Confused

Why Szeth and Nightblood?

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This post addresses a mystery: In a world riven by race warfare, why does an Ascended being give Roshar’s deadliest killer the cosmere’s most dangerous object? Why link this scary duo when one doesn’t trust his moral code and the other doesn’t have one?

One answer: Cultivation foresees Investiture growth will cause Nightblood to ascend as a Divine Object, the super-sapient Sword of Retribution. She chooses Szeth to teach Nightblood the meaning of evil – who deserves to die (“retribution”) and who doesn’t – before Nightblood ascends.

The starting point:

1. Cultivation knows about Nightblood, since the Nightwatcher offers Nightblood to Dalinar: “A Blade that bleeds darkness and cannot be defeated.” (OB, Chapter 114, Kindle p. 1078.)

2. We don’t know how the Nightwatcher acquires Nightblood, but we do know Nale ends up with him.

3. Nale delivers Nightblood to Szeth.

ANALYSIS

The main sections outline my narrative. The Spoiler sections are more technical.

Nightblood Basics and Mechanics

I tucked these subjects in a Spoiler because most of you already know this stuff.

Spoiler

Basics

Nightblood, is an Awakened metal sword that shouldn’t work as he does. He holds 1,000 Breaths. He destroys what he considers “evil” in all three Realms. “Evil” to Nightblood means anyone willing to draw him. Brandon calls Nightblood a “robot” spren and elsewhere compares him to Frankenstein: “many people…went into [Nightblood], because it was all the Breaths that were little pieces of people.”

Nightblood’s mind inheres in the 1,000 Breaths, not the sword’s metal. He is a consciousness imprinted on Investiture with his own soul, and he is his own “person.” Brandon says Nightblood “attained sapience kind of through sheer weight of Investiture.” Brandon RAFOs questions about Nightblood’s Cognitive Realm presence. (Here’s another RAFO.) I keep seeing the child-like killer Nightblood as the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

To execute his command Nightblood will “feed on whatever [Investiture] he can get.” When he runs out of kinetic Investiture (like Stormlight), he drains his holder’s Investiture, including the “spark of life.” He will even convert matter into Investiture. “When [Nightblood] is fully consuming Investiture he can do some really freaky things.”

Mechanics

Endowment and Ruin cause Nightblood’s “destroy evil” magic.

Endowment

Beyond endowing Nightblood’s creation, Endowment may have no ongoing role. Lost skin pigment suggests Endowment’s “color-draining” mechanic might pull Investiture from Nightblood’s holder, but Nightblood will apparently devour the whole person if he needs to.

Endowment might contribute to Nightblood’s three-Realm destructiveness. I believe Endowment’s “primal force” is quantum physics, the science of atomic and sub-atomic particles. (A Shard’s “primal force,” IMO, is how Vessels and magic users access Spiritual Realm Investiture.) I think Endowment’s “color draining,” for example, causes pigment to disassemble at the atomic and sub-atomic levels, leaving no corresponding Spiritual aspect. Entropy by itself doesn’t require that level of destructiveness – Hemalurgy and Feruchemy don’t. This makes me think Endowment’s Investiture and mechanics might be part of Nightblood’s ongoing nature.

Ruin

Brandon confirms Ruin Invests Nightblood. I believe Ruin empowers Nightblood’s command. Destruction is Ruin’s bailiwick, the Shard of entropy. Brandon says Nightblood directly attacks the “spirit.” “Anyone he so much as nicked popped into black smoke.” (OB, Chapter 118, Kindle p. 1124.)

Mechanically, I think Nightblood the person Intends (capital “I”) to perform an act of entropy by destroying evil. This Intention, actuated by “nicking,” summons Ruin’s power. Ruin Invests Nightblood through the sword’s metal Focus. Nightblood uses that power to destroy evil in all three Realms.

Cultivation Fears Nightblood’s Growth

Nightblood adds Investiture “over time” (I believe each time he destroys evil). The added Investiture causes Nightblood’s mind to grow: “The more investiture clumped together, the more likely – and the closer to human-level intelligence it is likely to obtain.”

Brandon tells us, “Nightblood is capable of more change than Vasher assumes.” “The only clues I'm willing to give on [Nightblood’s growth] right now are the ones that are in Oathbringer.” Nightblood picks up Lift’s vocabulary quickly enough, curses and all. That suggests some growth.

If Nightblood continues to be used, he will inevitably reach “human-level intelligence” and theoretically surpass it. Cultivation fears a super-sapient being of enormous destructive power with no moral compass. With or without a conscience, if used enough Nightblood will ascend.

Cultivation decides Nightblood needs a moral tutor. He’s still a child who doesn’t understand abstractions like “evil.” She may believe, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” Cultivation implants Nightblood’s moral code while she can.

How Nightblood Adds Investiture

My best guess:

Spoiler

Nightblood feeds off his victims’ Investiture: “The blackness that leaks out is actually corrupted and consumed Breaths, the ones that Nightblood leeches off anyone who draws him.” (Source.) Text supports this: After killing the Thunderclast threatening Lift, Szeth alights,

Quote

A figure in the smoke, glowing white and holding a jet-black Shardblade that seemed to feed on the smoke, sucking it in, then letting it pour down beneath itself as a liquid blackness.

(OB, Chapter 117, Kindle p. 1119.)

I speculate Nightblood stops his rampage when his internal unconsumed Investiture reaches entropy equilibrium with external Investiture. The internal unconsumed Investiture adds to Nightblood’s “Investiture clump,” moving him “closer to human-level intelligence” and beyond.

Why Szeth?

Szeth doesn’t trust his own moral judgment: “How was a twisted soul like his to decide who should die?” Impossible.” (OB, Chapter 118, Kindle p. 1124.) But the two Purelake scenes show exceptional discernment and judgment – when he assesses blame on the prison operator and when he “loopholes” himself to victory against other Skybreaker wannabes. Nale admires Szeth not for his combat skills but for his faithful adherence to an unforgiving moral code.

Maybe Cultivation asked Nale to select Nightblood’s tutor; maybe she chose Szeth herself. Regardless, they chose well.

But Szeth now navigates morality by Dalinar’s true north. As when bound by his oathstone, Szeth still avoids responsibility for his moral decisions. I believe this is unsustainable. Szeth himself must grow and learn to trust his own judgment before he can teach Nightblood who deserves to die.

Cultivation Transforms Nightblood

WoK describes a carved relief of “Nalan’Elin, emitting sunlight, the sword of retribution held over his head.” (Chapter 18, Kindle p. 286, bold added.) We don’t know what that sword is, maybe Nale’s Honorblade. Some posters note the idea of a “sword of retribution” fits Nightblood’s destructiveness.

I think Cultivation/Nightwatcher transforms Nightblood into the Rosharan spren “Sword of Retribution.” The carved relief, still being worked on, shows the Sword’s cultural currency. “Retribution” means “deserved punishment.” I view Retribution as a subset of Just, the Skybreakers’ primary Divine Attribute. Nightblood might not technically be a highspren, because he was created differently and represents only a sliver of Justice. But I believe Cultivation/Nightwatcher gives Nightblood the ability to grant Skybreaking powers to Szeth.

Nightblood does not Connect to Szeth through the Nahel bond: “Nightblood does not have the same spren bond, and so the renouncing of Oaths is not going to affect him.” As the Shard of transformation, Cultivation doesn’t need the Nahel bond (the “same spren bond”) to grant her magic to mortals. Nightblood’s existing Cognitive bond with Szeth communicates Szeth’s wishes. As a Rosharan spren (now), Nightblood can transform Stormlight into the Skybreaking powers.

Why Not Another Highspren?

Many posters believe Szeth does have a Nahel bond with a separate highspren. They may be right, but I think Nightblood himself is “the hidden spren who only rarely showed itself to” Szeth. (OB, Chapter 121, Kindle p. 1198.) I discuss this in the Spoiler.

Spoiler

It’s odd to me by the Third Oath neither Szeth nor Nightblood know about another spren bonded to Szeth and vying for his attention. And would a Radiant spren meekly submit to Nightblood nearly killing Szeth without saying anything?

I believe Nightblood’s large, growing, and curious mind peers into the Physical Realm. Brandon describes “ways that you kind of peek in [to the Cognitive Realm]…it’s a little more astral projection-y in those cases.” I think this is the reverse, where Szeth sees Nightblood peering out of the Cognitive Realm.

Nightblood’s Physical Realm presence ties to the sword. The sword is an essential part of Nightblood’s self-perception and the way others perceive him. I think this means Nightblood will never become a Sprenblade. Unlike Radiant spren, he’s not modelled on Honorblades, and Honorblades are not his default Physical Realm presence. Brandon confirms Szeth will use Nightblood but RAFOs whether he also will use a Sprenblade.

Szeth’s oath progression doesn’t mean the Nahel bond Connects him to a highspren. Both Nale and Cultivation/Nightwatcher would want Szeth to gain power only as he accepts Skybreaker ideals. Brandon says, “the renouncing of Oaths is not going to affect” Nightblood (emphasis added). As a non-Nahel bond sapient spren, renouncing oaths doesn’t kill Nightblood.

