The Way of Kings Chapter 28 (D)
This early draft chapter corresponds to the published chapter 28. The first scene here was changed to Adolin’s point of view in the published book, and there are important changes throughout.
Dalinar stood with gauntleted hands clasped behind his back, watching two chulls follow their handler, stepping up onto the bridge. The wooden length spanned a distance between two piles of cut stones, a ‘chasm’ only a few feet deep. The chulls did as their handler instructed, whip-like antennae twitching, mandibles clacking, fist-sized black eyes glancing about. They pulled massive siege bridge, rolling on creaking wooden wheels.
“That’s much wider than the bridges Sadeas uses, I believe,” Dalinar noted to Teleb, who stood beside him.
“We have to accommodate the siege bridge, I’m afraid, Brightlord.”
Dalinar nodded absently. He had chosen to wear his Shardplate for this days’s inspections. The wasn’t uncommon; many Shardbearers found any excuse they could to wear the Plate and drink of its power. Plus, it did do the men good to see their Highprince in his strength.
The chulls continued forward. Their boulder-like shells were painted blue and yellow, the colors and pattern indicating the island their Reshi handlers were from. The bridge beneath them groaned forebodingly as the larger siege bridge rolled onto it. Around the staging area, soldiers turned to look. Even the dirty workmen cutting a latrine into the ground on the eastern side stopped and turned to watch.
The groans from the bridge grew louder. Then they became cracks. The handlers halted the chulls, glancing toward Teleb. The smaller bridge seemed close to shattering beneath them.
“Back them up,” Teleb said with a sigh. “Storm it, I was hoping…. Bah, we made the smaller bridge too thin by widening it. But if we make it thicker, it will get too heavy to carry.” He glanced at Dalinar. “I apologize for wasting your time, Brightlord. You are correct; this is akin to the ten fools.”
“It could work yet, Teleb. Perhaps if we redesign the siege bridges to be more narrow.”
“That could be very costly, Brightlord,” Teleb said hesitantly.
“And if it wins us one extra plateau The effort would be paid for in months.”
His forces had won that assault a few days back. It was the first plateau Dalinar had taken in two months, and it made him a hunger for more.
“Yes,” Teleb said, nodding. “I will speak with Lady Kalana. Perhaps she can devise a new design.”
Dalinar nodded. “Ladet,” he called, turning.
“Yes, Brightlord?” A short man stepped up to Dalinar. He wore thick, bundled robes of grey-blue that appeared terribly hot, but he didn’t seem to mind. Bald and bearded, Ladet’s hands were barely visible peeking out the ends of his long-sleeved robe. He had the appearance of a crab who was too small for his shell.
“I’ll visit the first battalion next,” Dalinar said to the ardent. He was an excellent bureaucrat, one of the best ardents Dalinar owned. He moved to send a messenger on ahead to fetch the first battalion’s soldierlord.
Dalinar nodded a dismissal to Teleb, then left the staging field and entered the camp proper, his Shardplate clanking as he walked. He drew attention; the Plate did a better job of that, even, than the pinion banner held by his standard-bearer. Dalinar went about unhelmeted, though the garrote of his armor was tall and thick, rising like a metal collar up to his chin. He nodded to soldiers who gathered to salute, though it wasn’t necessary, as he wasn’t marching to official battle.
Five years had let the soldiers dig in quite thoroughly. Barracks were painted with company and squad symbols, and the space between them was outfitted with firepits, stools, and old blankets draped between roofs to create shaded dining areas. Dalinar had forbidden none of this, though he had set guidelines to discourage sloppiness.
He had also approved most requests for families to be brought to the Shattered Plains. The officers already had their wives, of course—a good lighteyes officer was as a team, the man to command and fight, the woman to write, engineer, and manage camp. But Dalinar had approved even requests by darkeyed common soldiers to bring their families. How could Dalinar deny them? The warcamps were never attacked, so there was no danger. There was a cost for bringing, and the soldiers had to pay half. But if Dalinar was going to live in a luxurious near-palace, he figured that his men might as well have the comfort of their families.
And so it was that children played and ran through the camp. Women hung wash and painted glyphwards as men sharpened spears and polished breastplates. Barrack insides had been sectioned off by sheets to create rooms for different families.
How many will leave when this is over, Dalinar wondered as he walked. And how many will wish to stay? The second group would probably be the larger. The Shattered Plains were now, essentially, an Alethi province. Rings of barracks marking companies would become neighborhoods, the outer areas of shops would become markets, the hills to the west would become fields. Dalinar’s living complex might someday become city administration buildings.
What would this place look like in a century’s time? Would the ten warcamps grow together into one city, or would they remain as seven distinct burrows? Would those crater rims be reinforced and turned into real walls? With the gemhearts, there would always be food to feed a large population here, assuming they had Soulcasters.
That raised its own questions. What would happen to the scarcity of gemstones if the entirety of the Shattered Plains could be cultivated? Would that be an unimaginable boon of wealth, or would it mark a complete collapse of Roshar’s economy? What happened when the most scarce, yet most desirable, substance on the land suddenly became commonplace?
It was enough to leave him disturbed as he arrived at the first battalion’s practice field. The first and second companies were doing marching exercises—a skill that few outside of the military ever understood the essential nature of—while the third and fourth companies were running through battlefield formations.
Fighting on the Shattered plains was very different from regular warfare—something the Alethi had learned through some embarrassing losses. The Parshendi were squat, muscular, and wore that strange armor of theirs—not as covering as plate, but far more effective than an average spearman’s armor. Each one was like a heavy infantry troop, only far more mobile.
They always attacked in pairs, eschewing a regular line of battle. That should have made it easy for a disciplined line to defeat them. But each pair of Parshendi had such momentum—and was so remarkably well armored—that they could break through a shieldwall. Beyond that, their jumping skill could deposit entire ranks of Parshendi behind Alethi lines.
