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 10 of Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (MoI).
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.
Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!
Stonny slaps Gruntle awake out of a drunken stupor then tells Buke Gruntle is all his and leaves. Buke tells Gruntle he needs him. Gruntle asks how long he’s been drunk and Buke says six days and now the Septarch and Pannion army have crossed the river and it’s too late to leave the city. Buke says it’s time for Gruntle to sober up and grieve and when Gruntle says Buke is one to talk Buke replies he did his grieving long ago and it’s over, leaving nothing but “ashes,” and he adds that Gruntle isn’t like him. He challenges Gruntle as to what he will “carve out of” Harllo’s death, how will he make it have meaning? And asks if this is what Harllo sacrificed himself for. Buke says Hetan and Cafal have been hanging out with the Grey Swords and that he is still working for Bauchelain and Korbal. Gruntle appears “back.”
They head for the barracks and Buke tells Gruntle his bosses have taken ownership of an abandoned estate and that the killings have already begun in the city. Gruntle suggests telling the Prince, that such a thing during a siege will be even worse than normal, but Buke says he dare not. Gruntle says they have to be driven out and that Buke should just leave, maybe take Reese with him. Buke says the necromancers are too powerful, they’ll kill too many soldiers, wreck the city, leave it ripe for the Pannions. Though he thinks if the Pannions are the ones to rile them, then maybe the necromancers will turn on them instead. Buke thinks if he can shadow Korbal and keep him from killing, with Gruntle’s help, maybe they can finagle things to work out. Gruntle eventually says he’ll think on it, but Stonny can’t know anything about it or she’ll just try and kill Korbal and get herself killed. Buke says he knows a priest who can heal Gruntle’s hangover.
Itkovian awaits Brukhalian, Karnadas, Hetan, and Cafal to join him for a meeting with the Mask Council, requested by the Barghast. He has spent the morning viewing the besieging army and been shaken not only by the numbers but the savagery and horror of the Tenescowri. The others arrive. Hetan informs Itkovian she will “bed him,” but Karnadas tells her the Shield Anvil has taken monastic vows. They head through the prepared defenses toward the meeting. Brukhalian informs them that the T’lan Imass have said they will fight the undead K’chain Che’Malle but not moral humans. He anticipates the surprise Septarch Kulpath will find when his K’chain are taken out by the unknown T’lan. Brukhalian also says the alliance may prove temporary as the T’lan Imass may “find themselves directed to a new purpose” at the Gathering, and that the Summoner is with Brood’s army, about six weeks away. Itkovian says they cannot hold Capustan for that long. Brukhalian asks Hetan if the White Faces will ally, but she says they will not come to Capustan to fight. The Grey Swords ask why the Barghast have asked for this meeting and Hetan says it was the second of two tasks her group was set by her clan’s shouldermen.
