Welcome back to the world of Roshar! Last week Drew broke down the worldhoppers we’ve seen in the Stormlight Archive. Today Alice and I will focus on some Rosharan natives who know a bit about worldhopping: The Fused.
Warning: This series will contain spoilers for all of The Stormlight Archive published so far, and will occasionally draw on Words of Brandon for supporting information. We’ll do our best to avoid spoilers for other series, or to mark them if they really need to be included. We make no promises about the comment section; however, we’d request that if you want to include spoilers in a comment, please try to white-text them or at least tag them as spoilers so people can skip your comment. And now, onward!
Oathbringer introduces a new antagonist, the Fused. We first encounter Fused when Kaladin is scouting undercover in Revolar. They become a primary enemy in the book as they work for Odium and his interests. Their tasks include searching for and countering Radiants as well as marshalling and leading the singers across Roshar who were awakened by the Everstorm.
Who They Are
We get our first explanation of the Fused from the Stormfather talking to Dalinar and Navani in Oathbringer chapter 38:
THEY ARE THE SPREN OF PARSHMEN LONG DEAD. THEY ARE THEIR KINGS, THEIR LIGHTEYES, THEIR VALIANT SOLDIERS FROM LONG, LONG AGO. THE PROCESS IS NOT EASY ON THEM. SOME OF THESE SPREN ARE MERE FORCES NOW, ANIMALISTIC, FRAGMENTS OF MINDS GIVEN POWER BY ODIUM. OTHERS ARE MORE … AWAKE. EACH REBIRTH FURTHER INJURES THEIR MINDS.
THEY ARE REBORN USING THE BODIES OF PARSHMEN TO BECOME THE FUSED. AND EVEN BEFORE THE FUSED LEARNED TO COMMAND THE SURGES, MEN COULD NOT FIGHT THEM. HUMANS COULD NEVER WIN WHEN THE CREATURES THEY KILLED WERE REBORN EACH TIME THEY WERE SLAIN. AND SO, THE OATHPACT.
As the Stormfather says, the Fused are ancient singer souls who have become cognitive shadows and persist beyond physical death. A large portion of them appear to be no longer sane. We see this multiple times in Oathbringer, such as Venli realizing that the “listener gods were not completely sane,” or Moash looking for someone in charge and finding “one of the [many] crazy ones.” Leshwi herself says she’s “one of the Fused who is sane,” apparently equating that to “one of the leaders.” While they weren’t tortured, so far as we know, the repeated cycle of death and Fusing has damaged their minds.
There seems to be some question about the purpose of their war against the humans: Is it for vengeance? For a homeland? To free Odium from whatever bonds Honor and Cultivation placed on him? Rine tells Venli that they are here to destroy the humans, wipe them from the land, and give the singers their own world again, after which the Fused will “sleep.” While they all seem to agree on destroying the humans, it’s not clear that all are interested in “sleeping” when the job is done.
As we’ve talked about before, the Oathpact locked the Fused’s souls away on the planet Braize, also called Damnation. They were released to return to Roshar whenever one of the Heralds broke under torture, beginning a new Desolation. The Stormfather explains that the Oathpact is badly weakened, and the Fused no longer return to Damnation, but now are reborn in the next Everstorm. This seems to imply that in the past, when they were killed during a Desolation, they would remain on Braize until the next Desolation, though we can’t be 100% sure of that.
We don’t really know how they accomplish the “worldhopping” between Braize and Roshar; most likely it involves the Cognitive and/or Spiritual realms, but that’s the extent of what we can say. (A: Come on, let’s hear the theories!) Once they gain a physical form, though, the Fused have powers that seem similar to Surgebinding. We’ll dig into that a bit later. First, let’s discuss how they get that physical form.
How They Form
To gain a physical body, an ancient singer soul “fuses” itself to the body of a living singer, killing the living singer in the process. We see this firsthand when Venli and her listener compatriots offer themselves to the Everstorm in Oathbringer Interlude 6. Nine listeners are chosen to take “new forms,” though ultimately Venli is singled out by Odium to take a different form:
A pressure enveloped her, pushing at her mind, her soul. Let Me In.
With difficulty, she opened herself up to this force. This was just like adopting a new form, right?
Pain seared her insides, as if someone had set fire to her veins. She screamed, and sand bit her tongue.
At the end of this process, the Fused has taken up residence in the singer’s gemheart and body, and the singer’s soul has been expelled. While a bonding spren inhabits only the gemheart, and thus shares the body of the singer, the Fused must have sole ownership.
