Let's Play Telephone

Sep. 19th, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

Ever wonder what could possibly go wrong with a simple inscription on a basic cake? Well, WONDER NO MORE. 

Below I've listed the inscriptions some of my trusty Wreckporters ordered from professional bakeries, followed by the cakes they actually received:

 

"God Bless Neal"

I hear it's His middle name.

 

"Welcome Baby Arnold"

The spacing is what really sells it.

 

"Happy Birthday Mom"

Now that's a cake only a mother named Bob could love.

[Btw, I'm starting to wonder if a baker named Bob is doing these on purpose. And if so, I want to shake Bob's hand.]

 

"Congrats British Lit"

I hope this starts a trend; I want to see all the ways bakers butcher "Kyrgyzstanian."

 

"Happy Bandwidth Upgrade Day"

"Band With Upgrade" is the name of my retro Steam Powered Giraffe cover band.

(I realize only about 3 people will get that joke... and I'm ok with that.)

 

"Grats to Dad"

I like to think this is the baker's revenge on everyone who shortens "congratulations" to "grats." "CONGRATS" IS SHORT ENOUGH, PEOPLE.

 

"Old Dirty Thirty"

At some point you stop being surprised. Or so I'm told.

 

"When I'm 64"

That's actually how John says it when he's singing in his "drunk McCartney" voice, so maybe Kit sang her order over the phone. Drunk. While imitating Paul McCartney. 

(Don't keep us in suspense, now, Kit: did you?)

 

Thanks to Colleen C., Suzanne R., Morgan & Eric, Katie D., Ethan D., Leslie C., Becky L., & Kit K. for really phoning it in today. ;)

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by Brandon Sanderson

Oathbringer Brandon Sanderson

Start reading Oathbringer, the new volume of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive epic, right now. For free!

Tor.com is serializing the much-awaited third volume in the Stormlight Archive series every Tuesday until the novel’s November 14, 2017 release date.

Every installment is collected here in the Oathbringer index.

Need a refresher on the Stormlight Archive before beginning Oathbringer? Here’s a summary of what happened in Book 1: The Way of Kings and Book 2: Words of Radiance.

Spoiler warning: Comments will contain spoilers for previous Stormlight books, other works that take place in Sanderson’s cosmere (Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker, etc.), and the available chapters of Oathbringer, along with speculation regarding the chapters yet to come.

 

Chapter 10
Distractions

Perhaps my heresy stretches back to those days in my childhood, where these ideas began.

—From Oathbringer, preface

 

Kaladin leaped from a hilltop, preserving Stormlight by Lashing himself upward just enough to give him some lift.

He soared through the rain, angled toward another hilltop. Beneath him, the valley was clogged with vivim trees, which wound their spindly branches together to create an almost impenetrable wall of forestation.

He landed lightly, skidding across the wet stone past rainspren like blue candles. He dismissed his Lashing, and as the force of the ground reasserted itself, he stepped into a quick march. He’d learned to march before learning the spear or shield. Kaladin smiled. He could almost hear Hav’s voice barking commands from the back of the line, where he helped stragglers. Hav had always said that once men could march together, learning to fight was easy.

“Smiling?” Syl said. She’d taken the shape of a large raindrop streaking through the air beside him, falling the wrong way. It was a natural shape, but also completely wrong. Plausible impossibility.

“You’re right,” Kaladin said, rain dribbling down his face. “I should be more solemn. We’re chasing down Voidbringers.” Storms, how odd it sounded to say that.

“I didn’t intend it as a reprimand.”

“Hard to tell with you sometimes.”

“And what was that supposed to mean?”

“Two days ago, I found that my mother is still alive,” Kaladin said, “so the position is not, in fact, vacant. You can stop trying to fill it.”

He Lashed himself upward slightly, then let himself slide down the wet stone of the steep hill, standing sideways. He passed open rockbuds and wiggling vines, glutted and fat from the constant rainfall. Following the Weeping, they’d often find as many dead plants around the town as they did after a strong highstorm.

“Well, I’m not trying to mother you,” Syl said, still a raindrop. Talking to her could be a surreal experience. “Though perhaps I chide you on occasion, when you’re being sullen.”

He grunted.

“Or when you’re being uncommunicative.” She transformed into the shape of a young woman in a havah, seated in the air and holding an umbrella as she moved along beside him. “It is my solemn and important duty to bring happiness, light, and joy into your world when you’re being a dour idiot. Which is most of the time. So there.”

Kaladin chuckled, holding a little Stormlight as he ran up the side of the next hill, then skidded down into the next valley. This was prime farmland; there was a reason why the Akanny region was prized by Sadeas. It might be a cultural backwater, but these rolling fields probably fed half the kingdom with their lavis and tallew crops. Other villages focused on raising large passels of hogs for leather and meat. Gumfrems, a kind of chull-like beast, were less common pasture animals harvested for their gemhearts, which—though small—allowed Soulcasting of meat.

Syl turned into a ribbon of light and zipped in front of him, making loops. It was difficult not to feel uplifted, even in the gloomy weather. He’d spent the entire sprint to Alethkar worrying—and then assuming—that he’d be too late to save Hearthstone. To find his parents alive… well, it was an unexpected blessing. The type his life had been severely lacking.

So he gave in to the urging of the Stormlight. Run. Leap. Though he’d spent two days chasing the Voidbringers, Kaladin’s exhaustion had faded. There weren’t many empty beds to be found in the broken villages he passed, but he had been able to find a roof to keep him dry and something warm to eat.

He’d started at Hearthstone and worked his way outward in a spiral— visiting villages, asking after the local parshmen, then warning people that the terrible storm would return. So far, he hadn’t found a single town or village that had been attacked.

Kaladin reached the next hilltop and pulled to a stop. A weathered stone post marked a crossroads. During his youth, he’d never gotten this far from Hearthstone, though he wasn’t more than a few days’ walk away.

Syl zipped up to him as he shaded his eyes from the rain. The glyphs and simple map on the stone marker would indicate the distance to the next town—but he didn’t need that. He could make it out as a smudge in the gloom. A fairly large town, by local standards.

“Come on,” he said, starting down the hillside.

“I think,” Syl said, landing on his shoulder and becoming a young woman, “I would make a wonderful mother.”

“And what inspired this topic?”

“You’re the one who brought it up.”

In comparing Syl to his mother for nagging him? “Are you even capable of having children? Baby spren?”

“I have no idea,” Syl proclaimed.

“You call the Stormfather… well, Father. Right? So he birthed you?”

“Maybe? I think so? Helped shape me, is more like it. Helped us find our voices.” She cocked her head. “Yes. He made some of us. Made me.”

“So maybe you could do that,” Kaladin said. “Find little, uh, bits of the wind? Or of Honor? Shape them?”

He used a Lashing to leap over a snarl of rockbuds and vines, and startled a pack of cremlings as he landed, sending them scuttling away from a nearly clean mink skeleton. Probably the leavings of a larger predator.

“Hmmm,” Syl said. “I would be an excellent mother. I’d teach the little spren to fly, to coast the winds, to harass you.…”

Kaladin smiled. “You’d get distracted by an interesting beetle and fly off, leaving them in a drawer somewhere.”

“Nonsense! Why would I leave my babies in a drawer? Far too boring. A highprince’s shoe though…”

He flew the remaining distance to the village, and the sight of broken buildings at the western edge dampened his mood. Though the destruction continued to be less than he’d feared, every town or village had lost people to the winds or the terrible lightning.

This village—Hornhollow, the map called it—was in what once would have been considered an ideal location. The land here dipped into a depression, and a hill to the east cut the brunt of the highstorms. It held about two dozen structures, including two large storm sanctuaries where travelers could stay—but there were also many outer buildings. This was the highprince’s land, and an industrious darkeyes of high enough nahn could get a commission to work an unused hill out by itself, then keep a portion of the crop.

A few sphere lanterns gave light to the square, where people had gathered for a town meeting. That was convenient. Kaladin dropped toward the lights and held his hand to the side. Syl formed there by unspoken command, taking the shape of a Shardblade: a sleek, beautiful sword with the symbol of the Windrunners prominent on the center, with lines sweeping off it toward the hilt—grooves in the metal that looked like flowing tresses of hair. Though Kaladin preferred a spear, the Blade was a symbol.

Kaladin hit the ground in the center of the village, near its large central cistern, used to catch rainwater and filter away the crem. He rested the Sylblade on his shoulder and stretched out his other hand, preparing his speech. People of Hornhollow. I am Kaladin, of the Knights Radiant. I have come—

“Lord Radiant!” A portly lighteyed man stumbled out of the crowd, wearing a long raincloak and a wide-brimmed hat. He looked ridiculous, but it was the Weeping. Constant rain didn’t exactly encourage heights of fashion.

The man clapped his hands in an energetic motion, and a pair of ardents stumbled up beside him, bearing goblets full of glowing spheres. Around the perimeter of the square, people hissed and whispered, anticipationspren flapping in an unseen wind. Several men held up small children to get a better look.

“Great,” Kaladin said softly. “I’ve become a menagerie act.”

In his mind, he heard Syl giggle.

Well, best to put on a good show of it. He lifted the Sylblade high overhead, prompting a cheer from the crowd. He would have bet that most of the people in this square used to curse the name of the Radiants, but none of that was manifest now in the people’s enthusiasm. It was hard to believe that centuries of mistrust and vilification would be forgotten so quickly. But with the sky breaking and the land in turmoil, people would look to a symbol.

Kaladin lowered his Blade. He knew all too well the danger of symbols. Amaram had been one to him, long ago.

“You knew of my coming,” Kaladin said to the citylord and the ardents. “You’ve been in contact with your neighbors. Have they told you what I’ve been saying?”

“Yes, Brightlord,” the lighteyed man said, gesturing eagerly for him to take the spheres. As he did so—replacing them with spent ones he’d traded for previously—the man’s expression fell noticeably.

Expected me to pay two for one as I did at the first few towns, did you? Kaladin thought with amusement. Well, he dropped a few extra dun spheres in. He’d rather be known as generous, particularly if it helped word spread, but he couldn’t halve his spheres each time he went through them.

“This is good,” Kaladin said, fishing out a few small gemstones. “I can’t visit every holding in the area. I need you to send messages to each nearby village, carrying words of comfort and command from the king. I will pay for the time of your runners.”

He looked out at the sea of eager faces, and couldn’t help but remember a similar day in Hearthstone where he and the rest of the townspeople had waited, eager to catch a glimpse of their new citylord.

“Of course, Brightlord,” the lighteyed man said. “Would you wish to rest now, and take a meal? Or would you rather visit the location of the attack immediately?”

Attack?” Kaladin said, feeling a spike of alarm.

“Yes, Brightlord,” the portly lighteyes said. “Isn’t that why you’re here?

To see where the rogue parshmen assaulted us?”

Finally! “Take me there. Now.

 


 

They’d attacked a grain storage just outside town. Squashed between two hills and shaped like a dome, it had weathered the Everstorm without so much as a loosed stone. That made it a particular shame that the Voidbringers had ripped open the door and pillaged what was inside.

Kaladin knelt within, flipping over a broken hinge. The building smelled of dust and tallew, but was too wet. Townspeople who would suffer a dozen leaks in their bedroom would go to great expense to keep their grain dry.

It felt odd to not have the rain on his head, though he could still hear it pattering outside.

“May I continue, Brightlord?” the ardent asked him. She was young, pretty, and nervous. Obviously she didn’t know where he fit into the scheme of her religion. The Knights Radiant had been founded by the Heralds, but they were also traitors. So… he was either a divine being of myth or a cretin one step above a Voidbringer.

“Yes, please,” Kaladin said.

“Of the five eyewitnesses,” the ardent said, “four, um, independently counted the number of attackers at… fifty or so? Anyway, it’s safe to say that they’ve got large numbers, considering how many sacks of grain they were able to carry away in such a short time. They, um, didn’t look exactly like parshmen. Too tall, and wearing armor. The sketch I made… Um…”

She tried showing him her sketch again. It wasn’t much better than a child’s drawing: a bunch of scribbles in vaguely humanoid shapes.

“Anyway,” the young ardent continued, oblivious to the fact that Syl had landed on her shoulder and was inspecting her face. “They attacked right after first moonset. They had the grain out by middle of second moon, um, and we didn’t hear anything until the change of guard happened. Sot raised the alarm, and that chased the creatures off They only left four sacks, which we moved.”

Kaladin took a crude wooden cudgel off the table next to the ardent. The ardent glanced at him, then quickly looked back to her paper, blushing. The room, lit by oil lamps, was depressingly hollow. This grain should have gotten the village to the next harvest.

To a man from a farming village, nothing was more distressing than an empty silo at planting time.

“The men who were attacked?” Kaladin said, inspecting the cudgel, which the Voidbringers had dropped while fleeing.

“They’ve both recovered, Brightlord,” the ardent said. “Though Khem has a ringing in his ear he says won’t go away.”

Fifty parshmen in warform—which was what the descriptions sounded most like to him—could easily have overrun this town and its handful of militia guards. They could have slaughtered everyone and taken whatever they wished; instead, they’d made a surgical raid.

“The red lights,” Kaladin said. “Describe them again.”

The ardent started; she’d been looking at him. “Um, all five witnesses mentioned the lights, Brightlord. There were several small glowing red lights in the darkness.”

“Their eyes.”

“Maybe?” the ardent said. “If those were eyes, it was only a few. I went and asked, and none of the witnesses specifically saw eyes glowing—and Khem got a look right in one of the parshmen’s faces as they struck him.”

Kaladin dropped the cudgel and dusted off his palms. He took the sheet with the picture on it out of the young ardent’s hands and inspected it, just for show, then nodded to her. “You did well. Thank you for the report.”

She sighed, grinning stupidly.

“Oh!” Syl said, still on the ardent’s shoulder. “She thinks you’re pretty!”

Kaladin drew his lips to a line. He nodded to the woman and left her, striking back into the rain toward the center of town.

Syl zipped up to his shoulder. “Wow. She must be desperate living out here. I mean, look at you. Hair that hasn’t been combed since you flew across the continent, uniform stained with crem, and that beard.

“Thank you for the boost of confidence.”

“I guess when there’s nobody about but farmers, your standards really drop.”

“She’s an ardent,” Kaladin said. “She’d have to marry another ardent.”

“I don’t think she was thinking about marriage, Kaladin…” Syl said, turning and looking backward over her shoulder. “I know you’ve been busy lately fighting guys in white clothing and stuff, but I’ve been doing research. People lock their doors, but there’s plenty of room to get in underneath. I figured, since you don’t seem inclined to do any learning yourself, I should study. So if you have questions…”

“I’m well aware of what is involved.”

“You sure?” Syl asked. “Maybe we could have that ardent draw you a picture. She seems like she’d be really eager.”

