by Karla Ortiz
|Abilities||Cognitive Shadow, Skybreaker, Shardbearer|
|Bonded With||Unnamed highspren|
|Titles||Herald of the Almighty, Herald of Justice, Patron of the Skybreakers, The Illuminator, The Judge|
|Aliases||Nalan, Nin, Nin-son-God, Darkness, Nakku|
|Groups||Knights Radiant (Skybreaker)|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”Without the law, there is nothing. It is all we have, the only sure thing in this world.—Nale
Nale, also known as Nalan, Nin, or Nakku, is one of the ten Heralds of The Almighty on Roshar. He's the Herald of Justice and the patron of the Order of Skybreakers, as well as a Skybreaker himself.
Appearance and Personality
”Justice does not expire.—Nale
Nale is dark-skinned, and often described as looking Makabaki, or more specifically Azish. The most notable aspect of his appearance is a crescent-shaped birthmark on his right cheek -- something unique to him among the Heralds. He's typically dressed in a uniform of an Azish constable -- a black coat with a double row of silver buttons and a stiff silver collar poking up from beneath, as well as gloves with long collars of their own. His eyes are mentioned as looking glassy, unfeeling and cold. Rosharan artwork typically portrays him as bald, and he does indeed shave his hair close to his scalp.
Nale is obsessed with order and law, and will go to extreme lengths to ensure he doesn't break any laws of the land he's in. This is because he's lost his own sense of justice and morality, and as such, he believes that the only way for him to act correctly is to obey a code of conduct created by others. He is, however, capable of bending the rules to his advantage, such as by appointing himself a lawman to enable him to kill, or pressuring local authorities to change the law. This being said, Nale's still focused on obeying the rules, and will punish even his own underlings for breaking them, regardless of whether doing so is to his advantage. Perhaps because of this, Nightblood wouldn't consider him to be evil.
In his actions, he seems utterly devoid of mercy, and will execute the maximum penalty avaiable to him without a shred of compassion or leniency, regardless of who his victim is. He respects those who share his own blind obedience, and will target them as recruits for the Skybreakers. While understanding that people are fallible, he expects higher standards from those he chooses. He thinks the world of Ishar, and will do anything the man commands, to the point of self-delusion, in all but most dire of circumstances.
Most of Nale's current-day behavior is the result of his experiences during the Desolations. Back then, he was capable of emotions and compassion; in fact, he was highly aware that law was, by itself, inflexible and immoral, and that it fell on lawmakers to make sure that law protected the weak from the strong. However, this empathy was tortured out of him on Braize. Making the matters worse are the highspren, which encourage the unyielding, literal interpretation of the law in him. In his better moments, Nale is aware of what he's lost, and can be horrified by his own behavior, but his current coping patterns quickly reassert themselves.
He seems to have some problems correctly perceiving the passage of time, expressing surprise that food he'd left behind decades prior had gone bad. He is also unfazed by any wounds or pain; he takes an arrow to the face with little more than mild annoyance at being interrupted.
Attributes and Abilities
Herald and Radiant
As a Herald of the Almighty, Nale is immortal. When he dies, he returns to Braize to be tortured. He can return to Roshar when he wishes to stop the pain, although this causes another Desolation. He also has access to an Honorblade, and is one of two Heralds to have recovered his after Aharietiam, along with Ishar. The Honorblade makes him a Surgebinder, granting him powers over the Surges of Division and Gravitation.
Apart from his powers as a Herald, Nale has formed a Nahel bond with a highspren, making him a Skybreaker. He's the only Skybreaker in centuries to have reached the Fifth Ideal. His bond also gives him access to a living Shardblade, giving him two Blades in total. His double bond -- with the Honorblade and the spren -- slightly enhances his powers.
While he has access to Surgebinding during the entire Era of Solitude, he seems to avoid using it in the presence of others, likely to keep a low profile. This changes after he joins the singers, and he seems to have no issues using Gravitation in combat.
”The law cannot be moral, but you can be moral as you create laws. Ever must you protect the weakest, those most likely to be taken advantage of.—Nale
Nale appears to be well-versed in Rosharan law and legal systems. He can seamlessly operate in various states, especially throughout Western Roshar, and use their laws to his advantage. Moreover, Nale appears to be the Heralds' expert in lawkeeping and lawmaking. In the ancient times, he was the one to teach Rosharans about establishing a fair and just legal code. Some of his rules are still in effect on Roshar, most notably the Right of Travel, which he prescribed to prevent the abuses of the weak.
