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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Three

    Dusk arrived late to the meeting with the Ones Above. He climbed out of the car in front of the government offices, and was met by Second of the Soil, one of Vathi’s more trusted advisors, and a fairly high-ranking member in the government himself. He was an important man, even if he did let his Aviar ride on his head.

    “You again,” he said. “We’re having important talks with the Ones Above . . . and she sends me out to fetch you?”

    Dusk approached him, glanced at his bird, then continued on.

    Soil caught up on lanky legs. “Tell me really. Why does she invite you to meetings like this? I thought after that last incident, it was through. Yet here you are again?”

    “She hopes,” he said, “I will offer a different perspective.”

    “What kind of perspective would you possibly have?”

    “The kind,” Dusk said, “of one who looks in from yesterday. Where are they?”

    “The talks are mostly finished,” Soil said, pointing Dusk the right direction. “The observation room, which looks out on their ship, is over here. We should be able to catch them leaving.” He paused. “They’ve said they’ll remove their helmets and greet Vathi face-to-face for the first time before they go.”

    Well. That should be interesting. Dusk imagined them as strange and terrible creatures with faces full of fangs. Artist renditions 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 to their helmets.

    Dusk hastened his step, so Soil reluctantly gave him something Vathi had sent. Some transcriptions of the talks that day, as typed by the stenographer. He really was forgiven.

    Her handwritten note at the bottom said, I’m sorry.

    He read quickly as they reached the observation room. Inside, a waiting group of generals, kingmakers, and senators uniformly cast him nasty glares.

    He didn’t care. He read the notes and realized what was happening. Vathi and the others were close to giving in. The Ones Above were finally winning.

    He read that with a sinking sense of loss. However, he didn’t have time to consider further as the doors to another portion of the government offices opened and people walked out, including Vathi and two alien figures in strange clothing and helmets that covered their entire faces. They crossed the courtyard toward a small silvery ship, which was in the shape of a triangle with its point toward the clouds.

    Not the main ship, which was high in the sky, but this little one ferried people between it and the ground. Like . . . a very fancy canoe.

    Dusk pressed against the glass, and heard grumbles as he obscured the view. This chamber was supposed to be secret, with reflective glass on the outside, but he didn’t trust that. The Ones Above had machines that could sense life. He suspected they could see him—or at least his Aviar—regardless the barrier.

    He considered demanding that he be allowed to stand on the landing platform with Vathi and the diplomats, but he supposed he should avoid making trouble so soon after being invited back. So he waited, watching as the aliens pushed buttons and their helmets retracted, revealing their faces.

    The gathered officials in the room with him gasped. The Ones Above were human.

    One male, one female, with pale skin that looked like it had never seen the sun. Perhaps it hadn’t, considering they lived in the emptiness between planets. From the look of the delicate metal—ribbed, like rippling waves—the remaining portions of the helmets were less like armor, and more like ornament.

    Sak squawked softly. Dusk glanced at the jet-black bird, then around the room, seeking signs of his corpse. She squawked again, and it took him a moment to spot the death—out on the launchpad. One of the Ones Above now stood with her foot on Dusk’s skull, the face smoldering as if burned by some terrible alien weapon.

    What did it mean?

    Sak chirped, and he felt something. This . . . was a different kind of vision, was it? Not an immediate danger—but something more abstract. The Ones Above were unlikely to kill him today, no matter what he did. That did not mean they were safe or trustworthy.

    He nodded, in thanks, to his Aviar's warning.

    “Toward a new era of prosperity,” one of the Ones Above said on the launchpad, extending a hand toward Vathi, who stood at the head of the diplomats. “We show you ourselves now, because it is time for the masks to be down. We look forward to many fruitful exchanges between our peoples and yours, President.”

    Vathi took the hand, though personally Dusk would rather have handled a deadly asp. It seemed worse to him, somehow, to know the Ones Above were human. An alien monster, with features like something that had emerged from the deepest part of the ocean, was more understandable than these smiling humans.

    Familiar features should not cover such alien motives and ideas. It was as wrong as an Aviar who could not fly.

    “To Prosperity,” Vathi said. Her voice was audible to him as if she were standing beside them. It emerged from the speakers on the walls--devices developed using alien technology.

    “It is good,” the second alien said, speaking the language of the Eelakin 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’s voice was 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 invitation when we return, yes?” the female said. “No masks. No deception.” She tapped the side of her head, and the helmet extended again, obscuring her features. The male did the same, and together they left, climbing aboard their sleek flying machine.

    It soon took off, streaking through the air without a sound. Its ability to fly baffled explanation; the only thing Dusk’s people knew about the process was that the Ones Above had required the launchpad be made entirely out of steel.

    The smaller ship would ferry them to the larger one—bigger than even the greatest of the steam-powered behemoths that Dusk’s people used. Dusk had only just been getting used to those creations, but now he had to accustom himself to something new. The 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 the Eelakin might as well have been traveling 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, senators, and First Company officials began chatting in animated ways. It was their favorite thing, talking. Like Aviar who'd come home to roost by light of the evening sun, eager to tell others about the worms they had eaten.

    Sak pulled in close to his head and pecked at the band that kept his now-graying 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 accustomed to her weight, and he wore a shoulder pad her claws could grip without hurting him.

    He lifted his hand and crooked his index finger, inviting her to stretch out her neck for a scratching. She did so, but he made a wrong move and she squawked at him, then nipped his finger in annoyance.

    She got like this when she saw Vathi. Not because Sak disliked the woman, but because Kokerlii had liked her so much, and seeing Vathi reminded them of him.

    “I can’t bring him back,” Dusk whispered. “I’m sorry.”

    It had been two years the disease had claimed so many Aviar. He worried that 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 to the same disease. And then alien medicine from the Ones Above had arrived. The terrible Aviar plague—same as those that had occasionally ravaged the population in the past—had been smothered in weeks. Gone, wiped out. Easy as tying a double hitch.

    Dusk ignored the human prattle, eventually coaxing Sak into a head scratch as they waited. He very carefully did not punch anyone, though he did watch them. Father . . . Everything about his new life—in the modern city, full of machines and people with clothing as vibrant as any plumage—was so . . . sanitized.

    Not clean. Steam machines weren’t clean. Even the new gas machines felt dirty. So no, not clean, but fabricated, deliberate, confined. This room, with its smooth woods and steel beams, was an example. Here, nature was restricted to an armrest, where even the grain of the wood was oriented to be aesthetically pleasing.

    She agreed. It’s over. No more negotiating.

