He's angry at Wilem and he's angry at Sim. He'd lost a little more at corners than he had intended to, and he decides to try and play for Auri. It is no use heading for the fishery like this: Kilvin would hopefully send him back before he broke something, even with his fingers. He doesn't see her on the roof, so he tries down below, in her secret passageways. One door, then another, and that one seems awful strange. Almost like the stones are...glowing? It should be interesting, if nothing else. He heads inside.
This was not expected. He knew the university had secret things, secret places. He'd seen green before, connected, somehow. The net in front of Elodin's room at the Rookery. Why copper and naming did not play well he did not know, and he suspected that the space between the stars was not, in fact, rusted copper. Something else, then. The explosion is terrifying more than it is painful, though it is indeed painful.
He falls well and gets back up quickly, Trip's old lessons bearing fruit. A part of him is panicking quietly: he sinks into the Heart of Stone to calm himself. What has happened? What does he see? Is he in Fae, perhaps? He remembers moments and fragments that suggest it is possible to get there from Temerant, but he did not expect a door to simply exist underneath the University.
He checks his lute: it seems fine. His shirt has entirely too few pockets, and so he is missing most of the other little things he likes to have, but with his lute he should be able to play for his supper at the very least. Or perhaps not: fae are supposed to be strange indeed. Still, it seems wiser than anything else. He walks towards the castle, adopting a leisurely pace deliberately. He doesn't have to make his clothing appear any more travel-worn than it already is: threadbare should be more than enough to pass as a wandering bard. He wishes he had paid more attention to his botany lessons from Abenthy: he might be better-equipped to identify where he is. The expense of keeping this much grass so pristine impresses him the more he sees: whoever owns this castle, they must be as rich as the king of Vint.
The boy flips himself over the branch and throws himself at the ground; it looks as though he is going to land face-first but at the very last second twists into a crouch.
He stands up. "Auradon Prep is the school which educates the future heroes, nobles, and royals of the world. --Did you, by any chance, fall up through a well?"
Impressive. Boy could be a mummer. Almost certainly not a noble. "No. A doorway full of stars, if you'll believe that." Heroes, nobles, and royals. He'd never thought of that group as particularly belonging together. Some heroes ended up nobles, for sure: Oran Velciter had earned himself a title or two, supposedly, and Taborlin the Great had had a noble lover in some of the stories. The idea of a school for nobles was a strange one: surely they could all be tutored at home, and learn from their parents as well. Kvothe knew that many arcanists tutored nobles after they graduated: some of the other students, particularly Lorren's less talented scrivs, talked about it as a focus of their plans after leaving the academy. Usually with some beautiful noble widow to seduce while they played courtier, of course. But a whole centralized school just for them? One option was that it was a gathering of the greatest tutors in the realm, much like the University. The darker path was that a single ruler had collected a large number of hostages. He would have to pay careful attention to teacher quality, and phrase his words carefully. "A bunch of nobles, far from their homes. They must be starved for entertainment. Is there a tavern they frequent where I could play?"
Kilvin will be delighted if he can bring a sample back. They've managed to figure out a way to generate enough heat and kinetic energy to move humans over an extended period of time, just through sygaldry. Perhaps some new reaction? Or they might just have sufficient supplies of something too expensive to use at the scale that they employ: Kvothe can think of a few materials that might be able to provide the necessary force, were they as cheap as clay. Enough to enable nobles to use them, at least, particularly if it was a fad or a historical sign of wealth. "I am Kvothe, son of Arliden, of the Edema Ruh, and it is my greatest imaginable pleasure to meet you." Unfortunately, on the rather more urgent matter, it seems he may have to be a little more blunt. "Could you direct me to a money-changer, so I might acquire lodging for the night? I suspect that you don't take Cealdish coin. Have you heard of the Four Corners of Civilization, at least?"
His pride is pricked, but he will not offend a fellow musician if he can avoid it. "I know there are paths and routes, by which men can go much farther than they intended. I know not to wander the woods on a moonless night, and I suspect that waystones might be more truth than I had realized. But I would know what favor you want before I enter your debt." A stranger is a safer lender than a friend, but not all lenders are as friendly as Devi.
