Welcome back to Roshar! Way, way back to Roshar… This week Dalinar revisits one of his visions which apparently took place long before Aharietiam; this time, he’s got company, as a certain queen is drawn into the vision when the highstorm passes over her. She’s going to see some strong evidence that things are changing!
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. Not this week, so no worries about the article itself, though we make no promises about the comments. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHO: Dalinar Kholin
WHERE: Undisclosed village in one of Dalinar’s visions
WHEN: 1220.127.116.11, three days after Shallan talks to Jasnah and six days after Dalinar learns the Stormfather can bring other people into his visions.
Dalinar enters into the Stormfather’s visions again, this time by design. He inhabits the form of one of the Knights Radiant arriving to protect a town from the Midnight Mother, and finds Queen Fen—whom he’d asked the Stormfather to pull into this vision. The two have a heated discussion about Dalinar and why Fen doesn’t trust him, but his honesty and passion convince her to give him another chance.
Threshold of the Storm
Alice: The comment that accompanied this suggestion speaks for itself: “Fen organized a great resistance. The KR talked about how all those that resist should go to Urithiru. And Dalinar was able to overcome her resistance about joining forces. (At least somewhat.)”
Lyn: I think Chanarach (Dustbringers, divine attributes of Brave and Obedient) is here because of Fen. She shows great bravery in this scene, saving the child and uniting the townspeople against the Midnight Mother. Nale (Skybreakers, divine attributes Just and Confident), on the other hand… He could be also symbolic of Fen in that she’s certainly confident. Alice?
A: It’s funny; I’d have expected Jezrien and Taln for the two Radiants in the vision, or at least Ishar for Dalinar. Instead we get Chana, though I agree that she fits well with Fen’s actions. I’m less sure about Nale; again, I’d have thought maybe Jezrien for her leadership. But… confident, I guess? And maybe the justice of her accusation against Dalinar, that it’s not reasonable to expect the rest of the world to simply take him at his word, given his past record. That’s all I’ve got.
I noticed its arrival immediately, just as I noticed your many intrusions into my land.
A: Well, somebody sounds miffy! This is the evidence that the first letter comes from a Shard whose world Hoid has visited many times… which could be any of them, eh?
Stories & Songs
All went dark around Dalinar, and he entered a place between his world and the visions. A place with a black sky and an infinite floor of bone-white rock. Shapes made of smoke seeped through the stone ground, then rose around him, dissipating. Common things. A chair, a vase, a rockbud. Sometimes people.
L: Wait. This isn’t Shadesmar… is it? Is there another Realm?
A: ::can’t resist…:: RAFO!
“What was that place?” Dalinar asked.
IT IS NO PLACE.
I IMAGINED IT, the Stormfather said more softly, as if he were admitting something embarrassing.
L: Okay, so definitely not Shadesmar, then. But close? Can anyone else access this Realm, or only the Stormfather? Can it be used to travel, like Shadesmar can?
A: I honestly don’t know. The Stormfather doesn’t seem to think so. He’s not omniscient, but he probably knows more about the realms than I do!
ALL THINGS HAVE A SOUL. A VASE, A WALL, A CHAIR. AND WHEN A VASE IT BROKEN, IT MIGHT DIE IN THE PHYSICAL REALM, BUT FOR A TIME ITS SOUL REMEMBERS WHAT IT WAS. SO ALL THINGS DIE TWICE. ITS FINAL DEATH IS WHEN MEN FORGET IT WAS A VASE, AND THINK ONLY OF THE PIECES.
L: This is really deep, and reminds me of the concept that men also truly die twice—once when they pass on, and once when their name is spoken for the last time.
A: This was deep, and also unexpected. Not so long ago, Kaladin was railing at the Stormfather for not changing the highstorm to suit him, and good ol’ StormDad blew him off… so to speak.
L: Heh. Puns.
A: (They’re rare from me, but they do happen!) It’s interesting to see him here, the soul of a highstorm that breaks everything in its path, imagining a place for the souls of the broken things to dwell while they wait to be forgotten. It’s very melancholy, and sort of sweet.
Also, this foreshadows how Dalinar will be able to rebuild some things later, and might possibly be linked to why Renarin can’t heal people who have accepted their injuries.
About the size of an axehound, they had oily black skin that reflected the moonlight. While they moved on all sixes, they were like no natural animal. They had spindly legs like a crab’s, but a bulbous body and a sinuous head, featureless except for a slit of a mouth bristling with black teeth.
