by Isaac Stewart
|Related to||Honor, Cultivation|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Surgebinding is a prime manifestation of Investiture on Roshar. The Surgebinder can manipulate ten fundamental forces locally known as Surges, with each Surgebinder having access to two of the Surges with overlap between them, by infusing objects or beings with Stormlight.
Becoming a Surgebinder
Surgebinding is not innate to Rosharans, and can be gained in two ways. Originally the abilities were only granted to the Heralds by the Almighty in the form of Honorblades. Later, spren figured out how the Almighty granted these abilities, and started giving them to humans by forming a Spiritual bond called the Nahel bond with them.
Honorblades are the ten Shardblades that the Almighty originally gave the Heralds. Each of these Blades gives its wielder the ability to manipulate two Surges just like the Nahel bond, Jezrien's Blade giving Adhesion and Gravitation, and so on. They can be wielded by anyone, and they do not require the safeguards the spren do to avoid people abusing these powers. Honorblades consume far more Stormlight than the Nahel bond, in fact a dangerous amount to the wielder. They also do not grant the additional abilities of the Nahel bond, and their wielders cannot heal Shardblade wounds with Stormlight.
The Nahel bond is a symbiotic relationship between humans and spren, through which the human gains Surgebinding powers and the spren gains sapience in the Physical Realm. The spren choose the people they bond with according to the actions and personalities of those people. There are ten types of spren that bond with humans—each granting access to two of the ten Surges, with overlap between them—and each of these types are attracted to different attributes in their bondmates.
Once the bond is established, the spren is pulled into the Physical Realm, although they retain very little of their intelligence and memories and act very much like the lesser spren until the bond grows stronger. The strengthening of the bond is accomplished by the Surgebinder continuing to act in line with the attributes that attracted the spren in the first place, and swearing oaths that are related to those attributes once they are ready. As the bond grows stronger, the spren regain their sapience, and the effectiveness of the Stormlight for the Surgebinder increases. Once the bond is at sufficient strength, the spren can manifest as a Shardblade, and the eye color of the Surgebinder changes into the color their spren is associated with.
If the Surgebinder acts in a manner conflicting with their oaths, the bond grows weaker until, eventually, the spren "breaks" and is trapped in an agony cycle after having a significant portion of its consciousness ripped out of it, and the bondmate loses their Surgebinding powers. If the spren "breaks" while in Shardblade form, it reverts to its basic sword form, and can be temporarily revived by being linked to the heartbeat of a person to be used. The spren do not "unbreak" on their own, but can be brought back to life if their bondmates takes up their oaths again. It is technically possible, but extremely difficult, for a spren to be healed without their bondmate. The Surgebinder dying without betraying his oaths is a very traumatic event for the spren, but it does not cause them to be broken.
Surgebinding requires constant Stormlight as a fuel source, which the Surgebinder can draw by breathing in. While it is possible to draw the Stormlight from any source infused with it, including directly from the highstorms themselves, the common practice is to use gemstones that have already been infused by the highstorms. Human bodies are imperfect containers for the Stormlight, so the Stormlight leaves the Surgebinder's body over time, giving him a glowing effect with luminescent white vapor. Breathing out accelerates this leaving, but Stormlight substitutes for oxygen so the Surgebinder does not need to breathe. The more Stormlight the Surgebinder holds, the faster it leaks out of the body.
In addition to being fuel for Surgebinding, Stormlight also increases the physical capabilities of the Surgebinder's body far beyond regular human levels. The Surgebinder gains superhuman strength, speed, endurance, stamina, and healing of both body and soul. They can survive falls hundreds of feet, and stand up right away, the damage immediately being healed by Stormlight. Almost any kind of injury can be healed, including bad eyesight, scar tissues, or Spiritual damage done by a Shardblade. This healing is based upon the Cognitive identity of the Surgebinder, as such if a soldier sees the scars on his body, for example, as a part of his self, Stormlight does not heal those scars.
While inside the body, the Stormlight produces an intense adrenaline-like effect, urging the Surgebinder to action and motion, which may result in recklessness if the Surgebinder is not careful. It gives great energy, but when the Surgebinder runs out of Stormlight, he is left exhausted and feeling deflated.
Adhesion Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to bind objects together.
- Full Lashing: This ability creates an extremely powerful temporary bond between two objects. To use this ability, the Surgebinder infuses a surface with Stormlight, after which any object or person that comes in contact with the surface will be bound to it. Full Lashing does not necessarily require skin contact; surfaces can be infused by "spraying" the Stormlight onto them. Most objects would break apart themselves before the bond holding them would. The duration of this bond is determined by the amount of Stormlight infused. The bond also attracts bindspren.
Gravitation Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to alter the direction and strength of an object's gravitational attraction.
- Basic Lashing: This ability alters an object's or being's spiritual gravitational bond to the planet below, instead temporarily linking it to a different object or direction. It allows the Surgebinder to run up walls, send objects or people flying off into the air. Advanced users of Basic Lashing can employ partial Lashings—a half Lashing upward, for example, would make the Surgebinder effectively weightless, while a quarter Lashing would halve the person's weight. It is also possible to use multiple Basic Lashings simultaneously so that the infused object or being will be pulled toward different directions at once or pulled toward a single direction but stronger than gravity normally would. Basic Lashing requires skin contact if the Surgebinder is trying to infuse an external object or being. Basic Lashing continually consumes the Stormlight with which the object is infused until the object runs out of Stormlight or the Surgebinder dismisses his Lashing; so the length of Basic Lashing is dependent on the amount of Stormlight used.
