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Theory: BioChromatic Investiture Weakening

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The main gist of this theory was started by Tempus in my "Self-Awakening" thread, but I've decided to expand on it a little bit. My interpretation is slightly different from his, but he was the one who thought of the basic idea first.
 
On two separate occasions, we see that Nalthians who are about to die have a "flickering" or "pulsing" Breath:
 

Quote

"This is my child, Halan," the woman said, holding out the baby. As it got close enough to Lightsong's aura, the blanket burst with a sharp blue color two and half steps from pure. He could easily see that the child was suffering from a terrible sickness. It had lost so much weight that its skin was shriveled. The baby's Breath was so weak that it flickered like a candle running out of wick. It would be dead before the day was out. Perhaps before the hour was out.

 

Quote

Suddenly, Lemex shuddered, and a wave of color washed across the bed, over Vivenna, and pulsed along the floor before fading. Despite herself, Vivenna stepped back in shock.
Another pulse came. It wasn't color itself. It was a wave of enhanced color--a ripple that made the hues in the room stand out more as it passed.
The floor, the sheets, her own dress--it all flared to vibrant vividness for a second, then faded back to the original hues.
"What in Austre's name was that?" Vivenna asked.
"BioChromatic Breath, Princess," Denth said as he stood, leaning against the doorframe. "Old Lemex has a lot of it. Couple hundred Breaths, I'd guess."
...
Another wave of color came from Lemex.
"He's dying, Princess," Denth said. "His Breath is going irregular."
...
"If he dies," Denth said, "that Breath dies with him. All of it."

 

 

Lightsong describes this flickering as the Breath getting weak. Tempus interprets this as the Breath becoming sub-divided, losing part of itself.
 

On 6/28/2014 at 3:35 PM, Tempus said:

My notes on this are super sparse. I have a suspicion that self-awakening consumes Breath, similar to a Returned. We see Breath flickering in another place - when a baby is dying of sickness, Lightsong is able to see its Breath flicker. Though you left it out of your quote, Vivenna notes that it seems as if the child loses a part of her Breath (not even a full Breath).

 

While I agree that this flickering phenomenon has something to do with the Returned's weekly Breath requirement (and I applaud Tempus for that breakthrough), I don't think Breath is being subdivided at all.

 

Let us go back to Lemex's pre-death Breath-pulsing. If the pulsing is due to the dwindling of Breath, then he should have had less Breath to give away in the end. And yet we don't see any indication that the amount of Breaths Vivenna received was any less compared to what Lemex supposedly had.

 

If that doesn't convince you, then let us now look at what a typical Halladrien god experiences on his feast day, when he is in danger of dying unless he receives a new Breath:

 

Quote

[Lightsong] groaned softly, unable to sleep any longer. He rolled over, feeling weak as he sat up in his majestic bed. Visions and memories pestered his mind, and he shook his head, trying to clear away the fog of sleep.

...
Standing made him just a bit dizzy. It was his feast day. He would lack strength until he ate.
Servants approached carrying brilliant red and gold robes. As they entered his aura, each servant--skin, hair, clothing, and garments--burst with exaggerated color. The saturated hues were far more resplendent than any dye or paint could produce. That was an effect of Lightsong's innate BioChroma: he had enough Breath to fill thousands of people.

 

 
 
If the weakness that Lightsong experiences every feast day is due to his Divine Breath steadily sub-dividing, why do we not get any indication that his aura was diminishing? In fact, he never even mentions any decrease in Heightening.
 
Now, you might say that the sub-dividing of Divine Breath is simply not enough to make a noticeable effect on his Heightening or his aura. But if the sub-Breath loss is that small, how does that explain his very noticeable weakness? And how does that explain how a single regular Breath from a normal child is enough to put him back to his full strength?
 
Here is my solution: There was no sub-dividing of Divine Breath going on. Lightsong's Divine Breath wasn't getting less itself. What is getting less is the strength of the bond between the Divine Breath and Lightsong.
 
In other words, the Breath inside a dying person behaves erratically because it is starting to weaken its grip from his body.
 
