RoW Release Party

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Name RoW Release Party
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Date Nov. 17, 2020
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'm going to read to you from the sequel to Sixth of the Dusk, which takes place during the space age of the cosmere. So there are going to be some fun things in here that you're not gonna get to see in-depth for a while. So if you are worried about space age of the cosmere being spoiled for you, I might recommend waiting for fifteen years before you read this.

This is not yet canon, because I haven't released it. It's entirely possible that I'll change some of this.

But for now, this is from the sequel to Sixth of the Dusk, which I haven't named. (It's not Seventh of the Dusk.)

Brandon Sanderson

MASSIVE FUTURE OF THE COSMERE SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ones Above were human.

Dusk had imagined them as strange and terrible creatures, with faces full of fangs. Artists' renditions of them from the broadsheets tended to err on the side of mystery, showing beings with dark pits where faces should be, as if representing the darkness of space itself confined, somehow, into their strange outfits and helmets.

Truth was, nobody had known until this moment when, attempting to inspire trust, the two aliens from another world retracted their helmets and displayed shockingly human features.

Dusk stepped forward in the observation chamber, which overlooked the landing pad. The chamber was supposed to be secret, with reflective glass on the outside, but Dusk had never trusted that to hide him. The Ones Above had machines that could sense life, and he suspected they could see him, or at least his Aviar, regardless of the barrier. He'd have preferred to be out on the landing platform with the diplomats; but he supposed he should be thankful that they even let him attend. There were many among the politicians and company leadership who were baffled by Vathi's continued reliance on him.

The governing officials in the room with him gasped as they saw the faces of the aliens. One male, one female, it seemed; with pale skin that looked like it had never seen the sun. Perhaps it hadn't, considering they lived out in the emptiness between planets. Their helmets retracted automatically, but left stylized metal portions covering the sides of the head, reaching out and covering the cheeks. From the look of the delicate metal, ribbed like ripples of waves, those portions didn't seem like armor. More like ornament.

On his shoulder, Sak squawked softly. Dusk glanced at the jet-black Aviar, then looked around the room, seeking signs of his corpse. The bird could show him glimpses of the future, revealing as visions his own dead body. Ways he could (or perhaps should) have died.

It took him a moment to spot the death. It was out on the launchpad. One of the two aliens stood with their foot on Dusk's skull, the face smoldering as if burned by some terrible alien weapon. What did it mean?

Sak's visions had been... off, ever since that event five years ago, when the alien device had been activated on Patji. Once, seeing the corpse would have warned Dusk of immediate danger; a biting insect with deadly venom, or a hidden predator. Now the warnings often felt more abstract. The Ones Above were unlikely to kill him today, no matter what he did, but that did not mean they were safe or trustworthy.

"Toward a new era of prosperity!" One of them said out at the launchpad, extending a hand to Vathi, who stood at the head of the diplomats. "Between our peoples and yours, President!"

She took the hand, though Dusk personally would rather have handled a deadly asp. It seemed worse to him, somehow, to know that the Ones Above were human. An alien monster, with features like something that emerged from the deepest part of the ocean, was somehow more knowable than these smiling humans. Familiar features should not cover such alien motives and ideas. It was as wrong as an Aviar that could not fly.

"To prosperity!" Vathi said. Her voice was audible to him as if she were standing beside him. It emerged from the speakers on the wall, devices developed using alien technology.

"It is good," the second alien said, speaking the language of the Home Isles as easily as if she had been born to it. "You are finally listening to reason. Our masters do not have infinite patience."

"We are accustomed to impatient masters," Vathi said, voice smooth and confident. "We have survived their tests for millennia."

The male laughed. "Your masters? The gods who are islands?"

"Just be ready to accept our... installation when we return, yes?" The female said. "No masks, no deception." She tapped the side of her head, and her helmet extended again, obscuring her features. The male did the same, and together they left, climbing aboard their sleek flying machine, which was in the shape of a triangle pointed toward the sky. It soon took off, streaking toward the air without a sound. Its ability to land and take off baffled explanation. The only thing the Dusk's people knew about the process was that the Ones Above had requested the launchpad be made entirely out of steel.

The smaller ship would supposedly meet with the larger one that was in orbit around the planet. A ship larger than even the greatest of the steam-powered behemoths that Dusk's people had used here on First of the Sun. Dusk had only just been getting used to those creations, but now he had to accustom himself to something new. But even calm light of electric lights, the hum of a fan powered by alien energy. The Ones Above had technology so advanced, so incredible, that Dusk and his people might as well have been travelling by canoe like their ancestors. They were far closer to those days than they were to sailing the stars like these aliens.

As soon as the alien ship disappeared into the sky, the generals and company officials began chatting in animated ways. It was their favorite thing, talking. Like aviar who'd come home to roost by the light of the evening sun, eager to tell all the others about the worms they had eaten.

Sak pulled close to his hand, then pecked at the band that kept his dark hair in a tail. She wanted to hide, though she was no chick capable of snuggling in his hair as she once had. Sak was as big as his head, though he was comfortable and accustomed to her weight, and he wore a shoulder pad that her claws could grip without hurting him. He lifted his hand and crooked his index finger, inviting her to stretch out her neck for scratching. She did so; but he made a wrong move, and she squawked at him and pecked his finger in annoyance. She was grouchy, as usual; he felt the same way, honestly. Vathi had said it was because city life didn't agree with him. But Dusk claimed different source. It had been two years since they lost Kokerlii to disease. Without that colorful buffoon around to chatter and stick his beak into trouble, the two of them had grown old and surly.

Sak had nearly died from the same disease. And then: alien medicine from the Ones Above. The terrible Aviar Plague, same as those that had occasionally ravaged the population in the past, had been smothered in weeks. Gone, wiped out, as easy as tying a double hitch.

Dusk ignored the generals and their chattering, eventually coaxing Sak into a head scratch as they waited. Everything about this new life in the modern city full of machines and people with clothing as colorful as any plumage seemed so sanitized. Not clean; steam machines weren't clean. But fabricated, deliberate, confined. This room, with its smooth woods and steel beams, was an example. Here, nature was restricted to an arm rest, where even the grain of the wood was oriented to be aesthetically pleasing.

