This is a very rough draft. I only have been working on this this very week. These prologues to the Stormlight books, they require some really intricate Tetris in making all the pieces lock together. And I’ve already found one mistake I actually made in Rhythm of War to get the timeline to align perfectly. So if you’re looking at this and saying, “Wow, the timeline minutia of the prologues isn’t quite locking together,” we will make that work. So don’t worry about that. Otherwise, things in this are subject to change. There are tweaks I’m going to make. But I figured, since the book is more than a year away, this would be fun to give the community so that they could have something to talk about and to read and to plan for. This does not have any major spoilers for Stormlight Five, obviously, and only minor spoilers, really for the rest, just because all these prologues take place on the same day.
This is the first draft of the prologue to Stormlight Book Five. It’s called: To Live.
Prologue: To Live
Gavilar Kholin was on the verge of immortality.
He merely had to find the right Words to say.
He walked in a circle around the nine Honorblades, driven point-first into the stone ground. The air smelled of burned flesh—a sickening, charred scent made all the more nauseating by the body’s hunger response to it. He’d been to enough death pyres to know that scent intimately, though he got the sense that in this battle, bodies hadn’t been burned after the fighting—but during it.
“They call it Aharietiam,” he said, trailing around the Blades, letting his fingers linger on each one. When he became a Herald, would his Blade become like these, imbued with power and lore? “The end of the world. Was it a lie?”
That depends, the Stormfather said in his mind, upon your definition of lies. Many who name it such believed what they said.
“And these,” he said, gesturing to the Blades. “The Heralds. What did they believe?”
If they had been entirely truthful in their lives, the Stormfather said, then I would not be seeking their replacements.
Gavilar nodded. “I swear this oath: to serve Honor and the land of Roshar as its Herald. Better than these did.”
Those are not the Words, the Stormfather said. You will never arrive at them by random attempts, Gavilar.
He would continue to try, nonetheless. He had not achieved his current status—as the most powerful man in the world—without doing things others thought impossible. Fortunately, he didn’t need to rely too much on guesswork. He had other, more promising leads.
He rounded the ring of Blades again, alone with them in the shadow of monolithic stones. By now, after dozens of times in this particular vision, he could name each and every blade and its associated Herald. The Stormfather, however, remained cagey about what he could do with these visions. Each day, it seemed like Gavilar discovered something new, and the Stormfather claimed it was not the way things were supposed to go. How much could he have accomplished if the spren would work with him instead of against him?
No matter. He would have his prize. He seized a sinuous, curved Blade. Belonging to the Herald Jezrien. Gavilar ripped it from the stone and swung it, enjoying the sound of it cutting the wind.
“Nohadon knew the Heralds,” he said. “He knew them well, during a Return during his time, before their deaths.”
Yes, the Stormfather admitted.
“It is in there, isn’t it?” he said. “The right Words are somewhere in The Way of Kings?”
As he’d suspected. Gavilar had the entire book memorized by now—he’d taught himself to read years ago, of course. It had been worth the effort to experience the undertext alone. If he had known how much fun the women were having with those commentaries, he’d have insisted on learning to read years before. But the actual reason to read learned was more important: being able to search for secrets without revealing what he was doing to the women in his life.
He tossed the Herald’s blade aside, letting it clang against the stone—which made the Stormfather hiss in annoyance. Gavilar mentally chided himself. It was just a vision, and these slivers of it were nothing to him, but he had to keep up appearances for the spren. He needed to be seen as pious, and worthy, until he achieved his prize. The Stormfather’s opinion of him might be relevant to the transformation.
Next, he took up Chanarach’s blade. He was fond of this one. It had ornamentation like the others—this one focused on a large arrowhead design near the hilt—but went beyond that, even. The blade was bifurcated, with a slit down the center. That long hole in the center would be impossible—or at least highly impractical—for a normal sword. A foolish design for a common weapon. Here, it was a symbol that this blade was something unnatural, impossible.
“Chanarach,” he said, “was a soldier. I believe it; this is a soldier’s Blade. Solid and straight, but with that little impossibility missing from the center. I should liked to have seen her in battle. Lore often claims she has flaming red hair. Is that true?”
“I feel I know them each so well,” he said, holding the Blade in front of him, then turning it to its edge. “My colleagues. Yet I could not pick them out of a crowd.”
Your colleagues only if you can find the Words.
Those Words. The most important ones Gavilar would ever say. When he found the right ones, he would be accepted into the Oathpact, and ascend beyond mortality. He had not yet asked which Herald he would replace; it felt crass, and he did not want to appear crass before the Stormfather. He suspected, though, he would replace Talenelat, the one who had not left his Blade before striking into the world, then dying. After all, it seemed his actions—being out of line with the others—were most in danger of breaking the Oathpact.
Gavilar stabbed the sword back down into the stone. “Let us return.”
The vision ended immediately and he found himself back in his study on the third floor of his palace. Books in shelves on the wall, a quiet desk for reading, tapestries and carpets to keep the echo of voices down. He wore his finery for the upcoming feast, regal clothing more archaic than was fashionable—to match his beard, which also stood out among the Alethi lighteyes. He wanted them to think of him as something older, almost something ancient, beyond their petty games.
Technically, this room had been assigned to Navani, but this was his palace. Everything in it belonged to him. People rarely looked for him here, and after the confusion lately—full of little people with little problems—he had needed a place where he could be settled with his thoughts.
His guards had not knocked to warn of his guests arriving; if they had, the Stormfather would have told him in the vision. So Gavilar took from his pocket a small book, which listed the latest surveys of the region around the Shattered Plains. Yes...he was increasingly certain that place held an ancient Oathgate—and things the Stormfather said made him think it might actually be unlocked. Through that, he could find mythical Urithiru, and there, records the ancient Heralds might have written.
Just another avenue, among dozens, he was pursuing. He would find the right Words. He was close. So tantalizingly close to the thing all men secretly desired, but only ten had ever achieved. Eternal life. A legacy that spanned millennia—because you were there to shepherd it.
It is not so grand as you think it to be, the spren said. Which gave him pause. He looked around the small room, but the Stormfather was invisible today, not appearing as a shimmer as he sometimes did.
