This is first draft. So there's gonna be some stuff in this, things might change. Just be warning you.
This is Kaladin from [Stormlight] Book Five.
Chapter Kaladin One
Kaladin felt good.
Not great. Not after spending weeks hiding in an occupied city, forced to stretch himself both physically and emotionally far beyond the reasonable limit. Not after what had happened to Teft. No, Kaladin didn't feel great. But he stood in the sunlight, looking out the window of his room.
He thought that maybe he would someday feel great again. Knowing that, being able to recognize it, was enough. Indeed, there was an incongruent spring to his step as he walked to his barrack. Why did he feel good? Yes, they had protected Urithiru, but at great cost. Dalinar had set a deadline that was horrifically soon; war was coming upon them, and now Kaladin wasn't going to even be part of it. He was on leave; self-imposed this time.
He'd said the right words, but had realized that those words weren't enough. Stormlight healed his body, but his soul needed time. Bridge Four and the Windrunners would go to battle without him. He should feel awful. A part of him simply refused to do so.
He dug through his clothing, stacks of civilian clothing neatly laundered for him and delivered this morning. The world might be ending in ten days, but Urithiru's washwomen soldiered on. None of the choices felt right, and shortly he glanced to the wall where a new uniform hung, sent by the quartermaster to replace the one Kaladin had ruined during the fighting two days before. Leyten kept a rack of them in Kaladin's size.
Kaladin had stuck it there with a Lashing last night after Teft's funeral, testing something he'd been told by the others: Urithiru was awake now, with its own Bondsmith, and things were... different. That Lashing he had used should have run out after minutes; yet here this one was, ten hours later, still going strong. The extended powers only worked in the city, but he could already see that going forward, this would be a very different place to live. Assuming anyone survived the next two weeks.
A short time later, Syl poked her head into his room without any thought for privacy, as usual. Granted, his room didn't have a door, but a hanging cloth. Doors were in short supply, and they'd installed their first ones on the examination rooms up the hallway to offer privacy to the patients.
Not that a door would have stopped Syl; she could squeeze through the smallest cracks. Except, today, she was walking around full human-sized, for some reason, and wearing a havah instead of her usual girlish dress. She was doing that more commonly, as of late.
As Kaladin did the last buttons on the high collar of his uniform jacket, she bounced over to stand behind him, then floated up in the air a foot or so to look over his shoulder at him in the mirror.
"Can't you make yourself any size?" he asked, checking his jacket cuffs.
"Yeah. Within reason."
"No idea," she said. "I tried to get as big as a mountain, once. It involved lots of grunting and thinking like rocks. Really big rocks. I managed a very small mountain; like, enough to fit in this room with the tip brushing the ceiling, but super narrow. That's as big as I could go."
"So, you could be tall enough to tower over me?" he said. "Why do you usually make yourself shorter than me, instead?"
"It just feels right," she said.
"That's your explanation for basically everything."
"Yep." She poked him. He could barely feel it; even at this size, she was insubstantial in the physical realm. "Uniform? I thought you weren't gonna wear one of those anymore. What happened?"
He hesitated, then pulled the jacket down at the bottom to pull the wrinkles across the sides. "It just feels right," he admitted, meeting her eyes in the mirror.
She grinned, and storm him, he couldn't help but grinning back. "Someone is having a good day," she said, poking him again.
"Bizarrely," Kaladin said. "If I understand right, the world is slated to end in ten days."
"To maybe end in ten days."
"And the enemy appears to be mobilizing for some reason, rather than just waiting for the deadline. What do they hope to accomplish?"
"Something nefarious, no doubt," she said.
"More people are going to die," he replied. "Perhaps people I care about. I won't be there to help them, and..."
"Kaladin Stormblessed!" she said, rising up into the air higher, arms folded. Though she wore a fashionable havah, she left her white-blue glowing hair floating free, waving and shifting in the wind. The non-existent wind, currently. She raised up until she loomed two feet above him. "Don't you dare talk yourself into being miserable!"
"Or I," she thundered, "shall make silly faces at you all day, as only I can."
"Those aren't silly," he said, shivering.
"Last time, you made a tentacle come out of your forehead."
