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/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#1 Copy

Boogalyhu34

Can Nightblood be considered a Splinter and does it function like a spren realmatically, are there distinct differences is what I'm asking.

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood is kind of his own strange thing. He's an attempt to use one magic to replicate something in another. He's closest to a spren, but kind of like a...robot spren, for lack of better words to use.

Argent

When you say that Nightblood is "an attempt to use one magic to replicate something in another," do you mean life in general, or are you referring to a specific effect in a specific magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

There are those involved who knew that Shardblades existed before they tried the Nightblood experiment.

uchoo786

So does this mean Vasher had knowledge of Shardblades before creating Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

It means what I wrote, and nothing more at this point. :)

wickedmath

Dude. That's the most tantalizing RAFO I've seen in awhile. Have other Shards made Shardblades besides Honor?

Brandon Sanderson

:) RAFO

Phantine

Is that why Vasher uses the word 'Investiture' instead of some personal term for it?

Brandon Sanderson

I could be wrong, but I think Vasher was the first one in any book I allowed to use cosmere-aware terms for speaking of things like the magics. (Investiture is one of these.)

Shadows of Self release party ()
#2 Copy

Questioner 1

So how much Investiture does Vasher keep on him in Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

Ummm, enough. *laughter*

Questioner 2

To be fair I think the hivemind has said that since he can feed off of Stormlight, that’s not really an issue.

Brandon Sanderson

But he also has certain levels of Heightening, so you can guess what minimums he has.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#3 Copy

FirstSelector

I read that you had said if you had written Khriss' essay on Nalthis, it would have been more or less that she was talking about the magic, and then mention that there were scholars on this planet that were spitting distance from, like…

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah.

FirstSelector

So, Vasher, and maybe some of the other ones have been off world--

Brandon Sanderson

Shashara has been, yeah.

FirstSelector

...Are they known to the people at Silverlight? Like--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah.

FirstSelector

Like does Khriss know Vasher?

Brandon Sanderson

Know Vasher is a different question than know of Vasher. But they are widely regarded as early cosmere scholars... They are pioneers of this sort of stuff. So yes.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

Would Vasher be able to use Stormlight in the same way that he can get Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

That would not be immediately easy, but Stormlight could feed Nightblood.

Questioner

Which is why Szeth can wield Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson

Eh, you'll have to see if but yes. That could theoretically happen. You can use most of the magics on most of the planets to fuel the other magics, if you know how to do it, it is not easy.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

Why can't Zahel sleep at night?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, multiple reasons. None of which are particularly pleasant. He just has a rough time with a lot of different things.

Billy Todd

I'll inject a follow-up on that. How many of those reasons would give rise to a bounty?

Brandon Sanderson

Multiples, depending on who's offering the bounty.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Matrim Cauthon, Kelsier, and Vasher all decide they need to get together and run a heist on Hoid. How do they do it? Why? And what are they looking for? Assuming they know where his "hideout" is...

Brandon Sanderson

Mat has to be persuaded. He doesn't think this is worth it. Once he knows about Fortune, he'd be interested.

Kelsier wants to beat him to a pulp.

Vasher is very utilitarian about it, and agrees that having access to him would be smart, but dangerous.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#10 Copy

Argent

The namesake of the Nahel bond. Was that a person, or is just a name?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a word in original Alethi as I was working on it. And actually, the original didn't use "bond." Bond was implied by it. The word meant, "connection to the divine." It's gotten larger since then...

Blightsong

So when Vasher takes a similar name, he's trying to imply that meaning?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#11 Copy

Questioner 1

[Warbreaker] ends on, you could totally write a second one. Is that in the works?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but it's kind of a distant plan. It's kind of just more for fun. I wrote this-- I had already written Way of Kings, and I wrote this as a prequel to Way of Kings on a different world, and then it got published before Way of Kings got published. But the characters from this were already continuity in Way of Kings, so I just kept using them, because I figured it works out. Really, Warbreaker, I see it as Vasher's (and Nightblood, the sequel), the prequel, to where he came from, who was Kaladin's swordmaster in the first version of Way of Kings back when Kaladin was training to be a Shardbearer in the first book. Vasher was a major part of that, and Warbreaker was a flashback to where he'd come from.

Questioner 2

Vasher is Zahel, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Vasher is Zahel from The Stormlight Archive. Who is still kind of the swordmaster, but he's no longer Kaladin's, it didn't work out that way. But he ends up as Renarin's instead.

