**Spoilers for Wise Man’s Fear**
I know it’s a frame and that of course it weighs heavily as a result. One should care about a story’s frame; one shouldn’t resent when we snap back to it.
But more than the grim realities engulfing the Waystone Inn and its present-day world, the relationship between Bast and Kvothe pains me. Specifically Kvothe’s outburst after the fight against the soldiers. “Do you want a story? Do you want to hear the details? Quit expecting me to be something I’m not.”
Not that anyone’s ever told me that. But I had to stop and think if they had. The people I follow and learn from most loyally never had any need of me like that. No room in their lives for this unasked-for Bast. But my boss came close, once, speaking of her upcoming retirement. She — she on whom everyone relies as a fount of knowledge — said she could feel herself taking less of an interest in new developments; wanting to cede the responsibility to care about them to others. Then she stopped talking, because my face is an open book and she sees everything besides, and she saw my panic plain as day, and laid it aside carefully, like glass. Alzheimer’s runs in her family, too, and I think she grows weary of my little spasms of terror when she forgets things, or describes changes in her character beyond her ken. I’m sorry she keeps seeing my reaction, and I wish I were more opaque.
But that’s beside my point. The things Bast does to try and restore Kvothe’s confidence…I’ve done those things. I ask for stories I’ve heard many times before; questions whose answers are already known to me, to make the speaker feel knowledgable, powerful, in control. I’ve steered policy wonks toward political discussions and away from their decaying families; history buffs toward the deconstruction of famous figures and away from the gaping emptiness of their work lives. I’ve tried, so hard, to stop that downward tumble, or the wallowing at the bottom if already there. I throw out line after line, hoping not to run out of rope.
To see it happen, to see that rescue attempt founder, is crushing. I had to put the book down. More so than any interaction with Denna, or Wil or Sim or even Elodin, that failed attempt to rally Bast’s mentor wrings my guts out. Romance can be rekindled, and new friends made, but when the people from whom you most want to learn — whom you most want to become, in some ways — grow hollow-eyed and think themselves worthless, it hurts. And, being neither friends nor lovers, there is frequently little we can do but flail endlessly toward failed attempts at restoring that which was lost.
It may be the most powerless kind of love.