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|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, as well as the second-ever Enlightened Truthwatcher. 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 he later takes a place as a soldier in Bridge Four's new incarnation as a military unit. In recognition of his heroism during the occupation of Urithiru, he is offered a bond by the mistspren Tumi, who names him Bridger of Minds.
Appearance and Personality
”I have no interest in taking 'what I can get.’—Rlain
Rlain has the marbling characteristic of singers; his skin and beard (when he has one) are a unique pattern of red and black, regardless of which form he takes. After Bridge Four is freed by Dalinar, Rlain gets the glyphs for "freedom" and "Bridge Four" tattooed on his forehead with the rest of the crew. This carries over to his other forms, blending into his skullplate in warform.
While in dullform, Rlain looks very much like a singer in slaveform (a "parshman"): his face is round, plump, and hairless, and the parts of his body are generally thicker and stouter than those of humans. He is taller than the typical parshman, but not conspicuously so, and still short by Alethi standards.
Dullform is characterized by low intelligence and low capacity, though Rlain is on the higher end of this bell curve. He is capable enough at mental math to solve a problem that stumps his human overseer, responding before the man's wife can furnish an answer, though taking too long to register that he shouldn't have responded at all.
Despite the need to preserve his cover, he gradually chances riskier behavior with certain members of Bridge Four. He becomes secure enough to request seconds on stew from Rock, and he eventually gathers the courage to ask Kaladin if he is truly Bridge Four, and if so, why he isn't allowed to have a spear. When denied, he shakes Kaladin to the core by asking if he is Bridge Four's slave.
Dullforms also have a harder time hearing the rhythms and rarely speak, a trait Rlain exaggerates to better imitate a parshman. He largely communicates simple thoughts through physicality. On the rare occasions Rlain does speak in this form, every word carries purpose and meaning.
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 at the chest, thighs, and outer arms. He becomes able to think with normal intelligence, he displays a very soldierly attitude toward Dalinar.
From his earliest times taking warform, he displays unusual adeptness at resisting its inclinations to violence and taking risks, preferring a more cautious and pacifistic approach. He avoids engaging in physical violence in his resistance of Odium’s forces, and it concerns him that he hears the Rhythms more loudly in this form.
Like the rest of his people, he considers touching the bodies of his fallen kinsmen to be a major taboo, a holdover from the ancient days when humans hacked apart singer corpses, searching for gemhearts.
In Urithiru, he pretends not to notice humans' discomfort in his presence, and he habitually exaggerates his facial expressions and de-emphasizes the Rhythms in his speech to put them at ease. Sometime between the Battle of Thaylen Field and the Alethi campaign to Emul, he takes workform in hopes of looking less like the enemy. However, workform's vague visual similarity to slaveform causes humans to treat him like a parshman, which he finds intolerable, so he returns to warform.
He enjoys playing cards--particularly Towers and Runaround--and he's quite good, as his spy training and the listeners' cultural de-emphasis on facial expression make him excellent at bluffing.
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.
He is trained in basic field medicine, like the other original members of Bridge Four.
He is adept in spycraft, going undetected among the warcamps for three years. Much of this skill is rooted in his ability to blend into anonymous groups and use his acting skills to make people think he is where he is supposed to be. However, his notoriety among the humans (and later the invading singers) of Urithiru hamper his efforts. Additionally, while warform singers are typically terrible at art, Rlain has the skill to use soot or makeup to paint out his tattoo, integrating it into his pattern.
From his long experience as a spy, he is accustomed to going unnoticed, and he finds the attention he garners from his unique situation in Urithiru deeply uncomfortable.
After bonding an Enlightened mistspren, Rlain develops the same basic abilities as Renarin Kholin, including future-sight, although his deeper connection to the Rhythms as a singer will likely affect his Radiant abilities somewhat.
