Eventually, she held up the page, satisfied. It depicted Yalb and the porter in detail, with hints of the busy city behind. She’d gotten their eyes right. That was the most important. Each of the Ten Essences had an analogous part of the human body—blood for liquid, hair for wood, and so forth. The eyes were associated with crystal and glass. The windows into a person’s mind and spirit.
She set the page aside. Some men collected trophies. Others collected weapons or shields. Many collected spheres.
Shallan collected people. People, and interesting creatures. Perhaps it was because she’d spent so much of her youth in a virtual prison. She’d developed the habit of memorizing faces, then drawing them later, after her father had discovered her sketching the gardeners. His daughter? Drawing pictures of darkeyes? He’d been furious with her—one of the infrequent times he’d directed his infamous temper at his daughter.
After that, she’d done drawings of people only when in private, instead using her open drawing times to sketch the insects, crustaceans, and plants of the manor gardens. Her father hadn’t minded this—zoology and botany were proper feminine pursuits—and had encouraged her to choose natural history as her Calling.
She took out a third blank sheet. It seemed to beg her to fill it. A blank page was nothing but potential, pointless until it was used. Like a fully infused sphere cloistered inside a pouch, prevented from making its light useful.
The creationspren gathered around the page. They were still, as if curious, anticipatory. Shallan closed her eyes and imagined Jasnah Kholin, standing before the blocked door, the Soulcaster glowing on her hand. The hallway hushed, save for a child’s sniffles. Attendants holding their breath. An anxious king. A still reverence.
Shallan opened her eyes and began to draw with vigor, intentionally losing herself. The less she was in the now and the more she was in the then, the better the sketch would be. The other two pictures had been warm-ups; this was the day’s masterpiece. With the paper bound onto the board—safehand holding that—her freehand flew across the page, occasionally switching to other pencils. Soft charcoal for deep, thick blackness, like Jasnah’s beautiful hair. Hard charcoal for light greys, like the powerful waves of light coming from the Soulcaster’s gems.
For a few extended moments, Shallan was back in that hallway again, watching something that should not be: a heretic wielding one of the most sacred powers in all the world. The power of change itself, the power by which the Almighty had created Roshar. He had another name, allowed to pass only the lips of ardents. Elithanathile. He Who Transforms.
Shallan could smell the musty hallway. She could hear the child whimpering. She could feel her own heart beating in anticipation. The boulder would soon change. Sucking away the Stormlight in Jasnah’s gemstone, it would give up its essence, becoming something new. Shallan’s breath caught in her throat.
And then the memory faded, returning her to the quiet, dim alcove. The page now held a perfect rendition of the scene, worked in blacks and greys. The princess’s proud figure regarded the fallen stone, demanding that it give way before her will. It was her. Shallan knew, with the intuitive certainty of an artist, that this was one of the finest pieces she had ever done. In a very small way, she had captured Jasnah Kholin, something the devotaries had never managed. That gave her a euphoric thrill. Even if this woman rejected Shallan again, one fact would not change. Jasnah Kholin had joined Shallan’s collection.