The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses

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

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

  1. Foxen is likely copper.

    Copper + a solution containing Luminol = a blue glow.

    Auri knows enough chemistry, and has access to the materials needed.

    Add in the general significance of copper in Rothfuss’ world and I think it fits pretty well.

    • The luminol glow is extremely short lived, so something else has to be going on as well. Other folks have suggested some form of bioluminescence and, of all things, glow sticks as possible avenues of inquiry.

      • Yes, but let’s not forget:

        a) this is a work of fiction

        b) Auri has at her disposal
        i) advanced knowledge of chemistry
        ii) advanced knowledge of alchemy
        iii) all manner of secret magics

        The point was not to describe exactly how foxen works, but that there’s likely some sort of chemical reaction at work here, as:

        1. the amount of solution added to foxen matters
        2. keeping foxen from getting wet matters
        3. temperature matters

        Copper is a bit of a shot in the dark, but I think the fact that there are known ways to produce a blue glow with it makes it a likely source of inspiration for Rothfuss.

      • I’m not sure that we’re supposed to be able to actually identify what precisely Foxen is, Marco’s copper/luminol inquiry is a decent guess. I do think, however, that Foxen may well have been with Auri since before she cracked — he has been with her from the beginning, hence her angst when she loses his bottle during the third dive.

        This has probably been noted elsewhere, but I’m struck by the potential correlation between the name, Foxen, and foxfire. Certainly there is some type of bio or chemo-luminescence happening, so the name Foxen is probably meant to refer to that correlation.

        Regardless of the specific characteristics, I wonder if Foxen might have been her journeyman project during her alchemical training, just as Kvothe’s sympathy lamp was his. Or perhaps even a Re’lar or El’the project, along the lines of the Bloodless. It seems like a decent parallel, and since Kvothe (at the time he sees Foxen in NotW and WMF) doesn’t know anything about alchemy, he likely wouldn’t recognize an elaborate piece of alchemy.

  2. When Pat read from the first chapter at LonCon, he read it with a straight conviction that Foxen was a real character. Auri knows Foxen at a naming level and this came through very clearly at the reading. Afterwords, I was talking with someone about how Auri had some sort of Wisp companion in the Underthing–that is very much how it sounded and very much how Auri thinks of him.

    I think this could even be the answer to Master Kilvin’s undying lamps. Why do they last forever? Auri could look at them and say they last forever because it is their nature.

    I agree that Auri is a combination of broken and completely aware. She sees the true nature of things and so many of the things that seem non sane at first are really just an understanding of the deeper nature of the reality. Some of the rest of the behavior (the OCD like washing and such) may be the result of an overburdened mind. Or they may be the result of things we’ll get to eventually.

    • Auri behaviour is probably not very different of her behaviour before breaking. Washing can be OCD for a office guy, but it is compulsory for someone whose work is about dangerous chemicals. Note how when she separates the psychoactive substances for the soap and stores it in Boundary, she has some kind of nervous breakdown, surely induced by the emanations of the products in the shelf, plus her high sensibility to them. Remember the cautions of Heisenberg in Breaking Bad. Auri, on the contrary, works without any protection.

      • Turns out the soap was far more interesting than I thought when I raced through that first read.

        • Yep, it has been a funny thread in reddit. I also disregarded it in the first read, all the merit/blame for flea1400 🙂

          I am in doubt if the nervous breakdown is because of the soap waste or because of the other things in the shelf in the Boundary, but I am 99% that it is a physical effect, and that she knows it, so the “OCD signal” increases: she washed herself three times in a row after coming back from Boundary, then she still enters in some altered mind state and recovers by using the fulcrum to anchor herself.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience at the reading. I think that comes through in the audio as well.

  3. Why does Auri think Kvothe will visit in seven days, I wonder? In WMF (page 34 of my copy, during the visit between Kvothe and Auri before the events of SRST, Auri asks when he will come to play lute for her again and he says: “Six nights from now,” noting to himself that he will be done with his admissions interview by then and so more studying won’t matter. Auri complains that will be a long time, but each of them repeats the phrase “six days” several times.

    I get that she’s not quite right in the head, but why, when she is impatient for him to come, would she make this mistake?

    • That actually bothered me throughout the book until it was addressed. Even then, I couldn’t understand the initial mistake. JohnPoint commented on the first post that the timelines technically don’t even line up. I’m hoping there’s a clue we’ve just all missed.

