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The Wise Man's Fear / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2011) -

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The Wise Man's Fear  /   (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2011) -

The Wise Man's Fear / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2011) -

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The Name of the Wind /
The Wise Man's Fear /
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: 1 027
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The Wise Man's Fear / (by Patrick Rothfuss, 2011) -
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2011
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Patrick Rothfuss
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Rupert Degas
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,
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upper-intermediate
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42:52:40
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Wise Man's Fear / :

.doc (Word) patrick_rothfuss_-_the_wise_mans_fear.doc [3.04 Mb] (c: 17) .
.pdf patrick_rothfuss_-_the_wise_mans_fear.pdf [4.92 Mb] (c: 14) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: The Wise Man's Fear

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PROLOGUE A Silence of Three Parts DAWN WAS COMING. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts. The most obvious part was a vast, echoing quiet made by things that were lacking. If there had been a storm, raindrops would have tapped and pattered against the selas vines behind the inn. Thunder would have muttered and rumbled and chased the silence down the road like fallen autumn leaves. If there had been travelers stirring in their rooms they would have stretched and grumbled the silence away like fraying, half-forgotten dreams. If there had been music . . . but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained. Inside the Waystone a dark-haired man eased the back door closed behind himself. Moving through the perfect dark, he crept through the kitchen, across the taproom, and down the basement stairs. With the ease of long experience, he avoided loose boards that might groan or sigh beneath his weight. Each slow step made only the barest tep against the floor. In doing this he added his small, furtive silence to the larger echoing one. They made an amalgam of sorts, a counterpoint. The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened long enough you might begin to feel it in the chill of the window glass and the smooth plaster walls of the innkeepers room. It was in the dark chest that lay at the foot of a hard and narrow bed. And it was in the hands of the man who lay there, motionless, watching for the first pale hint of dawns coming light. The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he lay with the resigned air of one who has long ago abandoned any hope of sleep. The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, holding the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumns ending. It was heavy as a great riversmooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die. CHAPTER ONE Apple and Elderberry BAST SLOUCHED AGAINST THE long stretch of mahogany bar, bored. Looking around the empty room, he sighed and rummaged around until he found a clean linen cloth. Then, with a resigned look, he began to polish a section of the bar. After a moment Bast leaned forward and squinted at some half-seen speck. He scratched at it and frowned at the oily smudge his finger made. He leaned closer, fogged the bar with his breath, and buffed it briskly. Then he paused, exhaled hard against the wood, and wrote an obscene word in the fog. Tossing aside the cloth, Bast made his way through the empty tables and chairs to the wide windows of the inn. He stood there for a long moment, looking at the dirt road running through the center of the town. Bast gave another sigh and began to pace the room. He moved with the casual grace of a dancer and the perfect nonchalance of a cat. But when he ran his hands through his dark hair the gesture was restless. His blue eyes prowled the room endlessly, as if searching for a way out. As if searching for something he hadnt seen a hundred times before. But there was nothing new. Empty tables and chairs. Empty stools at the bar. Two huge barrels loomed on the counter behind the bar, one for whiskey, one for beer. Between the barrels stood a vast panoply of bottles: all colors and shapes. Above the bottles hung a sword. Basts eyes fell back onto the bottles. He focused on them for a long, speculative moment, then moved back behind the bar and brought out a heavy clay mug. Drawing a deep breath, he pointed a finger at the first bottle in the bottom row and began to chant as he counted down the line. Maple. Maypole. Catch and carry. Ash and Ember. Elderberry. He finished the chant while pointing at a squat green bottle. He twisted out the cork, took a speculative sip, then made a sour face and shuddered. He quickly set the bottle down and picked up a curving red one instead. He sipped this one as well, rubbed his wet lips together thoughtfully, then nodded and splashed a generous portion into his mug. He pointed at the next bottle and started counting again: Woolen. Woman. Moon at night. Willow. Window. Candlelight. This time it was a clear bottle with a pale yellow liquor inside. Bast yanked the cork and added a long pour to the mug without bothering to taste it first. Setting the bottle aside, he picked up the mug and swirled it dramatically before taking a mouthful. He smiled a brilliant smile and flicked the new bottle with his finger, making it chime lightly before he began his singsong chant again: Barrel. Barley. Stone and stave. Wind and water A floorboard creaked, and Bast looked up, smiling brightly. Good morning, Reshi. The red-haired innkeeper stood at the bottom of the stairs. He brushed his long-fingered hands over the clean apron and full-length sleeves he wore. Is our guest awake yet? Bast shook his head. Not a rustle or a peep. Hes had a hard couple of days, Kote said. Its probably catching up with him. He hesitated, then lifted his head and sniffed. Have you been drinking? The question was more curious than accusatory. No, Bast said. The innkeeper raised an eyebrow. Ive been tasting, Bast said, emphasizing the word. Tasting comes before drinking. Ah, the innkeeper said. So you were getting ready to drink then? Tiny Gods, yes, Bast said. To great excess. What the hell else is there to do? Bast brought his mug up from underneath the bar and looked into it. I was hoping for elderberry, but I got some sort of melon. He swirled the mug speculatively. Plus something spicy. He took another sip and narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. Cinnamon? he asked, looking at the ranks of bottles. Do we even have any more elderberry? Its in there somewhere, the innkeeper said, not bothering to look at the bottles. Stop a moment and listen, Bast. We need to talk about what you did last night. Bast went very still. What did I do, Reshi? You stopped that creature from the Mael, Kote said. Oh. Bast relaxed, making a dismissive gesture. I just slowed it down, Reshi. Thats all. Kote shook his head. You realized it wasnt just some madman.You tried to warn us. If you hadnt been so quick on your feet . . . Bast frowned. I wasnt so quick, Reshi. It got Shep. He looked down at the well scrubbed floorboards near the bar. I liked Shep. Everyone else will think the smiths prentice saved us, Kote said. And thats probably for the best. But I know the truth. If not for you, it would have slaughtered everyone here. Oh Reshi, thats just not true, Bast said. You would have killed it like a chicken. I just got it first. The innkeeper shrugged the comment away. Last night has me thinking, he said. Wondering what we could do to make things a bit safer around here. Have you ever heard the White Riders Hunt? Bast smiled. It was our song before it was yours, Reshi. He drew a breath and sang in a sweet tenor: Rode they horses white as snow. Silver blade and white horn bow. Wore they fresh and supple boughs, Red and green upon their brows. The innkeeper nodded. Exactly the verse I was thinking of. Do you think you could take care of it while I get things ready here? Bast nodded enthusiastically and practically bolted, pausing by the kitchen door. You wont start without me? he asked anxiously. Well start as soon as our guest is fed and ready, Kote said. Then, seeing the expression on his students face, he relented a little. For all that, I imagine you have an hour or two. Bast glanced through the doorway, then back. Amusement flickered over the innkeepers face. And Ill call before we start. He made a shooing motion with one hand. Go on now. The man who called himself Kote went through his usual routine at the Waystone Inn. He moved like clockwork, like a wagon rolling down the road in well-worn ruts. First came the bread. He mixed flour and sugar and salt with his hands, not bothering to measure. He added a piece of starter from the clay jar in the pantry, kneaded the dough, then rounded the loaves and set them to rise. He shoveled ash from the stove in the kitchen and kindled a fire. Next he moved into the common