Chapter no 28: Tehlu’s Watchful Eye

The Name of the Wind

THE NEXT DAY I came blearily awake to the sound of the hour being struck. I counted four bells, but didn’t know how many I might have slept through. I blinked the sleep from my eyes and tried to gauge the time from the position of the sun. About sixth bell. Skarpi would be starting his story now.

I ran through the streets. My bare feet slapped on rough cobbles, splashing through puddles and taking shortcuts through alleyways. Everything became a blur around me as I pulled in great lungfuls of the damp, stagnant, city air.

I almost burst into the Half-Mast at a dead run and settled in against the back wall by the door. I dimly realized there were more people in the inn than usual this early in the evening. Then Skarpi’s story pulled me in and I could do nothing but listen to his deep rolling voice and watch his sparkling eyes.

“…Selitos One-Eye stood forward and said, “Lord, if I do this thing will I be given the power to avenge the loss of the shining city? Can I confound the plots of Lanre and his Chandrian who killed the innocent and burned my beloved Myr Tariniel?”

Aleph said, “No. All personal things must be set aside, and you must punish or reward only what you yourself witness from this day forth.”

Selitos bowed his head. “I am sorry, but my heart says to me I must try to stop these things before they are done, not wait and punish later.”

Some of the Ruach murmured agreement with Selitos and went to stand with him, for they remembered Myr Tariniel and were filled with rage and hurt at Lanre’s betrayal.

Selitos went to Aleph and knelt before him. “I must refuse, for I cannot forget. But I will oppose him with these faithful Ruach beside me. I see their hearts are pure. We will be called the Amyr in memory of the ruined city. We will confound Lanre and any who follow him. Nothing will prevent us from attaining the greater good.”

Most of the Ruach hung back from Selitos, too. They were afraid, and they did not wish to become involved in great matters.

But Tehlu stood forward saying, “I hold justice foremost in my heart. I will leave this world behind that I might better serve it, serving you.” He knelt before Aleph, his head bowed, his hands open at his sides.

Others came forward. Tall Kirel, who had been burned but left living in the ash of Myr Tariniel. Deah, who had lost two husbands to the fighting, and whose face and mouth and heart were hard and cold as stone. Enlas, who would not carry a sword or eat the flesh of animals, and who no man had ever known to speak hard words. Fair Geisa, who had a hundred suitors in Belen before the walls fell. The first woman to know the unasked-for touch of man.

Lecelte, who laughed easily and often, even when there was woe thick about him. I met, hardly more than a boy, who never sang and killed swiftly without tears. Ordal, the youngest of them all, who had never seen a thing die, stood bravely before Aleph, her golden hair bright with ribbon. And beside her came Andan, whose face was a mask with burning eyes, whose name meant anger.

They came to Aleph, and he touched them. He touched their hands and eyes and hearts. The last time he touched them there was pain, and wings tore from their backs that they might go where they wished. Wings of fire and shadow. Wings of iron and glass. Wings of stone and blood.

Then Aleph spoke their long names and they were wreathed in a white fire. The fire danced along their wings and they became swift. The fire flickered in their eyes and they saw into the deepest hearts of men. The fire filled their mouths and they sang songs of power. Then the fire settled on their foreheads like silver stars and they became at once righteous and wise and terrible to behold. Then the fire consumed them and they were gone forever from mortal sight.

None but the most powerful can see them, and only then with great difficulty and at great peril. They mete out justice to the world, and Tehlu is the greatest of them all—”

“I have heard enough.” The speaker wasn’t loud, but he may as well have shouted. When Skarpi told a story, any interruption was like chewing a grain of sand in a mouthful of bread.

From the back of the room, two men in dark cloaks came toward the bar: one tall and proud, one short and hooded. As they walked I saw a flash of grey robe beneath their cloaks: Tehlin priests. Worse, I saw two other men with armor under their cloaks. I hadn’t seen it while they were sitting, but now that they were moving it was painfully obvious they were church strongmen. Their faces were grim, and the lines of their cloaks spoke of swords to me.

I wasn’t the only one who saw. The children were trickling out the door.

The smarter ones tried to appear casual, but some broke into a run before they got outside. Against common sense three children stayed. There was a Cealdish boy with lace on his shirt, a little girl with bare feet, and myself.

“I believe we have all heard enough,” the taller of the two priests said with quiet severity. He was lean, with sunken eyes that smoldered like half hidden coals. A carefully trimmed beard the color of soot sharpened the edges of his knife blade face.

He handed his cloak to the shorter, hooded priest. Underneath he wore the pale grey robe of the Tehlins. Around his neck was a set of silver scales. My heart sunk deep into the pit of my stomach. Not just a priest, but a Justice. I saw the other two children slip out the door.

The Justice spoke, “Under Tehlu’s watchful eye, I charge you with heresy.”

“Witnessed,” said the second priest from within his hood. The Justice motioned to the mercenaries. “Bind him.”

This the mercenaries did with rough efficiency. Skarpi endured the whole thing placidly, without saying a word.

