Chapter no 60: Fortune

The Name of the Wind

THE NEXT DAY I went to the admissions lottery sporting my very first hangover. Weary and vaguely nauseous, I joined the shortest line and tried to ignore the din of hundreds of students milling about, buying, selling, trading, and generally complaining about the slots they’d drawn for their exams.

“Kvothe, Arliden’s son,” I said when I finally arrived at the front of the line. The bored looking woman marked my name and I drew a tile out of the black velvet bag. It read “Hepten: Noon.” Five days from now, plenty of time to prepare.

But as I turned back to the Mews, a thought occurred to me. How much preparation did I really need? More importantly, how much could I genuinely accomplish without access to the Archives?

Thinking it over, I raised my hand over my head with my middle finger and thumb extended, signaling that I had a slot five days from now that I was willing to sell.

It wasn’t long before an unfamiliar student wandered close. “Fourth day,” she said, holding up her own tile. “I’ll give you a jot to trade.” I shook my head. She shrugged and wandered away.

Galven, a Re’lar from the Medica approached me. He held up his index finger, indicating he had a slot later this afternoon. From the circles under his eyes and his anxious expression, I didn’t think he was eager to go through testing that soon. “Will you take five jots?”

“I’d like to get a whole talent….”

He nodded, flipping his own tile over between his fingers. It was a fair price. No one wanted to go through admissions on the first day. “Maybe later. I’ll look around a little first.”

As I watched him leave, I marveled at the difference a single day could make. Yesterday five jots would have seemed like all the money in the world. But today my purse was heavy….

I was lost in vague musings about how much money I had actually earned last night when I saw Wilem and Simmon approaching. Wil looked a little pale under his dark Cealdish complexion. I guessed he was feeling the aftereffects of our night’s carousing too.

Sim, on the other hand, was bright and sunny as ever. “Guess who drew slots this afternoon?” He nodded over my shoulder. “Ambrose and several of his friends. It’s enough to make me believe in a just universe.”

Turning to search the crowd, I heard Ambrose’s voice before I saw him. “…from the same bag, that means they did a piss-poor job mixing. They should restart this whole mismanaged sham and…”

Ambrose was walking with several well-dressed friends, their eyes sweeping over the crowd, looking for raised hands. Ambrose was a dozen feet away before he finally looked down and realized the hand he was heading toward was mine.

He stopped short, scowling, then gave a sudden barking laugh. “You poor boy, all the time in the world and no way to spend it. Hasn’t Lorren let you back in yet?”

“Hammer and horn,” Wil said wearily behind me.

Ambrose smiled at me. “Tell you what. I’ll give you ha’penny and one of my old shirts for your slot. That way, you’ll have something to wear when you’re washing that one in the river.” A few of his friends chuckled behind him, looking me up and down.

I kept my expression nonchalant, not wanting to give him any satisfaction. Truth was, I was all too aware of the fact that I only owned two shirts, and after two terms of constant wear they were getting shabby. Shabbier. What’s more, I did wash them in the river, as I’d never had money to spare for laundry.

“I’ll pass,” I said lightly. “Your shirttails are a little richly dyed for my taste.” I tugged at the front of my own shirt to make my point clear. A few nearby students laughed.

“I don’t get it,” I heard Sim say quietly to Wil.

“He’s implying Ambrose has the…” Wil paused. “The Edamete tass, a disease you get from whores. There is a discharge—”

“Okay, okay,” Sim said quickly. “I get it. Ick. Ambrose is wearing green too.”

Meanwhile, Ambrose forced himself to chuckle along with the crowd at my joke. “I suppose I deserve that,” he said. “Very well, pennies for the poor.” He brought out his purse and shook it. “How much do you want?”

“Five talents,” I said.

He stared at me, frozen in the act of opening his purse. It was an outrageous price. A few of the spectators nudged each other with their elbows, obviously hoping I’d somehow swindle Ambrose into paying several times what my slot was actually worth.

