Greetings, fellow Soulcasters! We’ve got a lot of information about Soulcasting and the mysterious Aimians to go over this week, as we delve into the (brief) journey of Kaza as she tries to find a way to save herself from transforming into smoke.
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread. This week includes only minor references to off-Roshar implications. It is, however, chock full of weird stuff that doesn’t affect the main storyline very much, as many of the Interludes are. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
WHERE: Akinah, Aimia
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (This was an eventful day in the main timeline—back in Part 1: Dalinar heard Evi’s name, Shallan/Veil went drinking, and Kaladin taught the parshmen to preserve their food supplies.)
Kaza, a Soulcaster, journeys with a ship full of sailors to Aimia. The sailors seek riches in this distant unknown land, but Kaza seeks only one thing—salvation. The Soulcaster she uses to transform things into smoke is slowly but surely transforming her into the same. As they approach, the other sailors slowly succumb to the poison one of their members has given them. Before Kaza also succumbs, the traitor reveals herself to be a Dysian Aimian, set to guard the secrets of this island. Kaza transforms herself into smoke just before the poison takes her, thereby gaining her own freedom.
The Singing Storm
Title: Kaza As usual with the interludes, the chapter title is the name of the POV character.
Heralds: Nalan, Skybreakers. Nalan is the Herald associated with the Essences smoke and fog, so it makes a lot of sense that he’s connected with this chapter.
Icon: Double Eye (indicating an interlude chapter)
Stories & Songs
Everyone knew you didn’t linger around Aimia, though everyone had different explanations why. Some rumors told of a vengeful storm here, one that sought out and destroyed approaching ships. The strange wind they’d encountered—which didn’t match the timing of highstorm or Everstorm—seemed to support that.
L: So now the question is… who or what made this storm? Was it the Aimians themselves, or something far more powerful? What secrets does this island hold?!
AA: I can’t help thinking that some of those secrets are related to “the scouring of Aimia”—though how they’re related is sheer speculation. We know almost nothing of Aimia, Aimians, or the scouring, much less what on Roshar could create and maintain a standing storm!
AP: This interlude in particular brings me back to how I felt reading The Way Of Kings for the first time. The interludes are fascinating, but as a first look, it’s completely confusing at the same time! Prior to writing this week, I had to lean on the totally awesome Coppermind wiki, because I know I missed connections the first (and second and third!) time I read this chapter. I agree that the secrets are related to the scouring—which, for those of you (like me) who need a memory boost, was a major event at some point in the “recent” past that destroyed Aimia and scattered the Aimians across Roshar. Quick history lesson: Aimia was one of the ten kingdoms with an Oathgate. Akinah, where this interlude takes place, was the capital. So it’s very likely that the Oathgate was here, and could be part of the secret that the Aimians are trying to protect.
L: That sure doesn’t bode well for our heroes if they eventually try to open that gate!
She had come here because of another rumor, one spoken of only among her kind. Perhaps here, at last, she could find a cure for her condition.
The Aimians had known about Soulcasters. This was where you’d come to get the devices, in the old days. You’d come to the ancient island of Akinah.
If there was a secret of how to avoid death by the device she loved, she would find it here.
L: Really cool little nugget of knowledge that this is where the Soulcasters came from. Did the Aimians make them, or were they just stockpiling them like the Shin had done with the Honorblades?
AA: Hmmm. I’d just assumed that this was where they were made, but now that you mention it, the idea of the Aimians stockpiling them makes a lot more sense. It’s almost certain that the Soulcaster fabrials are remnants from the time of the Knights Radiant, since the modern artifabrians are able to repair them, but not make new ones. But why?
AP: Aimia seems like the “most Rosharan” kingdom to me. More than anywhere else, the Aimians are very much not human, and have really interesting abilities that seem tied to Roshar itself. The Dysian Aimians being made up of hordelings, for example. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the source of creating soulcasters, at least prior to the scouring, since it’s a way to harvest a natural resource of Roshar (stormlight).
