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Found 2 results

  1. Nergaoul was in control. Eshonai roared as the Unmade took over her body from within, a wave of hatred and darkness bursting from the middle of her chest. Tendrils of malicious energy smoked from her body as she grew so large that her Plate began to tear apart at its seams. She had never felt so hot in her life. Every nerve in her body screamed with pain as her bones melted and her flesh bubbled. No matter how hard she tried to close her eyes, It forced them open so she could watch her monstrous transformation. I AM SORRY, LITTLE ONE. THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO TO EASE YOUR SUFFERING. The Rider. He had not spoken to Eshonai since the angerspren corrupted her soul. Why acknowledge her now, moments before one of her ancient gods possessed her completely? Buried inside her, the listener’s muffled voice howled into the shadows that endeavored to consume her. Nergaoul answered her with an earth shattering laugh, her body quaking with masochistic delight as it broke through her Plate and cast its molten shards across the plateau, a few of the sharper bits raining down on Alethi and listeners alike, piercing hearts and severing a few limbs. WHY ARE YOU CRYING? ISN’T THIS FUN? Eshonai shuddered at the sound of the infernal voice, tears leaking from her eyes and turning to steam before they finished rolling down her cheeks. All around her, the tiny humans began attacking each other, overwhelmed by the enmity that radiated from her body like some kind of odious aura. As for the listeners, the dark god’s presence empowered them, the echoes of his voice resonating with the angerspren roiling inside them. STOP FIGHTING. IT ONLY HURTS MORE IF YOU FIGHT. Was she fighting? Eshonai didn’t feel like she was. Besides terror and torment, she couldn’t feel much else. There was sorrow, too, when the rain stopped pouring onto the battlefield to wash the once beautiful, but now bloodstained, stone. Unbidden, a memory of her exploring the Shattered Plains as a youth surfaced in her mind. She could recall with divine clarity the day she discovered the Alethi and met their king for the very first time. YES! YES! REMEMBER THE KING! THE ONE WHO BROUGHT US BACK! THE ONE WHO STARTED THIS ALL! Gavilar. This was his fault. His, and his followers. The listeners never wanted to awaken their old gods, nor did they wish to start a war. But King Gavilar forced them into a corner and left them with very few options. The old Council of Five made a choice to sacrifice their lives to stop him. The King died, but his plans did not, and now look what came of them. The Alethi brought the Last Desolation upon themselves. Upon the listeners. Upon the world. Eshonai would punish them for their indiscretions. Would bring the real monsters here to justice, even if it cost her honor and her soul. Like a sudden flood over a raging inferno, relief surged through her. In the place of the pain, Eshonai felt peace. Pleasure. FINALLY! I AM FREE AT LAST! Nergaoul was in control. ‘A vicious cyclone enclosed the plateau, warding off the brunt of the Everstorm.’ Was the cyclone really vicious? Lyna glanced at the shield of wind once more, then crossed the word out. The cyclone was powerful, that much was obvious, but vicious implied violent intent, which contradicted its very nature to protect the people within it. ‘Beyond the rocky precipice, two winds danced. One of Honor, the other Unmade.’ Ooo, Lyna cooed to herself. She liked that. Only problem was, where could she go from there? Glancing up at the crimson eye in the sky and the shining man floating below it, Lyna had a surge of inspiration. ‘Kaladin was no longer human, Syl no longer a spren. Together, they had became something more: a living storm.’ Were they really a living storm? Lyna supposed not, but she knew no other way to put it. The honorspren danced around her Windrunner so fast that her body was starting to blur, grey stormclouds flocking to her and turning white, purified by her light. Pleased by her stream of thoughts, Lyna continued to write. Funny how it took her surviving two unnatural storms and an army of hideous monsters attacking her friends to demolish the writer’s block that had suffocated her for so long. Convenient, too, that Stormblessed’s power was keeping the rain from falling on the plateau, and thus consequently, from soaking her paper. It was as if the Stormfather Himself was urging her to finish her work. “Lyna!” a familiar voice called her name, but she paid it no mind. The woman was too overcome by her creative trance to look away from the looseleaf notebook clenched tightly in her gloved safehand. It felt weird not having a sleeve covering her entire left arm, but the uniform of the Initiates wasn’t very accommodating for females, so she had to make do with what she was given. “Lyna!” the voice yelled again, this time closer and loud enough to rouse her. “Give me a minute!” she responded, freehand scribbling relentlessly into the pages of her journal. In the last few minutes, she had managed to fill nearly three pages with simplified glyphs. She would have to translate them into women’s script later, when she had more time. Something crashed and threw Lyna to her knees, her journal and quill flying from her hands into a shallow puddle. Without her to hold on to them, the cyclone began to pull them towards the ledge. “Lyna! Forget them! Hithon is in trouble!” Hithon? Lyna froze, gulping loudly as she watched her quill roll off the plateau into the storm. A moment later, the journal followed it into the spinning wind, pages fluttering open and ripping from its spine before vanishing completely. She wanted to cry, to wail, but suddenly Ranatar was at her side, helping her to her feet and pulling her towards the massive Voidbringer and the two men fighting at its feet. As soon as she saw the enraged Hithon, her pen and paper vanished from her mind. Nergaoul was alive again at last. After all this time, It finally had a body of Its own. Just as Odium had promised. From above the battlefield, It watched Its body flex its muscles, crimson electricity sparking along the length of Its left arm, gathering into Its palm and condensing into an immense blade of jagged lightning. Human scum fought off Its children with rabid desperation, though a few had turned on one another, enticed by Odium’s power and influence. Even a Defier had succumbed to the darkness, which drew the Unmade’s eye. Nergaoul recognized the taint on him. ONE OF DAI-GONARTHIS’ PLAY THINGS? It thought. Would the Black Fisher be mad if Nergaoul broke Its toy? PROBABLY, It laughed. Dai-gonarthis was a Sliver of Hatred, too, and prone to violent outbursts, especially when slighted. Not that either of them cared. The Black Fisher would embrace the rage, and Nergaoul would accept the consequences with a smile upon Its face. Raising Its weapon above Its head, Nergaoul aimed for the Defiers at Its feet. Those with enough sense to watch It rather than get distracted by their allies sudden betrayal were able to react by splitting off in several directions, making it harder for Nergaoul to kill them all with a single blow. Fortunately, they had not yelled a warning to the others, allowing the Unmade to focus on the Defiers locked in battle. Nergaoul’s movements, however, were sluggish. By the time Its strike hit the earth, all but one of the Defiers