***Disclaimer*** The world of Warbreaker, its characters and all associated intellectual property are the property of Brandon Sanderson and Tor.
***Warning*** “Awakener” may contain spoilers. It may behoove you to read Warbreaker first.
Why am I the one stuck watching a dead man? Vivenna thought to herself as her shoulder length locks tinged brown. Sometimes she wished she had plain unchanging hair like other women. Hiding ones emotions when they flushed color to ones hair as well as face made things difficult.
She wondered when Vasher would show up; that man could be difficult sometimes. He had left hours ago in search of information on Yesteel, one of his many enemies.
Vivenna was left with the important but tearfully boring job of sitting at a funeral service of a man who was said to have died saving two children from a fire.
Will you get on with it already? She thought to the charred corpse in the casket. Here in the Northern Kingdom of Greenleaf, nobles or wealthy businessmen bought the bodies of people who died in ways that might cause them to return. If the deceased came back to life, they would own a Returned which would be quite the return on investment.
The former princess glanced at the Nobleman dressed in purple finery, he was eager to see if the portly man in the casket would return. He paid a significant sum of money to procure the rights to the deceased.
An old man dressed in shabby clothing wearing a conical hat entered the chapel, removed his cover, paid the last respects to the man and found a seat next to Vivenna where she was pretending to pray and mourn.
The man slid closer, was he trying to rob her during the viewing? She moved a hand toward the knife on her belt.
“Miss, you waitin’ to see if he’s gonna return?” He whispered, the music of the harpsichord covering most of their quiet conversation.
“What? No, I’m paying my respects to…” she completely forgot the man’s name.
He chuckled, breath smelling of wine. “Oh I don’t think yer gonna have to worry about old Frenison returning.”
“Well he aint no hero. He didn’t save no kids from no fire.”
Vivenna’s locks turned a slight auburn, only the closest observer would have noticed. “What about those who saw him rush in and see the children tossed out a window before the roof caved in?”
“Aye but he did’na do that to save a couple brats.” He leaned in closer, his smell was almost overpowering. “Nay he ran in there to grab his treasure o’ breaths.”
“Yeah, he stashed a few hundred of ‘em in clothes. I figger they musta got burned up in the fire. Shame really wastin’ so much breath like that.”
Vivenna felt like a fool, sitting here for so long to watch a man who would not return. But the nobleman on the other side of the aisle could still be working for Yesteel, maybe it wasn’t a total loss, she had been watching him almost as much as the corpse.
“Thank you for the tip.”
The man didn’t move. “What do you want old man?”
“Well I figger I gave you a tip, you could be so kind as ta give a tip in return.”
Vivenna sighed, reached in her pocket for a quarter pence a triangular piece of a Greenleaf silver penny. She handed it to the man, he nodded and slipped away.
Glad to be alone in her thoughts for a moment she let her mind wander to her sister. Siri would be in the God King’s palace in T’Telir, a host of servants at her beck and call. She would be wearing elegant colorful silk gowns, rubbing elbows with the Returned, living a life of luxury.
For a brief moment she felt cheated, Vivenna was the one who had been raised with one mission in her life. Marry the god king, and would be the one now enjoying the luxuries of palatial living. She looked down at her servable but worn garb. She stifled a chuckle, laughing at a funeral wouldn’t be proper. Two years ago she wouldn’t have dared to wear what her people considered men’s clothing. What would people say if they saw a princess of Idris wearing breeches!
Princess? Was she one anymore? Her father would probably disown her if he knew she had become an Awakener and was cavorting around the countryside with a Returned. She smiled as she thought of the conversation she might have with him.
“Daughter what have you been doing since you ran away?”
“Well father, I’ve been kidnapped by mercenaries, learned how to awaken, nearly started the war, and somehow managed to help stop it. Oh and I’ve been wandering with a Returned man.”
Dedelin wouldn’t approve. Someday she might come back home, but not today. There was too much to see, new lands to experience, Vasher’s enemies to find.
Vivenna stood and bowed to the man lying in repose. If the old man was right he wouldn’t be returning. She thought of the breaths stashed in the burned out home, maybe she could sneak over in the middle of the night and see if any breath infused items had survived.
She only had enough breaths for the second Heightening, but most of those were being stored in her cloak and rope belt. Wandering around Oakenheart capital of Greenleaf with too many breaths was a quick way to attract the wrong kind of attention.
The sky was dark with storm clouds; rain an all too common occurrence in Greenleaf would be here soon. Thankfully the people had discovered how to make garments that repelled the water.
She pulled up her hood, and set off down the cobblestone street toward the dead man’s home. A few city blocks and buckets of water from the sky later she stood outside the charred remains of the home dripping wet despite the repellent cloak she had purchased last week.
She looked up at the ornate multi story brick building and shook her head. It was nothing like the homes in Idris, too tall, with too many families living in one building. How could they stand to live bunched together.