L: I had never considered that they were natives to Roshar and now I feel kind of dumb for never making that connection!
Flora & Fauna
“Generations of greatshells have died here, leaving their hearts.”
L: This is interesting to me, since I had sort of assumed that the greatshells were local to the Shattered Plains.
AA: Yeah… I had to go do some research. There’s a strong probability that the greatshells referenced here were the lanceryn, which humans assume (incorrectly, I understand) were wiped out in the scouring. Apparently, prior to the discovery of the chasmfiend greatshells on the Shattered Plains in recent years, it was accepted that all the critters who could produce the really big gemhearts were extinct. Now I’m starting to get really suspicious: the lanceryn, the chasmfiends, the Reshi islands, the storm-striders… I can’t help wondering if they’re all connected, perhaps as progressive stages of the greatshell lifecycle.
Well, anyway, with zero evidence to support this, my current loose theory is this: Before the humans came along and started harvesting them, the chasmfiends grew up (after another pupation or two) into lanceryn, who eventually made their way around to Aimia. Most died there, and some few continued their trek clockwise around the continent to eventually reach the Reshi Sea and become new islands, if they survive long enough. Still can’t quite figure out where the larkin fit in, though. They seem too smart to just be the very beginning stage of this lifecycle.
AP: I think that’s a really interesting theory. But most Rosharan animals have shells of some kind. I don’t know if I buy that they are all connected.
AA: The only reason I threw in the larkin is that someone asked Sanderson if the lanceryn and larkin were the same thing, and he said, “There’s a little bit more than just [being] one and the same, but in some ways they are.”
[The cremling] had an odd shape, with large wings and a head that made it look like an axehound. Its carapace shimmered with dozens of colors.
L: Part of the cook? Another Aimian? I’d assume that there are probably a few around, keeping an eye on things.
AA: I assume it’s part of the cook, though I’ll grant you that we don’t know if there may be others here. Mostly, it’s our first “Oh, look, an odd cremling! Maybe it’s another Dysian!” moment.
AP: I know this one! That’s a larkin! The little dragon bugs that eat stormlight/investiture. Aimia is where they come from. They were thought to be extinct, and Rysn got one in Words of Radiance.
L: Oh, good catch, Aubree!
AA: GAK! Of course it is. That makes this another little piece of the puzzle that—I think—connects the larkin, lanceryn, and Reshi isles. (I’m including the islands because it was one of them that gifted the larkin to Rysn.) Whether the stormstriders and the chasmfiends are connected or merely similar life forms, I don’t know, but it seems solid that these three, at least, are linked.
Places & Peoples
This was her destiny. She was not a thing to be carted from place to place, not any longer.
Even as she righted herself, she felt in her pouch, seeking the comforting touch of her Soulcaster. Hers, no matter what the rulers of Liafor claimed. Had they spent their youths caressing it, learning its secrets? Had they spent their middle years in service, stepping—with each use—closer and closer to oblivion?
AA: It sounds like technically, this Soulcaster—both the fabrial and the wielder—are considered to be the property of the Liaforan royal house. Or at least they were, until Kaza decided otherwise. She repeats the “it was hers, no matter what they said” thought several times in the chapter, implying that she’s still partly trying to convince herself and justify her actions. And she partly believes it, because she’s the one paying the price for its use; I’m not going to disagree with her.
So he knew that she was the prince’s cousin. … “They locked me up each day, gave me comforts they assumed would keep me happy. They realized that at any moment, I could literally make walls and bonds turn to smoke.”
AA: Girl’s got a point—it’s really hard to lock up someone who can turn walls to smoke! (Even worse than someone with a Shardblade, maybe?) Perhaps she did exactly what they were afraid of—turned things to smoke as needed to get away, since there’s no way that the prince just let her—and the fabrial—go freely.