“I’m sorry,” I asked. “Do you need that converted?” It was a well-known fact that Ambrose had botched the arithmetic portion of his admissions last term.

“Five is ridiculous,” he said. “You’d be lucky to get one this late in the day.”

I forced a careless shrug. “I’d settle for four.”

“You’ll settle for one,” Ambrose insisted. “I’m not an idiot.”

I took a deep breath, let it out again, resigned. “I don’t suppose I could get you to go as high as…one and four?” I asked, disgusted by how plaintive my voice sounded.

Ambrose smiled like a shark. “I tell you what,” he said magnanimously. “I’ll give you one and three. I’m not above a little charity now and again.”

“Thank you sir,” I said meekly. “It’s much appreciated.” I could sense the crowd’s disappointment as I rolled over like a dog for Ambrose’s money.

“Don’t mention it,” Ambrose said smugly. “Always a pleasure to help out the needy.”

“In Vintish coin, that’ll be two nobles, six bits, two pennies, and four shims.”

“I can do my own conversion,” he snapped. “I’ve traveled the world with my father’s retinue since I was a boy. I know how money spends.”

“Of course you do.” I ducked my head. “Silly of me.” I looked up curiously. “You’ve been to Modeg then?”

“Of course,” he said absentmindedly as he proceeded to dig through his purse, pulling out an assortment of coins. “I’ve actually been to high court in Cershaen. Twice.”

“Is it true that the Modegan nobility regard haggling as a contemptible activity for those of any highborn station?” I asked innocently. “I heard that they consider it a sure sign that the person is either possessed of low blood or fallen on truly desperate times….”

Ambrose looked up at me, frozen halfway through the act of digging coins out of his purse. His eyes narrowed.

“Because if that’s true, it’s terribly kind of you to come down to my level just for the fun of a little bargain.” I grinned at him. “We Ruh love to dicker.” There was a murmur of laughter from the crowd around us. It had grown to several dozen people at this point.

“That’s not it at all,” Ambrose said.

My face became a mask of concern. “Oh, I’m sorry, m’lord. I had no idea you’d come on hard times….” I took several steps toward him, holding out my admissions tile. “Here, you can have it for just ha’penny. I’m not above a little charity myself.” I stood directly in front of him, holding out the tile. “Please, I insist, it’s always a pleasure to help the needy.”

Ambrose glared furiously. “Keep it and choke,” he hissed at me in a low voice. “And remember this when you’re eating beans and washing in the river. I’ll still be here the day you leave with nothing but your hands in your pockets.” He turned and left, the very picture of affronted dignity.

There was a smattering of applause from the surrounding crowd. I took flourishing bows in all directions.

“How would you score that one?” Wil asked Sim.

“Two for Ambrose. Three for Kvothe.” Sim looked at me. “Not your best work, really.”

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I admitted.

“Every time you do this it makes the eventual payback that much worse,” Wil said.

“We can’t do anything but snap at each other,” I said. “The masters made sure of that. Anything too extreme would get us expelled for Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Arcanum. Why do you think I haven’t made his life a hell?”

“You’re lazy?” Wil suggested.

“Laziness is one of my best characteristics,” I said easily. “If I weren’t lazy, I might go through the work of translating Edamete tass and grow terribly offended when I discover it means ‘the Edema Drip.’” I raised my hand again, thumb and middle finger extended. “Instead I’ll assume it translates directly into the name of the disease: ‘nemserria,’ thus preventing any unnecessary strain on our friendship.”

I eventually sold my slot to a desperate Re’lar from the Fishery named Jaxim. I drove a hard bargain, trading him my slot for six jots and a favor to be named later.

Admissions went about as well as could be expected, considering I couldn’t study. Hemme was still carrying his grudge. Lorren was cool. Elodin had his head down on the table and seemed to be asleep. My tuition was a full six talents, which put me in an interesting situation….

