Home > Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive #4)(9)

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive #4)(9)
Author: Brandon Sanderson

The other two parshmen laughed at Roshone, who was trying—despite his drunkenness—to reach the roof of the building and scrape away the crem buildup there. Dor turned and joined them, absently waving Lirin forward.

Lirin shared a brief glance with his wife, who waited nearby. It was a good thing none of the parshmen were facing her, because she was pale as a Shin woman. Lirin probably didn’t look much better, but he held in his sigh of relief as he led the Mink and his soldiers forward. He could sequester them in the surgery room, away from the public eye until—

“Everyone stop what you’re doing!” a female voice shouted from behind. “Prepare to give deference!”

Lirin felt an immediate urge to bolt. He almost did, but the soldiers simply kept walking at a regular pace. Yes. Pretend that you hadn’t heard.

“You, surgeon!” the voice shouted at him. It was Abiajan. Reluctantly Lirin halted, excuses running through his mind. Would she believe he hadn’t recognized the Mink? Lirin was already in rough winds with the citylady after insisting on treating Jeber’s wounds after the fool had gotten himself strung up and whipped.

Lirin turned around, trying hard to calm his nerves. Abiajan hurried up, and although singers didn’t blush, she was clearly flustered. When she spoke, her words had adopted a staccato cadence. “Attend me. We have a visitor.”

It took Lirin a moment to process the words. She wasn’t demanding an explanation. This was about … something else?

“What’s wrong, Brightness?” he asked.

Nearby, the Mink and his soldiers stopped, but Lirin could see their arms shifting beneath their cloaks. They’d said they’d left behind “obvious” weapons. Almighty help him, if this turned bloody …

“Nothing’s wrong,” Abiajan said, speaking quickly. “We’ve been blessed. Attend me.” She looked to Dor and the inspectors. “Pass the word. Nobody is to enter or leave the town until I give word otherwise.”

“Brightness,” Lirin said, gesturing toward the man in the litter. “This man’s wound may not appear dire, but I’m certain that if I don’t tend to it immediately, he—”

“It will wait.” She pointed to the Mink and his men. “You five, wait. Everyone just wait. All right. Wait and … and you, surgeon, come with me.”

She strode away, expecting Lirin to follow. He met the Mink’s eyes and nodded for him to wait, then hurried after the citylady. What could have put her so out of sorts? She’d been practicing a regal air, but had now abandoned it completely.

Lirin crossed the field outside of town, walking alongside the line of refugees, and soon found his answer. A hulking figure easily seven feet tall emerged from the fog, accompanied by a small squad of parshmen with weapons. The dreadful creature had a beard and long hair the color of dried blood, and it seemed to meld with his simple wrap of clothing—as if he wore his hair itself for a covering. He had a pure black skin coloring, with lines of marbled red under his eyes.

Most importantly, he had a jagged carapace unlike any Lirin had seen, with a strange pair of carapace fins—or horns—rising above his ears.

The creature’s eyes glowed a soft red. One of the Fused. Here in Hearthstone.

It had been months since Lirin had seen one—and that had been only in passing as a small group had stopped on the way to the battlefront in Herdaz. That group had soared through the air in breezy robes, bearing long spears. They had evoked an ethereal beauty, but the carapace on this creature looked far more wicked—like something one might expect to have come from Damnation.

The Fused spoke in a rhythmic language to a smaller figure at his side, a warform parshwoman. Singer, Lirin told himself. Not parshwoman. Use the right term even in your head, so you don’t slip when speaking.

The warform stepped forward to translate for the Fused. From what Lirin had heard, even those Fused who spoke Alethi often used interpreters, as if speaking human tongues were beneath them.

“You,” the interpreter said to Lirin, “are the surgeon? You’ve been inspecting the people today?”

“Yes,” Lirin said.

The Fused replied, and again the interpreter translated. “We are searching for a spy. He might be hidden among these refugees.”

Lirin felt his mouth go dry. The thing standing above him was a nightmare that should have remained a legend, a demon whispered of around the midnight fire. When Lirin tried to speak, the words wouldn’t come out, and he had to cough to clear his throat.

At a barked order from the Fused, the soldiers with him spread out to the waiting line. The refugees backed away, and several tried to run, but the parshmen—though small beside the Fused—were warforms, with powerful strength and terrible speed. They caught runners while others began searching through the line, throwing back hoods and inspecting faces.

Don’t look behind you at the Mink, Lirin. Don’t seem nervous.

“We…” Lirin said. “We inspect each person, comparing them to the drawings given us. I promise you. We’ve been watchful! No need to terrorize these poor refugees.”

The interpreter didn’t translate Lirin’s words for the Fused, but the creature spoke immediately in its own language.

“The one we seek is not on those lists,” the interpreter said. “He is a young man, a spy of the most dangerous kind. He would be fit and strong compared to these refugees, though he might have feigned weakness.”

“That … that could describe any number of people,” Lirin said. Could he be in luck? Could this be a coincidence? It might not be about the Mink at all. Lirin felt a moment of hope, like sunlight peeking through stormclouds.

“You would remember this man,” the interpreter continued. “Tall for a human, with wavy black hair worn to the shoulders. Clean shaven, he has a slave’s brand on his forehead. Including the glyph shash.”

Slave’s brand.

Shash. Dangerous.

Oh no …

Nearby, one of the Fused’s soldiers threw back the hood of another cloaked refugee—revealing a face that should have been intimately familiar to Lirin. Yet the harsh man Kaladin had become looked like a crude drawing of the sensitive youth Lirin remembered.

Kaladin immediately burst alight with power. Death had come to visit Hearthstone today, despite Lirin’s every effort.

 

 

Next, let the spren inspect your trap. The gemstone must not be fully infused, but also cannot be fully dun. Experiments have concluded that seventy percent of maximum Stormlight capacity works best.

If you have done your work correctly, the spren will become fascinated by its soon-to-be prison. It will dance around the stone, peek at it, float around it.

—Lecture on fabrial mechanics presented by Navani Kholin to the coalition of monarchs, Urithiru, Jesevan, 1175

 

“I told you we’d been spotted,” Syl said as Kaladin flared with Stormlight.

Kaladin grunted in reply. Syl formed into a majestic silvery spear as he swept his hand outward—the weapon’s appearance forcing back the singers who had been searching for him. Kaladin pointedly avoided looking at his father, to not betray their relationship. Besides, he knew what he would see. Disappointment.

So, nothing new.

Refugees scrambled away in a panic, but the Fused no longer cared about them. The hulking figure turned toward Kaladin, arms folded, and smiled.

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