Wed
May 18 2011 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapter 16

Memories of Ice by Steven EriksonWelcome 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 16 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.

I hope everyone is keeping up with our new posting schedule! Wednesdays AND Fridays, one chapter each day!

Chapter Sixteen

SCENE 1

Itkovian and the Grey Swords fight the Tenescowri and Itkovian is horrified by how the Tenescowri rape and feed on the dead, as well as by how he and his own are slaughtering these unarmed, untrained peasants. He is impaled by a pike in the back and a broken-off knife blade in his knee before fighting free and reaching the just-arriving reinforcements led by Brukhalian and Karnadas. Itkovian asks Karnadas to heal his men and horse then slips into unconsciousness.

SCENE 2

Gruntle and his squad fight in another part of the city, retreating into a building and filling it with the dead. His forearms have taken on a “strange pattern of blood stains, barbed and striped, the blood blackening and seeming to creep into his skin.” The same stripes “spread away from his eyes and bearded cheeks. Tawny amber streaked the beard itself. His eyes were the colour of sun-withered prairie grass.” His cutlasses have also changed, “were yellowed white—fangs in truth now.” Stonny is fighting with them now, her pain “the debt he had only begun to pay.” His Lestari lieutenant “knew . . . he and the rest of the militia now existed more within the mind of Gruntle than they did in the real world. They fought with skills they had never before possessed. They did not tire.” The Lestari tells Gruntle, “You are Trake’s Mortal Sword.” Gruntle ignores the comment and asks if Stonny is okay. They continue to retreat up floor by floor.

SCENE 3

Brukhalian watches as the cutters and Karnadas work to save the wounded, noting Karnadas has gone “too far” and how his body is now showing its “irreversible surrender,” and he knows Karnadas will be dead by dawn. The Grey Swords have been nearly totally destroyed in the defense and he acknowledges that Capustan has fallen. A messenger (the recruit with Itkovian when they met the K’Chain Che’Malle) arrives with a communication from Rath’Fener via an acolyte saying the Thrall is under attack and the priest is invoking the Eighth Command, demanding Brukhalian ride to his succor. Brukhalian is suspicious about how the acolyte managed to get across the city, then asks the messenger if she will join them. He then changes his mind and tells her to stay and guard his horse and then to “inform the Shield Anvil of my disposition when he awakes.” When she wonders what he means, he says she will know soon. He collects 400 soldiers, nearly all that is left of the Gray Swords and they head off, many of them knowing as he does that they are not meant to return, that they have been betrayed by Rath’ Fener. A suspicion Brukhalian confirms with a veteran, who says they should not go. Brukhalian tells him the priest’s crime will be answered, but not by them for if they do not go there is no crime. When the veteran looks forward to when Fener punishes the priest, Brukhalian corrects him, saying “our god shall not be the one . . . this is a betrayal that wounds him deeply, leaves him weakened and vulnerable to fatal consequences . . . our vengeful hand shall be Itkovian.” They enter the Thrall area and are cut down by archers lying in wait.

SCENE 4

Itkovian wakes and in his mind sees the scene at the Thrall, as after the archers foot soldiers attack the Grey Swords. Brukhalian’s sword burns with black fire that consumes the Pannion soldiers even as Brukhalian is wounded beyond mortal wounds, until he finally dies and it explodes, killing even more. As Brukhalian’s corpse drops to its knees, Hood appears “to greet this man’s soul. In person.” Then he disappears and it begins to rain. Itkovian feels Rath’Fener’s eyes sharing this same vision and he tells him “You are mine, betrayer. Mine.”

SCENE 5

Buke flies over the city, numbed by the horror below. At the necromancers’ estate, the Tenescowri have been repeatedly turned back by the animated corpses and other sorcery. He sees a single building filled and surrounded by the dead, surrounded by fire yet not burning, the walls weeping blood, and Gruntle and his squad on the roof where their child’s tunic standard flies. He thinks of Gruntle: “A terrible transformation . . . one more victim of this siege.”

SCENE 6

Itkovian comes fully awake, only partially healed. Karnadas is next to him, dying. The recruit messenger tells him there are 137 Grey Swords left, 96 of them recruits, and their barracks is fallen and burning. Karnadas dies. The messenger requests to be punished for bringing Rath’ Fener’s traitorous message. Itkovian tells her Brukhalian well knew what he was doing. As she leaves, Itkovian says, “I am not yet done.”

SCENE 7

Itkovian prepares the surviving Grey Swords for a march to the palace. He gives Brukhalian’s warhorse to the recruit.

