Lance Alvein (paraphrased)
Is a person's Breath the entirety of that person's Spiritual Aspect?
Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)
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Is a person's Breath the entirety of that person's Spiritual Aspect?
Life Sense as Part of the Magic
The ability of the Heightenings and Breath to give people an added dose of life sense was part of my attempts to make Awakening, as a magic system, feel more visceral and real. Allomancy is a great magic system, but I wanted a different feel here. In Allomancy, the powers granted are more like superpowers; with Awakening, I wanted something that felt . . . well, closer to what people already do.
Perfect pitch and perfect color recognition are two things that I think resonate this way; the ability to bring inanimate objects to life may seem wildly superpowerish, but I think it's a part of our own superstition and mythology—or at least the superstition and mythology of our past. Life from things inanimate, like spontaneous generation, was long assumed as something real. Witches were often thought to be able to bring sticks or bundles of cloth to life.
I think that there's still a lot of superstition in our modern world regarding how it feels to have someone watching you. We are more aware of our surroundings, sometimes, than we realize. I think we attribute a supernatural connection to some of these things. Who knows? Maybe there is one. I don't know, perhaps I've got a bit of it myself.
Enhancing this and making it part of the magic was a way to get the visceral feel I was looking for. It also plays off the idea that by giving up your Breath, you give up part of your life. The fact that Drabs can't be noticed by life sense allows me to show that they have taken one more step toward being objects themselves.
BioChroma. It turns objects into living things, but turns living things into objects as well.
I teach economics at Rutgers and in general I love the books but *inaudible* I like to tease him because he loves them, and say it doesn’t really make sense to have a fixed price for Breaths and it doesn’t make sense that if you give it away when you’re young, and his claim was that somewhere in the book it talks about how the Breath actually gets weaker as you get older.
So, dying Breaths can be much weaker, but not middle aged ones. So, you have a legitimate thing, my counter to you is, having listened to a ton of Freakonomics, economic people do not do what is logically economic, particularly in a closed system. You might find that Breaths sell for different things, or are treated differently, in other countries.
In the Warbreaker world.
But I do think about these things.
Oh no, it’s obvious you do. It’s pretty clear when you start looking at it, and that's not something...
Here’s the thing, there are fantasy writers who are actually economists, L.E. Modesit is the most famous one, and he-- I’ve been on panels where he’s complained about how writers, fantasy writers ignore economics, basic economics, all the time. So I try to listen at his feet a bit.
If a person held enough breath to attain the 5th heightening, lived for a thousand years, and then sold all but their initial breath, would their spiritual age force them to rapidly age as we saw with Rashek, or would they resume natural aging from the point at which they ceased?
I think they would rapidly age.
But I'm not ready to say 100%.
I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.
In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.
This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.
Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.
Denth Tells Vivenna to Use Her Breaths
Don't forget that Vivenna has a huge wealth of Breath. To most people, anything over one or two Breaths is a huge wealth—and Vivenna has enough to reach the Third Heightening. She's fully capable of Awakening objects, and while she's not as powerful as Vasher in Breath right now, she could learn quite quickly. (The more Breath you hold, the easier it is for you to learn how to use it.)
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?
That... you'd need a lot of Investiture to Awaken a spike.
Because it's already charged up with something else?
A bonus piece of information - my poor friend that I dragged along with me (who had only read Warbreaker) asked about the specific naming of Bio-Chromatic Breath.
Sanderson confirmed as part of his response that at least some the Five Scholars had visited worlds who had gone through the Industrial Revolution (and therefore would have more of a sense of scientific theory, that the Scholars would have picked up on).
The God King Approaches Siri in Bed
Siri wonders why the God King wears black, rather than white—which his BioChroma would distort. The answer is simple. To Awakeners, black is a symbol of power. It's a fuel, a color that can be used for Awakening. White, however, is useless. So to wear white would be foolish, except in certain cases where the priests want to prove how powerful the God King is by letting him dynamically bend the light. So while he occasionally appears in white, his everyday attire is black.
His ability to bend light into the prismatic colors, by the way, was added about halfway through the first draft. I wanted a stronger visual indication of someone who had reached the top Heightenings, and I like the imagery associated with it.
Would a person holding a large amount of Breaths be less influenced by emotional Allomancy?
Yes. That's book-signing canon on that one, if you understand that phrase.
Lightsong Feeds on the Child
Why a child? It doesn't much matter, truthfully. An adult, or even someone elderly, could provide a Breath that would keep a god alive.
