|Titles||Bridger of Minds|
|Groups||Bridge Four, Kholin army, Sadeas army (formerly)|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”Did they know what it was like to be of an entirely different species? A species they were currently at war with—a species whose people had all been either murdered or corrupted?—Rlain reflecting on the loneliness of his situation
Rlain is a listener and member of Bridge Four. He is sent by the listeners to the warcamps to spy on the Alethi and is given the name Shen while running bridges with Bridge Four. He reveals himself after discovering that Eshonai and the other listeners have transformed into stormform and later takes a place as a soldier in Bridge Four in its new incarnation as a military unit.
Appearance and Personality
”I have no interest in taking 'what I can get.’—Rlain
Rlain has the marbled skin that is characteristic of singers; his skin is red and black. While in dullform, Rlain looks very much like singers in slaveform ("parshmen"): his face is round and plump, and the parts of his body are generally thicker and stouter than those of humans. He is a little taller than parshmen generally are, but not conspicuously so, and still short by Alethi standards. After Bridge Four is given its freedom by Dalinar, Rlain gets the glyph for Bridge Four and freedom tattooed on his forehead along with the rest of the crew.
Due to the effects of dullform, he is naturally inclined to not speak or act on his own initiative very much, and he likely emphasizes that even more in order to better imitate a parshman. Despite that, he gradually becomes more open with Bridge Four and eventually even gathers the courage to ask Kaladin why he isn't allowed to have a spear.
In warform, he becomes as tall as and more muscular than an Alethi, and also gains an orange-red skullplate and armored carapace growing out of his body. The Bridge Four tattoo remains visible on his forehead, blending into his skullplate. He becomes able to think with normal intelligence and displays a very soldierly attitude toward Dalinar and more active attempts to fit in with the other members of Bridge Four.
Attributes and Abilities
As a singer, Rlain can take on different physical forms by bonding with certain spren. He uses dullform for a time, which hampers his physical and mental abilities but allows him to hide among parshmen to infiltrate the Alethi warcamps; he later changes to warform, gaining the ability to think normally, a much stronger body, and natural skill in combat. While in warform, he works with Bridge Four, further honing his abilities as a soldier.
Joining Bridge Four (1170–1173)
”No. Shen is one of us now. I don't care what he was before. I don't care what any of you were. We're Bridge Four. So is he.—Kaladin accepting Rlain (as Shen) into Bridge Four
The listeners tasked Rlain with using dullform to infiltrate the warcamps; since humans have a hard time distinguishing dullform and slaveform, he could pass as a parshman among them. He spent about three years in the warcamps before joining Bridge Four.
Rlain was placed in Bridge Four as an experiment by Hashal to see if parshmen could be trusted to run bridges, since human bridgemen were becoming difficult to find. Most members of Bridge Four violently distrusted Rlain, suspecting that he would refuse to run against the Parshendi or even turn on the other bridgemen. However, Kaladin insisted that Rlain was to be treated fairly and would not be used to soak up arrows in place of the human members. He gave Rlain the name "Shen", since Rlain, playing the part of a parshman, didn't speak to give his name. The other bridgemen went along with Kaladin, but continued to be suspicious of the parshman among them; Teft in particular was inclined to worry about Rlain's loyalties.
Bridge Four (1173)
Rlain's addition to Bridge Four occurred in the middle of their secret plan to train in spear fighting and escape from the warcamps. Even Kaladin, despite his relative acceptance of Rlain, didn't feel comfortable giving him a spear. Instead, he assigned Rlain and the others who weren't training (Rock, Lopen, and Dabbid) to scavenge through the chasms while the everyone else trained.
Rlain went on bridge runs and chasm duty several times without any issues, just as Kaladin had expected, but Teft, and likely much of the crew, continued to distrust him. During one time on chasm duty, Rlain's forceful reaction to scavenging from listener corpses inspired Kaladin to use carapace as armor to distract the listener armies. When Kaladin put his plan into action, Rlain became distraught to the point that he had to be left behind on subsequent runs.
