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Why Odium Is the "Most Dangerous Shard"

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In reading some posts, I saw folks questioning why Odium is the "most dangerous Shard." I attempted to answer this in a small section of my very large post about the origin of the Cosmere and how the magic works. I thought it worthwhile to repeat here, for separate discussion.

 

I believe it is possible to increase a Shard's power by "expanding" its mind, its Consciousness, its ability to direct its power. We know from HoA that limiting the mind reduces power; the opposite should be possible.

 

Once humans and other sentient life began adding their ideas to the Cognitive Realm, divine Consciousness had company. Human ideas grew both the Cognitive and Spiritual Realms simply by their conception and idealization. Since investiture comprises all things, then the addition of human thought should expand God’s own Consciousness.

 

There’s a word to describe human thought dedicated to a God’s Consciousness. It’s called “worship,” and the means of communicating with God include prayer. The scene where Navani draws Thath, the glyph for justice, following the Battle at the Tower affords a great example:

 

“What was a prayer, if not creation? Making something where nothing existed. Creating a wish out of despair, a plea out of anguish. Bowing one’s back before the Almighty, and forming humility from the empty pride of a human life.

 

Something from nothing. True creation.”

 

WoK, Kindle p. 948 (emphasis added).

 

Observations and Conclusions:

  • When people have ideas about honor or hatred or selflessness or whatever, those ideas form in the Cognitive Realm. Following the process outlined in the Cosmere post linked above, some of those ideas will eventually reify into Spiritual Realm ideals, connected to other ideals. Growing a Shard’s Consciousness thus grows the Shard’s Spirit, giving the Shard more capacity to exercise power in the Physical Realm. True creation.
  • Odium’s influence may be the most pervasive of all Shards, since hatred is so universal (unlike, say, honor or even devotion). The many hate-filled ideas spawning in the Cognitive Realm increase Odium’s Consciousness, and ultimately power, rapidly  Odium is the “most dangerous” of the Shards because human hatred enables Odium to grow his power quickly over time.
Edited by Confused
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  • Odium’s influence may be the most pervasive of all Shards, since hatred is so universal (unlike, say, honor or even devotion). The many hate-filled ideas spawning in the Cognitive Realm increase Odium’s Consciousness, and ultimately power, rapidly  Odium is the “most dangerous” of the Shards because human hatred enables Odium to grow his power quickly over time.

From "The Letter"

 

Ati was once a kind and generous man, and you saw what became of him. Rayse, on the other hand, was among the most loathsome, crafty, and dangerous individuals I had ever met.He holds the most frightening and terrible of all of the Shards. Ponder on that for a time, you old reptile, and tell me if your insistence on nonintervention holds firm. Because I assure you, Rayse will not be similarly inhibited.

I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that human hatred allows Rayse to grow his power. I think it is more likely that his natural inclination toward the emotion allowed him to have a synergy with his shard. I suspect that the rest of the shard holders are (somewhat) inhibited by their natures clashing (at least partially) with the intents of their shards. Rayse is more powerful due to the lack of conflicting intent between holder and shard. If anything, I think he is just able to use a more complete amount of the power of his shard than others.

In addition, prior to his apparent entrapment on Braize, Odium seemed to be untethered while the other shards we have seen we're invested in the shardworlds they had occupied. I suspect this lack of focused investment gave him an edge against any shardholder who was invested in a planet.

Edited by Iron Eyes
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I woudn't say it limits the power directly, just the Shard's influence/ability to use the power they have at their disposal. to its fullest potential (unless that is what you're saying). If a Shard hasn't invested itself in a planet or particular area of space, then you're dealing with a force beyond imagining and even if a Shard that has invested itself anywhere, it is pretty powerful by itself, but they're by no means omnipotent, the amount of power each Shard contains is most likely finite, given the Cosmere still abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics, albeit with a twist (there's even a WoB from the AMA about a 4th Law applying only to Adonalsium!) I think one of the main reasons that defines the extent of a Shard's power is the Intent of the Shard itself and how the power is applied by the holder. Preservation and Ruin couldn't create anything alone because it goes against both of their intents/natures. (I agree with the more eloquently worded viewpoint by Iron Eyes above me)

 

 

Or i've just misunderstood the whole post and you can ignore my blathering :)

 

It is a nice idea though

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The other issue seems to be that Odium's intent is simple and destructive. It's hatred, and from this hatred I imagine there's a sort of contempt for all life and the other Shards. Odium is driven to punish, destroy, and lash out at all creation which is bad enough, but there is one more deadly component to this: Odium is also calculating. It knows that, at least initially, all the Shards are equal in power. It knows that if it is to make the Cosmere its universal vessel of eternal wrath, it has to prevent the other Shards from joining forces and coming after it. We currently do not see anything else quite like it in the Cosmere.

