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 Chapter 7 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!
Message from Amanda: Bill and I would like to thank the followers of this re-read for their patience and humour in the face of such a long-drawn-out process and numerous unscheduled gaps. We appreciate that late notice on not posting is frustrating, and can only beg understanding. THANK YOU to everyone :o)
Gruntle, Stonny, and Harllo escort Keruli’s carriage into Saltoan. There they meet some thugs who are to escort Keruli to a meeting of the underworld.
Keruli address the underworld gathering about the priests of the Pannion Domin entering into Saltoan “sowing discord.” He talks as well of the Children of the Dead Seed, birthed when their mothers had sex with “corpses not yet cold,” and of the savagery of the Tenescowri. When someone suggests simply killing the priests, Keruli says they must fight back with words—”crafted rumours and counter-intelligence.” Gruntle overhears Harllo talking about how Saltoan has seen unexplained murders for several nights now and Gruntle thinks to himself Buke has found proof of his suspicions regarding Korbald and Bauchelain. Keruli tells Gruntle the stop in Saltoan was a detour and they’ll continue on to Capustan.
Gruntle exits the city after Keruli’s carriage has already left with Stonny and Harllo. He comes across what looks like a failed bandit attack on Korbald and Bauchelain’s carriage. He catches up to the group and at Keruli’s insistence they join with three White Face Barghast siblings that are also traveling to Capustan: Hetan and her two brothers Cafal and Netok. They have been sent by their tribe to look into the presence of demons on the wildlands.
The Barghast say the demons have been described as “fast on two legs. Talons like an eagle’s, only much larger, at the ends of those legs. Their arms are blades,” as seen in the Barghast’s shouldermen’s dream-visions. Hetan tells them her father (the warchief) will not lead the clans south to Capustan, but that the shouldermen have seen that the Pannion War will come to them.
As they continue, Hetan explains the Barghast bury trees upside down to hold souls from wandering and that traps are also placed around the souls, though some still escape. Those who return to the clans are destroyed, others (called sticksnares) send dreams to the shouldermen. The group comes across Bauchelain’s carriage, wrecked after a fight. Behind it an upside-down tree/burial mound opens up. Inside the carriage they discover a mass of organs formed together in a human-shape (though only knee-high) and Gruntle realizes that’s why Korbal had been killing people. Korbal, Bauchelain, Buke, and Emancipor show up. Bauchelain said they freed the spirit to learn of the Barghast and only learned the Barghast were one “far more numerous [and] accomplished seafarers.” When asked what they did with the spirit, he says nothing (though they control it) it had already “fallen prey” to one of the traps—a bundle of sticks. They were then attacked and he admits they barely held off the three “demons”. When Gruntle reports to Keruli, Keruli tells him there are lots more of these demons and are in fact behind them as well as in front of them and so he thinks they need to ally with the necromancers until Capustan. Gruntle advises Buke to take the money and run when they get to Capustan. Buke says they’ll never make it; the necromancers threw everything they had at the demons and barely made it.
The next day, Gruntle continues to advise Buke to let Korbal go, and tries to guilt him into it with the fact that Stonny cares for him, but Buke doesn’t care. They argue then move on. Buke again says they won’t live through the night. They prepare for attack at night and Gruntle asks Keruli what they can expect from his god and Keruli says he doesn’t know; it’s a newly awakened Elder god. Keruli then cuts his palm for blood. Six demons attack: reptiles about twice the height of a man with swords fused to their wrists. Keruli identifies them as K’Chain Che’Malle Hunters (undead). After some fighting on everyone’s part, a badly wounded Gruntle blacks out.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Six:
“Where they tread, blood follows...” Heh, that really could describe most of the major players in the Book of the Fallen!
Again we see Erikson’s deep and innate understanding of how civilizations work—how cities have come and gone, thanks to the vagaries of nature. Here we see a river changing course and hence destroying the fortunes of a whole city, despite their best efforts. This depth of detail and world building just adds to the trust of a reader—that Erikson knows and believes in his own world.
Saltoan isn’t exactly put forward as a warm and healthy place to be! Raw sewer down the outside of the city walls, and the dregs of society manning the battlements; dark and cramped streets and inhabitants who aren’t above scavenging trapped wagons. This sort of build up to a place gives a forewarning to the reader that experiences within aren’t going to be much better—will be interesting to see whether Erikson actually overturns this initial impression, or whether he deliberately built this up in the reader’s mind to set the scene.
I’m amused by the small things! The image of Harllo waving cheerfully and that wave wilting under Stonny’s complaints made me giggle.
I confess to wondering about the nature of Keruli, and the way that Gruntle et al deal with him. Gruntle is a sceptical and questioning individual—with that being the case, why isn’t he needling away at who Keruli is, why they’ve been hired and what it will involve. I just don’t buy that a character like Gruntle would be so passive—especially about someone who isn’t taking his hard won advice. And here we have Keruli having arranged a meeting with the true rulers of Saltoan, which Gruntle takes mostly in his stride.
I also like here Erikson’s presentation of gay characters. There is no fanfare, no proud pointing out that Erikson is being all-inclusive in his writing—just a realism and honesty that shows it how it is. Having said that, the scene where Nektara plays with Stonny’s crotch in public seems a little out of character for Erikson considering the lack of previous overt sexual activities.
Keruli = K’rul? Have we speculated about that? There is the similarity in the name, the oddness of his behaviour and then this: “A strange, close-fitting cap covered his hairless pate, its style reminiscent of that worn by figures found among Darujhistan’s oldest sculptures and in equally ancient tapestries.” [Bill: Good pick-ups.]
Hmm, the Pannion Seer and the priests seem to be the equivalent of something like communism or fascism:
...offer to the common people tales of laws applied impartially to all citizens, of rights and enscripted privileges, of the welcome imposition of order in defiance of local traditions and manners.
Ugh, now this is a truly nasty concept: *chokes a little*
“That women should descend onto battlefields and soldiers whose corpses are not yet cold...”
Sensing I won’t like the Tenescowri AT ALL!
And here a hint that Keruli might be a priest of Treach, the Tiger of Summer. This is someone we heard about when Picker and the torcs came into contact, so we do know that Treach is already on the move. Now a mention that Keruli is aware that a war is being waged with more than one battlefield—he is definitely an intriguing chap!
I like the nod here again to Gruntle’s experience, in that he sits outside the city gates to check for bandits following the carriage. How often in fantasy novels do we see the hero’s band being attacked by ill-anticipated bandits? Finally here we have a caravan guard who knows what he is about!
