Truth Or A Kind Lie
(A "Name of the Wind" reinterpretation) by "MS"
NOTE: Everything belongs to Patrick Rothfuss, and it's a pretty heavy M for Mature. The dialogue from the first third is from NOTW but I flipped the perspective to Verainia's; the second half is all me. And I'm sorry for writing a oneshot fic about some obscure character but I'm sure there's at least one other fan who might appreciate it.
He'd heard my knock. I wasn't ready for that. Part of me hoped he wouldn't hear it so I could run away, without him ever knowing I'd been there. Too late for that.
I opened the door a crack, just enough to see him; he was so beautiful. Almost exactly the way I pictured, except completely different; I didn't believe his hair was red as burning coals... until I saw it. Was what everybody in town was saying about him true? Did he really kill a demon, a real demon with his own hands, his own dark magic? But he couldn't be dark. I didn't see why everyone kept saying that. If he'd come to rid us of demons, didn't that mean he was doing God's work? Didn't that make him into light - into THE Light?
I closed the door behind me, trying not to make any noise. Then I cursed myself. I shouldn't have done that. What if he didn't want to talk to me for more than a few seconds? Closing the door might make him feel obligated to entertain me, like a real guest. I didn't want to cause any trouble like that. Not for a legend.
So I got down to business. I tried to look him in the eye, but it was impossible; his eyes were so powerful. "You wanted to know what Mauthen dug up?"
"What's your name?"
I didn't want to tell him. Nobody likes their own name, I'd reckon, but I especially hated mine; it was silly. "Verainia Greyflock." Remembering my manners, I tried to curtsy, but I think I looked like I had almost fallen down instead. Gritting my teeth, I steeled myself for him to laugh at me. I got teased a lot when I said or did something, and that's what my da told me; just to chew my lip and wait for the teasing to pass, and then I'd be fine.
"That's a lovely name."
What did he say? I chanced a look up at him and caught him smiling. Did he really think my name was lovely? Couldn't be.
"A verian is a tiny red flower. Have you ever seen one?" I hadn't, and I wasn't stupid enough to lie to a magician, so I shook my head. "I'm guessing no one calls you Verainia though. Are you a Nina?"
"That's what my gran calls me," I told him with a small smile, surprised that he'd guessed it. Of course, he might have already known, being that he had the wisdom of the angels at his disposal.
Still smiling in that gentle way, he pointed to his bed and said, "Come sit, Nina."
Sit I did. Merciful Tehlu, he had me on his bed; my ma would have skinned me alive for being in a boy's room, sitting on his sheets! But it was the magician, the one who'd moved fire from houses to the tree and dropped an iron wheel onto a big black demon. Wherever he told me to sit, I'd sit.
"I seen it," I began in a whisper, fiddling with my hands in my lap. Nervous habit. "The thing they got out of the barrow. Jimmy, Mauthen's youngest boy, he showed me."
"What was it?"
"It was a big fancy pot, about this high." I showed him, but yanked my hand back in a hurry when I saw how badly it was trembling. "It had all sorts of writings and pictures on it. Really fancy. I haven't ever seen colors like that. And some of the paints were shiny like silver and gold."
"Pictures of what?"
"People. Mostly people. There was a woman holding a broken sword, and a man next to a dead tree, and another man with a dog biting his leg..."
The reason I stopped talking was because I noticed his emerald-colored eyes were diving into mine. I wanted them to, I wanted to look at them forever. Neither of us would have to move at all, and I could just watch them, watch his lips... "Was there one with white hair and black eyes?"
I nodded, shivering. "Gave me the all-overs."
"Can you remember anything else about the pictures? Take your time, think hard."
I wasn't sure why he needed to know, but I did my best. "There was one with no face, just a hood with nothing inside. There was a mirror by his feet and there was a bunch of moons over him. You know, full moon, half moon, sliver moon. And there was a woman... With some of her clothes off." A flush came over me, I couldn't help it. I'd been raised proper, hadn't I? Women didn't take their clothes off in front of strange men. Even in paintings.
He flashed me an understanding smile and patted me on the knee. It sent a shock up my spine like he'd poked me with a branding iron, but I knew he hadn't meant it that way. Only trying to make me feel better.
"Can you remember anything else?" I shrugged helplessly. "What about the writing?"
"This was all foreign writing. It didn't say anything."
"Do you think you could draw any of the writing you saw on it?"
