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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. Though the color drain is permanent, this magic is still considered end-neutral since the Breaths can be recovered from the Awakened object (in some cases).[citation needed]

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]

Type II BioChromatic entities are Mindless Manifestations in a Deceased Host, or more commonly known as "Lifeless", are non-sentient reanimated animal remains. They have a functioning brain, and are able to interpret old Commands and have new Commands given. These creatures are made via complex Commands that reanimate a dead person or animal. These Commands are guarded closely by those who know them.

Type II entities are cheap to make, even with awkward Commands (used to cost 50 breaths before the Manywar). This is due to the Law of BioChromatic Parallelism. However, Breath sticks so firmly to the construct that it is impossible to remove afterwards. Once a Lifeless is created, it will obey any instructions given to it that include a pre-determined Command Phrase(similar to a password). 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's corpse would make a better soldier Lifeless than that of a farmer's.

The Lifeless can function for a long time if cared and repaired. 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, otherwise they are going to need a new breath. 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..

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.

They are between the two extremes of inorganic objects and dead bodies. Therefore, these have the advantage of requiring less Breath (still more than corpses, often over one hundred) to Awaken than inorganic objects while at the same time allowing for Breath recovery. They have the strength to easily strangle people. The more it resembled living beings, the easier it is to be Awakened, so a skilled Awakener would prepare human-shaped and organic clothes for Awakening purposes. When Awakened, it tends to mimic living things, forming muscle-like structures or shape of hand. They are understandably the most common type of BioChromatic host entities created. However, other types of BioChromatc hosts are generally more powerful.

Type IV[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.

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.[1]

Law of Comparability[edit]

The amount of Breath required to Awaken something isn't necessarily indicative of its power once Awakened.[1]

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.[11] 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.[12] This "could be an issue in some of the things that will happen in the next book".[12]

Heightenings[edit]

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
???

Drab[edit]

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.[13][14] Drabs also do not register on the life sense of someone who has reached the Fourth Heightening.[15] They also lack the instinctive feeling of most to know if someone is watching them. A drab is also incapable of Returning.[16]

Trivia[edit]

  • 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.[17]

Notes[edit]

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