The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses

Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XII.iii ASH AND EMBER


We left off with, “breaching the door that’s not for her with neither warning nor comment.” The Larkin Ledgers took a holiday hiatus in much the same manner, but now that High Mourning has passed, I’ll see if I can’t get back to the text in earnest.

Auri walked into Boundary like it was no big deal. In a way it’s similar to the way the name of Annulet just slipped into the text without drawing attention to itself. Is this a new motif for the chapters across the ring?

She returns to Mantle to find her third fire burned down to ash with which she finally fills her clay cup full. She rinses her hands and face and feet. It’s worthwhile to revisit the bit quoted from The Wise Man’s Fear back when she sealed the pipe.

“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

Auri’s making soap because she’s out. Any chemical or alchemical poisoning she experiences during the process can’t be mitigated by even basic hygiene. So far, she seems careful enough, but like that incident it’s not her actions as they happen that tell the story but her reactions afterward. Keeping that in mind makes what follows in the next few chapters easier to understand.

Everything’s ready. She sets the tallow to melt, resisting the urge to speed the process along. The she filters water through the ashes, the usefulness of the crack becoming clear. She kept it as a tool rather then a pointless odd piece of junk.

When the final drips had fallen, Auri held the jar of cinderwash aloft and saw it was as fine as any she had ever made. It was a sunset dusky red. Stately and graceful, it was a changing thing. But underneath it all, the liquid held a blush of wantonness. It held all the proper things the wood had brought and many caustic lies besides.

Calling it cinderwash rather than lye is almost like bear baiting, though in this case the bears are his fans. Depending on the denim brand, cinder wash is either ashen or crimson, but I kind of doubt that’s what Rothfuss was going for. It evokes mercurial grace, goat’s eyes, too many teeth. So it’s not surprising that he ends the paragraph wit the clever turn of phrase. Caustic lies connected to Cinder? The mind itches.

So she’s got water, lye, and fat. She can make soap. Plain, unscented, joyless soap. “How terrible to live surrounded by the stark, sharp, hollowness of things that simply were enough?” the text asks.  Auri’s intentional smallness, her resistance of desire, again grates against her minor indulgences.

And here the nutmeg comes in, together with Esther’s esters. A redditor explored the soap-making process in some detail here, which should clear up anything I negelct to explain and account for any gross misconceptions on my part. Chemists and alchemists weighed in to offer information. One went so far as to note that Pat was drawing a little bit from life in these scenes.

What I want to draw out of all that is the incredibly haphazard and generally unsafe extraction method Auri uses to get tetradecanoic acid. Presumably it’ll improve the lather of the soap and the selas scent will improve Auri’s day. But she’s chancing (or maybe courting, who knows) toxic exposure to myristicin.

A and E Byne

She wishes for a proper press, which she actually has in Boundary. Her rules for using it are, at this point, unclear. So she carries on straining, twisting, and absorbing psychoactive agents through the linen.

Auri lifted up the glass and eyed the viscous liquid, clear as amber. It was lovely, lovely , lovely. It was like nothing that she’d ever seen before. It was thick with secrets and sea foam.

In the whole of The Kingkiller Chronicle, there’s just one triple epizeuxis: Elodin’s “Blue! Blue! Blue!” in The Name of the Wind. There are two or three in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but lending Auri so many kind of illuminates her naming ability and sets her in a more rarefied space. It’s full of sea foam for lather. Whispers and secrets for the euphoric effects. Musk for the Selas scent.

The pomace left over, the linen, the sticks, are full of screaming. Auri handles them as little as possible “as if they had been poisoned.” With a proper press, she might not have risked the mounting anxiety and dissociation that’s coming. She gathers up everything she used to extract the oil and heads into Boundary again, this time with a bit more fanfare. We’re building to something, but that will have to wait.

Auri rinses. Rinses again. Wishes for soap. She wanders into Port and furtively checks over everything.  Everything. She checks to make sure the pages to The Book of Secrets are still uncut, so every reader will know something’s wrong. She rinses again.

The light was brighter and she heard the sound of things that normally she couldn’t hear. A keening of the world all out of place. A howl of everything all turned from true. . . .

The hallucinations begin, probably augmented by her continual fasting. Mantle itself is precarious. Things in their places only barely holding an illusion together. Page 116 is Auri’s bummer. “Everything was. Everything was everything. Everything was everything else.”

But she manages to find a focus, a fulcrum, in the brazen gear.

When all the world was palimpsest, it was a perfect palindrome.

This line seems so heavy handed, but each time I look back at it I grow a little more fond. Palimpsest is a great metaphor for the aggregate meaning that builds with each additional read of Rothfuss, scraping away old impressions and writing over them with new ones. And palindrome is as much a reference to the structure of this novella as it is to the gear itself.