Above all of that, there was the way they moved… They had a coordination to them that Dalinar couldn’t explain. They fought like barbarian savages, only they didn’t at the same time. It was frustrating.
They’d found only two reliable ways to defeat the Parshendi. The first was to use a Shardblade. Effective, but impractical. Dalinar’s army only had two Blades, and while Shards incredibly powerful, they needed proper support to fight extended periods. If left alone, a Shardbearer’s enemies would trip him and beat on his back to create a break in the armor. In fact, the one time Dalinar had seen a full Shardbearer fall to an un-Sharded enemy, it had happened because the man had let himself get swarmed by spearmen who had broken his breastplate. Then an archer had slain him from fifty paces. Not exactly the heroic end most Shardbearers desired.
The other reliable way to fight Parshendi depended on quick-moving formations. Flexibility mixed with discipline: flexibility to respond to the unnatural way Parshendi fought, discipline to maintain lines and make up for individual Parshendi strength.
Havrom, First Batallionlord, waited for Dalinar with his companylords in a line. They saluted, right fists to right shoulders, knuckles outward.
Dalinar nodded to them. “Have my orders been see to, Brightlord Havrom?”
“Yes, Highprince.” Havrom was built like a tower, and wore a beard with long sides after the Horneater fashion. He had relatives among the peakfolk. “The men you wanted are waiting in the audience tent.”
“Well done,” Dalinar said. “First, however, I wish to inspect the troops.”
One company at a time, Dalinar had Havrom organize the men in ranks. He walked before them, nodding and inspecting their lines and uniforms. Dalinar knew that some of his soldiers grumbled at the level of discipline required of them—the warcamps were indeed becoming cities, and there was a natural tendency to relax protocol because of it.
Increasingly, Dalinar was coming to believe that in the face of comfort and luxury, the need for strict protocol was even more necessary.
You’re playing games, Dalinar, Sadeas’s voice whispered to him from the previous day. You’ve listened to these stories so much they’ve got your head full of pretend ideals about honor. Nobody ever really lived the way the Codes claim…
At the end, he picked a few random men, asked them their rank and if they had any specific requests for the army. None had any. Were they satisfied or just intimidated? Finally, Dalinar made his way to the audience tent. Inside, he found a group of ten soldiers on a bench. The berobed ardent Tadet and the uniformed Havrom followed him into the shade of the tent, but most of his honor guard remained outside.
The ten darkeyed soldiers stood and saluted.
“At ease,” Dalinar said, clasping plated hands behind his back. “You ten were the ones Sadeas interviewed during our last plateau assault?”
The men gave murmurs of confirmation.
“I want to know what he asked you,” Dalinar said, “and how you responded.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” said one of the men, speaking with a rural northern Alethi accent. “We didn’t tell him nothing.”
The others nodded vigorously.
“He’s an eel, and we knows it,” another added.
“He is a Highprince,” Dalinar said sternly, meeting that soldier’s eyes. “You will treat him with respect.”
The solder paled, then nodded quickly.
“What, specifically, did he ask you?” Dalinar asked.
“He wanted to know our duties in the camp,” one of the men said. “We’re grooms, you see.”
Each solider was trained in one or two separate duties beyond that of fighting. Having a group of soldiers who could care for horses—most darkeyes considered the animals exotic and strange—was useful, as it didn’t require bringing civilians on plateau assaults.
“He asked around,” said one of the men. “Or, well, his people did. Found out we were in charge of the King’s horse during the chasmfiend hunt.”
“But we didn’t say nothing,” the first soldier repeated. “Nothing to get you into trouble, sir. We’re not going to give that ee…er, that highprince Brightlord sir…the rope to hang you, sir.”
Dalinar closed his eyes, letting out a sigh. If they had acted this way around Sadeas, it would have been more implicating than the cut strap itself. He couldn’t fault their loyalty, but they acted as if they assumed he had done something wrong, and needed do defend him.
He opened his eyes. “Did any of you see a cut strap on the king’s saddle?”
The men looked at each other, shaking heads. “No, brightlord,” one of the men replied. “Like we told your scribes. If we’d seen it, we’d have changed it, right we would.”
The others nodded.
“Did anyone else handle the saddle?” Dalinar asked. Heads shook. “Did you see anyone suspicious around the saddle?” Again, heads shook.
“But brightlord,” one of the men added, “there was a lot of confusion that day, and a lot of people. Wasn’t a right regular plateau assault or nothing like that. And…well, who’d have thought that we’d need to protect the king’s saddle, of all things under the Halls?”
The others nodded.
Dalinar sighed again, nodding to the soldiers then leaving the tent. Outside, he turned to the short, Tadet. “Interview them separately,” Dalinar ordered softly. “See if you can tease specifics from them. Try to find out the exact words Sadeas used, and what their responses were.”
Dalinar glanced back at the tent. Adolin had been arguing with Dalinar more and more, and it was making him apprehensive. What was he doing, trusting a vision—likely caused by his own overtaxed mind—on something like this?
The thing was…he wanted to trust Sadeas. The older he got, the longer this war stretched, the more he wanted his friend back. Someone he could talk to as an equal, someone who understood. He and Sadeas had been that way, once.
Sadeas was a good man, deep inside. He protected Elhokar, he defended Gavilar’s vision for Alethkar, helping hold the highprinces together in the Vengeance Pact. He was an excellent general and a clever tactician. Dalinar—the very kingdom itself—needed Sadeas.
Dalinar wouldn’t be the one to spark war between them. He strode away from the first battalion, entering the camp proper again. He still had some time before his afternoon meeting with Highprince Yankler, and so he walked without any specific destination. His stormwardens said that the trend of spring would continue for a few more weeks at least, which was pleasant. He had grown tired of the lengthy summer they’d experienced before.