"I'm curious about the details of your world. Visitors from other worlds do not occur particularly often in the grand scheme of things, and the last one brought us cars and video games and" -- he takes out a strange rectangle from his pocket, tosses it in the air, and catches it-- "smartphones. If your world is useful, I'd like to get in on the ground floor. And I'd like to hear your music. If you would eat my food that's a bonus, I grew up in a restaurant and have not gotten used to cooking normal quantities."
Kvothe smiles. This could be the answer to everything. Power, wealth, influence. Enough to track down the legends he needs, and to understand what is truly happening with the Chandrian. "That I can certainly do, Asher son of Tiana. Lead the way, and tell me more about 'video games'".
He looks at the device intently. It is emanating music. And those instruments. He doesn't see how you could get that sound: perhaps this foreign land has foreign music as well. If so, he will either be ignored or lauded, at least by the bulk of the populace: he will certainly have to learn the songs of the locals so he can provide them with something familiar, at least some of the time. The mechanism is clear enough, at least: sound is just force carried through air, and they must have found a way to bind some source of heat or motion very very very precisely to produce sound. That is probably behind their cars as well: not necessarily more powerful than anything that comes out of the Fishery, but orders of magnitude more complex. If he can take back these designs, he could be Master Artificer himself, if he was willing to do that to Kilvin. "Very impressive!" He means it, but he also emphasizes it a little more than his feelings would ordinarily justify.
He doesn't know what to think of their medical treatment: who knows how long they would live without it? They seem to do more complicated procedures than anyone in Medica can manage. The printing press is ingenious: something that could operate faster than the entire scriptorium. Refrigeration sounds less convenient: that might be one thing his world could trade. It is when the explanation comes to the internet that he realizes that he is confused. "Wait, how do you make sygaldry do that?"
He pauses, and thinks carefully before speaking. "The use of written shapes to transform heat into kinetic energy, bind two objects together, or connect them so that motion in one causes motion in the other, even if they are far apart, among other tasks. It is the term I would use for how your refrigerators and cars work."
"That is a trait of your world but not of ours. Ours function on... scientific principles? Following the same natural laws that apply to trees and mountains and lightning? We do have magic, but only those humans descended from nonhumans can do it, and it mostly works by extremely stupid rhymes."
OK, sympathy at least functions. He feels the resistance of the second pocket, and sees it push out. "Sympathy works just fine. Not sure about sygaldry yet, but they rely on the same principles. I don't know what you mean by natural laws: a certain number of thaums sets a candle aflame whether you use sympathy or sygaldry or heat the air directly. Namers don't need kinetic force like ordinary sympathists: they might do something differently from how lightning works. Who are non-humans?" He's worried about translation: depending on his language, that may or may not include the Edema Ruh.
"World travelers usually carry their magic with them. If there's a visitor from Wonderland, for example, they can create infinite clean dishes by sitting at a set circular table and moving one down whenever they dirty a set. It's rather convenient. --There are many many kinds of nonhuman. The ones you're most likely to run into are sapient animals. Being around Auradonians makes animals as smart as humans, although they still can't talk. There are also fairies and gods and trolls and mermaids and dwarves and a bunch of other kinds."
"Fairies are powerfully magical and psychologically alien-- some of them care about being as evil as possible, some of them care about music, some of them care about politeness, some of them are just really into one specific river. Even the most human ones are... not very human. Gods are-- the grandchildren or sometimes great-grandchildren of the creator, they're very powerful and immortal and they've assigned themselves responsibility for various aspects of the world and they're... honestly rather too human, overgrown and easily offended children with lightning bolts. Dwarves are short and have a particular talent for mining."
(Asher is occasionally amusing himself during this conversation by walking on his hands, or backflipping over convenient poles, or jumping on and off short walls.)
"That's wise. I would also advise keeping your magic to yourself, at least for a while-- magic is illegal unless specifically permitted by King Ben, and the only use of magic he has permitted to every magic-user is contraception."
