-->The fate of an Empire, rests in the hands of a thief.

A novella by Creator/BrandonSanderson set on Sel, the same planet as his first novel, ''Literature/{{Elantris}}''.

[[ConMan Shai is a Forger]], a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by [[RealityWarper rewriting its history with skillful magic]]. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor's scepter, [[BoxedCrook she is given one opportunity to save herself]]. Despite the fact that her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead from the attack of assassins.

Delving deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan's truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure councilor Gaotona]] must overcome his prejudices to understand that her forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, [[GuileHero Shai needs a perfect plan to escape]]. The fate of [[TheEmpire the empire]] lies in one [[ImpossibleTask impossible task]]. [[BetterThanNew Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself?]]

For other works in TheVerse, see Franchise/TheCosmere.

If you wish to get the book in physical form, it is part of a bundle with another Sanderson novel, ''Legion''.
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!!This work contains examples of:

* AndTheAdventureContinues: [[spoiler:Shai ends the novella leaving the royal city to find Hoid, the Imperial Fool, and get payback for his betrayal.]]
* BetterThanNew: The maxim of a good forgery: improve slightly on the original, and people would often accept the fake because it ''was'' superior
* BilingualBonus: When Shai steals [[spoiler:her forgery of the painting]] from Frava she leaves a Reo rune in it's place. Readers of [[ContinuityNod Elantris]] will recognize this rune as meaning Punishment or Retribution.
* {{Blackmail}}: Frava assumes that Shai will use her knowledge of the Emperor's new state in this way once she finishes her work. However, as Gaotona accurately assumes, this is untrue, and Shai just wants to finish her job under the assumption of DoingItForTheArt.
* BloodMagic: To prevent her from escaping a sample of Shai's blood is taken daily by a Bloodsealer. This blood is used in a special stamp on her door which will let the Bloodsealer know if she leaves the room and can then be used to track her.
* BurnBabyBurn: The novella closes on [[spoiler:Gaotona doing this to Shai's real notes on the linchpin soulstamp for the emperor after reading them to cover her tracks]].
* ComplimentBackfire: Shai tells Gaotona that she is impressed that he thinks like a Forger, and, despite his annoyance, that it was meant as a compliment.
** YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame: Though Gaotona gets over that eventually.
* ContrivedCoincidence: What are the chances that the world's greatest forger is being held in the prison just as the world's most difficult forgery is needed? [[spoiler:Subverted; Probably quite high when [[Franchise/TheCosmere Hoid]] is the one who got her arrested.]]
* CorruptBureaucrat: Most arbiters, though only Frava is shown as this.
* DemBones: The skeletals the Bloodsealer makes. They even come with swords, at least one DualWielding.
* DoingItForTheArt: InUniverse, Shai's justification for Forging.
* EconomyCast: There are only about 6 important characters and a handful of extras. There are a bunch of arbiters, but only Frava and Gaotona have speaking roles, representing opposite sides of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: Frava is incapable of understanding that Shai has no interest in blackmailing the empire to not expose her work, or altering the seal for her own personal gain. [[spoiler:At the end of the story she's setting up to spend years examining the seal trying to find the hidden backdoors into Ashravan's psyche that don't actually exist, so that she can coopt them for her own use]].
* FakeMemories: What Forging a soul does to someone. Even the best one wears off after about twenty-four hours.
* FantasticSlurs: [=KuNuKam=], meaning roughly a man who has an anus for a mouth.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: [=MaiPon=] is something like Korea to Jindo's China.
* FunctionalMagic: As with most of Sanderson's works, the rules of magic are laid out pretty well.
** GeometricMagic: Forger stamps, including [[TheNecromancer Bloodsealers]] and [[TheMedic resealers]].
* ImpossibleTask: Shai claims to have completed several on "rare occasions", and also considers Forging a complete soul in three months to be this.
