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Chapter no 92: The Music that Plays

The Name of the Wind

“THAT SHOULD DO FOR now, I imagine,” Kvothe said, gesturing for Chronicler to lay down his pen. “We have all the groundwork now. A

foundation of story to build upon.”

Kvothe came to his feet and rolled his shoulders, stretching his back. “Tomorrow we’ll have some of my favorite stories. My journey to Alveron’s court. Learning to fight from the Adem. Felurian…” He picked up a clean linen cloth and turned to Chronicler. “Is there anything you need before you turn in for the night?”

Chronicler shook his head, knowing a polite dismissal when he heard one. “Thank you, no. I’ll be fine.” He gathered everything into his flat leather satchel and made his way upstairs to his rooms.

“You too, Bast,” Kvothe said. “I’ll take care of the cleaning up.” He made a shooing motion to forestall his student’s protest. “Go on. I need time to think about tomorrow’s story. These things don’t plan themselves you know.”

Shrugging, Bast headed up the stairs as well, his footsteps sounding hard on the wooden stairs.

Kvothe went about his nightly ritual. He shoveled ashes out of the huge stone fireplace and brought in wood for tomorrow’s fire. He went outside to extinguish the lamps beside the Waystone’s sign, only to find that he’d forgotten to light them earlier that evening. He locked the inn, and after a moment’s consideration, left the key in the door so Chronicler could let himself out if he woke early in the morning.

Then he swept the floor, washed the tables, and rubbed down the bar, moving with a methodical efficiency. Last came the polishing of the bottles. As he went through the motions his eyes were far away, remembering. He did not hum or whistle. He did not sing.

In his room, Chronicler moved about restlessly, tired but too full of anxious energy to let sleep take him. He removed the finished pages from his satchel and stowed them safely in the heavy wooden chest of drawers. Then he cleaned all his pen’s nibs and set them out to dry. He carefully removed the

bandage on his shoulder, threw the foul-smelling thing in the chamber pot, and replaced the lid before washing his shoulder clean in the hand basin.

Yawning, he went to the window and looked out at the little town, but there was nothing to see. No lights, no movement. He opened the window a crack, letting in the fresh autumn air. Drawing the curtains, Chronicler undressed for bed, lying his clothes over the back of a chair. Last of all he removed the simple iron wheel from around his neck and laid it on the nightstand.

Turning down his bed, Chronicler was surprised to see the sheets had been changed sometime during the day. The linen was crisp and smelled pleasantly of lavender.

After a moment’s hesitation, Chronicler moved to the door of his room and locked it. He laid the key on the nightstand, then frowned and picked up the stylized iron wheel and put it back around his neck before snuffing the lamp and crawling into bed.

For the better part of an hour, Chronicler lay sleepless in his sweet-smelling bed, rolling restlessly from side to side. Finally he sighed and threw off the covers. He relit the lamp with a sulfur match and climbed back out of bed. Then he walked over to the heavy chest of drawers beside the window and pushed at it. It wouldn’t budge at first, but when he put his back into it, he managed to slide it slowly across the smooth wooden floor.

After a minute the weighty piece of furniture was pressed against the door of his room. Then he climbed back into bed, rolled down the lamp, and quickly fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

It was pitch black in the room when Chronicler woke with something soft pressing against his face. He thrashed wildly, more a reflex than an attempt to get away. His startled shout was muffled by the hand clamped firmly over his mouth.

After his initial panic, Chronicler went quiet and limp. Breathing hard through his nose, he lay there, eyes wide in the darkness.

“It’s just me,” Bast whispered without removing his hand. Chronicler said something muffled.

“We need to talk.” Kneeling beside the bed, Bast looked down at the dark shape Chronicler made, twisted in his blankets. “I’m going to light the lamp and you’re not going to make any loud noises. Alright?”

