by Ben McSweeney
|Titles||Truthless of Shinovar|
|Aliases||Assassin in White|
|Groups||Knights Radiant (Skybreakers)|
|Birthplace||Valley of Truth|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”I am Truthless. I do as my master requires and I require no explanation.—Szeth, regarding his oath.
Szeth, formerly Szeth-son-son-Vallano or Szeth-son-Neturo, Truthless of Shinovar, is a Shin man from Roshar. He is the infamous Assassin in White and is responsible for the death of Gavilar Kholin kickstarting the War of Reckoning. As the Assassin, he wields Jezrien's Honorblade; eventually, he loses it, and is gifted Nightblood.
- 1 Appearance and Personality
- 2 History
- 3 Attributes and Abilities
- 4 Relationships
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Notes
Appearance and Personality
Szeth is roughly thirty-five years old at the start of the True Desolation. Like all Shin, he's short and pale-skinned, with round, beady eyes lacking the epicanthic fold that most Rosharans possess. Normally, his eyes are dark green, but whenever he summons the Honorblade, they change to pale sapphire. He's bald, and shaves his head often, mentioning that he's unable to grow his hair out as much as most people.
As the Assassin, Szeth always wears white. While this originally stemmed from listener customs, Taravangian had him keep the outfit as a symbol. Following his death and subsequent revival, his soul was improperly attached to his body, leaving him with a ghostly white afterimage that can be seen by some people, including Lift.
”I am not good at being a person. It is … a failing of mine—Szeth
Szeth is bound unwaveringly to honor, and loyal to the extent that he will do anything asked by his master, including self-mutilation. However, as a Truthless he's forbidden to take his own life or to give up his Blade. While accomplished at assassination, he's not a willing killer, always facing inner turmoil when taking a life. He hears the screams of his victims when he closes his eyes; his self-loathing eventually sends him spiralling into madness. His resurrection did nothing to help him; he continues to hear whispers of those he'd killed, which Nale believes to be trembles from the Spiritual Realm, serving as a constant reminder of his crimes.
As a Skybreaker, Szeth develops a far greater suspicion of his superiors; he starts questioning his orders, and even argue with those above him if he believes they are wrong. He slowly learns to make his own decisions, although still seems to yearn for someone to follow, as evidenced by his newfound dedication to Dalinar. He's exceedingly serious, and unless severely agitated, highly respectful to others. He also seems deaf to jokes or sarcasm, often finding what others say to be incredibly profound, even when it's nonsensical or silly.
”I knew a voice like yours once, sword-nimi. ... A single one, in my mind, when I was young. I hope things go better this time.
As a younger man, Szeth was a highly-regarded member of the Shin society. At the time, he trained with the Honorblades, familiarizing himself with all ten of the Surges. Among others, the training included ice-skating exercises to mimic Abrasion. At some point, however, he began hearing a voice in his head, possibly that of a spren. Perhaps as a result of this, he began saying that the Voidbringers were returning to Roshar. The Shin leaders, however, told him that his claims were false and, at the age of 27, named him Truthless. Likely due to his prior high status, he was given Jezrien's Honorblade before being sent away—something that wasn't done for other Truthless.
After being made a slave and given an Oathstone, Szeth was traded to the Thaylen merchant Vstim. From then on out, whoever owned his Oathstone owned Szeth, and Szeth was obliged by his honor to do as the owner commanded, with the exception of killing himself or giving up the Honorblade. Just after being exiled from Shinovar, Szeth visited Urithiru for the first time.
Assassin in White
Killing King Gavilar
Two years after his banishment, Szeth was purchased by Klade, a member of the listener ruling council. When Klade pressured him, Szeth told him about his Shardblade and the abilities it brought. As a result, the Five ordered him to murder king Gavilar Kholin of Alethkar during the treaty-signing celebration. They stipulated that the killing had to be done with live witnesses, and while wearing white.
