Chapter 1: ripples
There’s more than one version of every world.
There’s thousands upon thousands of them, for every miniscule tweak that sends a ripple through the pond of reality, for every major adjustment that drops a piano from 300 feet up into that metaphorical pond.
Thousands of ponds, all in the same place at the same time and yet very much not.
This is the story of when a hero left his pond for the same one—or at least nearly the same one—quite by accident.
He was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now, when the cosmere decides to get back on its bullshit there’s really not a right place to be. You simply hunker down and hope that you’re not one of the unfortunate ensemble members swept along in its storm of chaos and chicanery. If you’re lucky, and you’ve lived an ordinary enough life, then the Narrative Causality will probably sweep right over you.
Kaladin Stormblessed was neither of those.
He awoke on a battlefield.
One he’d been on before. One he still saw occasionally in his darker dreams.
The Tower--the large, misshapen plateau furthest to the east on the Shattered Plains--loomed before him, a pitched battle raging on its surface as his bridge crew—along with all the others—withdrew, leaving Dalinar Kholin and his army to die.
Naturally, Kaladin’s first thought was that this was yet another of his nightmares.
Especially when he looked around and didn’t recognize a single other member of Bridge Four.
Syl frowned, floating next to him. “Why are we here again? And where’s Rock and Teft and the others?”
Kaladin’s gaze snapped to her. “...You’re... awake?”
She glanced at Kaladin. “Of course.”
“I’m not dreaming,” Kaladin muttered under his breath, staring at the battle before him. “I’m not dreaming.”
The man left of him snorted. “Course you ain’t, moron. Now stop holdin’ up the bridge.”
Kaladin didn’t listen. He let go of the bridge and walked back towards the battle, feeling pulled as if in a trance. Whispers broke out behind him.
“What’s he doin’?”
“Is he crazy?”
“Looks like--finally cracked after all those runs…”
“...Hey, wait...have any of you seen that guy before?”
The last comment made a hush fall over the bridgemen. Silence hung in the air, tight and tense, a spring stretched to its absolute limit.
Someone snapped it with an annoyed shout. “Forget about him! The fool can get himself killed. Bridge up! We’re going back!”
“Hold that for ten minutes,” called Kaladin. “I’ll need that.” He stepped back slightly, and took a running jump.
“Why should we listen to…” The voice, whoever it was, trailed off as Kaladin jumped off the chasm’s edge.
He breathed in. Stormlight came at his call, coursing through his veins. He landed on the other end of the chasm as lightly as a spren and was immediately in the midst of the battle.
A battle he’d fought twice now.
He was a living storm, cutting down any Parshendi in his way with grace and swiftness. Light burned in him, aiding his strength and reflexes as he cut his way towards the Parshendi Shardbearer. He was grace, he was wind, he was the storm.
It still felt glorious.
Unfortunately, many months of removal and the thrill of Stormlight had blurred Kaladin’s memories.
He’d forgotten how vital a highly-trained bridge crew was in ensuring there were as many survivors as there had been in his own world.
As the Parshendi Shardbearer thrust at Dalinar, a glowing young man slammed into the Parshendi, throwing the thrust wide.
Dalinar blinked, wondering if he’d finally lost it in the midst of battle. The Parshendi swung upwards-- upwards? --at the man, who backflipped in the air and landed lightly in front of Dalinar.
“Get your men out,” the man snapped, one hand outstretched in thin air.
“What--” Dalinar started.
“Get them OUT!” The man yelled as the Parshendi swung again. A Blade formed in his hand and transformed, growing into a long, silvery spear which he used to block the swing. He thrust at the Shardbearer, glancing over his shoulder once to scowl at Dalinar with eyes as blue as a Herald’s. “MOVE, DALINAR KHOLIN!”
In the end, it wasn’t a victory.
Then again, it wasn’t quite a loss either.
The anonymous bridge crew had gotten the bridge up in time for a retreat, but not before Dalinar had lost over three-quarters of his men.
Eshonai retreated and survived.
The Parshendi suffered more losses as well. Three Alethi Shardbearers meant more casualties for the listeners. It meant that Venli pushed more strongly for her form of power to be used.
But then again, a Shardbearing Surgebinder made the Council of Five much, much more wary about an outright war.
