The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VIII.ii BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN

We left Auri sitting on the couch contemplating the proper place fro the brazen gear.  She considers Throughbottom.

Perhaps some long-dead hulking mechanata was in desperate need of nine bright teeth and love in its abandoned heart?

Throughbottom has been the focus of some of the most intense speculation about the Underthing. When it first appeared in chapter eighty-seven of The Name of the Wind, Kvothe estimated that it was more than fifty feet below the surface.

Deeper still, we came to Throughbottom, a room like a cathedral, so big that neither Auri’s blue light nor my red one reached the highest peaks of the ceiling. All around us were huge, ancient machines. Some lay in pieces: broken gears taller than a man, leather straps gone brittle with age, great wooden beams that were now explosions of white fungus, huge as hedgerows.NW 678

He noted an iron block as big as a house, deeply rusted; verdigris thick as moss; and a waterwheel three stories in diameter.

I had only the vaguest of ideas as to what any of the machines might have done. I had no guess at all as to why they had lain here for uncounted centuries, deep underground. There didn’t seem—

And it cuts off. Chapter eighty eight is the interlude with the soldier-cum-bandit-cum-shambleman comes in “looking.” Throughbottom never comes up again. We’d really like a count on those centuries.

Running her finger along the broken tooth of the gear, Auri realizes what’s missing from the sitting room.  She peels back the carpet and rests the belt buckle she fished out of The Twelve next to the button there. The room is no longer wrong. It’s perfect, like a circle or a bell. The Kingkiller Chronicle is dense with bell imagery, but it’s much more frequent in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Now that the room’s complete, Auri’s free to nick the golden ring with the amber setting from the table. She dances.

She grabs the gear and starts to head back.

Auri went as motionless as stone. Silent as the stillness in a heart. It couldn’t be. Not yet. She had days and days. She wasn’t nearly—

This is cool because it’s operating on several levels. From a purely narrative standpoint, it’s interrupting the story.  Auri knew she had seven days and it’s only been three. Could she have been wrong?  She was, of course, but we don’t know that yet. Itself interrupted it reinforces the story’s stutter.

It’s recalling the conversation between Kvothe and Auri.  She’s already being patient as a stone. According to the comments on Part VI.i, this should be the fifth day following that conversation, so even there he’d be a day early.

It pairs silence and stillness.  The heart of the Adem. Two things Kvothe learns, or almost learns, during his time chasing the wind.  He at least learned enough of it to impress the judges during his test at the Latantha.

Finally, though they’re not right together, the sentences juxtaposed recreate the image of Teccam’s secrets of the heart.

Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become.WMF 487

It’s something Auri seems to understand, whether via instinct or education, earlier in the book. When Kvothe is in the throes of the plum bob and she seeks him out, she says, “I know,” she said. “You have a stone in your heart, and some days it’s so heavy there is nothing to be done.”

She sprints back to Mantle through Faceling, which smells of hot flowers and fear.  She washes, changes clothes, and tires to choose a gift.  She rejects The Book of Secrets (for now), the crystal, the gear, and the ring.  She associated the ring with demons.

This is the third reference to demons surrounding amber rings.  Wil mentions it in his list of wishings and one’s been added to Kvothe’s legend by the time he goes listening in Tarbean. It might be safe to speculate that demon controlling amber rings are a cross-cultural symbol in the Four Corners. A sort of meta-story that we don’t know the origin of.

She settles on the holly berries and bottles them. Later they’ll become part of the gifts she actually gives Kvothe, so the early partial decision is fairly interesting. The berries are “dutiful and true.”

Auri exits through the grate in Applecourt.  We learn that the tree has a name, Lady Larbor. Since she stands beneath its sheltering branches, Larbor is probably L’arbor, “of sheltering branches.” She scampers squirlish up On Top of Things.

She could see the prickly chimbleys of Crucible, and winged Mews all full of flickerlight . To the east she spied the silver line of the Old Stone Road cutting gully-deep into the forest, off to Stonebridge, over the river, and away away away. . . .

Like nekkid, chimbley is a dialectical tic. It’s used in everything from Finnegan’s Wake to Green Eggs and Ham. Considering Neil Gaiman read the latter for last year’s Worldbuilders, it’s possible Pat picked it up there. Also like nekkid it can make Auri seem younger than she is even though she’s looking at the Crucible and detailing her knowledge of the immediate area. It’s curious that she drops the article for Crucible, eliding the difference between calling names and personal pronouns.

On Top of ThingsShe sits in the lee of a tall brick chimney in order to hide from the moon. It’s the same waning crescent that appears on the ALSO BY PATRICK ROTHFUSS page. It’s not a good moon.

There’s no explanation why, though it might be because the waning moon is closer to the moonless night.

And we finally have the stars behind the moon with a character in the shot in a canonical story.  So that’s nice.

Kvothe isn’t here.

He wasn’t coming till the seventh day. She knew. She knew the way of things.

Auri still knows he’s coming on the seventh day, even though he’s really not.  As much as she knows the way of things, the shape of the world, she’s fallible. Unreliable.

Like Auri, Kvothe knows things, knows the shape of the world, but he’s not always right. Neither of them are lying. But they are individual perspectives interpreting the world through biased eyes.

Auri sits.  Auri looks.  Auri waits.

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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VIII.i BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN

AFTER TAKING A MOMENT for her leisure, Auri got a drink of water from the pool in Mote , then headed back down to gather up the brazen gear.

There are more sources of potable water in the Underthing than one might expect. First Cricklet, then Tree, and now Mote, mentioned only in passing. It’s probably small, I guess. Audiobook listeners probably imagined something else, a body of water in a channel.

The names she gave them, nonsensical at first, fit like a glove when I finally saw what they described. NW 699

In some cases, like Tenance and Mantle, Auri’s names for the areas of the Underthing are relatively easy to parse. Others, like Rubric and Van, require a bit more rumination. Some are explained outright and others, like Mote, not at all. Mostly it’s no big deal.  The story rhythmically beats on. But sometimes a sense of place might be nice. So would a magical horse that fits in my pocket.

I’m developing a weird affection for the brevity of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I know a lot of readers were disappointed by the size of the book and the limited scope of the story. But it makes some of the structural analysis significantly easier.

Unlike the other work outside the main trilogy, Pat spent some time on this one.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” was written in a single day and “The Lightning Tree” in a little over a month. This novella developed over a period of close to two years. The extra time tends to show itself in the scaffolding of the story.  Neither of the other two stories is a ring and neither has a refined alchemical sensibility.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things has both. Like the previous two chapters, or pairs of chapters, I just want to touch on the ring to demonstrate that it’s there. How it makes meaning in the story will have to wait for some other project.

Briefly, both chapter three, BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN, and chapter eight, ALL TO HER DESIRE, begin with the brazen gear.  In fact, it’s on a narrow ledge in both as well; in The Gray Twelve and in Mantle, respectively.  This chapter ends with Auri entirely exposed, outside the Underthing anticipating and perhaps disappointed.  It’s paired partner ends at the heart of Auri’s world with her at rest and reassured. And these are the only chapters in the novella where the word Temerant appears.

Temerant

Pat scooped himself in July at the conclusion of the Geeks Doing Good fundraiser. The name of the world The Kingkiller Chronicle takes place in, or on depending on your regional dialect, was the $100,000 stretch goal. “This is something I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been keeping it under my hat. Making sure I really liked it. Making certain I was sure of it. Names are important things, or so I hear.”

It set off a storm of renewed speculation around a title mentioned three times in The Wise Man’s Fear.

Elodin made a disgusted noise. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t read them.” He wrote En Temerant Voistra on the board and circled it. “I don’t even know if this one is in the Archives at all.” He put a question mark next to it and continued to write. “I will tell you this. None of them are in Tomes. I made sure of that. You’ll have to hunt for them in the Stacks. You’ll have to earn them.”WMF 120

None of the students in “Introduction to Not Being a Stupid Jackass” are able to find it, which only added to its mysterious allure. Commenters on the Patrick Rothfuss Reread had noted years before that “temerant” was the third person plural form of the Latin verb temero, but speculations about the title took many forms with many reasons. If Temerant literally means something like “we dishonor” or “we violate,” it tracks well with Lanre’s lament in The Name of the Wind.

It also makes some sense in the context of Auri’s desire to mend the broken world.

Anyway, I should probably get back to the chapter at hand.  Where was I?  That’s right, the second sentence. The brazen B story.

It was patient as three stones, but still, it deserved to find its proper place as much as anyone.

This is actually another clever way of placing the novella within the parent text. When Auri meets up with Kvothe On Top of Things in chapter eleven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Haven,” she says:

“Play for me! I have been as patient as two stones together,” she said. “You are just in time. I could not be as patient as three stones.”WMF 103

One stone is six days.  Two stones is seven to twelve days.  Three stones would be thirteen to eighteen days.  But by using the same metaphor that’s used to frame the time period in the novel, Pat sets the story structurally as well as temporally. It’s a nice touch.

Auri carries the gear to Wains.  She tries setting it on the couch in the sitting room she recently opened.  But it doesn’t work.

To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Beautiful and Broken

Oddly enough, “all that knowing” is nearly the title of chapter thirty six of The Wise Man’s Fear. And that title is dropped within the chapter as well.

Stonebridge rose ahead of us: two hundred feet from end to end, with a high arch that peaked five stories above the river. It was part of the Great Stone Road, straight as a nail, flat as a table, and older than God. I knew it weighed more than a mountain. I knew it had a three-foot parapet running along both its edges.

Despite all this knowing, I felt deeply uneasy at the thought of trying to cross it.WMF 272

That in itself isn’t particularly revealing.  Pat tends to use phrases from his chapters as their titles.  It’s more significant when he doesn’t.  But this one is interesting because neither the gear nor Kvothe is content with all this knowing.  And because Stonebridge is as much a mystery as the Underthing.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VII.iii – WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS

“I don’t like telling,” she said softly, her voice thick with tears. Of all the awful things I’d been part of these last couple days, this was unquestionably the worst of it.WMF 197

I’m not a hundred percent sure about this, but my guess is that what Auri doesn’t like telling is her past.  After Kvothe asks her what should be an entirely quotidian question, “how do you know about the Ciridae?” she disappears.  In the narrative of The Kingkiller Chronicle, the Amyr are more or less common knowledge.  Everybody has something to say about them and while it’s fascinating to a home schooled orphan just this side of abject destitution, for folks like Simmon and Threpe it’s just part of being educated or even generally knowledgeable.

“Loud noises too. Even a loud laugh. And you can’t ask her anything resembling a personal question. She’ll just run if you do.”WMF 106

There are places in the text where the suggestion is that any question at all might be dangerous, it’s personal questions Kvothe warns Elodin about.  So my running theory here is that memory is a trigger for Auri.  Who she was before she squirreled herself away in the Underthing remains, but remembering comes with a price.  It has the benefit of being on theme from almost the start of The Name of the Wind and being demonstrable in The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Her duty done , Auri tended to the brush and headed back to Tenance. She pressed her ear against the door. Listened. She heard a faint . . . No. Nothing. She held her breath and listened. Nothing.

She’s just completed a fairly complex plumbing repair.  It looked easy precisely because she knew what she was doing. She selected exactly the right tools, tracked down the leak and then the valve, and patiently performed the necessary steps in the correct order. For a short period, Auri was a hypercompetent alchemist reflecting on her education and the art.  Finished, she slips into abject paranoia.

What happened?

