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Kaladin vs Dalinar

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Think about it, imagine a world where Kaladin was born a little earlier, or Dalinar and Elokhar started their uniting of Alethkar later. They’re going through the country, destroying villages to weaken resolve.

In this dangerous time, all boys old enough are taught to fight, even the son of a pacifist surgeon, in the hopes that it would add even a few seconds onto their lives.

Sadeas is promised the small farming town of Hearthstone once they capture it, which they don’t expect to be hard at all when none of the men there are anything more than simple farmers and townfolk. However, to Blackthorn’s surprise, there is a commotion on one side of the battle. He pushes through the fighting men to see a young lad, barely old enough to fight, mowing down men like a master of the spear. The young lad is dispatching dozens of his own, highly trained, men. He is standing over the corpse of an even younger boy, and tears are streaming down his face but still he fights, swift as the wind.

Blackthorn can’t help but laugh, amazed and gleeful at the pure skill he sees in the youngster. So he makes the offer that he has made so many times before, the offer that had gained him the best archer in the land. The boy’’s face shutters as Blackthorn offers to let his town escape as unscathed as possible, and the warmonger smiles. He’s confident that the boy will make the choice so many others have. He even begins planning his training. He has made this offer dozens of times over, and they always agreed. They would always-

The boy’s face hardens, and he lunges for Blackthorn’s throat.

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Dalinar blocks, but not as easily as he would have thought. Who had trained this child? But no, this wasn’t training. If it were, then the others in this town would have been at least somewhat as skilled. This was pure talent. And maybe something greater.

The two trade blows for a moment, Dalinar more testing the child’s strength rather than actually fighting back. The boy was good, with the training that Blackthorn could provide, he could be great. He may be harder to convince that the others, but that simply meant he had more spirit, more resolve. The Blackthorn always got what he wanted, and what he wanted now was this boy among his elites.

The teen pulled back for a moment, breathing heavily as he continued to meet the Blackthorns eyes. Dalinar grinned. The boy was seeing that he could not match the skill of the Blackthorne. He could not win this, he would soon give up.

The lad then glanced back at the body of the young boy a few yard behind him, then at the keep behind him that still held and protected those who could not fight. Dalinar could almost see his resolve weakening. However, when he turned back, the lad’s eyes were even harder than before.

“You are a monster.” The boy spat. “You destroy this land in the name of uniting it, kill thousands to create a better country for you and your brother. You will turn this land to ruin and it’s people to corpses. I will not be part of, no matter what happens to me. I will stop your reign of death and terror or I will die trying to do what is right.”

Scattered around the boy’s feet were dozens of broams and spheres, spilling out of a large goblet that lay on it’s side. The Blackthorn hadn’t noticed it before, the lights not obvious in the day’s sunlight, but were they glowing… brighter?”

The boy slammed the butt of his sphere on the ground, the wooden butt clacking against the crem-covered street. “I will spend my last breath doing what I can to keep you from advancing on another village just like mine, to stop you from killing thousands of darkeyed men and women who mean less to you than the crem on your boots. I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Suddenly the light from the spheres seemed blinding, the light itself seemed to leech from the gemstones surrounding the boy’s feet and attatch itself to the boy. He was glowing, stormlight leaking from his lips and his eyes blazing. The child screamed, jumped impossibly high, and continued his attack.

For the first time that the Blackthorn could remember, the Thrill gave way to fear.

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Dalinar barely survived that fight.

Sitting alone in his tent, his mind was replaying the fight over and over again. He could see the hardness in the boys eyes, hear the hatred in his voice as he spoke those words. Then he saw the boy glow with stormlight.

Dalinar shakes his head. He must have been mistaken. Such a thing was impossible. Still, after that outburst, the next attacks from the boy had been unexplainable.

Despite seeming tired from the fighting only a few seconds previously, the boy had leapt impossibly high and had renewed his attacks with an unknown strength and vigor. He moved with a swiftness Dalinar had never seen, avoiding his own attacks with ease, while ignoring his previously sustained injuries.

But despite his natural skill, a spear was no match for a Shardplate.

Dalinar sits back, rubbing his still aching nose. He had realized almost two late that the boy’s next strike was not aiming for his shardhelm, but for the eye slit. His reflexes had barley been enough to avoid that fatal injury. His elites had gathered around him after that attack and the boy backed off slowly before dashing towards some soldiers attacking the boy’s comrades.

Standing up, Dalinar walks out of his tent and towards the captured section of the town. The army was resting in a large circle around Hearthstone. They hadn’t expected this much resistance and the keep still held. He knew that that had been because of the boy. He had seen him cover the retreat of his fellow surviving townsfolk into the keep, all while carrying a small body.

Eventually he reaches the spot where the fight occurred. Around him, soldiers were cleaning up the bodies of the fallen and gathering their equipment. The spheres were also missing. Except for one. Picking it up, he notices that it is dun, despite the recent highstorm. The image of the stormlight flowing from the spheres and onto the boy appears in his mind once again.

‘That was an illusion, there are any number of reasons a sphere could be dun,’ Dalinar speaks to himself. Somehow he isn’t quite convinced.

Suddenly Dalinar feels a presence. He looks at the keep, only to notice a figure on the roof, staring at him. He can feel the hatred from where he stands and knows that this is the boy. For a moment, their gazes lock. The boy’s hatred against his own growing curiosity.

“You’re needed in the command tent, Brightlord.”

Dalinar brakes his gaze to turn towards the officer staring at him. Nodding, he moves back towards the ring of tents, knowing that this meeting will be about what they plan on doing next. They can’t allow a town to stand in their way, allow a town to defy them. Hearthstone will be destroyed as a warning, Dalinar knows this.

Still, he can’t help thinking of those boy’s words.

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Kaladin started ahead numbly, barely processing the world around him as he helped his father. Stitch, stitch, cauterize, bandage, medicine, it all seemed so useless, dressing corpses up to make their families feel better.

He couldn’t look at the figure in the corner, the corpse under a thin sheet, his failure, his brothers body.

NO! He couldn’t think of that. Not now, not while there were men granted a few more moments to live.

The Invaders had stopped their attack as night had fallen, allowing those who could to fall back into Roshones keep, but they were still there, watching, waiting, poised to strike at any moment.

Kaladin knew that Hearthstone wouldn’t survive another attack. Storms they barely survived this one, they wouldn’t have if he hadn't… if he hadn't…

Kaladin still wasn’t exactly sure what he’d done. He knew it had to do with Syl, the windspren that had been sticking around him, talking to him, but other than that he didn’t know.

Was he a knight radient? He didn’t know, couldn’t ask anyone beyond the spren. His father had never wanted him to fight, wouldn’t want to know how many lives he’d taken today, wouldn’t want the implications of Kaladin being a ‘knight’ anything. His mother would surely go to his father, and who else was there? Not the Ardents, they considered the radients traitors.

Who then?

He could have told Then, but- Kaladin violently turned his attention back to his task, setting the broken arm of a man who had taken a hard blow from the staff of a spear. His mother worked a few yards from him, her arm occasionally moving to cradle her stomach.

Kaladin had worked as a surgeon enough to know what movement like that meant. He was furious, not because they hadn’t told him, but because his mother had already lost one child today, and she was in danger of losing another.

Those acursed Kholins, they’ll bring the desolation to Roshar, Kaladin was sure of it. Syl, who usually worked so hard to cheer him up, remained a silent support upon his shoulder, looking at the body he was avoiding with wide, sad eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she said at length, “That you had to say the words like that. I’m glad you said them, but I wish…”

Yeah, Kalading wished too.

Suddenly there was a commotion from deeper in the keep, Kaladin jumped to his feet, hands already reaching for his spear. His mother gripped his arm as he moved to follow the noise, but said nothing. She simply hugged him tightly to her chest for a moment before reluctantly letting him go.

It didn’t take long once Kaladin left the safe room to hear the news: some scouts within the Kholin army had managed to sneak into the keep and open it from the inside, the attackers were now flooding the building.

Kaladin ran, determined to find the Blackthorn, to end the man who was responsible for over half the deaths in this accursed invasion of the Alethi lands.

Instead he found Roshone. Roshone, the man who turned the village against his father, who was the reason why some days they’d had nothing but Lavis grains to eat. The man who had humiliated and abused his father since the day he arrived in Hearthstone.

Roshone, the man who’d stationed Tien at the front lines, who had sent his brother to die. The bright Lord was cowering, cowardly hiding from a man in bright green armor and a war hammer. Not the Blackthorn, but another well known figure in this campaign, Sadeas. Sadeas was advancing on Roshone slowly, clearly confident in his ability to slay a cowering, aged man.

Kaladin froze, struck by a horrible moment of indecision. This was his chance to be rid of Roshone for good, his chance to be rid of the scourge that had being weighing down his family for months. All he had to do was… wait. He didn’t even have to do anything, just wait until this man killed Roshone to attack. It would be so easy.

Syl flitted down to his face, seeming paler than normal, less… there. “Kaladin,” she said softly, “You know what is right. It scares me how you get when you talk about Roshone, don’t let the hate corrupt who you can be.”

Kaladin took a deep breath, tears stinging his eyes as he gave up the hope of seeking revenge on the man he believed was truly responsible for killing his brother. He stepped into the room, the chamber behind him darkened as he sucked the stormlight from the gemstones on the lamps, but he paid it no mind. He moved to get between Roshone and Sadeas, his spear held firm in his grip. Syl flew in a proud arch around him, saying gleefully “Say the words! Kaladin, you’re ready, you can do it “

“I will protect,” he says, voice hoarse as Sadeas pauses for a moment to gape at the teen glowing in the center of a now dark room. “I will protect even those I hate, because it is right!”

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Sadeas stares at the glowing figure in the room. Tall, with longer dark hair and dark brown eyes. Dried blood covering the front of a simple tunic and pants as he held forth a slightly damaged spear. A silence held between them for a moment before the cowering man spoke.

“But…. how…..”

Not breaking eye contact with Sadeas, the youth spoke in a voice no-longer hoarse but imbued with something Sadeas couldn’t quite place. Anger? Determination? No it was something else.

“Go. Warn the others.”

The cowering man continues to stare at the glowing figure.

“RUN”.

Before Sadeas can react, the figure scrambles backwards towards the door. In that same moment, the boy takes up a defensive stance covering the door and the rapidly fleeing coward. Behind him, Sadeas could sense the rest of the army approaching. The first few soldiers crowding into the room behind him, stopping at the sight of the rapidly dimming boy. Sadeas raises his hammer. Unlike Dalinar, he has no interest in recruiting a band of elites from his enemies.

His first strike towards the boy misses as he jumps out the way with alarming agility. The youth counters with a strike of his own. Sadeas ignores the blow to his Shardplate as he brings the hammer around for a second swing. This time it grazes his just over the teen’s head as he ducks beneath the blow and brings the spear up for a second strike.

This time however, the youth swings it towards a soldier heading towards the open door behind him. He uses the movement to block the door as it inexplicably begins to close. The message is clear, you have to get past me first.

Ignoring the injured soldier, Sadeas makes a third strike. The rest of his small force hung slightly back. There was barely room for him to swing and anyone in his way was going to get injured. Badly. The teen raises his spear to block the strike and Sadeas feels the wood splinter. Without giving him a second to recover, Sadeas swings his hammer a second time.

Obviously realizing his previous mistake, the boy dodges out the way again and goes for a second strike. This time Sadeas realizes that the boy is aiming for the shardhelm and his eye slit. Using his other arm, he deflects the blow before it can strike true. The youth clearly had skill and knew how to fight a Shardbearer without using a Blade.

He had heard that there was some trouble on the battlefield earlier. The men had mentioned that it was a single figure holding back half an army. Sadeas had dismissed it at the time. Even after hearing from Dalinar that a boy had caused his injury, he still didn’t believe it. Now, staring at the faintly glowing boy, Sadeas realizes that there was possibly a truth to the story.

Before he could think anything else, the boy attacks again, making another attempt at the eye slit. Sadeas uses the momentum of his movement to swing the hammer. The youth notices at the last second and makes a frantic defense. The hammer smashes into the spear, destroying it and sending the top flying across the small room. Smiling, Sadeas makes several attacks in quick succession, despite the weight of the hammer. The first two force the boy backwards before the third, a feint, strikes true into his side.

The soldiers and Sadeas watch as the teen slams against the door, head slumping slightly forward and side bloody. His light fading to a very dull glow as Sadeas walks up to him. He vaguely hears the frantic whispers of the men behind him, which he ignores as he raises the hammer for the final blow.

The youth looks up at him, dark hard eyes full of something powerful meet his own. Their gazes lock briefly before the boy looks to the side, quiet words muttering from his bloody lips. He begins to raise an arm to futilely block the strike.

Sadeas swings.

In the instant before his strike hits, a glowing shield appears on the youth’s arm, deflecting the blow. Sadeas and the men stare. Where had this come from? At this moment, Sadeas also notices the trails of Stormlight moving from the gemstones his men are carrying onto the boy as his slumped figure begins to glow brightly once more. Then impossibly, the boy stands.

Sadeas jaw drops beneath this shardhelm. That hammer was designed to break shardplates. He should be dead and yet he stands tall and almost uninjured, his glow mingling with that of his strange shield. A shield that looks familiar.

Sadeas watches as the boy moves his arm as the shield dissolves into mist, reappearing an instant later as an intricate spear that reminded him of a shardblade. But that was impossible. This couldn’t be happening. Shardblades couldn’t change shape, couldn’t be summoned in an instant. Yet he had just seen the impossible.

He could hear the exclamations of shock and horror and “Knight Radiant” behind him as he stares at the youth defensively blocking the door, shardspear in his hand and pale blue eyes glowing with determination.

And then Sadeas realizes that he isn’t touching the ground.

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Sadeas was not a coward. He’d ridden into hundreds of battles without hesitation, slayed thousands of enemies. He stood beside two of the most feared men in all of Alethkar and coundted them friends. He had faced men on horseback, men in plate, and men with forces that far outnumbed his, and he’d done it all without flinching. He’d done it without hesitation, not a tremor of fear in his heart. So when the boy first began glowing he’d faced it like any other threat, without pause and with extreme prejudice. Sure it was odd, but at the end of the day it was just another man standing in his way.

Sadeas was no coward, but storms, when your enemy suddenly reveals a shardblade that can change shape and they can fly, well, Sadeas decided that this was probably more to Dalinar’s interest.

Still the man did not flee, rather he… made a very sudden strategic retreat, heart pounding in his chest and mind whirling. The boy let him leave, though he kept his spear leveled at the brightlord’s chest.

Kaladin had no storming idea what was happening.

He’d chosen to protect Roshone, despite the war battling in his heart. He’d said the words like Syl had always insisted, despite not knowing what good it would do. He should have paid far more attention to the ardents when they spoke of the Radients, for now he held a Shardblade, held Syl sharpenened to deadly point.

Syl had claimed that he would be able to do amazing things, that the bond would change him just as it changed her, but he never would have imagined all this. Storms, how long had he been able to do this? Since he first met her? Since she’d told him of the first ideal, so long ago? Since he’d said the first set of words to the Blackthorn?

He was flying for Stormfather’s sake. All he’d thought was that he wanted to be higher than his opponents, to gain the upper hand, and now he was floating off the ground.

The soldiers fled, and at another time Kaladin might have pursued them, but at the moment he could only keep his spear straight and hope he didn’t look as completely bewildered as he felt.

How was he supposed to get down?

“The same way you got up.” A voice said in his head. Kaladin started, but glanced at the spear still held in his hand.

“And how did I do that?”

“I don’t know, you’re the one who did it.”

Kaladin opened his mouth to reply, but before he could there was a thunderous sound from behind the door he was guarding. The fighting men of Hearthstone had finally rallied and come to protect the keep. Not wanting to get crushed when the men threw the door open, Kaladin somehow instinctively threw himself forward, towards the wall on the other side of the room, and then crashed into it as if it were the floor.

“Ouch,” He mumbled, getting to his feet, only to see in a sharp moment of shock that he was still somehow on the wall. It was as if the keep stood sideways, the wall becoming the floor and the floor a wall. Beside Kaladin’s feet lay one of the rooms many lamps, and the furniture seemed to be protruding from the wall, as did the soldiers that were rapidly filling the room.

For a moment they gaped at Kaladin, and Kaladin gaped back, unable to give a good answer as to what was happening.

Finally one of the men spoke, “Somebody get Lirin!”

Kaladin’s father must have been close, for almost no time passed before he was pushing through the gawking farmers-turned-soldiers, and running to his son. The surgeon had nearly reached his son when the last of Kaladin’s stormlight petered off and he fell to the floor in front of his father, only barely managing to catch himself before faceplanting onto the stone floor.

“Um, Father, theres something that I should probably have told you a long time ago…”

Blackthorn stood ready at the main doors of the keep. Sadeas had managed to sneak in through the back and should fight his way to the main gate to let the rest of the army in any moment now. Dalinar couldn’t think about the odd boy, the magnificent fighter who had seemed to inhale stormlight like men drank water. No, he must have imagined it. Either way, he was prepared now. He would not lose to this child. He-

The warrior’s concentration was broken when a figure in green shardplate on a large horse-not a ryshadium of course- broke through Dalinar’s ranks. Sadeas? But he was supposed to be in the keep making them a way to enter.

