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 Six of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
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 spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.
Two days from where he’d landed on the coast of Morn and in bad shaped, Traveller is met by Shadowthrone and Cotillion. Shadowthrone makes the point that when Traveller dies and is taken by Hood, Traveller will have “lost” (by failing his goal of killing Hood). When Traveller sarcastically asks if Shadowthrone cares much, Cotillion surprisingly says yes, though they don’t give him a reason. Shadowthrone offers to give Traveller food and drink and have the Hounds lead Traveller to “salvation,” but refuses to say what he wants in return. Traveller says he won’t be stopped or delayed and Shadowthrone and Cotillion say they prefer the opposite. Traveller asks about the two white Hounds and Cotillion says they just showed up one day, and Traveller wonders if they might be the “fabled Hounds of Light.” Traveller realizes the bear had been driven to him by the two gods and angrily asked which of them wrecked his ship and killed his crew. Cotillion says they wouldn’t have done that, and Traveller seems to accept that and leaves.
Shadowthrone and Cotillion go “whew” after Traveller leaves without trying to kill them and discuss how Mael had been the one who smashed Traveller’s ship and they had pulled Traveller out. They wonder why Mael wanted to delay Traveller, and then Cotillion says it doesn’t matter since Mael is working under a false assumption: “A quarry on the run.” They discuss how they cannot fail and timing is all.
In the tavern, surrounded by villagers drinking kelyk, Nenanda tells the group they should discuss Clip while he’s gone, saying Clip has contempt for them and “sees what he chooses to see.” They appear to be behind Nimander, though there is disagreement as to whether they can trust Desra. Clip and Desra return and Clip tells them the Dying God will soon appear and they should go, which they do. Outside they hear the scarecrows singing and Nimander and Skintick go to investigate while the others return to their rooms. They sense the arrival of the god: “in terrible pain… the gate to his tormented soul open.” They come across the scarecrows writhing above the plants, which have opened and sent out clouds of pollen. Nimander is tempted to rush in and “taste the pollen… He wanted to dance in the god’s pain,” but is pulled back by Skintick, who is also drawn. They barely make it back, but are brought inside by Aranatha, “reaching down to grasp them… The strength she kept hidden was unveiled suddenly.” He feels Aranatha’s power, “an emanation of will” that she keeps cloaked “until it’s needed.” They worry about Clip, then hear sounds of him slaughtering the villagers. As they wait out the night, Nimander wars with the ghosts in his head. Phaed implies she killed his love, then warns him he should kill Nenanda before he is usurped by him. At dawn they find Clip, comatose, covered in the blood of the villagers he’d killed in the tavern. Aranatha says “they took something from him” and they decide to go to Bastion, where the Dying God resides, to get it back.
Endest senses a shout, “a cry that bristled with… affront. Indignation. Outrage.” Knowing that every other Tiste Andii must sense it and hope it is Mother Dark returned, he heads to find Rake. Rake asks Endest if he agrees with Mother Dark’s past judgment of him: “Did I not see true what was to come? Before Light’s arrival, we were in a civil war. Vulnerable to the forces soon to be born. Without the blood of Tiamatha, I could never have enforced peace. Unification.” Before Endest can really answer, Rake sighs and says “Yes, a most dubious peace… the peace of death… As for unification, that proved woefully shortlived… I wonder, if I had succeeded, truly succeeded, would that have changed her mind?” Endest asks what they should do about what is happening but as he listens he has no idea of what Rake is saying or thinking: “his thoughts traveled a thousand tracks simultaneously.” Rake decides, “I cannot give answer this time… Nor I am afraid can Spinnock. He will be needed elsewhere… It must fall to you, again. Once more.” Endest, though, says he cannot do it and Rake, at first surprised, accedes, saying “Reborn into fury, oh, would that I could see that… you cannot stand in my stead… Do not set yourself between two forces, neither of which you can withstand. You may well feel the need, but defy it with all your will. You must not be lost.” Suddenly, the strange power disappears, and when Endest asks Rake if it will return, Rake instead muses on the ever-changing sea: “nothing lasts forever.”
Salind says the Redeemer is troubled by something from the south that “had the flavor of Kurald Galain.” Around her are pilgrims worried about their safety now that they’ve been abandoned by the Benighted (Seerdomin). She muses on faith and the faithful and wonders “where the Redeemer’s reward?” The pilgrims ask if the Redeemer is yet another indifferent god and wonder who will stop/punish Gradithan (the one who preys on them). Salind recalls her own troubled past as a First born of the Tenescowri. They decide to go confront Seerdomin, though she thinks it a bad choice.