"High brow comedy."
"A spinning eyeball growing from the end of it?"
"Every joke needs a good twist."
"Then it slapped me!"
"Punchline. Obviously." She shook her head. "Storms. All the humans in the world, and I end up picking the one without a taste for refined humor."
He met her eyes, and her smile was storming contagious. "It just feels warm," he said, "to have finally figured a few things out. To have made progress, despite it all. To have let go of that weight I was carrying and to step out from the shadow. I know the darkness will return, but I think... I think I'll be able to remember, this time. Better than before."
He met her eyes, Lashing himself upward, floating until he was eye level with her. "That days like this exist, too." She nodded firmly. "I wish I could show Teft," Kaladin said. "I miss him like a hole in my own flesh, still."
"I know," she said softly. If she'd been a human friend, she might have offered a hug. Syl didn't seem to understand physicality like a human did, even if she had a more substantial body in the cognitive realm. He got the feeling she didn't actually spend much time there, though; she seemed more natural to this realm than the other honorspren, flitting about like the windspren she sometimes imitated. And indeed today, to cheer him up, she waved eagerly and led him out to the main living room of the family quarters. *inaudible* full human size wearing a havah, but flying about, moving with a swooping motion that was, honestly, a tad ridiculous to watch.
Kal didn't fall, though, continuing to hover. Because, why not? It felt like he wasn't even using up his Stormlight; or if he was, it was constantly replenished, like what happened when Dalinar opened a perpendicularity.
In the main living room, they found Oroden playing with his blocks. At Syl's suggestion, they spent a good half hour hovering the blocks in the air for the *inaudible*. It felt a strange use of his powers, literally harvested from the essence of a god. But, when he stopped, Oroden pointed. "Kaddin," the little boy said, pointing. "You need box!" "You," in this case, meant Oroden himself, who had noticed that everyone called him "you," and had decided that was just another name for him.
Kaladin smiled, hovering up another set of blocks. Syl, shrunken down, hopped from block to block in the air as Oroden swatted and moved them. What am I doing? Kaladin thought after a little of that. The world is ending, my best friend is dead, and I'm playing blocks with my little brother?
Then, in response, a voice deep from within him. Familiar, almost certainly imagined. Hold onto this, Kal. Embrace it. I didn't die so you could mope about like a wet Horneater with no razor. It didn't seem anything mystical, but instead... well, Kaladin had known Teft long enough to anticipate what the man would have said. Even in death, a good sergeant knew his job: keep the officers pointed the right direction."
"Pyl!" Oroden said, gesturing to Syl. "Pyl, come pin!" He was off a second later, with Syl following afterwards as he hopped and pointed, then starting spinning around in circles with her twirling around him.
Kaladin watched, seating on the floor amidst hovering blocks. His mother settled down beside him and nudged him in the side, then handed him a bowl with some lavis grain and spiced crab meat on the top. She wore her hair tied with a kerchief, like she'd always done when working back in Hearthstone. He took the bowl of food without complaint, though he didn't feel particularly like eating. As his mother eyed him, he dutifully started eating away. If there was a group more demanding than sergeants when it came to an officer's well-being, it would be mothers. When he'd been younger, this sort of attention had mortified him. Now, after years without, he found he didn't mind a little mothering. Truth be told, whether he wanted to eat or not, he needed the food.
"How are ya?" she asked.
"Good," he said around spoonfulls of lavis. She studied him. "Really," he said. "Good. Not great. Good enough."
A block flew past, steaming with Stormlight, Lashed upward precisely enough to counteract its weight. Hesina tapped it with a hesitant finger, sending it spinning through the room. "Shouldn't those fall?" she asked.
"Eventually, maybe?" He shrugged. "Navani has done something weird to the place. It's more than the fact that the tower is somehow warm now, and the pressure equalized. The entire city is infused, like a sphere." Water flowed, now, from holes in walls. You simply had to press your hand to the top of the hole and ask, and it came streaming out. You asked for a temperature, and it came out that heat. Suddenly, a lot of the strange basins and empty pools in the tower made sense. They'd expected spigots, but most locations didn't have those. Just mysterious outlets.
