Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Fifty-Four

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Hey hey, Sanderson fans! It’s Thursday morning, and we all know what happens on Thursday morning. It’s Cosmere reread time! This week we rejoin Moash in—and above—the parshmen warcamp outside Kholinar, where preparations are being made to assault the city. Much to his surprise, he meets someone none of us expected to see again.

Lyn is busy with life and haunting and things, so Aubree and Alice will be covering this chapter. As a reminder, we’ll be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL several places in the reread this week. There are also minor spoilers for the Mistborn series in the epigraph, and as always there may be spoilers for … well, anything… in the comments. Watch your footin’, is all I’m saying. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Moash
WHERE: outside Kholinar
WHEN: 1174.2.2.5 (eight days after his previous chapter)

Moash carries lumber with Kaladin’s old team of parshmen, but gets frustrated and demands to speak to someone in charge. One of the Fused takes him up in the air, where he is met by another Fused: the one he killed back in the Frostlands, in a new body. She is impressed with his passion, and after a long conversation, she sends him back to the ground. He makes his way back to his parshmen team and prepares to teach them some basic spear skills.

The Singing Storm

Title: An Ancient Singer’s Name

“Then what does anger you? What is your passionate fury, Moash, the man with an ancient singer’s name?”

AA: Interesting, that names have transferred from one race to another. It wouldn’t have surprised me in one of the nationalities that crossbred with the Singers, but as far as we know, Moash has no Horneater, Veden, or Herdazian blood, does he? I keep wondering if this is going to have further significance. I don’t recall that we learned any more about it by the end of the book.

AP: No, we don’t learn any more about it in Oathbringer. But I totally agree that we will see this come up again. It may be a tipping point in why the Fused were willing to trust him. I really hope we see the background on where the name came from. I hope there’s a story there, like it being a family name.

Heralds

Jezrien x 4 here for Moash. Herald of Kings, patron of Windrunners, with the divine attributes of Protecting and Leading.

AA: I don’t know whether to think Jezrien is here to represent Moash’s efforts to protect and lead the parsh slaves, or if it’s one of those “associated madness” things, reflecting Moash’s conversation with Leshwi and his apparent abandonment of humans.

AP: Moash does start down the “Dark Windrunner” path here. I would associate it with his attempts to protect the Parshmen.

Icon

Not Bridge Four—in other words, it’s Moash again.

AP: Yay! :D

Epigraph

I would have thought, before attaining my current station, that a deity could not be surprised.

Obviously, this is not true. I can be surprised. I can perhaps even be naive, I think.

AA: This is one epigraph that made it seem obvious that the writer of this letter is Sazed/Harmony. I say “seem obvious” because he’s the only active Vessel whose Ascension we actually saw. There’s no reason this couldn’t be one of the original 16, since they all attained a new station in the event, but in this instance the “obvious” answer turns out to be the correct one. I have to wonder what was in Hoid’s letter to make him so surprised. (We might learn more about this in the upcoming epigraphs, but I’ll wait to discuss it then, if it comes up.)

Stories & Songs

The Fused regarded him and grinned.

“Someone in charge,” Moash repeated.

The Voidbringer laughed, then fell backward into the water of the cistern, where he floated, staring at the sky.

Great, Moash thought. One of the crazy ones. There were many of those.

AA: Now we’re starting to see that things are not all strength and vengeance among the ancestors, though we were told that would be the case. Some of the ancient souls have gone completely round the twist after all these millennia. I won’t presume to guess whether it’s the 4500 years trapped on Braize, or if they were already going gnarly due to the cycle of returning, stealing appropriating a body, fighting, and dying. Seems like it could be awkward, to have a bunch of your “gods”—a significant portion of your “experienced fighters”—being thoroughly bonkers. Some might make great berserkers, but from the behavior of this one, some of them could be a real liability!