It was particularly pleasant to feel the cool breeze while walking in the Shardplate. The armor—excellent as it was at blocking sword hits—seemed to allow an unnatural amount of air to blow through its cracks and cool his skin. Perhaps that was wishful thinking, but was it impossible to believe? The Knights Radiant had designed gauntlets could feel and translucent helms. Why not a breastplate that passed on a cool breeze?
Shardblades and Shardplate. They baffled stormwardens and artifabrians alike. How was it that modern scholar could create wonders that the ancients had never imagined—pens that could communicate across great distances, pulleys that could raise enormous stones harnessing the power of rivers that were miles away—yet be so baffled by a Shardbearer’s equipment? Artifabrians insisted that current Alethi understanding of fabrials was far better than it had been during the Heraldic Epochs. And yet, Shardplate seemed belligerent proof that wasn’t true.
Dalinar continued to walk with his honor guard, passing to the rim of his warcamp. Unlike in other warcamps, there was no shantytown of merchants here. Merchants inside his cam were required to rent barracks from him and change them into storefronts. Either that, or move into the open camp outside. Many had chosen the former option, sharing space with other merchants, creating small markets. Dalinar passed one of these, the merchant standing out front, smiling disarmingly. He looked somewhat pale. He knew that Dalinar forbade forceful selling or making a disturbance.
“Runner, brightlord,” said Niter, head of the Cobalt Guard. Tan-faced, Niter bore a dark black beard, cut short. He was a lighteyes of very low rank, and had been with Dalinar for years. Niter nodded to the side, toward where a long-limbed messenger in red on brown was approaching. Yankler’s colors.
Dalinar’s guard intercepted the man, and Niter stepped forward to speak with him. The bodyguard could be overly suspicious at times, but that wasn’t a terribly undesirable trait in one of his profession.
Niter returned to Dalinar. “Apparently, Highprince Yankler will be unable to meet with you today as planned.”
Dalinar bit back a curse. “Let me speak to him.”
Reluctantly, Niter stepped aside. The spindly runner walked forward and dropped to one knee before Dalinar. “Brightlord.”
“Deliver your message.”
“Brightlord Yankler regrets that he is unable to attend you this day.”
“And did he offer another time to meet?”
“He regrets to say that he has grown too busy with other projects. But he would be happy to speak with you the king’s feast one evening.”
In public, where half the men nearby would be eavesdropping while the other half—likely Yankler himself, if history gave good precedent—would be drunk.
“I see,” Dalinar said. “And did he give a reason beyond his business that prohibits him from meeting me?”
“Brightlord,” the messenger said, growing uncomfortable. “He said that if you pressed, I should explain that he has spoken with Brightlord Roion, and feels he knows the nature of your inquiry well enough to give you a negative reply.”
It was the most forward rejection Dalinar had gotten. Dalinar took a deep breath, waving curtly for the messenger to withdraw. The man backed away, and Dalinar stood silent, sweating slightly in his Shardplate, trying to control his frustration.
A monarch is control, he thought, remembering of a quote from The Way of Kings. He provides stability. It is his commodity and his trade good. If he cannot control himself, then how can he seek to control the lives of men? What merchant worth his Stormlight won’t partake of the very fruit he sells?
That seemed pure stupidity to him at the moment. The best of ideals couldn’t prevent him from wanting very, very badly to break something.
He had to move. To walk.
“Fetch my warhammer,” Dalinar snapped at Niter, turning and marching away. “Have it waiting for me at the staging field.”
His guards hastened to keep up as he strode down the pathway between the barracks of battalions six and seven, Niter sending several men to fetch the weapon. His voice sounded strangely excited, as if he thought Dalinar were going to do something impressive.
Dalinar’s intentions were quite the opposite.
He stalked through the camp, frustration boiling. How could he unite the highprinces if they wouldn’t even speak to him? If the Codes were so beneficial to the army, then why did his adherence to them alienate everyone? What good were crisp uniforms and loyal soldiers if his own nephew suspected him of trying to murder him!
Dalinar eventually burst back onto the staging field, cape fluttering behind him, plated boots clanking against the stones. He hadn’t realized that he’d been walking so quickly; his honor guard had to nearly jog to keep up.
He didn’t have to wait long for the hammer; it came pulled by two men on a small cart. Sweating, the soldiers heaved it from the cart, the haft as thick as a man’s wrist and the front of the head larger than an outspread palm. Two men together could barely lift it. Dalinar jut strode past, grabbing the hammer with one gauntleted hand, swinging it up and resting it on his shoulder. He ignored the soldiers performing exercises on the field, walking to the edge, to where the group of dirty workers chipped at digging the latrine ditch. They looked up at him, appearing horrified to see the highprince himself looming over them in full Shardplate.
“Who’s in command here?” Dalinar demanded.
A scruffy civilian in brown trousers raised a nervous hand. “Brightlord, how may we serve you?”
“By relaxing for a little while,” Dalinar said, eying the unfinished latrine ditch. “Out with you.”
The worried workers scrambled out. Lighteyed officers gathered behind Dalinar, confused. Had he returned to chastise them? Why was he intimidating a group of workers?
Dalinar gripped the haft of his warhammer in a gauntleted hand; the metal shaft was wrapped tightly with leather. Taking a deep breath, he leaped down into the half-finished ditch, lifted the hammer, then swung, slamming the weapon down against the rock.
A powerful crack rang across the practice field, and a wave of shock ran up Dalinar’s arms. The Shardplate absorbed most of the recoil, and he left a large crack in the stones. He hefted and swung again, this time breaking free a large section of rock. Though it would have been difficult for two or three regular men to lift, Dalinar grabbed it with one hand and tossed it aside. It clattered across the stones, and he continued to work.