Kvothe carefully does no such thing. He has his lute on his back, after all. "I wouldn't even be willing to make a contraceptive potion, right now. I'm used to the plants from my world. At first I thought your grass was different because I'm far away from home, but it is an entirely different species, isn't it?"
"OK. Absolutely no contraceptive potions unless the ones I make are dramatically better than the local variety and I can pay some volunteers for possibly dangerous testing first." He's reasonably confident his status will be outsider, something he's familiar with at least. It is still better than nonhuman.
"Well, that's impressive. No side effects at all, even in rare cases?" He whistles, "So why can cars be imported, but sygaldry can't be? You say that one's magic but the other isn't. I'm no real alchemist, but they tell me that what they do is magic, which I take to mean it wouldn't work here, since it isn't rhyming and doesn't require descent, thankfully. But what makes something magic or not?"
"--It's an interesting question, and it's complicated by the fact that the laws of physics might be different in your world. In Wonderland, for example, two and two sometimes add up to seven. I'm tempted to answer it by offering you a science textbook. It's also possible we're talking past each other, of course." He considers the question. "So the way that cars work is that you light a certain kind of oil on fire, which makes a small contained explosion, which pushes a piston, which turns a wheel. And-- humans aren't really involved anywhere in that process? We designed it, of course, but you could imagine an animal that works the same way. There's no-- exercise of will involved."
"That does sound like an excellent solution, assuming I can read. I can talk with you, which given divergent linguistic development is surprising enough. Can you" he trails off. "I'm speaking your language. I know your language. How on Temerant? Why? Yllish is a mess but it can't be half as bad as this, you've got two separate primary linguistic sources like some unholy tradertongue that you supplemented with words from all sorts of places?" Another pause. "Kote. Did you understand that? It's what your language is."
"The first two are closer than the others, and the last is entirely incomprehensible." Kvothe responds with Yllish, Tema, Aturan, and more Siaru: he only knows fragments, but it might function based on intent. Then he tries again, easily spinning rhymes, from what Asher son of Tiana had said about how the local magic works.
"Twenty-two years ago, King Beast, King Ben's father, invented the anti-magic field. Previously the countries were fractured because fairies would take up in the wilderness between countries and turn anyone who tried to cross into stone or frogs or make them sleep for a hundred years."
Kvothe pauses, trying to take this in. This world has enough outsiders coming in that the law is clear that his magic is illegal, but it only works against fae. Could it work against the Chandrian? They might be different fae: certainly not the rhyming sort. But maybe. Possibly. "That would make trade difficult, I imagine." He tries to work through the situation in his head. One powerful and more advanced country develops a technique that allows them to invade. Sending an army through wilderness is difficult and expensive, even if your neighbors are unprepared. Even if you can turn magic off in selective areas, that just prevents counter-attacks: some dukes and such will still flee even if you captured the royal family, and your advantage only works on passage through wild areas. So an expansionist power had conquered many of its neighbors, and was holding them hostage at Auradon Prep. At the same time, if you were teaching royalty, anything less than a very high quality education would raise serious objections from nobles concerned about their own privileges, and given the difficulty of ruling over territory separated by large wooded areas, even if the faeries were gone, he would have to take that seriously.
This would be dangerous. But it was also an opportunity. And besides, turning of fae magic. He couldn't ignore that possibility.
"I don't even know when in history we first had the wheel." Cars are dramatically more advanced than anything on Temerant: if the anti-magic field is at least that difficult it will be a lot of effort. But he's studied before and he can study again. And that also helps explain the invasions: the sort of mobility enabled by cars, which can go faster than even a full-blooded Khershaen, would increase options yet again over a foe who didn't even have carts or carriages. "I imagine Peruian society has a lot to adapt to under King Ben, then."
"Oh, thank you. These endings are certainly varied." Kvothe does not comment on the name, but mentally files away that Asher son of Tiana, or perhaps Ray son of Evangeline, is powerful enough that he doesn't have to pay for rooms. Or perhaps everything runs on favors and gifts? He's heard some high nobles do something closer to that, disdaining the use of money as beneath them. With the smart phones and cars, perhaps this whole society is wealthy enough that a tavern hotel room for several nights is just a favor. It seems a step backwards to him, but the wealthy can be like that. Peruvian society probably still uses money, though. "I really appreciate you setting this up for me, but I still want to find a way to earn my keep in this world. If nobody else can do sympathy, it might be more valuable than my music to you."
