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Holiday signing ()
#51 Copy

chasmfriend

*written* Why did Vasher Return? What did he want to accomplish?

Brandon Sanderson

You know what you’re going to get in this one.

chasmfriend

I have a feeling. That's okay.

Brandon Sanderson

Come on, someone I'm going to write another book about?

chasmfriend

But that's in the past though, right?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but his past is-- It is a good question. It is an important, relevant question, relevant to who he is.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#52 Copy

Questioner

Does Vasher want Nightblood back?

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher feels responsible for Noghtblood

Questioner

is there any reason why he didn't go by Vasher, as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Because in the original draft he was, and I im like 'that's juts too easy'. Plus he's kinda trying to hide, so he's not as foolhardy as a certain other character who goes willy-nilly by the same aliases over and over again and doesn't care. Picking an alias, if you know people would potentially would be hunting for you, having them not be able to ask for you by name is useful.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#55 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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#56 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Naming Vasher

Vasher's name has interesting origins. I first began toying with the ideas that became Warbreaker back in 2005. I was hanging out with my then girlfriend (not Emily, but Heather, the girl I dated before I met Emily). We were up at Heather's family's cabin in Island Park, Idaho, and I had just met her father for the first time. His name was Vance.

The name intrigued me. Yes, I'd heard it before, but for some reason at that moment it struck me. Later that day, sitting on the dock of the lake, I pulled out my notebook and began to play around with ideas for a story. I tweaked the name to Vancer, but that just didn't sound right, though I used it for a while. The next incarnation was Vasher. [Editor's note: Brandon had earlier used the name Vasher in 2003 for a different character in the draft of another novel, but he had completely forgotten that by the time he wrote this annotation.]

I began doing some preliminary prose writing, plugging in a magic system I'd been working on. (I'll talk more later about how I came up with Awakening.) It became a story about a guy who was thrown into prison, then used his Awakening magic to get out of it. (Along with the help of his longtime sidekick, whose name escapes me right now.)

It wasn't very long. I'll have to dig it out sometime—it's only handwritten and wasn't something I ever intended to publish. Just a quick character sketch. It did have the first line, however, of what eventually became this book: "Why does it always have to end up with me getting thrown into prison?"

Footnote: The accuracy of this story is somewhat in doubt as it is known that Vasher was a character in The Way of Kings Prime, and that Warbreaker was designed, in part, as a prequel to his apperance there.
Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kalad's Phantoms

Kalad used to be Khlad, by the way. I didn't want his name to sound so Pahn Kahlish, which I signify with the extra h sounds to give them an airy feel to their words. I added the mythology of Kalad's Phantoms to the book late in the process, wishing to give some more depth to the superstitions of the world. And perhaps do some other things too. . . .

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen - Part Two

Vivenna Sees Vasher

I'm sorry that we don't get to see Vasher as much as you all want. I considered adding more chapters in. I considered it several times during several rewrites. In the end, I just decided that his viewpoints had to remain as they were in the early part of the book. If you see too much of what he's doing, it will give away things I don't want to give away.

I don't like having viewpoints that fail to reveal things about the characters and their emotions and plans. It feels like I'm lying to the reader when I hide things the viewpoint character knows. I avoid it when I can (though I can't always—reference Kelsier in Mistborn).

Either way, I just decided to keep Vasher as he was, with only occasional appearances.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#60 Copy

Questioner

Is energy [i.e. Investiture] interchangeable between worlds?

Brandon Sanderson

To an extent.

Questioner

So like Breath could be used instead of stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

It might require some hacking to achieve. Some cases it will not. For instance there's a certain sword that feeds on Investiture. And he'll feed on whatever Investiture he can get, and if he doesn't have any he'll just suck your soul out and feed on that.

Questioner

On the other hand if someone were to require Breaths and there were nobody giving out Breaths in that area, then...?

Brandon Sanderson

Right. Then theoretically that's the same sort of system, but I have no idea who you could be talking about.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

Siri and Lightsong Interact

This chapter has our first real melding of several viewpoints. In a way, it's a focus chapter for that reason. All four viewpoint characters, who have been off doing other things, congregate here, meeting and mixing. Lightsong and Siri, whose plotlines influence one another a fair amount, sit and talk for the first time. Vivenna and Vasher, who are far more intertwined through the story, meet eyes for the first time.

Vasher shouldn't have brought Nightblood. But he's always a little afraid to leave the sword alone for too long. That can have . . . consequences.

Anyway, it was good to be able to show an interaction between two of the viewpoint characters in the form of Siri and Lightsong. This lets us see how Siri acts through the eyes of another, and I think this scene here is one of the first where we really get to see into Lightsong's soul.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#62 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.

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

Kathy

I was talking with a couple of others in another chat room about Vivenna and Siri's personal journeys in the book, especially at the end when Vivenna decides that she isn't going to write to her father in Idris. There was much debate over whether Vivenna was being childish and running away from responsibility, or if she realized that she was so drastically different from who she was before that she knew she was going to disappoint her father and family. As the author, what is your take on this scene regarding Vivenna's growth as a person?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say yes to both. Vivenna ends the book having experienced a great deal of personal growth. However, unlike some of the other characters, she is only a few rungs up the ladder. She's got a long way to go. That's why as I was plotting the book, before I even started, I decided I'd probably want to do this as a two-book cycle. Overlapping and forcing upon Vivenna the level of personal growth that it would take to get her character to completely reach an end point just couldn't happen in the book. Particularly with me doing what I did with Lightsong and the personal arc he has, and with Siri. So Vivenna certainly had a lot of growth, but I planned a separate book where I could really delve into and dig into her psychoses and her psychology.

Vasher still has a long way to go too. His personal growth is more like a zigzag pattern—a line graph with lots of peaks and valleys. He's been around and still hasn't really found himself, though he's thought he's found himself a number of times. Anyway, those two characters led me to think that there was a lot more to explore there. I didn't want to ram them through the paces it would take in this one book. I thought it would ruin the book. So I let them grow at the rate they needed to grow at, or decline at the rate they needed to decline at, and saved a second book in the series to deal more with who they are and who they become.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#66 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Uses Straw Figures to Find the Tunnel

I wanted to bring the straw men back into the book, as I felt I needed to show you—and Vivenna—just how capable Vasher is with Breath. He's leaps and bounds above most people. I think this book gives a skewed perspective, since we don't see any ordinary Awakeners. We see those just learning (Vivenna) and we see one of the greatest masters of the art to ever live (Vasher).

With his practice and years of Awakening, he's able to get Awakened objects to do things that others wouldn't be able to. The straw men are a good example. As for why he apologizes, well, he doesn't even know that himself. I think it's because he realizes that Breath can make something sentient and aware, like Nightblood, and worries that the straw creatures become (even just slightly) more than just mindless automatons.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Notice how he grows in size here when he isn't paying attention. That's his Returned nature beginning to manifest, much like Vivenna's hair reacts to her emotions, because of the moment of great passion from him during the fight.

In this chapter, we also get the first hints that children and animals like Vasher. That's another hint about his nature—though a very, very subtle one, since I haven't talked about how animals and children all like Returned. They can sense the divine Breath within him, and it comforts them.

Prague Signing ()
#69 Copy

Questioner

So after Nightblood was used pretty obviously in Thaylen City does Zahel [or Vasher] know?

Brandon Sanderson

Where Nightblood is? Zahel is pretty sure where Nightblood is; Vivenna does not know. She's on the look out let's say.

Questioner

I guess it's hard to get back from Shadesmar.

Brandon Sanderson

It is. She had some plans and that didn't work out.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
#71 Copy

Questioner

What planet is Vasher from?

Brandon Sanderson

He did originate on Nalthis, which is the Warbreaker world, but he worldhopped very early in his life.

Questioner

And what planet did he get the ability to change his shape, or is that because he's a Returned?

Brandon Sanderson

That's because he's a Returned, yes.

Questioner

So it's not because he's a Lightweaver?

Brandon Sanderson

Nope. That is a great question, though. He is mostly what he appears to be, with some hidden parts of his past.

Calamity release party ()
#72 Copy

Zas678

Did Vasher visit Roshar before the Recreance? Because he had-- *Brandon mumbles question* Because he had to see Shardblades, and... presumably live ones.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah... I'll RAFO that. I'll RAFO that. It is an assumption that he had... He doesn't necessarily have to have seen alive ones. He could have heard records of them.

Zas678

Okay. Because I've tried to make out a timeline, to be like, "Okay, if this is here..."

Brandon Sanderson

Kara has a timeline-- Not Kara-- Karen has a timeline in hand. But I would have to look at it to give you exact dates, but yeah.

Zas678

Okay. So you didn't have to see...

Brandon Sanderson

He did not have to see.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#75 Copy

Questioner

With Vasher on Roshar, is he collecting more Breaths, or just burning through slowly what he has collected?

Brandon Sanderson

He can use Stormlight instead. That's why he came to Roshar.

Questioner

Did he come voluntarily?

Brandon Sanderson

He came voluntarily because he was tired of sucking souls. Roshar is where he decided to "retire."

Questioner

How many Breaths <does he have now>?

Brandon Sanderson

He has the same number that he left with. Which, there are clues to what level of Heightening he at least has, in the books.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#76 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher the Hero

We finally start to get a sense here of Vasher's true motivations. When designing him as a character, one of my goals was to force myself to stretch. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who was very different from my standard. A person who wasn't glib, who wasn't good with people. The opposite of Kelsier or Raoden—a man who had trouble expressing himself, who let his anger get the better of him, and who was rough around the edges. You really get to see who he is in this chapter as he shoves Vivenna around and bullies the Idrians.

Vasher tries, and his heart is good, but he just doesn't have a delicate bone in his body. He doesn't know how to influence people. He made for a fascinating hero to write for that reason, but it also led me to want to keep him more mysterious from the beginning. I felt that if we spent too much time with him, we wouldn't be as interested in him. The way people who read the book kept crying for more Vasher and more Nightblood made me think I was right in keeping their chapters sparse—it meant that by the time you reached this point in the book, you were (hopefully) very interested in what he was doing.

General Reddit 2019 ()
#77 Copy

TheFoxQR (paraphrased)

In Awakening, can you with some mental gymnastics, view yourself as both the donor and recipient of Breaths? Is this how Vasher hides his Divine Breath (and consequently nature), by tucking it inside of himself rather than an external object? Theoretically, can you Awaken yourself, and with the right Commands enhance/extend yourself Cognitively, like how burning atium comes with Cognitive enhancements to process the raw information?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

This is a theory worth exploring. You're not quite there, but you are on to something.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#78 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Meet with the Idrian Workers

Now we get to see the other part of what Vasher has been doing all this time—the part that I couldn't show you earlier, since it would have made it too obvious that he had good intentions. (And that, in turn, might have spoiled the surprise that Denth was manipulating Vivenna.) He's been trying very hard to convince the Idrians not to get themselves into trouble. He's been only mildly successful.

Vivenna listening here has some things to work through. Some alpha readers had difficulty with how easily she started helping Vasher, so I've reworked that in the final draft. Hopefully you now see her struggle and her reasoning.

What she sees here is something real. She notices that most of Hallandren doesn't care about Idris or the Idrians. When I lived in Korea, I sensed a lot of resentment from the Koreans toward the Japanese. The Japanese had done some pretty terrible things to the Koreans during the various wars throughout the history of the two countries, and the anger the Koreans felt was quite well justified. The thing is, most Japanese I meet are surprised to hear how much resentment there is. It's kind of like Americans are sometimes surprised to hear how much dislike there is for them in Mexico.