I reckon Erikson is a dog person: we have Hounds, cattledogs, lapdogs—but no cats. *grins*
Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are really starting to sound horribly sinister, what with killing highwaymen without visible wounds and leaving a trail of wounded behind them....
A link here: we have three White Face Barghast on the move, and there was talk of Trotts going to make the Malazan army case before them. Hey! Hetan! The name taken by the Malazan Empire forums’ illustrious leader. *smiles* Now I get to find out why that name was one of attraction!
Heh, love the way Stonny calls this hulking female Barghast—overloaded with weapons and with a skull-like visage—“lass”! Especially when Hetan then says, “I enjoy killing and riding men and little else.” Sounds to me like Hetan needs to take up a hobby. [Bill: I believe those ARE her hobbies.]
These demons sound truly ominous:
“Ah, they smell of death, then. Their arms are blades...how? What in Hood’s name does that mean? Blood-iron—that’s iron quenched in snow-chilled blood...a Barghast practice when shamans invest weapons. Thus, the wielder and the weapon are linked. Merged...”
Hmm, are the Barghast just another type of human? Or are they a different race of beings altogether? If the latter, it surprises me that Gruntle would be so quick to respond to her “seduction”... Is there no prejudice about mixed-race couplings? If not, this is indeed very refreshing!
Hetan’s explanation of the sticksnares and the shouldermen is taken on board by Gruntle in such a natural way that it demonstrates the way in which magic of all types is rife in the world of the Malazans. There is no scoffing or scepticism, just a curiosity about how it all works.
Ugh—the description of the chest of organs is truly disgusting! And now we know for sure what exactly Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are involved in, and why murders seem to follow them. “Necromancy, but not the demonic kind. These are the arts of those who delve into mortality, into resurrection and undeath. Those organs... they come from living people.”
Hmm, this sounds like something to be aware of! When Bauchelain sees the Barghast, he says, “Extraordinary, isn’t it, that such people can be found on other continents as well, calling themselves by the same name and practising, it seems, virtually identical customs.” Does this mean that Bauchelain is from a whole other place?
I like the conversation between Buke and Gruntle—it is painful and honest, and helps to build the backgrounds of both characters without resorting to a detailed little CV.
Methinks Stonny might be a little jealous of Hetan and the way she takes Harllo! The lady doth protest too much at the fact that Harllo is too ugly to rut with. *grins* These little interludes are priceless and very enjoyable.
Heh, this quote I love, with regards to why Reese joined the two necromancers:
“Long story,” he muttered, sipping at his wine. “Too long to tell, really. My wife, you see... Well, the posting offered travel...”
“Are you suggesting you chose the lesser of two evils?”
“Heavens forfend, sir.”
“Ah, you’ve regrets now, then.”
“I didn’t say that, neither.”
Hmm, this could be more proof that Keruli is either belonging to or is K’rul:
“My—uh—god’s powers are newly awakened from thousands of years of sleep. My god is Elder.”
And our first sight of the K’Chain Che’Malle.... Aren’t they sinister?!
Awesome battle scene, horribly painful last few paragraphs:
“Could it not have been sudden? Instant? Why this lingering, bemused draining away? Gods, even the pain is gone—why not awareness itself? Why torture me with the knowing of what I am about to surrender?”
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Six:
“Blood follows,” as Amanda notes, could be said about nearly everybody in this series. It’s also the title of one of the Bauchelain and Korbal novellas (telling of how Emancipator ended up with them).
There’s just no avoiding history in this series and Erikson keeps us steeped in it throughout, as with the description of Saltoan’s canal.
I like how he sets us up for an expectation of an attack on Keruli’s carriage: the seedy nature of the city itself, Twisface Passage as a prime spot for ambush, the urchins disappearing, etc. It’s all classic ambush set-up and then it’s flipped by the pre-arranged escort/meeting.
Your points regardinng Gruntle and Keruli are interesting, Amanda. I never saw Gruntle as “passive,” just business-like. I see him as not questioning Keruli outright (he certainly does in his own mind) because that’s not his job. He takes the job, he does his job, he gets paid for the job, he takes the next job—that’s sort of how I see his attitude.
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to stop listening to someone when they start talking about “imposition of order.”
I’ve got to say, Children of the Dead Seed was a new one for me. Anybody know of anything similar in other works? It’s so rare to come across a wholly original concept. ‘Course, the graphic nature of the idea does preclude probably it appearing in much earlier fantasies—hard to see it showing up in LOTR for instance.
The Tenescowri is obviously meant to repulse us. But it’s easy to let our repulsion get in the way of seeing how it also says something about human nature. Consider how Keruli presents its motivation: “Non-citizens . . .are the objects of every cruelty conceivable . . . The Tenescowri offers their only escape, the chance to match the inhumanity inflicted on them.” This is how we respond to cruelty inflicted upon us by those stronger than us: find something weaker and inflict our own cruelties upon them.
Amanda’s already pointed out two clues to Keruli’s god: the obvious similarity to K’rul and the fact that his cap is ancient. Gruntle offers us another with the idea that he is a priest of a “new temple” in Darujhistan. We readers have been witness to an ancient god newly awakened in Darujhistan.
By the way, Gruntle’s line in these musings, “why anyone would be interested in worshipping the Tiger of Summer is beyond me,” should be filed away. You can file it under T for Treach/Trake or I for irony.
The departure of Gruntle from Saltoan works well as Amanda says because it’s a way of characterizing his experience as well as presenting us seemingly one of the very few competent caravan guards in all of fantasydom. I like it for the number of tiny details that add to the sense of a character fully existent in a fully existent world: the flea bites from the room the night before, the gradual movement of the horse from the trot to the canter, the slum on the outskirts, the half-wild dogs, the ant-nests, etc. I think all this accretion of detail has a cumulative effect on the reader.
Are Bauchelain and Broach “horribly sinister”? Oh yes, but strangely, winningly so. Or at least, Bauchelain is. This scene of course shows us their “sinister” nature, but it also does a nice job of setting us up for the later attack on their carriage so we can see the contrast—this one handled so easily that Gruntle thinks “I doubt Buke had to even so much as draw his blade” and the other, not so much with the no drawing of blades at all.
Yes, that description of those demons is pretty ominous indeed. And probably doesn’t do them justice.
Sometimes those details we get are just background details to fill in the worldbuilding, and sometimes they’re important background to set up future plot events. Such is the case with the information on the Barghast sacred sites and spirits and sticksnares. File.