AP: Oh, totally. As we see with the Fused who makes a saw out of carapace, it’s not only the warriors who get brought back. I wonder what the criteria is for who gets new bodies and who doesn’t. Will some of these insane Fused be denied new bodies when they die? Or is the resurrection process automatic? It also definitely has to shake the faith the Parshmen have in their “gods”.

“Look, you’re one of the leaders?”

“I’m one of the Fused who is sane,” she said, as if it were the same thing.

AA: Which, of course, it is. The Fused run the show. The ones who are complete whack jobs, like the one above, are pretty well useless. The ones who retain … well, sanity might be a lofty term for it, but at least coherence, those are the ones who give the orders and make the decisions.

AP: To a point at least. I’m curious as to what the hierarchy is among the Fused. The sane ones, anyway. Who are the actual decision makers? How much autonomy do they have?

AA: I think we eventually get a little more info from Venli’s POV, but there’s still so much to learn about them! But now we know that they new bodies when needed, anyway:

“Wait,” Moash said, cold. “When I killed you?”

She regarded him, unblinking, with those ruby eyes.

“You’re the same one?” Moash asked. That pattern of marbled skin … he realized. It’s the same as the one I fought. But the features were different.

AA: There’s the answer to some recent discussion, in case you’d forgotten. The pattern of marbling is connected to the soul, but the physical features belong to the body. There have been other hints that there is more to the color patterns than we yet know; given that Book Four is expected to center on the Eshonai/Venli story, maybe we’ll find out in a couple of years. (Uh… yeah. Shoot. That doesn’t sound nearly soon enough.) Anyway, somewhere along the line we’ll find out if the marbling is Cognitive or Spiritual, and what it means in the big picture.

AP: There’s multiple parts to this too. We have 1—the colors themselves: red/white, red/black, white/black, red/white/black, and 2—the patterns that the marbling takes, which seem more identifying, like fingerprints. But also, the physical features of the Parshendi change based on their rhythms and the associated forms. I don’t know if that’s applicable to the Fused as well, or if they effectively are locked into one form.

AA: Oooooooh. I hadn’t thought about whether the Fused use the different forms. We see one of them making carapace shaped to his will, but … hmmmm. Is their form dependent on the form of the one who give them a body? Given the need for spren to bond with the gemheart in order to change forms, I’d be tempted to bet that each Fused has a single preferred form, but that’s just a guess.

“This is a new body offered to me in sacrifice,” Leshwi said. “To bond and make my own, as I have none.”

AA: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the first place we are specifically told that the Fused take over the bodies of parshmen? And the first solid information that they are able to just keep doing it? By the time it’s all said and done, we know that the ancient ones used to have to go back to Braize when their adopted body was killed (sort of like the Heralds), to wait for a new Desolation. This time around, with the Oathpact so desperately weakened, all they have to do is wait for the next Everstorm to snag a new body and keep going.

And of course the parshmen are delighted to give their bodies to the Fused… Or not. I can almost see a person being willing to give their body to a Leshwi, who will at least be effective; but that dude in the earlier quote? He gets a body to wear, but I can’t help thinking it’s a waste of resources, at the very least.

(Ugh. The whole thing creeps me out, because I know they aren’t really telling the parsh what’s going to happen when they volunteer/are shanghaied for Fusing. Thinking of them as “resources” makes my skin crawl.)

AP: They are obviously not telling the parshmen what will happen when they sacrifice themselves. They constant cycle of resurrections definitely gives them an advantage over Team Human. This also probably plays into why the parshmen slaves are treated so well. If you expect to need a body later, you don’t abuse it. Damaged goods. But it wouldn’t explain why they treat the humans better than the Alethi army does.

“Sacrifice,” she said. “Do you think an empire is built without sacrifice?”

AA: Sure, easy for you to say!

AP: Of course. People at the top of an oppressive society rarely give any thought for those at the bottom. It’s an abstract because it doesn’t affect them directly.

