Table of Contents
About the Author
Thank you for buying this
Tom Doherty Associates ebook.
To receive special offers, bonus content,
and info on new releases and other great reads,
sign up for our newsletters.
Or visit us online at
For email updates on the author, click here and here.
The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied so that you can enjoy reading it on your personal devices. This e-book is for your personal use only. You may not print or post this e-book, or make this e-book publicly available in any way. You may not copy, reproduce, or upload this e-book, other than to read it on one of your personal devices.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author’s copyright, please notify the publisher at: us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.
For Alan Layton
Who was cheering for Dalinar
Before Stormlight even existed.
PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Welcome to Oathbringer! It’s been a long road, creating this book. I thank you for your patience. Stormlight books are a huge undertaking—which you might be able to infer from the large list of people below.
If you haven’t had the chance to read Edgedancer—a separate Stormlight novella taking place between books two and three—I’d recommend it to you now. Find it sold on its own, or in the story collection Arcanum Unbounded, which has novellas and novelettes from all across the Cosmere. (The universe in which this series, Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, and others take place.)
That said, as always, every series is written so it can be read and enjoyed on its own, without knowledge of these other series or books. If you’re intrigued, you can find a longer explanation I’ve written at brandonsanderson.com/cosmere.
Now, on to the parade of names! As I often say, though my name goes on the cover, there ; are tons of people involved in bringing you these books. They deserve my most hearty of thanks, and yours as well, for their tireless work across the three years it took to write this novel.
My main agent for these books (and everything else) is the wonderful Joshua Bilmes, of JABberwocky. Others at the agency who worked on them include Brady McReynolds, Krystyna Lopez, and Rebecca Eskildsen. Special thanks also go to John Berlyne, my UK agent, of Zeno—along with all of the sub-agents who work with us around the world.
My editor at Tor on this project was the ever-brilliant Moshe Feder. Special thanks to Tom Doherty, who has believed in the Stormlight project for years, and Devi Pillai, who provided essential publishing and editorial aid during the course of the novel’s creation.
Others at Tor who provided help include Robert Davis, Melissa Singer, Rachel Bass, and Patty Garcia. Karl Gold was our Production Manager and Nathan Weaver the Managing Editor, with Meryl Gross and Rafal Gibek in trade production. Irene Gallo was our Art Director, Peter Lutjen the cover designer, Greg Collins the interior designer, and Carly Sommerstein our proofreader.
At Gollancz/Orion (my UK publisher) thanks goes to Gillian Redfearn, Stevie Finegan, and Charlotte Clay.
Our copyeditor on this book was Terry McGarry, who has done excellent work on many of my novels. The ebook was prepared by Westchester Publishing Services, along with Victoria Wallis and Christopher Gonzalez at Macmillan.
Many people at my own company worked long hours to produce this book. A Stormlight novel is “crunch time” for us here at Dragonsteel, and so make sure to give the team a thumbs-up (or, in Peter’s case, a block of cheese) next time you meet them. Our manager and Chief Operations Officer is my lovely wife, Emily Sanderson. Vice President and Editorial Director is the Insistent Peter Ahlstrom. Art Director is Isaac Stʒwart.
Our shipping manager (and the one who ships you all our signed books and T-shirts via the brandonsanderson.com store) is Kara Stewart. Continuity editor—and holy keeper of our internal continuity wiki—is Karen Ahlstrom. Adam Horne is my executive assistant and publicity/marketing director. Emily’s assistant is Kathleen Dorsey Sanderson and our executive minion is Emily “Mem” Grange.
The audiobook was read by my personal favorite audiobook narrators, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. Thanks again, guys, for making time in your schedule for this!
Oathbringer continues the tradition of filling The Stormlight Archive with beautiful art. We again have a fantastic cover illustration by Michael Whelan, whose attention to detail has given us an incredibly accurate rendition of Jasnah Kholin. I love that she gets a place to shine on the cover of this book, and I continue to feel honored and grateful that Michael takes time away from his gallery work to paint the world of Roshar.
It takes a variety of artists to recreate the styles found in the ephemera of another world, so this time around we’ve worked with even more artists than before. Dan dos Santos and Howard Lyon are responsible for the paintings of the Heralds on the front and back endpapers. I wanted these to have a style evoking classical paintings of the Renaissance and the later Romantic era, and both Dan and Howard exceeded expectations. These pieces are not only great art for a book, they are great art period, deserving of a place in any gallery.
I should note that Dan and Howard also contributed their talents to the interior art, for which I’m also grateful. Dan’s fashion pieces are good enough to be cover art, and Howard’s linework for some of the new chapter icons is something I hope to see more of in future volumes.
Ben McSweeney joins us again, providing nine pieces of art from Shallan’s sketchbook. Between a cross-continent move, a demanding day job, and the needs of a growing family, Ben has been ever consistent in delivering top-notch illustrations. He is a great artist and a quality human being.
Also lending their talents to this volume with full-page illustrations are Miranda Meeks and Kelley Harris. Both have done fantastic work for us in the past, and I think you’ll love their contributions this time around.
In addition, a variety of wonderful people helped behind the scenes as consultants or facilitated other aspects of the art in this book: The David Rumsey Map Collection, Brent at Woodsounds Flutes, Angie and Michelle at Two Tone Press, Emily Dunlay, David and Doris Stewart, Shari Lyon, Payden McRoberts, and Greg Davidson.
My writing group for Oathbringer (and they often read submissions each week at 5–8x the normal size) included Karen Ahlstrom, Peter Ahlstrom, Emily Sanderson, Eric James Stone, Darci Stone, Ben Olsen, Kaylynn ZoBell, Kathleen Dorsey Sanderson, Alan “Leyten from Bridge Four” Layton, Ethan “Skar from Bridge Four” Skarstedt, and Ben “Don’t put me in Bridge Four” Olsen.
Special thanks go to Chris “Jon” King for feedback on some particularly tricky scenes involving Teft, Will Hoyum for some advice on paraplegics, and Mi’chelle Walker for some special advisement on passages involving specific mental health issues.
Beta readers included (take a deep breath) Aaron Biggs, Aaron Ford, Adam Hussey, Austin Hussey, Alice Arneson, Alyx Hoge, Aubree Pham, Bao Pham, Becca Horn Reppert, Bob Kluttz, Brandon Cole, Darci Cole, Brian T. Hill, Chris “Jon” King, Chris Kluwe, Cory Aitchison, David Behrens, Deana Covel Whitney, Eric Lake, Gary Singer, Ian McNatt, Jessica Ashcraft, Joel Phillips, Jory Phillips, Josh Walker, Mi’chelle Walker, Kalyani Poluri, Rahul Pantula, Kellyn Neumann, Kristina Kugler, Lyndsey “Lyn” Luther, Mark Lindberg, Marnie Peterson, Matt Wiens, Megan Kanne, Nathan “Natam” Goodrich, Nikki Ramsay, Paige Vest, Paul Christopher, Randy MacKay, Ravi Persaud, Richard Fife, Ross Newberry, Ryan “Drehy” Dreher Scott, Sarah “Saphy” Hansen, Sarah Fletcher, Shivam Bhatt, Steve Godecke, Ted Herman, Trae Cooper, and William Juan.
Our beta reader comment coordinators were Kristina Kugler and Kellyn Neumann.
Our gamma readers included many of the beta readers again, plus: Benjamin R. Black, Chris “Gunner” McGrath, Christi Jacobsen, Corbett Rubert, Richard Rubert, Dr. Daniel Stange, David Han-Ting Chow, Donald Mustard III, Eric Warrington, Jared Gerlach, Jareth Greeff, Jesse Y. Horne, Joshua Combs, Justin Koford, Kendra Wilson, Kerry Morgan, Lindsey Andrus, Lingting Xu, Loggins Merrill, Marci Stringham, Matt Hatch, Scott Escujuri, Stephen Stinnett, and Tyson Thorpe.
As you can see, a book like this is a huge undertaking. Without the efforts of these many people, you’d be holding a far, far inferior book.
As always, some final thanks go to my family: Emily Sanderson, Joel Sanderson, Dallin Sanderson, and Oliver Sanderson. They put up with a husband/father who is often off in another world, thinking about highstorms and Knights Radiant.
Finally, thanks to you all, for your support of these books! They don’t always come out as quickly as I’d like, but that is in part because I want them to be as perfect as they can get. You hold in your hands a volume I’ve been preparing and outlining for almost two decades. May you enjoy your time in Roshar.
Journey before destination.
SIX YEARS AGO
Eshonai had always told her sister that she was certain something wonderful lay over the next hill. Then one day, she’d crested a hill and found humans.
She’d always imagined humans—as sung of in the songs—as dark, formless monsters. Instead they were wonderful, bizarre creatures. They spoke with no discernible rhythm. They wore clothing more vibrant than carapace, but couldn’t grow their own armor. They were so terrified of the storms that even when traveling they hid inside vehicles.
Most remarkably, they had only one form.
She first assumed the humans must have forgotten their forms, much as the listeners once had. That built an instant kinship between them.
Now, over a year later, Eshonai hummed to the Rhythm of Awe as she helped unload drums from the cart. They’d traveled a great distance to see the human homeland, and each step had overwhelmed her further. That experience culminated here, in this incredible city of Kholinar and its magnificent palace.
This cavernous unloading dock on the western side of the palace was so large, two hundred listeners had packed in here after their first arrival, and still hadn’t filled the place. Indeed, most of the listeners couldn’t attend the feast upstairs—where the treaty between their two peoples was being witnessed—but the Alethi had seen to their refreshment anyway, providing mountains of food and drink for the group down here.
She stepped out of the wagon, looking around the loading dock, humming to Excitement. When she’d told Venli she was determined to map the world, she’d imagined a place of natural discovery. Canyons and hills, forests and laits overgrown with life. Yet all along, this had been out here. Waiting just beyond their reach.
Along with more listeners.
When Eshonai had first met the humans, she’d seen the little listeners they had with them. A hapless tribe who were trapped in dullform. Eshonai had assumed the humans were taking care of the poor souls without songs.
Oh, how innocent those first meetings had been.
Those captive listeners had not been merely some small tribe, but instead representative of an enormous population. And the humans had not been caring for them.
The humans owned them.
A group of these parshmen, as they were called, clustered around the outside of Eshonai’s ring of workers.
“They keep trying to help,” Gitgeth said to Curiosity. He shook his head, his beard sparkling with ruby gemstones that matched the prominent red colors of his skin. “The little rhythmless ones want to be near us. They sense that something is wrong with their minds, I tell you.”
Eshonai handed him a drum from the back of the cart, then hummed to Curiosity herself. She hopped down and approached the group of parshmen.
“You aren’t needed,” she said to Peace, spreading her hands. “We would prefer to handle our own drums.”
The ones without songs looked at her with dull eyes.
“Go,” she said to Pleading, waving toward the nearby festivities, where listeners and human servants laughed together, despite the language barrier. Humans clapped along to listeners singing the old songs. “Enjoy yourselves.”
A few looked toward the singing and cocked their heads, but they didn’t move.