So here we are with the attack on Bauchelain and Korbal’s carriage and so we can imagine how powerful the attackers must have been since we saw already how easily they handled being outnumbered by ambushing bandits. And here they fought but three “demons.”
We also find out just what (or at least, some of what) Korbal is doing with those people he’s killing; he’s harvesting their organs to create a homunculus sort of creature.
As Amanda points out, it seems an odd little non-sequitur kind of comment from Bauchelain when first meeting the Barghast: “Extraordinary, isn’t it, that such people can be found on other continents as well . . . an ancient people . . . accomplished seafarers . . . an eternal stagnation.” But we don’t usually get non-sequiturs so yes, file. And think to yourself, how will their seafaring past raise its head? Their stagnation?
And here we go: K’Chain Che’Malle. We’ve heard them mentioned ever since the first book and now we finally get to see them in action. Or at least, a particular kind of them: the K’ell Hunters. Gruntle gets cut off mid-question, but it’s an excellent question—how is the human Pannion Seer commanding undead, long-extinct K’Chain Hunters? The earlier mentions of them, and the near-overrunning of two full scary mages, and then finally the physical description we get here certainly is intimidating, but even so, it’s a bit disheartening to see how Gruntle’s defenses last for one parry basically—that parry snapping his left wrists and sending his cutlasses flying. Then Harllo’s sword shattering. Even more depressing is that Gruntle’s best, most effective blow against the K’Chain comes when the creature kicks him and the force of the kick drives Gruntle’s head into the K’Chain jaw—hardly a heroic strike. It’s a slow death Gruntle sees coming and I like being in his head when he sees it and hears another’s—his desperation for a final look at the world (even if what he looks upon is a vision of blood and horror and nightmare), the “confused sadness,” the anger and bitterness of being self-aware of one’s own death, the way we shout our defiance of our mortality. I could have personally done without the “pale” in that closing line, though I like the connection between a slowing heart and a horse’s hoofbeats fading in the distance. The “pale” I think we would have gotten. Nice cliffhanger of a chapter ending.
The setting is inside Capustan. Karanadas (Destriant of the Grey Swords) looks out at the palace of Prince Jelarkan, where Brukhalian (the Mortal Sword) was meeting with the prince and members of the Mask Council, negotiations which have been going on (ineffectively) for weeks. He is angry at/disgusted with Fener’s priest on the Mask Council who seems more concerned with his own political power and desire to be Destriant (Rath’Fener doesn’t know Karnadas already is and Brukhalian has forbidden Karnadas from revealing it). Itkovian (Shield Anvil) enters to tell him Brukhalian has returned. Brukhalian says Rath’Trake senses demons on the plains. Karnadas is upset that Trake is rising (another God of War). They discuss the anonymous “invitation” they’ve received and decide to reply. Quick Ben appears and at first dismisses the Grey Swords as “mere” mercenaries but he likes much of what he hears. Brukhalian tells Quick the city doesn’t believe in women warriors and so the Grey Swords are recruiting among the female population in Capustan. When Quick says he wants to contact the “leaders,” Brukhalian describes how the city is split into factions: the Mask Council (itself split) and Prince Jelarkan, whom the Grew Swords serve. Quick stuns them with his knowledge that Karnadas, as Destriant, outranks Rath’Fener. Quick tells them Brood is leading an army to Capustan and they set up another time to meet before Quick exits. Both Karnadas and Burkhalian recognize they will lose the war. Karnadas says his earlier sensation that Quick Ben had multiple souls must have been wrong.
Back with Quick Ben, Whiskeyjack says he thinks Brukhalian looked tough. Quick says he thinks the titles (Mortal Sword, Destriant) are for show, as they are so ancient and have been vacant for so long. He says that before the Deck of Dragon’s recognized Knights of Houses, Fener’s cult had its own. Whiskeyjack isn’t so sure the titles are for show. Quick doesn’t think much of the Grey Swords; WJ is not so sure of that as well.
Riding through the Capustan streets, Itkovian muses on the past history of its residents, once nomadic, and how the city is still set up in “Camps” (districts). The old keep (where the Grey Swords are) is older and the Prince’s palace older still, with unknown architecture. He takes out a company, including a new female recruit. They find the trail of some K’Chain (they don’t know what they are) and fight one, killing it but at great cost. Four more appear, but before the Grey Swords can do anything, a T’lan Imass appears and tells them they are “relieved,” and Itkovian watches as an army of T’lan destroy the undead K’Chain, at the cost of roughly 60 T’lan Imass. The first T’lan introduces hiimself as Pran Chole of the Kron and says they had come for the Gathering but seem to have found a war.
Itkovian will ride as bait on the plains while the Imass trail them to try and kill more K’Chain. He wants to send the recruit back to make report, thinking she’s probably broken, but she doesn’t want to go and he agrees. He tells her seeing the K’Chain get destroyed won’t make her feel better and she seems to recognize that. Pran tells them about the K’Chain Hunters, that whatever is controlling them is somewhere to the south, that they were released from a barrow at Morn, possibly by the Matron who appears to have escaped her own prison barrow. When Itkovian says they are in a war with the Pannion Seer, the entire T’lan army reacts and Pran says Pannion is a Jaghut name.
Toc thinks on all the “coincidences” that have put him on the path he’s on. He jokingly asks Baaljagg (the Ay) where its family is and he gets a vision in his lost eye of Ay and oxen trapped in mud (this is the scene from the prologue) and Baaljagg running away. Then a vision of an Elder god telling Baaljagg it is the last Ay and there “will be need for you” and giving a promise to the Ay that the god will bring a “lost spirit . . . suitable.” Baaljagg sleeps in a dreamworld then “the torn soul [was] delivered to her own, where they merged, eventually became one . . . the best now sought something like redress.” Toc realizes it was Tool the Ay waited for. Toc asks Tool what the Ay wants of him and Tool says “an end to her loneliness” but also that he “can do nothing for her.” Tool mentions how “someone has drawn on [his] life-force almost to exhaustion.” He wonders if Toc has bonded souls with the Ay somehow. He asks Toc how he lost his eye and Toc says a falling piece of Moon’s Spawn at the enfilade at Pale. Tool makes a connection to Obelisk (Menhir in the Deck of Holds before the Deck of Dragons) and he gives Toc a new name: Aral Fayle (touched by stone). Toc asks what Tool’s name means and he answers “Onos is “clanless man. T is broken. Ool is veined while lan is flint and in combination T’oolan is flawed flint.” He adds how Logros had been chosen to command the clans native to the First Empire and though Tool’s sister would serve him but instead she defied the ritual and so weakened the Logros T’lan Imass and the First Empire fell. Toll’s brothers went north and never returned. Tool was chosen First Sword but “abandoned” Logros T’lan Imass and now travels alone, “thus committing the greatest crime known among my people.” Toc says but now Tool is returning to his people for the Second Gathering.