Chronicler nodded against Bast’s hand. A moment later a match flared, filling the room with jagged red light and the acrid smell of sulfur. Then gentler lamplight welled up. Bast licked his fingers and pinched the match between them.

Trembling slightly, Chronicler sat up in the bed and put his back against

the wall. Bare-chested, he gathered the blankets self-consciously around his waist and glanced toward the door. The heavy dresser was still in place.

Bast followed his gaze. “That shows a certain lack of trust,” he said dryly. “You better not have scratched up his floors. He gets mad as hell about that sort of thing.”

“How did you get in here?” Chronicler demanded.

Bast flailed his hands franticly at Chronicler’s head. “Quiet!” he hissed. “We have to be quiet. He has ears like a hawk.”

“How…” Chronicler began more softly, then stopped. “Hawks don’t have ears.”

Bast gave him a puzzled look. “What?”

“You said he has ears like a hawk. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Bast frowned and made a dismissive gesture. “You know what I mean. He can’t know that I’m here.” Bast sat on the edge of the bed and smoothed down his pants self-consciously.

Chronicler gripped the blankets bunched around his waist. “Why are you here?”

“Like I said, we need to talk.” Bast looked at Chronicler seriously. “We need to talk about why you’re here.”

“This is what I do,” Chronicler said, irritated. “I collect stories. And when I get the chance I investigate odd rumors and see if there’s any truth behind them.”

“Out of curiosity, which rumor was it?” Bast asked.

“Apparently you got soppy drunk and let something slip to a wagoneer,” Chronicler said. “Rather careless, all things considered.”

Bast gave Chronicler a profoundly pitying look. “Look at me,” Bast said, as if talking to a child. “Think. Could some wagon herder get me drunk? Me?”

Chronicler opened his mouth. Closed it. “Then…”

“He was my message in a bottle. One of many. You just happened to be the first person to find one and come looking.”

Chronicler took a long moment to digest this piece of information. “I thought you two were hiding?”

“Oh we’re hiding alright,” Bast said bitterly. “We’re tucked away so safe and sound that he’s practically fading into the woodwork.”

“I can understand you feeling a little stifled around here,” Chronicler said. “But honestly, I don’t see what your master’s bad mood has do to with the price of butter.”

Bast’s eyes flashed angrily. “It has everything to do with the price of butter!” he said through his teeth. “And it’s a damn sight more than a bad mood, you ignorant, wretched anhaut-fehn. This place is killing him.”

Chronicler went pale at Bast’s outburst. “I…I’m not…”

Bast closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself. “You just don’t understand what’s going on,” he said, speaking to himself as much as Chronicler. “That’s why I came, to explain. I’ve been waiting for months for someone to come. Anyone. Even old enemies come to settle scores would be better than him wasting away like this. But you’re better than I’d hoped for. You’re perfect.”

“Perfect for what?” Chronicler asked. “I don’t even know what the problem is.”

“It’s like…have you ever heard the story of Martin Maskmaker?” Chronicler shook his head and Bast gave a frustrated sigh. “How about plays? Have you seen The Ghost and the Goosegirl or The Ha’penny King?”

Chronicler frowned. “Is that the one where the king sells his crown to an orphan boy?”

Bast nodded. “And the boy becomes a better king than the original. The goosegirl dresses like a countess and everyone is stunned by her grace and charm.” He hesitated, struggling to find the words he wanted. “You see, there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”

Chronicler relaxed a bit, sensing familiar ground. “That’s basic psychology. You dress a beggar in fine clothes, people treat him like a noble, and he lives up to their expectations.”

“That’s only the smallest piece of it,” Bast said. “The truth is deeper than that. It’s…” Bast floundered for a moment. “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

Frowning, Chronicler opened his mouth, but Bast held up a hand to stop him. “No, listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”

His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you…” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Chronicler snapped. “You’re just spouting nonsense now.”