room and laid a fire in the black stone fireplace, brushing the ash from the massive hearth along the northern wall. He pumped water, washed his hands, and brought up a piece of mutton from the basement. He cut fresh kindling, carried in firewood, punched down the rising bread and moved it close to the now-warm stove. And then, abruptly, there was nothing left to do. Everything was ready. Everything was clean and orderly. The red-haired man stood behind the bar, his eyes slowly returning from their faraway place, focusing on the here and now, on the inn itself. They came to rest on the sword that hung on the wall above the bottles. It wasnt a particularly beautiful sword, not ornate or eye-catching. It was menacing, in a way. The same way a tall cliff is menacing. It was grey and unblemished and cold to the touch. It was sharp as shattered glass. Carved into the black wood of the mounting board was a single word: Folly. The innkeeper heard heavy footsteps on the wooden landing outside. The doors latch rattled noisily, followed by a loud hellooo and a thumping on the door. Just a moment! Kote called. Hurrying to the front door he turned, the heavy key in the doors bright brass lock. Graham stood with his thick hand poised to knock on the door. His weathered face split into a grin when he saw the innkeeper. Bast open things up for you again this morning? he asked. Kote gave a tolerant smile. Hes a good boy, Graham said. Just a little ditherheaded. I thought you might have closed up shop today. He cleared his throat and glanced at his feet for a moment. I wouldnt be surprised, considering. Kote put the key in his pocket. Open as always. What can I do for you? Graham stepped out of the doorway and nodded toward the street where three barrels stood in a nearby cart. They were new, with pale, polished wood and bright metal bands. I knew I wasnt getting any sleep last night, so I knocked the last one together for you. Besides, I heard the Bentons would be coming round with the first of the late apples today. I appreciate that. Nice and tight so theyll keep through the winter. Graham walked over and rapped a knuckle proudly against the side of the barrel. Nothing like a winter apple to stave off hunger. He looked up with a glimmer in his eye and knocked at the side of the barrel again. Get it? Stave? Kote groaned a bit, rubbing at his face. Graham chuckled to himself and ran a hand over one of the barrels bright metal bands. I aint ever made a barrel with brass before, but these turned out nice as I could hope for. You let me know if they dont stay tight. Ill see to em. Im glad it wasnt too much trouble, the innkeeper said. The cellar gets damp. I worry iron would just rust out in a couple years. Graham nodded. Thats right sensible, he said. Not many folk take the long view of things. He rubbed his hands together. Would you like to give me a hand? Id hate to drop one and scuff your floors. They set to it. Two of the brass-bound barrels went to the basement while the third was maneuvered behind the bar, through the kitchen, and into the pantry. After that, the men made their way back to the common room, each on their own side of the bar. There was a moment of silence as Graham looked around the empty taproom. There were two fewer stools than there should be at the bar, and an empty space left by an absent table. In the orderly taproom these things were conspicuous as missing teeth. Graham pulled his eyes from a well-scrubbed piece of floor near the bar. He reached into his pocket and brought out a pair of dull iron shims, his hand hardly shaking at all. Bring me up a short beer, would you, Kote? he asked, his voice rough. I know its early, but Ive got a long day ahead of me. Im helping the Murrions bring their wheat in. The innkeeper drew the beer and handed it over silently. Graham drank half of it off in a long swallow. His eyes were red around the edges. Bad business last night, he said without making eye contact, then took another drink. Kote nodded. Bad business last night. Chances are, that would be all Graham had to say about the death of a man he had known his whole life. These folk knew all about death. They killed their own livestock. They died from fevers, falls, or broken bones gone sour. Death was like an unpleasant neighbor. You didnt talk about him for fear he might hear you and decide to pay a visit. Except for stories, of course. Tales of poisoned kings and duels and old wars were fine. They dressed death in foreign clothes and sent him far from your door. A chimney fire or the croup-cough were terrifying. But Gibeas trial or the siege of Enfast, those were different. They were like prayers, like charms muttered late at night when you were walking alone in the dark. Stories were like hapenny amulets you bought from a peddler, just in case. How long is that scribe fellow going to be around? Graham asked after a moment, voice echoing in his mug. Maybe I should get a bit of something writ up, just in case. He frowned a bit. My daddy always called them laying-down papers. Cant remember what theyre really called. If its just your goods that need looking after, its a disposition of property, the innkeeper said matter-of-factly. If it relates to other things its called a mandamus of declared will. Graham lifted an eyebrow at the innkeeper. What I heard at any rate, the innkeeper said, looking down and rubbing the bar with a clean white cloth. Scribe mentioned something along those lines. Mandamus . . . Graham murmured into his mug. I reckon Ill just ask him for some laying-down papers and let him official it up however he likes. He looked up at the innkeeper. Other folk will probably be wanting something similar, times being what they are. For a moment it looked like the innkeeper frowned with irritation. But no, he did nothing of the sort. Standing behind the bar he looked the same as he always did, his expression placid and agreeable. He gave an easy nod. He mentioned hed be setting up shop around midday, Kote said. He was a bit unsettled by everything last night. If anyone shows up earlier than noon I expect theyll be disappointed. Graham shrugged. Shouldnt make any difference. There wont be but ten people in the whole town until lunchtime anyway. He took another swallow of beer and looked out the window. Todays a field day and thats for sure. The innkeeper seemed to relax a bit. Hell be here tomorrow too. So theres no need for everyone to rush in today. Folk stole his horse off by Abbots Ford, and hes trying to find a new one. Graham sucked his teeth sympathetically. Poor bastard. He wont find a horse for love nor money with harvest in mid-swing. Even Carter couldnt replace Nelly after that spider thing attacked him off by the Oldstone bridge. He shook his head. It doesnt seem right, something like that happening not two miles from your own door. Back when Graham stopped. Lord and lady, I sound like my old da. He tucked in his chin and added some gruff to his voice. Back when I was a boy we had proper weather. The miller kept his thumb off the scale and folk knew to look after their own business. The innkeepers face grew a wistful smile. My father said the beer was better, and the roads had fewer ruts. Graham smiled, but it faded quickly. He looked down, as if uncomfortable with what he was about to say. I know you arent from around here, Kote. Thats a hard thing. Some folk think a stranger cant hardly know the time of day. He drew a deep breath, still not meeting the inkeepers eyes. But I figure you know things other folk dont. Youve got sort of a wider view. He looked up, his eyes serious and weary, dark around the edges from lack of sleep. Are things as grim as they seem lately? The roads so bad. Folk getting robbed and . . . With an obvious effort, Graham kept himself from looking at the empty piece of floor again. All the new taxes making things so tight. The Grayden boys about to lose their farm. That spider thing. He took another swallow of beer. Are things as bad as they seem? Or have I just gotten old like my da, and now everything tastes a little bitter compared to when I was a boy? Kote wiped at the bar for a long moment, as if reluctant to speak. I think things are usually bad one way or another, he said. It might be that only us older folk can see it. Graham began to nod, then frowned. Except youre not old, are you? I forget that most times. He looked the red-haired man up and down. I mean, you move around old, and you talk old, but youre not, are you? Ill bet youre half my age. He squinted at the innkeeper. How old are you, anyway? The innkeeper gave a tired smile. Old enough to feel old. Graham snorted. Too young to make old man noises. You should be out chasing women and getting into trouble. Leave us old folk to complain about how the world is getting all loose in the joints. The old carpenter pushed himself away from the bar and turned to walk toward the door. Ill be back to talk to your scribe when we break for lunch today. I ent the only one, either. Theres a lot of folks thatll want to get some things set down official when theyve got the chance. The innkeeper drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. Graham? The man turned with one hand on the door. Its not just you, Kote said. Things are bad, and my gut tells me theyll get worse yet. It wouldnt hurt