Toc suddenly sees through a different beast’s eyes from Baaljag. The creature—which names itself Treach/Trake/Tiger of Summer thinks how it “[found] itself, now at the very end. and memories awakened.” It recalls the madness among the Soletaken, the birthing of the D’ivers, the Empire disintegrating, and how it was one of the few survivors after the T’lan Imass. It remembers tearing “a warren to pieces . . .turned the eastlands into molten stone that cooled and became something that defied sorcery” and how “we fled, a handful . . . Ryllandaras . . . we fell out, clashed, then clashed again on another continent. He had gone teh farthest, found a way to control the gifts—Soletaken and D’iver both. White Jackal . . . And my other companion, Messremb . . . a kind soul . . . Ascending . . . The First Heroes. Dark. Savage.” It remembers losing lost himself in the beast, sending The White Jackal off a ledge, and a memory of a single-eyed wolf and thinks “this vision of the wolf [awakened] all within me.” He was tracking K’Chain and was now dying, left by them. He hears battle and crawls forward. A woman with the fur of a panther meets him and tells him she killed the K’Chain. She says she was around when the Imass dealt with the First Empire, but it was others who repaired the shattered warren. She says the Imass only killed Treach’s kind; it is their “singular skill.” She asks who the other presence in him is that she senses, that has returned Treach to himself and says when he dies he won’t appear at Hood’s gate but “elsewhere.” An Elder God is active again, she adds, perhaps the “most ancient one of all,” and thinks it is answering some grave threat, a new war in which Treach will be needed.
Senu slaps Toc awak. Toc tells Tool he saw Treach die not far north of where they are. A black panther arrives and changes into a flesh and blook Imas—Tool’s sister Kilava. She says she saw Toc looking out through Treach’s eye and asks what the Elder God has planned. Toc says he has no idea. Kilava asks Tool who he is and when Tool says “Aral Fayle” she notes he has given him weapons of stone. Tool says it was unintended but Kilava says they’re all being manipulated. When Tool says he travels to the Second Gathering she says she refuses to and is here for other reason which Toc realizes is “redress.” Then an Elder God’s voice tells him she wants to “right an old wrong, heal an old scar” and that the two of them (Toc and Kilava) will meet again, but the final meeting concerns the god. The god goes on to say the children of the Pannion Seer are suffering and Toc must “release them” and so the god is sending Toc “into the Seer’s embrace,” though he thinks Toc will not forgive him. When Toc asks why the children must be released, the god answers “compassion . . . a man who dreams has shown me this.” Toc speaks the “compassion” out loud and when Tool says his sister knows nothing of it she says all things change. Took and Kilava make some small rapprochement and she says the meeting gives her “hope” before leaving. Toc tells Tools the blood-ties Tool had said were severed between him and Kilava still hold. Tool says he has known only two mortal humans and both “underestimated themselves” and promises to tell Toc (whom he now calls friend) of Adjunct Lorn.
Envy meanwhile had gone to the city of Callows and found it filled with blood and death, maybe 30,000 killed roughly 10 days ago. She senses even Hood is uneasy. She finds an old temple and speaks to K’rul. K’rul tells her Callows death “came from the sea. A warren-twisted fleet. Cold-eyed, unhuman killers. Seeking, ever seeking . . . a worthy challenge.” He also warns the Crippled God is “never so obvious. his game displays a master’s sleight of hand. Ntohing is as he would have us believe and his use of unwitting servants is as brutal as his treatment of enemies. Consider after all the Pannion Seer.” Envy says she doesn’t mourn the passing of the Elder Gods, including her father Draconus. She tells him she’s barely holding onto the Seguleh (if at all) and warns Mok will challenge and defeat Tool. K’rul says he hopes not until they fight their way to the Pannion Seer, though he thinks if they do fight Mok’s restraint might surprise her, though he admits he hadn’t expected such a high-ranking Seguleh to lead the punitive army in his plans to open a second front for the Seer’s armies. He also mentions the Second is missing. He tells Envy she chose to reject helping when they needed her (the Chaining) but now even chained the CG “will not rest. He exists in endless, tormenting pain . . . and has turned that into a fuel for his rage, his hunger for vengeance.” When Envy says those that pulled him down are all dead already and the CG’s “vengeance” is really a cover for lust of power. K’rul isn’t quite sure, but says in any case he won’t allow her indifference yet again. When she bridles, he shows her a vision: “chaos . . . a universe devoide of sense . . .of meaning. Entities flung through the maelstrom. Lost, terrified by the birth of light. A sudden sharpening—pain as of wrist opened, the heat spilling forth—a savage imposition of order, the heart from which blood flowed . . . twin chambers—Kurald Galain, the Warren of Mother Dark—and Starvald Demelain, the Warren of Dragons. And the blood—the power—now seeping in current through veins . . . . the warrens.” K’rul says her power feeds on the blood of his soul and so she will obey and help. She asks who knows the truth and he answers Rake, Draconus, Osric, and a “handful of others.” He confesses he is frightened by the CG and says their “foolishness” has cost them allies, such as Dassem Ultor, who was “broken by Hood’s taking of his daughter at the Time of the Chaining.” She wonders if Hood would have done so had she answered the summons and K’rul says who can say. He continues to say she needed to know the scale of the problem and she agrees to go into the heart of the Domin. K’rul says to take care of Toc, that while K’rul himself will try to keep Toc’s soul from the CG, there is something “wild” in Toc that has yet to awaken. He also warns her his blood is poisoned near the Domin so she won’t be able to access her warren (she could defeat the poison but Toc could not).
Itkovian’s group comes across Gruntle’s battle scene from the night before. He finds along with the T’lan Imass there hundred of undead Ay (T’lan Ay). Pran grieves for them as they had no choice in the Telann Ritual. Itkovian meets Bauchelain and Korbal. Itkovian’s men will heal the injured but one Barghast is dead and one human.
Pran Chole tells Itkovian that Korbal is a eunuch, and insane, but Bauchelain is the more dangerous one. Both are necromancers: Korbal “plies the chaos on the edge of Hood’s realm” and Bauchelain is a “summoner of formidable power.” Pran also says the injured mortals (now healed) are all dreaming and being protected. They plan to head back to Capustan, and Itkovian asks that the T’lan Imass and most of the Ay (but not all) remain hidden.
