Chapter no 52: Burning

The Name of the Wind

OWNING A LUTE AGAIN meant I had my music back, but I quickly realized I was three years out of practice. My work in the Artificery over the last couple months had toughened and strengthened my hands, but not in entirely the right ways. It took several frustrating days before I could play comfortably for even an hour at a time.

I might have progressed more quickly had I not been so busy with my other studies. I had two hours of each day in the Medica, running or standing, an average of two hours of lecture and ciphering each day in Mathematics, and three hours of studying under Manet in the Fishery, learning the tricks of the trade.

And then there was advanced sympathy with Elxa Dal. Out of class, Elxa Dal was charming, soft-spoken, and even a little ridiculous when the mood was on him. But when he taught, his personality strode back and forth between mad prophet and galley-slave drummer. Every day in his class I burned another three hours of time and five hours worth of energy.

Combined with my paid work in Kilvin’s shop, this left me with barely enough time to eat, sleep, and study, let alone give my lute the time it deserved.

Music is a proud, temperamental mistress. Give her the time and attention she deserves, and she is yours. Slight her and there will come a day when you call and she will not answer. So I began sleeping less to give her the time she needed.

After a span of this schedule, I was tired. After three span I was still fine, but only through a grim, set-jaw type of determination. Somewhere around the fifth span I began to show definite signs of wear.

It was during that fifth span that I was enjoying a rare, shared lunch with Wilem and Simmon. They had their lunches from a nearby tavern. I couldn’t afford a drab for an apple and meat pie, so I had snuck some barley bread and a gristly sausage out of the Mess.

We sat on the stone bench beneath the pennant pole where I’d been

whipped. The place had filled me with dread after my whipping, but I forced myself to spend time there to prove to myself that I could. After it no longer unnerved me, I sat there because the stares of the students amused me. Now I sat there because I was comfortable. It was my place.

And, because we spent a fair amount of time together, it had become Wilem and Simmon’s place too. If they thought my choice an odd one, they didn’t speak of it.

“You haven’t been around very much,” Wilem said around a mouthful of meat pie. “Been sick?”

“Right,” Simmon said sarcastically. “He’s been sick a whole month.”

Wilem glared at him and grumbled, reminding me of Kilvin for a moment.

His expression made Simmon laugh. “Wil’s more polite than I am. I’m betting you’ve been spending all your free hours walking to Imre and back. Courting some fabulously attractive young bard.” He gestured at the lute case that lay at my side.

“He looks like he’s been sick.” Wilem looked at me with a critical eye. “Your woman hasn’t been taking care of you.”

“He’s lovesick,” Simmon said knowingly. “Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. You think of her when you should be trying to memorize your cipher.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“See?” Simmon said to Wil. “She’s stolen his tongue as well as his heart.

All his words are for her. He can spare none for us.”

“Can’t spare any time, either,” Wilem said into his rapidly dwindling meat


It was true of course—I had been neglecting my friends even more than I

had been neglecting myself. I felt a flush of guilt wash over me. I couldn’t tell them the full truth, that I needed to make the most of this term because it would very likely be my last. I was flat broke.

If you cannot understand why I couldn’t bring myself to tell them this, then I doubt you have ever been truly poor. I doubt you can really understand how embarrassing it is to only own two shirts, to cut your own hair as best you can because you can’t afford a barber. I lost a button and couldn’t spare a shim to buy a matching one. I tore out the knee of my pants and had to make due with the wrong color thread for mending. I couldn’t afford salt for my meals, or drinks on my rare evenings out with friends.

The money I earned in Kilvin’s shop was spent on essentials: ink, soap, lute strings…the only other thing I could afford was pride. I couldn’t bear the thought of my two best friends knowing how desperate my situation was.

If I suffered a piece of extraordinary good luck I might be able to muster two talents to pay the interest on my debt to Devi. But it would require a direct act of God for me to somehow gather enough money to pay that and

next term’s tuition as well. After I was forced out of the University and squared my debt with Devi, I didn’t know what I’d do. Pull up stakes and head for Anilin to look for Denna, perhaps.

I looked at them, not knowing what to say. “Wil, Simmon, I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve been so busy lately.”

