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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Is in Prison

Lightsong here is not giving up, which I think is very appropriate for his character. He still has his sense of confidence. In a way, the priest who kills Blushweaver is right. Lightsong does still see it as a game. His life in the court has taught him that things aren't ever dangerous for him. This is all just politics, and a big piece of him feels that he's just on an adventure. He finds it exciting.

That's why Llarimar blows up at him. It's not Lightsong's fault—he's been trained by the last five years to look at life this way. But here, the games have ended, and it's suddenly become very real and very dangerous. Llarimar is the type who is very calm headed until you just push him past his snapping point, and then he loses it. It's hard to get him there, but the current situation is enough.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty

Lightsong and Blushweaver Banter One Last Time

Lightsong wonders if maybe he was a prude in his former life. I can answer this—he was indeed. That's why he's always so critical of Blushweaver's clothing choices. That and the fact that he's in love with her and feels a little jealous at how flagrantly she shows her body and attracts the attention of so many men. These are little things; he wouldn't even mention them to others. But he does feel them.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Two

Lightsong Gathers His Finery in His Palace

Is there a lesson in all of this, as Lightsong accuses Llarimar of teaching? Perhaps. The value of something is indeed in how you treat it. All of the riches in the world could be piled in one place, and they would be unimportant unless you ascribed value to them. I think this is one of the reasons Lightsong has been so flippant all of his life as a god. Before Returning, the things he valued were far more intangible. People, his life's work, intellectual freedom—all these things were taken from him, then replaced with gold and baubles. To him, they're inferior replacements, and he can't help but chafe—unknowingly—at his confines.

I wanted a chance for Llarimar to take off his hat and be just a friend for a time. His belief system is complex, since he knew Lightsong ahead of time. He sees the divine mantle, but he also sees the man.

The man who was his younger brother, the daring and gregarious one, the one who didn't always do what he was supposed to. One of the subtle twists of this book is that Llarimar and Lightsong's relationship is supposed to be a parallel of Vivenna and Siri's. They were closer than those two ever were, and as both were middle-aged, they interacted differently. But Lightsong (or Stennimar as he was then known) never married. He liked traveling too much, and enjoyed his bachelor lifestyle. Llarimar was the one who always did what he should, but he also always admired his brother for his sense of adventure, his proactiveness, and his simple kindness toward other people.

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Brandon Sanderson

The Tunnels

The tunnels become a focus for Lightsong, though the truth is that they're not as important to the case as he thinks they are. Yes, there are things to be learned from them. Bluefingers has sequestered a large group of mercenaries down in a secure chamber under there. He's also begun using Pahn Kahl Awakeners (yes, there are some) to Break some of the Lifeless. The tunnels are central to his plot of getting into the God King's palace at the end of the book and securing it.

But Lightsong doesn't know any of this, and doesn't figure out most of it during the course of the book. (It's left for the reader to infer.) Lightsong's fixation with the tunnels is driven partially by the visions he's been seeing at night, which include the tunnels and his discovery of Blushweaver being captured. He's made a subconscious connection.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Thinks about How Hallandren Wouldn't Fall

He's wrong here. If he hadn't intervened and taken responsibility, the God King would have died, and another Manywar would have begun. It would have ended with Hallandren in flames, destroyed by the advancing Idrian coalition, who by then would have gained the secret to creating swords like Nightblood from Yesteel, who is hiding in one of the kingdoms across the mountains and who secretly knows what Vasher did to create the sword. He would have brought his kingdom into the conflict. And the world would have burned.

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Brandon Sanderson

 A lot of alpha readers, upon reaching this chapter, said things like, "I was really waiting for something like this to happen," or "This is just what Lightsong needed." They're referring to him beginning to investigate the death. (A lot of these comments come from the next Lightsong scene too, after we're certain this little plot structure isn't going away.)

They're noticing something that I noticed too—that Lightsong needed something to drive him, something to keep him proactive. Something that wasn't just a political game. I like this sequence a lot, and it's an example of something that developed during the writing process rather than being planned out ahead of time. I just felt I needed something else, a way to have Lightsong be involved, but which would also give me a chance to start delving into his past.