Words of Radiance spoilers:
 

Taravangian tells us that the soul of a dying person starts to "break apart from" his body even before the actual moment of death. This is what allows Moelach to cause the Death Rattles. I think it's likely that the Realmatic mechanics of natural death is similar across the Cosmere, so Breath going irregular is likely a result of the same "breaking apart" process.

 
So, to tie this back to the topic of "Self-Awakening" (or "Manifestation of Self-Transformation in a BioChromatic Host" :P), it seems that using BioChromatic Investiture on yourself tugs at your Breath. Do this often enough, or with enough Power, and your Breath will be pulled completely off from your body.
 
I think the reason the Returned can't hold on to a Breath for long is because they are (unconsciously) performing a constant self-transformation on themselves. Now, the Divine Breath (being a Splinter of significant power) is probably strong enough to withstand the pulling force experienced during this self-transformation to some extent. But after a week of this going on, even the strength of the Divine Breath will not be enough. It will start separating from the Returned's body.
 
I can think of two ways to prevent this. One is to make the Returned pause his self-transformation somehow (more on that later). Another is to receive a regular Breath, which will be used for a second type of self-transformation, one with the Intent of bringing the Divine Breath's bond back to full strength. This re-bonding self-transformation effect will of course tug at the regular Breath, causing it to be pulled away.
 
This is why a Returned will need at least two Breaths per week to actually grow his Investiture; because one Breath will have to be expended ("consumed") each week just to keep the Divine Breath bonded to the Returned.
 

 
Now, let's go to some half-serious, crazy speculation.
 
*start of half-serious, crazy speculation*
 
I mentioned above that a Returned can also prevent losing his Divine Breath and dying by simply pausing his self-transformation. If you think a Returned couldn't function without the constant self-transformation he's unconsciously performing, you'd be correct. Doing what I suggest would make a Returned's movements very, very limited.
 
But how do we go about doing this? A Returned can't just stop his self-transformation on his own. Heck, the Five Scholars were able to suppress their Divine Breath, but were still incapable of completely stopping its activity (notice how Vasher's hair doesn't grow even in his "suppressed" state).
 
The solution is actually pretty simple. As a matter of fact, we have seen a Splinter-level BioChromatic manifestation that could transform himself (turning himself into a very angry weapon of mass destruction), but whose self-transformation and Breath-consumption is often held at bay:
 
Quote
"...Returned have a single, powerful Breath. One that takes them all the way to the Fifth Heightening. It's a divine Breath, you might say. But their body feeds on Breath, like . . ."
"The sword."
Vasher nodded. "Nightblood only needs it when he's drawn..."

 

 

Simply put, Nightblood doesn't need Breath as long as he is locked inside his metallic sheath with its latch on, during which he's not nearly as insane or powerful as when his sheath is unlatched and when he is drawn.

 

Now we know what to do: Lock the Returned inside metallic coffins until they are needed! :P

 

*end of half-serious, crazy speculation*

 


 

So, why does self-transformation tug at one's own BioChromatic Investiture? I suspect it has something to do with the Intent of Endowment. Self-transformation is obviously something allowed by the Investiture interactions on Nalthis, but using power for yourself is contrary to the purpose of giving something away (i.e. endowment).

 

I think this is why the most stable forms of BioChromatic Investiture are those where Breath is only given to some object to animate it. I think Endowment has intentionally made it so that people accessing BioChromatic power through her system will have to pay a penalty for using the power for themselves, and that penalty is the weakening of their bond to their Breath.

 

Not that it's always wrong to use power for yourself. Sometimes it's even necessary. After all, Endowment herself is the one responsible for the existence of Returned, who are the epitome of self-transforming Investiture on Nalthis. But even the Returned were meant to give their Divine Breath away.

 

Their Divine Breath is an endowment, but not really for themselves, who are essentially already dead. Their Divine Breath is an endowment for the living.

 

Steelheart spoilers:

 

Am I the only one reminded of the difference between Gifter and non-Gifter Epics in the Reckoners universe? Gifters are able to control themselves more than non-Gifters, who tend to become evil. I know it's not Cosmere, but the first book of the Reckoners has been known to recycle some stuff from the Cosmere stories (though usually critics only point out the similarities with Mistborn).