Soon, with the coming of the Ones Above and their ways, he doubted there would be any wilderness left on the planet. Parks, perhaps. Preserves. But you couldn't put wilderness in a box, no more than you could capture the wind. You could enclose the air, but it wasn't the same thing.

Soon, the door opened, and Vathi herself entered, her Aviar on her shoulder. Vathi had risen high these last few years. President of the company, one of the most powerful politicians in the city. She were a colorful, striped skirt in an old pattern, and a businesslike blouse and jacket. As always, she tried through everything she did (dress included) to embrace a meeting of old ways and new. He wasn't sure you could capture tradition by putting its trappings on a skirt any more than you could box the wind. But he appreciated the effort.

"Well," Vathi said to the group of officials. "We've got three months. But they're not going to stand any further delays. Thoughts?"

Everyone had an idea. Ways to stall further. Plans to feign ignorance of the deadline, or to plausible pretend that something had gone wrong with the Aviar delivery. Silly little plans. The Ones Above would not be delayed this time, and they would not simply trade for birds upon the whims of the Home Islers. The aliens intended to put a production plant right on one of the Outer Isles, and there begin raising and shipping their own Aviar.

"Maybe we could resist somehow?" Said <Tuli>, company strategist, who had a colorful Aviar of Kokerlii's same breed. "We could fake a coup and overthrow the government. Force the Ones Above to deal with a new organization. Reset the talks." Bold idea. Far more radical than the others.

"And if they decide simply to take us over?" said General Second of Saplings, rapping his hand on a stack of papers that he held in his other hand. "You should see this projections. We can't fight them! If the mathematicians are right, the orbital ships could reduce our grandest cities to rubble with a casual shot or two! If the Ones Above are feeling bored, they could wipe us out in a dozen more interesting ways, like shooting into the ocean so waves wash away our infrastructure."

"They won't attack," Vathi said. "Six years or more, and they've suffered our delays with nothing more than threats. There are rules out there in space that prevent them from simply conquering us."

"They've already conquered us," Dusk said softly.

Strange, how quickly the others quieted when he spoke. They complained about his presence in these meetings. They thought him a wild man, lacking social graces. They claimed to hate how he'd watched them, refusing to engage in their conversation. But when he spoke, they listened. Words had their own economics, as sure as gold did. The ones in short supply were the ones that, secretly, everyone wanted.

"Dusk," Vathi said, "what did you say?"

"We are conquered," he said, turning from the window to regard her. He cared not for the others. But she didn't just grow quiet when he spoke. She listened. "The plague that took Kokerlii. How long did they sit in their ship up there, watching as our Aviar died?"

"They didn't have the medicine on hand," said Third of Waves, the company officer of medical industry, a squat man with a bright-red Aviar that let him see colors invisible to everyone else. "They had to wait to fetch it."

Dusk remained quiet. "You imply," Vathi said, "that they deliberately delayed giving us the medicine until Aviar had died. What proof do you have?"

"The darkout last month," Dusk said. The Ones Above were quick to share their more common technologies. Lights that burned cold and true. Fans to circulate air in the muggy Home Isle summers. Ships that could move at several times the speed of the steam-powered ones. But all these ran on power sources supplied from Above, and those power sources deactivated if opened.

"Their fish farms are a boon to our oceans," said the company's Secretary of Supply. "But without the nutrients sold by the Ones Above, we wouldn't be able to keep the farms running."

"The medicine is invaluable," said Third of Waves. "<Infant> mortality has plummeted. Literally thousands of our people live because of what the Ones Above have traded us."

"When they were late with the power shipment last month," Dusk said, "the city slowed to a crawl. And we know that was intentionally, from the accidentally leaked comments. They wanted to enforce to us their power. They will do it again." Everyone fell silent, thinking as he wished they'd do more often.

Sak squawked again and Dusk glanced at the launchpad. His corpse was still out there, laying where the Ones Above had left, burned and withered.

"Show in the other alien," Vathi said to the guards.

The two men at the door, with security Aviar on their shoulders and wearing feathers on their military caps, stepped out. He returned shortly with an incredibly strange figure. The other aliens wore uniforms and helmets; unfamiliar clothing, but still recognizable. This creature stood seven feet tall and was encased entirely in steel. Armor of a futuristic cast, smooth and bright with a soft violet-blue glowing at the joints. The helmet glowed at the front with a slit-like visor, and an arcane symbol, remind Dusk vaguely of a bird in flight, etched the front of the breastplate.

The ground shook beneath this being's steps as it entered the room. That armor, it was surreal, like interlocking plates that somehow produced no visible seam. Just layered pieces of metal, covering everything from fingers to neck. Obviously airtight, with a rounded cast to it. The outfit had stiff iron hoses connected helmet and armor.

The other aliens might have looked human, but Dusk was certain this alien was something frightful. It was too tall, too imposing, to be a simple human. Perhaps he was not looking at a man at all, but instead a machine that spoke as one.

"You did not tell them you had met me?" the alien said, projecting a male voice from speakers at the front of the helmet. The voice had an unnatural cast to it; not an accent, like someone from a backwater isle. But a kind of... unnatural air.

"No," Vathi said. "But you were right. They ignored each of my proposals, and acted as if the deal were already done. They intend to set up their own facility on one of the islands."

"You have only one gem with which to bargain, People of the Isles," the alien said. "You cannot withhold it. You can merely determine to whom you offer it. If you do not accept my protection, you will become a vassal to these Ones Above. Your planet will become a farming station, like many others, intended to feed their expansion efforts. Your birds will be stripped from you the moment it becomes possible to do so."

"And you offer something better?" Vathi asked.

"My people will give you back one of a hundred birds born," the armored figure said, "and will allow you to fight alongside us, if you wish, to gain status and elevation."

"One in a hundred!" Second of Saplings said, the outburst unsettling his gray-and-brown Aviar. "Robbery!"

"Choose. Cooperation, slavery, or death."

"And if I choose not to be bullied?" Saplings snapped, reaching to his side, perhaps unconsciously, for the repeating pistol he carried in a holster.

