Chapter no 86: The Fire Itself

The Name of the Wind

“SIX LASHES AND EXPULSION,” the Chancellor said heavily. Expulsion, I thought numbly, as if I had never heard the word before. To expel, to cast violently away. I could feel Ambrose’s satisfaction radiating outward. For a second I was afraid that I was going to be violently ill right there in front of everyone.

“Does any master oppose this action?” the Chancellor asked ritualistically as I looked down at my feet.

“I do,” the stirring voice could only be Elodin’s.

“All in favor of suspending expulsion?” I looked up again in time to see Elodin’s hand. Elxa Dal’s. Kilvin, Lorren, the Chancellor. All hands save Hemme’s. I almost laughed out of shock and sheer disbelief. Elodin gave me his boyish smile again.

“Expulsion repealed,” the Chancellor said firmly and I felt Ambrose’s satisfaction flicker and wane beside me. “Are there any further issues?” I caught an odd note in the Chancellor’s voice. He was expecting something.

It was Elodin who spoke. “I move that Kvothe be raised to the rank of Re’lar.”

“All in favor?” All hands save Hemme’s were raised in a single motion. “Kvothe is raised to Re’lar with Elodin as sponsor on the fifth of Fallow. Meeting adjourned.” He pushed himself up from the table and made his way to the door.

“What?!” Ambrose yelled, looking around as if he couldn’t decide who he was asking. Finally he scampered off after Hemme, who was making a quick exit behind the Chancellor and the majority of the other masters. I noticed he wasn’t limping nearly as much as he had before the trial began.

Bewildered, I stood stupidly until Elodin came over and shook my unresponsive hand. “Confused?” he asked. “Come walk with me. I’ll explain.”

The bright afternoon sunlight was a shock after the shadowy cool of Hollows. Elodin awkwardly pulled his master’s robes up over his head. Underneath he

was wearing a simple white shirt and a pair of rather disreputable looking pants held up by a piece of frayed rope. I saw for the first time that he was barefoot. The tops of his feet showed the same healthy tan as his arms and face.

“Do you know what Re’lar means?” he asked me conversationally. “It translates as ‘speaker,’” I said.

“Do you know what it means?” he stressed the word. “Not really,” I admitted.

Elodin drew a deep breath. “Once upon a time, there was a University. It was built in the dead ruins of an older University. It wasn’t very big, perhaps fifty people in all. But it was the best University for miles and miles, so people came and learned and left. There was a small group of people who gathered there. People whose knowledge went beyond mathematics and grammar and rhetoric.

“They started a smaller group inside the University. They called it the Arcanum and it was a very small, very secret thing. They had a ranking system among themselves, and your rise through those ranks was due to prowess and nothing else. One entered this group by proving they could see things for what they really were. They became E’lir, which means see-er. How do you think they became Re’lar?” He looked at me expectantly.

“By speaking.”

He laughed. “Right!” He stopped and turned to face me. “But speaking what?” His eyes were bright and sharp.


“Names,” he said excitedly. “Names are the shape of the world, and a man who can speak them is on the road to power. Back in the beginning, the Arcanum was a small collection of men who understood things. Men who knew powerful names. They taught a few students, slowly, carefully encouraging them toward power and wisdom. And magic. Real magic.” He looked around at the buildings and milling students. “In those days the Arcanum was a strong brandy. Now it is well-watered wine.”

I waited until I was sure he was finished. “Master Elodin, what happened yesterday?” I held my breath and hoped beyond hope for an intelligible answer.

He gave me a quizzical look. “You called the name of the wind,” he said as if the answer were obvious.

“But what does that mean? And what do you mean by name? Is it just a name like ‘Kvothe’ or ‘Elodin’? Or is it more like ‘Taborlin knew the names of many things.’”

“Like both,” he said, waving to a pretty girl leaning out a second-story window.

“But how can a name do something like that? ‘Kvothe’ and ‘Elodin’ are

just sounds we make, they don’t have any power by themselves.”

Elodin raised his eyebrows at this. “Really? Watch.” He looked down the street. “Nathan!” he shouted. A boy turned to look in our direction. I recognized him as one of Jamison’s errand boys. “Nathan, come here!”

The boy trotted over and looked up at Elodin. “Yes sir?”

Elodin handed the boy his master’s robe. “Nathan, would you take this to my rooms for me?”

“Certainly sir,” the boy took the robe and hurried away.

Elodin looked at me. “Do you see? The names we call each other are not

Names. But they have some power nonetheless.”

