Aftermath: The Father is Merciful
We came for the highstorm raves, but when the gods did not provide, we made our own fun. - M’Hael
The cabin was high up, remote and inaccessible to the naked eye, unless one was using Investiture to pierce the haze of mist and cloud which seemed to perpetually surround it. A path of loose stone ran down from its door and abruptly vanished into the mountainside, plunging into a series of caverns which few men had travelled. Around it a low iron fence ran. It enclosed a garden which had fallen into disrepair, vines and weeds choking out the thick iron bars which had once marked its boundary and giving the cabin the appearance of abandonment or neglect. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Today, the cabin would witness the end of the latest Shardic War. And - if its inhabitants got what they wished - it would be the final one.
Struggling up the stone path was a man in a battered military uniform, its initial insignias long since worn away. He bundled his cloak more tightly about him, veiling his face against the biting cold of the wind and the chance of prying eyes. The Idrians had little clue this cabin existed - it was, after all, miles from the settlement it nominally belonged to - but Darrel had impressed upon all of them that carelessness lost wars more quickly than any grand strategic blunder. And, judging by the aftermath of the last great Shardic conflict, he was correct. The cloaked figure frowned. Darrel had been growing more...unstable lately. Most great men fell when they became hyperfixated on ends, what they wished to achieve with their plans, and ignored how they were achieving it. Darrel was the opposite - a man who knew what he would do, but not why. Shatter Odium - restrain Autonomy - break the grip of the soft tyrants among the Shards, Preservation and Honour and Whimsy - yet to what end? He wrestled with his thoughts some more, then shrugged. In the end, his answers lay in only one place.
The door to the cabin was bare save for an insignia, freshly painted. A lightning bolt split a crown in two, around which a rim of olive branches and spears wound its way, eventually curling into the letters ASWA. To the man’s surprise, a thin blanket of blue clouds now overshadowed the crown on the top. Those were definitely new. He raised an eyebrow but said nothing. From experience, Darrel would tell him what he needed to know, and little more. Taking a deep breath, he grabbed the simple brass knob and twisted. The door swung open silently on oiled hinges, and closed with the whisper of a lock sliding back into place as he released it. Casting back his hood and stepping into the dimly lit room, he lifted his eyes to meet those of the other figure, dressed eclectically and wearing a pair of badly dyed pink leather gloves, from which a faint black steam rose and swirled, clouding the room and heightening its emotion. But the steady stare of the man he was facing cut through the haze, his eyes glowing like burning coals ready to leap out of a furnace and attack their unwary target.
Darrel. Thief, hawker, and one of the most dangerous men in the Cosmere, was ready to make his play. Gesturing at a chair, which he took, Darrel spoke in short bursts, as if he was chewing on his words and then abruptly spitting them out. “Well, Radler. Back from Scadrial, it seems. What will Odium’s fate be? You seen the aspect there? Or the other Shards?”
Radler nodded. “Trell is intact and well established, though the new Vessel may not be in full control of their powers with these Splinters quite yet. It didn’t interfere much. I’ve spent most of my time conversing with the new Vessel of Prudence, and a man named Tenth of the Dusk.”
“Who holds Valour.” Darrel, as ever, was blunt and calculating.
“Who holds Valour,” he agreed. He knew Darrel would not understand, and would in fact probably be furious, if he spoke of the lightheartedness he had found among the Scadrians there, a haven of sanity and calm in the midst of the heated Shardic war. Yet somehow also its epicentre. He continued. “From what I understand, Odium is planning on essentially giving up. If all goes according to plan and the Intents of the Shards do not interfere with the new Vessels too powerfully, the Lord of Hate will be Shattered.”
That got Darrel’s attention. “Shattered, you say? Vanquished? It has never happened before…”
Edlarr, on the side of the room, chimed in excitedly. “This is the only chance we will have. Odium miraculously gone; Ruin busy destroying Roshar, which will cripple Honour; Wilson and Elbereth squabbling with each other and only having recently Ascended; Cephandrius and Khrissala having left after the Silverlight debacle; Endowment unaccounted for, many Shards Shattered...this may be our chance to force the Shards into a compact, a peace they can’t break.”
Radler looked at him askance. The man had gone mad. “Force a Shard into a compact? How do you plan on challenging a piece of Adonalsium himself? We’ll be lucky to pick up any Shards ourselves, unless…” He pivoted to Darrel, who was smiling. His chest sank. So he had had an ace up his sleeve this entire time. An unshattered Dominion, which he now held a representation of between his hands. “Where did you get that?” he demanded.
“It is none of your concern,” Darrel said smoothly, yet with ice in his voice. Snapping his fingers, the lights in the room flickered on, thinning the black smoke which screened him from view. “Nonetheless, Edlarr is correct that this is the opportune time to make a strike with Dominion. None of the active Shards can challenge its power individually, except Autonomy.” He spat the last word with disgust. “And even he is nothing without his aspects. We have delayed long enough. The Nalthian aspect is well established but vulnerable, and should be easy to destroy. It is the other planets I worry about. Trell will organise the other Shards to his defence unless I can use Dominion’s power to control them beforehand. And once we kill the Nalthian Splinter, Al will reinforce the others. We will need a coordinated strike, and then there will be no Shard powerful enough to resist the new order we will impose.”
Radler studied his old mentor. “You actually think this can work, don’t you?” he said, shaking his head and chuckling. Darrel’s face remained a stony mask. “I will support you, of course. But I expect answers once this is over.”
“They will be yours,” Darrel replied. “But to appease you in the meantime, take this.” He thrust the Shard towards Radler, who nearly dropped his sword in surprise.
“Me?” he spluttered. “You would trust me with a piece of God?”
“Nobody else. You have been my most trusted agent, and have kept a low profile for yourself. Despite my efforts, a select few may know about me and my...history with this Shard. But nobody will suspect you. If I should die in my attack on Trell, that Shard should guarantee your victory at best, and your survival at worst.” His eyes glinted with amusement, or perhaps desperation. “Besides, it is...unsafe for me to have handled this for too long. The Intent is at risk of overwhelming the better parts of me, if there are any left.” He did not smile this time, which Radler respected. Darrel’s plans had never been neat. Only pragmatic. They would need that in the coming days.
“I will take the Shard,” he said. “But first, I must know what to do with it.”
