by Isaac Stewart
|Related to||Honor, Cultivation|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Surgebinding is a prime manifestation of Investiture on Roshar. Surgebinders 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. Each Surgebinder's Surges come in a set combination, for example, it is possible to have the Surges of Progression and Illumination or Progression and Abrasion, but not Progression and Gravitation.
|Lightweavers||Cryptic (Liespren)||Creative/ Honest|
|Willshapers||Lightspren (Reachers)||Resolute/ Builder|
|Bondsmiths||The Stormfather, Nightwatcher, and their sibling||Pious/ Guiding|
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.
The exact powers that someone can wield depend on the specific Honorblade/Nahel bond. It is unknown if the powers granted by an Honorblade are identical to those granted by the corresponding bond.
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 the Surgebinder a glowing effect with luminescent white vapor rising from the skin. 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. If holding a small amount of Stormlight, Surgebinders are able to breathe in and suppress the glowing effect. While doing this, they are able to talk without puffing out Stormlight.
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, they are left exhausted and feeling deflated similar to a pewter drag by a Pewterarm.
The Surge of Adhesion can be manipulated to bind things together. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Bondsmiths and the Windrunners.
- 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 ends when the Stormlight runs out. A Full Lashing can be powerful enough to bend the path of bullets. Someone wearing Shardplate is immune to Lashings, but any objects that they are touching can be affected. The bond also attracts bindspren.
- Spiritual Adhesion: Using the Surge of Adhesion to manipulate spiritual, rather than purely physical forces, a Bondsmith can touch another person and forge a spiritual Connection between them. This allows the Bondsmith to temporarily speak whatever languages this other person can speak. Whether the Bondsmith must remain physically close to this other person for the ability to be continually used is unknown. The ability lasts for longer than a few hours, but not days. The ability has other Connection implications, but it is unable to pick up other people's abilities.
The Surge of Gravitation can be manipulated to change the direction and strength of an object's gravitational attraction. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Windrunners and the Skybreakers.
- 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, or send objects or people flying off into the air. Lashings only affects gravitational pull and not mass, so different things with different masses will still fall at the same speed. Lashings can only send something in a particular direction and can not be locked into following an object. Lashing can also affect liquids. Surgebinders can rotate themselves in the air using wind resistance, and can also lessen the force of the wind while flying. Taking sharp turns while Lashing can cause the Surgebinder to black out. When Lashing multiple objects or beings at a time, it is possible to create a sort of channel around the group, which will keep them close together. 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 their Lashing; so the length of Basic Lashing is dependent on the amount of Stormlight used. 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.
- Reverse Lashing: Using this ability, a Windrunner 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.
The Surge of Division can be manipulated to have power over destruction and decay. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Dustbringers and the Skybreakers.
- Decay: Using the Surge of Division, the Surgebinder can touch an object and cause it to burn, turn to dust, or decay in other ways. The Surgebinder can exercise significant control, such as to burn a pattern into a piece of wood. It can also be used on humans. This splits the molecular bonds of the object the Surge is used on, but not the atoms themselves. It is likely to have the ability to ignite objects. Decay can be used to create types of sculptures, such as adding color when burning objects or grayscaling them.
The Surge of Abrasion can be manipulated to alter the frictional force between two surfaces. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Dustbringers and the Edgedancers.
- Slicking: This ability allows the Surgebinder to make their 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 over any surface without losing momentum until the ability is suspended. Wind friction can also be affected. However, this would not reduce the force of direct collisions. It was described as having some resemblance to ice skating. Slicking can also be used to have sounds slide off of the Surgebinder. Slicking can also use this to escape any grasp, or grip the slickest walls. Slicking can also be applied to objects and made so only the Surgebinder can grip the object without it slipping.
The Surge of Progression can be manipulated to alter the growth and healing of organisms. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Edgedancers and the Truthwatchers.
- 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. This ability may also fail to heal injuries that are too old.
