Chapter no 39: Enough Rope

The Name of the Wind

THE NEXT DAY I was ten minutes early to Hemme’s class, sitting in the front row. I hoped to catch Hemme before the class started, thereby saving myself from having to sit through another one of his lectures.

Unfortunately, he did not appear early. The lecture hall was full when he entered by the hall’s lower door and climbed the three steps onto the raised wooden stage. He looked around the hall, eyes searching me out. “Ah yes, our young prodigy. Stand up, would you?”

Uncertain as to what was going on, I stood.

“I have pleasant news for everyone,” he said. “Mr. Kvothe here has assured me as to his complete grasp of the principles of sympathy. In doing so, he has offered to give today’s lecture.” He made an expansive gesture for me to join him on the stage. He smiled at me with hard eyes. “Mr. Kvothe?”

He was mocking me, of course, expecting me to slink down into my seat, cowed and ashamed.

But I had had enough of bullies in my life. So I climbed onto the stage and shook his hand. Using a good stage voice I spoke to the students, “I thank Master Hemme for this opportunity. I only hope that I can help him shed some light on this most important subject.”

Having started this little game, Hemme was unable to stop it without looking foolish. As he shook my hand he gave me the look a wolf gives a treed cat. Smiling to himself, he left the stage to assume my recently vacated seat in the front row. Confident of my ignorance, he was willing to let the charade continue.

I would never have gotten away with it if not for two of Hemme’s numerous flaws. First, his general stupidity in not believing what I had told him the day before. Second, his desire to see me embarrassed as thoroughly as possible.

Plainly said, he was giving me enough rope to hang myself with. Apparently he didn’t realize that once a noose is tied, it will fit one neck as easily as another.

I faced the class. “Today I will be presenting an example of the laws of sympathy. However, as time is limited I will need help with the preparations.”

I pointed to a student at random. “Would you be so good as to bring me one of Master Hemme’s hairs, please?”

Hemme offered one up with an exaggerated graciousness. As the student brought it up to me, Hemme smiled in genuine amusement, certain that the more grandiose my preparations were, the greater my embarrassment would be in the end.

I took advantage of this slight delay to look over what equipment I had to work with. A brazier sat off to one side of the stage, and a quick rifling of the drawers in the worktable revealed chalk, a prism, sulfur matches, an enlarging glass, some candles, and a few oddly-shaped blocks of metal. I took three of the candles and left the rest.

I took Master Hemme’s hair from the student and recognized him as Basil, the boy Hemme had browbeat yesterday. “Thank you, Basil. Would you bring that brazier over here and get it burning as quickly as you can?” As he brought it closer I was delighted to see that it was equipped with a small bellows. While he poured alcohol onto the coal and struck a spark to it, I addressed the class.

“The concepts of sympathy are not entirely easy to grasp. But underneath everything there remain three simple laws.”

“First is the Doctrine of Correspondence which says, ‘similarity enhances sympathy.’ Second is the Principle of Consanguinity, which says, ‘a piece of a thing can represent the whole of a thing.’ Third is the Law of Conservation, which says ‘energy cannot be destroyed nor created.’ Correspondence, Consanguinity, and Conservation. The three C’s.”

I paused and listened to the sound of a half hundred pens scratching down my words. Beside me, Basil pumped industriously at the bellows. I realized I could grow to enjoy this.

“Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense yet. The demonstration should make everything abundantly clear.” Looking down, I saw the brazier was warming nicely. I thanked Basil and hung a shallow metal pan above the coals and dropped two of the candles in to melt.

I set a third candle in a holder on the table and used one of the sulfur matches in the drawer to set it alight. Next, I moved the pan off the heat and poured its now-melted contents carefully onto the table, forming a fist-sized blob of soft wax. I looked back up at the students.

“In sympathy, most of what you are doing is redirecting energy. Sympathetic links are how the energy travels.” I pulled out the wicking and began kneading the wax into a roughly human-shaped doll. “The first law I mentioned, ‘Similarity enhances sympathy,’ simply means that the more things resemble each other, the stronger the sympathetic link between them will be.”

I held the crude doll up for the class to inspect. “This,” I said, “is Master

Hemme.” Laughter muttered back and forth across the hall. “Actually, this is my sympathetic representation of Master Hemme. Would anyone like to take a guess as to why it is not a very good one?”

There was a moment of silence. I let it stretch out for a while, a cold audience. Hemme had traumatized them yesterday and they were slow in responding. Finally, from the back of the room, a student said, “It’s the wrong size?”

