Warbreaker Annotations

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Name Warbreaker Annotations
Date June 24, 2010
Location Brandon's website
Entries 254
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


This book is dedicated to my dear wife, Emily. I started writing this book when we were dating, and worked on it all through our engagement. I even took it on our honeymoon to Hawaii—though I didn't actually get any writing done on it then.

When I proposed to her, I wrote out a little poem in the form of a proposal that I said I'd use as the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians dedication. She didn't want it to appear in the book, however, because a live dedication in a novel would have embarrassed her.

However, I asked if she'd mind having Warbreaker dedicated to her, and she was excited about that. You may know that when we were married, I commissioned a large batch of swords—inscribed with names from my books—and gave them to my closest friends. I named Emily's sword Lightsong, and she carried it around at the reception. (Mine is named Dragonsteel.)

So, anyway, this book is very dear to her. It's the first one of mine she had input on during the editing process. And now it's finally published, about three years since the date of our wedding. Ah, how time flies.

As a side note, when I was a teenager, I dreamed of someday proposing to my wife via a book dedication. Back then, being married and getting published were both very, very distant goals of mine. Like twin holy grails, shining on the mountain, virtually unobtainable but hoped for nonetheless.

I can still remember thinking of how cool it would be to surprise my soon-to-be-fiancée by walking with her into the bookstore to see if my new book was on the shelves yet. (In my daydream, it was the Cosmic Comics store back in Lincoln, which sold sf/fantasy books. It's the place where I first saw Eye of the World on a store shelf, by the way.) I imagined myself walking over and finding it on the shelf during its release week, then calling her over. That would be the first time she'd see the dedication, which would be a proposal to her. Of course, I'd have worked it out with the bookstore owner so that there was a ring taped to the next page.

Ah, ignorance. It was a fond dream. What I didn't realize is that often, there are years between the writing of a book and its publication. I didn't really think that Emily would want to wait three years for a proposal, just so that I could surprise her by having it in the front of a published book. . . .

Sometimes, though, it's still amazing to me to look back at that sixteen-year-old version of myself and realize that I've achieved both of those goals. I'm not only a published author, but I'm writing fantasy books as a full-time job. And I'm not only married, but I'm married to just about the most wonderful woman who's ever lived.

So those things weren't so unobtainable after all. But they're still just as precious as I imagined.

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


The map for this book was done by the awesome Shawn Boyles.

For this book, I wanted something with an illustrated feel to it. The Mistborn maps were supposed to look realistic and gritty—like maps from London during the nineteenth century. I wanted twisting, cramped streets and a sense of overcrowding.

For Warbreaker I wanted a very different feel. I wanted a picture that looked hand drawn, something a little exaggerated and intentionally less accurate. Like a picture you might see hanging on someone's wall, vaguely showing the size, shape, and relative locations of important things in the city.

I picked Shawn because of his style. He has a very colorful, very round and smooth style, and I thought that would translate very well to a map of the city. Ironically, the first map he gave me looked very detailed and intricate, much like the Mistborn maps. He was trying way too hard, I feel—imitating the style of the previous books.

I asked him for something that was more natural to his style, something that was a profile view rather than an overhead view and had stylized houses. The second draft came back nearly perfect; I was very excited. The only problem with that one was that it wasn't big enough. (It was about half the size of the final product and didn't have the upper portion of the map where the city curves around the bay.)

One more draft, however, and we were finished. He did the artwork by hand on a large piece of cardstock, then scanned it and filled in details on the computer. I love the finished product. I wish we could have done colored end pages using it.

#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


A lot of people helped me with this book. As you may or may not realize, I posted drafts of the novel online as I was writing it. It was a rather nerve-racking experience in many ways. My goal was to show the process of writing a novel as it happened. As such, I would finish a chapter, spellcheck it, then post it. (Though sometimes I held it for a while, as I eventually wanted to get to posting one chapter a week, and I'd often write two or three a week.)

Why did I do this? Well, for a number of reasons. First off, I'd never seen anyone do it before. I'd seen serialized novels, of course, and I'd seen people post their complete novels once the book was out in stores. I'd never seen anyone post, chapter by chapter, the rough draft of a book that they already had a contract for. This was less serializing a novel and more showing the process. As I finished a new draft, I would post that so that people could compare and see how I tweaked my manuscripts.

I also wanted a free novel on my website so that people could give my work a chance without having to pay for it. I figured that if they liked it, they'd try out my other books (and probably even buy Warbreaker when it came out). And if they didn't like it, then at least they hadn't spent any money on it.

The third reason I posted it this way was that I wanted to see what kind of community and feedback I could get for a book while it was being posted, then use that kind of like a writing group. Now, I tend to write fairly clean rough drafts. They're far from perfect, but since I like to outline a lot, I generally know where I'm going with a book when I write it. However, a great deal still changes in drafting, and many of the people who posted comments on my blog had an influence on the novel. Not really in changing the plot or the characters—it's more that their questions and concerns would inspire me to explain something better or develop an aspect of the story more.

I tried to get everyone on the list who helped out in a moderate or significant way. However, I'm sure I missed some people. If you're one of those who gave me a lot of comments during the early months when I was posting the rough draft, and I forgot you in the acknowledgments, drop me an e-mail so I can at least get you added to the electronic version.

#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Prologue - Part One

The Origins of the Prologue

This began as a first chapter; I only later turned it into the prologue. My worry when I made the change (and it's still a bit of a worry) was that it was kind of a sneaky way to begin the book. Let me explain.

This novel focuses primarily on Siri, Vivenna, and Lightsong. Vasher, as the fourth viewpoint, is only in there fairly sparsely. True, he drives a lot of what is happening from behind the scenes, but he's a mysterious figure, and we don't know a lot about him. This prologue is pretty much the most extensive, lengthy, and in-depth scene we get of him.

Therefore, it's kind of sneaky to begin the book with him. I did it for a couple of reasons. First off—and this is the most important one—this scene is just a great hook. It shows off the magic system and the setting of the novel (most of the action takes place in T'Telir, even though the first few chapters are over in Idris). It's full of conflict and tension, with a mysterious character doing interesting things. In short, it's exactly how you want to begin a book.

My worries aren't about this prologue so much as they are about the following three chapters, where things slow down a lot. I was tempted to cut this scene and put it in later, but I eventually decided that giving it the mantle of a prologue was enough. A lot of times, particularly in fantasy, we writers use a prologue to highlight a character or conflict that might not show up again for a while.

#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Naming Vasher

Vasher's name has interesting origins. I first began toying with the ideas that became Warbreaker back in 2005. I was hanging out with my then girlfriend (not Emily, but Heather, the girl I dated before I met Emily). We were up at Heather's family's cabin in Island Park, Idaho, and I had just met her father for the first time. His name was Vance.

The name intrigued me. Yes, I'd heard it before, but for some reason at that moment it struck me. Later that day, sitting on the dock of the lake, I pulled out my notebook and began to play around with ideas for a story. I tweaked the name to Vancer, but that just didn't sound right, though I used it for a while. The next incarnation was Vasher. [Editor's note: Brandon had earlier used the name Vasher in 2003 for a different character in the draft of another novel, but he had completely forgotten that by the time he wrote this annotation.]

I began doing some preliminary prose writing, plugging in a magic system I'd been working on. (I'll talk more later about how I came up with Awakening.) It became a story about a guy who was thrown into prison, then used his Awakening magic to get out of it. (Along with the help of his longtime sidekick, whose name escapes me right now.)

It wasn't very long. I'll have to dig it out sometime—it's only handwritten and wasn't something I ever intended to publish. Just a quick character sketch. It did have the first line, however, of what eventually became this book: "Why does it always have to end up with me getting thrown into prison?"

Footnote: The accuracy of this story is somewhat in doubt as it is known that Vasher was a character in The Way of Kings Prime, and that Warbreaker was designed, in part, as a prequel to his apperance there.
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

First Line Origins

Of course, this line got a tweak of its own in later drafts. I was fond of this first line, as I'd used it in the original short story with Vancer. However, in that story, he'd been thrown into prison for other reasons. In Warbreaker, I began the book with Vasher getting himself purposefully tossed into prison.

So, in the end, my editor pointed out that the line no longer worked quite right. We had to change it—why would Vasher complain about getting thrown into prison if he had done it to himself on purpose? So, it became "It's funny how many things begin with my getting thrown into prison."

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Guard Approaches, and His Clothing Becomes Brighter

This is an essential part of the magic system. When you get close to someone's aura, their clothing—and everything else about them—brightens in color slightly. It's important to show it in this prologue.

Unfortunately, it also shouldn't be there. You see, Vasher should be smart enough to hide his Breath in his clothing, as the book later shows is quite easy to do. He shouldn't have left himself holding any Breath. It's suspicious. If those guards had noticed his aura—or if someone working in the prison had been of the First Heightening—Vasher would have been spotted. It's such an easy fix that he should have thought of it.

The problem is, I felt I needed to establish the way the magic works from the beginning. Having to explain why Vasher didn't make the clothing glow would have been awkward and confusing at this point in the book. So I left this as it is.

However, being who I am, I developed a background for why Vasher did it this way. He left his Breath in, and thought that maybe it would be noticed—but if it was, he knew that the guards would lock him in a cell much closer to Vahr. That would be convenient, as it would ensure that he was much closer to his quarry. Of course, in such a cell, he wouldn't be able to Awaken anything and escape. However, he'd planned for that too. He set a little straw figure outside the prison the night before, with specific Commands instructing it to search through the cells and find him, delivering a set of lock picks.

It was risky—but either way he did it would be risky. He couldn't know for certain that the guards would take him to the area he needed to be in, and even if he had hidden his Breath in his clothing, some prisons have rules in place requiring each prisoner to be stripped, just in case they've done just that. Fortunately, these guards were particularly lazy. Anyway, Vasher's contingency plan wasn't needed, as the guards didn't end up noticing his Breath.

#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Awakens the Straw Figure

I love how intricate and delicate Vasher is in creating the straw figure. The little eyebrow is a nice touch, and forming the creature into the shape of a person has a nice resonance with our own world's superstitions.

Voodoo dolls, for instance. This is very common in tribal magics and shamanistic rituals—something in the figure of a person, or the figure of the thing it's supposed to affect, is often seen as being more powerful or more desirable. The same is said for having a drop of blood or a tiny piece of skin, even a piece of hair.

Those two things—making the doll in the shape of a man and using a bit of his own body as a focus—are supposed to create instant resonance in the magic for those reading it. I think it works, too. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this, much like with the colors above. In later chapters, the characters are generally powerful enough with the magic that they don't have to make things in human shape or use pieces of their own body as a focus.

If I were to write a sequel to the book (and I just might—more on this later) I'd want to get back to these two aspects of the magic. Talk about them more, maybe have characters who have smaller quantities of Breath, and so need to use these tricks to make their Awakening more powerful.

Anyway, this little scene threw all kinds of problems into the book. Later on, I had to decide if I wanted to force the characters to always make things into the shape of a person before Awakening them. That proved impossible, it was too limiting on the magic and interfered with action sequences. The same was true for using bits of their own flesh as focuses. It just didn't work.

I toyed with cutting these things from the prologue. (Again, they are artifacts from the short story I wrote, back when Awakening wasn't fully developed yet.) However, I like the resonance they give, and think they add a lot of depth to the magic system.

So I made them optional. They're things that you can do to make your Awakenings require fewer Breaths. That lets me have them for resonance, but not talk about them when I don't need them. I still worry that they set up false expectations for the magic, however.

#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Prologue - Part Three

Vasher Awakens the Cloak

He doesn't end up using it. A lot of people point this out. Him not needing it was intentional. I know it raises a question in the prologue, and seems kind of useless, but it's there to give some added depth to the scene and the magic. Plus, it was just a smart thing to do. Awakening the cloak to protect him was a precaution—one that didn't end up being needed, but one of the things that annoys me about books is when every single thing the heroes do ends up being important, useful, or even a hindrance. Sometimes you pack yourself a lunch, but then just don't end up needing it.

#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Straw Figure Returns with the Keys

Vasher couldn't have used a thread to unlock the door here, by the way. I know a certain person manages to pull it off later in the book, but that doesn't happen in the God King's dungeons.

One thing to remember about designing magic systems—particularly those as important to their societies as mine—is that the people in the world live with this magic. They use it and see it being used regularly. They think of it and consider it.

It's not hard to design a lock that an Awakened thread can't unlock easily. It is more expensive to buy a lock like that, and so not all locks have such precautions. These ones do, however.

If you've read the book through, then you know that Vasher's simple-sounding Command of "Fetch Keys" given to the straw man is incredibly complex. In fact, it's probably one of the most complicated Commands given to any Awakened object in the entire book. It's kind of cool to me that Vasher uses it here, showing off incredible mastery of the magic, before anyone reading will even realize how much skill saying those two words correctly really takes.

#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Confronts Vahr

Vahr's original name was Pahn. You can find it used in earlier drafts of the book. I liked the sound and look of that so much, in fact, that I based the name of the people he came from on his own name.

That made for a problem, though. That's like having a person named America. It happens, but it's kind of confusing in a book. So, I eventually had to change his name to something that had a similar look and feel, but which wouldn't lead to so much confusion.

Vahr dies here, and one of the major revisions I made to the book was to bring out more of his influence throughout the book. I didn't want it to be too in your face. However, he was a very important man. We see only the very tail end of his life here, but he worked for over a decade as a Pahn revolutionary, trying to inspire his people to rebel against Hallandren oppression. (Or at least what he saw as Hallandren oppression.) He eventually became such a popular figure that he raised an army, with monetary support from several of Hallandren's trade competitors across the sea.

We see here the end of that—Vahr, captured and being tortured. He's a lot more important than he seems, both to the world and to the novel itself.

#13 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.

#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One - Part One


You can probably guess why I was worried about the transition from the prologue with Vasher to this chapter with Siri. The tone shift is quite dramatic. Actually, one of the things my agent complained a lot about with this book was the tone. Not just for this chapter shift, but for the entire book.

In his opinion, there were too many different tone shifts going on. We have Vasher's plot, which is dark and sometimes violent. We have the Siri plotline, which is romantic and sometimes whimsical. We have Lightsong, whose chapters are glib and smell faintly of an old comedic murder mystery. Then we have Vivenna, whose tone bounces around across all of these.

That's one of the things I like about the book. My agent complained, but I know he likes things more streamlined than I sometimes do. He loved the Mistborn books, and I do think they are excellent novels—but they are very focused. The characters are distinctive, but their plots are all centered on many of the same types of goals.

With Warbreaker, one of the main things I'm trying to do is contrast it to Mistborn. To do something different, something that harkens a little more back to Elantris, with its three very different viewpoints.

I want there to be a lot of different tones and feels to this book. It's part of the theme of the novel—that of vibrant Hallandren and its many wonders. I want it to feel like a lot is going on, and that in different parts of the city, very different stories can be told.

#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Origins of Siri and Vivenna

Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.

I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.

It was boring.

I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.

One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.

My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.

The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.

I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.

You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.

I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.

#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One - Part Two


Ramblemen are more than simple traveling jugglers or storytellers. They're merchants who specialize in bringing news (for a price) and stories as well as goods and services.

Readers latched onto this word, and I've had a lot of people say, "I love that term! Why don't we get to see a rambleman in the book?"

Because some things in books are just there to hint at the greater world. Sometimes a keen, cool word like that can evoke so much more when used in passing than it would if developed into a side plot or attached to a character.

#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Idris's Drabness

One thing to realize is that the Idrians' attempts to make their city colorless are more superstition than they are effective. It's much harder to get colors away from an Awakener than the Idrians think. For instance, black is one of the most powerful colors to use for fueling Awakening—but the Idrians don't even consider it a color. Their browns and tans would also work for Awakening.

However, a lot of times, the traditions of a culture don't have much to do with factual reality. The determination to avoid colors grew out of a desire to contrast with Hallandren and their devilish Awakeners. It got taken to the extreme, however, and as the centuries passed, the Idrians grew confused about just what Awakening is and what it can do. Of course, there are some who know—Hallandren isn't that far away. But there's also a lot of rumor and misinformation.

#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Mab the Cook

If it sounds to you like Mab knows a lot about Awakening and Hallandren, then you've picked up on something. Mab actually used to live in T'Telir. (She was born in Idris, but ran away during her teens.) During her twenties, she was a courtesan of some repute in the city. She had some fairly high-profile clients—so she was more than just a poor, street-corner prostitute. She fell in love with one of the men, however, and he convinced her to give him her Breath. Then he left her.

As a Drab, she had much more trouble finding work. She'd lost a bit of her sparkle, and whatever she'd used to capture the hearts of men, she'd lost that too. She ended up as a madam, running a much poorer whorehouse, using her old contacts and reputation to get clients.

As soon as she made enough, she bought another Breath and returned to Idris, where she got a job in the king's kitchens. To this day, she bears a lot of ill will toward the Hallandren upper crust, and Awakeners in particular.

#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The King and Yarda Discuss Sending Vivenna

I go back and forth on this scene. Sometimes I think it's too long. Other times I worry that it's not long enough.

Through the history of the book, this particular scene inched longer and longer as I tried very hard to explain why a good man like Dedelin would send Siri to die in Hallandren. (And also, I wanted to be sure to explain why he was sure she would die there.) There's a whole lot of setup going on in this sequence between the king and his general.

And I worry that there should be more. While what they do makes intrinsic sense to me, a lot of readers have been confused about the tactics here. Why is the king doing what he's doing? Is it really needed? Isn't there another way? This section is the only answer we get to a lot of those questions, since it's the one and only scene in the book from Dedelin's viewpoint.

That said, I think this scene might also be too long. The more space I dedicate to Dedelin, the more readers are going to think that he might be a main character. Some are surprised to read on and find out that the king doesn't make another appearance in the novel. (Well, okay, he makes one more—but he doesn't have a viewpoint.) I don't want to put too much here or have readers focus too much on the tactics of his decision, since really all that matters is that readers understand that Siri has been sent unexpectedly to marry the God King.

I'm still iffy on the scene. Some test readers wanted to see the scene where Dedelin says farewell to Siri. (We skip it; the next scene begins with Siri riding away.) They feel they missed a chapter. But I eventually decided that I needed to keep this beginning flowing quickly, because the longer we spend in Idris, the longer it will take us to get to the real plots in Hallandren. If it weren't so important to set up Siri and Vivenna ahead of time (so that their reversal has impact), I would have just started the book with Siri arriving in Hallandren.

