Welcome to Part Five! The Oathbringer Reread has reached the final part, and things are getting crazy. This week, though, we take a step back for Dalinar’s final flashback chapter, wherein he visits the Nightwatcher and gets more than he bargained for. Come on in!
Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the ENTIRE NOVEL in each reread—if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.
In this week’s reread we also discuss some things from the original Mistborn trilogy in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read it, best to give that section a pass.
WHERE: The Valley
WHEN: 1168, approximately five and a half years ago.
In this week’s chapter, Dalinar flashes back to his visit to the Nightwatcher. He goes in and requests for his boon: forgiveness. Cultivation arrives, as this boon is beyond her daughter, and gives Dalinar what she calls a “pruning.” She removes all memory of Evi from his mind, thereby allowing him to move past the guilt and the sorrow and grow. However, she does warn him that these memories will grow back in time.
Title: The Cost
ALL MEMORIES OF HER. THIS IS THE COST.
A: This is one of the five places “the cost” is mentioned in this chapter. The first three look forward to an unknown cost; the last one is Dalinar vaguely registering what the cost was. This one spells it out.
Vedel: Healer, Edgedancers, Loving & Healing
Paliah: Scholar, Truthwatchers, Learned & Giving
Shalash: Artist, Lightweavers, Creative & Honest
Battar: Counsellor, Elsecallers, Wise & Careful
A: Wow. Four Heralds on this chapter! Vedel, Paliah, Shalash, and Battar, all at once. Is that because of the five women, these four are most tied to Cultivation? Or maybe just because all the women are more of Cultivation than of Honor, and Chana as the Guard has the least to do with this chapter? On second thought, I can see all eight of these divine attributes in Cultivation’s behavior this week, so… I’ll go with that! (Makes sense, if they all reflect her attributes, doesn’t it?)
Icon: Inverse Kholin Glyphpair, so you know it’s a Dalinar flashback chapter (as if the “Five and a half years ago” all in bold capitals didn’t tell you…).
Stories & Songs
What in the Almighty’s tenth name had that been? One moment, he’d been lying in his bunk. The next, he had been… Well, he didn’t rightly remember. What was the drink doing to him now?
L: I find it interesting that the visions were coming to him even before his redemptive arc has begun. Did the remnants of Honor see the potential in him even before his visit to Cultivation? That’s very interesting, as it seems to indicate a bit of “seeing the future” to me…
A: Well, in the last vision, Honor says that Cultivation is better at it than he is, not that he can’t do it at all. I suspect all the Shards have some ability in that regard, Vorin prohibitions notwithstanding.
He had hoped for the Thrill to aid him here. This was a challenge, was it not? He felt nothing, not even a hint.
A: My first thought was that the Unmade wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Cultivation, but in actuality, it’s probably just that Nergaoul has been hanging out in Alethkar, and is moving along with the armies toward the Shattered Plains—both of which are far to the east of his current location.
L: Yeah, my money’s on location/distance.
He trudged through the darkness, and suddenly felt stupid. What was he doing here? Chasing a pagan superstition while the rest of the highprinces gathered to punish Gaviar’s killers?
Wait. What was that? … Weeping. …
He heard a boy weeping, pleading for his life. It sounded like Adolin. …
Suddenly he saw himself in the Unclaimed Hills, fighting those traitorous parshmen. … He saw himself strangling Elhokar, who had never possessed his father’s poise or charm. Dalinar took the throne. It should have been his anyway. …
… Dalinar forged a unified Vorin empire that covered half of Roshar. An unparalleled feat!
And he saw them burn. …
… Yes, he had escaped the drink. He had become something grand and terrible.
This was his future.
A: So… what is all this? Clearly, something is messing with his mind, but I’m not sure what. Is it one of the other Unmade trying to turn him back? Or is it something of Cultivation, intended to make people think twice before bargaining with the Nightwatcher? It certainly seems intentional, whatever it is.
L: Definitely reads as Cultivation trying to scare people off to me. Testing their resolve, as it were. It also reminded me a lot of that scene in Lord of the Rings…
Hello, human. You smell of desperation. The feminine voice was like a hundred overlapping whispers. The elongated figure moved among the trees ringing the clearing, stalking him like a predator.
A: So that’s not creepy or anything…
L: I love it.
Indistinct and vaporous, she flowed like a river or an eel, and the only part of her with any specific detail was her smooth, feminine face. She glided toward him until her nose was mere inches from his own, her silken black eyes meeting his. Tiny hands sprouted from the misty sides of her head.
A: Let me just say… EEEeeeeee…
L: Eeeeeee. :D
A: If anyone hadn’t figured it out by now, Lyndsey likes the horror genre much more than I do!