M: While we know how the Fused get into the physical realm, we don’t know how the souls of the Fused became cognitive shadows in the first place. Perhaps Odium infused them somehow. Who has theories?
A: I’ve wondered … Spoilers for Mistborn: Secret History … if it was pretty much like Kelsier: they were extremely angry and vengeful, and simply refused to go Beyond. That seems like it would appeal to Odium and gain his cooperation, anyway! That’s all I’ve got, anyway.
There are a few caveats to this process. The voidspren Ulim tells us that the living singer must welcome the Fused or they cannot enter:
“But you must embrace this. Welcome it. You have to want it, or the powers will not be able to take a place in your gemhearts.”
In Oathbringer, the listeners offer themselves willingly to the Fused. Venli tells us that this is because they don’t know that they will be killed in the process, and they believe the promises of great power, like Venli herself believed. By the time she understands what happened, it’s too late to bring her friends back; they’ve already gone Beyond. While we’re not specifically told this, it’s implied that all of the listeners who survived the battle at Narak, except Venli, were sacrificed to become Fused; later in the book, her Envoy speech centers around her being the last of her people.
M: Small mercies. This process is horrible as it is. It would be so much worse if a Fused could take the body of a singer against the singer’s will.
A: In this scene, that’s a distinction without a difference; they weren’t told the actual consequences, so it might as well have been against their will. I suppose it might hurt more if you were actively fighting it, so maybe there’s that?
What They Do
In Oathbringer, Chapter 121, Moash notes this:
There were nine orders of them. Why not ten?
We probably haven’t seen all nine on the page, yet, but let’s look at what we have seen so far, and see what we can pry out of this information.
A: As for “why not ten?” … well, Dalinar concurs with this, but gives no rationale. What do you think? Theories?
Most Fused have been described as larger and more majestic than singer forms. As far as we’ve seen, all Fused can invest Voidlight to heal, similar to how Radiants use Stormlight to heal. Like Radiants, Fused can probably be killed by severing the spine (Jasnah decapitates one in the Battle of Thaylen Field). However, they can also be killed by destroying their gemheart:
Syl’s voice, in his head. I sense something … something about its power. Cut upward, toward the heart.
The Shardknife struck something brittle and hard.
The Fused’s red eyes winked out.
There are a few different types of Fused that we have seen. Some have unique physical descriptions, similar to the differences between singer forms like workform and warform. We’ve seen some of these types use what appear to be Surges. But we know so little about the Fused. So, while we’ve grouped our descriptions of the types of Fused, these groupings could be wrong.
The first Fused we see in Chapter 31 in Revolar use what appears to be the surge of Gravitation to fly. These are also the Fused we see most often in Oathbringer including in Kholinar and in Shadesmar. Moash believes them to be leaders, even of the other types of Fused. They are also very good at what they do:
A blackish-violet glow—like dark Stormlight—rose from the red-eyed parshman. Kaladin cursed and Lashed himself into the air.
The creature followed.
Another rose nearby, leaving a faint violet glow behind, flying as easily as he did. These two looked different from the one he’d seen earlier, leaner, with longer hair.
These Fused have some carapace, but also long hair. They almost never walk but instead float, Lashed to the sky at all times. This is a reminder of Szeth’s statement back in The Way of Kings, that the Voidbringers could hold Stormlight perfectly. Indeed, they don’t seem to ever run out of the power needed to float, though it’s probably Voidlight rather than Stormlight. Because they never touch the ground, they like to wear robes that are much longer than their legs, perhaps for dramatic effect:
They had deep red eyes and red-violet carapace, some of which framed their faces. (Chapter 43)
A woman who hovered in the sky, wearing robes that must have extended a good ten feet below her, like a smear of red paint.
Her face was angular, with long flowing parshman hair—black and crimson, thicker than that of a human. Almost like thin reeds or blades of grass. Her eyes were a deep red, like pools of shimmering blood. (Chapter 54)
We have names for a few of this “order,” as we’ve seen them through the book. Leshwi, the one Moash killed in the Frostlands, is also seen several times in Kholinar, which is where we learn her name. Rine is Venli’s handler during the time she serves as envoy, giving speeches to the singers. Then there’s Kyril, the Fused who runs the inspections in Celebrant city, in Shadesmar; he seems to have a bit of a temper, setting fire to Ico’s ship when he finds out that there had been humans on board. Near the end, we have Hnanan, who gives Moash a very unusual knife, along with orders to kill a god. Finally, in the Epilogue, we see Vatwha, a sentry in the palace gardens, with whom Wit remembers sharing a dance, thousands of years ago.