When you're the bigger country, the one who historically won conflicts and wars, you often don't much notice the people you've stepped on along the way. While the smaller country may create a rivalry with you, you may not even realize that you have a rival. This is what happened with Hallandren and Idris. While some people push for war, the general populace doesn't even think about Idris—except as that poor group of people up in the highlands who sell them wool and do jobs they, the Hallandren, don't want to do.

This can be very frustrating for someone from the smaller country, like Vivenna, when confronted not with anger, but with indifference, about your feelings.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#80 Copy

Questioner

So, I heard you talk about cameos, are there any other cameos besides Hoid and Nightblood in the books?

Brandon Sanderson

So, Galladon from Elantris, Baon from White Sand, and Captain Demoux all show up in Way of Kings. They're the Purelake scene. Let's see... the character of Felt is a worldhopper, you see him in a couple of books. Watch out for him. Khriss is in a couple of the books, she's the one who writes the Ars Arcanums. Nazh is in a couple of the books, Khriss's assistant. Vasher is in the book. They're all over the place.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#82 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities

This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?

A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.

Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#83 Copy

Questioner

How did people-- So apparently Zahel... who is teaching Kaladin Shardblade stuff... He's Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

He is Warbreaker.

Questioner

How did people figure that out?

Brandon Sanderson

The color metaphors. He displays BioChromatic Breath. It's not that great because I didn't put a lot of color metaphors into the book, even though I wish I had, I've gotten better about adding flavor to books. But really he notices when Kaladin is coming to knock on his door before Kaladin gets there. That's one of the big clues that people got.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#85 Copy

Questioner

Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 

Questioner

So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#88 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Nine

Vasher's Temper

Giving Vasher temper issues is part of a minor quest on my part to find more realistic conflicts and personality traits for my characters. It seems that much of the time, the flaws that writers give their heroes are really just backhanded talents. A hero is "too bold" or "too much of a bookworm." I'm guilty of this as much as anybody. (Siri's character flaws are an example.)

It's a tough balance. Real people tend to have flaws that make them . . . well, unlikable sometimes. Or at least difficult to get along with. We get grumpy, we make bad decisions, we say things we don't mean. It's hard to convey this in a story without making the characters unlikable. There are authors who are fantastic at doing so, and Vasher here was me toying with making a person have a more realistic temperament. There's no hidden advantage for him being like he is; he's simply got anger issues. Not extreme ones—it's not like he has to go to therapy. He's just prone to losing his temper like any number of people out there in the world.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#89 Copy

TinyOxKing

So when I was reading Warbreaker, the more I listened to Vasher the more he reminded me of Mormon (loves kids, warrior who hated war, a scholar, & etc) was this a coincidence or done on purpose?

Brandon Sanderson

Coincidence. I find that an interesting connection, though.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#90 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Kills

As I said, he has a temper. He tends to lose it when he fights. He's not a berserker or anything like that; he simply lets his passion get in the way when he's in battle. It makes him worse at fighting, particularly when dueling. It also makes him a lot more dangerous sometimes.

Vivenna looking back at him, his hand on Nightblood's hilt, slowly pulling it forth as the bodies lie around on the ground is one of my favorite scenes in the book.

This is how Vasher lost his Breath before, by the way. If you recall, he began the book with barely enough to Awaken in weak ways. He remembers having much more Breath. Beyond feeding on one Breath a week, slowly eating away his supply, he drew Nightblood a few months back. That drained away his Breath and left him with only a few remaining. As for who he killed that time . . . I'm going to hold off on saying, just in case I decide to incorporate it into a future book.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#91 Copy

uchoo786

Has Vasher met Hoid, and are they BFFs?

Brandon Sanderson

Not BFFs by a long shot.