Sometimes, a man just needed to hit things. He couldn’t hit Sadeas or the other highprinces. Even if the Codes hadn’t forbidden it, highprinces rarely fought one another personally. Battle between men of their rank was usually done the old way, through champions.
He couldn’t hit Elhokar, as much as he wanted to pound some sense into the boy. The king didn’t know what he had done to Dalinar in appointing Sadeas Highprince of Information.
And so Dalinar swung. Again and again, beating against the stones, using the blows to work out his frustration. Soldiers gathered above and—despite his orders—the workers did not go relax. They stood, dumbfounded, as a Shardbearer did their work.
And why shouldn’t he? Shardplate’s awesome strength was only rarely used. That power was reserved for war, for slaughtering. Yet as Dalinar broke off pieces of rock and threw chips and flakes of stone into the air, he easily did the work of twenty men. Perhaps more. Shardplate could be used for so many things to bless the lives of workers and darkeyes across Roshar.
Where were the workman’s suits? Why hadn’t anyone made simpler tools, designed for use by regular men? Perhaps that was a final condemnation of the Radiants. For all of their lofty claims, they not given their Plate or its secrets to the common people. They had reserved it for themselves.
Gavilar’s ideals—the ideals from that book—were infecting Dalinar. How long before he obeyed even its most ridiculous precepts?
Never fight other men except when forced to in war.
Let your actions defend you, not your words.
Expect honor from those you meet, and let them have the chance live up to it.
Rule as you would be ruled.
Standing waist-deep in what would eventually be a latrine, Dalinar found it difficult to see reality in those morals. Instead, he saw the dirt and the rock, his ears filled with the groans of breaking stone.
But he so wanted to believe. What would life be like if men lived according to the words of the ancient philosopher? Dalinar had begun to yearn more and more. He’d begun to quote from the book, he’d begun to see the true wisdom in the Codes. He’d even stopped defending himself against accusations!
Stone could not be changed without the pounding. Was it the same with a man like him? But Dalinar wasn’t some philosopher or idealist; he was a murderer barely contained. He was a tyrant and a warmonger, and had been since youth. Could twilight years spent pretending to follow the precepts of better men erase a lifetime of butchery?
He found no answers, and the pounding didn’t do anything to fix his problems. But it did improve his mood. There was something liberating about being able to see his progress marked, literally, in the stone around him. So much of what he worked for these days couldn’t be measured in such concrete terms. Protecting Elhokar. Watching Sadeas. Seeing that the warcamps—all ten of them—functioned. Trying to avenge his brother.
Bringing unity to Alethkar.
At times, it seemed too much a load for one man to carry. He was overwhelmed, balanced precariously on the edge of a chasm.
He kept at the work even after he began to sweat. He cut a swath through the ground as wide as a man, as deep as his chest, and some thirty yards long. The longer her worked, the more people gathered to watch and whisper.
Shardplate was sacred. Was the highprince really digging a latrine with it? Had the stress affected him that profoundly? Frightened of highstorms. Growing cowardly. Refusing to duel or defend himself from allegations. Afraid of fighting, wishing to give up the war.
Suspected of trying to kill the king.
He didn’t care about the rumors. For the moment, he just worked. Eventually, Teleb decided that the staring wasn’t respectful, and he ordered the men back to their separate duties. He even cleared away the workers, taking Dalinar’s order to heart and commanding them to sit in the shade and “Converse in a lighthearted manner.” From someone else, that command might have been said with a smile, but Teleb was as literal as the rocks themselves and probably intended it quite solemnly.
Still Dalinar worked. He knew where the latrine was supposed to extend; he’s approved the work order. A long, sloping trough was to be cut, then covered with oiled and tarred boards to seal in the scent. A latrine house would be set at the high end, and the trough would only need to be emptied once every few months.
The work felt even better once he was alone. One man, breaking rocks, pounding beat after beat in the air. Like the drums the Parshendi had played on that day so long past, when Gavilar had been murdered. Dalinar could feel those beats still, could hear them in his mind, shaking him.
I’m sorry, brother.
Chips sprayed, bouncing off his Plate. He was beginning to feel worn and tired. The Plate didn’t do the work for him—it enhanced his strength, but so each hit of the hammer was his own. His fingers were growing numb from repeated shaking of the hammer’s haft.
You seem to want it both ways, father. You want to suspect Sadeas and believe in him at the same time. Don’t you see how problematic that is?
Problematic indeed. Ridiculous, even. But it was also so very human. Perhaps that was what Nohadon had thought all those centuries ago, when he’d written The Way of Kings. It wasn’t simplistic idealism. His words were meant to elevate the power of belief. You could presume a man could become nothing more than what he had been in the past, or you could hope for him to change.
And the best way to do that was to stand up and show the model. Someone had to start. Someone had to be willing to begin.
He swung the hammer again.
“Wouldn’t the Blade be more efficient?” asked a dry, feminine voice.
Dalinar froze, hammer’s head resting on broken stone. He turned to see Navani standing beside the trough, wearing a gown of blue and soft red, her grey-sprinkled hair reflecting light form a sun that was shockingly close to setting. She was attended by two young women—not her own wards, but ones she had “borrowed” from other lighteyed women in the camp.
Navani stood with her arms folded, the sunlight behind her like a halo, illuminating her figure. Dalinar hesitantly raised an armored forearm to block the light. “Mathana?”
“The rockwork,” Navani said, nodding to the trough. “Now, I wouldn’t presume to make judgments, hitting things is a masculine art. But are you not in the possession of a sword that can cut stone as easily as—I once had it described to me—a highstorm blows over a Herdazian?”
Dalinar looked back at the rocks. Then he raised his hammer again and slammed it into the stones, making a satisfying crunch. “Shardblades are too elegant.”
