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 Chapters 11, 12 and 13 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!
Picker and Antsy’s squad is bored and nervous and acting out among themselves. Picker is worried about Quick Ben being late, Paran being green, Whiskeyjack not around, and the lingering effects of what they consider betrayal at Pale. Blend tells her Dujek isn’t really outlawed and that WJ and Quick Ben probably are in on it. She points out Aranthos’ arrival coming right after the alleged outlawing and suspects he’s a high-ranking claw. Mallet has akin to a very bad sunburn due to the Crippled God’s poison in the warrens.
Quick Ben emerges from Hood’s warren after some difficulty. He suspects the Pannion Domin is a “feint” by the CG, that perhaps the Pannion Seer doesn’t even know he’s being used, is just a pawn.
Paran’s group is at the clan gathering of the White Face Barghast. Twist explains the Barghast hostility toward the Moranth is ancient and based on “false” memories. Trotts is making a claim to leadership and is going to face one of Humbrall Taur’s sons in one-on-one challenge. Paran thinks of Twist’s withered arm, ruined by a Rhivi spirit so that it will slowly kill him unless he gets “god’s healing touch.” Twist mentions Paran doesn’t appear well, but Paran dismisses it, then says he needs Twist to do something for him.
Paran looks at the crowd of Barghast before the challenge, noting Taur’s main rival Maral Eb of the Barahn Clan and the strangely armored Gilk. Corporal Aimless tells Paran some soldiers have some munitions ready in case things go bad and when Paran tells him to “stow it,” Aimless says they may just ignore Paran’s orders. Paran sends him back to the men telling them it’s a stupid idea. Trotts fights using Malazan tactics and weapons and wins, killing Taur’s son, but has his windpipe crushed. A healer, Mulch, performs a trach on Trotts and saves his life for at least a while. Paran has to tell a group of soldiers to stand down (they do) then converses with Humbrall Taur, who tells him he’s not sure what he’s decided yet (the fact that Trotts may still die doesn’t help). Twist arrives with Mallet (the favor Paran had asked earlier).
Quick Ben is slowly recovering from the effects of Hood’s warren, thanks in part to the presence of the Barghast spirits which resist the Crippled God’s poison. The squad wonders what they’ll find when they arrive, having no news since Twist picked up Mallet. Quick Ben is suddenly pulled into the ground by hands and when Picker tries to grab him he tells her to let him go. Spindle says it was Barghast spirits. Picker decides to wait to see if Quick will re-emerge.
Quick Ben finds himself in a long-forgotten Barghast warren. The spirits are ancient, a mix of Imass and Toblakai before they became modern Barghast. Talamandas appears and tells Quick Ben Trotts won the challenge but may still die, which means Taur will probably kill the Malazans to get rid of the distraction while he has to deal with probably civil war among the Barghast. He points to the spirits and says while the soldiers are here, the warchiefs, the Founding Spirits are not, though they’ve been found by Hetan in Capustan. Talamandas tried to tell Taur but was driven away by the shouldermen, as they do with all ancient spirits, preferring the weaker, younger spirits who offer “comfort” rather than wisdom. Taur, he says, knows this is a problem, that the young spirits are too weak to resist the Pannion Domin and so the Barghast will be killed or enslaved. Talamandas asks Quick Ben to tell him the Founding Spirits have been found. Quick Ben asks that the spirits help Trotts survive by channeling his power through Mallet.
Mallet tells Paran he might not be much help due to his warren issues, but he’s willing to try though it will likely kill him. He goes to Trotts and opens his warren, giving up his own life force even as it begins to fade on him, but then he’s pulled by hands (the Barghast spirits) who tell him to “take from us . . . take our power.” And as they say, it is a “costly” path, for Mallet walks on a “carpet of corpses—his path through the poisoned horror of his warren.” He heals Trotts.
Paran is chewing himself up over ordering Mallet to his probable death: “who are you to balance lives? To gauge worth . . . this is a nightmare. I’m done with it.” Mulch tells him both Trotts and Mallet will live.
Mulch and Aimless watch Paran straighten himself and head for Taur’s tent and think he’s “cold as a Jaghut winter” and that he “might make it after all.” They spot Picker’s squad on the ridge.
Paran tells Taur Trotts lives and is making his leadership claim. When Taur replies he “has no tribe,” Paran disagrees and says it’s the 38 Bridgeburners, a point Trotts made when he fought Malazan style. Taur says he understood that and warns that Trotts has never commanded, so Paran will need to watch him. Despite Trotts’ claim, Taur says the Barghast will not march on Capustan, the city that has taken so many Barghast youth: “Each year we lose more . . . their traders come among us with nothing of value . . . and would strip my people naked if they could.” Taur continues by explaining though he knows the Pannion will march on the Barghast, Taur can only hold eight of twenty-seven tribes. He adds the Bridgeburners are still in danger because some of the tribes are claiming they “cheated” basically by using necromancy to bring Trotts back to life and also because of general distrust due to the Malazans’ conquering ways and alliance with the hated Moranth. Paran leaves and Picker tells him Quick Ben hasn’t woken up since he returned from the Barghast warren. Paran tells them to get Mallet and goes to see Quick Ben. Mallet wakes Quick by slapping him. Paran fills Quick Ben in on everything and Quick says he can do something about Taur’s not caring about Capustan.
