This is a study of the University admissions process. It is a follow up piece on to the chapter Big brother and should not be read without that primer for admissions tucked away somewhere in your head already.
First up, Chancellor Herma asks Kvothe what he thinks he already knows and the list is extensive, Ben has taught his student well. He claims to know the first ninety sympathetic bindings which are necessary to answer Elxa Dal’s questions. He can double distill, perform titration, calcify sublimate and precipitate solution…which tells us he knows quite a lot about chemistry, which is master Mandrag’s bailwick. He also adds History (Lorren) argument (Hemme) grammar (Herma) medicine (Arwyll) and geometry (Brandeur). But he mentions nothing about artifice and nothing at all about naming, meaning that Kilvin and Elodin cannot expect him to answer questions about their own personal area of expertise. Kilvin notices this and thus realises that it would be unfair to expect poor Kvothe to prove himself in a subject he has not claimed to have studied. His question is therefore very fair as he is asking a personal opinion on his pet project and gets a surprisingly good guess. Kilvin automatically sees the potential and wants him to be admitted the most. Kilvin is his champion.
Master Elodin would not normally expect any new student to know the first thing about naming, which makes you wonder why he bothers turning up at all really, but he is obviously curious about the limits of Kvothe’s remarkable display of talents thus far and his questions are more about lateral thinking. Elodin asking any student anything at all seems very out of character going by the other masters reactions, and if Elodin was curious to know Kvothe’s potential then that should, and indeed does, disturb all the other masters. Master Namer taking an interest in this child prodigy would indicate that the most powerful among them has seen something potentially powerful in this applicant and indicates that Kvothe may have what it takes to become more powerful than they are themselves, which would be rather a disturbing thought to master or amyr both.
Master Elodin has already taken control of the meeting with his own dominating voice, he then looks at Kvothe who actually feels his strange look, hypnotism cannot be discounted here and my ‘mind reading’ suspicion appears a little more plausible. His first question is a statement about translation (something he also touches on in his naming classes later!), and so I shall translate it further. What he actually means is ‘without being told anything of the sort, I can see that you can speak in an old and secret language, how well?’ His next question is a trick question,it translates as ‘Can you think outside the box? or are you afraid to try?’ and yes he can and no he isn’t, which gets a smile from the master. His third question is more serious, he asks what he knows about special words, words that have some kind of power? do you know the first thing about naming? but he gets a simple answer. ‘No’ which is also correct, because he doesn’t. It should also be noted that at no time does Kvothe ever mention the Edema Ruh, yet on his second meeting with master namer this fact is used as a reason not to teach him naming, a small thing, but a verifiably odd one.
We should run through the other masters whilst we are here. not having any reason not to treat him like any other applicant Brandeur asks for a fact, and then for some complicated conversion thinking, both of which get answered correctly. His third question involves complex thinking and square roots… and also of secret knowledge. this is dealt with elsewhere in the chapter triangles of temerant and reveals master Brandeur to be suspiciously Amyr in his geometry.
Kvothe has already stated he is versed in medicine and all of master physicians questions are standard, except possibly the last which is more advanced and diagnostic in nature. But the further we go, the more the masters start to take notice. Lorren comes next and he is prime suspect Amyr, specialist subject being History of the world. If he was also ‘flicking through the book of Kvothe’ he has found a globally aware and well educated book to choose from, hence the scope of his second question, how much exactly does this kid actually know? is the translation here, answer…a lot. But his final question gets a Very surprising answer. It is unlikely that he has blinked all week but Kvothe achieves this in three. The name Illien is very significant to him in the great shape of the world and important enough to concern one of the ancient order Amyr deeply.
Mandrag has been told Kvothe knows all about chemistry, and tests him fully on this subject, possibly expecting him to sign up for his own classes given his earlier statement. The only thing I can glean about Mandrag is his hands are stained, not a million miles away from pointing towards the bloody handed Amyr, but only if you are scraping the barrel for such things.
Kilvin we have mentioned, he sees genuine potential and is immediately on Kvothe’s side, as is Elxa Dal who’s appearance is described as being exactly like the classic Aturan magician in all the old plays, a possible Amyr link there too since they are also associated with the early days of Atur. His most curious question was regarding the moon, which seems to be of major importance to the underlying story of the world, and hence to matters which the Order take a very active interest in.
Then there is Hemme, Kvothe actively dislikes Rhetoric and Logic, despite this being his one and only book, but he has read it grudgingly and can hold his own in argument. Kvothe has already noticed a cruel streak in this master and Hemme (also called Jasom, possibly a calling/true name comparison here) is quite possibly aware of his own shortcomings and realises this boy is already better than him at everything. Hemme is not popular with the other masters, Elodin hates him especially.
Herma, the Chancellor, doesn’t ask any real questions but seems ‘unsettled’ at the level of Kvothe’s potential. After all, anyone who graduates from the university training program could become a force in the University themselves one day. When he does ask ‘why do you want to attend the University?’ Kvothe thinks about many things including knowledge of the chandrian,as Cthaeh also suggests the university does. Perhaps this one thought bubbles to the visible surface for any who are looking and that is what caused his concern, who knows? I’m not a mind reader after all. His most interesting part is when Kvothe quickly gains full arcanum acceptance. The Chancellor’s vote decides the motion and after confirming the new status to the world he quietly adds ‘Tehlu shelter us, fools and children all.’ as if he wonder if he may have just made a terrible mistake.
