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<< WoR Ch. 84: The One Who Saves / WoR Ch. 86: Patterns Of Light >>
WoR Ch85


But who is the wanderer, the wild piece, the one who makes no sense? I glimpse at his implications, and the world opens to me. I shy back. Impossible. Is it?

–From the Diagram West Wall Psalm of Wonders: paragraph 8 (Note by Adrotagia: Could this refer to Mraize?)


Point of view: Dalinar, Shallan, Adolin
Setting: The central plateau

Progression of the Chapter:

Dalinar receives Shallan's message in the increasing storms; Aladar won his plateau; Dalinar orders everyone to Shallan's plateau; a tent collapses as Adolin crashes through on his back, severely damaged Plate leaking Stormlight; the Assassin follows.

... Shallan searches frantically for clues to the Oathgate mechanism; Renarin writes zeroes; "It's come. We're dead."

... Dalinar holds his bleeding son, speaking farewell words of love and guidance; he stands to confront the Assassin, seeking answers; the Assassin is more mad than calm; Dalinar's Blade forms just in time to block Szeth's.

... Adolin attempts to rise; with the help of Skar and Drehy, he begins to remove his battered Plate so that he can help Dalinar; he freezes, watching his father fight.

... Dalinar fights for Gavilar, as he wished he had seven years ago; his instincts lead him well, but it's not enough; he finally realizes that Gavilar's death was not his fault; Roion attacks the Assassin.

... Adolin, unarmored, runs toward his father; Roion is hurled into the sky; Adolin vainly fights the Assassin, as Roion descends and dies; Adolin and Dalinar, with accompanying bridgemen, charge and hope for luck; hope is unfulfilled, and the Assassin touches Dalinar; he, too, hurtles into the sky, and Adolin attacks again; as the Assassin turns to finish him, Dalinar descends slowly from the sky, streaming white Light; Kaladin crashes in like a comet to claim the sky, the winds, and Szeth's life.

Quote of the Chapter:

Dalinar did not fight for his life. His life hadn't been his own for years.

He fought for Gavilar. He fought as he wished he had all those years ago, for the chance he had missed. In that moment between storms - when the rain stilled and the winds drew in their breaths to blow - he danced with the slayer of kings, and somehow held his own.

...

He survived.

But he did not win.

Finally, Dalinar twisted away from a strike but was unable to move quickly enough. The assassin rounded on him and thrust a fist into his side.

Dalinar's ribs cracked. He grunted, stumbling, almost falling. He swung his Blade toward Szeth, warding the man back, but it didn't matter. The damage was done. He sank to his knees, barely able to remain upright for the pain.

In that instant he knew a truth he should always have known.

If I'd been there, on that night, awake instead of drunk and asleep ... Gavilar would still have died.

I couldn't have beaten this creature. I can't do it now, and I couldn't have done it then.

I couldn't have saved him.

It brought peace, and Dalinar finally set down that boulder, the one he'd been carrying for over six years.

Development of the Chapter:

All the action in this chapter builds and builds and builds to a moment of hopeless anguish, transformed to breathless bewilderment, shattered by Kaladin's meteoric arrival.

Shallan is getting frustrated by the lack of information: all available writing is in the Dawnchant, and they failed to bring an expert along. (Well, they did, but Navani is still on the other plateau with Dalinar.) Pattern urges her to look for a pattern, but until she finds that, all she's got is that the Knights Radiant are the key. So she's left standing puzzled in the center of the Oathgate. She's almost there ...

Along with the aforementioned frenetic pacing, the poetry of this chapter is stunning. Brandon writes Climax superbly.

"Aladar has won his plateau! Apara was just composing you a message."

"Really?" Almighty bless that man. He'd done it.

It's a magnificent echo of the stirring speech Dalinar gave Aladar a couple of chapters ago: "If you survive this day, you'll be known as one of the greatest men of our generation. Go to your men, Aladar. Lead them. Be a champion." Aladar gaped at Dalinar for a moment, then saluted like he meant it ... and he did.

Dalinar sends word that they are all to make for Shallan's plateau, but in the middle of it, Cael points behind Dalinar:

"Sir, have you seen that?"

He turned, looking back toward the west. Red light flashed, lightning coursing down in repeated blasts. The sky itself seemed to spasm as something built there, swirling in an enormous storm cell that was rapidly expanding outward.

"Almighty above ..." Navani whispered.

Amid flying tents and battle reports, the Everstorm builds. The rain gets heavier, then lighter, then heavier; the wind gusts; more tents shake. Dalinar sends Navani to help Shallan, and orders Roion to lead his men to that same plateau, and then ...

