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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Seven

Calmseer

Calmseer was indeed a spectacularly good Returned—the last of the old guard, so to speak. She Returned, in fact, in order to save the life of her daughter. She of course forgot this once she got back.

She did complain about not being able to do enough for people, though she had that personality even before Returning. She was the self-sacrificing type who took care of those around her and always had a kindly attitude. She died from an illness she caught while caring for the sick family who lived next door to her. (They'd lost their father to the same illness, and while all eventually recovered, Calmseer herself came down with their disease and passed away from it.)

She didn't give up her Breath because of what Lightsong assumes, that she felt so guilty for not being able to do more for people. Instead, she saw her daughter come through the petitions line. The woman was brought by her husband, who felt he had no other option. His wife had the same disease Calmseer had. She remembered, at that moment, why she had come back—indeed, she remembered her entire life (that's common for Returned the moment before they give up their Breath)—and gave away her life to heal her daughter.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Five

Treledees Almost Tells Siri How to Pass On the God King's Breath

We get to see more of Siri taking charge here. In this tense situation, a lot of others would have been reduced to hysterics, but she's come into her own, taking command, trying to get the information she needs.

Treledees lies to her here about two things. First off, he does know how a God King can have a child, but he knows that the secret is also held by a secure group of priests on the islands. He doesn't think letting Siri in on that one for now is a good idea. But he does want to pass on how to get Susebron's Breaths away from him, should it become necessary. He knows that those need to be passed on, even if the God King does have a child. That's the greater secret, but the one that needs to be known to Siri. Those Breaths cannot die with Susebron.

So, anyway, he's lying about the God King not being able to have a child. (Or at least he sidesteps it. He says that the God King can't sire a child, which is true unless certain steps are taken. He also says that he doesn't know how the First Returned bore a child, which is true—he doesn't know for certain if the First Returned used the same method that Treledees knows. He's also sidestepping the fact that he does believe that the blood of the First Returned flows in the veins of the royal Idrian line.)

So why not bring this up in the book? Well, I learned in Elantris that it's easy to overtwist an ending by having too many reveals. This is a very small point, and there is good rationalization for why Treledees doesn't let on what he knows. So I felt it was better to let the story stand as is, without delving into this.

Of course, there is a hint in the text about it—or at least a question. If they depended only on a Returned child taking Susebron's place, then why were they worried about Siri having sex with Susebron? They didn't need her to sleep with him unless they expected that sex to do something.

I'm sorry to leave this issue a mystery, and I'm even more sorry to not explain how Susebron can give away his Breaths. It's not important to this book, and so I felt that having Treledees give the explanation here would just bog things down. I'd rather wait until a sequel, where I detail the magic system in a more complete form, to give you these explanations.

That leaves us with the cliché of someone who almost passes on information, then dies. As I said, I am sorry to do this. I nearly didn't put it in, but I felt it very important to include something that let you know that the priests did have a way to get those Breaths.

Note that Treledees is not lying about letting Susebron live out his life with Siri in peace. They have allowed previous God Kings to do that, once they had a successor in place.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#5 Copy

Trae [PENDING REVIEW]

Previously, you've revealed that the mechanism that determines the Returned on Nalthis is a decision of a sapient entity. Is the determination by which the entity that selects the recipient of a Divine Breath to come back as a Returned predicated on that recipient fulfilling some purpose in the Physical Realm?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So, the question is, "Why does the entity that picks who Returns, why did they pick who they did?" And, your question kind of implies there's, like, specific tasks to fulfill. I'm gonna say, there aren't specifics, but there are certain things the entity is looking for...

Trae [PENDING REVIEW]

In the Physical Realm?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes. There are certain things that they are looking for. Now, let's just say this entity is not necessarily the most consistent of entities in the cosmere when it comes to making decisions like this. But there are certain things they are looking for.