The 14 priests of the Council are awaiting the group. Hetan begins with “The White Faces are in mourning” and Rath’D’rek interrupts to say it’s a crazy time to come with the same claim that has already been rejected: “the answer was no the first time, no the second time, no every time!” Hetan and her brother bring magic and as guards reach for weapons, Karnadas warns them that the Barghast spirits are in the room. Itkovian tells Brukhalian that this is an “old petition,” that the Barghast claim this land under Capustan was once theirs. Hetan recaps the past reasons for rejecting their claim: early Daru records say the land wasn’t occupied, the oldest buildings were not Barghast-built, the Barghast lived in the north and only made rare pilgrimages to this area. She then recites the Barghast’s past responses: this was holy ground and the Barghast don’t live on their holy ground where their ancestors were buried, the early Capan tribes found only the Barghast barrows and built on top of them, the Barghast don’t expect the city to be removed but just ask that their claim of ownership be formally recognized and rights given to make pilgrimage. Hetan then says the Barghast’s patience is over, and now that the Pannion will seemingly take Capustan they have decided to act. Some of the priests realize that what Hetan is saying is that since the Barghast will not be able to make pilgrimages to their artifacts, she and her brother will move the artifacts to the Barghast. Itkovian and Karnadas realize that the bones Hetan seeks must be the remains of their mortal gods and that the Barghast themselves weren’t ever certain they were there until now. Itkovian also realizes Hetan’s father, Humbrall Taur, will need them to unify the clans to make war/defend against the Pannion, though Itkovian wonders how they will get them out of the besieged city. Rath’Queen of Dreams (who knows where the bones have been gathered) agrees to Hetan’s request and says they will be returned, though it will take some time to get to the resting place. Workers come in and start digging in the floor of the chamber, breaking through the stone floor. Meanwhile, the Council discusses tactics with the Grey Swords. Some think the fall of Capustan inevitable, some argue over holding the outer fortifications, some want to know of the undead Ay, of the two mages (the necromancers), of Keruli. Eventually they decide to postpone discussions due to the chaos of the digging. As they wait, Rath’Fener tells the Grey Swords he has gone to Fener’s realm and learned the Tiger of Summer is dead, though he cannot explain why Rath’Trake seems so happy. Karnadas says perhaps Trake is not so dead and Rath’Fener declares, “There is but one god of war!” then leaves. Karnadas tells Itkovian he has known of Trake’s death for some time and then asks Brukhalian for permission to declare himself and put Rath’Trake in his place, but is denied. The pit in the floor reveals buried outrigger ships, filled with bodies, both preserved by sorcery (tens of thousands of years old according to Karnadas). Rath’Queen of Dreams says many of the originally discovered dugouts disintegrated, but those ships and bodies not destroyed were gathered together: nine canoes and more than sixty bodies. She adds the scholars did not think the bodies were Barghast, they appear “almost Toblakai in stature” and she thinks the Toblakai, Barghast, and Trell are all from the same stock, “with the Barghast having more human blood than the other two.” Hetan confirms these are the Founding Spirits and Cafal says they are finding “their power.” Karnadas tells Itkovian “we are witnessing the birth of gods.” Itkovian asks Cafal how they’ll get them out of the city and Cafal says they don’t know yet. He says these were the first Barghast to come here and they have now ascended, so who now “dares challenge our pride?” Itkovian thinks, “That remains to be seen.”
Stonny tells Gruntle he owes Keruli an apology and that Keruli pulled their souls into the Elder God’s warren (dreaming) so the K’chain thought they were dead, thus saving their lives. She tells him she was guarded by a giant wolf and when Gruntle asks “some kind of servant of the Elder God,” Stonny says he doesn’t have servants; he has friends. And that put her on his side. Gruntle agrees to go apologize but he won’t swear to him or his god. She takes him to K’rul’s new temple, a house sanctified by the blood of a family that committed suicide in it. They enter and Keruli says he has helped the souls to peace. Gruntle says thanks and is about to leave but Keruli says he has something for Buke, to help in his “endeavors.” It’s a little clay bird that Buke is to crush and mix with water then drink. When Gruntle says Buke will be skeptical, Keruli says tell him otherwise his quarry will escape him and that Buke needs to accept allies as must Gruntle, and that other allies “will find him [Buke].” Stonny asks what’s going on and Gruntle says it’s private then leaves. Keruli tells Stonny Gruntle will be walking a “difficult path” and that “his time is coming soon.” Stonny asks what she’s supposed to do about it and Keruli says to stay close to him.
