Chapter no 7 – Of Beginnings and the Names of Things

The Name of the Wind

SUNLIGHT POURED INTO THE Waystone. It was a cool, fresh light, fitted for beginnings. It brushed past the miller as he set his waterwheel turning for the day. It lit the forge the smith was rekindling after four days of cold metal work. It touched draft horses hitched to wagons and sickle blades glittering sharp and ready at the beginning of an autumn day.

Inside the Waystone, the light fell across Chronicler’s face and touched a beginning there, a blank page waiting the first words of a story. The light flowed across the bar, scattered a thousand tiny rainbow beginnings from the colored bottles, and climbed the wall toward the sword, as if searching for one final beginning.

But when the light touched the sword there were no beginnings to be seen. In fact, the light the sword reflected was dull, burnished, and ages old. Looking at it, Chronicler remembered that though it was the beginning of a day, it was also late autumn and growing colder. The sword shone with the knowledge that dawn was a small beginning compared to the ending of a season: the ending of a year.

Chronicler pulled his eyes away from the sword, aware that Kvothe had said something, but not knowing what. “I beg your pardon?”

“How do people normally go about relating their stories?” Kvothe asked.

Chronicler shrugged. “Most simply tell me what they remember. Later, I record events in the proper order, remove the unnecessary pieces, clarify, simplify, that sort of thing.”

Kvothe frowned. “I don’t think that will do.”

Chronicler gave him a shy smile. “Storytellers are always different. They prefer their stories be left alone. But they also prefer an attentive audience. I usually listen and record later. I have a nearly perfect memory.”

Nearly perfect doesn’t quite suit me.” Kvothe pressed a finger against his lips. “How fast can you write?”

Chronicler gave a knowing smile. “Faster than a man can talk.” Kvothe raised an eyebrow. “I’d like to see that.”

Chronicler opened his satchel. He brought out a stack of fine, white paper and a bottle of ink. After arranging them carefully, he dipped a pen and

looked expectantly at Kvothe.

Kvothe sat forward in his chair and spoke quickly, “I am. We are. She is. He was. They will be.” Chronicler’s pen danced and scratched down the page as Kvothe watched it. “I, Chronicler do hereby avow that I can neither read nor write. Supine. Irreverent. Jackdaw. Quartz. Lacquer. Eggoliant. Lhin ta Lu soren hea. ‘There was a young widow from Faeton, whose morals were hard as a rock. She went to confession, for her true obsession—’” Kvothe leaned farther forward to watch as Chronicler wrote. “Interesting—oh, you may stop.”

Chronicler smiled again and wiped his pen on a piece of cloth. The page in front of him held a single line of incomprehensible symbols. “Some sort of cipher?” Kvothe wondered aloud. “Very neatly done, too. I’ll bet you don’t spoil many pages.” He turned the sheet to look at the writing more carefully.

“I never spoil pages,” Chronicler said haughtily. Kvothe nodded without looking up.

“What does ‘eggoliant’ mean?” Chronicler asked.

“Hmmm? Oh, nothing. I made it up. I wanted to see if an unfamiliar word would slow you down.” He stretched, and pulled his chair closer to Chronicler’s. “As soon as you show me how to read this, we can begin.”

Chronicler looked doubtful. “It’s a very complex—” Seeing Kvothe frown, he sighed. “I’ll try.”

Chronicler drew a deep breath and began to write a line of symbols as he spoke. “There are around fifty different sounds we use to speak. I’ve given each of them a symbol consisting of one or two pen strokes. It’s all sound. I could conceivably transcribe a language I don’t even understand.” He pointed. “These are different vowel sounds.”

“All vertical lines,” Kvothe said, looking intently at the page. Chronicler paused, thrown off his stride. “Well…yes.”

“The consonants would be horizontal then? And they would combine like this?” Taking the pen, Kvothe made a few marks of his own on the page. “Clever. You’d never need more than two or three for a word.”

Chronicler watched Kvothe quietly.

Kvothe didn’t notice, his attention on the paper. “If this is ‘am’ then these must be the ah sounds,” he motioned to a group of characters Chronicler had penned. “Ah, ay, aeh, auh. That would make these the ohs.” Kvothe nodded to himself and pressed the pen back into Chronicler’s hand. “Show me the consonants.”