“Sadeas? What happened?”

“I-” The usually composed and sly man seemed shaken, shocked in a way that Dalinar had never seen before. “Dalinar, there is a man in there with powers the likes of which I have never seen.”

“A youth?” Dalinar asked, his heart sinking. He’d known he hadn’t imagined it, but he almost wished… “Long dark hair? He glows and is surprisingly strong?”

“Dalinar, he had a Shardblade.”

“What?”

“And not a sword, but a spear. And a sheild. IT transformed, Dalinar, changed shape. He was flying.”

Dalinar’s mouth opened, but he found nothing could come out. Storms, could he really fight a man like that? A man who could fly, with a shardblade that he could change at will? More than that, should he try to kill a man like that? Was he perhaps a herald, come in a new form because of the destruction he and his brother had wrought? Was it a Radient, returning despite abandoning the world?

He wanted to attack, it was what he did. It was all he knew how to do, but… he knew enough to know that this was something greater than a fight, greater than this tiny town. So he reluctantly removed his helm.

“We need to inform Gavilar, have him set his scribes and scholars to work and get some answers. Once we know more we can act.”

Sadeas seemed reluctant, but he agreed, and Dalinar turned his gaze back into the formoding building. “Until then, we surround this keep. Don’t let anyone in or out, and keep them from collecting any supplies. Have archers at the ready, if he can really fly then that will be the best defense we have. Storms, a flying man.” He shook his head.

“Also, have at least one shardbearer standing guard as well. For now, we won’t provoke until we know more, but we will be prepared if he brings the fight to us. If he does, kill him.”

Teft glared at the meager collection of spheres in his hand. He needed double this and then some if he was going to get a decent bowl of moss. Storming campaign made it even more difficult to get the moss, it would be much cheaper if this were a stationary war, but no. The sellers had to work hard to transport and preserve the drug, which drove up the cost.

Maybe if he-

“I’m telling you, he was flying, glowing like a sphere fresh out of a highstorm.”

What? Teft froze, eavesdropping on two of the soldiers. The one speaking had been one of those who went ahead with Sadeas into the keep, and he seemed solemn as he spoke to his disbelieving friend. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Yeah, and how much did you have to drink at the tavern last night.”

“Sadeas fled, do you really think any normal fighter could have done that. The man had a shardblade-but it was a spear. I’m telling you, this is-”

They continued walking down the street, going too far for Teft to listen, but he felt nearly numb. Flying? Glowing? A Shardblade? It couldn’t be. Still, even in the depth of his denial, his mind swam with memories, with recollections of stories he’d heard sitting at his parent’s feet and when tucked into bed. Kaleck’s breath. Why him? Why now?

Unable to move past the shock, Teft stood frozen in the middle of the street for several long moments. However, when another soldier walked past telling of the same exact miracle, it pushed him into action. He moved to one of the warcamp followers wagons he known for selling cheap, soulcast grains. He doubted that anyone in the keep would be happy to see him, they likely wouldn’t even believe that he was a deserter at first, but hopefully the combination of a trained soldier and an offering of food would warm them up a bit.

If there truly was a radient in that building, there was no way he was missing it.

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Lirin didn’t know what to think. All he could do was sit in silence as his son finishes his tale. On Kaladin’s shoulder, Lirin watches the pale blue Windspen swirl around in the form of a young woman, momentarily turning into a ribbon of light. She gives a small wave before muttering something in Kaladin’s ear. This brings a small smile on his son’s face, accompanied by a whispered response of his own. Despite the small and empty room Kaladin had quickly shuffled them into, Lirin didn’t hear what was being said. He glances at Hesina, noticing the yellow triangles of Shockspren fluttering down around her face. Kaladin catches their eyes, waiting for a response.

It takes a moment before Lirin can think of anything to say.

“Is that why you want to fight?”

He notes the resigned look in his son’s eyes. It was a question he has asked Kaladin numerous times after the announcement that the Kholin’s were beginning their Unification Campaign. A question usually poisoned with disappointment. A question whose answer was the same almost every time.

“I want to protect them.”

Lirin sees Hesina move towards him in an effort to get between him and Kaladin. This argument has occurred enough times for her to know how to defuse it before someone storms out. But before she can say anything, Lirin responds with pride in his voice.

“Like Roshone?”

Both Hesina and Kaladin stare at him in shock, blue and brown eyes alive with question. This is not how they expected the conversation to continue. Lirin heard from his frantic Brightlord that Kaladin has saved his life by challenging Sadeas. Tension diffusing from the air, Kaladin leans against the wall and looks once more at the spren by his side. She smiles back.

“Despite everything I feel about him, it was the right thing to do.”

Rising, Lirin walks over to his son and embraces him. He feels the tension and shock in his sons body relax into him. Arms find their way around his back to return the embrace as Kaladin collapses into him. Only then does he realize how exhausted Kaladin is. A third set of arms folds around them as share a moment together. Grief finally pushing its way to past the single-minded focus that all three of them used as a distraction.

Yelling begins to fill the keep. Despite trying to ignore it, Lirin hears the shouts of ‘intruder.’
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Teft awakes to pain and a desire for the moss. His bleary eyes looking around at a swarm of unfamiliar faces. Confusion fills his mind as he feels a sword at his back before everything he just did crashes back down onto him.

He remembered his half-thought plan of climbing the wall. He’d got a weighted rope, lied to a few guards to get some privacy, thrown the rope over and climbed. In those first few moments, Teft had felt invincible as he scurried up the wall. Then the army had noticed. Then the arrows started flying. Then the Hearthstone citizens had started cutting the rope. He remembered the Fearspren blossoming around him as he reached the top of the keep wall relatively unharmed, just before the rope gave way. Then everything went painful and he was falling into a mass of people.

As his eyes begin to focus, Teft spies the bandage over his leg from a hastily remembered arrow wound. He pulls his gaze away from the pain to the faces around him in a large mansion room.

Looking around, Teft sees a slightly overweight lighteyed with grey streaked hair and a hard expression on his face sitting in front of him. Around him, farmers stand with weapons in hand behind by a few guards with rusting caps. To his right, a what appears to be a darkeyed surgeon stands apart from the mass of people, guarded by a younger lighteyed soldier. Glancing back towards the crowd, Teft realizes that he never found out what the ‘Knight Radiant’ looks like.

Storms.

“Why are you here?”

The lighteyed man in front of him voice fills his words with worry and concern. Teft can’t blame him. Still scanning the crowd, Teft decides the best solution is mostly honesty without mentioning his interest in a supposed radiant.

“I’m a deserter.”

Murmurs fill the room from the crowd behind the man who Teft assumes is the Brightlord. Mentally dismissing him as the supposed ‘Knight Radiant’, he continues his cursory search, wishing he paid more attention during childhood. He has no clue which of these men it was.

“And this?” the Brightlord responds, holding up Teft’s bag of cheap soulcast grain.

“A gift. I thought you might need more food.”

The bag hits the ground with a large thump. “Why should I trust you?”

The crowd’s whispers surge with that question. Distrust stares at him from every corner of the room as the silence grows. Teft drops his head, unsure how to answer without revealing he was looking for the radiant. If the lack of moss hadn’t been confusing his brain, he might have come up with a better idea back in the warcamp. But he is here now and he has no plan.

Hearing no answer from him, rough hands grab Teft’s back and begin to drag him away. Realizing his mistake in silence, Teft opens his mouth out in a desperate attempt to explain, before recognizing that it would fall on deaf ears. Taking a deep breath before he can change his mind, Teft yells at the crowd, hoping someone understands.

“Life before Death. Strength before Weakness. Journey before Destination.”

As he is being dragged from the room, his eyes fall from the confused eyes of many occupants to the shock within the eyes of the lighteyed youth behind the surgeon. Then the door is closed and Teft finds himself praying that someone understands his message.

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“Wait!” Kaladin cried out as he recovered from hearing THOSE words spoken by the stranger, but he was too late and his words were met with only the residual slam of a door. The outburst did succeed in drawing the attention of all others in the room, and they stared at him. Well, all stared at him besides Roshone, who had yet to meet Kaladin’s eyes since the teen had saved him hours previous.

Lirin placed a firm hand on his son’s shoulder, looking at him questioningly. Kaladin struggled not to squirm, knowing that he held the attention of the entire village and hating the scrutiny. Still, he answered his father’s silent question. “Those words… they the first… they are part of becoming a radient, part of what I do.”

Lirin sucked in a short, sharp breath, and mutterings echoed throughout the room. “What does that mean?”

Kaladin turned to look for Syl, but she was gone, having followed after the invader. “It means I have to speak to him. I need to know what he knows.”

Lirin was silent for a moment then nodded, “Then we will.” He looked to Roshone, a command in his eyes. The lighteyes let out a gusty sigh, obviously not looking forward to any meeting involving the two surgeons, but he couldn’t ignore what was happening. The man handed the bag of grain to a nearby man.

“Place some of this by the nest of that cremling that’s been plaguing the kitchens. Either we’ll know its safe, or we’ll finally be rid of the pest eating out stores.”

The man nodded, but didn’t move. Nobody seemed to want to miss whatever was happening with Kaladin. Roshone rolled his eyes but turned to the two men. “My soldiers took him to the old kennels. It was the closest we had to a dungeon. Almighty bless that he’s more willing to speak down there than he was here.”

“He’ll talk.” Kaladin said, though he didn’t know where the confidence came from. Roshone shuddered at the boy’s words, but led their small group after the soldiers. The men were guarding the door to the kennels when the three entered, and Roshone glared at the men before they entered. He pointed one finger imperiously at Kaladin, still avoiding looking at his directly.

“Stay silent, at least at first. I want to give away as little as possible. It’s more likely than not that he’s a spy, sent by the man who saw you glowing to fill your head with lies.”

Kaladin felt a chill go through him. He hadn’t considered that, he’d been too excited to get answers, to speak with someone who might actually know what’s going on. Syl appeared from behind the door, comforting Kaladin. She would know if the stranger was lying.

Maybe.

Roshone led the way in, but Kaladin made sure to place himself strategically between the invader and his father.

The man stood in one of the axehound kennels, hands bound behind his back. He eyed the three men as they entered, and Kaladin could almost feel him weighing them, trying to decide who was the one that would recognize his signal.

He eyed the blood stains that covered both Lirin and Kaladin, Lirins from healing and Kaladin’s from fighting. He looked into each of their eyes, noting their color and brightness.

Syl danced around his head, “I think you can trust this one Kaladin, I can feel it.”

The young radient’s eyes followed the spren, until suddenly he felt the gaze of the stranger like a seating heat. He looked down and met the eyes of a man who knew, the simple act of watching a hidden spren enough to reveal Kaladin’s secret.

Kaladin took a deep breath, but in his tense state the act caused him to suck in the stormlight of the lit sphere his father always made sure to carry. The invaders eyes widened.

“Kaleck’s breath… you really have returned.”

Kaladin straightened. He stepped forward, cutting off Roshone and advancing on the stranger. He was a knight radiant, it was about storming time he acted like it. No more hiding beside his father.

“What do you know about what I am?”

—-

Dalinar took another long drink of his wine and wished it was a stronger color. Sades had advised against that though, and as much as Dalinar hated it, he agreed. He needed to be sober for this conversation.

The spanreed began moving and he grumbled under his breath, “Storming finally.” Spanreeds were amazing things, the ability to communicate with others across Roshar was incredible, but at moments like these even they seemed to take forever.

Then again, at moments like this sometimes even a direct conversation could seem to take far too longer. The man sighed in relief when his scribe finally began reading the reply. The message was written in Navani’s own hand and revealed that the king was accompanied by a few of his advisors, his young heir Elhokar, his daughter Jasnah, and even Evi and Ialai. Dalinar was surprised by the last two, but it seemed Navani was entertaining the when when the notice came, and that the women had insisted on coming when they heard it was news from their husbands. Dalinar suspected that the truth was that Ialai had insisted, Evi wasn’t the type to try and force others to her will, but he ignored it in favor of much more important conversation.

He and Sadeas both gave their report, speaking as frankly and truthly as possible. They acted as soldiers delivering a fried report to their superior, ignoring the fact that what they said was more similar to children’s stories than a battle break down.

Gavilar’s reply came immediately, and it wasn’t what Dalinar was expecting. “What did he say? What were his exact words right before he started glowing? The EXACT phrasing.”

Dalinar frowned, but the memory was etched into his mind. “I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Sadeas, who obviously hadn’t been paying the boy as much as Dalinar, waved a hand dismissively. “Something about protecting those he hates or some such nonsense. Gavilar’s, do you know what’s going on?”

There was a moment of terse waiting as the scribe recorded their words and they waited for a reply.

“Possibly, but I want to know for sure before I reveal my though, so that I am not proven to be one of the ten fools. I am assigning Jasnah to research this, here in Kholinar and even in Karbranth if we don’t have the resources.”

Dalinar nodded at that. Jasnah had just graduated from her wardship, but already he had heard that she was being highly praised by academics. More than that, she was trustworthy and loyal, traits one could never be sure of when relying on hired scribes.

However, Gavilar’s wasn’t finished. “As we speak I am having Elhokar begin preparing a team small enough to move quickly. I should be with you in a few weeks at the most, depending on highstorms. If I’m right, we are on the brink of something that will change all of Roshar. Dalinar, this may be the most important thing we’ve ever done.”

The most important thing they’ve ever done? More important than uniting Alethkar? Storms what was the man saying. Gavilar’s had been acting oddly lately, ever since he’d had that book read to him… no, no matter. This was his King, Dalinar was simply the weapon he pointed.

“Fine.” He grumbled. “We will hold the keep until you arrive.” With that he expected the conversation to be over, and he was surprised when the spanreed moved again, writing in a clearly different script than Navani. It was Evi.

Dalinar signed as his scribe read out the message, but he couldn’t very well argue with it, not when he was likely to be stuck in this cursed town for weeks while Gavilar enacted whatever plan he had, not when he needed a scribe he trusted more than ever. Not when he needed her calm solidity so much.

He gave the scribe an affirmative nod and left the tent. Apparently, he had to find a place to house his wife and sons. Storms, he wished the boy had just taken his offer.

Chapter Text

Sadeas sits in the impromptu storm shelter, orange wine in front of him and thoughts on their next move. Across from him, Dalinar sits in relaxed contemplation, enjoying a darker coloured wine. Generals and a few of ‘Dalinar’s Elites’ are standing or siting in various points around the room in quiet conversation with each other, waiting for the Highstorm to hit.

Turning back to the map between them, Sadeas pauses to take another sip. If it hadn’t been for the darkeyed youth, the two of them would be waiting out the storm from inside Hearthstone, having conquered it days ago. Instead, they are committed to a siege and orders to contain but not destroy the town. Sadeas knows that this move will slow down the campaign and will give the other towns more time to prepare.

Storms, this was an absolute mess.

Still, once the flying boy was dealt with, the town would be theirs. Making Hearthstone into an example about what a resistance results in may cause other towns to contemplate their own foolish plans. Dalinar had said that a few times after Gavilar’s orders had come in. They both knew the do not attack order had something to do with the youth, but neither of them had been able to work out exactly what it was.

Sighing, Sadeas takes another sip. “That youth has made a mess of everything.”

“I agree.” Dalinar responds with a slight slur in his voice. Pausing for a moment, he continues, “I saw him on the roof earlier. Just before we came in.”

Despite everything, Sadeas finds himself chucking. The boy had been spotted on that roof a few times, although the archers still couldn’t hit him. “Perhaps the Highstorm will clear up everything.”

He sees a smile flash across Dalinar’s face as they both take another sip. Leaning back, Sadeas listens to the pattering rain falling on the shelter. Then he hears the crash of the stormwall. The sound echoes through the shelter and its patrons, causing everyone to momentarily pause into silence. Moments later, the dull chatter returns to the room.

Feeling the sound reverberate through him, Sadeas closes his eyes briefly, enjoying the feeling of safety. Especially now, with glowing boys and shape changing Shardblades, there was a security about sitting in a storm shelter surrounded by allies. Nothing could touch him.

Signalling to the owner for a refill, Sadeas turns back to Dalinar to continue the conversation. Dalinar stares back at him, eyes darting from left to right.

Unseeing.

_

Kaladin sits on the roof, watching the Highstorm approaching. Around him, beyond the keep’s walls, the remaining soldiers scurry towards temporary shelter in organised masses.

Kaladin had been coming to the roof more and more over the past few days. Since his accidental declaration that he was becoming a Knight Radiant, he had found himself apart from the rest of the villagers. Whispers following him everywhere and people kept finding reasons to avoid him entirely. Especially Roshone. At least they didn’t know about Syl or her ability to become a Shardblade. The thought of their reaction to that brings a small chuckle to his lips as he leans back, feeling the wind and rain.

Around him, Syl sits with a small umbrella over her head, which she continually uses to hit windspen that come too close.

“We should probably get down from here,” she says without looking at him.

Kaladin turns towards the approaching stormwall, a solid barrier of rain and rocks. “We should,” he responds.