Hetan, Cafal, and Itkovian are in the pit at the Council hall. Itkovian sees the ships are carved with pictures, some of the Barghast fighting “a tall, lithe species with angular faces and large, almond-shaped eyes.” Cafal calls them T’isten’ur, the “Grey Skinned Demons . . . who collected heads, yet kept the victims living . . . heads that remained watchful, bodies that worked ceaselessly . . . demons who dwelt in shadows . . . the Founding spirits . . . drove the demons back into their underworld, the Forest of Shadows.” Itkovian tells him of the Tiste Andii and “their shadow-kin, the Tiste Edur.” He notes the Barghast language is akin to the Imass and asks if Cafal understands Moranth. Cafal says the Moranth say they are related to the Barghast, call the Barghast their “Fallen Kin. But it is they who have fallen . . . who have found a shadowed forest in which to live . . . who have embraced the alchemies of the T’isten’ur.” He tells Itkovian to ask no more but Itkovian warns him the past refuses to stay buried and once opened it will bare unpleasant as well as pleasant truths. Cafal says Humbrall Taur has told them “in success, we shall find seeds of despair.” Hetan tells the Council they can recover the pit for now, that the removal will have to wait. Brukhalian tells Itkovian to keep an eye on the Barghast because he thinks they have a plan to remove the relics and implies Itkovian should use any method, including sleeping with Hetan. When Itkovian objects Brukhalian says this demand comes from Fener who is “filled with fear.” He then tells Karnadas to contact Quick Ben. Rath’Trake interrupts them and asks if they don’t wonder who “dares cross blades with our Lords . . . whose hidden face lies behind this fated ascension of Trake. What [is] the value of two gods of war? . . . . Why has Fener seen the need to revive that loftiest of positions [Destriant] now?” and says they can ask him for help if they need it. As Itkovian leaves, he thinks how the “earth has shifted” and all is uncertainty.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Ten:
So, here at the start of Chapter Ten, we have some little hints about Erikson’s form of Dark, High, and Feral Elves—although, of course, his are something truly extraordinary. Not Elves, but beings from another world. And our sympathies currently lie with the Tiste Andii, thanks to having met Anomander Rake and his mob already. Our only encounter so far with the Tiste Edur was one of menace and confusion aboard the Silanda. And I don’t believe we’ve seen the Tiste Lians at all. It definitely sounds as though these guys do not like each other AT ALL!
The start of this chapter is dark and bitter, with discussions of the meaning behind life and death. Buke is the ideal foil to Gruntle here—someone who has been there, and grieved, and is now empty of all feelings. His admonitions towards Gruntle show that he is aware of his own mistakes: “From the way those Grey Swords who found us described it, you were down, and he did what a friend’s supposed to do—he defended you. Stood over you and took the blows. And was killed. But he did what he wanted—he saved your hide. And is this his reward, Gruntle? You want to look his ghost in the eye and tell him it wasn’t worth it?”
What I like about the whole sequence is the notion of friendship, and how much these friends look out for one another. Harllo gave his life for Gruntle, while Stonny has made sure to cover all of Gruntle’s debts while he was “absent.” Now Buke is trying to bring Gruntle back to himself—it shows that, despite the darkness, there is always something worth living for.
Gruntle is sharp even under the influence of a six-day hangover, isn’t he? Walking through the city, he notes the panic of the the citizens and realises that it is thanks to the predations of Broach. People keep assuring me that I’ll see the humour in Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, but so far...not so much. [Bill: It’s possible those of us who assure you are, umm, a certain kind of people.] I find them dark and remote, and with little or no redeeming features.
With Buke and Gruntle here, we also see a discussion on the idea of sacrificing a few in favour of saving many—what with Buke contemplating the idea of pointing the two necromancers in the direction of the Pannions, and trying to disrupt the murders that will be committed before that can take place.
Ouch—the idea of a siege taking place outside a city within which two competing factions loathe each other really doesn’t bode well, does it?
And here we get a first glimpse at the forces arrayed against Capustan, and their allied forces. Around eighty thousand regular soldiers, and then the ravening horde of Tenescowri. (Which currently remind me greatly of the Reavers from Firefly!) Erikson never puts his characters into easy situations, does he? Itkovian’s reaction says it all, “A starving horde, and seeing them crumbled the professional detachment with which Itkovian had viewed Kulpath’s legions. He had left the walls, shaken for the first time in his life.”
