AT A GESTURE FROM Kvothe, Chronicler wiped off the nib of his pen and shook out his hand. Bast gave a great, seated stretch, his arms arching over the back of the chair.
“I’d almost forgotten how quickly it all happened,” Kvothe mused. “Those were probably the first stories anyone ever told about me.”
“They’re still telling them at the University,” Chronicler said. “I’ve heard three different versions of the class you taught. Your whipping, too. Is that when they started calling you Kvothe the Bloodless?”
Kvothe nodded. “Possibly.”
“If we’re asking questions, Reshi,” Bast said sheepishly, “I was wondering why you didn’t go looking for Skarpi?”
“What could I have done, Bast? Smeared my face with lampblack and staged a daring midnight rescue?” Kvothe gave a brief humorless laugh. “They’d taken him in on heresy. All I could do was hope he truly had friends in the church.”
Kvothe drew a deep breath and sighed. “But the simplest reason is the least satisfying one, I suppose. The truth is this: I wasn’t living in a story.”
“I don’t think I’m understanding you, Reshi,” Bast said, puzzled.
“Think of all the stories you’ve heard, Bast. You have a young boy, the hero. His parents are killed. He sets out for vengeance. What happens next?”
Bast hesitated, his expression puzzled. Chronicler answered the question instead. “He finds help. A clever talking squirrel. An old drunken swordsman. A mad hermit in the woods. That sort of thing.”
Kvothe nodded. “Exactly! He finds the mad hermit in the woods, proves himself worthy, and learns the names of all things, just like Taborlin the Great. Then with these powerful magics at his beck and call, what does he do?”
Chronicler shrugged. “He finds the villains and kills them.”
“Of course,” Kvothe said grandly. “Clean, quick, and easy as lying. We know how it ends practically before it starts. That’s why stories appeal to us. They give us the clarity and simplicity our real lives lack.”
Kvothe leaned forward. “If this were some tavern tale, all half-truth and
senseless adventure, I would tell you how my time at the University was spent with a purity of dedication. I would learn the ever-changing name of the wind, ride out, and gain my revenge against the Chandrian.” Kvothe snapped his fingers sharply. “Simple as that.
“But while that might make for an entertaining story, it would not be the truth. The truth is this. I had mourned my parent’s death for three years, and the pain of it had faded to a dull ache.”
Kvothe made a conciliatory gesture with one hand, and smiled a tight smile. “I won’t lie to you. There were times late at night when I lay sleepless and desperately alone in my narrow bunk in the Mews, times when I was choked with a sorrow so endless and empty that I thought it would smother me.
“There were times when I would see a mother holding her child, or a father laughing with his son, and anger would flare up in me, hot and furious with the memory of blood and the smell of burning hair.”
Kvothe shrugged. “But there was more to my life than revenge. I had very real obstacles to overcome close at hand. My poverty. My low birth. The enemies I made at the University were more dangerous to me than any of the Chandrian.”
He gestured for Chronicler to pick up his pen. “But for all that, we still see that even the most fanciful of stories hold a shred of truth, because I did find something very near to the mad hermit in the woods.” Kvothe smiled. “And I was determined to learn the name of the wind.”