Early Life and The War of Reckoning (1166–1173)
”Attuning Joy, Eshonai ran after him. Together the three of them chased and dashed, climbed and soared—spanning chasms, climbing up and over rock formations, sprinting across plateaus. The Shattered Plains felt like a playground.—Eshonai, Thude, and Rlain exulting in the return to warform
It is not confirmed which of the Ten Families Rlain belongs to, but given his early friendship with Eshonai, which predated the reunification of the listeners at the beginning of the War of Reckoning, it is likely he is of the First Rhythms family. If so, he would have grown up in the forested wilds near the Shattered Plains, then conquered and inhabited one of the Ten Cities for two years, before the listeners retreated to Narak en masse and the Alethi claimed the cities to establish their warcamps. This knowledge of the warcamps likely would have aided in his later infiltration.
Rlain and his friend Thude were among the early adopters of warform, though they returned to workform for a time in the years between its invention and the commencement of the War of Reckoning, only taking warform again when Alethi troops begin to arrive at the Shattered Plains.
He was given the best spy training his people could offer, and he infiltrated the Alethi about 2 1/2 years into the war, wearing dullform to masquerade as a parshman slave. In his three years  as a spy, he worked in various warcamps, and his final owner before being sent to Bridge Four was a mid-dahn lighteyed overseer among Sadeas’ quartermasters. But when the overseer called out an addition question to his wife and Rlain thoughtlessly responded with the answer, the overseer feared his parshman was too intelligent to risk breeding, and he offered Rlain up to the bridge crews. Back home in Narak, the listeners believed the humans had discovered Rlain in the warcamps and executed him.
Bridge Four (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
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. This fate was particularly devastating for Rlain, as he knew his people had been ordered to fire on any parshmen bridgemen, should the humans ever start using them for runs. The archers could not distinguish his pattern from a distance, so he could only watch as his friends did their best to kill him. Despite the horrors, he never broke character.
Most members of Bridge Four vociferously distrusted him from the beginning, suspecting that he would refuse to run against the Parshendi or even turn on the other bridgemen. However, Kaladin insisted that he was to be treated fairly and would not be used to soak up arrows in place of the human runners. When Rlain didn't volunteer his name, Kaladin dubbed him "Shen," which Rlain later compared to naming a child "Human." The other bridgemen grudgingly obeyed Kaladin's orders, but continued to be suspicious.
”He’s protective of the Parshendi bodies, gancho. Like he’d stab you a hundred times for moving one, sure.—Lopen
Teft in particular was inclined to worry about his loyalties, as 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 other non-combatants (Rock, Lopen, and Dabbid) to scavenge through the chasms with Syl's aid while the everyone else trained.
Rlain went on bridge runs and chasm duty several times without issue, just as Kaladin had expected, even joining the other bridgemen standing at parade rest as Sadeas' armies crossed the chasms. However, Teft, and likely much of the crew, continued to distrust him. During one chasm duty session, Kaladin began to scavenge from a listener corpse, and Rlain's attempt to stop him prompted Teft and Moash to restrain him in a chokehold. Curious, Kaladin ordered him freed, and Rlain gently but firmly pushed Kaladin away and took up a defensive position over the corpse. Rock and Lopen reported that he had done similarly before during their scavenging efforts.
”He was sitting on the rocks, distant, staring forward. Kaladin approached with the others. The parshman looked up at him, face a mask of pain, tears streaking his cheeks. He looked at Kaladin and shuddered visibly, turning away, closing his eyes.—Aftermath of Kaladin's experiment with the Parshendi armor
Rlain's passion inspired Kaladin to harvest listener carapace and bones and fashion it into armor and a shield to draw the fire of the enemy archers from the other bridgemen. When Kaladin put his plan into action, Rlain became distraught to the point of tears and couldn't bear to look at Kaladin. With Matal's permission, Rlain was left behind on subsequent runs, including the fateful Battle of the Tower.
After being freed, 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 the tattooist who had given the rest of Bridge Four their markers of freedom refused to work on him, saying he was property, many of the bridgemen--Teft at their lead--jumped in to defend his status as a free man and part of the squad. Perhaps as a result of that incident, Rlain 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 before. Rock was delighted when Rlain began asking for second helpings of stew.
”I think that I am not Bridge Four. I am Bridge Four's slave.—Rlain confronting Kaladin about not receiving a spear
Kaladin still resisted the thought of arming a parshman, fearing it would not be tolerated by the lighteyes and threaten the status of all of Bridge Four. Instead, he assigned Rlain and Dabbid to help Lopen assist Rock, helping with the supplies, the cooking, and the training of other cooks to feed the other squads of bridgemen-turned-soldiers, as well as other miscellaneous tasks for Bridge Four officers.
