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Sleepless

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Sleepless
Arclo.jpg
Sapient Yes
World Roshar
Universe Cosmere
Featured In The Stormlight Archive
This page or section contains spoilers for Rhythm of War!
This information has the ability to potentially ruin elements of the plot for the reader. Proceed with caution if you have not read this book.

The Sleepless, also known as Dysian Aimians,[1] are a sapient non-human race from an unknown planet in the cosmere.[2][3] Their bodies are made up of swarms of creatures called "hordelings" that are mentally linked.[4][5] They refer to themselves as "Sleepless"[6] because at least some part of the horde is always awake.[4] Some of the Sleepless can be found on Roshar, and they once lived in the Silver Kingdom of Aimia.[7]

Appearance and Anatomy[edit]

The cook began to hum. Pieces of her broke off. She crumbled to a pile of chittering little cremlings that moved out of her clothing, leaving it in a heap.

Kaza, watching the cook of the First Dreams[8]

Sleepless have a unique physiology, as their "bodies" are actually composed of thousands[4] of creatures called "hordelings" that are able to function as a single consciousness.[9][5] The hordelings are not limited in how they assemble themselves; with practice, a Sleepless can mimic the shape of other creatures, including humans.[4] Sleepless not on Roshar would not be practiced in imitating the human form, and would look completely different.[10][11] Unlike Siah Aimians, Dysian Aimians cannot mate with humans.[12]

Hordelings[edit]

Hordelings are usually about the size of a finger,[4] but they can be as large as a fist[13] or sometimes as large as a building.[14] Hordelings on Roshar often resemble native creatures known as cremlings simply to make them less noticeable to casual observers; they can take other forms.[15] The first swarm to come to Roshar originally had spiderlike hordelings; the swarms breed their hordelings to resemble local fauna in order to blend in.[16] The hordelings of each Sleepless are not all identical, and often serve specific purposes.[5] For example, because Arclo tries to pass as a human, many of his hordelings have protrusions on their backs that resemble human parts such as skin or eyeballs; he is also able to speak with a passably human voice.[4] However, individual hordelings cannot shapeshift, so the nature of a Sleepless body is usually visible upon close inspection.[4] Sleepless therefore tend to cover their "skin" when possible, or use the appearance of older skin or tattoos to obscure their true nature.[4][8]

Adaptation and Regeneration[edit]

It took my people three hundred years of selective breeding to achieve hordelings capable of imitating human fingers. And still, most of us are terrible at pretending to be humans. We don't have the mannerisms, the thoughts. I’m younger than the others, but am more... skilled at using these things.

—Nikli[2]

Hordelings can be specially bred to enhance specific capabilities of a Sleepless, such as a heightened sense of smell or increased memory capacity, although this process takes some time.[4] Nikli notes that it took three hundred years to breed hordelings that could imitate human fingers.[2] Over the course of many generations, some have even managed to breed hordelings that are able to mimic the powers of a larkin.[17] There is a limit on both the total mass and number of hordelings a Sleepless can have at any given time,[18] but the maximum number would definitely allow a Sleepless to become much larger than human-sized,[13][19] up to the size of a santhid corpse[20] and possibly even larger. Because they can continually create new hordelings to replace any that are lost, the personality of a Sleepless can live forever, as long as not too many of the hordelings are destroyed at once.[21] Swarms on planets other than Roshar would breed their hordelings as needed to imitate whatever life forms are native to that world.[16]

Consciousness[edit]

In practice, hordelings function as a "hive mind",[5] but they are not technically one entity.[22] Hordelings have the ability to separate from the main body to act as remote agents while maintaining their mental link with the rest of the horde.[4] Certain circumstances could lead to a hordeling being split off from the group and forced to act independently.[22] For example, a hordeling that is physically too distant from the others can lose contact with the main mind, and this would affect its Cognitive aspect.[23] A hordeling could be affected by a Hemalurgic spike, but it would disconnect it from the hivemind.[24] The Sleepless are not able to split their consciousness between the Cognitive Realm and the Physical Realm.[22] They can form multiple sapient bodies at once (for example, imitating two humans at the same time), but it is difficult and risks making the split permanent, unintentionally creating a new Sleepless. This is made easier if the bodies are not engaged in intelligent tasks at the same time.[25]

Reproduction[edit]

Sleepless are able to reproduce, but "reproduction" for them has a variety of connotations. They can breed specific hordelings for specialized purposes over time and can also exchange hordelings if needed in order to improve their genetic diversity. They can even crossbreed hordelings with other species such as various cremlings and the lancer.[26][14] Creating a new Sleepless involves splitting off a subsection of an existing swarm, which subsequently gains independence over time; the Sleepless term for this process is becoming "Separated".[27] A swarm becoming Separated is not always intentional.[25] Newly independent swarms retain the genetic adaptations of their "parent" swarm and are able to fine-tune the evolutions of their hordelings to even greater effect.[28] Arclo refers to the other swarms on Roshar as its "siblings".[4]