But the Breaths of those who are aged aren't as vigorous as those of those who are young. If Lightsong were given one of those to feed on, he'd survive for another week—but he wouldn't feel as vibrant or alive as he does after feeding on the child's Breath.
The people of Hallandren are faithful. Even if Lightsong himself doesn't believe, they do, and they want to provide the best for him. Hence they use children. Old enough to know what they are doing, yet young enough to give a powerful, vibrant Breath to their god.
Vivenna at the Safe House
Vivenna is right about what happens to a person when they lose their Breath. It is a part of your soul, and without one, you are more prone to depression, you get sick much more easily, and you're generally more irritable.
I included this mention here because I'm betting that most people who read the book side with Denth and assume he's right when he talks about these things. But don't be too judgmental about the Idrians—yes, they're biased, but the Hallandren are too in a lot of ways. It's not as simple as one side always being right and the other wrong. In this case, the Idrian teachings are correct, and most Hallandren are looking for justifications when they say that giving up one's Breath isn't all that damaging to them.
In Vahr's case, did collecting Breath from other rebel-minded people strengthen his determination and resolve?
It would have had an influence on him, but you would need the numbers of Breaths that he had for any effect to manifest. It's basically a non-issue in the current book, but it could be an issue in some of the things that will happen in the next book.
So, if Nightblood is on Roshar, is he using Stormlight instead of Breaths?
Right now, if you are Invested with Stormlight, he will feed off of that instead of Breaths.
About the Returned, they don’t quite fit the other Splinters, their Breath rather, because it’s the divine Breath that’s a Splinter, right?
Okay, that was vague.
Not a 100% correlation there.
So in that case it’s not entirely fair to say that the Returned are like vessels for--
No… Well, more vessels than the people that are in [T’Telir…]
So, Endowment is in control of what’s happening, right?
The giving of Breaths.
Yes. So what you’ve got to remember-- and this is something that people keep mistaking is-- something like a spren is still part of the god, right? And it’s not that different from the fact that the rock has a part of the body in it, and that everything is kind of made—Like in Mistborn world in particular, everything is made out of their essence. And so, the Breath are similar, but it’s less that-- they’re not autonomous in most cases and it’s more like-- it’s like a hybrid of what’s happening in Mistborn where everybody’s got a bit of Preservation in them. Everyone’s got a bit of Endowment in them.
Innate Investiture that they are born with.
I was looking to divine Breath, more specifically.
Oh divine Breath! … Divine Breath is its own special thing, and it’s more like what happened with the Honorblades, in that the god is pouring a bit of its Investiture, infusing the magic.
In Nalthis, when is Breath first bestowed upon a person?
When is Breath first bestowed? Um, so I went-- Oh, so you're getting at this sort of-- I got it. *laughter/pauses* So, are you saying is it at birth or conception?
Pretty much. I'm just wondering *audio obscured by laughter*
I'm wondering if mothers have autonomy over their own bodies when it comes to Breath?
Yes. Uh, I'm going to go ahead and RAFO that one for-- Let's just let it-- Let's let-- Let's let the fanbase discuss that one and come to their own decisions.
The nature of humans on different worlds, like people from Warbreaker have a Breath, people from Scadrial, do they have a Breath as well?
They do not.
That's specific to the Endowment Shard?
I've read that Hoid does have a Breath. Was he born with a Breath or--
Hoid was not born on Taldain-- err Nalthis, on Nalthis. So no, he did not start with one. But the magic was much different when he started. He was before the Shattering of Adonalsium so things are weird regarding him.
You know how the BioChromatic Breaths is like more soul? If you were to get hit by a Shardblade while having several of them, could you take more hits before you lose the soul from your body?
I'll RAFO this. Good Question.
Does BioChromatic Breath cure color-blindness?
So... having enough Breath will interact very strangely with color-blindness. It won't heal it, necessarily, but it will have an interesting effect.
Ah. I was hoping--
Are you color-blind?
I am. So the entire time I read the book I was hoping it could cure color-blindness.
You will have an interesting time. I think you would be pleased with how it affects it.
Will we ever see a color-blind person in the books?
I want to do one. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it in there... but you will be pleased with how it happens.
How difficult is it to transfer Investiture from one magic system to another, is it even possible?
How difficult is it to transfer Investiture from one magic system to another. It is possible. It is more difficult with different magic systems. Breaths are easy. Stormlight is fairly easy. Others from there on get pretty hard.
Could Feruchemical nicrosil be used to store other Invested abilities, such as a Returned Breath or the abilities of the Knights Radiant?
Yes, that's possible.
Can you store Breath in metal without the [Ninth] Heightening? Just put it there without Awakening, just to hide the Breath.
