Several epigraphs in certain Parts of The Stormlight Archive serve as a sequence of Letters that reveal some hints about the history of the Cosmere and the Shards of Adonalsium, as well as the history and personality of their authors. They set the stage for the conflict on Roshar: not only is this one world at stake, but the entire Cosmere might fall if the Vessel of Odium, Rayse, gets what he wants.
The epigraphs are phrased as a letter, and are best read and understood all at once. For convenience in reading they are reproduced here.
The First Letter
Old friend, I hope this missive finds you well. Though, as you are now essentially immortal, I would guess that wellness on your part is something of a given. I realize that you are probably still angry. That is pleasant to know. Much as your perpetual health, I have come to rely upon your dissatisfaction with me. It is one of the cosmere's great constants, I should think.
Let me first assure you that the element is quite safe. I have found a good home for it. I protect its safety like I protect my own skin, you might say. You do not agree with my quest. I understand that, so much as it is possible to understand someone with whom I disagree so completely. Might I be quite frank? Before, you asked why I was so concerned. It is for the following reason: Ati was once a kind and generous man, and you saw what became of him. Rayse, on the other hand, was among the most loathsome, crafty, and dangerous individuals I had ever met. He holds the most frightening and terrible of all the Shards. Ponder on that for a time, you old reptile, and tell me if your insistence on nonintervention holds firm. Because I assure you, Rayse will not be similarly inhibited. One need only look at the aftermath of his brief visit to Sel to see proof of what I say. In case you have turned a blind eye to that disaster, know that Aona and Skai are both dead, and that which they held has been Splintered. Presumably to prevent anyone from rising up to challenge Rayse.
You have accused me of arrogance in my quest. You have accused me of perpetuating my grudge against Rayse and Bavadin. Both accusations are true. Neither point makes the things I have written to you untrue. I am being chased. Your friends of the Seventeenth Shard, I suspect. I believe they're still lost, following a false trail I left for them. They'll be happier that way. I doubt they have any inkling what to do with me should they actually catch me. If anything I have said makes a glimmer of sense to you, I trust that you'll call them off. Or maybe you could astound me and ask them to do something productive for once. For I have never been dedicated to a more important purpose, and the very pillars of the sky will shake with the results of our war here. I ask again. Support me. Do not stand aside and let disaster consume more lives. I've never begged you for something before, old friend.I do so now.”
—The First Letter
The Second Letter
The epigraphs to Part 4 of Words of Radiance form a reply to this letter. Again, they are best read at once.
I’ll address this letter to my “old friend,” as I have no idea what name you’re using currently. Have you given up on the gemstone, now that it is dead? And do you no longer hide behind the name of your old master? I am told that in your current incarnation you've taken a name that references what you presume to be one of your virtues. This is, I suspect, a little like a skunk naming itself for its stench.
Now, look what you've made me say. You've always been able to bring out the most extreme in me, old friend. And I do still name you a friend, for all that you weary me. Yes, I’m disappointed. Perpetually, as you put it. Is not the destruction we have wrought enough? The worlds you now tread bear the touch and design of Adonalsium. Our interference so far has brought nothing but pain. My path has been chosen very deliberately. Yes, I agree with everything you have said about Rayse, including the severe danger he presents. However, it seems to me that all things have been set up for a purpose, and if we—as infants—stumble through the workshop, we risk exacerbating, not preventing, a problem.
Rayse is captive. He cannot leave the system he now inhabits. His destructive potential is, therefore, inhibited. Whether this was Tanavast’s design or not, millennia have passed without Rayse taking the life of another of the sixteen. While I mourn for the great suffering Rayse has caused, I do not believe we could hope for a better outcome than this. He bears the weight of God’s own divine hatred, separated from the virtues that gave it context. He is what we made him to be, old friend. And that is what he, unfortunately, wished to become. I suspect that he is more a force than an individual now, despite your insistence to the contrary. That force is contained, and an equilibrium reached.You, however, have never been a force for equilibrium. You tow chaos behind you like a corpse dragged by one leg through the snow. Please, hearken to my plea. Leave that place and join me in my oath of nonintervention. The cosmere itself may depend upon our restraint.”