“It won’t work,” Brianlia said to Skepticism, resting her arms across a drum nearby. “They simply can’t imagine what it is to live. They’re pieces of property, to be bought and sold.”
What to make of this idea? Slaves? Klade, one of the Five, had gone to the slavers in Kholinar and purchased a person to see if it truly was possible. He hadn’t even bought a parshman; there had been Alethi for sale. Apparently the parshmen were expensive, and considered high-quality slaves. The listeners had been told this, as if it were supposed to make them proud.
She hummed to Curiosity and nodded to the side, looking toward the others. Gitgeth smiled and hummed to Peace, waving for her to go. Everyone was used to Eshonai wandering off in the middle of jobs. It wasn’t that she was unreliable.… Well, perhaps she was, but at least she was consistent.
Regardless, she’d be wanted at the king’s celebration soon anyway; she was one of the best among the listeners at the dull human tongue, which she’d taken to naturally. It was an advantage that had earned her a place on this expedition, but it was also a problem. Speaking the human tongue made her important, and people who grew too important couldn’t be allowed to go off chasing the horizon.
She left the unloading bay and walked up the steps into the palace proper, trying to take in the ornamentation, the artistry, the sheer overwhelming wonder of the building. Beautiful and terrible. People who were bought and sold maintained this place, but was that what freed the humans to create great works like the carvings on the pillars she passed, or the inlaid marble patterns on the floor?
She passed soldiers wearing their artificial carapace. Eshonai didn’t have armor of her own at the moment; she wore workform instead of warform, as she liked its flexibility.
Humans didn’t have a choice. They hadn’t lost their forms as she’d first assumed; they only had one. Forever in mateform, workform, and warform all at once. And they wore their emotions on their faces far more than listeners. Oh, Eshonai’s people would smile, laugh, cry. But not like these Alethi.
The lower level of the palace was marked by broad hallways and galleries, lit by carefully cut gemstones that made light sparkle. Chandeliers hung above her, broken suns spraying light everywhere. Perhaps the plain appearance of the human bodies—with their bland skin that was various shades of tan—was another reason they sought to ornament everything, from their clothing to these pillars.
Could we do this? she thought, humming to Appreciation. If we knew the right form for creating art?
The upper floors of the palace were more like tunnels. Narrow stone corridors, rooms like bunkers dug into a mountainside. She made her way toward the feast hall to check if she was needed, but stopped here and there to glance into rooms. She’d been told she could wander as she pleased, that the palace was open to her save for areas with guards at the doors.
She passed a room with paintings on all the walls, then one with a bed and furniture. Another door revealed an indoor privy with running water, a marvel that she still didn’t understand.
She poked through a dozen rooms. As long as she reached the king’s celebration in time for the music, Klade and the others of the Five wouldn’t complain. They were as familiar with her ways as everyone else. She was always wandering off, poking into things, peeking into doors …
And finding the king?
Eshonai froze, the door cracked open, allowing her to see into a lush room with a thick red rug and bookshelves lining the walls. So much information just lying around, casually ignored. More surprisingly, King Gavilar himself stood pointing at something on a table, surrounded by five others: two officers, two women in long dresses, and one old man in robes.
Why wasn’t Gavilar at the feast? Why weren’t there guards at the door? Eshonai attuned Anxiety and pulled back, but not before one of the women prodded Gavilar and pointed toward Eshonai. Anxiety pounding in her head, she pulled the door closed.
A moment later a tall man in uniform stepped out. “The king would like to see you, Parshendi.”
She feigned confusion. “Sir? Words?”
“Don’t be coy,” the soldier said. “You’re one of the interpreters. Come in. You aren’t in trouble.”
Anxiety shaking her, she let him lead her into the den.
“Thank you, Meridas,” Gavilar said. “Leave us for a moment, all of you.”
They filed out, leaving Eshonai at the door attuning Consolation and humming it loudly—even though the humans wouldn’t understand what it meant.
“Eshonai,” the king said. “I have something to show you.”
He knew her name? She stepped farther into the small, warm room, holding her arms tightly around her. She didn’t understand this man. It was more than his alien, dead way of speaking. More than the fact that she couldn’t anticipate what emotions might be swirling in there, as warform and mateform contested within him.
More than any human, this man baffled her. Why had he offered them such a favorable treaty? At first it had seemed an accommodation between tribes. That was before she’d come here, seen this city and the Alethi armies. Her people had once possessed cities of their own, and armies to envy. They knew that from the songs.
That had been long ago. They were a fragment of a lost people. Traitors who had abandoned their gods to be free. This man could have crushed the listeners. They’d once assumed that their Shards—weapons they had so far kept hidden from the humans—would be enough to protect them. But she’d now seen over a dozen Shardblades and suits of Shardplate among the Alethi.
Why did he smile at her like that? What was he hiding, by not singing to the rhythms to calm her?
“Sit, Eshonai,” the king said. “Oh, don’t be frightened, little scout. I’ve been wanting to speak to you. Your mastery of our language is unique!”
She settled on a chair while Gavilar reached down and removed something from a small satchel. It glowed with red Stormlight, a construction of gemstones and metal, crafted in a beautiful design.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked, gently pushing it toward her.
“No, Your Majesty.”
“It’s what we call a fabrial, a device powered by Stormlight. This one makes warmth. Just a smidge, unfortunately, but my wife is confident her scholars can create one that will heat a room. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? No more smoky fires in hearths.”
It seemed lifeless to Eshonai, but she didn’t say so. She hummed to Praise so he’d feel happy telling her of this, and handed it back.
“Look closely,” King Gavilar said. “Look deep into it. Can you see what’s moving inside? It’s a spren. That is how the device works.”
Captive like in a gemheart, she thought, attuning Awe. They’ve built devices that mimic how we apply the forms? The humans did so much with their limitations!
“The chasmfiends aren’t your gods, are they,” he said.
“What?” she asked, attuning Skepticism. “Why ask that?” What a strange turn in the conversation.
“Oh, it’s merely something I’ve been thinking about.” He took the fabrial back. “My officers feel so superior, as they think they have you figured out. They think you’re savages, but they are so wrong. You’re not savages. You’re an enclave of memories. A window into the past.”
He leaned forward, the light from the ruby leaking between his fingers. “I need you to deliver a message to your leaders. The Five? You’re close to them, and I’m being watched. I need their help to achieve something.”
She hummed to Anxiety.
“Now, now,” he said. “I’m going to help you, Eshonai. Did you know, I’ve discovered how to bring your gods back?”
No. She hummed to the Rhythm of the Terrors. No …
“My ancestors,” he said, holding up the fabrial, “first learned how to hold a spren inside a gemstone. And with a very special gemstone, you can hold even a god.”
“Your Majesty,” she said, daring to take his hand in hers. He couldn’t feel the rhythms. He didn’t know. “Please. We no longer worship those gods. We left them, abandoned them.”
“Ah, but this is for your good, and for ours.” He stood up. “We live without honor, for your gods once brought ours. Without them, we have no power. This world is trapped, Eshonai! Stuck in a dull, lifeless state of transition.” He looked toward the ceiling. “Unite them. I need a threat. Only danger will unite them.”
“What…” she said to Anxiety. “What are you saying?”
“Our enslaved parshmen were once like you. Then we somehow robbed them of their ability to undergo the transformation. We did it by capturing a spren. An ancient, crucial spren.” He looked at her, green eyes alight. “I’ve seen how that can be reversed. A new storm that will bring the Heralds out of hiding. A new war.”
“Insanity.” She rose to her feet. “Our gods tried to destroy you.”
“The old Words must be spoken again.”
“You can’t…” She trailed off, noticing for the first time that a map covered the table nearby. Expansive, it showed a land bounded by oceans—and the artistry of it put her own attempts to shame.
She rose and stepped to the table, gaping, the Rhythm of Awe playing in her mind. This is gorgeous. Even the grand chandeliers and carved walls were nothing by comparison. This was knowledge and beauty, fused into one.
“I thought you’d be pleased to hear that we are allies in seeking the return of your gods,” Gavilar said. She could almost hear the Rhythm of Reprimand in his dead words. “You claim to fear them, but why fear that which made you live? My people need to be united, and I need an empire that won’t simply turn to infighting once I am gone.”
“So you seek for war?”
“I seek for an end to something that we never finished. My people were Radiant once, and your people—the parshmen—were vibrant. Who is served by this drab world where my people fight each other in endless squabbles, without light to guide them, and your people are as good as corpses?”
She looked back at the map. “Where … where is the Shattered Plains? This portion here?”
“That is all of Natanatan you gesture toward, Eshonai! This is the Shattered Plains.” He pointed at a spot not much bigger than his thumbnail, when the entire map was as large as the table.
It gave her a sudden dizzying perspective. This was the world? She’d assumed that in traveling to Kholinar, they’d crossed almost as far as the land could go. Why hadn’t they shown her this before!
Her legs weakened, and she attuned Mourning. She dropped back into her seat, unable to stand.
Gavilar removed something from his pocket. A sphere? It was dark, yet somehow still glowed. As if it had … an aura of blackness, a phantom light that was not light. Faintly violet. It seemed to suck in the light around it.
He set it on the table before her. “Take that to the Five and explain what I told you. Tell them to remember what your people once were. Wake up, Eshonai.”
He patted her on the shoulder, then left the room. She stared at that terrible light, and—from the songs—knew it for what it was. The forms of power had been associated with a dark light, a light from the king of gods.
She plucked the sphere off the table and went running.
* * *
When the drums were set up, Eshonai insisted on joining the drummers. An outlet for her anxiety. She beat to the rhythm in her head, banging as hard as she could, trying with each beat to banish the things the king had said.
And the things she’d just done.
The Five sat at the high table, the remnants of their final course uneaten.
He intends to bring back our gods, she’d told the Five.
Close your eyes. Focus on the rhythms.
He can do it. He knows so much.
Furious beats pulsing through her soul.
We have to do something.
Klade’s slave was an assassin. Klade claimed that a voice—speaking to the rhythms—had led him to the man, who had confessed his skills when pressed. Venli had apparently been with Klade, though Eshonai hadn’t seen her sister since earlier in the day.
After a frantic debate, the Five had agreed this was a sign of what they were to do. Long ago, the listeners had summoned the courage to adopt dullform in order to escape their gods. They’d sought freedom at any cost.
Today, the cost of maintaining that freedom would be high.
She played the drums. She felt the rhythms. She wept softly, and didn’t look as the strange assassin—wearing flowing white clothing provided by Klade—left the room. She’d voted with the others for this course of action.
Feel the peace of the music. As her mother always said. Seek the rhythms. Seek the songs.
She resisted as the others pulled her away. She wept to leave the music behind. Wept for her people, who might be destroyed for tonight’s action. Wept for the world, which might never know what the listeners had done for it.
Wept for the king, whom she had consigned to death.
The drums cut off around her, and dying music echoed through the halls.
I’m certain some will feel threatened by this record. Some few may feel liberated. Most will simply feel that it should not exist.
