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|“||Twenty-three cohorts followed behind, that came from the contributions of the King of Makabakam, for though the bond between man and spren was at times inexplicable, the ability for bonded spren to manifest in our world rather than their own grew stronger through the course of the oaths given.||”|
–From Words of Radiance, chapter 35, page 9
Progression of the Chapter:
The duelists and spectators arrive at the arena to watch the big event, with Amaram flaunting his Knight Radiant cloak; Syl pleads with Kaladin not to let Amaram ruin him; Moash is insubordinate. Adolin speaks briefly to his Blade, then joins Navani and Renarin; they discuss the terms of the match; he forgot Mother's chain, but once arrayed in his Plate, Adolin walks out and awaits his opponents ... of which there are four. Dalinar is furious at the fast one Sadeas has pulled on them, but it’s all in the dueling conventions. Adolin agrees to the match, cursing himself for a fool; he hears Zahel's voice giving him encouragement and advice; he moves to the attack, and it’s clear that all four opponents do indeed fear him; he fights incredibly well, but against four, he is soon bested; as they finally surround him, beating on his Plate and preventing him from signaling surrender, he realizes they intend to leave him dead or crippled. Dalinar asks to borrow Elhokar's Blade, and Sadeas eggs him on; Elhokar shows unexpected insight in stopping him; Renarin steps into the arena. Relis makes it clear that Renarin will be killed if Adolin tries to surrender; the judge has clearly been compromised. She refuses to stop the fight; Renarin begins an epileptic seizure, while Adolin fights marvelously but hopelessly; Dalinar challenges the spectators to help, and turns to Amaram, who just looks away; Kaladin takes a spear and jumps into the arena.
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "They’re scared of you." Zahel's voice, drifting again above the crowd. "Do you see it in them? Show them why."
Adolin hesitated. Relis stepped forward, making a Stonestance strike. Stonestance, to be immobile. Elit came in next, hammer held wardingly. They backed Adolin along the wall toward Abrobadar.
No. Adolin had demanded this duel. He had wanted it. He would not become a frightened rat.
Show them why.
Adolin attacked. He leaped forward, sweeping with a barrage of strikes at Relis. Elit jumped away with a curse as he did so. They were like men with spears prodding at a whitespine.
And this whitespine was not yet caged.
It's one against four, but it’s the four attracting the fearspren. If this were a duel without Shards, Adolin would have won; in the first few minutes Relis would have been dead and Elit maimed, with Adolin still untouched. But of course, they all have Plate, and so they recover.
However, the whitespine is totally, solely Adolin.
Every time Kaladin sees Amaram, he loses control, to the point that Syl begs Kaladin not to let Amaram ruin him. Juxtaposed against that unreasoning antipathy, Moash lets slip that he’s met with Graves and the other conspirators again, against Kaladin’s direct order, because he’s so confident that Kaladin will eventually agree that Elhokar ought to be removed. Kaladin is angry at Moash for that assumption, angrier that Moash disobeyed a direct order, disturbed by the implication that Moash just might refuse to obey further orders, and annoyed with himself for not having dealt with this already.
Adolin's conversation with Navani is unsettling. Due to the terms of the duel - that it would go until surrender, rather than specifying a number of broken Plate sections - Navani could already see that Adolin's opponents were going to try to cripple him ... and in a few pages, that’s exactly what they attempted to do. When he realized that he'd forgotten his mother's chain, it might've been more a warning that something bigger was going to go wrong, rather than causing Adolin to be off balance. Faced with four opponents was definitely "something bigger."
Brandon gives the full explanation of the loophole, with Sadeas’s tacit admission that he knew all about it, despite his claim to neutrality:
|“|| "Two?" Sadeas asked. "When was it said that he would fight two?"
"That’s what he said when he set up the duel!" Dalinar shouted. "Paired disadvantaged duel, two against one, as per the dueling conventions!"
"Actually," Sadeas replied, "that is not what young Adolin agreed to. Why, I have it on very good authority that he told Prince Relis: 'I’ll fight you and whomever you bring.' I don’t hear a specification of a number in there - which subjects Adolin to a full disadvantaged duel, not a paired duel. Relis may bring as many as he wishes. I know several scribes who recorded Adolin’s precise words, and I hear the highjudge asked him specifically if he understood what he was doing, and he said that he did."