The Stormfather couldn’t read his mind, could it? No. No, he’d tested that. It didn’t know his deepest thoughts, his deepest plans. For if it did know Gavilar’s heart, it wouldn’t be working with him.
“What isn’t?” Gavilar asked, slipping the book back into his pocket.
Immortality, the Stormfather said. It wears on men and women. It weathers them and their minds. Most of the Heralds are insane now—with unnatural ailments of the mind, unique to the circumstances of their ancient natures.
“How long did it take?” Gavilar asked, “until the symptoms started to arrive?”
Difficult to say. A thousand years, perhaps two.
“Then I will have that long to find a solution,” Gavilar said. “A much more reasonable timeline than the century—with luck—afforded a mortal. Wouldn’t you say?”
And you are willing to accept the cost? Everyone you know will be dust by the time you return.
And here, the lie. “A king’s duty is to his people,” he said. “By becoming a Herald, I can see to Alethkar’s needs in a way that no previous monarch ever has. I can suffer personal pains in order to accomplish this.”
The Stormfather seemed to mull this over. Gavilar wasn’t sure if it believed him when he said things like that or not.
“If I should die,” Gavilar said, quoting the Way of Kings, “then I would do so having lived my life right. It is not the destination that matters, but how one arrives there.”
Not even close, the spren said. Guessing will not bring you to the Words, Gavilar.
Yes, well, the words were in that volume somewhere. Sheltered among the self-righteous moralizing like a whitespine in the brambles. It wasn’t any of the obvious quotes, so Gavilar had begun to say ones that were less obvious. And if this didn’t yield fruit, and the quest for Urithiru proved to be a dead end...well, he had other avenues.
Gavilar Kholin was not a man accustomed to losing. That was how the greatest men lived their lives. They didn’t accept failure or loss. People got what they expected. And he expected not just victory, but divinity.
The guard knocked softly. Was it time already? Gavilar called for Petinor to come in, but he didn’t lead Restares or any of the others Gavilar had meetings with today.
“Sire,” the man said. “Your brother is here.”
“What? How did he find me?”
“Spotted us standing watch, I suspect, your majesty.”
Bother. “Let him in,” Gavilar said.
The guard bowed and withdrew. A second later, Dalinar burst in—as graceful as a three-legged chull. He slammed the door and bellowed, “Gavilar. I want to go talk to the Parshendi.”
Gavilar took a long, deep breath. “Brother, I warned you to stay away from the creatures. This is a very delicate situation, and we don’t want to offend them.”
“I won’t offend them,” Dalinar grumbled. He wore his takama, an old-fashioned warrior’s garb, with open-fronted robe showing a powerful chest—but with some grey hairs. He pushed past Gavilar and threw himself down into the seat by the desk.
That poor chair.
“Why, Dalinar,” Gavilar said, hand to his forehead. “Why do you even care about them?”
“Why do you?” Dalinar demanded. “This treaty, this sudden interest in their lands. Why? What are you planning? Tell me what it is. I deserve to know.”
Dear, blunt Dalinar. As subtle as a jug of Horneater white. And equally smart.
“Tell me straight,” Dalinar continued. “Are you going to go conquer them?”
“Why would I be signing a treaty if that were my intent?”
“I don’t know,” Dalinar said. “I just... I don’t want to see anything happen to them. I like them.”
“I like parshmen.”
“You’ve never noticed a parshman unless he was too slow to bring your drink,” Gavilar said.
“There’s something about these,” Dalinar said. “I feel something about them. A kinship.”
“That’s foolish.” Gavilar walked to the desk, leaning down beside his brother. “Dalinar, what’s happening to you. Where is the Blackthorn?”
“Maybe he’s just tired,” Dalinar said softly. “Or blinded. By the soot and ashes of the dead, constantly in his face...”
For a moment, Gavilar thought he was referencing the vision. That was silly, of course. Dalinar was talking about the event at the Rift. The one that he didn’t think Gavilar knew about.
This was an enormous hassle. Restares would be here soon, and then...there was Thaidakar. So many knives to keep, balanced perfectly on their tips, lest they slide and cut him. He couldn’t deal with Dalinar having a crisis of conscience at the same time.
“Brother,” Gavilar said, “what would Evi say if she saw you like this?”
It was a carefully sharpened spear, slipped expertly into Dalinar’s gut. Because Dalinar didn’t think anyone knew what he’d done. Gavilar could tell, however, from the way Dalinar’s finger’s gripped the table, the way he recoiled at the name.
A subtle reminder. With another, delicately applied.
“She would want you to stand as a warrior,” Gavilar said softly. “And protect Alethkar.”
“I...” Dalinar whispered. “She...”
Gavilar offered a hand and heaved his brother to his feet, then led him to the door. “That’s right. Stand up straight. Stop worrying.”
Dalinar nodded, hand on the doorknob.
“Oh,” Gavilar said. “And Brother? Follow the Codes tonight. There is something strange upon the winds.”
The codes. Which said not to drink when battle might be imminent. Just a nudge to remind Dalinar that it was a feast night, and that there was plenty of wine on hand. Dalinar was out the door a moment later, his lumbering, pliable brain likely thinking only of two things.
First, what he’d done to Evi.
Second, how to find something strong enough to make him forget about the first.
When he was out down the hallway, Gavilar waved Petinor the guard close. He was one of the trusted, a member of the Sons of Honor. A group that was yet another knife that Gavilar kept balanced, for they could never know that he had outgrown them and their plans.
“Follow my brother,” Gavilar said. “See that he gets something to drink, but don’t make it overt that you’re offering. Lead him to the secret stores my wife keeps.”
“You’ve had me do that a few months back, sire,” Petinor whispered back. “So he already knows about it. There’s not much left, I’m afraid. He likes to share with his soldiers.”
“Well, find him something,” Gavilar replied. “I can let Restares and the others in when they arrive. Go.”
The soldier bowed and followed after Dalinar. Gavilar shut the door firmly, though was not surprised when the Stormfather’s voice pushed into his mind.
He has potential you do not see, that one.
“Dalinar? Of course he does. If I can keep him pointed the right direction, he will burn down entire nations.” Gavilar just had to keep him plied with alcohol the other times, so that he didn’t burn down this nation.