—From Oathbringer, preface
Dalinar Kholin appeared in the vision standing beside the memory of a dead god.
It had been six days since his forces had arrived at Urithiru, legendary holy tower city of the Knights Radiant. They had escaped the arrival of a new devastating storm, seeking refuge through an ancient portal. They were settling into their new home hidden in the mountains.
And yet, Dalinar felt as if he knew nothing. He didn’t understand the force he fought, let alone how to defeat it. He barely understood the storm, and what it meant in returning the Voidbringers, ancient enemies of men.
So he came here, into his visions. Seeking to pull secrets from the god—named Honor, or the Almighty—who had left them. This particular vision was the first that Dalinar had ever experienced. It began with him standing next to an image of the god in human form, both perched atop a cliff overlooking Kholinar: Dalinar’s home, seat of the government. In the vision, the city had been destroyed by some unknown force.
The Almighty started speaking, but Dalinar ignored him. Dalinar had become a Knight Radiant by bonding the Stormfather himself—soul of the highstorm, most powerful spren on Roshar—and Dalinar had discovered he could now have these visions replayed for him at will. He’d already heard this monologue three times, and had repeated it word for word to Navani for transcription.
This time, Dalinar instead walked to the edge of the cliff and knelt to look out upon the ruins of Kholinar. The air smelled dry here, dusty and warm. He squinted, trying to extract some meaningful detail from the chaos of broken buildings. Even the windblades—once magnificent, sleek rock formations exposing countless strata and variations—had been shattered.
The Almighty continued his speech. These visions were like a diary, a set of immersive messages the god had left behind. Dalinar appreciated the help, but right now he wanted details.
He searched the sky and discovered a ripple in the air, like heat rising from distant stone. A shimmer the size of a building.
“Stormfather,” he said. “Can you take me down below, into the rubble?”
You are not supposed to go there. That is not part of the vision.
“Ignore what I’m supposed to do, for the moment,” Dalinar said. “Can you do it? Can you transport me to those ruins?”
The Stormfather rumbled. He was a strange being, somehow connected to the dead god, but not exactly the same thing as the Almighty. At least today he wasn’t using a voice that rattled Dalinar’s bones.
In an eyeblink, Dalinar was transported. He no longer stood atop the cliff, but was on the plains down before the ruins of the city.
“Thank you,” Dalinar said, striding the short remaining distance to the ruins.
Only six days had passed since their discovery of Urithiru. Six days since the awakening of the Parshendi, who had gained strange powers and glowing red eyes. Six days since the arrival of the new storm—the Everstorm, a tempest of dark thunderheads and red lightning.
Some in his armies thought that it was finished, the storm over as one catastrophic event. Dalinar knew otherwise. The Everstorm would return, and would soon hit Shinovar in the far west. Following that, it would course across the land.
Nobody believed his warnings. Monarchs in places like Azir and Thaylenah admitted that a strange storm had appeared in the east, but they didn’t believe it would return.
They couldn’t guess how destructive this storm’s return would be. When it had first appeared, it had clashed with the highstorm, creating a unique cataclysm. Hopefully it would not be as bad on its own—but it would still be a storm blowing the wrong way. And it would awaken the world’s parshman servants and make them into Voidbringers.
What do you expect to learn? the Stormfather said as Dalinar reached the rubble of the city. This vision was constructed to draw you to the ridge to speak with Honor. The rest is backdrop, a painting.
“Honor put this rubble here,” Dalinar said, waving toward the broken walls heaped before him. “Backdrop or not, his knowledge of the world and our enemy couldn’t help but affect the way he made this vision.”
Dalinar hiked up the rubble of the outer walls. Kholinar had been … storm it, Kholinar was … a grand city, like few in the world. Instead of hiding in the shadow of a cliff or inside a sheltered chasm, Kholinar trusted in its enormous walls to buffer it from highstorm winds. It defied the winds, and did not bow to the storms.
In this vision, something had destroyed it anyway. Dalinar crested the detritus and surveyed the area, trying to imagine how it had felt to settle here so many millennia ago. Back when there had been no walls. It had been a hardy, stubborn lot who had grown this place.
He saw scrapes and gouges on the stones of the fallen walls, like those made by a predator in the flesh of its prey. The windblades had been smashed, and from up close he could see claw marks on one of those as well.
“I’ve seen creatures that could do this,” he said, kneeling beside one of the stones, feeling the rough gash in the granite surface. “In my visions, I witnessed a stone monster that ripped itself free of the underlying rock.
“There are no corpses, but that’s probably because the Almighty didn’t populate the city in this vision. He just wanted a symbol of the coming destruction. He didn’t think Kholinar would fall to the Everstorm, but to the Voidbringers.”
Yes, the Stormfather said. The storm will be a catastrophe, but not nearly on the scale of what follows. You can find refuge from storms, Son of Honor. Not so with our enemies.
Now that the monarchs of Roshar had refused to listen to Dalinar’s warning that the Everstorm would soon strike them, what else could Dalinar do? The real Kholinar was reportedly consumed by riots—and the queen had gone silent. Dalinar’s armies had limped away from their first confrontation with the Voidbringers, and even many of his own highprinces hadn’t joined him in that battle.
A war was coming. In awakening the Desolation, the enemy had rekindled a millennia-old conflict of ancient creatures with inscrutable motivations and unknown powers. Heralds were supposed to appear and lead the charge against the Voidbringers. The Knights Radiant should have already been in place, prepared and trained, ready to face the enemy. They were supposed to be able to trust in the guidance of the Almighty.
Instead, Dalinar had only a handful of new Radiants, and there was no sign of help from the Heralds. And beyond that, the Almighty—God himself—was dead.
Somehow, Dalinar was supposed to save the world anyway.
The ground started to tremble; the vision was ending with the land falling away. Atop the cliff, the Almighty would have just concluded his speech.
A final wave of destruction rolled across the land like a highstorm. A metaphor designed by the Almighty to represent the darkness and devastation that was coming upon humankind.
Your legends say that you won, he had said. But the truth is that we lost. And we are losing.…
The Stormfather rumbled. It is time to go.
“No,” Dalinar said, standing atop the rubble. “Leave me.”
“Let me feel it!”
The wave of destruction struck, crashing against Dalinar, and he shouted defiance. He had not bowed before the highstorm; he would not bow before this! He faced it head-on, and in the blast of power that ripped apart the ground, he saw something.
A golden light, brilliant yet terrible. Standing before it, a dark figure in black Shardplate. The figure had nine shadows, each spreading out in a different direction, and its eyes glowed a brilliant red.
Dalinar stared deep into those eyes, and felt a chill wash through him. Though the destruction raged around him, vaporizing rocks, those eyes frightened him more. He saw something terribly familiar in them.
This was a danger far beyond even the storms.
This was the enemy’s champion. And he was coming.
UNITE THEM. QUICKLY.
Dalinar gasped as the vision shattered. He found himself sitting beside Navani in a quiet stone room in the tower city of Urithiru. Dalinar didn’t need to be bound for visions any longer; he had enough control over them that he had ceased acting them out while experiencing them.
He breathed deeply, sweat trickling down his face, his heart racing. Navani said something, but for the moment he couldn’t hear her. She seemed distant compared to the rushing in his ears.
“What was that light I saw?” he whispered.
I saw no light, the Stormfather said.
“It was brilliant and golden, but terrible,” Dalinar whispered. “It bathed everything in its heat.”
Odium, the Stormfather rumbled. The enemy.
The god who had killed the Almighty. The force behind the Desolations.
“Nine shadows,” Dalinar whispered, trembling.
Nine shadows? The Unmade. His minions, ancient spren.
Storms. Dalinar knew of them from legend only. Terrible spren who twisted the minds of men.
Still, those eyes haunted him. As frightening as it was to contemplate the Unmade, he feared that figure with the red eyes the most. Odium’s champion.
Dalinar blinked, looking to Navani, the woman he loved, her face painfully concerned as she held his arm. In this strange place and stranger time, she was something real. Something to hold on to. A mature beauty—in some ways the picture of a perfect Vorin woman: lush lips, light violet eyes, silvering black hair in perfect braids, curves accentuated by the tight silk havah. No man would ever accuse Navani of being scrawny.
“Dalinar?” she asked. “Dalinar, what happened? Are you well?”
“I’m…” He drew in a deep breath. “I’m well, Navani. And I know what we must do.”
Her frown deepened. “What?”
“I have to unite the world against the enemy faster than he can destroy it.”
He had to find a way to make the other monarchs of the world listen to him. He had to prepare them for the new storm and the Voidbringers. And, barring that, he had to help them survive the effects.
But if he succeeded, he wouldn’t have to face the Desolation alone. This was not a matter of one nation against the Voidbringers. He needed the kingdoms of the world to join him, and he needed to find the Knights Radiant who were being created among their populations.
“Dalinar,” she said, “I think that’s a worthy goal … but storms, what of ourselves? This mountainside is a wasteland—what are we going to feed our armies?”
“Will run out of gemstones eventually,” Navani said. “And they can create only the basic necessities. Dalinar, we’re half frozen up here, broken and divided. Our command structure is in disarray, and it—”
“Peace, Navani,” Dalinar said, rising. He pulled her to her feet. “I know. We have to fight anyway.”
She embraced him. He held to her, feeling her warmth, smelling her perfume. She preferred a less floral scent than other women—a fragrance with spice to it, like the aroma of newly cut wood.
“We can do this,” he told her. “My tenacity. Your brilliance. Together, we will convince the other kingdoms to join with us. They’ll see when the storm returns that our warnings were right, and they’ll unite against the enemy. We can use the Oathgates to move troops and to support each other.”
The Oathgates. Ten portals, ancient fabrials, were gateways to Urithiru. When a Knight Radiant activated one of the devices, those people standing upon its surrounding platform were brought to Urithiru, appearing on a similar device here at the tower.
They only had one pair of Oathgates active now—the ones that moved people back and forth between Urithiru and the Shattered Plains. Nine more could theoretically be made to work—but unfortunately, their research determined that a mechanism inside each of them had to be unlocked from both sides before they’d work.
If he wanted to travel to Vedenar, Thaylen City, Azimir, or any of the other locations, they’d first need to get one of their Radiants to the city and unlock the device.
“All right,” she said. “We’ll do it. Somehow we’ll make them listen—even if they’ve got their fingers planted firmly in their ears. Makes one wonder how they manage it, with their heads rammed up their own backsides.”
He smiled, and suddenly thought himself foolish for idealizing her just earlier. Navani Kholin was not some timid, perfect ideal—she was a sour storm of a woman, set in her ways, stubborn as a boulder rolling down a mountain and increasingly impatient with things she considered foolish.
He loved her the most for that. For being open and genuine in a society that prided itself on secrets. She’d been breaking taboos, and hearts, since their youth. At times, the idea that she loved him back seemed as surreal as one of his visions.
A knock came at the door to his room, and Navani called for the person to enter. One of Dalinar’s scouts poked her head in through the door. Dalinar turned, frowning, noting the woman’s nervous posture and quick breathing.
“What?” he demanded.
