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Can you make your arm a lifeless?

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So if someone with a Shard Blade were to cut me at the shoulder so my right arm was made useless, exactly how dead would my arm be? Shard blades cut the soul right? So would my arm be dead enough to be able to make a lifeless out of it? Could I then command it to "work as I must" or some such Command? Or since I'm still alive does that stop the awakening from being possible?

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Intersting question.

I was going to write a long and elaborate answer about how it may be possible and what could be done with such an arm, but then another answer came to me: no, it is probably not possible, because an arm do not have a brain.

lifeless being able to obey commands is because they have brains that still work a bit. remember, a lifeless squirrel is less smart and can take less commands than a lifeless human. Then it just came to me it was possible to make lifeless out of bone. So it is probably possible. So I got back the long answer and will put that one too.

I think it would be difficult to make a lifeless out of an arm. it is said in the book that lifeless work so well because they have the body and shape of living things. an arm by itself is not something that lives on its own, so I would think it would not work as well as with a full body.

However, it should still be possible to do it, maybe spending more than one breath.

I don't think it would be possible to tie the arm back in place and just command it to act as your arm again. even vasher, with his awakened clothes, had to start the movement with his regular limbs before the tassels followed. on the other hand, it would probably be possible to order the arm to move in unison with the other arm. that would leave you able to make most tasks that do not require different movements with two arms. You could lift wheight, but not tie your shoes. With other commands you could impart other orders. for example, you could order the arm to fight for you as if it was your arm, or to coooperate with the other hand to tie your shoes. If you were a skilled awakener, I think you could do almost the same with an awakened arm than you do with the live one.

In fact, I'm picturing now awakeners cutting away their limbs, making them lifeless and binding them back in place, obtaining limbs as good as the ones they had before, but that never grew tired and felt no pain.

And now I just pictured some awakeners using lifeless limbs in more intimate activity; I will have to rinse my brain in acid to forget about it. Eww.

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Actually, Awakened bone is not "lifeless," it's just Awakened.

EDIT: Tell a lie! They can be Awakened, it just doesn't "stick."

My own pet theory is that some considerable amount of the Cognitive aspect of a Lifeless is retained (allowing complex commands). I doubt that the simple existence of a "brain" would be enough, since a dead, partially rotted brain full of alcohol is a dead, partially rotted brain full of alcohol and won't be of much use for anything but establishing a crude form for the Breath to latch onto.

TES Spoilers

It may be the case that the Cognitive aspect of a Lifeless recalls being alive and carrying out complex actions for various reasons, much like in Forging, while the Cognitive aspect of a rope needs a bit more coaxing to think that it's alive :P

Edited by Kurkistan
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I wonder if it might also be possible to "reconnect" the arm with breath, if you got to it soon enough.

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You probably can't make your arm a lifeless. It's strongly implies in the text that having the whole body, mostly intact, is what makes lifeless so effective. They wear out eventually from accumulated damage.

Or to put it another way: A complete body understands itself, and is understood by others, to be a person, and this probably persists somewhat after death. This makes them much easier to awaken, I'm guessing, and makes the resulting creature much more persistent, at least until the semblance of complete life can no longer be kept up. A severed arm, on the other hand, does not understand itself as a person, nor is it understood as a person. It can almost certainly be awakened relatively cheaply, but that's the term for it---it can be Awakened, and that's it.

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Isn't there an annotation or comment where Sanderson states that the reason Clod is such a good swordsman is that he remembers some of the original skill? That implies that there is at least some brain activity, unless you want to believe that something that intricate can be simple muscle memory. Also, the way he acts in parts of the book hints there is something more than just basic brain function.

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Isn't there an annotation or comment where Sanderson states that the reason Clod is such a good swordsman is that he remembers some of the original skill? That implies that there is at least some brain activity, unless you want to believe that something that intricate can be simple muscle memory. Also, the way he acts in parts of the book hints there is something more than just basic brain function.