"I only saw it for half a moment," I apologized. God's body, I was making a mess of this. Our town hero (or who I saw as a town hero from that day on) needed my help, and this was all I could do? Shame on me! But I rushed ahead, trying to explain. "Me and Jimmy knew we'd catch a beating if his da caught us."
He was still nodding to himself when I felt the hot tears spring up - I'd done so well at keeping them away so far! Either way, though... I had to ask him. He was the only one who could give me any kind of an answer. "Are demons going to be coming for me too, cause I seen it? I been so scared since what happened out at Mauthen's!" A sob came out of my throat, but I fought it back down so I could speak again. "I keep having dreams. I... I know they're going to come get me!"
With a sudden creak of the floorboards, I felt him get up and sit next to me. No, he shouldn't, why would he? I wanted to be tougher than that, provide him with what he needed. Instead, I was falling apart like a rotted log.
But the next second, the one that stopped my heart, he had put his arm around me. And just the feeling of it there, of his muscles beneath his shirt, hearing his lips make shushing noises so close to my ear... it filled me up with warmth and drove away my fears. They were still there, lurking around the edges, but it helped.
A few minutes later, after I'd tried to pull myself back together, he whispered, "Nothing is going to come and get you." I nodded, but he obviously didn't believe me because his next words were, "Let me give you something."
He pulled a small, round piece of shiny metal out of his cloak and held it out for me. There were all sorts of weird symbols on it, ones like you see in the corners of picture books or on altars in the churches; they don't mean anything, but you know they're from God.
"I got this charm when I was in Veloran - far away, across the Stormwal mountains. It is a most excellent charm against demons." Then he took my hand - he was holding my hand, the man who saved us - and pressed it into my palm.
"D-don't you need it?"
He was already shaking his head before I finished my sentence. "I have other ways of keeping safe."
All my fingers dug into its surface as I stared down at my treasure; I was shaking as I tried not to cry any harder, but more tears were never far off after... after Jimmy... "Oh, thank you; I'll keep it with me all the time."
"There's no need for that. Here's how it works." Again, he was holding my hand, this time the one of mine in both of his, his charm trapped in the middle. It felt so hot against my skin that I wondered if I might burn. "Close your eyes."
For a long time, he spoke, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. What language was this? Angelic? It sounded masterful and exotic, and I wanted to listen to it forever but I contented myself with basking in it for as long as he spoke to me. Toward the end, I leaned into his body a little but he didn't flinch, just kept chanting the magic spell or blessing or whatever it was.
I realized two things right then and there. One, I wanted to know everything I could about the man who'd saved Trebon. And two... I wanted more than to know ABOUT him. Of course, I wasn't crazy enough to even entertain the second thing. Never in a moonage.
When I noticed he'd finished speaking, I opened my eyes and gazed up at him, willing him to see me for even a breath, to look at me and feel a hint of what I felt.
"Now it's tuned to you. No matter what, no matter where it is, it will protect you and keep you safe. You could even break it and melt it down and the charm would still hold."
"You... are you sure?"
"Yes. But YOU must be sure, as well. Remember that."
Trying to beam at him when I had so recently been bawling wasn't a wise plan, but I did. Then he laughed... and the next thing I knew, I was pouncing on him, clutching him with force and kissing him on the cheek. He'd parted with that magical object just to protect me, some silly girl from a forgettable village in the hills that no one ever saw nor came near. Why? But the why's be damned, he had done it, he'd made me feel so much peace!
And then I remembered who we were and realized what I was doing. Face completely red, I backed up stared down at him. "S... sorry."
"It's allright," he told me gently, hands lightly touching mine. When I didn't look away, his smile grew wider, and I saw it. I saw the moment when he looked at me, and he saw more than a backwoods girl who'd been shown a fancy pot.
Or I could have imagined it. But I like to think I really saw it.
"Thank you," I said again. "Thank you for..." What else was there to say to my protector? The whole time I was staring at him, which I only realized when his gaze shifted away from mine and he scratched behind his ear.
He could be bashful, too? Amazing! He had rescued our humble hamlet from destruction, he could move the world like only God could, and he didn't look at me with hate or disapproval when I gawked so rudely but averted his own eyes instead?
I dove at him and we landed on the bed, a tangle of limbs, my mouth already working on his. His hands went to my shoulders, they gripped hard as if they might force me away, but when I tensed and stopped kissing him they only held me still. Pulling away, I gaped at him, alarmed at what I did... but his expression was only surprised, not angry. Not disgusted, like I'd expected it to be.
