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[OB] Urithiru - the corrupted city


Aleksiel

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During my re-read of WoK, I noticed some things about Urithiru I hadn’t paid attention to before or didn’t see in the same light as I do now. I want to give a shout-out to @Calderis for being the first one to suggest there is something wrong with present day Urithiru. 

Note the following quotes from WoK: 

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Jasnah waved for the parshman to place her books on the table. “Can that plate reproduce a cymatic pattern corresponding to Urithiru, priest? Or do you only have patterns for the standard four cities?”

 Urithiru is supposed to have a pattern, but in OB Shallan cannot see it, she can't really draw to city. Could it be like the Shattered plains, a problem of scale? Or is it connected to the darkness she feels? I suggest it due to the corruption of the city that somehow interferes with her abilities.

 

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The tariffs through Urithiru were growing quite unreasonable. By then, the so-called Radiants had already begun to show their true nature.”

 

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it was abandoned even before the Lost Radiants turned against mankind

 Based on this, I suggest something happened that prodded the Radiants to make ‘unreasonable tariffs’ to discourage non-surgebinders from visiting Urithiru. Whatever it was, it got so bad it eventually forced the Radiants themselves to leave the city.

From WoR: 

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And then, there are stories — ones I dare to believe — claiming that Urithiru was holy and protected from the Voidbringers. Maybe that was wishful fancy, but I am not too much a scholar to hope that something like that might be true.

 

Quote

 

QUESTION

Was Honor Shattered before or after the Recreance?

BRANDON SANDERSON

I believe after. I'm pretty sure. I mean, he has memories of the Recreance

 

If Jasnah is right (we know she tends to be) and Urithiru was holy and protected, it’s unlikely it lost Shardic protection before it was abandoned because Honor was still around. Thus I suggest  the very anti-voidbringer protection system somehow backfired. Whatever happened, it corrupted Urithiru itself. It is likely connected to the copycat murders in the present.

OB Update:

Urithiru was slowly becoming uninhabitable with many of its systems failing:

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The wilting of plants and the general cooling of the air is disagreeable, yes, but some of the tower's functions remain in place. The increased pressure, for example, persists.

We also learn the city had and lost a protection mechanism against the Unmade:

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I am worried about the tower's protections failing. If we are not safe from the Unmade here, then where?

A reason for all of this is not given, but in the same gemlibrary is mentioned the withdraw of the Sibling (Bondsmith spren), however it’s unclear if they are connected to the tower and its failing functions. The entries by the Radiants do not sound like people preparing to abandon their duty. How Urithiru was corrupted and will the new Radiants manage to fix it unlike their predecessors remains to be seen.

Edited by Aleksiel
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11 minutes ago, Aleksiel said:

During my re-read of WoK, I noticed some things about Urithiru I hadn’t paid attention to before or didn’t see in the same light as I do now. I want to give a shout-out to @Calderis for being the first one to suggest there is something wrong with present day Urithiru. 

Note the following quotes from WoK: 

 Urithiru is supposed to have a pattern, but in OB Shallan cannot see it, she can't really draw to city. Could it be like the Shattered plains, a problem of scale? Or is it connected to the darkness she feels? I suggest it due to the corruption of the city that somehow interferes with her abilities.

That's not how I read that Jasnah's comments. I read them more as challenging Kabsal's theory that cymatics were important to all the major cities. It might be that Urithiru has no mathematical pattern, though we'll have to wait and see.

With regards to what Shallan feels, I initially thought it was simply one of physics - she was too close to the object given the size. However, Shallan clearly feels uncomfortable about the place in general. She was used to being indoors in Kharbranth though, so it's probably not that either. Lately I've started wondering if Shallan feels uncomfortable because there's something bad there (possibly an Unmade), given how she felt there was something wrong about her father (correctly as it turns out from a WoB).

 

11 minutes ago, Aleksiel said:

 Based on this, I suggest something happened that prodded the Radiants to make ‘unreasonable tariffs’ to discourage non-surgebinders from visiting Urithiru. Whatever it was, it got so bad it eventually forced the Radiants themselves to leave the city.

If that was their goal then wouldn't they have used a more direct method?

