ELODIN PROVED A DIFFICULT man to find. He had an office in Hollows, but never seemed to use it. When I visited Ledgers and Lists, I discovered he only taught one class: Unlikely Maths. However, this was less than helpful in tracking him down, as according to the ledger, the time of the class was “now” and the location was “everywhere.”
In the end, I spotted him through sheer luck across a crowded courtyard. He was wearing his black master’s robes, which was something of a rarity. I was on my way to the Medica for observation but decided I’d rather be late for my class than miss the opportunity to speak with him.
By the time I struggled through the midday crowd and caught up with him, we were on the northern edge of the University, following a wide dirt road that led into the forest. “Master Elodin,” I said, pelting up to him. “I was hoping I could talk with you.”
“A sad little hope,” he said without breaking stride or looking in my direction. “You should aim higher. A young man ought to be afire with high ambitions.”
“I hope to study naming then,” I said, falling into step beside him.
“Too high,” he said matter-of-factly. “Try again. Somewhere in-between.” The dirt road curved, and trees blocked the sight of the University’s buildings behind us.
“I hope you’ll accept me as a student?” I tried again. “And teach me whatever you think best?”
Elodin stopped walking abruptly and turned to face me. “Fine,” he said. “Go find me three pinecones.” He made a circle with his thumb and finger. “This big, without any of the little bits broken off.” He sat down right in the middle of the road and made a shooing motion with his hand. “Go on. Hurry.” I darted off into the surrounding trees. It took me about five minutes to find three pinecones of the appropriate type. By the time I got back to the road I was disheveled and bramble-scratched. Elodin was nowhere to be seen. I looked around stupidly, then cursed, dropped the pinecones, and took off running, following the road north. I caught up with him fairly quickly, as he
was just idling along, looking at the trees.
“So what did you learn?” Elodin asked. “That you want to be left alone?”
“You are quick.” He spread his arms dramatically and intoned. “Here endeth the lesson! Here endeth my profound tutelage of E’lir Kvothe!”
I sighed. If I left now, I could still catch my class in the Medica, but part of me suspected that this might be a test of some sort. Perhaps Elodin was simply making sure that I was genuinely interested before he accepted me as a student. That is the way it usually goes in stories: the young man has to prove his dedication to the old hermit in the woods before he’s taken under his wing.
“Will you answer a few questions?” I asked.
“Fine,” he said, holding up his hand with his thumb and forefinger curled in. “Three questions. If you agree to leave me be afterward.”
I thought for a moment. “Why don’t you want to teach me?”
“Because the Edema Ruh make exceptionally poor students,” he said brusquely. “They are fine for rote learning, but the study of naming requires a level of dedication that ravel such as yourself rarely possess.”
My temper flared so hot and quick that I actually felt my skin flush. It started at my face and burned down my chest and arms. It made the hair on my arms prickle.
I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry that your experience with the Ruh has left something to be desired,” I said carefully. “Let me assure you that—”
“Ye Gods,” Elodin sighed, disgusted. “A bootlicker too. You lack the requisite spine and testicular fortitude to study under me.”
Hot words boiled up inside me. I fought them down. He was trying to bait
“You aren’t telling me the truth,” I said. “Why don’t you want to teach
“For the same reason I don’t want a puppy!” Elodin shouted, waving his arms in the air like a farmer trying to startle crows out of a field. “Because you’re too short to be a namer. Your eyes are too green. You have the wrong number of fingers. Come back when you’re taller and you’ve found a decent pair of eyes.”
We stared at each other for a long while. Finally he shrugged and started walking again. “Fine. I’ll show you why.”
We followed the road north. Elodin strolled along, picking up stones and tossing them into the trees. He jumped to snatch leaves from low-hanging branches, his master’s robes billowing ridiculously. At one point he stopped and stood motionless and intent for nearly half an hour, staring at a fern swaying slowly in the wind.
But I kept the tip of my tongue firmly between my teeth. I didn’t ask, “Where are we going?” or “What are you looking at?” I knew a hundred stories about young boys who squandered questions or wishes by chatting
them away. I had two questions left, and I was going to make them count.