#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two - Part One

Siri Rides South, Stunned

Already, you should be able to see another tone shift in the book. We've gone from lazy highland romping to frustration and terror. My goal with this book was to keep that up—to always have things moving and the characters being pulled out of their comfortable lives into situations that force them to stretch.

One fun thing you can research yourself by looking at the first draft chapters of Warbreaker I posted. In them, I toyed with having Mab the cook be sent with Siri to be a lady's maid.

I didn't intend this while planning the book, but after writing Mab—and having so much fun with her character—I wanted to keep hold of her and let her add some color to Siri's sections. However, I cut this idea out pretty quickly. (Though a draft of this chapter exists with Mab accompanying Siri—I think in that draft, Mab is the one Siri is complaining to, rather than the poor guard outside the window.)

Why cut Mab? Well, a couple of reasons. First off, Siri's plotline was much more dramatic and emotional if she was forced to leave behind everything she'd known. Giving her a support character like Mab undermined Siri's plot and growth as a character. Beyond that, Siri's plots didn't need more color. We've got plenty of interesting characters and experiences coming for her, so the addition of another character wasn't needed.

I tried the chapter, but then realized that my original instincts had been right. I was forced to cut Mab out.

#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Character Shifts

This is a fun chapter, formatwise. It looks simple—we've got two alternating sequences with Siri and Vivenna. But what's going on here is that I'm trying to pull the first of many reversals in this book.

A reversal is more than just a plot twist—it's a swap. (Or at least that's how I define it in my head.) Just like Elantris's substructure was that of the chapter triads, Warbreaker's substructure is that of reversals. People change places or do 180-degree turns. This presented a challenge to me, as I had to work hard to make such often-abrupt changes well foreshadowed and rational. That's rather difficult to pull off. Most twists take characters in a slightly new direction; spinning them around completely required a lot more groundwork.

If you've read other annotations of mine, you'll probably know that I love twists—but I love them only in that I love to make them work. A good twist has to be rational and unexpected at the same time. Pulling off that balance is one of the great pleasures in writing.

In this chapter, we have the beginnings of the first big reversal in this book. It's more gradual—not an abrupt one-eighty, but a slow and purposeful one-eighty. But the seeds are here, even in this early chapter. If you look at it, we have this:

Scene One: Siri acts just like we expect Siri to. Blustering and emotional.

Scene Two: Vivenna acts just like we expect Vivenna to. Calm, rational, in control, and willing to do as she is told.

Scene Three: Siri grows calm, considers her situation with more care, and acts a little bit like a queen should in deciding to send her soldiers back.

Scene Three: Vivenna is very bothered by what is happening and acts just a little bit like Siri would—she decides upon a plan that is impetuous.

I'm very excited by the underlying structure of the chapter, even though I'm aware that most people probably wouldn't be. I'm just a screwy author type. I like how the changes are very subtle, and yet already there are hints at the way the characters are heading in life.

I like reversals and tone changes, but I still think that readers deserve to have an understanding of what the major plots and arcs for a character will be. There will be twists, but I don't want to just twist needlessly or endlessly. The characters are the most important part of the story, and one thing I rarely twist (particularly late in a book) is a character's personal arc. I keep personal arcs steady, as they're the foundation of a reader's attachment to the book.

#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two - Part Two

Vivenna and Her Father Chat about Siri

King Dedelin does love Siri. He's a good man, but not quite as great a man as his daughters probably think. He does put Vivenna first. He loves her more. Perhaps because he relates to her; the two of them are very similar in many ways.

The girls' mother passed away over a decade ago, by the way, in a riding accident. Siri doesn't remember it, but Vivenna does, and that is one of the sources of tension between them. Siri's flagrant rides remind both Vivenna and her father of the way the queen died. Memory of their mother is also part of what makes Vivenna more controlled and "perfect." Siri grew up with very little supervision, while Vivenna had much more of it in the person of her mother.

Anyway, Dedelin loves Vivenna more. When he says that he sent Siri, “Not because of personal preference, whatever people say,” he's being truthful as he sees things—but he's deluding himself. He's convinced himself that he did it primarily because Vivenna's leadership is important to Idris and she can't be risked. That is important to him, true, but his love for Vivenna is the primary reason.

Now, he's not callous or hateful of Siri. He loves her. But . . . well, Vivenna reminds him of his wife. I guess you can't blame the guy too much for what he did.

#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Picks Berries

One aspect of the worldbuilding I barely get to talk about is the Idrian monks. I really liked the concept of a group of monks whose duties weren't very religious. Rather than sitting in a monastery all day, their duties are essentially to act as servants to the kingdom's poor. (Not to say that monks in our world don't do that. However, I liked the concept of it being much more formalized.)

In Idris, if a man breaks his leg and can't work the field, a monk will come and take his place on the job. The wages for that work still go to the family of the man who has been hurt. Sometimes, if a father dies and cannot support his family, a monk is assigned permanently to take his place at work duties and provide for that man's family.

They go wherever they are needed, forbidden to own or possess anything themselves, giving all they have to the people. Now, of course, not everyone who becomes a monk fits the ideal. Without the pressures of needing to feed one's self or acquire goods, some of them can be kind of lazy. But many are very diligent, like Fafen.

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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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three - Part Two


Llarimar is based on a friend of mine, Scott Franson. Back when I was working on Hero of Ages, my local church group had a service auction for the local food bank. The idea was that church members would offer up services—like a car wash, or some baked cookies, or something like that—and then we'd all get together and bid cans of food for them.

Well, I offered up for auction naming rights in one of my books. The idea being that if you won the auction, you'd get a character named after you and based on you. It was a big hit, as you might imagine, and ended up going for several hundred cans of food. The guy who won was Aaron Yeoman. (And you can see him in The Hero of Ages as Lord Yomen.)

Well, the other major bidder on that was Scott. He's a fantasy buff, a big fan of classic works like Tolkien and Donaldson. (Though he reads pretty much everything that gets published.) He really wanted the naming rights, but I think he let Aaron have it, as Aaron was very excited and vocal about wanting to win.

About a year later, I discovered that Scott, being the kind soul he was, paid for Aaron's cans himself and donated them on the younger man's behalf. I was touched by this, so I decided to put Scott into Warbreaker. It happened there was a very good spot for him, as I'd already planned Llarimar to have a very similar personality to Scott.

I decided that Franson wouldn't work for the name. (Though you do see that one pop up in The Hero of Ages as a nod to Scott as well.) Instead, I used Scott's nickname, Scoot. I thought it worked pretty well, as it's only one letter off from his first name, and his brother claims that they always used to call him that.

So, there you are, Scott. Thanks for being awesome.

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Lightsong Feeds on the Child

Why a child? It doesn't much matter, truthfully. An adult, or even someone elderly, could provide a Breath that would keep a god alive.

But the Breaths of those who are aged aren't as vigorous as those of those who are young. If Lightsong were given one of those to feed on, he'd survive for another week—but he wouldn't feel as vibrant or alive as he does after feeding on the child's Breath.

The people of Hallandren are faithful. Even if Lightsong himself doesn't believe, they do, and they want to provide the best for him. Hence they use children. Old enough to know what they are doing, yet young enough to give a powerful, vibrant Breath to their god.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part One

Naming in This Book

The names in this novel, particularly in Hallandren and Idris, follow the concept of repeated consonant sounds.

I wanted to try something a little more distinctive in this book than the names were in Mistborn. In that book, I intentionally backed away from the insane craziness of the names in Elantris. I've written entire essays on how I devised the languages in that book. The names were appropriate for the novel, since the language was so important to the story. However, I know that the number and oddity of many of the names in Elantris was off-putting.

So, instead, in Mistborn I chose names that were much easier to say, and gave everyone a simple nickname. When it came time for Warbreaker, I wanted to try something else, to take a step back toward distinctiveness in the language, but not go as far as I had in Elantris.

I've long toyed with using double consonants as a naming structure. I played with a lot of different ways of writing these. I could either use the letters doubled up, with no break (Ttelir). I could slip a vowel in the middle and hope people pronounced it as a schwa sound (Tetelir). Or I could use the fantasy standard of an apostrophe (T'telir).

In the end, I decided to go with all three. I felt that writing all the names after one of the ways would look repetitive and annoying. By using all three, I could have variety, yet also have a theme. So, you have doubles in names like Llarimar. You have inserted vowels like in Vivenna. And you have apostrophes like in T'Telir.

I think it turned out well. Some members of my writing group complained about fantasy novels and their overuse of apostrophes in names. My answer: Tough. Just because English doesn't like to do it doesn't mean we have to eschew it in other languages. I like the way T'Telir looks with an apostrophe, and the way people will say it. So it stays.

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Siri Approaches T'Telir

And we finally get to see T'Telir. I'm still a tad bothered that it's chapter four before we get to see the city. I worry that people will read the book and have trouble getting grounded in it, since we've now had five viewpoints across five chapters and have been in a lot of different locations.

However, I think that the groundwork in the first four chapters is needed to make the book work. I just couldn't figure out a way to cut it all out and still have things work. Perhaps (just perhaps) I could have moved the Vasher prologue into the middle and made it a regular chapter, then moved the original Siri/Dedelin chapter to a prologue. Then, with the decision to send Siri into the city made, I could have jumped straight to this one. However, we'd have lost too much in that. Doing it this way isn't perfect either, but I think it's still the best way the book could have been done.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part Two


Why, yes, I did visit Hawaii in the middle of writing this book. Did you notice?

Following Mistborn, I wanted to do a book set in a place that looked very different from the Final Empire. What's different from a burned-out wasteland? Why, a tropical paradise of course! One of the great things about being an author is the ability to justify going to Hawaii just so I could do research on how to properly describe the plants, landscape, and atmosphere in a place like that. It's really a tough job, but I'm willing to sacrifice for you all. No need to thank me.

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Brandon Sanderson


I'd been toying for a long time with doing a book with "technological" undead in a fantasy world. A place where a body could be recycled, restored to a semblance of life, then set to work. I'm always looking for ways to explore new ground in fantasy, and I've seen people sticking to the same old tropes with undead. (Mindless, rotting zombies or dynamic, goth-dressed vampires.)

I wanted to play with a middle ground. If you've got a magic that can make a stick figure come to life, what could it do with a dead body? How could a society make use of these walking corpses, treating them as a realistic resource?

The Lifeless grew out of this desire. I developed something like them for use earlier in a completely different novel, but I abandoned that plan years ago. They returned to the scrap pile of my mind, from which I draw forth and recombine ideas to create novels.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Also, just in case you're wondering, the Bright Sea and the Inner Sea are both the same place. It's another Idris/Hallandren thing. Most mountains, oceans, and lakes have two names—the Idrian one and the Hallandren one. Originally, this happened because there was bad blood between the two kingdoms, so they'd call things different names in order to differentiate themselves. Ironically, in a lot of cases both names have stuck, and both kingdoms have found themselves alternating between the two names.

Inner Sea was the Idrian name for the body of water, renamed because they wanted to downplay how important it was. (Idris is landlocked, after all.) Bright Sea was the original name.

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Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood Origins

I've been wanting to do a book with a talking sword for some time. Sentient objects are a favorite theme of mine from fantasy books I've read, and I think you'll probably see more of them in future books from me.

The magic sword is its own archetype in fantasy, even if there haven't been any good magic sword books among the big fantasy novels of recent years. Perhaps that's because Saberhagen and Moorcock did such a good job with their books in the past. I'm not sure. (I don't count appearances of magic swords like Callandor in the Wheel of Time. I mean books with major parts played by swords.)

Anyway, that's a tangent, and I'm certain that half the people reading this can think of examples and exceptions to what I just said. Either way, this is a theme I wanted to tackle, and the magic system of this world lent me the opportunity.

Nightblood is another favorite character of the readers. I think his personality works the best out of any non-viewpoint character I've ever written. He doesn't get that much dialogue in the book, but it is so distinctive that it just works.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Meets Bebid the Priest for Food

Restaurants. They didn't really exist in a lot of medieval cultures. Now, most of my books don't take place in medieval times—they're more preindustrial uchronias, late renaissance if you will. Warbreaker is no exception.

T'Telir seems the kind of place that would have restaurants. Places to sit idly, eating and chatting. It is a successful port city with a lot of trade and a great deal of wealth. There's even something of a middle class, another concept that didn't exist during a lot of periods in time.

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Brandon Sanderson

Originally, I had Vasher make an oblique comment about Bebid's daughter as a way to get him to talk. However, I shied away from this in later drafts, moving to more nebulous indiscretions instead. I felt that a comment about a daughter might sound too much like kidnapping on Vasher's part, even though I was thinking that his daughter had done something embarrassing that, if revealed, would get the priest into trouble.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five - Part Two

Lightsong's Dream

The Lightsong sections received two major upgrades during the last few drafts of the novel. The first was the enhancement of his memories of his dreams. We don't get to see the dreams, just their effect on him.

In the original draft, these dreams were far less ominous, particularly at the beginning of the book. My agent complained that the book felt like it lacked direction, particularly in the Lightsong sequences, and asked me to find a way to make it more tense. He didn't care if Lightsong joked; he just wanted to feel a tension underneath. A sense that all was not right.

The dreams came from this. Originally, Lightsong just dreamed about the ship leaving the port. In the later drafts, I added him remembering more in this chapter—the city on fire, the flames causing a red reflection on the ocean.

This actually wasn't a change to the dream. That's what I'd intended him to have dreamed; I just originally had him forgetting. I didn't start getting into the violent dreams until much later in the book, one chapter in particular. But because of Joshua's requests, I moved the sense of danger up from those later chapters to here to begin foreshadowing earlier.

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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 Six

Siri Is Bathed, Then Sent to the God King

This was a strange sequence of chapters to write. I've spoken before on writing characters of the opposite gender. This has grown easier and easier for me over the years, partially—I think—because I started out so bad at it that I insisted on forcing myself to practice and practice. Now, it's usually as easy for me as writing men. In fact, I don't even think about the gender of the character when I'm writing—I think about who the character is. What their motivations and conflicts are. How they see the world and how they react to things. True, their gender does influence this—just as it influences their personalities. But I don't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a woman now." I sit down and say, "I'm going to write Siri." I know who Siri is, so I can see through her eyes and show how she reacts.

All that said, I'd never before tried writing a wedding night from the viewpoint of a woman. It presented a few interesting challenges. For one, there's a whole lot more nudity in this book than in my other books. I don't shy away from this (even though I myself am probably more conservative than most of my readers in areas of sexuality), as I feel that what you do with your imagination is your own business. This scene could be done in a PG way, a PG-13 way, or an R way. It's completely up to you how you want to imagine it.

One interesting thing to note is that my own wedding happened during the process of writing this book. I wrote this chapter before then, but I was engaged at the time. While working on the novel I got to go through the entire progression of awkward moments of a wedding night myself. (Yes, it was our first time, by choice.)

I think that probably colored how I wrote Siri's viewpoints throughout the entire book.

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The Royal Locks

A group of people whose hair changes color based on their emotions is another one of those little story seeds that had been bouncing around in my head for years before I wrote this book. I even did a few test chapters in other settings with characters who had this physical attribute. (Dark One, which I don't know if I'll ever finish, toyed with it. As did a book set in the Aether world.)

Eventually, this attribute slid into Warbreaker. I'm glad I found a good home for it; I love how it adds a little bit of flavor to Siri and Vivenna, making them distinctive in a way that doesn't have much of anything to do with the plot. I always talk about making things connected, and that's very important. But you have to be careful not to make everything too neat. That leads to its own problems, as I mentioned in an earlier annotation.

The Royal Locks do work into the worldbuilding, as you'll find out eventually in the book. However, mostly they're around to give a distinctive feel to the world and the royal line, to show you that there is something unique about the royals. It hopefully enhances your understanding of why Hallandren would work so hard to bring them back into their own line of kings.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

Siri Enters the God King's Chambers

This is one of those chapter breaks that is there for stylistic drama more than anything else. Thematically, these two chapters are really the same chapter. However, I wanted to break before she steps in because it works so well as a dramatic turn in the story.

I've had e-mails asking me about how to decide when to break a chapter. Honestly, I'm not sure how to answer this one. Breaking chapters isn't something I plan; it's something I just do. A good chapter should have a nice arc of its own, with rising action, a climax, then perhaps some brief falling action. (And thinking of that, you can probably see why chapters five and six can be considered a single chapter in this regard.) But there's not a real science to it—break where it feels right.

Anyway, Siri's entrance here is probably the first big climactic moment of the book. It's where I've been pushing the novel since the beginning, and is one of the focal scenes for this book. (The scenes that I imagine and develop before I being writing, which then propel their section of the novel.)

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Brandon Sanderson


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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Siri Wakes Up Untouched, Then Explores the Palace

These Siri chapters presented a little bit of a problem to me in that I generally focus my writing around conversations. A given chapter will have some action and description, but usually the series of scenes revolves around important discussions between characters.

But in the palace during the Jubilation, Siri has almost nobody to talk to. She just doesn't have anything to do. A note to aspiring writers: A character not having anything to do is bad. You want action, motion, and conflict in your stories. That's what keeps them moving and interesting.

But in this case, Siri's lack of direction was necessary to make the plot work. In these chapters, Siri is just reacting—trying to stay afloat in a world very different from her own. So I had to focus on other ways to make the scenes interesting.

A lot of times, in writing, needs like this end up defining aspects of the books. I hadn't intended the palace to work as it did—with each room being modular, any of them able to transform into any type of room. I intended to give Siri her own set of chambers, as might be expected in a situation like this.

But when I reached this point in the book, the chapter was looking dull, and I knew I needed some little twist to the palace to make it original enough to hold Siri's—and the reader's—attention here. It's a very small thing, but I think that one change added a lot to the chapter, and therefore the book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

Vivenna as a Viewpoint Character

Generally, Vivenna is the readers' least favorite character in the book. I can see why that is. Siri gets to be the flamboyant younger sister, Lightsong the pithy courtier, and Vasher the mysterious unknown. Vivenna, then, is saddled with the responsibility of being the older sister trying to do what is right. She's not as dynamic as the others, particularly from the start.