He smiled as he watched Syl spin around Oroden, twirling himself, then left him with a few blocks as a distraction. She popped to human size again and flopped down on her back next to Kaladin and his mother, her face covered in an illusionary approximation of sweat. "How," Syl said, "do small humans just keep going? Where does their energy come from?"
"One of the great mysteries of the cosmere," his mother said. "If you think this is bad, you should have seen Kal."
"Oooh," Syl said, rolling over and looking to her with wide eyes, her long, blue-white hair tumbling around her face. No human woman Kaladin had ever known had acted such a casual way wearing a havah. The tight dresses, while not strictly formal, weren't designed for rolling about on the ground bare-footed. Syl, however, would be Syl. "Embarassing childhood stories?" she said. "Go. Talk. While his mouth is full of food so he can't stop you."
"He never stopped moving," Hesina said, leaning forward, "except when he finally <clumped to the ground> to sleep, giving us brief hours of respite. I was required to sing his favorite song, and Lirin would have to chase him. And he could tell if Lirin was giving a half-hearted chase and would chastise him. It was honestly the cutest thing to see Lirin being chewed out by a three-year-old."
"I could have guessed," Syl said, "he would be tyrannical as a child."
"Not tyrannical," Hesina said. "He merely like things to be the way that they should be. As he saw them. Children often are like that, Syl, accepting only one answer to any question because nuance is difficult and confusing."
"Yeah," Kaladin said, scraping the last of the lavis from his bowl. "Children. That's a worldview that obviously only strikes children, never the rest of us."
His mother gave him a side hug, one arm around his shoulders. The kind that seemed to grudgingly admit that he wasn't a little boy anymore. "Do you sometimes wish," she asked him, "the world were a simpler place? That easy answers of a child were, in truth, the actual answers?"
"Not anymore," he said. "'Cause I think the easier answers would condemn me. Most everyone, actually." That made his mother beam, for some reason, even though it was a simple thing to say. Then her eyes got a certain mischievous sparkle to them. He knew his mother, and knew to be wary of what was coming next
"So. You have a spren friend," she said. "Did you ever ask her that important question you always asked me?"
He sighed, bracing himself. "And which question would that be, mother?"
"Poopspren," she said, poking him. "You were always so fascinated by the idea."
"That was Tien!" Kaladin said. "That was not me!"
She returned a knowing stare. Mothers; they remember too well.
"Fine," he said. "Maybe I was intrigued." He glanced at Syl, who was watching the exchange with wide eyes. "Did you ever know any...?"
"Poopspren?" she said flatly. He nodded. "Like, the stinky stuff that comes out of you when you think I'm not looking?" she said. "That stuff? The world is ending, and this is what you want to know? You're asking the only living daughter of the storms, princess of the honorspren, this question: how much poop do I personally know?"
"It's just something that came up," he said, "now and then, when we were boys, if poop actually had a spren, or..."
"Oh, I know tons," Syl said, barely keeping a straight face. "We had them over for dinner all the time. Stormfather and I. Knew an entire poop family."
"I do not want to discuss the topic anymore," Kaladin said. "Please, can we move on. I don't need to know more about poop."
Unfortunately, Oroden wandered over and was watching the conversation with interest. He stepped up and patted Kaladin on the knee. "It's okay, Kaddin," he said in a comforting voice, with a tone of repeating something he'd been told. "Poop goes in the potty. Do better next time and get a treat."
This, of course, sent Syl into a fit of uproarious laughter, flopping on her back again. Kaladin gave his mother his captain's glare, one he knew from experience was good enough to make any soldier go white. Mothers, however, ignored the chain of command. And the glare only made her seem more amused.
One of the things that's a problem here is: Kaladin knows something he shouldn't know yet, that the enemy is mobilizing. Because this is probably gonna end up being chapter one, so we need to find out that information later. So you will probably find out that information in, like, chapter two or three, and be like, "Oh, why is the enemy mobilizing?" He won't know it yet. Those sorts of things happen a lot in early drafts, where you're writing through. You know the outline, you're not sure where the chapters will end up going, and things like that.
This, we are planning for 2024. I'm sorry, it's not next year. But we plan to do a big Dragonsteel convention alongside it.