On the more general point, I do think that it's worthwhile considering what caused Urithiru to be abandoned. It supposedly went into decline before the Recreance. However, I don't think we should assume that something unique to Urithiru caused the place to decline. For example, maybe there were tensions between various countries and many started closing their Oathgates to prevent a foreign invasion, which lead to less trade, which forced them to put up their tariffs and eventually making the place economically unsustainable.

 

11 minutes ago, Aleksiel said:

If Jasnah is right (we know she tends to be) and Urithiru was holy and protected, it’s unlikely it lost Shardic protection before it was abandoned because Honor was still around. Thus I suggest  the very anti-voidbringer protection system somehow backfired. 

Whatever happened, it corrupted Urithiru itself. It is likely connected to the copycat murders in the present.

IIRC Brandon confirmed that Urithiru was genuinely protected but I couldn't find a clear WoB on it.

Whatever protection it has/had I wouldn't assume that it would be perfect. Eg, maybe it was safe against Unmade if you knew how to do things properly and this knowledge has since been lost, allowing one to get in now. However, I don't have any particular problem with the idea that the original decline of the place is related to the current problem, but it would have to depend on the specifics - for example, if it was caused by an Unmade, would such a thing have simply stayed there doing nothing for such a long time?

One thing that occurred to me is that Shallan's "main plot" seems likely to be focused on this. This is speculative but I tend to think of the Lightweavers as a sort-of "next generation bard" (or a significant re-imagining of the "bard" type role in fantasy) - they're rather multipurpose but they might be particularly important with regards to things like morale and mental health of the allies. Either way, I think she's the right person for the job of solving this problem. I've also wondered if there might be some "history" here - Shallan's life went to hell due to some actual and attempted murders, and we know that her father was under Odium's influence, so perhaps if there is a "Murder Unmade" here it actually influenced those past events as well (but we just never saw the copy-cat murders). So if Shallan found out she would be particularly motivated to do something about it and might help her to be a bit happier with herself.

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Urithiru is flat on one side, so it's not symmetrical, thus if it has a cymatic pattern it's not from a normal perspective.

or maybe that's part of the corruption. Its symmetry was compromised somehow.

Edited by Wreith
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9 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

That's not how I read that Jasnah's comments. I read them more as challenging Kabsal's theory that cymatics were important to all the major cities. It might be that Urithiru has no mathematical pattern, though we'll have to wait and see.

Kabsal's answer was 'Urithiru is a myth', so he didn't deny the alleged existence of a particular pattern, though I guess you could argue if he didn't believe the city existed then it nullifies the need to provide cymatic evidence for its shape. However, I doubt Jasnah would have brought it up if there was no pattern similar to those he presented, otherwise it would not be a relevant argument and she wouldn't make that mistake.

22 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

If that was their goal then wouldn't they have used a more direct method?

On the more general point, I do think that it's worthwhile considering what caused Urithiru to be abandoned. It supposedly went into decline before the Recreance. However, I don't think we should assume that something unique to Urithiru caused the place to decline. For example, maybe there were tensions between various countries and many started closing their Oathgates to prevent a foreign invasion, which lead to less trade, which forced them to put up their tariffs and eventually making the place economically unsustainable.

It's a valid question and it depends on what they wanted to achieve - may be the KR didn't want to get questioned or raise suspicious if they outright closed the city and the Oathgates to non-surgebinders, may be they thought the would fix it in time and preferred to simply reduce the traffic until they handled it only to later realize they couldn't fix what was happening.

We don't know if non-surgebinders can close Oathgates (I'm inclined to think they can't) and they certainly can't open it. I find it unlikely Radiants would allow a foreign army to use Oathgates to invade another country. An event like this would be so outrageous I'd hazard it would have made it into the accounts we read of just how allegedly corrupt and traitorous they were. 

28 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

Whatever protection it has/had I wouldn't assume that it would be perfect. Eg, maybe it was safe against Unmade if you knew how to do things properly and this knowledge has since been lost, allowing one to get in now. However, I don't have any particular problem with the idea that the original decline of the place is related to the current problem, but it would have to depend on the specifics - for example, if it was caused by an Unmade, would such a thing have simply stayed there doing nothing for such a long time?

