W HEN I STIRRED AWAKE the next day, my first thought was of Elodin’s class. There was an excited flutter in my stomach. After long months of trying to get Master Namer to teach me, I was finally going to get a chance to study naming. Real magic. Taborlin the Great magic.
But work came before play. Elodin’s class didn’t meet until noon. With Devi’s debt hanging over my head, I needed to squeeze in a couple hours’ work at the Fishery.
* * *
Entering Kilvin’s workshop, the familiar din of a half-hundred busy hands washed over me like music. While it was a dangerous place, I found the workshop oddly relaxing. Many students resented my quick rise through the ranks of the Arcanum, but I’d earned a grudging respect from most of the other artificers.
I saw Manet working near the kilns and started to wind my way through the busy worktables toward him. Manet always knew what work paid best.
The huge room grew quiet, and I turned to see Master Kilvin standing in the doorway of his office. He made a curt beckoning gesture and stepped back inside his office.
Sound slowly filled the room as the students returned to their work, but I could feel their eyes on me as I made my way across the room, weaving between the worktables.
As I came closer, I saw Kilvin through the wide window of his office, writing on a wall-mounted slate. He was half a foot taller than me, with a chest like a barrel. His great bristling beard and dark eyes made him look even larger than he really was.
I knocked politely on the doorframe, and Kilvin turned, setting down his chalk. “Re’lar Kvothe. Come in. Close the door.”
Anxiously, I stepped into the room and pulled the door shut behind me. The clatter and din of the workshop was cut off so completely that I expected Kilvin must have some cunning sygaldry in place that muffled the noise. The result was an almost eerie quiet in the room.
Kilvin picked up a piece of paper from the corner of his worktable. “I have heard a distressing thing,” he said. “Several days ago, a girl came to Stocks. She was looking for a young man who had sold her a charm.” He looked me in the eye. “Do you know anything about this?”
I shook my head. “What did she want?”
“We do not know,” Kilvin said. “E’lir Basil was working in Stocks at the time. He said the girl was young and seemed rather distressed. She was looking for—” He glanced down at the paper. “—a young wizard. She didn’t know his name, but described him as being young, red-haired, and pretty.”
Kilvin set down the piece of paper. “Basil said she grew increasingly upset as they spoke. She looked frightened, and when he tried to get her name, she ran off crying.” He crossed his huge arms in front of his chest, his face severe. “So I ask you plainly. Have you been selling charms to young women?”
The question caught me by surprise. “Charms?” I asked. “Charms for what?”
“That you should tell me,” Kilvin said darkly. “Charms for love, or luck. To help a woman catch with child, or to prevent the same. Amulets against demons and the like.”
“Can such things be made?” I asked.
“No,” Kilvin said firmly. “Which is why we do not sell them.” His dark eyes settled heavily onto me. “So I ask you again: have you been selling charms to ignorant townsfolk?”
I was so unprepared for the accusation that I couldn’t think of anything sensible to say in my defense. Then the ridiculousness of it struck me and I burst out laughing.
Kilvin’s eyes narrowed. “This is not amusing, Re’lar Kvothe. Not only are such things expressly forbidden by the University, but a student who would sell false charms . . .” Kilvin trailed off, shaking his head. “It reveals a profound flaw of character.”
“Master Kilvin, look at me,” I said, plucking at my shirt. “If I was tricking gullible townsfolk out of their money, I wouldn’t have to wear secondhand homespun.”
Kilvin looked over, as if noticing my clothes for the first time. “True,” he said. “However, one might think a student of lesser means would be more tempted to such actions.”
“I’ve thought of it,” I admitted. “With a penny’s worth of iron and ten minutes easy sygaldry I could make a pendant that was cold to the touch. It wouldn’t be hard to sell such a thing.” I shrugged. “But I’m well aware that would fall under Fraudulent Purveyance. I wouldn’t risk that.”
Kilvin frowned. “A member of the Arcanum avoids such behavior because it is wrong, Re’lar Kvothe. Not because there is too much risk.”
I gave him a forlorn smile. “Master Kilvin, if you had that much faith in my moral grounding we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
His expression softened a little, and he gave me a small smile. “I admit, I would not expect such of you. But I have been surprised before. I would be remiss in my duty if I did not investigate such things.”
“Did this girl come to complain about the charm?” I asked.