He could be more than you think.
“Dalinar is a big, dumb, blunt instrument you apply to problems until they break,” Gavilar said. “Best to keep him occupied otherwise—so he doesn’t get ideas and start seeing you as a problem.” Gavilar shivered, remembering a time on a battlefield, watching his brother approach. Soaked in blood. Eyes seeming to glow red with a hunger for the throne, the life Gavilar had...
That ghost haunted him at times. A vision, sure as the ones the Stormfather gave him, of what Dalinar could have been. Fortunately, the man was a kindly drunk. Both his pain and his addiction made him easy enough to control.
Though he should have had time to work on his plans before Restares arrived, Gavilar was soon interrupted by another knock at the door. He answered it himself, and found nothing outside. Until the Stormfather hissed warning in his mind, and he felt a sudden chill.
When he turned around, Thaidakar was there. The Lord of Scars himself, a figure in an enveloping hooded cloak. Storms. How did he do things like that? He couldn’t be an ordinary man.
“I was made promises,” Thaidakar said, hood shadowing his face. “I’ve given you information, Gavilar, of the most valuable denomination. My payment was to be a single man, delivered to me as requested. But now, I hear you’ve joined his little band of delusional dreamers?”
“I need him in my confidences, Thaidakar,” Gavilar said. “If I’m ever to give him up to you.”
“It seems to me,” Thaidakar said, “that you’re less interested in our bargain, and more interested in your own motives. It seems to me that by asking for him, I only directed you toward something valuable that you’ve decided to keep for yourself. It seems to me that you play games.”
“It seems to me,” Gavilar said, stepping closer to the cloaked figure, “that you’re not in a position to make demands. You need me. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be so desperate. So why don’t we just...keep playing.”
Thaidakar remained still for a moment. Then, with an audible sigh, reached up with gloved hands and took down his hood. Gavilar froze—for despite their several interactions, he’d never before seen the man’s face.
It was blue. Was he...Aimian? Natan? No, this was a softer, glowing blue. Like Thaidakar was made entirely of white-blue light. He was younger than Gavilar had imagined—in his younger middle years, not the wizened elder he’d seemed. And he had a large spike, also blue, through one eye. The point jutted out the back of his skull.
This should have made him seem threatening. But his posture was not one of anger. “Gavilar,” he said, “you need to take care. You’re not immortal yet. While you’ve begun to play in forces that rip mortals apart by their very axi.”
“Do you know what they are?” Gavilar demanded, hungry. “The Words I must speak? The most important words I’ll ever speak?”
“No,” Thaidakar said. “I only want you to take care. Restares is not what you think he is. None of this is what you think it is. Deliver him to my agents, then we’ll give you what you said that you wanted: a return of the ancient days you’ve hungered for. A chance for the powers to come back.”
“I’ve grown beyond that,” Gavilar said.
“You can’t ‘grow beyond’ the tide, Gavilar,” Thaidakar replied. “You swim with it or get swept away. The things we’ve started are in motion. And to be honest, I don’t know that we did that much. I think that tide was coming whatever we did.”
Gavilar grunted. “Well, I intend to—”
He was cut off as Thaidakar transformed. His face melted away, features withdrawing into his head—which became a simple floating sphere. Glowing, with some kind of arcane rune at the center. The cloak vanished into wisps of smoke that evaporated away.
Gavilar growled, hungry. That...that looked a lot like what he’d read of the powers of Lightweavers. Knights Radiant. Was Thaidakar—
“Deliver Restares to me,” the sphere said, vibrating—though it had no mouth. “Or else. That is my ultimatum, Gavilar. You will not like to be my enemy.”
The sphere of light turned nearly transparent, difficult to track as it moved to the door, then shrank, bobbed down and vanished through the crack underneath.
Gavilar rested one hand on his desk, unnerved. “What was that?” he demanded of the Stormfather.
Something dangerous, the spren replied in his mind.
No. Similar, but no.
Gavilar had intended to work on his plans before his next meeting, but he found himself trembling. Which was stupid. He was a storming king, soon to be a demigod. He would not be unnerved by cheap tricks and vague threats.
Still, he sat down at his desk, breathing deeply. It held a few scattered notes and diagrams from his wife’s latest mechanical obsessions. Not for the first time, he wondered. Would Navani be able to crack this question? Should he bring this all to her?
He missed the way they’d once schemed together, during the days when they’d been conquering Alethkar. How long had it been since they’d all just laughed together? He, Ialai, Navani, and Sadeas?
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the kind of secret you shared. He knew those three so very well, and the Spren had hinted there was room for only one new Herald. Ialai or Sadeas would take the prize from him if they could—and he wouldn’t blame them for the attempt.
Navani though... He wondered. Could he trust her? Would she try to take the prize? Would she even see its value? She was so clever, so crafty in some ways. And yet, when he spoke of his goals for a greater legacy, she got lost in the details. Refusing to think of the mountain because she worried about the placement of the foothills.
He regretted how things had been between them lately. That coldness growing—well, grown over—their relationship. It was infecting his relationship with his children as well. Thinking of that sent a stab of pain into his heart. He should...
Everyone you know will be dust by the time you return...
Perhaps this way was best.
He had plans to mitigate his absence from this world, but he couldn’t say for certain if they would work. It might take several tries to perfect his management of the Returns of the enemy. So... Fewer attachments seemed better. To allow for a cleaner cut. Like made with a Shardblade.
Forced his mind to his plans, preparing well by the time Restares arrived. The balding man didn’t knock. He just peeked in, nervously checking each of the corners. Then he slipped in. He was followed by a shadow: a tall, imperious Makabaki man with a birthmark on one cheek. Gavilar had heard of his arrival, had told the two to be given rooms and treated as “ambassadors.” But he hadn’t yet had a chance to speak with this second man.
He walked with a certain...straightness. Firmness. Like he wasn’t a man who gave way. Not to wind, not to storm, and most certainly not to man.
“Gavilar Kholin,” the man said, not offering a hand or bow. “It is good to finally speak to you.” They locked stares.
Gavilar was impressed immediately. When Restares had first asked to bring a friend for this trip, Gavilar had expected...well, someone more like Restares himself.