“Some of the compounds we use,” I said. “They’ll go straight through your skin and kill you in eighteen slow ways.” I thought back to the day my tenten glass had cracked in the Fishery. Of the single drop of transporting agent that had landed on my shirt. It was only a tiny drop, barely larger than the head of a nail. I was so certain it hadn’t touched my skin. “I hope that’s not it. But I don’t know what else it might be.”WMF 185

There’s a chance the tenaculum itself wasn’t factored properly, that some of it touched her skin or simply the long lingering smell had disastrous side effects.  And yet she was so certain of the craft involved in its manufacture. She could be suffering infection from the rusty scratch on her back, fevered and delirious.  Throughout the story, it’s hard to rule that out. She could be hungry, but, meager though the meal was, she’s eaten recently.

I think the extended period of determined lucidity had the same effect internally as questions about her past have externally. Something’s been wrong since she brought the gear into Mantle, and it comes to a head when she returns to Tenance. She replaces the bottle and the brush, leaving no trace of her presence.  Well, except for te tenaculum on the brush, which would be difficult to rinse off.

 

bootprints

She stepped the way the water moves within a gentle wave. Never mind the motion, the water stays unchanged. That was the proper way of things.

This was another spot that pulled me out. It’s a powerful, perfect image for what he’s trying to convey. But it kind of jumps out in the mechanical maintenance scene. It’s there to provide a juxtaposition from one step to the next.  She’s utterly in control, attuned to the secret turnings of the world one moment and just as utterly out of true the next.

She closes the door to Tenance and checks the latch. Something’s out of true.  The doorway to liminal space between one existence and the next is a great place for this to happen. Doors and door frames are more meaningful when they’re not level, plumb, and true.  But it’s not the door, or the air that’s increasingly hard to breath that’s all wrong.  It’s Auri herself.

She checks the latch four times in total before succumbing to her panic.

Something was wrong. She tried, but she could simply not unclench. She could not catch her breath. The stones beneath her feet were nothing like her stones. She needed to get somewhere safe.

Auri is undone. Having prevented the nightmare of invasion, the pent up terror it represented catches up to her and she dashes headlong back toward home.  And gets lost.

I was surprised that she could.  From Kvothe’s perspective she’s an expert, a guide in an unfathomable wilderness.  But this is the second time she’s taken wrong turns and and wandered. In a way, the Underthing is an externalization of her cracked mind.  She can get lost and slowly find her way back home.

Slowly. She finds herself “out of place” in Scaperling, amid the rot and grit and leering walls. And here we find a seamless integration of what a look entails with the world out of true. The walls are gazing sideways at Auri suspicious, almost as though they disapprove of her actions. She repaired the pipe, resumed her former life, for herself. She’s retreating to the safety of Mantle for herself.  Not because there was, or is, any danger.

She was dizzy and askant and slant.

It’s not the walls of Scaperling that leer.  It’s her out of true, out of place, spinning out of control. She collapses to the floor, filthy, skinned, and breathless, and collects herself.  Eventually she makes her way home.

She washes her face.  She washes her hands and feet.  She basks in the comfort of her personal space, safe for awhile longer from discovery.  She ventures out to Van, where she finds herself, her mirror, everything, once again in its proper place.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VII.ii – WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS

One of the things it’s difficult to do in a reread is focus on, and only on, the text so far.  Knowing the end, it’s far too easy to read foreshadowing and mystery into the beginning.  Looking back at some of my conclusions about the first chapter, I think I’m guilty of that.  Sure, it’s easy to see that Auri’s relationship to the objects in Port is interesting, but if the narrative had continued without some of WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS reveals, there’d be absolutely no hint of deeper mysteries. Whispers of hints maybe. But mostly a cracked young woman.

THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS is fully twenty two percent of the novella, by far the longest chapter. And while see a fair bit of the Underthing, in a strict sense we learn almost nothing.  The stage is set in shadows, obscured in metaphor and poesy.  It’s a deliberate obfuscation that encourages a surface level reading of what is really a surprisingly deep text.

What this chapter does is begin to pull back the curtain.  I wanted this to be a sort of easy read that cataloged some of the interesting facts about the text.  I hadn’t even fully addressed the place of The Slow Regard of Silent Things within the parent text. luckily, some clever commenters took care of that.  I suspected it was constructed like The Wise Man’s Fear. I’d seen some of the parallel phrasing in the first and last chapters and made a mental note of how HOLLOW stood out as a turning point in the text.  And, y’know, it was obviously full of alchemy. But that could wait.

It couldn’t wait too long, though.  And so I’m gonna include some of it.

Anyway, we left off on Auri eating just enough to stop shaking.  I mentioned before that both Pat and Nate portrayed extreme hunger well, one with the sudden onset of physical symptoms and the other with think limbs and shadows. Whatever Auri’s mental state, it’s compounded by debilitating malnutrition.  She goes whole days without a morsel.

After eating , Auri knew it was past time she found the brazen gear its proper place.

I want to take a moment to talk about the brazen gear and brave Foxen.  On the one hand these seem like whimsical attributions of emotional qualities to inanimate objects. However, both have at least a double meaning.  Brazen simply means “made of brass.”  Brave: “fine or splendid in appearance.”  Chances are most of the consistent descriptions fit this mold.  In the foreword Pat suggests the book might be for you if you love words.  The more affection you show them, the more they reveal, I guess.

Footprints

So she begins adjusting, moving, and ultimately touring the the Underthing with the gear.  It’s interesting to note that at the same time as she’s trying to find the proper place for it, she’s also seeking its secret answers.  She wants it to be “forthcoming.”

If one of the locks this chapter opens is the practical nature of Auri’s descriptors, another is the overall shape of the story.  Seven chapters from now, on the other side of the ring, the gear accompanies her again, finally yielding its answers.  In a ring, the chapters should work in pairs. In this case: 1/10, 2/9, 3/8, 4/7, and 5/6.

