Exactly where to start of our journey into Temerant is a tricky thing to consider. I have decided to begin with everything Skarpi.
Since this is a story about stories, I feel it best to start with the master storyteller himself. This is not Kvothe, or Kote, or even The Chronicler, but rather the one link that binds all these three together. Skarpi, who professes to know the one great story of the world.
Skarpi is an old man who tells stories to children in The Half-Mast in Dockside, Tarbean. Every day at sixth bell, every day except mourning. Why not mourning? This would appear to be a religious thing. The days of the week are named from the time of the tehlin church’s founding. Mourning commemorates the final day of Tehlu’s battle with Encanis. It is a holy day, like our Sunday, and we are told that ‘folk are a little more generous on Mourning.’ The church frowns upon many things, including strong drink. Trapis talks of a man who drank ‘even on Mourning’ and Kvothe avoids a Tehlin priest because he recently drank a pint of strong beer on Mourning, a pint he obtained from the Back door of an inn which could mean that inns are not meant to be open on Mourning because of a church edict? Perhaps, perhaps not, but it is quite a plausible theory and a good example of what can be deduced from minimal clues.
What we do know is that Skarpi tells stories on all the other days and if he didn’t know the story that you asked for, he would give you a whole silver talent. Kvothe asks about Lanre and Skarpi obliges. But not only does he tell us the story of Lanre, a story which Arliden would have loved, but in doing so goes into huge detail where Arliden struggled to find many hard facts in two years of searching. Denna also encountered similar troubles with names in her version of Lanre. Unlike Skarpi who reveals much more besides, talking about names and places from points that could be described generously as being the edges of the world.
‘I only know one story, but oftentimes small pieces seem to be stories themselves. It is growing all around us. In the manor houses of the Cealdim and in the workshops of the Cealdar, over the Stormwal in the great sand sea. In the low stone houses of the Adem, full of silent conversation.’ ‘And sometimes’ he smiled, ‘Sometimes the story is growing in squalid backstreet bars, Dockside in Tarbean.’
Basically, Skarpi is saying that he knows all the history of the world which is why there is no story he doesn’t know.
Firstly, we must remember that he is speaking from a backstreet bar, Dockside bar in Tarbean, which the original map shows us this is in the Commonwealth, a part of The Four Corners of Civilization and once part of the Aturan Empire. Skarpi is telling us that everything is part of the bigger story, even Kvothe is a part of this one story just by being there. He mentions the Cealds in two different ways, Cealdar and Cealdim, differentiating between artisans and moneylenders. The capital of Ceald is Ralien and this is where the manor houses and workshops are, deep in the Shalda mountains in their own corner of the world. The Cealds are different from the other nations. They have their own language, their own religion, their own customs, and they have a profoundly unique appearance. If anyone can be said to be a wholly different peoples, it is the Cealds. They are also wary of outsiders and simply treat them as customers. Skarpi may have been there but Kvothe says that his troupe never went that far North.
Skarpi also speaks of the far side of the Stormwal being a great sea of sand. We know little else about it, but we know where its is meant to be… It is off the edge of the map! Has Skarpi travelled there himself ? maybe, anything is possible I suppose. There are rumours of a nomadic race of singers and healers living there, but we know little more about it than that. It seems likely that Skarpi knows more stories about it and has told them on earlier occasions. The other children are obviously treated to stories about this inhospitable place, one young girl in particular, who couldn’t possibly have any other source of information asks for specific stories about things from the dry lands over the Stormwal. He also speaks of the Adem, another race who live outside of the four corners, secretive and aloof all sharing the same grey eyes. They are a race apart who don’t welcome barbarians. Despite them being such a secretive people, Skarpi knows, accurately, about their ‘low stone houses full of silent conversation’. How? Even if he had also traveled there to see for himself, these are the inner parts of their school and the Adem are a secret people who would not have allowed him inside their low stone houses or taught him of their silent language . Emphatic Absolute Denial. Yet he is somehow exact and correct in his description. Skarpi is not one of the adem, his eyes are diamond blue, yet he certainly knows what he is talking about.