Eventually, after admiring the practice swords in the training area earlier in the day, Rlain risked compromising his cover by pressing the issue, asking Kaladin why he had not been given a spear like the others. He forced Kaladin to confront the fact that despite the other Bridge Four members' claims of his equal standing, Rlain was functionally still a slave. Kaladin takes this like a punch to the gut, having heard perhaps a dozen words from the parshman in his time on the crew, but he rejected the request, explaining that the lighteyes barely accepted them already.
”I’ve spent my life being judged for my eyes, Shen. I won't do something similar to you because of your skin.—Kaladin empathizing with Rlain
After four more weeks of navigating lighteyed society, Kaladin's conscience got the better of him, and he asked Dalinar for permission to arm Rlain and add him to the guard rotation. Dalinar asked if Kaladin trusted him, and upon Kaladin's affirmation that he did, Dalinar allowed it out of curiosity. Kaladin apologized for being frightened before. Reverently holding the spear, Rlain told Kaladin he is a good man, and he began to say more, but was interrupted by Moash's arrival and declined to say more.
Rlain's first day as a guardsman, he was given basic spear training with Natam and Leyten, then later that day, he was part of Renarin and Dalinar’s guard when Renarin’s "thirty-two days, seek the center" warning message was found. His second day, 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 was very wrong with Eshonai's voice--she had changed into stormform--and he left the warcamps that night to try to warn his people of the danger. On his way out, he notified Kaladin that he was leaving, thanked Kaladin for teaching him, 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 approached Narak and observed the army of ten thousand stormforms that had been made out of the listener population. By then, Thude had already escaped with the defectors, elderly, and children, explaining why Rlain did not see any during his surveillance. Rlain left them again, realizing that the change in Eshonai had corrupted his people and effectively killed everyone he knew. He retook warform in his first opportunity, two weeks after his departure from the warcamps, and made his way back to the Alethi armies shortly before the Battle of Narak, a few weeks after his departure. His warform appearance led to a tense standoff with the Alethi troops, but Rlain spotted Skar among them, who vouched for his identity. Rlain was peacefully taken into custody, though Dalinar charges Teleb and his personal guard with watching him, as Dalinar worried about how defensive the bridgemen were of him.
Skar: "You’re Bridge Four. "
Rlain: "I'm a traitor. "
Rock: "Ha! Is little problem. Can be fixed. "
- ―Support during Rlain's interrogation
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 their gods, the Fused, "the souls of those ancient, those who gave of themselves to destroy." He agreed to help lead the army to Narak as quickly as possible for the sake of any remaining listeners. He expressed a deep-seated resentment at the way parshmen were treated, and 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. After the interrogation, Dalinar released Rlain into the custody of Bridge Four.
”You have to stop it, please. Even if you have to kill them. Do not let them finish that song.—Rlain's plea to Dalinar
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, even if it meant killing everyone he had ever loved. He continued to advise Dalinar about the song and the battle, though he was kept under guard and did not participate in the fighting. Dalinar pardoned Rlain for being a spy for a people who no longer exist. After Shallan activated the Oathgate to transfer the army to Urithiru, Rlain was among the bridgemen who returned to Narak and encountered Kaladin after his fight against Szeth.
”How could Rlain be so fond of these men, yet at the same time want to slap them?—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 the gulf between him and the other soldiers persisted. When he was on duty and guarding Dalinar, other Kholin soldiers viewed him with active suspicion. Most members of Bridge Four often forgot his presence and effectively ignored him, acculturated to treating parshmen as invisible. When they did acknowledge him, many made an effort to make him feel included and appreciated, but this warmth was too often spoiled by demonstrations of ignorance and unconscious prejudice, like Yake and Drehy expecting him to have insight into the enemy's plans, Eth casually using slurs in his presence, and many feeling relief that Rlain was unable to breathe in Stormlight, imagining it might turn him into a monster. He was not given encouragement as the other bridgemen gained Windrunner abilities, unlike the humans with the same problem, and he became envious the newcomers to Bridge Four who were quickly able to become squires and assimilate with the group. Despite his frustrations, Rlain appreciated that most of Bridge Four made an effort to extend kindness and understanding, and made it clear their affection for him was genuine. Rock and Renarin were particularly consistent in their outreach and their friendship.