Relationships & Romances

“Don’t you care what our own gods are doing to us?”

Sah slammed his bundle to the ground. “Yes, I care,” Sah snapped. “You think I haven’t been asking the same questions? Storms! They took my daughter, Khen! They ripped her away from me and sent me off to die.”

AA: Sanderson has taken us a long way on our view of the parsh people since the beginning of this series. First they were unknown, but something on that battlefield had orange blood. Then they were The Other; the ones who broke the treaty for unknowable reasons and killed Gavilar; the ones out there that shot arrows at our bridge crew and almost killed Dalinar & Adolin. Then they became the Listeners, through Eshonai’s POVs and the epigraphs which showed glimpses of their culture and history. Their “old gods” were sort of a nameless terror, though we suspected them to be the Unmade.

Now, we’re getting to know two new sets of people: the freed parshmen, who are still trying to figure out who they are and how to function, and the truth of those old gods. I don’t know about you, but the former make me sympathetic and the latter angry. I feel terrible for Sah and his little daughter Vai, and to a slightly lesser extent Khen and the rest; now that they’re awake, they’re really just normal everyday people, carapace notwithstanding. Those “old gods” though… no wonder the Listeners sacrificed everything they were to escape them. Their thirst for revenge seems to outweigh any consideration for the fate of the living. Leshwi talks about “sacrifice,” but it looks to me like some of them sacrificed their sanity, and the rest of them are perfectly happy to sacrifice all the parsh people they need in order to wipe out or enslave the humans. I honestly don’t think they care if there aren’t enough parsh left to propagate the species when they’re done; they just want to make sure the humans are destroyed.

AP: This is very similar to how I feel as well. I think their portrayal really brings home the horrors of warfare. It’s so much easier to hate an enemy you know nothing about. And as readers, it’s easy to cheer for the protagonists taking on an army of monsters. I can’t make myself cheer for the destruction of the Parshendi/Listeners/parshmen. And that’s another thing. I think based on some of our other discussions, that the name “parshmen,” while helping us distinguish who they are in the narrative feels wrong to call these people. As you mention, they have been freed from dullform slaveform, which literally clouded their minds. I suggest we start referring to them as the Awakened, since they aren’t really Listeners or Singers. One thing I absolutely love about this story is how complex it is. It’s so much more than human vs. monsters. There are monsters here, but they are the Fused, not the Listeners or the Awakened. And the Fused, outside of the influence of Odium, would be fighting a just war against invaders. There is just so much going on under the surface here.

AA: So much going on. I’m struggling with using “Awakened”—probably a result of doing the Warbreaker reread, where “awakened” has a much different context. I’d like to have a term for the whole race (perhaps excluding the Fused) for when I want to refer to those-people-with-marbled-skin-who-aren’t-either-human-or-Aimian. I think later the Fused refer to them all as “singers”—even though they only barely hear the Rhythms—but that leaves out the Listeners. And I really, really hope to find a few remnants of the Listeners yet. (FWIW, I’m going to try to ask about this at the Skyward signing in a couple of weeks.)

Bruised & Broken

AA: Maybe the bit about the loony-bin Fused should have gone here, but I think they’re beyond “bruised and broken,” and we were mostly using this for discussions of the kind of damage that leaves one open to the Nahel bond. I do have some questions to pose here, though. Are all of the parsh ancestors Voidbinders, even the ones who aren’t coherent enough to use it? Or is it just some of them? And does Voidbinding require the same openness of soul as Surgebinding?

AP: So Leshwi mentions that if Khen & Co. survive the assault on Kholinar that they would be honored. I expect that is intended to mean that they would have been considered to be acceptable vessels for the Fused.

AA: (Some honor, that.)

AP: Which again brings up what the mind/body connection is there. Is the host soul evicted? Or just suppressed? Is that soul capable of taking over a new body eventually? Stopover at Braize first? Voidbinding seems to require at a minimum the consent of the host, even if it is not informed consent.

