Sometimes Adolin considered saying the Words.
He knew them by heart, of course. Storms, he’d heard them chanted left and right, mostly by soldiers hoping to become Radiants and take to the skies as Windrunners. It felt like the entirety of Urithiru strove for Radiance.
But every time he started to say them, the Words died on his lips. He’d look over at his sleeping wife and think of her beauty on the battlefield, Stormlight rising from her like morning mist. He’d think about his brother cleaving through a Thunderclast, or his cousin’s wicked battlefield alchemy.
Or his father, cloaked in a transcendence of energy.
Then he’d realize he wasn’t ready, not yet. Not by a long shot.
“Does it bother you?”
Adolin blinked. He was used to Renarin’s non sequiturs, but this… Where had this come from? It seemed at odds with the comfortable silence that had surrounded them as they visited the horses.
“Does what bother me?” he asked, turning to face Renarin. Sometimes seeing Adolin’s expressions helped Renarin focus.
Renarin looked away, as if nervous. “That I’m a Radiant.”
“What?” Again, Adolin wondered why Renarin had asked him this question, of all things. “No! You’re a fantastic Radiant.” He gripped Renarin’s shoulder, looking at his brother with what he hoped was earnestness. His face felt a bit stiff. “You’ve always wanted to help people. Well, now you can.”
“I…” Renarin breathed. “Thank you.” He gave a small smile. “That means a lot coming from you. But…” He grew quiet, looking away again.
Adolin removed his hand from Renarin’s shoulder. He waited, letting the gentle breeze buoy the words Renarin didn’t want to say.
“Does it bother you that I’m a Radiant and you’re not?”
Ah, thought Adolin. He was surprised, but not stunned. It was a perfectly valid question, after all. Surely others had noticed how the Kholin family had all bonded with spren on the cusp of the world's end.
“Of course not,” he heard himself say, even as his heart thudded and his stomach gave a treacherous lurch. “It doesn’t bother me at all.”
The Knights Radiant were busy. Every since the battle at Thaylen City, they’d been visiting places all across Roshar, working to engender goodwill with monarchs and townsfolk alike. Adolin watched people wander in and out of Oathgates, flitting fast as windspren. One of the most surprising figures he’d seen manning the gates was Teft, the grizzled soldier from Bridgeboy's group. Bridge Four really was something.
Somehow, in the midst of all this politicking, his father had learned to read and write. And had written a book! It almost made Adolin want to write something. He’d joked about it to Shallan, and she’d giggled as she’d handed him a pen, but seeing the ink splattered across the clean page of her sketchbook just made him flustered. He’d stick with swords.
He didn’t know much about the book, although Navani had glanced at him and Renarin with an odd look as his father announced its publication. Shallan had swooped in for a copy immediately, and had taken it back to her and Adolin’s shared sleeping quarters.
“Don’t read ahead!” he said. He laughed at the look on her face, an expression that was half impatience, half chagrin. She’d been planning to skim it. “Let’s read it together.”
“If we’re waiting for you to learn to read, we’ll never finish it,” she said primly.
“Fair enough,” he said. “You read it to me.”
She smiled, and he smiled back. Storms, but she was wonderful.
The Everstorm continued to rage, even as the highstorms followed their predictable path across Roshar. Even up so high, there seemed to be a tinge of ozone to the air on the Urithiru balconies. Kaladin left for a long trip, checking in periodically via spanreed. Sometimes he traveled alone and had to send glyphs, rather than full updates.
What if Shallan was sent away? Adolin knew that it was impossible for the two of them not to separate in times of war. He’d been trained as a soldier, and yet a part of him knew that she was so much more to him than a wife.
She thought he was better than he really was, and somehow, she made him believe it.
They spent their time with what Adolin began to think of as The Book—although perhaps such significance was better bestowed upon The Way of Kings, since that had been the book to start it all. Still, with his father’s own gravitas, this book would surely come to be as important in the ages to come.
Every night, he and Shallan would retreat to their quarters, and she’d read to him in a clear, melodious voice. Adolin loved how reading aloud forced her to slow down, to shape her words with a musical clarity. When he closed his eyes, he could almost remember his mother’s voice, just as sweet.
The book itself was interesting, too. His father’s early life had been something of a mystery, and he hadn’t known his uncle terribly well, given that he’d been away from the battlefront until he was older.
True, Adolin was surprised by his father’s admittance to anger, but if he thought about it, he could remember those dark days when violet wine had flowed freely, and his father’s tongue had only grown sharper from the drink.
It’s been awhile since I’ve thought of him as the Blackthorn, he thought, leaning against Shallan as she came to a stop. Their Stormlight was running out, and it wouldn’t do to waste a Radiant’s light on something so frivolous. She leaned in to kiss him goodnight—lingering—and he pushed aside thoughts of the book.
Still, as the night grew long, Adolin found he couldn’t sleep. He thought about his father. He’d been such a harsh man, but how could Adolin blame him? That was the Alethi way. Thunder above and below.
They were a few pages in when Shallan tried to stop reading. She wore an expression Adolin hadn’t seen in a while, a pained, faraway look. She looked haunted.
“What’s wrong, Shallan?”
“I…” She turned away from him, looking down at the sheets. She smoothed the rumpled fabric. “I don’t know if you’ll want to hear this next part.”
Adolin thought back to the previous week, the last time they’d been able to read together. The book, it was… it was right around the time before his mother’s death. He suddenly felt cold, a chill coating his face and freezing his tongue.
As he shook from his stupor, he saw Shallan looking at him. He had to say something, something warm and loving to cut through the ice. “I want to hear it,” he said.
“Are you sure? Really sure?” Shallan closed her eyes. Adolin realized he could hear a slight hum, almost a whine. Pattern? “You can't unhear the truth.”
He’d reached for her hand—her safe hand. The thrill of her smooth skin was forgotten in the churn of anxiety he felt at that moment. Her eyes looked world-weary, as if they’d witnessed the Recreance itself. But he had to know.
The whine was clearer now. “Shallan…” it said.
Shallan frowned at the sheets, rumpled once more under her hand. She looked back at Adolin, and he flashed her his winning smile. She resumed reading.
Fire. The choking stench of smoke amidst the screams. His father, striding into the town in a manic rage.
She stumbled over the words. Her voice had lost its musical cadence, becoming something raw. Adolin became aware of his heartbeat, thudding in his chest like thunder. Still, she read.
His mother, disappearing into the night…
Shallan looked at him, catching his eye even as he felt himself grow numb.
This isn’t how the story goes, he thought. This isn’t ...
“Stop,” he said. Shockspren broke and reformed around him in bursts of yellow.
The room was quiet, although Adolin could hear a buzzing in his ears. He didn’t think it was Pattern.
Shallan’s eyes were bright. She set down the book and leaned against him. He tried to focus on the warmth of her body against his, but it only made him think of the heat of flames.
He pulled away.
Shallan reached for him, but he was already on the other side of the bed. “I won’t make you talk about it, but… Keeping it inside won’t help, Adolin. Believe me, I know.” She tried to laugh, but it came out as a cough. Pattern was humming.
He bowed his head, thoughts tumbling. He didn’t say anything; he simply breathed, as if preparing for battle.
He felt a swell of emotion, like a chasmfiend devouring him whole. He pushed it away. Stoic. He had to be like... had to...
Standing, he made for the door and walked out of the room, ignoring Shallan and Pattern and everything else.