Chapter 2: metaphorical pianos
Dalinar was convinced he’d been saved by a Herald.
The eyes, the Shardspear, the magical powers. How could he be anything else?
Except, of course, for the fact that he fervently denied it.
Dalinar was considering the possibilities of amnesia, exaggerated humility, or even just a really, really bad attempt at keeping a cover after revealing himself.
He wasn’t at all considering that the man was absolutely correct.
“You’re freeing the bridgemen,” Kaladin said. It was meant to be a statement of fact, a recollection of how things were meant to go. Or how they had gone the first time, at least.
He was not expecting Dalinar to salute him like he’d given an order.
“Don’t--don’t do that,” Kaladin said. Dalinar had saluted him before as a gesture of respect, but this--this was paired with an obvious awe that made Kaladin decidedly uncomfortable.
“Do what, Brightlord Herald?”
Kaladin’s eye twitched. “First of all,” he said, “for the hundredth time, I’m not a Herald.”
“Yes, sir,” Dalinar said, saluting again.
“Second, that. Saluting me. I--I’m not your superior.” You’re supposed to be my superior, he wanted to scream.
“But sir,” Dalinar said. “You’re a H—person with magic.”
“A Radiant,” Kaladin said, exasperated. “I’m a Radiant, a Windrunner. Not a herald.”
Dalinar paused. “Could you explain that, sir?”
“Don’t call me sir.” Kaladin paused, taking a deep breath. “You know about the Knights Radiant, Dalinar. I know you do. I’m a member of one of their orders.”
“The traitors against mankind?”
Kaladin wanted very badly to bang his head against a wall. He settled for slapping a palm to his forehead instead. “Storms, how long did it take you to learn all this? Are you even having visions in this-- whatever this is?”
“I think that’s a no,” Syl whispered.
Kaladin hadn’t gotten to talk to Adolin during the battle this time--he’d stopped by to give the prince a quick, sharp order to get his men out and gone back to Lashing himself towards Dalinar. He must have gotten there earlier, because Adolin’s Shardplate hadn’t been as badly cracked as he seemed to remember it being. The faceplate was still down, at least.
At least Adolin storming listened to him in his world. He probably would in this one. Hopefully.
“Princeling!” Kaladin jogged up to the man in Shardplate. “Can we talk?”
Adolin pulled his horse to a slower trot. “Uh...sure. Is there something you needed, Brightlord Herald?”
...Strange. Adolin’s voice sounded...odd. Kaladin frowned. “Don’t call me that,” he said yet again.
“Alright?” Adolin shifted uncomfortably.
Well, he was acknowledging Kaladin’s request. That was better than his father had been doing. “Listen, I’m not a Herald. Dalinar won’t storming listen when I try to tell him. Could you--”
“Wait, you what?” Adolin pulled his horse up to a full stop. “What are you if you’re not a Herald?”
Oh, thank the Almighty, he was listening. “I’m a Windrunner,” Kaladin said for the second time. “A member of the Knights Radiant.”
There was a silence. Adolin stared at him, expression unreadable behind his faceplate, twisting the reins in his hands.
Finally, in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone, he said, “You’ll want to talk to Aunt Navani, then.”
Kaladin hesitated. “Why?”
Adolin hesitated in a very similar way. “If you don’t already know, best to let her tell you.” Then he flicked his horse into motion again, leaving Kaladin behind.
By the time they arrived at Sadeas’ warcamp, Kaladin had temporarily given up on trying to convince Dalinar he wasn’t a Herald. As long as he was going to free the bridgemen, there would be other opportunities to convince him.
The bridgemen...storms. Bridge Four--if it even was the fourth bridge--was still filled with unfamiliar faces, faces that stared at him in a mix of awe and fear. Indistinguishable from the common darkeyed soldiers but for their clothes.
There was an ache in Kaladin’s chest of he thought of his Bridge Four. They were likely dead in this strange parallel world. He had to get back to his world, his people somehow.
Kaladin’s thoughts were cut off by an excited shout. He glanced up briefly, searching his memory for the first time this had happened. Right; there’d been a crowd waiting for Dalinar when he’d gotten back, and Renarin and Navani had been--
Adolin barreled forward to hug his father as Dalinar dismounted his horse.