Looking at the 10th anniversary maps also reveals something else about Skarpi’s words. The Cealds were Not part of the Aturan empire, they never were having always remained independent of its influence. The same is true of the Adem, who were ‘antagonised’ by the Aturan Empire as is everything beyond the Stormwal. Only Tarbean, where he is currently sitting can be said to be within the four corners of civilization and subject to the language, law and religion of the Aturan Empire, which he is about to fall foul of when he tells his next story.
So Skarpi is worldly wise and knowledgeable about secretive things. He is Not a simple storyteller.
Kvothe asks Skarpi if his story of Lanre was true and he is told that…
‘All stories are true, but this one really happened, if that’s what you mean. More or less. You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way. Too much truth confuses the facts. Too much honesty makes you sound insincere.’
That is quite a lot to take in, and raises the question how do we know Skarpi isn’t lying about everything? The answer to that question is hidden within his own words. Arliden was also trying to find the story of Lanre. We know that he found something, a historical basis for his song, but nothing like the information Skarpi gives us. To give his story credence we have to pick a few important words out. Skarpi gives names to seven cities and the one city, and also speaks of the Blak of Drossen Tor. The Adem have written records painstakingly copied and accurately recorded in all their swords atas, and kvothe’s sword was recorded as being carried at Drossen Tor, corroborating the name. However a story of this time names Tariniel as the one city, (missing out Skarpi’s ‘Myr’ part) and admits the other names of the cities have been forgotten for they fell ‘long ago, before the land was broken and the sky changed.’ If any of the Adem fought and died in any of these cities, it would be recorded in their swords atas and could cross referenced to their story, but it is not – which is interesting in itself. Skarpi tells us that ‘even books that recorded the war as doubtful rumour have long since crumbled into dust.’ however he not only names Myr Tariniel in full but also rattles off seven other names. Belen, Antus, Vaeret, Tinusa, Emlen, and the twin cities of Murilla & Murella.
Whilst Belen and Tinusa are going to be important later in these pages it is the last of these that gives us the definitive proof that we seek.
Felurian herself talks of Murella not being in the fae and of and herself sitting upon its walls eating a fruit. She says this was long ago. ‘before. there was but one sky, one moon, one world, and in it was murella. and the fruit. and myself…’
If you believe that Felurian, who was bested by Kvothe in a battle of names, could be capable of lying to him then you really shouldn’t be reading this.
This is all we need to corroborate accuracy in Skarpi’s tale, an eye witness whose word we cannot deny.
And talking of eyes, Kvothe tells us during his conversation with Skarpi
‘His bright eyes looked deep into me, as if I were a book that he could read.’
This line is very similar to his description of how Magwyn and Elodin could look at him. And, to a lesser degree, Cinder and Puppet! Skarpi’s own description of Selitos also tells us that…
‘Just by looking at a thing Selitos could see its hidden name and understand it. In those days there were many who could do such things, but Selitos was the most powerful namer of anyone alive in that age… Such was the power of his sight that he could read the hearts of men like heavy lettered books.’
When Felurian and kvothe clash in a struggle of wills. Each trying to dominate the other, Kvothe emerges the stronger and Elodin believes that he actually spoke the true name of Felurian. During their battle…
‘Felurian reached up to touch my face, her eyes intent as if trying to read something written deep inside of me.’
Felurian was attempting to read Kvothe’s true name and thus have power over him. This is a repeated description of how namers use their power, they literally read you like a book. Selitos was a namer and is described doing exactly this, which means that Skarpi could well be one too and that he is reading the name of Kvothe, so to speak, using the power of his own sight. Is Skarpi like the ‘many who could do such things’? he certainly knows about the due process of naming. Skarpi being a namer would also neatly answer the oft asked question of how Skarpi knew Kvothe’s name without it being mentioned. He read it.