KingSloth

Has Hoid seriously offended someone on EVERY planet he's been to? Kelsier, Shai, the Alethi nobility, who knows how many shards from Yolen, AND Vasher are all out for his blood..? :o

Brandon Sanderson

That's only a small fraction of the total list.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
#93 Copy

Questioner

Since Vasher is now Zahel to Roshar, is he still immortal?

Brandon Sanderson

As long as he has Breath or Investiture to consume, then yes.

Questioner

Can he consume Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

He can consume Stormlight.

Questioner

Does Zahel gain abilities from the Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

No.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#94 Copy

Cheese_Ninja

Kaladin: “Have you ever had to choose between two equally distasteful choices?” Vasher: “Every day I choose to keep breathing.”

Does that mean he needs to consume Stormlight on a daily basis rather than weekly?

Brandon Sanderson

This is more mundane than that. Vasher is indicating that not letting himself die is a tough choice for him.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
#95 Copy

Questioner

So we already know that Vasher was Kaladin's trainer with a Shardblade, 'cause you told me that last time I asked you. So does Vasher just have a large mass of Biochromatic Breaths and that's how he's surviving, or is he somehow feeding off Stormlight while he is there?

Brandon Sanderson

He is feeding off of Stormlight, which is the primary reason why he came to Roshar. Investiture is easy to access in plentiful amounts.

Questioner

How did he know how to use Shardblades so well when he got there, is that related to how they created Nightblood

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, he has experience with Roshar from hundreds of years ago.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#97 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

Vasher Considers Killing Lightsong

I remember reading a book a few years back where the heroes are separated from one another. One group of them is doing something clandestine, while another group is traveling in the area posing as ordinary peasants. Neither knows what the other is up to.

Well, some soldiers capture the ones posing as peasants, then go and talk to the main group of heroes. The main group says, "Well, I guess we'll have to kill those poor peasants who inadvertently passed by and discovered we have an army here." It's supposed to be dramatic irony, I believe. The protagonists nearly end up killing one another through a cruel twist of fate. (The group posing as peasants avoid death, however, for reasons I can't quite remember.)

Anyway, I put the book down shortly after. I didn't remember the scene I'd read until writing this particular one. Why wouldn't Vasher just kill Lightsong, thereby ending the war?

Because that's not a good solution. It's a shortsighted one. If you do terrible things in the name of trying to do what is right, I think you'll just end up creating bigger problems. Vasher couldn't have killed Lightsong, not and remain the man he wants to be. He knows this, I think. Even a man with the reputation of Lightsong is not someone you can kill just because he's inconvenient to you. Not if you want your conscience to go untarnished.

And if innocent peasants happen to spy your good-guy army, there are much better actions to take than deciding to execute them in the name of the greater good. You do that, and you stop being heroes. (That's not necessarily a book killer. It's only one if you expect me to keep on reading and still consider your characters heroic.)

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#99 Copy

Questioner

If someone—Vasher says that Nightblood would kill him, is that just because he has this one deific Breath? Would it kill an ordinary person, like a drab?

Brandon Sanderson

It would suck the Breath from anybody, and if they were unable to feed it he would feed on their soul.

Questioner

So they would die?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Anyone wielding Nightblood, he will suck their soul. If for too long, he will eventually—if you draw him—will suck your soul.

Calamity release party ()
#100 Copy

Questioner

So assuming you have mentioned that it is technically possible to be able to use one magic system on another planet from a different one...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Is it possible to fuel that... Like, say could you fuel Awakening using Stormlight, or do you have to bring Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, you could!

Questioner

Okay.

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. Now it's-- there are tricks to making it happen on each world. Some are easier than others, but yes you can.

Questioner

So could that allow a loophole to maybe... convert from one form of power to another? Or like from Stormlight to Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. In fact, that's part of why Vasher--

Questioner

Vasher. I wondered that.

Brandon Sanderson

--is on Roshar, is because it's a lot easier to get Stormlight than Breath.