I don't lean towards en entity like the Unmade, but the city itself, which I admit sounds odd when you first hear it. My suggestion is the protective system was corrupted and has turned against those who inhibit the city, thus no Unmade lurking around the corner like a basilisk. :ph34r:

31 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

One thing that occurred to me is that Shallan's "main plot" seems likely to be focused on this. This is speculative but I tend to think of the Lightweavers as a sort-of "next generation bard" (or a significant re-imagining of the "bard" type role in fantasy) - they're rather multipurpose but they might be particularly important with regards to things like morale and mental health of the allies. Either way, I think she's the right person for the job of solving this problem. I've also wondered if there might be some "history" here - Shallan's life went to hell due to some actual and attempted murders, and we know that her father was under Odium's influence, so perhaps if there is a "Murder Unmade" here it actually influenced those past events as well (but we just never saw the copy-cat murders). So if Shallan found out she would be particularly motivated to do something about it and might help her to be a bit happier with herself.

Yes, I agree Shallan is the likeliest person to figure it out. We were reminded in OB that she's looking for information hidden in Urithiru (stated several times throughout WoR), thus the reader's expectations are set that she will make a discovery, and she is the one thinking something is off with the place.

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2 hours ago, Aleksiel said:

Kabsal's answer was 'Urithiru is a myth', so he didn't deny the alleged existence of a particular pattern, though I guess you could argue if he didn't believe the city existed then it nullifies the need to provide cymatic evidence for its shape. However, I doubt Jasnah would have brought it up if there was no pattern similar to those he presented, otherwise it would not be a relevant argument and she wouldn't make that mistake.

If they don't know where the city is, how can they know it has a pattern? Jasnah was being acerbic towards someone, not speaking as an all-knowing individual; she could not know whether or not there was a pattern, since she did not know the city's construction.

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Just now, bo.montier said:

If they don't know where the city is, how can they know it has a pattern? Jasnah was being acerbic towards someone, not speaking as an all-knowing individual; she could not know whether or not there was a pattern, since she did not know the city's construction.

I imagine the comment was based on remaining legends, Jasnah is not the type to make a baseless comment even when being acerbic. Even if there's no cymatic pattern, the fact that Shallan can't draw the city remains unusual and suspicious.

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Just now, Aleksiel said:

I imagine the comment was based on remaining legends, Jasnah is not the type to make a baseless comment even when being acerbic. Even if there's no cymatic pattern, the fact that Shallan can't draw the city remains unusual and suspicious.

You may be right, but it seems to me that you're reading too much into things, wanting something to be there that isn't. 
If you recall, Shallan couldn't draw the shattered plains until she saw enough of them. She thinks she hasn't seen enough of the city to draw it yet; makes sense to me. 

Not saying I don't think there's anything wrong in Urithiru, obviously there is something weird going on. I just think you're reading more into some of these contents than is there.

Then again, as I've said elsewhere, I frequently miss these types of clues, so I'll keep an open mind.

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3 hours ago, Aleksiel said:

I don't lean towards en entity like the Unmade, but the city itself, which I admit sounds odd when you first hear it. My suggestion is the protective system was corrupted and has turned against those who inhibit the city, thus no Unmade lurking around the corner like a basilisk. :ph34r:

The copy-cat murders sound a bit too complicated for something like that... though it depends what you mean by the "protective system". Let's say the system involved some spren that got corrupted over time. That could be something advanced enough to do the copy-cat murders without it being an Unmade.

Going a bit meta: If it is part of the building then considering that the ancient Radiants couldn't fix it then it would make it hard to justify Shallan fixing it. And if Shallan can't fix, how are they going to live there? (This is not to suggest that Shallan will need to "kill" the Unmade if there is one... being able to keep it away would be enough)

 

3 hours ago, Aleksiel said:

Yes, I agree Shallan is the likeliest person to figure it out. We were reminded in OB that she's looking for information hidden in Urithiru (stated several times throughout WoR), thus the reader's expectations are set that she will make a discovery, and she is the one thinking something is off with the place.

I wonder what Renarin thinks. He's still lurking in the background despite being a Radiant. Should we get worried if he starts carving numbers again?

If there is information left in Urithiru then I wonder why it was left? Since the place was seemingly slowly abandoned then the people probably took out anything valuable with them as they left. I don't think we've seen any evidence of a sudden withdrawal at least. So if there's anything left then I guess it would be: something that can't be moved (carvings on a wall?) or something that those remaining weren't aware of. So I doubt we're going to find a nice big library for example.

