Chapter no 84: A Sudden Storm

The Name of the Wind

IN THE END I found Denna as I always do, through pure accident.

I was walking hurriedly along, my mind full of other things, when I turned a corner and had to pull up short to keep from running headlong into her.

We both stood there for a half-second, startled and speechless. Despite the fact that I’d been searching out her face in every shadow and carriage window for days, the sight of her stunned me. I’d remembered the shape of her eyes, but not the weight of them. Their darkness, but not their depth. Her closeness pressed the breath out of my chest, as if I’d suddenly been thrust deep underwater.

I’d spent long hours thinking about how this meeting might go. I had played the scene a thousand times in my mind. I feared she would be distant, aloof. That she would spurn me for leaving her alone in the woods. That she would be silent and sullenly hurt. I worried that she might cry, or curse me, or simply turn and leave.

Denna gave me a delighted smile. “Kvothe!” She caught up my hand and pressed it between her own. “I’ve missed you. Where have you been?”

I felt myself go weak with relief. “Oh, you know. Here and there.” I made a nonchalant gesture. “Around.”

“You left me dry in the dock the other day,” she said with a mock-serious glare. “I waited, but the tide never came.”

I was about to explain things to her when Denna gestured to a man standing beside her. “Forgive my rudeness. Kvothe, this is Lentaren.” I hadn’t even noticed him. “Lentaren, Kvothe.”

Lentaren was tall and lean. Well muscled, well dressed, and well-bred. He had a jawline a mason would have been proud of and straight, white teeth. He looked like Prince Gallant out of a storybook. He reeked of money.

He smiled at me, his manner easy, friendly. “Nice to meet you, Kvothe,” he said with a graceful half-bow.

I returned the bow on pure reflex, smiling my most charming smile. “At your service, Lentaren.”

I turned back to Denna. “We should have lunch one of these days,” I said

blithely, arching one eyebrow ever so slightly, asking, is this Master Ash? “I have some interesting stories for you.”

“Absolutely,” she shook her head slightly, telling me, No. “You left before you could finish your last one. I was terribly disappointed that I missed the end. Distraught, in fact.”

“Oh it’s just the same thing you’ve heard before a hundred times before,” I said. “Prince Gallant kills the dragon but loses the treasure and the girl.”

“Ah, a tragedy,” Denna looked down. “Not the ending I’d hoped for, but no more than I expected, I suppose.”

“It would be something of a tragedy if it stopped there,” I admitted. “But it depends on how you look at it, really. I prefer to think of it as a story that’s waiting for an appropriately uplifting sequel.”

A carriage trundled by on the road and Lentaren stepped out of the way, incidentally brushing up against Denna as he moved. She took hold of his arm absentmindedly. “I don’t generally go in for serial stories,” she said, her expression momentarily serious and unreadable. Then she shrugged and gave me a hint of a wry smile. “But I’ve certainly changed my mind about these things before. Maybe you’ll convince me otherwise.”

I gestured to the lute case I carried slung over my shoulder. “I still play at Anker’s most nights if you’d like to stop in….”

“I will.” Denna sighed and looked up at Lentaren. “We’re already late, aren’t we?”

He squinted up at the sun and nodded. “We are. But we can still catch them if we hurry.”

She turned back to me. “I’m sorry, we have a riding appointment.”

“I would never dream of keeping you,” I said, graciously stepping to one side, out of their way.

Lentaren and I nodded politely to each other. “I’ll come find you before too long,” she said, turning to face me as they walked past.

“Go on.” I nodded in the direction they’d been heading. “Don’t let me keep you.”

They turned to go. I watched them walk through the cobbled streets of Imre. Together.

Wil and Sim were waiting for me by the time I arrived. They had already claimed a bench with a good view of the fountain in front of the Eolian. Water flared up around statuary nymphs being chased by a satyr.

I laid my lute case down beside the bench and absentmindedly flipped open the lid, thinking my lute might enjoy the feel of a little sun on its strings. If you aren’t a musician, I don’t expect you to understand.

Wil handed me an apple as I took a seat next to them. The wind brushed

though the square and I watched the spray from the fountain move like gauzy curtains in the wind. A few red maple leaves danced circles on the cobblestones. I watched them as they skipped and twirled, tracing strange, complicated patterns in the empty air.

“I’m guessing you finally found Denna?” Wilem asked after a while.

I nodded without looking away from the leaves. I didn’t really feel like explaining.

“I can tell because you’re quiet,” he said. “Didn’t go well?” Sim asked gently. “Didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped,” I said.

They nodded sagely and there was another moment of silence.

“I was thinking about what you told us,” Wil said. “What your Denna said. There is a hole in her story.”

Sim and I looked at him, curious.

“She said she was looking for her patron,” Wilem pointed out. “She was traveling with you to look for him. But later she said she knew he was safe because he—” Wil hesitated significantly, “—met with her as she was heading back to the burning farm. It does not fit. Why would she hunt for him if she knew he was safe?”