had gotten out of the way. At least the attack had killed one, except… The human had deflected Its blow. But how? Nergaoul bent Its head to look closer, and found one of the humans clutching a bleeding arm, a claymore lying nearby, bent halfway down its blade. Unarmed and wounded, the Defier would be helpless if It struck again. Smiling, Nergaoul lifted Its weapon and plummeted it at him again. This time, It would kill him. But no. Souls drifted into the Cognitive, but not the Defier’s. This time when Nergaoul’s blow landed, it was met with even more resistance. Eyes burning with fury, the Unmade looked again, and found a fragmented shield in the Defier’s hands, held together by Stormlight. The light in the shield was flickering, however. There’s no way it could survive another blow. Raising Its weapon a third time, but only half way, Nergaoul threw all its weight forward and managed to find purchase in the earth. It didn’t need to crane Its head to see the Defier roll out of the way, grab his bent claymore and back into the stone monolith. Realizing he could run no further, the human’s face twisted with fear. Instead of swinging again, Nergaoul pointed the tip of Its sword at the Defier and brought Its hand to Its face. Grinning, It lunged at the shield clutched before him. An explosion burst from the impact, strong enough to force the Unmade to step back and scatter chunks of silver all over the battlefield. Nergaoul roared, infuriated by the human’s tenaciousness. It would kill him. Now, or never. Holding the weapon horizontally, the Unmade dragged it across his body, then swung. With ease, the weapon cleaved through giant rock, the blade sparking as it slid straight for the human. A moment too late, Nergaoul noticed a spren whispering in the Defier’s ear as he rose to his feet, then crouched low. NO! NO! The human jumped. No. Flew. A Windrunner, like Stormblessed? But that wasn’t an honorspren sitting on his shoulder. A Skybreaker, then. Odium had said they might be involved. But why was he fighting with the Defiers? Weren’t they supposed to be on the side of hatred? Odium had said as much. Apparently Odium was wrong. The Skybreaker brought his second hand to the hilt of his claymore and rested its bent blade against his shoulder as he aimed for Its eyes. Nergaoul turned, letting go of Its weapon and allowing the concentrated lightning to dissipate, the stone leaning sideways with nothing between its crack to hold it up. Seething, the Unmade watched as the Skybreaker flew past his face, the bent edge of his claymore scraping against Its brow. Without chitin to protect Its face, the weapon gouged Its flesh. Orange blood leaked into Its left eye, but all It could see was red. Above the battlefield, Its massive eye shut, two folds as black as the night closing over Its iris, then Its pupil. Along the thin slit where the two folds met, a bloody light shone through, brightening with every passing second until it colored the entire plateau scarlet. Nergaoul opened Its eye and released Its gathered power. Ninety-nine bolts of abhorrence and indignation erupted forth, showering upon the plateau, killing both humans and listeners alike. The charred remains of their bodies launched into the air and rained back down onto the cowering survivors, drenching them with a mixture of gore and blood. Regaining control of Its body, the Unmade summoned another blade of lightning and turned around to face the Defiers. How kind they were to gather in one place once more. “I’ve got a plan,” Ranatar told the others. It was difficult keeping track of both the situation with Hithon and the possessed Voidbringer, but with Lyna and Fifth’s help, he was given enough time to ponder their next move. Pausing long enough so that the rest of the Initiates could gather closer, presumably to make him easier to hear over the constant whirring of the cyclone and sounds of battle in the distance, Ranatar observed the giant monstress with interest. It was difficult to tell while she wore her Plate, but it was clear now that the Voidbringer was a woman. In the past, Ranatar might have scoffed at the idea of a female Shardbearer, but after dealing with female Radiants, he quickly realized the fault in his culture’s assumptions regarding the genders. You’re getting distracted, Ranatar told himself. Focus on the problem at hand. Contemplate the faults of society later. The monstress no longer wielded a sword of lightning, but the crimson energy still coursed along the ridges of her body until they converged at the tips of her fingers. A thick drop of orange blood fell from her chin and landed on the ground between her feet moments before she pressed her hand against her forehead, a loud hissing sound filling the air as soon as it made contact. Cauterizing a wound, eh? Ranatar didn’t have to see the Voidbringer’s face to guess what happened to her. Besides Kaladin, Fifth was the only fighter here who could strike that high, discounting Shinon, of course, but the archer was nowhere to be seen. Speaking of, where was he? Ranatar had lost track of both him and the Squires after the Stormwarden severed Kintas’ living rope with an Elsecalled dagger. Ah well. It would have been nice to have their help, but Ranatar would have to make due without them. Him and his fellow Acolytes had come this far on their own. Gained the strength of not one order, but four. If anyone could win this battle, it would be them. As for the Initiates, they’d have to make an excellent distraction. “Teresh. I see you have your powers, still. Think you can blind the Voidbringer by hurling balls of flame at its head?” Teresh stared at Ranatar, frowning deeply. Instead of nodding, the man clenched his jaw, contemplating his options. Teresh had trusted not one, but two of the “Unjust.” Ranatar suspected Teresh blamed himself for the deaths of his fellow Initiates, and was eager to avenge them. Ranatar didn’t need to be a mind reader to hear his thoughts. “Don’t even consider it. I could teleport my allies and I to safety before your flames reached us, and for some reason I doubt your control is very fine. As close as we all are now, you could easily kill Araon, or Rea. If you didn’t, I’m sure the Voidbringer would finish the job,” Ranatar said while pointing towards the giant, who was now staring at the sky. “You’re wrong,” said a voice. Not Teresh, but Araon. Ranatar did not bother to look at the man, choosing instead to follow the Voidbringer’s gaze up to the eye in the sky. Slowly, a void closed around it from two sides. Was the horror retreating? Had Kaladin won? Araon continued talking, despite not being addressed. “My spren tells me that I’m immune to the powers of other Releasers.” Ranatar jolted at the admission. When he looked at Araon, he found a firespren that resembled a young child, its gender uncertain, sulking as it floated above the warrior’s head. Unlike Keph, the spren looked young and frail. Tiny globs of lava dripped from its fingers and toes, as if it were melting. Now that he did not expect. Ranatar had always been good at math, but predicting Bonds was very different than predicting Highstorms. It was very possible he made a mistake somewhere along the line. But if he was wrong about Araon, was it possible he was wrong about someone else? Rather than reply, he looked to the child. Rea. “Don’t suppose you’re a Windrunner?” The boy - no, girl, Ranatar had to remind himself of the