“I’m spouting too much sense for you to understand,” Bast said testily. “But you’re close enough to see my point. Think of what he said today. People saw him as a hero, and he played the part. He wore it like a mask but eventually he believed it. It became the truth. But now…” he trailed off.

“Now people see him as an innkeeper,” Chronicler said.

“No,” Bast said softly. “People saw him as an innkeeper a year ago. He took off the mask when they walked out the door. Now he sees himself as an innkeeper, and a failed innkeeper at that. You saw what he was like when Cob and the rest came in tonight. You saw that thin shadow of a man behind the bar tonight. It used to be an act….”

Bast looked up, excited. “But you’re perfect. You can help him remember what it was like. I haven’t seen him so lively in months. I know you can do it.”

Chronicler frowned a bit. “I’m not sure….”

“I know it will work,” Bast said eagerly. “I tried something similar a couple of months ago. I got him to start a memoir.”

Chronicler perked up. “He wrote a memoir?”

Started a memoir,” Bast said. “He was so excited, talked about it for days. Wondering where he should begin his story. After his first night’s writing he was like his old self again. He looked three feet taller with lightning on his shoulders.” Bast sighed. “But something happened. The next day he read what he’d written and went into one of his dark moods. Claimed the whole thing was the worst idea he’d ever had.”

“What about the pages he wrote?”

Bast made a crumpling motion with his hands and tossed imaginary papers away.

“What did they say?” Chronicler asked.

Bast shook his head. “He didn’t throw them away. He just…threw them.

They’ve been lying on his desk for months.”

Chronicler’s curiosity was almost palpable. “Can’t you just…” he waggled his fingers. “You know, tidy them up?”

Anpauen. No.” Bast looked horrified. “He was furious after he read them.” Bast shivered a little. “You don’t know what he’s like when he’s really angry. I know better than to cross him on something like that.”

“I suppose you know best,” Chronicler said dubiously.

Bast gave an emphatic nod. “Exactly. That’s why I came to talk to you. Because I know best. You need to keep him from focusing on the dark things. If not…” Bast shrugged and repeated the motion of crumpling and throwing away a piece of paper.

“But I’m collecting the story of his life. The real story.” Chronicler made a helpless gesture. “Without the dark parts it’s just some silly f—” Chronicler froze halfway through the word, eyes darting nervously to the side.

Bast grinned like a child catching a priest midcurse. “Go on,” he urged, his eyes were delighted, and hard, and terrible. “Say it.”

“Like some silly faerie story,” Chronicler finished, his voice thin and pale as paper.

Bast smiled a wide smile. “You know nothing of the Fae, if you think our stories lack their darker sides. But all that aside, this is a faerie story, because you are gathering it for me.”

Chronicler swallowed hard and seemed to regain some of his composure. “What I mean is that what he’s telling is a true story, and true stories have unpleasant parts. His more than most, I expect. They’re messy, and tangled, and…”

“I know you can’t get him to leave them out,” Bast said. “But you can hurry him along. You can help him dwell on the good things: his adventures, the women, the fighting, his travels, his music….” Bast stopped abruptly. “Well…not the music. Don’t ask about that, or why he doesn’t do magic anymore.”

Chronicler frowned. “Why not? His music seems…”

Bast’s expression was grim. “Just don’t,” he said firmly. “They’re not productive subjects. I stopped you earlier,” he tapped Chronicler’s shoulder meaningfully, “because you were going to ask him what went wrong with his sympathy. You didn’t know any better. Now you do. Focus on the heroics, his cleverness.” He waved his hands. “That sort of thing.”

“It’s really not my place to be steering him one way or another,” Chronicler said stiffly. “I’m a recorder. I’m just here for the story. The story’s the important thing, after all.”

“Piss on your story,” Bast said sharply. “You’ll do what I say, or I’ll break you like a kindling stick.”

Chronicler froze. “So you’re saying I work for you?”

