Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Part Three Epigraphs

Welcome back to the Oathbringer reread, wherein I rearrange all the things and get out of order here. Rather than tackling Dalinar’s Rathalas flashbacks this week, we’re going to examine the gemstone archive epigraphs en masse, and see what we can learn—about the Orders, about the history, about the spren, and about Urithiru.

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are no Cosmere spoilers in the post this week, but if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

As I noted in the comments to Chapter 74, we decided at the last minute not to tackle Chapters 75 and 76 this week. Lyndsey is exhausted from Anime Boston last weekend, and Aubree is swamped with preparation for JordanCon next weekend. Rather than taking it solo, I firmly believe that the discussion will be much better if they can participate; besides, they both really want to talk about that particular episode, and I just can’t deprive them of it. As a replacement, then, we’re going to jump ahead to the epigraphs discussion for Part Three.

Recap

WHO: The Knights Radiant of old
WHERE: Urithiru library
WHEN: Approximately 1,500 years ago (give or take a few hundred), shortly before leaving Urithiru and a few decades before the Recreance.

As you may remember, Renarin discovered the existence of the gemstone archive in Urithiru’s basement library back in Chapter 53:

Renarin stood near the far wall, which was covered in palm-size tiles. He tapped a specific one, and somehow made it pop out, like a drawer. … Renarin glanced at them, then held up what he’d found in the small drawer. A ruby, long as Jasnah’s thumb, cut into a strange shape with holes drilled in it.

Navani’s evaluation of the gemstone, after determining that it couldn’t be a fabrial, was thus:

“So many imperfections in the cut,” Navani said. “That will cause it to lose Stormlight quickly. It won’t even hold a charge for a day, I bet. And it will vibrate something fierce.”

Trying to figure out its purpose, Jasnah’s contribution was next:

Jasnah touched it, infusing the gemstone with Stormlight. It started glowing, but not nearly as brightly as it should have. Navani was, of course, right. It vibrated as Stormlight curled off it. Why would anyone spoil a gem with such a twisted cut, and why hide it?

Shallan and Pattern were the ones to identify the purpose, though:

“Storms,” Shallan whispered as other scholars crowded around. “That’s a pattern.”

“A pattern?”

“Buzzes in sequence…” Shallan said. “My spren says he thinks this is a code. Letters?”

And finally, Renarin put it together:

“Music of language,” Renarin whispered. …

Drawers slid open, one behind each white tile. A hundred, two hundred… each revealing gemstones inside.

Back during the beta read, we were very, very excited about this find. One of the more interesting speculations, which hasn’t been resolved either way, was Bob’s suggestion that Renarin’s ability to sense the gemstones may have been the Truthwatcher use of Illumination—Light, Sound and Waveforms. “Shallan can manipulate them. Renarin can sense them.” I don’t know if that’s true, but I love the idea.

So they found this amazing archive… and then (in the beta) we didn’t hear any more about it. All through Part Three, nothing. Finally in Part Four, there was a brief scene in which we saw a large team working on translating the records, and what little we learned was that it seemed to be a lot of personal histories and journal entries. Deana was about ready to blow something up if we didn’t learn more about it. Being an archivist and historian herself, I suspect it was particularly galling to know that the library existed, and then not get any information from it, though she wasn’t the only one frustrated by that lack. It wasn’t until we received the gamma version that we finally learned any details: They were quoted in the epigraphs, and we all laughed. Let’s go take a look!

Rather than going in chapter sequence, for this purpose I’m going to deal with the recordings grouped by Order, just in case that seems to bring out anything interesting. Let’s start with the first Order we met and go clockwise around the Double Eye:

Windrunners

Today, I leaped from the tower for the last time. I felt the wind dance around me as I fell all the way along the eastern side, past the tower, and to the foothills below. I’m going to miss that.

