Kaladin Stormblessed opened his eyes for the first time that morning, feeling the sunlight come through his window and touch his skin, upon hearing the voice of one of his men. "Open up!", a fist banged at the wood.
No way. Syl had always asked him to do that, but it wasn't easy. Sharing feelings and thoughts and your personal history was for some a piece of cake, but Kaladin had, even as a child, never-
Oh. Open the door. Right.
In a swift motion, he was out of the bed, jumping into his pants and looping the belt quickly. "I'm coming," he said, once at the entrance, only to find Skar outside in the hallway. He was clean-shaven and smelled fresh, like a good cold bath and forest leaves. Was it already late morning? Had Kaladin slept in? Taln's palms, how could he! "Did I miss my shift?"
Skar raised an eyebrow at him. "No, relax. I woke up early so I'm going out, but I have some news."
Was someone hurt? Kaladin gulped, preparing himself for the worst. "Last night you asked me when the bar at the center opens up," he continued. "They're about to start working in an hour, so..."
"Finally! I see you are taking my advice!" Syl giggled from his shoulder. "I'm surprised you want to talk to a woman though."
If he was being completely honest, Kaladin would be too in any other situation, but this wasn't any woman. It wasn't some messenger that put a hint of seductiveness in her voice or some scribe that shot him a flirtatious look. This wasn't someone he had just met and who made him uncomfortable. If anything, it was the opposite.
Because it was Tarah. Beautiful, smart, fun Tarah. The same girl he had parted ways with years ago.
"Look Syl, I simply want to see how she is doing." His spren certainly wanted his intentions to be romantic, but he didn't see it like that. After what seemed like a lifetime of learning about loss, Kaladin was happy to see someone he cared about alive, and despite the mistakes he had made- especially at the end of their relationship- he did still care about her.
Thinking about the woman made him remember the first time they met. It wasn't long after Tien's death and she and her father had just moved to the war camp. He was already late to practice and she was running errands, and as obvious as the story might go, they bumped into each other. He wasn't immediately taken by her beauty, but he knew there was something special about her the second he laid his eyes on her. Like every second of practice he was missing didn't matter because time had stopped. They stood there staring at each other for five seconds, exactly, he recalled, before they introduced themselves nervously.
Hmm... Five years ago.
Today, he stood in front of a bar, as he had with countless other men two days ago. It was where Adolin's surprise bachelor party took place. He didn't drink much, barely two cups of orange wine, but the one time he did try and get a refill, he saw who was serving the drinks.
Of course, it was none other than Tarah.
Taking in a deep breath and bracing himself for any possibility, he stepped in. "Good day," he said, looking around the space. He expected the visitors to smell disgustingly strong of alcohol, even if it was still early, but instead, the large room smelled of soap and didn't even have many guests. In fact, all the guests were parents with their children, feeding them soft potato and crisp chicken. That's when he noticed the signs outside the window- glyphs that said Family time and two others that said morning and noon.
So they celebrated the last night of Adolin's unmarried life at a place that serves children's food on the menu for a half a day.
Oh, he couldn't wait to tell him.
"Yes?" someone asked from behind him. It was an old, short woman with long, gray hair swept into a bun. Her lips were painted red, putting attention to how thin they were as she puckered them at him, questioning his presence.
"Hello, I'm Captain Kaladin," he introduced himself.
Her eyes immediately widened, mouth gaping. "I promise our drinks are legal! I have the paperwork!" He frowned at her, blinking. She did know the Captain didn't do the inspection, right?
"Actually," he continued slowly, "I'm looking for a woman that works here. Tarah, she's a friend."
The woman let out a quick, relieved laugh. "Oh, yes, of course! Come this way," she said, gesturing with her hands. It was clear that she was the manager, if not the owner, but not just by promising paperwork. The way she moved through her space, or how she talked when he came in was what instantly gave it away. The women that owned pubs where always that way- cold and stern at the beginning, judging if you're a danger to them and their customers. Then they'd welcome you with open arms once they realized you weren't. It was just how it was done in Alethkar, and now, Urithiru has accepted it as the norm.
He didn't prepare himself enough for seeing Tarah. When he spotted her last time, he had the option of going back to his table and turning his attention elsewhere, but now... Now, he was so near her, watching her sweep the tables down to the last little stain, perfecting them. The older woman, who had introduced herself as Amala, patted his shoulder and left them alone. "Tarah," he called.
She whipped her head around, then scrunched her eyes at him, brows furrowing. "Kaladin?" she asked slowly, stopping her work to take him in fully.
He swallowed hard and dry. "I heard you work here!", he said, far more cheerily than he had intended. "I mean... I saw you working here, actually, but I didn't think a bachelor party would be a good place to talk," he admitted. "I'm really glad to see you. How have you been?" He didn't plan for the words to come out so rushed, so out of breath.
"You look lovely!". Someone stop him!
She blushed a little and he hoped that meant this conversation, as embarrassing as it was, was also going well. But something in her eyes shifted, in her posture, in her entire expression. It was like one second she was open for talking and the next, she closed up. "Thank you, I hope you are well too." She paused, looking at the ground, then back up at him. "I don't have to work tomorrow, so maybe we can take a walk then?"
A smile found his way onto his face, unexpectedly. “That sounds wonderful.”
I hope you liked this first chapter! Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear feedback!
Chapter 2: When did you come to Urithiru?
The city, though Kaladin hadn't noticed it before, really was beautiful. He'd never taken a long walk through it, seen all the streets and corners. He knew the entire town from the sky, inspecting every roof when at watch or training, but never much from the ground. Some land still required a change from the rocky road, but for the most part, it was already paved and easy to travel on.
He and Tarah were taking that walk, slowly rounding up to the longest avenue that all the merchants used as their workplace. They met at a fountain near the town square ten minutes ago, and they'd only exchanged a total of four words.
"Hi! Shall we?"
He kept glancing at her, wondering what to say. She simply stared straight ahead, sure of herself and what to do, a complete opposite of the mess Kaladin's thoughts were. Should he ask about her life or start with some small talk? No, he was never good with that. Storms, he should have listened when his bridge crew talked about women. He never thought he would need it, always turning his attention away to things he found more important.
"When did you come to Urithiru?" Kaladin asked, eventually settling on something simple, but something he thought was a good opening.
"About a month ago, my transfer took longer than expected. What about you, Captain?” she asked with a smile.
"I was here the day the scholars discovered it during the Battle of Narak. My crew and I all live in our barracks, but we plan on expanding it so that men can be with their families. Are you settled near your work? What about your father?"
She slowed down, face tensing. "My father past away three years ago."
Kaladin wanted to slap himself upon seeing her head bowed down, dragging her feet along. He opened his mouth to speak, offer condolences, but she beat him to it. "I do live near my work though, so that's good," she said. "It's a red building, two streets away from the bar."
Wait... wasn't that a hotel? He heard of that one, some kind of an all-woman space that sounded like those rich boarding schools with meals available at a limited time and a 'no walking in the hallways past a certain hour' policy. On paper, it sounded fine, but Kaladin couldn't comprehend someone choosing to live like that. Did she really want to stay there? Surely, there were other places she could rent. After all, Tarah always knew how to use her money in the best way possible. He could even give her some if she needed it- he barely ever spent his wages.
