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.
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.
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.