Still, there was something within him that wanted to stay, despite all logic and knowledge of Highstorms. Sucking in Stormlight from one of his few remaining spheres, Kaladin finds himself pausing. Below him, he can feel the safety of the keep, with its whispered stares and questions. He imagines he can sense his parent’s worry, Teft’s growing curiosity, Tien’s silence and an imprisoning sensation in the walls. Syl’s disapproving smile flashes across her face and she twirls to the edge of the roof.

“You coming silly?”

Kaladin smiles back and lashes himself upwards, soaring upwards and into the top face of the stormwall. The freezing rain turns from a heavy drizzle to a wall, smashing into his skin. The sound of rain and thunder obliterates any remaining sound, leaving Syl’s worried voice sounding distant. Vision rapidly diminishing, Kaladin instinctively lashes himself to the left, narrowly avoiding a boulder flying in his direction. Worry and realization fills his mind.

‘What am I doing here?’

Then Kaladin fills with Stormlight. The sharp, cool sensation rushing through his body, driving away the cold and the pain. This was more Stormlight than he has ever felt, constantly renewing through the Highstorm. Power churning within him, Kaladin goes to lash himself upwards again to get above the storm.

It is at that moment that he realizes that the rain isn’t falling.

Instead it is hovering, as if frozen, in the air. Kaladin sees the lines of windspren and clumps of rock suspending in space. Looking around, Kaladin notices the face looking down at him. Stern face of dark clouds with strong features that fades into the surrounding sky. Eyes of thunder and spren stare back at his small glowing form. Looking at the face, Kaladin can almost imagine it speaking to him in a voice of thunder, words rolling across the hills in the stormwall.

Child of Honor. This is bigger than your home.

Then it is gone and Kaladin’s vision disappears.

For a moment confusion fills his mind as he feels himself falling, a dull ache in his head of a healing wound Kaladin didn’t remember receiving. Recovering quickly, Kaladin lashes himself to the sky again and again, shooting through the remaining Highstorm and into a clear night sky. Below he watches the clouds making this rolling conquest across the land. Syl flies up to him, a concerned expression on her face.

But before she can speak, Kaladin lashes himself towards the Kholin camp. Hearthstone is starving and no-one would be crazy enough to be out during a Highstorm. It would be a perfect time to acquire some additional supplies.

Chapter Text

Kaldin half lashes himself back to the sky moments before his feet hit the roof of the Kholin storeroom, leaving him hanging for a moment before he carefully releases the lashing to land completely silently on the roof. The army had taken over some of the homes and structures that lay just outside of Hearthstone, claiming people’s homes as their own to wait out the extended battle. There were sturdy temporary shelters as well, outfitted with a dozen safeguards to hold them in place during the highstorm.

They’d kept their food in the barn Harl usually used to store his crops, a squat, well-protected building. Luckily for Kaladin, it was also a building with dozens of openings and windows. During the summer the windows would be open so that the grain could dry, but of course for now they were locked tight. Kaladin dropped to the west side of the building, semi-protected from the violent, raging winds. Syl slipped in before him to scout ahead without being asked, and popped out a moment later.

“There’s someone in here,” She said softly, “But he’s sleeping.” Kaladin nodded, no doubt the guard didn’t think he had to be as vigilant during the storm and had nodded off.

“Keep an eye on him, please.” He asked. This time when Syl slipped in, Kaladin followed. The man was in the corner in the door furthest from where Kaladin entered, he was sitting slumped on a sack, face hidden by the dark room’s shadows.

The young Radiant didn’t bother to be quiet while he looted. Anyone who could sleep through a highstorm wouldn’t be awoken by him rustling through a few sacks. He eyed the fresh fruit and vegetables longingly, but knew that they would simply weigh him down and would spoil if not eaten right away. Instead he focused on the bags of dried meat, lavis, and soulcast grain, grabbing as much as he could and half-lashing them to make them easier to manage.

He’d grabbed about as much as he thought he would be able to manage in the highstorm’s dying winds, when Syl’s voice sounded sharply behind him.

“Kaladin!” She hissed, and the teen whirled, coming face to face with the stranger. He was huge, several times taller than Kaladin and absolutely rippling with muscles. Kaladin felt completely dwarfed by the strange man who stalked toward him with wide strides. The teen tensed, falling into a fighting stance like he’d been born in it, fingers spread to summon his spear as the man stopped and bowedl. Shocked by the gesture, Kaladin simple stood for a moment, unsure how to react.

“It is an honour to be in your presence, mafah’liki.”

“Um,” Kaladin shifted his weight, completely befuddled. “Thanks?”

The man rose quickly, and KAladin once again felt dwarfed by the man.

“I apologize.” The stranger said in a rumbling, accented voice. “But I was not referring to you.” He then turned more purposely towards Syl and bowed once more. The spren looked shocked.

“You can see her?” Kaladin asked, more surprised each moment he spent in the man’s presence.

“I am alaii’iku.” The man replied, as if that explained everything.

“O…. okay.” Kaladin said slowly. He pulled a sphere out of his pocket, just in case, and it illuminated the stranger, revealing bright red hair and a truly odd beard. “You’re a horneater!” Kaladin suddenly realized upon seeing the hair. He’d never seen one before. Though that wasn’t unusual. Living in Hearthstone did not lend itself to a wide variety of peoples. Other than the occasional Theyan merchants, Kaladin had never met anyone who wasn’t Alethi.

“This is true.” The large man replied, not seeming to mind Kaladin’s gaping. Storms, Kaladin had heard that Horneaters were big, but he’d never imagined this.

The stranger seemed content to leave the conversation at this, still watching Syl with wide eyes, so Kaladin slowly went back to his pilfered food. The man didn’t seem to mind. Kaladin should have left then and there. He knew he should have left, take what he could and go back to the keep before anyone could figure out what happened.

He knew he should have just left it alone. The words slipped out anyway. “You know, you aren’t exactly being a great guard.”

The man let out a single loud bark of laughter. “Hah! I am no guard, I am the third son.”

The teen’s nose scrunched up. “What does that have to do with anything.”

“Airsick lowlander, only the fourth son can be warrior. I am third son, I am a chef!”

“Airsick- never mind. If you aren’t a guard, why are you here?”

“These Alethi, with their soulcasters, they do not care for food as they should. They leave it unprotected for highstorms or theives to stay away. I am a chef, I respect the food, I know how precious it is, how it should be treated.”

“But… you aren’t going to stop me from stealing it?”

The man shook his head. “I will consider it an offering, to the mafah’liki.” He nodded at Syl again, who was starting to look honored, as well as mischievous.

“Oh.. uh ok, thank you then.” When Kaladin had first made the move to steal from the Kholin’s, he had expected to leave so… confused. He grabbed the bags when the stranger spoke again. “It seems as if someone with big, Unkalaki arms might be useful with large bags like this. If I can join you, I will help you with this thing.”

“Big what arms?” The teen blurted, before the rest of the man’s words caught up with him. He narrowed his eyes. “Why would I trust you? You’re with them.”

The man shook his head and sat heavily on one of the sacks. “The riddens will begin soon. Come, sit. I will tell you my tale and you can choose for yourself if I am worthy of your trust.”

The radiant glanced at Syl, uncertain, but the spren just grinned. “I like him.”

“You just like him because he worships you.”

“That means he must be smart! You should worship me too, I am a piece of a god after all.”

Kaladin rolled his eyes, but uncertainty moved to sit beside the horneater. He wasn’t sure how, but he just knew that this was somehow going to end with him bringing the strange man into the keep. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to steal the food after all.

___

When Dalinar comes to, Sadeas and three other guards are struggling to hold him down. Other soldiers are slumped throughout the room, holding wounds that he somehow knew he’d inflicted.

“What in the name of the Stormfather are you doing?” He asked, and Sadeas let out a deep breath.

“Praise the Almighty, your back.”

“Back? Where did I go?”

But he knew where. He could remember it, clear as any day. He remembered the strange, primitive world, the fantasitcal beasts and weapons, the cryptic but powerful message at the end.

“I don’t know.” Sadeas answered. “You started babbling, lashing out. You wouldn’t respond to anything I said. We called a surgeon, but told them to stand back once you started fighting us. Stormfather, Dalinar, what happened?”

“I don’t know.” The man answered, gesturing for one of the servants clustered worriedly in the corner of the room to bring him a drink. He tried to turn his mind to the present, not to the dream, the dream where he’d fought where he’d killed, without a hint of the Thrill. He didn’t like it. It made him want to fight in the waking world, to feel the pull of the Thrill like the call of a friend. He had the strange, irrational fear that it just like it the dream it wouldn’t come when he called it. He needed a fight, needed to check. But if the looks that the surgeon was giving him was any indication, he wouldn’t be getting what he needed any time soon. The wine would have to do for now. He would have the Thrill later.

He hoped.

He shook himself, not protesting as he normally would when the surgeon poked and prodded at him. He felt strangely… subdued, more so that he did normally. Sadeas looked at him with concern, seeming uncertain.

“I’m fine.” Dalinar insisted, lying. “Did we get news from Gavilar?”

The green-clad highprince nodded slowly. “They found shelter and passed the highstorm safely. They intend to be here by tomorrow evening.”

Good. Gavilar would know what to do, he always did, and Evi would be comforting. It would be good to see his sons again, Adolin and… Renarin? Yes, that was it, Renarin. He would see them all soon, he just had to focus on that. Focus on that and ignore the disquiet rumbling in his chest that built with each passing moment.

Chapter Text

Kaladin and Syl couldn’t stop laughing. A smug pride was resting on the man’s face as he pauses for them. Kaladin looks back at him, feeling a few tears run down his face, mingling with the rain. Taking a deep breath, Kaladin regains his composure.

“You put Chull dung in his soup?”

“And his bread. And in the garnish I made.”

This sends Syl into another round of giggling as Kaladin smiles at the stranger. He imagines a figure in green, spluttering indignantly as they realize what this new dish contains. Strangely, his image of Sadeas looks very similar to Roshone. A thought flashes across his mind.

“So how did you end up here? I mean, surely Sadeas wouldn’t let you any where near the supplies.”

The larger man drops his head a bit and parts some of the red hair covering his forehead. In the dim glow of the sphere, Kaladin notices the thick ugly lines of a slave brand.

“Dalinar had drunk enough to find the incident hilarious and convinced Sadeas to keep me as a slave,” the man replies, voice dropping as he speaks. “Due to my size, I do manual labor during the day. I’m not allowed near here. But some guards prefer to drink during Highstorms and a slave willing to watch the stores is considered a gift.”

He stops again, his face smiling but his voice carrying a sad undertone. Kaladin looks at him, then to the bags of food stacked by the door. Syl twirls around in a ribbon of light, smiling.

“I like him. He should come with us.”

The man, hearing this, looks at Kaladin with hope in his eyes. It would be difficult to get this man back to the keep during the middle of a Highstorm, but storms, he couldn’t leave him here and let him take the fall. For an instant Kaladin could imagine what it would be like to be enslaved to another, branded and chained to the ground, fighting each day not to give up hope. He nods to Syl.

Standing up, Kaladin smiles back at the man, hand outstretched. Letting out a large laugh, the man stands up and grasps his hand in his. Together, they grab the large bags of food and head towards the door. As Kaladin puts his hand on it to open it, the man stops.

“Wait. You must be airsick to be out during a Highstorm.”

Kaladin smiles back. “I never asked, what is your name.”

“Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor.”

“Well,” Kaladin pauses, unsure how to pronounce collection of sounds he just heard. “Trust me,” he instead finishes, breathing in Stormlight.

The mans expression changes from doubt to wonder as he stares at the glowing Kaladin. He opens his mouth to speak, no sound initially coming out. Smiling, Kaladin cuts him off.

“I’ll explain back at the keep.”

Then he opens the door, the rain and wind hitting him, despite the door being on the wrong side of the stormwall. Looking out, he can barley see anything, the occasional rock hurtling past. It would be impossible to get back to the keep by walking, especially with his new friend. Syl looks at him with a pointed look, still disappointed at his decision to not go inside during the Highstorm. He looks back at the man and holds out a hand once again.

The man takes it, although Kaladin hears mutterings under his breath. Without giving him a second to change his mind, he drags the man into the Highstorm and uses most of his remaining stormlight to lash them both to the sky. Without warning, they both shoot up, narrowly avoiding another bolder, and past the clouds into the night sky. The man stares, somehow still holding on to his two bags of food, shock and wonder in his eyes. He stares back at Kaladin, giving out a hearty laugh and finally saying something.

Kaladin isn’t listening. Knowing his stormlight is running low, he quickly lashes them in the direction he remembers the keep it, keeping above the clouds. Syl moves in front of them, guiding them in the right direction and indicating when they are above the keep. Making sure to float down carefully, as to not injure his new friend, Kaladin and the man eventually land on a top floor balcony. He quickly tries the door, before remembering it is barred during a Highstorm.

The sound of the wind and rain drowns out any noise he makes in an attempt to signal those inside. He turns towards Syl, hoping to have her get someone to let them in, but she was gone. Realizing that she had had the same thought, Kaladin and the man stand flat against the wall, waiting.

A minute passes before the door is flung open. Kaladin and the man stumble quickly through it, dripping wet and carrying heavy bags of food. Behind the door, Kaladin spots Teft, watched on by a small crowd of villagers who happened to be in the room. Beside him Syl smiles and gives a little bow. The man responds, giving his own deep bow back to Syl. She beams at him before looking back at Kaladin, clearly wondering where her bow his. He can’t help but give a little laugh.

At that moment, he remembers the other people in the room, and watches as one runs off to grab someone. Knowing Roshone will be here soon, Kaladin slumps against the wall, suddenly exhausted.

This was going to take some explaining.

Chapter Text

“What,” Roshone asked tersely. “Is he doing here?”

Storms, how was Kaladin supposed to explain this? ‘oh hi Dad, I went out for grocceries and a horneater followed me home?’ ‘he heard that roahones cheff was killed in the attack and wanted to apply for the job?’

In the end, the only thing that came out was “my spren likes him.” Roshine stuffened. He knew about Syl, Kaladin had mentioned her when explaining why he could suddenly fly and glow, but so far he’d yet to mention her. Now the man’s expression twisted into something nasty.

“So? She likes you too.” He said it like an insult, like it was the ultimate defamation of character.

Kaladin froze, blood pounding in his ears. Part of him was furious at the insult, but a part of him- the part that was still screaming at Tien’s death, the part that was reminding him of all of the people of hearthstone that he wasn’t able to save- agreed with him. Kaladin was frozen, unable to find words, the two different parts of him battling.

Then Lirin stepped forward, putting a hand on Kaladin’s shoulder. “Then she has proven herself to be a fantastic judge of character.”

For a long moment everything was still, the two men glaring at each other in a stifling minute that seemed to last an eternity. Then, the horneater broke it. “Kaladin, what should I do with these bags? Even big, horneater arms cannot hold these things forever.”

The teen looked over with a start, the stormlight had drained from the bags a while back, and the man was clearly straining under the sacks. As if the question had been assurance of some kind, the surrounding men rushed forward to grab the bags to bring them to the kitchen, gaping at the mountainous man in wonder as they did so. The jovial man then turned his eyes on Roshone, uncharacteristically somber. “Your enemies, they are monsters. They are men without honor, who kill without reason and break promises without regret. You have the blessing of the mafah’liki. This thing… it should not be ignored. I will do what I can to help.”

Roshone continued to glared, then he turned, fury flashing in his eyes. “Whatever, it’s not like I have control of my own storming town anymore.”

Kaladin let out a deep breath, but Lirin just nodded knowlingly. He turned to Kaladin. “Go find your mother and ask her to help account for the new provisions. I will help your… friend settle in.”

The teen frowned, knowing that meant that despite the man’s earlier confidence, he would be interrogating the horneater in his own way. However he didn’t argue, instead running off to where he assumed his mother would be. He passed Teft as he ran and couldn’t help but wonder what would come next.

Dalinar didn’t wait for Gavilar to ride all the way into camp. Perhaps he should have, but every moment he spent waiting around the bunker doing nothing felt like agony. Every time he looked at the keep it seemed an unsult, reminding Dalinar that he’d lost to a boy. The strange lad had even managed to steal half of a building of food, and one of Sadeas’s slaves. The other warmonger was furious, and Dalinar didn’t blame him. They, unlike those in the tower, had access to soulcasters and outside sources of food, but the theft would make it that much more difficult to wait them out.

When he was in his rooms with the keep out of sight, it brought back memories of that strange dream hed had during the highstorm; the dream that seemed impossibly real. He needed something to distracted. He needed a way to fight again, to contact the absent Trill. He needed his brothers guidance.

The first runner came back to report that the king was near he went to saddle Gallant, and was riding the magnificent beast in moments.

Gavilar had come with a small party. He brought no soldiers beyond the honor guards protecting him and the rest of the Kholins, no women or scribes beyond Navani and Evi. Dalinar rode to the party at a gallop, intending to ride straight to the center where he spotted his brother. However, before he got there, two young boys with dual colored hair separated from the group, one with a dueling sword strapped to his waist and the other sporting spectacles. His sons.

Adolin was grinning broadly, the other one was more dsubdued, but he was also smiling softly.

