Chapter no 61: Jackass, Jackass

The Name of the Wind

WITH ADMISSIONS BEHIND ME I had no responsibilities until fall term began. I spent the intervening days catching up on my sleep, working in Kilvin’s shop, and enjoying my new, luxurious accommodations at the Horse and Four.

I also spent a considerable amount of time on the road to Imre, usually under the excuse of visiting Threpe or enjoying the camaraderie of the other musicians at the Eolian. But the truth behind the stories was that I was hoping to find Denna.

But my diligence gained me nothing. She seemed to have vanished from the town completely. I asked a few people who I could trust not to make gossip of it, but none of them knew more than Deoch. I briefly entertained the thought of asking Sovoy about her, but discarded it as a bad idea.

After my sixth fruitless trip to Imre I decided to abandon my search. After my ninth I convinced myself it was a waste of valuable time. After my fourteenth trip, I came to the deep realization that I wouldn’t find her. She was well and truly gone. Again.

It was during one of my Denna-less trips to the Eolian that I received some troubling news from Count Threpe. Apparently, Ambrose, firstborn son of the wealthy and influential Baron Jakis, had been busy as a bee in the social circles of Imre. He had spread rumors, made threats, and generally turned the nobility against me. While he couldn’t keep me from gaining the respect of my fellow musicians, apparently he could keep me from gaining a wealthy patron. It was my first glimpse of the trouble Ambrose could make for a person like me.

Threpe was apologetic and morose, while I seethed with irritation. Together we proceeded to drink an unwise amount of wine and grouse about Ambrose Jakis. Eventually Threpe was called up onto the stage where he sang a scathing little ditty of his own design, satirizing one of Tarbean’s councilmen. It was met with great laughter and applause.

From there it was a short step for us to begin composing a song about

Ambrose. Threpe was an inveterate gossipmonger with a knack for tasteless innuendo, and I have always had a gift for a catchy tune. It took us under an hour to compose our masterwork, which we lovingly titled “Jackass, Jackass.”

On the surface, it was a ribald little tune about a donkey who wanted to be an arcanist. Our extraordinarily clever pun on Ambrose’s surname was as close as we came to mentioning him. But anyone with half a wit could tell who the shoe was meant to fit.

It was late when Threpe and I took the stage, and we weren’t the only ones worse for drink. There was thunderous laughter and applause from the majority of the audience, who called for an encore. We gave it to them again, and everyone came in singing on the chorus.

The key to the song’s success was its simplicity. You could whistle or hum it. Anyone with three fingers could play it, and if you had one ear and a bucket you could carry the tune. It was catchy, and vulgar, and mean-spirited. It spread through the University like a fire in a field.

I tugged open the outer doors of the Archives and stepped into the entry hall, my eyes adjusting to the red tint of the sympathy lamps. The air was dry and cool, rich with the smell of dust, leather, and old ink. I took a breath the way a starving man might outside a bakery.

Wilem was tending the desk. I knew he’d be working. Ambrose wasn’t anywhere in the building. “I’m just here to talk with Master Lorren,” I said quickly.

Wil relaxed. “He’s with someone right now. It might be a while—”

A tall, lean Cealdish man opened the door behind the entry desk. Unlike most Cealdish men he was clean-shaven and wore his hair long, pulled back into a tail. He wore well-mended hunter’s leathers, a faded traveling cloak, and high boots, all dusty from the road. As he shut the door behind him, his hand went unconsciously to the hilt of his sword to keep it from striking the wall or the desk.

“Tetalia tu Kiaure edan A’siath,” he said in Siaru, clapping Wilem on the shoulder as he walked out from behind the desk. “Vorelan tua tetam.”

Wil gave a rare smile, shrugging. “Lhinsatva. Tua kverein.”

The man laughed, and as he stepped around the desk I saw he wore a long knife in addition to his sword. I’d never seen anyone armed at the University. Here in the Archives, he looked as out of place as a sheep in the king’s court. But his manner was relaxed, confident, as if he couldn’t feel more at home.