“Of course.” Darrel began an explanation, and as the shadows lengthened in the world outside, and Radler heard how the Shards were to be contained, he felt himself growing confident in Darrel’s plan himself. It would work, not because it could, but because it had to. And he was to be its lynchpin.
~ ~ ~
Enoras was where he said he would be. In the shadow of the chapel.
Lantern light illuminated the massive stained glass windows, sending a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic array of colours scattered on the mosaiced floor.
Tenth hefted the spike, and took a deep breath and stepped out from the concealing shadows of the pillars.
There were no fair fights, where Tenth was concerned. You took down your quarry and that was it. Honour got a man killed. And yet, Enoras had had a change of heart. He had spoken of harnessing the power of Whimsy to destroy Odium for good, to shatter the Shard.
With Cultivation herself gone, Odium would not be a threat again for a very long time. If at all.
"The Father is merciful," Third of the Sky had said. "If you screw up, death comes swiftly."
After all of this, Tenth supposed Enoras had the right to look his killer in the eye.
"Where's Albatross?" Enoras asked.
"Couldn't take the risk he wouldn't show up," Tenth said. "You know what Scadrial's like."
Enoras seemed unfazed. "So be it."
Tenth knew, the moment Whimsy struck. Enoras lashed out, hate-driven, reaching to kill the vessel and splinter the Shard and Whimsy caught the blow and redirected it, turning Odium's own power on himself.
He witnessed the death of Hatred, even as-
-Elsewhere in the Cosmere, a world died.
No light. No highstorms.
Tenth closed in and slid the spike home.
He knew how to kill. An arm over Enoras's throat, and the spike into the precise spot at the base of the spine.
Enoras did not fight him. Did not resist. Perhaps that made it worse.
Night fell on Scadrial, and a good man killed, and a good man died.
"The Father is merciful," he whispered.
Death came swift, on the rustle of gentle wings.
~ ~ ~
Enoras knew what had to be done. Whimsy and Tenth were in position, and the Intent of Odium itself pulsed within him, egging on his coming destruction. He let its Passion flow through him one last time. The Shard was dangerous, mortally dangerous, but it was part of Adonalsium from the beginning. He dared not disrespect such a force, even if its destruction was a necessary act to restore a semblance of peace to the Cosmere. Such forces could not be allowed to remain whole. Yet as he allowed the might within him to lash out one last time, felt Whimsy’s power curve it aside and back towards himself, Enoras wondered. With Odium, their common foe, finally gone, would the Shards turn to cooperation and harmony? Or would old hatreds and rivalries spring up again? He had touched Dominion and Mercy, if only briefly. Those powers were perhaps less aggressive, less vitriolic, but they retained the contempt for all men who went against their Intent. Would Autonomy’s hold on the Cosmere be more merciful with the perennial threat of Odium contained? Useless concerns, perhaps, given his earlier disregard for anyone besides himself, yet not wholly assuaged. Either way, he supposed, they were not his anymore.
The power returned to him, Odium’s aggression unleashing death upon itself. So it had worked. As Tenth leapt forward with the spike in hand - Locke’s work, he supposed - Enoras faced him calmly. Death came more pleasantly than he had expected - a flash of pain, and he found himself in an eerie recreation of the chapel, roof, pillars and beams replaced with swirling mists. Two female figures, resplendent in light, stood on either side of the altar. One had flecks of coloured light seemingly stuck to her, with an annoyed expression on her face, and was absentmindedly flipping through pictures of...cats? It was difficult to determine. The other looked equally unhappy to be there, but brightened upon seeing Enoras. The newly dead man stepped forward to greet her, a puzzled expression on his face. The two were likely Vessels, but of which Shards? They had thought them all accounted for at the beginning of this horrific war.
“Greetings, Enoras,” she said, smiling slightly. “I am Elbereth, though you may know me better as Cultivation. The former Vessel was a casualty of your...operations, though he wishes you to know he no longer harbours ill will to you. It is difficult for any of us to see into the Spiritual, as you know, but he went Beyond quickly. You, however...you are a Shadow, at least at present. It is clear you have much on your mind - and your soul.”
Enoras stumbled over his words. “Brightness...Vessel...I…”
The other woman set the drawings down - those were cats, Enoras was certain now - and approached him, the ethereal planks of the not-chapel bending around her. She raised a hand, examining him. “Your reticence to speak to this one is unsurprising,” she said. “I find it difficult myself. I am Wilson, the current Honour. It is my understanding that Cultivation has now remade me, and unfortunately has done so on the condition that I not strike her down for her impudence. At least immediately.” She glared at Cultivation - Elbereth - then spoke again. “Regardless, we have come to a sort of...truce with respect to you. And I uphold my word. What should we make of you, Enoras?”
“Make of me?” Enoras finally broke in. “I...I’m a murderer! I lied and schemed and deceived to keep myself alive.” The pent-up rage, the anger at himself, at his circumstances, was finally showing, bursting out of him; it was good to let go of it, perhaps the remnant’s of Odium’s influence. “I’m an opportunist. I tried to stay alive at all costs and now that I’ve finally given up, tried to remedy something before my life ran its course, you two come here to talk to me and torment me? What do you want from me, Wilson and Elbereth? I am sorry. I am irredeemably sorry, and since I cannot be redeemed, there is nothing left for me. I have nothing to do, or rather, I have done all I can.”
The deities looked at each other again, and Enoras seemed to sense an understanding pass between the two - odd, given their seeming animosity. It was Elbereth who spoke again. “That is why we are here, Enoras. Your life is not necessarily forfeit. You are a Cognitive Shadow now. I’m sure you understand the implications of that.”
“We are offering, in short, to Return you,” said Wilson. “Your death showed great honour, and my associate here seems to believe you could do more with your soul, however broken it may seem to you. It is your choice, however. Given your circumstances, if you wish to go Beyond, we will not prevent you.”
Enoras paused. Was this what he wanted? He had approached his confrontation with Tenth and the other Scadrians with the presumption that his time was over. After Odium’s initial Vessel, the child, had given him the Shard, his own Spiritweb had felt frayed, unable to continue. Would it handle the stress of a Return? Would he handle the consequences of a Return, a confrontation with those he had before tried to kill in the pursuit of power? Besides, it was far easier to rest from his labours. He glanced upward at the ceiling of the chapel, which somehow retained its magnificent stained glass even in this Realm. It seemed a gateway to tranquility, to the Spiritual, everything he had been seeking. He opened his mouth to refuse the Shards’ offer, then closed it again. A third figure was approaching.