As Szeth attacked, he was fooled into believing Gavilar was a bodyguard, and decided to chase after the escaping target, instead of fighting a protracted battle. However, soon after he realized the "target" was simply a decoy, since Gavilar would be much safer fighting with his own Shardblade and Plate instead of fleeing for his life. Doubling back, Szeth returned to kill Gavilar, and a fierce battle commenced. Gavilar almost succeeded in killing Szeth with a Shardplate-enhanced punch, but ultimately failed and fell to his death onto a piece of wooden debris, which impaled him in an area where the Shardplate had been broken.
Before dying, Gavilar had two last requests: to tell his brother to "find the most important words a man could say," and to protect a mysterious black sphere that shone dark light. Szeth honored both requests, scrawling a message to Dalinar into the wood with Gavilar's own hand and blood. Eventually he also hid away the black orb somewhere in Jah Keved.
His clothes on the night of the killing led to the general public dubbing him the Assassin in White.
After Gavilar's death, the listeners threw away Szeth's Oathstone as they fled Kholinar. Since the Alethi believed that Szeth had fled with the Parshendi, they did not attempt to track him down and instead initiated the Vengeance Pact, waging war on the Shattered Plains. Meanwhile the stone, and as a result Szeth, was eventually picked up by Avado, a travelling merchant.
Avado took Szeth with him to Jah Keved in fear of possible Alethi retribution against strange foreigners in the wake of their king's assassination. He did not keep his slave for long, however; over the course of the next five years, the Oathstone changed possession many times before landing in the hands of Took, a transient worker. Took was robbed and killed after a night of drinking in Ironsway, a town in the Bavland, and Szeth's Oathstone is taken by Makkek, a small-time criminal. With Szeth under his control, Makkek set out to gain wealth, first by killing his fellow robbers and then by establishing a gambling den in Bornwater.
On one of Makkek's missions, this time to eliminate a rival who had opened his own gambling place, Szeth infiltrated the local lord's mansion where his target, Gavashaw, resided. After entering Gavashaw's rooms, he met a mysterious stranger who knew of Szeth and his role in Gavilar's death, as well as his powers. After a short confrontation, the man revealed that both Makek and Gavashaw had been killed, and that Szeth's Oathstone was now in the hands of a new master. Thus, Szeth began to unwittingly serve the Diagram.
Szeth's new masters gave him a list of high-ranking targets, all of whom were to be eliminated with the same skill displayed over five years ago in Kholinar. Szeth set out to do just that, carving a bloody path across the continent, slaying, among others, two Azish Primes. His second-to-last kill was King Hanavanar of Jah Keved, whom he killed along with his two Shardbearer guards. This led directly into the Jah Keved civil war.
King Taravangian, the last one on Szeth's hit list, turned out to be his secret employer. When Szeth arrived in Kharbranth, Taravangian revealed a portion of his schemes, showcasing his "hospitals" in which people were slowly killed in order to draw out Death Rattles. Upon showing this to Szeth, he sent him out on a mission to kill a new target: Dalinar Kholin.
During a highstorm, Szeth attacked King Elhokar's palace on the Shattered Plains, entering it through a hole cut in the wall with his Blade. On his way, he killed Beld and cut through Hobber's midriff, crippling the use of his legs, then proceeded to fight against Adolin, Kaladin, and Dalinar, who all believed he was there to assassinate Elhokar. He quickly gained the upper hand, lashing Adolin to the ceiling and cutting through Kaladin's arm. However, he ultimately failed, as Kaladin managed to push him through his entryway. The two of them fell to the ground, both surviving. Szeth panicked when he saw Kaladin healing his arm, and when Kaladin told him he was a Windrunner, Szeth fled.
After his confrontation with Kaladin, Szeth retreated to the top of Urithiru, shaken by Kaladin's words and wondering if he was wrong the entire time. Ultimately, he decided to confront Taravangian about the matter. He found the king in Vedenar, and, control almost gone, demanded to know if the Knights Radiant were returning. Taravangain managed to appease him by claiming that a Honorblade with Regrowth has been stolen. Hearing that, Szeth made to depart, vowing to kill Kaladin; however, Taravangian forbade him to approach, demanding that Szeth kill only Dalinar.
