Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Sixteen

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Lyn: Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, Cosmere Scholars and Sanderson Fans! We’ve got a hefty chapter for you this week, full of lore, an Honorblade, a world-hopper, old friendships, and…

Wrestling matches? That’s right, in this corner, weighing in at 250 pounds (I guess, maybe, because who’s gonna dare to ask him for his weight): The Storm from Alethkar! The Scourge of the Rift (too soon?)! The Highprince with the tight butt! Dalinar Kholin, the BLAAAAAAACKTHOOOOOOOORN! And in the other corner….

Well. You’ll just have to read on to find out!

Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. If you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

There are also some small mentions of a world-hopper from Warbreaker in the Cosmere Connections section, so steer clear of that part if you haven’t read that book yet.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Dalinar
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1174.1.3.4 (the day after Chapter 15, three days after the spanreed conversations with other monarchs.)

The chapter begins with Dalinar having a little chat with the Stormfather about the Honorblades and the oaths the Knights Radiant had sworn. He hides the Honorblade Kaladin reclaimed from Szeth in an old sewer drain and heads off the practice grounds, where he discovers that his ardents aren’t terribly pleased by with his wedding to Navani. He engages in a friendly wrestling match with the son of a friend, then tells Navani that he’d like to hold his meeting with the Iarali Queen in the practice yard. While conducting his meeting, Dalinar spars with old comrade and now-ardent Kadash, who is upset about what he sees as Dalinar’s sacrilege. After the meeting/sparring match, Navani asks Dalinar about something and he hears a name long forgotten…

Threshold of the storm

Title: Wrapped Three Times

The belt was too tight, wrapped three times—you had to pull it hard to get enough slack to tie the knot.

Alice: This is from Dalinar’s story about his swordmaster insisting that the belt on his takama had to be wrapped three times around the waist, but when he finally found his master’s master’s master, it turned out he was a rather small fellow. (Why do I get an image of Yoda stuck in my head at this point?) The standard takama belt was too long, and if he only wrapped it twice like most people, he tripped over it. We’ve probably all heard the story in some form, right? (The version I grew up with was “Why do you always cut one end off the ham?” “So it would fit in the pot.”) But it makes a great point: tradition can be based on some pretty sketchy things, and it’s worth searching out the truth.

Heralds

All four are Ishar, Herald of luck and patron of the Order of Bondsmiths. Attributes: Pious and Guiding. Role: Priest. Also the dude who organized the spren bonding into the Knights Radiant orders.

A: There are several possibilities here: Dalinar is a Bondsmith, obviously. He also interacts with the ardents (who heartily disapprove of him) and in particular Kadash, who is torn between friendship and theology. In addition, sometimes the heralds are there to show up something that is the opposite of their traditional role, so we also have Dalinar questioning whether Honor was really God.

Icon

Kholin glyph pair, as befitting a Dalinar chapter.

Epigraph

For in this comes the lesson. –From Oathbringer, Preface

A: Well, that’s loaded.

Stories & Songs

The Knights, the Stormfather said in his head, broke their oaths. They abandoned everything they’d sworn, and in so doing killed their spren. Other blades are the corpses of those spren, which is why they scream at your touch. This weapon, instead, was made directly from Honor’s soul, then given to the Heralds. It is also the mark of an oath, but of a different type–and does not have the mind to scream on its own.

L: This raises the question, if the regular shardblade spren are DEAD, how do they scream? I suppose this is answered for us later on when Adolin begins to reawaken Maya, but I find it interesting that Dalinar didn’t ask about that.

A: Syl explained it to Kaladin (sort of) in WoR, and Dalinar had his own Blade screaming at him, so presumably they talked about what happens. The spren has to be revived in order to manifest in the Physical realm, so then it’s… sort of alive. Enough to scream if you have the connection to hear it, anyway.

