|Bonded With||Szeth's highspren|
|Titles||Truthless of Shinovar|
|Aliases||Assassin in White|
|Profession||Assassin (formerly), Honor guard|
|Groups||Knights Radiant (Skybreakers)|
|Birthplace||Valley of Truth|
|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”I was Truthless. I simply followed orders. Tell me. Do you think that absolves a man?
Szeth-son-Honor, 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, which started the War of Reckoning. As the Assassin, he wields Jezrien's Honorblade; eventually, he loses it, and is gifted Nightblood.
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 large, round eyes lacking the epicanthic fold that most Rosharans possess. Normally, his eyes are dark green, but whenever he summons Jezrien's Honorblade, they change to pale sapphire. He shaves his head often, mentioning that he's unable to grow a full head of hair.
As the Assassin, Szeth always wears white. While this originally stemmed from listener customs, Taravangian had him keep the outfit as a symbol. Even after he stops following his Oathstone, he continues to wear white. 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 anyone with sufficient Investiture, such as Lift or the Skybreakers.
”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 spiraling into madness. His resurrection did nothing to help him; he continues to hear the 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 argues 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. His highspren believes he needs to learn to rely on himself instead of Dalinar more. 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.
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 them with the Shin's eight Honorblades. As his family was given to the Honorblades, he was the bearer of Jezrien's Honorblade. It grants 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, leveling 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. This training 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. Although he has bonded a spren at this point and it should be able to manifest as a Shardblade, it has yet to do so, and in fact rarely shows itself to him at all. He will gain his Shardplate upon the completion of his Fourth Ideal crusade.
After losing Jezrien's Honorblade, Szeth was gifted Nightblood by Nale. While Szeth cannot dismiss Nightblood the way he could a regular Shardblade, he is even more dangerous with Nightblood. Lacking Breath, he has to feed it Stormlight to survive the act of using it, which means he cannot draw it very frequently.
Unlike Shardblades, Nightblood is capable of erasing Fused from existence completely, preventing them from resurrecting in the next Everstorm. Other unique capabilities include denting an Honorblade, collapsing an open perpendicularity, and destroying Connections made by Bondsmiths.
Early Life (1138 - 1166)
”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. He carried water and did other tasks on his father Neturo-son-Vallano's sheep farm. He lived near the coast, and his sister and mother still live in the area. At some point, his family was given to the Honorblades, and he started his training with them, 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. By this point, he was already the bearer of Jezrien's Honorblade.
”I am Truthless. I do as my master requires and I require no explanation.—Szeth, regarding his oath.
After being made a slave and given an Oathstone, Szeth was traded to the Thaylen merchant Vstim. From then on, 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 (1166 - 1173)
Killing King Gavilar
Two years after his banishment, Szeth was purchased by an assassin named Liss. She believed that Szeth was the best servant she ever had and told Jasnah that she wanted to show him off to her. However, she later found that Szeth was too good of a servant, so she sold him to slavers in Kholinar. A few weeks later, Szeth was purchased by Klade, a member of the listener ruling council. Klade knew of him from Venli, who in turn learned of him from Nale. 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 master gave him a list of high-ranking targets, all of whom were to be eliminated with the flashy display of skill seen over five years ago in Kholinar. Szeth carved a bloody path across the continent, slaying, among many others, two Azish Primes. His second-to-last kill was King Hanavanar of Jah Keved, whom he killed along with his two Shardbearer guards and many others who were present. This led directly to the Veden civil war.
King Taravangian, the last name 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 ordered him to kill 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 him, then proceeded to fight against Adolin, Kaladin, and Dalinar, all of whom believed he was there to assassinate Elhokar. Szeth 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 that 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. Taravangian managed to appease him by claiming that an Honorblade with Regrowth has been stolen. Having heard that, Szeth departed, vowing to kill Kaladin; however, Taravangian forbade him to approach Kaladin, 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.
Skybreaker Trainee (1173 - 1174)
After gifting him with Nightblood, Nale inducted Szeth into the Skybreakers, and took him to Yeddaw in order to find a potential Radiant. Throughout this time, 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 run. 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 (1174 - Present)
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 the King'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 King'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 King's Drop to Dalinar, who then used it to trap Nergaoul.
Aftermath of the Battle
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.
Imprisonment in Urithiru
Szeth only served as Dalinar's bodyguard for a short time, due to his unstable nature and the uncertainty of people close to Dalinar, notably Navani. He was put in a makeshift prison cell on the upper floors of Urithiru, and was given food, fresh clothing (white, as he specified), and plenty of spheres for light (presumably to banish the voices in his head). After several people got annoyed, he requested that Nightblood stop speaking to anyone but him. During his imprisonment, Navani interviewed him a number of times, asking him about her husband Gavilar's death. During one of these interview sessions, Navani learned of the black sphere, and Szeth was temporarily released to go get it.
Guarding Dalinar on the Emuli Front
When Dalinar went to Emul, Szeth and Nightblood accompanied him, wearing Lightwoven disguises. He accompanied Dalinar on and off the battlefield, with the exception of when Dalinar went to speak with Renarin.
While protecting Dalinar, he is disarmed by Nale, his former master and clearly his better in combat. Dalinar escapes Nale's attack unscathed. In an unusual deviation from his typical silent stoicism, Szeth offers Dalinar advice on Taravangian, saying that the aged king was not to be trusted. While watching Dalinar and little Gavinor, Szeth's highspren told him he must soon complete his Fourth Ideal.