The question is what "brain" means here. Clod's retention of "Arsteelness" almost certainly comes from something related to Cognitive aspects (or perhaps even Spiritual): a corpse pumped full of alcohol isn't going to have a very active brain no matter what you do.

Edited by Kurkistan
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I don't see why not. a ccorpse pumped full of alcohol should not be able to move on its own either, yet it does. if awakening can reanimate muscles to work, i don't see why it should not reanimate also the brain, at least partially. Then we should address the question of how much of someone's intelligence is in his brain, and how much in his soul, and iff making a lifeless uses some remnant of that soul.

Another good question could be: if you give your breath away, and then die, and are made a lifeless using the very same breath you gave away, would the lifeless work better/be more conscious because that breath belong to the same body? how much of a soul is in a breath?

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I don't see why not. a ccorpse pumped full of alcohol should not be able to move on its own either, yet it does. if awakening can reanimate muscles to work, i don't see why it should not reanimate also the brain, at least partially. Then we should address the question of how much of someone's intelligence is in his brain, and how much in his soul, and iff making a lifeless uses some remnant of that soul.

A corpse pumped full of alcohol is serving as a scaffold on which Breath acts, moving the muscles around with magical power. The corpse isn't moving "on its own," it is instead moving as a result of the Breath imbued within it. The alcohol is there as a preserving agent, I believe.

The brain is a devilishly complex construct with a ludicrously delicate balance of chemicals and electrical signals keeping everything running properly. Deprive the brain of oxygen for 10 minutes and that thing is gone. Leave a corpse lying around for an hour and the brain will have rotted to uselessness.

We already know that everything has both a Cognitive and Spiritual aspect on top of the Physical, and that people chill about as relatively full entities in the Cognitive and Spiritual Realms after death. I would hazard that those other two realms are what come into play with Awakening, rather than requiring that a partially rotted brain full of alcohol (which would most definitely inhibit anything resembling the normal chemical and electrical processes of the brain) be reawakened as the only agent of intelligence in a Lifeless.

Another good question could be: if you give your breath away, and then die, and are made a lifeless using the very same breath you gave away, would the lifeless work better/be more conscious because that breath belong to the same body? how much of a soul is in a breath?

I can at least tell you that very very little of the "soul" as defined as Identity, memory or the like is stored in a Breath. Trust me. I've put some thought into this.

Also a Brandon quote:

"How unique are individual Breaths? Would collecting 100 Breaths from criminals and scumbags affect your personality in any way? Or collecting 100 Breaths from generous, charitable people??

BRANDON SANDERSON ()

I intended them to not be terribly individual. Breaths do bring some things along with them, but for the most part I wanted them to be a step removed from that."

EDIT: Another one with a bit more clarity:

Ghero6 ()

In Vasher's case, did collecting Breath from other rebel-minded people strengthen his determination and resolve?

Brandon Sanderson ()

It would have had an influence on him, but you would need the numbers of Breaths that he had for any effect to manifest. It's basically a non-issue in the current book, but it could be an issue in some of the things that will happen in the next book.

Edited by Kurkistan
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I would imagine not, as long as it's still attached to you. We only ever see Awakening work on entire objects at once, and so as long as your arm is still a part of your body, attempts to Awaken it would work as if you were attempting to Awaken your whole body, which would probably fail. But if you actually amputated your arm, then you might be able to Awaken it, and this might even work if your arm had previously been struck with a Shardblade. That said, I doubt that you could surgically reattach the arm after Awakening it, at least not without dire side effects. All told, it would probably be easier to just Awaken your shirt with the "become as my arms" Command.

That said: might reaching a sufficient Heightening allow you to heal a Shardblade-struck limb? How many Breaths would that even require?

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First, I would like to register a complaint. I find myself agreeing with Kurkistan, and that just feels really really weird.