a man to get ready for a hard winter. And maybe see that he can defend himself if need be. The innkeeper shrugged. Thats what my gut tells me, anyway. Grahams mouth set into a grim line. He bobbed his head once in a serious nod. Im glad its not just my gut, I suppose. Then he forced a grin and began to cuff up his shirt sleeves as he turned to the door. Still, he said, youve got to make hay while the sun shines. Not long after that the Bentons stopped by with a cartload of late apples. The innkeeper bought half of what they had and spent the next hour sorting and storing them. The greenest and firmest went into the barrels in the basement, his gentle hands laying them carefully in place and packing them in sawdust before hammering down the lids. Those closer to full ripe went to the pantry, and any with a bruise or spot of brown were doomed to be cider apples, quartered and tossed into a large tin washtub. As he sorted and packed, the red-haired man seemed content. But if you looked more closely you might have noticed that while his hands were busy, his eyes were far away. And while his expression was composed, pleasant even, there was no joy in it. He did not hum or whistle while he worked. He did not sing. When the last of the apples were sorted, he carried the metal tub through the kitchen and out the back door. It was a cool autumn morning, and behind the inn was a small, private garden sheltered by trees. Kote tumbled a load of quartered apples into the wooden cider press and spun the top down until it no longer moved easily. Kote cuffed up the long sleeves of his shirt past his elbows, then gripped the handles of the press with his long, graceful hands and pulled. The press screwed down, first packing the apples tight, then crushing them. Twist and regrip. Twist and regrip. If there had been anyone to see, they would have noticed his arms werent the doughy arms of an innkeeper. When he pulled against the wooden handles, the muscles of his forearms stood out, tight as twisted ropes. Old scars crossed and recrossed his skin. Most were pale and thin as cracks in winter ice. Others were red and angry, standing out against his fair complexion. The innkeepers hands gripped and pulled, gripped and pulled. The only sounds were the rhythmic creak of the wood and the slow patter of the cider as it ran into the bucket below. There was a rhythm to it, but no music, and the innkeepers eyes were distant and joyless, so pale a green they almost could have passed for grey. CHAPTER TWO Holly CHRONICLER REACHED THE BOTTOM of the stairs and stepped into the Waystones common room with his flat leather satchel over one shoulder. Stopping in the doorway, he eyed the red-haired innkeeper hunched intently over something on the bar. Chronicler cleared his throat as he stepped into the room. Im sorry to have slept so late, he said. Its not really . . . He stalled out when he saw what was on the bar. Are you making a pie? Kote looked up from crimping the edge of the crust with his fingers. Pies, he said, stressing the plural. Yes. Why? Chronicler opened his mouth, then closed it. His eyes flickered to the sword that hung, grey and silent behind the bar, then back to the red-haired man carefully pinching crust around the edge of a pan. What kind of pie? Apple. Kote straightened and cut three careful slits into the crust covering the pie. Do you know how difficult it is to make a good pie? Not really, Chronicler admitted, then looked around nervously. Wheres your assistant? God himself can only guess at such things, the innkeeper said. Its quite hard. Making pies, I mean. You wouldnt think it, but theres quite a lot to the process. Bread is easy. Soup is easy. Pudding is easy. But pie is complicated. Its something you never realize until you try it for yourself. Chronicler nodded in vague agreement, looking uncertain as to what else might be expected of him. He shrugged the satchel off his shoulder and set it on a nearby table. Kote wiped his hands on his apron. When you press apples for cider, you know the pulp thats left over? The pomace? Pomace, Kote said with profound relief. Thats what its called. What do people do with it, after they get the juice out? Grape pomace can make a weak wine, Chronicler said. Or oil, if youve got a lot. But apple pomace is pretty useless. You can use it as fertilizer or mulch, but its not much good as either. Folk feed it to their livestock mostly. Kote nodded, looking thoughtful. It didnt seem like theyd just throw it out. They put everything to use one way or another around here. Pomace. He spoke as if he were tasting the word. Thats been bothering me for two years now. Chronicler looked puzzled. Anyone in town could have told you that. The innkeeper frowned. If its something everyone knows, I cant afford to ask, he said. There was the sound of a door banging closed, followed by a bright, wandering whistle. Bast emerged from the kitchen carrying a bristling armload of holly boughs wrapped in a white sheet. Kote nodded grimly and rubbed his hands together. Lovely. Now how do we His eyes narrowed. Are those my good sheets? Bast looked down at the bundle. Well Reshi, he said slowly, that depends. Do you have any bad sheets? The innkeepers eyes flashed angrily for a second, then he sighed. It doesnt matter, I suppose. He reached over and pulled a single long branch from the bundle. What do we do with this, anyway? Bast shrugged. Im running dark on this myself, Reshi. I know the Sithe used to ride out wearing holly crowns when they hunted the skin dancers. . . . We cant walk around wearing holly crowns, Kote said dismissively. Folk would talk. I dont care what the local plods think, Bast murmured as he began to weave several long, flexible branches together. When a dancer gets inside your body, youre like a puppet. They can make you bite out your own tongue. He lifted a half-formed circle up to his own head, checking the fit. He wrinkled his nose. Prickly. In the stories Ive heard, Kote said, holly traps them in a body, too. Couldnt we just wear iron? Chronicler asked. The two men behind the bar looked at him curiously, as if theyd almost forgotten he was there. I mean, if its a faeling creature Dont say faeling, Bast said disparagingly. It makes you sound like a child. Its a Fae creature. Faen, if you must. Chronicler hesitated for a moment before continuing. If this thing slid into the body of someone wearing iron, wouldnt that hurt it? Wouldnt it just jump out again? They can make you bite. Out. Your own. Tongue, Bast repeated, as if speaking to a particularly stupid child. Once theyre in you, theyll use your hand to pull out your own eye as easy as youd pick a daisy. What makes you think they couldnt take the time to remove a bracelet or a ring? He shook his head, looking down as he worked another bright green branch of holly into the circle he held. Besides, Ill be damned if Im wearing iron. If they can jump out of bodies, Chronicler said. Why didnt it just leave that mans body last night? Why didnt it hop into one of us? There was a long, quiet moment before Bast realized the other two men were looking at him. Youre asking me? He laughed incredulously. I have no idea. Anpauen. The last of the dancers were hunted down hundreds of years ago. Long before my time. Ive just heard stories. Then how do we know it didnt jump out? Chronicler said slowly, as if reluctant even to ask. How do we know it isnt still here? He sat very stiffly in his seat. How do we know its not in one of us right now? It seemed like it died when the mercenarys body died, Kote said. We would have seen it leave. He glanced over at Bast. Theyre supposed to look like a dark shadow or smoke when they leave the body, arent they? Bast nodded. Plus, if it had hopped out, it would have just started killing folk with the new body. Thats what they usually do. They switch and switch until everyone is dead. The innkeeper gave Chronicler a reassuring smile. See? It might not even have been a dancer. Perhaps it was just something similar. Chronicler looked a little wild around the eyes. But how can we be sure? It might be inside anyone in town right now. . . . It might be inside me, Bast said nonchalantly. Maybe Im just waiting for you to let your guard down and then Ill bite you on the chest, right over your heart, and drink all the blood out of you. Like sucking the juice out of a plum. Chroniclers mouth made a thin line. Thats not funny. Bast looked up and gave Chronicler a rakish, toothy grin. But there was something slightly off about the expression. It lasted a little too long. The grin was slightly too wide. His eyes were focused slightly to one side of the scribe, rather than directly on him. Bast went still for a moment, his fingers no longer weaving nimbly among the green leaves. He looked down at his hands curiously, then dropped the half-finished circle of holly onto the bar. His grin slowly faded to a blank expression, and he looked around the taproom dully. Te veyan? he said in a strange voice, his eyes glassy and confused. Te-tanten ventelanet? Then, moving with startling speed, Bast lunged from behind the bar toward Chronicler. The scribe exploded out of his seat, bolting madly away. He upset two tables and a half-dozen chairs before his feet got tangled and he tumbled messily to the floor, arms and legs