The Winds of Change
EVER SINCE I BEGAN my education at the University, my studies themselves had often been secondary to paying for each term's tuition. While most of the other students had the luxury of writing home to cover a term with higher-than-expected tuition, my situation was dire. As it were, a few talents made the difference between being able to afford a second shirt, or spending every waking moment outside class at either the Eolian or the Fishery to earn that final shim. Some terms even required a trip to the local gaelet, Devi, to cover the last few jots.
That is, until I returned from Severen, Maer Alveron's writ safely enclosed within the secret compartment of my lute case.
For the past two terms, the Maer's purse had provided, and in the case of the hideously unfair tuitions set by Chancellor Hemme, lined my pockets with extravagant amounts of talents. For once, I could afford spend time on my studies, on being a student instead of trying to merely survive. If I wanted to head down to the Eolian and treat my small circle of friends to drinks, I could afford to keep Willem floating in scutten all night. Afforded the opportunity to actually study, I had the time to focus on my next goal:
Making the rank of El'the.
While my studies with Master Elodin had been progressing well, the concept of Naming was such an abstract one that lashing my hopes to it was a bad idea. No, the only sure way of ascending to the next Arcanum rank was through Master Kilvin, who primarily promoted students based upon how many schema a given student had produced. I already had one under my belt, but needed far more to even broach the subject with the Master Artificer. All of my efforts over the past two terms had proved futile, but a recent brainstorm had borne fruit.
I wanted to be the best, to be the youngest El'the in the history of the school, to receive my guilder before I turned seventeen. Granted, the extra commission it would earn me wouldn't have hurt.
Being able to focus on my studies, the shadow of poverty no longer hanging overhead, boasting friends better than I deserved; there was little left to complain about. Life without struggle was like floating in a dream, without worries; carefree.
Small wonder I never felt the winds of change until the gale had grown to a hurricane.
I entered the Fishery a few minutes shy of noon. Only a quarter of the thick-timbered worktables were occupied. Chisels gouged at metal plates and glass clinked as emitters were carefully doped by sweating, wide-eyed students. The din of the work echoed lightly throughout the large workroom, a far cry from the cacophonous roar of activity the early evenings brought.
Despite the quality of my schema, it was difficult to shed my unease without resorting to the Heart of Stone. Kilvin was not easily pleased. I had experienced close to a dozen failures over the past two terms, several of which I thought would impress the Master Artificer.
I took a wide berth around the occupied benches, making my way up the wrought-iron stairs. The door to Kilvin's office was closed, something of a rarity, even more so when I had already set up an appointment. I raised my hand to knock, before a murmur from beyond the door gave me reason to pause. I hesitantly drew my fist back.
Kilvin's office was soundproof. If I could still hear sound from outside it, however dim it may have been, then was going on inside? A bear of a man, Kilvin was prone to growling at the occasional student, but his voice never rose to a full roar. Was he hurt?
Again I reached towards the knob, before reconsidering. When the Fishery had went up in flames after the bone-tar leak, Kilvin had seriously burned both hands trying to bring the fire under control. Despite the heavy bandages covering his hands, and the immense amount of pain the burns must have been causing them, the artificer seemed immune to the pain, instead lamenting his inability to perform research. If there was anything in this world capable of making Master Kilvin shriek in agony, I was skeptical he would invite it into his office.
Discarding the notion of rushing into the Master Artificer's office, I went back down to the floor of the Fishery. Scanning the sparsely populated workshop, I saw Manet hunched over an iron vise, a triangular piece of tin wedged between its teeth.
When an Artificer is working, they are often best left undisturbed. A focused worker unexpectedly startled or jostled at the wrong moment could spell disaster. A few drops of a highly reactive chemical compound spilled on the floor, an expensive length of precious metal dropped into the forge; anything, really, could happen.
Though the potential for disaster is lessened when all the Artificer holds is a chisel, I chose to remain silent, in deference to Manet's work. A minor mistake on a rune etching seldom proved disastrous, but that was no excuse for being inconsiderate.
Squinting with one eye, Manet banged the chisel one last time, before lifting his head up and setting down his tools. He stretched his neck, turning it in small circles, while sweeping gray, frizzy strands of hair from the front of his face.
"So today's the day?" Manet asked, running a hand over his stubble-covered cheeks.
"It was, but it looks like I'm going to wait," I replied, indicating towards Kilvin's closed office.
"He's been in there a while."
"Just my luck," I said with a morose chuckle. "Whoever is in there, they've got Kilvin riled up. It was hard to tell through the door…but I think he's yelling at someone. Do you know who it is?"