*giggles* Hetan is voracious, isn’t she? She amuses me greatly—and I have a feeling those monastic vows of Itkovian will not stay intact for long under her perseverance! [Bill: Or, you know, just under her.]
Eighty K’ell Hunters! I rather like the fact that the T’lan Imass have stated that they are not going to fight against mortals, only take on the other undead warriors in the battle. It gives them a sense of honour—even given the fact I’m conflicted about them because of their behaviour towards the Jaghut.
Heh, unless the K’ell Hunters and the Pannions have some sort of way to second guess the movements of the T’lan Imass then they sure are in for a shock, when 14,000 T’lan Imass appear to stop them reaching Capustan. And now that has me terribly worried that the Pannion Seer is aware of the movements of the T’lan Imass and knows their capabilities...I can certainly see destruction ahead.
What strikes me is that an awful lot is riding on the second Gathering of the T’lan Imass—we, the reader, have no idea of what is going to happen, and that leaves a sense of dread and anticipation. Will the outcome be of benefit to the mortals that we know and love? Or will the T’lan Imass be withdrawing entirely from the world that is passing them by? [Bill: Soon they’ll be sailing, sailing, leaving the Havens on graceful ships for oh wait—wrong epic fantasy. Sorry.]
Hetan is harsh towards the Capustans here (does she see it as harsh?): “The clans have never united to wage war, but if they did, the warriors of the White Face would number seventy thousand.” Her smile broadened, cold and defiant. “They will not do so now. No march. No relief. For you, no hope.” Mind, this stark and definite statement does allow for a dramatic switch in attitude at a later stage from the White Face clan?
Our first look at the Masked Council, representations of various gods. I wonder how the Council came about and why. It seems as though the true gods do not have any sort of alliance, uneasy or otherwise, so why a Council of them all? Do the masks create avatars of these people, so that they are somewhat imbued with the powers of their respective gods? Or are they imagining the import of their position?
Karnadas—the Destriant—is so worried about the Barghast spirits? How scary is that? “Look carefully upon the sorcery you see before you, I neg you! No simple shaman’s magic—look! The Barghast spirits have assembled. Brothers and sisters, the Barghast spirits are here, in this room!”
Hmm, one of Erikson’s rare clumsy moments here... This is as close to an infodump as I have read, where Hetan is used to describe the past situation between the White Face and the Capustan. It sits ill next to the rest of the prose.
I do love Hetan’s turn of phrase...“fart-fouled runt” and “beetle-under-rock.”
I wonder whether there is any importance in the fact that the Masked Council god representatives who realise immediately about the implications of what the Barghast are looking for are Rath’Queen of Dreams, Rath’Hood, Rath’Shadowthrone? *senses she is reading too much*
An audacious plan indeed! To gain the mortal remains of the Barghast spirits in order to try and unite the Clans? Might this dramatically alter the attitudes of whether the Barghast want to join the conflict against the Pannion Seer’s forces?
This Masked Council really aren’t unified on anything at all, are they? Gods prove to be uneasy bedfellows... And they are definitely trying to cause friction between the Grey Swords and Prince Jelarkan. “We will not participate in such crass bargaining, Mortal Sword. We wish to know the nature and the significance of these beasts, and you will provide us with answers.” Hmm, there is an indication that they are not true representatives of the god, since gods like Rath’Queen of Dreams would know the way.
Here we can see the relative importance of Rath’Fener, since he has to quest long and far to stand at the feet of his hand, while the Destriant says, “I, sir, have never left that place.”
Hmm, now Rath’Queen of Dreams is doing the “here’s what happened” convey of information in streams... Having said that, at least it isn’t two characters who both know the situation having the discussion for our benefit! I do like hearing Rath’Queen of Dreams’ theories on the three races of the Toblakai, the Barghast and the Trell: “...all from the same stock, with the Barghast having more human blood than the other two.”
Even some of the quiet scenes in Erikson’s novels resonate with power and meaning. “Shield Anvil, we are witnessing the birth of gods.” I actually quite like it that the birth of gods is not accompanied by screaming storms, masses of magic and probable blood rituals....
