Chapter no 62: Leaves

The Name of the Wind

UNDER POINTED ADVICE FROM several sources, I limited myself to three fields of study in the upcoming term. I continued Advanced Sympathy with Elxa Dal, held a shift in the Medica, and continued my apprenticeship under Manet. My time was pleasantly full, but not overburdened as it had been last term.

I studied my artificing more doggedly than anything else. Since my search for a patron had come to a dead end, I knew my best chance for self-sufficiency lay in becoming an artificer. Currently I worked for Kilvin and was given relatively menial jobs at relatively low pay. Once I finished my apprenticeship, that would improve. Better still, I would be able to pursue my own projects then sell them on commission for a profit.

If. If I was able to keep ahead of my debt to Devi. If I could somehow continue to muster enough money for tuition. If I could finish my apprenticeship under Manet without getting myself killed or crippled by the dangerous work that was done in the Fishery every day….

Forty or fifty of us gathered in the workshop, waiting to see the new arrival. Some sat on the stone worktables to get a good view, while a dozen or so students gathered on the iron catwalks in the rafters among Kilvin’s hanging lamps.

I saw Manet up there. He was hard to miss: three times older than any of the other students with his wild hair and grizzled beard. I headed up the stairs and made my way to his side. He smiled and clapped me on the shoulder.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I thought this was just for the greenwood who haven’t seen this stuff before.”

“I thought I’d play the dutiful mentor today,” he shrugged. “Besides, this particular display is worth watching, if only for the expressions on everyone’s faces.”

Sitting atop one of the shop’s heavy worktables was a massive cylindrical container about four feet high and two feet across. The edges were sealed without any bulky welds, and the metal had a dull, burnished look that made

me guess it was more than simple steel.

I let my gaze wander the room and was surprised to see Fela standing in the crowd, waiting for the demonstration to begin along with the rest of the students.

“I didn’t know Fela worked here,” I said to Manet. Manet nodded. “Oh sure. What, two terms now?”

“I’m surprised I haven’t noticed,” I mused as I watched her talking to one of the other women in the crowd.

“So am I,” Manet said with a low, knowing chuckle. “But she’s not here very often. She sculpts and works with cut tile and glass. She’s here for the equipment, not the sygaldry.”

The belling tower struck the hour outside, and Kilvin looked around, marking the faces of everyone there. I didn’t doubt for a moment that he took note of exactly who was missing. “For several span we will have this in the shop,” he said simply, gesturing to the metal container that stood nearby. “Nearly ten gallons of a volatile transporting agent: Regim Ignaul Neratum.

“He’s the only one that calls it that,” Manet said softly. “It’s bone-tar.” “Bone-tar?”

He nodded. “It’s caustic. Spill it on your arm and it’ll eat through to the bone in about ten seconds.”

While everyone watched, Kilvin donned a thick leather glove and decanted about an ounce of dark liquid from the metal canister into a glass vial. “It is important to chill the vial prior to decanting, as the agent boils at room temperature.”

He quickly sealed off the vial and held it up for everyone to see. “The pressure cap is also essential, as the liquid is extremely volatile. As a gas it exhibits surface tension and viscosity, like mercury. It is heavier than air and does not dissipate. It coheres to itself.”

With no further preamble Kilvin tossed the vial into a nearby firewell, and there was the sharp, clear sound of breaking glass. From this height, I could see the firewell must have been cleaned out specially for this occasion. It was empty, just a shallow, circular pit of bare stone.

“It’s a shame he’s not more of a showman,” Manet said softly to me. “Elxa Dal could do this with a little more flair.”

The room was filled with a sharp crackling and hissing as the dark liquid warmed itself against the stone of the firewell and began to boil. From my high vantage, I could see a thick, oily smoke slowly filling the bottom of the well. It didn’t behave like fog or smoke at all. Its edges didn’t diffuse. It pooled, and hung together like a tiny, dark cloud.

Manet tapped me on the shoulder, and I looked at him just in time to avoid being blinded by the initial burst of flame as the cloud caught fire. There were dismayed noises from all around and I guessed most of the others

had been caught unaware. Manet grinned at me and gave a knowing wink. “Thanks,” I said and turned back to watch. Jagged flames danced across

the surface of the fog, colored a bright sodium-red. The additional heat made the dark fog boil faster, and it swelled until the flames were licking toward the top of the waist-high lip of the firewell. Even from where I stood on the catwalk I could feel a gentle heat on my face.

“What the hell do you call that?” I asked him quietly. “Fire-fog?”

