Chapter no 65: Spark

The Name of the Wind

LURED WIL AND Sim to the Eolian with the promise of free drinks, the one piece of generosity I could afford.

You see, while Ambrose’s interference might keep me from gaining a wealthy noble as a patron, there were still plenty of regular music lovers who bought me more drinks than I could comfortably consume on my own.

There were two simple solutions to this. I could become a drunk, or use an arrangement that has been around for as long as there have been taverns and musicians. Attend to me as I draw back the curtain to reveal a long-kept minstrel’s secret….

Let’s say you are out at an inn. You listen to me play. You laugh, cry, and generally marvel at my craft. Afterward, you want to show your appreciation, but you don’t have the wherewithal to make a substantial gift of money like some wealthy merchant or noble. So you offer to buy me a drink.

I, however, have already had a drink. Or several drinks. Or perhaps I am trying to keep a clear head. Do I refuse your offer? Of course not. That would just waste a valuable opportunity and most likely leave you feeling snubbed.

Instead I graciously accept and ask bartender for a Greysdale Mead. Or a Sounten. Or a particular vintage of white wine.

The name of the drink isn’t the important thing. The important thing is that the drink doesn’t really exist. The bartender gives me water.

You pay for the drink, I thank you graciously, and everyone walks away happy. Later, the bartender, the tavern, and the musician share your money three ways.

Better yet, some sophisticated drinking establishments allow you to keep drinks as a sort of credit for future use. The Eolian was just such a place.

That is how, despite my poverty-stricken state, I managed to bring an entire dark bottle of scutten back to the table where Wil and Sim waited.

Wil eyed it appreciatively as I sat down. “What’s the special occasion?” “Kilvin approved my sympathy lamp. You’re looking at the Arcanum’s

newest journeyman artificer,” I said a little smugly. Most students spend at least three or four terms finishing their apprenticeships. I kept my mixed success with the lamp to myself.

“About time,” Wil said dryly. “Took you what, almost three months?

People were beginning to say that you had lost your touch.”

“I thought you’d be more pleased,” I said as I peeled the wax off the top of the bottle. “My days of being a pinchpenny might be coming to an end.”

Sim made a dismissive noise. “You stand your round well enough,” he said.

“I drink to your continued success as an artificer,” Wil said, sliding his cup toward me. “Knowing it will lead to more drinks in the future.”

“Plus,” I said as I stripped the last of the wax away, “there’s always the chance that if I get you drunk enough you’ll let me slip into the Archives someday when you’re working the desk.” I kept my tone carefully jovial as I glanced up at him to gauge his reaction.

Wil took a slow drink, not meeting my eye. “I can’t.”

Disappointment nestled sourly in the pit of my stomach. I made a dismissive gesture, as if I couldn’t believe he’d taken my joke seriously. “Oh, I know—”

“I thought about it,” Wilem interrupted. “Seeing as how you didn’t deserve the punishment you got, and I know how much it’s been bothering you.” Wil took a drink. “Lorren occasionally suspends students. A handful of days for too loud talking in the Tombs. A few span if they are careless with a book. But banned is different. That hasn’t happened in years. Everyone knows. If anyone saw you…” He shook his head. “I’d lose my position as scriv. We could both get expelled.”

“Don’t beat yourself up,” I said. “Just the fact that you considered it means—”

“We’re getting maudlin here,” Sim broke in, knocking his glass against the table. “Open the bottle and we’ll drink to Kilvin being so impressed that he talks to Lorren and gets you unbanned from the Archives.”

I smiled and began to work a screw into the cork. “I have a better plan,” I said. “I vote we drink to the perpetual confusation and botherment of a certain Ambrose Jakis.”

“I think we can all agree to that,” Wil said, raising his glass.

“Great God,” Simmon said in a hushed tone. “Look what Deoch found.” “What’s that?” I asked, concentrating on getting the cork out all in one


“He’s managed to get the most beautiful woman in the place again.” Sim’s grumble was uncharacteristically surly. “It’s enough to make you hate a man.”

“Sim, your taste in women is questionable at best.” The cork came free with a pleasing sound and I held it up triumphantly for them to see. Neither of them paid me any attention, their eyes pinned to the doorway.

I turned to look. Paused. “That’s Denna.”

Sim turned back to look at me. “Denna?”

I frowned. “Dianne. Denna. She’s the one I told you about before. The one who sang with me. She goes by a lot of different names. I don’t know why.”

Wilem gave me a flat look. “That’s your girl?” he asked, his voice thick with disbelief.

“Deoch’s girl,” Simmon amended gently.

It seemed to be the case. Handsome, muscular Deoch was talking to her in that easy way he had. Denna laughed and put an arm around him in a casual embrace. I felt a heavy weight settle in my chest as I watched them talk.

