Chapter no 12: Puzzle Pieces Fitting

The Name of the Wind

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 Abenthy’s 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 parent’s 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 it’s 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. He’d 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 parent’s fire, stepping softly. Eavesdropping is a deplorable habit, but I have developed worse ones since.

“…much about them,” I heard Ben say. “But I’m willing.”

“I’m glad to talk with an educated man on the subject.” My father’s strong baritone was a contrast to Ben’s tenor. “I’m weary of these superstitious country folk, and the…”

Someone added wood to the fire and I lost my father’s words in the crackling that followed. Stepping as quickly as I dared, I moved into the long shadow of my parent’s wagon.

“…like I’m chasing ghosts with this song. Trying to piece together this story is a fool’s game. I wish I’d never started it.”

“Nonsense,” my mother said. “This will be your best work, and you know


“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. “It’s like looking at a dozen grandchildren and seeing ten of them have blue eyes. You know the grandmother had blue eyes, too. I’ve done this before, I’m good at it. I wrote “Below the Walls” the same way. But…” I heard him sigh.

“What’s the problem then?”

“The story’s older,” my mother explained. “It’s more like he’s looking at great-great-grandchildren.”

“And they’re scattered to the four corners,” my father groused. “And when I finally do find one, it’s 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 you’re welcome to pick my brain about the Chandrian. I’ve 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 that’s conflicted. Some say three, others five, and in Felior’s 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. It’s part of their name, actually. Chaen means seven. Chaen-dian means ‘seven of them.’ Chandrian.”

“I didn’t know that,” my father said. “Chaen. What language is that?


“Sounds like Tema,” my mother said.

“You’ve got a good ear,” Ben said to her. “It’s Temic, actually. Predates Tema by about a thousand years.”

“Well that simplifies things,” I heard my father say. “I wish I’d asked you a month ago. I don’t suppose you know why they do what they do?” I could tell by my father’s tone that he didn’t really expect an answer.

“That’s the real mystery, isn’t it?” Ben chuckled. “I think that’s 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 I’ve dug up their reason, after all this while. I’ve teased it together from bits and pieces of story. That’s what’s 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. “What’s your theory?”

My father gave a low chuckle. “Oh no Ben, you’ll have to wait with the others. I’ve sweated too long over this song to give away the heart of it before it’s finished.”

I could hear the disappointment in Ben’s voice. “I’m sure this is all just an elaborate ruse to keep me traveling with you,” he groused. “I won’t be able to leave until I’ve heard the blackened thing.”

“Then help us finish it,” my mother said. “The Chandrian’s signs are another key piece of information we can’t 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 I’d hesitate to attribute that to the Chandrian in particular. In some stories it’s a sign of demons. In others it’s 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 there’s 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. That’s more frightening than any demon.”

“I’ll 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 you’re talking to, Ben. We’d 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.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Ben said, his voice amused. “Other signs…one of them is supposed to have eyes like a goat, or no eyes, or black eyes. I’ve heard that one quite a bit. I’ve heard that plants die when the Chandrian are around. Wood rots, metal rusts, brick crumbles….” He paused. “Though I don’t know if that’s several signs, or all one sign.”

“You begin to see the trouble I’m having,” my father said morosely. “And there’s still the question as to if they all share the same signs, or have a couple each.”

“I’ve told you,” my mother said, exasperated. “One sign for each of them.

It makes the most sense.”

“My lady wife’s favorite theory,” my father said. “But it doesn’t 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.”

“I’ve told you how to make sense of that,” she said, her irritated tone indicating they’d had this particular discussion before. “They don’t always have to be together. They could go out in threes or fours. If one of them makes fires dim, then it’ll 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 they’re grouped together.”

My father grumbled something.

“That’s a clever wife you’ve 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 you’re interested in a short-term rental, I’m sure we could arrange a reas—” There was a fleshy thump followed by a slightly pained chortle in my father’s baritone. “Any other signs that spring to mind?”