Adolin sat atop Sureblood, watching himself sprint at Dalinar.
What? Kaladin thought, his head spinning. Two--how? There can’t be--unless--
Unless Adolin wasn’t the one wearing Shardplate at all.
The other man swung himself off his horse and stepped forwards as Adolin released Dalinar. He held out an arm, and Adolin grinned and grabbed it, hugging the man tightly. There was a spurt of muffled laughter, and the man wearing Plate opened his faceplate to reveal a grinning, spectacled face.
Renarin was wearing Shardplate. Renarin had been the one trusted to go and fight in battle while Adolin had stayed behind. Kaladin’s heart pounded wildly with confusion and disorientation.
The cosmere wasn’t done messing with what he knew as reality, it seemed.
Initially, the world Kaladin had been swept into had a single point of divergence that led to his absence, allowing a space to be filled.
Unfortunately for him, once he’d filled that space the world shifted wildly in order to accommodate him, ripple after ripple spreading through the cosmere.
We return to the pond metaphor, expanding our minds a little. We look at it in four dimensions, perhaps five. See how while there is one pond for this reality, it is layered on top of itself. See how the ripples transcend the layers, sending splashes up and down the layers (as much as “up” and “down” exist in this space, anyways).
See how the water from the ponds splash into each other.
By the time the world had got itself righted around Kaladin, the circumstances were rather different from the ones he remembered.
Chapter 3: questions
We get more questions and perhaps an answer or two
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
For lack of any better ideas, Kaladin decided to take Adolin’s—no, Renarin’s— advice and hunt out Navani Kholin.
He didn’t find her, however. Instead, he found Jasnah in Elhokar’s rooms, reading at his desk.
She looked up. “Ah, yes. You’re Uncle’s pet Herald.” Kaladin couldn’t help but bristle at the last two words. He was nobody’s pet, and he was getting incredibly sick of people calling him a Herald.
She stood, and extended her freehand. “Queen Jasnah Kholin. You aren’t actually a Herald, are you? You’re a Knight Radiant.”
Despite his relief, Kaladin crossed his arms. “I’ve been telling people that. Dalinar won’t listen.”
“He’s always been stubborn,” she said, her hand still extended. “He didn’t listen when I warned him about Sadeas. Windrunner or Skybreaker? Reports say you flew, so Gravitation.”
“Windrunner,” Kaladin said. “And you’re—” Context hit him like he had insulted its mother. “...You’re not supposed to be queen for two more years.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I’ve been queen since my father died.”
Oh, storms, not more of this. Kaladin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you still an Elsecaller? And what happened to Elhokar?”
Jasnah finally dropped her hand. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said stiffly. She paused, then added, “They’re off somewhere. Mostly getting me books, collecting stories, and wandering.”
They? Kaladin wondered. As in Elhokar and...who? His spren, maybe?
He decided it wasn’t worth it for now. “Listen, I’m not from here.”
“Not from here ,” he stressed. “I’m from—” He paused. Now that he was about to say it, he was starting to realize that it sounded ridiculous. But he had the truth to back it up and, more importantly, no other idea what to do. “I’m from another world, one a lot like this one.”
Jasnah cocked an eyebrow.
“Look,” he said. “It’s true. How else would I know you’re Radiant?”
“You don’t know I’m Radiant,” Jasnah said stiffly. Storms, she was a terrible liar. Was she like that in his world too?
“Are they still shadows in the mirrors or whatever, then?”
“That’s El—” She cut herself off. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Kaladin was the one who raised his eyebrows this time, crossing his arms again. “Uh-huh.”
She sighed. “Fine. Yes, I’m an Elsecaller.”
He nodded. “So can you explain exactly what is going on with...the last few years.”
She blew out a deep breath. “I’m no historian, but I’ll try.”
Tanalk cleared his throat. “Excuse me? Telinar Mevani?”
The yellow-eyed man turned in his seat at the table in the dark, dingy inn. Four darkeyed men sat with him: a Horneater with crisp red hair, an Azish man, and two Alethi men, one grey-haired and balding and the other young with a simmering hatred in his eyes. “I hope you have a good reason for insisting on this location. It’s not doing any wonders for my reputation, I’ll have you know.”