“Have a drink,” Gavilar said, turning to gesture toward the small bar.
“No,” the man said simply. Not even a thank you or a compliment. Interesting. Intriguing.
Restares, instead, scuttled over like a child offered sweets. Even still, after several years knowing the man—even joining this newest incarnation of his organization—Gavilar found Restares to be...odd. The short, balding man sniffed at each of the wines. Then didn’t take one. He had never trusted a drink in Gavilar’s presence, but always checked anyway. As if he wanted to find poison, to prove to himself his paranoia was justified.
“Sorry,” Restares said, wringing his hands. “Sorry. Not...not thirsty today, Gavilar. Sorry.”
He was an odd one to have caused so much concern. Gavilar was close to tossing him aside. To seizing control of the entire organization.
But...why was Thaidakar so interested in Restares. Hunting him? Plus, periodically, Restares would surprise Gavilar.
Who was this man? Surely, he couldn’t actually be someone important. Perhaps his friend was the true power behind all of this. Could that be the case? Could Gavilar have been kept in the dark for two years about something that important?
“I’m glad you were willing to meet,” Restares said. “Yes, um. Because, um. So... Announcement. I have an announcement.”
Gavilar frowned. “What is this?”
“I hear,” Restares said, “that you’re looking to, um, restore the Voidbringers? To the land?”
“You founded the Sons of Honor, Restares,” Gavilar said, “to recover to men their ancient oaths. To restore the Knights Radiant. Well, they vanished when the Voidbringers did. So if we bring the Voidbringers back, the powers might return to men. It was a logical next step.”
More importantly, he thought, the Heralds will appear. Return from the land of the dead to lead us again.
Letting me usurp one of their positions.
“No, no, no,” Restares said, uncharacteristically firm. “That’s not how you were supposed to do this! I wanted the honor of men to return! I wanted us to explore what made those Radiants so grand. Before things went wrong.” He ran his hand through his thinning hair. “Before...I made them...go wrong...”
Gavilar glanced at Restares’s friend—who waited by the door, arms folded, stern. Like a father who had found his child testing at the adult wines.
Restares wouldn’t meet Gavilar’s eyes. “We...we should stop trying to return the powers at all,” Restares said, voice wilting. “It...it’s dangerous. Too dangerous. We can’t...afford another Return...”
Gavilar felt a sudden jolt of annoyance at this line of argument. Again, he considered simply being rid of the man. But...no. There were secrets here. Besides, Restares was still important to the organization. Amaram respected him, for example, as did many of the others.
“Restares,” Gavilar said, advancing on the little man. “What is wrong with you? You’re talking about betraying everything we believe?” Or at least pretend to believe.
Restares shrugged. “I’ve...been persuaded of the dangers...”
“There are so many more dangers than you know about,” Gavilar said, subtly placing himself so he loomed over Restares, the sniveling man’s back to the corner. “Have you heard of a man named Thaidakar?”
Restares looked up, eyes widening.
“He wants to find you,” Gavilar said. “I have protected you so far. But he makes demands. Do you know why? What is it he wants from you, Restares?”
“Secrets,” Restares whispered. “The man...can’t abide...someone having more secrets than him.”
“What secrets?” Gavilar said firm, causing Restares to cringe down before him. “What is it you know Restares? I’ve put up with your games long enough. Your lies long enough. If you want my support, you need to talk to me. What is going on? What does Thaidakar want?”
“I know where she is hidden,” Restares whispered. “Where her soul is. Ba-Ado-Mishram. Granter of Forms. Their other god. The one who could rival Him. The one...we betrayed.”
Mishram? The unmade? Gavilar frowned, trying to connect that to what he knew. Why would Thaidakar care about an unmade? It didn’t seem to fit. A piece of the puzzle so oddly shaped, he wasn’t even certain how to use it.
“I’ve ruined it all,” Restares said. “You, Gavilar. You’re ruining it all too. Worse. I’ve done it again. I’m...feeling so much worse....”
Gavilar opened his mouth to speak, but a hand took him by the shoulder, firm, each finger like a vise. He turned to see Restares’s Makabaki friend standing behind.
“What have you done?” the man asked, voice like ice. “Gavilar Kholin. What actions have you taken to achieve this goal of yours, the one that my friend mistakenly set you upon?”
“You have no idea,” Gavilar said, holding a hand up toward his shoulder, meeting the stranger’s eyes. The man finally released his grip.
Gavilar took from his pocket a pouch, then casually spilled a group of spheres onto the table. “I’m close,” he said, “to achieving what we want, what we need. Restares, you must not lose nerve now!”
The stranger took in the spheres, eyes wide. He reached toward one of the ones that glowed with a dark, almost inverted, violet light. Impossible light; a color that should not exist. As soon as the stranger’s fingers got close, he pulled them back, then looked with wide eyes to Gavilar.
“You are a fool,” Restares’s friend said. “A terrible fool of a man charging toward the highstorm with a stick, thinking to fight it. What have you done? Where did you get Voidlight?”
Gavilar smiled. “It is set into motion. All of it.” He looked to Restares. “The project was a success.”
The man perked up. “It...it did? Is that...” He looked to his friend. “This could work, Nale! We could bring them back, then destroy them. It could work.”
Nale. Oh, storms. Gavilar knew—but tried to ignore—that Restares pretended to be a Herald. As if to try to make Gavilar and others impressed. Never knowing that Gavilar himself had become familiar with the Stormfather, who had told him the truth. That the Heralds had all long since returned to fight on Damnation.
So was this man, called Nale, pretending to be Nalan, Herald of Justice? He...had the look. Many of the depictions painted him as an imperious Makabaki man. And that birthmark...it was strikingly similar to one on several of the older paintings.
But no. That was ridiculous. To believe that, he’d have to believe that Restares—of all people—was a Herald.
Though...he could almost believe it of this newcomer. Gavilar watched the man. He had hoped that the display with the spheres would persuade them to move froward. Instead, the stranger looked as if he’d locked up. Becoming a monolith, as if made of stone, instead of a man.
“This is too dangerous,” he said. “Far too dangerous. What you do.”
Gavilar continued to hold his gaze. The world would move to his desires. It always had before.