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

Morsker

I'd like to ask what led to this decadence in the Iridescent Tones, what were the social causes? It started out as the Cult of the Returned, and a simple faith in caring for the Returned so they'd live long enough to fulfill their purpose. And I assume the Voice even sends them back without memories exactly to foster this faith and hope in people, so that mortals can be part of their salvation instead of just getting divine hand-outs. That sounds really nice. But by the time we reach the events in Warbreaker, a lot of corruption and cynicism has found its way in, no?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it has. Part of it is something that Lightsong points out. Their religion encourages the best of the Returned to give up their lives for their people, and they hit a patch where a lot of the best of them have already given up their lives. The rest have their needs and wants seen to. Beyond that, remember this is a society in which they're living in a very temperate climate where there isn't very much harsh weather at all; they're very sheltered, they have an extremely rich resource, and they have a lot of leisure time. So we're mixing leisure time with a somewhat selfish batch of Returned in control, and we're mixing that with a religion that focuses on art and beauty and that sort of thing.

I think one of the dangers this society would have to be worried about would be for this decadence to creep in as has happened at various points in various cultures around the world. The society certainly isn't irredeemable at all, but it is going through a patch of these three concepts aligning in some of the worst sorts of ways. But there are some better Returned than we focus on in the book, and there have been much better Returned in the past.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Four

Siri and Susebron Talk about How the Next God King is Created

Siri's impulse here—that the next God King might not really be the son of the current one—is a good one. She's actually right, though there are a lot of other things in this conversation she's wrong about.

It is possible for a Returned to have a child. Vo, the First Returned, did it. The God King isn't special in that he can do it; any of the Returned could, but it requires some special knowledge that—I'm afraid—I'll have to keep secret until the sequel. Suffice it to say that the priests know how it is done.

The problem is, they aren't always able to get this to work. Sometimes, they have to do what Siri guessed—replace the God King with an infant Returned. Infant Returns happen very infrequently. It's more rare than an adult Returning, so there is something sound to the Hallandren reasoning that you have to do something heroic in order to Return. (That's not true, but it is more sound a doctrine than Siri thinks it is.)

The God King's priests take an infant Returning as a sign that it's time to change God Kings. At that point, they choose a wife for the God King and hope that she'll be able to conceive the next God King. They'd much, much rather that the God King be the literal child of the previous God King. (Susebron wasn't, however. And his mother was indeed his mother, a poor merchant's wife from far northern Hallandren.)

Now, an infant has indeed Returned. The priests see this as a major vindication of their faith, as they made the wedding contract with Idris twenty years ago and now, just when the marriage was to happen, an infant Returned. The problem is, now they've got to push Siri to get pregnant, because they're on a deadline. They don't want to have to replace the God King with this infant; they'd rather use his own child. Hence the push for her to have a child.

But if she doesn't, they'll go with plan B. Note that there's not, in fact, any danger to her either way, no matter what Bluefingers says. She and Susebron, following the change in power, would have been taken to one of the isles in the middle of the Inner Sea and kept in a lavish lifestyle as long as they lived.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#11 Copy

Commicommand

Does Emotional Allomancy work on animals?

Brandon Sanderson

Emotional Allomancy requires a certain level of sapience.

Phantine

So dolphins, oragutans, mistwraiths and parrots might work?

Brandon Sanderson

I was intentionally vague. :)

A_Shadow

huh, so that would mean that Divine Breath (or just regular Breath?) works in a completely different underlying mechanism than Emotional Allomancy in providing that calming effect for animals and children. I had previously thought it was just an overlap in abilities.

Brandon Sanderson

There is an overlap. But it involves playing with spirit webs and/or the Cognitive Realm.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Enters and Sees Returned

Just a little note here. Returned live for eight days without a Breath, though the week is seven days long in this world. Why? Well, I figured that they'd need an extra day as leeway. On day seven, they start to grow weak and sluggish. If they don't consume a Breath, their body will consume their own on the eighth day of their life, and they'll die again.

In some parts of this world, Returned aren't worshipped, but instead seen as something akin to vampires. They draw in Breath to survive, and need a supply of people to feed off of. They tend to wear black, since it's the most powerful color for draining to Awaken things.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#14 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 ()
#15 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.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#16 Copy

Phantine

If a heroic guy was also an organ donor, what happens to his original organs when he Returns?