"I expect it will be once the legalities are sorted out, or if you seek employment with the crown."
Asher leads Kvothe into a small metal room and presses a button. The doors close and there's an odd sensation and then they reopen on a narrow corridor with dozens of rooms leading off it.
Kvothe is initially confused by the swift rise of the device, but reacts smoothly. The words are more important to consider. He doesn't want to be a soldier putting down rebellions. The troupe came across the aftermath only two times, when Arliden hadn't heard in advance what was happening, and it was never good. "Is employment with the crown necessary to get King Ben's permission? You implied he does it personally, so I assume that either there are very few magic users, this is not a very large empire, or I would need to offer him something of substantial value to get my application considered."
"King Ben only ascended to the throne two years ago and his policies are a reversal of his father's policies; I understand he is trying to phase magic use back in, but gradually at first with only the most reliable magic users. The empire spans the entire world, although I don't know how big that is relative to you-- there are dozens of kingdoms in the empire."
Asher finds the room and gives Kvothe another little plastic card. "This is your key, you put it in the hole here like this and the door unlocks." Asher demonstrates. "Your room number is 415, which means it's on the fourth floor. Your key won't work for other rooms."
An extended term of service, then, if he parses "reliable" correctly. Though Asher also mentioned that Auradon Prep trains heroes. A grand deed or two might do the trick. "How many people, roughly?" He doesn't want to imagine what the census situation looks like. There's another word he knows now. It's strange, having concepts implanted into your head. He likes it: much more convenient and faster than studying.
He takes the key and tries it for himself, before entering the room. "How does the key work? Not magic, I imagine."
And if King Ben has to manually approve them, even assuming courtiers handle most of the work that would still take at least five minutes per approval, if he spends at most two hours a day just approving magic users that would allow 24 new magic users a day in a population of 500 million. If he's been at that pace for three years, one in a thousand people could legally use magic other than contraceptives. Of course, the number could easily be a tiny fraction of that: most people don't need or use magic. "Having the entire library of the world available on your phone must make life a lot easier." He imagines what he could have done in the Archives if not for Ambrose's spite and Lorren's ban.
The hotel room has a sitting area with chairs and a table and a couch and a large rectangle similar in appearance to Asher's smartphone; there is a selection of papers on a stand next to the couch. The section of the room with a tile floor is probably a kitchen, although the appliances look unfamiliar. There is a closed door and an open door leading to a room with a very large bed.
"Speaking of, you are going to need a laptop if you'd like to make any money here at all. I'll get you one and-- I'm not sure what you can do while you wait, actually. Practice the lute, I guess."
Asher son of Tiana / Ray son of Evangeline is obviously interested in indebting Kvothe to him, even after learning that Kvothe's world doesn't have any useful non-magic innovations to offer. But a noble with at least an appearance of generosity would still be a good patron to have, and given the bouncing around this one is at least less stuffy than most. But if Kvothe wants this, and he thinks he does, he needs to demonstrate that he'll be a good musician, one who will bring honor and fame to Ashay's colors. "I was going to play for a friend, before I landed here. Could I play for you?"
Kvothe considers it for a moment. "No, no I won't. But you'l have to let me warm up." Splitting his mind into three parts, he starts playing Bellweather to warm up his fingers. A light and simple song, nothing too difficult. To familiarize Asher with his lute as much as anything else: otherwise the next two would not have their proper impact. "Listen to me, I can play a basic tune" he says with his music. He concludes swiftly enough, and looks at Asher. "Are you ready for a real tune? This one really will be practice."
