|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Nightwatcher doesn't trick you or twist your words. You ask a boon. She gives what she feels you deserve, then gives you a curse to go along with it. Sometimes related, sometimes not. ”It's not a game, no matter how the stories try to put it. The
The Old Magic is a manifestation of Investiture on Roshar. A person can gain a single unique ability from the Old Magic, but are also given a unique curse along with their boon, which may or may not be related.
To gain a boon and a curse from the Old Magic, a person has to seek the Nightwatcher. Anyone is allowed to seek a single boon from the Nightwatcher. To do this, the person must first travel to the Valley in the west, where the Nightwatcher resides. After finding the Nightwatcher, the person may request a boon. In very rare cases, a boon and curse can be given by Cultivation. The precise phrasing of the request does not appear to make a difference, however, since the Nightwatcher bestows a boon that she feels the person deserves. The Old Magic can be given to any sapient species, including ones not from Roshar. A person's boon and curse stay with them for life and will stay with them if they leave Roshar. The boons and curses are limited in a particular manner. According to Lift, those who have the Old Magic have a certain "smell". Many view the Old Magic as inscrutable.
There is more to Old Magic than just boons and banes; however, there is no person currently known to make use of that.
The Nightwatcher claims to have the ability to grant almost any physical request one might ask of her, though just because she can does not mean she will give what is asked for. She claims to be able to give many things such as renown, wealth, skill, the ability to swing a sword and never tire, beauty, followers, even glory. She even claims she can give a person physical possessions such as spheres, gemstones, shards, or a Blade that bleeds darkness and cannot be defeated. The Nightwatcher does have trouble with extremely nebulous requests relating to human emotion. The Nightwatcher is also capable of changing a person's species, and can alter a person's DNA or Spiritweb.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to avoid the curse by carefully phrasing a request--or even to predict the curse that the Nightwatcher will bestow. Interestingly, it does not appear that balance is carefully maintained through an individual blessing and curse--often, highly visible curses are the result of relatively minor boons. The curses can be quite thorough, however--in one case, a man lost all feeling in both of his hands until the day he died. Whether these curses follow some cosmic justice, or are merely the result of a capricious spren, is unknown. Many people throughout centuries have tried to find ways of dealing with their curse and a cure for them, with no successful attempts. There is no record of anyone ever having had their curse lifted.
The precise wording of her request is unknown, but Lift believes that "she was supposed to stay the same, and the world was supposed to change around her." Lift interprets this to mean that she shouldn't age, which does not appear to be the case. The boon and curse are unknown, but Lift's abilities to physically touch Wyndle and to digest food into Investiture are apparently related to one or both of these. Lift's Spiritweb has something changed about it to allow her to convert her mass to Investiture directly. She can only convert what she is able to metabolize for nutrients to Investiture. Because of this, Lift is unable to get Stormlight from spheres. Wyndle supposes that she is partially stuck in the Cognitive Realm. Lift's boon also allows her control over the visions entrusted to the Stormfather by Honor. She is able to enter the visions without the Stormfather's help, leaving on her own and taking Yanagawn with her.
- Dalinar Kholin
Dalinar sought the Nightwatcher to end the pain he was feeling after causing the death of his wife, Evi Kholin. When he finally visited the Valley, he asked to be "forgiven", much to Nightwatcher's confusion. Eventually, Cultivation decided to intervene. She erased his memories of Evi, calling it a "pruning" of his memory so he could grow and heal, but made it so that the memories would eventually return. As a result, Dalinar has no memory of killing Evi or anything involving her, although he is aware she existed. Additionally, when someone mentions her name, all that he hears is "Shshshsh".
Taravangian claims to have asked the Nightwatcher for, "Capacity. Capacity to stop what was coming. The capacity to save humankind." Cultivation personally intervened when he asked for his boon. As a result, Taravangian's level of intelligence varies from day to day. This enabled him to write the Diagram on a day of particularly notable intelligence. He believes that his curse is a level of compassion inversely proportional to his intelligence; he feels little to no compassion on days of high intelligence, contrasted with days of low intelligence and great compassion "to feel pain for what he had done." Some days he is as dull-minded as a Parshman and brought easily to tears as he realizes decisions he makes may bring death to innocents, while on others he is more intelligent and able-minded than the greatest scholar but regards everything he is ordering done with cold logic and an eye for the bigger picture of Roshar. The change in intelligence and compassion will still happen even if Taravangian is awake and conscious in the middle of the night.
- Av's family
Av's brother's boon is unknown, as he was too embarrassed to share what he asked for. As a curse, both his hands became numb. Av's father received a heap of good cloth, which he sold to keep his family from starving during the lurnip famine. As a curse, he sees the world upside down. The rest of Av's brothers also went, as well as his mother. According to him, most of them regret their curse.
Brandon built the Old Magic into The Stormlight Archive because he felt that at a certain point he wanted there to be a contrast to rule-based magic systems. He wanted there to be a primal magic that didn't really adhere to the rules, one that couldn't be anticipated. Brandon felt that it was vital to include so that he didn't overexplain everything in the books. Characters, in some ways, can be giving wish fulfillment, but even that can turn on its head because of the Old Magic as it doesn't give people what they think should have gotten.
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