According to Robert Lowth (via Mary Douglas) this pairing can be synonymous, antithetic, or constructive.  Pat likes to use all three. Chapters two and nine share synonymous staggering hunger, the traveling gear, and significant scenes in Pickering. Where a sense of wrong pervades chapter two, an antithetic sense of right, or at least truing, governs chapter nine. Auri’s spiral into panic in this chapter is referenced, and avoided, in the latter chapter. As an example of constructive pairing, these are the only two chapters where the word coruscant appears.

Eventually, Auri takes the gear back to The Twelve because maybe it belongs where she found it.  She’s relieved to find that isn’t the case, but her relief is short lived.  A nightjar taps three times on an iron pipe.

She looked after it numbly, the chill in her gut making a slow knot. She couldn’t ask for things to be more clear than that. Her pulse began to hammer at her then, her palms all sudden sweat.

This is probably the strangest thing that happens in the entire book and it’s never quite explained away.  It turns out that a little bird quite literally told her that there was a leak in an iron pipe. How? Why?

It’s probably no coincidence that it’s a nightjar, which only appears in one other place in the narrative, “The Boy Who Loved the Moon.” What the inclusion of a nightjar does here is draw the power of that story into Auri’s narrative and remind us of some of its thematic elements. Notice how the bird’s a bit of a mystery but the pipe is not.

There was no need to guess the type of pipe though. The ting of it let Auri know it was iron , black and twice the thicken of her thumb.

That’s remarkably specific, especially for something high above her head in the dark.  It might not be magic, of course, but it certainly highlights the importance of listening.  And listening is something altogether different in Hespe’s story.  So this is a third window into The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Auri runs to Tenance, a liminal space between the Underthing and the University.  It’s a storage room where they keep stuff to repair the pipes.  Maintenance.  She’s desperate to find and fix the leak before someone from above comes to do it.

Pipe

Auri selects a stoppered Jar and a brush from the shelves and runs to Rubric where she eventually finds the leaking pipe.  She shuts off a valve and then waits while the area dries.  We learn she was an Alchemist.

Auri sighed. It was just as Master Mandrag said so many years ago.

We never do find out what Mandrag said.  Maybe it’s sitting right out in the open in one of Sim’s stories in the other books.  I haven’t found it.  The stoppered jar contains tenaculum, an alchemical substance that might be identical to the one Kvothe used to post his “Jackass, Jackass” lyrics.

We used a lovely alchemical adhesive Simmon had cooked up for the occasion. The stuff went on like paint, then dried clear as glass and hard as steel.NW 455

Tenaculum is unfortunately a medical instrument, so figuring out why this alchemical epoxy resin is called that is sort of difficult.  It’s Latin root is for holding and binding, though.  Auri’s able to smell naptha and sulphonium in it and apparently would have used something else to make it.

This tells us a couple things.  First, that alchemical recipes are personal.  You can achieve the same result with different ingredients.  This actually matches up with historical alchemy where, after getting through the obfuscation and allegory, you’ll find different methods for the same processes.  Pat goes a step further and includes a sentiment that appears over and over again over the centuries.

Whoever wrought and factored this was living proof that alchemy was art. It showed pure mastery of craft.

A fourth key to the novella is the way it’s written.  In adding the praise of alchemy itself, Pat’s winking at those who recognize it and suggesting there’s more than initially meets the eye. He’s telling us a lot about alchemy, and Auri, and Temerant.  But it’s all buried under an unstable mind: malnourished, possibly feverish, undeniably different.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VII.i – WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS

THE SECOND DAY, Auri woke to silence in the perfect dark.
That meant a turning day. A doing day.

So, waking to, “a whisper of dim light,” marks a white/deep/finding day and those are rare. Silence and darkness mark a turning/doing day.  The second day lasts for three chapters, reinforcing the notion that the has a lot to do.  Is it a turning day because she tends to the proper turning of the world?  She actually turns the brass gear, the mirror, and the valve on the leaking pipe, but she does plenty.

Auri surveys Mantle and her possessions and we get the phrase, “Everything was just as it should be.”  This full phrase only occurs twice, both times in this chapter.  Ironically, in this chapter we begin to see things go wrong.

Her regard of the egresses from Mantle is quicker, more abrupt.  We get a slightly more informative description of the door to Boundary before she moves into Port.  While she’s slept, a few of the objects have somehow changed.  They’re no longer content where they are and she spends some time adjusting them.

The old black buckle was crowding the resin a bit, but that was quickly mended.

I’m still intrigued by the used of “mended.”  I wish there were just a little bit more to put it all together.  The brass gear is still giving her problems.  It’s changed everything, and it’s part of whatever’s gone wrong.

Auri picked up the heavy gear with both hands and brought it into Mantle. It was unheard of, really, but by this point she was at something of a loss.

She leaves it on the stone ledge opposite her bed.  She washes her face and hands and feet.  As near as I can tell, she does this every time she leaves Mantle with the intention of going further than Port.  It’s more about decorum than cleanliness even if both play a part.

She fills a gathersack and all her pockets, apparently a prerequisite for a doing day.

In Van she was startled to find the mirror was unsettled.

Once she’s taken the extraordinary measure of introducing the gear into Mantle, things turn out to be rough all over.  The mirror needs covering and the obvious solution to the reader might be the sheets in Tumbrel.  That is, in fact, where Auri goes.  However, her complex exchange system won’t allow it.  She has nothing that belongs in the wardrobe more than one of those sheets.  She tries the buckle she found the day before.

It didn’t belong here. Oh it seemed sensible. Oh yes. Certainly. But she knew what seeming was worth in the end, didn’t she?

I’m guessing this is here almost solely to drive folks who take Kvothe’s “little moon fae” diminutive to heart into a frenzy.  Bast is almost alone in his concern wit seeming versus being. Felurian and Kvothe echo some of it, but his reiteration of the difference in “The Lightning Tree” effectively separated any talk of the two into a specifically faen category.

I actually appreciate how Pat writes multiple possible interpretations into his stories like a school of herring.  In this case, it might be safe to assume that if Auri knows about the Ciridae and secrets Mandrag doesn’t, then she knows about the fae as well.  Particularly when the book description definitively calls her a former student of the University.