The Prince and Brukhalian are upset that the Mask Council will not give up some outlying towers that will certainly be overrun. The Prince leaves and Brukhalian asks Karnadas if Itkovian’s men continue to draw on his healing power. The Destriant says no but he is nearly fully drained. A messenger from Itkovian arrives and tells of the battle with the K’Chaine and the arrival of the T’lan Imass, who rise up beside him. They tell Brukhalian of what is going on with Itkovian’s group. They also say that while they will fight the K’Chain and have suspicions about the Pannion, the Second Gathering will take priority and afterward the T’lan Imass may be “of less value upon completion of hte Gathering.” Karnadas says he’s seen the Pannion and he is only an old human but the Imass ask “who stands in his shadow” and clearly maintain suspicion. The Grey Swords are please to learn of the Ay and Itkovian’s decision to keep some of the visible upon entering the city.
Brukhalian thinks back on the meeting just completed with Quick Ben and Brood and how it was clear there were secrets and that relieving Capustan was not their true or primary goal. Suddenly a warren opens and a Jaghut appears, declaring himself Gethol, Hood’s Herald. He says Hood wants to offer “an invitation” to Fener’s soldiers and when Brukhalian says Gethol should talk to Fener Gethol says he cannot, that Fener has been drawn “to the very edge of his realm [and] is in great peril,” facing the loss of his power. Gethol says Capustan is doomed and Hood can spirit the Grey Swords out, since the Pannion is merely part of a greater war. Brukhalian says Hood is trying to steal Fener’s soldiers and Gethol responds that Fener will be the first “casualty in the war with the Crippled God” and that Brukhalian should be honored by Hood’s offer. Brukhalian strikes Gethol with his sword at the insult and when Gethol appears ready to fight, three T’lan Imass bonecasters appear and he disappears. The bonecasters tell Brukhalian they’ve been hunting that Jaghut for some time and he “talent for escaping” continues.
Gruntle awakens in Capustan. Stonny tells him Harllo is dead and Netok. Gruntle remembers Harllo throwing himself in between Gruntle and the K’Chain.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Seven:
In the extract from The Road Before You we have yet more commentary on memories, helping to cement this particular theme in our minds. Here we have an old man reflecting on the fact that his sorrows and regrets outweigh his joys—which sounds like scene setting for this next book Hearthstone.
The poem (ugh, back to the poetry) deals with Fener, but I’m not sure what the Iron Forest means. [Bill: I’m thinking a forest of spears/swords etc.] Also, is it coincidence that we have both a Boar of Summer and a Tiger of Summer? [Bill: Nope.]
Heh, I read this beginning and was taken straight to the Wheel of Time:
Born on a sea dark as spiced wine, the wind moaned its way across the seaside killing ground, over and around the East Watch on its low, brick-strewn hill, where faint torchlight glimmered from the fortress’s battened shutters.
In fact, this is the nearest I think that Erikson comes to the traditional fantasy weather report method of starting novels!
I think Erikson deliberately uses this as a way to start a whole new section, because here we are visiting the inside of Capustan and getting to know the final (I believe) cast of characters that will flesh out Memories of Ice. As with always, I anticipate a little confusion and a little adjusting to new characters and motives, before I willingly embrace the storyline. At it stands, right now I’m rather resenting not being able to spend more time with Quick Ben, or discover more about Burn’s sickness, or see what happened to poor Gruntle.
In Karnadas’ introspection atop the walls, we can grasp straight away that there is a conflict of power within Capustan. It seems we’re looking at at least two different parties: the Mask Council and the Grey Swords.
There is also more mention of Fener and discussion of what he stands for: the voice of war. Is it truly any surprise that we saw him materialise in Deadhouse Gates, that he seems to have more and more followers at the moment? After all, we now know that the whole of the world is entangled in an overarching war for power. “And forgive us all, the voice grows to a roar. It is not the time to hide behind temple wars.”
Secrets within secrets: we discover that Karnadas holds great power, since he holds the title of Destriant.
I like the little mention of Rath’Trake—this being Treach, the Tiger of Summer. We know that he has reached Ascendancy, because of the fact that Quick Ben could smell it on Picker once she took the blessing of Treach. It is interesting that Karnadas does not believe the First Hero has reached godhood, and also that he might be jealous of the fact that Fener is no longer the only god of war and battle. “The Season of Summer is home to more than one voice of war, or would you now challenge the fierce spirits of the Barghast and the Rhivi as well?”
Quick Ben truly is unique, isn’t he? “Sir, there are souls within this. Not two or three—a dozen, maybe more—yet they are bound within one. I have not seen its like before.” WHO IS QUICK BEN?! [Bill: I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.]
This is a fantastic line, and greatly appreciated from the perspective of a female reader:
“Women are forbidden from the art of war. The Boar of Summer, however, acknowledges no such arbitrary exclusions...”
HOW DOES QUICK BEN KNOW SO DAMN MUCH?! I fret at the puzzle of Quick Ben every single page of this book. “I am impressed by your knowledge of Fener’s priesthood. No, more than impressed. I am stunned.” Hmm, I wonder whether Quick Ben absorbs and reflects knowledge? After all, he said of the magic he had done to make contact that it would reflect whoever stumbled onto it. Perhaps this is Quick Ben’s true power, and why he always ends up the equal of who he faces?
I think I might be missing the significance of there being a Destriant for the first time in a thousand years. Even Quick Ben seems impressed, which is rare enough to command respect.
The Camps in Capustan remind me of nomad’s tent areas, which rings true with the fact that the Capan were not long ago a tribal people. It’s nice that Erikson continues to build little facts and details about a people without just telling you. Instead he plays on prior knowledge you might have in a particular area to help enrich the reading process.
Hmm, which people built the palace now taken over by Jelarkan, and will they make a later appearance? Maybe the K’Chain Che’Malle?
The K’Chain Che’Malle remind me a little bit of the velociraptors from Jurassic Park—they are certainly giving me the same chills...
Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! Erikson never shies away, does he?
Without comprehension, he watched the rump—legs kicking spasmodically—twist round, revealing that the front half of the horse was gone. Severed spine, curved rows of rib stubs, intestines tumbling out, blood spraying from red flesh.
Hell...one demon managed to take down twenty men and horses on the attack... *eyes wide* And four of them destroy at least sixty T’lan Imass! Although...can T’lan Imass be destroyed, if they are undead? [Bill: Yes, and we’ll see what gets done with those that are “killed” later.]
