Chapter no 37: Bright-Eyed

The Name of the Wind

LORREN LED THE WAY across a courtyard. “That is what most of the discussion was about,” Master Lorren explained, his voice as passionless as stone. “You had to have a tuition. Everyone does.”

I had recovered my composure and apologized for my terrible manners. He nodded calmly and offered to escort me to the office of the bursar to ensure that there was no confusion regarding my admission “fee.”

“After it was decided to admit you in the manner you had suggested—” Lorren gave a brief but significant pause, leading me to believe that it had not been quite as simple as that “—there was the problem that there was no precedent set for giving out funds to enrolling students.” He paused again. “A rather unusual thing.”

Lorren led me into another stone building, through a hallway, and down a flight of stairs. “Hello, Riem.”

The bursar was an elderly, irritable man who became more irritable when he discovered he had to give money to me rather than the other way around. After I got my three talents, Master Lorren led me out of the building.

I remembered something and dug into my pocket, glad for an excuse to divert the conversation. “I have a receipt from the Broken Binding.” I handed him the piece of paper, wondering what the owner would think when the University’s Master Archivist showed up to redeem the book a filthy street urchin had sold him. “Master Lorren, I appreciate your agreeing to do this, and I hope you won’t think me ungrateful if I ask another favor….”

Lorren glanced at the receipt before tucking it into a pocket, and looked at me intently. No, not intently. Not quizzically. There was no expression on his face at all. No curiosity. No irritation. Nothing. If not for the fact that his eyes were focused on me, I would have thought he’d forgotten I was there. “Feel free to ask,” he said.

“That book. It’s all I have left from…that time in my life. I would very much like to buy it back from you someday, when I have the money.”

He nodded, still expressionless. “That can be arranged. Do not waste your worry on its safety. It will be kept as carefully as any book in the Archives.”

Lorren raised a hand, gesturing to a passing student.

A sandy-haired boy pulled up short and approached nervously. Radiating deference, he made a nod that was almost like a bow to the Master Archivist. “Yes, Master Lorren?”

Lorren gestured to me with one of his long hands. “Simmon, this is Kvothe. He needs to be shown about, signed to classes and the like. Kilvin wants him in Artificing. Trust to your judgment otherwise. Will you tend to it?”

Simmon nodded again and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Yes, sir.”

Without another word, Lorren turned and walked away, his long strides making his black master’s robes billow out behind him.

Simmon was young for a student, though still a couple years my senior. He stood taller than me, but his face was still boyish, his manner boyishly shy.

“Do you have somewhere to stay yet?” he asked as we started to walk. “Room at an inn or anything?”

I shook my head. “I just got in today. I haven’t thought much further than getting through admissions.”

Simmon chuckled. “I know what that’s like. I still get sweaty at the beginning of each term.” He pointed to the left, down a wide lane lined with trees. “Let’s head to Mews first then.”

I stopped walking. “I don’t have a lot of money,” I admitted. I hadn’t planned on getting a room. I was used to sleeping outside, and I knew I would need to save my three talents for clothes, food, paper, and next term’s tuition. I couldn’t count on the masters’ generosity two terms in a row.

“Admissions didn’t go that well, huh?” Simmon said sympathetically as he took my elbow and steered me toward another one of the grey University buildings. This one was three stories tall, many-windowed, and had several wings radiating out from a central hub. “Don’t feel bad about it. I got nervous and pissed myself the first time through. Figuratively.”

“I didn’t do that badly,” I said, suddenly very conscious of the three talents in my purse. “But I think I offended Master Lorren. He seemed a little…”

“Chilly?” Simmon asked. “Distant? Like an unblinking pillar of stone?” He laughed. “Lorren is always like that. Rumor has it that Elxa Dal has a standing offer of ten gold marks to anyone who can make him laugh.”

“Oh,” I relaxed a little. “That’s good. He’s the last person I’d want to get on the wrong side of. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time in the Archives.”

