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The Way of Kings Chapter 16 (D)


This chapter is largely the same as chapter 13 in the final book, with a major difference at the end. You should be able to see why Brandon made this change.


Ten heartbeats.

One.

That was how long it took to summon a Shardblade. If Dalinar’s heart was racing, the time passed more quickly. If he was relaxed, it took longer.

Two.

On the battlefield, the passing of those beats could stretch like an eternity.

Three.

The chasmfiend slammed an arm down, smashing the bridge. Soldiers screamed, plunging into the chasm. Elhokar and Dalinar dashed forward on Plate-enhanced limbs, capes flapping.

Four.

It towered like a mountain of interlocking carapace, the shade of dark violet ink. Dalinar could see why the Parshendi called these things gods. It had a twisted, arrowhead like face, with a mouth full of barbed mandibles. While it was vaguely crustacean, this was no bulky, placid chull. It had four wicked claws, each the size of horses, and a dozen smaller legs that clutched to the side of the plateau.

Five.

Chitin made a grinding noise against stone as the creature stepped out onto the plateau, snatching a cart-pulling chull with a swift claw.

Six.

“To arms, to arms!” Elhokar bellowed. “Archers, fire!”

Seven.

“Don’t let it escape us! Make it angry!”

The creature cracked the chull’s shell—boulder-like pieces clattering to the plateau—then stuffed the beast into its maw. The chull stopped bleating.

Eight.

Dalinar leaped a rocky shelf, throwing himself into the air. He sailed a good four yards before slamming into the ground, throwing up chips of rock.

Nine.

The chasmfiend bellowed a high-pitched, screeching sound, then another. Somehow it trumpeted with four voices, overlapping one another.

Archers drew. Elhokar yelled orders, his golden cloak flapping.

Dalinar held forth his hand.

Ten!

His Shardblade—Oathbringer—formed in his hand, coalescing from mist, appearing as the tenth beat of his heart thudded in his chest. Six feet long from tip to hilt, the Blade might have been impractical and unwieldy in the hands of any man not wearing Shardplate. To Dalinar, it felt perfect. He’d carried Oathbringer since his youth, Bonding it when he was twenty Weapings old. It was long and slightly curved, over a handspan wide, with wave-like barbs near the hilt. It pulled up at the tip like a fisherman’s hook, and was wet with cold dew.

It was a part of him, this sword. At times, he felt he could sense energy racing along its blade. Eagerness. It was said that a man never knew life itself until he charged into battle with both Plate and Blade.

“Make it angry!” Elhokar bellowed again, his Shardblade—Sunraiser—springing from mist into his hand. It was long and thin with a large crossguard, and was etched up the sides with the ten founding glyphs.

Keeping the chasmfiend angry didn’t seem like it would be difficult, though it was standard practice against greatshells. Unless they were enraged, most would retreat once they’d eaten.

The creature screamed its multi-voiced wail again, slamming a claw down among the gathered soldiers. Men screamed; bones crumpled.

Archers loosed, aiming for the head. A hundred shafts zipped into the air, but only a few hit the soft muscle between plates of chitin. Behind them, Sadeas was calling for his grandbow. Dalinar couldn’t wait for that—the creature was here, dangerous, killing his men. The bow would take too long.

This was a job for the Blade.

Adolin charged into view just ahead, riding Sureblood. The army’s other horses—even the warhorses—panicked as the chasmfiend attacked, but the white Ryshadium stallion steady. In a moment, Gallant was there, trotting beside Dalinar. Dalinar grabbed the reins and heaved himself into the air with Plate-enhanced legs, swinging up into the saddle. The weight of his landing might have strained the back of a regular horse, but Gallant was made of stronger stone than that.

Elhokar closed his helm as Dalinar rode past, the sides misting. Dalinar reached up, slamming down his own helm down, and the sides misted, locking into place. The slit at the front gave him a good view, but the real beauty was in how it became faintly translucent to him when the faceplate was down. You still needed eyeslits—looking through the sides was like looking through dirty glass—but it was incredibly helpful nonetheless.

Dalinar and Adolin rode into the shade of the enormous beast. Soldiers scrambled about, clutching spears. They’d hadn’t been trained to fight thirty-foot tall monsters, and it was a testament to their valor that they formed up anyway, trying to draw attention away from the archers.

Arrows hailed down, bouncing off of the carapace and becoming nearly as deadly to the troops below as they were to the Chasmfiend. Dalinar raised his left arm—the right held Oathbringer—shading his eyeslits as an arrow clanged off his helm.

Adolin fell back as the beast swung at another batch of soldiers, crushing them with one of its claws. “I’ll take left,” Adolin yelled, voice muffled by his helm.

Dalinar nodded curtly, cutting Gallant to the right, galloping past a group of dazed soldiers and into sunlight again as the chasmfiend raised a foreclaw for another sweep. Dalinar raced under the arm, transferring Oathbringer to his left hand and holding the sword out to the side, slashing it through one of the chasmfiend’s trunk-like legs.