 

I don't know if Brandon is intentionally giving away Cosmere clues in his non-Cosmere novels, or if certain moral lessons (e.g. the value of selflessness over selfishness) are just very important to him. What do you guys think?

Edited by skaa
Endowment is a she
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I'm pretty much onboard with everything here, even the crazy theory stuff. Except you misquoted me due to context =P. The argument came out the same in the end, so it's all good! That said, I think we can refine this further.

 

We've got a few separate phenomena to note here.

 

Death

  • When the sick child is dying, their single Breath is noted to flicker by an individual with the 5th.
  • When Lemex dies, his several hundred Breaths are noted to pulse outwards in wide waves, visible to anyone.
  • When a Returned dies from losing their Divine Breath, they are drained of colour, the recipient is healed, and the Divine Breath dissipates
  • Vasher notes that very rarely, dying people exhibit a flare of brightness from their BioChromatic Aura.
  • When a Returned or person dies in every other case (of which there are many), no notable Biochromatic effect takes place.

Self-Awakening

  • During the only clear case of this, a single Breath person accomplishes, and their Breath flickers. Memory loss occurs.

Breath Consumption

  • Returned consume one Breath a week, as a discrete unit, and it will choose their Divine Breath last. Returned are weak directly prior to the event of consuming a Breath, unknown if this persists when they have multiple Breaths than the Divine. Returned have colour.
  • Gifting a Divine Breath will consume it.
  • Nightblood will consume Breath in discrete units extremely quickly when wielded. Sheathing him in his silver (!!) sheath prevents this from occurring. He will also drain colour as he consumes Breath, first to grey, then to black. Effect seems to be dependent on proximity to the blade, and black smoke will appear during this consumption
  • Notable here is that Lifeless, while they are also Awakened dead people, are drained of colour. Objects or people with Breath in them cannot be colour drained (except by Nightblood).

Other notable Realmatic Effects that don't fit

  • Gifting a Divine Breath heals the recipient, despite having the same verbal Command as gifting regular Breath.
  • Returned have memory loss upon Returning.
  • Awakening with a Divine Breath does not count as consuming it, despite it having left your body.
  • Returned can alter their appearance - instinctively at first, and by choice with much mental training. This takes no apparent Command, and consumes no colour or Breath.
  • Nightblood has a Biochromatic aura of a different nature from the norm.


 

What a muddle. I'm getting too tired to think, haha. Notable though - Self-Awakening causes a flicker. Returned do not flicker. Dying does cause flickering. Dying can also cause flaring, or pulsing - those two may be the same (though they are described differently), but they are clearly different from flickering. Violent deaths do not seem to have a flicker, or a pulse.

 

Lemex's pulsing emits strong colours, we're unclear if the Breath itself is weakening or dissipating - we simply have no way to tell. However, Vasher is quite capable of subduing or strengthening his aura without diminishing it. It's unclear if this is because of an Awakening, or related to his physical changes. When he does, though, the Aura grants him the powers of the Heightenings - the Breath does not.

 

 

Possibilities:

 

  • All Breath bonds to the body. When the body begins to die, the bond weakens, causing flickering.
  • Breath has a sliding scale built into it - pushing the scale one direction cause a greater Biochromatic Aura (and the Heightenings), pushing it the other does... I'm not sure.
  • When Lemex is dying, when he refuses to give up the Breaths, is when the pulses begin. They stop when he recognizes Vivenna, and he pushes to give up his Breaths. At this point, his Aura is flaring, but not pulsing. Prior to the pulsing, when he was despondent/unresponsive, no significant aura was noted. It's possible the intentions a of person for the use of the Breath allow control of the Aura.
  • Divine Breath bonds too, but is fundamentally different. Divine Breath is designed to Heal - it is constantly sustaining a corpse. It is also designed to consume itself to do so - Lifeless corpses heal themselves and are sustained by Breath, but it is not consumed, even after eons. Adding a Breath prevents this. This implies that the weakness Lightsong feels is not because he needs to consume a Breath at all. It's because his body is becoming weak naturally, and the Divine Breath will soon activate in order to heal him. Upon healing, it consumes, upon consuming itself, the tie to the body disappears. Basically, consumption is only required for healing.
  • Silver is neat - it contains Nightblood like Shades, though it doesn't seem be crumble to dust when it does so. Veeeeery interesting.
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Holy crap! I totally forgot that Nightblood's sheath is made of silver! *tries to upvotes Tempus more than once*

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Do we know for sure that Nightblood's sheath is silver?