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3 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

Going a bit meta: If it is part of the building then considering that the ancient Radiants couldn't fix it then it would make it hard to justify Shallan fixing it. And if Shallan can't fix, how are they going to live there? (This is not to suggest that Shallan will need to "kill" the Unmade if there is one... being able to keep it away would be enough)

Elantris spoiler:

Spoiler

So basically the ending of Elantris :ph34r: 

 

4 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

I wonder what Renarin thinks. He's still lurking in the background despite being a Radiant. Should we get worried if he starts carving numbers again?

Considering what happened last time he did that, panicking might be the appropriate reaction :lol:

6 minutes ago, kari-no-sugata said:

If there is information left in Urithiru then I wonder why it was left? Since the place was seemingly slowly abandoned then the people probably took out anything valuable with them as they left. I don't think we've seen any evidence of a sudden withdrawal at least. So if there's anything left then I guess it would be: something that can't be moved (carvings on a wall?) or something that those remaining weren't aware of. So I doubt we're going to find a nice big library for example.

It doesn't look like the Radiants abandoned the city in haste, so either someone left something on purpose, forgot it there or was left by a dead Radiant that no one had the mind to recover. Or even just the protective system of Urithiru or another installed mechanism would be a significant discovery.

And there's the possibility it could be something Szeth left there - may be his own research or thoughts, he can write after all and we know he visited Urithiru enough times that the people in nearby villages started leaving infused spheres for him.

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16 hours ago, Wreith said:

Urithiru is flat on one side, so it's not symmetrical, thus if it has a cymatic pattern it's not from a normal perspective.

or maybe that's part of the corruption. Its symmetry was compromised somehow.

The flat side facing to the Origin, seemingly made of a single sheet of glass, does not look like compromised symmetry. Urithiru was created this way on purpose, whatever this has been.

The copycat murders show some sinister entity is doing stuff there, but that does not mean the whole city is corrupted.

Shallan's problems in drawing Urithiru could be just a matter of size. Imagine someone growing up in rural Veden, with houses one or two stories high, coming to a city-tower that has 180 floors. It is bigger than her mind can grasp. Shallan already was awed by the size of the Palaneum, which should be orders of magnitude smaller than Urithiru. If additionally Urithiru is still Invested (the presence of always filled wells suggests this), this could also resist Shallan's picture taking - which is not of totally natural origin. This is out of her ordinary experience enough to create a feeling that something is off in the city.

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20 hours ago, Wreith said:

Urithiru is flat on one side, so it's not symmetrical,

Reflective symmetry with the axis of reflection perpendicular to the flat side would make it as symmetrical as the Windrunner's symbol.

Which agreed is less than the known Dawn cities which have either multi axis reflective symmetry or rotational symmetry.

 

3 hours ago, ParadoxicalZen said:

I reckon there may be an Unmade either in presence, or leaking through a Dawnshard (headcanon) hidden away that can be causing this phenomenon

There is this reference. Ten strides tall is getting close to a terrace level on the Urithru tower.

Quote

Taking the Dawnshard, known to bind any creature voidish or mortal, he crawled up the steps crafted for Heralds, ten strides tall apiece, toward the grand temple above.

Of course Honor refers to them as if they are no longer available in one of his apocalypse log visions.

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8 hours ago, Pattern said:

The flat side facing to the Origin, seemingly made of a single sheet of glass, does not look like compromised symmetry. Urithiru was created this way on purpose, whatever this has been.

i don't take the description of the flat side to indicate that it was it's original design. If something somehow split the city in half perfectly, the glass may have been how it was patched.

That said, I actually like the theory posted that the symmetry is possibly completed in the cognitive realm. (I though it was in this thread but I didn't see it glancing back through. Guess I have to hunt it now.)

 

4 hours ago, Dahak said:

Reflective symmetry with the axis of reflection perpendicular to the flat side would make it as symmetrical as the Windrunner's symbol.

Which agreed is less than the known Dawn cities which have either multi axis reflective symmetry or rotational symmetry

Yes, i'm making the assumption that it would have the same symmetry as he others that are claimed to be Dawn Cities.

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9 hours ago, Wreith said:

Yes, i'm making the assumption that it would have the same symmetry as he others that are claimed to be Dawn Cities.

Is Urithiru considered one of the Dawncities? I was always under the impression that the Dawncities predated Urithiru. Like they were built into the design of Roshar by Adonalsium, and Urithiru was built after (or concurrent to) the founding of the Knights Radiant.