The long road to Imre was mostly deserted. The sun brushed through the trees and the wind carried just a hint of the cool that fall would soon be bringing. I headed to the Eolian first to retrieve my lute. Stanchion had insisted that I leave it there last night, lest I break it on my long, inebriated walk home.

As I approached the Eolian, I saw Deoch lounging against the doorpost, walking a coin across the back knuckles of his hand. He smiled when he saw me. “Ho there! Thought you and your friends would end up in the river by the way you were weaving when you left last night.”

“We were swaying in different directions,” I explained. “So it balanced out.”

Deoch laughed. “We’ve got your lady inside.”

I fought down a flush and wondered how he had known I was hoping to find Denna here. “I don’t know if I would call her my lady exactly.” Sovoy was my friend, after all.

He shrugged. “Whatever you call her, Stanchion’s got her behind the bar. I’d go grab her before he gets overly familiar and starts practicing his fingering.”

I felt a flash of rage and barely managed to swallow a mouthful of hot words. My lute. He was talking about my lute. I ducked inside quickly, guessing the less Deoch saw of my expression the better it would be.

I wandered through the three levels of the Eolian, but Denna was nowhere to be found. I did run into Count Threpe though, who enthusiastically invited me to have a seat.

“I don’t suppose I might persuade you to pay me a visit at my house sometime?” Threpe asked bashfully. “I’m thinking of having a little dinner, and I know a few people who would love to meet you.” He winked. “Word about your performance is already getting around.”

I felt a twinge of anxiety, but I knew rubbing elbows with the nobility was something of a necessary evil. “I’d be honored to, my lord.”

Threpe grimaced. “Does it have to be my lord?

Diplomacy is a large part of being a trouper, and a large portion of diplomacy is adherence to title and rank. “Etiquette, my lord,” I said regretfully.

“Piss on etiquette,” Threpe said petulantly. “Etiquette is a set of rules people use so they can be rude to each other in public. I was born Dennais first, Threpe second, and count last of all.” He looked imploringly up at me. “Denn for short?”

I hesitated.

“Here at least,” he pleaded. “It makes me feel like a weed in a flowerbed when someone starts ‘lording’ me here.”

I relaxed. “If it makes you happy, Denn.”

He flushed as if I’d flattered him. “Tell me a bit about yourself, then.

Where are you lodging?”

“On the other side of the river,” I said evasively. The bunks in Mews were not exactly glamorous. When Threpe gave me a puzzled look, I continued. “I attend the University.”

“The University?” he asked, clearly puzzled. “Are they teaching music now?”

I almost laughed at the thought. “No no. I’m in the Arcanum.”

I immediately regretted my words. He leaned back in his seat and gave me an uncomfortable look. “You’re a warlock?”

“Oh no,” I said, dismissively. “I’m just studying. You know, grammar, mathematics….” I picked two of the more innocent fields of study I could think of, and he seemed to relax a bit.

“I guess I’d just thought that you were…” he trailed off and shook himself. “Why are you studying there?”

The question caught me off guard. “I…I’ve always wanted to. There’s so much to learn.”

“But you don’t need any of that. I mean—” he groped for words. “The way you play. Surely your patron is encouraging you to focus on your music….”

“I don’t have a patron, Denn,” I said with a shy smile. “Not that I’m opposed to the idea, mind you.”

His reaction was not what I expected. “Damn my blackened luck.” He slapped his hand on the table, hard. “I assumed someone was being coy, keeping you a secret.” He thumped the table with his fist. “Damn. Damn. Damn.”

He recovered his composure a little and looked up at me. “I’m sorry. It’s just that…” He made a frustrated gesture and sighed. “Have you ever heard the saying: ‘One wife, you’re happy, two and you’re tired—”

I nodded. “—three and they’ll hate each other—”

“—four and they’ll hate you,” Threpe finished. “Well the same thing is doubly true for patrons and their musicians. I just picked up my third, a struggling flutist.” He sighed and shook his head. “They bicker like cats in a bag, worried they’re not getting enough attention. If only I’d known you were coming along, I would have waited.”