- Reverse Lashing: This ability creates a bubble around a surface that imitates its spiritual link to the ground beneath it. In effect, this makes the infused object pull other objects towards itself. It is much harder for Reverse Lashing to affect objects touching the ground, where their link to the planet is strongest. Objects falling or in flight are the easiest to influence. Other objects can be affected, but the Stormlight and skill required are much more substantial. This ability is believed to be a specialized version of Basic Lashing. Reverse Lashing requires constant skin contact for it to work, though it consumes comparatively little Stormlight.
Division Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to have power over destruction and decay.
Abrasion Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to alter the amount of frictional force a surface applies to another.
- Slicking: This ability allows the Surgebinder to make his body frictionless. The Surgebinder can choose which parts of the body are affected and which parts are not. For example, the bottom of the feet can be infused so that the Surgebinder glides through any surface without losing momentum until the ability is suspended.
Progression Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to alter the growth and healing of organisms.
- Growth: This ability accelerates organic growth to tremendous speeds. The Surgebinder can infuse the seeds to a plant with Stormlight through skin contact, and in seconds, it will become fully developed. It is unknown if this ability only works on plants.
- Regrowth: This ability heals the damage done to the body and the soul of a person instantly and without any scarring. The flesh, muscle, or bones can be completely regrown rapidly. The body can be refreshed and rid of fatigue. The Surgebinder can even reverse death with Regrowth; a body that has bled out or a soul that has been severed with a Shardblade can be healed with Regrowth and continue to function as if it has never been damaged. However, once the soul leaves the body and reaches the afterlife, it is impossible for the Surgebinder to revive the person.
Illumination Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to create illusory images (stationary or mobile) and sounds.
- Lightweaving: This ability creates visual and auditory illusions. The illusion is based upon not just what the Surgebinder imagines, but also desires to create, requiring both a mental picturing of and a Spiritual connection to the intended creation. Once the creation is shaped, the Surgebinder breathes out a cloud of Stormlight to form the illusion. The illusion can be created anywhere, but requires a constant source of Stormlight, so the Surgebinder—or a being the Surgebinder is Spiritually linked to—needs to keep in proximity to it. Because the illusion automatically feeds off of the Surgebinder, the glowing effect common to the Surgebinders as the Stormlight leaks out of their bodies does not happen, and instead is fed to the illusion. Unless the Surgebinder intentionally dissolves the illusion, it will stay active until the Surgebinder runs out of Stormlight or leaves the proximity of the illusion. It is possible for the Surgebinder to attach the illusion to himself, as well as a being he or she is Spiritually linked to such as the spren that forms the Nahel bond, so that the illusion automatically follows the movements of the being to which it is attached. This way, an illusion of disguise, for example, that the Surgebinder attached to himself would mimic the facial expressions of the Surgebinder and adapt to the clothing or the accessories he is wearing. The illusory image has no substance to it, and if an object physically passes through the illusion, the image temporarily fuzzes to Stormlight until it is reestablished once the object withdraws. Light itself does not pass through the illusion; if the Surgebinder wants to be able to see the outside while hiding inside the illusion, he or she must put holes to see on the image. The amount of Stormlight the illusion requires depends on the complexity of it.
Transformation Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to change the molecular structure of an object.
- Soulcasting: This ability transforms any material into one of the Surgebinder's choice. To Soulcast, the Surgebinder shifts his perception to see into the Cognitive Realm, and communicates with the Cognitive aspect of the object he wants to transform. Not every object is inclined to change, depending on how the object is seen by the sentient species and how it sees itself, so the Surgebinder may need to negotiate with it. Once the object is convinced into changing, the Surgebinder infuses it with Stormlight, and the transformation process takes place instantaneously. It is technically possible for the Surgebinder to transform anything into anything else, but transforming something into the pure form of an Essence is the easiest to accomplish, while transforming the object into something unfamiliar is a lot harder. Soulcasting requires the corresponding gemstone for the Essence the Surgebinder is trying to transform into, so Soulcasting something into blood, for example, requires an infused garnet. Draining the Stormlight from the gemstone can sometimes shatter the gemstone; the larger the gemstone the less likely it is for that to happen. The object's mass is conserved through the Soulcasting process. It may not be possible to create gemstones with Soulcasting.
Transportation Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder for magical travel, e.g. between Realms.
- Elsecalling: This ability allows the Surgebinder to travel in between Realms. A circular wall of Stormlight can be seen briefly at the target location before the Surgebinder arrives. The Surgebinder can also bring other beings and objects with him while Elsecalling.
Cohesion Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder alter objects at a molecular level; for example, a Surgebinder can push his hand into a table and leave a permanent handprint.
Tension Surge can be manipulated by the Surgebinder to alter the stiffness of an object.
Knights Radiant are an organization of Surgebinders with the Nahel bond who live by the Immortal Words. They comprise of ten different orders. Each order consist of Surgebinders who have access to the same two Surges.
- BarnesandNoble.com Book Club Q&A
— Theoryland - Jul, 2009
- Stormblessed.com Interview
— Theoryland - Dec 25th, 2010
- The Way of Kings prologue
- Words of Radiance chapter 87
- Words of Radiance chapter 17
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— 17th Shard forums - 2014-03-09