Alongside those external problems, he continued to deal with his grief over the genocide of the listeners. After the mass transformation into stormform, the casualties from the War of Reckoning, and the transformation of the survivors into hosts for the Fused, Rlain believed he was the last of his people, which weighed heavily on him. After one particularly difficult day, Kaladin engaged Rlain in conversation, inviting him to explain his feelings, so he and Bridge Four could help shoulder his burdens. Rlain resolved to try.
Over time, as Bridge Four became more synonymous with a Windrunner division, Rlain sought other ways of making himself useful, often assisting with projects for Navani. He offered a singer's perceptions on the feeling of being near Voidlight versus Anti-Voidlight, and he confirmed details about Gavilar's interactions with Eshonai the night of his assassination. Six months prior to the events of Rhythm of War, he found great purpose in taking the lead on Navani's initiative to speed crop production. He entrusted human farmers with the listeners' secret of using Stormlight and rhythmic drumming to draw lifespren and stimulate growth.
However, despite this gift, most humans of Urithiru still treated him with distrust, believing him a "savage" Dalinar or Kaladin had somehow "tamed" or making superstitious gestures around him. Others saw him as a noble warrior and mystical representative of a lost people--ostensibly kinder, but equally stereotypical and reductive. Rlain experimented with returning to workform, hoping to look less like the humans' enemy, but that made people treat him like a parshman, which he hated even more, so he returned to warform.
Occupation of Urithiru (1175)
”In the face of it all -- the frightened humans, the mistrusting Regals, the occasionally awed ordinary singers -- he wished he could simply be Rlain. He hated that to every one of them, he was some kind of representation of an entire people. He wanted to be seen as a person, not a symbol.—Rlain on his struggle against reductive stereotypes
Rlain was initially overjoyed at the news Kaladin had found him an honorspren, but upon learning Yunfah had to be coerced into considering him, Rlain refused, choosing to wait for a spren who would choose him for the honor he represented. His disappointment likely played a role in his decision not to join the rest of Bridge Four on the campaign in Emul.
With the other Windrunners gone, he joined Kaladin and Teft for drinks at Jez's Duty. Despite Kaladin's change in rank, Rlain still addressed him as "sir," and when no server would take Rlain's order, Teft ordered for him. At Teft's prompting, Rlain explained his experience running bridges against his friends, and Kaladin finally apologized for desecrating the bodies of fallen listeners.
”I’m not going to join them, Kal. I am a spy. That is my training--as best my kind could offer. I’ll find a way to help from the inside. Remember that the first people Odium destroyed when he returned were not human, but listener.—Rlain on his role in the occupation
When Odium's forces invaded and the Sibling's defenses were inverted against the Radiants, Rlain reported that the Rhythms were "going crazy," and he heard new ones similar to those perceptable during an Everstorm. He assisted Kaladin in hauling the unconscious Teft to the Edgedancer clinic, then Lirin's clinic, where they discovered the scope of the invasion. Kaladin sent Rlain to hide in the living quarters, but Rlain recognized that Urithiru faced an extended occupation, and his best chance at surviving and helping his friends was to hide amongst the enemy in the initial chaos and use his spycraft to try to help from the inside.
He improvised a mixture of black ash and water to paint over his tattoo, merging it into his pattern, and assumed an air of purpose to grant him free movement throughout the tower. He considered several options of undermining the occupation, but all risked danger to innocents, so he settled with stealing the only existing complete set of maps of the tower. His attitude of resolve let him walk straight through a checkpoint with stolen property in tow, with a claim that he was sent on a search detail to collect any form of human writing. However, within a day, he was outed during another routine stop when he failed to identify which Fused he served beneath. Rlain claimed he’d been held by the humans against his will, but the invaders quickly determined he had stayed on his own volition, believing he wanted to continue being the Radiants' slave. They labeled him an essai ("human-lover") and jailed him in the cell that had formerly housed Szeth.