AA: I have the very strong impression that the soul which used to own the body is thoroughly evicted to Beyond, so they don’t have any opportunity to make a fuss about it.

Squires & Sidekicks

“We harbored a spy,” Sah muttered.

A spy that, Moash had quickly learned, had been none other than Kaladin Stormblessed.

AA: We don’t know how he learned this, but it shouldn’t have been too hard if they talked to him at all. Dude wearing jacket much like his, slave brands, helpful, flies away? Not too many people fit that description. What I really want to know, though, is why Moash thinks “Kaladin Stormblessed” rather than just “Kaladin.” Moash was never one to give more honor or titles than necessary, iirc. Is this because of the last time he saw Kaladin, going from near-dead to fully healed Knight Radiant in a matter of seconds? Or is it more a matter of his own betrayal, of the one man who had been a true friend, preying on his mind?

AP: It’s not a stretch to figure out who the helpful flying human is. And the way that this group of Awakened talks about him, he does sound like Kaladin bloody Stormblessed!

Flora & Fauna

They barely quivered as he passed, though lifespren bobbed at his presence. The plants were accustomed to people on the streets.

AP: The idea of shy plants just delights me.

Moash’s Motivations

Let go, Moash, something deep within him whispered. Give up your pain. It’s all right. You did what was natural.

You can’t be blamed. Stop carrying that burden.

Let go.

AA: On a first read, it’s hard to tell whether this is merely a strong case of self-justification, or possibly something more. After reading the end of the book, it’s blatantly obvious that this is Odium whispering to Moash. Eurgh.

There’s a little more of the whispering later in the chapter, though again, it’s not clear yet what’s happening. This will be something to observe as we go on, to see Moash’s reactions each time the whisper starts. He certainly doesn’t seem to be fighting the idea, and why would he? It fits right in with his mentality of blaming someone else for everything he does wrong. This forces the question: is his victim mentality inherent, and merely being enhanced by Odium? Or is it something Odium introduced to him a long time ago that he’s now accepted? I take the former position, myself; I think Moash has always been willing to blame others for his own actions, and that provides fertile ground for Odium’s whispering.

AP: It’s definitely Odium’s influence, and it’s one of the reasons that I think Moash doesn’t deserve all the hate he gets. Moash is also subject to the Thrill as an Alethi, so this is an clear increase in Odium’s influence, but not the first or only time he is affected. I think that Moash is the back up plan to Dalinar as champion, even way back here. Moash does not blame everyone else for his actions, we went through several chapters of him recognizing his own faults that led him to his current situation. His motivations are still very colored by his Alethi upbringing—vengeance paramount—and that makes it easy for him to accept justification when it’s offered. Whereas Dalinar had already rejected (forgotten) his violent path, and had several years to reform before being reminded of, and having to come to terms with, his history. It’s easy to see why Moash would flip on Team Human and Dalinar wouldn’t. Like Leshwi, Dalinar has been at the top of the social hierarchy, so he is doing okay, and has a lot of resources and a support system. Moash doesn’t have either. He had Bridge Four, but as we saw in earlier chapters, he doesn’t know how to form deep connections with others.

His heart thundered, and he regarded that drop, realizing something. He did not want to die.

AA: Well, whatever else I think may be missing in Moash’s motivations, there’s still some sense of self-preservation, I guess…. Also, if you suffer from acrophobia, don’t think about this section too hard!

AP: This is new though! Moash was passively suicidal for a good stretch before this. It wasn’t until he joined up with the Awakened group that he found some degree of purpose, and a reason to keep living.

She looked at him, smiling in what seemed to him a distinctly sinister way. “Do you know why we fight? Let me tell you.…”

AA: So now we find the touchpoint for Moash and the ancient souls he’s going to serve. Vengeance at any price.