- Surge Fabrial: A Surge Fabrial is able to mimic the Radiant ability of Regrowth. Ancient Radiants possessed fabrials constructed from a large topaz and heliodor that were able to "regrow" and repair injuries through manipulating the Surge of Progression. In the present day, they have been lost; however, the Herald Nale possesses one capable of bringing someone back from the brink of death.
The Surge of Illumination can be manipulated to create auditory and visual illusions. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Lightweavers and the Truthwatchers.
- 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 themself, as well as a being they are 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 themselves would mimic the facial expressions of the Surgebinder and adapt to the clothing or the accessories they are wearing. Experienced practitioners of this art can also attach the illusion to an object that is infused with Stormlight, for example a sphere. 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, they must put holes to see on the image. The amount of Stormlight the illusion requires depends on the complexity of it.
- Interactions with Yolish Lightweaving: Rosharan Lightweaving is much more restrictive than the earlier Yolish variant, as it requires a spren or Stormlight to function. Yolish Lightweaving does not always seem to function perfectly on Roshar, and Yolish Lightweavers may need help from Rosharan Lightweavers to fully craft an illusion. A Yolish Lightweaver is able to guide a Rosharan Lightweaver's power. Gaining Rosharan Lightweaving allows for some supplemental ability with Yolish Lightweaving, and could allow Yolish Lightweavers to overcome the issue of crafting illusions on Roshar, although further impacts or resonances between the two are unknown. Rosharan Lightweaving has a compounding effect with Yolish Lightweaving, and likely allows Yolish Lightweavers to circumvent the problems they can experience with Yolish Lightweaving.
The Surge of Transformation can be manipulated to change an object into one of the ten essences. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Elsecallers and the Lightweavers.
- Soulcasting: This ability transforms any material into one of the Surgebinder's choice. To Soulcast, the Surgebinder shifts their perception to see into the Cognitive Realm, and communicates with the Cognitive aspect of the object they want 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. A major limitation of Soulcasting is the knowledge of the end material - while a Surgebinder could Soulcast matter into radioactive particles such as plutonium, modern-day Rosharans are unaware of its existence and nature. It is possible to transfer a Soulcasting from one material to another, like a disease, without the Soulcaster directly Soulcasting them. It is unknown if objects can transfer a Soulcasting into a different material than what they turned into or if they can only transfer a Soulcasting to the same type of object they are. 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. Moreover, when Soulcasting, both Surgebinders and fabrial users are limited by the types of gems available to them. While the chemical composition of the gemstone is important, its color is paramount, with every color of a gemstone corresponding to one of the Ten Essences. A gemstone that has been bleached of color - for example, by Awakening - would either work very poorly, or not work at all. By contrast, within a highstorm, a Surgebinder can create almost anything. The target of Soulcasting can be both an inanimate item and a person, although a person will present greater difficulty, due to the innate Investiture they hold. Both highly-Invested people, like Knights Radiant or Mistborn, and natural Investiture blockers, like aluminium or Shardplate, will resist Soulcasting. Likewise, Soulcasting cannot create materials that are naturally Invested, such as god metals. Aluminium, however, can be created via Soulcasting. Soulcasting can be done in the Cognitive Realm of Roshar to create objects out of the beads there. Finding the soul of an object in the Physical Realm, the Surgebinder can form the object out of surrounding beads, such as a door or a shield. The object will have density and can hold people’s weight. Once a Surgebinder releases control of the beads, they will disperse into individual beads again. It is also possible to Soulcast a bead into its physical object while in the Cognitive Realm. Beads turned into their physical forms will eventually turn back into beads.
- Surge Fabrial: A Surge Fabrial is able to mimic the Radiant ability of Soulcasting. A Soulcaster fabrial consists of two rings and a bracelet connected by chains which hold a group of three gemstones across the back of the hand. Most are only able to effect small, singular changes, such as turning stone into water, while about one in ten can affect any change. They can be activated by tapping one of the three gemstones when holding the hand against what is to be changed. When Soulcasting, the fabrial draws Stormlight from the corresponding gemstone. What Essences the Soulcaster can use is referred to as the Soulcaster's modes. This being said, Soulcasters capable of using all three modes are rare, and a vast majority can only utilize one. Soulcasters with access to the same Essence can work together to Soulcast objects of greater size.
