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Wan ShaiLu, a.k.a. "Shai"The Protagonist of the novella, "Shai" is the greatest Forger known to the Rose Empire, "employed" to Forge the soul of Emperor Ashravan over the course of three months.
- Action Girl: Her "Shaizan" personality, who Does Not Like Shoes.
- Badass Longcoat: When she takes Zu's cloak.
- Boxed Crook: The basis of the plot is that she's a magic-using criminal captured by the government so she can Forge a new soul for the Emperor.
- The Charmer: Shai is very good at understanding and befriending those around her.
- Con Woman: Her job as a Forger.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not to the extent of some of Sanderson's characters, but she'll take snarky digs at her captors.
- Driven to Suicide: Her fifth Essence Mark. The other four simply grant new skills and some physical changes, but let her remember who and what she is. But the fifth, if ever used, would totally erase her old life. As far as she would then know, the simple farm-girl life that Mark gives her would be the only life she'd ever had. She has no plans to use it, but just the fact that she made the thing (Essence Marks take years of dedicated labor to make) is a bit disturbing.
- On the other hand soul forging cannot last more than 24 hours, she has embedded her new personality with a reason to stamp herself everyday but should she ever be unable to do so for some reason then her original personality/memories will simply return.
- Five-Man Band: Using her Split Personality Essence Marks, Shai is a one woman version of this trope.
- Gilded Cage: She blows off steam by performing minor Forgings to improve the room in which she's kept. By the end, she has the nicest room in the palace, better even than the Emperor's wing - except for where she Forged the floor under her bed to be almost completely rotted through as part of her escape plan.
- Guile Heroine: Her survival in the custody of the Rose Empire hinges on her abilities as The Social Expert, while her plan to escape is predicated upon figuring out all of her enemies and pre-planning moves and Forgeries to neutralize them.
- Hero Protagonist: She's a decent person (albeit a thief), and the main character of the novella.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Before her Character Development.
- Manipulative Bastard: What the Rose Empire thinks she is. They technically aren't wrong about anything but the "unnatural" nature of Forging.
- Non-Action Guy: Shai is not much of a fighter, preferring to talk or bluff her way through dangerous situations. However using one of her pre-prepared essence marks she can become 'Shaizan', a version of herself if she'd been adopted by a harsh warrior culture and lived among them for well over a decade.
- Retconjuration: Her power as a Forger. She can rewrite the history of any object, provided the new history is at least somewhat plausible. For example, she can make her battered desk "actually" have been lovingly maintained and kept in pristine condition.
- The Social Expert: Being a skilled Forger requires her to be very good at making accurate deductions based on comparatively little evidence, about people as well as inanimate objects.
- Split Personality: Shai's Essence Marks are this for herself.
- Squishy Wizard: See Non-Action Guy. Forging is a very powerful magic system, but the process of doing it is involved enough that it's not that hot in physical combat compared to say, allomancy... well, at least until Shaizan comes out to play.
Arbiter GaotonaA reasonable arbiter who learns the ways of Forgery from Shai.
- Cool Old Guy: An intelligent, reasonable, and quite moral older man.
- Deuteragonist:He's the second most important character after Shai, and their interaction and contrasting characterization drives many of the scenes.
- Just Think of the Potential: He tends to think this about people, mostly the Emperor and Shai.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's the most level headed, honest and willing to see the potential in others out of the Arbiters.
- The Watson: About Forgery.
Arbiter FravaA cynical, anti-Shai arbiter who believes what she does is, no matter what, evil.
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: An example of what is implied to be the norm in the Rose Empire, in contrast to Gaotona.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Perceives Shai as someone who does illegal things for gain, rather than an artist who happens to work in an illegal medium. As such, she tries to bribe Shai with something the forger has no interest in, and sets herself up to spend years looking for hidden backdoors in Ashravan's Essence Mark that don't exist, as she can't conceive of a criminal with the opportunity to take control of the Empire not trying to do so.
- Hypocrite: She despises Shai's Forgery, but makes use of Forgers (though she calls them "Rememberers") for the Heritage Faction.
- Jerkass: Especially to Shai, though also to Gaotona.
- Manipulative Bastard: She wants to have a way to control the emperor after he's rejuvenated.
- Smug Snake: One tends to get the impression that Frava's not nearly the genius she thinks she is.
Emperor AshravanThe brain-dead emperor of the Rose Empire who Shai is to rejuvenate through Forgery.
- Becoming the Mask: Shai speculates that keeping him continuously stamped with the Essence Mark containing his new soul may eventually cause that soul to permanently imprint itself on him, removing the need for restamping.
- Came Back Wrong: Close enough, though, as it was impossible to be perfect. And close enough that even his closest friends and advisers can't tell the difference. A subversion in the end: While Ashravan will basically be afflicted with permanent Resurrection Sickness - he'll have to carry a Soul Jar at all times and re-stamp his soul daily - Shai actually made him Better Than New when it came to the actual content. It's what the best forgers do, after all.
- Drunk with Power: Why he strayed from his original ideals.
- The Emperor: Of the Rose Empire.
- Heel Realization: Shai tweaked his memories so that his assassination and recovery would provoke one.
- Hidden Depths: The entire book is about figuring out his personality and why it is the way it is.
- Idle Rich: He started out a good man who wanted to make the world a better place, but became complacent during his reign, caring more about pleasure than ruling.
- Jerkass Fašade: The cynical, self-interested Emperor actually took the throne hoping to reform the empire, before he gradually lost sight of that fact. Shai helped him find it again.
- Posthumous Character: Of a sort, as most of what is learned about him is while he is braindead.
- Soulless Shell: The resealers were able to repair his brain just fine. In fact, it's as good as new — that's exactly the problem.
The BloodsealerA nameless Bloodsealer of Dzhamar, a sub-state of the Rose Empire, who aims to have Shai's bones added to his pets should she try to leave.
- Anti-Villain: He just wants money to help a woman he loves.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's in love with a woman back in his homeland and wants to use the money he makes serving the Empire to help her.
- Black Cloak: His usual attire is a rather sinister hooded black robe.
- In the Hood: See above.
- Drowning His Sorrows: This seems to be the case whenever he doesn't get a letter.
- Evil Albino: He's deathly pale and has red eyes, both of which seem to be traits of his people.
- The Necromancer: He can reanimate the dead as skeletal minions...
- Blood Magic... and if he has a sample of someone's blood, he can make a seal to let his skeletals track them.
- No Name Given: He's only ever referred to as "the Bloodsealer".
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: He has red eyes, and while he may be an Anti-Villain, the nature of his powers and his role in the story makes him one of the more sinister characters.
- Synchronization: Judging from how he seems very weak and almost completely unresponsive when Shai destroys all of his skeletals in quick succession, this seems to be the case with the skeletals he animates.
Captain ZuAn angry Striker captain who wants to kill Shai for having gotten by him in the first place and having not captured her himself.
Han ShuXenThe artist of a painting that Shai tried to steal.
- The Ghost: He indirectly sets off the plot, but never actually appears in person.
- Last Request: He's old, nearly blind, and bedridden. So he asks his former student for one final service: to destroy his greatest masterpiece so that it cannot be used to glorify a nation he hates.
- Old Master: The artistry mentor of Shai.