Sorry, kinda off-topic here.
We know aluminum has weird effects on magic in the Cosmere, could the sheath be made out of aluminum, instead of silver?

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Do we know for sure that Nightblood's sheath is silver?

Sorry, kinda off-topic here.

We know aluminum has weird effects on magic in the Cosmere, could the sheath be made out of aluminum, instead of silver?

 

Nightblood's sheath was described on multiple occasions as being "silver", not "silvery", "silver-like", or anything that might make it more ambiguous. Here's just one example from chapter fifty-five:

 

They halted. To a man, they looked down at the sword as it rolled free of the blanket, silver sheath glistening on the lawn. Well, I guess this works too, Nightblood noted, voice feeling distant now.

 

Edited by skaa
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Lemex's pulsing emits strong colours, we're unclear if the Breath itself is weakening or dissipating - we simply have no way to tell. However, Vasher is quite capable of subduing or strengthening his aura without diminishing it. It's unclear if this is because of an Awakening, or related to his physical changes. When he does, though, the Aura grants him the powers of the Heightenings - the Breath does not.

 

Two thoughts to add.

 

First, we have one instance where Lightsong's aura gets stronger in response to emotion. I'm not sure where you want to put this on the scale of pulse, flicker, or flare.

 

"Leave me be!" he shouted, towering over them. Colors in the room flared brighter in response to his emotion, and the servants backed down, confused, stumbling back out into the petition hall and pulling the door closed.

Page 302 in my Nook edition

 

Second, recall that Vasher can ONLY suppress his Divine Breath. When he gains his Aura from Vahr's Breaths, he projects the aura, even though he clearly states it is an inconvenience; presumably, if he had the capacity to suppress it, he would do so.

 

The attention was unavoidable. Though Vasher still dressed in his usual outfit - ragged trousers, well-worn cloak despite the heat, a rope wrapped several times around his waist for a belt - he now caused colors to brighten dramatically when he was near. The change would be noticeable to normal people and blatantly obvious to those of the first Heightening.

His days of being able to hide and skulk were gone. He'd have to grow accustomed to being noticed again.

 

Page 135 in my Nook edition

 

Just some random thoughts to add to your mix. I'm not sure what I think about these theories as a whole, or if I agree. Just wanted to add more data.

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Outis - I'm gonna take that Vasher bit as general exposition. Even if he couldn't control the Aura of regular Breaths mentally, he could simply store them all into his clothes to remove them. And he does in fact do so. If you read the whole chapter, though, the quote there has more to do with his casual use of Awakening than the Aura alone. I'm going to have to say that the quote isn't significant as proof that regular Breath cannot be suppressed.

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I'm going to have to say that the quote isn't significant as proof that regular Breath cannot be suppressed.

 

We've still got several other instances of people, Denth among them, "storing" Breath in clothing when choosing to suppress it would be much easier. With enough emotional control (or possibly by storing in a duraluminmind) you might be able to dampen the aura, the way strong emotions seems to increase it, but I really suspect that since we see two of the three greatest living scholars on BioChroma choose not to "suppress" their Breath when they would have every reason to, we can say with a measure of confidence that no one alive knows how to do it.

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but I really suspect that since we see two of the three greatest living scholars on BioChroma choose not to "suppress" their Breath when they would have every reason to, we can say with a measure of confidence that no one alive knows how to do it.

 

WoR:

Hoid manages it, though. He's got at least 100 Breaths and when he's talking to Kaladin about his perfect pitch, Kaladin doesn't note that colors have changed around him.

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Not proof.