information they found during Rea’s investigation - shook her head and shrugged. The girl had the potential, but for some reason had yet to speak the words. Oh well. She might not be very helpful now, but it made his future plans a little safer. There was a noticeable dimming as the giant eye finished shutting, then a sudden, violent brightening that painted the entire plateau red. Each of the Initiates and Acolytes looked to the sky at once and stared at the line of scarlet light crackling along its center, dividing the void in half. Ranatar had no idea what was happening, but he could make an educated guess. “Brace yourselves!” he screamed, and to the others credit, they didn’t hesitate to obey. It seemed that, with these circumstances, the Initiates would accept a temporary alliance. Folding inward to make himself smaller and wrapping his arms around his head to cover his ears, Ranatar waited for an explosion. Instead, his hair stirred and his ears filled with the sound of whistling air. Curious, he raised his head and peeked over his forearm. A dome of wind had started to circle the Initiates. Was Fifth doing this? Ranatar glanced sideways at the Skybreaker, though judging by the furrow of his brow, Fifth was equally confused. It was hard to see beyond the dome, but Ranatar could make out a few vague shapes. Four figures obscured by white light stood around it, one standing in each cardinal direction, based on the looming shadow of the monstress just ahead. The Stormwarden fit the pieces together. Kaladin’s Squires had returned, and like their Captain, they learned how to create shields from the winds. It was at that unfortunate moment that the sky erupted and he watched one of them die. Even through the nebulous dome of wind, Ranatar could see the bolts of lightning with clarity. Subconsciously he tried to count them, but they were much too fast, and the havoc caused by their descent overwhelmed his attention quickly. He watched, with wide eyes, as one of the bolts plunged straight for him and reflected off the dome into one of the Squires. A splash of blood hit the whirlwind, dying it a vivid red, seconds before it slowed and stopped completely, the remaining three Squires unable to hold it together on their own, or perhaps unwilling. Teft, Leyten and Drehy ran to the smoldering crater where their friend once stood, not too long ago. Teft was the first to look in. As soon as he did, he straightened and looked away. Drehy slid to his knees and began to clutch his chest, while Leyten stepped beside him, bent his head and closed his eyes, before reciting a silent prayer. Ranatar heard someone vomit behind him, but chose to ignore it. Skar’s death was horrifying, but if the giant Voidbringer wasn’t defeated soon, he suspected there would be more like it. Stepping towards the smoking crater, Ranatar prepared to interrupt the Squire’s warning, only for a loud shout to come from above. Kaladin had felt his Squire die, and judging by his response, he wasn’t happy. The windshield that surrounded him slowly became less round as Syl’s body turned into energy. From this angle, it seemed the winds were shaping themselves into a spearhead. The honorspren appeared to be fusing with it, manifesting into a silvery mist with cerulean accents. Whatever that eye belonged to, it looked like the Windrunner intended to blind it, or worse. That gave Ranatar an idea. “Listen up!” the Stormwarden yelled, his words punctuated by a loud crash as the giant Voidbringer started lumbering in a circle to face the Initiates. “If we don’t end this fast, more good men are going to die! It looks like our beloved Captain is aiming to finish his battle! I think it’s about time we do the same! “Teresh! And Araon too, I suppose. Can you two blind the Voidbringer with flame or not?” Keph spun around her Dustbringer’s hand, forming a glove of flame. “I don’t believe I can shoot that high. Keph says my range is limited to 15 meters.” “And I’m kind of new to this,” Araon continued, “so I doubt I could fire even half that distance.” Ranatar would have sighed if not for his backup plan. “Can either of you tell me the melting temperature of rock?” Araon frowned at him. “Is this really time for a school lesson?” “1200 degrees,” Teresh replied before Ranatar could answer. The look on his face suggested that he knew that Ranatar was going to say next. “Keph says that with Araon, we can manage it. But it’s going to take some time.” “That’s fine. While you’re creating a lava pit, Fifth can-” “-Ceol,” Fifth interrupted. “Pardon?” “My name is Ceol.” Ranatar couldn’t stop himself from sighing this time. “Fine. Ceol. Can you fly around the Voidbringer’s head without putting yourself at risk? What I’m planning is going to take a while to set up and it won’t be very effective if the monster sees it coming. I don’t need you hurting the Voidbringer, just pestering it. Keep its eyes away from the ground for as long as possible.” “Got it.” Ranatar turned to look at who’s next. “Jonly… I’m not actually sure what you’re capable of.” The man laughed, though it came out more like a bark. “Anything you are, and more.” “In that case, do you see those spines protruding from the Voidbringer’s back?” Together, everyone looked at the giant, who moved slow enough that she had only yet to turn halfway. Jonly nodded. “I want you and the Squires to try scaling them. If you’re strong enough, you should be able to throw yourself from one to the other, almost like climbing the rungs of a really big ladder. The monster might not be wearing Plate any more, but it’s got chitin covering everything but its face. If we’re going to do any meaningful damage, it’s going to be done there. Think you can manage it?” Jonly grunted. “What about you three? Teft. Leyten. Drehy! You shook up too much to fight?” “Of course not!” replied Drehy. Before Ranatar could ask, Teft answered his next question. “We heard you, and it sounds solid. Not sure what else we could do without being able to fly.” At that, Leyten looked at Ceol with jealousy. “While this is happening, what are you going to do?” asked Teresh. “Rea and I, we’re the safest to traverse the battlefield. He’s a small target and I can teleport out of the way of danger. I don’t know where Naihar is, but with his powers, he’s the best chance we have at tripping the monster, unless anyone else has a ton of firepower they’ve been keeping from the rest of us.” That last statement was met with an equal number of head-shakes and incredulous stares. In the background, Ranatar noticed the Voidbringer was almost facing them completely. He would have to make this last part quick. “Lyna. Stay with Hithon. It doesn’t look like the Stormlight is healing as fast as the rest of us, and it's not like he can see, so we need you to look out for anything that we might not expect. If you need to get anyone’s attention, just scream.” Rather than speak, his fellow Acolyte nodded. “What about us?” Oh. Right. Ranatar had forgotten about Hess and Tintallë. The man was a natural recluse, and the woman always seemed to be drifting off into her own little world. Of course, Ranatar knew the reasons why from his research, but he also knew these two wouldn’t be able to do much good. “See if you two can find any of the Radiants. Make sure they’re okay, provide any support you can. And if they’re fine, send them to help. I’m sure we could make use of their powers.” As an afterthought, Ranatar