- Savantism: Long-term use of Soulcasting, whether via Surgebinding or a fabrial, can lead to the user becoming a savant, transforming slowly into the essence they frequently transform other objects into. The effects of savanthood are much less pronounced for Surgebinders compared to fabrial users, and can take a different path in their manifestation, due to the Nahel bond. This process is different from simply having transformed a portion of oneself accidentally. Some Soulcaster ardents on the Shattered Plains developed crystalline eyes and stone-like skin with cracks. Another ardent in Kholinar appears as if there are vines growing under her skin and poking out from her eyes. Kaza slowly became smoke in places, to the point where she had a hole in her cheek leaking smoke. Her hair, ears and fingers had also started to transform. The personality of the Soulcaster might also be affected, as Kaza felt drawn to become smoke with the objects she transforms, and began to lose normal human emotional responses.
The Surge of Transportation can be manipulated to achieve realmatic transition. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Elsecallers and the Willshapers.
- Elsecalling: This ability allows the Surgebinder to travel in between Realms. Doing this creates a miniature perpendicularity. 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 them while transporting themselves. This allows many Surgebinders with Transportation the ability to worldhop. It is much harder to leave the Cognitive Realm than it is to enter it. The Surgebinder needs to find a point where the Physical and Cognitive Realm touch to leave.
- Surge Fabrial: A Surge Fabrial is able to mimic the Radiant ability of Transportation. These fabrials are called Oathgates and and allow the user to transport anything on top of the platform and in the control chamber between Oathgates in an instant. However, as far as is known, they function in pairs - an Oathgate in Urithiru only connects to one Oathgate outside, and the Oathgate outside only connects to one Oathgate in Urithiru. They can only be activated by living Shardblades, as wielded by the Knights Radiant. Transportation of more than one person through them requires use of more Stormlight.
Also called the Surge of Strong Axial Interconnection, the Surge of Cohesion can be manipulated to alter objects at a molecular level. This allows the user to alter the shape of solid objects. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this surge are the Willshapers and the Stonewards. This ability can be used to reshape solid objects like stone, but not flesh. Surgebinders are able to grab matter and stretch it, altering the object. The power is described as the whole world being clay for them. Cohesion is highly resisted by Investiture and even a small amount of Stormlight in an object would prevent it from working.
Also called the Surge of Soft Axial Interconnection, the Surge of Tension can be manipulated to alter the stiffness of an object, such as taking something flexible and making it rigid. The two orders of Knights Radiant with access to this Surge are the Stonewards and the Bondsmiths.
For Bondsmiths, the use of this surge is different from the Stonewards. While Stonewards use this ability to shape stone in battle, Bondsmiths use it to repair inanimate objects as a complement to the Surge of Adhesion.  Tension is highly resisted by Investiture and even a small amount of Stormlight in an object would prevent it from working.
- Shallan Davar (bonded to Pattern)
- Kaladin (bonded to Sylphrena)
- Dalinar Kholin (bonded to the Stormfather)
- Jasnah Kholin (bonded to Ivory)
- Renarin Kholin (bonded to Glys)
- Lift (bonded to Wyndle)
- Lopen (bonded to Rua)
- Drehy (bonded to an unknown honorspren)
- Nale (bonded to an unknown highspren)
- Malata (bonded to Spark)
- Szeth (bonded to an unknown highspren)
- Teft (bonded to an unknown honorspren)
- Venli (bonded to Timbre)
- Ym (bonded to an unknown Truthwatcher spren)
- Ki (bonded to Winnow)
- Warren (bonded to an unknown highspren)
- Hoid (bonded to an unknown cryptic)
Knights Radiant are an organization of Surgebinders with the Nahel bond who live by the Immortal Words. They are comprised of ten different orders, with each order consisting of Surgebinders who have access to the same two Surges.
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