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 6 and 7 of Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson (DG).
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, so while the summary of events may be free of spoilers, the commentary and reader comments most definitely will not be. To put it another way: Major Spoilers.
Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!
Setting: Otataral mine
Baudin has been missing for six days now while Sawark searches for him. Felisin is back with Beneth, mostly because he doesn’t trust her anymore due to her connection with Baudin and Sawark’s reaction to her. Heboric has warned her Beneth knows more now from Sawark about her and he wants to destroy her. Beneth questions her as to if it’s his fault what she’s become (“you could have said no”) and she says no, “the faults are all mine.” As they walk outside, Beneth is attacked by a group of Dosii, thus beginning the rebellion in the mining area. Felisin flees and is found by Pella, who takes her back to her tent where Heboric and Baudin are preparing an escape, though he’s unsure if they still want her. Heboric asks if Pella wants to come but he says he has to rejoin his squad. They tell Felisin they’ll swim to the caves under Sinker Lake and she refuses to go without Beneth, saying they owe her and him. Baudin agrees to get him.
As Heboric and Felisin wait in marshes near the lake, Heboric tells her the escape has been planned by Duiker, that they’ll cross the desert to get picked up by boat. They are attacked by bloodflies, though Fener’s gift keeps Heboric untouched. Felisin, though, has been bitten and the bites leave egg sacs which will hatch larvae that will eat her from the inside out, killing her. Heboric has a salve to drive them out, but Felisin is left disfigured/pockmarked. Sawark finds them and leaves them, telling Heboric it isn’t for him but for Felisin’s sake. Baudin arrives and tells them Beneth is dead; Felisin doesn’t believe he even looked for him. They escape via the lake and caves. Baudin returns from scouting and tells them the nearby city is the site of a fierce mage battle and that Seven Cities has risen in rebellion.
Setting: A coastal city
Duiker and Kulp are trying to purchase a boat or hire someone to take them to the rendezvous with the escapees. In the local inn, they meet a Malazan guard troop, led by Corporal Gesler and including Stormy, and Truth. The inn comes under attack and the two groups join together to try and reach a ship the guardsmen have outfitted at the dock. They get separated by the attack; Kulp goes after the enemy High Mage, Duiker ends up with Stormy. They see flames over Hissar and Duiker decides to skip the ship and get to his horse so he can ride to rejoin Coltaine. The others make the ship and Kulp sneaks them away while the enemy mage seeks them out. Kulp pulls rank and tries to order Gesler’s group to the rendezvous and when they ask why they don’t just throw him overboard, he tells them he needs to pick up a High Priest of Fener and tossing him overboard might anger the god. Laughing, the men reveal they are part of an outlawed cult of Fener and they head for the rendezvous.
Duiker takes on the same Dosii disguise we saw him use in the trader camp earlier. He passes Malazans on “sliding beds”—slow killing devices. He rides to Hissar and finds the city attacked, the compound empty, but evidence implies the Seventh had held up and, though unable to save an attack on the Malazan city area, had ambushed the attackers and taken a host of refugees out of the city. He rides with a group of attackers aiming to catch up to the rebel commanders. Kamist Reloe (though killed by Sha’ik in a fight over who would lead the Apocalypse), who plans on harassing Coltaine and his 10,000 refugees, about to be 20,000 as they move toward Sialk, another city conquered by the rebels. Reloe plans on a final battle in three days. Duiker thinks Reloe might be overconfident.
Setting: Pust’s temple
Exploring further (looking for Pust’s broom), Mappo and Icarium find a fishing boat in one of the temple rooms and deduce it must belong to Servant (him and his boat swept up by Shadow and brought here for some purpose). They decide to ask Pust about it.
Mappo and Icarium confront Pust as he’s reading the Deck and he calls them ignorant. He pulls lots of cards, reads “renewal, a resurrection without passage through Hood’s gate,” and tells them they need to go on another journey. Icarium loses patience with Pust and begins to choke him. Pust tells them they must go to Raraku because Sha’ik is dead.
Icarium suggests the resurrection Pust spoke of might be Sha’ik, based on the prophecies. Mappo doesn’t want to get involved, happy the “witch is dead,” especially if it stops the rebellion. He says he doesn’t want to be a tool of the gods or their servant, as most of them, “especially those most eager to meddle in mortal affairs,” feed off of “blood and chaos.” Icarium agrees, but wishes to see the resurrection, wondering how it will bypass Hood who always seems to “ensure he wins in [any] exchange.” Mappo tells Icarium he worries of what is waking in Raraku (and thinks to himself he fears it then awakening Icarium). Icarium say he will go anyway and asks if Mappo will come; Mappo says yes.
