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Firefight Chicago signing ()
#51 Copy

Kurkistan

So, could you give us some examples of how the ideals that spren represent work in other magic systems, like we have Forging where you get plausibility, or Returned how they're beautiful or any other systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, one more time on that.

Kurkistan

Okay, so you know the ideals the spren are manifestations--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

How-- Do those have impacts on other magic systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes, in the same way the Returned- that's the exact same system at work there.

Kurkistan

Is it the same reason why the Lord Ruler has to die of old age, and why you can't heal yourself into being an octopus or something?

Brandon Sanderson

Um... Yes, that is all connected in the exact same way.

Kurkistan

Okay, so it's all like these highfalutin Spiritual ideals?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

And are there like, median Cognitive ideals that gradually kind of influence these, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, they transcend between the three. I mean the original concept for the Three Realms is Platonic philosophy.

Kurkistan

So it goes up *makes absurd reverse-waterfall hand gesture*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it goes up and it comes back down. A lot of the Cognitive is-- So like, the Cognitive has a bigger effect on how you can heal and things like that. Does that make sense?

Kurkistan

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

But the power to heal is a actually a Spiritual thing.

Kurkistan

So it's like the Spiritual says "I want to be like this" and the Cognitive is like "Okay I'll try really hard to be like that, but I have a limit."

Brandon Sanderson

Right. Right. Filtered through how you see yourself, yeah.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#52 Copy

Argent

Lightsong's personality is very different than Stennimar's. If the Returned are their previous lives--Cognitive Shadows as you've said before, just stapled with Divine Breath--where do their new personalities come from?

Brandon Sanderson

My argument there is when I was writing him, getting into a kind of writer-thing, this is the person he would have become... My philosophy there was, the way that the Returned happen, and you losing your memories, it comes down to this nature versus nurture thing for me. The personality-- He is the same person, but with certain life experiences removed. Different circumstances. And in his case, that resulted in, let's say, a secondary mode of personality that had never been encouraged before.

Just like how, you put me in the right situation I'm an extrovert, but in a lot of situations I'm an introvert. So you remove a lot of the cultural conditioning and that is who he becomes.

Manchester signing ()
#54 Copy

BlackYeti

In Words of Radiance, we have Vasher showing up... One of his aliases on Nalthis is Kalad, which is very similar to the name of one of the Heralds on Roshar. So I was wondering how far back this connection between him and Roshar goes.

Brandon Sanderson

It goes pretty far back, in fact when I wrote Way of Kings, the 2002 version; he was a main character and was Kaladin's swordmaster. I wrote Warbreaker to jump back and write out his backstory, Vasher's. So to me Warbreaker actually came after Way of Kings. But the connection goes back pretty far, further than you would first guess.

BlackYeti

Did he actually come from Nalthis and not Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not going to actually answer that one-- Well I can answer that: yes he does come from Nalthis. It's pretty obvious that the way that the Breath's working, the reason he moved is because it's easier to get Stormlight than Breaths, and Stormlight can fuel being a Returned like him. And so yes, he was born on Nalthis. Becoming Returned without being born on Nalthis would be really hard.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#55 Copy

Questioner

How many diamond chips does Zahel require to survive?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. We will actually be releasing this pretty soon. But I actually have used my prerogative as a famous author to force some others to actually do the number crunching and the math of it. And so we will have a straight up unit measurement for you of various things coming up pretty soon. Once the number crunchers are done, you will know.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Also, if you look, I've inputted in the last drafts a little hint here of Vasher being a Returned. He says he could have the Fifth Heightening if he wanted it, which is true. He has his Returned Breath suppressed, but if he let it out, he could instantly have the Fifth Heightening. However, he'd be instantly recognizable as Returned the moment he did that. Plus, he couldn't use that Returned Breath for Awakening things.

Legion Release Party ()
#58 Copy

Questioner

Can a Returned be made from Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

How would you count the Heralds?

Questioner

I haven't read much, so I don't really know what you're talking about.

Brandon Sanderson

In the Stormlight books, there is a set of people who are constantly reborn, into full sized grown bodies that are being created for them. Would you count that as being Returned?

Or do you count Returned...What's your definition, right? You can create something that is Returned-like. But your definition of what is Returned and what is not, is going to be involved in that.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#60 Copy

Questioner

Is it possible for a Returned with sufficient knowledge, to sacrifice themselves to mend the Oathpact?

Brandon Sanderson

No, not without work. It just wouldn't work naturally that way. So no, I mean technically any Investiture-- with that amount of Investiture, there's like, a chance they could do something like you want to do. But I'm going to say, kind of, would be no...

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#63 Copy

Questioner

Vasher is called the first Returned. Was he actually the first?

Brandon Sanderson

He is not the very first person to Return. The lore surrounding Vasher and the first Returned and things like that is not strict on the world. Meaning, it's been many, many years.

Footnote: The questioner appears to have conflated Vo, the First Returned, with Vasher.
#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
#64 Copy

Graendal

A question that's been on my mind for a while. If Returned can't have children, how are Siri and Vivenna descended from one?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. One I have to RAFO. When I was writing WRBRKR, I was planning on two books.

I seeded two questions to be answered in the next book. One was the origin of the royal family..

The second was how Vasher was able to survive while hiding his divine Breath. I will answer these questions.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#65 Copy

Trae

Previously, you've revealed that the mechanism that determines the Returned on Nalthis is a decision of a sapient entity... Is the determination by which the entity that selects the recipient of a Divine Breath to come back as a Returned predicated on that recipient fulfilling some purpose in the Physical Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

...Basically they are asking... "Why does the entity that picks who Returns, why did they pick who they did?" And, your question kind of implies there's, like, specific tasks to fulfill. I'm gonna say, there aren't specifics, but there are certain things this entity is looking for--

Trae

In the Physical Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. There are certain things that they are looking for. Now, sometimes-- let's just say this entity is not necessarily the most consistent of entities in the cosmere when it comes to making decisions like this. But there are certain things they are looking for.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#66 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Five

Treledees Almost Tells Siri How to Pass On the God King's Breath

We get to see more of Siri taking charge here. In this tense situation, a lot of others would have been reduced to hysterics, but she's come into her own, taking command, trying to get the information she needs.

Treledees lies to her here about two things. First off, he does know how a God King can have a child, but he knows that the secret is also held by a secure group of priests on the islands. He doesn't think letting Siri in on that one for now is a good idea. But he does want to pass on how to get Susebron's Breaths away from him, should it become necessary. He knows that those need to be passed on, even if the God King does have a child. That's the greater secret, but the one that needs to be known to Siri. Those Breaths cannot die with Susebron.

So, anyway, he's lying about the God King not being able to have a child. (Or at least he sidesteps it. He says that the God King can't sire a child, which is true unless certain steps are taken. He also says that he doesn't know how the First Returned bore a child, which is true—he doesn't know for certain if the First Returned used the same method that Treledees knows. He's also sidestepping the fact that he does believe that the blood of the First Returned flows in the veins of the royal Idrian line.)

So why not bring this up in the book? Well, I learned in Elantris that it's easy to overtwist an ending by having too many reveals. This is a very small point, and there is good rationalization for why Treledees doesn't let on what he knows. So I felt it was better to let the story stand as is, without delving into this.

Of course, there is a hint in the text about it—or at least a question. If they depended only on a Returned child taking Susebron's place, then why were they worried about Siri having sex with Susebron? They didn't need her to sleep with him unless they expected that sex to do something.

I'm sorry to leave this issue a mystery, and I'm even more sorry to not explain how Susebron can give away his Breaths. It's not important to this book, and so I felt that having Treledees give the explanation here would just bog things down. I'd rather wait until a sequel, where I detail the magic system in a more complete form, to give you these explanations.

That leaves us with the cliché of someone who almost passes on information, then dies. As I said, I am sorry to do this. I nearly didn't put it in, but I felt it very important to include something that let you know that the priests did have a way to get those Breaths.

Note that Treledees is not lying about letting Susebron live out his life with Siri in peace. They have allowed previous God Kings to do that, once they had a successor in place.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#67 Copy

Jeremy_Carroll

How could Vasher become Drab, since he would have to give up his Big Breath to do so?

Brandon Sanderson

The Divine Breath can be hid. Essentially, you have to view yourself NOT as a god at all, using a very specific bit of mental gymnastics. As a Returned, your body changes based on how you see yourself. (This, by the way, is an indication that Lightsong was more pleased with himself than he ever let on.)

You don't lose your Divine Breath, but it does go into hiding, making you look like a normal person. But you're still Returned, and are consuming a Breath at one a week. If you give away your other Breaths, you retain this hidden one, but your body will still consume its own spirit if left to do so. So you still need a Breath a week to survive, and will die the week you don't get one.

I left this as an intentional place to explore the magic in the sequel, which I had planned to be writing (and posting on my website) by the time Warbreaker was out in stores. The WoT has diverted me, and so I feel bad, since this ends up being a confusing question that a number of readers have had. The hints toward how this is working are very difficult to find. (The biggest one is probably in the opening, where Vasher thinks about how he could reach the Fifth Heightening instantly, if he wanted to.)

