Adolin was starting to regret coming on this mission. Kaladin, two of his Windrunner squires of whom one – Lopen – had already sworn his second Oath, Renarin, and then he had wanted to come along as well?
Not only had he “lost” his lunch on the flight again, unlike Renarin, who had seemed to be perfectly fine high in the air, with a highstorm beneath them, but now he felt utterly useless.
There were Fused here. Kaladin, being the notorious showoff he was, was fighting three of them at the same time, while Lopen and Leyten were keeping the fourth at bay, albeit barely.
Renarin was fighting another two, those who didn’t fly but could somehow slide on the ground like Lift, the Edgedancer girl from Azimir and Adolin … well, he tried to help Renarin without getting in the way.
I shouldn’t have come with them, he thought. I’m useless. Part of him wanted to sit back and cheer for Renarin, who lacked training in fighting, but made up for it with Radianting, or whatever you wanted to call it. He healed incredibly quickly from any wounds, just like back in Thaylen City when the thunderclast had practically stepped on him several times. Adolin was never going to forget the terror he’d felt when he had watched this, believing Renarin was dead, only seconds after going against the stone monster.
But the truth was, as long as Renarin had Stormlight, nothing was going to happen to him, and even the little training he’d had paid off – sometimes he even summoned Glys as a spear like Kaladin did most of the time.
Adolin on the other hand relied solely on his dueling skills and reflexes; he had neither brought his Shardplate, nor would there have been time to put it on anyway.
Why had he insisted on coming with them? Shallan had been right – Kaladin and his team would have been perfectly fine without him. Perhaps even more so.
“Adolin!” Renarin cried and saved him from a blow by one of the Fused who fought with gigantic axes.
Damnation, a year ago, Adolin wouldn’t have thought it possible that Renarin of all people was going to save his butt in a fight.
Even though Adolin was increasingly aware that he was nothing than a burden to the crew, he was incredibly proud of his little brother.
A screech from above made him look up – Kaladin had managed to kill the host of one of the Fused, bringing his opponents down to two. Adolin had no doubt that the bridgeboy was going to win this fight. Down here, things looked different – while Renarin was holding the Fused at bay, he wouldn’t be able to kill their bodies, and Adolin was more concerned with avoiding the opponent’s blows than actually trying to hit them.
He knew, though, why he’d come, and he also knew he’d still have come, had he known what was waiting for them here.
The mission to evacuate Kaladin’s family from his hometown in Northern Alethkar had been a welcome chance for Adolin to get away from Urithiru. Ever since he had learned about what had happened in Rathalas when his mother had died, he had barely been able to be in a room with his father.
He knew Renarin felt the same way. They had talked about it, and even though both of them knew Dalinar had changed, for the moment they were too overwhelmed by what they had learned to forgive him. Adolin hoped that he could, but right now a fight for his life, half a continent away from Urithiru, was exactly what he needed.
Father hadn’t objected when both Renarin and Adolin had asked for permission to accompany Kaladin, and Kaladin himself seemed to have some trouble with this knew, now common knowledge about Dalinar, as he had instantly agreed to take them both with him.
Of course, they had been expecting to run into some parshmen along the way, but a patrol of six Voidbringers?
Regardless, they had come here and now needed to deal with those monsters without getting themselves killed in the process. The latter of course mostly applied to Adolin.
He charged forward as one of the Fused stuck their axe in Renarin’s chest, leaving him gasping for air. He crashed into the Fused, swinging Maya wildly. Renarin basically could heal from any wound, but only so long as he was alive. He was alive, wasn’t he? Adolin turned around to check, only to see that Renarin, uniform torn and bloodied, was already standing straight again, and then-
Something struck him in the side, digging deep into his guts. His vision blackened from the pain; he could hear Renarin yell out. Maya puffed away into mist, leaving behind a faint feeling of horror. Before he hit the ground, the Fused lifted their axe again, but before they could finish the job, Renarin was over them, hacking away with his Blade.
Adolin tried to get up again in reflex, but the motion send a numbing pain through his torso. Damnation, he could feel his guts coming out from the wound in his side. How fast was he going to die from that? Sure, Renarin would be able to heal him, but for that, he needed time. The Fused didn’t seem too inclined to give him any, and now he had to fight both of them on his own. This was worse than the injury back in Shadesmar. Way, way worse. Without Renarin’s healing, he had zero chance of surviving this: the kind of wound you saw after battles, when the screams of the dying disrupted the silence.
Still, he could see Renarin’s face, a face he’d known as timid, uncertain all his life, downcast eyes, trying to avoid getting too much attention. Now, they burned with fury. It seemed almost as if the Thrill had come upon Renarin, but Adolin knew it for what it truly was: the unstoppable rage of a person trying to save someone dear to them.
