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The Name of the Wind / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2007) -

The Name of the Wind /   (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2007) -

The Name of the Wind / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2007) -

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The Name of the Wind / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2007) -
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2007
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Patrick Rothfuss
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Rupert Degas
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upper-intermediate
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28:06:06
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96 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Name of the Wind / :

.doc (Word) patrick_rothfuss_-_the_name_of_the_wind.doc [1.82 Mb] (c: 13) .
.pdf patrick_rothfuss_-_the_name_of_the_wind.pdf [3.5 Mb] (c: 3) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: The Name of the Wind

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PROLOGUE A Silence of Three Parts IT WAS NIGHT AGAIN. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts. The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inns sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been musicbut no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained. Inside the Waystone a pair of men huddled at one corner of the bar. They drank with quiet determination, avoiding serious discussions of troubling news. In doing this they added a small, sullen silence to the larger, hollow one. It made an alloy of sorts, a counterpoint. The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the wooden floor underfoot and in the rough, splintering barrels behind the bar. It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long dead fire. It was in the slow back and forth of a white linen cloth rubbing along the grain of the bar. And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight. The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the subtle certainty that comes from knowing many things. The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumns ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die. CHAPTER ONE A Place for Demons IT WAS FELLING NIGHT, and the usual crowd had gathered at the Waystone Inn. Five wasnt much of a crowd, but five was as many as the Waystone ever saw these days, times being what they were. Old Cob was filling his role as storyteller and advice dispensary. The men at the bar sipped their drinks and listened. In the back room a young innkeeper stood out of sight behind the door, smiling as he listened to the details of a familiar story. When he awoke, Taborlin the Great found himself locked in a high tower. They had taken his sword and stripped him of his tools: key, coin, and candle were all gone. But that werent even the worst of it, you see Cob paused for effect, cause the lamps on the wall were burning blue! Graham, Jake, and Shep nodded to themselves. The three friends had grown up together, listening to Cobs stories and ignoring his advice. Cob peered closely at the newer, more attentive member of his small audience, the smiths prentice. Do you know what that meant, boy? Everyone called the smiths prentice boy despite the fact that he was a hand taller than anyone there. Small towns being what they are, he would most likely remain boy until his beard filled out or he bloodied someones nose over the matter. The boy gave a slow nod. The Chandrian. Thats right, Cob said approvingly. The Chandrian. Everyone knows that blue fire is one of their signs. Now he was But howd they find him? the boy interrupted. And why dint they kill him when they had the chance? Hush now, youll get all the answers before the end, Jake said. Just let him tell it. No need for all that, Jake, Graham said. Boys just curious. Drink your drink. I drank me drink already, Jake grumbled. I need tnother but the innkeeps still skinning rats in the back room. He raised his voice and knocked his empty mug hollowly on the top of the mahogany bar. Hoy! Were thirsty men in here! The innkeeper appeared with five bowls of stew and two warm, round loaves of bread. He pulled more beer for Jake, Shep, and Old Cob, moving with an air of bustling efficiency. The story was set aside while the men tended to their dinners. Old Cob tucked away his bowl of stew with the predatory efficiency of a lifetime bachelor. The others were still blowing steam off their bowls when he finished the last of his loaf and returned to his story. Now Taborlin needed to escape, but when he looked around, he saw his cell had no door. No windows. All around him was nothing but smooth, hard stone. It was a cell no man had ever escaped. But Taborlin knew the names of all things, and so all things were his to command. He said to the stone: Break! and the stone broke. The wall tore like a piece of paper, and through that hole Taborlin could see the sky and breathe the sweet spring air. He stepped to the edge, looked down, and without a second thought he stepped out into the open air. The boys eyes went wide. He didnt! Cob nodded seriously. So Taborlin fell, but he did not despair. For he knew the name of the wind, and so the wind obeyed him. He spoke to the wind and it cradled and caressed him. It bore him to the ground as gently as a puff of thistledown and set him on his feet softly as a mothers kiss. And when he got to the ground and felt his side where theyd stabbed him, he saw that it werent hardly a scratch. Now maybe it was just a piece of luck, Cob tapped the side of his nose knowingly. Or maybe it had something to do with the amulet he was wearing under his shirt. What amulet? the boy asked eagerly through a mouthful of stew. Old Cob leaned back on his stool, glad for the chance to elaborate. A few days earlier, Taborlin had met a tinker on the road. And even though Taborlin didnt have much to eat, he shared his dinner with the old man. Right sensible thing to do, Graham said quietly to the boy. Everyone knows: A tinker pays for kindness twice. No no, Jake grumbled. Get it right: A tinkers advice pays kindness twice. The innkeeper spoke up for the first time that night. Actually, youre missing more than half, he said, standing in the doorway behind the bar. A tinkers debt is always paid: Once for any simple trade. Twice for freely-given aid. Twice for freely-given aid. Thrice for any insult made. The men at the bar seemed almost surprised to see Kote standing there. Theyd been coming to the Waystone every Felling night for months and Kote had never interjected anything of his own before. Not that you could expect anything else, really. Hed only been in town for a year or so. He was still a stranger. The smiths prentice had lived here since he was eleven, and he was still referred to as that Rannish boy, as if Rannish were some foreign country and not a town less than thirty miles away. Just something I heard once, Kote said to fill the silence, obviously embarrassed. Old Cob nodded before he cleared his throat and launched back into the story. Now this amulet was worth a whole bucket of gold nobles, but on account of Taborlins kindness, the tinker sold it to him for nothing but an iron penny, a copper penny, and a silver penny. It was black as a winter night and cold as ice to touch, but so long as it was round his neck, Taborlin would be safe from the harm of evil things. Demons and such. Id give a good piece for such a thing these days, Shep said darkly. He had drunk most and talked least over the course of the evening. Everyone knew that something bad had happened out on his farm last Cendling night, but since they were good friends they knew better than to press him for the details. At least not this early in the evening, not as sober as they were. Aye, who wouldnt? Old Cob said judiciously, taking a long drink. I dint know the Chandrian were demons, the boy said. Id heard They aint demons, Jake said firmly. They were the first six people to refuse Tehlus choice of the path, and he cursed them to wander the corners Are you telling this story, Jacob Walker? Cob said sharply. Cause if you are, Ill just let you get on with it. The two men glared at each other for a long moment. Eventually Jake looked away, muttering something that could, conceivably, have been an apology. Cob turned back to the boy. Thats the mystery of the Chandrian, he explained. Where do they come from? Where do they go after theyve done their bloody deeds? Are they men who sold their souls? Demons? Spirits? No one knows. Cob shot Jake a profoundly disdainful look. Though every half-wit claims he knows. The story fell further into bickering at this point, about the nature of the Chandrian, the signs that showed their presence to the wary, and whether the amulet would protect Taborlin from bandits, or mad dogs, or falling off a horse. Things were getting heated when the front door banged open. Jake looked over. Its about time you got in, Carter. Tell this damn fool the difference between a demon and a dog. Everybody kn Jake stopped midsentence and rushed to the door. Gods body, what happened to you? Carter stepped into the light, his face pale and smeared with blood. He clutched an old saddle blanket to his chest. It was an odd, awkward shape, as if it were wrapped around a tangle of kindling sticks. His friends jumped off their stools and hurried over at the sight of him. Im fine, he said as he made his slow way into the common room. His eyes were wild around the edges, like a skittish horse. Im fine. Im fine. He dropped the bundled blanket onto the nearest table where it knocked hard against the wood, as if it were full of stones. His clothes were crisscrossed with long, straight cuts. His grey shirt hung in loose tatters except where it was stuck to his body, stained a dark, sullen red. Graham tried to ease him into a chair. Mother of God. Sit down, Carter. What happened to you? Sit down. Carter shook his head stubbornly. I told you, Im fine. Im not hurt that bad. How many were there? Graham said. One, Carter said. But its not what you think Goddammit. I told you, Carter, Old Cob burst out with the sort of frightened anger only relatives and close friends can muster. I told you for months now. You cant go out alone. Not even as far as Baedn. It aint safe. Jake laid a hand on the old mans arm, quieting him. Just take a sit, Graham said, still trying to steer Carter into a chair. Lets get that shirt off you and get you cleaned up. Carter shook his head. Im fine. I got cut up a little, but the blood is mostly Nellys. It jumped on her. Killed her about two miles outside town, past the Oldstone Bridge. A moment of serious silence followed the news. The smiths prentice laid a sympathetic hand on Carters shoulder. Damn. Thats hard. She was gentle as a lamb, too. Never tried to bite or kick when you brought her in for shoes. Best horse in town. Damn. Im He trailed off. Damn. I dont know what to say. He looked around helplessly. Cob finally managed to free himself from Jake. I told you, he repeated, shaking a finger in Carters direction. Theres folks out lately that would kill you for a pair of pennies, let alone a horse and cart. What are you going to do now? Pull it yourself? There was a moment of uncomfortable quiet. Jake and Cob glared at each other while the rest seemed at a loss for words, unsure of how to comfort their friend. The innkeeper moved carefully through the silence. Arms full, he stepped nimbly around Shep and began to arrange some items on a nearby table: a bowl of hot water, shears, some clean linen, a few glass bottles, needle and gut. This never would have happened if hed listened to me in the first place, Old Cob muttered. Jake tried to quiet him, but Cob brushed him aside. Im just tellin the truth. Its a damn shame about Nelly, but he better listen now or hell end up dead. You dont get lucky twice with those sort of men. Carters mouth made a thin line. He reached out and pulled the edge of the bloody blanket. Whatever was inside flipped over once and snagged on the cloth. Carter tugged harder and there was a clatter like a bag of flat river stones upended onto the tabletop. It was a spider as large as a wagon wheel, black as slate. The smiths prentice jumped backward and hit a table, knocking it over and almost falling to the ground himself. Cobs face went slack. Graham, Shep, and Jake made wordless, startled sounds and moved away, raising their hands to their faces. Carter took a step backward that was almost like a nervous twitch. Silence filled the room like a cold sweat. The innkeeper frowned. They cant have made it this far west yet, he said softly. If not for the silence, it is unlikely anyone would have heard him. But they did. Their eyes pulled away from the thing on the table to stare mutely at the red-haired man. Jake found his voice first. You know what this is? The innkeepers eyes were distant. Scrael, he said distractedly. Id thought the mountains Scrael? Jake broke in. Blackened body of God, Kote. Youve seen these things before? What? The red-haired innkeeper looked up sharply, as if suddenly remembering where he was. Oh. No. No, of course not. Seeing that he was the only one within arms length of the dark thing, he took a measured step away. Just something I heard. They stared at him. Do you remember the trader that came through about two span ago? They all nodded. Bastard tried to charge me ten pennies for a half-pound of salt, Cob said reflexively, repeating the complaint for perhaps the hundredth time. Wish Id bought some, Jake mumbled. Graham nodded a silent agreement. He was a filthy shim, Cob spat, seeming to find comfort in the familiar words. I might pay two in a tight time, but ten is robbery. Not if there are more of those on the road, Shep said darkly. All eyes went back to the thing on the table. He told me hed heard of them over near Melcombe, Kote said quickly, watching everyones faces as they studied the thing on the table. I thought he was just trying to drive up his prices. What else did he say? Carter asked. The innkeeper looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. I didnt get the whole story. He was only in town for a couple hours. I dont like spiders, the smiths prentice said. He remained on the other side of a table some fifteen feet away. Cover it up. Its not a spider, Jake said. Its got no eyes. Its got no mouth either, Carter pointed out. How does it eat? What does it eat? Shep said darkly. The innkeeper continued to eye the thing curiously. He leaned closer, stretching out a hand. Everyone edged even farther away from the table. Careful, Carter said. Its feet are sharp like knives. More like razors, Kote said. His long fingers brushed the scraels black, featureless body. Its smooth and hard, like pottery. Dont go messing with it, the smiths prentice said. Moving carefully, the innkeeper took one of the long, smooth legs and tried to break it with both hands like a stick. Not pottery, he amended. He set it against the edge of the table and leaned his weight against it. It broke with a sharp crack. More like stone. He looked up at Carter. How did it get all these cracks? He pointed at the thin fractures that crazed the smooth black surface of the body. Nelly fell on it, Carter said. It jumped out of a tree and started to climb all over her, cutting her up with its feet. It moved so fast. I didnt even know what was going on. Carter finally sank into the chair at Grahams urging. She got tangled in her harness and fell on it, broke some of its legs. Then it came after me, got on me, crawling all over. He crossed his arms in front of his bloody chest and shuddered. I managed to get it off me and stomped it hard as I could. Then it got on me again. He trailed off, his face ashen. The innkeeper nodded to himself as he continued to prod the thing. Theres no blood. No organs. Its just grey inside. He poked it with a finger. Like a mushroom. Great Tehlu, just leave it alone, the smiths prentice begged. Sometimes spiders twitch after you kill them. Listen to yourselves, Cob said scathingly. Spiders dont get big as pigs. You know what this is. He looked around, making eye contact with each of them. Its a demon. They looked at the broken thing. Oh, come on now, Jake said, disagreeing mostly out of habit. Its not like He made an inarticulate gesture. It cant just Everyone knew what he was thinking. Certainly there were demons in the world. But they were like Tehlus angels. They were like heroes and kings. They belonged in stories. They belonged out there. Taborlin the Great called up fire and lightning to destroy demons. Tehlu broke them in his hands and sent them howling into the nameless void. Your childhood friend didnt stomp one to death on the road to Baedn-Bryt. It was ridiculous. Kote ran his hand through his red hair, then broke the silence. Theres one way to tell for sure, he said, reaching into his pocket. Iron or fire. He brought out a bulging leather purse. And the name of God, Graham pointed out. Demons fear three things: cold iron, clean fire, and the holy name of God. The innkeepers mouth pressed itself into a straight line that was not quite a frown. Of course, he said as he emptied his purse onto the table then fingered through the jumbled coins: heavy silver talents and thin silver bits, copper jots, broken hapennies, and iron drabs. Does anyone have a shim? Just use a drab, Jake said. Thats good iron. I dont want good iron, the innkeeper said. A drab has too much carbon in it. Its almost steel. Hes right, the smiths prentice said. Except its not carbon. You use coke to make steel. Coke and lime. The innkeeper nodded deferentially to the boy. Youd know best, young master. Its your business after all. His long fingers finally found a shim in the pile of coins. He held it up. Here we are. What will it do? Jake asked. Iron kills demons, Cobs voice was uncertain, but this ones already dead. It might not do anything. One way to find out. The innkeeper met each of their eyes briefly, as if measuring them. Then he turned purposefully back to the table, and they edged farther away. Kote pressed the iron shim to the black side of the creature, and there was a short, sharp crackling sound, like a pine log snapping in a hot fire. Everyone startled, then relaxed when the black thing remained motionless. Cob and the others exchanged shaky smiles, like boys spooked by a ghost story. Their smiles went sour as the room filled with the sweet, acrid smell of rotting flowers and burning hair. The innkeeper pressed the shim onto the table with a sharp click. Well, he said, brushing his hands against his apron. I guess that settles that. What do we do now? Hours later, the innkeeper stood in the doorway of the Waystone and let his eyes relax to the darkness. Footprints of lamplight from the inns windows fell across the dirt road and the doors of the smithy across the way. It was not a large road, or well traveled. It didnt seem to lead anywhere, as some roads do. The innkeeper drew a deep breath of autumn air and looked around restlessly, as if waiting for something to happen. He called himself Kote. He had chosen the name carefully when he came to this place. He had taken a new name for most of the usual reasons, and for a few unusual ones as well, not the least of which was the fact that names were important to him. Looking up, he saw a thousand stars glittering in the deep velvet of a night with no moon. He knew them all, their stories and their names. He knew them in a familiar way, the way he knew his own hands. Looking down, Kote sighed without knowing it and went back inside. He locked the door and shuttered the wide windows of the inn, as if to distance himself from the stars and all their varied names. He swept the floor methodically, catching all the corners. He washed the tables and the bar, moving with a patient efficiency. At the end of an hours work, the water in his bucket was still clean enough for a lady to wash her hands in. Finally, he pulled a stool behind the bar and began to polish the vast array of bottles nestled between the two huge barrels. He wasnt nearly as crisp and efficient about this chore as he had been with the others, and it soon became obvious the polishing was only an excuse to touch and hold. He even hummed a little, although he did not realize it, and would have stopped himself if he had known. As he turned the bottles in his long, graceful hands the familiar motion eased a few tired lines from his face, making him seem younger, certainly not yet thirty. Not even near thirty. Young for an innkeeper. Young for a man with so many tired lines remaining on his face. Kote came to the top of the stairs and opened the door. His room was austere, almost monkish. There was a black stone fireplace in the center of the room, a pair of chairs, and a small desk. The only other furniture was a narrow bed with a large, dark chest at its foot. Nothing decorated the walls or covered the wooden floor. There were footsteps in the hall, and a young man stepped into the room carrying a bowl of stew that steamed and smelled of pepper. He was dark and charming, with a quick smile and cunning eyes. You havent been this late in weeks, he said as he handed over the bowl. There must have been good stories tonight, Reshi. Reshi was another of the innkeepers names, a nickname almost. The sound of it tugged one corner of his mouth into a wry smile as he sank into the deep chair in front of the fire. So, what did you learn today, Bast? Today, master, I learned why great lovers have better eyesight than great scholars. And why is that, Bast? Kote asked, amusement touching the edges of his voice. Bast closed the door and returned to sit in the second chair, turning it to face his teacher and the fire. He moved with a strange delicacy and grace, as if he were close to dancing. Well Reshi, all the rich books are found inside where the light is bad. But lovely girls tend to be out in the sunshine and therefore much easier to study without risk of injuring ones eyes. Kote nodded. But an exceptionally clever student could take a book out-side, thus bettering himself without fear of lessening his much-loved faculty of sight. I thought the same thing, Reshi. Being, of course, an exceptionally