 

Those two characteristics, I believe, would alone account for Odium being the most dangerous Shard.

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Odium has managed to kill and splinter three shards, whereas the only other shard on shard combat we know was a mutual kill in Mistborn.

So, Odium has an advantage somehow.

I see three possible categories:

1) Advantage in ability: Odium has some ability lacked by at least some other shards that is useful in combat.

2) Advantage in technique: Odium is better at effectively using his power for offense or defense against another shard.

3) Advantage in concentrated power: At least before he became bound to Braize, Odium may have retained more of his innate power vis-a-vis Honor, Devotion, and Dominion, enabling him to prevail in a fight. We know Preservation put so much power into Scadrial/Humanity he was a a disadvantage vs Ruin.

I asked Brandon what Odium's edge was at a signing, giving the three possibilities. He was going to RAFO but threw me a bone and said "some combination of the three".

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I think the idea that a Shard can grow its power based on human thought – worship – is critical to both the narrative and the Cosmere. Other explanations of Odium’s dangerousness – apart from a natural, visceral revulsion to the effects of hatred – are inadequate. Please excuse in advance the space I take to rebut the contrary arguments.

 

We know from WoB that (a) all Shards began with equal power; (B) Odium does not want to dilute his mandate (intent) by acquiring the investiture of the Shards he splinters; and © he fears Harmony. I presume his fear is based on Harmony’s greater aggregate power (two Shards versus one) and the fact that hatred and harmony are so diametrically opposed, each capable of destroying the other (at least metaphorically).

 

How then can Odium hope to splinter Harmony if he has only half his power? The obvious answer is he can’t, unless Odium first increases his power (or reduces Harmony’s, I suppose). How does Odium increase his power, assuming he frees himself from Roshar?

 

Based on the way the Cosmere works and the evidence of Navani’s answered prayer, discussed in the OP, I believe human thought augments a Shard’s Consciousness (cognitive investiture), which in turn enlarges the Spiritual Realm’s network of ideals, which in turn increases the Shard’s Physical Realm power.

 

Let’s look at the arguments against this thesis.

 

1.  Iron Eyes writes,

 

“Rayse is more powerful [than the other Shards] due to the lack of conflicting intent between holder and shard. If anything, I think he is just able to use a more complete amount of the power of his shard than others.”

 

That’s a fair point. But it assumes that “the rest of the shard holders are (somewhat) inhibited by their natures clashing (at least partially) with the intents of their shards.” I don’t believe that is the case. As I state in this post, Shard mandates (intents) came from Adonalsium itself, but the Shards chose their hosts because those hosts were cognitively like-minded to begin with. ALL Shards had similar natures to their Shards’ mandates.

 

All investiture is alike – even splinters have mandates (intents). Splinters choose human hosts based on their “temperaments” – that is the whole basis for the Knights Radiant. Adonalsium’s Shards did the same: they chose hosts who matched the Shards’ mandates.

 

Even if Iron Eyes is correct, Harmony’s “nature” would have to be at least ONE-QUARTER DISCORDANT (not harmonic) to put his two Shards on equal footing with Odium. But Sazed was able to assume the Ruin and Preservation Shards precisely because he was such a balanced person, embodying the harmony within him – appropriate for a feruchemist.

 

 

2. Iron Eyes further observes that

 

“prior to his apparent entrapment on Braize, Odium seemed to be untethered while the other shards we have seen we're invested in the shardworlds they occupied. I suspect this lack of focused investment gave him an edge against any shardholder who was invested in a planet.”