SCENE 8

As they approach the palace, Itkovian feels some shame that Brukhalian had asked for six weeks and had gotten only three days. They enter into the main hall where Tenescowri are feasting, including Anaster and his mother. Near the throne, the Prince’s skin is stretched out on an x-shaped cross made of pikes. Anaster tells him the Prince was already dead—”we are not consciously cruel”—and says this must be Itkovian. He tells him they have figured out the population is hiding in tunnels and the Pannions are searching for them. Itkovian tells him he sees Anaster’s despair and will take it from him. When Anaster questions him, the Grey Sword captain explains: “Fener knows grief, so much grief that it is beyond his capacity to withstand it. And so he chooses a human heart. Armoured. A mortal soul, to assume the sorrow of the world. The Shield Anvil.” Anaster refuses and Itkovian realizes Anaster has nothing but despair; without it “he is as nothing.” Battle breaks out and the Seerdomin are killed as the Tenescowri flee. Itkovian commands the Prince’s skin be taken down and he will be returned to the throne. He says he will meet Anaster again-”I am his only salvation, sir, and I shall not fail him . . . I am the world’s grief. And I will hold. I will hold it all, for we are not yet done.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Sixteen:

Well, the poem certainly presents the First Child of the Dead Seed as a tragic figure—the victim of circumstance and upbringing. I guess it addresses the whole nature vs. nurture argument. Although we must despise the manner in which the First Child has been conceived, can we immediately despise him? It is, in essence, blaming a child of rape for the circumstances surrounding his being conceived. This makes me think more kindly of the First Child—at least until the point Erikson provides another perspective of the situation!

How ominous the words, “And Capustan drowned.” It really does make the situation very real and desperate.

As we read about the Tenescowri, is anyone else thinking “zombie horde”? That is exactly what is brought to mind for me—a shambling, ill-disciplined horde with food on their mind. I’m also terrified by the fact that they have clearly overrun the city, enough to be surrounding the barracks.

As peasants fell back, tumbled their way down the slope of corpses, women leapt at the men among them, tore at their clothing, pinned them in place with straddled legs and, amidst blood, amidst shrieks and clawing fingers, they raped them.

This really is disgusting– I’m sorry, but this genuinely sickens me and leaves me struggling to read on in this section. Am I being over-sensitive, or are other people as shocked by what Erikson writes? Anyone else struggling?

I guess, for these inhuman harpies, the bodies of the Grey Swords would be greatly desired for the seed they could provide. *sad*

Here we have two perspectives of how to deal war—the Seer, who is willing to throw thousands upon thousands to death to achieve his aim, and Itkovian, who is sickened to the core by having to deal such slaughter. You know how sometimes it is hard to know who to root for in Erikson’s novels? I think I’m good here....

Wow... just. Wow. That whole sequence dealing with Itkovian’s desperate battle against the Tenescowri—the wounds he suffers, his proud and indomitable horse, his ability and his faith—WOW. I feel exhausted having read it, to be honest. And then heartbreak at the end:

“Destriant!” he gasped, weaving on his saddle. “My horse, sir...my soldiers...”

No thought to the horrific wounds he’s sustained, his first thought is for those supporting him. Itkovian is a hero.

More hints as to the path that Gruntle is taking:

No weariness weighed down his arms or dulled his acuity. His breathing remained steady, only slightly deeper than usual. His forearms showed a strange pattern of blood stains, barbed and striped, the blood blackening and seeming to seep into his skin.

Is the Tiger actually riding him right now?

I wonder—will Stonny realise the price that Gruntle has paid and is paying in order to avenge her?

Knew, somehow, that he and the rest of the militia now existed more within the mind of Gruntle than they did in the real world.

Hmm, is Gruntle somehow using a warren?

And here is the final confirmation:

Their eyes locked for a long moment, and the lieutenant was both chilled and warmed by what he saw within the vertical slits of Gruntle’s pupils. A man to fear...a man to follow...a man to love. “You are Trake’s Mortal Sword,” he said.

Heh, always a word to watch for: “...the militia was converging...”

Here, this might be the first real comment on what might happen in the event that a user pulls too much on their warren—Brukhalian’s observations of Karnadas show a man who is literally bleeding to death from within. Or is this because of the poison contaminating the warrens? It sounds very much as thought this is something Brukhalian is familiar with, which suggests that this is the fate of anyone who uses their warren past the limits of their power. Not nice.

Again Erikson uses his characters hard. None of this trio—Itkovian, Brukhalian or Karnadas—are going to emerge from the battle unscathed, even with the magical healing that might be available. Erikson is constantly showing us that life during war is incredibly hard and leads to consequences. Unlike other fantasy novels, some of these characters will die horribly; all of them will be irretrievably changed. This is heart-breaking knowledge on its own, and something we’ve seen from the very first page of the prologue in Gardens of the Moon, where we met a young and naive Paran.