Elbereth and Wilson had looked like deities - ageless faces, radiant in appearance, glowing with the power they held. The newcomer was none of those things. A tall, lanky man with a half-apologetic smile stepped forward from the misty shadows of the pews - somehow, he had stayed hidden and silent the entire time. He wore the robes of the old scholarly ardentia, dark green hemmed with streaks of red, and held nothing but a simple carved staff in his hands. He peered through a pair of ancient spectacles down at Enoras, then shook his head to gesture at the two figures of radiance behind him. “These two have requested your Return, and from my limited view, it is a favour I am more than willing to grant you. Yet you seem conflicted. Shall I do this thing?”
Enoras once again resolved to refuse, but the words that came out were instead, “Who are you?”
The man laughed softly. “I am Nolan, an older soul among those of us cursed never to fully die. I am...handling Endowment, you might say, until a more suitable Vessel for its power is found. Then I too may pass Beyond.” He refocused on her. “Well? What is your wish?”
Enoras straightened. She was tired of these Shards, being bound to their wishes and whims, and even if she felt like a worn-out mule, she would not show it in front of these figures. “If I say yes, what do you expect?” he said. “What would you want of me?”
Nolan blinked. “Want of you?” he said. “I want nothing of you. Elbereth believes you have room to grow, Wilson sees honour in you, but neither they nor I can see what you would do with this chance. That is for you to decide, and not us. I can only offer, and hope, though something tells me that you would not put our hope to shame. Now make your choice. You will not remain here forever.” On this point, Enoras thought, he was correct. The edges of the walls of the chapel were beginning to fade from view, sinking into a mist which began to fill the room, contracting it. The altar blurred. He looked at the three Vessels in front of him, Wilson stern and contemplative, Elbereth vaguely joyful yet restless, and Nolan impassive, tapping his hand on the strange staff. He knew his answer now. Going Beyond now, with work unfulfilled, would be the path of cowardice. He had always chosen certainty and stability for himself over the pain and difficulty and the trust in the unknown it took to care for others. It would be irresponsible - no, wrong, to do it again.
“Send me back,” he whispered.
The Shards smiled, true, joyful smiles this time, and a flash of light blinded him.
~ ~ ~
Note left by Enoras:
If I am to relinquish my hold on life, it is best to do so with dignity. Locke has always been a valuable ally to Odium’s forces in his previous role as Invention, supplying information and items such as those that led to the death of Honor. Now in his new role of Whimsy, I have asked for one final favor. Odium cannot remain intact if there is to be peace, prosperity, and balance in the Cosmere. I struggle to repress its Intent and even those individuals who were a better fit for this power fell victim to its desires eventually. I cannot defeat this force by myself, but Whimsy possesses the capability to redirect the outburst of destructive force I am capable of generating to myself, disrupting Odium for good. I cannot be expected to survive this process, but I hear that Edgedancers are capable of reuniting a body with its departed soul in the brief window before it moves into the Beyond. I do not expect this mercy, nor am I sure I could live up to expectations that would accompany being spared in such a way. Whatever happens to me, I will attempt to make up for the things I’ve done and improve the state of the Cosmere with however much time is allotted to me.
-Enoras, ex-Odium, ex-Dominion, ex-Mercy, ex-Ringer, ex-Ghostblood, ex-decent person
Credit to Kasimir (Azure Mouse) and Devotary of Spontaneity (Coral Swan) for their contributions to portions of this write-up.
The dark, cold atmosphere of Braize would have stifled the spirits of any visitor. Any visitor, that is, except Al, the Shard of Autonomy.
Unlike many others immersed in the new conflict, Al had no knowledge of previous Shardic Wars - something about a world named Silverlight being blown up, and then a factionalised conflict which had broken his previous hold over interplanetary connections, ending the Autonomic era. He got the sense the Shard itself he held remembered that, and resented it. Yet he had no reason to care about that era of Shardic history - what mattered now, in his view, was re-establishing his presence across the worlds.
And Braize was the final one.
He took a swig from his bottle of liquor which he carried at his side, humming to himself. Through his Shard, he could sense all the worlds, feel the people on them. Their choices, their desires, sometimes their plans. It was staggering, even if only a few worlds were truly alight with energy, now. Scadrial was particularly rowdy; the Shards seemed to be intent on what was going on there. No matter to him. Trell would have time to resolve the interference there eventually, or allow others to resolve it themselves. For now, he had a task to do - completing his network. With Ruin’s assurances that Roshar would soon be gone forever, he set himself to work here, reaching out with the Shard and molding the curious collection of crags and stalagmites which had formed here. Amidst the bleak uniformity of the planet, it seemed to be the only notable feature.
So, naturally, he would claim it as his own. Tendrils of power shot out, molding, shaping the stone in front of him, and he allowed another Splinter of the power to embed itself within the ground. The planet reacted immediately, as it always did. A cavalcade of rocks and debris shot up, clinging to the piece of his power and ensconcing it completely. The Splinter, meanwhile, went into the earth, and Al felt, rather than saw, his Connection to the world being formed; the lifeless landscape in front of him burst alight with history and significance and remembrance. Mostly dark remembrance; as prison of the Heralds, the planet knew little but bloodshed and torment for thousands of years. Yet the history was his now, part of his consciousness as if he had seen it all himself.
Before him, where he had put forth his power, the dust had settled around the Splinter, allowing Al to see the formation he had constructed. A wineglass. He smiled ironically. How fitting, to complete his work in this fashion: the Shardworlds were now his, to do with as the people on them pleased, not the whims of destructive entities like Odium and Ambition. He was still slightly surprised how it had come about. The other Shards had preferred his influence to that of Odium, and Odium himself did not dare to check his growing power, for fear of retaliation from Invention. However such a peculiar arrangement had come to be, however, he did not particularly care. He simply relaxed, allowing the senses from his aspects to flow into him, including Alture, his latest addition.