Setting: The desert
Fiddler, Crokus, and Apsalar are pursed by the Grals into the whirlwind. The wind has uncovered an ancient road and bones. Fiddler thinks it may lead to Tremorlor, the “legendary gate” and the Azath House Quick Ben told them is there. The Gral catch up and Fiddler kills them with a cusser. As they continue in the Whirlwind, Fiddler thinks the goddess behind it is mad and wonders who can stop her.
Setting: Another part of the desert
Kalam travels with the aptorian demon, which he’s tried to lose unsuccessfully due to mistrusting it. They’re attacked by a wolf D’ivers (one the demon fought before). They fight it off, though the demon is wounded.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Six:
In the extract from Duiker’s writings, it is made more than clear that within the Malazan army there were many, many different factions and “cults.” Duiker also hints at the fact that some of these cults were under the influence of gods, such as Dassem and Hood.
In the very first paragraph of Chapter Six there is a key mention of bloodfly larvae and what they are capable of—in this case, it is metaphorical but later in the chapter...all the time Erikson is setting those hints into his story!
It says something that the memory of Hood’s acolyte, covered with flies and yet not there, is the one thing that stirs Felisin from her daze these days. Horrible the way that Beneth is determined to keep her realising the truth about anything—feeding her drugs as soon as she starts to come back to herself.
I am glad to see that Heboric still shows a care for Felisin, despite what she’s become and what he believes of her:
“Be careful, lass. Beneth is taking you back, but only to personally oversee your destruction. What was haphazard before is now precise, deliberate. He’s been giving guidelines.”
I guess that quote also shows that Sawark guesses at least in some part who Felisin is, and is determined to remove her.
Does Beneth really feel remorse?
“Was it me, lass? Was it so much of a surrender becoming mine? I wanted you, Felisin. You were beautiful. Sharp—I could see that in your eyes. Am I to blame for you, now?”
How sad is it that Felisin takes all the blame for the position that she’s in—she says that she could have said no, but, if she had, life would have been so much worse for her. She was given no choice at all.
“The She’gai’s begun—the hot wind—all your suffering until now has just been a prelude, lass.”
I sincerely hope that this is not foreshadowing, because it seems to me as though Felisin might have been through enough for now...
Seems as though loyalty bought with Felisin’s body is no loyalty at all, going by the behaviour of Beneth’s militia. Every man for himself in the mines!
Heboric and Baudin really don’t trust Felisin at all—Baudin hiding from her in Heboric’s house and saying nothing to her; Heboric refusing to tell her any details of the escape. The poor girl must have felt totally isolated in the mines with that sort of behaviour. And to realise that Heboric had no intention of taking her along in the escape attempt without Pella’s intervention! She has a lot to thank him for....
This quote pretty much sums up Felisin’s and Heboric’s entire relationship:
“I’m not much in your eyes any more, am I, Heboric? Was I ever?” Felisin, House of Paran, whose sister was Adjunct Tavore, whose brother rode with Adjunct Lorn. Nobleborn, a spoiled little girl. A whore.
Gods still protect their own, even when lapsed.... It seems as though Heboric is immensely lucky to escape the onslaught of the blood flies. That sounded absolutely nightmarish. What was I saying about Felisin catching a break?
Curious that Heboric’s tattoos are providing some illumination—any import to this? And I think I am as curious as Felisin in what grave offense drove Heboric from his god!
I also think that Baudin probably didn’t search too long and hard for Beneth, but it’s interesting Felisin immediately thinks that Baudin is lying about whether Beneth is alive or not. Her trust is anyone is pretty non-existent at this point.
Oh, here is a personal hate, from movies and books: the whole being under the water for a long length of time. I always end up holding my breath while they are underwater and seeing stars! I think I have a fear of drowning.... Ugh:
Already her lungs screamed for air. She felt herself blacking out...
Yep, I’m holding my breath right along with her!
For every moment that I pity Felisin, I have flickers of frustration at her behaviour—here an experienced traveler tells her that they should keep the towels dry, but she knows best and disregards the advice. I mean, this isn’t just Felisin being abused and downtrodden; this is her being self-absorbed and selfish.
Hee, I do enjoy Kulp’s dialogue, as he asks Duiker what he paid for the...boat and then announces that his warren is boat repair. It’s deadpan and makes me grin. And that great scene as he faces up against the Malazan corporal, once sergeant.
“Corporal, you’ve just come face to face with the Seventh’s entire Mage Cadre. Now back out of my face before I put gills and scales on yours.”
Some of the names just seem a little odd to me at times—Truth and Stormy, for instance. It’s odd that, on first encountering them, they stand out and make me pause in my reading—but once I get to know the characters I simply cannot imagine them having any other names. Anyone else have the same thought?
