Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Seventy-Six

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Welcome back to the reread! This week we’re back in Navani’s basement office turned library turned laboratory, where a world-changing breakthrough is about to happen. Also, Raboniel is a fashion plate after Adolin’s own heart, and it turns out that Navani and Adolin are, in one sense, fighting the same battle: to be treated as individuals rather than as stand-ins for the errors of their ancestors. Come on in and join the discussion!

Reminder: We’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of The Stormlight Archive (this includes Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

There are no Cosmere spoilers in this week’s discussion.

Heralds: Vedeledev (Vedel). Edgedancers (Abrasion, Progression). Loving/Healing. Role: Healer.

A: Vedel, eh? Hmm. No Edgedancers, no cultivationspren, no Surges… Is the joining of the two Rhythms/Tones/Lights a sort of Healing? That’s all I can think of. Oh, or maybe “progression” as a general concept rather than as a Surge.

P: Progression as a concept is an interesting thought. It certainly could be that.

Icon: Fabrial Gemstone.

Epigraph:

Such skills, like my honor itself, are now lost to time. Weathered away, crushed to dust, and scattered to the ends of the cosmere. I am a barren tree of a human being. I am the hollow that once was a mighty peak.

A: “Such skills” presumably refers back to last week’s epigraph; at least, to me this whole series reads like a single journal entry. Interesting, that his thoughts of the barren tree and hollow peak echo so much his thoughts in the Prelude, where he saw Jezrien as a cold shadow and a black imitation of what had been honorable and true.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHEN: 1175.4.8.2 (This is the day following the destruction of the third node and Navani’s realization that Raboniel had been listening to her conversations with the Sibling.)
WHERE: Urithiru

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: Navani apologizes to the Sibling for her part in the previous day’s events, but the Sibling has withdrawn and won’t respond. She wanders aimlessly around her room, no longer motivated to continue her experiments with Light. Raboniel arrives with wine and contemplation, seeking to persuade Navani to continue the search for knowledge. Against her instincts, Navani’s inherent curiosity wins out, and she begins asking questions about Light, sound, and rhythm. Her experience with fabrials enables her to hear and replicate Honor’s tone and rhythm; with Raboniel singing Odium’s tone and rhythm, the two cooperate and find the harmony that enables Stormlight and Voidlight to mix and fill a gemstone. With proof that the two are not opposites, Raboniel announces her intention to abandon that line of thinking and proceed with the subjugation of the Tower. As she leaves, Navani quietly considers her new secret knowledge: that not only had Gavilar found this Light, he’d also found the destructive opposite that Raboniel sought.

Chapter Chatter—Navani’s Naivete

The soul of Urithiru had been watching her all along. Perhaps if Navani had discovered it sooner, they could have achieved a different result.

She replaced her hand on the vein. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Please know that I’m sorry. Truly.”

For the briefest moment, she thought the Sibling would respond this time. Navani felt something, faint as the movement of a shadow deep within the ocean. No words came.

A: This has to be so painful to think about. As always, Navani takes all the blame on herself, forgetting that the Sibling could have spoken to her at any time too. Still, the regrets would be poignant; had they been working together and communicating freely before the invasion, what might they have done to prevent it?

P: Oh, can you imagine? But then Navani wouldn’t have had the chance to prove that she’s a scholar. Aaand give the enemy the ability to kill spren. *sigh*

A: Also, question… Is the Sibling badly weakened and unable to respond, or simply unwilling due to perceived betrayal?

P: I’m confident that it’s both. When they finally talk to Navani they’re greatly weakened but I think they’re also feeling either foolish or betrayed.

A: I could hope there’s a certain amount of feeling foolish. The Sibling really needs to take more of the responsibility; they’re the one who’s been around for thousands of years, and should have been aware of the possibility of Fused eavesdropping.

Everything she’d attempted so far had been a sham.

A: Ouch. Yes, the whole situation makes it really hard to be interested in pursuing her experiments. Why bother?

P: There’s her pretty substantial self-doubt showing its ugly head.

A: ::sigh::

At least he was safe. Adolin, Renarin, Jasnah, Dalinar, and little Gav. Her entire family safe from the invasion and the mess Navani had made.