flailing as he clawed his way frantically toward the door. As he scrambled wildly, Chronicler darted a quick look over his shoulder, his face horrified and pale, only to see that Bast hadnt taken more than three steps. The dark-haired young man stood next to the bar, bent nearly double and shaking with helpless laughter. One hand half-covered his face, while the other pointed at Chronicler. He was laughing so hard he could barely draw a breath. After a moment he had to reach out and steady himself against the bar. Chronicler was livid. You ass! he shouted as he climbed painfully to his feet. You . . . you ass! Still laughing too hard to breathe, Bast raised his hands and made weak, halfhearted clawing gestures, like a child pretending to be a bear. Bast, the innkeeper chided. Come now. Really. But while Kotes voice was stern, his eyes were bright with laughter. His lips twitched, struggling not to curl. Moving with affronted dignity, Chronicler busied himself setting the tables and chairs to rights, thumping them down rather harder than he needed to. When at last he returned to his original table, he sat down stiffly. By then Bast had returned to stand behind the bar, breathing hard and pointedly focusing on the holly in his hands. Chronicler glared at him and rubbed his shin. Bast stifled something that could, conceivably, have been a cough. Kote chuckled low in his throat and pulled another length of holly from the bundle, adding it to the long cord he was making. He looked up to catch Chroniclers eye. Before I forget to mention it, folk will be stopping by today to take advantage of your services as a scribe. Chronicler seemed surprised. Will they now? Kote nodded and gave an irritated sigh. Yes. The news is already out, so it cant be helped. Well have to deal with them as they come. Luckily, everyone with two good hands will be busy in the fields until midday, so we wont have to worry about it until The innkeepers fingers fumbled clumsily, snapping the holly branch and jabbing a thorn deep into the fleshy part of his thumb. The red-haired man didnt flinch or curse, just scowled angrily down at his hand as a bead of blood welled up, bright as a berry. Frowning, the innkeeper brought his thumb to his mouth. All the laughter faded from his expression, and his eyes were hard and dark. He tossed the half-finished holly cord aside in a gesture so pointedly casual it was almost frightening. He looked back to Chronicler, his voice perfectly calm. My point is that we should make good use of our time before were interrupted, he said. But first, I imagine youll want some breakfast. If it wouldnt be too much trouble, Chronicler said. None at all, Kote said as he turned and headed into the kitchen. Bast watched him leave, a concerned expression on his face. Youll want to pull the cider off the stove and set it to cool out back. Bast called out to him loudly. The last batch was closer to jam than juice. And I found some herbs while I was out, too. Theyre on the rain barrel. You should look them over to see if theyll be of any use for supper. Left alone in the taproom, Bast and Chronicler watched each other across the bar for a long moment. The only sound was the distant thump of the back door closing. Bast made a final adjustment to the crown in his hands, looking it over from all angles. He brought it up to his face as if to smell it. But instead he drew a deep lungful of air, closed his eyes, and breathed out against the holly leaves so gently they barely moved. Opening his eyes, Bast gave a charming, apologetic smile and walked over to Chronicler. Here. He held out the circle of holly to the seated man. Chronicler made no move to take it. Basts smile didnt fade. You didnt notice because you were busy falling down, he said, his voice pitched low and quiet. But he actually laughed when you bolted. Three good laughs from down in his belly. He has such a wonderful laugh. Its like fruit. Like music. I havent heard it in months. Bast held the circle of holly out again, smiling shyly. So this is for you. Ive brought what grammarie I have to bear on it. So it will stay green and living longer than youd think. I gathered the holly in the proper way and shaped it with my own hands. Sought, wrought, and moved to purpose. He held it out a bit farther, like a nervous boy with a bouquet. Here. It is a freely given gift. I offer it without obligation, let, or lien. Hesitantly, Chronicler reached out and took the crown. He looked it over, turning it in his hands. Red berries nestled in the dark green leaves like gems, and it was cunningly braided so the thorns angled outward. He set it gingerly on his head, and it fit snugly across his brow. Bast grinned. All hail the Lord of Misrule! he shouted, throwing up his hands. He laughed a delighted laugh. A smile tugged Chroniclers lips as he removed the crown. So, he said softly as he lowered his hands into his lap. Does this mean things are settled between us? Bast tilted his head, puzzled. Beg pardon? Chronicler looked uncomfortable. What you spoke of. last night . . . Bast looked surprised. Oh no, he said seriously, shaking his head. No. Not at all. You belong to me, down to the marrow of your bones. You are an instrument of my desire. Bast darted a glance toward the kitchen, his expression turning bitter. And you know what I desire. Make him remember hes more than some innkeeper baking pies. He practically spat the last word. Chronicler shifted uneasily in his seat, looking away. I still dont know what I can do. Youll do whatever you can, Bast said, his voice low. You will draw him out of himself. You will wake him up. He said the last words fiercely. Bast lay one hand on Chroniclers shoulder, his blue eyes narrowing ever so slightly. You will make him remember. You will. Chronicler hesitated for a moment, then looked down at the circle of holly in his lap and gave a small nod. Ill do what I can. Thats all any of us can do, Bast said, giving him a friendly pat on the back. Hows the shoulder, by the way? The scribe rolled it around, the motion seeming out of place as the rest of his body remained stiff and still. Numb. Chilly. But it doesnt hurt. Thats to be expected. I wouldnt worry about it if I were you. Bast smiled at him encouragingly. Lifes too short for you folk to fret over little things. Breakfast came and went. Potatoes, toast, tomatoes, and eggs. Chronicler tucked away a respectable portion and Bast ate enough for three people. Kote puttered about, bringing in more firewood, stoking the oven in preparation for the pies, and jugging up the cooling cider. He was carrying a pair of jugs to the bar when boots sounded on the wooden landing outside the inn, loud as any knocking. A moment later the smiths prentice burst through the door. Barely sixteen, he was one of the tallest men in town, with broad shoulders and thick arms. Hello Aaron, the innkeeper said calmly. Close the door, would you? Its dusty out. As the smiths prentice turned back to the door, the innkeeper and Bast tucked most of the holly below the bar, moving in quick, unspoken concert. By the time the smiths prentice turned back to face them, Bast was toying with something that could easily have been a small, half-finished wreath. Something made to keep idle fingers busy against boredom. Aaron didnt seem to notice anything different as he hurried up to the bar. Mr. Kote, he said excitedly, could I get some traveling food? He waved an empty burlap sack. Carter said youd know what that meant. The innkeeper nodded. Ive got some bread and cheese, sausage and apples. He gestured to Bast, who grabbed the sack and scampered off into the kitchen. Carters going somewhere today? Him and me both, the boy said. The Orrisons are selling some mutton off in Treya today. They hired me and Carter to come along, on account of the roads being so bad and all. Treya, the innkeeper mused. You wont be back til tomorrow then. The smiths prentice carefully set a slim silver bit on the polished mahogany of the bar. Carters hoping to find a replacement for Nelly, too. But if he cant come by a horse he said hell probably take the kings coin. Kotes eyebrows went up. Carters going to enlist? The boy gave a smile that was a strange mix of grin and grim. He says there aint much else for him if he cant come by a horse for his cart. He says they take care of you in the army, you get fed and get to travel around and such. The young mans eyes were excited as he spoke, his expression trapped somewhere between a boys enthusiasm and the serious worry of a man. And they aint just giving folks a silver noble for listing up anymore. These days they hand you over a royal when you sign up. A whole gold royal. The innkeepers expression grew somber. Carters the only one thinking about taking the coin, right? He looked the boy in the eye. Royals a lot of money, the smiths prentice admitted, flashing a sly grin. And times are tight since my da passed on and my mum moved over from Rannish. And what does your mother think of you taking the kings coin? The boys face fell. Now dont go takin her side, he complained. I thought youd understand. Youre a man, you know how a fellow has to do right by his mum. I know your mum would rather have you home safe than swim in a tub of gold, boy. Im tired of folk calling me boy, the smiths prentice snapped, his