The blade sheered the thick chitin with barely a tug of resistance. Yet, as always, it didn’t cut living flesh—though it killed the leg as surely as it had been cut free. The large, trunk-like limb slipped, falling numb and useless.

The monster roared with its deep, overlapping, trumpeting voices. On the other side, Dalinar could make out Adolin slicing at a leg too.

The creature shook, turning toward Dalinar, bringing the last of its body up onto the plateau top. The two legs that had been cut dragged lifelessly. The monster was long and narrow, like a crayfish, and had a flattened tail. It walked on fourteen legs. How many could it lose before collapsing?

Dalinar rounded Gallant, meeting up with Adolin, whose blue Shardplate was gleaming, cloak streaming behind him. They switched sides as they turned in wide arcs, each heading for another leg.

“Meet your enemy, monster!” a new voice bellowed.

Dalinar turned. The king had found his mount and had managed to get it under control. Vengeance wasn’t a Ryshadium, but the animal was of the best Shin stock. Elhokar charged, Blade held above his head, golden Shardplate gleaming.

“The legs, Elhokar!” Dalinar screamed, turning to gallop toward the king.

Elhokar ignored him, charging directly for the beast’s chest. Dalinar cursed, heeling Gallant as the monster swung. Elhokar turned at the last moment, leaning low, ducking under the blow.

The chasmfiend’s claw hit stone with a cracking sound. It trumped in anger at missing Elhokar, the sound echoing through chasms.

The king veered toward Dalinar, riding past him in a rush. “I’m distracting it, you fool. Keep attacking!”

“I have the Ryshadium!” Dalinar yelled back at him. “I’ll distract—I’m faster!”

Elhokar ignored him again, riding around in a wide circle. Dalinar sighed. Elhokar, characteristically, could not be contained. So Dalinar did as told, rounding to the side for another approach, Gallant’s hooves beating against the stone ground. The king drew the monster’s direct attention, and Dalinar was able to ride in and slam his blade through another leg. It fell lifeless, the nerve inside dead.

The beast screamed four screams and turned toward Dalinar. But as it did, Adolin rode past on the other side, cutting at another leg with a deft strike. The leg slumped, and arrows rained down as archers continued to fire.

The creature shook, confused at the attacks coming from every side. It was getting weak, and Dalinar commanded the foot soldiers to retreat toward the pavilion. Perhaps it was time to back away and fire arrows, maybe even let the beast limp away; killing it now wasn’t worth risking lives.

He called to the king, who rode—Blade held out to the side—a short distance away. The king glanced at him, but obviously didn’t hear. As the chasmfiend loomed in the background, Elhokar turned Vengeance in a sharp right turn toward Dalinar.

There was a soft snapping sound, and suddenly the king—and his saddle—was tumbling through the air.

Dalinar cursed, reigning in Challenge. Elhokar slammed to the ground, dropping his Shardblade. The weapon fuzzed back to mist, vanishing.

“Elhokar!” Dalinar bellowed, turning Challenge. The king rolled, cape wrapping around his body, then came to a rest. He lay dazed for a moment; the armor cracked on one shoulder, leaking stormlight. The Plate would have cushioned the fall. He’d be all right.

Unless….

A claw loomed above the king. Dalinar felt a moment of panic, charging Gallant back. He was going to be too slow! The beast would—

An enormous arrow slammed into Chasmfiend’s head, cracking chitin. Purple spurted free, causing the beast to trump in agony. Dalinar spun in the saddle.

Sadeas stood in his red Plate a distance away, taking another arrow from an attendant. He drew, launching the thick bolt into the Chasmfiend’s shoulder, making a loud crack in the air.

Dalinar raised Oathbringer toward him. Sadeas acknowledged, raising his bow. They were not friends, and they did not like one another.

But they would see the king protected.

“Get to safety!” Dalinar yelled, turning and charging past Elhokar as the king stumbled to his feet.

He moved in at the beast, getting its attention. More of Sadeas’s arrows flew true, but the monster began to ignore them. Its sluggishness began to vanish, and its bleats became angry, wild, crazed. It was growing truly enraged. This was the most dangerous part.

It smashed a claw to the ground just beside Gallant, throwing chips of stone into the air. Dalinar hunkered low, careful to keep his Shardblade to the side in a ready posture. He turned Gallant to the side, hopefully drawing the creature’s attention from the king.

“Are you a god!” Elhokar bellowed.

Dalinar groaned, looking over his shoulder. Elhokar strode toward the beast, hand to the side.

“I defy you, creature!” Elhokar screamed. “I claim your life! They will see their gods crushed, just as they will see their king dead at my feet and their cities burned! I defy you!”

Fool man! Dalinar thought, rounding Gallant.

Elhokar’s Shardblade formed back in his hands, and he charged toward the monster’s chest, swinging his Blade at its torso. He cut free a piece of chitin—chitin, like a person’s hair or nails, could be cut by a Blade—then slammed his weapon into the monster’s chest.