“But you are,” the man eventually said, stepping back and changing his posture, leaning against the bookcase “the king. Your will...is law...in this land.” His expression calmed. Or, rather, became masked.
“Yes,” Gavilar said. “That is right. My will is law. I am the law.”
And he would soon be so much more.
“Restares,” he said. “I’ve more good news. These experiments are working—-all of them. We can move Voidlight from the storm here. Move it between here and Damnation. As you’ve wanted.”
“That’s a way,” Restares said, looking to Nale. “A way...maybe to escape...”
Nale waved to the spheres. “So that’s it? Well, being able to bring them back and forth from Braize doesn’t mean anything. It’s too close to be a relevant distance.”
“It was impossible only a few short years ago,” Gavilar said. “This is proof. The Connection is not severed, and the box allows for travel. Not yet as far as you’d like, but we must start the journey somewhere.”
He wasn’t certain why Restares was so eager to be able to move Light around in shadesmar, from different realms to another. It was one of the things he’d been most eager to know, and Thiadakar...well, he seemed to want this information as well. A way to transport Stormlight, and this new Voidlight, long distances. Safely.
There was a value here. Did it have to do with his quest? Was this how he’d get the Heralds to Return? Trap their souls in gemstones, but them in an aluminum box, and transport them to Alethkar? It might work. Restares talked about Heralds souls as being like spren that could work this way...
As he was contemplating that, however, Gavilar saw something. The door was cracked. And an eye peeked through.
Damnation. It was Navani. How much had she heard?
“Husband,” she said, immediately pushing into the room. “There are guests missing you at the gathering. You seem to have lost track of time.”
She acted as if she hadn’t been spying. He smothered his anger at that for now, turning to Restares and his friend. “Gentlemen, I will need to excuse myself.”
Restares again ran his hand through his wispy hair. “I want to know more of the project, Gavilar. Plus, you need to know that another of us is here tonight. I spotted her handiwork earlier.”
Another one? Another Son of Honor.
No, he was speaking of a Herald. He was growing more delusional. He’d found himself a man to be “Nale.” Who else had he decided he’d found?
“I have a meeting shortly with Meridas and the others,” Gavilar said, calmly soothing Restares. “They should have more information for me. We can speak again after that.”
“No,” the Makabaki man growled. “I doubt we shall.”
“There’s more here, Nale!” Restares said, though he followed as Gavilar ushered the two of them out. “This is important! I want out. This is the only way . . .”
Gavilar shut the door. Then turned to his wife. Damnation, she should know better than to interrupt him when in meetings with his visitors. She...
Storms. The dress was beautiful, her face more so. Even when angry. Staring at him with brilliant eyes, a fiery halo almost seeming to spread around her.
Again, he considered.
Again he rejected the idea.
If he was going to be a god, best to sever attachments. The sun could love the stars. But never as equals.
Some time later—after he’d seen to Navani and made an appearance at the feast—Gavilar finally slipped away to be by himself again. In his chambers this time, rather than her study. A moment of peace.
To confront what he’d learned.
“Tell me,” he said, walking across the springy carpet to the map of Roshar on the table. “Why would Thaidakar be so interested in Ba-Ado-Mishram?”
As he sometimes did, the Stormfather formed a rippling in the air beside Gavilar. Vaguely in the shape of a person, but indistinct. Without color or really form. Like the wavering in the air made by great heat on the stones.
She created your parshmen, he said. On accident. Long ago, after the Heralds’ final visit but before the Recreance, Mishram tried to rise up and replace the God of the Voidbringers. She gave the common voidbringers forms, Voidlight, abilities. To fight for themselves.
“Curious,” Gavilar said. “And then?”
And then...she fell. She was too small a being, not strong enough, to uphold an entire people. It all came crashing down, and so some brave men and women—Radiants—did something that had to be done, trapping Mishram in a gemstone to prevent her from destroying all of Roshar. The side effect of that event created the parshmen.
Simple parshmen. As Voidbringers. A delicious secret he’d pried out of the Stormfather some weeks ago, but he hadn’t known—until just now—what had caused the transformation. Gavilar strolled to the bookcase, where one of the new heating fabrials had been delivered to him by the scholar Rushur Kris just earlier in the day. He took it from its cloth casing, weighing it.
He had found a way to ferry Voidspren through Shadesmar to this world. Using gemstones. Who would have thought, Navani’s pet area of study would be so useful? So he’d begun to invest more into sponsoring artifabrians, learning what they were doing with their art. Because he didn’t just want the Voidbringers here—he wanted them indebted to him. This had to play out the way he wanted. And if that conniving Axindweth eluded his grasp, he’d have to do it without her.
He thought he heard a faint crackling sound from the Stormfather. Lightning? How cute.
“You’ve never challenged what I’m doing,” Gavilar said. “I would have thought that returning the Voidbringers would be opposed to your very nature.”
Opposition, sometimes, is needed, the Stormfather said. You will need someone to fight, should you take the position I am offering you.
“Give it to me,” Gavilar said. “Now. I need it.”
The Stormfather turned a shimmering head his direction. That was almost them.
“What, those?” Gavilar said. “Those were almost the words? A demand?”
So close. And so far.
Gavilar smiled, hefting the fabrial, thinking of the flamespren trapped inside. He was going to figure those Words out soon, wasn’t he? The Stormfather seemed increasingly suspicious, hostile.
And if things did go poorly...well, could he trap the Stormfather himself in one of these?
He determined to have another conversation with those artifabrians soon.
“Mishram the Unmade,” Gavilar said out-loud. “Yes, I can see how it all played out. Except the Recreance. Why would the Radiants give up such power?”
The Stormfather remained silent.
“Do you regret choosing me, Stormfather?” Gavilar asked.
You are the one I have chosen.
“That’s not an answer to the question I asked.”
It is the one I will give, regardless.
Gavilar contained his anger. Soon, Amaram arrived with a small collection of people—high-level Sons of Honor. The Stormfather vanished, and Gavilar let them in—but spoke quietly, to the Stormfather, a request. “Watch the door for me. Tell me if Navani, or anyone else, comes to spy on me again.”
I am not your errand boy. We have no Bond. You are my tool Gavilar.