A glowing figure in blue landed next to him. Lopen entered the fight on the ground, most likely because Kaladin and Leyten were now able to do the rest on their own. Or maybe Kaladin would have been able to do all of it on his own in the first place.
Adolin blinked. He felt dizzy. He couldn’t feel his legs, and he didn’t feel as much pain anymore as he probably should have. That wasn’t a good thing, right?
Was he actually going to die now? Almighty, this couldn’t be, right? Sorry, Shallan, he thought. They hadn’t been married for two months and now this. He got himself killed just like that. This wasn’t the way he had pictured his own death. Dying in battle, okay, he could do that, but in such a fight? He had at least hoped to stay until the end, to die in the last stand against the Voidbringers and Odium, preventing humankind from being exterminated.
The bridgeboy wasn’t going to like that. Sorry, Kal. He couldn’t speak.
He flexed his fingers, as if trying to summon Maya again, his hand resting on his breast.
Four heartbeats later she landed in his hand.
Adolin didn’t have time to think about what that meant. Maya was screaming. Ears ringing, he tried to lift his head and look at her. The feeling of fear and horror was overwhelming. She was crying. How was that possible? Sure, summoning her had always been faster since Thaylen City, and whenever he had summoned her, he had felt some kind of attachment coming from her, as if she liked being summoned by him. He had tried to ask Kaladin’s spren what that might mean, but Syl hadn’t been able to give him an answer. Or rather, as Kaladin had put it: “She doesn’t like Shardbearers at all and I believe she doesn’t want to acknowledge that your Blade seems to like you.”
Well, that wasn’t going to matter much anymore soon, wasn’t it? He gripped the hilt of the Blade with weak fingers, stroking it with his thumb. “..’mm sorry … Maya”, he gasped. He had hoped … deep inside … that maybe … maybe …
… ords. What? Words! That was a voice in his head, faint, a whisper in the wind, just like when Maya had given him her name.
Words!, she said once more, urgently.
But of course, Adolin knew which words Maya wanted him to speak.
“ADOLIN! Stay awake! I’m coming!” That was Renarin, still fighting, still trying to wreck the Fused. There was an edge to his voice, a horror almost beyond comprehension.
Words! Words!, Maya repeated in his mind, frantic.
Adolin swallowed. Could he … do that?
He opened his mouth. “Life … before … before death.”
Damnation, it was hard to move his lips, to draw enough air into his lungs to make even the faintest sound.
“Strength … ‘fore … weakness.”
He didn’t feel any strength right now.
“Adolin! Renarin, get to him!” That was Kaladin. Storms, the bridgeboy could sound scary when he was worried.
Something inside Adolin stirred.
“Journey … before …” He trailed off, unable to see anything anymore. That was it, right?
WORDS ADOLIN WORDS! He startled. For a dead spren Maya really could be loud.
His fingers twitched.
He gasped as he somehow drew in all the Stormlight from the few spheres in his pocket, which wasn’t much, but it made him aware of his surroundings again, made him feel pain again, and even though he groaned in agony, he knew feeling pain was a very good sign right now.
Renarin threw himself in the ground next to Adolin. Had he noticed what Adolin had done? Maya was trembling in Adolin’s hand.
“Ren … give me … sphere …” It was still hard to speak at all, and Renarin didn’t seem to understand what he meant.
“I have to … storms … have to … like Kaladin showed me …” Renarin had received some medical training from Kaladin at Thaylen City, so he could use his healing more efficiently. And while Adolin did appreciate that a lot, he just wanted to … Renarin had to have spheres on him, how had Adolin done this just now? He … took a painful breath and felt the light rise from Renarin’s pocket and enter his own body.
It wasn’t a very pleasant experience as his guts were pulled pack into his body, bones reset themselves, and Adolin didn’t feel very inclined to repeat this, though he figured this was exactly the thing that was going to happen to him rather frequently from now on.
Now that he … storms!
“You’re a …” Renarin trailed off.
Radiant, Maya noted, sounding very satisfied. Words. Good words. Adolin.
As the pain finally faded away and Adolin felt some strength return to him, he turned his head to look at Renarin. “Yeah. I believe … I might have done some Stormlighting here.” He frowned. Storms, was Renarin crying?
Renarin bent down and pulled Adolin in a tight and rather awkward hug. “Careful.” Maya was still resting across his breast.
“Adolin!” Kaladin landed next to them in a flash of Stormlight, a dangerous edge to his voice. The bridgeboy was terrified. Adolin could imagine what this had to look like – him lying in a pool of blood, Shardblade with him, Renarin sobbing quietly.
Adolin turned to look at him. He was exhausted. “Don’t look at me like that, bridgeboy. You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
Kaladin drew a forced breath. “Don’t get too full of yourself, the only thing I was worried about was to hear you whine about your ruined uniform. Doesn’t look all that fancy anymore now.”