I nodded and continued to look around the room. “He isn’t made of wax either.”

I nodded. “It does bear some small resemblance to him, in general shape and proportion. Nevertheless, it is a very poor sympathetic representation. Because of that, any sympathetic link based off it would be rather weak. Perhaps two percent efficiency. How could we improve it?”

There was another silence, shorter than the first. “You could make it bigger,” someone suggested. I nodded and waited. Other voices called out, “You could carve Master Hemme’s face on it.” “Paint it.” “Give it a little robe.” Everyone laughed.

I held up my hand for quiet and was surprised by how quickly it fell. “Practicality aside, assume you did all these things. A six-foot, fully-clothed, masterfully carved Master Hemme stands beside me.” I gestured. “Even with all that effort the best you might hope for is ten or fifteen percent sympathetic link. Not very good, not very good at all.

“This brings me to the second law, Consanguinity. An easy way of thinking of it is, ‘once together, always together.’ Due to Master Hemme’s generosity I have one of his hairs.” I held it up, and ceremoniously stuck it to the head of the doll. “And as easy as this, we have a sympathetic link that will work at thirty to thirty-five percent.”

I had been watching Hemme. While at first he had seemed a little wary, he had lapsed back into a self-satisfied smirk. He knew that without the appropriate binding and properly focused Alar, all the wax and hair in the world wouldn’t do one whit of good.

Sure that he had taken me for a fool, I gestured to the candle and asked him, “With your permission, Master?” He made a magnanimous wave of compliance and settled back into his chair, folding his arms in front of him, confident in his safety.

Of course I did know the binding. I’d told him so. And Ben had taught me about the Alar, the riding-crop belief, back when I was twelve.

But I didn’t bother with either. I put the doll’s foot into the candle flame, which guttered and smoked.

There was a tense, held-breath quiet as everyone stretched in their seats to get a look at Master Hemme.

Hemme shrugged, feigning astonishment. But his eyes had the look of a

jaw trap about to close. A smirk tugged at one corner of his mouth, and he began to rise from his seat. “I feel nothing. Wh—”

“Exactly.” I said, cracking my voice like a whip, startling the students’ attentions back to me. “And why is that?” I looked expectantly at the lecture hall.

“Because of the third law that I had mentioned, Conservation. ‘Energy cannot be destroyed or created, merely lost or found.’ If I were to hold a candle underneath our esteemed teacher’s foot, very little would occur. And since only about thirty percent of the heat is getting through, we do not even get that small result.”

I paused to let them think for a moment. “This is the prime problem in sympathy. Where do we get the energy? Here, however, the answer is simple.”

I blew out the candle and relit it from the brazier. Muttering the few necessary words underneath my breath. “By adding a second sympathetic link between the candle and a more substantial fire….” I broke my mind into two pieces, one binding Hemme and the doll together, the other connecting the candle and the brazier. “We get the desired effect.”

I casually moved the foot of the wax doll into the space about an inch above the candle’s wick, which is actually the hottest part of the flame.

There was a startled exclamation from where Hemme was sitting.

Without looking in his direction I continued speaking to the class in the driest of tones. “And it appears that this time we are successful.” The class laughed.

I blew out the candle. “This is also a good example of the power that a clever sympathist commands. Imagine what would happen if I were to throw this doll into the fire itself?” I held it over the brazier.

As if on cue, Hemme stormed onto the stage. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed to me that he was favoring his left leg slightly.

“It appears that Master Hemme wishes to resume your instruction at this point.” Laughter rippled through the room, louder this time. “I thank you all: students and friends. And thus my humble lecture ends.”

At this point I used one of the tricks of the stage. There is a certain inflection of voice and body language that signals a crowd to applaud. I cannot explain how exactly it is done, but it had its intended effect. I nodded my head to them and turned to face Hemme amidst applause which, though far from deafening, was probably more than any he had ever received.

As he took the last few steps toward me I almost backed away. His face was a fearsome red and a vein pulsed at his temple as if it were about to explode.

For my own part, my stage training helped me maintain my composure, I returned his gaze levelly and held out my hand for him to shake. It was with

no small amount of satisfaction that I watched him give a quick glance to the still applauding class, swallow, and shake my hand.

His handshake was painfully tight. It might have gotten worse if I hadn’t made a slight gesture over the brazier with the wax doll. His face went from its livid red to an ashen white more quickly than I would have believed possible. His grip underwent a similar transformation and I regained my hand.

With another nod toward the seated students, I left the lecture hall without a backward glance.

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