Spinnock and Seerdomin are playing in the tavern. Spinnock thinks of this strange drink—kelyk—that has been all over, one that causes “an alarmingly dark discharge—he’d begun to see stains… all over the city… abusers, stumbling glaze-eyed.” Spinnock is shocked when Seerdomin surrenders the game. Salind arrives and Seerdomin is shocked and furious, telling her this is his “refuge” and demanding she leave. Spinnock leaves the two alone and waits outside.
When Salind leaves, Spinnock speaks to her. She tells him how Seerdomin used to pray each day at the temple. When Spinnock asks why, saying it bothers him to see Seerdomin so upset, she points out that Seerdomin “answers [your] need, and so wounded as he now is, you begin to bleed.” Spinnock is shocked and she apologizes, then tells him Seerdomin offers the Redeemer his company, “asking for nothing, he comes to relieve the Redeemer’s loneliness.” She says Seerdomin is missed and leaves. Spinnock thinks he must do something “For Seerdomin. For her.” And he wonders at the effect she has had on him.
Kallor recalls his past women and how he’d had to watch them age while he didn’t (at least not at close to the same rate), until “there was no choice but for Kallor to discard them, to lock them away one by one in some tower.” He thinks too how it’s “too bad he’d had to kill every child he begat… He’d tear those ghastly babes from their mother’s arms not moments after they’d tumbled free of the womb and was that not a true sign of mercy? No one grows attached to dead things.” Which leads him to his belief that attachments were “a waste of time… a weakness. To rule an empire—to rule a hundred empires—one needed a certain objectivity. All was to be used, to be remade howsoever he pleased.” He doesn’t understand the “willingness of otherwise intelligent… people to parcel up and then bargain away appalling percentages of their very limited lives in service to someone else… He would bargain away nothing of his life. He would serve no one… He would never be one of the multitude.” He aims now for a “crown… a kingship… Mastery not over something as mundane as an empire… but over a realm.” His thoughts are interrupted by a sense of power north of him and then another he recognizes as Tiste Andii, and he wonders if it is “those two accursed hunters” (Korlat and Orfantal). He remembers how he has killed dragons before, though thinks two tat the same time might be harder. The powers disappear and he heads toward Darujhistan.
Kallor, employing his inimitable charm, hitches a ride with Nimander’s group, heading toward Bastion with Clip still comatose in the back of the wagon.
Traveller meets the Kindaru, “the last clan left” on the Lamath Plains, who tell him they’ve recently found an ambushed group of thirty raiders, killed seemingly by “a demon we think, who walks like a storm, dark with terrible rage.” They explain the raiders were Skathandi, who prey on everyone on the Plain, ruled by the Captain who sits in an ever-moving, two-story carriage drawn by slaves. The next day they scavenge the ambush site, Traveller taking a horse, and then are surprised by the appearance of Samar Dev, who says she’s following the damned demon (Karsa) to give him his damned horse back.
Yep, I quite agree with this little excerpt at the start of the chapter and would love to say this to some people at times: “There is the door, and be sure to take all your pompous second-guessing delusions with you…” Hindsight is both a wonderful and terrible thing.
It seems to me that Traveller looks upon the rent that the K’Chain Che’Malle matron used to seal, near Morn: “All that bled from it now was pain, a sour, unyielding stench that seemed as thirsty as the ravaged landscape stretching out on all sides.”
I do enjoy Traveller’s rather dark sense of humour as he considers the fact that it might be something as simple as thirst that kills him.
Something occurs to me here as we meet Shadowthrone and Cotillion and see their descriptions. Shadowthrone is most often described as being a blurred cast of shadows, and can never usually be seen clearly, while Cotillion has his hood back and his face bared, with his form fully visible. I just wonder what that says about the respective characters. Although both are of Shadow, Cotillion is less shadowy, for sure, in intentions and ambitions.
Hmm, white Hounds as part of the Hounds of Shadow? I certainly don’t recall these from before. Are they related to the two Hounds that Paran freed from Dragnipur? Because I thought that they combined with their counterparts in the Nascent and became part of the Deragoth? Because the Deragoth are black, it makes me feel as though white Hounds would be related to the House of Light….
I like that the Hounds respond to Traveller’s empathy here, with Baran leaning his head into the caress and then licking him. I guess the tragedy of the Hounds and their existence would be the sort of thing to evoke pity in Traveller.