“We could,” he responded. “Kilvin would probably call it an atmospherically activated incendiary action.”

The fire flickered and died all at once, leaving the room filled with the acrid smell of hot stone.

“In addition to being highly corrosive,” Kilvin said, “in its gaseous state the reagent is flammable. Once it warms sufficienctly, it will burn on contact with air. The heat that this produces can cause a cascading exothermic reaction.”

“Cascading huge Goddamn fire,” Manet said.

“You’re better than a chorus,” I said softly, trying to keep a straight face.

Kilvin gestured. “This container is designed to keep the agent cold and under pressure. Be mindful while it remains in the workshop. Avoid excessive heat in its immediate vicinity.” With that, Kilvin turned and headed back into his office.

“That’s it?” I asked.

Manet shrugged. “What else needs to be said? Kilvin doesn’t let anyone work here unless they’re careful, and now everyone knows what to be careful of.”

“Why is it even here?” I asked. “What’s it good for?” “Scares the hell out of the first-termers.” He grinned. “Anything more practical than that?”

“Fear is plenty practical,” he said. “But you can use it to make a different type of emitter for sympathy lamps. You get a bluish light instead of the ordinary red. A little easier on the eyes. Fetch outrageous prices.”

I looked down into the workshop, but couldn’t see Fela anywhere in the milling bodies. I turned back to Manet. “Want to keep playing dutiful mentor and show me how?”

He absently ran his hands through his wild hair and shrugged. “Sure.”

I was playing at Anker’s later that night when I caught the eye of a beautiful girl sitting at one of the crowded tables in back. She looked remarkably like Denna, but I knew that to be nothing more than my own fancy. I hoped to see her enough that I had been catching glimpses of her out of the corner of my eye for days.

My second glance told me the truth….

It was Denna, singing along with half the folk in Anker’s to “Drover’s Daughters.” She saw I was looking in her direction and waved.

Her appearance caught me so much by surprise that I completely forgot what my fingers were doing and my song fell to pieces. Everyone laughed, and I took a grand bow to hide my embarrassment. They cheered and booed me in equal amounts for a minute or so, enjoying my failure more than they had the song itself. Such is human nature.

I waited for their attention to drift away from me, then made my way casually to where Denna was sitting.

She stood to greet me. “I’d heard you were playing on this side of the river,” she said. “But I can’t imagine how you keep the job if you fall apart every time a girl gives you a wink.”

I felt myself flush a little. “It doesn’t happen that often.” “The winking or the falling apart?”

Unable to think of a response, I felt myself flush redder, and she laughed. “How long will you be playing tonight?” She asked.

“Not much longer,” I lied. I owed Anker at least another hour.

She brightened. “Good. Come away with me afterward, I need someone to walk with.”

Hardly believing my good luck, I made a bow to her. “At your service certainly. Let me go and finish up.” I made my way to the bar where Anker and two of his serving girls were busy pulling drinks.

Unable to catch his eye, I grabbed hold of his apron as he hurried past me. He jerked to a stop and barely avoided spilling a tray of drinks onto a table of customers. “God’s teeth boy. What’s the matter w’ye?”

“Anker, I’ve got to go. I can’t stay till closing tonight.”

His face soured. “Crowds like this don’t come for the askin’. They ain’t goin’ to stay without a little song or summat to entertain ’em.”

“I’ll do one more song. A long one. But I’ve got to go after that.” I gave him a desperate look. “I swear I’ll make it up to you.”

He looked at me more closely. “Are ye in trouble?” I shook my head. “It’s a girl then.” He turned his head at the sound of voices calling for more drinks, then waved me away, briskly. “Fine, go. But mind you, make it a good, long song. And you’ll owe me.”

I moved to the front of the room and clapped my hands for the room’s attention. Once the room was moderately quiet I began to play. By the time I struck the third chord everyone knew what it was: “Tinker Tanner.” The oldest song in the world. I took my hands from the lute and began to clap. Soon everyone was pounding out the rhythm in unison, feet against the floor, mugs on tabletops.

The sound was almost overwhelming, but it faded appropriately when I

sang the first verse. Then I led the room in the chorus with everyone singing along, some with their own words, some in their own keys. I moved to a nearby table as I finished my second verse and led the room in the chorus again.

Then I gestured expectantly toward the table to sing a verse of their own. It took a couple of seconds for them to realize what I wanted, but the expectation of the whole room was enough to encourage one of the more tipsy students to shout out a verse of his own. It gained him thunderous applause and cheers. Then, as everyone sang the chorus again, I moved to another table and did the same thing.

