Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Shallan attained a new level in her Lightweaving. This week, she uses her new skills to survive a meeting with the Ghostbloods.
This week, the reread will absolutely contain minor spoilers for several other Cosmere book that are relevant to the discussion, as well as the entirety of The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. I’ll put in extra warnings in the blog so you can avoid them if you wish, but there may also be spoilers scattered through the comments. Where possible, it would be ducky if everyone could white out their spoilers, but the best-laid plans gang aft a-gley, as they say. Be warned.
Chapter 43: The Ghostbloods
Point of View: Shallan
Setting: Sebarial’s Warcamp
Symbology: Pattern, Palah, Joker
IN WHICH Shallan goes adventuring as a darkeyes, and finds it freeing; she nevertheless manages to make herself conspicuous by behaving in ways inconsistent with her disguise; she sets Pattern to watch her back for anyone following, then leaps in fright when he reports; she successfully finds the meeting place—and a lot of strangeness; despite her nervousness, she manages a few nice bits of snark; she holds a very cautious conversation with a man called Mraize who appears to be the local leader; his companions are a peculiar lot, as are the apparent trophies on display; she receives an assignment for “Tyn”: to find out what Amaram is hiding; she is dismissed, and takes Memories of those present on her way out; she is followed by the strangest of the company, and slips her tail by a panicked Lightweaving of a wall; she finally returns to her rooms in Sebarial’s manor, and finds herself flushed with the thrill of her adventure.
Quote of the Week
The guard nodded toward an opening in the wall, and Shallan stared into the blackness there. Steps. Down.
Storms, what am I doing?
Not being timid. That was what she was doing. Shallan glanced at the brutish guard and raised an eyebrow, forcing her voice to sound calm. “You really went all-out on the decor. How long did you have to look to find a den in the Shattered Plains that had a creepy staircase in it?”
The guard actually smiled. It didn’t make him look any less intimidating.
I… don’t really have anything to say about that. I just liked it. Snark under pressure, FTW!
Oh, Shallan, you’re so naïve sometimes. She’s so happy to be inconspicuous, and laughs at herself when she realizes that as a darkeyes, she can’t expect people to get out of her way… and then she nonchalantly pulls out an emerald mark to pay for something that costs a single clearchip. Oops.
But she is becoming more self-aware:
She had business to be about. Part of her didn’t want to go forward with it, obviously, and her mind was trying to distract her. She was becoming increasingly aware of this defense of hers. She used it, she needed it, but she couldn’t let it control her life.
This is an improvement! In fact, it’s a huge step: recognizing your defense mechanisms and then having enough self-discipline to choose not to do the thing that has been your only mental protection for many years… it’s huge.
There’s a quick hint here relating to something we talked about a while back—that the warcamps are built on the ruins of something else. The tenement in which she meets the Ghostbloods has not one, but two basement levels, in a place where most buildings don’t bother with eminently-floodable basements. The only question now is whether these cellars are left from the time when this was all part of the nation of Natanatan, or whether they are of more recent construction by the Parshendi.
Most of my comments on the Ghostbloods themselves will be in a section below, but here I have to note the reference to a flashback scene we haven’t got to yet: the bit where Shallan thinks that the man standing with his back to her (which turns out to be Mraize) reminds her of “the messenger” from her childhood. Coming soon to a reread near you…
She handles herself well in this meeting. While she may resemble jello on the inside, the outside impression is a combination of Jasnah’s self-confidence and Tyn’s boldness. Most importantly, it works; Mraize (and presumably Iyatil) find her plausible and clever, even though she misjudged their readiness to meet with “Tyn’s apprentice.” He’d simply agreed to it with the expectation of killing her and then hunting down Tyn, with or without any information she could provide. That’s cold, dude.
And so, having more or less favorably impressed the Ghostbloods, Shallan is allowed to give herself a name and receive a new assignment. (I still wonder about her choice of “Veil” as a pseudonym, because she articulates no reason for that choice. Well, either it doesn’t matter, or we’ll learn later. Looks like she’s going to have an ongoing relationship with these creepy people.) The assignment will prove interesting on several levels, but we’ll get to that in a future chapter when she manages to infiltrate Amaram’s household for a bit. For now, he’s just a name and an assignment—and an opportunity to prove herself.
