Oh Storms! IT’S ODIUM! Everyone run!
Well. Don’t actually, because goodness gracious do we have a lot to cover this week, given how short this chapter is. Over the course of Dalinar and Odium’s conversation we start getting some major information (finally) about who/what exactly Odium is, and what his broader machinations are. We also get a few little morsels of intel about the Shards to pick over, which is always fun! (Watch out for spoilers in the Cosmere Connections section, though.)
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. There’s a considerable amount of discussion about all of the other Cosmere related works in the Cosmere Connections section this week, so tread very carefully. Most of it is broader Shard theory and discussion, but we do spoil a major plot point from the end of the original Mistborn trilogy, and there’s a minor spoiler for Mistborn Era 2 in the Singing Storm section, in relation to the epigraph. As always, if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHERE: Vision of Feverstone Keep
WHEN: 1188.8.131.52 (Immediately following Chapter 56)
Odium and Dalinar chat about Shards, Intent, and his nature. (Wow. That’s the easiest recap I’ve ever had to write.)
The Singing Storm
“Passion, Dalinar Kholin. I am emotion incarnate.”
L: A fitting title for this chapter, given that the entire thing is about Odium and—as he states—Passion is what he is.
AA: I’m not, however, 100% convinced that this is 100% true… Frost, who knows a whole lot more about Adonalsium and the Shards than we do, said this about Odium:
He bears the weight of God’s own divine hatred, separated from the virtues that gave it context.
He may represent more than merely hatred, but hatred is his primary Intent, and whatever he does with other emotions is likely to be tainted by hatred and untouched by virtue, however he convinces himself otherwise.
AP: I agree that hatred is primary (the black flame), but the other strong emotions are a part of it too. When Dalinar gets a glimpse of the “real” Odium the other passions are there too. I see Odium as representing an excess of emotion, the negative side of emotion when you are all feeling and no thought. Anger vs. wrath. Dislike vs. hatred. Love vs. lust. Sorrow vs. grief. There’s a place for strong emotion, for passion, but unchecked it’s extremely dangerous.
Vedel (Edgedancers, Loving & Healing, Diamond, Healer); Chana (Dustbringers, Brave & Obedient, Ruby, Guard)
L: Man, I am just… stymied by this one. If we’re going to dig for deeper meaning for Vedel (other than “Lift shows up”) I’d say that this is how Odium sees himself. He thinks he’s doing the best thing for the world and the people in it. But… that’s a bit of a reach. As for Chana? I have no clue.
AA: I think Vedel is there solely because Lift shows up—and because of the effect she has on Odium. This is an Edgedancer with unique powers, and we need to pay attention to her. As for Chana… Yeah, I’m baffled on that too. Maybe because what Odium plans is so diametrically opposed to her role as Guard? Or because Dalinar is going to have to stand as a guard between Odium and everything else? I … really don’t know.
Kholin Shield for a Dalinar POV
If you would speak to me further, I request open honesty. Return to my lands, approach my servants, and I will see what I can do for your quest.
AA: Well, that’s a bit of a facer for Hoid. Open honesty? Really? Hoid is supposed to go openly to Scadrial and tell Sazed’s people who he is and what he wants? That’ll be the day.
L: Maybe when Rosharan hogs fly. (Actually wait, with the prevalence of highstorms this is actually probably something that happens quite often, I should come up with a different phrase…)
AA: Seriously, though, I’m now going to have to reread Mistborn Era 2 with this in mind, if I’ve got the timeline straight. The current info places Era 2 shortly after the first arc of Stormlight Archive but before the second arc, though that may be subject to change. Still… I want to know!
AP: That’s intriguing! I’ve never tried to put a timeline to Hoid’s Easter egg appearances before.
Stories & Songs
“So do it. Leave us alone. Go away.”
Odium turned to him so sharply that Dalinar jumped. “Is that,” Odium said quietly, “an offer to release me from my bonds, coming from the man holding the remnants of Honor’s name and power?”
AP: This gave me prickles on the back of my neck. Odium is showing a glimpse of his true nature here. It’s just so menacing. There’s also a lot to unpack in the indication that Dalinar could release Odium.