—From drawer 10-1, sapphire (Chapter 74)

This first one doesn’t seem to have much significance beyond telling us that the departure of the Knights Radiant from Urithiru was imminent. It does give a glimpse into the mentality of an established, trained Windrunner, though; can you imagine how delightful it would have been to do this as a regular thing? And sure, you can jump off of any cliff (if you’re a Windrunner), but I think Urithiru would have been a special one—partly because not too many cliff faces are that tall and sheer, but mostly… I think it’s home for them.

My spren claims that recording this will be good for me, so here I go. Everyone says I will swear the Fourth Ideal soon, and in so doing, earn my armor. I simply don’t think that I can. Am I not supposed to want to help people?

—From drawer 10-12, sapphire (Chapter 86)

This recording tells us emphatically that, at least for Windrunners, living Shardplate comes with the Fourth Ideal—that ever-elusive Fourth Ideal, about which every reader has a theory. It also tells us that Kaladin is not the first of his Order to struggle with the demands it will make of him. “Am I not supposed to want to help people?” The implication is that some aspect of the Ideal places a limit on who he is supposed to help. That doesn’t really tell us much, though. Who is he supposed to be willing to not help? Those who don’t want his help? Those who are out of reach? Those who are on the “other side” from whoever he’s currently allied with? So many possibilities…

Skybreakers

We can record any secret we wish, and leave it here? How do we know that they’ll be discovered? Well, I don’t care. Record that then.

—From drawer 2-3, smokestone (Chapter 61)

The first fits with my personal perception of the attitude of the Skybreakers toward everyone else: a little arrogant, a little contemptuous, a little defiant. This impression may be completely wrong. We don’t know what “I don’t care” means in context, because we have no context. I don’t care that we’re leaving? I don’t care if anyone ever finds this? I don’t care about recording secrets? Whatever it is, he was clearly expected to care about it, and he (at least overtly) refuses to care.

I wish to submit my formal protest at the idea of abandoning the tower. This is an extreme step, taken brashly.

—From drawer 2-22, smokestone (Chapter 62)

Worded like a lawyer, which fits with the Skybreaker role, it really makes me wonder about this character… but there’s just not enough basis for speculation. What isn’t clear about the character is made up by what it tells us about the Knights Radiant: They were not all in agreement about leaving, though they were all apparently bound to obey whoever made the decision to leave. It sounds way too much like politics up in here.

This generation has had only one Bondsmith, and some blame the divisions among us upon this fact. The true problem is far deeper. I believe that Honor himself is changing.

—From drawer 24-18, smokestone (Chapter 67)

This seems oddly insightful for a Skybreaker, which may just mean that my perception of Skybreakers is off. In the role of Judge, I guess I just don’t expect them to be philosophers or theologians. This one, however, seems to have realized that something is going wrong with Honor; it seems reasonable that this is during the middle of the splintering, when Honor hadn’t yet lost all control, but was definitely starting to fracture. We’re told elsewhere that the revelations of the Eila Stele were not unique to 1174 or the Recreance, but that before, Honor was always there to walk (or talk) them through it. It’s interesting that the Skybreaker here is seeing abnormal divisions among the Knights Radiant, and ties it to changes in the Shard, which has always been their guide.

Dustbringers

If this is to be permanent, then I wish to leave record of my husband and children. Wzmal, as good a man as any woman could dream of loving. Kmakra and Molinar, the true gemstones of my life.

—From drawer 12-15, ruby (Chapter 59)

This is so unexpected, given what little we knew of Dustbringers prior to this. I, at least, always had an impression of a destructive bent, along with a certain amount of hostility. That can be blamed partly on the in-world “Words of Radiance,” which doesn’t speak flatteringly of the Order, and partly on Malata, who seriously came across as a vindictive sort. Her spren doesn’t exactly help, since Ash is deeply resentful of humans and of Honor, and takes great delight in breaking things.

All that said, the other point to make from this recording is that the Radiants were a very diverse group—this is apparently a Thaylen woman, or at least a woman who married a Thaylen man and gave their children Thaylen names. It’s rather nice to get the reminder that the Radiants of old had families; it makes them more relatable, in a way. It also may be where a lot of the light eyes came from.