I hadn’t considered that. Before I could think of a response, Simmon shook his head. “She was just making an excuse to spend time with him,” he said as if it were plain as day.

Wilem frowned a little.

Sim looked back and forth between us, plainly surprised he had to explain himself. “It’s obvious she has a thing for you,” he said, and began counting on his fingers. “She finds you at Anker’s. She comes to get you that night at Eolian when we’re drinking. She makes up an excuse to wander around the middle of nowhere with you for a couple of days….”

“Sim,” I said, exasperated. “If she was interested I’d be able to find her more than once in a month of searching.”

“That’s a logical fallacy,” Sim pointed out eagerly. “False cause. All that proves is that you’re lousy at finding her, or that she’s hard to find. Not that she’s not interested.”

“In fact,” Wilem pointed out, taking up Simmon’s side, “since she finds you more often, it seems likely that she must spend a fair amount of time looking for you. You are not easy to track down. That indicates interest.”

I thought about the note she had left me, and for a moment I entertained the thought that Sim might be right. I felt a faint hope flicker in my chest, remembering that night we lay atop the greystone.

Then I remembered that Denna had been delirious out of her mind that night. And I remembered Denna on Lentaren’s arm. I thought of tall, handsome, wealthy Lentaren and all the other countless men who had

something worthwhile to offer her. Something more than a good singing voice and manly bravado.

“You know I’m right!” Simmon pushed his hair out of his eyes, laughing boyishly. “You can’t argue your way out of this one! She’s obviously stupid for you. And you’re just plain stupid, so it’s a great match.”

I sighed. “Sim, I’m happy to have her as a friend. She’s a delightful person and I’m glad to spend time with her. That’s all there is.” I forced the proper amount of jovial unconcern into my voice so Sim would take me at my word and drop the subject for the time being.

Sim looked at me for a moment, then shrugged it off. “If that’s the case,” he said, gesturing with his piece of chicken, “Fela talks about you all the time. Thinks you’re a hell of a guy. Plus the whole saving her life thing. I’m pretty sure you have a chance there.”

I shrugged, watching the patterns the wind made in the fountain’s spray. “You know what we should…” Sim stopped midthought, staring past me,

his expression going suddenly blank.

I turned to see what he was looking at and saw my lute case, empty. My lute was gone. I looked around wildly, ready to spring to my feet and dash off searching for it. But there was no need—a few feet away stood Ambrose and a few of his friends. He held my lute loosely in one hand.

“Oh, merciful Tehlu,” Simmon muttered behind me. Then at a normal volume he said, “Give it back, Ambrose.”

“Quiet, E’lir,” Ambrose snapped. “This is none of your concern.”

I got to my feet, keeping my eyes on him, on my lute. I had come to think of Ambrose as taller than me, but when I stood I saw that we were eye level with each other. Ambrose seemed a bit surprised as well.

“Give it to me,” I said, and stretched out my hand. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t shaking. I was shaking inside: half fear, half fury.

Two parts of me tried to speak at the same time. The first part cried, Please don’t do anything to it. Not again. Don’t break it. Please give it back. Don’t hold it by the neck like that. The other half of me was chanting, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, like spitting out mouthfuls of blood.

I took a step forward. “Give it to me.” My voice sounded odd to my own ears, emotionless and flat. Flat as my outstretched palm. I had stopped shaking inside.

He paused for a moment, caught unaware by something in my tone. I could sense his unease—I wasn’t acting the way he had expected. Behind me, I could hear Wilem and Simmon hold their breath. Behind Ambrose, his friends paused, suddenly unsure.

Ambrose smiled and cocked an eyebrow. “But I’ve written a song for you, and it needs to be accompanied.” He gripped the lute roughly and dragged his fingers across the strings with no thought for rhythm or tune. People stopped

to watch as he sang:

“There once was a ravel named Kvothe Whose tongue was quick at quipping.

The masters thought him clever And rewarded him with whipping.”

Quite a few passersby had stopped to watch by this point, smiling and laughing at Ambrose’s little show. Encouraged, Ambrose made a sweeping bow.

“Everyone sing!” he shouted, raising his hands like an orchestra conductor, gesturing with my lute like a baton.

I took another step forward. “Give it back, or I will kill you.” At that moment, I meant it in perfect earnest.

Everything grew quiet again. Seeing he wasn’t going to get the rise he had expected from me, Ambrose affected nonchalance. “Some people have no sense of humor,” he said with a sigh. “Catch.”

He tossed it to me, but lutes are not meant to be tossed. It twisted awkwardly in the air, and when I grabbed, there was nothing in my hands. Whether he was clumsy or cruel makes not the slightest difference to me. My lute hit the cobblestones bowl first and made a splintering noise.

The sound reminded me of the terrible noise my father’s lute had made, crushed beneath my body in a soot-streaked alley in Tarbean. I bent to pick it up and it made a noise like a wounded animal. Ambrose half-turned to look back at me and I saw flickers of amusement play across his face.

