Drawing by Isaac Stewart
|Abilities||Surgebinding (Skybreaker), Shardbearer|
Nalan'Elin, Nalan, Nin, Nakku, |
|Title(s)||Herald of Justice|
|Occupation||Herald of the Almighty|
|Appears in||The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Arcanum Unbounded, Edgedancer, Oathbringer, Rhythm of War|
Nale is one of the ten Heralds of the Almighty. He is associated with the number Nan, the essence Vapor and the divine attributes Just and Confident. He is the Herald of Justice and the reluctant, but eventually acceptant, patron Herald of the order of Knights Radiant known as Skybreakers. He is the only Herald to have joined his own order.
Nale is a dark-skinned man (like a man from the Makabaki region), distinguished by his dead eyes and the white mark on his cheek; a pale patch, shaped like a hooked crescent. He dresses in a crisp black uniform with silver buttons and a silver shirt underneath and wears thick gloves with stiff cuffs, extending halfway back around his forearms.
He has a supernatural ease to his movements.
Further, Lift observes that he seems to flow like smoke as he descends the stairs of Tashi's Light Orphanage, his footsteps growing soft, his uniform rippling in an unseen wind. Further, that he looks so official in his outfit with a long-cuffed, crisp jacket. Like the very incarnation of law.
Little is known of Nale in the past, except that he exemplified the virtues Justice and Confidence.
In the current timeline, he is cold and detached, showing no emotions even when thwarted. Still, he believes that Justice does not expire.
Lift questions of him whether he can even feel something like sorrow. He seems to consider her question, then tells her that she is right. That it seems he has finally released himself from the last vestiges of guilt he once felt at doing his duty. He claims that Honor has suffused him, changed him. That this has been a long time coming.
Further, she questions of him whether he's like some kind of emotionless spren now. Nale responds that he is merely a man, perfected.
The only time Nale appears agitated is when one of his minions breaks a law, which prompts him to physically discipline the minion and instruct him/her to give himself/herself up to the law.
Though still remaining true to an ideal of Justice, his ideal appears to be somewhat warped, as he fanatically strives to uphold the letters of laws to perfection, stating that "it is the only genuine beauty in the world".
Nale trusts Ishar too much.
While he might well be called the Herald of Justice, his point is in following a chosen code and sticking to it no matter what. In that sense he makes a perfect example of "Justice is blind."
Now, in Nale's chosen code, being a Surgebinder is the biggest crime ... so much so that other crimes are petty in comparison. Now, his hypocrisy is that he is using other, sometimes smaller crimes, to make hunting Surgebinders valid.
Further, where the law allows discretion in punishments, he believes that removing the hand of a thief leads to a high rate of recidivism, as the thief is left unable to do most honest work, and therefore must steal. In such a case, he could make crime worse instead of reducing it.
Overarching all, however, (and responsible for his murderous actions) is the 'truth' - he claims - Ishar made clear to him:
|“||If the bonds between men and spren are reignited, then men will naturally discover the greater powers of the oaths. Without Honor to regulate this, there is a small chance that what comes next will allow the Voidbringers to again make the jump between worlds. That would cause a Desolation, and even a small chance that the world will be destroyed is a risk that we cannot take. Absolute fidelity to the mission Ishar gave us - the greater law of protecting Roshar - is required.||”|
Nale believes that to question is weakness; that one must do one's duty. Further, that to question is to accept a descent into inactivity. That the only path to sanity and action is to choose a code and to follow it.
|“||The minds of men are fragile, their emotions mutable and often unpredictable. The only path to Honor is to stick to your chosen code. This was the way of the Knights Radiant, and this is the way of the Skybreakers.||”|
With regard to Surgebinders, he believes that if he and his underlings don't stop one, that others will congregate. That they'll clump together. He states that he's often found them making contact with one another during the past five years, if he left them alone. He insists that they must be drawn together.
Regarding humankind, Nale declares:
|“||Men need light, child. Alone we are in darkness, our movements random, based on subjective, changeable minds. But light is pure, and does not change based on our daily whims. To feel guilt at following a code with precision is wasted emotion.||”|
–Nale to Lift
Still, he claims that there are many useful emotions, and that he feels them all the time.
She notes that people give him lots of space, moving away from him like they would a guy who's backside couldn't help but let everyone know what he'd been eating lately.
Further, she hates him because it seems that he does what he does without a shred of guilt.
Insults appear to have no effect upon him.
Like his fellow Heralds, Nale is slowly going mad.* He realizes this after his confrontation with Lift has concluded.
|“||I wasn't always like this. I am getting worse, aren't I? It's true.||”|
–Nale to Lift
Nale has a hundred different names and is revered across all Roshar. The Illuminator. The Judge. A founder of humankind, defender against the Desolations, a man ascended to divinity.
And thus were the disturbances in the Revv toparchy quieted, when, upon their ceasing to prosecute their civil dissensions, Nalan’Elin betook himself to finally accept the Skybreakers who had named him their master, when initially he had spurned their advances and, in his own interests, refused to countenance that which he deemed a pursuit of vanity and annoyance; this was the last of the Heralds to admit to such patronage.
Six Years Ago
Nale was present in Kholinar during King Gavilar's assassination, accompanied by a short and thin Alethi man (i.e., Kalak). At one point during the feast, he was engaged in conversation with Elhokar, and afterwards encountered Jasnah while talking in an abandoned hallway with his Alethi companion.