Second, lifeless don't need to be corpses, and thus don't need braaaiiiins. Skeletons work well enough if, as Vasher noted, you can find a way to keep the bones together. To, we can be relatively assured that whatever benefit there might be from squishy grey matter being present, they're relatively minor.

As I understood it (same as Kurkistan, curses!), the ichor-alcohol solution is largely a preserving agent. Maybe it's also a lubricant, but even that is stretching things. That is, it is replacing blood because blood clots, dries out, and generally helps with the decay process. Alcohol, on the other hand, is wonderful for pickling and preserving. Formaldehyde would probably be better still, but that's a bit beyond the tech level we see. Point being, it's not really good for transporting oxygen, which is what a lot of the body needs to act. Presumably, the breath fulfills whatever need a body has for such things. The short is: a brain full of ichor-alcohol is effectively the same as a brain sans blood, which is largely (if not totally) the same as a skull sans brain.

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First, I would like to register a complaint. I find myself agreeing with Kurkistan, and that just feels really really weird.

Second, lifeless don't need to be corpses, and thus don't need braaaiiiins. Skeletons work well enough if, as Vasher noted, you can find a way to keep the bones together. To, we can be relatively assured that whatever benefit there might be from squishy grey matter being present, they're relatively minor.

As I understood it (same as Kurkistan, curses!), the ichor-alcohol solution is largely a preserving agent. Maybe it's also a lubricant, but even that is stretching things. That is, it is replacing blood because blood clots, dries out, and generally helps with the decay process. Alcohol, on the other hand, is wonderful for pickling and preserving. Formaldehyde would probably be better still, but that's a bit beyond the tech level we see. Point being, it's not really good for transporting oxygen, which is what a lot of the body needs to act. Presumably, the breath fulfills whatever need a body has for such things. The short is: a brain full of ichor-alcohol is effectively the same as a brain sans blood, which is largely (if not totally) the same as a skull sans brain.

No! Not agreement! Never agreement!

*Looks desperately for place to disagree*

Aha! Bones, are not, in fact, Lifeless.

*Curses loudly and continues looking*

Nevermind. Or they are, but they aren't. But they are. The Breath, apparently, doesn't stick to Awakened bones, but we know that "Lifeless" constructed out of bones can be given new orders and command phrases and the like. Besides everything we've been saying, this means that the "stickiness" of Lifeless is not necessarily tied to the ability to give them new Commands. That's an interesting tidbit I'd forgotten.

Some quotes for fun:

PDF 461:

“What about bones?” Vivenna asked.

“They’re strange,” Vasher said. “They take far more Breath to awaken than a body held together with flesh and aren’t as flexible as something like cloth. Still, Breath will stick to them fairly easily, since they were once alive

and maintain the form of a living thing.”

“So Idrian stories that talk about skeletal armies aren’t just fabrications?”

He chuckled. “Oh, they are. If you wanted to Awaken a skeleton, you’d have to arrange all the bones together in their correct places. That’s a lot of work for something that will take upwards of fifty or a hundred Breaths to

Awaken. Intact corpses make far more sense eco nom ical ly, even if the Breath sticks to them so well that it becomes impossible to recover. Still, I’ve seen some very interesting things done with skeletons which have been Awakened.

PDF 582:

“The stone hasn’t been Awakened,” Vasher said. “There are human bones in those statues. They are Lifeless.”

Human bones. Vivenna felt a chill. He’d told her that bones were usually a bad choice to awaken because it was hard to keep them in the shape of a man during the Awakening pro cess. But what if those bones were encased in stone? Stone that held its shape, stone that would protect them from harm, make them nearly impossible to hurt or break? Awakened objects could be so much stronger than human muscles. If a Lifeless could be created from bones, made strong enough to move a rock body around it . . . You’d have soldiers unlike any that had ever existed. Colors! she thought.

“There are some thousand original D’Denir in the city,” Vasher said, “and most of them should still function, even still. I created them to last.”