“Curious,” she said. “I’ll do my best to pretend there was sense in that. As an aside, has it ever struck you that most masculine arts deal with destroying, while feminine arts deal with creation? Fitting, wouldn’t you say?”
Dalinar swung again. Bang! Remarkable, how much easier it was to have a conversation with Navani while not looking directly at her. “I’d still have to break up the rocks. Have you ever tried to lift out a chunk of stone that had been sliced by a Shardblade?”
“I can’t say that I have.”
“It’s not easy.” Bang! “Even assuming your blade doesn’t get caught and trapped between the weight of the stones as you cut, you have to cut in tiny slices and wiggle them free.” Bang! “It’s more complicated than it seems.” Bang! “This is better.”
To the side, Navani dusted a few chips of stone off of her dress. “And more messy, I see.”
“So, are you going to apologize?” she asked.
“For missing our appointment,” she noted flatly.
Dalinar froze mid-swing. He’d completely forgotten that he’d agreed to let Navani read for him today. He hadn’t even told his scribes of the appointment.
He turned toward her, chagrined. Here, he’d been driven into a near-fury because Yankler had canceled their appointment, but at least he had thought to send a messenger.
Navani stood with arms folded, safehand tucked away and hidden, sleek dress that seemed to burn with sunlight. She bore a hint of a smile on her lips. She understood that by standing her up, he’d placed himself—by honor—in her power.
“I’m sorry,” he said, honestly.
“I know. I’ll consider a way to let you make up for the lapse. But for now, you should know that one of your spanreeds is flashing.”
“What? Which one?”
“Your scribes say it is the one bound to my daughter.”
Jasnah! Dalinar thought, excited. It had been weeks since they’d last communicated; the messages he sent to her had been returned with simple, terse answers. That wasn’t unusual—when Jasnah was deeply immersed in one of her projects, she often ignored all else.
But if she was sending for him…either she’d discovered something or she was taking a break and renewing her contacts, checking to see if there were important developments. Either way, he needed to talk with her. Perhaps he could persuade her to return to the Shattered Plains. Her level-headedness would be a blessing in the midst of the chaos of Sadeas’ upheavals.
Dalinar tossed aside his hammer—his pounding had bent the haft a good thirty degrees and the head was a misshapen lump. He’d need to have a new weapon forged, but that was not an uncommon need for Shardbearers.
“Your pardon, Masham,” Dalinar said to Navani, “but I fear I must beg your leave so soon after begging your forgiveness. I must receive this communication.”
He bowed to her and turned to hurry away.
“Actually,” Navani said from behind, “I think I’ll beg something of you. It has been months since I’ve spoken with my daughter. I think I’ll join you, if allowed.”
Dalinar hesitated, then sighed. “Very well.” He stopped, waiting as Navani walked to her palanquin—which stood with its bearers a short distance away—and settled herself. The bearers lifted walked up beside Dalinar, and he struck out again, striding with a quick gait and expecting the palanquin bearers to keep up.
“You are a kind man, Dalinar Kholin,” Navani said, that same sly smile on her lips as she sat back in the cushioned chair. “I’m afraid that I’m forced to find you fascinating.”
“My foolish sense of honor makes me easy to manipulate,” Dalinar said, eyes forward. “I know it does. No need to toy with me, Navani.”
She snorted softly. “I’m not trying to take advantage of you, Dalinar, I…” She hesitated. “Well, perhaps I am taking advantage of you just a tad. But I’m not ‘toying’ with you. You do fascinate me. This last year in particular, you’ve begun to be the person the others all claim that they are. Can’t you see how intriguing that makes you?”
“I don’t do it to be intriguing.”
“I know. If you did, it wouldn’t work!” She leaned forward, looking thoughtful. “Do you know why I picked Gavilar instead of you all those years ago?”
Dalinar continued to walk, uncomfortable, passing through camp and hoping the Cobalt Guard couldn’t hear much of what was being said.
“It wasn’t because of the power,” she continued, “though that’s what everyone says. It was because you frightened me, Dalinar. That intensity of yours…it scared even your brother, you know.”
He continued to walk.
“It’s still in there,” she said softly. “I can see it in your eyes. But you’ve wrapped an armor about it, a glistening set of Shardplate to control it. I find it incredible.”
He stopped, looking at her. The palanquin bearers hesitated as well. “This would not work, Navani,” he said softly.
He shook his head. “I will not dishonor my brother’s memory.” He regarded her sternly, and she eventually nodded. When he continued walking, she did not make further comments, though she did eye him slyly from time to time. Eventually, they reached his personal complex, marked by the flying blue banners with the glyphpair Kho and Lin, the former drawn in the shape of a sword, the second forming a tower behind it. Dalinar’s mother had drawn the original design, though Elhokar used a crown and a sword instead.
The soldiers at the door saluted, and Dalinar waited for Navani to dismount before entering. The cavernous insides were lit with infused sapphires. Perhaps he was one of the ten fools for denying himself the luxury of windows. After all, he’d allowed his room to be furnished. Indeed, once they reached his sitting chamber, he was confronted by just how lavish it had grown over the months.
Three of his clerks waited with their attending girls. All six stood when he entered. Oddly, Adolin was also there. Dalinar frowned at the youth.
“Father,” Adolin said, saluting and rushing up to him. As usual, Adolin’s blonde hair—peppered with black—was an unruly mop on his head. He wore a battle-worthy—though fashionable—uniform with a long red coat, buttoned at the sides, and straight, stiff brown trousers beneath. For all of his awareness of fashion, Adolin hadn’t taking to wearing the foolish silks, scarves, or ruffled shirts of the other lighteyed men in camp.
Adolin gestured to one of the clerks, a woman with auburn hair and only a few locks of black. She was lithe and long-necked, wearing a green dress, her hair up in a complex set of braids held together with four traditional long, needle-like steel spikes.