The alien thrust out his armored hand, and smoke or mist coalesced there out of nowhere. It formed into a gun; longer than a pistol, shorter than a rifle, wicked in shape with flowing metal along the side like wings. It was to Sapling's pistol what a shadowy deep beast of the oceans might be to a minnow. The alien raised his other hand, snapping a small box (perhaps a power supply) into the side of the rifle, causing it to glow ominously.

"Tell me, President," the alien said to Vathi, "what are your local laws regarding challenges to my life? Do I have legal justification to shoot this man?"

"No," Vathi said, firm, though her voice was audibly shaken. "You may not."

"I do not play games," the alien said. "I will not dance with words like the others do. You will accept my offer, or you will not. If you do not, if you join them, then I will have legal right to consider you my enemies."

The room remained still, Sapling carefully edging his hand away from his sidearm. "I do not envy your decision," the armored alien said. "You've been thrust into a conflict you do not understand. But like a child who has found himself in the middle of a war zone, you will have to decide which direction to run. I will return in one month, local time."

The colored portion of the creature's armor started to glow more brightly, a deep violet that seemed far too inviting a color to come from this strange being. He lifted into the air a few inches, then finally pulled the power pack from his gun, dismissing the weapon to vanish in a puff of mist. He left without further word, gliding back up the hallway past the guards, who stepped away and didn't impede him. This alien had arrived without a ship, but didn't seem to need one to travel the stars. He had flown down out of the sky under the power of, they assumed, his strange and magnificent armor. Once he had gone, the two guards took up positions at the door, sheepishly holding their rifles. They knew, as everyone in the room knew, that no guard would stop a creature like that one if he decided to kill.

Vathi pulled a chair over to the room's small table, then sat down in a slumping posture, her Aviar crawling anxiously across her back from one shoulder to the other. "This is it," she whispered. "This is our fate. Caught between the ocean wave and the breaking stone." This job had weathered her. Dusk missed the woman who had been so full of life and optimism for the new advances of the future. Unfortunately, she was right. There was no sense in offering meaningless aphorisms. Besides, she had not asked a question, so he did not respond.

Sak chirped. And a body appeared on the table in front of Vathi. Dusk frowned. Then that frown deepened, because the corpse was not his.

Never in all his time bonded to Sak had she shown him anything other than his own corpse. Even during that dangerous time years ago, when her abilities had grown erratic; even then, she'd shown Dusk his own body, just many copies of it. He stepped across the room, and Vathi looked up at him, seeming relieved, as if she expected him to comfort her. She frowned, then, when he mostly ignored her to look down on the body on the table.

Female. Very old. Long hair having gone white. The corpse wore an unfamiliar uniform after the cut of the Ones Above. Commendations on the breast pocket, but in another language.

It's her, he thought, studying the aged face. It's Vathi. Some forty years in the future. Dead, and dressed for a funeral.

"Dusk?" the living Vathi asked. "What do you see?"

"Corpse," Dusk said, causing some of the others in the room to murmur. They were uncomfortable with Sak's power, which was unique among Aviar.

"That's wonderfully descriptive, Dusk," Vathi said. "One might think that after five years, you might learn to answer with more than one word when someone talks to you."

He grunted, walking around the vision of the corpse. The dead woman held something in her hands. What was it?"

"Corpse," he said, then met the living Vathi's eyes. "Yours."

"Mine?" Vathi said, rising. She glanced at Sak, who huddled on Dusk's shoulder, feathers pulled tight. "Why? Has she ever done this before?"

Dusk shook his head, rounding the corpse. "Body wears a uniform. One of theirs, the Ones Above. There are symbols on some of the patches and awards. It appears as if prepared for burial at sea. I cannot read the alien writing."

One of the generals scrambled to give him paper and pen. After handing it over, the general backed away, regarding the table as one might a nightmaw that was ready to pounce.

Dusk copied the letters on the uniform's most prominent patch. "Vathi," read the Secretary of Supply, "Colonial Governor of the occupied planet First of the Sun." All eyes in the room toward toward Vathi. All but Dusk's. He knew what she looked like, so he kept writing, then nudged the Secretary of Supply again.

"Looks like a commendation for valor," the woman replied, "for putting down what was called the Rebellion of '05. The others are similar."

Dusk nodded. So if this was a glimpse of the future, it was what Vathi would be when she died, a servant of the Ones Above, apparently having turned his people's military against rebels who didn't agree.

Well, that made sense. He nodded to himself and tried to get a closer look at what the corpse was holding. A small disk; a coin of some sort, with a drawing on it.

"Dusk, you don't seem as horrified as you should be," the living Vathi said to him.

"Why would I be horrified?" he said. "This makes sense. It's what you would do. Probably what you will do."

"I'm no traitor," she said.

He didn't reply. It hadn't been a question, even it was an incorrect statement.

"Leave us," she said to the others. "Please. We can discuss this 'prophecy' later. I need to confer with the trapper."

They didn't like it. They never liked it when Vathi listened to him. Perhaps they'd understand if they listened more themselves. Still, they filed out at the request, leaving two humans and two Aviar alone. Vathi's bird, <Maris>, hunched down and raised her wings while staring at the table. It seemed that she could sense what Sak was doing. Curious.

"Dusk," Vathi said, "why do you think I do these things?"

"Progress. It is your way."

"Progress is not worth the blood of my people."

"Progress will come anyway," Dusk said. "The dusk is past. This is the night. You will presume to find a new dawn and do what you must to guide us there." He looked at her and tried to smile. "There is a wisdom to that, Vathi. It is what you taught me many years ago."

She wrapped her arms around herself, staring at the table. "Must it be?"

"No. I am not dead, am I?" She shook her head.

"I want a way out, Dusk. A way to fight back against them, or something. A way to control our own destiny. They're both so confident that they own us. What I wouldn't give to be able to surprise them."

"You're holding something," Dusk said, leaning down. "A coin. A large one. Maybe a medallion. Not money. Engraved with a man on a canoe, wearing features and holding aloft a board with wave patterns on it. Some kind of trapper?"

"Tenth, the Finder," she said, and frowned. "Seriously, Dusk? He's one of the most famous explorers and trappers who ever lived!"

