skaa

Theory: Stormlight Patterns Can Be Imprinted On Metal

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Has anyone else noticed that every fabrial we've seen so far that has been sufficiently described was fixed in a metal setting of some sort? What I mean is that we've never seen a fabrial explicitly described as being without metal. It almost seems like metal was a requirement in fabrial creation, and not just for aesthetic purposes.
 
In fact, in WoR, Shallan only realized that the lamps in the Stormseat Oathgate room were fabrials when she noticed the metallic latticework around each gemstone:
 

A circular room. A thing on one side that adapted to fit different Shardblades. Depictions of Knights on the floor, glowing with Stormlight, pointing at a tower city, just as the myths described. Ten lamps on the walls. The lock hung over what she thought was a depiction of Natanatan, the kingdom of the Shattered Plains. It--
Ten lamps. With gems in them. Latticework of metal enclosing each one.

Shallan blinked, a shock running through her.

"It's a fabrial."


But if metals are important in fabrial creation, what exactly is their purpose? Shouldn't a fabrial's power come directly from the spren and the Stormlight inside the gemstone?

In a pre-WoR thread of mine, I theorized that metals were conduits/transmitters of Investiture, and were the reason why fabrials can actually change their environment. That might still be the case, but right now I'm not 100% convinced about it because that theory was based on metals having intrinsic Transportation Surge properties, which I now doubt.

I have a new theory that doesn't require metals to transmit Investiture, but is still compatible with that idea. It first came to me when I noticed a problem with the Soulcaster fabrials. We know that these fabrials are special because all of them were made long ago, before the Recreance, when the Knights Radiant were still around. These Soulcasters, considered sacred by the ardents, have not yet been replicated in modern times. In other words, every single Soulcaster fabrial on Roshar are practically irreplaceable artifacts.

The big problem with that is that gemstones crack when too much Stormlight is forced out of them. Or as Navani would say, they "succumb easily to the multiplied strain of simultaneous infusion drain and physical stress". And when that happens, you'll have to replace the broken gemstone.

So if people saw me using a Soulcaster and one of its gemstones suddenly cracks, I'd probably look rather foolish to them, won't I? They'd think I had just destroyed something immensely precious, won't they?
 

Stormlight shot from Jasnah's hand like twin bolts of lightning, symmetrical. One struck each of the footpads and they popped, puffing into smoke. Their empty clothing dropped to the ground. With a sharp snap, the smokestone crystal on Jasnah's Soulcaster cracked, its light vanishing, leaving her with just the diamond and the ruby.
...
Jasnah idly popped the broken smokestone from her Soulcaster, then tucked it into a pocket. It could be sold to a gemsmith, who could cut smaller gemstones from the salvaged pieces.


Well, apparently not. Jasnah didn't even pretend to be upset when the the smokestone in her (fake) fabrial cracked. It's as if she fully expected Shallan to believe the smokestone could simply be replaced. As for Shallan, she had serious problems with what Jasnah did, including using a holy artifact to commit murder, but not including irreplaceably breaking said artifact.

I therefore conclude that while the gemstone component of a fabrial is obviously important (it holds the Stormlight that powers the fabrial), it can definitely be replaced, even that of a Soulcaster fabrial.

But how could that be? Won't you need to trap the same kind of spren in another identically-cut gemstone to replicate the cracked gemstone's power (which in the case of Soulcasters, nobody has ever done successfully)? I don't think so.

We know from one of Navani's illustrations that when a gemstone that has a spren trapped inside is infused with Stormlight, it creates a specific Stormlight pattern. Now, here is my theory: I think a fabrial's Stormlight pattern is somehow imprinted on the fabrial's metal setting. This allows for the gemstone to be replaced when needed without having to attract another spren in the replacement gemstone. That probably means replacement gemstones need not even contain any spren as long as the Stormlight pattern has already been imprinted in the metal.
 
That also means the most important thing you could do to keep a fabrial working is to not mess with the metal framework because it might disturb the pattern imprinted on it. So you should, like, try not to accidentally damage it with a sword while attempting to stab your abusive father. Or something.

What do you guys think?
 
Edit: I believe this "imprinting" of a Stormlight pattern onto metal is made possible by the Cohesion Surge, but that probably deserves its own separate thread.

Edited by skaa
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I think that Soulcasters don't actually contain trapped spren. All other fabrials access the surges in a roundabout way, but Soulcasters tap directly into the power of creation. I'm inclined to think that the pattern of metal itself is what filters the Stormlight, apart from any spren.

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I think that Soulcasters don't actually contain trapped spren. All other fabrials access the surges in a roundabout way, but Soulcasters tap directly into the power of creation. I'm inclined to think that the pattern of metal itself is what filters the Stormlight, apart from any spren.

