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WoR Ch8

I seek not to use my grief as an excuse, but it is an explanation. People act strangely soon after encountering an unexpected loss. Though Jasnah had been away for some time, her loss was unexpected. I, like many, assumed her to be immortal.

–From the journal of Navani Kholin, Jesesach 1174

Point of view: Dalinar
Setting: The Shattered Plains

Progression of the Chapter:

Dalinar reminisces with shame on past plateau assaults; the problem of slavers and bandits is considered and put off; the Kholin and Aladar armies attempt to cooperate under a new system; Adolin leads a battle all on his own; Dalinar tries and fails to convince Aladar by evidence, by honor, by force; Dalinar’s suggestions easily win Aladar a gemheart he would have lost; Dalinar and Aladar notice that a Parshendi Shardbearer had been watching them the whole time; Aladar wishes he could trust Dalinar, but just can’t; Dalinar returns to camp to find a welcome letter from an old friend.

Quote of the Chapter:

"I’m done cajoling, Aladar. I’m done asking. When you disobey Elhokar, you mock my brother and what he stood for. I will have a unified kingdom."

"Amusing," Aladar said. "Good of you to mention Gavilar, as he didn’t bring the kingdom together with honor. He did it with knives in the back and soldiers on the field, cutting the heads off any who resisted. Are we back to that again, then? Such things don’t sound much like the fine words of your precious book."

While Aladar brushes off every force of persuasion Dalinar brings to bear, he was, in fact, willing to be convinced all along. Aladar might be a person who is actually interested in being persuaded by logic and rhetoric. The answers to Dalinar’s various methods of persuasion are obvious, though, and Aladar is not convinced here. He understands his own prisoner’s dilemma, that even if he could trust Dalinar he wouldn’t be able to trust the other Highprinces not to stab him in the back. And he knows that, for all that Dalinar is the superior general and has the backing of the King, he has no army with which to compel obedience.

Development of the Chapter:

This is the first chapter of the series that shows a plateau assault from the perspective of someone not in mortal danger. Dalinar charges into every battle with Plate and Blade in The Way of Kings. While it’s clear that Dalinar’s presence on the field is an immeasurable combat resource, how did he get so good at battlefield tactics if that’s where he’s always been during battle? He easily exceeds Aladar’s skill at reading the field, despite the other Highprince's habit of watching battles from a secured command post.

The chapter begins with Dalinar going down the list of reasons why he now dislikes plateau assaults. They waste life, they are mostly about making money, and they don’t even further the Vengeance Pact, if that’s still a worthy goal. While doing so, he adds another problem to his list of goals: the bridge runs incur massive loss of life and bolster a growing slave trade and bandit problem. Dalinar has to put that aside for his more pressing task of convincing Aladar to come into line.

Dalinar’s attempt to lionize Gavilar is a failure. Ostensibly, everyone is at the Shattered Plains to avenge the honor of their fallen King. In reality, however, what they want is to make money, win honor, and prove their military might. No one puts much stock in Gavilar’s honor because they all remember his campaign for unification, which was clearly carried out along standard Alethi lines. Plenty of bloodshed, assassination, deal-making and betrayal was had. In the end, the kingdom solidified only through force of arms and skillful maneuvering. What’s more, the throne can’t make any real claim to a current monopoly on force or rule of law. The King directly commands a smaller force than any Highprince, and Dalinar’s current army is the smallest on the Shattered Plains. Meanwhile, back in the homeland, the monarchy doesn’t project enough power to prevent border skirmishes between warlords. The kingdom’s in a sad state.

When Dalinar notices Eshonai, the Parshendi Shardbearer, watching the battle, he feels a rug pulled out from under him. Until then he’d thought of the Parshendi as basically predictable. Because the Alethi have such a simplistic construction of their opponents’ mental states, it doesn’t take much to surprise them. There isn't much variety in tactics among the Alethi either, since plateau runs have become completely rote.

The paragraphs in which Dalinar returns to his warcamp and finds a letter from an “old friend” were initially vague. Could he possibly have predicted how big of an ass that friend would turn out to be?

All Creatures Shelled and Feathered:

How do Ryshadiums work? Gallant is apparently smart enough to tack and stable himself better than a groom could, and authoritative enough to glare down any groom that would try to hinder him.

Ars Mechanica:

Shardbearers can lend both Plate and Blade to others to fight with them in battle. This is simple for Shardplate, but Shardblades bind to their owners, so are more difficult to parcel out. In order to delegate a Shardblade, its proper owner must will it not to dissolve into mist when he or she releases it. The owner can also pull his/her Blade back into his/her hand at any time.

This arrangement is rather inconvenient for the borrower. He/she can’t ever dismiss the Blade, so he/she has to carry the thing around all the time. Shardblades aren’t heavy, but they can cut instantly through almost any material, so they’re more than a little unwieldy.

Heraldic Symbolism:

Jezrien watches over Dalinar’s doomed attempts to unite the Highprinces under a single banner, his Leading attribute grimly shaking its head. He knows that Gavilar was pretty good at kinging, but Elhokar is less so, and Dalinar is struggling to pick up the slack. Keep trying, Jezrien implies, with his unmoving visage.

- Paraphrased from Carl Engle-Laird[1]

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