A: Ummmm… well… Okay, they’re safe from this particular invasion, and to be fair the Emuli contingent is actually pretty close to safe. (At least until Dalinar decides to go Herald-hunting…) Adolin, maybe not so much. Especially at this point, there’s a good chance he might end up incarcerated in Lasting Integrity for the rest of his life. But safe from the invasion of the Fused, I guess.

P: Yeah, sure… They’re safe from this particular occupation, but they’re not safe from the Fused or from Odium.

A: Once again, though, Navani is taking the entire blame on her own shoulders. While I approve in one sense—leaders should take responsibility for what happens on their watch, whether it’s their fault or not—at the same time, Dalinar and Jasnah fell full into the trap planned by Odium, the Fused, and Taravangian. Hook, line, and sinker, they went for the bait of the Emuli campaign. Had either of them stayed in Urithiru, the invasion might well have failed completely. (Why did they both go? Really? Well, other than that the story demanded that they both leave…)

“Seven thousand years? I don’t think you can comprehend how tired I am of this war, Navani. How tired all of us are. Your Heralds too.”

“Then let’s end it,” Navani said. “Declare peace. Withdraw from the tower and I will convince Dalinar to engage in talks.”

Raboniel turned her wine cup around, as if trying to see the liquid within from different angles. “You think talks haven’t been tried? We are born to fight one another, Navani. Opposites…”

A: Wow. I can’t help thinking that they’re both right, depending on the way you look at it. I have this odd feeling that talks always fail because they either don’t understand what the other side wants, or simply don’t trust one another to keep to a bargain. But… that’s just a guess.

P: You can’t hope to be successful in talks if you’re at a disadvantage from the get go, which the humans are, in this instance.

“I need to know if you’re right,” Raboniel said. “If you are, then so much of what I’ve planned will collapse.”

A: This feels so hopeful… and it absolutely isn’t. She’s manipulating Navani again, and in this same chapter we’ll find out what happens when she gets that answer.

P: She’s manipulating her like a pro. And again, Navani falls for it.

A: (Sometimes I wonder why I love Navani so much; between falling for Raboniel’s manipulation and the insistent self-doubt, I get so irritated. But then she does The Science, and… I love her again.)

“If you and I discover this secret together, you’ll be able to use it better than I will. Watch and see. At the very least, prove me wrong. Show me that our two Lights can meld and mix as you theorize.”

Navani considered it, though storms, she knew she shouldn’t have.

A: Sigh. Raboniel knows all the right buttons to push. Maybe you can win for good. Maybe you can prove something that’s never been done before. Maybe you can really be a scholar… And the thing is, Navani is too much of a scholar to be this close and give up. She longs for answers, she longs to know—and she has the advantage of having seen those spheres Gavilar had. She has confirmation that something is possible; she just doesn’t know what or how. So… she lets Raboniel talk her into being interested again.

P: “Prove me wrong.” Grrr, she knows Navani so well for someone who hasn’t known her for very long.

Navani sat back, sipping her wine, wishing she had access to Rushu and the other scholars. Raboniel had forbidden her from drawing on their expertise in this matter, giving the problem to Navani alone. Navani, who wasn’t a scholar.

A: And again with the doubt. You have to wonder what difference it would have made to have Rushu involved, right?

P: Gavilar did some damage to this poor woman, didn’t he. Left her with crippling self-doubt. Jerk.

A: Oh, I could just… GAH. Sometimes I think of excuses for him, but they’re too thin to justify any of his behavior. He might have been trying to protect her from the dangerous games he was playing, but he was only playing dangerous games because of his incredibly arrogant ambitions. Git. (And yes, that’s exactly what I mean, per several dictionaries.)

“Ancient One,” Navani said. “Something confuses me. Why would you have preferred that these two annihilate one another?” Navani had an inkling why. But she wanted to see what she could prompt the Fused to reveal.

A: I do love it when Navani remembers how to play politics on her own… She used to be quite good at it, and knew perfectly well how to manipulate people to get the information she wanted. It’s good to see her trying again. Not that she learns a lot, but Raboniel does hint that she’d like to find out what was used to destroy Honor, with the implication that something similar could be done to Odium.

P: This is just more teasing, though. She hints at it as part of her manipulation of Navani and despite Navani’s prowess at politics, she falls for it.