And snapped up. Something was wrong - terribly wrong - on Nalthis. And Scadrial was little better. In fury, and wishing that alcohol did more to dull the emotions of gods, he sped away from the icy planet, regretting that against all his wishes, he had gotten dragged into one of these wars again.
Soren, poet, relaxed contentedly
The others were acting dementedly
But he was alive, and still could contrive
Phrases that rhymed quite lamentably.
Beside him sat the man named Locke, Invention
Whom none had yet harmed, by a convention
That he would survive so others may thrive,
And overall reduce Shardic tension.
On a cold, dark, stormy planet, Sir Brockett closed his eyes.
He sat criss-crossed on a plateau, listening to the rain. It came down in a torrent, the wind whirling boulders past. Finally, it had come. Rockbuds and Chasmfiends alike retreated from the storm, but it didn’t bother him. He was no ordinary man.
When the Shard of Ruin had blossomed into Brockett a few short days, or weeks, or years ago, it had been a shock. Niru’s death was expected, but one cannot simply prepare oneself for such the experience Ascension is. Over the years he had accumulated quite the Investiture collection- but he was a fool if he had thought it was a fraction of what a piece of Adonalsium would feel like. It had threatened to both break and restore his aged frame at the same time.
Of all the Shards, Ruin was perhaps the most unchained. Odium itself was a particular crafty sort of evil, while Ruin was seen as nothing more than a force. Brockett was guilty of such a thought himself, though it was clear now that it was so much more. With it, Brockett felt whole. He felt Connected to the universe, fully inhabiting the realms and knowing, given time, he could destroy them all. It was a unique burden to bear.
Even now, in his meditation, Brockett seeped into Roshar- in all the realms- preparing himself for a final, unspeakable, glorious, worldbreaking act. If all went well the long-fought war against Odium would be won. And the planet of Roshar and all of the variety of life it held would be destroyed.
Such were the consequences of war.
Such was his task.
Such was his conscience the one to be stained.
Nearby, a stone larger than the shell of a chull cracked into the ground, sending tremors through the rock and drawing Brockett back into the Physical. The Stormfather was angry today.
Wʜᴀᴛ ᴅɪᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴇxᴘᴇᴄᴛ ᴍʏ ғᴇᴇʟɪɴɢs ᴛᴏ ʙᴇ?
The rumbled voice came as a surprise, and Brockett was startled further out of his thoughts. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been, but he wasn’t yet accustomed to all of the complications of Shardhood.
“Stormfather.” He said aloud. “I wasn’t aware you could listen in.”
Tʜᴇ sᴛᴏʀᴍ ɪs ᴍʏ ᴅᴏᴍᴀɪɴ, ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ʏᴇᴛ ʟᴇᴀʀɴᴇᴅ ʜᴏᴡ ᴛᴏ ᴘʀᴏᴘᴇʀʟʏ sʜɪᴇʟᴅ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴍɪɴᴅ.
To this, Brockett reluctantly admitted the Stormfather’s correctness. He sympathized with anyone who would ever have to take upon such power in a situation as dire as his. He had not had time to meticulously pick through his newly energized spiritweb to find every change to it. “I regret Roshar has to end like this, but it is for the good of the cosmere.”
Tʜᴀᴛ ɪs ᴇᴀsʏ ғᴏʀ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛᴏ sᴀʏ. Yᴏᴜ ᴡɪʟʟ ɴᴏᴛ ʙᴇ ᴏʙʟɪᴛᴇʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ ʙʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴀᴄᴛ ᴏғ ᴅᴇsᴛʀᴜᴄᴛɪᴏɴ.
Brockett tightened his lips. “You will be destroyed?”
Yᴇs. I ᴀᴍ ᴛɪᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Rᴏsʜᴀʀ ᴀs ғɪʀᴍʟʏ ᴀs Rᴜɪɴ ɪs ᴛɪᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ʏᴏᴜ. Wʜᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴘʟᴀɴᴇᴛ ɪs ᴅᴇsᴛʀᴏʏᴇᴅ, ʙʏ ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴀʟsᴏ.
“Unfortunate. I do not wish this fate upon you.”
Bᴜᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ sᴛᴏᴘ ɪᴛ.
“I cannot fail in my duty to the cosmere. To Tenth, and the others.”
Brockett felt a deep rumble in his soul. I ʜᴏᴘᴇ I ᴡɪʟʟ ɢᴏ ᴛᴏ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʟɪᴇs ʙᴇʏᴏɴᴅ ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ, ʙᴜᴛ I ғɪɴᴅ ᴛʜɪs ᴅᴏᴜʙᴛғᴜʟ. Tʜᴇ ʙᴇʏᴏɴᴅ ɪs ᴍᴇᴀɴᴛ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ sᴏᴜʟs ᴏғ ᴍᴀɴ.
Brockett squeezed his eyes, forcing them to stay closed. He hadn’t expected that out of the Stormfather. “It is my dearest wish you find peace there. Or wherever you go.”
The reply was slow to come. Iᴛ ɪs ʟɪᴋᴇʟʏ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴡʜᴇʀᴇ. Bᴜᴛ sᴏ ʙᴇ ɪᴛ.
An instant later, Brockett felt the presence of the Stormfather leave. He hadn’t even realized it was there to begin with. The weight of the moment was more forceful than anything he had experienced.
Of course, that only could mean it was time.
Brockett reached down through the Spiritual realm, grasping the cords that bound Roshar to everything around it. He Invested in the planet, fully giving himself up to the power that lay within him. Roshar’s Connection to the cosmere began to crack, fracturing like the thin sheet of ice over a lake would if it was stepped on too hard.
It had begun.
Time was suspended. It already was, for a Shard, but Brockett knew that this was not a mere property of post-ascension. Seconds took days to tick by, raindrops hanging suspended in the air.
After a moment that lasted a year, reality shifted backwards, rewinding in an instant. The rain fell up. The wind blew East. Brockett’s eyes were whipped open, and consciousness changed.
He was floating in the air. Empty space, a blackness, encompassed him. He felt nothing, yet everything. Saw nothing, yet everything. His eyes shone with a light blocking out all but it. In the Nothing he hung, feeling the power of Ruin seething within. And then, he wasn’t.
Brockett’s head was lashed back, momentarily stunning him. Roshar resumed around him, time in its proper form, the rain still falling. It was slower, though. Like the Weeping, but at the wrong time. A true weeping. The Stormfather’s last.
