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Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Idris's Drabness

One thing to realize is that the Idrians' attempts to make their city colorless are more superstition than they are effective. It's much harder to get colors away from an Awakener than the Idrians think. For instance, black is one of the most powerful colors to use for fueling Awakening—but the Idrians don't even consider it a color. Their browns and tans would also work for Awakening.

However, a lot of times, the traditions of a culture don't have much to do with factual reality. The determination to avoid colors grew out of a desire to contrast with Hallandren and their devilish Awakeners. It got taken to the extreme, however, and as the centuries passed, the Idrians grew confused about just what Awakening is and what it can do. Of course, there are some who know—Hallandren isn't that far away. But there's also a lot of rumor and misinformation.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Kurkistan

Could a Feruchemist manipulate their identity such that they could make a metalmind that anyone could tap?

Brandon Sanderson

Ah... RAFO.

Kurkistan

Okay; could they manipulate their identity such that they could pull Breaths out of something that somebody else Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

Ah... ahahah, Awakened, oh yeah... That one's going to be harder, but you're thinking along-- You're thinking with portals. *smiles* Do you know what that means.

Kurkistan

Yes, I know what it means--

Brandon Sanderson

You're starting to think with portals.

Kurkistan

I'm thinking with portals, okay, thank you.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. In other words you're wrapping your head around the way that the magic system is working, so.

Argent

That's so excellent.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Kurkistan

So is that the same thing with Commands, are there like ideals that are Commands?

Brandon Sanderson

This is more of a-- For you to interface with the magic, you need to be able to comprehend it. And so forming a Command-- The same thing happens in Elantris, you know they don't accidentally draw runes, right? The intention is part of interfacing with the magic. So it's like your mind reaching into the Spiritual Realm and you have to like conceive something.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Oudeis16

I will confess that over the course of my study I learned that we're nearing the 10th Anniversary edition, and that u/mistborn has asked u/PeterAhlstrom to go over the book, take Brandon's notes, and make sure there is a consistent system behind the scenes. Humbly, I do hope that perhaps by at least locating the times in the book when Breath-count is mentioned, I have saved Peter a bit of busy work, if nothing else.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, a more precise system of how many breaths it takes to do X (and the exchange rate, so to speak, with other magic systems) is something on the list to do for Warbreaker 10th anniversary. I have the resources now, with more assistants behind the scenes, to get more precise on this sort of thing than I've done before.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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EarthRester

In Warbreaker, the closer an inanimate object is to a humanoid shape, the easier it is to awaken it.

Hypothetically, say a race of sentient quadrupedal canines had access to BioChromatic Breath. Would they have an easier time awakening objects if they were closer to a canine shape, or is the rule still that it needs to be more humanoid?

Brandon Sanderson

Closer to canine.

Shadows of Self release party ()
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Questioner

So the lighteyes that get Soulcast into stone, can they be Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

*pause* So… Yes, but their soul is gone. When they get Soulcast into stone it is only the corpse, so yes they could.

Questioner

Would it be a lifeless or a-- Would it be like Awakening something inorganic or would them once being alive help?

Brandon Sanderson

The fact that they were once alive will help. There's a Spiritual Connection that still exists on the Spiritual Realm and that is going to help. But you're not going to get the person back. The fact that it is the exact form of a person is going to be really helpful. It would be a lot easier to Awaken that than it would be to Awaken other stone.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

In Awakening an object when you give it the sort of Command like, go get the keys, or something. How does that object perceive the world around it? Since it doesn't have standard human senses, how does it see? How does it touch?

Brandon Sanderson

It is not--

Moderator

Repeat the question.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh… go ahead.

Moderator

The question was, how do Awakened objects actually perceive the world.

Brandon Sanderson

…The closest correlation you have to this is how Inquisitors see.

Questioner

Okay, following up on that say, someone who has-- say someone with bronze who-- a bronze Misting managed to somehow get access to Breath and Awaken would he then be able to tell that object "Hey I sense this Allomancer over there, can you find it".

Brandon Sanderson

That is not outside the realm of possibility.

Shadows of Self Lansing signing ()
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Questioner

Say you have a Feruchemist who pours Identity into a metalmind. Then subsequently loses that mind, and then is later Awakened? Would that mind retain the personality of--

*Everyone laughs, Scottish man says "it's 11 o'clock at night, give the man a break!"*

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so they store Identity—which I haven't told you what it does--

Questioner

Yep. We don't know.

Brandon Sanderson

And then you Awaken it, and then you want to know if it has the personality of the person?

Questioner

Yeah, or if it's able to communicate in any way.

Brandon Sanderson

Um, if-- how much Awakened is it? Is it Nightblood-level Awakened? Or is it just regular Awakened?

Questioner

Sure let's say Nightblood-level.

