Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: The Bonehunters, Chapter Eleven

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Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Eleven of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (TB).

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A forum thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

Chapter Eleven

SCENE ONE

Cutter’s group continues forward. Heboric muses on those inside the Jade Statues, the idea that Icarium should be killed to stop more potential bloodshed from him, and the idea of returning Fener and having Treach and Fener share the Throne of War. He thinks on the relationship between gods and worshippers and as he hears more voices begging him wonders if this is what a god feels like.

SCENE TWO

Cutter wonders if they really need to keep traveling such barren areas since it seems clear nobody is chasing them. Scillara tells them Heboric has been guiding them via old roads and cities of dead ages and when Cutter asks why, she replies it’s because he “likes his nightmares.” She says people “suck the land dry” just like they do to each other; the world is filled with injustice and oppression. She says Bidithal’s cult was brilliant in its idea and Heboric corrects her, saying it was the Crippled God’s idea—the “promise of something better” beyond death. He agrees with Scillara that it is a seductively powerful idea, but if it is a lie, then it is the greatest injustice/betrayal of all, arguing, “If absolution is free, all we do here and now is meaningless” which invites chaos.

SCENE THREE

Pust and Mogora spar. Mappo begins to slightly stir, his body marked all over by lines of the healing spiderwebs.

SCENE FOUR

Mappo wakes in dream realm/past history on Jacuruku. He speaks with Ardata who wonders what interest Shadowthrone has in him or in Icarium. She tells him Veed has replaced him with Icarium and that the Nameless Ones “made him and now they will use him.” Which makes her think she now knows what Shadowthrone plans and is offended both at his assumption she would help and the correctness of that assumption. She sends him back. He truly wakes to find Pust and Mogora.

SCENE FIVE

Paran’s group is chased up a hill by the monstrous bear-like guardian. Paran makes a card and sends the beast through it.

SCENE SIX

Paran’s group looks down on five huge black statues (and two empty pedestals they discover later) of the hounds. Paran believes the two shadowhounds he freed from Dragnipur reunited with their “counterparts” and then were released. Hedge tells him they appeared at Sha’ik’s camp and were killed by Karsa, which stuns Paran. Ganath mentions how Dessimbelackis believed making his one soul seven would make him immortal. When Paran says the Deragoth were far older, she tells him they were nearly extinct by Dessimbelackis’ time and made “convenient vessels,” adding the Eres’al were domesticated by the Hounds and the Eres’al then gave rise to the Imass who gave rise to the humans, though she admits that is an oversimplification.

SCENE SEVEN

Paran’s group discovers a possible temple at the foot of the statues. Ganath and Paran enter to find Sedora Orr and Darparath Vayd’s (from the wrecked Guild carriage on the bridge) bodies who had been ritually killed as sacrifice. They realize this means the Deragoth will be close and Ganath agrees to assist if needed. Hedge plans to set the charges to blow up the statues but wonders if the Deragoth will go after their shadows before heading off to the Malazan world, something Paran hadn’t thought of. Paran uses a card to communicate with Shadowthrone and warns him the Deragoth are about to be released. ST calls the idea both clever and stupid, angrily recaps the steps that led to this, then realizes something and calls it “pure genius”, seemingly agreeing to send his Hounds to Seven Cities.

SCENE EIGHT

Hedge tells Paran the planned destruction won’t work as planned and they should leave him behind. Paran says they’ll move off and wait as long as possible. Karpolan warns Paran as the statues start to go that he’s having difficulty. One of the Deragoth appears and Karpolan opens a gate into a realm of nightmare with countless undead clutching at them asking to be taken along. Ganath takes them out into a new realm onto a glacier, which the carriage slide uncontrollably down then flips over (Paran separate on his horse is in better shape). The carriage is a wreck, several shareholders dead, other wounded, and one of the undead managed to tag along. They decide to make camp.

SCENE NINE

Hedge steps out from hiding, happy his plan to be left on his own worked. He heads off to explore, thinking “absolution comes from the living, not the dead, and . . . had to be earned.”