    • The timeline isn’t as messy as it appears overall, as we’ve discussed a bit further on the Tor reread. There is nothing that necessarily requires the story to start the day after Kvothe and Auri meet on the roof in WMF (which I maintain takes place on day K1/A(-4)). In fact, it CAN’T start the next day and have everything line up, since it actually takes Kvothe 10 days to play music for Auri in WMF, due to the plum bob incident, and not the 6 days that SR takes.

      So, Auri’s belief that she has 7 days may well be evidence of her knowledge/naming/shaping abilities — several days after the initial event in WMF, she can see the true shape of the world, knows that something will get in the way of Kvothe coming on K7/A3, and knows that she has more time. She thinks that he’ll come on the 7th day (A7/K11), but then at the end of the story, her knowledge gets resolved, and she knows that he’ll arrive on A6/K10.

      I’m more bothered by the question about whether she sees him during the period. In WMF it is strongly implied that Kvothe sees her nightly when he goes into the archives, and he definitely sees her during the plum bob incident. In SR, it’s strongly implied that she doesn’t see him at all. This is possibly resolved by her sleep patterns, multiple personalities, or perhaps that she’s waiting for the MUSIC rather than seeing him per se, but it’s a bit of a sticky point.

      • I’m still trying to settle it in my mind, but I think the the discrepancy in timeline can be explained away by Auri being nocturnal and what she refers to as “days” are nights to Kvothe.

        In SR (day 4), she:
        -wakes into the seamless dark
        -tries to wash
        -eats a fig
        -goes to look for soap
        -takes a no soap rinse

        and then,
        “She couldn’t think of going back to Bakery to dry. [i]Not today[/i]. She eyed the [i]moonlight peering in the grates above[/i]” (emphasis mine) Perhaps the activities listed above took 12-16 hours, but I doubt it.

        Further, at the very beginning of A4, when trying to wash she says he’s coming in “three short days”. But this is wrong if Auri days are sunlight days. Since it’s the morning, she has all of A4, A5, A6, & A7 (4 days) to prepare for his arrival at dusk on A7.

        However, if Auri days are moonlight days she does have three days (A4, A5, & A6) to prepare and Kvothe will show up right at the beginning of A7.

      • I haven’t seen that in the Tor reread, surely there isn’t one for this book already?

        I think the problem is that the timeline is not as straightforward in WMF as it might first appear. Here’s how I think it could work:

        WMF 1
        Day 1: First day of admissions, Kvothe draws Felling, the 8th day of admissions, which he trades for day 7.
        Night 1: ?

        WMF 2 – 3: ?

        WMF 4
        Day 4: Kvothe makes deck lamps for eight hours
        Night 4: Kvothe & Auri meet, agree that Kvothe will play in 6 days/6 nights.

        WMF 5
        Day 5: Kvothe finishes deck lamps
        Night 5: Kvothe plays musical joke on the lute at Eolian
        SR1: Auri wakes up thinking Kvothe will play in 7 days
        (day 1 of waiting)

        WMF 6: ?
        SR2: turning day/doing day for Auri
        (day 2 of waiting)

        WMF 7:
        Day 7: Plumb bob incident
        Night 7: continuing plum bob incident, Auri comforts Kvothe
        SR 3: Auri weeps
        (day 3 of waiting)

        WMF 8: Kvothe hides out sick in his room for two days, day 1
        SR 4: tapering day/burning day (blanket is messed up)
        (day 4 of waiting)

        WMF 9: Kvothe hides out sick in his room for two days, day 2
        SR 5: Auri is having a better day, calling/making/mending
        (day 5 of waiting)

        WMF 10:
        Day 10: Admissions using Fela’s slot, then Kvothe goes to visit Denna, Devi
        Night 10: on the roof to play for Auri
        SR 6: Auri waxing day, day for making.
        (day 6 of waiting)

        Even if Auri is nocturnal, I don’t think it solves it. They clearly meet at night when they make arrangements to meet again, if they also meet at night on Kvothe’s actual admissions day — and when else would there be time given how busy Kvothe is that day –it is still only six nights later.

        • Katja —

          Yeah, that pretty much lines up with how I match the two timelines. Note that what you’ve listed as WMF 1 (any what I called K1/A(-4)) is the night that Auri and Kvothe agree that he will play for her in 6 nights, which would be WMF 7, and the day that Kvothe was originally supposed to go through admissions.

          So the real question is why Auri thinks — on WMF 5, SR 1– that he will play in 7 days. Theoretically, the last she knew was that he would be playing in two more days. Ergo, evidence of her magic.

