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Decayform destroys the souls of dreams.
–From the Listener Song of Secrets, 27th stanza
Progression of the Chapter:
Gaz and Red apply carpentry to Shallan’s wagon and explain their origins as soldiers; Vathah makes accusations of class treachery; Shallan sasses hard, makes study of the Alethi Highprinces, and attempts to plan her arrival; Gaz lies about his debts; Shallan seeks Urithiru and argues with Pattern on the nature of truth; Pattern reveals that Voidbringers have spren, and that Odium exists; Tyn invites Shallan to dine with her; Tyn declares that Shallan is running a con, and she wants in; Shallan decides she can work with this.
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "These women were supposed to be scholars! Instead of recording facts, they wrote opinions and presented them as truth. They seem to take great pains to contradict one another, and they dance around topics of truth like spren around a fire - never providing heat themselves, just making a show of it."
Pattern hummed. "Truth is individual."
"What? No it’s not. Truth is ... it’s Truth. Reality."
And so on, and so forth. Shallan’s debate with Pattern about the nature of truth is an excellent diversion from the rest of the chapter. Considering that this chapter has Shallan sign on as a conwoman’s apprentice, it’s pretty bold of her to call historians liars. Shallan has amazing gall! Did she really just say, to a spren, that spren dance uselessly around fires?
Shallan has managed to con a lot of people into catering to her every whim at this point. She’s hijacked two caravans and has a vicious gang of bandits sanding down her converted slave wagon for her. But, every con must have its co(n)mplications. Shallan has established her little caravan cult right under the nose of Tyn, an actual conwoman with actual malice in mind, and there was no way someone like Tyn could see Shallan at work and not want in on whatever ludicrous scheme might be afoot. Unfortunately for the both of them, Shallan isn’t at her best in the planning stages, and she’s mostly ensnared everyone by telling them as much of the truth as she has available at the time.
Who would have expected how nice it is to see Gaz palling around with Shallan? Gaz may not be a good guy, but it’s easy to believe that he wants to be. Shallan’s offered him the opportunity to make right, and he’s desperate to prove himself worthy of her attention. Perhaps he’s being solicitous because he believes that Shallan might take her promise away, and he’s not sure what he’ll become without that hope. He’s still haunted by many things, of course. His persistent tic of turning his head to the side proves that he still sees horrors in his blind spot, and his refusal to come straight with Shallan about the source of his debt hints at greater revelations yet to come. For now, it’s nice to see him as the guy who’s willing to let people laugh at his expense, and to be surprisingly frank about his sexual history. Poor Shallan seems to have no idea what it means for Gaz to have had a tongue on him.
Pattern begins to dish on all kinds of things we suspected but hadn’t confirmed before. During their debate on the nature of truth, Pattern insists that spren are influenced by human perception more than anything. Without humans, a table is just a bunch of wood, and a spren doesn’t even have thought (at least, not in the Physical Realm; Pattern can’t make any promises about the Cognitive Realm). He also tells Shallan that Voidbringers have their own spren, though Pattern’s 'people' don’t speak of it.
|“|| "Spren are ... power ... shattered power. Power given thought by the perceptions of men. Honor, Cultivation, and ... and another. Fragments broken off."
"Another?" Shallan prodded.
Pattern’s buzz became a whine, going so high pitched she almost couldn’t hear it. "Odium." He spoke the word as if needing to force it out.
This chapter is Heralded by Kalak (resolute/builder) and Shalash (creative/honest). Kalak represents Gaz, and Shalash represents Shallan; the two of them in conversation express these virtues very well. Kalak is an extra-relevant comparison because he’s our first viewpoint character and the first thing he does is desert. Gaz is his kind of dude.
It Takes a Lot to Make Tallew:
The leader of the former deserters held a small bowl of steaming curry from the dinner cauldron. Shallan could smell the pungent peppers. While it would have made a nice change from the stew she’d eaten with the slavers, the caravan had proper women’s food, which she was obliged to eat. Maybe she could sneak a bite of the curry when nobody was looking.
Shallan is feeling some mild gender defiance here, wanting to taste the mouthwatering and forbidden curry of the menfolk. This sets up the following moment:
Tyn sat cross-legged after flipping her coat out behind her. She dug into her meal, dipping flatbread in a curry that seemed too dark - and smelled too peppery - to be feminine.
Is this a model for a woman who can defy gender norms, and one who is willing to teach Shallan to do the same? Tyn hates the proscription that women must eat sweet food and men spicy food, having grown up in a culture that made no such distinctions, and now she has no interest in conforming. Tyn models gender nonconformity with her curry-eating, sword-and-pants wearing ways, and through her freedom she is prepared to liberate Shallan from her genderbound preconceptions.
- Paraphrased from Carl Engle-Laird