Another maybe-surge we see the Fused use is Illumination. In Oathbringer Interlude 13, Rysn encounters a parshman who looks like a Thaylen guard. This likely-Fused attacks Rysn, her babsk, and the other guards in an attempt to steal Honor’s Drop. The truth is revealed by Rysn’s larkin:
The larkin was feeding off the thief. A line of light streamed from him, but it was a strange dark violet light. Chiri-Chiri flew about, drawing it from the man, whose face melted away, revealing marbled skin underneath.
So far as we know (hah!) this is the only one of this order that we see, and we have no name for him.
M: This seems like a particularly useful skill for the Fused to have given what we’ve seen Shallan do with her power of Illumination. I’m interested to see what shenanigans the Fused get up to with this power in the future.
A: I’ll agree, except “scared” might be more accurate. That level of disguise, from those who are apparently very good at it, has dangerous potential.
Szeth is sure that some of the Fused he meets during the fight over Honor’s Drop in Chapter 120 are using something like Abrasion:
The Fused transferred the enormous ruby to one of their number who could manipulate Abrasion—a woman who slid across the ground like Lift did.
They appear a bit better at it than Lift, though. The ones we see can slide gracefully like ice skaters and get the best of Szeth and Lift until fooled when Honor’s Drop is swapped for a rock covered in one of Shallan’s illusions. Again, since we only see them through Szeth’s eyes, we have no names for them.
There’s another type of Fused that can grow carapace on command using voidlight.
Moash describes these in Oathbringer Chapter 54:
He was a head taller than the parshmen, and was a subspecies that grew large portions of carapace armor in wicked shapes…The Fused made a fist, and dark violet energy surrounded his arm. Carapace grew there into the shape of a saw.
These “shape shifting” Fused may also be able to change the color of their carapace. Kaladin encounters one during the Battle of Thaylen Field in Chapter 120:
His carapace was the color of stone; he must have been crouching near that foundation, and Kaladin had taken him for merely another part of the stony field.
As Kaladin watched, the creature’s brown carapace crusted up his arms, covering his face like a helm, growing to thick armor in a matter of moments. He raised his arms, and carapace spurs grew above and below the hands.
As seems to be a common theme… we don’t know any names here.
M: Super creepy. I wonder if they are using a surge like Progression to do this, or if it is something else entirely.
A: For the time being, I’m assuming this is Progression. I suppose it might possibly be Transformation, but it seems less likely.
There are a few other strange Fused described that seem distinct from the ones we’ve discussed so far. Some Fused have carapace growing under their skin and peeking out through it, similar to stormform. In fact, Kaladin mistakes the first Fused he meets for a stormform as he heard them described from the battle of Narak:
… a tall parshwoman with long hair. There was carapace covering her cheeks, running back along the cheekbones and into her hair. The skin on her arms prickled with ridges, as if there were carapace under the skin as well. Her eyes glowed red.
In Interlude 6, the Fused that kills Demid and takes his body is described similarly:
[Demid] stood tall—far taller than her—with a broad chest and powerful stance. He seemed more like a statue than a listener. He flexed, eyes glowing red, and his body pulsed with a dark violet power—a glow that somehow evoked both light and darkness at once. …
What form was that? So majestic, with ridges of carapace poking through his skin along the arms and at the corners of the face. …
Nearby, Demid was pooling dark violet power in his hand somehow, studying her and Ulim.
Perhaps these are the same as the Fused that can modify their carapace, or perhaps these are distinct. The one who took Demid’s body is named Hariel; Aharat seems to be the same order, and claimed the body of their friend Melu. Based solely on the description “hulking,” it’s possible that Turash is the same kind of Fused; he’s the one Odium refers to as “old friend” and seems to be one of the commanders of the army at Thaylen Field.
There’s one other named Fused, about whose attributes we know almost zip: Abaray, who is not one of the Gravitation-using Fused, gives Amaram a small, uncut smokestone to provide a “housing” for the Unmade, Yelig-nar.
M: What do you think, dear readers?
A: Which, if any, will we see again?
One other form we’ve seen referenced since the Prelude, and finally saw in action in Oathbringer, are the Thunderclasts. It’s not entirely clear that they are Fused, since they take a body of stone instead of an existing singer body, but they do have names, and they seem to be sapient. In Chapter 117, Odium directs some of his Fused to go to them:
Tell Yushah I want her to stay out here and guard the prison. Kai-garnis did well destroying the wall; tell her to return to the city and climb toward the Oathgate.