There are a lot of little hints in this chapter, connecting the Ghostbloods to much, much wider Cosmere significance. (So much so, in fact, that it really makes me wonder just what they’re up to. I’m pretty sure they don’t care one clearchip about a single person on Roshar, but they do care about the conflict with Odium. The question is, which side are they on?) To keep it “clean,” I put all the Worldhopping and varied Investiture facts & speculations into “Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?” Nothing in there is a plot-significant spoiler for any of the existing books, but there are a lot of Invested items from other worlds. If that kind of tidbit irritates you, you’ll want to skip a large chunk at “Haven’t We Met?” and go on down to the “Heraldic Symbolism.”
Aside from Pattern, we only see some fearspren wriggling up around Shallan while Mraize tries various ways to induce her to reveal Tyn’s whereabouts. Useless, annoying, traitorous little beasties, some of these spren. Pattern, by contrast, is useful, entertaining, and eminently loyal, if occasionally startling.
Lightweaving is very useful indeed, especially when you can look like part of the wall. Very handy for getting rid of someone following you, though you sure don’t want to run out of Stormlight in the middle of it. On consideration, I think the most chancy part of Lightweaving disguises is that you have to carry a small fortune on you all the time—even when you’re in a disguise that shouldn’t carry more than a pittance. But then, I guess that’s true for any Surgebinder; it would be chancy to run out of Stormlight when you’re a few hundred feet above the ground, too.
This chapter only has one fabrial (that I noticed), and it’s one I’d dearly love to possess. It’s a little gizmo that gathers the smoke from the fireplace and just winds it up like thread on a spool. Sweet.
Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?
Oh, I have been looking forward to this chapter for a long time. I’m going to tuck all the off-world references (objects included) into this one section, so anyone who wants to avoid spoilers can just skip over it and go read about the Heraldic Symbolism. MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. You stand warned.
I don’t honestly know how many of these people are actual Worldhoppers, and I haven’t identified all of the objects, but I’ll list all of them, and speculate when I don’t know. Surprise.
The people: The Horneater guard, Mraize, the rat-toothed man, the creepy woman with the carapace mask, and four nondescript “other people.”
The Horneater I’m inclined to take at face value, given his way of speaking; he talks like Rock. Rat-tooth seems like he ought to be recognizable if we’d ever seen him before, but I don’t remember him, so I’ll take him for a Rosharan native. Any other suggestions?
Mraize—which appears to be a title rather than a name—is a confirmed Worldhopper, but I’ve seen no proof of his planet of origin. He might be Rosharan; he uses terms like “babsk” very readily. I’ve seen speculation that he’s Thaylen based on that alone, but given the lack of eyebrow mentioning I doubt it. He might be someone we’ve met elsewhere, though the only person I can think of that might fit his appearance is Clamps (from Alloy of Law), and he doesn’t really seem the type. In fact, the only similarities I can point to are that each is heavily scarred, and each is willing to kill anyone who proves to be inconvenient. Not much to bet the rent money on.
Iyatil, the creepy woman with the carapace mask, is certainly a world-hopper… but I don’t know who she is. She’s short, tan-skinned, darkeyed, and has an affinity for carapace, whatever that proves. It’s described as “red-orange” similar to the Parshendi “orange-red” – is she using actual Parshendi carapace? The way it’s described (“it looked like the skin had started to grow around the edges of the mask somehow”) almost makes me wonder if she is Parshendi, but of a form (or tribe) we’ve not yet seen. Perhaps, being a Worldhopper, she’s an ancient Parshendi who has been elsewhere and has returned? We do have this rather cryptic WoB:
Well, that’s kind of a hard thing to say. She has three planets she’s “from”. For example, she’s living now on Roshar, but then she’s from a different planet, but that’s not the planet that her people are from.
So probably not a Parshendi, but she might share roots with them… or something… Oy.
