by Caio Santos
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
Singers communicate through special Rhythms--hence them being called singers. Singers can bond various spren which change their forms.
Singers predate humanity on Roshar. Around the time of the Recreance, many of the singers had their Connection and Identity stolen, pieces of their souls ripped away. This made those singers docile and subservient, which humans called parshmen and used as slaves for millennia later. With the advent of the Everstorm, these singers were healed and restored. Singers grow faster compared to humans but have slightly shorter lifespans.
- 1 Biology and Appearance
- 2 Forms
- 3 Rhythms
- 4 History
- 5 Known singer groups
- 6 Notes
Biology and Appearance
Singers are humanoid, but not entirely human-like. The most apparent sign of their alien nature is their skin; it's covered in marblings, swirls of various colors - red, black or white. Most singers have two-colored skin; the marblings can appear in various way, both as delicate swirls and large, wind-swept patterns. There are singers whose skin has all three colors, but they are extremely rare. Their hair are typically orange or red -- colors that don't seem to naturally occur for Rosharan humans.
Apart from their multicolored skin, singers have other features that differentiate them from humans. Their bodies have carapace growing over some parts of them; where and how much depends on what form the singer is currently in, but they typically cover the head and the arms. In addition, their teeth are built differently than human ones; their molars allow them to chew through shells, and their metabolism is geared towards metabolizing it, allowing them to make better use of the local fauna. Their eyes are also inhuman - all black, with no whites in the corners and no visible iris.
Like many local species, singers possess gemhearts, though theirs are clouded white, and fused to their sternum. Those gemhearts allow them to bond with spren, letting them change their forms, leading to a change in both appearance and some mental faculty.
Despite those differences, singers are like humans in many Spiritual aspects. Like humans, they can receives boons and curses from the Nightwatcher. They can also bond spren to attain Radiant powers, though most spren are unwilling to reach out for such a bond.
Sexes and reproduction
Singers possess four distinct sexes; male and female, which are capable of reproduction, and their neutered variants, malen and femalen. Singers' sex will change from between male and malen, or female and femalen, as they change forms; vast majority of forms is either malen or femalen. As such, most singers are asexual vast majority of the time. Singers are usually of one of those four genders as well, though there exists a group identifying as a fifth, non-binary gender.
Despite those differences, singers and humans are capable of cross-breeding, with Herdazians and Unkalaki being notable example of human ethnicities with singer ancestry. Traits inherited by them include shell-chewing teeth, stone-like nails, and red hair, as well as higher number of asexual people in their societies. It's unknown whether there are currently any people with human-singer ancestry who identify as singers.
By staying out in a highstorm (or the Everstorm) with a spren, singers are capable of bonding with said spren, which has the effect of changing their forms, which alters their physical appearance and mental capabilities. When a singer changes forms, the spren used for the previous form is released. Singers can maintain their form indefinitely, without needing to resupply with a highstorm or Stormlight. Hemalurgy can be used to replicate the transformation of the forms.
The listeners recounted many common forms in the Song of Listing, which they only had access to only a small subset of. They also have songs which sung of dangerous forms of power in the Song of Secrets and the Song of Winds.
These forms are mentioned in the listener Song of Listing. After the Recreance and before the True Desolation, when the only singers who could think were the listeners, the listeners only discovered five forms: dullform, mateform, warform, workform, and nimbleform. When the Everstorm arrived and healed the other singers, singers held these forms and other common forms the listeners could not reproduce, such as artform and scholarform, and had a "dozen" options.
Dullform dread, with the mind most lost.
The lowest, and one not bright.
To find this form, one needs banish cost.
It finds you and brings you to blight. ”
Dullform is an older form which was rarely used after the discovery of the newer forms. Those in dullform are not very intelligent.
Mateform meek, for love to share,
Given to life, it brings us joy.
To find this form, one must care.
True empathy, one must employ. ”
Mateform is used for reproductive purposes. A few listeners maintain mating form constantly, although most enter it only briefly in order to reproduce with a partner; if these partners later entered warform they became a warpair. It is a distracting form which makes productive work difficult. Nothing is stopping other forms from reproducing, the mateform is merely a speciality.
Warform is worn for battle and reign,
Claimed by the gods, given to kill.
Unknown, unseen, but vital to gain.
It comes to those with the will. ”
Warform gives listeners an armor-like carapace; it also seems to give them advanced physical capabilities, although it severely hampers artistic ability and is not equipped to handle abstractions. Most singers that interact with the Alethi are in warform. Out of all the forms known to the listeners, warform requires the most food, but is also the most durable.