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Brandon Sanderson

Siri and Susebron Visit the Body of Lightsong

I wanted to have this scene as a little epilogue to Lightsong's storyline. He was a great character, one of the best I've ever written, and I think he fulfilled his place in this book wonderfully.

I often say that I don't see my endings as sad, even though they do tend to involve the deaths of major characters. In this case, Lightsong's ending is triumphant because of what he was able to achieve. At least that's my perspective on it.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Inspects the Murder Scene Again

The interesting thing about this scene is that it reveals almost nothing about what happened. At least, it doesn't reveal anything to the readers.

However, it reveals a whole lot about Lightsong as a character. I waited until he'd been established before starting to bring up questions like the ones in this chapter, where I begin to dig deeply into who he was before he died. In a way, he's not investigating the murder so much as he is investigating himself—and that's why the scene works, even though we know the information about the murders he reveals. (Though we don't know who that second person was. Unless you read the spoiler above, of course.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Climactic Scene, with His Vision of the Boat

Lightsong's vision and eventual death in this chapter are another of the big focus scenes. In fact, I'd say that this little scene here is my absolute favorite in the book. It's hard to explain why, but I get a chill whenever I read it. It's the chill of something you planned that turned out even better than you expected. (As opposed to the planning for the Siri/altar image, which turned out poorly and so had to be cut.)

I worked hard to bring this scene in my head to fruition. No other section of the book has been tweaked more in drafting—everything from changing it so Lightsong grabs the God King's hand as opposed to his foot, to reworking the imagery of the ocean. (That imagery, by the way, came from my honeymoon while standing on the cruise ship at night and staring into the churning white froth above deep black water.)

Many people on my forums called this event ahead of time—Lightsong healing the God King. I'm fine with that. It did seem like a very obvious setup. One character with powers he cannot use until healed, another with the power to heal someone one time. Sometimes it's okay to give people what they expect—particularly when the result is this scene. I hope they didn't expect it to be as powerful as it is (assuming readers like the scene as much as I do). I want this one to be very moving.

It's the final fulfillment of Lightsong's character. Note that even in the end, his sarcasm and irony come through. He told Siri not to depend on him because he would let her down. Well, Lightsong, you're a better man than you wanted us to believe. There's a reason why so many are willing to rely upon you.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Refuses to Get Out of Bed

As I've already mentioned, this is a chapter where—after a climactic focal point in the book—the characters backslide a tad in order to enforce that there are still struggles going on. Did I consciously decide this? No, honestly. I sat down to write this chapter, and I felt that I needed to spend a little more time focusing on the conflicts of the characters. So that was intentional. But the placement in the book? That was just by gut instinct.

Llarimar has been holding this little tidbit—the knowledge that he knew Lightsong before the Return—back for just the right moment. He knows his god well, and understands that information like this can be very powerful as a motivator. He's been waiting for years to use this hint at a time when Lightsong was morose. (And yes, that happens to Lightsong fairly often.) This seemed an important moment to keep the god motivated, so Llarimar doled out the tidbit. Talking about the past of one's god is unorthodox, and maybe even a little sacrilegious. Fortunately, one of the nice things about being high priest is that, on occasion, you get to subtly redefine what is orthodox and what isn't.

He did make sure to send the servants away first, though.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Uses the Word "Statistical"

It's very subtle, and my editor tried to cut it three times as not being appropriate, but I managed to fight and get Lightsong's little thought about statistical probability into his narrative here. This is just one of several tiny clues in the way he thinks and talks that indicates he was an accountant before he Returned.

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Brandon Sanderson

Blushweaver

Blushweaver was the first of the gods who I named, and her title then set the standard for the others in the Court of Gods. Lightsong was second, and I toyed with several versions of his name before settling. Blushweaver's name, however, came quickly and easily—and I never wanted to change it once I landed on it.