clever student. Of course. But when I found a place in the sun where I could read, a beautiful girl came along and kept me from doing anything of the sort, Bast finished with a flourish. Kote sighed. Am I correct in assuming you didnt manage to read any of Celum Tinture today? Bast managed to look somewhat ashamed. Looking into the fire, Kote tried to assume a stern face and failed. Ah Bast, I hope she was lovely as a warm wind in the shade. Im a bad teacher to say it, but Im glad. I dont feel up to a long bout of lessons right now. There was a moment of silence. Carter was attacked by a scraeling tonight. Basts easy smile fell away like a cracked mask, leaving his face stricken and pale. The scrael? He came halfway to his feet as if he would bolt from the room, then gave an embarrassed frown and forced himself back down into his chair. How do you know? Who found his body? Hes still alive, Bast. He brought it back. There was only one. Theres no such thing as one scraeling, Bast said flatly. You know that. I know, Kote said. The fact remains there was only one. And he killed it? Bast said. It couldnt have been a scraeling. Maybe Bast, it was one of the scrael. I saw it. Kote gave him a serious look. He was lucky, thats all. Even so he was badly hurt. Forty-eight stitches. I used up nearly all my gut. Kote picked up his bowl of stew. If anyone asks, tell them my grandfather was a caravan guard who taught me how to clean and stitch a wound. They were too shocked to ask about it tonight, but tomorrow some of them might get curious. I dont want that. He blew into his bowl, raising a cloud of steam around his face. What did you do with the body? I didnt do anything with it, Kote said pointedly. I am just an innkeeper. This sort of thing is quite beyond me. Reshi, you cant just let them muddle through this on their own. Kote sighed. They took it to the priest. He did all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Bast opened his mouth, but Kote continued before he could say anything. Yes, I made sure the pit was deep enough. Yes, I made sure there was rowan wood in the fire. Yes, I made sure it burned long and hot before they buried it. And yes, I made sure that no one kept a piece of it as a souvenir. He scowled, his eyebrows drawing together. Im not an idiot, you know. Bast visibly relaxed, settling back into his chair. I know youre not, Reshi. But I wouldnt trust half these people to piss leeward without help. He looked thoughtful for a moment. I cant imagine why there was only one. Maybe they died coming over the mountains, Kote suggested. All but this one. Its possible, Bast admitted reluctantly. Maybe it was that storm from a couple days back, Kote pointed out. A real wagon-tipper, as we used to say back in the troupe. All the wind and rain might have scattered one loose from the pack. I like your first idea better, Reshi, Bast said uncomfortably. Three or four scrael would go through this town likelike Like a hot knife through butter? More like several hot knives through several dozen farmers, Bast said dryly. These people cant defend themselves. I bet there arent six swords in this whole town. Not that swords would do much good against the scrael. There was a long moment of thoughtful silence. After a moment Bast began to fidget. Any news? Kote shook his head. They didnt get to the news tonight. Carter disrupted things while they were still telling stories. Thats something, I suppose. Theyll be back tomorrow night. Itll give me something to do. Kote poked his spoon idly into the stew. I should have bought the scrael from Carter, he mused. He couldve used the money for a new horse. People would have come from all over to see it. We could have had some business for a change. Bast gave him a speechless, horrified look. Kote made a pacifying gesture with the hand that held the spoon. Im joking, Bast. He gave a weak smile. Still, it would have been nice. No Reshi, it most certainly would not have been nice, Bast said emphatically. People would have come from all over to see it, he repeated derisively. Indeed. The business would have been nice, Kote clarified. Busy-ness would be nice. He jabbed his spoon into the stew again. Anything would be nice. They sat for a long moment. Kote scowling down into the bowl of stew in his hands, his eyes far away. It must be awful for you here, Bast, he said at last. You must be numb with boredom. Bast shrugged. There are a few young wives in town. A scattering of daughters. He grinned like a child. I tend to make my own fun. Thats good, Bast. There was another silence. Kote took another spoonful, chewed, swallowed. They thought it was a demon, you know. Bast shrugged. It might as well be, Reshi. Its probably the best thing for them to think. I know. I encouraged them, in fact. But you know what that means. He met Basts eyes. The blacksmith is going to be doing a brisk business in the next couple days. Basts expression went carefully blank. Oh. Kote nodded. I wont blame you if you want to leave, Bast. You have better places to be than this. Basts expression was shocked. I couldnt leave, Reshi. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, at a loss for words. Who else would teach me? Kote grinned, and for a moment his face showed how truly young he was. Behind the weary lines and the placid innkeepers expression he looked no older than his dark-haired companion. Who indeed? He gestured toward the door with his spoon. Go do your reading then, or bother someones daughter. Im sure you have better things to do than watch me eat. Actually Begone demon! Kote said, switching to a thickly accented Temic through half a mouthful of stew. Tehus antausa eha! Bast burst into startled laughter and made an obscene gesture with one hand. Kote swallowed and changed languages. Aroi te denna-leyan! Oh come now, Bast reproached, his smile falling away. Thats just insulting. By earth and stone, I abjure you! Kote dipped his fingers into the cup by his side and flicked droplets casually in Basts direction. Glamour be banished! With cider? Bast managed to look amused and annoyed at the same time as he daubed a bead of liquid from the front of his shirt. This better not stain. Kote took another bite of his dinner. Go soak it. If the situation becomes desperate, I recommend you avail yourself of the numerous solvent formulae extant in Celum Tinture. Chapter thirteen, I believe. Fine. Bast stood and walked to the door, stepping with his strange, casual grace. Call if you need anything. He closed the door behind himself. Kote ate slowly, mopping up the last of the stew with a piece of bread. He looked out the window as he ate, or tried to, as the lamplight turned its surface mirrorlike against the dark behind it. His eyes wandered the room restlessly. The fireplace was made of the same black rock as the one downstairs. It stood in the center of the room, a minor feat of engineering of which Kote was rather proud. The bed was small, little more than a cot, and if you were to touch it you would find the mattress almost nonexistent. A skilled observer might notice there was something his gaze avoided. The same way you avoid meeting the eye of an old lover at a formal dinner, or that of an old enemy sitting across the room in a crowded alehouse late at night. Kote tried to relax, failed, fidgeted, sighed, shifted in his seat, and without willing it his eyes fell on the chest at the foot of the bed. It was made of roah, a rare, heavy wood, dark as coal and smooth as polished glass. Prized by perfumers and alchemists, a piece the size of your thumb was easily worth gold. To have a chest made of it went far beyond extravagance. The chest was sealed three times. It had a lock of iron, a lock of copper, and a lock that could not be seen. Tonight the wood filled the room with the almost imperceptible aroma of citrus and quenching iron. When Kotes eyes fell on the chest they did not dart quickly away. They did not slide slyly to the side as if he would pretend it wasnt there at all. But in a moment of looking, his face regained all the lines the simple pleasures of the day had slowly smoothed away. The comfort of his bottles and books was erased in a second, leaving nothing behind his eyes but emptiness and ache. For a moment fierce longing and regret warred across his face. Then they were gone, replaced by the weary face of an innkeeper, a man who called himself Kote. He sighed again without knowing it and pushed himself to his feet. It was a long time before he walked past the chest to bed. Once in bed, it was a long time before he slept. As Kote had guessed, they came back to the Waystone the next night for dinner and drinks. There were a few half-hearted attempts at stories, but they died out quickly. No one was really in the mood. So it was still early in the evening when the discussion turned to matters of greater import. They chewed over the rumors that had come into town, most of them troubling. The Penitent King was having a difficult time with the rebels in Resavek. This caused some concern, but only in a general way. Resavek was a long way off, and even Cob, the most worldly of them, would be hard pressed to find it on a map. They discussed the war in their own terms. Cob predicted a third levy tax after the harvests were in. No one argued, though there hadnt been a three-bleeder year in living memory. Jake guessed the harvest would be good enough so the third levy wouldnt break most families. Except the Bentleys, who were on hard times anyway. And the Orissons, whose sheep kept disappearing. And Crazy Martin, who had planted all barley this year. Every farmer with half a brain had planted beans. That was one good thing about all the fightingsoldiers ate beans, and prices would be high. After a few more drinks, deeper concerns were voiced. Deserter soldiers and other opportunists were thick on the roads, making even short trips risky. The roads were always bad, of course, in the same way that winter was always cold. You complained, took sensible precautions, and got on with the business of living your life. But this was different. Over the last two months the roads had become so bad that people had stopped complaining. The last caravan had two wagons and four guards. The merchant had been asking ten pennies for half a pound of salt, fifteen for a loaf of sugar. He didnt have any pepper, or cinnamon, or chocolate. He did have one small sack of coffee, but he wanted two silver talents for that. At first people had laughed at his prices. Then, when he held firm, folk had spat and cursed at him. That had been two span ago: twenty-two days. There had not been another serious trader since, even though this was the season for it. So despite the third levy tax looming large in everyones minds, people were looking in their purses and wishing theyd bought a little something, just in case the snow came early. No one spoke of the previous night, of the thing they had burned and buried. Other folk were talking, of course. The town was alive with gossip. Carters wounds ensured that the stories were taken half seriously, but not much more than half. The word demon was being spoken, but it was with smiles half-hidden behind raised hands. Only the six friends had seen the thing before it was burned. One of them had been wounded and the others had been drinking. The priest had seen it too, but it was his job to see demons. Demons were good for his business. The innkeeper had seen it too, apparently. But he wasnt from around here. He couldnt know the truth that was so apparent to everyone born and raised in this little town: stories were told here, but they happened somewhere else. This was not a place for demons. Besides, things were bad enough without borrowing trouble. Cob and the rest knew there was no sense talking about it. Trying to convince folk would only make them a laughingstock, like Crazy Martin, who had been trying to dig a well inside his own house for years now. Still, each of them bought a piece of cold-wrought iron from the smith, heavy as they could swing, and none of them said what they were thinking. Instead they complained that the roads were bad and getting worse. They talked about merchants, and deserters, and levies, and not enough salt to last the winter. They reminisced that three years ago no one would have even thought of locking their doors at night, let alone barring them. The conversation took a downward turn from there, and even though none of them said what they were thinking, the evening ended on a grim note. Most evenings did these days, times being what they were. CHAPTER TWO A Beautiful Day IT WAS ONE OF those perfect autumn days so common in stories and so rare in the real world. The weather was warm and dry, ideal for ripening a field of wheat or corn. On both sides of the road the trees were changing color. Tall poplars had gone a buttery yellow while the shrubby sumac encroaching on the road was tinged a violent red. Only the old oaks seemed reluctant to give up the summer, and their leaves remained an even mingling of gold and green. Everything said, you couldnt hope for a nicer day to have a half dozen ex-soldiers with hunting bows relieve you of everything you owned. Shes not much of a horse, sir, Chronicler said. One small step above a dray, and when it rains she The man cut him off with a sharp gesture. Listen friend, the kings army is paying good money for anything with four legs and at least one eye. If you were stark mad and riding a hobbyhorse down the road, Id still take it off you. Their leader had an air of command about him. Chronicler guessed he had been a low ranking officer not long ago. Just hop down, he said seriously. Well get this done with and you can be on your way. Chronicler climbed down from his horse. He had been robbed before and knew when there was nothing to be gained by discussion. These fellows knew their business. No energy was wasted on bravado or idle threats. One of them looked over the horse, checking hooves, teeth, and harness. Two others went through his saddlebags with a military efficiency, laying all his worldly possessions out on the ground. Two blankets, a hooded cloak, the flat leather satchel, and his heavy, well-stocked travelsack. Thats all of it, Commander, one of the men said. Except for about twenty pounds of oats. The commander knelt down and opened the flat leather satchel, peering inside. Theres nothing but paper and pens in there, Chronicler said. The commander turned to look backward over his shoulder. You a scribe then? Chronicler nodded. Its my livelihood, sir. And no real use to you. The man looked through the satchel, found it to be true, and set it aside. Then he upended the travelsack onto Chroniclers spread cloak and poked idly through the contents. He took most of Chroniclers salt and a pair of bootlaces. Then, much to the scribes dismay, he picked up the shirt Chronicler had bought back in Linwood. It was fine linen dyed a deep, royal blue, too nice for traveling. Chronicler hadnt even had the chance to wear it yet. He sighed. The commander left everything else lying on the cloak and got to his feet. The others took turns going through Chroniclers things. The commander spoke up, You only have one blanket, dont you Janns? One of the men nodded. Take one of his then, youll need a second before winters through. His cloak is in better shape than mine, sir. Take it, but leave yours. The same for you, Witkins. Leave your old tinderbox if youre taking his. I lost mine, sir, Witkins said. Else I would. The whole process was surprisingly civilized. Chronicler lost all of his needles but one, both extra pairs of socks, a bundle of dried fruit, a loaf of sugar, half a bottle of alcohol, and a pair of ivory dice. They left him the rest of his clothes, his dried meat, and a half-eaten loaf of incredibly stale rye bread. His flat leather satchel remained untouched. While the men repacked his travelsack, the commander turned to Chronicler. Lets have the purse then. Chronicler handed it over. And the ring. Theres hardly any silver in it, Chronicler mumbled as he unscrewed it from his finger. Whats that around your neck? Chronicler unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a dull ring of metal hanging from a leather cord. Just iron, sir. The commander came close and rubbed it between his fingers before letting it fall back against Chroniclers chest. Keep it then. Im not one to come between a man and his religion, he said, then emptied the purse into one hand, making a pleasantly surprised noise as he prodded through the coins with his finger. Scribing pays better than I thought, he said as he began to count out shares to his men. I dont suppose you could spare me a penny or two out of that? Chronicler asked. Just enough for a couple of hot meals? The six men turned to look at Chronicler, as if they couldnt quite believe what they had heard. The commander laughed. Gods body, you certainly have a heavy pair, dont you? There was a grudging respect in his voice. You seem a reasonable fellow, Chronicler said with a shrug. And a mans got to eat. Their leader smiled for the first time. A sentiment I can agree with. He took out two pennies and brandished them before putting them back into Chroniclers purse. Heres a pair for your pair, then. He tossed Chronicler the purse and stuffed the beautiful royal-blue shirt into his saddlebag. Thank you, sir, Chronicler said. You might want to know that that bottle one of your men took is wood alcohol I use for cleaning my pens. Itll go badly if he drinks it. The commander smiled and nodded. You see what comes of treating people well? he said to his men as he pulled himself up onto his horse. Its been a pleasure, sir scribe. If you get on your way now, you can still make Abbotts Ford by dark. When Chronicler could no longer hear their hoofbeats in the distance, he repacked his travelsack, making sure everything was well stowed. Then he tugged off one of his boots, stripped out the lining, and removed a tightly wrapped bundle of coins stuffed deep into the toe. He moved some of these into his purse, then unfastened his pants, produced another bundle of coins from underneath several layers of clothes, and moved some of that money into his purse as well. The key was to keep the proper amount in your purse. Too little and they would be disappointed and prone to look for more. Too much and they would be excited and might get greedy. There was a third bundle of coins baked into the stale loaf of bread that only the most desperate of criminals would be interested in. He left that alone for now, as well as the whole silver talent he had hidden in a jar of ink. Over the years he had come to think of the last as more of a luck piece. No one had ever found that. He had to admit, it was probably the most civil robbery hed ever been through. They had been genteel, efficient, and not terribly savvy. Losing the horse and saddle was hard, but he could buy another in Abbotts Ford and still have enough money to live comfortably until he finished this foolishness and met up with Skarpi in Treya. Feeling an urgent call of nature, Chronicler pushed his way through the bloodred sumac at the side of the road. As he was rebuttoning his pants, there was sudden motion in the underbrush as a dark shape thrashed its way free of some nearby bushes. Chronicler staggered back, crying out in alarm before he realized it was nothing more than a crow beating its wings into flight. Chuckling at his own foolishness, he straightened his clothes and made his way back to the road through the sumac, brushing away invisible strands of spiderweb that clung tickling to his face. As he shouldered his travelsack and satchel, Chronicler found himself feeling remarkably lighthearted. The worst had happened, and it hadnt been that bad. A breeze tussled through the trees, sending poplar leaves spinning like golden coins down onto the rutted dirt road. It was a beautiful day. CHAPTER THREE Wood and Word KOTE WAS LEAFING IDLY through a book, trying to ignore the silence of the empty inn when the door opened and Graham backed into the room. Just got done with it. Graham maneuvered through the maze of tables with exaggerated care. I was gonna bring it in last night, but then I thought one last coat of oil, rub it, and let dry. Cant say Im sorry I did. Lord and lady, its beautiful as anything these hands have ever made. A small line formed between the innkeepers eyebrows. Then, seeing the flat bundle in the mans arms, he brightened. Ahhh! The mounting board! Kote smiled tiredly. Im sorry Graham. Its been so long. Id almost forgotten. Graham gave him a bit of a strange look. Four month aint long for wood all the way from Aryen, not with the roads being as bad as they are. Four months, Kote echoed. He saw Graham watching him and hurried to add, That can be a lifetime if youre waiting for something. He tried to smile reassuringly, but it came out sickly. In fact, Kote himself seemed rather sickly. Not exactly unhealthy, but hollow. Wan. Like a plant thats been moved into the wrong sort of soil and, lacking something vital, has begun to wilt. Graham noted the difference. The innkeepers gestures werent as extravagant. His voice wasnt as deep. Even his eyes werent as bright as they had been a month ago. Their color seemed duller. They were less sea-foam, less green-grass than they had been. Now they were like riverweed, like the bottom of a green glass bottle. And his hair had been bright before, the color of flame. Now it seemedred. Just red-hair color, really. Kote drew back the cloth and looked underneath. The wood was a dark charcoal color with a black grain, heavy as a sheet of iron. Three dark pegs were set above a word chiseled into the wood. Folly, Graham read. Odd name for a sword. Kote nodded, his face carefully blank. How much do I owe you? he asked quietly. Graham thought for a moment. After what yeve given me to cover the cost of the wood There was a cunning glimmer in the mans eye. Around one and three. Kote handed over two talents. Keep the rest. Its difficult wood to work with. That it is, Graham said with some satisfaction. Like stone under the saw. Try a chisel, like iron. Then, after all the shouting was done, I couldnt char it. I noticed that, Kote said with a flicker of curiosity, running a finger along the darker groove the letters made in the wood. How did you manage it? Well, Graham