Later, Nale pursued Lift, a fledgling Edgedancer and a young thief, from Marabethia to Azir. He followed her into the Prime Aqasix’s palace, which she'd infiltrated during the holy conclave, then in session electing the new Prime. After a chase, he eventually caught her. Even as he half apologized for what he was about to do, he was dispassionate. On the brink of executing her, the new Prime, Gawx, appeared and pardoned her of her crimes, which made Nale stand down and let her go.
He observed Szeth's fight with Kaladin (at least the finale), and used some sort of fabrial to restore Szeth to life after Szeth died and fell from the highstorm. (Szeth's death occurs only in the rewrite of Words of Radiance - i.e., initially the paperback version of Words of Radiance following the original hardcover copy; subsequently, all later versions of the novel.) He identified himself to Szeth as the Herald of Justice, and recruited him, despite Szeth's objections.
|“||"You? Not worthy? I watched you destroy yourself in the name of order, watched you obey your personal code when others would have fled or crumbled. Szeth-son-Neturo, I watched you keep your word with perfection. This is a thing lost to most people - it is the only genuine beauty in the world. I doubt I have ever found a man more worthy of the Skybreakers than you."||”|
He agreed that Szeth had indeed destroyed himself and that he'd died; that Szeth's bond to his Blade had been severed, that all ties - both spiritual and physical - had been undone. Yet Nale offered Szeth training and ... a new Shardblade; a large black blade trailing black smoke in a metal sheath which spoke in Szeth's mind. This blade is Nightblood from Warbreaker.
As Nale moves through the city of Yeddaw in Tashikk, people give him a lot of space. He never pauses to consider his route, or to look at the wares of street vendors. He seems to move too quickly for his own steps, like he is melting from shadow to shadow as he strides.
After killing Tiqqa, he looks confused as to why anyone would be bothered by what he'd done, then turns and continues on his way.
Shortly thereafter, he is observed by Lift to have entered a building in a better part of town. She follows and overhears him denying the Voidbringers' existence to Szeth. He states that what Szeth saw was a few listeners from the old days, free to use the old forms. That they'd summoned a cluster of Voidspren.
Nale then denies the Everstorm's existence, claiming that it means nothing, that it's an oddity.
Arclo declares to Lift that Nale knows to stay away from him and his kind. He notes that there is someone else he is after, that he stalks this person the night that Lift confronts him, and that Nale will complete his task. Further, that he is a madman, but not one to leave business unfinished.
He declares to Lift that he is surprised to see her accept judgment. He says he'd thought she would remain in presumed safety. That she is trapped in the orphanage with him, during a highstorm, and that he knows of her crimes in the city.
Wielding his Shardblade in an attempt to shear through her, yet missing his prey, he then states that she is an insult to the order of Knight Radiant she would claim.
Dropping his sphere, Nale moves with sudden, unexpected speed, bursting afire with Stormlight. Dropping his Blade, which puffs away, he seizes a knife from his belt and, as Lift passes him, he slams it down, catching her clothing. The knife bites into the wood of the floor, sinking in deeply, and he keeps one hand on it even as he summons his Blade again.
His Blade reappears, and he raises it, but he grunts as he feels the impact of a large length of wood wielded by the Stump. He shakes his head, trying to clear it, and the Stump hits him again. When she raises the length of wood above her head, he swipes with his Blade, cutting her weapon in half. He then pulls at his knife, freeing Lift, whom he kicks down the hallway on her own Slickness.
In her renewed conflict with him on the third floor of the orphanage, while staring out a trapdoor in the ceiling, Lift urges him to look at the storm behind him. A sorry, sad group of evicted parshmen stand on the ground below. Their eyes glow with the red of the lightning. Nale attempts to deny this and Lift tells him he's failed, that it has come. Looking into the storm, Nale realizes she's right. He calls out to his fellow Heralds and admits he's failed. He bows his head and starts weeping. Lift then hugs him. He clings to her and weeps. Then, he pushes himself away, starts to glow, shoots into the sky, and vanishes.
Abilities and Powers
Nale is in the possession of an undescribed Shardblade, which may be his Honorblade, given that Lift notes he was glowing faintly and running too quickly when he was chasing her. This suggests that he is either the one who recovered one of the Honorblades from the Shin, or that he is able to infuse Stormlight on his own.
Nale has the ability to restore life after death, even if the individual's soul has been been cut through - dead for certain - as long as the brain of the individual hasn't also died, with the right fabrial (as he did for Szeth).
To Lift, Wyndle indicates that Darkness will have a spren, not unlike himself, but likely invisible to her and anyone else but the bonded individual.
*Ethid acknowledges to Jasnah and Jochi via spanreed that there is something wrong with the man she thinks is Nalan. She doesn't think that the Heralds will be a resource to the people of Azir, which Jasnah confirms, indicating that the Heralds are broken.
- Ars Arcanum
- Ars Arcanum
- Edgedancer, 19.
- The Way of Kings, 69. Justice
- Greg Call
- Words of Radiance, Inter2.
- Words of Radiance, 88. The Man Who Owned The Winds
- Edgedancer, 7.
- Edgedancer, 8.
- Words of Radiance, Inter9.
- Book signing, Hoboken, NJ, 12/3/16
- Edgedancer, 9.
- Edgedancer, 14.
- Oathbringer, 93. Kata
- Words of Radiance, 43. The Ghostbloods
- The Way of Kings, Prelude
- The Way of Kings, Prologue - To Kill
- Edgedancer, 18.
- YouTube Livestream 32, 6/3/21
- Oathbringer, 106. Law Is Light
- Oathbringer, 53. Such A Twisted Cut