Well, hello again! Fancy meeting y’all here on the Oathbringer reread! We’re back in Kholinar with the oh-so-clever infiltration team, at least one member of which is not doing a good job of staying unnoticed. Also, if you thought it was cool when Shallan got stabbed by that soldier, you’re going to love how she gets killed this week!
Reminder: we’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are no Cosmere discussion in the main article (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.
WHEN: 1126.96.36.199 (Two days after the recon party in Chapters 69 and 70)
Shallan and her people infiltrate a local mansion to swipe their food, using multiple layers of Illusion. They get the food, but are discovered before they get away. Shallan is shot in the head with a crossbow bolt, but so terrifies the guards by doing weird things with her Illusions around the bolt that they all run away. She and her team proceed out into the city, where she gives all the food to starving people in a nominal effort to get the attention of the Cult of Moments.
Truth, Love, and Defiance
A former waterfall spilled down to her right, now made of crystal. The shape of flowing water crashed forever onto the stone floor, where it blossomed outward in a wave, brilliant and glistening. The mansion had changed hands dozens of times, and people called it Rockfall—despite the newest owner’s attempt over the last decade to rename it the incredibly boring Hadinal Keep.
AA: The reason for the mansion’s name is in the description, and oy! what an ostentatious thing to do. Create a bunch of four-story waterfalls solely to have them soulcast into other materials, so you can show off your wealth and power. Okay, then. The thing that’s incredibly ironic about this title choice is that, at the time it was suggested and upvoted in the beta, we had no clue what was going to happen in the next flashback chapter. Priceless.
AA: Paliah is our only Herald this week. She’s the Scholar, patron of the Truthwatchers, associated with the divine attributes Learned and Giving. (She also strikes me as looking very angry, but that’s neither here nor there.)
AP: She doesn’t seem angry to me, all the heralds seem to have pretty neutral expressions. But that hair! Such volume!
AA: Also, I have absolutely no idea why she’s presiding over this chapter. I’ve got nothing. Okay, “giving” maybe for Shallan giving away the food at the end, but that’s pretty weak. Anyone got an idea?
Pattern, as the icon tells us that the chapter will focus on Shallan’s POV.
The Edgedancers are too busy relocating the tower’s servants and farmers to send a representative to record their thoughts in these gemstones.
I’ll do it for them, then. They are the ones who will be most displaced by this decision. The Radiants will be taken in by nations, but what of all these people now without homes?
—From drawer 4-17, second topaz
AA: I must say, this Stoneward has a very good point, whether he came to it on his own or in discussion with the Edgedancers for whom he speaks. Granted that in the “present” time, there aren’t very many Radiants occupying Urithiru, so virtually everyone there is either a soldier, a servant, or a merchant. But back in the day when it was full of Radiants, there would have been hundreds or thousands of ordinary people living there, managing crops and animals, cooking, cleaning, selling, buying, all those myriad activities that enable a civilization to function. The vast majority of them had probably grown up in the Tower—likely for many generations. They might know their ethnic heritage, but it’s doubtful that many of them had any significant ties to the nations they nominally “came from.” That would be the normal part… but what does happen to all the ordinary folk of a massive city when they are all being evacuated, with no apparent intent to ever return? I wonder where they went.
AP: It also emphasizes what a huge decision it was to abandon Urithiru. Whatever happened, they had time to get the staff out, but it was serious enough to make the effort to relocate everyone. I hope we get answers to what happened soon!
Stories & Songs
The city’s heartbeat was deep within these stones, old and slow. It had yet to realize something dark had moved in. A spren as ancient as it was. An urban disease.
AA: I love this description of Shallan “hearing” the heartbeat of the city itself; not the people of the city, but the single entity of City, of Kholinar. This is one of those times when the idea that everything has a cognitive component, a spren of its own, is just beautiful and fitting. So Shallan can sense the spren of the city, which is not (yet) perturbed by the presence of the Unmade. She doesn’t know yet that it’s Ashertmarn, the Heart of the Revel, but “urban disease” is a fitting description of its influence.
