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robardin

How much Breath is there in circulation?

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Breath is unique to Nalthians, right? It's a little piece of Endowment in everybody born on Nalthis. Everybody starts with one Breath.

We've seen mention of several characters having hundreds, even many thousands of Breaths, so you'd think there'd be a lot of Drabs walking around... Except that Breath can be passed along to someone, and isn't linked to the person who was born with it. A Drab can always get Breath on the open market, and it won't be any different than getting their "original" one back, and a cache like Peacegiver's Treasure is a stockpile dating back to the Manywar, whose original donors have long since passed away. So unless people die with more than their original Breath on them, Breath is something that is generally accreting on Nalthis, at least once the Command to pass Breath along to someone else was discovered.

So as of the events of Warbreaker, outside of uniquely massive stockpiles like that, what would be the most Breath (a) that someone could reasonably acquire by normal means (on the open market), or (b) could Susebron acquire if he made it his goal to take all the actually Breath in the world onto himself (assuming he's the person in the current lead on that count)?

I know we have very little basis to go on in the text, but maybe some folks have some WoB up their sleeves, or some foundation for educated guesses :)

 

Edited by robardin
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No WoB's that I know of on that topic. So, the big thing to consider here is that we do not know how many nations are present on Nalthis, nor the population of those countries. So even though there are only a few nations mentioned during the events of Warbreaker, we can't be sure how many others there are. Even the population of Hallendren isn't well established. So its hard to say what the total count could potentially be. 

Based on market conditions, we can make a slightly better guess. It is mentioned that the wealthy purchase around 50 breaths to achieve the first heightening, lengthening their lives by a decade in the process and being healthier in general. And we see a number of people with the first heightening. But we rarely see people of the greater heightenings (note: A human with 2000 breaths may create a smaller bubble than the returned, who's breath is the equivalent of 2000, in which case they'll be less noticeable). Assuming that people of the 5th heightening are very rare, and not because they're never mentioned, I'd say the breath market in Hallendren is 2000-4000 breaths. That would enable the average person capable of buying a breath or two, the wealthier individuals to be able to buy 50-200, but to get any higher than that would be extremely expensive as you'd be buying a significant portion of the available stock, explaining the lack of people with higher heightenings. This would also make sense since breaths can't be stored in a neutral way. They're sold by the desperate, and then bought buy the wealthy, and would be difficult to store between, as someone would have to be trusted to hold the breaths in the mean time. Keep in mind, those are rough guesses, without any solid numbers from the books, so even rougher guesses.

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Brandon has said that the amount of Breaths given out is actually an insignificant portion of Endowment's investiture.

 

Quote

emailanimal

From a very recent signing, we have this new Word of Brandon...

chasmfriend's son: Is there a finite amount of Investiture?

Brandon: Yes.

chasmfriend's son: So is Nightblood consuming it?

Brandon: Yes. Very, very slowly.

This worries me somewhat because of the following observation.

Nightblood consumes Breath (and other Investiture, but let's limit ourselves to Breath for a second).

Every person on Nalthis is born with one Breath.

Populations tend to grow. Which means that under normal rules of demographics, population of Nalthis should keep increasing.

This in turn means that under normal circumstances the number of people with Breath on Nalthis should be growing.

I can see the following possible explanations to this:

  1. Endowment can give Breath to many more people than are currently living on Nalthis. So, the exponential population growth has not yet reached the level at which Endowment's ability to award a Breath to each Nalthis-born human is seriously challenged. When it happens though, things will not go well.

  2. There is some built-in mechanism controlling population growth on Nalthis, making certain that the population stays within the limits. Nightblood's consumption of Breath makes these limits smaller, and overall may lead to Endowment's inability to grant Breath to Nalthis-born, but not for a while (essentially, Endowment controls population trends at she sees fit).

Thoughts?

Brandon Sanderson

Just as a point you should understand, the amount of MATTER in the cosmere is finite too. As is the amount of energy.

Worrying that Endowment will run out of Breaths to give is a little like worrying that the amount of carbon on Earth will run out because people keep being born.

uchoo786

So just for clarification, once Nightblood consumes investiture, that investiture gets recycled? That's what I've always assumed. That it enters the cognitive/spiritual realm?

Brandon Sanderson

The investiture he consumes is not gone forever--it's not leaving the system, so to speak.

source

 

Edited by RShara
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6 hours ago, Wandering Investor said:

Based on market conditions, we can make a slightly better guess. It is mentioned that the wealthy purchase around 50 breaths to achieve the first heightening, lengthening their lives by a decade in the process and being healthier in general. And we see a number of people with the first heightening. But we rarely see people of the greater heightenings

That would enable the average person capable of buying a breath or two, the wealthier individuals to be able to buy 50-200, but to get any higher than that would be extremely expensive as you'd be buying a significant portion of the available stock, explaining the lack of people with higher heightenings.

Lemex was able to reach the Third Heightening (~600 breaths) while not attracting undue attention to himself either by the purchasing or the having, both of which would have been entirely counterproductive in his work as a spy. Ergo, it can't be that exceptional for people to purchase that many. It's also how Vivenna is able to get into the Court of Gods to see the assemblies. She's automatically considered 'important enough' to be let in without a second glance, but it can't be that uncommon or the guards would know everyone with that many breahs on sight and wonder who this new person is. So there's probably a lot more breaths in circulation and we just don't see as much evidence of it.

