Wed
Jul 3 2013 9:00am

Words of Radiance: Interlude: Taravangian (Excerpt)

Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Archive Words of Radiance Interlude: TaravangianEnjoy this excerpt from Words of Radiance, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive fantasy series. The long awaited sequel to The Way of Kings is currently schedule to debut this coming January and now that the first draft is in, we’ll be previewing and discussing all the various aspects of the series. Keep the Tor.com Stormlight Archive series and The Way of Kings Reread bookmarked for all the latest.

This short interlude from Words of Radiance, previewed at various readings this year, concerns Taravangian, the king of Kharbranth. Read on....

 

Interlude: Taravangian

Taravangian, king of Kharbranth, awoke to stiff muscles and an ache in his back. He didn’t feel stupid. That was a good sign.

He sat up with a groan. Those aches were perpetual now, and his best healers could only shake their heads and promise him that he was fit for his age. Fit. His joints cracked like logs on the fire and he couldn’t stand quickly, lest he lose his balance and topple to the floor. To age truly was to suffer the ultimate treason, that of one’s body against oneself.

He sat up in his cot. Water lapped quietly against the hull of his cabin, and the air smelled of salt. He heard voices in the near distance, however. The ship had moored on schedule. Excellent.

As he settled himself, one servant approached with a table and another with a warm, wet cloth for wiping his eyes and hands. Behind them waited the King’s Testers. How long had it been since Taravangian had been alone, truly alone? Not since long before the aches had come upon him.

Maben arrived with his morning meal, stewed and spiced grain mush. It was supposed to be good for his constitution. Tasted like dishwater. Bland dishwater. She stepped forward to set out the meal, but Mrall—a Thaylen man with shaved head and eyebrows—stopped her with a hand to the arm.

“Tests first,” Mrall said.

Taravangian looked up, meeting the large man’s gaze. Mrall could loom over a mountain and intimidate the wind itself. Everyone assumed he was Taravangian’s head bodyguard. The truth was more disturbing.

Mrall was the one who got to decide whether Taravangian would spend the day as king or as a prisoner.

“Surely you can let him eat first!” Maben said.

“This is an important day,” Mrall said, voice low. “I would know the result of the testing.”

“But—”

“It is his right to demand this, Maben,” Taravangian said. “Let us be on with it.”

Mrall stepped back, and the testers approached, a group of three stormwardens in purposely esoteric robes and caps. They presented a series of pages covered in figures and glyphs. Mathematical problems devised by Taravangian himself on one of his better days.

He picked up his pen with hesitant fingers. He did not feel stupid, but he rarely did. Only on the worst of days did he immediately recognize the difference. Days when his mind was thick, like tar, and he felt like a prisoner in his own mind, aware that something was profoundly wrong.

That wasn’t today, fortunately. He wasn’t a complete idiot. At worst, he’d just be very stupid.

He set to his task, solving the mathematical problems he could. He was not stupid, fortunately. Neither was he a genius. Today...he was average.

That would do.

He turned over the problems to the stormwardens, who consulted in low voices. They turned to Mrall. “He is fit to serve,” one proclaimed. “He may not change the Diagram, but he may interact outside of supervision, may change policy, and pass judgment.”

Mrall nodded, looking to Taravangian. “Do you accept this assessment and these restrictions, your majesty?”

“I do.”

Mrall nodded, then stepped back, allowing Maben to set out Taravangian’s morning meal.

The trio of stormwardens tucked away the papers he’d filled out, then they retreated to their own cabins. The testing was an extravagant procedure, and consumed a good hour each morning. Still, it was the best way he had found to deal with his...condition.

Life could be tricky for a man who awoke each morning with a different level of intelligence. Particularly when the entire world might depend upon his genius, or might come crashing down upon his idiocy.

 

Words of Radiance © Brandon Sanderson 2013

43 comments
Daniel Goss
1. Beren
Well. That certainly explains a few things. The immediate assumption is that this is one of the curses from the Nightwatcher. Perhaps intermittent stupidity in exchange for greater intelligence?