"My trainer didn't tell me of him."

"You could read a book, or something. The past is important."

"If it was important, my trainer would have told me about it. So, this man must not be important."

Vathi rolled her eyes. "He was the first man to explore Patji."

"Then he likely died quickly," Dusk said, nodding. "Means he must not have known much. The first explorers were stupid. Not because of themselves; they just didn't have experience yet." He looked to her, cocking an eyebrow.

"He vanished," she admitted, "on his second trip there. But we still use some of his exploration routes, these shipping channels, to reach the Pantheon islands. He was important."

Dusk didn't reply, because why would he contradict her? She liked believing this, and she always seemed fond of the stories of old trappers. She fancied herself an amateur one, even still, despite the fact that she had been one of the ones who ended the entire profession.

As Dusk was looking at the medallion, the vision finally vanished. Sak chirped, as if apologetic; and when Dusk looked at her, the bird's eyes were drooping, as if she were exhausted.

"I'm going to investigate stepping down," Vathi said. "A fake coup is silly, but if I simply quit, it could cause political unrest that justifies giving us an excuse to delay negotiations. Plus, it would remove me from a position where I could do damage."

Dusk nodded. Then felt himself growing uncomfortable. For once, he found that he couldn't remain silent. He looked at her.

"Another will do worse, Vathi. Another will cause more death. You are better than another."

"Are you sure?"

"No." How could he be? He could not see the future like Sak could. Still, he crouched down beside Vathi's seat, then held his hand toward her. She clasped it, then held tight. He nodded to her. "You are stronger than anyone I know," he said, "but you are just one person. I learned five years ago that sometimes one person cannot stand before the tide."

"Then there's no hope."

"Of course there is. We must become more than one. We must find allies, Vathi. Two peoples have come to bully us, to demand that we give up our resources. There must be others. Perhaps those who are weak like we are, with whom together we might be strong. A trapper cannot fight a shadow alone, but a battleship with a full crew... that is something else."

"How would we find anyone else, Dusk? The Ones Above have forbidden us from leaving the planet. We're decades, well... maybe centuries away from building flying machines."

"I will go into the Darkness," he said.

She looked into his eyes. Though she'd objected each other time he suggested this, today she said nothing. At times, she had become like him, and he like her. She made him believe that they could adapt to the future. He just needed to make her believe that he could help.

"We sent entire crews into the Darkness, Dusk," she said. "Scientists. Soldiers."

"No trappers."

"Well, no."

"I will go," he said. "I will find help."

"And if you fail?"

"Then I will die," he said. "Like your explorer man. Tenth the Finder, you called him." Dusk touched his forward, then pressed his finger against hers. "I gave up Patji for the planet, Vathi, but I will not give up the planet to those men from the stars, no matter how brilliant their weapons or amazing their wonders."

"I will gather you an expedition. Some guards, a crew..." she met his eyes. "You're going to insist on going alone, aren't you?" He nodded. "Fool man!"

He did not respond, because she might be right. But he was going to go anyway.

#2 Copy

Questioner

Jasnah and Shallan create objects out of ocean beads in Shadesmar that involves bringing them together like magnetic beads. Is this a form of the Surge of Transformation? Can this be done by other Radiants as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Other Radiants can't do this.

#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In this world, there are two competing ecologies. There's something we call "fain," and something we call "trune." And in this region, humankind, they basically can't live in the fain ecology. There's something called skullmoss that grows over everything and changes the plants; they become poisonous. And the animal flesh, humans can't survive on. We are in a city that is surrounded entirely by fain life. It's grown around, and there's a ring around the city; no one knows why it hasn't taken over the city.

And into this comes Midius, an apprentice Lightweaver who has been tasked with helping the people of this city by a mysterious mentor figure that you're not gonna find out about, but there will be some little clues. And he is brand new at this, barely knows what he's doing, and has been tasked with figuring out the mystery and trying to save the city before it falls to the fain.

He has entered the city, shown off some of his powers, had a different response from what he expected, and now he's found kind of a home in basically a soup kitchen for the poor that is run... they're the people who let him in.

This is from The Liar of Partinel.

Brandon Sanderson

"I want an opportunity to perform a story for these peoples," Midius said.

<Razal> snorted. "Like you performed for the king with that dragon today?"

Midius frowned. They stood in the kitchen, amidst <Razal's> bubbling pots, <Kale> dutifully stirring one to the left. The man hadn't needed to be asked. Already the room was beginning to fill with unemployed people. They sat, staring at their tables, waiting to be fed.

"How do you know about the dragon?" Midius asked.

<Razal> dumped a handful of spices into one of the pots. "It's all over the city, Jesk. I think it was incredibly poor taste to make the image eat an illusionary soldier."

"I did nothing of the sort."

"But you did create an illusion of a monster."

"Yes," Midius admitted."

"And now you want me to let you do something similar in here?"

"Nothing so drastic," Midius promised, "just a simple story."

"Why? I thought you were here to save the city or something."

"I'm working on that," Midius said. "In the meantime, I'd like to tell a story. I think it might help these men, lift their burdens.

<Razal> stopped pouring spices. She folded her arms, looking up at Midius. "Look, Lightweaver," she said, "you think your lies are gonna make these men happy? You think you can feed their children with a story? The Jesks failed us. Your master: he failed us."

"Wait, when was this?"

"Before," <Razal> said, waving a hand. "When <Torag> took control form Theus's father. The Jesks tried to placate the people, tried to tell them that a new age was coming. They spoke of art and beauty. And you know what? Their king couldn't feed us. People starved by the hundreds. Why do you think we turned to Theus?"

Midius's frown deepened. He knew the story, the history, differently. <Torag> had killed Theus's father, true, but it hadn't been the Jesks' influence that had caused the problems during <Torag's> single, tumultuous year of rule. It'd been the lack of alliances, poor trade instincts, and general unsettlement in the city.

And yet, the Jesks had supported him. And that was part of the reason Theus had exiled them. Still, <Razal's> version was skewed. Or perhaps Midius's was. His master had taught him the past was very difficult to pin down. "As fluid as river waters," he'd called history. "What paints on a tapestry, mixing and melding in liquid form, creating images and scents that never remained stable.