Will the recipient's heart grow three sizes that day?

Brandon Sanderson

Ha. Not a question I'd anticipated, but the body is healed when made Returned, so anything missing would be regrown. So everything is fine.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong and Blushweaver Visit Hopefinder

I wanted to show some Returned of different ages; I think it's important for people to realize that you can be any age when you Return. There are children, babies, grandmothers, and people in their middle years who Return.

Hopefinder is the youngest person at court currently, though there are a couple of other gods who Returned when they were in their teens. It's hard to tell them from the other gods now, however. (And often, when a god Returns in their middle years, their body transforms to be much more youthful. Not always; it depends on the god.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three - Part One

Similarities Between Warbreaker and Elantris

And finally, we arrive at my personal favorite character in the book. Lightsong the Bold, the god who doesn't believe in his own religion.

I had the idea for Lightsong a number of years ago. My first book, Elantris, dealt with the concept of men who were made gods. However, in that book, we never actually get to see men living as gods. The gods have lost their powers and have been locked away.

This time I wanted to tell a different story, a story about what it is like to live as a member of a pantheon of deities. Yet I didn't want them to be too powerful. Or even powerful at all.

I realize that there is some resonance here with Elantris. I hope that the concepts don't seem too much alike. What I wanted to do with this story was look at some of the same ideas in Elantris, but turn them about completely. Instead of dealing with gods who had fallen, I wanted to look at gods at the height of their political power. Instead of dealing with people who were ridiculously powerful, I wanted gods who were more about prophecy and wisdom.

I made it so that the Returned couldn't remember their old lives as a way to distinguish them from the Elantrians. However, I can't help the fact that the ideas had the same (yet opposite) seed. But I'm confident that there's plenty of room in the idea to explore it in a different direction, and I think this book comes out feeling very much its own novel.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#20 Copy

mooglefrooglian

Why is it that Returned need to consume Investiture to stay alive? Most other Invested beings (like spren, Seons, and the like) don't seem to have a similar requirement.

Brandon Sanderson

There's a distinction between a being who is made of Investiture come alive and one who has been overstuffed with it. The Returned are fairly unique.

mooglefrooglian

So, would a non-Returned who received enough Breath to overstuff them also need to start feeding on Investiture to live? Or would they be destroyed like Vin before that point?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm going to RAFO this, as I feel I should leave the details of the nature of the Returned for discussion in future books.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Siri Reunite; Vasher Shows Off His Returned Breath

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

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

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

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

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Other Notes

Yes, there are Returned in Idris. There are Returned everywhere in this world that there are people. (The name of this world is Nalthis, by the way. Mistborn takes place on a world called Scadrial, and Elantris on a world known as Sel. See the fun things you learn by reading annotations?)

I'd like someday to do a sequel to Warbreaker, in part because I want to show off all of the different ways people in Nalthis deal with the Returned. They're treated in very strange ways some places. For instance, just across the mountains there's a kingdom where when someone dies in a way that might be heroic, the corpse is immediately purchased by a nobleman hoping to hit the jackpot and get a Returned. You see, since Returned can heal people, keeping one around to act as an emergency insurance plan to restore your health is a great idea.

A Memory of Light Dayton Signing ()
#24 Copy

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If a native of Sel or another Shardworld traveled to Nalthis, would they be a drab?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No, they would not be a drab. But, no one would be able to take their Breath.

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If such a person died on Nalthis, could they Return?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No, they cannot Return.

NutiketAiel (paraphrased)

If such a person received breath, could they use BioChroma?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#25 Copy

Arbron

So how long has "Zahel the swordmaster" been slumming it on Roshar? I mean I don't know who that is obviously.

Brandon Sanderson

Zahel the swordmaster has been on Roshar for a long while at this point. There's something on Roshar that's very easy for him to get that's very hard in other places. And so, yeah.

Arbron

So he retains his previous abilities?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually in the first draft in 2002. But yes there's something in Roshar that makes it better for him to be there.

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

Mark

It was said throughout the book that you cannot just give some of your breath, but must give all of it. Perhaps I'm simply forgetting part of the book where this changes, but wouldn't Vasher have to give his Returned breath along with his others?

