by Dwayne Wingert
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
The Last Legion and Abandoning of the Gods
”Long are the days since we knew the dark home,” Mother sang softly to one of the Rhythms of Remembrance. “The Last Legion, that was our name then. Warriors who had been set to fight in the farthest plains, this place that had once been a nation and was now rubble. Dead was the freedom of most people. The forms, unknown, were forced upon us. Forms of power, yes, but also forms of obedience. The gods commanded, and we did obey, always. Always.
The listeners were originally called the Last Legion, and like other singers in the Voidbringer army, they followed the commands of the Fused, who were the listeners' gods. The listeners lived in somewhere called the dark home (but this might have been metaphorical for being under Odium's influence, and not an actual place). The Last Legion was sent to fight in the farthest plains, probably the plains of Natanatan and the Shattered Plains.
One day the Last Legion fled, leaving the forms of power for dullform. Despite being thus crippled, it would lead to freedom from their gods. These listeners composed many songs to remember their history and forms, such as the Song of Listing, Song of Secrets, and Song of Histories because they risked forgetting everything. They had only known how to transform into forms other than dullform and mateform with the help of gods.
Since the listeners recall this story about throwing off the Fused, this event must have occurred prior to or around the time of Aharietiam, the Last Desolation, as Fused been trapped in Damnation for four and a half millennia after that point.
Later, near the time of the Recreance and what was probably the False Desolation, the Unmade Ba-Ado-Mishram Connected to most singers, providing the singers with forms of power and Voidlight. The Knights Radiant sought to stop this threat by imprisoning Ba-Ado-Mishram. They succeeded but in doing so, stole part of singers' souls, turning them into slaveform. The listeners were spared from this event, and so it seems that they were not involved with the False Desolation. They became the only singers on Roshar with their minds still intact.
The listeners inhabited the broken kingdom of Natanatan and the Unclaimed Hills in eastern Roshar for long time, unknown to most humans. For much of this, they knew only dullform and mateform, but eventually discovered warform and workform (and much later, nimbleform).
The listeners were much less unified than they are when seen during the War of Reckoning. They were once split into a number of separate tribes, with raids and assassinations as a relatively frequent occurrence. This is reflected in the listeners having enough cultural experience with assassination to have norms as to how they ought to be carried out.
To modern humans, the listeners were originally discovered by Alethi King Gavilar's brother Dalinar Kholin during a hunting trip. Dalinar was scouting in a forest that wasn't on any maps. In a valley south of the Shattered Plains and about two weeks' march from the Drying Sea, Dalinar saw the first listener camped on the other side of a tributary of the Deathbend River. Eshonai was one of these camped listeners. The Alethi called the listeners the "Parshendi," or parshmen who can think.
The Alethi made a treaty with the listeners to secure trade routes. Due to a translation error, the Alethi thought the listeners' gods were the greatshells on the Shattered Plains, the chasmfiends,. However, Gavilar, having seen visions, knew the chasmfiends were not the Parshendi's gods. Gavilar came up with a plan to bring back the listener gods to bring back the Heralds. Gavilar gave Eshonai a black sphere—filled with Voidlight—and told her to give it to the listeners' leading council, The Five. Gavilar hoped they would welcome their gods returning.
But the listeners feared their gods' return. Their ancestors had abandoned their gods and adopted dullform to escape them. After frantic debate, the Five decided they would maintain their freedom at any cost. Earlier that day, Klade purchased Szeth, an assassin, from the slavers. They instructed him to assassinate Gavilar and to wear white while doing it, because it was a Parshendi tradition for assassinations.
War of Reckoning
During the war, these listeners moved their population to Narak from the western edge of the Shattered Plains, where the Alethi warcamps are now situated, though hundreds of thousands of listeners had lived scattered across the entirety of the Plains. The war of attrition lasted for six years, and their population slowly dwindled.
Eventually, Venli persuaded Eshonai that they would die unless they did something drastic. Venli had discovered stormform, one of the forms of power. Eshonai took the form and was controlled by it. While in the form, she forced many other listeners to adopt it as well in order to stop the Alethi and the destruction of their species.
At the Battle of Narak, where Highprince Dalinar Kholin led an expedition to end the War of Reckoning, the listeners in stormform, sung a terrible song. It formed the Everstorm and with it, the True Desolation began.
The True Desolation
Shortly after the Battle of Narak, the Fused began to Return in the Everstorm and took over former listeners' bodies and killing them in the process. Venli nearly succumbed to this, until Odium stopped a Fused from entering her. Venli instead received envoyform.
Odium used Venli to tell the story of the listeners to try and inspire the newly restored singers to fight.
Male listeners grew beards, which they thread through beads infused with Stormlight.
The listeners learned how to capture spren in gemstones by watching humans, then working out the process for themselves. This allowed them to change forms much more reliably. Before capturing the spren they wanted for the form, there was a chance a listener would end up in a form they did not want.
Gavilar believed the humans stole the parshmen's ability to transform by capturing "an ancient, crucial spren" in a gemstone.
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