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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth the Traitor

Denth was always going to betray Vivenna. In fact, this is one of the very early concepts for the book—the idea that I wanted a bad guy who was not only likable, but funny. Too often, villains are portrayed as simply despicable people. If they laugh, it's evil laughter.

But people just aren't like that, not most of them. They're real, they have goals and motivations, but they also laugh, cry, and feel. Denth is a mercenary. More than that, he's a man who has caused a lot of pain and death in his long lifetime, and he copes with it by letting himself be hired to do important tasks. So that he doesn't have to feel as responsible.

In a lot of ways, I imagined Denth as the anti-Kelsier. Glib, smart, and hired to do impossible tasks. Only in this book he works for the wrong team. In this scene in particular, he was doing his best to nudge Vivenna to give him the Breaths. His job was only to hold her, to keep her captive and in reserve just in case the plots with Siri failed. That way, there would be a second princess to use in the plots. He was assigned to work for Lemex originally just to give him an in with the Idrians in the city, so that he could rile them up to incite the war further. But when he found that Vivenna was coming, he realized that she would be a much better pawn, and so he poisoned Lemex and took her instead. His employers were very happy to have a backup princess.

So, anyway, Lemex's Breaths were secondary. Denth wanted them, but he knew that the most important thing to do here was get Vivenna to trust him. So he tried to subtly manipulate her into giving them to him. (He intentionally acted reluctant to take them in order to goad her.)

In some ways, even though he doesn't have a viewpoint, a big theme of this book is the tragedy of the man Denth. He could have been more. At one time, he was a much better man than most who have lived.

Tonk Fah is a waste of flesh, though. Even if he is funny sometimes.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

Vivenna Meets the Mercenaries in the Restaurant

Denth was planned as an important figure in this book from the early going. I was looking for a type of character I'd never written, someone who could be interesting, but not steal the show too much from Vivenna. But I also wanted someone who would provide some good verbal sparring (a theme of this book) without simply replicating the way that Lightsong makes word plays.

Denth's and Tonk Fah's personalities grew out of this. I wanted them to offer a more lowbrow sort of humor, conversations that dealt with more base types of joking. They aren't supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny, but hopefully they're amusing and colorful as characters.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Parlin Is Dead

Parlin was always meant to die here. That's one of the main reasons I left Vivenna with someone from Idris to be in her team, in fact. (The other reason is that I found it unrealistic that she wouldn't have somebody with her.)

Maybe this is why Parlin never worked as a character, to be honest. I wonder if he was always in my mind as the character who was going to get killed by Tonk Fah, which kept me from giving him enough depth. I'm not sure; I do know that in the book as it stands, he's probably the biggest component I wish I had time to change. I'm not certain what I could put in his place that wouldn't distract too much from the plot—and wouldn't take away from the humor of Denth and the mercenaries—but would still be sympathetic enough that when he dies here, it would be more powerful. But I would have liked to have found something.

Tonk Fah tortured him to death. He wasn't supposed to, but he got carried away. It was an accident, as Denth claims. (Denth shouldn't have left Tonks alone with the prisoner to continue the torturing.) Denth came back and found Parlin dead, and was annoyed and frustrated. He left Tonks behind, storming out in anger, and eventually found Jewels and Clod, who were talking to slum contacts and trying to find Vivenna. They came back to regroup.

Meanwhile, Tonks heard Vivenna enter, and knew it wasn't Denth. He put his Breath into his clothing, then ducked back under the stairs, his lantern extinguished, wondering who had come. He wasn't terribly surprised to find Vivenna. That was when Denth and Jewels got back and the rest of the situation went down.

I added the corpses of Vivenna's father's agents in the last draft, by the way, since I figured I wanted it to be more obvious what had happened to them.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

And by the way, we don't see Tonk Fah, Jewels, or Clod again in the book. They'll come back in the sequel. Without Denth's control, Tonks is off to start murdering and killing wantonly; by the next book, he'll have changed quite dramatically.

Jewels, on the other hand, is taking Arsteel (Clod) to his brother, who is a master of Lifeless Commands. (Yesteel invented ichor-alcohol.) She hopes to find a way to restore to Arsteel some of his memories and personality.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Tonk Fah Wants to Be the Mean One

Tonk Fah is a sociopath. He doesn't feel an emotional connection to other people, nor does he feel their pain when he hurts them. He tortures and kills animals when it strikes his fancy. There's a dead parrot in the basement of the safe house, which is why Denth keeps Vivenna from going down there. There aren't any bodies of Idrian soldiers down there currently, though Denth has had a few of them killed already. The fact that he has people watching their house, plus Vivenna's mention of her father's soldiers checking Lemex's house first, are tiny clues. They do indeed go there first, and Denth has his people there watching. That's how he catches the Idrian soldiers.

By this point in the story, he's killed about three people who have come looking for Vivenna. The death count will eventually reach several dozen.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Treledees Takes Siri

At this point, you're supposed to be confused at whose motivations are what. I'm not sure what you'll be thinking of the priests at this point in the story. Suffice it to say that Denth's men were in control of Siri's chamber, but he left them once he got Vasher. While he's been torturing Vasher, however, Treledees and his forces seized Siri's room back and killed the guards out front. Now they've pulled her away.

Tonk Fah wasn't there, as you'll soon discover. He's guarding the door to the room where Vasher and Denth are. He's just outside, and he has orders not to let Denth get interrupted. When things get out of hand in the palace, however, he goes in to inform Denth of what's going on. We'll see him there in just a little bit.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Realizes That the Mercenaries Are Traitors

And finally, here we are. The biggest gamble in the book. I went into the novel knowing I was going to do this, and I wrote all along with the intention that Denth and his crew were working against Vivenna's interests.

As I mentioned in a spoiler section earlier, Tonk Fah is a sociopath, and much of the time when he makes his jokes about hurting people, he's serious. (The vanishing pets are a subtle clue to this.) He finds the concept of hurting people funny. We laugh because of Denth, who's running interference and making it seem like they're just exaggerating to get a laugh.

The death of Lemex is another clue—he was, indeed, immune to disease. (Though not poison, if enough was used.) Anyone with that many Breaths is immune. Another clue is what the mercenaries are doing, riling up the Hallandren to war rather than working to prevent it. Not that Vivenna wanted them to, but through Denth's manipulations, Siri has all but been forgotten in the face of the work against Hallandren. Of course, Vivenna herself was willing to forget Siri. Not by intent, but because she has always been more focused on Hallandren, and Siri was partially just an excuse.

The fact that Vivenna's father's agents are never seen looking for her, the fact that the mercenaries don't seem to care about money, the way Jewels was frequently gone at the beginning (partially so she could tail Vivenna), and much of what they said and did were supposed to be reinforcement of this moment of betrayal.

All that said, however, I don't think it's at all obvious what they are really up to. And that's why this is a gamble. This twist isn't an "Ah, I should have seen it!" revelation like the one about the Lord Ruler at the end of Mistborn. Instead, it's a twist that—hopefully—has just enough groundwork underneath it not to seem out of nowhere. I fully expect it to blindside most readers.