said smugly, after wasting half a day, I took it over to the smithy. Me and the boy managed to sear it with a hot iron. Took us better than two hours to get it black. Not a wisp of smoke, but it made a stink like old leather and clover. Damnedest thing. What sort of wood dont burn? Graham waited a minute, but the innkeeper gave no signs of having heard. Where woulde like me to hang it then? Kote roused himself enough to look around the room. You can leave that to me, I think. I havent quite decided where to put it. Graham left a handful of iron nails and bid the innkeeper good day. Kote remained at the bar, idly running his hands over the wood and the word. Before too long Bast came out of the kitchen and looked over his teachers shoulder. There was a long moment of silence like a tribute given to the dead. Eventually, Bast spoke up. May I ask a question, Reshi? Kote smiled gently. Always, Bast. A troublesome question? Those tend to be the only worthwhile kind. They remained staring at the object on the bar for another silent moment, as if trying to commit it to memory. Folly. Bast struggled for a moment, opening his mouth, then closing it with a frustrated look, then repeating the process. Out with it, Kote said finally. What were you thinking? Bast said with an odd mixture of confusion and concern. Kote was a long while in answering. I tend to think too much, Bast. My greatest successes came from decisions I made when I stopped thinking and simply did what felt right. Even if there was no good explanation for what I did. He smiled wistfully. Even if there were very good reasons for me not to do what I did. Bast ran a hand along the side of his face. So youre trying to avoid second-guessing yourself? Kote hesitated. You could say that, he admitted. I could say that, Reshi, Bast said smugly. You, on the other hand, would complicate things needlessly. Kote shrugged and turned his eyes back to the mounting board. Nothing to do but find a place for it, I suppose. Out here? Basts expression was horrified. Kote grinned wickedly, a measure of vitality coming back into his face. Of course, he said, seeming to savor Basts reaction. He looked speculatively at the walls and pursed his lips. Where did you put it, anyway? In my room, Bast admitted. Under my bed. Kote nodded distractedly, still looking at the walls. Go get it then. He made a small shooing gesture with one hand, and Bast hurried off, looking unhappy. The bar was decorated with glittering bottles, and Kote was standing on the now-vacant counter between the two heavy oak barrels when Bast came back into the room, black scabbard swinging loosely from one hand. Kote paused in the act of setting the mounting board atop one of the barrels and cried out in dismay, Careful, Bast! Youre carrying a lady there, not swinging some wench at a barn dance. Bast stopped in his tracks and dutifully gathered it up in both hands before walking the rest of the way to the bar. Kote pounded a pair of nails into the wall, twisted some wire, and hung the mounting board firmly on the wall. Hand it up, would you? he asked with an odd catch in his voice. Using both hands, Bast held it up to him, looking for a moment like a squire offering up a sword to some bright-armored knight. But there was no knight there, just an innkeeper, just a man in an apron who called himself Kote. He took the sword from Bast and stood upright on the counter behind the bar. He drew the sword without a flourish. It shone a dull grey-white in the rooms autumn light. It had the appearance of a new sword. It was not notched or rusted. There were no bright scratches skittering along its dull grey side. But though it was unmarred, it was old. And while it was obviously a sword, it was not a familiar shape. At least no one in this town would have found it familiar. It looked as if an alchemist had distilled a dozen swords, and when the crucible had cooled this was lying in the bottom: a sword in its pure form. It was slender and graceful. It was deadly as a sharp stone beneath swift water. Kote held it a moment. His hand did not shake. Then he set the sword on the mounting board. Its grey-white metal shone against the dark roah behind it. While the handle could be seen, it was dark enough to be almost indistinguishable from the wood. The word beneath it, black against blackness, seemed to reproach: Folly. Kote climbed down, and for a moment he and Bast stood side by side, silently looking up. Bast broke the silence. It is rather striking, he said, as if he regretted the truth. But He trailed off, trying to find appropriate words. He shuddered. Kote clapped him on the back, oddly cheerful. Dont bother being disturbed on my account. He seemed more lively now, as if his activity lent him energy. I like it, he said with sudden conviction, and hung the black scabbard from one of the mounting boards pegs. Then there were things to be done. Bottles to be polished and put back in place. Lunch to be made. Lunch clutter to be cleaned. Things were cheerful for a while in a pleasant, bustling way. The two talked of small matters as they worked. And while they moved around a great deal, it was obvious they were reluctant to finish whatever task they were close to completing, as if they both dreaded the moment when the work would end and the silence would fill the room again. Then something odd happened. The door opened and noise poured into the Waystone like a gentle wave. People bustled in, talking and dropping bundles of belongings. They chose tables and threw their coats over the backs of chairs. One man, wearing a shirt of heavy metal rings, unbuckled a sword and leaned it against a wall. Two or three wore knives on their belts. Four or five called for drinks. Kote and Bast watched for a moment, then moved smoothly into action. Kote smiled and began pouring drinks. Bast darted outside to see if there were horses that needed stabling. In ten minutes the inn was a different place. Coins rang on the bar. Cheese and fruit were set on platters and a large copper pot was hung to simmer in the kitchen. Men moved tables and chairs about to better suit their group of nearly a dozen people. Kote identified them as they came in. Two men and two women, wagoneers, rough from years of being outside and smiling to be spending a night out of the wind. Three guards with hard eyes, smelling of iron. A tinker with a potbelly and a ready smile showing his few remaining teeth. Two young men, one sandy-haired, one dark, well dressed and well-spoken: travelers sensible enough to hook up with a larger group for protection on the road. The settling-in period lasted an hour or two. Prices of rooms were dickered over. Friendly arguments started about who slept with whom. Minor necessities were brought in from wagons or saddlebags. Baths were requested and water heated. Hay was taken to the horses, and Kote topped off the oil in all the lamps. The tinker hurried outside to make use of the remaining daylight. He walked his two-wheel mule cart through the towns streets. Children crowded around, begging for candy and stories and shims. When it became apparent that nothing was going to be handed out, most of them lost interest. They formed a circle with a boy in the middle and started to clap, keeping the beat with a childrens song that had been ages old when their grandparents had chanted it: When the hearthfire turns to blue, What to do? What to do? Run outside. Run and hide. Laughing, the boy in the middle tried to break out of the circle while the other children pushed him back. Tinker, the old mans voice rang out like a bell. Pot mender. Knife grinder. Willow-wand water-finder. Cut cork. Motherleaf. Silk scarves off the city streets. Writing paper. Sweetmeats. This drew the attention of the children. They flocked back to him, making a small parade as he walked down the street, singing, Belt leather. Black pepper. Fine lace and bright feather. Tinker in town tonight, gone tomorrow. Working through the evening light. Come wife. Come daughter, Ive small cloth and rose water. After a couple of minutes he settled outside the Waystone, set up his sharpening wheel and began to grind a knife. As the adults began to gather around the old man, the children returned to their game. A girl in the center of the circle put one hand over her eyes and tried to catch the other children as they ran away, clapping and chanting: When his eyes are black as crow? Where to go? Where to go? Near and far. Here they are. The tinker dealt with everyone in turn, sometimes two or three at a time. He traded sharp knives for dull ones and a small coin. He sold shears and needles, copper pots and small bottles that wives hid quickly after buying them. He traded buttons and bags of cinnamon and salt. Limes from Tinu?, chocolate from Tarbean, polished horn from Aerueh. All the while the children continued to sing: See a man without a face? Move like ghosts from place to place. Whats their plan? Whats their plan? Chandrian. Chandrian. Kote guessed the travelers had been together a month or so, long enough to become comfortable with each other, but not long enough to be squabbling over small things. They smelled of road dust and horses. He breathed it in like perfume. Best of all was the noise. Leather creaking. Men laughing. The fire cracked and spat. The women flirted. Someone even knocked over a chair. For the first time in a long while there was no silence in the Waystone Inn. Or if there was, it was too faint to be noticed, or too well hidden. Kote was in the middle of it all, always moving, like a man tending a large, complex machine. Ready with a drink just as a person called for it, he talked and listened in the right amounts. He laughed at jokes, shook hands, smiled, and whisked coins off the bar as if he truly needed the money. Then, when the time for songs came and everyone had sung their favorites and still wanted more, Kote led them from behind the bar, clapping to keep a beat. With the fire shining in his hair, he sang Tinker Tanner, more verses than anyone had heard before, and no one minded in the least. Hours later, the common room had a warm, jovial feel to it. Kote was kneeling on the hearth, building up the fire, when someone spoke behind him. Kvothe? The innkeeper turned, wearing a slightly confused smile. Sir? It was one of the well-dressed travelers. He swayed a little. Youre Kvothe. Kote, sir, Kote replied in an indulgent tone that mothers use on children and innkeepers use on drunks. Kvothe the Bloodless. The man pressed ahead with the dogged persistence of the inebriated. You looked familiar, but I couldnt finger it. He smiled proudly and tapped a finger to his nose. Then I heard you sing, and I knew it was you. I heard you in Imre once. Cried my eyes out afterward. I never heard anything like that before or since. Broke my heart. The young mans sentences grew jumbled as he continued, but his face remained earnest. I knew it couldnt be you. But I thought it was. Even though. But who else has your hair? He shook his head, trying unsuccessfully to clear it. I saw the place in Imre where you killed him. By the fountain. The cobblestones are all shathered. He frowned and concentrated on the word. Shattered. They say no one can mend them. The sandy-haired man paused again. Squinting for focus, he seemed surprised by the innkeepers reaction. The red-haired man was grinning. Are you saying I look like Kvothe? The Kvothe? Ive always thought so myself. I have an engraving of him in back. My assistant teases me for it. Would you tell him what you just told me? Kote threw a final log onto the fire and stood. But as he stepped from the hearth, one of his legs twisted underneath him and he fell heavily to the floor, knocking over a chair. Several of the travelers hurried over, but the innkeeper was already on his feet, waving people back to their seats. No, no. Im fine. Sorry to startle anyone. In spite of his grin it was obvious hed hurt himself. His face was tight with pain, and he leaned heavily on a chair for support. Took an arrow in the knee on my way through the Eld three summers ago. It gives out every now and then. He grimaced and said wistfully, Its what made me give up the good life on the road. He reached down to touch his oddly bent leg tenderly. One of the mercenaries spoke up. Id put a poultice on that, or itll swell terrible. Kote touched it again and nodded. I think you are wise, sir. He turned to the sandy-haired man who stood swaying slightly by the fireplace, Could you do me a favor, son? The man nodded dumbly. Just close the flue. Kote gestured toward the fireplace. Bast, will you help me upstairs? Bast hurried over and drew Kotes arm around his shoulders. Kote leaned on him with every other step as they made their way through the doorway and up the stairs. Arrow in the leg? Bast asked under his breath. Are you really that embarrassed from taking a little fall? Thank God youre as gullible as they are, Kote said sharply as soon as they were out of sight. He began to curse under his breath as he climbed a few more steps, his knee obviously uninjured. Basts eyes widened, then narrowed. Kote stopped at the top of the steps and rubbed his eyes. One of them knows who I am. Kote frowned. Suspects. Which one? Bast asked with a mix of apprehension and anger. Green shirt, sandy hair. The one nearest to me by the fireplace. Give him something to make him sleep. Hes already been drinking. No one will think twice if he happens to pass out. Bast thought briefly. Nighmane? Mhenka. Bast raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Kote straightened. Listen three times, Bast. Bast blinked once and nodded. Kote spoke crisply and cleanly. I was a city-licensed escort from Ralien. Wounded while successfully defending a caravan. Arrow in right knee. Three years ago. Summer. A grateful Cealdish merchant gave me money to start aninn. His name is Deolan. We were traveling from Purvis. Mention it casually. Do you have it? I hear you three times, Reshi, Bast replied formally. Go. Half an hour later Bast brought a bowl to his masters room, reassuring him that everything was well downstairs. Kote nodded and gave terse instructions that he not be disturbed for the rest of the night. Closing the door behind himself, Basts expression was worried. He stood at the top of the stairs for some time, trying to think of something he could do. It is hard to say what troubled Bast so much. Kote didnt seem noticeably changed in any way. Except, perhaps, that he moved a little slower, and whatever small spark the nights activity had lit behind his eyes was dimmer now. In fact, it could hardly be seen. In fact, it may not have been there at all. Kote sat in front of the fire and ate his meal mechanically, as if he were simply finding a place inside himself to keep the food. After the last bite he sat staring into nothing, not remembering what he had eaten or what it tasted like. The fire snapped, making him blink and look around the room. He looked down at his hands, one curled inside the other, resting in his lap. After a moment, he lifted and spread them, as if warming them by the fire. They were graceful, with long, delicate fingers. He watched them intently, as if expecting them to do something on their own. Then he lowered them to his lap, one hand lightly cupping the other, and returned to watching the fire. Expressionless, motionless, he sat until there was nothing left but grey ash and dully glowing coals. As he was undressing for bed, the fire flared. The red light traced faint lines across his body, across his back and arms. All the scars were smooth and silver, streaking him like lightning, like lines of gentle remembering. The flare of flame revealed them all briefly, old wounds and new. All the scars were smooth and silver except one. The fire flickered and died. Sleep met him like a lover in an empty bed. The travelers left early the next morning. Bast tended to their needs, explaining his masters knee was swollen quite badly and he didnt feel up to taking the stairs so early in the day. Everyone understood except for the sandy-haired merchants son, who was too groggy to understand much of anything. The guards exchanged smiles and rolled their eyes while the tinker gave an impromptu sermon on the subject of temperance. Bast recommended several unpleasant hangover cures. After they left, Bast tended to the inn, which was no great chore, as there were no customers. Most of his time was spent trying to find ways to amuse himself. Some time after noon, Kote came down the stairs to find him crushing walnuts on the bar with a heavy leather-bound book. Good morning, Reshi. Good morning, Bast, Kote said. Any news? The Orrison boy stopped by. Wanted to know if we needed any mutton. Kote nodded, almost as if he had been suspecting the news. How much did you order? Bast made a face. I hate mutton, Reshi. It tastes like wet mittens. Kote shrugged and made his way to the door. Ive got some errands to run. Keep an eye on things, will you? I always do. Outside the Waystone Inn the air lay still and heavy on the empty dirt road that ran through the center of town. The sky was a featureless grey sheet of cloud that looked as if it wanted to rain but couldnt quite work up the energy. Kote walked across the street to the open front of the smithy. The smith wore his hair cropped short and his beard thick and bushy. As Kote watched, he carefully drove a pair of nails through a scythe blades collar, fixing it firmly onto a curved wooden handle. Hello Caleb. The smith leaned the scythe up against the wall. What can I do for you, Master Kote? Did the Orrison boy stop by your place too? Caleb nodded. They still losing sheep? Kote asked. Actually, some of the lost ones finally turned up. Torn up awful, practically shredded. Wolves? Kote asked. The smith shrugged. Its the wrong time of year, but what else would it be? A bear? I guess theyre just selling off what they cant watch over properly, them being shorthanded and all. Shorthanded? Had to let their hired man go because of taxes, and their oldest son took the kings coin early this summer. Hes off fighting the rebels in Menat now. Meneras, Kote corrected gently. If you see their boy again, let him know Id be willing to buy about three halves. Ill do that. The smith gave the innkeeper a knowing look. Is there anything else? Well, Kote looked away, suddenly self-conscious. I was wondering if you have any rod-iron lying around, he said, not meeting the smiths eye. It doesnt have to be anything fancy mind you. Just plain old pig-iron would do nicely. Caleb chuckled. I didnt know if you were going to stop by at all. Old Cob and the rest came by day before yesterday. He walked over to a workbench and lifted up a piece of canvas. I made a couple extras just in case. Kote picked up a rod of iron about two feet long and swung it casually with one hand. Clever man. I know my business, the smith said smugly. You need anything else? Actually, Kote said as he settled the bar of iron comfortably against his shoulder, There is one other thing. Do you have a spare apron and set of forge gloves? Could have, Caleb said hesitantly. Why? Theres an old bramble patch behind the inn. Kote nodded in the direction of the Waystone. Im thinking of tearing it up so I can put in a garden next year. But I dont fancy losing half my skin doing it. The smith nodded and gestured for Kote to follow him into the back of the shop. Ive got my old set, he said as he dug out a pair of heavy gloves and a stiff leather apron; both were charred dark in places and stained with grease. Theyre not pretty, but theyll keep the worst of it off you, I suppose. What are they worth to you? Kote asked, reaching for his purse. The smith shook his head, A jot would be a great plenty. Theyre no good to me or the boy. The innkeeper handed over a coin and the smith stuffed them into an old burlap sack. You sure you want to do it now? The smith asked. We havent had rain in a while. The groundll be softer after the spring thaw. Kote shrugged. My granda always told me that falls the time to root up something you dont want coming back to trouble you. Kote mimicked the quaver of an old mans voice. Things are too full of life in the spring months. In the summer, theyre too strong and wont let go. Autumn He looked around at the changing leaves on the trees. Autumns the time. In autumn everything is tired and ready to die. Later that afternoon Kote sent Bast to catch up on his sleep. Then he moved listlessly around the inn, doing small jobs left over from the night before. There were no customers. When evening finally came he lit the lamps and began to page disinterestedly through a book. Fall was supposed to be the years busiest time, but travelers were scarce lately. Kote knew with bleak certainty how long winter would be. He closed the inn early, something he had never done before. He didnt bother sweeping. The floor didnt need it. He didnt wash the tables or the bar, none had been used. He polished a bottle or two, locked the door, and went to bed. There was no one around to notice the difference. No one except Bast, who watched his master, and worried, and waited. CHAPTER FOUR Halfway to Newarre CHRONICLER WALKED. Yesterday he had limped, but today there was no part of his feet that didnt hurt, so limping did no good. He had searched for horses in Abbotts Ford and Rannish, offering outrageous prices for even the most broken-down animals. But in small towns like these, people didnt have horses to spare, especially not with harvest fast approaching. Despite a hard days walking, he was still on the road when night fell, making the rutted dirt road a stumbling ground of half-seen shapes. After two hours of fumbling through the dark, Chronicler saw light flickering through the trees and abandoned any thought of making it to Newarre that night, deciding a farmsteads hospitality would be welcome enough. He left the road, blundering through the trees toward the light. But the fire was farther away than he had thought, and larger. It wasnt lamplight from a house, or even sparks from a campfire. It was a bonfire roaring in the ruins of an old house, little more than two crumbling stone walls. Huddled into the corner those two walls made was a man. He wore a heavy hooded cloak, bundled up as if it were full winter and not a mild autumn evening. Chroniclers hopes rose at the sight of