But that wasn't what he should be saying.
"I am sorry for your loss, truly," he said quietly. "I know he never liked me, but he was a good man. I wish I had a chance to tell him I did like his bread.” At that, Tarah turned to him and for the first time in so long, Kaladin heard her chuckle. That small, but infectious laugh that was so enchanting.
"Thank you, but it's been a long time and... I suppose it's alright now. And you know what? He really was starting to like you!''
"What? No way. Never," he held out a hand, acting like some storyteller. "And I tried everything, from getting you home every night on time to pretending I liked his jokes!" He spoke from the heart but swallowed the part where he didn't respond to his daughter's letters. He didn't want to think of it now.
They arrived at the avenue, stopping to take it all in. Some wanted to name it Bondsmith Avenue, as it united all people. Different nationalities, different jobs, different religions- they all shared something here, a place. A home. On the left side of the streets were food stands with fruit and chouta and sweets children would buy. The other side offered a number of cheap clothes and furniture, decorations and even good books if you had the eye for it. The street wasn't the fullest it's seen but it was far from empty. There were maybe fifty people in his sight, which was normal to find here on a workday. At night, it was hard to get to the end of the way without bumping into everyone.
"Would you like some fruit?" she asked, already licking her lips at the sight of the colorful counter. The line was quite long, but he saw how satisfied the customers looked, so he agreed. Besides, they still had many things to talk about- more than four years to cover.
Standing still side by side, his upper arm almost touching her shoulder- she was a lot shorter than most Alethi women- they talked more openly and naturally. There weren't any awkward silences which Kaladin was deeply grateful for. Mostly, they talked about her job and what she has been doing in Urithiru. She was supposed to inherit the small, family coinmaster business, but then went off to scribe and now worked as a barmaid. Flexibility was a good thing on a resume, but Kaladin still wondered.
It was a delight to hear her speak of work as a passion. There was something about being with her again that made him forget about all else.
He found out that scribing was something she grew fond of and wanted to continue to pursue, but the Desolation got in the way of her old work. As bad and frightening as it was in the beginning, she saw an opportunity in Urithiru to start working as a scribe for the former Queen's scholars. Apparently, there was a program that Navani was in the process of making where dark-eyed girls can join their studies. "However, you have to sign an application and because of the circumstances I was late," Tarah said with a small shrug. "Since I'm not sure what the future will hold, I'm staying at the hotel to save some money."
She let out a loud sigh once she finished her story and raised her chin, turning to him. "What about you?"
Kaladin felt suddenly uncomfortable. He didn't want to darken the mood with the story. "Let's not focus on me today," he said as they finally, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, asked for the sweetened fruit. Of course, that would have to be for Tarah and he would take a fruit that, the cashier said, came from Makabi and was spicy enough to be considered men's food.
After they paid and offered a warm 'thank you', they turned around the corner. This street was much narrower and emptier and it made him, and he was sure Tarah as well, feel far more comfortable. They both walked in silence for a minute, biting into their food, only commenting on the taste. He ate his red piece of fruit which was as spicy as he was told- not too little, but not too much- and she picked at the chopped yellow fruit served in a paper box.
"So..." Tarah started. "Is there anything you would want for us to talk about more? Maybe about how you and I exactly ended?"
"You had to leave, I stayed. I think it was pretty clear." She stopped and Kaladin knew it was coming. "Really?" she asked with a thin voice.
Kaladin gulped. "Well, do you not think the same?"
Tarah threw her box to the ground and ran back to the avenue. Kaladin, not even realizing his legs had started moving, hurried after her.
Chapter 3: I am so sorry
Even if he couldn't see her face, Kaladin could guess it had tears on it, given by the wobbling in her voice. "Go away," she croaked.
Adding a bit more force into his step, he managed to catch hold of her shoulders and stop her. Moving so that he was in front of her, he recognized his speculations as true- her eyelids were turning puffy and her mouth trembled. "Stop, please! I know I've made mistakes, but I am so sorry!"
Despite how of the way she looked, he saw a very clear eye-roll. Her soft, damaging cries had stopped and she suddenly appeared far more serious. "Is that so?"
"Of course it is." He couldn't begin to explain how sorry he felt, especially now that he learned what had happened to her during the previous years. Even if they were apart, Kaladin should have tried harder to be her friend- he had the letters she sent read to him, but he had a choice to write back and he didn't.
Tarah wrote him so poetically, talked of what the sunset looked like where she had moved and how the grass didn't shy away into the ground when touched. She always asked how he was doing, some questions being oddly specific, like how much he slept or did he eat any bread for breakfast. Looking back on it, he knew she was trying to take care of him from afar.
As if he needed another reason to regret his choices.
"You never replied to my letters", she spitted out.
He sighed. "Tarah, I don't know how else to tell you I'm sorry..."
"No, no, I don't think you understand me," she said as she got closer to him. "You never replied to my letters. First of all, I knew how you could get and I worried, but no words from you! No sign at all!”
Kaladin couldn’t meet her eyes, so he pretended he found his shoes interesting. A person’s rage he faced without a single tremble, but rage and hurting? Two different sides of his bravery.
“Second, I went somewhere I was completely and utterly clueless about thinking it was for the best. For the sake of my family. Even if it meant leaving behind the first man I had ever loved and who I thought felt the same way! But, I suppose you just had to prove me wrong."
He blinked. "I did love you."
Tarah laughed, but he knew neither of them found this funny. "Not enough to write me back. To let me know you were alive. I mean is that the only kind of love I deserve? A brief one that leaves me instantly forgotten?"
No. If there was one woman who didn't deserve it, it was the one standing here right now, with her face closed to his. The person who managed to get him to eat food even when he felt he didn't deserve it. The first person to have him laugh after Tien's death.
The one with the stubbornness and persistence he didn't know many who could measure up to.
The young woman of those pink, round lips, that he could still remember whispering words of encouragement in his ear as he hugged her after a battle gone badly, clutching to her as if she was the only piece of his life left that was true. Because, at that time, she was.
She looked up and bit her lip. She ran a hand through her hair, letting out a breath, then wiping her cheeks. "Well, thank you for the apology and the fruit, but the gates of my hotel are closing up soon and I must get back."
Kaladin could do nothing but watch as she got back to the avenue. His feet were glued down- ironic, considering his powers- but perhaps it was a good thing. What more could he say? Pleas for forgiveness had already proven unsuccessful, so he simply stood there lingering on her silhouette. After all the anger that spewed out of her mouth, one could expect her to stomp her foot all the way back. Instead, she strode past the crowd as if nothing had happened.
Oh. So that was it then. They met, separated, met again, but weren't able to work anymore. She'd get back to working in the bar, if she doesn't get into the scribe program, and he would avoid going to it when, and if, he goes out with his men. Maybe... maybe this was for the best. After all, there was a war, and a very deadly one at that, and he couldn't afford distractions.
But it still tasted bitter to know they would never spend time together anymore, no matter what their relationship was.