He smiles, and starts up with Tintatatornin. Asher doubts him? If he's going to show his worth as a musician, this is the only choice. Well, unless he can teach a local singer The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard, but he is unlikely to meet another Denna. That thought gets banished swiftly, and he (or at least the third of him currently running his body) focuses intently on the music. Fingers fly and he lets his toes tap in time, and Illien's hardest song flows from his lute. He'd had to do this for his father every time he got particularly arrogant, and the song may be for 15 strings but he is Kvothe, and while it is more difficult than breathing it is still his music, and he can do it. He finishes with no attempt to disguise the difficulty of the song, and if if he hams it up a little, who's to say he's wrong? Then he gives Asher a few moments, relying on his troupre's instincts to tell him when the man has absorbed the song, and what it means about Kvothe. "I have one last one for you, though it may be less suited for court. I have the feeling you won't mind, though."
Kvothe laughs, an easy and full thing. "Then I'll just have to avoid it." And he breaks down the partition, letting the other two parts of his mind come back and share the lyrics: one set to translation from Aturan, and the other trying to invent new ones with these new words. And with a lightning smile he starts playing Tinker Tanner in Auradonian. Older than god and as easy as they come if you've got even half an ear for music. But he's already demonstrated that he can play: now he needs to demonstrate that he can sing. He ends with a verse he's particularly pleased with.
"I once saw a fair farmer's daughter
On the riverbank far from all men.
She confessed to me once when I caught her
That she didn't feel clean
If her bathing was seen
So she washed herself over again."
"Nope, I dance, and it's not going to look at all impressive next to yours."
He pulls up a video on his smartphone. There's a brightly colored and elaborate float, designed by a person who briefly considered the concept of "enough sparkles and glitter" and then decided to multiply it by ten to be on the safe side. On the float is Asher, a little bit younger, wearing nothing but an elaborate feather headdress, sparkly gold underwear, body glitter, and a smile. He spins around a pole performing stunts that rather suggest that he is capable of defying gravity, alternating with some very suggestive pelvic thrusts and crotch grabs. Midway through the video, someone throws what is recognizably a pair of underwear at his head. Asher doesn't flinch.
Kvothe is very impressed. That is a really unusual level of artistic talent for a noble: he could perform with an Edema Ruh troupe and not be outshone. Somewhere very, very, very cosmopolitan. And where they didn't mind leaving after a few days and not returning for a few years. "Are all your nobles so talented?"
He realizes that the boy in front of him had not explicitly said that he went to Auradon Prep. A prosperous merchant's son, ambitious enough that his reaction to a visitor from another world was to try to make him his client. Likely spending time near the school to build connections among potential patrons of his own, perhaps a second or more likely a third son whose parents could tolerate the eccentricity of becoming an artist, particularly if he could be a gifted one. And Asher was indeed gifted: Kvothe could tell that. He had never been one for holding positions, precisely because he knew how much strength it took. Likely sensitive about his position, and trying to appear more powerful and important than he was. It wasn't as if Kvothe wasn't doing the same, to be fair, and he likes Asher. He has ambitions beyond being patronized by a single restaurant owner, but he could do much worse as a first person to meet in a strange new world. It wouldn't do to charge, though. Asher hasn't mentioned it before his error, so they're likely not in a desperate hurry for musicians, and Kvothe does not want to seem needy. He is confident in his ability to find a place somewhere.
Restoring his lute to its case, he tries to recover: "You certainly would be by the standards of my world. How could I use the laptop to find more videos of your dancing?" Dancing has never been Kvothe's interest. While better than poetry, motion without words is doomed to never communicate ideas, and without stories and memories that there are only fleeting feelings. But it never hurts to flatter someone, and make clear how helping you can help them. There are very few artists, and even fewer good ones, who don't seek praise like a moth seeks light.
"You don't talk as if it is easy for people to go home. It seems I will stay here a while, and art is always worth my time. My world has fine dancers, but none who focus on a single prop like you do." He hopes that prop is the right word: he fears to offend, but has no better language.
Kvothe enthusiastically gets to work. If this potential patron wants him to learn about science, he will learn about science. He wants to look up King Ben, but figures that that can wait until after Asher is gone: openly trying to insinuate himself with a more powerful person would be rude, if nothing else. The description of lightbulbs leads him into electricity, which helps him understand how the people of this world can make the smart phones be so small: they've managed to identify an individual unit of iron, which apparently exists, and then find something even smaller from there, and it is that which produces lightning. He aches, but is well-aware that he shouldn't do sympathy with it: that was one of the lessons Ben had focused on hammering into him, after the lung-binding incident. It isn't clear why, but people who attempt to do sympathy with lightning or static shocks die, or end up in the Rookery if they're lucky.
