Listener

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Listener
Parshendi by Dwayne Wingert.jpg
Species Singers
World of Origin Roshar
Universe Cosmere
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We are the listeners. We will cast off everything—including our very forms if we must—to find freedom.

The listeners, called the Parshendi by the Alethi, are a singer ethnic group on Roshar. By the end of the War of Reckoning in the Vorin year 1174, they had a population of around thirty-seven thousand individuals.[2]

Prior to the True Desolation, they live in eastern Roshar near the Shattered Plains. During the War of Reckoning, they inhabit the city of Narak, but after the arrival of the Everstorm and the start of the True Desolation, the remaining listeners leave Narak and begin roaming around on the Shattered Plains.

Geography and Agriculture[edit]

Geography[edit]

The listeners used to live in the Unclaimed Hills, very close to the Shattered Plains. Some listener families occupied the circular craters near the western edge of the plains, while others spent their lives living in the wilderness around these craters. Many listeners believe that the wilderness should remain uncharted, left to greatshells and spren, although others strongly disagree with this.[3] It is likely because of this attitude that the listeners know very little about the world and the wilderness beyond their cities.

Narak, the home of the listeners during the War of Reckoning

After the assassination of King Gavilar Kholin, the listeners fled to the Shattered Plains and inhabited the city of Narak.[4] After the end of the war and the Battle of Narak, the remaining listeners roamed around the Shattered Plains for a while.[4][5]

Agriculture and Foraging[edit]

The listeners cultivate multiple plant species. They grow and eat grain from a certain type of rockbud.[6] They also use the dried pulp from a species of rockbud to make paper.[3] The listeners also grow and prune shalebark, although they mostly do this for decoration.[7] They also eat mushrooms, which they gather in the forests near the Shattered Plains.[3]

The listeners also use a technique unknown to other Rosharans to make their crops grow faster. This technique involves Stormlight, music (specifically one of the Rhythms), and lifespren. This technique also drains Stormlight from the used gemstones, and can even crack them in a way very similar to a that of a fabrial.[8]

Animal Husbandry and Hunting[edit]

They also practice animal husbandry and hunting. They are known to have domesticated chulls. They also keep hogs, which are herded around by groups of listeners;[6] because of this, they have access to hogsmeat and hogshide leather.[9]

The listeners also hunt chasmfiends, although they only do this during certain seasons.[9] The listeners are willing to share the chasmfiends with the Alethi, believing that anyone who goes through the trouble of killing the beast is entitled to its corpse.[10] During a greatshell hunt, multiple families band together and use their Shards to kill the animal. The listeners then share the corpse and gemheart with each other, and a feast ensues.[11]

Government[edit]

The Five[edit]

Use and Function[edit]

The listeners are ruled by five individuals, collectively known as the Council of Five, or simply the Five. Before the listener families unified, each family had their own Five, but after their unification the listeners accepted the rule of a single Five.[3] It is unknown how these five listeners are chosen. The Five seem to have absolute authority over the listeners, although any decision needs at least a majority among the Five before it can be put into action.[7] The duties of the Five are very diverse, from approving ideas to planning attacks on other families.[4][3] At least some professions have leaders whose authorities exist outside of that of the Five. One such listener is Denshil, who serves as the listener head of farming.[12]

Composition[edit]

The composition of the Five has changed over time as more forms were discovered. At first, the Five were all in dullform, and later, after the discovery of workform, the members of the council were all in workform. When nimbleform was discovered, the Council changed to being made up of one member of each form.[7]

During the War of Reckoning the composition Five was as follows:

Form Name
Dullform Zuln
Mateform Abronai
Nimbleform Chivi
Warform Eshonai
Workform Davim

Foreign Policy and International Relationships[edit]

Alethkar[edit]

The listeners have a hostile relationship with the Alethi, though their relationship was originally more amicable. The Alethi were the first humans to be discovered by the listeners.[3] After a couple of expeditions, the Alethi wished to formalize their relationship. The listeners agreed, and a treaty was signed.[13] This treaty contained clauses to simplify trade between the peoples and for mutual border crossing. The treaty also prevented the listeners from trading their Shards to other kingdoms without first coming to Alethkar. Besides these clauses, the treaty also allowed for one party to legally attack the other party.[14]

After the Alethi king Gavilar revealed to Eshonai that he was going to return their gods, the listeners decided to assassinate him.[13] The assassination attempt was successful, and the Alethi highprinces swore to destroy the listeners. This started the War of Reckoning, a war between the Alethi and the listeners which went on for six years and eventually ended in the Battle of Narak.[15]