“Syl…”

“I just want you to be happy, Kaladin,” she said, zipping off his shoulder and running a few rings around him as a ribbon of light. “People in relationships are happier.”

“That,” Kaladin said, “is demonstrably false. Some might be. I know a lot who aren’t.”

“Come on,” Syl said. “What about that Lightweaver? You seemed to like her.”

The words struck uncomfortably close to the truth. “Shallan is engaged to Dalinar’s son.”

“So? You’re better than him. I don’t trust him one bit.”

“You don’t trust anyone who carries a Shardblade, Syl,” Kaladin said with a sigh. “We’ve been over this. It’s not a mark of bad character to have bonded one of the weapons.”

“Yes, well, let’s have someone swing around the corpse of your sisters by the feet, and we’ll see whether you consider it a ‘mark of bad character’ or not. This is a distraction. Like that Lightweaver could be for you…”

“Shallan’s a lighteyes,” Kaladin said. “That’s the end of the conversation.”

“But—”

“End,” he said, stepping into the home of the village lighteyes. Then he added under his breath, “And stop spying on people when they’re being intimate. It’s creepy.”

The way she spoke, she expected to be there when Kaladin… Well, he’d never considered that before, though she went with him everywhere else. Could he convince her to wait outside? She’d still listen, if not sneak in to watch. Stormfather. His life just kept getting stranger. He tried— unsuccessfully—to banish the image of lying in bed with a woman, Syl sitting on the headboard and shouting out encouragement and advice.…

“Lord Radiant?” the citylord asked from inside the front room of the small home. “Are you well?”

“Painful memory,” Kaladin said. “Your scouts are certain of the direction the parshmen went?”

The citylord looked over his shoulder at a scraggly man in leathers, bow on his back, standing by the boarded-up window. Trapper, with a writ from the local highlord to catch mink on his lands. “Followed them half a day out, Brightlord. They never deviated. Straight toward Kholinar, I’d swear to Kelek himself.”

“Then that’s where I’m going as well,” Kaladin said.

“You want me to lead you, Brightlord Radiant?” the trapper asked.

Kaladin drew in Stormlight. “Afraid you’d just slow me down.” He nodded to the men, then stepped out and Lashed himself upward. People clogged the road and cheered from rooftops as he left the town behind.

 


 

The scents of horses reminded Adolin of his youth. Sweat, and manure, and hay. Good scents. Real scents.

He’d spent many of those days, before he was fully a man, on campaign with his father during border skirmishes with Jah Keved. Adolin had been afraid of horses back then, though he’d never have admitted it. So much faster, more intelligent, than chulls.

So alien. Creatures all covered in hair—which made him shiver to touch—with big glassy eyes. And those hadn’t even been real horses. For all their pedigree breeding, the horses they’d rode on campaign had just been ordinary Shin Thoroughbreds. Expensive, yes. But by definition, therefore, not priceless.

Not like the creature before him now.

They were housing the Kholin livestock in the far northwest section of the tower, on the ground floor, near where winds from outside blew along the mountains. Some clever constructions in the hallways by the royal engineers had ventilated the scents away from the inner corridors, though that left the region quite chilly.

Gumfrems and hogs clogged some rooms, while conventional horses stabled in others. Several even contained Bashin’s axehounds, animals who never got to go on hunts anymore.

Such accommodations weren’t good enough for the Blackthorn’s horse. No, the massive black Ryshadium stallion had been given his own field. Large enough to serve as a pasture, it was open to the sky and in an enviable spot, if you discounted the scents of the other animals.

As Adolin emerged from the tower, the black monster of a horse came galloping over. Big enough to carry a Shardbearer without looking small, Ryshadium were often called the “third Shard.” Blade, Plate, and Mount.

That didn’t do them justice. You couldn’t earn a Ryshadium simply by defeating someone in combat. They chose their riders.

But, Adolin thought as Gallant nuzzled his hand, I suppose that was how it used to be with Blades too. They were spren who chose their bearers.

“Hey,” Adolin said, scratching the Ryshadium’s snout with his left hand. “A little lonely out here, isn’t it? I’m sorry about that. Wish you weren’t alone any—” He cut off as his voice caught in his throat.

Gallant stepped closer, towering over him, but somehow still gentle.

The horse nuzzled Adolin’s neck, then blew out sharply.

“Ugh,” Adolin said, turning the horse’s head. “That’s a scent I could do without.” He patted Gallant’s neck, then reached with his right hand into his shoulder pack—before a sharp pain from his wrist reminded him yet again of his wound. He reached in with the other hand and took out some sugar lumps, which Gallant consumed eagerly.

“You’re as bad as Aunt Navani,” Adolin noted. “That’s why you came running, isn’t it? You smelled treats.”

The horse turned his head, looking at Adolin with one watery blue eye, rectangular pupil at the center. He almost seemed… offended.

Adolin often had felt he could read his own Ryshadium’s emotions. There had been a… bond between him and Sureblood. More delicate and indefinable than the bond between man and sword, but still there.

Of course, Adolin was the one who talked to his sword sometimes, so he had a habit of this sort of thing.

“I’m sorry,” Adolin said. “I know the two of you liked to run together. And… I don’t know if Father will be able to get down as much to see you. He’d already been withdrawing from battle before he got all these new responsibilities. I thought I’d stop by once in a while.”

The horse snorted loudly.

“Not to ride you,” Adolin said, reading indignation in the Ryshadium’s motions. “I just thought it might be nice for both of us.”

The horse poked his snout at Adolin’s satchel until he dug out another sugar cube. It seemed like agreement to Adolin, who fed the horse, then leaned back against the wall and watched him gallop through the pasture.

Showing off Adolin thought with amusement as Gallant pranced past him. Maybe Gallant would let him brush his coat. That would feel good, like the evenings he’d spent with Sureblood in the dark calm of the stables. At least, that was what he’d done before everything had gotten busy, with Shallan and the duels and everything else.

He’d ignored the horse right up until he’d needed Sureblood in battle. And then, in a flash of light, he was gone.

Adolin took a deep breath. Everything seemed insane these days. Not just Sureblood, but what he’d done to Sadeas, and now the investigation…

Watching Gallant seemed to help a little. Adolin was still there, leaning against the wall, when Renarin arrived. The younger Kholin poked his head through the doorway, looking around. He didn’t shy away when Gallant galloped past, but he did regard the stallion with wariness.

“Hey,” Adolin said from the side.

“Hey. Bashin said you were down here.”

“Just checking on Gallant,” Adolin said. “Because Father’s been so busy lately.”

Renarin approached. “You could ask Shallan to draw Sureblood,” Renarin said. “I bet, um, she’d be able to do a good job. To remember.”

It wasn’t a bad suggestion, actually. “Were you looking for me, then?”

“I…” Renarin watched Gallant as the horse pranced by again. “He’s excited.”

“He likes an audience.”

“They don’t fit, you know.”

“Don’t fit?”

“Ryshadium have stone hooves,” Renarin said, “stronger than ordinary horses’. Never need to be shod.”

“And that makes them not fit? I’d say that makes them fit better.…” Adolin eyed Renarin. “You mean ordinary horses, don’t you?”

Renarin blushed, then nodded. People had trouble following him sometimes, but that was merely because he tended to be so thoughtful. He’d be thinking about something deep, something brilliant, and then would only mention a part. It made him seem erratic, but once you got to know him, you realized he wasn’t trying to be esoteric. His lips just sometimes failed to keep up with his brain.

“Adolin,” he said softly. “I… um… I have to give you back the Shardblade you won for me.”

“Why?” Adolin said.

“It hurts to hold,” Renarin said. “It always has, to be honest. I thought it was just me, being strange. But it’s all of us.”

“Radiants, you mean.”

He nodded. “We can’t use the dead Blades. It’s not right.”

“Well, I suppose I could find someone else to use it,” Adolin said, running through options. “Though you should really be the one to choose. By right of bestowal, the Blade is yours, and you should pick the successor.”

“I’d rather you do it. I’ve given it to the ardents already, for safekeeping.”

“Which means you’ll be unarmed,” Adolin said.

Renarin glanced away.

“Or not,” Adolin said, then poked Renarin in the shoulder. “You’ve got a replacement already, don’t you.”

Renarin blushed again.

“You mink!” Adolin said. “You’ve managed to create a Radiant Blade? Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It just happened. Glys wasn’t certain he could do it… but we need more people to work the Oathgate… so…”

He took a deep breath, then stretched his hand to the side and summoned a long glowing Shardblade. Thin, with almost no crossguard, it had waving folds to the metal, like it had been forged.

“Gorgeous,” Adolin said. “Renarin, it’s fantastic!”

“Thanks.”

“So why are you embarrassed?”

“I’m… not?”

Adolin gave him a flat stare.

Renarin dismissed the Blade. “I simply… Adolin, I was starting to fit in. With Bridge Four, with being a Shardbearer. Now, I’m in the darkness again. Father expects me to be a Radiant, so I can help him unite the world. But how am I supposed to learn?”

Adolin scratched his chin with his good hand. “Huh. I assumed that it just kind of came to you. It hasn’t?”

“Some has. But it… frightens me, Adolin.” He held up his hand, and it started to glow, wisps of Stormlight trailing off it, like smoke from a fire. “What if I hurt someone, or ruin things?”

“You’re not going to,” Adolin said. “Renarin, that’s the power of the Almighty himself.”

Renarin only stared at that glowing hand, and didn’t seem convinced. So Adolin reached out with his good hand and took Renarin’s, holding it.

“This is good,” Adolin said to him. “You’re not going to hurt anyone. You’re here to save us.”

Renarin looked to him, then smiled. A pulse of Radiance washed through Adolin, and for an instant he saw himself perfected. A version of himself that was somehow complete and whole, the man he could be.

It was gone in a moment, and Renarin pulled his hand free and murmured an apology. He mentioned again the Shardblade needing to be given away, then fled back into the tower.

Adolin stared after him. Gallant trotted up and nudged him for more sugar, so he reached absently into his satchel and fed the horse.

Only after Gallant trotted off did Adolin realize he’d used his right hand.

He held it up, amazed, moving his fingers. His wrist had been completely healed.

 


 

Chapter 11
The Rift

THIRTY-THREE YEARS AGO

Dalinar danced from one foot to the other in the morning mist, feeling a new power, an energy in every step. Shardplate. His own Shardplate.

The world would never be the same place. They’d all expected he would someday have his own Plate or Blade, but he’d never been able to quiet the whisper of uncertainty from the back of his mind. What if it never happened?

But it had. Stormfather, it had. He’d won it himself, in combat. Yes, that combat had involved kicking a man off a cliff, but he’d defeated a Shardbearer regardless.

He couldn’t help but bask in how grand it felt.

“Calm, Dalinar,” Sadeas said from beside him in the mist. Sadeas wore his own golden Plate. “Patience.”

“It won’t do any good, Sadeas,” Gavilar—clad in bright blue Plate— said from Dalinar’s other side. All three of them wore their faceplates up for the moment. “The Kholin boys are chained axehounds, and we smell blood. We can’t go into battle breathing calming breaths, centered and serene, as the ardents teach.”

Dalinar shifted, feeling the cold morning fog on his face. He wanted to dance with the anticipationspren whipping in the air around him. Behind, the army waited in disciplined ranks, their footsteps, clinkings, coughs, and murmured banter rising through the fog.

He almost felt as if he didn’t need that army. He wore a massive hammer on his back, so heavy an unaided man—even the strongest of them— wouldn’t be able to lift it. He barely noticed the weight. Storms, this power. It felt remarkably like the Thrill.

“Have you given thought to my suggestion, Dalinar?” Sadeas asked.

“No.”

Sadeas sighed.

“If Gavilar commands me,” Dalinar said, “I’ll marry.”

“Don’t bring me into this,” Gavilar said. He summoned and dismissed his Shardblade repeatedly as they talked.

“Well,” Dalinar said, “until you say something, I’m staying single.” The only woman he’d ever wanted belonged to Gavilar. They’d married—storms, they had a child now. A little girl.

His brother must never know how Dalinar felt.

“But think of the benefit, Dalinar,” Sadeas said. “Your wedding could bring us alliances, Shards. Perhaps you could win us a princedom—one we wouldn’t have to storming drive to the brink of collapse before they join us!”

After two years of fighting, only four of the ten princedoms had accepted Gavilar’s rule—and two of those, Kholin and Sadeas, had been easy. The result was a united Alethkar: against House Kholin.

Gavilar was convinced that he could play them off one another, that their natural selfishness would lead them to stab one another in the back. Sadeas, in turn, pushed Gavilar toward greater brutality. He claimed that the fiercer their reputation, the more cities would turn to them willingly rather than risk being pillaged.

“Well?” Sadeas asked. “Will you at least consider a union of political necessity?”

“Storms, you still on that?” Dalinar said. “Let me fight. You and my brother can worry about politics.”

“You can’t escape this forever, Dalinar. You realize that, right? We’ll have to worry about feeding the darkeyes, about city infrastructure, about ties with other kingdoms. Politics.

“You and Gavilar,” Dalinar said.

“All of us,” Sadeas said. “All three.”

“Weren’t you trying to get me to relax?” Dalinar snapped. Storms.

The rising sun finally started to disperse the fog, and that let him see their target: a wall about twelve feet high. Beyond that, nothing. A flat rocky expanse, or so it appeared. The chasm city was difficult to spot from this direction. Named Rathalas, it was also known as the Rift: an entire city that had been built inside a rip in the ground.

“Brightlord Tanalan is a Shardbearer, right?” Dalinar asked.

Sadeas sighed, lowering his faceplate. “We only went over this four times, Dalinar.”

“I was drunk. Tanalan. Shardbearer?”

“Blade only, Brother,” Gavilar said.

“He’s mine,” Dalinar whispered.

Gavilar laughed. “Only if you find him first! I’ve half a mind to give that Blade to Sadeas. At least he listens in our meetings.”

“All right,” Sadeas said. “Let’s do this carefully. Remember the plan. Gavilar, you—”

Gavilar gave Dalinar a grin, slammed his faceplate down, then took off running to leave Sadeas midsentence. Dalinar whooped and joined him, Plated boots grinding against stone.

Sadeas cursed loudly, then followed. The army remained behind for the moment.

Rocks started falling; catapults from behind the wall hurled solitary boulders or sprays of smaller rocks. Chunks slammed down around Dalinar, shaking the ground, causing rockbud vines to curl up. A boulder struck just ahead, then bounced, spraying chips of stone. Dalinar skidded past it, the Plate lending a spring to his motion. He raised his arm before his eye slit as a hail of arrows darkened the sky.

“Watch the ballistas!” Gavilar shouted.

Atop the wall, soldiers aimed massive crossbowlike devices mounted to the stone. One sleek bolt—the size of a spear—launched directly at Dalinar, and it proved far more accurate than the catapults. He threw himself to the side, Plate grinding on stone as he slid out of the way. The bolt hit the ground with such force that the wood shattered.