L: Do we know much about the bonds he’s referring to, here? I’m assuming he’s bound to Roshar itself in some way, otherwise the “offer” to release him by telling him to go away wouldn’t make sense in this context…
AA: Well, he’s bound to the Rosharan system in some way. We don’t really know what that is yet, but it involves Honor and Cultivation, and it’s not connected to the Oathpact—or only peripherally, as maybe a sort of template.
AP: Agree with Rosharan system. Braize (Damnation) and Ashyn (Tranquiline Halls) are part of it somehow too.
“I will go if you release me, but only if you do it by Intent.”
L: Interesting to note the capital I on intent, here. This indicates to me that there’s more going on with it, some sort of power or investment in the words themselves.
AA: I’m not sure if this is canon, but in the fandom we’ve been using capital-I Intent to mean the Intent of the Shard. If that’s what he means here, it would imply that Dalinar would be releasing Odium specifically as the closest thing to a Vessel of Honor that exists (I think). Also, it sounds like Odium is being all honorable here, making it look like he’s only going to accept Dalinar’s release if he really means it; I suspect that it’s more like, he can only go if/when Dalinar is able to actually speak as the Vessel. That’s speculation, of course, but I don’t think Odium would voluntarily remain bound just because Dalinar didn’t know what he was talking about!
L: I mean… he could have led Dalinar into the correct words and Intent, if he so chose? I do think he has a little bit of honor. Personally speaking I really don’t think he’s a bad guy, not in the sense that—say—Sadeas was a bad guy. (Unless there’s a bunch of stuff from later in the book that I’m totally blanking out on.)
AA: He may not be The Big Bad, but he seems a pretty nasty sort so far. He’s out there destroying all the other Shards he can, and refusing to pick up any of their power because it might change who he is and he likes himself as is.
L: To be fair, (as he says), Dalinar was a pretty nasty sort himself. I’m still clinging to that theory that Odium’s gonna prove to NOT be the final Big Bad.
AA: I agree with you there. I think Odium, powerful as he may be, is having delusions of greatness. He thinks he can do more than he really can… and he’s going to find out the hard way. (Unfortunately, I’m afraid my favorite Bondsmith will also find out that there’s something much worse than Odium—and he, too, will find out the hard way. I don’t think there is any other way.)
AP: I agree with Lyndsey in that I don’t think Odium is the Big Bad. It’s also useful to remember that the shards individually function much differently than they presumably would together. Passion (even Hatred) checked by Honor, or Honor tinged with Empathy are more balanced. Separately, neither is a net good.
“Separate the emotion from men, and you have creatures like Nale and his Skybreakers. That is what Honor would have given you.”
L: So in D&D terms, lawful vs. chaotic? In a lawful alignment, you hold to the law above all else. Chaotic is more driven by desire and the whims of human fancy.
AA: I’m not really versed in the D&D definitions, but I’ll tell you one thing: Odium is not telling the whole truth here. Honor also gave them the Windrunners and the Bondsmiths that they already know, and we’re going to observe throughout this book a hint of how much the human Connection of a Bondsmith can do. Honor, particularly linked with Cultivation, gave them far more than the emotionless rule-followers Odium is painting here.
AP: I think lawful vs. chaotic is a good starting point. It isn’t all or nothing, but it’s which is primary. The classic example is what does a lawful or chaotic character do with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables? A lawful character sends him to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and then breaking parole—Javert. A chaotic character has empathy and lies to cover his theft—the priest. Is a lie strictly against Honor? Yep. Is it a net good in this situation? Also yep.
“You said I was wrong about what caused the Radiants to abandon their oaths. What was it really?”
Odium smiled. “Passion, son. Glorious, wondrous passion. Emotion.”
AA: As answers go, that’s fairly unhelpful. What emotion, and in response to what event? Also, it’s worth noting that Odium is very pleased about the Recreance, which should make Dalinar suspicious of everything he says about it.
