Alice: Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, friends and frenemies! (Do we have any of those, Lyn?)
Lyn: Only the people who defend Moash.
A: Oh, yeah. Those. Well, y’all join us this week anyway to see the results of Kaladin’s choices back in Chapter 14, as he learns a few disturbing things about the parshmen he’s been following. Dive in to the discussion!
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week, there are teeny tiny references to The Bands of Mourning and Mistborn: Secret History in the Weighty Words section, so if you haven’t read those, you might want to skip Alice’s comments there. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHERE: Rural Alethkar
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (the day after Chapter 14, when he surrendered to the parshmen)
Kaladin is a prisoner of the freed parshmen, who are making their way across the country in the dead of night. Syl reveals that the parshmen and their Voidspren guide can see her, so she’s masquerading as a windspren to avoid being recognized. After a startling realization about the nature of his captors, Kaladin cuts his own bonds and offers to help his captors. They accept.
Threshold of the storm
Title: Trapped In Shadows
“I have spent my entire life living in a fog,” the parshman yelled at him. “Every day knowing I should say something, do something to stop this! Every night clutching my daughter, wondering why the world seems to move around us in the light—while we are trapped in shadows. They sold her mother. Sold her. Because she had birthed a healthy child, which made her good breeding stock.
“Do you understand that, human? Do you understand watching your family be torn apart, and knowing you should object—knowing deep in your soul that something is profoundly wrong? Can you know that feeling of being unable to say a single storming word to stop it?”
The parshman pulled him even closer. “They may have taken your freedom, but they took our minds.”
A: I know that’s a long quote, but I can’t help feeling that we need the whole thing in here. We’ll talk about it more below.
Jezrien x 4: Herald of Kings, patron of Windrunners, divine attributes of Protecting & Leading, role of King.
A: This seems fairly clear: Kaladin, although he avoids doing anything Windrunner-y, is moving into a role of protecting and leading these lost souls. The spren guiding them doesn’t have much sense of how to actually take care of their physical needs or to keep them from being detected, so Kaladin just… does.
Kaladin’s Banner & Spears icon show that he’s the primary—and in this case, sole—POV.
It is not a lesson I claim to be able to teach. Experience herself is the great teacher, and you must seek her directly.
—From Oathbringer, preface
A: The double meanings, they are fraught! Obviously, in context of the in-world Oathbringer, Dalinar is talking about his own experiences, and his hope that by seeing what he has done, others may learn the same things through less painful experiences. In context of this chapter, though, Kaladin is trying to use his past experience to relate to the parshmen, and to teach them the things that will make their new experience less miserable. He’s also trying to learn what he can about their new forms and purposes, in order to give Dalinar the best possible information about them—and of course, that will now be done through his own experience as their fellow traveller.
Relationships & Romances
A: We see a couple of interesting tidbits in this chapter. The less obvious one is Kaladin’s brief reminiscence about his various escape attempts, one of which involved a person named Nalma. All we get here is her name; we’ll learn more (and talk more) about her in Chapter 97, many months from now.
The other relationship that begins to develop here is that between Kaladin’s primary as-yet-unnamed guard and his young daughter. Between scenes, Kaladin got a look inside that one good tent, and discovered that it held children—parsh children, which we’ve never seen mentioned before, but of course they brought their children. We see this little girl’s love for her father, and his for her, but we also get to see here her uncertainty and fear for him, and for all of her people:
“Will they really chase us?” the girl asked. “Why can’t they just let us go? Could you go back and tell them? We don’t want trouble. We just want to go away.”
A: This whole conversation is a big step in Kaladin’s loss of antagonism toward, and the development of friendship with, these particular parshmen, so there’s that relationship too. The conversation has a heartbreaking conclusion:
“Your ancestors—the people like you from long ago. There was a war, and…”
Storms. How did you explain slavery to a seven-year-old?
Bruised & Broken
A: Just one tiny quick note here, as Kaladin thinks that the end of the Weeping should be near, bringing highstorms and stormlight, but also:
Soon, blessedly, this would all dry up and he could finally see the sun again.
After the long, rainy months we’ve experienced here in the Pacific northwest, I can relate to this. These past few days of sunshine have been so welcome!