Workform worn for strength and care.
Whispering spren breathe at your ear.
Seek first this form, its mysteries to bear.
Found here is freedom from fear. ”
Workform also endows significant physical strength, although without the armor of the warform; those in workform also have thinner fingers. While in workform, singers find it difficult to commit violence and do not like confrontation.
Nimbleform has a delicate touch.
Gave the gods this form to many,
Tho' once defied, by the gods they were crushed.
This form craves precision and plenty. ”
Nimbleform was a form used by the listener scholars because they do not know the correct spren to bond with for scholarform. It does not impede the mind and the fingers are delicate enough for recording their findings. It grows long hair without any carapace to block it and yields delicate swirling patterns in their skin, along with a thinner facial structure.
Mediationform made for peace, it's said.
Form of teaching and consolation.
When used by the gods, it became instead
Form of lies and desolation. ”
Scholarform shown for patience and thought.
Beware its ambitions innate.
Though study and diligence bring the reward,
Loss of innocence may be one's fate. ”
Scholarform produces "long hairstrands and angular features".
Artform applied for beauty and hue.
One yearns for the songs it creates.
Most misunderstood by the artist it's true,
Come the spren to foundation's fates. ”
Artform for colors beyond our ken;
For its grand songs we yearn.
We must attract creationspren;
These songs suffice 'til we learn. ”
Forms of Power
Many singer forms are considered by the listeners to be forms of power. For a singer to gain one of these forms, they must bond with a Voidspren. Singers wearing a form of power are referred to as Regals in the context of Odium's army. Forms of power are intoxicating to those first come into one, and give access to new Rhythms, but drown old, common rhythms.
Forms of power include: stormform, nightform, smokeform, decayform, and envoyform.
”Slaveform, the form with no spren, no soul, and no song. (...) It wasn't really a form at all, however, but the lack of any form.
There is also "slaveform," which is not a true form, but the lack of a bond with a spren or lack of a form. What mankind called for millennia parshmen are actually singers in slaveform. Slaveform did not exist until after the False Desolation.
Physically, slaveform singers are strong enough to perform physical labor. Their skin has either a marbled pattern of black and red or white and red, although the white and red is more common in Alethkar. Slaveform looks similar enough to dullform that humans could confuse the two.
They care about and are protective of their dead, usually objecting to anyone other than one of themselves tending to them. This care for the dead presumably extended to corpses of other singers as well. They also mated and formed nuclear families if humans didn't disrupt them. 
Slaveform singers lived among humans (notably the Alethkar but also in Jah Keved and Kharbranth) and generally function as servants. Barely of intelligence, it is said that these people, if left in the woods, would stand around amiably until someone comes along to tell them what to do. Generally, a slaveform would take orders without any objection. They could speak but rarely did so. Humans bred singers who demonstrated they could successfully birth healthy children, splitting up families to do so. Slaveform is described by Sah, a singer who had previously been trapped in the form, as being in a dreamlike state, vaguely aware of something being wrong, yet unable to name it.
In the past, a slaveform given Breath may become more cognizant, though that is now a moot point, as the passing of the Everstorm has healed all of them by restoring their Connection and Identity. As such, this form no longer exists during the True Desolation.
Singers are connected to rhythms, the underlying "beats" of the cosmere that manifest particularly strongly on Roshar. There are numerous rhythms, and singers can attune to any one of them. Each rhythm represents a certain state of mind, emotion or feeling; when not paying attention, singers will attune to the rhythm that corresponds to their mood, but can also attune another to fit with their message. This attuning manifests as hearing the beat of the rhythm in one's head. All rhythms connect the singers to each other and Roshar itself. This, and their regular nature, allows the singers to use the rhythms for measuring time, among others.
The singers speak and sing to the rhythms; they carry the singers' emotions, as well as add meaning to their words. However, not all forms can attune the rhythms equally. Dullform can only hear them weakly; slaveform cannot hear them at all. Additionally, those infused with the power of Odium, mainly the Regals and the Fused, can only hear Odium's rhythms, also called the Rhythms of Power. Those rhythms, while similar to regular ones, are usually more violent and aggressive, and represent more twisted, angrier emotions -- for example, Ridicule replaces Amusement, and Command approximates Appreciation. They also feel and sound different than the ordinary rhythms.
”Our pity destroyed us.
Singers predate humanity's arrival on Roshar, having been created as part of the planet's natural ecosystem. After the Expulsion, where mankind destroyed their homeworld of Ashyn, ancient singers were ordered by their gods to help the human refugees who arrived on their planet. These ancient singers were the Dawnsingers. Initially, this seems to have gone rather peacably, with some singers and humans even intermingling, creating Herdazians and the Unkalaki.