Pre-OB, Brandon RAFOs whether Nightblood “bestows any effects on his wielder” like Szeth’s Honorblade. He adds, “Nightblood was created on a different planet, so.” I believe this is misdirection. Pre-OB, we didn’t have much evidence of Cultivation’s transformation powers. Nightblood may come from Nalthis, but that doesn’t prevent Cultivation from changing him into a spren.

Conclusion

Nightblood as the Sword of Retribution is not a new thought. I believe Nightblood as the living ideal of Retribution, a non-Nahel bond spren that grants Skybreaking powers and ultimately ascends, is. If this interpretation seems strained, it fits within SLA’s broader redemption arc. Why bring Szeth and Nightblood together if not to transform two mass murderers? They redeem the evil they’ve each done (like Dalinar tries to do) by destroying true evil here and now.

Two predictions:

EITHER – Szeth and Nightblood will ascend together. He will replace the broken Nale as Herald of Justice, wielding Nightblood the ascended Sword of Retribution. (Someone else must have predicted this by now.)

OR – Instead, Szeth will achieve the Fifth Skybreaker Ideal and fully merge into Nightblood. He will become the Sword of Retribution’s Divine Conscience. (My personal vote goes to this one, if only for novelty.)

Happy New Year’s, everyone! May it be a joyful, healthy, and prosperous year for all humankind!

Confused

Edited by Confused
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As I understand it, Warbreaker takes place somewhere between 30 and 300 years before WoK. This is after the Recreance and well after Aharietiam, so there couldn't have been an instance where Nale appears bearing Nightblood until after the Heralds called it quits and disappered. I don't think there would be Vorin depictions of Nale holding Nightblood.

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Dunno if it's true, but I love the theory and enjoyed reading through. 

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Two things:

  1. Can you expand a little on what Ascending to a Divine Object means?  I don't think I've come across that term before, but it sounds interesting.  
  2. I totally agree that bonding Nightblood can should grant powers, but I think it would be pretty strange for Nightblood to grant the exact same powers as a highspren.  I think the simplest explanation is that he has a bond with a highspren that grants him normal Skybreaker powers, and is hiding because, well, Nightblood.  Nightblood himself isn't really hiding - his physical self is always present and he talks to Szeth constantly.  
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Not sure whether this is true, but I kind of hope it is because I really, really want Szeth to backpedal on his Third and Fourth Ideals. I don't think it's possible for him to grow as a character until he learns to make decisions for himself (I was hoping he'd swear his Third Ideal to pacifism, because how cool would that be), but as a Radiant he's more or less locked in to his Oaths once he makes them. If his highspren is actually just Nightblood, then he can betray (or revise?) his Oaths without losing his powers or murdering anyone.

Either way, I'm looking forward to Book Five.

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10 minutes ago, Joy said:

Not sure whether this is true, but I kind of hope it is because I really, really want Szeth to backpedal on his Third and Fourth Ideals. I don't think it's possible for him to grow as a character until he learns to make decisions for himself (I was hoping he'd swear his Third Ideal to pacifism, because how cool would that be), but as a Radiant he's more or less locked in to his Oaths once he makes them. If his highspren is actually just Nightblood, then he can betray (or revise?) his Oaths without losing his powers or murdering anyone.

Either way, I'm looking forward to Book Five.

I believe the purpose of him swearing the fourth Ideal is getting him on the path for determining right and wrong for himself. Crusade, looking for a great wrong in the world and righting it. The Fifth Oath, becoming Law, will clearly supersede his other oaths.

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It's definitely an interesting theory. Nale seems to be a perfect example of skybreaker done wrong; hopefully Sanderson will show us skybreaker done right via Szeth. 

If nothing else, their dynamic lends itself to Nightblood egging Szeth on, so I can see him being encouraged to make his own decisions (and Nightblood learning from what happens).

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Just now, Kon-Tiki said:

I believe the purpose of him swearing the fourth Ideal is getting him on the path for determining right and wrong for himself. Crusade, looking for a great wrong in the world and righting it. The Fifth Oath, becoming Law, will clearly supersede his other oaths.

You could be right, but I'm not completely sure of that. I would think that each Oath builds on the previous one, so that the Third and Fourth Oaths will help shape (if not completely determine) what type of "Law" Szeth becomes.