He can happily spend hours reading about this, letting himself fall into holes about these new theories about how heat works. If a thaum is just a very very small amount of kinetic energy going in random directions, that could explain why the conversions work so easily. But that doesn't explain chemical energy bindings: something else must be happening there.
Kvothe is more than used to going hungry, and was not particularly planning on asking for anything, but this was possibly not the wisest of potential plans. "Thank you." He takes a sniff. It is good! Really good! "How did you make this? Perhaps more importantly, how do people cook here? I'm used to a campfire, which I am assuming is not how things work here." He takes another bite. The spices are very very strong compared to what he is used to, but it is very good and there is no chance he is going to say anything negative to this wealthy restaurateur's kid. This is probably just what the food is like in Auradon, though he's not sure why there's such an excess of flavor.
"You can get a very small contained fire with a stove"-- he gestures-- "the refrigerator keeps things cool, I imagine the oven works similarly to your ovens in broad principle, I think everything else is going to be pretty similar. --We have dried yeast for bread, that's novel."
Asher adds a squirt of some liquid to his before eating.
"We have, well, they work on different principles, but things equivalent to refrigerators. Yours would require a source of electricity, right? What is the liquid you just injected to your soup? I'm aware of words about packaging and canning, but my family was never involved in that process"
Kvothe is very very thankful he's already deep in the Heart of Stone. He can consider this dispassionately. He's alone in a room with Asher son of Tiana / Ray son of Evangeline, who's very physically fit, but Kvothe is a sympathist. He's seen this happen to other boys, back in Tarbean. Asher would be a generous patron, but the son of a restaurateur isn't necessary. He can say no. And from the Heart of Stone, he just backs away. He doesn't expect it to be enough, but he hasn't taken anything permanent from Asher, and he can still sleep in the open. He didn't see many clouds: hopefully his lute will be safe.
He lets himself out to laugh, easily and brightly. Look, you are forgiven. Look, that was funny. Look, all is well. "Laughter is the end of tension", Illien wrote, and it is a lesson he learned well from..., well, that hurts too much to think about. He smiles. "I'm not accustomed to losing."
He's happy to change the topic. "I am Kvothe, of the Edema Ruh, which doesn't mean anything to you. Suffice it to say that I was born to art in the way that third sons of nobles are born to unjustified arrogance and certain women are born to attention. We took in many sorts who wanted to escape their town for whatever reason, though most don't stay. Artists in steel or paint are regarded very differently: we don't have a uniform perception like you."
"Ah, yes, that'd be different. --Here artists are... expected to be rather strange and bohemian, and it is a profession taken up by those... inclined a certain way. And for reasons I do not understand this still holds true even when the people with those inclinations are not aware they have them."
"I'm left more confused, not less.We have a rune for water, and we've experimented and found it works better with spring water than ocean water, and dissolving materials in water makes the link worse. But we have another rune for rock, and that one does not seem to link to any of your elements. I'll have to try some things out."
"Whatever you want the sygaldry to happen to, and tools to carve those runes in. It varies with the material: metal is usually done with a mold, clay with knives and spoons and brushes, wood with knives, and so on. A source of fire is useful for any sympathist, but it isn't strictly speaking required."
"Keeping it up for too long isn't" he pauses "recommended. It's generally easier to just train people to act well. Incidentally, in Temerant our favorite meal is live goats soaked in in the blood of daffodils: do you serve that at your restaurant?" His voice does not change in the slightest from the thoughtful and conversational tone as he delivers the last line.
He pauses. "Daffodils are small yellow plants, yes? My new language is still a little strange in my head, but I don't think that they have blood. I wouldn't recommend Alar for hiding large aspects, like 'I am a spy'. It can be used to ignore pain, though, and hiding a particular secret that someone wants to find out could be more effective."