He stopped walking when he saw me standing there. He cocked his head to the side a little. “Cyae tsien?”

I didn’t recognize the language. “I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, sorry,” he said, speaking perfect Aturan. “You looked Yllish. The

red hair fooled me.” He looked at me closer. “But you’re not, are you? You’re one of the Ruh.” He stepped forward and held out his hand to me. “One family.”

I shook it without thinking. His hand was solid as a rock, and his dark Cealdish complexion was tanned even darker than usual, highlighting a few pale scars that ran over his knuckles and up his arms. “One family,” I echoed, too surprised to say anything else.

“Folk from the family are a rare thing here,” he said easily, walking past me toward the outer door. “I’d stop and share news, but I’ve got to make it to Evesdown before sunset or I’ll miss my ship.” He opened the outer door and sunlight flooded the room. “I’ll catch you up when I’m back in these parts,” he said, and with a wave, he was gone.

I turned to Wilem. “Who was that?”

“One of Lorren’s gillers,” Wil said. “Viari.”

“He’s a scriv?” I said incredulously, thinking of the pale, quiet students who worked in the Archives, sorting, scribing, and fetching books.

Wil shook his head. “He works in acquisitions. They bring back books from all over the world. They’re a different breed entirely.”

“I gathered that,” I said, glancing at the door.

“He’s the one Lorren was talking to, so you can go in now,” Wil said, getting to his feet and opening the door behind the massive wooden desk. “Down at the end of the hall. There’s a brass plate on his door. I’d walk you back, but we’re short-staffed. I can’t leave the desk.”

I nodded and began to walk down the hallway. I smiled to hear Wil softly humming the melody from “Jackass, Jackass” under his breath. Then the door gave a muffled thump behind me, and the hall was quiet save for the sound of my own breathing. By the time I reached the appropriate door, my hands were clammy with sweat. I knocked.

“Enter,” Lorren called from inside. His voice was like a sheet of smooth grey slate, without the barest hint of inflection or emotion.

I opened the door. Lorren sat behind a huge semicircular desk. Shelves lined the walls from floor to ceiling. The room was so full of books there wasn’t more than a palm’s breadth of wall visible in the entire room.

Lorren looked at me coolly. Even sitting down he was still nearly as tall as me. “Good morning.”

“I know I’m banned from the Archives, Master,” I said quickly. “I hope that I am not violating that by coming to see you.”

“Not if you are here to good purpose.”

“I’ve come into some money,” I said pulling out my purse. “And I was hoping to buy back my copy of Rhetoric and Logic.

Lorren nodded and came to his feet. Tall, clean-shaven, and wearing his dark master’s robes, he reminded me of the enigmatic Silent Doctor character

present in many Modegan plays. I fought off a shiver, trying not to dwell on the fact that the appearance of the Doctor always signaled catastrophe in the next act.

Lorren went to one of the shelves and pulled out a small book. Even at a glimpse I recognized it as mine. A dark stain patterned the cover from the time it had gotten wet during a storm in Tarbean.

I fumbled with the strings of my purse, surprised to see my hands trembling slightly. “It was two silver pennies, I believe.”

Lorren nodded.

“Can I offer you anything in addition to that? If you hadn’t bought it for me, I would have lost it forever. Not to mention the fact that your purchase helped me gain admittance in the first place.”

“Two silver pennies will be sufficient.”

I lay the coins on his desk, they clattered slightly as I set them down, testament to my shaking hands. Lorren held out the book and I wiped my sweaty hands on my shirt before taking it. I opened it to Ben’s inscription and smiled. “Thank you for taking care of it, Master Lorren. It is precious to me.”

“The care of one more book is little trouble,” Lorren said as he returned to his seat. I waited to see if he might continue. He didn’t.

“I…” my voice snagged in my throat. I swallowed to clear it. “I also wanted to say that I was sorry for…” I stalled at the thought of actually mentioning open flame in the Archives. “…for what I did before.” I finished lamely.