Perhaps this should have made me want to put more into her viewpoints. Change her to be more dynamic, perhaps. However, I resisted that. Of the four, Vivenna is the most like me. The older sibling who gets into other people's business, ostensibly for their own good. I was a lot like that when I was younger.

For me, Vivenna is the most interesting character in the book. Yes, Lightsong was the most fun to write—but Vivenna is the one who has the most potential for growth and change. Particularly because she isn't instantly appealing like the other three. Much like Hrathen in Elantris, Vivenna begins very far from where she would need to go if she wanted to gain the rooting interest of readers. You'll have to read on and see if she actually gets there.

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Vivenna Watches the City

One of the reasons I knew that I had to make Vivenna a viewpoint character was that there was such a wonderful contrast between her and Siri. The way they look at the world is so different that it provides excellent opportunities for the story. The way they each respond to their first visit to T'Telir is an example of this.

Beyond that, with Siri and Lightsong locked in the court, and with Vasher doing whatever the heck Vasher is doing, we didn't have any characters who could experience the city itself consistently with a sympathetic viewpoint.

As I've stated, this book began as one about the two sisters who are forced into each other's roles, and how they deal with those changes in their lives. Vivenna is an integral part of this process.

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Brandon Sanderson

Parlin as a Character

Any of you who followed the development of Warbreaker as a novel through the early stages know that Parlin, as a character, changed dramatically across revisions. He began with a different name (Peprin) and was much more bumbling and innocent. He provided some comic relief and often said dumb things.

This just didn't work. For one thing, we already have the mercenaries in Vivenna's viewpoint to give us some fun lines. (More on them later.) For another, Peprin was just too dense. I didn't like how stupid he came off. He seemed ridiculous rather than funny. So, I chopped him out and replaced him with a similar character who was more competent.

For instance, in the original draft, Peprin bought a hat because he thought it was cool—but it just made him look stupid. Parlin buys the same hat, but his reasoning is that if you're going to go about in the woods, you dress in woodland colors. If you're going to go about in the city, you want to start dressing in city colors. It's good reasoning, and you'll see him follow it more in the future. The two men do the same thing, but in my head the rationale was completely different, and that changed how I wrote them. (I hope.)

Reading through the book again, I still feel that Parlin just isn't enough of a character. With the mercenaries there to dominate the scene, Parlin gets lost. I feel that if I had the time, I'd probably chop him out again and replace him with yet another character, one who talks more, so that he can be more a part of things. Ah well.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Visits Lemex

In the very early planning of this book, I intended Lemex to live. He was going to become a mentor figure for Vivenna, and have the very personality that she described him as having in her imagination. Spry, quick-witted, intelligent.

So I decided to kill him off.

Why? Well, it's complicated. On one hand, I felt that he was too much of a standard character from one of my books. The witty mentor is not only a stereotype of fantasy, but something I rely upon a lot in my writing. (Though, granted, many of those haven't been published—however, Grandpa Smedry from the Alcatraz books is a great example of this kind of character.)

I also felt that Lemex could too easily be a crutch for Vivenna in the same way that Mab could have been for Siri. The idea was to keep these sisters consistently out of their elements, to force them to stretch and grow.

Instead, I upped the competence of the mercenaries and decided to have them play a bigger part.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eleven

Siri Visits the God King's Chamber Again

To be honest, in a perfect world, I'd probably slow this down just a tad. I'd insert another chapter from Siri's viewpoint with her going to the chambers, the God King watching her, and her being subservient. I wouldn't do this chapter, where she explodes at him, until their third scene together.

But that would only happen in a book where I don't have quite so much going on with other viewpoints. My books are already a tad on the long side, as far as the booksellers are concerned. They'd like it if epic fantasy novels shrank down to about 120,000 words (instead of my average of 240,000).

If I'd really thought it mattered, I'd have put the extra scene in. The real problem is that since Siri is only one of four major viewpoints, I needed to be careful. If this book were only about her, I could have filled her chapters with more political intrigue and added a lot of subplots. That would have made a slower pacing with the God King work. However, I decided not to go that direction with the book, so I needed instead to make sure the pacing was quicker on the main plot she's involved in.

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Brandon Sanderson

Origin of Bluefingers as a Character

Bluefingers originated, like most ideas for my books, as a character unconnected to any story or world. I wanted to tell a story about a scribe in a palace who was looked down on by the nobility for his simple birth, but who became the hero of the story. I felt that a scribe would make a nice, different kind of viewpoint character.

And maybe I someday will tell a story like that, but the character evolved to be the one who entered this story. He's much changed from those origins, as you can see, but he's largely the same person in my mind. And I love the name Bluefingers for a scribe character.

Yes, Bluefingers was also planned as a traitor from the beginning. The whole reversals idea required me to build my shadowy villains quite carefully and deliberately.

Just above, I spoke of the original Bluefingers as a hero. Well, the thing is, that's how he still sees himself. The heroic Pahn Kahl figure with his fingers in events, ignored by the nobility (or, in this case, the priests) because of his race and position, he was able to manipulate quite a bit of what was going on in the kingdom.

He was the hero trying to free his people. He just took it too far.

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Anyway, in this chapter, he's trying to give Siri a seed of worry and doubt. He's hoping that if she feels she's in danger, she'll trust him more and that will let him do what he needs to. At this point, he's not sure that he will kill her. It's more that he's hoping he'll be able to manipulate her to in turn manipulate the Idrians in the city. So he wants to make sure Siri sees the Hallandren as her enemies. He can tell that she's beginning to think her life in the city isn't all that bad, and he's worried about that. Idris and Hallandren won't go to war, in his opinion, if Siri is too content.

However, Denth's success with Vivenna out in the city (and yes, Bluefingers is the one employing Denth) will eventually convince Bluefingers that he doesn't need Siri for that role. Unfortunately for her—and for him, in a way—he realizes that if she were seen as having been killed by the Hallandren priests, it would certainly spark a war.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

Lightsong Hears Petitions

The concept of petitions—and the gods being able to heal someone one time—grew out of my desire to have something about them that was miraculous. Something obvious, something more than just an ability to make vague prophecies. Their Breath auras are amazing, true, but an Awakener with a lot of Breath can replicate that.

I took the idea of being able to die in order to heal from an idea discarded from Elantris. If you look at the deleted scenes (Caution: Spoilers for the ending of Elantris), you can read about how there was originally a subplot to the story where the Seons (the floating balls of light) could expend the Aon at their center and create a miraculous event one time. However, doing so would kill them. I eventually ended up not using this plot structure in the final draft, and so I cut all references to this ability from the book. I felt that it was too contrived in that novel.

I've always thought it was interesting conceptually, however, so I developed it into this book as an aspect of Returned that makes them different. They can create one miracle—and in this world, that one miracle has to be a healing. They can expend their divine Breath to heal someone.

This created another problem for readers, however. It became very difficult in the book to explain to them that a Returned could still Awaken things—but not by using the Breath granted to them by their Return. In other words, if a Returned gained a hundred extra Breaths, they could use them just like anyone else's. But if they give away the Breath they start with, it kills them.

Every person starts with a Breath. Well, Returned start with one too—a divine Breath that can be given away to heal someone else's Breath that is weakening and dying. That's what these petitioners are asking for.

But regular Breaths, they can give those away. They just have to be tricky about it.

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Siri Realizes That She Needs to Be Proactive

As I said in the other section, I think that Siri's plot here is just a tad accelerated from what I'd like—but that's necessary. Nothing is worse in a book than a character who never does anything. She needed to get through her fear and her worry and decide to become proactive. It was only then that interesting things could start to happen in her storyline.

So, I pushed through the moments of indecisiveness and inaction as fast as I could, getting to this moment where she decides to change. I feel that her character being what it is (impulsive and determined) justifies her quickly deciding to take responsibility for herself, now that she's been placed into a situation of great stress.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen

Timing of This Chapter

My editor threw me a little curveball in the last edit for this book by asking me if I could move the first Vivenna chapter (the previous one) up a few spots so that she was introduced earlier in the book.

This presented a problem, since I had her arriving, meeting the mercenaries, going to Lemex, then going to see Siri all in the same day. (Though across three chapters.) That meant that I had to move two chapters forward, then, since I didn't want to break with the mercenaries telling her that they were there to kill her. I wanted to go directly to the next scene with her.

It took a lot of juggling. One of the revisions I had to make was to move this third chapter a day later in the process. She had to arrive, fall asleep, then get up the next morning and have a conversation about giving the Breaths away. Then she had to go see Siri that same day.

I still worry that this jumble caused timing issues. I think I caught them all, but I worry that at one point Lightsong says, "The presentation of the queen is two days away," then we have Vivenna arrive that same day, then fall asleep and go see Siri the next day. If that's the case, then the explanation is—unfortunately—that the chapters aren't happening quite in chronological order.

Usually, I try to make my chapters all chronological, even across different viewpoints. But once in a while, the story is better if they aren't. The distinction is very hard to pick up. But I think it may happen here. (Note that a lot of authors, like Robert Jordan, don't strive for chronology—they like it better if the chapters are out of order a little. In a Robert Jordan book, for instance, we'll often have characters doing things in one chapter, then jump to other characters doing things a few weeks earlier. The chapters are always chronological by viewpoint, but the viewpoints can be off from one another. In fact, he plays with this concept a lot, setting book ten mostly back during the same time as book nine.)

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Denth Chats with Her about Breath

Vivenna and Siri are beginning their role reversals here. Siri is learning to be more reserved—though it's more that she's learning to act like a queen. Taking responsibility, being active rather than inactive.

Vivenna is being forced, just a little bit, into inactivity. She thinks she's doing things, but she's mostly just reacting. Beyond that, she's experiencing what it's like to lose control of her emotions repeatedly.

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Denth's Motivations Here

If you're reading through for the second time, pay close attention to the things Denth says here about Lemex. They're having a conversation about how Lemex could be a patriot but still steal from the king. Well, Denth is kind of talking about himself here, and not Lemex. He's hinting that he thinks (or would like to think) that he can both do his job and be a good man at the same time.

These are things he's struggling with. He tries to tell himself that he doesn't care, but he does. He has kidnapped Vivenna here without her knowing it, and is very deftly manipulating her. (By the way, Jewels tails her to the assembly meeting, if you were wondering.) He does feel bad about this, just like he feels bad about killing Lemex. That doesn't stop him from doing things like this, though.

He does plan to get Vivenna's Breath. He knows, however, that in the end he can probably just torture her into giving it to him. In this scene, if you could see into his head, he's trying to figure out how exactly he can get her to give it to him without having to hurt her.

He doesn't really believe he can do it, though. Life has proven to Denth lately that he just has to do bad things. He almost sees it as inevitable.

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Chapter Fourteen - Part One

Lightsong and Blushweaver

This is another of the scenes I revised heavily to make the conversation between Lightsong and Blushweaver more snappy. I work very hard in the beginning of the book to establish their personalities and their dialogue, and so the first few chapters were revised more heavily than the later ones. Also, my editor thought that the later ones were already amusing enough; it was the beginning ones that he wanted to have a little more zip.

Their conversation about the weather (playing off the one between Lightsong and Scoot) is one of my favorites from the book. I like how it's able to show some worldbuilding through the theology of the religion, give a strong dose of character through the different ways that Lightsong and Blushweaver talk about the weather and their desires for how it should go, and all the while be snappy and amusing. The line about serving followers as food is a little cheap, though. Sorry.

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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.

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Oh, and since we're on to random notes, I want to mention that I'm not intending Siri to ever betray who she is through the reversals of this book. When I say that she and Vivenna are switching places, I don't mean that they'll start acting like each other. Siri will always be the type who likes to feel the rain on her face and walk barefoot in the grass. Vivenna will probably always be the type who restrains herself from those kinds of activities.

My intention was to have them remain who they are, but still progress and learn to fill one another's roles.

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Chapter Fourteen - Part Two

Vivenna Enters the Court

Color harmonics are one of the things in this book that, I think, have some very interesting philosophical implications. I've always been fascinated by the concept of perfect pitch. Pitches and tones are an absolute; music isn't just something we humans devise and construct out of nothing. It's not arbitrary. Like mathematics, music is based on principles greater than human intervention in the world. Someone with perfect pitch can recognize pure tones, and they exist outside of our perception and division of them. (Unlike something like our appreciation of other kinds of art, which is dealing with things that are far more subjective.)

However, I wondered if—perhaps—there are perfect steps of colors just like there are perfect tones, with color fifths, sevenths, and chords and the like. In our world, nobody has the ability to distinguish these things—but what if there were someone who could? Someone who could tell something innate about color that isn't at all subjective?

I'm not sure if I explained that right, but it intrigued me enough to become part of this book.

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Different Viewpoints in the Same Chapter

In the Mistborn books, most of the characters were either involved in the same plotline or separated from one another by distance. I missed being able to do what I did in Elantris, where I would show an event from the perspectives of characters who were involved in very different storylines.

The characters in Warbreaker are a little more focused on the same things, and are tied together by plots, but they're also very separate. (At least at the beginning.) It's fun for me as a writer to be able to show Lightsong, Vivenna, and Siri all attending the same event, but drawing very different experiences from it.

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Chapter Fifteen - Part One

Siri Sees the God King

I think this is my favorite plotline of the book. The Siri/God King one, I mean. It's hard to choose, but this is the one that I felt most interested in. (Though Lightsong's ending chapters are powerful too.)

I wanted the God King to be an enigma, much like Vasher is, at the beginning of the book. Well . . . that's not quite true. Right at the beginning, I wanted him to be scary and dangerous. I wanted the reader to perceive him as Siri did.

By now, however, you should be wondering more. Who is he? What are his motives? Is he angry with her or not?

The driving force behind this, actually, is the Lord Ruler. In Mistborn, a part of me always felt that he was just a little too stereotypical an evil emperor. True, I worked hard to round him out, particularly through the later books. But writing him made me want to take an evil emperor archetype in a very different direction.

I've spoken on the reversals in this book. Well, one thing I realized after the fact is that the novel is—in a lot of ways—about reversals of my own writing. Things I've done before, but taken the opposite direction. Almost like I need to react against myself and explore things in new ways, particularly in cases where (like the Lord Ruler) I did things that were more conventional to the genre.

I think that's why this book has so much resonance with my previous books. Or maybe it doesn't really, and I'm just seeing something that doesn't exist. A lot of my ideas in writing, however, come from seeing something done in a movie or a book (or even in one of my own books) and wondering if I could take it a new and different direction. I hope that doesn't make me feel like I'm repeating myself.

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Brandon Sanderson

Kalad's Phantoms

Kalad used to be Khlad, by the way. I didn't want his name to sound so Pahn Kahlish, which I signify with the extra h sounds to give them an airy feel to their words. I added the mythology of Kalad's Phantoms to the book late in the process, wishing to give some more depth to the superstitions of the world. And perhaps do some other things too. . . .

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen - Part Two

Vivenna Sees Vasher

I'm sorry that we don't get to see Vasher as much as you all want. I considered adding more chapters in. I considered it several times during several rewrites. In the end, I just decided that his viewpoints had to remain as they were in the early part of the book. If you see too much of what he's doing, it will give away things I don't want to give away.

I don't like having viewpoints that fail to reveal things about the characters and their emotions and plans. It feels like I'm lying to the reader when I hide things the viewpoint character knows. I avoid it when I can (though I can't always—reference Kelsier in Mistborn).

Either way, I just decided to keep Vasher as he was, with only occasional appearances.

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Life Sense as Part of the Magic

The ability of the Heightenings and Breath to give people an added dose of life sense was part of my attempts to make Awakening, as a magic system, feel more visceral and real. Allomancy is a great magic system, but I wanted a different feel here. In Allomancy, the powers granted are more like superpowers; with Awakening, I wanted something that felt . . . well, closer to what people already do.

Perfect pitch and perfect color recognition are two things that I think resonate this way; the ability to bring inanimate objects to life may seem wildly superpowerish, but I think it's a part of our own superstition and mythology—or at least the superstition and mythology of our past. Life from things inanimate, like spontaneous generation, was long assumed as something real. Witches were often thought to be able to bring sticks or bundles of cloth to life.

I think that there's still a lot of superstition in our modern world regarding how it feels to have someone watching you. We are more aware of our surroundings, sometimes, than we realize. I think we attribute a supernatural connection to some of these things. Who knows? Maybe there is one. I don't know, perhaps I've got a bit of it myself.

Enhancing this and making it part of the magic was a way to get the visceral feel I was looking for. It also plays off the idea that by giving up your Breath, you give up part of your life. The fact that Drabs can't be noticed by life sense allows me to show that they have taken one more step toward being objects themselves.

BioChroma. It turns objects into living things, but turns living things into objects as well.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Lightsong Listens to the Priests Discuss War

Is this an antiwar novel? I'm not sure, honestly. I didn't sit down to write one, certainly. I rarely try to interject messages into my books, though sometimes they worm their way in. (The Alcatraz books are particularly bad about this.)

A war here would be a bad thing. Idris and Hallandren shouldn't be involved in trying to kill one another. But am I, myself, antiwar? Again, I don't know how to answer that.

Is anyone prowar? War is a terrible, terrible thing. Sometimes it's necessary, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. I'm no great political thinker. In fact, being a novelist has made me very bad at talking about political topics. Because I spend so much time in the heads of so many different characters, I often find myself sympathizing with wildly different philosophies. I like to be able to see how a person thinks and why they believe as they do.

I didn't mean this to be a book about the Iraq war—not at all. But war is what a lot of people are talking about, and I think it's wise to be cautionary. War should never be entered into lightly. If you ask me if the Iraq war was a good idea, you'll probably find me on both sides of the argument. (Though I certainly don't like a lot of aspects about it, particularly how we entered it.)

Regardless, this isn't a book about anything specific. It's a story, a story told about characters. It's about what they feel, what they think, and how their world changes who they are.

As a very, very wise man once said, "I don't mind if my books raise questions. In fact, I like it. But I never want to give you the answers. Those are yours to decide." —Robert Jordan. (FYI, that's not quoted exactly. I can't even quote myself exactly, let alone other people.)

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The High Priest Tells Siri She Needs to Produce an Heir

Note that in a previous section where I said that I couldn't delve as deeply into Siri's plot in this book as I could have in one where there was only one viewpoint character, I didn't mean that I didn't intend to give her a lot of political intrigue and plot twisting. I only meant that I decided it was best to keep things a little more focused for her, rather than adding a lot of subplots.

