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<< WoR Ch. 72: Selfish Reasons / WoR Ch. 74: Striding the Storm >>
WoR Ch73


Point of view: Shallan
Setting: Davar estate, Jah Keved, one year ago

Progression of the Chapter:

Siblings conspire uneasily; an elder brother cannot be found; increased wealth has not increased happiness; a fiance arrives unexpectedly; a pouch is fetched; a son confronts his father; a brother and a stepmother are dead; the son draws his sword, and is contemptuously disarmed; poisoned wine is proffered; the son is beaten; the father collapses; a broken Soulcaster is discovered; the father is not dead; a song is sung; a daughter kills her father.

Quote of the Chapter:

"Now go to sleep, in chasms deep, with darkness all around you ...

Though rock and dread may be your bed, so sleep my baby dear.

Now comes the storm, but you’ll be warm,

The wind will rock your basket ...

The crystals fine will glow sublime ...

And with a song ... you’ll sleep ... my baby dear."

It’s come back around. The lie becomes the truth. Some part of Shallan acknowledges beyond any shadow of doubt that her father did not kill his wife; that story was a lie. But now it’s become the truth; he’s killed his wife, and it’s too much.

Commentary:

Such poor inept plotters; their inquiries about Helaran are a little too obvious. In any case, Lord Davar knew that they couldn’t find him. Just how did he know what had happened? "He found his own death on a battlefield in Alethkar." Maybe the Ghostbloods sent word?

At any rate, once he knew they were trying to contact Helaran, his suspicions were raised, and their planning was in vain. Not surprising; Balat is as good at scheming as he is at everything else: not at all. His solution to the atmosphere of the household is disturbing.

"I’m tired of the fear," Balat said to her. "I’m tired of being a coward. If Helaran has vanished, then I really am eldest. Time to show it. I won’t just run, spending my life wondering if Father’s minions are hunting us. This way ... this way it will be over. Decided."

He’s tired of the fear and of being a coward ... so he’s going to run away? Sure, he’s going to run to the Highprince and hope that someone there still cares about the old rumors of murder ... but he’s still running away. He’s going to take his fiance – whose ability to handle the escape remains in question, and whose presence is completely unrequired for the ostensible mission – from her parents' comfortable home, and drag her along with him. But he’s going to leave his little sister and his younger brothers in the house with their terrifying father, to face his wrath when Balat’s disappearance becomes known.

Too late now. They’ve been discovered, the entire plan tortured out of Malise, and Eylita sent for under some pretext. Did he make it sound like he was approving of the marriage? Why would she otherwise actually come? Then again, she’s not all that bright either, so maybe she wasn’t too hard to convince.

There they all are: Wikim and Jushu hiding outside the door, Balat and Eylita attempting to face it out, Malise dead on the floor, and Lord Davar in a cold, contemptuous fury. He and Shallan are the only ones moderately functional ... but she has a pouch of well-aged blackbane.

Shallan is colder and more calculating when she is under stress and having to focus on doing something even though what she wants is to curl up into a ball and ride things out.

Shallan felt cold as she stepped into the hallway. That coldness ... was that panic? Overwhelming panic, so sharp and strong it washed away everything else.

This had been coming. She'd known this had been coming. They tried to hide, they tried to flee. Of course that wouldn’t work.

It hadn’t worked with Mother either.

(This is the point at which they'd just learned that Lord Davar had sent for Eylita.) Was the hiding and fleeing just that one afternoon when they tried to kill Shallan? Or was it built up over time, attempting to hide her Lightweaving from Mother over a period of weeks or months?

Shallan forced herself to her feet. Coldness. Yes, she recognized that coldness inside of her now. She’d felt it before, on the day when she'd lost her mother.

Lord Davar has just collapsed from the drugged wine, and she turns away, believing him dead - by her hand, just like her mother, though she won’t acknowledge the similarity. She thinks of it only in terms of "the day when she'd lost her mother." (Would she, had she been free to do so, have stashed this in the closed section of her mind, and only thought of it as "the day when she’d lost her father?") In the coldness of her panic, she thinks extremely clearly and acts decisively.

Shallan rubbed her thumb across the metal. She couldn’t think. Numbness ... shock. That was it. Shock.

I killed Father.

This is just before they realize that he's coming around; while she considers herself "in shock," she's really still being all analytical and effective. When Shallan panics, she goes cold, and then she does everything skillfully, efficiently, and emotionlessly. Well, not quite everything:

"Now go to sleep," she whispered, "in chasms deep, with darkness all around you ... "

A lullaby. Shallan spoke the song through her tears - the song he’d sung for her as a child, when she was frightened.

Stormwatch:

One year ago, on the night of the last highstorm before the Weeping (which is not necessarily the same date), Shallan's life turns inside out once more.

Ars Mechanica:

This is the first visit with the Davar family since the Ghostbloods decided Lord Davar was worth their active support. For the first time in years, they are not only solvent, but actually wealthy:

"Does it feel odd to anyone else," Jushu said, "to be this rich? How many deposits of valuable stone are there on our lands?"

Readers already knew about the Soulcasting of rich stone deposits, but the Davar siblings clearly didn’t. They thought it was just dumb luck that so many deposits were being found. It isn't known just when Luesh told them the truth of what was going on, or how much truth they had to tell him about their father's death. There are still a lot of aspects to Shallan's past that aren't known. But it is now known a) how and when the siblings got hold of the Soulcaster and b) how it got damaged.

Shallan glanced over to see Jushu pulling something silvery from Father's coat pocket. It was shrouded in a small black bag, mildly wet with blood, only pieces of it showing from where Balat's sword had struck.

"Oh, Stormfather," Jushu said, pulling it out. The device consisted of several chains of silvery metal connecting three large gemstones, one of which was cracked, its glow lost. "Is this what I think it is?"

"A Soulcaster," Shallan said.

...

Shallan stood, wiping bloodied hands on her dress, and took the Soulcaster from Jushu. The delicate metal was broken where the sword had struck it.

Fabrials are simply susceptible to damage from ordinary tools.

It is likely that the reason all the wealth isn't making their father happier is that every favor from the Ghostbloods comes with a price attached, and while he's free to spend the new wealth on dresses for Shallan and parading for the Highprince, it's still all in service to someone else's goals. (And there's Odium, of course.)

Heraldic Symbolism:

The Judge, Nalan, is here to serve justice on Lin Davar, abuser and murderer. And poor little sixteen-year-old Shallan has to be the one to carry out the sentence.

Did it really have to be done? Yes, he'd killed Malise, and had he not been poisoned he probably would have killed Eylita and possibly Balat. But once he was down and helpless, was it really necessary to strangle him to death?

- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson[1]

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