General Twitter 2019 ()
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Questioner

How did Vasher give his Breath to Denth and not die? He's Returned, so if he gives away his Breath, he dies, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher is capable of some things that most other Returned don't live long enough to figure out. We'll go into details in future books, assuming I get to them.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

Are you going to make a sort of [Mistborn: Secret History] for Vasher?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you’ll get some more Vasher stuff. I will write a sequel to Warbreaker that shows Vasher kind of bridging--but you’ll also see some more of the stuff behind the scenes that he did.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Sees the Painting of the Red Battle

This is our first major clue (though a subtle one at the same time) that there might be something to the religion of the Iridescent Tones. Lightsong does see something in this painting that an ordinary person wouldn't be able to. A well-crafted piece of art, made by a person channeling the Tones and connected to them via Breath, can speak to a Returned. Now, in this case, it doesn't work quite like Llarimar says it does—Lightsong doesn't actually prophesy about the black sword in the way the priest thinks. In other words, Lightsong isn't prophesying that he'll see the Black Sword (Nightblood) in the day's activities.

Instead, Lightsong is seeing an image of a previous war, which is prophetic in that another Manywar is brewing—and in both cases, Nightblood will be important to the outcome of the battle.

The person Lightsong sees in the abstract painting is Shashara, Denth's sister, one of the Five Scholars and a Returned also known as Glorysinger by the Cult of the Returned. She is seen here in Lightsong's vision as she's drawing Nightblood at the battle of Twilight Falls. It's the only time the sword was drawn in battle, and Vasher was horrified by the result.

It's because of her insistence on using the sword in battle, and on giving away the secret to creating more, that Vasher and she fought. He ended up killing her with Nightblood, which they'd created together during the days they were in love—he married her a short time before their falling out. That marriage ended with him slaying his own wife to keep her from creating more abominations like Nightblood and loosing them upon the world.

Nightblood is part of a much larger story in this world. He's dropped casually into this particular book, more as a side note than a real focus of what's going on, but his own role in the world is much, much larger than his supporting part here would indicate.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth Spar; Vasher Gets Stabbed

I love scenes in books (when I read them) that imply a great weight of history that we don't get to see between characters. It gives me a sense that the story is real. That these characters lived before the story, and that they'll continue to live afterward (or, well, the ones who survive).

When I built this book, I knew that the Vasher/Denth relationship needed a lot of groundwork to give it that sense. I wanted them both to be complicated characters who have a twisted past. It all comes to head here, in this chapter, and we get the ending of a story over three centuries old. Will I ever tell those stories? Probably not. Like the story of Alendi and Rashek in Mistborn, I think the story between Vasher and Denth is stronger as it stands—as something to lend weight to this book. We will go more into the Vasher/Arsteel relationship (particularly as we deal with Yesteel) in the next book, if I write it.

By this point, you should be wondering just who Vasher is. He's been alive since the Manywar, and Denth implies that Vasher himself caused the conflict. There's obviously a lot more going on with him than you expect.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#19 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.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

When are you going to write the other Warbreaker book? Last time I came to hear you talk, you said you were going to, and now you have 3000 other projects!

Brandon Sanderson

I know, and the Warbreaker fans really get on my case about that. Well, I wrote Words of Radiance, and I got Vasher into it, so that would kindle interest, and make sure that you at least got to see your characters again.

But did you hear the story about that? So, I wrote The Way of Kings in 2002, the first version, and in that version Kaladin trained with a swordmaster, and that swordmaster, a guy named Vasher, had a mysterious past. After I finished that book, later on I wrote Warbreaker as a prequel to Way of Kings, to show Vasher's backstory. But then Warbreaker came out before Way of Kings, which was a really kind of interesting thing. So in my head, Warbreaker is the prequel, but to everyone else... Yes, it is a totally different world, different planets, people get around...

Wetlander

So how much of Vasher's backstory do we actually have?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, a huge chunk of it…! If you were reading Way of Kings, you would know nothing, and then you’d read Warbreaker and you’d be like, “Oh, here’s a whole past that he had!” That doesn’t mean it’s all of his past.

Wetlander

(He’s not giving any hints as to whether Vasher had any connection with Roshar prior to Warbreaker – or at least not without someone asking a much more direct question.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Denth Visit the Corpses in the D'Denir Garden

That these deaths happened in this place is a coincidence. Yes, Vasher killed these men because he knew they were connected with Denth. However, he didn't do it in the garden because that was where Vivenna had been the day before. That just happened. (The garden is a popular meeting place after hours for clandestine operations. All Vasher had to do was throw in Nightblood and let him do what he does. To Vasher, that's often all the justification he needs. If the sword can make them kill each other, then they were guilty.)