“I’m saying you belong to me.” Bast’s face was deadly serious. “Down to the marrow of your bones. I drew you here to serve my purpose. You have eaten at my table, and I have saved your life.” He pointed at Chronicler’s naked chest. “Three ways I own you. That makes you wholly mine. An instrument of my desire. You will do as I say.”

Chronicler’s chin lifted a bit, his expression hardening. “I will do as I see fit,” he said, slowly raising a hand to the piece of metal that lay against his naked chest.

Bast’s eyes flickered down, then up again. “You think I’m playing at some game?” His expression was incredulous. “You think iron will keep you safe?” Bast leaned forward, slapped Chronicler’s hand away, and grabbed the circle of dark metal before the scribe could move. Immediately Bast’s arm stiffened and his eyes clenched shut in a grimace of pain. When he reopened them they were solid blue, the color of deep water or the darkening sky.

Bast leaned forward, bringing his face close to Chronicler’s. The scribe panicked and tried to scrabble sideways out of the bed, but Bast took hold of his shoulder and held him fast. “Hear my words, manling,” he hissed. “Do not mistake me for my mask. You see light dappling on the water and forget the

deep, cold dark beneath.” The tendons in Bast’s hand creaked as he tightened his grip on the circle of iron. “Listen. You cannot hurt me. You cannot run or hide. In this I will not be defied.”

As he spoke, Bast’s eyes grew paler, until they were the pure blue of a clear noontime sky. “I swear by all the salt in me: if you run counter to my desire, the remainder of your brief mortal span will be an orchestra of misery. I swear by stone and oak and elm: I’ll make a game of you. I’ll follow you unseen and smother any spark of joy you find. You’ll never know a woman’s touch, a breath of rest, a moment’s peace of mind.”

Bast’s eyes were now the pale blue-white of lightning, his voice tight and fierce. “And I swear by the night sky and the ever-moving moon: if you lead my master to despair, I will slit you open and splash around like a child in a muddy puddle. I’ll string a fiddle with your guts and make you play it while I dance.”

Bast leaned closer until their faces were mere inches apart, his eyes gone white as opal, white as a full-bellied moon. “You are an educated man. You know there are no such things as demons.” Bast smiled a terrible smile. “There is only my kind.” Bast leaned closer still, Chronicler smelled flowers on his breath. “You are not wise enough to fear me as I should be feared. You do not know the first note of the music that moves me.”

Bast pushed himself away from Chronicler and took several steps back from the bed. Standing at the edge of the candle’s flickering light, he opened his hand and the circle of iron fell to the wooden floor, ringing dully. After a moment, Bast drew a slow, deep breath. He ran his hands through his hair.

Chronicler remained where he was, pale and sweating.

Bast bent to pick up the iron ring by its broken cord, knotting it together again with quick fingers. “Listen, there’s no reason we can’t be friends,” he said matter-of-factly as he turned and held the necklace out to Chronicler. His eyes were a human blue again, his smile warm and charming. “There’s no reason we can’t all get what we want. You get your story. He gets to tell it. You get to know the truth. He gets to remember who he really is. Everyone wins, and we all go our separate ways, pleased as peaches.”

Chronicler reached out to take hold of the cord, his hand trembling slightly. “What do you get?” he asked, his voice a dry whisper. “What do you want out of this?”

The question seemed to catch Bast unprepared. He stood still and awkward for a moment, all his fluid grace gone. For a moment it looked as if he might burst into tears. “What do I want? I just want my Reshi back.” His voice was quiet and lost. “I want him back the way he was.”

There was a moment of awkward silence. Bast scrubbed at his face with both hands and swallowed hard. “I’ve been gone too long,” he said abruptly, walking to the window and opening it. He paused with one leg over the sill

and looked back at Chronicler. “Can I bring you anything before you go to sleep? A nightcap? More blankets?”

Chronicler shook his head numbly and Bast waved as he stepped the rest of the way out the window, closing it gently behind him.

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