[Assistant Peter’s note: This is Brandon’s first attempt at writing Kaladin’s flashback scene including Tien’s death. Brandon quickly abandoned this version and then wrote the published version two days later.]
“This is a mistake,” Kaladin said, hurrying across the grassy rock through camp. “Amaram promised that he would remain a messenger boy.”
“He is a messenger boy,” Defer said with a grunt. He was a bald man with only three fingers on his right hand. Sergeant of the reserves, he marched through camp, seeing to last minute details before the battle began.
“Well,” Kaladin said, “why are the messenger boys being issued spears and armor?”
“Because,” Defer said, “Amaram ordered it.”
“He couldn’t have. His word—”
“Look, boy,” Defer said, stopping in camp. Grass pulled away from them in a circle. He stabbed his middle finger—first on his hand—into Kaladin’s chest. “You don’t have the clout or the experience to talk to me like that. You want to spend the next seven weeks on latrine duty? Well, address me one more time with a hint of insubordination in your voice, and I’ll see it done.”
Kaladin choaked off a retort. He’d been in the army for one year now—with four years left on his and Tien’s five year enlistment. He was beginning to learn how things worked. He’d pushed as hard as he could against this man.
“Sorry, Sergeant Defer,” Kaladin said, looking down.
Defer grunted. “Your brother’s in a deep reserve unit. He won’t see battle. Probably. But recruitment is down, and we have wars to fight. The highmarshal can’t afford to let potential soldiers go to waste. So the messenger boys old enough will be trained in the spear, and they’ll form an extra reserve buffer. That’s that. If you want to argue it, talk to Brightlord Larcus.”
Larcus was the captain of the reserves, and he would not speak with a lowly darkeyed spearman. Kaladin would have about as much luck trying to go to Amaram himself.
And so, stewing, Kaladin made his way back toward the front lines to prepare for the battle. He’d just have to think of better arguments later.
Merin found his squad at the center of the army. The men weren’t in ranks yet; they were just standing or relaxing in patches, waiting for the battle to begin. The enemy held a hillside that—for reasons nobody had explained to Merin—Amaram wanted to seize. That meant they were on the offensive, and that meant they could take their time getting ready.
“Where have you been?” Varth snapped as Kaladin joined the others of his squadron.
Kaladin didn’t reply. He’d learned early on that arguing with his squadleader was an easy way to earn himself some serious headaches. And it was hard to open his mouth without arguing.
Varth, Kaladin’s squadleader, was rubbing some firemoss as he waited.