“Just handle the books gently and you’ll get along fine. He’s pretty detached for the most part, but be careful around his books.” He raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “He’s fiercer than a mother bear protecting her

cubs. In fact, I’d rather get caught by a mother bear than have Lorren see me folding back a page.”

Simmon kicked at a rock, sending it skipping down the cobblestones. “Okay. You’ve got options in the Mews. A talent will get you a bunk and a meal chit for the term.” He shrugged. “Nothing fancy, but it keeps the rain off. You can share a room for two talents or get one all to yourself for three.”

“What’s a meal chit?”

“Meals are three a day over in the Mess.” He pointed to a long, low-roofed building across the lawn. “The food isn’t bad so long as you don’t think too hard about where it might have come from.”

I did some quick arithmetic. A talent for two month’s worth of meals and a dry place to sleep was as good a deal as I could hope for. I smiled at Simmon. “Sounds like just the thing.”

Simmon nodded as he opened the door into the Mews. “Bunks it is, then.

Come on, let’s find a steward and get you signed up.”

The bunks for non-Arcanum students were on the fourth floor of the east wing of Mews, farthest from the bathing facilities on the ground floor. The accommodations were as Sim had described, nothing fancy. But the narrow bed had clean sheets, and there was a trunk with a lock where I could keep my meager possessions.

All the lower bunks had already been claimed, so I took an upper one in the far corner of the room. As I looked out one of the narrow windows from on top of my bunk, I was reminded of my secret place high on Tarbean’s rooftops. The similarity was oddly comforting.

Lunch was a bowl of steaming-hot potato soup, beans, narrow rashers of fatty bacon, and fresh brown bread. The room’s large plank tables were nearly half full, seating about two hundred students. The room was full of the low murmur of conversation, punctuated by laughter and the metallic sound of spoons and forks scraping against the tin trays.

Simmon steered me to the back corner of the long room. Two other students looked up as we approached.

Simmon made a one-handed gesture to me as he set down his tray. “Everyone, meet Kvothe. Our newest dewy-eyed first-termer.” He gestured from one person to the next. “Kvothe, these are the worst students the Arcanum has to offer: Manet and Wilem.”

“Already met him,” Wilem said. He was the dark-haired Cealdim from the Archives. “You really were headed to admissions,” he said, mildly surprised. “I thought you were dealing me false iron.” He reached out his hand for me to shake. “Welcome.”

“Tehlu anyway,” Manet muttered, looking me over. He was at least fifty

years old with wild hair and a grizzled beard. He wore a slightly disheveled look, as if he’d only woken up a few minutes ago. “Am I as old as I feel? Or is he as young as he looks?”

“Both,” Simmon said cheerfully as he sat down. “Kvothe, Manet here has been in the Arcanum for longer than all of us put together.”

Manet snorted. “Give me some credit. I’ve been in the Arcanum longer than any of you have been alive.”

“And still a lowly E’lir,” Wilem said, his thick Siaru accent made it hard to tell if he was being sarcastic or not.

“Huzzah to being an E’lir,” Manet said earnestly. “You boys will regret it if you move any farther up the ranks. Trust me. It’s just more hassle and higher tuitions.”

“We want our guilders, Manet,” Simmon said. “Preferably sometime before we’re dead.”

“The guilder is overrated too,” Manet said, tearing off a piece of bread and dunking it in his soup. The exchange had an easy feel, and I guessed this was a familiar conversation.

“How’d you do?” Simmon asked Wilem eagerly. “Seven and eight,” Wilem grumbled.

Simmon looked surprised. “What in God’s name happened? Did you punch one of them?”

“Fumbled my cipher,” Wilem said sullenly. “And Lorren asked about the influence of subinfudation on Modegan currency. Kilvin had to translate. Even then I could not answer.”

“My soul weeps for you,” Sim said lightly. “You trounced me these last two terms, I was bound to catch a break sooner or later. I got five talents even this term.” He held out his hand. “Pay up.”