"<Razal>," Midius said, "you suffer the philosophers, even though I can tell you think their talk is frivolous. Well, even if you see my stories as frivolous, I ask you to let me tell them."

"Bah. You're as bad as that godspeaker, always pume to do things. Fine. Tell your story. But only after you serve food during the big eating rush."

"Very well," Midius said, "though I do wonder why we even do it this way. Wouldn't it be faster to have the men line up and pass through to get their soup?"

"These men spend all day waiting in line, Jesk," she said. "They wait for hours, standing in the sun and hoping to be one of the few that gets a chance to work. I don't intend to make them wait here, too. Get to work."

Midius took a stack of bowls and moved over to <Kale's> cauldron, filling two of them. "You're good at getting what you want, Jesk," the soldier said. Midius shrugged. "I would have thought that you'd be poor at that, after living so long alone in the forest."

"I wasn't alone in the forest," Midius said, taking the bowls and turning. "I had my master." Wasn't really an answer. But Midius didn't feel like giving the real answer. He'd always been good at making things he wanted happen. It was just the way that life was. The world worked as he wanted. Save for the notable exceptions.

Midius didn't let him indwell on that, however. He'd mourned over his master's death enough.

He moved about, delivering bowls of food to the men. Even after only one day in the kitchen, the work became rote to him. That left him to think and consider, trying to decide the best story for the situation. His opportunity came soon, the tide of hungry men slowing. Midius approached <Razal>, setting down an empty bowl, and met her eyes. Behind him, the sounds of dozens of wooden spoons scraping ceramic bowls echoed in the chamber.

<Razal> turned away and waved an indifferent hand. So Midius turned and felt the increasingly familiar flutter in his chest. He grimaced. A man who had killed as many shouldn't feel such nervousness. And yet, there it was. Perhaps a sign that he was more human than he'd often give himself credit.

"I've tried speaking about history," he announced to the room, "and I was ignored." Some of the eating men paused, glancing at him. It was easy to make his voice carry with so few people talking. "I've tried showing a monster. But I got the wrong reaction from that. I've caused enough fear in my life, and I did not come to Partinel to bring more."

Midius put his hand up to the side and dropped a handful of dust. He wove the light into an image of a beautiful blonde woman wearing a blue crown. "So," Midius said, sitting back on a stool, "today, I'll try a romance."

Many of the men perked up at the appearance, though not a few muttered instead. "I honestly don't know a lot about romance, myself," Midius said, tossing a handful of dust to the other side, weaving the light into the image of a princely man with a copper crown. "But then, neither have I ever met a dragon. But I can craft one from light well enough. Besides, I do know one thing. When it comes to romance, women are fickle, but men are fools."

He smiled to the audience. Most of them watched him. However, they didn't respond as his master had indicated. When he called women fickle, he expected grunts of assent. And when he called men fools, his intonation should have garnered a few chuckles. He got neither.

Midius moved on, throwing a handful of dust behind himself, weaving the light and blocking the sight of <Razal> and her pots, instead creating an image of a richly decorated room, complete with a bronze-rimmed looking glass and deeply dyed rugs.

"Now, this was a time before the coming of the fain," Midius said. "Many of my stories are from that time. It does us good to remember that our lives were once more than they are, now. <Lily> was known in seven cities as the most beautiful to be born in some hundred years' time. Wives spoke of her when they washed clothing in rivers. Laborers passed news while they cut wheat in the field. Even children knew of <Lily>.

"Eventually, news reached Prince <Helius>, heir to the throne of Lion's Hill. Now, <Helius> was not a vain man, nor was he particularly demanding. He was, however, an inquisitive man. This news troubled him. What would the most beautiful woman in the world look like? How would she dress? What color were her eyes? How would she keep her hair? He asked after these things, but no one could give him a detailed answer."

Another handful of dust produced a group of scribes and scholars speaking with <Helius>, who stood to his left. <Lily>, however, continued to comb her hair in the room to his right, looking into her mirror. It was a challenging illusion, and Midius felt himself being drawn into the image, transfixed by it. He found it hard to pay attention to the audience as he continued to speak.

"<Helius> determined that he would have to discover <Lily's> beauty for himself. Though his father, the king, objected, <Helius> left that day to ride for <Nanhell>, the fair woman's reported home." <Helius's> room dissolved in a shimmer, transforming into an image of a prince riding on horseback. Even focused on the illusion as he was, Midius could hear cries of surprise from the men at the tables as they saw the prince riding atop a full-sized horse.

The illusion remained steady, the horse staying in place despite its galloping, and Midius carefully added the faint sound of hoofbeats. "<Helius's> road was long and hard," he continued, giving a slight image of rainfall to the illusion washing over the prince. "And as he approached the city, <Helius> began to encounter crowds and large troops of men. He was not the only one who had come to see <Lily's> beauty. Indeed, from the processions he soon began to pass, he wasn't even the only prince who had come. Though he certainly was the most poor and the most humble. He hadn't even brought a single manservant. His only companion was his trusted and aged bodyguard.

"What's more, so many had come to see this princess that they crowded in tents along the walls outside. Every inn in the city was completely full. But Prince <Helius> was clever as well as inquisitive. He found an empty nook on the street, and there he began erecting a fine, extensive tent. The beggars who lived there were surprised to see one so rich pitching there, but the prince did not acknowledge them, instead chatting with his bodyguard and making up a story about how this street was the perfect location to view the princess when she went on her secret morning rides.

"Within a few hours, news had spread, and all imaginable kinds of people had crowded the streets to stake a claim on space. <Helius> retreated to an inn and was able to get a room from one of those who had left in order to sleep on the street.

"As his faithful bodyguard bedded down down on the floor, <Helius> sat by the window, pondering. Then he spotted an old woman walking among those in the street, saying something that seemed to make people there angry. Her attitude intrigued <Helius>, and he sent his guard out to fetch the old woman."

Midius threw out dust in front of him, creating the image of the old woman. He was completely engrossed in his own telling, prepared to move on to the old woman's warning that Princess <Lily> was cursed. As he began this part, however, the illusion wavered, <Razal> cautiously poking through, causing a shimmering of sparking dust to fall to the ground and shattering the back of <Helius's> room.