Squires & Sidekicks
L: I find it interesting to note that in the card game the parshmen were playing, Kaladin points out that “The squire can capture if supported by an allied card.” It would make sense if the rules of the card game are based in history—most games in our real world like chess or our own playing card suits at least slightly match up to real-world analogous actions or powers. A pawn in chess can only move and capture in small, clearly delineated actions whereas a queen or a knight has more power on the board. So, if the squire in the card game can capture if supported by allies, what does this imply about a squire’s historical power in Roshar back before the Recreance?
A: Well, it makes sense with what we’ve seen. A Knight Radiant’s squires can’t do much when their Knight is too far away, as witness Bridge Four while Kaladin is off chasing parshmen. But when he gets back, they will develop nearly the same range of powers that he has. It’s pretty clear, IMO, that this game does have strong foundations in the Knights Radiant; if a brightlord designates a squire, people will generally treat them with whatever respect is generated by the brightlord himself. But the Radiants have an immutable limitation: squires can’t capture do anything magic without the specific physical proximity of the Knight.
L: And then we get this other interesting little tidbit:
“[The King] can capture any other card except another king, and can’t be captured himself unless touched by three enemy cards of knight or better. Um … and he is immune to the Soulcaster.”
L: Immune to the Soulcaster, eh? Just a fun rule that someone thought of over the course of the years, or might there be some hint of truth in here?
A: I wish I knew… It seems so significant! Hey, I’m going to go look something up. BRB.
… Okay, I’m back. You know that Surgebinding chart on the front endpaper of The Way of Kings? There are lines connecting some orders to others besides the ones next to them. The Windrunners (Jezrien, King) are connected to the Edgedancers and the Lightweavers, but the line from the Lightweavers (who can soulcast) to the Windrunners is broken by the larkin. I have no idea if that means a tootin’ thing, but there it is.
Flora & Fauna
The rockbud needs a barrier between itself and the water outside for some reason, though it always seems eager to drink after a storm.
L: Interesting. I wonder why?
A: Maybe it can tell when enough water is enough, so it closes up and keeps the grain inside from getting waterlogged and rotting? Alternatively, maybe he’s got it backward: it’s eager to drink after a storm, but the barrier is there to keep the moisture from leaching out when things get dry.
Places & Peoples
Parshmen did breed, though people often spoke of them being bred, like animals. And, well, that wasn’t far from the truth, was it? Everyone knew it.
What would Shen–Rlain–think if Kaladin had said those words out loud?
L: Ah, the inbred racism. I love that Kaladin thinks of Rlain here, though. Often times, the best way to break yourself out of the privilege bubble is to make friends with someone who isn’t as privileged as you are. Seeing what they go through, or even hearing about it from someone you care about, is a more effective form of empathy than simply looking at things from the outside. Some people just have a hard time connecting to and understanding alternative points of view if they’ve never interacted with or befriended someone who holds that point of view—or place of privilege. So the fact that Kaladin is drawing from his friendship with Rlain to understand his new captors rings very true to me.
“You’re not monsters,” Kaladin whispered. “You’re not soldiers. You’re not even the seeds of the void. You’re just … runaway slaves.”
A: So… that could have been phrased better, dude, but this is a moment of revelation. Kaladin figures out why it all seemed so familiar, and all of a sudden the whole thing clicks for him. He understands them (in the way that’s important for him); they are no longer a terror nor a puzzle, but people in a known and sympathetic situation. Unfortunately, the parshman who overhears him misunderstands his “just runaway slaves” as sneering at them, rather than identifying with them.
“When they make a human into a slave,” Kaladin said, “they brand him. I’ve been here. Right where you are.”
“And you think that makes you understand?”
L: I won’t quote the entirety of the parshman’s speech that follows this again, because it’s quite long, but the gist of it is “no, you do not understand, because you haven’t been living this hell for your entire life, your PARENTS didn’t live it, THEIR parents didn’t live it” and so on. And it’s true. Recognizing your privilege–as Kaladin has done–is important. But it’s equally as important to realize that no matter how well you can empathize, you can never truly understand, not unless you’ve been marginalized in a similar fashion yourself.
