Chapter no 32: Coppers, Cobblers and Crowds

The Name of the Wind

IT WAS ABOUT AN hour before noon when I stepped out onto the street.

The sun was out and the cobblestones were warm beneath my feet. As the noise of the market rose to an irregular hum around me, I tried to enjoy the pleasant sensation of having a full belly and a clean body.

But there was a vague unease in the pit of my stomach, like the feeling you get when someone’s staring at the back of your head. It followed me until my instincts got the better of me and I slipped into a side alley quick as a fish. As I stood pressed against a wall, waiting, the feeling faded. After a few minutes, I began to feel foolish. I trusted my instincts, but they gave false alarms every now and again. I waited a few more minutes just to be sure, then

moved back into the street.

The feeling of vague unease returned almost immediately. I ignored it while trying to find out where it was coming from. But after five minutes I lost my nerve and turned onto a side street, watching the crowd to see who was following me.

No one. It took a nerve-wracking half hour and two more alleys before I finally figured out what it was.

It felt strange to be walking with the crowd.

Over the last couple years crowds had become a part of the scenery of the city to me. I might use a crowd to hide from a guard or a storekeeper. I might move through a crowd to get where I was going. I might even be going in the same direction as the crowd, but I was never a part of it.

I was so used to being ignored, I almost ran from the first merchant who tried to sell me something.

Once I knew what was bothering me, the greater part of my uneasiness left. Fear tends to come from ignorance. Once I knew what the problem was, it was just a problem, nothing to fear.

As I’ve mentioned, Tarbean has two main sections: Hillside and Waterside. Waterside was poor. Hillside was rich. Waterside stank. Hillside was clean. Waterside had thieves. Hillside had bankers—I’m sorry, burglars.

I have already told the story of my one ill-auspiced venture Hillside. So perhaps you will understand why, when the crowd in front of me happened to part for a moment, I saw what I was looking for. A member of the guard. I ducked through the nearest door, my heart pounding.

I spent a moment reminding myself that I wasn’t the same filthy little urchin who’d been beaten years ago. I was well-dressed and clean. I looked like I belonged here. But old habits die slow deaths. I fought to control a deep red anger, but couldn’t tell if I was angry at myself, the guard, or the world in general. Probably a little of each.

“Be right with you,” came a cheerful voice from a curtained doorway.

I looked around the shop. Light from the front window fell across a crowded workbench and dozens of shelved pairs of shoes. I decided I could have picked a worse store to wander into.

“Let me guess—” came the voice again from the back. A grandfather-grey man emerged from behind the curtain carrying a long piece of leather. He was short and stooped, but his face smiled at me through his wrinkles. “—you need shoes.” He smiled timidly, as if the joke was a pair of old boots that had worn out long ago, but were too comfortable to give up. He looked down at my feet. I looked too, in spite of myself.

I was barefoot of course. I hadn’t had shoes for so long that I never even thought about them anymore. At least not during the summer. In the winter, I dreamed of shoes.

I looked up. The old man’s eyes were dancing, as if he couldn’t decide whether laughing would cost him his customer or not. “I guess I need shoes,” I admitted.

He laughed and guided me into a seat, measuring my bare feet with his hands. Thankfully the streets were dry, so my feet were merely dusty from the cobblestones. If there had been rain they would have been embarrassingly filthy.

“Let’s see what you like, and if I have anything of a size for you. If not, I can make or change a pair to fit you in an hour or two. So, what would you be wanting shoes for? Walking? Dancing? Riding?” He leaned back on his stool and grabbed a pair off a shelf behind him.


“Thought so.” He deftly rolled a pair of stockings onto my feet, as if all his customers came in barefoot. He tucked my feet into a pair of something black with buckles. “How’s those feel? Put a little weight on to make sure.”


“They’re tight. I thought so. Nothing more annoying that a shoe that pinches.” He stripped me out of them, and into another pair, quick as a whip. “How about these?” They were a deep purple and made of velvet or felt.


“Not quite what you’re looking for? Don’t blame you really, wear out terrible fast. Nice color though, good for chasing the ladies.” He patted a new pair onto my feet. “How about these?”

They were a simple brown leather, and fit like he’d measured my feet before he’d made them. I pressed my foot to the ground, and it hugged me. I had forgotten how wonderful a good shoe can feel. “How much?” I asked apprehensively.

Instead of answering he stood, and started searching the shelves with his eyes. “You can tell a lot about a person by their feet,” he mused. “Some men come in here, smiling and laughing, shoes all clean and brushed, socks all powdered up. But when the shoes are off, their feet smell just fearsome. Those are the people that hide things. They’ve got bad smelling secrets and they try to hide ’em, just like they try to hide their feet.”

