Welcome back, Cosmere fans! Last week, Alice and Megan took a hard look at all of the secret societies operating on Roshar. This week, I’ll be diving into what we know about all of those pesky worldhoppers who keep showing up on Roshar!
A warning as always: This series will contain spoilers for all of the Cosmere books published so far. In some cases, like in my Cosmere Primer, I’ll be drawing on Words of Brandon (WoBs) for further information. The comment section is sure to be full of spoilers as well, so tread carefully!
Now, while there have been worldhoppers in nearly every published Cosmere work, no book or series has seen as much crossover among the worlds as The Stormlight Archive. Characters from essentially every other world have shown up on Roshar, which means we have an extensive list to cover today!
There’s really nowhere else we can start, is there? Wit is the worldhopper, the enigmatic Hoid, the character who most clearly crosses over among different series. He first appeared in Elantris and has since found page time in every single Cosmere novel (and even some of the graphic novels and novellas). Hoid is one of the oldest characters in the Cosmere, and was present at the mythical Shattering of Adonalsium, when all the Shards were created; he was even offered the chance to Ascend and take up a Shard himself, though he declined.
In The Stormlight Archive, he appears to be working hard against Odium. In a letter in The Way of Kings, Wit mentions that he has a “grudge” against Rayse/Odium, and that certainly plays into why he’s helping out our protagonists. However, his motivations aren’t totally virtuous: In The Way of Kings, he tells Dalinar that he’s willing to see Roshar burn if he can achieve his goals. Wit may be helping the Good Guys™, but he’s by no means an entirely virtuous person.
Wit has been hanging around on Roshar for a little while, but he’s also taken time for jaunts elsewhere. Rock, in Words of Radiance, notes that he saw Wit in the Horneater Peaks, coming out of a lake that the Horneaters think is a portal between worlds. So, while Wit has important business to be about on Roshar, he has priorities elsewhere, too.
Zahel, the grumpy swordsman and teacher. The ardent who plays strange games, speaks in strange idioms, and reminisces about strange voices in his head. He is, after all, the infamous Vasher from Warbreaker. One of the Five Scholars from Nalthis, Zahel came to Roshar hundreds of years earlier (perhaps in the company of others of the Five Scholars) and decided he wanted to re-create a Shardblade using the magic on Nalthis. The result of that experiment is the talking sword Nightblood—or sword-nimi, as Nightblood’s new owner Szeth refers to it.
As a Returned on Nalthis, Vasher needed regular infusions of Investiture to stay alive. The weekly need for Breath played a part in his relocation to Roshar, where Stormlight is much easier—and more ethical—to acquire than Breaths on Nalthis. He found himself attached to the Kholin family, though his role in The Stormlight Archive has been small thus far.
First met in Oathbringer, Highmarshal Azure was in charge of the defense of Kholinar as the Fused and their singer minions attacked Alethkar. She, like Vasher, speaks with strange turns of phrase and is tied to a different kind of Shardblade. Also like Vasher, she features prominently in Warbreaker, as Vivenna. She was at one time working with Vasher, but as of Oathbringer, that relationship seems to be rather strained.
Instead of continuing on with Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and company, Azure decided to head off toward Cultivation’s perpendicularity and continue her quest to find Vasher and Nightblood. (Oh, and that Shardblade of hers? It drains its victims of color, leaving them grey. Something to keep in mind… )
Let’s head away from Nalthis now. Nazh is a name many readers will recognize, as he’s the one who writes all of the annotations on the various maps in the books. Nazh is from Threnody originally, the world featured in Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell. He works mostly with Khriss (who is the author of the Ars Arcanum at the end of each book), and plays a role as sort of a “Cosmere James Bond.”
He first appeared on Roshar in Words of Radiance, when he was attempting to sketch the men of Bridge Four, and his notes appear on several of the maps and illustrations in Oathbringer—including the chart of wines and the map of Shadesmar. Along with Khriss, he appears to be more concerned with gathering knowledge than furthering any specific agenda, as most of the other worldhoppers are.
Yep, (most of) the Heralds are worldhoppers. They came from Ashyn, another world in the Rosharan system, before taking up their eternal struggle against Odium and the Fused. On top of that, they’re some of the few people on Roshar who have also been to Braize, the third inhabitable planet in the Rosharan system and the home base of Odium. Shalash is the only one of the Heralds who may have been born on Roshar.
As Alice and Megan covered in their recent article on Secret Societies of Roshar, the Ghostbloods include multiple members who are worldhoppers. The most prominent of them is Mraize, the man Shallan has been most in contact with. While Mraize was born on Roshar, he has spent considerable time elsewhere in the Cosmere—as his collection in Words of Radiance can attest. He is in possession of all sorts of Invested artifacts, including Hemalurgic spikes, the Tears of Edgli, Amberite Aethers, White Sand from Taldain, an Aviar from First of the Sun, and more.