He wasn't as old as I thought. Before that minute, I figured twenty or a little more, just like Prince Gallant usually was. But now I saw he was only a few years older than me. So brave, and so close to my age... how could he have become so incredible in that time when I was so... ordinary?
"God flog me, I'm sorry!" I hissed, knowing I should be bowing on the floor to him to beg forgiveness but only able to rest my head upon his chest for the time being. "I... you were... oh, what did I do?"
I couldn't line up my thoughts to apologize properly; I'd forced my unworthy self onto his incomparable heroic body. He must have wanted me dead.
Yet his hand was on my back. "It's nothing. Don't worry."
My heart was racing on fleet hooves as I felt him stroke my back, the other hand still on my shoulder. Then it moved up to my cheek, and I almost did myself in; it was so warm, and smooth but with the right amount of roughness...
"A tiny red flower," he whispered, finger drifting from my cheek to my bottom lip, tracing along its edge. "Verainia."
I opened my lips and let his finger dip in, then pursed them around the tip, just the tip. It was like everything I'd ever wanted since I was born had suddenly come true, and it was shining out from this man beneath me.
Beneath me! I was straddling a hero!
At the same moment, we pushed away from each other and turned to face away from the bed where something bad had almost happened. Sure, I was breathing like I'd herded all the neighbor's chickens by myself, but so was he. He seemed so worldly-wise one moment, then so REAL the next. I couldn't understand him.
Then again, I didn't want to understand him. I just wanted him to be near me.
"I sh-should be going," I stammered. "You've done a whole lot for Trebon, and you're tired, and I'm just g-getting in the w- in the w- in the way."
A grin sprang up when he heard me bumbling with my words, though he was still only stealing quick glances at me. I wanted him to steal ME, but I didn't want to put out any bait; that would be cheating. "Actually, I'm feeling a touch lonely and could use some company, if you wouldn't mind."
"Company... of what sort?"
There was a flicker of discomfort across his face; I had pushed too far. Not that I even meant to push, it just tumbled out! We had kissed. Wasn't it natural for me to ask what he was after? But when I tried to hide my face in my hands, he pulled them apart and caught my eyes up with his.
"Of your sort," he told me simply. Then he kissed me again.
Really, that was the first time HE kissed ME. All our kisses were real and perfect, but when he was the one starting it... it was that much sweeter.
Things rushed by so fast, even while I was trying to memorize everything happening to me. I blinked, his hands were on the back of my neck. I blinked, we were lying on his bed, side-by-side. I blinked, I was touching his backside, and even though my fingers shook they pressed in and liked what they felt.
What was I doing?
"Stop!" I panted, pressing my face into the side of his neck. "I... I don't even know you!"
"I know," he replied, voice equally stressed. "But this feels- it's so delectable, even though I know I'm doing something wrong here!"
"What are you doing wrong?" I asked weakly. "Because it's all pretty good from my point of view!"
I felt his throat swallow. "You're... younger than I am, and I've known you for scant minutes. It's improper for us to do anything of this nature. You ought to be crying out for help, or scratching me raw, or... or just leaving. You really, really ought to run from what I'm considering doing to you."
My hands tensed against his back. He was going to say "you're too young" but he changed his mind. Did that mean he didn't think I was too young? Just... too young to be the wisest choice, or too young for him to take any further than this? It gave me hope. And it made me feel bolder.
"I'm clay, my brave one. Mold me to the shape that fits you." It was about as much poetry as I'd ever put together, and it came boiling out from nowhere. It sounded old, generations older than I really was.
Which means it worked; it made me sound older for just long enough to trick him into continuing. I decided to write it down when I had the chance.
Suddenly my dress was on the floor, and so were most of his clothes. All I remember in between was lips and fingertips, breath and heat. What was that again about women not taking their clothes off in front of strange men? I tried to remember but it wouldn't come to me. He had a lot of scars on his body that I wanted to touch all at once, but every time I did he drew my hand away and kissed it, and I shivered. He was so gentle... so intense... and too much for me to handle on my own. I almost wished there was another two or three girls in the room with us so I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed.
Almost, but no. A selfish corner of me wanted him all to myself.
"Verainia," he said again, and a fresh surge shot up through me. The hunger and excitement he brought to the word that meant ME, it was more attention than anyone ever paid me. And I felt it reflected in my chest.