I've been wanting to do a story like this one, with a woman sent to marriage in a politically hostile country, since I wrote Elantris—where Sarene arrived and found out her wedding couldn't happen. Again, this is an attempt to turn in a new direction for me, but the inspiration is the same. Sarene arrived and found that her fiancé had died and the court didn't care about her. Siri arrives and does get married, then has far too many people paying attention to her.

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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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Vivenna Returns to a Ransacked Home

I'm a little annoyed at myself that it took so long to introduce Jewels. Here we are in chapter seventeen and she still hasn't shown up. She barely gets a mention here. Unfortunately, I knew that her arrival would present problems for Vivenna, so I felt the need to put it off until Viv was attached enough to the mercenaries that she'd be able to overlook a certain "pet" that Tonk Fah talked about earlier.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Reads Her Father's Letters to Lemex

So, is what Dedelin did wrong? I don't know. Again, I'm not here to give answers. He did what he felt he needed to do. Getting Lemex into the Court of Gods was an extremely important task. Without access to the assembly sessions, he had to rely upon paying people who could get in to take notes. Much better to get your spy in there himself. Unfortunately, the easiest, best, and least obtrusive way to do this was to get Lemex a pile of Breaths.

Now, I don't expect any readers to be shocked by what he did. The tone of the book presents Awakening as being far less inherently evil than Vivenna sees it. I'm afraid this is a bias I can't stamp out, since I myself see the power as being something other than evil. Neutral, as are most of my magic systems.

But I do think it's important to hold to your own personal code. Vivenna is rightly shocked about what her father did. But, then, perhaps this is a sign that she wouldn't have made as good a queen as she and her father assume she would have. While she's perfectly willing to sacrifice herself for Idris, she doesn't seem willing to live for Idris—meaning to stay behind and lead her people. She ran off. Beyond that, she would never have been able to make the decision her father did, buying Lemex Breaths.

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Chapter Eighteen

Siri Decides to Spite the Priests, Then Reverses That Decision

This chapter involves a bit of a backslide for both Siri and Lightsong. It was important to establish that they, as characters, are still the same people that you started reading the book about—even if both of them are being forced to change the way they react to things. (Well, at least Siri is being forced to change. Lightsong is more just mulling over what he wants to do. Or not do, as the case may be.)

Siri's decision here is intended to show just how far she has come during her short time in Hallandren. Siri had all the potential to blossom like this before; she just never had a good reason. With Vivenna there dominating and drawing everyone's attention, Siri was like a plant growing beneath the shade of an enormous tree—she couldn't get enough sunlight to grow herself. Freed from that shadow, she's ready to go.

Her first impulse is very characteristic—it's the sort of behavior that she's ingrained in herself for many years. But she decides against it, which should be a big tip-off that she's capable of much greater things.

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Siri Does Her Show for the First Time

This little sequence is far more discomforting to me than the actual nudity, to be honest. Being somewhat of a prude as I am, I hesitated to put this into the book. I realize that to most readers, it's not even very risqué. But I'm the one writing the book, and I'm the one who decides what I include. I have to be willing to take responsibility for what's in my stories.

Why did I put this in if it discomforts me? Well, to be honest, there was no other way. It was what the story demanded. I couldn't see the priests not at least listening. (And, as I think will be mentioned later in the story, they did have some people watching the first nights—no matter what Bluefingers says in this chapter. He's not lying, he's just wrong. The priests would never let a potential assassin near their God King without taking precautions. There was even a soldier hiding under the bed that first night, and another watching from a secret chamber beside the hearth. It was still a risk to let Siri into the room, of course, but they were fairly certain—after taking her clothing and instructing the serving girls to watch carefully during the bathing—that Siri had no weapons on her.)

Regardless, it was ridiculous to think the priests wouldn't listen in, knowing what they do of the God King. That meant Siri had to either sleep with him for real, or find a way to distract them. This was a clever move on her part, and I like it when my characters can be appropriately clever. And so the scene stays. If I hadn't allowed her to do this, then I would have—as an author—been holding her back artificially.

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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

Chapter Nineteen

Clod Arrives with Jewels

Early on in the development process, I knew that I wanted to have a Lifeless as a side character. They're such an interesting part of the world—in fact, they're a big part of the foundation of the setting, or at least what made me want to write it.

That meant having a Lifeless on Denth's team, and Clod as a character fit into place quite easily. I had worried about how to make Jewels distinctive in the team, after having Denth and Tonk Fah establish themselves for some twenty chapters before Jewels even makes an appearance. Working with that, I realized that by making her the Lifeless handler, I could add something unique to her—and to the team.

Denth knew that Vivenna wouldn't react well to there being a Lifeless on the team. That's part of why he kept Jewels away for so long. (In fact, when Jewels says, "Who's that woman?" in regards to Vivenna, it should have been slightly suspicious to you. She knew they had a new employer, and she should have made the connection. Indeed, she did. Denth had specifically ordered her to stay away until this moment, as he didn't want to scare Vivenna off.)

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Denth Tells Vivenna to Use Her Breaths

Don't forget that Vivenna has a huge wealth of Breath. To most people, anything over one or two Breaths is a huge wealth—and Vivenna has enough to reach the Third Heightening. She's fully capable of Awakening objects, and while she's not as powerful as Vasher in Breath right now, she could learn quite quickly. (The more Breath you hold, the easier it is for you to learn how to use it.)

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Denth's Plans

When I was posting chapters online as I wrote them, I remember one person in my forums noting (upon reading this chapter) that Denth's plans were a terrible way to help Idris. By attacking supply caravans and creating a crisis in the city, chances are very good that the war factions would be more likely to get the others to strike. Desperate times generally give more power to those who are willing to act, even if those actions might lead to even more problems.

This person on the forums is, of course, exactly right. I'm impressed that they caught it, since most everyone else seemed completely taken in by Denth. However, what Denth is doing here is using Vivenna to help continue plots he has long had in motion. He's lying when he says that he doesn't know what Lemex was involved in and has only seen pieces. In truth, Lemex was doing what Denth wanted him to—they were Denth's plans all along.

However, Lemex was beginning to grow more reticent, and Denth was having more trouble manipulating him. Another good reason for the poisoning. (And it took a lot of poison to off someone with that much Breath.)

If you're reading it through again, I hope that Tonk Fah's line about being able to stow a lot of bodies in the storage space is a creepy line. It's supposed to be.

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Chapter Twenty

Bluefingers Warns Siri Outside the God King's Chamber

I'll admit that many of Siri's thoughts here are complaints I myself have. She wonders why Bluefingers had to be so cryptic. It's a weak literary device, in my opinion, always having people with knowledge tease with it but never give the full truth. I hate it when I read stories where characters withhold information just because it needs to be withheld in the book.

At the same time, the only way to have a mystery is for there to be things the characters don't know. There can be legitimate reasons why someone doesn't want to speak or share what they know. In my books, I want those reasons to be good ones—which is why in the Alcatraz books, I never have the adults refrain from giving Alcatraz information just because of his age.

In this case, Bluefingers has very, very good reasons for what he does. I hope that it doesn't feel contrived for him not to speak further here.

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The God King Approaches Siri in Bed

Siri wonders why the God King wears black, rather than white—which his BioChroma would distort. The answer is simple. To Awakeners, black is a symbol of power. It's a fuel, a color that can be used for Awakening. White, however, is useless. So to wear white would be foolish, except in certain cases where the priests want to prove how powerful the God King is by letting him dynamically bend the light. So while he occasionally appears in white, his everyday attire is black.

His ability to bend light into the prismatic colors, by the way, was added about halfway through the first draft. I wanted a stronger visual indication of someone who had reached the top Heightenings, and I like the imagery associated with it.

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The God King Has No Tongue

Okay, so here we have the first major reversal in the book. There are several reasons I wanted to write this story. The first was that I loved the concept of the woman being sent to the terrible emperor, only to discover that he was a puppet of someone else. This was a big part of the original Mythwalker plot for Siri, and was a big part of what intrigued me about that story. (As a side note, Mythwalker was also the first place where I tried out the words koloss and skaa for races. They were completely different then, however.)

After writing Mistborn, I became increasingly intrigued with the idea of a complete reversal book—a book that did things very differently from the way I'd done them before. I'd dealt with an all-powerful emperor, and so people would (unconsciously) expect the God King here to be like the Lord Ruler. That gave me more opportunity to use their expectations against them and pull off a reversal of roles like the one in this chapter.

I hope it worked. By now, you were probably suspecting that something odd was up with the God King. However, I hope you weren't expecting something as redefining as the lack of a tongue. In this society, with this magic system, that is an even greater symbol of powerlessness than it would be in our society.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Vasher Awakens His Clothing, Then Leaps off the Palace

One of the subtle, yet drastic, changes to Awakening that happened in this story came during the middle drafts. Originally, the Command was part of the process of Awakening—but wasn't as important as I eventually made it. I had intended for very difficult things to be accomplished through the use of very long and intricate Commands. However, as I wrote the first draft, I felt this was bulky. What it meant that was if you wanted to use a powerful Awakening in battle, you'd have to stop and spout several paragraphs of instructions. It really cut down on the tension of the battle sequences. (And Awakening was already slower than I preferred, with the need for all of the steps—Breathing, finding color, then Commanding.)

So during revisions, I changed this. Instead of requiring a lengthy Command to create a powerful Awakening, the strength and skill of the Awakener is instead determined by their ability to visualize what they want the Command to do. The Command is a focus, the spoken words an important part of the process, but the real trick is getting the right mental picture.

This way, someone can practice a lot, and still use simple Commands—like "grab things"—yet have them do very powerful things. It also allows me to have Commands be easier to learn and use, yet still require skill to master.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Pretends to Be Crazy, Approaches the Guards

This line about gods attracting the unhinged comes a little bit from personal experience. Many of you may know that in the LDS church, we often serve missions during the early part of our twenties or our late teens. I did this, moving to Korea for two years and doing service, teaching about the church, and generally having a blast living among and learning from another culture.

One thing I learned, however, is that when you're associated with anything religious in a formal way like that, you tend to attract people of . . . interesting inclinations. I got to listen to a surprising number of people who weren't all there tell me about things they'd seen or decided upon. (And note, this isn't me trying to make fun of other religions or other beliefs—I, of course, got to speak with a lot of people who believed differently from myself. No, in this case, I'm referring to the mentally challenged people who—for whatever reason—liked to search out missionaries and talk to them.)

It was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong. But it was also weird.

Anyway, I would assume these guards are accustomed to dealing with the unbalanced. Though entry into the Court of Gods is restricted, it's hardly impossible to get in. With the lottery, and with the numbers of performers and artists coming into the place every day, you can sneak in without too much difficulty. At least up until what happens this night, after which things become a lot more strict.

I imagine that Mercystar, somewhat vain though she is, intentionally hired men to be her guards who were of a kindly disposition. She's a good woman, if a bit of a drama queen. In my mind, most of the people working in the Court of Gods are generally good people. But perhaps that's my personal bias that religion—when it's not being manipulated and used for terrible purposes—does wonderful things for people.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Fights the Guards, Then Creates a Lifeless Squirrel

I wanted to show the creation of a Lifeless somewhere in this book, as I think the process is interesting. The draining of color happens in a slightly different way than in regular Awakening, though it's similar. In this case, the creature draws color from its own body in order to come to life.

The better your imagining of the Command when you make it (not the orders you give it, but the one when you give it the Breath), the more intelligent and capable of following orders the Lifeless is. Later in the book, for instance, people are surprised at how good this little squirrel is at doing what it is told.

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The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two - Part One

Lightsong Plays Tarachin With Three Other Gods

This is the newest scene in the book, added in the last revision before the novel went to copyedit. I added it for two reasons. My editor wanted to see another chapter between the previous Lightsong chapter and the next one. He felt that the god made up his mind to help Blushweaver too easily, and wanted to spend more time with Lightsong mulling over the decision.

I reacted quickly to the suggestion, as I'd been wanting to show Lightsong interacting with some of the other gods. It's sometimes too easy for me to build my books around a small core cast and rarely involve any others, and I have to force myself to include more characters to round things out. This book had a distinct lack of scenes with "ordinary" gods. We got to see a lot of the exceptions, but never the run-of-the-mill divinities who make up the ranks.

I wanted to show how they schemed and how they acted. Putting Lightsong with three of them here helps the book quite a bit, I think. It makes the world feel more real and helps his character by providing contrast.

The game is something I developed in order to make this scene work. I wanted a divine game—one that wouldn't require too much effort, would require a lot of preparation and extravagance, but would still qualify as a sport. So, we have a game where the gods can sit on a balcony attended by a fleet of servants and scribes tallying their throws.

When my editor read the scene, he loved it instantly. He called to tell me it was one of his favorites in the book, partially because of some particularly good Lightsong quips. He says that he fully expects some Sanderson book readers to develop the rules for the game someday, then play it at a con.

[Editor's note: Also compare the game of Stones in the deleted Mad Prince Eton scenes from Elantris. Warning: Contains spoilers, so do not read this if you have not read Elantris.]

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Only Potential Heirs of Idris Have Royal Locks

This is true. It's not a matter of genetics, but lineage. That's a subtle distinction. Only the children of the person who ends up inheriting will have the Royal Locks. (Though there are a couple of notable exceptions to this, they won't show up in this book, as it will take another novel to explain why and how the Royal Locks really work. If I ever write a sequel, that should be in it.)

This factoid about the Royal Locks should be one of several hints about the lineage of the Idrian crown. There is something odd about their heritage.

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Chapter Twenty-Two - Part Two

Clod the Lifeless

Yes, Clod is Arsteel, in case you were wondering. After Vasher killed him, Denth's team decided to have him made into a Lifeless. Partially because Denth was curious if it was possible, and partially because Arsteel was such a capable warrior that they knew he'd make for an excellently skilled Lifeless. It isn't as good as having Arsteel himself, of course, but Clod is probably the greatest Lifeless swordfighter in existence right now in the entire world.

Another tidbit that never comes up is that Jewels was in love with Arsteel, which is the primary reason she joined Denth's team in the first place. Arsteel joined it because he wanted to try to redeem Denth; he felt that a reconciliation between Denth and Vasher was possible, and as a peacemaker, he thought he might be able to make it happen. As for why Vasher killed him . . . well, I'm afraid that's another story that will have to wait for the sequel.

Jewels is still in love with him. And yes, she still sleeps with him on occasion. And yes, she's a little bit unhinged emotionally and mentally because of his death.

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Vivenna at the Safe House

Vivenna is right about what happens to a person when they lose their Breath. It is a part of your soul, and without one, you are more prone to depression, you get sick much more easily, and you're generally more irritable.

I included this mention here because I'm betting that most people who read the book side with Denth and assume he's right when he talks about these things. But don't be too judgmental about the Idrians—yes, they're biased, but the Hallandren are too in a lot of ways. It's not as simple as one side always being right and the other wrong. In this case, the Idrian teachings are correct, and most Hallandren are looking for justifications when they say that giving up one's Breath isn't all that damaging to them.

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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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Three

Lightsong Visits Blushweaver While She's Enjoying a Gardener's Art

One of the things I wanted to do with this book was come up with different kinds of art that the gods could enjoy—things that we wouldn't normally look at as traditional "art" but which in this world have been developed to the point that they're just that.

I liked the concept of a gardener whose art came from the movement and arrangement of pots of flowers and plants into patterns on the fly, like—as Lightsong says—the leader of a musician leading an orchestra. He directs, gesturing and pointing, and dozens of servants rush about, holding different pots. Then they set them down and retreat, leaving them for a few moments. Then it repeats, different servants rushing in with other pots and laying them in other patterns. A little like synchronized swimming, but with plants.

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Brandon Sanderson

Blushweaver and Lightsong Visit Mercystar

Just like the last scene showed off what a lot of the standard gods are like, Mercystar is supposed to hint at what a lot of the goddesses are like. I think that there would be a good number of them who would turn out just like this—given anything they want, told how important they are, and blessed with a beautiful and perfect body no matter what they eat or how they act. Imagine what that must do to a person.

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 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

The Priests Give an Account of the Murder

This should set off red flags, since you saw what happened that night. Vasher didn't kill the man who was tied up, nor did he flee out the way he had come. He went into the tunnels.

Someone else was there that night. I hope that readers can put that together from the discussion; if not, however, the next Lightsong chapter lends some explanations to the occurrence.

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Siri Visits the Palace Library

The Priests here think that Siri is making a play for power, asserting her will in the palace. They wouldn't have stopped her from reading in the library, if she'd wanted to. Treledees just wants to enforce his will over her and show that she can't bully the priests. They're worried about her trying to assert her independence. They assume she already knows the things in the histories that Bluefingers mentions, and so they aren't concerned about her studying them.

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Siri mentions sounding out words as she reads. This was actually a very common thing in most cultures, even literate ones, up until the modern era. People would speak to themselves as they read. Even someone who could read, like Siri, wouldn't be particularly accustomed to reading. Their society didn't demand it the same way that ours does.

In her scenes with the God King, I didn't have her sound out the words for reasons of brevity and clarity. However, if you were there watching, you'd hear her reading out loud each word that the God King wrote on his board.

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Susebron and Siri Chat

This first scene with the two of them chatting is one I'd been looking forward to writing since the beginning. Siri's scenes become much more interesting to me now that she has someone to talk to. Plus, their relationship is—in my opinion—the most natural romantic relationship I've ever written. I'm not sure why that is. They just seem to naturally fall for one another in a way that seems smoother to me than Sarene/Raoden or Vin/Elend.

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I worry that Susebron is too innocent in his regard for sex. Some readers like this; others think it's unrealistic. He'd have had sexual urges, after all. It comes down to the question, how natural is it? If someone had never had sex before, and had never had it explained to them or had friends to talk with about it, would they know what to do? I'll bet they could figure it out, but I'm not sure it would be something one could simply reason out ahead of time.

Perhaps Susebron's innocence is a bit of a stretch, but I believe it's a possible reaction—if not the average one—to his seclusion.

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Chapter Twenty-Five

Vivenna and the Mercenaries Attack the Salt Merchant's Shop

A very quick and efficient way to hurt the future Hallandren war. Denth doesn't mention that there are ways of preserving meat (drying and smoking) that don't require salt—but even in most jerky methods, one uses a brine solution, so his argument is reasonably satisfactory.

