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Progression of the Interlude:
Eshonai, Thude, and Bila examine and argue about a trapped stormspren; the old gods are invoked; Eshonai hates her uniform; Eshonai worries about insubordination and progress; dwindling populations refuse to be ignored; three Dullforms attempt to avoid the wrath of humanity; Eshonai visits her ailing mother, and is barely recognized; her mother sings the song of how the Parshendi left the dark home; Eshonai is reunited with her childhood maps; the Council of Five gather, despite Eshonai’s tardiness; Venli pushes for Stormform; Eshonai finally agrees, on condition that she be the one to test it.
Quote of the Interlude:
|“||"Long are the days since we knew the dark home," Mother sang softly to one of the Rhythms of Remembrance. "The Last Legion, that was our name then. Warriors who had been set to fight in the farthest plains, this place that had once been a nation and was now rubble. Dead was the freedom of most people. The forms, unknown, were forced upon us. Forms of power, yes, but also forms of obedience. The gods commanded, and we did obey, always. Always."||”|
Oral history can pack a lot of information into a story. This song answers some questions, showing where the forms came from originally, and why the Parshendi fear their gods, but it raises more questions still. In what army did the Parshendi form a legion? Are these gods Shards? Where’s the dark home, anyway? Does it have something to do with the cognitive realm and/or the Nightwatcher?
It is assumed that each form is acquired by bonding with a different kind of spren during a Highstorm, and that attuning to a Rhythm lets each Parshendi hear the same, ongoing rhythm. They even keep time this way. As it turns out, the Parshendi are magic music hivemind people. Just who set the rhythms to begin with?
Interlude four is riddled with Parshendi politics. Almost every conversation is a political one. Bila declares to Eshonai that she’ll do anything to kill more humans, up to and including welcoming back the old gods. (The Dullforms, by occupying a form that dulls their minds and reflects the former slavery of their people, are demonstrating an absolute lack of confidence in the soldiery and general leadership.) Eshonai's mother stays in workform because she "didn’t want to encourage people to see one form as more valuable than another, that such stratification could destroy them." Her body is an anti-classist statement, one that she’s made continuously for decades.
These politics prepare the reader for the meeting of the Five. The Parshendi are led by a representative council made up of individuals who have agreed to keep one form for an indeterminate amount of time. In this way they hope to make sure that every form/class is taken into consideration when top-level decisions must be made. This has problems: Dullform and Mateform are far less suited to governance than Nimbleform or Warform. On the whole, though, it’s a decent solution to the problem of ruling a vastly heterogeneous population. Through all of this, most impressive is Zuln, who tries to speak for the Slaveforms as well as the Dullforms. Acting for all those who have not yet been liberated must be a terrible burden.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about how well the Five faced the challenges that were presented to them. This is the story of how the virulent idea of Stormform toppled the Parshendi. The Five decide matters of policy by conversation as much as by vote, and the more mentally agile forms dominate conversation. Venli has a tremendous advantage when it comes time to press her case. And it sure doesn’t help that her sister provides the main source of token resistance. Two is an unacceptable number of siblings to have on a five person ruling body.
Venli and Eshonai also have disproportional sway because they are each the head of the two major organized concerns of the Parshendi, research and warfare. That’s probably why things go wrong so fast when the storm hits the fan.
Eshonai’s mom makes the sadness happen. She, the most knowledgeable keeper of old stories, is suffering from debilitating memory loss, and only recognizes Eshonai as Eshonai for half of their conversation. Everything is crumbling in this interlude: the army’s ranks are diminished, rows and rows of buildings stand empty, Parshendi are degenerating to Dullform, and ancestral memory is being lost. These factors push Eshonai toward desperate measures.
Eshonai hates her uniform. She brings that up half a dozen times. The discovery of the maps she drew as a child mark a sharp contrast between her present and her past. Eshonai doesn’t like being a general, or a warrior. She didn’t want to be in charge of a doomed people. In fact, she’d prefer to be out in the wild on her own, discovering and making progress on her own. Her family has guilted her into a far more social role, and she’s really feeling the pressure.
|“||Once, she’d seen the world as something fresh and exciting. New, like a blossoming forest after a storm. She was dying slowly, as surely as her people were.||”|
A trapped stormspren, in a gemstone, is just waiting to ruin everyone’s day. It’s described as small and smoky, not full of red lightning, but this isn’t even its final form. Eshonai also attracts a few fearspren, which she describes as long purple worms. Her language regarding spren continues to characterize them more like animals than materials, compared to how the human proto it's characterize them.
Taln, the Herald of War, watches over this chapter, being all Dependable and Resourceful. He’s clearly the best personality match for Eshonai in her current form, and is also probably pretty used to everything crumbling and being destroyed, what with how he’s been stuck in Damnation forever.
- Paraphrased from Carl Engle-Laird