Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.
Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand togetherand unless Dalinar himself can confront that pasteven the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.
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I'm certain some will feel threatened by this record. Some few may feel liberated. Most will simply feel that it should not exist.
— From Oathbringer, preface
Dalinar Kholin appeared in the vision standing beside the memory of a dead god.
It had been six days since his forces had arrived at Urithiru, legendary holy tower city of the Knights Radiant. They had escaped the arrival of a new devastating storm, seeking refuge through an ancient portal. They were settling into their new home hidden in the mountains.
And yet, Dalinar felt as if he knew nothing. He didn't understand the force he fought, let alone how to defeat it. He barely understood the storm, and what it meant in returning the Voidbringers, ancient enemies of men.
So he came here, into his visions. Seeking to pull secrets from the god — named Honor, or the Almighty — who had left them. This particular vision was the first that Dalinar had ever experienced. It began with him standing next to an image of the god in human form, both perched atop a cliff overlooking Kholinar: Dalinar's home, seat of the government. In the vision, the city had been destroyed by some unknown force.
The Almighty started speaking, but Dalinar ignored him. Dalinar had become a Knight Radiant by bonding the Stormfather himself — soul of the highstorm, most powerful spren on Roshar — and Dalinar had discovered he could now have these visions replayed for him at will. He'd already heard this monologue three times, and had repeated it word for word to Navani for transcription.
This time, Dalinar instead walked to the edge of the cliff and knelt to look out upon the ruins of Kholinar. The air smelled dry here, dusty and warm. He squinted, trying to extract some meaningful detail from the chaos of broken buildings. Even the windblades — once magnificent, sleek rock formations exposing countless strata and variations — had been shattered.
The Almighty continued his speech. These visions were like a diary, a set of immersive messages the god had left behind. Dalinar appreciated the help, but right now he wanted details.
He searched the sky and discovered a ripple in the air, like heat rising from distant stone. A shimmer the size of a building.
"Stormfather," he said. "Can you take me down below, into the rubble?"
You are not supposed to go there. That is not part of the vision.
"Ignore what I'm supposed to do, for the moment," Dalinar said. "Can you do it? Can you transport me to those ruins?"
The Stormfather rumbled. He was a strange being, somehow connected to the dead god, but not exactly the same thing as the Almighty. At least today he wasn't using a voice that rattled Dalinar's bones.
In an eyeblink, Dalinar was transported. He no longer stood atop the cliff, but was on the plains down before the ruins of the city.
"Thank you," Dalinar said, striding the short remaining distance to the ruins.
Only six days had passed since their discovery of Urithiru. Six days since the awakening of the Parshendi, who had gained strange powers and glowing red eyes. Six days since the arrival of the new storm — the Everstorm, a tempest of dark thunderheads and red lightning.
Some in his armies thought that it was finished, the storm over as one catastrophic event. Dalinar knew otherwise. The Everstorm would return, and would soon hit Shinovar in the far west. Following that, it would course across the land.
Nobody believed his warnings. Monarchs in places like Azir and Thaylenah admitted that a strange storm had appeared in the east, but they didn't believe it would return.
They couldn't guess how destructive this storm's return would be. When it had first appeared, it had clashed with the highstorm, creating a unique cataclysm. Hopefully it would not be as bad on its own — but it would still be a storm blowing the wrong way. And it would awaken the world's parshman servants and make them into Voidbringers.
What do you expect to learn? the Stormfather said as Dalinar reached the rubble of the city. This vision was constructed to draw you to the ridge to speak with Honor. The rest is backdrop, a painting.
"Honor put this rubble here," Dalinar said, waving toward the broken walls heaped before him. "Backdrop or not, his knowledge of the world and our enemy couldn't help but affect the way he made this vision."
Dalinar hiked up the rubble of the outer walls. Kholinar had been ... storm it, Kholinar was ... a grand city, like few in the world. Instead of hiding in the shadow of a cliff or inside a sheltered chasm, Kholinar trusted in its enormous walls to buffer it from highstorm winds. It defied the winds, and did not bow to the storms.
In this vision, something had destroyed it anyway. Dalinar crested the detritus and surveyed the area, trying to imagine how it had felt to settle here so many millennia ago. Back when there had been no walls. It had been a hardy, stubborn lot who had grown this place.
He saw scrapes and gouges on the stones of the fallen walls, like those made by a predator in the flesh of its prey. The windblades had been smashed, and from up close he could see claw marks on one of those as well.
"I've seen creatures that could do this," he said, kneeling beside one of the stones, feeling the rough gash in the granite surface. "In my visions, I witnessed a stone monster that ripped itself free of the underlying rock.