Wilem dug into his pocket and handed Sim a copper jot. I looked at Manet. “Aren’t you in on it?”

The wild-haired man huffed a laugh and shook his head. “There’d be some long odds against me,” he said, his mouth half full.

“Let’s hear it,” Simon said with a sigh. “How much this term?” “One and six,” Manet said, grinning like a wolf.

Before anyone could think to ask me what my tuition was, I spoke up. “I heard about someone getting a thirty-talent tuition. Do they usually get that high?”

“Not if you have the good sense to stay low in the rankings,” Manet grumbled.

“Only nobility,” Wilem said. “Kraemlish bastards with no business having their study here. I think they stoke up high tuitions just so they can complain.”

“I don’t mind,” Manet said. “Take their money. Keep my tuition low.”

I jumped as a tray clattered down onto the other side of the table. “I

assume you’re talking about me.” The owner of the tray was blue-eyed and handsome with a carefully trimmed beard and high Modegan cheekbones. He was dressed in rich, muted colors. On his hip was a knife with a worked-wire hilt. The first weapon I’d seen anyone wearing at the University.

“Sovoy?” Simmon looked stunned. “What are you doing here?”

“I ask myself the same thing.” Sovoy looked down at the bench. “Are there no proper chairs in this place?” He took his seat, moving with an odd combination of graceful courtliness and stiff, affronted dignity. “Excellent. Next, I’ll be eating with a trencher and throwing bones to the dogs over my shoulder.”

“Etiquette dictates it be the left shoulder, your highness,” Manet said around a mouthful of bread, grinning.

Sovoy’s eyes flashed angry, but before he could say anything Simmon spoke up, “What happened?”

“My tuition was sixty-eight strehlaum,” he said indignantly. Simmon looked nonplussed. “Is that a lot?”

“It is. A lot,” Sovoy said sarcastically. “And for no good reason. I answered their questions. This is a grudge, plain and simple. Mandrag does not like me. Neither does Hemme. Besides, everyone knows they squeeze the nobility twice as hard as you lot, bleeding us dry as stones.”

“Simmon’s nobility,” Manet pointed a spoon. “He seems to do fine for himself.”

Sovoy exhaled sharply through his nose. “Simmon’s father is a paper duke bowing to a tin king in Atur. My father’s stables have longer bloodlines than half you Aturan nobles.”

Simmon stiffened slightly in his seat, though he didn’t look up from his meal.

Wilem turned to face Sovoy, his dark eyes going hard. But before he could say anything Sovoy slumped, rubbing his face in one hand. “I’m sorry, Sim, my house and name to you. It’s just…things were going to be better this term, but now they’re worse instead. My allowance wouldn’t even cover my tuition, and no one will extend me more credit. Do you know how humiliating that is? I’ve had to give up my rooms at the Golden Pony. I’m on the third floor of Mews. I almost had to share a room. What would my father say if he knew?”

Simmon, his mouth full, shrugged and made a gesture with his spoon that seemed to indicate that there was no offense taken.

“Maybe things would go better for you if you didn’t go in there looking like a peacock.” Manet said. “Leave off the silk when you go through admissions.”

“Is that how it is?” Sovoy said, his temper flaring again. “Should I abase myself? Rub ashes in my hair? Tear my clothes?” As he grew angrier, his

lilting accent became more pronounced. “No. They are none of them better men than me. I need not bow to them.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence at the table. I noticed more than a few of the surrounding students were watching the show from the nearby tables.

“Hylta tiam,” Sovoy continued. “There is nothing in this place I do not hate. Your weather is wild and uncivilized. Your religion barbaric and prudish. Your whores are intolerably ignorant and unmannerly. Your language barely has the subtlety to express how wretched this place is….”

Sovoy’s voice grew softer the longer he spoke, until he almost seemed to be speaking to himself. “My blood goes back fifty generations, older than tree or stone. And I am come to this,” he put his head against the palms of his hands and looked down at his tin tray. “Barley bread. Gods all around us, a man is meant to eat wheat.”