 

I guess we agree, then, that fabrials don't need spren as long as the necessary Stormlight pattern is already held in the metal. Or am I misunderstanding your reply?

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Would this, then, be something akin to Stormlight Soulstamping?  You would be changing the nature of the metal by embedding the pattern on the metal?  I kind of like that idea.

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Would this, then, be something akin to Stormlight Soulstamping? You would be changing the nature of the metal by embedding the pattern on the metal? I kind of like that idea.

What I described as "imprinting" and what Soulstamping is are similar in that they both tweak Identities, yes. The fabrial metal is not fully transformed as in Soulcasting, obviously, but its Identity is somehow forcefully attuned/shaped into the specific pattern of a spren.

 

So when you remove the original gemstone and replace it with an infused spren-less gem, Stormlight will still align to that specific pattern, resonating with it as if the proper spren was there all along.

Edited by skaa
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Spanreeds don't appear to be described with metal, though that might just be a lack of a clear description. WoK Ars Arcanum also appear to suggest the action of the spanreed is entirely due to the gemstone (in particular, if one cracks, it seems unlikely it could simply be replaced since it suggests the procedure requires an initially-whole ruby).

 

The bigger issue is that it's unclear what they'd make the fabrials out of if not metal. It's not like they can soulcast plastic, and given the existence of soulcasters (to make easier-to-manipulate materials into metals) it's not clear why they'd ever choose a different type of material to make soulcasters if they have an option. Of the solid choices, rocks and crystals are likely to be much less tough than metals, and wood has the problem of being degradable (and is less tough than metal).

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Spanreeds don't appear to be described with metal, though that might just be a lack of a clear description.

There's no such lack. Here's from Words of Radiance:

 

Shallan took the spanreed, switched the fabrial’s setting...

 

More on that "switch" later.

 

WoK Ars Arcanum also appear to suggest the action of the spanreed is entirely due to the gemstone (in particular, if one cracks, it seems unlikely it could simply be replaced since it suggests the procedure requires an initially-whole ruby).

 

If one of the half-rubies experience enough infusion drain to crack it, the other half would experience the same infusion drain and should crack as well. You'll have to replace both of them. I suggest this could be done simply by putting the two metal settings of the old ruby halves onto a new (whole) ruby, infusing it, and then dividing it. No spren necessary.

 

(Edit: You might think that old spanreed metal parts could simply be attached to separate whole rubies, but that won't work. The point of the spanreed fabrial is that its target (the gemstone itself) will behave in a cohesive manner even after dividing it. So if you use different gemstones, the effect won't manifest).

 

 

The bigger issue is that it's unclear what they'd make the fabrials out of if not metal. It's not like they can soulcast plastic, and given the existence of soulcasters (to make easier-to-manipulate materials into metals) it's not clear why they'd ever choose a different type of material to make soulcasters if they have an option. Of the solid choices, rocks and crystals are likely to be much less tough than metals, and wood has the problem of being degradable (and is less tough than metal).

 

I think you missed the point. The issue is why fabrials even need anything other than a gemstone in the first place. Why should there even be a setting? Why don't we ever see anyone simply press a piece of bare gemstone onto a target to activate it? If you're going to say that the metal part is used for mundane purposes, like allowing the user to wear the fabrial (as in the case of emotion bracelets and Soulcasters), then I'd like to point out just one example: Vstim's alerter fabrial, which just sits inside a wooden box (and sometimes on a wooden tripod), still has a metal framework attached to it.

 

Speaking of Vstim's alerter, its metal framework apparently has dials that indicate which people to ignore:

 

She hurried back to the tripod with the fabrial's box. She slid off the wooden top and removed the large heliodor inside. The pale yellow gemstone, at least two inches in diameter, was fixed inside a metal framework. It glowed gently, not as bright as one might expect of such a sizable gem.

 

She set it in the tripod, then spun a few of the dials underneath, setting the fabrial to the people in the caravan. Then she pulled a stool from the wagon and sat down to watch. She'd been astonished at what Vstim had paid for the device--one of the new, recently invented types that would give warning if people approached.

 

This is similar to how spanreeds have switches. Given that fabrials work via generation of specific Stormlight patterns, the only way those dials could possibly work is if changing the metal framework also affects the Stormlight pattern.

 

Hence, it seems quite likely that the metal setting of a fabrial is somehow attuned to the Stormlight pattern.

Edited by skaa
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With all systems of magic, we find that the focus of an Investiture effect (aka magic stuff) seems to require not a thing, but instead the pattern of a thing. Examples of this include Metals, Commands, Aons, Forging, it isn't the things, but the pattern that makes the magic do what it does (as opposed to something else).