But no. There is a difference between the truth and what we wish were true.

Normally, when a text shifts tense or perspective it indicates, well, something.  This is even true in The Kingkiller Chronicle in several instances.  But Rothfuss tends to just do it sometimes because it sounds neat.  Some folks get pulled out of the text by “nekkid.”  Apparently I get pulled out by authorial intrusion with no obvious storyteller.

Whatever’s wrong gets worse.

The trip down the unnamed stair cheered her somewhat. Her path staggered drunkenly back and forth as she moved from one safe section to another.

There are a few things that could be going on here.  The day before she was close to hypothermic shock.  She might have an infection from the rust scratch on her back.

She returns to Mantle and takes her blanket from her bed to Van.  She drapes it over the mirror and moves it to a better position.  She gets back to her routine, brushing her hair.

But just as she was finishing, when she lifted up her arms to push her cloud of hair behind her, Auri staggered just a bit, all sudden dizzy. After it passed, she walked slowly to Cricklet and took a long, deep drink. She felt the cool water run all along her insides with nothing to stop it. She felt hollow inside. Her stomach was an empty fist.

So the hunger could be the cause of all the unsettling.  I know that feeling.  Auri’s so far gone that it takes extreme physical reaction to encourage her to eat.

Cricklet is one of the more popular place in the parent text.  There’s a description in The Name of the Wind.

Cricklet had a tiny trickle of fresh water running down one wall. The moisture attracted crickets, who filled the long low room with their tiny songs.699

So her long drink isn’t from some underground stream or piped water, but a dank room full of insects.  The latter makes it ideal for what happens while Kvothe’s away in Vintas, Faen, and Ademre during The Wise Man’s Fear.  When he visits Auri upon return she tells him:

“There is a whole family of hedgehogs living in Cricklet!” she said excitedly. Auri took two more steps and grabbed my hand with both of hers. “There are babies tiny as acorns!”935

To the hedgehogs, those crickets were probably as tasty as acorns.

She contemplates going to Applecourt, the enclose courtyard with the apple tree where Kvothe enters and exits the Underthing.  Applecourt is one of seven new places we hear about in this chapter.  The other six are Tree, Mandril, Downings, Tennance, Pickering, and Scaperling.  Tree is more or less Auri’s kitchen.

Tree

 

Here we find the second instance of “Everything was just as it should be.”  There’s hardly any food.  Auri eats a leathery apple and three figs and her hands stop shaking.  Hooray!

There’s a clever running water chill-well, pictured, holding a lump of butter “full of knives” and unfit for consumption.  My guess is that the butter is used and, like second hand clothes, Auri wants no part of it.  She’s probably keeping it around because it’s a fat, which she has plenty of other uses for.

Now that she’s rested and refreshed, she’s ready to get down to business.  we’ll check that out next time.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VI.iii – THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS

We come to the second scene of Auri arranging objects in Port.  Is this the scatterbrained fantasy of a malnourished mentally unstable recluse?  Or is it something more?

This is where the objects became something more than whimsically anthropomorphized.

Keys were hardly known for their complacency, and this one was near howling for a lock. Auri picked it up and turned it in her hands. A door key. It wasn’t shy about the fact at all.

I think it was right about there that I was reminded of one of the later scenes in “The Boy Who Loved the Moon.”  The hermit has convinced the knot on the tinker’s pack to open and is explaining the contents to Jax.

The old man shivered and looked away from the box. “It’s empty.”
“How can you tell without seeing inside?”
“By listening,” he said. “I’m amazed you can’t hear it yourself. It’s the emptiest thing I’ve ever heard. It echoes. It’s meant for keeping things inside.”
WMF 592

And that, in turn, made me glance back at her take on the buckle: “He was not a one for fastening. For holding closed.”  The idea here would be that Auri’s listening to, or at least regarding, these objects in a manner similar to the hermit.  They don’t have personalities, but that’s the best way to convey their dynamic thingness. Auri’s inability to function normally with access to this kind of knowledge wouldn’t be unique in the text, either.

Alder Whin, Elodin’s giller, says, “I was fine. I was doing fine. But all the people talking, dogs, cobblestones…I just can’t be around that right now.”NW 339

Read one way it’s just a list of stuff that’s bugging him,  Read another way he’s saying the people, the dogs, even the cobblestones are too loud and he had to withdraw.  He checked himself into Haven, where no one wants to go, which is incidentally the title of the chapter of The Wise Man’s Fear where the narrative of The Slow Regard of Silent Things merges with it.

Auri finds an acceptable place for everything and heads off into the Underthing in search of the proper door for her restless key.  At the first door she tries, she fans Foxen’s light with her breath.  Is it the motion of the air or the temperature, as Marco. suggested?  There must be something suggesting one or the other later on that’s slipped my mind.Crystal

She eventually comes to Wains, a grand hall out of a Renaissance palazzo with frescoes and chandeliers.  Wains is one of the more obvious names that Pat hands to us in the text, referenceing the dual meaning of wain with, “wide enough to drive a wagon through,” and, “wood paneling hugged the lower portion of the walls.”

It’s here that we get her first self identification as wicked.  It happens seven times.  Each time, including this one, it slides away rather quickly.  It’s attached to desire, to want, to bending the world to one’s desire.  It’s worth noting because as the associations become more sophisticated, more than looking at frescoes of men and women in their altogether, we get a broader picture of who Auri is and whom she might have been.  And that has a bearing on a piece of a memory that might be easy to misinterpret.  Anyway, keep in in mind as we go along.

There are twelve doors.  Auri has managed to open three of them.  She tries, obviously, this is a story after all, the third and the seventh.  Finally the ninth opens.

What’s behind the ninth door is a new room, which she regards slowly and silently.  Something’s wrong but neither she nor we know what.  She spends some time trying to figure it out and in the process finds a synechdoche for Kvothe.