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1 hour ago, Joy said:

You could be right, but I'm not completely sure of that. I would think that each Oath builds on the previous one, so that the Third and Fourth Oaths will help shape (if not completely determine) what type of "Law" Szeth becomes.

In general yes, but Szeth in particular left extra wriggle room in his Oaths. His Second Ideal allows him to find a "more perfect" one later, Dalinar could release him from his Third at any time if he so chose, and Dalinar could simply Veto his Forth which I think would allow/require him to find a new Crusade to swear before he could move forward and reach the 5th.   

 

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Just now, Quantus said:

In general yes, but Szeth in particular left extra wriggle room in his Oaths. His Second Ideal allows him to find a "more perfect" one later, Dalinar could release him from his Third at any time if he so chose, and Dalinar could simply Veto his Forth which I think would allow/require him to find a new Crusade to swear before he could move forward and reach the 5th.

All fair points that I hadn't considered.

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Wow, interesting. And I agree, Szeth is a great choice if you want to learn something about right and wrong. Sword-nimi can learn a lot from that one, if it doesn't eat him :P

I predict a moral dilemma when the woman (forgot her name) who is looking for that sword comes into contact with him and attempts to kill him. I presume he doesn't want to kill her to protect the sword... And when she tells him the story of how the sword doesn't belong to him... will he give it away? Prooobably not? 

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3 minutes ago, Schneeente said:

I predict a moral dilemma when the woman (forgot her name) who is looking for that sword comes into contact with him and attempts to kill him. I presume he doesn't want to kill her to protect the sword... And when she tells him the story of how the sword doesn't belong to him... will he give it away? Prooobably not? 

Her name is Azure. I recommend reading Warbreaker, if you have not

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I have not. How can warbreaker be connected to Stormlight Archives? I thought there were only 3 books + the one story about Lift? *confused*

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2 minutes ago, Schneeente said:

I have not. How can warbreaker be connected to Stormlight Archives? I thought there were only 3 books + the one story about Lift? *confused*

Read and find out! There's a greater Cosmere out there

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Oh sweet summer child, you have so much to discover x)

In short: Warbreaker, as well as Stormlight (ans Mistborn + Elantris) are part of the same "universe", called the Cosmere. Everything is connected, and Oathbringer kiiiinda is a crossover between Stormlight and Warbreaker :D

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Holy...........  macaroni. Seriously?! I have read Mistborn (the first 2 books) many years ago and that's why I was kind of.... suspicious because it felt so similar. I can't believe it I didn't realize that on my own, argh.

 

Okay, seems I am starting with Mistborn today, I just saw that there are several new books from that series... nice :D 

And after that, Warbreaker. Oh, I am so freaking glad I registered myself in this forum :D 

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Welcome to The Cosmere then :D

Keep an eye out for Hoid ;)

(I wasn't aware of this as well for a long time. I'm currently rereading Warbreaker with the Cosmere in mind. After that it's going to be Mistborn. I'm very excited for that!)

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I remember that I stopped reading Mistborn III somewhere near the end because ... well ... it had gotten too "unrealistic" or far fetched or .. I don't remember the exact reason why I stopped but normally I don't stop in the middle of a book. But with this new knowledge in mind and the years apart from reading it last time I give it another shot. Today. #hyped

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23 minutes ago, Schneeente said:

I have not. How can warbreaker be connected to Stormlight Archives? I thought there were only 3 books + the one story about Lift? *confused*

Also, Stormlight Archive is going to be 10 books + novellas :)

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12 hours ago, Schneeente said:

I have not. How can warbreaker be connected to Stormlight Archives? I thought there were only 3 books + the one story about Lift? *confused*

Hoid is Wit if you didnt know. there are several world hoppers in the books that show up in the SLA. 

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12 hours ago, Schneeente said:

I have not. How can warbreaker be connected to Stormlight Archives? I thought there were only 3 books + the one story about Lift? *confused*

Oh, you are in for a wild ride.

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11 hours ago, Lord Mist said:

Hoid is Wit if you didnt know. there are several world hoppers in the books that show up in the SLA. 

Started reading Mistborn and already I met Hoid! Cooool. Hope he shows up again! :D

Spoiler

And Vin reminds me of Lift A LOT. And Keshir has parallels with Khaladin, is that a coincidence? 

 

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2 hours ago, Zurvanite said:

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This is exactly what happened to my brain between originally reading Mistborn/Warbreaker, then going to Stormlight. (Stormlight opened up the Cosmere to me in a huge way.)

 

Foreshadows everywhere.

shifty_eyed_dog_by_nonhovoglia-db2ouyz.g

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