Blend and Picker watch the night’s craziness in the camp: sex and fights (some to the death). Picker’s torcs are getting hot, something it appears they’ve done before as she mentions regular dousings in a water barrel. Blend says the night feels strange and reminds her of when they’d stumbled into a “Rhivi Burn Ground” in the Blackdog Forest (or swamp?) and were saved by a wing of Black Moranth. Blend says spirits are loose tonight, ancestor spirits, not the “big ones” which makes her wonder where they are. Blend heads off and Spindle shows up saying it’s a bad night and that Paran and the others (Quick etc.) haven’t come out of Taur’s tent. Picker tells him to go off and have some fun and he says his Mother would be offended. When Picker says his mother is dead, Spindle appears to get whacked on the head by an invisible hand and Picker wonders if all the ancestors are out tonight, leading her to think to herself if “Da” shows up she’ll slit his throat like she did the first time.
Paran steps from Taur’s tent thinking “the real battle is done” now that the Barghast spirits are awake. Quick Ben asks if Paran can feel the Elder Spirits and says the “Old Ones have joined with their younger spirit kin. The forgotten warren is forgotten no more,” adding this means the tribes will unite to free the gods in Capustan. Paran asks if Quick Ben knew the Moranth and Barghast were related and Quick says “more or less”, noting it doesn’t matter if the Barghast disapprove as the spirits have embraced Twist and the Moranth. When Quick mentions Paran will have to teach Trotts command/responsibility, Paran think he can’t do it himself: “I need only look into Whiskeyjack’s face to understand that no one can—no one who has a heart . . . We learn to achieve but one thing . . . to hide our thoughts . . . to bury our humanity deep in our souls.”
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eleven:
Contributing to that illusion of flexibility was the sheer resiliency of the Malazan military structure, and a foundation bolstered by profound knowledge, and insightful analysis, of disparate and numerous styles of warfare.
Here is a simply wonderful description of the Malazan soldiers, which helps to shed light on what makes them so awesome.
*grins* The Bridgeburners are properly ace, aren’t they? That simply cannot be said enough. Spindle particularly makes me laugh, “Got a mage wearing his dead mother’s hair and every time he opens his warren we get attacked by snarling ground squirrels.”
Got a massive sense of foreshadowing concerning Picker’s torcs and the fact that Trake has ascended to godhood... Erikson specifically mentions that the torcs are bothering Picker, which means I am Paying Attention!
This passage is just a bundle of quotable lines, snarky dialogue and bored soldiers needling each other. I simply love it. Like, “Look, you got Detoran all blushing in between punching Hedge senseless.” Have to say, here I’m reminded of the way Mal and Zoe talk in Firefly. Funny how many parts of Erikson’s work can be compared to Firefly. *winks*
I also love the fact that casual violence and injury is so clearly dismissed—they don’t care much that Hedge has been knocked out cold. When I think about it, I’m not sure why casual violence should be so appealing, in all honesty, but here it seems almost harmless: the rough and tumble of children rather than anything malicious. Compared to the truly horrendous violence and nastiness we’ve seen elsewhere, it definitely seems harmless....
Dash it all, here comes another of my “let’s read way too much into this moments.” Here it is where Picker says, “Rubbed Detoran’s fur the wrong way.” Makes me think about literal fur, and then Soletaken/D’ivers stuff. Guess I’m waaaay wrong on that one, huh? [Bill: Yep.]
Beneath the laughter generated by the antics of the Bridgeburners, Picker’s internal thoughts definitely make the reader pause and consider what is happening here: “Squad’s not gelling too good. Antsy ain’t no Whiskeyjack, Spindle ain’t Quick Ben, and I ain’t no Corporal Kalam neither. If there was a best of the best among the Bridgeburners, it was the Ninth.” Here is both a reminder that squads have been forced together, and that the people Picker dwells on are particularly special individuals.
And now quick grief for the Bridgeburners—betrayed by their own:
“It broke us,” Blend said.
Since it has been mentioned, it does make me wonder about the current effectiveness of the Bridgeburners. What are they going to experience when they next head into battle? I have a real sense of foreboding right now. Haven’t the Bridgeburners suffered enough? [Bill: Oh my, no.]
Here is a quick poke at the idea of power—is it honestly just warren magic that makes Quick Ben the person he is? He appears to think so, but I reckon his reputation precedes him by now.
The last half-day had been spent in a desperate, seemingly endless struggle to extricate himself from Hood’s realm, yet he knew it to be the least poisoned among all the warrens he commonly used. The others would have killed him. The realization left him feeling bereft—a mage stripped of his power, his vast command of his own discipline made meaningless, impotent.