    That was it, then. With the full arrival of the Ones Above and their ways, he doubted there would be any wilderness left on the planet. Parks, perhaps. Preserves like the one he’d suggested. But in helping with it, he’d learned a sorry truth. You couldn’t put wilderness in a box, no more than you could capture the wind. You could enclose the air, but it just wasn’t the same thing.

    The door opened, and Vathi herself entered, her Aviar on her shoulder. President of the First Company—the most powerful politician in the city. She wore a striped skirt of an old Eelakin pattern, and a businesslike blouse and jacket. As always, she tried to embrace a meeting of old and new. He wasn’t sure you could capture tradition by putting its trappings on a skirt, no more than you could box the wind, but he . . . appreciated the effort. She was one of the few in the First Company who did try.

    “Well?” Vathi said to the group of officials. “We’ve got three months.”

    Three months? Dusk quickly reread what she’d given him, and there found a nugget. She’d agreed provisionally to trade them Aviar. Nothing was signed yet. The Ones Above would return in three months to collect the chicks.

    There was time yet to do something. Maybe that was why she’d invited him.

    “They’re not going to stand any further delays,” she said. “Thoughts?”

    “We should prepare,” said one general, “for the inevitable. We’ve insisted they give us weapons as part of the deal. It's the best we can do.”

    Others nodded, though they shied from Dusk as they did so. He had punched the senator who’d insisted it was time to give in to the Ones Above. In his absence, others had begun to agree.

    “Let’s say we wanted to stall further,” Vathi said. “Any ideas?”

    There were a few. One suggested they feign ignorance of the deadline, or plausibly 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. The aliens intended to put a production plant on one of the outer isles, and begin raising and shipping their own Aviar. It was right there in the negotiations—and agreeing to the first step began the others.

    “Maybe we could resist somehow,” said Tuli, Company Strategist who had an 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?”

    A bold idea. Far more radical than others.

    “And if they decide to simply take us over?” General Second of Saplings rapped his knuckles on the stack of papers he held in his other hand. “You should see these 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. Or shoot into the ocean so the waves would wash away our infrastructure. If the Ones Above are feeling bored, they could wipe us out in a dozen different interesting ways.”

    “They won’t attack,” Vathi said. “Eight years, and they’ve suffered our delays with nothing more than threats. There are rules out there, in space, that prevent them from 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 wildman, lacking social graces. They claimed to hate how he’d watch them, refusing to engage in 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 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 the ship there, watching as our Aviar died?”

    “They didn’t have the medicine on hand,” said Third of Waves, the Company Medical Vice President—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 in giving us the medicine until Aviar had died. What proof do you have?”

    “The dark-out 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 muggy homeisle summers, ships that could move at several times the speed of steam-powered ones. But all of 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 Vice President of Supply. “But without the nutrients sold by those above, we can’t keep the farms running.”

    “Their 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 intentional from the accidentally leaked comments. They wanted to reinforce to us their control. 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, lying where the Ones Above had left. Burned and withered.

    “Show in the other alien,” Vathi said to the guards.

    Other alien.

    What?

    The two men at the door, with security Aviar on their shoulders and wearing feathers on their military caps, stepped out of the room. They returned shortly with an incredibly strange figure. The Ones Above had worn 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, soft violet-blue at the joints. The helmet glowed at the front from a slit-like visor with an arcane symbol—reminding Dusk vaguely of a bird in flight—etched into the front of the breastplate.

    The ground shook beneath this being’s steps as it entered the room. That armor . . . 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, the outfit had stiff iron hoses connecting 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 human. Perhaps he was not facing a man at all—but instead a machine that spoke as one.

    “You did not tell those you call Ones Above that you have met me?” the alien said, projecting a male voice from speakers at the front of the helmet. The deep voice had an unnatural timbre to it. Not an accent, like someone from a backwater isle, but still an . . . uncanny 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 here.”

    “They intend far more than you know,” the stranger said. “Tell me. Is there a place on your planet where people vanish unexpectedly? A place, perhaps, where an odd pool collects something that is not quite water?”

    Dusk felt a chill. He did his best not to show how much those words disturbed him.

    “You have only one gem with which to bargain, people of the isles,” the alien said, “and that is your loyalty. 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 of the 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 are offering something better?” Vathi said.

    “My people will give you back one out of a hundred birds born,” the armored alien 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 grey and brown Aviar. “Robbery!”

    “Choose,” the alien said. “Cooperation, slavery, or death.”

    “And if I choose not to be bullied?” Saplings snapped, reaching to his side 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 sides like wings, it was to Saplings’s pistol what a shadowy beast of the deep might be to a minnow. The alien raised his other hand, snapping a small box—perhaps a power supply—to 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 do not.”

    “I do not play games,” the alien said. “I will not dance with words, like those Scadrians. You will accept my offer or you will not. If you do not, you join them, and I will have legal right to consider you enemies.”

    The room remained still, Saplings carefully edging his hand away from his sidearm.

    “I do not envy your decision,” the armored alien said. “You have 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 portions of the creature’s armor glowed more brightly, a blue far too inviting to come from this strange being. He lifted into the air a few inches, then pulled the power pack from his gun. The weapon vanished in a puff of mist.

    He left without further word, gliding past the guards—who stepped away and didn’t impede him.

    “What was that?” Dusk demanded.

    “He arrived early this morning,” Vathi said, “with a simple offer. No negotiating.” She hesitated. “He arrived without a ship. He doesn’t appear to need one to travel the stars. He . . . flew down out of the sky under his own power.”

    “Or of that armor,” one of the kingmakers said—he didn’t know her name. “Perhaps that armor . . .”

    The guards took up position at the door again, 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, Mirris, crawled anxiously across her back from one shoulder to the other. “This is it,” she whispered. “This is our fate. Caught between one 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 advances of the future. Unfortunately she was right, so 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 only his own body.

    He stepped across the room, and Vathi looked up at him, relieved—as if she expected him to comfort her. She furrowed her brows when he ignored her to study the body on the table. It was female, very old, with 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, recognizing the aged face. Vathi, some forty years in the future. Dead, dressed for a funeral.

    “Dusk?” the living Vathi said. “What do you see?”

    “Corpse,” Dusk said, causing others in the room to murmur. They were uncomfortable with Sak’s power, which was unique among Aviar. He knew some disbelieved it existed.

    “That’s wonderfully descriptive, Dusk,” Vathi said. “One might think that after this many 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.”

    Brandon Sanderson

    That's Chapter Three. By then, you will have gotten a glimpse of Dusk from eight years ago, and you will have come to know him a little bit in this current continuity of this book, and then we get that chapter. (Which, I have done a reading of part of that chapter before.)