I also grinned at the exchange between the barman and Geslar, where they establish the former’s life is coincidentally the same as the latter and his squad have drunk. I’m pleased to see these familiar flashes of humour after the very, very dark parts of the book relating to Felisin.
Where is Kulp? After the sorcerous attack destroys the inn? *gulps* I don’t want yet another character to worm their way into my consciousness and then vanish.... Ah, but he’s back! Thank goodness for that! I do find myself sometimes trying to create deliberate distance between myself and the characters I like best, just in case they end up dying, or changing, or not even featuring in the next couple of books.
Duiker is a very brave man—or stupid?! From what we’ve seen of him so far: defending Heboric against Laseen; standing up to Coltaine; and willing to ride into Dryjhna itself—he strikes me as being extremely courageous.
“Who are you anyway?”
“Imperial Historian. And who are you, Stormy?”
The man grunted. “Nobody. Nobody at all.”
Hmm, so who exactly is Stormy? And Truth? And, linked to this I suspect, is the question of why there is a High Mage is this backwater fishing village?
Here we have some extremely graphic pictures of the effects of sorcery:
He lay unmoving, one cheek pressed against the cool, dusty ground, his body twitching in the aftermath. He’d soiled himself. He’d pissed himself. His sweat was a bitter stink
All his joints were bleeding inside, swelling the flesh with blood.
Ha, coincidence that Kulp finds the only remaining Boar cultists left after Laseen disbanded them? Or has Fener a hand in the proceedings, making sure that his High Priest would stay safe? We already saw Heboric manage to avoid the nightmare of the bloodflies, after all.
Oh man, what a horrible, horrible tortured death:
...a hapless squad of Malazan soldiers writhed on what were locally called Sliding Beds—four tall spears each set upright, the victim set atop the jagged points, at the shoulders and upper thighs. Depending on their weight and their strength of will in staying motionless, the impaling and the slow slide down to the ground could take hours.
The desert capemoths certainly provide grim imagery as they flutter towards Hissar, in search of carrion. “The world’s harbingers of death are many and varied” only emphasises this imagery.
How telling is this?:
“Freedom had been won, at the cost of everything.”
It strikes me that Duiker is a very useful person for a point of view, especially when handed the mystery of what has occurred in Hissar. He has a finely honed military mind, and a lot of experience in terms of historical occurrences—so we, as the reader, gain a lot of insight into events.
Oh no, no, no.... *upset* These are some fearsome descriptions. I know these sort of atrocities really do happen, but few authors take you right to the heart of warfare and show its very dark side:
Men had been gutted, their entrails pulled out, wrapped around women—wives and mothers and aunts and sisters—who had been raped before being strangled with the intestinal ropes. The historian saw children with their skulls crushed, babies spitted on tapu skewers.
I like the fact that Duiker is able to push aside his horror about the massacre, and record it objectively for historical posterity—but I like more the fact he knows he will suffer from it later, with nightmares, and symptoms of shock..
So, hmm, Servant came by boat—to what purpose? From where?
The Deck again: giving us mystery and foreshadowing all wrapped up in nice cryptic clues!
“Renewal, a resurrection without the passage through Hood’s Gates.”
Now I’m wondering whether this resurrection mentioned links to the fact that Sha’ik died and didn’t resurrect—so we’re expecting something to happen where this is concerned. I’m also noting which part of Oponn is currently ascendant.
I count it three times you can call Icarium fool before he snaps!
What secrets is Mappo keeping from Icarium that leaves him so heavy-hearted? Here we see Icarium’s curiosity again as he states that he wants to see the resurrection.
I think this might end up being an important line:
“Do not awaken this place, friend, lest it awaken you.”
Awaken Icarium from his chains? His inability to remember? His dual personalities?
Moby has gone again! Is he a D’iver? I guess if it’s just him on his own he would be a Soletaken instead...
Raraku has awakened—why do I feel this is more literal than metaphorical? Especially after Apsalar mentions wanting to know more of the desert’s power. The storm is stripping away the centuries of sand covering the desert—will it reveal things that have and should stay hidden?
Ahh....the road. All roads lead to Tremorlor, or something like that! A House of the Azath as well...
“Should I now tell them that the plan to find Tremorlor rests entirely on the faith that the fabled place actually exists? And that Quick Ben’s suppositions are accurate, despite his unwillingness to explain the source of his certainty?”
Ooh, that sounds a little sinister—where did Quick Ben find out about the Azath?
Hmm, if the Whirlwind—Dryjhna the goddess—has been unleashed, but Sha’ik is dead, then who is the Whirlwind currently riding?