Adolin crashed through the tent's fabric and skidded along the stones on his back, his armor leaking Light.

"Adolin!" Dalinar shouted, dashing to his son.

The young man was missing several segments of his armor. He looked up with gritted teeth, blood streaming from his nose. He said something, but it was lost to the wind. No helm, no left vambrace, the breastplate cracked just short of shattering, his right leg exposed. Who could have done such a thing to a Shardbearer?

Not so much poetic as fearfully descriptive. Last time Adolin was seen, he was missing his helm as well as his left vambrace and gauntlet, and his breastplate was heavily damaged from his battle with Eshonai, but he'd won that when he sent her tumbling into the chasm - but then he met up with Szeth. Now it's worse.

The scene cuts to Shallan, then back to this:

Dalinar knelt beneath a fracturing sky, holding his son.

...

"When you take the princedom, son," Dalinar said, "don't let them corrupt you. Don't play their games. Lead. Don't follow."

...

"You've been taught well, Adolin," Dalinar said, eyes on that assassin. "You're a better man than I am. I was always a tyrant who had to learn to be something else. But you, you've been a good man from the start. Lead them, Adolin. Unite them."

This is nearly perfect in the way it shows the relationship between Dalinar and Adolin from Dalinar's perspective. There's the deep, abiding love of a father for his son, and a certain amount of instinctive protectiveness when his son is injured. But there's also the strong, confident respect and trust of one man for another: this son of his is a grown man, and a good one. For years now, he's been entrusted with military leadership, and has been actively involved in planning sessions. He's proven himself. At the core, Dalinar has no fear of trusting Adolin with the princedom and all it entails. He stands up to face what amounts to certain death, rock-solid in the knowledge that his son is fully capable of taking his place as highprince.

(Whether he's correct or not ... remains to be seen.)

The first thing Dalinar does when he faces the small, overly calm Assassin is to ask questions. He wants to know ... why did they kill Gavilar? Why?

"I am Szeth-son-son-Vallano," the man said. Harshly. "Truthless of Shinovar. I do as my masters demand, and I do not ask for explanations."

Dalinar revised his assessment. This man was not calm. He seemed that way, but when he spoke, he did it through clenched teeth, his eyes open too wide.

He's mad, Dalinar thought. Storms.

Well, clearly Dalinar's not going down without a fight, and he's been in the process of summoning his Blade, so when Szeth strikes, the blow is deflected.

The assassin spared a glance for Dalinar's weapon, then smiled, lips drawn thin, showing only a hint of teeth. That eager smile matched with haunted eyes was one of the most evil things Dalinar had ever seen.

Shifting to Adolin's point of view:

Father was fighting Szeth. Bless the man for listening to reason and bonding that madman's Blade.

A moment of humor! In the midst of all the love of a son for his father, there's another flash of friendship and respect: apparently Adolin had to do some vigorous persuading to get Dalinar to bond that Blade before hiding it for Amaram to find. But Dalinar is fighting the Assassin, and Adolin does not want to rule the princedom just yet. He just needs to get out of the remaining bits of Shardplate so he can go help, and those bridgemen are always there when he needs them. "You two," Adolin said, "are getting a storming raise."

And then it gets serious again:

He spared a glance for what Dalinar was doing, and froze, hands on the straps for his breastplate.

His father ... his father moved beautifully.

Not only does Dalinar move beautifully, he moves by instinct, holding his own against a Surgebinder despite his earlier injuries. In the end, though, it's just not enough, and that's a good thing. There's a certain amount of blameworthiness in lying drunk on a table while your brother is assassinated, but there's also a certain amount of honest and commendable humility in realizing that some things are beyond your ability to control.

I couldn't have saved him.

It brought peace, and Dalinar finally set down that boulder, the one he’d been carrying for over six years.

Then, an unexpected figure distracts the Assassin from Dalinar for a moment:

Dalinar expected it to be Adolin, perhaps one of the bridgemen.

Instead, it was Roion.

The careful one, the cautious one, the one who felt a bit defensive about being called a coward ... He rushed the Assassin with nothing but a side sword and a handful of soldiers. Against a Surgebinder with an Honorblade. Roion was a hero. He gave it all.

The scene goes crazy. Roion hurtles up, screaming; Szeth kills a dozen soldiers; Roion still screams from above; Adolin jumps in with dueling moves; Szeth bats his attack away like a child's; Roion screams until he hits the ground; Szeth starts Lashing objects around; Adolin fights by instinct; he can't beat this thing; he's surrounded by bridgemen; Dalinar is, too; they're going to try to mob the Assassin; Lead them, Adolin. Unite them; Szeth Lashes himself up, then down, knocking Adolin over like a toy, killing a pair of bridgemen, healing his few wounds in moments; they've never had a chance against this thing; they're going to go down fighting ...