Storms the glowing boy was young.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best thought to have after seeing his sons for the first time in months, but it was what he thought none the less. And it was true. The lad was younger even than Adolin, who’d only reached true fighting age the year before. The lad had requested to focus on his dueling rather than become a soldier, and as the son of the second most powerful man in Alethkar, his request had been granted. Dalinar didn’t mind that his son preferred the dueling grounds, it pleased Evi that he was kept from the battlefeild, which was reason enough to allow it.

Really the boy was closer in age to the younger son. Ren-something. Renarin? Yes that was it, Renarin. He would likely have been nearly too young to be a soldier if the war didn’t require boys to become men so quickly.

Was that… remorse he felt? About the war? No, it couldn’t be. He loved this war, it was what enabled him to keep the Thrill, what enabled him to feel alive for fleeting moments. Who cared if a few young men died, it was for the unification of Alethkar. This war was a good thing.

Wasn’t it?

Dalinar felt a chill rush through his body at the foreign thought, the doubt he’d never once experienced during his campaign. He was grateful when his sons finally neared him, ready for any distraction. Hopefully, he would forget all about this doubt.

Somehow however, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to.

Chapter Text

Adolin watches the keep and the soldiers continuing their daily tasks. Move around with meaningless purpose, they all seem to be watching the small keep in the center of town. From their small hill, Adolin can see it rising above them all in its small defiance. Beside him on the grass, his brother sits in contemplation at the natural pause in their conversation, a subdued smile across his face. They both know why.

He knows his father has been away at war for a long time, but the pauses before he mentions his youngest son’s name are slightly too long. Renarin isn’t a fighter, so Dalinar doesn’t notice him as much. Doesn’t remember him as much as Adolin.

Adolin hates it.

Before arriving at the camp earlier, both of them had talk rapidly in a conversation their mother could hardly understand, excited at being reunited as a family again. They spoke of families they had seen with other Highprinces and Brightlords, spoke of dreams. Now Adolin wishes they could have both been left behind.

Shaking his head away from those thoughts, he leans back, taking in the warm sunlight. The two boys had been exiled from the command tent as Dalinar, Sadeas and Gavilar said they needed to discuss something of importance. Something to do with why the army was camping on the doorstep of a tiny town. Renarin and him had spent most of the trip speculating what it was and had come to the conclusion that it was something in the keep. But something that could stop the most powerful army was almost unimaginable.

For a while it had been a game between them, each one trying to outdo the other with more ridiculous suggestions. The Ten Heralds, a lot of archers, a chasmfiend, the King’s Wit who vanished again last week. Eventually Evi had heard them, and while she told them to stop their nonsense, they could both see the smile on her face.

Adolin turns back towards Renarin, the continuation of their conversation on his lips when a figure quickly strolls past them both. Jumping up, the two boys see Gavilar quickly matching towards the keep, Dalinar and Sadeas following. In the instant that Adolin catches their faces, he notices a look of confusion and worry shared between them. What had happened in the command tent?

Ignoring them, the three men stride quickly past them. Smiling at his brother with a look of let’s go, the two of them follow the men towards keep. Ahead, he can see Sadeas trying to convince Gavilar of something, only to be dismissed by a hand wave. His father mutters a small response before the honor guards quickly form around them, blocking them all from view.

Moving quickly, the two boys reach their father, darting around most of the guards. Behind them, many soldiers attempt follow subtly, only to be chased away by the pointed stares of Commander Teleb. The three men stop at the keep’s walls, Gavilar in the front, Sadeas and Dalinar flanking him.

An arm drops down in front of Renarin and Adolin, a signal from the honor guard to go no further. Knowing that moving forward would cause them both to be sent back to mother, he obliges. Sharing a look of confused excitement with Renarin, Adolin turns back towards the keep.

Unaware of his audience, Gavilar raises his voice to speak to the keep.

“I am here to speak to the Knight Radiant.”

Whispers explode behind him as Adolin can only stare. Knight Radiant? But that was impossible, the Knights Radiant were gone. They had disappeared generations ago, leaving only their Shardblades and Sharplates as a sign they’d ever existed. Glancing towards Renarin, Adolin sees a similar shock on his brother’s face mixing with something else as he stares at Gavilar. Looking back, he sees a number of faces appearing over the wall, but no answer from the keep.

“I am here to speak to the Knight Radiant in this keep.”

Renarin mutters something beside him, but before Adolin can ask what he just said, Gavilar speaks again.

“I have heard reports of a member of the Knights Radiant in this keep. A Windrunner. I will speak with him.”

The command carries out across the army in a ripple. Adolin can almost imagine the silence and panic in the keep. Dalinar raises an arm in response, pointing at something. On the roof, a man with shoulder length dark hair sits, previously unnoticed. Standing, the man walks to the edge of the roof before jumping off into the air.

Adolin can only stare as the man suddenly explodes with a white light, visible despite the bright sunlight. Defying all logic and reason, he seems to almost float down, landing on top the wall of the keep, staring down at the three men below him. That was impossible. Was this man really a Knight Radiant?

Now that he was closer, Adolin could see that he was not a man but a darkeyed youth slightly younger than Renarin. He didn’t have the build or form of the younger warriors Adolin had seen in the dueling grounds but he stood on the wall with a confidence. Unarmed but positioned to expect trouble. Adolin could almost see the hate in his eyes as he stares the the three men. Gavilar steps forward, staring back up at him.

“So it is true, you have returned.”

The youth glances quickly to his side but does not respond.

“The Knights Radiant will be re-founded. Come. We have much to discuss.”

The tone indicates that the conversation is over as everyone stares in disbelief at Gavilar. Re-found the Knights Radiant? Suddenly Adolin was hit with the feeling that there was something bigger than the war going on. From the way Gavilar spoke, it was as if he was expecting this to happen. What was going on?

The youth stares back before finally responding.

“I will not come with you. I will not fight with you.”

Dalinar nods, as if expecting such a response. Beside him Sadeas still stares at Gavilar. Seemingly unpersuaded, Gavilar speaks again.

“I am re-founding the Knights Radiant to lead men into a new era. I am unifying this country and returning it to what it once was. A kingdom on unity and honor.”

With those words, the boy’s eyes darken and Adolin finds himself surprised at the response. He knew that Gavilar and Dalinar wanted to return this kingdom to what it used to be. Believes it is right. But there was something about that boy which spoke of the cost of war. A sorrow behind those dark eyes.

“You build your kingdom on the blood of darkeyes. Those who mean nothing to you. You kill those who do not agree with you in the name of honor. I will not stand with you. I will not stand with your bloodshed.” There was a slight pause as he holds out a hand, a glowing Shardblade in the shape of a spear appearing in it, eyes bleeding from brown to glassy blue. The shock has barley hit Adolin before he continues speaking.

“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves. I will protect those you seek to conquer. I will stop you from destroying any more towns like mine or I will die trying. I will not follow you or your Knights Radiant.’

The last words were filled with poison as the figure stares down like a Herald of old. Gavilar nods once before turning, seeming to ignore the youth’s last words and his glowing Shardspear. Gesturing to the two men to follow, he begins to make his way towards the Command Tent. Sadeas follows quickly behind, leaving his father standing in a staring contest with the youth. While the youth’s position is hostile, Adolin can almost imagine that his father’s is more doubtful. As if he is considering the boy’s words.

Confused again and still in shock from the Shardspear, Adolin can only stare. Deciding to ask his father what else was going on, he watches as Dalinar turns and follows Gavilar. As the men nears the two boys, Adolin hears Gavilar mutter, “You will join us when they return.”

Chapter Text

Adolin frowned as his horse shifted beneath him. Renarin’s horse let out a snort, but as usual the younger boy was silent, allowing Adolin his speculation in peace. They were on a rise around the back of the keep. The ground was loose from consistent farming and mixing of the crem, which made it too dangerous to pitch a tent on, but there was almost always a guard or two standing on the hill to keep watch of the keep. You could partially see inside the tall walls that kept the army out, though it was impossible to tell the dozens of dark skinned, simply clothed farmfolk apart.

The guards were instructed to keep track of whenever they saw the radiant, but unless the teen went around glowing and flying all the time, Adolin didn’t see how anyone would be able to tell them apart.

Though, he suspected that the figure on the keep’s roof that seemed to be attempting to stare them down from 10 acres away might have been him.

Adolin wasn’t sure what he’d been expected when his mother had come from the meeting and insisted that they start packing, it certainly hadn’t been this. They’d been in the town for three days now, and other than keeping his parents in near constant strategy meeting, Gavilar hadn’t done since that first day.

Adolin glanced at his brother at the thought of his uncle, knowing that the other boy had heard Gavilar’s promise to his father, as well as Dalinar’s reply. “I don’t need to be a Radiant. I’m just a weapon. Point me where you will, but I want nothing more than that.”

The words, and the way that he had said them, brought chills to Adolin’s spine. He knew that the Blackthorn was an incredible warrior, but a weapon? Something about that, didn’t sit right with Adolin, but he couldn’t tell what it was. When he’d mentioned it to Renarin, his brother had looked at him solemnly before simply saying “A weapon doesn’t care what it cuts, because it can always blame the wielder.”

Adolin wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but he didn’t like it.

Adolin’s horse chose that moment to shake itself, and he allowed the movement to pull him out of his thoughts. He loved his father, he truly did, but as of late the man had been even more… sporadic than usual. It worried Adolin, but Dalinar did invite Renarin to the feast last night without having to be reminded, so maybe it wasn’t all bad.

The teen grimaced. He wished he had something else to think about, but truth be told when there wasn’t actual fighting going on warcamps were incredibly boring. There were no shows, no sculpture contest, only mediocre food and wine, there weren’t even any dueling tournaments. This land was going to be Sadeas’s, and it wasn’t expected to be a hard battle, so Gavilar didn’t make any of the other highprinces come, which made sense to Adolin. If another highprince managed to kill the leader of this village, they might have had claim to the land, which would have caused political problems later on. Still, why couldn’t Gavilar have promised the land to someone with more lighteyes his age? Because he’d only started dueling the year before, none of the experienced duelists would fight him, and he had already handily beaten those close to his age and they refused any rematches. Elhokar was always good for a duel, but Gavilar had officially declared him old enough to join the rest of them during their meetings, something Adolin and Renarin still weren’t privy to.

The only merchants selling clothing was selling the rough, boring military fabric, and the only women in camp were scribes and scouts too old to give Adolin the time of day.

He was bored.

And he was frustrated. Why didn’t Gavilar do something. Surely the radiant wouldn’t say no if they… if they… well they couldn’t really fight him, not if the king really wanted to get the boy on his side. Threatening the townspeople didn’t seem wise, it might work short term, but it didn’t exactly inspire trust. That was assuming they could win against a Radiant besides, which Adolin wasn’t completely convinced would be possible. What exactly could he do besides fly? Was he stronger? Was he faster?

No, it would be better if they could somehow resolve things without fighting. But what else could they do? What would interest him? Would he want money? Power? A closet full of the most recent Alethi fashion trends? That’s what Adolin would have asked for if he was in a position of power like this, but what would this kid want? They didn’t know. Maybe that was the problem, they were thinking of him as ‘the Radiant’ instead of as a person.

He was a person, just like every other person. More than that, he was a person near Adolin’s age, what does someone his age want? Adolin dismissed that thought, that could be any number of things. Everyone wanted something specific to themselves, no matter their age. Besides, he had clearly lived a very different life from this boy. There was no way he could guess what someone wanted when he’d never even… spoken… to them.

Adolin suddenly straightened in his saddle, drawing the eyes of Renarin and the bored guards. He turned to his brother, a grin forming even as he tried to look solemn.

“Renarin, I am about to act on what is probably the worst idea I’ve ever had.”

The younger teen rose a single brow. “That would be impressive, considering your track record.” Still, he straightened in his saddle ang got a firmer grasp on his reigns, prepared to follow his brother into whatever disastrous scheme he was getting himself into this time.

With a grin, Adolin turned his horse so that it pointed towards the keep and snapped the reigns, taking off at a sprint at the door that sat at the keep’s back. He heard the pounding hooves of Renarin’s mount behind him and grinned, thanking the Almighty for such a brave and loyal brother. If only the others could see it.

His horse pounded down the hill, whinnying as it ran down the incline. The men of hearthstone who guarded the keep scrambled, he could hear shouting as he halted his horse feet from the door, jumping off the beasts back and-knocking politely at the door.

There was a moment of silence on the other side of the door, it seemed uncertain, as though they weren’t sure what to do to a single man, well two now that Renarin caught up, knocking at their door in the middle of war. Renarin watched the hill as he slid off his own mount. “One of the guards went to the camp,” he said, “probably to get father. The other one is watching us, but he isn’t following.”

Adolin nodded, he’d hoped that would be the case. They wouldn’t likely risk following him and making the villagers think that it was a proper attack. Father and mother would likely have some choice words for him later that evening, but he’d decided to risk it.

Though, it didn’t seem like his risk was going to pay off. There was still silence on the other side of the door, no one was coming to open the door. Adolin couldn’t help but feel disappointed. He’d known it was a long shot, but he’d hoped-

The door cracked open. A Haggard looking darkeyes man peeked out of it, opening the door just enough to stick the tip of his spear out to point it threateningly at Adolin. The teen had to fight not to roll his eyes, that was probably the worst thing he could do in this situation. The door wasn’t open nearly enough for him to effectively use the spear, but it would keep the man from closing the door, really be was giving Adolin an advantage.

The highprince kept his disparaging thoughts off of his face and smiled brightly. “Hi, can I speak with the Radiant?”

The man’s glare flickered into an expression of confusion before returning full force. “What do you want with him?”

“Just to talk!” Adolin assured. “Nothing more.”

The man continued to glared, but before he could say anything more a younger voice sounded from deeper in the keep.

“Balsas!”

The door slammed closed and there was a moment of muffled conversation. Adolin shared a glance at Renarin, who rose a single brow back at him. The look seemed to say “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Adolin… didn’t.

Suddenly the door was wrenched open fully, and the Radiant was there. For a moment, Adolin was too stunned to do or say anything, simply gawking at the man of immense power before him. He seemed so… small. Dalinar said that he was around Renarin’s age, and Adolin had seen the boys youth himself, but at that time he’d flown onto the top of a gate, glowing with power as he stood over everybody. Even in his youth, he’d seemed powerful and intimidating.

Not now. He was short. Not incredibly so, but shorter than he seemed on the fence. Though his long limbs seemed to indicate that it wouldn’t be that way for long. He was at that awkward stage before growth spurts, like an axehound pup with claws too big for it’s young frame. He was also smaller than Adolin by far, without any of the muscular build that was so common in your highborn lighteyes. He looked more like Renarin, who spent more time having books read to him than training. It made Adolin wonder what he’d been before.

All in all, he didn’t actually cut a very impressive figure, even his rather impressive glare didn’t seem to really match him.

“What do you want?” The teen spat.

Adolin rubbed the back of his head. He hadn’t thought this far. “Hi, my name is Adolin and this is my brother Renarin.”

Now both Renarin and the Radiant were looking at him incredulously. The glare had even slipped off of the darkeyes’ face.

“What?”

“We just, uh, wanted to introduce ourselves. Because it seemed like we were the same age…” storms he sounded like one of the ten fools. What was he even trying to do? Befriend a man who considered them his enemy?

The glare was back full force. “There used to be several boys our age around here. They’re all dead now.” He spat it, accusatory, and there was no doubt how they died.

Adolin opened his mouth to reply and faltered, the only thing coming out a strangled “All of them?”

The darkeyed youth scowled harder. “How many of them did you yourself kill?”

“We didn’t- we weren’t even-” Adolin stumbled, and Renarin surprised him by speaking up. “We didn’t fight. We aren’t soldiers.”

“It doesn’t matter. Those that support this desolation as just as guilty as those that fight in it.” He grunted.

Adolin shook his head slowly. “I… I’ve never considered if I supported the war or not.” He admitted.

The Radiant snorted. “How fortunate for you. Tell your king that he will earn no favor with me by treating me like a child and sending children to speak for him.” He slammed the door shut before they could say anything more.

Adolin was quiet as he got back on his horse, as was Renarin. By this time a large crowd was waiting at the top of the hill they’d been on earlier, with Dalinar and Gavilar at it’s head. Adolin could almost feel his father’s disapproval while he stood, and he urged his mount slowly up the incline, Renarin beside him. They were almost halfway up the hill when his brother asked, still looking forward.

“So, what time are we going to try this again tomorrow.”

Adin had to fight to hide back a grin. His brother knew him far too well.

Adolin slumped as he made his way into the home they were using while they continued the siege. It was one of the town’s nicer houses. From some supplies they’d found in a spare room they believed that it was once the home of a surgeon, though the supplies had long since been commandeered by the army’s medical tent. Renarin moved past him quickly, shuffling into the room he’d been given. Adolin wasn’t surprised. His brothers hands hand been wringing during the whole lecture, fidgeting in the way that Adolin knew meant he needed something in them. Usually he went for the small box that his mother had given him as a child, but he’d found an odd collection of rocks in his room and had taken to rolling those around in his hand as well. Evi followed him in, though Dalinar had remained behind with Gavilar to discuss what impact their ‘stunt’ might have on their negotiations. Negotiations that weren’t even actually happening, Adolin had wanted to add, but he’d refrained.

His mother hadn’t joined in the scolding, and even now said nothing, only holding him close as though shed been afraid that she’d never hold him again.