And we leave Apt and Kalam with the latter wondering if there is something odd about the former. Must be bad when you think there is something odd about a demon!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Six:
The excerpt from Duiker is interesting in that it leads us to think of a cult of Dassem or of Hood, but it will turn out to be a completely different cult that’s important in this section.
We see a typical Erikson move in that first paragraph—the use of a line or image that echoes another, either from before or in the future. In this case, the simile of Beneth’s uncertainties that “plagued his life, like bloodfly larvae they crawled beneath his skin” which will come back in literal form later with the bloodflies and Felisin. As difficult as these books can be at times, it’s amazing how often the roadmap is put right in front of you.
The larvae, of course, are just one example (and we get one soon after with the rim of Beneth’s glass) we get of of a running echo throughout the entire book; flies abound in this book, from start to middle to finish—they’re everywhere.
I’m not so sure about Beneth’s spinning dagger; it seemed a bit too on the nose for me, bit too obvious. (Of course, I’m working on the assumption Baudin kills him.)
I think his desire to not be blamed for what’s happened to her continues Erikson’s portrayal of him as not wholly evil. Though falling back on the “orders are orders” excuse (even with a “wry smile”) doesn’t gain him any points, I do think, to answer your question Amanda, he has some remorse, some sorrow over what has happened to her (sorrow beyond losing a prime catch for himself).
And yes, how scary is that line about “all your suffering until now has just been a prelude,” even though it seems literally he means only her dealing with the heat.
Sawark is clearly not the only Malazan soldier here oblivious to what was coming, as Reborid wonders why the Malazan garrison hasn’t come to help and then thinks the Dosii must be insane as Sawark will kill them all within 50 leagues for this little “mutiny.” A nice small throwaway line that prevents Sawark’s blindness from being simply an arbitrary authorial convenience.
Baudin’s abilities are coming more into focus now I’d say. The prologue showed us his brute killing force, and the fact that he killed three of Sawark’s men speaks perhaps to the same (though we don’t know how he killed them). But his ability to stay hidden and now to memorize a route across the desert hints at more than simple thuggishness.
I may be over-reading here, but I was struck by the bloodflies scene and some parallels with Felisin’s life. First was “Bloodlfies shot down into the water like darts. Pain lanced through her thighs,” which reminded me of the line in the prologue when she closed her thighs against the flies around Hood’s priest. The same with her slapping mud on her “blood-smeared thighs,” which also has associations with rape imagery. Then they are bitter in her mouth, akin to her bitterness (justified) toward Tavore and her life. They “burn like acid,” which I can see as similar to her remorse and self-loathing. Next, they blind her (durhang, wine) and then she fills her ears with mud, leaving her isolated, cut off, unable (or unwilling) to hear or listen to anyone. Heboric’s hands go on her, as they were the whole time during the prisoner march to the Aren ships. She is numbed by the poison in the bites, as she’s been numbed by her trauma, the durhang, the wine. She is being “deadened” (as we’ve seen metaphorically happening to her) and she’ll be eaten “from the inside out”—as perhaps her bitterness, her desire for revenge might do (or something else). And finally, after she’s survived the attack, she’s scarred for life (barring a High Denul mage). The whole scene just seemed like it could be read as a microcosm of what has gone before for her. [Care to comment Steve?—this is the danger of letting us know you’re out there, hovering.]
Afterward, as with Beneth and so many others, we yet again see Erikson refusing to let characters be cardboard cutouts, as Sawark, a man easy to dislike and pigeonhole as an oblivious villain, rides off to pretty certain death because his job requires him to do so.
As mentioned before, I’m assuming Baudin killed Beneth—anyone think otherwise?
And while Sinker Lake is a good plot point just as plot points go, I’ll admit to being a sucker for the “water passage/tunnels/cave as life passage” imagery/symbol, and it isn’t giving much away to read this as a new beginning, as implying the lives of these three folks are going to be drastically transformed into something new. And I mean drastically.
I’ve mentioned “echoes” several times already, and here’s yet another from Felisin:
Let Tavore see all the scars she’s given me, the day we come [wait for it] face to face.
After such tense scenes, it’s good to get a little humor mixed in here, and Duiker and Kulp provide it nicely with Duiker’s boat purchase. Or should I say “boat”?
Interestingly, in the midst of a nationalistic/religious uprising, we get Duiker musing on the Empire’s effect on such thinking as he looks at the coastal guardsmen, “whose appearance betrayed nothing of their origins. For them, the old national allegiances no longer held any relevance.” And while one imagines much is lost with this aspect of empire, one can also see how much, especially peace, might be gained.