Midius blinked, bought out of his own story enough to again become aware of the audience. Many of the men were muttering loudly, and some had left the room, leaving their soup behind. Midius shook his head, coming conscious again, his illusion disintegrating. People, objects, rooms, melting down into bits of dust.

"You've had your chance, Jesk," <Razal> snapped. "Stop frightening these men away."

"But the story..."

"They don't care about your story, Jesk. Lies and fain illusions; what good are they?"

"Fain illusions? You think what I do is fain?"

"Well, it's not natural, I'll say that."

Midius looked around, sensing the hostility in the faces of the watching men. Embarrassed, he stood, last of the illusions exploding into dust behind him. Then he rushed from the room, moving to his chambers. Once there, he threw a handful of dust against the wall, summoning his master's figure. Midius's room was dim, since he'd brought no candle. But yet the ancient Lightweaver formed from the dust, sitting on Midius's bed.

"You lied to me," Midius said.

"Well, I am a liar," the master said. "So are you."

"We don't lie about important things."

"All of our lies are important, you know that."

Midius turned away. "They were supposed to welcome my stories. How often do you mention the joy that men finding in storytelling? How often do you talk of lies and their power to bring emotion? They're supposed to love me, not revile me."

"Is that why you're here, Midius? To find love?"

Midius glanced at his master. "So I should stop? Focus only on the Corrupted?"

"Ah, lad. Saving Partinel involves so much more than simply stopping the Corrupted. These people, they live, but they no longer remember why. They eat with dull stares. They work the fields without laughter. They return home to their families worried and frightened that they'll get sick, or that they will lose a child to the Year of Sacrifice, or that the trune ring will finally collapse and leave them all without a home."

"There is little I can do about that."

"You can remind them that there is more to life than pain, fear, and sorrow. That's the true calling of a Jesk. You look to give them stories that have meaning, but the most important meaning of your lies has nothing to do with a moral. It has to do with the way that it makes people feel, not the way that it makes them think."

"They don't want to feel. If they can't see how it'll feed them or bring them wealth, they don't want it. They revile it and call it superstition or foolishness. They care nothing for what I offer."

"No," his master said. "They do care. But they're afraid. Midius, this thing that you do, this is a noble and grand work. When you tell a story, you make men see through the eyes of someone whom they've never known. When they hear the tale of a widow's pain, for a moment they are that widow. When they hear a child's play, they remember what it was to be a child themselves. When they see a hero win, for a short time they succeed, as well. They may have forgotten what this means, but that is part of being human. Your duty, then, is merely to remind them."

#10 Copy

Questioner

Can a Radiant join multiple Orders?

Brandon Sanderson

This was not done in the past.

Questioner

Or become a squire of a different Order?

Brandon Sanderson

It is actually not impossible for this to happen; it simply was not done.

Questioner

If Dalinar became a Lighweaver squire or had the Lightweaver Honorblade, could he create the Roshar map himself?

Brandon Sanderson

This is going to depend on factors. It is possible, but highly implausible, following another highly implausible set of circumstances that would actually allow him to actually do that. (Though getting the Honorblade would not be as difficult.)

#11 Copy

Questioner

We have seen Wit tell stories that others told incomplete versions of earlier in the book. Is this an in-world coincidence? Or is he aware of those stories being told?

Brandon Sanderson

It is a little of both. Nothing mystical in here; he doesn't automatically know if a story is being told. But he keeps an eye on things, shall we say, and finds out things that he shouldn't know.

#12 Copy

Questioner

Nale seems to be able to sense the Stormlight, even before she uses it, after she eats the roll. Is this an ability of him as a Surgebinder, a Herald, or something external he's doing or using?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO!

#13 Copy

Questioner

What culture inspired the Horneaters?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't usually use a single culture for any of my inspirations. I like to mix a bunch of things together, and some will be real-world cultures and others will not. You can probably pick out the Polynesian influences, as well as the Russian influences; so they're kind of like Siberian Polynesians. But really, the thing that inspired...

The Polynesian part came from the language. I'm fascinated with languages, and one of the cool things about the Hawaiian language in particular (which was the inspiration here) is that because there are so many fewer sounds, the words get extra long. And that's why a lot of the words in Hawaiian are so long compared to some other languages, because they repeat sounds more often, and just by simple math you end up needing longer words. And I like how poetic the Hawaiian language sounds, and things like that. So that's obviously one inspiration.

But a big inspiration for them was the original idea of their myths, the ones that Rock shares and talks about, and their interaction with the spren. I wanted a race, a culture, on Roshar that had both its roots in human culture and in listener culture. Horneaters are human and listener hybrids, like the Herdazians are. And whose cultural roots went back to both cultures and had built something new out of them. So that's the primary inspiration.

#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

What is the Sixth Incarnation of Pandora? You may think Pandora the planet, because of the movie. That's not... I was actually going for the myth. That in this society, we had opened up various Pandora's Boxes, and this was... In philosophy in the far future, the sixth one they'd opened was making people who were immortal. And this was a Pandora's Box that they had philosophically opened.

I often describe it as a cyberpunk. It's not actually a cyberpunk. It's not a true cyberpunk. It deals with some of those same themes. It has the kind of corporations-in-charge, and kind of a dystopian future, and things like this. But it is far future, and not near-future, as most cyberpunk is.

The story is about an immortal soldier who has been made immortal with this new process, which is still very rare and very expensive to do. And he is basically a one-person army, with all of these modifications and things, and is capable of destroying entire armies on his own, and is completely indestructible.

And I'm gonna read to you from Chapter One, which is not a good chapter for introducing that concept.

It has a little epigraph at the beginning, which I thought you guys would find fun, because I use those quite a bit now, and I didn't earlier in my career.

This book is unpublished. This is book number five: The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora.

Brandon Sanderson

From the moment the first primeval Neanderthal picked up a sharp rock and used it to eviscerate his prey, man has sought ways to use his surroundings to augment his own abilities. Not that much has changed over the millennia. Peg legs had become prosthetic limbs, and spectacles had been replaced with cyborg optronics. But the main ideas remained constant: displeased with what fate allots us, we bend nature before our will, becoming more than we were intended. Among all of God's creations, only man takes offense at his lowly state.