Manet shrugged. "I didn't see them go in, but if they've aroused Master Kilvin's temper…I do not envy them."
"I don't know, they've already impressed me. How many people wouldn't run for the door as soon as the telling started?"
"Not me," admitted Manet, shaking his head.
"Do you think I should just come back tomorrow?" I asked, staring at the office with trepidation. A Master in a foul mood, no matter how impartial, was not going to make the most sympathetic of judges.
"Well, how good is your schema?"
I let out a sardonic chuckle. "It's not weaponry related."
"That's a start, then," said Manet with a sigh. "Keep the appointment."
"I planned on it. Besides, if I want to make El'the this year, I can't afford to wait."
"I don't know how you do it," said Manet, shaking his head.
"Hard work, determination, highly advanced mental faculties; take your pick."
"Certainly not humility, but that's not what I'm talking about. Is it true that your tuition for this term was fifty talents?"
"Hemme thought it'd be enough to keep me from coming back," I admitted. "Sadly, our Chancellor was mistaken. My benefactor has deep pockets."
Only Simmon and Wilem knew the true extent of the arrangement between the Maer and myself. Manet was an acquaintance, someone I was on friendly terms with, but not to the extent that I felt comfortable divulging how my tuition was paid.
"You've got to get back on Hemme's good side."
I let out a derisive snort, not bothering to hide my reaction. Manet was well aware of the widely publicized animosity between the two of us, and should have known we were far past the point of reconciliation.
"His lack of a good side is problematic."
"I'm serious," insisted Manet, leaning forward. "This was only the first term with him as Chancellor. How high will tuition be next time? Sixty? Seventy-five? A hundred?"
"I hope it is. It will be worth the look on his face when he realizes there's no amount I won't pay, that when I leave the University with my guilder, despite his best efforts, there was nothing he could do to stop me."
"And does your creditor share this viewpoint?" asked Manet with a frown.
For a moment I considered referencing the term, 'rich as the King of Vint', before discarding the notion, as well as the elusive answer on the tip of my tongue.
Was Manet onto something? The Maer had agreed to provide for my education, but the amount of talents I was burning through was far greater than any student should have to pay for tuition. Extravagant, even. To an outsider, based on just the amount of talents I had drawn in two terms, it would look like I was swindling the Maer.
Which…well, I was, just not to the extent that it appeared.
"I'll be fine," I assured, shaking my head. The Maer owed me his life, not to mention the heart of Meluan Lackless. And even if it was a point of contention, ten years of high tuitions wouldn't even make a dent in the wealth I had repossessed deep within the Eld.
Manet looked less than convinced, but before he could argue further, the office door opened. A tall, older man emerged. His expression conveyed great boredom, leading me to wonder if Kilvin had truly been ranting at him. White hair, beard and mustache were trimmed to perfection, his stride confident as he descended the stairs, as if he owned the world. For all I knew, he might have, if the expensive cut of his clothes was any indication.
If his high cheekbones or superior sneer hadn't identified him as Modegan, then the rich, blue and red silks stitched into his clothing would have provided a clue. The stench of money practically wafted from him as he walked between the heavy benches. Unsurprisingly, I disliked him upon first sight.
The gruff, no nonsense tones of the Master Artificer stole my attention at once. Kilvin filled the entire office entryway, his expression grim. With a deep breath, I passed by Kilvin's visitor, and made my way up the stairs.
I had a Master to impress. In this moment, everything else was secondary.
Furious muttering in Siaru met my ears when I entered Kivlin's office. The bear-like Master Artificer paced back and forth across his office, gaze fixed upon the floor. I could make out the word 'cheat', but little else. With his clenched jaw and balled fists, I imagine none of it was flattering in nature.
"Master Kilvin," I greeted in level tones. My announcement drew the attention of Kilvin, who at least raised his head, even if he didn't say anything. Not encouraged in the least by his reception, I sought another path.
"I can come back in another day, if that would be more conveinient."
After the amount of time I had spent on my latest schema, I had no intention of letting a Modegan noble jeopardize my chance to impress Kilvin. As any Ruh trouper worth his salt would know, the reception of a performance is not solely based upon the quality of its actors, but upon the willingness of the audience to be swept away. Judging by Kilvin's obvious aggravation, a herd of Khershaen would have trouble moving him.
"No," snapped the Master Artificer, his voice cracking like a whip. Though instinctually I wanted to recoil, only through an effort of will did I stand my ground.