Death and resurrection
”What I am owed will come to me eventually! Every bit of it. I will drown in it, stonewalker!—Szeth to Dalinar
Szeth attacked Dalinar during the climax of the Battle of Narak. Dalinar was able to temporarily hold his own before being lashed to the sky, to eventually fall to his death after the Stormlight sustaining the lashing ran out. However, before that could happen, Kaladin, having recently sworn the Third Ideal of the Windrunners, swooped in and caught him, then safely returned him to the ground. Kaladin and Szeth then battled above the colliding highstorm and Everstorm. During the battle Szeth came to the realization that Kaladin was truly a Radiant, and so Szeth himself was never Truthless. Unable to accept his actions, Szeth unbonded his Honorblade and fell through the highstorm to his death.
Moments after his death, Szeth was revived by Nale, who used a fabrial to heal his body before his spirit departed . Though Szeth was initially outraged at being returned to life, Nale promised to give him a new purpose and gifted him with Nightblood.
After gifting him with Nightblood, Nale inducted Szeth into the Skybreakers, and took him to Yeddaw in order to find a potential Radiant. Throughout, Szeth attempted to convince Nale of the upcoming True Desolation, but was unable to get through to him.
During his time there, he met Lift in the city's Grand Indicium. He confronted her and drew Nightblood to test her, but left when Nightblood's power found her innocent. Later, he encountered her again, chasing after him and the other Skybreakers. He stopped to inform her that she could not possibly get there before they did, but also shared the identity of the person they were seeking.
After the Everstorm passed over Yeddaw, Nale departed in a hurry, leaving Szeth stranded in Yeddaw. He was picked up by the Herald after a few weeks and taken to join the other Skybreakers. There, master Ki informed him that his mission with Nale was his first task, and that after being evaluated, he was found worthy of the First Ideal. This, however, was not enough for him to draw Stormlight, as Skybreaker trainees can only do so after attaining the Second.
After swearing the First Ideal, Szeth was taken to the Purelake along with other Skybreaker hopefuls and squires to complete the next test. The challenge was based on a message sent via spanreed by the city's minister, who told them there was a breakout of convicts. The request was to find the guilty and execute them. While most of the squires and hopefuls started immediately to find and execute the convicts, Szeth stayed and questioned their motives, learning more about the local law.
He was able to find and fight one. He found that the convict had a knife, but was thin, dirty and emaciated. Upon questioning him, Szeth also learned that the prison fort had only one guard. Once back, he saw other convicts, confirming that they had all been poorly fed and under a strict regime, leading him to the realization that the prison itself was improperly ran. When he confirmed with Ki that the prison administrator was also on the list of the guilty, Szeth drew Nightblood and killed the man. This allowed him to swear the Second Ideal, letting him draw Stormlight. Impressed, Ki chose him as her squire.
”I swear to seek justice, to let it guide me, until I find a more perfect Ideal.
Learning the truth
The next test was based on the newly acquired ability to Lash by the Skybreaker hopefuls. It involved Lashing oneself through the air and throwing pouches of colored powder at other competitors -- the one with the least spots of color on their outfit would win the game. Szeth originally held the lead, but when the rest of the group realised he would win, he was surrounded and pummeled with pouches. Shortly after, his Stormlight ran out and he fell into the Purelake. Nonetheless, he managed to win, as the water washed away the colors.
Frustrated with the slow progress, Szeth intended to swear his next ideal there and then, but at this point Nale arrived. The Herald took Szeth and the other full Skybreakers to Marat, where he showed them a village destroyed by the Voidbringers before telling them all the truth about the world. Afterwards, Nale declared his intentions: to side with the singers, the original inhabitants of Roshar, and oppose humanity.
Initially, Szeth believed he had no choice other than to follow Nale, but in a conversation Nightblood about the topic, he changed his mind, realizing that there was always a choice. He decided to swear himself into service of Dalinar, and joined the Battle of Thaylen Field.
Serving Dalinar Kholin
Battle of Thaylen Field
Szeth arrived on the field just in time to drop down and slay a thunderclast. After landing, he met Lift, who let him know that Dalinar asked her to recover Honor's Drop, a perfect gemstone. Acknowledging this as Dalinar's will, Szeth joined her in the hunt. Things initially went poorly, especially when Szeth lost Nightblood's sheath to one of the Fused, causing the sword to go out of control and begin devouring him, despite Lift's attempts to help.