We’ve been hearing bits and pieces of Nightwatcher stories since the third Interlude of the first book. Cultivation, not so much; the first mention of her is in the very last chapter of that same book, and there are very few others. Finally, now, we get to meet both of them, and learn more of their relationship—and there’s a lot here.
The Nightwatcher is so very definitely a spren! All visual imagery and mist, and apparently an itch to figure out what makes humans tick.
What is it you wish of me? What boon drives you, Son of Honor? Son of Odium?
A: Well, that’s certainly an interesting form of address.
L: Yeah. The fact that she calls him both a son of Honor and of Odium… very interesting. I wonder if this is referring to emotional characteristics, or if humans (or just Dalinar/the Alethi) are actually descended from Honor/Odium by blood…?
A: Hmm. I was assuming she was referring to the human relationships with the Shards, but I don’t know why she’d associate them just with Honor and Odium. From what we know, Cultivation adopted the humans every bit as much as Honor did. Readers? What are we missing here?
So the Nightwatcher proceeds to offer all the standard things a human might want: wealth, power, beauty, skill, glory. When his answer is unexpected, she even offers him what has to be Nightblood: A Blade that bleeds darkness and cannot be defeated. And just how did she come to be in possession of that, one might ask.
L: Well, she might not have had it personally? It seems like her powers are pretty strong, maybe she could just… poof it out of the hands of whoever’s got it now, and give it to him.
A: Fair point. We don’t know what she’s capable of, so I certainly wouldn’t put it past her!
L: This is pretty good verification that Nightblood was on Roshar at this point though, for anyone who’s trying to work out the details of timeline… (I doubt that the Nightwatcher’s powers are so strong that she can access other Cosmere worlds. I could be wrong, but…)
A: Another good point. So… Nightblood has been on Roshar for quite a while. I guess that makes sense; Adolin had mentioned being trained by Zahel at some point.
Back to Nightwatcher… “forgiveness” isn’t something she knows how to give, so Cultivation steps in.
THAT IS ENOUGH, CHILD.
A: And… that tells us a whole lot about the relationship! Throughout the next section, the two address each other as “Mother” and “CHILD.” This is, I think, the first time we’ve seen a living Shard, healthy and active in the Physical Realm. (Isn’t it?) Her description is pretty amazing:
If the Nightwatcher’s voice was like a whispering wind, this one was like tumbling stones. … a woman with brown skin—the color of darkwood bark—standing at the edge of the clearing. She had a matronly build and wore a sweeping brown dress. … This woman … she was more than he could see. Vines from her dress curled into the earth, permeating everything. In that moment he knew that he was not seeing her, but instead a fragment with which he could interact.
This woman extended into eternity.
A: I can’t help but wonder how long, with his recovered memories, it will take Dalinar to realize that she is, for all intents and purposes, a goddess—the sort of being that his “Almighty” had once been.
L: Well, he sort of does, here:
This woman… she was more than he could see. Vines from her dress curled into the earth, permeating everything. In that moment he knew that he was not seeing her, but instead a fragment with which he could interact.
This woman extended into eternity.
L: If that’s not a realization of divinity, I don’t know what is.
A: Yeah, but that was before she took his memories, and she apparently took the memory of herself as well. So I’m thinking that when he has time to breathe again, he ought to remember this moment and go “Oh, hey! Eternity woman… maybe she Knows Things. Maybe she knows about Odium and how to fight him!” (Also, I’d give anything to be a fly on the wall for a conversation between Cultivation and Jasnah!)
But back to Nightwatcher and Cultivation…
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN CENTURIES I’VE COME PERSONALLY TO SPEAK WITH ONE OF YOU. … I LET HER HOLD COURT HERE. IT HELPS HER UNDERSTAND YOU.
A: There is so much to this whole conversation, I can’t possibly deal with it all. I just had to note here, though, a major difference between Stormfather and Nightwatcher. The Stormfather has indicated that despite many earlier Bondsmith connections, his bond with Dalinar has led him to understand things about humans that were never clear before. Here, Cultivation indicates that the Nightwatcher still has a long way to go in understanding humans. Does this imply that, with Cultivation alive and well, the Nahel bond isn’t enough to enable the Nightwatcher to really understand? (Also, this puts an outside limit on when Taravangian visited her; it had to be less than five and a half years ago.)
So then Cultivation tells Dalinar that she’s not going to just give him any big magic fixes; no special abilities or sudden perfection. Instead, she will “prune” him so that he can become what he needs to be. And we’ll talk about that part in Weighty Words.
Relationships & Romances
“You’ll take…” He spoke with difficulty. “You’ll take Evi from me?”