face flushing. I can do some good in the army. Once we get the rebels to swear fealty to the Penitent King, things will start getting better again. The levy taxes will stop. The Bentleys wont lose their land. The roads will be safe again. Then his expression went grim, and for a second his face didnt seem very young at all. And then my mum wont have to sit all anxious when Im not at home, he said, his voice dark. Shell stop waking up three times a night, checking the window shutters and the bar on the door. Aaron met the innkeepers eye, and his back straightened. When he stopped slouching, he was almost a full head taller than the innkeeper. Sometimes a man has to stand up for his king and his country. And Rose? the innkeeper asked quietly. The prentice blushed and looked down in embarrassment. His shoulders slouched again and he deflated, like a sail when the wind goes out of it. Lord, does everyone know about us? The innkeeper nodded with a gentle smile. No secrets in a town like this. Well, Aaron said resolutely, Im doing this for her too. For us. With my coin and the pay Ive saved, I can buy us a house, or set up my own shop without having to go to some shim moneylender. Kote opened his mouth, then closed it again. He looked thoughtful for the space of a long, deep breath, then spoke as if choosing his words very carefully. Aaron, do you know who Kvothe is? The smiths prentice rolled his eyes. Im not an idiot. We were telling stories about him just last night, remember? He looked over the innkeepers shoulder toward the kitchen. Look, Ive got to get on my way. Carterll be mad as a wet hen if I dont Kote made a calming gesture. Ill make you a deal, Aaron. Listen to what I have to say, and Ill let you have your food for free. He pushed the silver bit back across the bar. Then you can use that to buy something nice for Rose in Treya. Aaron nodded cautiously. Fair enough. What do you know about Kvothe from the stories youve heard? Whats he supposed to be like? Aaron laughed. Aside from dead? Kote smiled faintly. Aside from dead. He knew all sorts of secret magics, Aaron said. He knew six words he could whisper in a horses ear that would make it run a hundred miles. He could turn iron into gold and catch lightning in a quart jar to save it for later. He knew a song that would open any lock, and he could stave in a strong oak door with just one hand. . . . Aaron trailed off. It all depends on the story, really. Sometimes hes the good guy, like Prince Gallant. He rescued some girls from a troupe of ogres once Another faint smile. I know. . . . but in other stories hes a right bastard, Aaron continued. He stole secret magics from the University. Thats why they threw him out, you know. And they didnt call him Kvothe Kingkiller because he was good with a lute. The smile was gone, but the innkeeper nodded. True enough. But what was he like? Aarons brow furrowed a bit. He had red hair, if thats what you mean. All the stories say that. A right devil with a sword. He was terrible clever. Had a real silver tongue, too, could talk his way out of anything. The innkeeper nodded. Right. So if you were Kvothe, and terrible clever, as you say. And suddenly your head was worth a thousand royals and a duchy to whoever cut it off, what would you do? The smiths prentice shook his head and shrugged, plainly at a loss. Well if I were Kvothe, the innkeeper said, Id fake my death, change my name, and find some little town out in the middle of nowhere. Then Id open an inn and do my best to disappear. He looked at the young man. Thats what Id do. Aarons eye flickered to the innkeepers red hair, to the sword that hung over the bar, then back to the innkeepers eyes. Kote nodded slowly, then pointed to Chronicler. That fellow isnt just some ordinary scribe. Hes a sort of historian, here to write down the true story of my life. Youve missed the beginning, but if youd like, you can stay for the rest. He smiled an easy smile. I can tell you stories no one has ever heard before. Stories no one will ever hear again. Stories about Felurian, how I learned to fight from the Adem. The truth about Princess Ariel. The innkeeper reached across the bar and touched the boys arm. Truth is, Aaron, Im fond of you. I think youre uncommon smart, and Id hate to see you throw your life away. He took a deep breath and looked the smiths prentice full in the face. His eyes were a startling green. I know how this war started. I know the truth of it. Once you hear that, you wont be nearly so eager to run off and die fighting in the middle of it. The innkeeper gestured to one of the empty chairs at the table beside Chronicler and smiled a smile so charming and easy that it belonged on a storybook prince. What do you say? Aaron stared seriously at the innkeeper for a long moment, his eyes darting up to the sword, then back down again. If you really are . . . His voice trailed off, but his expression turned it into a question. I really am, Kote reassured him gently. . . . then can I see your cloak of no particular color? the prentice asked with a grin. The innkeepers charming smile went stiff and brittle as a sheet of shattered glass. Youre getting Kvothe confused with Taborlin the Great, Chronicler said matter-of-factly from across the room. Taborlin had the cloak of no particular color. Aarons expression was puzzled as he turned to look at the scribe. What did Kvothe have, then? A shadow cloak, Chronicler said. If I remember correctly. The boy turned back toward the bar. Can you show me your shadow cloak then? he asked. Or a bit of magic? Ive always wanted to see some. Just a little fire or lightning would be enough. I wouldnt want to tire you out. Before the innkeeper could to respond, Aaron burst into a sudden laugh. Im just havin some fun with you, Mr. Kote. He grinned again, wider than before. Lord and lady, but I aint never heard a liar like you before in my whole life. Even my Uncle Alvan couldnt tell one like that with a straight face. The innkeeper looked down and muttered something incomprehensible. Aaron reached over the bar and lay a broad hand on Kotes shoulder. I know youre just trying to help, Mr. Kote, he said warmly. Youre a good man, and Ill think about what you said. Im not rushing out to join. I just want to give my options a look-over. The smiths prentice shook his head ruefully. I swear. Everyones taken a run at me this morning. My mum said she was sick with the consumption. Rose told me she was pregnant. He ran one hand through his hair, chuckling. But yours was the ribbon-winner of the lot, Ive gotta say. Well, you know . . . Kote managed a sickly smile. I couldnt have looked your mum square in the eye if I hadnt given it a shot. You might have had a chance if youd picked something easier to swallow, he said. But everybody knows Kvothes sword was made of silver. He flicked his eyes up to the sword that hung on the wall. It wasnt called Folly, either. It was Kaysera, the poet-killer. The innkeeper rocked back a bit at that. The poet-killer? Aaron nodded doggedly. Yes sir. And your scribe there is right. He had his cloak made all out of cobwebs and shadows, and he wore rings on all his fingers. How does it go? On his first hand he wore rings of stone, Iron, amber, wood, and bone. There were The smiths prentice frowned. I cant remember the rest. There was something about fire. . . . The innkeepers expression was unreadable. He looked down at where his own hands lay spread on the top of the bar, and after a moment he recited: There were rings unseen on his second hand. One was blood in a flowing band. One of air all whisper thin, And the ring of ice had a flaw within. Full faintly shone the ring of flame, And the final ring was without name. Thats it, Aaron said, smiling. You dont have any of those behind the bar, do you? He stood on his toes as if trying to get a better look. Kote gave a shaky, shamefaced smile. No. No, I cant say as I do. They both startled as Bast thumped a burlap sack onto the bar. That should take care of both Carter and you for two days with plenty to spare, Bast said brusquely. Aaron shouldered the sack and started to leave, then hesitated and looked back at the two of them behind the bar. I hate to ask for favors. Old Cob said hed look in on my mum for me, but . . . Bast made his way around the bar and began herding Aaron toward the door. Shell be fine, I expect. Ill stop and see Rose too, if you like. He gave the smiths prentice a wide, lascivious smile. Just to make sure shes not lonely or anything. Id appreciate it, Aaron said, relief plain in his voice. She was in a bit of a state when I left. She could do with some comforting. Bast stopped midway through opening the inns door and gave the broad-shouldered boy a look of utter disbelief. Then he shook his head and finished opening the door. Right, off you go. Have fun in the big city. Dont drink the water. Bast closed the door and pressed his forehead against the wood as if suddenly weary. She could use some comforting? he repeated incredulously. I take back everything I ever said about that boy being clever. He turned around to face the bar while leveling an accusatory finger at the closed door. That, he said firmly to the room in general, is what comes of working with iron every day. The innkeeper gave a humorless chuckle as he leaned against the bar. So