added: “Oh, and Hess. Make sure nobody touches Tintallë, no matter what. It won’t end well. Trust me.” The man’s reluctant nod would have to be enough. The Voidbringer was staring at them now, her swordarm gradually raising the lightning blade above her head. “Everyone!” Ranatar yelled. “You know what to do! Now scatter!” “So,” Shallan said, breaking the awkward silence. “You going to tell me what just came over you?” Adolin had already been sitting on the ground, slouched over, his head resting against the groove left in the cavern wall from where his Blade pierced it before being dismissed. And yet when Shallan addressed him, the prince somehow managed to deflate even more. She had avoided getting too close to him, partly because she was worried he might attack her too, not to mention the fact that her betrothed was covered in thick, orange blood. She cared little about stains, but she couldn’t help but be intimidated, seeing him like that. Shallan hadn’t felt this afraid of a man since… well. Since her father. She swallowed hard at the realization. “I wish I knew,” Adolin said, then sighed. He looked as if he was about to cry but refusing to let the tears run free. There was a pang of regret in his voice, too. One that seemed more repressed than the guilt you’d have from killing dozens of monsters to save the world, or turning on a man who could arguably be his best friend. “This wasn’t the first time you lost control, was it?” Shallan asked, not meaning for it to sound like an accusation. The burst of outrage Adolin demonstrated made it seem like an accusation anyway. He grabbed her wrist so fast and hard that Shallan nearly leapt out of her skin. “He told you!” Adolin shouted, then pulled. The look on his face was almost rabid. Shallan shook her head. “No one told me anything, Adolin!” she said with a yelp, resisting the urge to summon Pattern, but unable to escape the feeling in her gut that told her she should. She did not like being defenseless. Fortunately she didn’t have to say another word, the pain on her face enough to snap Adolin back to his senses. “I’m sorry…” he mumbled as he let go and shied further into the corner of the cave. “I don’t know why this is happening to me…” Shallan didn’t know either. All the same, she decided to take a leap of faith. Grabbing the prince’s wrist and dragging it over her shoulders, she settled herself into the crook of his arm, then rested her head on his chest. For minutes they sat like that in silence. Neither was oblivious to the sounds of the approaching storm, nor the bright flash of light, or the quiet rumbling that gradually became a violent quake. And yet neither made an effort to move, as if they were to content to die like this, pressed to each other in a cold, dark cave, sheathed in blood and sweat. When the quake stopped, Adolin finally spoke. “I killed Sadeas.” How was Shallan supposed to respond to that? Adolin was broken, that much was clear, and in his current state, the wrong words could set him off again, drive him to violence. Instead of replying or flinching away, Shallan nestled closer. “Since it happened, I’ve come up with a hundred justifications. The man was a monster. His betrayal at the Tower had killed thousands of good men, ruined the lives of their families. All so that he could remove my father and seize this kingdom. When that failed, he continued to plot. Did everything he could to undermine us. There was no other way to stop him. Someone had to do it. “But the truth is, there was only one reason I killed him, Shallan. In that moment it was because I wanted to. I couldn’t make him suffer the same way he made my family all these years. He was heirless and there was no way I could bring myself to harm his wife, even if she is just as conniving as him. I wanted to hurt him. To kill him. And so I did. As simple as that. “Does that make me a bad person?” Again, Shallan was clueless. This matter was too grave for her wit, and she had been sharpening her tongue for so long, she doubted there was anything she could say anything that would actually help him. So instead she grabbed his chin with her freehand, tilted her head towards his and kissed him. At first the contact was soft, like a gentle breeze. Then her hand slid to the back of his neck and pulled him into her hard. His lips tasted like salt and iron, but she didn’t mind. A minute passed. Perhaps two. Three. By the time they were finished, Shallan had lost count. She smiled, uncaring, and Adolin smiled back. The prince was still hurting, but the anger was gone. Whatever Shallan had done, it grounded Adolin. Brought him back. “Thank you,” he said, then groaned as he shifted positions. Apparently the way he had been lying before wasn’t very comfortable. Shallan sniffed loudly, then pinched her nose. “That smell… no! You didn’t!” she said, trying not to laugh. Suddenly nervous, Adolin perked up and began wiggling in his Plate. “I! What? No!” he stuttered, then sagged with relief. Giggling, Shallan let go of her nose and leaned in for another kiss, which Adolin quickly swat away. “Nope. No more kisses for you. You ruined the moment.” “Can you really blame me?” she replied with a smile. Rather than answer, Adolin closed his eyes and leaned his head back. If not for his haphazard breathing, Shallan would have guessed he was falling asleep. “The Herald of Justice approached me, the night of the gala,” Adolin began. This time it was Shallan who perked up. Unsure of the cause, that information made her nervous. “He said he just wanted to talk. I’m not sure if I believe that was always his intention. The conversation, it felt like he was trying to get a read on me. If I said the wrong thing, I think he might have killed me. “He didn’t, though. Obviously. He actually approved of me bringing Sadeas to ‘Justice.’ Told me I reminded him of himself, in his youth, and that he’d be watching to see what I did next. Before he left, he implied he’d come see me again, but when he did, we’d either be friends or enemies. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to be careful. No sane man wants a Herald as a foe, and with what’s coming, I think we need him as an ally. But for whatever reason, my gut told me that something was wrong with him. It was almost like… like he had no soul. His voice, his laughter. It was all just too cold and empty. “If I remind him of himself, does that mean that someday, I’ll be empty too?” For once, Shallan knew what to say. “So long as you have me, no. Never.” It was a lie on two fronts, but it seemed to do the trick. Adolin leaned his head against Shallan’s and kissed her hair before truly falling asleep. Shallan was left alone and awake, listening to a song of war and storms with a lot of things to ponder. Trying not to stir so much that she woke the prince, Shallan fiddled with the chain Adolin had given her. The one that belonged to his mother. Adolin didn’t awaken when a mighty roar shook the earth, nor when a flash of light filled the cave as a bolt of lightning impacted the stone just beyond the entrance she carved. She imagined the prince had spent quite a few nights lying in bed, desperately searching for answers and finding none. A lack of sleep, coupled with the mess he just fought through to get here… How much time had passed since she rescued Kaladin? It was no longer raining, but she could still hear claps of thunder, rushing wind, and the screams of men, and Voidbringers, being