“This is Danlan Morkotha,” Adolin said quietly to Dalinar, “she just came into camp yesterday to spend a few months with her father, Brightlord Morkotha. She has been calling on me recently, and I took the liberty of offering her a position among your clerks while she is here.”
Dalinar blinked. “What about…”
“Matela?” Adolin sighed. “Didn’t work out.”
“And this one?” Dalinar asked, voice hushed, yet incredulous. “How long did you say she’s been in camp? Yesterday? And you’ve already got her calling on you?”
Adolin laughed. “Well, I do have reputation to maintain.”
Dalinar sighed, eying Navani, who stood close enough to hear. She pretended—for propriety—that she wasn’t listening in. “You know, it is customary to eventually choose just one woman to court.”
“When I’m old and boring, perhaps,” Adolin said, smiling at the young woman. She was pretty. But only in camp one day? Blood of my ancestors, Dalinar thought. He’d spent three years courting the woman who’d eventually become his wife. Even if he couldn’t remember her face—even if her name slipped from his mind each time anyone mentioned it—he did remember how persistently he’d pursued her.
Surely he’d loved her. All emotion regarding her was gone, just like her face, wiped from his mind by forces he should never have looked to. Unfortunately, he did remember how much he’d desired Navani, years before meeting the woman who would become his wife.
Stop that, he told himself. “Brightness Danlan Morkotha,” Dalinar said to the auburn-haired woman. “You are welcome among my clerks. I understand that I’ve received a communication?”
“Indeed, Brightlord,” the woman said, curtseying. She nodded to the line of five spanreeds sitting on his bookshelf, set upright in holes atop a wooden writing board. The spanreeds looked like regular writing reeds, though each was affixed with a small infused ruby. One of these—the one on the far right—pulsed slowly.
Litima was there, and though she had seniority, she nodded for Danlan to fetch the spanreed. The young woman hurried to the bookstand and moved the still-blinking reed to the small writing desk beside the lectern. Then she carefully clipped a piece of paper onto the writing board. She put the ink vial into its hole on the writing board, twisting it snugly into place and pulling the stopper off with one hand. Lighteyed women grew very proficient at working with only their freehand.
She sat down, looking up at him, seeming slightly nervous. Dalinar didn’t trust her, of course—despite her back-story, she could easily be a spy for one of the other highprinces. Unfortunately, there weren’t any women in camp he trusted completely, not now that Jasnah was gone.
“I am ready, Brightlord,” Danlan said. She had a breathless, husky voice. Just the type that attracted Adolin. Hopefully she wasn’t as vapid as those he normally picked.
“Proceed,” Dalinar said, waving Navani toward one of the room’s plush sitting chairs. The other clerks sat back down on their bench.
Danlan turned the spanreed’s gemstone one notch, indicating that the request had been answered. Then she checked the aligners on the sides of the writing board—small vials of water with bubbles at the center, which allowed her to make the board perfectly level. Finally, she inked the reed and placed it on the dot at the top left of the page. Holding it upright, she twisted the gemstone setting one more time with her thumb. Then she removed her hand.
The reed remained in place, tip against the paper, hovering as if held in a phantom hand. Then it began to write, mimicking the exact movements Jasnah made miles away, writing with a reed Lashed to this one.
Dalinar stood beside the writing table, armored-arms folded. He could see that his proximity intimidated Danlan, but he was too anxious to sit.
Jasnah had elegant handwriting, of course—Jasnah rarely did anything without taking the time to perfect it. Dalinar leaned forward as the familiar—yet indecipherable—lines appeared on the page in stark violet, the reed scratching against paper. Faint wisps of a reddish smoke floated up from the gemstone.
The pen stopped writing, freezing in place.
“Uncle,” Danlan read, “I presume that you are well.”
“Indeed,” Dalinar replied. “I am well cared for by those around me.”
Danlan took the pen and twisted the gemstone, then wrote out the words, sending them across the ocean to Jasnah. Was she still in Tukar?
After Danlan finished writing, she made a dot on the page—the place where the pens were both to be placed so Jasnah could continue the conversation—then turned the gemstone back to the previous turn in its setting. Dalinar’s words to Jasnah indicated that he didn’t trust—or at least didn’t know—everyone listening. Jasnah would be careful not to send anything too sensitive.
“As I suspected, I have found my way to Kharbranth,” Danlan read. “The secrets I seek are too obscure to be contained even in the Athenaeum, but I find hints. Tantalizing fragments. Is Elhokar well?”
Hints? Fragments? Of what? She had a mind for drama, Jasnah did, even if she wasn’t as flamboyant about it as the king.
“Your brother tried very hard to get himself killed by a chasmfiend a few weeks back,” Dalinar replied. Adolin smiled at that, leaning with his shoulder against the bookcase. “But fortune prevailed. He is well, though your presence here is sorely missed. I’m certain he could use your council. He is relying heavily on Brightness Ialai to act as clerk.”
Perhaps that would make Jasnah return. There was little love lost between herself and Sadeas’s cousin, who was his head scribe.
Danlan scratched away, writing the words. To the side, Navani cleared her throat.
“Oh,” Dalinar said, “add this: Your mother is here in the warcamps again.”
Danlan wrote. A short time later, the pen wrote of its own avail. “Send my mother my respect. Keep her at arm’s length, Uncle. She bites.”
From the side, Navani sniffed, and Dalinar realized he hadn’t mentioned that Navani was actually listening. He blushed as Danlan continued speaking. “I cannot speak of my work via spanreed, but know that I’m growing more and more alarmed. There is something here, hidden by the accrued pages of historical record. I feel that I can almost see what is obscured.”
Jasnah was a Veristitalian. She’d explained it to him once; they were an order of scholars who tried to find the truth in the past. Looking to create unbiased, factual accounts of what had happened in order to extrapolate what to do in the future. It just seemed like some kind of historian; Dalinar wasn’t certain why they needed a distinction and name all their own.
