I recently learned an interesting tidbit. In some parts of Nalthis, Returned aren’t worshipped as gods, but are feared as vampires:

In some parts of this world, Returned aren’t worshipped, but instead seen as something akin to vampires. They draw in Breath to survive, and need a supply of people to feed off of. They tend to wear black, since it’s the most powerful color for draining to Awaken things.

While I’m thrilled to learn about the existence of Returned who drain life energy and dress like Bela Lugosi, I’m puzzled as to how they feed.

As I understand it, in keeping with the nature of Endowment, Breath must be given, not stolen. This doesn’t pose a problem for the Returned who are worshiped as gods, but how do Returned who are hated and feared as vampires acquire Breath? They can’t consume it by force. They could buy it (assuming that there’s a market for Breath in these parts of the world), but the passage gives me the impression that they’re not much liked, so they might find that hard.

  • 1
    There's an entire market on Breath. Why would force even be a thing?
    – Radhil
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:28
  • @Radhil - We’re not talking about the Returned who live in Hallandren or whatnot, where they’re worshipped as gods. We’re talking about Returned who live in a far-away part of the world where they’re viewed as vampires, and “feed off of” a large population of people.
    – Adamant
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:30
  • my point is, there's plenty of people in Hallandren who managed to get others to give up their breath who aren't gods. Payment is arranged. And I'm not even evil, but I can think up other methods too. "Gimme munchies or your mom dies." Heck, Vasher's kept alive a long long time without having his feeding lined up for him.
    – Radhil
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:34
  • @Radhil - I doubt the first option will work very well if they’re viewed as vampires. But I certainly thought of that second possibility. Perhaps it’s even likely: if they have to wear black clothing to have lots of Awakening power, they must want it for something. But I’m hoping for something more definitive.
    – Adamant
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:36
  • @Radhil - Vasher probably has a bunch of Stormlight hidden away somewhere, though.
    – Adamant
    Sep 13, 2017 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


Your source appears to be literally the only information available, as of the time of this writing.

Warbreaker being the only novel set on Nalthis, and focusing mostly a single city on that world, we don't get a lot of broad exposition. This may change, with two characters jumping worlds into another Cosmere novel, but it's not likely we'll get more information on other cultures in Nalthis until we actually get another novel set there.

I can find nothing on theoryland, beyond a joke mention that soulcast blood is good for garden-variety vampires. Tor.com points out this same annotation in their extensive reread, and otherwise does not dwell on it at all.

With no information to be had, the most that can be done is speculation... and honestly, there's just way too many ways to get someone to agree to something of their own free will. Applying this to subjects willingly parting with their Breath, just about any idea has merit. If the "vampires" are lords of their areas, anything from a tax-like harvesting or threat of force could work. There could be an open market for Breath like there is in Hallandren, compensation for those who give it up. If these Returned are more fringe elements of those societies, any number of cons, grifts, hustles, rackets, and extortions could do the job as well.

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