Returned

Theory: Odium's Ultimate Defeat [Discuss] [Spoilers]

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I've been re-reading the Stormlight books and have been thinking about specific events along with the current conflict raging during the Last Desolation as well as the overarching conflicts across the Cosmere. It seems likely to me, though not definitive, that Odium is more or less a permanent problem. Certainly Rayse was (so far) unique in being both able and willing to destroy other Shards whether or not he required help to do so. That motivation may have been unique to Rayse, but his time holding Odium could also have driven that course of action even if Rayse was already amenable. 

Either way, even with the change in Vessel to Taravangian Odium is still very dangerous and potentially hostile to the other Shards. Harmony strongly implies this in the epigraphs to chapters 37, 39, and 40 of RoW:

Spoiler

"[...] However, you seem more afraid of the Vessel [Rayse]. I warn you that this is a flaw in your understanding." (RoW, Chapter 37, epigraph)

"The power of Odium's Shard is more dangerous than the mind behind it. Particularly since any Investiture seems to gain a will of its own when not controlled." (RoW, Chapter 39, epigraph)

"My instincts say that the power of Odium is not being controlled well. The Vessel will be adapted to the power's will. And after this long, if Odium is still seeking to destroy, then it is because of the power." (RoW, Chapter 40, epigraph)

 

If we take these sentiments to be true (which may not be wise, as Harmony is new to the deity scene, though his holding two Shards may give him unique insight) then it's not unreasonable to conclude that the goal outlined in the epigraph of chapter 34 of RoW is driven by Odium itself and not so much the Vessel bearing it:

Spoiler

"To combine powers would change and distort who Odium is. [...] Destroying and Splintering the other Shards would leave Odium as the sole god, unchanged and uncorrupted by other influences." (RoW, Chapter 34, epigraph)

 

So whatever changes might exist when Taravangian destroyed Rayse and became the new Vessel of Odium it seems like the threat to the Cosmere is unchanged, and therefore so are Hoid's efforts and the situation for the other Shards. Odium is deific, and so far we don't know of any other Shards which are capable of Splintering (or otherwise destroying) a Shard. At some point Odium became trapped on Roshar, and while that was a good-enough solution for several millennia it clearly isn't permanent. Permanence in resolving this danger seems important for otherwise (mostly) immortal beings like the other Shards.

For these reasons the current plan of Dalinar and company is doomed to fail. Their victory in the contest of champions, if it even takes place, will only push Odium's efforts into the future to some unknowable extent. And the wording of the agreement is unclear as to what, precisely, will happen if Odium's champion loses. Therefore any conclusion to Odium as an antagonist, whether in Stormlight alone or in all of the Cosmere works, cannot be: 1. the contest of champions, 2. changing Odium's Vessel, 3. destroying Odium, or 4. persuading Odium to behave differently. So that leaves the question "what is to be done about it?"

And here is my answer: the only way to deal with Odium is to combine it with another Shard, thereby modifying how it operates. Such a combination has seriously hampered Harmony's ability to act on his own, for example. The discovery of the titular Rhythm of War implies that the combination of Honor and Odium might work and be worthwhile; Odium and Cultivation would presumably also work and be locally available to the Rosharans, but seems (to me) more dangerous than Honor/Odium and would require two possibly unwilling Vessels be dealt with. I presume that Vessels don't typically want to combine their own Shard with others for the same reason Odium doesn't want to, that it would change the raw expression of the original, fundamentally distinct Shard. My specific prediction is that Dalinar will use his powers to reconstitute Honor's Shard somehow, foreshadowed by his ability to open Honor's Perpendicularity and Odium's response:

Quote

"No! No, we killed you. We killed you!" (Oathbringer, page 1139) (the last sentence is in a different font, denoting "deity speech")

If Honor can be reassembled, then it could (perhaps) be imposed upon Taravangian or Taravangian himself destroyed and Odium taken up by anyone that also takes up Honor. Maybe Dalinar, maybe Kaladin, or maybe someone we don't know about yet. The specific person that does it would be less important than the idea that instead of unbridled hatred running around we would have honorable hatred (whatever that might be). It's not necessarily an end to any threat from Odium at all but is the only way I can think of that might deal with the Shard in any meaningful way.

I don't know if this will happen in Stormlight 5, in Stormlight 6-10, in a different Cosmere work, or at all (obviosuly, lol!). My money's on sooner rather than later, as I imagine the ultimate villain(s) of the Cosmere will be Autonomy, Thaidakar, Hoid, or some combination of them rather than Odium, the major confluence of Cosmere events will involve a lot of things happening on Roshar, and the ultimate conclusion will be a re-forging of Adonalsium anyways. But that's an entirely different kettle of wild speculation.

Edited by Returned
Punctuation; grammar
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These are some really great thoughts!  I agree with a lot of what you said.  Do you think perhaps Dalinar would take Honor's Shard and become the Vessel for it?  Maybe eventually truly uniting Odium with himself (even if only between books 5-6 as a temporary solution)?  It would be an interesting turn of events for sure.

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Thanks! I do think that Dalinar is the most likely Vessel for Honor, but I don't know if he'll keep it (sort of like Kelsier serving as an interim Vessel). If I'm right then his Bondsmith powers will be instrumental in reknitting Honor, and his bond to the Stormfather (the most prominent remaining piece of Honor) gives him a sort of natural channel for taking the Shard up.

But... Dalinar's declaration in Oathbringer when he assumes Honor's power, that he is Unity, makes me wonder (that capital "U" is so suggestive!). My feeling is that this is important, and that in re-forging Honor Dalinar will change the Shard's Intent. It will be the same power, but instead of being focused as Honor (binding people to promises they make) it will be focused as Unity (binding things together, particularly things that were once one or that belong together). The description of Adhesion as a Surge unique to Honor, and Honor's truest Surge, seems like a compelling hint in that direction. Dalinar would be a great vessel for Honor, especially after swearing the fifth Bondsmith oath, but he seems less natural of a fit for Unity. So I think that maybe someone else will be a more natural fit in the long term, especially if Unity goes on a unifying rampage aimed at Odium and Cultivation.

But I'm aware that my guess about Unity is probably heavily influenced by my poorly supported idea that Autonomy will be a/the major villain in an epic, deity-clash sense. It makes it too convenient that a Shard dedicated to unity would arise just because they would be so thematically opposed to each other. Autonomy inherently doesn't want others influencing or constraining its actions, and has seeded autonomous avatars of itself all over the Cosmere (including Roshar!). Unity would be more focused in the opposite direction, on parts becoming a whole. And given my sense that the Cosmere will conclude with Adonalsium being reunited then a deity fundamentally committed to that goal would be awfully convenient. With so little definitive information to work with I want to be cautious about using guesses to help other guesses fit together. But I also don't want to stop guessing, so here we are.

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