A reflection here, as Stonny talks to Gruntle of her experiences in the warren of whom we suspect is K’rul, of the Bridgeburners reaction to Whiskeyjack, “...dammit, I’m his, Gruntle, body and soul.” What does this say about Whiskeyjack? He’s already receiving a form a worship... Is Whiskeyjack going to become a god?
Oh, and here a delightful quote about women *grins*:
“Gods, I wish the world was full of passive, mewling women. [...] On second thoughts, what a nightmare that’d be. It’s the job of a man to fan the spark into flames, not quench it...”
I do delight in Gruntle’s extreme cynicism and his sarcasm, whereas Stonny takes everything so literally!
“Maybe a goat’s milk hawker knocked on the door,” Gruntle suggested, “and she was trying to cancel her order.”
Stonny studied him for a moment, as if considering, then she shrugged.
“Seems a bit elaborate, as an explanation, but who knows? Could be.” [...] Sighing, Gruntle followed.
Hmm, the scene with Gruntle, Stonny and Keruli seems to have a lot of portent for the future—the giving of the statuette for Buke, Gruntle’s feelings about being beholden to a god, Stonny being told to stay close to him—but it is hard as a new reader to the series to grasp everything here.
Oooh, lots to try and pick up here... The Barghast and the Tiste Edur are mortal enemies. (And, with reference to the sea dwelling races, could the Tiste Edur be those who destroyed Callows?) The Moranth are related to the Barghast, but exchanged secrets and alchemies with the Tiste Edur. Am I all straight?
And here are some of my own questions... Who requires two Lords of War? Who is behind the ascension of Trake? The easy answer would be The Crippled God, but I doubt easy is truth, in this case.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Ten:
Well, we open with one of the more mysterious background stories of the series: just what the hell went on with Mother Dark, her lover, and her kids? Our first version came in GoTM via Tool, who told Lorn:
The Tiste Andii were of Kurald Galain, the Warren of Darkness. Kurald Galain stood alone, untouched. The goddess, their mother, knew loneliness . . . sought something outside herself. Thus was born Light. Her children the Tiste Andii saw this as betrayal. They rejected her. Some hold they were cast out . . . Some have embraced another Warren, that of Starvald Demelain . . . the First Warren . . . home of Dragons.
In Deadhouse Gates, we get Heboric quoting Gothos’s Folly:
There’s mention of three Tiste peoples arriving from another realm . . . Tiste Andii . . . Tiste Edur— . . . Children of the unwelcome union of Mother Dark with the Light . . . The Tiste Andii considered it a degradation of pure Dark and the source of all their subsequent ills.
Here we’re told Mother Dark favored the first-born Andii and then “birthed in pain” the second-born Lians of Light. After the Andii “Denied their mother and so were cast out, doomed” the Andii and Lians ended warring, and then, “in mercy” Mother Dark gave birth to the Edur of Shadow. At this point, I’d say just file this away. We will get more info, though I wouldn’t say it gets a lot clearer.
I really enjoy the fine characterization of Buke, a character who could have been simply a “type”: Grieving Deathwish Man. Instead, we find subtleties within his “stock” story and his storyline remains one of my favorite in this series though he isn’t at all a major character (similar to Circle Breaker in GoTM, though I like Buke’s arc even more). The image of him having passed through grief (or more accurately perhaps grief having passed through him) leaving a “vast unlit cavern” is a starkly evocative image I think—that echoing, dark sadness within after a great loss once the passionate emotion has torn through you. That endless sense of emptiness, the way it stays with you, is of course manifested in Buke’s burn scars, making his other metaphor—“ashes”—all the more poignant in our minds as Gruntle recalls how Buke clawed through the fire’s remnants looking for his family.
I also like the actively physical phrasing of what will you “carve” out of those deaths you mourn. (“Carve” by the way will be a lot of what Gruntle ends up doing.)