ALL MEMORIES OF HER. THIS IS THE COST. SHOULD I FORBEAR?
Dalinar squeezed his eyes shut. Evi …
He had never deserved her.
“Do it,” he whispered.
The vines and branches surged forward and began to rip away pieces of him from the inside.
A: This makes me want to weep for both of them. In a sense, it’s true; most of the time, he didn’t deserve her. But there were those moments when he realized how much her good opinion meant to him (see also, Hero), when there really was hope for their marriage. For one reason and another, those seeds never quite managed to mature into actual change in Dalinar. Gavilar’s needs, the Thrill, the demands of the culture, and Dalinar’s own unwillingness to admit that he should change, all contributed. Which is not to say that Evi is completely free of fault, though I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what she should have done differently.
Still, I have mixed feelings about the removal of his memories. He’s spent the past five years hiding in a bottle, and even he couldn’t say whether he was hiding from grief or guilt. For the part of him that was honestly grieving, this is deeply painful, and I think that part of him was greater than he would admit. For the part of him that was just feeling guilty about her life and her death, this feels like too much the easy way out.
Bruised & Broken
He had enjoyed his recent sense of purpose. Simultaneously, his decision had given him excuses. If he was going to the Nightwatcher anyway, then why fight the drink?
He’d spent much of the trip intoxicated. Now, with the alcohol running out, the voices of the dead seemed to chase him.
A: Dude really was messed up, you know? But I can understand the (admittedly twisted) logic.
“I asked the ardents [for forgiveness],” Dalinar said. “I didn’t get what I wanted.”
YOU GOT WHAT YOU DESERVED.
L: Ouch. (Also sorry but I have to.)
A: I can’t quite tell if she was referring to Dalinar personally, or the Vorin religion in general. Or both. Being a Shard, probably both.
Dalinar shook his head, memory fuzzy. What … what had happened? Had he really asked for forgiveness?
He couldn’t fathom why. Had he felt that bad for failing … He stretched for the word. For failing …
Storms. His wife. Had he felt so bad for failing her by letting assassins claim her life?
A: It’s worth noting that for the past five and a half years, Dalinar really didn’t know that he was responsible for Evi’s death. Until his memories returned, five weeks ago in book time, he believed the same thing as everyone except a few of his elites, Sadeas, and a handful of scribes: that she was killed by assassins, and he destroyed Rathalas in revenge.
Now I’m wondering. We’ve talked a lot about the need for “cracks in the spirit-web” to form a Nahel bond, and we’ve never questioned that Dalinar is broken enough for that. But… are the cracks that allowed the Stormfather to send him the visions a result of his guilt over Evi, or are they the result of Cultivation’s “pruning?” It just occurred to me that the stuff she ripped out of him almost certainly left an opening. Maybe it’s the combination; as Lyndsey noted earlier, there’s a fair indication that he received at least one vision before he ever got to the Valley.
He still wanted a bottle to numb the grief of losing his brother.
He would break that habit. When men abused drink under his command, he’d found that the solution was to work them hard, and not let them taste strong wines. He could do the same to himself.
It wouldn’t be easy, but he could manage it.
L: Atta boy, Dalinar. I do love that Cultivation doesn’t just magically erase his addiction. He still has to work to overcome it.
A: I’m just wondering why he didn’t do this any time in the past five years. Was he not strong enough before? Also, what a hypocrite: He wouldn’t let his men abuse the drink, but he was rarely sober enough to see straight.
Dalinar relaxed, but felt like something else was missing inside of him. … Beyond that, he heard rustling leaves. And beyond that, nothing. Shouldn’t he have heard …
A: The voices?
Places & Peoples
A: There’s an interesting description of the Hexi flatlands, which I won’t quote because it’s long. The vegetation seems odd for Roshar, with trees and grasses that show the effects of the prevailing wind, but apparently don’t pull back into rockbuds or holes in the ground. Apparently, small black chickens flock in the area too.
L: The part that I found most interesting was this:
The ground was covered in wrinkles, like frozen ripples in a pond, perhaps two or three inches deep.
L: So… this could be volcanic, I suppose, but my first thought was some sort of shock wave ripples, as if some huge energy blast happened here and rippled the ground outwards away from it. Because we’ve also got this:
It was like one of the Heralds had strolled through this place and bent everything sideways.
A: There’s so much about this place… and no way to know how much of the description is a hint of Something which caused the formations. The one I really don’t understand, though, is the Valley.
Vines, ferns, flowers, and grasses grew together in a wall of underbrush. …
It all piled atop itself, reeds and branches sticking out in all directions, ferns so overgrown with vines that they drooped beneath the weight. …
“How does one enter?” Dalinar asked. “How do you pass through that?”