A: One of the reasons she falls for this one, I think, is that she keeps seeing reflections of Gavilar’s ambition in Raboniel. She doesn’t realize that their motivations and ultimate goals were not at all the same. Gavilar is about self-aggrandizement; Raboniel is about the complete subjugation or destruction of the humans. Gavilar would certainly be interested in destroying even a Shard, if it gave himself more power; Raboniel couldn’t care less about destroying Shards unless it somehow put the Fused irrevocably in control of Roshar.

“I was wrong, and you have proven exceedingly helpful in leading me to this proof. Now, I must abandon this line of reasoning and focus on my actual duty—the securing of the tower.”

“And your promise that you would leave if I helped you find this Light?”

“I’m sorry,” Raboniel said. “Next time, try not to be so trusting.”

A: Fake apologies. I hates them, I does. I don’t think she’s the least bit sorry—not about breaking her promise, anyway. Maybe a little sorry that they’ve proved her theory wrong and she has to get back to her official job. Ugh.

P: Oh, she’s definitely not sorry for lying to Navani. She never intended to leave the tower, as we all well know.

A: Yeah, she’d have proceeded with corrupting the Sibling and securing the tower in any case; she’s just sorry she has to go back to the original plan for it, rather than having a cool new weapon for the task.

Navani, in turn, downed the rest of the cup of wine, her head abuzz with implications.

A: This almost makes up for all the rest. This chapter was frustrating, in a way; Navani doubts herself so much, and in spite of her instincts allows Raboniel to manipulate her. But the ending… This is excellent. For all the deception and betrayal, there’s something Navani is not telling Raboniel. (Okay, not yet…)

P: I think her head might be abuzz with more than implications, the way she downed that wine.

A: Heh. Depends on how big the cup was. Oh, and if it really was port, or as strong as port (see below…) that would definitely cause a buzz!

Music, Mechanisms, and Manifestations of Light

“The vast majority of elements, when combined, produce no reaction. I’d have long ago named these two things immiscible if I hadn’t seen Towerlight.”

“It is what gave me the original idea,” Raboniel said. “I decided if there was a hybrid between Honor’s Light and Cultivation’s, there must be a reason no one had mixed Odium’s Light with either.”

A: Funny how they come to such different conclusions from the same source data. Navani sees Towerlight and thinks that if these two Lights can combine, it stands to reason that the others can as well; she just needs to find the key. Raboniel sees Towerlight and thinks that if the same could be done with the other Lights, it would have been done by now.

One thing I love about Navani: She insists on proving assumptions. Even if she can’t prove something just yet, she’s very insistent on at least acknowledging that she’s making assumptions, and that any interpretation of data may be false if the assumptions turn out to be incorrect. Raboniel, like too many scientists, is lazy in that regard. She said it herself, earlier: If you go at it long enough, you forget to be careful and to question everything. Then you find yourself relying on a false premise, and someone like Navani can come along and pull the rug right out from under you. So, thank you, Navani!

P: You would think that Raboniel wouldn’t be so lazy in that regard, knowing how far the humans have progressed and how they’ve accomplished things the Fused haven’t after thousands of years.

A: Right? She keeps talking about how amazing the humans’ progress always is, but she doesn’t seem to twig to the way their methods inform that progress.

And then we get to the Big Key Moment.

“Each Light has a rhythm. Honor’s is stately. Cultivation’s is stark and staccato, but builds.”

“And Odium’s?”

“Chaos,” she said, “but with a certain strange logic to it. The longer you listen, the more sense it makes.”

A: And that right there, my friends, is the thing Navani has been seeking the entire time. She’d already proven that the Lights respond to a Tone, and she’s been playing with the tones (via tuning fork) for a while now. It’s the rhythm she was missing. (Weird. This seems so logical and obvious now, but I’m pretty sure I was excited by seeing this as a hint at what was coming, when I first read it.)

P: Oh, yes, this was super exciting during the beta. Especially to know that Navani had figured out something that Raboniel had no clue about.

“Does Towerlight have a tone?” Navani asked.

“Two tones […] But they aren’t simply the tones of Cultivation and of Honor. They are… different, changed so that they are in harmony with one another.”

“Curious,” Navani said. “And is there a rhythm to it?”

“Yes,” Raboniel said. “Both tones adopt it, harmonizing as they play the same rhythm. A symphony combining Honor’s control and Cultivation’s ever-building majesty.”