“You flatter me, Denn.”

“I’m kicking myself is what I’m doing,” he sighed and looked guilty. “That’s not fair. Sephran’s good at what he does. They’re all good musicians, and overprotective of me, just like real wives.” He gave me an apologetic look. “If I try to bring you in, there’ll be hell to pay. I’ve already had to lie about that little gift I gave you last night.”

“So I’m your mistress then?” I grinned.

Threpe chuckled. “Let’s not carry the analogy too far. I’ll be your match-maker instead. I’ll help you toward a proper patron. I know everyone with blood or money for fifty miles, so it shouldn’t be that hard.”

“That would be a great help,” I said earnestly. “The social circles on this side of the river are a mystery to me.” A thought occurred to me. “Speaking of which, I met a young lady last night, and didn’t find out much about her. If you’re familiar with the town…” I trailed off hopefully.

He gave me a knowing look. “Ahhh, I see.”

“No no no,” I protested. “She’s the girl that sang along with me. My Aloine. I was just hoping to find her to pay my respects.”

Threpe looked as if he didn’t believe me, but wasn’t going to make an issue of it. “Fair enough, what’s her name?”

“Dianne.” Threpe seemed to be waiting for more. “That’s all I know.” Threpe snorted. “What did she look like? Sing it if you have to.”

I felt the beginning of a flush on my cheeks. “She had dark hair to about

here,” I gestured a little lower than my shoulder with one hand. “Young, fair skin.” Threpe watched me expectantly. “Pretty.”

“I see,” Threpe mused, rubbing his lips. “Did she have her talent pipes?” “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Does she live in the city?”

I shrugged my ignorance again, feeling more and more foolish.

Threpe laughed. “You’re going to have to give me more than that.” He looked over my shoulder. “Wait, there’s Deoch. If anyone could spot a girl for you, it’d be him.” He raised his hand. “Deoch!”

“It’s really not that important,” I said hurriedly. Threpe ignored me and waved the broad-shouldered man over to our table.

Deoch strolled over and leaned against a table. “What can I do for you?” “Our young singer needs a little information about a lady that he met last


“Can’t say I’m surprised, there were quite a crop of lovelies out. One or two asked about you.” He winked at me. “Who caught your eye?”

“It’s not like that,” I protested. “She was the one who sang my harmony last night. She had a lovely voice and I was hoping to find her so we could do a little singing.”

“I think I know the tune you’re talking about.” He gave me a broad, knowing smile.

I felt myself blushing furiously and began to protest again.

“Oh settle down, I’ll keep this one between my tongue and teeth. I’ll even keep from telling Stanchion, which is as good as telling the whole town. He gossips like a schoolgirl when he’s had a cup.” He looked at me expectantly.

“She was slender with deep, coffee-colored eyes,” I said before I thought about how it sounded. I hurried on before either Threpe or Deoch could make a joke. “Her name was Dianne.”

“Ahhh.” Deoch nodded slowly to himself, his smile going a little wry. “I guess I should have known.”

“Does she live here?” Threpe asked. “I don’t believe I know her.”

“You’d remember,” Deoch said. “But no, I don’t think she lives in town. I see her off and on. She travels, always here and gone again.” He rubbed the back of his head and gave me a worried smile. “I don’t know where you might be able to find her. Careful boy, that one will steal your heart. Men fall for her like wheat before a sickle blade.”

I shrugged as if such things couldn’t be further from my mind, and was glad when Threpe turned the topic to a piece of gossip about one of the local councilmen. I chuckled at their bickering until my drink was done, then made my farewells and took my leave of them.

Half an hour later I stood on the stairway outside Devi’s door, trying to ignore the rancid smell of the butcher’s shop below. I counted my money for the third time and thought about my options. I could pay off my entire debt and still afford my tuition, but it would leave me penniless. I had other debts to settle as well, and as much as I wanted to be out from under Devi’s thumb, I didn’t relish starting the semester without a bit of coin in my pocket.