He turned to look at me. “It never works though. Only way to stop your feet from smelling is to let them air out a bit. Could be the same thing with secrets. I don’t know about that, though. I just know about shoes.”

He began to look through the clutter of his workbench. “Some of these young men from the court come in, fanning their faces and moaning about the latest tragedy. But their feet are so pink and soft. You know they’ve never walked anywhere on their own. You know they’ve never really been hurt.”

He finally found what he was looking for, holding up a pair of shoes similar to the pair I wore. “Here we go. These were my Jacob’s when he was your age.” He sat on his stool and unlaced the pair of shoes I was wearing.

“Now you,” he continued, “have old soles for a boy so young: scars, calluses. Feet like these could run barefoot all day on stone and not need shoes. A boy your age only gets these feet one way.”

He looked up at me, making it a question. I nodded.

He smiled and lay a hand on my shoulder. “How do they feel?”

I stood up to test them. If anything, they were more comfortable than the newer pair for being a little broken in.

“Now, this pair,” he waved the shoes he held, “are new. They haven’t been walked a mile, and for new shoes like these I charge a talent, maybe a talent and two.” He pointed at my feet. “Those shoes, on the other hand, are used, and I don’t sell used shoes.”

He turned his back on me and started to tidy his workbench rather aimlessly, humming to himself. It took me a second to recognize the tune: “Leave the Town, Tinker.”

I knew that he was trying to do me a favor, and a week ago I would have jumped at the opportunity for free shoes. But for some reason I didn’t feel right about it. I quietly gathered up my things and left a pair of copper jots on his stool before I left.

Why? Because pride is a strange thing, and because generosity deserves

generosity in return. But mostly because it felt like the right thing to do, and that is reason enough.

“Four days. Six days if raining.”

Roent was the third wagoneer I’d asked about going north to Imre, the town nearest the University. He was a thick-bodied Cealdish man with a fierce black beard that hid most of his face. He turned away and barked curses in Siaru at a man loading a wagon with bolts of cloth. When he spoke his native language, he sounded like an angry rockslide.

His rough voice lowered to a rumble as he turned back to me. “Two coppers. Jots. Not pennies. You can ride in a wagon if there is space. You can sleep underneath at night if you want. You eat in the evening with us. Lunch is just bread. If a wagon gets stuck, you help push.”

There was another pause while he shouted at the men. There were three wagons being packed with trade goods while the fourth was achingly familiar, one of the wheeled houses I had spent most of my early life riding. Roent’s wife, Reta, sat in the front of that wagon. Her mien wavered from severe, when she watched the men loading the wagons, to smiling when she spoke with a girl standing nearby.

I assumed the girl was a passenger like myself. She was my age, perhaps a year older, but a year makes a great deal of difference at that time of life. The Tahl have a saying about children of our age. The boy grows upward, but the girl grows up.

She was dressed practically for traveling, pants and shirt, and was just young enough for it not to seem improper. Her bearing was such that if she had been a year older, I would have been forced to see her as a lady. As it was, when she spoke with Reta she moved back and forth between a genteel grace and a childlike exuberance. She had long, dark hair, and….

Simply said, she was beautiful. It had been a long time since I had seen anything beautiful.

Roent followed my gaze and continued. “Everyone helps set camp at night. Everyone takes a turn watching. You fall asleep during your watch, you get left behind. You eat with us, whatever my wife cooks. You complain, you get left behind. You walk too slow, you get left behind. You bother the girl…” He ran a hand through his thick dark beard. “Bad things happen.”

Hoping to turn his thoughts in a different direction, I spoke up, “When will the wagons be done loading?”

“Two hours,” he said with a grim certainty, as if defying the workers to contradict him.

One of the men stood upright atop a wagon, shading his eyes with a hand. He called out, raising his voice over the sound of horses, wagons, and men

that filled the square. “Don’t let him scare you off, kid. He’s decent enough after all the growling.” Roent pointed a stern finger, and the man turned back to his work.

I hardly needed to be convinced. A man who travels with his wife is usually to be trusted. Besides, the price was fair, and he was leaving today. I took this opportunity to pull a pair of jots from my purse and hold them out to Roent.

He turned to me. “Two hours.” He held up thick fingers to make his point. “You are late, you get left behind.”

I nodded solemnly. “Rieusa, tu kialus A’isha tua.” Thank you for bringing me close to your family.

Roent’s great shaggy eyebrows went up. He recovered quickly and gave a quick nod that was almost a small bow. I looked around the square, trying to get my bearings.