Chronicler penned them down numbly, reciting the sounds as he wrote. After a moment, Kvothe took the pen and completed the list himself, asking the dumbfounded Chronicler to correct him if he made a mistake.

Chronicler watched and listened as Kvothe completed the list. From beginning to end the whole process took about fifteen minutes. He made no


“Wonderfully efficient system,” Kvothe said appreciatively. “Very logical.

Did you design it yourself?”

Chronicler took a long moment before he spoke, staring at the rows of characters on the page in front of Kvothe. Finally, disregarding Kvothe’s question, Chronicler asked, “Did you really learn Tema in a day?”

Kvothe gave a faint smile and looked down at the table. “That’s an old story. I’d almost forgotten. It took a day and a half, actually. A day and a half with no sleep. Why do you ask?”

“I heard about it at the University. I never really believed it.” He looked down at the page of his cipher in Kvothe’s neat handwriting. “All of it?”

Kvothe looked puzzled. “What?” “Did you learn the whole language?”

“No. Of course not,” Kvothe said rather testily. “Only a portion of it. A large portion to be sure, but I don’t believe you can ever learn all of anything, let alone a language.”

Kvothe rubbed his hands together. “Now, are you ready?”

Chronicler shook his head as if to clear it, set out a new sheet of paper, and nodded.

Kvothe held up a hand to keep Chronicler from writing, and spoke, “I’ve never told this story before, and I doubt I’ll ever tell it again.” Kvothe leaned forward in his chair. “Before we begin, you must remember that I am of the Edema Ruh. We were telling stories before Caluptena burned. Before there were books to write in. Before there was music to play. When the first fire kindled, we Ruh were there spinning stories in the circle of its flickering light.”

Kvothe nodded to the scribe. “I know your reputation as a great collector of stories and recorder of events.” Kvothe’s eyes became hard as flint, sharp as broken glass. “That said, do not presume to change a word of what I say. If I seem to wander, if I seem to stray, remember that true stories seldom take the straightest way.”

Chronicler nodded solemnly, trying to imagine the mind that could break apart his cipher in a piece of an hour. A mind that could learn a language in a day.

Kvothe gave a gentle smile and looked around the room as if fixing it in his memory. Chronicler dipped his pen and Kvothe looked down at his folded hands for as long as it takes to draw three deep breaths.

Then he began to speak.

“In some ways, it began when I heard her singing. Her voice twinning, mixing with my own. Her voice was like a portrait of her soul: wild as a fire,

sharp as shattered glass, sweet and clean as clover.”

Kvothe shook his head. “No. It began at the University. I went to learn magic of the sort they talk about in stories. Magic like Taborlin the Great. I wanted to learn the name of the wind. I wanted fire and lightning. I wanted answers to ten thousand questions and access to their archives. But what I found at the University was much different than a story, and I was much dismayed.

“But I expect the true beginning lies in what led me to the University. Unexpected fires at twilight. A man with eyes like ice at the bottom of a well. The smell of blood and burning hair. The Chandrian.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. I suppose that is where it all begins. This is, in many ways, a story about the Chandrian.”

Kvothe shook his head, as if to free himself from some dark thought. “But I suppose I must go even further back than that. If this is to be something resembling my book of deeds, I can spare the time. It will be worth it if I am remembered, if not flatteringly, then at least with some small amount of accuracy.

“But what would my father say if he heard me telling a story this way? ‘Begin at the beginning.’ Very well, if we are to have a telling, let’s make it a proper one.”

Kvothe sat forward in his chair.

“In the beginning, as far as I know, the world was spun out of the nameless void by Aleph, who gave everything a name. Or, depending on the version of the tale, found the names all things already possessed.”

Chronicler let slip a small laugh, though he did not look up from his page or pause in his writing.

Kvothe continued, smiling himself. “I see you laugh. Very well, for simplicity’s sake, let us assume I am the center of creation. In doing this, let us pass over innumerable boring stories: the rise and fall of empires, sagas of heroism, ballads of tragic love. Let us hurry forward to the only tale of any real importance.” His smile broadened. “Mine.”

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “Quothe.” Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to.

The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean “The Flame,” “The Thunder,” or “The Broken Tree.”

“The Flame” is obvious if you’ve ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it’s unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.

“The Thunder” I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.

I’ve never thought of “The Broken Tree” as very significant. Although in retrospect I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.

My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.

But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant “to know.”

I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

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