Along with our drive to change ourselves, there comes with true human paradoxical form the uncomfortable fear that we have gone too far. Through the ages, we have fabricated horrors to match our increasing supremacy over nature. Monsters, golems, mad robots, and horrors haunt our collective technological unconsciousness. Twisted mixes of flesh and metal, obscene misuses of nature and her creations. We push ourselves to be better and better, more in control and dominant. But at the same time, we sweat and worry that this time, we've gone too far.

We finally have. I'm the final step, the ultimate synthesis of what is natural and what is profane. One last grand adulteration. I'm the culmination of our feats, a Frankenstein's monster for the modern 23rd century. I am without parallel in life or imagination. I am <Xelian>.

Chapter One

The forest's silence was abnormal, almost uncomfortable. <Xelian> could feel the dew in the air. It hung as an unseen mist around him. The humidity was an unfamiliar companion, and he had to fight the impulse to wipe his brow. A damp, sweat-stained hand would do little good in drying a damp, sweat-stained forehead. He could feel the soft film of water on his skin, coating his entire body, making his fingers both slip and stick as he rubbed them together.

Also unfamiliar was the forest's shadowy illumination. Light, he knew. Darkness, he knew. The forest's unchanging twilight, however, was neither bright nor dark. It seemed to flow, rather than shift; live, rather than just illuminate. It was neither day, nor night. It was light, undead.

<Xelian> followed no marked trail. He had left that behind long ago. It was not difficult to move through the brush; tall trunks stood like jealous merchants, catching the golden light long before it hit the ground. What little light did pass through was formless and impotent. Few plants could squeeze enough life out of such meager helpings to survive. There were ferns, weeds, and the occasional sapling. Nothing so thick he couldn't walk through it without trouble.

Occasionally, <Xelian> reached out to brush a patch of soft, damp earth. It was odd that something native to his home planet would feel so alien to him. But it had been a long, long time since he had seen soil.

He continued on, making good time through the realm of the enormous trees and their tiny fungal blooms. Usually, he only noticed his surroundings if something was wrong. The forest was different, somehow. It was pervasive, omnipresent. Even if he closed his eyes, he could feel it around him. When he stepped, he would sense the soft, springy loam. With each breath, he drew in the odors of wood, decaying flora, damp foliage, and bitter earth. He could hear the crackling of leaves and twigs beneath his feet. The forest was not a setting; it was an experience.

No bugs, a voice in his head pointed out.

"What?" <Xelian> asked, opening his eyes.

No insects, <Xelian>. A forest this size should be brimming with them.

"They would be to hard to control here, Wire."

I know. I just think it hurts the authenticity.

"You wouldn't say that if you could feel it," <Xelian> responded, continuing his hike.

Well, I doubt that's likely to happen anytime soon. Wire's voice wasn't sarcastic, or even depressed; it was simply stating a fact. Wire could never feel the forest, as he could never feel anything. The entirety of the AI's physical being consisted of a CPU embedded beneath <Xelian's> left shoulder blade

We're running out of forest, Wire pointed out. <Xelian> nodded. He could see the treeline now, where the forest ended. A few moments later, he passed through it, and the world around him transformed abruptly.

Instead of soft earth, his foot snapped against rigid metal. He stepped out of the land of half-shadows into full daylight. The humidity disappeared, abandoned in favor of a carefully controlled, deliberately comfortable climate. <Xelian> left behind the canopy of leaves, entering a world where dark space extended forever in all directions. He stood on the edge of a sheer dropoff. The metal pathway that ran around the forest was only a few feet thick here where he stood. It also bordered the edge of the Platform.

<Xelian> looked up. High in the sky, he could see another enormous Platform like the one on which he now stood. A floating continent, with people inhabiting all of its six faces. Beyond the second Platform, <Xelian> could make out the tiny pinpricks of stars. Looking down over the edge of the cliff, he could see the exact same thing; hundreds of kilometers below lay the bottom of the Platform, and beyond that was nothing. Cold space, eternity. Fall off this cliff, and one could literally fall forever. It's said that the Platform's builders had tried to make it seem as if one were standing on the surface of a planet, instead of a gargantuan block of metal hanging in the middle of space, a ridiculous distance from any planetary system. They hadn't done a very good job.

<Xelian> took one look back at the forest park. Really, it was one of the few places on <Saj> Platform that was dedicated to reminding its inhabitants of their heritage. As if they hadn't intentionally abandoned such things as forests when they moved into the sterile vacuum of space.

"Remind me to come back here when this project is finished," he asked.

Is that a request, <Xelian>, or are you simply waxing hypothetical?

"No, really. Remind me."

Yes, <Xelian>. Wire would compute a likely date and time for the reminder.

<Xelian> turned away from the organic wall behind him and stepped off the cliff. He could feel the fall begin; the plummet that would carry him down along the side of the platform until he entered oblivion. Gravity would drag him downward, prepared to hurl him into the void.

But then it changed. His foot got caught in an unseen force, a pull that altered his momentum. His body followed, collapsing into the arms of the same force. Instead of plunging into space, <Xelian> swung in an arc around the edge of the cliff, his foot planting itself on the vertical wall below him. He reoriented himself, then pulled his other foot to sit beside its mate.

He now stood on the other face of the cliff. What had once been down was now directly in front of him. And when he turned around and looked down, he saw the space he had left, and it looked like a sheer vertical drop, the forest seeming to sprout from the side of the cliff. The Platform's gravity wasn't going to relinquish its grip on <Xelian> quite so easily. It pulled one down against the Platform, no matter which direction down happened to be at the time. One could walk on each of the Platform's faces and feel as if it were the surface of a planet.

I don't see why you have to be so dramatic about that, <Xelian>, Wire chimed in. What do you find so fascinating about changing gravitational surfaces?

<Xelian> continued to look over the side of the ledge, then tossed a small pebble off, watching it arc normally in the air for a moment, then change vectors suddenly to fall inward, snapping against the pathway and rolling to a stop at the edge of the forest.