Other shafts trailed netting and ropes, hoping to trip a Shardbearer and render him prone for a second shot. Dalinar grinned, feeling the Thrill awaken within him, and recovered his feet. He leaped over a bolt trailing netting.

Tanalan’s men delivered a storm of wood and stone, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Dalinar took a stone in the shoulder and lurched, but quickly regained his momentum. Arrows were useless against him, the boulders too random, and the ballistas too slow to reload.

This was how it should be. Dalinar, Gavilar, Sadeas. Together. Other responsibilities didn’t matter. Life was about the fight. A good battle in the day—then at night, a warm hearth, tired muscles, and a good vintage of wine.

Dalinar reached the squat wall and leaped, propelling himself in a mighty jump. He gained just enough height to grab one of the crenels of the wall’s top. Men raised hammers to pound his fingers, but he hurled himself over the lip and onto the wall walk, crashing down amid panicked defenders. He jerked the release rope on his hammer—dropping it on an enemy behind—then swung out with his fist, sending men broken and screaming.

This was almost too easy! He seized his hammer, then brought it up and swung it in a wide arc, tossing men from the wall like leaves before a gust of wind. Just beyond him, Sadeas kicked over a ballista, destroying the device with a casual blow. Gavilar attacked with his Blade, dropping corpses by the handful, their eyes burning. Up here, the fortification worked against the defenders, leaving them cramped and clumped up—perfect for Shardbearers to destroy.

Dalinar surged through them, and in a few moments likely killed more men than he had in his entire life. At that, he felt a surprising yet profound dissatisfaction. This was not about his skill, his momentum, or even his reputation. You could have replaced him with a toothless gaffer and produced practically the same result.

He gritted his teeth against that sudden useless emotion. He dug deeply within, and found the Thrill waiting. It filled him, driving away dissatisfaction. Within moments he was roaring his pleasure. Nothing these men did could touch him. He was a destroyer, a conqueror, a glorious maelstrom of death. A god.

Sadeas was saying something. The silly man gestured in his golden Shardplate. Dalinar blinked, looking out over the wall. He could see the Rift proper from this vantage, a deep chasm in the ground that hid an entire city, built up the sides of either cliff

“Catapults, Dalinar!” Sadeas said. “Bring down those catapults!”

Right. Gavilar’s armies had started to charge the walls. Those catapults—near the way down into the Rift proper—were still launching stones, and would drop hundreds of men.

Dalinar leaped for the edge of the wall and grabbed a rope ladder to swing down. The ropes, of course, immediately snapped, sending him toppling to the ground. He struck with a crash of Plate on stone. It didn’t hurt, but his pride took a serious blow. Above, Sadeas looked at him over the edge. Dalinar could practically hear his voice.

Always rushing into things. Take some time to think once in a while, won’t you?

That had been a flat-out greenvine mistake. Dalinar growled and climbed to his feet, searching for his hammer. Storms! He’d bent the handle in his fall. How had he done that? It wasn’t made of the same strange metal as Blades and Plate, but it was still good steel.

Soldiers guarding the catapults swarmed toward him while the shadows of boulders passed overhead. Dalinar set his jaw, the Thrill saturating him, and reached for a stout wooden door set into the wall nearby. He ripped it free, the hinges popping, and stumbled. It came off more easily than he’d expected.

There was more to this armor than he’d ever imagined. Maybe he wasn’t any better with the Plate than some old gaffer, but he would change that. At that moment, he determined that he’d never be surprised again. He’d wear this Plate morning and night—he’d sleep in the storming stuff—until he was more comfortable in it than out.

He raised the wooden door and swung it like a bludgeon, sweeping soldiers away and opening a path to the catapults. Then he dashed forward and grabbed the side of one catapult. He ripped its wheel off, splintering wood and sending the machine teetering. He stepped onto it, grabbing the catapult’s arm and breaking it free.

Only ten more to go. He stood atop the wrecked machine when he heard a distant voice call his name. “Dalinar!”

He looked toward the wall, where Sadeas reached back and heaved his Shardbearer’s hammer. It spun in the air before slamming into the catapult next to Dalinar, wedging itself into the broken wood.

Sadeas raised a hand in salute, and Dalinar waved back in gratitude, then grabbed the hammer. The destruction went a lot faster after that. He pounded the machines, leaving behind shattered wood. Engineers—many of them women—scrambled away, screaming, “Blackthorn, Blackthorn!”

By the time he neared the last catapult, Gavilar had secured the gates and opened them to his soldiers. A flood of men entered, joining those who had scaled the walls. The last of the enemies near Dalinar fled down into the city, leaving him alone. He grunted and kicked the final broken catapult, sending it rolling backward across the stone toward the edge of the Rift.

It tipped, then fell over. Dalinar stepped forward, walking onto a kind of observation post, a section of rock with a railing to prevent people from slipping over the side. From this vantage, he got his first good look down at the city.

“The Rift” was a fitting name. To his right, the chasm narrowed, but here at the middle he’d have been hard-pressed to throw a stone across to the other side, even with Shardplate. And within it, there was life. Gardens bobbing with lifespren. Buildings built practically on top of one another down the V-shaped cliff sides. The place teemed with a network of stilts, bridges, and wooden walkways.

Dalinar turned and looked back at the wall that ran in a wide circle around the opening of the Rift on all sides except the west, where the canyon continued until it opened up below at the shores of the lake.

To survive in Alethkar, you had to find shelter from the storms. A wide cleft like this one was perfect for a city. But how did you protect it? Any attacking enemy would have the high ground. Many cities walked a risky line between security from storms and security from men.

Dalinar shouldered Sadeas’s hammer as groups of Tanalan’s soldiers flooded down from the walls, forming up to flank Gavilar’s army on both right and left. They’d try to press against the Kholin troops from both sides, but with three Shardbearers to face, they were in trouble. Where was Highlord Tanalan himself ?

Behind, Thakka approached with a small squad of elites, joining Dalinar on the stone viewing platform. Thakka put his hands on the railing, whistling softly.

“Something’s going on with this city,” Dalinar said.

“What?”

“I don’t know.…” Dalinar might not pay attention to the grand plans Gavilar and Sadeas made, but he was a soldier. He knew battlefields like a woman knew her mother’s recipes: he might not be able to give you measurements, but he could taste when something was off.

The fighting continued behind him, Kholin soldiers clashing with Tanalan’s defenders. Tanalan’s armies didn’t fare well; demoralized by the advancing Kholin army, the enemy ranks quickly broke and scrambled into a retreat, clogging the ramps down into the city. Gavilar and Sadeas didn’t give chase; they had the high ground now. No need to rush into a potential ambush.

Gavilar clomped across the stone, Sadeas beside him. They’d want to survey the city and rain arrows upon those below—maybe even use stolen catapults, if Dalinar had left any functional. They’d siege this place until it broke.

Three Shardbearers, Dalinar thought. Tanalan has to be planning to deal with us somehow.…

This viewing platform was the best vantage for looking into the city. And they’d situated the catapults right next to it—machines that the Shardbearers were certain to attack and disable. Dalinar glanced to the sides, and saw cracks in the stone floor of the viewing platform.

“No!” Dalinar shouted to Gavilar. “Stay back! It’s a—”

The enemy must have been watching, for the moment he shouted, the ground fell out from beneath him. Dalinar caught a glimpse of Gavilar— held back by Sadeas—looking on in horror as Dalinar, Thakka, and a handful of other elites were toppled into the Rift.

Storms. The entire section of stone where they’d been standing—the lip hanging out over the Rift—had broken free! As the large section of rock tumbled down into the first buildings, Dalinar was flung into the air above the city. Everything spun around him.

A moment later, he crashed into a building with an awful crunch. Something hard hit his arm, an impact so powerful he heard his armor there shatter.

The building failed to stop him. He tore right through the wood and continued, helm grinding against stone as he somehow came in contact with the side of the Rift.

He hit another surface with a loud crunch, and blessedly here he finally stopped. He groaned, feeling a sharp pain from his left hand. He shook his head, and found himself staring upward some fifty feet through a shattered section of the near-vertical wooden city. The large section of falling rock had torn a swath through the city along the steep incline, smashing homes and walkways. Dalinar had been flung just to the north, and had eventually come to rest on the wooden roof of a building.

He didn’t see signs of his men. Thakka, the other elites. But without Shardplate… He growled, angerspren boiling around him like pools of blood. He shifted on the rooftop, but the pain in his hand made him wince. His armor all down his left arm had shattered, and in falling he appeared to have broken a few fingers.

His Shardplate leaked glowing white smoke from a hundred fractures, but the only pieces he’d lost completely were from his left arm and hand.

He gingerly pried himself from the rooftop, but as he shifted, he broke through and fell into the home. He grunted as he hit, members of a family screaming and pulling back against the wall. Tanalan apparently hadn’t told the people of his plan to crush a section of his own city in a desperate attempt to deal with the enemy Shardbearers.

Dalinar got to his feet, ignoring the cowering people, and shoved open the door—breaking it with the strength of his push—and stepped out onto a wooden walkway that ran before the homes on this tier of the city.

A hail of arrows immediately fell on him. He turned his right shoulder toward them, growling, shielding his eye slit as best he could while he inspected the source of the attack. Fifty archers were set up on a garden platform on the other storming side of the Rift from him. Wonderful.

He recognized the man leading the archers. Tall, with an imperious bearing and stark white plumes on his helm. Who put chicken feathers on their helms? Looked ridiculous. Well, Tanalan was a fine enough fellow. Dalinar had beat him once at pawns, and Tanalan had paid the bet with a hundred glowing bits of ruby, each dropped into a corked bottle of wine. Dalinar had always found that amusing.

Reveling in the Thrill, which rose in him and drove away pain, Dalinar charged along the walkway, ignoring arrows. Above, Sadeas was leading a force down one of the ramps outside the path of the rockfall, but it would be slow going. By the time they arrived, Dalinar intended to have a new Shardblade.

He charged onto one of the bridges that crossed the Rift. Unfortunately, he knew exactly what he would do if preparing this city for an assault. Sure enough, a pair of soldiers hurried down the other side of the Rift, then used axes to attack the support posts to Dalinar’s bridge. It had Soulcast metal ropes holding it up, but if they could get those posts down—dropping the lines—his weight would surely cause the entire thing to fall.

The bottom wash of the Rift was easily another hundred feet below. Growling, Dalinar made the only choice he could. He threw himself over the side of his walkway, dropping a short distance to one below. It looked sturdy enough. Even so, one foot smashed through the wooden planks, nearly followed by his entire body.

He heaved himself up and continued running across. Two more soldiers reached the posts holding up this bridge, and they began frantically hacking away.

The walkway shook beneath Dalinar’s feet. Stormfather. He didn’t have much time, but there were no more walkways within jumping distance. Dalinar pushed himself to a run, roaring, his footfalls cracking boards.

A single black arrow fell from above, swooping like a skyeel. It dropped one of the soldiers. Another arrow followed, hitting the second soldier even as he gawked at his fallen ally. The walkway stopped shaking, and Dalinar grinned, pulling to a stop. He turned, spotting a man standing near the sheared-off section of stone above. He lifted a black bow toward Dalinar.

“Teleb, you storming miracle,” Dalinar said.

He reached the other side and plucked an axe from the hands of a dead man. Then he charged up a ramp toward where he’d seen Highlord Tanalan.

He found the place easily, a wide wooden platform built on struts connected to parts of the wall below, and draped with vines and blooming rockbuds. Lifespren scattered as Dalinar reached it.

Centered in the garden, Tanalan waited with a force of some fifty soldiers. Puffing inside his helm, Dalinar stepped up to confront them. Tanalan was armored in simple steel, no Shardplate, though a brutal-looking Shardblade—wide, with a hooked tip—appeared in his grasp.

Tanalan barked for his soldiers to stand back and lower their bows. Then he strode toward Dalinar, holding the Shardblade with both hands.

Everyone always fixated upon Shardblades. Specific weapons had lore dedicated to them, and people traced which kings or brightlords had carried which sword. Well, Dalinar had used both Blade and Plate, and if given the choice of one, he’d pick Plate every time. All he needed to do was get in one solid hit on Tanalan, and the fight would be over. The highlord, however, had to contend with a foe who could resist his blows.

The Thrill thrummed inside Dalinar. Standing between two squat trees, he set his stance, keeping his exposed left arm pointed away from the highlord while gripping the axe in his gauntleted right hand. Though it was a war axe, it felt like a child’s plaything.

“You should not have come here, Dalinar,” Tanalan said. His voice bore a distinctively nasal accent common to this region. The Rifters always had considered themselves a people apart. “We had no quarrel with you or yours.”

“You refused to submit to the king,” Dalinar said, armor plates clinking as he rounded the highlord while trying to keep an eye on the soldiers. He wouldn’t put it past them to attack him once he was distracted by the duel. It was what he himself would have done.

“The king?” Tanalan demanded, angerspren boiling up around him. “There hasn’t been a throne in Alethkar for generations. Even if we were to have a king again, who is to say the Kholins deserve the mantle?”

“The way I see it,” Dalinar said, “the people of Alethkar deserve a king who is the strongest and most capable of leading them in battle. If only there were a way to prove that.” He grinned inside his helm.

Tanalan attacked, sweeping in with his Shardblade and trying to leverage his superior reach. Dalinar danced back, waiting for his moment. The Thrill was a heady rush, a lust to prove himself.

But he needed to be cautious. Ideally Dalinar would prolong this fight, relying on his Plate’s superior strength and the stamina it provided. Unfortunately, that Plate was still leaking, and he had all these guards to deal with. Still, he tried to play it as Tanalan would expect, dodging attacks, acting as if he were going to drag out the fight.

Tanalan growled and came in again. Dalinar blocked the blow with his arm, then made a perfunctory swing with his axe. Tanalan dodged back easily. Stormfather, that Blade was long. Almost as tall as Dalinar was.

Dalinar maneuvered, brushing against the foliage of the garden. He couldn’t even feel the pain of his broken fingers anymore. The Thrill called to him.

Wait. Act like you’re drawing this out as long as possible.…

Tanalan advanced again, and Dalinar dodged backward, faster because of his Plate. And then when Tanalan tried his next strike, Dalinar ducked toward him.

He deflected the Shardblade with his arm again, but this blow hit hard, shattering the arm plate. Still, Dalinar’s surprise rush let him lower his shoulder and slam it against Tanalan. The highlord’s armor clanged, bending before the force of the Shardplate, and the highlord tripped.

Unfortunately, Dalinar was off balance just enough from his rush to fall alongside the highlord. The platform shook as they hit the ground, the wood cracking and groaning. Damnation! Dalinar had not wanted to go to the ground while surrounded by foes. Still, he had to stay inside the reach of that Blade.