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#69 Copy

Gordon

The paintings (I think there were at least two, right?) that remind Lightsong of his dreams and the Manywar etc. Is the Artist someone we know? If not, will we eventually meet him/her in a later book? Does the artist hope to affect Lightsong this way, or is it just some guy giving abstract art to his God?

Jared

Is the artist that painted those paintings Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid did not make the paintings. The goal of those paintings—and this is spoilery, by the way—the paintings are actually what the text implies that they are. They are abstract paintings which Lightsong, having a touch of the divine, is able to see and read into things that aren't necessarily there.

Beyond that, art is a magical thing in the world of WARBREAKER. When an artist creates a work of art, part of the artist's soul ends up in the artwork. Someone who has many breaths and who's Returned like Lightsong has the inherent ability to see into the art and perceive that. So Lightsong can interpret correctly an abstract piece, based on what the artist is trying to convey, in a way that a normal person couldn't.

I was not trying to make the artists anyone specifically important. In the case of those paintings, they are wonderful artists—I think they are two separate artists, if I'm thinking of the two paintings that you're indicating. As Lightsong has a splinter of divine nature inside him, he is able to interpret the paintings—to foresee, using them, and to see into the soul of the person who made them.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#70 Copy

Commicommand

Does emotional Allomancy work on animals?

Brandon Sanderson

Emotional Allomancy requires a certain level of sapience.

Phantine

So dolphins, oragutans, mistwraiths and parrots might work?

Brandon Sanderson

I was intentionally vague. :)

A_Shadow

Huh, so that would mean that divine Breath (or just regular Breath?) works in a completely different underlying mechanism than emotional Allomancy in providing that calming effect for animals and children. I had previously thought it was just an overlap in abilities.

Brandon Sanderson

There is an overlap. But it involves playing with Spiritwebs and/or the Cognitive Realm.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#73 Copy

Questioner

Are Returned the same person-- like is a Returned the same person they were before they were alive or-- 'Cause it says in the book that it is a Shard that Awakens the body so is it the consciousness-- Well not the Shard--

Brandon Sanderson

It is the same soul.

Questioner

The same soul.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Questioner

I was wondering if it was the consciousness of the Splinter.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#76 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Enters and Sees Returned

Just a little note here. Returned live for eight days without a Breath, though the week is seven days long in this world. Why? Well, I figured that they'd need an extra day as leeway. On day seven, they start to grow weak and sluggish. If they don't consume a Breath, their body will consume their own on the eighth day of their life, and they'll die again.

In some parts of this world, Returned aren't worshipped, but instead seen as something akin to vampires. They draw in Breath to survive, and need a supply of people to feed off of. They tend to wear black, since it's the most powerful color for draining to Awaken things.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#77 Copy

neart_roimh_laige

First of all, it seems that when Returned give their blessing that requires their life, to do so is to give up all of their BioChroma. Well, there was a time where Vivenna can't sense Vasher because he was a drab. Since that would mean he put all of his BioChroma somewhere and is SPOILER one of the Returned, why isn't he dead?

Also, it seems as if only the royal family has the ability to change their hair color. However, when Vasher kills Denth, his hair flashes through a ton of colors before he dies. What are his ties to the family? Is there something I missed? Will there be another book explaining this?

Brandon Sanderson

I did mention these things in the annotations, as has been pointed out, but boy--it's been a while. I don't remember what I wrote in the annotations and what I didn't.

All Returned are, in a way, "related" to the royal family in their Investiture. (The magic they hold.) Vasher has some specific and powerful control over his own powers, which I didn't go into much in the book. But if you delve into the annotations, you'll get more.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#78 Copy

Arbron

So how long has "Zahel the swordmaster" been slumming it on Roshar? I mean I don't know who that is obviously.

Brandon Sanderson

Zahel the swordmaster has been on Roshar for a long while at this point. There's something on Roshar that's very easy for him to get that's very hard in other places. And so, yeah.

Arbron

So he retains his previous abilities?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually in the first draft in 2002. But yes there's something in Roshar that makes it better for him to be there.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#79 Copy

Argent

When you say that the Returned are cognitive shadows, are they shadows of the people they were pre-death? In other words, is Lightsong Llarimar's cognitive shadow stapled to his body with a Divine Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they are. (The evidence in the books is Lightsong obtaining some of the memories his pre-death soul had.)