Brandon Sanderson

The "You must give up all of your Breath, not some" line was mostly perpetuated by Denth, who is saying it to Vivenna to stop her from giving away her Breath to all the people she passes. It is a lie. Now, it's a lie that's commonly accepted by a lot of people. But it's still a lie—as we find out midway through the book, you can stick some of your Breath in an object and bring it to life, and then recover that Breath. So it's very easy to give some of your Breath to someone if you know the logical steps to take. Invest most of it into an object, give what you have to someone else, then pull back what you Invested. So it's flat-out proven in the novel that what Denth is telling her is wrong. Now, he could dance around that lie by pretending to be the ignorant mercenary—he's just perpetuating a falsehood that many people believe. But it is a lie. In fact, a lot of the things people believe about BioChromatic Breath isn't true.

One of the things I was trying with this book was to take a few steps back from MISTBORN, where so much was understood. I feel that the approach I took in MISTBORN is right for that book, and yet people have so much superstition regarding all sorts of science. I worry sometimes that there isn't enough superstition in my books, regarding magic as science. What people believed and what people knew and what people understood was so varied and confused throughout most of history, that I worry that I lack realism in that. Vasher brings up at several points in the book that they don't know a whole lot and that people perpetuate a lot of myths and stories and lies.

Vasher has learned to suppress his Returned Breath. When it's suppressed, it's as if it doesn't exist to him. He's Invested it into a place within himself, much like you can Invest your Breaths into a shirt, and when he gives away the rest of his Breaths, he doesn't give that one away. He could split off others of his Breaths if he wanted to—he's learned to do that, so that he could give a few Breaths and not all. It's just a matter of practicing as long as he has. But even people who aren't as practiced as him do it all the time when they Invest an object with not all of their Breath but just enough to bring it to life

Salt Lake ComicCon FanX 2016 ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

This is about certain people from Nalthis... living on Roshar and how they are living on Roshar. Could they also do that on Scadrial?

Brandon Sanderson

Scadrial would be a lot harder because getting the Investiture out of things on Scadrial is tough, there are ways you could do it but it would be much more difficult.

Questioner

Does that have to do with the Investiture being more directed?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it's more the genetic component is a big part of it. The directed component-- In Roshar its just flowing around all over the place. For instance, if he could get to a Shardpool he could feed off that, but then he's at the Shardpool and that's kind of dangerous and things. Roshar is really the easiest place in the cosmere for him to consistently get this sort of stuff. Taldain would not be bad either, that's the White Sand world but it is inaccessible currently in the cosmere

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#29 Copy

Oudeis16

Do Idrians Return with a "purpose" they can reasonably complete in a week? From the book and annotations, purposes that we saw tended to be long-term goals. Does Endowment realize this, and only send back Idrians with tasks that can reasonably be accomplished in their shorter lifespans?

Brandon Sanderson

This is somewhat RAFO territory. (Sorry.)

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Ray745

When a person dies who is then Returned, do they come back essentially immediately? According to Llarimar it sounds like a quick process...

"When we found you dead, I lost hope. I was going to resign my position. I knelt above your body, weeping. And then, the Colors started to glow. You lifted your head, body changing, getting larger, muscles growing stronger."

When they do come back, are they unconscious? I only ask because as Llarimar was holding him when he changed, if he came back right then, Lightsong's first memory would be of this man who was to be his priest holding him. I assume this would be something Lightsong would have asked about numerous times, why he was with Llarimar when he died, so it seems to me a Returned must be unconscious for a while in order to give them a chance to be brought to the Court of the Gods without being exposed to their family, whom they were probably around when they died.

Brandon Sanderson

It's usually a quick process, but not standardized. It could take hours, or longer, but generally does not.

It's something between what you're saying, and instantaneous waking up. More like they start to glow, and the transformation begins, then they wake up and stand. But they're confused and disoriented, and Lightsong was told his priests were gathered as soon as he started glowing, so that they could greet him as he came to himself. He never had reason to question, and that moment is fuzzy anyway. (As evidenced by him not remembering the event, and needing to be told about it.)