Eventually we emerged from the forest, and the road became a path leading up a vast lawn to a huge manor house. Bigger than the Artificery, it had elegant lines, a red tile roof, high windows, arched doorways and pillars. There were fountains, flowers, hedges….
But something wasn’t quite right. The closer we got to the gates, the more I doubted this was some nobleman’s estate. Maybe it was something about the design of the gardens, or the fact that the wrought-iron fence surrounding the lawns was nearly ten feet tall and unclimbable to my well-trained thief’s eye.
Two serious-eyed men opened the gate, and we continued up the path toward the front doors. Elodin looked at me. “Have you heard of Haven yet?”
I shook my head.
“It has other names: the Rookery, the Crockery….”
The University asylum. “It’s huge. How…” I stopped before asking the question.
Elodin grinned, knowing he’d almost caught me. “Jeremy,” he called out to the large man who stood at the front door. “How many guests do we have today?”
“The desk could give you a count, sir,” he said uncomfortably. “Take a wild guess,” Elodin said. “We’re all friends here.” “Three-twenty?” the man said with a shrug. “Three-fifty?”
Elodin rapped on the thick timber door with a knuckle, and the man scrambled to unlock it. “How many more could we fit if we needed?” Elodin asked him.
“Another hundred-fifty easy.” Jeremy said, tugging the huge door open. “More in a pinch, I suppose.”
“See, Kvothe?” Elodin winked at me. “We’re ready.”
The entryway was huge, with stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings.
The floor was marble polished to a mirror sheen.
The place was eerily silent. I couldn’t understand it. The Reftview Asylum in Tarbean was only a fraction the size of this place, and it sounded like a brothel full of angry cats. You could hear it from a mile away over the din of the city.
Elodin strolled up to a large desk where a young woman stood. “Why isn’t anyone outside, Emmie?”
She gave him an uneasy smile. “They’re too wild today, sir. We think there’s a storm coming in.” She pulled a ledger book off the shelf. “The moon’s getting full, too. You know how it gets.”
“Sure do.” Elodin crouched down and began to unlace his shoes. “Where did they stash Whin this time?”
She flipped a few pages in the ledger. “Second floor east. 247.”
Elodin stood back up and set his shoes on the desk. “Keep an eye on
these, would you?” She gave him an uncertain smile and nodded.
I choked down another mouthful of questions. “It seems like the University goes to an awful lot of expense here,” I commented.
Elodin ignored me and turned to climb a wide marble staircase in his stocking feet. Then we entered a long, white hallway lined with wooden doors. For the first time I could hear the sounds I had expected in a place like this. Moans, weeping, incessant chattering, screaming, all very faint.
Elodin ran for a few steps, then stopped, his stocking feet gliding across the smooth marble floor, his master’s robes streaming out behind him. He repeated this: a few quick steps, then a long slide with his arms held out to the sides for balance.
I continued to pace along beside him. “I’d think the masters would find other, more academic uses for the University’s funds.”
Elodin didn’t look at me. Step. Step step step. “You’re trying to get me to answer questions you’re not asking.” Slide. “It’s not going to work.”
“You’re trying to trick me into asking questions,” I pointed out. “It seems only fair.”
Step step step. Slide. “So why the hell are you bothering with me, anyway?” Elodin asked. “Kilvin likes you well enough. Why not hitch your star to his wagon?”
“I think you know things I can’t learn anywhere else.” “Things like what?”
“Things I’ve wanted to know since I first saw someone call the wind.” “Name of the wind, was it?” Elodin raised his eyebrows. Step. Step. Step-
step-step. “That’s tricky.” Sliiiiiide. “What makes you think I know anything about calling the wind?”
“Process of elimination,” I said. “None of the other masters do that sort of thing, so it must be your bailiwick.”
“By your logic I should also be in charge of Solinade dances, needlework, and horse thieving.”
We came to the end of the hall. Midslide, Elodin nearly bowled over a huge, broad-shouldered man carrying a hardback. “Beg your pardon, sir,” he said, though it obviously wasn’t his fault.
“Timothy,” Elodin pointed a long finger at him. “Come with us.”
Elodin led the way through several shorter hallways, eventually coming to a heavy wooden door with a sliding panel at eye level. Elodin opened it and peered through. “How’s he been?”