Dalinar dropped off his right gauntlet—without the arm piece connecting it to the rest of the armor, it was dead weight—as the two of them twisted in a heap. He’d lost the axe, unfortunately. The highlord battered against Dalinar with the pommel of his sword, to no effect. But with one hand broken and the other lacking the power of Plate, Dalinar couldn’t get a good hold on his foe.

Dalinar rolled, finally positioning himself above Tanalan, where the weight of the Shardplate would keep his foe pinned. At that moment though, the other soldiers attacked. Just as he’d expected. Honorable duels like this—on a battlefield at least—always lasted only until your lighteyes was losing.

Dalinar rolled free. The soldiers obviously weren’t ready for how quickly he responded. He got to his feet and scooped up his axe, then lashed out. His right arm still had the pauldron and down to the elbow brace, so when he swung, he had power—a strange mix of Shard-enhanced strength and frailty from his exposed arms. He had to be careful not to snap his own wrist.

He dropped three men with a flurry of axe slices. The others backed away, blocking him with polearms as their fellows helped Tanalan to his feet.

“You speak of the people,” Tanalan said hoarsely, gauntleted hand feeling at his chest where the cuirass had been bent significantly by Dalinar’s rush. He seemed to be having trouble breathing. “As if this were about them. As if it were for their good that you loot, you pillage, you murder. You’re an uncivilized brute.”

“You can’t civilize war,” Dalinar said. “There’s no painting it up and making it pretty.”

“You don’t have to pull sorrow behind you like a sledge on the stones, scraping and crushing those you pass. You’re a monster.

“I’m a soldier,” Dalinar said, eyeing Tanalan’s men, many of whom were preparing their bows.

Tanalan coughed. “My city is lost. My plan has failed. But I can do Alethkar one last service. I can take you down, you bastard.”

The archers started to loose.

Dalinar roared and threw himself to the ground, hitting the platform with the weight of Shardplate. The wood cracked around him, weakened by the fighting earlier, and he broke through it, shattering struts underneath.

The entire platform came crashing down around him, and together they fell toward the tier below. Dalinar heard screams, and he hit the next walkway hard enough to daze him, even with Shardplate.

Dalinar shook his head, groaning, and found his helm cracked right down the front, the uncommon vision granted by the armor spoiled. He pulled the helm free with one hand and gasped for breath. Storms, his good arm hurt too. He glanced at it and found splinters piercing his skin, including one chunk as long as a dagger.

He grimaced. Below, the few remaining soldiers who had been positioned to cut down bridges came charging up toward him.

Steady, Dalinar. Be ready!

He got to his feet, dazed, exhausted, but the two soldiers didn’t come for him. They huddled around Tanalan’s body where it had fallen from the platform above. The soldiers grabbed him, then fled.

Dalinar roared and awkwardly gave pursuit. His Plate moved slowly, and he stumbled through the wreckage of the fallen platform, trying to keep up with the soldiers.

The pain from his arms made him mad with rage. But the Thrill, the Thrill drove him forward. He would not be beaten. He would not stop! Tanalan’s Shardblade had not appeared beside his body. That meant his foe still lived. Dalinar had not yet won.

Fortunately, most of the soldiers had been positioned to fight on the other side of the city. This side was practically empty, save for huddled townspeople—he caught glimpses of them hiding in their homes.

Dalinar limped up ramps along the side of the Rift, following the men dragging their brightlord. Near the top, the two soldiers set their burden down beside an exposed portion of the chasm’s rock wall. They did something that caused a portion of that wall to open inward, revealing a hidden door. They towed their fallen brightlord into it, and two other soldiers—responding to their frantic calls—rushed out to meet Dalinar, who arrived moments later.

Helmless, Dalinar saw red as he engaged them. They bore weapons; he did not. They were fresh, and he had wounds nearly incapacitating both arms.

The fight still ended with the two soldiers on the ground, broken and bleeding. Dalinar kicked open the hidden door, Plated legs functioning enough to smash it down.

He lurched into a small tunnel with diamond spheres glowing on the walls. That door was covered in hardened crem on the outside, making it seem like a part of the wall. If he hadn’t seen them enter, it would have taken days, maybe weeks to locate this place.

At the end of a short walk, he found the two soldiers he’d followed. Judging by the blood trail, they’d deposited their brightlord in the closed room behind them.

They rushed Dalinar with the fatalistic determination of men who knew they were probably dead. The pain in Dalinar’s arms and head seemed nothing before the Thrill. He had rarely felt it so strong as he did now, a beautiful clarity, such a wonderful emotion.

He ducked forward, supernaturally quick, and used his shoulder to crush one soldier against the wall. The other fell to a well-placed kick, then Dalinar burst through the door beyond them.

Tanalan lay on the ground here, blood surrounding him. A beautiful woman was draped across him, weeping. Only one other person was in the small chamber: a young boy. Six, perhaps seven. Tears streaked the child’s face, and he struggled to lift his father’s Shardblade in two hands.

Dalinar loomed in the doorway.

“You can’t have my daddy,” the boy said, words distorted by his sorrow. Painspren crawled around the floor. “You can’t. You… you…” His voice fell to a whisper. “Daddy said… we fight monsters. And with faith, we will win.…”

 


 

A few hours later, Dalinar sat on the edge of the Rift, his legs swinging over the broken city below. His new Shardblade rested across his lap, his Plate—deformed and broken—in a heap beside him. His arms were bandaged, but he’d chased away the surgeons.

He stared out at what seemed an empty plain, then flicked his eyes toward the signs of human life below. Dead bodies in heaps. Broken buildings. Splinters of civilization.

Gavilar eventually walked up, trailed by two bodyguards from Dalinar’s elites, Kadash and Febin today. Gavilar waved them back, then groaned as he settled down beside Dalinar, removing his helm. Exhaustionspren spun overhead, though—despite his fatigue—Gavilar looked thoughtful. With those keen, pale green eyes, he’d always seemed to know so much. Growing up, Dalinar had simply assumed that his brother would always be right in whatever he said or did. Aging hadn’t much changed his opinion of the man.

“Congratulations,” Gavilar said, nodding toward the Blade. “Sadeas is irate it wasn’t his.”

“He’ll find one of his own eventually,” Dalinar said. “He’s too ambitious for me to believe otherwise.”

Gavilar grunted. “This attack nearly cost us too much. Sadeas is saying we need to be more careful, not risk ourselves and our Shards in solitary assaults.”

“Sadeas is smart,” Dalinar said. He reached gingerly with his right hand, the less mangled one, and raised a mug of wine to his lips. It was the only drug he cared about for the pain—and maybe it would help with the shame too. Both feelings seemed stark, now that the Thrill had receded and left him deflated.

“What do we do with them, Dalinar?” Gavilar asked, waving down toward the crowds of civilians the soldiers were rounding up. “Tens of thousands of people. They won’t be cowed easily; they won’t like that you killed their highlord and his heir. Those people will resist us for years. I can feel it.”

Dalinar took a drink. “Make soldiers of them,” he said. “Tell them we’ll spare their families if they fight for us. You want to stop doing a Shardbearer rush at the start of battles? Sounds like we’ll need some expendable troops.”

Gavilar nodded, considering. “Sadeas is right about other things too, you know. About us. And what we’re going to have to become.”

“Don’t talk to me about that.”

“Dalinar…”

“I lost half my elites today, my captain included. I’ve got enough problems.”

“Why are we here, fighting? Is it for honor? Is it for Alethkar?”

Dalinar shrugged.

“We can’t just keep acting like a bunch of thugs,” Gavilar said. “We can’t rob every city we pass, feast every night. We need discipline; we need to hold the land we have. We need bureaucracy, order, laws, politics.

Dalinar closed his eyes, distracted by the shame he felt. What if Gavilar found out?

“We’re going to have to grow up,” Gavilar said softly.

“And become soft? Like these highlords we kill? That’s why we started, isn’t it? Because they were all lazy, fat, corrupt?”

“I don’t know anymore. I’m a father now, Dalinar. That makes me wonder about what we do once we have it all. How do we make a kingdom of this place?”

Storms. A kingdom. For the first time in his life, Dalinar found that idea horrifying.

Gavilar eventually stood up, responding to some messengers who were calling for him. “Could you,” he said to Dalinar, “at least try to be a little less foolhardy in future battles?”

“This coming from you?”

“A thoughtful me,” Gavilar said. “An… exhausted me. Enjoy Oathbringer. You earned it.”

“Oathbringer?”

“Your sword,” Gavilar said. “Storms, didn’t you listen to anything last night? That’s Sunmaker’s old sword.”

Sadees, the Sunmaker. He had been the last man to unite Alethkar, centuries ago. Dalinar shifted the Blade in his lap, letting the light play off the pristine metal.

“It’s yours now,” Gavilar said. “By the time we’re done, I’ll have it so that nobody even thinks of Sunmaker anymore. Just House Kholin and Alethkar.”

He walked away. Dalinar rammed the Shardblade into the stone and leaned back, closing his eyes again and remembering the sound of a brave boy crying.

 


 

Chapter 12
Negotiations

I ask not that you forgive me. Nor that you even understand.

—From Oathbringer, preface

 

Dalinar stood beside the glass windows in an upper-floor room of Urithiru, hands clasped behind his back. He could see his reflection hinted in the window, and beyond it vast openness. The sky cloud-free, the sun burning white.

Windows as tall as he was—he’d never seen anything like them. Who would dare build something of glass, so brittle, and face it toward the storms? But of course, this city was above the storms. These windows seemed a mark of defiance, a symbol of what the Radiants had meant. They had stood above the pettiness of world politics. And because of that height, they could see so far.…

You idealize them, said a distant voice in his head, like rumbling thunder. They were men like you. No better. No worse.

“I find that encouraging,” Dalinar whispered back. “If they were like us, then it means we can be like them.”

They eventually betrayed us. Do not forget that.

“Why?” Dalinar asked. “What happened? What changed them?”

The Stormfather fell silent.

“Please,” Dalinar said. “Tell me.”

Some things are better left forgotten, the voice said to him. You of all men should understand this, considering the hole in your mind and the person who once filled it.

Dalinar drew in a sharp breath, stung by the words.

“Brightlord,” Brightness Kalami said from behind. “The emperor is ready for you.”

Dalinar turned. Urithiru’s upper levels held several unique rooms, including this amphitheater. Shaped like a half-moon, the room had windows at the top—the straight side—then rows of seats leading down to a speaking floor below. Curiously, each seat had a small pedestal beside it. For the Radiant’s spren, the Stormfather told him.

Dalinar started down the steps toward his team: Aladar and his daughter, May. Navani, wearing a bright green havah, sitting in the front row with feet stretched out before her, shoes off and ankles crossed. Elderly Kalami to write, and Teshav Khal—one of Alethkar’s finest political minds—to advise. Her two senior wards sat beside her, ready to provide research or translation if needed.

A small group, prepared to change the world.

“Send my greetings to the emperor,” Dalinar instructed.

Kalami nodded, writing. Then she cleared her throat, reading the response that the spanreed—writing as if on its own—relayed. “You are greeted by His Imperial Majesty Ch.V.D. Yanagawn the First, Emperor of Makabak, King of Azir, Lord of the Bronze Palace, Prime Aqasix, grand minister and emissary of Yaezir.”

“An imposing title,” Navani noted, “for a fifteen-year-old boy.”

“He supposedly raised a child from the dead,” Teshav said, “a miracle that gained him the support of the viziers. Local word is that they had trouble finding a new Prime after the last two were murdered by our old friend the Assassin in White. So the viziers picked a boy with questionable lineage and made up a story about him saving someone’s life in order to demonstrate a divine mandate.”

Dalinar grunted. “Making things up doesn’t sound very Azish.”

“They’re fine with it,” Navani said, “as long as you can find witnesses willing to fill out affidavits. Kalami, thank His Imperial Majesty for meeting with us, and his translators for their efforts.”

Kalami wrote, and then she looked up at Dalinar, who began to pace the center of the room. Navani stood to join him, eschewing her shoes, walking in socks.

“Your Imperial Majesty,” Dalinar said, “I speak to you from the top of Urithiru, city of legend. The sights are breathtaking. I invite you to visit me here and tour the city. You are welcome to bring any guards or retinue you see fit.”

He looked to Navani, and she nodded. They’d discussed long how to approach the monarchs, and had settled on a soft invitation. Azir was first, the most powerful country in the west and home to what would be the most central and important of the Oathgates to secure.

The response took time. The Azish government was a kind of beautiful mess, though Gavilar had often admired it. Layers of clerics filled all levels— where both men and women wrote. Scions were kind of like ardents, though they weren’t slaves, which Dalinar found odd. In Azir, being a priestminister in the government was the highest honor to which one could aspire.

Traditionally, the Azish Prime claimed to be emperor of all Makabak—a region that included over a half-dozen kingdoms and princedoms. In reality, he was king over only Azir, but Azir did cast a long, long shadow.

As they waited, Dalinar stepped up beside Navani, resting his fingers on one of her shoulders, then drew them across her back, the nape of her neck, and let them linger on the other shoulder.

Who would have thought a man his age could feel so giddy?

“ ‘Your Highness,’ ” the reply finally came, Kalami reading the words. “ ‘We thank you for your warning about the storm that blew from the wrong direction. Your timely words have been noted and recorded in the official annals of the empire, recognizing you as a friend to Azir.’ ”

Kalami waited for more, but the spanreed stopped moving. Then the ruby flashed, indicating that they were done.

“That wasn’t much of a response,” Aladar said. “Why didn’t he reply to your invitation, Dalinar?”

“Being noted in their offi ial records is a great honor to the Azish,” Teshav said, “so they’ve paid you a compliment.”

“Yes,” Navani said, “but they are trying to dodge the offer we made. Press them, Dalinar.”

“Kalami, please send the following,” Dalinar said. “I am honored, though I wish my inclusion in your annals could have been due to happier circumstances. Let us discuss the future of Roshar together, here. I am eager to make your personal acquaintance.”

They waited as patiently as they could for a response. It finally came, in Alethi. “ ‘We of the Azish crown are saddened to share mourning for the fallen with you. As your noble brother was killed by the Shin destroyer, so were beloved members of our court. This creates a bond between us.’ ”

That was all.

Navani clicked her tongue. “They’re not going to be pushed into an answer.”

“They could at least explain themselves!” Dalinar snapped. “It feels like we’re having two different conversations!”

“The Azish,” Teshav said, “do not like to give offense. They’re almost as bad as the Emuli in that regard, particularly with foreigners.”

It wasn’t only an Azish attribute, in Dalinar’s estimation. It was the way of politicians worldwide. Already this conversation was starting to feel like his efforts to bring the highprinces to his side, back in the warcamps. Half answer after half answer, mild promises with no bite to them, laughing eyes that mocked him even while they pretended to be perfectly sincere.