 

EXACTLY! Odium is untethered primarily because his mandate tends not to form bonds with anyone or anything. A second reason is that his power exists everywhere – hatred is much more pervasive than honor or devotion or even preservation or ruin.

 

Iron Eyes implies that Odium’s mobility means he can focus his power anywhere he wants, unlike the “tethered” Shard. (I’m not sure this is true, but assuming it’s so…) Wouldn’t the tethered Shard’s power be at its fullest on its own Shardworld? If Odium came gunning, wouldn’t it be an equal fight on that Shardworld, all other factors being equal? Obviously other factors are not equal.

 

3.  Orlion: If I understand you correctly, your “two characteristics” that account for Odium’s “most dangerous-ness” are (a) the “simple destructiveness” of Odium’s mandate (intent); and ( Odium’s crafty ability to calculate consequences. Responses:

 

a.  I believe a Shard’s mandate has nothing to do with its power. (I also believe Odium’s intent is more about intensity than destruction, but that’s another post.) The mandates define how the Shard’s power is to be used, how the Shard expresses its power. But the power levels are equal, barring other circumstance.

 

As I state in the hyperlinked post, Adonalsium’s power Shattered into Shards vertically, based on their mandates (intents). It might have Shattered horizontally, across the spectrum of power, but it didn’t. All Shards began with equal levels of power and with identical types of powers.

 

Thus, in HoA, Preservation and Ruin began as equal. Only after Preservation gave away part of his power to humankind did Ruin’s power exceed Preservation’s. Preservation re-established equality by imprisoning Ruin’s Consciousness in the Well of Ascension. This is all laid out in the HoA epigraphs, many of which are restated in my post here.

 

b.  Odium’s craftiness and foresight are important, especially when he confronts other Shards.

 

Quick Aside: A chess grandmaster lost game after game to a village peasant. In frustration, he asked the peasant how many moves ahead he could see. “Only one,” the peasant replied. “Only one!!!” the grandmaster snorted in shock. “How is that possible?! I can see 20 moves ahead!” “Ahhhh,” said the peasant. “But I see the right move every time.”

 

Odium is not the most foresightful Shard, however. My money is on Cultivation, whose mandate (intent) has a lot to do with survival.

 

In any event, as the Aside shows, there’s more to winning than foresight. Players of Magic: the Gathering know that blue decks are very difficult to play well and can, and often do, lose to decks of other color combinations. (Brandon is an M:tG fan.) By keeping his mandate pure, Odium is like that blue deck: he’ll often win, but he’ll often lose.

 

Plotters generally are not risk takers. I see Odium growing overwhelming power before making his move, adopting the Colin Powell doctrine. That’s what his foresight will teach him. That’s what he’s been waiting for on Roshar. And that’s what he’s been waiting for once he frees himself from Roshar.

 

4.  Ericth: I believe that, at least pre-splintering, Dominion established the Selian form of the power – the Cognitive command – but it was Devotion’s investiture used to implement the command in the Physical Realm. Thus, even though there were two Shards on Sel, their power was used coincidentally, not cumulatively. Given that, and my OP theory adding power to Odium on Sel, then splintering Dominion and Devotion should not have been difficult for him Odium. (I also think Odium is not as limited by “Shard-planetary uniqueness” as are other Shards, because of hatred's pervasiveness.)

 

Doesn’t what I just described on Sel satisfy all three of your conditions? (Also, “some combination of the three” doesn’t necessarily mean all three.)

 

Again, I wouldn’t blather on so long if I didn’t feel this theory so important. Thanks all!

Edited by Confused
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Let’s look at the arguments against this thesis.

 

1.  Iron Eyes writes,

 

“Rayse is more powerful [than the other Shards] due to the lack of conflicting intent between holder and shard. If anything, I think he is just able to use a more complete amount of the power of his shard than others.”

 

That’s a fair point. But it assumes that “the rest of the shard holders are (somewhat) inhibited by their natures clashing (at least partially) with the intents of their shards.” I don’t believe that is the case. As I state in this post, Shard mandates (intents) came from Adonalsium itself, but the Shards chose their hosts because those hosts were cognitively like-minded to begin with. ALL Shards had similar natures to their Shards’ mandates.