 

We know thirty is the bare minimum required before the naked eye has even a chance to distinguish it; 100 Breath is barely more than three quanta of "might possibly be noticed." With Kaladin having literally no idea what he is looking for, it's well within the bounds of reason that he'd simply not notice. Vasher had half that when he was thrown into jail in the prologue, and the guards, who are from Nalthis and were guarding an actual Awakener, didn't notice the aura.

 

Beyond which, we know Hoid has both access to multiple magic systems, including Lightweaving, and a tendency to change his appearance drastically and frequently. Between these three facts, balance of probability puts Hoid as a statistical outlier.

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Moogle brings up an interesting issue, though. Do we even know if people without Breath can detect the presence of auras? I mean, aside from those with Investiture-detection abilities (e.g. Bronze Allomancers, etc.).

Edited by skaa
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Yes. An aura isn't something you sense, it is a distortion on the color around you. Anyone can see it, even a Drab. It may be caused by Investiture, but it remains a physical effect upon the world.

A little like how anyone could see Shallan glow. Also, Kaladin is no Drab. Any non-Nalthian is automatically at one ungivable Breath.

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WoR:

Hoid manages it, though. He's got at least 100 Breaths and when he's talking to Kaladin about his perfect pitch, Kaladin doesn't note that colors have changed around him.

 

Hoid's a Feruchemist too, but I think an easier explanation could be the "weird factor". Sometimes the human brain doesn't notice something that seems slightly out of the ordinary.

That is, 100 Breaths or however many Hoid has changing the Aura around him slightly. He might seem to "stand out" more because of it, but since Kaladin/Rosharans don't know about Breath, they wouldn't attribute this "standing out" more to the aura produced by Breath. It's simple psychology; sometimes the reason someone doesn't notice the police box on the corner is it doesn't quite fit. Their minds skip over the weird...and I just made a metaphor using the TARDIS. Great.

 

Now, onto more important things!

 

Or wait, no, I should go to bed. I can't think straight past midnight.

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Still WOR

Hoid has Perfect Pitch, meaning at least the Second Heightening, which is 200 Breaths. By Contrast, Treledees has, according to the annotations, at least 600 Breaths and the Third Heightening. Despite this, Siri, who has lived in the palace for months, dealt with Treledees time after time, is married to a man with the most powerful BioChromatic aura known to man, and knows what the color change means, never realized he had much Breath. It isn't until the chapter where she has to control her hair color around him that she glances at the grass around him and detects that the colors are, actually, more vibrant.

 

I have no idea how many Breaths you need until it's "in your face" obvious that this person is affecting the colors around him, but that number is clearly higher than 600. It isn't surprising that Hoid's 200 Breaths aren't noticeable to someone who doesn't even know that there's something to look for.

 

The other information I've managed to gather affects the Returned specifically, so it's unclear if it's the result of their special Divine Breath, or if it's something that would happen to anyone with 2000 Breaths, but a God's aura is obviously noticeable, and it's stated to extend 30 feet.

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Still WOR

Hoid has Perfect Pitch, meaning at least the Second Heightening, which is 200 Breaths. By Contrast, Treledees has, according to the annotations, at least 600 Breaths and the Third Heightening. Despite this, Siri, who has lived in the palace for months, dealt with Treledees time after time, is married to a man with the most powerful BioChromatic aura known to man, and knows what the color change means, never realized he had much Breath. It isn't until the chapter where she has to control her hair color around him that she glances at the grass around him and detects that the colors are, actually, more vibrant.

 

I have no idea how many Breaths you need until it's "in your face" obvious that this person is affecting the colors around him, but that number is clearly higher than 600. It isn't surprising that Hoid's 200 Breaths aren't noticeable to someone who doesn't even know that there's something to look for.

 

The other information I've managed to gather affects the Returned specifically, so it's unclear if it's the result of their special Divine Breath, or if it's something that would happen to anyone with 2000 Breaths, but a God's aura is obviously noticeable, and it's stated to extend 30 feet.

 

The thing to note is that Hoid has at least the Second Heightening. Why would he stop at the Second Heightening? The most obvious use of Breath is to get the Fifth Heightening for immortality (something Hoid seems to have), and I see no reason why Hoid would want to bother with anything less than the Fourth Heightening for Perfect Life Recognition (which is useful for someone in Hoid's position).  Hoid is clever enough that I doubt that gathering the money required would be hard to get more Breaths. Unless he has no way to hide the Breath aura and purposefully keeps his Breath to a low limit...

