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Related to Endowment
Focus Command
Prerequisites Breath
Type End-Neutral[1]
World Nalthis
Featured In Warbreaker, The Stormlight Archive[2]

Awakening is the art of combining color, BioChromatic Breath ("Breath"), and an Awakening Command in order to animate an object, resulting in one of four types of BioChromatic entities. It is a manifestation of Investiture on Nalthis which was discovered approximately 400 years before the Pahn Kahl rebellion.[3]

The process of Awakening begins when an Awakener releases some of their stored Breath into an object through the use of a Command. While doing so, the Awakener must also be in physical contact with a source of color (e.g. a piece of dyed cloth). If the Command is valid and is correctly visualized in the Awakener's mind, then color is drained from the color source and the target object becomes Awakened. It then proceeds to carry out the Command.

BioChromatic Breath[edit]

Each Nalthian is born with one Breath. Any person with Breath, even a non-Nalthian[4], can use it for Awakening. One may choose to give away one's Breath to another person, increasing that person's number of Breath.

The more Breath one has, the easier it is to Awaken, and the more types of Awakening can be performed. Some feats of Awakening can only be achieved once a certain Heightening has been reached.

  • At the Sixth Heightening (~3500 Breaths), many Awakening Commands become instinctive.
  • At the Eighth Heightening (~10000 Breaths), the Awakener can override the Commands of objects Awakened by others.
  • At the Ninth Heightening (~20000 Breaths), Awakening inorganic objects becomes possible.
  • Finally, at the Tenth Heightening (~50000 Breaths), the Awakener gains the ability to drain more color from objects to fuel more powerful Awakenings, as well as the ability to issue Commands mentally.

Color as fuel[edit]

Awakening an object has the additional cost of draining the color of nearby objects. Color appears to act as a fuel for Awakening. Objects drained of their color usually turn grey, although an Awakener who achieved Perfect Invocation could drain objects more fully, turning them white.

An effective way to prevent an Awakener from using his art is removing all but grey or white objects in his vicinity. Black, although not commonly considered a color, is very effective as a source of fuel for Awakening.

The dyes made from the tropical flower called the Tears of Edgli are very potent and are highly valued by Awakeners. These flowers only grow in the jungles of Hallandren, and is a chief source of the country's wealth.

In most cases, the color of living things cannot be used for Awakening. This is because the living soul interferes with the Awakening process. The color of things taken from living things, on the other hand, may be used.[5] An Awakener can, for example, use spilled blood as a color source.

If the colored object is small or the color drab, the Command will take much more Breath.[6]

Awakening Commands[edit]

The Commands used in Awakening are crucial to its success or failure. They must be clearly stated and properly visualized. Many Commands are simple, concrete ideas expressed in phrases of two words or less in the imperative mood, usually consisting of a specific verb and a general subject (e.g. "Grab things"). While more complex Commands can be used, the more complex the Command the more difficult the visualization of the Command becomes. Advanced Commands tend to be jealously guarded by Awakeners.

In Awakening, the exact wording of the Command is important. An Awakener could, for example, give a piece of rope the Command "Hold things" so it will wrap itself around objects, but this will likely result in the rope simply wrapping itself around the Awakener's hand. The Command "Hold things when thrown" is more useful and only slightly more complex.

Basic Commands[edit]

Breath Transfer[edit]

The first and most important Command is the one that allows any human being to give their Breath to another human being: "My life to yours, my Breath become yours."

This Command transfers all of a person's Breath at once no matter how many there are. An Awakener can also use this Command to store all of their Breath in an object to be retrieved later.

Breath Retrieval[edit]

An Awakener can retrieve the Breath from an object they Awakened by touching the object and speaking the Command "Your Breath to mine."

Note that only the Awakener who Awakened the object can retrieve Breath from it. This Command also does not work on anything that the Breath has stuck to too strongly (e.g. corpses).

Simple Commands[edit]

Simple Commands are composed of a verb and, often, a subject. These Commands do not take a lot of effort to visualize what you wish to have done. Examples in Warbreaker include:

  • "Untie"
  • "Grab things" "Hold things" (used most often on ropes)
  • "Protect me" (both Vivenna and Vasher are seen using this Command on their cloaks) This command sounds simple, but careful visualization of what you want it to do is important.
  • "Attack and grab Denth!" (while this contains two commands, one can easily see the visualization for both being rather the same, so this is probably a simple Command. On the other hand, Vivenna is of the royal line and so Awakening is said to come easier to her; this Command may have been more complex than it seems)

Advanced Commands[edit]

Advanced Commands are often times whole phrases and require the Awakener to visualize the action that they wish the object to take. The more precise the Command the greater the need for that mental aspect to be clear in their mind.