It was important to have this scene here, however, to reinforce the tension between Denth and Vasher. I also wanted a good chance for Vasher to watch Vivenna. She notices him, but doesn't point him out to Denth—she's too afraid of Denth making a scene, and she just wants to get away from Vasher.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

Is Vasher Zahel or is Zahel Vasher?

Brandon Sanderson

So Vasher is the name he had in Way of Kings Prime, the one I just read from, before I wrote Warbreaker.

Questioner

That's my question. What's the real chronology?

Brandon Sanderson

...Yeah, Warbreaker's first.

Questioner

Because he named him, did he not?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the name, Vasher. Of course, he had a different name before that.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#25 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.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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Phantine

By the way, if "Awakeners" were something different back then, what did you call Vasher? Or was he just "some guy from another world, I'll explain his magic later".

Brandon Sanderson

The latter. There are hints he has a mysterious past, but not much more.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains Some Things, but Leaves Some Things Hidden

I'm worried about leaving Vivenna's two questions unanswered. One is pretty obvious—how Vasher can hide how he looks—but the other is unintuitive. I wish I could explain better in the book, as I said above, but I decided in the end to just leave it hanging. It's a bit of a violation of Sanderson's First Law, but not a big one. The reason I feel I can get away with it is because Vasher didn't use his nature as a Returned to solve any problems. It is more a flavoring for his character than it is important to him getting out of danger or fixing things. He could have done everything he needed to in this book without being Returned. So I feel it's okay not to explain why he can be Returned and not die when he gives away his Breaths.

Can Vivenna change her appearance more? She can indeed. She could actually stoke that fragment of a divine Breath inside of her and start glowing like a Returned. She can't change her physical features to look like someone else, but she can change her age, her height (within reason), and her body shape (to an extent). It takes practice.

And yes, the scraggly miscreant is how Vasher sees himself. Not noble and Returned, which is part of how he suppresses his divine Breath.

Events in the second book may change that.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

When Zahel worldhopped to Roshar, did he ever do that before Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, in fact Roshar was where the idea for Nightblood kind of came from.

Questioner

Will you ever write about that?

Brandon Sanderson

I will probably reference it in future books and maybe I'll do some flashbacks, but I haven't decided. I'm unlikely to write a book that covers that time period on its own.

Firefight release party ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

Does Vasher have a favorite animal? *laughter* I warned you, it was random.

Brandon Sanderson

Does Vasher have a favorite animal.

Questioner

You've thought of just about everything else for your books--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I know... Would Vasher have a favorite animal? I'm sure that he had a pet or something growing up. Vasher hates just about everyone and everything these days.

Questioner

What about squirrels?

Bystander

It's a weasel!

Brandon Sanderson

He does like squirrels! Undead squirrels.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

Vasher/Zahel is a Returned, which means he needs Breath to live.  But Breath doesn’t exist on Roshar.  Does he use St--

Brandon Sanderson

He uses Stormlight.  One of the reasons--  In fact one of the primary reasons he’s on Roshar is because Stormlight is so much easier to come by than Breath.  And in fact researching about things like this is one of the reasons he discovered Roshar in the first place.

Questioner

So it’s the same reason why Night-- the sword…

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood.

Questioner

Yes.

Brandon Sanderson

The exact mechanics of how Nightblood ended up there will be explored in a future book.

Holiday signing ()
#33 Copy

Questioner

I have a question about Nightblood. I think I heard that-- Something you said in a Q&A that it is related to a Shardblade, or was a Shardblade?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah… So Nightblood. Vasher visited Roshar, saw Shardblades, came back and tried to make one. With what he knew of his magic. That's the short version of it. Kind of simplifies things, but yes.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
#35 Copy

ShadowSgt

The history of Nightblood, we know that it's created by knowledge of the Shardblades. Would you say that Vasher's first trip to Roshar coincided with a certain individual that tried to take over all of Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

You're talking about Sadees?

ShadowSgt

The Sunmaker?

Brandon Sanderson

...I'd have to look at the timeline, but it was not-- it is not something I have present in my mind. It could have overlapped. So, it might overlap, but there's not a cause-and-effect there.

ShadowSgt

So, Sunmaker and Vasher are sep--

Brandon Sanderson

Are not the same people, good question. Sunmaker is legitimately Dalinar's ancestor.

#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
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onelowerlight

What first gave you the idea for Warbreaker? What was your first inspiration for it?