“I accept your apology, Kvothe.” Lorren looked back down at the book he had been reading when I had come in. “Good morning.”

I swallowed again against the dryness in my mouth. “I was also wondering when I might hope to regain admittance to the Archives.”

Lorren looked up at me. “You were caught with live fire among my books,” he said, emotion touching the edges of his voice like a hint of red sunset against the slate-grey clouds.

All of my carefully planned persuasion flew out of my head. “Master Lorren,” I pleaded. “I’d been whipped that day and wasn’t at my wit’s best. Ambrose—”

Lorren raised his long-fingered hand from the desk, his palm facing out, toward me. The careful gesture cut me off more quickly than a slap across the face. His face was expressionless as a blank page. “Who am I to believe? A Re’lar of three years, or an E’lir of two months? A scriv in my employ, or an unfamiliar student found guilty of Reckless Use of Sympathy?”

I manage to regain a little of my composure. “I understand your decision, Master Lorren. But is there anything I might do to earn readmittance?” I asked, unable to keep my voice entirely free of desperation. “Honestly, I would rather be whipped again than spend another term banned. I would give

you all the money in my pocket, though it isn’t much. I’d work long hours as a scriv, without pay, for the privilege of proving myself to you. I know you’re short-staffed during exams….”

Lorren looked at me, his placid eyes almost curious. I couldn’t help but feel that my plea had affected him. “All that?”

“All that,” I said earnestly, hope billowing wildly through my chest. “All that and any other penance you desire.”

“I require but one thing to rescind my ban,” Lorren said. I fought to keep a manic grin off my face. “Anything.”

“Demonstrate the patience and prudence which you have heretofore been lacking,” Lorren said flatly, then looked down at the book that lay open on his desk. “Good morning.”

The next day one of Jamison’s errand boys woke me out of a sound sleep in my vast bed at the Horse and Four. He informed me that I was due on the horns at a quarter hour before noon. I was being charged with Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Arcanum. Ambrose had finally caught wind of my song.

I spent the next several hours feeling vaguely sick to my stomach. This was exactly what I’d hoped to avoid: an opportunity for both Ambrose and Hemme to settle scores with me. Worse still, this was bound to lower Lorren’s opinion of me even further, no matter what the outcome.

I arrived in the Masters’ Hall early and was relieved to find the atmosphere much more relaxed than when I’d gone on the horns for malfeasance against Hemme. Arwyl and Elxa Dal smiled at me. Kilvin nodded. I was relieved that I had friends among the masters to balance out the enemies I’d made.

“Alright,” the Chancellor said briskly. “We’ve got ten minutes before we start admissions. I don’t feel like getting behind schedule, so I’m going to move this right along.” He looked around at the rest of the masters and saw only nods. “Re’lar Ambrose, make your case. Keep it under a minute.”

“You have a copy of the song right there,” Ambrose said hotly. “It’s slanderous. It defames my good name. It’s a shameful way for a member of the Arcanum to behave.” He swallowed, his jaw clenching. “That’s all.”

The Chancellor turned to me. “Anything to say in your defense?”

“It was in poor taste, Chancellor, but I didn’t expect it to get around. I only sang it on one occasion, in fact.”

“Fair enough.” The Chancellor looked down at the paper in front of him.

He cleared his throat. “Re’lar Ambrose, are you a donkey?” Ambrose went stiff. “No sir,” he said.

“Are you possessed of,” he cleared his throat and read directly off the

page. “A pizzle bound to fizzle?” A few of the masters struggled to control smiles. Elodin grinned openly.

Ambrose flushed. “No sir.”

“Then I’m afraid I don’t see the problem,” the Chancellor said curtly, letting the paper settle to the table. “I move the charge of Conduct Unbecoming be replaced with Undignified Mischief.”

“Seconded,” Kilvin said.

“All in favor?” All hands went up except for Hemme’s and Brandeur’s. “Motion passed. Discipline will be set at a formal letter of apology tendered to—”

“For God’s sake, Arthur,” Hemme broke in. “At least make it a public letter.”