AP: I wondered about that. Can Shallan feel the spren of the city because she is a Radiant? Or is this a “normal” Rosharan thing that anyone significantly attuned to the planet would be aware of? The next bit is also important here:
People didn’t speak of it; they avoided the palace, mentioned the queen only to complain about the ardent who had been killed.
AP: I do think they are able to feel it in some way. We didn’t know at the time, but the people are unconsciously avoiding the Queen and the palace as well because there is another Unmade there, even though we don’t know that yet.
The strange red lightning didn’t merely set fires or scorch the ground; it could break through rock, causing blasts of fragmenting stone.
AP: And then there is this tidbit. Why is it different? We have a lot of references to strange striated rocks, are they connected? Do they draw the Everstorm lightning? Considering that the normal Rosharan refuge from high storms are stone caves, this could be very important in the future.
AA: Oooooo… I hadn’t thought of that. It would be pretty cool if the reason the Everstorm damage affects Kholinar this way is because of the way it was made!
Places & Peoples
AA: It’s easy to see why the city is so tense. As if the parsh army and the refugees weren’t enough, plus the queen has clearly gone ‘round the twist, now they’ve got this new form of random destruction coming through every nine days—from the wrong direction, and doing the wrong kind of damage. (And if they only knew, there are three Unmade hanging out in the area making things weirder!)
One such strike had broken a gaping hole in the side of this ancient, celebrated mansion. It had been patched with an unsightly wooden wall that would be covered with crem, then finally bricked over.
AA: I just liked this description of how repairs are done. Honestly, though, when I read the wooden wall covered with crem, I expected that the whole thing would be soulcast to stone to match the other walls, at least under normal circumstances. I guess that would be more trouble than it’s worth now, anyway.
AP: That’s probably how it’s usually done. But right now there is a major lack of resources, and the soulcasters can’t be used.
Brightness Nananav—a middle-aged Alethi woman with a bun of hair practically as tall as she was—gestured at the boarded-up hole, and then at the floor. … “I won’t stand for them to be even a shade off. When you return with the repaired rugs, I’m going to set them beside the ones in other rooms to check!”
“These rugs were woven in Shinovar. They were made by a blind man who trained thirty years with a master weaver before being allowed to produce his own rugs! He died after finishing my commission, so there are no others like these.”
AA: And this is the point I was trying to get to. People are so bizarre. In the midst of the world swooping along in a handbasket with Damnation on the horizon, this lady is worried about the repairs to her rugs perfectly matching the originals.
AP: Which obviously can’t be done since they were one of a kind masterpieces made by a deceased artisan. It makes Shallan’s later portrayal not seem that far off.
Bruised & Broken
[Veil] and Vathah wore new faces. Hers was a version of Veil with too large a nose and dimpled cheeks. His was the face of a brutish man Shallan had seen in the market.
AA: In a way, this should go in Weighty Words, because technically it’s about Shallan using Illusions, and I almost put it in Squires & Sidekicks because at times I feel inclined to treat Veil as one of Shallan’s sidekicks, like Red, Vathah, and Ishnah. That’s really all I had to say about it, except that it’s interesting to note that for the moment, Shallan is still able to modify Veil’s appearance without getting too wigged out by her alternate personalities.
AP: It’s concerning that she feels the need to disguise Veil, who is herself a disguise for Shallan. This is further evidence of her mind continuing to fracture. Lies on top of lies, cryptics would be buzzing! And then this happens:
Veil took a deep breath, then let Shallan bleed back into existence. She quickly sketched Nananav from the glimpse earlier.
AP: Even though they are the same person, she needs to be “Shallan” in order to draw. Even though switching off her disguise could put her group in danger. She is losing her sense of self, and she doesn’t realize it yet.
AA: We’ve seen her do that before, to some extent, but the separation between personalities is widening dramatically.
She breathed out Stormlight, which washed over her, and became Veil fully. Then Veil became the woman who was not quite Veil, with the dimples. And then, layered on top of that, she became Nananav.
