Oudeis

Take My Breath Away [Minor Scadrial Spoilers]

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Believe it or not, the spoilers come from a WoB posted in the MAG. I know the usual rule about the canonicity of the MAG, but this comes directly from one of the few quotes Mr. Sanderson has in the book.
 
My question is this. Could a Trueself (an Aluminum Ferring) steal Breath?
 
Per the MAG:
 
 
 

That said, however, consider the implications of Aluminum in Feruchemy.
With proper manipulation, it might be theoretically possible to tap someone
else’s metalminds...

 
((Upvotes to anyone who can provide additional quotes on the subject))
 
On Nalthis, you cannot take Breaths from people, you can only retrieve them from Type III Awakened Objects. If you give it to another person, that Breath is now theirs. If you use it to Awaken a Lifeless, a Type II Awakened Object, you cannot get the Breath back. Here is Vasher's explanation, from chapter 46:
 
 
 

Because of their organic host, their Breath clings to the body, and cannot be withdrawn once Invested.

 
Yet only a few paragraphs later, he admits:
 
 
 

It's taken us centuries to discover the most efficient ways to bring a body to a Lifeless state. Even now, we're not sure if we understand how it works.

 
I typically refrain from contradicting an in-world expert, and in my personal estimation, Vasher is in the Top Three experts in his personal Arcanum, alongside Shai and Silence. However, his own admission that there's a lot he doesn't understand leads me to humbly suggest that there might be a more elegant, simpler solution.
 
We've got a few Words of Brandon on the subject.
 
 
 

The reason that you can't draw the Breath back from a Lifeless is because the Breath clings to it. If the Lifeless were sentient enough, it could give up its own Breath, but you can't take it, just like you can't take a Breath from a person by force. You have to get them to give it up willingly. So it sticks to the Lifeless.

 
source
 
I know I've also read WoB that Lifeless are a lot less mindless than people suspect, I know it's lightly reference in the annotation to chapter 57.
 

Jewels, on the other hand, is taking Arsteel (Clod) to his brother, who is a master of Lifeless Commands. (Yesteel invented ichor-alcohol.) She hopes to find a way to restore to Arsteel some of his memories and personality.

 

EDIT: There's also this quote, provided by Kurkistan, that provides WoB support that Lifeless are more aware than people realize, from the annotations to chapter 47.

 


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.

 

Not hard-and-fast, I admit. Still, taken together, I have a theory that I think has some merit. The reason you cannot take a Breath back from a Lifeless is the same reason you cannot take it back from your neighbor; a Lifeless has enough Identity that the Breath becomes his. Mr. Sanderson even says, a Lifeless could give up its own Breath (if it were sentient enough).
 
This leads to feruchemy. An aluminum ferring can adapt their own identity in some way to hack access to the metalminds belonging to someone else. What if this same trick lets them do the same with Breath? Let's say an Awakener Awakens a rope to Grab Things, and it ties up a Trueself. Maybe the Trueself could do a trick with his own Identity, say "Your Breath to mine," and the rope would fall to the ground, while the Trueself would now have the Breath.
 
A further, and disturbing theory; what if he could do this with people? Walk through a crowd, taking the Breath from every shoulder he bumps against? Or what if he could remove the single Breath from Lifeless?
 
Of course, this is all flagrant speculation. As Vasher himself says, there could be something unique in a (quasi)-living human body that truly does "stick" stronger to Breath (this would explain why objects try to take on human form when they are Awakened).
 
I still like the idea of a Returned, with a hemalurgic spike for feruchemical aluminum, roaming the world, stealing the Breath a week he needs to survive.

 

EDIT: Formatting

 

EDIT2: Added an additional quote.

Edited by Outis
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More on Arsteel, though it seems he's a special case. And that other link I showed you.

 

I'll port over my thoughts on the theory shortly.