When developing the Court of Gods, I wanted to design something that felt a little like a Greek pantheon—or, rather, a constructed one. Everyone is given their portfolio by the priests after they Return. Blushweaver was given the portfolio of honesty and interpersonal relations, and over the fifteen years of her rule, she's become one of the most dynamic figures in the court. Few remember it anymore, but she was successful at having her name changed during her first year. She used to be Blushweaver the Honest, and she became Blushweaver the Beautiful through a campaign and some clever politicking.

Many think of her as the goddess of love and romance, though that technically isn't true. It's just the name and persona she's crafted for herself, as she saw that as a position of greater power. She actually toyed with going the opposite direction, becoming the chaste goddess of justice and honor. However, in the end, she decided to go the direction that felt more natural to her.

After these fifteen years, it's hard to distinguish when she is being herself and when she's playing a part. The two have become melded and interchangeable.

When designing this story, I knew I wanted to have a beautiful goddess to give Lightsong some verbal sparring. However, I realized early on that I didn't want to go the route of having a disposable, sultry bimbo goddess of love. I needed someone more complicated and capable than that, someone who was a foil to Lightsong not just in verbal sparring, but someone who could prod him to be more proactive. And from that came Blushweaver.

In the original draft of the book, this chapter had a slightly different tone. Lightsong didn't look forward to sparring with Blushweaver; he cringed and wished she wouldn't bother him. That artifact remained until the later drafts, though it didn't belong. I wrote the later chapters with them getting along quite well, so I wanted to revise this first chapter to imply that he looked forward to their conversations.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

Miles spoke about people in red and gold, is that to do with Lightsong's colors is that connected in any way?  

Brandon Sanderson

Okay he spoke of people where?  

Questioner

While dying, Miles spoke of people in red and gold--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh red and gold.  

Questioner

Is that to do with the fact that Lightsong's colors are also red and gold?

Brandon Sanderson

No, good question.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Sneaks into Mercystar's Palace

Here's the other big place where I cheated just a tad and added Lightsong's dreams of the tunnels and the moon as a reason to get him into the right place at the right time. I added this in a later draft; originally, this was one of my big personal problems with the book: the fact that Lightsong got into just the right place at just the right time. It was just too coincidental, and it always bugged me.

I wasn't paying attention to the tools I'd given myself (as I think I mentioned earlier). If I'm going to go to all this trouble to build a magic system that uses prophecy as a major component of its religion, then I might as well use a few of those prophecies as small plot points. I didn't want them to solve any major problems, but letting Lightsong dream of where he has to be brings nice closure to the entire "What's in those tunnels?" plot while at the same time playing into his quest to determine if he really is a god or not.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Attacks

And we discover that Lightsong is no good with the sword. I toyed with making him able to use it, but I felt it was too much of a cut corner. Knowing who he was before he died, he'd not have needed to know the sword. Beyond that, I felt it would have been too expected. Lightsong himself built it up so much that I feel it would have been a boring plot twist to have him able to use the sword. Beyond that, it would have been just too convenient.

Reversals. I wanted to reverse what you assume about him, and to reverse how this scene would have probably played out in a lot of fantasy stories. Once again, I'm not reversing just to reverse. I'm reversing because it's appropriate for the characters, setting, and plot—and then finally because it's more interesting this way.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Throws Pebbles to Count Priests

One of the challenges in writing these sections was that Lightsong could never do anything the "normal" way. He could have simply sent his priests to count at the gates, then come back to him with some figures. But it wouldn't have felt right.

Despite his protests, Lightsong likes to meddle. He likes to pick at things and be involved. He couldn't just send someone to count; he had to go count himself. And he had to do so in a properly flamboyant way.

This scene with the pebbles is important for far more than the obvious reasons. Yes, we're furthering the mystery plots (though this particular one isn't as important to the overall plot as some others). However, the more important part of this scene is how it shows Lightsong's progression and growth.