 

 

@Confused, is this all based on a theory you have? I'm not saying you are wrong, but it seems unlikely. Think about it, if your theory is correct why would Ruin choose Ati? Ati being a kind and generous man before he got involved with the whole shard business. Also why did Honor not get stronger when the Knights Radiant were around and acting honorably, and surely having honorable thoughts and what not. would that not have evened out the scales a little? Remember the people back then loved the Radiants, and I assume tried to emulate them. so would that not have made Honor stronger?

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but the Shards chose their hosts because those hosts were cognitively like-minded to begin with

We have two examples that directly contradict this assumption. Ati, was pretty much described as the opposite of Ruin yet he was still the man it attached itself to. The second being Vin, specifically choosen so she would use to power of Preservation to attack Ruin, which again is pretty much the opposite of the Shard's intent.

The second letter also refers to Ryse/Odium thusly:

 

He is what we made him to be, old friend. And that is what he, unfortunately, wished to become.

Note the "we made" implying some kind of manipulation of events and not just the Shards doing their thing.

 

 

All investiture is alike – even splinters have mandates (intents). Splinters choose human hosts based on their “temperaments” – that is the whole basis for the Knights Radiant. Adonalsium’s Shards did the same: they chose hosts who matched the Shards’ mandates.

Nahel bond Spren act like this, yes, but Hoid notes that the magic on Roshar is especially strict in this regard, which means they can not be taken as a universal rule.

 

Even if Iron Eyes is correct, Harmony’s “nature” would have to be at least ONE-QUARTER DISCORDANT (not harmonic) to put his two Shards on equal footing with Odium. But Sazed was able to assume the Ruin and Preservation Shards precisely because he was such a balanced person, embodying the harmony within him – appropriate for a feruchemist.

A bit of a side track but the Shard of Harmony is tecnically not something that actually exsits, even if both Shards are now conected. The Intent of Ruin and Preservation, as well as the Investure attached to these Intents, still exsist seperately. Harmony is just how the balance their union has achived, given their disposition to each other, is called.

 

Thus, in HoA, Preservation and Ruin began as equal. Only after Preservation gave away part of his power to humankind did Ruin’s power exceed Preservation’s. Preservation re-established equality by imprisoning Ruin’s Consciousness in the Well of Ascension. This is all laid out in the HoA epigraphs, many of which are restated in my post here.

That's only half-correct:

 

The Pits of Hathsin were crafted by Preservation as a place to hide the chunk of Ruin's body that he had stolen away during the betrayal and imprisonment. Kelsier didn't truly destroy this place by shattering those crystals, for they would have regrown eventually—in a few hundred years—and continued to deposit atium, as the place was a natural outlet for Ruin's trapped power.

While entrapping Ruin's mind was needed to keep him from destroying Scardrial, what caused the actual ballance of power, needed for the prision to work, was that Ruin couldn't access the part of his power hidden in the Atium, which is why not letting him get the Atium was so important in HoA.

Edited by Edgedancer
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All investiture is alike – even splinters have mandates (intents). Splinters choose human hosts based on their “temperaments” – that is the whole basis for the Knights Radiant. Adonalsium’s Shards did the same: they chose hosts who matched the Shards’ mandates.

 

In a further to this, we aren't sure 100% exactly how the bonding/selection process is done with Nahel Spren. Remember that statement by 'Nohadon' that not all spren are as discerning as Honorspren aka Syl (that isn't to say that those chosen by Honorspren before are 100% 'good' either) and even Wyndle mentions that it was the Council's decision for him to bond to Lift and not his, they don't necessarily have to be completely like-minded, more like as long as the desired quality is most prominent.

 

 

A bit of a side track but the Shard of Harmony is tecnically not something that actually exsits, even if both Shards are now conected. The Intent of Ruin and Preservation, as well as the Investure attached to these Intents, still exsist seperately. Harmony is just how the balance their union has achived, given their disposition to each other, is called.

 

Technically not true. There is a WoB (granted there are multiple on the subject which do conflict) on theoryland that is most recent saying that given Ruin and Preservation are now intermingled, should he somehow die, he would most likely drop Harmony

 

 

EXACTLY! Odium is untethered primarily because his mandate tends not to form bonds with anyone or anything. A second reason is that his power exists everywhere – hatred is much more pervasive than honor or devotion or even preservation or ruin.