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Additional thought: What if this aluminum hack doesn't change the "ownership" of the Breath? If Awakener Andy Awakens a rope to Hold when Thrown, and Throws it at Trueself Tim, and then Tim does his trick to steal the Breath... what if it still thinks of itself as Andy's Breath? Tim could awaken a shirt to "be as my arms and give me strength", but if Andy grabs the sleeve, maybe he could say "Your Breath to mine" and take the Breath back, because the moment of one person willingly giving their Breath to another person never happened, meaning Andy is still the "owner" of the Breath?

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I'm of the opinion that Feruchemical aluminum (hope you're reading this, Chaos :P) could let you steal Breath from Awakened inanimate objects. As Outis and I were discussing on another forum, though, I'm a bit on the fence about being able to steal from people/lifeless.
 
It essentially comes down to how you read this "clinging" and "sticking" that Brandon talks about in the WoB above.

 

One way to read it is that, when you normally Awaken a Lifeless, the Awakener still has a "hook" on the Breath he put in: he can magically try to get the Breath back, but he just won't succeed because the Lifeless is holding on too hard. So while two different Awakeners (one the one who made the Lifeless and the other a random person) trying to get the Breath back will result in the same thing (failure), something a bit different is happening Realmatically to explain their failure. Joe random can't get the Breath because he doesn't have any claim to it, any way to get "at it". The original Awakener has that claim, but can't enforce it.

 

Another way (that Outis is taking) is that giving a Breath to a Lifeless transfers "ownership" in exactly the same way as giving it to a living person. It just becomes theirs, no strings attached. This reading has an embedded assumption that the process of transferring Breath to a living person immediately wipes out all your "rights" to that Breath, including your ability to take it back.

 

---

 

This second reading is somewhat cleaner in that it doesn't have to account for a difference in mechanism between giving/taking Breath to/from people and to/from Lifeless. It also doesn't have to posit some mechanism to stop a scenario by which Ace the Awakener borrows Bob's Breath, uses it to Awaken a strawman, and then Bob steals the Breath back. The first reading has to find some way for living people to wipe historical "admin rights" by the time they use that Breath for Awakening (but it seems that it can't be the moment they receive the Breath, quite critically).

 

-------

 

On second thought, though, I might have to insist that we examine the possibility of living people's acquisition of Breath being slightly different from that of Lifeless. The Breath that goes into a Lifeless isn't really given to them in the same way that "My Breath become yours" gives people Breath: It's not just incorporated into their soul like it is with people, but instead goes to driving around their body and enforcing their orders and the like. This seems a less intimate bond than the one that Breath has to living people, so perhaps under that understanding we can just say that Breath given to living people is full-on wiped (so the Breath-giver can never even try to get it back) while Lifeless Breath still has some strings attached because it's not given in the same free sense.

 

------

 

Okay, that's most of my random thoughts spilled out here. I'll give it a break for a moment and let it stew.

 

@Outis' second post:

 

I... don't think so. It seems that your general model requires that the act of acquiring a Breath "wipe" it, so the moment that Breath gets incorporated into Tim it's going to be his. Just like if Andy had given it over directly.

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But, by the theory we jointly share of lock and key (basically, the Breath says, are you Andy? and Tim says, well I'm not not Andy, and the Breath says, okay!) there's something funky going on with Tim's Identity at the time. Who then gets admin rights on the Breath? If Tim tried to stamp his admin rights, wouldn't the Breath be like... wait, you're not Andy! Does Tim take the Breath, then re-assert his own natural Identity, and at this point it overwrites Andy's "stamp", only because it now can't go back?

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That last sentence, I think. So once Tim stops being weird with Feruchemical aluminum the Breath really doesn't have a choice but to be incorporated normally. Where else is it supposed to go? Back a hundred miles to where Andy is? A thousand to where the original Awakened object is once Tim stops using his power?

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Why not? Investiture loves trumping relativity anyway. I like the idea of Trueself Tim giving a command "become like my arms and move as they do" but the object mimics Andy's arms instead because Tim must ghost his identity just to use. Even if Tim is now back on Scadrial. Have it perform sign language and you have quantum communication.