    Secret Project #5 Reveal and Livestream ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    This [Isles of the Emberdark] is a book with dual narratives and one flashback sequence. Some of you may have read the flashback sequence already, because it is a short story that I wrote. What I am doing is, I didn't want (it's more of a novelette) not having read that to be something that held you back from buying this book. So as I was thinking about it, I'm like, "What I should do is, I should revise that story and make it a flashback sequence to kind of bring us up to speed." What I plan to do in the book is have a little brief thing at the back that, if you've read the novelette, it points out some few small details I changed, so you can skip those flashback sequences, if that's something that appeals to you. But I'm trying to perfect getting the balance right for everyone to be able to read the story, beginning to end, incorporating those flashbacks so that they are up to date on the things that happened before.

    Secret Project #5 Reveal and Livestream ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    This has gone through various different titles. It's being called Isles of the Emberdark right now. It might just be Emberdark. It might be something else. We'll see what happens. But let's go ahead and read the prologue.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Prologue

    Fifty-Seven Years Ago

    Starling held open the drapes to her quarters and hopped from one foot to the other, staring at the dark horizon.

    She didn’t dare blink. She didn’t dare miss it.

    First light. When would first light appear?

    She’d barely slept, despite trying. At least, she’d tried for a good . . . fifteen minutes or so. The rest of the night she’d been too excited. She’d declared slumber a lost cause, and had spent the time reading, waiting, distracted.

    In the distance, across the rolling forests of Yolen, the darkness weakened. Was that first light? Did it count? It wasn’t light. It was just . . . less dark.

    She went running anyway, unable to contain herself. Wearing her nightgown still, she pushed into the hallway of her rooms in her uncle’s mansion, then scrambled past attendants who smiled as she passed. Starling genuinely liked most of them. She pretended to like the rest. That was what her uncle taught her: always look for the best in both people and situations.

    Today, that wasn’t difficult. Today was the day.

    First light.

    The day she transformed.

    She burst onto the balcony above the grand entryway in a tizzy of white hair and fluttering nightgown, startling her uncle’s priests in their formal robes and wide hats. They were up early, of course, because her uncle got up early to take prayers from those who worshipped him.

    Starling flitted around the corner, heading for the next hallway over, which led to his reflectory. Priests belatedly bowed to her from the sides. She might look like she was an eight-year-old girl, but dragons grew slowly, and she was older than some of the priests.

    She didn’t feel it. She still felt like a child, which her uncle explained was the way of things. Her mental age was like that of a human child her size. She just got to experience that age far longer than they did, which she figured would have been wonderful, except for one thing. It had forced her to wait long decades for her transformation.

    She burst into the reflectory, where her uncle sat upon his fain-wood throne. He wore his human form, which had pale skin and a sharp silver beard just on his chin. He took the appearance of an older man, maybe in his sixties, though that could be deceptive with her kind.

    Starling scurried up to him but didn’t touch him. With his eyes closed, wearing his brilliant white and silver robes, he was taking prayers from some distant follower. She couldn’t interrupt that. Not even for first light. So she waited, balancing on one foot, then the other, back and forth, trying to keep from erupting from excitement.

    Finally, he opened his eyes. “Oh?” he said. “Starling. It’s early for a young dragonet like you. Why are you up?”

    “It’s today, Uncle!” she exclaimed. “It’s today!”

    “Is today special?”

    “Uncle!”

    “Oh, your birthday,” he said. “Thirty years old, you are. Unless . . . Could I have mistaken the day? A lot happened during your birth, child. Maybe we need to wait until tomorrow.”

    “UNCLE!” she shouted.

    Frost smiled, then held out his hands for her to embrace him. “I was just speaking with Vambrakastram—and she will take my prayers for the day. I am free, all day, for you.”

    “Just for me?” she whispered.

    “Just for you. Are you ready?”

    “I’ve been so, so ready,” she said. “For so, so long.” She pulled back. “Will my scales really be white when I am a dragon?”

    “You are always a dragon,” he said, raising his finger. “Whether or not you have the shape of one. As for the coloring of your scales, there’s no way to know until the transformation.” He smiled, then tapped her arm—which was a powder white. Accompanied by her pink eyes and pure white hair. “Dragons come in all colors, and each is beautiful and unique. But I will say, every dragon I’ve known who was albino as a human—granted, there’s only ever been two others—had white scales to match. A metallic, shimmering white, with a sheen of mother-of-pearl. It’s breathtaking, and they are the only times I’ve seen that shade in one of our kind.”

    “Only ever two,” she whispered.

    “Only ever two,” he said, then placed his hands on her shoulders. “Plus one, Starling.”

    “Letsgoletsgoletsgo!” she shouted, running back out into the hallway. He followed, and—with her urging him on—they continued down the corridor past more smiling priests. All human, of mixed genders. Starling had been to other dragon palaces, and the priests there were stiff and stuffy. Not so here. Frost saw the best in people, and people became their best because of it. That’s what he’d always said.

    “Now,” he said from behind, walking too slowly for her taste, “I’m supposed to speak to you of the ritual importance of the first transformation.”

    “I know the importance!” She spun to walk backward. “I will be able to fly.”

    “We live dual lives,” he said. “There is a reason we live thirty years as human before reaching the age of transformation. This is Adonalsium’s wisdom.”

    “Yes, yes.” She faced forward again as they reached the end of the hallway—and the grand balcony doors. “We live half our lives as humans so we know what it is like to be small. We live half our lives before we gain the life of a dragon. That way, we’ll understand.”

    “Do you?” he asked. He rested his hand on her shoulder as she stood before the closed grand balcony doors, which were made of yellow stained glass. She thought . . . she could see light on the other side, from the horizon.

    She was so eager, but he’d taught her to be honest, always.

    “No,” she admitted. “I try, but I don’t understand mortals completely. They live such hurried lives, and they are all so fragile. They don’t seem to care. I try, but I don’t understand.”

    “Ah, you are wise to see this,” he said. “With our powers, even as dragonets, empathy is difficult.”

    “Will that ruin me?” she asked softly.  “Because I don’t understand? Will it stop me from flying?”

    “No, you can never be ruined, child.” There was a smile in his voice. “Never, ever. You can learn better, and you will, as you grow. Knowing that is how that happens! This will not hold back the transformation.” He leaned back. “Sometimes, contrast is important to help us learn.”

    He shoved the doors open, and they swung outward, revealing a horizon that had begun to blaze with predawn. The grand balcony was large enough to hold them in their larger, draconic forms. It was one of the launchpads to the upper palace, which was built on a different scale—not for people the size of humans, but for ones the size of buildings.