Attributes and Abilities[edit]

All Sleepless have the abilities granted by their unusual physiology, including shapeshifting, adaptive evolution, and effective immortality. It is also impossible to imprison a Sleepless through conventional means.[29] Sleepless have used Surgebinding in the past and may use it again in the future.[30][31] Arclo is able to easily kill two of Nale's Skybreaker apprentices and tells Lift that it would not have been possible for them to kill it.[4] Sleepless would have nothing to fear even from someone as powerful as a Herald, and the Heralds knew to leave their kind alone.[4] Sleepless have more resistance to Soulcasting compared to humans for various reasons.[32] They are also fluent in most, if not all, human languages.[14]

In addition to their ability to mentally link their hordelings, each Sleepless can also directly communicate with other swarms. This is achieved through buzzing that each swarm can emanate from its scattered hordelings. Each swarm has a distinct buzz, and specially bred hordelings receive and interpret the vibrations. It is possible to exclude certain swarms from these communications.[27]

The Sleepless are exceptionally cosmere-aware. At least some Sleepless have had the power of Worldhopping;[33] Arclo tells Lift that it once traveled to a land she will never visit.[4] They have some relationship to the shard Cultivation and another unnamed group in the cosmere.[34] They are aware that some Unkalaki are Sighted and that they guard Cultivation's Perpendicularity.[35] They hold secrets about the power of the Dawnshards and the Shattering of Adonalsium, and they have passed this information down to their "younger" members.[14] They refer to lanceryn and larkin as "Ancient Guardians" and believed that protecting the Akinah Dawnshard mural was important to the fate of the entire cosmere.[2]

Social Structure and Purpose[edit]

Arclomedarian is dangerous. I can see this. But it is not as dangerous as the true traitors.

—Nikli, on Arclo[27]

Of the twenty-four known Sleepless on Roshar, twenty accept the authority of Yelamaiszin, the First swarm, including Yelamaiszin himself. They vote on important matters using the rapid communication provided by their hive minds.[27] Arclomedarian does not accept their authority, although it is not considered one of the "true traitors" and is still liked.[36][4] It is unknown if the other three dissident Sleepless are in this category, though all four of the Sleepless who do not accept Yelamaiszin's authority (including Arclo) are still alive.[36] The Sleepless defend life, although they are willing to kill in order to preserve it. Nikli states that the Sleepless have chosen to do this after seeing the destruction of worlds and have vowed to never let it happen again.[2] Paradoxically, while the Sleepless tend to like the Knights Radiant, with Yelamaiszin even stating a personal admiration for Dalinar, they worry that the Radiants' insistence on making honorable choices is highly dangerous.[27] Despite a willingness to kill in order to protect the Dawnshard from outside knowledge, the Sleepless are also open to reason. Rysn managed to convince them to spare the crew of the Wandersail in exchange for her help in safeguarding it.[14]

Lore[edit]

Most Rosharans (other than Siah Aimians) do not know that the Sleepless exist, with a few notable exceptions. At least some Iriali have been aware of them[37] and the Unkalaki, who call them the "Gods Who Sleep Not", even have some understanding of their hordeling abilities.[29] Neither Dalinar nor Lift seem to have even heard of beings with the powers of the Sleepless prior to talking to Hoid and Arclo, respectively.[1][4] However, a few folk tales about them persisted over the years, and Jasnah Kholin was aware of these tales through her scholarly research. She assumed that they were myths, until she began hearing credible stories about similar creatures,[38] possibly including Lift's interaction with Arclo. Even then, Jasnah could not fully believe such beings existed until meeting one in person.[39] Although Vstim passed information about Sleepless on to Rysn, she did not rule out some form of Lightweaving to explain her early observations of Nikli's shapeshifting until seeing its powers up close.[38][35]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Sleepless, or Dysian Aimians, exist on multiple planets in the cosmere[40][41] and are known to have traveled between them.[33] Their original planet is unknown, but they are not native to Yolen.[42] Hoid is the only person known to use the term "Dysian," and the source of the term is unknown.[1] All known Sleepless on Roshar descended from a single swarm currently named Yelamaiszin.[43] Most of the cosmere's Sleepless live on Roshar,[41] but unrelated swarms exist on other worlds.[44]

Although not native to Roshar, the Sleepless lived in Aimia prior to the Scouring of Aimia, which has been characterized by Hessi as "total destruction".[45][3] They coexisted with the Siah Aimians, but were not related to them.[46] Despite the fact that they survived, the destruction of their home on Aimia seems to have caused the Sleepless a great deal of emotional pain.[47]

Heraldic Epochs[edit]

You needn't fear me. Your war is my war, and has been for millennia. Ancient Radiants named me friend and ally before everything went wrong. What wonderful days those were, before the Last Desolation. Days of... honor. Now gone, long gone.