“But they have no ichor- alcohol,” Vivenna said. “They don’t even have veins!”

...

“We didn’t always have ichor- alcohol,” Vasher said. “It makes the Awakening easier and cheaper, but it isn’t the only way. And, in the minds of many, I believe it has become a crutch.” He glanced at the God King again. “You should be able to imprint them quickly with a new security phrase, then order them out to stop the other army."

Interesting Brandon quote on the Phantoms. Apparently the extra Breath went into allowing the stone encasing the Lifeless to move.

---

Argh! None of this is properly argumentative with Thought! How can I live knowing that we agreed on something!?

Edited by Kurkistan
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I would like to add a couple of comments on the discussion on brains.

I'm not arguing the bit about brain chemistry. That seems right, as far as I know. I would like to add, though, that in the Cosmere, the brain may have rotted, but it "remembers" having functioned in the past. Breath is a mystical force that can force muscles to move even without oxygen. In the case of divine breaths, they can heal a human body completely. I see no reason why a normal breath, in conjunction with a well and truly dead brain, could not revive part of the brain for reuse, although almost certainly in conjunction with the other realms.

I don't think that Kalad's phantoms really affect that. They took a lot more breath to create. The thing about normal lifeless is that they pull all these stunts with just one Breath per body. Presumably, to make that work, the single breath is piggy-backing a lot on the physical aspects of the body.

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The best thing about Lifeless is that they can be reprogrammed. You can give them a command phrase, order them to do A, then order them to stop doing A and do B, then give them a new command phrase and order them to do C.

Having an actual brain might very well aid the Law of BioChromatic Parallelism, making a fleshy Lifeless essentially 1:1 with a normal human for Breath-ifying purposes, but it cannot be the direct reason for why Lifeless can be reprogrammed.

Also, a lot of the Breath that went into the Phantoms was actually applied to making the stone movable.

Edited by Kurkistan
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On the whole brain issue - isn't a Returned essentially a Lifeless with a working biology? I have a suspicion that the breath of a Returned can heal others because it was designed by Endowment to heal the corpse of a Returned.

Also, if there are undiscovered commands that make an uber-breath capable of regenerating a corpse (spiritual repair of a physical body), there should be a way to repair a non-fatal shardblade wound with breath (spiritual repair for a spiritual wound). The real question is how much breath it would take.

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There's the curious case of cloth. Put breath into it, tell it to lift you up, and it will do so, yet it will lack the three B's (bones, brains, and beefcake-y muscles). It will, admittedly, take the shape of muscle with veins, but, as Vasher noted, that isn't needed. Point being, Breath might have the power to force muscles to move without oxygen, but it certainly has the power to force limbs to move without real muscles! If cloth can move without muscle, if it can follow a command without a brain, then those things are not particularly necessary.

The reason that corpses make such good Lifeless, probably, is simply just the low breath cost. Awakening a lump of straw takes more Breath than awakening a straw doll, for example. Form is important. Likewise, we might assume that it would be possible to awaken the corpse of a horse, but that would presumably take more breaths than a human shape (as Vasher and specifically made his clock to look like him, not just a person, we can assume that the closer to the original user the subject is, the fewer breaths are needed). Awakening skeletons probably does take more breaths than a corpse, but then, we also know that there used to be other commands to create lifeless that took more breaths as well.

What we are dealing with is a question of efficiency. Its reasonable to assume that breaths do indeed piggyback on normal biological functions, but we know as a fact that they can replace those biological functions as well. Ichor-Alcohol preserves the body's circulatory system, in a sense, and certainly far better than decayed blood, leaving breaths an easier time to doing whatever it needs to do in order to make the rest of the body work. And if the rest of the body isn't there, oh well, the breaths will make do.

From this, it seems quite reasonable that if a brain is important in lifeless, then whatever important function it serves could be replaced by breaths (and a skillful command). That is, I'd expect that it would be possible to awaken a random corpse to be like Arsteel in skill, with enough breath and skillful enough commands.