But what is the Diagram?

January cannot come quickly enough.

-Beren
Adam S.
2. MDNY
New Stormlight! Whooo! This excerpt doesn't reveal much except that Taravangian has some sort of illness affecting his mind transiently, some sort of dementia. No clues about how it might be related to the world of Stormlight, if it's some disease specific to Roshar, perhaps related to Honor, Cultivation, or Odium, or is just a more mundane dementia. Given Sandersons' past works, I'm guessing the former option more likely, but have no clue what could be going on, unless it's a side effect from a visit to the Nightwatcher, but then why is it transient? I'm guessing more will be explained further on...Can't wait for the whole book to be available!
Jason Wesbrooks
3. jwesbrooks
Nightwatcher was my first thought, but that seems a bit obvious. Can't wait to find out!
Rich Bennett
4. Neuralnet
Curse you Sanderson! You always leave me with more questions than answers.
Deana Whitney
5. Braid_Tug
Don't they know that you have to have a good breakfast in order to perform well on a test?

On a more serious note, wow, this is a great bit of insight. Wonder where this will fall in the book.
Govika
6. Govika
I wonder who takes over if his stupidity gets the better of him? And has he always been as such? Did he has episodes before and what happened there? Where did Mrall come from and is he part of his transient capacity?

Dang now I wanna read it all...
Jeremy Guebert
7. jeremyguebert
Now I really want to know what the Diagram is. If something's capitalized, you know it's going to be important.

The idea of intermittent dementia is really intriguing as well. Like most others, I would say the most likely explanation we know of would be the Nightwatcher's mixed curse/blessing. Of course, there's a whole lot of Roshar that we *don't* know about at all yet...
Govika
8. AJH
Wow, this made me re-read Szeth's interactions with Taravangian, when he came to kill him...
...
Szeth hesitated. He had to make certain the man acknowledged what had been said. "Did you hear me?" Szeth demanded, striding forward.
...
...
“And if I’d killed you?”
“The instructions were explicit,” Taravangian said.
...
Flint Timmins
9. Giovanotto
I get the impression that Taravangian is working to prevent/defeat the coming Desolation (or at least he thinks that is what he is doing), but I don't see how. How do the murders of the world's leaders help prepare the world? Specifically, how does Dalinar's death help things?
Govika
10. Rutsahl
I was thinking this is the result of the Nightwatcher too, but the Nightwatcher's curse and boon are usually unrelated to each other I thought. Some good cloth to sell to feed your family in exchange for seeing the world upside down. Hardly related. Then again, I guess there is no rule saying that the curse and boon -can't- be related. I really want to read this book...
Nadine L.
11. travyl
What is the truth about Mrall? - just that he decides if Taravanigian is intelligent enough to deal with people? There seems more to it. At least the people in the room (stormwardens, Maben) would know of this function of Mrall and still T. thinks "Everyone" assumed ...
Alice Arneson
12. Wetlandernw
I won't post it here so as to avoid spoilers, but Brandon gave a fan the answer to some of the speculation last fall. For those who want to know why Taravangian is sometimes a genius, sometimes an idiot, check out the answer someone got at a signing: http://www.17thshard.com/forum/topic/1273-signing-in-manchester-2311/#entry21215
Govika
13. miriam12
O.o
Well THAT explains a great deal. It also raises plenty of questions, but that's pretty much a given with Sanderson.
Who knows, maybe this book will come out on my birthday! That would be quite the present :)
Kimani Rogers
14. KiManiak
I like the speculation of the commenters, and I especially appreciate AJH@8's analysis of the interaction between Szeth and Taravangian.

I am definitely intrigued about Taravangian and his condition (how he got it, what his normal intellect is, if the level of intelligence manifestation is always random or follows some vague pattern, etc).