Can you hide Breath in-- Yes you can hide Breath in things.
Metal in particular, without the [Ninth] Heightening could you put it into metal. Without the purpose of Awakening it, just storing it there.
Oh without the [Ninth] Heightening-- I would say yes you could.
You've said that Nalthians without Breath have something missing (are less invested) than other humans. Was this the case before Endowment invested on Nalthis? Would a non-Nalthian given Breath, who then gives up that Breath, be less invested than before they got the Breath? Would there be something missing in their spiritweb compared to their original state?
So, no. If someone from Sel went to Nalthis and got a Breath and then gave it up, would it give up more, the answer would be no, they would be who they were before.
You said previously that someone with synesthesia wouldn't be affected by Heightenings differently, unless they had a lot of Breath. What would those effects be?
It's going to depend on the type of synesthesia, because there are so many different types.
Could there be a colorblind Awakener and-- would they be able to do anything or--
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.
...Once they get to the certain amount of Breaths or whatever, would that reverse the colorblindness?
Not necessarily. But it might have some interesting effects.
Vasher and Denth's Climax
I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.
There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.
But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.
However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.
Denth was right. Vasher cheated.
Can you tell me how many souls Hoid has?
How many Breaths? No, but I can tell you you could look up the minimum he has based on the heightenings and things that he says.
Right, and all that i know is that he has perfect pitch.
Yeah. There is room to rise from that, so I'm not going to confirm anything else, just keep an eye on him.
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.
What would happen if you created a lifeless with more breath then is necessary? Would they be more or completely human or just a lifeless that's holding more breath?
Lifeless with more breath are an interesting situation. It's quite possible for the BREATH to start taking on a personality, much like a cognitive shadow, related to the individual. Whether or not it is actually them, though, is a big question. Note, this doesn't always happen. Often, dumping a lot of breath in them is like sticking it in an inanimate object with no command.
When someone dies on Nalthis, their Breaths: go away with the soul, or remain in the corpse?
Breaths return to Endowment.
Together with the soul? Or remain in the corpse?
Yes, unless it turns into a Cognitive Shadow. Then, the soul goes into the Beyond. And so the actual essence of the soul, the Investiture of it, does return to Endowment.
Can you steal someone else's infused Breath with a similar method to the Feruchemy loophole?
In the last panel we talked a lot about people from different planets using magic systems on other planets, one of the things I've been thinking about, we've been thinking about, talking about Breath, and people being born with Breath, is that something specific to Nalthis or do, technically, other people on other planets have a Breath as well?
Good question and that is a Nalthian thing. Now, everyone in the cosmere to an extent has Investiture, the Nalthian Breath is part what everyone has and then a little extra, plus the ability to share it around. So a person who gives up their Breath on Nalthis is actually going below what a normal person has. But a normal person on Nalthis has more than somebody-- So if you were for instance to pick a world like Sixth of the Dusk, where there's not a Shard in residence, and you compared them to a Nalthian, Nalthian has an Investiture advantage over them. When they've given up their Breath, they have an Investiture disadvantage.
So we're not Drabs?
So we're not Drabs. That's exactly it. We're not Drabs.
Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities
This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?
A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.
Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.
Here’s an interesting one. Why do some Breaths flare when people die? Vasher mentions it in the book.
I will answer that in the next book, if I ever get to it.
Can Breath be used to power Surgebinding?
They are very similar Investitures, and most of the magics can be powered with the other magics if you are capable of making that happen.
What would happen to the Breath?
The Breath would be consumed in the same way that Stormlight is. A renewing resource, much like atium is.
What happens when non-Nalthians come to Nalthis.
They cannot use their own soul to Awaken but could do so with obtained Breath.
So anyone could start Awakening once they received Breaths?
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!"
Awakening and Surgebinding, Stormlight and Breath seem really similar in some aspects--
--except Breaths seem to stick to things better--
--than Stormlight. So when you are holding the Breath it doesn't expire when you put it in something it doesn't go away. Can you tell me something about why that's happening?
Part of this is kind of inherent to the Shard and the power it's coming from. I mean the power of Endowment is just going to stick, that's part of the nature of its magic. Does that make sense? But it also kind of has to do with how the ecosystems are working. For instance the Stormlight is essential to the ecosystem of Roshar, it needs to be expended, it needs to get out and-- It's like evaporation, does that make sense?
Recycling? Not the recycling but the cycle of--
Yeah, yeah like the cycle of water. And so just part of the way the nature of it works, it has to get out, it has to leak out, it has to run out. I mean it leaks even from spheres, right?