The Chancellor glared at Hemme, then shrugged. “…formal letter of apology posted publicly before the fall term. All in favor?” All hands were raised. “Motion passed.”

The Chancellor leaned forward onto his elbows and looked down at Ambrose. “Re’lar Ambrose, in the future you will refrain from wasting our time with spurious charges.”

I could feel the anger radiating off Ambrose. It was like standing near a fire. “Yes sir.”

Before I could feel smug, the Chancellor turned to me. “And you, E’lir Kvothe, will comport yourself with more decorum in the future.” His stern words were somewhat spoiled by the fact that Elodin had begun cheerfully humming the melody to “Jackass, Jackass” next to him.

I lowered my eyes and did my best to fight down a smile. “Yes, sir.” “Dismissed.”

Ambrose turned on his heel and stormed off, but before he made it through the door, Elodin burst out singing:

“He’s a well-bred ass, you can see it in his stride! And for a copper penny he will let you take a ride!”

The thought of writing a public apology was galling to me. But, as they say, the best revenge is living well. So I decided to ignore Ambrose and enjoy my new luxurious lifestyle at the Horse and Four.

But I only managed two days of revenge. On the third day the Horse and Four had a new owner. Short, jolly Caverin was replaced with a tall, thin man who informed me that my services were no longer required. I was told to vacate my rooms before nightfall.

It was irritating, but I knew of at least four or five inns of a similar quality on this side of the river that would jump at the chance to employ a musician with his talent pipes.

But the innkeeper at Hollybush refused to speak with me. The White Hart and Queen’s Crown were content with their current musicians. At the Golden Pony I waited for over an hour before I realized I was being politely ignored. By the time I was turned away by the Royal Oak I was fuming.

It was Ambrose. I didn’t know how he’d done it, but I knew it was him. Bribes perhaps, or a rumor that any inn employing a certain red-haired musician would be losing the business of a large number of wealthy noble customers.

So I began working my way through the rest of the inns this side of the river. I’d already been turned away by the upper-class ones, but there were many respectable places left. Over the next several hours, I tried the Shepherd’s Rest, the Boar’s Head, Dog in the Wall, Staves Inn, and The Tabard. Ambrose had been very thorough; none of them were interested.

It was early evening by the time I came to Anker’s, and by that time the only thing keeping me going was pure black temper. I was determined to try every single inn on this side of the river before I resorted to paying for a bunk and a meal chit again.

When I came to the inn, Anker himself was up on a ladder nailing a long piece of cedar siding back into place. He looked down at me as I came to stand near the foot of the ladder.

“So you’re the one,” he said.

“Beg your pardon?” I said, puzzled.

“Fellow stopped by and told me that hiring a young red-haired fellow would make for a great pile of unpleasantness.” He nodded at my lute. “You must be him.”

“Well then,” I said, adjusting the shoulder strap of my lute case. “I won’t waste your time,”

“You aren’t wasting it yet,” he said as he climbed down the ladder, wiping his hands on his shirt. “The place could use some music.”

I gave him a searching look. “Aren’t you worried?”

He spat. “Damn little gadflies think they can buy the sun out the sky, don’t they?”

“This particular one could probably afford it,” I said grimly. “And the moon too, if he wanted the matched set to use as bookends.”

He snorted derisively. “He can’t do a damn thing to me. I don’t cater to his sort of folk, so he can’t scare off my business. And I own this place my own self, so he can’t buy it and fire me off like he did to poor old Caverin….”

“Someone bought the Horse and Four?”

Anker gave me a speculative look. “Ye din’t know?”

I shook my head slowly, taking a moment to digest this piece of information. Ambrose had bought the Horse and Four just to spite me out of a job. No, he was too clever for that. He had probably loaned the money to a friend and passed it off as a business venture.

How much had it cost? A thousand talents? Five thousand? I couldn’t even guess how much an inn like the Horse and Four was worth. What was even more disturbing was how quickly he had managed it.