It’s obvious from his later thoughts that Leshwi told Moash at least some of the true history of the Desolations. Presumably, she gave a (naturally) biased account, presenting the side of the Singers as the wronged ones in the ancient conflict. (I still suspect there may be more to the story, that it may not be as obviously one-sided as it currently appears.) I kind of wish we knew more about what he’s thinking here, but for the sake of story-telling, it needs to be hidden at this point.

AP: It does need to be hidden, but I do think that the humans are not necessarily the Good Guys. I think it’s complicated, especially since the humans were the original Voidbringers. There has to be more to the story of how & why the switch occurred—the humans following Honor and the Singers following Odium instead of the other way around. I wonder if we will get that full back story in book 4, of if we may have to wait until book 5.

“Spears,” Moash said. “I can teach you to be soldiers. We’ll probably die anyway. Storm it, we’ll probably never make it to the top of the walls. But it’s something.”

AA: So at this point, Moash still expects to die as cannon fodder in the first assault, despite his conversation with Leshwi. Did she merely give him permission to train them, or does he have a further assignment already?

AP: I see this as his own initiative. She gave him permission to leave and go join the refugees in Kholinar. He decided on his own that he couldn’t leave Khen and the others. This is why I call Moash’s arc the Dark Windrunner. He is following a very similar path to Kaladin, except not for Team Human.

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

“Like a bunch of slaves should be able to spot a spy?” Khen said. “Really? Shouldn’t the spren have been the one to spot him?”

AA: She’s not wrong, you know. How did the spren not get any of the blame? (Then again, how do you punish a spren?)

AP: I don’t know that you can. And do we know for sure what the spren that hang around the Voidbringers are? Are they Fused souls that have not yet gotten a new body? Or are they some sort of highspren that are of Odium instead of Honor or Cultivation? Voidspren?

AA: I … think it says somewhere, but I can’t find it right now. I think they are spren linked to Odium, but they aren’t ancestor souls. Ulim made that pretty clear in the first Venli interlude.

The wind up here tugged at the ribbons she wore, pushing them backward in careless ripples. There were no windspren in sight, oddly.

AA: Presumably, the spren who are native to this planet are repelled by Voidbinding, or something. Alternatively, it could be that windspren, being cousins of (or the origin of?) the honorspren, have from ancient times devoted themselves to Honor and so avoid beings tainted by Odium. Now we have something else to watch for: do any of the lesser spren ever show up around the Fused? Having thought of it, I’m now partial to the idea that the cousins of the higher spren are repelled by the ancestors, though it would make a certain amount of sense for all Roshar spren to feel that effect. I suppose it depends on how thoroughly Honor and Cultivation became integrated with the planet and all its spren before Odium showed up.

AP: I had also thought of the connection to honorspren. There are angerspren that show up around Moash earlier in the chapter. Though it can be argued that anger, being a passion, is from Odium! We also see lifespren when he goes past the cultivated rockbuds. I would associate those with Cultivation. So maybe just spren tangentially connected to Honor?

Quality Quotations

The Fused made a fist, and dark violet energy surrounded his arm. Carapace grew there into the shape of a saw.

AA: Well, that’s a cool trick if you can pull it off.

Kholinar had Soulcasters to make food, while the Voidbringer operations in the country would take months to get going.

AA: Sort of… but we’ll get to that much later.

 

Next week in Chapter 55 we get a peek into the head of one of the other outsiders on Bridge Four—Rlain! This is one of my (Aubree’s) favorite chapters in the book, and I can’t wait to get into it!

Alice is still up to her eyeballs in costuming and volleyball—not at the same time, though. She’s looking forward to the Skyward tour, and hoping madly that she can get the requisite costuming done in time!

Aubree is pretty sure that all the haunts were sent back where they came from last night. But if you see a stray cognitive shadow, please distract it with a discount bag of chocolate and give her a call. Spirits can get restless, but they are much less restless after a snickers. Unless they have a peanut allergy. Then more restless. Much more. Good luck!

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