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|“||Malchin was stymied, for though he was inferior to none in the arts of war, he was not suitable for the Lightweavers; he wished for his oaths to be elementary and straightforward, and yet their spren were liberal, as to our comprehension, in definitions pertaining to this matter; the process included speaking truths as an approach to a threshold of self-awareness that Malchin could never attain.||”|
–From Words of Radiance, chapter 12, page 12
Progression of the Chapter:
A fully disadvantaged duel is fought; a fully disadvantaged duel is won; a fully disadvantaged duel is wasted. Kaladin comes to Adolin's aid; Surgebinding is employed. Pattern comes out to play; Syl is intrigued. Shallan self-flagellates for failing to see the loophole; Brightness Istow is reluctant to call ... anything. Yet, with Adolin’s awesome fighting and Kaladin’s awesome Windrunning and last chance effort, he and Adolin win. Then Kaladin throws it all away.
Quote of the Chapter:
He sped up, then lunged between two of the Shardbearers, ramming his spear into Relis’s cracked vambrace. The man let out a shout of pain and Kaladin pulled his spear back, twisting between the attackers and getting close to Adolin. The young man in blue armor glanced at him, then quickly turned to put his back toward Kaladin.
Kaladin put his own back toward Adolin, preventing either of them from being attacked from behind.
"What are you doing here, bridgeboy?" Adolin hissed from within his helmet.
"Playing one of the ten fools."
Adolin grunted. "Welcome to the party."
"I won’t be able to get through their armor," Kaladin said. "You’ll need to crack it for me." Nearby, Relis shook his arm, cursing. The tip of Kaladin’s spear had blood on it. Not much, unfortunately.
"Just keep one of them distracted from me," Adolin said. "I can handle two."
"I - All right." It was probably the best plan.
"Keep an eye on my brother, if you can," Adolin said. "If things go sour for these three, they might decide to use him as leverage against us."
"Done," Kaladin said, then pulled away and jumped to the side ... .
The idea that Relis, Elit, and Jakamav would be so surprised by Kaladin’s entrance that they’d just stop swinging for 15-20 seconds, allowing Adolin and Kaladin to have this little tete-a-tete is patently absurd. Even so ...
The thing is, for all their suspicions, dislikes, and grudging respects of the past; for all Kaladin’s questions about trust on the way in, Adolin responds with instantaneous trust and cooperation.
That Kaladin assumes that he’ll be the one to take down their opponents, if Adolin can just crack each their Plate open for him, is really far-fetched. If he could do that on command, he’d already have won. The biggest thing in favor of Kaladin’s approach - at least if one isn't trying to cripple anyone during a war - is that if a weapon is going to get through their Plate, Kaladin's weapon would cause only normal damage.
Given the damage to his own Plate, Adolin can still handle two of the best duelists in Alethkar on his own.
The prince fought desperately against his two opponents, swinging his Blade back and forth between the men on either side of him. And storms he was good. Kaladin had never seen this level of skill from Adolin on the practice grounds - nothing there had ever challenged him this much. Adolin moved between sweeps of his Blade, deflecting the Shardblade of the one in green, then warding away the one with the hammer.
He frequently came within inches of striking his opponents. Two-on-one against Adolin actually seemed an even match.
Forever, Adolin had wanted nothing more than to be a duelist but refrained from dueling (at his father's request) because of the Codes. He was the one who had trained on the practice grounds and on the battlefield, the one who had no Surgebinding or Stormlight assists, the one who looked like a spoiled rich kid when he was actually a highly disciplined soldier. Assisted only by his own skill and stamina, he was the one who could really hold his own against two opponents.
If this had gone the way he'd planned, as a one-on-two duel, he’d have mopped the floor with his opponents. It was the fourth opponent who actually damaged his Plate in the previous chapter. Even now, having taken multiple hits so that his Plate is leaking Stormlight from nearly every piece, he manages to damage one opponent badly enough that Kaladin can "finish him off" (destroying his breastplate) with just a spear, batter another into yielding, and get a wrestling grip on the third just before his Plate locks up.
Dismissing his Blade was probably the best move Renarin could possibly have made in this circumstance; even Relis hesitates to strike an unarmored and now unarmed man.
That hesitation is just long enough to allow Kaladin to slide in the sand of the arena and grasp Relis's screaming Blade - now focused on him - with both hands. Relis drops the Blade, shrieking as if in pain, then flees the arena, forfeiting the duel.
Kaladin then pressed Jakamav to yield, which he does, commenting that the confrontation was a circus, not a duel.
Eventually, once again, Kaladin blows it. Just like many other times, he fails to think through the possible side effects, and causes terrible grief to his own side by his impulsive actions. All they went through in the last few minutes, all of Renarin’s imprudent bravery, all of Adolin’s beating, all of that Stormlight burned, and Kaladin can only see his opportunity to get his vengeance on his enemy, and he destroys their entire plan.
Pattern and Syl are the only spren in this chapter, and they each have their roles. Shallan sends Pattern to see if he can somehow interfere with Abrobadar as he fights/toys with Renarin, while Syl assures Kaladin that this time will be very different from the last time he came to the rescue of a lighteyes fighting a Shardbearer.
On the other side of the arena, the fourth man - the one who had been "fighting" Renarin - was waving his sword at the ground for some reason. He looked up and saw how poorly things were going for his allies, then left Renarin and dashed across the arena floor.
|“||"Wait," Syl said. "What is that'!?" She zipped away toward Renarin ... .||”|
The other breathtaking moment with Syl comes a little later, when Kaladin finds himself unexpectedly fighting two full Shardbearers, trying to buy Adolin a little more time:
The wind began to blow around him. Syl returned to him, zipping through the air as a ribbon of light.
Wind. Motion. Kaladin fought two Shardbearers at once, knocking their Blades aside with the helm. He couldn’t attack - didn’t dare try to attack. He could only survive, and in this, the winds seemed to urge him.
Instinct ... then something deeper ... guided his steps. He danced between those Blades, cool air wrapping around him. And for a moment, he felt - impossibly - that he could have dodged just as well if his eyes had been closed.
The Shardbearers cursed, trying again and again. Kaladin heard the judge say something, but was too absorbed in the fight to pay attention. The crowd was growing louder. He leaped one attack, then stepped just to the side of another.
You could not kill the wind. You could not stop it. It was beyond the touch of men. It was infinite.
Is the living version of Shardplate any more ... well, solid than a living Shardblade? In Dalinar’s Midnight Essence vision, the Radiant's armor seemed extraordinarily mutable. Is it possible that the real, living thing only ever looks like armor, but in reality is a constantly shifting, flexing, moving flow of thought?
For the first part of the fight, Kaladin seems to just hold the Stormlight rather than using it for Lashings, or anything, but it seems to augment his natural skill; better balance, quicker responses, etc..
Falling on Relis’s back with a multiple lashing was outstanding. It severely damaged his Plate, and put him out of the fight for ten heartbeats, plus the time it took him to recover from the fall, all of which served its purpose: keep someone occupied so Adolin has a fighting chance.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson