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The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Atium Convoys

The First Generation mention the Ministry convoys that carried the hidden atium to Luthadel from the Pits, or carried atium to the pits and other locations, where the Ministry had purchased beads of it back from the nobility. If you'll recall book one, Vin and Camon right at the beginning were planning to rob a convoy just like this. Instead, Camon decides to double-cross his associate and take a payoff.

However, assuming they'd ever managed to pull that off, they'd have broken the system and discovered the atium. And, in doing so, would have exposed the Lord Ruler's ruse to Ruin, probably leading to the end of the world.

Good thing they didn't pull it off, eh?

Ancient 17S Q&A ()
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Chaos (paraphrased)

Why is there such an imbalance between the amount of atium and the amount of lerasium in the world? Also, why are atium and lerasium very imbalanced in Allomantic power (Lerasium is far more useful than atium, really)?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There isn't. Leras is just spread out further. He is in the mists, in the Well, and in the lerasium. Ruin's power however is condensed strictly in atium.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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ThePsion5

I always wondered what would happen if someone burning atium fought a ta'veren like Matrim Cauthon. Would it look like he was burning atium as well? Would his atium shadow be concealed by a haze of probability?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd say that Mat's aura would interfere with atium, but you could easily rule the other way--you could say atium works something like Min's visions of the future, letting one "read the Pattern" so to speak. And Min's visions do work on ta'veren.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Ruin Wants the Atium

And, it is about atium. Tada! The atium drove the plot in book one as Kelsier and team tried to find it. (Ruin didn't need to influence them very much on that one.) It drove the second book as the armies besieged Luthadel with the hope of claiming the fabled atium stash of the Lord Ruler.

It would have been a disappointment for readers, I think, to have that mythical atium supply to end up useless. Yomen is right; it no longer matters monetarily. Cities aren't selling food to one another in the face of the destruction that is coming. Atium is meaningless economically.

But there are other reasons, and—as you'll see—the atium is an important part of all of this.

TWG Posts ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

What will an Atium-Lerasium Alloy do ?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Ah, I've been asked this before. There are a number of theories, but nobody's really sure, since there haven't really been any opportunities to alloy lerasium with atium. You can choose which one to believe. Most require an understanding of realmatic theory to comprehend, which you need to be a Shard or Splinter to even begin to understand.What Lerasium is, is essentially a hack for something like your spiritual DNA. It rewrites what your spiritual self is capable of. So, combined with atium, which allows you a glimpse into the vision of everything - past, present, future - the theories say it could do one of two things. It could either create a substance so volatile that it would have world-ending repercussions, or rewrite your "spiritual DNA" (his phrase, not mine) with atium's power. Is that a vague enough answer?

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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SageOfTheWise

In allomancy, normal metals are simply a tool that channels allomancers already existing connection to the power of preservation, which is why non allomancers don't get powers from digesting metal. But if I understand it correctly, god metals are an exception, since they are a form of a shards power, burning them directly uses the power stored within.

If I have this right, how come a normal person can burn Lerasium, but not Atium? Or could they, and no ones thought to try? But if that was true why are there Atium mistings?

Brandon Sanderson

Suffice it to say that what people both in the books and out think about the god metals has some holes in it.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vin asks Ham how to kill a man burning Atium

This conversation about how to kill someone who is burning atium is another one I'd been wanting to include for a long time. It's important to the plot, and the overall arc of the book, that you worry about Vin lack of atium. Plus, I want to keep the reader thinking about the metal, as the Lord Ruler's atium cache is such a large part of the series' plotting.

It's tough to know how to fight someone who can see the future. What Ham outlines here are pretty much the only things that anyone has been able to come up with.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This is the first chapter where we get to see atium work. The metal is one of the most interesting aspects of the magic system, in my opinion. In fact, one of the things that made me want to start writing Mistborn was this idea of an extremely rare metal that gets used up by the world's mages. It felt natural to me, then, that this metal would do something very powerful.

Allomancy is, basically, a physical/combat oriented magic system. So, the spectacular power of atium would have to be something physical, and useful on a one-on-one basis. The ability to see slightly into the future, with the atium shadows, felt like a very interesting image to me, so I went with it.

In Mistborn Prime, the main character lacked atium–and spent most of the book trying to get ahold of it. (He actually stumbled across an atium mine hidden in a small village, which was being oppressed by a tyrant.) It is a small nod to the original book that I developed the plot of this one to be characters trying, essentially, to get ahold of some atium.

Just a lot more of it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The Storage Caches

One of the major revisions I made to the book during drafting was to reduce the number of storage caches. Originally I'd planned for eleven or twelve. The one here in Vetitan was still going to be the penultimate, with Fadrex being the last—the team just would have discovered more of them between books.

I changed this in order to make the cache in Fadrex seem more important. I wanted to get across the idea that taking that city was vital to the plans and goals of the team, and making it have one of five caches instead of one of twelve seemed to help with that.

In the first draft, the major draw of the final cache was the hope that it contained atium. But I realized that atium just wasn't that useful anymore—or, at least, many of the reasons it might have been useful are no longer important to the characters. Vin's instinct is right—the atium is more important than it might seem at first, but the original draft made it look like they were chasing a hope for something that wasn't even very useful. So, during revisions, I inserted Elend's acknowledgment that they don't really need atium, and I also added Vin's instinct that it's vital. We'll see how this plays out.

Of course, the reason Vin has an instinct that atium is vital is because of Ruin's touch on her emotions, driving her to seek out the final cache, where Ruin himself hopes to find that atium. To him, Vin and Elend are just another pair of pawns—in some ways more useful than Inquisitors because they don't even know they're following his goals. Ruin isn't sure if these caches will have the atium—he's in fact rather suspicious that this is a ruse of the Lord Ruler—but he's willing to dedicate some resources to the possibility, hence what he did to send Elend and Vin searching out the caches. He worries that there will be some kind of guard set at the final cache or the atium that has been told to watch for Inquisitors and keep them away, and he feels that using Vin and Elend is both more clever and potentially more effective than just sending an Inquisitor.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

One of the things I also wanted to do before the series was done was show someone burning atium without regard for it running out. I wanted to show the awesome power of the metal. And then I wanted to have them lose.

Why? Many reasons. Because violence may work to solve some problems, but it isn't always the answer. In fact, it's often a poor answer, even if it's the only answer. (As it was for Elend.) Killing koloss doesn't solve anything in the long run.

Yes, atium is amazing. Yes, showing it off like this was inevitable in the book. However, I figured that most fantasy novels would get to a point where the character drew on the ultimate hidden weapon, and then would save the day. I didn't want to do that. Not just because I like to do the unexpected, but because it didn't fit what I wanted to say with this book. It didn't fit what felt right.

A twist is no good if it's just there to be a twist.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
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Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

You've said that "The Pits of Hathsin were crafted by Preservation as a place to hide the chunk of Ruin's body that he had stolen away". How does one Shard steal a portion of another Shard and create a Physical outlet for it, like the Pits were for Ruin's power?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It has to do with clash between the two Shards' power. When pressed, he then said that it was "kind of" like splintering

General Reddit 2016 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The Lord Ruler died because he had filled his bracers with a large amount of youthfulness, and had to keep drawing it out to stay young--as his soul knew how hold it was, and his body kept trying to 'bounce back' to its perceived age. Compounding is how he gained enough extra youthfulness to pull this off.

Phantine

Actually, I have a question about the 'bouncing-back'.

Is the 'bounce back force' actually what's stored in a metalmind?

For instance, when storing atium a feruchemist ruins his body to make himself old, and then his metalmind 'catches' the force the soul puts out as it tries to restore his true, younger age?

So you create metalminds by seesawing a ruining and a preserving impulse together.

Brandon Sanderson

The bounce back is caused by the relationship between the three realms of the cosmere. What you're saying isn't terribly far off, but at the same time, ignores some underpinning fundamentals of how it all works.

In the cosmere, your soul is basically an idealized version of yourself--and is a constant force pushing your body to match it. Your perceptions are the filter through which this happens, however, and many of the magics can facilitate in interesting ways.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Chaos2651

Hemalurgically, atium steals Allomantic Temporal Powers. But, that seems unlikely, since atium is a god metal. It wouldn't fit in with the rest of the magic system. Did Preservation, in addition to switching Cadmium and Bendalloy for Atium and Malatium, also switch atium's Feruchemical and Hemalurgic powers with Cadmium? Because it seems to me there's not a lot of atium Marsh can use to live for hundreds of years into the next Mistborn trilogy.

Brandon Sanderson

Preservation wanted Atium and Malatium to be of use to the people, as he recognized that it would be a very powerful tool—and that using it up could help defeat Ruin. But he also recognized that sixteen was a mythological important number, and felt it would make the best sign for his followers. So he took out the most unlikely (difficult to make and use) metals for his sign to his followers. But that doesn't have much to do with Hemalurgy's use here.

Remember that the tables—and the ars Arcanum—are 'in world' creations. (Or, at least, in-universe.) The knowledge represented in them is as people understand it, and can always have flaws. That was the case with having atium on the table in the first place, and that was the case with people (specifically the Inquisitors) trying to figure out what atium did Hemalurgically.

Their experiments (very expensive ones) are what determined that atium (which they thought was just one of the sixteen metals) granted the Allomantic Temporal powers. What they didn't realize is that atium (used correctly) could steal ANY of the powers. Think of it as a wild card. With the right knowledge, you could use it to mimic any other spike. It works far better than other spikes as well.

As for Marsh, he's got a whole bag of atium (taken off of the Kandra who was going to try to sell it.) So he's all right for quite a while. A small bead used right can reverse age someone back to their childhood.

But this was a little beyond their magical understanding at the time.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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L0neGamer

*posting a thread in the "WhoWouldWin" subreddit titled "Randland vs Scadrial"*

Round 1: Zen Rand (after revelation, before last battle) vs Mist Vin (Feeding on infinite metal sources) - Both at their top tiers, they should, by my estimation, be matched because of the rays of power vs seeing the future.

Round 2: The armies of Randland vs The armies of Scadrial - Aes Sedai, Asha'man, dragons/cannons, vs koloss, mistings, mistborns.

Bonus round: The Lord Ruler and his armies have to take on the Dark One, and his armies. How well do they fare?

Other rounds would be cool if you come up with more.

EDIT: Since people seem to think that RandLand would stomp, how would Vin and crew, with/without the Lord Ruler, fare if they had full knowledge of Rand's abilities and 6 months to prepare?

Brandon Sanderson

I think that while Vin in the state you mention might be able to give a good fight to Rand, overall, Randland winds. Channelers are more powerful and versatile than most metalborn. Randland has far better generals; everyone on Scadrial is basically still winging it. I hand this one to Randland, unless Kelsier can pull off some improbable assassinations before the whole thing begins.

potentscrotem

Would the time reversing properties of balefire remove the ability [of atium] to see the future?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, this one is a tough call. Mixing cosmologies is tough. If we're IN Randland, then atium would work by reading the pattern--but in the cosmere, it looks into the Spiritual Realm--where all times, locations, and possibilities conflate. Either way, I'd say Balefire could counteract atium--but it would be tricky to use correctly, as you'd basically have to balefire some object that the atium burner was factoring into their plans very soon, tripping them up and catching them unable to adjust to the new futures quickly enough.

Argent

Not too long ago you told us atium works in the Cognitive - to quote you in reference to how stronger atium burns, "However, there's a certain breaking point where you kind of crack the whole system, peer straight into the cognitive realm, and kind of have a "It's full of stars" moment."

Are the two replies still compatible?

Brandon Sanderson

I meant Spiritual there. Sorry. I deal with the cognitive so much in the books, and Spiritual so infrequently, I often have a silver/tin moment when my fingers just type the thing I'm used to typing.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

If someone isn’t an Allomancer, could they burn atium? Since it’s…

Brandon Sanderson

They could not burn atium. They would have figured that one out.

Questioner

So nothing would have happened, or?

Brandon Sanderson

No. But there’s a little more to that story, but I’m not going to get into it right now.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventy-Four

Allomantic Secrets

Some people have asked me why the Lord Ruler was so careful to keep secrets about Allomancy. What would it have mattered if he let out that there were atium Mistings?

Some of the secrets offered a sizable tactical advantage. Keeping back duralumin and aluminum gave him and his Inquisitors (the only ones told about those metals, other than a few select obligators) tools that nobody knew about. Very few Inquisitors could burn duralumin (and most who did it gained the ability through the use of spikes reused from previous, dead Inquisitors—and those spikes were therefore much weaker.). However, those who did have the power could appear inordinately skilled in Allomancy, enhancing the Lord Ruler's divine reputation.

Beyond that, knowledge is power. I believe that. And I think that if you're the Lord Ruler, you want to keep a few secrets about your magic system. Mistborn are very rare. Mistings among the nobility—particularly in the early centuries—were not rare. If they'd known about atium Mistings, it could have upset the balance by creating too many superwarriors.

Plus, if there are unknown superwarriors to be had, then you want to keep them for yourself.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yomen Is a Seer

That raises the question of how Yomen discovered that he was a Seer. He mentions that atium was too valuable to waste on testing for atium Mistings. That's true, but incomplete. The Lord Ruler did test his obligators for the power, particularly the high-ranking ones. Those he found were told of their power and used as an extra level of security. There weren't many, but there were some—and they tended to rise very quickly in the ranks (like Yomen) and be given important positions. Yomen's power with atium made him a valuable secret weapon, and when in a position of power, he could use his ability to quell rebels or perform feats of wonder to keep the people in line.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Phantine

Got a little atium question:

If it's a god metal, and the power is actually coming from the metal, does it have added investiture that makes it harder to push or pull than the same amount of iron?

Or does the iron have an equal amount of investiture, but the investiture that makes it up is half-preservation and half-ruin, so it's 'inert' (so the power making up the iron never gets touched)?

And I guess in general, if all the metals on Scadrial are composed of preservation+ruin power, are they slightly harder to push or pull than metals mined from a random asteroid that's been sitting there untouched?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. :)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vin Kills Zane despite his Atium

The other thing I had to foreshadow, then make work in this chapter, was the way to kill someone who was burning atium. This is also something I stole from Mistborn Prime, and I'm afraid that it worked better there.

The thing is, I just haven't spent enough of the plot with Vin working on this problem. Killing an atium-burner was a major plotting conflict in Mistborn Prime, which was a much shorter book, without so much going on. In this book, we have many, many different plotlines and secrets interweaving. And so there wasn't a whole lot of time for Vin to worry about how to survive without atium.

According to the laws of Allomancy, this is very in-line with how atium works. Only someone burning atium can change the future–but they can change it accidentally by showing someone else what to do.

Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing ()
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wicktacular

At the end of the first Mistborn trilogy it's really significant that 1/16th of the soldiers who got really sick are now atium Mistings.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

wicktacular

questioner's paraphrase, delete after review: So, were the other remaining group of soldiers that fell sick all still Mistings of the other base metals?

So were there-- were 1/16th of the rest of them just *inaudible* just not significant?

wicktacular

But we know that there's more than sixteen metals. Wh--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Sixteen that he-- when Preservation set that all up. He, number one, was not all there. But he was trying to create sixteen as a symbol to say, "Hey, catch this. I've given you a clue-- uh-- help." And so it was devised specifically for that. "*inaudible* Something's going on here."

wicktacular

Did he bump one of the other types then to make it sixteen?

Brandon Sanderson

No, no, they would have been Mistings of other types as well.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

wicktacular

Okay. Do you have in your head *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson

Chromium.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that's right. It would probably have been one of the metals that was difficult to get at that level of technology. It would have been chromium - chromium would be hard gather at that time. Actually, no, it would have been aluminum. *about a minute later, while signing someone else's book* Hold on, there's a caveat to that last answer. Let me finish signing this and expand on that. *pause* So, it would still have been aluminum, but not for the reason your thinking. It would have been aluminum, but there's an asterisk next to that answer.

wicktacular

Chromium?

wicktacular

Okay. Interesting.

Brandon Sanderson

Hard to get chromium.

wicktacular

I've been thinking about--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh no! He bumped aluminum. Yeah, he bumped aluminum. Sorry I had to-- I changed my mind.

wicktacular

Oh!

Brandon Sanderson

*a moment later*

Okay, Chad? I have a <qualification> for you. I'll do this and then we'll...

*a moment later*

So...

wicktacular

On the sixteen or the *inaudible*...

Brandon Sanderson

The sixteen. So the answer is "yes," but it's not something-- it's not what you're thinking it is. 

wicktacular

Okay.

Brandon Sanderson

Alright, there's an asterisk on it, okay? There's an asterisk on it, it's not what you're thinking. Uh, you're making-- you're making assumptions. 

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Atium's Mechanism

Atium is, indeed, different from the other metals. When you burn most Allomantic metals, it opens a conduit through which you can draw upon Preservation's power and use it in very specific ways.

Atium doesn't do that. Atium is, itself, a fuel. When you burn it, the metal itself provides the power. A subtle distinction, I know, but it has to do with where the power is coming from. Most Allomancy is fueled by Preservation, but atium and malatium are fueled by Ruin.

This metal doesn't quite belong on the table where it has been placed.

A Memory of Light Milford Signing ()
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Viper (paraphrased)

So in cosmere, does physics work the same way in the Physical Realm as it does in our world? Specifically, particle physics; and are atoms made up of protons and neutrons and electrons, and is light photons, etc?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes.

Viper (paraphrased)

So what's at the core of an atom of atium? Ate-teum? Also how do you pronounce it? At-teum?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. And the matter is just normal matter, but it's wrapped in the Spiritual. The Spiritual DNA [or something] is what makes it magical.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, in Allomancy, most of the metals are in pairs, they're equal and opposite, pushing and pulling, Rioting, Soothing, that kind of thing. The god metals have always-- lerasium and atium, have always struck me as kind of unbalanced in a way. Like, lerasium gives you the power to use all these metals, plus atium being one of them. Is there a reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes, there is, and it kinda has to do with Snapping and some of the fundamental rules of the Mistborn world and the fact that people have Preservation and Ruin inside of them and all these sorts of things. So, the answer is yes.

Partially, narratively, I built that in partially just 'cause I wanted atium to seem odd in the placement, right, when people got to it it's like "What? Why is this one-- This one doesn't match the others. This doesn't really work." When I was building Mistborn, one of the big things I wanted was this idea of a periodic table that was, kind of a flawed construct, that, as you read the books, you came to understand better and better. And that was something I executed-- I don't think I executed that 100% right, but I'm pleased with the general concept and how it plays out. And so I wanted atium to stick out like a sore thumb.

The other thing is, I knew I needed some good foreshadowing for Fortune, for people being able to kinda see the future or versions of the future, for the whole cosmere to work. And, so, I built in atium specifically to do those things. And I built in lerasium to have, kind of, the ultimate sort of benevolent endowment sort of thing. (Not Endowment the Shard, you know what I mean.) But I also wanted to show these two magics were intrinsically tied together on Scadrial because the way that humankind was created. We're getting into some deep stuff, I'll just leave it there. But that was what was going through my mind as I was building those things all out. 