It’s sort of odd to remember that these three were once Kellanved, Dancer and Dassem Ultor, and are now Shadowthrone, Cotillion and Traveller. Friends, perhaps? The way that Shadowthrone talks to Traveller indicates the ease of friendship or at least of equals, with his “you damned oaf” and “you stubborn, obstinate, belligerent fool.” Hmm, is that affection or just exasperation?
See, Cotillion is definitely the clearer of the two here, when he says: “Perhaps the most telling truth of old friendships is in how their dynamics never change.” He’s quite certain that he and Traveller are still friends.
I simply adore this scene between the three of them, actually. It’s always a joy to have Cotillion back on page, one of my very favourite characters of the series. And I like the play between the three of them, even including Traveller’s rather bleak thoughts about the fact that they are gods and not to be trusted, despite past friendships. It’s also funny to see Shadowthrone shrug off the presence of these two new Hounds who, apparently, have just shown up… And, ha! Traveller thinks the same as I, that these might belong to the Light. If so (because it seems Cotillion thinks the same) why haven’t they been driven away? Because of this notion that balance required?
Hmm, what interest does Mael have in trying to shipwreck Traveller and delay him in his journey? It’s curiously not like the Mael we’ve seen before. I find him possibly the most contrary character in the series, actually. While he’s Bugg, we see compassion and humour and a very human interest in what goes on. While he’s Mael, he seems cold and distant and very much seeking his own results. We know now that Traveller is seeking out Hood to kill him—what interest does Mael have in delaying that?
I do find the Nimander storyline very glum—and adding in these villagers hooked on kelyk doesn’t help any. What’s interesting is that these Tiste Andii seem well aware that Clip is hellbent on using them for some purpose, but they just seem really apathetic and not that bothered. Especially Nimander, and especially here: “It was, Nimander would recall later, the moment when he could have stepped forward, could have looked into Clip’s eyes, unwavering, revealing his own defiance and the promise behind it. Instead, he turned to the others.”
This is a dark, dark scene as Nimander and Skintick head for the field—as they see the scarecrows come to life and sing their pain, as they breathe in the essence of the Dying God and have him address them. It’s nightmarish and pretty damn horrible.
Aranatha—well, she’s a surprising one. Strength kept veiled. Unaffected by the Dying God. “She hides her other self behind a wall no power can surmount.” Makes me wonder if she is just Tiste Andii, or is more….
The Dying God does not seem all that happy, friends, what with his immortal pain and suffering. Seems strange that this Dying God seems to be a rather big player in this book and yet we haven’t heard of him that much before now.
We are not being presented with a very nice view at all of Desra, via what the others think of her. Even a dead ghost here: “Desra is a slut. She has a slut’s brain, the kind that confuses giving with taking, gift with loss, invitation with surrender. She is power’s whore, Nimander…” Makes me wonder what is to come in Desra’s future—whether she’ll cause problems because of her attitude, or whether she’ll find absolution.
Completely agree with Nimander when he thinks: “Oh, we are a vicious bunch, are we not?” There are so many undercurrents here—hatred and jealousy and indifference and spite. Not entirely pleasant to read about, however well written it might be.
I am uncertain as to what is meant here:
“Nimander,” said Skintick in a low, hollow voice, “we are forced.”
“Awakened once more.”
“I had hoped…never again.”
Awakened to what? Is it due to the carnage they have seen?
Ooh, something has shivered through Kurald Galain—a war cry—and leaves the Tiste Andii hopeful. I wonder if this is connected to the Dying God and what happened with Clip and the others, or if it is entirely unrelated. Lots and lots and lots of details given in each little section so far this chapter—things I’m pretty sure I need to note, such as why Spinnock is needed elsewhere.
And it seems that shiver through Kurald Galain has the power to wake Itkovian for a brief moment as well.
I’m not sure I like what the merchant says: “I surrendered everything, all my wealth, for yet another indifferent god.” It is as though he thinks that he can buy the protection of a god, somehow deserves the protection because he’s given over all his wealth.
I must confess, the philosophy being talked by Salind goes way above my head in terms of understanding or enjoyment. I do wonder how many of you just skim the weighty philosophical diatribes?
This kelyk is truly insidious, isn’t it? And is it all the tool of the Dying God? A way for him to create worshippers?
It is very sad, the idea that the Redeemer is missing Seerdomin’s presence at the barrow, that he has enjoyed the company of one who isn’t seeking any help or requiring anything at all.
Ah Kallor, such a ladies man: “Better, yes, than watching those few who’d remained with him for any length of time lose all their beauty, surrendering their youth, until there was no choice but for Kallor to discard them, to lock them away….”