Taravangian had deduced earlier that Szeth must be in Emul and had seen through his Lightwoven disguise. Taravangian requested a stone matching the description of Szeth's Oathstone in order to get Szeth to confront him. Unfortunately, this confrontation happened on a day when Taravangian was dumb and compassionate, and therefore unable to manipulate Szeth. His pleas for Szeth to give Nightblood to Dalinar for use on Rayse during a vision were ignored.
Szeth attended Dalinar's planning session in which he planned to confront Ishar. Szeth was surprised by the Herald's marked similarity to modern-day Shin. Later, he handed Dalinar the original copy of Oathbringer as they prepared to confront Ishar. Szeth then flew with the strike team to meet Ishar. At first, he stayed back. When Ishar summoned his Honorblade, which was previously held by Neturo-son-Vallano, Szeth's father, Szeth was shaken and collapsed. Just as Ishar was about to take Dalinar's bond to the Stormfather, Szeth stepped in and used Nightblood to slash the Connection. He then collapsed the perpendicularity, and, raging at Ishar, struck the Honorblade with Nightblood, leaving a chip in the Honorblade.
”I decide now. I finally decide. Me. No one else compelling me. Taravangian, know that in killing you, I make it my choice.—Szeth, immediately before attempting to kill Taravangian
Szeth then went to Taravangian's makeshift prison, intending to kill him. An incredibly dumb and emotional Taravangian was unable to stop him, but fortunately was pulled into a vision by Odium right as Szeth was stabbing him with an ordinary knife. Taravangian used the slowing of time to grab Nightblood and stab Rayse, killing him. Taravangian then Ascended to Odium. Szeth re-sheathed Nightblood, and, mistaking Rayse's corpse for Taravangian's and thinking the deed done, left. He confessed to the murder of Taravangian, supposing him to have somehow drawn Nightblood and been consumed by it.
He intended to next travel to Shinovar to complete his Fourth Ideal.
”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 react with either bloodlust or nausea, perhaps indicating that Nightblood's test of character failed to affect him. 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. Occasionally, 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 thrice, during the Skybreaker test at the Purelake, at the Battle of Thaylen Field, and to strike at the Herald Ishar. In each case, the sword single-mindedly begins screaming into Szeth's mind while quickly consuming any available Stormlight and causing him extreme pain. However, Nightblood insists that it wouldn't deliberately attack Szeth, as it doesn't consider him to be evil.
When Szeth's highspren chooses to show itself to him, he kneels to it and moves away from Nightblood. He is reverential to it, indeed, the two have a relationship that resembles master-student much more than the close kinship of other Radiant bonds. The highspren has not yet chosen to tell Szeth its name, but Szeth does not mind. Szeth describes the highspren as always judging his worthiness.
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 in The Way of Kings 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". In Rhythm of War, this is changed to "Szeth-son-Honor".
- The Way of Kings interlude I-3#
- Rhythm of War chapter 113#
- The Way of Kings prologue#
- Words of Radiance chapter 88#
- Oathbringer chapter 121#
- Edgedancer chapter 8#
- Oathbringer chapter 90#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-9#
- Rhythm of War chapter 16#
- Edgedancer chapter 9#
- Arcanum Unbounded Fort Collins signing
— Arcanum - 2016-11-29#
- Oathbringer chapter 120#
- Oathbringer chapter 119#
- Rhythm of War interlude I-7#
- Words of Radiance chapter 85#
- Oathbringer chapter 98#
- Oathbringer chapter 87#
- Oathbringer chapter 117#
- Idaho Falls signing
— Arcanum - 2018-07-21#
- Rhythm of War chapter 111#
- Oathbringer chapter 92#
- /r/fantasy AMA 2011
— Arcanum - 2011-09-01#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-14#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-10#
- Szeth calls it "his blade" and relates that he flew with it through the skies of Shinovar, implying that he held it before leaving.
- Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017
— Arcanum - 2017-09-21#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-14#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-4#
- Words of Radiance prologue#
- Oathbringer prologue#
- Rhythm of War chapter 77#
- The Way of Kings chapter 8#
- The Way of Kings interlude I-6#
- Words of Radiance interlude I-9#
- The Way of Kings chapter 71#
- Words of Radiance chapter 32#
- Words of Radiance chapter 33#
- Edgedancer chapter 15#
- Edgedancer chapter 16#
- Oathbringer chapter 106#
- Oathbringer chapter 116#
- Oathbringer chapter 118#
- Oathbringer chapter 122#
- Rhythm of War chapter 27#
- Rhythm of War chapter 47#
- Rhythm of War chapter 50#
- Rhythm of War chapter 66#
- Rhythm of War chapter 54#
- Rhythm of War interlude I-6#
- Rhythm of War interlude I-9#
- Rhythm of War chapter 98#
- Rhythm of War chapter 101#
- Rhythm of War chapter 114#
- Words of Radiance chapter 116#
- Three Stories in New Formats
— Brandon's website - 2015-04-05#
- 17th Shard Forum Q&A
— Arcanum - 2012-09-26#
- Shadows of Self signing San Jose
— Arcanum - 2015-10-09#