Adolin snorted while Renarin sat up again. “Kaladin”, he whispered. “I didn’t heal Adolin. He … look at his Blade!”
Kaladin frowned. Adolin looked at what caught their attention. Maya was glowing. Faintly, but unmistakably in the fading evening light.
“Hand me a sphere”, Adolin demanded.
“You’re kidding me.” Kaladin did as asked, placing a ruby sphere in Adolin’s hand.
He wasn’t kidding, but as he tried to suck in the Stormlight deliberately, nothing happened. “Come on! This just somehow put my guts back in my body, I know it did.”
“It’s true”, Renarin whispered, voice hushed. “He healed this by himself. He sucked the Stormlight right out of my pocket.”
On Kaladin’s side, a glowing, ghostly-blue figure emerged from thin air. Tall as a human, she knelt on the ground, looking very, very stunned.
“Hey, Syl.” Adolin grinned. “Still hate me?”
“This can’t be”, she whispered. Could spren attract other spren? Adolin almost felt like she there should be awespren popping up all around Syl as she regarded Maya. “She … she is … not quite what she was but … far from dead. Can you … talk to her?”
Adolin frowned. “I don’t know. Maya?” Maya?
Words, it came back to him. Good words. Adolin.
“Can you … speak to me?”
Words, Adolin. More.
“I guess … not really.” He shrugged. “She doesn’t seem to be able to communicate beyond a few words.”
A faint impression of annoyance brushed over him. He grinned. “But she doesn’t like me pointing it out. So, uh, what about the Fused? Did you get them all?”
Kaladin nodded. “We should get going before they return with new hosts. I don’t want to draw their attention to Hearthstone.”
Lopen and Leyten were hovering behind him. They were the only ones in their group whose uniforms were still mostly intact. Renarin was bare-chested; after the hit to the chest he’d taken earlier he must have gotten rid of the ragged pieces of cloth completely. His skin was still bloody, just as Adolin looked down on himself and found his own uniform a blood-soaked mess. And … well, having your intestines cut apart made other things leak out as well. Great.
Kaladin didn’t loom much better, he had several slices in his coat and trousers, all bloody, and he was missing a boot. What was is with the bridgeboy and his boots?
Adolin gathered his strength and sat up. He still did feel rather sore. “How far do we have to go?” he asked Kaladin. Maya was now lying on the ground beside him, pulsing softly with light, appearing … pleased?
Kaladin looked up at the darkening sky. “Hearthstone is only a few minutes away if we fly. Walking will take us at least an hour, but I don’t want to risk flying. We’re much less visible on the ground.”
“Great”, Adolin sighed. He really, really wanted to take a bath and get into some clean clothes. He had brought fresh underwear, but none of them had anticipated that they’d need a whole new set of uniforms. Was Kaladin planning on walking the rest of the way with only one boot on?
He wasn’t. As soon as Adolin stood up – Maya still with him – the bridgeboy took off his second boot. “Are you good to go?” Kaladin asked Adolin then. “I know this might be a bit overwhelming right now, but I’d rather not spend the night outside, so let’s talk about this later, shall we?”
Adolin nodded. “Works for me.”
Renarin padded him on the shoulder, a smile on his face. The Kholin brothers, now apparently united as Radiants. Adolin looked down at Maya. Was she going to wake up completely? Would she be able to chance her Shardform? What would she look like as a spren? Like a human or more abstract, like pattern? He’d never seen Lift’s spren, who must be of the same kind as Maya; she had been cultivationspren as he’d learned, which meant Adolin would be an Edgedancer.
He shook his head, incredulous. Sure, part of him had been waiting for something like this. His brother, father and cousin were all Radiants, after all. And Kaladin had, very reluctantly, revealed that Elhokar might’ve been on the brink of becoming a Radiant as well.
Kaladin walked in front, a single sphere in his hand to light the way. Renarin and Adolin came next, feeling so drained he’d probably been able to lie down and sleep on the ground with a rockbud as a cushion. Lopen and Leyten came in the rear, quietly arguing about who of them had made the biggest difference in the fight against the Fused.
“I’ll have you know, Rua is making a rude gesture toward you right now”, Lopen told Leyten. “With four arms.”
Leyten snorted. “Tell him he can storm off. And teach him some manners.”
“I did, gancho.”
Adolin smiled, then looked down at Maya. He was still carrying her. “I really should dismiss you”, he said ruefully. “I’m sorry, but you’re quite noticeable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what we want to be right now.”
Maya pulsed softly. Not long.
“I promise I’ll summon you again soon, alright?”
“Yeah, I’m going to say the next Oath as soon as I can. You think that would … I don’t know, bring you back? For real?”
Words, she whispered in agreement. She sounded content, so Adolin dismissed her, following Kaladin through the deepening darkness of the evening.