The door opened suddenly, startling me. Devi’s face peered out suspiciously through a narrow crack, then brightened with a smile when she recognized me. “What are you lurking for?” she asked. “Gentlemen knock, as a rule.” She opened the door wide to let me in.

“Just weighing my options,” I said as she bolted the door behind me. Her room was much the same as before save that today it smelled of cinnamon, not lavender. “I hope I won’t be inconveniencing you if I only pay the interest this term?”

“Not at all,” she said graciously. “I like to think of it as an investment on my part.” She gestured me toward a chair. “Besides, it means I get to see you again. You’d be surprised how few visitors I get.”

“It’s probably your location more than your company,” I said.

She wrinkled her nose. “I know. I settled here at first because it was cheap. Now I feel obliged to stay because my customers know to find me here.”

I laid two talents on the desk and slid them toward her. “Do you mind a question?”

She gave me a look of impish excitement. “Is it inappropriate?” “A bit,” I admitted. “Has anyone ever tried to report you?”

“Well now,” she sat forward in her chair. “That can be taken a number of different ways.” She raised an eyebrow over one icy blue eye. “Are you being threatening, or curious?”

“Curious,” I said quickly.

“I tell you what.” She nodded at my lute. “Play me a song and I’ll tell you the truth.”

I smiled and unlatched the case, drawing out my lute. “What would you like to hear?”

She thought for a minute. “Can you play ‘Leave the Town, Tinker’?”

I played it, quick and easy. She came in enthusiastically on the chorus, and at the end she smiled and clapped like a young girl.

Which, in hindsight, I guess she was. Back then she was an older woman, experienced and self-sure. I, on the other hand, was not quite sixteen.

“Once,” she answered as I put my lute away. “Two years ago a young gentleman E’lir decided it would be better to inform the constable than to settle his debt.”

I looked up at her. “And?”

“And that was it.” She shrugged carelessly. “They came, asked me questions, searched the place. Didn’t find anything incriminating, of course.”

“Of course.”

“The next day the young gentleman admitted the truth to the constable. He had made the whole story up because I had spurned his romantic advances.” She grinned. “The constable was not amused, and the gentleman was fined for slanderous action against a lady of the town.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I can’t say as I’m terribly…” I trailed off, noticing something for the first time. I pointed at her bookshelf. “Is that Malcaf’s The Basis of All Matter?

“Oh yes,” she said proudly. “It’s new. A partial repayment.” She gestured toward the shelf. “Feel free.”

I walked over and pulled it out. “If I’d had this to study from, I wouldn’t have missed one of the questions during admissions today.”

“I’d think you’d have your fill of books at the Archives,” she said, her voice thick with envy.

I shook my head. “I was banned,” I said. “I’ve spent about two hours total in the Archives, and half of that was getting thrown out on my ear.”

Devi nodded slowly. “I’d heard, but you never know which rumors are true. We’re in something of the same boat then.”

“I’d say you’re slightly better off,” I said looking over her shelves. “You’ve got Teccam here, and the Heroborica.” I scanned all the titles, looking for anything that might have information about the Amyr or the Chandrian, but nothing looked especially promising. “You’ve got The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus, too. I was partway through reading that when I was kicked out.”

“That’s the latest edition,” she said proudly. “There’s new engravings and a section on the Faen-Moite.”

I ran my fingers down the book’s spine, then stepped back. “It’s a nice collection.”

“Well,” she said teasingly. “If you promise to keep your hands clean, you could come over and do some reading now and again. If you bring your lute and play for me, I might even let you borrow a book or two, so long as you bring them back in a timely fashion.” She gave me a winsome smile. “We exiles should stick together.”

I spent the long walk back to the University wondering if Devi was being flirtatious or friendly. At the end of the three miles, I hadn’t reached anything resembling a decision. I mention this to make something clear. I was clever, a burgeoning hero with an Alar like a bar of Ramston steel. But, first and foremost, I was a fifteen-year-old boy. When it came to women, I was lost as a lamb in the woods.