AP: To be fair, I think we as readers are also going to feel differently about the Recreance once we get the full story. As for which emotion, I’d toss out a few guesses—horror, grief, revulsion, shame?
AA: From what we know so far, those emotions would be fitting, if overdone. One of my ongoing discomforts at this point is that I continue to find the Recreance an overreaction to what we’re told in the Eila Stele, so I’m assuming that we will learn more. Perhaps we’ll get the Singer version of it in the next book and add to our understanding.
“It—” He cut off, then frowned, spinning. He searched the rocks.
“What?” Dalinar asked.
“Nothing. Just an old man’s mind playing tricks on him.”
L: We know that this was Lift. But being able to conceal herself from Odium himself? That’s quite a trick. I have to wonder if it’s just Cultivation’s influence on her, or if there’s more going on…
AA: You have to wonder. We know there’s more going on with Lift than just your normal Edgedancer powers, and this seems to be another example. It probably is Cultivation’s doing, but I think it’s more of a direct intervention, not just some nebulous influence. She’s capable of playing a very, very long game.
AP: Agreed that it’s probably linked to Cultivation. But I also question how there Odium is in the vision. He’s tuning in from another planet. My guess is that he feels Cultivation’s influence on Lift.
Bruised & Broken
“You’re a monster.”
“Oh, Dalinar. This from you of all people? Tell me you’ve never found yourself in conflict with someone you respect. Tell me you’ve never killed a man because you had to, even if—in a better world—he shouldn’t deserve it?”
L: Ouch. Nothing like being called out as being just like the Biggest Baddest Bad (that we know of) on the planet.
AA: Ouch indeed, but there’s another side to this. Dalinar is calling Odium the same thing that other people call him, obviously, and the first impression we all (including Dalinar) get is, “You’re just as bad as I am.” I think what Odium is doing, though, is trying to set Dalinar up to “realize” that neither of them is really a monster; they just did what they had to do. “It’s all right, it’s not really your fault, you were forced into it by circumstances….” Basically, Odium is grooming Dalinar for the moment of surrendering the pain and becoming Odium’s Champion. Too bad for him, Cultivation’s work allowed Dalinar to grow into the kind of man who won’t accept that excuse—especially for himself—and all that careful grooming will be blown away.
AP: I also really like this portrayal of Odium. He doesn’t have to lie to Dalinar, because Dalinar is pretty far along the path of “greater good”. Calling him out for not only his past behavior as the Blackthorn, but also more recently stealing control from Elhokar is so effective. I can’t tell if Odium actually believes what he says about himself, or if it’s all manipulation. I’m leaning toward a mix of both.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
“…nobody gets old without ruining a whole buncha lives.”
L: I mean. She’s not… entirely wrong.
AA: Uh… am I in trouble? I’m old; what lives have I ruined? I’d like to find out sooner than later.
L: Philosophically speaking, I don’t think it’s possible to live without hurting other people, mostly inadvertently. No one’s perfect.
The Stormfather had grown distant, almost vanished—but Dalinar could sense a faint emotion from him. A whine, like he was straining against something heavy?
No. No, that was a whimper.
AA: I don’t know about you, but I’m really not used to the mighty—and sometimes haughty—Stormfather whimpering in the corner. I love the dissonance this creates, as Dalinar has to face Odium with virtually no support from the guy who’s generally considered the most powerful being on the planet. Odium sits there looking like a kindly old grandpa, and Mr. Awesome hides under the bed. It makes a wonderful reminder of the larger state of affairs—that Odium was powerful enough to kill Tanavast and Splinter his power, that the Stormfather is the largest single amalgamation of that splintered power, and that he’s sufficiently self-aware to be terribly afraid.
“You are the first to bond the Stormfather in his current state. Did you know that? You are deeply connected to the remnants of a god.”
AA: Remnants hiding in the closet…! But seriously, this is a sweet bit of foreshadowing. Dalinar is the first person to become the Stormfather-Bondsmith since Honor was splintered, and no one seems to anticipate that there may be unforeseen effects. Even the Stormfather himself doesn’t seem to register it until the end of the book—that he is different than he was when he bonded with people before. He’s more powerful, more self-aware, more autonomous, than when he was previously bonded.