Brukhalian knows instantly that this is the moment of his betrayal, doesn’t he? As he is commanded to bring Fener’s company to the rescue of Rath’Fener. It is interesting that Brukhalian states that Fener will not be able to take revenge on Rath’Fener because the betrayal weakens him—the actions of his representative on the Masked Council make him vulnerable. We are indeed seeing power slanting from one God of War to the other, aren’t we? As one rises and grants power to his newly-appointed Mortal Sword, the other is betrayed and can no longer influence proceedings.

Itkovian is to provide the revenge on Rath’Fener, and Nilbanas pronounces himself “calmed” at the news—what is it about Itkovian that leaves him with this feeling?

Ack, another terribly hard scene to read—this is harrowing stuff. This book reaches further into darkness than those preceding. Here we see the death of Brukhalian through Itkovian’s eyes, as his body is brutally dismembered by the enemy. Really nasty. Dark. Bitter. I hope there is some levity to come, because this chapter has been a trauma so far. I can see no glory in these battles, just pain.

The King of High House Death has come to collect the soul of Brukhalian—I echo Itkovian when I say “Why?” RAFO?

Dear Lord—the Tenescowri have fled in terror from Korbal Broach and Bauchelain! That is some badass wizardry being thrown at them!

We are reminded by Buke’s observations that, although this battle was brutal, the citizens of Capustan have been given a sliver of hope by the actions of the Grey Swords. They still remain below the ground of Capustan. Can you imagine the claustrophobic terror of being trapped beneath the ground, as battle and desecration happens above your head? I’m reminded a little of the people of Rohan hiding within the mountains as their menfolk strive to fend off a terrible threat.

Hmm, we’ve been told a few times that the palace is something “other”—here, Buke observes, “To the southeast, hazy with rain and smoke, rose the prince’s palace towers. Dark, seemingly inviolate.” Are we ever going to have it revealed why Erikson is pointing out the otherworldly aspect of the palace?
The last sequence of Buke’s flight, as he sees the tenement where Gruntle has been battling, is extraordinarily powerful stuff. First, the image of the tenement building—walls weeping blood, “a mass of flesh and bone [...] a giant mausoleum, a monument to this day—and then that image of Gruntle—studying the horror he has committed, barbed in shadows, twin blades like bone.” It is wickedly written, giving me a perfect image of what Erikson intended me to see. Perfect writing.

I will just say—I find it slightly odd that the Grey Swords respond to both men and women as “sir”!

Wow, I can’t believe that Itkovian ends up thinking the following: “Brukhalian had asked for six weeks. Itkovian had given him less than three days. The truth of that gnawed within him...” As though the fault was his that Capustan was devastated by a force the like of which few had seen!

Alright, I’m willing to concede that Anaster might not be worth giving any chance to. Redemption seems beyond him. I’m actually shaking at the fate of Jelarkan, a man I thought it might have been easy to respect. And the horror of realising that the Tenescowri and their mad leader know exactly where the citizens of Capustan are hidden....

Although....

The Shield Anvil shook his head, slowly straightened once more. “No, I understand. The First Child—within him there is naught but despair. Without it... He is as nothing.”

Anaster does grieve for his actions.

And what a breathless sequence to end the chapter:

“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.”

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Sixteen:

It says a lot about Itkovian, as you point out Amanda, that he is horrified and sickened not simply by the obvious—the raping of the corpses and the feeding on human flesh—but by the slaughter he and his people are delivering upon those committing the horror, and how it leaves him hating not the Tenescowri, but the Pannion Seer who has “done such a thing to his own people” as well as the Septarch Kulpath for sending these untrained, unarmored, sometimes unweaponed peasants against the defenders.

Once again, I have little to say about the battle scenes themselves, save that I enjoy how sharply detailed and rich they are. We rarely, I’d say, get a true sense of a battle from horseback for instance—usually just someone leaning over and “swinging.” Here you get a true sense of the difference between battle between two ground soldiers and battle from horseback, as well as a sense of the partnership between man and horse. Which makes one understand why Itkovian asks Karnadas it be healed; it is not just a beast to him.

Itkovian’s horror at what he is forced to do is in sharp contrast to what we see happen with Gruntle: “Gruntle cut down peasants in order to close with them [Seerdomin]. It was his only desire. To close with them. To kill them. The rest was chaff, irritating, getting in the way. Impediments to what he wanted.” Is this merely a difference in temperament, that Gruntle fights for vengeance while Itkovian fights for defense, or is it related to the gods as well? Trake more of the “hunter” aspect of god of war—colder, more unfeeling? Or is it the contrast of a war god fallen (Fener) and one risen (Trake)?