Tanalk coughed loudly. “Apologies. We needed some measures for secrecy.” He paused. “You’re tenth dahn, aren’t you? It’s not like you warrant a better inn anyways.”
Mevani raised an eyebrow and stared at him. Tanalk felt his face flush. He was on the verge of breaking down and apologizing when Mevani finally spoke. “Keep in mind what you’re here to ask for, and choose your words better.”
Tanalk winced. He did, in fact, know exactly what he was here to ask for.
“Brightlord Meridas Amaram.” He plunked a sack down on the table. Mevani waved a hand at the Azish man, not breaking eye contact.
He opened the sack, eyes widening. “That’s...a lot of money. This should be sufficient.”
Mevani tilted his head, frowning slightly. “That’s back the way we came from, though. We’ll be losing a lot of progress.”
“Sir? I don’t think you understand,” the Azish man said. “This is a lot of money. We could all retire off of this.”
Mevani started slightly, finally turning away from Tanalk. “What, all of us?”
“All of us.”
Tanalk had to suppress a smile at the unshakable man, shaken.
The younger Alethi man spoke up, the hatred still simmering in his eyes. Tanalk wondered idly if he looked like that with every client. “A lot of money is no good if we’re storming caught and killed. We should continue on.”
Mevani tilted his head slightly and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms.
The Horneater shrugged. “Whatever we do, we are taking a risk. No money, no supplies. Money, Amaram."
“It’s enough to retire the entire crew.” The grey-haired Alethi glanced around. “Besides, Telinar, wasn’t Amaram…”
Mevani sighed. “Yes, he was.” He brushed his hair to the side, though it hadn’t been getting in his face. “It’s still a colossal risk. On the one hand, money. On the other hand, he’s a storming Shardbearer and I don’t want to be within a 10-mile radius of him ever again.” He paused. “On the third hand…”
The men shared a knowing glance.
Mevani nodded. “We’ll do it.”
Tanalk grinned. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
The waves in the ponds are starting to settle. The unseen effects are sliding into place, waiting in the wings for their individual moments, for their starring roles.
The first number is over, and Act 1 begins.
theatre metaphors yeehaw
Chapter 4: making conversation
Jasnah’s ‘brief’ rundown included everything she remembered within the last six years, almost none of which Kaladin actually absorbed. They’d had to go over the conversation several times before he had a solid idea of what was going on.
Things were, by and large, the same. It just didn’t seem like it because most of the people Kaladin was close to had changed. Elhokar and Jasnah had known about each other’s powers for three years now; Adolin was the one with epileptic fits in this world while Renarin had always fought by his father’s side; Navani was having Dalinar’s visions, which meant she was the Bondsmith-to-be. Things like that.
The moment Kaladin had indicated he had a more complete understanding of what was happening, Jasnah had all but thrown him at her mother and left the situation.
So now he was having a staring contest with Navani Kholin.
“So,” she said eventually. “You’re Dalinar’s Herald that followed him home.”
“I’m not a Herald,” Kaladin said for the hundredth time. He was starting to think he should begin introducing himself that way. “Both your children are Radiants, you should know this.”
She nodded. “It’s a joke.”
She sighed heavily. “The Desolations are returning. The Everstorm approaches. And now there are three Radiants.”
Kaladin shifted his weight, crossing his arms. He knew how this went in his world; did that count as seeing the future? Should he even offer it?
“Unite them,” mumbled Navani. “I need to recall Elhokar. Bring the Radiants together. Dalinar trusted Sadeas, and that was wrong. Hopefully this won’t backfire.” She looked sharply at him. “Windrunner, yes? Did you have squires?”
Kaladin couldn’t stop a flinch. “I did,” he said. “But they’re back in--” he paused. Jasnah hadn’t mentioned that Kaladin was from another world when she’d briefed her mother quickly. He decided to trust in her instincts. “I had to leave them behind,” he finished. “We can’t count on their help. They’re in a place I...can’t reach yet.”
Storms, he hoped it was only yet…
“Well, you’ll just have to get more squires, then.”
“...It doesn’t work like that, Brightness.”
Navani shot him a scorching look. “What part of Desolations returning did you miss? We need Radiants, we need fighters. We need protectors. Find a way to get it done, Windrunner!”
Kaladin found himself saluting automatically. “I’ll...see what I can do.”