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Vivenna notices the Tears of Edgli here, the flowers that drive Hallandren wealth and trade. I added these in an early draft, as I realized that there needed to be a cheap, easy source for all of those dyes the Hallandren use. (This was pointed out to me by my friend Jeff Creer, I believe.) The Tears offer something else as well—a reason for the wealth of the people. In early times, dye trades were extremely lucrative, and being able to control a method by which unusual dyes could be created would have been a very good basis for an economy.

I also like what it does for the flavor of Hallandren as a whole. This story happens in the place that is, in most fantasy books, far away. A lot of fantasy novels like to make their setting someplace akin to rural England, and they'll talk of distant countries that have exotic spices, dyes, and trade goods.

Well, in this world, Hallandren is that place. It's at the other end of the silk road, so to speak.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Talks to Jewels about Religion

I'm very conscious of the fact that all of my major viewpoint characters in this book—Lightsong included—don't believe in the Hallandren religion. That worries me because the book presents a very one-sided view of their beliefs.

Religion isn't a simple thing. In my books so far, I fear that I've presented the religions in a far too one-sided way. Hrathen with his Shu-Dereth, the Lord Ruler and his religion—these were not the types of religions that are very enticing to readers. The characters, even those viewpoint characters who followed the religions, didn't present them very well. (And, in truth, the Lord Ruler's religion—the Steel Ministry—was a pretty despicable religion.)

In this book, I wanted to present several different viable religions. There is something to be said for Austrism, with its goodly monks and teachings on humility through the Five Visions. But it's a very superstitious and xenophobic religion at the same time, and it is very biased against the magic of the world. The Hallandren religion has more going for it than the characters would like to accept.

So, even though most readers might consider this a throwaway scene between Vivenna and Jewels, is a very important one to me. It is the place where we get to see a follower of the Iridescent Tones really stand up for what she believes. Vivenna deserves to be smacked down here, I think.

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Vivenna Talks to Denth, and Considers Her Faith

Vivenna's line here—to believe is to be arrogant—is something I've thought about a lot myself. How do you believe that you're right, yet also not be dismissive of others or arrogant about it?

This applies to more than just religion. It bothers me that in things like religion or politics, our natural inclination as human beings is to assume the worst about the other guy. If you look at the recent political elections in the United States, it seems that the other side—whichever side—can never do anything right. There is no candidate that the Republicans could have chosen who the Democrats wouldn't have dismissed completely, and vice versa.

Isn't it possible for you to think that you're right without deciding that any who believe differently are stupid and corrupt?

I believe that my religion is true. And, by the definition of that religion, it means that everyone else is wrong. And yet my religion teaches me to be humble. I think there's a way to do that and hold to your belief, but it seems to require more effort than a lot of people are willing to make.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

Lightsong Gets Up Early, Excited

Let this be a lesson to aspiring writers. People's reactions to these Lightsong sections—where he goes to investigate the murder—are proof of a long-standing rule of writing. Characters who do things are more interesting than those who don't.

Now, this may seem obvious to you. But let me assure you, when you start to write, you will often be tempted to include viewpoint characters with internal conflicts. Many times, poorly written, these conflicts result in the character being inactive. They can't decide about things, or they're a coward, or they're depressed or indifferent. All of these things are flaws the characters are going to grow out of during the story, and you're very tempted to build them into the character as a way of giving the character more growth and things to overcome.

That's not a bad instinct, but it's much more difficult to pull off than you think. The problem is that a lot of characters like that don't really do anything for the first part of the story. They're reactive, and they don't care about the plot, which makes the reader not care about the plot.

Until you've practiced a while, might I suggest that you stick with characters who are passionate about what they're doing and who try consistently to achieve their goals? Give them different internal conflicts, things that don't keep them from acting. Learning to write a good book is tough enough without tackling an inactive character in your first few stories.

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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.

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Also, just so you know, the second person who snuck into the palace was Denth—tailing Vasher, trying to decide what he was up to. Bluefingers let Denth know that Vasher would try to enter, but warned him not to attack the man. Not while it could expose Denth and possibly Bluefingers.

Denth would have attacked anyway, if he'd decided he had a good opportunity. But he didn't, and he decided it was better to watch.

And yes, he'd hidden away his Breath so that Vasher couldn't sense him following.

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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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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Bluefingers Avoids Siri, So She Goes to Find Lightsong

I considered having the men performing the athletics competitions in the court be naked. After all, there's been so much female nudity in the book so far that it would only be fair to balance it out. . . .

I decided it would be gratuitous. Just because the Greeks competed in the nude doesn't mean that it would naturally happen everywhere else. Still, thinking of how much it would embarrass Siri almost made me put it in.

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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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Chapter Twenty-Eight

Vivenna Drinks Juice at an Outdoor Restaurant and Plans the Meeting with the Idrian Leaders in the City

Here we have Vivenna showing off her end of the reversal quite well. This is one of the few places where I have a character point out the reversal taking place. Vivenna has learned to blend into Hallandren—she's learned not to judge quite so much. She's still not where she needs to be, but the transformation is happening.

The conversation she has with Denth, where he discusses every man seeing himself as a hero in his own story, is a kind of subtheme for this book. In this novel, everyone does think they're doing what's best. The only exception to that is, perhaps, Denth himself—which makes the conversation particularly poignant.

This is one of the very first conversations I imagined for this book, as I knew it would be very important to a later one, where Vivenna talks to Vasher. And that particular conversation might just have been the first I came up with.

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Vivenna and the Mercenaries Meet the Forgers in the D'Denir Garden

This particular plan, as Vivenna says, was her idea. Denth goes along with it, obtaining the forgeries that (falsely) prove that priests have been extorting Idris. However, he doesn't plan to let them get out.

He knew that turning down this idea from Vivenna would either annoy her or even make her suspicious. He has to let her feel that she's in control; that way he can remain in control himself and get her to the meetings he wants. Unfortunately for him, that means letting her do this, creating fake documents that could hurt the war effort.

After she vanishes, he cancels the project immediately, which is why the papers never end up materializing.

Oh, and if you're wondering, she got the letter from her father from Lemex's stash. Some people asked about this.

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Jewels and Parlin Chat and Laugh

Vivenna isn't in love with Parlin. She has affection for him, but it's the affection one might have for a younger brother. That's all she's ever felt for someone so far, however, as she's never given herself a chance for romance in her life. She's always stamped it out. She was going to marry the God King. No room for childish things like love for her. (That will bite her eventually, of course. In a later book, I'm afraid.)

Her affection for Parlin, however, makes her possessive of him. He's her best tie back to the life she left, and she's always kind of seen him as hers. So you can probably see why she might be annoyed to see him spend time with Jewels.

Denth is right. Jewels might be amused by Parlin, but she's not interested in him romantically. She has other ties, which I believe I discussed in a previous annotation.

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

Siri and Susebron Discuss Mountains

One of the things I like about having wildly different plots and viewpoints put into one book is that I can use the viewpoints for different things. In the case of this section of the book, we've got death and tension in Vivenna's plot, and we have soul-searching and mystery in Lightsong's plot. Amid this I was able to sprinkle Siri scenes that are more relaxed, with her and the God King talking and falling in love. The scenes add a nice balance to the book.

I made Susebron get better at spelling quite quickly—this is only our second scene with him writing on his board, but already the spelling errors are gone. There is some small justification of this—he's able to use the artisan's script, and he's very clever; besides, the Hallandren alphabet is phonetic. But it still probably happens too quickly.

Having to slog through dialect is just too distracting for readers, however. I wanted to do it once to show his innocence, but I wanted to get past it quickly—as quickly as possible—so that it wouldn't distract from the story. I don't want Susebron to come off as too childlike; I think that would ruin the romance.

All in all, I think that these chapters are some of the most sensual ones I've ever written. I always think that hinting and reserving will always be better than over-the-top romance. The fact that the two of them are forbidden sex because of the danger of having a child, mixed with some of the conversations they have about beauty and their separate lives, makes a very nice tension that I'm pleased to have managed to work in.

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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.

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The Pahn Kahl Religion

In the Siri section, she mentions the Pahn Kahl religion, but she doesn't know what it is. This happens numerous times in the book, people getting confused about whether the Pahn Kahl are just Hallandren or being unable to describe their religion.

If you're curious, the Pahn Kahl are nature worshippers who focus on the storms of the Inner Sea as a manifestation of their unity of five gods. They believe that all Returned are men who deny the power of the gods and are forbidden entrance into heaven, yet are otherwise just men and not sinners worthy of hell—so they're given a chance to come back to have another try at life, to try to find belief this time.

Anyway, the purpose of having people so confused about the Pahn Kahl was to try to make readers vague about them in the same way. In this case, I want the reader to feel that the Pahn Kahl are unimportant, like the characters do, which is exactly the reason why the Pahn Kahl are so annoyed in the first place. If Hallandren didn't take them for granted so much, there's a good chance they wouldn't be so inclined to rebel.

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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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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.)

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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

Chapter Thirty-One

Vivenna Visits the Idrian Slums

Vivenna probably should have expected what she would find here. She knows that the slumlords, who are Idrians, run whorehouses and illegal fighting leagues. However, she deluded herself into assuming that they employ Hallandren whores or that the fights aren't all that bad.

I think this would be a hard thing to come to grips with. It's happened repeatedly throughout history—a poorer segment travels to a new country and becomes part of the lower, working class. In Korea, they were always complaining about people from Burma coming in and stealing their jobs. I remember hearing the Japanese saying the same thing about Koreans. I've heard Americans complain about all three. Things like this have far less to do with culture or race and far more to do with relative economic standing and fluency with the language/culture.

Knowing it happens, however, wouldn't make it any easier to find your own people in such a state, I think.

Notice that the Idrians here often wear dark clothing. This is partially to hold to their old ways of avoiding colors, but they tend to wear clothes that are black and dark instead of light. (Though there are some who follow the more traditional way.) However, by wearing these dark colors, they completely defeat the original stated purpose of dull clothing—that of removing color to keep Awakeners from using their art.

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Vivenna Meets with the Slumlords

When I write a scene like this, I am never quite certain how much time I want to spend distinguishing the side characters who make an appearance. (Another scene like this is the one where Lightsong plays the game with the three other gods.) Here, we're introduced to three different slumlords. They all have distinct personalities and different ways of looking at how Vivenna can help them. However, how much time do I spend explaining them and making them have an impact? It's a tough line to walk. I don't want to bog the scene down and spend a lot of time on characters you'll never see again, but I also don't want the scene to feel ambiguous or lacking precision because you can't imagine the slumlords.

I suspect that most readers won't care about telling the difference between the three, so I don't dwell on it—but I try to give hints that will help those who want to visualize the scene exactly.

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Brandon Sanderson

Anyway, that's a tangent. Meeting with these men was a mistake, something that Vivenna realizes partway through the meeting. There is little she can gain from them—and that which she could gain she's not prepared to ask for. She should have come with more of a plan. Instead, she did what she's done for most of the book—that is, pretend that she is in charge and in control, while in fact she's just floating along with whatever comes at her.

I think this is the big thing Vivenna has to realize in the book. She has never had a good plan of how to deal with things in T'Telir. Unfortunately, I don't think she can learn until she falls a bit.

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The City Guard Attacks

Some of you may be wondering whose plot led to this attack by the city guard on the meeting.

Well, it's complicated. The city watch—worried about the upswing in crime and the political tension lately—has grown more aggressive. They know that someone snuck into the palace of Mercystar herself, threatening one of their goddesses. The watch captain is making a play for a promotion and favor, and is looking to score a major victory to look very good in front of the Returned. He got a tip that three of the most important slumlords—whom he's been afraid to attack up until now, fearing to commit his guards to action—will be meeting together. He doesn't even know about Vivenna.

But he did authorize his Lifeless (the city guard has a stock of about fifty that can be used at their discretion) to use deadly force. The Commands weren't quite specific enough, unfortunately.

Beyond that, Bluefingers has managed—by sneaking through the tunnels that Vasher discovered—to get his forces to Command Break some of the Lifeless in the compound, then insert hidden Commands into them alongside their existing ones. In this case, he wanted the Idrians to see the Lifeless and the city watch cause a slaughter among their people. So he seeded some of the Lifeless with Commands to attack and kill if they were shown aggression by Idrians.

He didn't know when the slaughter would happen; he doesn't have enough control over events in order to do that. His little Lifeless bombs just happened to go off here, when the Idrians started to resist. Since the regular soldiers—and even the Lifeless not under Bluefingers's Commands—overreacted once blood began to be shed, everything went crazy from there.

Denth wasn't in on this plan, and Bluefingers never told him that he was behind it. In the end, the whole battle turned into a major embarrassment for the city guard, though they did capture one of the slumlords. He was held until after the events of the book, then eventually released.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Siri Lies in Bed and Decides to Take Charge

Reading through this scene again, I feel like it needs a bit of a trim. Ah well. There are always going to be sections like that that make it through.

I felt that there needed to be a scene where Siri finally stopped looking toward the past and berating herself for not being more like Vivenna. For her to step forward and become the woman she must be, she needed to do it of her own choice, with her own motivations. She needed this chance.

Sometimes in writing classes or in books on telling stories, they'll mention a moment somewhere in act two where the character decides to take charge. I always dislike explanations like that, since I think it's too easy for newer writers to look at such explanations as an item on a checklist that you have to do. I never use things like that. I don't think, "This is act two, so the characters need to do X." The tendency to follow a formula like that is part of what bothers me about the screenwriting profession. It seems like if you always follow the rules, there's never any spontaneity in a book.

Still, those guidelines and suggestions are used by a lot of people who tell good stories, so I guess you use what works for you.

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Brandon Sanderson

Hoid the Storyteller Tells Us the History of Hallandren

This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded infodump.

And so, I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn't use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using another of his favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or at least even more confused) if I didn't use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . well, let's just say that there's a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.

Anyway, I love this storytelling method, and I worry that Hoid here steals the show. However, he's very good at what he does, and I think it makes for a very engaging scene that gets us the information we need without boring us out of our skulls.

Is everything he says here true? No. There are some approximations and some guesses. However, all things considered, it's pretty accurate. All of the large bits are true.

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Brandon Sanderson

I wasn't sure if I wanted a map of the world in the front of this book or not. The problem is, if I give a world map, I risk doing it wrong. It takes a very specific set of geographic requirements for a rain forest to work, and what I wanted here was a kind of rain forest valley, irregular and out of place in the world. In the abstract, that can work—but the more details I pin down in the map, the less likely it is to be believable.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Three

Vivenna and the Mercenaries Wait in the Safe House after the Lifeless Attack on the Slumlords

Why does Jewels bother sewing up Clod? Why fix Lifeless at all? Denth's answer is a fairly good one, but it could use some more explanation.

You see, when one makes a Lifeless, the reason the Breath stays and won't come back is because the body of a recently deceased person is too "sticky" for Breaths. One Breath attaches to it, and because the body so clearly remembers being alive, it can use that Breath to power it. (Assuming you have the right Commands and can picture them correctly in your head when you make the Lifeless.)

However, the more the Lifeless is damaged, the less like the shape of a living person it is, and the more difficult it is for the Breath to keep that body going. Powering a body with only one Breath is hard—it requires the body to work mostly on its own. When you power a cloak or something like that, the Breaths need to provide a lot of energy, since there's no real muscles to use or skeletal structure to rely on.

So the more wounded a Lifeless becomes, the less well its Breath can keep it going. Eventually you'll need to stick a second Breath into it, then a third, all the way up until that Lifeless is nothing more than a bunch of bones you've Awakened. At that point, you might as well be using sticks or cloth.

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Vivenna Admits the Real Reason She Came to Hallandren

I've been pushing toward this for a long time in the narrative. Vivenna didn't come to Hallandren to save her sister—that's a front. That's what she told herself. But the real reasons are more deep, more personal, and less noble. She had to come because of how much of her life had been focused on the city. Beyond that, she came because of her hatred of Hallandren. She wanted to find ways to hurt it for what it had done to her.

It was partially her pride. She was the one who was supposed to deal with Hallandren. Her pride wouldn't let her stay away, wouldn't let Siri do the job that Vivenna was certain she could do better.

She has kept her hatred in check quite well, but it's always been there, driving her. I hope my readers always thought that coming to save Siri was a flimsy reason for Vivenna to come to T'Telir. The term love/hate relationship has become a cliché, but I honestly think there is some real psychology to it, and I feel that I explained one aspect of it here, for Vivenna.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Agrees to Learn Awakening

This has been a long time coming. Sorry to make you wait; in some of my books, I like to use a lot of magic from the start. In others, I like to build out the setting first, letting the characters learn and explore more slowly.

I've long wanted to call a magic system "Awakening," by the way. I tried it out originally in The Way of Kings as the name for the transformation-based magic system in that book. But it never worked. You didn't really "awaken" things. I was just using the term because it sounded good.

So I put it back in the file to be recycled someday. As I began to plan this book, I developed a magic system that could be called Awakening. Bringing objects to life seems to fit that just perfectly. So yes, the word came first—though I'm not sure how much I grew the magic system around that one word, or if I was feeling I wanted to do a "bring objects to life" magic system and realized I could use that great name I'd come up with earlier.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Takes Vivenna Captive

Now things are finally starting to move! My books, I know, can be kind of slow sometimes. That comes from the fact that I, myself, like to read books that are kind of slow. These two chapters were very important ones. Vivenna admitted something very important about herself, then in a way took the wrong sort of responsibility for her life. Siri realized something about herself, then took the right sort of responsibility for her life. A little bit of reversal going on, as the two sisters live their parallel—yet so different—lives in T'Telir.

But it was certainly time for a shake-up. The next Vivenna chapters turn a lot of things on their heads.

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Anyway, as I've said before, I wasn't intending this to be a book to parallel the state of the United States and the war in Iraq. It just kind of came out as it has, and I think the main reason is one of pulling a reversal upon myself. You see, Mistborn was a book about a bloody revolution instigated by the protagonists. We don't see a lot of the death it caused, and fortunately much of the bloodshed was averted by a timely speech given by a certain young nobleman, but the fact remains that I wrote about overthrowing a government.

That seems to be a popular topic for novels. And anytime I notice that something is popular in the genre, I start wondering if I could write a book about the opposite. In this case, I began thinking of a book where the protagonists were trying to stop a war instead of start one. Where they wanted to stabilize the government instead of destabilize it. The opposite story of Mistborn, in some ways.

