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Szeth

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Szeth
Szeth
Concept Art by Ben McSweeney[4]
Biographical information
Ethnicity Shin
Nationality Shin
Gender Male
Born 1138[1]
Status Alive
Abilities Surgebinding: Windrunner (formerly),
Skybreaker (purportedly)
Social Information
Title(s) Truthless, Assassin in White
Family Vallano (grandfather), Neturo (father)
Occupation Sect of Shinovar (1138 - 1174)
International Assassin (1167 - 1174)
Appears in The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Edgedancer

Szeth (also known as Szeth-son-son-Vallano and Szeth-son-Neturo, after his predecessors, and the Assassin in White), Truthless of Shinovar is a Surgebinder and an assassin.

AppearanceEdit

Szeth rktrumata

Szeth
Fan art by rktrumata[1]

Szeth has pale skin, large round eyes, and is bald.[2] These features give him a wide-eyed look that, to outsiders from the east, makes him appear to resemble a child.[1]

However, the moment he summons his Honorblade (i.e., Jezrien's Blade), his eyes turn from dark green to pale sapphire - almost glowing - a unique effect of his particular weapon.[1]

PersonalityEdit

At the beginning of The Stormlight Archive, Szeth is aggravated by the fact that stones infused with Stormlight (considered holy in Shin culture) are used as items for illumination. However, as the story progresses, he becomes more accustomed to it, though never approving of it. Szeth is mainly calm and collected, rarely showing his feelings or letting them get the better of him. He is slow to anger but has a deep hatred of himself for being Truthless, and blames his dark deeds on this, not willing to take responsibility for anything he has done because he would be destroyed by the guilt. He is, however, under no illusion that he will not suffer for what he has done and is certain that he will be punished in the after-life for his crimes.

Near the end of his slavery, he begins to blame his victims for not being able to stand up to him, wishing that someone would end his accursed existence; showing that he does have a sense of morality and is deeply regretful of all the acts he has committed.[3] While Truthless, he is not allowed to take his own life,[1] yet he seems to long for the day he will be killed. He also seems to be partially insane as he can hear the screams of the dying from behind furniture, in cupboards, and when he closes his eyes.

Despite the ruthlessness of his actions, Szeth does have an honorable side: whenever possible, he tried to spare life and kept to his personal oath despite that it filled him with grief and regret. He was very fearful of his oath being used to kill the leaders of the world and hated his Honorblade because of the destuctive power it gave him. The most telling example of his moral side was when he nearly killed Taravangian when he saw what the man was doing.[4]

Szeth's anger and grief eventually push him to the edge of sanity as, after his first encounter with Kaladin, he comes to the realization that if Kaladin is a Surgebinder, he was never really Truthless. This would mean that there is no 'excuse' for the atrocities he has committed; he was not bound by the Oathstone but rather chose to follow the orders he was given. Unfortunately, rather than confronting this horrible truth, Szeth goes into denial as his way of coping. During their second encounter, through the undeniable proof that Kaladin is in fact a Surgebinder, he is able to ultimately accept his role in the acts he has committed and so, as a final show of remorse, allows himself to be killed (in the original hardcover edition).[5]

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

Szeth, son of Neturo, who was the son of Vallano, was once a well respected member of his society.[6]

At twenty-seven, he was seen as betraying his people in a fundamental way[7] for which he was named Truthless, cast out and sold to a trader named Vstim, who acquired him as a servant.[8] His betrayal is suspected to relate to claims that Voidbringers and the Knights Radiant would return.

Assassin in WhiteEdit

Szeth AA

Szeth from "The Stormlight Archive"
Fan art by Alex Allen[2]