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I read The Emperor's Soul the other day (short book; very very good), and I think it explains a great deal about this.

 

While an Aluminium Ferring Could change their identity to match someone elses, they would first have to know what that other person's identity is. They would essentially have to know that person inside and out--or at least be very, very familiar with them--to even have a chance of making the copy accurate enough to fool Breath.

 

Even then, it would take a great deal of time and tinkering:

Thinking of Identity the same way as we think of Memory (Feruchemical copper), the ferring would have to store up different parts of their own personality (diminishing them), at the same time as they drew in other parts of their own personality (amplifying them) that they had stored previously.

 

The very possibility is staggering in its implications, but it also shows that

A further, and disturbing theory; what if he could do this with people? Walk through a crowd, taking the Breath from every shoulder he bumps against?

is somewhat beyond the realm of possibility. You just wouldn't know enough about those other people to mimic them correctly, and thereby steal their breath.

{(Theoretically, f-duralium combine with a-malatium could help with that)}

 

on the other hand:

Or what if he could remove the single Breath from Lifeless?

this one is probably possible, given research, and the probability that the strength of a Lifeless's identity is probably weaker than that of a living human.

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While an Aluminium Ferring Could change their identity to match someone elses, they would first have to know what that other person's identity is. They would essentially have to know that person inside and out--or at least be very, very familiar with them--to even have a chance of making the copy accurate enough to fool Breath.

 

Aluminum Feruchemy is about storing and tapping your own identity. I doubt they can change to match someone else's identity.

 

(Note: rampant speculation.) For the proposed metalmind-tapping mechanic, I'd argue that the issue is that identity repels identity. Make yourself have no identity, and there's no resistance when you attempt to take someone else's Breath. When you Awaken something, you give it a little bit of you. "This Awakened rope is Moogle's!" for example is something that the rope thinks. When someone else tries to steal that Breath, their identity and the identity stored in the Breath clash and they repel and the Command doesn't work. But if you have no Identity, the Breath is a-okay. (Just make sure you use the Breath you stole before you stop tapping from your metalminds, or else you'll eject it from you.)

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While an Aluminium Ferring Could change their identity to match someone elses, they would first have to know what that other person's identity is. They would essentially have to know that person inside and out--or at least be very, very familiar with them--to even have a chance of making the copy accurate enough to fool Breath.

 

Sorry, I hadn't addressed the underlying theory.

 

Also, I'm sure someone is about to follow me up by providing you a link to the larger discussion; I'll just hand you the tl;dr version now.

 

First, your theory is very valid. The truth is, we have absolutely no idea how it works. We have literally only two scraps of information, a quote from Brandon in the MAG, and a question Kurk asked him once, and the literal only scrap of hard information we get out of either of them is, "yes, it's possible." So perhaps your idea is right, and you have to mess around with your own identity in a very specific way until you can use that person's Breath. But there is an alternate theory.

 

The idea is, Breath doesn't say, "Only Andy can use me." The theory goes, "No one who isn't Andy can use me." In this model, Tim doesn't have to make his Identity look exactly like Andy, he just has to lower his own Identity until he's essentially no-one. (Obviously this can open a whole host of other issues).

 

A lot of us go with this version of the theory for now, and I'm admittedly basing my speculation on this theory. Also, a few people take Mr. Sanderson's answer to Kurk's question as strong evidence to support the theory; personally, I don't see it as anything more than confirmation of the original quote, but you can read it yourself and decide what you think it says.

 

At the end of the day, however, the one concrete WoB we have (as I cited in the original post) is that doing it with metalminds is definitely possible. I propose that it's not too big a leap to consider it might possibly also be done with Breath.

 

I like the idea of Trueself Tim giving a command "become like my arms and move as they do" but the object mimics Andy's arms instead.