"You are an idiot."
Twisting around, he saw Syl hovering above a roof, with a hand on her hip and a disapprovingly raised brow, clearly mimicking the new queen of Alethkar. If she was disappointed in him, she could join the club. He formed one years ago already. Maybe she could even bring snacks to the next meeting...
"What do you want me to do now? She's angry and I can't convince her I truly feel the way I feel about what I did. I tried and failed, as per usual, and I don't need you to tell me something I know myself!"
He pressed a hand to his forehead, over his slave brands, rubbing the temples. Storms, he snapped.
As much as he expected his spren to fight back, or yell or hiss, he heard nothing. The only thing he could feel was her little arms wrapping around his neck as she stood on his shoulder. He held his fists clenched, near cramping, until he let go, moving a hand to place it next to her. "I want you to try again. We did it once when I needed you to survive." Feeling her speak into his skin, he glanced down.
"Now I need you to do it to be alive."
Navani had seen and heard many things since her arrival in Urithiru.
She had witnessed discoveries and bloodshed. She’d seen people flying over the height of the tallest tower the world has seen, watched a small girl glide through any room she could find. Preferably the kitchens. Navani had heard rumors and gossips and overheard other people's private chats (no matter how some like Dalinar would call it a violation of privacy).
But one thing she had never experienced was Kaladin Stormblessed, the leader of their Windrunners, coming to ask a favor of her. Yet, here he was in a seat beside her, before the meeting was supposed to start.
"I've heard you're starting a scholar program for darkeyes. First of all, brightlady, I'd like to thank you."
Of course, this would mean something to him. The Captain was sensitive, to say the least, on the subject of darkeyes. His expression would get unusually soft, as it was getting now.
”My husband and I have long discussed it. We both think it is for the best.” These are changing times and she, for one, was more than happy to contribute to unveiling the secrets of the new world. For that, she needed all the help from her scholars and scribes, no matter the eye color.
Kaladin nodded appreciatively. “As for the favor”, he said, licking his lips. “A... friend of mine applied, but I suppose moving here took up a lot of her time and she missed the due with her papers.”
A woman? A friend of his? Navani raised an eyebrow- she had listened earlier but ordered herself to listen more closely, get as much information as she possibly could. The man in front of her was, for all of his known history and ideals he lived by, still a mystery and one that he did not allow many to uncover. Navani was more than keen on taking on the task.
“I’m not asking you to immediately roll her in. I only ask of you to check her papers.”
Ah, and there it was. Honorable as always- even personal favors went to a certain extent. His moral was worth admiring and the loyalty he had shown to her family was something she could not ever forget. It felt more like a duty than a choice to agree to his request, though she would gladly do it either way.
”The program itself is scheduled to start in two weeks, but until then, I will look into it.”
This was the first time she saw the man smile. Small and barely showing teeth, but a genuine one and Navani couldn’t help but notice how well happiness suited him and wished for him to wear it more often.
“Thank you,” he said, his voice silvery. “I would appreciate it if this stayed between us, brightlady”, he added.
”No reason to worry. I will keep this secret as long as you want me to.”
At that, he moved back to his seat, seeing everyone else come into the war room. Two bridgemen, one lanky and blonde, the other short with greying hair, to guard. The newlyweds entered hand in hand, alongside Renarin, all three looking rather content to attend. Finally, Dalinar Kholin came in last, apologizing for being late as his previous meetings took longer than he presumed. Giving a nod to his family, he positioned himself at the end of the large table and under the bright light of new spheres. If it wasn't clear he was their leader, the one in charge, it was now.
He spoke mainly of tactical plans for the war. Where the Voidbringers were attacking now and how they could stop them- it was nothing she hadn't heard before. Every meeting was down to the same thing and often featuring the same place. That was not so bad to hear as it meant the enemy's troops weren't spreading, but it didn't help to keep her as invested as she should have been. Instead, her mind drifted off to who this friend of Stormblessed was. Obviously someone worth keeping an eye on. She needed to check her application, with full attention.
But speaking of attention, she had the duty of a wife, ruler, and scholar to listen intently. Her husband was speaking of plans for Kholinar and how to get it back. Scolding herself in her head, she turned her attention back to the conversation and left her personal investigations for later.
Sorry I took so long to update; exams and school and all that... This interlude really is a filler chapter, but I felt like it needed to be written! As always, comments and feedback are appreciated!
Chapter 5: Was he that famous?
Unlike many other Alethi women who always managed to keep their jet black hair all silky and smooth, Tarah struggled with hair care. Washing and styling took about two hours, with conditioning and detangling taking up the most of that time, so she always had to start getting ready for bed immediately after nightfall.
She had just finished wetting her curls, so she wrapped it in a cloth, deciding to leave it as such for a few minutes. It was practically the thing every girl learned from the day she could take care of herself and her body- having your hair in a cloth makes it dry faster. Tarah never tested whether it was true or not, she simply followed the tips. However, she did not have enough time for the instruction to sit and wait for the process to finish. She needed to clean her room- she'd taken a couple more shifts at the bar, so she didn't have enough time for it. The floor looked like a chull was living there. The hotel maids had offered to do it for her when similar things occurred in the past, but Tarah turned them down each time. Saving money was a priority and it wasn't like she was some princess who never did it before.
Besides, her room wasn't quite spacy. She had her own bathroom and one bedroom, filled with modest furniture- a work table, bed, and a dresser.
Taking a bucket of water and a sponge in her hands, Tarah moved towards her window. She lucked out with those as she had a large window that she could see the street from. She was just about to start wiping them when she heard someone shouting at the gates.
Curious, she peeked through, but couldn't see much besides a single shoulder of a man in a blue uniform. Whoever he was, he could not have been having a fun time in the screaming match with the hotel owner. A short Herdazian woman, Sila, that unlike many warm people from her country, wasn't so welcoming. Instead, always strict, precise, and frightening. She once poured old milk on a delivery boy just because he was late with her magazine. Sila expected each one of her guests to respect her rules or otherwise they'd get kicked out.
People were right to think that it was like some school lighteyes send their daughters to when they don't behave well. Meals at a certain time, workers that gossiped all the time- it was the kind of thing she read in novels as a young girl and despised. But, now that she was older, she knew it was certainly better than living on the streets, and after being on the road to Urithiru for so long, anything seemed acceptable. Even with an owner like this one.
Tarah expected this man to run away, but it seemed he wasn't backing down. When Sila shouted at him, he shouted back.
Impressive, Tarah thought, but still wasn't able to recognize the man.
"Please, I won't be long!", he begged.
"You shall not come in by any means!", Sila ordered. By now, other windows had been opened by women intently watching the scene unfold. They stuck their heads out, much like Tarah, and giggled amongst themselves.
Yes, this would surely be the gossip of the week. "Am I clear mister... Mister?", Sila demanded as everyone leaned as much as they could to hear.
"Kaladin," he said. "Kaladin Stormblessed, Captain of Dalinar Kholin's personal guard. You might have heard of me."
Whispers and soft gasps spread throughout the building. "It's the Windrunner!", a girl's voice spread out through the air. Did everyone know who Kaladin was? Was he that famous? It didn't matter now, because Tarah had just heard him asking to see her and Almighty he was coming into the building!
