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|“||I hold the suckling child in my hands, a knife at his throat, and know that all who live wish me to let the blade slip. Spill its blood upon the ground, over my hands, and with it gain us further breath to draw.||”|
Kaladin, who had been trying to save his man, reels back. He thinks his men are being taken, one by one, and the meaning and significance of their lives begins to unravel in his mind. Around him, the survivors of Bridge Four discuss the death-sayings, with the wounded Teft saying that they seem to have been occurring more often lately. Kaladin tries to fight his guilt, remembering his father telling him that he had to learn when to care. But he can’t choose, he always cares.
Syl tells him to be strong for the other bridgemen, so he forces himself to stand up in parade rest and watch the battle. As he does so, Lopen approaches him with the bag of spheres [that his crew had] stuck to the bridge. Lopen retrieved it, then dropped the entire coil of rope down into the chasm, in order to avoid Hashal or Gaz seeing what they'd done (not that Kaladin had seen Gaz on this bridge run).
Lopen falls back, and Kaladin focuses on the battle. At least his soldier training lets him see the Parshendi as an enemy to be destroyed, rather than suffering people he needed to help. He begins to pay attention to how the Parshendi treat their dead, wondering if the Alethi have even noticed how furiously their enemies attack when they march over their dead. With Sadeas and Dalinar fighting together, the day is eventually won, and Bridge Four returns to camp, having lost some good men and picked up more injured strays.
It’s obvious by now that Sadeas's soldiers are angry at the men of Bridge Four and ashamed by the discipline that Bridge Four demonstrates as it stands at parade rest, waiting for them to cross. Kaladin reminisces how he used to dream about being a soldier on the Shattered Plains, and theorizes that the men here hate his squad's discipline because it reminds them of what they ought to have themselves. Once again, Dalinar Kholin is brought up as a counter-example, but Kaladin doesn’t believe in exceptions to lighteyed corruption anymore.
Back in camp, while treating Teft’s injuries, the older bridgeman pesters Kaladin about whether he’s experienced anything strange lately. Then, without warning, Teft throws a punch. Kaladin reacts by instinct, taking in a deep breath and catching the blow in his hand. Strength blossoms within him, and he begins to glow.
Teft tells him that he’s been consuming Stormlight, and Kaladin notices that he's stuck a pack to the side of a barrel, where it is still hanging. Something has been happening to him, and he doesn’t know what. Seeing Syl, he bellows and runs after her, demanding to know what she’s done to him. She says that she doesn’t remember everything she once knew about this, but they are changing each other. He makes her admit that she isn’t really a windspren but again, she doesn’t know what she is.
Syl tells him that he’s becoming something from legends, a Windrunner. He latches on to the idea of the Radiants, and wonders aloud if this is why he’s cursed. In the process, he deeply offends Syl. He hides from public view until the glow fades.
That night, Kaladin walks out of the warcamp toward the Plains. This is the first time he’s been truly alone since he became a slave, and he finds himself in a contemplative mood. He can’t deny to himself that he’s been healing at an impossible rate. He should never have been able to survive that highstorm, but he’d noticed drained spheres long before that.
He also knows that the cracks within him are widening. He can’t bear the pressure of being Bridge Four’s savior. He keeps making promises to himself, and they’re wearing him down.
His moody thoughts are broken up by a distant melody. He tracks down the music, and finds a small camp with a burning fire, where a lighteyed man in black is playing the flute. His music is enticing and alien. Kaladin stops, realizing that he doesn’t want to encounter a Brightlord, and turns to go, but the flautist stops playing and engages him in conversation.
He spars with Kaladin verbally. This is Wit. Along the way he manages to suggest that he knows Kaladin is consuming Stormlight, but also defuses that suggestion. He introduces himself as someone whose job it is to be witty, and says that he's had many names: "I began life as a thought, a concept, words on a page. That was another thing I stole. Myself. Another time, I was named for a rock." He tells Kaladin that he may call him Hoid, which is not his name, but " ... the name of someone I should have loved. Once again, this is a thing I stole."
Kaladin tries to excuse himself, but before he can go, Hoid gives him the Trailman’s flute he’d been playing, a flute for a storyteller to play while telling a story. Kaladin asks how this is possible, and Hoid shows him. He plays the flute, which echoes amazingly off the chasm walls around them, and speaks into the echoes while not playing, giving Kaladin the story of Derethil and the Wandersail.
Derethil was a great king, an explorer, who built a ship to explore the westward sea. No one had ever explored that far, due to the peril of facing Highstorms on the open ocean, but he commissioned a vessel he was sure could manage it. As Hoid plays and speaks, Kaladin begins to see or imagine the smoke twisting into images to accompany the story. Derethil sought the origin of the Voidbringers, and rode the stormwinds west, nearly crashing on a distant island. There they were taken in by the Uvara, a people who always seemed to agree, but punished any breach in failure of behavior among their people with death. Whenever they carried out one of these grisly executions, they would say that their emperor " ... will not suffer failure."
Kaladin sees a tower rising in the smoke, just before Hoid explains that the emperor lived in a great tower. Derethil and his men ventured into it, but came out carrying a desiccated corpse. The emperor of the Uvara had been dead for years. The Uvara collapsed into terrible chaos, and Derethil fled, with their local guide and caretaker fleeing with them. When asked the reason for the terrible riots, the guide Nafti replied, "Do you not see, Traveling One? If the emperor is dead, and has been all these years, then the murders we committed are not his responsibility. They are our own."
Kaladin is moved by the story, and he and Hoid discuss what wit is, how this story could have made it back to Roshar, and how Hoid produced such amazing effects. The storyteller claims that the fire was ordinary fire, and the smoke mundane smoke. He says that Kaladin made the shapes he saw, and asks him what the story meant. Kaladin says that it’s about taking responsibility. Hoid asks him what it is he doesn’t want to take responsibility for.
Hoid gives Kaladin the flute, telling him to learn to play it, and asks him to take good care of " ... that blasted apprentice of ... " his. He says to tell him that he’s been graduated, and is now a full Worldsinger, and Kaladin realizes he’s talking about Sigzil. With that, he runs off to the warcamps, then turns south to run along their border.
Syl announces her presence, saying that she doesn’t like Hoid. She says that she’s behind what’s happening to Kaladin, that without her nothing would be changing in him. She’s willing to stop, but if she does she’ll go back to being a simple windspren. She tells Kaladin that he doesn’t survive because he’s cursed, but because their bond makes him stronger.
Kaladin realizes that he’s been making protecting the bridgemen all about him. He was doing it because he couldn’t stand not to, not because they deserved to be protected. He runs back to camp, and asks Teft how he knows what he knows. Teft reveals that he grew up in a cult dedicated to the Knights Radiant. Kaladin takes up his responsibility, and tells him that they’re going to find out what the Radiants could do.
- by Carl Engle-Laird
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "And you think I’m a curse?" she asked him.
"I ... Well, you said you’re part of it, and ... "
She strode forward, pointing at him, a tiny irate woman hanging in the air. "So you think I’ve caused all of this? Your failures? The deaths?"
Kaladin didn’t respond. He realized almost immediately that silence might be the worst response. Syl - surprisingly human in her emotions - spun in the air with a wounded look and zipped away, forming a ribbon of light.