much for my legendary silver tongue. Bast gave a derogatory snort. The boy is an idiot, Reshi. Am I supposed to feel better because I wasnt able to persuade an idiot, Bast? Chronicler cleared his throat softly. It seems more of a testament to the performance youve given here, he said. Youve played the innkeeper so well they cant think of you any other way. He gestured around at the empty taproom. Frankly, Im surprised youd be willing to risk your life here just to keep the boy out of the army. Not much of a risk, the innkeeper said. Its not much of a life. He hauled himself upright and walked around to the front of the bar, making his way to the table where Chronicler sat. Im responsible for everyone who dies in this stupid war. I was just hoping to save one. Apparently even that is beyond me. He sank into the chair opposite Chronicler. Where did we leave off yesterday ? No sense repeating myself if I can help it. Youd just called the wind and given Ambrose a piece of what he had coming to him, Bast said from where he stood at the door. And you were mooning over your ladylove something fierce. Kote looked up. I do not moon, Bast. Chronicler picked up his flat leather satchel and produced a sheet of paper three-quarters full of small, precise writing. I can read the last bit back to you, if youd like. Kote held out his hand. I can remember your cipher well enough to read it for myself, he said wearily. Give it over. Maybe it will prime the pump. He glanced over at Bast. Come and sit if youre going to listen. I wont have you hovering. Bast scampered for a seat while Kote drew a deep breath and looked over the last page of yesterdays story. The innkeeper was quiet for a long moment. His mouth made something that might have been the beginning of a frown, then something like a faint shadow of a smile. He nodded thoughtfully, his eyes still on the page. So much of my young life was spent trying to get to the University, he said. I wanted to go there even before my troupe was killed. Before I knew the Chandrian were more than a campfire story. Before I began searching for the Amyr. The innkeeper leaned back in his chair, his weary expression fading, becoming thoughtful instead. I thought once I was there, things would be easy. I would learn magic and find the answers to all my questions. I thought it would all be storybook simple. Kvothe gave a slightly embarrassed smile, the expression making his face look surprisingly young. And it might have been, if I didnt have a talent for making enemies and borrowing trouble. All I wanted was to play my music, attend my classes, and find my answers. Everything I wanted was at the University. All I wanted was to stay. He nodded to himself. Thats where we should begin. The innkeeper handed the sheet of paper back to Chronicler, who absentmindedly smoothed it down with one hand. Chronicler uncapped his ink and dipped his pen. Bast leaned forward eagerly, grinning like an excited child. Kvothes bright eyes flickered around the room, taking everything in. He drew a deep breath, and flashed a sudden smile, and for a brief moment looked nothing like an innkeeper at all. His eyes were sharp and bright, green as a blade of grass. Ready? CHAPTER THREE Luck EVERY TERM AT THE University began the same way: the admissions lottery followed by a full span of interviews. They were a necessary evil of sorts. I dont doubt the process started sensibly. Back when the University was smaller, I could picture them as actual interviews. An opportunity for a student to have a conversation with the masters about what he had learned. A dialogue. A discussion. But these days the University was host to over a thousand students. There was no time for discussion. Instead, each student was subjected to a hail of questions in a handful of minutes. Brief as the interviews were, a single wrong answer or overlong hesitation could have a dramatic impact on your tuition. Before interviews, students studied obsessively. Afterward, they drank in celebration or to console themselves. Because of this, for the eleven days of admissions, most students looked anxious and exhausted at best. At worst they wandered the University like shamble-men, hollow-eyed and grey-faced from too little sleep, too much drink, or both. Personally, I found it odd how seriously everyone else took the whole process. The vast majority of students were nobility or members of wealthy merchant families. For them, a high tuition was an inconvenience, leaving them less pocket money to spend on horses and whores. The stakes were higher for me. Once the masters set a tuition, it couldnt be changed. So if my tuition was set too high, Id be barred from the University until I could pay. The first day of admissions always had a festival air about it. The admissions lottery took up the first half of the day, which meant the unlucky students who drew the earliest slots were forced to go through their interviews mere hours afterward. By the time I arrived long lines snaked through the courtyard, while the students who had already drawn their tiles milled about, complaining and attempting to buy, sell, or trade their slots. I didnt see Wilem or Simmon anywhere, so I settled into the nearest line and tried not to think of how little I had in my purse: one talent and three jots. At one point in my life, it would have seemed like all the money in the world. But for tuition it was nowhere near enough. There were carts scattered about selling sausages and chestnuts, hot cider and beer. I smelled warm bread and grease from a nearby cart. It was stacked with pork pies for the sort of people who could afford such things. The lottery was always held in the largest courtyard of the University. Most everyone called it the pennant square, though a few folk with longer memories referred to it as the Questioning Hall. I knew it by an even older name, the House of the Wind. I watched a few leaves tumble around the cobblestones, and when I looked up I saw Fela staring back at me from where she stood thirty or forty people closer to the front of the line. She gave me a warm smile and a wave. I waved back and she left her place, strolling back to where I stood. Fela was beautiful. The sort of woman you would expect to see in a painting. Not the elaborate, artificial beauty you often see among the nobility, Fela was natural and unselfconscious, with wide eyes and a full mouth that was constantly smiling. Here in the University, where men outnumbered women ten to one, she stood out like a horse in a sheepfold. Do you mind if I wait with you? she asked as she came to stand beside me. I hate not having anyone to talk to. She smiled winsomely at the pair of men queued up behind me. Im not cutting in, she explained. Im just moving back. They had no objections, though their eyes flickered back and forth between Fela and myself. I could almost hear them wondering why one of the most lovely women in the University would give up her place in line to stand next to me. It was a fair question. I was curious myself. I moved aside to make space for her. We stood shoulder to shoulder for a moment, neither of us speaking. What are you studying this term? I asked. Fela brushed her hair back from her shoulder. Ill keep up with my work in the Archives, I suppose. Some chemistry. And Brandeur has invited me into Manifold Maths. I shivered a bit. Too many numbers. I cant swim those waters. Fela gave a shrug and the long, dark curls of hair shed brushed away took the opportunity to tumble back, framing her face. Its not so hard once you get your head around it. Its more like a game than anything. She cocked her head at me. What about you? Observation in the Medica, I said. Study and work in the Fishery. Sympathy too, if Dal will have me. I should probably brush up my Siaru too. You speak Siaru? she asked, sounding surprised. I can get by, I said. But Wil says my grammar is embarrassingly bad. Fela nodded, then looked sideways at me, biting her lip. Elodins asked me to join his class, too, she said, her voice thick with apprehension. Elodins got a class? I asked. I didnt think they let him teach. Hes starting it this term, she said, giving me a curious look. I thought youd be in it. Didnt he sponsor you to Relar? He did, I said. Oh. She looked uncomfortable, then quickly added, He probably just hasnt asked you yet. Or hes planning on mentoring you separately. I waved her comment aside, though I was stung at the thought of being left out. Who can say with Elodin? I said. If he isnt crazy, hes the best actor Ive ever met. Fela started to say something, then looked around nervously and moved closer to me. Her shoulder brushed mine and her curling hair tickled my ear as she quietly asked, Did he really throw you off the roof of the Crockery? I gave an embarrassed chuckle. Thats a complicated story, I said, then changed the subject rather clumsily. Whats the name of his class? She rubbed her forehead and gave a frustrated laugh. I havent the slightest idea. He said the name of the class was the name of the class. She looked at me. What does that mean? When I go to Ledgers and Lists will it be there under The Name of the Class? I admitted I didnt know, and from there it was a short step to sharing Elodin stories. Fela said a scriv had caught him naked in the Archives. Id heard that