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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.)

Boskone 54 ()
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ccstat

Nalthis has 5-centric numerology.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay.

ccstat

Do regular humans count as the 5th type of biochromatic entity?

Brandon Sanderson

[laughs] Um, I will RAFO that, not for any real good reason, but for a mini-good reason.

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.

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!

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Vasher Awakens His Clothing, Then Leaps off the Palace

One of the subtle, yet drastic, changes to Awakening that happened in this story came during the middle drafts. Originally, the Command was part of the process of Awakening—but wasn't as important as I eventually made it. I had intended for very difficult things to be accomplished through the use of very long and intricate Commands. However, as I wrote the first draft, I felt this was bulky. What it meant that was if you wanted to use a powerful Awakening in battle, you'd have to stop and spout several paragraphs of instructions. It really cut down on the tension of the battle sequences. (And Awakening was already slower than I preferred, with the need for all of the steps—Breathing, finding color, then Commanding.)

So during revisions, I changed this. Instead of requiring a lengthy Command to create a powerful Awakening, the strength and skill of the Awakener is instead determined by their ability to visualize what they want the Command to do. The Command is a focus, the spoken words an important part of the process, but the real trick is getting the right mental picture.

This way, someone can practice a lot, and still use simple Commands—like "grab things"—yet have them do very powerful things. It also allows me to have Commands be easier to learn and use, yet still require skill to master.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Kurkistan

Do Breaths inherently possess the ability to interpret and carry out commands, or does the Awakener need to impart that decision making ability on Awakened objects?

If the Awakener does need to impart the decision-making ability, then does Awakening consist of an Awakener copying a portion of his/her Cognitive aspect (as determined by his/her visualization and verbal Command) onto the Cognitive aspect of the object being Awakened, with Breath then providing the "juice" for the object to actually follow its Command: powering both physical motion and "cogitation" based upon the copied Cognitive aspect?

If so, is that copying what drains color?

Brandon Sanderson

You're very close here.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Rescued

And here we have a big scene that a lot of readers have been waiting for. I apologize for making Siri need to be rescued like this, but I felt it was appropriate to the story. It's because of her teaching the God King and helping him become the man he is that he's able to do this.

Remember that the Seventh Heightening (I think that's the one) grants a person Instinctive Awakening, meaning that once you reach that Heightening, you don't need any practice to learn to Awaken. Your Commands are obeyed instinctively. This doesn't mean that everything you try will work, but that you can make most basic Commands (grab things, that sort) work without having to try. In fact, figuring out most of the more complicated, previously unknown Commands requires a person to be of the Seventh Heightening.

This power grew out of me wanting the upper Heightenings to do some very dramatic things. I do worry that this scene is a little deus ex machina. That keeps me from liking it quite as much as the Lightsong climax or the Denth/Vasher climax. But I feel that a story needs a great variety of climactic moments—some internal character moments, some external skill moments, some great twists, some expected payoffs, some big reveals, and some dramatic rescues. This chapter and the next take a shot at trying to cover a lot of those different types.

JordanCon 2021 ()
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Questioner

(Disclaimers so that you can't say, like, "well if a Shard...") If a regular Awakener, just a mundane Awakener with nothing more than a few hundred Breaths and not any other outside influences, is there some Command they could give a blanket to get the blanket to turn warm? Generate heat; is that a normal thing you can Command?

Brandon Sanderson

Not in just a normal situation. I mean, technically, you could tell the blanket "start rubbing one part against another part" or something like that, or "set yourself on fire," right? But that's not what you're asking. For Awakening to work, you have to work within the intrinsic properties of the matter you're making, except it can move around a bit and with a few little other things it can do.

It's not outside the realm of possibility you could activate those Breaths as Investiture to do something else, but you would need more than just the simple magic system of Awakening. 

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 [Brandon] has asked [Peter] 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.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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mathota123

Also what would happen if I had a LOT of Breath and tried to Awaken something that was still alive...?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO on the second question. You could say that Investing someone with your Breath, however, IS Awakening them.

crocsandcargos

Are Commands unique to Endowment and those with Breath, or do other Shards have an equivalent or similar power / ability? The girl Vasher rescues, his statements to Denth, and your quote above seem to point that Commands can be used on living entities for some purposes... I've always wondered if there was more to Dalinar referring to "unite them" as a 'phantom command'. If other Shards use commands or something similar it could also explain the mechanism of the Nightwatcher's boon/curse related to Dalinar's memory loss.

Brandon Sanderson

Intent is one of the components of the Magic, as you'll see frequently. These things are related.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The Straw Figure Returns with the Keys

Vasher couldn't have used a thread to unlock the door here, by the way. I know a certain person manages to pull it off later in the book, but that doesn't happen in the God King's dungeons.

One thing to remember about designing magic systems—particularly those as important to their societies as mine—is that the people in the world live with this magic. They use it and see it being used regularly. They think of it and consider it.

It's not hard to design a lock that an Awakened thread can't unlock easily. It is more expensive to buy a lock like that, and so not all locks have such precautions. These ones do, however.