”He kept his head high -- he hadn’t lived through Bridge Four to be intimidated by a quiet room and staring eyes -- but he couldn’t help feeling like he was the one gemstone in the pile that didn’t glow. Somehow, with the singers invading Urithiru, he’d become more of an outsider.—Rlain's tension with the humans of Urithiru
Mazish informed Venli of Rlain's imprisonment, which came as a great surprise, as she and the listeners had believed he'd been discovered and killed over a year prior. Venli visited Rlain the next day and spoke with him alone, though noting that they were being watched by a voidspren hidden in the body of a cremling--Tumi, evaluating Rlain's fitness for a bond. Venli informed Rlain of Odium's eradication of all other surviving listeners, and revealed that while she'd recruited a dozen singers to guard the fallen Radiants and spared the lives of several humans that turned out to be Kaladin's family, she was not interested in allying with the humans in general. Rlain urged Venli to stop being selfish, free him, and join him in his defiance of Odium.
Venli demanded Raboniel release Rlain to her custody, claiming he was precious to her as the last of her kin, and put him in the infirmary with Lirin and Hesina to care for the fallen Radiants. Over the next four days, Rlain developed a close, comfortable relationship with Kaladin's family, including a wry rapport with Hesina and the curious affections of Oroden. Then pretending to be Venli's servant, he retrieved the stolen maps and pored over them with Venli and Hesina, hoping they might be of use to Kaladin. Venli identified a tunnel complex she and her followers could use to escape.
”I thought you should know something about me. I figured maybe if you did, you would stop making things up.—Rlain to the whispering women in the laundry room
Rlain continued to run errands for Venli, including a trip to the laundry facility, where he was met with suspicion and harassment from human captives and singer guards alike. He confronted one man who characterized him as a gloating oppressor by asserting, "I come from an entirely different country. I’m as much one of them as you are an Iriali." He countered a trio of gossiping women by telling them about his enjoyment of card games, hoping to silence their speculation with a little truth about himself, but they only used it as fodder for further speculation.
The awakened singers viewed Rlain with the same level of reductive stereotype as the humans. Some saw him as a traitor and descendant of traitors, while others revered him, viewing the listeners as a brave frontrunner group who had prepared for Odium's return. Rlain returned to the infirmary, where he, Hesina, and Lirin continued to plot the next move in their resistance. While idly considering a map of the Shattered Plains, Rlain noted the scout report that they later discovered is Thude's settlement of escaped listeners.
Soon, Dabbid appeared, hoping to recruit Rlain's aid for a dying, comatose Kaladin. This put Rlain at odds with Lirin, who feared what might happen to his remaining family if he openly defied the fused. Fortunately, Venli had a better solution. With Rlain's help, she hatched a plot to free Lift, and along the way, she gave Rlain a highly edited version of the extermination of the remaining listeners, tailored to win Rlain's sympathy. When Lift was out, Rlain apologized for calling her selfish, instead calling her a hero. They parted ways, and Rlain ushered Dabbid up the tower to meet Lift and Kaladin, easily talking his way past the patrol guards. Lift healed and awakened Kaladin and Teft, though Rlain chafed at her lackadaisical attitude, and they spent some time brainstorming the next phase in their resistance. Rlain believed he could disguise himself and get to Navani, to get her perspective on waking the Radiants and escaping.
”You know, all those months running bridges -- then training with Kal and the others -- I wondered. I wondered deep down if I was a traitor. I now realize I didn’t have the first notes of understanding what it meant to be a traitor.—Rlain to Venli
When Rlain went to inform Lirin and Hesina of the developments, he found Venli weeping, and she revealed that thousands of listeners survived the coup, and--to Rlain's increasing horror--gave him the raw truth of her role in events. He warned her not to try to seek out the other listeners, as she would be playing into Raboniel's hands.
When the Sibling woke Kaladin and beseeched him to send them Rlain, Kaladin believed they were urging him to put his plan in motion. Rlain and Dabbid approached as water carriers, but a guard recognizes Rlain, and the two were intercepted to clear their presence near the queen with a superior. Upon reaching the atrium and discovering a civil war in progress, the guards flee, leaving Rlain and Dabbid, who established a triage to organize care for the wounded. Then they discovered Teft's body, and Rlain mourned him with The Song of the Fallen, a listener song for honoring fallen heroes.