"Father ... " Adolin whispered.

The assassin parried the thrust, then placed his hand against Dalinar's chest.

The highprince, suddenly glowing, lurched up into the dark sky. He didn't scream.

NOOOOOOOOO!!! Dalinar!!

The assassin lowered his Blade, then started to walk away.

"Bastard!" Adolin spat, dashing after him. "Bastard!" He could barely see for the tears.

The assassin stopped, then leveled his weapon toward Adolin.

Adolin stumbled to a halt. Storms, his head hurt.

"It is finished," the assassin whispered. "I am done." He turned from Adolin and continued to walk away.

Like Damnation itself, you are! Adolin raised his Shardblade overhead.

The assassin spun and slapped the weapon so hard with his own Blade that Adolin distinctly heard something snap in his wrist. His Blade tumbled from his fingers, vanishing. The assassin's hand slapped out, knuckles striking Adolin in the chest, and he gasped, his breath suddenly gone from his throat.

Stunned, he sank to his knees.

At this point the reader knows it's over, it's hopeless. Adolin and Dalinar are both going to die right here, and ...

He blinked as he made out something glowing in the air, drifting down, like a leaf. A figure. A man.

Dalinar.

The highprince fell slowly, as if he were no more weighty than a cloud. White Light streamed from his body in glowing wisps. Nearby bridgemen murmured, soldiers shouted, pointing.

Adolin blinked, certain he was delusional. But no, that was Dalinar. Like ... one of the Heralds themselves, coming down from the Tranquiline Halls.

Into this silent, frozen moment:

And then, like a falling star, a blazing fireball of light and motion shot down in front of Dalinar. It crashed into the ground, sending out a ring of Stormlight like white smoke. At the center, a figure in blue crouched with one hand on the stones, the other clutching a glowing Shardblade.

His eyes afire with a light that somehow made the assassin's seem dull by comparison, he wore the uniform of a bridgeman, and bore the glyphs of slavery on his forehead.

The expanding ring of smoky light faded, save for a large glyph - a swordlike shape - which remained for a brief moment before puffing away.

"You sent him to the sky to die, assassin," Kaladin said, Stormlight puffing from his lips, "but the sky and the winds are mine. I claim them, as I now claim your life."

Stormwatch:

Still Day Zero.

Ars Arcanum:

"I can see it," Renarin answered feverishly, his voice echoing in the chamber. Ardents who had been studying part of the murals looked up at him. "I can see the future itself. Why? Why, Almighty? Why have you cursed me so?" He screamed a pleading cry, then stood and cracked something against the wall. A rock? Where had he gotten it? He gripped the thing in a gauntleted hand and began to write.

Shocked, Shallan took a step toward him. A sequence of numbers?

All zeros.

"It's come," Renarin whispered. "It's come, it's come, it's come. We're dead. We're dead. We're dead."

This is the moment readers realize that Dalinar hadn't written the countdown – Renarin had. So he's been bonding Glys ever since ... well, since sometime before Chapter 4.

All his life, Renarin has been the odd one, the one everyone thinks is just a little creepy, because his social interactions aren't "normal" for an Alethi. He probably thinks of himself as slightly weird, because he can't be like everyone else. He finally has a set of Shards, though the Blade screams every time he summons it - but since he's always been the weird one, he assumes that's just his own personal problem, too. On top of that, he's seeing the future - which is supposed to be a thing of evil, so he really doesn't dare tell anyone: his family has enough stress, the rest of Alethkar already thinks he's "icky" and he doesn't need to add "anathema." So, as usual, he bore it alone and tried not to be a burden ... but now it's all getting to be too much.

Ars Mechanica:

This is the third chapter with Navani's fabrial floodlights, but is this is a fabrial which uses spren trapped in gemstones, powered by Stormlight? Does it somehow give more light than mere Stormlight-infused gemstone lanterns? How does that work?

Also, the mysterious Oathgate is just that: mysterious.

Heraldic Symbolism:

Paliah could be foreshadowing the revelation of Renarin as a Truthwatcher, since this is the first time readers find out that he's seeing the future, and has been the one writing the countdown on the walls. So, is Nale here to foreshadow his appointment of Szeth as a Skybreaker?

Words of Diagram:

The logical first reaction is that this passage refers to Hoid, which probably means it doesn't. There are other possibilities: Taln (or the person who calls himself Taln), Iyatil, Zahel ... and, of course, Mraize. There's just not enough information to be confident; the only real question is whether Brandon is dangling a truth in front of his readers' noses, or whether this is another misdirection.

- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson[1]

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