If you've read the book through, then you know that Vasher's simple-sounding Command of "Fetch Keys" given to the straw man is incredibly complex. In fact, it's probably one of the most complicated Commands given to any Awakened object in the entire book. It's kind of cool to me that Vasher uses it here, showing off incredible mastery of the magic, before anyone reading will even realize how much skill saying those two words correctly really takes.

Skyward release party ()
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Questioner

Can a coppermind be Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

This is possible.

Questioner

With the memories already in it?

Brandon Sanderson

This is going to be harder because those memories are going to be keyed to someone else, who, by nature, would not be the individual that it was made into. You would have to key those memories to who the metalmind was becoming. There would be an extra step in there; It wouldn't just naturally be that way. We're talking wild, wild, these are possible, but far out, stuff. Possible, but there is an extra step in there.

Calamity release party ()
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Questioner

So is it possible to Awaken a Shardblade? That's the question-- that's my question for you.

Brandon Sanderson

Um... With the magic system of Awakening, you mean?

Questioner

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

So, all forms of Investiture strongly resist other forms of Investiture.

Questioner

Makes sense.

Brandon Sanderson

*brief interruption* Nightblood is essentially an Awakened... Trying to do that.

Questioner

'Cause he shows up in Words of Radiance, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So, it-- let's just say it'd be very, very hard. Because it's like saying, "Can-- I want to turn on a lightbulb that's been turned on." Yes, you can... maybe... I don't know what that even means. It's already Invested. It's already Awakened.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Siri Reunite; Vasher Shows Off His Returned Breath

I believe that this is the first time in the book that Vivenna and Siri talk to each other. (Weird, eh?) I knew I couldn't make their reunion very effusive, since they're both Idrians, and Siri has learned to control herself. Plus, the situation is very tense. (And beyond that, despite Vivenna's coming to rescue her sister, the two were never terribly close. They were sisters, but separated by five years or so.)

This chapter focuses on other things, primarily the changes in the God King's personality and the revelations about Vasher. For the first, I hope they are plausible. Remember, the God King has grown a lot with Siri's help. Beyond that, he's been trained to look regal and act like a king, even if he's not had any practice talking like one. I think he works well here, projecting more confidence and nobility than he really feels, speaking in ways that don't make him sound too stupid, yet still betraying an innocence.

The bigger surprise is Vasher's revelation about his nature. I almost didn't put this in the book, instead intending to hint at it and save it for the second book. The reason for this is that I knew it would be confusing.

The big question is, if Vasher is Returned, why can he give away his Breaths and Awaken things without killing himself?

The answer is simple, in many ways, but I'm not sure if I have the groundwork for it properly laid in the book. (Which is why I hesitated in explaining it.) Remember when Denth said that Awakening was all or nothing? Well, he lied. (I think you've figured this out now.) A very skilled Awakener can give away only part of their Breath. It depends on their Command visualizations. So Vasher needs to always give away everything except for that one Returned Breath that keeps him alive. As long as he has that one Breath (which he's learned to suppress and hide), he can stay alive.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Hides Her Breath in a Shawl

This has been possible from the beginning, and if Denth had truly been on her side, he would have admitted that there's a way she could get rid of her Breaths. What she would need to do is Awaken something with a one-Breath Command. There are some. They don't do much, but you can Awaken a very tiny scrap of cloth tied into the shape of a person with a very simple Command. That takes one Breath.

Next, you put the rest of your Breath into another object. Then you get that one Breath back and go hunting for a Drab to give it to. Then you take the rest of your Breath back from the object. From there, you can repeat the process if you want to. Vivenna could get rid of the Breaths one by one.

Of course, Denth didn't want that to happen. He was coveting those Breaths. What he said was intended to sound like an innocent mistake. Many people unfamiliar with Awakening would make that mistake, so if Vivenna learned the truth later, he wouldn't look suspicious.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Shadow Guardian

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…

Shadow Guardian

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 2

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.

Shadows of Self release party ()
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clyguy

Someone else brought up the point, can blood be Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

Anything can be Awakened.

clyguy

If you make a human-shaped mold and you poured blood into it and you Awakened it, would you have a Terminator T-1000 style blood-golem that could recombine?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, heh, well Awakening liquid is possible but I don't think it would work the way you want it to.

Questioner 2

If you had enough of a cloud in one place, could you Awaken a cloud?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, you could Awaken anything. It's probably not going to work the way you want it to. There is a reason why they Awaken the things that they do. For instance if you want to make a transforming golem, you would be much better off with something thicker.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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little_wilson

Mi'chelle is wanting to know for a fanfic she's wanting to write if when you cut/break an object that has been Awakened if the object then "dies", or if the pieces will try to carry out the command. Also, either way, can the breaths be recovered from it?

Brandon Sanderson

The object does not die, and will try to continue its purpose. The level of damage will determine just how well it can continue. The Breaths are recoverable. (Though there could be some loss of Breaths, depending on how the item is destroyed.) There's a scene near the end where Vasher Awakens some clothing, then it gets cut down and he recovers the Breath.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
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DylanHuebner

I was wondering how the animation of the lifeless statues worked, in regard to the use of Susebron's Breath. If they were lifeless, then vasher wouldn't have been able to take his Breath back out of them, nor would susebron have needed such a great deal of breath to revive them—he just would have needed a password. But if they were simply Awakened, no password would have been necessary to animate the statues, just Breath and Command.