It was a tiny figurine carved from a piece of pale, retiring stone. A small soldier with clever lines to show his hauberk and his shield. But his truest treasure was the sweetness of his face, kind enough for kissing.

The pale figurine is significant, but there’s an even more interesting line.

There wasn’t really anything for her to do here. It was startling really , as the place had obviously been alone for ages without anyone tending to it.

Places and things apparently, at least to Auri, have a real true.  A level and plumb that they should be but often aren’t.  And part of what she does is try to put that right.  There’s a word that’s used in The Slow Regard of Silent Things that resonates with the parent text(s): mend.  As in, possibly, the Mender heresies.

She exits the room to find a stairway and realizes she’s no longer in Wains anymore.  The stairs are somewhere new, with shifting stones.  She struggles to find its name but can’t tell what sort of place it is.  At the top of the stairs is another new place, a collapsed bedroom that’s almost obviously named Tumbrel.  Having every new place be a mystery would undermine the way her relationship with places and things has been presented, so an unknown is followed with a known, for brevity.

Auri went to work then, setting things to rights as best she could.

She moves some debris, clears a path to open a closet and a wardrobe, and gives Tumbrel and the stairs a sweeping.  To do this she ties Foxen to a lock of her hair, which bruises it.  The first time through I read it as projected emotion.  But if it’s bio-or-chemiluminscent then the bruising on the surface is probably quite literal.

She finds a wardrobe with well preserved sheets and takes one out without thinking.  Then she rebukes herself.

She was a greedy thing sometimes. Wanting for herself. Twisting the world all out of proper shape. Pushing everything about with the weight of her desire.

That’s interesting.  Twisting the world out of shape with the weight of her desire.  I mentioned before that said weight was one of the connection points between the first and last chapters.  So is the manipulation of the world.  That theme is expanded as the story progresses and culminates in more than twisting.

We’ll finally start the second chapter Wednesday.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VI.ii – THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS

Auri discovers that she doesn’t have a bottle appropriate for protecting Foxen during a dive.  For whatever reason, she doesn’t want to get it wet.  I wonder if there’s a clue there about what Foxen is.  She runs back to Mantle.  Then back to The Twelve via Withy, Darkhouse, and Clinks, where she picks up a watertight bottle with a gasket and hasp.

Readers should remember Clinks from the chapter in The Wise Man’s Fear with that name wherein Auri discovered Kvothe heading toward the Quoyan Hayal in an attempt to thwart an attacking malfeasant.

“What were you doing on top of things.” She paused and gave a tiny hiccuping laugh. “All crazy and mostly nekkid?”
My heart began to thaw a bit. “I was looking for a place to put my blood,” I said.
“Most people keep that inside,” she said. “It’s easier.”
“I want to keep the rest of it inside,” I explained. “But I’m worried someone might be looking for me.”
“Oh,” she said, as if she understood perfectly. I saw the slightly darker shadow of her move in the darkness, standing up. “You should come with me to Clinks.”WMF 197

 

Once there, Auri instructs him on the finer points of sympathetic misdirection.  At that time she has a whole sackful of bottles and hands out four as though it were nothing to here.  Here in The Slow Regard of Silent Things there are two bottles in Clinks and only a few more scattered about the entire Underthing.

Perhaps it’s a contrast between personal use and her generosity toward Kvothe another thing that comes up in a big way later.  In fact, the character of her relationship with the Ruh bastard has already been remarked on in several reviews.  The whole story is, at least in one sense, a search for gifts for and in anticipation of a visit from him.

The criticism is that her agency is undercut by her focus on the protagonist of the parent text.  Another woman suborned to a man, in her own book.  This diminished status is assumed to characterize her behavior and even her description.

I chose the extended quote above in part because it addresses the use of “nekkid” as Auri prepares to dive.  Some folks have taken issue with the supposedly infantile impression it gives.  In the quote, she’s using a little bit of gallows humor. Staring at a bloody shirtless desperate Kvothe, she flirts.  Nekkid isn’t a suborned word.  The OED notes that it’s been in use since at least 1898 in humorous, euphemistic, or salacious contexts.

Since naked is used far more often in both books, so it’s probably a deliberate choice to deploy nekkid instead.  It links the novella to its parent novel.  And it only describes a human being, while naked applies equally to unadorned and uncovered objects.  Humorist Lewis Grizzard, for all his faults, probably put it best, “Naked means you ain’t got no clothes on. Nekkid means you ain’t got no clothes on and you up to somethin’.”

I should probably note that the use of “altogether” to denote nudity is also perfectly acceptable informal language.  And it’s more rhythmic.  Anyway, what Auri’s up to is risking drowning and hypothermia to grab some junk from the far below bottom of things.

Losing Foxen

This is the first scene where we learn that beyond washing her face and hands and feet, she has other rules.  Sure, on the way she avoided following any one pipe for two long and such, but here she dives three times.  She retrieves three times.  No more.  No less.  No coming up empty handed.

She finds an arm bone on her first dive.  On her second she finds a tangle including a belt and buckle, a branch with a snail on it, and a key.  Finally she finds a large brass gear that costs her Foxen.  It’s here that the reader understands that it’s less of an object and more of companion, as Steven noted on Wednesday.  She has to bring up the gear, so her choice is clear when she can only hang on to one object.  It’s not a choice, though she regrets it.

Luckily, doing things in the proper ways leads to prosperity.  Foxen returns to her.

Nate Taylor’s illustration of the haul throws her wan arm into stark relief with the arm bone larger than her vital one and the gear apparently one third her size.

Fulcrum

She scratched herself on something jagged and rusty on the way up.  She swallowed a lot of Twelve water.  And her body temperature is dangerously low.  Some things to keep in mind as you read about the next few days.

Her lips were blue. She trembled. Her heart was full of joy.