The power of destruction burst forth, a black animal of smoke surging from Brockett’s form and sinking into the ground. Dust flew up, blocking out the sun. A raging storm, not of water, but of earth, blew through existence. Brockett screamed, realizing that This Was What He Had To Do. What He Had Always Been Fated To Do.
It seemed to last forever, the moment of complete and total destruction. It really took a fraction of a second, but in that segment of time Brockett hurt. His mind was opened and it was breaking everything around it. His life, his Forgery, his Pewter, his connection to the Dor- it all was meaningless in the moment of collapse.
The rushing sound of it all was too much. So loud.
The dust cleared.
All was silent.
He dared not open his eyes. But he had to.
Brockett hung in the Spiritual, drifting in the empty space Roshar used to inhabit.
It was complete. Brockett felt exhausted, something a Shard never should.
Silence was the only reply.
Brockett curled up into a ball and cried.
It was finished,
And it had only cost everything.
(Credit to Matrim’s Dice (Violet Axolotl) for this beautiful sequence.)
~ ~ ~
All who survived the attack and its aftermath agreed on one point: it came suddenly.
Initial accounts were scattered and contradictory, the assault on Trell’s aspect coming only minutes after Autonomy himself sent warning from Braize and made a desperate attempt to travel to the planet in time from the damaged Cognitive Realm. Darrel and Edlarr’s attack, supported by minor worldhoppers from the ASWA who had been recruited, was reported as multitudes, or as a lone individual with phenomenal power, or as an invasion from outside the Cosmere, men using powers unknown to Adonalsium. Long after the bloody incursion, however, the truth came out, piece by piece.
Llenhdal had fallen as quickly as Darrel had predicted; the Nalthian Aspect was alone, and the worldhoppers on the planet had not been in time to intervene before the combined power of the Shard of Dominion, and the Investiture of Odium which Darrel carried with him, left the aspect a smoking wreck. With it destroyed, and Autonomy presumably alerted to the collapse of his systems on the planet, Darrel moved again to strike at Trell. Here, however, Trell had warned the worldhoppers who opposed Odium from the beginning, and they all moved to defend the aspect, knowing that if Autonomy’s protections against Shards failed, they would all be vulnerable. Leaving the chapel - and Enoras’ body - more quickly than intended, a defensive perimeter was formed around Trell, not knowing where the intruders would emerge.
Mort, the holder of Ambition, first saw the force of about a dozen men emerge from the Cognitive Realm. Initial engagement had been ruled out for fear of abandoning the Aspect to a second force which might attack it while undefended, so the defenders concentrated themselves around Trell’s physical manifestation. Tenth of the Dusk alone broke from the defence, choosing to defend Enoras’ corpse in the old cathedral, which stood between the attackers and the aspect. Having no compunctions about splitting their forces themselves, Darrel stayed to duel Tenth, while the remainder, under Edlarr and Radler, continued on to Trell.
The fight was bloody but not lengthy; the vessels of Preservation and Invention, Locke and Flamingo, soon fell to the attacking forces, though they were successful in dealing a deathblow to Edlarr before Dominion snuffed out their Shards and the other worldhoppers swarmed in to make quick work of them. Seeing little other recourse, another worldhopper, who had taken the guise of a chameleon, sacrificed himself to end a number of the less powerful attackers, while Radler dueled Mort, Remy, and Eris, a draw despite the three Shards opposing him and the strength of Trell desperately flowing into the three to stave off disaster.
In the chapel, Tenth stood little chance against Darrel, and soon lay mortally wounded on the floor, shielding with his last breath Enoras’ corpse. A corpse which promptly Returned and took up the fight, but was once again overpowered by the older and more experienced worldhopper. Realising that his divine Breath could be surrendered to heal, Enoras finally passed into the Beyond, curing Tenth’s injury and allowing the trapper - unexpectedly revived - to deal a sneaky deathblow to his assailant. Reuniting with a newly arrived Autonomy - who had brought reinforcements from other Shardworlds - they drove off Radler, who had killed Remy and Mort in his last desperate push to reach the Aspect. He was later hunted down by Honour and Cultivation, who forced him into an oath for peace.
That is the tale told by historians, of course, months after the dust had settled. It was, from what they knew, correct.
But it omitted so much.
A FEW YEARS AGO
The first time, it had been a woman. Tenth of the Dusk couldn't remember her face any longer. Couldn't remember what the bounty was, either, except that he'd needed the money and he figured tracking a woman across the Cosmere couldn't be much harder than surviving on Patji.
He found her on Sel—he remembered that much. Hiding right under the noses of the same Strikers who'd put that price on her head. Tenth wasn't sure how someone was wanted on four different Shardworlds.
But he'd believed it when he saw her. She looked like trouble, if trouble was someone who could probably fillet you with the fish-knife she was wielding.
Kaikoa had shown him a flash of a teahouse through her eyes—The Jade Gardens—and the MaiPon woman gutting fish in the kitchen and Tenth had wondered what his Aviar was doing before it clicked.
He let her go, though. Starved for another few days because the city was different from the wilderness. Until he caught a two-bit horsethief for a handful of Rose Empire coins and ate sparingly and fed Kaikoa her dues.
He found Kwai, too. But that came later.
~ ~ ~
Kwai had shown him Forgery. Tenth of the Dusk hadn't wanted it. He couldn't see himself needing anything more than his skills, honed from over a decade's training on the Father's shores. The idea of carving a stamp that could change who a man was sat poorly with him.
"It's a skill," Kwai said, with too much patience, as Tenth eyed the rough wood of the stamp. He'd whittled a lot on Patji. Gave him something to do with his hands those quiet evenings as the dark closed in. Curls of wood peeled off, tumbled to the floor.
"It's another kind of art. Like what you are doing."
Tenth paused mid-whittling. "I do not mean to be difficult," he said, at last. He was trying to find the right words. Strange how he was still not used to the sound of his voice, or of another. Strange how the sounds of Patji worked into your soul. Even after you left.
"You want to learn. Or you don't want to," Kwai said. "And if it is worth doing, then it is worth doing well."
Tenth thought of the Ghostbloods and their endless demands. He did not always take their bounties. But they paid well. They always did. Asked difficult things of you, too.