a small cook fire with a pot hanging over it. But as he came close, he caught a foul scent mingling with the woodsmoke. It reeked of burning hair and rotting flowers. Chronicler quickly decided that whatever the man was cooking in the iron pot, he wanted none of it. Still, even a place next to a fire was better than curling up by the side of the road. Chronicler stepped into the circle of firelight. I saw your f He stopped as the figure sprang quickly to its feet, a sword held with both hands. No, not a sword, a long, dark cudgel of some sort, too regularly shaped to be a piece of firewood. Chronicler stopped dead in his tracks. I was just looking for a place to sleep, he said quickly, his hand unconsciously clutching at the circle of iron that hung around his neck. I dont want any trouble. Ill leave you to your dinner. He took a step backward. The figure relaxed, and the cudgel dropped to grate metallically against a stone. Charred body of God, what are you doing out here at this time of night? I was headed to Newarre and saw your fire. You just followed a strange fire into the woods at night? The hooded figure shook his head. You might as well come here. He motioned Chronicler closer, and the scribe saw he was wearing thick leather gloves. Tehlu anyway, have you had bad luck your whole life, or have you been saving it all up for tonight? I dont know who youre waiting for, Chronicler said, taking a step backward. But Im sure youd rather do it alone. Shut up and listen, the man said sharply. I dont know how much time we have. He looked down and rubbed at his face. God, I never know how much to tell you people. If you dont believe me, youll think Im crazy. If you do believe me, youll panic and be worse than useless. Looking back up, he saw Chronicler hadnt moved. Get over here, damn you. If you go back out there youre as good as dead. Chronicler glanced over his shoulder into the dark of the forest. Why? Whats out there? The man gave a short, bitter laugh and shook his head in exasperation. Honestly? He ran his hand absentmindedly though his hair, brushing his hood back in the process. In the firelight his hair was impossibly red, his eyes a shocking, vibrant green. He looked at Chronicler, sizing him up. Demons, he said. Demons in the shape of big, black spiders. Chronicler relaxed. Theres no such thing as demons. From his tone it was obvious hed said the same thing many, many times before. The red-haired man gave an incredulous laugh. Well, I guess we can all go home then! He flashed a manic grin at Chronicler. Listen, Im guessing youre an educated man. I respect that, and for the most part, youre right. His expression went serious. But here and now, tonight, youre wrong. Wrong as wrong can be. You dont want to be on that side of the fire when you figure that out. The flat certainty in the mans voice sent a chill down Chroniclers back. Feeling more than slightly foolish, he stepped delicately around to the other side of the bonfire. The man sized him up quickly. I dont suppose you have any weapons? Chronicler shook his head. It doesnt really matter. A sword wouldnt do you much good. He handed Chronicler a heavy piece of firewood. You probably wont be able to hit one, but its worth a try. Theyre fast. If one of them gets on you, just fall down. Try to land on it, crush it with your body. Roll on it. If you get hold of one, throw it into the fire. He drew the hood back over his head, speaking quickly. If you have any extra clothes, put them on. If you have a blanket you could wrap He stopped suddenly and looked out across the circle of firelight. Get your back against the wall, he said abruptly, bringing his iron cudgel up with both hands. Chronicler looked past the bonfire. Something dark was moving in the trees. They came into the light, moving low across the ground: black shapes, many-legged and large as cart wheels. One, quicker than the rest, rushed into the firelight without hesitating, moving with the disturbing, sinuous speed of a scuttling insect. Before Chronicler could raise his piece of firewood, the thing skirted sideways around the bonfire and sprang at him, quick as a cricket. Chronicler threw up his hands just as the black thing struck his face and chest. Its cold, hard legs scrabbled for a hold and he felt bright stripes of pain across the backs of his arm. Staggering away, the scribe felt his heel snag on the rough ground, and he began to topple over backward, arms flailing wildly. As he fell, Chronicler caught one last glimpse of the circle of firelight. More of the black things were scuttling out of the dark, their feet beating a quick staccato rhythm against roots and rocks and leaves. On the other side of the fire the man in the heavy cloak held his iron cudgel ready with both hands. He stood perfectly still, perfectly silent, waiting. Still falling backward with the dark thing on top of him, Chronicler felt a dull, dark explosion as the back of his head struck the stone wall behind him. The world slowed, turned blurry, then black. Chronicler opened his eyes to a confusing mass of dark shapes and firelight. His skull throbbed. There were several lines of bright, clear pain crossing the backs of his arms and a dull ache that pulled at his left side every time he drew in a breath. After a long moment of concentration the world came into a blurry focus. The bundled man sat nearby. He was no longer wearing his gloves, and his heavy cloak hung off his body in loose tatters, but other than that he seemed unscathed. His hood was up, hiding his face. Youre awake? the man asked curiously. Thats good. You can never be sure with a head wound. The hood tilted a bit. Can you talk? Do you know where you are? Yes, Chronicler said thickly. It seemed to take far too much effort to make a single word. Even better. Now, third time pays for all. Do you think you can stand up and lend me a hand? We need to burn and bury the bodies. Chronicler moved his head a bit and felt suddenly dizzy and nauseous. What happened? I might have broken a couple of your ribs, the man said. One of them was all over you. I didnt have a lot of options. He shrugged. Im sorry, for whatever thats worth. Ive already stitched up the cuts on your arms. They should heal up nicely. Theyre gone? The hood nodded once. The scrael dont retreat. Theyre like wasps from a hive. They keep attacking until they die. A horrified look spread over Chroniclers face. Theres a hive of these things? Dear God, no. There were just these five. Still, we have to burn and bury them, just to be sure. I already cut the wood well need: ash and rowan. Chronicler gave a laugh that sounded slightly hysterical. Just like the childrens song: Let me tell you what to do. Dig a pit thats ten by two. Ash and elm and rowan too Yes indeed, the bundled man said dryly. Youd be surprised at the sorts of things hidden away in childrens songs. But while I dont think we need to dig the entire ten feet down, I wouldnt refuse a little help. He trailed off meaningfully. Chronicler moved one hand to feel the back of his head gingerly, then looked at his fingers, surprised that they werent covered in blood. I think Im fine, he said as he cautiously levered himself up onto one elbow and from there into a sitting position. Is there any His eyes flickered and he went limp, falling bonelessly backward. His head struck the ground, bounced once, and came to rest tilted slightly to one side. Kote sat patiently for a few long moments, watching the unconscious man. When there was no movement other than the chest slowly rising and falling, he came stiffly to his feet and knelt at Chroniclers side. Kote lifted one eyelid, then the other and grunted at what he saw, not seeming particularly surprised. I dont suppose theres any chance of you waking up again? he asked without much hope in his voice. He tapped Chroniclers pale cheek lightly. No chance at A drop of blood spotted Chroniclers forehead, followed quickly by another. Kote straightened up so that he was no longer leaning over the unconscious man and wiped the blood away as best he could, which wasnt very well, as his hands were covered in blood themselves. Sorry, he said absently. He gave a deep sigh and pushed back his hood. His red hair was matted down against his head, and half his face was smeared with drying blood. Slowly he began to peel away the tattered remains of his cloak. Underneath was a leather blacksmiths apron, wildly scored with cuts. He removed that as well, revealing a plain grey shirt of homespun. Both his shoulders and his left arm were dark and wet with blood. Kote fingered the buttons of his shirt for a moment, then decided against removing it. Climbing gingerly to his feet, he picked up the spade and slowly, painfully, began to dig. CHAPTER FIVE Notes IT WAS WELL PAST midnight by the time Kote made it back to Newarre with Chroniclers limp body slung across his lacerated shoulders. The towns houses and shops were dark and silent, but the Waystone Inn was full of light. Bast stood in the doorway, practically dancing with irritation. When he spotted the approaching figure he rushed down the street, waving a piece of paper angrily. A note? You sneak out and leave me a note? He hissed angrily. What am I, some dockside whore? Kote turned around and shrugged Chroniclers limp body into Basts arms. I knew you would just argue with me, Bast. Bast held Chronicler easily in front of him. It wasnt even a good note. If you are reading this I am probably dead. What sort of a note is that? You werent supposed to find it till morning, Kote said tiredly as they began to walk down the street to the inn. Bast looked down at the man he was carrying, as if noticing him for the first time. Who is this? He shook him a little, eyeing him curiously before slinging him easily over one shoulder like a burlap sack. Some unlucky sod who happened to be on the road at the wrong time, Kote said dismissively. Dont shake him too much. His head might be on a little loose. What the hell did you sneak off for, anyway? Bast demanded as they entered the inn. If youre going to leave a note it should at least tell me what Basts eyes widened as he saw Kote in the light of the inn, pale and streaked with blood and dirt. You can go ahead and worry if you want, Kote said dryly. Its every bit as bad as it looks. You went out hunting for them, didnt you? Bast hissed, then his eyes widened. No. You kept a piece of the one Carter killed. I cant believe you. You lied to me. To me! Kote sighed as he trudged up the stairs. Are you upset by the lie, or the fact that you didnt catch me at it? he asked as he began to climb. Bast spluttered. Im upset that you thought you couldnt trust me. They let their conversation lapse as they opened one of the many empty rooms on the second floor, undressed Chronicler, and tucked him snugly into bed. Kote left the mans satchel and travelsack on the floor nearby. Closing the door to the room behind him, Kote said, I trust you Bast, but I wanted you safe. I knew I could handle it. I could have helped, Reshi. Basts tone was injured. You know I would have. You can still help, Bast, Kote said as he made his way to his room and sat heavily on the edge of his narrow bed. I need some stitching done. He began to unbutton his shirt. I could do it myself. But the tops of my shoulders and my back are hard to reach. Nonsense, Reshi. Ill do it. Kote made a gesture to the door. My supplies are down in the basement. Bast sniffed disdainfully. I will use my own needles, thank you very much. Good honest bone. None of your nasty jagged iron things, stabbing you like little slivers of hate. He shivered. Stream and stone, its frightening how primitive you people are. Bast bustled out of the room, leaving the door open behind him. Kote slowly removed his shirt, grimacing and sucking his breath through his teeth as the dried blood stuck and tugged against the wounds. His face went stoic again when Bast came back into the room with a basin of water and began to clean him off. As the dried blood was washed away a wild scoring of long, straight cuts became clear. They gaped redly against the innkeepers fair skin, as if he had been slashed with a barbers razor or a piece of broken glass. There were perhaps a dozen cuts in all, most of them on the tops of his shoulders, a few across his back and along his arms. One started on the top of his head and ran down his scalp to behind his ear. I thought you werent supposed to bleed, Reshi, Bast said. Bloodless and all that. Dont believe everything you hear in stories, Bast. They lie to you. Well you arent nearly as bad off as I thought, Bast said, wiping his hands clean. Though by all rights you should have lost a piece of your ear. Were they wounded like the one that attacked Carter? Not that I could see, Kote said. How many were there? Five. Five? Bast said, aghast. How many did the other fellow kill? He distracted one of them for a while, Kote said generously. Anpauen, Reshi, Bast said, shaking his head as he threaded a bone needle with something thinner and finer than gut. You should be dead. You should be dead twice. Kote shrugged. Its not the first time I should be dead, Bast. Im a fair hand at avoiding it. Bast bent to his work. This will sting a bit, he said, his hands strangely gentle. Honestly Reshi, I cant see how youve managed to stay alive this long. Kote shrugged again and closed his eyes. Neither do I, Bast, he said. His voice was tired and grey. Hours later, the door to Kotes room cracked open and Bast peered inside. Hearing nothing but slow, measured breathing, the young man walked softly to stand beside the bed and bent over the sleeping man. Bast eyed the color of his cheeks, smelled his breath, and lightly touched his forehead, his wrist, and the hollow of his throat above his heart. Then Bast drew a chair alongside the bed and sat, watching his master, listening to him breathe. After a moment he reached out and brushed the unruly red hair back from his face, like a mother would with a sleeping child. Then he began to sing softly, the tune lilting and strange, almost a lullaby: How odd to watch a mortal kindle Then to dwindle day by day. Knowing their bright souls are tinder And the wind will have its way. Would I could my own fire lend. What does your flickering portend? Basts voice faded until at last he sat motionless, watching the rise and fall of his masters silent breathing through the long hours of mornings early dark. CHAPTER SIX The Price of Remembering IT WAS EARLY EVENING of the next day before Chronicler came down the stairs to the common room of the Waystone Inn. Pale and unsteady, he carried his flat leather satchel under one arm. Kote sat behind the bar, paging through a book. Ah, our unintentional guest. Hows the head? Chronicler raised a hand to touch the back of his head. Throbs a bit when I move around too quickly. But its still working. Glad to hear it, Kote said. Is this Chronicler hesitated, looking around. Are we in Newarre? Kote nodded. You are, in fact, in the middle of Newarre. He made a dramatic sweeping gesture with one hand. Thriving metropolis. Home to dozens. Chronicler stared at the red-haired man behind the bar. He leaned against one of the tables for support. Gods charred body, he said breathlessly. It really is you, isnt it? The innkeeper looked puzzled. I beg your pardon? I know youre going to deny it, Chronicler said. But what I saw last night The innkeeper held up a hand, quieting him. Before we discuss the possibility that youve addled your wits with that crack to the head, tell me, how is the road to Tinu?? What? Chronicler asked, irritated. I wasnt heading to Tinu?. I wasoh. Well even aside from last night, the roads been pretty rough. I was robbed off by Abbots Ford, and Ive been on foot ever since. But it was all worth it since youre actually here. The scribe glanced at the sword hanging over the bar and drew a deep breath, his expression becoming vaguely anxious. Im not here to cause trouble, mind you. Im not here because of the price on your head. He gave a weak smile. Not that I could hope to trouble you Fine, the innkeeper interupted as he pulled out a white linen cloth and began to polish the bar. Who are you then? You can call me Chronicler. I didnt ask what I could call you, Kote said. What is your name? Devan. Devan Lochees. Kote stopped polishing the bar and looked up. Lochees? Are you related to Duke Kote trailed off, nodding to himself. Yes, of course you are. Not a chronicler, the Chronicler. He stared hard at the balding man, looking him up and down. How about that? The great debunker himself. Chronicler relaxed slightly, obviously pleased to have his reputation precede him. I wasnt trying to be difficult before. I havent thought of myself as Devan in years. I left that name behind me long ago. He gave the innkeeper a significant look. I expect you know something of that yourself. Kote ignored the unspoken question. I read your book years ago. The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus. Quite the eye-opener for a young man with his head full of stories. Looking down he began moving the white cloth along the grain of the bar again. Ill admit, I was disappointed to learn that dragons didnt exist. Thats a hard lesson for a boy to learn. Chronicler smiled. Honestly, I was a little disappointed myself. I went looking for a legend and found a lizard. A fascinating lizard, but a lizard just the same. And now youre here, Kote said. Have you come to prove that I dont exist? Chronicler laughed nervously. No. You see, we heard a rumor We? Kote interrupted. Ive been traveling with an old friend of yours. Skarpi. Taken you under his wing, has he? Kote said to himself. How about that? Skarpis apprentice. More of a colleague, really. Kote nodded, still expressionless. I might have guessed he would be the first to find me. Rumormongers, both of you. Chroniclers smile grew sour, and he swallowed the first words that came to his lips. He struggled for a moment to recapture his calm demeanor. So what can I do for you? Kote set aside the clean linen cloth and gave his best innkeepers smile. Something to eat or drink? A room for the night? Chronicler hesitated. I have it all right here. Kote gestured expansively behind the bar. Old wine, smooth and pale? Honey mead? Dark ale? Sweet fruit liquor! Plum? Cherry? Green apple? Blackberry? Kote pointed out the bottles in turn. Come now, surely you must want something? As he spoke, his smile widened, showing too many teeth for a friendly innkeepers grin. At the same time his eyes grew cold, and hard, and angry. Chronicler dropped his gaze. Id thought that You thought, Kote said derisively, dropping all pretense of a smile. I very much doubt it. Otherwise, you might have thought, he bit off the word, of how much danger you were putting me in by coming here. Chroniclers face grew red. Id heard that Kvothe was fearless, he said hotly. The innkeeper shrugged. Only priests and fools are fearless, and Ive never been on the best of terms with God. Chronicler frowned, aware that he was being baited. Listen, he continued calmly, I was extraordinarily careful. No one except Skarpi knew I was coming. I didnt mention you to anyone. I didnt expect to actually find you. Imagine my relief, Kote said sarcastically. Obviously disheartened, Chronicler spoke, Ill be the first to admit that my coming here may have been a mistake. He paused, giving Kote the opportunity to contradict him. Kote didnt. Chronicler gave a small, tight sigh and continued, But whats done is done. Wont you even consider Kote shook his head. It was a long time ago Not even two years, Chronicler protested. and I am not what I was, Kote continued without pausing. And what was that, exactly? Kvothe, he said simply, refusing to be drawn any further into an explanation. Now I am Kote. I tend to my inn. That means beer is three shims and a private room costs copper. He began polishing the bar again with a fierce intensity. As you said, done is done. The stories will take care of themselves. But Kote looked up, and for a second Chronicler saw past the anger that lay glittering on the surface of his eyes. For a moment he saw the pain underneath, raw and bloody, like a wound too deep for healing. Then Kote looked away and only the anger remained. What could you possibly offer me that is worth the price of remembering? Everyone thinks youre dead. You dont get it, do you? Kote shook his head, stuck between amusement and exasperation. Thats the whole point. People dont look for you when youre dead. Old enemies dont try to settle scores. People dont come asking you for stories, he said acidly. Chronicler refused to back down. Other people say youre a myth. I am a myth, Kote said easily, making an extravagant gesture. A very special kind of myth that creates itself. The best lies about me are the ones I told. They say you never existed, Chronicler corrected gently. Kote shrugged nonchalantly, his smile fading an imperceptible amount. Sensing weakness, Chronicler continued. Some stories paint you as little more than a red-handed killer. Im that too. Kote turned to polish the counter behind the bar. He shrugged again, not as easily as before. Ive killed men and things that were more than men. Every one of them deserved it. Chronicler shook his head slowly. The stories are saying assassin not hero. Kvothe the Arcane and Kvothe Kingkiller are two very different men. Kote stopped polishing the bar and turned his back to the room. He nodded once without looking up. Some are even saying that there is a new Chandrian. A fresh terror in the night. His hair as red as the blood he spills. The important people know the difference, Kote said as if he were trying to convince himself, but his voice was weary and despairing, without conviction. Chronicler gave a small laugh. Certainly. For now. But you of all people should realize how thin the line is between the truth and a compelling lie. Between history and an entertaining story. Chronicler gave his words a minute to sink in. You know which will win, given time. Kote remained facing the back wall, hands flat on the counter. His head was bowed slightly, as if a great weight had settled onto him. He did not speak. Chronicler took an eager step forward, sensing victory. Some people say there was a woman What do they know? Kotes voice cut like a saw through bone. What do they know about what happened? He