SCENE TEN

Scillara thinks of her past: her mother as a camp follower to the Ashok Regiment, her mother’s death, her own camp following, Bidithal’s cult and its promise of paradise after death, Heboric dragging her away. She thinks the Crippled God’s religion will find lots of adherents/slaves and evil will grow unchecked. She and Heboric spar over balance and flux. They reach an arid basin filled with flies and fish/bird bones and broken eggs. They start to cross.

SCENE ELEVEN

Heboric considers the role of Destriant—the right to slay and deliver justice in a god’s name—and thinks he cannot do that and Treach chose poorly. They reach an old hamlet. They are all covered with flies and Heboric thinks back to the priest telling him “something to show you now”.

SCENE TWELVE – END OF CHAPTER

They are attacked by Imass, Scillara, Cutter, Greyfrog, Heboric horribly, seemingly/possibly mortally wounded.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eleven

Okay, so this quote: “My faith in the gods is this: they are indifferent to my suffering.” I would say that some of them are indifferent. I would say that others are really not indifferent. For instance, the Crippled God is definitely not indifferent to suffering — that is what he looks for in his followers and something he monitors in those he pursues to be part of his Deck!

What exactly is Heboric giving to those by having hands of jade? What contact is he making with them? Is he becoming godlike to them? We move right from indifference in the statement by Tomlos (who clearly felt that Fener wasn’t exactly attentive) to Heboric who pays great attention to those he touches.

This quote says SO much about Heboric’s state of mind: “Unseasonal clouds painted silver the sky, behind which the sun slid in its rut virtually unseen.” Its rut? As in, day after day taking the same old path?

“Fener had simply disappeared.” What a reminder that we need to bear in mind we will be seeing Fener again at some point! Hmm, I wonder how he will reappear? A babe in arms? Someone who died but is brought back to life with the spirit of Fener?

I’m glad that Felisin is such a glass-half-full sort of person, otherwise having Scillara and Heboric and Cutter all together at the same time would just be a nightmare of a depressing storyline! Here she makes a good point that children are the true reason for people gathering together and creating families and communities in which to live.

Scillara is certainly coming into her own as she leaves the confines of Sha’ik’s rebellions — she is showing a rare turn of observation and intelligence, certainly more than Cutter who seems mostly oblivious considering he is supposed to be an assassin!

Nice interplay again from Mogora and Iskaral Pust — but somehow a little one-note. I am rather glad that we don’t see these two in an extensive capacity together, because I sense that they might become wearing. It might be an inappropriate thing to think — but I can’t help but wonder why they spend any time together. It seems now, though, that Pust has some kind of plan to rid himself of Mogora — although she knows exactly what he is up to.

Has Mappo prematurely aged because of the spiders? Or simply gained wrinkles to reflect the spider thread as it covered him?

It strikes me that it is crueller to bring back Mappo than to let him die — his realization of what has happened with Icarium might well destroy him.

I certainly experience this myself: “Does it afflict us all, I wonder, the way one’s sense of self changes over time?” I know that I was a distinctly uncomfortable teen — believing myself to be fat and not attractive. I now look back on photographs of a slim and pretty young girl and wish I had had the knowledge I have now when I had that appearance!

Ooh! Who is this Elder Goddess? The Ardata that Cotillion already mentioned? We see more hints at Shadowthrone’s endless manipulations, with her comments that he is forcing her hand. Why does Shadowthrone want Mappo wounded?

And Icarium is a weapon for the Nameless Ones. For what have they prepared him? What are they sending him towards? It’s a pretty terrifying thought that Icarium has been designed to take something particular down. Who do the Nameless Ones want to rid themselves of?

Ha! I’m glad that someone else verbalised my exact thought as Paran performed his little magic trick — “if you coulda done that any time what was we runnin’ for?” I like the way that Erikson will recognise that some events come at the wrong time! Also like Paran’s “I hope this works” *grins*

This is interesting: the Deragoth were simply vessels for Dessimbelackis, and “had their own history, their own story” — so what are their goals and aims? Why are they allowing Dessimbelackis to use them?