* InsistentTerminology: Frava despises Shai for being a Forger, but the Heritage Faction uses Forgers to turn ordinary pots into replicas of ancient ones. However, she justifies this by calling their Forgers "Rememberers", which Shai notes is basically the exact same thing.
** Though there is an in-universe difference, which Frava points out: "Forgers" use Essence Marks (stamps capable of rewriting a human soul) and "Rememberers" don't.
* InsultBackfire: When Gaotona calls Shai (to Zu) "a master trickster, liar, and thief" who could turn guards to clay in her hands, Shai thanks him, even though it was not a compliment.
* KansasCityShuffle: Shai made two fakes of the painting she stole from Frava, one slightly less exact than the other, and burned the original, so that Frava would find the worse fake and keep the better one without knowing what was done.
* KillItWithFire: Shai does this to a painting when she originally came to the Rose Palace. [[spoiler:The artist, blind and unable to make any more such paintings, asked her to.]]
* LockedInARoom: Shai herself is literally locked in one, Gaotona has to come visit her frequently for other reasons. They grow to appreciate each other over the course of the story.
* MemoryGambit: Shai's SplitPersonality Essence Marks.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Gaotona has this reaction when Shai reveals [[spoiler:that Ashravan resented him for persuading him to become Emperor in the first place]].
* {{Necromancer}}: The other part of a bloodsealer's abilities. They can track you with their blood- and ''sick the reanimated dead on you''. Shai is threatened not only with being attacked this way if she tries to run, but with being turned into a skeleton warrior herself if she ''is'' killed.
* NoNameGiven: The Bloodsealer and the Imperial Fool, though the latter is, according to WordOfGod, [[MysteriousStranger Hoid]], a DimensionalTraveler of Franchise/TheCosmere.
* NoSell: Ralkalest is an "unForgeable" metal.
* OhMyGods: "Nights (afire)" for Shai; "Days (alight/afire)", and "Mother of lights" for the Rose Palace natives.
* OutGambitted: Shai begins the story out-played by the Imperial Fool, who stole the Moon Scepter and sold her out before running off.
* RealityWarper: All Forgers, but only within tight limits. Their stamps are temporary, with duration depending on how plausible the change from the original history of the object is. For instance, it's easy to make gold into lead by rewriting the history of the object so it had been mixed with lead once, but turning lead into gold is essentially impossible because there's pretty much no way something meant to be lead would have been made out of gold instead.
** AlchemyIsMagic: The methodology come very close to this.
* RefugeInAudacity: Both a stock tool of a good forger and the entirety of the plan to recreate the Emperor's soul.
* ShoutOut: Being set on the same world as {{Literature/Elantris}}, this story contains a few references for fans to spot.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism: Discussed heavily, ends up firmly on the Idealistic side.
* SquishyWizard: Shai [[spoiler: when she's not being Shaizan]]; her magic is based more around scholarship and skill than fighting strength, after all. The Bloodsealer goes down pretty easy as well once his "pets" have been dealt with.
* SupernormalBindings: Shai is bound with chains made of [[AntiMagic ralkalest]] metal, preventing her from Forging the shackles to make them defective. Interestingly, ralkalest is a fairly weak metal, so [[PlayAlongPrisoner if she'd really wanted to]], Shai could probably have Forged tools to break the chains.
* TearJerker: InUniverse, [[spoiler:Gaotona's reaction to finding out the sheer masterpiece of the alterations in Shai's Forging of the emperor's soul, and then having to destroy all evidence of that masterpiece's existence to cover up the fact that it had been done in the first place]].
* WindowsOfTheSoul: Repeatedly mentioned in interactions between Shai and Gaotona.
* YouHave48Hours: Shai has to complete the soul of the Emperor in 99 days, including the day of her employment. She considers this an ImpossibleTask, since she assumes it will take two years to get the necessary knowledge.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: Shai is well aware that she will be killed once she has completed her task for the emperor, despite the promises of Frava. Therefore, part of her plan is to work to avoid this happening. [[spoiler:She succeeds.]]
** [[HeKnowsTooMuch She Knows Too Much]]: The other reason she will likely be killed, having blackmail against the Heritage Faction.
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