"Is there anything we haven't mastered, Wire?" <Xelian> responded. "What is left to dominate? The very laws of nature bend before us. Where is the excitement in the universe that behaves according to our convenience, warping and changing until it twists to the will of the most fickle species?"

If you want excitement, you should try piloting a ship through the center of a star, Wire suggested. As far as I know, no one has managed to conquer that realm, yet.

"Maybe I will," <Xelian> mused.

Just make sure you remove my CPU, first, Wire said.

Brandon Sanderson

That was from 1999.

It is interesting, also, for me to look back and see which ideas I have thrown into the word chipper and recycled. If you've read Starsight, you'll recognize something very similar to those Platforms, which stretch back to a short story that I wrote called Defending Elysium. They showed up, probably first time here. And then I reused them for Defending Elysium. And then wrote the Skyward series in that same universe. So this is like a hypothetical book that could have existed in that same setting.

#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The premise of this is that there is a young man who smells really good to dragons, and always gets used as bait in traps to trap dragons. He has trapped a dragon by being bait, and now he is wandering around that night.

Brandon Sanderson

The first thing Skip noticed was the beating of enormous wings. He knew instantly what they meant; after three or four hundred dragon attacks, you learn to pick up on the signs.

He panicked, of course. He always panicked when a dragon approached. Fortunately, he'd trained himself not to let that get in the way. So while one primal A-Big-Lizard-Is-Going-To-Eat-Me side of his brain started going in circles, the other side went through a list.

Was there water nearby? No.

Could he hide in a cellar with a door? No.

Could he obscure his scent somehow? No.

He'd assumed himself well-protected. He'd doused himself with rose water before leaving the camp, and his pockets were stuffed with garlic cloves. People three cities away could probably smell the stench. But he'd been certain he didn't smell like himself.

But that didn't always work. The dragons would find him anyway, particularly if he stayed in one place too long. But he was moving! He should have been safe. Safer, at least.

The two sides of his brain collided back together, and both told him to run. He dashed forward, hoping to find some kind of cave. It was night, but the moon was near full, so he had a good view of the hills around him. The grassy, pleasant, completely unbroken, not-a-cave-in-sight hills.

The wing beats were getting closer. He couldn't outrun a dragon in flight. He suddenly felt himself an idiot for having left the hunters. At least there, he'd have a chance; someone to fight for him, surprise the dragon and...

Skip forced himself to slow. I only have one chance, he realized. He slowed until he was merely strolling. He stuffed his hand in his pocket, beside the garlic, and held his pack over his shoulder with the other. He started whistling, trying not to sound too forced.

"It sure is a good night for a stroll," he said after a good whistle. "Alone. Without anyone to protect or guard me. What a nice breeze, that is approaching from behind."

He felt a chill between his shoulder blades, as if someone had stabbed him with an icicle. The dragon was flying down toward him; it would grab him in its claws, tear him with its teeth. It was so hard not to look!

The beats of the wings changed. Something massive and black flew past about a hundred yards away, red eyes watching him. Dragon eyes glowed. The creature winged to the side and landed on a nearby rock. It seemed wary.

Skip looked at it and tried to feign surprise. That tied his brain in knots, and he ended up just staring. That seemed to make the dragon even more worried; its slender neck looked from side to side in suspicion.

"Your acting is terrible," the monster proclaimed.

"So I've been told."

"I smell no hunters; where are they?"

Skip resisted the urge to exhale in relief. The other dragon had assumed he was bait; it had actually worked! "Uh, hunters?" Skip said, trying to sound nervous. "I don't know what you mean."

"You'd have me believe you were out here alone?"

"Sure am."

"In dragon territory?"

"Oh, this is dragon territory?"

"At night?"

"My, how the time has passed! I didn't notice."

"I realize that humans are often oblivious, but this seems incredible, even for one of you."

"Is is that obvious?"

"Yes. Nobody is so stupid."

"I wouldn't bet on that." The dragon leaned forward on his rock, looking down. Skip stood nervously. "Umm.. I guess you can go now," Skip said.

"What about the hunters?"

"You figured out what we're doing," Skip said, "so we can't surprise you. You might as well fly away; we'll never kill you this way."

"I want to see where you've hidden them."

"Don't be foolish! Do you have any idea how long it takes to dig in the grass and hide fifty armed soldiers? If they climb out now, it'll be hours getting them back in for the next dragon." The dragon's eyes narrowed further, and he leaned forward on his hilltop. Despite the moonlight, it was difficult to make out much regarding him; black-on-black, scales that shone softly, red eyes. Something was odd, though. Skip couldn't put his finger on it.

"I can't let your trap remain here," the dragon said. "My brother is flying in these parts. He might fall into it. In fact, a large number of my kin have gone missing in the last few weeks. We've been told specifically to watch for a group of hunters in the area. You haven't seen my brother, have you?"

"Can't say that I have. What's his name?"

"<Vrogldoklmoklbokloklu'u'u'u'l>."

The word was unlike any that Skip had heard. There were sounds in it, unnatural ones, unexpected ones. Like getting a teddy bear filled with razor blades for your birthday. Hearing the name made Skip's ears want to rebel and maybe take a turn at smelling things, instead. "Nope, never heard of him. We certainly didn't kill him earlier today." I hope.

"I don't care how many hunters you have, little man. You have just sealed your fate. I bring you death this night! Those words will be the last that-"

"Hey, wait."

"Call your hunters, little man. I will best them!"

"No, really, wait. I just realized what's wrong. You don't look maddened by my scent."

"Your scent? Why should I care about that?"

"But... how did you find me?"

"I saw you, little man. Walking draconic lands is asking to be devoured, and so, while I am somewhat full from a taxman I ate earlier, I decided to come down and make a feast of you. It's the principle of the matter, really."

"But... you smell nothing?"

"I can't smell. Inhaled some acidic smoke as a dragonling, burned my nostrils fiercely."

Oh, Skip thought. How wonderful. A dragon who wouldn't, upon smelling him, get driven near insane? It was amazing. Incredible.

And actually ironic. For it seemed that this was the dragon who, at long last, would end up eating him.

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