Stormlight Archive Refresher: The Knights Radiant

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As we continue our groundwork for Oathbringer, the next doorstopper entry in The Stormlight Archive, we now present to you another entry in our refresher series. This time, we’re going to review what we know of the Knights Radiant—a brief synopsis of the history, the orders, and the individual members.

WARNING: Spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Edgedancer.

Note: there are no spoilers for Oathbringer in this article, and we’d appreciate it if y’all would avoid them in the comments as well – or at least white out the spoilers. Not everyone here will be following the early-release chapters.

First, some history.

Warning: this part may will read like a history book. Primarily sourced in the text of the previous two books, it is pulled together from so many small references that, in the interest of readability, I won’t cite them all. A few details come from external sources such as signings, Q&A sessions, or the notes in Arcanum Unbounded.

Millennia ago, a conflict arose between the Shards Honor and Cultivation, who had come to Roshar together, and the Shard Odium, who came later. In the hostilities that followed, Honor created ten Honorblades, which granted their holders the ability to manipulate natural forces, locally known as Surges—ten Surges, two bound to each Blade in an overlapped rotation. These Honorblades he gifted to the Heralds: five men and five women who took on the task of leading the fight against Odium’s Voidbringers in a series of conflicts known as Desolations. Between Desolations, the Heralds went to a place they called Damnation, where they suffered torture until the next Desolation began. At that point, all ten would return to Roshar, help the people prepare for the conflict, and fight alongside them until it was over (or they died) and the cycle began again.

In time, spren on Roshar observed what Honor had done, and imitated the effects of the Honorblades by bonding themselves to humans. Ishar was the first of the Heralds to see the potential of this connection—benefits and risks—and imposed a set of rules to organize and guide the spren and the humans with whom they chose to bond. As Honor had given each Herald the ability to manipulate two Surges by way of their Honorblades, the spren bonds mimicked that effect and gave the bonded humans the use of the same pairs of Surges. Thus were formed the ten orders of the Knights Radiant, who each claimed as patron the Herald whose powers they copied. As part of Ishar’s organization, the Knights committed themselves to follow certain Ideals, according to the priorities of their Orders.

During the intervals between Desolations, these Knights Radiant remained on Roshar, trying to maintain some semblance of preparedness and training. They were centered in a place called Urithiru, but mostly lived throughout the kingdom of Alethela—what later became known as Alethkar. Cycle after cycle went by, Desolation after Desolation. Finally, most of the Heralds couldn’t face the torture any longer. At the end of what was called Aharietiam, or the Last Desolation, nine of the Heralds survived. They told the people that they had won, abandoned their Honorblades, and dispersed over Roshar to blend with the population. Only Talenel returned to Damnation to hold Honor’s Oathpact in place.

For the next 2500-3000 years, the Knights Radiant remained active, though we don’t really know who or what they fought against. However, for reasons unknown, they suddenly abandoned their oaths and their spren, leaving behind their Shardblades and Shardplate. This event, later styled the Recreance, resulted in both humans and spren believing they had been betrayed by the Knights Radiant. Over the next fifteen or twenty centuries, most of the accurate information about them was lost as various factions came to power and rewrote history to suit their devices. All that remained was reverence for the Heralds and mistrust of the Knights Radiant, along with a few vague hints that perhaps one Order had remained active but in hiding.

Now the Radiants are returning—in small numbers, and with no organization to support them, but they are back, on the eve of another Desolation.

 

The Orders

Art by Isaac Stewart

There are a few generalizations to make, but only a few. One is that each Order of the Knights Radiant bonds with a particular kind of spren. Another is that all ten Orders share their first Ideal in common:

Life before death; strength before weakness; journey before destination.

After that, as far as we know, each Order has its own set of four more Ideals, with one exception noted below. There is also an implication that each Order has some other skill, some quirk, unique to their members, which can’t entirely be explained by the Surges they manipulate. Finally, every Knight Radiant has the ability to draw in Stormlight, which they can use to heal themselves, utilize their Surges, and perhaps other things we haven’t seen yet. It’s pretty certain we haven’t seen everything yet, since we haven’t seen anyone go beyond their third Ideal… at least, not that we know…

(In the attributions below, TWoK is short for The Way of Kings, and WoR for Words of Radiance.)