 

It would also not surprise me if he had somehow gotten his hands on a Divine Breath.

 

This is very difficult to speculate on. Hoid could have lots of Breath and be hiding his aura via some shenanigans we're not aware of (burning copper seems plausible). He could have so little Breath that the colors around him don't change.

 

Siri barely ever studied Treledees from my understanding. She was always in awkward positions, like in the middle of a bath, so she never really got a good look until that one day in the palace when she learned how he could tell what she was feeling. When Dalinar thinks Hoid is a Herald, and really looks at him, Dalinar doesn't notice anything. And maybe he shouldn't, because he's not from Nalthis and isn't liable to specifically look for color changes... but it still seems like Brandon is missing out on Hoid's descriptions. No character ever remarks something along the lines of "it almost seemed like the room brightened when Wit came in".

 

I find this an interesting topic to think about. I'll keep an eye on Wit during my reread.

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The thing to note is that Hoid has at least the Second Heightening. Why would he stop at the Second Heightening?

 

...

 

Siri barely ever studied Treledees from my understanding. She was always in awkward positions, like in the middle of a bath, so she never really got a good look until that one day in the palace when she learned how he could tell what she was feeling.

 

There are two answers to your question, and you sort of address both of them. First, it actually is possible Hoid does not possess that much money. He's clever, but also very, very busy, what with his personal self-appointed quest to do what he feels will save the world. He might not have the luxury to amass wealth. As you mentioned, he already seems to have some form of immortality, so the Fifth Heightening is useless to him. As for why he'd want the rest... he's a musician. Perfect Pitch really might be all he was after. And lastly, perhaps he doesn't get more Breath for the specific reason you mentioned; more Breath would be more noticeable.

 

I will re-read the part with Dalinar, but I don't think it's unreasonable that he wouldn't have noticed the change. First of all, it IS a change, so you have to see it changing in order to notice that it's a change. When Dalinar inspected Wit, he'd look at his face, his eyes, his clothing... all things that are within his Aura and going to remain so. What exactly is he going to notice? That they are a lovely shade? The colors brought out by BioChromatic aura aren't objectively different from other colors, they change as they enter or leave the aura. Unless Dalinar thought to look down at Wit's feet, and see that two inches from his foot the floor was suddenly a very subtle different shade, there wasn't anything for him to find.

 

Lastly, you are confusing Bluefingers with Treledees. Bluefingers was the fellow at the bath that was avoiding Siri. She dealt far more frequently, both in text and in implied off-screen interactions, with Treledees, who wasn't trying to avoid her as part of a plot to take over the world. As near as I know, Bluefingers has only the typical one Breath. Her talk with Treledees outside of the palace was absolutely not the first time she got a good look at him.

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I will re-read the part with Dalinar, but I don't think it's unreasonable that he wouldn't have noticed the change. First of all, it IS a change, so you have to see it changing in order to notice that it's a change. When Dalinar inspected Wit, he'd look at his face, his eyes, his clothing... all things that are within his Aura and going to remain so. What exactly is he going to notice? That they are a lovely shade? The colors brought out by BioChromatic aura aren't objectively different from other colors, they change as they enter or leave the aura. Unless Dalinar thought to look down at Wit's feet, and see that two inches from his foot the floor was suddenly a very subtle different shade, there wasn't anything for him to find.

 

Lastly, you are confusing Bluefingers with Treledees. Bluefingers was the fellow at the bath that was avoiding Siri. She dealt far more frequently, both in text and in implied off-screen interactions, with Treledees, who wasn't trying to avoid her as part of a plot to take over the world. As near as I know, Bluefingers has only the typical one Breath. Her talk with Treledees outside of the palace was absolutely not the first time she got a good look at him.