spoke so softly that Chronicler had to hold his breath to hear. They say she Chroniclers words stuck in his suddenly dry throat as the room grew unnaturally quiet. Kote stood with his back to the room, a stillness in his body and a terrible silence clenched between his teeth. His right hand, tangled in a clean white cloth, made a slow fist. Eight inches away a bottle shattered. The smell of strawberries filled the air alongside the sound of splintering glass. A small noise inside so great a stillness, but it was enough. Enough to break the silence into small, sharp slivers. Chronicler felt himself go cold as he suddenly realized what a dangerous game he was playing. So this is the difference between telling a story and being in one, he thought numbly, the fear. Kote turned. What can any of them know about her? he asked softly. Chroniclers breath stopped when he saw Kotes face. The placid innkeepers expression was like a shattered mask. Underneath, Kotes expression was haunted, eyes half in this world, half elsewhere, remembering. Chronicler found himself thinking of a story he had heard. One of the many. The story told of how Kvothe had gone looking for his hearts desire. He had to trick a demon to get it. But once it rested in his hand, he was forced to fight an angel to keep it. I believe it, Chronicler found himself thinking. Before it was just a story, but now I can believe it. This is the face of a man who has killed an angel. What can any of them know about me? Kote demanded, a numb anger in his voice. What can they know about any of this? He made a short, fierce gesture that seemed to take in everything, the broken bottle, the bar, the world. Chronicler swallowed against the dryness in his throat. Only what theyre told. Tat tat, tat-tat. Liquor from the broken bottle began to patter an irregular rhythm onto the floor. Ahhhh, Kote sighed out a long breath. Tat-tat, tat-tat, tat. Clever. Youd use my own best trick against me. Youd hold my story a hostage. I would tell the truth. Nothing but the truth could break me. What is harder than the truth? A sickly, mocking smile flickered across his face. For a long moment, only the gentle tapping of drops against the floor kept the silence at bay. Finally Kote walked through the doorway behind the bar. Chronicler stood awkwardly in the empty room, unsure whether or not he had been dismissed. A few minutes later Kote returned with a bucket of soapy water. Without looking in the storytellers direction, he began to gently, methodically, wash his bottles. One at a time, Kote wiped their bottoms clean of the strawberry wine and set them on the bar between himself and Chronicler, as if they might defend him. So you went looking for a myth and found a man, he said without inflection, without looking up. Youve heard the stories and now you want the truth of things. Radiating relief, Chronicler set his satchel down on one of the tables, surprised at the slight tremor in his hands. We got wind of you a while back. Just a whisper of a rumor. I didnt really expect Chronicler paused, suddenly awkward. I thought you would be older. I am, Kote said. Chronicler looked puzzled, but before he could say anything the innkeeper continued. What brings you into this worthless little corner of the world? An appointment with the Earl of Baedn-Bryt, Chronicler said, puffing himself up slightly. Three days from now, in Treya. The innkeeper paused mid-polish. You expect to make it to the earls manor in four days? he asked quietly. I am behind schedule, Chronicler admitted. My horse was stolen near Abbotts Ford. He glanced out the window at the darkening sky. But Im willing to lose some sleep. Ill be off in the morning and out of your hair. Well I wouldnt want to cost you any sleep, Kote said sarcastically, his eyes gone hard again. I can tell the whole thing in one breath. He cleared his throat. I trouped, traveled, loved, lost, trusted and was betrayed. Write that down and burn it for all the good it will do you. You neednt take it that way, Chronicler said quickly. We can take the whole night if you like. And a few hours in the morning as well. How gracious, Kote snapped. Youll have me tell my story in an evening? With no time to collect myself? No time to prepare? His mouth made a thin line. No. Go dally with your earl. Ill have none of it. Chronicler spoke quickly, If youre certain youll need Yes. Kote set a bottle down hard on the bar, hard. Its safe to say Ill need more time than that. And youll get none of it tonight. A real story takes time to prepare. Chronicler frowned nervously and ran his hands through his hair. I could spend tomorrow collecting your story. He trailed off at the sight of Kote shaking his head. After a pause he started again, almost talking to himself. If I pick up a horse in Baedn, I can give you all day tomorrow, most of the night, and a piece of the following day. He rubbed his forehead. I hate riding at night, but Ill need three days, Kote said. Im quite sure of it. Chronicler blanched. Butthe earl. Kote waved a hand dismissively. No one needs three days, Chronicler said firmly. I interviewed Oren Velciter. Oren Velciter, mind you. Hes eighty years old, and done two hundred years worth of living. Five hundred, if you count the lies. He sought me out, Chronicler said with particular emphasis. He only took two days. That is my offer, the innkeeper said simply. Ill do this properly or not at all. Wait! Chronicler brightened suddenly. Ive been thinking about this all backward, he said, shaking his head at his own foolishness. Ill just visit the earl, then come back. You can have all the time you like then. I could even bring Skarpi back with me. Kote gave Chronicler a look of profound disdain. What gives you the slightest impression that I would be here when you came back? he asked incredulously. For that matter, what makes you think youre free to simply walk out of here, knowing what you know? Chronicler went very still. Are He swallowed and started again. Are you saying that The story will take three days, Kote interrupted. Starting tomorrow. That is what I am saying. Chronicler closed his eyes and ran his hand over his face. The earl would be furious, of course. No telling what it might take to get back in his good graces. StillIf thats the only way that I can get it, I accept. Im glad to hear it. The innkeeper relaxed into a half smile. Come now, is three days really so unusual? Chroniclers serious expression returned. Three days is quite unusual. But then again Some of the self-importance seemed to leak out of him. Then again, he made a gesture as if to show how useless words were. You are Kvothe. The man who called himself Kote looked up from behind his bottles. A full-lipped smile played about his mouth. A spark was kindling behind his eyes. He seemed taller. Yes, I suppose I am, Kvothe said, and his voice had iron in it. CHAPTER SEVEN Of Beginnings and the Names of Things SUNLIGHT POURED INTO THE Waystone. It was a cool, fresh light, fitted for beginnings. It brushed past the miller as he set his waterwheel turning for the day. It lit the forge the smith was rekindling after four days of cold metal work. It touched draft horses hitched to wagons and sickle blades glittering sharp and ready at the beginning of an autumn day. Inside the Waystone, the light fell across Chroniclers face and touched a beginning there, a blank page waiting the first words of a story. The light flowed across the bar, scattered a thousand tiny rainbow beginnings from the colored bottles, and climbed the wall toward the sword, as if searching for one final beginning. But when the light touched the sword there were no beginnings to be seen. In fact, the light the sword reflected was dull, burnished, and ages old. Looking at it, Chronicler remembered that though it was the beginning of a day, it was also late autumn and growing colder. The sword shone with the knowledge that dawn was a small beginning compared to the ending of a season: the ending of a year. Chronicler pulled his eyes away from the sword, aware that Kvothe had said something, but not knowing what. I beg your pardon? How do people normally go about relating their stories? Kvothe asked. Chronicler shrugged. Most simply tell me what they remember. Later, I record events in the proper order, remove the unnecessary pieces, clarify, simplify, that sort of thing. Kvothe frowned. I dont think that will do. Chronicler gave him a shy smile. Storytellers are always different. They prefer their stories be left alone. But they also prefer an attentive audience. I usually listen and record later. I have a nearly perfect memory. Nearly perfect doesnt quite suit me. Kvothe pressed a finger against his lips. How fast can you write? Chronicler gave a knowing smile. Faster than a man can talk. Kvothe raised an eyebrow. Id like to see that. Chronicler opened his satchel. He brought out a stack of fine, white paper and a bottle of ink. After arranging them carefully, he dipped a pen and looked expectantly at Kvothe. Kvothe sat forward in his chair and spoke quickly, I am. We are. She is. He was. They will be. Chroniclers pen danced and scratched down the page as Kvothe watched it. I, Chronicler do hereby avow that I can neither read nor write. Supine. Irreverent. Jackdaw. Quartz. Lacquer. Eggoliant. Lhin ta Lu soren hea. There was a young widow from Faeton, whose morals were hard as a rock. She went to confession, for her true obsession Kvothe leaned farther forward to watch as Chronicler wrote. Interestingoh, you may stop. Chronicler smiled again and wiped his pen on a piece of cloth. The page in front of him held a single line of incomprehensible symbols. Some sort of cipher? Kvothe wondered aloud. Very neatly done, too. Ill bet you dont spoil many pages. He turned the sheet to look at the writing more carefully. I never spoil pages, Chronicler said haughtily. Kvothe nodded without looking up. What does eggoliant mean? Chronicler asked. Hmmm? Oh, nothing. I made it up. I wanted to see if an unfamiliar word would slow you down. He stretched, and pulled his chair closer to Chroniclers. As soon as you show me how to read this, we can begin. Chronicler looked doubtful. Its a very complex Seeing Kvothe frown, he sighed. Ill try. Chronicler drew a deep breath and began to write a line of symbols as he spoke. There are around fifty different sounds we use to speak. Ive given each of them a symbol consisting of one or two pen strokes. Its all sound. I could conceivably transcribe a language I dont even understand. He pointed. These are different vowel sounds. All vertical lines, Kvothe said, looking intently at the page. Chronicler paused, thrown off his stride. Wellyes. The consonants would be horizontal then? And they would combine like this? Taking the pen, Kvothe made a few marks of his own on the page. Clever. Youd never need more than two or three for a word. Chronicler watched Kvothe quietly. Kvothe didnt notice, his attention on the paper. If this is am then these must be the ah sounds, he motioned to a group of characters Chronicler had penned. Ah, ay, aeh, auh. That would make these the ohs. Kvothe nodded to himself and pressed the pen back into Chroniclers hand. Show me the consonants. Chronicler penned them down numbly, reciting the sounds as he wrote. After a moment, Kvothe took the pen and completed the list himself, asking the dumbfounded Chronicler to correct him if he made a mistake. Chronicler watched and listened as Kvothe completed the list. From beginning to end the whole process took about fifteen minutes. He made no mistakes. Wonderfully efficient system, Kvothe said appreciatively. Very logical. Did you design it yourself? Chronicler took a long moment before he spoke, staring at the rows of characters on the page in front of Kvothe. Finally, disregarding Kvothes question, Chronicler asked, Did you really learn Tema in a day? Kvothe gave a faint smile and looked down at the table. Thats an old story. Id almost forgotten. It took a day and a half, actually. A day and a half with no sleep. Why do you ask? I heard about it at the University. I never really believed it. He looked down at the page of his cipher in Kvothes neat handwriting. All of it? Kvothe looked puzzled. What? Did you learn the whole language? No. Of course not, Kvothe said rather testily. Only a portion of it. A large portion to be sure, but I dont believe you can ever learn all of anything, let alone a language. Kvothe rubbed his hands together. Now, are you ready? Chronicler shook his head as if to clear it, set out a new sheet of paper, and nodded. Kvothe held up a hand to keep Chronicler from writing, and spoke, Ive never told this story before, and I doubt Ill ever tell it again. Kvothe leaned forward in his chair. Before we begin, you must remember that I am of the Edema Ruh. We were telling stories before Caluptena burned. Before there were books to write in. Before there was music to play. When the first fire kindled, we Ruh were there spinning stories in the circle of its flickering light. Kvothe nodded to the scribe. I know your reputation as a great collector of stories and recorder of events. Kvothes eyes became hard as flint, sharp as broken glass. That said, do not presume to change a word of what I say. If I seem to wander, if I seem to stray, remember that true stories seldom take the straightest way. Chronicler nodded solemnly, trying to imagine the mind that could break apart his cipher in a piece of an hour. A mind that could learn a language in a day. Kvothe gave a gentle smile and looked around the room as if fixing it in his memory. Chronicler dipped his pen and Kvothe looked down at his folded hands for as long as it takes to draw three deep breaths. Then he began to speak. In some ways, it began when I heard her singing. Her voice twinning, mixing with my own. Her voice was like a portrait of her soul: wild as a fire, sharp as shattered glass, sweet and clean as clover. Kvothe shook his head. No. It began at the University. I went to learn magic of the sort they talk about in stories. Magic like Taborlin the Great. I wanted to learn the name of the wind. I wanted fire and lightning. I wanted answers to ten thousand questions and access to their archives. But what I found at the University was much different than a story, and I was much dismayed. But I expect the true beginning lies in what led me to the University. Unexpected fires at twilight. A man with eyes like ice at the bottom of a well. The smell of blood and burning hair. The Chandrian. He nodded to himself. Yes. I suppose that is where it all begins. This is, in many ways, a story about the Chandrian. Kvothe shook his head, as if to free himself from some dark thought. But I suppose I must go even further back than that. If this is to be something resembling my book of deeds, I can spare the time. It will be worth it if I am remembered, if not flatteringly, then at least with some small amount of accuracy. But what would my father say if he heard me telling a story this way? Begin at the beginning. Very well, if we are to have a telling, lets make it a proper one. Kvothe sat forward in his chair. In the beginning, as far as I know, the world was spun out of the nameless void by Aleph, who gave everything a name. Or, depending on the version of the tale, found the names all things already possessed. Chronicler let slip a small laugh, though he did not look up from his page or pause in his writing. Kvothe continued, smiling himself. I see you laugh. Very well, for simplicitys sake, let us assume I am the center of creation. In doing this, let us pass over innumerable boring stories: the rise and fall of empires, sagas of heroism, ballads of tragic love. Let us hurry forward to the only tale of any real importance. His smile broadened. Mine. My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as Quothe. Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. Ive had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how its spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree. The Flame is obvious if youve ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but its unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire. The Thunder I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age. Ive never thought of The Broken Tree as very significant. Although in retrospect I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic. My first mentor called me Elir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them. But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant to know. I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me. CHAPTER EIGHT Thieves, Heretics, and Whores IF THIS STORY IS to be something resembling my book of deeds, we must begin at the beginning. At the heart of who I truly am. To do this, you must remember that before I was anything else, I was one of the Edema Ruh. Contrary to popular belief, not all traveling performers are of the Ruh. My troupe was not some poor batch of mummers, japing at crossroads for pennies, singing for our suppers. We were court performers, Lord Greyfallows Men. Our arrival in most towns was more of an event than the Midwinter Pageantry and Solinade Games rolled together. There were usually at least eight wagons in our troupe and well over two dozen performers: actors and acrobats, musicians and hand magicians, jugglers and jesters: My family. My father was a better actor and musician than any you have ever seen. My mother had a natural gift for words. They were both beautiful, with dark hair and easy laughter. They were Ruh down to their bones, and that, really, is all that needs to be said. Save perhaps that my mother was a noble before she was a trouper. She told me my father had lured her away from a miserable dreary hell with sweet music and sweeter words. I could only assume she meant Three Crossings, where we went to visit relatives when I was very young. Once. My parents were never really married, by which I mean they never bothered making their relationship official with any church. Im not embarrassed by the fact. They considered themselves married and didnt see much point in announcing it to any government or God. I respect that. In truth, they seemed more content and faithful than many officially married couples I have seen since. Our patron was Baron Greyfallow, and his name opened many doors that would ordinarily be closed to the Edema Ruh. In return we wore his colors, green and grey, and added to his reputation wherever we went. Once a year we spent two span at his manor, entertaining him and his household. It was a happy childhood, growing up in the center of an endless fair. My father would read to me from the great monologues during the long wagon rides between towns. Reciting mostly from memory, his voice would roll down the road for a quarter mile. I remember reading along, coming in on the secondary parts. My father would encourage me to try particularly good sections myself, and I learned to love the feel of good words. My mother and I would make up songs together. Other times my parents would act out romantic dialogues while I followed along in the books. They seemed like games at the time. Little did I know how cunningly I was being taught. I was a curious child: quick with questions and eager to learn. With acrobats and actors as my teachers, it is little wonder that I never grew to dread lessons as most children do. The roads were safer in those days, but cautious folk would still travel with our troupe for safetys sake. They supplemented my education. I learned an eclectic smattering of Commonwealth law from a traveling barrister too drunk or too pompous to realize he was lecturing an eight-year-old. I learned woodcraft from a huntsman named Laclith who traveled with us for nearly a whole season. I learned the sordid inner workings of the royal court in Modeg from acourtesan. As my father used to say: Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite. Hetera smelled vaguely of cinnamon, and at nine years old I found her fascinating without exactly knowing why. She taught me I should never do anything in private that I didnt want talked about in public, and cautioned me to not talk in my sleep. And then there was Abenthy, my first real teacher. He taught me more than all the others set end to end. If not for him, I would never have become the man I am today. I ask that you not hold it against him. He meant well. Youll have to move along, the mayor said. Camp outside town and no one will bother you so long as you dont start any fights or wander off with anything that isnt yours. He gave my father a significant look. Then be on your merry way tomorrow. No performances. Theyre more trouble than theyre worth. We are licensed, my father said, pulling out a folded piece of parchment from the inner pocket of his jacket. Charged to perform, in fact. The mayor shook his head and made no motion to look at our writ of patronage. It makes folk rowdy, he said firmly. Last time there was an unholy row during the play. Too much drinking, too much excitement. Folks tore the doors off the public house and smashed up the tables. The hall belongs to the town, you see. The town bears the expense of the repairs. By this time our wagons were drawing attention. Trip was doing some juggling. Marion and his wife were putting on an impromptu string-puppet show. I was watching my father from the back of our wagon. We certainly would not want to offend you or your patron, the mayor said. However the town can ill afford another evening such as that. As a gesture of goodwill Im willing to offer you a copper each, say twenty pennies, simply to be on your way and not make any trouble for us here. Now you have to understand that twenty pennies might be a good bit of money for some little ragamuffin troupe living hand-to-mouth. But for us it was simply insulting. He should have offered us forty to play for the evening, free use of the public hall, a good meal, and beds at the inn. The last we would graciously decline, as their beds were no doubt lousy and those in our wagons were not. If my father was surprised or insulted, he did not show it. Pack up! He shouted over one shoulder. Trip tucked his juggling stones into various pockets without so much as a flourish. There was a disappointed chorus from several dozen townsfolk as the puppets stopped midjape and were packed away. The