“Quiet,” the hulking man said. “I don’t think he’s slept much.”
Elodin tried the latch, then turned to the broad-shouldered man, his face going grim. “You locked him in?”
The man stood a full head taller than Elodin and probably weighed twice as much, but the blood drained from his face as the shoeless master glared at
him. “Not me, Master Elodin. It’s…”
Elodin cut him off with a sharp gesture. “Unlock it.” Timothy fumbled with a ring of keys.
Elodin continued to stare him down. “Alder Whin is not to be confined. He may come and go as he pleases. Nothing is to be put in his food unless he specifically asks for it. I am holding you responsible for this, Timothy Generoy.” Elodin poked him in the chest with a long finger. “If I find out that Whin has been sedated or restrained I’ll ride you naked through the streets of Imre like a little pink pony.” He glared. “Go.”
The fellow left as quickly as he could manage without actually breaking into a run.
Elodin turned to me. “You can come in, but don’t make any noises or sudden movements. Don’t talk unless he talks to you. If you do talk, keep your voice low. Understand?”
I nodded and he opened the door.
The room wasn’t what I’d expected. Tall windows let the daylight in, revealing a sizable bed and a table with chairs. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all padded with thick white cloth, muffling even the faint noises from the hallway. The blankets had been pulled off the bed and a thin man of about thirty was bundled up in them, huddled against the wall.
Elodin closed the door and the mousy man flinched a little. “Whin?” he said softly, moving closer. “What happened?”
Alder Whin looked up owlishly. A thin stick of a man, he was bare-chested under the blanket, his hair in wild disarray, his eyes round and wide. He spoke softly, his voice cracking a little. “I was fine. I was doing fine. But all the people talking, dogs, cobblestones…I just can’t be around that right now.”
Whin pressed himself against the wall and the blanket fell off his bony shoulder. I was startled to see a lead guilder around his neck. This man was a full-fledged arcanist.
Elodin nodded. “Why are you on the floor?”
Whin looked over at the bed, panic in his eyes. “I’ll fall,” he said softly, his voice somewhere between horror and embarrassment. “And there are springs and slats. Nails.”
“How are you now?” Elodin asked gently. “Would you like to come back with me?”
“Nooooo.” Whin gave a hopeless, despairing cry, screwing his eyes closed and pulling the blanket closer around himself. His thin, reedy voice made his plea more heart-wrenching than if he’d howled it.
“It’s fine. You can stay,” Elodin said softly. “I’ll be back to visit.”
Whin opened his eyes at this, looking agitated. “Don’t bring thunder,” he said urgently. He reached one thin hand out of his blanket and clutched at
Elodin’s shirt. “But I do need a catwhistle and bluedown, and bones too.” His tone was urgent. “Tentbones.”
“I’ll bring them,” Elodin reassured him, gesturing for me to back out of the room. I did.
Elodin closed the door behind us, his expression grim. “Whin knew what he was getting into when he became my giller.” He turned and began to walk down the hall. “You don’t. You don’t know anything about the University. About the risks involved. You think this place is a faerie land, a playground. It’s not.”
“That’s right,” I snapped. “It’s a playground and all the other children are jealous because I got to play ‘get whipped bloody and banned from the Archives’ and they didn’t.”
Elodin stopped walking and turned to look at me. “Fine. Prove me wrong. Prove that you’ve thought this through. Why does a University with under fifteen hundred students need an asylum the size of the royal palace?”
My mind raced. “Most students are from well-to-do families,” I said. “They’ve led easy lives. When forced to…”
“Wrong,” Elodin said dismissively, turning to walk down the hall. “It is because of what we study. Because of the way we train our minds to move.”
“So ciphering and grammar make people crazy,” I said, taking care to phrase it as a statement.
Elodin stopped walking and wrenched open the nearest door. Panicked screaming burst out into the hallway. “…IN ME! THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE IN ME!” Through the open door I could see a young man thrashing against the leather restraints that bound him to the bed at wrist, waist, neck, and ankle.
“Trigonometry and diagrammed logic don’t do this,” Elodin said, looking me in the eye.
“THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE IN—” The screaming
continued in an unbroken chant, like the endless, mindless barking of a dog at night. “—ME! THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE IN ME! THEY’RE—”
Elodin closed the door. Though I could still hear the screaming faintly through the thick door, the near-silence was stunning. “Do you know why they call this place the Rookery?” Elodin asked.
I shook my head.
“Because it’s where you go if you’re a-ravin’.” He smiled a wild smile.
He laughed a terrible laugh.
Elodin led me through a long series of hallways to a different wing of the Crockery. Finally we turned a corner and I saw something new: a door made entirely of copper.
Elodin took a key from his pocket and unlocked it. “I like to stop in when I’m back in the neighborhood,” he said casually as he opened the door. “Check my mail. Water the plants and such.”
He pulled off one of his socks, tied a knot in it, and used it to wedge the door open. “It’s a nice place to visit, but, you know…” He tugged on the door, making sure it wouldn’t swing closed. “Not again.”
The first thing I noticed about the room was something strange about the air. At first I thought it might be soundproofed like Alder Whin’s, but looking around I saw the walls and ceilings were bare grey stone. Next I thought the air might be stale, except when I drew a breath I smelled lavender and fresh linen. It was almost like there was a pressure on my ears, as if I were deep underwater, except of course that I wasn’t. I waved a hand in front of me, almost expecting the air to feel different, thicker. It didn’t.
“Pretty irritating, huh?” I turned around to see Elodin watching me. “I’m surprised you noticed, actually. Not many do.”
The room was a definite step above Alder Whin’s. It had a four-post bed with curtains, an overstuffed couch, an empty bookcase, and a large table with several chairs. Most notable were the huge windows looking out over the lawns and gardens. I could see a balcony outside, but there didn’t seem to be any way to get to it.
“Watch this,” Elodin said. He picked up one of the high-backed wooden chairs, lifted it with both hands, spun in a circle, and flung it hard at the window. I cringed, but instead of a terrible crash, there was just a dull splintering of wood. The chair fell to the floor in a ruined tangle of timber and upholstery.
“I used to do that for hours,” Elodin said, drawing a deep breath and looking around the room fondly. “Good times.”
I went to look at the windows. They were thicker than usual, but not that thick. They seemed normal except for faint reddish streaks running through them. I glanced at the window frame. It was copper too. I looked slowly around at the room, eyeing its bare stone walls, feeling its strangely heavy air. I noticed the door didn’t even have a handle on the inside, let alone a lock. Why would anyone go through all the trouble of making a solid copper door?
I decided on my second question. “How did you get out?” “Finally,” Elodin said with a tinge of exasperation.
He slouched onto the couch. “You see, once upon a time Elodin the Great found himself locked in a high tower.” He gestured to the room around us. “He had been stripped of his tools: his coin, key, and candle. Furthermore, his cell had no door worth mentioning. No window that could be breached.” He made dismissive gestures at each of these. “Even the name of the wind was hidden from him by the clever machinations of his captors.”
Elodin got up from the couch and began to pace the room. “All around
him was nothing but smooth hard stone. It was a cell no man had ever escaped.”
He stopped pacing and held up a finger dramatically. “But Elodin the Great knew the names of all things, and so all things were his to command.” He faced the grey wall beside the windows. “He said to the stone: ‘BREAK’ and the…”
Elodin trailed off, his head tilting to one side curiously. His eyes narrowed. “Sod me, they changed it,” he said quietly to himself. “Huh.” He stepped closer to the wall and lay a hand on it.
I let my attention wander. Wil and Sim had been right, the man was cracked in the head. What would happen if I ran out of the room, unstuck the door, and slammed it? Would the other masters thank me?
“Oh,” Elodin said suddenly, laughing. “That was half-clever of them.” He took two steps back from the wall. “CYAERBASALIEN.”
I saw the wall move. It rippled like a hanging rug thumped with a stick. Then it simply…fell. Like dark water poured from a bucket, tons of fine grey sand spilled across the floor in a sudden rush, burying Elodin’s feet up to his shins.
Sunlight and birdsong poured into the room. Where there had been a foot of solid grey stone before, there was now a gaping hole big enough to drive a cart through.
But the hole wasn’t completely clear, some green material was spread across the opening. It almost looked like a dirty, tangled net, but it was too irregular for netting. It was more like a thick, tattered cobweb.