”You all, you know me. I’m Bridge Four. I know you don’t like me, but are you willing to trust me?—Rlain unites humans and Leshwi's forces with his Teft impersonation
Rlain channeled his inner Teft and found the sense of authority to organize the humans and Leshwi's traitorous Heavenly Ones behind a common purpose, moving the injured and the unconscious Radiants to safety. He used his status as an outsider to gain an air of neutrality, and offered Leshwi the two surviving listeners' guidance on escaping Odium's control.
He was rankled to discover Venli had bonded a spren, but he sublimated his frustration in the face of more pressing priorities. He gave the humans the opportunity to flee or retrieve their families, then they all made their way toward the exit, only to be surrounded by enemy Fused. He and Leshwi resolved to fight, and he asked Venli if she knows of any other spren willing to bond singers. Venli explained that she sent the other lightspren away for their protection, then--confused--reports that Timbre says Rlain is spoken for. Tumi sent Rlain a vision of Kaladin in gleaming Radiant plate and the tower coming alight and urged him to speak the first oath.
”Keep fighting. Salvation will be, Rlain, listener. Bridger of Minds. I have been sent to you by my mother, at the request of Renarin, Son of Thorns. I have watched you and seen your worthiness. Speak the Words, and do not despair.—Tumi's first words to Rlain
He found deep satisfaction in the knowledge he was chosen for his actions and his personal qualities, and that his spren was "awed by him" and honored to bond him, as opposed to Yunfah having to be coerced and the Sibling wanting him solely because of his species. In the aftermath, he befriended Dul, Mazish, and Venli's other singer recruits, and accompanied them to Narak via Oathgate, where they united with Leshwi and her defecting Heavenly Ones. Rlain invited them to stay in Narak and join the war against Odium, but Leshwi had little interest in fighting her own kind, and resolved to find "a third option, outside this war. The path of the listeners." Kaladin relayed Navani's promise to offer refuge should they need it, which they greatly appreciated.
Rlain reminded Venli to write him by spanreed once she found the others, and to give his best to Thude and Harvo, if they survived. He promised to come to them soon, though he first needed to speak to Renarin. Rlain also worried he needed to be present in the event humans attempted to repeat the past and defeat the singers by taking their minds. Venli and her group set off toward the eastern flats, where the listener survivors had been spotted, and Kaladin and Rlain returned to the tower for Teft's funeral.
Kaladin: "Scavenge from the Parshendi. Teft, you’ll probably have to hold Shen the whole time. I can’t have him trying to stop us. And men, be respectful of the dead. "
Leyten: "They’re Parshendi! "
Kaladin: "I know. But it bothers Shen. He’s one of us, so let’s keep his irritation to a minimum. "
- ―Chasm Duty
As Rlain's bridgeleader within Bridge Four, Kaladin readily accepts him into the crew, names him "Shen," and refuses to allow the other bridgemen to mistreat him. However, Kaladin maintains some private reservations, refusing to arm him or train him in the spear. In the desperate days in Sadeas' crews, Kaladin is also forced to prioritize his people's lives over Rlain's wellbeing, and he creates armor from listener carapace and bones for himself, and then the entire bridge crew of 27, despite knowing how it will distress Rlain.
Rlain continues to serve under Kaladin after the bridge crews are transformed into a military unit for the Kholin army. Kaladin defends Rlain's right to a Bridge Four tattoo and its signifiers of freedom, but he persists in his reluctance to allow him a spear, to Rlain's deep disappointment. This gnaws at Kaladin's conscience, as in his experience, he had not tolerated being a well-treated slave. Weeks later, Kaladin eventually overcomes his reservations and presents a spear to Rlain, and Rlain often describes him as a good man from then on. When Rlain's feelings of isolation and loss are particularly acute, Kaladin is one of the rare people to step up and make a concerted effort to understand what he is going through.
