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    Brandon Sanderson

    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

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Forty-Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Shire Post Mint Mistborn Coin AMA ()
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    What special considerations do you have when designing a coin? (compared to other art that you typically do)

    Isaac Stewart

    I haven't designed a lot of coins, so I had that same question when first talking to Woody and Helen at Shire Post. Once we decided on the sizes for the coins, the biggest issue was designing something that's legible at that size. The images and text need to read well, and for the most part, I needed to keep the text from running over the top of the images (which affects legibility). The only change Shire Post asked to be made after seeing the first images was to separate the text from the images a bit.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson


    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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.