Kaladin found that saying he was the Captain worked wonders on convincing old women to help him. He wondered if it was a part of his charm now if he had any to begin with. Nevertheless, it got him permission to enter the place even if it was past those hours. Apparently, there was a strict policy of no one coming in or out of the hotel past eight. That rule was nonsense, like something that came out of the mouth of a drunkard and people decided to stamp the words on a paper. They'd hang it on their walls, in a frame, and clean the glass multiple times a day just to enhance it's important when really, it made no sense.
It was sort of the same thing with people- they hear something that appeals to them even if it isn't any good and make it a part of their personality. And they too would unapologetically keep that part of themselves protected and polished, shiny so that everyone else sees, not realizing that it is perhaps the one piece of them they should keep as dun as possible. Kaladin didn't know why he kept saying 'them'. It wasn't just others, he was guilty of doing it too, but like everyone else- he didn't like admitting it.
"She should come down any second," the owner said.
Kaladin nodded, looking around the room he was in. It was a lounge room. A true hotel space that makes a stay worthwhile and makes you feel at home, though as Sila as the owner, he doubted anyone could truly feel so comfortable. Still, it had a wide fireplace set on a wall with a floral print and white sofas in front of it. The setting did remind him of his own house. Of course, the bad memories from Hearthstone seem to weigh heavier than good now, but he did remember that he liked his room. A classic boy's room with toys and a big space for playing, that he shared with Tien.
Well, his barracks were what he had now and he missed his bed, missed it terribly from the excruciatingly long day he had. He should probably get going as soon as he finishes.
Tarah stood at the end of the staircase, gripping one of its wooden sides with her safehand. She was wearing a thin dress considering the cold night and that safehand sleeve was buttoned hastily. "I hope I didn't disturb you," Kaladin said, eyeing the wet dark hair that went down her shoulders.
"No, no, no reason to worry."
For a time, they stood there in silence. It might have lasted for a total of ten seconds, but in his head, it seemed like it was far longer than that, awkward and so oddly uncomfortable. Thankfully, she was the one to break the ice. "Would you like us to sit down?" she asked motioning towards the chairs.
He waved his hand. "No need. I'll be quick." He pulled out a set of papers from his pocket. "This is from Navani Kholin herself."
Tarah's eyes bulged out, the sound of her rushed footsteps echoing through the room as she neared him. "What?"
A tiny smile threatened to appear on his face at her surprise. "I went to her a few days ago and asked about the program. I thanked her for the opportunities she is giving for those like us and asked her to check your submission out. You know, as a favor."
Her face fell at his words, eyes sorrowful. She crossed her arms over her chest, scrunching her nose as if trying to decide what to say. "Look Kaladin... I appreciate your effort, but I can't take that job as a charity. I won't be able to get into that room and know that the reason I'm there is that someone else convinced the heads to let me in. I want to be accepted for my work, not your words."
"No. Thank you, but no."
"Tarah..." he tried but she cut him once more.
"I won't accept this!"
"Tarah!" He saw her startled at the sudden change of tone. He felt guilty for making her scared but knew that it was needed. "I know that. I wouldn't expect anything different from you. I told Navani to look at your application, but only to hire you if she likes you and Tarah? She loved you, said you might have the best recommendations out of all the girls." Kaladin opened the papers up and pointed to what Navani explained to him earlier- a line on which to write her place date of birth, full name, and other specific information.
Tarah put a hand over her mouth, then on her forehead, and then threw them into the air. "You're being serious with me right now?"
He frowned. "Deadly."
"You promise that you're... like... not... joking with me right now?"
Lifting one of his palms to his chest, as if pledging an oath, he raised his chin. "I promise that I am not joking with you."
Storms. She was about to cry. Looking at those eyes shimmering with tears, he wondered if he said the wrong thing, or maybe even did the wrong thing.
But then she laughed. What he expected to be a sob, turned into a laugh. A laugh of a madman, of a person who had never before laughed in their life. Kaladin listened, catching himself staring at the way she jumped up and down. Her roaring stopped, for a moment, to mesh with screams of excitement. Cautiously, going against all his better judgment, he joined her.
At first, his jumps were small, unlike her jumps that were full of energy. But as they moved around each other, he relaxed and started jumping on that floor like it was always his. Arms raised into the air, she twirled around him as he copied her noises, letting out whoops. He didn't think about the harsh owner that would scold them both for making so much noise. He didn't think about his return to the barracks tonight.
At that moment, it was just a man and a woman celebrating.
But like any good celebration, it, unfortunately, had its end. They slowed down, their breathing still deep and loud, looking at each other in the eye. "Thank you. Truly." He could hear the honesty in her voice.
Turning his head to the side, he saw a small figure standing in front of the fireplace. It was Sila, vigorously pointing a finger into the air. "Young man, I believe your visit time is over."
Beside him, Tarah struggled to muffle a giggle.
"Of course ma'am. I will be heading my way." He grabbed his coat that he had dropped over a sofa previously. Pulling it tightly against him, he tried not to catch the murderous stare Sila must have been giving him. Instead, he glanced at Tarah who, biting her lip and one leg crossed in front of the other, already stood at the door. He offered her a smile as he strode towards her. Once they were face to face, he licked his upper lip. "So... I hope this means you and I can be friends again?"
"Yes! I, uhm..." He raised his eyebrows at the way she blushed at her own words. "I will see you around.”
Chapter 6: That seems to be your profession at times
Tarah pressed a hand to her chest, feeling her heart beating hard, fast from anticipation, fear. Never before had she been inside the tower, let alone so high off the ground.
But this elevator she was standing in, it was a marvelous product. To move up and down a building so quickly! Someone must have known all about how that works.
She had heard Navani Kholin was, like her husband, an exceptional leader to her team of scholars and a famous engineer amongst all her other accomplishments. Knowing she was probably the one to understand how the fabrial works made Tarah even more excited to work alongside her.
Of course, she did remember the fact that she’d be more working for her rather than with her, but there was still a possibility she could ask for five minutes of talk. Surely she wasn’t that busy.
“The brightladies are very busy today, so I was asked to introduce you to the library instead!”
Talk about wrong assumptions...
“Girls, follow me”, a tall, slender woman ordered. She didn’t introduce herself to them. She didn’t look like someone from an important family. Of course, she was a lighteyes, but even they had ranks. This woman was maybe 5th dahn, a wife of a general perhaps. Dark locks and a pretty face that almost screamed distaste as she eyed their group.
What a warm welcome.
There were talks of lighteyes looking down upon the decision for the program, but Dalinar Kholin approved and he was the leader of the storming Knight Radiants, so what could they do? Nothing, really. No violence, no harsh words- although their expressions said enough.
“This is the section in which you will find books on whatever you like- engineering, history, art... If you’re interested in reading anything to further your education, you go there”, the woman said, pointing to a row of shelves stacked with hard covered works.
Moving along with the group, she passed many other sections almost identical to the previous ones. One for romantic novels, the other for crime novels, poetry, adventurous novels, and any other thing a person would fancy reading. It seemed the Urithiru had gathered all the world’s literature in the few months since it was discovered.