 

Interesting theory... since Commands require a firm, and specific Intention, I assume that as long a Tim meant his own arms, they would mimic his own arms, regardless of who owned the Breath. If they can only mimic the arms of the person they "belong" to, I imagine the Command would simply fail, as it didn't match its Intent.

You raise interesting points, however. Breath Spanreeds might be a thing. Could you Awaken two brushes with some Command like, "Upon call, draw what the other has drawn"? They never really talk about Spanreeds as though there's a distance limit. Would they work on different planets?

 

 

So once Tim stops being weird with Feruchemical aluminum the Breath really doesn't have a choice but to be incorporated normally.

 

So now it seems there are two different theories. You think that these "admin rights" are being constantly asserted, that the instant Tim restores his own Identity, the Breath either has to accept that, or be ejected from his body.

 

An alternate theory is the idea like a beehive. The entrance to the beehive is guarded strongly. You cannot get in if you don't have business there. But the entrance is the only place that it's checked. Wasps have learned to sneak in through the back somewhere, and the bees inside just let him wander around. By this theory, the Breath will sit quietly in your system, not caring that you don't match its Identity. It's like being smuggled into the country. You should have gotten your passport stamped, but you didn't, and the police aren't going to swarm you the instant you step out of hiding. By this theory, Tim will prolly have to repeat his trick any time he wants to Awaken something or get the Breath back from that (in the example, the smuggler have to put their disguises back on if they go to the cops or leave the country again) but he won't have to keep it up constantly.

 

I truthfully do not know which is more likely to be correct. I feel like the second is more narratively interesting, since it means stealing someone's Breath gives that person the chance to take it back from you, but I can't think of a Realmatic reason one might be more "likely" than the other. Can we think of a different Arcanum that operates under similar principles?

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I shall not allow you to make "Aracanum" a thing, Outis. :P
 
The beehive idea is interesting, and I could see a magic system that works in that way, but I'm not leaning towards it for this case.
 
The question, really, is where the Breath "is" when it's in Tim. If you give him 50 stolen Breath is it going to boost him to the First Heightening and give him a nice pretty aura? If so, the Breath seems like it's been thoroughly incorporated: like if the wasp turned yellow and started making honey. If not, then the question is where the Breath "is" in Tim.
 
EDIT: Oops, missed some implicit "Kurkistan, save us from our lack of citations!" lines. ;)
 
Hmm. I can't find the root for the whole key-lock theory for Feruchemical access. I'd thought it was a tangent on this thread, but a glance makes it look like we headed elsewhere. To recap what I can recall, a lot of this came out of the discussion about how Feruchemical aluminum likely worked as well as taking into account the ability of Hemalurgists to access their victim's metalminds. The "you just store all your Identity" conclusion came quite naturally from those, IIRC.
 
Also, spanreeds do have some distance limitations.
 

“Proximity is a problem right now,” [Navani] said. “The farther the pairs grow from one another, the weaker their interaction, and that causes them to crack more easily. You don’t see it with something light like a spanreed, but when working with heavy weights . . . Well, we can probably get them working on the Shattered Plains..."

Edited by Kurkistan
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Arcanum is totally a thing. I AM MAKING FETCH HAPPEN.

 

Our theory has schismed on the nature of "admin privileges." I think your theory that the Heightenings prove that the Breaths constantly require admin privileges to be updated... well, it certainly looks plausible. I think it's one potential valid option. I just think my theory is equally valid, with the paucity of hard data on the subject. I suggest that for now we each agree to let the other believe as he wishes, until such time as we have more evidence to back up our theory.

 

Additional potential creepiness of such an Awakener/Trueself... stealing the Divine Breath from a Returned. Not only do you get one, huge powerful Breath, you just killed a God.

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I'll agree on "we now must wait". Still, it was good to explore the idea a bit and have it down on "paper" so that we (or at least one of us, hopefully) can gloat a few years down the line. :)

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