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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
#3 Copy

Ghero6

In Vahr's case, did collecting Breath from other rebel-minded people strengthen his determination and resolve?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Bystander

So we're not Drabs?

Brandon Sanderson

So we're not Drabs. That's exactly it. We're not Drabs.

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.

Salt Lake City signing ()
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Questioner

Do you have-- Or have you determined an equivalency between how much Breath it takes to make a certain gem's worth of Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

I have recently assigned Peter to this task, and he is feeling overwhelmed by it. It was actually during the writing of Oathbringer where I finally said, "Yeah we need to standardize this, so start working on it." So it was like, "Oh great". Which means he has to read through all the books for references and start figuring it all out. And we're going to need like an equivalent of a jewel or something like this, right? *gestures to a sphere that a fan made* And we've been putting it off because it sounds like an awful lot of work. 

So the answer is no, we don't have it yet. It's something I've known for years we're going to need. And on this book, I just started saying, "All right.  I'm going to have them do all the stuff they need to do. And then you're going to tell me how many spheres they need to start with." Right? Like, I write the book, and then we retrofit how many spheres they needed to have how much Stormlight, so that we could be consistent with that.

But we haven't done across magic systems calculations, yet.

Calamity Chicago signing ()
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Argent

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?

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhhhhhh…. Ehhhhhhh....

Argent

Okay, that was vague.

Brandon Sanderson

Not a 100% correlation there.

Argent

So in that case it’s not entirely fair to say that the Returned are like vessels for--

Brandon Sanderson

No… Well, more vessels than the people that are in [T’Telir…]

So, Endowment is in control of what’s happening, right?

Argent

The giving of Breaths.

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Argent

Innate Investiture.

Brandon Sanderson

Innate Investiture that they are born with.

Argent

I was looking to divine Breath, more specifically.

Brandon Sanderson

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.

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

Can you store Breath in metal without the [Ninth] Heightening? Just put it there without Awakening, just to hide the Breath.

Brandon Sanderson

Can you hide Breath in-- Yes you can hide Breath in things.

Chris King

Metal in particular, without the [Ninth] Heightening could you put it into metal. Without the purpose of Awakening it, just storing it there.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh without the [Ninth] Heightening-- I would say yes you could.

Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing ()
#14 Copy

yulerule

*Written:* How much compounding would a nicrosil Twinborn would need to do to get a metalmind that is as Invested as Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

*Reading question:* How much compounding would... *mumbling*

Wow, so much.

*Writes:* Wow so much. 

yulerule

*Written:* A thousand breaths doesn't seem to be that much--the God King has tens of thousands. Would a piece of stone, wood, cloth, or plain metal that has a thousand breaths be as Invested as Nightblood, or is there something more? 

Brandon Sanderson

No, it needs more. Needs more.

*Writes:* Needs more.

yulerule

More?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

yulerule

Does that-- is it taking stuff from people it kills?

Brandon Sanderson

That's a RAFO, good question.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Yata

If a person with Breath (let's say 100 Breaths) dies. After a while (let's say a hour), are the Breaths still in the corpse ? If yes, are those destined for the same fate as an object with Breath inside ?

If a Returned dies for mundane ways (let's say a dagger in the back) and therefore he has still his Divine Breath.Would the Divine Breath keep the CS stampled to the corpse until he run out of fuel/Investiture ? (Like a Ghost in the CS anchored to his corpse until the Breath lasts)

Brandon Sanderson

Breaths in a dying person usually escape with the soul.

Orem Signing ()
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JoyBlu

In order to have a Breath, do you have to be native to Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson

Not to be given Breaths, but people who are not native to Nalthis are not born with that Investiture.

JoyBlu

So, you have to be born on that planet?

Brandon Sanderson

There are exceptions. Most of the time.

JoyBlu

If both your parents were Nalthians, and they moved off planet, and they had a child that was born on a different planet—

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible for that child to have a Breath, but it would not continue too long. But yes, that child would probably have a Breath, depending...

Joyblu

If both of his parents had Breaths.

Brandon Sanderson

Mmmhmm.