I also have two thoughts based on this quotation—firstly, it seems as though the poison is from the Crippled God is spreading faster than anyone believed. Now...is this because he is growing in strength because of taking on a Herald and starting to build his House? Is it because the Pannion Seer is disrupting everything? [Bill: The two are not disconnected.] Are his chains becoming weaker? The other thought that occurs is concerning Quick Ben—he says the warrens he most commonly uses are stained and poisoned. Is the Crippled God targeting him directly? Does the Crippled God know more about Quick Ben than others do? Are all the warrens as bad, or are they going to end up relying on those warrens that have not been impacted by The Crippled God? I can think of the Barghast and the T’lan Imass as two such sources of magic... Any more?
Erikson certainly seems to be trying to persuade us that the Barghast are animalistic and barbaric, what with the rituals, the bloodletting and the rampant sexual attention. To me, they feel very much like prehistoric men and women seemed to be, as though they haven’t developed as they might have. Is this due to the fact their gods have not been present and leading them for eons?
Hmm, despite the fact that Taur’s son is an esteemed fighter, is it not an insult to Trotts that an untried boy—not yet a man—is being put up against him for the duel? Is this a reflection of how Taur and his followers perceive Trotts?
“And to that time... unless that time is now, and the throne remains, waiting... waiting for a new occupant. Did it seem that way for the Emperor? When he found himself before the Throne of Shadow? Power, domination over the dread Hounds, all but a single step away?”
A little unclear on Paran’s thoughts concerning the vacant throne in the Hold of the Beasts—is he pondering whether it is for him to take the step? Or is he wondering who will sit the throne?
It is interesting to have a quick look at the individual clans that make up the White Face nation. Since this is as much information as Erikson ever gives us straight out like this, I’m assuming it will be key to a later scene or scenes. [Bill: Some of them much, much later.] So I shall remember the Ahkrata, particular enemies of the Moranth from their armour, who are also avowed enemies of the Ilgres who now fight for Brood; the Barahn Clan and Taur’s closest rival Maral Eb; and the strange Gilk.
I am also struck by Humbrall Taur—this Barghast who has managed to bring together all the Clans and tribes, with promises of returning the bones of their Founding Families. How long can the uneasy alliance last? And what will happen if Taur ever falls?
Everything pricks at me and urges me to call it out—like the horde of ancient, unknown money that the Senan garb themselves in.
And those cool little moments that break the tension still make me laugh! This time the witless dog who disturbs all Taur’s build-up.
I really love the fact that Trotts comes out for his duel in the armour of a Malazan soldier—it shows his true loyalty, in my opinion.
Ouch! Surely not the time to tell Paran that the Bridgeburners are not entirely behind him. But the manner in which he is told also sends me into fits—that might just be my odd sense of humour though, “Yes, sir. It’s just that, uh, some—nine, maybe ten—well, they’re muttering about maybe doing whatever they please and to Hood with you... sir.” It’s that “sir” that gets me!
You know something? Paran takes his responsibilities seriously, he wanted to be Captain of the Bridgeburners, he enjoys being a soldier (I think!), so it seems dramatically out of character for him not to get to know the ins and outs of the people under his command (like not knowing that Aimless is so hard ass). Perhaps a sign that he is incredibly shaken by the new role that he refuses to take.
I do like Paran’s analysis of the battle between Trotts and Taur’s son—it adds greater depth and understanding rather than just Erikson’s energetic descriptions. It also allows Erikson to highlight the difference between soldiers of the Malazan Empire and the hordes of barbarian soldiers they fight.
Ack, what a stomach-turning end to the battle as well! Not just intestines tumbling free, but a gush of fluids. *chokes*
The quick tracheotomy performed by Mulch is of interest to me, because it shows that magic is not wholly relied upon (especially now that the warrens are infested), and also that “science” is working its way into the Malazan world.
Ahh, here is the Paran we know and love—his quick thinking to send for Mallet, who will be able to save Trotts.
I’m not keen on the fact that Quick Ben is again dragged into the ground by unknown hands—this repetition could be considered a build of style, but I am just frustrated by it.
Ack, typos in books make me squirm:
“He reached for her, a look a dumb amazement on his face... (sic).”
I’m using the Bantam mass market paperback, issued in the U.K. *grins*
Alright, Antsy might be growing on me. I definitely giggled at the idea of him panicking about having taken the head off Quick Ben with a shovel!
Ugh, the Barghast warren isn’t exactly a pleasant place—I wonder if it will liven up any and improve as it swings into use again? Who harried the Barghast on their trip across the ocean—the Tiste Edur?
Talamandas showcases part of the relationship between a people and their gods—the idea that a people would come to prefer youth and comfort versus age and wisdom.
*weeps* Mallet’s quiet acceptance of whatever fate awaits him makes me truly echo Paran here, “Who—what are these soldiers?”
This scene with the healing of Trotts by Mallet is exceptionally well done—the pain of the poisoned warren of Denul, the horror that Mallet feels as his soul is seemingly being rent in two, the undead offering their power to show Mallet the way back and to heal both he and Trotts. This is one of those scenes that you can easily imagine in a film.
Poor Paran... He finds the knowledge hard that he sent Mallet to possible death, and yet is the new Master of the Deck, which I sense will entail so much worse...
“No more, Paran, you cannot steel yourself to this life, to these choices. Who are you to balance lives? To gauge worth, to measure flesh by the pound? No, this was a nightmare. I’m done with it.”