A: Gah. It feels so obvious now! I had to go back and look at the beta spreadsheet to see what we were saying about it on the first read-through. Looks like we were picking up the correct hints, but it was all very much guesswork and multiple theories in play.

“So, if you could imagine a rhythm that mixed Stormlight and Voidlight, what would it be like?”

A: Well, that’s the 64-thousand-emerald-broam question. I find it amusing that Raboniel acknowledges that it should be possible, since Odium’s rhythm does have a certain logic to it, but she also cannot imagine what it could sound like.

All through this section (I see from my notes) I was losing respect for Raboniel as a scholar, but I think Navani hit on it pretty accurately in an earlier conversation. The last few millennia of relative peace have allowed significant advances in scientific theory and method which, for all her longevity, Raboniel missed out on. (Too busy tormenting Taln on Braize, eh?) She’s brilliant in her way, but she doesn’t really have the disciplined mindset to develop and test theories in a rigorous fashion. Remember her last brilliant idea? That disease that killed one in a hundred of her own people, and one in ten of the humans? She released it anyway, because she cared more about killing humans than about protecting singers. It’s less that she’s forgotten how to be a true scholar, and more that she never really knew.

“Sing one for me,” Navani said. “Honor’s tone and rhythm.”

Raboniel complied, singing a pure, vibrant note—the tone of Stormlight, the same as made by the tuning fork. Then she made the tone waver, vibrate, pulse in a stately rhythm. […]

“Change now,” Navani said, “to Odium’s rhythm.”

Raboniel did so, singing a discordant tone with a violent, chaotic rhythm.

A: Heh. Navani is giving orders and Raboniel is obeying, and in the moment neither of them notices. That makes me actually like Raboniel a lot more—she’s so caught up in the search that she forgets rank for a few minutes.

P: Yes, I liked this part for the same reasons. Navani telling Raboniel what to do. It was a small satisfaction, but it was satisfying nonetheless.

A: It was satisfying. It’s also kind of heartbreaking. Just think of what these two could have done together if they didn’t have to hedge their bets all the time. If they could truly work toward a shared goal and be open with all their knowledge, it would be brilliant.

“I’ve tried this many times, Navani, and always failed. The songs of Honor and Odium do not mesh.”

“Have you tried it with a human before?” Navani asked.

“Of course not. Humans—as we just proved—can’t hold to a tone or rhythm.”

“We proved nothing,” Navani said. “We had a single failed experiment.”

A: SWEEEET Navani!! Once again, proving herself a far better scholar and teaching Raboniel how science actually works. And she proceeds to use the materials at hand to make the point; I find it hilarious that her constant modification of those leather arm sheaths (which, face it, was practically becoming a meme!) are once again the key to making a breakthrough.

P: Like, do you even science, Raboniel? One failed experiment doesn’t disprove a theory.

“Sing one for me,” Navani said. “Honor’s tone and rhythm.” […]

“Yes!” Raboniel said, cutting off. “Yes, that’s it!”

“Odium’s rhythm now,” Navani said to Honor’s tone and beat.

Raboniel did so, and it struck Navani like a wave, making her tone falter. She almost lost it, but the gemstones were her guide.

A: So. Cool.

P: It really is. I love how Navani is so willing to try to sing the rhythms, even if she’s not great at it at first.

A: And when she can’t do it within her natural abilities, she finds ways to supplement her abilities. She’s so determined.

No, we can’t fight. She took Raboniel’s hand, singing the tone, but softer. Raboniel quieted as well. Holding the Fused’s hand, Navani felt as if she were reaching for something. Her tone changed slightly.

Raboniel responded, their two tones moving toward one another, step by step, until…

Harmony.

A: Shivers.

Okay, part of me wants to complain that this went too fast, that Navani should have had to sweat over it for a few days, at least… but why? Simply discovering that the Lights also had rhythms was the key; the steps from there to reproducing them to melding them are merely the mechanics—and Navani is good at mechanics.

The two of them looked at each other, then fell silent. Carefully, they removed their hands to reveal a diamond glowing a vibrant black-blue. An impossible color.

[…]

The sphere they had created was different from Szeth’s—blue instead of violet, and lacking the strange distortion. Navani couldn’t be certain, but it seemed to her that was what Raboniel had been seeking.