Kilvin shook his head. “No. As I said, she left no message. But I am at a loss as to why else a distressed young girl with a charm would come looking for you, knowing your description but not your name.” He raised an eyebrow at me, making it a question.
I sighed. “Do you want my honest opinion, Master Kilvin?”
Kilvin raised both eyebrows at that. “Always, Re’lar Kvothe.”
“I expect someone is trying to get me into trouble,” I said. Compared to dosing me with an alchemical poison, spreading rumors was practically genteel behavior for Ambrose.
Kilvin nodded, absentmindedly smoothing down his beard with one hand. “Yes. I see.”
He shrugged and picked up his piece of chalk. “Well then. I consider this matter resolved for the moment.” He turned back to the slate and glanced over his shoulder at me. “I trust I will not be troubled by a horde of pregnant women waving iron pendants and cursing your name?”
“I’ll take steps to avoid that, Master Kilvin.”
* * *
I filled a few hours doing piecework in the Fishery, then made my way to the lecture hall in Mains where Elodin’s class was being held. It was scheduled to begin at noon, but I was there a half hour early, the first to arrive.
The other students trickled in slowly. Seven of us in all. First came Fenton, my friendly rival from Advanced Sympathy. Then Fela arrived with Brean, a pretty girl of about twenty with sandy hair cut in the fashion of a boy’s.
We chatted and introduced ourselves. Jarret was a shy Modegan I’d seen in the Medica. I recognized the young woman with bright blue eyes and honey-colored hair as Inyssa, but it took me a while to remember where I’d met her. She was one of Simmon’s countless short-lived relationships. Last was Uresh, nearly thirty and a full El’the. His complexion and accent marked him as coming all the way from the Lanett.
The noon bell struck, but Elodin was nowhere to be seen.
Five minutes passed. Then ten. It wasn’t until half past noon that Elodin breezed into the hall, carrying a loose armful of papers. He dropped them onto a table and began to pace back and forth directly in front of us.
“Several things should be made perfectly clear before we start,” he said without any introduction or apology for his lateness. “First, you must do as I say. You must do it to the best of your ability, even when you don’t see the reasons for it. Questions are fine, but in the end: I say, you do.” He looked around. “Yes?”
We nodded or murmured affirmative noises.
“Second, you must believe me when I tell you certain things. Some of the things I tell you may not be true. But you must believe them anyway, until I tell you to stop.” He looked at each of us, “Yes?”
I wondered vaguely if he began every lecture this way. Elodin noticed the lack of an affirmative from my direction. He glared at me, irritated. “We aren’t to the hard part yet,” he said.
“I’ll do my best to try,” I said.
“With answers like that we’ll make you a barrister in no time,” he said sarcastically. “Why not just do it, instead of doing your best to try? ”
I nodded. It seemed to appease him and he turned back to the class as a whole. “There are two things you must remember. First, our names shape us, and we shape our names in turn.” He stopped his pacing and looked out at us. “Second, even the simplest name is so complex that your mind could never begin to feel the boundaries of it, let alone understand it well enough for you to speak it.”
There was a long stretch of quiet. Elodin waited, staring at us.
Finally Fenton took the bait. “If that’s the case, how can anyone be a namer?”
“Good question,” Elodin said. “The obvious answer is that it can’t be done. That even the simplest of names is well beyond our reach.” He held up a hand. “Remember, I am not speaking of the small names we use every day. The calling names like ‘tree’ and ‘fire’ and ‘stone.’ I am talking about something else entirely.”
He reached into a pocket and pulled out a river stone, smooth and dark. “Describe the precise shape of this. Tell me of the weight and pressure that forged it from sand and sediment. Tell me how the light reflects from it. Tell me how the world pulls at the mass of it, how the wind cups it as it moves through the air. Tell me how the traces of its iron will feel the calling of a loden-stone. All of these things and a hundred thousand more make up the name of this stone.” He held it out to us at arm’s length. “This single, simple stone.”
Elodin lowered his hand and looked at us. “Can you see how complex even this simple thing is? If you studied it for a long month, perhaps you would come to know it well enough to glimpse the outward edges of its name. Perhaps.
“This is the problem namers face. We must understand things that are beyond our understanding. How can it be done?”