Your enemy is not a man like you, the Stormfather replied, voice rumbling, thoughtful. Even… frightened. He does not age. He feels. He is angry. But this does not change, and his rage does not cool. Epochs can pass, and he will remain the same.

L: That’s a terrifying thought. I can’t imagine being angry, without any change, for such a long period of time. I suppose it’s not productive to try to hold human ideals to a force like Odium, but even so…

With [the Honorblade], you would be a Windrunner unoathed. And more. More that men do not understand, and cannot. Like a Herald, nearly.

L: Well that’s an interesting little snippet. What other powers do these things convey upon their users?! We never saw Szeth use anything more than a normal Windrunner could, did we?

A: No, I don’t believe we did. Is it possible that the Stone Shamans don’t know about all the powers the Honorblades bestow, and so don’t train to use the extended abilities? Or is it that they do know, and keep that part secret? Either way, there’s clearly more going on with the Honorblades than we’ve been shown. Yet.

The Stormfather had also confirmed that it could work on Oathgates, which might prove handy.

L: No kidding. Being able to let just anyone activate an Oathgate if all your Knights are busy elsewhere would be a great thing. It would have to be someone you trusted implicitly, though, because otherwise leaving it in the hands of an untrained regular person would be just asking for the thing to be stolen.

The Thrill. Soldiers spoke of it in the quiet of the night, over campfires. That battle rage unique to the Alethi. Some called it the power of their ancestors, others the true mindset of the soldier. … He couldn’t remember feeling the Thrill in months–and the longer he’d been apart from it, the more he’d begun to recognize that there was something profoundly wrong about the Thrill.

L: Unique to the Alethi, eh? Is this just because the Unmade who creates it happened to take up residence in Alethkar, or is there something specifically about the Alethi that invites it, do you think?

A: We know it’s not really limited to Alethi, since we learn later that the Vedans felt it during their civil war. I suspect it might be a combination of things; the first is obviously the proximity of Nergaoul, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some kind of genetic susceptibility, too.

L: So we’ve got a chicken and the egg scenario here; which came first, the Alethi predisposition towards violence, or Nergaoul? Did he come to them because they were already heading in that direction and he could just heighten their society’s already warlike nature, or is their culture irrevocably changed by an outside force?

Relationships & Romances

Navani raised an eyebrow at him, but ordered her assistants to get out their writing materials. A worried ardent came over, perhaps to try to dissuade her—but after a few firm orders from Navani, he went running to get her a bench and table.

A: I love the way Navani chooses her battles, and in public she chooses not to have battles with her husband. In this case, she clearly disagreed with Dalinar about staying where they were to carry on the conversation with the Iriali queen, but she chose to go along with it. And once she decided to go along with it, no mere ardent—or anyone else—is going to get her to change a thing about it. I think one of her greatest strengths is deciding what hills are worth the battle—and who she’ll fight. She chose not to argue with Dalinar here, for a number of possible reasons. But one thing she categorically refuses to do is argue with the ardents—she just gives firm orders and expects to be obeyed. And she is.

It was hard to remember the ardent as one of his elites. They hadn’t been close then; they’d only become so during Kadash’s years as an ardent.

***

“I remember, Kadash,” Dalinar said, “when you weren’t nearly so judgmental.”

***

Kadash had the haunted eyes of a soldier. When he dueled, he kept watch to the sides, in case someone tried to flank him.

***

“Surprised someone is willing to side with evil, Dalinar? That someone would pick darkness, superstition, and heresy instead of the Almighty’s light?”

L: Hoo boy. Someone’s a little bitter.

A: A little bitter, yes, but with a certain amount of rationale:

“…What happened to the ardent I knew? A man who had lived a real life, not just watched the world from high towers and monasteries?”
“He’s frightened,” Kadash said softly. “That he’s somehow failed in his most solemn duty to a man he deeply admires.”

