seek alternative coping mechanisms, healthy or no, just to deal with what’s in our minds. So it’s nice to see Teft acknowledge Dabbid’s coping mechanism for what it is. And to accept it.

Grim days he’d awakened to. Almost wished they’d left him in a storming coma. What good was he at fixing any of this?

Phendorana glanced at him, sensing his emotions. He pointed his spoon at her and winked in thanks. No, he wasn’t going to be down on himself. He’d sworn an Ideal.

A: Oh, Teft. I can’t even.

P: I’m glad he remembered his Ideal in this moment. He sorely needs reminding of those words from time to time, I think. Perhaps we all do.

“We’re all basically imprisoned,” Teft said. “Every storming one of us.”

“No,” Kaladin said. “We five are free.”

A: Aside from being a little disappointed that he didn’t include Phendorana in his count… You can see both sides. Teft is right in that they are trapped in the tower, and the two Windrunners can’t move beyond this room without extreme care. At the same time, those in this room are hidden; the Radiants still have some of their powers, and the non-Radiants can move around with relative impunity. The biggest difference is one of attitude, I think, and it reminds me of the early days. Bridge Four was technically a bunch of slaves to Highprince Sadeas, but once they came together as a unit—training, sharing food, treating the injured, etc.—they were in a larger sense free. They were able to choose their attitudes, and in that they could choose their behavior. Yes, they still had to run the bridges, but their unity made them much less imprisoned than many of the soldiers. (I feel like I’m not saying this very well, but my head is congested and my brain doesn’t “word” properly right now.)

Anyhow… they do have some freedom, and they need to figure out how to use it to greatest advantage.

P: Well said, despite your brain fog.

“I don’t want any of you to take this the wrong way,” Kaladin said, not opening his eyes. “I’m not giving up. I’m not broken. No more than usual. … I have to at least ask. Is it possible my father is correct? I’m starting to worry about what we might cause people to do if we keep fighting.”

They grew quiet. And storm Teft if it wasn’t a valid question. One not enough soldiers asked themselves. Right here, right now, should I be fighting? Is there a better way?

A: I’m so glad this question was brought up. It is a valid question, and it requires careful judgment. Right here, right now. That’s the question. There is a time for fighting. There is also a time for other solutions.

P: This is something that Lirin doesn’t seem to understand, with all of his criticism of Kaladin’s path. There is a time to be a soldier and fight for what is right. For what is just. For your loved ones and friends. To triumph over evil. “A time to kill, and a time to heal,” though in the opposite order in their case.

A: The saddest part about the father/son conflict is that Lirin does acknowledge that there is a need for fighting. He doesn’t want his son doing it, because he’s seen too much of what that life does to people’s mental states. And also, of course, because Kaladin is a promising surgeon. But also, Lirin has seen the worst of what can happen to the people around those who keep fighting at the wrong time, and his judgment is clouded by his own trauma. Still and all, it’s Lirin’s influence that keeps Kaladin and his team from just charging in unprepared right now, and that’s a very good thing. They at least try to consider all the options, and that’s also a very good thing.

Interestingly, this is where Teft seems to change the subject…

“Did Sigzil ever explain to you boys how I got my father killed?”

A: Well, that was unexpected.

P: What a way to grab everyone’s immediate attention.

“It haunted me for a long time. But ultimately, you know what? You know Kelek’s own storming truth? Because of what my parents did and taught me, I was able to save you, Kal. They won in the end. They were right in the end.” …

“We can’t storming see the future, like Renarin can. We’ve gotta do what we think is best, and be fine with that. It’s all a man can do.”

A: There’s a lot of wisdom there. As he said before, you need to ask the questions. And as he says, it might not be the time to fight, but there are some things that do need to be done. So now they have to figure out what those things are and how to do them.

P: And he’s right. He was given the knowledge for how to save Kaladin, and how to help him heal when he desperately needed to heal.

A: For such a time as this…

“Maybe we don’t need to fight, but we’ve got to get [the Radiants] out. I don’t like the smell of what you’ve been telling me. Lined up like that, watched over? The enemy is planning something for our friends.”

A: The really sad thing is that the enemy is indeed hoping to experiment on them, but until Navani makes her breakthrough, they’re safe. Once Navani is forced to reveal her anti-Voidlight production to Raboniel, and anti-Stormlight is made, the Radiants and their spren are doomed. (Well, except for the interventions of Our Heroes…)

P: I so feel for Navani, who was trying so hard to find something to help her cause and, though she does in a sense, it backfires on her.