It probably isn’t done with him, though! And, ironically, it appears that Paran’s cold allowance of Mallet to heal Trotts has started to win the respect of his men and women.
Ah, I didn’t recognise the importance of the fact that Trotts chose to fight as a Malazan, and is therefore now the commander, by dint of his win, of the Bridgeburners... Have I read that right? And Taur asks Paran to keep an eye on Trott, because he isn’t a leader?
Hahaha! After the deep talk about Quick Ben and his survival from the Barghast warren, it is rather funny to see Mallet slap him away! And then Quick Ben’s overwhelming arrogance as Paran asks, “What do you know about it?” and Quick Ben replies, “Only everything.” Surely this should be Quick Ben’s tagline?
Febrile = fevered. Nice to see Erikson using this in the correct manner and context. I have read another author who didn’t understand the word and used it incorrectly!
Ah! I delight in Picker! She is one of my new favourite characters. *grins* Especially when she tells Spindle to go and have some fun, because he won’t be around in nine months! I am concerned about those damned torcs though....
But what a melancholy note to end the chapter on—Paran’s feeling that he has to bury his humanity deep in his soul in order to take command.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eleven:
The opening scene does a nice job of multi-tasking. It offers us some comic relief (“attacked by snarling ground squirrels” is one of my favorite lines as well, Amanda), a sense of pressure, a quick reminder or intro thumbnail cast list, as well as further reminder of past plot points (Treach’s torcs, the Enfilade of Pale, the fake “outlawing,” the warren’s poisoning by the Crippled God), and showing the pressure the company is feeling. Very concisely efficient.
We see more evidence of Quick Ben’s perception as he suspects the Pannion Seer is merely a pawn, something we’ve had earlier evidence of as well, which is why your questions about the two—the CG and the Seer—are not disconnected Amanda
Paran’s broad view of the Barghast clans sets the crowd scene, but it also introduces us, as you guess due to its level of detail, to some folk/groups/concepts that will be important down the line. And I do mean “down the line.” Talk about some early bricklaying.
Note the tight narrative line drawn between Trott’s claim to lineage of the “First Founders” and Hetan’s actions back in Capustan as well as Kruppe’s delivery to the Mhybe of the First Spirits’ gift.
I also like how Trott’s employs the Malazan tactics, and how it also ties into the opening to this chapter. And the larger point it makes about how Trott’s has been integrated fully into the Malazan Empire, not a bad point of ambassadorship. Not simply showing where his loyalty lies, as you say, but that it doesn’t matter that his loyalty once lay elsewhere, something we’ve seen before, the most prominent perhaps being Coltaine. The military has had (and may still have in the future) its problems with nobles buying in, but it’s also a meritocracy, that doesn’t just reward its recruits from other cultures, but is rewarded by them as well.
I was a fan too of how the trach shows that the healers are flexible, not taking the lazy way out of relying purely on magic but instead employing “low-tech” healing as well. And sharing knowledge as well rather than hoarding it. Another strength of the Malazan Empire.
I enjoyed how running under the obvious excitement of this section, with its fight scene and tense “is it all going to blow up” moments, is the secondary plot line of Paran cementing his place among his soldiers, gaining their respect for instance by as you point out Amanda, how shrewd a move it was to have Twist go find Mallet and bring him as quick as possible.
Yes, it does seem a running issue with Quick Ben and getting dragged under. First we had him pulled under by the servants of Burn to save him (and themselves/Burn) from the Crippled God, and now the Barghast spirits pull him down and into their warren. Spirits we’d been set up for at the start of the scene when Quick Ben told Picker the “Barghast spirits are thick here and getting thicker.” I’d also note, in a sort of slanted way, we get the same imagery when Quick Ben “claws himself” free of Hood’s warren. I can’t say the repetition bothered me much—anybody have the same reaction as Amanda?
While we’re on patterns, Quick Ben quickly places himself in a “long-dead warren, decayed by the loss of human memory. The living Barghast know nothing of this place, yet it is where their dead go—assuming they make it this far.” We’ve had several references in this book to dying/faded/forgotten warrens and spirit places, as well as discussion on where the dead go and what, if anything, awaits them there. Just in the prior scene even, Picker is somewhat depressed by the idea of what awaits the soldiers in Hood’s realm based on what little Quick Ben has to say and how he appears having just come from there (not, by the way, an idle thought on Picker’s part). And we learn from Talamandas that because this place (Talamandas names it the “First Landing”: more “firsts” and founding going on) is forgotten, the Barghast dead go “nowhere and everywhere,” a fact that probably wouldn’t please them so much.
Mallet is another great character and here we see a sign of that as he takes it as a matter of course that an attempt to heal Trotts will most likely kill him. Such grace under pressure impresses even the Master of the Deck: “Look at the bastard. Not a falter in his step. Not a blink at his fate. Who—what are these soldiers?” To use an earlier line from the series, the soldier “stands.” We’ll see this time and time again, book after book, and it will never fail to move me. As does the sacrifice of the Barghast spirits.