Good night, dear Urithiru. Good night, sweet Sibling. Good night, Radiants.

—From drawer 29-29, ruby (Chapter 87)

Once again, this is just not the tone I expected from Dustbringers! This one sounds very affectionate, not merely toward his own spren or Order, but toward their home, the Sibling spren, and all Radiants. It’s also confirmation that he expects to be leaving all of those, and soon.

Edgedancers

There are no Edgedancer records; I think we’re to take this lack in the epigraphs as confirmation that the Stoneward (see below) was right, and that no Edgedancers were willing to take the time to make recordings. We don’t know, of course, how long it took to make a recording, but it at least implies a certain urgency to leaving Urithiru; not one of the entire Order was willing to risk abandoning any of the non-Radiant folks by taking unnecessary time away from their self-assigned responsibility.

Truthwatchers

I worry about my fellow Truthwatchers.

—From drawer 8-21, second emerald (Chapter 60)

Welp. That’s just frustrating. Why are you worried, you Truthwatcher? What do you see? And… we get nothing.

Something must be done about the remnants of Odium’s forces. The parsh, as they are now called, continue their war with zeal, even without their masters from Damnation.

—From drawer 30-20, first emerald (Chapter 77)

A coalition has been formed among scholar Radiants. Our goal is to deny the enemy their supply of Voidlight; this will prevent their continuing transformations, and give us an edge in combat.

—From drawer 30-20, second emerald (Chapter 78)

Our revelation is fueled by the theory that the Unmade can perhaps be captured like ordinary spren. It would require a special prison. And Melishi.

—From drawer 30-20, third emerald (Chapter 79)

Ba-Ado-Mishram has somehow Connected with the parsh people, as Odium once did. She provides Voidlight and facilitates forms of power. Our strike team is going to imprison her.

—From drawer 30-20, fourth emerald (Chapter 80)

We are uncertain the effect this will have on the parsh. At the very least, it should deny them forms of power. Melishi is confident, but Naze-daughter-Kuzodo warns of unintended side effects.

—From drawer 30-20, fifth emerald (Chapter 81)

Surely this will bring—at long last—the end to war that the Heralds promised us.

—From drawer 30-20, final emerald (Chapter 82)

I’m going to address these as if it’s intended to be a continuous recording, since they are labeled as the first through fifth, and then the final, emeralds in the drawer. This draws a somewhat different picture than I’d had in my head before. I’d assumed that after Aharietiam (the Prelude at the beginning of The Way of Kings) things were relatively peaceful as both sides recovered from the war, and then there were just the usual occasional wars popping up, as seems endemic to humanity.

According to these, though, there has been an ongoing war for nearly three thousand years. It probably ebbed in intensity from time to time, but it seems like it’s really been going on the entire time. We don’t know when Ba-Ado-Mishram formed that Connection; it might be a relatively recent development, or it might be something they have finally figured out, or it might be that they have finally found a solution to something they’ve known for a while.

I do find this confusing, though, because it seems that the idea of trapping Ba-Ado-Mishram in a perfect gem is something the scholars—Truthwatchers and other Orders—came up with as a group, and Melishi was part of the planning. But there’s that epigraph in Words of Radiance Chapter 58, which says,

So Melishi retired to his tent, and resolved to destroy the Voidbringers upon the next day, but that night did present a different stratagem, related to the unique abilities of the Bondsmiths; and being hurried, he could make no specific account of his process; it was related to the very nature of the Heralds and their divine duties, an attribute the Bondsmiths alone could address.

That sounds like Melishi did something other than what was planned. So I’m confused. Is it likely that the writer of the in-world “Words of Radiance” simply didn’t know about the extended planning, and so presents it as being something Melishi came up with overnight? That’s the best explanation I’ve got, since we know that the book was put together from hearsay, combining “facts, lore, and superstition.” Maybe the gemstones tell the truth behind the stories.