L: I’m certain that I’ve seen something like this in a horror film but I’ve seen too many to keep them all straight, or remember exactly where I’ve seen it. Anyway. If the Midnight Mother is trying to copy something here, I wonder if it was just axehounds, or some creation of her own? I find it hard to believe that with all of her life experience she’d have such a hard time recreating humans in the present—maybe she had just forgotten after being trapped in Urithiru alone for so long.
A: Or, perhaps, during all that time she was trapped she developed a desire to copy the beings who trapped her? I’m not much help with the horror-film aspect; that’s not my gig!
“You don’t eat the corpses,” Dalinar said to it. “You kill for pleasure, don’t you? I often think of spren and man are so different, but this we share. We can both murder.”
L: I wonder if the Midnight Mother’s creations have a sort of… hive mind thing going on, or if each of them has its own sapience until it gets reclaimed by the main body. If the former, Dalinar’s speaking directly to the Unmade here, which is pretty chilling to consider.
A: Either one is a bit creepy, come to think of it. They don’t seem particularly intelligent, so I sort of assumed they were like dogs (except dumber) set loose with a “kill” command, but when I stop to think about it… I sort of think they’d have to be actively maintained by Mommy Dearest. So the next question is, was he talking to the Unmade, or just to a memory of the Unmade? (Okay, I’m really glad this is in a vision, because it means he probably wasn’t actually talking to her. I hope.)
Bruised & Broken
“Maybe all the good men are dead, so all you have is me!”
L: It makes me sad that Dalinar thinks of himself this way, but… in a way, he’s right. He wasn’t a good man, in his past. Maybe it takes a man who truly understands the horror of war, having experienced it himself, to save the world. I find it interesting that in Dalinar and Kaladin we have two men who have experienced the horror of war, but from opposite sides. Dalinar was the bloodthirsty tyrant, and Kaladin the stalwart soldier trying to preserve the lives of those beneath him.
A: This book really gave me a sense of mental whiplash with Dalinar. I like him. A lot. Except that when he was younger, he was a real piece of work. It’s been well over a year since I first read this, and I still have trouble reconciling the two different men he is.
Places & Peoples
In Alethkar, a fine wooden mansion would be a symbol of wealth. Here, however, many of the other houses were of wood.
L: Because trade restrictions with Shinovar are lessened, or because the highstorms aren’t as powerful and hence trees are growing in more places? Is it possible that the highstorms are growing more potent with time, as more and more people come to worship the Stormfather? If he’s a manifestation of the peoples’ ideals, then wouldn’t it make sense that he’s become more powerful over time?
A: Fine, go all meta on me! Here I was just assuming that this took place in a part of the world that had more trees—probably farther west where the highstorms are less devastating, maybe even in Shinovar itself. But the theory about the highstorms growing in strength is pretty cool.
He’d have expected everything in the past to be crude, but it wasn’t. The doors, the buildings, the clothing. It was well made, just… lacking something he couldn’t define.
L: This would have taken place after the last Desolation but before the Recreance, right? Or could it have been a few Desolations back? That would make sense that the society is advanced… each society regressed after the Desolation hit, so if this vision happened just before one….
A: You’re most likely right that it’s just before a Desolation. My best guess is that it’s many Desolations back—so, maybe 5000 or more years ago, before the Heralds started to buckle so quickly. It’s all speculative, but I’d say this was long enough ago that the Heralds were giving humanity a lot of time to recover. I’m still puzzled about the thing is that he thought was lacking, though.
“Should you wish to learn true leadership, come to Urithiru.”
L: Is he insinuating that she should become a Radiant, or do the Radiants just train people in mundane methods of leadership as well?
A: After seeing this vision in TWoK, I had assumed the former. Knowing what we know now, which is still not much, it certainly seems that the Radiants would train all comers to the best of their abilities, with a likelihood that at least a significant percentage would become squires or Radiants.
“If you have the soul of a warrior, that passion could destroy you, unless you are guided.”
L: Wait, what? Is this a reference to the Thrill, perhaps?
A: Yay, it’s not just me! I thought that too. If we’re right, the Radiants seem to have had a way to help people avoid Thrill-addiction.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“Honestly, I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Send me a storming letter.”
L: Queen Fen continuously reminds me of Professor McGonagall and it makes me so happy.
A: I love Fen. Almost as much as much as I love Navani.
Dalinar still didn’t know why Radiant Plate glowed, while modern Shardplate did not. Was the ancient Plate “living” somehow, like Radiant Blades lived?
L: Finally caught on, have you, Dalinar?
In response, the other Radiant made his [helm] vanish. Dalinar caught sight of a puff of Light or mist.
L: This is cool to finally see. If his armor is made up of windspren, as theorized, why does it vanish into Light or mist?