Storms. Here he was again. Trying to unite people who didn’t want to listen to him. He couldn’t afford to be bad at this, not any longer.

There was a time, he thought, when I united in a different way. He smelled smoke, heard men screaming in pain. Remembered bringing blood and ash to those who defied his brother.

Those memories had become particularly vivid lately.

“Another tactic maybe?” Navani suggested. “Instead of an invitation, try an offer of aid.”

“Your Imperial Majesty,” Dalinar said. “War is coming; surely you have seen the changes in the parshmen. The Voidbringers have returned. I would have you know that the Alethi are your allies in this conflict. We would share information regarding our successes and failures in resisting this enemy, with hope that you will report the same to us. Mankind must be unified in the face of the mounting threat.”

The reply eventually came: “ ‘We agree that aiding one another in this new age will be of the utmost importance. We are glad to exchange information. What do you know of these transformed parshmen?’ ”

“We engaged them on the Shattered Plains,” Dalinar said, relieved to make some kind of headway. “Creatures with red eyes, and similar in many ways to the parshmen we found on the Shattered Plains—only more dangerous. I will have my scribes prepare reports for you detailing all we have learned in fighting the Parshendi over the years.”

“ ‘Excellent,’” the reply finally came. “ ‘This information will be extremely welcome in our current conflict.’ ”

“What is the status of your cities?” Dalinar asked. “What have the parshmen been doing there? Do they seem to have a goal beyond wanton destruction?”

Tensely, they waited for word. So far they’d been able to discover blessed little about the parshmen the world over. Captain Kaladin sent reports using scribes from towns he visited, but knew next to nothing. Cities were in chaos, and reliable information scarce.

“ ‘Fortunately,’ ” came the reply, “ ‘our city stands, and the enemy is not actively attacking any longer. We are negotiating with the hostiles.’ ”

“Negotiating?” Dalinar said, shocked. He turned to Teshav, who shook her head in wonder.

“Please clarify, Your Majesty,” Navani said. “The Voidbringers are willing to negotiate with you?”

“ ‘Yes,’ ” came the reply. “ ‘We are exchanging contracts. They have very detailed demands, with outrageous stipulations. We hope that we can forestall armed conflict in order to gather ourselves and fortify the city.’ ”

“They can write?” Navani pressed. “The Voidbringers themselves are sending you contracts?”

“ ‘The average parshman cannot write, so far as we can tell,’ ” the reply came. “ ‘But some are different—stronger, with strange powers. They do not speak like the others.’ ”

“Your Majesty,” Dalinar said, stepping up to the spanreed writing table, speaking more urgently—as if the emperor and his ministers could hear his passion through the written word. “I need to talk to you directly. I can come myself, through the portal we wrote of earlier. We must get it working again.”

Silence. It stretched so long that Dalinar found himself grinding his teeth, itching to summon a Shardblade and dismiss it, over and over, as had been his habit as a youth. He’d picked it up from his brother.

A response finally came. “ ‘We regret to inform you that the device you mention,’ ” Kalami read, “ ‘is not functional in our city. We have investigated it, and have found that it was destroyed long ago. We cannot come to you, nor you to us. Many apologies.’ ”

“He’s telling us this now?” Dalinar said. “Storms! That’s information we could have used as soon as he learned it!”

“It’s a lie,” Navani said. “The Oathgate on the Shattered Plains functioned after centuries of storms and crem buildup. The one in Azimir is a monument in the Grand Market, a large dome in the center of the city.”

Or so she’d determined from maps. The one in Kholinar had been incorporated into the palace structure, while the one in Thaylen City was some kind of religious monument. A beautiful relic like this wouldn’t simply be destroyed.

“I agree with Brightness Navani’s assessment,” Teshav said. “They are worried about the idea of you or your armies visiting. This is an excuse.” She frowned, as if the emperor and his ministers were little more than spoiled children disobeying their tutors.

The spanreed started writing again.

“What does it say?” Dalinar said, anxious.

“It’s an affidavit,” Navani said, amused. “That the Oathgate is not functional, signed by imperial architects and stormwardens.” She read further. “Oh, this is delightful. Only the Azish would assume you’d want certification that something is broken.”

“Notably,” Kalami added, “it only certifies that the device ‘does not function as a portal.’ But of course it would not, not unless a Radiant were to visit and work it. This affidavit basically says that when turned off, the device doesn’t work.”

“Write this, Kalami,” Dalinar said. “Your Majesty. You ignored me once. Destruction caused by the Everstorm was the result. Please, this time listen. You cannot negotiate with the Voidbringers. We must unify, share information, and protect Roshar. Together.”

She wrote it and Dalinar waited, hands pressed against the table.

“ ‘We misspoke when we mentioned negotiations,’” Kalami read. “ ‘It was a mistake of translation. We agree to share information, but time is short right now. We will contact you again to further discuss. Farewell, Highprince Kholin.’”

“Bah!” Dalinar said, pushing himself back from the table. “Fools, idiots! Storming lighteyes and Damnation’s own politics!” He stalked across the room, wishing he had something to kick, before forcing his temper under control.

“That’s more of a stonewall than I expected,” Navani said, folding her arms. “Brightness Khal?”

“In my experiences with the Azish,” Teshav said, “they are extremely proficient at saying very little in as many words as possible. This is not an unusual example of communication with their upper ministers. Don’t be put off; it will take time to accomplish anything with them.”

“Time during which Roshar burns,” Dalinar said. “Why did they pull back regarding their claim to have had negotiations with the Voidbringers? Are they thinking of allying themselves to the enemy?”

“I hesitate to guess,” Teshav said. “But I would say that they simply decided they’d given away more information than intended.”

“We need Azir,” Dalinar said. “Nobody in Makabak will listen to us unless we have Azir’s blessing, not to mention that Oathgate.…” He trailed off as a different spanreed on the table started blinking.

“It’s the Thaylens,” Kalami said. “They’re early.”

“You want to reschedule?” Navani asked.

Dalinar shook his head. “No, we can’t afford to wait another few days before the queen can spare time again.” He took a deep breath. Storms, talking to politicians was more exhausting than a hundred-mile march in full armor. “Proceed, Kalami. I’ll contain my frustration.”

Navani settled down on one of the seats, though Dalinar remained standing. Light poured in through the windows, pure and bright. It flowed down, bathing him. He breathed in, almost feeling as if he could taste the sunlight. He’d spent too many days inside the twisting stone corridors of Urithiru, lit by the frail light of candles and lamps.

“ ‘Her Royal Highness,’ ” Kalami read, “ ‘Brightness Fen Rnamdi, queen of Thaylenah, writes to you.’ ” Kalami paused. “Brightlord… pardon the interruption, but that indicates that the queen holds the spanreed herself rather than using a scribe.”

To another woman, that would have been intimidating. To Kalami, it was merely one of many footnotes—which she added copiously to the bottom of the page before preparing the reed to relay Dalinar’s words.

“Your Majesty,” Dalinar said, clasping his hands behind his back and pacing the stage at the center of the seats. Do better. Unite them. “I send you greetings from Urithiru, holy city of the Knights Radiant, and extend to you our humblest invitation. This tower is truly a sight to behold, matched only by the glory of a sitting monarch. I would be honored to present it for you to experience.”

The spanreed quickly scribbled a reply. Queen Fen was writing directly in Alethi. “ ‘Kholin,’ ” Kalami read, “ ‘you old brute. Quit spreading chull scat. What do you really want?’ ”

“I always did like her,” Navani noted.

“I’m being sincere, Your Majesty,” Dalinar said. “My only desire is for us to meet in person, and to talk to you and show you what we’ve discovered. The world is changing around us.”

“ ‘Oh,’ ” came the reply, “ ‘the world is changing, is it? What led you to this incredible conclusion? Was it the fact that our slaves suddenly became Voidbringers, or was it perhaps the storm that blew the wrong way,’—She wrote that twice as large as the line around it, Brightlord—‘ripping our cities apart?’ ”

Aladar cleared his throat. “Her Majesty seems to be having a bad day.”

“She’s insulting us,” Navani said. “For Fen, that actually implies a good day.”

“She’s always been perfectly civil the few times I’ve met her,” Dalinar said with a frown.

“She was being queenly then,” Navani said. “You’ve got her talking to you directly. Trust me, it’s a good sign.”

“Your Majesty,” Dalinar said, “please tell me of your parshmen. The transformation came upon them?”

“ ‘Yes,’ ” she replied. “ ‘Storming monsters stole our best ships—almost everything in the harbor from single-masted sloops on up—and escaped the city.’ ”

“They… sailed?” Dalinar said, again shocked. “Confirm. They didn’t attack?”

“ ‘There were some scuffles,’ ” Fen wrote, “ ‘but most everyone was too busy dealing with the eff cts of the storm. By the time we got things somewhat sorted out, they were sailing away in a grand fleet of royal warships and private trading vessels alike.’ ”

Dalinar drew a breath. We don’t know half as much about the Voidbringers as we assumed. “Your Majesty,” he continued. “You might remember that we warned you about the imminent arrival of that storm.”

“ ‘I believed you,’ ” Fen said. “ ‘If only because we got word from New Natanan confirming it. We tried to prepare, but a nation cannot upend four millennia worth of tradition at a snap of the fingers. Thaylen City is a shambles, Kholin. The storm broke our aqueducts and sewer systems, and ripped apart our docks—flattened the entire outer market! We have to fix all our cisterns, reinforce our buildings to withstand storms, and rebuild society—all without any parshman laborers and in the middle of the storming Weeping. I don’t have time for sightseeing.’ ”

“It’s hardly sightseeing, Your Majesty,” Dalinar said. “I am aware of your problems, and dire though they are, we cannot ignore the Voidbringers. I intend to convene a grand conference of kings to fight this threat.”

“ ‘Led by you,’ ” Fen wrote in reply. “ ‘Of course.’ ”

“Urithiru is the natural location for a meeting,” Dalinar said. “Your Majesty, the Knights Radiant have returned—we speak again their ancient oaths, and bind the Surges of nature to us. If we can restore your Oathgate to functionality, you can be here in an afternoon, then return the same evening to direct the needs of your city.”

Navani nodded at this tactic, though Aladar folded his arms, looking thoughtful.

“What?” Dalinar asked him as Kalami wrote.

“We need a Radiant to travel to the city to activate their Oathgate, right?” Aladar asked.

“Yes,” Navani said. “A Radiant needs to unlock the gate on this side— which we can do at any moment—then one has to travel to the destination city and undo the lock there as well. That done, a Radiant can initiate a transfer from either location.”

“Then the only one we have that can theoretically get to Thaylen City is the Windrunner,” Aladar said. “But what if it takes him months to get back here? Or what if he’s captured by the enemy? Can we even make good on our promises, Dalinar?”

A troubling problem, but one that Dalinar thought he might have an answer to. There was a weapon that he’d decided to keep hidden for now. It might work as well as a Radiant’s Shardblade in opening the Oathgates— and might let someone reach Thaylen City by flight.

That was moot for the time being. First he needed a willing ear on the other side of the spanreed.

Fen’s reply came. “ ‘I will admit that my merchants are intrigued by these Oathgates. We have lore surrounding them here, that the one most Passionate could cause the portal of worlds to open again. I think every girl in Thaylenah dreams of being the one to invoke it.’ ”

“The Passions,” Navani said with a downward turn of her lips. The Thaylens had a pagan pseudo-religion, and that had always been a curious aspect in dealing with them. They would praise the Heralds one moment, then speak of the Passions the next.

Well, Dalinar wasn’t one to fault another for unconventional beliefs.

“ ‘If you want to send me what you know about these Oathgates, well, that sounds great,’ ” Fen continued. “ ‘But I’m not interested in some grand conference of kings. You let me know what you boys come up with, because I’m going to be here frantically trying to rebuild my city.’ ”

“Well,” Aladar said, “at least we finally got an honest response.”

“I’m not convinced this is honest,” Dalinar said. He rubbed his chin, thinking. He’d only met this woman a few times, but something seemed off about her responses.

“I agree, Brightlord,” Teshav said. “I think any Thaylen would jump at the chance to come pull strings at a meeting of monarchs, if only to see if she can find a way to get trade deals out of them. She is most certainly hiding something.”

“Offer troops,” Navani said, “to help her rebuild.”

“Your Majesty,” Dalinar said, “I am deeply grieved to hear of your losses. I have many soldiers here who are currently unoccupied. I would gladly send you a battalion to help repair your city.”

The reply was slow in coming. “ ‘I’m not sure what I think of having Alethi troops on my stone, well intentioned or not.’ ”

Aladar grunted. “She’s worried about invasion? Everyone knows Alethi and ships don’t mix.”

“She’s not worried about us arriving on ships,” Dalinar said. “She’s worried about an army of troops suddenly materializing in the center of her city.”

A very rational worry. If Dalinar had the inclination, he could send a Windrunner to secretly open a city’s Oathgate, and invade in an unprecedented assault that appeared right behind enemy lines.

He needed allies, not subjects, so he wouldn’t do it—at least not to a potentially friendly city. Kholinar, however, was another story. They still didn’t have reliable word of what was happening in the Alethi capital. But if the rioting was still going on, he’d been thinking that there might be a way to get armies in and restore order.

For now, he needed to focus on Queen Fen. “Your Majesty,” he said, nodding for Kalami to write, “consider my offer of troops, please. And as you do, might I suggest that you begin searching among your people for budding Knights Radiant? They are the key to working Oathgates.

“We have had a number of Radiants manifest near the Shattered Plains. They are formed through an interaction with certain spren, who seem to be searching for worthy candidates. I can only assume this is happening worldwide. It is entirely likely that among the people of your city, someone has already spoken the oaths.”

“You’re giving up quite an advantage, Dalinar,” Aladar noted.

“I’m planting a seed, Aladar,” Dalinar said. “And I’ll plant it on any hill I can find, regardless of who owns it. We must fight as a unified people.”

“I don’t dispute that,” Aladar said, standing up and stretching. “But your knowledge of the Radiants is a bargaining point, one that can perhaps draw people to you—force them to work with you. Give up too much, and you might find a ‘headquarters’ for the Knights Radiant in every major city across Roshar. Rather than working together, you’ll have them competing to recruit.”

He was right, unfortunately. Dalinar hated turning knowledge into bargaining chips, but what if this was why he’d always failed in his negotiations with the highprinces? He wanted to be honest, straightforward, and let the pieces fall where they may. But it seemed that someone better at the game—and more willing to break the rules—always snatched the pieces from the air as he dropped them, then set them down the way they wanted.

“And,” he said quickly for Kalami to add, “we would be happy to send our Radiants to train those you discover, then introduce them to the system and fraternity of Urithiru, to which each of them has a right by nature of their oaths.”

Kalami added this, then twisted the spanreed to indicate they were done and waiting for a reply.