“Sir,” the woman said, saluting, face pale. “There’s … been an incident. A corpse discovered in the corridors.”
Dalinar felt something building, an energy in the air like the sensation of lightning about to strike. “Who?”
“Highprince Torol Sadeas, sir,” the woman said. “He’s been murdered.”
I needed to write it anyway.
—From Oathbringer, preface
“Stop! What do you think you’re doing?” Adolin Kholin strode over to a group of workers in crem-stained work outfits who were unloading boxes from the back of a wagon. Their chull twisted, trying to search out rockbuds to munch on. Fruitlessly. They were deep within the tower, for all the fact that this cavern was as large as a small town.
The workers had the decency to look chagrined, though they probably didn’t know what for. A flock of scribes trailing Adolin checked the contents of the wagon. Oil lamps on the ground did little to push back the darkness of the enormous room, which had a ceiling that went up four stories.
“Brightlord?” one of the workers asked, scratching at his hair beneath his cap. “I was just unloadin’. That’s what I think I was doin’.”
“Manifest says beer,” Rushu—a young ardent—told Adolin.
“Section two,” Adolin said, rapping the knuckles of his left hand against the wagon. “Taverns are being set up along the central corridor with the lifts, six crossroads inward. My aunt expressly told your highlords this.”
The men just stared at him blankly.
“I can have a scribe show you. Pick these boxes back up.”
The men sighed, but started reloading their wagon. They knew better than to argue with the son of a highprince.
Adolin turned to survey the deep cavern, which had become a dumping ground for both supplies and people. Children ran past in groups. Workers set up tents. Women gathered water at the well in the center. Soldiers carried torches or lanterns. Even axehounds raced this way and that. Four entire warcamps full of people had frantically crossed the Shattered Plains to Urithiru, and Navani had struggled to find the right spot for them all.
For all the chaos, though, Adolin was glad to have these people. They were fresh; they hadn’t suffered the battle with the Parshendi, the attack of the Assassin in White, and the terrible clash of two storms.
The Kholin soldiers were in terrible shape. Adolin’s own sword hand was wrapped and still throbbing, his wrist broken during the fighting. His face had a nasty bruise, and he was one of the more lucky ones.
“Brightlord,” Rushu said, pointing at another wagon. “That looks like wines.”
“Delightful,” Adolin said. Was nobody paying attention to Aunt Navani’s directives?
He dealt with this wagon, then had to break up an argument among men who were angry they had been set to hauling water. They claimed that was parshman work, beneath their nahn. Unfortunately, there were no parshmen any longer.
Adolin soothed them and suggested they could start a water haulers’ guild if forced to continue. Father would approve that for certain, though Adolin worried. Would they have the funds to pay all these people? Wages were based on a man’s rank, and you couldn’t just make slaves of men for no reason.
Adolin was glad for the assignment, to distract him. Though he didn’t have to see to each wagon himself—he was here to supervise—he threw himself into the details of the work. He couldn’t exactly spar, not with his wrist in this shape, but if he sat alone too long he started thinking about what had happened the day before.
Had he really done that?
Had he really murdered Torol Sadeas?
It was almost a relief when at long last a runner came for him, whispering that something had been discovered in the corridors of the third floor.
Adolin was certain he knew what it was.
* * *
Dalinar heard the shouts long before he arrived. They echoed down the tunnels. He knew that tone. Conflict was near.
He left Navani and broke into a run, sweating as he burst into a wide intersection between tunnels. Men in blue, lit by the harsh light of lanterns, faced off against others in forest green. Angerspren grew from the floor like pools of blood.
A corpse with a green jacket draped over the face lay on the ground.
“Stand down!” Dalinar bellowed, charging into the space between the two groups of soldiers. He pulled back a bridgeman who had gotten right up in the face of one of Sadeas’s soldiers. “Stand down, or I’ll have you all in the stockade, every man!”
His voice hit the men like stormwinds, drawing eyes from both sides. He pushed the bridgeman toward his fellows, then shoved back one of Sadeas’s soldiers, praying the man would have the presence of mind to resist attacking a highprince.
Navani and the scout stopped at the fringes of the conflict. The men from Bridge Four finally backed down one corridor, and Sadeas’s soldiers retreated up the one opposite. Just far enough that they could still glare at one another.
“You’d better be ready for Damnation’s own thunder,” Sadeas’s officer shouted at Dalinar. “Your men murdered a highprince!”
“We found him like this!” Teft of Bridge Four shouted back. “Probably tripped on his own knife. Serves him well, the storming bastard.”
“Teft, stand down!” Dalinar shouted at him.
The bridgeman looked abashed, then saluted with a stiff gesture.
Dalinar knelt, pulling the jacket back from Sadeas’s face. “That blood is dried. He’s been lying here for some time.”
“We’ve been looking for him,” said the officer in green.
“Looking for him? You lost your highprince?”
“The tunnels are confusing!” the man said. “They don’t go natural directions. We got turned about and…”
“Thought he might have returned to another part of the tower,” a man said. “We spent last night searching for him there. Some people said they thought they’d seen him, but they were wrong, and…”
And a highprince was left lying here in his own gore for half a day, Dalinar thought. Blood of my fathers.
“We couldn’t find him,” the officer said, “because your men murdered him and moved the body—”
“That blood has been pooling there for hours. Nobody moved the body.” Dalinar pointed. “Place the highprince in that side room there and send for Ialai, if you haven’t. I want to have a better look.”
* * *
Dalinar Kholin was a connoisseur of death.
Even since his youth, the sight of dead men had been a familiar thing to him. You stay on the battlefield long enough, and you become familiar with its master.
So Sadeas’s bloodied, ruined face didn’t shock him. The punctured eye, smashed up into the socket by a blade that had been rammed into the brain. Fluid and blood had leaked out, then dried.
A knife through the eye was the sort of wound that killed an armored man wearing a full helm. It was a maneuver you practiced to use on the battlefield. But Sadeas had not been wearing armor and had not been on a battlefield.
Dalinar leaned down, inspecting the body lit by flickering oil lanterns as it lay on the table.
“Assassin,” Navani said, clicking her tongue and shaking her head. “Not good.”
Behind him, Adolin and Renarin gathered with Shallan and a few of the bridgemen. Across from Dalinar stood Kalami; the thin, orange-eyed woman was one of his more senior scribes. They’d lost her husband, Teleb, in the battle against the Voidbringers. He hated to call upon her in her time of grief, but she insisted that she remain on duty.
Storms, he had so few high officers left. Cael had fallen in the clash between Everstorm and highstorm, almost making it to safety. He’d lost Ilamar and Perethom to Sadeas’s betrayal at the Tower. The only highlord he had left was Khal, who was still recuperating from a wound he’d taken during the clash with the Voidbringers—one he’d kept to himself until everyone else was safe.
Even Elhokar, the king, had been wounded by assassins in his palace while the armies were fighting at Narak. He’d been recuperating ever since. Dalinar wasn’t certain if he would come to see Sadeas’s body or not.
Either way, Dalinar’s lack of officers explained the room’s other occupants: Highprince Sebarial and his mistress, Palona. Likable or not, Sebarial was one of the two living highprinces who had responded to Dalinar’s call to march for Narak. Dalinar had to rely on someone, and he didn’t trust most of the highprinces farther than the wind could blow them.
Sebarial, along with Aladar—who had been summoned but had not yet arrived—would have to form the foundation of a new Alethkar. Almighty help them all.
“Well!” said Palona, hands on hips as she regarded Sadeas’s corpse. “I guess that’s one problem solved!”
Everyone in the room turned toward her.
“What?” she said. “Don’t tell me you weren’t all thinking it.”
“This is going to look bad, Brightlord,” Kalami said. “Everyone is going to act like those soldiers outside and assume you had him assassinated.”
“Any sign of the Shardblade?” Dalinar asked.
“No, sir,” one of the bridgemen said. “Whoever killed him probably took it.”
Navani rubbed Dalinar on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t have put it as Palona did, but he did try to have you killed. Perhaps this is for the best.”
“No,” Dalinar said, voice hoarse. “We needed him.”
“I know you’re desperate, Dalinar,” Sebarial said. “My presence here is sufficient proof of that. But surely we haven’t sunk so far as to be better off with Sadeas among us. I agree with Palona. Good riddance.”
Dalinar looked up, inspecting those in the room. Sebarial and Palona. Teft and Sigzil, the lieutenants from Bridge Four. A handful of other soldiers, including the young scout woman who had fetched him. His sons, steady Adolin and impenetrable Renarin. Navani, with her hand on his shoulder. Even the aging Kalami, hands clasped before her, meeting his eyes and nodding.
“You all agree, don’t you?” Dalinar asked.
Nobody objected. Yes, this murder was inconvenient for Dalinar’s reputation, and they certainly wouldn’t have gone so far as to kill Sadeas themselves. But now that he was gone … well, why shed any tears?
Memories churned inside Dalinar’s head. Days spent with Sadeas, listening to Gavilar’s grand plans. The night before Dalinar’s wedding, when he’d shared wine with Sadeas at a rowdy feast that Sadeas had organized in his name.
It was hard to reconcile that younger man, that friend, with the thicker, older face on the slab before him. The adult Sadeas had been a murderer whose treachery had caused the deaths of better men. For those men, abandoned during the battle at the Tower, Dalinar could feel only satisfaction at finally seeing Sadeas dead.
That troubled him. He knew exactly how the others were feeling. “Come with me.”
He left the body and strode out of the room. He passed Sadeas’s guards, who hurried back in. They would deal with the corpse; hopefully he’d defused the situation enough to prevent an impromptu clash between his forces and theirs. For now, the best thing to do was get Bridge Four away from here.
Dalinar’s retinue followed him through the halls of the cavernous tower, bearing oil lamps. The walls were twisted with lines—natural strata of alternating earthy colors, like those made by crem drying in layers. He didn’t blame the soldiers for losing track of Sadeas; it was strikingly easy to get lost in this place, with its endless passageways all leading into darkness.
Fortunately, he had an idea of where they were, and led his people to the outer rim of the tower. Here he strode through an empty chamber and stepped out onto a balcony, one of many similar ones that were like wide patios.
Above him rose the enormous tower city of Urithiru, a strikingly high structure built up against the mountains. Created from a sequence of ten ringlike tiers—each containing eighteen levels—the tower city was adorned with aqueducts, windows, and balconies like this one.
The bottom floor also had wide sections jutting out at the perimeter: large stone surfaces, each a plateau in its own right. They had stone railings at their edges, where the rock fell away into the depths of the chasms between mountain peaks. At first, these wide flat sections of stone had baffled them. But the furrows in the stone, and planter boxes on the inner edges, had revealed their purpose. Somehow, these were fields. Like the large spaces for gardens atop each tier of the tower, this area had been farmed, despite the cold. One of these fields extended below this balcony, two levels down.
