Lyn: Well, my Cosmere chickens, we’ve reached the final installment of the Dawnshard reread, and boy do we have a lot to talk about!
Sam: Hoo boy…. This week the chapters we’ll be talking about completely change a lot of what we assumed about the Cosmere and the history of Adonalsium. Where last week I had a lot to say about how paraplegia was portrayed via Rysn’s character, I think it’s safe to say I’m expecting to have a LOT to say in the Cosmere Connections section.
L: Yup, it’s gonna be a doozy! And as such, we’ve invited along one of the resident Cosmere Scholars to help us untangle this web of theories. Drew, care to introduce yourself?
Drew: Hello, everyone! I’m glad to be aboard for this week’s installment. Some readers may recognize me from some other Tor articles (like the interview I did with the ever-awesome Isaac Stewart, art director of Dragonsteel Entertainment). You’ll also find me hanging around in other corners of the Sanderson fandom!
L: Don’t you have an awesome podcast you do too, Drew?
D: I think “awesome” is up for interpretation, but I’m one of the hosts of the Inking Out Loud podcast, where we review science fiction and fantasy books from the perspective of writers (as well as fans). And we may or may now review a few tasty beers along the way, too…
S: … ::opens the podcast app on my phone::
Reminder: we’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series, including Rhythm of War. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of the Stormlight Archive (this includes the novella Edgedancer and the newly released Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.
In this week’s discussion we also discuss MAJOR SPOILERS from, well… pretty much all of Brandon’s published works, all over the place. This week’s section has a lot of Cosmere theory in it, so it’s kind of unavoidable. We’ve done our best to put relevant spoiler warnings at the beginning of each paragraph, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re not caught up on everything, and proceed with caution.
WHO: Rysn, Lopen
Aboard the ship, Cord and Rysn are attacked by the Sleepless. Cord grabs Rysn and manages to escape overboard with her, swimming down to find an underwater cave filled with Shardplate, Soulcasters, and… a very strange mural? Meanwhile, Rushu and Lopen discover the Akinah Oathgate, cleverly hidden beneath a ruined decoy one. Lopen realizes that things are a little too perfect and returns to the beach in time to save his cousin from being eaten by a sea monster. Back in the cavern, the Sleepless begin negotiations with Rysn, who convinces them that their best choice is to allow her to leave with the Dawnshard “in her head” in order to better protect it from the forces who wish to use it to destroy the Cosmere. Lopen is rescued by Huio, who swears the Third Ideal and gains his Shardblade. Cord gains her own Shardplate and agrees to protect Rysn after training in how to use it, and poor Lopen speaks his own Third Ideal after all of the action occurs.
It was, sure, a mausoleum. But instead of for kings and such, it was for an entire people.
S: I’m more and more convinced that Brandon has the ability to write an amazing horror novel.
D: Absolutely. His style is cinematic, and really drives home the look and feel of a setting.
He couldn’t banish the wrongness as they did so, and he kept seeing things at the corners of his eyes.
L: S***, I didn’t even make that connection, you’re probably right!
Whoever was watching this place, they’d gone to great lengths to prevent them from arriving. But once that plan had been foiled, they’d probably been willing to let the expedition gather up fake gemhearts and sail away. So long as they didn’t find the real secret of the island.
L: I get why Lopen would make this intuitive leap, but as we know… He’s wrong. The Oathgate isn’t the real secret of the island!
On one hand, she looked somewhat comical wearing only half of the armor. Her exposed head and arms seemed child-size with the rest of the Plate in place and functioning. Yet her solemn expression, the way she slammed the butt of a spear down beside her… Rysn found herself bolstered by the young woman’s determination.
S: That’s because Cord is so brave!!!
“Remind me to never cross Brightness Rysn,” Lopen said. “I don’t know what those challenges are she passed, but I can’t believe it ended with us so rich. And so, well, alive.”
S: Yes. Alive. But firstly, so rich. That’s definitely the most important bit.
“Most people who are different from us are frightening at first,” Rysn said.
S: ::nods wisely::
“So, Rysn is a Shardbearer now?” Cord asked. “A… Dawnshardbearer?”
L: Not to be confused with a Shardbearer, like a human with a Shardblade or Shardplate. Or a Shardbearer, like a person who is bearing one of the Shards of Adonalsium… This is going to get so, so confusing… (Though, Nikli does say that she IS the Dawnshard now, much like the bearers of the Shards of Adonalsium BECOME the Shards, so… I still foresee a lot of explaining to the less cosmere-savvy members of the fan community, though.)
S: Maybe someone should have told Brandon that there are other words besides “shard.”
“I demanded Navani send me with either a shardblade or a Soulcaster to get through. Alas she picked the less exciting option. I do like being right though. It makes my heart flutter.”
S: … she’s almost as odd as The Lopen.
D: Rushu is such a nerd. She’d be a blast to play D&D with.
S: True neutral?
D: That might fit best, but I like to think of her as Chaotic Good.
But Vstim’s voice seemed to whisper to her from across the ocean. This was her moment. The most important deal of her life. What did they want? What did they say they wanted?
Storms, I’m not ready for something like this, she thought.
You’ll have to do it anyway.
S: You ARE ready for this, Rysn!
Sometimes you need to accept what you’ve lost, then move forward. Then you can instead realize what you’ve gained.”
L: There it is. The key to Rysn’s arc, the reason why she and she alone is the only one who could have accomplished this. Only she can understand this. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, Sam.
S: When I was hurt, it took a long time to pull myself out of my funk. Once I was able to understand that while I had lost some of my big interests (hiking, backpacking, camping) and that there would be things in the future I’d be unable to do (dance with my wife, any daughters I might have) and focused on things I could still do, was when my recovery really began.
“I am no soldier,” Cord said, her voice growing softer. “I am no warrior. I must train if I am to be of any use. I will go to war and learn to use this gift. I will fight the Void, as my father refuses to do. Once I’ve accomplished that goal, then I will consider your request.”
L: I’m really glad to see this. So often in fantasy, a character gains a magical artifact and is somehow immediately a master of it. It’s good to see a character realize that some training is required, though I do worry for Cord’s safety in the war! I like her.
Would Chiri-Chiri retain the ability to fly as she grew big as a chasmfiend? Nikli had implied she would. Stormwinds. How would Rysn deal with that?
S: Dragon Riders of Roshar.
Relationships & Romances
Surprisingly, she grinned back. Usually people threw things at him when he said lines like that.
S: I love how their relationship has changed since they met.
“Rushu,” Lopen interrupted, fishing out the gemstone Huio had given him. It wasn’t blinking. “You’re a genius.”
“But you’re also a storming fool. Gather the sailors, stay here, and try not to get killed.”
S: The Lopen calling her out, in a similar way that she did earlier in the book because he’s made a connection she, in all her intelligence, did not.
D: I like how Lopen gets to show off his “street smarts” in a pretty strong foil against Rushu’s “book smarts.”
L: Since we’ve also made one D&D reference to her… Intelligence ability score vs Wisdom!
Bruised, Broken, & Disabled
For a moment, Rysn was transported back to the Reshi Isles.
For a moment she was in that deep again, after having plunged from such an incredible height. Numb. Watching the light retreat. Unable to move. Unable to save herself.
S: PTSD is so tough. SO tough.
L: Yes. Yes it is. I have a similar experience to this whenever I’m in medical situations. Even thinking about it now makes my breath go short.
Previously mundane acts—like getting out of bed, visiting the washroom, or even getting herself something to eat—had suddenly become near impossible. The resulting fear, frustration, and helplessness had almost overwhelmed Rysn. She’d spent days lying in bed, feeling that she should have died rather than become such a burden
S: For me, it was learning how to dress myself again. Something that had been so simple was now SO difficult.
She felt… regretful. Every time she had a taste of freedom, something happened to steal it away from her.
S: That’s the real trauma. She was so close to being her own person when she had her accident. So close to no longer being an apprentice…
No, she thought, determined never to sink into that self-pity again. I am far from useless.
S: YES! You are amazing Rysn. You may have your bad moments or days, but you are powerful and awesome!
“I joke with the people I love. It’s how I am.”
“Yes, but does it have to be?” Huio asked. “Could you, sure, tease a little less?”
“I . . .” Storms. Was it true? Was that how they thought of him?
L: I’d just like to point out that this kind of realization can provoke one of two responses. 1, the person can dig their heels in and refuse to acknowledge that they’re hurting others. 2, they can reflect upon the fact that they’re being hurtful and adjust their behavior. The latter is a difficult step to take, the realization that something you’ve done is hurtful without your meaning for it to be. I’m very proud of Lopen for not immediately doubling down on it and instead taking the step to rectify his behavior.
S: A sign that their friendship is very strong. Criticism from a true friend is worth the world.
Lopen felt a sudden sharp pain in his breast, accompanied by shamespren sprinkling around him like red flower petals. It threatened to spread, to encompass him. It made him want to curl up and never say another word.
L: This feels like a form of social anxiety, to me. I’ve had this feeling before. I’m glad that instead of letting it consume him, he instead takes a middle path. Still trying to make people laugh, but in moderation.
S: I feel this on the daily. The middle road is hard to see when you’re curled up in a protection ball.
Weighty Words / The Knights Radiant
“My father has always had the blessings of spren. They used to strengthen his arm, when he drew the Bow of Hours in the Peaks, but I’ve never known such blessings.”
L: Hold up. Bow of Hours? What the heck is that, and why does it have a special name, and why did Rock–who was supposed to not be a warrior–wield it?! Spren, strengthening Rock’s arm? BRANDON, YOU AWFUL TEASE. How dare you just drop all of that on us with no answers?! Was Rock… a proto-Radiant even before meeting Kaladin? (I’m assuming from context that Cord doesn’t mean luckspren specifically in this instance and is referring to spren in general, so these could have been from any order!)
D: I thought exactly the same thing. We’ve had enough hints at this point that point to Rock not being the son he wants everyone to think he is, but this is the first time I can remember that we’ve gotten clues to his possible proto-Radiance prior to Kaladin and Bridge Four.
S: This may have been how the original Radiants came up with the idea of the nahel bond.
L: Oh, and then later, we get even more questions:
…he who drew the Bow of Hours at the dawn of the new millennium, heralding the years of change! If you were to kill me, you would be violating the ancient pact of the Seven Peaks…
L: ….uh huh.
“They don’t seem to know about the ancient treaties,” Cord whispered. “And in truth, those treaties were made with other gods. I had hoped the Gods Who Sleep Not would be similarly bound, but now I am not certain.”
L: Dean Winchester “says” it best. Okay, but let’s try to unpack this a little. We know that the Horneaters call spren gods. So… ancient treaties with the spren. That makes sense, as they can see the spren. But what could these treaties be about? Any thoughts or theories on this one, Drew?
D: Now we’re getting into the real doozies. My best guess is that the spren would have been really concerned about the use of the perpendicularity in the Horneater Peaks, and would’ve wanted to get at least some control over how it’s used. And speaking of the Peaks and Rock and the Bow of Hours…I already cannot wait until the next Stormlight novella, Horneater, comes out!
L: Wait. Is that verified? Or are you just speculating?
D: Well, the title is probably only a working title, but Brandon has mentioned it a few times now!
S: Ok…::organizes thoughts:: Horneaters are the descendents of both humans and singers. Maybe the “treaty” with the spren relates to the broken promises between spren and singers. We heard Leshwi talk about being forgiven by the spren, maybe the Horneaters were the only ones to maintain relations with the spren all these years.
“You have any more Stormlight, cousin?”
“No. I got a burst when I said the Ideal, but that ran out fast.”
L: I wonder what causes that burst of Stormlight? Are they briefly connecting to the Stormfather on some deep cognitive level, and hence able to tap into his power?
S: Each new oath deepens their Connection to the spiritual realm. Maybe once they have any connection at all to Honor they always have a small amount of investiture and the deepening of the Bond multiplies what they have on hand?
“You must never bond a spren to become a Radiant.”
“I… doubt Chiri-Chiri would be willing to share me,” she said.
S: This implies that her bond with Chiri-Chiri is a nahel bond similar to the bond between a Radiant and their spren.
L: It’s long been speculated whether or not a Knight Radiant could have more than one nahel bond…
D: I also fully expect Rysn to break this promise in the future, perhaps even unintentionally. She exhibited some serious Willshaper personality traits… ::ducks::
S: I think you mean ::chickens::
L: The wording of the demand indicates that a secondary bond is possible, which is interesting. I also wonder why the Sleepless are so insistent upon this… do they not trust a spren with that amount of power? If so, why not? Or is there some kind of reaction that might occur? Has this happened in the past, and their knowledge of said event is what’s making them so nervous?
D: Word of Brandon is that two Nahel bonds for the same person are possible, though tricky to maneuver through the spren politics. My best guess is that someone in the past has had both a Nahel bond and been a Dawnshard, and that opened up all kinds of dangerous avenues…
“I don’t hate you,” Huio said. “But you can be a pain, younger-cousin. Me, Punio, Fleeta, even Mama Lond. The way you joke can sometimes hurt us.”
S: If you don’t HATE anyone, even yourself, the third ideal would have to be flexible. So protecting someone that can sometimes ANNOY THE SNOT out of you would have to be good enough.
D: I enjoyed the meta nature of Huio’s Third Ideal. It of course makes sense in-world, from a character development perspective, but it also feels a bit self-aware on Sanderson’s part—he knows that not every reader enjoys Lopen, so having characters in-world feel the same can help assuage that portion of the fandom.
S: Not having hated Lopen, this never occurred to me!
L: This is a masterful use of lampshading.
“I’ll do it then,” Lopen said, standing up. “I”ve got to protect people, you know? Even from myself. Gotta rededicate to being the best Lopen possible. A better, improved, extra-incredible Lopen.”
S: These words are accepted. It seems the oaths of the Windrunners eventually become simply about being a better person.
“For what it is worth, Rysn, I’m sorry. I genuinely enjoyed our time together. But the very cosmere is at stake. A few deaths now, however regrettable, will prevent catastrophe.”
L: Buckle up, my chickens. The Cosmere Train is now leaving platform 17. The destinations of this train are: Theory-ville, Speculation-land, and Tin-foil-vania. Please stand clear of the doors, the doors are closing.
S: All of those places reside inside Brandon’s head…. Hold onto your butts!
D: And here…we…go!
L: Let’s start with these murals:
On its walls they found strange murals. People with hands forward, falling through what appeared to be portals, emerging into . . . light?
D: These murals seem awfully familiar, don’t they? Might similar murals have been spotted in other books, like…oh…Oathbringer and Elantris?
S: The portals are obviously perpendicularities, I remember the one in Elantris but not the one in Oathbringer. Gonna have to reread the Well of Ascension now.
L: I didn’t recall the one in Elantris! That’s fascinating. And to think… that was Brandon’s first published book, so he was planning all this way back then!
It depicted a sun being shattered into pieces.
L: Okay, so this is pretty clearly Adonalsium being shattered. For anyone who isn’t up on Cosmere theory and is thinking, “Adonalsium? What the heck is that?” here’s your TL;DR primer. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for everything Brandon’s written, for the rest of this section. I’m not kidding, here—MAJOR spoilers. Like… the ending twists of most of his major novels. Please proceed with the utmost caution, or just skip down to the next section.
Once, long long ago, the primary “god” or creative force of the Cosmere was named Adonalsium. For some unknown reason, a group of people orchestrated that being/power to be shattered into sixteen pieces. Those pieces were then borne by a number of those people and carried out to other worlds across the Cosmere. On Sel (Elantris), they were Dominion and Devotion. On Scadrial (Mistborn), they’re Ruin and Preservation (currently both being held by one person, namely Sazed). Here on Roshar, we’ve seen Cultivation, Odium, and Honor (dead). On Nalthis (Warbreaker), we’ve got Endowment. Autonomy and Ambition were found in some of Brandon’s shorter fiction–White Sand, Sixth of the Dusk, and Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell.
S: We know that Odium destroyed Ambition in the Threnodite system (Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell) and the Epigraphs in Part Two of Rhythm of War mention four new shards: Mercy (who was present when Ambition was splintered), Whimsy, Valor, and Invention.
The peculiar letters were art themselves, curling around the outside of the exploding sun—which was divided into mostly symmetrical pieces. Four of them, each in turn broken into four smaller sections.
S: The number sixteen is portentous. There are sixteen allomantic metals, sixteen Shards of Adonalsium (which this is clearly depicting) but that there are FOUR sets of Shards implies they are four groups of four and that each group is associated with the others of the group. Otherwise the sun would just be split into sixteen bits. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!
L: Yes, I’d be curious to see which Shards of Adonalsium are associated with one another. Drew, is this something that we know, yet?
D: No hard information yet on which Shards belong to which quadrants, but there has certainly been a lot of speculation about the possibilities. Rysn’s Dawnshard appears to be something along the lines of Change, and there are several Shards that could fit: Endowment, Cultivation, Ruin, perhaps even Invention or Whimsy!
S: Anyone else want to crawl into Brandon’s head despite it probably being a circus tent of funhouse mirrors and bizarre logic?
L: Nah. I’m happy being on the outside, relaxing and just taking it all in. I think having all this going on around you must be pretty exhausting. Anyway… I could see Invention being a part of the Change quadrant, for sure. Whimsy just sounds… hilarious, though. I’m really curious to see what kinds of powers that grants… Anyone else imagining Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series?
D: I can only imagine what kind of hijinks Hoid could get up to if he visited Whimsy’s planet.
S: Maybe he’s already been there….!
She felt something emanating from it. Resignation? Confidence? Understanding?
S: So Adonalsium knew he was being destroyed and understood that it needed to happen?
L: I’m not sure that’s what this is implying. It could be, but… I think what she’s feeling is the Dawnshard, given that the previous paragraph talks about how she’s feeling actual power coming from the mural. She’s in the process of being imbued with this power, right?
S: I see! So this is their Connection being formed. Got it!
L: Here’s where I get confused. She hears this “voice” in her mind. But then she thinks the following:
It wasn’t a living thing that she’d taken upon herself. It was . . . something else. A Command. It didn’t have a will, and it hadn’t led her here or chosen her. But Chiri-Chiri had done both.
L: So… it’s just a weapon. Then what was that voice she heard in her head? Was it Chiri-Chiri?
S: I can’t wait for Dragonsteel!
L: Brandon’s supposedly going to be starting writing this book, which talks about the shattering, after he’s done with Stormlight. So… it’s gonna be awhile.
D: Dragonsteel is gonna have some serious endgame information—even though it chronologically takes place at the beginning of the Cosmere. It’s going to be fun watching puzzle pieces like Rysn’s Dawnshard fall into place…
S: I have a feeling it’ll take place at both the beginning of the Cosmere and the end. We had huge mentions of a “War of the Shards” in Rhythm of War. Hoid has not been acting randomly all these years. He has a plan. There’s also other forces besides Odium causing problems. There’s theories that Autonomy is the one threatening Harmony (the combination of Preservation and Ruin that Sazed is holding) and there are World Hopping organizations like the Ghostbloods. So many moving pieces!
D: From what Brandon has said in the past, Mistborn Era 4 (the space age trilogy, with Hoid as a main POV character) will be the chronological endgame, presumably featuring the “War of the Shards.” It would be interesting to see if/how Brandon tries to somehow make Dragonsteel span 10,000+ years, but I think he wants that to be focused on the Shattering of Adonalsium.
She traced the pieces of breaking sunlight with her eyes. Gold foil on the inside. Red foil tracing the outer lines to give them depth and definition.
L: Gold, eh? We’ve seen tons of links to Allomancy already in Rhythm of War, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s something to this. But the red… just a stylistic choice? Or is there more to it? (Thinking of how prevalent color is in Warbreaker…)
D: Red is noteworthy, here. According to Words of Brandon, red is a major indicator of corrupted or co-opted Investiture in the Cosmere. Was what the Dawnshards did during the Shattering of Adonalsium a kind of corruption?
S: I. Need. To. Know!
L: It’s rare that things like this are coincidence or unimportant in Brandon’s works, so I’d put good spheres on the color choice being important.
It stilled, waiting. Waiting for…
“Yes,” Rysn whispered.
Something slammed into her mind. It streamed from the mural through her eyes, searing her skull. It gripped her, held her, joined with her. Light consumed Rysn entirely.
A moment later, she found herself panting on the ground. She blinked, then felt at her eyes. Though tears leaked from the corners, her skin wasn’t on fire, and she hadn’t been blinded.
S: Ok. So. When a mortal being takes up a Shard of Adonalsium, their body is destroyed and they’re remade as a cognitive shadow. But that clearly didn’t happen here. She clearly already had a Connection to Change, and then it fused with her spirit web. Did she have a Connection because of her injury? Because she had been forced to change?
L: Well, this is a Dawnshard, different from a Shard of Adonalsium (yeah, this terminology is gonna get confusing). But you’ve made an interesting correlation here in regards to being forced to change. It does line up with her character arc. If the Dawnshards were used to shatter (change) Adonalsium, perhaps the very concept of change or alteration is important to it in that this is the type of vessel it seeks.
S: Perhaps that change is what caused the corruption that Drew pointed out, the red foil.
L: Mm, perhaps. I’d also like to point out that it seems to require Rysn’s consent before possessing her. Is this something we’ve seen from the Shards of Adonalsium too, Drew? I forget.
D: Not that we’ve seen, no. It was pretty incidental with Vin and Sazed during the events of The Hero of Ages, but you could make an argument that Taravangian needed to consent in Rhythm of War. The raw Investiture of Odium did plead with Taravangian. There are some curious implications behind all this.
S: In Mistborn: Secret History, Kelsier didn’t seem to give permission to take Preservation either.
And there was still that strange heat in the back of her mind. The pressure. The Command.
L: Very interesting…
“We…” Nikli said. “We have seen the end of worlds, and vowed to never let such an awful event happen again. But we will kill the few to protect the many, if we must.”
S: Which worlds? Braize? A planet in the Threnodite system maybe when Ambition was destroyed? Something else?!
L: This sounds almost exactly like what Taravangian says. I wonder if they’re getting their information from the same source, though… Mister T’s working from a vision of the future, and Nikli saying “again” implies a past event, which would make sense if they’re talking about Braize…
D: The implication in Oathbringer is that a Dawnshard was involved in the destruction of Ashyn, so that’s a good starting point. But worlds, plural, is no accident. Maybe Yolen could be considered destroyed, with the fainlife there? But that’s yet another thing we won’t find out about until Dragonsteel…
“Rysn, there are forces in the cosmere that we can barely identify, let alone track. Evil forces, who would end worlds if they could.”
L: Let the speculation… BEGIN! We can assume that Odium is one, but… forces, PLURAL?
S: Autonomy is another, possibly the Ghostbloods… I get the feeling that The Lost Metal will shed some light.. Maybe… I hope.
“The most powerful forms of Surgebinding transcend traditional mortal understanding,” Nikli said. His body began to re-form, hordelings crawling back into place. “All their greatest applications require Intent and a Command. Demands on a level no person could manage alone. To make such Commands, one must have the reasoning—the breadth of understanding—of a deity. And so, the Dawnshards. The four primal Commands that created all things.” He paused. “And eventually, they were used to undo Adonalsium itself….”
S: I don’t even know where to begin with this. This has the potential of being the most impactful paragraph regarding the history of the Cosmere in Brandon’s works to date.
L: Not only history, but understanding of the underlying broader magical system that all of the Cosmere worlds seem to share. Command, and Intent. We seem to see this in regards to the Ideals spoken by Windrunners, to use a recent example. Lopen said Words, but without Intent. So it didn’t work. I imagine you’re going to have a lot to say here, Drew.
D: Absolutely. There has been a lot of contention in the fandom about intent in the Cosmere, even to the point of arguments over whether and when the word should be capitalized. You’d be surprised at how big a deal it is that Brandon chose to capitalize it here and in Rhythm of War.
The concept of Intent carries wide implications, too. It makes sense that Harmony, for instance, struggles to affect many Shard-level actions if he requires Intent to do so—since he really has two different, opposing Intents warring for mastery in a three-way tug-of-war with his own personality.
S: I remember it being implied that the combination of Ruin and Preservation didn’t have to become Harmony. It could also have easily become Discord or Chaos.
What kind of Command wasn’t written, but infused a subject like Stormlight in a sphere?
L: Well, that’s a particularly fascinating question, isn’t it?
D: I can’t even begin to theorize about this one. Dawnshard introduced some crazy new mechanics to the already labyrinthine magic system!
Storms. Was it her, or did this tea taste extra good? She inspected it, then glanced at the sunlight pouring through the porthole. Was it… brighter than usual? Why did the colors in her room look so exceptionally vivid all of a sudden?
S: So… Third Heightening? Does that imply that Endowment was one of the shards that existed under the umbrella of Change?
D: I think there’s a great argument to be made that Endowment falls under the Change umbrella. Apparently Rysn isn’t really of any Heightening, though. According to a recent Word of Brandon, it’s simply a side effect of holding so much Investiture. Honestly, it reminds me a bit of the side effects of holding the One Power in The Wheel of Time.
S: Oh! Maybe she’s become a Cosmere equivalent of a Ta’veren! ::squeals in nerd::
Flora & Fauna
L: We talk about several different types of critter throughout this section, so rather than keep the quotes in chronological order, I’m going to organize them in subheadings according to each type.
DYSIAN AIMIANS (aka The Sleepless, aka Hordelings)
Humanlike feet formed, then legs. Cremlings crawled up, pulling together into a writing heap that became a torso—then finally the full figure of a nude man, lacking genitals.
S: He was given the Ken doll treatment!
L: I suppose it makes sense. The Dysian Aimian wouldn’t have any use for genitalia, so why bother wasting any cremlings on creating it, when it wouldn’t be seen by anyone anyway?
For a moment, the look of it was nauseating— the figure’s stomach pulsed with the creatures moving within. Lumps twitched on the arms. The skin of the legs split as if sliced open, revealing the insectile horrors within.
L: NO. THANK. YOU.
D: There you go, Brandon. Flex those horror muscles!
S: He could do well writing some body horror. Not sure I could read it… but it would be well written.
One might have been imitating a male, the other a female, though it was hard to tell.
S: I like that the Sleepless seem to be non-binary.
L: Are they, though? One would assume that each individual hordeling in the swarm would have genders, like other bugs? So is it just… how they are choosing to outwardly present to the world that’s non-binary, whereas the individuals still have separate sexes for the purpose of reproduction? Or can they reproduce asexually?! (Another possibility is just that these particular swarms aren’t as well-accustomed to posing as humans.)
S: Brandon has other alien species in the Skyward series that have more than two genders, or combinations of two genders. It’s nice seeing some amount of inclusion here. We had the king earlier in the book that was trans, maybe we’ll get some humans that aren’t male or female eventually.
L: Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see more trans/non-binary representation! I’m just not sold that that’s what’s happening here. (Yet.)
D: I read this as the meta-identity of each swarm doesn’t ascribe to a binary gender, but that individual hordelings are what reproduce and have biological sexes…and at some point in the growth of a horde, enough are there to split off and form a new hivemind/Sleepless. But that’s a total shot in the dark.
S: Agreed, I suppose what I meant to say was that, I like that their human bodies are being depicted as non-binary. Often in pop culture we see aliens as almost hypersexualized versions of male or female. So this is a nice alternative.
LARGE GRUB-LIKE HORDELING
It looked vaguely like an enormous grub with a wicked beak of a face. It had spindly arms running all the way along its body, and had reared up so it was mostly vertical, using its pointed limbs like spears
L: What. The hell. ARE THESE. I am NOT A FAN of giant grubs with legs like a spider NO THANK YOU NO THANK YOU. And what the heck is with this:
It was as tall as a building, swarming with arrowhead luckspren.
L: Are the luckspren chilling out around this thing just because it is so big?
D: I think they must be. There’s no way that thing could function without some miraclespren help…
The giant grublike monster teetered, then collapsed with a cracking sound that reminded Lopen how hungry he was.
S: Ok, earlier Nikli winced in pain after Huio hit this creature’s leg with the shared hammer. That seemed to indicate that maybe this creature was part of his swarm. But if the Sleepless use multiple hordelings for brain function then it seems unlikely that this spear would have hit all of them…
L: Not sure what you mean, here. Even if they have shared brain function, there have to be some bodily functions that are linked specifically to the physical chemicals coming from the brain, right? (Also, Nikli does say that many of them have the brain, that implies that not all of them do.)
S: I suppose this giant grub didn’t disintegrate into hordelings,did it? I was probably over thinking. I tend to do that a lot.
L: It didn’t, no, but I think you’re right in that it’s still part of the swarm. There’s nothing to say that there aren’t different varieties that are still part of the swarm! Kind of like how queen bees are way bigger than the workers.
“Watch out. There are some cremlings around here that steal Stormlight.”
“Is it the one the boss-lady had?”
“No, smaller,” Huio said, Lashing himself so he hovered in the air. “And of a different breed. I didn’t get a good look, but I think they flew around in a little swarm.”
L: More on these later:
He glimpsed a swarm of small cremlings flying behind him— different from the one Rysn had as a pet. Smaller— maybe the size of his fist— and more bulbous, the two dozen creatures barely managed to hang in the air.
L: And then we finally get confirmation on exactly what these things are, from Nikli:
“We once assumed,” Nikli said, noticing her attention, “that the last of the lanceryn had
died, and the few hordelings we had bred with them were all that remained. Inferior bloodlines, though they give us the ability to negate some applications of Stormlight.
L: Lots of really interesting info, here. So these hybrids are a part of the swarm too, apparently.
D: And being part of the swarm, rather than simply some native Rosharan creatures, they make Dysian Aimians super dangerous to all kinds of people across the Cosmere, if any decide to pack up shop and head off-world.
I know you, spren, she thought. She should have panicked, should have worried about drowning. Instead she watched the spren. How did I fall from so high and not die? Everyone called it a miracle…
L: Oooooooh well now, what do we have here?!
S: Last week we talked about how the term “luckspren” may be wrong. If these spren are what make greatshells able to move around despite their size, maybe these are… miraclespren? They may also be what make Ryshadium so huge and amazing.
L: That’s a really good point about Ryshadium! Horses (brought here from off-planet) that have bonded with spren? Makes a lot of sense…
D: They certainly help skyeels attain the miracle of flight. I could get on board with a headcanon of miraclespren.
L: We know from Nikli’s speech later that they’re called mandra, but we’re still left with the question of what they are the spren of, if you get my drift. All spren are the manifestations of something, so I’m still willing to headcanon the miraclespren idea.
You were brought here, she thought to herself, by one of the Guardians of Ancient Sins.
S: She was brought here by Chiri-Chiri. The larkin were once the guardians of the Dawnshard, but Ancient Sins? The shattering of Adonalsium? Was that the sin? I WANT TO KNOW!
L: Well, since the Dawnshards are responsible for the shattering, I’d say “Ancient Sin” works.
D: I agree with Lyn. This tracks.
“Chiri-Chiri simply reached the size where she needed to bond a mandra to continue growing.” …. “Larger greatshells need to bond mandras— you call them luckspren— to keep from crushing themselves to death with their own weight. The mandras of this place are special. Smaller, yet more potent, than the common breeds. It is no simple thing to make a creature as heavy as a lancer— or larkin, as they are now called— fly. Chiri-Chiri will need to return every few years until she is fully grown.”
L: Well, there’s our answer regarding the luckspren. They’re something else entirely… Now I’m wondering, though, whether or not a human could bond a mandra in order to fly? Since skyeels and hordelings can bond them (and theoretically horses), we can assume that a gemheart isn’t required…
D: I’m particularly intrigued by the information here that there are sub-types of spren. Subspecies? It implies a specialized purpose for them. Because of that, I sort of doubt a human could bond one…but it sure would be fun to see some non-Knights Radiant flying around and baffling Kaladin and crew!
S: And what about chasmfiends? Someone… Shallan or Dalinar, wondered how something so big could move. Is this variety of luckspren also on the shattered plains?
L: I believe this is implied if not outright stated.
He reached for Rysn, but Chiri-Chiri reared up and let out another shout. This one was different somehow. Not a tantrum, not just a warning. An ultimatum.
S: Connection, with a capital C, is a big thing in Cosmere but especially on Roshar. Luckspren and larkin, Ryshadium and their riders, Radiant spren and their Radiants. Presumably Chiri-Chiri is Connected to both Rysn AND the Dawnshard.
Geography, History, & Cultures
The city had a curious shape, like a flower with radiating petals.
L: (Spoiler alert: we’re going to get into some major Elantris and Mistborn spoilers in this particular discussion.)
S: It was mentioned in WoK that the Dawn Cities were symmetrical, the Ardent that was trying to poison Jasnah demonstrated using harmonics, a metal sheet, and sand in the same way that Navani was able to create visual representations of the different Lights’ tones.
L: Also worthwhile to point out this awesome map by Isaac Stewart of the city! The Shattered Plains were described as having symmetry as well, if memory serves.You know… I wonder if there’s some connection here to Sel, the world on which Elantris takes place. The symmetricality (or at least, the design) of the city was a Huge Deal in that book… Drew, you’re our resident Cosmere Scholar. What do you think?
D: You know, I hadn’t considered a cymatics connection between Elantris and the Selish magics and the stuff going on on Roshar. I wonder if we’ll see more about symmetry with Aons in the Elantris sequels.
L: I just went and perused the Coppermind’s listing on Aons, and with one outlier, they are symmetrical, too…
S: I don’t recall any symmetry to the cities on Scadrial or Nalthis. But those cities weren’t created with any sort of investiture, rather by humans.
L: I don’t know… Elendel seems pretty symmetrical to me. Spook built it, but I’d be willing to bet that he had some input from Harmony?
S: OH OH OH! Remember last week when I mentioned how Brandon uses Palindromes as names for deities?! SYMMETRY!
“I would guess,” she said, still sketching, “that some of this was already covered in crem when the highstorms stopped reaching this island.”
L: Well, we knew that the weird storm around Akinah was a relatively new thing, seeing as how it wasn’t there when this city was thriving. But this is still interesting information.
Unfortunately, judging by the three in Azimir, Kholinar, and Thaylen City, the Oathgates were not placed optimally. Instead, all three are within convenient access of the ruling class.”
L: That’s really interesting from a historical and sociological perspective. It does make sense in some ways, but… not, in others. If the Oathgates were being used for trade (which it would be pretty stupid for them not to be), then the lighteyes would want to control that. Keep records, charge tariffs, and all that. So it makes sense that they’d want them closer. But, it also means they’d have a near constant stream of traffic of lowly darkeyed merchants near their upper-class areas, which… does not make sense, historically. Honestly, I wonder if there’s not more to this. We already know how important symmetry is. I’m willing to bet that the placement of the Oathgates has more to do with some sort of overall symmetry, and that the upper-class areas grew up around them rather than the other way around.
D: I wonder just how similar the sociological makeup of the Silver Kingdoms was to what we see in modern Roshar. We know the lighteyes/darkeyes split came from the Knights Radiant, but was society always so stratified even back then?
S: Solid point. In Dalinar’s flashbacks he didn’t mention anything specific about that, as I recall.
L: I’d be surprised if there wasn’t still a clear dividing line between the haves and have-nots, even if that line wasn’t based on eye color.
“Storming lighteyes,” Lopen muttered. “Always making things more difficult for us common folk.”
“Us common folk,” she asked. “You are a knight radiant.”
S: Ah Rushu, do you even know that less than a year(??) before this The Lopen was not only a slave, but a bridgeman in Sadeas’ army? Not only that but he had only one arm. He was the bottom of the lowest rung of the lowest class.
“Lunu’anaki— he is trickster god— warned of them during my grandmother’s time when she was the watcher of the pool.”
L: I love that Hoid seems to be this culture’s version of Loki. It… it does fit, honestly. (And yes, I am assuming that this is Hoid, because honestly… of course it is.)
D: 100% this is Hoid. Rock mentions Lunu’anaki in Words of Radiance, and describes him using all the telltale Hoid features. Fun stuff!
L: I must have had that information subconsciously stored in the back of my mind, no wonder I was so sure!
S: Nice catch!
“The storm has protected this place for centuries. It is only recently that it weakened enough to let people through.
L: That’s got to coincide with the Everstorm showing up, right?
D: Oooh, I like that idea. I can’t think of anything else so obvious that could have that effect.
S: When was the previous interlude about Akinah? Which book? If it was WoK or WoR then it would have been before the Everstorm.
L: Kaza’s interlude was in Oathbringer.
S: Oh… well there ya go!
“I could walk across the whole place in, sure, less time than it takes Punio to do his hair before we go out dancing.”
L: I love him so much.
D: Is this where I get all the readers to hate me? Cuz…I mostly can’t stand Lopen.
S: Even after Dawnshard?
L: Hey, we’re all welcome to have our own opinions! Even when those opinions are clearly wrong, gancho. ::wink:: Seriously though, it’s fine. It’s not like you like Moash, or something. ::menacingly:: …do you?
D: Don’t worry, you will find nothing but contempt for Moash here!
“You frequently tell me how uncommon you are, Lopen.”
“It’s only a contradiction if you think about it.”
“I… I have no response to that.”
“See? You are getting it already.”
S: The Lopen is the ultimate contradiction. ::nods::
She took it from his fingers, then brought out a jeweler’s loupe and began inspecting it.
“You… carry one of those in your pocket?” Lopen asked.
“Doesn’t everyone?” she said absently.
L: You know, sometimes I don’t quite know how I feel about Rushu, but other times–like now–I just absolutely adore her “nutty-absent-minded-professor” vibe.
D: Rushu is the best.
“They did not know that I am accustomed to such incredible sights, for I experience something even more impressive each morning after I awake.”
“Is that so?”
“When I look in the mirror.”
“And you wonder why you’re still single.”
“Oh, I don’t wonder,” he said. “I’m fully aware that so much of me is difficult for any one woman to handle. My majesty confuses them. It’s the only explanation for why they often run away.”
L: Aw man, not where I thought he was going with that, but… still funny. ::laughs:: (Also for everyone who usually reads the reread and is like “Wow, Lyn’s making more sex jokes than usual…?” Yeah, hi, I usually tone it down for poor Alice’s sake.)
S: ::rereads the quote:: OH! I get it now!
L: Always at your service to drag the subject into the gutter! This is why I was so excited for a Lopen POV book, after all…
“Hey, have you heard about the time I saved Huio from being swallowed? Oh yes. He was going to get eaten. By a monster uglier than the women he courts. And I flew into the thing’s mouth to save him. Off the tongue. Then I was very humble about having done such a heroic deed.”
L: I just had to quote this one. I don’t even have anything to say about it except that I love it.
He glanced up at the sky. “This would be a great time, O blustery one! I will protect those I hate, you den gacho god thing!”
S: Somewhere on Roshar, Dalinar is trying to explain to the Stormfather that the Lopen is not, actually, an idiot.
L: It’s worth noting (for anyone who might have forgotten) that this oath is unique to each individual Windrunner. It has to actually mean something. It has to be difficult to confront. Just repeating someone else’s truth isn’t necessarily going to reveal something deep about yourself.
“Please, gods of the ancient Herdazians,” Lopen whispered. “Don’t let me get killed by a monster that looks so stupid. Please.”
S: It WOULD be embarrassing to be killed by something that looks like Huio before he’s had his morning ornachala.
L: I think this might be my favorite Lopen line so far. Something about the mix of reverent honesty and amusing observation about the monster tickles me just the right way.
“It was a brave thing you did,” Lopen said to the rocks. “Though I know you are only rocks and cannot listen to me—because you are dead, or really were never alive—you must hear that I appreciate your sacrifice.”
S: Venli might disagree with this after the events of RoW.
“That statement, like the Lopen himself, sounds like it comes with a quite spectacular butt attached.”
L: A variation on this has become a part of my regular vocabulary, and through me, has begun infiltrating my non-Stormlight-fan friends. This amuses the heck out of me.
“Storm me!” Lopen shouted, looking at the ceiling. “You did it again? I almost died out there, and you accept the Words now?”
It is the right time.
“Where’s the drama?” Lopen demanded at the sky. “The sense of timing? You’re terrible at this, penhito!”
I take offense at that. Be glad for what you have.
S: ::laughs uncontrollably::
D: Poor Stormfather.
S: The Stormfather to Dalinar: are you SURE he isn’t an idiot?
Fabrial Technology & Spheres
She held out her hand—which glowed suddenly with a fierce light. The ardent wore gemstones on it, connected with silver chains.
“Storms!” he said. “A Soulcaster?”
“Yes,” she said. “Let me see if I can remember how to use one of these…”
L: Noooooooo Rushu! Don’t use it! I don’t want you to die like everyone else who uses those things!
“The Mother of Machines,” Nikli said it like a distinctive title. “Yes. We are… aware.”
S: Mother of Machines. Voice of Lights. Navani is getting all of the awesome titles!
The Soulcasters are practically useless to my kind. We keep them out of reverence, as they were offerings to the Ancient Guardians long ago.
L: Well that’s an interesting tidbit. Why would the Ancient Guardians want these?
S: They are spren that were locked in that form when their Radiant broke their Bond or died… I think. Not sure why the Sleepless couldn’t use them well or the Ancient Guardians would care. But maybe they can interact in interesting ways with Radiant spren.
We’ll be leaving further speculation to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Remember to tune into YouTube for Brandon’s Stormlight Spoiler livestream tonight, if you’ve finished Rhythm of War.
Thanks for joining us on this ride, it’s been short but thrilling! We all hope that you’re staying safe as we ride out this last awful segment of the pandemic, and that you find joy and merriment with your loved ones in whichever holiday you celebrate this month. We’ll be starting up the Rhythm of War reread in January. From all of us on the Stormlight Reread team, Happy Holidays and we love you all, our chickens.
Sam is tired. This time of year is difficult for me. Thank you for joining us in this reread. It’s been a wonderful distraction.
Lyndsey is in happy tears watching the roll-out of the vaccine, hoping against hope that this means that 2021 won’t be a total loss in regards to the events she holds most dear. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.
Drew McCaffrey lives in Fort Collins, CO, where he’s spoiled by all the amazing craft beer. He 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.