 

What he's going to notice is that Wit's skin color and eye color are a shade off, or too bright. From the prologue:

Vasher stopped, Awakened cloak rustling. It was easy to locate the cell he wanted, for around it a large patch of stone had been drained of color, leaving both walls and doors a dull grey. It was a place to imprison an Awakener, for no color meant no Awakening. Vasher stepped up to the door, looking through the bars. A man hung by his arms from the ceiling, naked and chained. His color was vibrant to Vasher’s eyes, his skin a pure tan, his bruises brilliant splashes of blue and violet.

 

Hoid's skin should similar be similarly affected. Though, I grant that some of Vahr's changes were likely due to to the fact that Vasher himself had some 25 Breath at the time and so his own color perceptions were more intense.

 

As to Hoid's immortality, I've been thinking for quite some time that Hoid is immortal because he has Breath. It's the system in the Cosmere that most-obviously leads to immortality. Now that we know Hoid is a Feruchemist+Allomancer, there's that option too though, and I've speculated that Investiture in general slows aging. But when you have enough Investiture to be immortal or slow-aging, you tend to glow - something Wit does not do.

 

And yes, you're right on my confusion of Bluefingers and Treledees. Thank you for the correction.

Edited by Moogle
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What he's going to notice is that Wit's skin color and eye color are a shade off, or too bright.

 

...

 

 

As to Hoid's immortality, I've been thinking for quite some time that Hoid is immortal because he has Breath.

 

Non-spoiler bits: Vahr had something in the neighborhood of a thousand Breaths. His aura, and the color change, would be great. That, combined with the current ~25 Breaths Vasher had, explain the color change. Even then, note how it's phrased: To Vasher's eyes.

 

Mistborn spoilers:

Remember the crimelord that Spook met with, the drummer? He was beating the ground with sticks. With Spook's enhanced senses, he could pick out that the melody was complex and perfect; literally everyone else on the street had no idea he was anything other than a guy with sticks.

 

A phenomenon can be perfect, but that doesn't mean people observing it see it that way. We know, thanks to science, that snowflakes are symmetrical and beautiful and unique; if you had never been told that and looked at a blizzard, your eyes wouldn't be able to pick out enough detail to notice. If Investiture showed up one day and made literally every snowflake in a given blizzard into the exact same shape... you, personally, just by looking at it with your eyes, wouldn't notice that.

 

WoR spoilers:

Suppose Wit's skin was a perfect, exact tan thanks to his aura. How was Dalinar gonna know? Dalinar doesn't have perfect color recognition. He's commander of a war camp. He sees hundreds of human faces every single day. They are all off by a couple of shades. If you lack perfect pitch, and someone plays a series of notes for you, and says, "One of these is exactly an A," you'll never be able to tell which one. You could pick out specific notes and listen to them as closely as  you want, but you will lack the capacity to objectively know which is which.

 

Vahr's skin is a perfect, exact tan... but without Breath of your own, there's no way to know. Just like the painting, the Battle of Twilight Falls. Someone with the Third Heightening made it. It was a masterpiece. And if you personally didn't already have the Third Heightening, all you saw were a bunch of red curves.

 

Even if I stipulate that Wit's Breath, at a mere fraction of Vahr's, was still enough to make his skin a perfect tan... no one on Roshar, except possibly Zahel, has the capacity to realize. It's like being the only man with a red shirt in a land of people with red-green colorblindness. Are you technically unique? Sure. Can anyone tell? Nope.

 

As for the second bit, about Hoid's immortality coming from Breath... I'll re-read the passage, but surely he implies as he tunes his instrument that his perfect pitch is relatively new? Also, I realize we're not entirely sure on how timelines work between worlds, but BioChroma was only discovered 500-600 years before the events of Warbreaker. If Hoid is older than that, it implies he went to Nalthis while still aging, before anyone there knew was Breath was, figured it all out himself, convinced 1,999 other people to give up their Breath to him and then keep the fact that this is a thing secret from literally everyone... I'm feeling that "he uses something else to stay immortal" is a simpler solution than this conjecture.

Edited by Outis
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Non-spoiler bits: Vahr had something in the neighborhood of a thousand Breaths. His aura, and the color change, would be great. That, combined with the current ~25 Breaths Vasher had, explain the color change. Even then, note how it's phrased: To Vasher's eyes.