    She stepped onto the balcony, suddenly worried. What if it didn’t happen? What if she were broken? She knew some, unlike her uncle, saw her albinism as a flaw. A sign of misfortune, proven by what happened to her parents . . .

    “You are,” Frost said, “so wonderful, Starling. I am honored to be here, with you, on this most important of days.”

    He left unsaid that he wished her parents had been the ones. That was not to be. She took a deep breath, and held out her hands to the sides.

    First dawn struck her, and she absorbed the light. It became part of her. And as it did, the self that had been hidden within Starling these thirty years emerged, glorious and radiant. With wings, and Dragonsteel of pure silver, and scales of glittering white—faintly iridescent.

    With that, Starling at last—finally—felt that she belonged.

    Brandon's Bookclub - Yumi ()
    #54 Copy

    Questioner 1

    So Brandon, did you originally want to do complete body swap, or did you have this idea from the very beginning? 

    Questioner 2

    Yeah, body swap with the ghosts next to each other. Because they end up working slightly differently. 

    Brandon

    So, the idea for this was always to be able to have them see each other as themselves. I love Your Name, it's an amazing film, but I didn't want to just make Your Name again, right? And if there's a place that Your Name didn't explore, it's the interactions between these two characters as they live one another's lives.

    Watching someone else live your life is really interesting! And this is something that many of my models hadn't really done. And so from the get-go, they would see each other as themselves, but everyone else would see the body and what was happening with the body. And it was designed this way from the get-go to let me have that romance of the two people interacting, but also to force them to watch the other one in the context of their life, which is kind of how both of them grow, right? 

    Like, Yumi watches Painter have to deal with all the stuff that's going on with Liyun and everything like that, and that helps her change - seeing someone else go through it. He has to watch his friends interact with Yumi, and really start to see life through their eyes so that he can grow beyond his hang-ups. And without them being able to do that, I couldn't have had the character growth in the way that I wanted. 

    The version Emily read got really confusing at the ending, and I did a lot of tweaks to play with that. The beat-by-beat of what actually happened in the story was pretty similar. This was one where the first draft and the last draft match pretty well, it's just how to execute on my ideas a little bit better to make sure that it was making sense. 

    General YouTube 2024 ()
    #55 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is, frankly, a bit of a miracle that this [Secret Project Five] manifests in the middle of Stormlight Five. And it only did because I had a little bit of momentum on it from a number of years ago. And you'll find out once that is once we do more of the reveals. But it's something I've been writing on for maybe seven, eight years.

    I wrote a bunch of this in Hawaii last year. I took some time and relaxed; I actually had two trips to Hawaii last year, one with the whole family, and then one with just myself and Emily. And that's where the bulk of this was written, was during those two trips.

    Dan Wells

    Secret Project Five is much shorter and more compact. It's got, I think, really only two POVs.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Something else I wanted to talk about with this. You mentioned High Cosmere Connectivity; I worked forever trying to figure out how to write that phrase. Because it had to fit in, like, two or three words on the screen. And it had to explain... and I'm not sure if people will understand, even still, what we're getting across. Because what I really wanted to say is: this book isn't intended for first-time Cosmere readers (though if you are a first-time Cosmere reader and you understand that, you'll probably have a good time). The rest of you probably should read a few Cosmere books before you pick this one up, then you will really enjoy it better. That's what I wanted to write; that's not three words.

    If they know they're jumping into future era where there's a lot more cosmere connectivity... but, the story reads just fine on its own. There are plenty of people who could read this book, not know anything, and enjoy it quite a bit. It doesn't require you to have read other books to understand. But...

    And some people don't like a lot of cosmere connections. And this one does have them. It's got characters from multiple different planets; some you've seen, some you haven't. And it's taking place, kind of dealing with future era sort of stuff. I think most readers will enjoy it, but I do want you to be aware of that, right? There are some people who are just like, "I just want to read Stormlight Archive, and I don't want to worry about the larger mess." And this is probably not something they would like.

    Dan Wells

    One of the things, as I was reading it (because I was keeping this idea in mind of how accessible is it to new readers), in a lot of ways I think... Imagine Lord of the Rings, except it starts after they've already left the Shire. So you don't actually get to see the homeland of anyone in the Fellowship. But you hear about their homeland, and they brag about their homeland to each other. That still works, right? It's very Guardians of the Galaxy; other than Earth, you don't really see anyone's homeworld. But you can accept, "Okay, these are all the adventurers that have come together to do the thing."

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Product Preview ()
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    Questioner

    What inspiration was there for Johnny's character in Frugal Wizard?

    Brandon

    What an excellent question. 

    So his character in Frugal Wizard - I kind of wanted to do a story about the anti-Kaladin, in that we do a lot of books - not aimed at Kaladin in attitude - but we do a lot of books about people who kind of have a natural aptitude. It's fun to write and read about people who are just good at some things.

    Everyone needs to have flaws, and things that are holding them back also, but y'know, I feel a little like Kaladin in that once I started writing, I took to writing really a lot. I may not have been good at it at the start, but I took to it, and I found it, and I loved it.

    What about that person - I remember going - it's actually Ben, from How's That Ben - I went and was chatting with him one time when he was my roommate, and talking about my writing projects, and this is before I was published, right? But I was so passionate about writing, and he's like, "Y'know, it's interesting, I've never had something like that in my life," Ben said. "Nothing I've ever been super passionate about, other than like, enjoying video games," which he really does enjoy.

    So, it's not like Ben's a bland person, he's a very interesting person, but he never had - he's surrounded by people like me and Dan, who let their entire lives get consumed by one all-powerful passion. And I thought - what about the people that can't find that? That was Johnny's inspiration, was the - "I can't find this thing that, everyone else around me seems to have an all-consuming passion in life." And he just kind of floated from job to job, and was okay at them, but never great at anything. And that's a more challenging character in some ways to write, and I wanted to do that character because it was more challenging to write.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Product Preview ()
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    Questioner

    What's a character you thought would be more liked or popular, if you have one?

    Brandon

    Oh boy, I don't know about that. I mean, I do think that the original version of Chet, from Cytonic, people would like more, and they HATED him, which is why I ripped him out and rewrote the book entirely. That's one of the worst reactions I've had to a character - but, of course, that why I have beta reads, and alpha reads. When I flub up that big, then I want to know it before the book comes out, right? Generally I have a pretty good instinct.