Corporal Gesler, Stormy, and Truth. And a boat. More to come. So much more to come. Though we see their mettle here. And the brutally efficient pragmatism that is the Malazan soldier as Stormy wounds his enemies rather than kills them so they’re a burden to the rest and when one of them “clamped down over the dying soldier’s mouth until the man’s moaning ceased.” Not to mention Gesler’s calm suggestion that they just feed Kulp to the dhenrabi.
And here’s the cult we were set up for from the opening excerpt of Duiker’s work: an outlawed Boar/Fener cult.
We see the careful way this series has been crafted yet again as Duiker rides in that same Dosii disguise we’ve seen already. Nicely set up.
Duiker has been portrayed as sharp, but here we see some of his true soldier’s spirit as well: first the decision to ride to Hissar, then to act as a spy and learn what he can of the enemy as he does so.
More echoes as he watches the capemoths (great concept) flying and thinks of a line he believes probably came from “one of the countless dirges to Hood, sung by the priests during the Season of Rot in Unta.”
I’ve got to admit I wonder if folks would really take the time to strangle people with someone else’s entrails. I mean, they’re wet and slippery and squishy, still attached. Just saying.
Anybody honestly buy the mutineer’s argument that the “wounded beast” that was Coltaine’s army “shall fall” in three days, just as planned? Even without Duiker’s boar analogy? Didn’t think so (we’ve got hundreds of pages left, after all).
I love how Icarium and Mappo’s discussion of the boat possibly belonging to the mule.
And really, how many times do you want to call Icarium—Icarium for god’s sake—an idiot?
And poor Mappo, not wishing to be a tool of the gods or their servants, yet serving as a tool even as he speaks. Just a great character. Absolutely great.
Interesting that Apsalar wants to know more of “this desert, its power.” Or is it Apsalar that wants to know? Hmmmmm...
At last we find out what Fiddler is aiming at. Tremorlor—an Azath House. Fiddler and it turns out, lots and lots of others as well. But how will they find it? If only there were some kind of marked path, some system of blazes....
I like how disturbed Crokus is by the horrible power of the Malazan munitions. And how Fiddler doesn’t argue the point.
Fiddler is a sensitive guy, file away what he says about the goddess of the Whirlwind.
Our demon now has a name: Apt. It’ll be hard to consider it inhuman after that.
I admit to not knowing what was “odd about the demon . . . Something” that Kalam was getting looking at it. Anyone? Buehler?
It doesn’t happen a lot in these books, but Kalam looking down at the broken knife in his hand and calling it “a mirror to his twin loyalties” is something I wish Erikson had let us get on our own.
Duiker, with a rebel sergeant, looks on the aftermath of a Kamist Reloe’s attack on Coltaine, which Roe lost. Pretending he’s going to search for his “nephew’s” body among the corpses, he rids himself of the sergeant and the squad. As he rides on, he thinks of Coltaine’s narrowed options, as well as his own small chances of surviving his attempt to catch up with and join Coltaine.
Felisin and Baudin wait for Heboric to rejoin them after he’s gone to look at hundreds of thousands of beetles that emerged from the desert floor at dusk. She thinks how Heboric might be a liability with his lack of focus. She is less swollen due to the bloodfly poison, but feels it has “laid a stain on her soul.” Every night now she dreams of a river of blood and she begins to look forward to the promise of the dream. Heboric returns to say the beetles will pose no obstacle as they heading west to the sea. They have enough food to reach their rendezvous but the margin is small and they aren’t going as fast as planned. At the end of a day’s march, they come across an impossibly tall finger sticking out of the sand, impossibly tall not only in itself but in what it promises lies beneath the sand. Heboric touches the jade carved finger with one of his stumps.
Felisin notes that Heboric is favoring the stump he touched the statue with last night. An Otataral storm arises and they enter their tents for cover, though Felisin sees no need to. Baudin hints he may have killed Beneth but Felisin doesn’t believe him. When Felisin lies down she calls up the river, feeling it is protective and offers her a purpose and destiny, that she will become more than she is.
The next morning, in bad moods, they fight and Felisin asks why Heboric lost his hands. He refuses to answer. They see his stump is swollen and infected-looking, the tattoos at his wrist have turned solid dark. He says it hurts a lot and he wonders how the statue’s magic survives in Otataral sand, or if the Otataral gave birth to its magic. When they camp that night Heboric is way behind. Baudin goes after him and Felisin, suspicious he is hoarding water due to his seemingly impossible fitness, rifles his stuff. She discovers assassin’s tools and a talon. Baudin returns with Heboric and gives him water over Felisin’s objections. She holds her sacrifice over his head and Baudin says most of their favors came from what he did for the guards in the mining prison, not her sacrifices, and that Beneth used to laugh at her “noble cause.” Felisin thinks he’s just trying to poison her thoughts of Beneth as well as escape his own guilt over what she did to keep them safe. She tells them of her dream and says she’ll be the only survivor.