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood-level. So it's-- so the Investiture has been granted sapience. And it's got Investiture from somebody else stuffed in it. I can foresee a scenario where that has an influence, but it's not going to be the personality of the person who stuffed it in. I can see some circumstances where they can-- where the Investiture of the object can make use of that in some way, but...

Oh boy, that was a weird one.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Escapes

One of my big worries about the Vivenna sections is that she'll come off as too weak as a character. That's a particular danger once we reach these late middle sections, where it's revealed how much she's been manipulated. Remember that when you're reading the Vivenna sections, if she comes off weak compared to Siri, consider their relative circumstances.

Vivenna is put through a lot more in this book than Siri is. Why? Well, I felt that as a character, she had a lot more room to grow. In order to do that, however, she needed to have everything knocked out from underneath her. That happens primarily in this chapter and the next few.

But she is not helpless. Even while she's numbed by the capture and betrayals, she manages to effect not one, but two escapes. She handles herself very well, finally overcoming her problems with Awakening and managing to get her Breath to work for her. (And remember that the more Breath one has, the easier it is to learn to get Commands to work right. That will be important later in the book. . . .)

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Could there be a colorblind Awakener and-- would they be able to do anything or--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It would be a harder life for them. It would be a more serious disability there than it is here but it is not completely ending their opportunity.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

...Once they get to the certain amount of Breaths or whatever, would that reverse the colorblindness? 

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Not necessarily. But it might have some interesting effects.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
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Questioner

In Warbreaker how did you come up with the idea of using colors for magic?

Brandon Sanderson

You know it's the goofiest story. A lot of them have really awesome stories and this one is just goofy. In this one I had written Elantris and written Mistborn and they are both kind of dark and my editor said to me, I kid you not, "Your next book needs some color to it" and I said "Oh I'll do a color-based magic system then". And that's where it came from.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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mathota123

Is the creation of Skaze end-negative?

Brandon Sanderson

So, you're not quite using the term right.

The terms "End negative" and "End positive" refer to a specific system--in most cases, we're talking about the individual(s) using the magic. Do you draw more magic out, or is it powered by your own native investiture?

Awakening is what we call end neutral, despite the fact that (obviously) the Breaths came from someone else in the first place. That's not the point in contention here--do the same number of breaths (the same amount of investiture) continue to exist in the system as you're manipulating the magic.

In something like AonDor, you are drawing out much more power than you put in--end positive. That power is put to work doing something, such as healing a body, or creating a blast of power.

The Skaze, like the Seons, were created when a Shard was splintered. The terminology doesn't quite work there, at least not in the way that scholars in the cosmere would use it.

The question from the physicist in this thread about where investiture goes, and what it means for a shard to have access to certain amounts of power, is related to all of this. I'm hoping to be able to find some time to craft a response there, as there are some fundamental understandings of the magic that are relevant to the discussion that i should point out.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
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Djarskublar

*inaudible* [I asked if it would be possible to recall Breaths from an object that you had not placed there if the Awakener who did place them there had no Identity at the time.]

Brandon Sanderson

So, this is a very detailed, specific question, if you didn't hear it. It's dealing with the idea of Investiture and Identity, and things like this. If you can unkey the magic with Identity, for almost any case, it's going to make it much easier for other people to use. That's gonna be a blanket statement through the cosmere. If you can blank your Identity, it's at least gonna be able to be used by someone else with a blank Identity. Sometimes it's keyed, so the blank will not work with somebody who is themselves keyed. But if you can blank and they can blank, you can almost always guarantee the magic will be able to be used.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

Is there a correlation, at all, between Awakening steel, a blade, and the revival of spren every time a shardblade is summoned? I mean, I know Invesiture is Investiture is Invesiture.

Brandon Sanderson

So revival of the spren so--

Questioner

Similar.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay. So, are you talking about a live shardblade or a dead one, or it doesn’t matter.

Questioner

Like Nightblood.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay.

Questioner

Awakening the steel, like that, Shardblades <are like Awakening metal> and stuff.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The big difference here is that in one you’re using a physical component, right, and investing it. In another, a more pure Invesiture is passing into the Physical Realm and taking on an embodiment, a shape. Does that make sense? And so, similar but different things. There is a correlation, but it’s not--yeah.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, if you could take, whether capture or talk into a Radiant spren from Roshar that was no longer bonded to a Radiant, from Roshar to Nalthis, could you bond that spren to an awakened object? Could you take a spren from Roshar and either force it to or talk it into bonding an awakened object on Nalthis? 

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Oh boy. That'd be really hard. 

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Would all the different powers, or magic. Would they all work on the other--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Almost all of them will. AonDor, and the ones from Sel, are very hard to get to work elsewhere, because of certain things, but others are much easier. For instance, if you can get Breaths to another world, you can just use them, you don't need to do anything special.

Words of Radiance Dayton signing ()
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Pechvarry (paraphrased)

What happens when non-Nalthians come to Nalthis.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They cannot use their own soul to Awaken but could do so with obtained Breath.

Pechvarry (paraphrased)

So anyone could start Awakening once they received Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

You would probably have to jump through some hoops to Awaken (talks about systems needing rigged up to work on different planets), but anyone can benefit from a Breath. Essentially said "it's not that easy!"

Teen Author Boot Camp ()
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Lindel (paraphrased)

There's that trick with Feruchemy that lets you make metalminds that others can tap. Could you do something similar with Self-Awakening?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Oh yeah, there are all sorts of tricks that you can do. You could use other peoples Breaths, make it seem like you don't have any Breath-

Lindel (paraphrased)

Awaken an object so that others could access its Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna's Thoughts on Being a Drab

A lot of what happened to Vivenna—how she saw the world and how she acted—was influenced by being a Drab. As I've said before, the Hallandren aren't right when they say losing your Breath does nothing to you. Most Drabs struggle with depression, and the fact that they're almost always sick doesn't help either.

And so, Vivenna's time on the streets was artificially made more dreary and terrible than it truly was. Being a Drab, being sick, the shock of being betrayed—these things combined to give you the person you saw in the previous two chapters. It's a way to cut a corner. I wanted Vivenna to feel like she'd been on the streets for months, but for it only to have been a few weeks.

She is able to make her hair change colors again. This is a representation of the fact that she has started to pull out of the nightmare. She's slightly in control of her world again, and the roughest time for her has passed. There's also a clue in that hair, one that Vasher mentions. Because of it, and her heritage, and something very mysterious in the past, every member of the royal line has a fraction of a divine Returned Breath in them. That makes it much easier for them to learn to Awaken than a normal person.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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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.)

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
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Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Alright, thanks. Last question for me tonight - so, when a Hemalurgic spike steals something, then it's storing Investiture in it, yeah? So could you - could you do something with that Investiture? Like... say I'm on Nalthis, and just theoretically, I use a Hemalurgic spike to steal a lot of Breath - can I use that Investiture to Awaken something? Could I Awaken the spike?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That... you'd need a lot of Investiture to Awaken a spike.

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Because it's already charged up with something else?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yeah.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Origin of Awakening as a Magic System

I never did write out in annotation form an explanation of where Awakening came from. I believe I talked about the origin of the term Awakening, but never the actual powers of the magic.

As I've said, I wanted to do something that had a very "vulgar magic" feel to it. Something gritty, dealing with the forms of people, like voodoo or hedge magics. I wanted to have something that reached back into our cultural unconscious, and something that dealt with necromancy in a new way.

Those are all pieces of the puzzle. Another piece, however, was the desire to do an animation magic—a magic focused around bringing inanimate objects to life on order to serve you. As I've said, it's very tough to come up with completely new powers nobody has written about or used (though I think I've got a few in store for The Way of Kings). However, a good magic system can be crafted from the interpretation of old powers used in new ways with interesting limitations and cultural connections.

I've seen people bring objects to life in books or movies, but I've never seen a formal magic system designed completely around it.

One of the other things I'm always looking for is new ways for people to gain their magical powers. As much as I like Mistborn, the "It's genetic and you're born with it" method of gaining magical abilities is just about the oldest and most commonly used way. It's used so much because it makes sense, and because it's easy to explain. Breath, and its transference, came from my desire to come up with something different—something that had an economic component, something that allowed anyone to become a magic user, but which still had limited resources so that not everyone could be one.

I'm still trying to innovate in this area, but I think my favorite part about Awakening is the concept of Breath and how it's transferred. It turns people into resources for the magic, but in a way I hadn't seen done before.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Awakens the Straw Figure

I love how intricate and delicate Vasher is in creating the straw figure. The little eyebrow is a nice touch, and forming the creature into the shape of a person has a nice resonance with our own world's superstitions.

Voodoo dolls, for instance. This is very common in tribal magics and shamanistic rituals—something in the figure of a person, or the figure of the thing it's supposed to affect, is often seen as being more powerful or more desirable. The same is said for having a drop of blood or a tiny piece of skin, even a piece of hair.

Those two things—making the doll in the shape of a man and using a bit of his own body as a focus—are supposed to create instant resonance in the magic for those reading it. I think it works, too. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this, much like with the colors above. In later chapters, the characters are generally powerful enough with the magic that they don't have to make things in human shape or use pieces of their own body as a focus.

If I were to write a sequel to the book (and I just might—more on this later) I'd want to get back to these two aspects of the magic. Talk about them more, maybe have characters who have smaller quantities of Breath, and so need to use these tricks to make their Awakening more powerful.

Anyway, this little scene threw all kinds of problems into the book. Later on, I had to decide if I wanted to force the characters to always make things into the shape of a person before Awakening them. That proved impossible, it was too limiting on the magic and interfered with action sequences. The same was true for using bits of their own flesh as focuses. It just didn't work.

I toyed with cutting these things from the prologue. (Again, they are artifacts from the short story I wrote, back when Awakening wasn't fully developed yet.) However, I like the resonance they give, and think they add a lot of depth to the magic system.

So I made them optional. They're things that you can do to make your Awakenings require fewer Breaths. That lets me have them for resonance, but not talk about them when I don't need them. I still worry that they set up false expectations for the magic, however.

Figment chat ()
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Jason

Can one give the Command, “divide and do thing X”, for Awakening? How many Breaths would it take to do something like a straw mannequin, how small could you get the pieces, how would you retrieve the Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

I’m afraid I would have to pull out my notes. I mean I wrote that book a few- 2006, and so we’re nine years away from me writing that magic system. I, I have it all in the notes, but I can’t off the top of my head rattle it off for you. People use Awakening so infrequently now in the cosmere, it’s just on the one planet with the occasional worldhopper, that I just go to my notes and get it out when I need it.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Can you awaken a Shardblade?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Can you Awaken a Shardblade? A Shardblade would already be defined as Awakened, by the magic systems.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

And what about the Plate?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Plate would already be defined as probably too heavily Invested to Awaken because it already is.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

I noticed in a lot of your cosmere books, like for example Elantris or Mistborn, they have something to do with some sort of subject matter or school or something. For example the Steelpush and Ironpulling in Mistborn is based on physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

If you push too hard it's based on...

Brandon Sanderson

Vector physics, yes.

Questioner

And then like Warbreaker is just like math, adding Breaths together. Did you intend that?

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. I read a lot and I like science and I like philosophy and I like and things like this. And those spark most of my ideas. So yes in a term but I'm not like "Let's do this subject".

I would say Warbreaker, the big part of Warbreaker is the idea of sympathetic magic. Which is the idea that like affects like, which is a very common type of magic throughout all cultures on the planet, on our planet. When people believe in magic they believe in sympathetic magic. A voodoo doll is sympathetic magic. And that's where the idea came from.

Questioner

So in Elantris, which is different and then--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that's basically fantasy programming, is where that one came from.

Questioner

And then there is The Stormlight Archive, which basically violates all the laws of physics by just saying everything comes from spren.

Brandon Sanderson

Well no they still have arguments on that, are spren attracted to these things or do they cause them.

Questioner

Yeah that's kind of weird...

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archive was based on the fundamental forces, if you want go read on physics google fundamental forces.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, if a Type 4 BioChromatic entity like Nightblood was created with a different Command, would it still draw in or feed off of somebody's Breath when they drew it?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It is possible to create one that wouldn't. But it is a dangerous thing to do.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
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Questioner

You're also famous for your magic systems, do you start with the effect you want to achieve or the mechanic you want to use?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on each magic system, they're all different. Sometimes there's just a really interesting-- Mistborn's a good example of this. I built Mistborn because I wanted a different power for each thieving crew member and I had in the back of my mind a few cool powers to use, but others I just developed. I'd be like, alright, we need something for the fast-talker. So therefore you get the thieving-crew and the classic thieving-crew elements, and I wanted something to improve every one of them. So while I had the Pushing and Pulling already, because that was really interesting and I'd been working it out in my head, I didn't have all these powers set out for the team, so I developed those.

In other cases it's just, you know The Stormlight Archive started with the fundamental forces in physics and extrapolating outwards from them until I had ten fundamental forces because I wanted to do fantastical fundamental forces. So that one started in physics.

The magic for Warbreaker started because my editor called me, true story, and said "ah, after Mistborn and Elantris you've done some very dreary settings, very nice but very dreary, let's do something with more color in it". More color it is!

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

If an Awakener were to go to Roshar and were to bleed the color from a gem would that gem still be able to store Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Bleed the color from a gem… Um ye-ye-ye-yeah. This would interfere with its function on Roshar. It would probably still be able to hold Stormlight…

Questioner

Might not be able to be used for Soulcasting?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea-- It's going to… You know what no it would just change it. It would just bleed the color from it and turn it into a dusty quartz or something like that. That's probably what it would end up with, a dusty quartz. Because the molecular structure doesn't matter as much as the color for Roshar. So yeah you would probably still be able to hold Stormlight because a diamond can but I don't know, quartz might cut it. You'd probably end up with something that's not going to work so well.

Questioner

What about a fabrial that needs a specific--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a specific-- A ruby wouldn't work any more, and it would let go whatever is captured inside.