    And it's odd, in book series, if you have multiple viewpoints, there will always be more variance in what people think of the characters. For instance, in Skyward, generally the characters are just not as divisive. But in Elantris or Stormlight, where the character you love - other characters are pulling you away from, to tell their stories - you will generally, whoever that character is that you love, resent the other ones a little bit more than you would in a single-viewpoint narrative. But that does make people kind of like the character they like even more, it's one of those things.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Product Preview ()
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    Questioner

    Ever be a book like the one from the Radiant Orders video?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Probably not, but the RPG book should have a decent amount of that kind of information in it when we launch the Stormlight RPG later this year. We're intending that at least one of those books to be of general interest to people who like the series, because a lot of the countries I couldn't get to in the books, we'll have some information on. Good information on all the brands of Fused, all the Orders of Knights Radiant, stuff like that that'll be fun for even if you don't [play the RPG].

    Brandon's Bookclub - Yumi ()
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    Questioner

    So was the parallel to AI art - which has of course created a storm over the last year or so - intentional in this book with the scholars and their father machine that was built to stack rocks?

    Brandon

    So it's really interesting having written this years before this became a really big deal. 

    This was here, though. People were talking about what is art, what's the nature of mass producing art - people have talked about that since, y'know, the days that art began. 

    And indeed - can AI create art, what is art - you know, there's the famous monkey photo where the monkey took a picture of itself, is this art?

    All of that has all been there in my brain and I think what's emerged as we've all started talking about it in the last year happened because it hit kind of a critical mass where suddenly we, number one had all these programs get released, but it's a thing that I think has been building for many, many years.

    And so it was there in my head, it just wasn't as focused as it is now. But it was definitely something I was thinking about- what makes art, art - and I think human connection is an essential part of what makes art, art, and that came out deliberately in the story. Not that I sat down to write the story about that, but as I was writing it that became a theme, and so I gave voice to some of those thoughts. 

    General YouTube 2024 ()
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    Dan Wells

    Now, you're talking about possibly (no promises being made) a revision and an actual release of White Sand. Is that something you would ever consider doing with Dragonsteel Prime or Aether of Night?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No. Main reasons being that they're too far out of continuity. I haven't been considering them in continuity. Like, Aether of Night, they fight Midnight Essence; shows up in Stormlight, shows up in Tress of the Emerald Sea. And we delve into the first appearances of a Shard of Adonalsium, but that Shard's no longer canon. And the worldbuilding of Aether of Night is totally canon; aethers have been showing up since late 2000s in my books. But Aether of Night, there's nothing about that book, of the actual plot and characters, there's nothing about that that is appealing to me or interesting to me. Hopefully, I will eventually write a book set on the aether planet, where the Aethers come from, which is where Aether of Night was. But that planet's completely different, and the story'll be completely different. Those characters aren't relevant to me.

    Dragonsteel, I consider lightly canon to the Cosmere in that the events of Dragonsteel happen, mostly, but the worldbuilding's been refined so much that eventually I will write the book that will be called Dragonsteel (or maybe the series), but it'll now be Hoid's story, rather than Jerick's story. And it'll be a completely different type of story. Though little bits of it will be recognizable.

    White Sand's the one that's still canon; I've been considering it canon all along. There's no events in White Sand that disrupt that. The characters are still really interesting to me. Khriss has shown up all over the Cosmere, and she's a main character in it. Baon's shown up in Stormlight twice, now (as of the little reading I did recently), so I wanna get a real good canon prose version of White Sand out there for those who don't want the graphic novel, so that it can be in the line. The big question I have, though, is: will I sit down to write it and be like, "I need to start on page one and just do this over?" Or will I be able to revise it and release it?

    General YouTube 2024 ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    The 2024 edition of the reading order of my books.

    I generally do not recommend publication order. Why is this? That's because I feel like my first book, Elantris, is actually one of my weaker novels. Still, I hope you will someday read it. I do think it holds up moderately well. But it's not up to the caliber of what I write right now.

    I would recommend, if you're just coming into this blind:

    I would say read the original Mistborn trilogy, Mistborn One, Two, and Three.

    Then, I would jump, and I would read Warbreaker.

    Then, I would jump, and I would read another of the standalones, probably Tress of the Emerald Sea.

    From there, I would jump, and I would start into the Stormlight Archive. And I don't know if I would read straight through the Stormlight Archive; each of those books are enormous. I might take breaks with the Wax and Wayne series, or the other standalones, such as Elantris or Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, and read those.

    I do intend for people to read Dawnshard and Edgedancer in the middle of the Stormlight Archive; so Edgedancer, I would read after Book Two; Dawnshard, I would read after Book Three. And The Sunlit Man, I would read after Book Four. That's a standalone novel; it is intended to be read before you read Stormlight Five.

    Where would I, then, add the short stories in? The rest, it doesn't matter that much. You can splice in Sixth of the Dusk, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, basically wherever you feel like they're appropriate and you want something a little shorter. They're collected in the volume Arcanum Unbounded.

    Tampa Bay Comic Convention 2023 ()
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    Questioner

    Warbreaker makes it very clear that Breaths cannot be taken, they have to be freely given with the quote. Would the power of the Shard be able to override this? And if so, since it was not freely given, would the victim still have some sort of manipulation or control over said Breaths?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're theorizing in a good direction. The Shard probably would have the power to override this. It depends on various factors, and various Shards could get involved, but it would be the sort of thing that would expose them to attack by other ones. Endowment could manipulate this; others, if they tried to, it would be dangerous for them. And there would be still some Connection to the individual; there is some anyway, but it would not clear it or blank it the way that normally giving your Breath to someone else does.

    Tampa Bay Comic Convention 2023 ()
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    Questioner

    I know that certain characters (like the Heralds, and others) cannot leave their planet 'cause they're so heavily Invested in that, and they can't leave through the Cognitive Realm. If there was a spaceship (I know there's gonna be spaceships, but I mean spaceships without any other things), could they leave their planet that way? And if not, what would happen to their Physical body?

    Brandon Sanderson

    They would not be able to leave. It would be pretty destructive for them, because it would basically rip out their Spiritual component, and it would have to stay. The squishy matter stuff might keep going, but it would be a disaster. Even a physical spaceship to convey them away would not work. But the answer to how it can happen is in Rhythm of War. Read Rhythm of War... they're figuring things out.

    Tampa Bay Comic Convention 2023 ()
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    Questioner

    Beyond the crossover of Hoid between most of the Cosmere books, with the addition of the Secret Project books, will we be seeing potential meetings of other worldhoppers and magic systems to more mainstream series, like Stormlight Archives and Mistborn?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, most likely you will see more and more of that.