His first bout as the Assassin in White is when he is ordered by the Parshendi to assassinate King Gavilar, though assassinate may not be the exact word. For some reason, the "assassination" was to be carried out with maximum casualties. He puzzles over why the Parshendi would break their treaty, but decides it is not his place to ask. It is here that the first mentions of Surgebinding are shown. He kills dozens of Kholinar soldiers with his Blade and Surgebindings, cutting through ranks until he confronts a man in a full suit of Shardplate that summons his Blade to buy time for the King to escape with his attendants. As this Shardbearer engages Szeth, the King leaves the palace. Szeth uses careful Lashings, and considers allowing the Shardbearer to kill him before honoring his code to not allow himself to disobey orders. After shattering a section of the sternum, Szeth leaves the wounded Shardbearer to chase the King, but stops upon realizing that the man that had fled was only a decoy. Making his decision, Szeth charges the Shardbearer, who engages him again. The Shardbearer - revealed to be Gavilar - nearly defeats Szeth by breaking his skull after allowing Szeth's Blade to strike him, but Szeth tricks him out onto the balcony and makes it collapse with a Full Lashing. As Gavilar lay at the bottom of the palace dying, Szeth reveals who his masters were and records Gavilar's final words using the King's blood. He leaves both the body and the message behind.[7]

In retrospect, Szeth thinks that his assault on Alethkar had been a massacre. At the time, he hadn't known just what a true massacre was. He learned just what one was after his murder of King Hanavanar of Jah Keved and the King's four Highprinces, amongst thirty other people, including two Shardbearers.[3]

He leaves Jah Keved and is picked up by Avado. With some half-truths and lies, he convinces Avado to bring him away. Szeth is passed from one master to another by means of an Oathstone, a sphere-sized chunk of rock with a few quartz crystals set into it and a rusty vein on one side. Szeth believes he eventually makes his masters uncomfortable; he thinks it is because most of them know he is capable of more than he does for them, and that they are afraid that somone else will find out that they control him simply by using the Oathstone.[1]

Szeth is thirty-four years old, and has been Truthless for 7 years at the time he is owned by Took.[1]

He is later acquired by the crime lord, Makkek, who uses Szeth to expand his own power, and to scare his competitors. Makkek has Szeth dress up for theatrics to intentionally make gamblers uncomfortable and whores impressed. On a mission to slay a competitor, he is beaten to his target and is approached to be used to his "full potential" by a mysterious man, who has killed Makkek and taken the Oathstone.[2]

This new master knows Szeth's potential and creates a list of targets for Szeth to kill. Several kings, Highprinces and other government leaders are on the list. Amongst them all is also the Prime Vizier of Azir.[3][9]

Szeth finds himself crying as he kills, his orders simple:

Kill. Kill as you have never killed before. Lay the innocent screaming at your feet and make the Lighteyes weep. Do so wearing white, so all know who you are. Szeth did not object. It was not his place. he was Truthless.[3]

After having killed all but the last on the list (Kharbranth's King Taravangian), he prepares to kill Taravangian only to realize that it was Taravangian who ordered the deaths.[4]

According to Taravangian, Szeth's status as Truthless includes an absolution for all future sins committed while following his masters' orders, but Szeth dismisses this as a misconception and takes responsibility for all the murders he commits, but it doesn't seem to impede anything but his sanity. Szeth is horrified that Taravangian had ordered the deaths of supposedly random people of power around the world and how he was killing people for seemingly no reason in his hospitals, but is quickly restrained by his duty to the bearer of his Oathstone. He is given a new assignment: brutally kill Dalinar Kholin.[4]

Shattered PlainsEdit

During his first attempt on Dalinar's life, he attacks the Pinnacle (the palace of the warcamps) during the riddens of a highstorm. Cutting a hole in the stone wall of a secret passageway leading from the throne room to outside the palace (an act that is considered blasphemous by the people of Shinovar), he fights with Adolin, Kaladin and Dalinar, all of whom believe that Szeth intends to kill Elhokar. Szeth has no trouble defeating Adolin when using his Surgebinding abilities, and manages to cut Kaladin's forearm with his Blade. He admits later that he is trying to kill Dalinar. Kaladin ultimately tackles Szeth, sending them both falling through the hole in the wall. Szeth realizes that Kaladin is a Surgebinder when Kaladin uses Stormlight to restore function to his lifeless hand. Szeth then flees, as he realizes that if the Surgebinders have returned, he is not Truthless, and his slavery would have been based on a lie. Following Szeth's departure, Dalinar begins to believe that the Parshendi were framed for the murder of Gavilar.[10]

