Lirin was of the opinion that tragedy was the means by which the Almighty proved the virtue of men. How else was one to explain the events of the past year?
He ducked his head and stepped to the side respectfully, pulling his cloak tight as <Abijan?> strolled past. He remembered setting her arm in a splint some ten years before, soon after her arrival in the town, though she’d been called <Adi?> back then. Brightlord Wistiow had paid good money for her, and after she’d broken her arm, he’d wanted his investment protected.
Now, instead of a simple smock, the parshwoman wore a fine silken havah. White, which was an odd color. Lirin didn’t think he’d ever seen a human woman wear a dress that shade. But the Fused taught that in the past, the parshmen—or singers, as they now began to be called—had preferred solid and often muted colors to not distract from the patterns of their skin. <Abijan>, like many of the town’s new parshman Brightlords, listened intently to what the Fused said about the past. They treated the ways of the ancient parshmen like scripture, but couldn’t cover up that they were more Alethi than they were like those old singers. <Abijan> wore her safehand in a sleeve, and when she spoke to her companions, two townspeople who currently had her favor, she didn’t have even a hint of an accent.
Her skin patterns were swirling shapes, like mixing paint, red on white. Lirin had to admit the pattern was indeed striking against the white robe. He kept his eyes down, however, and remained by the side of the pathway, waiting until the parshwoman disappeared in the morning fog. Such extreme deference wasn’t required, but it was best to be careful when you were known as a potential troublemaker.
Lirin pulled his cloak tight again and continued on his way through the dense fog. Though the sun was well above the horizon, he saw it only as a vaguely circular white blotch. They’d been seeing spring weather lately in Hearthstone, and that meant morning fog. A welcome shroud for his chosen activities this day.
As he neared the perimeter of the town, he passed an increasing number of improvised shanties, blankets and tarps stretching between rooftops, making a kind of shelter for the crowded refugees. Entire streets were closed off this way. The sound of plates clinking and people talking rose through the fog surrounding him. These shanties would never last a storm, of course, but they could quickly be torn down and stowed. There just wasn’t enough housing otherwise. Hearthstone, as one of the towns of modest size this close to the Herdazian border, was clogged with refugees these days. In Herdaz, men could claim to fight for freedom, but how free were the corpses they left to bleed into the storm waters?
In some ways, little had changed, despite the coming of the Everstorm and the awakening of the parshmen. The skin of some involved in the battles changed, but the same old conflicts raged. Those who had a little taste of power wanted more, and sought it with the sword. The normal people bled, and men like Lirin had to try to put them back together. At least it seemed to almost be over. Word was that the resistance in Herdaz had finally collapsed, and the singers were securing dominance in the country. That meant more refugees for a time, but maybe after that, everything could settle back down and men could stop killing one another.
Unfortunately, as he emerged from a line of shanties, he found a sorry lot waiting for him. It was hard to get a count in the fog, but there had to be a good hundred people here. And with Hearthstone already nearing bursting, where were they going to fit so many?
So the rest of the chapter outline goes—and the rest of it’s in a real big mess—Lirin is there, he’s kind of looking through the refugees for sickness. Really, he’s keeping an eye out for that Herdazian general that had an interlude in the third book. He’s gonna be relevant here, they’re gonna try and hide him. But then they’re looking through the refugees, and one of them is Kaladin!