But what I first wanted to find out: Where is he sailing to? Is it important? Is he going to Alethekar or the Shattered Plains? Is Szeth on the boat with him (or, if the King is traveling with a fleet, is Szeth on a different boat but still traveling with him)?
Alice Arneson
15. Wetlandernw
(The missing comment at 12 will show up soon - it's got a link, so will have to be approved by a moderator. It's a link to where Brandon talked to a fan about the source of Taravangian's variable IQ. If you want to go find it before the comment is approved, go to the coppermind wiki, search for Taravangian, and click the link for footnote #5 - or just read the whole entry on Taravangian. I didn't want to post the quote, because it could be considered a spoiler.)

edit for clarity
Govika
16. Benalish
The old magic, could it be something related to Feruchemy? Well, the worlds were all in Cosmere, so it is possible.

Did Taravangian have a certain kind of metal/alloy in his body? His back ached, so it is possible something was planted in his back. Maybe during sleep he stored or tap intelligence without being able to control it.

None of the Feruchemy in Scadrial deals with intelligence though, so this might be with a metal/alloy originated in Roshar.

Just speculating :)
Alice Arneson
17. Wetlandernw
Brandon has indicated that the magics are generally tied to the worlds, and the effect would be attenuated by distance. While (perhaps) not impossible, I think Feruchemy on Roshar would be highly improbable.
Adam S.
18. MDNY
@16 I don't think that fits. Feruchemy seems pretty rooted to Scadrial, like each power in the Cosmere is related to a specific world and the god(s) that live there. Feruchemy was older than allomancy, I always figured that it was a different, earlier form of power deriving from Preservation, before the Lord Ruler made allomancers. I think any powers/curses/supernatural phenomena in the Stormlight Archives will only be related to the gods associated with Roshar: Honor, Cultivation, Odium. This includes highstorms, drawing Stormlight, the 3 Lashings, spren, and the Nightwatcher. There doesn't seem to be crossover of powers between worlds, as the powers always derive originally from the gods there. Even the world travelers (Hoid, and the 3 from other worlds in the interludes) likely don't draw power from other worlds, only their own (well, who knows what Hoid can do?). If a feruchemist came to Roshar, he might be able to use feruchemy, but he would be from Scadrial still, and I doubt Taravingian is from another world. I could be wrong, but that's my sense of how things work in the Cosmere.
Govika
19. shaytaki
Eek! I'm super giddy! Bring on January. I feel like Nightwatcher would be too obvious of an answer for Taravingian's condition since Dalinar has the effects of the curse/boon. I'd be surprised if two kings were dealing with curses. Obviously, there's so much more that Sanderson has up his sleeves to reveal. I'm excited to read it!
Govika
20. Brainstorm
@MDNY You're pretty much correct, to the best of my knowledge. It does depend on how the power works, though. Things like Feruchemy and Hemalurgy don't require an outside power - Feruchemy has no net gain or loss, and Hemalurgy is a net loss. If you are a Feruchemist, or have the knowledge to practice Hemalurgy, you can do it anywhere in the cosmere. Allomancy, however, requires power from Preservation. I don't think it would work off-world once you ran out of metal from Scadrial.

Brandon talks about "spiritual DNA" in regards to a person's ability to use a magic system. If you don't have a certain spiritual DNA, you simply can't interact with that system. And that DNA is bestowed somehow through a Shard's interaction with a particular world. It would be impossible for someone born on Roshar to be an Allomancer or Feruchemist.