“ ‘We will consider this,’ ” Kalami read as the spanreed scribbled across the page. “ ‘The crown of Thaylenah thanks you for your interest in our people, and we will consider negotiations regarding your offer of troops. We have sent some of our few remaining cutters to track down the fleeing parshmen, and will inform you of what we discover. Until we speak again, Highprince.’ ”

“Storms,” Navani said. “She reverted to queenspeak. We lost her somewhere in there.”

Dalinar sat down in the seat next to her and let out a long sigh. “Dalinar…” she said.

“I’m fine, Navani,” he said. “I can’t expect glowing commitments to cooperation on my first attempt. We’ll just have to keep trying.”

The words were more optimistic than he felt. He wished he could talk to these people in person, instead of over spanreed.

They talked to the princess of Yezier next, followed by the prince of Tashikk. They didn’t have Oathgates, and were less essential to his plan, but he wanted to at least open lines of communication with them.

Neither gave him more than vague answers. Without the Azish emperor’s blessing, he wouldn’t be able to get any of the smaller Makabaki kingdoms to commit. Perhaps the Emuli or the Tukari would listen, but he’d only ever get one of those two, considering their long-standing feud.

At the end of the last conference, Aladar and his daughter excusing themselves, Dalinar stretched, feeling worn down. And this wasn’t the end of it. He would have discussions with the monarchs of Iri—it had three, strangely. The Oathgate at Rall Elorim was in their lands, making them important—and they held sway over nearby Rira, which had another Oathgate.

Beyond that, of course, there were the Shin to deal with. They hated using spanreeds, so Navani had poked at them through a Thaylen merchant who had been willing to relay information.

Dalinar’s shoulder protested as he stretched. He had found middle age to be like an assassin—quiet, creeping along behind him. Much of the time he would go about his life as he always had, until an unexpected ache or pain gave warning. He was not the youth he had once been.

And bless the Almighty for that, he thought idly, bidding farewell to Navani—who wanted to sift through information reports from various spanreed stations around the world. Aladar’s daughter and scribes were gathering them in bulk for her.

Dalinar collected several of his guards, leaving others for Navani should she need some extra hands, and climbed up along the rows of seats to the room’s exit at the top. Hovering just outside the doorway—like an axehound banished from the warmth of the fire—stood Elhokar.

“Your Majesty?” Dalinar said, starting. “I’m glad you could make the meeting. Are you feeling better?”

“Why do they refuse you, Uncle?” Elhokar asked, ignoring the question. “Do they think perhaps you will try to usurp their thrones?”

Dalinar drew in his breath sharply, and his guards looked embarrassed to be standing nearby. They backed up to give him and the king privacy.

“Elhokar…” Dalinar said.

“You likely think I say this in spite,” the king said, poking his head into the room, noting his mother, then looking back at Dalinar. “I don’t. You are better than I am. A better soldier, a better person, and certainly a better king.”

“You do yourself a disservice, Elhokar. You must—”

“Oh, save your platitudes, Dalinar. For once in your life, just be honest with me.”

“You think I haven’t been?”

Elhokar raised his hand and lightly touched his own chest. “Perhaps you have been, at times. Perhaps the liar here is me—lying to tell myself I could do this, that I could be a fraction of the man my father was. No, don’t interrupt me, Dalinar. Let me have my say. Voidbringers? Ancient cities full of wonder? The Desolations?” Elhokar shook his head. “Perhaps… perhaps I’m a fine king. Not extraordinary, but not an abject failure. But in the face of these events, the world needs better than fine.”

There seemed a fatalism to his words, and that sent a worried shiver through Dalinar. “Elhokar, what are you saying?”

Elhokar strode into the chamber and called down to those at the bottom of the rows of seats. “Mother, Brightness Teshav, would you witness something for me?”

Storms, no, Dalinar thought, hurrying after Elhokar. “Don’t do this, son.”

“We all must accept the consequences of our actions, Uncle,” Elhokar said. “I’ve been learning this very slowly, as I can be as dense as a stone.”

“But—”

“Uncle, am I your king?” Elhokar demanded.

“Yes.”

“Well, I shouldn’t be.” He knelt, shocking Navani and causing her to pull to a stop three-quarters of the way up the steps. “Dalinar Kholin,” Elhokar said in a loud voice, “I swear to you now. There are princes and highprinces. Why not kings and highkings? I give an oath, immutable and witnessed, that I accept you as my monarch. As Alethkar is to me, I am to you.”

Dalinar breathed out, looking to Navani’s aghast face, then down to his nephew, kneeling as a vassal on the floor.

“You did ask for this, Uncle,” Elhokar said. “Not specifically in words, but it is the only place we could have gone. You have slowly been taking command ever since you decided to trust those visions.”

“I’ve tried to include you,” Dalinar said. Silly, impotent words. He should be better than that. “You are right, Elhokar. I’m sorry.”

“Are you?” Elhokar asked. “Are you really?”

“I’m sorry,” Dalinar said, “for your pain. I’m sorry that I didn’t handle this better. I’m sorry that this… this must be. Before you make this oath, tell me what you expect that it entails?”

“I’ve already said the words,” Elhokar said, growing red faced. “Before witnesses. It is done. I’ve—”

“Oh, stand up,” Dalinar said, grabbing him by the arm and hauling him to his feet. “Don’t be dramatic. If you really want to swear this oath, I’ll let you. But let’s not pretend you can sweep into a room, shout a few words, and assume it’s a legal contract.”

Elhokar pulled his arm free and rubbed it. “Won’t even let me abdicate with dignity.”

“You’re not abdicating,” Navani said, joining them. She shot a glare at the guards, who stood watching with slack jaws, and they grew white at the glare. She pointed at them as if to say, Not a word of this to anyone else. “Elhokar, you intend to shove your uncle into a position above you. He’s right to ask. What will this mean for Alethkar?”

“I…” Elhokar swallowed. “He should give up his lands to his heir. Dalinar is a king of somewhere else, after all. Dalinar, Highking of Urithiru, maybe the Shattered Plains.” He stood straighter, speaking more certainly. “Dalinar must stay out of the direct management of my lands. He can give me commands, but I decide how to see them accomplished.”

“It sounds reasonable,” Navani said, glancing at Dalinar.

Reasonable, but gut-wrenching. The kingdom he’d fought for—the kingdom he’d forged in pain, exhaustion, and blood—now rejected him.

This is my land now, Dalinar thought. This tower covered in coldspren. “I can accept these terms, though at times I might need to give commands to your highprinces.”

“As long as they’re in your domain,” Elhokar said, a hint of stubbornness to his voice, “I consider them under your authority. While they visit Urithiru or the Shattered Plains, command as you wish. When they return to my kingdom, you must go through me.” He looked to Dalinar, and then glanced down, as if embarrassed to be making demands.

“Very well,” Dalinar said. “Though we need to work this out with scribes before we make the change officially. And before we go too far, we should make certain there is still an Alethkar for you to rule.”

“I’ve been thinking the same thing. Uncle, I want to lead our forces to Alethkar and recapture our homeland. Something is wrong in Kholinar. More than these riots or my wife’s supposed behavior, more than the spanreeds going still. The enemy is doing something in the city. I’ll take an army to stop it, and save the kingdom.”

Elhokar? Leading troops? Dalinar had been imagining himself leading a force, cutting through the Voidbringer ranks, sweeping them from Alethkar and marching into Kholinar to restore order.

Truth was, though, it didn’t make sense for either of them to lead such an assault. “Elhokar,” Dalinar said, leaning in. “I’ve been considering something. The Oathgate is attached to the palace itself. We don’t need to march an army all the way to Alethkar. All we need to do is restore that device! Once it works, we can transport our forces into the city to secure the palace, restore order, and fend off the Voidbringers.”

“Get into the city,” Elhokar said. “Uncle, to do that we might need an army in the first place!”

“No,” Dalinar said. “A small team could reach Kholinar far faster than an army. As long as there was a Radiant with them, they could sneak in, restore the Oathgate, and open the way for the rest of us.”

Elhokar perked up. “Yes! I’ll do it, Uncle. I’ll take a team and reclaim our home. Aesudan is there; if the rioting is still happening, she’s fighting against it.”

That wasn’t what the reports—before they’d cut off—had suggested to Dalinar. If anything, the queen was the cause of the riots. And he certainly hadn’t been intending Elhokar to go on this mission himself.

Consequences. The lad was earnest, as he’d always been. Besides, Elhokar seemed to have learned something from his near death at the hands of assassins. He was certainly humbler now than he’d been in years past.

“It is fitting,” Dalinar said, “that their king should be the one who saves them. I will see that you have whatever resources you need, Elhokar.”

Glowing gloryspren orbs burst around Elhokar. He grinned at them. “I only seem to see those when I’m around you, Uncle. Funny. For all that I should resent you, I don’t. It’s hard to resent a man who is doing his best. I’ll do it. I’ll save Alethkar. I need one of your Radiants. The hero, preferably.”

“The hero?”

“The bridgeman,” Elhokar said. “The soldier. He needs to go with me, so if I screw up and fail, someone will be there to save the city anyway.”

Dalinar blinked. “That’s very… um…”

“I’ve had ample chances to reflect lately, Uncle,” Elhokar said. “The Almighty has preserved me, despite my stupidity. I’ll bring the bridgeman with me, and I’ll observe him. Figure out why he’s so special. See if he’ll teach me to be like him. And if I fail…” He shrugged. “Well, Alethkar is in safe hands regardless, right?”

Dalinar nodded, bemused.

“I need to make plans,” Elhokar said. “I’ve only just recovered from my wounds. But I can’t leave until the hero returns anyway. Could he fly me and my chosen team to the city? That would certainly be the fastest way. I will want every report we’ve had from Kholinar, and I need to study the Oathgate device in person. Yes, and have drawings done comparing it to the one in the city. And…” He beamed. “Thank you, Uncle. Thank you for believing in me, if only this small amount.”

Dalinar nodded to him, and Elhokar retreated, a spring in his step. Dalinar sighed, feeling overwhelmed by the exchange. Navani hovered by his side as he settled down in one of the seats for the Radiants, beside a pedestal for a little spren.

On one side, he had a king swearing to him an oath he didn’t want. On the other, he had an entire group of monarchs who wouldn’t listen to his most rational of suggestions. Storms.

“Dalinar?” Kalami said. “Dalinar!”

He leaped to his feet, and Navani spun. Kalami was watching one of the spanreeds, which had started writing. What was it now? What terrible news awaited him?

“ ‘Your Majesty,’ ” Kalami read from the page, “ ‘I consider your off r generous, and your advice wise. We have located the device you call an Oathgate. One of my people has come forward, and—remarkably—claims to be Radiant. Her spren directed her to speak with me; we plan to use her Shardblade to test the device.

“ ‘If it works, I will come to you in all haste. It is well that someone is attempting to organize a resistance to the evils that befall us. The nations of Roshar must put aside their squabbles, and the reemergence of the holy city of Urithiru is proof to me that the Almighty guides your hand. I look forward to counseling with you and adding my forces to yours in a joint operation to protect these lands.’ ” She looked up at him, amazed. “It was sent by Taravangian, king of Jah Keved and Kharbranth.”

Taravangian? Dalinar hadn’t expected him to reply so quickly. He was said to be a kindly, if somewhat simple man. Perfect for ruling a small city-state with the help of a governing council. His elevation to king of Jah Keved was widely seen as an act of spite from the former king, who hadn’t wanted to give the throne to any of his rivals’ houses.

The words still warmed Dalinar. Someone had listened. Someone was willing to join him. Bless that man, bless him.

If Dalinar failed everywhere else, at least he would have King Taravangian at his side.

 

Oathbringer: The Stormlight Archive Book 3 copyright © 2017 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC

[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Attitude Magazine

As we explore the stigma that still faces gay men living with Hepatitis C in our new October issue, LGBT+ activist and Stonewall Role Model Philip C Baldwin opens up about his experience of living with the disease…

2010 was a turbulent year for me. I had been diagnosed with both HIV and Hep C at the beginning of that year. I experienced fear, shame, denial and resentment. The anxiety of my diagnoses left me feeling like I wanted to vomit. Coming to terms with being co-infected with HIV and Hep C was difficult. This was made harder by the stigma and lack of awareness around Hep C that I found amongst gay men.

The stigma of Hep C is much worse within the gay community than that of HIV. HIV stigma in the UK does remain very real. According to the findings of the Stigma Index’s 2015 report, one in five HIV positive people in the UK has considered suicide in the last year. I did experience stigma from other gay men on account of my HIV, but my Hep C left me feeling isolated in a way that my HIV didn’t.

Gay men are far more informed about HIV than Hep C. Telling gay men that I was HIV positive was comparatively straightforward. Discussing my Hep C left me feeling vulnerable. I was afraid of rejection from other gay men, particularly around my Hep C. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have long-term relationships. I thought that other gay men would no longer perceive me as sexually desirable.

I went from being an out and proud gay man to feeling ashamed and insecure. Following my diagnoses, I was worried that HIV negative gay men would not want to date me on account of my HIV and I was worried that HIV positive gay men would not want to date me on account of my Hep C. I felt so alone.

I found it very hard, at first, to disclose my Hep C status. I was waiting to be treated for my Hep C and, although healthy, was dealing with a lot of uncertainty myself. I had to gain self acceptance around both my HIV and Hep C before I felt comfortable talking about being co-infected. One year after my diagnoses, an HIV positive friend confided in me that he had Hep C. I didn’t have the confidence to tell him that I was Hep C positive as well. I was paranoid that other gay men would gossip about my Hep C. I thought that they would say that I was dirty or a slut. I had heard HIV-positive gay men talking about gay men with Hep C in this way. I was confused. I felt awkward. I didn’t know what to do.

Once I had the courage to talk openly about my Hep C, I had mixed responses from gay men. No one ever rejected me sexually on account of my HIV, but my Hep C was problematic. I told one gay man that I was both HIV and Hep C positive, he rejected me and then, the following day, he sent me a text apologising and asking me out on a date. Some gay men congratulated me on being so open about my Hep C status.

I cleared my Hep C at the start of this year. What is wonderful is that since my diagnosis in 2010, there have been amazing advances in Hep C treatments. I did the new direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment, which lasts three months, from December 2016 to early March 2017. The DAA treatment is effective and I found it to be side effect-free. I was surprised when my HIV and Hep C specialist offered me the treatment, as I had previously been told that access to the treatment was being restricted by the NHS. He explained that in some regions waiting lists had been cleared, allowing his London clinic to treat more people. I know some gay men who are still waiting for treatment, but the situation is improving.

I would encourage all gay men to test regularly for Hep C and, if you are currently living with Hep C, continue to raise the issue of treatment with your specialist. Hep C is now 100 % curable. We need to apply pressure to the NHS to ensure that everyone receives the new DAA drugs, but should also remember that this is the first blood-borne virus science has been able to cure.