At least, that's my rationale as I remember it. It's been ten years at this point, so I could be fuzzy on the details. :)

Manchester signing ()
#33 Copy

BlackYeti

In Words of Radiance, we have Vasher showing up... One of his aliases on Nalthis is Kalad, which is very similar to the name of one of the Heralds on Roshar. So I was wondering how far back this connection between him and Roshar goes.

Brandon Sanderson

It goes pretty far back, in fact when I wrote Way of Kings, the 2002 version; he was a main character and was Kaladin's swordmaster. I wrote Warbreaker to jump back and write out his backstory, Vasher's. So to me Warbreaker actually came after Way of Kings. But the connection goes back pretty far, further than you would first guess.

BlackYeti

Did he actually come from Nalthis and not Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not going to actually answer that one-- Well I can answer that: yes he does come from Nalthis. It's pretty obvious that the way that the Breath's working, the reason he moved is because it's easier to get Stormlight than Breaths, and Stormlight can fuel being a Returned like him. And so yes, he was born on Nalthis. Becoming Returned without being born on Nalthis would be really hard.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#34 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.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#37 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth's Speed

Yes, Denth is inhumanly fast. He's a Returned, after all, and has all of the physical enhancements that come with that. Even when he's chosen not to manifest most of them, he's still got an edge, just like Vasher does.

How do they hide that they're Returned? Well, it comes down to mastery of their ability to change their appearance. They can't shape-shift entirely; they can just alter some things about their appearance. They can change their weight, their hair color, and things like that at will. Vasher doesn't do this often, but Denth has been known to use it as a disguise. The problem, after you do this once and someone realizes it, your nature becomes very suspect.

They have learned to suppress their divine Breath. This allows them to hide, but they must be careful never to give away all of their Breath. Denth has been a Drab before—he's not completely lying—but never for longer than a few days. And his divine Breath is always there, suppressed. So he doesn't know what it's like to be a true Drab, which is why in this chapter he says he doesn't think it changes you that much. He's never felt it.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#38 Copy

Kurkistan

Are flamespren, are they all doing their own thing, or is there some Ideal of "Fire" sitting in the Spiritual Realm that they're all based on?

Brandon Sanderson

Each spren is based on the Ideal of Fire.

Kurkistan

And is that sitting in the Spiritual Realm?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, we're using sort of a Platonic Ideal, and that concept is in force, so *sounds hesitant* "yes", but [spren] are manifestations of it.

Kurkistan

So these Ideals in the Spiritual Realm: Divine Breath, does that heal by accessing some Ideal of Human Health: so a guy who had never had a tongue and doesn't know how to speak all the sudden has a tongue and can speak?

Brandon Sanderson

You are... *LONG pause* You are, um, on the right track.

Kurkistan

Okay.

Brandon Sanderson

Because the Breath is... eh. How can I explain this? You are, yeah... So... So each Breath is a shade of diety, right?

Kurkistan

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

And each Breath incorporates into it this sort of idea of being endowed by the deity Endowment, correct?

Kurkistan

Yes.

Brandon Sanderson

And so each Breath you hold brings you one step closer to becoming like that, and so what you're saying is... is "yes", kind of true, yes.

Kurkistan

But it's like within the Breath, not sitting off by itself-

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes yes exactly.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#39 Copy

Jamester86

Would the rate at which a [Nalthian] Returned needs to consume investiture to stay alive (1 breath per week in Nalthis) be the same in a different system? Saaaay in Roshar for example?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it would be--but they could substitute another kind of investiture without too much difficulty.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#40 Copy

Kurkistan

So, could you give us some examples of how the ideals that spren represent work in other magic systems, like we have Forging where you get plausibility, or Returned how they're beautiful or any other systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, one more time on that.

Kurkistan

Okay, so you know the ideals the spren are manifestations--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

How-- Do those have impacts on other magic systems?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes, in the same way the Returned- that's the exact same system at work there.

Kurkistan

Is it the same reason why the Lord Ruler has to die of old age, and why you can't heal yourself into being an octopus or something?