I watched him while chewing a mouthful of the fresh brown bread. It tasted wonderful.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Sovoy said suddenly, getting to his feet. “I can’t deal with this.” He stormed off, leaving his tray on the table.

“That’s Sovoy,” Manet said to me in an offhand manner. “Not a bad sort, though he’s usually not nearly as drunk as that.”

“He’s Modegan?”

Simmon laughed. “You don’t get more Modegan than Sovoy.”

“You should not prod at him,” Wilem said to Manet. His rough accent made it hard for me to tell if he was rebuking the older student, but his dark Cealdish face showed definite reproach. As a foreigner, I guessed he sympathized with Sovoy’s difficulty adjusting to the language and culture of the Commonwealth.

“He is having a rough time of it,” Simmon admitted. “Remember when he had to let his manservant go?”

Mouth full, Manet made a gesture with both hands as if playing an imaginary violin. He rolled his eyes, his expression vastly unsympathetic.

“He had to sell his rings this time around,” I added. Wilem, Simmon, and Manet turned to look at me curiously. “There were pale lines on his fingers.” I explained, holding up my hand to demonstrate.

Manet gave me a close looking over. “Well now! Our new student seems to be all manner of clever.” He turned to Wilem and Simmon. “Lads, I’m in a betting mood. I’ll wager two jots that our young Kvothe makes it into the Arcanum before the end of his third term.”

“Three terms?” I said, surprised. “They told me all I had to do was prove I mastered the basic principles of sympathy.”

Manet gave me a gentle smile. “They tell everyone that. Principles of Sympathy is one of the classes you’ll have to slog through before they elevate

you to E’lir.” He turned back to Wil and Sim expectantly. “How about it? Two jots?”

“I’ll bet.” Wilem gave me a small, apologetic shrug. “No offense. I play the odds.”

“What’ll you be studying then?” Manet asked as they shook on it. The question caught me off guard. “Everything, I guess.”

“You sound like me thirty years ago,” Manet chuckled. “Where are you going to start?”

“The Chandrian,” I said. “I’d like to know as much about them as possible.”

Manet frowned, then burst out laughing. “Well that’s fine and good, I suppose. Sim here studies faeries and piksies. Wil there believes in all manner of silly damn Cealdish sky spirits and such.” He puffed himself up absurdly. “I’m big on imps and shamble-men myself.”

I felt my face get hot with embarrassment.

“God’s body, Manet,” Sim cut him off. “What’s gotten into you?”

“I just bet two jots on a boy who wants to study bedtime stories,” Manet groused, gesturing to me with his fork.

“He meant folklore. That sort of thing.” Wilem turned to look at me. “You looking to work in the Archives?”

“Folklore’s a piece of it,” I hedged quickly, eager to save face. “I want to see if different cultures’ folktales conform to Teccam’s theory of narrative septagy.”

Sim turned back to Manet. “See? Why are you so twitchy today? When’s the last time you slept?”

“Don’t take that tone with me,” Manet grumbled. “I caught a few hours last night.”

“And which night was that?” Sim pressed.

Manet paused, looking down at his tray. “Felling night?” Wilem shook his head, muttering something in Siaru.

Simmon looked horrified. “Manet, yesterday was Cendling. Has it been two days since you’ve slept?”

“Probably not,” Manet said uncertainly. “I always lose track of things during admissions. There aren’t any classes. It throws off my schedule. Besides, I’ve been caught up in a project in the Fishery.” He trailed off, scrubbing at his face with his hands, then looked up at me. “They’re right. I’m a little off my head right now. Teccam’s septagy, folklore and all that. It’s a bit bookish for me, but a fine thing to study. I didn’t mean any offense.”

“None taken.” I said easily and nodded at Sovoy’s tray. “Slide that over here, would you? If our young noble’s not coming back, I’ll have his bread.”