The next oasis is fouled by capemoth larvae. Desperate as they now stand no chance, Baudin tries to wake Heboric’s god Fener (Heboric is unconscious). Felisin tells Baudin there was a tattoo on Heboric’s right hand that held to the sacred mark on his chest would do it and w/out his hands he can no longer call on his god. Baudin touches his stump to the mark and the air “screams,” Heboric’s tattoos “blossom out” onto the stone, and an immense hoof hits the ground then rises up again as Fener is called down. Heboric wakes and says “he’s here . . . in the mortal realm.” Felisin says “don’t mess with mortals.” Heboric is rejuvenated and the head out to the next water-hole.
Setting: Mappo and Icarium in the desert having left Pust’s temple
Mappo flashes back 200 years ago, when he was already several centuries old, to when he returned to his home town and found it destroyed a month past, its 15,000 inhabitants slain. He had returned after the diviners in his adopted clan had “seen” the destruction, destruction that had been predicted by the Nameless Ones months earlier. The Nameless Ones told them to forsake vengeance and choose one to take on the task of ensuring such a disaster would never happen again. The Nameless One he spoke to told him, “One day he [Icarium] shall return to his home . . . until that time you must attend.” Mappo is plucked out of his memory by Icarium’s voice mentioning how strange a “land untraveled can look so familiar” and then he mentions how he is fascinated by Mappo’s memories (as Icarium has none), though Mappo rarely shares them. The two watch the sandstorm and note it has both grown and traveled nearer and wonder if Sha’ik has Ascended. Mappo once again bridles at being manipulated by Pust and Icarium says he’s used to it. When Mappo asks who is manipulating him, Icarium shrugs and says he stopped asking that a long time ago. As Icarium turns his back to prepare food, Mappo goes back to thinking about “sweet vengeance.”
Setting: The desert road with Fidder et. al. nearby where Mappo and Icarium were
As they travel down the road, Fiddler and the others can hear a running battled nearby, hidden in the sandstorm. The battle sounds are not human but bestial and demon: bears, cat, reptiles, etc. Crokus’ horse goes down and they stop. They can start to see some of the combatants now—Soletaken and D’ivers. A trio of Gral hunters appear down the road behind them but are attacked by a massive bear, which kills one while Apsalar kills the other two, then a fourth Fiddler hadn’t seen. Fiddler is unseated (gaining broken ribs in the process) by a huge tail. Something attacks him and is attacked in response by his horse. The battle ends. Crokus and Apsalar are okay, the bear remains, feeding on a Gral horse for a moment, then flees. Thousands of D’ivers rats appear and Fiddler tells Apasalar to get the last cusser for suicide. Just as she does though, a voice (Icarium) calls out the name of the D’ivers (Gryllen—Tide of Madness, “flushed out of Y’ghatan in the fire”) and tells it to leave. Fiddler is shocked Gryllen actually hesitates. Mappo steps out next to Icarium and Fiddler knows he should know these two—a Jhag and a Trell, but the pain is muddying his thinking. Icarium tells Gryllen the trio is under his protection and Gryllen retreats. Fiddler blacks out.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Seven:
First we saw the carnage left by the revolutionaries—at the beginning of chapter seven we see the reverse: the piled bodies from where the “wounded beast” (the Malazan Army) shows that it still has teeth. “Even children had been flung into the fighting.”
Oh, sometimes Erikson just writes wonderful prose!
Capemoths fluttered like silent madness over the scene.
It makes me curious whether a sentence like that is just tossed out automatically or whether Erikson has to think long and hard about how to compose it.
Hell, this is so harsh and real—I can imagine soldiers in Afghanistan having to do the same:
The game the mind must play to unleash destruction. He’d stood amidst the ranks more than once, sensing the soldiers alongside him seeking and finding that place in the mind, cold and silent, the place where husbands, fathers, wives and mothers became killers.
I also like the way women are included in that quote—as usual, Erikson does a nice line in equality.
It seems that Erikson has turned Coltaine’s situation entirely on its head:
He knows, because he once rode as a renegade chieftain, once harried a retreating Imperial army across the Wickan plains.
This is just another example of us seeing people who have once had one station in life falling into another—our first was when we saw the switched stations of Dujek and Whiskeyjack in Gardens of the Moon.
How very creepy is the idea that the capemoths form the face of Hood as they come towards the Malazan army and refugees? As Duiker observes, how symbolic!