mayor looked relieved, brought out his purse, and pulled out two silver pennies. Ill be sure to tell the baron of your generosity, my father said carefully as the mayor lay the pennies into his hand. The mayor froze midmotion. Baron? Baron Greyfallow. My father paused, looking for some spark of recognition on the mayors face. Lord of the eastern marshes, Hudumbran-by-Thiren, and the Wydeconte Hills. My father looked around at the horizon. We are still in the Wydeconte Hills, arent we? Well yes, the mayor said. But Squire Semelan Oh, were in Semelans fief! my father exclaimed, looking around as if just now getting his bearings. Thin gentleman, tidy little beard? He brushed his chin with his fingers. The mayor nodded numbly. Charming fellow, lovely singing voice. Met him when we were entertaining the baron last Midwinter. Of course, the mayor paused significantly. Might I see your writ? I watched as the mayor read it. It took him a little while, as my father had not bothered to mention the majority of the barons titles such as the Viscount of Montrone and Lord of Trelliston. The upshot was this: it was true that the Squire Semelan controlled this little town and all the land around it, but Semelan owed fealty directly to Greyfallow. In more concrete terms, Greyfallow was captain of the ship; Semelan scrubbed the planking and saluted him. The mayor refolded the parchment and handed it back to my father. I see. That was all. I remember being stunned when the mayor didnt apologize or offer my father more money. My father paused as well, then continued, The city is your jurisdiction, sir. But well perform either way. It will either be here or just outside the city limits. Ye cant use the public house, the mayor said firmly. I wont have it wrecked again. We can play right here, my father pointed to the market square. It will be enough space, and it keeps everyone right here in town. The mayor hesitated, though I could hardly believe it. We sometimes chose to play on the green because the local buildings werent big enough. Two of our wagons were built to become stages for just that eventuality. But in my whole eleven years of memory I could barely count on both hands the times wed been forced to play the green. We had never played outside the city limits. But we were spared that. The mayor nodded at last and gestured my father closer. I slipped out the back of the wagon and moved close enough to catch the end of what he said, God-fearing folk around here. Nothing vulgar or heretical. We had a double handful of trouble with the last troupe that came through here, two fights, folks missing their laundry, and one of Branstons daughters got herself in a family way. I was outraged. I waited for my father to show the mayor the sharp side of his tongue, to explain the difference between mere traveling performers and Edema Ruh. We didnt steal. We would never let things get so out of control that a bunch of drunks ruined the hall where we were playing. But my father did nothing of the sort, he just nodded and walked back toward our wagon. He gestured and Trip started juggling again. The puppets reemerged from their cases. As he came around the wagon he saw me standing, half-hidden beside the horses. Im guessing you heard the whole thing from the look on your face, he said with a wry grin. Let it go, my boy. He gets full marks for honesty if not for grace. He just says out loud what other folk keep in the quiet of their hearts. Why do you think I have everyone stay in pairs when we go about our business in bigger towns? I knew it for the truth. Still, it was a hard pill for a young boy to swallow. Twenty pennies, I said scathingly. As if he were offering us charity. That was the hardest part of growing up Edema Ruh. We are strangers everywhere. Many folk view us as vagabonds and beggars, while others deem us little more than thieves, heretics, and whores. Its hard to be wrongfully accused, but its worse when the people looking down on you are clods who have never read a book or traveled more than twenty miles from the place they were born. My father laughed and roughed my hair. Just pity him, my boy. Tomorrow well be on our way, but hell have to keep his own disagreeable company until the day he dies. Hes an ignorant blatherskate, I said bitterly. He lay a firm hand on my shoulder, letting me know Id said enough. This is what comes of getting too close to Atur, I suppose. Tomorrow well head south: greener pastures, kinder folk, prettier women. He cupped an ear toward the wagon and nudged me with his elbow. I can hear everything you say, my mother called sweetly from inside. My father grinned and winked at me. So what play are we going to do? I asked my father. Nothing vulgar, mind you. Theyre God-fearing folk in these parts. He looked at me. What would you pick? I gave it a long moments thought. Id play something from the Bright-field Cycle. The Forging of the Path or somesuch. My father made a face. Not a very good play. I shrugged. They wont know the difference. Besides, its chock full of Tehlu, so no one will complain about it being vulgar. I looked up at the sky. I just hope it doesnt rain on us halfway through. My father looked up at the clouds. It will. Still, there are worse things than playing in the rain. Like playing in the rain and getting shimmed on the deal? I asked. The mayor hurried up to us, moving at a fast walk. There was a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead and he was puffing a little bit, as if hed been running. I talked it over with a few members of the council and we decided that it would be quite all right for you to use the public house if you would care to. My fathers body language was perfect. It was perfectly clear he was offended but far too polite to say anything. I certainly wouldnt want to put you out. No, no. No bother at all. I insist, in fact. Very well, if you insist. The mayor smiled and hurried away. Well thats a little better, my father sighed. No need to tighten our belts yet. Halfpenny a head. Thats right. Anyone without a head gets in free. Thank you, sir. Trip was working the door, making sure everyone paid to see the play. Halfpenny a head. Though by the rosy glow in your ladys cheeks I should be charging you for a head and a half. Not that its any of my business, mind you. Trip had the quickest tongue of anyone in the troupe, which made him the best man for the job of making sure no one tried to fast-talk or bully their way inside. Wearing his green and grey jesters motley, Trip could say just about anything and get away with it. Hello, mum, no charge for the little one, but if he starts to squawk youd best give him the tit quick or take him outside. Trip carried on his unending patter. Thats right, halfpenny. Yes, sir, empty head still pays full price. Though it was always fun to watch Trip work, most of my attention was on a wagon that had rolled into the other end of town about a quarter hour ago. The mayor had argued with the old man driving it, then stormed off. Now I saw the mayor heading back to the wagon accompanied by a tall fellow carrying a long cudgel, the constable unless I missed my guess. My curiosity got the best of me and I made my way toward the wagon, doing my best to stay out of sight. The mayor and the old man were arguing again by the time I got close enough to hear. The constable stood nearby, looking irritated and anxious. told you. I dont have a license. I dont need a license. Does a peddler need a license? Does a tinker need a license? Youre not a tinker, the mayor said. Dont try to pass yourself off as one. Im not trying to pass myself off as anything, the old man snapped. Im a tinker and a peddler, and Im more than both. Im an arcanist, you great dithering heap of idiot. My point exactly, the mayor said doggedly. Were God-fearing people in these parts. We dont want any meddling with dark things better left alone. We dont want the trouble your kind can bring. My kind? the old man said. What do you know about my kind? There probably hasnt been an arcanist through these parts in fifty years. We like it that way. Just turn around and go back the way you came. Like hell if Im spending a night in the rain because of your thick head, the old man said hotly. I dont need your permission to rent a room or do business in the street. Now get away from me or Ill show you firsthand what sort of trouble my kind can be. Fear flashed across the mayors face before it was overwhelmed by outrage. He gestured over one shoulder at the constable. Then youll spend the night in jail for vagrancy and threatening behavior. Well let you on your way in the morning if youve learned to keep a civil tongue in your head. The constable advanced on the wagon, his cudgel held cautiously at his side. The old man stood his ground and raised one hand. A deep, red light welled up from the front corners of his wagon. Thats far enough, he said ominously. Things could get ugly otherwise. After a moments surprise, I realized the strange light came from a pair of sympathy lamps the old man had mounted on his wagon. I had seen one before, in Lord Greyfallows library. They were brighter than gaslight, steadier than candles or lamps, and lasted nearly forever. They were also terribly expensive. I was willing to bet that no one in this little town had ever heard of them, let alone seen one. The constable stopped in his tracks when the light began to swell. But when nothing else seemed to happen, he set his jaw and kept walking toward the wagon. The old mans expression grew anxious. Now hold on a moment, he said as the red light from the wagon started to fade. We dont want Shut your clepper, you old shit-fire, the constable said. He snatched at the arcanists arm as if he were sticking his hand into an oven. Then, when nothing happened, he smiled and grew more confident. Dont think I wont knock you a good one to keep you from working any more of your devilry. Well done, Tom, the mayor said, radiating relief. Bring him along and well send someone back for the wagon. The constable grinned and twisted the old mans arm. The arcanist bent at the waist and gasped a short, painful breath. From where I hid, I saw the arcanists face change from anxious, to pained, to angry all in a second. I saw his mouth move. A furious gust of wind came out of nowhere, as if a storm had suddenly burst with no warning. The wind struck the old mans wagon and it tipped onto two wheels before slamming back down onto four. The constable staggered and fell as if he had been struck by the hand of God. Even where I hid nearly thirty feet away the wind was so strong that I was forced to take a step forward, as if Id been pushed roughly from behind. Begone! the old man shouted angrily. Trouble me no longer! I will set fire to your blood and fill you with a fear like ice and iron! There was something familiar about his words, but I couldnt put my finger on it. Both the mayor and the constable turned tail and ran, their eyes white and wild as startled horses. The wind faded as quickly as it had come. The whole sudden burst couldnt have lasted more than five seconds. As most of the townsfolk were gathered around the public house, I doubted anyone had seen it except for me, the mayor, the constable, and the old mans donkeys who stood placidly in their harness, utterly unperturbed. Leave this place clean of your foul presence, the arcanist muttered to himself as he watched them go. By the power of my name I command it to be so. I finally realized why his words seemed so familiar. He was quoting lines from the exorcism scene in Daeonica. Not many folk knew that play. The old man turned back to his wagon and began to extemporize. Ill turn you into butter on a summer day. Ill turn you into a poet with the soul of a priest. Ill fill you with lemon custard and push you out a window. He spat. Bastards. His irritation seemed to leave him and he heaved a great, weary sigh. Well that couldnt have gone much worse, the old man muttered as he rubbed at the shoulder of the arm the constable had twisted. Do you think theyll come back with a mob behind them? For a second I thought the old man was talking to me. Then I realized the truth. He was talking to his donkeys. I dont think so either, he said to them. But Ive been wrong before. Lets stay near the edge of town and have a look at the last of the oats, shall we? He clambered up into the back of the wagon and came down with a wide bucket and a nearly empty burlap sack. He upended the sack into the bucket and seemed disheartened by the results. He took out a handful for himself before nudging the bucket toward the donkeys with his foot. Dont give me that look, he said to them. Its short rations all around. Besides, you can graze. He petted one donkey while he ate his handful of rough oats, stopping occasionally to spit out a husk. It struck me as very sad, this old man all alone on the road with no one to talk to but his donkeys. Its hard for us Edema Ruh, but at least we had each other. This man had no one. Weve wandered too far from civilization, boys. The folk that need me dont trust me, and the ones that trust me cant afford me. The old man peered into his purse. Weve got a penny and a half, so our options are limited. Do we want to be wet tonight or hungry tomorrow? Were not going to do any business, so it will probably be one or the other. I slunk around the edge of the building until I could see what was written on the side of the old mans wagon. It read: ABENTHY: ARCANIST EXTRAORDINARY. Scribe. Dowser. Chemist. Dentist. Rare Goods. All Alements Tended. Lost Items Found. Anything Mended. No Horoscopes. No Love Potions. No Malefaction. Abenthy noticed me as soon as I stepped out from behind the building where Id been hiding. Hello there. Can I help you? Youve misspelled ailments, I pointed out. He looked surprised. Its a joke, actually, he explained. I brew a bit. Oh. Ale, I said, nodding. I get it. I brought my hand out of my pocket. Can you sell me anything for a penny? He seemed stuck between amusement and curiosity. What are you looking for? Id like some lacillium. We had performed Farien the Fair a dozen times in the last month, and it had filled my young mind with intrigue and assassination. Are you expecting someone to poison you? he said, somewhat taken aback. Not really. But it seems to me that if you wait around until you know you need an antidote, its probably too late to pick one up. I suppose I could sell you a pennys worth, he said. That would be about a dose for a person your size. But its dangerous stuff in its own right. It only cures certain poisons. You can hurt yourself if you take it at the wrong time. Oh, I said. I didnt know that. In the play it was touted as an infallible cure-all. Abenthy tapped his lips thoughtfully. Can you answer me a question in the meantime? I nodded. Whose troupe is that? In a way its mine, I said. But in another way, its my fathers because he runs the show and points which way the wagons go. But its Baron Greyfallows too, because hes our patron. Were Lord Greyfallows Men. The old man gave me an amused look. Ive heard of you. Good troupe. Good reputation. I nodded, not seeing any point in false modesty. Do you think your father might be interested in taking on any help? he asked. I dont claim to be much of an actor, but Im handy to have around. I could make you face paint and rouge that arent all full of lead and mercury and arsenic. I can do lights, too, quick, clean, and bright. Different colors if you want them. I didnt have to think too hard about it; candles were expensive and vulnerable to drafts, torches were dirty and dangerous. And everyone in the troupe learned the dangers of cosmetics at an early age. It was hard to become an old, seasoned trouper when you painted poison on yourself every third day and ended up raving mad by the time you were twenty-five. I may be overstepping myself a little, I said as I held out my hand for him to shake. But let me be the first to welcome you to the troupe. If this is to be a full and honest account of my life and deeds, I feel I should mention that my reasons for inviting Ben into our troupe were not entirely altruistic. Its true that quality cosmetics and clean lights were a welcome addition to our troupe. Its also true that Id felt sorry for the old man alone on the road. But underneath it all I was moved by my curiosity. I had seen Abenthy do something I could not explain, something strange and wonderful. Not his trick with the sympathy lampsI recognized that for what it was: showmanship, a bluff to impress ignorant townsfolk. What he had done afterward was different. He called the wind and the wind came. It was magic. Real magic. The sort of magic Id heard about in stories of Taborlin the Great. The sort of magic I hadnt believed in since I was six. Now I didnt know what to believe. So I invited him into our troupe, hoping to find answers to my questions. Though I didnt know it at the time, I was looking for the name of the wind. CHAPTER NINE Riding in the Wagon with Ben ABENTHY WAS THE FIRST arcanist I ever met, a strange, exciting figure to a young boy. He was knowledgeable in all the sciences: botany, astronomy, psychology, anatomy, alchemy, geology, chemistry. He was portly, with twinkling eyes that moved quickly from one thing to another. He had a strip of dark grey hair running around the back of his head, but (and this is what I remember most about him) no eyebrows. Rather, he had them, but they were in a perpetual state of regrowing from being burned off in the course of his alchemical pursuits. It made him look surprised and quizzical all at once. He spoke gently, laughed often, and never exercised his wit at the expense of others. He cursed like a drunken sailor with a broken leg, but only at his donkeys. They were called Alpha and Beta, and Abenthy fed them carrots and lumps of sugar when he thought no one was looking. Chemistry was his particular love, and my father said hed never known a man to run a better still. By his second day in our troupe I was making a habit of riding in his wagon. I would ask him questions and he would answer. Then he would ask for songs and I would pluck them out for him on a lute I borrowed from my fathers wagon. He would even sing from time to time. He had a bright, reckless tenor that was always wandering off, looking for notes in the wrong places. More often than not he stopped and laughed at himself when it happened. He was a good man, and there was no conceit in him. Not long after he joined our troupe, I asked Abenthy what it was like being an arcanist. He gave me a thoughtful look. Have you ever known an arcanist? We paid one to mend a cracked axle on the road once. I paused to think. He was heading inland with a caravan of fish. Abenthy made a dismissive gesture. No, no, boy. Im talking about arcanists. Not some poor chill-charmer who works his way back and forth across caravan routes, trying to keep fresh meat from rotting. Whats the difference? I asked, sensing it was expected of me. Well, he said. That might take a bit of explaining. Ive got nothing but time. Abenthy gave me an appraising look. Id been waiting for it. It was the look that said, You dont sound as young as you look. I hoped hed come to grips with it fairly soon. It gets tiresome being spoken to as if you are a child, even if you happen to be one. He took a deep breath. Just because someone knows a trick or two doesnt mean theyre an arcanist. They might know how to set a bone or read Eld Vintic. Maybe they even know a little sympathy. But Sympathy? I interrupted as politely as possible. Youd probably call it magic, Abenthy said reluctantly. Its not, really. He shrugged. But even knowing sympathy doesnt make you an arcanist. A true arcanist has worked his way through the Arcanum at the University. At his mention of the Arcanum, I bristled with two dozen new questions. Not so many, you might think, but when you added them to the half-hundred questions I carried with me wherever I went, I was stretched nearly to bursting. Only through a severe effort of will did I remain silent, waiting for Abenthy to continue on his own. Abenthy, however, noticed my reaction. So, youve heard about the Arcanum, have you? He seemed amused. Tell me what youve heard, then. This small prompt was all the excuse I needed. I heard from a boy in Temper Glen that if your arms cut off they can sew it back on at the University. Can they really? Some stories say Taborlin the Great went there to learn the names of all things. Theres a library with a thousand books. Are there really that many? He answered the last question, the others having rushed by too quickly for him to respond. More than a thousand, actually. Ten times ten thousand books. More than that. More books than you could ever read. Abenthys voice grew vaguely wistful. More books than I could read? Somehow I doubted that. Ben continued. The people you see riding with caravanscharmers who keep food from spoiling, dowsers, fortune-tellers, toad eatersarent real arcanists any more than all traveling performers are Edema Ruh. They might know a little alchemy, a little sympathy, a little medicine. He shook his head. But theyre not arcanists. A lot of people pretend to be. They wear robes and put on airs to take advantage of the ignorant and gullible. But heres how you tell a true arcanist. Abenthy pulled a fine chain over his head and handed it to me. It was the first time I had ever seen an Arcanum guilder. It looked rather unimpressive, just a flat piece of lead with some unfamiliar writing stamped onto it. That is a true gilthe. Or guilder if you prefer, Abenthy explained with some satisfaction. Its the only sure way to be certain of who is and who isnt an arcanist. Your father asked to see mine before he let me ride with your troupe. It shows hes a man of the world. He watched me with a sly disinterest. Uncomfortable, isnt it? I gritted my teeth and nodded. My hand had gone numb as soon as Id touched it. I was curious to study the markings on its front and back, but after the space of two breaths, my arm was numb to the shoulder, as if I had slept on it all night. I wondered if my whole body would go numb if I held it long enough. I was prevented from finding out, as the wagon hit a bump and my numbed hand almost let Abenthys guilder fall to the footboard of the wagon. He snatched it up and slipped it back