Bakers

She makes her way back to Clinks to bathe.  Presumably the water’s cleaner there and she keeps a small sliver of cinnas scented soap.  Readers have speculated about Elodin’s gift of a single cinnas fruit and his motivations for offering it when they eat with Kvothe following the events of this novella.  But perhaps despite rarely getting close to her, he merely assumed she linked it.

Then she heads to Bakers, a hall full of uncovered steal pipes and entirely full of radiant heat, in order to dry off and warm up.  She leaves Foxen at the entrance.  He’s not too fond of heat.

So Foxen can’t get too hot and it can get wet.  Marco. suggests it’s copper.  Are there compelling reasons to keep copper cool and dry?

She returns to The Twelve to retrieve her dress and the items she brought up.  She takes them back to Port and sets them on the central table.  We’ll come in on her slow regard of them Monday.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VI.i – THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS

WHEN AURI WOKE, she knew that she had seven days.

As first lines go, this one wasn’t much of a surprise.  We’d known about it since February of last year when Pat posted in on Facebook without any explanation.  A lot of people mistowhen auri woke, she knew that she had seven daysok it as a line from the tentatively titled The Doors of Stone, but a few folks figured out from context that it was probably from “The Weight of Her Desire,” a short story he’d been working on for Rogues.

It is, however, a kind of catnip for fans.  Auri.  Seven.  An alternative PoV.

And nerds.  It’s in iambic hexameter.  Simple sentences in blank verse aren’t necessarily unusual, but The Slow Regard of Silent Things gets a lot of its power from persistent iambs.  A fan tweeted just yesterday that that was intentional and Rothfuss responded.

Iamb

Shakespeare’s common folk spoke in unrhymed iambic.  Heck, English speech is mostly iambic.  And arguably natural writing is as well.  We just don’t see it often in literature ’cause it can monotonous.  In most cases, the oddly metered sentence is the more interesting one.  So the effect here is novel.

Yes. She was quite sure of it. He would come for a visit on the seventh day.

With the second paragraph, we’ve already established the nature of the point of view, the relationship of the novella to The Kingkiller Chronicle, and the motivation of this particular story.  We’re essentially inside Auri’s mind.  We know what she knows.  We feel what she feels.  We understand what she understands.

We’re inside the told narrative of The Wise Man’s Fear.  We come in after the events of “Tar and Tin” and before those of “Haven.”

“You didn’t bring your lute,” she said after we had finished eating.
“I have to go read tonight,” I said. “But I’ll bring it soon.”
“How soon?”
“Six nights from now,” I said. I’d be finished with admissions then, and more studying would be pointless.
Her tiny face pulled a frown. “Six days isn’t soon,” she said. “Tomorrow is soon.”
“Six days is soon for a stone,” I said.
“Then play for a stone in six days,” she said. “And play for me tomorrow.”
“I think you can be a stone for six days,” I said. “It is better than being a lettuce.”
She grinned at that. “It is.”WMF p35

But why seven?  Well, Auri knows a lot of things, but she doesn’t know that a third person limited narrative allows for subjective unreality.  In other words, the novella isn’t entirely reliable.  Just like Kvothe occasionally knows things in first person that are not true, so Auri does in third.  The situation corrects itself by the end of the book.

A long time. Long for waiting. But not so long for everything that needed to be done. Not if she were careful. Not if she wanted to be ready.

And now we have a plot, such as it is.  It’s easy to forget as we travel through the story, but Auri’s getting ready for a visit and she has a goal.  It’s not action packed and it isn’t direct.  But something happens.

Opening her eyes, Auri saw a whisper of dim light. A rare thing, as she was tucked tidily away in Mantle, her privatest of places. It was a white day, then. A deep day. A finding day.

There are finding days, turning days, burning days, calling, sending, making, and mending days.  This is a finding day.  On finding days she seeks.  It’s a white day because of the whisper of light.  It’s a deep day because she’s going diving in The Twelve.  On finding days she dives three times and retrieves three objects from the water there.

There was just enough light to see the pale shape of her arm as her fingers found the dropper bottle on her bedshelf. She unscrewed it and let a single drip fall into Foxen’s dish. After a moment he slowly brightened into a faint gloaming blue.

I imagine this will drive speculation for awhile.  What exactly is Foxen?  What’s in the bottle?  Is it magic?  What kind?  That’s all well and good.  I don’t have a lot to offer on the subject.  Alchemical light source?  I’ll go with that.

I wanna point out that he drops a word like gloaming early.  This is gonna be a book with unusual words, some real, some not so much.  Remember the foreword: “If you love words…”  Pat does and he’s demonstrating that.

Foxen

The third illustration depicts this scene.  Note Nate’s use of shadow and her too thin arms.  The book has already received a fair amount of praise from folks who find the depiction of mental illness accurate and relatable, but he conveys hunger, even starvation, well, too.  The shock of recognition was unsettling.

Then he sat proudly in his dish, looking like a blue-green ember slightly larger than a coin.

Here the careful reader realizes ze’s seen Foxen before, through Kvothe’s eyes: “She carried the bottle and held aloft something the size of a coin that gave off a gentle greenish light.”WMF 34  This is just a page before the discussion about when he’ll play next. It’s a sort of meta-marker for the story’s position within the parent text.  There’s already been some concern about the timelines not lining up correctly in the comments here and on the Tor Reread.  My passion for the Timeline has waned a little, but those concerns bear some more attention.

There were three ways out of Mantle. There was a hallway, and a doorway, and a door. The last of these was not for her.

Just a few pages in and we have a second mystery.  What’s behind the door?  Why isn’t it for here.  When the ring closes in THE HIDDEN HEART OF THINGS, we’ll have answers to both.  The doorway leads to Port.  The hallway leads to Tree.  In the first chapter, we glimpse more of the Underthing than we have or, probably, will in The Kingkiller Chronicle.