Simmon grew a little more serious, and I saw that he was earnestly hurt at my unexplained absence. “We’re busy too, you know. I’ve got rhetoric and chemistry and I’m learning Siaru.” He turned to Wil and scowled. “You should know I’m beginning to hate your language, you shim bastard.”

“Tu kralim,” the young Ceald replied amiably.

Simmon turned back to me, and spoke with remarkable candor. “It’s just that we’d like to see you more often than once every handful of days as you run from Mains to the Fishery. Girls are wonderful, I’ll admit, but when one takes one of my friends away, I get a little jealous.” He gave a sudden, sunny smile. “Not that I think of you in that way, of course.”

I found it hard to swallow past the sudden lump in my throat. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been missed. For a long time, I hadn’t had anyone to miss me. I felt the beginning of hot tears in the back of my throat. “Really, there isn’t a girl. I mean it.” I swallowed hard trying to regain my composure. “Sim, I think we’ve been missing something here.” Wilem was looking at

me oddly. “Take a good look at him.”

Simmon gave me a similar, analytical stare. That look from the two of them was enough to unnerve me, pushing me back from the edge of tears.

“Now,” Wilem said as if lecturing. “How many terms has our young E’lir been attending the University?”

Realization poured into Sim’s honest face. “Oh.” “Anyone care to tell me?” I said petulantly.

Wilem ignored my question. “What classes are you taking?” “Everything,” I said, glad to have an excuse to complain. “Geometry,

Observation in the Medica, Advanced Sympathy with Elxa Dal, and I’ve got my apprenticeship under Manet in the Fishery.”

Simmon looked a little shocked. “No wonder you look like you haven’t slept in a span of days,” he said.

Wilem nodded to himself. “And you’re still working in Kilvin’s shop, aren’t you?”

“A couple hours every night.”

Simmon was aghast. “And you’re learning an instrument at the same time? Are you insane?”

“The music is the only thing that keeps me grounded,” I said, reaching down to touch my lute. “And I’m not learning to play. I just need practice.”

Wilem and Simmon exchanged looks. “How long do you think he has?” Simmon looked me over. “Span and a half, tops.”

“What do you mean?”

Wilem leaned forward. “We all bite off too much sooner or later. But some students don’t know when to spit their mouthful. They burn out. They quit, or botch their exams. Some crack.” He tapped his head. “It usually happens to students in their first year.” He gave me a significant look.

“I haven’t bitten off too much,” I said.

“Look in a mirror,” Wilem suggested frankly.

I opened my mouth to reassure Wil and Sim that I was fine, but just then I heard the hour being struck, and I only had time for a hurried good-bye. Even so, I had to run to make it to Advanced Sympathy on time.

Elxa Dal stood between two medium sized braziers. In his well-trimmed beard and dark master’s robe, he still reminded me of the stereotypical evil magician that appears in so many bad Aturan plays. “What each of you must remember is that the sympathist is tied to flame,” he said. “We are its master and its servant.”

He tucked his hands into his long sleeves and began to pace again. “We are the masters of fire, for we have dominion over it.” Elxa Dal struck a nearby brazier with the flat of his hand, making it ring softly. Flames kindled in the coal and began to lick hungrily upward. “The energy in all things belongs to the arcanist. We command fire and fire obeys.” Dal walked slowly to the other corner of the room. The brazier at his back dimmed while the one he walked toward sparked to life and began to burn. I appreciated his showmanship.

Dal stopped and faced the class again. “But we are also servants of fire. Because fire is the most common form of energy, and without energy, our prowess as sympathists is of little use.” He turned his back to the class and began erasing formulae from the slate board. “Gather your materials, and we’ll see who has to knock heads with E’lir Kvothe today.” He began to chalk up a list of all the student’s names. Mine was at the top.

Three span ago, Dal had started making us compete against each other. He called it dueling. And though it was a welcome break from the monotony of lecture, this most recent activity had a sinister element too.

A hundred students left the Arcanum every year, perhaps a quarter of them with their guilders. That meant that every year there were a hundred more people in the world that had been trained in the use of sympathy. People who, for one reason or another, you might have to pit your will against later in life. Though Dal never said as much, we knew we were being taught something beyond mere concentration and ingenuity. We were being taught how to fight.