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20 hours ago, Dahak said:

 

There is this reference. Ten strides tall is getting close to a terrace level on the Urithru tower.

Of course Honor refers to them as if they are no longer available in one of his apocalypse log visions.

Granted, we don't know if the spheres are Dawnshards, but if they are, it could simply mean there are no empty ones available i'm happy to wait to actually find out what they are first

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9 hours ago, Salkara said:

Is Urithiru considered one of the Dawncities? I was always under the impression that the Dawncities predated Urithiru. Like they were built into the design of Roshar by Adonalsium, and Urithiru was built after (or concurrent to) the founding of the Knights Radiant.

The Knights Radient were founded after Kholinar (From the Vision involving "Nohandon") but like the Dawn Cities Urithiru was supposedly not built by human hands. The Dawncities were built supposedly built by the Dawnsingers after the fall of the Tranquiline Halls i.e. around the time of the first desolation and after the splintering of Adonalsium.

 

So maybe. We don't know much about the Dawnsingers.

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There is another option I haven't seen mentioned, although I've been a bit out of touch

What if the copycat killing is part of the protection itself? 

No Shard is innately good, and we often tend to assume Honor: good, Odium: bad. Therefore anything bad must be from Odium, anything good from Honor or Cultivation. In the oldest texts in our world there is the saying, a hand for a hand, an eye for an eye. In a twisted way this is considered the ultimate honorable way to act.

What if Urithiru was made so that the ultimate crime (murder) was punished with an identical crime? This would mean that anyone in Urithiru would scrupulously follow the law (no murder) as for any killing you do you yourself could end up dead. And if anyone broke the law it would make the Skybreakers hunt down the culprit very assidiously knowing there would soon be another death. 

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47 minutes ago, WhiteLeeopard said:

What if Urithiru was made so that the ultimate crime (murder) was punished with an identical crime? This would mean that anyone in Urithiru would scrupulously follow the law (no murder) as for any killing you do you yourself could end up dead. And if anyone broke the law it would make the Skybreakers hunt down the culprit very assidiously knowing there would soon be another death. 

I have brought this up, but only in discord. 

How do you constrain the actions of thousands of super powered people all acting under different moral codes, all having abilities that would all for some pretty quick and horrific deaths... 

This would be a constraint that would hold off all but true serial-killers or sociopaths, or true crimes of passion. And for the later, it's more likely for guilt to drive someone forward, as it reaches outside of the person/people who sparked the emotions in them in the first place. 

It's not a popular idea. 

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I don't think the city itself would be set up for something like this. Particularly in light of the WoB about the Skybreakers being MPs

Quote

INTERVIEW: Mar 8th, 2014

WOR-University Bookstore (Paraphrased)

JERICH ()

Are the Skybreakers kind of like the MPs of the Knights Radiant?

BRANDON SANDERSON ()

Hmm... (Thinking) ... Yes. That is actually a really good analogy.

 

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1 hour ago, Wreith said:

I don't think the city itself would be set up for something like this. Particularly in light of the WoB about the Skybreakers being MPs

 

Not necesarily. Urithiru might have been set up in this fashion, but the KR didn't all live there. Many were set up in Alethela, and yet others were likely anywhere in the Silver Kingdoms keeping an eye out. The skybreakers could have been forced to keep the peace everywhere else, with Urithiru been the center of peace (albeit forced peace).

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While @WhiteLeeopard's theory is a bit farfetched there are a couple of factors to consider: 1st there are two shards who could be at play as far as the KR are concerned. Honor and Cultivation could well be working concert in Urithiru. If so then the place was designed not only to uphold honor's ideals, but also to maintain order within the halls of Urithiru. There are 2 possible explanations that I can think of that would  explain this and still maintain the MP status of the skybreakers as laid out by the WoB. The first is that the role of the skybreakers as MP's might be true everywhere, but Urithiru with the powers of the shards regulating the actions of the KR in the city. The second is that while they act the part of maintaining order they do not impose the punishments on the guilty. That mandate could well fall under the power of the two shards. @Calderis's point concerning the difficulty of regulating so many different oaths and moral outlooks is quite true. I would say though that with the shards perhaps setting up a system run on their dual powers the task of determining the true circumstances and whether a punishment is deserved. 

Edited by Nathrangking
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