There are off-world characters in The Way of Kings, but no major characters. The travelers in the Purelake interlude, for instance, appear to be Elantrians. So they are obviously able to use the aons at least to travel.
Alice Arneson
21. Wetlandernw
Brainstorm @20 - Minor correction: one of the travelers is from Scadrial, one from Sel, and the third is of unkown (to us) origin.
Adam S.
22. MDNY
@20 I always figured allomancy would still work, as people have the power in them already, but not as powerfully without the mists. Vin would be significantly weaker, because she depends on the mists more than anyone else, and Wax feels particularly strengthened by them, too.
And I don't believe those worldhoppers are ALL Elantrians, at least one of them, "Thinker", is from Scadrial (he is Captain/General Demoux from the Mistborn Trilogy), while "Grump" is Galladon from Elantris, and "Blunt" has not appeared in a book, to my knowledge.
Govika
23. Brainstorm
Thanks Wetlander. The purelake culture intrigues me more than the worldhoppers, so I can never remember exactly who they're supposed to be.
Robert Dickinson
24. ChocolateRob
@12 Wetlander
Ooh I was at that signing (first booksigning I've been to actually). Very entertaining evening, once he got to his reading from Dangerous Women I suddenly remembered that I could record audio on my Ipod so I got the reading and the Q&A section afterwards 45 mins altogether.

The questions from the signing that day were -

1) Where did you come from? (all of a sudden)
2) How did that phonecall go? (from Harriet)
3)How do you handle the pressure of finishing the series?
4) What is the weirdest spelling difference between British and American spelling that you've found, The differences between the ways Brits and Americans say things? (I posted this section of audio on youtube if anyone is interested as it was the most humorous answer of the evening, just search for -Brandon Sanderson's pudding Dilemma- )
5) The Mistborn game that's in the works, what sort of a game is it and is it a new story? (he mentions both the pen and paper RPG and the computer game in the answer)
6) Is there a Kandra in the Alloy of Law (this was the tAoL signing btw)
7)Is it true there is a mistborn film in the works?
8) What is the first book you remember reading?
9) were you surprised by how well Vin did in the ??? match? (no idea what this was other than what I infered from the answer, it sounded a little like sudoku but I kinda doubt it was that. Something about fictional characters fighting each other in which last year Jaime Lannister somehow beat Cthulu).
10) Anymore books in the Warbreaker series? (answer includes all other series)
11) Are you likely to miss any minor characters when you finish WoT?
12)Did you aproach writing WoT as one book or a trilogy?
13) When you wrote Mistborn did you start with the magic system or the plot?
14) Have you ever written any ideas then discovered that someone beat you to it?
15) What are your main guiding principles that you try to stick to as a writer? What is your best advice for a new writer?

I wasn't sure on the policies for recording during signings so I only posted a short clip on youtube with no spoilers of any kind but I've since seen loads of video clips so I guess no one objects and I can offer the reading from the Dangerous Women anthology as well as the questions if asked. (Peter Ahlsrom if you're lurking nearby let me know the protocol)

While I got my book signed I asked Brandon whether it would be possible to kill a twinborn gold compounder using a single bullet if it was made of the correct material for hemolurgically stealing his healing feruchemy? (I think it is pewter spikes that steal healing, in theory any bullet of the correct metals can become a hemolurgic spike and Wax uses several types in the book - steel, aluminum)
Brandon said that it was an interesting idea that could work in theory (killing by stealing the healing power intead of overpowering it).
It also came up that Hemolurgic spikes do not have to go through the heart to steal abilities, a fatal blow to any part of the body will do it.

All in all my only real regret of the evening was that when Brandon stepped up to speak and mentioned that the mike was set up for someone much taller I didn't shout out 'Try standing on The Way of Kings', ho hum, the things you think of 5 minutes too late.

PS At this point I had not read any of the Wheel of Time books. I started them that christmas and finished them a month later.
Alice Arneson
25. Wetlandernw
ChocolateRob @24 - Sounds like it was a fun evening! Although the image of a microphone set up for someone "much taller" than Brandon kinda cracks me up. :) Like he's so terribly short...