A: Kadash has had two commitments which, until now, have always been in harmony: serving Dalinar, and serving the Almighty. Or at least… serving what the Vorin church said about the Almighty. Now Dalinar’s statements have destroyed that harmony and forced him to choose between the two, and that’s a painful spot for a straightforward man like Kadash. Add to that the feeling that Dalinar’s apostasy must be his fault, his failure, and of course he’s unhappy. And a little bitter.

For a moment, Dalinar saw in Kadash the man he’d always been. The gentle, understanding model of everything good about the Vorin church.

L: Interesting that he thinks of Kadash as “always” having been this way. I find it a little hard to believe that he’d have been this way back when he was in the army. But then, Dalinar DOES say that he didn’t know him well back then…

Diagrams & Dastardly Designs

“The power of the ones who control the new storm, however, is undeniable. They offer gracious terms.”

L: Gracious terms?! Yikes. I really have to wonder what Odium’s henchmen are promising, out there in Iri. Do they want those two Oathgates so badly that they’re willing to offer up pretty much anything to get them, or are they just planning to break whatever oaths they make once they get what they want?

A: So much mystery. We’ve figured out that local parshmen have more or less local values, which is all well and good, but… When we know almost nothing of a culture, we know nothing about what either the humans or the parshmen are trying to acheive. Very mystery.

L: Not to mention the fact they they know very little of their own culture!

Squires & Sidekicks

Clean-shaven, he was a little pale for an Alethi and had dark brown hair. Dalinar vaguely thought the man had shown up among his guards several times during the last week or so. He liked to roll a sphere across his knuckles in what Dalinar found to be a distracting way.

L: I don’t know why, but this guy (Rial) sets off warning bells in my head. We don’t usually get a ton of description for little side characters like this unless they eventually become a bigger thing, and the fact that Dalinar seems to feel like there’s something off about him makes my hair stand on end. I was totally expecting Rial to wind up being a plant or a spy by the end of the book, but he wasn’t… which means I’m still suspicious. He’s also really flippant with Dalinar, which is not a trait I think Kaladin would approve of from his bridgemen.

A: He’s one of those oddballs from Bridge Thirteen. You know how they are. ;) Seriously, though, I think he triggered that reaction in most of us. As near as I can tell, Brandon was just messing with us; we’ve come to expect Something Nasty from every new person who gets a description, so now he’s going to give us some completely innocuous characters and let us wonder about them.

L: ::eyes Rial suspiciously::

A: We learned a while back that Bridge Thirteen had replaced Bridge Four as Dalinar’s primary guard detail, since Bridge Four was apparently all going to do the squire gig for Kaladin. Ironic that by the end of the book, Bridge Thirteen ends up all becoming squires to Teft. Wonder who Dalinar is going to get stuck with next? And will they all become squires to Lopen?

Places & Peoples

Dalinar owned ardents who were experts in all manner of specialties, and per tradition any man or woman could come to them and be apprenticed in a new skill or trade.

L: This is really interesting. ANY man or woman? There’s no restrictions on social standing or sex? This must just be a Dalinar thing, because the rest of Alethi society sure hasn’t seemed this open-minded towards darkeyes or women. I really have to wonder what would happen if a darkeyed woman came to one of the swordmasters and demanded to become an apprentice…

A: We’ve run across this concept before—that anyone can come to the ardents for training. The biggest functional restriction is the simple ability to travel, and that’s not an insignificant difficulty. Assuming you can come up with the money to travel to where there are ardents capable of teaching what you want to know, though, there are still societal restrictions, such as the prohibition against darkeyes using swords. We did see ardents, however reluctantly, training Kaladin & his men to use swords, but they’re still restricted to actually carrying spears.

Basically, it’s a guarantee that you can learn a skill or trade other than what was available to you at home; there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to use that skill, but you can learn it. I doubt most people would waste their opportunity by demanding to be taught a skill they’d never be able to use, though. The whole point is to be able to make a living, after all.

Among Iri’s three monarchs, currently two kings and a queen, the latter had authority over foreign policy, so she was the one they needed to talk to.