Military[edit]

Armament[edit]

Listener soldiers use warform, which grants them strong carapace armor as well as increased strength.[4] Though not as strong or resilient as someone with Shardplate, warform listeners are a real threat to regular human soldiers. Their strength allows them to use heavy weapons like battleaxes, hammers, spears, and sometimes clubs or swords.[16][3] They are also capable of jumping far enough to cross the chasms on the Shattered Plains.[17]

Most of the steel weapons owned by the listeners are either of Alethi origin or have been passed down from parent to child starting at the abandonment of the old gods.[18] The listeners are also fond of two-handed slings[19] and bows made from horn,[20] although bows are viewed as too deadly to wield against other listeners.[11] Some listeners carry large shields called stormshields when going out into a highstorm; however, it is unknown if this type of shield is also used in combat.[21] It is considered the duty of each warrior to care for his ancient weapon and make his own arrows.[3] These arrows are fletched with painted scragglebark.[19] The listeners also use blowguns to hunt small game; these blowguns are deadly enough to hurt humans.[22]

At one point the listeners have eight sets of Shardplate and eight Shardblades,[11] although they gradually lose all of these during the War of Reckoning.[23] As it is considered forbidden for these Shards to be wielded against other listeners, they are originally used only for greatshell hunts. Later, they are also used to fight the Alethi during the War of Reckoning. Before this war it was tradition that when one of the proper eight listener cities was conquered the defeated family would relinquish their Shards to the victors.[11]

Regular soldiers often wear simple garments that are tailored around their warform carapace. Some of them also wear long coats, although these aren't worn into battle. The listener general wears a cap on their skullplate and a tight red cloth as a cape.[7] The listeners dress their soldiers in white, believing that a man should be able to see his own death coming. White also signals to other listeners that a battle is coming, instead of a different interaction such as trade.[11] Because of this, they also dress assassins in white.[13] This changes during the War of Reckoning, although it is unknown why.[19]

Tactics[edit]

The listeners' warfare used to be highly ritualistic, with little to no actual combat and deaths.[11] They would only fight to capture one of the cities on the western edge of the Shattered Plains; any family that attacks for a different reason would immediately be shunned by the other families.[3] There were different times when traditions were broken and battles turned into horrible massacres.[11] Their tactics changed significantly during the War of Reckoning, although some aspects of their original tactics remained. These changes were likely made by the listener general, Eshonai.

The listeners would often attack shortly before or after a storm came.[3][11] They used drums to warn allies and enemies of an upcoming battle. The preparations for a battle would mostly be made up of where to put which warriors and what boasts to yell.[3] These battles often started with the participants yelling boasts, insults, and challenges at each other. After that, both families would take turns throwing spears at each other. When someone was hit, their family might withdraw, but if they didn't, both sides would move on to close combat.[11]

A notable aspect of the listeners' new combat strategy is their use of warpairs,[24] pairs of warriors who fight side by side as partners. These listener warpairs move around the battlefield in coordinated maneuvers and attack enemy troops with heavy weapons from multiple directions.[25] Each warpair also carries different weapons. A warpair is generally made up of a malen and a femalen listener.[26] The listeners also use shortbows to harry and weaken their enemies.[27] The listeners have at times executed raids during a highstorm.[28]

After six years of war the listeners also became very adept at dealing with the Alethi Shardbearers. They would use two-handed slings to hurl head-sized rocks at Shardbearers; these rocks were capable quickly damage Shardplate, with a single blow being enough to make cracks in an unharmed section of Plate.[19]

Organization and Hierarchy[edit]

The listener army is divided into multiple divisions, each one hundred and twenty-eight in number. These divisions have their own name, and may sometimes be made up of of different forms entirely. An example of this is the Storm Division, a division made entirely of Stormforms.[2] Some of these divisions may join into a single army called a warband.[12] During wartime the listeners also have many warpair scouts, usually from a single division, roaming around, searching for any sign of their enemies. Near the end of the War of Reckoning the entire army was around seventeen thousand listeners, or roughly one hundred and thirty-three divisions, strong.[2]

The listener military is commanded by a general, also called a warleader, who is also the warform representative in the Council of Five. During the War of Reckoning Eshonai served as general.[7] Beneath the general are a number of lieutenants. It is likely that these lieutenants control a division each.[2]

Culture[edit]

People[edit]

Fashion[edit]