As soon as the words left his mouth, Kilvin took a deep breath. His shoulders lowered an inch, while his fists unclenched, as if he had exhaled the worst of his tension.
"Please, forgive me for being short of temper," apologized the large man. "You did nothing to deserve my sharp words."
"It's okay," I assured, though all I wanted to do was leave the Fishery. Even if Kilvin's mood did improve, I couldn't help but think that his judgment would still be jaded by his mood. "I did not get the impression that your guest was…agreeable."
The Master Artificer let out a low, guttural chuckle.
"No, he was not. Truth be told, Re'lar Kvothe…I am agitated," stated Kilvin, before turning his gaze to me. "But, there is no better cure for frustration than to witness new wonders of artificing. So, on that note…I expect that you have not wasted my time today."
Left with no other choice but to forge ahead, I began to reach for the roll of paper nestled safely into my pocket containing all the diagrams, sygaldry, formulas and dimensions, but the Master Artificer shook his head.
"I would have you speak of your new creation, this…?"
"I call it 'the Oasis'," I revealed at his prompting.
Kilvin tried the words out for himself, as if they were a dish under scrutiny.
"I know you weren't very fond of my idea for a ballista to reload more quickly-"
"As it was a project unbefitting of an artificer," interjected the large man, as if I had not only suggested on building one, but mass producing them as well.
"Indeed, but the idea of a project made specifically for seafaring vessels never left my mind. So…I eventually came up with the idea of the Oasis."
What I left unsaid was that my encounter with the draccus provided the proper inspiration for the idea. When the giant lizard with a stomach full of denner resin set upon Trebon, it was only my rudimentary, slapdash heat-eater which saved the town from burning to the ground. Most heat-eaters are designed as a failsafe in the event of a fire…but that did not mean they didn't have other applications.
"Travel at sea is dangerous," I began, drawing from personal experience. "Sudden storms and raiding parties are among the harshest foes sailors face…but they are not the most common."
I paused for dramatic effect, before continuing on. "At sea, water is the most valuable commodity aboard the ship. Run out, and there is a very good chance the crew will die of thirst. If the water supply is contaminated, disease will spread through the ship life wildfire. So…I've come up with a way to provide a limitless supply of drinkable water."
"Master Mandrag deals in alchemy," stated Kilvin, his expression stern. "Perhaps you should bring this project to his attention."
The barest hint of a smile betrayed the Master Artificer's words, drawing a chuckle from me. Undaunted, I pushed on.
"I'd have nothing to offer Master Mandrag. However, I do have a schema that makes extensive use of sygaldry, if you're interested."
"In that event, please continue," allowed Kilvin, crossing his arms.
"Okay, everyone knows that if you boil seawater, you're left only with salt."
"A common misconception," interjected the Master Artificer.
"I know that, I'm just stating the widely held view. When water changes from a liquid to a gas, it expands roughly fifteen-hundred times. The Oasis takes the steam from boiled seawater and introduces it to low temperatures, turning the vapor back into water, sans salt."
"A great deal of energy is required to boil water."
"Indeed it does. If I were using a traditional heating source, such as oil or wood, then the Oasis would be worthless."
"Perhaps not worthless…but yes, it would be cumbersome for the crew to fuel it. I trust that you have developed an alternative energy source."
"I have," I confirmed, moving towards the slate board taking up the entire length of the back wall and picking up a stub of chalk. "May I?"
At Kilvin's assenting nod, I drew ten small squares, before turning to the Master Artificer.
"Each one of these is a 'collector'. They are made from tin, the correct sygaldry is etched into them, before being painted black. Upon high points in the ship they'll be mounted. They will absorb the sunlight and transfer it to the…"
I paused to draw a series of three rings placed inside one another. "…The 'range', which will heat the seawater. The range, which is also made of tin, has a limit of three hundred degrees. When the limit is reached, any incoming heat will be transferred to a heat-eater."
Below the range I drew another circle, labeling it as a heat-eater. Above the range I drew two cylinders stacked upon one another. Pointing to the lower one, I continued my explanation.
"The seawater is boiled in the lower chamber, and the steam rises into the upper chamber, where it condenses back into liquid form."
"And when the sun does not shine?" prodded Kilvin.
"Then no fresh water is produced," I said with a shrug. "On a good day, with eight solid hours of sunshine, the Oasis can create twenty-five gallons of fresh water. When the sun goes down, and the collectors grow cold, you may be able to get a few more gallons when the heat-eater begins to release back the range, but not much more."
