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It's mentioned at least a couple of times in the original trilogy that beheading was only mildly annoying to the Lord Ruler. What combination of powers would allow him to easily survive such an extensive amount of trauma?

It's clear that using Allomancy to burn pewter can make a person much more resistant to injury, but a number of people are killed while burning pewter over the course of the trilogy, most of them to lesser wounds than a decapitation. An injury to a vital organ that would have been instantly fatal to a normal person generally seems to be treated as still being instantly fatal to an Allomancer burning pewter.

And it's clear that Feruchemy can be used to rapidly heal severe but non-instantly-fatal wounds. Presumably this is (part of) how the Inquisitors are able to recover from wounds that should kill them. Although even an Inquisitor can be killed by beheading. It's even the preferred method for killing them, until the secret about the spikes is revealed.

And there seems to be some property of Hemalurgy that allows a person to continue functioning despite damage to normally vital organs (including the heart and brain). I don't think this is ever fully explained, beyond stating that it's some combination of Hemalurgic spikes that keeps Inquisitors alive which is why decapitation works against them (by separating the spikes in their head from the others). And in any case it did not seem like the Lord Ruler practiced Hemalurgy on himself (possible exception being the bracers on his arm, which it's mentioned pierced his skin so that they'd be more difficult for an enemy to affect using Allomancy).

The Lord Ruler was able to use both Allomancy and Feruchemy, giving a boost to the latter power. But I'm not seeing how that would extend to the point of invulnerability to decapitation. Did his bracers also work like the Inquisitor's Hemalurgic spikes?

So what combination of in-universe powers would allow a person to shrug off a beheading? And how would it work; would the head grow a new body (how could it, since all of the metals it would need are with the body?), or the body a new head (how would a headless body know that it needed to do so?), or something else?

  • While it's probably not the case, it would be pretty cool if he managed to store not only some memories or identity, but whole mind backup. – Mithoron Jan 14 at 18:42
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The combination of powers is exactly as you think; it's the combination of Allomancy and Feruchemy.

Vin and Sazed actually try an experiment somewhere in the first novel along these lines. He stores a bit of Feruchemical power in metal, which Vin swallows and then tries to burn. She can feel the extra power, but can't access it to burn, as she is not a Feruchemist.

The Lord Ruler is. He's can store health via gold Feruchemy, and burning the stored power inside the gold directly with his Allomancy. The process is later referred to as Compounding, and it allows him to break the normal rules of Feruchemy, namely that what you put in is what you get out. By burning it, the power is magnified several times over, and by keeping a constant burn going, he's is functionally immortal. Other combinations are possible to provide all his other powers - pretty much anything storable in Feruchemy can be magnified exponentially this way.

We're not shown his beheading in this trilogy, or an event like it, but later in the series -

is someone else who can use gold in the same way by the name of Miles. He doesn't behead himself, but he does establish his dominance in a singular way. He puts a shotgun to his face and pulls the trigger. His head does grow back, in this instance.

Although the Lord Ruler could have done this with gold easily, this doesn't explain the raw scope of all of his powers. There are suggestions (both in appendices and in the newer novels) that a metal exists that can affect allomantic strength directly, and he may have been using this metal to supercharge his allomancy along with other Compoundings to achieve his quite dramatic power in all areas (the linked question references Atium specifically for his agelessness).

It's possible that he also uses Hemalurgy, since some of his metal pierces skin, but unlikely. He shows some awareness that this allows outside influences, and while he takes steps to curb this in the others that use Hemalurgy, the Lord Ruler wouldn't want to expose himself directly.

More info / possible duplicate here - How does Compounding work?

  • To clarify: It's likely that when his head is severed, the neck wound heals before the head can roll away. There's nothing saying that his head is separated by a distance. I don't think we need to believe that he grows an entire new head (or body). – user31178 Jan 25 '15 at 4:57
  • @CreationEdge - That would imply then that certain modes of decapitation could have been effective, right? For instance, a guillotine with a blade that's wider than his neck and which remains between the head and the torso. Or in other words, he was both powerful and lucky to survive. And I suppose the other implication is that he'd have to have his healing powers active in advance of the injury and/or perpetually on (which in theory he could do since he had an infinite feedback loop), since tapping a Feruchemical store is always depicted as taking a conscious effort? – aroth Jan 25 '15 at 7:56
  • @aroth Without more details from the Lord Ruler himself, it's hard to say. In my mind I like to think that it was bragging and psyche out sort of thing. If your enemies think you're unstoppable then they may not try to stop you. – user31178 Jan 25 '15 at 8:03
  • @CreationEdge - that's why I included the spoiler example, to show that regrowing most of a head is possible under the rules as demonstrated, although you might be right – Radhil Jan 25 '15 at 17:40
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    You're assuming that Physical detachment of the head actually removes Cognitive and/or Spiritual abilities. In the Cosmere, your "self" isn't stored in the synapses of your brain. With enough Investiture, the body isn't necessary, much less a single part of it, like the head. There might be a required Physical reattaching, but it's quite possible that the Lord Ruler (and Miles) could simply grow a whole new head. Or...the head could grow a new body. Not both, since there's only one self. – Alan Leuthard Aug 2 '17 at 17:39

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