”Kaladin was a good man. For all his faults, he tried even more than the rest of them.—Rlain appreciating Kaladin's efforts to listen
Though Kaladin still struggles to overcome deep-seated biases, including thinking "Shen" looks like an evil spren from stories when sitting in the shadows and feeling discomfort at seeing warform Rlain giving humans orders as they implement his system to accelerate crop growth, Kaladin makes a concerted effort to listen to him, trust his judgment, and see him for who he is. This determination is put to the test when Odium's forces invaded Urithiru, and Rlain elects to fight the resistance from within, rather than remain hidden at Kaladin's recommendation. However, Kaladin gives Rlain his trust
”Rlain sipped his drink and wished Renarin were here; the quiet, lighteyed man usually made a point of speaking with Rlain. The others jabbered excitedly, but didn’t think to include him. Parshmen were invisible to them -- they’d been brought up that way.—Rlain's musings while watching the others train
Months after Renarin joins Bridge Four, he still feels like an oddity among their number. He voices these insecurities to Rock, who helps him realize that Rlain feels the same way, but to a far greater extent, often isolated within their number due to his nature and history. From then on, Renarin makes a special point of sitting and talking with him frequently, being a friend to him, and making him feel like one of their number in truth. Rlain greatly appreciates this and misses Renarin when he is not around. In the weeks that follow, Rlain became fiercely defensive of his friend, and when Kaladin encourages the others to be tolerant of Renarin's choice to learn to read, Rlain reiterates to himself his appreciation for Kaladin's attempts at understanding.
”She creates in us a faction loved by neither men nor Odium. No home. No allies. She might be destroyed by either. We will need more. Like you and like me. Together.—Glys, on the liminal status of enlightened Radiants
Eventually, when Sja-anat asks Renarin for any potential candidates for bonds, Renarin immediately suggests Rlain. With that vote of confidence, the enlightened mistspren Tumi, sent to evaluate Mraize for a bond, also spends several weeks observing Rlain's heroic qualities during the occupation of Urithiru, though he must be careful to avoid coming to Odium's attention. In the chaos of the uprising, in recognition of Rlain enjoining the humans and singers in shared purpose, Tumi names Rlain Bridger of Minds, rejects Mraize, and bonds him, making him the second-ever Enlightened Truthwatcher. Rlain wishes to seek out the surviving listeners with Venli, Leshwi, and their people, but he establishes that he needs to stay, at least until Renarin returns.
Rlain and Renarin share the capacity for future sight through their spren's connections with Sja-Anat, and Rlain's abilities are likely to hew close to Renarin's, though there may be some variance due to his species and connection to the Rhythms.
Renarin develops romantic feelings towards Rlain, and it is possible Rlain returns these feelings. Sanderson explains that the characters have not yet reached the same conclusions that their emotions have. He wrote scenes further developing Renarin and Rlain's chemistry in Rhythm of War, but removed them for pacing reasons.
Other Members of Bridge Four
”People in the tower watched him with outright hatred. His friends didn’t, but they sure did like to pat themselves on the back for that fact.—Rlain on Bridge Four's inadvertent prejudice
When "Shen" is first assigned to Bridge Four, he is met with immediate suspicion and hostility. Most want to send him to the deadliest position in the front of the bridge, with Skar, Teft, and Moash being most firmly in favor. However, Kaladin demands he be given equal treatment, and the other bridgemen eventually fall in line. Gradually, they become accustomed to Rlain's presence, and he comes to be more or less accepted as a member of Bridge Four. Despite his second class status among the bridgemen, Rlain's bond with the crew is so profound that when freed, Rlain makes the commitment to get a forehead tattoo. When the tattooist objects, the others rally behind him, insisting he has been freed like the rest of them and threatening not to pay her if she doesn't comply.
”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
However, Bridge Four's support proves to be inconsistent. Most can be relied upon to defend him from threats outside Bridge Four, but many fall short at making him feel included among themselves, both as "Shen" and as himself. He is rarely noticed, as Rlain rationalizes that the other bridgemen were brought up to consider parshmen invisible. None voice any objections when someone mounts several sets of carapace armor on the wall of their Kholin warcamp barracks, despite knowing how much they distress Shen, but when his true identity is revealed, Skar, Rock, and others are quick to vouch for him and defend him from nervous Kholin troops. Bridge Four is so protective of their fellow bridgeman that Dalinar puts Teleb's men in charge of guarding him, for fear they cannot be impartial. Their advocacy helps him earn a pardon from Dalinar.