Nale is the head of the Order of Skybreakers, with many of its members sworn to follow him directly as their Third Ideal. This provides him with a small but powerful force willing to obey his every command. The Skybreakers seem to execute his commands unquestioningly, even when he turns against mankind. Some of them have sworn the Fourth Ideal, while others are merely squires, though all seem well-trained.
Apart from the Skybreakers, Nale seems to have vast resources and connections. He has access to various rare items and creatures: he acquired a larkin, has a fabrial able to bring people back from the dead, and was even in possession of Nightblood for a while, having obtained it through unknown means. He keeps caches of food and supplies throughout the continent, though many of them are poorly-maintained.
He is well-connected in Western Roshar. He can track Lift over vast distances and easily get his hands on the attire of local lawkeepers, as well as necessary paperwork for him to join them. He's also fostered good relationships with most local governments, enough so that they're willing to grant him authority after he reveals himself and the Skybreakers to them. It's unknown how well he's embedded himself in the structures of Eastern Roshar, although he has acquired the authority to act as a lawkeeper in Alethkar from king Gavilar Kholin.
”There is no person we would welcome more eagerly into this pact than you. You are the single most honorable man I have ever had the privilege of opposing.
Nale was born on Ashyn, either before or during the great calamity that befell it and forced the human population to leave. Like most others who would eventually become Heralds, he travelled to Roshar to settle there. Sometime afterwards, when the Desolations began, Nale joined the Oathpact, becoming a Herald of the Almighty. It appears that, at the time, he and Jezrien were enemies, though the precise nature of the confict between them is unknown. Eventually, Nale was proven right, while Jezrien turned out wrong. Impressed with Nale's integrity, Jezrien approached Nale about his participation in the Oathpact, to which Nale graciously agreed.
When the Surgebinders began appearing, Nale was initially reluctant to take them under his patronage, even though the nascent Skybreakers named him their master. Following some sort of the disturbance in the toparchy of Revv, however, he agreed to do so, becoming the last Herald to formally accept his Knights Radiant.
Like all other Heralds besides Taln, in time Nale grew too exhausted to keep participating in the Oathpact. He and the others left their Honorblades behind and abandoned the Oathpact in an event later known as Aharietiam. Unlike the others, however, Nale eventually recovered his Blade. He also ended up bonding a highspren and joining his own Radiant Order, becoming the only Herald to have done so.
Era of Solitude
Living in Hiding
At the end of the False Desolation and shortly before the Recreance, Nale and Kalak were both present at the capture of Ba-Ado-Mishram, and thus witnessed the mental damage done to the singers. While Kalak came to regret this event happening, Nale's opinion on it is unknown.
At some point, possibly after the Recreance, Nale began working to prevent another Desolation from happening. Eventually, likely following the advice of Ishar, he came to understand this as eliminating every nascent Surgebinder other than the prospective Skybreakers, whose bonds he had the capacity to permit and deny. By the time of the reunification of Alethkar, he was still doing it, forming a methodology that agreed with his own sentiments: he would track down Surgebinders who had committed some kind of a crime, no matter how minor, and execute them under the pretense of punishment.
The Assassination of Gavilar Kholin
”Tonight I found reason to have [Gavilar] killed, but it will take me months of planning to achieve the proper legality.—Nale
At some point, Nale got in contact with the Alethi king Gavilar, possibly through Kalak and his Sons of Honor, which the king was a part of. While Nale participated in Gavilar's secret project, he didn't seem to have much patience for it. Regardless, he visited the man the night of his assassination.
A few hours before the feast began, Nale stumbled upon Venli and Ulim skulking around the Kholinar Palace, and immediately recognized the latter. Silencing the spren, he began questioning Venli about the number of returning voidspren; however, she managed to trick him into believing that it was his own actions that had prompted a new Return. Incensed, and thinking that Gavilar's project caused the voidspren to come back, Nale decided to try and prevent further catastrophe. He explained to Venli that there was a loophole in the treaty that would allow the listeners to attack the Alethi if they believed there was a conspiracy against them. He also pointed her towards Szeth and pardoned her for sneaking into off-limits section of the palace before leaving in a huff.
During the feast, Nale, once more accompanied by Kalak, met with Gavilar to discuss the king's progress. When Navani walked into the room to question Gavilar's absence from the feast, Nale took it as an opportunity to take his leave, dragging Kalak along with him, perhaps still furious with what Venli had told him. The same night, the two of them briefly spoke with Elhokar Kholin, then left the feasting hall and stumbled on Jasnah, whom Nale treated rather coldly before moving on.
