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The History of Man.jpg
Participants Heralds, Knights Radiant, Voidbringers
Effects Destruction of Roshar
World Roshar
Universe Cosmere
Featured In The Stormlight Archive
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They were destruction made manifest, Brightlord. Each one was so profoundly devastating that humankind was left broken. Populations ruined, society crippled, scholars dead. Humankind was forced to spend generations rebuilding after each one.

Kalami describing a Desolation[1]

The Desolations are cataclysmic events on Roshar involving the Heralds and the Voidbringers.[2] They were massive, continent-wide wars. After each Desolation, human civilization lay in ruins.[3]



Main article: Heralds

The Heralds were the leaders of Honor's forces during the Desolations. They were responsible for teaching mankind skills to help them prepare for the coming conflict. For example, Jezrien taught leadership, Vedel trained surgeons, and Kalak taught how to cast bronze.[4] They were also each the patron of a Radiant order and helped to guide and lead the Knights. They were involved in combat, with Taln in particular becoming known for his choice of impossible battles that he won.[5] In between Desolations, the Heralds were the ones on Braize holding back the Fused. They had made the Oathpact with Honor which gave them the honorblades and the ability to hold back the Fused. However, a loophole in the Oathpact allowed them to bend and temporarily allow the Fused to Roshar, leading them to getting captured and tortured on Braize.[6]

Knights Radiant[edit]

Main article: Knights Radiant

They were a solution, a way to offset the destruction of the Desolations. Ten orders of knights, founded with the purpose of helping men fight, then rebuild.

The Knights Radiant were originally a surprise to Honor, as he had not shown it to the Heralds. Spren decided to mimic the Heralds and give men access to Surgebinding by forming Nahel bonds.[7] While the Knights Radiant as a whole helped in fighting the Voidbringers and rebuilding society, each order of Knights fulfilled a different role. The Windrunners acted as scouts, the Stonewards acted as front line soldiers,[8] and the Lightweavers gave spiritual sustenance to the troops.[9] Many of the Radiants, particularly the Windrunners,[10] lived in cities in Alethela and crossed borders into other nations to fight.[11] The Shardblades and Shardplate that Radiants could wield gave them a better chance when fighting the Voidbringers, particularly the Thunderclasts.[12] The Radiants invited any with the desire and ability to fight or lead to come get training and potentially join them.[11][13]


Main article: Voidbringers

Voidbringers is the collective term that refers to all the forces allied with the Shard Odium during a Desolation. Beings that count as Voidbringers include the Fused, Regals, singers, Voidspren, Unmade, and Thunderclasts. The Voidbringers follow a strict hierarchy. The Fused are at the top, far above the Regals. The Regals, who have bonded voidspren and attained forms of power, are above common singers.[14] Where sapient Voidspren and Unmade fall in this hierarchy is currently unknown, though Ba-Ado-Mishram in particular has been described as a commander of Odium's forces, so she is likely near the top of the hierarchy.[15] Some humans chose to fight for the Voidbringers as well.[6]


The First Desolation[edit]

The first Desolation occurred when mankind invaded Roshar. Humans had destroyed their previous home with surgebinding and came to Roshar seeking shelter.[16] The singers granted them the land that would later become Shinovar. Dissatisfied with what they had been given, the humans decided to invade the rest of the continent.[17] This was the first military conflict between humans and singers. A singer who witnessed the invasion wrote the Eila Stele as a warning against trusting humans.[16]

The Oathpact[edit]

Main article: Oathpact

Some of the singers that were killed by the invading humans were infused with power by Odium before they passed Beyond. These singers became the Fused, Cognitive Shadows that possess living singers and could not be killed.[6][18] Ishar founded the Oathpact as a solution.[19] He and the other nine people that would become Heralds made a pact with Honor to seal the Fused on Braize. Taln was not originally meant to join the Heralds, but somehow became part of the group. The Heralds thought the Oathpact would end the endless war, but because they are human, there was a loophole. The Heralds had the ability to bend their oath and let the Fused return to Roshar, starting a Desolation. Knowing this loophole, the Fused captured and tortured the Heralds.[6]

Historical Desolations[edit]