cut down by their enemies. Kaladin had said he would take care of things from here, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty for just lying here, in the darkness, safe from whatever happened outside. And what about Pattern? After she finished cutting her way into the cave to free Kaladin, the Cryptic had disappeared, buzzing about something horrible. Something undone, she thought she heard, but she couldn’t remember that well. She had been a bit distracted, running into a crazed Adolin and a wounded Kaladin. Curious, she reached out for the spren and found him cowering on the ceiling, drawn in so tight that he was barely the size of a sphere. What on Roshar could have gotten the Cryptic so scared? Before she could ask, she was interrupted by the entire world lurching forward, throwing Adolin and her onto their faces. “What the?” Adolin yelled in surprise. Shallan didn’t see what happened next, but in the corner of her eye, she recognized the movement. A tiny pebble landed on her head, followed by a shower of stones, and next thing she knew, Adolin was grunting, throwing himself on top of her. Isn’t Plate supposed to be light? She thought, gasping for breath as the prince shifted to make her more comfortable. There was a moment of relief, followed by a loud smash, the sound of glass breaking, and the sensation of hot wax dripping onto her back. In the process, the weight on her back had doubled, then nearly doubled again. Pinned down and barely able to breathe, the dreadful realization had finally settled within Shalan. The rock had finally collapsed on top of them. Idiot, she thought, chastising herself. I’m a storming idiot. Although Dalinar was sure his face was as hard and emotionless as a statue, he could not but feel pride as he watched the Initiates fight from across the plateau. In a moment like this, he wished the Stormfather wasn’t so stubborn. If the Sliver had not refused to become a Blade or teach him the secret of forging Plate, Dalinar would be out there right now, fighting alongside them. Earlier he had managed to do some good, keeping Balthazar alive, but the reckless Initiate was nowhere to be seen, which gave Dalinar a creeping suspicion that his efforts had been for all for naught. The man must have died sometime after the Bondsmith lost track of him, and for some reason he thought Balthazar wasn’t the only one. How many deaths have there been already? How many more would die before this day was done? What could Dalinar do to help? At least the Voidbringer was distracted. One of the Initiates had learned to fly and used that power to strike the Voidbringer’s face, who he now recognized. What was her name again? Dalinar couldn’t remember. He could have sworn he heard it once - maybe during one of their battles, or perhaps a longer time ago in passing - but like the name and face of his wife, it was hard to grasp it. Trying only made it harder to recall, though it wasn’t like water seeping through fingers. It felt more like a wall, and whenever he attempted to pry it down, he only felt sick. Did it have something to do with the Voidbringer’s transformation? Either way, the woman was distracted. Lightning gathered at her fingers and she pressed it to her forehead to seal the wound shut before wiping a thick coat of orange blood from her left eye. Blinking to clear the last of the blood from her vision, the Voidbringer looked up, straight at the huge eye in the sky just as it began to shut. “We need to run!” yelled Renarin. “Forty feet, north north-west. Hurry!” Renarin’s urgent tone suggested there was no time delay. With the cyclone surrounding the plateau and the void where the sky used to be, Dalinar could not look towards the sun to figure out which direction was which. The Bondsmith hesitated to remember where his shadow pointed when they had arrived, but fortunately he didn’t need to think hard as his son quickly broke off from the group, presumably to lead them to safety. By the time they reached the spot Renarin identified, his son fell to the ground, gasping. The boy was never very fit, and today he didn’t have the added stamina granted by his Plate. Earlier, Adolin had requested that Renarin lend the armor to one of his lieutenants, believing an extra set would be more useful in the frontal assault. As smart of a decision as it was, Dalinar wasn’t pleased with how vulnerable that made his son. When the Honor Guard finished catching up, a shadow had fallen over the plateau, followed by a ray of scarlet light that quickly brightened until it bathed the entire world red. Curious, Dalinar nearly looked up towards the source, but then Renarin slumped over and began to convulse. No matter how much the Bondsmith wanted to be aware of what was happening, there was no way he could turn away from his own child in their time of need. Fearing the worst, he held down the boy and pried his mouth open to make sure he didn’t choke on his tongue. Countless thunderclaps roared at once, accompanied by a blood curdling static. Behind them, something crashed into the plateau, casting earth into the air. A shower of hot stones fell upon Dalinar’s back, but fortunately none landed on Renarin. Beside him, one of his Honor Guard began to dance and scream, while another quickly ran to him and helped unclasp his breastplate to free one of the smoldering rocks from where it fell between the armor and his shoulder blade. “Woah,” another one of his men - the most talkative of them, Peet - had said. “Just barely got of the way there, didn’t we?” A white froth leaked out of Renarin’s mouth, but otherwise he was still and gaining lucidity. Assured that his son was okay, Dalinar spared a glance behind him and found a massive, smoldering crater a few steps behind him. It was hard to see through the smoke, but the crater reached all the way to where they had been standing just a few seconds ago, and seemed to go on well beyond there. “Father,” Renarin choked, then spit out the last of the viscous liquid in his mouth. “We’ve got to end this.” Dalinar returned his gaze to his son and frowned. He wanted desperately to speak, but only one word came to mind. How? As if Renarin could hear his thoughts, he answered. “The Stormfather.” If not for the gravity of the situation, Dalinar would have laughed. Since forming their bond, the Stormfather had done little else but goad him. In some ways the Sliver was like Elhokar. Too stubborn, or prideful, to listen to reason. At least with the King, however, Dalinar could coerce him with violence. Unfortunately the Bondsmith had no such leverage over the Shadow of the Almighty. Again, Renarin spoke as if Dalinar’s mind was a open book. “He is not a force to be commanded, but guided.” In what kind of world would man guide god? This time Renarin didn’t answer, just looked to the sky. Sighing, Dalinar raised himself onto his haunches and followed his son’s gaze. “Stormfather,” he began, then paused to think of the words to say. Would saying another oath help? Probably. But realizing that didn’t help him find the right words, anyway. He was much too new to this. Clueless, he defaulted to an old argument, despite knowing he’d receive the same response as always. “Now would be a perfect time for you to become my Blade.” I TOLD YOU. I WILL NOT COME AS YOU CALL. THIS WAR IS YOURS TO LOSE. IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO END THIS WAY. “For a god, you’re awfully pessimistic. Have you no faith?” NONE. MY FAITH DIED WHEN MAN LOST HONOR. “Honor? Who are you to speak of honor? You who has the power to save the world, but instead watches as evils like these rip it to shreds?” “Father…” Renarin grabbed Dalinar’s wrist, trying to soothe his anger. Finally realizing his irritation and exhaustion, Dalinar bowed his head and closed his eyes. Renarin was right. Anger was not the solution to this dilemma. If anything, it was the cause. For a long moment, the Bondsmith remained just like that. Motionless as the earth quaked to the immense Voidbringer’s every step. Even without looking at the monster and the Initiates who gathered at her feet, Dalinar could sense the tension in the air. It was a burden so heavy that gravity felt like it had been turned up three times its regular strength. There was something else, though. A sensation the Bondsmith had never really felt before. Opening his eyes, he turned to face the scene just as it unfolded. Ranatar, accompanied by his fellow Initiates and three of Kaladin’s Squires, were squared off against the monstress, ready for a fight. Dalinar closed his eyes and could still see the warriors, each of them silhouette by a bright, white light. Standing together as they did, their auras blended into one great luminescence. In their presence, the darkness stood no chance. Without meaning to, Dalinar took a deep breath, then stoked their light with his own power until it shined as bright as the sun. When he opened his eyes once last time, he noticed each of the Initiates were standing a little bit taller. Their stances had become more relaxed, yet their muscles seemed more rigid. It as then that the true battle began. What he saw… Dalinar could not help but stare in awe. The Nameless Initiate shot into the air, swiping his bent claymore at the Voidbringer’s eyes. Anticipating the move, the Voidbringer staggered back, opening a gap between its legs for Jonly and the Squires to run between. Despite her chitinous shell, the Voidbringer must have felt the four men leap onto the spines of her lower back, for as soon as the first one landed, she thrust her hips outward, attempting to shake him free. Meanwhile, Ranatar and Rea split off in separate directions, leaving Araon and Teresh facing one another, their bodies radiating not with smoking light, but shimmering heat. Arms thrust before them, flame started to literally fire from their palms, though instead of the monster they aimed for the ground. Slowly, the rock melted into lava, a pit forming and growing steadily until the two men were forced to start moving backwards. Each step deliberate with a long pause between them to ensure they didn’t lose their balance when the earth shook in the wake of the Voidbringer’s hasty movements. Without relent, Fifth continued to harry the Voidbringer’s face, keeping her from looking anywhere but eye level. Another quick shake revealed Jonly and the Squires jumping between the third and fourth spines of her back. Unlike the Squires, Jonly was struggling to hold on, but they used their Lashings to keep him bound to the stone until he gathered the strength to leap again. Out of nowhere, Naihar and Ranatar appeared, a flourishing vine of incredible width and length pulled taut between them. Fearless, they ran circles around the Voidbringer’s legs, attempting to tangle her feet to limit her movements. It wasn’t perfect, but a combination of that and a swath of light left in the wake of Naihar’s bare footsteps caused the Voidbringer to start losing her balance. By then, her face had been marred by several bleeding wounds, and the three Squires plus Jonly had perched themselves upon her shoulders, two on each and winding their arms back. The pit of lava had grown significantly large for what only seemed like a few minutes at most, but Dalinar knew that it had been at least a half an hour since the fight began. For an observer, battles of this scale just felt like they went by in a flash. For the fighters, it might have felt like a century. Ranatar yelled a command, grabbed Naihar, and then summoned a circle of light that quickly vanished them away. Using the streams of flame to propel their bodies, Araon and Teresh rocketed to safety just in time for Ceol to grab a wounded Hithon and distraught Lyna and fly them away. At once, Jonly and the Squires swung at the back of the Voidbringer’s head with all their might, sending the monstress plummeting towards the lava pit face-first. The sheer force of their blow simultaneously threw them backwards. Dalinar couldn’t tell for sure, but judging by the direction, they should have landed on top of the stone monolith at the plateau’s center. Unable to control the direction in which she fell, the Voidbringer collided with the superhot trench. Her wail was immediate, a desperate cry as she struggled to claw herself free, although the lava made quick work of her chitinous armor and was already eating away at the muscle beneath. Writhing in pain, she let out one last scream before her body gave up completely, either due to the blood loss or utter shock. With her body melted halfway into the plateau, the Voidbringer resembled a massive skeleton, frozen in time as it tried to crawl out of its molten grave. Allowing a moment for the chaos to settle, Dalinar finally looked up to the sky. “You say man lost honor.” he muttered under his breath as he watched Kaladin and his spren, Sylphrena, fuse to become a spear of radiant light. “If that were true, then what do you call this?” The Stormfather had no words. Instead, the sky rumbled as Kaladin launched himself into the heavens and pierced the malicious crimson eye of Nergaoul the Unmade. A moment later a Highstorm came to wash away the bloody tears It shed.
  2. The other orders must be returning as well. We need to find those whom the spren have chosen. Quickly, for the Everstorm is upon us, and it is worse than we feared. Kaladin thought the words over and over again, hoping to drown out the guilt he felt with his sense of duty. Dalinar was right. Storm the man, but he was. As much as he wanted to... no, needed to go home, to make sure his parents were safe, he just couldn’t. He had accepted what he was and declared it to the world, which meant he had a great deal of new responsibilities to worry about beyond his own selfish concerns. “They’ll be alright,” Syl assured him, glowing softly as she paced the length of his shoulder, in a noticeably unassuring way. What did she have to be nervous about, anyway? It’s not like she had to make the tough choice of abandoning her family for the sake of the world. For the Everstorm is upon us, and it is worse than we feared. Storm Dalinar, and storm Shallan, too! The Oathgates are using too much Stormlight. She said as soon as Kaladin mentioned his plan to return home. Already we run low on infused spheres. Would you have us condemn all the warcamp refugees to weather a highstorm in the middle of the Shattered Plains, just so that you have a small chance of saving your parents? I get how hard it must be to accept, but we’re Radiants now; aren’t we? We’ve got to think for more than just ourselves. Easy for her to say, with her family safe and on their way. But still! Storm her for being right, too. Seeing Dalinar nod in agreement, he almost yelled right then. But suddenly Renarin was there, touching his arm gently. Not to reassure him like Syl was trying now, but to let him