MantleThe Far Below Bottom of Things
Port
Van
Rubric
Umbrel
The Twelve
Withy
Darkhouse
Clinks
Vaults
Tenners
Dunnings
Bakers
Borough
Black Door
Wains
Throughbottom
Greely
Crumbledon
Sit Twice
Faceling
Tumbrel
Delving
Woods

Just as she did in Mantle, Auri checks the items there and adjusts them in what seems like a whimsical manner.  Her care with the blanket casts a shadow or compulsion over that whimsy.  However, we’ll come to understand that she has a deeper understanding of “Nothing was nothing else. Nothing was anything it shouldn’t be.”  Is it whimsy?  Is she cracke?.  Or is it something else?  Is she actually listening to these objects and treating them accordingly?  I think it’s a combination of the latter two.  Like Pat said in his tweet, seeing the shape of things doesn’t preclude insanity.  Elodin seemed pretty confident in Alder Whin despite his erratic behavior.

After checking her things in Port and herself in Van, after washing her face and hands and feet, something we’ll see a lot of, in Mantle, Auri travels to The Yellow Twelve.  This is something else we’ve seen before.

We made our way down three spiral staircases made of black wrought iron to reach the Grey Twelve. It was like standing in the bottom of a canyon. Looking up I could see faint moonlight filtering in through drain grates far overhead.NW 678

Auri, or the limited PoV explains the color change.  Sometimes The Twelve is simply The Twelve.  Sometimes it’s grey, yellow, or even black; depending on the type of light filtering down from the grate.  Anything but the last is relatively safe.

The Twelve was one of the rare changing places of the Underthing. It was wise enough to know itself, and brave enough to be itself, and wild enough to change itself while somehow staying altogether true. It was nearly unique in this regard, and while it was not always safe or kind, Auri could not help but feel a fondness for it.

The chapter title appears in the text on page six right before the illustration above in what’s known as a title drop.  This occurs in every proper chapter save one.  It’s something that occasionally happened in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, but not consistently enough to find a pattern.  There’s a pretty good reason when it doesn’t happen in the novella, which I’ll discuss when we come to it.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part V – AUTHOR’S FOREWORD

The AUTHOR’S FOREWORD and the AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE are effectively the frame story for The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  They tell the reader that the book they’re holding almost stayed hidden in the dark, unknown.  Remind you of anyone?

Rothfuss stories are round.  Not all of them are rings, but there’s a strong tendency toward tying the ending directly to the beginning.  “The Lightning Tree” begins with a message from Rike Williams and ends on an anecdote about Nettie Williams.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” begins and ends with Old Holly.  The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are twice framed.  The Prologues and Epilogues bracket the frame story which in turn encompasses the narrative.

So, while neither the foreword or endnote are necessary, they are functional.  They also give Pat the opportunity to let his readers know that he’s aware of the story’s idiosyncrasies.  It’s not the first time he’s included an apology.  Check out his introduction to “How Old Holly Came to Be” (OH) in Unfettered.

The story itself is a little odd. It’s from an odd perspective, and it covers a vast scope of time. The main character is odd. The language is odd. (OH)

Compare that to this statement from The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Second, even if you have read my other books, I think it’s only fair to warn you that this is a bit of a strange story. I don’t go in for spoilers, but suffice to say that this one is . . . different. It doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do. (TSRoST)

Despite the colorful anecdote his editor obviously didn’t throw a fit.  She let him format the foreword differently than the chapters, something they also did with the Prologues.  And with the book spending its first week at #2 on the Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List, she had no reason to.

In some ways, this is as much an enticement to fans as it is a warning to potential new readers.

If you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you’re curious about the Underthing and alchemy. If you want to know more about the hidden turnings of my world. . . .

Yah, we’re in.  We’ve been talking and in some cases asking you directly about that for years, now.

I can’t decide if the illustration that follows is properly part of the AUTHOR’S FOREWORD or the first chapter, so I’m going to include it here.  This is the first canonical image of Auri, though it’s quite similar to Nate’s previous depictions.  She’s looking up through a drainage grate in what might be Old Ironways or Umbrel or nowhere at all,

Auri

 

We’ll start the story proper with the next post and cover “The Far Below Bottom of Things.”


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FAQ: Where is Severen?

Of the, maybe, eleven cities on the map included in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe has visited less than half of them so far.  Despite spending a sizable portion of the second book in Severen, we’re never told precisely where it is.  It’s in Vintas.  It’s four or five days walk from The Eld.  And it has docks.

With the money I’d accumulated, I spent the next several hours on the docks and found a ship leaving the next day for Junpui.WMF 928

So Severen needs to be on a river or a lake, preferably in Western Vintas near, but not too near, The Eld.  Pat did a Q&A on A Forum of Ice and Fire a few months after The Wise Man’s Fear was published.  He provided a little more information.

Will you tell us where Severen is located on your map?

It’s north of Renere. South of Tinue.

Based on all of the above, the location targeted in red is the longstanding best guess for the location of Severen.  It could pretty easily be anywhere in or near the larger circle.

Severen

 

A more detailed map was the $600,000 stretch goal for Worldbuilders 2013.  It was supposed to be drawn by Nate Taylor and posted on the website.  The page for Vintas has been available for months, but as we head into Worldbuilders 2014, we still haven’t heard anything about it.  We’ve yet to see several stretch goals from 2012 and 2013, so there’s no way of knowing when it’ll go live.

One of the lingering questions is how Kvothe would have gotten there by sea from Tarbean.

MY ROUTE WAS A simple one. I would head downriver to Tarbean, through the Refting Strait, down the coast toward Junpui, then up the Arrand River.WMF 365

Only two sea rivers appear to empty into the Centhe Sea from Vintas.  One appears to form the northwestern border of Vintas and travel through the Small Kingdoms, something Kvothe was keen to avoid.  The other forms the southeastern border and connects all the way to the northern most lake via river routes.

Both are marked in yellow on the map below.  I’m incline to think the southern river is the more likely.

Arrand