Dalinar strode up to the edge of the balcony and rested his hands on the smooth stone retaining wall. The others gathered behind him. Along the way they’d picked up Highprince Aladar, a distinguished bald Alethi with dark tan skin. He was accompanied by May, his daughter: a short, pretty woman in her twenties with tan eyes and a round face, her jet-black Alethi hair worn short and curving around her face. Navani whispered to them the details of Sadeas’s death.
Dalinar swept his hand outward in the chill air, pointing away from the balcony. “What do you see?”
The bridgemen gathered to look off the balcony. Their number included the Herdazian, who now had two arms after regrowing the one with Stormlight. Kaladin’s men had begun manifesting powers as Windrunners—though apparently they were merely “squires.” Navani said it was a type of apprentice Radiant that had once been common: men and women whose abilities were tied to their master, a full Radiant.
The men of Bridge Four had not bonded their own spren, and—though they had started manifesting powers—had lost their abilities when Kaladin had flown to Alethkar to warn his family of the Everstorm.
“What do I see?” the Herdazian said. “I see clouds.”
“Lots of clouds,” another bridgeman added.
“Some mountains too,” another said. “They look like teeth.”
“Nah, horns,” the Herdazian argued.
“We,” Dalinar interrupted, “are above the storms. It’s going to be easy to forget the tempest the rest of the world is facing. The Everstorm will return, bringing the Voidbringers. We have to assume that this city—our armies—will soon be the only bastion of order left in the world. It is our calling, our duty, to take the lead.”
“Order?” Aladar said. “Dalinar, have you seen our armies? They fought an impossible battle only six days ago, and despite being rescued, we technically lost. Roion’s son is woefully underprepared for dealing with the remnants of his princedom. Some of the strongest forces—those of Thanadal and Vamah—stayed behind in the warcamps!”
“The ones who did come are already squabbling,” Palona added. “Old Torol’s death back there will only give them something else to dissent about.”
Dalinar turned around, gripping the top of the stone wall with both hands, fingers cold. A chill wind blew against him, and a few windspren passed like little translucent people riding on the breeze.
“Brightness Kalami,” Dalinar said. “What do you know of the Desolations?”
“Brightlord?” she asked, hesitant.
“The Desolations. You’ve done scholarly work on Vorin theory, yes? Can you tell us of the Desolations?”
Kalami cleared her throat. “They were destruction made manifest, Brightlord. Each one was so profoundly devastating that humankind was left broken. Populations ruined, society crippled, scholars dead. Humankind was forced to spend generations rebuilding after each one. Songs tell of how the losses compounded upon one another, causing us to slide farther each time, until the Heralds left a people with swords and fabrials and returned to find them wielding sticks and stone axes.”
“And the Voidbringers?” Dalinar asked.
“They came to annihilate,” Kalami said. “Their goal was to wipe humankind from Roshar. They were specters, formless—some say they are spirits of the dead, others spren from Damnation.”
“We will have to find a way to stop this from happening again,” Dalinar said softly, turning back to the group. “We are the ones this world must be able to look to. We must provide stability, a rallying point.
“This is why I cannot rejoice to find Sadeas dead. He was a thorn in my side, but he was a capable general and a brilliant mind. We needed him. Before this is through, we’ll need everyone who can fight.”
“Dalinar,” Aladar said. “I used to bicker. I used to be like the other highprinces. But what I saw on that battlefield … those red eyes … Sir, I’m with you. I will follow you to the ends of the storms themselves. What do you want me to do?”
“Our time is short. Aladar, I name you our new Highprince of Information, in command of the judgment and law of this city. Establish order in Urithiru and make sure that the highprinces have clearly delineated realms of control within it. Build a policing force, and patrol these hallways. Keep the peace, and prevent clashes between soldiers like the one we avoided earlier.
“Sebarial, I name you Highprince of Commerce. Account our supplies and establish marketplaces in Urithiru. I want this tower to become a functioning city, not just a temporary waystop.
“Adolin, see that the armies are put into a training regimen. Count the troops we have, from all the highprinces, and convey to them that their spears will be required for the defense of Roshar. So long as they remain here, they are under my authority as Highprince of War. We’ll crush their squabbling beneath a weight of training. We control the Soulcasters, and we control the food. If they want rations, they’ll have to listen.”
“And us?” the scruffy lieutenant of Bridge Four asked.
“Continue to explore Urithiru with my scouts and scribes,” Dalinar said. “And let me know the moment your captain returns. Hopefully he will bring good news from Alethkar.”
He took a deep breath. A voice echoed in the back of his mind, as if distant. Unite them.
Be ready for when the enemy’s champion arrives.
“Our ultimate goal is the preservation of all Roshar,” Dalinar said softly. “We’ve seen the cost of division in our ranks. Because of it, we failed to stop the Everstorm. But that was just the trial run, the sparring before the real fight. To face the Desolation, I will find a way to do what my ancestor the Sunmaker failed to do through conquest. I will unify Roshar.”
Kalami gasped softly. No man had ever united the entire continent—not during the Shin invasions, not during the height of the Hierocracy, not during the Sunmaker’s conquest. This was his task, he was increasingly certain. The enemy would unleash his worst terrors: the Unmade and the Voidbringers. That phantom champion in the dark armor.
Dalinar would resist them with a unified Roshar. Such a shame he hadn’t found a way to somehow convince Sadeas to join in his cause.
Ah, Torol, he thought. What we could have done together, if we hadn’t been so divided.…
“Father?” A soft voice drew his attention. Renarin, who stood beside Shallan and Adolin. “You didn’t mention us. Me and Brightness Shallan. What is our task?”
“To practice,” Dalinar said. “Other Radiants will be coming to us, and you two will need to lead them. The knights were once our greatest weapon against the Voidbringers. They will need to be so again.”
“Father, I…” Renarin stumbled over the words. “It’s just … Me? I can’t. I don’t know how to … let alone…”
“Son,” Dalinar said, stepping over. He took Renarin by the shoulder. “I trust you. The Almighty and the spren have granted you powers to defend and protect this people. Use them. Master them, then report back to me what you can do. I think we’re all curious to find out.”
Renarin exhaled softly, then nodded.
THIRTY-FOUR YEARS AGO
Rockbuds crunched like skulls beneath Dalinar’s boots as he charged across the burning field. His elites pounded after him, a handpicked force of soldiers both lighteyed and dark. They weren’t an honor guard. Dalinar didn’t need guards. These were simply the men he considered competent enough not to embarrass him.
Around him, rockbuds smoldered. Moss—dried from the summer heat and long days between storms this time of year—flared up in waves, setting the rockbud shells alight. Flamespren danced among them. And, like a spren himself, Dalinar charged through the smoke, trusting in his padded armor and thick boots to protect him.
The enemy—pressed on the north by his armies—had pulled back into this town just ahead. With some difficulty Dalinar had waited, so he could bring his elites in as a flanking force.
He hadn’t expected the enemy to fire this plain, desperately burning their own crops to block the southern approach. Well, the fires could go to Damnation. Though some of his men were overwhelmed by the smoke or heat, most stayed with him. They’d crash into the enemy, pressing them back against the main army.
Hammer and anvil. His favorite kind of tactic: the type that didn’t allow his enemies to get away from him.
As Dalinar burst from the smoky air, he found a few lines of spearmen hastily forming ranks on the southern edge of the town. Anticipationspren—like red streamers growing from the ground and whipping in the wind—clustered around them. The low town wall had been torn down in a contest a few years back, so the soldiers had only rubble as a fortification—though a large ridge to the east made a natural windbreak against the storms, which had allowed this place to sprawl almost like a real city.
Dalinar bellowed at the enemy soldiers, beating his sword—just an ordinary longsword—against his shield. He wore a sturdy breastplate, an open-fronted helm, and iron-reinforced boots. The spearmen ahead of him wavered as his elites roared from amid the smoke and flame, shouting a bloodthirsty cacophony.
A few of the spearmen dropped their weapons and ran. Dalinar grinned. He didn’t need Shards to intimidate.
He hit the spearmen like a boulder rolling through a grove of saplings, his sword tossing blood into the air. A good fight was about momentum. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Drive forward and convince your enemies that they’re as good as dead already. That way, they’ll fight you less as you send them to their pyres.
The spearmen thrust their spears frantically—less to try to kill, more to try to push away this madman. Their ranks collapsed as too many of them turned their attention toward him.
Dalinar laughed, slamming aside a pair of spears with his shield, then disemboweling one man with a blade deep in the gut. The man dropped his spear in agony, and his neighbors backed away at the horrific sight. Dalinar came in with a roar, killing them with a sword that bore their friend’s blood.
Dalinar’s elites struck the now-broken line, and the real slaughter began. He pushed forward, keeping momentum, shearing through the ranks until he reached the back, then breathed deeply and wiped ashen sweat from his face. A young spearman wept on the ground nearby, screaming for his mother as he crawled across the stone, trailing blood. Fearspren mixed with orange, sinewy painspren all around. Dalinar shook his head and rammed his sword down into the boy’s back as he passed.
Men often cried for their parents as they died. Didn’t matter how old they were. He’d seen greybeards do it, same as kids like this one. He’s not much younger than me, Dalinar thought. Maybe seventeen. But then, Dalinar had never felt young, regardless of his age.
His elites carved the enemy line in two. Dalinar danced, shaking off his bloodied blade, feeling alert, excited, but not yet alive. Where was it?
A larger group of enemy soldiers was jogging down the street toward him, led by several officers in white and red. From the way they suddenly pulled up, he guessed they were alarmed to find their spearmen falling so quickly.
Dalinar charged. His elites knew to watch, so he was rapidly joined by fifty men—the rest had to finish off the unfortunate spearmen. Fifty would do. The crowded confines of the town would mean Dalinar shouldn’t need more.
He focused his attention on the one man riding a horse. The fellow wore plate armor obviously meant to resemble Shardplate, though it was only of common steel. It lacked the beauty, the power, of true Plate. He still looked like he was the most important person around. Hopefully that would mean he was the best.
The man’s honor guard rushed to engage, and Dalinar felt something stir inside him. Like a thirst, a physical need.
Challenge. He needed a challenge!
He engaged the first member of the guard, attacking with a swift brutality. Fighting on a battlefield wasn’t like dueling in an arena; Dalinar didn’t dance around the fellow, testing his abilities. Out here, that sort of thing got you stabbed in the back by someone else. Instead, Dalinar slammed his sword down against the enemy, who raised his shield to block. Dalinar struck a series of quick, powerful blows, like a drummer pounding out a furious beat. Bam, bam, bam, bam!
The enemy soldier clutched his shield over his head, leaving Dalinar squarely in control. Dalinar raised his own shield before him and shoved it against the man, forcing him back until he stumbled, giving Dalinar an opening.
This man didn’t get a chance to cry for his mother.
The body dropped before him. Dalinar let his elites handle the others; the way was open to the brightlord. Who was he? The highprince fought to the north. Was this some other important lighteyes? Or … didn’t Dalinar remember hearing something about a son during Gavilar’s endless planning meetings?
Well, this man certainly looked grand on that white mare, watching the battle from within his helm’s visor, cape streaming around him. The foe raised his sword to his helm toward Dalinar in a sign of challenge accepted.