I found Kilvin in his office, etching runes into a hemisphere of glass for another hanging lamp. I knocked softly on the open door.

He glanced up at me. “E’lir Kvothe, you are looking better.”

It took me a moment to remember that he was speaking of three span ago when he banned me from my work at the Fishery due to Wilem’s meddling. “Thank you sir. I feel better.”

He cocked his head minutely.

I lowered one hand to my purse. “I would like to resolve my debt to you.”

Kilvin grunted. “You owe me nothing.” He looked back down at the table and the project in his hands.

“My debt to the shop, then,” I pressed. “I’ve been taking advantage of your good nature for some time now. How much do I owe for the materials I’ve used during my studies with Manet?”

Kilvin continued to work. “One talent, seven jots, and three.”

The exactness of the number startled me, as he hadn’t checked the ledger in the storeroom. I boggled to think of everything the bearlike man was carrying around in his head. I took the appropriate amount from my purse and set the coins on a relatively clutter-free corner of the table.

Kilvin looked at them. “E’lir Kvothe, I trust you came to this money honorably.”

His tone was so serious I had to smile. “I earned it playing in Imre last night.”

“Music across the river pays this well?”

I held my smile and shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t know if I’ll do this well every night. This was only my first time, after all.”

Kilvin made a sound somewhere between a snort and a huff and turned his eyes back to his work. “Elxa Dal’s pridefulness is rubbing off on you.” He drew a careful line on the glass. “Am I correct in assuming that you will no longer be spending evenings in my employ?”

Shocked, it took me a moment to catch my breath. “I–I wouldn’t—I came here to speak with you about—” about coming back to work in the shop. The thought of not working for Kilvin hadn’t crossed my mind.

“Apparently your music has more profit than working here.” Kilvin gave the coins on the table a significant look.

“But I want to work here!” I said wretchedly.

Kilvin’s face broke into a great white smile. “Good. I would not have wanted to lose you to the other side of the river. Music is a fine thing, but metal lasts.” He struck the table with two huge fingers to emphasize his point. Then he made a shooing motion with the hand that held his unfinished lamp. “Go. Do not be late for work or I will keep you polishing bottles and grinding

ore for another term.”

As I left, I thought about what Kilvin had said. It was the first thing he had said to me that I did not agree with wholeheartedly. Metal rusts, I thought, music lasts forever.

Time will eventually prove one of us right.

After I left the Fishery I headed straight to the Horse and Four, arguably the best inn this side of the river. The innkeeper was a bald, portly fellow named Caverin. I showed him my talent pipes and bargained for a pleasant fifteen minutes.

The end result was that in exchange for playing three evenings a span I received free room and board. The Four’s kitchens were remarkable, and my room was actually a small suite: bedroom, dressing room, and sitting room. A huge step up from my narrow bunk in the Mews.

But best of all, I would earn two silver talents every month. An almost ridiculous sum of money to someone who had been poor for as long as I had. And that was in addition to whatever gifts or tips the wealthy customers might give me.

Playing here, working in the Fishery, and with a wealthy patron on the horizon, I’d no longer be forced to live like a pauper. I’d be able to buy things I desperately needed: another suit of clothes, some decent pens and paper, new shoes….

If you have never been desperately poor, I doubt you can understand the relief I felt. For months I’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing that any small catastrophe could ruin me. But now I no longer had to live every day worrying about my next term’s tuition or the interest on Devi’s loan. I was no longer in danger of being forced out of the University.

I had a lovely dinner of venison steak with a leaf salad and a bowl of delicately spiced tomato soup. There were fresh peaches and plums and white bread with sweet cream butter. Though I didn’t even ask for it, I was served several glasses of an excellent dark Vintish wine.

Then I retired to my rooms where I slept like a dead man, lost in the vastness of my new feather bed.

You'll Also Like