Brandon Sanderson

WRBRKR came from a lot of sourcres. Siri and Vivenna were side characters in a book I never finished.

Vasher came from the line that starts the book. No space to post it here, but give it a read.

Nightblood came because…well, I just wanted to have a talking sword.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#41 Copy

Questioner

How many diamond chips does Zahel require to survive?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. We will actually be releasing this pretty soon. But I actually have used my prerogative as a famous author to force some others to actually do the number crunching and the math of it. And so we will have a straight up unit measurement for you of various things coming up pretty soon. Once the number crunchers are done, you will know.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#43 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering when you first thought to put Nightblood in Words of Radiance?

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood in Words of Radiance happened because... So I wrote the original draft of Way of Kings in 2002 and Vasher was Kaladin's swordmaster and I thought "This guy has a really interesting past, he's not natively from Roshar". So I went and wrote his backstory and that became the book Warbreaker. So he predates-- And then I came back and I re-wrote Way of Kings and I cut him out of it to save him for the later books. So when did I first think of it? Well 2003 probably? Was where that was happening.

Questioner

Nightblood was our apartment's collective favorite character.

Brandon Sanderson

I have some other quote-unquote cons going on the fans so to speak that are going to be very cool when they happen.

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
#44 Copy

R.E. (paraphrased)

Does Vasher have a different way of getting access to Stormlight than everyone else? Given that he has no spren, no honorblade and he isn't a squire?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. He can use Stormlight to stay alive, but it doesn't let him Surgebind.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Could Szeth get access to this method?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

R.E. (paraphrased)

And use it to fuel Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes he could.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Can you tell me what that method is?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*smiles*

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#46 Copy

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.
Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#47 Copy

Rainier

Can you tell me anything about Zahel / Warbreaker / Vasher? I was very disappointed I didn't see him in Oathbringer. I was waiting for him.

Brandon Sanderson

He's in there. Briefly.

Questioner

I'm waiting for him-- Him and Vivenna and Szeth. I want the three of them and Nightblood together. I want that scene, I'm waiting for it.

Brandon Sanderson

You will see some good things from him.

Holiday signing ()
#48 Copy

Questioner

So are any characters, like Vasher, going to be in any of your other books?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, Vasher is in Words of Radiance.

Questioner

Yeah, I knew he was in Words of Radiance. Is he going to show up more in that? Have more importance?

Brandon Sanderson

He is not going to have a huge role, he'll have a little one. Normally I try to confine people who are interfering in other series to their own series, if that makes sense?

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#50 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

Vivenna Awakes, Bound by Vasher

This chapter—with what happens in the latter part of it—is the most dangerous in the book. Dangerous to me as an author, I mean. I love good plot twists, but I worry about leaving them without proper foreshadowing. I've never done something as drastic as I have in this book, having a group of sympathetic characters turn out to be working for the wrong side. I hope it succeeds, but I know that if it doesn't, readers will be very mad. Nothing is sloppier than a book with unearned changes in character motivation.

But we're not there quite yet. Before that we have the first real interaction between Vivenna and Vasher. He gives her what he likes to think of as the Nightblood test. One nice thing about having a sword that "cannot tempt the hearts of those who are pure" is that when someone like Vivenna touches it, she gets sick. I didn't want Nightblood to come across as a "one ring" knockoff. He doesn't turn people's hearts or corrupt them. However, in order to be able to do his job and fulfill his Command, he needs the ability to determine who is good and who is evil.

This, of course, isn't an easy thing to determine. In fact, I don't think it's a black or white issue for most people. When Nightblood was created, the Breaths infused in him did their best to interpret their Command. What they decided was evil was someone who would try to take the sword and use it for evil purposes, selling it, manipulating and extorting others, that sort of thing. Someone who wouldn't want the sword for those reasons was determined to be good. If they touch the weapon, they feel sick. If others touch the weapon, their desire to kill and destroy with it is enhanced greatly.

Nightblood himself, unfortunately, doesn't quite understand what good and evil are. (This is mentioned later in the text.) However, he knows that his master can determine who is good and who is evil—using the sword's power to make people sick, or through other means. So, he pretty much just lets whoever is holding him decide what is evil. And if the one holding the sword determines—deep within their heart—that they are evil themselves, then they will end up killing themselves with the sword.

Vivenna passes the test, which surprises Vasher. He thought that she'd be the type who would use Nightblood to kill and destroy. (He doesn't have a high opinion of her, obviously. Of course, that's partially because he's let his temper dictate what he thinks.)