hed once spent an entire span walking around the University blindfolded. Fela heard hed invented an entire language from the ground up. Id heard he had started a fistfight in one of the seedier local taverns because someone had insisted on saying the word utilize instead of use. I heard that too, Fela said, laughing. Except it was at the Horse and Four, and it was a baronet who wouldnt stop using the word moreover. Before I knew it we were at the front of the line. Kvothe, Arlidens son, I said. The bored-looking woman marked my name and I drew a smooth ivory tile out of the black velvet bag. It read: FELLINGNOON. Eighth day of admissions, plenty of time to prepare. Fela drew her own tile and we moved away from the table. What did you get? I asked. She showed me her own small ivory tile. Cendling at fourth bell. It was an incredibly lucky draw, one of the latest slots available. Wow. Congratulations. Fela shrugged and slipped the tile into her pocket. Its all the same to me. I dont make a special point of studying. The more I prepare, the worse I do. It just makes me nervous. You should trade it away then. I said, gesturing to the milling throng of students. Someone would pay a full talent to get that slot. Maybe more. Im not much for bargaining, either, she said. I just assume whatever tile I draw is lucky and stick to it. Free from the line, we didnt have any excuse to stay together. But I was enjoying her company and she didnt seem terribly eager to run off, so the two of us wandered the courtyard aimlessly, the crowd milling around us. Im starving, Fela said suddenly. Do you want to go have an early lunch somewhere? I was painfully aware of how light my purse was. If I were any poorer, Id have to put a rock in it to keep it from flapping in the breeze. My meals were free at Ankers because I played music there. So spending money on food somewhere else, especially so close to admissions, would be absolute foolishness. Id love to, I said honestly. Then I lied. But I should browse around here a bit and see if anyone is willing to trade slots with me. Im a bargainer from way back. Fela fished around in her pocket. If youre looking for more time, you can have mine. I looked at the tile between her finger and thumb, sorely tempted. Two extra more days of preparation would be a godsend. Or I could make a talent by trading it away. Maybe two. I wouldnt want to take your luck, I said, smiling. And you certainly dont want any part of mine. Besides, youve already been too generous with me. I drew my cloak around my shoulders pointedly. Fela smiled at that, reaching out to run her knuckles across the front of the cloak. Im glad you like it. But as far as Im concerned, I still owe you. She bit at her lips nervously, then let her hand drop. Promise me youll let me know if you change your mind. I promise. She smiled again, then gave a half-wave and walked off across the courtyard. Watching her stroll through the crowd was like watching the wind move across the surface of a pond. Except instead of casting ripples on the water, the heads of young men turned to watch her as she passed. I was still watching when Wilem walked up beside me. Are you finished with your flirting then? he asked. I wasnt flirting, I said. You should have been, he said. What is the point of me waiting politely, not interrupting, if you waste such opportunities? It isnt like that, I said. Shes just friendly. Obviously, he said, his rough Cealdish accent making the sarcasm in his voice seem twice as thick. What did you draw? I showed him my tile. Youre a day later than me. He held out his tile. Ill trade you for a jot. I hesitated. Come now, he said. Its not as if you can study in the Archives like the rest of us. I glared at him. Your empathy is overwhelming. I save my empathy for those clever enough to avoid driving the Master Archivist into a frothing rage, he said. For folk such as you, I only have a jot in trade. Would you like it, or not? I would like two jots, I said, scanning the crowd, looking for students with a desperate wildness around their eyes. If I can get them. Wilem narrowed his dark eyes. A jot and three drabs, he said. I looked back at him, eyeing him carefully. A jot and three, I said. And you take Simmon as your partner the next time we play corners. He gave a huff of laughter and nodded. We traded tiles and I tucked the money into my purse: one talent and four. A small step closer. After a moments thought, I tucked my tile into my pocket. Arent you going to keep trading down?Wil asked. I shook my head. I think Ill keep this slot. He frowned. Why? What can you do with four days except fret and thumb-twiddle? Same as anyone, I said. Prepare for my admissions interview. How? he asked. You are still banned from the Archives, arent you? There are other types of preparation, I said mysteriously. Wilem snorted. That doesnt sound suspicious at all, he said. And you wonder why people talk about you. I dont wonder why they talk, I said. I wonder what they say. CHAPTER FOUR Tar and Tin THE CITY THAT HAD grown up around the University over the centuries was not large. It was barely more than a town, really. Despite this, trade thrived at our end of the Great Stone Road. Merchants brought in carts of raw materials: tar and clay, gibbstone, potash, and sea salt. They brought luxuries like Lanetti coffee and Vintish wine. They brought fine dark ink from Arueh, pure white sand for our glassworks, and delicately crafted Cealdish springs and screws. When those same merchants left, their wagons were laden with things you could only find at the University. The Medica made medicines. Real medicines, not colored stumpwater or penny nostrums. The alchemy complex produced its own marvels that I was only dimly aware of, as well as raw materials like naphtha, sulfurjack, and twicelime. I might be biased, but I think its fair to say that most of the Universitys tangible wonders came from the Artificery. Ground glass lenses. Ingots of wolfram and Glantz steel. Sheets of gold so thin they tore like tissue paper. But we made much more than that. Sympathy lamps and telescopes. Heateaters and gearwins. Salt pumps. Trifoil compasses. A dozen versions of Teccams winch and Delevaris axle. Artificers like myself made these things, and when merchants bought them we earned a commission: sixty percent of the sale. This was the only reason I had any money at all. And, since there were no classes during admissions, I had a full span of days to work in the Fishery. I made my way to the Stocks, the storeroom where artificers signed out tools and materials. I was surprised to see a tall, pale student standing at the window, looking profoundly bored. Jaxim? I asked. What are you doing here? This is a scrub job. Jaxim nodded morosely. Kilvin is still a little . . . vexed with me, he said. You know. The fire and everything. Sorry to hear it, I said. Jaxim was a full Relar like myself. He could be pursuing any number of projects on his own right now. To be forced into a menial task like this wasnt just boring, it humiliated Jaxim publicly while costing him money and stalling his studies. As punishments went, it was remarkably thorough. What are we short on? I asked. There was an art to choosing your projects in the Fishery. It didnt matter if you made the brightest sympathy lamp, or the most efficient heat-funnel in the history of Artificing. Until someone bought it, you wouldnt make a bent penny of commission. For a lot of the other workers, this wasnt an issue. They could afford to wait. I, on the other hand, needed something that would sell quickly. Jaxim leaned on the counter between us. Caravan just bought all our deck lamps, he said. We only have that ugly one of Vestons left. I nodded. Sympathy lamps were perfect for ships. Difficult to break, cheaper than oil in the long run, and you didnt have to worry about them setting fire to your ship. I juggled the numbers in my head. I could make two lamps at once, saving some time through duplication of effort, and be reasonably sure they would sell before I had to pay tuition. Unfortunately, deck lamps were pure drudgery. Forty hours of painstaking labor, and if I botched any of it, the lamps simply wouldnt work. Then I would have nothing to show for my time except a debt to the Stocks for the materials Id wasted. Still, I didnt have a lot of options. I guess Ill do lamps then, I said. Jaxim nodded and opened the ledger. I began to recite what I needed from memory. Ill need twenty medium raw emitters. Two sets of the tall moldings. A diamond stylus. A tenten glass. Two medium crucibles. Four ounces of tin. Six ounces of fine-steel. Two ounces of nickel . . . Nodding to himself, Jaxim wrote it down in the ledger. Eight hours later I walked through the front door of Ankers smelling of hot bronze, tar, and coal smoke. It was almost midnight, and the room was empty except for a handful of dedicated drinkers. You look rough, Anker said as I made my way to the bar. I feel rough, I said. I dont suppose theres anything left in the pot? He shook his head. Folk were hungry tonight. Ive got some cold potatoes I was going to throw in the soup tomorrow. And half a baked squash, I think. Sold, I said. Though Id be grateful for some salt butter as well. He nodded and pushed away from the bar. Dont bother heating anything up, I