The beast roared, shaking, knocking Elhokar free and turning. That movement, unfortunately, brought its tail at Dalinar. He cursed, yanking Challenge in a tight turn, but the tail came too quickly. Before he knew what had happened, Dalinar found himself rolling on the ground, Oathbringer tumbling from his fingers and slicing a gash in the stone ground before puffing to mist.

“Father!” a distant voice yelled.

Dalinar came to a rest on the stones, dizzy. He raised his head to see Gallant stumbling to his feet. Blessedly, the horse hadn’t broken a leg. However, the animal was bleeding from scrapes and was favoring one leg.

“Homeward!” Dalinar said. The command word would send the horse away. Unlike Elhokar, it would obey.

Dalinar climbed to his feet, shaking his head. A scraping sound came from his left, and Dalinar cringed, spinning just in time for the chasmfiend’s tale to take him in the chest, tossing him backward.

Again the world lurched, and metal hit stone with a grinding cacophony. He slid on stone.

No! he thought, getting a gauntleted hand beneath him and heaving, using the momentum to throw himself up to his feet. As the sky spun before him, something seemed to right, as if the Plate itself knew which way was up. He landed—still moving, feet grinding on stone.

He charged toward the king, beginning the process of summoning his Shardblade again. Ten heartbeats. An eternity.

The stalwart archers continued to fire, and more than a few of their shafts bristled form the chasmfiend’s face. It ignored them, though Sadeas’s larger arrows still seemed to distract it. Adolin had sheered through two more legs, and the creature was walked with a lopsided gait, four of its legs on one side laying dead and immobile.

“Father!”

Dalinar turned to see Renarin—dressed in blue—riding across the rocky ground toward him. “Father, are you well?”

“Fool boy!” Dalinar said, pointing. “Go!”

“But—”

“You’re unarmored and unarmed!” Dalinar bellowed. “Get back before you get yourself killed!”

Renarin pulled his horse halt.

GO!

Renarin galloped away. Dalinar gritted his teeth, continuing forward, Oathbringer misting into existence in his waiting hand. Adolin—stalwart as always—had dismounted beside the king. Elhokar continued to hack at the beast’s lower torso, and sections of skin blackened and died when the Shardblade struck. Adolin stood behind, trying to keep the claws busy.

Unfortunately, there were four claws and only one of Adolin. Two swung at him at once, and though Adolin sliced a chunk out of one, he didn’t see the other sweeping down at his back.

Dalinar called out too late. Shardplate snapped as the claw tossed Adolin into the air. He hit the ground a moment later, rolling. His Plate didn’t shatter, thank the Heralds, but the breastpiece and side cracked, glowing and leaking trails of white smoke.

Adolin moved lethargically. He was alive. Not time to think about him now. Dalinar was getting close—going by foot seemed so slow—and he raced toward one of the beast’s legs.

The king stood alone before the enormous beast, sword aloft. He dodged to the side as a claw fell, and the entire plateau seemed to shake from the hit.

Elhokar twisted, sheering through the creature’s arm at the base of the claw. The blow hit nerve, and the claw died, hanging limply from the joint. The chasmfiend reflexively pulled back.

Dalinar hacked his Blade through a leg on the right side. It fell dead, but the beast ignored him. It was so enraged by pain that it didn’t even notice another hurt. It swung at Elhokar again, bringing down two claws at once.

“Elhokar!” Dalinar yelled. “There are two!”

The king dodged the first, then looked up just in time to face the descending claw. He dropped his Blade, raised his hands, and…

And he caught the claw. He bent beneath the blow, going down on one knee, and the air rang with a resounding clang of carapace against armor.

But he caught it.

Stormfather! Dalinar thought. He was stunned for a moment, watching Elhokar in golden Plate stand beneath the weight of a creature dozens of feet tall. The king held back the claw and matched its strength, though the Plate of his gauntlets and shoulders began to crack, spiderwebs of light moving down the ancient metal.

Dalinar finally shook himself into motion. Cursing his aging reflexes, he ran forward and swung through one of the remaining legs on the beast’s right side.

That was enough. The final legs couldn’t hold the weight, particularly with the monster trying so hard to crush Elhokar. The last legs on that side snapped with a sickening crunch, spraying out violet ichor, and the beast toppled to the side.

Dalinar threw himself to the ground, rolling out of the way as a leg slapped the stone earth beside him. He looked up in time to see Elhokar jump forward and ram his Blade it into what passed for the beast’s neck. The creature’s carapace-lined, monochrome eyes blackened and shriveled, smoke twisting into the air.

Dalinar heaved a sigh of relief. He stood as Elhokar plunged his Blade into the chasmfiend’s quivering chest; now that the beast was dead, the Blade could slice its flesh like it did anything else.

Violet ichor spurted out as Elhokar dropped his blade and reached into the wound, questing with Plate enhanced arms, grabbing something. He ripped free the beast’s heartstone—the gemstone that grew within all crustaceans of this size. It was lumpish and uncut, but it was a pure amethyst and as big as a man’s head. It would be worth a fortune.

Elhokar held aloft the grisly prize, and Dalinar’s soldiers yelled in victory.


|   Castellano