Elxa Dal kept careful track of the results. In the class of thirty-eight, I was

the only one to remain undefeated. By this point, even the most thickheaded and grudging students were being forced to admit that my quick admittance to the Arcanum was something other than a fluke.

Dueling could also be profitable in a small way, as there was a bit of clandestine betting. When we wanted to bet on our own duels, Sovoy and I placed bets for each other. Though as a rule I usually didn’t have much money to spare.

Thus it was no coincidence that Sovoy and I bumped into each other while we were gathering our materials. I handed him two jots underneath the table.

He slid them into his pocket without looking at me. “Goodness,” he said quietly. “Someone’s pretty confident today.”

I shrugged nonchalantly, though in truth I was a little nervous. I had started the term penniless, and been scraping by ever since. But yesterday Kilvin had paid me for a span’s work in the Fishery: two jots. All the money I had in the world.

Sovoy began to rummage around in a drawer, bringing out sympathy wax, twine, and a few pieces of metal. “I don’t know how well I’ll be able to do for you. The odds are getting bad. I’m guessing three to one is the best you’ll get today. You still interested if it gets that low?”

I sighed. The odds were the down side to my undefeated rank. Yesterday they had been two to one, meaning I would have had to risk two pennies for the chance to win one. “I’ve got a little something planned,” I said. “Don’t bet until we’ve set terms. You should get at least three to one against me.”

Against you?” he muttered as he gathered up an armful of paraphernalia. “Not unless you’re going up against Dal.” I turned my face to conceal a slightly embarrassed blush at the compliment.

Dal clapped his hands and everyone rushed to take their proper place. I was paired with a Vintish boy, Fenton. He was one step below me in the class ranking. I respected him as one of the few in the class that could pose a real challenge to me in the right situation.

“Right then,” Elxa Dal said, rubbing his hands together eagerly. “Fenton, you’re lower on the ranks, pick your poison.”


“And your link?” Dal asked ritualistically. With candles it was always either wicking or wax.

“Wick.” He held up a piece for everyone to see. Dal turned to me. “Link?”

I dug into a pocket, and held up my link with a flourish. “Straw.” There was a murmur from the class at this. It was a ridiculous link. The best I could hope for is a three percent transfer, maybe five. Fenton’s wicking would be ten times better.


“Straw,” I said with slightly more confidence than I felt. If this didn’t tip the odds against me I didn’t know what would.

“Straw it is then,” Dal said easily. “E’lir Fenton, since Kvothe is undefeated you will have the choice of source.” A quiet laugh spread through the class.

My stomach dropped. I hadn’t expected that. Normally, whoever doesn’t pick the game gets to choose the source. I had been planning on choosing brazier, knowing that the quantity of heat would help offset my self-imposed handicap.

Fenton grinned, knowing his advantage. “No source.”

I grimaced. All we would have to draw from was our own body heat.

Difficult in the best of circumstances, not to mention a little dangerous.

I couldn’t win. Not only was I going to lose my perfect rank, I had no way to signal Sovoy not to bet my last two jots. I tried to meet his eyes, but he was already caught up in quiet, intense negotiations with a handful of other students.

Fenton and I moved wordlessly to sit on opposite sides of a large worktable. Elxa Dal set two thick stumps of candle down, one in front of each of us. The object was to light your opponent’s candle without letting him do the same to yours. This involved splitting your mind into two different pieces, one piece tried to hold the Alar that your piece of wicking (or straw, if you were stupid) was the same as the wick of the candle you were trying to light. Then you drew energy from your source to make it happen.

Meanwhile the second piece of your mind was kept busy trying to maintain the belief that your opponent’s piece of wicking was not the same as the wick of your candle.

If all of this sounds difficult, believe me, you don’t know the half of it.

Making it worse was the fact that neither of us had an easy source to draw from. You had to be careful using yourself as source. Your body is warm for a reason. It responds badly when its heat is pulled away.

At a gesture from Elxa Dal, we began. I immediately devoted my whole mind to the defense of my own candle and began to think furiously. There was no way I could win. It doesn’t matter how skilled a fencer you are, you can’t help but lose when your opponent has a blade of Ramston steel and you’ve chosen to fight with a willow switch.