Paran in this scene appears to me to be just the kind of leader you want—one who isn’t enamored of power, especially power of life and death. It’s the old line about politicians—the ones you want are the ones who never think of running.
One of the small but recurring themes in this series that adds to its depth and seriousness is the idea of what happens to native peoples. It’s impossible not to hear Taur bemoan the way the “big city” (Capustan) pulls at his people, enticing the young to that way of life and thus wreaking havoc on the Barghast without the obviousness of actual warfare, and not think of how this has played out repeatedly in our own world. We’ll see this on another continent as well later in the series.
I love how Mallet uses his subtle magery by just slapping Quick Ben awake. More “low-tech” effectiveness.
Picker and Blend’s conversation reminds us that as huge as this series is, we’re being dropped into the middle of these people’s lives. They’ve already fought exciting battles, had suspenseful tough-and-go near-death experiences, grieved over dead friends we’ve never met. This is a book to us, a mere chapter to them. More reason this world can feel so rich and these characters so real; we don’t get the sense they sprang like Athena from the head of Zeus fully formed simply to act their parts on the stage of some author’s story. And Picker’s personal memory of killing her father, which takes the reader even further back in time, reminds us that they have stories beyond the “book-worthy” soldiering as well.
Three weeks after he left Envy’s group and joined the Tenescowri, Toc reaches a mountain fort—Outlook—with the Tenescowri army. He has gotten the attention of the army’s leader, Anaster, and rides with his lieutenants at the army’s head. The army awaits the appearance of the Pannion Seer, who will bless them from a tower’s balcony at dawn. Toc thinks how the Seer must be feeling fear with the destruction Envy’s group is causing as they come closer. Toc is slowly starving to death as he refuses to turn cannibal. He wonders what drew Anaster’s attention and worries he suspects.
Anaster refuses his touch to all save his mother, whom Toc fears most of all, seeing something “demonic” in her eyes. Having seen them kill and then get the seed of the freshly dead, Toc thinks there is “some poison within the Seer and whatever god spoke through him. A poison that seemed born of familial memories...a child betrayed perhaps. A child led by the hand into terror and pain..." News arrives to Anaster that the siege is nearly complete around Capustan and the Tenescowri may arrive too late to “partake.” The Seer, though, has “gifted” them with the citizens of Coral, across the Ortnal Cut (a body of water). Anaster also says the Seer has demanded to see Toc, whom they call “The Defier”), noting as well that Toc’s eye has changed to a “wolf’s eye that so gleams in the dark.” Toc thinks he is going to his death and is relieved.
On his way, Toc thinks of rumors he’s heard of Envy’s progress. Three pitched battles involving legions as well as Domin sorcerers haven’t stopped her group and resulted in thousands dead. He thinks he never would have survived.
Toc meets the Seer. He sees “a corpse, yet a creature dwelt within the husk, animating it . . . Tow beings, the living hiding behind the dead.” The Seer, meanwhile, tells Toc he has “a wolf’s eye in truth . . . More than a wolf’s eye that you see so clearly what no one else has.” The Seer questions how he, a Malazan, got separated from the northern army then asks if Envy’s group are friends of his. The Seer says he has heard Toc does not eat and he offers up meat to him as a test. Toc eats and the Seer tells him it is not human flesh, but venison, something Toc knew due to his wolf’s sense of smell. The Seer heals Toc and tells him that since mortal armies can’t defeat Envy’s group, he will “dismiss the enemy with my own hand.” Toc watches power build around the Seer, and notes it is cold and smells of ice.
Toc sees through Baaljaag’s eye. Tool is badly damaged. The ay feels the cold sorcery and it raises memories. Envy and Tool recognize the sorcery as well, and consider it “an imaginable alliance” between Jaghut and K’chain Che’Malle. Neither Tool nor Envy can defeat the sorcery. Sleet begins to fall.
Toc is back inside the tower. He sees the Jaghut inside the Seer’s body more clearly, and from it “grey roots roped down from the body’s legs, chaotic power, plunging down . . . twisting with something like pain or ecstasy.” Toc realizes the Jaghut is drawing on “another sorcery, something older, far more deadly than Omtose Phellack.” The Seer has sensed Toc’s linkage with Baaljagg and says, “the one within you readies for its rebirth . . . alas, the Beast Throne is vacant, neither you nor that beast god can match my strength.” He begins to scream, calling Toc a liar, and in that moment Toc sees him as a child. The Seer breaks his bones with sorcery than throws him someplace dark, where Toc is grabbed “in the yearning hug of giant, reptilian arms.” The Seer’s sorcery allows Toc’s bones to break and his body to tear but then it heals him so it can all happen again. The Seer speaks in Toc’s mind, telling him “You are worthy to take my place in that sweet motherly hug. Oh, she is mad . . . yet the sparks of need reside within her . . . beware or it will devour you as it did me—until I grew so foul she spat me back out. Need, when it overwhelms, becomes poison, Toc the Younger. The great corrupter of love, and so it shall corrupt you.”
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve:
The Pannion is a woman, right? [Bill: Hmmm, what leads you toward a woman? I’m curious if I missed something or if we interpreted things differently.] We’ve had a couple of hints as much up until now, and the extract at the start of Chapter Twelve seems to cement that idea... Curled around what grief? Which women do we know so far in the series who have suffered grief? Hmm, better by far to say which ones haven’t and rule them out....