L: THREE monarchs? This is fascinating. Seeing as how one specifically has authority of foreign policy, I wonder what the other two have authority over? And can this even be technically called a monarchy, if the rule of governance is split amongst three people?

A: Well, technically, no—since the roots of the word imply one person ruling.

“It is with wondrous awe at the grandeur of the One that I approach you. The time for the world to undergo a glorious new experience has arrived.”

L: Ugh. It’s so flowery. And yet somehow also… unsettling.

A: I so much want to know more about this culture, and I have zero expectation of learning it any time soon.

“All experience is welcome,” came the reply. “We are the One experiencing itself–and this new storm is glorious even if it brings pain.”

L: Seems very Zen to me. I can sort of get behind this idea—I’ve certainly had experiences which caused me a great deal of pain, and those experiences helped me to better understand both myself and others who might be in similar situations. However…

“Perhaps the way to prevent another Desolation is to let the Voidbringers take what they wish. From our histories, sparse though they are, it seems that this was the one option men never explored. An experience from the One we rejected.”

L: This is taking it a bit far. I mean… they don’t know that they’d be turning over their own people to slavery or worse, but… it’s a pretty good bet.

A: Er… Ummm… Nope. Not without some very clear limits on that “take what they wish” part!

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Yes, what every wife loves,” Navani said. “Seeing that in his spare time, her husband likes to roll around on the floor with half-naked, sweaty men.”

L: Welllllll I meeaaaaaan……… You know what, I’ll just leave it at that and say that Navani Kholin is still a treasure.

“I would prefer to give this task to another, as I don’t particularly feel–”

“Tough,” Dalinar said. “I need some practice, Kadash.”

Weighty Words

“And Shardplate?” Dalinar asked.

Related, but different, the Stormfather rumbled. You haven’t spoken the oaths required to know more.

L: So Shardplate musn’t have its own highspren, then, since Knights can still wear it without hearing screaming. Later on in the book when Kaladin seems to be about to gain his, we see the windspren forming around him—going theory is that they would eventually become his Plate. The lower spren that are associated with whichever the higher spren is for each order, presumably, would be the ones forming the Plate. If this is true, did those lower spren not die when the Knights forsook their oaths? Are they still trapped in Plate-form?

A: My best guess is that “trapped” isn’t quite the right word. When a piece of Plate gets destroyed, it regrows, and my current theory is that it regrows directly via the Cognitive realm, as the lesser spren regather and shape themselves back into Plate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s not necessarily the same spren, either—just the same variety, drawn to the “seed” of the existing plate and willingly forming into the needed shapes. I’m not sure you can call it “willing” if the spren have no inherent will of their own, but the point is that I don’t believe they’re coerced. It’s just what they do, like water condensing on cold glass.

“What of the thing we fight? Odium, the origin of the Voidbringers and their spren. Can he break oaths?”

No, the Stormfather said. He is far greater than I, but the power of ancient Adonalsium permeates him. And controls him. Odium is a force like pressure, gravitation, or the movement of time. Those things cannot break their own rules. Nor can he.

L: There’s a lot of Big Stuff going on in this little exchange. Big Stuff that I’m mostly going to leave to Alice because let’s face it, I’m not the Cosmere theory-crafter of the two of us.

A: I love this little passage! There’s so much Cosmere truth buried in it. We’ll learn more about this concept later, and we’ll talk about different aspects then, but this subject has come up several times recently. Odium, like Stormfather, like the spren, and like natural laws, simply cannot break certain rules. The way things are is, well, the way things are.

I think this holds the key to why Kaladin almost killed Syl in WoR; as a spren, she cannot bend or break the Ideals that form the Windrunner bond. It’s not that she’s too stubborn to stretch the rules a little, or even that she’s unreasonably demanding that he do what she wants. It’s simply, totally, inherently impossible for her to maintain a bond when her human doesn’t live by the Ideals that bind them together. She’s not “punishing” Kaladin by withdrawing her powers; even though he doesn’t understand how it works, his inability to remain committed to his Ideals damages the bond—blocks the pipes, in a manner of speaking. I have to assume that the old Knights Radiant had some understanding of this, and it would have been part of the training to learn about how the bond functions.

