Chapter no 47: Barbs

The Name of the Wind

ASIDE FROM ITS ROCKY start, my first term went fairly smoothly.

I studied in the Medica, learning more about the body and how to heal it. I practiced my Siaru with Wilem and helped him with his Aturan in exchange.

I joined the ranks of the Artificery, studying how to blow glass, mix alloys, draw wire, inscribe metal, and sculpt stone.

Most evenings I came back to Kilvin’s workshop to work. I chipped casings off bronze castings, washed glassware, and ground ore for alloys. It was not demanding work, but every span Kilvin gave me a copper jot, sometimes two. I suspected there was a great tally board in that methodical mind of his, carefully marking down the hours each person worked.

I learned things of a less academic nature as well. Some of my Arcanum bunkmates taught me a card game called dogsbreath. I returned the favor by giving an impromptu lesson in psychology, probability, and manual dexterity. I won almost two whole talents before they stopped inviting me back to their games.

I became tight friends with Wilem and Simmon. I had some few others, but not many, and none so close as Wil and Sim. My swift rise to E’lir alienated me from most of the other students. Whether they resented or admired me, most students held themselves apart.

And there was Ambrose. To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other.

However, even with my vendetta against Ambrose, I still had a great deal of time on my hands. Since I wasn’t able to spend it in the Archives, I spent some time nurturing my budding reputation.

You see, my dramatic entrance to the University had made quite a stir. I’d made my way into the Arcanum in three days instead of the usual three terms. I was the youngest member by almost two years. I had openly defied one of the masters in front of his own class and avoided expulsion. When whipped, I hadn’t cried out or bled.

On top of everything else, I had apparently managed to infuriate Master

Elodin to such an extent that he had thrown me off the roof of the Crockery. I let that story circulate uncorrected, as it was preferable to the embarrassing truth.

All together, it was enough to start a steady stream of rumor around me, and I decided to take advantage of it. Reputation is like a sort of armor, or a weapon you can brandish if need be. I decided that if I was going to be an arcanist, I might as well be a well-known arcanist.

So I let slip a few pieces of information: I had been admitted without a letter of recommendation. The masters had given me three talents to attend, rather than make me pay a tuition. I had survived for years on the streets of Tarbean, living off my wits.

I even started a few rumors that were pure nonsense, lies so outrageous that people would repeat them despite the fact that they were obviously untrue. I had demon blood in me. I could see in the dark. I only slept an hour each night. When the moon was full I would talk in my sleep, speaking a strange language no one could understand.

Basil, my former bunkmate from Mews, helped me start these rumors. I would make up the stories, he would tell a few people, then together we would watch them spread like a fire in a field. It was an amusing hobby.

But my ongoing feud with Ambrose added to my reputation more than anything else. Everyone was stunned that I dared openly defy a powerful noble’s firstborn son.

We had several dramatic encounters that first term. I won’t bore you with the details. We’d cross paths and he would make some offhand comment loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. Or he would sneer at me under the guise of a compliment. “You must tell me who cuts your hair…”

Anyone with a lick of common sense knew how to deal with arrogant nobility. The tailor I had terrorized back in Tarbean knew what to do. You take your lumps, duck your head, and get the whole thing over as quickly as possible.

But I always fought back, and while Ambrose was intelligent and reasonably well-spoken, he was no match for my trouper’s tongue. I had been raised on the stage, and my sharp Ruh wits ensured that I got the better of our exchanges.

Still Ambrose continued to seek me out, like a dog too stupid to avoid a porcupine. He would snap at me and leave with a face full of barbs. And each time we parted ways we hated each other just a little more.

People noticed, and by the end of the term I had a reputation for reckless bravery. But the truth is, I was merely fearless.

There’s a difference, you see. In Tarbean I’d learned real fear. I feared hunger, pneumonia, guards with hobnail boots, older boys with bottleglass knives. Confronting Ambrose required no real bravery on my part. I simply

couldn’t muster any fear of him. I saw him as a puffed-up clown. I thought he was harmless.

I was a fool.

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