I guess this chapter has, like
the meaning of life
see I made a Hitch-hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy reference am I cool yet
Anyway Kvothe is in the Medica getting his back ouchies healed.
Two cuts, and as cuts go, you couldn’t have done better. Clean, shallow, and straight. If you do as I tell you, you’ll have nothing but smooth silver scars to show the ladies how brave you are
Let’s rewind back to the beginning of the book:
As he was undressing for bed, the fire flared. The red light traced faint lines across his body, across his back and arms. All the scars were smooth and silver
Do you see.
Arwyl, the Master “physicker” notices that Kvothe drugged himself and Kvothe explains that he did it to avoid fainting and showing weakness in front of the others. Because we couldn’t just have him be afraid of pain, I guess.
A student arrives to stitch Kvothe up and Arwyl asks if she washed her hands. She says she did.
“Then you have wasted your time and effort,” he said sternly. “Think of all the germs of disease that you might have gathered in the long walk through the passageway.
So they do have a germ theory of disease. This isn’t all that unreasonable as micro-organisms were discovered in the 17 century and as far as I can tell it was stubbornness and a lack of critical thinking that stopped people from reaching the obvious conclusion that they might have something to do with infectious disease until the late 19th century. The fact that residents of Kvotheworld have reached this stage would seem to indicate that they have a much more developed scientific method then we did at a comparable technology level.
Still doesn’t make the chemistry any less ridiculous though.
There’s some hi-larious banter between the student and Arwyl as Arwyl asks her what she’d do if Kvothe insisted on getting stitches with no anesthetic, which he had insisted he didn’t need due to being drugged up to the eyeballs.
“He doesn’t seem to be bleeding much at all, so I would proceed. I would also make it clear to him that if he moved overmuch, I would tie him to the table and treat him as I saw fit for his well-being.”
Wheel of Time flashbacks aaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh
The student, Mola, stitches him up and Arwyl offers to let Kvothe increase his healing stat at the Medica. First the artificer and now this guy- Is anyone not going to offer to take Kvothe as a student? It’s not like he actually displayed any aptitude or interest in medicine.
The Flickering Way
Well I guess that chapter was totally pointless, let’s move on.
Kvothe heads to the archives and sees Not-Draco and one of the interchangeable personality-free female students at the desk.
Ambrose was leaning toward her, speaking in a low voice. She had the distinctly uncomfortable look of a woman who knows the futility of a polite refusal. One of his hands rested on her knee, while the other arm was draped across the back of her chair, his hand resting on her neck. He meant for it to look tender and affectionate, but there was a tension in her body like that of a startled deer.
Of course, she can’t do anything about this herself because *loud humming sound* so Kvothe has to come to the rescue.
Not-Draco was trying to write poetry so Kvothe critiques his poem with his awesome poetry skills. Even though Not-Draco is a tool Kvothe still comes across like a pompous asshole.
Ambrose finally turned around to face me, and in so doing he had to take his right hand off Fela’s knee. A half-victory, but his other hand remained on her neck, holding her in her chair with the appearance of a casual caress.
Hey here’s an idea, why not just tell him to fuck off? Is there a reason Kvothe has to play mind games with him instead of just being direct?
“God’s body, this isn’t some brothel. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, she’s a student, not some brass nail you’ve paid to bang away at.
I believe this is the third time Kvothe or someone affiliated with him has made derisive remarks about prostitutes. Kind of makes you wonder.
If you’re going to force yourself on a woman, have the decency to do it in an alleyway. At least that way she’ll feel justified screaming about it.”
Ambrose’s face flushed furiously and it took him a long moment to find his voice. “You don’t know the first thing about women.”
“My lady scriv,” I said to her with a bow. A very slight bow, as my back wouldn’t permit a deep one. “Would you be so good as to help me locate a book concerning women? I have been instructed by my betters to inform myself on this most subtle subject.”
I smiled at Fela. “Perhaps a bestiary,” I said gently. “I hear they are singular creatures, much different than men.”
Kvothe is the patron saint of creepy Nice Guy geek dudes. Not sure why he’s making such a big deal out of not knowing much about women considering he’s only 15. Also, I thought he was shy around them? Remember Denna?
Moving stiffly, Fela got up from the desk, gathered up the book she’d been trying to read, and headed into Tomes. As she pulled the door open, I like to think she gave me a brief look of gratitude and relief.
I’m sure that joke about her getting raped in an alleyway really went over well.
As the door swung shut behind her, the room seemed to grow a little dimmer. I am not speaking poetically. The light truly seemed to dim. I looked at the sympathy lamps hanging around the room, wondering what was wrong.
Something interesting is finally going to happen
But a moment later I felt a slow, burning sensation begin to creep across my back and realized the truth. The nahlrout was wearing off.
Kvothe decides to head into the stacks even though he’s tripping balls and gets price-gouged by Not-Malfoy into paying a “stack fee” of one silver talent. The stacks aren’t lit at all for some contrived reason so Kvothe also needs to buy a lamp, which costs a talent and a half. Kvothe settles on a candle instead.
I took the candle, more than a little surprised. Apparently I’d frightened him with my idle threat earlier. Either that or this rude, pompous noble’s son wasn’t half the bastard I’d taken him for.
(He totally is)
As I didn’t have any matches with me, I had to resort to sympathy. Ordinarily I could have done it quick as blinking, but my nahlrout-weary mind could barely muster the necessary concentration. I gritted my teeth, fixed the Alar in my mind, and after a few seconds I felt the cold leech into my muscles as I drew enough heat from my own body to bring the wick of the candle sputtering to life.