”This is the section you’ll be visiting most of the time.” They stopped in front of an area that seemed to be the largest. It included cupboards and closets filled with books, but this time, she didn’t need to be explained what they were. She already knew.
Those were the books (well, more like large notebooks to be fair) that scribes used for accounting, translating, marking, and anything else they were assigned to do. Each notebook had it’s own title and name of the scribe written on the cover.
At her old job, she mostly dealt with numbers. She was in charge of taxes, bank savings, rations. During the last few years, she learned Veden and a little Azish too. The latter she still didn’t speak quite that well, but she was getting there and was fluent in the first.
“Girls! This way”, the woman ordered once more and led them to a wide wooden door. One of the two guards that stood outside kept glancing at her. Tarah could see it in the corner of her eye, but let him believe she didn’t notice it. Whoever he was, it’s not like she remembered every soldier in a blue uniform.
The door opened to what appeared to be the second, bigger part of the library, with a much higher ceiling and fewer decorations. Tarah counted sixteen long tables that were meant for work and two small tables next to a thronelike chair, meant for the queen and the closest members of her team.
“Your task for this week is to translate old science books. You will each take one book today and report to me at the end of the week.”
Almighty was there a lot of work. Hours and hours passed and she was not even near finishing what she intended to. Sitting at one of those long tables in an uncomfortable chair didn’t help.
It was around noon that the girls from the project got together for lunch. The job included a paid meal from the kitchens. Tarah was surprised by that, as she thought she had studied the offer down to the tiniest detail. She didn't complain however as the Tower's cuisine was refreshing, literally, with juices of the finest fruit that helped ease the pain in her lower back and pull her back to life. Other women told her they didn't like the women's food here, said that it didn't suit them and that the portions didn't satisfy.
After meeting some of them, not all though as the rest were rather shy, she decided to go back to her seat and try and not talk to them for the rest of the day. A lot of them seemed to be so negative about the place, criticizing everything. It felt best to leave those talks at introductions and wait for more compassion to come to the surface. It had to happen at some point as it does with everyone else.
When she returned she saw that the part of the table she picked- still close to the center of the room, but away from others- occupied. She was grateful for some company that obviously didn't want to be disturbed in her work either. Tarah greeted the girl and gave her a small smile.
This might be nice, she thought. Like a symbiosis or something.
The girl didn't have her head out of her book for a long time, but once she did, she gave Tarah a warm smile. It suited her face, pale and freckly and different from the more serious expressions other scholars had.
Somehow, with the help of unseen forces, Tarah managed to focus on her work, completing some of those translations. She went over each and every one of the papers two times, reading and looking out for any mistakes. Luckily there weren't many, but there was still a problem. The original text included far too many of the same words and would make any reader want to take a deep breath, slowly put it down, walk away, and hope to forget...
Maybe she was getting too dramatic from all those romance novels she had been reading, but there was a reason to be. The read simply wasn't enjoyable, and if she was going to do this job, she needed to do it right.
But even as her knowledge of the language was near perfect, she dared say, help was required for such a task. Taking a glance at the young lady in front of her, she knew exactly where to look for it.
"Excuse me? Brightness?", she said softly. "I was wondering if you could help me with some Veden words."
"Oh! Well..." The girl was surprised, to say the least, and mumbled something Tarah couldn't hear. "Alright, let me see."
Tarah handed it over to her, about to ask for her name, but the woman was already deep into reading and writing notes on a new sheet paper. She felt ready to start a conversation after, even if they both seemed to enjoy the peace and quiet. After a few minutes, she noticed a familiar-looking man heading towards the two of them. He was at the bar the night of the grand bachelor Kholin party, but she couldn't recall his name. Broad shoulders, blond hair speckled with black and a charming, easy-going smile. Yes, definitely a handsome, but what was his name?
Tarah caught his eye and he pressed a finger to his lips as he stood a few feet in front of her, directly behind the red-headed girl that didn't sense anything. He crouched and blew into her air. She shrieked but soon laughed upon seeing who it was. "Hi", she murmured, leaning down for a kiss.
Most couples liked to share intimacy in private, but they didn't seem to think the same, holding hands as they talked. Tarah lingered on their intertwined fingers but snapped herself to look away. Many people felt uncomfortable at such public affection, but Tarah wasn't one of them. She thought it was sweet and exciting for the couple to want each other so much that they didn't want to follow social norms.
She'd like for her own relationship to be more romantic than a typical Alethi one, once- if she finds the right person, she corrected herself.
But either way, this wasn't her relationship, and she might not have been raised as a princess, but she had enough courtesy to not stick her nose in someone else's business.
They were whispering but still managed to be loud, even if unintentional. She overheard things that made her blush and hide her face from them, but there was one brief part of their conversation that she felt interested in hearing.
"I went to get some drinks with bridgeboy after practice. You know, I think we have a really nice friendship now."
"Adolin of course you two are friends. Kaladin likes everyone that makes him smile and that seems to be your profession at times," the girl chuckled.
So the name was Adolin Kholin, which would make the brightlady to be Shallan Kholin. Everything seemed to make sense now- the looks, the town's gossip of how the newly wedded couple was "so very inappropriate". Tarah should have pieced it all together in her head, but even as a part of her wanted to scold herself for not thinking enough, there was another part of her mind that drifted to another topic.
So they were friends with him huh?
"Hey! Sorry to intrude, but... you know Kal?"
They both shared a look before Adolin rested his forearms on the table and leaned forward. "Yeah, we know Kaladin. How do you know Kal?"
She shrugged. "We're friends, like you. Friends from the past, to be more accurate." She extended her freehand towards Shallan first. "My name is Tarah, brightness."
Shallan blinked at her, eyes going over her features. In a moment, she took the hand and Tarah squeezed it firmly. It was something her father had raised her to do and was also something she was proud of, no matter how strange it was to feel pride for something such as your own grip. "Shallan. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Adolin smiled broadly and shook her hand. "That's a tight grip." He inspected his own fingers once she let go. "Respect!" Tarah let out a chuckle at his odd kindness.
Watching all the other applicants starting to leave, her eyes went for the time fabrial. It was getting late. Women started to collect their possessions, with tired tired eyes.
She should get going as well. Packing her things up and thanking Shallan for the translation notes, Tarah felt ready to go back to that lift. To go back with the same steps, through the same hallways. After all, there was nothing like going to where you feel warm and at home.
Kaladin turned his head left and right, wondering where the hiss came from.
”Kallie boy! Over here!” It was Shallan. She was sitting, as usual, on a bench with her white stockings exposed. With a pillow behind her back, she seemed as comfortable as one can be, far away from the rest of the crowd at the meeting.
He walked over a few steps to be closer to her. He liked paying attention at the meetings, but he also liked staying on the sides like her. “What?” he whispered.
“I met someone very interesting yesterday.” There was a tease in her voice. Kaladin knew, even if he didn’t want to admit it, that whatever she planned to say would bug him.
”Oh really? Who?”