Gavilar gave no response, expecting that—from past experience—the Stormfather would do as he asked. Instead, he focused on Amaram, and the people he had brought. Three men, two women. One of the men was one of Amaram’s lieutenants. The other four would be new recruits for the Sons of Honor, invited to the feast, and given time exclusively with the king.
It was an annoyance, but a worthy one. Amaram was careful to pick only the most important of people. Scholars of note, lighteyed leaders of houses in other countries. Gavilar picked out each of them from the notes about them, except the older man, in the robes. Who was he? A Stormwarden? Amaram liked to keep them around, to teach him their script. Something that allowed Amaram to pretend he wasn’t learning to write, preserving some semblance of Vorin devotion. That was important to him.
Gavilar had, of course, grown beyond that. Still, he met each person in turn, and as he reached the older man, something clicked. He did know this man. It was Taravangian, the king of Kharbranth. Famously, a man of little wits. Gavilar glanced at Amaram, hiding his confusion. Surely they weren’t going to invite this one into their confidence—they should find the power who ruled Kharbranth in secret. Likely to be one of two specific women, from Gavilar’s spy reports.
Amaram just nodded to the man again. So, over the next half hour, Gavilar gave his same speech. Talk about the need to return to oaths of the past, talk about the Radiants—who yes, lost their way at the end. He spoke of a return to what they had been, however. Of glories past and futures bright.
It was a good speech. It should be, considering how many times he’d given it by now. Indeed, it was beginning to grate on him to have to give it. Once, the only speeches he’d given had been to inspire troops. Yet now, here he was, spending his entire life in meetings and giving speeches.
Would he have changed his course in life if he’d known, all those years ago, that being king would mean spending far more time in a boardroom than on a battlefield?
After finishing, he let the people get something to drink—and Amaram’s lieutenant chatted to them about the realistic advantages of working together. While they did so, Gavilar watched Amaram, thoughtful.
Amaram was the epitome of a good officer. Honorable when required, but also understanding that the rules of both military and society were means to an end. That said, there was a zealous side to Amaram. While Gavilar had recruited the man into the organization, he’d been surprised by how passionately Amaram had bought into the doctrines.
Would Amaram understand that Gavilar’s true goal, of immortality, was so much more important than the restoration of the Knights Radiant? Or would he side with Restares?
I need a firmer grip on this man, Gavilar thought. I need to bind him to me. If only Jasnah would listen.
So, at the opportune time, he pulled Amaram aside. “Meridas,” Gavilar whispered. “These meetings are growing onerous. My experiment was a success. I have the weapon I have been hunting.”
Amaram started, then spoke softly. “You mean...”
“Yes, we’ll return the Voidbringers to this land,” Gavilar said. “But when we do, we will have a new way to fight them.”
“Or a new way to control them,” Amaram whispered.
Well, that was new. Gavilar considered his friend, and the ambition that his set jaw seemed to imply.
Good for you, Amaram, he thought. Gavilar hadn’t told Amaram much about his experiments with Light. Just enough to hint that they’d have a new way to kill Voidbringers, once they returned. To reassure him, and the others, that their actions wouldn’t be blasphemous—but a necessary step in protecting their people. He thought that Amaram assumed he had a new kind of Shardblade, and had let the man persist in the delusion for now. One had to be careful how one shared weapons.
Regardless, he wouldn’t have considered that Amaram would be willing to use the Voidbringers, instead of simply attacking them. It was an opportunity. Gavilar worried, after the meeting with Restares, that a schism in the Sons of Honor was coming. He needed this man on his side.
“We must return the Desolations,” Gavilar said. “Whatever the cost. It’s the only way.”
“I agree,” Amaram said. “Now more than ever.” He hesitated. “Things did not go well with your daughter, earlier. I thought we had an understanding there.”
“You just need more time, my friend. To win her over.”
Amaram hungered for the throne like Gavilar hungered for immortality. And maybe Gavilar would reward him with it. Elhokar, for certain, did not deserve to sit in it. That was exactly the opposite of the legacy Gavilar wanted.
He sent Amaram back to talk to the others. After they enjoyed their drinks for a short time, Gavilar would give another short speech. Then he could be on to more important...
He frowned, noticing that one of the new recruits wasn’t conversing with the others. The elderly man, Taravangian, instead stood to the side—staring at the wall map of Roshar. The others at something Amaram said as he approached. Taravangian didn’t look away at the sound.
Gavilar strode over. But before he could speak, Taravangian did.
“Do you wonder, ever,” the elderly man whispered, “at lives we’re giving them? The people beneath them?”
Gavilar frowned, unaccustomed to people—particularly strangers—addressing him with an air of familiarity, or imposition. But, then, this man saw himself as a king. And perhaps Gavilar’s equal. Laughable, considering that Taravangian ruled only one small city—but then, the man was said to be unremarkable.
“I worry less about their lives now,” Gavilar said, “and more about what might be to come.”
Taravangian nodded, looking thoughtful. “That was a good speech,” he said. “Inspiring. Do you actually believe it?”
“Would I say it if I didn’t?”
“Of course you would. A king will say whatever needs to be said. Wouldn’t it be grand if that were always what he actually believed? Yes, grand.” He looked to Gavilar, smiling. “Do you actually believe the Radiants can return?”
“Yes,” Gavilar said. “I do.”
“And you are not a fool,” Taravangian said, musing. “So you must have good reasons. I find that more interesting than the words themselves.”
Gavilar found himself revising his earlier opinion. A little king was still a king. And perhaps, in all of the dignitaries in the city tonight, here was one who might...in the least amount...understand demands put on the man pressed between crown and throne.
“A danger is coming,” Gavilar said softly, shocked at the sincerity he felt. “To this land. This world. An ancient danger.”
Taravangian narrowed his eyes.
“The Desolation is near,” Gavilar said. “The Everstorm. The Night of Sorrows.”
Taravangian, remarkably, grew pale.
He believed. Gavilar felt foolish whenever he tried to explain the true things that the Stormfather had told him, for he knew they sounded ridiculous. He worried people would think him mad for speaking them.
Yet this man...believed him? With no persuasion?
“Where,” Taravangian asked, “did you hear those words?”