Dalinar raised his shield arm and pointed, counting on at least one of his strikers to have stayed with him. Indeed, Jenin stepped up, unhooked the shortbow from his back, and—as the brightlord shouted his surprise—shot the horse in the chest.
“Hate shooting horses,” Jenin grumbled as the beast reared in pain. “Like throwing a thousand broams into the storming ocean, Brightlord.”
“I’ll buy you two when we finish this,” Dalinar said as the brightlord tumbled off his horse. Dalinar dodged around flashing hooves and squeals of pain, seeking out the fallen man. He was pleased to find the enemy rising.
They engaged, sweeping at one another, frantic. Life was about momentum. Pick a direction and don’t let anything—man or storm—turn you aside. Dalinar battered at the brightlord, driving him backward, furious and persistent.
He felt like he was winning the contest, controlling it, right up until he slammed his shield at the enemy and—in the moment of stress—felt something snap. One of the straps that held the shield to his arm had broken.
The enemy reacted immediately. He shoved the shield, twisting it around Dalinar’s arm, snapping the other strap. The shield tumbled free.
Dalinar staggered, sweeping with his sword, trying to parry a blow that didn’t come. The brightlord instead lunged in close and rammed Dalinar with his shield.
Dalinar ducked the blow that followed, but the backhand hit him solidly on the side of the head, sending him stumbling. His helm twisted, bent metal biting into his scalp, drawing blood. He saw double, his vision swimming.
He’s coming in for the kill.
Dalinar roared, swinging his blade up in a lurching, wild parry that connected with the brightlord’s weapon and swept it completely out of his hands.
The man instead punched Dalinar in the face with a gauntlet. His nose crunched.
Dalinar fell to his knees, sword slipping from his fingers. His foe was breathing deeply, cursing between breaths, winded by the short, frantic contest. He reached to his belt for a knife.
An emotion stirred inside Dalinar.
It was a fire that filled the pit within. It washed through him and awakened him, bringing clarity. The sounds of his elites fighting the brightlord’s honor guard faded, metal on metal becoming clinks, grunts becoming merely a distant humming.
Dalinar smiled. Then the smile became a toothy grin. His vision returned as the brightlord—knife in hand—looked up and started, stumbling back. He seemed horrified.
Dalinar roared, spitting blood and throwing himself at the enemy. The swing that came at him seemed pitiful and Dalinar ducked it, ramming his shoulder against his foe’s lower body. Something thrummed inside Dalinar, the pulse of the battle, the rhythm of killing and dying.
He knocked his opponent off balance, then went searching for his sword. Dym, however, hollered Dalinar’s name and tossed him a poleaxe, with a hook on one side and a broad, thin axe blade on the other. Dalinar seized it from the air and spun, hooking the brightlord around the ankle with the axehead, then yanked.
The brightlord fell in a clatter of steel. Before Dalinar could capitalize on this, two men of the honor guard managed to extricate themselves from Dalinar’s men and come to the defense of their brightlord.
Dalinar swung and buried the axehead into one guard’s side. He ripped it free and spun again—smashing the weapon down on the rising brightlord’s helm and sending him to his knees—before coming back and barely catching the remaining guard’s sword on the haft of the poleaxe.
Dalinar pushed upward, holding the poleaxe in two hands, sweeping the guard’s blade into the air over his head. Dalinar stepped forward until he was face-to-face with the fellow. He could feel the man’s breath.
He spat blood draining from his nose into the guard’s eyes, then kicked him in the stomach. He turned toward the brightlord, who was trying to flee. Dalinar growled, full of the Thrill. He swung the poleaxe with one hand, hooking the spike into the brightlord’s side, and yanked, dropping him yet again.
The brightlord rolled over. He was greeted by the sight of Dalinar slamming his poleaxe down with both hands, driving the spike right through the breastplate and into his chest. It made a satisfying crunch, and Dalinar pulled it out bloodied.
As if that blow had been a signal, the honor guard finally broke before his elites. Dalinar grinned as he watched them go, gloryspren popping up around him as glowing golden spheres. His men unhooked shortbows and shot a good dozen of the fleeing enemy in the back. Damnation, it felt good to best a force larger than your own.
Nearby, the fallen brightlord groaned softly. “Why…” the man said from within his helm. “Why us?”
“Don’t know,” Dalinar said, tossing the poleaxe back to Dym.
“You … you don’t know?” the dying man said.
“My brother chooses,” Dalinar said. “I just go where he points me.” He gestured toward the dying man, and Dym rammed a sword into the armored man’s armpit, finishing the job. The fellow had fought reasonably well; no need to extend his suffering.
Another soldier approached, handing Dalinar his sword. It had a chip the size of a thumb right in the blade. Looked like it had bent as well. “You’re supposed to stick it into the squishy parts, Brightlord,” Dym said, “not pound it against the hard parts.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Dalinar said, tossing the sword aside as one of his men selected a replacement from among the fallen.
“You … all right, Brightlord?” Dym asked.
“Never been better,” Dalinar said, voice faintly distorted by the clogged nose. Hurt like Damnation itself, and he drew a small flock of painspren—like little sinewy hands—up from the ground.
His men formed up around him, and Dalinar led the way farther down the street. Before too long, he could make out the bulk of the enemy still fighting ahead, harried by his army. He halted his men, considering his options.
Thakka, captain of the elites, turned to him. “Orders, sir?”
“Raid those buildings,” Dalinar said, pointing at a line of homes. “Let’s see how well they fight while they watch us rounding up their families.”
“The men will want to loot,” Thakka said.
“What is there to loot in hovels like these? Soggy hogshide and old rockbud bowls?” He pulled off his helm to wipe the blood from his face. “They can loot afterward. Right now I need hostages. There are civilians somewhere in this storming town. Find them.”
Thakka nodded, shouting the orders. Dalinar reached for some water. He’d need to meet up with Sadeas, and—
Something slammed into Dalinar’s shoulder. He caught only a brief sight of it, a black blur that hit with the force of a roundhouse kick. It threw him down, and pain flared up from his side.
He blinked as he found himself lying on the ground. A storming arrow sprouted from his right shoulder, with a long, thick shaft. It had gone straight through the chain mail, just to the side of where his cuirass met his arm.
“Brightlord!” Thakka said, kneeling, shielding Dalinar with his body. “Kelek! Brightlord, are you—”
“Who in Damnation shot that?” Dalinar demanded.
“Up there,” one of his men said, pointing at the ridge above the town.
“That’s got to be over three hundred yards,” Dalinar said, shoving Thakka aside and standing. “That can’t—”
He was watching, so he was able to jump out of the way of the next arrow, which dropped a mere foot from him, cracking against the stone ground. Dalinar stared at it, then started shouting. “Horses! Where are the storming horses!”
A small group of soldiers came trotting forward, bringing all eleven horses, which they’d guided carefully across the field. Dalinar had to dodge another arrow as he seized the reins of Fullnight, his black gelding, and heaved himself into the saddle. The arrow in his arm was a cutting pain, but he felt something more pressing drawing him forward. Helping him focus.
He galloped back the way they’d come in, getting out of the archer’s sight, trailed by ten of his best men. There had to be a way up that slope.… There! A rocky set of switchbacks, shallow enough that he didn’t mind running Fullnight up them.
Dalinar worried that by the time he reached the top, his quarry would have escaped. However, when he eventually burst onto the top of the ridge, an arrow slammed into his left breast, going straight through the breastplate near the shoulder, nearly throwing him from the saddle.
Damnation! Dalinar hung on somehow, clenching the reins in one hand, and leaned low, peering ahead as the archer—still a distant figure—stood upon a rocky knob and launched another arrow. And another. Storms, the fellow was quick!
He jerked Fullnight to one side, then the other, feeling the thrumming sense of the Thrill surge within him. It drove away the pain, let him focus.
Ahead, the archer finally seemed to grow alarmed, and leaped from his perch to flee.
Dalinar charged Fullnight over that knob a moment later. The archer turned out to be a man in his twenties wearing rugged clothing, with arms and shoulders that looked like they could have lifted a chull. Dalinar had the option of running him down, but instead galloped Fullnight past and kicked the man in the back, sending him sprawling.
As Dalinar pulled up his horse, the motion sent a spike of pain through his arm. He forced it down, eyes watering, and turned toward the archer, who lay in a heap amid spilled black arrows.
Dalinar lurched from the saddle, an arrow sprouting from each shoulder, as his men caught up. He seized the archer and hauled the fellow to his feet, noting the blue tattoo on his cheek. The archer gasped and stared at Dalinar. He expected he was quite a sight, covered in soot from the fires, his face a mask of blood from the nose and the cut scalp, stuck with not one but two arrows.
“You waited until my helm was off,” Dalinar demanded. “You are an assassin. You were set here specifically to kill me.”
The man winced, then nodded.
“Amazing!” Dalinar said, letting go of the fellow. “Show me that shot again. How far is that, Thakka? I’m right, aren’t I? Over three hundred yards?”
“Almost four,” Thakka said, pulling over his horse. “But with a height advantage.”
“Still,” Dalinar said, stepping up to the lip of the ridge. He looked back at the befuddled archer. “Well? Grab your bow!”
“My … bow?” the archer said.
“Are you deaf, man?” Dalinar snapped. “Go get it!”
The archer regarded the ten elites on horseback, grim-faced and dangerous, before wisely deciding to obey. He picked up an arrow, then his bow—which was made of a sleek black wood Dalinar didn’t recognize.
“Went right through my storming armor,” Dalinar muttered, feeling at the arrow that had hit him on the left. That one didn’t seem too bad—it had punctured the steel, but had lost most of its momentum in doing so. The one on his right, though, had cut through the chain and was sending blood down his arm.
He shook his head, shading his eyes with his left hand, inspecting the battlefield. To his right, the armies clashed, and his main body of elites had come up to press at the flank. The rearguard had found some civilians and was shoving them into the street.
“Pick a corpse,” Dalinar said, pointing toward an empty square where a skirmish had happened. “Stick an arrow in one down there, if you can.”
The archer licked his lips, still seeming confused. Finally, he took a spyglass off his belt and studied the area. “The one in blue, near the overturned cart.”
Dalinar squinted, then nodded. Nearby, Thakka had climbed off his horse and had slid out his sword, resting it on his shoulder. A not-so-subtle warning. The archer drew his bow and launched a single black-fletched arrow. It flew true, sticking into the chosen corpse.
A single awespren burst around Dalinar, like a ring of blue smoke. “Stormfather! Thakka, before today, I’d have bet you half the princedom that such a shot wasn’t possible.” He turned to the archer. “What’s your name, assassin?”
The man raised his chin, but didn’t reply.
“Well, in any case, welcome to my elites,” Dalinar said. “Someone get the fellow a horse.”
“What?” the archer said. “I tried to kill you!”
“Yes, from a distance. Which shows remarkably good judgment. I can make use of someone with your skills.”
Dalinar nodded toward the town below, where the beleaguered enemy army was—at long last—surrendering. “Not anymore. Looks like we’re all allies now!”