She smiled wryly. “She said her name was Tarah.” He felt his cheeks redden. “Isn’t she the girl you told me about?”
Almighty. Yes, she was.
At Shallan's wedding feist, during the time she wasn't on her feet and dancing, they talked about her. It was a friendly chat and it felt good to have it. He told her about Adolin's bachelor night, she thanked him for bringing the drunk and almost unconscious Adolin to his room. Then he told her of how he saw Tarah as a barmaid and who she was to him. He caught her up with the majority of their relationship. He still kept the details to himself, but she knew all the big events.
But that was a mistake. He had no problem talking with her about his past, or at least fewer problems with her compared to other people. But if she was going to use that just to mock him, he needed to seriously rethink his decisions.
”Yes”, he said tightly.
Nodding, Shallan focused on her papers. ”She is pretty”, was all she mumbled out.
Kaladin raised an eyebrow at her. “That’s it?”
She looked up from her notes, scrunching her face, thinking. ”Uhm... She seems nice? I don’t know, I just met her!”
”Not that! I just thought you of all people would use that information for much more than simply telling me you saw her.” Many things came to mind: bribing, extortion, making gossips were the first. For such a young woman, she had an unusual pack of skills.
But his suspicions were confirmed the second she opened her mouth. “So I didn’t see you turn pink at the mention of her?”
As his cheeks warmed once more, he heard her chuckle.
Rock’s stew was getting better and better. Nothing would compare to how he felt that night - the first night they made stew as bridgemen in Sadeas' camp, but the fulness from the delicious food was threatening to come quite close. His men thought the same, savoring the moments together as they gathered in the kitchens to eat. Normally, they would eat out in the yard, in front of their barracks, but it was cloudy and starting to rain so they moved inside.
It was getting sort of crowded, but they made it work. Some of the men were in the hallways in small groups, others were at the table alongside him, and some, like Dabid and prince Renarin, were serving food and still in the process of making drinks. The important part was that everyone seemed to enjoy themselves this evening.
"Why do you look so happy?" Syl asked, hovering above him.
"My men are happy, this stew is great, I slept more than four hours last night - therefore I'm happy too." It was as simple as that.
"You should get more sleep than 'more than four hours' you dummy. It's true, I heard it from the women in town."
He questioned if she really heard it or overheard it since she was getting into a habit of spying on people. She had always been interested in listening to others, discovering new things even when they weren't for her to discover. Things got ugly when she combined the too and Kaladin sensed they'd need to have a talk about that later.
Something caught his attention.
"Why is your stew better than mine?" Lopen yelled. Peet shied back into his seat. "Rock offered me spice, I thought everyone knew about it..."
Everyone else looked at Rock as his deep voice carried through the room. "And everyone should know about it! I had it ordered from the Marabethia." That small, Edgedancer girl was probably the one to recommend it. She talked of her travels to places like those loud and proud, and Rock was growing fond of her. The entire crew liked her, letting her eat with them on many occasions, but it was Rock who truly welcomed her.
"I offer it to everybody, you just all hate to listen!"
The harmony he got to witness only minutes before had disappeared. Instead, people were shouting at Rock to apologize and let them eat the new kind of stew. Others, the quieter ones, seemed to think the same and they all agreed to try the new stew tomorrow night and see if the other stew really is better.
The room counted thirty-four people, including members of Bridge Fours and the women they brought. Everyone got smaller portions, but both stews to decide which one is better. Throughout the day, everyone had placed bets. It started at breakfast, with Lopen placing a small amount of money for the spicier stew, just out of fun. Soon though, it turned into a serious competition between Lopen's team and Drehy's, who wanted to stay loyal to the original one. It was fun to watch and he knew that nothing dangerous would happen, but a part of him still kept an eye out for any trouble.
Most people were neutral and didn't want to but heads like some, so it was enough to decide for sure which taste was better.
Or so he thought.
Once everyone tried both and raised their hands to show which one they thought was better, there was a problem - it was a tie. Seventeen of them thought the first was better, getting praise from Drehy's boys and the other seventeen agreed with Lopen, who went around and slapped them all on the back, cheering. They thought it was best if Kaladin had the final word, but he refused, saying he didn't want to cause a rift between the group, though he'd vote for the unseasoned stew.
As noise filled the kitchens they stayed in, hiding from the bad weather that once again forbid them from spending time outside, Lyn came into Kaladin's view. "Captain, there's a woman at the entrance looking for you." For a moment, the quarrel stopped, the men looking intrigued to see who this mystery woman is. It was only for a few seconds as Kaladin quickly ordered them to go back to what they were doing and hope they would stop once he came back.
He opened the door and found big, dark brown eyes looking up at him. Tarah had always been much shorter than him, but now that the rain had wettened her hair and simple coat, she looked smaller too. "Hi."
"Hey, get in, get in!" He waved as a sign for her to come inside. She must have been cold, so he brought them to stand near a heater. "I can get you a towel if you want." They must've had some in a closet somewhere...
"Thank you, but there's no need. I only intend to stay a few minutes." She looked up at him, wiping her cheeks and composing herself. He remembered she liked the rain. She liked waking up in the morning and jumping on puddles. Sometimes, she liked rain so much that she used to wait right until the storm hit to close her window. But that was simply Tarah - a daring girl that welcomed things that most people feared. "I wanted to say thank you for helping me."
He smiled at her. "Tarah, you've already expressed your gratitude. Ther's no need-"
"No", she silenced him, her words simple but clear and efficient for him to close his mouth instantly. "I need to thank you once more. There are so many beautiful books there and I can finally work alongside scholars and not drunks who try to flirt with me."
"Well... I'm glad I helped make you happy."
She slid a hand into her hair and moved one of her curly locks behind her ear. "Also, I met your lighteyed friends." She let out a loud laugh when she saw him press a palm onto his forehead. "They seem nice."
"They are," he admitted. Resting his back against the wall, he raised an eyebrow. "How did you three meet?"
"I sat near brightness Shallan. Only when her husband came and I heard them address each other did I realize who they were." She smiled but looked embarrassed. He didn't think the same of it. He was happy he could get to tell Adolin he wasn't as famous as he thought. "You know, I should get going."
He straightened in an instant. "Now?" But it was pouring out and although he knew her nature, there was no way he was going to let her walk alone now, especially without an umbrella. She could catch a cold! "No way, you should stay here until the rain slows down." She was about to protest, but the sound of the wind flogging the windows cut her off. They both knew who won this argument.
An idea popped into his mind. Bridge Fours did need help making a decision at the moment. "Come", he said, gently grabbing her right arm. "Let me offer you some stew."
When they entered the kitchens, the situation didn't change since he left. If anything, it had gotten worse. Skar even threatened to throw a chair into the air to stop the sides from fighting. Letting go of Tarah's arm, he rushed to the center of the room. Enough was enough. They had to behave like soldiers.
