This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of Dawnshard. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the novella, as well as providing a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread the entire novella.
Having survived the sinking of the Wind's Pleasure, Yalb serves on a ship led by Captain Smta. Yalb and his crew discuss Thaylen naval traditions and the Wind's Pleasure before spotting a the abandoned First Dreams sailing over the horizon. They board and find the ship to be empty of crew and floating with no direction.
Rysn sits in her office and notes how much Chiri-Chiri has grown and how sickly she appears. She also takes note of how her office and the Wandersail have been customized to facilitate her mobility, including the arrival of a new porter Nikli. Talik arrives, having been contacted by Rysn, to assess Chiri-Chiri and recommends that she be taken to the ancestral home of the larkins at the Aimian city Akinah - long thought to be lost. Rysn recalls that Navani had put out a call for vessels to voyage to Aimia to investigate the return of the First Dreams
Rysn travels to Urithiru in the company of Nikli and Chiri-Chiri to discuss terms of an expedition with Navani. She admires the fabrial lifts created by the Alethi artifabrians. They negotiate and agree to terms including: generous monetary compensation for the crew, Queen Fen providing a royal mandate to motivate the crew, two Windrunners (Lopen and Huio) ordered to accompany the mission, and the scribe to accompany the mission (Rushu) would be one familiar with fabrial lift technology.
Lopen and Rua fly through Urithiru to meet with a Reshi delegation, who had arrived to meeting with Dalinar. Talik greets him and is immediately lashed upward to the peak of the atrium where Lopen shows him the view of mountains surrounding Urithiru. The two hold an impromptu summit in the air before returning to the ground to fine Ral-na (a newly bonded Dustbringer) and Kaladin, who is irritated at Lopen's lack of decorum. Kaladin assigns Lopen and Huio to Rysn's expedition, and they decide to take along Cord, who can see spren.
Rysn admires the Wandersail and explains the command structure since being given the ship by Vstim. Captain Drlwan curtly suggests that Rysn remain ashore for the voyage. They discuss the role of superstition and Passions among Thaylen naval crews, after finding the ship's pet skyeel dead. The crew is offered a chance to remain ashore for the duration of the expedition. Rysn confides in Nikli that she suspects the crew resents her being assigned as rebsk, and they brainstorm methods to garner favor with both crew and captain.
Wandersail begins its voyage toward Aimia. Rysn and Lopen bond over shared experience with disability. Rushu demonstrates conjoiner fabrial technology as it relates to Rysn's mobility and the group discusses Rushu's separate mission to understand the impact of aluminum on fabrials.
Cord, filling in for the chef Nlan who stayed ashore, discovers that the ship's grain stores have been infested by grubs. Once again, the crew assumes that this is a bad omen and that the voyage is cursed. Using notes she took while studying under Vstim, Rysn averts the crisis by directing Drlwan to dock and initiate trade with a group of Hexi Nomads. Since the Hexi are strict vegetarians (but consider grubs to be plants) they are willing to trade the bad grain for jerky made from the nomad's dead animals. Nikli recounts his success warming up to the crew, and converses with Rysn about how he ended up among the Thaylen people.
Separately, Nikli finds a private moment to contact the other Sleepless without revealing his true form to Rysn. He reports on the status of his efforts to dissuade the expedition. Although working to maintain the secrecy of Aimia, Nikli argues that he should be allowed a last attempt to dissuade the crew, before being forced to kill everyone aboard - as happened on the First Dreams.
Lopen, Huio, and Cord converse about the expedition so far, and Cord's motivation for joining it. Huio tinkers with one of Rushu's spanreeds and remarks on how aluminum appears to affect the spren captive inside the spanreed's ruby. They assume it broken when the paired spanreed only moves laterally, making unintelligible scribbles.
The crew of the Wandersail discover another bad omen - the floating corpse of a Santhid has washed over to the hull. Rysn turns the mood and wins some approval from her crew by ordering that the ship tow the corpse to shore to short and give it a proper funeral. However, the corpse disintegrates into hordelings before they have a chance.
Despite not having a corpse to burn, the crew goes ashore for a bonfire and a night of rest. Rysn communicates via spanreed with Vstim who reveals Navani's hidden agenda to find and activate the Oathgate in Akinah. The two theorize that a Voidbinding Lightweaver may be responsible for the Santhid corpse and the other omens; Jasnah agrees by another spanreed. Nikli shares an account of the scouring of Aimia, and Cord shares her past with Rysn. Building on Huio's accidental discovery of aluminum-modified spanreeds, Rushu demonstrates how she can turn Rysn's chair into a levitating mobility device.
Back on Wandersail, Nikli attempts to frame Cord for the failed omens, but is restrained by Kstled. Rysn had found Nikli suspicious, and had Cord's room searched previously - so that it became clear that Nikli's evidence was fabricated. Nikli pleads for Rysn to turn back, but is removed from the ship by Lopen and Huio.