Navani nodded sharply, darkly. “Good.”
Tanalk closed the door softly behind him. “Brightlord, sir. I commissioned the mercenaries, as ordered. They took the job.”
“I’m no Brightlord, Tanalk,” said his employer, despite his light violet eyes. “You can use my name.”
Tanalk swallowed, then nodded, the pit of dread in his stomach growing ever colder. “Yes, Mraize, sir. The job was completed. May I go?”
Mraize smiled, and Tanalk’s stomach lurched in terror. “You are dismissed.”
Tanalk nodded again, then almost ran from the room, tripping over his own feet.
Chapter 5: introspection and outrospection
After Kaladin finally convinced Navani that he couldn’t snap his fingers and magically produce a squad of squires out of thin air--or out of no bond, more accurately--she sent him away in a manner that honestly reminded him of Jasnah’s, though maybe with a touch less relief.
By now it was getting late. In his own world, Kaladin had gone to speak with Dalinar at this moment, as the sun set. He’d received a cloak with the Kholin crest and the steady reassurance that his men would be taken care of.
In this world...he’d spent that time listening to Navani try and work out the visions, gather Radiants, plan for a Desolation. Had Dalinar been like that in his world, constantly trying to plan and replan for the future, or was that simply a trait of his wife’s?
For that matter--without the visions, how had Dalinar changed? He’d seemed more willing to be directed and ordered, less...steady, somehow. Was that only the shock of Kaladin’s supposed Herald-ness, or did it speak of something more…?
Kaladin groaned and shoved a pillow over his face. He didn’t want to think about this, he wanted to be asleep. His mind wouldn’t shut up, wouldn’t let him drop into the blankness of sleep.
Almighty, he hated nights like this.
Kaladin showed up for uniform fittings the next day. Once again, he remembered doing this in his own world; and once again, it was Navani instead of Dalinar who’d given him the order last night, something along the lines of it being improper to have a Radiant looking like a bridgeman.
The rest of the bridgemen were getting uniforms as well, but not tailored ones like Bridge Four had once had.
There was no Bridge Four. There was no replacement for the Cobalt Guard, all dead. Faintly, Kaladin wondered who Dalinar would be picking instead. Did they even need a Cobalt Guard when it was Jasnah who was being guarded?
He shook his head with a slight sigh. No point in thinking about that. After this, he’d go to the bridge crews, see what he could teach them. That he’d been ordered to do it left a strange, sour taste in his mouth, curled unhappily in his gut. You couldn’t order a squire bond into existence.
But he’d better damn well try to if he wanted to keep people alive in the long run.
Kaladin shook it off again--or tried to--and stepped into the fitting room. Then he stopped in his tracks.
“Oh, hey,” the prince said, blinking, “you know my name?”
“What are you doing...here?” Kaladin gestured vaguely, deliberately ignoring Adolin’s question.
“I work here,” Adolin said cheerfully. “I talked people into letting me do your uniform. Do you know your measurements, or--actually I’m going to take them anyways, it doesn’t matter. Are you going to stand there all day?”
Kaladin moved further into the room automatically as his brain tried to catch up with all that. “You...work here,” he repeated. He’d known Adolin didn’t, couldn’t--not couldn’t, wasn’t allowed to--fight in this world, but he hadn’t put any thought into what he’d been doing instead.
“Yeah,” Adolin confirmed with a nod. “I won’t stab you with a needle if I have a fit or something, I can usually tell when they’re coming. There’s no reason to be afraid.”
“That’s not--” Kaladin shook his head. “It’s not that. You just seemed more like a, the…” he waved a hand helplessly.
“Scholarly type?” Adolin said dryly, picking up a tape measure. “Or were you going for socialite?”
Kaladin blinked. “I was going to say duelist.”
Adolin blinked back. “...Huh.” A self-conscious smile came to his face. “Wasn’t expecting that, I’ll admit. Lift your arms, will you?”
Kaladin lifted his arms. “Why—“ He stopped himself. Of course Adolin hadn’t been expecting that. Renarin and Adolin had switched, like Elhokar and Jasnah. This version of him wouldn’t be used to people assuming he could fight.
“Why what?” Adolin asked, glancing up at Kaladin as he wrapped the tape measure around him. Kaladin shifted uncomfortably. This hadn’t happened last time he’d gone to get a uniform.