"Quiet! Now!" he growled. Thankfully, his voice was able to be the loudest amongst tens of others. Loudest, or just the one his men would prefer to listen to. "This is getting out of hand and it is not the way we must behave. So long as our uniforms are blue and we're under the service of Dalinar Kholin and his family, we will respect the codes and do it honorably. Look at yourselves! Getting red in the face, spitting on each other's faces like some bar brawl between drunks." The room had calmed down, but not him. "We can go out for drinks and place playful bets and that's fine, but if any of us continue like this - Dalinar will make us serve punishment for not acting like honorable soldiers. And he would be right."
Motioning for them to collect themselves - use some water and a washcloth for their face - he nodded upon seeing people rest in their seats. When he turned his head to face Tarah, she was gaping at him but tried to hide the shock. Sure, she saw him lead a little in the army, but this? Kaladin himself knew this was something different.
He walked over to her. "Everyone, this is Tarah. She's a new scribe in the library and she's..." He stopped and gulped uncomfortably but hoped she didn't notice it. Did she mind being introduced as just a friend? They did agree to be friends.
"She's my friend", he finished, deciding upon labeling it that way and if it goes to Damnation, then storms! Let it!
But she didn't seem to mind it and simply smiled. It was a charming smile, one that she made not only with her lips but with her eyes too. He coughed, looking to the sides or anywhere but her face. "Anyways, she'll be helping us make the final decision and see who the winner of the competition is."
Lopen looked up. He had been hiding his face from him, away in a corner. Clearly, Kaladin's words got to him. "We'll still continue?"
"Of course", he shrugged. "You all just needed to stop shouting." The people's laughs lit up the room better than any sphere and it had the same on Kaladin's heart. He felt warm, there next to those he cared about being in content. The crew brought Tarah to her seat triumphantly and placed two bowls in front of her like she was a princess. Giving her a napkin for her to pin to the collar of her dark blue havah, his men loved this and she must have loved it as well.
Bringing a spoon to her mouth, she moaned. Kaladin blushed but tried to focus on Rock's proud grin. "This is really tasty." She was referring to the unseasoned one but complimented the second as well. That one made her close her eyes in satisfaction. As everyone leaned forward to hear her final decision, she stood up. Her hand moved left and right, pointing to both, teasing her crowd.
Her hand stopped. "The unseasoned one is tastier!"
A part of the party cheered, the rest sighed in disappointment. Kaladin? He chuckled and sat near her. "Good call", he whispered into her ear.
Lopen came up to them. "Gancho, you've made a very bad call."
Tarah laughed and brought a hand under her chin, elbow resting on the wooden table. "Does that mean I can't stay any longer?"
He looked between. "No, gancho. Any friend of Kaladin's is a friend of ours."
This is probably my favorite chapter yet! Tarah getting along with Bridge four and passing the vibe check, lopen approved, is >>>
Chapter 8: A spear in his hand, stormlight in his veins
So many things were meant to be done.
Tarah had written down a list of all her assignments. Fetching books from the shelves, assisting engineers and ardents, assorting different accounting books... Her papers, her three long papers that she had needed to tape together, were filled with those tasks.
She was currently in the middle of sorting accounting books by color. She still needed to finish sorting them by year and the number of pages. Tarah managed to get into a comfortable position on the ground, kneeling on one of the books, as the floor was far too cold. In fact, sometimes it felt almost too comfortable so she tried to only reach upwards and get the books in the shelves, but that didn’t end up so well. A couple of other books fell on her, one straight onto her nose.
”Ow!” she screamed. Cursing herself and whoever invented shelves and the stupid height they were placed at, she held herself by her nose. Tears brimmed in her eyes. Suffice to say, she wouldn’t be trying that out again.
”Almighty are you alright?” She heard someone run to her aid. Catching a glimpse of fiery red hair, she caught the girl by her shoulder for support. “Let’s get you some help.”
“How did this happen?”
She had expected a medic. Maybe one of those fine, well-payed medics, lighteyes liked to keep by their side. What she did not expect was to be examined by prince Renarin Kholin himself.
”Well, brightlord, there was a certain incident of injustice in the library. The books attacked me, but I didn’t do anything to them except care for them and try and put them in order.”
Renarin raised an eyebrow at her. Before he ran a hand behind his neck, she thought she saw a hint of a smile. “I was lazy”, she shrugged her shoulders.
The prince inhaled stormlight from the spheres he had prepared earlier. He put his finger to the tip of Tarah’s nose, then drew it across the bridge. Suddenly, she got a tingly feeling in her stomach. She could sense something was happening, a cool-toned mist enveloping her nose.
He pulled back. “All done. How do you feel?”
She jumped off the chair they had placed her in. “Fine.” She stretched her arms and legs out. “Good as any day.”
He flashed her an endearing smile. “Good to hear it. Shallan, if that’s all?” Brightness Kholin was the one to help her. It turned out she was passing by, bringing papers to the Queen, when she noticed Tarah. She brought her all the way down to the lower levels of the tower where the surgeons where, but the prince was helping them so she had fetched him instead. Tarah could see how useful he is to the medics in here.
”Yes, I believe so. Thank you, Ren.”
The prince exited the room and the two women were left alone. Shallan wore a playful, mysterious smile that suited her well. It gave a person the impression that you didn't know this girl, and no matter how much effort you put, you might not ever succeed. But that lively spice to it hinted at you that you would still have fun. She had noticed that same look on other women of her position, though she was arguably among one of the highest-ranked royals at the moment. So why was she being so kind to Tarah? "Do you need to use the privy or shall we go back?"
Tarah thought for a moment, trying to gather the right words. "No, no, brightness. Thank you for your help, I truly appreciate it."
She waved her hand. "Bah, no need to thank me. Also, please do not feel the need to call me brightness. It's too official for a person that's Kaladin's friend." She picked up her brown satchel from the table - that looked a bit to casual for a person of her position- and offered Tarah a hand once they both got to the hall. "Walk with me." They linked their arms together.
Any friend of Kaladin's is a friend of ours, Tarah recalled the words. She had spent the rest of the evening and the night after that in the barracks, laughing with bridgemen who were all a bit different, yet similar all at once. Different build, but doing the same jobs; different nationalities, but each respecting others' cultures. And matter who they were, all respected their leader with intense loyalty.
She knew he was friends with Shallan, but seeing her think like that bridgeman made Tarah want to desperately find out how exactly Kaladin managed to have that effect on people. Behind the cold exterior, was a man with a tender heart. She knew it, but he used to rarely ever let others see it. So how did so many people find out about it too?
"Tell me", Shallan started, "how do you like your job so far?"
"Well, it's a bit tough especially when books fall on my head. Some days it’s the opposite-my head falls in the books from all the scribing", she huffed. "But I suppose I'd say it's good. I can enjoy my breaks, go home and feel like I had really done something and that makes me feel satisfied. So yes, I guess I do like my job." Compared to those months of being a bartender, almost anything was good. Although, she drew the line at doing anything with animals, especially horses. Those things were just icky.
"I'm glad you do." They stepped into the elevator. Soon, she could feel a, now familiar, tremble in her stomach as they started to rise. "I know when we first discovered the tower, I couldn't believe it's height. It still baffles me at times." Tarah listened to her describe all the sights of Urithiru. She listened as she gave her advice on which halls to take when she was running late or simply wanted to come somewhere faster. It was oddly educational, to put it that way.