Nine and Five
There are other admissions to pass but these are glossed over without insight, you can have too much information sometimes, so round two appears at the start of book two and Kvothe has made Re’lar by now. higher tuition fees generally apply now as the masters ask deeper questions and Manet predicts a tuition of not less than Ten Talents. He also offers up his ‘primer for admissions’, the eight spades question. This Time around everything seems normal…which it most certainly is not. All the questions appear irrelevent except for master Elodin’s. Having seen Arwyll testing his own students capabilities, Brandeur,in cahoots with Hemmeand therefore an enemy, deliberately offers up pre-written double-edged questions which is quite petty. Our question about Spades is just the entree, however. The questions are immaterial, the masters want to know what’s going on behind those green eyes and Elodin is in this room for just that reason. The room wants him to look inside Kvothe’s head in order to know if they can trust him not to be working against them. His own inner understanding that he isn’t is not enough proof for Hemme to accept and the ‘song and dance’ of what most people think admissions are about is exposed as theatre. the real reason Elodin is in the room is to read minds. Elodin then gets angry with the room and gives them the proof they desire with a display of his true E’lir power.
‘Elodin scowled at them. ‘What?’ he demanded, his voice going hard around the edges, ‘You want me to take this song and dance more seriously? You want me to ask him questions only a namer can answer? Fine.’ Elodin said turning back to me, His eyes were dark, and his voice had a strange resonance to it. It wasn’t loud but when he spoke it seemed to fill the entire hall. It left no space left over for any other sound. “Where does the moon go,” Elodin asked grimly, “when it is no longer in our sky?”. The room seemed unnaturally quiet when he stopped speaking. As if his voice had left a hole in the world. I waited to see it there was any more to the question. “I haven’t the slightest,” I admitted.’
This is deep stuff. Who would know the answer to such a question? a namer apparently? or someone who knew about such great matters,matters that are important to the secret Order Amyr matters of the moon!
The style of presentation implies to me that we are seeing True see’ing in action here, Elodin is as serious and dominating as we ever see him, and Kvothe is already under examination conditions. But this is moreso. I believe that when master Namer wants to he can literally compel someone to answer, and to answer truthfully at that. If Kvothe had any inkling about how serious the question was to be taken then it would have been revealed to all the room, this was a test. ‘What do you know about secret things?’ was the underlying question, but it was the wrong question, Kvothe knows and cares nothing about the moon or her movements… but Haliax does. The moon in all her phases is clearly depicted on the Mauthern pot and is deliberately placed above him.The Moon is the secret at the heart of everything. The moon is important to Haliax and to ‘any who follow him.’ and the Moon is important to the Order Amyr. Kvothe is none of these and so he passes the test by failing it without even realising he has been tested. 24 carat tinfoil, but I know what I know. It’s all about the Moon.
After this important question is out of the way, the rest of the time is just small talk to get the unpleasantness of what has just happened over and done as quickly as possible. Master Sympathist gives Kvothe ‘a bit of a sympathetic look’…Ha Ha Ha!’ and then throws Kvothe some easy questions. Master Mandrag, who doesn’t actually teach Kvothe personally and therefore has no real reason to have a say in his tuition, decides to abstain. Elodin is back in his ‘normal’ mode again and breaks the tension further whilst Lorren asks the bare minimum required with a minor reminder thrown in for good luck and Kilvin follows Dal’s lead and lobs Kvothe some more easy questions. Only Hemme is still angry and loses his temper, but the Chancellor slaps him down rather forcefully and warns him of ‘official censure’ which i can only imagine as being on the horns before selitos. He tells Hemme to ‘stint thy clep’, a quite ‘lovely’ archaic phrase, and takes back control of the whole situation. But not before calling Hemme by another name. His proper name, not his calling name. Chancellor Herma knows Master Hemme’s hidden secrets.
All that is left is how much to pay,and the bill was Nine and Five. Elodin at work again I think, His job is to gauge the said applicants ability to pay, if he knows about the spades, then there is no reason why he should not know about Manet’s prediction that he would be lucky to get out for less than ten talents. Manet knows things, that’s one of his jobs. He even admits that the interview is ‘just a piece of the game’ and it is a game. just like the game Devi plays. Elodin doesn’t usually ask students questions, but his powers are useful if he can pluck thoughts from someones head without them knowing, or rather using our old favourite line ‘read the hearts of men like heavy lettered books.’
The Amyr have a job to do and must always know what they need to know ‘for the greater good’. Elodin is the most powerful among them and it is his task to uncover any treacherous plots that may need confounding. That is what they do, remember? Kvothe has been noticed poking about where he shouldn’t and has aroused the masters suspicions. This was more like a trial than an interview really, and he has been found to be innocent, although Hemme is still not convinced. The other masters all are though, he even has some friends among them. Kvothe is a clever student and nothing more. Elodin has seen inside his mind and asked him what he knows about the moon, that is important because the correct answer involves ‘the fae’, of which our boy knows nothing as yet and so there is nothing to worry about. The masters are assured that Kvothe is not some undercover tool being used in the hand of the real enemy who remains the same as he ever was. The modern day masters are still doing the task of the Amyr who Selitos formed ‘to confound the plots of Lanre and all who follow him.’
However, we can now see their modus operandi coming into a better light here, an ever burning light that never goes out. The masters are clearly asking about the moon, That appears to be their number one priority, what do you know about the moon? is the recurring theme and is the key to the whole puzzle, as it has been ever since the creation war was lost and the moon was stolen by the enemy.