Wandersail breaches the storm surrounding Akinah. Rysn and Huio stay below while Lopen remains topside interacting with the crew. Lopen dives into the water to rescue Turlm and adheres Drlwan's foot to the deck with stormlight. Right as the ship breaks through the storm, Lopen notices the large aquatic hordeling in the water.
Rysn first sights Akinah. The lookouts with spyglasses report seeing greatshell corpses with gemhearts lying on the shore. Rysn and Drlwan authorize a landing party to examine the beach - followed shortly thereafter by the Windrunners and Rushu who set out toward the city ruins at the island's center. Cord reports seeing luckspren heading toward the island, and Chiri-Chiri dives overboard, leaving Rysn's side to follow them.
Lopen, Huio, and Rushu land on Akinah. Rushu speculates that the gemhearts on the beach are a result of an ancestral instinct in the greatshells coming to die in the same place. They and the rest of the disembarked crew begin to examine, sketch, and gather the gemhearts in order to ensure that the crew gets paid. Lopen notes how odd it is that there is no crem buildup on the beach - wondering if highstorms do not reach this island.
Cord and Rysn discuss Cord's desire for Shards, and the political status of the Horneater Peaks in reference to the status of the war on Roshar. Cord acknowledges that Cultivation's Perpendicularity is going to become a major draw for forces both allied and malicious.
Lopen flies using stormlight and confirms for Rushu that the layout of Akinah corresponds closely to the ancient map that she had used as a guide for their expedition. Based on that map, they are able to locate what appears to be the Oathgate. However, they begin to suspect foul play when they discover that the gemheart they took was quartz and not diamond (i.e. not an actual gemheart); and that the Oathgate mechanism they found is in significantly worse repair than the ones in other cities despite being the same age. Instead, Rushu finds a hidden chamber beneath the "city" which they enter with the aid of a smoke-creating soulcaster given to Rushu by Navani for just such a purpose. Lopen rushes back to the boat after recognizing that they had sprung a trap.
Back on the Wandersail, Nikli rematerializes on deck from its hordelings. Cord seems to know of the Sleepless from horneater mythology. When Nikli makes clear that he intends to kill everyone involved in the expedition, Cord grabs Rysn and jumps overboard.
Rysn and Cord follow a set of luckspren underwater to a cave beneath the island surface. Contained in the cave is: a set of shardplate, eight soulcasters, and a mural depicting the shattering of Adonalsium. When Rysn examines the mural, the Dawnshard contained within it exits the mural and joins with her. Thus, Rysn becomes a Dawnshard. She begins to hear the voice of the Dawnshard in her head, as hordelings enter the cavern.
Back in the cavern, Rysn falls back on her training from Vstim and attempts to open negotiations with the three Sleepless who have come to kill her. In order to gain safe passage home for her crew, she attempts to offer herself as a secret keeper for the treasures of Akinah.
The Windrunners continue to fight the large hordeling, trying to buy time for the crew to escape back to the ship. However, specialized hordelings arrive and drain the stormlight from Lopen rendering him unable to lash. Lopen falls to the ground and breaks his leg. In order to protect his cousin, Huio swears the Third Ideal and summons Caelinora as a shardhammer
Nikli refuses to negotiate with Rysn, instead explaining his previous deception and how the sleepless had planned to entice her crew to leave before discovering the caverns. Cord attempts to bind the Nikli by an oath grounded in horneater mythology, but is unsuccessful. After protracted discussion, Nikli agrees to attempt a negotiation, despite his claims that Rysn cannot provide anything that the Sleepless desire. While explaining that the Sleepless guard Akinah in place of the extinct lanceryn, Nikli discovers that the Dawnshard is now bonded to Rysn and is enraged.
Huio takes the hordeling down with a shardspear through the head, and escapes with Lopen.
Nikli's outburst is cut short by the arrival of luckspren and Chiri-Chiri to the cavern. The larkin lands on the negotiating table and roars protectively. The revelation of the Dawnshard's bonding gives Rysn the leverage needed to turn the negotiation. The crew of the Wandersail is permitted safe return with information about Akinah in addition to the shardplate and soulcasters found in the cavern. In return for their safety, Rysn vows to be the protector of the Dawnshard so that it is not in Akina when Cosmere forces eventually come in search of it. The Sleepless agree to this plan under the condition that they be permitted to follow Rysn permanently. A two-layer cover story is created: it would be said publicly that the return of a larkin convinced the Sleepless to let the ship go; while the rulers of Roshar, particularly Navani and Queen Fen, would be told that the exchange included Sleepless remaining with Rysn as training on impersonating humanity.
As the ship returns to Thaylenah, Lopen and Huio discuss the implications of Huio swearing the Third Ideal with an oath to protect Lopen - the resulting introspection leads to Lopen swearing his own Third Ideal. Rua becomes a sharddagger.
Drlwan approaches Rysn to thank her for standing by the crew, and to request that she helm the Wandersail on their next expedition - a gesture of respect and recognition of Rysn as a worthly rebsk. Rysn notes that she seems to be suddenly more attuned to color and musical tone.