Following the feast, Nale continued his trail of murder, killing Ym for a forty-year-old crime. Afterwards, he focused his efforts on Lift, tracking her down all the way to the royal palace of Azimir. While he managed to catch her, and fill out the proper paperwork to have her killed, Gawx died in the process and Lift managed to heal the boy. This led to Gawx being pronounced the new Prime Aqasix and pardoning Lift, which in turn forced Nale to relent, as he had no excuse to kill her anymore.
Nale briefly returned East for the Battle of Narak, where he caught and revived recently-killed Szeth. He proceeded to recruit the Shin and give him Nightblood, which he had acquired at an unknown point in the past. Afterwards, he took Szeth with him back West on another hunt, this time to Yeddaw, to track down yet another budding Surgebinder. He successfully found Stump, but before he could kill her, Lift confronted him just as the Everstorm was approaching. The combination of the storm and Lift's words managed to get through to Nale as he realized that his plan had failed, and that he had killed for nothing.
Joining the Singers
Following the Everstorm, Nale had a minor breakdown, leaving for parts unknown for several weeks before coming back for Szeth, dropping him off at the Skybreaker training grounds, then leaving again to seek Ishar's guidance. Whatever Ishar had told him worked well enough to calm Nale down, enough so that he was back to his confident self when he returned months later.
He took all the Skybreakers with him south, to Marat. There, he told them the truth of the Aharietiam and the origins of the Desolations. Afterwards, they went further, to Thaylen City, though only Nale and Szeth were present during the Battle of Thaylen Field. As they watched, Nale informed Szeth that he intended for the Skybreakers to follow the singers, as they were the original owners of Roshar. However, he did not participate in the battle.
Initially, Nale attempted to convince Szeth to do the same. When the Shin chose to follow Dalinar instead, Nale had no hard feelings about it, and promised to return later to teach Szeth the Surge of Division. He then departed, though it's uncertain where to.
The Emuli Frontline
”How are you a Bondsmith? You should not exist, Blackthorn. Your cause is not righteous. You should be denied the true Surges of Honor.
A year into the True Desolation, Nale and his Skybreakers were sent to Emul to fight on the side of the Voidbringers. During one particular battle, he approached the army leader, Dalinar Kholin, and tried to persuade him to submit to the law of the singers; however, before he could go too far into his speech, Cord shot him in the face, to which he barely responded. After pulling the arrow out and healing his face, he descended to the deck of the floating platform the others were on.
Nale approached Dalinar, incredulous that the man such as him would be made a Bondsmith. He tried to amend this and launched himself at Dalinar, but before he could attack, Dalinar, prompted by Stormfather, used his abilities on the Herald, and saw a number of visions from Nale's memory. Starting from Nale abandoning the Oathpact, they went back in time, showing Nale fighting dark forces while protecting a small child, Nale establishing the Vorin right of travel, Nale kneeling before a highspren, and endless fighting he partook in. Last was the vision of Nale agreeing to join the Oathpact with Jezrien.
When the visions ended, Nale, shocked at what had happened, backed away from Dalinar, revealing a line connecting the two -- the manifestation of the Oathpact. Tearing the line, Nale quickly leaped out of the platform and fled, clearly terrified by Dalinar's feat.
”You're worried about everything. (...) Shut up.
”Praize Yaezir. Herald of Kings. May he lead in wisdom. If he ever stops drooling.
Nale greatly respects Ishar and his opinions, believing the Herald of Luck to be the only one who hasn't succumbed to madness. It was likely at Ishar's suggestion that Nale began his crusade against Surgebinders, and when the Everstorm comes, Nale goes to Ishar for comfort and advice. His respect extends somewhat to the Bondsmiths, as he has extremely high standards for what makes one worthy of the bond -- standards Ishar meets, but Dalinar doesn't.
By contrast, Nale respect for other Heralds seems to have eroded with time. Once, he considered fighting alongside Jezrien to be an honor; these days, however, he's been keeping tabs on the Herald of Kings, and considers him to be little more than a drooling idiot. He and Kalak traveled together a couple of times, most notably during the capture of Ba-Ado-Mishram and the Assassination of Gavilar. He has little patience for the man and his worries, and Kalak's perpetual paranoia and fear annoys him. He doesn't seem to keep in touch with the other Heralds; he doesn't care when Kalak mentions Shalash, and never once speaks of Talenel despite the new Desolation.