On the whole brain issue - isn't a Returned essentially a Lifeless with a working biology?

No. Returned biology is really messed up. They age rapidly to a point, then stop. Their bodies remold themselves to how the Returned see themselves. Returned are able to live and function without calorie or liquid intake (and, presumably, without normal bowel movements or eliminations). They're capable of sexual activity, but not procreation (at least, not using normal means).

I dare say that Returned biology is like friendship, because it is totally magic.

... yes, that was a My Little Pony reference...

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As I understood it (same as Kurkistan, curses!), the ichor-alcohol solution is largely a preserving agent. Maybe it's also a lubricant, but even that is stretching things. That is, it is replacing blood because blood clots, dries out, and generally helps with the decay process. Alcohol, on the other hand, is wonderful for pickling and preserving. Formaldehyde would probably be better still, but that's a bit beyond the tech level we see.

Actually, "ichor-alchohol" probably isn't the same stuff as regular alchohol, so it might even be formaldehyde, or a chemical relative of it.

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And on the note of ichor-alcohol apparently even making the creation of Lifeless easier, not just their maintenance, it could be that having "fluid" in the circulatory system increases the "humanness" of corpses as well as being a preservative.

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I know this post is old but, I think awakening a servered arm would probably just heal the arm. If anyone is seeing this there is a convention coming up soon.;)

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Even if you could somehow make your arm into a Lifeless, how would you benefit at all from that? It's not going to be any stronger than your natural arm, it's gonna start rotting without regular maintenance that you body used to do on its own, and it's just gonna be incredibly disturbing to look at in general. 

I mean it's an interesting question within the confines of the BioChromatic magic system, I guess, but EW.

microexpressions-disgust.jpg

Edited by Unlicensed Hemalurgist
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Somewhere else on this board I once speculated on the possibility of making a Lifeless from multiple body parts (from different people) stitched together. How many pieces would you need? Since there are one-armed living people, shouldn't you be able to make a one-armed Lifeless?

For that matter, what about chimeric Lifeless, like constructing a four-armed (and two-legged) Lifeless, or a Lifeless soldier with giant bat wings? Maybe taxidermy would be a really useful skill to pick up on Nalthis.

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On 8/16/2018 at 8:42 AM, robardin said:

Somewhere else on this board I once speculated on the possibility of making a Lifeless from multiple body parts (from different people) stitched together. How many pieces would you need? Since there are one-armed living people, shouldn't you be able to make a one-armed Lifeless?

For that matter, what about chimeric Lifeless, like constructing a four-armed (and two-legged) Lifeless, or a Lifeless soldier with giant bat wings? Maybe taxidermy would be a really useful skill to pick up on Nalthis.

When I read this quote (and the rest of the thread), I thought of the prison in TES that was designed to specifically hold forgers.  The reason it worked so well, was that it was difficult to 'convince' the prison it was a whole instead of individual pieces with their own identities.  So much of Cosmere magic relies on identity. Both how the individual sees itself and is seen by others.

It would be much more difficult, though I imagine not impossible, to Awaken a chimeric construction than a Frankenstein's monster type construction.  And that would be more difficult than a dead body that used to be an individual.  

This makes me wonder if the Stone warrior army would 'work' better if each had an stone brain 

Back to the original question.  I would think it is possible to give breath to an arm severed by a shardblade, but I imagine it would heal the arm and make it a part of the individual again. 

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2 hours ago, Lidolas said:

It would be much more difficult, though I imagine not impossible, to Awaken a chimeric construction than a Frankenstein's monster type construction.  And that would be more difficult than a dead body that used to be an individual.  

I disagree because of the way that Awakening works. 

Unlike forgery, Awakening doesn't care about an objects past its levels of cost aren't based off the Identity of what they are awaking, but similarity of the object to their own. That's why making an object more human generally, or more specifically like the individual (see Vasher adding his own hair to the strawman, or the rips in his cloak that match his scars). 