I had the name of the book, Warbreaker, long before I even knew who the Warbreaker would be or what the rest of the book would be about. I'm glad we were able to keep it, though my editor complained just a tad that he thought it didn't indicate the right sense of epic fantasy for the book.

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Siri Watches the Priests

I took a bit of a risk here, having a little scene where Siri admits that all of the troubles and problems in Hallandren excite her. I hope this doesn't seem out of character; I think I foreshadowed well that she'd react this way. Back in Idris, she was always making trouble, partially (even though she wouldn't admit it) because she found it exciting. I think that's common for those who end up in trouble a lot of the time.

Here, what she feels is that same sense—only a more mature version. She's excited by politics, by being in the middle of things, by having a chance to change the future of the city. I think this is a valuable attribute for one in her position, as long as it isn't taken too far. By having Vivenna constantly frustrated by her situation and Siri thrilled by hers, I wanted to show a contrast and have the reader come to the same conclusion Siri does in this scene: that Vivenna wouldn't have made a very good queen to the God King. She'd have made the expected queen, and would have done what everyone anticipated her doing. But she would have let herself be a martyr the entire time, which would have been a self-centered way of approaching her duty.

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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Confronted by Blushweaver

This is one of those little scenes you put into a book that isn't foreshadowing anything specific. I don't mind if people home in on this confrontation and worry that Blushweaver will take action against Siri, but I don't go there with the book. Blushweaver here is just jealous. She knows enough to recognize that in herself, however, and won't let it push her much farther than her little warning here.

I like what this shows about Blushweaver's character, and I like that it illustrates how she sees Lightsong. Yes, she's in love with him. Quite deeply, in fact. She brought him into her plots and schemes here partially because she trusts him, and partially because she wanted to show off for him—and perhaps finally convince him to accept her as a lover.

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Brandon Sanderson

What Bluefingers Knows

Siri meets with Bluefingers, who surprises her in the bath yet again. In this little exchange, Bluefingers is being very careful, as he doesn't want to let on how much he knows. As well as Siri is learning to deal with court, she has nothing on Bluefingers, who has spent his entire life there—and who was trained by a Pahn Kahl steward before him. He has been planning his coup for a long time and was actually very frustrated when Vahr started his little rebellion—drawing eyes toward the Pahn Kahl. It was partially due to Bluefingers's manipulations and information leaks to the Returned that Vahr was captured in the first place.

Here, he lets Siri think he doesn't know that the God King is mute (he does know, and has known for most of his life) and that he is worried about the replacement of the Pahn Kahl servants. (That would be a setback, but not really the main problem.) What he wants most to do is drive a spike between Siri and the priests, and he's succeeding gloriously. He almost leaped for joy when Siri offered her little "You get the God King and me out of the palace" offer. It makes his job a lot easier if/when he decides to assassinate the God King himself.

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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.)

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Vivenna Escapes

One of my big worries about the Vivenna sections is that she'll come off as too weak as a character. That's a particular danger once we reach these late middle sections, where it's revealed how much she's been manipulated. Remember that when you're reading the Vivenna sections, if she comes off weak compared to Siri, consider their relative circumstances.

Vivenna is put through a lot more in this book than Siri is. Why? Well, I felt that as a character, she had a lot more room to grow. In order to do that, however, she needed to have everything knocked out from underneath her. That happens primarily in this chapter and the next few.

But she is not helpless. Even while she's numbed by the capture and betrayals, she manages to effect not one, but two escapes. She handles herself very well, finally overcoming her problems with Awakening and managing to get her Breath to work for her. (And remember that the more Breath one has, the easier it is to learn to get Commands to work right. That will be important later in the book. . . .)

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Vivenna Wanders the Slums, Then Finds the Safe House

I made one small revision here in this chapter. I added the statue as a reference point. Before, Vivenna just happened to run across the safe house while wandering.

Why the change? It's just the same thing, right? She happens to wander by the statue, then manages to remember the directions. It's still a big coincidence when you think about it.

However, it doesn't read like as big a coincidence. Adding in her seeing the statue, then having to work to find her way to the safe house was a way of making it seem, to readers, that it wasn't just a coincidence. Because there was effort involved, I feel it will read more smoothly and less oddly to most readers. Part of this is because a statue in a city square is easier to notice than a given house on the side of the street, and partially because the discovery can be more gradual this way.

This is part of the smoke and mirrors that a writer uses. Sometimes I worry that explaining these things will ruin the book for readers—but I guess if you were the type it would ruin the magic for, you probably wouldn't be reading behind-the-scenes annotations in the first place.

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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.

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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.

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Chapter Thirty-Six

Siri Grows Her Hair for Susebron and Talks about Seduction

I think these two chapters best show off the tone reversals I was trying for in this book—and explain partially why I was all right with those early chapters being so different from the prologue. Following Vivenna's biggest chapter for shocks, surprises, and failings, we come here—to what is one of the most flirtatious and calm of the Siri chapters.

You should have been able to notice some changes about Siri, one of the most subtle being her ability to control her hair. The hair is, in a way, an extension of the metaphor. In the beginning chapters, Siri wasn't able to control it at all, and it always changed back right after she tried to make it go to a specific color. It did what it wanted, reflecting her attitudes, and kind of represented her ability (or lack of ability, in her case) to control the world around her.

Now, she's able to manipulate things around her slightly to her liking. In contrast, Vivenna's life is completely out of control. And her hair will respond.

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Susebron's Priests

Susebron is right to trust his priests. At least, he's somewhat right. They aren't evil men, and they do want what is best for him—as long as that doesn't include going against their traditions and rules. They believe they have the charge to protect Peacegiver's Treasure, and the God King holds that treasure. They do feel bad for what they are required to do to him.

Their interpretation is extreme, but what would you do, if your god (Peacegiver) commanded you that the Breaths be held and protected, but never used? Cutting out a man's tongue to keep him from using that terrible power is the way they decided to deal with it. Harsh, but effective.

Either way, they aren't planning to kill him. One of the big reversals I planned for this book from the concept stage was a world where the priests were good and the thieving crew was evil—a complete turnabout from Mistborn. Denth and his team were developed in my mind as an "anti-Kelsier's Crew." The priesthood, then, was to turn out to be maligned by the characters and actually working for their best interests.

In the end, I went with the evil crew idea, but the priests aren't 100% without their flaws.

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Siri and Susebron Eat a Midnight Meal

This is a scene lifted almost from my own life. While on my honeymoon, Emily and I thought we were being so indulgent by ordering room service at three a.m. It was on a cruise ship, and you can do that kind of thing without having to pay extra for it. It kind of felt like the entire ship's kitchens were there for our whims. And so, a variation on the event popped up in this book.

That doesn't happen to me very often in books. Usually, it's hard to point toward one event in my life that inspired a scene. But those sorts of things are peppered throughout this book. Another one is the scene where Siri tries to look seductively at Susebron, then bursts into laughter. My wife is absolutely terrible at looking seductive—not because she isn't pretty, but because whenever she tries, she ends up having a fit of laughter at how ridiculous she thinks she looks.

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What else . . . oh, Susebron's taste buds. A couple of people have e-mailed me about this. From my research (which could be wrong), I've come to understand that the old teaching that certain parts of your mouth have taste buds that focus on certain tastes is wrong. The conventional wisdom is that your "sweet" taste buds are on your tongue, and if it is removed, you won't be able to taste sugar. (Which is why people e-mail me.)

That's apparently an urban legend. There are different kinds of taste buds, but each kind appears in clusters alongside the other kinds. And while most of your taste buds are on the tongue, many are on the roof of the mouth too. So Susebron could taste sweets as well as he tastes anything else.

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Chapter Thirty-Seven

Vivenna Wanders, Then Is Confronted by a Thief Who Takes Her Dress

The next few Vivenna chapters are short. I wanted to convey that she's on the streets for a time, but didn't want us to have to wallow in her problems. I've seen books do that quite well, and I don't want this novel to focus on it. (If you're interested in one that does it well, Paula Volsky's Illusion has a nice section about what it's like to be a noblewoman who is forced to live on the streets.)

Instead, these chapters are the transition chapters for Vivenna's character. The representation of her going as low as she can go, so that later she can begin to rebuild. The dress was a problem—it was way too distinctive, and it could sell for enough that she wouldn't have to live on the streets. She could buy something cheap and modest, then put herself up in an inn. So, naturally, it had to get stolen.

I didn't want to strip her all the way, though. We've been through enough of that with Siri, and I really didn't want to go there in this situation. Vivenna can be brought down to the lows she needs to reach without having to be raped by a random man in an alley. (Personally, I think that rape is overused in a lot of fiction.)

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Vivenna Hides Her Breath in a Shawl

This has been possible from the beginning, and if Denth had truly been on her side, he would have admitted that there's a way she could get rid of her Breaths. What she would need to do is Awaken something with a one-Breath Command. There are some. They don't do much, but you can Awaken a very tiny scrap of cloth tied into the shape of a person with a very simple Command. That takes one Breath.

Next, you put the rest of your Breath into another object. Then you get that one Breath back and go hunting for a Drab to give it to. Then you take the rest of your Breath back from the object. From there, you can repeat the process if you want to. Vivenna could get rid of the Breaths one by one.

Of course, Denth didn't want that to happen. He was coveting those Breaths. What he said was intended to sound like an innocent mistake. Many people unfamiliar with Awakening would make that mistake, so if Vivenna learned the truth later, he wouldn't look suspicious.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Lightsong Awakes from More Bad Dreams

This is the scene in the book where I originally started to turn Lightsong's dreams a tad darker. As you can see from the final version, I've now been doing that from the beginning. All to keep tension up.

Anyway, these dreams he saw—a prison, Scoot, Blushweaver—were there in the original draft. As I've said, I'm a planner, and so I had my ending well in mind by this point in the original version of the book. That ending changed in many ways during revision, but it's kind of surprising how much stayed the same. Sometimes, things just work and you do get them right on the first try.

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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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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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Chapter Thirty-Nine

Vivenna Begs

This chapter and the next one were originally a single chapter. In the drafting process, I realized that my original chapter just wouldn't do. I'd been in a hurry to get on with Vivenna's viewpoint, and I had been worried about spending a lot of time on the streets with her, since I didn't want to retread ground I've seen in a lot of other books.

In this case, I was letting my bias against doing the expected thing make the book worse. Now, my drive to find new twists on fantasy tropes and plots usually serves me well. I think it makes my books stand out. You know that when you pick up a Brandon Sanderson fantasy novel, you're going to get a complex, epic story with an original take on magic and a different spin on the fantasy archetypes.

However, this same sense can be problematic if I let it drive me too far. It's nearly impossible to write a book that doesn't echo anything someone else has done. It's tough enough to come up with one original idea, let alone make every single idea in a book original. I think that trying to do so would be a path to folly—a path to rarely, if ever, completing anything.

In this case, we needed to have a longer time with Vivenna on the streets. We needed it to feel like she'd earned the sections of time she spent there. I knew I didn't want to go overboard on it, but I also couldn't skimp. So I sliced the chapter into two and added some material to each one, particularly the second chapter.

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Vivenna Finds an Alley to Sleep In

One of the big stories I'm worried about channeling here is Les Misérables. It's one of my favorite stories of all time, so sometimes it's difficult not to find myself drawing upon Hugo's story and characters. That constant fight to keep myself from leaning too much on what has come before went into overdrive in these chapters.

In the end, however, I think that Vivenna's scenes belong here and accent the story. So yes, if you noticed them, there are some echoes of Fantine in these sections—Vivenna selling her hair and noticing the prostitutes most prominent among them. These two items, most of all, I considered cutting. But in the end, I decided that if there was anyone I was proud to have influencing my writing, it was Hugo, and I left the references. Partially as an homage, I guess—though that's always the excuse of someone who ends up echoing a great story of the past.

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I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.

In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.

This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.

Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.

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The God King's Priests

Treledees explains, finally, why it is that the God King's tongue was removed. I hope this makes sense. Or, more accurately, I hope that Treledees's explanation and rationalizations make sense. I don't want the priesthood to come off as too evil in these books. In fact, because we're seeing through the eyes of so many Idrians, I work very hard to show the Idrians (and the reader) their prejudices.

This isn't because I wanted to write a book about prejudice. It's because I wanted to tell a good story, and I believe that a good story works to show all sides of a conflict. Since we don't have any viewpoints from the priests, I felt I needed several reminders (like the confrontation between Vivenna and Jewels) to explain the Hallandren viewpoint.

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Chapter Forty-One

Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

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Nightblood's name, by the way, is supposed to sound kind of like the names of the Returned. I played with various different ways for his powers to manifest. I liked the idea of him driving those who hold him to kill anyone nearby. It seemed to work with the concepts that have come before—a kind of unholy, sentient mix of Stormbringer and the One Ring.

The strangest thing about him is the idea that his form isn't that important. The sheath is like a binding for him, keeping his power contained. So drawing him out isn't like drawing a regular weapon, but rather an unleashing of a creature who has been kept chained.

Once that creature is unleashed, he becomes a weapon—even if he's unleashed only a little bit. The sheath itself turns into a weapon, twisting those around it. You don't need to stab someone with Nightblood to kill them; smashing them on the back with the sheath works just as well. It will crunch bones, but beyond that, merely touching them with the sheath when the smoke is leaking can be deadly.

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My editor tried to take out the shot of the final man, slumping back but remaining kneeling, staring up into the sky with Nightblood rammed through his chest and propping him up from behind. But I think it's one of the more powerful ones in the book, so I fought for it. (He didn't think it was realistic that the body would just remain there kneeling.)

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In the original draft, I wasn't sure what kind of person I was going to make Allmother. I hadn't planned for her and Lightsong to have any kind of history together; these are just connections I worked into it as I wrote. (Along with his relationship with Calmseer.) He needed something to intertwine him better with the court, and so as I was drafting, these things kind of just fit together. Sometimes readers ask me what I plan and what I don't. Well, the honest truth is that it's hard to look at a book and give clear guidelines on what was planned and what was developed during the process of writing. In this case, Allmother as a character was done completely on the fly.

Of course, once she was developed, I went back in the next draft and built in some references to her in the Lightsong sections so that I could hint at previous interaction.

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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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Once, all the gods and goddesses did as Allmother now does—if someone came to them with a petition, they tried their best to find a way to help them without giving up their Breath. The modern gods consider this far too much trouble, and it has fallen out of practice. Everyone says that the gods of this day are weaker than the previous ones. They're right, though weaker isn't the right word. They're just not as high quality a group of people, partially because of their traditions and expectations.

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Chapter Forty-Three

Vivenna Awakens in Vasher's Care

Vivenna, as a character, was divided into two parts in my head. There was the Vivenna of the first half of the book, who was haughty and misled, though determined and self-confident. Then there was the break in the middle, where everything was taken away from her. Now we're into Vivenna's second half, the confused and uncertain Vivenna who has to essentially start all over.

Her plot is a contrast to Siri's plot. Siri's growth is more gradual; she doesn't have an event like Vivenna's time on the streets to make a focus for her plotline. The depth of growth the changes afford Vivenna made her a very interesting character to write; I'm sorry that she's generally people's least favorite character. But that wasn't all that unanticipated. When presented with a large group of characters, many of whom were amusing or mysterious, then dropping one major character in who had a serious growth arc but started out less likable . . . well, you expect readers to latch on to other characters. By this point in the story, they're not used to caring about Vivenna as much as the others, so I think that her drama isn't as powerful for them—which means she doesn't have time to earn their affection, even when she starts changing and growing.

Of course, part of me still sees the Vivenna of the sequel, where she can continue her growth and learning. I think she'll be a great character for that book, if I ever write it. Though I worry about doing so and making people disappointed that I'm writing about her rather than Siri.

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Vasher the Hero

We finally start to get a sense here of Vasher's true motivations. When designing him as a character, one of my goals was to force myself to stretch. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who was very different from my standard. A person who wasn't glib, who wasn't good with people. The opposite of Kelsier or Raoden—a man who had trouble expressing himself, who let his anger get the better of him, and who was rough around the edges. You really get to see who he is in this chapter as he shoves Vivenna around and bullies the Idrians.

Vasher tries, and his heart is good, but he just doesn't have a delicate bone in his body. He doesn't know how to influence people. He made for a fascinating hero to write for that reason, but it also led me to want to keep him more mysterious from the beginning. I felt that if we spent too much time with him, we wouldn't be as interested in him. The way people who read the book kept crying for more Vasher and more Nightblood made me think I was right in keeping their chapters sparse—it meant that by the time you reached this point in the book, you were (hopefully) very interested in what he was doing.

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Vivenna's Thoughts on Being a Drab

A lot of what happened to Vivenna—how she saw the world and how she acted—was influenced by being a Drab. As I've said before, the Hallandren aren't right when they say losing your Breath does nothing to you. Most Drabs struggle with depression, and the fact that they're almost always sick doesn't help either.

And so, Vivenna's time on the streets was artificially made more dreary and terrible than it truly was. Being a Drab, being sick, the shock of being betrayed—these things combined to give you the person you saw in the previous two chapters. It's a way to cut a corner. I wanted Vivenna to feel like she'd been on the streets for months, but for it only to have been a few weeks.

She is able to make her hair change colors again. This is a representation of the fact that she has started to pull out of the nightmare. She's slightly in control of her world again, and the roughest time for her has passed. There's also a clue in that hair, one that Vasher mentions. Because of it, and her heritage, and something very mysterious in the past, every member of the royal line has a fraction of a divine Returned Breath in them. That makes it much easier for them to learn to Awaken than a normal person.

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Everyone Is the Hero in Their Own Story

Another of the big plot events I wanted for this book was to have a character work for the wrong team for a long period of time without realizing it. I'd rarely seen this plot twist in a book, and even more rarely seen anything like it pulled off with any skill. So I wanted to try my hand at it.

Vasher is right here. Denth was playing with her when he told her that line about heroes. He said it partially because he was trying to justify what he was doing, and partially because he was amused that she thought she was doing what was right—when she was a major motivating force driving her people toward destruction.

Vivenna thought she was the hero, but she was the villain—at least for a good chunk of the book.

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Vivenna and Vasher Meet with the Idrian Workers

Now we get to see the other part of what Vasher has been doing all this time—the part that I couldn't show you earlier, since it would have made it too obvious that he had good intentions. (And that, in turn, might have spoiled the surprise that Denth was manipulating Vivenna.) He's been trying very hard to convince the Idrians not to get themselves into trouble. He's been only mildly successful.