He didn’t wait for an answer and instead picked up some of the paper he’d brought in with him, handing each of us several sheets. “In fifteen minutes I will toss this stone. I will stand here,” he set his feet. “Facing thus.” He squared his shoulders. “I will throw it underhand with about three grip of force behind it. I want you to calculate in what manner it will move through the air so you can have your hand in the proper place to catch it when the time comes.”
Elodin set the stone on a desk. “Proceed.”
I set to the problem with a will. I drew triangles and arcs, I calculated, guessing at formulas I couldn’t quite remember. It wasn’t long before I grew frustrated at the impossibility of the task. Too much was unknown, too much was simply impossible to calculate.
After five minutes on our own, Elodin encouraged us to work as a group. That was when I first saw Uresh’s talent with numbers. His calculations had outstripped mine to such a degree that I couldn’t understand much of what he was doing. Fela was much the same, though she had also sketched a detailed series of parabolic arcs.
The seven of us discussed, argued, tried, failed, tried again. At the end of fifteen minutes we were frustrated. Myself especially. I hate problems I cannot solve.
Elodin looked to us as a group. “So what can you tell me?”
Some of us started to give our half-answers or best guesses, but he waved us into silence. “What can you tell me with certainty?”
After a moment Fela spoke up, “We don’t know how the stone will fall.”
Elodin clapped his hands approvingly. “Good! That is the right answer. Now watch.”
He went to the door and stuck his head out. “Henri!” he shouted. “Yes you. Come here for a second.” He stepped back from the door and ushered in one of Jamison’s runners, a boy no more than eight years old.
Elodin took a half-dozen steps away and turned to face the boy. He squared his shoulders and grinned a mad grin. “Catch!” he said, lofting the stone at the boy.
Startled, the boy snatched it out of the air.
Elodin applauded wildly, then congratulated the bewildered boy before reclaiming the stone and hurrying him back out the door.
Our teacher turned to face us. “So,” Elodin asked. “How did he do it? How could he calculate in a second what seven brilliant members of the Arcanum could not figure in a quarter hour? Does he know more geometry than Fela? Are his numbers quicker than Uresh’s? Should we bring him back and make him a Re’lar?”
We laughed a bit, relaxing.
“My point is this. In each of us there is a mind we use for all our waking deeds. But there is another mind as well, a sleeping mind. It is so powerful that the sleeping mind of an eight-year-old can accomplish in one second what the waking minds of seven members of the Arcanum could not in fifteen minutes.”
He made a sweeping gesture. “Your sleeping mind is wide and wild enough to hold the names of things. This I know because sometimes this knowledge bubbles to the surface. Inyssa has spoken the name of iron. Her waking mind does not know it, but her sleeping mind is wiser. Something deep inside Fela understands the name of the stone.”
Elodin pointed at me. “Kvothe has called the wind. If we are to believe the writings of those long dead, his is the traditional path. The wind was the name aspiring namers sought and caught when things were studied here so long ago.”
He went quiet for a moment, looking at us seriously, his arms folded. “I want each of you to think on what name you would like to find. It should be a small name. Something simple: iron or fire, wind or water, wood or stone. It should be something you feel an affinity toward.”
Elodin strode toward the large slate mounted on the wall and began to write a list of titles. His handwriting was surprisingly tidy. “These are important books,” he said. “Read one of them.”
After a moment, Brean raised her hand. Then she realized it was pointless as Elodin still had his back to us. “Master Elodin?” she asked hesitantly. “Which one should we read?”
He looked over his shoulder, not pausing in his writing at all. “I don’t care,” he said, plainly irritated. “Pick one. The others you should skim in a desultory fashion. Look at the pictures. Smell them if nothing else.” He turned back to look at the slate.
The seven of us looked at each other. The only sound in the room was the tapping of Elodin’s chalk. “Which one is the most important?” I asked.
Elodin made a disgusted noise. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t read them.” He wrote En Temerant Voistra on the board and circled it. “I don’t even know if this one is in the Archives at all.” He put a question mark next to it and continued to write. “I will tell you this. None of them are in Tomes. I made sure of that. You’ll have to hunt for them in the Stacks. You’ll have to earn them.”
He finished the last title and took a step back, nodding to himself. There were twenty books in all. He drew stars next to three of them, underlined two others, and drew a sad face next to the last one on the list.
Then he left, striding out of the room without another word, leaving us thinking on the nature of names and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.