“You scared me.” She said softly. “But I am proud of you.”

“You are?”

“I will always be proud of my boy, who sees others as people before he sees them as enemies.” Adolin grinned at his mother, then frowned. The radiant’s words still rang in his head.

“Mom, do you think this war is… right?”

The woman froze, letting go of Adolin and standing fully. “I… I don’t know.” She replied softly. “I do not believe that I think any war is right. Is there anything worth killing this much over? Anything worth this pain, anything worth what this fighting does to men, to your father? A united Alethkar… it is a noble dream, but is it worth destroying these lands? No, I don’t think this war is right. But I am just a single person within the One. Do not take my words as absolute, but… don’t take anyone else’s as absolute either.”

Adolin nodded slowly, then stood to join Renarin. They needed a plan this time, the guards wouldn’t let that trick work again. Besides, he needed to figure out what to say so that he didn’t sound like a babbling fool again.

Chapter Text

Adolin sat on one of the two beds, staring at the wall, Father’s footsteps heading out from the room. After his stunt three days ago, Dalinar had been annoyed at him. After repeating the same thing two days ago, Father had been furious before Mother pulled him aside and spoken in a quiet voice. The conversation was not a long one, but Father’s face was softer when they emerged with the condition that Adolin could continue to try and talk to the youth, provided that he report to them afterwards. Two days ago, Adolin had smiled at the thought.

Now, he sat in frustration in the small house. The last two days had been useless. The radiant boy was clearly angry at the two brothers, and had basically slammed the door in both of their faces. Even his preparation on what he wanted to say had fallen on deaf ears. On the other bed, Renarin sits, fingers rolling the small, plain rock around, eyes daring back and forth at door. Suddenly, as if noticing Adolin’s gaze, he turns back towards his brother and gives a soft smile, as if reading his thoughts. Adolin can’t help but smile back.

He watches as Renarin slowly rises from the bed he was sitting on and walks over to the small chest near Adolin’s bed. The two of them had already explored it during their first day of boredom, only to find a collection of books and notes. Opening it, Adolin sees Renarin pull out one of the books and begins leafing quickly through it, nodding quietly to himself.

“This is probably where the apprentice slept.” Renarin says without looking up before turning the book towards Adolin. He sees a collection of drawings of hands, done in a simple style, with glyphs beside them. Looking for a distraction from his failure with the radiant, Adolin stands up to join his brother as they turn a few pages. The rest of the book continues in a similar fashion, simple sketches annotated with glyphs.

Quickly growing bored again, Adolin turns away to practice his sword stances with some of the soldiers. As he does so, he spots a small piece of paper flutter out from the back of the book. Curious, he picks it up an unfolds it.

Inside is a small charcoal portrait of a family. The mother and father are smiling, hand held with two younger boys in front of them. Adolin immediately notices the wide smile on the youngest boy’s face and his brother’s arm around his shoulder. Turning to the brother, Adolin stares as he recognizes the longer dark hair the squarer face. It is the radiant. For a moment, Adolin can do nothing as the implications swarm around his head. The radiant lived here once. He has a brother. He was probably apprenticed to be a surgeon, which explained his thinner appearance.

Renarin’s face peers out around his shoulder, looking at the photo, understanding its meaning. Adolin smiles, an idea forming in his head. Walking over to the collection of rocks given pride of place on a small table by Renarin’s bed, Adolin selects two from the front of the pile as Renarin smiles at him.

“You’re planning on giving them back?”

“His brother obviously though they were special. If I give them these two and the picture it might help. Might even get the brother on our side.”

Renarin looks down at the floor for a moment, face falling slightly.

“What is it?”

Renarin pauses for a moment before responding carefully. “I’m not very good with understanding people sometimes, but that radiant seems too angry to have just lost friends.”

Adolin looks back at the photo, remembering back to his first conversation and the radiant’s words.

‘There used to be several boys our age around here. They’re all dead now.’

A weight falls in his chest as he understands that the younger smiling boy is dead. Most likely killed in the attack by his family. Looking back at the photo, Adolin sees the radiant looking happy, a direct contrast to his current anger. For a moment he could imagine if an invasion had come to his home town, had taken Renarin away from him. Even the thought hurt.

He folds the photo into a pocket and sits on the bed, quiet for a long time

___

Kaladin sits on the roof, enjoying the silence. Gavilar had approached yesterday, offering freedom for the town in exchange for his service. Kaladin had refused, gaining him hostile stares from more than a few frightened villagers. Only his family and the two men he had rescued didn’t question his decision, understanding why. Lirin had vocally supported Kaladin, causing many of the angrier villagers to back off for a bit.

The surrounding army scurry by with quick glances up at him. In his own keep, people starved as food supplies were running low again. He sighs, watching Syl dart around in the wind, occasionally giving a brief comment. For a moment, Kaladin forgets everything that is going on, enjoying his imagined serenity.

“Look. They’re coming back again.”

Kaladin turns to look at the entrance to the keep, noticing two sets of black and blond hair. The two boys Teft had identified as the sons of the Blackthorn. For the past four days they had come in a effort to speak to Kaladin. He wished they would stop. They might not have been an active part of the war, but looking at them and their naivety towards the situation was too much.

Despite everything, Kaladin finds himself lashing himself to the entrance to the keep. The collection of Hearthstone guards back away with quiet mutters. Behind him, a small crowd forms, waiting for the knock. Moments later, it comes.

Kaladin opens the door a crack, unarmed except for Syl, to the two faces. Expecting a beaming babble from the elder one, Kaladin finds two slightly sorrowful boys. The older one pauses for a moment before speaking.

“Ummm. We just wanted to give you these.”

Kaladin realizes that he is holding out his hand, a folded piece of paper and two rocks in it. The one on the left was plain, except for a small pinker section sticking out of it while the other contained three different colored rings. Tien’s rocks.

Kaladin can only stare, questions fumbling around inside his head as a numb hand reaches up to take the offering. Unsure what to say next, he looks back at the two boys, noticing a smaller rock moving between the younger one’s fingers. The surgeon in Kaladin’s head recognizes it as something to keep his hands busy while the brother in his head recognizes it as the rock that changes color in water. Meeting the older boy’s eyes, Kaladin notices the sincerity in them.

“We’re sorry.”

It takes Kaladin a moment to respond as he looks towards the the younger brother.

“That rock was his favorite. It changes color when wet,” he murmurs, his response surprising him. His eyes turn back to meet the older brother’s once again as he nods slightly, feeling tears beginning to form. “Thank you.”

Shutting the door, Kaladin lashes himself to a balcony to find himself a quiet spot to cry in.
___

Dalinar watched his sons leave, the implication of what they said weighing on him. The youth’s brother was killed in the battle. He remembered seeing him cover the retreat with a smaller body on his back. His reaction towards the Kholin’s made more sense now.

Sighing, Dalinar stands up and walks out the house they were staying in. His mind flashing to a scenario he never feared, Gavilar’s death. He found himself wondering what would happen if that ever did occur. The fury of the Blackthorn unleashed in vengeance probably. Shaking his head, he walks towards the command tent, his mind still on his brother.

Gavilar’s prediction was insane. The Voidbringers were returning after all this time, and the Knights Radiant would be returning to aid the fight, with Gavilar leading them. The arrival of the Radiant Boy seemed to support his prediction, despite his apparent hatred. Gavilar was still certain he would ‘see reason’ and join them. He said he just needed to figure out how to summon the spren that would tell him how to become a Bondsmith.

Storms, things were easier when the plan was just to unify the kingdom.

Chapter Text

He gestures to one of the servants as soon as he steps through, and the man hurries to pour him a large goblet of wine. He needed the strong drink to get through these meetings. He hated moments like this, battles that he couldn’t fight with a swords, that he had to leave to negotiators and diplomats, hoping that whoever was on the other side would be willing to work with them, which the Radiant clearly was not.

He much preferred an enemy he could fight with his own two hands, that was better than this cursed waiting and talking and planning and… oh look, his cup was empty. He gestured to the servant again and his wine was refreshed. Evi, who had been talking to Navani when he entered, frowned at him, but she didn’t say anything. She knew how strange he felt to be so completely out of his element.

Gavilar entered a moment later, his presence demanding attention as he stalked into the room. He was glowering, still angry that the Radiant had once again denied him the day before. Dalinar considered telling him about what the boys had discovered the day before, but from the look on the king’s face, he wouldn’t appreciate the news. The elder man though little of Dalinar’s sons visits to the Radiant, and had expressly forbidden Elhokar from joining them, despite the fact that the prince had seemed interested.

The king sat into his chair heavily, a stark contrast to Dalinar, who paced with an ever present need to move. Blackthorn expected the man to immediately launch into an analysis into what had gone wrong when he’d attempted to reason with the Radiant, but he was surprised when the first words out of the man’s mouth were “A Highstorm is predicted for tomorrow.”

That would be soon, the last storm was only a few weeks ago, though the storms weren’t really consistent as far as most men could tell. The Storm Wardens were getting better and better at predicting them, enough that if they claimed a storm was coming the next day, it probably would come in the next few days at least.

The though of the storms made Dalinar tense further. He hadn’t told anyone else about his fit in the last storm, and had sworn Sadeas to secrecy as well. The other man was convinced it was just something of a violent nightmare, brough o by the shock of seeing a Radiant, but Dalinar wasn’t sure. He met eyes with Sades and the Brightlord rose an eyebrow at Dalinar, but said nothing about the fit. Instead, he turned to Gavilar. “We’ll want to increase the guards on the food storage. Maybe even guard them ourselves. This siege will last even longer if the Radiant manages to pull another stunt like that.”

‘The Radiant’. It bothered Dalinar that they still didn’t even have a name for the boy who was besting them, even if they did now have a greater idea about who he was. Speaking of, the man opened his mouth to reveal that he and his family had ended up in the man’s house, when Evi’s voice sounded behind him.

“I don’t understand the siege.” The words were spoken extremely softly, likely they had been intended only for Navani and Ialai’s ears, but the silence of the war tent had made her words carried. Sadeas’s face immediately split into a condescending look that Dalinar hated.

“A siege is standard war protocol. The longer they’re without food, without relief, the more desperate they get and the less fit. A few days into a siege they wouldn’t pose a threat even if they did decide to fight. A few days after that they get desperate. Eventually, either the leaders give up, or the average people revolt and force a surrender. I guarantee you, there are many in that keep who hate that boy for not taking Gavilar’s deal. Eventually, either he will give up himself, or his people will make him.”

“But-” She began to protest, then looked down, embarrassed. Pink tinged her cheeks, and both Navani and Ialai were looking her with the strange sort of pity that courtly women seemed to reserve for women they considered less intelligent than they. Dalinar though, something was niggling at the back of his mind, something that had been bothering him Adolin first tried to talk to the Radiant, so he gestured for her to continue.

“It’s just…” She swallowed, but seemed bolstered by the fact that Dalinar was supporting her. “I thought you wanted him to join you, to be… loyal to you. Won’t forcing his hand lead to him resenting you?”

Gavilar shook his head, though he was less dismissive than Sadeas had been. “Dalinar’s own elites, some of the greatest fighting men in Alethkar, came to join us from the exact same means. Dalinar sees their prowess in battle, promises to spare their town, and they never leave his side. You can ask any one of them.”

Surprisingly, it was Ialai who spoke up next, and she was looking at Evi oddly, as if suddenly having to remeasure her assumption of the woman’s intelligence. “No, that is different. It is done in the heat of battle, when blood in rushing and emotions are high. It is easy to see the safety of a town as a gift in that situation. You expect your land to be decimated, so when it’s not it seems like a blessing. It must happen quickly, in the moment for it to work. A long siege like this, it let’s people thing, lets the hatred and resentment build. They realize that there is no reason for their lives to be destroyed, that the ability to survive should be a right, not a gift or privaledge. He may eventually agree to our terms, but I doubt he would show the loyalty of Dalinar’s elites.”

Navani hummed in agreement. “Besides, didn’t Dalinar say he’d already tried to recruit him? If it hadn’t worked then, I doubt it will work well now. No, maybe we shouldn’t be seeing this as a battle where we are trying to overtake a people. Maybe we should approach this as we would if were trying to negotiate an alliance with another nation, like the trade treaties we made with the Thaylen, or the agreement we had with Vadenar. We didn’t try to take over those countries, we… well, we woo-ed them. Exchanged gifts to show goodwill, gave promises of our own to get them in kind.”

Gavilar frowned deeply as he took in the words, considering them, weighing them. Finally he stood. “These are interesting points. I suggest we consider them further. If we are going to switch to that plan then we will need extensive planning as to our next steps. I am not yet convinced that we shouldn’t simply continue the siege, but I want you to get the historian and scribes at work, give me some suggestions for what the next steps would be. For now, we will continue with the plan to guard the food storage. Even if we choose to end the siege, I don’t want them thinking they got the food because they could steal from us. I’d rather it be a gift, ensure that they are in debt to us.” The last bit seemed to appeal to Gavilar and he nodded, before leaving the room to go do who knows what.

Dalinar frowned, deep in thought. He hated the thought of not getting to battle, his palms itched with the desire to draw his blade and fight. He hadn’t felt the Thrill in weeks, he barely felt alive at times. Yet at the same time… that was what had been bothering him. They were fighting the Radiant when they wanted to ally with him, treating someone they wanted as a friend as if he were an enemy.

Except Adolin. Adolin who had been trying for days now to befriend the young man, who saw him as the ally they wanted him to be. Adolin was already strategizing better than him. Dalinar felt a rush of pride for his son, thinking fondly ‘he has his mother in him’. He grinned at his wife, who seemed extremely pleased with how her question had actually led to them changing their battle plan, and possibly leading it away from war no less.

“Come,” he urged with a smile. “Let’s see how the boys fared. If they aren’t back yet maybe we can take a moment to relax and you can read me a part from that book that you enjoy so much.”

She smiled broadly and held his hand as she rose- not her safe hand, but it was still a bit too openly affectionate for most Alethi. However, for once Dalinar didn’t mind it.

Chapter Text

Kaladin sat in the small room given to his family to heal the wounded, surrounded by the few allies he had left. After the offer a few days ago, the town had begun to grow more desperate, staring in distaste at Kaladin. He could end this siege, save the town if he joined the monsters. Only his new Radiant status stopped Roshone from ordering him to do it. It would not take long for him to become pressured and desperate enough to change his mind. Outside, the gathering clouds indicates the Highstorm Syl had predicted earlier was coming into fruition.

To his left, his mother and father sat in contemplation, there arms around each other. Teft sat opposite them, symptoms of withdrawal still evident but contained. By the door stood Rock, a smile still on his face despite the tense atmosphere of the room. The silence continues until it is broken by Teft.

“We need to find another way to break the siege. Food is running low and people are soon going to be pressuring you to take that deal.”

“People are already getting angry.” Kaladin replies. “I can’t accept but I can’t watch my town starve, knowing I could save them.”

A pause fills the air before Hesina responds, voice quiet but gentle. “You’re doing the right thing. We’ll figure something out, the people will just have to enjoy what food we have a little longer.”

“That is not food,” a hearty laugh responds from beside the door. “When the army has gone I will cook you a proper feast. A celebratory stew.”

“It better not have shells in it,” Teft replies, smiling.

“Airsick Lowlander. Shells are good for your teeth. But for you, I will only put in little ones.”

A small wad of fabric hits rock in the face, causing a ripple of smiles to appear within the room. Looking at everyone, Kaladin feels the weight of everything crushing down on him. He finds himself wishing Tien was here to keep this brief moment of enjoyment here for longer. His fingers brush the rock in his pocket, an idea forming.
_________

Dalinar and Sadeas sat alone in a small house requisitioned for one purpose. Ialai and Evi both thought they were spending the Highstorm with Gavilar, while Gavilar though that they were spending it with their respective families. Instead, they sat waiting for the burst of noise to indicate the Stormwall hitting the sloped roof.

Opposite him, Sadeas’ eyes study him with wary concern. If Dalinar stayed conscious during the storm, then everything could go back to this new normality. If he experienced another vision, they would have to plan their next move. Dalinar knew which he preferred.

Sipping a blue wine, he leans back in a simple farmer’s chair, briefly relaxing. Around him, a deafening silence is broken only by the creaks of the house in the wind. Sadeas watches intently as they both wait, tension drawing out into unbroken eternity.

The Stormwall hits, and Dalinar is no longer in the farmhouse.

Instead he stands on the edge of a ruined battle field. His fine clothes replaced with simple bronze armor and a spear in his hand. Bodies scatter the ground, half buried under massive mountains of stone. He could smell the blood and terror of an ending battle, both sides ravaged.

In the distance, a few figures glow with a bright light, walking between the fallen bodies. Suddenly, one looks up and notices him standing there, before beckoning Dalinar over. Being careful to avoid the bodies, Dalinar makes his way towards him.

As he passes the bodies, the soldier in his head begins to examine the bodies. He notices the mix of races; Alethi, Thaylen, Horneater, and even what appeared to be armored Parshmen. Their wounds ranged from normal weapon strikes to great crushing impacts from an unknown source. Scrambling over another large boulder, Dalinar makes it to the figure who had gestured to him. They stood tall, in a faint blue Shardplate, solemn expression on their face. They were also a woman.

