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I will seek justice
Skybreaker oaths are themed toward justice, fighting for causes, and enforcing social rules. They generally reinforce the importance of moral codes, legal structures, and similar boundaries that protect civilization.
The Skybreakers were the enforcers of the Knights Radiant, often tasked with keeping the peace, policing the other Orders, and making certain that dangerous or dark forces in the world were contained. This sometimes gave them a bad reputation among the more free-thinking Orders of Knights, but the Skybreakers (at their best) were not merciless. They were the ones who believed that nobody, not even a Radiant, should be above being questioned. They were the ones that did the sometimes tough job of making certain that the Orders didn’t abuse their power to become tyrants, as the Skybreakers saw that those with powers could easily oppress those who had none.
They tend to attract those who believe in the importance of legal code, those who have strong moral codes of their own, and those who think the best defense against anarchy are things like patriotism, moral fiber, and rules to govern behavior. Note that the current incarnation, led by the Herald Nale in his madness, is more rigid than the ancient order, which understood that the law was not perfect, but instead represented an ideal to try to reach over time. Anyone believing in finding true justice, in defending the innocent, and in punishing the guilty would be welcome in the Order.
The Skybreakers, are they from the old Radi-- the old Shard?
Yes, they've still been around. Not all of them. They aren't still alive-- The ones back then are not still alive, but they have an unbroken chain. The only Order that has that. They're the only one that didn't abandon their Oaths.
Can Skybreakers vow to follow a code of rules some might consider outlaw-ish, like the Pirate Code. Are they obliged to adhere to changes in the law after their vow?
Yes and yes.
What you're running into with what's happening right now, the Skybreakers are under the thumb of someone who has a much more rigid interpretation of what they should do than is necessary for the Order. And so you could totally be a Skybreaker who is not of this group, and this group would not look kindly on something like the Pirate Code necessarily. (Though the Pirate Code kind of works for them, because it's in international waters, so even with the current crop of Skybreakers you could probably argue the Pirate Code, and they'd probably be okay with it.)
But you could have even less, codes that's like, "I'm going to follow the code of the criminal underground. I'm going to follow the Mafia code." Current crop of Skybreakers, that would not fly with them. But in the Order in general, and the way that highspren work, and things like that, you would totally be okay.
Which is kind of dangerous, yes. But you would have to follow the code as the code changes. So that could get you into trouble, also. Skybreakers, they've got an interesting way of going about all this. Hopefully, all the Orders do; that's one of my goals with them.
How the heck is Nale's spren still with him? Is his spren as wacky as he is? Or is it dead, and he still carries it around?
Nale's spren is alive. The highspren... I would say "wacky" is probably a decent term for them. I would blame some of how Nale is acting more on the highspren. Obviously, it's partially being a Herald and all the things he's gone through, but they're all on board for this. So read that as you will.
Well, "all." The ones that are making Radiants of the Order are on board for it. You'll get to see Szeth interact with his just a little bit. There's not a ton of Szeth in this book, but you've got a few chapters. At least one, for sure. And he gets to interact with his spren, and you'll get a better picture of the highspren from that moment.
Is Niccolò Machiavelli's political theory--the ends justify the means--incompatible with the Knights Radiant's First Oath?
No. Although many of the Orders of Knights Radiant would find Machiavelli's theory, that the ends justify the means, incompatible with additional oaths and/or values of that Order, there are some Orders who could accept a Machiavellian. (Brandon said that the Skybreakers are where a Machiavellian could find a home.)
I've been really curious for a while about the modern Skybreakers and how they operated while in secret. To keep things short and avoid RAFO territory, what were the modern Skybreakers doing for their fourth ideal crusades? I'd imagine they must have been different from the sorts of crusades classic Skybreakers did, since their main purpose and general methodology seems to have shifted. Was it just stuff like "I will eliminate such and such radiant" or did they have other important missions that could qualify for a crusade?
Their crusades can actually be rather varied. They are different these days, but often involve joining and trying to help law enforcement in various countries. Watching tor Radiants was actually not often part of it, since Nale did that--and it isn't until recently that it's actually come up.
As of Words of Radiance, are there two groups of Skybreakers running around claiming to be Skybreakers?
Nale’s group is the only one I think I’ve had on-screen, so yeah I think there’s only one. Why would you ask that?
Was the group that Helaran joined the actual Skybreakers?
Oh, I get what you’re saying. Okay. Yes, there is one unified group that call themselves the Skybreakers, good question.
I finally asked if [Brandon] could write anything in my book that we did not already know about the Skybreakers. I will upload the picture when I get home but it is the second oath of the Skybreakers which says:
[written in book] "I will put the law before all else."