As you (probably) know/remember, I'm really interested in the early parts of your creation process. The ideas basically. What was the first idea that created Zahel in WoK prime? What came first, Zahel or Nightblood and what were they like originally? Was it through them that you came up with the idea of worldhoppers or did you just want another worldhopper to appear to show that Hoid wasn't the only one?
The idea was actually writing Kaladin's swordmaster in TWOK Prime. By then, worldhoppers were already quite well established. (I'd written Elantris in 99, along with Dragonsteel to be a prequel to the entire cycle. That was followed by White Sand and Aether of Night in 2000 or so--and Aether has the first on-screen appearance of a Shard.)
Kings Prime was 2002-2003, and I wanted Kaladin's swordmaster Vasher to have an interesting backstory. That was the origin of the idea for a worldhopper who was very interested in Shardblades. From there, wanting to do a sympathetic magic, and (years later) my editor suggesting a world more "colorful" drove me to try out Warbreaker itself.
Here is his first appearance in TWOK Prime. Note, none of the names are changed in this, so you get Kaladin and Adolin's original names, among others.
After a few moments, one of the monks noticed him watching. The man paused, regarding Merin with the eyes of a warrior. "Shouldn't you be practicing with the other lords, traveler?"
Merin shrugged. "I don't really fit in with them, holy one."
"Your clothing says that you should," the monk said, nodding to Merin's fine seasilk outfit.
The monk raised an eyebrow questioningly. He was an older man, perhaps the same age as Merin's father, and had a strong build beneath his monk's clothing. He was almost completely bald, save for a bit of hair on the sides of his head, and even that was beginning to gray.
"It's nothing, holy one," Merin said. "I'm just a little bit tired of hearing about clothing."
"Maybe this will take your mind off of it," the monk said, tossing him a practice sword. "And don't call me ‘holy one.'"
Merin caught the sword, looking down at it blankly. Then he yelped in surprise, dropping his Shardblade and raising the practice sword awkwardly as the monk stepped forward in a dueling stance. Merin wasn't certain how to respond--all of his training in the army had focused on working within his squad, using his shield to protect his companions and his spear to harry the opponent. He'd rarely been forced to fight solitarily.
The monk came in with a few testing swings, and Merin tried his best to mimic the man's stance. He knew enough not to engage the first few blows--they were meant to throw Merin off-balance and leave him open for a strike. He retreated across the cool sand, shuffling backward and trying not to fall for the monk's feints. Even still, the man's first serious strike took Merin completely by surprise. The blow took Merin on the shoulder--it was delivered lightly, but it stung anyway.
"Your instincts are good," the monk said, returning to his stance. "But your swordsmanship is atrocious."
"That's kind of why I'm here," Merin said, trying another stance. This time he managed to dodge the first blow, though the backhand caught him on the thigh. He grunted in pain.
"Your Blade is unbonded," the monk said. "And you resist moving to the sides, as if you expect there to be someone standing beside you. You were a spearman?"
"Yes," Merin said.
The monk stepped back, lowering his blade and resting the tip in the sand. "You must have done something incredibly brave to earn yourself a Blade, little spearman."
"Either that, or I was just lucky," Merin replied.
The monk smiled, then nodded toward the center of the courtyard. "Your friend is looking for you."
Merin turned to see Aredor waving for him. Merin nodded thankfully to the monk and returned the practice sword, then picked up his Shardblade and jogged across the sands toward Aredor. Standing with Dalenar's son was a group of elderly, important-looking monks.
"Merin," Aredor began, "these are the monastery masters. Each of them is an expert at several dueling forms, and they'll be able to train you in the one that fits you best. Masters Bendahkha and Lhanan are currently accepting new students. You can train with either one of them, though you'll need to pay the standard hundred-ishmark tribute to the monastery out of your monthly stipend."
Merin regarded the two monks Aredor had indicated. Both looked very distinguished, almost uncomfortably so. They regarded Merin with the lofty expressions of men who had spent their entire lives practicing their art, and who had risen to the highest of their talents. They stood like kings in their monasteries--not condescending, but daunting nonetheless.
Merin glanced to the side, a sudden impression taking him. "Holy ones, I am honored by your offer, but I feel a little overwhelmed. Could you tell me, is the monk I just sparred with accepting students at the moment?"
The masters frowned. "You mean Vasher?" one of them asked. "Why do you wish to train with him?"
"I. . .I'm not certain," Merin confessed.
Is the payment to a devotary while training under an ardent still canonical? And given that Vasher had a reputation for being a bad duelist in Warbreaker, exactly how good is he with a blade? Is it just a case of Nalthian swordmasters being better or did Vasher learn from his experiences?
It's been a while.
And Vasher isn't as bad as the text implies.