The archer spat to the side. “Slaves beneath your brother, the tyrant.”
Dalinar let one of his men help him onto his horse. “If you’d rather be killed, I can respect that. Alternatively, you can join me and name your price.”
“The life of my brightlord Yezriar,” the archer said. “The heir.”
“Is that the fellow…?” Dalinar said, looking to Thakka.
“… That you killed down below? Yes, sir.”
“He’s got a hole in his chest,” Dalinar said, looking back to the assassin. “Tough break.”
“You … you monster! Couldn’t you have captured him?”
“Nah. The other princedoms are digging in their heels. Refuse to recognize my brother’s crown. Games of catch-me with the high lighteyes just encourage people to fight back. If they know we’re out for blood, they’ll think twice.” Dalinar shrugged. “How about this? Join with me, and we won’t pillage the town. What’s left of it, anyway.”
The man looked down at the surrendering army.
“You in or not?” Dalinar said. “I promise not to make you shoot anyone you like.”
“Great!” Dalinar said, turning his horse and trotting off.
A short time later, when Dalinar’s elites rode up to him, the sullen archer was on a horse with one of the other men. The pain surged in Dalinar’s right arm as the Thrill faded, but it was manageable. He’d need surgeons to look at the arrow wound.
Once they reached the town again, he sent orders to stop the looting. His men would hate that, but this town wasn’t worth much anyway. The riches would come once they started into the centers of the princedoms.
He let his horse carry him in a leisurely gait through the town, passing soldiers who had settled down to water themselves and rest from the protracted engagement. His nose still smarted, and he had to forcibly prevent himself from snorting up blood. If it was well and truly broken, that wouldn’t turn out well for him.
Dalinar kept moving, fighting off the dull sense of … nothingness that often followed a battle. This was the worst time. He could still remember being alive, but now had to face a return to mundanity.
He’d missed the executions. Sadeas already had the local highprince’s head—and those of his officers—up on spears. Such a showman, Sadeas was. Dalinar passed the grim line, shaking his head, and heard a muttered curse from his new archer. He’d have to talk to the man, reinforce that in striking at Dalinar earlier, he’d shot an arrow at an enemy. That was to be respected. If he tried something against Dalinar or Sadeas now, it would be different. Thakka would already be searching out the fellow’s family.
“Dalinar?” a voice called.
He stilled his horse, turning toward the sound. Torol Sadeas—resplendent in golden yellow Shardplate that had already been washed clean—pushed through a cluster of officers. The red-faced young man looked far older than he had a year ago. When they’d started all this, he’d still been a gangly youth. No longer.
“Dalinar, are those arrows? Stormfather, man, you look like a thornbush! What happened to your face?”
“A fist,” Dalinar said, then nodded toward the heads on spears. “Nice work.”
“We lost the crown prince,” Sadeas said. “He’ll mount a resistance.”
“That would be impressive,” Dalinar said, “considering what I did to him.”
Sadeas relaxed visibly. “Oh, Dalinar. What would we do without you?”
“Lose. Someone get me something to drink and a pair of surgeons. In that order. Also, Sadeas, I promised we wouldn’t pillage the city. No looting, no slaves taken.”
“You what?” Sadeas demanded. “Who did you promise?”
Dalinar thumbed over his shoulder at the archer.
“Another one?” Sadeas said with a groan.
“He’s got amazing aim,” Dalinar said. “Loyal, too.” He glanced to the side, where Sadeas’s soldiers had rounded up some weeping women for Sadeas to pick from.
“I was looking forward to tonight,” Sadeas noted.
“And I was looking forward to breathing through my nose. We’ll live. More than can be said for the kids we fought today.”
“Fine, fine,” Sadeas said, sighing. “I suppose we could spare one town. A symbol that we are not without mercy.” He looked over Dalinar again. “We need to get you some Shards, my friend.”
“To protect me?”
“Protect you? Storms, Dalinar, at this point I’m not certain a rockslide could kill you. No, it just makes the rest of us look bad when you accomplish what you do while practically unarmed!”
Dalinar shrugged. He didn’t wait for the wine or the surgeons, but instead led his horse back to gather his elites and reinforce the orders to guard the city from looting. Once finished, he walked his horse across smoldering ground to his camp.
He was done living for the day. It would be weeks, maybe months, before he got another opportunity.
I know that many women who read this will see it only as further proof that I am the godless heretic everyone claims.
—From Oathbringer, preface
Two days after Sadeas was found dead, the Everstorm came again.
Dalinar walked through his chambers in Urithiru, pulled by the unnatural storm. Bare feet on cold rock. He passed Navani—who sat at the writing desk working on her memoirs again—and stepped onto his balcony, which hung straight out over the cliffs beneath Urithiru.
He could feel something, his ears popping, cold—even more cold than usual—blowing in from the west. And something else. An inner chill.
“Is that you, Stormfather?” Dalinar whispered. “This feeling of dread?”
This thing is not natural, the Stormfather said. It is unknown.
“It didn’t come before, during the earlier Desolations?”
No. It is new.
As always, the Stormfather’s voice was far off, like very distant thunder. The Stormfather didn’t always reply to Dalinar, and didn’t remain near him. That was to be expected; he was the soul of the storm. He could not—should not—be contained.
And yet, there was an almost childish petulance to the way he sometimes ignored Dalinar’s questions. It seemed that sometimes he did so merely because he didn’t want Dalinar to think that he would come whenever called.
The Everstorm appeared in the distance, its black clouds lit from within by crackling red lightning. It was low enough in the sky that—fortunately—its top wouldn’t reach Urithiru. It surged like a cavalry, trampling the calm, ordinary clouds below.
Dalinar forced himself to watch that wave of darkness flow around Urithiru’s plateau. Soon it seemed as if their lonely tower were a lighthouse looking over a dark, deadly sea.
It was hauntingly silent. Those red lightning bolts didn’t rumble with thunder in the proper way. He heard the occasional crack, stark and shocking, like a hundred branches snapping at once. But the sounds didn’t seem to match the flashes of red light that rose from deep within.
The storm was so quiet, in fact, that he was able to hear the telltale rustle of cloth as Navani slipped up behind him. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing against his back, resting her head against his shoulder. His eyes flickered down, and he noticed that she’d removed the glove from her safehand. It was barely visible in the dark: slender, gorgeous fingers—delicate, with the nails painted a blushing red. He saw it by the light of the first moon above, and by the intermittent flashes of the storm beneath.
“Any further word from the west?” Dalinar whispered. The Everstorm was slower than a highstorm, and had hit Shinovar many hours before. It did not recharge spheres, even if you left them out during the entire Everstorm.
“The spanreeds are abuzz. The monarchs are delaying a response, but I suspect that soon they’ll realize they have to listen to us.”
“I think you underestimate the stubbornness a crown can press into a man or woman’s mind, Navani.”
Dalinar had been out during his share of highstorms, particularly in his youth. He’d watched the chaos of the stormwall pushing rocks and refuse before it, the sky-splitting lightning, the claps of thunder. Highstorms were the ultimate expression of nature’s power: wild, untamed, sent to remind man of his insignificance.
However, highstorms never seemed hateful. This storm was different. It felt vengeful.
Staring into that blackness below, Dalinar thought he could see what it had done. A series of impressions, thrown at him in anger. The storm’s experiences as it had slowly crossed Roshar.
Houses ripped apart, screams of the occupants lost to the tempest.
People caught in their fields, running in a panic before the unpredicted storm.
Cities blasted with lightning. Towns cast into shadow. Fields swept barren.
And vast seas of glowing red eyes, coming awake like spheres suddenly renewed with Stormlight.
Dalinar hissed out a long, slow breath, the impressions fading. “Was that real?” he whispered.
Yes, the Stormfather said. The enemy rides this storm. He’s aware of you, Dalinar.
Not a vision of the past. Not some possibility of the future. His kingdom, his people, his entire world was being attacked. He drew a deep breath. At the very least, this wasn’t the singular tempest that they’d experienced when the Everstorm had clashed with the highstorm for the first time. This seemed less powerful. It wouldn’t tear down cities, but it did rain destruction upon them—and the winds would attack in bursts, hostile, even deliberate.
The enemy seemed more interested in preying upon the small towns. The fields. The people caught unaware.
Though it was not as destructive as he’d feared, it would still leave thousands dead. It would leave cities broken, particularly those without shelter to the west. More importantly, it would steal the parshmen laborers and turn them into Voidbringers, loosed on the public.
All in all, this storm would exact a price in blood from Roshar that hadn’t been seen since … well, since the Desolations.
He lifted his hand to grasp Navani’s, as she in turn held to him. “You did what you could, Dalinar,” she whispered after a time watching. “Don’t insist on carrying this failure as a burden.”
She released him and turned him around, away from the sight of the storm. She wore a dressing gown, not fit to go about in public, but also not precisely immodest.
Save for that hand, with which she caressed his chin. “I,” she whispered, “don’t believe you, Dalinar Kholin. I can read the truth in the tightness of your muscles, the set of your jaw. I know that you, while being crushed beneath a boulder, would insist that you’ve got it under control and ask to see field reports from your men.”
The scent of her was intoxicating. And those entrancing, brilliant violet eyes.
“You need to relax, Dalinar,” she said.
“Navani…” he said.
She looked at him, questioning, so beautiful. Far more gorgeous than when they’d been young. He’d swear it. For how could anyone be as beautiful as she was now?
He seized her by the back of the head and pulled her mouth to his own. Passion woke within him. She pressed her body to his, breasts pushing against him through the thin gown. He drank of her lips, her mouth, her scent. Passionspren fluttered around them like crystal flakes of snow.
Dalinar stopped himself and stepped back.
“Dalinar,” she said as he pulled away. “Your stubborn refusal to get seduced is making me question my feminine wiles.”
“Control is important to me, Navani,” he said, his voice hoarse. He gripped the stone balcony wall, white knuckled. “You know how I was, what I became, when I was a man with no control. I will not surrender now.”
She sighed and sidled up to him, pulling his arm free of the stone, then slipping under it. “I won’t push you, but I need to know. Is this how it’s going to continue? Teasing, dancing on the edge?”
“No,” he said, staring out over the darkness of the storm. “That would be an exercise in futility. A general knows not to set himself up for battles he cannot win.”
“I’ll find a way to do it right. With oaths.”
The oaths were vital. The promise, the act of being bound together.
“How?” she said, then poked him in the chest. “I’m as religious as the next woman—more than most, actually. But Kadash turned us down, as did Ladent, even Rushu. She squeaked when I mentioned it and literally ran away.”
“Chanada,” Dalinar said, speaking of the senior ardent of the warcamps. “She spoke to Kadash, and had him go to each of the ardents. She probably did it the moment she heard we were courting.”
“So no ardent will marry us,” Navani said. “They consider us siblings. You’re stretching to find an impossible accommodation; continue with this, and it’s going to leave a lady wondering if you actually care.”
“Have you ever thought that?” Dalinar said. “Sincerely.”
“Well … no.”
“You are the woman I love,” Dalinar said, pulling her tight. “A woman I have always loved.”