    Miscellaneous 2024 ()
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    Questioner

    Warbreaker makes it very clear that Breaths cannot be taken, they have to be "freely given." Would the power of the Shard be able to override this? If so, since it was not freely given, would the victim still have some sort of manipulation or control over said Breaths?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uhh, you're theorizing in a good direction. The Shard probably would have the power to override this. It depends on various factors and various Shards could get involved but it would be the sort of thing that would expose them to attack by other ones. So Endowment could manipulate <Breaths>. Others, if they tried to, it would be dangerous for them and there would still be some Connection to the individual? There is some anyway, but it would not clear it or blank it, the way that normally giving your Breath to someone else does.

    Miscellaneous 2024 ()
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    Questioner

    I know that certain characters like Heralds and others cannot leave their planet because they're so heavily Invested, and they can't leave through the Cognitive Realm. If there was a spaceship - I know there's gonna be spaceships - but I mean like, spaceships without any other things, could they leave their planet that way? And if not, what would happen to their Physical body?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So they would not be able to leave. It would be pretty destructive for them, because it would basically rip out their Spiritual component, and it would have to stay. And the squishy matter stuff might keep going, but it'd be a disaster, right? So, even a Physical spaceship to convey them away would not work. But the answer to how it can happen is in Rhythm of War, so read Rhythm of War and... they're figuring things out.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Launch Party ()
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    Argent

    White Sand revision?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is on my plate once I finish Stormlight Five. The plan is: finish Stormlight Five. Play some video games and take some time off. Then, start on the White Sand novelization. With an eye toward starting Era Three of Mistborn January of next year.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Launch Party ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    The Secret Projects went kind of bonkers in that a lot of people who had never read my books bought the Secret Projects, because I pointed out to them that they were good starting points. I don't think this Secret Project [Five] is a good starting point into the Cosmere, not like Tress or Yumi would be.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Launch Party ()
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    Heather

    Stormlight Five cover?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Michael [Whelan] is working away on that. I have sketches, but only sketches right now. And Michael prefers that us not show his work before he has settled on a final; then he shows all of the things he did before, after he has a final. So, we let Michael (the greatest artist of science fiction and fantasy of our era), we let him do what he wants to do, and we let him take the lead. So we'll let him show them off once he has settled on a final.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Launch Party ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Horneater update. The main reason I didn't write Horneater during the time I had is the one that I've told you all before. I really think I'm gonna need to be back with the Stormlight Archive before I can get back to Stormlight Six, because I'm working on some other things in between. And I'm saving in reserve the Horneater novella, so I can write that when I need to get back in.

    Wax and Wayne came out of me needing to be on Scadrial when I knew I wasn't going to be able to get to the next Era for a long time. I'm gonna have that same sense, I'm sure, with Roshar. So I'm saving the Horneater novella for that. The Secret Project [Five] is not a direct Stormlight book.

    Words of Radiance Backerkit Launch Party ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Stormlight Five has been very, very demanding. And every time that people asked if I had a new secret project, and I said "no," it was true; because I wasn't finished with this [Secret Project Five] yet. And I'm always noodling on lots of things. But I did find time; when I needed to take a break, I could have played a video game, and instead I finished Secret Project Five. It's a story I've wanted to tell for quite a long time.

    How did I find the time? When my brain was dead on Stormlight and I just needed a break (otherwise I felt the quality would go down), I took a break, and I worked on something else.

    The fact that there's only one this time is an indication of how busy I've been.

    Miscellaneous 2023 ()
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    Dan Wells

    The last few weeks I've been doing a ton of writing for Super Secret Project X. I can't tell you what this is literally until it is out in the world, but here are some hints: it's three things, and they're in the Cosmere, and you should really come to Dragonsteel '24.

    Miscellaneous 2024 ()
    #85 Copy

    Dan Wells

    I have finished the frustratingly secret projects that I rudely refuse to tell you about, and am now working full steam on the Dark One novel. Plus a lot of detours into the worldbuilding of my Cosmere series, which really should wait until I'm done with Dark One but it's too exciting and I can't help myself :)

    Miscellaneous 2024 ()
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    catprat

    [From Dan Wells' section of State of the Sanderson]

    "A very cool [REDACTED] is planned for 2024."

    Was this our secret project hint?

    Peter Ahlstrom

    No.

    popegonzo

    Have we learned what the redacted thing is at this point?

    Peter Ahlstrom

    No. But Dan is very much involved.

    Miscellaneous 2024 ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    I wonder sometimes if I should do a full-on rewrite of Alloy. It would also be my vote for weakest Cosmere novel. (I think it's probably my weakest novel overall.) The big problem came from it being a short story, that became a novella, that became a fun little novel not meant to do any heavy lifting. But the series went from there to get some of my strongest books, as I fell in love with world and characters, and became a full-blown era rather than a pit stop between tow large eras.

    So you have something weaker, meant as a kind of "Secret History" novella, to a load-bearing pillar of the Mistborn series. And it's the place where already (coming off the main trilogy) where people were the most likely to abandon Mistborn as a larger mega-series. So I have my weakest cosmere book in a pivotal place in the sequence.

    The solution could be to just take it and give it a ground-up rewrite with more depth of characterization and narrative rigor. But then, we have the problem of their being two significantly different versions of a book, which causes other logistical problems.

    #SayTheWords ()
    #88 Copy

    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Shashaches 6.3.1.

    Bondsmiths

    Bondsmiths are, well... different. For starters, there are only three of them at a time, because there are only three spren that can grant Bondsmith powers. Seems kind of strange for a Radiant Order whose whole job is to bring people together, right? But, see, that's where the strangeness continues. Every Order takes squires; that's nothing new. But Bondsmiths sometimes have whole groups of servants who swear oaths but gain no powers at all. Can you imagine? I think there's something beautifully pure about that. They might be the only people in any Order who've ever taken the oaths for purely selfless reasons. They can't do any Surgebinding, they don't get spren, they just... take the oaths. Because oaths are important, and the values they swear to uphold are worth upholding.

    And those values, I admit, are pretty great. Bondsmiths unite things - mostly people, but also governments and kingdoms and armies and everything else. They negotiate treaties, and resolve disputes, and help people to see each other as people, instead of as rivals or foreigners or enemies. Their main power (if you can call it a power) is to help people find common ground, and get them to agree on things, and to make those agreements matter. No matter which of the three spren they bond with (and those three spren can produce some very different textures in the bond), the thing all Bondsmiths share is that they bring people together. They make people feel included and important. Sometimes, they're in the middle of those groups, corralling the actions and holding the attention. Sometimes, they're out on the edges, watching the group they created have new ideas and activities and adventures of their own. Either way, the Bondsmith is happy.

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Shashesev 6.1.4.

