Master Ash is the name by which Kvothe refers to Denna’s patron. Very little is directly known about him: only that he seems rich and is an older gentleman with white hair. The main speculations are that he is either Cinder or Bredon, although many fans hold that the evidence is too obvious and he is Elodin, the Maer, or another minor character.
Evidence for Bredon
Bredon is a Vintish nobleman of unknown rank that meets Kvothe at the Maer’s house in Severen. Bredon teaches Kvothe tak and teaches Kvothe about Vintic noble customs. Much of the speculation comes from Bredon’s physical appearance and various details during his conversations that match up with other character’s descriptions of Denna’s patrons.
Bredon is the only character who has a walking stick that is described in detail: “[Bredon] directed them, pointing with his walking stick...the sunlight caught on the polished silver handle wrought on the shape of a snarling wolf’s head” . The Cthaeh says that Denna’s patron has beaten her with his walking stick . Though this evidence may seem circumstantial, Bredon’s walking stick is mentioned many times. This evidence is also used to support the Maer, the other character described as having a walking stick.
When Denna is talking about her patron, she says that he is a “surprisingly good dancer” . Bredon talks about dancing twice, saying that he has been learning how to dance , and that “no one wins a dance...the point of dancing is the motion a body makes” .
Presence in Severen
When Denna is not in Severen, neither is Bredon; he is “visiting relatives” . And when Denna comes back, Bredon comes back too, mysteriously.
Evidence for Cinder
When Kvothe meets Cinder, Cinder approaches him and begins to cruelly taunt him, but is stopped by Haliax . And as a member of the Chandrian, he has been torturing and killing people for centuries, perhaps millenia, in the name of hiding the Chandrian’s presence. The Cthaeh says that Denna’s patron beats her cruelly as though it’s a game, and to see how far he can go, which is an evil and cruel action .
Denna’s patron comes while Kvothe is in the Medica after saving Fela from a fire at the Fishery. The fire was caused by a canister of bone-tar being much too cold, so cold that the metal itself cracked. This is extremely unusual, but explainable because Cinder’s sign is extreme cold. The Cthaeh also mentions Cinder “stopping by for a drink” which is how Denna met her patron .
Cinder’s true name is Ferule, which is an archaic word for walking stick (see the Cthaeh’s statement on walking sticks above). Cinder also means “ash", as in Master Ash. And, while Kvothe is listing out names for Denna’s Patron, he lists: Federick, Frank, Foran, Forue, Fordale, spelling out “Ferule” (roughly).
Evidence that Bredon is Cinder
Several fans have speculated that since both sets of evidence are so convincing, it has to be both of them.
While reading the stack of slanderous stories of the court, Kvothe comes across stories of Bredon conducting pagan rituals . These could be Chandrian rituals, or could be unrelated.
Patrick Rothfuss said in a blog post that “Bredon didn’t exist at all” in his first edition of The Wise Man's Fear. While this does seem to point to Bredon not being Denna’s patron, as Master Ash is introduced in The Name of the Wind, it is also possible that there was a shell character (most likely Cinder) in place to be Denna’s patron that didn’t have a name, and that Bredon and some finishing touches such as tak were added.
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 72, "Borrorill"
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 66, "Volatile"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 57, "A Handful of Iron"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 104, "The Cthaeh"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 64, "Flight"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 65, "A Beautiful Game"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 69, "Such Madness"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 128, "Names"
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 16, "Hope"
- The Wise Man's Fear, Chapter 74, "Rumors"