A: And here’s where Navani’s secret knowledge gives her the insight Raboniel is lacking. She’s seen other Lights, and Lights with a distortion clearly different from what they’ve created. It rather demands another question, though, as Navani says. Who was Gavilar working with, that they were able to create not only blended Lights, but the inverse waveforms as well? Who else has this knowledge? I shudder to think of it. The ability to blend Investitures this way could be a dangerous tool in itself. The ability to understand both the theory and practice of inverting and destroying Investiture… that’s downright scary.

Geography, History, and Cultures

[… ] a bottle of burgundy wine. A Shin vintage, sweeter than traditional Alethi wines, known as an amosztha—a Shin wine made from grapes.

A: Seriously wondering about this wine, here… Is this supposed to be port? Because Burgundy wines aren’t all that sweet, and most reds really aren’t sweet, and now I wonder what most Alethi wines are like, if a normal red wine is sweet by comparison… But it doesn’t really matter. (Also, Brandon doesn’t drink wine, so there’s that.)

P: All I can think is that Alethi wines must taste terrible.

“Ah, yes,” she said. “That is a taste infused with memory. Grapes. Your ancestors never could get them to live outside Shinovar. […]

“I wasn’t there when your kind came to our world. My grandmother, however, always mentioned the smoke.”

A: And then I really start to register that Raboniel remembers those days… It’s a funny thing. We all know that the Fused originated way back then, but every now and then something makes it fresh again. This whole section is one of those pieces, for me. Raboniel is sitting there reminiscing over the humans’ arrival on Roshar, all burned and sooty from the devastation on Ashyn, with their livestock moaning from the pain… Granted that she says this was her grandmother’s recollection, it still shocks me a little that her grandmother was there. On the spot. She saw the humans arrive.

The other thing that kinda blows my mind is the immediacy. This was not an organized move, where they had time to pack all their things, comb their hair, and wash their faces before starting on a journey. They were literally fleeing from the midst of the kind of destruction that kills anyone too slow to get out.

P: It is rather mind-blowing, isn’t it? To think how close in her memory the arrival of the humans was.

“We can hear them because we are the children of Roshar,” Raboniel said. “You are not.”

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Navani said. “I’m as much a child of this planet as you are.”

“Your ancestors were from another realm.”

“I’m not speaking of my ancestors,” Navani said, strapping the sheath on so the flats of the gemstones touched her arm. “I’m speaking of myself.”

A: She sounds like Adolin, doesn’t she? And they both have a point. Something that occurred to me on my first read was that the spren, and the singers, don’t change (much), as Raboniel said earlier in the chapter. Perhaps because of that, they feel perfectly justified in holding the modern humans accountable for the actions of their ancestors; it makes sense to them. “These are exactly the same as those.” It also helps that the Fused are the actual same people who were involved in the war in the first place. In any case, their complete failure to comprehend the change in humans—in individuals, and in cultures—is part of what makes them see this as “inevitable war” and “one side has to dominate the other.”

P: She does sound like Adolin! And I can’t help but agree with them.

Singers/Fused

[…] wearing an Alethi havah that fit her surprisingly well. Clearly a good dressmaker had tailored it to the Fused’s taller, more broad-shouldered frame. […] Raboniel wore the dress as if it had always been designed to accentuate someone of height, power, and poise. She had made this fashion her own. Adolin would have approved.

A: Hah. I’m not sure how much Adolin is capable of “approving” a Fused, all things considered, but if he could forget who she was, he’d at least approve of her fashion sense!

P: He would approve of the fashion sense, for sure!

Brilliant Buttresses

What would Jasnah do in this situation? Well, other than find a way to kill Raboniel?

A: This cracked me up. I mean, it’s worth considering how Jasnah would think her way through this, but also, Jasnah would definitely be working on a way to kill Raboniel! (Which, to be fair, Navani will also work on a few chapters from now. She’ll even use them, though that won’t be how she accomplishes the goal.)

P: It is funny that Navani thinks about how Jasnah would be trying to figure out how to kill Raboniel while making her own plans. Her quite effective plans, might I add.

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 77—back in time again, to the treaty festival from Venli’s perspective.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids, and is much relieved that her daughter has returned safe and sound—and with retrieved luggage after all—from a two-week trip to Europe. Also, registration for first-term college classes is complete. Yikes?

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. Links to her other writing are available in her profile. Go, Yankees!

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