I’m trying to figure out which bothers her more: her treatment as “property” as though she’s merely the current wetware extension of the fabrial, or the fact that its use is turning her into smoke. The solution to both, at least in her eyes, is to take her destiny into her own hands. She ran away, selling the use of her fabrial to this ship captain, to try to find some way to avoid being consumed by the fabrial. One would guess that she saw what happened to her predecessor, was maybe even partially trained by that person, and wasn’t altogether happy about it. And yet…
Smoke, she whispered to the stone. Freedom in the air. Remember? She tempted it, picking at its memories of dancing free. Yes … freedom. She nearly gave in herself. How wonderful would it be to no longer fear? To soar into infinity on the air? To be free of mortal pains?
AA: At the same time she’s trying to find a “cure” she’s drawn to the freedom of just letting go. Ultimately, of course, she’ll do just that, but I find a certain fulfillment in the way it happens. She kept repeating that this was her destiny, her choice, and in the end it is. Rather than let the Sleepless put her permanently to sleep, and rather than let the fabrial keep leaching her apart bit by bit, Kaza deliberately uses the fabrial one last time, and chooses to go with the smoke of her Soulcasting.
Bummer for Liafor, though. That’s a valuable bit of tech they just lost.
It had dozens of names. The Rock of Secrets. The Void’s Playground. So melodramatic. She preferred the old name for the place: Akinah.
Supposedly, there had once been a great city here. But who would put a city on an island you couldn’t approach?
L: Well, presumably the island used to be more accessible, since all the spikes were Soulcast. Whatever happened here, the Aimians clearly don’t want anyone around now. But that may not have always been the case.
AA: Clearly there was a time when Akinah was a well-known city which welcomed travellers. Back in The Way of Kings, when Kabsal was explaining cymatics to Shallan, Akinah was one of the cities in his pictures. There’s enough information about the underlying rock formations and the addition of streets and buildings to show that it wasn’t always this semi-mythical place.
AP: Yeah, I totally expect that we will be going back to Akinah. The name of The Void’s Playground makes me really nervous though!! A reference to the scouring? Or maybe one of the Unmade is lurking around or otherwise involved here?
The cook began to hum. Pieces of her broke off. She crumbled to a pile of chittering little cremlings that moved out of her clothing, leaving it in a heap.
L: Dysian Aimian, right, Alice? Like we saw in Edgedancer? As opposed to the other type?
AA: Yep. Totally. Another one of the Sleepless, like Arclo. I sure would like to know just how many of these are wandering around.
AP: So this is what made me start giving the side eye to literally every cremling mentioned in the series!
Kaza was, slowly, becoming smoke.
There was a hole in her cheek through which you could see her jaw and teeth. Lines of smoke rimmed the hole; the flesh seemed to be burning away. Air passed through it when she spoke, altering her voice, and she had to tip her head all the way back to drink anything.
The process was slow. She had a few years left until the Soulcasting killed her.
L: As a horror fan I really appreciate the creepiness of this.
AA: As a non-horror fan, I totally concur that it’s creepy, anyway! What I found fascinating was the sudden clear view of something that had only been hinted from another perspective. We’ve seen hints along the way that long use of a Soulcaster would affect the body of the user: for example, back in the scene in Words of Radiance where the Soulcaster ardents were making new windbreaks for the warcamp. At that time, Adolin remarked on the way one woman’s eyes “sparkled like gemstones themselves” and her skin had “hardened to something like stone” and she seemed almost like “a living statue.” It sounds weird and off-putting, but not too terrifying.
Then, all of a sudden, we see the effect of long use of a Soulcaster that transforms things to smoke. We observed that the ardents with the Alethi army slowly took on physical aspects resembling stone; now we see that Kaza is literally turning to smoke. It’s a bit of a shock to realize just how far this transformation goes! It makes me wonder if the ardents eventually turn to real statues, or if they are retired from service before it gets quite that far.