L: Another question: does this mean that Dalinar is going to be more or less powerful than previous Bondsmiths? If we’re going by the assumption that there were only ever three, and Bonded the Stormfather, the Nightwatcher, and the nebulous Third Sibling… (The Nightwatcher is closely tied to Cultivation (a Shard). The Stormfather, to Honor (another). And that third? The only other Shard we know of is Odium…) Are we then to assume that the Stormfather was close to Honor, so the Bondsmiths of old were more powerful (because they had a living Shard to draw power from)? Or is Dalinar going to be more powerful because the splintered remnants of Honor are now directly tied to the Stormfather instead of being separated?
AA: My best guess is that Dalinar is going to be more powerful because the Stormfather is now more powerful, as he holds more of Honor’s essence than he did when Tanavast was alive. As for the three siblings/three Shards connection, I don’t think it holds through. Opinion only, but since we know that Honor and Cultivation sort of “adopted” Stormfather and Nightwatcher rather than creating them, I don’t think it makes sense to assume that the Sibling was adopted by Odium. It’s possible that he tried, though, which might be one of the reasons that the Sibling is so reticent at this point. Come to think of it, it’s also possible that with Honor splintered, Odium was able to forcibly Connect to the Sibling, but the Sibling retained enough control to completely withdraw in order to protect their people. (Oh, I have so many ideas about the Sibling, and just not enough information!!!)
“I offer you a challenge of champions. With terms to be discussed. Will you accept it?”
Odium stopped, then turned slowly. “Do you speak for all the world, Dalinar Kholin? Will you offer this for all of Roshar?”
L: I think this is the closest we see to Odium asking such a leading question. If Dalinar answered yes, I feel like that would fulfill the requirement of Intent.
AP: Close to it anyway. The line that gets me is this:
“I need not take on such a risk, for I know, Dalinar Kholin, that you will make the right decision. You will free me.”
AP: I kind of think this may be how it turns out. Not necessarily Dalinar alone, but Our Heroes deciding that freeing Odium is ultimately for the greater good.
“What do you know of us three?” Odium asked.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know there were three of you.”
“More, in fact,” Odium said absently. “But only three of relevance to you. Me. Honor. Cultivation.”
AA: Here, Dalinar, let me introduce you to the Cosmere and the Shards! Oh, never mind. No time for all that. Let’s just focus, here…
L: Shall we perhaps do a quick TL;DR of Shard Theory for those followers amongst us who may be just as in the dark as poor Dalinar, here?
AA: Odium is (most likely, anyway) referring to the sixteen Shards of Adonalsium; the sixteen pieces of the most god-like being we know of in the Cosmere. When he was broken apart, sixteen people picked up the pieces, as it were… and we’ll learn more of what that means, and what it looked like, about 20 years down the road when Sanderson rewrites the Dragonsteel series and publishes it. For now, the three that Odium names here are the ones residing in the Rosharan system (Stormlight Archive). We know of a handful of others: Ruin and Preservation, originally held by Ati and Leras, are now combined as Harmony in the hands of Sazed on Scadrial (Mistborn). There used to be Ambition, held by Uli Da until she was destroyed by Odium not long after the Shattering.
L: Which planet was that? One we’ve seen so far?
AA: We don’t know if Ambition actually resided on a planet or not. We know that there was a battle in the Threnodite system, which had some bizarre effects on that world (Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell), but that her final destruction took place elsewhere—but we don’t know where. Autonomy is held by Bavadin, the mysterious figure who takes on the personas of entire pantheons of gods on multiple worlds, but who started out on Taldain (White Sand). Dominion and Devotion, held by Skai and Aona, were on Sel (Elantris) until Odium killed the Vessels, whose Investiture now makes the Cognitive Realm in that system a bit… hazardous. Endowment, held by Edgli on Nalthis, seems to be intact so far (Warbreaker).
And that leaves six more that we pretty much know diddly about.
L: There’s always another secret.