“Someone’s full of surprises.” I turned around to see the worker who had shouted to me from the wagon. He held out his hand. “Derrik.”

I shook his hand, feeling awkward. It had been so long since I’d made simple conversation with someone that I felt strange and hesitant. “Kvothe.”

Derrik put his hands behind him and stretched his back with a grimace. He stood head and shoulders taller than me, twenty or so, tall and blond. “You gave Roent a bit of a turn there. Where’d you learn to speak Siaru?”

“An arcanist taught me a little,” I explained. I watched as Roent went to speak to his wife. The dark-haired girl looked in my direction and smiled. I looked away, not knowing what to make of it.

He shrugged. “I’ll leave you to fetch your things, then. Roent’s all growl and not much gruff, but he won’t wait once the wagons are packed.”

I nodded, even though my “things” were nonexistent. I did have a little shopping to do. They say you can find anything in Tarbean if you have enough money. For the most part, they are right.

I made my way down the stairs to Trapis’ basement. It felt strange to make the trip wearing shoes. I was used to the cool damp of stone underfoot when I came to pay a visit.

As I made my way down the short hallway, a boy in rags emerged from the inner rooms holding a small winter apple. He pulled up short when he saw me, then scowled, his eyes narrow and suspicious. Looking down, he brushed roughly past me.

Without even thinking about it, I slapped his hand away from my purse and turned to look at him, too stunned for words. He bolted outside, leaving me confused and disturbed. We never stole from each other here. Out on the streets it was everyone for themselves, but Trapis’ basement was the closest

thing to a sanctuary we had, like a church. None of us would risk spoiling that.

I took the last few steps into the main room and was relieved to see that everything else seemed normal. Trapis wasn’t there, probably off collecting charity to help him care for his children. There were six cots, all full, and more children lying on the floor. Several grubby urchins stood around a bushel basket on the table, clutching winter apples. They turned to stare at me, their expressions flinty and spiteful.

It dawned on me then. None of them recognized me. Clean and well-dressed, I looked like some regular boy come wandering in. I didn’t belong.

Just then Trapis came back, carrying several flat loaves of bread under one arm and a squalling child in the other. “Ari,” he called to one of the boys standing near the bushel basket. “Come help. We’ve got a new visitor and she needs changing.”

The boy hurried over and took the child out of Trapis’ arms. He lay the bread on the table next to the bushel basket and all the children’s eyes fixed on him attentively. My stomach went sour. Trapis hadn’t even looked at me. What if he didn’t recognize me? What if he told me to leave? I didn’t know if I could cope with that, I began to edge toward the door.

Trapis pointed to the children one at a time. “Let me see. David, you empty and scrub the drinking barrel. It’s getting brackish. When he’s done Nathan can fill it from the pump.”

“Can I take twice?” Nathan asked. “I need some for my brother.”

“Your brother can come for his own bread,” Trapis said gently, then looked more closely at the boy, sensing something. “Is he hurt?”

Nathan nodded, looking at the floor.

Trapis laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Bring him down. We’ll see to him.”

“It’s his leg.” Nathan blurted, seeming close to tears. “It’s all hot, and he can’t walk!”

Trapis nodded and gestured to the next child. “Jen, you help Nathan bring his brother back.” They hurried out. “Tam, since Nathan’s gone, you carry the water instead.”

“Kvothe, you run for soap.” He held out a halfpenny. “Go to Marna’s in the Wash. You’ll get better from her if you tell her who it’s for.”

I felt a sudden lump form in my throat. He knew me. I can’t hope to explain to you how much of a relief it was. Trapis was the closest thing I had to a family. The thought of him not knowing me had been horrifying.

“I don’t have time to run an errand, Trapis.” I said hesitantly. “I’m leaving. I’m heading inland, to Imre.”

“Are you then?” he asked, then paused and gave me a second, closer look. “Well then, I guess you are.”

Of course. Trapis never saw the clothes, only the child inside them. “I stopped by to let you know where my things are. On the roof of the candle works there’s a place where three roofs meet. There are some things there, a blanket, a bottle. I don’t need any of it anymore. It’s a good place to sleep if anyone needs one, dry. No one goes there….” I trailed off.

“That’s kind of you. I’ll send one of the boys round,” Trapis said. “Come here.” He came forward and gathered me into a clumsy hug, his beard tickling the side of my face. “I’m always glad to see one of you get away,” he said softly to me. “I know you’ll do just fine for yourself, but you can always come back if you need to.”

One of the girls on a nearby cot began to thrash and moan. Trapis pulled away from me and turned to look. “What what,” he said as he hurried over to tend to her, his bare feet slapping on the floor. “What what. Hush hush.”

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