“They’re supposed to be cold to the touch. Though how anyone could know that is beyond me. I’ve heard that fires don’t 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 couldn’t 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, that’s another point I’m having trouble with,” my

father said. “There are a couple dozen I’ve collected that I’d appreciate your opinion on. The most—”

“Actually, Arl,” Ben interrupted, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say them out loud. Names of people, that is. You can scratch them in the dirt if you’d like, or I could go fetch a slate, but I’d be more comfortable if you didn’t 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 they’d heard me.

“Now don’t go looking at me like that, either of you,” Ben said testily. “We’re just surprised, Ben,” came my mother’s gentle voice. “You don’t

seem the superstitious type.”

“I’m not,” Ben said. “I’m careful. There’s a difference.” “Of course,” my father said. “I’d never—”

“Save it for the paying customers, Arl,” Ben cut him off, irritation plain in his voice. “You’re too good an actor to show it, but I know perfectly well when someone thinks I’m daft.”

“I just didn’t expect it, Ben,” my father said apologetically. “You’re educated, and I’m so tired of people touching iron and tipping their beer as soon as I mention the Chandrian. I’m 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 I’ll 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 it’s 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.”

“You’re both right, depending on which part of the country you’re in,”

Ben said. “And here in the Commonwealth people laugh up their sleeves at both ideas.” He gestured at the surrounding trees. “But here they’re careful come autumn-time for fear of drawing the attention of shamble-men.”

“That’s the way of things,” my father said. “Half of being a good trouper is knowing which way your audience leans.”

“You still think I’ve 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 wouldn’t believe them,” my father said, irritated. “It’s 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. “You’d be a fool to ignore half the town’s warning, even though you don’t 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 don’t 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? I’ll bet a penny you haven’t.”

My mother shook her head after a moment’s thought. My father took a long drink before joining her.

“Now I’m not saying that the Chandrian are out there, striking like lightning from the clear blue sky. But folk everywhere are afraid of them. There’s 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 I’m a mite superstitious too…” He shrugged. “Well, that’s my choice. I’m old. You have to humor me.”

My father nodded thoughtfully. “It’s odd I never noticed that everyone treats the Chandrian the same. It’s something I should’ve 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.

“It’s 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’ doesn’t 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 don’t see why anyone would make a point of it. Least of all, you.”

“I don’t 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 mother’s 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. “I’ll 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 didn’t stall him for long,” Ben said quietly. “He does have marvelous hands; my mother would have called them magician’s 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 won’t be a woman safe in all the world when he starts hunting after the ladies.”

“Courting, dear,” my father corrected gently.

“Semantics,” she shrugged. “It’s 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

don’t see what you’re getting at, Ben.”

“He does everything that way, quick as a whip, hardly ever makes mistakes. I’ll bet he knows every song you’ve ever sung to him. He knows more about what’s in my wagon than I do.”

He picked up the jug and uncorked it. “It’s not just memorization though. He understands. Half the things I’ve been meaning to show him he’s already figured out for himself.”

Ben refilled my mother’s cup. “He’s 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 Abenthy’s face was serious. “It’s true, lady. I’ve had older students that would have loved to do half as well.” He grinned. “If I had his hands, and one quarter his wit, I’d 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 don’t 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.

What’s 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 trouper’s lute we use today. The same stories claim Illien’s 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 he’ll have a royal appointment by the time he’s twenty-four. If he gets it into his head to be a merchant I don’t doubt he’ll own half the world by the time he dies.”

My father’s brows knitted together. Ben smiled and said, “Don’t worry about the last one. He’s too curious for a merchant.”

Ben paused as if considering his next words very carefully. “He’d 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 didn’t have red hair. Couldn’t be him.”

She smiled wickedly at my father, who appeared a little embarrassed.

Then she kissed him. He kissed her back.

That’s how I like to remember them today. I snuck away with thoughts of the University dancing in my head.

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