The objects: Several enormous (un-infused) gemhearts; vaguely-recognizable shells; a tusk “probably from a whitespine;” an eye socket that looks like it might have belonged to a santhid; a vial of pale sand; a couple of thick hairpins; a lock of golden hair; the branch of a tree with writing on it; a silver knife; an odd flower preserved in solution; a chunk of delicate, flaky crystal. Quite the assortment, and most of them seem to be Invested—or at least capable of being Invested.
The gemhearts, to be that big, must come from an extraordinary species. Could these be the gemhearts of some of the Tai-na? That would be… kind of awful. Likewise, the (partial) santhid skull – though a little less awful because we already know that the occasional dead santhid has washed up on shore. What are the implications, though, of having a santhid skull in this collection?
The shells and the tusk just don’t give us enough to go on, though I wonder what would make a whitespine tusk sufficiently notable to be included. Are whitespines more significant than I thought, or is she wrong about the source? Skipping ahead a bit, I can’t yet identify the branch with writing on it, though I think I should. Any thoughts?
A vial of pale sand: this is absolutely Invested sand, from the planet Taldain (in the as-yet unpublished novel White Sand). Note that this is also the planet of origin for “Blunt” (of the Ishikk Interlude) and Khriss (the woman who knows more about the Cosmere than Hoid). We don’t know what the Shard there is, but the fact that the sand is pale means it is actively Invested.
A couple of thick hairpins: I can’t find WoB on this, but I’m reasonably confident these are actually Hemalurgic spikes. Ick. I wonder if they’re Invested – and if so, with what?
A lock of golden hair: This could be from several different locations; it’s been significant here on Roshar (the Iri have golden hair, and some consider it lucky), on Sel (royal individuals both in Elantris and in The Emperor’s Soul), and then on Nalthis there are the royal locks from Warbreaker. Could be anything!
A silver knife: Best guess, this is from Threnody (Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell). Silver is extremely important there, and a silver knife invaluable.
An odd flower preserved in some kind of solution: IMO, this is obviously the flower known as Tears of Edgli from Nalthis (Warbreaker), which are related to Endowment; they give the best dyes, thus being very helpful in Awakening.
That chunk of pale pink crystal: I think it’s from Aether of Night, and I hope I don’t get too much fetch for saying that. Another unpublished book, but in this case IIRC Brandon doesn’t intend to publish it; he may rework it later in a completely different form, or just borrow all the good bits to use elsewhere.
Maybe the branch-with-writing-on-it is from Yolen? It would make a certain amount of sense.
This is an interesting pair: Palah and the Joker. Palah, associated with the role of Scholar and the attributes of Learned and Giving, patron of the Truthwatchers. Are the Ghostbloods aligned, or opposing? And the Joker… I can’t help connecting that masked face with the masked woman in the chapter. She’s a wild card if ever I saw one.
The chapter title couldn’t possibly be more obvious.
Words of Radiants
And thus were the disturbances in the Revv toparchy quieted, when, upon their ceasing to prosecute their civil dissensions, Nalan’Elin betook himself to finally accept the Skybreakers who had named him their master, when initially he had spurned their advances and, in his own interests, refused to countenance that which he deemed a pursuit of vanity and annoyance; this was the last of the Heralds to admit to such patronage.
—From Words of Radiance, chapter 5, page 17
Nalan strikes me as an arrogant sort. I’m trying to figure out how someone who seems to be so haughty and egocentric ends up with the role of Judge. I’m also still trying to parse this moderately convoluted sentence.
Just one little note, at the very end of the chapter, when Shallan is considering the tasks ahead of her: the one involving Adolin is certainly the most appealing!
There. That ought to keep us busy until next week, when Kaladin returns to the practice grounds to take up Zahel’s offer of training. And it will finally be a different day.
Alice Arneson is a long-time Tor.com commenter and Sanderson beta-reader. With Sasquan 2015 only nine weeks away, it’s not too late to become a member—or even join the staff! There are rumors of especially good Con Suite and Staff Den provisioning; possibly even bacon chocolate chip cookies. Look for Wetlander at Registration—she’d really like to meet you there.