 

Iron Eyes implies that Odium’s mobility means he can focus his power anywhere he wants, unlike the “tethered” Shard. (I’m not sure this is true, but assuming it’s so…) Wouldn’t the tethered Shard’s power be at its fullest on its own Shardworld? If Odium came gunning, wouldn’t it be an equal fight on that Shardworld, all other factors being equal? Obviously other factors are not equal.

 

I disagree on both counts. Emotions/Instincts/Intents are present everywhere; after all, all life/creation/existence is made from the same stuff and has the potential for anything everything else does and each Shard's Intent could also be argued as being present in all forms of life (granted, in different measures, but that doesn't mean Odium overwhelms all)

 

I believe it was via WoB that Sazed could will himself to another planet but not without major effort, which i believe to be the result of the investment in Scadrial (Rayse/Odium is scared of the fact that Sazed has/had two Shards/one Shard but double the power, but because the Intent(s) of the Shard is a precarious thing to maintain, he sometimes finds it difficult to act) Again, the cognitive aspect defines how the spiritual aspect manifests physically. A Shard that has invested in the planet would not be on equal footing with one that isn't, purely because the investiture in the planet is in the planet and not with the Shard. It is similar to the way Ruin couldn't have gained his full power back until he had manifested back on the Physical Realm and physically reabsorbed the mined Atium

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Technically not true. There is a WoB (granted there are multiple on the subject which do conflict) on theoryland that is most recent saying that given Ruin and Preservation are now intermingled, should he somehow die, he would most likely drop Harmony

There is actually no contradiction here. Think of Preservation and Ruin as apples and Harmony as a basket. Sazed put both Apple-Shards into the Harmony-basket and when he gives the basket to someone else that someone will have both apples but that doesn't mean both apples have fused into one object.
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INTERVIEW: Apr 15th, 2013
Reddit AMA 2013 (Verbatim)
THANATOS17901 ()

Thanks so much for all your writing, Way of Kings is the best book I've read in the last decade.

If Sazed were to die, would he drop the shards Ruin and Preservation, or would he drop the shard Harmony?

BRANDON SANDERSON

Excellent question. The shards are now intermingled, and would take effort to split apart. He would drop Harmony. (This is what Odium feared would happen, by the way.)

TAGS

 

There are other WoBs in regards to the whole question; saying it is a subjective point, king of two countries is still a king yadder yadder yadder but this WoB, from what i can see, is the most recent regarding the actual question

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There are other WoBs in regards to the whole question; saying it is a subjective point, king of two countries is still a king yadder yadder yadder but this WoB, from what i can see, is the most recent regarding the actual question

So? I never said they weren't intermingled just that within Harmony both Intents exsist seperately, which we have several WoB on and this one doesn't contradict, so my point still Stands.
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Apoligies, may have misread what you were trying to say although It still seems to me like a subjective point so we may have to agree to disagree

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I think the idea that a Shard can grow its power based on human thought – worship – is critical to both the narrative and the Cosmere. Other explanations of Odium’s dangerousness – apart from a natural, visceral revulsion to the effects of hatred – are inadequate. Please excuse in advance the space I take to rebut the contrary arguments.

We know from WoB that (a) all Shards began with equal power; (B) Odium does not want to dilute his mandate (intent) by acquiring the investiture of the Shards he splinters; and © he fears Harmony. I presume his fear is based on Harmony’s greater aggregate power (two Shards versus one) and the fact that hatred and harmony are so diametrically opposed, each capable of destroying the other (at least metaphorically).

How then can Odium hope to splinter Harmony if he has only half his power? The obvious answer is he can’t, unless Odium first increases his power (or reduces Harmony’s, I suppose). How does Odium increase his power, assuming he frees himself from Roshar?

You are assumin the only way a shar can battle another is brute force. Preservation was able to trap Ruin despite being weaker, for exemple. The only direct exemple of shardic combat we had was rather poor, with two diametricaly opposite shards, so we don't know what can and cant be done on other situations.

All in all, it is too soon to say that Odium needs more raw power to be dangerous.

Edited by CognitivePulsePattern
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