“Will you be returning?” Dalinar asked.
“I cannot say,” Danlan read after the return reply came. “I do not dare stop my research. But a time may soon come when I dare not stay away, either.”
What? Dalinar thought.
“Regardless,” Danlan continued reading, “I have some questions for you. I need you to describe for me again what happened when you met that first patrol from the Parshendi six years ago.”
Dalinar frowned, sitting down in one of the chairs beside the desk. He rested one elbow on the armrest, rubbing his chin. He wished he’d never convince Gavilar to go on that hunting expedition. If he hadn’t discovered that group of Parshendi, lost from their home on the Shattered Plains….
The reed was no longer writing. Danlan looked at him, prepared to dictate his words. Why did Jasnah want this story again? He’d repeated it to her several times in person. Hadn’t she written the history of these very events in her biography of her father?
Well, she would tell him why, and—if her past revelations were any indication—her current project would likely be of some great worth. He wished Elhokar had received a measure of his sister’s wisdom.
“These are painful memories, Jasnah. I don’t often ponder on them. It happened when we were scouting through a forest we’d discovered that wasn’t on the maps. This was south of the Shattered Plains, in a valley about two week’s march from the Drying Sea.” Even still, the maps of this area were vague.
During Gavilar’s youth, only two things had thrilled him—conquest and hunting. When he hadn’t been seeking one, it had been the other. In retrospect, setting up the hunt had led to a terrible sequence of events. It had seemed rational at the time. Gavilar had been acting so oddly, losing his thirst for battle. Men had started to whisper that he was weak. Dalinar had wanted to remind his brother of the good times, during their youths. Hence the hunt for a legendary Chasmfiend.
“Your father wasn’t there when I ran across them,” Dalinar continued, thinking back to those days. Camping on humid, forested hills. Interrogating Natan natives via translators. Looking for scat or broken trees that might indicate a beast of great size. “I was leading scouts up a tributary of the Deathbend River while your father scouted downstream. When found the Parshendi camped on the other side, I didn’t believe it, at first. Parshmen. Camped, free and organized. And they carried weapons. Not crude weapons either. Swords, spears with carved hafts. They weren’t armored, and their clothing was primitive. But to find Parshmen who made their own clothing in the first place….”
He trailed off. Gavilar hadn’t believed either, when Dalinar told him. There was no such thing as a free parshman tribe. They were servants, and always had been servants.
“Did they have Shardblades then?” Danlan said. Dalinar hadn’t realized that Jasnah had made a response.
A scratched reply eventually came. “But they have them now. When did you first see a Parshendi Shardbearer?”
“After Gavilar’s death,” Dalinar said. Where was this line of questioning going? He didn’t dare press her, not with a scribe he didn’t trust.
And then he made the connection. They’d always wondered why Gavilar had wanted a treaty with the Parshendi. They wouldn’t have needed one to harvest the Shattered Plains. The Parshendi hadn’t seem worthy of Alethkar’s attention.
Dalinar felt a chill. Could his brother have known that these Parshendi had access to Shardblades? A treaty…hoping to get out of them where they’d found the weapons….
Is it his death? Dalinar wondered. Is that the secret Jasnah’s looking for? She’d never shown Elhokar’s dedication for vengeance, but she thought differently from her brother. Revenge wouldn’t drive her. But questions. They would.
Why? Why had the treaty gone sour so quickly? Why had Gavilar been killed? In the end, was it all about Shardblades?
“One more question, uncle,” Danlan read. “Then I can go back to digging through this labyrinth of a library. At times, I feel like a grave robber, sifting through the bones of those past. Regardless. The Parshendi, you once mentioned how quickly they seemed to learn our language.”
“Yes,” Dalinar said. “In a matter of days, we were speaking and communicating quite well. Remarkable.” Who would have thought that parshmen, of all people, had the wit for such a marvel?
“What were the first things they spoke to you about?” Danlan said. “The very first questions they asked? Can you remember?”
Dalinar closed his eyes, remembering days with the Parshendi camped just across the river from them. Gavilar had become fascinated with them. “They wanted to see our maps. They seemed lost.”
“Did they mention the Voidbringers?”
Voidbringers? “Not that I recall. Why?”
“I’d rather not say,” came the response.
Because someone you don’t know reading the words to me? Dalinar thought. Or because you don’t feel you can tell me?
“I’m going to show you something.” Jasnah’s words came a short time later. “Have your scribe get out a new sheet of paper.”
Danlan removed the one they’d been writing on—setting it aside for the ink to dry—and affixed a new page to the writing board. She put the pen to the corner and let go.
A moment later, the pen lifted up and began to scratch back and forth in quick, bold strokes. It was a drawing. Dalinar stood up and stepped closer, and Adolin crowded around, curious. Reed and ink wasn’t the best medium, and drawing across spans like this wasn’t precise. The pen leaked tiny globs of ink in places it wouldn’t have on the other side, and though the inkwell was in the exact same place—allowing Jasnah to reink both her reed and Dalinar’s at the same time—the quill sometimes ran out before the one on the other side.
Still, the picture was marvelous. This isn’t Jasnah, Dalinar realized. Whoever was doing the drawing this was far, far more talented than his niece.
The picture resolved into that of a tall, multi-armed shadow, looming over some buildings. Hints of carapace and claws showed in the stiff ink lines, and shadows were made by drawing thin lines close together.
Once it was finished, Danlan set it aside to dry, getting out a third sheet of paper. Dalinar held the drawing up, Adolin at his side. The nightmarish beast in the lines and shadows was faintly familiar. Like….
“It’s a chasmfiend,” Adolin said, pointing. “It’s distorted—far more menacing through the face and larger at the shoulders, but it’s obviously one of them.”