Fortunately, it was then that Dalinar managed to open Honor's Perpendicularity, infusing the city with enough Stormlight to slake Nightblood's thirst. Szeth managed to resheathe the blade, and met with Dalinar. After managing to convince the Alethi of his new loyalty, he returned to his search for Honor's Drop with Lift. Together, the two managed to trick the Fused carrying it into letting it go and grabbing a Lightwoven fake, with Lift bringing the real Honor's Drop to Dalinar, who then used it to trap Nergaoul.
After the battle, Szeth met with Nale, who warned him about following a man instead of a law, but supported the decision overall. The Herald made to depart, promising to return later and teach Szeth about the Surge of Division. Before he left, Szeth swore his Third Oath. He also made it clear that for his Fourth, the Ideal of Crusade, he intended to travel to Shinovar and cleanse it of the false leaders who made him the Truthless in the first place.
”I swear to follow the will of Dalinar Kholin. This is my oath.
”I will cleanse the Shin of their false leaders, so long as Dalinar Kholin agrees.
Afterwards, Szeth became Dalinar’s bodyguard, despite the apprehension of other Alethi.
Attributes and Abilities
Szeth is an exceptionally skilled combatant; when ordered to fight, he becomes a nigh-on unstoppable killing machine. He's proficient with a sword, as well as the martial art of kammar. He combines both of those skills with his Surgebinding abilities to a deadly effect. In one-on-one combat, he can hold his own, and even defeat, a master swordsman. He's fearless when attacking even people in Shardplate and wielding Shardblades, trusting his greater, Stormlight-augmented agility to carry him through the battle unharmed. He also shows great cunning, resourcefulness and determination, which serve him well both in and out of combat.
”Szeth of the Skybreakers had, fortunately, trained with all ten Surges.—Szeth
Szeth knows how to use all of the Surges, having practiced with them through the Shin's eight Honorblades. When he was exiled, he was given Jezrien's Honorblade, granting him the powers of a Windrunner and thus the Surges of Gravitation and Adhesion. Over the years, he has become a master of it, easily controlling all three Lashings. However, he is unaccustomed to fighting other Windrunners, levelling the playing field somewhat when his opponent can also take to the skies.
The training has also included basic information about all Radiant orders; Szeth is familiar with their names, their powers and their capabilities, as well as strategies to counter all of them. It has also gave him an assortment of other, non-supernatural skills, such as ice-skating.
At the present, Szeth no longer has Jezrien's Honorblade, and has since become a Skybreaker of the Third Ideal. This gives him access to the Surges of Gravitation and Division. While he has been using the former extensively, thanks to his prior experience, he's yet to use the latter, although he already has access to it. Theoretically, he should also have a Shardblade at this point, although his spren is too skittish to approach him.
After losing Jezrien's Honorblade, Szeth has been gifted Nightblood by Nale. While Szeth cannot dismiss Nightblood the way he could with a regular Shardblade, he is nonetheless just as dangerous with it, if not more, as with a Blade. He cannot, however, draw it from its sheath in most circumstances; lacking Breath, he has to feed it Stormlight to survive the act of using it.
”I'm sure you can spot [evil]. You seem smart. If increasingly kind of boring.
Szeth acquires Nightblood from Nale after his death and resurrection.. He does not know its name, referring to it with the honorific "sword-nimi" instead. Nightblood is sentient and can communicate with Szeth telepathically. The two often have conversations, and throughout them, Nightblood has learned a fair deal about Szeth's past, including what might've been an attempt at bonding a spren. In turn, the sword has no sense of time and casually speaks of his creators and wielders, such as Vivenna, Shashara, and Vasher, even though Szeth has no idea who they are. However, Szeth often finds Nightblood's words to be helpful and profound, and when the Battle of Thaylen Field comes, it's Nightblood that helps him decide which side to take.