over his head, chuckling. How can you stand it? I asked, trying to rub a little feeling back into my hand. It only feels that way to other people, he explained. To its owner, its just warm. Thats how you can tell the difference between an arcanist and someone who has a knack for finding water or guessing at the weather. Trip has something like that, I said. He rolls sevens. Thats a little different, Abenthy laughed. Not anything so unexplainable as a knack. He slouched a little farther down into his seat. Probably for the best. A couple hundred years ago, a person was good as dead if folk saw he had a knack. The Tehlins called them demon signs, and burned folk if they had them. Abenthys mood seemed to have taken a downward turn. We had to break Trip out of jail once or twice, I said, trying to lighten the tone of the conversation. But no one actually tried to burn him. Abenthy gave a tired smile. I suspect Trip has a pair of clever dice or an equally clever skill which probably extends to cards as well. I thank you for your timely warning, but a knack is something else entirely. I cant abide being patronized. Trip cant cheat to save his life, I said a little more sharply than I had intended. And anyone in the troupe can tell good dice from bad. Trip throws sevens. It doesnt matter whose dice he uses, he rolls sevens. If he bets on someone, they roll sevens. If he so much as bumps a table with loose dice on it, seven. Hmmm. Abenthy nodded to himself. My apologies. That does sound like a knack. Id be curious to see it. I nodded. Take your own dice. We havent let him play for years. A thought occurred to me. It might not still work. He shrugged. Knacks dont go away so easily as that. When I was growing up in Staup, I knew a young man with a knack. Uncommonly good with plants. Abenthys grin was gone as he looked off at something I couldnt see. His tomatoes would be red while everyone elses vines were still climbing. His squash were bigger and sweeter, his grapes didnt hardly have to be bottled before they started being wine. He trailed off, his eyes far away. Did they burn him? I asked with the morbid curiosity of the young. What? No, of course not. Im not that old. He scowled at me in mock severity. There was a drought and he got run out of town. His poor mother was heartbroken. There was a moment of silence. Two wagons ahead of us, I heard Teren and Shandi rehearsing lines from The Swineherd and the Nightingale. Abenthy seemed to be listening as well, in an offhand way. After Teren got himself lost halfway through Fains garden monologue, I turned back to face him. Do they teach acting at the University? I asked. Abenthy shook his head, slightly amused by the question. Many things, but not that. I looked over at Abenthy and saw him watching me, his eyes danced. Could you teach me some of those other things? I asked. He smiled, and it was as easy as that. Abenthy proceeded to give me a brief overview of each of the sciences. While his main love was for chemistry, he believed in a rounded education. I learned how to work the sextant, the compass, the slipstick, the abacus. More important, I learned to do without. Within a span I could identify any chemical in his cart. In two months I could distill liquor until it was too strong to drink, bandage a wound, set a bone, and diagnose hundreds of sicknesses from symptoms. I knew the process for making four different aphrodisiacs, three concoctions for contraception, nine for impotence, and two philtres referred to simply as maidens helper. Abenthy was rather vague about the purpose of the last of these, but I had some strong suspicions. I learned the formulae for a dozen poisons and acids and a hundred medicines and cure-alls, some of which even worked. I doubled my herb lore in theory if not in practice. Abenthy started to call me Red and I called him Ben, first in retaliation, then in friendship. Only now, far after the fact, do I recognize how carefully Ben prepared me for what was to come at the University. He did it subtly. Once or twice a day, mixed in with my normal lectures, Ben would present me with a little mental exercise I would have to master before we went on to anything else. He made me play Tirani without a board, keeping track of the stones in my head. Other times he would stop in the middle of a conversation and make me repeat everything said in the last few minutes, word for word. This was levels beyond the simple memorization I had practiced for the stage. My mind was learning to work in different ways, becoming stronger. It felt the same way your body feels after a day of splitting wood, or swimming, or sex. You feel exhausted, languorous, and almost Godlike. This feeling was similar, except it was my intellect that was weary and expanded, languid and latently powerful. I could feel my mind starting to awaken. I seemed to gain momentum as I progressed, like when water starts to wash away a dam made of sand. I dont know if you understand what a geometric progression is, but that is the best way to describe it. Through it all Ben continued to teach me mental exercises that I was half convinced he constructed out of sheer meanness. CHAPTER TEN Alar and Several Stones BEN HELD UP A chunk of dirty fieldstone slightly bigger than his fist. What will happen if I let go of this rock? I thought for a bit. Simple questions during lesson time were very seldom simple. Finally I gave the obvious answer. It will probably fall. He raised an eyebrow. I had kept him busy over the last several months, and he hadnt had the leisure to accidentally burn them off. Probably? You sound like a sophist, boy. Hasnt it always fallen before? I stuck my tongue out at him. Dont try to boldface your way through this one. Thats a fallacy. You taught me that yourself. He grinned. Fine. Would it be fair to say you believe it will fall? Fair enough. I want you to believe it will fall up when I let go of it. His grin widened. I tried. It was like doing mental gymnastics. After a while I nodded. Okay. How well do you believe it? Not very well, I admitted. I want you to believe this rock will float away. Believe it with a faith that will move mountains and shake trees. He paused and seemed to take a different tack. Do you believe in God? Tehlu? After a fashion. Not good enough. Do you believe in your parents? I gave a little smile. Sometimes. I cant see them right now. He snorted and unhooked the slapstick he used to goad Alpha and Beta when they were being lazy. Do you believe in this, Elir? He only called me Elir when he thought I was being especially willfully obstinate. He held out the stick for my inspection. There was a malicious glitter in his eye. I decided not to tempt fate. Yes. Good. He slapped the side of the wagon with it, producing a sharp crack. One of Alphas ears pivoted around at the noise, uncertain as to whether or not it was directed at her. Thats the sort of belief I want. Its called Alar: riding-crop belief. When I drop this stone it will float away, free as a bird. He brandished the slapstick a bit. And none of your petty philosophy or Ill make you sorry you ever took a shining to that little game. I nodded. I cleared my mind with one of the tricks Id already learned, and bore down on believing. I started to sweat. After what may have been ten minutes I nodded again. He let go of the rock. It fell. I began to get a headache. He picked the rock back up. Do you believe that it floated? No! I sulked, rubbing my temples. Good. It didnt. Never fool yourself into perceiving things that dont exist. Its a fine line to walk, but sympathy is not an art for the weak willed. He held out the rock again. Do you believe it will float? It didnt! It doesnt matter. Try again. He shook the stone. Alar is the cornerstone of sympathy. If you are going to impose your will on the world, you must have control over what you believe. I tried and I tried. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done. It took me almost all afternoon. Finally Ben was able to drop the rock and I retained my firm belief that it wouldnt fall despite evidence to the contrary. I heard the thump of the rock and I looked at Ben. Ive got it, I said calmly, feeling more than a little smug. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, as if he didnt quite believe me but didnt want to admit it. He picked at the rock absently with one fingernail, then shrugged and held it up again. I want you to believe the rock will fall and that the rock will not fall when I let go of it. He grinned. I went to bed late that night. I had a nosebleed and a smile of satisfaction. I held the two separate beliefs loosely in my mind and let their singing discord lull me into senselessness. Being able to think about two disparate things at once, aside from being wonderfully efficient, was roughly akin to being able to sing harmony with yourself. It turned into a favorite game of mine. After two days of practicing I was able to sing a trio. Soon I was doing the mental equivalent of palming cards and juggling knives. There were many other lessons, though none were quite so pivotal as the Alar. Ben taught me Heart of Stone, a mental exercise that let you set aside your emotions and prejudices and let you think clearly about whatever you wished. Ben said a man who truly mastered Heart of Stone could go to his sisters funeral without ever shedding a tear. He also taught me a game called Seek the Stone. The point of the game was to have one part of your mind hide an imaginary stone in an imaginary room. Then you had another, separate part of your mind try to find it. Practically, it teaches valuable mental control. If you can really play Seek the Stone, then you are developing an iron-hard Alar of the sort you need for sympathy. However, while being able to think about two things at the same time is terribly convenient, the training it takes to get there is frustrating at best, and at other times rather disturbing. I remember one time I looked for the stone for almost an hour before I consented to ask the other half of me where Id hidden it, only to find I hadnt hidden the stone at all. I had merely been waiting to see how long I would look before giving up. Have you ever been annoyed and amused with yourself at the same time? Its an interesting feeling, to say the very least. Another time I asked for hints and ended up jeering at myself. Its no wonder that many arcanists you meet are a little eccentric, if not downright cracked. As Ben had said, sympathy is not for the weak of mind. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Binding of Iron I SAT IN THE back of Abenthys wagon. It was a wonderful place for me, home to a hundred bottles and bundles, saturated with a thousand smells. To my young mind it was usually more fun than a tinkers cart, but not today. It had rained heavily the night before, and the road was a thick morass of mud. Since the troupe was not on any particular schedule, we had decided to wait for a day or two to give the roads time to dry. It was a fairly common occurrence, and it happened to fall at the perfect time for Ben to further my education. So I sat at the wooden worktable in the back of Bens wagon and chafed at wasting the day listening to him lecture me about things I already understood. My thoughts must have been apparent, because Abenthy sighed and sat down beside me. Not quite what you expected, eh? I relaxed a bit, knowing his tone meant a temporary reprieve from the lecture. He gathered up a handful of the iron drabs that were sitting on the table and clinked them together thoughtfully in his hand. He looked at me. Did you learn to juggle all at once? Five balls at a time? Knives too? I flushed a bit at the memory. Trip hadnt even let me try three balls at first. Hed made me juggle two. Id even dropped them a couple of times. I told Ben so. Right, Ben said. Master this trick and you get to learn another. I expected him to stand up and start back into the lesson, but he didnt. Instead he held out the handful of iron drabs. What do you know about these? He clattered them together in his hand. In what respect? I asked. Physically, chemically, historically Historically, he grinned, Astound me with your grasp of historical minutiae, Elir. I had asked him what Elir meant once. He claimed it meant wise one, but I had my doubts from the way his mouth had quirked when he said it. A long time ago, the people who How long ago? I frowned at him in mock severity. Roughly two thousand years ago. The nomadic folk who roamed the foothills around the Shalda Mountains were brought together under one chieftain. What was his name? Heldred. His sons were Heldim and Heldar. Would you like his entire lineage, or should I get to the point? I glowered at him. Sorry, sir. Ben sat up straight in his seat and assumed such an aspect of rapt attention that we both broke into grins. I started again. Heldred eventually controlled the foothills around the Shalda. This meant that he controlled the mountains themselves. They started to plant crops, their nomadic lifestyle was abandoned, and they slowly began to Get to the point? Abenthy asked. He tossed the drabs onto the table in front of me. I ignored him as best I could. They controlled the only plentiful and easily accessible source of metal for a great distance and soon they were the most skilled workers of those metals as well. They exploited this advantage and gained a great deal of wealth and power. Until this point barter was the most common method of trade. Some larger cities coined their own currency, but outside those cities the money was only worth the weight of the metal. Bars of metal were better for bartering, but full bars of metal were inconvenient to carry. Ben gave me his best bored-student face. The effect was only slightly inhibited by the fact that he had burned his eyebrows off again about two days ago. Youre not going to go into the merits of representational currency, are you? I took a deep breath and resolved not to pester Ben so much when he was lecturing me. The no-longer-nomads, called the Cealdim by now, were the first to establish a standardized currency. By cutting one of these smaller bars into five pieces you get five drabs. I began to piece two rows of five drabs each together to illustrate my point. They resembled little ingots of metal. Ten drabs are the same as a copper jot; ten jots Good enough, Ben broke in, startling me. So these two drabs, he held a pair out for my inspection, Could have come from the same bar, right? Actually, they probably cast them individually. I trailed off under a glare. Sure. So theres something still connecting them, right? He gave me the look again. I didnt really agree, but knew better than to interrupt. Right. He set them both on the table. So when you move one, the other should move, right? I agreed for the sake of argument, then reached out to move one. But Ben stopped my hand, shaking his head. Youve got to remind them first. Youve got to convince them, in fact. He brought out a bowl and decanted a slow blob of pine pitch into it. He dipped one of the drabs into the pitch and stuck the other one to it, spoke several words I didnt recognize, and slowly pulled the bits apart, strands of pitch stretching between them. He set one on the table, keeping the other in his hand. Then he muttered something else and relaxed. He raised his hand, and the drab on the table mimicked the motion. He danced his hand around and the brown piece of iron bobbed in the air. He looked from me to the coin. The law of sympathy is one of the most basic parts of magic. It states that the more similar two objects are, the greater the sympathetic link. The greater the link, the more easily they influence each other. Your definition is circular. He set down the coin. His lecturers facade gave way to a grin as he tried with marginal success to wipe the pitch off of his hands with a rag. He thought for a while. Seems pretty useless doesnt it? I gave a hesitant nod, trick questions were fairly common around lesson time. Would you rather learn how to call the wind? His eyes danced at me. He murmured a word and the canvas ceiling of the wagon rustled around us. I felt a grin capture my face, wolfish. Too bad, Elir. His grin was wolfish too, and savage. You need to learn your letters before you can write. You need to learn the fingerings on the strings before you play and sing. He pulled out a piece of paper and jotted a couple of words on it. The trick is in holding the Alar firm in your mind. You need to believe they are connected. You need to know they are. He handed me the paper. Here is the phonetic pronunciation. Its called the Sympathetic Binding of Parallel Motion. Practice. He looked even more lupine than before, old and grizzled with no eyebrows. He left to wash his hands. I cleared my mind using Heart of Stone. Soon I was floating on a sea of dispassionate calm. I stuck the two bits of metal together with pine pitch. I fixed in my mind the Alar, the riding-crop belief, that the two drabs were connected. I said the words, pulled the coins apart, spoke the last word, and waited. No rush of power. No flash of hot or cold. No radiant beam of light struck me. I was rather disappointed. At least as disappointed as I could be in the Heart of Stone. I lifted the coin in my hand, and the coin on the table lifted itself in a similar fashion. It was magic, there was no doubt about that. But I felt rather underwhelmed. I had been expectingI dont know what Id been expecting. It wasnt this. The rest of that day was spent experimenting with the simple sympathetic binding Abenthy had taught me. I learned that almost anything could be bound together. An iron drab and a silver talent, a stone and a piece of fruit, two bricks, a clod of earth and one of the donkeys. It took me about two hours to figure out that the pine pitch wasnt necessary. When I asked him, Ben admitted that it was merely an aid for concentration. I think he was surprised that I figured it out without being told. Let me sum up sympathy very quickly since you will probably never need to have anything other than a rough comprehension of how these things work. First, energy cannot be created or destroyed. When you are lifting one drab and the other rises off the table, the one in your hand feels as heavy as if youre lifting both, because, in fact, you are. Thats in theory. In practice, it feels like youre lifting three drabs. No sympathetic link is perfect. The more dissimilar the items, the more energy is lost. Think of it as a leaky aqueduct leading to a water wheel. A good sympathetic link has very few leaks, and most of the energy is used. A bad link is full of holes; very little of the effort you put into it goes toward what you want it to do. For instance I tried linking a piece of chalk to a glass bottle of water. There was very little similarity between the two, so even though the bottle of water might have weighed two pounds, when I tried to lift the chalk it felt like sixty pounds. The best link I found was a tree branch I had broken in half. After I understood this little piece of sympathy, Ben taught me others. A dozen dozen sympathetic bindings. A hundred little tricks for channeling power. Each of them was a different word in a vast vocabulary I was just beginning to speak. Quite often it was tedious, and Im not telling you the half of it. Ben continued giving me a smattering of lessons in other areas: history, arithmetic, and chemistry. But I grabbed at whatever he could teach me about sympathy. He doled out his secrets sparingly, making me prove Id mastered one before giving me another. But I seemed to have a knack for it above and beyond my natural penchant for absorbing knowledge, so there was never too long a wait. I dont mean to imply that the road was always smooth. The same curiosity that made me such an eager student also led me into trouble with fair regularity. One evening as I was building up my parents cookfire, my mother caught me chanting a rhyme I had heard the day before. Not knowing that she was behind me, she overheard as I knocked one stick of firewood against another and absentmindedly recited: Seven things has Lady Lackless Keeps them underneath her black dress One a ring thats not for wearing One a sharp word, not for swearing Right beside her husbands candle Theres a door without a handle In a box, no lid or locks Lackless keeps her husbands rocks Theres a secret shes been keeping Shes been dreaming and not sleeping On a road, thats not for traveling Lackless likes her riddle raveling. I had heard a little girl chant it as she played hop-skip. Id only heard it twice, but it had stuck in my head. It was memorable, as most child rhymes are. But my mother heard me and came over to stand by the fire. What were you just saying, sweet? Her tone wasnt angry, but I could tell she wasnt pleased either. Something I heard back in Fallows, I said evasively. Running off with town children was a largely forbidden activity. Distrust turns quickly to dislike, my father told new members of our troupe, so stay together when youre in town, and be polite. I laid some heavier sticks on the fire and let the flames lick them. My mother was silent for a while, and I was beginning to hope she would leave it alone, when she said, Its not a nice thing to be singing. Have you stopped to think what its about? I hadnt, actually. It seemed mostly nonsense rhyme. But when I ran it back through my head, I saw the rather obvious sexual innuendo. I do. I didnt think about it before. Her expression grew a little gentler, and she reached down to smooth my hair, Always think about what youre singing, honey. I seemed to be out of trouble, but I couldnt keep from asking, How is it any different than parts of For All His Waiting? Like when Fain asks Lady Perial about her hat? I heard about it from so many men I wished to see it for myself and try the fit. Its pretty obvious what hes really talking about. I watched her mouth grow firm, not angry, but not pleased. Then something in her face changed. You tell me what the difference is, she said. I hated bait questions. The difference was obvious: one would get me in trouble, the other wouldnt. I waited a while to make it clear I had given the matter proper consideration before I shook my head. My mother knelt lightly in front of the fire, warming her hands. The difference isgo fetch me the tripod, would