Arrogant. Talkative. Certain that everyone around her was just looking for a reason not to do things properly.
AA: Okay, there’s sort of a reason to layer the personalities like this, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Shallan, with Veil over her, then not-quite-Veil, then Nananav. Eventually she’ll drop the layers one at a time, if I recall correctly, so she can switch without having to recreate an illusion, but… yikes.
Why shouldn’t she be served by the best? She was a Knight Radiant. She shouldn’t have to put up with barely human deserters who looked like something Shallan would draw after a hard night drinking, and maybe while holding the pencil with her teeth.
The role is getting to you, a part of her whispered. Careful.
AA: We’ve seen Shallan lose herself in Veil before, but at least that was an imaginary person she’d crafted for long-term use with the Ghostbloods. This… this is getting creepy.
AP: I’m really concerned with Shallan’s super method acting:
Maybe she could move into Rockfall, act the part. And the former lady of the house? Well, she was an inferior version, obviously. Just deal with her, take her place. It would feel right, wouldn’t it?
With a chill, Veil let one layer of illusion drop. Storms… Storms. What had that been?
AP: What was that? It seems beyond just acting the part. Do her Orders powers (Lightweaving and Soulcasting) somehow combine to give her a supernatural insight into her subjects? That could be extremely useful.
AA: I’m not 100% sure, and I think we’ve talked about this before. There’s even a place, much earlier, where Shallan says that when she takes a Memory of someone, she takes a part of their soul. Something like that, anyway, though I might not have it quite verbatim. So maybe, maybe, she does actually make a Connection with their soul when she takes a Memory. But I can’t help thinking that it’s exacerbated and distorted by her personal mental issues, so that she’s almost not acting a part.
“Sorry,” Veil said, grabbing a sack of grain. “That woman’s head is a frightening place.”
“Well, I did say that Nananav is notoriously difficult.”
Yeah, Veil thought. But I was talking about Shallan.
AA: I’m not sure whether to sympathize with Veil or be frightened of what Shallan is doing to herself. Both, probably. I just can’t think it’s anything good to become the role you’re acting quite so thoroughly.
Shallan would have loved to linger and marvel at the artful Soulcasting. Fortunately, Veil was running this operation. Shallan… Shallan got lost in things. She’d get focused on details, or stick her head in the clouds and dream about the big picture. That comfortable middle, that safe place of moderation, was unfamiliar ground to her.
AA: You poor child. I think this is true, to an extent, but her solution is to create other people to occupy that middle ground, rather than learning to deal with it as herself. Poor child…
“Shallan/Nananav let her image distort, features sliding off her face, dripping down like paint running down a wall. Ordinary Nananav screamed and fled back toward the building. One of the guards loosed his crossbow, and the bolt took Shallan/Nananav right in the head.”
AP: Whoa. That’s some pretty intense illusion. I was expecting a stand-off between the two Nananavs. Not… whatever this was. It’s also interesting to note that the spren that Shallan conjured up are “wrongspren”—weird colored pools of blood and broken glass. I wonder if that was intentional or not.
AA: You really can’t blame Nananav for running. How very, very bizarre that would be! As for the wrongspren… I don’t know that she’d have thought to do it on purpose, but those are the things she’s been drawing lately, so I suppose it stands to reason that those are the ones she could use for Illusions most readily.
AP: And then we get to the head injury! It’s a good metric for us to learn exactly how much Stormlight is able to heal. Shallan obviously suffered a serious brain injury affecting speech and the left half of her body. So only half of a Radiant’s brain needs to be intact to heal them.
AA: Possibly not even that much; weren’t we told elsewhere that nothing but a severed or crushed head would kill them? So creepy, though:
She righted herself and looked back toward the soldiers, her face melting, the crossbow bolt sticking from her temple.
AA: If I were a guard, I’d run too.
Shallan let the illusions go, all of them, right down to Veil. Just normal, everyday Veil.
AP: Who is also an illusion. We are all worried about you, Shallan.