Before too long folk were taking initiative to sing out their own verses when the chorus was over. I made my way to where Denna waited by the outer door, and together we slipped out into the early evening twilight.

“That was cleverly done,” she said as we began to stroll away from the tavern. “How long to you think they’ll keep it up?”

“That will all depend on how quickly Anker manages to pull down drinks for the lot of them.” I came to a stop at the edge of the alley that ran between the back of Anker’s tavern and the bakery next door. “If you will excuse me a moment, I have to put my lute away.”

“In an alley?” she asked.

“In my room.” Stepping lightly, I moved quickly up the side of the building. Right foot rain barrel, left foot window ledge, left hand iron drainpipe, and I swung myself onto the lip of the first story roof. I hopped across the alley to the roof of the bakery and smiled at her startled intake of breath. From there it was a short stroll upward and I hopped back across to the second story roof of Anker’s. Tripping the latch to my window, I reached through and set my lute lightly on my bed before heading back down the way I had come.

“Does Anker charge a penny every time you use his stairs?” she asked as I neared the ground.

I stepped down from the rainbarrel and brushed my hands against my pants. “I come and go at odd hours,” I explained easily as I fell into step beside her. “Am I correct in understanding that you are looking for a gentleman to walk with you tonight?”

A smile curved her lips as she looked sideways at me. “Quite.” “That is unfortunate,” I sighed. “I am no gentleman.”

Her smile grew. “I think that you are close enough.” “I would like to be closer.”

“Then come walking with me.”

“It would please me greatly. However…” I slowed my walk a bit, my smile fading into a more serious expression. “What about Sovoy?”

Her mouth made a line. “He’s staked a claim on me then?”

“Well, not as such. But there are certain protocols involved….” “A gentleman’s agreement?” she asked acidicly.

“More like honor among thieves, if you will.”

She looked me in the eye. “Kvothe,” she said seriously. “Steal me.”

I bowed and made a sweeping gesture toward the world. “At your command.” We continued our walk, the moon was shining, making the houses and shops around us seem washed and pale. “How is Sovoy anyway? I haven’t seen him for a while.”

She waved a hand to dismiss the thought of him. “I haven’t either. Not for lack of trying on his part.”

My spirits rose a bit. “Really?”

She rolled her eyes. “Roses! I swear you men have all your romance from the same worn book. Flowers are a good thing, a sweet thing to give a lady. But it is always roses, always red, and always perfect hothouse blooms when they can come by them.” She turned to face me. “When you see me do you think of roses?”

I knew enough to shake my head, smiling. “What then? If not a rose what do you see?”

Trapped. I looked her up and down once, as if trying to decide. “Well,” I said slowly. “You’ll have to forgive us men. You see, it’s not an easy thing to pick a flower to fit a girl, if you’ll excuse my expression….”

She grimaced. “Pick a flower. Yes, I’ll excuse it this time.”

“The trouble is, when you gift a girl with flowers your choice can be construed so many different ways. A man might give you a rose because he feels you are beautiful, or because he fancies their shade or shape or softness similar to your lips. Roses are expensive, and perhaps he wishes to show through a valuable gift that you are valuable to him.”

“You make a good case for roses,” she said. “The fact remains I do not like them. Pick another flower to suit me.”

“But what suits? When a man gives you a rose what you see may not be what he intends. You may think he sees you as delicate or frail. Perhaps you dislike a suitor who considers you all sweet and nothing else. Perhaps the stem is thorned, and you assume he thinks you likely to hurt a hand too quick to touch. But if he trims the thorns you might think he has no liking for a thing that can defend itself with sharpness. There’s so many ways a thing can be interpreted,” I said. “What is a careful man to do?”

She cast a sidelong look to me. “If the man is you, I’d guess he would spin clever words and hope the question was forgotten.” She tilted her head. “It isn’t. What flower would you pick for me?”

“Very well, let me think.” I turned to look at her, then away. “Let’s run down a list. Dandelion might be good; it is bright, and there is a brightness about you. But dandelion is common, and you are not a common creature.

Roses we have dealt with and discarded. Nightshade, no. Nettle…perhaps.” She made a face of mock outrage and showed me her tongue.

I tapped a finger to my lips as if reconsidering. “You are correct, except for your tongue it doesn’t suit you.”

She huffed and crossed her arms.

“Wild oat!” I exclaimed, startling a laugh from her. “It’s wildness suits you, but it is a small flower, and bashful. For that as well as other,” I cleared my throat, “more obvious reasons, I think we’ll pass the wild oat by.”

“Pity,” she said.