AA: One doesn’t live on a planet—whatever that means—and another mostly just wants to hide and survive. (Given Odium’s general behavior, this seems like a wise plan. Good luck with that, whoever you are.)
“A man cannot serve two gods at once, Dalinar,” Odium said. “And so, I cannot leave [Cultivation] behind. In fact, I cannot leave behind the Splinters of Honor, as I once thought I could.”
L: Wait a second. A man cannot serve? What man is he talking about here? Obviously people can “serve” two Shards at once (see: Harmony). Is he more referring to… to people swearing oaths to specific Shards? I’m confused.
AA: Frankly, I have no idea what he’s talking about. I can make some guesses, though. I’m good at that. (Doesn’t mean they’re right…) I think he means to make himself the only god worshipped in the Cosmere, starting with whatever is left of Roshar’s people when he gets done with destroying Cultivation and the remaining Splinters of Honor. He means to destroy not only the Vessels, but as much of their Investiture and Intent as he can, and then he’ll move on to try to destroy the rest of the Shards just as thoroughly.
Also? I think he’s deluded; even if he managed to destroy everything of Cultivation and Honor he can get his bony mitts on, their Intent is throughout the Cosmere, and it will never work. Also, Dalinar isn’t going to sit there and watch him do it.
L: So you think he wants to destroy all the other Shards and basically become the One True God of the entire Cosmere?
AA: I think it’s a strong possibility. Just before this comment, Dalinar asked Odium why he couldn’t just leave without killing anyone. In the fine tradition of answering a question with a question, Odium asked Dalinar why he took control of Alethkar from Elhokar, and then answered his own question by claiming, “You took control for the greater good.” I think, in context, it’s highly likely that Odium/Rayse thinks he’d do a better job than Adonalsium did, and better than anyone else can, and so he thinks (or has convinced himself) that it would be better for everyone if all the other Shards were destroyed and only he were left to be, as you say, the One True God of the Cosmere.
L: (A smarter vessel would probably realize that the only way to really do that would be to be the one who holds all the Shards at once, thereby healing what was broken. Gee… that sounds a bit familiar…)
AA: When you put it that way… it could explain Hoid’s behavior. One could surmise that the two of them are taking competing paths to become the OTG—one by destroying all the competition, and one by reuniting what was shattered. (And now I’m irresistibly reminded of kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold to give it a whole new beauty. I wonder if this concept is in Sanderson’s head at all…)
AP: I think Alice is spot on with the two different paths here. There was some reason that the original group who caused the Shattering thought it was necessary—we don’t know why that is. And we also know that the holder of a Shard is strongly influenced by its Intent. So Odium/Rayse could have originally started out thinking that he could create a better world, and fallen into Zealotry in becoming convinced that his way was the only right one, and the others had to be destroyed for it to work. He is also self aware enough to know that taking up another shard would change him further, and he doesn’t want that—it could be a distraction to achieving his goals (whatever they may be). I’m also completely in favor of recombining the shards to form the Almightier, who in contrast to Alice’s lovely pottery theory, is basically Cosmere Voltron in my head.
L: There’s something else to consider here… if Honor truly is dead/destroyed, can a reforming ever actually happen? If a piece is missing… maybe Alice’s kintsugi theory is more relevant than we thought. They’re going to need to find something to replace Honor, if they’re ever going to hope to reform
Voltron the Dark Crystal Adonalsium….
AA: There are a couple of things that give me hope for a reforging: Sanderson has recently been talking about how all of the Intents are integral to the Cosmere, and also Hoid has been going around collecting powerful bits of Investiture. (Come to think of it, so have the Ghostbloods, but they strike me as singularly inadequate to the task!)
“Once you release me, my transformation of this realm will be substantial.”
L: Well, that’s a terrifying thought. Think of all the changes that Sazed made to Scadrial when he assumed the Shards of Ruin and Preservation! And Sazed was a good man, making positive changes. What would Odium do to Roshar?
AA: It really is a terrifying thought, if he had free rein to do as he wants. I’m trying to figure out if by “realm” he means Roshar and/or its system, or if he means the Physical Realm in general. The former would be bad enough; the latter would be… far, far worse.