Then Deoch turned and pointed. She followed his gesture, met my eyes, and lit up as she smiled at me. I returned the smile by reflex alone. My heart began to beat again. I waved her over. After a quick word to Deoch she began to make her way through the crowd toward us.

I took a quick drink of scutten as Simmon turned to look at me with an almost reverent disbelief.

I had never seen Denna dressed in anything other than traveling clothes. But tonight she was wearing a dark green dress that left her arms and shoulders bare. She was stunning. She knew it. She smiled.

The three of us stood as she approached. “I was hoping to find you here,” she said.

I gave a small bow. “I was hoping to be found. These are two of my best friends. Simmon.” Sim smiled sunnily and brushed his hair away from his eyes. “And Wilem.” Wil nodded. “This is Dianne.”

She lounged into a chair. “What brings such a group of handsome young men out on the town tonight?”

“We’re plotting the downfall of our enemies,” Simmon said. “And celebrating,” I hurried to add.

Wilem raised his glass in a salute. “Confusion to the enemy.”

Simmon and I followed suit, but I stopped when I remembered Denna didn’t have a glass. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“I was hoping you would buy me dinner,” she said. “But I would feel guilty about stealing you away from your friends.”

My mind raced as I tried to think of a tactful way to extricate myself. “You’re making the assumption that we want him here,” Wilem said with

a straight face. “You’d do us a favor if you took him away.”

Denna leaned forward intently, a smile brushing the pink corners of her mouth. “Really?”

Wilem nodded gravely. “He drinks even more than he talks.” She darted a teasing look at me. “That much?”

“Besides,” Simmon chimed in innocently. “He’d sulk for days if he missed a chance to be with you. He’ll be completely worthless to us if you

leave him here.”

My face grew hot and I had the sudden urge to throttle Sim. Denna laughed sweetly. “I suppose I’d better take him then.” She stood with a motion like a willow wand bending to the wind and offered me her hand. I took it. “I hope to see you again, Wilem, Simmon.”

They waved and we started to make our way to the door. “I like them,” she said. “Wilem is a stone in deep water. Simmon is like a boy splashing in a brook.”

Her description startled a laugh from me. “I couldn’t have said it better.

You mentioned dinner?”

“I lied,” she said with an easy delight. “But I would love the drink you offered me.”

“How about the Taps?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Too many old men, not enough trees. It is a good night to be out of doors.”

I gestured toward the door. “Lead the way.”

She did. I basked in her reflected light and the stares of envious men. As we left the Eolian, even Deoch looked a little jealous. But as I passed him I caught a glimmer of something other in his eye. Sadness? Pity?

I spared no time for it. I was with Denna.

We bought a loaf of dark bread and a bottle of Avennish strawberry wine. Then found a private place in one of the many public gardens scattered throughout Imre. The first of autumn’s falling leaves danced along the streets beside us. Denna removed her shoes and danced lightly through the shadows, delighting in the feel of the grass beneath her feet.

We settled on a bench beneath a great spreading willow, then abandoned it and found more comfortable seats on the ground at the foot of the tree. The bread was thick and dark, and tearing chunks of it gave us distraction for our hands. The wine was sweet and light, and after Denna kissed the bottle it left her lips wet for an hour.

It had the desperate feel of the last warm night of summer. We spoke of everything and nothing, and all the while I could hardly breathe for the nearness of her, the way she moved, the sound of her voice as it touched the autumn air.

“Your eyes were far away just then,” she said. “What were you thinking?” I shrugged, buying a moment to think. I couldn’t tell her the truth. I knew every man must compliment her, bury her in flattery more cloying than roses. I took a subtler path. “One of the masters at the University once told me that there were seven words that would make a woman love you.” I made a

deliberately casual shrug. “I was just wondering what they were.”

“Is that why you talk so much? Hoping to come on them by accident?”

I opened my mouth to retort. Then, seeing her dancing eyes, I pressed my lips together and tried to fight down my embarrassed flush. She lay a hand on my arm. “Don’t go quiet on my account, Kvothe,” she said gently. “I’d miss the sound of your voice.”

She took a drink of wine. “Anyway, you shouldn’t bother wondering. You spoke them to me when first we met. You said, I was just wondering why you’re here.” She made a flippant gesture. “From that moment I was yours.”

My mind flashed back to our first meeting in Roent’s caravan. I was stunned. “I didn’t think you remembered.”

She paused in tearing a piece of dark bread away from the loaf and looked up at me quizzically. “Remember what?”

“Remembered me. Remembered our meeting in Roent’s caravan.”

“Come now,” she teased. “How could I forget the red-haired boy who left me for the University?”

I was too stunned to point out that I hadn’t left her. Not really. “You never mentioned it.”

“Neither did you,” she countered. “Perhaps I thought that you had forgotten me.”

“Forget you? How could I?”