In any case, it looks like both Melishi and Naze-daughter-Kuzodo were right; it worked, and there were unintended side effects. They were planning to merely block the parsh ability to use Voidlight, presumably so that they couldn’t take on the “forms of power”—the Odium-connected ones, the ones the Listeners so assiduously avoided. I believe, anyway, that they didn’t intend to remove the ability to block all transformation; just the Void forms. They overshot their mark, and turned nearly an entire species from sapient to merely sentient.

Don’t tell anyone. I can’t say it. I must whisper. I foresaw this.

—From drawer 30-20, a particularly small emerald (Chapter 85)

I separated this one, because it’s from the same drawer—presumably meaning the same Truthwatcher—but the emerald isn’t numbered like the rest, and the fact that it’s “particularly small” almost sounds like it was meant to be unnoticed by the others. My burning question about it is what she foresaw. Was this, perhaps, added after the plan was executed? Did she feel horribly guilty because she foresaw how the parsh would be affected, and did nothing to stop the plan? That’s my primary theory. A less-likely one (IMO) is that she is fearful of admitting that she foresaw anything, if they were already operating under the notion that seeing the future is of Odium. (I think that idea was pushed during the backlash from the Heirocracy, and before that point no one associated seeing the future with Odium.)

Lightweavers

I am worried about the tower’s protections failing. If we are not safe from the Unmade here, then where?

—From drawer 3-11, garnet (Chapter 73)

This is the only Lightweaver recording we get to see. My best guess is that we are supposed to be reminded of Re-Shephir’s presence in the tower back in Part One, and realize that the Unmade were seeking to infiltrate Urithiru during this time. It’s hard to say which things are cause, and which are effect; we just don’t know enough. Were the Unmade making inroads because the protections were failing, or were the protections failing because the Unmade were figuring something out? I also have to wonder if this was the same Lightweaver who ultimately trapped Re-Shephir long enough to make her fear Lightweavers.

Elsecallers

My research into the cognitive reflections of spren at the tower has been deeply illustrative. Some thought that the Sibling had withdrawn from men by intent—but I find counter to that theory.

—From drawer 1-1, first zircon (Chapter 68)

The wilting of plants and the general cooling of the air is disagreeable, yes, but some of the tower’s functions remain in place. The increased pressure, for example, persists.

—From drawer 1-1, second zircon (Chapter 69)

Something is happening to the Sibling. I agree this is true, but the division among the Knights Radiant is not to blame. Our perceived worthiness is a separate issue.

—From drawer 1-1, third zircon (Chapter 70)

We already talked about this in the relevant chapters to some extent, but it combines interestingly with the other recordings that imply discord among the Radiants. They seem to all agree that bad things are happening with respect to Urithiru and the Sibling, but they have differing opinions on the root causes… which generally means they have differing opinions on what, if anything, needs to be changed. This Elsecaller believes that the Sibling is being forced into withdrawal, and that it’s not because of internal strife. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t present a theory as to what is causing it.

As the duly appointed keepers of the perfect gems, we of the Elsecallers have taken the burden of protecting the ruby nicknamed Honor’s Drop. Let it be recorded.

—From drawer 20-10, zircon (Chapter 83)

Well, hello there. We’ll meet you again, many chapters from now. What a lot of connections are to be made with this one little epigraph! Perfect gems will be mentioned a couple of times more, before we discover what they’re really good for. I wonder if the Elsecallers were involved in the plan to entrap Ba-Ado-Mishram, and if they contributed the appropriate prison intentionally.

Willshapers

I returned to the tower to find squabbling children, instead of proud knights. That’s why I hate this place. I’m going to go chart the hidden undersea caverns of Aimia; find my maps in Akinah.

—From drawer 16-16, amethyst (Chapter 63)

Now that we abandon the tower, can I finally admit that I hate this place? Too many rules.