Listeners wear a wide variety of clothing. They are often seen wearing robes,[29] shirts, skirts, and coats.[11] When listeners go out into a highstorm to adopt a new form, they often wear loose robes. This is likely so that their clothes don't get ripped apart during the transformation of their body.[12] Their clothes are all made from woven narbin cloth.[30] Listener men weave bits of uncut gemstones from the gemhearts of chasmfiends in their beard.[10] Members of each family all wear different gemstones, so a listener can recognize what family someone belongs to just by looking at the gemstones in their beard.[29] They also wear bands on their braids, and members of different families have differently colored bands.[29]

Relation to Freedom[edit]

Due to their history, the listeners greatly value their freedom. Because of their fear of the gods, and their ancestors' sacrifice, the listeners decide to assassinate King Gavilar of Alethkar. However, during the resulting war many listeners stop caring about their origins. It is also important to the listeners that everyone can choose their own form, and the Five cannot command people to choose a form.[7][2] Some listeners hate trapping spren and instead prefer to go out into the highstorms themselves and attract the proper spren.[31]

Funerary Practices[edit]

The listeners revere their dead, even going so far as to endanger the living to preserve the corpses of the fallen. For example, they take roundabout paths of attack to avoid their fallen while fighting on a battlefield.[32] They find it horrible to touch their dead and will fervently attack anyone who does so.[26][33] Listeners also consider their gemhearts sacred and personal.[34]

Listeners are buried in a ritual called a sky burial, although it is not completely clear what this entails.[35]

Families[edit]

Prior to the War of Reckoning, the listeners were organized in tribe-like families that would vie for control of the ten cities along the western border of the Shattered Plains. There were roughly a dozen families.[29] Some notable listener families include:

First-Rhythm

The family of Eshonai, Venli, Thude,[36] Bila,[36] and likely also Rlain.[18] They were thousands strong around the time Eshonai first met with King Gavilar's expedition and boasted a noble heritage, though it had been many years since they had controlled one of the ten cities.[3]

Living-Songs

The second family approached by the First-Rhythm family after the discovery of warform in their attempt at unification of the listener tribes.[11]

Pure-Song

Known to have raided the Fourth-Movement family out in the wilderness, away from any city, in an attempt to steal their weapons. This action earned them the scorn of other families.[3]

Fourth-Movement

Once raided by the Pure-Song family in an attempt to seize their weapons.[3]

Songs[edit]

[expand]

In order to remember their history and important skills the listeners remember them via songs, each to the beat of a different Rhythm of Roshar. The listeners also have songs about human Surgebinders.[12] These songs were practiced and preserved by a Keeper of Songs. The known songs are as follows:

Architecture[edit]

Prior to the True Desolation the listeners are technologically behind the rest of Roshar. They live in huts made from hardened crem over frames of shell, which are huddled on the leeward side of lumps of stone to protect them from highstorms.[7] These buildings are fragile and would often be destroyed by highstorms, although the listeners would simply rebuild them. The listeners also live in hogshide tents.[3] The Shattered Plains contain a large number of listener bridges, which are flimsy and made of wood and rope.[9] These bridges were likely destroyed during the War of Reckoning. They furnish their houses with woven mats and painted banners.[6]

When a highstorm is close, the people prepare their homes, an action which includes stuffing rags under their doors, shoving bracing boards into position, and pounding large wooden blocks into their open windows. Before the start of the War of Reckoning, some of the listener families occupy the ten circular craters near the western edge of the plains; they are eventually forced to move to the center of the Shattered Plains.[4]

Crafts[edit]

Paper[edit]

The listeners have their own unique way of making paper. They make the paper from dried rockbud pulp following a harvest.[4] These rockbuds are native to the Unclaimed Hills and Shattered Plains. Their paper is much rougher then human paper and varies in color. Their paper is also textured and full instead of neat and sterile.[7] They have a song describing the process, which ensures that the listeners never forget how to make it.[3]

Drums[edit]

The listeners make music using drums. These drums are considered crude by the Alethi, made of hogshide leather and wood. The sides of these drums are stamped with hand prints.[30] The listeners often play their drums in a quick rhythm.[13] It is likely that the listeners beat the drums to one of the Rhythms.