A: It’s heartbreaking.

“Look, I like that we’re exploring ideas … but we need to take time to consider all our options. … For now, we wait. If we have to, we will break in and rescue the Radiants. But first we need to recover, we need to plan, and we need to find a way to contact the queen. I’d like her input.”

A: And I like his thinking. For all it’s a different approach than he’s taken before (can you say “Side Carry”?) it’s really much more appropriate to a Windrunner and the attributes of protecting and leading. Going off half-cocked because “we have to do something!!!” is not effective, and particularly not in this kind of tightly constrained circumstance. There’s a time for action, certainly, but while they can, they need to prepare themselves and regain some strength. Thank Cultivation for Lift’s healing that only depends on getting her enough food!

P: Seriously, where would they be without Lift? Bless that child.

Teft determined he’d just have to be ready to act. Take that next storming step. You couldn’t change the past, only the future.

A: Careful there, sarge. You’re starting to sound like a Bondsmith! Heh. But really, that’s all they can do. Plan as best they can, but be ready.

P: Yup, keep taking that next step, all of you. And there is no changing the past, he’s so right about that. You have to keep moving forward and make what changes you can along the way.

He shifted as Phendorana poked him. He looked over and caught her grinning as well.

“Fine,” he muttered. “You were storming right. You have always been right.”

Teft was worth saving.

A: Oh, my heart.

P: Worth saving, worth loving, worth living. I’m so glad he realized this now, considering what’s to come.

A: So much this. It makes the later… events… more painful and more lovely.

Spren and Shadesmar

“I’m just glad to hear your voice,” Kaladin said, taking a bowl of soup from Dabbid. “Wish I could hear hers…”

His spren. He’d lost her somehow, in the fighting when he’d gotten wounded.

A: Ironic to read this right after the chapter where the honorspren were declaiming about Kaladin almost killing his spren. I can’t help wondering if there’s any similarity between then and now, in terms of the effect on the spren.

P: Yes, it would be a shame to liken this situation to a Radiant nearly breaking his Oaths. Though to be fair to Kaladin, he didn’t know he was about to break his Oaths in WoR.

A: I hope the effect is too different for them to misinterpret! Though we know she recovers very thoroughly before the end of the book, so there’s that.

… Phendorana sat primly on the edge of his bench. He’d needed to reach to summon her, and she said she didn’t remember anything that had happened since he went unconscious. She’d been… sort of unconscious herself.

A: Again, how similar would this be to nearly breaking Ideals and then recovering? Or is it more like when a Radiant dies? We don’t really have any evidence that either case necessitates unconsciousness; Syl is the only example we have of either one, and she’s kind of a unique character.

P: She’s definitely unique. And of course, we have little else to go on.

Phendorana manifested as an older human woman, with mature features and no-nonsense Thaylen-style clothing, a skirt and blouse. Her hair blew free as if in a phantom wind.

A: I’ll admit, Phendorana always surprises me a litte. The first time we saw her back in Oathbringer, Syl talked about being scolded by her, and seemed a little intimidated by her. Then we learned that Syl is actually older than Phendorana, appearances notwithstanding. Then, despite her no-nonsense clothing and manner in general, we see her and Teft grinning, poking, and winking at one another, and all of a sudden I’m surprised by her humor. Shouldn’t be. Am.

Oaths Spoken, Powers Awakened

“Your Surgebinding still works?” …

“Not as well as it did before the last fight. But I can draw in Stormlight, stick things together.”

“If you can Surgebind,” Phendorana said, “your bond is intact. … If you can get to where you lost her, you should be fine.”

“Should be,” Kaladin said softly…

A: Poor Kaladin. While it’s reassuring to know that the bond is intact, I find myself wondering if there wouldn’t have been some way for him to sneak back to the vicinity of the well—not right there, but close enough for her to find him. Seems like he should have at least considered the possibility. But if he did that, it would mess up the narrative. (Also, if they’d passed this info on to Lift, might she have been able to go through the ventilation systems to the last place she had contact with Wyndle and pulled him through?)

P: I have no doubt that she could have. As for Kaladin, he’s far too recognizable to go skulking about in public places.

A: Yeah, that’s probably true. And unlike Lift, he’s a little large for most of the ventilation shafts.

[T]hey’d found that if Lift didn’t show up and do her little Regrowth thing to him every ten hours or so, he’d start to slip back into a coma. Something was definitely strange about that kid.