—From drawer 8-1, amethyst (Chapter 65)

We already talked about these in the chapter discussions, but I have to wonder—did all the Willshapers dislike Urithiru? If so, is it really because of the rules and political fighting? Or is it that the decreasing presence of the Sibling is causing the discord among those living in Urithiru, and the Willshapers (with their inherent love of adventure) simply find the atmosphere distasteful, blame it on something convenient, and are glad to leave?

Stonewards

As a Stoneward, I spent my entire life looking to sacrifice myself. I secretly worry that is the cowardly way. The easy way out.

—From drawer 29-5, topaz (Chapter 58)

Again, we’ve already talked about the specific content back in Chapter 58. What strikes me now, as I work through all the recordings we’re given, is the variation in how the opportunity was used. The Truthwatchers and Elsecallers recorded some of the results of their scholarship (for which I thank them, personally!) while others were much more personal. This Stoneward is pretty introspective. The next one, less so, but still personal:

The disagreements between the Skybreakers and the Windrunners have grown to tragic levels. I plead with any who hear this to recognize you are not so different as you think.

—From drawer 27-19, topaz (Chapter 64)

This one focuses outward, seeking unity but at a personal level. The next is a very different angle:

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 (Chapter 72)

This Stoneward seems to stand second only to the Edgedancers themselves in compassion for others. Most of the others talk about the Knights Radiant, or about Urithiru. One talked about her family. This is the only one who comments on the effect leaving Urithiru will have on the ordinary folk of the tower, and I’m really glad it’s included. I mean… I probably wouldn’t have thought about it, either. It’s easier to focus on the power-people, the ones who are going to shape the history of centuries to come. I wonder where all of them ended up.

The enemy makes another push toward Feverstone Keep. I wish we knew what it was that had them so interested in that area. Could they be intent on capturing Rall Elorim?

—From drawer 19-2, third topaz (Chapter 84)

And… Fine. Just FINE. Remind me that Feverstone Keep is still a mystery. This is our sole clue to its location, implying that it’s somewhere near Rall Elorim, or at least between Rall Elorim and the rest of the continent. The city itself could be a red herring; there might be something else out there that matters to them. I just noticed on the map that the city of Eila is also in that general vicinity. Is that Significant in the discovery that led to the Recreance? So many questions.

Bondsmiths

Not surprisingly, we have no Bondsmith recordings. We’re told that there is only one Bondsmith at this point. It could be that Melishi chose not to record anything, or it could be that giving us his recordings would be information we aren’t allowed to see at this point. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Melishi had to be bonded to Nightwatcher—either that, or he was extremely secretive about what was going on with his spren, and no one was willing to speculate even in private. We know that the Sibling and Honor both had Something Going Wrong, but there’s no indication that Melishi was worried about his spren, or affected by something weird in their bond. I would still bet that he had more information about what was going on with the other two than he was apparently willing to share, though.

Peripheral Points

I have to share one other thing from the beta, which has absolutely nothing to do with the gemstone archive. I just ran across it while looking for our reactions to the scene, and it made me laugh. If you recall, the archive was discovered in the same chapter where Amaram tried to force a private conversation with Jasnah, and got his… ego handed to him on a platter. This is my one and only (I think) request for a cameo; it wasn’t exactly serious, but it sure would have been fun:

[Amaram is] such an absolute ass, but he really does think he’s all that and a bag of chips. Can we please get rid of him? Please? I’d be happy to climb into the book as the world’s most unlikely assassin. I’m sure Brandon can write it so it works.

Except… we need to find where he’s got Taln hidden. Maybe I can torture it out of him first?

To which Mark replied

I totally want to see that cameo.

Alas, it was not to be. Brandon had other plans to get rid of Amaram. Maybe I could assassinate Moash instead. That would be fun. Or maybe Ialai will show up again to cause trouble and need to be removed? Heh.

 

Anyway, we’ll be back in force next week, I hope, with Chapters 75 and 76: Dalinar’s flashbacks to the second battle at the Rift.

Alice is still awaiting her cameo—and to be perfectly honest, she doesn’t expect one. “An unlikely assassin” would be pretty fun, though. Just sayin’…

citation

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