Vivenna listening here has some things to work through. Some alpha readers had difficulty with how easily she started helping Vasher, so I've reworked that in the final draft. Hopefully you now see her struggle and her reasoning.

What she sees here is something real. She notices that most of Hallandren doesn't care about Idris or the Idrians. When I lived in Korea, I sensed a lot of resentment from the Koreans toward the Japanese. The Japanese had done some pretty terrible things to the Koreans during the various wars throughout the history of the two countries, and the anger the Koreans felt was quite well justified. The thing is, most Japanese I meet are surprised to hear how much resentment there is. It's kind of like Americans are sometimes surprised to hear how much dislike there is for them in Mexico.

When you're the bigger country, the one who historically won conflicts and wars, you often don't much notice the people you've stepped on along the way. While the smaller country may create a rivalry with you, you may not even realize that you have a rival. This is what happened with Hallandren and Idris. While some people push for war, the general populace doesn't even think about Idris—except as that poor group of people up in the highlands who sell them wool and do jobs they, the Hallandren, don't want to do.

This can be very frustrating for someone from the smaller country, like Vivenna, when confronted not with anger, but with indifference, about your feelings.

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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.

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Siri and the God King Have Sex

You probably knew this was coming. At the very least, I hope that you were hoping for it. They are, after all, married. I thought it very appropriate that this happen, as the two of them have been falling in love for some time now. And beyond that, of course, it ramps up the tension in the book dramatically. That's always a good thing.

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Chapter Forty-Five

Lightsong's Very Short, Two-Paragraph Chapter

I was tempted to make this annotation the longest in the pile, just for irony's sake. But I thought that might get boring. So you'll just have to settle for the only annotation in the batch that's longer than the chapter it annotates.

I've long wanted to do a chapter like this, one that's just a few sentences in length. (Or even one sentence.) I toyed with it in Mistborn, but never found a good place for it. When I was writing this book, it seemed very appropriate here. Something about the rising tension, the need to include a scene from Lightsong, and the poignancy of having a chapter like this right here—following the previous Siri chapter—worked perfectly in the book.

The reason I'm most sad for making Lightsong's dreams of earlier chapters more violent is that I lose some of the punch of this chapter. Originally, this was the first place he dreamed explicitly of T'Telir burning. Before, there were hints, but he never remembered the actual scene of fire. Then we got here, and it hit with a pow.

But the need to keep the tension up earlier outweighed the need to make this scene unique. I have had troubles in the past with my endings being too overwhelming, particularly when compared to earlier points in the book. So Joshua's constant pushing on this point here was very appropriate. I think the book is stronger, even if this chapter is slightly weaker.

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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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Chapter Forty-Six

Vivenna Sits Alone and Thinks about Her Place in the World Now

Vivenna needed a "Who am I?" moment. I struggled with this chapter because I worried it was simply about a character who sits around and thinks. I tend to put a lot of those into my books, and I don't want to overdo it. I realize that many readers don't enjoy those kinds of scenes as much as I do.

The thing is, Vivenna has had so much pulled out from underneath her, she needs time to establish for herself—and for the reader—who she really is. What about her has made the transition? Now we're getting the real and pure Vivenna, the true woman that she is inside. That determination and, more importantly, that desire to be skilled and competent form the core of her identity.

Now that she's cast off the trappings, the things she was pretending to be and the excuses she was making, she can take these elements of herself and do something with them.

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Vasher Shows Her Some Commands with the Rope

I'm sorry it took so long in the book to get to a point where we could start exploring the magic system. I wanted to do it differently from the previous two books I'd written. In Elantris, we didn't get to learn about the magic system until the end. In Mistborn, we got it straight out. Here, I wanted to try putting it into the middle—to have us experience it and see it work before we got a lot of the rules. Plus, there just wasn't a good character to show learning about it until now.

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Vasher casually mentions that the Idrians used to be Awakeners. That's true. Before they left, they were as big into Awakening as anyone else—of course, what he doesn't mention is that Awakening back then was much more new than it is now. It was fresh then, and the Idrians had some very bad experiences with it turning against them. (And what we call Idrians were just one noble house, the Idrian line, those related to the king and his servants.)

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Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities

This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?

A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.

Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.

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Origin of Awakening as a Magic System

I never did write out in annotation form an explanation of where Awakening came from. I believe I talked about the origin of the term Awakening, but never the actual powers of the magic.

As I've said, I wanted to do something that had a very "vulgar magic" feel to it. Something gritty, dealing with the forms of people, like voodoo or hedge magics. I wanted to have something that reached back into our cultural unconscious, and something that dealt with necromancy in a new way.

Those are all pieces of the puzzle. Another piece, however, was the desire to do an animation magic—a magic focused around bringing inanimate objects to life on order to serve you. As I've said, it's very tough to come up with completely new powers nobody has written about or used (though I think I've got a few in store for The Way of Kings). However, a good magic system can be crafted from the interpretation of old powers used in new ways with interesting limitations and cultural connections.

I've seen people bring objects to life in books or movies, but I've never seen a formal magic system designed completely around it.

One of the other things I'm always looking for is new ways for people to gain their magical powers. As much as I like Mistborn, the "It's genetic and you're born with it" method of gaining magical abilities is just about the oldest and most commonly used way. It's used so much because it makes sense, and because it's easy to explain. Breath, and its transference, came from my desire to come up with something different—something that had an economic component, something that allowed anyone to become a magic user, but which still had limited resources so that not everyone could be one.

I'm still trying to innovate in this area, but I think my favorite part about Awakening is the concept of Breath and how it's transferred. It turns people into resources for the magic, but in a way I hadn't seen done before.

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Chapter Forty-Seven


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.

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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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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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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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Lightsong Sees the Lifeless and Takes Command of Them

They keep them in the dark. This is a bad idea. They don't realize it, but the Lifeless are far more aware than everyone assumes. Clod in this book is a foreshadowing of that, and there won't be much more about it in the rest of the novel. It's one of the focus points for the sequel, if I ever write it. (Which will actually have a Lifeless as a viewpoint character, if I can find a way to swing it.)

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Chapter Forty-Eight

Siri and Susebron Decide to Reveal What Has Been Done to Him

Another short chapter here. You probably have guessed that we're beginning the push toward the ending. Now that Siri and Susebron have gone about as far as they can (both in their relationship and in their personal growth) without being free, it's time for them to begin pushing against their boundaries.

As I said before, I think their relationship is one of the most pure and romantic that I've ever written. For some reason, they just fit together. I tried to explain it in the narrative in the beginning of this chapter, and I think I did a good job. However, it's more than that—it's just a feeling that these two belong with each other. Kind of like when one of your friends shows off the person they've been dating, and you just feel that it's a good match.

I don't think I ever got this far in their relationship when I wrote the original book, Mythwalker. One of the reasons I decided to go back to the story was because I'd always missed writing an ending for Siri and Susebron. (Though I think he had a different name back then.) [Editor's note: In the Mythwalker draft, he was just called the Emperor.] I did a much, much better job of the story this time as well; I've increased in skill as a writer. I was finally able to tell this story and bring it to a conclusion, something I'd been waiting for years to do. I'm glad I finally found the time, even if writing standalone novels isn't the fastest way to bestsellerdom in fantasy.

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Chapter Forty-Nine

Vasher's Temper

Giving Vasher temper issues is part of a minor quest on my part to find more realistic conflicts and personality traits for my characters. It seems that much of the time, the flaws that writers give their heroes are really just backhanded talents. A hero is "too bold" or "too much of a bookworm." I'm guilty of this as much as anybody. (Siri's character flaws are an example.)

It's a tough balance. Real people tend to have flaws that make them . . . well, unlikable sometimes. Or at least difficult to get along with. We get grumpy, we make bad decisions, we say things we don't mean. It's hard to convey this in a story without making the characters unlikable. There are authors who are fantastic at doing so, and Vasher here was me toying with making a person have a more realistic temperament. There's no hidden advantage for him being like he is; he's simply got anger issues. Not extreme ones—it's not like he has to go to therapy. He's just prone to losing his temper like any number of people out there in the world.

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Brandon Sanderson

The Attack on the Salt Merchant Was a Cover

Denth did dozens of things like this, subtle methods of bringing the two kingdoms closer to war. This is the only one that Vivenna and Vasher figure out soon enough to be able to counter.

In this scene, Vivenna's chapter arc is her struggle with deciding when to make judgments and when not to. It seems that in our society, it's taboo to judge someone. If you judge, you're seen as intolerant. And most of us hate being labeled that way. I remember seeing an advertisement online just a few days ago that said something like "Please teach your children tolerance; teach them not to judge others."

Now, those who read my blog know that I'm big on trying to understand other people's viewpoints. I don't like how harsh our dialogues about charged issues tend to be. I've said I'm a peacemaker by temperament. However, I think telling someone, "Don't judge others" is just plain ridiculous. (Of course, maybe it's all just semantics.)

We have to judge. We do it every day. We decide who we want to be friends with. We judge which candidates we want to vote for. We judge which activities we want to be a part of. A lot of these judgments are influenced by our thoughts on the people involved in them.

It's not good to be racist. Skin color is a terrible reason to judge someone. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't sometimes make judgments about people for other reasons. I think maybe we've become hypersensitive to this sort of thing.

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Vasher Uses Straw Figures to Find the Tunnel

I wanted to bring the straw men back into the book, as I felt I needed to show you—and Vivenna—just how capable Vasher is with Breath. He's leaps and bounds above most people. I think this book gives a skewed perspective, since we don't see any ordinary Awakeners. We see those just learning (Vivenna) and we see one of the greatest masters of the art to ever live (Vasher).

With his practice and years of Awakening, he's able to get Awakened objects to do things that others wouldn't be able to. The straw men are a good example. As for why he apologizes, well, he doesn't even know that himself. I think it's because he realizes that Breath can make something sentient and aware, like Nightblood, and worries that the straw creatures become (even just slightly) more than just mindless automatons.

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Vasher Kills

As I said, he has a temper. He tends to lose it when he fights. He's not a berserker or anything like that; he simply lets his passion get in the way when he's in battle. It makes him worse at fighting, particularly when dueling. It also makes him a lot more dangerous sometimes.

Vivenna looking back at him, his hand on Nightblood's hilt, slowly pulling it forth as the bodies lie around on the ground is one of my favorite scenes in the book.

This is how Vasher lost his Breath before, by the way. If you recall, he began the book with barely enough to Awaken in weak ways. He remembers having much more Breath. Beyond feeding on one Breath a week, slowly eating away his supply, he drew Nightblood a few months back. That drained away his Breath and left him with only a few remaining. As for who he killed that time . . . I'm going to hold off on saying, just in case I decide to incorporate it into a future book.

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Notice how he grows in size here when he isn't paying attention. That's his Returned nature beginning to manifest, much like Vivenna's hair reacts to her emotions, because of the moment of great passion from him during the fight.

In this chapter, we also get the first hints that children and animals like Vasher. That's another hint about his nature—though a very, very subtle one, since I haven't talked about how animals and children all like Returned. They can sense the divine Breath within him, and it comforts them.

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Priests as Scapegoats

I do think that someone being a different religion from yourself makes them a good scapegoat. We tend to be put off by anyone who is too devout toward religion, even if their passion for it mimics our own passion for something we are dedicated to. It's easy to divide ourselves along religious lines.

Once again, I think I need to mention that I didn't write this comment (or the ones about not judging) into the book as an intentional message. It just seemed appropriate for the characters to say or consider, and I happen to agree with them. What I think is important influences the book. How can it help but do otherwise?

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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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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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Siri Gets Taken by the Priests

What's going on here behind the scenes is that the priests know what is likely to happen at the Court Assembly. The declaration of war is going to come, and they're truly worried for Siri's safety. They take her into custody because they anticipate riots and maybe even an attack on the Court of Gods. They want her taken and kept safe.

Bluefingers is, of course, aware of this. But he thinks that their taking her captive is because they're suspicious and might know of his plans. That forces his hand, and when Lightsong decides to forestall the vote, Bluefingers gets really worried. So he puts things into motion and grabs Blushweaver from her palace, then seizes the God King's palace and Siri.

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Vivenna and Vasher Watch the Vote

With this chapter, I wanted to bring together another focus chapter, a bookend—so to speak—with the one earlier in the book where everyone came to the court when Siri was first shown off. If you recall, that was the first time Vivenna saw Vasher, and also the first time we had all of the viewpoint characters together in one location.

Now we're back, kind of. Siri is here in this chapter, but she's pulled away before she can make it all the way to the arena. It's the best I could do, under the circumstances, as I knew I needed to launch us into the "Brandon Avalanche" after this chapter. That meant Siri getting taken captive.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

Vasher Considers Killing Lightsong

I remember reading a book a few years back where the heroes are separated from one another. One group of them is doing something clandestine, while another group is traveling in the area posing as ordinary peasants. Neither knows what the other is up to.

Well, some soldiers capture the ones posing as peasants, then go and talk to the main group of heroes. The main group says, "Well, I guess we'll have to kill those poor peasants who inadvertently passed by and discovered we have an army here." It's supposed to be dramatic irony, I believe. The protagonists nearly end up killing one another through a cruel twist of fate. (The group posing as peasants avoid death, however, for reasons I can't quite remember.)

Anyway, I put the book down shortly after. I didn't remember the scene I'd read until writing this particular one. Why wouldn't Vasher just kill Lightsong, thereby ending the war?

Because that's not a good solution. It's a shortsighted one. If you do terrible things in the name of trying to do what is right, I think you'll just end up creating bigger problems. Vasher couldn't have killed Lightsong, not and remain the man he wants to be. He knows this, I think. Even a man with the reputation of Lightsong is not someone you can kill just because he's inconvenient to you. Not if you want your conscience to go untarnished.

And if innocent peasants happen to spy your good-guy army, there are much better actions to take than deciding to execute them in the name of the greater good. You do that, and you stop being heroes. (That's not necessarily a book killer. It's only one if you expect me to keep on reading and still consider your characters heroic.)

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Nightblood and Vasher Interact as He Sneaks into the God King's Palace

Note that Nightblood is capable of more change than Vasher assumes. Vasher has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Nightblood. He makes assumptions he wouldn't make regarding other people or elements of Awakening. It's hard for him to regard the sword without bias. If you want to know more about this, read the sequel. (Er, if I ever write it.) Which is tentatively named Nightblood.

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Denth Captures Vasher

So, between this chapter and the previous one, Denth's mercenaries—who were being hidden in the tunnels beneath the palace—quietly killed the two soldiers who were standing guard at Siri's door. They are also, along with the Lifeless that Bluefingers broke, securing the Lifeless compound, grabbing Blushweaver, and taking control of the palace.

The priests get wind of this, though, and react by marshaling their own forces. For most of the night, the priests assume that they're struggling with Idrian rebels who have tried to take the palace and rescue Siri.

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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

Siri Is Locked Up, and Her Guards Change

Just a quick reminder here of what's going on with Siri. I worry about her next few sequences looking too "damsel in distress." I tried to counteract this in several places, which I'll mention. Still, I had a problem here. Once things turn to combat and fighting, there is very little that Siri can do. She's not Vin—she can't approach things the same way.

However, since Elend got to play damsel in distress fairly often in the Mistborn books, I think I've earned the right to put a female protagonist into that role here. It's appropriate to the plot, and I don't think it could have worked any other way.

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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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By the way, the grate that Lightsong closes on the tunnel behind them . . . well, it didn't do any good. There's a lever and pulley on the other side, in the room beneath Mercystar's palace—and the locking mechanism is there too. The grate is there to keep people out of her palace, installed by her priests to keep unsavory elements (if there are any) from sneaking in through the tunnels. Vasher had to pull this very grate up before he could sneak into the tunnels himself. Mercystar's priests don't follow because they don't care that Lightsong snuck in and down; they just want to guard their goddess. So they arrange troops up above, waiting for Lightsong to return.

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A little history on the tunnel complex. It was begun many years ago by some gods who wanted to have a secret way to get between each other's palaces. They had to get funds for that, however, and so the God King's steward before Bluefingers (who was also Pahn Kahl) heard of it and was intrigued. Even back then, plans were being laid. He realized that a secret way to get in and out of the Court of Gods would be very useful, so he began to hint to the priests he knew that they might want tunnels themselves. They were very useful in arranging clandestine meetings of the political type, and so some priests got their god to agree to tunnels. They didn't realize that they were playing into the Pahn Kahl steward's plans.

Bluefingers continued this work, carefully diverting funds from the projects secretly, then using the digging to mask digging in other places as well. Few priests paid attention to the workers down there, and within several decades, the workers could enter and leave even without passing through the court above. The priests liked having secret ways to enter the court themselves, though most had safety features—like the grate at Mercystar's place—installed. They saw no danger in the tunnels; they've always been too confident of their safety in T'Telir. They didn't realize the extent to which Bluefingers would eventually be able to manipulate the tunnels to bring in mercenaries and Pahn Kahl Awakeners to slowly begin breaking the Lifeless soldiers.

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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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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.

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Old Chaps

I love having random little viewpoints like these in books. I don't do them often, usually just once or twice a book. But I was excited to write this one, as Chaps has a very interesting way of thinking. Dance, dance, dance. I didn't plan him into the book specifically; I simply wrote this scene as it arrived and I knew someone had to fetch Nightblood. I'm always pleased when a little glimpse like this gives us such a distinctive feel and flavor for a character, though.

Nightblood is better at communicating with people who are mentally unhinged. He can influence them more easily. Really, Denth, you should have known to toss Nightblood someplace far deeper than the shallow bay.

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Vasher is wrong about Arsteel, by the way. Arsteel didn't need to be killed; Vasher misinterpreted the man's motives in joining with Denth. It's unfortunate that the two came to blows, but Arsteel never intended to kill Vasher in the duel, just subdue him and talk some sense into him. ("Sense" as Arsteel saw it. He wasn't actually right in what he was doing—he didn't understand Vasher's reasoning either. All I'm saying is that Arsteel's motives were, in fact, pure.)

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Vivenna Suits Up and Leaves

Vivenna is in a similar position to Siri here in these last chapters. Things are getting so dangerous that both women (well, and Lightsong too) are rather out of their elements. However, I knew that I had to have them both involved. It would be incredibly frustrating to read an entire book focused on two characters, then have them get pushed around for the entire climax.