From the other examples we are shown of naming, Elxa Dal gives us the best when he says the name of ‘fire’ and that is what Kvothe hears although the master says that is not what he actually said and that he is surprised Kvothe heard anything at all. In another example Elodin whispers the name ‘aerlevsedi’ to Kvothe but Simmon hears the word ‘wind’.
Chronicler’s transcription process is approved by Kote as faithful and is therefore beyond reproach.
My point here is we are told what young Kvothe heard in Tarbean verbatim. ‘Silanxi, Aeruh, and Selitos’ Are these just random words made up by an old storyteller for dramatic effect? Or is that what was actually said on the mountain 5000 years ago?, the names of stone and air, phonetically reproduced (with a capital letter) If so, this would mean that Skarpi either knows the shape of these Names himself, or that he has been told them personally at some point by someone who did.
Since he was not present on the mountain to hear them spoken, and it is unlikely Haliax told him afterwards, this leaves the only plausible answer being that Selitos told him this story personally. Somehow their life spans have crossed which means that at least one of these two people is over five thousand years old. I would suggest that if one definitly is, then both most probably are. Incidently, whilst Skarpi did not actually call and wind or stone during his story, he knew the sound that their names make. Furthermore it could be argued that by naming Selitos he could also have spoken his true name which might have made an ancient, but still active and powerful Amyr, aware that someone, somewhere, was speaking his true name. And two days later someone came looking for him.
Haliax is still abroad in the world, we have met him, so it is not unthinkable to accept Selitos still being around as well in order to continue his mission of confounding him.
In Skarpi’s dealings with Erlus he makes statements that imply he knew Tehlu personally. He has just insulted the Tehlin Justice before Erlus strikes him, orders him not to speak in his presence and that he ‘know’s nothing’, Skarpi ignores his command and replies ‘I suppose that could be true, Tehlu always said—‘ where no matter what came next, the next words are a recollection of Skarpi being in a conversation with Tehlu.This angers the justice greatly to have a heretic blaspheming before him. In his next line Skarpi chides Erlus by name, implying that he must either of had dealings with him before or has just read it ‘like a heavy lettered book’ and goes as far as to state that ‘Tehlu hates you even more than the rest of the world does, which is quite a bit.’ A very personal opinion which could only be true from personal knowledge. Skarpi laughs hysterically through his ensuing beating at the thought of ‘these sort of men’ calling on Tehlu like the name of God himself.
Is Skarpi just a simple storyteller, fond of a drink and unaware of the trouble he is in? He seems to think that he will be alright because he has ‘friends in the church’. If he knew Tehlu himself then that would be true, a personal friend of a powerful being would have powerful connections, or maybe he knows some eqivalent of ‘the hempen verse’ which he thinks will get him off the hook. But his stories are not the ravings of a drunken madman, all of his words and actions indicate his veracity.
Could Skarpi have spoken with Tehlu recently? No, because according to his own story, Tehlu left this world and cannot be seen by mortal sight. In order to know what ‘Tehlu always said…’ he would have to have known him from before he left, in fact Skarpi would have had to be among the Ruach present at the scene in order to accurately record his own second story? This would make the most sense, for him to be actually remembering his own first hand experiences which would allow him to provide us with such accurate information.
This not a tale he once heard told to him, but a memory. His stories are in fact history, an inconvenient truth which contradicts the official church version which we hear part of from Trapis and is written down in the Tehlin Church’s ‘Book of the Path’.
Thus the conclusion we reach is that Skarpi and Selitos were both in attendance when Tehlu was last seen, and therefore that Skarpi is a very long lived being with very powerful connections.
So the gathering of the ruach before Aleph on which Skarpi commentates in his last tale would look something like this. To begin the next chapter I have placed Skarpi alone between Selitos and Tehlu. Tehlu has left the world now so I shall be focussing from a Selitos-eye point of view.