“I don’t know that you’d believe me if I told you.”
“Will you believe me?” Taravangian asked. “Because ten years ago, my mother died of her tumors. Frail, lying on her bed at home, the scent of too many perfumes in the air, struggling to strangle the stench of death... She looked to me in her lasty moments...”
He met Gavilar’s eyes. “And she whispered something. ‘I stand before him, above the world itself, and he speaks the truth. The Desolation is near... The Everstorm. The Night of Sorrows.’ A few seconds later, she was gone.”
“I’ve...heard of this,” Gavilar admitted. “The prophetic words of the dead. It happens in battle sometimes. The last words of the dying are sacred...”
“How did you hear those words?” Taravangian asked, practically begging. “Please.”
“I see visions,” Gavilar said, frank. “Given me of the Almighty. So that we may prepare.” He looked toward the map on the wall. “Heralds send that I may become the person I need to be to stop what is coming...”
Let the Stormfather chew on that. Let him see sincerity in Gavilar. Storms...he felt it. Like he hadn’t in months. Standing there with a little king, before the map of the world, he felt it. And never before—in all of this—had he ever thought he might be inadequate to the task.
Perhaps, he thought, I should begin encouraging Dalinar to his training again. Begin reminding him that he is a soldier. He had the distinct impression that he was going to need someone, before too long, who knew the battlefield. Better than the boardroom.
He was shaken from the moment of solemnity by a voice in his head. Someone is approaching, the Stormfather warned. One of the Listeners. Eshonai, is her name. There is something about this one...
One of the Parshendi? Gavilar shook himself. Embarrassed of being seen so raw before another, even another king. So he welcomed the distraction made by the parshwoman’s arrival.
He dismissed Taravangian, Amaram, and the others for the time being and invited this Eshonai to enter. Happy to be rid of that strange old man, and his questioning eyes. The fellow was supposed to be so unremarkable. Why did he unnerve Gavilar in such a way?
The conversation with the parshwoman went excellently, with him setting her in motion to help him manipulate her people. To prepare them for the roles they’d play in coming years. After sending her off—and placating Amaram further afterward—Gavilar found himself tired, in his rooms, contemplating his vast number of plans.
He'd considered every avenue, put every possible idea into motion. He would obtain the prize. He was sure of it.
But today, he was starting to feel worn down by it. He even had another meeting or two today; Sadeas would be on his way even now. It all felt like so much. Perhaps...there was something more, too. A lingering emotional drain from his odd conversation with Taravangian.
Gavilar sank into a deep, plush chair by his balcony, releasing a long sigh. Early in his career as a warlord, he’d never have allowed himself this luxury of softness. He had mistakenly assumed that liking something soft meant he, himself, was soft.
A common failing among men who wished to appear strong. By being so afraid, they gave simple things power over them. It was not weakness to relax. To think.
The air shimmered in front of him.
“A full day,” Gavilar said.
“The first of many such. I will be mounting an expedition back to the Shattered Plains soon. We can leverage my new treaty to obtain guides, promises, a way to forge inward to the center. Toward Urithiru.”
The Stormfather did not reply. Gavilar wasn’t certain if the spren could be said to have human mannerisms. Sometimes, it seemed so—and others, it seemed completely unfathomable. Today, though... That posture turned away, hinted at in the warping of the air. That silence.
“Do you regret,” Gavilar asked again, “choosing me?”
I regret, the Stormfather said, the way I have treated you. I should not have been so accommodating. It has made you lazy.
“This is lazy?” Gavilar said, forcing himself to sound amused, and not reveal his annoyance. “I’ve made grand plans.”
You do not consider with reverence the position you seek, the Stormfather said. I feel...you are not the one that I need. That I decided to find.
“You said that you were charged with this task,” Gavilar said. “By Honor. Finding someone to show the visions, to prevent calamity. You didn’t decide anything. You were instructed to do all of this.”
That is true. I do not speak in human ways. But still, once you are a...Herald, you will need to leave everything you know. You will be given up to torture between Returns. Why is it this doesn’t bother you?
Gavilar shrugged. “I will just give in.”
“Give in,” Gavilar said, heaving himself out of his seat. “Why stay in that other place, to be tortured and potentially lose my mind? I give up each time and return immediately.”
The Heralds stay in Damnation to keep the Voidbringers away. To prevent them from overrunning the world. To lock them and seal them away. They—
“They are the ten fools for that,” Gavilar explained, pouring himself a drink from the carafe near his balcony. “If I cannot die, I will be the greatest king this world has ever known. Why lock my knowledge and leadership away on another world?”
To stop the war.
“Why would I care to stop a war?” Gavilar asked, this time genuinely amused. “War is the path to glory, to training our people to recover the Tranquiline Halls. I will never die, and never know that place, but my people...well they should be properly trained, don’t you think?” He turned back to the shimmer, taking a sip of orange wine. “I don’t fear these Voidbringers. Let them stay and fight. If they are reborn, well, we will just never run out of enemies to kill.”
The Stormfather did not respond. And again, Gavilar tried to read into the thing’s posture. Was the Stormfather proud of him? Gavilar thought this an elegant solution to the problem; he was uncertain why the Heralds had never realized it. Perhaps they were all cowards.
Ah, Gavilar, the Stormfather said. I see. I see my miscalculation. Your entire religious upbringing...created from the lies of Aharietiam... It pointed you toward this conclusion. Terrible though it is.
Damnation. The Stormfather wasn’t pleased. Gavilar recalculated. He couldn’t afford to let the Stormfather seem him as anything but devout. It suddenly felt terribly unfair. Here, he was drinking this awful excuse for wine to follow the ridiculous codes, he gave every possible oblation of piety—and yet, it wasn’t enough?
“What should I do,” Gavilar said. “To serve?”
You don’t understand, the Stormfather said. Those aren’t the words, Gavilar.
“Then what are the storming words!” he said, slamming the cup down on the table—shattering it, spilling wine across the wall. “You want me to save this planet? Then help me! Tell me what I’m saying wrong!”
It’s not about what you are saying. That is not what is wrong.
Suddenly, the Stormfather wavered. Lightning pulsed through his shimmering form, lighting Gavilar’s room with an electric glow. Blue frost on the rugs, pure light reflecting in the glass of the balcony doors.