So during my outlining, I made certain to build the story in such a way that they could be useful, even if they're very much out of their elements. I feel this makes the story more tense in a lot of ways, since they're forced to deal with things for which they're completely unprepared.

Here, we have Vivenna sorting through her own emotions and finding enough determination left to go out and do something. This is an important moment for her, even though she doesn't realize it. This is the moment where she takes her first real step toward becoming her new self.

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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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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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Blushweaver's Death

My editor was uncomfortable with the way this happened—he felt that the motivations for the killers weren't solid enough. I tried to put a little more in, which placated Moshe, but I always felt that they were solid.

Bad guys in books often do stupid things, and it annoys me. They're often not allowed to do the smartest things they could because it would ruin the plot. I wanted them to do the smart thing here, and I felt that the smartest thing was to kill Blushweaver. Just threatening her wouldn't have worked with Lightsong; he refused to take things seriously. A simple threat would have earned them mockery and frustration. So, not knowing that he loved her, they killed Blushweaver to show how serious they were. Then they grabbed Llarimar, not intending to actually kill him, as they knew he was the best bargaining chip against Lightsong they had. (If he hadn't talked, they'd have started cutting off Llarimar's fingers.)

The brutality of that moment of Blushweaver's throat being slit is supposed to be a major reversal in tone for Lightsong's sections. I hope that it worked for you; I think I laid the proper groundwork that this story could have things like that happen in it. I think I justified the motivations of the killers enough.

The games are over.

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It was sad to kill off Old Chaps so fast, but at least he went out with style. Besides, he wasn't a very good person, as you can guess. He quite literally sold out his own mother once. He wanted her apartment, so he pinned a theft on her when he was a teenager. That's the room where he was still living. He didn't realize, in his youth, that she didn't even own the place, and all he ended up inheriting was a rent payment. Not exactly the brightest guy around. But at least he waited until after she had died in prison to tie rocks to her feet and toss her into the bay.

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Nightblood was interesting to write in this book as he makes a very nice contrast to Vasher. Vasher doesn't want to say anything about his past; he's so tight-lipped about it that he rarely even spends any time thinking about it. Nightblood, however, dwells quite heavily on the past. Though in some ways his mind is very capable, he has the quirk of being an Awakened object. The first hours of his life—during which time he met Shashara, Denth, and Vasher—imprinted heavily on him. It's like . . . a part of his mind is hard forged in that moment with read-only memory that cannot be changed. Much of him can learn and grow, despite what Vasher says, but he cannot overwrite those initial concepts, states, and understandings that were burned into him during his birth. Shashara was alive then, so he will always think of her as alive, even if thousands of years have passed. Denth will always be pleased with him. Vasher will always be friends with the other two. Those things were some of Nightblood's first impressions.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Is Tortured More

It's very important to note that Vasher is hiding and saving his strength here. Writing his scenes here was tricky, since I knew that he would need to be able to pull off some feats of strength later in the book. I figured that one night of torture wouldn't do very much to him, though I also didn't want to spoil the tension by drawing too much attention to that fact.

Denth is frustrated, here, that he's not enjoying the process of torturing his old friend—much as he's frustrated with his life as it exists presently. He wants so badly to just be the carefree, work-for-whoever-pays thug. But he can't. He can't be like Tonk Fah, and it frustrates him. Hurting Vasher hurts Denth too, as it reminds him of so many things that have been lost.

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Siri Is Taken to the God King, Then Discovers Who Is Really Behind the Attacks

I'm hoping that by this point, readers will be very confused about the nature of this third force that is attacking. I hope it's the good kind of confusion, though.

Let me explain. When I write, I sometimes want to inspire confusion. It helps keep the mysteries of the book shadowed and vague. It helps the reader connect with the characters, who—presumably—are also confused. But there's a danger here in being too confusing. If the readers think that they've missed something, or if they can't follow what is going on at all, then they will just put down the book.

The trick is to make certain to telegraph that the characters are confused as well, as I mentioned above. If the reader knows that they are supposed to be searching for answers, then it will be all right. (As long as it doesn't get prolonged artificially.) If, instead, they get the impression that the author has simply made a mistake and isn't explaining things clearly, they'll react very differently.

Anyway, I hope that you have the first reaction and not the second. The twist of who is really behind everything should come as a shock, but I hope that it's also well foreshadowed. The big clincher is the question that, perhaps, you've been asking this entire book. If the war is going to be so bad for everyone involved, then who could possibly be pushing for it to occur?

I've seeded quite a number of hints about the Pahn Kahl in the book. The first is Vahr and his rebellion, but there are a number of others. The first time that Siri assumes Bluefingers worships the Returned, he purses his lips in annoyance. We've got a lot of little hints like that that the Pahn Kahl are frustrated by their place in the empire. They controlled this land long ago; we discovered that from Hoid's storytelling.

It's well foreshadowed, but I still worry that it will be too surprising to people. This is primarily because I think that readers will just pass over the Pahn Kahl while reading. They're forgettable by design. Easy to ignore, and most of the other characters have trouble remembering that they aren't just Hallandren. They aren't an angry and vocal minority, like the Idrians. They're just there, or at least that's how everyone sees them.

One of my big goals for this book, however, was to have a good reversal for who is the bad guy pulling the strings. It's not the high priest. It's not the crafty god. It's not even the brutal mercenary. It's the simple, quiet scribe. It's one of the biggest conceptual reversals in the book. Hopefully it works for you.

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Siri Saves Them from Bluefingers

Some people, as I've said, have complained about Siri's damsel in distress place in the book during the next couple of chapters. I want to draw their attention to this chapter, however, which is where she shines. She's in control and careful. She's become a leader out of necessity. She's able to make demands of Treledees and get answers. And she's gotten good enough at politics to make the connection that nobody else did, seeing through Bluefingers's ploy.

If she hadn't acted here in this chapter, this book would have ended very differently. She saved Susebron's life here. Because of what she did, Bluefingers wasn't able to implement his plan to sneak the two of them out onto the waiting boat in the Inner Sea. Her delay gave just enough time that Bluefingers had to go with his secondary plan of getting the God King to the dungeons for the next few chapters.

More than that, however, Siri became the person she needed to in these chapters. She was able to grow as much as Vivenna, but she didn't have to be knocked down for it to happen first.

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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.

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The Priests Sacrifice Themselves

As I said, one of the reversals for this book is a reversal of my own books, where priests have traditionally been the bad guys. Here, Treledees and his people throw their lives away in an attempt to save Susebron. They're zealous; I would say too zealous. But they're good men, trying their best to serve their god. They go to their graves in that service.

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First is Nightblood's mention of Yesteel. I believe this is the first mention of him in the book. If you've been paying attention, you probably realized that there was one person missing out of the Five Scholars. Vasher, Denth, Arsteel, Shashara . . . and this guy. You'll see him in the sequel. (And yes, he's much better at sneaking than Vasher or Vivenna.)

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Another note here is that Nightblood can sense where Vasher is. This is because Nightblood has ingested and fed off Vasher's Breaths in the past. When he does that, it connects him to someone. It's also, by the way, one of the secrets as to why Vasher doesn't get sick when holding Nightblood, even though he's a good person. It's not simply familiarity (though that is part of it). Nightblood has a built-in test. If he feeds off you and you survive, then you become somewhat immune to his powers.

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Vivenna Throws Nightblood at the Soldiers

These men in soldier uniforms, as hinted at by how they react to Nightblood, are just a bunch of Denth's mercenaries wearing uniforms to hide them. The guards at the front gates, however, are actual court guards. They don't know that insurgents are now in control of the palace; they're confused and are taking orders from Bluefingers, whom they see as someone with respect and authority.

The priests of the various gods are not so accommodating. There's mass chaos among them, though many parts of the city don't even know something strange is going on. The tunnels out of the Court of Gods are clogged with priests getting their various deities out of danger, which is why Bluefingers is slightly frustrated in the Siri scenes. He can't get the God King out to the boat he has waiting. (He wants to keep him as a prisoner. Executing him as he outlines to Siri is a backup plan, one he decides to implement.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Notices the Pahn Kahl are Imitating Priests

If you're still confused about this, most of the priests you've seen in the Lightsong sections are Pahn Kahl scribes imitating priests to increase confusion. The skin tone is the clue, and Lightsong noticed it a chapter or two back, but couldn't figure out what exactly was bothering him.

The previous chapters of the book—everything before the evening of Lightsong's infiltration of the tunnels—never included Pahn Kahl imitating priests. We've only seen them a couple of places, mostly in the Lightsong sections here.

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Brandon Sanderson

Bluefingers Explains That He Has to Execute Siri

Bluefingers is right when he says that there's a good chance Idris will do better in the war than everyone assumes. Of course, the main reason they'll do better is because of how the Lifeless were launched without support or planning.

If this war were allowed to progress, Idris would be able to draw allies from across the mountains (as I mentioned earlier), and Yesteel's ability to create swords like Nightblood would end with T'Telir falling and then the entire world being cast into chaos and destruction.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Six

Vivenna Saves Vasher—Kind Of

Vivenna has a few things going for her here. First off, Denth has gotten rid of his Breath. He doesn't want to have it as he tortures Vasher. It made him too aware, too pained. Being a drab as he does it is easier for him. With Tonks dozing, that means that nobody in the room has enough life sense to notice Vivenna hanging outside.

Secondly, Denth doesn't really like what he's doing. He feels he took Vasher too easily, and the torture isn't satisfying. He'd much rather kill Vasher in a fight, as he later realizes. So there's some hesitance to him in this scene, as you might notice. He doesn't just stab Vasher or Vivenna. He goes to free Tonk Fah, then hesitates before turning back and challenging Vasher. Denth was actually hoping that something like this would happen. (Plus, he does care for his friend Tonk Fah. Again, Denth is far from purely evil, no matter what he would like people to assume.)

Denth is the better duelist. Even if Vasher hadn't been beaten and tortured, Denth would have won. Except for the trick Vasher was planning, which Vivenna interfered with. But we don't know about that yet . . .

I don't know if you remember that Vivenna put a whole bunch of Breath into Tonk Fah's cloak accidentally, but it happened during the time when she found Parlin. It might be just a little bit of a stretch here, as I don't know that people will remember it. As I consider it, I should have mentioned what she'd done one more time.

Also, I hope that you don't mind the line that goes something like "Vasher is plunging to his doom from a three story window—of course he'll live!" It's a little bit self-aware, and I'm not trying to break the fourth wall. Denth has simply known Vasher for a very, very long time, and knows that something so simple isn't likely to kill his old friend. That, mixed with Denth's penchant for sarcasm, produced this line.

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Vasher Fights the Soldiers and Finally Pulls Nightblood

In my annotations, I've often talked about focus scenes. These are the scenes of a book that I imagine cinematically before I sit down and write the novel. They're part of what drives me to want to work on that book in particular, and I need a few really good ones before I'll write a book.

This was one of the primary focus scenes for this book. I had this in mind before I developed a lot of the rest of the story. I'm glad that I was able to write to a point where I was able to use it. Vasher, Awakening a rope to save himself, then fighting alongside Awakened sets of clothing. Then finally, at long last, drawing Nightblood. You probably knew that had to happen in this book. I certainly built up to it long enough.

I originally imagined the pulling of Nightblood from a body a little like a dark "sword in the stone" moment. I don't think that quite made the transition to the final book, but hopefully the image of a black sword leaking smoke is visually potent for you. I ended the scene in my head with Vasher standing amid those puffs of black smoke that used to be bodies, Nightblood at his side, feeding off of him with pulsing black veins.

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Brandon Sanderson

Denth Finds Vasher and Forces Him to Duel

Note that Denth, way back many chapters ago, mentioned that he felt the only way to defeat Vasher was to get him to draw Nightblood. Denth knew that would leak away all of Vasher's Breath and thereby leave him unable to use Nightblood any further. (This exchange with Denth and Tonk Fah happened in the D'Denir garden after meeting with the forgers.)

Denth has been planning to find a way to force Vasher to draw the sword and use it. He was hoping that the sword would consume him, which he felt would be a fitting end for Vasher, considering that Vasher killed Denth's sister with Nightblood. When he didn't die from pulling the blade, Denth decided that killing him with a dueling blade—as Arsteel should have—would be a fitting end instead.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Siri Is Led Up to a Room with an Altar

Well, welcome to my favorite chapter in the book. (Of course, I do tend to say that about the climactic chapters of each book.) For me, this is the kind of chapter that drives one to write a book. The chance to get to it, and to have things start coming together, is the biggest thrill I get in writing.

The "sacrifice Siri on the altar" image was one of the original ones I'd planned for this book, but by the time I got to this place in the novel, it just felt lame to go through with that. It's such a clichéd image. That's kind of the point—Bluefingers is trying for something visceral and exaggerated—but I felt that the imagery of it could undermine the entire scene.

I think I did one draft with her tied down to it, but I revised that out pretty quickly. It was far too Snidely Whiplash for me. I like this version much better, where we find out what Bluefingers is going to do, but Siri stands up to him and bullies him into letting her die with dignity. I also went back and seeded the stories about Hallandren and killing people on altars as a superstitious rumor that some Idrians believe. (There were stories about the Mormons, back in the day, claiming that they sacrificed women on the altars of their temples then threw the corpses out the window into the Great Salt Lake. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but in eras without as much media, people can believe some pretty crazy things.)

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Rescued

And here we have a big scene that a lot of readers have been waiting for. I apologize for making Siri need to be rescued like this, but I felt it was appropriate to the story. It's because of her teaching the God King and helping him become the man he is that he's able to do this.

Remember that the Seventh Heightening (I think that's the one) grants a person Instinctive Awakening, meaning that once you reach that Heightening, you don't need any practice to learn to Awaken. Your Commands are obeyed instinctively. This doesn't mean that everything you try will work, but that you can make most basic Commands (grab things, that sort) work without having to try. In fact, figuring out most of the more complicated, previously unknown Commands requires a person to be of the Seventh Heightening.

This power grew out of me wanting the upper Heightenings to do some very dramatic things. I do worry that this scene is a little deus ex machina. That keeps me from liking it quite as much as the Lightsong climax or the Denth/Vasher climax. But I feel that a story needs a great variety of climactic moments—some internal character moments, some external skill moments, some great twists, some expected payoffs, some big reveals, and some dramatic rescues. This chapter and the next take a shot at trying to cover a lot of those different types.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Vasher Finds Vivenna

I'm torn about this ending. It seems like this last chapter is a little anticlimactic, and yet at the same time, there is still the major conflict of the book to resolve.

Or is it the major conflict of the book? Probably not, as I think about it. This book's major conflicts were character conflicts. Yes, we want to save Idris, and it's important—but what happens with the characters has overshadowed that. Perhaps that's why this chapter feels just a bit tacked on. It's not as bad as the Well of Ascension second ending, however, and I think it's nearly the best way to format this story. That doesn't stop it from feeling a little extraneous, though.

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Anyway, a lot of important things happen here. Note that Nightblood doesn't remember being drawn. When he was created, the Breaths gave him sentience as planned. (That was a big part of the goal in making him—to prove the existence of Type Four BioChromatic entities.) However, once he is drawn, his Command takes force and he acts much more like a regular Awakened object—but one with very strange abilities and powers. During this time, his Breath is diverted to creating the powers, and his mind goes fuzzy.

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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

What did Blushweaver achieve? In fact, she Returned in the first place to be involved in this ending as well. One thing to note about the Returned coming back is that they do see the future, but when they Return, they aren't guaranteed to be able to change anything. Before her Return, Blushweaver was a powerful merchant in the city, and very well known. She was assassinated after denouncing a group of dye merchants she'd worked with for their deceptive and criminal practices. Her testimony ended with them in jail, but it got her killed. That's how she earned the title of Blushweaver the Honest (which, if you'll remember, she eventually got changed to Blushweaver the Beautiful).

She Returned because she didn't want T'Telir to fall to the invaders she saw taking it after Bluefingers and the others caused their revolt. That was why she gathered the armies. While she didn't succeed in her quest as well as Lightsong did, she did help out quite a bit. I think she's pleased, on the other side, with how things turned out.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Talk about What to Do

One of the biggest revisions to the ending was what to do with the D'Denir. When first drafting the book, I wasn't 100% sure on what Awakening could and couldn't do. I figured that Vasher could have Commands that would Awaken statues, and I wrote the ending that way.

Unfortunately, through revising and developing the story, this ended up not being viable. I was also disappointed in how poorly telegraphed the use of the statues ultimately ended up being. So in revisions, I switched it to make them Lifeless created from bones, something special that Vasher came up with during the Manywar. I then added the concept of Kalad's Phantoms as a mystery in the book, so that readers would be expecting that army to show up by the end. I think this mitigates the surprise somewhat. (Though not completely; see below.)

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Goes with Vasher

I was always planning this ending for her. She's still got a lot of growing she can do as a character, and I think she'll make for a very interesting heroine in a sequel. She could never return to Idris and face her father; doing so would be returning to a lot of people who expect her to be like she was. But she can't stay with Siri either. She still hates Hallandren and just wants to be free of it—free where she can calm her fury and really explore who she is now that her life is no longer dominated by the need to go marry the God King.

Life has been very unfair to Vivenna. It's time for her to live for herself. Here we finally have the last reversal of the book. Siri has become the queen; Vivenna is running away from responsibility, out into the wilds. And it (hopefully) feels very natural for them to be in these roles.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Book Wrap-Up

And . . . those are the annotations! I hope you enjoyed reading them. As you can probably tell, I write them rather quickly. This, of course, is to give them that feel of an improvisational director's commentary. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that when I work on them for a book, I'm usually about three weeks behind deadline on turning in the copyedit. Why do you ask?)

Joking aside, I'm quite proud of this book and what it does. I think it's the first time I've blended plot twists, humor, worldbuilding, and romance all together in a book the way I've wanted to from the beginning of my writing career.

Would I do anything different? Perhaps. I still wish Parlin had a more compelling character, so there could be more emotional impact when he died. I wish the ending had a bit less of a deus ex machina feel to it. But overall, I think the writing here is a big stride forward for me.

Thanks again for reading, both the book and these annotations.

Brandon Sanderson

October 2008

Event details
Name Warbreaker Annotations
Date June 24, 2010
Location Brandon's website
Entries 254
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