Forgery works specifically by altering the history of a specific item. Changing the history of one is hard enough, that when you add in multiple it becomes extremely complicated. 

For Awakening though? You have all of the parts made from once living flesh, in the form of a human body. You give it the breath, and the breath a command, and it animates the object.

The identity of the person who was that corpse should be gone after a certain point. The corpse should become just another object, with its own Spiritual and Cognitive aspects unique from the person who once inhabited it. 

Quote

Back to the original question.  I would think it is possible to give breath to an arm severed by a shardblade, but I imagine it would heal the arm and make it a part of the individual again. 

Because of what I wrote above, I think you could awaken a severed arm... And it would be a lifeless arm. It would do what you tell it to do. Which would be storming weird. 

Edited by Calderis
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Isn't "lifeless arm" vs "Awakened arm" a false dichotomy? If skele lifeless can be lifeless, we don't need a brain - so an Awakened arm seems like it could certainly be called a Lifeless arm, because we see it as human. 

On 9/19/2018 at 7:31 PM, Calderis said:

Unlike forgery, Awakening doesn't care about an objects past its levels of cost aren't based off the Identity of what they are awaking, but similarity of the object to their own. That's why making an object more human generally, or more specifically like the individual (see Vasher adding his own hair to the strawman, or the rips in his cloak that match his scars). 

Forgery works specifically by altering the history of a specific item. Changing the history of one is hard enough, that when you add in multiple it becomes extremely complicated. 

For Awakening though? You have all of the parts made from once living flesh, in the form of a human body. You give it the breath, and the breath a command, and it animates the object.

The identity of the person who was that corpse should be gone after a certain point. The corpse should become just another object, with its own Spiritual and Cognitive aspects unique from the person who once inhabited it. 

Based on Clod, Identity is still a factor in Awakening - Clod was awakened (presumably? Do we know when he was awakened?) close enough to his death that his body still regarded itself as Clod, and not a corpse. But after a while, the Identity of the corpse becomes "a corpse." So, if what Awakening does is convince the object to adopt a new Identity, then I can see why it makes sense that a chimera and a Frankstein's monster are both a hodgepodge of stuff that is difficult to convince to be all one thing.

But, Awakening also becomes easier when things are shaped like the caster (somewhere there's a WoB about how a dog race would have to make things dog-shaped to Awaken) - which means the Identity it's adopting is invariably your own, which is why you can ascribe your intent to the object. So, it would be a lot harder to make a chimera adopt your human-shape Identity than a Frankenstein's monster.

(Unless you are a chimera, of course.)

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35 minutes ago, Emurii said:

Based on Clod, Identity is still a factor in Awakening - Clod was awakened (presumably? Do we know when he was awakened?) close enough to his death that his body still regarded itself as Clod, and not a corpse. But after a while, the Identity of the corpse becomes "a corpse." So, if what Awakening does is convince the object to adopt a new Identity, then I can see why it makes sense that a chimera and a Frankstein's monster are both a hodgepodge of stuff that is difficult to convince to be all one thing.

Clod is an interesting scenario that I don't think we know enough about. He was killed by Vasher in the same manner as Denth, and so died with a large amount of breath that would have been keyed to his identity. If his corpse was Awakened that Breath disappated, that interesting and raises all kinds of questions, if it had left... Then he's a regular lifeless. 

43 minutes ago, Emurii said:

But, Awakening also becomes easier when things are shaped like the caster (somewhere there's a WoB about how a dog race would have to make things dog-shaped to Awaken) - which means the Identity it's adopting is invariably your own, which is why you can ascribe your intent to the object. So, it would be a lot harder to make a chimera adopt your human-shape Identity than a Frankenstein's monster.

In an object, this is true. The breath still has your Identity, that's why it can be reclaimed. In a lifeless, it gains an Identity of its own. That's why the breath cannot be retrieved. 

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