After the Battle of the Tower, Rlain went with the rest of the bridgemen from Sadeas's warcamp to Dalinar's. By that time, he was relatively accepted by the rest of Bridge Four. When they went to get tattoos as a group in celebration of their new freedom and Rlain sat down in front of the tattoo artist, she refused to work on him, saying he was property, but many of the other bridgemen -- even Teft -- jumped in to defend his status as part of the squad. Around that time, and perhaps as a result of that incident, he started feeling more comfortable with the rest of the bridge crew and didn't tend to hide in the back of the group as much as he had before.
”I think that I am not Bridge Four. I am Bridge Four's slave.—Rlain confronting Kaladin about not receiving a spear
Kaladin still didn't want to arm a parshman, however, and instead ordered Rlain to be an assistant to Lopen and Rock, helping with the supplies and cooking, as well as other miscellaneous tasks. Eventually, Rlain asked Kaladin why he had not been given a spear like the other former bridgemen, forcing Kaladin to confront the fact that Rlain, as much as everyone might say he was part of the crew, had never really had the same status as its human members and was practically still a slave. After a few weeks, Kaladin decided that he trusted Rlain and asked Dalinar for permission to arm him; Dalinar allowed it out of curiosity.
Rlain was part of Adolin's guard during the meeting with Eshonai, Rlain's former commander, out on the Shattered Plains. He noticed that something had gone very wrong with Eshonai -- she had changed into stormform -- and he left the warcamps that very night to investigate the listeners. On his way out, he notified Kaladin that he was leaving and revealed his true name for the first time.
The Battle of Narak (1173)
”I have reason to believe that everyone I know . . . everyone I loved . . . has been destroyed, monsters left in their place. The listeners, the Parshendi, may be no more. I have nothing left . . .—Rlain regarding the lost listeners
Rlain went to Narak and observed the stormform army that had been made out of the listener population. He left them again, realizing that the change in Eshonai had corrupted his people and effectively killed everyone he knew. He made his way back to the Alethi shortly before the Battle of Narak, a few weeks after his departure, having gained warform at some point during his trip. His appearance led to a tense standoff with the Alethi troops, but several members of Bridge Four recognized him and he was peacefully taken into custody.
Dalinar questioned Rlain, wanting to find out more about his infiltration of the warcamps and the future plans of the listener army. Although Rlain didn't know anything about the army's specific plans, he described his fears around stormform and the return of the Fused and agreed to help lead the army to Narak as quickly as possible for the sake of any remaining listeners. He was nearly overcome with grief at thoughts of the lost listeners, but was strengthened by firm orders from Dalinar and affirmations of acceptance from Rock and Skar.
Leading up to the battle, he worked with Shallan to draw maps and plan a route to Narak across the plateaus. Once the battle began and the stormform listeners started singing to summon the Everstorm, he recognized the dangerous tone of the song, though he wasn't sure about its exact purpose, and urged Dalinar to prevent it from being completed at all costs. He continued to advise Dalinar about the song and the battle, though he was kept under guard and did not participate in the fighting. After Shallan activated the Oathgate to transfer the army to Urithiru, Rlain was among the bridgemen who returned to the Shattered Plains and encountered Kaladin after his fight against Szeth.
”They often seemed surprised to find him there, as if they'd forgotten he was around. But when Teft did notice him, the man's smile was genuine. They were his friends.—Rlain on his place in Bridge Four
Rlain stayed with Bridge Four as they moved into Urithiru along with much of the Alethi army. He continued training and working with them, but noticed the gulf between him and the humans around him more and more. When he was on duty and guarding Dalinar, other Kholin soldiers would view him with active suspicion; Bridge Four was more welcoming, of course, but even they would often forget his presence and effectively ignore him, despite his very prominent warform stature. They also showed in many ways that they did truly consider him a friend when they thought about him, but the differences between them were prominent and difficult for him to accept. Things were made worse when he turned out to be unable to take in Stormlight; he was not given encouragement, unlike the humans with the same problem, and became envious of those who had been associated with Bridge Four for a much shorter time but were able to succeed and fit in with the group.