Condors straight away lend a feeling of foreboding to the start of the chapter—huge raptors watching over the Tenescowri, probably in the hopes of easy prey!
Oh Toc... *feels pain* The description of his passage so far, his cynical observations on the fact that the Seer has now experienced fear, his clear starvation because he refuses to feast on the bodies of those that have been killed. It presents a stark and horrifying picture. Toc seems to be losing his humanity [Bill: A running theme, think of what you just said about Paran.] in the seething horde of Tenescowri.
I almost can’t bear reading this section of the novel—it actually sickens me. Especially the idea of those women once being normal human beings, residing in villages and looking after their families. I think this quote is of particular importance, “There was a poison within the Pannion Seer and whatever god spoke through him. A poison that seemed born of familial memories. Memories powerful enough to dismember those most ancient of bonds. A child betrayed, perhaps.”
Oh my word. Lady Envy is kicking ass and taking names, isn’t she? “Three engagements, three broken armies, thousands dead, the rest attempting to flee but always caught by Lady Envy’s relentless wrath.”
Poor, poor Toc—practically dying on his feet as he approaches the Pannion Seer. And those scenes of torture chambers! Just too much. Erikson really is laying on the darkness in this chapter....
What is this Seer? A dead body animated by a living soul? Soul of whom? Is the Crippled God within the Pannion Seer? Or is it some other god? I’m noting once again that Toc’s new eye really allows him to see to the heart of everything that is mysterious and shrouded. [Bill: But is it Toc’s eye?]
Oooh! OOH! “Cold, that sorcery. The smell of ice on the wind—here are memories, ancient memories—whose?” Mention again that the Pannion Seer is connected in some manner to the Jaghut! And this is then reinforced by Toc’s sight of Tool and Lady Envy talking. Which Jaghut is it? Someone we have already met?
Dear god. *draws a breath* What the hell is going on at the end of this chapter? Who is the reptilian captor? I think that the Jaghut has somehow linked up with the Matron who escaped, and that is why the K’Chain Che’Malle are willing to fight for the Pannion Seer—the unprecedented alliance. Right, people? Or wrong? And POOR TOC! He is not having a good day AT ALL.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve:
Outpost being described as the color of “water-thinned blood” is probably not the greatest omen for what’s going to happen in this chapter. The same goes as you say for the Condors wheeling around.
I go back and forth on Toc’s recognition of “the metaphor made real . . . there is no obfuscating the brutal truth. Our rulers devour us. They always have.” On the one hand, I tend to prefer those sort of things not be laid out so bluntly; let the reader figure out the metaphor. On the other hand, this is such a blunt metaphor in its own right, I’m not sure it’s stealing much from the reader to have Toc state it. And it tells us something about Toc. As well as reminding us of all those other soldiers we’ve momentarily left behind, making us wonder how many of them will be devoured, and for what cause, whose will.
We’ve been set up for some time for a change coming to Toc. Here we have Toc himself commenting on it:
“he had been reshaped, twisted almost beyond recognition into something new . . . had left him cold, hardened, and feral.”
I like the wildness nature of this, as he’s obviously for some time now been linked to the wolf. I like too the precision of “feral” versus “wild” as Toc is going from civilized/domesticated to wild, so feral is more accurate than wild. I also like how this is in fact going to be what happens to Toc—he will be “torn,” “twisted,” and “reshaped.” And it is not going to be pretty. Remember how K’rul warned him (and therefore us) of this earlier.
We of course have had lots of clues that the Pannion Seer is a Jaghut. As you try and figure it out Amanda, think of how we get some more precise clues when Toc thinks of the power as “a child betrayed perhaps. A child led by the hand into terror and pain” and then sees the Jaghut inside the Seer later as a “child.” Consider where we’ve seen a Jaghut child in this book, one “led by the hand” and “betrayed”, one who was going to experience “terror and pain.”
Coral—that city is going to be a major setting of events in this series
A few chapters ago there was some discussion about the plausibility of Envy’s group taking on the armies of the Seer (with readers running the spectrum on the plausibility), as well as various other similar scenes. Here Erikson at least makes a nod to trying to show how this is being done. Beginning with Envy’s Elder magic that “rolled in broad waves, stripping the life from all it swept over, devouring rank upon rank, street by street, leaving bodies piled in the hundreds.” With that sort of magical support, one can see how her group presses on. Erikson is also wise to mention that a legion did once get somewhat close to Envy, and that Tool has been badly damaged and the others wounded, so it isn’t as if they’re just strolling through invincible.
Just want to point out the phrasing as Toc climbs: “the ascent of his entire life.”
A bit of foreshadowing as well from the Seer, when he tells Toc of the Beast God within him, and mentions the empty Beast Throne. File both those comments away.