I opened my mouth to howl, to cry, to curse him. But something other tore from my throat, a word I did not know and could not remember.

Then all I could hear was the sound of the wind. It roared into the courtyard like a sudden storm. A nearby carriage slid sideways across the cobblestones, its horses rearing up in panic. Sheet music was torn from someone’s hands to streak around us like strange lightning. I was pushed forward a step. Everyone was pushed by the wind. Everyone but Ambrose, who pinwheeled to the ground as if struck by the hand of God.

Then everything was still again. Papers fell, twisting like autumn leaves. People looked around, dazed, their hair tousled and clothes in disarray. Several people staggered as they braced against a storm that was no longer there.

My throat hurt. My lute was broken.

Ambrose staggered to his feet. He held his arm awkwardly at his side and blood was running down from his scalp. The look of wild, confused fear he gave me was a brief, sweet pleasure. I considered shouting at him again,

wondering what would happen. Would the wind come again? Would the ground swallow him up?

I heard a horse whinnying in panic. People began to pour from the Eolian and the other buildings around the courtyard. Musicians looked around wildly, and everyone was talking at once.

“…was that?”

“…notes are all over. Help me before they get…” “…did it. Him over there, with the red…” “…demon. A demon of wind and…”

I looked around in mute confusion until Wilem and Simmon hurried me away.

“We didn’t know where to take him,” Simmon said to Kilvin.

“Say it all to me again,” Kilvin said calmly. “But this time only one talks.” He pointed at Wilem. “Try to put the words all in a tidy row.”

We were in Kilvin’s office. The door was closed and the curtains drawn. Wilem began to explain what had happened. As he gained speed he switched to Siaru. Kilvin kept nodding along, his face thoughtful. Simmon listened intently, occasionally interjecting a word or two.

I sat on a stool nearby. My mind was a whirl of confusion and half-formed questions. My throat was sore. My body was weary and full of sour adrenaline. In the middle of it all, deep in the center of my chest, a piece of me burned in anger like a forge coal fanned red and hot. All around me there was a great numbness, as if I were sealed in wax ten inches thick. There was no Kvothe, only the confusion, the anger, and the numbness wrapping them. I was like a sparrow in a storm, unable to find a safe branch to cling to. Unable to control the tumbling motion of my flight.

Wilem was reaching the end of his explanation when Elodin entered the room without knocking or announcing himself. Wilem fell silent. I spared the Master Namer half a glance then looked back toward the shattered lute in my hands. As I turned it over in my hands, one of its sharp edges cut my finger. I blankly watched the blood well up and fall to the floor.

Elodin came to stand directly in front of me, not bothering to speak to anyone else. “Kvothe?”

“He’s not right, Master,” Simmon said, his voice shrill with worry. “He’s gone all dumb. He won’t say a thing.” While I heard the words, knew they had meaning, even knew the meanings that belonged to them, I couldn’t pull any sense from them.

“I think he struck his head,” Wilem said. “He looks at you, but nothing is there. His eyes are like a dog’s eyes.”

“Kvothe?” Elodin repeated. When I didn’t respond or look up from my

lute he reached forward and gently tipped my chin up until I met his eye. “Kvothe.”

I blinked.

He looked at me. His dark eyes steadied me somewhat. Slowed the storm inside me. “Aerlevsedi,” he said. “Say it.”

“What?” Simmon said somewhere in the distant background. “Wind?”

“Aerlevsedi,” Elodin repeated patiently, his dark eyes intent upon my face.

“Aerlevsedi,” I said numbly.

Elodin closed his eyes briefly, peacefully. As if he were trying to catch a faint strain of music wafting gently on a breeze. Unable to see his eyes, I began to drift. I looked back down toward the broken lute in my hands, but before my gaze wandered too far he caught my chin again, tilting my face up.

His eyes caught mine. The numbness faded, but the storm still turned inside my head. Then Elodin’s eyes changed. He stopped looking toward me and looked into me. That is the only way I can describe it. He looked deep into me, not into my eyes, but through my eyes. His gaze went into me and settled solidly in my chest, as if he had both his hands inside me, feeling the shape of my lungs, the movement of my heart, the heat of my anger, the pattern of the storm that thundered inside me.

He leaned forward and his lips brushed my ear. I felt his breath. He spoke…and the storm stilled. I found a place to land.

There is a game all children try at some time or another. You fling out your arms and spin round and round, watching as the world blurs. First you are disoriented, but if you continue to spin long enough the world resolves itself, and you are no longer dizzy as you spin with the world blurring around you.

Then you stop and the world lurches into regular shape. The dizziness strikes you like a thunderclap, everything lurches, moves. The world tilts around you.

That is what happened when Elodin stilled the storm in my head. Suddenly, violently dizzy I cried out and raised my hands to keep myself from falling sideways, falling upward, falling inward. I felt arms catch me as my feet tangled in the stool and I began to topple to the floor.

It was terrifying, but it faded. By the time I recovered, Elodin was gone.

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