"Show me again," he said.
"Watch closely," said the MaiPon Forger. Artist, assassin, and kingkiller, the Ghostbloods had said, as they steered Tenth to him. "It takes years to master the craft. Your time begins now."
~ ~ ~
He emerged from Sel and the confines of the Rose Empire, years of cypress incense and tea smoke fading away like a hazy dream in a teahouse past midnight. He added a bandolier of soulstamps to his arsenal, to his bag of tricks, though it had never felt right.
He was a trapper: it was stamped on his soul, even though he’d taken to hunting men. Even though he’d walked away from Patji to fill the emptiness inside him. To run away from the past.
Kwai spoke a lot about the art of Forgery. But Tenth of the Dusk saw it as a tool, like a steel machete. Just a very disconcerting one. It felt wrong. Like he was etching falsehoods into his soul.
The first Kaikoa died and with tears in his eyes and a handful of bright feathers to remember her by, Tenth returned to Patji. Any world should have done. He had been pursuing a bounty on Nalthis then. A man wanted for—did it even matter, what he'd done to the university in Silverlight?
He'd raised her by hand, since she was a chick. He remembered the first time she came to him, the first time she spread her wings, her first tentative hopping steps, her bright chirps. Pin feathers giving way to the riotous colours of her plumage. He felt as proud as a father when she took flight in the dawn sky for the first time. Patji was her home, and a grave on any other world did not seem right.
"You left," Third of the Sky said. He jabbed the fire-hardened tip of his hiking stick at Tenth, punctuating each word like an accusation. "Trapper's calling is for life."
Tenth said nothing.
Third looked him over and snorted. “You’re a mess.”
His leg would heal. In time. “Came to bury her.”
Third’s expression softened, just a little. He was a trapper, too. He knew what it meant, to lose an Aviar. “Bury her and get out,” he said. “Tripvines. Sandfangs. You should’ve been dead ten times over—”
“The Father is merciful,” Tenth said. The response came instinctively, from years and years of training. “If you screw up, you will die swiftly.”
The hiking stick jabbed into Tenth’s ribs. “Get that in your head. If it’s too easy, it’s a trap.” He held out a grimy hand and Tenth stared at it. “Get up. Let’s bring her home.”
(Credit to Kasimir / Azure Mouse once again for the writeup on Tenth’s backstory.)
SCADRIAL, PRESENT DAY
He had tracked down the killer. As he had promised, in that crevasse on the Shattered Plains. Kaikoa, soaring overhead, had shown him the ambush. Tenth of the Dusk smiled, more the flash of bared teeth, and had set about preparing a trap of his own. And he had killed his foe. That was the part he hadn’t been counting on. And now, it seemed, more was in motion. If Trell was to be trusted, a powerful force of worldhoppers was coming this way.
They would not get Odium, and they would certainly not despoil the body of his quarry, who had died with more honour than most.
Only so much he could do against one with the power of Odium’s own hatred flowing through him, though. The Shard still lay beside him, unclaimed after Enoras’ death. He didn’t touch the power. He knew what it would do. He had power of his own, borrowed power, simple tricks. Soulstamps, Essence Marks. They would have to be enough to defend his slain foe.
Traces of Ambition still clung to him. Perhaps because that was why he had left, all that time on Patji. All that emptiness. He had been hungry. He had wanted more.
And now he would die against the one who had slain so many. Worldhoppers, Splinters, perhaps even Shards. He knew how dangerous the man called Darrel was.
He didn’t care.
A simple pit trap opened the battle: Tenth would normally have dug it himself, and prepared the sharpened stakes, slathered them with sandfang venom, and then concealed them—added the obligatory bait of Aviar feathers. A fellow trapper would always have to fight such a lure.
He reminded the packed earth in front of the chapel of a different history. A world in which Tenth of the Dusk had arrived a little earlier, had avoided those Scadrian lawmen, had prepared a traditional Patji welcome in the form of a pit trap. He sealed it; stamped it onto the earth’s bones with a soulstamp, and faded back.
The adversary fell through, hard, and clawed his way out of the pit. Tenth was waiting for him, crossbow in hand, and then machete.
How did you stop someone who was running on raw, pure hatred? Or at least the insatiable desire of all madmen: to see the world prostrate at one’s feet?
Tenth didn’t know. He was running out of tricks. A Ghostblood smoke flare. A rope dart. And still, the enemy kept coming and then Tenth saw stars and tasted blood in his mouth. The world spun.
An arm closed about his throat, clamping on it as Tenth struggled to draw breath. Against his neck he could feel dirty leather, squeezing, constraining. His nostrils inhaled the sharp scent of black smoke.
Brief reprieve. Angry squawking, and for a dizzying moment, Tenth saw out of two sets of eyes as Kaikoa, brave, doomed Kaikoa, not the first, never the first, never less beloved, dived and pecked and clawed at his attacker, giving Tenth a moment to breathe.
—Until the enemy swatted Kaikoa, and she swerved, and—
Tenth charged. There was something like a roar. Something like a punch. He looked down. Blood. And then more blood.
And then he was out of the church entranceway, crashing backwards through the stained glass window of the Scadrian church, and falling, glass shards tumbling about him. All sorts of colours, like Kaikoa’s plumage. Beautiful, even in the dusk.
He was falling. Next to him, as in a haze, Enoras seemed to be falling with him.
The music, descending as the glass, from the lonely busker Tenth had never been able to find. There it was. He thought he saw it. A single, perfect flower, the stalk bending towards him. He reached out for it, and—
—A hand caught his. Third of the Sky, frowning sternly at him. “The Father is merciful,” his former trainer intoned. “If you screw up, you will die swiftly.” And then it was not Third of the Sky, but Enoras, radiant with light, whose hand rested not on his own but on his stomach, which was leaking blood. And then...
There was a single mote of light, like a star, like the limelights reflected in broken glass. Then it exploded, blinding him. He had tried to keep his promise. Tenth did not know if that was enough.
He fell. And jolted awake, machete somehow still in hand. He saw his assailant clearly now. A stocky man, wearing a visually painful contrast of colours. He had his sword in hand, staring down with disbelief at Enoras’ corpse, which was bloodied and wounded in all the wrong spots. On his leg, Tenth could feel the weight of a dead hand against his bare skin.