After Simmon took me to sign up for classes, I made my way to the Archives, eager to have a look around after all these years of dreaming.

This time when I entered the Archives, there was a young gentleman sitting behind the desk, tapping a pen on a piece of paper that bore the marks of much rewriting and crossing out. As I approached, he scowled and scratched out another line. His face was built to scowl. His hands were soft and pale. His blinding white linen shirt and richly-dyed blue vest reeked of money. The part of me that was not long removed from Tarbean wanted to pick his pocket.

He tapped his pen for another few moments before laying it down with a vastly irritated sigh. “Name,” he said without looking up.


He flipped through the ledger, found a particular page and frowned. “You’re not in the book.” He glanced up briefly and scowled again before turning back to whatever verse he was laboring over. When I made no signs of leaving he flicked his fingers as if shooing away a bug. “Feel free to piss off.”

“I’ve just—”

Ambrose put down his pen again. “Listen,” he said slowly, as if explaining to a simpleton. “You’re not in the book,” he made an exaggerated gesture toward the ledger with both hands. “You don’t get inside.” He made another gesture to the inner doors. “The end.”

“I’ve just gone through admissions—”

He tossed up his hands, exasperated. “Then of course you’re not in the book.”

I dug into a pocket for my admission slip. “Master Lorren gave me this himself.”

“I don’t care if he carried you here pig-a-back,” Ambrose said, pointedly redipping his pen. “Now quit wasting my time. I have things to do.”

“Wasting your time?” I demanded, my temper finally wearing thin. “Do you have any idea what I’ve gone through to get here?”

Ambrose looked up at me, his expression growing suddenly amused. “Wait, let me guess,” he said, laying his hands flat on the table and pushing himself to his feet. “You were always smarter than the other children back in Clodhump, or whatever little one-whore town you’re from. Your ability to read and count left the local villagers awestruck.”

I heard the outer door open and shut behind me, but Ambrose didn’t pay it any attention as he walked around to lean against the front of the desk. “Your parents knew you were special so they saved up for a couple years, bought you a pair of shoes, and sewed the pig blanket into a shirt.” He reached out to rub the fabric of my new clothes between his fingers.

“It took months of walking, hundreds of miles bumping along in the

backs of mule carts. But in the end…” He made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Praise Tehlu and all his angels! Here you are! All bright-eyed and full of dreams!”

I heard laughter and turned to see that two men and a young woman had come in during his tirade. “God’s body, Ambrose. What’s got you started?”

“Goddamn first-termers,” Ambrose groused as he headed back around to sit behind the desk. “Come in here dressed like rag piles and act like they own the place.”

The three newcomers walked toward the doors marked STACKS. I fought down a hot flush of embarrassment as they looked me up and down. “Are we still heading to the Eolian tonight?”

Ambrose nodded. “Of course. Sixth bell.”

“Aren’t you going to check to see if they’re in the book?” I asked as the door closed behind them.

Ambrose turned back to me, his smile bright, brittle, and by no means friendly. “Listen, I’m going to give you a little advice for free. Back home you were something special. Here you’re just another kid with a big mouth. So address me as Re’lar, go back to your bunk, and thank whatever pagan God you pray to that we’re not in Vintas. My father and I would chain you to a post like a rabid dog.”

He shrugged. “Or don’t. Stay here. Make a scene. Start to cry. Better yet, take a swing at me.” He smiled. “I’ll give you a thrashing and get you thrown out on your ear.” He picked up his pen and turned back to whatever he was writing.

I left.

You might think that this encounter left me disheartened. You might think I felt betrayed, my childhood dreams of the University cruelly shattered.

Quite the contrary. It reassured me. I had been feeling rather out of my element until Ambrose let me know, in his own special way, that there wasn’t much difference between the University and the streets of Tarbean. No matter where you are, people are basically the same.

Besides, anger can keep you warm at night, and wounded pride can spur a man to wondrous things.

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