Szeth is warned not to draw Nightblood from its sheath except in case of extreme emergency and only if he carries a great deal of Stormlight, as the sword is extremely dangerous and can feed upon souls. Occassionally, he will draw it partially to see how other people react to it, as Nightblood causes "good" people to feel sudden nausea.
Szeth has only fully drawn the sword twice, during the Skybreaker test at the Purelake and at the Battle of Thaylen Field. In both cases the sword singlemindedly begins screaming into Szeth's mind while quickly consuming any available Stormlight and causing him extreme pain. However, Nightblood insist that it wouldn't deliberately attack Szeth, as it doesn't consider him to be evil.
Szeth's death was subject to a continuity change. In the original hardcover edition of Words of Radiance, Szeth was killed by Kaladin driving Syl as a Shardblade into his chest, severing his spine. Brandon felt this was out of character for Kaladin, and changed the text with the release of the paperback edition of the book. Szeth's death now occurred when he unbonded his Blade and fell through the Highstorm.
- Brandon wrote Szeth's scenes while listening to Daft Punk
- Brandon considers Nightblood and Szeth to be one of the more terrifying pairings in the cosmere.
- In The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, every chapter written exclusively from Szeth's point of view begins with the phrase "Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar..." In Oathbringer, the phrase is dropped for "Szeth of Shinovar" and then "Szeth of the Skybreakers".
- The Way of Kings interlude I-3 Summary: The Way of Kings/Interlude_I-3#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-14 Summary: Words of Radiance/Interlude_I-14#
- The Way of Kings prologue Summary: The Way of Kings/Prologue#
- Words of Radiance chapter 88 Summary: Words of Radiance/Chapter_88#
- Oathbringer chapter 121 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_121#
- Edgedancer chapter 8 Summary: Edgedancer/Chapter_8#
- Oathbringer chapter 90 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_90#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-9 Summary: The Way of Kings/Interlude_I-9#
- Edgedancer chapter 9 Summary: Edgedancer/Chapter_9#
- Oathbringer chapter 120 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_120#
- Oathbringer chapter 119 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_119#
- Oathbringer chapter 92 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_92#
- /r/fantasy AMA 2011
— Arcanum - 2011-09-01#
- Oathbringer chapter 98 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_98#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-14 Summary: Words of Radiance/Interlude_I-14#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-10 Summary: Words of Radiance/Interlude_I-10#
- Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017
— Arcanum - 2017-09-21#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-4 Summary: The Way of Kings/Interlude_I-4#
- Oathbringer prologue Summary: Oathbringer/Prologue#
- The Way of Kings chapter 8 Summary: The Way of Kings/Chapter_8#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-6 Summary: The Way of Kings/Interlude_I-6#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-9 Summary: Words of Radiance/Interlude_I-9#
- The Way of Kings chapter 71 Summary: The Way of Kings/Chapter_71#
- Words of Radiance chapter 32 Summary: Words of Radiance/Chapter_32#
- Words of Radiance chapter 33 Summary: Words of Radiance/Chapter_33#
- Oathbringer interlude I-10 Summary: Oathbringer/Interlude_I-10#
- Words of Radiance chapter 85 Summary: Words of Radiance/Chapter_85#
- Edgedancer chapter 15 Summary: Edgedancer/Chapter_15#
- Edgedancer chapter 16 Summary: Edgedancer/Chapter_16#
- Oathbringer chapter 106 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_106#
- Oathbringer chapter 116 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_116#
- Oathbringer chapter 117 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_117#
- Oathbringer chapter 118 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_118#
- Oathbringer chapter 122 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_122#
- Oathbringer chapter 87 Summary: Oathbringer/Chapter_87#
- Idaho Falls signing
— Arcanum - 2018-07-21#
- Words of Radiance chapter 116 Summary: Words of Radiance/Chapter_116#
- Three Stories in New Formats
— Brandon's website - 2015-04-05Cite: BrandonSanderson.com/three-stories-in-new-formats#
- 17th Shard Forum Q&A
— Arcanum - 2012-09-26#
- Shadows of Self signing San Jose
— Arcanum - 2015-10-09#