Of course, this is a diverse world Erikson has created, so we quickly jump from one way of mourning (Buke’s) to a slightly different form, as Hetan describes her grieving method, “to mourn is to feel a flower’s slow death . . . To bed a man is to recall the flower’s bright glory.” Anybody want to take bets on Itkovian’s chances of being the plucked flower?
I really like the image of the priests behind their masks at council. It’s a great visual.
I’m a big fan of how Erikson constantly throws us into the belief that we’ve walked into the middle of a story rather that its beginning. In this case, it comes via Rath’D’rek reaction to Hetan’s opening words:
“Again? . . . The same opening words! . . . The answer was not the first time, no the second time, no every time!”
The treatment of native or aboriginal or simply prior populations by those who come afterward (no matter the mean nor intent) is a running theme throughout the series (no surprise given Erikson’s profession). Here, I like how the myopia of a culture is portrayed as the Capustans difficulties in imagining the views of the Barghast toward the land. As well as the appropriation for decorative purposes Barghast burial urns (the fact that the Barghast “care nothing for vessels” is news to them apparently, so they don’t get let off the hook on that.)
It’s an interesting mix of priests that know what Hetan is about to propose: Burn, Queen of Dreams, Hood, and Shadowthrone. Hmmmm. And note Oponn has no idea. Is it any surprise as well that Shadowthrone’s priest’s first thought is how to use the revelation to scheme/manipulate?
Hetan’s arrival to claim the Founding Families should raise echoes of the Mhybe’s gift from Kruppe of the original Rhivi spirits as well as Quick Ben’s freeing of Talamandas, an ancient Barghast spirit. The past, as I’ve said before, rarely remains the past in Malaz.
I do so like Itkovian. I like how he roots for Hetan here and then love the sly way he so politely suggests that Rath’Shadowthrone “enquire” of Bauchelain and Korbal as if they are just two regular joes.
As a reader, it’s hard not to get a little shiver at the “we are witnessing the birth of gods” line. And it’s also hard not to speculate that if we see the birth of gods, mightn’t we sometime see the deaths of one or two as well?
Stonny’s description of K’rul as having “friends” rather than “servants” goes a long way toward making him a likable kind of god, one we as readers can trust if we accept this point of view (always a question). This will be true of another god or two we’ll eventually meet. And like Keruli’s Elder God, that one also won’t be “one for pomp and ceremony.” And that’s all I say about that for now.
Another reason to like Keruli and his god:
“I have wiped clean their [the dead family] slates . . . They now dwell at peace. Their souls have fashioned a worthy dream-world.”
Also, a sneaky way to get another mention of a “dream-world” in there.
Gifts from priests of Elder Gods. Yes, file away. Note the form as well.
And the mention of “additional allies” for Buke who will help him “achieve what he desires.”
And the obvious foreboding of some great change in Gruntle’s life.
That description of the T’isten’ur by Cafal should ring some bells. We mentioned I believe that Stormy et. al’s discovery of the Silanda in Deadhouse Gates was us coming into the middle of a story. Here’s a bit more of it for us, though we’ll get much, much more.
We’ve already learned of the relationship between the Moranth and the Barghast, but it’s interesting to note that the famed Moranth munitions have connections with the Tiste Edur “alchemies.”
Itkovian’s line “The past refuses to remain buried” is about as appropriate a line as one can find for this series. And of course, it also can be applied literally as well. After all, we’ve already had several creatures dig themselves out literally from the past. There’s also a bit of foreboding in Itkovian’s continuing words: “the past hides restless truths, too, unpleasant truths . . . Once the effort of unveiling has begin . . .” Lots of people, not to mention groups of people (races, clans, nations, etc.) are carrying around lots of “buried” pasts, secrets. We’ll have to keep an eye on what happens when they get revealed.
Speaking of foreboding, we’ll have to keep an eye on that near-prophecy of Humbrall Taur’s: “in success we shall find seeds of despair.”
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.