The Mhybe is sitting in a wagon and thinking on the march, noting the Malazans “follow one man, and ask nothing of justification, or cause.” She wonders if they’ll follow Brood, “into the Abyss” then notes the Andii will certainly follow Rake into it, as will the Malazans behind Whiskeyjack and Dujek. Whiskyjack speaks with her and tells her they need her counsel, that she should tell him her nightmares. She tells him her enemy is death. When he starts to tell her he and she are too old to fear death, she interrupts and says she isn’t talking about Hood but what hides behind him: “not oblivion . . . a place crowded with fragmented memories—memories of pain, of despair . . . Love drifts like ashes . . . Even identity is gone . . . all that is left of you is doomed to an eternity of pain and terror—a succession of fragments from everyone—every thing that has ever lived . . . It is the true Abyss.” Whiskeyjack tells her perhaps it is her own imagination, that she is punishing herself “for what you perceive as your life’s failure.” It strikes her a bit home.
Whiskeyjack rides to join Dujek, Korlat, and Kruppe. He tells them the Mhybe is no better and has imagined a death that terrifies her. Korlat says Silverfox feels abandoned and bitter and is withdrawing. Whiskeyjack is feeling worn: his leg hurts, they haven’t heard from Paran and the Bridgeburners, they don’t know what is happening at Capustan, the warrens are impassable, Crone and the ravens are missing, the Trygalle Trade Guild is late with a shipment. Kruppe says the Guild will come through, no matter the cost. Whiskeyjack asks where Silverfox is, snaps at Korlat, then apologizes before heading to find Silverfox.
Whiskeyjack rides back to the rearguard where Silverfox is. Two marines are shadowing her, telling Whiskeyjack they’re doing so because she is Tattersail—“our cadre mage—and they guard her back as it’s a “fair exchange.” After they list all the ways they can kill/wound (including their teeth), Whiskeyjack surmises they grew up with brothers and shows them the scar from his little sister’s bite, “the first fight I ever lost.” When he joins Silverfox, who has overheard it all, she tells him “they’ll die for you now,” commenting on the way he binds his soldiers when he’s “being human.” She notes the similarity between them, both having ten thousand souls in their hands, and how that kind of pressure can “harden us a little more deep down.” When she says it makes “what was soft smaller, a little weaker,” Whiskeyjack says not weaker but “more concentrated, more selective” and that she feels it at all is a good sign it still exists. They’re interrupted by the appearance of the Trade Guild delivery, bringing a river of blood with them. Silverfox recognizes the blood as Krul’s, though she doesn’t name him, but says the blood belongs to “An Elder God’s. A friend’s.” The Trade Merchant, Haradas, says twenty or so demons tried to hitch a ride to get out of a “nightmare.”
Kallor scorns the “fools [who] prattle on and on in the command tent” worried about the tainted warrens, thinking “order ever succumbs to chaos . . . The world will do better without mages.” He sits on an ironwood throne breathing in an alchemical candle, a “Century Candle” that keeps him alive, gives him another hundred years. He says to himself that no matter how long a stretch of time goes by where he does nothing, he must wait those moments when he must act decisively, explosively, and compares himself to a predator in his waiting stillness. He recalls the eight wizards that called down the Crippled God in opposition to Kallor, the three gods that opposed him and how he destroyed his own empire, leaving it ashes rather than give them satisfaction, for that “is the privilege of the creator—to give then to take away.” He knows K’rul is now in opposition again, but revels that K’rul has found another enemy (the CG) and it is killing him as Kallor predicted/cursed, just as his curse came true with Nightchill, though she tries to recover from it via Silverfox (something Kallor aims to prevent). His memories are interrupted by the appearance of Gethol, whom Kallor recognizes. Gethol tells Kallor he is now Herald in the House of Chains. Kallor mocks the idea, saying the new House will be obliterated, to which Gethol replies that the House is not only fighting but is winning. Kallor says the strategy makes no sense, poisoning the warrens, destroying the very power the Chained God needs. But Gethol says it isn’t really a poisoning but an “infection,” an attempt to cause an “alteration” so that while impassable to the CG’s enemies, his servants will be able to use them. He then offers Kallor the position of High King in the House. When Kallor says he will not bow to the CG, Gethol says the CG is trapped in his long-dead warren where he is chained, and so cannot influence the House of Chains directly, and so Kallor as King would have complete freedom. As Kallor considers it, Gethol says the CG wants to know where Rake and Moon’s Spawn have gone and Kallor says he requires a “moment of vulnerability” for Silverfox in exchange. Gethol says he’ll convey the message and departs. Kallor considers his ambush.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Thirteen:
Some nice little statistics of Dujek’s army at the start of Chapter Thirteen, and I love, love, love that last line, “How does one measure such an army? By their deeds; and that which awaited them in the Pannion Domin would make of Onearm’s Host a legend carved in stone.”
Pfft, bloody Mhybe. How I dislike her... Although perhaps she has a different name now? “Mhybe? That woman is dead.”
What on earth is she talking about? [Bill: The Mhybe version of hell.] Help please! “Beyond all the legends and stories, it is the true Abyss. And it live unto itself, consumed by rapacious hunger.”
You know something? Apart from the Mhybe’s ravings and the new fact that Silverfox is keeping to herself, this chapter feels like something rare in Erikson’s work—filler. At least, the start of it does. We have more talk about the warrens being virtually impassable; we hear again Kruppe’s amusing little asides. It is all good, but feels just a tiny bit unnecessary right now.