“That’s not magic,” I protested. “He had to listen to you. You’re a master.”

“And you’re a Re’lar,” he said implacably. “You called the wind and the wind listened.”

I struggled with the concept. “You’re saying the wind is alive?”

He made a vague gesture. “In a way. Most things are alive in one way or another.”

I decided to take a different tack. “How did I call the wind if I didn’t know how?”

Elodin clapped his hands together, sharply. “That is an excellent question! The answer is that each of us has two minds: a waking mind and a sleeping mind. Our waking mind is what thinks and talks and reasons. But the sleeping mind is more powerful. It sees deeply to the heart of things. It is the part of us that dreams. It remembers everything. It gives us intuition. Your waking mind does not understand the nature of names. Your sleeping mind does. It already knows many things that your waking mind does not.”

Elodin looked at me. “Remember how you felt after you called the name of the wind?”

I nodded, not enjoying the memory.

“When Ambrose broke your lute, it roused your sleeping mind. Like a great hibernating bear jabbed with a burning stick, it reared up and roared the name of the wind.” He swung his arms around wildly, attracting odd looks from passing students. “Afterward your waking mind did not know what to do. It was left with an angry bear.”

“What did you do? I can’t remember what you whispered to me.”

“It was a name. It was a name that settled the angry bear, eased it back to sleep. But it is not sleeping so soundly now. We need to rouse it slowly and bring it under your control.”

“Is that why you moved to suspend my expulsion?”

He made a dismissive gesture. “You were in no real danger of being expelled. You are not the first student to call the name of the wind in anger, though you are the first in several years. Some strong emotion usually wakes

the sleeping mind for the first time.” He smiled. “The name of the wind came to me when I was arguing with Elxa Dal. When I shouted it his braziers exploded in a cloud of burning ash and cinder,” he chuckled.

“What did he do to make you so angry?”

“He refused to teach me the advanced bindings. I was only fourteen and an E’lir. He told me I would have to wait until I was a Re’lar.”

“There are advanced bindings?”

He grinned at me. “Secrets, Re’lar Kvothe. That is what being an arcanist is all about. Now that you are a Re’lar you are entitled to certain things that were withheld before. The advanced sympathetic bindings, the nature of names. Some smattering of dubious runes, if Kilvin thinks you’re ready.”

Hope rose in my chest. “Does this mean I’m allowed access to the Archives now?”

“Ah,” Elodin said. “No. Not in the least. You see, the Archives are Lorren’s domain, his kingdom. Those secrets are not mine to give away.”

At his mention of secrets my mind settled on one that had been bothering me for months. The secret at the heart of the Archives. “What about the stone door in the Archives?” I asked. “The four-plate door. Now that I’m a Re’lar can you tell me what’s behind it?”

Elodin laughed. “Oh no. No no. You don’t aim for small secrets do you?” He clapped me on the back as if I’d just made an especially good joke. “Valaritas. God. I can still remember what it was like, standing down there looking at the door, wondering.”

He laughed again. “Merciful Tehlu, it almost killed me.” He shook his head. “No. You don’t get to go behind the four-plate door. But,” he gave me a conspiratorial look. “Since you are a Re’lar…” He looked from side to side as if afraid that someone might overhear us. I leaned closer. “Since you are a Re’lar, I will admit that it exists.” He gave me a solemn wink.

Disappointed as I was, I couldn’t help but smile. We walked for a while in silence past Mains, past Anker’s. “Master Elodin?”

“Yes?” His eyes followed a squirrel across the road and up a tree. “I still don’t understand about names.”

“I will teach you to understand,” he said easily. “The nature of names cannot be described, only experienced and understood.”

“Why can’t it be described?” I asked. “If you understand a thing, you can describe it.”

“Can you describe all the things you understand?” he looked sideways at


“Of course.”

Elodin pointed down the street. “What color is that boy’s shirt?” “Blue.”

“What do you mean by blue? Describe it.”

I struggled for a moment, failed. “So blue is a name?”

“It is a word. Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man’s will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself.”

My head was swimming by this point. “I still don’t understand.”

He laid a hand on my shoulder. “Using words to talk of words is like using a pencil to draw a picture of itself, on itself. Impossible. Confusing. Frustrating.” He lifted his hands high above his head as if stretching for the sky. “But there are other ways to understanding!” he shouted, laughing like a child. He threw both arms to the cloudless arch of sky above us, still laughing. “Look!” he shouted tilting his head back. “Blue! Blue! Blue!”

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