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The “Investiture Imbalance” Theory of Desolations


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“[The Enemy] Will Not Remain Bound by This”


My 200th post!!! Humor me and pretend it’s a good one!


The post epigraph comes from the WoK Prelude. It’s Kalak’s response to Jezrien when hearing of the Heralds’ decision to stay on Roshar following the “Last Desolation” – Aharietam. This post addresses what I think the “enemy” (presumably Odium) did in response. Odium’s actions comport with my “investiture imbalance” theory of Desolations.




My theory of Desolations has been controversial. I think Desolations arise from an imbalance of the investiture comprising Stormlight. I believe Stormlight is made from the investiture of each of Honor, Cultivation and Odium. The function of the Honorblades is to consume investiture and reconstitute it as Stormlight, ensuring Stormlight’s balance. That’s why the Honorblades are in the mountains east of Shinovar, to capture the Highstorms’ remaining investiture, recycle it, and keep Shinovar spren-free. One function of the Highstorms is to sweep this investiture towards the Honorblades.


Evidence for the “investiture imbalance” theory comes from WoB and text:

  • WoB: If the Heralds linger on Roshar after a Desolation, a new Desolation will commence. That’s because IMO the Heralds themselves are largely Honor’s investiture that disrupts the balance.
  • Nale kills Surgebinders because surgebinding breaks down Stormlight into its constituent investitures. Surgebinding uses only Honor’s and/or Cultivation’s investiture, but not Odium’s. This break-down frees Odium’s unused investiture, creating an imbalance that can cause a Desolation.

I believe the “Heralds” are actually the souls of the original Heralds encapsulated in each Honorblade and augmented by Honor’s investiture – spren now capable of bonding. This investiture may also give them their “special” abilities. When an investiture imbalance occurs, the Heralds’ souls/spren leave the Honorblades and attach themselves to the “Shamans.” [i think the Stone Shamans are that because Taln – the “Ancient of Stone” (the Diagram), the “Spren of Stone” (so-called by Nale, I believe) – was the Herald who “died.” IMO “Shamans” are the equivalent of squires to the Heralds.]


The Heralds “return” to the Honorblades after a Desolation either because they’ve been killed in battle or because post-battle the Honorblades consumed the investiture within their bodies (killing them), along with other investiture. That’s how the Heralds maintain “immortality,” living most of eternity in the Honorblades.


The Heralds’ “torture” was their Cognitive Realm reaction to the binding of Stormlight. Odium’s investiture rendered their souls as Cultivation’s regrew them. In the Cognitive Realm, the Heralds still thought themselves human, and cognitively experienced the Stormlight-binding process as “torture.”


That’s all background, so you know my theory. I wanted to summarize it here to bring me to the point of this post.




After Aharietam, there are nine Heralds on Roshar. Each Herald consists of substantial Honor investiture. Yet investiture balance is necessary to fend off another immediate Desolation – something I believe the Heralds do not know. What did “the enemy” do in response?


Odium kept the balance for 4,500 years, deliberately forestalling another Desolation until his scheme (the Everstorm) was ready for implementation. He did this by placing/leaving nine counterparts to the Heralds on Roshar – the mindful Unmade (as opposed to the mindless Unmade mentioned in the Diagram). (Please don’t raise the WoB that there are not equal numbers of Heralds and Unmade – I’m only saying nine of them stayed, however many there might be.)


It’s possible that for most of the time since Aharietam, the Unmade did nothing, keeping their presence secret. We do know that the Thrill has been around at least since Dalinar and Sadeas were young men (perhaps 30-35 years ago?) and possibly much longer, so one of the Unmade had to be active by then. Many Forum posters believe the black sphere Gavilar gave Szeth was an Unmade.


WoB tells us that there are a lot more spren now than before Honor’s death. Jasnah says they’ve sensed whatever changes are happening/coming – perhaps in reaction to the Unmade’s recent behavior. Those spren provided “cover” – matched the amount of investiture – for the 50,000 stormspren that Odium created to invade the listeners. There is less investiture in stormspren than in Radiantspren, explaining the numbers differential despite equal amounts of aggregate investiture:


Stormspren are sentient only, not sapient like Radiantspren, and hold less investiture. They have greater impact per unit of investiture than Radiantspren do because of the aggressive nature of Odium’s investiture. (Look at Eshonai’s change for an example of that aggression.) IMO stormspren are windspren that Odium has hijacked. He only needs to find a “hole” in them to inject them with his investiture. Thus, stormspren are mostly Cultivation’s investiture with only a bit of the aggressive Odium investiture in them.


At some point the Honorblades became “aware” of the imbalance caused by Odium’s investiture. That’s when Taln emerged thinking the Desolation was about to begin – when in fact the last one in many ways never ended.

Edited by Confused
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