It put things in sharp perspective for me. I’d known Ambrose was rich, but honestly, everyone was rich compared to me. I’d never bothered thinking about how wealthy he was, or how he could use it against me. I was getting a lesson in the sort of influence a wealthy baron’s firstborn son could bring to bear.

For the first time I was glad for the University’s strict code of conduct. If Ambrose was willing to go to these lengths, I could only imagine what drastic measures he would take if he didn’t need to maintain a semblance of civility.

I was jolted out of my reverie by a young woman leaning out the front door of the inn, “Damn you, Anker!” she shouted. “I’m not going to pull and carry while you stand out here scratching your ass! Get in here!”

Anker muttered something under his breath as he picked up the ladder and he stowed it around the corner in the alleyway. “What’d you do to this fellow anyway? Tup his mum?”

“Wrote a song about him, actually.”

As Anker opened the door of the inn, a gentle welter of conversation poured out onto the street. “I’d be curious to hear a song like that.” He grinned. “Why don’t you come give it a play?”

“If you’re sure,” I said, not quite believing my luck. “There’s bound to be trouble.”

“Trouble,” he chuckled. “What does a boy like you know about trouble? I was in trouble afore you were born. I been in trouble you don’t even got words for.” He turned to face me, still standing in the doorway. “It’s been a while since we’ve had music in here regular. Can’t say as I like to go without. A proper tavern has music.”

I smiled. “I have to agree with you there.”

“Truth is, I’d have you in just to twist that rich tit’s nose,” Anker said. “But if you can play worth half a damn….” He pushed the door open farther, making it an invitation. I could smell sawdust and honest sweat and baking bread.

By the end of the night it was all arranged. In exchange for playing four nights a span, I earned a tiny room on the third floor and the assurance that if I was around at mealtimes I would be welcome to a bit of whatever was cooking in the pot. Admittedly, Anker was getting the services of a talented musician for a bargain price, but it was a deal I was happy to make. Anything

was better than going back to Mews and the silent scorn of my bunkmates.

The ceiling of my tiny room slanted downward in two corners, making it seem even smaller than it really was. It would have been cluttered if there had been more than the few sticks of furniture: a small desk with a wooden chair and a single shelf above it. The bed was flat and narrow as any bunk in the Mews.

I set my slightly battered copy of Rhetoric and Logic on the shelf over the desk. My lute case leaned comfortably in the corner. Through the window I could see the lights of the University unblinking in the cool autumn air. I was home.

Looking back, I count myself lucky that I ended up in Anker’s. True, the crowds were not as wealthy as those at the Horse and Four, but they appreciated me in a way the nobles never had.

And while my suite of rooms at the Horse and Four had been luxurious, my tiny room at Anker’s was comfortable. Think in terms of shoes. You don’t want the biggest you can find. You want the pair that fits. In time, that tiny room at Anker’s came to be more of a home to me than anywhere else in the world.

But at that particular moment, I was furious at what Ambrose had cost me. So when I sat down to write my public letter of apology, it dripped with venomous sincerity. It was a work of art. I beat my breast with remorse. I wailed and gnashed my teeth over the fact that I had maligned a fellow student. I also included a full copy of the lyrics, along with two new verses and full musical notation. I then apologized in excruciating detail about every vulgar, petty innuendo included in the song.

I then spent four precious jots of my own money on paper and ink and called in the favor Jaxim owed me for trading him my late admissions slot. He had a friend that worked in a print shop, and with his help we printed over a hundred copies of the letter.

Then, the night before fall term began, Wil, Sim, and I posted them on every flat surface we could find on both sides of the river. We used a lovely alchemical adhesive Simmon had cooked up for the occasion. The stuff went on like paint, then dried clear as glass and hard as steel. If anyone wanted to remove the posts, they’d need a hammer and chisel.

In hindsight, it was as foolish as taunting an angry bull. And, if I had to guess, I’d say this particular piece of insolence was the main reason Ambrose eventually tried to kill me.

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