I lowered myself into the Heart of Stone. Then, still devoting most of my mind to the protection of my candle, I muttered a binding between my candle and his. I reached out and tipped my candle on its side, forcing him to make a grab for his before it did the same and rolled away.

I tried to take quick advantage of his distraction and set his candle aflame. I threw myself into it and felt a chill bleed up my arm from my right hand that

held the piece of straw. Nothing happened. His candle remained cold and dark.

I cupped my hand around the wick of my candle, blocking his line of sight. It was a petty trick, and largely useless against a skilled sympathist, but my only hope was to rattle him in some way.

“Hey Fen,” I said. “Have you heard the one about the tinker, the Tehlin, the farmer’s daughter, and the butter churn yet?”

Fen gave no response. His pale face was locked in fierce concentration.

I gave up distraction as a lost cause. Fenton was too smart to be thrown off that way. Besides, I was finding it difficult to maintain the necessary concentration to keep my candle safe. I lowered myself more deeply into the Heart of Stone and forgot the world apart from the two candles and a piece of wick and straw.

After a minute I was covered in a clammy chill sweat. I shivered. Fenton saw this and gave me a smile with bloodless lips. I redoubled my efforts, but his candle ignored my best attempts to force it into flame.

Five minutes passed with the whole class quiet as stones. Most duels lasted no longer than a minute or two, one person quickly proving himself more clever or possessed of a stronger will. Both my arms were cold now. I saw a muscle in Fenton’s neck twitch spastically, like a horse’s flank trying to shake loose a biting fly. His posture went rigid as he suppressed the urge to shiver. A wisp of smoke began to curl from the wick of my candle.

I bore down. I realized that my breath was hissing through my clenched teeth, my lips pulled back in a feral grin. Fenton didn’t seem to notice, his eyes growing glassy and unfocused. I shivered again, so violently that I almost missed seeing the tremor in his hand. Then, slowly, Fenton’s head began to nod toward the tabletop. His eyelids drooped. I set my teeth and was rewarded to see a thin curl of smoke rise from the wick of his candle.

Woodenly, Fenton turned to look, but instead of rallying to his own defense he made a slow, leaden gesture of dismissal and lay his head in the crook of his arm.

He didn’t look up as the candle near his elbow spat fitfully to life. There was a brief scattering of applause mixed in with exclamations of disbelief.

Someone pounded me on the back. “How bout that? Wore himself out.” “No,” I said thickly and reached across the table. With clumsy fingers I

prized open the hand that held the wicking and saw it had blood on it. “Master Dal,” I said as quickly as I could manage. “He’s got the chills.” Speaking made me realize how cold my lips felt.

But Dal was already there, bringing a blanket to wrap around the boy. “You.” He pointed at one of the students at random. “Bring someone from the Medica. Go!” The student left at a run. “Foolish,” Master Dal murmured a binding for heat. He looked over at me. “You should probably walk around a

bit. You don’t look much better than he does.”

There was no more dueling that day. The rest of the class watched as Fenton revived slowly under Elxa Dal’s care. By the time an older El’the from the Medica arrived, Fenton had warmed enough to begin shivering violently. After a quarter hour of warm blankets and careful sympathy, Fenton was able to drink something hot, though his hands still shook.

Once all the hubbub was finished, it was nearly third bell. Master Dal managed to get all the students seated and quiet long enough to say a few words.

“What we saw today was a prime example of binder’s chills. The body is a delicate thing and a few degrees of heat lost rapidly can upset the entire system. A mild case of chills is just that, chilling. But more extreme cases can lead to shock and hypothermia.” Dal looked around. “Can anyone tell me what Fenton’s mistake was?” There was a moment of silence, then a hand raised. “Yes Brae?”

“He used blood. When heat is lost from the blood, the body cools as a whole unit. This is not always advantageous, as the extremities can stand a more drastic temperature loss than the viscera can.”

“Why would anyone consider using blood then?” “It offers up more heat more rapidly than the flesh.”

“How much would have been safe for him to draw?” Dal looked around the room.

“Two degrees?” someone volunteered.