Ah Kallor, such a compassionate soul: “Too bad he’d had to kill every child he begat. No doubt that left most of his wives and lovers somewhat disaffected.” Ya think?
Ah Kallor, so selfless: “All was to be used, to be remade howsoever he pleased.”
I pity Kallor for not knowing enough about life and love and sharing that he doesn’t understand why Korlat still tracks him and tries to kill him.
As sad and depressing as the Tiste Andii are who travel with Nimander, I’m not entirely sure they deserve to be saddled with Kallor!
I love this welcome from the Kindaru to Traveller—it sort of reminds me of that Christmas greeting card that aims to include all religions and all blessings upon the person receiving it. Just so much overkill, but very charming for all that.
And that ending to the chapter is just fantastic, as we meet Samar Dev in hot pursuit of Karsa.
But, but, what if my pompous delusions are all I have….
In a series and a book that deals so much with the past and the idea of change, this is a nice opening we get: a huge spine of rock—probably something one would have looked at and thought of us “everlasting” has dropped off and beyond the change in the natural world, we’re also treated to the ruins of K’Chain Che’Malle tombs and a Jaghut tower. Beware a sense of one’s own importance or immortality seems to be one possible message.
I agree, it’s nice to see Traveller met with something other than fear or mistrust, as the Hounds not only greet him but Baran even gives him a lick.
As far as the white hounds, they’re not related to Paran’s freed hounds, but don’t worry—we’ll get more….
I’m not sure I could ever pick a single “favorite” character in this series, but on any short (very short) list would have to go Cotillion. So many (granted, not all) of his scenes seem suffused with warmth, empathy, humanity, and a sense of active, passionate compassion. And it appears Traveller can see the toll this takes on him, as Traveller notes an “exhaustion beyond anything he had ever seen when the man had been mortal.” And when Traveller wonders, “Where were the gifts of godhood? What was their value when to grasp each one was to flinch in pain and leak blood from the hands.” Nice Christian imagery there. It makes one think that Cotillion does not seek godhood for solely selfish means, that he is using his godhood to achieve something. This meeting would appear to be part of that something and while we don’t know what it is, it is hard to imagine it not being linked to empathy/compassion if Cotillion is involved (which is somewhat ironic for someone known as The Rope).
Friends? Yes, clearly between Cotillion and Traveller (and just how sad is that line of Traveller’s that comes after Cotillion winks at him: “Traveller saw once more—after what seemed a lifetime—the man he had once called his friend” And even sadder, his unwillingness to respond to that feeling). Maybe with Shadowthrone. But at the least, shared experiences, which sometimes binds one tighter than friendship.
So there is a lot of plotting going on in this book and it’s wise (or actually, maybe not depending on one’s point of view regarding a reading experience) to try and keep some of the points filed away. So here we have Cotillion and Shadowthrone trying to ease Traveller’s path toward Hood, though Traveller plans on trying to kill the God of Death. That path would also, based on geography and the sense of convergence, be aimed at Darujhistan. Finally, for this scene, file away that bit about how Mael (who is seemingly opposed to whatever plan is brewing or at least to the timing of it) is working under the false assumption that Hood is running. Which clearly implies Hood is awaiting Traveller. Why? File.
Funny close to a scene fraught with some tension and heartbreak (I also love the tiny detail of Shadowthrone turning his entire throne around to watch Traveller leave).
We’ve had lots of reasons to question Clip’s judgment and this scene with Nimander’s group gives us a more blunt reason to via Nenanda’s statement that Clip “sees what he chooses to see,” which strongly implies he’s blind to quite a bit. We see some coalescing around Nimander here, and the scene also does a nice job of setting up some tension with regard to Desra’s loyalty, as the group disagrees as to which side she will choose when the seemingly inevitable confrontation comes.
“It feeds them even as it kills them.” One thinks this might almost be a test of being human.
OK, now I’ve said to make sure you’re keeping the gods straight among the Crippled God, the Dying God, and the Redeemer. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t parallels/similarities among them. We’ve had many references to the CG’s pain, including in the scene with Baruk’s summoning, and here we have great pain/torment associated with the Dying God as well. Something to keep in mind.
This scene in the fields is a heck of a horror movie scene I’m thinking.
Among things to file away: Aranatha and these lines:
Reaching down to grasp them… The strength she kept hidden was unveiled suddenly, and they were being dragged towards the door…
A cough from Skintick at his side. “Mother Dark save us!”
‘Not her,’ said Kedeviss. “Just Aranatha.”
Aranatha, who flinches at shadows… hides her other self behind a wall no power can surmount. Hides it, until it’s needed. Yes, he could feel her now, an emanation of will.