General Reddit 2020 ()
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Doc_John (paraphrased)

Hey! If you had the correct Intent in mind, could you Command a Lifeless to follow a Knight's Radiant Ideal? Like could you command it to "Protect those who cannot protect themselves"

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, this would be possible, though it would depend on the Lifeless and circumstances on how good a job they do at it. The command is a little abstract, and could end up not working as well as you want it to.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. But it might have some interesting effects.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

Someone who has Breath Investiture, can they give Breath to somebody who doesn't, so like somebody from Scadrial, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Would the Scadrian be able to use it?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. You have seen people from off-planet who have Breath before.

Moderator

Or, indeed, perfect pitch?

Brandon Sanderson

Uhuh. *laughter* And are making use of it in a variety of ways.

Words of Radiance Dayton signing ()
#24 Copy

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!"

FanX Spring 2019 ()
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Questioner

Does BioChromatic Breath cure color-blindness?

Brandon Sanderson

So... having enough Breath will interact very strangely with color-blindness. It won't heal it, necessarily, but it will have an interesting effect.

Questioner

Ah. I was hoping--

Brandon Sanderson

Are you color-blind?

Questioner

I am. So the entire time I read the book I was hoping it could cure color-blindness.

Brandon Sanderson

You will have an interesting time. I think you would be pleased with how it affects it.

Questioner

Will we ever see a color-blind person in the books?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing ()
#27 Copy

yulerule

*Written:* So somewhere it says that the number of Breaths doesn't determine the power of the object. But are the number of Breaths directly tied to how much Investiture is in an object? You're repeatedly said that Nightblood is ridiculously heavily Invested, more so than Shardblades, Honorblades, or the Bands of Mourning. But it only has a thousand Breaths, which doesn't seem all that much from the point of view of the God King--Tenth Heightening, over 50,000.

Brandon Sanderson

So this is a RAFO, but you're starting to ask the right questions there. Okay?

*Writes:* RAFO

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.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

Question for you, regarding Nalthis.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Do priests use-- to extract the divine Breath and hoard.. Do they use a sharp object to get the divine Breath and hoard from the God King?

Brandon Sanderson

The divine Breath what?

Questioner

Divine Breath and hoard. Can you get it away from him by using a sharp pointy object?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, the-- like you're asking like--

Questioner

Hemalurgy as an option.

Brandon Sanderson

It is not, but that's a good question. That is a really good question. I'm surprised no one's asked me that before.

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.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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TurtletheFlsh

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Stroniax

Is there a way to harvest BioChromatic Breath from a planet, if it holds any? (If a person dies, and their body turns to dusty he dust of the earth, then doesn't [Nalthis] therefore hold thousands, if not millions, of BioChromatic Breaths?)

Brandon Sanderson

Possible. It would be the same thing as harvesting the nature of Preservation or Ruin, which--on Scadrial--took the form of nuggets of metal.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#38 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#39 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
#40 Copy

Leinton (paraphrased)

Can Breath be used to power Surgebinding?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

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.

Questioner (paraphrased)

What would happen to the Breath?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The Breath would be consumed in the same way that Stormlight is. A renewing resource, much like atium is.

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
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Questioner

In the Graphic Audio books... Obviously they had to change things, and when Vasher wake-- or puts the rest of the Breath into the rope he uses a different Command. He says, "My breath to give for life to live." Is that that canon, or is that just...

Brandon Sanderson

So here's the thing... You have to be ver--...

Questioner

I mean, I know he's got to...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah...

Questioner

...You know, he has to be careful with his Commands so he doesn't give away his Divine Breath. 

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

I'm just wondered if that's the...

Brandon Sanderson

I think that's canon.

Questioner

Canon. 'Cause it's not in the regular book.

Brandon Sanderson

But it's not in the regular book. I'm gonna have to go back and look, but I think that's canon.

Questioner

Okay, cool.

Brandon Sanderson

Pretty sure. So yeah, you have to be really careful when you've got a Divine Breath, what you're doing. *interruption* I'm gonna have to go to Isaac and Peter to make sure that that's the canon thing. That they got that from us. But for now you can pretend that it is.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#42 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

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.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#43 Copy

Question (paraphrased)

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.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

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).

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#45 Copy

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.

Skype Q&A ()
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Extesian

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

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.

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Questioner

In the Warbreaker world.

Brandon Sanderson

But I do think about these things.

Questioner

Oh no, it’s obvious you do. It’s pretty clear when you start looking at it, and that's not something...

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
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Questioner

With spikes, would you be able to actually transfer Breaths, when they get to the other planets?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Bystander

There's still things to decide upon.

Brandon Sanderson

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.