On the bright side, it gave him an excuse to answer. “Why can’t I just...get a stock uniform?”
Adolin laughed outright, and at least that was still familiar. “For you? Brightlord Hero, the man who saved my father and brother and can fly? You’re not ordinary in any sense of the word, and your uniform won’t be either.”
Kaladin half-bristled before he registered Adolin had said hero, not herald. Storms, did the man know his name yet? “...Kaladin.”
“Huh?” Adolin glanced at him again. “Oh, you can drop your arms now.”
Kaladin let them fall to his sides. “My name’s Kaladin.”
Adolin cocked his head. “Are you picking a fake name to go with whatever you did to your eyes? That isn’t a very darkeyed name, you know.”
“My--” That’s right, his eyes would have gone back to brown by now. “That’s my real name. My eyes normally look like this, they only turn blue when I summon Sy--my Shardblade.”
Adolin visibly paused. “Huh,” he said again, in a tone that Kaladin couldn’t decipher. “Hope you’re willing to summon it a lot, then. People aren’t happy when they find that something meant to be great doesn’t...meet their expectations.”
Kaladin eyed the prince. He’d heard that kind of talk from Renarin, back in his world. Was Adolin talking about himself?
“Well,” he said instead, avoiding the question, “it wouldn’t be the first time.”
Adolin hummed in acknowledgement and changed the topic.
A Veden man stood next to an Alethi of indeterminable gender. The Alethi sat on the edge of a cliff, legs swinging in the gap of thin air. The red-haired Veden stood with his arms crossed, gazing at the view below.
“So,” the Alethi said, “how long have you had this Skybreaker retreat setup? I find it hard to believe nobody’s found you before.”
“I don’t know the answer to that,” the Veden said stiffly. “Even if I did, why would I tell you? Why hasn’t Nale killed you yet?”
“Oh, he’s tried. But if you mean right now, it’s because I’ve been Lightweaving to look like one of you when he’s around and you’re the only one who’s picked up on it so far.” They hesitated. “What’s your name?”
“I asked first.” The Skybreaker looked down to stare at them, and they stared right back. “Please, I grew up with a sister who can out-stare anyone. You’re not winning this one.”
The man sighed. “Helaran Davar.”
A grin. “Well, Helaran. How would you like to take a trip to the Shattered Plains with Elhokar Kholin?”
Chapter 6: dissonant notes
ik we've been gone for Forever
but everything has, calmed slightly and we finally got around to this
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kaladin was beginning to despair of the bridge crews learning anything. Oh, sure, there were plenty willing to learn--or, at least, to go through the motions--but without Bridge Four to help him take on the workload, with the grating pressure of Navani’s order to form a squire bond…
Part of their success depending on Kaladin’s willingness to teach. And Kaladin--Kaladin just couldn’t muster the ability to care about them.
He felt terrible. These men could die without training. He could remember his pride back in his own world, watching them succeed, could remember his determination to help them.
Remembering that it existed didn’t help him summon it now.
Kaladin sighed. “That’s enough for today, men.”
The bridgemen dropped their spears--in some cases, literally, letting them fall to the chasm floor. Several others started to wander off aimlessly. Someone actually collapsed to the chasm floor, making Kaladin wince. He snapped an order to pick the spears up and walked over to help the collapsed man to his feet as the bridgemen shuffled towards the chasm’s exit.
The man was not a man. That is, he was barely a man--a teenager, barely old enough to serve. As always, Kaladin’s heart seized for a brief moment, overlaying Tien’s face on the other boy’s. How had someone this young ended up on the bridge crews?
The boy mumbled out a weak thanks. Kaladin managed to nod in return.
Storms. What was he going to do if he couldn’t summon the motivation to protect?
The boy’s face haunted Kaladin for the rest of the day. He didn’t even know his name. He didn’t even really want to know his name, and his own indifference was starting to frighten him. He needed to care about them, he needed to keep people safe.
But he’d done it all before, and the thought of slogging through it all again was horrifying. All Kaladin wanted was to go home.
If he left things as they stood, people would die. That should have made him feel something, and it did cause a twisting feeling in his gut when he thought about it. But he knew that he would have abandoned this world in a heartbeat to get back to his own.