I like the way that appearances can be deceiving in Erikson’s world. For instance:
Heboric, my boar-tattooed ogre. Baudin, red-scarred where one ear used to be, the hair growing tangled and bestial from the puckered skin. A pair to strike terror, these two.
And yet they’re both thoughtful and compassionate. At times anyway.
Hmm, sometimes I think that it is more Felisin’s attitude that rubs people up the wrong way. She snorts, and scoffs, and in general is scathing and impatient. The attitude of teens the world over, I think—they know best and have no fear expressing so *winks*:
“Give it up,” Felisin sighed. “A mule comes out of a sulk eventually, but it’s nothing you can force.”
“So,” Heboric said, “while the swelling’s left your tongue, the poison still remains.”
Mind, I don’t think the Heboric’s snide retorts are helping their relationship!
There is a definite spider theme to DG, isn’t there? Here reference to a “spider-bitten dancer.” In fact, bugs of all kinds are making a big showing—do you suppose this is to echo the theme of disease and rotting that has taken over the Malazan Empire?
Oh, what is it with these huge buried statues in fantasy novels! I’ve seen them in the Shannara novels, in Gemmell’s novels, obviously in the Wheel of Time: so often they prove to be a remnant of a bygone age. I wonder if Erikson has followed the same path here.... Obviously the statue will prove to be of import—or is that the manner in which Erikson will overturn the trope? By inserting a statue that is only part of the scenery and never takes a prominent role?
Here we have mention of Heboric’s tattoos growing stronger and deeper—as he falls back under the influence of Fener, maybe?
Interesting questions these:
“Can magic thrive buried in Otataral sand? Can Otataral give birth to magic?”
We’ve seen an element of magic in Otataral with the speedy healing demonstrated by Lorn in Gardens of the Moon, so perhaps Otataral does give birth to some forms of magic?
Felisin is SO selfish:
"Honour’s for fools. Honour’s a fatal flaw. I’m not going to die on a point of honour, Baudin. Heboric’s probably dying anyway. It’d be wasted on him.”
When we see so many characters—flawed characters, dark characters—in the Malazan books show that they would die on a point of honour, it is a painful jar to learn that Felisin wouldn’t.
I’m concerned about the river of blood dreams that Felisin is having—I can sense they won’t end well.
You do NOT call forth a god’s attention, I know that much!
It’s interesting that Felisin makes a connection between Hood’s priest of flies and this event with the capemoths in the water:
“Capemoths, the harbingers, the eaters of rotting flesh. It’s the nectar of decay for them, the rose bloating under the sun. Hood delivered us a promise in the Round at Unta, and it’s just been fulfilled.”
Two-toed, a fur-snarled hoof, too large for her to fully grasp, rising up, pulled skyward into a midnight gloom.
See? Told you that you don’t call a god’s attention! This is a pretty frightening scene—with the bleeding from the ears and such. You know what this scene reminds me of a little? That scene in Legend (the fantasy film featuring a *very* young Tom Cruise) where Tim Curry—as the Lord of Darkness—steps through the mirror for the first time. Huge and menacing and very scary to a seven year old girl. (Which I was when I watched it the first time!)
Ouch—how harsh is this? “The god you no longer worship took your hands. So now you pulled him down. Don’t mess with mortals.”
“To the coast, and when we get there, Felisin, you will find that nothing has changed. Nothing at all. Do you grasp my meaning?”
Sounds like neither Felisin or I understand Heboric’s meaning here!
It’s really interesting seeing how Mappo came to his role as Icarium’s protector—to ensure he doesn’t slaughter thousands again.
“You will be an unpainted hide, Mappo. The future will offer its own script, writing and shaping your history anew. What was done to the town of our kin must never happen again. You will ensure that.”
I hesitate even mentioning this, but how on earth did Icarium kill fifteen thousand? Umm, I’m not really sure I want to know the answer.
The Nameless Ones—here’s a hint about their attitudes:
“We do not see in years,”she hissed.
“But in centuries,” Mappo replied.
“The possibilities multiplied each time they discussed Sha’ik, the Whirlwind and the prophecies. Together, he and Icarium were sowing their own confusion.” Boy, do I know how that feels. The more I work on these books, the less comprehension I feel I have!
Oh boy, I can see that I am going to start flinching right along with Mappo whenever there is a hint that Icarium remembers anything about his past:
“For myself, I’ve become numb to such notions—I have felt manipulated all my life.”