"There are no corpses, but that's probably because the Almighty didn't populate the city in this vision. He just wanted a symbol of the coming destruction. He didn't think Kholinar would fall to the Everstorm, but to the Voidbringers."
Yes, the Stormfather said. The storm will be a catastrophe, but not nearly on the scale of what follows. You can find refuge from storms, Son of Honor. Not so with our enemies.
Now that the monarchs of Roshar had refused to listen to Dalinar's warning that the Everstorm would soon strike them, what else could Dalinar do? The real Kholinar was reportedly consumed by riots — and the queen had gone silent. Dalinar's armies had limped away from their first confrontation with the Voidbringers, and even many of his own highprinces hadn't joined him in that battle.
A war was coming. In awakening the Desolation, the enemy had rekindled a millennia-old conflict of ancient creatures with inscrutable motivations and unknown powers. Heralds were supposed to appear and lead the charge against the Voidbringers. The Knights Radiant should have already been in place, prepared and trained, ready to face the enemy. They were supposed to be able to trust in the guidance of the Almighty.
Instead, Dalinar had only a handful of new Radiants, and there was no sign of help from the Heralds. And beyond that, the Almighty — God himself — was dead.
Somehow, Dalinar was supposed to save the world anyway.
The ground started to tremble; the vision was ending with the land falling away. Atop the cliff, the Almighty would have just concluded his speech.
A final wave of destruction rolled across the land like a highstorm. A metaphor designed by the Almighty to represent the darkness and devastation that was coming upon humankind.
Your legends say that you won, he had said. But the truth is that we lost. And we are losing. ...
The Stormfather rumbled. It is time to go.
"No," Dalinar said, standing atop the rubble. "Leave me."
"Let me feel it!"
The wave of destruction struck, crashing against Dalinar, and he shouted defiance. He had not bowed before the highstorm; he would not bow before this! He faced it head-on, and in the blast of power that ripped apart the ground, he saw something.
A golden light, brilliant yet terrible. Standing before it, a dark figure in black Shardplate. The figure had nine shadows, each spreading out in a different direction, and its eyes glowed a brilliant red.
Dalinar stared deep into those eyes, and felt a chill wash through him. Though the destruction raged around him, vaporizing rocks, those eyes frightened him more. He saw something terribly familiar in them.
This was a danger far beyond even the storms.
This was the enemy's champion. And he was coming.
UNITE THEM. QUICKLY.
Dalinar gasped as the vision shattered. He found himself sitting beside Navani in a quiet stone room in the tower city of Urithiru. Dalinar didn't need to be bound for visions any longer; he had enough control over them that he had ceased acting them out while experiencing them.
He breathed deeply, sweat trickling down his face, his heart racing. Navani said something, but for the moment he couldn't hear her. She seemed distant compared to the rushing in his ears.
"What was that light I saw?" he whispered.
I saw no light, the Stormfather said.
"It was brilliant and golden, but terrible," Dalinar whispered. "It bathed everything in its heat."
Odium, the Stormfather rumbled. The enemy.
The god who had killed the Almighty. The force behind the Desolations.
"Nine shadows," Dalinar whispered, trembling.
Nine shadows? The Unmade. His minions, ancient spren.
Storms. Dalinar knew of them from legend only. Terrible spren who twisted the minds of men.
Still, those eyes haunted him. As frightening as it was to contemplate the Unmade, he feared that figure with the red eyes the most. Odium's champion.
Dalinar blinked, looking to Navani, the woman he loved, her face painfully concerned as she held his arm. In this strange place and stranger time, she was something real. Something to hold on to. A mature beauty — in some ways the picture of a perfect Vorin woman: lush lips, light violet eyes, silvering black hair in perfect braids, curves accentuated by the tight silk havah. No man would ever accuse Navani of being scrawny.
"Dalinar?" she asked. "Dalinar, what happened? Are you well?"
"I'm ..." He drew in a deep breath. "I'm well, Navani. And I know what we must do."
Her frown deepened. "What?"
"I have to unite the world against the enemy faster than he can destroy it."
He had to find a way to make the other monarchs of the world listen to him. He had to prepare them for the new storm and the Voidbringers. And, barring that, he had to help them survive the effects.
But if he succeeded, he wouldn't have to face the Desolation alone. This was not a matter of one nation against the Voidbringers. He needed the kingdoms of the world to join him, and he needed to find the Knights Radiant who were being created among their populations.
"Dalinar," she said, "I think that's a worthy goal ... but storms, what of ourselves? This mountainside is a wasteland — what are we going to feed our armies?"
"The Soulcasters —"
"Will run out of gemstones eventually," Navani said. "And they can create only the basic necessities. Dalinar, we're half frozen up here, broken and divided. Our command structure is in disarray, and it —"
"Peace, Navani," Dalinar said, rising. He pulled her to her feet. "I know. We have to fight anyway."