Elite city guard in bright green silk uniforms kept street urchins from scavenging. They were armed with short curved swords and around fifty breaths to be able to recognize awakeners Aura’s. Greenleaf had strict laws regarding who could and could not possess breaths beyond one.
Vivenna kept moving to not raise any undue suspicions from the guards. Lost in thought she failed to check for threats in the alley and a strong hand grabbed her. She slipped a hand to her rope belt and whispered “Your breath to mi…”
A rough hand clapped over her mouth, she struggled reaching for her knife. Vivenna the Awakener would not be taken so easily by ruffians.
“Hey it’s me.” Vasher whispered, when she stopped struggling he released her.
“Colors! Why did you grab me?”
“A princess cursing? Scandal!”
She pushed away from the raggedy man, “How many times have I told you Wartlover I’m no princess.”
He scoffed at the immature name, “Well Princess, you still wear the royal locks, hence you must still be a princess.” He reached up and twirled a lock of her hair. Vivenna was disappointed. In her surprise her hair had bleached white, it shifted to red in embarrassment.
She pulled away forcing her hair to return to a more natural and less conspicuous brown.
“Vash don’t.” Her glare would have shut up a lesser man.
He ignored her, “What did you find out?”
“Fenrison, won’t be returning.”
Vasher shrugged, “What about the nobleman who bought him?”
“Victorson the Rotund? He’s a landowner from the province of Pine on the border with Idris; he showed up and waited longer than I.”
“How can you be sure the dead won’t return?”
“An old man told me he didn’t save those children. He claimed Fenrison was an Awakener, trying to get at his stash of breath before they went up in smoke.”
Vasher seemed to weigh this new revelation. “And you believed him?”
“I waited long enough, I’m no fool.”
“Foolish enough to frolic around with me.”
“Vash, you don’t frolic.”
She noticed he wasn’t hiding Nightblood under his raggedy brown cloak. “What did you do with it?”
“Oh the sword?” He shrugged, “I tossed him in a closet back in the flat.”
“He won’t be happy will he?”
“Of course not.”
The pair moved out of the alley, down the street toward their small hiding hole in Oakenheart.
A few soggy streets later they were close to being able to dry off when Vivenna noticed a trio in grey clothing walking down the street toward them.
Citizens of Greenleaf tended to not wear grey, to avoid accusations of being an Awakener.
“Vash.” She whispered.
“I see them. Idrian soldiers most like.”
“What do we do?”
They continued down the street toward the men, Vivenna tried to act natural but she could tell her hair was bleaching white despite her best efforts to control it. She hoped her hood would conceal most of her locks.
As they passed the lead man, practically old enough to be her father jerked his head toward her.
Vivenna was too young to have grey hair.
She continued walking trying to ignore him.
She froze an icy hand gripping her heart.
“Thank Asture we’ve found you.”
She turned to face the men. “Sorry gentlemen you must be mistaken, I’m no princess.”
“Your grey hair just bleached white.”
Colors! She thought “Trick of the light.”
The man laughed, “Vivenna come now end these silly games. It is time to come home.”
“So that’s it then? You’ve come to steal my freedom and enslave me to Idris?”
She noticed the black symbol on his tunic, “Captain, return to Idris and tell the man I once called father that Vivenna the Princess is dead. In her stead lives Vivenna the Awakener. He won’t want me back.”
The captain took half a step back. “So then it’s true, you’ve become a pagan.”
“Your breath to mine.” she whispered to the ropes, the breaths surged within her, the grey tunics of the Idrian soldiers became sharper, her own brown clothes more vibrant. “Become my legs give me strength.” She said as she grabbed a bright red handkerchief instantly turning to grey.
The ropes at her waist uncoiled themselves, slid down her legs and wrapped tightly against her breeches and boots. The cobblestone street disappeared below as she sprung to the nearest rooftop. In moments Vasher and the Idiran solders were long gone.
Vasher watched her go. He smiled; she was becoming good at awakening.
The Idrian men craned their necks watching their princess bound across the rooftops before disappearing three streets over. One of the younger men asked his captain, “You sure she’s the princess?”
The captain sighed, “Yes sergeant.”
Vasher chuckled, “As you can see my good fellows, she’s left that life behind long ago.”
“Who are you?” The officer demanded.
He shrugged, “I wish I could say I’m her mentor but she doesn’t seem to need one anymore.”
“I’m afraid you shall come with us.”
“To the embassy of Idris for questioning.”
Vasher thought for a moment, he could probably kill the three soldiers before they had time to draw a weapon, but he knew Vivenna wouldn’t appreciate if he killed her father’s men. “Alright chaps, let’s go have a chat. Will I be going to prison then for kidnapping and corrupting the princess?”
The captains men grabbed him by the arms, “Maybe we should skip ahead to the gallows?”
Vasher shrugged, as well as he could with his arms bound. “What’s the charge?”
“Violating the princess of course.”
“Of course… what? Oh colors. You think I…colors no.”
“Shut up.” The captain ordered slamming his fist into Vasher’s gut.
And so I’m off to prison again. He thought as the men dragged him down the street.