He had no idea what had happened. But one thought remained in his head.
The Father is merciful. If you screw up, you will die swiftly.
Darrel’s back was turned to his living opponent. The man stooped, ready to collect the remnants of the power of Odium. He had Investiture from a dozen Shards, centuries of combat experience, and had killed worldhoppers better and luckier than Tenth.
But he had yet to learn to avoid the simplest trap of all.
The machete rose and fell, and Darrel’s death was swift indeed.
(Credit once again to Kasimir / Azure Mouse for creating the basics of this writeup.)
~ ~ ~
SCADRIAL, THE ASPECT OF TRELL
Locke looked at the oncoming two dozen with grim apprehension, gripping his Shard tightly between his fingers. The attackers advanced in a loose formation, not allowing themselves to bunch up and be wiped out easily, and showed no fear of the five Shards - six if the Aspect was counted - which stood in their way. Dominion had been Shattered before the war began, and had apparently disappeared with one of Odium’s agents, but Locke’s memory stretched far back, to the earliest Shardic conflicts. A whole and functioning Dominion was a force nobody wanted to reckon with.
Today, they would have to.
He wished Tenth was beside him in the fight, but the trapper, peculiar as ever, had insisted on defending the small chapel they had left Enoras’ body in when Trell’s emergency summons had come. He supposed the Shattered Odium Shard would need a measure of defence, but one man - particularly one without Shardic power - would be unable to hold them all off. His fears were confirmed when the apparent leader of the strike force - he thought, from the gloves, that it was Darrel - broke off to confront him. He felt sorrow for Tenth. He would be no match for a foe of that caliber, who had slain Vessels and nearly taken Odium for himself. But he could not spend precious time mourning his friend. He had his own problems to confront.
Two figures towards the middle seemed to be leading the remainder of the group, though Locke could not tell which one held the Shard. He could feel it, though: a pressure against him, as if something was trying to tear Invention free from him and pull it to themselves. Trell channelled the power it could behind him, allowing his will to avoid complete surrender, but the fight was not easy. From the looks of his fellow Shards beside him, they were faring little better. They did have one advantage over their opponents, however.
Locke had never experimented with the full range of his powers, a decision he regretted bitterly now, but what knowledge he did have, he had put to good use together with the other Shards before the fight began. Their worldhoppers, even if outnumbered, would be well-equipped with the inventions he could make, Invested in by the Shards themselves. And one of them - perhaps their strongest one - was about to come in handy.
He nodded to Mort, who stood beside him with clenched teeth. Understanding, he tapped the shield he held. Preservation’s power burst forth, amplified by the device, and the world seemed to slow - except for Mort. Their assailants suddenly sluggish, he reached with his other hand and grabbed a harpoon from his side, and fired.
It was an elegant weapon, and Locke smiled in satisfaction as the spear shot off, guided true by its Investment, and struck the leading figure in the neck despite his frantic gestures, reaching for anything that would defend him. He dropped, but Dominion’s hostile pressure did not. So it was the other leader who had it, then. They would just have to shoot him while Preservation’s Investiture held them at bay. Mort reloaded the harpoon and pointed it again, looking to kill.
Then everything went wrong.
The Autonomic aspect behind them groaned, as if going haywire, and its protective bubble gave way with the suddenness of a lightning strike. The pressure on Locke redoubled. He bent to his knees, trying not to vomit. Mort cried out as he seemed to lose control of his body entirely, going limp and falling; the harpoon shot vanished into the air, and his shield fell, time seeming to redouble as it reverted to normal. An agonising shriek from Flamingo and a muffled cry from Whimsy suggested they were not faring any better. Only Remy, with Prudence, seemed to avoid immediate incapacitation. The hostile worldhoppers swept forward, weapons extended. Locke could barely block the strike from the first one, unable to think. Everything was pressure, torment, an unbearable weight pressing down on his mind, to be released if he only gave in.
The second blow from the worldhopper came. Locke’s Invested sword, crafted meticulously, fell from his fingers. Useless. Just like his resistance.
No; I cannot give in!
Dimly, a corner of his mind registered that Flamingo had fallen beside him, gutted by a sword. Bellowing with a last effort, he welded Invention’s power into the image of a spear, sharp and deadly, and thrust it through the thick darkness bearing down on his mind and will. He was rewarded with a cry from Radler, and he regained full awareness with a gasp. The pressure on his mind had disappeared.
The worldhopper in front of him, however, had not. His third blow, with a halberd infused by Odium, plunged into his unprotected chest, and Locke Tekiel fell without a word.
~ ~ ~
Remy saw Invention and Preservation fall, their positions in the vanguard costing them dearly. The wave of worldhoppers pushed forward, and Eris and Mort would have been dead despite the sudden alleviation of Dominion’s pressure if it had not been for Chameleon, who became a blur of motion, using his Invested items to move faster than even Remy’s heightened senses could track. Whirling about, he felled several surprised worldhoppers, and Eris and Mort regained their feet, free from threat of physical harm momentarily. Waves of Shardic power flew off them, and the leading attackers flew backwards, unprepared for the activity of the Shards opposing them. Remy focused on keeping Dominion on the defensive, prodding at his mind and body with a dozen sharp attacks, forcing him to parry. She knew she couldn’t keep it up forever, of course. But she didn’t have to. Behind her, Chameleon slew another worldhopper who had been sneaking up on her, and she blessed Invention in her head for the Invested weapons, without which they’d have been long since dead.
Radler, however, was tired of seeing his men fall. With a lurch, Remy felt her next attack go through unparried, and entered - entirely unprepared - her opponent’s mind. For a split second she felt Connected to Radler, knew him and his history - and it was an odd and complex tale. Before she had the luxury of contemplating what she’d seen, however, the counterstrike came.
A shockwave once again rippled through the battlefield, this time physical and not mental. The three Vessels were pushed back, Remy’s concentration slipping, and Chameleon found himself flattened against part of the rock outcropping which formed the Aspect. Another blast of power, and he was an ashen mark on the green fields outside Elendel.
Breathing heavily, Remy struggled to her feet. Beside her, Eris and Mort forced themselves upright. The foreign worldhoppers were gone or else too hurt to continue, but half of their own Vessels lay dead, and even the ordinary defender had fallen. Tenth was away, and likely dead. Twenty metres, and three Vessels, stood between Radler and the Aspect of Trell, the last defended reservoir of Autonomic power.