I can sort of appreciate the reasons behind taking the recruit out to experience active duty—but I definitely appreciate Erikson’s treatment of the recruit afterwards, and the discussion of what this might mean to her future:
The Shield Anvil’s underestimation of the enemy had made of this young woman’s future a world of ashes. Two blindingly sudden deaths would haunt her for the rest of her days.
I do also think Itkovian is being a tad harsh on himself as well—the K’Chain Che’Malle have been absent from this world for so long that even the T’lan Imass are unprepared for them and their ferocity. How could Itkovian possibly know what would happen?
Now this is the sort of writing that means Erikson stands head and shoulders above most other AUTHORS, let alone just fantasy authors:
“Soldiers are issued armour for their flesh and bones, but they must fashion their own for their souls.”
OOOH! “Pannion,” the Bonecaster said. “A Jaghut word. A Jaghut name.”
Heh. Toc’s inner monologue reminds me of just how much I was getting to enjoy his character in Gardens of the Moon before he was ripped from the pages! “So...here I am, in the middle of nowhere, and the only truly sane creature in my company is an extinct wolf.”
So Baaljagg carries the soul of someone—a lost spirit, torn from its flesh. We’ve seen a few of them... An Elder God manipulated Baaljagg—we only know K’rul, Draconus and Sister of Cold Nights as elder gods, right? [Bill: Don’t forget we’ve also met one for whom those “Elder” gods are relatively young.] And hmm, this wolf is female: perhaps also linked to Fanderay, the she-wolf of winter. Strikes me if the beasts of Summer—Fener and Trake—are on the move, then those of the Winter would also be moving; and we’ve seen Togg, besides. Tampering with Toc... [Bill: All good lines of thought.]
Tool says, “Someone has drawn on my life-force, almost to exhaustion. Ask me no questions regarding this.” Who has been drawing from Tool? Also Silverfox?
And now Toc has a new name, along with Paran! Heh, were there not enough characters in this mammoth series to satisfy Erikson, that he felt the need to give his characters secondary names as well?! Here we find out that Toc can also be refered to as Aral Fayle.
The power of names, and the meaning behind them, is definitely a theme within these novels. Tool describes his own name as meaning “Flawed flint” and then says, “In pure flint all the sands are aligned. All face in the same direction. There is unity of purpose.” Tool went his own way, as did his sister and his two brothers.
Eeep, I’m not sure where to start with the section about Treach, and the information that we’re given. All I know is that nothing springs instantly to mind, although little memories from other parts of this novel and those that came before are tugging at me. The Imass wearing the skin of a panther is definitely Kilava, that being Tool’s sister—I remember mention of that in her description from the prologue. And we will need to look out for Treach in another form, it seems: “When your life fades from this world, Treach, I suspect you will find yourself, not before Hood’s gates. but... elsewhere.”
Haha, that serves me right for stopping to make comment and not reading on—yes, the panther person was definitely Kilava, because here she is!
An Elder God is manipulating Toc and talking directly to him, but which one? I think it is K’rul, based on this: “I speak of compassion. There are gifts unimagined in such efforts. A man who dreams has shown me this...” A man who dreams could be Kruppe, who has been directly involved with K’rul already.
I really really like the combination of Tool, Toc and the Seguleh—I like them all the better when Lady Envy isn’t around, to be honest. I’m not overly fond of her, whom I see as a manipulative bitch!
But then we move almost immediately to Lady Envy and the death of Callows. *sigh* And here is evidence that K’rul is awake and tampering with the modern world. Here is some information drip-fed into the story that I’m sure will be important in a book or three’s time, if not in this one!
“No, for Callows, death came from the sea. A warren-twisted fleet. Cold-eyed, unhuman killers. Seeking, ever seeking, they now ply the world’s oceans.”
Wow, what an INCREDIBLE scene where K’rul shows Lady Envy the making of the warrens, the fact “that, in striding through the warrens, we travel through your very flesh. That, when we draw upon the power of the warrens, we draw your very blood.” K’rul has UNIMAGINABLE power, surely? But he chooses not to be a tyrant, to be passive instead, and not to shape the world as he shaped the warrens. It must take incredible restraint to see the paths of some and not prevent it.
Eep, Dassem Ultor, the First Sword reborn... There is definitely more information here than we knew before.
“Consider: from Dassem’s fall, a mortal empire now totters on the edge of chaos. From Dassem’s fall, the Shadow Throne found a new occupant.”
So Dassem was god, rather than man? Or an Ascendant? *confused* [Bill: I’d say Dassem is one of the most confusing characters—hold off on this confusion though as we’ll get much much more re him later.]
Hmm... “The scarred and the flawed are what the Crippled God seeks in his servants.” Whiskeyjack is currently scarred and flawed, non? [Bill: The question might be, who isn’t?]
T’lan Ay? Seems like the Ay followed the Imass into the Ritual....
I am rather pleased that Pran Chole back-hands Korbal Broach—I dread to think what his questions might have involved... And this amuses me:
“Tell me, Shield Anvil, do these undead warriors hold grudges?”
Itkovian allowed himself a private smile. “You can ask that of the next Jaghut we happen across.”
I have a grim foreboding about the stupidity of the Mask Council, and the fact they seem to be dooming thousands to death.
Gosh, the end of this chapter has event after event, doesn’t it? The alliance and the different factions in Capustan are hotting up, and then we have the appearance of Hood’s Herald, one Gethol... *sighs* The name is bloody familiar; someone please ease my annoyance at wondering where I last heard that?
And gods are already seeking to steal followers from others, through fair means or foul, it seems.
I am SO glad Gruntle is still alive. But, oh, I mourn Harllo and that daft grin. *sad*
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Seven:
If you’ve had any doubt about the epic nature of these books, Erikson certainly gives you a nudge with that opening sentence of Chapter Seven: “a sea dark as spiced wine”—a phrase nearly impossible to read without thinking of Homer’s “wine-dark sea” from the Iliad and the Odyssey (war and what happens after war).
It’s a great image, Karnadas standing alone against the storm, and one which sets his character and his situation nicely for us.
How cynical is that definition of peace? “The time of waiting for war.” Doesn’t say much about us as a species, eh? Nor does the idea that the Boar of Summer (Fener), as “the voice of war. Dark and grisly” is as “ancient as humanity itself.” In other words, it took us pretty much no time at all to start killing each other. And I would love to argue against that image, really I would, but ummm, I’ve got nothing.