It’s interesting that just after we have a scene with Cotillion, whom I think so often is a symbol of compassion/empathy in this series, we get Nimander’s questions that deal with almost the exact opposite: “Do we all feed on the pain of others? Do we laugh and dance upon suffering, simply because it is not our own?”
And there’s an ominous and dark close to this section—these Andii “awakened” again, against all their hopes.
Speaking of our gods (not to mention others of our characters), one could read something into Endest’s lines: “It was a quirk of blind optimism that held that someone broken could, in time, heal, could reassemble all the pieces and emerge whole… the notion that did not sit well, with anyone, was that one so broken might remain that way.” We have several candidates besides Endest himself—which way might they go?
Loneliness/isolation—another theme throughout and one set against empathy. So many of these characters are alone, isolated. Others are on the edge of breaking through it. Others we’re not sure of. Will Barathol and Scillara for instance, break their isolation via each other? What about Cutter? Rallick, back from being away so long? Traveller? The list is almost literally endless in this series. Luckily, though, we’ve seen the opposite as well: the camaraderie of the soldiers. Fiddler and Hedge. Quick Ben and Kalam. Probably no coincidence that those who seem to be doing so well have at least one significant other in their lives.
What must the Andii be feeling—thousands of years of wishing for the return of Mother Dark and then this odd stirring of power? Imagine the hope, and then the realization.
Now even Rake has second thoughts? Remorse? “Regrets, I have a few”—yep, that seems to be the theme song for this book so far.
OK, some file cabinet lines (boy, we haven’t used this sucker for a while, but this book is really starting to fill the drawers)
- “I cannot give answer this time” Why? Is it because of what it is? Or does Rake have other things going on?
- “Spinnock will be needed elsewhere.” Where? Why? What is Rake planning on doing with Spinnock?
- “Reborn into fury” Who? Why?
- “Would that I could see that.” Why can’t he? Where will he be? That’s an odd tone.
- “Do not set yourself between two forces.” Which two?
- “Nothing lasts forever.”
And more loneliness. And yet another dark and ominous close to a section. Where’s that comic relief when you need it?
What is it about what’s going on with the Dying God that “troubles” the Redeemer?
Hmm, so is this an observation or a criticism of faith:
A need that could not be answered by the self was then given over to someone or something greater than oneself, and this form of surrender was a lifting of a vast, terrible weight.
(And this general insight would seem to lead right into her sharp and blazingly fast insight into the relationship between Spinnock and Seerdomin)
“Is it for faith to deliver peace, when on all sides inequity thrives?” I think that line’s been asked of religion since, well, religion. And a disquieting question for many religions it is, I think.
OK, outside of all the layers/metaphors/sociological insights of kelyk, at its core, it’s just kinda gross. Thus endeth my deep insight for the day.
And then more loneliness—that of the Redeemer. But it appears perhaps Spinnock is hooked by this young woman. Maybe he’ll do something? Though then again, Rake has plans for him, so it would apparently have to be soon.
Ahh, perhaps Kallor will offer us up some sorely needed comic relief. Or not. Now, we’ll see some sides of Kallor in this book that may be unexpected. But I have to say this little internal scene doesn’t do much for him:
- The shallowness of his issues with his women “los[ing] all their beauty” due to age.
- His belief he had “no choice” but to then pen the poor things up in a some isolated tower (more isolation).
- His equating (somewhat) his “aging” with their own (“Did he not age as well?”)
- His infanticide.
- His disdain of “attachments.”
- · His “vast construction projects” that probably cost thousands of lives to “glorify his rule.”
- His lack of any understanding of what might make one human (or non-human) connect with another (he’s pretty much the opposite of Cotillion in many ways).
- His utter bafflement at just why Korlat and her brother are so upset with him.
After all this, is anyone hoping Kallor will get his hand on this crown? I’m guessing not.
Him picking up with the Andii has the potential for some humor at least. And I give some props to Desra for trying to give him kelyk, though of course Kallor is too wise to fall for that.
And then it’s back to the plains and Traveller walking three days behind some demon killing slavers. Hmmm. As if we had any doubts, up shows Samar Dev. I like how we have all these mini-convergences coming up before what appears to be a large one: Kallor hooking up with Nimander’s group. Traveller and Samar who seemingly are about to meet up soon with Karsa. Our Malazan marines connecting with Barathol and Scillara. It’s like small tributaries joining together before all coming out in the same river (and will it lead to a nice, still lake? A tossing ocean? A waterfall?)
At least we end with some humor….
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.