We know that the army also has Soulcasters which turn whatever-it-is to grain and meat. Now I wonder what they start to look like. ::shudder:: On second thought, I don’t want to know!
AP: Also a horror fan, also concur on absolute coolness/creepiness. Since the soulcasters are kept to the royal family, this is also something she would have expected, which adds another creepy layer to me. It’s probably also a way to assert institutional control and keep challengers to the throne to a minimum.
“It is blissful. I slowly connect to the device, and through it to Roshar.” … “I could show you. Feel my touch, and you can know. One moment, and then you will mingle with the air itself.”
L: Yeah, because that’s not creepy at all.
AA: It’s an extremely effective deterrent, though. I’m pretty sure he’d never have bothered her again, even if things had turned out differently on the island!
“I have begun to see the dark sky and the second sun, the creatures that lurk, hidden, around the cities of men.”
L: So she’s transitioning into Shadesmar, then. That makes sense from what we know of Jasnah and Shallan’s ventures into Soulcasting.
AA: I loved this! The more she uses the fabrial, the more she’s shifting from the Physical to the Cognitive realm.
AP: Which makes me really wonder what happens to her after her physical body turns to smoke. Does she exist in Shadesmar somewhere?
She closed her eyes, and felt the familiar sensation of being drawn into the other world. Of another will reinforcing her own, something commanding and powerful, attracted to her request for aid.
L: There’s so much fascinating information about Soulcasters in this chapter! Is this other will a sapient spren like the ones bonded to the Knights Radiant? I don’t see that being likely, given that those spren haven’t been very forthcoming with their aid to humanity until recently, and the Soulcasters have been doing this for a long, long time.
AA: I have another theory—which, again, I didn’t have time to ask about at the Skyward signing. I wonder if maybe the Soulcaster fabrials are formed in the same way as we suspect Shardplate is formed—from the marginally sentient cousin-spren to the “truespren” (as Syl calls them). I think that would be kind of cool. The other primary possibility, and one which creeps me out far more than Kaza turning to smoke, is that the fabrials are more like a Shardblade than a Shardplate… that they are truespren, locked in the form of a fabrial instead of a blade. That would be very not cool. The biggest argument against this is the Radiant we saw in Dalinar’s Midnight Essence vision, using a Healer fabrial to perform Regrowth despite not having the Progression surge herself. That would require that sapient spren were knowingly handed around, and often handed off to Radiants of different Orders who had some reason to think they’d need a Surge they couldn’t normally use. That seems problematic, at best.
AP: I’m on team trapped spren. I think that she’s calling the spren of the fabrial, who is getting stronger the more the fabrial is used.
L: This makes me wonder if the users of these objects in times of old were also being slowly transformed, or if they were protected against that because the spren were still “awake.”
She could not make it air again; her Soulcaster had only one mode, not the full three.
L: One of the other two is food, that’s for certain, right? Is the last stone? Or… is she talking about something else entirely here? It seems as if there would be more than just three…
AA: It seems like different Soulcasters are tuned to different things, but I can’t find any reason for a limit of three, other than that each fabrial holds three gemstones. We know the Alethi use fabrials to make stone and to make food, and the Azish have one that turns things to bronze. Whether those limitations are firm, or based on tradition, I really don’t know. I’m pretty sure that with the right combination of fabrial and gemstones, people using the Soulcaster fabrials could form any of the ten Essences; I just don’t know what the limitations of the fabrials are.
And two suns in the sky, one that drew her soul toward it.
L: Whoa. Wait a second. Is this new information? I feel like it is. What are the two suns, then? Are they maybe some sort of giant spren? Are they… the Shards?
AA: I have no proof of anything, but I assumed this was the same as the earlier reference to seeing the second sun, and “drawing her soul toward it” is connected somehow with shadows going the wrong direction, toward the Shadesmar sun instead of away from it. I… think there are implications to be drawn there, after I think about it with both hands for a while.