Szeth returns to Taravangian with his concerns, and Taravangian, in his fear of being killed, lies to him, claiming that an Honorblade of Regrowth has been stolen from Shinovar, and that he must be the current wielder. This is enough to persuade Szeth to return to the Shattered Plains to complete his assignment of assassinating Dalinar.[9]

Kaladin vs. Szeth MA

Kaladin vs. Szeth
Fan art by Michael Axt[3]

Szeth arrives at the Shattered Plains during the battle between the Alethi forces and the stormform Parshendi, just before the Parshendi summon the Everstorm. He is discovered by Adolin as he is making his way to Dalinar. He defeats Adolin easily, and engages Dalinar in single combat. Szeth beats Dalinar, but is then attacked on all sides by Alethi forces, trying to drive him back. Szeth easily dispatches many of them, killing Brightlord Roion by Lashing him into the sky.[11] Adolin engages Szeth again (this time without his Plate), but soon loses the will to fight. Bridge Four surrounds Szeth in a final attempt to mob him, but Szeth kills Mart and Pedin. He then Lashes Dalinar upwards as well, but Kaladin arrives in time to save him with a Lashing of his own.[5]

Kaladin and Szeth fight in the air, using Surgebinding to fly. During his fight with Kaladin, Szeth accepts that the Knights Radiant have returned, meaning he is not Truthless and is free to choose his own path (to which Kaladin replies that he has always been able to choose his own path and that he is instead a coward). In the original hardcover edition, Szeth then allows Kaladin to kill him[5] and Kaladin takes Szeth's Honorblade (which is smaller than other Shardblades[12]). In the newly released paperback edition, Kaladin cuts off Szeth's hand, takes his Honorblade, and Szeth is killed by the highstorm.[13]

Kal vs. Szeth5

Color study for Words of Radiance by Michael Whelan

Afterward, Szeth was restored to life with a fabrial, presumedly by the Herald Nalan, who introduced himself as the Herald of Justice and then gave Szeth a new sword, which Szeth assumes to be a Shardblade. His new sword is described as being black and seems to leave a " ... small trail of black smoke. Like Stormlight, but dark."[14]

This is very likely a reference to another of Brandon Sanderson's books, Warbreaker. The blade may be an Awakened sword, formerly wielded by Vasher (now Zahel) in Warbreaker, and is likely Nightblood itself. An Awakened sword is created by using thousands of Breaths to bring an inanimate object to life and giving it a command to follow.  The command given to Nightblood is to "Destroy Evil."[15] The only problem with this is that an inanimate object doesn't have an understanding of what evil truly is, the abstract concept being beyond its comprehension. The sword given to Szeth does match the description of Nightblood, has the sentient voice that occurs in the wielder's mind, and emits black smoke like Nightblood does. In addition, the first words Szeth heard in his head after seeing the sword were essentially Nightblood's catchphrase: "Hello. Would you like to destroy some evil today?"[14]

Szeth is now thirty-five years old.

Former MastersEdit

Part of Szeth's punishment is for him to do whatever the holder of his Oathstone, his master, commands. Throughout the The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, most of that which Szeth does is at the behest of others. Amongst his many masters are the following:

  • Vstim - The trader who first bought him and brought him out of Shinovar.[8]
  • Avado[1]
  • A cobbler who won him in a game of chance.[1]
  • A traveling merchant.[1]
  • A farmer in a village near the mining village of Ironsway in Bavland.[1]
  • Took.[1]
  • Makkek - A criminal who killed Took[1] and took possession of Szeth. Makkek became the owner of a gambling den in Bornwater, Bavland, using Szeth as his body guard and assassin.[2]
  • Taravangian[4]
  • Jasnah - With regard to her father's assassination, although she wouldn't admit to having owned him, she'd sold him (presumably to Liss).[16]
  • Liss - An assassin, who sold Szeth to the Parshendi just prior to the assassination of Gavilar.[16]
  • Parshendi - For the assassination of Gavilar.[7]

TriviaEdit

The parakeet (or parrot) in Words of Radiance: Chapter 43, calls itself "Jek-son-of-none" which was the original name of Szeth.[17]


Q&A with BrandonEdit

Q. Is Szeth bounded to the Oathstone (master) with magic/force or just with his honour?

A. RAFO.[18]

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

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