Now that chest was as bare as his, and he ran his hands over it, and I felt things I'd never, ever dreamed could be real. Everytime I began to think he didn't know what he was doing to me, that he had no way of realizing I was being filled up with him... I'd catch sight of his eyes and see the same feelings there, that he was even more amazed at all of this than me. His hands slid down to my waist, began peeling down what remained of my clothing...
"Wait!" I choked out, grasping his wrists to halt him. "Who... before we can, you must. Who are you?"
For a long moment, he stared at me. Really at me, not just straight ahead where I happened to be blocking his view of the pillow. Then he smiled and said, "Do you want truth or a kind lie?"
It was actually a very hard decision to make. If I chose "Lie", he'd probably tell me something so wonderful that I would always carry it with me, like a downy blanket. But if I chose "Truth", it could be something distressing, or worse - evil.
He wasn't evil. Nothing about him was.
Smiling as if I'd given the right answer - which also happened to be the one that upset him most - he finished removing my clothes but didn't look, only held my eyes as I whimpered in fright. Then he slid up along my body, and I felt my head swim as he placed a delicate kiss on my cheek before his lips moved farther, reaching my ear.
"It starts with a 'K'."
Back to my lips again, and we kissed. The longest, deepest kiss ever shared by two beings in the Commonwealth. I can still taste that one on my tongue anytime I think hard enough on it.
"Then a 'V'." I felt a finger tracing down my thigh and I began to pant - where was he going, he can't go there, he can't touch that, I have to stop him but do I truly wish him to stop oh someone please tell me what I should be - but he stopped and moved the hand up to my hip. "For Verainia Greyflock."
At that, I let out a quiet laugh, which caused him to grin at me. And suddenly, a lot of the fear I'd been holding onto got lighter, or disappeared.
"The rest is 'oath'. Do you swear one to me?"
"Anything." Never had I meant what I've said more than then. He could have sworn me to commit suicide and I would have. Scary, but absolutely true.
"Swear that you'll remember this eve," he said seriously, both hands on either side of my face, pressing in just enough for me to feel them without hurting. "Swear we shall forge a memory here that will endure within our hearts until they beat no more."
"Kvothe," I moaned lightly, testing its weight on my lips. It suited him. It also made him gasp to hear it spoken that way, just as he'd done to my name. "We already have. It just isn't finished yet."
Then he kissed me again... and while he was, I felt a sharp pain, and felt something relent that hadn't been ready for it. The pain was shooting through my body, but something else was forcing it out. Something full of life.
Pretty much all I can remember of the rest of our joining is waves of happiness, his tongue playing with mine, hands on backs. Lots of sweat. And two names blending together to make a sunbeam; it's the way it felt, and still the only way I can describe it, no matter how hard I try to come up with something else.
Afterward, we lay next to each other, trying to catch our breath and staring at the ceiling. It took a long time for the breath to get caught; it was a slippery devil.
Then my hero, Kvothe, turned to me and said in a soft, stricken voice, "I... I'm so sorry, Verainia."
"Why?" Then I cleared my throat. "And y-you could call me Nina if you wanted."
"Nina," he said with a slight smile that fell away as quickly as it cropped up. "I've taken something from you that... perhaps I shouldn't have. A precious rarity that might have been saved for your husband someday."
"No," I told him. "I'll be wed to you."
"To you or no one," I amended shyly, having sensed the alarm in his voice. "I... I'm sure you have bushels of ladies trying to court you. Better ones, more educated or more special. What could I possibly have that would compare with them?"
"There is one thing you have that edges them out of the competition."
"Really?" I asked skeptically. "What's that?"
"The heart of Kvothe." His grin was as mischievous as it was bashful. "I'd say it gives you a slight advantage."
Tears sprang up, but I forced them back. "Don't talk nonsense. I know what this is. The hero always gets the girl at the end of the story. Most times, he doesn't end up taking her along."
"And I'm not riled or anything!" I protested, running my hand over his chest and staring straight into his eyes so he'd believe me. "I mean it. I didn't expect nothing more. Even this is FAR more than I expected to begin with, so..."
"No, Verainia. I'm not in the habit of this." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "This could ruin your opinion of me as a gallivanting demon-rouster and ladykiller, but... you are my first."
Maybe he didn't think it would take me by surprise. It did.
"WHAT? No! No, no, that can't be, not little me from nowhere, some bumpkin - not when you are so very brave and strong, and y-you- and you slay demons! You did, you did it here in this very town!"
"My virgin loins can't be the first you ever touched!"
His face reddened. "They were. And I've no regrets about that."