A: Bahahaha! You have no idea… But that reminds me of a question I’ve never had the chance to ask. Have there in times past been other Edgedancers (or Radiants from other orders, like Truthwatchers) who used Lifelight? Back in the early days, was it possible to use both? Or were the Knights Radiant always just an Honor/Stormlight thing? Is Lift the first Radiant to use Lifelight? It doesn’t seem likely, but… it could be. Thoughts?

P: I mean, how many Edgedancers had the desire or the opportunity to visit the Nightwatcher? And if they had, how many would have attracted Cultivation’s attention?

“I can wake them,” Lift said. “But they ain’t gonna be in fightin’ shape. And I’ll need a whole bunch of food. Like… an entire chull’s worth.”

A: ::gigglesnort:: Yes, indeed, they’d need to smuggle some serious eats in there to make that happen!

P: Girl’s gonna need to gorge herself!

He thought about dropping hundreds of feet, not knowing if his powers would reactivate before he hit bottom. “I’d try it, and prove it can be done. The rest of you could watch and see if I fly up in the distance. If I do, you could follow.”

A: The thought is appreciated, Teft, but that’s a terrible plan… (And of course, at this point in a first read, we don’t know that that’s exactly what Kaladin will do in his despair and his desperation to save his father…)

P: And how many of the unconscious Windrunners would be willing to do the same? And what about the non-Windrunner Radiants? Definitely a half-assed plan.

A: An accurate description.

Humans

“That ardent in the monastery deserves credit. More than we gave him when we visited, Teft,”

“Most people want to be helpful,” Teft said. “Even if they need a nudge now and then.”

A: Do they? Maybe. It’s a common enough sentiment. In this case, I’d suggest that the ardent does want to help, but that it’s at least in part because Kaladin Stormblessed is their hope for any kind of future. (My inner cynic to the fore…) This goes back to my long-standing if unoriginal theory that we all do what we want most. In which case, I still have to give credit to the ardent for taking a personal risk for the hope of the entire tower, so… there’s that.

P: He does help, but we definitely don’t know his motivations. Teft obviously thinks that they’re good.

“No news from the queen,” Rlain said. “Lift managed to talk to one of the scholars, and she says Navani has been isolated for over two weeks now. She’s imprisoned, forced to sleep in the scholars’ rooms by herself.”

A: One day less than three weeks, according to the 17th Shard timeline, which I guess means that any of the times I’ve said “I think this ought to be longer,” I was wrong. It couldn’t be longer without pushing this over the three-week mark, and I’m pretty sure the scholars are well aware of the calendar.

“Teft and I used to think,” Phendorana said, “that the group who visited Teft’s hometown—the Envisagers, they called themselves—were servants of some important lighteyes in Kholinar. Maybe they overheard what people like Amaram were planning, and ran with it. Only…”

“…Only that was forty-five years ago … Everything [Shallan] found indicated they’d started less than ten years ago.”

A: It’s entirely possible that the origins of the Sons of Honor came from the Envisagers, rather than the other way around. (Oddly enough, Sanderson implied in a Q&A that the Envisagers were a splinter from the Sons of Honor. Either he read the question backwards, assuming they were asking the same thing as Teft and Phendorana thought, or Shallan was very, very wrong about when the SoH started. I suppose it might have been a thing Kelek was working on 50 or 60 ago, and the Envisagers came from that effort?)

History, Geography, and Cultures

That was the oath he’d taken, and by the Almighty’s tenth name, he would keep it.

A: Maybe it’s on my mind a little more because I just saw the Tor article about Pseudo-Profanity as SFF Worldbuilding from last week? But every time I see the oath “by the Almighty’s tenth name” I’m reminded about how important it is to get these things right. This isn’t profanity, of course; it’s more in the nature of the most solemn vow you can take. Everything from “storms/storming” to “Nale’s nuts” falls on the spectrum of profanity, and IMO it works best for even the mildest of profanities or obscenities to fit into the worldview of the characters. But actual oaths, where the intent is to call something holy to witness—those have to make sense in-world. This is probably my favorite.

P: Absolutely not a profanity. I like it, too.

 

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 92, in which Venli and Raboniel have a very revealing—and simultaneously confusing—conversation.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids (well, two when the second one isn’t off at college). She’s about to dive into a completely different kind of editing project, which should be a lot of fun.

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. But during baseball season, her heart is in The Bronx Let’s go Yankees! Links to her other writings are available in her profile.

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