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Ad Astra 2017 ()
#1 Copy

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.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

When you transfer Divine Breath, is it possible to have it result in something other than healing?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Lots of things are possible. Let's just say that that is not something people know how to do, and they have tried to do something else.

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
#4 Copy

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.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#5 Copy

Skyler

If a Returned gives away his/her breath they die right? So why doesn't Vasher die after he gives his to Denth?

Brandon Sanderson

They will die the moment they run out of Breath to harvest. Once a week their body needs a Breath in order to survive. Each Returned has one single superpowered breath. Imagine it as one breath that propels them up through the Heightenings, but it is only a single Breath. It's what we speak of in Shard world terminology as a Splinter. And when the seventh day comes, if a Returned does not have another breath for his body to consume to keep him alive, his body will actually eat his divine breath and kill him. So they don't die immediately after they get rid of the Breath, they're sort of put into a state of limbo where if they don't find more Breath by the time that their feast day comes, then they will die. (Vasher did not give his Returned Breath to Denth, just a number of normal breaths.)

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#6 Copy

drabgod

When a Returned who has lots of extra Breath gives them away without suppressing his Divine Breath, does the Divine Breath stick to the regular Breath as they are transferred to the receiver? Will the receiver find himself suddenly possessing a Divine Breath? Or does it still vanish after healing the receiver?

Brandon Sanderson

Divine Breaths don't work quite like others. However, losing one is kind of a "Last resort." You'll give away all the others first, and then, if you push you can give it away as well. It never sticks around and makes the person you choose returned.

drabgod

Could you use it to heal Preservation's mind? (potentially with the Well)

Brandon Sanderson

Depends on what you mean by "Preservation's Mind." Do you mean Leras? During the events of Well/HoA he's WELL beyond the help of such a small bit of investiture, as available in a single Divine Breath. With the help of the Well itself? That's more realistic, but the real reason that he was suffering from such degradation was due to persistent attacks by Ruin.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
#8 Copy

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.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#9 Copy

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.)

Skype Q&A ()
#10 Copy

Extesian [PENDING REVIEW]

Can you give away a divine Breath to another human? If so would they have the same powers as a Returned or would they just 'store' it like an inanimate object that Breath is stored in when not Awakened? Does a human require a 'crack' in their spirit web to receive a divine Breath?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So, a divine Breath-- you're kind of going along the wrong direction on that line of reasoning. Divine Breaths cannot be transferred. When they are used they immediately become kinetic Investiture and are activated. This manifests normally as healing the person, both body, mind, and soul, but you can't give it up, transfer it in the same way you can regular Breaths.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

If someone—Vasher says that Nightblood would kill him, is that just because he has this one deific Breath? Would it kill an ordinary person, like a drab?

Brandon Sanderson

It would suck the Breath from anybody, and if they were unable to feed it he would feed on their soul.

Questioner

So they would die?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Anyone wielding Nightblood, he will suck their soul. If for too long, he will eventually—if you draw him—will suck your soul.

Calamity Chicago signing ()
#12 Copy

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.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

Given Sanderson's Laws about limitations...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

What would you say are any spiritual, cognitive, and or physical limitations to a Returned's healing ability?

Brandon Sanderson

That they can do it once.

Questioner

That they can do it once, and that's it?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, right? The Returned get one heal and then they die. That's a pretty big limitation. Like you have to choose really well. However, what they can heal is bounded by cosmere limitations on healing, but it is a supercharged version.

Questioner

Okay. Could you define more cosmere limitations on healing?

Brandon Sanderson

Cosmere limitations on healing can be affected by your own perception.

Questioner

Okay. Cognitive stuff.

Brandon Sanderson

Cognitive stuff. And so there's a part of that, and... But that's really-- cognitive interferes. And if your spirit is gone? Right? Cosmere healing, you know, if your spirit is passed on you just get a dead body even though you've healed it.

Questioner

So potentially Vasher, having a much greater cosmere knowledge than others could potentially have a much greater usage of that healing than regular--

Brandon Sanderson

Well the healing-- What I mean by that is yourself. You impose limits. So the person being healed can impose some limits on the healing working. It doesn't happen as often as I'm making it sound. But, you know-- why Kaladin's scars have not healed, right? So Kaladin being hit by a Returned would still not heal his scars. He's got a major hangup about those scars.

Footnote: The questioner seems to have been asking about cosmere healing in general for Returned, but Brandon focused on their ability to give up their Divine Breath to heal somebody else.
Warbreaker Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Also, if you look, I've inputted in the last drafts a little hint here of Vasher being a Returned. He says he could have the Fifth Heightening if he wanted it, which is true. He has his Returned Breath suppressed, but if he let it out, he could instantly have the Fifth Heightening. However, he'd be instantly recognizable as Returned the moment he did that. Plus, he couldn't use that Returned Breath for Awakening things.

#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
#17 Copy

Graendal

A question that's been on my mind for a while. If Returned can't have children, how are Siri and Vivenna descended from one?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. One I have to RAFO. When I was writing WRBRKR, I was planning on two books.

I seeded two questions to be answered in the next book. One was the origin of the royal family..

The second was how Vasher was able to survive while hiding his divine Breath. I will answer these questions.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#18 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.