by Isaac Stewart
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Bridge Four is the name of a group headed by Kaladin Stormblessed, an Alethi Knight Radiant of the Order of Windrunners. The group was originally one of the bridge crews of the Sadeas warcamp in the Shattered Plains, hence the name, but its function has evolved over time, becoming both Dalinar Kholin's honor guard as well as a military unit within a battalion of the Kholin army, then later becoming a group largely consisting of Kaladin's squires and Knights Radiant loyal to him. Despite such drastic changes, the members still refer to themselves by their original bridge crew name, and have even kept their old bridge with them.
Their insignia, designed by Kaladin, is made up of the glyph vev (meaning the number four) suspended above the glyph gesheh (meaning bridge), stylized as a bridge spanning a chasm.[Citation needed]
A transfer to Bridge Four was often used as a punishment for bridgemen, and the existence of a group worse off than themselves was a mental control used by Sadeas' men on the rest of the bridge crews. As a result of this, the bridgemen in Bridge Four knew that nothing worse could be done to them, and put no effort into anything. They didn't tell each other their names or anything else about themselves.
Changes under Kaladin
Kaladin (still unaware of his latent powers) managed to survive the bridge runs even after several weeks, and eventually decided to protect other members of Bridge Four and become their bridgeleader. Using both his medical and military knowledge, he quickly turned the crew around. His efforts in building morale and instilling discipline led to better organization. He found ways to treat wounded crew members, saving many lives. Soon enough Bridge Four was having the fewest casualties among the bridge crews.
Escape Plan and Freedom
Despite their huge gains, the treatment of the warcamp's lighteyed officers towards Bridge Four did not improve, and in fact even worsened. Kaladin started thinking of escape, not just for himself, but for the rest of the crew.
After careful and lengthy preparation that involved training the bridgemen to fight and obtaining necessary resources, and just when they found an opportunity to set their escape plan into motion, Kaladin and Bridge Four found themselves unexpectedly thrust into Alethi politics when their highprince Torol Sadeas betrayed Dalinar Kholin during the Battle of the Tower, leaving the latter outnumbered by the Parshendi army they were battling. Being a part of the Sadeas warcamp, Bridge Four witnessed the betrayal.
For this, Dalinar bought the freedom of every single bridgeman in the Sadeas warcamp. In addition, the members of Bridge Four became Dalinar's new honor guard, and Kaladin was appointed captain in charge of both the honor guard and a new battalion consisting of former bridgemen.
As captain, Kaladin assigned several Bridge Four members to become officers of the new battalion:
- Rock - lieutenant and quartermaster, in charge of food for the battalion
- Lopen - second lieutenant to Rock
- Teft - lieutenant in charge of training
- Sigzil - lieutenant and clerk
- Skar - lieutenant
- Moash - lieutenant
Skar and Moash were both tasked to focus on Bridge Four's bodyguard duties.
Dalinar's Honor Guard
As Highprince Dalinar's personal bodyguards, Bridge Four guarded both the Highprince and his family. Dalinar was their top priority, as Kaladin believed that the highprince was their only guarantee of freedom. He made it a policy to always have a team, led by a Bridge Four lieutenant if not Kaladin himself, watching the highprince at all times, while the rest of Bridge Four guarded his sons or carried out other responsibilities as members of Kaladin's battalion.
Initially they were given Cobalt Guard uniforms, but they rejected the idea of being part of that group. They even mutilated their uniforms, cutting off the Cobalt Guard insignia, which was later replaced by Bridge Four's own insignia.
Squires and Radiants
Members of Bridge Four started becoming Kaladin's squires soon after he spoke the Third Ideal of the Windrunners. This gave them access to Stormlight and the Lashings. Because of this Dalinar considered them too important for guard duty, so that was given to other bridge crews instead.
From then on Bridge Four focused more on training their Surgebinding abilities, recruiting potential squires, and performing more crucial assignments for Dalinar. Their abilities disappeared whenever Kaladin was too far away, so Dalinar gave them the Windrunner Honorblade to use for training in such cases.
Teft, who reached the Third Ideal as well, received squires of his own from another bridge crew, namely Bridge Thirteen.
Surviving members who've been in Bridge Four since the bridge crew days have glyphs for "Freedom" and "Bridge Four" tattooed on their person. The "Freedom" glyph is usually a mark of a freed slave.
In Alethi society, slaves are often branded with a mark of slavery on their forehead to make their status apparent to anyone who sees them. A freed slave is given a writ of freedom, but he could also cover his slave brand with a tattoo indicating details of his freedom in order to lessen potential misunderstandings.
Shortly after moving to Dalinar's warcamp, Kaladin hires a tattooist to give a Freedom tattoo to those Bridge Four members who'd been slaves. The first one to get it, Hobber, insists on having glyphs for "Bridge Four" added to the tattoo as well, as a statement of loyalty and gratitude towards Bridge Four. The rest of the former slaves copy him. As a gesture of solidarity, even those who didn't have the slave brand request for the same tattoo as well, although Moash opts to have the tattoo placed on his left shoulder instead of his forehead.
Somehow the ink keeps on melting away from Kaladin's forehead when it is his turn to be tattooed. This is why Kaladin, whose own slave brand has not been healed even after using Stormlight for so long, does not have the tattoos.
”— Kaladin's thoughts after his first Bridge RunIt appeared that he'd been wrong. There had been something more they could do to him. One final torment the world had reserved just for Kaladin. And it was called Bridge Four.
”— Kaladin had not been assigned to Bridge Four by chance. Out of all the bridge crews, Bridge Four had the highest casualty rate. That was particularly notable, considering that average bridge crews often lost one-third to one-half of their number on a single run.
”— Kaladin to Teft on the marching off for the Battle of the TowerAs they hefted their bridge, a spontaneous round of cheering rose up from the other crews. "That's new," ... "Guess they finally realized what we are," Kaladin said. "And what's that?" ... "We're their champions. Bridge forward!"
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