—Arclo, to Lift[4]

The Sleepless had a long history with the Heralds and Knights Radiant.[48] Some Sleepless were once able to use the power of Surgebinding.[30] At least some of the Sleepless, including Arclo,[4] were allies of the Heralds and Knights Radiant during the Heraldic Epochs. Arclo told Lift that others of his kind were particularly interested in Radiants.[4] At least one Sleepless may have fought during Aharietiam, as Dalinar Kholin noticed a heap of burned, strange cremlings in one of his visions;[49] it is not clear which side they fought on, although at least some Sleepless were allied with the Knights Radiant.[4]

War of Reckoning[edit]

At the end of the Era of Solitude, the Sleepless mostly remained hidden, monitoring events on Roshar using their hordelings. They were particularly interested in Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan, Szeth, Navani, Eshonai, and Venli, believing them to be crucial to the future of Roshar.[48][50][30][2] Arclo believed that Lift should also be included in that group, and that the other Sleepless should not ignore her.[4] Despite its general disinterest in Radiants, Arclo was also aware that the Stump had bonded a spren[51] and that Nale was alive, referring to him as a "madman".[4]

Rysn, there are forces in the cosmere that we can barely identify, let alone track. Evil forces, who would end worlds if they could. They are hunting this place. Now that the Ancient Guardians of Akinah are all but extinct, we Sleepless must protect it.

—Nikli[2]

The Sleepless appeared to be guarding several secrets from humans, including something that Dalinar was seeking but "must not know".[30] An unnamed Sleepless learned of Vazrmeb's plan to sail the ship First Dreams to Akinah in Aimia; it posed as a Reshi cook and joined the crew, later poisoning everyone else on board to protect the island.[8] It refused to divulge any of Akinah's secrets to Kaza even as she was dying, telling her that doing so could result in the "ends of worlds".[8]

True Desolation and the Expedition to Akinah[edit]

By the time of the True Desolation, there were twenty-four Sleepless on Roshar.[27][52][53] As both Siah Aimians and Sleepless were immortal, the remaining individuals seemed to be aware of each other.[4]

The Sleepless were forced into conflict with humans again due to Radiant interest in the city of Akinah. Although they had managed to dissuade early patrols of Windrunners from surveying the island using specialized larkin hybrid hordelings, their vehemence in protecting the island only attracted more attention to it.[54] After Queen Navani commissioned Rysn's ship, the Wandersail, to investigate the oddities during the expedition to Akinah, the Sleepless were forced into steadily more aggressive confrontations with the ship's crew. These engagements resulted in the unmasking of one of their agents, Nikliasorm, fatally compromising the security of their entire operation.[2] Rysn and Cord managed to discover a hidden chamber underneath the island, and the Dawnshard entered Rysn's consciousness. At the same time, the Sleepless battled Lopen, Huio, and the crew of the Wandersail on the beach, killing three sailors.[14]

Despite these events, the Dawnshard maintained anonymity thanks to Rysn's careful planning and negotiating. Nikli revealed a number of secrets about the Dawnshard, and Rysn saw an opportunity to strike a bargain to keep the Dawnshard hidden and train the Sleepless to better pass as human. The Sleepless accepted her deal, also giving her some Soulcaster fabrials and a set of Shardplate for Cord and agreeing to avoid attacking Radiants. Rysn and Cord were sworn to secrecy regarding the Dawnshard, although they were allowed to tell people an altered version of their story. The Sleepless indicated that they would monitor them with hordelings to ensure that they lived up to the bargain.[14]

After Rysn struck the deal, the Sleepless were at least somewhat willing to work with other humans, as one of them met with Jasnah in person. Hoid reported to Jasnah that he did not think any of the Sleepless were working with Odium, but at least one of them was allied with the Ghostbloods.[39] One of the swarms replaced one of Hoid's pens with a hordeling evolved to resemble a pen. Hoid was baffled as to how it had evaded protections he had put in place to avoid such an infiltration. Hoid hoped a friendly swarm might be responsible, but he and Jasnah assumed that it was a spy that was reporting on Hoid's activities to Thaidakar, likely through Mraize.[39]

Notable Sleepless[edit]

Confirmed Sightings[edit]

Brandon Sanderson has indicated that conspicuous appearances of cremlings may indicate the presence of a Sleepless;[55] some such sightings have been directly confirmed by him.