I know what it's like to finally find something to latch onto, something to drive you and give added purpose to your life. For me, it was writing. For Lightsong, it's the investigation of the murder.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Wisecracks

The other major Lightsong revision happened in the form of a humor upgrade. My editor didn't complain about the same thing as my agent—instead, my editor wanted to laugh more. He wanted more witty lines from Lightsong. I resisted this at first, as I worried that making him too snappy would undermine his internal conflicts. I wanted him to be droll, but not necessarily brilliant.

Eventually, however, my editor prevailed upon me. He was always of the opinion that a few extra witty lines wouldn't undermine anything. I have to say, I like the lines, and I'm mostly glad to have them. But I do worry about overloading the humor in Lightsong's chapters, and therefore diluting his internal conflict.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty

Lightsong Tries Pottery

It's been a while since one of the gods tried something like this. Lightsong isn't the first, of course, to wonder at his old life and realize that some of his skills and abilities came with him to his new one. But he's the first of this generation of gods who has taken any interest in it.

His father was actually a potter, if you're interested in knowing. As for why he knows nautical terms and mathematics, I'm afraid you'll have to wait on that. They come up eventually.

The juggling, though . . . well, that'll just have to remain a mystery.

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Brandon Sanderson

The toughest thing to balance about Lightsong was how genuine to make his sense of indolence. His discussion with Siri here is probably the most candid he ever gets in the book in regard to the fact that, in part, he's just putting on a show with all of his humor and remarks. They're intended to distract, and are also a subtle commentary on what he thinks of the other gods and the way they're all treated.

The problem is, unless he really is somewhat like he pretends to be, it wouldn't work at all. His advice here to Siri is based on his perception of the world.

When he first Returned, his initial inclination was to act like this. (I believe he brings that out later in the book.) However, after meeting Calmseer and having a relationship with her (it wasn't love, not in the traditional sense; more of a sincere mutual respect that turned physical), he spent a lot of time trying to be the god who everyone expected him to be. He failed miserably, and his people were dissatisfied with him. He blames his failure mostly on the other gods, who mocked him for turning into a hypocrite.

So he returned to being Lightsong the indolent, and he sharpened his wit against the others and let loose with as much vengeance as he could muster. The others weren't offended, however—they just took it as natural that he act that way. We find him several years after that in this book, where he's just given up on being able to change things.

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Brandon Sanderson

By the way, this is only the second time Lightsong has landed them both in prison. The first time happened a good twenty years earlier, even if Llarimar has never quite gotten over it. It involved a whole lot of drinking. (Llarimar, already then an acolyte priest of the Iridescent Tones, had never gotten "good drunk" as Lightsong called it at the time. So, he took him out on he day before his ordination as a full priest and got him solidly, rip-roaringly drunk. The embarrassment of what they did, landing themselves in prison for trying to bust into the Court of Gods while wearing only their underclothing, nearly got Llarimar tossed out of the priesthood. Needless to say, he didn't make full priest the next day. It was three years before he was allowed to apply for ordination again.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Llarimar Reveals That the Face Lightsong Sees Isn't His Wife

I'm not sure what readers' reactions to this will be. No, she's not his wife—or even his lover.

In a way, this probably makes it okay for him to harbor his love for Blushweaver like he does, though I suspect that some readers are a little disappointed to find that he isn't imagining the face of his wife.

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Meets Allmother

This was a tough scene to get right. The trick is, I knew by this point that I wanted Allmother to be one of those who disliked Lightsong. She thinks that he's a useless god, and she isn't one of those who saw hidden depth in him.

I also knew that I wanted to give a twist here by having Lightsong offer up his Commands and give himself a way out, so to speak. What he does here is rather honorable. He knows that Allmother is a clever woman and perhaps one of the only gods capable of going toe-to-toe with Blushweaver. By giving her his Commands, he does a good job of countering Blushweaver without having to resist her.

But he couldn't get away with it. He had to stay in the middle of it all, for the good of the story and for the good of him as a character. So the question became, "Why in the world would Allmother give him her Commands?"