“That wasn’t there before,” Elodin said apologetically as he pulled his feet free of the grey sand. “It was much more dramatic the first time, let me assure you.”
I simply stood, stunned by what I’d just seen. This wasn’t sympathy. This wasn’t anything I’d ever seen before. All I could think of was the old line from a hundred half-remembered stories: And Taborlin the Great said to the stone: “BREAK!” and the stone broke….
Elodin wrenched off one of the chair’s legs and used it to batter at the tangled green web that stretched across the opening. Parts of it broke easily or flaked away. Where it was thicker he used the leg as a lever to bend pieces aside. Where it bent or broke it glimmered bright in the sunlight. More copper, I thought. Veins of copper running through the blocks of stone that made the wall.
Elodin dropped the chair leg and ducked through the gap. Through the window I saw him lean against the white stone railing on the balcony.
I followed him outside. As soon as I stepped onto the balcony, the air no longer felt strangely heavy and still.
“Two years,” he said, looking out over the gardens. “Able to see this
balcony but not stand on it. Able to see the wind, but not hear it, not feel it on my face.” He swung one leg up over the stone railing so he was sitting on it, then dropped a few feet to land on the flat piece of roof just underneath. He wandered out across the roof, away from the building.
I hopped the rail myself and followed him to the edge of the roof. We were only about twenty feet up, but the gardens and fountains spreading out on all sides made for a spectacular view. Elodin stood perilously near the edge, his master’s robe flapping around him like a dark flag. He looked rather impressive, actually, if you were willing to ignore the fact that he was still only wearing one sock.
I went to stand beside him on the edge of the roof. I knew what my third question had to be. “What do I have to do,” I asked, “to study naming under you?”
He met my eye calmly, appraising me. “Jump,” he said. “Jump off this roof.”
That’s when I realized that all of this had been a test. Elodin had been taking my measure ever since we met. He had a grudging respect for my tenacity, and he had been surprised that I noticed something odd about the air in his room. He was on the verge of accepting me as a student.
But he needed more, proof of my dedication. A demonstration. A leap of faith.
And as I stood there, a piece of story came to mind. So Taborlin fell, but he did not despair. For he knew the name of the wind, and so the wind obeyed him. It cradled and caressed him. It bore him to the ground as gently as a puff of thistledown. It set him on his feet softly as a mother’s kiss.
Elodin knew the name of the wind.
Still looking him in the eye, I stepped off the edge of the roof.
Elodin’s expression was marvelous. I have never seen a man so astonished. I spun slightly as I fell, so he stayed in my line of vision. I saw him raise one hand slightly, as if making a belated attempt to grab hold of me.
I felt weightless, like I was floating.
Then I struck the ground. Not gently, like a feather settling down. Hard. Like a brick hitting a cobblestone street. I landed on my back with my left arm beneath me. My vision went dark as the back of my head struck the ground and all the air was driven from my body.
I didn’t lose consciousness. I just lay there, breathless and unable to move. I remember thinking, quite earnestly, that I was dead. That I was blind. Eventually my sight returned, leaving me blinking against the sudden brightness of the blue sky. Pain tore through my shoulder and I tasted blood. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to roll off my arm, but my body wouldn’t listen to
me. I had broken my neck…my back…
After a long, terrifying moment, I managed to gasp a shallow breath, then
another. I gave a sigh of relief and realized that I had at least one broken rib in addition to everything else, but I moved my fingers slightly, then my toes. They worked. I hadn’t broken my spine.
As I lay there, counting my blessings and broken ribs, Elodin stepped into my field of vision.
He looked down at me. “Congratulations,” he said. “That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.” His expression was a mix of awe and disbelief. “Ever.”
And that is when I decided to pursue the noble art of artificing. Not that I had a lot of other options. Before helping me limp to the Medica, Elodin made it clear that anyone stupid enough to jump off a roof was too reckless to be allowed to hold a spoon in his presence, let alone study something as “profound and volatile” as naming.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t terribly put out by Elodin’s refusal. Storybook magic or no, I was not eager to study under a man whose first set of lessons had left me with three broken ribs, a mild concussion, and a dislocated shoulder.