Nale is very impressed with Szeth, calling him one of the people most deserving of joining the Skybreakers. He's been watching Szeth for a considerable period of time while the latter was Truthless, having followed him since at least the Assassination of Gavilar Kholin. He greatly respects Szeth's obedience to the Oathstone, enough so to revive him from death and entrust him with Nightblood.
Even after recruiting Szeth, Nale seems to take a special interest in him above other candidates. He seems comfortable telling Szeth his life story and speaking to him in private about the true history of the world. He's also fairly indifferent and accepting of Szeth's opinions, despite them disagreeing with his own. Even when Szeth decides to side with the people opposing singers -- and, by extension, against Nale -- the Herald respects it and remains friendly, even promising to teach him further.
Nale has been hunting Lift relentlessly for a while by the time she arrives in Azimir and attempts to rob the Bronze Palace, enough so for her to recognize him right away. She nicknames him Darkness, and is initially terrified of him, though when his plans to kill her fail, he departs easily enough.
Afterwards, Lift takes to hunting him herself, trying to stop him from killing more Surgebinders, which eventually leads to the two having a confrontation in Yeddaw. Nale is initially rather glad that she came to be judged, and has every intention of killing her. However, she manages to talk him down and point out to him that the Desolation is starting again, which seems to temporarily return him to his senses. She even hugs him, although he departs shortly after.
”We are not friends. You persist only because I cannot destroy spren.
Nale and Ulim are familiar with each other, and have interacted in the past enough so for Nale to recognize the voidspren on sight. Nale despises him; he brushes away Ulim's attempts at small talk and tells him straight-up that if he had the capacity to kill spren, Ulim would already be dead. In turn, despite being immune to anything Nale could throw at him, Ulim is terrified of him, and immediately falls silent when commanded. After realizing how badly time has ravaged his mind, Ulim notes that the Herald's condition is similar to that of the Fused, and revels in Venli tricking him.
”Nin-son-God, Nale, Nakku, Nalan—this man had a hundred different names and was revered across all Roshar.
As a Herald, Nale is significant in a number of Rosharan cultures. In Vorinism, he's called Nalan, and is associated with the number 2 (or Nan), the Essence of Vapor, and the attributes Just and Confident. People often swear by Nalan's hand, or say "Nalan send..." to express hope. More crudely, an expression "Nale's nuts" is sometimes used. On the whole, however, he does not feature in Vorin sayings particularly often; certainly less so than Kalak.
In Shinovar, he's revered as Nin-son-God, and believed to be the founder of humanity. The Azish know him as Nakku the Judge. He's also ascribed the title of the Illuminator, and is mentioned as having a hundred other names across the world, among them the Herald of Justice.
- Words of Radiance interlude I-9#
- Words of Radiance chapter 43 epigraph#
- Oathbringer chapter 106#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-2#
- Oathbringer Chicago signing
— Arcanum - 2017-11-21#
- Words of Radiance chapter 88#
- Edgedancer chapter 8#
- Nale chapter capstone
- Nale relief
- Rhythm of War chapter 47#
- Oathbringer chapter 121#
- Edgedancer chapter 16#
- Orem Signing
— Arcanum - 2019-03-16#
- Stormlight Three Update #5
— Arcanum - 2016-11-19#
- Edgedancer chapter 19#
- San Diego [email protected] 2020
— Arcanum - 2020-07-23#
- Oathbringer chapter 90#
- Rhythm of War chapter 111#
- Words of Radiance Houston signing
— Arcanum - 2014-03-11#
- Oathbringer chapter 117#
- Oathbringer chapter 92#
- Rhythm of War chapter 77#
- Skyward Denver signing
— Arcanum - 2018-11-15#
- The Way of Kings chapter prelude#
- Orem Signing
— Arcanum - 2019-03-16#
- Rhythm of War chapter 24#
- Rhythm of War chapter 96 epigraph#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-2#
- Rhythm of War prologue#
- Words of Radiance prologue#
- Edgedancer chapter 15#
- Oathbringer chapter 98#
- Oathbringer chapter 116#
- Oathbringer chapter 120#
- Edgedancer prologue#
- Edgedancer chapter 9#
- The Way of Kings Ars Arcanum#
- Words of Radiance chapter 44#
- Rhythm of War chapter 7#
- Oathbringer chapter 53#