Language[edit]

Terms in the listener language
  • essai -- human-lover (literally "hairy")[37]
  • narak -- exile
  • neshua kadal -- Knight Radiant
  • ulo mas vara -- monster of the chasms/chasmfiend
Listener Concepts translated into Alethi
  • long sleep -- the long span spent in dullform
  • lull -- the time the Alethi call "The Weeping"
  • Rider of Storms -- the Stormfather
  • stormpause -- the span between two highstorms

The listener language is descended from the Dawnchant and is related to the Shin and Unkalaki languages.[38] They measure time using the rhythm of peace, they use movements and half movements as units of time.[7]

Phrases and Idioms

See Curses and Phrases

History[edit]

The Last Legion and Abandoning of the Gods[edit]

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.

A Listener army

The listeners were originally called the Last Legion,[7] 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.[7]

One day the Last Legion, or at least some members of the Last Legion, four hundred strong,[29] fled, leaving the forms of power for dullform. Despite being thus crippled, it led 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.[7] Modern-day listeners called this period "the long sleep."[9][fn 1]

Later, near the time of the Recreance and the False Desolation,[39] the Unmade Ba-Ado-Mishram Connected to most singers, providing the singers with forms of power and Voidlight.[40] 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.[41] The listeners were spared from this event, and so it seems that they were not involved with the False Desolation. Due to this, 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.[7] During this time they also acquired eight sets of Shardplate and eight Shardblades.[11] For much of this time, they knew only dullform and mateform, but eventually rediscovered more forms.

A listener archer

Alethi Discovery[edit]

To modern humans, the listeners were originally discovered by the Alethi King Gavilar's brother Dalinar Kholin during a hunting trip in 1166.[25][30][3] 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. There, he found Eshonai, exploring.[42][3] She led the humans to her family's camp. In that same day, Venli had discovered that painspren may be the key to discovering warform, but her discovery was overshadowed by her sister's.[11]

At first, the Council of Five only let a few listeners come to meet the Alethi, afraid of frightening them. Slowly, some of the listeners, including Eshonai, began to learn the Alethi language. The Alethi were very interested in the listener's ancient weapons and in the chasmfiends. Due to a mistake in translation, the Alethi started believing that the listeners worshipped the chasmfiends.[9] The listeners were very intrigued by the Alethi's parshmen, believing they had no souls.[43] The Alethi called the listeners the "Parshendi," or parshmen who can think.[13] They gave many steel weapons to Eshonai's family, wanting them to take one of the cities at the edge of the Plains.[9]

In the next human visit, Eshonai and Venli's family had already taken one of the cities at the border of the Shattered Plains. Venli had made no more progress in discovering warform. One of the Alethi, Axindweth, gave a gemstone to Venli with Ulim trapped inside, saying it might help her cure her mother, Jaxlim.[43] Venli broke the gemstone and started talking with Ulim.[36] Ulim helped Venli cut a gemstone so that it glowed more brightly and trap a painspren in it.[6] She made about two dozen gemstones with painspren, and gave them to listeners to adopt warform. One of those was Jaxlim, but since Jaxlim didn't adopt the proper mindset for the form, Eshonai, who was acompanying her, took the form instead.

After the storm in which they adopted warform, another family attacked them. The warform listeners and the family's Shardbearer went out and told them to unite with their family, in order to show the humans an united nation when they next came to the Shattered Plains.[11] They went to dozens of families with their proposal of unity, and they all gathered in the First-Rhythm family's city. Venli told Ulim to have his contacts among the humans make Gavilar bring listeners to the human cities, hoping to intimidate the other listeners and convince them to take forms of power.[29]

However, upon visiting the human cities, the listeners weren't intimidated; they liked the city and enjoyed themselves there.[14] They signed a treaty with the humans in Tanat 1167, and there was a party to celebrate it.[13] That day, Nale approached Venli, saying that Gavilar was going to betray the listeners and that Venli had to assassinate the king to stop him. That gave Ulim the idea of killing the king to drive the humans to attack the listeners, to intimidate them.[14] At the same time, Gavilar indicated to Eshonai that he wanted to bring back the listener gods. Since the Council of Five feared their gods' return, they voted and decided to kill the king to stop him. Ulim had guided Klade to buy Szeth, so they sent Szeth and he killed Gavilar.[42] The assassination led to the formation of the Alethi Vengeance Pact and caused the War of Reckoning, a prolonged war between the listeners and the Alethi on the Shattered Plains.