A: Because they’re poofing back into the Cognitive realm right away? Or… no. We don’t need new theories. But… what if there are other kinds of spren involved, like maybe the helm comes from a different spren related to light (so you can see through) or something? Please tell me this is a totally loony theory.
“You had to dismiss [your Plate] so I could Lash you.”
L: Well that’s an interesting tidbit, I wonder why?
A: WHY?? We know that ordinary Plate interferes with Lashings, but I’d expected that living Plate would be different. Apparently not. Sigh.
“Talk to Harkaylain then, or to your spren.”
L: Who? (SO MANY QUESTIONS.)
A: I’ve heard people assume that this means the armor is crafted by someone, with this guy cast in the role of “blacksmith.” (Sprensmith?) Personally, I’m betting he is either the head of the Stonewards, or possibly a Bondsmith. Back in the TWoK version of this vision, the Stoneward mentioned that “Harkaylain says the Desolation is close, and he is not often wrong.” It seems reasonable that she’s referring either to the leader of her own Order, or to one of the three Bondsmiths. This time, it seems reasonable that if she’s having trouble with her sprenPlate, the Windrunner would recommend either someone high in her own Order, or… a Bondsmith.
“How,” Dalinar whispered to the Stormfather. “How do we get the armor?”
Speak the Words.
You will know or you will not.
L: Super helpful as always. But at least this is in-text verification that gaining Plate is another step in the Radiant progression.
A: I laughed so hard at this one. Poor Dalinar. Still, I liked the confirmation for him, specifically, that despite not getting a StormfatherBlade, he will eventually get Plate. (GlorysprenPlate FTW!)
“You really expect me to believe that the storming Knights Radiant are back and that the Almighty chose you—a tyrant and a murderer—to lead them?” …
“Your Majesty, you’re being irrational.”
“Am I? Oh, let me storming reconsider, then. All I need to do is let the storming Blackthorn himself into my city, so he can take control of my armies!”
“What would you have me do?” Dalinar shouted. “Would you have me watch the world crumble?”
A: This isn’t really a surprise to anyone, but the Thaylen Queen has very good and logical rationale for not cooperating with Dalinar, based on what she knew up to this point. Their shouting match, combined with the vision, creates an odd impetus to change their relationship. Have I ever mentioned that I really like Fen?
“A mandate from God—the very same argument the Hierocracy used for seizing control of the government. What about Sadees, the Sunmaker? He claimed he had a calling from the Almighty too.”
A: Again… we’ve discussed before the possibility that others received these visions in the past. How many of them could have been Bondsmiths had they studied the visions long enough to realize that they were not interactive, and had another purpose?
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
I am not a man. I do not bend or cower. I do what is in my nature, and to defy that is pain.
L: Pain? Well that’s interesting. Other highspren with bonds (like Syl) have drawn away from their Radiants when they displayed attributes that threatened breaking the oaths they’d made, but pain? That’s new.
A: This took me back to Syl’s remark to Kaladin in Chapter 31, that what he was asking of the Stormfather was like asking fire not to be so hot, thankyouverymuch. I think it’s a good reminder to the humanoids—both the characters and the readers—that the spren are not humans, and they neither function nor reason like humans. They cannot defy their nature, or pretend to be anything other than what they are. Not like… humans.
In context, it’s tough for me not to read it as the Stormfather just being stubborn because it bugs him when Dalinar pushes ideas he’s not used to. Because it’s so natural for us to read them with human emotions, this was a useful interjection. We really don’t understand the nature of spren yet, much less the Stormfather. We’ll learn more as we go through the book, and it’s going to be some good stuff, but it’s still going to take work to quit assuming they are even able to function like humans in certain ways.
Flailing his arms, he shouted in panic. His stomach lurched and his clothes flapped in the wind. He continued yelling until he realized that he wasn’t actually getting closer to the ground. He wasn’t falling, he was flying.
A: The mental image of Dalinar flapping around was pretty funny… until I was reminded of the last time someone Lashed him into the sky.
It was a painful irony that he should have such vivid feelings about this place, these people, when his memories of Evi were still so shadowy and confused.
* * *
“Where was this passion earlier?” she asked. “Why didn’t you speak like this in your letters to me?”
A: Is this connected to the Thaylen “Passions”?
“I know how to talk to her now. She doesn’t want polite words or diplomatic phrases. She wants me to be myself. I’m fairly certain that’s something I can deliver.”
As always, thanks for joining us on this little jaunt through Roshar, and join us for more theorizing in the comments and for next week’s reread, when we’ll tackle chapter 35, the first of the Bridge 4 POV sections in Part 2.
Alice’s hair is getting whiter by the day—her daughter just started driver’s training, and that means lots of time in the car with a student driver. Terror takes on a new dimension.