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The Way of Kings: Chapter 45

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<< TWoK Chapter 44: The Weeping / TWoK Chapter 46: Child of Tanavast >>
Twok45


Yelig-nar, called Blightwind, was one that could speak like a man, though often his voice was accompanied by the wails of those he consumed.


Point of view: Shallan
Setting: Kharbranth, the Conclave

Shallan studies the account of King Gavilar's first meeting with the Parshendi; it turns out that Dalinar was the first to encounter them.

Tomorrow is the day that Tozbek is supposed to pull into port and soon after depart with Shallan aboard.

Shallan creates the pretense of looking for a book referenced in the volume on the Parshendi when she really wants to look for more info on what Jasnah seems so interested in: the Voidbringers. Shallan spends the next couple of hours in the bowels of the Palanaeum after pulling out any book that mentions the Voidbringers.

Some of the tales suggest that the Voidbringers were akin to a spren and that they could invade the soul of an individual and turn them evil. Even after all the research, Shallan has no conclusions of her own and questions again why Jasnah is so interested in a topic that has no apparent use. Shallan leaves the books where they lay and heads off to get the volume she originally came for only to run into Brother Kabsal.

Shallan comments that she is amazed by how large the Palanaeum is (57 levels) and that it must have been a lot of work to create, but Kabsal explains that the main shaft was present long before the Kharbranthians cut out the rooms for the books. Kabsal also says it was likely the Kharbranth was another city like Kholinar in that it was created by the Almighty. Shallan mentions the Dawnsingers as possible architects, but Kabsal dismisses the idea, saying that the Dawnsingers "were healers, kindly spren sent by the Almighty to care for humans once we were forced out of the Tranquiline Halls." Shallan equates them to the opposite of the Voidbringers, which Kabsal agrees is a somewhat close comparison.

Shallan reveals to Kabsal that Jasnah came to Kharbranth to specifically study the Voidbringers. She presses Kabsal for information about the Voidbringers, but he is reluctant, saying it has to do with the failures Vorinism has been involved in such as the Hierocracy and the fall of the Radiants. He calls them "our shame." Eventually he goes on to say that the Ardents believe the Voidbringers were real and were akin to "a scourge and a plague" that visited horrors upon humanity at least 100 times. "They were creatures of terrible destructive power, forged in Damnation, created from hate."

This leads to a short discussion on how the Almighty is a force of good, and the Voidbringers exist to balance the scales; it is now up to humanity to increase the good in the Cosmere. Kabsal adds that the Voidbringers "were an embodiment of evil" and that the Knights Radiant defeated them in the Last Desolation, (also known as Aharietiam. After the Heralds won, the Voidbringers went back to the Tranquiline Halls, but the Heralds followed them in hopes of pushing them out of heaven as well. Thus ended the Heraldic Epochs.

Shallan presses for more, and Kabsal theorizes that the only reason Jasnah is studying the Voidbringers is to disprove that they ever existed and thereby weaken the church of Vorinism. Kabsal wishes Jasnah would just leave the Ardentia alone, as he feels they are not threat to her (or anyone) because they act in obedience to the citylords and warlords of Roshar.

As they walk, Shallan informs Kabsal that she would be leaving the next day to return to her family. Kabsal seems to believe that her father is ill. He asks if she would sketch him before she leaves, and Shallan realizes she has not sketched Kabsal yet, despite spending so much time together. She grabs his hand and rushes him down the hallway. She realizes what she’s done and hurriedly drops his hand, at which point Kabsal confesses his romantic interest in her.

Shallan panics, realizing that though she is fond of Kabsal, she doesn’t return his love. He even offers to accompany her back to Jah Keved, basically offering to leave the ardentia for her. But Kabsal can tell from the look on her face that Shallan won’t be taking him up on his offer.

Shallan apologizes for being dishonest with Kabsal, but he asks again for the sketch. They finally reach the top of the Palanaeum to the Veil, where Shallan had left her sketchbook. Jasnah is there, as is a basket of bread and jam Kabsal had clearly left there.

Shallan quickly sketches Kabsal and gives it to him. He tries to give her a broam for payment, which she refuses. He then insists on paying for a second sketch of them together. She agrees and borrows a mirror from Jasnah to get the Memory framed in her mind properly. As she begins the sketch, her "anxiety about the Soulcaster" comes to the fore of her mind, and she thinks of staying in Kharbranth to continue her studying after giving the Soulcaster to Tozbek to return to her brothers.

As Shallan finishes the drawing she notices that she’s included a figure in the background standing behind Kabsal that has the outline of a body, but some sort of symbol in place of where its head should be. Shallan is upset and feels she is losing her mind. She runs from the room, away from Kabsal and Jasnah. As she waits for the lift to take her down, she takes a Memory of Kabsal standing in the doorway looking after her and quickly sketches it, only to see more of the symbolheads above him.

She rushes to the main cavern where she again takes a Memory and begins sketching, only this time she draws five figures with symbols for heads; they seem to be following her. She runs to her room, locks the door behind her, and continues drawing. The creatures are now mere inches away from her. Shallan reaches out and feels something, even though she can’t see anything. She tries to bring out the Soulcaster to use against them, but thinks better of it and remembers her other weapon:

I can’t use that. I promised myself.

She began the process anyway. Ten heartbeats to bring forth the fruit of her sin, the proceeds of her most horrific act. She was interrupted midway through by a voice, uncanny yet distinct:

What are you?

She answers that she is terrified. Soon after, the room around her changes and she finds herself in a place with a black sky and a small white sun. All around her are beads - a sea of tiny glass beads. She grabs one and hears a voice say “You want me to change?” The voice is different than the one she had heard in her room just moments before, and seems to come from the bead itself.

I’ve been as I am for a great long time, the warm voice said. I sleep so much. I will change. Give me what you have.

"I don’t know what you mean! Please, help me!"

I will change.

Shallan feels extremely cold as if the heat has been pulled out of her. The bead in her hand becomes warm and she drops it. She falls back and finds herself returned to her room. A goblet near her has melted into blood - one of the Ten Essences. Shallan has just Soulcast. Startled, she knocks over and breaks a glass water pitcher.

Shallan wonders if the symbolhead creatures caused her to Soulcast, but she had seen them long before she had the Soulcaster in her possession. She also wonders why she had been able to Soulcast, as the Soulcaster had still been in her safepouch. She then hears Jasnah’s voice outside her door. Knowing that she doesn’t have time to hide the blood, Shallan hides her drawings and then takes a shard of glass from the broken pitcher and cuts herself. Jasnah barges into the room and calls for help when she sees. Shallan thinks, "This [...] will not end well."

- by Michael Pye[1]

Quote of the Chapter:

“Suffice it to say that the Almighty’s pure goodness created the Voidbringers, but men may choose good without creating evil because as mortals they have a dual nature. Thus the only way for good to increase in the cosmere is for men to create it — in that way, good may come to outweigh evil.”

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