This is an old, hand drawn picture of a Greatshell. Likely the one Shallan finds in the Palaneum in Karbranth when looking for ancient depictions of Voidbringers. She remarks that the illustrator probably never saw a Voidbringer in person and likely just drew the most terrifying thing he could imagine. The picture is very dark, with lots of black lines and shadows. It shows a dark, stormy sky and a frightened mob of people. The people all have their backs to the viewer and are pointing up. Only the ones in the centre of the picture are detailed, the rest sorts of fades into the crowd. They all have short hair and are wearing loose shirts. They are pointing at a massive creature looming over the collection of square buildings. Taking up three quarters of the page is a massive greatshell. If the city wall is 15 feet tall, this creature is close to 100 feet. It’s rearing up, showing a sturdy, carapace-covered chest, an arrow-shaped head and a pair of antennae taller than a person. It has two narrow eyes on either side of its head, not on eyestalks like the Chulls. It has two huge arms ending in equally huge, lobster-like pincers that it seems to be lowering down towards the crowd. No other legs are visible, presumably they are on the lower body, hidden behind the city wall.
An in-world artist's depiction of a Desolation by Greg Call

The coming of a Desolation was announced by the appearance of the Ten Heralds.[5][20][21] The appearance of Midnight Essence was also a sign of an upcoming Desolation.[11] A Desolation began when the Fused returned to Roshar, known as the Return.[22][4] Each Return, Fused needed to find singers willing to give the Fused their bodies.[14] One of the Desolations lasted eleven years.[20] There were not many more than fifteen Desolations total.[23] A Desolation ended with the Heralds leaving Roshar and returning to Braize. The Heralds had a fixed period of time they could remain on Roshar. If they exceeded it, a new Desolation would start.[24]

Between Desolations[edit]

In the aftermath of each one, mankind was broken. Great cities in ashes, industry smashed. Each time, knowledge and growth were reduced to an almost prehistoric state.

Humankind was devastated in the aftermath of each desolation. Casualties were generally severe; in one desolation, ninety percent of the population of Nohadon's kingdom died. This mass death lead to the fall of many nations, with some—such as Sur, Eiliz, and Tarma—wiped out so thoroughly that they disappeared from history altogether.[20] This level of cataclysmic event pushed men to a technology level equivalent to that of the stone age. Although society would sometimes progress beyond that before the next Desolation began, the Heralds would often be forced to push technology forward thousands of years in the single year after their return.[25] It was the duty of the Knights Radiant to stay vigilant and prepare themselves and mankind for Desolations, and to fight the Voidbringers when they arrive.[11]

Between Desolations, the Heralds returned to Braize. At first, the ten men and women hid from and fought the Fused. Inevitably, they would be caught and tortured. By the nature of their bond, the Heralds were able share their pain and withstand the torture together until someone broke. Early on, the Heralds were able to withstand torture for hundreds of years between Desolations. The torture slowly broke the Heralds, however, and the gaps were decreasing to less than ten years near the end. The last gap was less than a year long, with the Heralds breaking as soon as the Fused caught and began the torture. The only Herald to never break was Taln.[6] The torture the Heralds endured between Desolations included hooks digging into their skin, their skin getting seared off, and their fat burning. The torture began over again every day.[5]

The Last Desolation[edit]

Main article: Last Desolation

At the end of what is called the Last Desolation, nine of ten Heralds managed to survive the fighting, which was an unusual occurrence. Fearful of the torture they would face on their return to Braize, the Heralds chose to break the Oathpact rather than return.[6] Although they had been warned that lingering on Roshar would lead to another Desolation, Ishar told the others that Taln alone would be enough to maintain the Oathpact. Whether or not this was true mattered little to the Heralds as they only wished to avoid torture. The Heralds left their Honorblades in a circle and all walked in a different direction, telling people that humanity had finally won the war for good.[26] Ishar's prediction turned out to be true, and Taln held back the Fused for 4500 years while mankind believed there would be no more Desolations.

The False Desolation[edit]

Main article: False Desolation

Something must be done about the remnants of Odium’s forces. The parsh, as they are now called, continue their war with zeal, even without their masters from Damnation.

—Drawer 30-20, first emerald[27]

Unlike previous Desolations, the False Desolation did not involve the Heralds or Fused. The False Desolation began when Ba-Ado-Mishram learned how to Connect with the majority of the singers, giving them forms of power and access to Voidlight.[28] The Radiants, unaware of how she did this, sought a way to end the fighting for good, as the Heralds had promised them.[29] The fighting became particularly intense at this time,[30] as the singers made a push towards Feverstone Keep, possibly as part of a plan to capture Rall Elorim.[31]

Working together, the scholars among the Radiants theorized that an Unmade could be imprisoned like a regular spren.[32] That devised a plan to trap Ba-Ado-Mishram and prevent her from Connecting with the singers and providing them with Voidlight.[33] This plan would require Melishi, the only Bondsmith of his generation,[34] and a special prison, likely a perfect gemstone.[32] Although Melishi was confident the plan would succeed in destroying the Voidbringers, Naze-daughter-Kuzodo warned of unintended side effects.[35] Although the plan seems to have succeeded, as Ba-Ado-Mishram has not been seen in modern times unlike other Unmade,[36] Naze-daughter-Kuzodo's warning was correct. Because she had been Connected to all the singers, their Connection and Identity was torn out of them, creating slaveform or parshmen.[37] The Radiants' horror for what happened likely contributed to the Recreance.