”But for all their faults, they had succeeded in giving him a home. Because they’d been willing to try to see him for himself.—Rlain on his Bridge Four family
Further, he is treated very differently from Bridge Four's human members, due to biases they had difficulty shaking. 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, 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. Some conflate him with the Fused and assume that he can understand the enemy's motivations, forcing Rlain to remind them that the Fused are more the listeners' enemies than theirs. However, despite feeling invisible and something of an outsider to Bridge Four, Rlain still views its members as his family and understands that they mean well.
As non-combatants, Rock, Rlain, Dabbid, and Lopen spend the most time with "Shen" as they gather salvage during Chasm Duty under Sadeas, then the team becomes Rock's assistants under Dalinar. Rock is consistently kind to Rlain, from delighting when his assistant musters the nerve to request seconds on stew, to encouraging Renarin to recognize the ways Rlain relates to his experience of being ostracized.
Rlain’s relationship with Teft is one of great extremes. When Rlain first joins Bridge Four, Teft is not shy about voicing his suspicions that the parshman could spoil or sabotage their plans to escape. Later, when Rlain tries to stop Kaladin from scavenging from a listener corpse, Teft grabs Rlain in a choke hold to protect his bridge leader, and Kaladin orders Teft and Moash to restrain him while the bodies are looted for valuables. Teft repeatedly advocates putting Shen in the deathline at the front of the bridge to absorb enemy arrows.
This attitude changes around the time Kaladin wears listener carapace into battle, and Teft sees Rlain's immediate reaction and his very relatable emotional agony. He advises Kaladin that Rlain may not be good for bridge runs any more. When the bridgemen are liberated from Sadeas' crews, Teft is the first of many to speak up for Shen, defending his right to get his tattoos of freedom like the rest of Bridge Four.
Like most of the other bridgemen socialized not to notice parshmen, Teft often overlooks Rlain, though he offers him genuine smiles when he acknowledges his presence, and Rlain considers Teft a friend. Later, when Teft, Kaladin, and Rlain meet at a winehouse after the rest of Bridge Four departs for Emul, Teft is far more attentive to Rlain's needs. He notices the listener's difficulty flagging down a server and orders Rlain's drink for him, then asks Rlain about his experience running bridges against his own people.
”He bowed his head for Teft, then left him there. Let the dead rest. It was their way, and he wished to be able to give the man a proper sky burial. Teft had been a good person. One of the best.—Rlain mourns Teft
When Teft is knocked unconscious by Raboniel's inversion of the Sibling's defenses, Rlain is deeply concerned, and assists Kaladin in getting him help. When Teft wakes weeks later, Rlain's joy at seeing Teft restored is a great source of strength for the older man. They plan their next course of action, then part ways to put it into effect, and the next time Rlain encounters Teft, he is dead, murdered by Moash. While only a year and a half before, Teft forcibly prevents Rlain from showing respect to a listener corpse, here Rlain mourns him as a hero, singing the Song of the Fallen, and wishing he could give the man a proper sky burial. He and Dabbid draw anguishspren. In a timely tribute, Rlain channels his best Teft impersonation to unite the humans and the rebellious singers in defense of the Radiants.
Rlain is very protective of Dabbid. During their time as the only two members of Bridge Four who haven't gained Radiant abilities, they are often set to work together. Rlain is greatly relieved to discover Dabbid is safe, and feels hurt when he discovers Dabbid can talk, claiming "Bridge Four doesn't lie to one another." Ironic, given Rlain's months hiding the truth of his identity.
”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 do not 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. Dalinar pardons Rlain after the battle, and 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 considered for four different bonds in Rhythm of War: the honorspren Yunfah (encouraged by Kaladin), the Sibling (suggested by Navani), one of Venli's lightspren (though Timbre reports Rlain is "spoken for"), and finally, the enlightened mistspren Tumi (recommended by Renarin).
- In a delightful bit of foreshadowing, the nickname "Shen" makes more sense as a shortening of "Parshendi" (the Listeners, his true identity) than "Parshman" (his disguise).
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