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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    Treledees Takes Siri

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

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

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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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

    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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

    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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    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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    Brandon Sanderson

    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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 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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    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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    Chapter Forty-Seven

    Calmseer

    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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    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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    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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    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.)