“One and a half,” Dal corrected, and wrote a few equations on the board to demonstrate how much heat this would provide. “Given his symptoms, how much do you suppose he actually drew?”

There was a pause. Finally Sovoy spoke up, “Eight or nine.”

“Very good,” Dal said grudgingly. “It’s nice that at least one of you has been doing the reading.” His expression grew grave. “Sympathy is not for the weak of mind, but neither is it for the overconfident. If we had not been here to give Fenton the care he needed, he would have slipped quietly asleep and died.” He paused to let the words sink in. “Better you should know your honest limit than overguess your abilities and lose control.”

Third bell struck, and the room was filled with sudden noise as students stood to leave. Master Dal raised his voice to be heard. “E’lir Kvothe, would you mind staying behind for a moment?”

I grimaced. Sovoy walked behind me, clapped me on the shoulder, and muttered, “Luck.” I couldn’t tell if he was referring to my victory or wishing me well.

After everyone was gone, Dal turned and set down the rag he had been using to wipe the slate clean. “So,” he said conversationally. “How did the numbers work out?”

I wasn’t surprised he knew about the betting. “Eleven to one,” I admitted. I’d made twenty-two jots. A little over two talents. The presence of that money in my pocket warmed me.

He gave me a speculative look. “How’re you feeling? You were a little pale at the end yourself.”

“I had a little shiver,” I lied.

Actually, in the commotion that followed Fenton’s collapse I had slipped out and had a frightening few minutes in a back hallway. Shivers that were close to seizures had made it almost impossible to stay on my feet. Luckily, no one had found me shaking in the hallway, my jaw clenched so tight that I feared my teeth might break.

But no one had seen me. My reputation was intact.

Dal gave me a look that told me he might suspect the truth. “Come over,” he made a motion to one of the still-burning braziers. “A little warm won’t hurt you.”

I didn’t argue. As I held my hands to the fire, I felt myself relax a bit. Suddenly I realized how weary I was. My eyes were itchy from too little sleep. My body felt heavy, as if my bones were made of lead.

With a reluctant sigh I pulled my hands back and opened my eyes. Dal was looking closely at my face. “I’ve got to go.” I said with a little regret in my voice. “Thanks for the use of your fire.”

“We’re both sympathists,” Dal said, giving me a friendly wave as I gathered my things and headed for the door. “You’re welcome to it any time.”

Later that night in the Mews, Wilem opened his door to my knocking. “I’ll be dammed,” he said. “Two times in one day. To what do I owe the honor?”

“I think you know,” I grumbled and pushed my way inside the cell-like little room. I leaned my lute case against a wall and fell into a chair. “Kilvin has banned me from my work in the shop.”

Wilem sat forward on his bed. “Why’s that?”

I gave him a knowing look. “I expect it’s because you and Simmon stopped by and suggested it to him.”

He watched me for a moment, then shrugged. “You figured it out quicker than I thought you would.” He rubbed the side of his face. “You don’t seem terribly upset.”

I had been furious. Just as my fortune seemed to be turning, I was forced to leave my only paying job because of well-intentioned meddling by my friends. But rather than storm over and rage at them, I’d gone away to the roof of Mains and played for a while to cool my head.

My music calmed me, as it always did. And while I played, I thought things through. My apprenticeship with Manet was going well, but there was

simply too much to learn: how to fire the kilns, how to draw wire to the proper consistency, which alloys to choose for the proper effects. I couldn’t hope to bull through it the way I had learning my runes. I couldn’t earn enough working in Kilvin’s shop to pay back Devi at the end of the month, let alone make enough for tuition too.

“I probably would be,” I admitted. “But Kilvin made me look in a mirror.” I gave him a tired smile. “I look like hell.”

“You look like beat-up hell,” he corrected me matter-of-factly, then paused awkwardly. “I’m glad you’re not upset.”

Simmon knocked as he pushed the door open. Guilt chased surprise off his face when he saw me sitting there. “Aren’t you supposed to be, um, in the Fishery?” he asked lamely.

I laughed and Simmon’s relief was almost tangible. Wilem moved a stack of paper off another chair and Simmon slouched into it.

“All is forgiven,” I said magnanimously. “All I ask is this: tell me everything you know about the Eolian.”

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