Alongside those external problems, he had to continue dealing with his grief over the destruction of the listeners. After the casualties from the War of Reckoning and the mass transformation into stormform, he was the last of the listeners, as far as he knew, which weighed heavily on him.
After one particularly difficult day, Kaladin started a conversation with Rlain in which he finally made an attempt to truly understand his feelings about everything going on, and Rlain resolved to help him by explaining.
”Kaladin was a good man. For all his faults, he tried even more than the rest of them.—Rlain appreciating Kaladin's open-mindedness
Kaladin is Rlain's bridgeleader within Bridge Four, and Rlain continues to serve under him after the bridge crews move under the Kholin princedom and transform into a military unit. Kaladin is the first to accept a parshman into the crew and continues to stick up for Rlain's rights as a member of Bridge Four afterward, apart from being initially reluctant to arm him with a spear. Rlain is disappointed by that, but Kaladin later overcomes his fears and presents a spear to Rlain; Rlain often describes him as a good man from then on. Even the horror that Rlain feels early on when Kaladin uses carapace armor from listener corpses in battle is not enough to overcome his gratitude for everything else. In Urithiru, when Rlain is feeling the pain of being different from everyone around him, Kaladin is the only one to step up and really try to understand what he is going through.
”How could Rlain be so fond of these men, yet at the same time want to slap them?—Rlain on Bridge Four
After an initial period of suspicion, Rlain comes to be more or less accepted as a member of Bridge Four: they get used to working with him and insist that he has the right to get a Bridge Four tattoo with the rest of them, for example. However, even well after that point, he is treated distinctly differently from its human members, due to biases they can't shake.
When only he, Skar, and Dabbid are unable to draw in Stormlight after weeks of practice, the other bridgemen encourage Skar to keep trying, but say nothing to Rlain, perhaps fearing that use of Stormlight will cause him to become a monster despite his explanations that he would have to voluntarily choose to do so. He also has to deal with others conflating him with the Fused and assuming that he can understand their motivations.
Rlain desperately wants those around him to understand that he has nothing in common with the Fused or Voidbringers, and that they are practically a different species. Despite feeling invisible and something of an outsider to Bridge Four, he still views its members as his family and understands that they mean well. Renarin, thanks to his own experience with being ostracized, is particularly sensitive to Rlain's situation, and makes a special point of talking to him frequently, at least once Rock points out how Rlain might be feeling.
After joining Bridge Four, Renarin realized that Rlain was often an outcast within their number due to his nature and history. He made an extra effort to include Rlain and make him one of their number in truth. Eventually, when Sja-Anat asked Renarin for any potential candidates for bonds, Renarin immediately thought of Rlain. On Renarin's recommendation and on recognition of Rlain's efforts as the Bridger of Minds, the corrupted spren Tumi bonded Rlain. Renarin has romantic feelings towards Rlain. Rlain possibly has romantic feelings towards Renarin, and is almost certainly queer, as when he took mateform once, he said that it didn't turn out how anyone had expected.
”Amazingly, he seemed to want to obey—as if he needed something to lend him strength.—Dalinar on Rlain after his return to the Alethi
Dalinar and Rlain don't have a close personal relationship, but Dalinar is the one who makes the choice to allow Rlain to be armed and Rlain considers Dalinar to be his military commander, since he sees himself very much as part of Bridge Four and, by extension, the Kholin army. When Rlain returns to the Alethi and surrenders himself to Dalinar, he demonstrates full obedience to him and even finds strength in following his orders. In turn, Dalinar, though he remains wary of Rlain and keeps him under guard for some time, vows to help the listeners as much as possible and follows Rlain's advice during the Battle of Narak. Afterward, Rlain is allowed to move around normally in Urithiru on his duties with Bridge Four, which include guarding Dalinar.
- Rlain is entirely absent from the second half of Oathbringer, which may appear to be an error but is in fact intentional and significant.
- Though feeling an outcast, Rlain was offered three different bonds in Rhythm of War: a bond with the honorspren Yunfah (encouraged by Kaladin), a bond with the Sibling (suggested by Navani) and, finally, a bond with the corrupted spren Tumi (recommended by Renarin).
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