When he looked at me like that, and everything we'd done washed over me anew, I think I must have gone red from top to toe. We looked like a couple of ripe tomatoes! Then he took me in his arms and kissed me hard and sweetly, and I returned it, overjoyed.
"Now," he said, sitting back with a pained sigh. "I have a couple of questions that... I wish could wait for a few minutes. Or days." Clearing his throat, he looked away and asked, "In Trebon, how old is a girl when she normally marries?"
"Marries?" I asked, even redder than before. "Um... seventeen or more."
"And who do they marry?"
"Anybody who has land," I told him matter-of-factly. "Farmland, or other property, don't matter - as long as he can provide for the wife."
"That's what I thought." He then reached over and grabbed up my clothes, which he pushed into my chest. "Get dressed, quickly."
"No," I moaned. He turned and frowned at me - and it was such a sad frown, one without hope that I gulped and looked away. "No... you mean to chase me off."
"It's all I can do."
"B-but how come? When all I want to do is snuggle against you, feel your heat? My Kvothe..."
"I always will be," he grunted as he struggled into his own garments. "And in the future, I'd love for you to be my Verainia. But for now, you're having sex outside wedlock with a stranger from beyond your borders, years below your community's age of majority."
When he put it that way, all my joy turned to misery.
"None of that," he said, placing his thumb on my lips as he tilted my chin up. "I'd rather not hear that beautiful mouth of yours dirtied up by such language."
"Oh, can't you just take me away with you?" I asked, even as I began dressing. There was no use; he was right. If they caught us together, even with one of my shoes off, I'd look like a common whore and never be married to anyone. "Wherever you're going, I could go, too."
Kvothe squirmed. "Do you... want the truth, or a kind lie?"
"Truth, of course!"
His face became so sad that I instinctively reached out a hand to draw him to me, but in doing so I let my dress fall away, exposing my body again. While he looked away politely, he said, "I... couldn't."
"Because I haven't anywhere to take you. The life of a hero... in my case, it's the life of a pauper. Tehlu's blackened hide, if only I..."
For just a flicker of the candle, I could see how much this hurt him. To spurn me. To turn me away when he didn't want to. So I cleared my throat and said, "I change my mind."
"I'll take the kind lie." Despite my best efforts to sound bold, by the end I was nearly crying.
"Very well." Several deep breaths later, he turned and gave me this noble look that was almost comical. "You must remain here with your family, Nina. There are forces out there that I must confront, and having you along would not only jeopardize your safety, but it would distract me from those tasks I alone can complete. One day, when I've rid the world of all malicious beings, I'll return for your hand - when we can stand proudly on soil free of evil."
I clapped as if he were putting on a play, and he bowed. "Thank you. That was so beautiful... I wish it were true."
"I will return for you someday, though," he told me soberly, lip trembling as he finished packing his travelsack. "When I'm done chasing ghosts and superstitions, and learning all there is to learn. And... when I can take you from your family without landing you somewhere worse."
My arms threw themselves around his neck without my even needing to make them. "Kvothe, I would ask you to stay. Knowing everything, I want you to stay with me!"
"So would I. If it wouldn't turn both our lives into a hell on earth."
Stepping back, I pressed my hands to my legs and felt something resist. Reaching into my pocket, I found the amulet he'd given me. "Oh... this." Frowning at it, I held it up. "What is it, really?"
His eyebrow raised. "What do you mean?"
"It's not a real charm, is it?" I asked meekly, hoping against hope that he'd assure me it really was. He shook his head. "Then am I going to be-"
"Just never mention what you told to me again." His tone was so serious, his eyes flashing so dangerously that I took a step back, afraid. "To anyone else. Never speak of it aloud in a bar when drunk, never whisper it to a kitten. That, and only that, will help keep you safe."
I nodded, thoroughly heartsick. "Then what is this thing?"
Kvothe grew yet sadder. "Truth, or...?"
"A kind lie," I begged desperately. "Give me lies, please. Ones that feel better."
"It's my heart," he whispered - and it was the kindest lie of them all. "Keep it in your pocket, because someday I'll be back for it."
I had to do something to be sure. He was leaving, and I was going to be stranded in a valley town without the hero, the only man I cared for. "The rest is 'oath'. Swear it to me."
"I swear it, Verainia Greyflock."
Then we kissed one last time, and Kvothe walked out of my life and down the road toward whatever he needed to face.
And here I wait with a heart in my pocket, waiting for him to finish slaying demons and return to pluck his tiny red flower. I'll wait for my Light.