I do like the evidence of why soldiers so adore Whiskeyjack—and the demonstration of worship that might lead to him someday becoming a god.
From tragedy to comedy, as per usual—realising that it is K’rul’s blood flooding the warrens, to the funny image of the demon’s arm attaching itself to the wagon and the merchant’s frustrated remark about how they will possibly remove it. I like the rollercoaster ride!
Why does it not surprise me that Kallor would end up tempted by the siren call of the new House of Chains? Why is he so easily convinced that the Crippled God will have no dominion over him? [Bill: Arrogance?] His quest for power and to reduce Silverfox to nothing is blinding him to the fact that, even though the Crippled God is currently chained, he will not always remain so. That is my take on it, anyway! [Don’t forget, he has taken on gods before. Why think a weakened, foreign one like the CG is going to be a problem?]
Awww. Korlat and Whiskeyjack are so wonderful together—and this is a lovely counterpoint to the animalistic coupling of the Barghast. Rather than picking anyone and dragging them away, Korlat wants only Whiskeyjack and asks him courteously to be her lover. I know which I prefer!
That Undead Dragon—the same that flew through the warren containing the Silanda from Deadhouse Gates? I presume the timeline is concurrent? Bah, I can stand far less of Mhybe. I can see her necessity but she is grating on me very quickly. Hoping for less of her in the next two chapters....
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Thirteen:
It’s a nice opening image, the protective coating slathered on the bhedrin as well as the Rhivi and soldiers—the question that arises is what will protect the Mhybe?
And how is that for a metaphor for the characters in this book—“their surcoats dyed grey.” Indeed, we’re awash among grey in this series, though even grey has shades.
Her musings on leadership are interesting. The idea that though Brood came to fight for them, led them in their first victories against the Malazans, and leads them again, he still might not have their, um, “hearts and souls.”
Interesting theme of consumption running through here—Tattersail feeding on the Mhybe, the Tenescowri feeding on their victims, Toc’s observation that leaders feed on their followers/soldiers.
There’s a lot in the Mhybe’s speech that will play out. The Rhivi spiritworld. A place crowded with memories. I’m not saying her description of things is accurate, but there are ideas in there to pay attention to for the future.
It’s an interesting image at the end of her conversation, drawing her hood around herself. Sure, it’s pretty blunt (perhaps too blunt I’d say) as we’re told she’s “cutting herself off from the world,” but what I found interesting was the echo of death’s hood—as if she’s considering herself dead already.
I like as well the echo of Whiskyjack the mason in the line “I am not a stone for your rough hands.” (I could have done with out the chisel line.) As well how it’s combined with his swordthrust of words—Whiskeyjack encompassing both the mason and the soldier.
Whiskeyjack sore leg reference number 121. If you’re counting (which, of course, I’m not. But still....)
Another nice concise reminder to the reader of events going on; I enjoy how Erikson does this throughout, these little moments of “in case you forgot.” And in that mix of old info, something new: where is Crone and the ravens? Hmmmm.
One of the things that make this a quality series are the tiny little points that add nothing to plot or character but show that the author is fully focused and not taking the lazy road: things like Whiskeyjack not simply “riding” but doing so at a “canter.” Keeping us aware that this is an army and Whiskeyjack is a leader by how he assesses the formation and how the two marines don’t salute him. So many authors just tell us an army is an army, call the folks soldiers, and leave it at that until a battle.
I was smiling throughout Whiskeyjack’s scar scene, and so I was right with Silverfox when she said what the effect would be on the two soldiers. Who, by the way, can be added to my list of favorite secondary characters. Or maybe tertiary.
Is that a tease regarding Whiskeyjack’s little sister? Is she going to come back with a king in tow?
I’m not sure I buy that Silverfox’s hundred thousand souls really differentiates her from Whiskeyjack’s ten thousand. I mean, really, once you’re past your first thousand or so, is there really a difference? What I do think differentiates her, though, is that she has the potential for affecting all the T’lan Imass, while Whiskeyjack will not affect all humanity (though he’ll affect a significant portion of it).
Silverfox’s point is something we were introduced to way in GoTM, the way a leader can let him/herself be “hardened.” Remember Whiskeyjack and his acceptance of his men as “friends” (echo as well to connect us with K’rul and give us another reason to like him). A lesson he learned and is now passing on to Silverfox. A lesson Paran is still coming to grips with.
We’ve already seen how “demon” in this world isn’t necessarily a synonym for “monster” or simply “bad guy.” Here we get a reminder of that with the demon arm, whom we would naturally assume came from a demon attack, is just a poor hitchhiker. I love it grabbing the wheel rim.
Not a very uplifting closing image there: “the earth looked like a red matted, tattered blanket, plucked and torn into dissolving disarray.”
I’m also a big fan of the Korlat/Whiskeyjack relationship. I think it carries even more emotional weight on a reread than an original read.
Those hoping for less of the Mhybe are going to be disappointed. I guess all’s I can offer up is it gets a good closing....
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.