And when you lash things it's temporary--
Yep. And even though Szeth says that he thought Voidbringers could hold it they can't. Like it is just not the way that it works.
Can they just hold it better?
They can hold it better. It's not permanent. Now there are things that can do it permanently but--
Like the black sphere for example?
Well we are not going to... The black sphere is something different. You guys have guessed what the black sphere is, right?
Well we have some ideas. I support that it holds an Unmade. Am I wrong?
I'm not going to answer that.
But you said--
I'm just curious what the theories are. Book 3 the black sphere is-- Everyone who reads the books will know what the black sphere is by the end of Book 3.
Do people in the cosmere, besides Nalthis, have Breaths?
No. To elaborate a little more, that's not to say they don't have a life force, because they do. But if someone not from Nalthis were to suddenly gain the ability to become an Awakener, they could not use what they have to Awaken something. That's not to say that they can't receive Breaths though.
Lightsong Hears Petitions
The concept of petitions—and the gods being able to heal someone one time—grew out of my desire to have something about them that was miraculous. Something obvious, something more than just an ability to make vague prophecies. Their Breath auras are amazing, true, but an Awakener with a lot of Breath can replicate that.
I took the idea of being able to die in order to heal from an idea discarded from Elantris. If you look at the deleted scenes (Caution: Spoilers for the ending of Elantris), you can read about how there was originally a subplot to the story where the Seons (the floating balls of light) could expend the Aon at their center and create a miraculous event one time. However, doing so would kill them. I eventually ended up not using this plot structure in the final draft, and so I cut all references to this ability from the book. I felt that it was too contrived in that novel.
I've always thought it was interesting conceptually, however, so I developed it into this book as an aspect of Returned that makes them different. They can create one miracle—and in this world, that one miracle has to be a healing. They can expend their divine Breath to heal someone.
This created another problem for readers, however. It became very difficult in the book to explain to them that a Returned could still Awaken things—but not by using the Breath granted to them by their Return. In other words, if a Returned gained a hundred extra Breaths, they could use them just like anyone else's. But if they give away the Breath they start with, it kills them.
Every person starts with a Breath. Well, Returned start with one too—a divine Breath that can be given away to heal someone else's Breath that is weakening and dying. That's what these petitioners are asking for.
But regular Breaths, they can give those away. They just have to be tricky about it.
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?
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.
Why is Breath not consumed in Awakening, unlike most all other uses of Investiture?
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.
Someone who has Breath Investiture, can they give Breath to somebody who doesn't, so like somebody from Scadrial, or--
Would the Scadrian be able to use it?
Yes. You have seen people from off-planet who have Breath before.
Or, indeed, perfect pitch?
Uhuh. *laughter* And are making use of it in a variety of ways.
How unique are individual Breaths? Would collecting 100 Breaths from criminals and scumbags affect your personality in any way? Or collecting 100 Breaths from generous, charitable people?
I intended them to not be terribly individual. Breaths do bring some things along with them, but for the most part I wanted them to be a step removed from that
If a tribe of singers were to worldhop to Nalthis, and live there for a few generations, would their pure singer offspring begin to be born with Breath?
RAFO. Good question, though. Excellent question!
If someone from, say, Roshar, traveled to the world of Warbreaker, do they have Breath?
No, they do not. And if someone from the Warbreaker world leaves, they will still have their Breath... They would not register as being a Drab to people who are looking. They would register as Option C. Particularly someone from Roshar, who is from a primary Shardworld, is slightly Invested.
Would he also be able to have powers from Warbreaker without using Breaths?
Yes that is-- It is possible to power the magics with one another. Breaths are one of the-- it's-- yeah, let's just say that.
Could a double-nicrosil Twinborn compound Breath or Stormlight?
Uh, you’re getting a RAFO card on that. You're getting SUCH a RAFO card on that!
With spikes, would you be able to actually transfer Breaths, when they get to the other planets?
So spikes rip off pieces of the soul and so Breaths are not going to be part of the soul. You could maybe get a divine Breath but I haven't really decided on regular Breaths, they're kind of stuck there in the Physical Realm which is not a thing that spikes are dealing with. Divine Breath, potentially, because that's something that's actually melding onto your soul. But, you know, when you're using the Breaths they reach through to the Spiritual Realm so, maybe if you got it while the Breaths were kinetic, right, while you're using them, then you might be able to rip them off. I'm not a hundred percent certain on that one.
There's still things to decide upon.
Yeah there's still things, like I have to kind of see. My instinct says no right now. But, you know, how they interact is not something that I have-- Yeah.