 

With the Fabrial settings, the Stormlight patterns seen in Navani's drawing are clearly related the fashion in which the setting holds the gemstone, as seen in fig. |\\|\\\\||||. Just kidding, I mean the drawing in the upper left. It is very probable that the function of the gem is determined by a collusion of the type of polestone (notably its colour, cut, and purity) and the setting (which filters the Stormlight into a pattern by causing shadows, as seen in the drawing). Given that Stormlight can be infused into a gemstone in a Highstorm, I am not even entirely certain what role the spren are playing in Fabrials.

 

That said, it seems unlikely that it is the metal that plays no role - its rarity makes it an unusual choice to be used as a material for anything that would not specifically require it. We relatively little other metal, even in arms and armour where metal has great advantages in material strength. Soulcasting is certainly doable, but given the indications at the camps regarding the worth of the gemhearts and yet how little soulcasting they purchase, soulcasting is not a cheap endeavour. It seems unlikely that they would use metal that consistently without a reason for it.

 

One possibility that occurs is that Stormlight tends to permeate things - it could simply be possibly that metal (which is much more dense than most other materials) is one of the few easy to work materials that does not allow Stormlight to permeate it, and thus casts a shadow, which is what generates the Stormlight pattern.

 

I am as yet unclear about what role spren play - I have not studied Fabrials in any depth at all, and my knowledge is pitiful compared to skaa here. I don't have any evidence so far that anything is imprinted on the metal, however. The image shows the pattern to be generated by shadows of the setting, and from other Cosmere systems the pattern of a thing is usually the prime consideration in determining what it does. And we don't have any other Cosmere examples of things being 'imprinted' onto materials other than Hemalurgy at this time.

 

It would be extremely freaky if the metals act as hemalurgic spikes, stealing the necessary Innate Investiture from the soul of the first spren in the setting.

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It would be extremely freaky if the metals act as hemalurgic spikes, stealing the necessary Innate Investiture from the soul of the first spren in the setting.

 

That would be freaky indeed. How would people react if the Stormlight pattern of a fabrial is actually a dead spren?

 

"All dead," Pattern said. "To us, this means they are mindless--as a force cannot truly be destroyed. These old ones are patterns in nature now, like Cryptics unborn. We have tried to restore them. It does not work.

 

:blink:

 

Somebody tell Syl never to enter an infused gemstone, no matter how enticing it may be!

Edited by skaa
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It would be extremely freaky if the metals act as hemalurgic spikes, stealing the necessary Innate Investiture from the soul of the first spren in the setting.

 

I do wonder if something "hemalurgic-ish" could be going on with the soulcasting fabrials and creepy ardents. If there are currently no spren in the soulcasting fabrial gems, and no nahel bond or nahel spren to act as a guide for those ardents, how would that magical transaction/interaction play out? The ardents are possibly giving up aspects of their humanity in order to soulcast. We know from Jasnah that soulcasting is very dangerous (and also has a somewhat ominous-sounding name). Does the stormlight power from the gem combined with the imprinted pattern on the soulcasting fabrial require the sacrifice or corruption of the ardent's sDNA when soulcasting, as they have no buffer or intermediary spren? Almost a form of self-hemalurgy, but Roshar-style?

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From what we've seen so far, it appears to me that the gemstone in a fabrial determines the targeted Essence of the effect, while the metal setting/pattern determines the Surge that is used and the exact form of the effect. Examples:

 

The Regrowth fabrial in Starfalls contains topaz and heliodor, corresponding to the essences of bone and flesh. But the two gems that are linked with the Progression surge are diamond and emerald. Therefore, the Surge is determined by the metal framework.

 

Soulcasters are dependent on the specific gem placed in the setting to determine what they can do; but the gems can obviously be switched out, to allow for other uses.

 

Spanreeds use ruby, which targets spark/fire (i.e. energy, i.e. the kinetic energy of the pen's movement). 

 

Alerters use heliodor, again, flesh.

 

Navani's wet-vac fabrial (the thing that dried the tents) uses a giant garnet, (blood/water), and the space-heaters use ruby (again, fire).

 

It's pretty clear that the gemstones in all of these are exchangeable, too, just like they are in Soulcasters. Therefore, the "magic" is in the metal framework itself. Which begs the question - what's the difference between Navani and friends' fabrials, and the ancient ones? Obviously we dont' know enough, but from what we've seen, it seems that the major difference is in effect rather than construction/appearance. The modern ones all seem to create very specific uses of stormlight, possibly more specific than a surgebinder would even be able to accomplish. The ancient ones, on the other hand, basically allow a non-surgebinder (or the wrong surgebinder) to use a surge it all it's variety. 

 

In the world of physical tools, this is backwards. It's much easier to design and build a shovel than a bulldozer, for instance. Easier to build a cart than a Ferrari. But in the world of cognitive/spiritual tools? It appears to be easier to build something for one very specific task (maintain connection to that other pen; suck in all nearby water) than it is to allow access to the Essence of a natural force.

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