    Stonewards

    If I tell you that a Stoneward is solid and dependable, does that surprise you? It shouldn't, because very little about the Stonewards is surprising. They are solid and dependable; they're there when you need them, and usually out of mind when you don't. I'm making them sound boring, and that's not my goal. Stonewards can be just as varied, just as kind, and just as interesting as any other order. And then, suddenly there's a problem, and everyone wonders what to do, and you realize that the Stonewards are already there, quietly and efficiently just doing it. They work together, they work hard, and they don't bend or compromise when things get difficult. All of these qualities make Stonewards into excellent soldiers. And, indeed, Stonewards make up the main bulk of Radiant armies. When they aren't fighting, they're often running drills or playing sports, or working on some enormous project that became the new background of their lives.

    Stonewards love a challenge, I think because they love effort. Most people love the feel of accomplishing a task, but Stonewards are the kind of people who love simply working on a task. People who enjoy getting their hands dirty, and building or tinkering, or carving or creating. They like doing stuff and getting stuff done and making the world a better place because of it. If you have a friend who's a Stoneward, make them some food and never let them go. A Stoneward will be the most loyal and helpful friend you've ever had. They're always there when you need them, so make sure you're there for them too.

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahishan 5.10.2.

    Willshapers

    When I talked about Lightweavers, I said that they believe in being whoever they want to be. Willshapers believe in giving that freedom to everybody. One Willshaper is likely to be very different from another, because the only thing they necessarily share is the idea everyone should be free to do, say, and be whatever they want to be.

    A Skybreaker will stop you from being oppressed, but a Willshaper believes that any laws at all are a form of oppression. An Edgedancer will take care of you, but a Willshaper will show you how to take care of yourself. A Truthwatcher will tell you the secrets of the cosmere, but a Willshaper will focus on the at-home, day-to-day secrets that help you live the life you want to live. Want to paint yourself blue and live in a tree? The Willshapers support you! Want to conform to society and do what you're told? The Willshapers support that too, as long as it's your choice to do it.

    Another thing that's common to Willshapers (not requisite, but common) is that they tend to be builders. They don't just talk about freedom, they work for it, and they build systems and structures that enable freedom for everyone. If a road or a bridge would give people more choices about how to spend their lives, the Willshapers will build it. If a dam would help create an irrigation system, thus making food more plentiful, so people can choose their profession instead of being subsistence farmers? The Willshapers will build it. If a king is treating his people cruelly, forcing them to act or live in a certain way... well, sometimes the Willshapers destroy things too.

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahakah 5.8.5.

    Elsecallers

    Is it bad to say that I don't like one of the Radiant Orders? Because I don't like Elsecallers. It's not that I don't trust them, per se, it's that I don't know what they're doing or why they're doing it or what their final goals might be. So yes, fine, you're right, I don't trust them. 

    Elsecallers are all about potential and progress. What can you become, and how can you work to be a better version of that thing? Which sounds great and all I guess, especially if you want to be a scholar or something. Elsecaller oaths and values can help you become the best scholar you can be. But what if you want to be a king? (That's a bad example; kings can be good.) What if you specifically want to be a tyrant? A thief? A criminal mastermind? A murderer? The Elsecaller oaths and values can help you be that too.

     

    And, no, I am not talking about anyone in particular. All of the Elsecallers I know are kind. Well, maybe "polite" is a better word. All of the Elsecallers I know are polite, and... careful. Cautious? Wise, certainly and- what's the word I'm looking for? It's not "well-adjusted," goodness no. Well-considered! All of the Elsecallers I know are careful, cautious, and well-considered. That's an endorsement. Right? 

    Let's put it this way: if you have an Elsecaller on your side, you're going to better off than if you didn't. They're smart, strategic, and capable. They know logistics, they know tactics, and they can travel through other cultures and mindsets and literally other worlds better than almost anyone. They're ambitious, and they have the skills and the power to back that ambition up. And if you don't have an Elsecaller on your side? If you're so unlucky that you've got an Elsecaller on the opposite side? Well... watch out.

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahabach 5.7.3.

    Lightweavers

    And now it's time is the strangest Order, and I can say that with authority because studying this Order is what got me selected for this project in the first place. The Lightweavers are strange not just because they are artists, renowned the world over for their stubborn refusal to act like everybody else, but because they don't worry so much about the things that most concern the other Orders. They don't tie themselves to rules or rituals, or even oaths. I mean, they call them oaths, but really they're just truths. And they're not bogged down trying to find the great truths like the Truthwatchers do; they're just acknowledging truths about themselves, as individuals. The other Orders stand on ceremony or tradition, or arcane systems of laws and rights and organizations. Lightweavers just get the job done in whatever way's best, beholden to no one but themselves. And they use art to do it.

    I think a lot about their oaths. Why speak truths about themselves? I have a theory. First of all, it's important to know who we are. That's true for everybody, but I think it's especially true for artists, because they live their lives in fiction. Lightweavers are the spies of the Radiant Orders, skilled in subterfuge and trickery. A Lightweaver spy might have to spend days, or even years, pretending to be someone they're not. What keeps them grounded to reality? Core truths about themselves. When you know who you are, you can see the world through others' eyes. This helps you to infiltrate an enemy organization, sure, but it also helps you to understand people, to empathize with their needs and fears and desires, and thus give vital context to actions and decisions that might seem ludicrous otherwise. When you can put yourself in someone else's shoes, and see the world as they see it, and still come back to yourself, you find a perspective that's impossible to get in any other way.

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahashes 5.6.1.

    Truthwatchers

    They call them Truthwatchers, but I think that's only because Truthseekers-and-discoverers-and-enthusiastic-declarers is too long. But that's really what they do. Truthwatchers want to know the answers to things, and then they go out and find the answers to things, and then they go out and share the answers to things. And if they think that someone (especially someone in power, like a ruler or ardent) is hiding or misrepresenting the truth about things? Hoo boy. They will come down on that person with all the fury of a scholarly axehound. And they will have all of the citations to back themselves up.

    One thing that I love about Truthwatchers, though, is that even when they argue (which really isn't as often as I'm implying that it is), they're typically very calm and quiet. They do so with an eager politeness that I've never seen anywhere else. They genuinely want to hear what you think about the world, and why you think that way, and what you might think if presented with new evidence. Which is a helpful trait to have. Because despite their endless quest for truth (or maybe because of it), no two Truthwatchers on Roshar can agree on what that truth is. Name a basic fundamental fact about the world, and every Truthwatcher you talk to will have a different strongly held opinion about how it's actually neither basic, nor fundamental, nor even a fact.

    This can be frustrating if you let yourself be pulled into a long conversation or debate, but at least they're usually friendly when they do it. 

