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 encounted by Dalinar as he explored the Shattered Plains along with his brother Gavilar.
Once unknown whether they had a central place of habitation (as the Plains had not been thoroughly explored), it is now confirmed that they inhabited 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.
Parshendi can learn to change their forms. They need a highstorm in order to change forms and such 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 six forms are known today:
- 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.
- Mateform - Used for reproductive purposes, it impedes other thoughts, making it difficult to focus on anything else.
- Dullform - Not a kin-minded form, it is a relic from the past, before the Parshendi discovery of the newer forms.
- 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.
They also make reference to slaveform (those known as parshmen), which is not a true form, but the lack of a bond with a spren.
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 whether or not they can hear each other, which suggests that the Parshendi can communicate telepathically. This singing has been observed also in their possible kin, the much more docile and smaller parshmen, which might explain why parshmen speak so rarely.
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.
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