Lots of titles being thrown around: Mortal Sword, Destriant, Shield Anvil. They will get explained. And yes, the roles will be important. Very, very much so.
Maybe it’s because I’ve reread the Narnia books with my son within the past year, but hearing “the Boar of Summer is not a civilized god” reminds me so much of “but he’s not a tame lion” with regard to Aslan.
Brukhalian is nicely, concisely characterized in contrast to Karnadas I think—his upbraiding of Karnadas for his petty jealousy over gods of war, his tolerance of other voices of war, his dry way of pointing out the fact that the other priests’ lack of support for Trake as a new god is hardly strong evidence against that idea, his tweaking of Karnadas’ self-important “there is a message intended in such knowing.” Note his own lack of self-importance when, after speaking proudly of his Grey Swords, he also acknowledges that yes, they are also “sword-hackers.”
Quick Ben. You just gotta love Quick Ben. As Amanda says, where does he get all that knowledge from? It’s interesting that after Karnadas says he is “stunned” by QB’s knowledge of Fener’s roles, Quick “flinches.” Any guesses on why? My own thought is he feels perhaps he’s revealed too much of his own self/knowledge. Anyone else? Also interesting that little bit of seeming suspicion from Brukhalian toward Karnadas when Karnadas says he must have been wrong about QB having more than one soul, almost as if Brukhalian thought Karnadas might be holding back from him. At least, that’s how I saw that—anybody read that differently?
I like how after we’re all so “whoa, look how much Quick Ben knows!”, Erikson, via Whiskeyjack, takes him down several pegs and shows us he’s not as smart as he likes to think he is all the time: “You’re sharp tonight” (and that it takes several moments for Quick to get the sarcasm).
More history (of Capustan this time) as we’ve come to expect whenever (or close to whenever) we’re introduced to a new setting. And while it does as usual enhance the rich and realistic nature of this world, it will also play an important role.
Knowing that the demons Itkovian might run into out on the plains—large reptilians with huge talons and fierce strength—did anyone else smile at the Grey Swords riding out in “raptor” formation? Anyone?
As we saw with Gruntle, these K’Chain undead are more than just a little humbling. Sure, the Grey Swords kill one, but it cost them 20 soldiers to do so—not the kind of ratio you’re looking for. Then, to impress further, four of them take down sixty T’lan Imass.
And you have to love the reaction to the T’lan Imass rising up: “What a day.” I think that single line tells us a lot about Itkovian.
As does his concern about the recruit. First, his dismay over how the encounter may have broken her. Then his concern that she has a naive notion that seeing the K’Chain destroyed by the T’lan Imass will “silence the cries within you,” followed by his use of the concept of “armor” as we’ve seen running throughout these first few books via the Malazans.
And what a great close to this section. After we get the dots connected for us with regard to the barrows, Morn, the Matron, the K’Chain undead, etc. we get that fantastic image after Itkovian mentions “Pannion”: “He drew breath to say more, then fell silent, realizing that over ten thousand withered, undead faces were turned towards him.” Talk about a pregnant moment. Then the closing shot: “A Jaghut word. A Jaghut name.”
And since we’ve now got the prologue scene fresh in our memory, let’s use it by switching over to Toc’s POV and see that prologue yet again from the mind of the Ay that had wandered away from those creatures stuck in the mire, the one whose tracks Pran Chole had noted—Baaljagg. And when wee Baaljagg runs into the Elder God, we can see the time scale some of these beings work on, setting in motion events or preserving those that will be “needed” for millennia. We’re given a puzzle here as well—who or what is the “lost spirit torn form its flesh” that has merged with Baaljagg, bringing “yet another layer of loss and pain”? And what is it that Baaljagg seeks, what sort of “redress”? (A word that will have some serious repercussion in this book, by the way.) What does it have to do with Toc, Tool and Garath? This question gets at least partially answered by Tool, who when asked says Baaljagg wants “an end to her loneliness.” I will say we have most of the pieces to this puzzle already—that “loss and pain” and “loneliness,” the form of the creature the lost spirit is merged, and the vehicle through which Toc “sees” Baaljagg’s past are all important to keep in mind. Amanda, you did a great job following down some trains of thought. And keep in mind that “dreamworld” as well.
We find out how Toc lost his eye—a piece of Moon’s Spawn—the divulging of which leads Tool to give Toc a new name: Touched by Stone (Aral Fayle), referring to Obelisk (or Menhir in the older Deck of Holds). Tool then reveals the meaning of his own name: “Flawed Flint.” Once again, I love the dry humor:
“There are layers of meaning.”
“So I’d guessed.”
Then more backstory on Tool and Kilava is interrupted by yet another vision by Toc, who sees “through a beast’s eyes, but not the Ay.” I like the how Toc’s sense of self being “swallowed, his identity swept away before the storm of another’s creature’s thoughts” is reverse mirrored by that creature’s return to self-awareness: “so long since life found shape with words, with awareness . . . To find oneself now, at the very end.” Then we get some memories that place us clearly at the Soletaken ritual of the First Empire, a scene that has been referenced multiple times so that by now it should come quickly to mind. And finally we’re given a name—one we’ve been set up for with the torcs and a few other references—”Treach . . . Trake, the Tiger of Summer.” (Which begs the question, what just tore apart a god of war?)
Remember we’d been told earlier, when the torcs are discussed, that he lost himself in his beast form centuries ago. His memories fill in that First Empire scene a bit more—in typical Erikson fashion events are repeated and returned to and refracted through different eyes so they slowly come more fully into view. We know the T’lan came in and slaughtered nearly everyone (a “merciful” slaughter the older, wiser Treach now knows), but we get more:
“we tore a warren to pieces . . . Turned the eastlands into molten stone that cooled and became something that defied sorcery [Otataral].”
We learn he fled with friends whom we’ve met earlier: Ryllandaras (the wolves from DG) and Messremb (the bear from DG). And that mention of Messremb’s “kind soul” and loyalty makes his death in DG sting all over again. Mappo had mentioned that he thought Treach had killed Ryllandaras, and here we learn Treach had knocked him (in jackal form) off a ledge. We’ll hear/see more about this later in this reread. Treach also recalls how Ryllandaras had gone further in the art of shapeshifting than any, seeming able to be both Soletaken and D’ivers and multiple forms (Jackal, wolf, Ay’tog, Agkor). He also has memories of a one-eyed wolf, whom we’ve obviously met. And finally we found out who killed (nearly) Treach—four K’Chain.
Kilava then appears and kills the K’Chain. And that is something to pause and think about. After all, we’ve seen roughly the same number of K’Chain stretch Bauchelain and Broach to their utmost limit (wading through a mess of Bauchelain’s demons); take on the small alliance of three ensorcelled Barghast, a set of caravan guards, Bauchelain and Broach, and a priest of K’rul; kill 20 Grey Swords in a flash, and destroy 60 T’lan Imass. Not to mention kill the Tiger God of War. So think about that for a moment as you ponder Kilava’s abilities. By the way, I know we don’t get her name yet, but Amanda has already pointed out the clue: her panther form/fur. And note she is “smooth-skinned” (didn’t partake of the Ritual). Not to mention her bitterness toward her own kind: “It [killing] is our singular skill.”
So where will Treach end up once he dies? What presence is riding Toc that has returned Treach to himself when he was so lost in his beast form (“beast” is a good clue). And Treach, it appears, will end up somewhere besides Hood’s gates because, in a nice echo of the scene we just saw with Baaljagg, he is seen by an Elder God as being “needed.”
Speaking of echoes, we get another when Toc, via an Elder God’s voice in his head, realizes Kilava “seeks redress.” We also get in that “conversation” that things are going to take a turn for the worse for poor Toc—”I must send you into the Seer’s embrace [file “embrace” by the way]. I do not think you will forgive me.” And mention of what I’ve said repeatedly is one of the major themes/topics of this series: compassion. And we get a brief aside with regard to Kruppe’s influence on events as it is Kruppe seemingly who has awakened this Elder God (Which, yes Amanda, I think with the Kruppe reference we can safely assume here is K’rul) to “the gifts unimagined” in compassion.
We get another running theme in the touching farewell between Kilava and Tool: “our past ever dogs our trail.” And I love that image after the farewell, Tool on his knees and Toc’s hand upon his shoulder. And then the subtle recognition of what has occurred via Senu speaking to Toc.
I think it’s probably never a good sign when the God of Death (Hood) is “troubled,” so I’m with Lady Envy on that it “bodes ill.”
So we’re wandering through Callows thinking more work of the Pannion Seer, and instead we find out its doom came via a whole other enemy (though one linked, as the Pannion is, to the Crippled God). A “warren-twisted fleet. Cold-eyed, unhuman killers. Seeking . . . a worthy challenge.” But as K’rul says, “one enemy at a time.” (So, yes Amanda, we will come back to this fleet).
For all the planning K’rul has put into this, all the pieces move along the board, we get a reminder that the damn humans (and others) don’t always do what is expected. In this case, K’rul hadn’t thought the Seguleh would send the Third to deal with the Pannion and had expected a few hundred initiates instead.
The conversation between K’rul and Envy also, typically, gives us a tiny bit more info on a much-referenced event, in this case the chaining of the CG. It appears Envy chose not to involve herself and without her power, the chainers incurred a greater cost. Including the loss of Dassem Ultor as an ally when he was “broken by Hood’s taking of his daughter.” When Envy tells K’rul “you’re not the boss of me” (in so many words), he floods her with the knowledge that the warrens she chooses to use are his personal sacrifice and we get more on that sacrifice and the warren’s formations:
“Darkness. Then chaos . . . a universe devoid . . . of meaning . . . Entities flung through the maelstrom . . . the birth of light. A sudden sharpening—pain as of wrists opened . . . a savage imposition of order, the heard from which blood flowed . . . Twin chambers to that heart—Kurald Galain, the Warren of Mother Dark—and Starvald Demelain—the Warren of Dragons.”
K’rul doesn’t get on the high horse very often, but I kinda like this moment where he does. And note how quickly he asks for forgiveness once his anger cools a bit. So now we get a big picture strategy: K’rul is opening up a two-front war on the Pannion. The more traditional army a la the Malazans, etc. on one front, and a much smaller though no less fearsome “army” made up of Envy’s group. But it isn’t simply a war to the death, perhaps. File away K’rul’s willingness to let others decide what to do once the Pannion is reached, and that one option is to “free all that has been bound for three hundred thousand years.” Another important piece of info is K’rul’s “there is something else to that man, something wild. We shall have to await its wakening.” And it will wake.
Finally, not a bad idea to note how K’rul speaks of the CG. He is “frightened” of him for sure, and he speaks of his desire/hunger for vengeance. Yet he also recognizes that the CG “exists in endless, tormenting pain, shattered, broken within and without” and when Envy dismisses the CG as “driven by ambition [and] lust for power,” K’rul replies “perhaps, perhaps not. Time will tell as the mortals say.” So maybe K’rul is learning something from the mortals with regard to the CG. And let’s not forget what Kruppe has awakened (or reawakened possibly) him to.
Speaking of compassion, it’s hard not to feel it for Pran Chole as he looks on the T’lan Ay and thinks of what a cruel disservice the Imass did to them by selfishly wrapping them up in their ritual.
Back at the scene of the attack on Gruntle, Erikson continues to tease us with slowly dragging out just what happened, just who is dead, on the verge of death and so on. And more dry humor: “do these undead warriors hold grudges?” Too, too funny that one.
Speaking of the T’lan Imass, note how Bendal Home replies to Brukhalian when they discuss possible alliance: “it may well be that we become . . . of less value to you . . . upon completion of the Gathering [ellipses Erikson’s].” Think about how they might be of “less value.”
And more, ahem, “dry” humor when the T’lan end their discussion by dissolving into dust:
“I take it we need not offer our guests accommodations.”
And from T’lan Imass to Jaghut, as Hood sends his herald to Brukhalian. As readers, of course, we’ve already seen Fener pulled down. Here we get a bit more on the repercussions of this as Gethol tells Brukhalian that “the loss of your patron’s power is imminent” and then later, after Brukhalian seems ready to refuse, “Fener shall be the first casualty in the war with the Crippled God. The Boar shall fall—and none can save him.” Now, all that may be true, but one should perhaps be a mite more tactful when speaking of a God to one of his most pious (and powerful) adherents. It would have been interesting to see the clash between Brukhalian and Gethol, but it’s alas, interrupted by a much-older argument. I love the understated: “We greet you, Jaghut.” And I’ve got to say, did Gethol really think the Imass wouldn’t take him on there? So Hood’s offer appears to be withdrawn for the moment, but don’t forget about this attempt to poach away another god’s followers.
And now, finally, pages and pages later, we learn the cost of that K’Chain attack on Gruntle’s party: Harllo and Netok. And a hint of the impact on both Stonny and Gruntle. Not a very uplifting chapter close.
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.