Did that make him a bad person? If he’d leave hundreds, thousands of people to die solely to go back to his Bridge Four, his Dalinar, his Adolin, his--
Kaladin didn’t move, although he grunted to acknowledge the prince.
Renarin sat down awkwardly next to him. “Hi.”
Kaladin grunted again.
“So,” Renarin began. “How’s...it going?”
Kaladin blinked. He couldn’t stop a half-smile from forming on his face. After the familiar-but-not motions of training the bridgemen, it was nice to know that Renarin was still...well... Renarin. “Fine. Thanks.”
“That’s good,” mumbled Renarin.
There was a silence.
Syl took it upon herself to break it, letting out a small huff before she whirled to stand in front of Renarin’s face. “Your Blade isn’t the same as Adolin’s,” she said. “Where’d you get it?”
Renarin jerked back so hard he almost fell over. Kaladin had to put a hand on his shoulder to steady him. “I--I--what? Adolin doesn’t have a Blade. What are you?”
The corners of Kaladin’s mouth twitched upwards. “This is Sylphrena. She’s my spren.”
The incredulousness in his voice killed Kaladin’s smile. Right. Of course. Renarin didn’t know. “Mm. She’s how I’m a Radiant.”
“Really? A spren?” Renarin sounded thoughtful. “Huh.”
“Obviously. We’re gods. Little pieces of them.” Syl made a pinching motion with one hand, then tossed her hair over her shoulder and put her hands on her hips. “And you didn’t answer my question! Where did you get your Blade from?”
Renarin blinked. “I won it.” He held out his hand. “On the battlefield. There was a Shardbearer who was trying to kill Father. I got there first.” The Blade that dropped into his hand was unfamiliar, the pride in his voice incongruent with the words he was saying, and suddenly Kaladin felt sick.
This Renarin had been allowed to fight. His Blade didn’t scream at him. He didn’t have to struggle for every scrap of respect. He wouldn’t have joined Bridge Four when the time came. Wouldn’t have learned to read and write. He might never bond Glys, might never be a Truthwatcher.
“That’s nice,” Kaladin mumbled. “I...gotta go.” He couldn’t be here. Not with this Renarin who was right-but-wrong, not with the face of the teenaged bridgeman still floating in the back of his mind, not in this storming world.
Kaladin scrambled to his feet, giving the prince a stiff nod, picked a random direction, and walked off at a rapid pace, wishing he could just leave all his swirling thoughts behind.
Eshonai felt it in her gemheart, in her bones. Something was off, like a Rhythm out of tune. Her memories had a layer of wrongness around them, a hazy off-key hum.
She was the one who had pushed for a newly discovered form to be used against the Alethi...wasn’t she? Wasn’t Venli the one who had rejected it, claiming that the Alethi Surgebinder made outright war more dangerous? Wasn’t Eshonai the one who had been furious at this denial, that the hours and hours of work she’d put into finding such a form would go to waste?
Wasn’t Venli the scholar who’d chosen warform, their reluctant Shardbearer? Wasn’t Eshonai the mapmaker who’d turned to scholarship, researching their lost forms in hopes of finding a way to end the war?
But Eshonai stared at nimbleform’s delicate, long-fingered hands and felt with every beat that her body should be covered in warform’s carapace. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine the Blade in her hands, the Plate on her body.
She knew how to use their Shards.
She just didn’t know how she knew.
All she was certain of was that something was wrong.
whoops i fucked up the formatting first time around
Chapter 7: gathering storm
The last thing in the world Kaladin had expected to see was Bridge Four.
He’d convinced himself they were dead, had to be. He hadn’t seen their faces in all the time he’d been training this world’s bridgemen; and without him there to motivate and train them, how would his Bridge Four ever have managed to survive?
Dead. All dead. Teft, Skar, Sigzil, Rock, Lopen, Drehy, even now-traitorous Moash…
Kaladin absently sidestepped a one-armed Herdazian helping a short, wiry Alethi carry a sign.
He would never see--wait. Wait.
Kaladin spun. “Skar?! Lopen?!”
“Oh, hey, gancho,” Lopen said cheerily. “New face, eh? Looks a little grumpy.”
“Wh--how--” Kaladin stuttered, half-certain he was hallucinating. “What are you doing here?”