So Remy did what she had to, what she had known might have had to happen when she took up the Shard barely a week prior.
She fought. To the death.
~ ~ ~
A note left by Solemnheart:
If you are reading this, then I am not dead.
You may be surprised. I do not know. I certainly was.
I had acted far too late to save Odium. Mercy’s Investiture couldn’t do it. Not in pieces. And if Odium perished… I was next in line to receive the Shard, which would prove disastrous. So, I acted with what I could. I gave up the Shard, and let its power protect Odium for long enough to protect the Shard, if not the Vessel.
And then I fell through my own Perpendicularity into the splintered Cognitive Realm. Alone. Uninvested.
My soul was burning. But the Children of Adonalsium did not hunt for me; they had bigger prey to hunt than a lone Cognitive Shadow ripping itself to shreds. But a Sliver will not die so easily. Especially now that I was a Sliver for two Shards.
Not easy is, of course, relative. I was not dead – as not dead as a Cognitive Shadow could be – but I was dying. Until the Gods Beyond had mercy on me. Or, rather, Mercy on me. I had never Invested with the Shard. And so, its power, after saving Odium for a day, fell through the proverbial cracks. And then through the literal cracks. Into the Cognitive Realm. Into me.
And the power knew me. And I embraced it. For every fiber of its being wanted to… give me a merciful life. Or a merciful end. To be honest I am not sure what its Intent was in that action, but it is mine and I am its.
I was still weak, as Shards go. But I was also tied by the more solid Intent to watching. Not interfering. Letting my former conspirators, each of whom who held the mantle of Odium before quickly abdicating before the powers of the Children, die a Merciful death and not prolonging. That is, I believe, part of why the Shard never demanded I Invest and let go. More Mercy could be done by prolonging my own suffering.
When I Acsended for the first time, to Ambition, I had a… vision. A glance at the world, collapsing under Odium’s might – but with Mercy at His side.
When I Acsended for the second time, to Mercy, hurriedly before my own impending death before I was so briefly spared, I had another vision. This of a world at peace. Not under our Odium – that was unrealistic even then – but under… another ruler. Not destroying or warring for the Shards, but manipulating them, regulating them perhaps taking them into themselves. Mercy was intrigued by this future; one in no way guaranteed to happen, but one it, and I, were quite capable of bringing about. Perhaps that is why Mercy fled me before returning.
When I Acsended for the third time, I knew who sat upon the throne of the world. In case you have not yet guessed, it was me. Or perhaps that is simply my hubris, but that is what I saw; and my Shard agrees that my actions can make that future possible. The path toward that peace, now that the initializer of Odium was very nearly dead, would be a bloody path. One that terrified Mercy.
The ends justifying the means is one of the greatest debates in the cosmere. But what if ‘the ends’ is the ultimate end? The ultimate peace? Are not the widest inventions, the greatest empires, the very Shards themselves all products of blood?
Mercy alone is not capable of such an act. But it also sees the ultimate Mercy of the world out of its reach, and so we have found a… compromise. While you Children played on the various planets, I went to the one I could now reach. Threnody. Cut off by my gluttony of the perpendicularities there, but as a deity the collection of Ambition’s Investiture went so much… smoother.
I then found Opa again. My old seon. My old friend, a glimmer of a power so similar to Mercy. And with the fragment of Dominion’s power still within me, I formed a similar companion. A… skaze, I believe they are called. I believe in doing so I may have invented a Fjordish Dahkor symbol… a Thorn to my Flower. I can hardly pronounce the word myself. The two are so similar, and yet opposites. Like the power I now hold.
Whether I now hold two Shards, I am honestly not sure. One of the Children had gathered some of the Splintered remains of Ambition, but I have also heard they were considering abandoning its power. I do not know whether the fragments I collected include this. In any case… my bitter goal is complete. I am no longer Mercy. I am… something similar to what I can see happening on Scadrial, in many years. A Harmony, but something… quite different.
I am the Shard of Ruthlessness and Mercy. The Shard of Ambition and Servitude. Of Selfishness and Selflessness. Of equal and opposites that both make their points heard, but slightly miss each other. But above all, a Shard that sees a future where Ambition does not exclude Mercy.
And now… much has happened in the past few weeks. The death of Odium, perhaps forever. The death of many Shards. The foundation of an order, ready to unite the world under a common banner of blood. But through it all… Mercy has been washed away. As was my soul. Forgotten. FREE. Unbound and unknown, for I am dead. And no one dared to suspect otherwise.
And so, I will force my powers to act. You will not know it, but I know where the future can go. Its current path is, I admit, much better than the one Odium envisioned. But it will never… stop. The wars will be quieter but they will not stop. Not until they can be well and truly won.
For I have seen the King of the World, and I have seen His tears. Even as my powers contradict one another, they work together to bring this future of Mercy. A way to reach a finite sum of suffering in the world, even if that sum staggers a Shard’s imagination.
I am not one to let this story end. Not here. Not now. And every story needs what you are quick to call a… villain. Not a destroyer, this time; simply a man who will do what must be done for this world.
So, I write this one, last entry in the life of Solemnheart. You will not hear from me again, not in the same way. I do not even know where I will place it, what medium I will use to communicate it. Perhaps I never will share it, and it will forever be ingrained in my memory alone. But if you are in some way comprehending these words, then know one thing.
I am… sorry. I too, but wish I could spare you. Lament, you spared! Could I wish? But to my sorrow… I am.
(credit to Ashbringer / Plum Rhinoceros for the above note)
(writeup provided by Fifth Scholar)
The game is over! The Children of Adonalsium have won! Congratulations!
All of the neutrals have won as well!
(And happy birthday to El!)
Shardworlds Cycle 1
Shardworlds Cycle 2
Shardworlds Cycle 3
Shardworlds Cycle 4
Shardworlds Cycle 5/6
Shardworlds Cycle 7
We're holding off on the GM spreadsheet until we have cosmetic role votes from all players. If you have not submitted your votes, please do so asap. The final playlist is withheld for the same reason - so as not to reveal who had which account (not that plenty aren't well known by this point since anonymity was kinda a bust in this game, ah well).
Post-mortems from both El and I are forthcoming.