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Progression of the Interlude:
Eshonai returns to her home of exile after a battle in which she did not participate, and neither did Dalinar. She reflects on the ancient history of the Shattered Plains and the urban area it once was. She regrets her lost days of exploration and discovery, as she is now trapped on this plateau, fighting a war she cannot win; soldiers are abysmal artists, being designed both physically and mentally for warfare rather than creativity; Mateform is designed only for procreation and is apparently not good for much else but frivolity. Eshonai’s experiments have proven that it doesn’t have to work that way, though it takes a great deal of self-discipline to be otherwise; Eshonai’s sister, Venli, is in Nimbleform, suited to fine motor skills and capable of scholarship, since the Parshendi don’t have a proper form for true scholarship. Venli seems to have secret knowledge, and seems inappropriately amused at Eshonai’s priorities; her researches have discovered the secret of Stormform.
Quote of the Interlude:
|“|| The Rhythm of Resolve thrummed softly in the back of Eshonai’s mind as she reached the plateau at the center of the Shattered Plains.
The central plateau. Narak. Exile.
The Parshendi refer to themselves as the Listeners. The first hint of just why they do so is in the first few words of the Interlude: the Rhythms. There’s always a Rhythm, whether thinking or speaking.
There are hints here about the choices made by Eshonai's ancestors, long ago, to escape from their old gods. While we don’t know all the implications of this yet, Gavilar's assassination was part of maintaining that position. So are Venli's attempts to keep their people from being killed in the war they knowingly triggered.
In this interlude, the various rhythms of Resolve, Mourning, Excitement, the Lost, Praise, Skepticism, Peace, Irritation, and Amusement are revealed in various characters. These Rhythms are there, all the time, as consciously-chosen accompaniment to all speech and thought; the Rhythm chosen seems to communicate at least as much the spoken word.
It’s fitting, then, that the entire recorded history of the Listeners is a matter of songs set to the various Rhythms. One of the most poignant of the many wrenching reflections in this Interlude is Eshonai’s thought on the songs written down by Venli’s researchers:
|“||Songs without music, written out as they were. Their souls stripped away.||”|
It could be mere metaphor, but for the Listeners, music is inextricably linked to the soul. Consider Eshonai’s thoughts on Slaveform: the form without spren, without soul, without song. Somehow the three are intimately connected for these people; the music, the soul, and the forms are intimately linked.
The forms are distinct from the Rhythms, at least so far, but they are related somehow. (Might they have something to do with their connection to the Cognitive Realm?) The forms they currently know all have access to roughly the same Rhythms, with the exception of Slaveform and possibly Dullform.
The connection between spren and the forms hasn't yet been fully revealed. At this stage, they have six forms: Warform, Workform, Mateform, Dullform, Nimbleform, and Slaveform. Each form is specially suited to one primary function, and though it has secondary capabilities, it has severe limitations.
|“||Warform was a good form, versatile. It didn’t impede thought, like mateform did. As with workform, you were yourself when you were warform. But each had its quirks. A worker had difficulty committing violence - there was a block in the mind somewhere. That was one of the reasons she liked the form. It forced her to think differently to get around problems.||”|
It appears that to a significant degree, the form determines not only aptitude, but a large degree of the personality. Not the entire thing, of course; Eshonai was able to train herself to confront while in workform, and to be productive while in mateform (though not reproductive, apparently). Still, the form affects the mind to an amazing degree. In most of the forms, the genders are “malen/femalen,” but in mateform they are male/female.
Slaveform is the one commonly known as Parshmen. Dullform, while not quite so bad, is close enough that one who takes it on can easily pass for a parshman. Those Parshendi in Nimbleform have hair, are more dexterous than others, and are apparently able to scheme.
There are two interesting spren sightings here, and both appear different to the Listeners than they do to humans. Creationspren, however, are conspicuous by their absence.
Angerspren have been seen around humans before. They are always described as " ... boiling up around the feet of the angry person like pools of blood ... ." But if you’re a Listener, they appear as follows.
|“||She saw them coming from a ways off, drawn by her emotion, moving with an incredible speed—like lightning dancing toward her across the distant stone. The lightning pooled at her feet, turning the stones red.||”|
One thing that seems very different between human and Listener observations of angerspren is that for humans, they bubble up from the ground, whereas the Listeners see them coming from a distance - just as they do with exhaustionspren. Their appearance is different: larger, more detailed, sharper, clearer.
Something to note about the exhaustionspren in this interlude: after hanging about Venli for a bit, Eshonai notes that they spin away to search out more fresh sources of emotion. While this is consistent with observations of spren, Eshonai seems to understand the spren and know what they’re doing, as opposed to guessing based on behavior.
It seems the Listeners form semi-permanent pairings, no matter in which form they currently reside. They always fight in pairs; Venli and her former mate, Demid, would form a warpair if they were both in warform, but Eshonai calls them “a researchpair, or something" - which just reinforces the fact that what they’re doing is way outside the experience of the Listeners.
Shalash, as the Heraldic icon for this chapter, is likely mostly for the efforts the Listeners are making to create works of art, to attract creationspren. This ties in several ways to their efforts to find other forms, though; they are trying hard to think creatively.
In this chapter, a new icon has appeared, probably representing Eshonai herself, as the last Shardbearer of her people. However, it also seems to depict both the Shattered Plains (or at least a couple of plateaus and a chasm) and a highstorm, which enables the Listeners to change forms, so in that way it seems representative of the entire people.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson