Fri
May 13 2011 1:02pm
Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapter 15

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 15 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.

As Bill mentioned in the comments of last week’s post, we are now moving to two posts a week—look out for us on Wednesday and Friday!

 

Chapter Fifteen

SCENE 1

Whiskeyjack comes to the edge of a mesa and looks down into a riverbed where he sees part of his army moving through a field of huge bones, among them blades and iron. As he gets closer, he sees the remains are reptilian. The Rhivi scouts tell Whiskeyjack the undead demons came from the southeast (they mention Morn), fleeing big undead wolves, “like the ghost-runners of our legend. When the eldest shouldermen or women dream their farthest dreams . . . all ghostly save the one who leads, who seems as flesh and has eyes of life.” The scout says the undead wolves destroyed the demons. Kruppe, Korlat, and Silverfox arrive. Korlat identifies the bones as K’Chain Che Malle K’ell Hunters and Silverfox identifies the killers as T’lan Ay. The Ay arrive in thousands. Silverfox calls them her escort, Whiskeyjack knows (and knows Silverfox knows) they are a bodyguard as well, thinking this means she no longer needs the Malazans’ protection—“she is free to do whatever she pleases.” He worries for a moment over the idea that Kallor might be right, then shrugs it aside as an “unworthy” thought, thinking she, or at least the Tattersail in her, will remember they showed faith in her when it was most needed. He wonders if Nightchill’s soul hates Tattersail or the Empire (and all of it) or Rake/Brood and their allies. Silverfox asks Korlat about her mother and she answers that the Mhybe has been unable to walk for a week and suggests Silverfox see her, but Silverfox says there is no need. Korlat says Coll and Murillio are taking care of her and Silverfox warns things are about to get “tense,” and asks Korlat to assign Andii to guard her mother. When Korlat points out the Ay, Silverfox says her mother won’t let them approach her due to her nightmares. Korlat agrees and leaves. Silverfox asks Kruppe if he is satisfied and he says yes, and says he has faith the Mhybe will hold on. The Ay descend back to dust at Silverfox’s command so nobody else sees them. Whiskeyjack worries about all the secrets in the two armies, as well as over what is going on with Quick Ben and Paran and the Bridgeburners. Kallor arrives with Brood and Dujek, Artanthos, Haradas, and the vanguard. He joins them and doesn’t tell them of the Ay. When he mentions the K’Chain, Kallor says the remnants of their civilization are on nearly every continent. He says they are reptilian and can breed for specific purposes—such as making K’ell Hunters. They are matriarchal and matrilineal, and he compares them to a hive and a queen bee, saying within the Matron lies the sorcerous power of her whole family, “power to beggar the gods of today. Power to keep the Elder Gods from coming to this world,” adding were it not for their civil war they would still be ruling. He said the Matrons, seeking more power (why is not clear) had resurrected an older breed, bringing them back from extinction—the Short-Tails (Korlat reacts strongly to this name). He said it appears the Short-Tails refused to meld or surrender their magic to the Matrons and thus civil war broke out. To see one result, he says one can go to Morn/the Rent, which is where one Matron tried to “harness the power of a gate . . . open [ing] a portal that led to the Realm of Chaos.” When Brood wonders what the undead K’ell are doing here, Silverfox says they are being used by the Pannion Seer. Kallor says that is impossible because only a Matron can command a K’ell Hunter, which means, Silverfox says, they also have a matron to deal with as an enemy. Kallor says without any living male K’Chain, the Matron cannot breed more Hunters. Silverfox says the T’lan Imass have destroyed the Hunters and Kallor asks why, why have they joined this war. Silverfox says they haven’t joined anything and to explain, goes back to why the T’lan Imass warred with the Jaghut. She tells them when the first Imass appeared, they were tolerated by the Jaghut, “pushed to the poorest of lands”, but then Tyrants rose and enslaved them and many generations of them, in a “nightmarish existence.” She says the lesson was that “there were intelligent beings . . . who exploited the virtues of others, their compassion, their love, their faith in kin.” She says many Imass found out their “gods” were actually Tyrants “hidden behind friendly masks . . . who manipulated them with the weapons of faith.” Rebellion, she tells them, was inevitable and it devastated the Imass. When Kallor says there were only ever a “handful” of Tyrants among the Jaghut, she answers that was still too many, and admits that other Jaghut helped the Imass. But now, “we carried scars . . . of mistrust, of betrayal. We could trust only in our own kind. In the name of generations to come, all Jaghut would have to die. None could be left, to produce more children, to permit among those children the rise of new Tyrants.” Korlat interrupts to ask what all this has to do with the K’Chain Che’Malle. Silverfox says the KCM ruled before the Jaghut, and as the first Imass were to the Jaghut, the first Jaghut were to the KCM. She adds, “in each species is born the seeds of domination. Our wars with the Jaghut destroyed us, as a living people, as a vibrant, evolving culture. That was the price we paid, to ensure the freedom you now possess. Our eternal sacrifice...” and points out this army is also waging war and sacrificing against a tyrant, for people that know nothing of them. She says the Pannion Domin must be destroyed—that is their task, but her job (and that of the T’lan Imass) is to destroy what lies behind it: A KCM Matron. Kallor says she is lying, that this whole war is a “feint,” but refuses to explain when Dujek asks by whom. Haradas says there may be some truth to it, and points to the warrens being poisoned by chaos, which leads to the question of why a Matron, the sole repository of magic that gives her power, would want to destroy it. Not to mention, if it’s the same Matron as created the Rent, why would she use Chaos again? Whiskeyjack realizes who is behind this, and also that he and Dujek were among the last to figure it out. He asks Silverfox if she and the T’lan Imass will help against this “third hand.” She says no, it would be too much. The idea of something that makes the T’lan Imass “recoil” terrifies Whiskeyjack and Dujek.

SCENE 2

Kruppe interrupts and says he places himself in the path of that enemy. That is too much for Brood, who dismounts and says give proof of how he plans to do so or else, and he reaches for his hammer. Kruppe seems to provoke Brood further, until Brood strikes the ground before Kruppe with his hammer. The shock wave throws everyone down (including the horses) and causes an avalanche. Whiskeyjack watches, stunned, as hills on the other side of the valley rise through the ground forming a new mountain range. The mesa top on which they stood has been mostly destroyed, while a fissure in the earth has formed running through the valley. Kruppe is still standing before Brood and Whiskeyjack thinks they now have proof of Kruppe’s power and he wonders who the demonstration of power was for. As they look down, they see the fissure is filling with “fouled blood” and they all realize Burn is dying, poisoned.

SCENE 3

The Mhybe is awakened by Brood’s hammer blow on the earth. She thinks of the torture of being young in her dreams, and wonder who the strangers are in that tundra land, strangers she feels are stalking her like hunters and whom she flees always. Coll and Murillio discuss Kruppe’s escape from Brood’s wrath, and how Brood nearly didn’t escape the wrath of Kruppe’s mule, which they say is a “strange one indeed . . . so watchful. Of everything.” As they talk, the Mhybe bitterly thinks how she was truly a mere “vessel” for Silverfox, that though Silverfox has multiple souls in her (“two women, and a Thelomen named Skullcrusher”), she has nothing of the Mhybe. Thinking she’s asleep, Coll and Murillio discuss their grief over her fate and how the copper ornaments Kruppe gave her get brighter when she sleeps. She fades back into the dream-world.

SCENE 4

Dujek bursts into the tent and tells Whiskeyjack he didn’t sign up for a war against a god. Whiskeyjack tells him not to fight him then, let the various ascendants who seemingly already knew about the Chained God do it. He points out as well that he and Dujek are hardly ones to complain about secrets and manipulations, and finishes by saying he has faith in Kruppe. When Dujek seems skeptical, Whiskeyjack reminds him that Brood certainly took Kruppe seriously. And because of that Kallor now must take Brood seriously. And then he says the whole time they were in Darujhistan—“our grand failure”—Whiskeyjack had felt there was someone behind the scenes “orchestrating the whole thing.” Then, Kruppe is involved in Silverfox’s birth, an Elder God returns, as do the T’lan Imass . . . Whiskeyjack posits that Kruppe manipulates “circumstance . . . I don’t feel we are fated to dance as he wills. There is an Elder God behind the Daru, but even there, I think it’s more an alliance of mutual benefit, almost between equals. A partnership . . . this time it [manipulation] feels different, less inimical . . . I sense compassion this time.” When Dujek wonders what Kruppe is, Whiskeyjack says he thinks he’s merely mortal, but blessed with “an intelligence that is singular in its prowess . . . the greatest of minds.” As further evidence, he reminds the still skeptical Dujek that it was Kruppe who brought in the Trygalle Trade Guild, found the First Rhivi ornaments to give to the Mhybe, is the only one Silverfox will open up to, has set himself against the Crippled God, and was protected by K’rul when Brood’s hammer struck. Dujek finally buys it, but says he worries about not being “actively engaged” against the CG, and Whiskeyjack says he suspects Quick Ben has been, Quick Ben whom he calls only a “very short step” behind Kruppe, the “world’s foremost genius.” They are interrupted by the arrival of Twist.

SCENE 5

Korlat enters Whiskyjack’s tent furious and demands to know his secrets: “about Tattersail reborn, about those damned T’lan Ay, about what you’ve instructed those two marines guarding the child to say to the Mhybe.” Whiskyjack tells her he’s given them no instructions at all (not even to guard Silverfox), but if they’ve said something bad he’ll take responsibility. Korlat calms a bit, then asks him why Silverfox insisted the Mhybe not know of the Ay. Whiskeyjack says he has no idea, but thought Korlat knew. She takes this in a moment, then asks if he was planning on confronting her about the secrets he thought she was holding and he said no. She pauses, then asks him to clean the scratches from the Mhybe, telling him she thinks she made a terrible mistake, despite good intentions, which he says often happens with good intentions. Korlat says she’s realized she and the others have all underestimated the Malazans, thinking them convenient weapons of mere soldiers but that in fact they have become “our backbone. Somehow, you are what gives us our strength, holds us together.” She adds she does know they’re keeping secrets and Whiskeyjack tells her the biggest is that the Malazans feel “outmatched . . . We don’t have your power. We’re just an army. Our best wizard isn’t even ranked. He’s a squad mage . . . . [we’re] bowed, brittle.” When Korlat says she doubts it he insists he isn’t being merely modest. Korlat muses that Silverfox is manipulating the Mhybe, maybe even giving her the nightmares and when Whiskeyjack doubts it, she says he may be giving too much credit to Tattersail’s personality. He admits it’s possible Nightchill feels betrayed, and Bellurdan, but he thinks Tattersail would resist them and is still prevalent in Silverfox. Korlat calls him a rare man and they share a romantic moment that closes with Whiskeyjack’s unstated fear of losing her.

SCENE 6

Kruppe speaks with the two marines guarding Silverfox, says Whiskeyjack must be happy with their reports that Tattersail seems preeminent in Silverfox. On the subject of Whiskyjack, they tell Kruppe WJ should have been emperor but Laseen knew him as her main rival and so stripped him of command/rank and sent him away. When Kruppe calls Whiskeyjack “ambitious,” they scorn the thought and say that’s the point—his lack of ambition is why he would have been a good Emperor. When Kruppe asks why Whiskeyjack didn’t just take the throne, they reply it was because he knew it might lead to civil war and collapse, so he’d given Laseen a chance to keep things together. Kruppe leaves and the marines discuss that they think he and Silverfox are up to something regarding the Mhybe.

SCENE 7

Kruppe speaks with Murillio and Coll. They tell him the Mhybe is a tragedy and he says “matters of vast mercy are in progress,” but the Mhybe isn’t ready yet to be told: “this is a journey of the spirit. She must begin it within herself.” Coll asks how he avoided being killed by Brood and Kruppe says “rage has no efficacy against [Kruppe] for whom the world is nestled as a pearl within . . . the confines of his . . . brain . . . for whom the world is naught but a plumage dream of colours and wonders unimagined, where even time itself has lost meaning.” He leaves.

SCENE 8

Crone flies overhead. She recognizes the touch of chaos, of the Crippled God, within the blood in the fissure created by Brood—the blood of Burn. She reports to Brood that Rake has “succeeded. Moon’s Spawn has passed unseen and now hides.” She adds her children have passed over the Seer’s land and she herself visited Capustan and determined it cannot hold. She surprises him with information that the Seer is fighting on a second front to the south and is losing, though he has now employed Omtose Phellack against whatever foe it is routing his armies. Brood says he and Rake suspected the Seer’s non-human nature, and tells Crone they didn’t want her getting too close. She says she couldn’t get very close to Outlook anyway due to the condors, which are not “entirely mundane.” She leaves after tweaking Brood for losing his temper with Kruppe.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Fifteen:

Lots of themes coming together in the poem at the start of Chapter Fifteen, what with references to dreams, memories, and ice. These are themes we’ve seen time and time again so far in both this novel and the series as a whole. Specifically we’ve seen both the Mhybe and Kruppe associated with dreams in the past, so I suspect we’ll encounter them in this chapter. *grins*

Huh, it took me a couple of reads to realize that those giant bones are recent kills of K’Chain Che’Malle K’ell hunters. For some reason, when I saw the reference to giant bones I assumed it was some kind of ancient boneyard! [Bill: Well, the “kill” is recent, but you’re right that the bones are “ancient.”]

The ay—commanded by Togg and Fanderay? Are these two wolves able to take command of these undead hordes? Is this something in Toc’s future? “Never close, always running, all ghostly except the one who leads, who seems as flesh and has eyes of life.”

“The demons are from barrows far to the south.”

This would be Morn, yes? The place where the rent lies and where the Matron used to be trapped.

Then from atmospheric to outright laughter, as we watch Kruppe approach on his stubborn mule! I did find myself giggling at the thought of him being carted towards Whiskeyjack by this careering mischief-maker. *smiles*

I also love the reference to Whiskeyjack’s increasing feelings: “But oh, she pales beside this Tiste Andii. Dammit, old man, think not of the nights past. Do not embrace this wonder so tightly you crush the life from it.” I have a worry about how strongly Korlat feels for him, though—the Tiste Andii are given to melancholy and a sense that nothing gives life meaning, after all.

Here we have an interesting perspective on convergence from Silverfox—up until now, it’s seemed the one thing to aspire to but here she says, “Convergence, the plague of this world.”

Bill and I must sometimes seem to be as a cracked record—repeating that so many scenes in the books are worthy of cinema. This rise of the T’lan Ay to Silverfox’s summons definitely ranks as one of them! [Bill: Cue swelling orchestral soundtrack.]

And now we are told to mistrust who is dominant in the body of Silverfox: “So like...yet not. Nightchill, dismembered by betrayal. Is it Tayschrenn her remnant soul hates? Or the Malazan Empire and every son and daughter of its blood? Or the one she had been called upon to battle: Anomander Rake, and by extension Caladan Brood? The Rhivi, the Barghast... does she seek vengeance against them?”

What is it within the Mhybe that has the capability of driving away the T’lan Ay? Something given to her by Kruppe? This seems to fit, considering that Kruppe and Silverfox seem to be in alliance over the Mhybe, ensuring that she has suitable protection in the event that things get “tense.”

I can’t imagine how lonely Whiskeyjack is right now—sure, he has the company of Korlat, but he has lost the support and unswerving loyalty of having the Bridgeburners alongside him, particularly Quick Ben who he seems to be missing most keenly. I feel this also leaves Whiskeyjack unprotected and vulnerable in a lot of ways; I fear for him. [Bill: As well you should.]

An interesting series of revelations from Kallor about the K’Chain Che’Malle and their more primitive versions, the Short-Tails. Why does that name make Korlat stiffen? Am I missing something crucial about the Short-Tails that I should be thinking about now that I hear information about them? Bit of a block of text though, wasn’t it?

And then another block of text regarding the Imass, the Jaghut and, behind them all, the K’Chain Che’Malle—but what revelations in this one! The idea that the K’Chain Che’Malle have the power to enslave all, and will become more and more powerful if a surviving male can be found to breed with the Matron. So Silverfox finally reveals why she is gathering the T’lan Imass....

Heh—and Kallor almost trips over revealing his secret of knowing the Crippled God is behind the Pannion Domin, directing all the movements. Although it turns out that it isn’t too much of secret, in the end!

Gosh, I can’t help but giggle at the idea of stout Kruppe standing before these inestimable beings and proclaiming his intention to go up against the Crippled God!

This particular exchange needs just a little elucidating for me—I suspect there is more to it than I am grasping?

“I wouldn’t do that, Brood,” Silverfox murmured.

The warlord twisted to face her, teeth bared. “You now extend your protection to this arrogant, fat toad?”

Her eyes widened and she looked to the Daru. “Kruppe, do you make such a request?”

“Absurd! No offence, dear, in that expostulation, Kruppe sweetly assures you!”

Wow... Caladan Brood is a bit something, isn’t he? *smiles* So grave, so calm, but then this fearsome temper and the ability to back up any threats with the power to move the earth itself. And then this preposterous little man is not even slightly affected. Kruppe is simply ace!

Is the Mhybe in some kind of dream world constructed by K’rul (through Kruppe)? It is interesting that those copper ornaments brighten as she sleeps. [Bill: You’re right here, Amanda, though you’re leaving a few things out. We’ve seen K’rul and Kruppe create and move through dream worlds before, so you’re making a good connection. But consider as well who else we’ve seen in such—with power in such—as well as who else would have motivation to create such a world for the Mhybe, plus who Kruppe is working with—think of what the marines say.]

And what lies within Kruppe’s mule? That little man really does throw up many curiosities, doesn’t he?

I do enjoy any situations where we see Dujek and Whiskeyjack talking over events. They’re so pragmatic and intelligent—although I do question Whiskeyjack saying that this war has no need to be theirs, that they can just walk away. Perhaps he doesn’t realise the magnitude and all-encompassing nature of the threat of the Crippled God? [Bill: Here, Amanda, I think you’re just a little off in what he means by walking away. He does realize the magnitude of the CG, and so what he means is not walk away from the war, but because the CG is so powerful, let the equally powerful—Rake, Brood, etc—the Ascendants—deal with him while the Malazans deal with the more mundane aspects of the war.]

How fabulous that Kruppe is being spoken of so highly and with such respect by Whiskeyjack. Something about the idea of K’rul seeking Kruppe out as the world’s foremost genius makes me smile hugely. And yet... the number of things Whiskeyjack attributes to Kruppe shows just how subtly and capably he has been moving the pieces on the playing board. A genius indeed!

You know the thing about the Mhybe? Because of her self-pity and her trauma, it instantly makes me feel more favourably towards Silverfox—even though the latter is more secretive and has the potential to betray everyone for the sake of petty revenge. I wonder if Erikson intended this result? To make the shock of Silverfox turning at a later date?

And what a beautiful scene between Korlat and Whiskeyjack—her misdirected anger and his gentle acceptance of such; his lack of confrontation about the secrets she holds; his love for her. It really is very touching—especially Korlat’s reference to the Malazan soldiers being the backbone of the alliance army.

Glorious! The two soldiers and Kruppe—that feat/feet thing had me in absolute fits, especially as they seriously ponder the idea of Whiskeyjack’s feet. *giggles* And then the knowledge these soldiers were playing Kruppe? Even damn better! And then Kruppe revealing he saw straight through it? Like I said, glorious.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Fifteen:

The opening, as Amanda says, pulls together several things we’ve seen before and that we’ve highlighted along the way to pay attention to: dreams and memories and ice. The “reflections of myself,” that mix of forest and ice, and the herds are something to file away as well.

A lot goes on in this chapter in a pretty short span of time.

Once again, we get a reference to the Rhivi dream world, this time combined with wolves who are led by one with shining eyes. By now we should have a pretty clear idea that wolves are going to be a big deal. And yes Amanda, that’s a good call that this will have something to do with Toc.

Anybody have any idea about the “yes” that the Rhivi scoutleader says while he and Whiskeyjack watch the approach of the others? It seems like it is drawing attention to itself, but I have no idea why.

I like that Whiskeyjack is granted a moment’s doubt, which seems realistic when Silverfox calls up thousands of undead Ay—it seems such power would give anyone pause at least for a moment. And then, as one would expect of Whiskeyjack, he scorns the anxiety that Silverfox is a threat as not simply unlikely but “unworthy,” putting a moral rather than a rational cast over it. But even as he does so, he reminds the reader of what adds suspense to Silverfox’s character—the presence of Nightchill and the question of whether she seeks vengeance and if so, on whom.

A bit of ominous imagery as Whiskeyjack thinks Kallor has been shadowing Silverfox “like a vulture”—remember what he asked for of the Crippled God in exchange for allying with him—a chance at Silverfox. We’ve known for some time of his hatred for her, his desire to kill her, and it seems things are turning more concrete in that direction.

Speaking of reminders, we get another one, this with regard to what Paran, etc. are up to. We’ve pointed this out before, but it’s always worth noting—the way that Erikson doesn’t let his length and structure get in the way of the reading experience. It’s always a tricky balance, when to pull away from a POV and how long to stay away, and some handle it better than others. Erikson never lets us go too long away from a POV without reminding us of what’s happening with it, even if he doesn’t bring us all the way back to it.

Note that singular focus of Whiskeyjack on Kallor—both on horses, atop a mesa, one can almost hear the Morricone soundtrack in the background. Cue tumbleweed in 3, 2, 1....

I like how Whiskeyjack worries about all the secrets being kept, then keeps one himself (the Ay)—ahh, the webs we weave....

The whole explanation of the K’Chain I’ve got to say feels a little strange. I don’t mind the amount of info we’re given. It seems to me that people too often cry out “info dump” anytime we get a lot of information presented. But in my mind, that isn’t what an “info dump” is, at least as it is usually used—in a critical sense. An info dump is when we are given a lot of information unnaturally (that being the key word). Here, it makes perfect sense that those in the know would dump a ton of info on those who are ignorant, a lot more sense than keeping quiet. But I’m a little puzzled by a few other things in this section.

One is who does much of the explaining. Kallor, for instance, seems like he wouldn’t be giving so much info to people he is apparently going to soon betray—why feed them information regarding an enemy he’s about to join? I know he’s arrogant, and I could buy him doing this out of arrogance, a chance to show he knows more than anyone else there, but it still strikes me as a little odd. Even more so is his statement that this entire war is “a feint.” Granted, many already know that, but he reveals it as if they do not and it’s that revelation that doesn’t make sense to me—why reveal the Chained God as the moving force behind the Seer if he’s going to ally with the Chained God? Is it simply his anger at Silverfox that makes him slip? Again, I can buy it, though it seems odd, and coming atop the whole information part, this all does seems a little off.

I’m also a little confused by Korlat’s interaction with Kallor’s lecture. Why is she so sharp about his revelations and why does she react so strongly to them? She clearly is familiar with the K’Chain Che’Malle. Is she shocked by Kallor’s knowledge (which doesn’t seem so shocking for a guy who has been around so long)? Is she shocked by what he reveals? (But she’s already shown some clear knowledge of them?)

On the other hand, I like that the reason we get Korlat’s reactions is because Whiskeyjack is so focused on her—how cute. Those “short-tails,” by the way, are going to be important!

Gotta love Kallor of all people pointing out someone’s “hubris.” And then getting it.

The Imass-Jaghut war has been clouded for some time now, in terms of morality and “good guys-bad guys” simplicity. And Silverfox’s speech does little to uncloud it. Sure, the Imass were enslaved, killed, etc., but as Kallor points out—only by a select few Jaghut and as Silverfox herself says, many Jaghut not only were not Tyrants, but actively worked with the Imass to overthrow the Tyrants (something we’ve seen ourselves). It’s a big leap from killing the Tyrants to genocide to ensure no Tyrants rise again, akin to wiping out all of humanity because of Hitler. What makes this more tragic is that the T’lan Imass are not blind to what that leap did to them. As Silverfox says, it “destroyed us, as a living people, as a vibrant, evolving culture.” She indicates it was the price they paid for future generations (including non-Imass) and seems to imply it was worth it. But she is not the sole voice of T’lan Imass we get and we’ve already seen some question that leap and its price and some (Kilava) outright reject it.

In that mode of a cloudier view of wars and people than we may first get, readers should keep that in mind as well for the K’Chain Che’Malle.

Whiskeyjack’s question of why Kruppe initiated that little demo of his power for is a good one. Is it for Kallor, whom nobody trusts? Is he perhaps suspicious of Kallor’s ties and so thinks maybe the demonstration is for the Chained God? Is it for everyone—now that things are getting serious it’s time to make sure they take him seriously? In his conversation with Dujek, Whiskeyjack gets more specific and thinks it was to not only show Kruppe’s power, but to provoke Brood into showing his to Kallor, to keep Kallor in line. Wheels within wheels....

We’ve had references to what Brood’s hammer can do, and now we get a glimpse—knock down mesas, raise mountains. When does its use wake Burn and cause the end of the world—is it repeated use? A particular type of blow? Everyone has been very tense about his use of it and the world still goes on when he does—is everyone wiping a brow that it didn’t end the world, or is it that Brood has control over just how much power he lets the hammer wield? That seems most likely to me, as otherwise it isn’t much of a weapon.

Like you, Amanda, I really enjoyed the conversation between Dujek and Whiskeyjack, mostly because I kept imagining Dujek’s constant indignant skepticism with regard to Kruppe. Once again, Whiskeyjack comes off as someone to root for: someone who is self-aware enough to admit that he shouldn’t be complaining about people holding back information, and self-deprecating in stating dealing with the Chained God is above his pay grade. (Whether that is correct or not will remain to be seen.) I like how he reasonably ticks off the reasons to believe in Kruppe and how he responds so well to the compassion (there’s that key word again) that seems to lie under much if not all of what Kruppe does. And we see his perception as he puts together that Quick Ben is probably working against the CG, and his faith in Quick’s abilities (and as we’ve already been given the Raraku scene, we know why Whiskeyjack has such faith), though one imagines he’d run through the first person who dared repeat his praise to Quick.

K’rul and Kruppe’s “partnership” between an Elder God and a mortal, by the way, will not be the only such one we will see. And I can’t say that without chuckling.

Once again, another conversation when Whiskeyjack comes off as so damn likable. I too love how he handles Korlat storming in (and let’s not forget, this is an Andii, a mage, a Soletaken). And he is played up as well in the conversation between Kruppe and the marines. Whiskeyjack has been a great character throughout, but one can almost sense a real build-up of him in this book, a full unfolding of character that draws the reader ever more closely to him and drives the reader to a more positive connection with him. All for a reason I’d say.

There’s been a lot of back and forth over the Mhybe’s storyline. I tend to fall on the more positive side of the argument: I do think it serves narrative purpose, characterization purpose, thematic purpose. And I think it can be quite moving. But I do think it goes on too long and I do think it falls prey to the “X only happens because A and B conveniently—and somewhat implausibly—never spoke to one another” kind of plot weaknesses now and then. I think we get a nod to that with Kruppe saying the Mhybe isn’t “ready” yet for the journey she has to make, and I do think he has a point, knowing where she’s going. But it also seems to me that:

  1. One can help her “get ready” more than is being done.
  2. One needn’t make her lack of readiness worse, which I do think happens here.
  3. One needn’t keep everyone not named Mhybe in the dark.

So those issues do make the Mhybe subplot more problematic for me than most in this book.

On the other side of lack of communication, the fact that the two armies aren’t being wholly frank with one another makes perfect sense to me—after all, they have been enemies for years and there are lots of underlying unknown motivations for many of the actors. So when Crone tells Brood Moon’s Spawn has arrived, I both like the mystery for the narrative suspense aspect of it (oooh, what’s Rake doing with Moon’s Spawn?) and accept the premise of why it is being kept secret.

Those condors Crone mentions are going to be a real pain. And you gotta love a raven that has to get in the last word....


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.

28 comments
Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
Third time reading, and this is the first time I caught the goof about Dujek throwing his "gauntlets", plural, in frustration. :)
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
I really like this chapter for a bunch of reasons. First, there's just the picture of Kruppe standing there brushing off dust after a mountain raising blow from the hammer.
Then, there are the various pieces of info we get. Like Bill, I don't think this was at all info-dumpish. It was information being imparted as needed in the story. In Kallor's description we hear about the K'Chain machines. Remember the machinery that Kalam & co. saw in the pits in the imperial Warren?
The info on the Jaghut war and then the K'chain Che Malle (the Jaghut had tyrants, the K'Chain might be tyrants) is very interesting but also seems lacking to me. Unreliable narration or narration of a desperately held justification?
The two marines and Kruppe's conversation was the really interesting piece of info to me. Whiskeyjack was the person that the army wanted to be Emperor. This makes Kalams whole mission in DG much clearer. It also shows that Whiskeyjack is a much wiser person than Laseen. Instead of lashing out at everyone around him, he controlled his ambition for the good of the empire. It is also very interesting that the two marines have no doubt that he could have handled Laseen in a fight--keep that in mind in future books.
And, of course, there is the glorious mule of Kruppe. Yay, mule!
Jordanes
3. Jordanes
"Anybody have any idea about the “yes” that the Rhivi scoutleader says while he and Whiskeyjack watch the approach of the others? It seems like it is drawing attention to itself, but I have no idea why. "

I believe the "yes" is the Rhivi making the connection between the Ay and Silverfox.
Joe Long
4. Karsa
Is the Mhybe in some kind of dream world constructed by K’rul (through Kruppe)? It is interesting that those copper ornaments brighten as she sleeps.


I'm reminded of one of the quotes from earlier in the book:

Q: Why does Burn sleep?
A: To dream.
Joe Long
5. Karsa
re Kallor's info dump....


I think it is worth remembering that there are always shades for gray in SE world and Kallor has some gray in him (black though it may be!)...as such we don't really know what his motivations are. at this point, we know he is opposed to people we really like (e.g. WJ), but we don't know if he is wrong.

what would you do if you realized that everybody around you is headlong for disaster, you've seen it happen time and time again, you want to mitigate the risk, but you've been cursed to failure?

I'm not saying this is what is going to happen (or even that I thought this the first time through) but on the re-read, I think it is worth looking at Kallor's behavior through that lens.
Bill Capossere
6. Billcap
Jordanes@3
That makes sense. I think what was throwing me was that we get it after a focus on Kruppe, not Silverfox, and it seemed so divorced from anything. But I like your reading of it--thanks.

Karsa@5
I agree Kallor has some grey (though it takes some time to see it), but to be honest, what was going to happen to the people around him was one concern I didn’t think Kallor has (recognizing you aren’t saying that necessarily). He hates Silverfox and WJ, doesn’t care much for the Andii, respects Brood but obviously has issues with them. It seems to me he’d love to see them get chewed up by K’Chain while he watches, unmolested as he’s an ally, and says something like “betcha you’re thinking you should have listened to me before, eh?” Not only does it rid him of people he can’t stand, but it confirms his own belief in himself as master of strategy and all situations.

My problem is he’s already taken on the job of betrayer, so helping this side seems strange. He wants the CG to get Silverfox “vulnerable,” and it doesn’t take much thought to think perhaps the K’Chain would play a role in that vulnerability, yet here he is explaining them to his desired victim. And he has set himself up in his own words as “setting an ambush,” but here he seems to be giving away a bit of the snare’s secrets. As he does with the “feint” slip, which seemed an unusually awkward mechanism for getting the other characters to discuss the CG
Joe Long
7. Karsa
My problem is he’s already taken on the job of betrayer


I agree with all your saying, my only point is we don't really know (although it has been implied greatly) what he is betraying. Maybe he knows what he is doing and giving the information *helps* in his betrayal. if that is true, what do we learn about him and his goals?

I don't think at this point in the books we know the answer, but I think it is worth "filing away" the question and coming back to it later.

It seems to me there are a lot of things like this in the book -- we all love when it happens and we see the connection between a "what the hell just happened?" moment and the "ahh...I get it!" moment. Perhaps when things like the infodump happen, we just need to look harder for the connection.

(or maybe SE just messed up! :)
Amir Noam
8. Amir
SaltManZ @1:
You've beat me to it :-)
I've just now noticed Dujek's gauntlets when reading this chapter and was about to comment on it!
karl oswald
9. Toster
i don't think kallor is slipping up at all by telling them about the k'chain. at this point, he can be pretty sure the k'chain will be handled by the t'lan and won't be a threat. that's why him saying it just to show off his knowledge works for me.

Just revealing that he knows about the 'hidden third-hand', doesn't really compromise him either, imo. at this point nobody suspects him anymore, he's playing along, informing them about something most of them are ignorant of, helping the alliance.

korlat's reaction's are slightly trickier to place i admit. but she has a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong history. korlat is probably the oldest person there, save nightchill in silverfoxes body. who knows which memories she's connecting to kallors descriptions? and we'll learn about some stuff she could be thinking about down the road a bit.
Mieneke van der Salm
10. Mieneke
@Bill:
Even more so is his statement that this entire war is “a feint.” Granted, many already know that, but he reveals it as if they do not and it’s that revelation that doesn’t make sense to me—why reveal the Chained God as the moving force behind the Seer if he’s going to ally with the Chained God? Is it simply his anger at Silverfox that makes him slip?
I thought that it was an attempt to sow discord between the various factions, to destroy the trust they've built. At least I read it as such.

Okay, what is up with that mule!! Everyone keeps hinting that it is more than it seems, including Erikson in the text. Is the mule an embodiment of K'rul so to speak, a way for him to keep an eye on Kruppe?

I have to be honest, this chapter was the first time that the Mhybe started to grate on me. I know her situation is awful, I know it's unfair, but geesh, we know already! I do wonder about the ornaments though. That's another repetition, isn't it? First we had Picker with the Trake's armlets and now the Mhybe's ornaments. And I've probably forgotten other occurences.

I loved the scene with Whiskeyjack and Korlat. Makes me afraid for them though :-(

And Kruppe and the marines were priceless. I wonder what they were upto though, both Kruppe and the marines!
Tai Tastigon
11. Taitastigon
Mieneke @10

The mule...is The Mule.

The same as Iskaral Pust´s mule is ...The Mule.

Just go with it...and enjoy !
;0)
Jozefine Propper
12. Onderduikboot
Kruppes action seems to have a lot of revelations. His own power to withstand Brood's hammer, a demonstration of Broods power and also the revelation (to some) that Burns blood is poisoned.
And it all seems so improbable: this fattish man with clothes full of foodstains and his wacky manners, to be able to survive Brood's hammer let alone to stand in the way of the Crippled God.
And the mule... Isn't it commented that his mule walks while sleeping. I have to wonder: dreaming? Dreaming a little man from Darujhistan to interact in the world?
And then there's Iskaral's mule as well. Showing miraculous traits like making camp and putting on a kettle for tea, not to mention other powers...
At the moment I'm reading TtH for the second time and I still don't know.

The mhybe is a bit tedious to me as well. Even if I try to compare her faith with Toc's whom I cherish. But she is so bitter. But I must admire the way the distance between her and everybody is pictured. The sounds from the camp coming to her lying alone in the wagon. She must feel so lonely. The only people coming to her her "jailors", not her daughter, not her Rhivi-cousins.
Steven Halter
13. stevenhalter
Yes, the mule walks sleeping and dreaming, dreaming of R'lyeh ...

(Or maybe that's something else.)
Sydo Zandstra
14. Fiddler
Bill:

Note that singular focus of Whiskeyjack on Kallor—both on horses, atop a mesa, one can almost hear the Morricone soundtrack in the background. Cue tumbleweed in 3, 2, 1....

Very good one, Bill. :D
Jozefine Propper
16. Onderduikboot
@shalter 13
Well, you're mysterious post made me look up R'lyeh and now I'm wondering which god resembles Cthulhu....
And I have another reread in store ; )
How one thing can lead to another and a complicated book can be made even more enticing.
Steven Halter
17. stevenhalter
Onderduikboot@16:lol. So far, luckily for our characters, none of the gods resemble Cthulhu too much. Are any to come, well we'll have to wait and see.
Jordanes
18. ksh1elds555
The Mules are so great... I always thought there would be something revealed about them, like they're the avatars of Krul and Shadowthrone but so far(and I'm not done with the series), I haven't found anything to that affect in the books. I think it's just awesome that SE can take an animal that has never been really exalted in any way in a series and make them so damn cool and funny.
Jordanes
19. ksh1elds555
I know I'm jumping the gun a bit cause it's not Tuesday... but there's a couple of quotes coming up that just floor me and make me all choked up. I think they nicely sum up some of the main themes of this book, and indeed of the series as a whole.

'I am the Shield anvil.' I am Fener's grief. I am the world's grief. And I will hold. I will hold it all, for we are not yet done."

And from Brukhalian...

"We are done, my friend. Now, in this manner, we choose the meaning of our deaths."

Don't it just....
Tai Tastigon
20. Taitastigon
Aaah...Chapter 16...maybe one of the best he has ever written.

The Tenescowri rose like an inexorable flood against every wall of the city. Rose, than swept over, a mass of humanity driven mad by hunger.
Gate barricades buckled to the pressure, then gave way.
And Capustan drowned.

What an intro !
karl oswald
21. Toster
oh so we're doing this now? well, i can't complain!

For the briefest of moments, Itkovian stared at a three-tiered wall of savage humanity, then it collapsed inward, burying the Grey Swords

The building was where Gruntle had taken a room.
And, assailed by flames, it would not burn.
Jordanes
22. jgtheok
On reread, struck by parallels between Pannion and Silverfox - simultaneously child/animated corpse, with mother that isn't a mother, calling up undead hordes, etc.

A bit worrying, after the amazing improvisation by Kruppe and K'rul in dealing with Tattersail's strange death in such a constructive way - that the result is so similar to a force already in play.

Perhaps link between them is a structural reason for the drawn-out Mhybe subplot? I.e. Malazan universe will only permit certain issues to be resolved for the pair in tandem, not individually?
Jordanes
23. stevenerikson
jgtheok: thanks, mate. It's all about balance.
Steven Halter
24. stevenhalter
Good hint at what is going on with the Silverfox/Mhybe storyline, Steve and jgtheok.
karl oswald
25. Toster
indeed. when i first read the book, the parallel symbolism and thematic unity was very thick, and it was hard to suss it out from all the extreme action, stunning revelations and piercing sorrow. going through it for a second and third time, you really appreciate how those somewhat background elements inform the more immediate and emotionally stunning aspects of the story. especially as we get close to coral and the respective conclusions of the mhybe/silverfox and pannion/toc storylines.

edit: as a complete aside, i loved that the theme of the mhybe was so universal throughout the series. seemed every culture had a version. mahib, mhybe, mahybe, etc, etc.
M D
26. Abalieno
Only time for a couple of things today.

The first about the excerpt at the beginning of the chapter. Divided in two. The first general, the second specific. The first I think it's musing about the nature of dreams, something we all share. It works on a simple level but I wonder if Erikson wanted to reach further. For example it reminds me the fancy theory that in dreams we are all linked, like a common consciousness that may as well transcend and connect different realities. As if while dreaming we get feedback from other worlds/alternate realities. Probably Erikson didn't think of anything so absurd but there may be something about the collectivity of myth.

The second part seems more specifically in-character. So the Rhivi. It reminds directly the sort of dreams the Mhybe is having.

Being this book surprisingly "linear" (not sarcasm), the idea introduced in the excerpt feeds directly the scenes that follow. In this case Kruppe's words offer a similar kind of musing of the common nature of dreams. The first part (the one specific, this time) defies me, but the second (general) is straightforward:

Sweet sleep, in which hidden poetry resides, the flow of the disconnected, so smooth as to seem entwined. Yes?

Dreams are the symbolic world, and what is more symbolic than poetry, where every word is charged with meaning? The "flow of the disconnected" is a great way to define it, as dreams follow their own rules that we find hard to rationally grasp, but it's also the level where all things are deeply connected, beyond our awareness (or "below", more than beyond, the Midnight Tides of the soul).

The other thing I wanted to point out is the scene between Brood and Kruppe. First I'd ask if someone could make a sketch since I was never able to visualize what the hell exactly happened ;) Then the scene reinforces my association between Burn and K'rul. I had speculated (and then disproved myself) that K'rul could be a manifestation of Burn while she's asleep. The fact that they are somewhat associated and made one is obvious if one consider that the same "blood" that came out of the warrens (the last scene with the arrival of the Trygalle) is now coming out of the ground. Yet we've been told that what attacks the warren is alike the Morn's rent. The warren of Chaos. While what attacks Burn is instead the fact itself that the Crippled God is chained to her, so the "poison".

Which leads to how Kruppe was able to survive Brood's hammer. You want to know my first theory? The mule. I thought that the power was cleverly hidden right in the mule, and so Kruppe wasn't hit just because he was under the mule's protection. What I thought was that the mule was K'rul's soletaken form, or something like that. Speaking of the most wonderful shaved knuckle in the hole possible...

Instead now I'm thinking that Kruppe wasn't hit because of this subtle association between K'rul and Burn (and so nothing specific of Kruppe's own power). The hammer is the will or power of Burn. So it deliberately avoids Kruppe because "aware" of the link with K'rul. It's the will of Burn that "legitimates" Kruppe's position (showing Brood that they are on the same side, having the same patron).
M D
27. Abalieno
I think the scene between Whiskeyjack and Korlat mirrors the one with him and Dujek. These were somewhat lacking in the first book, the kind of stuff that was needed. What I mean is that we see characters voicing their thoughts and elaborate on what just happened. The book and the flow of events can be confusing (even worse in GotM, without a foundation), so it helps a lot if there are scenes like these that describe, re-frame and interpret.

And more: as Bill said, these also build characterization and give characters more flashed and understandable motivations. We see them react plausibly. So, more than seeing WJ doing and saying nice things, the sympathy with the character is built through understanding. We can relate directly because, while reading, we also share a similar confusion and bafflement. This book, being also more "tell", is oddly easier to follow even if crowded with facts, characters and themes, because the characters offer patterns of interpretation to the reader. A way to frame pertinent questions, and exclude those that are only the product of confusion. Erikson for once is at least offering some forms of guidance.

The scene between Kruppe and the two soldiers protecting Silverfox is pure awesomeness. Amanda says that in the end Kruppe sees straight through them, but I didn't see evidence of this in the text. If anything I interpreted it as a way for Erikson to invert what he just established. We saw WJ persuade Dujek of the "singular" genius that is Kruppe. And then? We see Kruppe being outclassed by two plain (and cleverly unnamed) Malazan soldiers. In fact if you re-read the beginning of the scene you see it nicely set-up with an indulgent list of titles. I think it was a great way to mock Kruppe and not take the idea of his genius too far.

And again there's a certain link with what Kruppe says to Murillio and Coll, and what I mean when I say that Kruppe is the manifestation of the idea of playing outside the frame (of the story). The image he gives of his "worldview", is a nice metaphor of the same concept:

for whom the world is as a pearl nestled within the slimy confines of his honed and muscled brain. Uh, perhaps the allusion falters with second thought... and worse with third.

Even more interesting because I was thinking the same thing a few days ago, well before reading this scene. More precisely what I was thinking (and I think I have also written something in previous chapters about the Mhybe) is that the Mhybe's pain is due to limited perspective. The pain is due to not being able to see through the veil. To find answer. It's not the physical pain, but the impossibility of finding a reason, a worthy cause (which fuels her guilt, since she has a "cause", that she didn't accept). The Mhybe, as in her dream, is lost and fleeing. A problem of sight.

Kruppe instead is "out of the picture". So he sees the range of what's inside. Pain is not pain if you know it will be answered. You can be compassionate toward it, still let it happen if you know that it is required to achieve something. What can't be tolerated is pain that you don't know if will be answered, or if you fear it won't (the faith, see Itkovian's doubts).

So back to Kruppe's metaphor of the world, like a pearl (precious) contained within his mind. Not just an image to praise his own intelligence, but the idea that he "embraces" the world. He then adds:

Kruppe tries again! For whom, it was said, the world is naught but a plumaged dream of colours and wonders unimagined, where even time itself has lost meaning

He adds the "time". Not just the frame of the world is embraced (and so contained), but even the time whole. Which leads back to what I was saying. How can Kruppe tolerate the sight of the Mhybe's pain without feeling anything and just going his way making jokes and eating pastries? He can because he's aware of two points. The first is that he thinks that pain is necessary ("this is a journey of the spirit"), the second is that he knows where it is going. That it has a purpose. That the pain is part of a growth, an experience that can't be "spared" or avoided (we can argue this point, like Bill did).

This "necessity" of pain is also being discussed earlier between Korlat and the Mhybe when they talk about the Rhivi's ritual when killing a goat. How do you justify even this pain? Through necessity.

I'll repeat that the Mhybe's PoV is one of the best executed ones. If anything we can criticize Kruppe's.

And then, after seeing Kruppe "humbled" by the two Malazan marines, we see Brood humbled by Crone. I though it was an awesome thread through this whole chapter ;) Love when Erikson plays on this level of self-awareness (the metafictional titty-pincher!)
Jordanes
28. Alt146
Still catching up on the reread, so I will mention this again once I have - the one thing that really stood out for me in this chapter (after finishing the series and reading this book for the thrid time) is Whiskeyjack's conversation with Dujek. The talk of walking away from the problem of the Crippled God and leaving it to the ascendants etc contrasts very strongly with what we see later on in the series.

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