The Justice watched his bodyguard begin to tie Skarpi’s wrists, then turned his body slightly away, as if dismissing the storyteller from his mind. He took a long look around the room, his inspection finally ending with the bald, aproned man behind the bar.

“T–Tehlu’s blessing be upon you!” the owner of the Half-Mast stammered explosively.

“It is,” the Justice said simply. He took another long look around the room. Finally he turned his head to the second priest who stood back from the bar. “Anthony, would a fine place such as this be harboring heretics?”

“Anything is possible, Justice.”

“Ahhh,” the Justice said softly and looked slowly around the room, once again ending with an inspection of the man behind the bar.

“Can I offer your honors a drink? If’n it please you?” the owner offered quickly.

There was only silence.

“I mean…a drink for you and your brothers. A fine barrel of fallow white? To show my thanks. I let him stay because his stories were interesting, at first.” He swallowed hard and hurried on, “But then he started to say wicked things. I was afraid to throw him out, because he is obviously mad, and everyone knows God’s displeasure falls heavy on those who raise their hands to madmen….” His voice broke, leaving the room suddenly quiet. He swallowed, and I could hear the dry click his throat made from where I stood by the door.

“A generous offer,” the Justice said finally. “Very generous,” echoed the shorter priest.

“However, strong drink sometimes tempts men to wicked actions.” “Wicked,” whispered the priest.

“And some of our brothers have taken vows against the temptations of the flesh. I must refuse.” The Justice’s voice dripped pious regret.

I managed to catch Skarpi’s eye, he gave me a little half-smile. My stomach churned. The old storyteller didn’t seem to have any idea what sort of trouble he was in. But at the same time, deep inside me, something selfish was saying, if you’d come earlier and found out what you needed to know, it wouldn’t be so bad now, would it?

The barman broke the silence. “Could you take the price of the barrel then, sirs? If not the barrel itself.”

The Justice paused, as if thinking.

“For the sake of the children,” the bald man pleaded. “I know you will use the money for them.”

The Justice pursed his lips. “Very well,” he said after a moment, “for the sake of the children.”

The shorter priest’s voice had an unpleasant edge. “The children.” The owner managed a weak smile.

Skarpi rolled his eyes at me and winked.

“You would think,” Skarpi’s voice rolled out like thick honey, “fine churchmen such as yourselves could find better things to do than arresting storytellers and extorting money from honest men.”

The clinking of the barman’s coins trailed off and the room seemed to hold its breath. With a studied casualness, the Justice turned his back toward Skarpi and spoke over one shoulder toward the shorter priest. “Anthony, we seem to have found a courteous heretic, how strange and wonderful! We should sell him to a Ruh troupe; in a way he resembles a talking dog.”

Skarpi spoke to the man’s back. “It’s not as if I expect you to bound off looking for Haliax and the Seven yourself. ‘Small deeds for small men,’ I always say. I imagine the trouble is in finding the job small enough for men such as yourselves. But you are resourceful. You could pick trash, or check brothel beds for lice when you are visiting.”

Turning, the Justice snatched the clay cup off the bar and dashed it against Skarpi’s head, shattering it. “Do not speak in my presence!” he crackled. “You know nothing!”

Skarpi shook his head a little, as if to clear it. A trickle of red lined its way down his driftwood face, down into one of his sea-foam eyebrows. “I suppose that could be true. Tehlu always said—”

“Do not speak his name!” the Justice screamed, his face a livid red. “Your mouth dirties it. It is a blasphemy upon your tongue.”

“Oh come now, Erlus.” Skarpi chided as though talking to a small child. “Tehlu hates you even more than the rest of the world does, which is quite a


The room became unnaturally still. The Justice’s face grew pale. “God have mercy on you,” he said in a cold, trembling voice.

Skarpi looked at the Justice mutely for a moment. Then he started to laugh. Great, booming, helpless laughter from the bottom of his soul.

The eyes of the Justice flicked to one of the men who had tied the storyteller. With no preamble the grim-faced man struck Skarpi with a tight fist. Once in the kidney, once in the back of the neck.

Skarpi crumpled to the ground. The room was silent. The sound of his body hitting the wood planking of the floor seemed to fade before the echoes of his laughter did. At a gesture from the Justice, one of the guards picked the old man up by the scruff of his neck. He dangled like a rag doll, his feet trailing on the ground.

But Skarpi was not unconscious, merely stunned. The storyteller’s eyes rolled around to focus on the Justice. “Mercy on my soul.” He gave a weak croak that might have been a chuckle on a better day. “You don’t know how funny that sounds coming from you.”

Skarpi seemed to address the air in front of him. “You should run, Kvothe. There’s nothing to be gained by meddling with these sort of men. Head to the rooftops. Stay where they won’t see you for a while. I have friends in the church who can help me, but there’s nothing you can do here. Go.”

Since he wasn’t looking at me when he spoke, there was a moment of confusion. The Justice gestured again and one of the guards struck Skarpi a blow to the back of the head. His eyes rolled back, and his head lolled forward. I slipped out the door, onto the street.

I took Skarpi’s advice and was on a rooftop running before they left the


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