    #SayTheWords ()
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    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahevev 5.4.4

    Edgedancers

    There's no Order I think more self-contradictory than the Edgedancers. They have a grace and elegance and refinement that is the envy of emperors, yet they spend all their time with the poor, sick, and destitute. And there are probably some emperors out there (and I guarantee there are some highprinces out there) who see this as a total waste of proper form and beauty. "Why should they not be here with me, being beautiful?" I see it as a kind of beauty unto itself though. What better use for the best runners, performers, and dancers in history than to spend their time with the people who never get to see that kind of stuff. Don't the poor deserve beauty, too?

    The actual words of the Edgedancer oath are "to remember." Remember the poor, the sad, the lost, the forgotten. The kinds of people who slip between the cracks, because nobody else bothers to remember them at all. A general wants you for your strength and your cunning. A highprince wants you for your loyalty and labor. An Edgedancer wants you for you. With all your faults and even (maybe even especially) with all your lacks. You lack food? They can help with that. You lack health or strength or even limbs? They can help with that, too, and they will look as graceful as a windspren while they do it. I'm a bit of a dancer myself, so I love any Order that puts more beauty into the world. The Edgedancers do that with both movement and kindness.

    What's not to love?

    DragonCon 2019 ()
    #96 Copy

    Questioner

    Ever had the Great American Cookie here?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh-huh.

    Questioner

    I was thinking, what's your favorite cookie and where do you like to get it from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You really want that instead of the end of book ten?

    Questioner

    You know what, yeah, we can talk about that later.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay, okay. I'd say that my favorite cookie is an oatmeal scotchie followed very closely by a milk chocolate chip chunk with big milk chocolate chips and things in it.

    #SayTheWords ()
    #97 Copy

    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahachan 5.3.2.

    Dustbringers

    I have a soft spot for the Dustbringers. I've never met one, or at least I don't think I ever have. But their core principle is one I feel uncomfortably close to my own heart: that we all bear the capacity for unimaginable damage and destruction, and that the only way to protect those around us is to always maintain a firm, unshakeable control over ourselves. I'm no Dustbringer, but I've caused my fair share of destruction. Mental, emotional, and even physical. It's a hard thing to live with. The Dustbringers dedicate their entire lives to making sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen. That no angry outburst or selfish whim ends up harming the people they love. There's a part of me, I think, that would enjoy being a Dustbringer.

    A big part of Dustbringers' incredible self control comes from their quest to understand themselves and the world they live in. How does a given thing work? Why does that river flow in just that way? Why does that rock stay on that ledge? And if it falls, how will it fall? Where will it land? Why does this experience cause this emotion, and why does this word or this attitude cause this particular response? When we understand something, we can control it. We can make that rock fall exactly where we want it, or cause or avoid an emotional response in a person we're taking to. Wouldn't that be wonderful? To know yourself and your family, and the world in general, so well that you can always keep everyone happy?

    Or maybe I'm revealing a little bit more about myself than I should be. So back to the fun stuff: physical destruction. Dustbringers are the sappers and siege masters of an army. The ones who could bring down an otherwise impenetrable enemy fortification through the one-two punch of having a lot of power and knowing exactly where to apply it. Want to take down a bridge? Who better than someone who takes bridges apart for fun, just to see how they work? And who better than- okay, now I'm thinking about the potential of targeted emotional destruction, and it's pretty terrifying. So let's end on the control thing instead. Who better to defend your own bridges and forts and hearts than someone who knows exactly how they work and who has the self-awareness and the emotional control to keep them completely safe.

    #SayTheWords ()
    #98 Copy

    Dan Wells

    Sixth Epoch, Year 31, Palahesah 5.1.5.

    Skybreakers

    The Skybreakers are all about order. It's not just about rules, or laws, or whatever the current or local king declares is right (though some Skybreakers do go a bit too far in that direction if you ask me). It's about higher ideals of rightness, and concepts like justice and fairness, and like I said in the beginning, order. They sought to make the world the way it should be, and not the way that passing whims of power and money declare that it ought to be. Which, in practical terms, inevitably translates as, "The way that we, the Skybreakers, think it should be. Which is orderly."

    In some situations, a Skybreaker is a ruler's best friend. They enforce that ruler's laws, which supports that ruler's vision and keeps peace in that ruler's realm. But a Skybreaker also believes that the law is universal, and should be applied equally to the highest members of society as well as the lowest. And this goes for everyone, up to and including the Radiant Orders and even the Heralds themselves. Nobody, in their view, should be untouchable. Even a king, maybe even a god, should be held accountable if they abuse their power and authority. Which sounds like a pretty good belief to have, I guess, until you ask who's going to stop the Skybreakers from abusing their authority. The answer is often nobody, or the other Orders, I guess, but that can get messy.

    These attitudes, as you might expect, give the Skybreakers a bit of a stodgy reputation. Some of the other, looser Orders tend to see them as sticks in the mud, and free thinkers see them as outright dangerous. Revolutionaries see them as friends of the powerful, but the powerful see them as fickle friends who might turn on you if they disapprove of your choices. The only people who really love them, I guess, are the people who know they can count on them, people who need justice. And if you're the kind of person that downtrodden people know they can always rely on to defend the innocent and punish the guilty... well, that seems like a pretty good place to be.

    YouTube Livestream 50 ()
    #99 Copy

    Use the Falchion

    Janci, how is the work on the post-Defiant Skyward books going? I thoroughly enjoyed your novellas and can't wait to see what you do next with the Skyward crew.

    Janci Patterson

    We accepted an offer on them! Yay! I'm so excited! That happened yesterday! So... big news.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The big holdup so far has been that I'm working on Defiant and because, as Janci mentioned --

    Janci Patterson

    I have to know what I'm writing.

    Brandon Sanderson

    There's lots of continuity involved in these sorts of things, and we had a plan, and then I write Defiant, and that's going to change some of the things we're thinking about.

    Janci Patterson

    So I have an outline that will shift but I think the story will basically be what's in the outline, but things will shift. And once those things have shifted and we're pretty sure we have exactly what it's going to be ultimately, then I can start writing hopefully in the next couple of months.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Which is really important because these are technically YA, they straddle that line. But this is going to be the only YA that I have for a while because Stormlight Five and the Secret Projects are kicking me in the head.

    General Reddit 2023 ()
    #100 Copy

    Worldhopper1990

    Did you get to the epilogue [of Stormlight Five] yet?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wrote a version of the epilogue years ago that isn't quite going to work for timing reasons, so I tried a new one. We will see how I feel about it as we go.