So far, the only Windrunner we know of is Kaladin. Over the course of The Way of Kings, he comes to a slow understanding of the surges of gravitation and adhesion, from pulling Parshendi arrows towards himself to shield his allies, to sticking Lopen to the walls of the chasms. In Words of Radiance he begins to master the art of combining the surges in order to fly. Szeth also uses the surges of a Windrunner in the first two books, but not because he’s bonded a spren or said the oaths. His powers are bestowed on him due to his possession of Jezrien’s Honorblade, which he loses in his final battle with Kaladin in Words of Radiance.

Herald: Jezrien, sometimes called Jezerezeh
Spren type: Honorspren: “I am honorspren. Spirit of oaths. Of promises. And of nobility.” –TWoK, chapter 27
Gemstone (color): Sapphire (blue)
Surges: Adhesion (Pressure and Vacuum), Gravitation (Gravity)
Known Members (spren): Kaladin Stormblessed (Sylphrena)
Known Ideals:

  • I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.
  • I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • They use the three Lashings (Basic, Full, Reverse) which combine gravity and adhesion to allow them to appear to fly, walk on walls and ceilings, and apply these effects to others. (TWoK Ars Arcanum)
  • They had squires, though we don’t know the abilities of those squires. (WoR, Ch. 54 epigraph)
  • They usually worked in teams and had a specific hierarchy. (WoR Ch. 77, Shallan’s musings)
  • A large number of the Windrunners were involved in the Recreance scene of Dalinar’s Feverstone Keep vision (TWoK, Ch. 52)
  • Lopen and others from Bridge Four may be Windrunner squires, or may be proto-Radiants of some kind. In any case, they are developing an ability to use Stormlight, though we haven’t yet seen any spren bonds. (WoR, Ch. 87)

As of now, we have very little information about the Skybreakers. The only one we are certain of is the Herald Nale (aka Darkness), who has appeared several times in both books (and also Edgedancer, the novella contained in Arcanum Unbounded). He was present at the banquet at which Gavilar was assassinated, killed Ym, and hunted Lift. They share a surge with the Windrunners, and in Edgedancer demonstrated their ability to fly.

Herald: Nale, sometimes called Nalan
Spren type: Highspren
Gemstone (color): Smokestone (grey)
Surges: Gravitation (gravity), Division (destruction and decay)
Known Members (spren): Nalan (Herald, no spren)
Known Ideals:

  • I will put the law before all else. (This is not 100% canon; it was written in someone’s book at the Philadelphia signing on the Words of Radiance tour in 2014.)

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • Skybreakers had a reputation for putting “justice” above everything, including honor. (WoR Ch. 22 conversation)
  • They were the last Order to be accepted/acknowledged by their patron Herald. (WoR Ch. 43 epigraph)
  • They judged innocence and guilt (WoR, Ch. 54 epigraph) with an “almost divine skill” which no one could attribute to either Surge or spren. (WoR, Ch. 55 epigraph)
  • Nale in his current mindset thinks that justice can only be achieved when uncorrupted by emotion. (WoR, Ch. 88 conversation)
  • Szeth is told by Nale that he will make a good Skybreaker, and is given Nightblood (WoR, Ch. 88). There is no evidence of a spren bond.
  • Helaran Davar sought out the Skybreakers (according to Mraize, WoR, CH. 88), but there is no indication that he actually was a Radiant; his Shardblade was a dead-spren-blade, not a living spren, as evidenced by the fact that it was left lying beside him when he died.
  • In Edgedancer, Nale is seen with three trainees (including Szeth) who have some of the Skybreakers abilities—Lashings, for example—and yet do not have full Radiant status. Nale refers to them as “initiates” who will only advance to Shardbearer when they earn the trust of their spren by proving their worth.
  • As of the end of Edgedancer, Nalan realizes that he has failed in his mission to destroy anyone who shows signs of a Nahel bond.

We know of no Dustbringers (yet).

Herald: Chana, also called Chanaranach, Chanarach
Spren type: unknown
Gemstone (color): Ruby (red)
Surges: Division (destruction and decay), Abrasion (friction)
Known Members (spren): none
Known Ideals: none

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • They preferred to be called Releasers, and were sometimes very angry about the term “Dustbringers”, as it was very similar to “Voidbringers.” Some people thought there was a little too much similarity in the powers. (WoR, Ch. 36 epigraph)
  • They could apparently make even stone burn. (TWoK, Prelude)
  • Chana has definitely been seen onscreen by at least one character at least one time in the first two books. (Word of Peter, Oathbringer Prologue Pre-release discussion, in response to the suggestion that she might be disguised as Liss, the assassin hired by Jasnah in the WoR Prologue)

We only know of one Edgedancer: Lift. She uses the surge of abrasion to reduce her personal friction and “skate” along floors and objects, as well as making herself slippery in order to evade capture. She also has used the surge of progression to heal her friend Gawx, bringing him back from the brink of death.