A and E Brazen

It’s a ring with a clear start and finish that when turned right side up, with the middle in the most prominent place, fixes everything. But it doesn’t necessarily make sense that Auri turning it could bring her out of an entheogenic fugue. Unless you take the text literally. She didn’t turn the gear. She turned the world.


6 thoughts on “Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XII.iii ASH AND EMBER

  1. First off, I am really enjoying the in-depth analysis to date, so thank you (and all of the commenters)!

    One thing that jumped out at me during the soap-making process was the mention of the selas flower, since that is the flower that Kvothe chooses for Denna. Any speculation on the significance of the selas appearing here?

    • i always thought that the selas flower is associated with being a woman, some sort of quintessential womanly scent. thus it can be associated to Auri and Denna, but surely Kvothe is not the selas sort, meaning he’s quite obviously straight. many people read this as a message from Pat saying Kvothe and Denna are not made for each other, but this would be so much in contrast with the text and with everything Pat ever said in interviews about Denna.

  2. My grandfather enjoyed telling a story of how when he was a boy (~1920), after butchering some hogs, they had rendered out the fat and made soap. This was a process that took the whole day and when they were finished his father had told him to make sure to wash up. My grandfather did this and as he was lathering up, my great grandfather had a great laugh–as he was washing off soap with soap.
    I doubt very much that they used nutmeg, but the story did bring this story back to me. Maybe stories of soap making are a Midwestern sort of thing to tell.
    I hadn’t really considered the hallucinogenic properties of nutmeg as I was reading the story, but they do make sense here. They also explain why the sticks would be screaming as they would have been even more exposed than Auri.

  3. Hope you’re doing well.

  4. Theory: Denna mentions a magic – a writing magic, that makes things true.

    How’s this for theory, Kvothe discorvers such magic is true. Chronicler, “THEEEEEEEEE chronicler” arrives proposing he write Kvothe’s story. He accepts and after the first day talking about sympathy and alar Kvothe ends for the day and is attacked, upon being attacked he attempts a binding and fails. He then becomes sullen. book ends. Second book he talks about his trip to Adem and the Ketan. soldiers interrupt and this time he tries to fight physically and fails also. story comes to an end and he goes upstairs to try the lock on the chest ending with an attempt to open it using the word edro and fails. Just as the book is about to end and all hope lost for good Patrick Rothfuss ends with then he made one single perfect step. A spark of hope with 5 years to wait for the ending. Suspentional builds. he finishes the third story, its tragic. he comes to a clear and unseen reality that has been hanging in his face this whole time. Suddenly there is true hope. He believes in himself, regaining his full or atleast a significant amount back, enough to make it seem like he might not fufill the ending purpose. then taking folly(Lanre/Aethe/Taborlin sword), he uses his power to open his chest grab his lute, candle, coin. Knowing the truth of what sparked the creation war he leaves for renere(the place Patrick Admits kvothe to travel to in the third book) to stop Alaxel from stealing the moons full name. however, Alaxel flees to the fae while kvothe is left to fight the chandrian, killing Cinder Kvothe rushes through the greystones to the fae to find Alaxel in the center of Fair Taryniel(circle of greystones in hespes story of the beggar/ring unworn)standing over a lake or mirror(depiction of vase/second attempt to revive lyra) waiting for a lunar eclipse (only happens every 5000 years in this world – just a guess). Kvothe knew(just as Rethe knew) this was wrong and not of the lethani(right action) and would end in relapse of lanre haliax incident. Also the moon now truly full in Fae all of Tamerent is at risk of being destroyed and or killed by creatures. It is not the way of the world and to bring her back is messing with the turnings of the world so kvothe tries to stop him. Im guessing “one who brings the blood”(lackless riddle) has to do with sacrificing something important to kvothe – Denna. Kvothe goes into spinning leaf or deep into the heart of stone(Nirvana) and looks deep inside the soul of Alaxel revealing the incident that led to his betrayel. With this knowledge he is brought to the dilemma of killing someone who is just as he used to be, a heartbroken revenge stricken boy, betrayel and left by those closest to him. Thus, in all movies/books (morality vs love) is the determinate choice the protagonist must make. He chooses love and in some way his choice somehow negates that ending and instead forces the other.(batman ending)

  5. just thought about the Denna thing again, instead of alaxel holding her hostage and a choice at the end.. Cinder(Master ash/Dennas patrone/Bredon) holds her hostage while Alaxel escapes to fae from kvothe the singer they are afraid of and being enraged by the two factors kvothe blood raged fight cinder and barely wins then races to fae and in the end he goes into that clear feeling he felt when he sung felurians name and he sings Alaxels name.

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