Dalinar found himself staring in surprise. He had never seen a woman Shardbearer before. Yet before him stood one, proud in her glowing plate.

“Where is the rest of your army? Have they all been killed?”

Dalinar didn’t know how to respond. It was as if he was someone else, someone from where ever he was now. Instead he just nods his head, hoping that that was enough and not trusting the confusion in his voice to lie. Luckily, the woman accepts that answer. She turns to survey the scene of destruction.

“This is only the beginning. If we had united sooner, your people might have stood a chance.”

Dalinar waits for her to speak further, but before she can, the ground beneath them both shakes. The last things Dalinar sees before his vision goes black is the woman flying into the air, a glowing Shardblade in her hand and a curse on her lips. Then he feels the crushing sensation as a force slams into him.
_________

Adolin sits in the small kitchen with his mother and brother, the Highstorm raging overhead. He’d heard how his mother’s plan had changed the entire course of the battle for Hearthstone and had spent the day discussing with Father and Uncle about how to proceed. Despite the Radiant’s solemn appearance, he seemed softer today.

Smiling, he quietly excuses himself from his mother’s tale from a book she had started reading and heads to the bedroom. He was certain that by the next Highstorm, he could get through to the Radiant. The rocks and photo had helped in removing a lot of the hostility, but there was still a solemn reserve to him. Deep in thought about the story he had just left, it takes Adolin a few moments after he enters his room to notice it is not empty.

Before him stands a figure Adolin instantly recognizes as the Radiant. Brown hair and worn clothes dripping wet, dark eyes full of concern and suspicion as he stares back. The Radiant’s hands were raised, but Adolin knew he had a Shardblade. Instantly his mind was filled with panic and confusion. Why was the Radiant here? How had he gotten in before the Highstorm? But if he had, then why was he wet? Was he planning to attack?

The Radiant must have sensed his shock. “I just wanted to talk.”

Adolin shakes his head and smiles. This was perfect, an uninterrupted conversation. Even the questions of his arrival were lost in the excitement that was rising in his mind. Still alert, he moves towards the bed, noting the wet trails along some of the shelves and floor.

Taking a moment, Adolin decides how to respond. “Ok then,” he says, smiling. “So what is your name?”

“Kaladin.” Odd, that sounded like a lighteye’s name. “Teft told me your name was Adolin.”

“Teft?” Adolin had never heard that name before. Kaladin didn’t elaborate. For an instant there was another silence, this one slightly more awkward. Adolin takes the moment to sit on the bed.

A second passes, then another, neither knowing what to say. Any question Adolin has seeming inappropriate. Finally Adolin decides to speak.

“So, how did you get in here?”

“There’s a window around the side that had a loose latch.”

“But the Highstorm?”

Kaladin’s face jerks towards an empty space before he looks towards the door. Moments later it opens, revealing Evi standing on the other side, expression serious. Adolin knew his mother believed in peaceful resolutions, but was as ferocious as an Axehound when it came to her sons. The Radiant quickly raises his hands, mouth open to speak.

“It’s alright mother,” Adolin interrupts, standing up. “He just came here to talk.”

She looks at Kaladin warily, a smile starting to form. “Why are you here?”

“I want to protect my home. I though if I could get Adolin’s help, this won’t lead to bloodshed or…” he trails off, head falling slightly.

Adolin watches as Evi goes up the youth and puts an hand on his shoulder, her kind nature shining through, Renarin’s face appearing in the doorway. He looks up at her, nervous tension dropping slightly, although he still remained alert.

“Then let’s talk,” she replies, warmth returning to her voice.

Chapter Text

Renarin watched the Radiant with wide eyes, vision blurred by the once corrective lenses he was still too afraid to cast aside. At least for once his staring wouldn't be considered unnearving, at least no more unnearving than that of his mother and brother. Evi did a better job of hiding it than Adolin, but Renarin knew his mother well enough to catch the glances she continuously cast at the stranger as she poured him tea.

The Radiant-Kaladin, they finally knew his name-sniffed the prospered drink hesitantly and his face scrunched up, seeming more confused than disgusted. “Cinnamon and cloves? In a tea?”

Evi smiled at him, at at the look Renarin could already tell that she was growing fond of the boy, adopting him into her heart as she had with many of Adolin's friends.

“Good nose” she replied warmly. “Though I supposed a surgeon's apprentice is more used to identifying scents than most. Try it, it gives a lovely kick that I've found most spice-loving Alethi men enjoy.”

The teen took a hesitant sip as Evi turned to pour Adolin and Renarin cups, and the younger Kholin caught the teen looking pleasantly surprised at the taste.

Evi took her seat just as a Gale shook the tower, causing Renarin to shiver. He caught a whirl of color and movement out of the corner of his eye and felt a moment of panic, but it seemed the Radiant couldn't see the spren either.

Renarin pulled his box out of his pocket, missing the rocks that had somehow given him so much comfort. Though as his hangs followed the familiar motion of fiddling with the box he began to calm.

Kaladin straightened as Evi sat, and his face turned serious. Renarin had expected the expression to age him, but it didn't. He still looked like a boy only just barely older than Renarin, like a teen not yet an adult, like someone in far over their head.

“This stalemate won't last.” Kaladin finally said. “My people are growing desperate and yours are growing restless. Beyond that, I know your resources are dwindling more than you want anyone to know. This land is only fit to sustain Hearthstone and the surrounding farms, maybe a little more from trade. You have ten times that, and your men destroyed any crops that existed in the initial attack. I know you want us to believe that we are at a disadvantage, but I know this isn't an ideal battle situation for you either.”

The woman seemed thrown by this. She was not a tactition, did not enjoy war and did not care to learn about it. She wasn't sure how to respond to the boy's analysis of their strategic position. Perhaps if Navani or Ialai had been there… but they weren't.

 

Luckily however, Adolin was. The elder teen, who Renarin knew had war treaties and history stuffed down his through constantly by the tutors in Kholinar, responded. “You're right. We have access to outside sources, but this is far from the typical merchants path, and it's expensive to pay them to come out of their way so far. We have soulcasters, but men tend to get restless quicker on soulcasters food. It's harder to keep them content. Not to mention, being away from Kholinar so long is not ideal, not with the kingdom still being so young. It would be better for everyone if we ended this. But Uncle is… stubborn, and I think he's been planning something like this for far longer than anyone knew.”

Evi nodded. “I spoke with Jasnah the other day, she was asking advice for helping her first ward, and she says that Gavilar has been researching the Radiant and their leaders for many months now.”

Kaladin's eyes went unfocused and he stared at an empty part of the room. Renarin bit back a shiver. Was that how he looked when…

The young man spoke with conviction. “Gavilar is not destined to be the head of the Knights Radiant. If he was, then a spren would have bonded with him already. Syl… my spren, she doesn't like him she says he feels… wrong. I trust her.”

Renarin held his breath, but he couldn't deny the tumping in his chest that spoke of how uncomfortable he was around his uncle lately, more so than he was with most people, which was already fairly uncomfortable.

Evi frowned, but not like she was offending on her brother-in-laws behalf. It was more thoughtful. “Gavilar is already realizing that he has not approached this situation well. He is considering changing to… a different approach.”

“A different approach?”

“He wants you to join him more than he wants your lands. He is considering changing tactics and treating you like… a foreign dignitary he wishes to make a treaty with rather than a town he wants to overrule.”

Kaladin seemed to grow more furious with each word she spoke.

“So,” he spat, the anger from the previously well-tempered boy startling Evi, though the two teens we're used to the darkeye's temper. “When we're nothing but farmers he has no trouble murdering each one of us, but as soon as we have something he wants he'll play nice? What about the next town he sets his eyes on? How many other darkeyes will he slay for the crime of not having a Radiant among them? It doesn't matter how he treats me, like I'm a king or like I'm a cremling, I will not be a part of that man's crusade.”

Evi nodded, and Renarin could practically see her respect for the teen growing. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. “That is why I'm here, and not in his tent. You,” he looked between Adolin and Renarin “Have treated me with more respect than anyone else in your army, and you seem at least willing to listen. Don't take this to mean that j trust you.” He hastened to add, “Just that you're the best option I have.” His face was screwed up as though the words were painful, but Adolin cast Renarin a large grin, eyes shining with victory. However, when the dueler turned back to Kaladin, his expression was serious.

“The main problem here is that Uncle has the power, or at least he believes he does. He has the support of the other highprince, of father. He has access to scholars, surgeon's, soulcasters, merchants… he has every reason to believe that you will eventually come to his side. Which we know you won't, but he doesn't know that.”

“No-men.” Renarin said, as a though occurred to him. All eyes turned to him and the teen blushed. However, instead of ignoring his outburst all three of them waited for him to continue. “A-as in, not yes-men. Right now, he's surrounded by yes men, people who are trying to figure out how to get you on his side. There's no one asking if he should get you on his side.”

Evi nodded slowly. “We need people, more people, who are in Uncle's courts or on his side to start taking your side, make his question himself. Perhaps then you could speak with him on more even ground. Maybe if I left a note for one of Dalinar's scibes and we joined you after the highstorm it could get people talking.”

“No,” Adolin shook his head, a fire beginning to burn in his eyes. “It needs to be public, obvious. We can't let them wonder whether or not we actually went willingly. A feast!” He suddenly exclaimed, and Kaladin frowned.

“Didn't we just say neither of us had enough food?”

Adolin didn't reply, instead he grinned at Evi. “Mom, you said we were going to start treating them like dignitaries, right? We should convince Uncle to have a feast, and invite Kaladin as a guest of honor or something. Everyone important to the army will be there, it's public, it's perfect.”

Evi hummed. “And this has nothing to do with the young man who promised you could duel him for his shardblade at the next feast, hmm?”

Adolin deflated. “It's still a good idea.”

“It isn't enough.” Kaladin said. “Even if your idea does work and we get his attention, it's just one radiant and a couple members of the royal family against an entire kingdom. That won't be enough to convince Gavilar that he's wrong about leading the Knights Radiant.”

Renarin sucked in a shaky breath, fear running through him, the desire to stay silent coursing through every part of his body. Still, he was strong despite what the other lighteyes thought of him. He was not weak. This was just one more step in the journey.

He took off his spectacles and laid them on the table.

“What if there were two radiants?”

And the journey had to come before the destination

Chapter Text

Adolin watches his brother placing his glasses on the table, confusion briefly running through his mind before a thought forms. Wait, Renarin is also a Knight Radiant? He barley has time to react to this idea before Renarin breathes in, Stormlight flowing from the small gem on the table to surround him. Staring into at his brother, he fails to notice the other reactions around the room, instead noting his brothers worry. He couldn’t imagine how hard this would be for Renarin, revealing this sort of secret. Adolin smiles back at him.

“Renarin, this is amazing.”

Renarin glances briefly to his side, a gesture that Adolin now recognizes that Kaladin was also doing. He guesses that it has something to do with the Radiants. Looking around the room, he sees his mother beaming at Renarin in pride and surprise, yellow Shockspren still falling around her ankles. In the opposite corner, Kaladin is giving a small smile as he mutters under his breath to himself. Ignoring the boy for now, Adolin turns back to his brother, who is still standing nervously.

No-one knows what to say in that instant. Kaladin seems to wait for the others to talk, while Evi is still speechless. Despite giving a nod of support to his brother, it takes another moment for Renarin to talk.

"Glys says I'm a Truthwatcher."

"Glys?" Adolin responds. He knew most people in the camp, but he had never heard of anyone called Glys. Looking around, only Kaladin doesn't seem surprised.

"Your spren," he responds instead.

Renarin nods. Radiants had spren? Confusion washes over Adolin for a moment as he begins to realize how little he understands. He knew the common types of spren, but was there a one that hung around Radiants in particular. And if so, how come he never saw it around Renarin before. Even if that was the case, spren couldn't talk. As if realizing that no-one apart from Renarin and himself understood his response, Kaladin takes a small breath.

"Knight's Radiant are formed because of our bond with certain types of spren. From what Teft said, different spren form the different orders," he elaborates. "My spren, Syl, is a Honorspren." He motions to the side of his shoulder, as is there was something there. Adolin sees nothing except a flat look from Kaladin at the empty space he gestured to. He had never heard of Honorspren before, and if this was anyone else, he would think they were tricking him. But with the strangeness of everything going on, his mind just seems to accept this new fact. Adolin also realizes that all the times he found Renarin glancing slowly to the side, muttering to himself, he was talking to a spren. A spren that Adolin couldn't see. Adolin also guesses that it was how Kaladin seemed to know that Evi was coming before she entered the room.

"If Gavilar is looking to become the leader of the Knights Radiant, then he would be looking to form a bond with a certain type of spren," Kaladin continues. "Which Syl won't tell me what it is." Kaladin looks back at the others, finished talking. Adolin looks towards the center of the room, unsure what to say and what questions to ask, only to see Renarin look down quickly and smile. Kaladin also notices.

"Wait, do you know?" Kaladin asks.

"My bond allows me to see." Renarin doesn't elaborate further.

Despite this, realization hits Adolin. "Like how you knew how to find that picture."

Renarin nods.

Kaladin opens his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by Renarin. Adolin knew from his expression that he had something he needed to say. Something that was bothering him greatly.

"There's something else."

"What?" Adolin responds, mentally filing away questions just beginning to form. He could talk to Renarin later, but they needed to plan what to do next.

"It's just that Glys says something isn't right here. This isn't just about Gavilar's plan to be a Bondsmith." Renarin says, heaviness and doubt creeping into his voice. Adolin knows something is worrying him. "It's just that he knew the Radiants were coming."

"He was expecting this. When he spoke to me the first time, it was with confidence, not surprise." Kaladin adds, his voice containing an emotion Adolin can't quite figure out. Instead, Adolin remembers back to the wall, when he first say Kaladin standing there. There was a confidence and certainty to his uncle's voice. Lost in the memory for a moment, he replays it in his mind, noticing Renarin's movements indicating he was talking with Glys. Suddenly, Adolin remembers something.

"He said something was coming"

"What?" Renarin looks at him, worry flashing across his face.

"Just after the conversation with you." Adolin looks towards Kaladin "He muttered it under his breath. I don't know what he was talking about though"

"How would he though. Glys says he isn't a Truthwatcher like me. How could he know something is coming?"

"It's no use speculating now." Evi breaks into the conversation. "All we can do is hold a feast tomorrow and see if we can find anything out before we confront him. I might be able to talk to Jasnah before then, her help would be appreciated." She takes a sip of her drink, looking at Kaladin. "But for now, all we can do is wait. Kaladin, talk to your Brightlord. See if you can organize for him and some people you trust to come to a feast in our camp. We'll find out what we can and talk to him during dinner. Try to convince him to change his path."

"What about the rest of Hearthstone." He asks in response. Adolin knows that despite his desire to have the Kholin armies gone, his dedication to his town would stop him from making any action without their involvement. Given what he had mentioned about the towns desired surrender, Adolin isn't sure they would even let him back in if he didn't.

"I'm sure we can arrange for some Soulcast stores to be sent over to you."

"Thank you," Kaladin smiles back.

________

Dalinar awakes to the small farmer's house with Sadeas staring at him from above. Realizing that he had fallen over, Dalinar slowly pushes himself up off the floor and slumps in the chair he had fallen out of. Sadeas still stares, realizing he has had another vision. Taking a few breaths, Dalinar refills his spilled drink and looks at his friend. It takes a moment for Sadeas to respond.

"You had another vision. What did you see?"

"It was a battlefield after a battle," he responds, taking another large sip. "There were Knights Radiant looking for survivors. One of them talked to me before everything ended."

"Talked to you," Sadeas leans closer. "What did they say?"

"She told me that this was the beginning. That if we had united, things might have been different. I don't think that she knew who I was though. It was as if she saw me as another soldier from a destroyed army."

Sadeas leans back, taking in Dalinar's words. Dalinar didn't know what to make of it. The landscape was unfamiliar and Dalinar was ready to dismiss it at some strange dream. Except that there was a feeling of great importance after it. A feeling of dread that was creeping up behind Dalinar like a Chasmfiend waiting to strike. The message from the Radiant had felt more like a warning, although Dalinar didn't understand why. It couldn't have been a vision from the future, could it? Dalinar quickly dismisses that thought. The armor was in an older style and seeing the future was both impossible and forbidden.

"So what do we do now?" Sadeas asks, breaking into Dalinar's thoughts. "Are we telling Gavilar or are you, my old friend, finally going insane?"

He said the last comment with a smile on his face, but it felt too close to the truth to Dalinar's own internal thinking to cause the reaction Sadeas was hoping for. Instead he rests his chin on his hands, contemplating his answer.

"I don't think we need to tell Gavilar just yet. But if this is a message, then I don't understand why it's telling us to unite. That's what we're already trying to do."

Yet even as he says this, he feels as if he is lying to himself with the image of the Radiant on the wall of Hearthstone flashing into his mind. The youth countered this ideal, refusing to join the Kholin's even though it would guarantee the safety of his town. Instead he said he fought to protect those who the Kholin army forgot about in their conquest for unification. There was something about the anger in his words that Dalinar couldn't shake as it works its way deeper into his mind. Storms, everything was going out of control already.