“Yes,” Dalinar said, rubbing his chin.
“This is a depiction from one of the books here,” Danlan read. “My new ward is quite skilled at drawing, and so I had her reproduce it for you. Tell me. Does it remind you of anything?”
“A chasmfiend,” Dalinar said. Jasnah knew of them, though none had been hunted when she’d visited the plains.
Danlan wrote the words. A moment later, the reply came. “The book lists this as a picture of a Voidbringer,” she said. Danlan frowned, cocking her head. “The book is a copy of a copy originally written in the years before The Tyranicus War. The illustrations are copies of another text, even older, dating to just after history began being recorded. In fact, some think that picture was drawn only two or three generations after the Heralds departed.”
Adolin whistled softly.
“Before you jump to conclusions,” Danlan read, “I’m not implying that the Voidbringers were the same thing as chasmfiends. I believe that the artist of this book didn’t know what a Voidbringer looked like, and so she drew the most horrific thing she knew of. A greatshelled monster.”
But how did he know what a chasmfiend looked like? Dalinar thought. We only just discovered the Shattered Plains….
But of course. Though the Unclaimed Hills were now empty and unpopulated, they had once been an inhabited kingdom. That was widely known. So, someone in the past had known about chasmfiends, known them well enough to draw a depiction of one and label it as a Voidbringer.
“I must go now,” Jasnah said via Danlan. “Care for my brother in my absence, uncle.”
“Jasnah,” Dalinar sent, choosing his words very carefully. “Things are…difficult here. The storm begins to blow unchecked, and the building shakes and moans, threatening to collapse. The danger is more than one man can hold back.”
He waited quietly for the reply, the spanreed scratching. “I should like to promise a time when I will come to see you.” Dalinar could almost hear Jasnah’s calm, cool voice. “But I cannot estimate when my research will be completed, and I will not rush it.”
Dalinar sighed softly.
“Be assured, Uncle,” the words returned, “that I am coming. I am most eager to see one of these chasmfiends for myself.”
“A dead one,” Dalinar said. “I have no intention of letting you repeat your brother’s experience of a few weeks ago.”
“Ah,” Jasnah sent back, “dear, over-protective Dalinar. One of these years, you will have to admit that your favored niece and nephew have grown up on you.”
“I’ll treat you as adults so long as you act like them,” Dalinar said. “I’ll get you a dead chasmfiend, Jasnah. Take care, and come speedily.”
Danlan waited to see if further response came, but none did, and so she put away the spanreed and the board. Dalinar nodded to her and the other clerks, thanking them for their aid, and they withdrew in a line, Adolin going last, speaking softly with Danlan.
Dalinar barely noticed their withdrawal. He felt…unsatisfied. What had he gained from the conversation? More vague hints? Promises that Jasnah would return, but no clear indication of when? The world collapsed around them. What could be so important about Jasnah’s research that she would ignore that?
He would have to compose a more forthright letter for her, perhaps with the aid of Litima. He trusted her more than most.
“You are quite fond of Jasnah,” Navani said. He hadn’t realized she was still in the room. “What do you think that she could do here that you encourage her so strongly to return?”
Her return would give me a woman I trust, Dalinar thought, to read my missives and not pass on their contents to whomever else is paying them. He turned to face Navani, and realized that the room was empty save for her and him. She’d sent her two youthful attendants out with the clerks. The door closed softly.
“Navani,” he said with resignation. “This is inappropriate.”
“Bah,” she replied. “We’re family, and I have questions. Why is it you trust my daughter so much when others almost universally revile her?”
“I find their disdain for her to be in her favor, Navani.”
“She is a heretic.”
“She refused to join any of the Devotehoods,” Dalinar said, “because she did not believe in their teachings. Rather than lie and give them vocal promises while in her heart denying what she was saying, she has been honest with each who has asked her. I find that a sign of honor.”
Navani snorted. “You’re two nails in the same doorframe. Stern, hard, and storming annoying to pull free.”
“You should go now,” Dalinar said, gesturing to the door. “People will talk.”
“You imply that something inappropriate could happen, then?” Navani said, sounding almost childishly eager. “Why would people talk if they didn’t think there were potential for scandal?”
“You are my sister,” Dalinar said, closing his eyes. Did they have to go over this again?
“We aren’t related by blood,” she replied. “In some kingdoms, a union between us would be mandated by tradition, once your brother died.”
“We are Alethi,” Dalinar said, opening his eyes again “There are rules.”
“I cannot be everyone else!” Dalinar said, more sharply than he intended. “If ignore our codes, what am I? The others deserve recrimination for what they do. But if I abandon my principles after the stand I have taken, I become something far worse. A hypocrite!”
She froze, looking shocked.
“Please,” Dalinar said, gesturing, suddenly feeling exhausted. “Leave me in peace.” The failed meeting with Yankler, the hours spent working, the drain of dealing with Navani. It made him want to sink to the floor.
But he didn’t. He remained standing, pointing at the door. Without another word, Navani slipped away. She would never know how deeply he wished for her to have made one more objection. In his state, he likely would have been unable to argue further.
Once the door shut, he let himself sit down, then lay back, armor clanking. He closed his eyes.
Almighty above, he thought. What am I doing here. And what can I possibly hope to accomplish?
It’s all falling apart.
And now the old version of the Dalinar chapters comes to a close. You will notice here that Dalinar does not reach the decision to abdicate that he reaches in the final book. Without a decision like that to make, these chapters became aimless and Dalinar more wishy-washy.
Brandon’s decision to shift things to Adolin’s point of view and add his worries about Dalinar going mad, showing Dalinar from someone else’s perspective, ultimately proved to be a good decision. You’ll also notice that by moving up the main action scenes—fighting the chasmfiend, and the Starfalls vision—Brandon increased the pacing of this section to make it more compelling.