The prophetic dreams came to my rescue a couple of times in this book. I know that they're cheating slightly, but since I've built them into the story, I might as well use them. Having her having dreamed of his arrival gives me the out for why she'd do something as crazy as give up her Commands. I think her visions, mixed with the knowledge that Calmseer trusted Lightsong, would be enough to push her over the edge.

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Brandon Sanderson

We get some final verbal sparring from the two of them. I wanted to do this to give a nod to the earlier portions of the book; we haven't gotten this from them in quite a long time. However, I also wanted it to feel forced. I was tempted to rewrite this scene a couple of times until the most amusing lines in the book came here, in this chapter, but in the end I chose to go for something with a little more tension in it. Something that felt contrived, like they were trying too hard—which, indeed, they are.

Beyond that, outside of the banter, they both make some very astute comments—and I think their wisdom in the moment undermines any random joking. Lightsong mentions how ridiculous everything is, and can finally point out and prove what he's been saying all along—that the rest of the pantheon is more useless than he is. Blushweaver, however, probably makes her most astute comment in the book by explaining to Lightsong just why everyone looks up to him so much.

You set yourself above them, Lightsong, and through your mockery—which they know to be true, deep down—you earn their grudging respect. That puts you apart from them. In a way, he's become the greatest leader of the pantheon in its current incarnation, all by avoiding contact with most of them and by being bitingly sarcastic when he does meet them.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

Siri and Lightsong Interact

This chapter has our first real melding of several viewpoints. In a way, it's a focus chapter for that reason. All four viewpoint characters, who have been off doing other things, congregate here, meeting and mixing. Lightsong and Siri, whose plotlines influence one another a fair amount, sit and talk for the first time. Vivenna and Vasher, who are far more intertwined through the story, meet eyes for the first time.

Vasher shouldn't have brought Nightblood. But he's always a little afraid to leave the sword alone for too long. That can have . . . consequences.

Anyway, it was good to be able to show an interaction between two of the viewpoint characters in the form of Siri and Lightsong. This lets us see how Siri acts through the eyes of another, and I think this scene here is one of the first where we really get to see into Lightsong's soul.

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Brandon Sanderson

And yes, he dreams this while Siri and the God King have sex for the first time. That's not a coincidence.

Why does Siri having sex with the God King make Lightsong's dreams turn more violent? Well, it means that the impending disaster is far more dangerous. If she is with child, then the tragedy of her death is that much greater. Beyond that, her having a child (or being thought to be going to have one) is part of what makes Bluefingers do what he feels he needs to in executing her.

He might have done that anyway, but the actual event of the consummation of the marriage is a powerful turning point in the karma of the city and the future of the world. And Lightsong, who is extra sensitive to these things because of being a Returned, is affected by that change in what is coming in the future.

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Brandon Sanderson

Some of Blushweaver's sparring here should give you a hint that she's far from the shallow egotist she pretends to be. In a lot of ways, she and Lightsong are perfectly matched, and I imagine this being the reason they ended up spending so much time together. They both have an extreme persona that is almost a parody of the other gods, and for both of them, that persona is but a sliver of who they really are. Blushweaver is more conniving, Lightsong more noble, when you strip everything else away. But they understand each other in a way that I think few people do.

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Brandon Sanderson

First Line and Lightsong's Origins

Lightsong's character came from a one-line prompt I had pop into my head one day. "Everyone loses something when they die and Return. An emotion, usually. I lost fear."

Of course, it changed a lot from that one line. Still, I see that as the first seed of his character. The idea of telling a story about someone who has died, then come back to life, losing a piece of himself in the return intrigued me.

The other inspiration for him was my desire to do a character who could fit into an Oscar Wilde play. I'm a big fan of Wilde's works, particularly the comedies, and have always admired how he can have someone be glib and verbally dexterous without coming across as a jerk. Of course, a character like this works differently in a play than in a book. For a story to be epic, you need depth and character arcs you don't have time for in a play.

So, think of Lightsong as playing a part. When he opens his mouth, he's usually looking for something flashy to say to distract himself from the problems he feels inside. I think the dichotomy came across very well in the book, as evidenced by how many readers seem to find him to be their favorite character in the novel.