know if the situation were reversed, he would feel exactly the same. Kaladin would be too late, anyway. Deep down he knew that. He might own the winds, but he could not outrun the storm. A voice in the back of his head - not Syl, but something else, something foreign - told him that if he tried, he’d end up miles outside of Hearthstone, stranded on foot with no Stormlight to spare. By the time he reached home the streets would already be empty, some houses crushed to rubble, others cast aside, as if they hadn’t already stood for centuries against raging winds and torrential downpours. But this storm was different, of course. It belonged not to the Stormfather, but to who Syl called the One Who Hates. Kaladin had seen what the Everstorm was capable during his battle with the Assassin in White. An entire plateau got tossed in the air, had nearly splattered his foe before gravity could drag it back down to where it belonged. What resistance could a little town like his put up against a tempest like that? He was thinking too much. Always thinking too much. Where the Braize are they, anyway? It wasn’t like Bridge Four to be late. Perhaps they got lost? Kaladin supposed he couldn’t blame them. It’s not like they could fly like him - not yet, at least - and this tower-city-whatever was practically a maze. Still, the man was bothered. Ever since his time in that cell, it sickened him to be alone. Usually Syl was sufficient company, but whenever she was like this, she only worsened his mood. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked, finally. “Hm?” Syl responded, finally still now that she was drawn out of her thoughts. “Oh, nothing.” “Oh? So what, you’re lying to me now? I thought you were a spren of honor, not lies.” “I’ve said it once before, Kal-a-din, but I’m no cryptic! You asked what’s wrong with me, and the answer is nothing! But something is wrong, of that much, I am certain.” “What, then? Is it Him again?” “No… I don’t think this feeling is His doing. It doesn’t reek of His touch. Not directly, at least. But it might be just as terrible.” Great, Kaladin groaned internally. As if there weren’t enough obstacles in his way already. “Someone comes,” Syl said, suddenly turning into a ribbon of light and zipping towards the stairs that lay behind him. “Hello Skar!” she shouted, surprising the man as he rose from the steps below. “Woah!” Skar yelled, startled by Syl’s enthusiastic welcome. The man could see her ever since becoming Kaladin’s Squire, though he still wasn’t used to her presence. Once she calmed down and landed on his shoulder, however, he settled down. Over the other shoulder, Drehy poked his balding head, a wide grin parting his face. “Good morning, Syl. I trust your day is going well?” “Better now that you’re here, Lanky!” she said, becoming a ribbon of light once more to greet him as she did Skar. When she landed on his shoulder, though, a pang of jealousy resonated in Kaladin’s heart. But why? These were his friends. More than that, now, what with the Bond they shared. Why did it matter if Syl became friends with them too? She was friends with Rock, before, and Sigzil too, and he never envied the attention she gave them. And yet somehow this was different. No matter. Skar was walking up to him now, Drehy trailing from behind. Stepping together, they saluted him, not in the Alethi way, but with their hands before them, crossed at the wrists. The way he taught them. The Bridge Four way. These were Kaladin’s brothers. His Squires. The envy dissipated from him even before Syl left Drehy’s shoulder for his own. “At ease, men. What took you so long?” “News, sir,” Drehy responded before Skar could open his mouth. “Important news. But before you ask, may I suggest we save it for after the demonstration?” Kaladin probed the taller man’s eyes, then glanced at his companion, who nodded in agreement. “We have time. I’ll hear it now.” Despite the frigid air at this altitude, Kaladin noticed the two men were sweating. “Well,” Drehy dragged on, “if you really want to know-” “Sadeas is dead. Assassinated, it seems.” Kaladin’s face didn’t change, though in that moment, he thought it should have. He already knew, of course. Until now, he thought he was the only man who did know. Aside from Adolin, of course. The man who killed him, then out of desperation, confided not to his father, his brother or his lover, but to him. “Do they know who did it?” Drehy gulped inaudibly, but Skar simply shook his head. “Don’t worry, I had nothing to do it with it,” Kaladin said, and Drehy relaxed. “If I did, I’d have broken my Oaths. Syl would be dead and you two would be ordinary men once more,” he explained, leaving out the rest of what he wanted to say. As much as he hated keeping secrets, he made a vow of silence to the princeling. Kaladin just hoped Adolin took his advice in return. If Dalinar found out his own son had murdered a Highprince, as traitorous a Highprince he might be, from any other source… That was a storm not even Kaladin would dare face. In his periphery a light flashed. It was distant, but large; a giant column of luminescence that quickly faded, leaving a brief afterimage in its place. “Enough talk,” Kaladin told them, rolling his shoulders, as if he needed to stretch. “It’s nearly time. Are you two ready?” Skar and Drehy began to glow, then nodded eagerly. “Well then, let’s get this show over with, already.” Despite his nonchalance, even Kaladin was a little bit excited. Throughout his life, Lomot had seen many beautiful things. But looking at the shining tower that had just faded to life before him, they seemed nothing more than pallid glimmers in comparison. He arrived with a crowd. Around him, men, women and even a few children gasped and glared as the curtain of light fell to reveal the City in the Sky, as their guides liked to call it. Looking at Urithiru now, Lomot decided to call it by a different name. Something simpler, and more accurate. Perfection. Stepping closer, failing to notice the youth he had to shoulder to get by, Lomot took a deep breath. After such a long, arduous journey across those blasted plains, he had finally reached his promised destination. A place of dreams. A place of wonder. A place he knew in his heart, he was always meant to be. As he walked a gloryspren popped into existence, a golden sun among a sea of awespren. Like most spren he’d seen before, he ignored it. There were more important things to look at, after all. Eyes slowly climbing up the height of the tower, Lomot counted the number of ridges first, wondering if what they said was true. It took some time, but he smiled once he finished, glad that it was true. A hundred floors. Ten by ten. Perfection. Before he knew it, Lomot was nearing the end of a bridge, narrow unlike the fat disc on which he traveled. Behind him, a river of people tread in his wake, a few rushing past him, more eager to get close than to bask in the place’s majesty. Further back, some more still remained upon the magic platform, stunned by the sheer scope of what they saw. Closer now, he could make out the wide variety of plantlife that comprised the garden’s upon each of the ninety-nine balcony’s leading to the top. He could see the tiny figures of people walking those same gardens, many of which seemed to be tending to them. For a moment his eyes lingered there, appreciating its beauty, as he so often loved to do, but then a blast like thunder rang