Sadeas nods at his decision and words, believing them to be true. The youth was angry at the army over the loss of his brother but would see the truth eventually. He is fighting for his brother's and his own dream after all. A united Alethkar. Dalinar had seen how the division of the Highprinces was effecting Alethkar as a nation. This is what his fractured country needs.

They were doing the right thing. Dalinar had to believe that.

Chapter Text

Dalinar paced in front of Sadeas, knowing that they didn’t have long to talk before they were to meet Gavilar in the war tent. His old friend watched him carefully, despite his earlier brevity. The man had joked half-heartedly about Dalinar finally losing his mind, but the warrior seemed to finally be realizing the implications of the statement. The man seemed calm, but something in his eyes made it clear that he was not comfortable being so close to the Blackthorn now that it was becoming clear that he was likely truly growing unhinged. Dalinar growled to himself. How was he to tell the highlord that despite his insanity, he’d never felt less dangerous. What he wouldn’t give to have a fight, to feel the Thrill going through him, if just to prove that he hadn’t been abandoned by it. He hadn’t had the opportunity to fight-really fight, duels didn’t count- since that first vision had come, and each day without the Thrill he felt an increasing irrational fear that it was truly gone.

Storm it, but even without the Thrill he was dangerous. There was a bloodied handkerchief on the table, the results of a blow to Sadea’s nose that Dalinar had landed while lashing out in his vision. What if the madness came upon him when there wasn’t a Highstorm? He could kill Evi in her sleep before Adolin could come to her aid. Storms, even if both of his sons were there, it was unlikely that they would be able to hold him back. Perhaps he was dangerous. What was he to do, though? He couldn’t tell Gavilar, the man would send him off somewhere for ‘help’. He would make him go to Jasnah, join Targavarian***’s hospitals. Or even simply return him to Kholinar, to one of the asylums there tp be tended to by ardents and die of boredom and impotence.

A horn sounded, a call to meet in the war tent to discuss plans. Dalinar wondered idly what his brother had decided regarding Evi’s plan. As much as Dalinar itched to simply go to battle with the small town, he reluctant admitted that her plan technically was more likely to get the results that the king wanted. Blackthorn turned to level a serious look to Sadeas before leaving the shelter they had spent the highstorm in. “Don’t say a word of this to Gavilar. Not yet. I need to think.”

Sadeas inclined his head slightly, but said nothing. Dalinar scowled. “Oh no, Torrol. I know you too well, old friend. You will sear to me in your own words that you will not speak of this with anyone until I am ready to reveal it.”

The green-clad man sighed heavily, but gave his word when it was clear that Dalinar wouldn’t budge.

The younger Kholin man was surprised when he entered the war tent to see not only his wife, but his sons as well in the room, chatting with Elhokar. He frowned at them as Evi came up to him with a nervous smile. “If Gavilar agrees to try to improve relations with the Radiant’s people, he may appreciate their input, as they are the only ones he isn’t outright hostile to.”

Dalinar thought about it for a moment before nodding. Elhokar wasn’t much older than Adolin when he started attending the occasional meeting with Gavilar. “That is true, they might have a better idea than us on the best way to approach him.”

Evvi smiled warmly at him, cupping his cheek in an affectionate gesture that was much too intimate for their settings. She stared deep into his eyes. “You have been so much calmer recently.” She said, almost to herself. “More like the Dalinar that I know exists inside you, less like the beast you wear as a skin.”

Dalinar felt a shock of icy fear at her words, though she likely intended them as a compliment. They brought back his earlier fears, the terror that the Thrill was gone and the Blackthorn was no more. He opened his mouth without any clue what he might say in reply, when Gavilar called for them to join him around the table.

Gavilar nodded as they clustered around the planning table, nodding at Dalinar’s son’s without questioning their presence. “I have considered at length the matters that we discussed in the last meeting, and spoke with other advisors that I trust,” Other advisors? Dalinar’s brow furrowed and he glanced around the room, casting his mind out for those who he knew Gavilar trusted who weren’t in the room and coming up blank. “And I agree with Brightness Khlolin’s assessment. We should attempt to meet the Radiant as a foreign dignitary rather than a future subject. However, we must be smart about how we approach him, we must bear in mind that he does not posses the education or training that most foreign nobles possess. This can both benefit us, and complicate matters. He may not negotiate as we expect him to, but we can also maneuver against him more easily.”

Sadeas and Ialai were nodding approvingly, as was Navani. Evi was frowning slightly, though not obviously, and the three younger boys seemed to be hanging onto the king’s every word.

“We should make this as public as possible.” Sadeas said with a sip of his wine. “We can still turn his people against him as we intended with the raid, make it clear that their lives would improve if he agreed to our terms, increase the pressure.”

Gavilar nodded, clearly in agreement. “Exactly. Sending them stores of food and clothing as gifts is the obvious first choice, with a declaration of our desire to make peace for the town as a whole, but we need to discuss the next steps.”

A contemplative silence followed, broken only a moment later by a soft cough from- almighty above, it was from Adolin. Gavilar looked to his nephew with a quirked brow, but nodded to give him leave to speak. “Well um, sir. When Renarin and I spoke to him the other day, we overheard people complaining about how… uh, how boring it was just sitting around the keep and eating the same gruel and I just thought… what if we had a feast? Order some non-soulcast food from merchants, have entertainment, dress up… if he accepts the invitation it would give you a change to speak with him directly, and with the town’s old brightlord at the same time. It would also give him a change to really see what you’re offering. It’s different being offered riches and power, and actually experiencing the riches and power. Plus, it would give us a chance to show off, display the might of the Alethi, remind him why fighting with us is a bad idea.”

Gavilar nodded as Adolin explained the merits of the feast, a small smile playing at his lips. He shot Dalinar a look that had a golden glory-spren spinning around his head on behalf of his son. “It is a good plan.” The king said, and Elhokar shot Adolin an envious glance that the teen missed. “We will have to plan the feast carefully, not leave anything up to chance. Perhaps it is a good thing my Wit was assassinated last week, I suppose that would not have made the best impression.”

“Oh,” Elhokar said, disappointed. Gavilar had tasked the youth with conducting the interviews for the prospective new Wits. “I had finally found one that I’d really liked, father.” The king smiled at his son fondly.

“I’ll meet with him today. A good Wit is hard to come by, perhaps we can simply keep them separate.”

Elhokar smiled broadly at that, and the conversation turned back to planning the details of the feast. Ultimately it was decided that though there weren’t many in the keep, it would go against custom too seriously to invite the whole town of poor darkeyes to take part in the Lighteyes feat. However, it seemed unlikely that the Radiant would agree to join unless it benefitted his people. They chose to hold two simultaneous events, a feast for the Lighteyes and a few select guests of the Radiant, and a festival of sorts for the town’s average people. They would invite him at least twice, once when the aid was delivered, then if he didn’t agree right away, Adolin and Renarin would reinforce the invitation during their daily visit. The meeting lasted well into the night, but ultimately they were satisfied with the outcome.

None seemed more satisfied however than Dalnar’s family. Evi and the boys had shared a broad grin as Gavilar called an end to the meeting, gloryspren swirling around them. Dalinar couldn’t help but grin as well, proud that those he loved had worked so hard to help their kingdom. 

___

Kaladin scowled at the keep beneath him, half-lashing himself in the sky to keep himself hovering over the mini fortress. He wasn’t looking forward to going in, sure to get in another argument with Roshone, possibly another lecture from his father, depending on how they felt about his plan.

Syl twirled around him, glancing at him curiously. “Do you think they’ll like the plan.” 

He grimaced. “Roshone won’t like any plan I come up with on principle alone. My dad… I don’t know. I doubt it. It made sense when they were talking about it. I probably shouldn’t have gone alone. I just don’t know.” With a shake of his head he decided that waiting wasn’t helping. 

He landed lightly, rushing past the townspeople who glanced at him with a mix of awe and anger that he hated. He decided to head to the kitchen first. Rock and Teft had become near-permanent fixtures there, untrusted and unwelcome in the rest of the keep. It would be easier to tell them what he’d discussed with the Blackthorn’s family than the others, though he couldn’t avoid telling them forever. Rock grinned when Kaladin entered the room, though his face fell slightly a moment later. He’d clearly been expecting the teen to enter with bags of pilfered food to replenish their severely depleted resources. 

Kaladin shook his head. “No point in stealing, supposedly Gavilar is going to give us the food we need.” 

Teft whistled lowly. “That must’ve been a productive trip.”

Kaladin shrugged, accepting a bowl of lavis grain porridge from Rock. “Apparently, that was going to be his next attempt at getting me to join him, anyways.” He hesitated, but then began to detail the plan he’d discussed with the Kholins, watching the men’s expressions carefully. However, he’d only gotten a few words in before Rock held up a hand to stop him. “I think, it may be best if this story is only told one. Eat, I will find the others.” 

Kaladin scowled into his meal, but said nothing. He simply spooned another bite into his mouth. He was going to have to tell them eventually anyways. His parents and Roshone followed a moment later, the later looking enraged. Kaladin sighed and finished up the last bite of his meager dinner, before turning to face them. Taking a deep breath, he told them his plan once again, hoping that even if they didn’t like it, they would accept it. 

Chapter Text

Hesina watches her son sleep, wondering how she missed him growing up so quickly. It wasn’t that long ago when he was training to be a surgeon and sneaking away to train using a spear with the other farm boys. Now he was planning to confront Gavilar, planning on trying to protect Hearthstone without becoming someone he would regret. She had never been more proud of her son, and knew that Lirin felt the same way.

He had decided not to tell Roshone on the plan to confront Gavilar and Dalinar, instead spending his efforts to try and convince Roshone that this feast was a good and safe idea. Given the lack of food, it wasn’t very hard. Anyway, Roshone knew that if he rejected this idea, the people’s whispers would turn against him instead of Kaladin. Eventually Roshone had left with the promise that he wouldn’t say anything to the people until the messenger arrived tomorrow. Hesina knew that that promise had been the hardest part, considering if the Kholin armies knew that Hearthstone were preparing for a feast, then the element of surprise would be lost as the leaders would grow suspicious.

Luckily her son knew that he wasn’t alone, that he could really on his family and his new friends. She likes the two men, Rock and Teft, although Teft’s withdrawal wasn’t going too well. Rock had managed to scavenge up something to add some flavor to their nightly grain, which usually improved all their moods. She wishes she could meet the two Kholin boys properly, after all, they seem like nice young lads. She hopes she has a chance to talk to them and their mother at the feast, and at the very least thank them for treating her son with kindness.

Still, the plan that her son had demised with them didn’t come without risks. If things backfired, Hesina knows that they would break out into war again. A war that they wouldn’t be able to fight or win. Kaladin had stayed up for a long time, staring out the window at the rain and talking to the air beside him in worry. That worry was gone now as he peacefully sleeps.

Not knowing why, she sits by her sleeping son for a long time. She knows she should join her husband and get some rest, but she wants one more moment. One moment where her son isn’t worried about his family and town. A simple moment of peace.

Eventually though, tiredness takes her and she stands up to go to bed. As she does so, she sees the windspren in the form of a young girl sitting on the edge of the pallet. Hesina had seen her a few times, although usually as a ribbon of light, and smiles. The spren was also looking at Kaladin, as if noticing the same things that she was also noticing. Glancing up at her, the spren and Hesina share a small but silent look of understanding. Then with a smile and a nod, Hesina finds her way too bed.
___________

Adolin sits on his bed in nervous excitement, running through all the stances he knows. There was Windstance, which he wouldn’t need; Vinestance, which he probably would; Flamestance and Stonestance. Today was the day of his duel for a Shardblade and he thinks he is ready. No, he has to be ready.

He has spent years training for this moment, training to be skilled enough to win his own blade. The ardents told him that he was gifted with a sword. He had won a number of smaller bouts against other duelers for rankings easily and was ready to put his plate on the line for a blade. He was lucky that duelers could be loud mouthed and looking to prove something, or nobody would have dueled Adolin Kholin in a bout for shards.

In his excitement of the coming fight, he almost forgot what they needed to do afterwards, confront Gavilar and get him to stop pursuing the Radiants. That was something he could worry about later, right now he needed one last practice, just to make sure that his skills where up to standard. Standing, he leaves to room to head towards the training ground.

As he leaves, he notices his mother in the kitchen with a smile on her face. Adolin knew she was nervous. Shardduels were dangerous, and every dueler knew a story or two about the worst that could happen. Yet Adolin was quietly confident about his chances and abilities. Nothing bad would happen to him. Trying to convey this to his mother, he smiles as he steps into the kitchen.

“Everything is going to be okay mother, I’m going to win a Shardblade.”

She looks at Adolin before stepping up and giving him a hug. He returns it. As she lets go, she puts both of her hands on his shoulders and looks him in the eyes.

“Be careful out there,” Evi says.

“I will,” he responds.

“I have something for you,” she says as she lets go and moves her hands up to her neck, removing the simple chain necklace that she always wore. Holding out to Adolin, she continues talking. “This has always brought me luck when I needed it most. I think you should wear it today.”

Adolin smiles. He knew that the golden chain was important to mother and would gladly wear it for her. Fastening the chain around his neck, and noticing it matches the golden edge to his tunic, he gives his mother one last quick hug before heading out towards the training pit.

As he leaves, a thought hit him. His mother wasn’t just worried for his upcoming duel with the Shardbearer. She was also worried for what might happen next. Shaking his head, Adolin dismisses that nervous worry as he unintentionally fiddles with the chain. He could think about that after the duel.
_________

Gavilar sits in his tent, enjoying a moment of peace. Organizing a feast for Hearthstone was not ideal, but he can see that this is the best way to help convince the radiant to join his side. He was lucky that the boy accepted his proposal, on the condition that his family could also attend the lighteyed feast.

Then again, his town was starving and the radiant seemed eager to protect them.

Sighing, Gavilar picks up the report he received earlier today from Amaram. The report was written in glyphs, something Gavilar could read so he would not require a scribe to help him. Not that he would want one given the nature of this report. Glancing through it, Gavilar recognizes the predictions he had heard of finally coming to fruition. It had taken a lot of work behind the back of his family, but it looks like the signs of the old gods were returning. Now all they needed was the Knights Radiant to protect them, one of whom was stubbornly defending a rural town in the middle of nowhere.

At least with the radiant attending the feast, viewing a taste of what joining them could offer him and his family, they had him in their control. He could be manipulated and convinced into joining them, could see that this option was better than the alternative. Gavilar wouldn’t tell him about the upcoming fight yet, he was too new and untrustworthy, but he would be a help in this fight to save and unite Alethkar.

The rest of the report was a disappointment as Amaram did not find which spren created the Bondsmith. Mentally noting to respond after the feast with reports of his success, Gavilar lights a small candle and burns the note. He couldn’t let anybody else know about this.

At that point, an announcement signals the arrival of a messenger. Quickly crushing the few remaining embers and sweeping the ash onto the floor, Gavilar goes out to meet them. Apparently the new Wit had decided to arrive.

Chapter Text

The Blackthorn poured himself one last heaping mug of wine before he joined his family to meet with the radiant. His fingers itched to prepare a second, but he knew that neither Gavilar nor Evi would have approved of him pre-gaming as much as he already had, and he had no desire to distract them on such an important day. He heard the familiar sound of the tent door opening and had to fight himself not to hide his drink like he was a child attempting to sneak a cremling into the house. He turned, solemnly preparing himself for a lecture, only to come face to face not with a member of his family, but with the new Wit.
This was even worse.
“Wit.” He grumbled, eyeing the strange man warily. There was just something off about the new Wit, a twinkle in his eye that said that he knew much more than he let on. It unnerved the man, and yet it was compelling as well. Storms, it seemed like each day that passed, he understood himself less. The warlord grit his teeth, anger at himself flaring in his chest.
“Blackthorn,” the infuriating man said with a bow. The Warlord grumbled in reply, sinking into one of the tents low seats. He topped off his mug, refilling the bit that he’d already drank, not caring about the opinion of this fool.
“I thought Gavilar had ordered you away from the feast.”
The Wit blinked before making a show of looking around the sparse tent, empty but for a simple table and chairs overflowing with plans and maps, and the wine casket that Blackthorn had already dipped into.
“Oh my, I can see you’re right. This is obviously the very most important area of the feast. Why look at all of these strips of paper, and but of course! The clear lack of food. How could I have been so foolish to come at what is clearly the epicenter of the festivities.”
“Alright, alright. You’ve made your point.”
“Well I should certainly hope so. You know, when I first took this position-“
“Two days ago.”
“I was absolutely shocked at the discovery that really the most important part of being a good wit, is simply pointing out the obvious.”
The Kholin snorted into his cup. “I wouldn’t call you a good wit. You reused the same insults over and over.”
“Of course.” The willowy man replied, sounding affronted. “I don’t know anyone here nearly well enough to insult their character. I’m sure in time I will come to hear all of the unique types of stupidity exist in the Lighteyed court, but until then I’m not going to make something up. Why, imagine if I started to use insults that weren’t true, I would lose all credibility. However, I could know right away those that were ugly, smelly and old, and so I simply stated the obvious.”
A small smirk wormed it’s way across the scarred man’s face as the Wit settled in the chair across from him. The black-clothed man seemed content to end the conversation there and pulled out a small flute. He let out a few notes then smiled, seeming pleased with himself. The Blackthorn took a long pull on his drink and closed his eyes, mentally preparing for a day of pandering and diplomacy when all he wanted to do was fight. Maybe he could get in on one of the duels. No, no, Adolin was going to try for a Blade today, he didn’t want to overshadow the boy. Suddenly, Wit spoke again.
“Well if my skills as Wit has not yet impressed you, maybe my talents as a storyteller will. Hmm, something short, I suppose we are on a time constraint.” Suddenly he let out a series of trills on the flute, the sounds seemed to… echo back at him, but that wasn’t right. They were in a war tent in the middle of an empty field, sounds shouldn’t echo. Yet he had no compulsion to open his eyes, instead he simply leaned back and took another sip of drink as the sounds seemed to carry him away.
The Wit’s voice grew dissonant, seeming to meld with the sound of the music that still rang through the canvas. “Ages ago, when the world was different and beings of intense power still walked the earth, there lived a very large, very kindhearted family of laborers. They worked the land day in and day out just to have the food to survive, yet they were extremely kind to their neighbors. They shared as much as they were able, and oftentimes more. One day, one of the family’s children was performing his usual chore of transferring livestock from one field to another, he spotted a figure crumpled on the ground. The child ran to the figure and found an old woman, blood crusted on her temple from an unknown injury. The child acted quickly, pulling the woman onto the back of one of his creatures and using it to haul her back to the house. The boy’s mother stayed up for days bringing the woman back to health, taking precious food off of their table. Finally the woman was well enough to walk and stand. Almost immediately she made to leave, not listening to any argument the family made to give herself time to hear. However, before she left she gave, to the child who had first found her, a clear globe of glass, similar to what men use to gamble, but several times larger.