AP: Remember that the magic systems derive from Investiture. So I think the spren in particular would be a target.
“They call me Odium,” the old man said. “A good enough name. It does have a certain bite to it. But the word is too limiting to describe me, and you should know that it is not all that I represent.”
He looked to Dalinar. “Passion, Dalinar Kholin. I am emotion incarnate. I am the soul of spren and of men. I am lust, joy, hatred, anger, and exultation. I am glory and I am vice. I am the very thing that makes men men.”
L: Hooboy. Lots to unpack here. I’d like to start with the end. If he’s the Shard of emotion, what does this mean for humans on other planets? Are their emotions bound up, through distance, to Odium as well? If destroyed, would humanity in its entirety cease to have emotion at all?
AA: There’s a recent WoB about how the power of every Shard is spread throughout the Cosmere. I can’t find the whole conversation that I think I remember reading, but the implication is that while there’s a concentration of that Shard’s Intent in its physical location, its essence is also in everything that exists. So I think the answer is no; if Odium were destroyed, there would still be emotion in the universe. And that’s even if he really were telling the truth about being all emotions instead of just hatred.
L: This really makes me wonder if Odium had a better vessel, things might not be different. Perhaps all that’s required here is for someone (with better morals) to take him down and take up the mantle themselves.
AA: It would make a difference, but I don’t know how much. As near as I can tell, the Intent of a Shard is a lot more powerful than an individual’s personality. I mean, if it’s basically one sixteenth of God, that’s still way more potent than a single human, right?
AP: I think it would make a difference in which part manifests though. Rayse, by all accounts, was not the most selfless and kind dude. If his original vice was hatred, then it makes sense that hatred is magnified in his expression of the Shard. If someone whose nature was different had taken up that Shard, perhaps it would manifest in a different way.
AA: Back to the quote, though, I don’t believe him. I think he’s lying to himself about what he really is. I’ll believe him straight up on lust, hatred, anger, and vice; as for joy, exultation, and glory, I strongly suspect he represents only the more selfish or self-aggrandizing versions of those things. In one of the quotes below, he mentions “the joy of victory”—which I’m betting is more like “the joy of having brutally defeated the other guy.” There’s an old saying, something about vices merely being corrupted virtues, that I think applies to Odium: he’s the corrupted version of every good emotion. The egotistical, selfish, it’s-all-about-me-feeling-good versions of emotions.
And… that’s probably more than enough philosophizing from me today! I think I spent too much time in the Arcanum and my brain is boiling over.
AP: I think all emotions have the potential to be damaging in excess, even positive ones. It’s emotion untempered, uncontrolled.
“Emotion. It is what defines men—though ironically you are poor vessels for it. It fills you up and breaks you, unless you find someone to share the burden.”
* * *
It was the scream of a thousand warriors on the battlefield.
It was the moment of most sensual touch and ecstasy.
It was the sorrow of loss, the joy of victory.
And it was hatred. Deep, pulsing hatred with a pressure to turn all things molten. It was the heat of a thousand suns, it was the bliss of every kiss, it was the lives of all men wrapped up in one, defined by everything they felt.
* * *
“Even as old people go, that one was extra creepy,” she said softly. “What was that thing, tight-butt? Didn’t smell like a real person.”
“They call it Odium,” Dalinar said, exhausted. “And it is what we fight.”
“Huh. Compared to that, you’re nothing.”
She nodded, as if it were a compliment.
L: Interesting to note that she smells his unnaturalness on him…
Next week, we’ll be starting in on the second set of Interludes. We’ll be taking each one on individually in its own week, so join us next time for a little dip into the life of a Soulcaster. In the meantime, join us in the comments below—but please be aware that people will certainly be posting Cosmere speculation, so spoilers will abound. Proceed with caution!
Alice is getting soggier by the day, out here in the rainforest.
Lyndsey is excited to finally have a private figure skating coach to help make her Yuri!!! On Ice cosplay dreams a reality. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or her website.
Aubree is considering taking Awesomeness lessons from Lift. Perhaps she will start with making pancakes…