Is Hedge the Mason? Or was he before his death? I only ask because of this quote: “A mason would look at this and say it was for occasional use…”

Hmm, am I understanding that the Hounds of Shadow are merely the ‘shadows’ of the Hounds of Darkness? So created from the original? Does that mean someone can create Hounds of Light?

I like the ongoing theme of this chapter — the idea of a god’s attention. We see here that the Deragoth have gained worshippers, and there is discussion between Ganath and Paran as to whether is it fair to release the Hounds of Darkness against those who now worship them. I love this that Paran says: “If they weren’t interested in the attention of their gods, Ganath, they would have avoided the spilling of blood on consecrated ground.”

Fabulous monologue by Shadowthrone — especially love this ‘Master Idiot of the Deck of Dragons’. *shudders* He certainly isn’t someone I would want to talk with, or try to reason with, or threaten. But I have noted here that Paran isn’t afraid to face up to Shadowthrone — and is also aware that he has a long-ranging, impossibly complicated plan.

Oh man! What a terrific scene! First we have Hedge and his laconic “Always an even trade, Captain”; then the release of the Deragoth and their frightening pursuit; then that intriguing comment from one of the dead in Hood’s realm: “He’s forgotten us…” — what is Hood doing that he’s neglecting his own? And, finally, that desperate slide down the ice thanks to Jaghut magic and the Pardu’s comment: “Hood knows, we’ve had worse trips…” Excellent stuff!

Oooh! Did Hedge double-cross Paran?

Ugh… The scene in the basin with the flies — that is a little bit of a personal nightmare for me. *shudders*

Heboric is suffering his loss of faith and lack of reason for leaving terribly, isn’t he? I feel awful for him, truly.

Ummmmm…….. Excuse the language, but what the FUCKING WHAT just happened?! Scillara dead? Cutter dead? Greyfrog: “Dismay. I can hop no more.” *snickers* But still, WHAT?! Is this just an echo from the past? Surely it must be!

My jaw is hanging open. Is it Friday yet? I need to read MORE!

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eleven

Those are good questions re Heboric Amanda, but to be honest, I’m not sure what to say here. So as I’ve done a few times, I’ll leave it to the comments section to decide just how much they’d like to discuss this at this point (which in and of itself is a bit of a spoiler I’d say).

Nice pick up on the Sun in its rut, which does amplify a pretty consistent concept bandied about by sundry characters in this series so far—the idea of walking the same paths. We actually see that language just above the sun image: “The ghosts and their insensate, repetitive lives measure out stride by stride again and again.” Take this line out of its fantasy context and it would seem quite at home in a contemporary lit novel about the dreariness of modern life. Or, not-so-modern: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

We’ve had several reminders of Fener so yes, you definitely don’t want to forget about him.

I do like this phrase: “the divisive clash of singularity.” That’s a great tight expression.

I have to admit I don’t quite get what Scillara is saying with her “But look at this stupid journey . . .” the “but” seems to indicate she’s arguing against Heboric’s statement that “some choices we make, but most are made for us” but the way she phrases it all makes it sound like they all just got swept in, which would seem to be agreeing with him. Unless we’re just supposed to read between the lines and she is saying that they made choices to stay with Cutter or Heboric, though I’m not sure we’ve really seen that. Am I missing something obvious here? Sure feels like it.

I like how Heboric’s thought that Fener would have been better served by Heboric’s indifference plays off the epigraph to the chapter that the gods merely show indifference. And this continues to be a running theme—this idea of the relationship between god and worshipper, just who is driving the bus. The cost to the god. The cost to the worshipper.

“Redemption was not a gift. Redemption had to be earned.” A line echoed in this very chapter by Hedge. And a line to file.

Scillara’s summary of human nature, its destructive, wantonly cruel nature, the way it bleeds “the colour from every scene” is another one of those pessimistic views toward humanity that I really wish I could wholeheartedly argue against. But….