Herald: Vedel, also called Vedeledev, Vev
Spren type: Cultivationspren (Edgedancer)
Gemstone (color): Diamond (clear or white)
Surges: Abrasion (friction), Progression (growth, healing, regrowth)
Known Members (spren): Lift (Wyndle)
Known Ideals:

  • I will remember those who have been forgotten.
  • I will listen to those who have been ignored.

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • They were not the most demanding of orders, but they were graceful, limber, and deadly. They were the most articulate and refined of the Orders. (WoR, Ch. 46 epigraph)
  • They could ride the thinnest rope at speed, dance across rooftops, move through a battlefield like a ribbon on the wind. (WoR, Interlude 9)
  • They can perform Regrowth. (WoR, Interlude 9)
  • Vedel was responsible for training surgeons in preparation for a Desolation. (WoR, Interlude 7)
  • Adolin’s Shardblade originally belonged to an Edgedancer. (WoR, Ch. 50, Word of Brandon)

Renarin Kholin claims to be a Truthwatcher, seeing visions throughout Words of Radiance which led him to begin writing the numbers on the walls of his father’s room. As of yet we haven’t seen him use his surges of Progression or Illumination. It is also likely that Stump, the proprietor of the orphanage in Edgedancer, is a Truthwatcher. She has been unconsciously using stormlight to heal the orphans in her care, then mistakenly accusing them of only pretending to be sick. Prior to his death at the hands of Nale in WoR Interlude 2, the shoemaker Ym was developing into a Truthwatcher. He healed the feet of a street urchin under the pretext of fitting him for new shoes.

Herald: Paliah, also called Pali, Palah, Pailiah
Spren type: unknown
Gemstone (color): Emerald (green)
Surges: Progression (growth, healing, regrowth), Illumination (light, sound, various waveforms)
Known Members (spren): Renarin (Glys); Stump (unknown); Ym (unknown)
Known Ideals: none

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • Truthwatchers were esoteric in nature, never writing or speaking of what they did, making it difficult for anyone outside their Order to understand them. (WoR, Ch. 52 epigraph)
  • Truthwatchers see the truth. (WoR, Ch. 89 conversation)
  • It appears that some of what Truthwatchers “see” is the future, assuming Renarin really was the one who wrote all those countdown dates. (WoR, Ch. 85)
  • The old woman seen pottering about the Palaneum archives in TWoK may be Paliah. (TWoK, Ch. 33)

Shallan Davar is a Lightweaver. She uses the surge of illumination to create complex illusions both stationary and mobile, and the surge of transformation to soulcast objects into other objects—most notably water into blood when she fools Jasnah into thinking she’d tried to kill herself, and her infamous failed transmutation of a stick into fire.

Herald: Shalash, also called Ash
Spren type: Cryptic
Gemstone (color): Garnet (red)
Surges: Illumination (light, sound, various waveforms), Transformation (soulcasting)
Known Members (spren): Shallan (Pattern)
Known Ideals:

  • 2-5 Beyond the first Ideal, Lightweavers do not have specific Ideals they must speak. Rather, they speak truths “as an approach to a threshold of self-awareness.” (WoR, Ch. 57 epigraph, Ch. 87 conversation)

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • Lightweavers were able to provide “spiritual sustenance” to the other orders, encouraging them to continue their battle. (WoR, Ch. 47 epigraph) (Also, what on earth does this mean? It almost sounds like the Lightweavers created illusions that everyone followed against all better sense.)
  • Many Lightweavers pursued the arts (writers, artists, musicians, painters, sculptors); there were rumors of strange mnemonic abilities. (WoR, Ch. 49 epigraph)
  • They had an affinity for the Cognitive Realm, presumably due to the Transformation surge. (WoR, Ch. 53 epigraph)
  • Lightweaving has a powerful Spiritual connection, involving both the imagination and the desire of the Lightweaver. (WoR, Ars Arcanum)
  • The Soulcaster enters (or partially enters) the cognitive realm to convince the soul of an object to change materials, transforming it into something else if successful. Some transformations are more basic than others, with more complicated transformations requiring a more skilled Surgebinder.
  • Shallan’s Memories, where she takes a mental snapshot to draw in perfect detail later, are an artifact of her bond; it’s a “quirk” of Lightweavers. (Seattle signing event, 6 Jan 2015)
  • Cryptics and Honorspren have a complex sort of conflict in Shadesmar. (WoR, Ch. 3)
  • The Mistress in TWoK Interlude 7, Baxil, is in fact Shalash, going around smashing artwork for some reason; she seems to be focused on art depicting her as a Herald. (Orem signing event, 6 Dec 2014)