She smiled at that, but looked down at her hands. “You might be surprised what men forget,” she said, then lightened her tone. “But then again, perhaps not. I don’t doubt that you’ve forgotten things, being a man yourself.”

“I remember your name, Denna.” It sounded good to say it to her. “Why did you take a new one? Or was Denna just the name that you were wearing on the road to Anilin?”

“Denna,” she said softly. “I’d almost forgotten her. She was a silly girl.” “She was like a flower unfolding.”

“I stopped being Denna years ago, it seems.” She rubbed her bare arms and looked around as if she was suddenly uneasy that someone might find us here.

“Should I call you Dianne, then? Would you like it better?”

The wind stirred the hanging branches of the willow as she cocked her head to look at me. Her hair mimicked the motion of the trees. “You are kind. I think I like Denna best from you. It sounds different when you say it. Gentle.”

“Denna it is,” I said firmly. “What happened in Anilin, anyway?”

A leaf floated down and landed in her hair. She brushed it away absentmindedly. “Nothing pleasant,” she said, avoiding my eyes. “But nothing unexpected either.”

I held out my hand and she passed me back the loaf of bread. “Well I’m glad you made it back,” I said. “My Aloine.”

She made a decidedly unladylike noise. “Please, if either of us is Savien, it’s me. I’m the one that came looking for you,” she pointed out. “Twice.”

“I look,” I protested. “I just don’t seem to have a knack for finding you.” She rolled her eyes dramatically. “If you could recommend an auspicious time and place to look for you, it would make a world of difference….” I trailed off gently, making it a question. “Perhaps tomorrow?”

Denna gave me a sideways glance, smiling. “You’re always so cautious,” she said. “I’ve never known a man to step so carefully.” She looked at my face as if it were a puzzle she could solve. “I expect noon would be an auspicious time tomorrow. At the Eolian.”

I felt a warm glow at the thought of meeting her again. “I was just wondering why you’re here,” I mused aloud, remembering the conversation that seemed so long ago. “You called me a liar, afterward.”

She leaned forward to touch my hand in a consoling way. She smelled of strawberry, and her lips were a dangerous red even in the moonlight. “How well I knew you, even then.”

We talked through the long hours of night. I spoke subtle circles around the way I felt, not wanting to be overbold. I thought she might be doing the same, but I could never be sure. It was like we were doing one of those elaborate Modegan court dances, where the partners stand scant inches apart, but—if they are skilled—never touch.

Such was our conversation. But not only were we lacking touch to guide us, it was as if we were also strangely deaf. So we danced very carefully, unsure what music the other was listening to, unsure, perhaps, if the other was dancing at all.

Deoch was standing vigil at the door, same as always. He waved to see me. “Master Kvothe. I’m afraid you’ve missed your friends.”

“I thought I might’ve. How long have they been gone?”

“Only an hour.” He stretched his arms above his head, grimacing. Then let them fall to his sides with a weary sigh.

“Did they seem put out that I abandoned them?”

He grinned. “Not terribly. They happened on a couple lovelies of their own. Not as lovely as yours, of course.” He looked uncomfortable for a moment, then spoke slowly as if he were picking his words with great care. “Look, s…Kvothe. I know it’s not my place, and I hope you don’t take it wrong.” He looked around and suddenly spat. “Damn. I’m no good at this sort of thing.”

He looked back at me and gestured vaguely with his hands. “You see, women are like fires, like flames. Some women are like candles, bright and friendly. Some are like single sparks, or embers, like fireflies for chasing on

summer nights. Some are like campfires, all light and heat for a night and willing to be left after. Some women are like hearthfires, not much to look at but underneath they are all warm red coal that burns a long, long while.

“But Dianne…Dianne is like a waterfall of spark pouring off a sharp iron edge that God is holding to the grindstone. You can’t help but look, can’t help but want it. You might even put your hand to it for a second. But you can’t hold it. She’ll break your heart….”

The evening was too fresh in my memory for me to pay much heed to Deoch’s warning. I smiled, “Deoch, my heart is made of stronger stuff than glass. When she strikes she’ll find it strong as iron-bound brass, or gold and adamant together mixed. Don’t think I am unaware, some startled deer to stand transfixed by hunter’s horns. It’s she who should take care, for when she strikes, my heart will make a sound so beautiful and bright that it can’t help but bring her back to me in winged flight.”

My words startled Deoch into bemused laugher. “God you’re brave,” he shook his head. “And young. I wish I were as brave and young as you.” Still smiling, he turned to enter the Eolian. “Good night then.”

“Good night.”

Deoch wished that he were more like me? It was as great a compliment as any I had ever been given.

But even better than that was the fact that my days of fruitlessly searching for Denna were at an end. Tomorrow at noon in the Eolian: “lunch and talking and walking” as she had phrased it. The thought filled me with a giddy excitement.

How young I was. How foolish. How wise.

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