          No, there hasn’t been a Tor posting yet. Brief discussion at the bottom of the comments on the most recent post.

          • Also, on A6, she corrects her assumption. I don’t have the book in front of me, but she thinks that she has one more day, but then realizes that no, he’s coming that day instead. So her initial estimate from Ch 1 was off, but she corrects on day 6, before he arrives.

          • At first I thought that they met up on the evening of WMF 1– the day that Kvothe draws his admissions tiles. But that didn’t make sense in the context of Auri’s tale because if she was expecting him to be on time, he wouldn’t have shown up. That’s why I decided that they must have met on WMF 5, and the weeping incident matches up with when she visits him after the plumb bob incident. The chronology in WMF doesn’t preclude that.

            • I’m nearly certain that Kvothe and Auri do meet on the first day of admissions. Their conversation definitely doesn’t happen on the fifth day, since Kvothe is otherwise occupied that day (see below).

              Contextually, WMF ch 4 does take place on the first day of admissions, though it’s not explicit. In the previous chapter (Ch 3, Luck), Kvothe draws his tile for day 8 and trades it for day 7. In ch 4 (Tar and Tin), he states that he has a full span of days to work in the Fishery with no classes, and makes his way to Stocks to find out what is low so that he can sell stuff quickly. He starts work on two deck lamps, and spends 8 hours working, and goes to Ankers. From Anker he gets some dinner — two potatoes, half a squash, butter and Bredon beer, and heads up to his room, and then out to meet Auri.

              I agree that Auri *should* be expecting Kvothe on A3, since it was the night that they originally agreed upon. However, I think that the disconnect comes from an erroneous assumption that the 7 days of SR comes from the agreement in WMF. In contrast, I think that the 7 days in SR comes from Auri’s power.

              Bear with me while I try to lay out the case:

              1) We assume that since Kvothe and Auri agreed to meet six days after the events in WMF, and Auri awakes knowing that she has 7 days before he visits her, then “obviously” that must relate to the same period of time, and Auri knows the time she has because Kvothe told her.

              2) We get stuck on the 7 days vs. 6 days: “They agreed that he would play music in 6 days! Why does she think that she has 7 days?!” I think this is a red herring. Since it’s approximately the same amount of time, we assume that Auri knows she has that amount of time because Kvothe told her.

              3) When they meet in WMF ch 4, Kvothe indicates that he’ll play in 6 days, and Auri agrees that she can be patient as a stone for 6 days. In ch 11 (Haven), Kvothe indicates that Auri wasn’t expecting her, they plays for an hour before she arrives. She indicates that she has been patient as *two* stones out together — so clearly more than the 6 days they originally agreed — more like the 9 days that it actually took for him to visit.

              4) After visiting Auri, several days pass before the plum bob incident, not just the one day that would have passed if they had met on K5 — beginning of Ch 5 (The Eolian) indicates this — “The days trudged past. I worked in the Fishery until my fingers were numb, then read in the archives until my eyes were blurry. On the fifth day of admissions I finally finished my deck lamps and took them to Stocks, hoping they sold quickly…. I set about making money in other ways. I played an extra night at Ankers, earning free drinks….” This all happens between when they meet, and the plum bob incident, and some of it explicitly happens on K5.

              5) In contrast to what Kvothe believes, Auri actually WAS expecting him on K10/A6 — for the majority of SR, she thought that she had 7 days to prepare. However, on day 6, she suddenly realized that he would arrive that day instead. This is before he was on top of things, before he started to play. Thus, she knew things about his schedule that she “shouldn’t” have known.

              Ergo: I think that Auri’s knowledge of when Kvothe will visit, as reported in SR, is evidence for he Seeing/Naming abilities. When Auri woke she knew that she had seven days. Not because he told her, but rather because she could see the true shape of the world. She could see when he would actually visit. She knew that he would be delayed from the original plan. Her sight/knowledge was imperfect — she was originally a day off — but it was close to accurate, and it was corrected before the end. She ended up knowing he would visit before he actually visited.

              • I forgot to add this, but deck lamps take 40 hours of work: WMF Ch 4 (Tar and Tin): “Unfortunately, deck lamps were pure drudgery. Forty house of painstaking labor, and if I botched any of it, the lamps simply wouldn’t work.”

                As such, Kvothe begins the lamps on WMF 1, visits Auri that night, spends WMF 2-4 continuing to work on the lamps and reading in the Archives at night (the real mystery is how he gets into the Archives without seeing Auri, unless that is just left out of SRoST), finally finishing them on WMF 5.

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