Re: 9 - I'm guessing they were referring to the suvudu cage matches - suvudu is a website for lots of SFF, gaming, etc. interests. Every so often they do a set of "cage matches" where they have a single-elimination "tournament" between various scifi and fantasy characters, where the fans get to vote on each match as it proceeds. They're actually more of a popularity contest than anything, but they can be fun.
Jeremy Guebert
26. jeremyguebert
Thanks for the link @12, Wetlander. Definitely clears things up.
Alice Arneson
27. Wetlandernw
Brainstorm @23 - Yes, it was a very minor nitpick. :)

As far as I know, it doesn't even matter to the story that they are off-worlders, much less exactly who they are or whence they originate. It's something that real die-hard (not to say obsessive/compulsive) fans might notice by way of the descriptions, but it won't really make any difference to anything. I expect that if, in the larger Cosmere story, it becomes important, Brandon will spell it out more clearly. For now, I agree: the Purelake culture is definitely the more interesting and informative aspect of the interlude.
Govika
28. Richard Vales III
I read THE WAY OF KINGS the first day it came out, powered through it in 2 days. It seems like it came out 10 years ago to me now (alright alright it's only been 3 years but I did a lot of living in those three years - just don't go all George RR on us so we have to wait 5 or 6 years inbetween each book - I don't have that kind of patience anymore, GRRM stole all of mine and none of us will live that long - or at least I won't). For a while there I thought for some reason that the series got canceled, I don't know, stranger things have happened to better series. I am excited for the new book, I just hope my elder brain has retained a bit from the first reading because my days of re-reading 1000 page skullthumpers are over. Too many other books to read. I look forward to the second book with great anticipation however.
T C
29. Freelancer
And the sneak peeks begin. I wonder what is important about that particular day?

KiManiak @14

I would think that if Taravangian or any of his advisors had discovered a pattern to the variations of his intellect, they would have crafted a schedule for the days on which he was best able to administer his position. The fact and method of the testing indicates that the King's condition is quite random.


Since Brandon has announced that the draft is now in for edit, I suppose folks will begin to pester him to start on Stormlight 3, or perhaps the second Mistborn trilogy. There is no rest for the prolific.
Anneke van Staden
31. QueenofDreams
Well from what I've read on various forums it seems that BWS is planning on focusing mainly on Stormlight for a little while. Apparently he's very aware of how he's kept people waiting for Words of Radiance, so most of his energies will be going on that for a while. I'm hoping he holds to that though, as I'm not a fan of WoT (shocking I know, please don't kill me) so I was gutted that Stormlight got put on hold so he could finish that and it feels like I've been waiting an awfully long time for Stormlight 2 to be finished. (no criticism intended of Mr Sanderson there, obviously I understand he has had a lot on his plate with having to finish something so massive and popular as the Wheel of Time)
Dan Anderson
32. DanAnder
@24. Luckily you can find all the questions from that signing here and some more on Taravangian on the wiki.
@28, Why did you have to bring up GRRM, it only reminds me that I am probably going to have grandchildren by the time Brandon get to book 10...
Govika
33. Tonomi
Isn't he working on the next Wax Mistborn story? I remeber from the Denver signing that he was working on that. I think there's even a snippet floating around.
Anneke van Staden
34. QueenofDreams
@33 I don't know, I've read some Q&As where he's said he's going to focus on pushing out the next few Stormlight books so there's not so long a wait between each book as there has been between the first two. Having said that, the man is a writing machine, so I have no doubt he'll manage to squeeze in writing more Mistborn world stuff just to 'clear his head'
Alice Arneson
35. Wetlandernw
Last I knew, he was planning to release a new Stormlight every year until the first five are out; then he'll do the second Mistborn trilogy, and then the last five Stormlight. As I understand it, those would comprise the "major epic fantasy" release each year. Along with those, he'll be working on the next two Steelheart books and more Wax & Wayne books that I've specifically heard; we can probably also expect an assortment of short stories, novellas, Rithmatist II, and whatever odds and end bubble up to the creative surface of his imagination. I'm told that he could quit coming up with new ideas right now and still never run out of things to write, so I don't think we'll have a shortage.
Kimani Rogers
36. KiManiak
Freelancer@29 – I agree that the tests (and text) do indicate that Taravangian’s level of intelligence will manifest daily in a random manner (hence the need for tests). I’m just wondering (“out loud,” as it were) if there is a loose pattern to the randomness.