However, humanity's arrival also brought with it Odium, and soon, conflict began. Humans, originally granted only the land of Shinovar, sought to expand, causing conflict that would eventually come to be known as the First Desolation. During that time, singers came to call humans "Voidbringers", as they believed humanity deliberately brought Odium with them. In that conflict, spren eventually came to side with humans, leading to a feeling of deep betrayal on the part of the singers. This being said, it seems as though it was some sort of event that the singer partook in that had caused the spren to change their mind.
At some point, Honor and Cultivation sided with humanity, while singers came to work with Odium, who granted their most valiant warriors immortality and great power to fight against the human scourge. This power made them into Cognitive Shadows, and allowed them to be reborn by possessing the bodies of other singers. Those immortal singers came to be known as the Fused. They became both gods and rulers of singer-kind, and came to despise humanity, wanting them wiped off Roshar regardless of the collateral damage.
To combat them, Honor created the ten Heralds, who would imprison them on Braize until at least one of them broke, whereupon the Fused would return to Roshar and the a new Desolation would begin. The cycle continued for many centuries until finally, at the Aharietiam, the Heralds decided to leave only the strongest among them, Taln, to face the torture alone.
Not all singers, however, were on board with the plan to continuously battle humanity for Odium. One such group, the Last Legion, abandoned the Regal forms granted to them by Odium and left for the Shattered Plains, where they would eventually settle, far from the ongoing conflict. They would eventually dub themselves the listeners.
”The parsh, as they are now called, continue their war with zeal, even without their masters from Damnation.
The singers, no longer the dominant species on Roshar, continued to fight humanity and the Knights Radiant. Over the centuries, they came to be known as the parsh, though the meaning of the word is unclear.
Around two thousand years after the Last Desolation, near the Recreance, another conflict between the two species flared up. Dubbed the False Desolation, it was notable for the participation of Ba-Ado-Mishram, one of Odium's Unmade. Ba-Ado-Mishram Connected with the singers and provided them Regal forms and Voidlight, as Odium once did in the Desolations, allowing the singers to wage war at levels closer to those of the real Desolations. In response, the Knights Radiant imprisoned Ba-Ado-Mishram to stop this. They succeeded, but in doing so, stole part of singers' souls, ripping out their Connection and Identity and turning them into near-mindless husks.
These singers without form -- "slaveforms" to listeners, and parshmen to humans -- would eventually become property of humans, turning into cheap, mindless labor that would be exploited for millennia to come. The only ones to have escape that fate were the listeners, likely thanks to having broken ties with Odium.
The listeners would live on in the Shattered Plains for the next few hundred years, forming a number of groups settled in the craters around the western edge of the Plains. Eventually, they made contact with humans, and, thorugh diplomatic efforts, forged a treaty between the two species. However, on the night the treaty was to be signed, the listener Eshonai learned about human king Gavilar's plans to return the "listener gods" -- the Fused -- to Roshar. Fearing the consequences, the listeners arranged for Gavilar to be assassinated. As a result, they were forced to flee, abandoning even their homes for a more distant plateau of Narak right as humans arrived to exact their vengeance. Thus began the War of Reckoning.
After six years of constant warfare, the listeners, manipulated by the voidspren, recovered the use of stormform, one of Regal forms. Spurred on by its mental state, they planned to summon the Everstorm, which they've succeeded at during the Battle of Narak. As it passed over Roshar, the Everstorm restored all the Parshmen within, healing their Connection and Identity.
The new singers
”Can't we simply enjoy being able to think? Being able to exist?
The newly restored singers assumed seemingly random forms. Their temperaments, as well as their attitudes, became similar to those of the humans they spent their entire lives around -- the Alethi singers were angry and warlike, the Azish ones wished to negotiate with the government, and the Thaylen stole the ships and sailed away. Most of them, however, were quickly swept up by the Fused, who have now returned and sought to create new armies to conquer Roshar with.
To make those new singers more combat-ready, the Fused employed not only their natural anger at their former oppressors, but also hefty amounts of propaganda, most notably using the supposedly-last listener, Venli, as their mouthpiece. However, many singers are still apprehensive about fighting humans, and some outright wish that peace was, in some form, an option.
Known singer groups
- Listeners - the singer nation on the Shattered Plains
- Regals - singers who have bonded Voidspren
- Fused - Cognitive Shadows of singers bound to Odium
- Voidbringers - general name for all singers (as well as humans) who work for Odium
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