Brandon Sanderson

Um... Yes, that is all connected in the exact same way.

Kurkistan

Okay, so it's all like these highfalutin Spiritual ideals?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Kurkistan

And are there like, median Cognitive ideals that gradually kind of influence these, or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, they transcend between the three. I mean the original concept for the Three Realms is Platonic philosophy.

Kurkistan

So it goes up *makes absurd reverse-waterfall hand gesture*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it goes up and it comes back down. A lot of the Cognitive is-- So like, the Cognitive has a bigger effect on how you can heal and things like that. Does that make sense?

Kurkistan

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

But the power to heal is a actually a Spiritual thing.

Kurkistan

So it's like the Spiritual says "I want to be like this" and the Cognitive is like "Okay I'll try really hard to be like that, but I have a limit."

Brandon Sanderson

Right. Right. Filtered through how you see yourself, yeah.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#44 Copy

neart_roimh_laige

First of all, it seems that when Returned give their blessing that requires their life, to do so is to give up all of their BioChroma. Well, there was a time where Vivenna can't sense Vasher because he was a drab. Since that would mean he put all of his BioChroma somewhere and is SPOILER one of the Returned, why isn't he dead?

Also, it seems as if only the royal family has the ability to change their hair color. However, when Vasher kills Denth, his hair flashes through a ton of colors before he dies. What are his ties to the family? Is there something I missed? Will there be another book explaining this?

Brandon Sanderson

I did mention these things in the annotations, as has been pointed out, but boy--it's been a while. I don't remember what I wrote in the annotations and what I didn't.

All Returned are, in a way, "related" to the royal family in their investiture. (The magic they hold.) Vasher has some specific and powerful control over his own powers, which I didn't go into much in the book. But if you delve into the annotations, you'll get more.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Oudeis16

If Bob the Awakener Awakened fifty straw men to dance around, then died, then Returned as FormerBob the Appropriately Named, would FormerBob be able to reclaim the Breath from the straw men in the normal fashion (once he learned the "Your Breath to Mine" Command)?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. He has enough of his original Identity, and the spiritual connection would remain.

sonofstannis

What if he instead were reincarnated as a lifeless? Is there a way he could reclaim it then?

Brandon Sanderson

Lifeless have someone else's investiture replacing their own. (As opposed to Returned, who are augmented.) Depends on how much of them is left, and if they can achieve sapience again, but I'd say this is unlikely.

WeiryWriter

What if the Lifeless is Awakened with their own Breath? (i.e. they gave it away right before they died and the person they gave it to then used it in the Awakening)

Brandon Sanderson

This has happened already in the world, and it does help.

-Nayrb

Did this happen "on screen"?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#46 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.
Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
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Leinton (paraphrased)

If Endowment were killed, would the Returned still come?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Somebody needs to hold the magic. If no one holds the magic, the magic will start to gain sentience. Interesting and bizarre things happen then, so I would say yes, but with the caveat that with whoever picks up the power or what happens with the power could end up changing that.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#48 Copy

Argent

Can a Returned like Lightsong go to Roshar and form a bond with a spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Investiture interferes with other Investiture.

Argent

And they have a lot of it.

Brandon Sanderson

And they have a lot of it. That is not-- It's not completely-- For instance you can Push on Invested metal, but it's hard. There's a resistance, the more Invested the harder-- So a bond for instance-- forming a bond-- It's, yeah-- It can be done--

I mean Sazed took two of the powers up, right? But I kind of imagine what he did as a nuclear reaction. Where breaking an atom is hard, unless you are in the middle of a sun. And he was in the middle of the sun. At that point--

Argent

There was a lot of stuff going on around him that facilitated.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, definitely. But when you've got that much power you'll-- In other words if there is a lot of power going around, these things become easier.

Argent

So, possible but difficult is--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

Vasher is called the first Returned. Was he actually the first?

Brandon Sanderson

He is not the very first person to Return. The lore surrounding Vasher and the first Returned and things like that is not strict on the world. Meaning, it's been many, many years.

Footnote: The questioner appears to have conflated Vo, the First Returned, with Vasher.