His babsk, Iyatil, is even more mysterious. She of the fancy mask is descended from the Malwish, the inhabitants of the southern hemisphere on Scadrial. While Iyatil wasn’t born on Scadrial herself—she was born in the Cognitive Realm city of Silverlight—she clearly still adheres to cultural traditions from Scadrial.
The unassuming lighthouse keeper and fortune teller in Shadesmar gave himself away as a worldhopper several times over in Oathbringer. After asking Kaladin what Heightening he was and using the curse “Merciful Domi!”, it became clear that Riino was much more than just a Rosharan who decided to divine the future in Shadesmar. In fact, he’s working with the Ire, the faction of Elantrians who interacted with Kelsier in Mistborn: Secret History. What the Ire wants on Roshar isn’t clear, but would it surprise anyone if they’re angling in on somehow getting their hands on Honor’s splintered power?
The Seventeenth Shard
Perhaps the most notorious of all the worldhopping groups (thanks to the official Brandon Sanderson fan website), the Seventeenth Shard has actually been pretty quiet thus far in The Stormlight Archive. Three members appeared in The Way of Kings, in the Ishikk interlude, searching for Hoid. Hoid, in his letter in The Way of Kings, notes that it’s probably good for them that they don’t know where to find him.
More interesting than their fruitless search for Hoid is who they are. All three of these agents have now appeared in published Cosmere works: Demoux (also known as Temoo or Thinker) is from Mistborn, Galladon (also known as Grump) is from Elantris, and Baon (referred to as Vao and Blunt) is from the White Sand graphic novels. How any of them found their way off their respective worlds is as yet unknown, but it’s possible Demoux was recruited by his partner, Aslydin.
Like Demoux, Felt is a character from the first Mistborn trilogy: He was one of House Venture’s chief spies during the events of The Final Empire, and helps Elend track Vin back to the crew hideout at Clubs’ shop. On Roshar, he’s been a hardworking guard and scout for the Kholins, serving with Dalinar when he went to visit the Nightwatcher and as a scout on the Shattered Plains.
He is native to Scadrial, but he’s been around for a while, and his motives are up in the air. According to Brandon, Felt has changed his allegiance several times.
Yep, there’s a kandra running around on Roshar. For very obvious reasons, nobody knows for sure who the kandra is, though several fan theories have floated around, including Taravangian’s bodyguard Mrall and Rial from Bridge Thirteen.
Another confirmed worldhopper appears in The Way of Kings, though just for a brief moment and not in a major role. In Chapter 54, “Gibletish”, Dalinar approaches Brightlord Hatham for a discussion. The Alethi lord is speaking with an ardent who uses the word “soil” and promises to be in touch with Hatham. Brandon has confirmed that he is a worldhopper, though which society he’s with is up in the air as of yet.
But how did everyone get here?
With so many characters from other worlds (and times!) showing up on Roshar, the natural question is, how did they manage that? The short answer is Shadesmar. The Cognitive Realm in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, also known as Shadesmar, corresponds to locations in the Physical Realm—but with a twist. Since it is a realm dominated and created by thought, locations expand and contract based on how much thinking is going on. Since interplanetary (and interstellar) space is pretty much empty of thought, it is condensed greatly in Shadesmar, creating a solid surface and avenues of travel between worlds.
People can transition between the Physical and Cognitive Realms via perpendicularities, which tend to take the form of glowing pools. The lake in the Horneater Peaks, mentioned by Rock in Words of Radiance, is one such perpendicularity. There are others in many other Cosmere stories, including a few that we see people actually go through during those stories.
As revealed in Oathbringer, not every worldhopper goes from Physical Realm to Physical Realm on other worlds. Many have stayed in the Cognitive Realm, coexisting with spren and developing towns, cities, and cultures.
So, while we know a surprising amount about the worldhoppers on Roshar and how worldhopping is possible, many questions still remain. Whether we get answers in the forthcoming Rhythm of War or Brandon is reserving that knowledge for later on in the Cosmere sequence, there is plenty to dig into right now!
Drew McCaffrey lives in Fort Collins, CO, where he’s spoiled by all the amazing craft beer. He is a Brandon Sanderson beta reader and co-hosts the Inking Out Loud podcast, covering science fiction and fantasy books (and some of that Colorado craft beer). You can find him on Twitter, talking about books and writing, but mostly just getting worked up about the New York Rangers.