from the sky, and everyone cast their eyes upwards at once. Three men - glowing men - rocketed towards them from above. A few people shouted, scrambled to get out of the way, but Lomot was too amazed to move. Several feet ahead of them, the first of them crashed, a glyph of frost expanding behind him like a pair of wings. The man had landed in a crouch unscathed, long, dark hair billowing behind him, his uniform a crisp, Kholin blue. Wisps of shimmering steam trailed from his mouth, seemed to leak from the pores of his exposed skin. His head snapped up, glacial ices locking with Lomot’s an instant before he spun to meet his attackers. Something like mist coalesced in the man’s hands, taking the shape of a silvery spear, it’s tip bearing azure swirls that shined even in the daylight. They came upon him together, two luminescent comets with spears of their own. Their weapons didn’t glow like his, however. They looked like they were carved from wood and Soulcast into steel. His seemed to be made of the same material as a Shardblade. And yet when they collided with all the force of their descent, the two men’s spears did not break. A ripple of pressure burst from the impact, causing Lomot to stumble back, but not nearly as far as those two men were sent. They recovered midair, however, flipping and landing on their feet with unfathomable grace. What happened next, Lomot could barely process. The three men’s movements were so fast, so incredibly precise. In their hands, their weapons were a storm. Miniature tornadoes, caught in a never-ending dance. Despite being outnumbered, the man with the long hair held them back. In fact, he even seemed to be winning. While his opponents began to slow, his movements only became swifter, stronger. They tried to get around him, to divide his attention, but it was almost like their opponent had eyes on the back of his head. They couldn’t best him. They knew they couldn’t best him. And yet they still tried with every bit of power they had left. Were these the Knights Radiant? The men Lomot sought to join? As he watched their fight unfold, up until the very moment that it came to a stunning end, he not once doubted himself. Not once lost his resolve in coming here. The whole time, he only had one thought. Throughout his life, Lomot had seen many beautiful things. But looking at the shining knights that just battled gallantly before him, they seemed nothing more than pallid glimmers in comparison. YOU’RE A FOOL, DALINAR KHOLIN. The Stormfather’s voice was as loud as thunder, but as usual, only one man could hear it. If not for the youth bowing on the platform before him and the large procession of people watching from below, Dalinar might have responded to the god’s taunting just then. But alas, he had more important matters to attend to. “Speak the words,” he told the boy. “Life before death.” He began, a tint of fear coloring his voice. He knew the words, sure, but Dalinar could tell he didn’t believe them. At this rate, he was never going to find any Initiates - the term he had been using for those who were spiritually ready for a Bond, but lacked a spren to Bond with. “Strength before weakness,” the boy said, firmer now, though he could not hide the trembling of his hands. Idly, Dalinar wondered what brought this young man here today. The boy was thin in his fashionable - albeit dirty - garbs. His hands seemed tiny, frail. Barren of calluses and scars. Something told him that this child had never known true hardship until his journey to Urithiru; not the kind that created Knights, at least. YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME. Dalinar almost sighed. “Journey before destination,” the boy finished, then looked up, eyes pleading. Dalinar could see the desire there. So then it’s glory he seeks. Power, perhaps. Or maybe something more innocent. Maybe he just wants to be a hero. Either way, the Highprince - no, Bondsmith - knew what the result would be. Still, he held the diamond broam out in the palm of his hands. “Breath deep, and we’ll know if your heart is true.” The youth breathed. Nothing happened. “I’m sorry,” he whispered before the boy began his sulky descent. WHEN WILL YOU BE DONE WITH THIS FARCE? I HAVE IMPORTANT MATTERS TO DISCUSS WITH YOU. “I’ll be done when they’re done,” Dalinar said, nodding to those whom still remained down below. Already another climbed the steps to him. Another noble by the look of his clothes. He didn’t even move out of the way as the lad got near, the boy’s head too low to see him coming. Of course, why should a man of his stature move for a mere child? Bah! By the look of his gait, that man was almost as bad as Sadeas. Sadeas… he thought with sad regret. To Dalinar’s surprise, the noble stopped before reaching the boy, looking at him curiously, as if noticing him for the first time. He squat low so that he could look him in the eyes, then with a finger, tilted the boy’s chin up so he could look in his. Words passed between them, their conversation concise, but when they parted ways, the boy held his head a little bit higher. Could it be that Dalinar misjudged him? DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. When the blonde nobleman reached him, there was no hesitance in his bow. It wasn’t practiced, Dalinar could tell that much, but the man was confident. Taking a knee, the noble looked up at Dalinar, dark orange eyes peering unwaveringly into his. Something about them stood out, too. Was that eyeliner? And his cheeks... they were abnormally red, even for the cold, and dusted with glitter, his lips painted a deep shade of violet. Just who was this man? Darkeyed and dressed like a noble, his face accented with make up... Dalinar had never seen no one like him in his life. Nevertheless, he would allow him the same chance. "Speak the words," he told the man. “Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.” After twelve failures, Dalinar finally met a man who spoke the words as if they were own. There was a rumbling in the distance, one that only the Bondsmith could here. The Stormfather, it seemed, wasn't very happy. But just to be sure, Dalinar held the diamond broam before him. “Breath deep, and-” The man breathed deep indeed, nostrils flaring, stormlight flowing from the sphere to him, alighting his eyes, his skin. He smiled, revealing two rows of teeth, sheathed in gold, streams of light leaking from the cracks between them. “What is your name, Initiate?” “Lomot. ‘Tis the only name I have that matters.” “Very well. Then turn, Lomot, so that I might declare you to the world.” As Dalinar commanded, Lomot obeyed. Above them, something flew by, a gust of wind following close behind. A moment later, a cloak drifted down, solid gold silk with the symbol of the Knights Radiant stitched on the back in black. Like thunder, Dalinar’s own voice boomed throughout Urithiru. “Before you stands Lomot. He has spoken the First Ideal, and light reveals that his heart is worthy of the Oath. Thus an Initiate is sworn to serve. For the good of Man, and for the good of Roshar.” As Dalinar tied the cape around the Initiate’s shoulders, he couldn’t help but grin. A fool, am I? It felt good proving a god wrong. Once finished with the knot, Dalinar grabbed Lomot’s shoulders and turned him so that he could look into his eyes once more. “That boy. What did you tell him?” The Initiate smiled. No, he beamed. “The boy? Why, I simply told him the truth.”