BioChromatic Breath

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BioChromatic Breath
Related to Awakening, Endowment
Type Investiture
World Nalthis
Universe Cosmere
Featured In Warbreaker

BioChromatic Breath, also known simply as Breath, is the power of life on Nalthis. Every living being is born with a certain BioChromatic Investiture.[1][2] When a person dies, the Breath they were carrying returns to Endowment.[3] Humans are able to use their Breath to perform Awakening as well as gaining benefits from having more than one Breath.

BioChroma and Awakening[edit]

Awakening is the process by which an Awakener uses his stored BioChromatic Breath to animate an object. To do so, he issues a Command in his native tongue while visualizing the action he wants the object to complete. The Commands are the key part of Awakening, and the skill of an Awakener depends on his ability to use Commands correctly.

The process causes some portion of the Awakener's stored Breath to exit his body and become Invested in the Awakened object. Depending on the object, it may require any where from one to one thousand (or more) Breaths. Furthermore, color is drained from nearby objects as fuel for the Awakening process. This can manifest, for example, as a red scarf being bleached grey. The Breaths can be recovered from the Awakened object (in some cases), but the color drain is permanent.

While anyone can benefit from possessing a Breath, a non-Nalthian possessor would 'probably have to jump through some hoops to Awaken' with it.[4]

Types of BioChromatic entities[edit]

Vasher categorizes Biochromatic entities into four Types.[1]

Type I[edit]

Spontaneous Sentient BioChromatic Manifestations in a Deceased Host, also known as the Returned, are the only known natural BioChromatic entity. They retain sentience after being Returned (by Endowment) following death, and are endowed with a divine Breath. Returned are able to Awaken normally using any Breaths on top of their divine Breath,[5] but giving away the divine Breath results in death.

The divine Breath, a single powerful Breath that grants the powers of the first five Heightenings, is a Splinter of Endowment.[6] Giving away the divine Breath to another person will instantly heal that person, at the cost of the life of the Returned.[7]

Type II[edit]

Mindless Manifestations in a Deceased Host, also known as the Lifeless, are non-sentient reanimated human remains. They have a functioning brain, and are able to interpret old Commands and have new Commands given.

Type II entities are cheap to make, even with awkward Commands. This is due to the Law of BioChromatic Parallelism. However, Breath sticks so firmly to the construct that it is impossible to remove afterwards. They are able to be Awakened using a single Breath using the right Command, the knowledge of which was a contributing factor to the Manywar. Ichor-alcohol can also replace the blood of the remains to make the Awakening process easier.

Type III[edit]

The process generally thought of as Awakening creates Type III entities, a BioChromatic manifestation in an organic host far removed from being alive. Examples include Awakened ropes, cloth, or skeletal remains.

Type III objects can take a great deal of Breaths, often over one hundred, to create. However, since the object being Awakened is far from being alive, the Breath can be recovered afterwards. For this reason, much more is known about the Commands to Awaken Type III entities.

Someone who has reached the Ninth Heightening is able to Awaken things like stone or steel, which were never alive.[8] Such Awakenings require enormous amounts of Breath.[9]

Type IV[edit]

Type IV entities are Awakened objects with sentience. The only known such object, Nightblood, required Shashara to be at the Ninth Heightening and to expend one thousand Breaths.

BioChromatic Laws[edit]

Law of BioChromatic Parallelism[edit]

The closer a host is to a living shape and form, the easier it is to Awaken.

This is easily understood since BioChroma is the power of life, and seeks patterns of life.

Law of Comparability[edit]

The amount of Breath required to Awaken something isn't necessarily indicative of its power once Awakened.

A good example is that a piece of cloth cut into a square and a piece of cloth cut into the shape of a man take very different amounts of Breath to Awaken, but will serve essentially the same function once Awakened.

Collecting Breath[edit]

In order to achieve the most interesting and extravagant Awakening, more than one Breath is required. Since each person is born with a single Breath, an Awakener must collect Breaths from other individuals. The method by which this is done is itself a type of Awakening, using the Command "My life to yours, my Breath become yours." The person imparting the Breaths must be in physical contact with the recipient.

As a person gains more Breaths, they are granted certain properties. These Heightenings, as they are known, are markers along a continuous scale of Breath. As a person gains more Breath, they are more resistant to disease (for example), but at approximately 2,000 Breaths this reaches a maximum and they are immune to most diseases.

The number of Breaths for each Heightening are approximate. Depending on the quality of Breath, it may take fewer Breaths to realize a Heightening. Furthermore, very little is known about the upper Heightenings (above the Sixth). Very few individuals amass such a store of Breath.

If enough Breaths are collected, they can start to affect the personality of the person holding them. "Breaths do bring some things along with them,", but they are not "terribly individual" depending on their original owner.[10] For example, Vahr's resolve was strengthened because of the similar mindsets of those he collected his Breaths from, but the effect only manifested due to the large amount of Breaths he had.[11] This "could be an issue in some of the things that will happen in the next book".[11]


Heightening number Approximate number of Breaths to reach this Heightening Effects of the Heightening
First Heightening 50 Aura Recognition
Second Heightening 200 Perfect Pitch
Third Heightening 600 Perfect Color Recognition
Fourth Heightening 1,000 Perfect Life Sense
Fifth Heightening 2,000 Agelessness
Sixth Heightening 3,500 Instinctive Awakening
Seventh Heightening 5,000 Invested Breath Recognition
Eighth Heightening 10,000 Command Breaking
Ninth Heightening 20,000 Greater Awakening
Audible Command
Tenth Heightening 50,000 Color Distortion
Perfect Invocation


A human without a single Breath is known as a Drab. Without Breath, colors lose their vibrancy and they are more prone to depression and sickness. The latter stems from the fact that Breath acts as a sort of magical booster for the immune system, and thus the body doesn't need to build up immunity.[12][13] Drabs also do not register on the life sense of someone who has reached the Fourth Heightening.[14] They also lack the instinctive feeling of most to know if someone is watching them. A drab is also incapable of Returning.[15]


  • Breath is specifically named BioChromatic Breath due to some of the Five Scholars having visited other more advanced worlds that had a more scientific approach to studying.[16]


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