I find the discussion of the Crippled God’s cult/idea fascinating in terms of historical religions, and would be happy to open up discussion of it in comments here. But I also recognize that this is something that really opens up for interpretation as we go forward. So again, I’ll leave it to the comments section to take my lead.

Personally, I think this section with Pust is a bit over-long, and too much of a shaggy dog ending with the “gone fishing”. But I’m so willing to let it lie just because we get one of my favorite lines of the entire series at the end of the scene: “I’d kill the mule.” Oh, how I love that line. I say it aloud to myself now and then just to crack myself up.

“It strikes me that it is crueler to bring back Mappo than to let him die” It strikes me how often one could say this about a character in this series….

Yes, Ardata. Not much to say about her here, but more to come….

I like how we see Shadowthrone’s long game in the way that Ardata is impressed (angry but impressed) that he “so blithely assumed my allegiance” and that his assumption proved correct. I think it says something that one associated with webs and spiders is impressed by someone else’s long-range plans.

I mentioned before we’ve gotten several scenes that seem to want to emphasize Icarium’s power/danger. And here is another one to add. Icarium is quickly becoming Chekhov’s gun I’d say in this book.

“I’d kill the mule” is without a doubt tops for me but I’ve gotta say “I was saying ‘I hope this works'” comes pretty close. And don’t you want to see where that beastie comes out? I sort of picture Scottie telling Kirk where the tribbles went, or Tony Shalhoub’s character sending the rock monster into the room amidst the bad guys in Galaxy Quest (sorry, forgetting his name and too lazy to Google it, though I suppose I could have done it in the time I just typed too lazy to Google it. Oops, could have done it again. And….)

I think Paran’s reaction to the idea that someone killed two Deragoth (someone not even a god) is another brick to add to the Dejim discussion about how the legendary big bads of the past have been eclipsed somewhat. Again, not to say the Deragoth are powerless, but they’re not quite as unstoppable as perhaps Paran thinks.

I find Ganath’s characterization of Dessimbelackis interesting: “an ascendant eager to become a god” in that I wonder if the separation between the two is simple worship (and perhaps that’s too simple?), why he would have felt the need to use the Deragoth as vessels for a D’ivers form. In other words, I wonder why he couldn’t have been worshipped simply as he was.

I have no answer for you Amanda on why the Hounds let Dessimbelackis use them. Though of course, it is possible they were using him as much. After all, if they were near extinction in this evolving world, perhaps sharing souls with a creature of the new world might be a way of evolving/adapting with it, a tool to increase one’s chances of survival.

I swear I can almost hear Erikson himself in Ganatha’s words re the family tree as readers try to figure out the line from Eres’al to Imass to human: “far more complicated . . . but for our purposes, it will suffice.” Snicker.

Shadowthrone does tend to liven up the scenes he appears in. I think the use of him throughout, very careful doling out, is a good choice as I’m not sure one can take too much of him. As well, keeping him off stage increases the sense of him as the mysterious manipulator. I do love his dialogue here and especially his recap.

See what I mean about how the Trade Guild isn’t shown as performing its tasks “easily”?

And in a chapter filled with some very funny lines, let’s not gloss over “Thank you . . . how much do I owe you?” from the corpse.

And here’s that echo of Heboric’s line from earlier:

Heboric: “redemption was not a gift. Redemption had to be earned.”
Hedge: “Absolution comes from the living, not the dead, and as Hedge well knew, it had to be earned.”

Potential theme anyone?

More on faith and the Crippled God from Scillara. Again, discuss here or later?

Flies on the body and Heboric “something to show you” hearkens back to the Deadhouse Gates prologue.

So Heboric thinks he’ll make a lousy Destriant. Thinks he cannot take a life, is not the one to hand out “justice.” Thinks Treach chose wrong. Something to file.

Oh Amanda. No, not an echo of the past. Not a dream (or nightmare). And that’s all I say for now about this save to add, that is one hell of a chapter ending.


Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.

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