Unconfirmed Sightings[edit]

This page or section deals with theories or speculation.
Please read carefully and note that this is not necessarily canonical.
  • Shallan sketches a cremling in the gardens at her family manor.[60]
  • Mraize shoots a cremling on a tree while meeting with Shallan.[61]
  • Kaladin and Syl see a brightly colored cremling in a jail cell.[62]
  • Kaladin and Syl see an iridescent cremling on the Shattered Plains.[63]
  • Dalinar comes across a cremling while looking for Talenel in the warcamps.[64]
  • Kaladin notices a strange cremling on a table in a stormshelter in Kholinar.[65]

Trivia[edit]

  • The Sleepless were inspired by the Tines in A Fire Upon the Deep, but can spread their members farther apart.[5][66]
  • Brandon first included Sleepless-like beings in his early sci-fi novel Star's End. He later migrated them into the cosmere as he wanted a "truly alien" species.[44]
  • The blurbs on the back covers of the Stormlight Archive books are written from an in-universe perspective and are authored by a Sleepless.[67] The specific swarm is unknown, although it is presumably not Arclo due to its professed disinterest in the Radiants.[4]
  • The Sleepless will play a major role in Mistborn Era 4.[68]

Notes[edit]

  1. a b c The Way of Kings chapter 54#
  2. a b c d e f g h Dawnshard chapter 18#
  3. a b Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Edgedancer chapter 18#
  5. a b c d e Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-06#
  6. General Signed Books 2016
    Arcanum - 2016-11-22#
  7. Arcanum Unbounded release party
    Arcanum - 2016-11-22#
  8. a b c d e Oathbringer interlude I-4#
  9. Skyward Pre-Release AMA
    Arcanum - 2018-10-29#
  10. Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  11. Shadows of Self Nottingham UK signing
    Arcanum - 2015-10-22#
  12. Legion Release Party
    Arcanum - 2018-09-19#
  13. a b Skyward release party
    Arcanum - 2018-11-06#
  14. a b c d e f g Dawnshard chapter 19#
  15. Leipzig Book Fair
    Arcanum - 2017-03-24#
  16. a b Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  17. FanX Spring 2019
    Arcanum - 2019-04-19#
  18. Skyward Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-16#
  19. Skyward Denver signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-15#
  20. Dawnshard chapter 8#
  21. Stormlight Three Update #5
    Arcanum - 2016-11-29#
  22. a b c Skyward Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-10#
  23. Skyward San Diego signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-07#
  24. Leipzig Book Fair
    Arcanum - 2017-03-24#
  25. a b Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  26. Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  27. a b c d e f Dawnshard chapter 6#
  28. Oathbringer chapter 19#
  29. a b Dawnshard chapter 10#
  30. a b c d Oathbringer cover synopsis
  31. Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  32. Prague Signing
    Arcanum - 2019-10-26#
  33. a b Idaho Falls signing
    Arcanum - 2018-12-29#
  34. General Signed Books 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-17#
  35. a b Dawnshard chapter 15#
  36. a b Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  37. Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-15#
  38. a b Dawnshard chapter 9#
  39. a b c Rhythm of War chapter 64#
  40. Skyward release party
    Arcanum - 2018-11-06#
  41. a b FanX Spring 2019
    Arcanum - 2019-04-19#
  42. Dawnshard Annotations Reddit Q&A
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  43. Edgedancer chapter 6#
  44. a b Dawnshard Annotations
    Arcanum - 2020-11-06#
  45. Oathbringer chapter 113 epigraph#
  46. Shadows of Self Boston signing
    Arcanum - 2015-10-14#
  47. Edgedancer chapter 9#
  48. a b The Way of Kings cover synopsis
  49. Oathbringer chapter 42#
  50. Words of Radiance cover synopsis
  51. Edgedancer chapter 16#
  52. Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-01#
  53. The Way of Kings interlude I-5#
  54. Dawnshard chapter 2#
  55. Starsight Release Party
    Arcanum - 2019-11-26#
  56. Words of Radiance epilogue#
  57. Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-06#
  58. The Way of Kings chapter 4#
  59. Supanova 2017 - Sydney
    Arcanum - 2017-06-16#
  60. Words of Radiance chapter 27#
  61. Words of Radiance chapter 43#
  62. Words of Radiance chapter 64#
  63. Words of Radiance chapter 68#
  64. Oathbringer chapter 50#
  65. Oathbringer chapter 77#
  66. Emerald City Comic Con 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-03-01#
  67. Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-06#
  68. Leipzig Book Fair
    Arcanum - 2017-03-24#
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