Jasnah Kholin is the only Elsecaller we are currently aware of. She uses the surge of transportation to travel into the parallel world of Shadesmar to fake her own death in Words of Radiance, and shares the surge of transformation (soulcasting) with Shallan. Over the course of The Way of Kings, she was using a fake soulcaster as an excuse to explain her abilities, but Shallan learned the truth when she stole it and discovered that it didn’t work.

Herald: Battar, also called Battah
Spren type: Inkspren
Gemstone (color): Zircon (blue/grey?)
Surges: Transformation (soulcasting), Transportation (motion, Realmatic transition)
Known Members (spren): Jasnah (Ivory)
Known Ideals: none

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • Elsecallers were masters of the Cognitive Realm, and were the primary liaisons between humans and the greater spren. They were quite gracious with this gift, allowing others to join them on visits to Shadesmar. (WoR, Ch. 53 epigraph)
  • Elsecalling provides some method of transportation via the Cognitive Realm. (WoR, Epilogue)
  • During the time Jasnah was gone from Roshar’s Physical Realm, she apparently spent some time in the Cognitive Realm, interacting with the spren. From the Epilogue, it appears that she at least had conversations with the Highspren. (WoR, Epilogue)

We know next to nothing about the Willshapers at this time, except that they share the surge of transportation with the Elsecallers, so theoretically they should be able to travel between realms as Jasnah did.

Herald: Kalak, also called Kelek
Spren type: unknown
Gemstone (color): Amethyst (purple)
Surges: Transportation (motion, Realmatic transition), Cohesion (strong axial interconnection)
Known Members (spren): none
Known Ideals: none

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • They were enterprising but erratic, and some thought them “capricious, frustrating, unreliable.” They were the Order whose members were the most varied in temperament, with no common characteristic but a general love of adventure, novelty, or oddity. (WoR, Ch. 50 epigraph)
  • They have an affinity for the Cognitive realm, presumably due to the Transportation surge, though they are not true masters of it. (WoR, Ch. 53 epigraph)
  • Kalak knew the arts of metalworking. Taln says Kalak would teach them to work bronze; steel would be better but casting is easier than forging and they would need something that could be produced quickly. (WoR, Interlude 7)
  • It is possible that the “Alethi-looking man” accompanying Nale at the treaty celebration may be Kalak. (TWoK and WoR Prologues)
  • There may be some connection between the Horneaters—the Unkalaki—and Kalak, at least in name.

At this time, no members of the order of Stonewards have been revealed.

Herald: Talenel, also called Taln, Talenelat, Stonesinew, Herald of War
Spren type: Unknown
Gemstone (color): Topaz (amber)
Surges: Cohesion (strong axial interconnection), Tension (soft axial interconnection)
Known Members (spren): none
Known Ideals: none

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • The Stonewards considered it a point of virtue to resemble their patron Herald by exemplifying resolve, strength and dependability. They were, apparently, stubborn to a fault at times, even when proven wrong. (WoR, Ch. 37 epigraph)
  • The “Ancient of Stones” (Taln) is credited with the peace and prosperity for over four millennia. (WoR, Ch. 83 epigraph)
  • It seems that the reason this Desolation has been so long delayed is the iron will of Talenel; as the only Herald maintaining the Oathpact, it held until he could no longer withstand the torture. (Implied in WoR, Ch. 83 epigraph) Apparently one of the quirks of the Oathpact was that it held so long as the Heralds voluntarily stayed in “that place of torture,” but they were free to leave at any time. When any one of them couldn’t stand it anymore and left, they were all returned to Roshar to prepare for the Desolation triggered by their departure.
  • Talenel was the one who trained the regular soldiers in preparation for a Desolation. (WoR, Interlude 7)
  • A large number of Stonewards were involved in the Recreance as seen in Dalinar’s Feverstone Keep vision. (TWoK, Ch. 52)
  • A man who identified himself as Talenel’Elin appeared at the gates of Kholinar in the TWoK Epilogue, and was transported to the Shattered Plains by one of Dalinar’s most trusted men. During that trip, the presumed Honorblade he arrived with was somehow exchanged for a regular Shardblade, albeit one that is not in the archives. Sanderson has been extremely cagey about whether or not this man is who he claims to be.