you? She gave me a gentle push, and I scampered off to get it from the back of our wagon as she continued, The difference is between saying something to a person, and saying something about a person. The first might be rude, but the second is always gossip. I brought the tripod back and helped her set it over the fire. Also, Lady Perial is just a character. Lady Lackless is a real person, with feelings that can be hurt. She looked up at me. I didnt know, I protested guiltily. I must have struck a sufficiently piteous figure because she gathered me in for a hug and a kiss, Its nothing to cry over, sweet one. Just remember to always think about what youre doing. She ran her hand over my head and smiled like the sun. I imagine you could make it up to both Lady Lackless and myself if you found some sweet nettle for the pot tonight. Any excuse to escape judgment and play for a while in the tangle of trees by the roadside was good enough for me. I was gone almost before the words left her mouth. I should also make it clear that much of the time I spent with Ben was my free time. I was still responsible for my normal duties in the troupe. I acted the part of the young page when needed. I helped paint scenery and sew costumes. I rubbed down the horses at night and rattled the sheet of tin backstage when we needed thunder onstage. But I didnt bemoan the loss of my free time. A childs endless energy and my own insatiable lust for knowledge made the following year one of the happiest times I can remember. CHAPTER TWELVE Puzzle Pieces Fitting TOWARD THE END OF the summer I accidentally overheard a conversation that shook me out of my state of blissful ignorance. When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind. It was evening, and the troupe was camped by the side of the road. Abenthy had given me a new piece of sympathy to practice: The Maxim of Variable Heat Transferred to Constant Motion, or something pretentious like that. It was tricky, but it had fallen into place like a puzzle piece fitting. It had taken about fifteen minutes, and from Abenthys tone I guessed he had expected it to take three or four hours at least. So I went looking for him. Partly to get my next lesson, and partly so that I could be just a little bit smug. I tracked him down to my parents wagon. I heard the three of them long before I saw them. Their voices were just murmurs, the distant music that a conversation makes when its too dim for words. But as I was coming close I heard one word clearly: Chandrian. I pulled up short when I heard that. Everyone in the troupe knew my father was working on a song. Hed been teasing old stories and rhymes from townsfolk for over a year wherever we stopped to play. For months it was stories about Lanre. Then he started gathering old faerie stories too, legends about bogies and shamble-men. Then he began to ask questions about the Chandrian. That was months ago. Over the last half year he had asked more about the Chandrian and less about Lanre, Lyra, and the rest. Most songs my father set to writing were finished in a single season, while this one was stretching toward its second year. You should know this as well, my father never let word or whisper of a song be heard before it was ready to play. Only my mother was allowed into his confidence, as her hand was always in any song he made. The cleverness in the music was his. The best words were hers. When you wait a few span or month to hear a finished song, the anticipation adds savor. But after a year excitement begins to sour. By now, a year and a half had passed and folk were almost mad with curiosity. This occasionally led to hard words when someone was caught wandering a little too close to our wagon while my father and mother were working. So I moved closer to my parents fire, stepping softly. Eavesdropping is a deplorable habit, but I have developed worse ones since. much about them, I heard Ben say. But Im willing. Im glad to talk with an educated man on the subject. My fathers strong baritone was a contrast to Bens tenor. Im weary of these superstitious country folk, and the Someone added wood to the fire and I lost my fathers words in the crackling that followed. Stepping as quickly as I dared, I moved into the long shadow of my parents wagon. like Im chasing ghosts with this song. Trying to piece together this story is a fools game. I wish Id never started it. Nonsense, my mother said. This will be your best work, and you know it. So you think there is an original story all the others stem from? Ben asked. A historical basis for Lanre? All the signs point to it, my father said. Its like looking at a dozen grandchildren and seeing ten of them have blue eyes. You know the grandmother had blue eyes, too. Ive done this before, Im good at it. I wrote Below the Walls the same way. But I heard him sigh. Whats the problem then? The storys older, my mother explained. Its more like hes looking at great-great-grandchildren. And theyre scattered to the four corners, my father groused. And when I finally do find one, its got five eyes: two greens, a blue, a brown, and a chartreuse. Then the next one has only one eye, and it changes colors. How am I supposed to draw conclusions from that? Ben cleared his throat. A disturbing analogy, he said. But youre welcome to pick my brain about the Chandrian. Ive heard a lot of stories over the years. The first thing I need to know is how many there actually are, my father said. Most stories say seven, but even thats conflicted. Some say three, others five, and in Feliors Fall there are a full thirteen of them: one for each pontifet in Atur, and an extra for the capitol. That I can answer, Ben said. Seven. You can hold to that with some certainty. Its part of their name, actually. Chaen means seven. Chaen-dian means seven of them. Chandrian. I didnt know that, my father said. Chaen. What language is that? Yllish? Sounds like Tema, my mother said. Youve got a good ear, Ben said to her. Its Temic, actually. Predates Tema by about a thousand years. Well that simplifies things, I heard my father say. I wish Id asked you a month ago. I dont suppose you know why they do what they do? I could tell by my fathers tone that he didnt really expect an answer. Thats the real mystery, isnt it? Ben chuckled. I think thats what makes them more frightening than the rest of the bogey-men you hear about in stories. A ghost wants revenge, a demon wants your soul, a shamble-man is hungry and cold. It makes them less terrible. Things we understand we can try to control. But Chandrian come like lightning from a clear blue sky. Just destruction. No rhyme or reason to it. My song will have both, my father said with grim determination. I think Ive dug up their reason, after all this while. Ive teased it together from bits and pieces of story. Thats whats so galling about this, to have the harder part of this done and have all these small specifics giving me such trouble. You think you know? Ben said curiously. Whats your theory? My father gave a low chuckle. Oh no Ben, youll have to wait with the others. Ive sweated too long over this song to give away the heart of it before its finished. I could hear the disappointment in Bens voice. Im sure this is all just an elaborate ruse to keep me traveling with you, he groused. I wont be able to leave until Ive heard the blackened thing. Then help us finish it, my mother said. The Chandrians signs are another key piece of information we cant nail down. Everyone agrees there are signs that warn of their presence, but nobody agrees on what they are. Let me think Ben said. Blue flame is obvious, of course. But Id hesitate to attribute that to the Chandrian in particular. In some stories its a sign of demons. In others its fae creatures, or magic of any sort. It shows bad air in mines, too, my mother pointed out. Does it? my father asked. She nodded. When a lamp burns with a blue haze you know theres firedamp in the air. Good lord, firedamp in a coal mine, my father said. Blow out your light and get lost in the black, or leave it burn and blow the whole place to flinders. Thats more frightening than any demon. Ill also admit to the fact that certain arcanists occasionally use prepared candles or torches to impress gullible townsfolk, Ben said, clearing his throat self-consciously. My mother laughed. Remember who youre talking to, Ben. Wed never hold a little showmanship against a man. In fact, blue candles would be just the thing the next time we play Daeonica. If you happened to find a couple tucked away somewhere, that is. Ill see what I can do, Ben said, his voice amused. Other signsone of them is supposed to have eyes like a goat, or no eyes, or black eyes. Ive heard that one quite a bit. Ive heard that plants die when the Chandrian are around. Wood rots, metal rusts, brick crumbles. He paused. Though I dont know if thats several signs, or all one sign. You begin to see the trouble Im having, my father said morosely. And theres still the question as to if they all share the same signs, or have a couple each. Ive told you, my mother said, exasperated. One sign for each of them. It makes the most sense. My lady wifes favorite theory, my father said. But it doesnt fit. In some stories the only sign is blue flame. In others you have animals going crazy and no blue flame. In others you have a man with black eyes and animals going mad and blue flame. Ive told you how to make sense of that, she said, her irritated tone indicating theyd had this particular discussion before. They dont always have to be together. They could go out in threes or fours. If one of them makes fires dim, then itll look the same as if they all made the fires dim. That would account for the differences in the stories. Different numbers and different signs depending on how theyre grouped together. My father grumbled something. Thats a clever wife youve got there, Arl. Ben spoke up, breaking the tension. How much will you sell her for? I need her for my work, unfortunately. But if youre interested in a short-term rental, Im sure we could arrange a reas There was a fleshy thump followed by a slightly pained chortle in my fathers baritone. Any other signs that spring to mind? Theyre supposed to be cold to the touch. Though how anyone could know that is beyond me. Ive heard that fires dont burn around them. Though that directly contradicts the blue flame. It could The wind picked up, stirring the trees. The rustling leaves drowned out what Ben said. I took advantage of the noise to creep a few steps closer. being yoked to shadow, whatever that means, I heard my father say as the wind died down. Ben grunted. I couldnt say either. I heard a story where they were given away because their shadows pointed the wrong way, toward the light. And there was another where one of them was referred to as shadow-hamed. It was something the shadow-hamed. Damned if I can remember the name though. Speaking of names, thats another point Im having trouble with, my father said. There are a couple dozen Ive collected that Id appreciate your opinion on. The most Actually, Arl, Ben interrupted, Id appreciate it if you didnt say them out loud. Names of people, that is. You can scratch them in the dirt if youd like, or I could go fetch a slate, but Id be more comfortable if you didnt actually say any of them. Better safe than sore, as they say. There was a deep piece of silence. I stopped midsneak with one foot off the ground, afraid theyd heard me. Now dont go looking at me like that, either of you, Ben said testily. Were just surprised, Ben, came my mothers gentle voice. You dont seem the superstitious type. Im not, Ben said. Im careful. Theres a difference. Of course, my father said. Id never Save it for the paying customers, Arl, Ben cut him off, irritation plain in his voice. Youre too good an actor to show it, but I know perfectly well when someone thinks Im daft. I just didnt expect it, Ben, my father said apologetically. Youre educated, and Im so tired of people touching iron and tipping their beer as soon as I mention the Chandrian. Im just reconstructing a story, not meddling with dark arts. Well, hear me out. I like both of you too well to let you think of me as an old fool, Ben said. Besides, I have something to talk with you about later, and Ill need you to take me seriously for that. The wind continued to pick up, and I used the noise to cover my last few steps. I edged around the corner of my parents wagon and peered through a veil of leaves. The three of them were sitting around the campfire. Ben was sitting on a stump, huddled in his frayed brown cloak. My parents were opposite him, my mother leaning against my father, a blanket draped loosely around them. Ben poured from a clay jug into a leather mug and handed it to my mother. His breath fogged as he spoke. How do they feel about demons off in Atur? he asked. Scared. My father tapped his temple. All that religion makes their brains soft. How about off in Vintas? Ben asked. Fair number of them are Tehlins. Do they feel the same way? My mother shook her head. They think its a little silly. They like their demons metaphorical. What are they afraid of at night in Vintas then? The Fae, my mother said. My father spoke at the same time. Draugar. Youre both right, depending on which part of the country youre in, Ben said. And here in the Commonwealth people laugh up their sleeves at both ideas. He gestured at the surrounding trees. But here theyre careful come autumn-time for fear of drawing the attention of shamble-men. Thats the way of things, my father said. Half of being a good trouper is knowing which way your audience leans. You still think Ive gone cracked in the head, Ben said, amused. Listen, if tomorrow we pulled into Biren and someone told you there were shamble-men in the woods, would you believe them? My father shook his head. What if two people told you? Another shake. Ben leaned forward on his stump. What if a dozen people told you, with perfect earnestness, that shamble-men were out in the fields, eating Of course I wouldnt believe them, my father said, irritated. Its ridiculous. Of course it is, Ben agreed, raising a finger. But the real question is this: Would you go into the woods? My father sat very still and thoughtful for a moment. Ben nodded. Youd be a fool to ignore half the towns warning, even though you dont believe the same thing they do. If not shamble-men, what are you afraid of? Bears. Bandits. Good sensible fears for a trouper to have, Ben said. Fears that townsfolk dont appreciate. Every place has its little superstitions, and everyone laughs at what the folk across the river think. He gave them a serious look. But have either of you ever heard a humorous song or story about the Chandrian? Ill bet a penny you havent. My mother shook her head after a moments thought. My father took a long drink before joining her. Now Im not saying that the Chandrian are out there, striking like lightning from the clear blue sky. But folk everywhere are afraid of them. Theres usually a reason for that. Ben grinned and tipped his clay cup, pouring the last drizzle of beer out onto the earth. And names are strange things. Dangerous things. He gave them a pointed look. That I know for true because I am an educated man. If Im a mite superstitious too He shrugged. Well, thats my choice. Im old. You have to humor me. My father nodded thoughtfully. Its odd I never noticed that everyone treats the Chandrian the same. Its something I shouldve seen. He shook his head as if to clear it. We can come back to names later, I suppose. What was it you wanted to talk about? I prepared to sneak off before I was caught, but what Ben said next froze me in place before I took a single step. Its probably hard to see, being his parents and all. But your young Kvothe is rather bright. Ben refilled his cup, and held out the jug to my father, who declined it. As a matter of fact, bright doesnt begin to cover it, not by half. My mother watched Ben over the top of her mug. Anyone who spends a little time with the boy can see that, Ben. I dont see why anyone would make a point of it. Least of all, you. I dont think you really grasp the situation, Ben said, stretching his feet almost into the fire. How easily did he pick up the lute? My father seemed a little surprised by the sudden change of topic. Fairly easily, why? How old was he? My father tugged thoughtfully at his beard for a moment. In the silence my mothers voice was like a flute. Eight. Think back to when you learned to play. Can you remember how old you were? Can you remember the sort of difficulties you had? My father continued to tug on his beard, but his face was more reflective now, his eyes far away. Abenthy continued. Ill bet he learned each chord, each fingering after being shown just once, no stumbling, no complaining. And when he did make a mistake it was never more than once, right? My father seemed a little perturbed. Mostly, but he did have trouble, just the same as anyone else. E chord. He had a lot of trouble with greater and diminished E. My mother broke in softly. I remember too, dear, but I think it was just his small hands. He was awfully young. I bet it didnt stall him for long, Ben said quietly. He does have marvelous hands; my mother would have called them magicians fingers. My father smiled. He gets them from his mother, delicate, but strong. Perfect for scrubbing pots, eh woman? My mother swatted him, then caught one of his hands in her own and unfolded it for Ben to see. He gets them from his father, graceful and gentle. Perfect for seducing young nobles daughters. My father started to protest, but she ignored him. With his eyes and those hands there wont be a woman safe in all the world when he starts hunting after the ladies. Courting, dear, my father corrected gently. Semantics, she shrugged. Its all a chase, and when the race is done, I think I pity women chaste who run. She leaned back against my father, keeping his hand in her lap. She tilted her head slightly and he took his cue, leaning in to kiss the corner of her mouth. Amen, Ben said, raising his mug in salute. My father put his other arm around her and gave her a squeeze. I still dont see what youre getting at, Ben. He does everything that way, quick as a whip, hardly ever makes mistakes. Ill bet he knows every song youve ever sung to him. He knows more about whats in my wagon than I do. He picked up the jug and uncorked it. Its not just memorization though. He understands. Half the things Ive been meaning to show him hes already figured out for himself. Ben refilled my mothers cup. Hes eleven. Have you ever known a boy his age who talks the way he does? A great deal of it comes from living in such an enlightened atmosphere. Ben gestured to the wagons. But most eleven-year-olds deepest thoughts have to do with skipping stones, and how to swing a cat by the tail. My mother laughed like bells, but Abenthys face was serious. Its true, lady. Ive had older students that would have loved to do half as well. He grinned. If I had his hands, and one quarter his wit, Id be eating off silver plates inside a year. There was a lull. My mother spoke softly, I remember when he was just a little baby, toddling around. Watching, always watching. With clear bright eyes that looked like they wanted to swallow up the world. Her voice had a little quaver in it. My father put his arm around her and she rested her head on his chest. The next silence was longer. I was considering sneaking away when my father broke it. What is it you suggest we do? His voice was a mix of mild concern and fatherly pride. Ben smiled gently. Nothing except to think about what options you might give him when the time comes. He will leave his mark on the world as one of the best. The best what? my father rumbled. Whatever he chooses. If he stays here I dont doubt he will become the next Illien. My father smiled. Illien is the troupers hero. The only truly famous Edema Ruh in all of history. All our oldest, best songs are his songs. Whats more, if you believed the stories, Illien reinvented the lute in his lifetime. A master luthier, Illien transformed the archaic, fragile, unwieldy court lute into the marvelous, versatile, seven-string troupers lute we use today. The same stories claim Illiens own lute had eight strings in all. Illien. I like that thought, my mother said. Kings coming from miles away to hear my little Kvothe play. His music stopping barroom brawls and border wars. Ben smiled. The wild women in his lap, my father enthused, laying their breasts on his head. There was a moment of stunned silence. Then my mother spoke slowly, with an edge to her voice. I think you mean wild beasts laying their heads in his lap. Do I? Ben coughed and continued. If he decides to become an arcanist, I bet hell have a royal appointment by the time hes twenty-four. If he gets it into his head to be a merchant I dont doubt hell own half the world by the time he dies. My fathers brows knitted together. Ben smiled and said, Dont worry about the last one. Hes too curious for a merchant. Ben paused as if considering his next words very carefully. Hed be accepted into the University, you know. Not for years, of course. Seventeen is about as young as they go, but I have no doubts about I missed the rest of what Ben said. The University! I had come to think of it in the same way most children think of the Fae court, a mythical place reserved for dreaming about. A school the size of a small town. Ten times ten thousand books. People who would know the answers to any question I could ever ask. It was quiet when I turned my attention back to them. My father was looking down at my mother, nestled under his arm. How about it, woman? Did you happen to bed down with some wandering God a dozen years ago? That might solve our little mystery. She swatted at him playfully, and a thoughtful look crossed her face. Come to think of it, there was a night, about a dozen years ago, a man came to me. He bound me with kisses and cords of chorded song. He robbed me of my virtue and stole me away. She paused, But he didnt have red hair. Couldnt be him. She smiled wickedly at my father, who appeared a little embarrassed. Then she kissed him. He kissed her back. Thats how I like to remember them today. I snuck away with thoughts of the University dancing in my head.

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