It seems like the statues could be neither lifeless nor awakened. Are they unique, because of the use of bone, or am I missing something? The only other explanation I could think of was that they were lifeless, but Susebron's breath wasn't used to activate the statues, he simply had it passed down from vasher, in addition to the statues. If that's the case(and then I've simply been confusing myself with unnecessary, convoluted logic), why was it necessary to keep the breath safe for all these years?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow, there are a lot of questions in there. If you follow the drafts, I think you can see the evolution of what became of the Lifeless army. Originally I had planned for the statues to simply have been placed there so that you could Awaken them—just in my original concepts, before I started the writing—and then that became the army.

I eventually decided that didn't work for various reasons. Number one, as I developed the magic system, Awakening stone doesn't work very well. You've got to have limberness, you've got to have motion to something for it to actually be stronger. So a soldier made out of cloth would be more useful to you than a soldier made out of stone, if you were just Awakening something. At that point, as I was developing this, I went back to the drawing board and said okay, I need to leave him a whole group of really cool Lifeless as the army. But that had problems in that the ichor would not have stayed good long enough. Plus they already had a pretty big Lifeless army, so what was special about this one? Remember, I'm revising concepts like this as the book is going along. You can see where in the story I could see what needed to be there. So I went back to the drawing board again.

I think the original draft of WARBREAKER you can download off my website has them just as statues, though at the time when I was writing that I already knew it would need to change. I was just sticking to my outline because I needed to have the whole thing complete on the page before I could work with it. A lot of times that's how I do things as a writer—I get the rough draft down, and then I begin to sculpt.

I eventually developed essentially what you've just outlined in the first part, before you started worrying if you were too convoluted. I said, well, what if there's a hybrid? What happens if you Awaken bones? Can you create something? The reason that you can't draw the Breath back from a Lifeless is because the Breath clings to it. If the Lifeless were sentient enough, it could give up its own Breath, but you can't take it, just like you can't take a Breath from a person by force. You have to get them to give it up willingly. So it sticks to the Lifeless. A Lifeless is, let's say, 90% of a sentient being. The Breath doesn't manifest in them, because they aren't alive, yet they're almost there. A stone statue brought to life would be way down on the bottom rung.

Is there something in between? That's the advancement I had Vasher discover—what if we build something out of bone, but then encase it in stone to make it strong, and build it in ways that the bone is held together by the force of the Breaths? That's really what you're getting at there, that you need a lot of Breath, a lot of power, to hold all that stone together. There are seams at the joints. What the Breath is doing is clinging there like magical sinew, and it's holding all of that together.

Vasher left the Phantoms Invested with enough Breath to hold them together but not to move. You needed another big, substantial influx of Breath in order to actually make them have motion, to bring them enough strength to move and that sort of thing. So it's kind of a hybrid.

TWG Posts ()
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DavidB

Also, it seems to me like it would be more internally consistent if Awakened objects consumed Breath, to make all of these Breath-consuming powers in the last few chapters fit in better. So for example, if Vasher Awakened a shirt and left it Awakened and doing stuff for a day, then he might be down one-seventh of a breath when he took it back at the end of the day. (Of course, that mechanic requires it to be possible to transfer or Awaken with portions of a Breath, and if you could do that, then using the "putting the Breaths you don't want to transfer into a cloth until after the transfer" thing, you could feed the Returned by taking a tiny fraction of all the Halladren's breaths, instead of taking some people's entire Breaths and turning them into Drabs.)

Brandon Sanderson

Hum. I like that suggestion, actually. I think I'll use it. Though, what I'll do is say that if you leave the breath in for too long, one of them vanishes. If you can get them back quickly enough, however, there is no loss. That gives a bit of a better explanation of why there aren't a lot of awakened objects doing things all over the place. True, using the breath to make them would be initially expensive--but if you got a magic object that never winds down, then that might be worth the expense.

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.

FanX 2021 ()
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MangoMongo

Those spren bodies that were brought into the Physical Realm by Ishar. Could an Awakener make it Lifeless?

Brandon Sanderson

This is within the realm of possibility. 

MangoMongo

What about Forgery?

Brandon Sanderson

Forgery would be a little harder. Because you'd need to know what went wrong to make it go well. I'd say Forgery could accomplish this.

Idaho Falls signing 2014 ()
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PrncRny (paraphrased)

Why is Breath not consumed in Awakening, unlike most all other uses of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Not all Investitures are "used up." Much like energy, it isn't typically created or destroyed, just changes for. With Breath, in what it's used for, it is just more easily and readily recovered than in other forms.

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.

ICon 2019 ()
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Inhorman (paraphrased)

Can you Awaken a complex mechanism in a way that it will work by itself?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I didn't understand the question.

Inhorman (paraphrased)

Like Awakening a gun so it'll shoot by itself.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It's very hard since you need lots of Breath but theoretically it's possible.

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.

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.