“They may have taken your freedom, but they took our minds.”
L: This is so, so powerful.
A: Right through the heart.
“I may not understand what you’ve been through, but I do know what it feels like to run.”
L: Well done, Kal.
“The Everstorm,” Syl said. “Power has filled the holes in their souls, bridging the gaps. They didn’t just wake, Kaladin. They’ve been healed, Connection refounded, Identity restored. There’s more to this than we ever realized. Somehow when you conquered them, you stole their ability to change forms. You literally ripped off a piece of their souls and locked it away.”
L: Yikes. There’s some really heavy parallels we could make here to slavery in the real world, but we’ve already discussed this concept at length above, and in this case—unlike the real world—we’re talking literal as opposed to conceptual. Not only did the humans steal the Listeners’ culture and sense of self, they literally locked away an integral part of their souls.
A: Oathbringer shows us a lot more of things like Connection and Identity than the previous two books. These are concepts introduced in the Cosmere mostly through The Bands of Mourning and Mistborn: Secret History, so speaking as a Cosmere geek, it’s rather exciting to see them overtly applied to The Stormlight Archive. Speaking as a human being, though, it’s appalling to see more specifically what’s been done to an entire race. The truly bizarre part comes in realizing that these sympathetic people (yay!) were healed (yay!) by a storm sourced in Odium (ack!! Help! NO!!). It’s a little disorienting.
Doom & Destiny
“What about the king?” his captor said, speaking in a soft voice, but turning his head to direct the question at Kaladin.
Elhokar? What … Oh, right. The cards.
“When I watched men play, they used this card rarely. If it is so powerful, why delay?”
“If your king gets captured, you lose,” Kaladin said. “So you only play him if you’re desperate or if you are certain you can defend him. Half the times I’ve played, I left him in my barrack all game.”
A: I can’t help thinking this is a bit of foreshadowing for the Kholinar venture.
L: THE FORESHADOWING. IT HURTS.
A: Why didn’t Elhokar just stay in the barrack Urithiru??? ::sniffle:: But I’d probably never have cared about him as much if he had, so … there’s that, I guess.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
Syl zipped past, and when Kaladin tried to catch her attention, she just laughed and flew higher on a burst of wind.
A: My first instinctive reaction was an “Oh, NO!!” followed immediately by “She’s pretending to be a windspren, right, in case anyone sees her?”
She was acting so carefree. Too carefree? Like she’d been back before they forged their bond?
A: Obviously it was Kaladin’s fear, too, that something had affected their bond. But it was just Syl being clever:
“It’s not that,” she said, speaking in a furious whisper. “I think parshmen might be able to see me. Some, at least. And that other spren is still here too. A higher spren, like me.”
A: Aside from “no one is like you, Syl!” and the further evidence (as if we needed it) that parshmen see more of the Cognitive realm than humans do, that statement is a bit worrisome. I mean, we sort of knew that it had to be, but now it’s confirmed that there are higher spren, sapient spren, that are not “on our side” for whatever that means.
“The spren is guiding them,” Kaladin said under his breath. “Syl, this spren must be…” “From him,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around herself and growing small—actively shrinking to about two-thirds her normal size. “Voidspren.”
“If it means they can’t take us again?” she said. “Yes, I’d kill him. I won’t go back, Ton.”
* * *
You were never free while you ran; you felt as if the open sky and the endless fields were a torment. You could feel the pursuit following, and each morning you awoke expecting to find yourself surrounded.
Until one day you were right.
* * *
“You think I’d trust you?” the parshman finally said. “You will want us to be caught.”
I’m not sure I do,” Kaladin said, truthful.
Okay, that was a boatload. Next week we’ll be addressing chapter 18; it’s a long one in which Shallan does many foolish things and another beta reader is tuckerized. For now, let’s take the discussion to the comments!
Alice is enjoying the finally-turned-to-spring weather of Seattle in May—for however long it lasts. In the “for what it’s worth” department, the Storm Cellar facebook group has been growing, and is only 48 members away from reaching 1000. The admin team is looking at some possible celebration ideas, so keep an eye out! Oh, and join the group, if you haven’t already!