This whole scene is just FANTASTIC—with the fight between the Soletaken bear and the D’ivers. And my heart wrenched right alongside Fiddler’s when the horse stepped between him and the new threat. Oh, and how BRILLIANT is Apsalar’s stunning fighting skills. Oh, and Crokus not even having unsheathed his sword when the fight is pretty much over. Oh, and the horror of something appearing that scares the bear Soletaken! Oh, and the hint that Fiddler has encountered the Tide of Madness before “Oh, it comes around, don’t it just!” Oh, and! Oh, and! You should just see how these pages are turning right now. *grins*
Wow, and Icarium’s words:
“Do not,” the Jhag said slowly, “try my patience.”
I must, must, must read on!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Seven:
Nice bit of a curve to open with, giving us the battle aftermath before telling us, unexpectedly to most I’d guess, that the victims were the attackers, the rebellion army.
I like Duiker’s veteran musings on how the soldier needs to dehumanize his foe, and how it becomes easier over time and the more one does it.
Anybody here think the Malazan fleet will be relieving Coltaine anytime soon? Anyone? Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Not. Not who? Not Nok. Who’s there. Not. Not who? Not Nok. Who’s.... (Sorry, it’s late.)
Gotta love the way Death in the manifestation of Hood is spoken of so concretely: “...the Lord of Death was reputed to be, if anything, ironically modest.” Not a “melodramatic god.” Something to remember when we eventually meet him. Yes Amanda, there is a Death. (Wasn’t that a famous editorial?)
The beetles are a great image. As well as calling up the dung beetle Duiker was watching earlier, it reminds me of these desert beetles in Namibia (I think) that greet the morning sun by standing atop dunes and doing a head stand so as to catch condensing dew on their carapaces for liquid.
They seem to be doing fine on this journey, but we’re certainly being set up for things worsening: Heboric weakening nightly, none of them going as far day to day, slim margin for error with food.
Felisin’s feelings and how they’re expressed might be useful to keep in mind:
...they were but grains of sand in a storm vaster than anything they could comprehend. The thought pleased her.
I like how the finger is slowly revealed in size and scale—first the sighting of it as a “pillar” only 50 or so paces away, then Felisin’s reworked sense of scale—500 paces away—and the awed intakes/whispers as they realize its size. Then some actual height: roughly 60-70 feet tall. And then the killer line: “it’s a finger.” At the end of a hand. At the end of an arm. At the end of a body.
A jade statue. File cabinet.
Heboric favoring the arm that touched it. File cabinet.
Fener’s tattoos on Heboric being sharper. File cabinet.
Heboric’s “ghost hands.” File cabinet.
Now the hints re: Baudin as being more than a common street thug are answered—he’s an assassin, a Talon.
Every now and then in this series, you get these incredibly huge scenes. These “did I really just read that” kinds of scenes. And Fener’s appearance is certainly one of them for me. Where else do you see a god torn down to slum with us mere humans? And Felisin’s line is, as we’ve mentioned in earlier discussion, a major theme of this series: “don’t mess with mortals.” But what an appearance—blood from the ears, earthquake, that huge hoof striking the earth before rising again. Just wow.
More backstory on Mappo and his ages-long task, in this case its origin: Icarium destroying his home town of fifteen thousand and Mappo and his companions veered off from attempting vengeance via choosing one among them to shadow Icarium and prevent it from happening ever again. As usual, important stories drip out bit by bit and one should never assume one has the complete story, or from the most knowledgeable or trustworthy source. All is not what it seems. I believe I’ve heard that somewhere.
Now this is a Soletaken/D’ivers attack I can get into! It has great movement: A good opening twist (again) with Fiddler sprayed with blood as his horse screams and skews sideways, making us think that it was his horse attacked. Then relief that it wasn’t. Then Corkus’s horse goes down. Then relief it was just a collapse and not an attack. Then a moment’s pause as they stop. Then tension as vague shapes (“massive” or “hulking”) “loom” then vanish. Then another pause to set us up with what the characters are doing (and some comic relief with Crokus looking for his sword.) Then the Gral surprise. Then a pause for time to slow down. Then a massive bear out of nowhere and some graphic detail. Then a rush of action from Apsalar followed by the shock of Fiddler swept out of the saddle breaking his ribs then getting clawed at and his ankle crushed. Then the horse gets into the action. Finally another pause to set up our character tableaux again. Then suspense as the huge bear runs away. (what makes something that big flee?) Then some emotion (with a horse for god’s sake). Then the nightmare—rats. And the desperate resignation of suicide by cusser with even Apsalar agreeing. And finally the nick of time heroic lone gunman. I mean, lone archer. And just as we saw before, you don’t mess with Icarium. The massive bear flees before Gryllen and Gryllen, to Fiddler’s shock, hesitates and then, when Icarium says don’t push me, flees himself. You can see why some might believe him capable of killing fifteen thousand Trell.
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.
Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.