“Then who cares?” she said. “Let the ardents hie to Damnation, with ribbons around their ankles.”
“I’m not the one telling everyone that God is dead.”
“Not everyone,” Dalinar said. He sighed, letting go of her—with reluctance—and walked back into his rooms, where a brazier of coal radiated welcome warmth, as well as the room’s only light. They had recovered his fabrial heating device from the warcamps, but didn’t yet have the Stormlight to run it. The scholars had discovered long chains and cages, apparently used for lowering spheres down into the storms, so they’d be able to renew their spheres—if the highstorms ever returned. In other parts of the world, the Weeping had restarted, then fitfully stopped. It might start again. Or the proper storms might start up. Nobody knew, and the Stormfather refused to enlighten him.
Navani entered and pulled the thick drapings closed over the doorway, tying them tightly in place. This room was heaped with furniture, chairs lining the walls, rolled rugs stacked atop them. There was even a standing mirror. The images of twisting windspren along its sides bore the distinctly rounded look of something that had been carved first from weevilwax, then Soulcast into hardwood.
They had deposited all this here for him, as if worried about their highprince living in simple stone quarters. “Let’s have someone clear this out for me tomorrow,” Dalinar said. “There’s room enough for it in the chamber next door, which we can turn into a sitting room or a common room.”
Navani nodded as she settled onto one of the sofas—he saw her reflected in the mirror—her hand still casually uncovered, gown dropping to the side, exposing neck, collarbone, and some of what was beneath. She wasn’t trying to be seductive right now; she was merely comfortable around him. Intimately familiar, past the point where she felt embarrassed for him to see her uncovered.
It was good that one of them was willing to take the initiative in the relationship. For all his impatience to advance on the battlefield, this was one area in which he’d always needed encouragement. Same as it had been all those years ago …
“When I married last,” Dalinar said softly, “I did many things wrong. I started wrong.”
“I wouldn’t say that. You married Shshshsh for her Shardplate, but many marriages are for political reasons. That doesn’t mean you were wrong. If you’ll recall, we all encouraged you to do it.”
As always, when he heard his dead wife’s name, the word was replaced to his hearing with a breezy sound of rushing air—the name couldn’t gain purchase in his mind, any more than a man could hold to a gust of wind.
“I’m not trying to replace her, Dalinar,” Navani said, suddenly sounding concerned. “I know you still have affection for Shshshsh. It’s all right. I can share you with her memory.”
Oh, how little they all understood. He turned toward Navani, set his jaw against the pain, and said it.
“I don’t remember her, Navani.”
She looked to him with a frown, as if she thought she hadn’t heard him correctly.
“I can’t remember my wife at all,” he said. “I don’t know her face. Portraits of her are a fuzzy smudge to my eyes. Her name is taken from me whenever spoken, like someone has plucked it away. I don’t remember what she and I said when we first met; I can’t even remember seeing her at the feast that night when she first arrived. It’s all a blur. I can remember some events surrounding my wife, but nothing of the actual details. It’s all just … gone.”
Navani raised her safehand fingers to her mouth, and from the way her brow knit with concern, he figured he must look like he was in agony.
He slumped down in a chair across from her.
“The alcohol?” she asked softly.
She breathed out. “The Old Magic. You said you knew both your boon and your curse.”
“People glance at me when her name comes up,” Dalinar continued, “and they give me these looks of pity. They see me keeping a stiff expression, and they assume I’m being stoic. They infer hidden pain, when really I’m just trying to keep up. It’s hard to follow a conversation where half of it keeps slipping away from your brain.
“Navani, maybe I did grow to love her. I can’t remember. Not one moment of intimacy, not one fight, not a single word she ever said to me. She’s gone, leaving debris that mars my memory. I can’t remember how she died. That one gets to me, because there are parts of that day I know I should remember. Something about a city in rebellion against my brother, and my wife being taken hostage?”
That … and a long march alone, accompanied only by hatred and the Thrill. He remembered those emotions vividly. He’d brought vengeance to those who had taken his wife from him.
Navani settled down on the seat beside Dalinar, resting her head on his shoulder. “Would that I could create a fabrial,” she whispered, “to take away this kind of pain.”
“I think … I think losing her must have hurt me terribly,” Dalinar whispered, “because of what it drove me to do. I am left with only the scars. Regardless, Navani, I want it to be right with us. No mistakes. Done properly, with oaths, spoken to you before someone.”
“Words are the most important things in my life right now.”
She parted her lips, thoughtful. “Elhokar?”
“I wouldn’t want to put him in that position.”
“A foreign priest? From the Azish, maybe? They’re almost Vorin.”
“That would be tantamount to declaring myself a heretic. It goes too far. I will not defy the Vorin church.” He paused. “I might be willing to sidestep it though.…”
“What?” she asked.
He looked upward, toward the ceiling. “Maybe we go to someone with authority greater than theirs.”
“You want a spren to marry us?” she said, sounding amused. “Using a foreign priest would be heretical, but not a spren?”
“The Stormfather is the largest remnant of Honor,” Dalinar said. “He’s a sliver of the Almighty himself—and is the closest thing to a god we have left.”
“Oh, I’m not objecting,” Navani said. “I’d let a confused dishwasher marry us. I just think it’s a little unusual.”
“It’s the best we’re going to get, assuming he is willing.” He looked to Navani, then raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
“Is that a proposal?”
“Dalinar Kholin,” she said. “Surely you can do better.”
He rested his hand on the back of her head, touching her black hair, which she had left loose. “Better than you, Navani? No, I don’t think that I could. I don’t think that any man has ever had a chance better than this.”
She smiled, and her only reply was a kiss.
* * *
Dalinar was surprisingly nervous as, several hours later, he rode one of Urithiru’s strange fabrial lifts toward the roof of the tower. The lift resembled a balcony, one of many that lined a vast open shaft in the middle of Urithiru—a columnar space as wide as a ballroom, which stretched up from the first floor to the last one.
The tiers of the city, despite looking circular from the front, were actually more half-circles, with the flat sides facing east. The edges of the lower levels melded into the mountains to either side, but the very center was open to the east. The rooms up against that flat side had windows there, providing a view toward the Origin.
And here, in this central shaft, those windows made up one wall. A pure, single unbroken pane of glass hundreds of feet tall. In the day, that lit the shaft with brilliant sunlight. Now, it was dark with the gloom of night.
The balcony crawled steadily along a vertical trench in the wall; Adolin and Renarin rode with him, along with a few guards and Shallan Davar. Navani was already up above. The group stood on the other side of the balcony, giving him space to think. And to be nervous.
Why should he be nervous? He could hardly keep his hands from shaking. Storms. You’d think he was some silk-covered virgin, not a general well into his middle years.
He felt a rumbling deep within him. The Stormfather was being responsive at the moment, for which he was grateful.
“I’m surprised,” Dalinar whispered to the spren, “you agreed to this so willingly. Grateful, but still surprised.”
I respect all oaths, the Stormfather responded.
“What about foolish oaths? Made in haste, or in ignorance?”
There are no foolish oaths. All are the mark of men and true spren over beasts and subspren. The mark of intelligence, free will, and choice.
Dalinar chewed on that, and found he was not surprised by the extreme opinion. Spren should be extreme; they were forces of nature. But was this how Honor himself, the Almighty, had thought?
The balcony ground its inexorable way toward the top of the tower. Only a handful of the dozens of lifts worked; back when Urithiru flourished, they all would have been going at once. They passed level after level of unexplored space, which bothered Dalinar. Making this his fortress was like camping in an unknown land.
The lift finally reached the top floor, and his guards scrambled to open the gates. Those were from Bridge Thirteen these days—he’d assigned Bridge Four to other responsibilities, considering them too important for simple guard duty, now that they were close to becoming Radiants.
Increasingly anxious, Dalinar led the way past several pillars designed with representations of the orders of Radiants. A set of steps took him up through a trapdoor onto the very roof of the tower.
Although each tier was smaller than the one below it, this roof was still over a hundred yards wide. It was cold up here, but someone had set up braziers for warmth and torches for light. The night was strikingly clear, and high above, starspren swirled and made distant patterns.
Dalinar wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that no one—not even his sons—had questioned him when he’d announced his intent to marry in the middle of the night, on the roof of the tower. He searched out Navani, and was shocked to see that she’d found a traditional bridal crown. The intricate headdress of jade and turquoise complemented her wedding gown. Red for luck, it was embroidered with gold and shaped in a much looser style than the havah, with wide sleeves and a graceful drape.
Should Dalinar have found something more traditional to wear himself? He suddenly felt like a dusty, empty frame hung beside the gorgeous painting that was Navani in her wedding regalia.
Elhokar stiffly stood at her side wearing a formal golden coat and loose takama underskirt. He was paler than normal, following the failed assassination attempt during the Weeping, where he’d nearly bled to death. He’d been resting a great deal lately.
Though they’d decided to forgo the extravagance of a traditional Alethi wedding, they had invited some others. Brightlord Aladar and his daughter, Sebarial and his mistress. Kalami and Teshav to act as witnesses. He felt relieved to see them there—he’d feared Navani would be unable to find women willing to notarize the wedding.
A smattering of Dalinar’s officers and scribes filled out the small procession. At the very back of the crowd gathered between the braziers, he spotted a surprising face. Kadash, the ardent, had come as requested. His scarred, bearded face didn’t look pleased, but he had come. A good sign. Perhaps with everything else happening in the world, a highprince marrying his widowed sister-in-law wouldn’t cause too much of a stir.
Dalinar stepped up to Navani and took her hands, one shrouded in a sleeve, the other warm to his touch. “You look amazing,” he said. “How did you find that?”
“A lady must be prepared.”
Dalinar looked to Elhokar, who bowed his head to Dalinar. This will further muddy the relationship between us, Dalinar thought, reading the same sentiment on his nephew’s features.
Gavilar would not appreciate how his son had been handled. Despite his best intentions, Dalinar had trodden down the boy and seized power. Elhokar’s time recuperating had worsened the situation, as Dalinar had grown accustomed to making decisions on his own.
However, Dalinar would be lying to himself if he said that was where it had begun. His actions had been done for the good of Alethkar, for the good of Roshar itself, but that didn’t deny the fact that—step by step—he’d usurped the throne, despite claiming all along he had no intention of doing so.
Dalinar let go of Navani with one hand and rested it on his nephew’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, son,” he said.
“You always are, Uncle,” Elhokar said. “It doesn’t stop you, but I don’t suppose that it should. Your life is defined by deciding what you want, then seizing it. The rest of us could learn from that, if only we could figure out how to keep up.”
Dalinar winced. “I have things to discuss with you. Plans that you might appreciate. But for tonight, I simply ask your blessing, if you can find it to give.”
“This will make my mother happy,” Elhokar said. “So, fine.” Elhokar kissed his mother on the forehead, then left them, striding across the rooftop. At first Dalinar worried the king would stalk down below, but he stopped beside one of the more distant braziers, warming his hands.
“Well,” Navani said. “The only one missing is