She embraced him. He held to her, feeling her warmth, smelling her perfume. She preferred a less floral scent than other women — a fragrance with spice to it, like the aroma of newly cut wood.
"We can do this," he told her. "My tenacity. Your brilliance. Together, we will convince the other kingdoms to join with us. They'll see when the storm returns that our warnings were right, and they'll unite against the enemy. We can use the Oathgates to move troops and to support each other."
The Oathgates. Ten portals, ancient fabrials, were gateways to Urithiru. When a Knight Radiant activated one of the devices, those people standing upon its surrounding platform were brought to Urithiru, appearing on a similar device here at the tower.
They only had one pair of Oathgates active now — the ones that moved people back and forth between Urithiru and the Shattered Plains. Nine more could theoretically be made to work — but unfortunately, their research determined that a mechanism inside each of them had to be unlocked from both sides before they'd work.
If he wanted to travel to Vedenar, Thaylen City, Azimir, or any of the other locations, they'd first need to get one of their Radiants to the city and unlock the device.
"All right," she said. "We'll do it. Somehow we'll make them listen — even if they've got their fingers planted firmly in their ears. Makes one wonder how they manage it, with their heads rammed up their own backsides."
He smiled, and suddenly thought himself foolish for idealizing her just earlier. Navani Kholin was not some timid, perfect ideal — she was a sour storm of a woman, set in her ways, stubborn as a boulder rolling down a mountain and increasingly impatient with things she considered foolish.
He loved her the most for that. For being open and genuine in a society that prided itself on secrets. She'd been breaking taboos, and hearts, since their youth. At times, the idea that she loved him back seemed as surreal as one of his visions.
A knock came at the door to his room, and Navani called for the person to enter. One of Dalinar's scouts poked her head in through the door. Dalinar turned, frowning, noting the woman's nervous posture and quick breathing.
"What?" he demanded.
"Sir," the woman said, saluting, face pale. "There's ... been an incident. A corpse discovered in the corridors."
Dalinar felt something building, an energy in the air like the sensation of lightning about to strike. "Who?"
"Highprince Torol Sadeas, sir," the woman said. "He's been murdered."
I needed to write it anyway.
— From Oathbringer, preface
"Stop! What do you think you're doing?" Adolin Kholin strode over to a group of workers in crem-stained work outfits who were unloading boxes from the back of a wagon. Their chull twisted, trying to search out rockbuds to munch on. Fruitlessly. They were deep within the tower, for all the fact that this cavern was as large as a small town.
The workers had the decency to look chagrined, though they probably didn't know what for. A flock of scribes trailing Adolin checked the contents of the wagon. Oil lamps on the ground did little to push back the darkness of the enormous room, which had a ceiling that went up four stories.
"Brightlord?" one of the workers asked, scratching at his hair beneath his cap. "I was just unloadin'. That's what I think I was doin'."
"Manifest says beer," Rushu — a young ardent — told Adolin.
"Section two," Adolin said, rapping the knuckles of his left hand against the wagon. "Taverns are being set up along the central corridor with the lifts, six crossroads inward. My aunt expressly told your highlords this."
The men just stared at him blankly.
"I can have a scribe show you. Pick these boxes back up."
The men sighed, but started reloading their wagon. They knew better than to argue with the son of a highprince.
Adolin turned to survey the deep cavern, which had become a dumping ground for both supplies and people. Children ran past in groups. Workers set up tents. Women gathered water at the well in the center. Soldiers carried torches or lanterns. Even axehounds raced this way and that. Four entire warcamps full of people had frantically crossed the Shattered Plains to Urithiru, and Navani had struggled to find the right spot for them all.
For all the chaos, though, Adolin was glad to have these people. They were fresh; they hadn't suffered the battle with the Parshendi, the attack of the Assassin in White, and the terrible clash of two storms.
The Kholin soldiers were in terrible shape. Adolin's own sword hand was wrapped and still throbbing, his wrist broken during the fighting. His face had a nasty bruise, and he was one of the more lucky ones.
"Brightlord," Rushu said, pointing at another wagon. "That looks like wines."
"Delightful," Adolin said. Was nobody paying attention to Aunt Navani's directives?
He dealt with this wagon, then had to break up an argument among men who were angry they had been set to hauling water. They claimed that was parshman work, beneath their nahn. Unfortunately, there were no parshmen any longer.
Adolin soothed them and suggested they could start a water haulers' guild if forced to continue. Father would approve that for certain, though Adolin worried. Would they have the funds to pay all these people? Wages were based on a man's rank, and you couldn't just make slaves of men for no reason.
Excerpted from "Oathbringer"
Copyright © 2017 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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