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 mistook 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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.