It was a strange man that led Bridge Four. A youthful face, strong body but with lines and glares too old for his years. Too many had fallen this way. It seemed Kaladin Stormblessed was one of the few with the uncanny luck to survive. Dalinar could not keep his curiosity at bay. The bridgeleader seemed he had something to prove, something to hide, and something to protect. This conundrum of peculiarities multiplied until all that was left were too many questions and very few answers.
And so Dalinar asked. He prodded, understanding a man had need of privacy and willing to comply, yet he was curious, and the need for trusted men these days was exponential. One successful battle did not a worthy man make, but months of bridgerunning did.
"He came out of a storm." Maiz said. He was a shorter man with large biceps and a squat stature. "That's how I heard."
Dalinar nodded, tucking away that explanation for another time, for a time when fanciful tales could be indulged over a hot stew and crackling fire. But not now. Now Dalinor needed the truth, not ghost stories.
"He was the first one to ask me my name." Teft said. "I was foolish, stupid and stubborn. I didn't want to give it o him at first--I was afraid he'd use it against me, but I haven't regretted it since."
"He's an absolute idiot." Moash grumbled. "But he's done right by us so far. I don't think that's going to change."
Hobber's eyes are lit with absolute devotion. It's brighter than any sphere Dalinar has held, sharper than even Oathbringer. "He saved my life. It was a nasty run, and I thought I was a goner. Awful way to go, lying on the field. Either blood loss, infection, starvation or thirst. Maybe all of them at once. But Kaladin bound my hurts. He carried me back, and here I am."
"He took each death as a personal failure. I ain't ever seen something like that. Not from anyone--uh, save for you Brightlord."
Dalinar waved off that last comment. He knows the reputation for lighteyes in their own war camps. He can't blame anyone for looking with disdain.
"Bridgeleader is strange." Rock chuckles as he stirs the pot. "Airsick lowlander not know when to quit. Many strange habits, yes. Hangs by his toes in a highstorm, runs before the bridge, cares not of his own safety when there is trouble." Rock scoops out a bowl and Dalinor takes it gratefully. Rock meets his eyes and doesn't look away. "He protects us all," he says solemnly, and Dalinar sees trust, devotion, worry, amongst many many other things. The Horneater turns back to his soup, and Dalinor realizes his interview has come to an end. He rises, thanking Rock for the meal. The Horneater claps him on the back. "You will take care of him, yes?"
Dalinor nods. "If he will let me."
Rock guffaws. "Oh ho! Crazy lowlander will do no such thing! He sooner jump off a bridge than let a lighteye watch after him. You must do it anyway. Is for his own good."
Dalinar chuckles and bids his goodnight.
"He holds failure and bitterness very close to himself. Almost like he is afraid to take one step off his path, and his world will fall apart." Sigzil's eyes fall to the ground. "You should have seen him before we decided to escape. What I would give to never see our leader that hopeless again."
Dalinar nods, remembering a day with Galivnor. He remembers the haunting light that sometimes plague his son. He vows that Captain Kaladin should never see those days again. Or any of bridge four. Or anyone else for that matter.
"He made a one-armed Herandzian feel more important than a Herandzian with two! Of course, that is not hard, considering the Great and Powerful Lopen is already worth his weight in emerald broams, but that is naught."
Dalinor claps his hand around Lopen’s forearm and grins.
He walks to the edge of camp, cloak bundled under his arm, and sees a figure. The bridgeleader stands watching the stars as if seeing them for the first time. A single spren dances around his head then vanishes before Dalinar can recognize it. Reliefspren, perhaps?
"Your men think highly of you, and that makes me think highly of you."
Kaladin meets his gaze and for one brief moment, Dalinar catches an astonishment as if the man cannot comprehend their loyalty. It is gone as quickly as it is shown, vanishing beneath a mask of tanned skin and hardened eyes.
It is then that Dalinor sees what Bridge Four does. A man who was thrust into war, and took a great burden upon himself. One that has been pummeled and shaped and reforged. He is their strength, their rock, their shelter. Given a task he will not fail, even at the cost of himself.
Dalinor can see it now, through the stories Bridge Four told.
Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.
Perhaps soon Kaladin will see the same.