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I mean, the God King has 50k+ Breaths and he's not close to Ascending or even opening a perpendicularity, so it doesn't seem to be a really big chunk of investiture. Having two or three times that much spread around in circulation seems feasible without it being a substantial portion of Endowment.

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11 hours ago, Weltall said:

Lemex was able to reach the Third Heightening (~600 breaths) while not attracting undue attention to himself either by the purchasing or the having, both of which would have been entirely counterproductive in his work as a spy. Ergo, it can't be that exceptional for people to purchase that many. It's also how Vivenna is able to get into the Court of Gods to see the assemblies. She's automatically considered 'important enough' to be let in without a second glance, but it can't be that uncommon or the guards would know everyone with that many breahs on sight and wonder who this new person is. So there's probably a lot more breaths in circulation and we just don't see as much evidence of it.

2000-4000 was a guess for the number available on the market, not the number in circulation. A lot of those breaths are probably passed down through the family, so there are going to be a lot more than what is available on the market. Also, there's no need to purchase all the breaths at once. You can pick up some here and there. As the number available goes down, they become more valuable and people are more likely to sell them, keeping the number stable-ish. Plus, if Lemex is worth anything as a spy, he can likely purchase them in small batches without making too much of a disturbance. So the breaths locked behind families and people buying them over time could explain the number of citizens with large breath counts making Vivennia not stand out, while still keeping breaths too expensive to truly buy in mass, considering Lemex had to have support from a throne to buy 600.

But that's all speculation based on the comments that the upper heightenings are not explored, and to a lesser extent that immortals(2000+) aren't really mentioned. Since Warbreaker was an early Sanderson book, I can actually just explain the lack of immortals as either being there and just not mentioned, or maybe early attempts at world building with less than SA levels of detail. But its mentioned several times that the upper heightenings are almost never reached. Think about it, if you get 2000 breaths, you can just keep going on, and keep stockpiling breaths over a long period of time. If that were the case, the market would be especially ruled by immortal merchant families, and those merchants would eventually reach the upper heightenings, and while uncommon probably would not be considered rare. Yet it is mentioned several times that the upper heightenings are very rare. So there has to be something stopping people from reaching/passing the 2000 checkpoint. Might be political instead of economic of course.

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On 5/15/2018 at 10:46 AM, Wandering Investor said:

2000-4000 was a guess for the number available on the market, not the number in circulation. A lot of those breaths are probably passed down through the family, so there are going to be a lot more than what is available on the market.

...its mentioned several times that the upper heightenings are almost never reached. Think about it, if you get 2000 breaths, you can just keep going on, and keep stockpiling breaths over a long period of time. If that were the case, the market would be especially ruled by immortal merchant families, and those merchants would eventually reach the upper heightenings, and while uncommon probably would not be considered rare. Yet it is mentioned several times that the upper heightenings are very rare. So there has to be something stopping people from reaching/passing the 2000 checkpoint. Might be political instead of economic of course.

This is a very interesting line of thought (and more in line with the point of my OP - I wasn't speculating on the limits of how much Breath Endowment could potentially give out, but in terms of how much existed in toto at the time of the events in Warbreaker, i.e., how many living people of various Heightenings could there reasonably be).

Given how valuable Breath is, it should be something passed down like any other valuable to one's heir(s), either on a deathbed or in a formal coming-of-inheritance bestowal ceremony (possibly using the "temporary object" mechanism to reserve at least one Breath for later recovery, before passing the Family Breathball along).

The "it dies with you if you don't pass it along in time" bit is a built-in limiting factor, is my guess, plus the Court of Gods having an interest in preventing a non-Returned from reaching the Fifth Heightening.

We have a clue in the very first chapter, when Vasher reflects on why Vahr was being kept alive: to torture and break him to the point of surrendering his stockpile of Breaths. "Not even the government of Hallandren — which had such strict laws about the buying and passing of Breath - could let such a treasure slip away." And that stockpile was enough to bring Vasher only past the Second Heightening, about 200 Breaths.

And Vasher described the amount of Breath he gave Denth to stun him in their final duel - 50 Breaths - as "more wealth than most men will ever know."

Lemex really was a bad, bad Idrian, wasn't he, to accumulate upwards of 500 Breaths? (More, actually, since Vivenna is described as having the Third Heightening when she goes to the Court of Gods.)

By his own account, "Men with Breath are respected here in Hallandren. I could get into parties where I normally would have been excluded. I could go to the Court of Gods when I wished and hear the court assembly."

Later, Denth and Tonk Fah mention that "Someone has to have at least fifty Breaths to be considered worthy [of watching judgments in the Assembly at the Court of Gods]", which is the First Heightening, at which stage one could instantly recognize the BioChromatic aura of other people (i.e., to know how many Breaths they held).

Then, when Vivenna does go to the Court of Gods in Chapter 14, she sees that:

Quote

The priests each had exactly fifty Breaths, as did the majority of the wealthier individuals entering through the gates. A fair number had at least two hundred Breaths, enough for the Second Heightening and the perfect pitch it granted. Only a couple had more Breaths than Vivenna, who had reached all the way to the Third Heightening and the perfect color perception it granted.

So there ARE people in Hallendren with the Third Heightening, just very few of them, and I'm going to guess the Fourth Heightening is the maximum allowed by law. And they would be able to spot people violating this limit on sight.

Edited by robardin
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