"But it could produce more if the scale was increased," Kilvin observed, running a hand through his thick beard.
"Perhaps, but my dimension were conceived for optimal performance. The total surface area of the collectors and the size of the heat-eater are the two main variables. In my schema, the heat-eater is in the shape of a sphere to maximize its volume. Made from iron, with a radius of six inches-"
"Two hundred fifty pounds," calculated the Master Artificer. "I understand why you would be hesitant to increase the size of the heat-eater."
"Not only that, but I wanted to keep the surface area of the collectors to a minimum. There's only so many out-of-the-way places you can find on a ship, where they won't interfere with the sailors' work."
"And will these places account for the changing position of the sun?"
"They will. The plates are mounted on freely swiveling brackets that will automatically point towards the sun."
"And this mechanism will work?"
"It will," I assured. "Schema using sunlight are rare, so I made sure that the attraction between the sun and the plates worked before I made my appointment with you. Would I have wasted your time if I was unsure?"
"One would hope not," stated Kilvin, studying my drawings with a speculative eye. "This would cost a great deal of talents to produce, and would not be easy to replicate on a large scale."
"No, it wouldn't," I admitted, taking a deep breath. "But if I were a merchant looking to ship goods from Tarbean to Vintas, I would be willing to pay handsomely to cut down on transit time."
He grunted in a non-committal fashion, before holding out his hand. "The schema."
I obliged the Master Artificer, handing him the roll of paper. He turned the schema over in his large, heavily-calloused hands, eyes roaming over every formula, metallurgic symbol, dimension and sygaldric rune.
"I have two questions," stated Kilvin, looking up from the paper. I nodded, anticipating the statement. Having researched my latest schema within the boundaries of the law, he had no reason to question my procurements this time around.
"Of all things, why make this?"
"Master Kilvin, what lies to the west of the Commonwealth?"
The artificer frowned at my question. "The sea."
"And what lies beyond the sea?"
The frown faded from Kilvin's face. "So you aspire to be the first to cross the western sea?"
I shrugged. "At the very least, it'd be an option. The sea has to end somewhere, right?"
"Perhaps, but it is difficult to be certain. I would not suggest such a journey…but it is not my decision to make."
"Not that I plan on going anywhere soon," I clarified. "After all, I would like to have my guilder before making that type of journey."
Kilvin let out a rumble of a chuckle. "If you continue to create such wondrous things, you shall have it. I do not believe the Oasis will be sold to many, but that does not matter. When a parched sailor sees your creation, he will thank that artificer that created it."
"You don't think it is very marketable?" I asked, slightly crestfallen by the Master Artificer's opinion.
"I do not," Kilvin admitted, "But do not be discouraged. Many lose sight of the fact that true artificery is not about how many talents one can make, but how a creation can help this world. Yes, the Oasis may not sell, but that does not diminish the fact that it is an improvement to the world. Do you think that my efforts to create an ever-burning lamp are performed with profit in mind?"
It could be argued that that the burning lamps were an obsession more than anything else, but I chose to keep this opinion to myself.
"No. If making money was your only concern, you would have never agreed to sell the Bloodless for eight talents."
The Master Artificer favored me with a nod of approval. "You have not only the mind of a true Artificer, but the heart, Re'lar Kvothe. Two times you have created wonders for this world. One more time, and you shall be raised to the level of El'the."
There were further words after that, including the setting of the price, further congratulations by the Master Artificer, but I cannot recall any of them. Every trial, every hardship since I had endured since I had arrived at the University…it was all worth it.
Here it is, the first proper chapter dealing with Kvothe's story, as opposed to the Waystone. Not a whole lot here, but it does pick up where 'The Wise Man's Fear' left off, and takes it in what I believe to be a logical direction.
Hurricane Sandy knocked down trees in front of my house, taking out the power, so I'm posting this from a friend's house. I've been charging my laptop at her house then going home and writing until the battery dies.
Next chapter is in progress. It's far, far longer than I thought it would be, and might not be ready by next Thursday. We shall see.
Thanks to rand32085, The DarIm, Taure and T3t for their assistance with this chapter. Special recognition goes out to rand32085 for ironing out the idea of the 'Oasis', and taking the time to clearly illustrate the flaws in my original design.
I do hope you enjoyed the chapter, but love it or hate, feel free to let me know either way. I respond to all reviews I receive, and appreciate any and all feedback. Due to power issues, my replies might be a little late in coming, but they'll get there eventually.
Deathshade, Ragon, Gambit, syed,