AA: Oh, so worried. Even the sidekicks are worried, in a rather hilarious way:
“Um, Veil?” Red said. “That crossbow bolt… the blood is staining your outfit.”
AA: “And also, I’m completely wigging out about the fact that you’re giving us orders with a crossbow bolt through your head, lady, but I’m trying real hard not to think about that part!!”
Veil didn’t know much of the Unmade. She’d never paid attention to the ardents on important matters, let alone when they spoke of old folktales and stories of Voidbringers. Shallan knew little more, and wanted to find a book about the subject, of course.
AA: Sigh. I mean, she’s been moving this direction for a long time, but when she’s dropped “all” the illusions “right down to Veil” and then keeps thinking about Shallan as another person, she’s seriously losing herself.
Tight Butts and Coconuts
She had Pattern quietly open the lock to the dumbwaiter down here, then sent him away to decoy a few servants who had been bringing wood into the bay. They pursued an image of a feral mink with a key in its mouth.
AA: At least occasionally, her imaginative Illusions crack me up. What an image!
Veil scrambled into the wagon’s seat, then slapped the chull with the steering reed. Her team, joined by Ishnah, charged back into the room and leapt into the wagon, which started moving. Step. By. Protracted. Step.
AA: Speaking of funny mental images… Kind of a bummer to have your getaway vehicle pulled by something that moves at a slow walk, when the people you’re trying to get away from are running. Just sayin’…
Veil turned away, ashamed, thinking of the food she had hidden in the wagon. How much good could she do with all of that? How many tears could she dry, how many of the hungry cries of children could she silence?
Infiltrating the Cult of Moments was a greater good than feeding a few mouths now. She needed this food to buy her way in. To investigate… the Heart of the Revel, as Wit had called it.
AA: This is one instance where I’m glad to see her mental conflict. She does need the food in order to investigate the things that are standing in the way of their overall mission, but I’d be worried if she didn’t even consider simply using it to feed the starving people.
“… In the meantime, do you know of anyone who could use a little extra food? People who are particularly nice or deserving, but who get overlooked by the grain rationing?… I’ve got extra to give away,” Veil explained.
AA: We’ll talk about this in a future chapter, but this is going to come back to bite—not just her, but everyone she tries to help. We’ll find out that it’s one of the situations where her other personalities, for all she puts into them, still don’t know anything Shallan doesn’t know. There may be an exception in that, as we discussed above, she might actually have Connection to the people she imitates from a Memory, but Veil is really just Shallan pretending.
By the evening, the cart was empty. Veil wasn’t certain if she could get the cult’s attention this way, but storms did it feel good to be doing something. Shallan could go off and study books, talk plots, and scheme. Veil would worry about the people who were actually starving.
AA: Well, there are schemes and there are schemes, I guess. It’s ironic that she thinks this is Veil’s clever way to give food to poor people with a facade of getting the Cult’s attention. In the end, she’ll fulfill the rationalized explanation, and regret the way she went about it.
A Scrupulous Study of Spren
What was that on the ceiling? She cocked her head at the strange sight of pools of liquid, dripping down.
Angerspren, she realized. Collecting there and then boiling through the floor. The larder was directly above them.
AA: I adore this one. We’ve talked before about how difficult it is to hide your emotions, when there are spren helpfully giving away your true feelings. We’ve also talked about how a spy would have to have extremely good self-control to avoid this; I’ll even admit that Shallan’s deep immersion would be helpful in drawing the “right” spren for her character. I’m not sure we’ve ever addressed the other side—how very useful it can be to see someone else’s emotions. In this case, they even get to see the angerspren being generated up in the pantry they just pilfered, which is an excellent bit of warning.
Okay, then. That was… fun. Just ask Vathah! Jump into the comments, and don’t forget to talk about some of the things we left out of our discussion! There was plenty more good fodder for conversation. Next week, we’ll stay in Kholinar with Kaladin and the Wall Guard in Chapter 73.
Alice is still not done with those drama props and sets, but the show is coming next week. Whee!
Aubree is slightly overwhelmed with JordanCon prep work.