AP: I thought the same as Alice, that the second sun is in Shadesmar.
L: Oh, I definitely thought it was the one in Shadesmar, I just wonder if this sun is more than it seems…
AA: Ah. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not a Shard, but I definitely think there’s something twisty about that Shadesmar sun. Are the soul and the shadow connected? There’s… there’s a whole essay in this, about shadows going toward Stormlight and acting funny in Shadesmar, and how/whether that is related to this idea of the soul. But don’t worry, I won’t dig into it here today!
L: Shall we talk about the Aimians?
AP: Yes please, because I don’t totally get them and I always think I’m missing something!
AA: Heh. I’m pretty sure there’s a LOT we’re missing about the Aimians!
“I cannot speak,” the cook said, “even to sate a dying demand. There are those who could pull secrets from your soul, and the cost would be the ends of worlds.”
L: Worlds? Plural?! Well now. That’s a very interesting choice of words. This island must have something to do with the Shards, and the Cosmere as a whole!
AP: Definitely something with cosmere implications! It also really makes me wonder who or what has that sort of ability. Have we seen them active already without knowing it??
AA: I’m reasonably sure that a Shard (Odium, for example?) could do this, and I suspect there are other Shards who might find it worthwhile to snatch a soul between the Physical and the Beyond, depending on what secrets we’re talking about. Which brings us back to… what secrets does this island hold?
L: So, the Aimians appear to be guardians of something very powerful.
AP: And very dangerous! It occurs to me that they could also be there primarily to keep people out, and what is on the island in.
AA: I was just thinking that. We don’t know much about the scouring of Aimia, but what if the Aimians did it themselves to keep some knowledge or artifacts from the rest of the world? Even more likely, there’s rumor that Dai-Gonarthis (a.k.a. The Black Fisher, and presumed but not proven to be one of the Unmade) was responsible for the scouring. Maybe the Aimians found a way to trap it there, and they’re keeping everyone from releasing it back into the rest of the world.
About the Aimians in general, after all this I have to wonder if they deliberately sacrificed many of their people as well as their homeland to protect the world—or worlds—from something dire. Odium? Or something worse?
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
The captain drew anticipationspren as he waited—ribbons that waved in the wind—and Kaza could see the beasts beyond, the creatures that accompanied the spren.
L: Always cool to see glimpses of the spren behind what we usually see of them on the cognitive realm.
AA: This was an interesting choice of words. Kaza thinks about “the beasts beyond” as creatures who accompany the spren she’s used to seeing. From Shallan and Eshonai we learned (and will learn more in Part 4) that what humans see in the Physical realm is only a small part of how a spren actually appears in the Cognitive realm. It’s a great reminder that characters are often wrong in how they see the world, and also that most of what Kaza knows is tradition passed down for many generations along with the fabrial.
AP: I think this is also one of the most ominous flags foreshadowing the epic trip through Shadesmar that will come later.
With a defiant shout, she pressed her hand to the rocky ground beneath her and demanded it change. When it became smoke, she went with it.
AA: I just have to point out that at the end of this chapter, Liafor is down one Soulcaster, which I suspect isn’t going to make anyone in the court very happy. I wonder if the physical object is lying on the sand of Akinah, or if it somehow went with her into the Cognitive Realm.
AP: Or possibly at the bottom of a pretty large pit!
L: The Aimian was trying to pull it off of her towards the very end there, so I assumed that it would have reclaimed it after Kaza fully transforms.
Next week we’ll be continuing our foray into the Wonderful World of Roshar with the next interlude, about Taravangian. (Hoo boy.) In the meantime, join us in the comments!
Alice is coming down with a cold. Just thought y’all would like to know that. So you can be thankful that you aren’t – or commiserate, if you are.
Aubree is trying to catch a larkin of her very own. But is slightly concerned about the impending food bill.