—The Second Letter
I received your communication, of course. I noticed its arrival immediately, just as I noticed your many intrusions into my land. You think yourself so clever, but my eyes are not those of some petty noble, to be clouded by a false nose and some dirt on the cheeks. You mustn't worry yourself about Rayse. It is a pity about Aona and Skai, but they were foolish--violating our pact from the very beginning. Your skills are admirable, but you are merely a man. You had your chance to be more, and refused it. No good can come of two Shards settling in one location. It was agreed that we would not interfere with one another, and it disappoints me that so few of the Shards have kept to this original agreement. As for Uli Da, it was obvious from the outset that she was going to be a problem. Good riddance. Regardless, this is not your concern. You turned your back on divinity. If Rayse becomes an issue, he will be dealt with.And so will you.”
—First Oathbringer Letter
First Gem,Cephandrius, bearer of the
You must know better than to approach us by relying upon presumption of past relationship. You have spoken to one who cannot respond. We, instead, will take your communication to us – though we know not how you located us upon this world. We are indeed intrigued, for we thought it well hidden. Insignificant among our many realms. As the waves of the sea must continue to surge, so must our will continue resolute.Did you expect anything else from us? We need not suffer the interference of another. Rayse is contained, and we care not for his prison. Indeed, we admire his initiative. Perhaps if you had approached the correct one of us with your plea, it would have found favorable audience. But we stand in the sea, pleased with our domains. Leave us alone. We also instruct that you should not return to Obrodai. We have claimed that world, and a new avatar of our being is beginning to manifest there. She is young yet, and--as a precaution--she has been instilled with an intense and overpowering dislike of you. This is all we will say at this time. If you wish more, seek these waters in person and overcome the tests we have created. Only in this will you earn our respect.”
—Second Oathbringer Letter
Your letter is most intriguing, even revelatory. I would have thought, before attaining my current station, that a deity could not be surprised. Obviously, that is not true. I can be surprised. I can perhaps even be naive, I think. I am the least equipped, of all, to aid you in this endeavor. I am finding that the powers I hold are in such conflict that the most simple of actions can be difficult. I am also made uncertain by your subterfuge. Why have you not made yourself known to me before this? How is it you can hide? Who are you truly, and how do you know so much about Adonalsium? If you would speak to me further, I request open honesty. Return to my lands, approach my servants, and I will see what I can do for your quest.”—Third Oathbringer Letter
The author of the First Letter is likely Hoid; an excellent argument in favor of this point has been posted on the forums. Sanderson did confirm that we "may have read that Hoid has specific beef with Rayse," and the Letter is the only mention of anyone holding a grudge against Rayse. The Second Letter, from the epigraphs of Words of Radiance, indicates that the original writer had taken on a name describing one of his "presumed virtues." This could be in reference to Hoid taking on the title of "Wit" while in Alethkar. Sanderson also made no correction when asked a question about "Hoid's letter," in a Q&A session.
The Recipient's identity is less clear, but their non-intervention policy and some other details may suggest that it is Frost from Dragonsteel.. It has been confirmed that the recipient is a dragon.
The author of the second Oathbringer letter goes unnamed, but their behavior and an implication of extreme self-sufficiency in both action and personality means that this may be the bearer of the shard Autonomy.
The third Oathbringer letter seems to be Sazed, from their writing pattern, reference to possessing two diametrically opposing shards, as well as relative ignorance regarding Adonalsium.
- Hoid has a specific beef against Rayse.
— 17th Shard forums - 2013-03-15
- Words of Radiance chapter 60 epigraph
- Is the "old reptile" a dragon?
— Theoryland - 2013-09-24
- Frost's appearance in other books
— Twitter - 2011-01-04
- Oathbringer's letters are from Shards we know.
— 17th Shard forums - 2017-11-19
|Shards||Ambition · Autonomy · Cultivation · Devotion · Dominion · Endowment · Honor · Odium · Preservation · Ruin · Survival Shard|
|Planets||Ashyn · Braize · First of the Sun · Nalthis · Roshar · Scadrial · Sel · Taldain · Threnody · Vax · Yolen|
|Terms||Adonalsium · Sliver · Splinter · Realmatic Theory · Intent · Focus · Investiture · Shardpool · Spiritweb|
|Other||Hoid · Seventeenth Shard · Shattering · Worldhopping · Letters · Silverlight|