This is a moment of great hope. We must shatter the stigma of Hep C and continue to raise awareness around Hep C, the new DAA treatments and HIV.

Follow Philip Christopher Baldwin on Twitter @philipcbaldwin.

Read more about hepatitis C and the stigma facing gay men living with the disease in the October issue of Attitude – out now. Buy in printsubscribe or download.

For more information about hep C click here. To find your nearest sexual health clinic, click here.

hepctrust.org.uk

More stories:
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Health Care Bill

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:25 am
fabrisse: (Default)
[personal profile] fabrisse
There's another try to ruin US health care. Unlike this summer, there aren't many calls coming into congress (per the New York Times) protesting this. Without the protests, it has a chance of going through.

So, since I don't have a congress critter of my own, I'm asking those of you who do to roll up that metaphorical newspaper and whack them across their noses. Call. Calls are logged. Email. Emails are logged. Write via snail mail -- that's considered the gold standard because it has a level of difficulty which implies commitment on the part of the writer.

Signing petitions is fine, but calling offices does much more.
[syndicated profile] bbc_technology_news_feed
Lastminute.com's founder says the internet has done much good but sees "social and economic tensions".

BookFest St Louis–this weekend!

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:04 am
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

So, here I am in St Louis and if you saw yesterday’s blog post you might have noticed there are no St Louis dates on the tour.

BUT.

Thanks to Left Bank Books, there’ll be an event in the Central West End called BookFest St. Louis. There will be lots of writers there, and the vast majority of panels and whatnot are free! (I think there are, like, two exceptions.)

There’s going to be a Science Fiction panel at 5pm on Saturday, September 23, with Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, Mark Tiedemann….and me!

If you are in St Louis this weekend, come to BookFest! Left Bank Books is a lovely store with a very nice SF section and worth visiting on its own, but just look at all the folks who are going to be here! Do come to the CWE this weekend if you can!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/74: Penric's Fox -- Lois McMaster Bujold
Did demons mourn? Oh, yes, breathed Des. It is not something we come into the world knowing, as elementals. But we learn. Oh, how we learn. [loc. 1662]


This novella begins some eight months after the events of Penric and the Shaman: Penric has become friends with Inglis, and is visiting him -- and trying to learn shamanic magic -- when both are sought out by Senior Locator Oswyl. A local sorceress has been murdered, and he needs to find the murderer. Penric, though, is more interested in the fate of the dead sorceress' demon ...not very spoilery )
[syndicated profile] liberal_bureaucracy_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

So, I've written a report for Liberal Democrat Voice on what happened at Sunday's meeting of the Federal International Relations Committee, as I promised I would do when I ran for election in the first place. Read it, why don't you. It is, as you might guess, a reasonably neutral version of events for, after all, Liberal Democrat Voice represents a kind of unofficial official record. 

Here, I don't have to be quite so restrained.

The input from our guests from the ALDE Party Bureau, Timmy Dooley TD, and Henrik Bach Mortensen, was genuinely interesting. To read the debate in the United Kingdom you could easily believe that there are only two parties to the Brexit negotiations, "Europe" and the United Kingdom. But, of course, that isn't entirely accurate, in that there are twenty-seven nation states on the other side of the table, and a whole slew of interested parties beyond the European Union who might be impacted by any deal.

We heard of the sadness at the breach in our relationships with neighbouring countries, of the impact on the economies of Denmark and Ireland. Our Brexiteer friends will rely on that to claim that they wouldn't put that at risk, but they're wrong. They will realign their trading towards Germany, in the case of Denmark, or look to other markets, in the case of Ireland, because the losses that would arise from a breakdown of the Single Market are far worse than any losses due to Brexit. The less barriers to free trade there are, the better, and the Single Market has achieved just that.

Our Belgian guest, Bart Somers, was pretty inspiring. His application of core liberal principles in addressing the causes of radicalisation in the community was something that should be brought to the attention of liberals in local government everywhere. In that sense, his time was better spent addressing the LGA and ALDC crowd than an international relations committee, but I learnt much from his approach.

The Committee itself continues to bumble along, without any sense of strategic vision. You could argue that, in the absence of a clear steer from the Federal Board (they're still working on developing one, in fairness), but too much of the Committee's efforts are last minute, ad hoc and ineffectual. I did my best to create some basic structure and process, but I do feel like a lone voice, a practical Roundhead in a world of Cavaliers. Funnily enough, the Roundheads won in the end. All I have to do is find the best strategy, I guess.

As an example, ALDE Party Congress takes place in early December, and the deadline for submitting motions is coming up fast. And yet, despite me including it in every agenda up to the point of my resignation as Secretary, nothing was done about starting the process of coming up with some resolutions. Now, something may be cobbled together at the last minute. Given that the Congress is an annual event, you wonder that nobody has given the problem much thought earlier than this. Bluntly, I don't anymore, my expectations are that low.

The Committee is in danger of becoming an ineffectual talking shop, making decisions either in haste or at the whim of key individuals, and it requires a greater sense of active engagement from its members. It is not enough to simply turn up at meetings, react to events and then leave things to slumber on, relying on our remarkably capable but hideously under-resourced International Officer to keep the show on the road.

I do not despair though, because I have my own thoughts as to how I can make a difference, and rather than rely on the formal structure, I'm minded to be more creative.

Watch this space...

The Big Idea: Annalee Newitz

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:26 am
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

In her debut novel Autonomous, former i09 editor-in-chief and current science and tech writer and editor Annalee Newitz gets under the skin of the healthcare industry and thinks about all the ways it’s less-than-entirely healthy for us… and what that means for our future, and the future she’s written in her novel.

ANNALEE NEWITZ:

There’s a scene from the Torchwood series Miracle Day that I will never be able to wash out of my brain. After humans stop being able to die for mysterious reasons, our heroes tour a hospital full of people who are hideously immortal: their bodies pancaked and spindled and melted, they lie around in agony wishing for oblivion. For all its exaggerated body horror, that moment feels creepily realistic in our age of medicine that can keep people alive without giving them anything like quality of life.

Torchwood: Miracle Day wasn’t my first taste of healthcare dystopia, but it made a huge impression because it distilled down one of the fundamental ideas I see this subgenre: some lives are worse than death. This is certainly the message in countless pandemic films, where the infected are ravening, mindless zombies. Killing them is a mercy.

This idea takes a slightly different form in books like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl. Both narratives toy with what it means when people are turned into medical experiments, like futuristic versions of the Tuskegee Study. We see some ruling class of people deciding that another class should serve as its organ donors or genetic beta testers. What if somebody were treating us like lab rats, as if our lives didn’t matter?

And then there are the false healthcare utopias, which I find the most disturbing because they remind me of listening to U.S. senators trying to sell the idea that they have a “much better plan” than Obamacare—even though I know people who will die under these “better plans.” Politicians have probably been pushing false healthcare utopias since at least the 19th century, but in science fiction its roots can clearly be traced to Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World. In that novel, everyone is medicating with Soma just to deal with how regimented and limited their lives are.

False healthcare utopias can take many forms, and they overlap with more familiar dystopias too. Some deal with surveillance. In the chilling novel Harmony, Project Itoh imagines a future Japan where the government monitors everyone’s microbiomes by tracking everything that goes into and out of their bodies (yep, there’s toilet surveillance).

Sometimes the false healthcare utopia is just a precursor to a more familiar zombie dystopia like 28 Days Later. Consider, for example, our extreme overuse of antibiotics. Though it appears that we can cure pretty much any infection with antibiotics, we’re very close to living in a world where antibiotics no longer work at all. One of the most terrifying books I’ve read this year is science journalist Maryn McKenna’s book Big Chicken, which is about how the agriculture industry depends on antibiotics to keep animals “healthy” in filthy, overcrowded conditions. This is creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are coming for us, pretty much any day now. That’s right–penicillin-doped chickens are the real culprits in I Am Legend.

I’m fascinated by how many false healthcare utopias depend on coercive neuroscience. Often, brain surgery is involved—we see this in John Christopher’s Tripods and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, both about so-called utopian worlds created by neurosurgical interventions that restrict freedom of thought. Maybe these stories focus on brains so much because these are fundamentally stories about lies, and brains are, after all, the organ that we use for lying.

When I started work on my novel Autonomous (out today! yes it is!), I knew I wanted to explore the lies of the pharmaceutical industry and its gleaming ads promising a better life to those who can afford a scrip. One of the protagonists, Jack, has become a pharmaceutical pirate so that she can bring expensive, patented medicine to poor people who need it. But she also sells a few of what she calls “funtime worker drugs” on the side, to fund her Robin Hood activities and keep her submarine in good repair.

Those funtime drugs are why things go sideways for Jack. She sells some pirated Zacuity, a “productivity” drug that I loosely based on Provigil or Adderall. It gets people really enthusiastic about work, but it has some unexpected side-effects that the pharma company Zaxy has suppressed. Now Jack has to stop the drug from killing more people, while also evading two deadly agents sent by Zaxy: a robot named Paladin and a human named Eliasz.

So Autonomous is chase story with some hot robot sex, but it’s also very much a book about how pharma companies sell us an idea of “health” that is actually really unhealthy.

Today pharma companies market drugs the way Disney markets Star Wars movies, and for good reason. Drugs like Adderall and Provigil are supposed to make us feel better and more competent—or at the very least distract us—for a few blissful hours. Just like a movie. I’m not trying to say there’s a problem with taking drugs (or watching movies) to feel good. Nor am I saying that people don’t need anti-depressants and other meds to treat psychological problems. The issue is when these drugs are overprescribed for enhancement, and “feeling really good” becomes a terrible kind of norm. Pharma companies want us to believe that if we aren’t incredibly attentive, productive, and happy every day, there must be something wrong. This paves the way for an ideal of mental health that almost nobody can (or should) live up to.

There’s another, deeper problem that’s caused by selling medicine as if it were a form of entertainment. Nobody would ever argue that going to see the new Star Wars movie is a right. It’s just a luxury for people with disposable income. If we see medicine like that too, it’s easy to fall for the lie that our healthcare system is great even though it only serves the richest people in the U.S.

In the world of Autonomous, the pharma companies are full of guys like Martin Shkreli, jacking up the prices on medicine because they can. They get away with it because so many people in the U.S. believe that anyone can get medicine if they really deserve it. Only a lie of that magnitude could make it seem fair when working class people can’t afford to treat AIDS-related complications. Or cancer. Or a heart infection.

Autonomous is a book about lies. But more importantly, it’s about what happens to the people who see through those lies and try to do something about it. Everyone deserves to have medicine. It is a right, not a privilege. Until we recognize that, I’ll be hanging out with the pirates.

—-

Autonomous: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Attitude Magazine

A peaceful vigil to honour Scout’s life was held last night (September 18), but quickly turned violent.

The candlelit vigil started at 8 pm and saw students chant “Who’s tech? Scouts tech” as they marched towards Georgia Tech Police headquarters. The riots started just over an hour after the vigil began, at 9.30 pm.

Georgia Tech University issued an emergency alert, urging students to stay inside before rioters set a police SUV on fire.

According to University spokesperson Lance Wallace, two officers suffered minor injuries and one was taken to hospital for treatment over the riots.

Scout Schultz was shot by campus police on Saturday (September 16), who claimed the student was advancing on officers with knife.

According to an email by Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Nelly Miles, Schultz had allegedly made the 911 call and described a suspicious person who fit their own physical description.

Miles also claimed that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room.

According to the Associate Press, three people were arrested and charged with inciting a riot and battery of an officer, though it’s unknown if the three arrested are students at Georgia Tech.

In a statement released through their attorney, the Schultz family said: “Answering violence with violence is not the answer. Our goal is to work diligently to make positive change at Georgia Tech in an effort to ensure a safer campus for all students.”

More stories:
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Max Emerson gives his ‘guinea pig’ boyfriend a glutes massage

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:45 am
balsamandash: Peggy Carter (Agent Carter) running in profile (mcu] a moving target's hard to hit)
[personal profile] balsamandash
We are in the car on our way to the airport. I am excited but mostly terrified.

Gonna try and take pictures while we're up there. Gonna try not to have a panic attack on the plane, too. XD

But I am excited, under the nerves. Travel! New places! [personal profile] forests_of_fire! Should be fun.

They All Went Through

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:35 am
calliopes_pen: (lost_spook Mina covets the ring)
[personal profile] calliopes_pen
The rest of the nominations have been approved for Yuletide.

✔ Count Dracula (1977)
Characters
✔ Renfield (Count Dracula 1977)
✔ Jonathan Harker (Count Dracula 1977)
✔ Dracula (Count Dracula 1977)
✔ Mina Westenra Harker (Count Dracula 1977)

✔ Dracula (TV 1968)
Characters
✔ Jonathan Harker (Dracula TV 1968)
✔ Mina Harker (Dracula TV 1968)
✔ John Seward (Dracula TV 1968)
✔ Lucy Weston (Dracula TV 1968)
[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Attitude Magazine

We’ve heard time and again that we need to practice safer sex in order to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. But while many of us know this, is it as simple as putting on a condom?

For gay men, the fear of HIV is very real. Thankfully, people living with HIV today are able to live happy and healthy lives, but as time has gone on, to what extent have safer sex practices evolved?

Of course, condoms are an extremely effective method of preventing us from passing on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, to our sexual partners. That being said, many gay and bisexual men are not using condoms and I don’t blame them – they’re not exactly the sexiest things in the world, are they?

FS magazine carried out a survey recently that explored the idea of risk during sex. 65% of the gay and bisexual men surveyed reported that they had gone without their rubber friend when they had last had anal sex. Some said that this was due to the fact that their partner was undetectable or that they were taking PrEP.

 

Perhaps these results add to the argument that a condom-only option is simply not enough for gay and bisexual men in 2017. With this in mind, it seemed like a timely coincidence to see Do It London rolling out their latest wave of adverts.

In an attempt to educate Londoners about the many ways they can prevent HIV transmission, the London-wide HIV prevention programme brings to the forefront the latest scientific evidence on how we can all prevent HIV from being passed on. PrEP and being ‘undetectable’ now form part of the quartet of HIV prevention methods, alongside the more well-known methods of using condoms and getting tested. This allows for greater choice for gay and bisexual men when it comes to making decisions about their sexual health.

I think it’s important that Do It London have acknowledged ‘undetectable’ as a means of preventing HIV from being passed on. To date, it seems that it has been left to those living with HIV to educate others within the gay community about what it means to be undetectable, resulting in them at times facing a barrage of abusive language, particularly on dating and hook-up apps. Perhaps now that this campaign has brought this into a more ‘mainstream’ conversation, we will start to see a change in attitudes towards people living with HIV and a greater understanding of treatment for people living with the virus.