 

Vasher only had ~25 Breaths though, not even the First Heightening. Perfect Color recognition isn't reached until 1000 Breaths. I do not believe that Vasher's appreciation of colors was all that much greater than a regular person's at that time. The phrasing of "to Vasher's eyes" is definitely suggestive, though.

 

WoR spoilers:

Suppose Wit's skin was a perfect, exact tan thanks to his aura. How was Dalinar gonna know? Dalinar doesn't have perfect color recognition. He's commander of a war camp. He sees hundreds of human faces every single day. They are all off by a couple of shades. If you lack perfect pitch, and someone plays a series of notes for you, and says, "One of these is exactly an A," you'll never be able to tell which one. You could pick out specific notes and listen to them as closely as  you want, but you will lack the capacity to objectively know which is which.

 

BioChromatic Breath doesn't make your colors 'perfect', it brightens them. Assuming you're using a HSB color system, it increases the B value. Hoid's skin isn't going to look like just anyone's elses, the color brightness should make him noticeably different in coloring compared to everyone else, at least on closer inspection. Unless I misunderstand how Warbreaker colors work. It's a very visual novel, but it's all words unfortunately. I hope for corrections on this point if I'm wrong.

 

Even if I stipulate that Wit's Breath, at a mere fraction of Vahr's, was still enough to make his skin a perfect tan... no one on Roshar, except possibly Zahel, has the capacity to realize. It's like being the only man with a red shirt in a land of people with red-green colorblindness. Are you technically unique? Sure. Can anyone tell? Nope.

 

As for the second bit, about Hoid's immortality coming from Breath... I'll re-read the passage, but surely he implies as he tunes his instrument that his perfect pitch is relatively new? Also, I realize we're not entirely sure on how timelines work between worlds, but BioChroma was only discovered 500-600 years before the events of Warbreaker. If Hoid is older than that, it implies he went to Nalthis while still aging, before anyone there knew was Breath was, figured it all out himself, convinced 1,999 other people to give up their Breath to him and then keep the fact that this is a thing secret from literally everyone... I'm feeling that "he uses something else to stay immortal" is a simpler solution than this conjecture.

 

This assumes Hoid was immortal before 500 years prior in the novels. Given he has white hair, I think it quite possible that after all the time dilation effects of Shadesmar were accounted for, he was ~80 or so biologically before ending up on Nalthis to pick up enough Breath to be officially immortal 500 years prior to TWoK (or 30 years, whatever). I'm not sure when Hoid received his Breath in summary.

 

To be clear: I don't know, but I think it's possible, that Hoid had no special anti-aging powers until "recently". WoBs say he's not lived all the years he's been alive for (referring to time dilation) and that he's older than a regular human biologically speaking.

 

Hoid's words regarding perfect pitch are:

Wit leaned down to tune his instrument, one leg crossed over the other. He hummed softly to himself and nodded. “Perfect pitch,” Wit said, “makes this all so much easier than it once was. . . .”

 

It might imply it was a recent acquisition, but if Hoid gained Breath around Vasher/Vivenna's time, it makes no sense for him to be saying this decades (?) later. He's been on Roshar for years minimum at this point, and definitely played his instrument repeatedly during that time (of note, during TWoK's epilogue). I don't think we can determine much at all from Hoid's complaint; if he's still saying it years later, he may well be saying it centuries later so it doesn't tell us all that much.

 

You're right though. Thinking on it, it does seems simpler to say that Hoid gained his long-livedness from some other magic system a long long while back. I doubt he spent thousands and thousands of years in dilated time.

 

As a final point: Shallan casually masks the Stormlight streaming from her skin with a simple Lightweaving. It seems like the sort of technique that Hoid could replicate with his own Lightweaving and BioChromatic aura (though I may be insane, since they seem to work on different principles). There's a lot of different ways that Hoid could possibly hide his aura, and I think he would be the type to get enough Breath to maximize his life sense if he was going to bother getting any at all. I remain very unsure on whether Hoid has just a little Breath or a great amount of it, and in fact very unsure of anything in general in this discussion.

Edited by Moogle
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