Are they Fused, maybe using Cohesion? Or are they the next-level-down Voidspren who somehow animate stone?
A: Again, what do you think? I personally lean toward the Fused idea, mostly because I can’t quite see spren being able to do that, but that’s not much basis!
There’s not a great deal to say about the armies directed by the Fused, but let’s take a quick look at them anyway.
As Ulim explains to Venli in Interlude 6, Regals are formed by bonds with non-sapient Voidspren. There are multiple forms, but we don’t actually see very many of them. The few things we know they have in common are red eyes, and a change from the ordinary rhythms of Roshar to the “new rhythms” of Odium. Venli’s propaganda sessions include urging the singers to serve well in the hope of being elevated to a Regal.
The first Regals we met were back in Words of Radiance—the stormforms who summoned the Everstorm. They are strong and quick, not heavily armored, but with a distinctive carapace jutting through the skin. They can jump great distances, and they can create and throw lightning—though not very accurately, it seems. Perhaps with practice, they get better? The original group of stormforms, the thousands of listeners at Narak, all seem to be gone now: killed in battle, dead in the clashing storms, or taken by Fused. (Except Venli, of course.) One could reasonably assume that new stormforms will be developing; though we didn’t see them in Oathbringer, it seems that a lot of that variety of spren must be available for bonding these days.
Venli wears the second Regal form we see: envoyform. It is a very tall form, nimble, with long hairstrands but little armor. This highly unusual form grants the ability to speak and understand all languages, and apparently other abilities that we haven’t seen yet. The language facility is especially useful in Venli’s task of telling the approved stories to the singers, who each speak only the language of the area where they lived before being awakened. Later, especially at Thaylen Field, we see her serving as translator for one of the Fused. It’s possible that this is the same form called mediationform in the listener songs in the Words of Radiance epigraphs, though there it seems to be considered one of the natural forms rather than a Voidform.
There are a few other Regal forms, or “forms of power,” that we heard about from those listener songs. Decayform, nightform, and smokeform are listed as forms of power, but unless we missed it, we haven’t yet seen them on the page.
The singers, newly awakened from their slave form (or slave lack-of-form?), are the lowest level of Odium’s forces. They have a number of forms available to them—the forms natural to Roshar, such as we saw among the listeners in Words of Radiance. They hear the natural rhythms of Roshar… or at least, they’re learning to hear the rhythms. Over the course of the few months of Oathbringer, the former parshmen go from just beginning to hear the rhythms, to learning what they mean, to beginning to use them to express emotion and inflection; one could perhaps argue that this is the point at which they really become singers.
Some of the singers we see in Oathbringer are wearing the familiar forms we saw previously: Warform and workform seem especially prevalent, though there are a number of nimbleforms among the singers Venli addresses. There are others, too, such as scholarform and artform; Venli sometimes finds it infuriating that the new singers have access to so many forms when her own people had to struggle to find any new forms beyond the dullform and mateform they wore when they broke away and hid from their gods.
Speaking of which… this is as good a time as any to point out that the listeners’—and now the singers’—“gods” are apparently the Fused, not the Unmade. It doesn’t seem that formal worship is required, beyond instant obedience, which is probably a good thing. There seem to be an awful lot of “gods” around, these days, and nothing would get done if the singers had to be actively worshipping them all!
Well, that’s about it for what we know about the Fused. Did we miss anything important? Let’s chat about it in the comments! Be sure to join us again next week to see what we can dig up about the Unmade—who they are, what they do, and where they are now.
Alice is a Sanderson Beta-Reader, mega-fan, and occasional theory-crafter. She takes great pride in the moment at Emerald City Comic Con 2018 when, in conversation about some disputed fan interpretation of a scene, Sanderson said, “You’re right. Just tell them I said, ‘Alice is always right.’” She is also an administrator of two Facebook fan groups: The Stormlight Archive (spoilers allowed for Stormlight books only; everything else has to be spoiler-tagged) and the Storm Cellar (Sanderson fans loosely centered around the Tor rereads, spoilers for all Sanderson books allowed).
Megan is a Sanderson Beta-Reader and longtime fan. She is particularly proud of sticking with it through the surprise Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning back-to-back beta reads which meant those books could be published in quick succession for the enjoyment of you, the readers!