As gay and bisexual men, we are all too aware that we are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other groups within society, so why is this campaign so important? One of the biggest barriers to effective HIV prevention is the notion that HIV is a taboo subject of conversation. If we’re afraid to broach the subject with our sexual partner, then how can we negotiate safer sex practices with them?

Equally, if we continue to demonise those living with HIV on dating and hook-up apps, we are pushing this topic further under the carpet, resulting in people feeling unable to discuss their HIV status with their sexual partners.

Do It London are bringing HIV back into conversation, whilst educating the general population about new developments in the fight against HIV. But let’s not forget, this campaign is London-focused and what seems like a logical step forward would be a similar nationwide campaign.

In the meantime, I’d invite you all to educate yourselves about these new developments, be it asking someone on social media who is living with HIV to visiting an HIV charity’s website. It is only then will we feel more empowered to have open conversation about HIV and negotiating safer sex with our partners.

For more information visit doitlondon.org. Follow Hadley Stewart on Twitter @wordsbyhadley.

More stories:
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Majority of Northern Ireland supports same-sex marriage, poll says

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:56 am
elainegrey: Inspired by Grypping/gripping beast styles from Nordic cultures (Default)
[personal profile] elainegrey
Saturday i worked in the yard, mainly eradicating stiltgrass and stands of Boehmeria cylindrica (False nettle, by which they mean "non-stinging nettle") by mechanical means.

Boehmeria cylindrica clearly reproduces successfully, so i want to get rid of it in a number of places where it is "weedy." On the other hand, it is native, so i should find some place(s) for it to thrive. I see one resource claims it prefers sandy or loamy soil: i wonder if there's actually loam in the places it is growing. I generally assume everything is clay.

So, in the first area of work there was the manual pulling out. The stilt grass is about a meter high, and heaven only knows what has made a home in the thick stands. I've not seen any snakes yet, but spiders and toads and bright green leafhoppers seem disrupted. I found one milkweed growing in the stand, Asclepias variegata (White milkweed) or A syriaca (common milkweed): that was delightful! And i found a good number my current favorite little plants: moonworts (or grapeferns). These have a single frond, and then a spore bearing structure lifted like a flag above the solar panel that is the leaf. This 2014 literature review describes them as rare but (at least) one species is definitely common here. I believe i've had success transplanting them, despite comments about them being challenging. I take that to mean that the interdependence with fungi is supported over the small distances in which i have moved them. Transplanting to potting soil would likely be bad.

I also rediscovered one of the colonies of Goodyera pubescens (rattlesnake orchid). It too is usually accompanied by the warning against transplanting because of the mycorrhizal interactions: i may try moving some to some places i feel i can more easily protect from trampling over time.

Later in the day i used the sling blade and the weed whacker and the lawn mower. The mower can deal with the tall stands, but i don't want to hit hidden stumps, any more than i already do. The weed whacker gets the grass all tangled in the drive: it's not a particularly good tool on the tall stands.

I grew a little disappointed in the lawn mower repair. I don't think the mechanism for raising and lowering works the way it is supposed to: it's as if the front is now at a fixed height. The lawn mower repair process was so distressing for Christine, i don't want to bring it up. But, fie, it was useful to have the great range in height.

--== ∞ ==--

Sunday began with me breaking the stylus on my phone. The version of the Galaxy Note i have was reported to have a stylus issue in that if you inserted it in the storage bit backwards, it would jam and there was little that could be done. Now i understand: while one can pull out the stylus, the little springy top, like the "clicker" on a retractable ball point, breaks off and jams in, disrupting whatever signal the phone has to turn on the pen functioning. I am glad that the new note has been released but i believe it is a bit larger than this phone - so my nice case wouldn't be used. And we bought this phone outright. After spending some time thinking about it, i decided that i am ok giving up the stylus and just using the phone as any other phone for a while longer. All the critical phone functionality still works, and i can always take a pad of paper outside with me.

If i were doing real field work, i would have a reason to spend the money on a new phone, i don't really now.

And there's also the question of the iPad, which has superior drawing applications, and whether i really need a second digital pad (that's smaller and lighter and "always" with me, sigh).

I worked myself up into other dithers on Sunday morning as well. Things i hadn't done for Meeting, baking for meeting for business potluck with a recipe that i hadn't used before, realizing i hadn't really left time for the longer than expected baking time, discovering i didn't quite have the right quantities of ingredients, running late....

I indulged myself the rest of the day after Meeting, going to a historical society presentation (the president is a member of Meeting as well) and reading a novel (a Maisy Dobbs mystery). I finished the book after dark and needed to take Carrie for her walk, so i went into Pittsboro and walked her on the streetlamp lit sidewalks. I think Carrie was delighted with the novelty, and i enjoyed it too. It will be agreeable to walk there this winter.

Monday was a long work day, mainly meetings. We had the first visit of the young woman we have hired to clean our bathrooms. She's incredibly professional, and someday she'll finish her vet school training and will take her professionalism on to her own vet practice. Until then, i think we'll be delighted with her help.

For allbingo

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:31 am
ladyofleithian: (Default)
[personal profile] ladyofleithian
Title: Dark Labyrinth

Summary: Poe visits Kylo Ren in prison.

Prompt: Revenge

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Fic under cut. )

Boxing will help.

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:15 am
wpadmirer: (Default)
[personal profile] wpadmirer
Yesterday was a weird day. I went to work and immediately got asked to fix the lab computer because I apparently fix everything. ???

I took photos of the set-up and texted them to our IT consultant and then he and I got on the telephone and between the photos and me answering questions, we got the computer fixed.

Partially. Today I have to do a fast support with him to fix the final problem, but the computer was at least mostly working.

Then I got asked by the accountant what suspension accounts should money be going into. She sends me a print-out that reads: DOH, CHOICES, CAPP for each of the transfers. The suspension accounts are DOH, CHOICES, CAPP. I cannot see what the mystery is. DOH goes into DOH, CHOICES into CHOICES, and CAPP into CAPP. Am I missing something? She set up the system I'm using and I'm using it the way she told me to, and it clearly reads EXACTLY what it's supposed to read, so why don't know you know what to put in it?

(bangs head on desk)

Then I went to the dermatologist. First time I've ever been to one. I had developed a flesh-colored lump on the end of a scar from childhood that is on my forehead. He removed it and is sending it for a biopsy. So I guess it was good to go get it checked.

So I came home with an ouchie and a bandaid.

I stopped on the way home and bought groceries, including ice cream for dinner. I was in bed early because today is a payroll day and boxing. So I knew I needed to get some sleep.

Pat is in Branford with is friend Ric. They did get the Jeep running yesterday, so that was a success. Now he's going to hang out for a couple of days and then drive the Jeep back here.

I live in hope that people don't drive me crazy today, but I'm also not holding my breath.

Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:07 am
renegadefolkhero: Demon Saito (demon-saito)
[personal profile] renegadefolkhero
I have a two-step process to confirm if Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome is the right otome for you.

First, I must inform you the game contains body negativity and name-calling. The heroine is called sow, pig, etc., as Saito tries to goad her into dieting. He also calls her a bitch a few times. She refers to herself as "slant-eyed" on multiple occasions. If you can tolerate this, go to the next step.

Now, I will need you to view the image under the cut. Please be advised this image may be disturbing to more sensitive viewers.

Read more... )

Still game? Okay, let's get to it. FLML is best described as an irreverent parody that occasionally breaks the fourth wall. It has two main routes and a third unlockable 3P route. The heroine, Ema, is a tall recluse who wants to eat pizza and be left alone, but when she crosses paths with two handsome guys, one who claims she is his "muse" and is obsessed with designing clothes for her, and another who demands that she let him be her producer, she can't get a moment of peace. They won't leave her alone until she agrees to be their model, and then the real torture starts as they whip her into shape and force her to wear embarrassing clothing.

Read more... )

Signal boost

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:09 am
supergee: (nebula)
[personal profile] supergee
The first time I encountered Farah Mendlesohn was when NYRSF published some idiot saying that Robert Heinlein was a fascist, and Farah, a leftist pacifist, told him in clearly reasoned detail wherein he was full of shit. Since then, I have had the pleasure of hanging out with her at the ICFA and online and reading a number of her excellent critical books. Now she has returned to Heinlein with a book that the cold equations of the book biz tell us is too large to be published by a commercial or university press. So it is being crowdfunded, and I encourage you to join in.
[syndicated profile] newsarse_feed

Posted by Rich Smith

People who book flights on Ryanair having previously flown with them have been diagnosed with a form of Stockholm syndrome, according to researchers today.
[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Attitude Magazine

A Texas man has become the third to plead guilty to targeting gay men via Grindr with an intention to assault and rob them.

Chancler Encalade was arrested with three others earlier this year and pleaded guilty yesterday (September 18) in Plano, Texas. Nigel Garrett, 21, and Cameron Ajiduah, 18, were the first two men to plead guilty to the crimes.

The group are being charged on 18 counts, which include assaulting their victims, robbing them of their possessions, binding them with tape and possessing a firearm.

In January and February this year, the group used gay dating app Grindr to connect with gay men throughout Texas and on four separate occasions, the men visited the homes of victims and committed the offences.

According to reports, the assailants made derogatory comments about the victim’s sexual orientation. The three men could be sentenced up to life in prison and fined up to $250,000 (Around 185,000).

A fourth man, 19-year-old Anthony Shelton, is currently awaiting trial.

More stories:
Sam Smith reveals how personal heartbreak almost made him quit music
Max Emerson gives his ‘guinea pig’ boyfriend a glutes massage

[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Will Stroude

Anti-gay marriage protesters in Australia are set to hold a demonstration in the heart of Sydney’s biggest gay district this weekend.

Members of the far-right Party for Freedom, usually campaigns against Muslim immigration, will hold a ‘Straight Lives Matter’ protest on Saturday in Darlinghurst, just metres from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial.

Saturday’s event – named as play on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement – will be held in favour of “white heteronormativity” as Australians begin to cast their votes on a legally non-binding vote on the issue of marriage equality.

Defending the decision to hold the demonstration in an area of significant meaning for LGBT people, Party for Freedom chairman Nick Folkes told news.com.au: “We want to make a strong point — I don’t feel were provoking anyone, we can hold a rally anywhere.”

Nick Folkes leads Australia’s minor right-wing Party for Freedom.

He reportedly added that ‘Vote Yes’ campaigners were free to hold demonstrations in ‘straight areas’.

The planned march comes just days after skywriting encouraging Australians to vote against marriage equality appeared over Sydney.

“In most cases it’s a lifestyle people choose. My neighbour has kids and he was straight but went gay,” Mr Folkes continued.

The planned demonstration will be held just metres from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial.

“All these 76 genders. I say there’s three genders: male, female and r*tards. The rest is lunacy The world’s being turned upside down.”

New South Wales Police confirmed they would be in attendance at the demonstration on Saturday alongside specially-trained gay and lesbian liaison officers.

“We respect the public’s right to protest [but] anyone who breaks the law or engages in anti-social behaviour will be dealt with accordingly,” the force said in a statement.

The result of Australia’s poll on equal marriage, which will see registered voters aged 18 and over answer the question ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’, is set to be announced on November 15.

More stories:
Lady Gaga postpones European tour over health concerns
Majority of Northern Ireland supports same-sex marriage, poll says

[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Joshua Haigh

James Corden has been slammed for supposedly using being gay as a cheap gag.

The Late Late Show host became embroiled in a controversy earlier this week when a picture of him planting a kiss on Sean Spicer appeared online.

Despite poking fun at the Trump administration during while he presented this year’s Emmys, Corden appeared to show no restraint when sharing a peck with the bumbling White House Secretary.

A number of angry social media users criticised the star for “normalising fascism”.

After sobering up from the evening’s festivities, Corden apologised for his actions, saying: “Understandably, some people have been disappointed by this photo. In truth, I’m disappointed by it as well.

“I have been reading a lot of harsh comments on Twitter today, and I hear you loud and clear, truly, I do.”

However, it was too little too late for social media, who suggested that the kiss was just one in a long line of incidents that seem to show Corden using being gay as a “joke”.

One user wrote: “KISSING MEN IS NOT A JOKE,” alongside shots of the chat show host kissing a number of other male celebrities, including One Direction’s Harry Styles.

While a second added: “He’s one of those who thinks kissing a man is hilarious”.

Has Corden taken his brand of comedy too far? Let us know your thoughts on social media.

[syndicated profile] dana_farber_insight_feed

Posted by Megan Riesz

Judy Wilkins tried four different chemotherapy regiments over 18 grueling months to try to put her lymphoma into remission. Her team never could. But thanks to CAR T-cell therapy, an emerging immunotherapy treatment that is showing great promise in clinical trials nationwide, Wilkins is cancer-free. CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T-cell therapy […]

The post CAR T-Cell Therapy Gives Cancer Patients New Hope appeared first on Insight.

[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Attitude Magazine

The Israeli government have just announced they’ll be amending the adoption law to give same-sex couples equal rights in the country.

The announcement was made on Sunday (September 17) during a Supreme Court hearing in response to a petition hoping to end discrimination in the adoption law.

Filed by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism against the Justice Ministry and the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry.

Adoption by same-sex couples has been legal in the country since 2008, but has been difficult as opposite-sex couples are given priority. According to reports, only three same-sex couples have adopted in Israel out of 550 applicants.

Back in July, the court revealed that they would not end the discrimination against same-sex parents, allegedly believing that adoption by them would add “additional baggage” for adopted children.

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Riki Shapira Rosenberg for the Israel Religious Action Centre, said: “The court recognized the merits of the petition presented to them and decided to encourage a fundamental change in Israel’s adoption policy.”

“From now on, same-sex families, who deserve the right to adopt like any other family, will have the right.”

According to the state, the new legislation will be introduced by June 2018.

More stories:
Sam Smith reveals how personal heartbreak almost made him quit music
Max Emerson gives his ‘guinea pig’ boyfriend a glutes massage

[syndicated profile] attitude_magazine_feed

Posted by Will Stroude

Showtime have unveiled the first official teaser trailer for an upcoming documentary about George Michael co-directed by the singer himself.

George Michael: Freedom will provide fans with an intimate look at Michael’s personal and professional life during his ’80s and ’90s heyday, including the death of his partner Anselmo Feleppa from Aids-related complications in 1993.

The documentary, co-directed by David Austin and set to air on US and UK screens next month, features narration from Michael and marked the former Wham! star’s last big project before his untimely death on Christmas Day 2016 at the age of 53.

It will also feature contributions from artists like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Mark Ronson, Liam Gallagher, Mary J. Blige as well as all five supermodels featured in the ‘Freedom ’90’ video: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz.

George Michael: Freedom airs in the US Saturday, October 21 at 9pm on Showtime and in the UK on Channel 4 during October.

More stories:
Lady Gaga postpones European tour over health concerns
Majority of Northern Ireland supports same-sex marriage, poll says

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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