The True Desolation[edit]

Main article: True Desolation

The True Desolation began approximately two thousand years after the False Desolation, when Talenel appears at the gates of Kholinar, after returning to Roshar from Braize.[21] Not all that long after, at the Battle of Narak, Stormform Listeners summon the Everstorm, which appears to begin the True Desolation.[38]



Main article: Fabrials

All this time we’ve been assuming that we lost great technology in the Desolations, but it seems we are far, far more advanced than the ancients ever were.

Jasnah about fabrials[39]

During the ancient Desolations, mankind did not have access to the modern fabrials and fabrial knowledge that is currently known on Roshar. The only fabrials they had access to were ancient fabrials.[39] These fabrials seem to work through a mutual agreement with a sentient spren rather than trapping a spren in a gemstone. The vast majority of fabrials seem to replicate surges and were used in a support position rather than actual combat. The Oathgates utilizes the surge of Transportation to allow instantaneous travel across the continent. Healing fabrials use the surge of Progression to heal wounds and seem to have been carried often by Radiants on patrol.[11] Although it is not courrently known how these fabrials were created, Aimia could have been involved as that is where Soulcasting fabrials originated.[40] It is also possible that Urithiru is a giant fabrial powered by the Sibling.


The Desolations were so terrible they destroyed learning and progress and left behind a broken people.

Humanity was stuck at an extremely low level of technology during the Desolations. Most soldiers fought with bronze and leather armor.[41] Because of the destruction, humanity often still had stone tools and weapons when the Heralds returned. The Heralds would attempt to push humanity forward several thousand years worth of technology in the year before the Desolation, which often included learning to cast bronze. Even when humanity had learned to cast bronze already, the Heralds tried to advance technology further.[25] Other areas they attempted to push technology forward include medicine, where Vedel would teach techniques such as keeping wounds clean.[4]


See also: Vorinism

The Desolations had happened during the near-mythical shadowdays, before real history began. Before mankind had defeated the Voidbringers and taken the war to heaven.

Dalinar's thoughts[11]

According to Vorinism, mankind fought the Voidbringers during Desolations ninety and nine times, before mankind finally won and drove them back to the Tranquiline Halls.[42] That victory was later referred to as the Last Desolation.


History of Roshar
Expulsion to Roshar The Desolations Aharietiam
  1. Oathbringer chapter 2#
  2. The Way of Kings chapter 61#
  3. a b Words of Radiance chapter 6#
  4. a b c Words of Radiance interlude I-7#
  5. a b c Prelude to the Stormlight Archive#
  6. a b c d e f g Oathbringer chapter 38#
  7. a b Words of Radiance chapter 4#
  8. Skyward Atlanta signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-17#
  9. Words of Radiance chapter 47 epigraph#
  10. Oathbringer chapter 61#
  11. a b c d e f The Way of Kings chapter 19#
  12. Oathbringer chapter 120#
  13. Oathbringer chapter 34#
  14. a b Oathbringer interlude I-7#
  15. Oathbringer chapter 106 epigraph#
  16. a b Oathbringer chapter 111#
  17. Oathbringer chapter 113#
  18. Oathbringer London signing
    Arcanum - 2017-11-28#
  19. Oathbringer chapter 64#
  20. a b c The Way of Kings chapter 60#
  21. a b The Way of Kings epilogue#
  22. Oathbringer interlude I-6#
  23. Legion Release Party
    Arcanum - 2018-09-19#
  24. Words of Radiance signing Dayton
    Arcanum - 2014-03-19#
  25. a b Words of Radiance signing Portland
    Arcanum - 2014-03-07#
  26. The Way of Kings prologue#
  27. Oathbringer chapter 77 epigraph#
  28. Oathbringer chapter 80 epigraph#
  29. Oathbringer chapter 82 epigraph#
  30. Words of Radiance chapter 41 epigraph#
  31. Oathbringer chapter 84 epigraph#
  32. a b Oathbringer chapter 79 epigraph#
  33. Oathbringer chapter 78 epigraph#
  34. Oathbringer chapter 67 epigraph#
  35. Oathbringer chapter 81 epigraph#
  36. Oathbringer chapter 107 epigraph#
  37. Oathbringer chapter 17#
  38. Words of Radiance chapter 83#
  39. a b Oathbringer chapter 96#
  40. Oathbringer interlude I-4#
  41. The Way of Kings chapter 52#
  42. The Way of Kings chapter 45#
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