If I had the time or inclination I’d go check what the heat of combustion of a candle wick is and see if Kvothe could actually do this without short-circuiting all the chemical reactions in his body, but it sounds pretty sketchy to me. I seem to remember Ben saying sympathy amplifies energy or something. Because you can’t create or destroy energy but you can generate more of it from nowhere, apparently.
Also: once again, why didn’t he ever do this in Tarbean? It’s like Rothfuss forgot Kvothe had already learned sympathy before that part began.
With no windows to let in the sunlight, the stacks were utterly dark except for the gentle light of my candle.
This sounds like a horrific fire-related catastrophe just waiting to happen.
It was quite by accident that I found the four-plate door.
It was made of a solid piece of grey stone the same color as the surrounding walls. Its frame was eight inches wide, also grey, and also one single seamless piece of stone. The door and frame fit together so tightly that a pin couldn’t slide into the crack.
Secret door! I approve of secret doors.
Unfortunately the door is sealed as only a secret mystery door can be, with no handle and four keyholes.
In its center, between the untarnished copper plates, a word was chiseled deep into the stone: VALARITAS.
Veritas? I see we’re getting into the JK Rowling school of Not-Latin here.
Naturally Kvothe is consumed with curiosity about the door. But just then two “scrivs” come by and one of them grabs Kvothe’s candle and blows it out.
“What are you doing with an open flame in here?” he demanded in the loudest whisper I had ever heard.
Of course, Not-Malfoy was trying to get Kvothe in trouble. I wonder what they to do students who bring candles into the stacks, gouge out their eyes?
Lorren, the master of the Archives, charges over and demands to know what’s going on. I’m starting to notice a certain pattern to these chapters- Kvothe gets in trouble with one of the faculty, weasels his way out of it and manages to increase his esteem and fame.
There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.
Kvothe tries to explain what happened but the withdrawl from the herbs he took is messing with his mind and he contradicts himself. I actually thought this would be an example of Kvothe’s intelligence back-firing and Lorren wouldn’t believe him, but no he totally does. Not that it helps because Kvothe still gets banned from the archives.
All that matters is the reality of your actions. Your hand held the fire. Yours is the blame. That is the lesson all adults must learn.”
Yeah, not really. If anything this is the way authority figures tend to treat children.
As I’ve said before, Kvothe has never been shown the rules or told how this place operates. Big libraries like this are implied to be rare in Kvotheland so most new students wouldn’t have any experience with them. If they had a sign up saying “no candles” or if Kvothe had been given access to information about the rules and regulations of the University but just hadn’t bothered to read them then you could legitimately blame him. As it is it seems as if the only way to learn the ropes in this place is from peers and other students, a system that’s just ripe for abuse.
So now Kvothe is banned from the Archives, the one place he needs to go to move the plot forward. You know what that means?
Beefy dudes in armour are here to stop the plot from moving forward at all costs. Hold the line, gentlemen.
Since Rothfuss keeps all but inviting comparisons I’ll bring up the Harry Potter books for a second. Large parts of those books consists of characters trying to find/learn about/discover/break into [X] in order to get the plot rolling. It never really bothered me there though, possibly because the setting felt fleshed out enough that the obstacles blocking the way were understandable (the last book tried to use the same formula in a different setting, with disastrous results). But the University just feels like a series of challenges for Kvothe to overcome before he can cash in his next plot coupon. It’s almost like an old point and click adventure game- the asshole at the desk won’t let you into the library, find a way to get your name on the registry! Combine [candle wick] and [science magic] to create [flame]!
It doesn’t help that Kvothe’s goal is still the extremely vague “find information about the Chandrian” rather than anything concrete to work toward.
I drew a fair amount of attention as I walked to the table. Understandable, as it was scarcely two hours since I’d been tied to the pennant pole and publicly lashed. I heard someone whisper, “.. . didn’t bleed when they whipped him. I was there. Not one drop.”
I really hope this isn’t where the “Kvothe the bloodless” thing is supposed to have come from. Even assuming he became wildly famous some time afterward how many people would seriously remember this? Plus he bought the drug that stopped him from bleeding in a shop right next door to the University, surely someone else would have tried this at some point.
It turns out that there is no stack fee and Not-Malfoy was just cheating him out of his money. This is presented as a consequence of Kvothe’s hubris for taking the drugs and I think we’re meant to read it as a major character flaw but the whole situation feels too contrived.
It turns out Not-Malfoy is the firstborn heir of a powerful duke in somewhere called Vintas and
heir of Slytherin 16th in line for the throne, and therefore not someone you want to mess with.
“And there was Tabetha,” Sim said darkly. “She made all that noise about how Ambrose had promised to marry her. She just disappeared.”
That’s pretty messed up but I can’t say its surprising given the society the story is set in.
“I’m not threatening anyone,” I said innocently, pitching my voice so anyone who was listening could easily hear. “I’m just quoting one of my favorite pieces of literature. It’s from the fourth act of Daeonica where Tarsus says:
“Upon him I will visit famine and a fire.
Till all around him desolation rings
And all the demons in the outer dark
Look on amazed and recognize
That vengeance is the business of a man.”
Everyone is totally stunned by this instead of bursting into hysterical laughter. One of Kvothe’s bunk buddies tells him that you don’t actually have to by lanterns, you just sign them out at the front desk.
I nodded wearily. I’d been right before. Ambrose wasn’t half the bastard I thought he was. He was ten times the bastard.
And thus a homoerotic shonen anime rivalry is born!