While Sadeas distances himself from the situation by claiming what he did and did not hear, and just what Adolin and the highjudge said, he knows too much about it. He might've been involved in putting it together. He also might've been the one who bought the judge. She had the authority to call the duel any time she chose, particularly if she thought that one of the participants was in danger of injury beyond the bounds of appropriate dueling risk, which was exactly what was happening here. She wasn’t required to stop it according to the conventions, but she could have ... and didn't.
With regard to Sadeas and his probable involvement, he digs in later with his commentary on The Blackthorn he once knew, in an attempt to inflame Dalinar to the point that he’ll just jump in the arena and have at his son's opponents. That might well have been Sadeas's goal all along. Even so, this brings up one of the rare times Elhokar does anything to show that he has the makings of a king, however well buried he keeps such hints on a normal basis:
Elhokar caught him by the arm, standing. "Don’t be a fool, Uncle. Listen to him! Do you see what he’s doing? He obviously wants you to go down and fight."
Dalinar turned to meet the king’s eyes. Pale green. Like his father’s.
"Uncle," Elhokar said, grip tightening on his arm, "listen to me for once. Be a little paranoid. Why would Sadeas want you down there? It’s so that an 'accident' can occur! He wants you removed, Dalinar. I guarantee that if you step onto those sands, all four will attack you straight out. Shardblade or none, you’ll be dead before you get into stance."
Dalinar puffed in and out. Elhokar was right. Storm him, but he was right.
This is one of those rare times that almost seem to justify Dalinar’s confidence in Elhokar’s ability to be a good king.
The duel itself is amazing. Four against one, and Adolin actually holds his own ... for a time. Once his opponents manage to surround him, however, it should be over; he acknowledges this and tries to yield, but his opponents refuse to allow that. They’re going to either cripple or kill him, and all four - including his "friend" Jakamav - are in on this. The judge is clearly not going to intervene until it’s just too late to prevent some "accidentally" crippling blow. And then Renarin steps in.
Despite that Renarin's Blade screams every time he summons it, with no time to put his Plate on, he walks into the arena to give whatever aid he can, even if it’s only to distract one of the duelists and give Adolin half a chance.
This brings up the moment of honesty from Relis, wherein he flatly states that this duel is not about honor. He’s out to punish Adolin and makes it quite clear that if Adolin doesn’t stay out here for the duration of the duel that will obviously end with him maimed or dead, Renarin will receive that fate instead. In spite of all his haughty words, he clearly knew that he couldn’t beat Adolin in a fair fight. He had to get two of the best duelists in the country to help him, even though he was supposed to be the dueling champion himself. Obviously, Relis is the classic combination of both coward and bully.
As for Jakamav ... with friends like that, who needs enemies? Better yet, with friends like that, who needs friends?
Finally, as Adolin’s Plate begins to lose pieces, leaving him vulnerable to the Blades:
Dalinar turned upon the stands full of spectating lighteyes. "You can watch this?" he shouted at them. "My sons fight alone! There are Shardbearers among you. Is there not one of you who will fight with them?"
He scanned the crowd. The king was looking at his feet. Amaram. What of Amaram? Dalinar found him seated near the king. Dalinar met the man’s eyes.
Amaram looked away.
Amaram was obviously not the Knight Radiant Dalinar had (incorrectly) presumed him to be.
Still, the set-up in the arena dictates that there’s no good solution for the Kholins. It appears as though at least one of them is going to die, no matter what they do, and even King Elhokar can’t stop it.
However, "unreasoning" does not mean "unreasonable." There’s plenty of reason for Kaladin’s attitude, but when he sees Amaram, he stops reasoning altogether.
Twenty-eight days remain.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Zahel is, of course, Vasher from Warbreaker. Still, just how is Zahel making his voice audible to Adolin in the midst of all the shouting and clashing? Has he trained Adolin well enough that with so few words that Adolin can sort out a whole new strategy in a matter of seconds? "They’re afraid of you. Show them why."
Chach watches over this chapter alone. Kaladin is in his role as Guard. Adolin is also Guard, in one sense, as well as being Brave and (again in one sense) Obedient.
Words of Radiants:
Just what do the cohorts from the King of Makabakam have to do with anything? Even so, there are two significant truths stated here: (1) the bond between man and spren is at times inexplicable; (2) bonded spren increase in their ability to manifest in the Physical Realm as the Knight-in-training progresses through their Ideals. The second is primarily a confirmation of what was already suspected. The first, though ... the first reminds the reader that there isn't yet anything resembling solid knowledge about what triggers a bonding and what its development will necessarily look like for any of The Stormlight Archive's budding Radiants.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson