Parshendi is an Alethi word that roughly translates to 'parshmen who can think'. Unlike their docile cousins, the Parshendi are clever, accomplished warriors. They were first encountered by Dalinar as he explored the Shattered Plains along with his brother Gavilar. The Stormfather has called them the Old Ones.
Once unknown whether they had a central place of habitation (as the Plains had not been thoroughly explored), it is now confirmed that they inhabit Stormseat (i.e., the former capital of Natanatan), which they called Narak in the east of Roshar.
The Parshendi, as observed by Alethi warriors, have black or white skin marbled with red and very muscular builds, especially in the legs, the strength of which allows them to leap the chasms of the Shattered Plains. They have orange-colored carapace-like armor which appears to grow organically on their bodies. Parshendi men wear black-and-red beards woven with small gemstones. They wear primitive clothing and carry their weapons on their backs.
The Parshendi learned to change their forms. They need a highstorm in order to change forms and such a change involves bonding with spren. The change can affect their appearance, physical abilities and mental faculties. Parshendi songs of the past spoke of hundreds of forms. However, until recently, only Dullform was known and only seven forms are known today:
The Parshendi had learned that capturing spren was possible from humans, then figured out the process on their own. A captive spren made the transformation much more reliable. Before, there had always been an element of chance. You could go into the storm wanting to become a soldier, and come out a mate instead.
- Dullform - Not a kin-minded form, it is a relic from the past, before the Parshendi discovery of the newer forms.
- Envoyform - Venli wears this form, affording her abilities such as the knowing of all languages.
- Mateform - Used for reproductive purposes, it impedes other thoughts, making it difficult to focus on anything else.
- Nimbleform - Used for nurturing the young and for doing the kind of delicate work that requires more agility.
- Stormform - Results from bonding with stormspren (a kind of Voidspren). In Stormform, Parshendi retain their natural skintone, augmented with small, tough ridges under their skin. Their eyes turn red and they exhibit gender binarism in the form of hairstrands and breasts.
- Warform - A fighting form. In it, Parshendi grow plates of chitin armor on their arms, shoulders, chest, and even head. It also seems to give them advanced physical capabilities, although hampers some creative abilities.
- Workform - More limber and more rugged than warform, it has a mental block making it difficult to commit violence.
There is also a reference to Slaveform (those known as parshmen), which is not a true form, but the lack of a bond with a spren.
Forms could not be commanded; every person was free to choose for themselves. Transformations could be cajoled and requested, but they could not be forced. Their gods had not allowed this freedom, so the listeners would have it, no matter what.
Unlike the kandra and koloss of Mistborn, each of which has a "hole" in them that allows Ruin to come in and take over, the Parshendi are naturally protected from this. However, when the Parshendi expose themselves to the storms, and the spren come in, and many of these spren have that kind of "hole" in them, this allows Odium to take control of said Parshendi.
The Parshendi fight in groups of two, often one bearded and one non-bearded individual. Scholars have speculated that this is some form of apprenticeship that warriors must undergo, or perhaps a mark of hierarchy amongst the Parshendi, but a closer examination suggests that the non-bearded Parshendi are female, which makes it likely that the pairs are husband and wife.
The Parshendi sing chants in battle and for other important occasions. They always sing in time with each other no matter how far they are separated, whether or not they can hear each other, which suggests that the Parshendi can communicate telepathically. This singing has been observed also in their kin, the much more docile and smaller parshmen, which might explain why parshmen speak so rarely. However, they may not need to hear a call to action in order to revolt.
Parshendi communication has a suprasegmental component of rhythm. The rhythms Parshendi sing impart information and seem to both reflect and influence their emotions. When stormform is discovered, hitherto forgotten rhythms are introduced such as the Rhythms of Fury and Craving.
The Parshendi appear to have a strongly developed sense of honor in battle, ignoring wounded and vulnerable enemies to attack the most dangerous foes. They also have a very strong sense of reverence toward their dead. Parshmen are allowed to care for their own dead because of this sensitivity; the bodies are wrapped in white linen and carried into the wilderness to be laid on slabs of stone. Parshendi who fall in battle on the Shattered Plains are left on the stone fields.
The Parshendi are known to have several Shardbearers, however, they are seen only rarely.
As the Parshendi celebrated a newly-forged alliance with the Alethi, they sent Szeth-son-son-Vallano, a Shin Truthless, to assassinate the King of Alethkar (i.e.: Gavilar). According to Parshendi honor codes, Szeth was ordered to wear white so that he would be seen coming. As a result, he became infamous as the Assassin in White. These events led to the Vengeance Pact, a campaign to destroy the Parshendi on the Shattered Plains. King Elhokar and the ten Alethi Highprinces lead the war, which has led to the Shattered Plains becoming the true center of Alethi power.
Choosing to murder Gavilar had been an act to affirm the decision of their ancestors to return the Parshendi to primitive levels (i.e., Dullform and Mateform). The choice had been one of courage. They'd hoped that a long war would bore the Alethi. However, they'd underestimated the Alethi; the gemhearts changed everything.
There had once been hundreds of thousands of Parshendi on the Shattered Plains. Now, only a fraction remains. Still, they had been a united people who rejected their gods and sought freedom in obscurity.
Our gods were born splinters of a soul,
|“||They are the souls of those ancient. Those who gave of themselves to destroy. ||”|
|“||They hate you and your kind, sir. This new form they have given my people ... it is something terrible. It will bring something terrible.||”|
- Main article: Listener Songs
- Main article: Listener Rhythms
- ↑ The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill
- ↑ Words of Radiance, 89. The Four
- ↑ The Way of Kings, 26. Stillness
- ↑ Sanderson PreRelease read
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Words of Radiance, Inter4.
- ↑ Words of Radiance, 26. The Feather
- ↑ Hole
- ↑ The Way of Kings, 56. That Storming Book
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 The Way of Kings, 74. Ghostblood
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Words of Radiance, 6. Terrible Destruction
- ↑ The Way of Kings, 55. An Emerald Broam
- ↑ Old Magic
- ↑ Words of Radiance, 34. Blossoms And Cake
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Words of Radiance, 79. Toward The Center
- ↑ The Way of Kings, 52. A Highway to the Sun
- ↑ The Way of Kings, 72. Veristitalian
- ↑ Words of Radiance, 87. The Riddens
- ↑ Parshendi singing