“Daisy is a good one,” I bulled ahead, not letting her distract me. “Tall and slender, willing to grow by roadsides. A hearty flower, not too delicate. Daisy is self-reliant. I think it might suit you…. But let us continue in our list. Iris? Too gaudy. Thistle, too distant. Violet, too brief. Trillium? Hmmm, there’s a thing. A fair flower. Doesn’t take to cultivation. The texture of the petals…” I made the boldest motion of my young life and brushed the side of her neck gently with a pair of fingers. “…smooth enough to match your skin, just barely. But it is too close to the ground.”

“This is quite a bouquet you’ve brought for me,” she said gently. Unconsciously, she raised a hand to the side of her neck where I had touched her, held it there a moment, then let it fall.

A good sign or a bad one? Was she wiping my touch away or pressing it close? Uncertainty filled me more strongly than before and I decided to press ahead with no more blatant risks. I stopped walking. “Selas flower.”

She stopped and turned to look at me. “All this and you pick a flower I don’t know? What is a selas flower? Why?”

“It is a deep red flower that grows on a strong vine. Its leaves are dark and delicate. They grow best in shadowy places, but the flower itself finds stray sunbeams to bloom in.” I looked at her. “That suits you. There is much of you that is both shadow and light. It grows in deep forests, and is rare because only skilled folk can tend one without harming it. It has a wondrous smell and is much sought and seldom found.” I paused and made a point of examining her. “Yes, since I am forced to pick, I would choose selas.”

She looked at me. Looked away. “You think too much of me.” I smiled. “Perhaps you think too little of yourself.”

She caught a piece of my smile and shone it back at me. “You were closer early in your list. Daisies, simple and sweet. Daisies are the way to win my heart.”

“I will remember it.” We started walking again. “What flower would you bring me?” I teased, thinking to catch her off guard.

“A willow blossom,” she said without a second’s hesitation. I thought for a long minute. “Do willows have blossoms?” She looked up and to the side, thinking. “I don’t think so.”

“A rare treat to be given one then.” I chuckled. “Why a willow blossom?” “You remind me of a willow.” She said easily. “Strong, deep-rooted, and hidden. You move easily when the storm comes, but never farther than you


I lifted my hands as if fending off a blow. “Cease these sweet words,” I protested. “You seek to bend me to your will, but it will not work. Your flattery is naught to me but wind!”

She watched me for a moment, as if to make sure my tirade was complete. “Beyond all other trees,” she said with a curl of a smile on her elegant mouth, “the willow moves to the wind’s desire.”

The stars told me five hours had passed. But it seemed hardly any time at all before we came to the Oaken Oar where she was staying in Imre. At the doorway there was a moment that lasted for an hour as I considered kissing her. I had been tempted by the thought a dozen times on the road as we talked: when we paused on Stonebridge to watch the river in the moonlight, underneath a linden tree in one of Imre’s parks….

At those times I felt a tension building between us, something almost tangible. When she looked sideways at me with her secret smile, the tilt of her head, the way she almost faced me made me think she must be hoping for me to do…something. Put my arm around her? Kiss her? How did one know? How could I be certain?

I couldn’t. So I resisted the pull of her. I did not want to presume too much, did not want to offend her or embarrass myself. What’s more, Deoch’s warning had made me uncertain. Perhaps what I felt was nothing more than Denna’s natural charm, her charisma.

Like all boys of my age, I was an idiot when it came to women. The difference between me and the others is that I was painfully aware of my ignorance, while others like Simmon bumbled around, making asses of themselves with their clumsy courting. I could think of nothing worse than making some unwelcome advance toward Denna and having her laugh at the awkwardness of my attempt. I hate nothing more than doing things badly.

So I made my good-byes and watched her enter the side door of the Oaken Oar. I took a deep breath and could hardly keep from laughing or dancing about. I was so full of her, the smell of the wind through her hair, the sound of her voice, the way the moonlight cast shadows across her face.

Then, slowly, my feet settled to the ground. Before I had taken six steps I sagged like a sail when the wind fades. As I walked back through the town, past sleeping houses and dark inns, my mood swung from elation to doubt in the space of three brief breaths.

I had ruined everything. All the things I had said, things that seemed so

clever at the time, were in fact the worst things a fool could say. Even now she was inside, breathing a sigh of relief to finally be rid of me.

But she had smiled. Had laughed.

She hadn’t remembered our first meeting on the road from Tarbean. I couldn’t have made that much of an impression on her.

Steal me, she had said.

I should have been bolder and kissed her at the end. I should have been more cautious. I had talked too much. I had said too little.

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