Then, the Stormfather cried out. A sound like a peal of thunder, agonized.
“What?” Gavilar said, backing up. “What happened?”
A Herald... A Herald has died... No. I am not ready... The Oathpact... No. They mustn’t see. They mustn’t know...
“Died?” Gavilar said. “Died. You said they were already dead! You said they were in Damnation, being tortured!”
The Stormfather rippled, then a face emerged in the shimmering. Two eyes, like holes in a storm, clouds spiraling around them and leading into the depths.
“You lied,” Gavilar said. “You lied?”
Oh, Gavilar. There is so much you do not know. So much you assume. And the two never do manage to meet. Like paths to opposing cities.
Those eyes seemed to pull Gavilar forward, to overwhelm him, to consume him. He’d never seen anything like this before. He... He saw storms, endless storms, and a world so frail. A tiny speck of blue in against an infinite canvas of black.
The Stormfather could lie?
“Restares,” Gavilar whispered. “Is he...”
Gavilar felt cold, as if he were standing in the highstorm, ice seeping in through his skin. Seeking his heart. Those eyes...
“What are you?” Gavilar whispered, hoarse.
The biggest fool of them all, the Stormfather said. And the thing that has miscalculated. Goodbye, Gavilar. I have seen a glimpse of what is coming. And I will not prevent it.
“What?” Gavilar demanded, stepping forward. “What is coming?”
The door slammed open. Sadeas, puffing, face red from exertion. “Assassin,” he said. “Coming this way, killing guards. We need your armor.”
Gavilar regarded him, stunned.
Then one word cut through.
I’ve been betrayed, he thought, and found that he was not surprised. He’d been expecting this. It had been in the balance for weeks. One of them was bound to come for him.
But which one?
“Gavilar!” Sadeas shouted. “Your armor?”
“Tearim wears it.”
“Damnation,” Sadeas said, throwing open the door. “Mine is nearly here.”
“You brought your armor to the feast?”
“Of course I did,” Sadeas said, looking back at him. “I don’t trust those Parshendi. You’d do well to emulate me. Trusting too much could get you killed someday.”
Screams sounded in the distance, but just outside the room, Gavilar saw the Sadeas armorers hurrying forward—carrying his Shardplate. Unpacked. Ready.
“Hold off the assassin,” Gavilar said. “I’ll run for Tearim and return when I have my plate.”
“I have a better idea,” Sadeas said. “Give me your cloak.”
Gavilar hesitated, then met his friend’s eyes. “You’d do that?”
“I worked too hard to put you on that throne, Gavilar,” Sadeas said, grim. “I’m not going to let that go to waste.”
“Thank you,” Gavilar said.
Sadeas shrugged, pulling on the cloak as the armorers ran—by his command—to suit up Gavilar instead. Whoever this assassin was, he’d find himself outmatched by a Shardbearer.
As he was armored, Gavilar glanced toward where the Stormfather had been standing—but the shimmer was gone.
Gavilar had been betrayed, but by whom?
Spren couldn’t lie. They couldn’t. He’d learned that from...the Stormfather.
Blood of my fathers, Gavilar thought as the Plate locked onto his legs. What else did it lie to me about?
And why, on all of Roshar, would it have done so?
And he knew, even before he hit, this was it. The ending.
A legacy interrupted. An assassin who moved with an otherworldly grace, stepping on wall and ceiling, commanding light that bled from the very storms.
Gavilar hit the ground—surrounded by the wreckage of his balcony—and he saw white in a flash. But his body didn’t hurt. That was an extremely bad sign.
Thaidakar, he thought as a figure rose before him, shadowed in the night air. Only Thaidakar could send an assassin who could do such things as this.
He coughed as the figure loomed over him. “I . . . expected you . . . to come,” Gavilar forced out.
The assassin moved and knelt before him, though Gavilar couldn’t see anything more than shadows. Then...something changed, and the being in front of him—doing something Gavilar couldn’t make out—started to glow like a sphere. Like he’d been doing before...
Blood...blood of his fathers. “You can tell . . . Thaidakar,” Gavilar whispered, “That he’s too late. . . .”
“I don’t know who that is,” the assassin said, the words barely intelligible. The man held his hand to the side. Summoning a Blade.
This was it. Behind the assassin, a halo, a corona, of shimmering light. The Stormfather.
It was not me, the Stormfather said in his head. I did not cause this. I do not know if that brings you peace or not in your last moments, Gavilar.
“Then who . . . ?” Gavilar forced out. “Restares? Sadeas? I never thought. . . .”
“My masters are the Parshendi,” the assassin said.
Gavilar blinked, focusing on him again as the man’s Blade formed. “The Parshendi? That makes no sense.”
I warned you, Gavilar, the Stormfather said. This is my failure as much as yours. If I try again, I will do it differently. I thought...your family...
His family. In that moment, Gavilar saw his legacy crumbling. He was dying.
Storms. He was dying.
What was left to him? What did anything matter if he was dying. He couldn’t. He couldn’t...
He was supposed to be eternal...
You’ve invited the enemy back, he realized. The end is coming. And your family, your kingdom, will have no recourse. No way to fight. Unless...
Hand quivering, he reached toward his pocket and pulled out sphere. The weapon. They needed to have this. His son... No, his son could not handle this... They needed a warrior. A true warrior. One that Gavilar had been doing his best to suppress for years. Out of a fear he barely dared acknowledge, even as he drew his last, ragged breaths.
Dalinar. Storms help them, it came down to Dalinar.
He handed the sphere toward the Stormfather, his vision fuzzing. Thinking...was...difficult.
“You must take this,” Gavilar whispered to the Stormfather. “They must not get it.” He seemed dazed. “Tell...tell my brother... He must find the most important words a man can say...”
No, the Stormfather said, though a hand took the sphere. Not him. I’m sorry, Gavilar. I will never trust your family again. I made that mistake once. I will not do so again.
Gavilar exhaled a whine of pain, not from his body, but from his soul. He had failed. He had brought them all to ruin. That, he realized with horror, would be his legacy.
And in the end, Gavilar Kholin, heir to the Heralds, died. As all men, ultimately, must.