“There are some trails,” Felt said. “If you look hard enough. …”
A: So… why don’t the plants all pull back when they’re touched? And why doesn’t Dalinar think it’s odd that they don’t? Or am I mistaken about the behavior of larger plants in general?
IN DOING THIS, I PROVIDE FOR HIM A WEAPON. DANGEROUS, VERY DANGEROUS.
L: I can only assume that she means Odium, but… why does this pruning make Dalinar a weapon? If she didn’t prune him, would he not have been suitable? Why not? You’d think it would be the opposite… that Dalinar the Blackthorn would be a much more pliable tool for Odium than Dalinar as we know him.
A: Right? We’ve had hints of Dalinar as Odium’s champion, so I’m assuming that Cultivation can see that possibility, and that it is a risk to her. I can only guess that she’s referring to the effect of having his memories returned. It’s possible that she meant that by taking away the memories, she would give Odium a weapon to use against Dalinar, in the upcoming effort to break him. Odium thought to bludgeon him with forgotten things and batter him into giving himself up, and if he hadn’t already recovered those memories, it probably would have worked. What happened instead was that he grew into a wiser man, then got his memories back in a way that he could deal with them one by one; in the end, Odium’s bludgeoning wasn’t anything Dalinar hadn’t already accepted as part of himself.
IT WILL DO ME WELL TO HAVE A PART OF YOU, EVEN IF YOU ULTIMATELY BECOME HIS.
L: To… have a part of him? So she prunes him and… keeps the trimmings? But how does that work, if they grow back? Can she grow a new Dalinar from the trimmings, like you do with spider plants?! (I’m taking this metaphor a little far in an effort to be facetious, but… I am a little weirded out by the fact that she seems to be implying that this deal means that he now has some sort of connection with her.)
A: Oh, I do wish I knew what Cultivation’s strategy is in this conflict, and what this means. I can’t help thinking that Connection with a living Shard is a good thing for Dalinar, but I sure don’t know how this benefits her.
YOU WERE ALWAYS BOUND TO COME TO ME. I CONTROL ALL THINGS THAT CAN BE GROWN, NURTURED.
THAT INCLUDES THE THORNS.
L: This is unbelievably beautiful.
“I once heard of a man who visited here, and from then on, every person he touched fell upward instead of down.”
L: Unintentional/uncontrollable lashing, you think, Alice?
A: Brilliant! It certainly makes the most sense of anything I can think of. I just hope they didn’t fall very far, because that would be… kind of awful. As long as it was just a matter of a few inches, like it often is if you trip, it would be funny.
He’d failed to follow the Codes, and that had cost Gavilar his life.
L: I love that losing Gavilar becomes his primary motivation now.
“Any idea why [the Nightwatcher] didn’t visit you?”
“Well, best I could figure, she doesn’t like foreigners.”
“I might have trouble too.”
“You’re a little less foreign, sir.”
A: Heh. “A little less” indeed, since Felt is from Scadrial. I keep wondering why he’s here. We know there are three others of Scadrian background on Roshar: Demoux, with the Seventeenth Shard; Iyatil, with the Ghostbloods; and the mysterious kandra we haven’t spotted yet. The first two have obvious reasons to be here; though we don’t know their personal reasons for joining those organizations, we at least know some of what they’re doing. The kandra we can’t even guess at, since we don’t know where she is, much less who. Felt, though… why is Felt here? He’s been part of Dalinar’s entourage for quite a while; five and a half years ago, Dalinar already trusted him enough to bring him along on this venture, and he was still in Dalinar’s employ as recently as the Battle of Narak. What’s kept him on Roshar for six years or more, working as a scout for Dalinar Kholin? Is he working for some Larger Organization too, or is he just adventuring?
L: Do we know for sure what’s going on in Scadrial right now, history-wise? Did he maybe escape when things were really starting to fall apart towards the end of book 3 of the original trilogy? I sure wouldn’t have wanted to go back if that’s how things had been when I left!
He clapped his hands, then breathed on them. It had been winter, lately.
A: I’ve missed these weird-season references; after the first book, it became less of a Thing. But there are a few of these comments scattered through the book, and I always enjoy them.
Next week we’re taking on Chapter 115 all on its lonesome. As always, join in in the comment section below!
Alice is thoroughly enjoying the beginning of the Rhythm of War (working title) beta read, and fully expects to be short on sleep for the next three months. Sleep is overrated anyway, right?
Lyndsey is excited to begin working on the beta read for Book 4. No, she won’t tell you anything about it. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.