  • "Upon call, become my fingers and grip that which I must"
  • "Become as my legs and give them strength"
  • "Fight for me, as if you were me"

Other Commands may be simple-sounding but require a greater degree of mental control such as "Fetch keys" or "Find tunnels". Both of these Commands appear simple, but the visualizations required are actually quite complex.

There are places that use Awakened objects as a source of energy and industry.[7]

BioChromatic hosts[edit]

An Awakened object acts as a host for the BioChromatic Breath used to Awaken it. Some types of objects more readily accept Breaths than others, making them easier to Awaken. Receptivity to Breath depends on the object's shape, its history, and the material it is made of.

Generally, Awakening inorganic objects that have never been part of a living thing is very difficult, requiring extremely large amounts of Breath. Organic objects, especially those shaped like living things, are much easier to Awaken.

On the other hand, closer proximity to a living form makes it harder to retrieve Breaths from an Awakened host. For example, one generally can no longer recover the Breaths one used on a corpse.

In between the two extremes of inorganic objects and dead bodies, there are also organic objects that are far removed from having been alive, things like organic textiles (e.g. cloth, rope, etc.). These have the advantage of requiring less Breath to Awaken than inorganic objects while at the same time allowing for Breath recovery. Such objects are called Type III BioChromatic entities, and are understandably the most common type of BioChromatic host entities created. However, other types of BioChromatc hosts are generally more powerful.

Dead bodies[edit]

When a Nalthian dies, there is a small chance that their corpse will Awaken in an apparently spontaneous manner as a sentient host called a Returned, also known as a Type I BioChromatic entity. The Breath given to a Returned comes directly from the Shard Endowment through a process that is not yet clear.

Most of the time, however, dead bodies only Awaken during the process of creating non-sentient Lifeless, or Type II BioChromatic entities. These creatures are made via complex Commands that reanimate a dead person or animal. These Commands are guarded closely by those who know them.

Once a Lifeless is created, it will obey any instructions given to it that include a pre-determined Command Phrase. Human Lifeless are able to understand more abstract instructions than animal Lifeless. However, the skill of the Awakener who Awakens the Lifeless also affects its ability. Any Lifeless will retain a level of skill that it had in life. For example, a soldier Lifeless created from the body of a farmer is not as good as a soldier Lifeless created from that of a soldier.

Breaths used to Awaken Lifeless cannot be recovered. This Breath will keep the Lifeless functioning for a long time. Lifeless can withstand wounds, but too much damage will eventually cause the Lifeless to cease activity, which means that Lifeless bodies need to be maintained and repaired (e.g. by sewing its wounds shut) when needed. One innovation in Lifeless maintenance is the use of ichor-alcohol, a substance discovered by Yesteel that could act as blood for Lifeless and that greatly prolongs their viability.

Lifeless created from bones encased in stone have the advantage of being extremely resilient and not needing ichor-alcohol. It is also possible to make stone Lifeless by transforming a dead body to stone (e.g. via Soulcasting) before Awakening it.[8]

The discovery of how to create Lifeless with just a single Breath eventually led to the Lifeless armies of the Manywar. One example of a single-Breath Lifeless Command is Awaken to my Breath, serve my needs, live at my Command and my word..

Metal and stone[edit]

Type IV BioChromatic entities are sentient objects made by Awakening inorganic materials like metal and stone. This requires at least the Ninth Heightening. Nightblood, a sentient Awakened sword, is the only known object of this type. He was created by Shashara with the help of her husband Talaxin, using a thousand Breaths and the Command "Destroy evil".

Nightblood is incapable of determining morality[9] and has a rigid way of thinking similar to a Spren on Roshar.[10] The large number of Breaths he contains also grants him incredible destructive power. The threat of more weapons like Nightblood being created eventually caused Talaxin to kill Shashara to prevent the knowledge of this form of Awakening from becoming public.

Stone is presumed to be similarly difficult to Awaken. However, Lifeless can be made by enclosing bones in stone, making near indestructible warriors. Talaxin used this technique to create the legendary Kalad's Phantoms.


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