Both of them looked down at the sign in their hands.
“Setting up, like you said to?” Skar ventured. “Ti--Telinar, did you hit your head? Do you need Light?”
Who in Damnation was Telinar?
“Brightlord Herald!” A young woman skidded to a stop in front of him. “Navani Kholin requests your presence immediately.”
“How many storming times do I have to say I’m not a Herald?” Kaladin said in exasperation.
Skar and Lopen blinked and looked at each other.
“Sorry, Brightlord,” Skar said slowly. “Wrong man.” He and Lopen picked up the sign and sped away, almost sprinting.
Kaladin was left more confused than ever.
“Hey, Lopen,” Skar started. “That guy’s eyes were dark, right?”
“Then why did that aide call him Brightlord?”
Lopen considered. “Good question.”
Kaladin stepped into the room the aide had brought him to and found that Navani was not alone. Standing in the room with her was Jasnah and two people that played oddly with Kaladin’s recognition; an Alethi in travel-worn clothes that he was sure he ought to know, and a faintly familiar Veden man.
The androgynous Alethi and the Veden man were in the midst of a conversation they didn’t bother to stop for him. “Welcome to the world of Alethi politics. Assassins at every corner, traitors behind every mask.”
“You don’t make it sound very appealing,” the Veden man replied dryly.
“There you are,” Navani said sternly, making the Alethi break off mid-sentence. “Thank you, Harel, you may leave.” The girl scampered out, closing the door behind her. Navani turned her attention to him. “Kaladin. You’ve met Jasnah. This is Elhokar, my youngest, and...a Skybreaker they’ve picked up, who I’m sure they were just about to introduce to me.” She shot hi-- them-- shot them a pointed look.
“Helaran Davar.” The Veden man glanced at Elhokar. “Skybreaker.”
Davar. Davar like Shallan. Where had Kaladin heard Helaran before? He knew he had…
Elhokar shrugged--storms, they looked so different in those clothes, without the mantle of the crown weighing them down--and gestured back at Helaran. “I was getting there, Mother. Anyways, as I was telling Helaran, Alethi politics are a maze of smiling masks and hidden knives.”
Elhokar was much more straightforward about their feelings in this world, apparently.
“Been there, done that,” Kaladin grumbled. “Storming hate it.”
“This man--” Elhokar paused, then turned to him. “Is man okay?”
Kaladin shrugged. “Yes?”
“This man gets it. Luckily, while I have my fair share of enemies here who might ignore the strength of the Kholins just to see my head on a spear, you haven’t pissed anyone off that badly yet. The whole guest bit means Helaran is fairly protected, and you’re openly a ‘Herald--’”
“Yes, I know, the point is people think you are, meaning anyone who kills you will have a Damnation of a time with publicity and risk open revolt.”
Storms, Elhokar had a much better handle on what they were doing in this world. Kaladin had only barely interacted with the Jasnah of his homeworld, but he’d heard of her competence and was starting to see how it had been switched to Elhokar. Free to travel, no pressure ...could two little things change a man--person--that much?
Helaran nodded slowly. “So I’m your guest is the plan?”
“Well, I tried to arrange a marriage, but apparently Renarin has found someone. Of course, it was Adolin who told me that, so he might just be trying to get his brother a love life again.”
Kaladin and Helaran both stared at them. “...You tried to what?!”
“I would have asked you!” They paused. “...Eventually!”
Jasnah snorted, the first sound Kaladin had heard out of her all day. “So very like you, sibling.”
“Am I that predictable?” Elhokar asked, smiling.
“As predictable as Wit.”
Elhokar grinned. “How is Wit, anyways? Best Wit we’ve ever had, I adore that man.”
Jasnah shrugged. “He went missing again.” Kaladin started to wonder if it was the same Wit as his homeworld when she added, “Do you want to substitute until he shows up again?”
Elhokar’s face lit up in a way Kaladin had never seen in his own world. He found himself exchanging a glance with Helaran as Navani let out an exasperated sigh.
The whole thing was incredibly surreal, but with the way this day had been going it managed to loop back around into something almost familiar.
The set is nearly ready. Almost all the pieces have been introduced. The last few are coming out of the box.
It’s almost time to start solving the puzzle.