In a much later conversation, the Stormfather will make a distinction we need to keep in mind: humans don’t have oath-keeping built into their very being the way pieces of Adonalsium do, and so the two will never quite be able to understand each other.

“…even if the claim weren’t disputed, the queen doesn’t have any actual relation to Evi or her brother.”

L: Reaction gif time.

A: I thought this was so masterfully done. Assuming you didn’t know her name your first time through, you read it, and then there’s a “Wait, what?” moment, just before Dalinar’s … and then you catch it, just before the next bit, and the adrenaline, it does rush:

Memories blossomed in Dalinar’s head. He staggered, then slumped against the writing table, feeling as if he’d been struck by a hammer to the head.

Evi. He could hear his wife’s name.

And he suddenly remembered her face.

L: The only appropriate reaction gif for this.

Cosmere Connections

WARNING: Spoilers in this section for Warbreaker. You may wish to skip this section if you haven’t read it.

One man still lounged on his cushion. He wore a scruffy beard and clothing that seemed an afterthought–not dirty, but ragged, belted with rope.

“Not offended by my presence, Zahel?” Dalinar asked.

“I’m offended by everyone’s presence. You’re no more revolting than the rest, Mister Highprince.”

L: Well hello there, Vasher! How are you today? An interesting note, here; the word “mister” hasn’t been used at all in either Way of Kings or Words of Radiance. So here’s yet another clue that this guy’s from Somewhere Else. But we still don’t know why he’s here. Hunting down NIghtblood, perhaps? He sure seems to have been here for a long time, long enough to have earned entry into the ardentia and gained Dalinar’s trust. Alice, you’re just coming off the Warbreaker Reread, whereas it’s been years since I read it. What do you think?

A: Well… I think he and Nightblood came here together, and somehow in the transition or in the early years, Nightblood was stolen. I have the impression that Vasher came to Roshar so as to avoid the constant requirement of buying people’s Breath all the time; like he spent too much time around Vivenna and started to feel more guilt about holding other people’s Breath, or something. But who knows, maybe Nightblood misbehaved once too often, so Vasher decided to take him and move to Roshar where Nightblood could collect more Investiture without taking so much from people. I can’t help wondering when and why they got separated, but I don’t think we’re going to get that answer for a while yet.

“Every moment in our lives seems trivial,” Zahel said. “Most are forgotten while some, equally humble, become the points upon which history pivots. Like white on black.”

L: First of all, this is a really cool quote. Secondly, there’s our definitive hint that Zahel’s from Warbreaker, in case some readers didn’t pick up on it in Words of Radiance—the use of color metaphors are a dead giveaway.

“Lighteyed self-indulgence or serious sacrilege, either way it doesn’t affect me.”

L: Well, yeah. Because you’re not even from this world. Of course sacrilege to their god(s) isn’t going to matter to you. (Not that Vasher ever really seemed the pious type even on his own world…)

Quality Quotations

In a way, the death of their god gave him hope—for it Honor had fallen, surely Odium could as well.

 * * *

“I was merely one in a long line of idiots given the ability to kill people too easily.”

 

Well, that’s all for this week! Next week we’ll be going over chapter 17 by itself, since chapter 18’s a pretty long one. Join us in the comment section for more discussion about Warbreaker, theories, and wrestling!

Alice is, finally, mostly recovered from her adventures with eighth-graders. It was fun, but they have way more energy than she does!

Lyndsey is excited to be playing the role of “Ellen”-a-Dale at this year’s Robin Hood’s Faire in Lancaster, MA! If you live in New England, stop by some weekend and help her and the other Merry Men make a fool out of the Sheriff of Nottingham. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.

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