said. Ill just take it up to my room. He brought out a bowl with three good-sized potatoes and half a golden squash shaped like a bell. There was a generous daub of butter in the middle of the squash where the seeds had been scooped out. Ill take a bottle of Bredon beer too, I said as I took the bowl. With the cap on. I dont want to spill on the stairs. It was three flights up to my tiny room. After I closed the door, I carefully turned the squash upside down in the bowl, set the bottle on top of it, and wrapped the whole thing in a piece of sackcloth, turning it into a bundle I could carry under one arm. Then I opened my window and climbed out onto the roof of the inn. From there it was a short hop over to the bakery across the alley. A piece of moon hung low in the sky, giving me enough light to see without making me feel exposed. Not that I was too worried. It was approaching midnight, and the streets were quiet. Besides, you would be amazed how rarely people ever look up. Auri sat on a wide brick chimney, waiting for me. She wore the dress I had bought her and swung her bare feet idly as she looked up at the stars. Her hair was so fine and light that it made a halo around her head, drifting on the faintest whisper of a breeze. I carefully stepped onto the middle of a flat piece of tin roofing. It made a low tump under my foot, like a distant, mellow drum. Auris feet stopped swinging, and she went motionless as a startled rabbit. Then she saw me and grinned. I waved to her. Auri hopped down from the chimney and skipped over to where I stood, her hair streaming behind her. Hello Kvothe. She took a half-step back. You reek. I smiled my best smile of the day. Hello Auri, I said. You smell like a pretty young girl. I do, she agreed happily. She stepped sideways a little, then forward again, moving lightly on the balls of her bare feet. What did you bring me? she asked. What did you bring me? I countered. She grinned. I have an apple that thinks it is a pear, she said, holding it up. And a bun that thinks it is a cat. And a lettuce that thinks it is a lettuce. Its a clever lettuce then. Hardly, she said with a delicate snort. Why would anything clever think it was a lettuce? Even if it is a lettuce? I asked. Especially then, she said. Bad enough to be a lettuce. How awful to think you are a lettuce too. She shook her head sadly, her hair following the motion as if she were underwater. I unwrapped my bundle. I brought you some potatoes, half a squash, and a bottle of beer that thinks it is a loaf of bread. What does the squash think it is? she asked curiously, looking down at it. She held her hands clasped behind her back. It knows its a squash, I said. But its pretending to be the setting sun. And the potatoes? she asked. Theyre sleeping, I said. And cold, Im afraid. She looked up at me, her eyes gentle. Dont be afraid, she said, and reached out and rested her fingers on my cheek for the space of a heartbeat, her touch lighter than the stroke of a feather. Im here. Youre safe. The night was chill, and so rather than eat on the rooftops as we often did, Auri led me down through the iron drainage grate and into the sprawl of tunnels beneath the University. She carried the bottle and held aloft something the size of a coin that gave off a gentle greenish light. I carried the bowl and the sympathy lamp Id made myself, the one Kilvin had called a thieves lamp. Its reddish light was an odd complement to Auris brighter blue-green one. Auri brought us to a tunnel with pipes in all shapes and sizes running along the walls. Some of the larger iron pipes carried steam, and even wrapped in insulating cloth they provided a steady heat. Auri carefully arranged the potatoes at a bend in the pipe where the cloth had been peeled away. It made a tiny oven of sorts. Using my sackcloth as a table, we sat on the ground and shared our dinner. The bun was a little stale, but it had nuts and cinnamon in it. The head of lettuce was surprisingly fresh, and I wondered where she had found it. She had a porcelain teacup for me, and a tiny silver beggars cup for herself. She poured the beer so solemnly youd think she was having tea with the king. There was no talking during dinner. That was one of the rules I had learned through trial and error. No touching. No sudden movement. No questions even remotely personal. I could not ask about the lettuce or the green coin. Such a thing would send her scampering off into the tunnels, and I wouldnt see her for days afterward. Truth be told, I didnt even know her real name. Auri was just what I had come to call her, but in my heart I thought of her as my little moon Fae. As always, Auri ate delicately. She sat with her back straight, taking small bites. She had a spoon we used to eat the squash, sharing it back and forth. You didnt bring your lute, she said after we had finished eating. I have to go read tonight, I said. But Ill bring it soon. How soon? Six nights from now, I said. Id be finished with admissions then, and more studying would be pointless. Her tiny face pulled a frown. Six days isnt soon, she said. Tomorrow is soon. Six days is soon for a stone, I said. Then play for a stone in six days, she said. And play for me tomorrow. I think you can be a stone for six days, I said. It is better than being a lettuce. She grinned at that. It is. After we finished the last of the apple, Auri led me through the Underthing. We went quietly along the Nodway, jumped our way through Vaults, then entered Billows, a maze of tunnels filled with a slow, steady wind. I probably could have found my own way, but I preferred to have Auri as a guide. She knew the Underthing like a tinker knows his packs. Wilem was right, I was banned from the Archives. But Ive always had a knack for getting into places where I shouldnt be. Mores the pity. Archives was a huge windowless stone block of a building. But the students inside needed fresh air to breathe, and the books needed more than that. If the air was too moist, the books would rot and mildew. If the air was too dry, the parchment would become brittle and fall to pieces. It had taken me a long time to discover how fresh air made its way into the Archives. But even after I found the proper tunnel, getting in wasnt easy. It involved a long crawl through a terrifyingly narrow tunnel, a quarter hour worming along on my belly across the dirty stone. I kept a set of clothes in the Underthing, and after barely a dozen trips, were thoroughly ruined, the knees and elbows almost entirely torn out. Still, it was a small price to pay for gaining access to the Archives. There would be hell to pay if I were ever caught. Id face expulsion at the very least. But if I performed poorly in my admissions exam and received a tuition of twenty talents, Id be just as good as expelled. So it was a horse apiece, really. Even so, I wasnt worried about being caught. The only lights in the Stacks were carried by students and scrivs. This meant it was always nighttime in the Archives, and I have always been most comfortable at night. CHAPTER FIVE The Eolian THE DAYS TRUDGED PAST. I worked in the Fishery until my fingers were numb, then read in the Archives until my eyes were blurry. On the fifth day of admissions I finally finished my deck lamps and took them to Stocks, hoping they sold quickly. I considered starting another pair, but I knew I wouldnt have time to finish them before tuition was due. So I set about making money in other ways. I played an extra night at Ankers, earning free drinks and a handful of small change from appreciative audience members. I did some piecework in the Fishery, making simple, useful items like brass gears and panes of twice-tough glass. Such things could be sold back to the workshop immediately for a tiny profit. Then, since tiny profits werent going to be enough, I made two batches of yellow emitters. When used to make a sympathy lamp, their light was a pleasant yellow very close to sunlight. They were worth quite a bit of money because doping them required dangerous materials. Heavy metals and vaporous acids were the least of them. The bizarre alchemical compounds were the truly frightening things. There were transporting agents that would move through your skin without a leaving a mark, then quietly eat the calcuim out of your bones. Others would simply lurk in your body, doing nothing for months until you started to bleed from your gums and lose your hair. The things they produced in Alchemy Complex made arsenic look like sugar in your tea. I was painstakingly careful, but while working on the second batch of emitters my tenten glass cracked and tiny drops of transporting agent spattered the glass of the fume hood where I was working. None of it actually touched my skin, but a single drop landed on my shirt, high above the long cuffs of the leather gloves I was wearing. Moving slowly, I used a nearby caliper to pinch the fabric of my shirt and pull it away from my body. Then, moving awkwardly, I cut the piece of fabric away so it had no chance at all of touching my skin. The incident left me shaken and sweating, and I decided there were better ways to earn money. I covered a fellow students observation shift in the Medica in exchange for a jot and helped a merchant unload three wag

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