Listeners after a battle with the Alethi

War of Reckoning[edit]

During the war, the listeners moved their population to the city at the center of the Shattered Plains. They named the city Narak, meaning exile, because they were trapped there after the humans moved to the cities at the edge of the Plains.[4][18] With help from Ulim, Venli discovered nimbleform, though it still took her several tries to do it.[12] The war of attrition lasted for six years, and the listener population slowly dwindled.[7]

In the meantime, Venli worked to discover stormform. When cutting gemhearts to make them brighter, her scholars secretly saved pieces of the gemstones to store spren. The main problem Venli was trying to solve was how to draw the stormspren to the Physical Realm.[12] She eventually discovered that lightning pulls the spren through, and managed to trap the spren.[21] Venli brought the form to the Five, and they agreed to a test, though Eshonai insisted she should be the one to try the form, because Venli was too valuable with her knowledge of the forms.[7]

Eshonai took the form, and when she returned to the Five, she proposed to transform every listener to stormform, to summon a storm against the Alethi. However, Zuln didn't agree, and she convinced Abronai to disagree as well. So, Eshonai went to the listeners and proclaimed that the Five could not forbid someone from taking a form if they wished to, and that she would take everyone who wished and transform them into stormform. She gathered the people that refused to transform, and put Thude to guard them. They fled into the chasms, and Eshonai let them, believing that they would be killed in the next highstorm.[44]

At the Battle of Narak on Ishishach 1173,[45] the final confrontation between the listeners and the Alethi Highprinces, the listeners in stormform sung a terrible song. It formed the Everstorm and with it, the True Desolation began.[46]

The True Desolation[edit]

Shortly after the Battle of Narak, the Fused began to take listener bodies.[47] It seemed that they transformed every single listener into a Fused, except for Venli, who was chosen by Odium to remain alive, taking envoyform; however, it was later discovered that others survived, specifically Rlain, Thude, Jaxlim, and a couple thousand others who resisted the change to stormform.[48][34][37][5]

Odium used Venli to tell the story of the listeners to the new singers to inspire them and show them that the people who summoned the Everstorm were singers like them, not beings of legend. Instructed by Odium, she painted the listeners as an heroic group, sacrificing themselves to free the enslaved singers, to be the foundation myth of Odium's growing empire.[34] However, Odium also feared the listeners, as the people who had rebelled against him, so he stopped allowing Venli to answer questions and instructed her to tell her story in a specific way.[49]

Notable Listeners[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. 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 the Fused were trapped in Damnation for four and a half millennia after that point.

Notes[edit]

  1. Rhythm of War chapter 11#
  2. a b c d e Words of Radiance interlude I-11#
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Rhythm of War chapter 45#
  4. a b c d e f g Words of Radiance interlude I-1#
  5. a b Rhythm of War chapter 115#
  6. a b c d Rhythm of War chapter 62#
  7. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Words of Radiance interlude I-4#
  8. Rhythm of War chapter 15#
  9. a b c d e f Rhythm of War chapter 48#
  10. a b The Way of Kings chapter 36#
  11. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Rhythm of War chapter 68#
  12. a b c d e f Rhythm of War chapter 86#
  13. a b c d e f The Way of Kings prologue#
  14. a b c Rhythm of War chapter 77#
  15. Words of Radiance chapter 81#
  16. The Way of Kings chapter 40#
  17. The Way of Kings chapter 27#
  18. a b c Rhythm of War chapter 81#
  19. a b c d The Way of Kings chapter 65#
  20. The Way of Kings chapter 55#
  21. a b Rhythm of War chapter 88#
  22. Words of Radiance chapter 43#
  23. Words of Radiance interlude I-3#
  24. The Way of Kings chapter 26#
  25. a b The Way of Kings chapter 28#
  26. a b The Way of Kings chapter 56#
  27. The Way of Kings chapter 17#
  28. Words of Radiance interlude I-5#
  29. a b c d e f Rhythm of War chapter 73#
  30. a b c The Way of Kings chapter 45#
  31. Words of Radiance interlude I-8#
  32. The Way of Kings chapter 57#
  33. The Way of Kings chapter 62#
  34. a b c Oathbringer interlude I-7#
  35. Rhythm of War chapter 109#
  36. a b c Rhythm of War chapter 57#
  37. a b Rhythm of War chapter 60#
  38. /r/Stormlight_Archive
    Arcanum - 2016-11-29#
  39. Oathbringer chapter 56#
  40. Oathbringer chapter 80 epigraph#
  41. Oathbringer chapter 81 epigraph#
  42. a b Oathbringer prologue#
  43. a b Rhythm of War chapter 52#
  44. Rhythm of War interlude I-11#
  45. Words of Radiance chapter 79#
  46. Words of Radiance chapter 84#
  47. Oathbringer chapter I-6#
  48. Oathbringer interlude I-6#
  49. Oathbringer interlude I-12#
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