The family was perplexed by the sphere, and the child simply gave it to his infant sister to play with. However, as is often the case in a house so full and so busy, the sphere soon got accidentally kicked under a bed in a corner, and no one stopped to recover it. The sphere was soon forgotten.

Yet the next day, had anyone cared to look, they would have noticed a small speck of red in the previously clear crystal. For the woman had not been a normal human, she had been a creature of great power, and a ruby was growing from the clear glass. The next day the speck grew even larger, the next day larger, until the entire sphere transformed into a perfectly cut gem the size of a grown man’s fist.

However, the family had never given it a never thought since the day that it had rolled under the bed. So, while untold riches grew just below their noses, they continued to scrape and save and starve, never knowing that the toy they had discarded was a gift greater than they could have imagined.”

The notes flowed, and slowly began to fade.

Dalinar opened his eyes when the last of the notes had faded completely, turning to see the black-clothed lighteyed man reclining against the chair, flute tucked away. He frowned, the story tugging at his mind. “What did that mean?”

Wit arched a brow. “What do you think it means? It is not a storytellers job to tell a man how to think, rather it is our job to give them something to think on.”

“I thought it was your job to state the obvious.” Dalinar replied, and Wit grinned.

“Sometimes, the obvious is not as clear as we would like it to be.”

Dalinar frowned at the odd wording, but he was too focused on the story to give it much thought. He mulled it over, setting aside his glass, despite the fact that it was still half full. “Change.” He finally replied. “Change only affects things, if people are able to see it.”

Wit smiled enigmatically, the expression giving nothing away. “It sounds like you have a lot to think on, Highprince Dalinar. Though, that may have to wait for another day. I believe the festival is about to start. Don’t worry, I won’t mortally offend your precious Radiant. Though, I am sure that I will enjoy the show.”



 

Kaladin looked over the men and women of Heathstone. They were smiling, chatting amongst one another, more animated than he’d seen them in months. Since Gavilar’s invitation and Roshone’s very public acceptance, thepeople had been in a frenzy. The women had washed and mended their threadbare clothes several times over, and the men had polished their shoes and belt buckles, as well as buffing any jewelry that their wives had saved. Laurel had even passed out her jewelry to some of the women, and allowed the younger women to use some of her extra havahs. The people seemed to have been transformed, seeming to have shorn off the tragedy of just a few weeks prior.

He wished that the facade weren’t so very fragile.

He wished that there was no woman, weeping in the corner over her son who would have loved to visit the feast, that the young woman in Laurel’s dress didn’t look into the mirror with wet eyes as she pictured what her recent groom would have thought of her. He wished that the young man in the corner wasn’t staring blankly at where the sleeve of his freshly washed shirt lay limp, his arm ending in a stub at his elbow. He wished… he wished that it was easier for him to see their joy than their pain, that he could appreciate their excitement. However any joy he could have had was lost to the pain of a town nearly halved.

He’d never been especially good at smiling through the pain. Though he supposed that tonight he would have to try. Though he believed in Adolins plan, well semi-believed it, it turned his stomach to think of sitting there playing nice at the feast, no doubt being gawked at by dozens of  important lighteyes who were simply enthralled at the idea of the dark eyed radiant.

A light touch made him jump, and he whirled to see him mother smiling at him, though concern darkened her eyes. “There are storms in your eyes, the Stormfather himself would be impressed.”

“Sorry, mother, I’m just… nervous about tonight.”

Hesina cupped her son’s face in her hands. “I will not lie to you.” She said softly. “I wish that this burden was not yours. I fear it will weigh you down, make you a pack mule when you were meant to be something much greater. However, I know this without any fear or doubt, I know that you are strong enough to bear it. You have the strength of a chull but the ferocity of a whitespine. I know that this is scary, but you will succeed.”

Kaladin let out a shuddering breath and closed his eyes, growing strength from his mothers love and confidence, allowing it to pull him out of the void of darkness he sometimes allowed himself to get drawn into. It was so much harder to stay clear of the void when Tien was gone.

“Besides,” His mother said, and her voice had taken on a familiar, amused tint. “Remember, they are the ones courting you, not the other way around. Feel free to make them work for it.” She lightly kissed his forehead. “Now come, you should get changed. We will have to head out soon.”

Kaladin frowned, but obediently followed the woman. Roshone had reluctantly pulled one of his son Riller’s old suits out of his untouched room, and one of the town’s seamstresses had tailored it to fit Kaladin’s thinner, taller frame.

“Does everyone know what to do?” He asked. He already knew the answer, but he needed to hear it said one last time.

“Yes. The townspeople know better than to trust the Kholins. Everyone will be safe within the keep by the time Mishim has started to rise. Your plan with the Blackthorn’s family will not start until well after that. Everyone should be safely back here before any trouble starts.”

Kaladin nodded, relief flooded through him as he slipped into a small room to change. The majority of the town would be attending a festival with Kholin’s soldiers and army followers, while Kaladin, his family, Roshone, Laurel, Rock and Teft would go to the fancy feast Gavilar was throwing. It was hard to convince Roshone that Teft should join them, but Kaladin had managed to convince him that he was the most knowledgeable about the army and should therefore be there to consult. He’d wanted Rock there as well, but he needed someone to make sure that the rest of the town stayed safe and came back on time.

The plan was for Laurel, Teft, and Hesina to go back at the same time as the rest of the village. Roshone said he would decide later, after he’d ‘felt out the situation’, but Kaladin had no doubt that the coward would choose to go back then as well.

As Kaladin made his way back to the room Roshone had commandeered to use to discuss strategy, he consciously sucked the stormlight from any lamps down the hall. If things went poorly, he could potentially be flying 5 other people back with him. He’d been practicing that in the yard all week. A smile finally graced his lips as he remembered it, sending some of the town’s children flying, making sure to hover them a few inches off the ground, less they fall. It had taught him a great deal of control, and they had loved it. Maybe it wouldn’t go bad though, maybe they would let him just walk off with the Blackthron’s wife and kids.

Who was he kidding? This was going to be a disaster.


 

Gavilar listened critically as Navani read out a complete list of all of the features of the festival. It sounded marvelous, a celebration the likes of which this town certainly had never seen. It wouldn’t be enough, the Radiant was extremely stubborn, but it would be a decent first step. He would be given the chance to talk with the boy in a more one on one setting, show him what he could be missing out on. He’d had a long talk with Amaram about how much of the truth he should tell the child, but he had the feeling that now was not the time to reveal much of the truth.

Some of it, perhaps. Hint towards a greater coming danger, that would get the boy’s protective instincts flowing. That was what the Windrunners were known for, wasn’t it? Yes, he could use that.

Satisfied, both at his mental plans and the party plans that Navani read, the man looked around the room.

He frowned when his eyes lit upon his son. Elhokar was pouting again, which could only mean two things. Either he was fixating on something he could not change, or he was choosing to mope rather than fix something he could. Neither attribute was especially befitting an heir apparent.

“What is the matter son?”

“It’s not fair, everyone has something to do to help but me! Renarin and Adolin have been visiting the Radiant, you are the King, and Uncle Dalinar is your warrior. What am I supposed to do?”

The boy had a point, as poorly as he’d said it. Besides, it was partly Gavilar’s fault. The boy had been with him in the strategy tent, planning, when Dalinar’s lads had made the bravely foolish choice to approach the young darkeye. Still, Elhokar was a good son, and with some more fostering Gavilar knew he would make a fantastic king.

“I’m sorry that we haven’t spoken of this son, but you are vitally important.” Elhokar perked up, and from where she sat Navanni cast a skeptical eyebrow. “As proven by Adolin and Renarin, the Radiant has been more responsive to people his age. It is something that I should have seen earlier, but I cannot change the past. Regardless, you have the power of the throne, but will be more relatable to young Kaladin. I want you to try to befriend him as your cousins have, that will make it even easier to strategize with him when we finally win him over.”

Elhokar nodded, his face serious. Gavilar returned the nod. Well, that was one problem handled, now to find that ridiculous Wit and keep him from interfering.

That man knew far more than he should. Far more than anyone should.



 

Adolin rolled his shoulders and gave a few gentle squats, more getting used to the feel of the shardplate than anything else. He felt his mother’s necklace lying against his skin, and it gave him confidence somehow. He didn’t have his helm on yet, and he wouldn’t get possession of the blade he was using for the duel until a few moments before it. So now he was just waiting, along with the rest of the army and what felt like half of Kholinar, for the door of the keep to open.

There was a strange anticipation in the air, lighteyes and dark alike shifted nervously, many tired from the past few frantic days of planning two parties.

The Kholin’s stood in front of the crowd, surrounded by the royal honor guard. Weapons gleamed and Kholin blue contrasted brightly against the crem covered ground. Sadeas stood just behind them, his face violently blank and holding none of the charm that Gavilar was purposely portraying.

Dalinar frowned, seeming contemplative and a million miles away, which honestly was a relief. Honestly, their plan would work best if he was distracted.

Commotion had been steadily growing behind the doors of the keep for the past several moments, increasing the tension of the awaiting crowd. Adolin felt like the group was going to snap, and he found himself continuously running his finger along his helm, wishing he already had his blade.

Then, finally, like a bolt of lightening the Radiant appeared over the doors of the keep, hovering there and locking intense eyes with Gavilar. Adolin, who hadn’t found the man especially intimidating when they’d been face to face, felt himself shiver at the figure he made now. The man made a sharp, unique gesture, like making a salute by crossing his arms, and the doors swung open.

A lighteyed man, the towns brightlord most likely, stood at the front, beside a younger lighteyed girl, and an older darkeyed couple. Behind them stood the rest of the town, all standing tall with their heads held high.

The Lighteyed man walked straight to Gavilar, Kaladin swooping down to land beside them. Gavilar greeted the man solemnly, but pleasantly. “Brightlord Roshone, I presume.”

“That right.” The man said, sniffing as though attempted to pretend that he was superior to the king of Alethkar. Adolin matched eyes with Kaladin and, since unlike the Radiant no one was looking at him , rolled his eyes. Kaladin’s lips pressed together as though he were attempting to stave off amusement.

Gavilar nodded, managing to keep his eye on the Lighteyed man rather than the Radiant he actually respected. “We will have much to talk about, but first,” He made a sweeping gesture. “I hope you’ll enjoy the festivities, you and your people.”

That seemed to break a dam, and suddenly figures were streaming out of the thin door of the keep, their excitement almost palpable as they made their way to the festival grounds that had been set up. It  was only then that Gavilar turned to the Radiatnt. The king surprised Adolin by offering a shallow bow to the Radiant. It wasn’t a full, proper bow, but it was a very clear show of respect. Kalading gave a nod in reply, though he didn’t bow. Gavilar seemed to have expected that, and was almost immediately working to make a good impression on the lighteyes and the solemn darkeyed couple that Adolin recognized as Kaladin’s parents from the portrait he and Renarin had found.

Adolin however, made his way to the Radiant, along with Renarin. Elhokar was following closely as well, and Adolin could only hope that Kaladin was smart enough not to mention their plans with the prince hovering so close.

Kaladin eyed Adolin’s plate, bulky and gorgeous and painted a striking Kholin blue. Adolin grinned, “Its for my duel. I’m going to win a shardblade!”

Kaladin opened his mouth to reply, but suddenly his eyes shot to the side, staring at something that Adolin couldn’t see. The teen whispered something to the Spren, too low for Adolin to catch. The smile wiped off of Adolin’s face.

“What’s wrong?”

Kaladin shook his head. “Syl doesn’t like the blades.”

“Syl? What’s a Sy?” Elhokar’s voice piped up, ad immediately Kaladin’s eyes narrowed on the prince, sizing up the stranger.

“Syl is my Spren. And you are?”

“I am Elhokar Kholin, the son of Gavilar and the heir to the throne.” Elokhar said proudly, and Adolin had to hide a wince. Elhokar couldn’t know, but that was porobably one of the worst ways he could have introduced himself to the powerful darkeyes.

“Oh.” Kaladin replied, dismissive. Adolin’s cousin seemed stunned for a moment before indignation and anger flasheded across his face. He puffed himself up and began to say something, but luckily Renarin cut in before he could.

“Shall we make our way to the dueling grounds? We can watch some of the eariler bouts and explain the rules while we wait for it to be Adolin’s turn.”

Kaladin was still eyeing Elhokar uncertainly, but he nodded and all four of them turned towards towards the town.

It was hard to find room sufficient to hold a dueling ground in the nice part of town where they were holding the lighteyed feast, so they’d ended up using it as part of the divider between it and the common festival. Adolin… kind of liked it. They had gathered a crowd of darkeyes, from Hearthstone and the soldiers alike. Each bout had a soundtracks of cheers and screams that were absent in the traditional, formal, solemn bouts that Adolin was used to. He loved it, more than he would have thought.

He grinned at the crowd. In the Lighteye seating area the Kholin’s held the seats of honor. Gavilar was smiling and chatting with Roshone, but Dalinar and Evi were smiling over at him encouragingly. Adolin couldn’t keep the grin from his face. He was going to win his very own blade, and his dad was actually going to be there to see it.

Renarin followed his eyes and smiled softly. “Are you ready?”

“Yup, I even have a good luck charm, Mom gave me her necklace.”

“Did you eat Chicken for lunch?”

The grin slipped off of Adolin’s face. Did he? He’d had to eat quickly to help organize the stands for the Darkeyed festival, but he’d had… pork. His eyes widened and he whirled on Renarin. Eating chicken was the only pre-duel tradition that he held, and he wasn’t about to break it before what would probably be the most important duels of his life.

Renarin understood instantly. “I-I’ll go find something.” Kaladin startled at that, tearing his eyes from the stands where he’d been watching his visibly uncomfortable parents. Lirin, who so staunchly disapproved of violence, whas clearly not enjoying this game of brutality. However, Renarin’s sudden disappearance was enough to draw the radiant’s attention. .

“Really? Chicken?”

“Traditions are important.” Elhokar interrupted. “I myself have several that I perform before every duel.”

Kaladin eyed him. The Radiant was clearly unsure how to take the older man. Adolin could understand. He loved his cousin, but he didn’t always make a great first impression. “Like what?” The Radiant asked hesitantly, and Adolin got the impression that the teen was trying, in his own way.

Elhokar began detailing some of his usual traditions, fairly similar to Adolin’s own, then quickly changed to begin telling the man stories of the oddest traditions he’d heard of, which ranged from odd to ridiculous. By the time Renarin retured, Kaladin almost looked amused.

Panting, Renarin shoved… something wrapped in paper in Adolin’s hand. “It was all I could find nearby. Most of the stands near here are only selling snacks or sweets.”

Kaladin wrinkled his nose. “What is it?”

“It’s chicken, uh, I think they called it Chouta.” He shrugged. “That Herdazian stand was selling it, it seemed popular so it must be decent.”

Adolin looked over the way his brother had pointed, quickly locating a busy stand selling items that looked similar to what he’d handed him. The stand was stuffed with four Herdazian men working to make and hand out the Chouta, and… did one of them have one hand?

Adolin shook himself and forced himself to take a bite before he could talk himself out of it. Immediately after taking a bite, the young man perked up.

“Hey, this is actually really good!” He took another bite and hummed appreciatively, ignoring Kaladin’s frankly disbelieving expression. Adolin shrugged, but was distracted when a ‘boo’ sounded throughout the crowd and Elhokar cried “Foul!”

“What happened?” Kaladin asked, and Elhokar grinned from cheek to cheek as he began explaining.

Adolin closed his eyes and took several long, deep breaths, centering himself. It would be his turn in three bouts, then he would be a shardbearer.