At the end of Words of Radiance, it was revealed that Dalinar Kholin is a Bondsmith. He bonded the Stormfather (the spren embodying the highstorms) himself. There seem to be a limited number of Bondsmiths as opposed to the other orders—historically only three, perhaps a few more. We have yet to see Dalinar use either of his surges.

Herald: Ishar, also called Ishi
Spren type: Stormfather, other great spren? See notes
Gemstone (color): Heliodor (golden)
Surges: Tension (soft axial interconnection), Adhesion (pressure and vacuum)
Known Members (spren): Dalinar (Stormfather)
Known Ideals:

  • I will unite instead of divide; I will bring men together.

Miscellaneous Insights:

  • There are very few Bondsmiths; a total of three was not uncommon for them, and they did not appreciate being pushed to grow larger as an Order. (WoR, Ch. 44 epigraph)
  • The Bondsmiths had a unique ability relating to the nature of the Heralds and their divine duties. This seems to have included some insight into the nature of the Voidbringers. (WoR, Ch. 58 epigraph)
  • As a Bondsmith, Dalinar will not have a Shardblade; the Stormfather refuses to be a sword or come when Dalinar calls. (WoR, Ch. 89 conversation)
  • Ishar was the “founding father” of the Knights Radiant, the one who organized them and established the precepts and laws which bound them. (WoR, Ch. 42)
  • It is not known whether the Stormfather is the only spren associated with the Bondsmiths, or if there is/was a small group of mega-spren or god-spren who bonded with them. According to Brandon, it’s possible for a single powerful spren to bond more than one person, so it’s possible that the Stormfather was always the sole spren of the Bondsmiths. (Yes, I know this needs a citation, but I can’t find it. When I do, I’ll edit to include it!)

 

Oathbringer Hopes and Expectations

Where will we go from here? It’s a fairly safe bet that the Knights Radiant will grow—personal growth, as well as numbers. But what will we see in Oathbringer? What do we want to see? In no particular order, here are some of the things we’re hoping for:

Alice:

  • Information on Voidbinding. It’s been mentioned, mostly in the Ars Arcanum, and I want to know if it has the kind of levels Khriss postulates, and how they work, and if they’re parallel to Surgebinding or completely independent.
  • The other Orders we haven’t seen yet: Willshaper, Dustbringer, Stoneward.
  • More about what the Truthwatchers and Bondsmiths actually do. We’ve seen some of what each of the other five can do, and I’d like to see these two in action.
  • Proof of Renarin’s Order. There’s been much debate about whether or not he’s really a Truthwatcher, since we haven’t seen or heard from his spren other than what he little he says about it.
  • More Radiants!! With the Everstorm coming around again, and parshmen apparently turning into Voidbringers by the thousands, Roshar is going to need more than the five we’ve seen and (more or less) trust, if they’re going to defend humanity.
  • Squires. How does this work? Who will they be? We’ve seen indications that some of Bridge Four may be squires already, but we don’t know what the effects are (other than the ability to draw Stormlight for healing). I’d love to see all of Bridge Four flying over the chasms or the countryside.

Lyn:

  • Shardplate! Is it created from the spren/bond in the same way that the Shardblades are? Is it linked to an Ideal? If the shardblades being wielded these days have “dead” spren in them, does the shardplate as well?
  • What about the rest of the Honorblades? Supposedly the Shin have most of them (WoR Interlude I-14). What are they doing with them? Will they be showing up?

 

How about you? What do you want to see? Did we miss anything important? Questions and comments welcomed below! Just a reminder: please avoid or white out any spoilers for Oathbringer.

Lyndsey wants a shardblade in the WORST WAY. When she has time, maybe she’ll just build one of her own… You can follow her writing or cosplay work on her website or follow her on facebook or twitter.

Alice has decided to become an Elsecaller, because instant transportation (once we figure it out) would be SO AWESOME. She hopes you have all had the opportunity to participate in the Kaladin project kickstarter by The Black Piper. If you do Facebook and aren’t already a member, do join her in the Storm Cellar group. Mention that you’re a Tor rereader and you get past any other questions!

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