"If you don't mind me asking bright- Shallan", she corrected herself. "How did you become friends with Kaladin?" It was a good time to get some answers.
She looked sideways, then up. A hint of a smirk appeared on her face and her eyes got a distant expression, almost as if they were getting lost back in the past. "The Captain and I met near the Shattered planes. He, uh... He helped me with some footwear. You know, as any good man would."
That did sound like Kal. Now she was smiling too. "What about you two?"
Tarah wanted to pretend she didn't remember how. She wanted not to remember all the details even years later. But for some reason, it was quite the opposite. She remembered a particularly cloudy day, back in the army, when she had just gotten stationed there with her father. They didn't have a good place back then, so they both had to work for it and since he had hurt his back badly, she was in charge of running all the errands. Sometimes, she had to go from one side of the camp to another. At that time, she still wasn't forced to learn how to ride a horse - she learned that just a year ago - and was determined she had enough stamina to do everything on her feet. And so Tarah ran. She ran all throughout the camps, yelling for others to move until she bumped into someone who seemed to be in a hurry just as much as her.
But even so, that man took the time to help lift her up once she fell. Then he took the time to give her a look she would never forget. A piercing look that cut into her soul, shattering it and nurturing it all at once.
Some things were better left unspoken though. "Kal and I met in the army. I got stationed somewhere else though, so we didn't stay in much contact since then. You can imagine my shock when I saw him again and I hear he's a Knight Radiant!"
Shallan nodded slowly. "Must have been quite a shock! It’s strange how much his powers changed the way world works for us now. But it's nice to be in the sky, believe me. It’s wonderful. Maybe you can ask him to take you some time."
Already feeling the cold fresh air on her skin, she imagined how it must be when the wind envelops you. How he must feel when he is so high off the ground, a spear in his hand, stormlight in his veins. "Yes, I just might."
“Would you rather sleep on a bed with cremlings for one night or always think cremlings are in your shoes for the rest of your life?” Tarah asked.
She had her new scribing job that, other than a few minor incidents, was going well. He would often pass her in the halls during guarding, thought he didn’t see her as much. Their breaks were at the same time, fortunately, and they preferred spending them together. Sometimes it would be inside the tower, when they chatted quietly. Sometimes right outside of it, and sometimes, like this one, they would spend it in front of the barracks, appreciating the life around them.
He had bought chouta. He didn’t like it so much (to Lopen’s shock), but it did give you a lot of energy and he figured they both needed it for the rest of the day.
”Definitely the first one.” If it came down to it, wouldn’t it be better to end the misery in one night then be uncomfortable for all the years to come?
”Yeah, me too. Some of my friends said the other, but I could never understand that.”
It was his turn now. She wanted to play a game she had learned during her time at the bar. It could have as many players as possible, but two was enough. You had to pick between two scenarios, no matter how embarrassing they might be. Kaladin thought it would be stupid, but over time the game proved to be fun.
“Would you rather only drink your favorite drink for the rest of your life or only eat your favorite food for the rest of your life?”
She raised her head up, thinking. “Hmm... That’s a tough one.”
Surely, no one liked being limited, but he was interested to hear about her choice. After all, it was what the game was all about.
“My favorite food is chouta, but that food is not healthy.” That it was not. It contained all sorts of fat and sugar - enough to keep you satisfied and full for hours but also good enough to eat only on a few occasions. Consuming it constantly and in great amounts led to brain and heart diseases. Back when he trained to be a surgeon, his father had many patients because of it.
That is why Kaladin didn’t like it so much as other people, but he also didn’t mind eating it from time to time, like now.
“I want to live a long life, one where I grow old. Like... sitting in a rocking chair, knitting for my grandchildren old. So I probably shouldn’t eat only that. I’ll stick with drinking just water.”
His eyes bulged. "Your favorite drink is water?"
She looked at him dead in the eyes, like he said the weirdest, most unreasonable thing. "Yours isn't?"
"Out of all the options you have on Roshar... Water?" He shrugged. Odd, odd woman. His favorite had to be orange wine. It wasn't because he drank it all the time, in fact he rarely consumed alcohol at all. But it was the first drink he sneakily managed to taste when he was a boy, without his parents noticing. It was one of the fondest memories of his childhood.
Her legs dangled in the air. She sat on top of a block of stone that was a little shorter than seven feet. Kaladin helped her climb, but only a little - he was surprised, but impressed, by how strong her arms were. As he leaned against the cold stone, he wondered when the ardents would come to soulcast it into a building.
With the danger growing by the day, it was decided that more soldiers should be stationed and trained in Urithiru. That meant more barracks were needed and one of them was to be built right next to theirs. It would take up half of their yard and Rock had grumbled how eating stew wouldn’t be the same, but Kaladin knew the Horneater would be the first to offer food to the new soldiers once they come.
"We're hosting a little going- away party tonight. Would you like to come?" he asked.
"Sure. Who is it for?"
"The yard", he said. Tarah let out a chuckle, but the chuckle turned into genuine laughter. He liked that he could get her to laugh like that. "Anyway", he continued, “Bridge Four liked you as a judge last time. They liked you a lot, actually, and now they’re constantly asking questions about how I met someone like you.”
After she had left that other night, a few of them wanted to know, how he knew such a pretty girl. They also wanted to know if she was single, but he left that part out to her, and told them to ask for themselves.
”What did you say to them?”, he heard Tarah ask and knew this was a topic they needed to discuss.
”I told them you are my friend. But I didn’t tell them you and I... were, you know... like... together.”
She nodded, but those slow movements felt like a lifetime as he waited for an answer. Had he been right in not telling them? For him it seemed like the better choice but did she think the same?
”I think we shouldn’t tell them”, she uttered at last. “I haven’t really made many friends here and with how accepting you guys have been... I don’t want to lose that. And telling them-“
”Would make things weird”, Kaladin finished.
“Yeah”, she breathed, then glanced at him. “Does anyone know?”
"I told Shallan." She may have told Adolin, but even that wasn't likely. If there was anything he knew about Shallan, it was that she knew how to keep a secret. "I doubt she'll tell anyone."
Tarah nodded thoughtfully for a few seconds, but didn't waste any more time to tilt her chin up, right to the sky, and jump off the block of stone. "I think it's time for me to get back", she told him, looking at the time fabrial in her hands - she must have gotten it at her job. Brightness Navani knew how to take care of her scribes.
He was aware of the fact they both needed to return to their stations. He was aware that at times like these, it was especially important to be on time and to put duty first. But even as he knew that, he wished he could turn back that time fabrial. Then to do it again, and again, and again.
Selfish as it was to want to abandon duty, he wished to spend so much time with her, even if he couldn't explain why. It was, he guessed, simply the effect that woman had on him. Always had.
That was something he just had to learn to live with.
This was supposed to be out in July. YIKES!
Anyway, I got into highschool, so that’s been fun. It’s also been stressful and pretty hard with all the hw and tests so I don’t know if the story will be finished/updated soon, though I will try and write more. Since July, I have gotten some more comments that motivated to at least release this chapter and get my inspiration back.
Sorry for the delay guys!