For example: Have they found that he’s more likely to be brilliant in the early part of the month, more likely to be average in the middle of the month and more likely to be dimwitted in the latter part of the month? Or, does the likelihood increase that he will have a “brilliant” day following a “dimwitted” day?

Basically, do the odds of his level of intellect manifesting a certain way increase, based on given factors?

Tests could then still allow for the randomness, but certain plans/events could be loosely planned for when the King is more likely to experience a “brilliant” day, based upon certain factors.

(EDIT: Actually, we could just substitute the term "variable," or "ever-changing," for "random." Maybe that better applies in this case.)

Oh, and I also do wonder what is important about this particular day. I’m hoping that we are only currently getting a sneak peek of part of this interlude, with more of the interlude to come when the book is released…

Wet@35 - Brandon's imagination and storytelling abilities continue to amaze me. I hope he doesn't stop coming up with new ideas for a long time...
Govika
37. Jawba
Stormwardens predict high storms with somthing approaching accuracy. Is there a dichotomy between Taravangian intellectual phase shift and highstorms? Do the Stormwardens use this daily test into the factoring of the highstorm predictions? Then there is this question that keeps nagging at me. Horses and chickens. I don't think they are native species to Roshar.
Govika
38. Susan Batchilder
Everyone here analyzes way too much.
Just enjoy the books and look forward to the next one.
Waiting to read it.
Sue
Govika
39. Sergio Ayala
I came upon Brandon when I heard he was picking up for Jordan. Since then I read the Mistborn trilogy, Allow of Law, Way of Kings, and his Infinity Blade books. I've never read Elantris, but just picked it up off Amazon.

Reading these comments it seems as if some of you are suggesting his worlds interact and exist within the same universe. Even some saying that there are people from the other worlds in Way of Kings (worldhoppers?).

Where'd you guys receive that information. I'd be extremely interested in reading all about it.
Alice Arneson
40. Wetlandernw
Sergio - Check out coppermind.net/wiki for lots and lots of information. Yes, most of Brandon's work (all except his Alcatraz and YA books) are part of what he has named "the Cosmere." They all take place on various worlds in the same universe, and there are threads that tie them all together. You don't have to know any of it to thoroughly enjoy his work, but it's fun to start identifying the links.
Govika
41. Candlelight
I do wonder if the Nigthwatcher might not end up being somehow linked to/allied with Desolation. Perhaps Taravangian sent Szeth around to kill everyone who had interacted with (received a blessing and boon from) the Nightwatcher as a precautionary measure or response to the Old Magic's proliferation? Random speculation of course, but it may be similar to what Patrick Rothfuss set up with the future-predicting faerie that all the other faeries quarantined in The Name of The Wind.

Love the thoughts people, please keep brain'storming'!
Govika
42. Liadan
@ Chocolate Rob

I'm interested into the answer to #10. I didn't see it in the corresponding thread linked.
aggie1 old
43. aggie1
I didn't see anyone in the Comments suggest a parallel between Mt. T.'s fluctuations and Dalinar's vision-episodes. Dalinar's were sent by Honor; if a human had episodes sent by another Shard, I expect the effects would be far different - perhaps madness, perhaps endangering others - - maybe this is Mr. T.'s situation?

My other thought is that maybe the real Taravangian is a doddering old man, and that something else intermittently controls him. No idea what that might be.

@37 Jawba - I agree. Lots of that going on here IMO.
Govika
44. Toothpuller
Here is a thought for those who have read the other released chapters. If Taravangian is sailing around too, could he or his cronies be the cause of the smoke and screams that Shallan wakes up to at the end of chapter 6? Maybe he kept track of Jasnah and her Desolation research and has come out to catch her and interrogate her before she threatens his plans. Maybe he waited till they left Kharbranth to blame the attack on pirates...

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