General Twitter 2015 ()
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BrandonColevander

How come the base 8 abilities come in pairs by base metal & alloy, but the higher ability pairs are not related?

Peter Ahlstrom

Which book are you on? Things change after the first book. They don't understand things as well as they think.

BrandonColevander

I've read all 4 several times. Ex: electrum is a gold alloy yet it is opposite of atium & malatium opposite gold...>

Peter Ahlstrom

Alloys of atium can't be thought of as establishing any pattern.

BrandonColevander

@PeterAhlstrom there are alloyS (plural) of atium?! Any chance that atium or its alloys show up again in any of the upcoming novels?

Peter Ahlstrom

RAFO :)

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
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Kurkistan

Is it practical for an Oracle to get more out of electrum than Vin and Elend tried to?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. It is totally possible.

Kurkistan

So if you could see your shadow wince when it turned left, you would think "Oh, Mrs. Peabody's around that corner. I probably shouldn’t turn left!"

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible to squeeze more out of it than they did.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Wigginns

What would a Hemalurgic spike granting atium do for an Allomancer already able to burn atium? Does it function similarly to bronze, granting enhanced atium-ing? Along this line of thought, would enhancing electrum burning via spike be of any advantage?

Brandon Sanderson

A spike of something you have would enhance your ability, giving your more strength. With atium, more strength makes for a minimal edge--the length you can push out the atium shadows. However, there's a certain breaking point where you kind of crack the whole system, peer straight into the [Spiritual Realm], and kind of have a "It's full of stars" moment.

Electrum could reach this same moment, potentially, though there's more interference to fight through. Extra strength in electrum isn't going to be terribly useful up to that point.

Alsadius

Is that what happened when atium was burned with duralumin?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

Which of your characters do you think would win in a fight?

Brandon Sanderson

At what stage in their career?

Questioner

Not the Slivers.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so they don't count, the Shards of Adonalsium don't count… Does Kelsier have atium?

Questioner

Yes, atium exists.

Brandon Sanderson

A Mistborn burning atium is really hard to beat in any other way.

Questioner

So you think that Kelsier would beat Vin?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, Kelsier would beat Vin if he had atium and she didn't. If they both did? Vin has more raw talent, Kelsier has a lot more experience. So if you can pick Vin after she's had more experience she will give him a fair fight, but before that she will not.

Shadows of Self release party ()
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Questioner

Before Preservation locked up Ruin, or whatever, or if Ruin had won. Would atium exist?

Brandon Sanderson

...There are timelines where there would be no atium.

Questioner

...So if Harmony exists, does atium exist?

Brandon Sanderson

Atium does not exist because there is no Ati. Well there is atium left over from before, but--

Questioner

So it was only part of Ati's body and not part of Harmony's body.

Brandon Sanderson

There is no atium, there is no Preservation any longer, there is no Ati.

Questioner

So does harmonium exist?

Brandon Sanderson

...There's no Leras and there's no Ati, there's no Ruin--

Questioner

Does harmonium exist then?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Sandastron

If someone burned atium in the modern era, after Sazed changed things around, would it do the same thing that it did in the previous era?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes it would.

Sandastron

It would? Interesting.

Brandon Sanderson

If you could find some.

Sandastron

If you could find some…

Brandon Sanderson

If it didn’t then Marsh would be dead.

Sandastron

Good point.

Brandon Sanderson

If it changed its powers.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Using the Atium

I hope that the use of all that atium in this chapter was spectacular enough for you—after all, I waited three books to finally have them find the Lord Ruler's cache. I think that discovering it before this moment would have been anticlimactic. In books one or two, it would simply have meant wealth. The characters getting rich is all well and good, but I think that would have meant a letdown for the reader. All of that anticipation for something so mundane?

Instead, I wanted to use an entire army's—or at least a large platoon's—worth of Allomancers burning atium to fight two hundred thousand koloss.