I think in a lot of works, the transformation of Gruntle into Trake’s Mortal Sword would be portrayed in more heroic terms. After all, he’s getting faster, stronger; he has more endurance, heals faster. His people are affected around him. And with this added power he is killing lots of bad guys. But coming after Itkovian’s POV, we react differently as readers, I’d say, than we might have to the bad guys that are mere “chaff” to Gruntle. Then we see Stonny’s reaction to him—“whatever had rattled her upon their meeting”—as well as Buke’s characterization of him as another “victim” of the war. And this transformation into a being of great power seems a lot less glorious and heroic and positive than it might have seemed on the surface. I mentioned to Amanda last time to think about how Gruntle may react to being “claimed” by Trake and we start to get a hint here when his Lestari tells him what he is and he simply ignores him.

What a nightmare as well is the building? We’ve talked about the cinematic nature of much of Erikson’s writing; I’m not sure this is a setting I want to see on film. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is not.

Remember how Quick Ben first thought of the Grey Swords—mere “mercenaries”? We’ve seen a lot to turn that upside down obviously and so much more here: Karnadas healing until it literally kills him. And Brukhalian accepting Rath’Fener’s treachery and riding to certain death to ensure punishment. Boy was that first impression wrong.

With regard to Brukhalian, I think it makes this so much more poignant and tragic—the riding with full knowledge of what awaits rather than just being surprised by an ambush. I also like how Brukhalian gets it immediately. And I love their reaction to the Seerdomin pretending to be dead:

“Pathetic . . .

The Septarch deems himself clever, sir.”

File this line away about Fener: “this . . . leaves him weakened and vulnerable to fatal consequence.”

I like how when Itkovian first sees the recruit he had taken out earlier (when they met the K’Chain), he thinks he had seen her younger sister earlier, not seeing how she has aged in such brief time. Such a small, easily missed line that carries so much in it. Erikson doesn’t miss many opportunities.

That’s a nice concise explanation of a Shield Anvil we get and that power/role of Itkovian’s will play a huge part in the events of this book. The concept of a god overwhelmed by grief and needing a mortal heart to contain it, to bear the “sorrow of the world” is just a great concept and again, not how one expects “gods” to be used. And note that word “armoured” which we’ve seen again and again throughout.

As we’ve seen so many times before, Erikson overturns our expectations. And so here, with Anaster, who is after all leading an army of cannibals, but not only is he not a ravening monster as would be so easy to portray, but we get Itkovian’s actual sympathy for him, for being filled with nothing but despair.

And no, Itkovian is not yet done . . . boy will that line echo!


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.

33 comments
Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
I'd always thought Brukhalian was so awesome that Hood had to collect him himself. But now I wonder if Hood came came because Fener was weakened and unable to do so? I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that Fener hasn't yet been pulled into the mortal world by Baudin and Heboric.

Amanda, I've always loved how the Grey Swords refer to each other—regardless of gender or seniority—as "sir". To me, it shows the absolute respect each member has for each other.

Bill, I never before caught how Brukhalian sees through the Septarch's ruse of dead soldiers. That's pretty funny.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
This chapter contains so much. We get the horror of the siege and the swamping of Capustan. Almost too terrible to read, but too mesmerizing to stop. The awfulness of the Tenescowri. As Amanda says, they really do conjure the image of a zombie army. Now we can really start to see why Rake and co. think of the Seer as a bad guy.
The fall of Brukhalian is balanced in the rise of Gruntle. Interesting to note how Brukhaliandies yet gains in stature, while Gruntle lives and gains in power while increasingly losing his humanity.
Itkovian really comes to the forefront in this chapter. As we will see, the line:
“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.”
Is quite literal and we'll get some enormous travel with that.
Thomas Jeffries
3. thomstel
"I am not yet done."

I can't even read that line in the summary without getting a shiver, let alone in context. Damn fine line.

Also, here we have Itkovian, being a hero in many senses of the word. He's fighting the peasant horde to defend Capustan, cares more for others than himself when wounded, provides a backbone for his people that they might not have otherwise, becomes the sole commander of the Grey Swords in a matter of hours and doesn't pause at knowing what needs to be done, and sets out to right the wrongs at the Palace with Anaster. Quite a guy.

Despite all that "good" going on, Erikson still manages to paint us a complicated character. This isn't your standard Paladin on a white horse with a bright sword and blonde, flowing hair. While I think pretty much all Erikson's characters are fleshed out in ways that other authors don't/can't do, it is Itkovian that I like to dwell on the most. This guy should just be cliche, but is so totally not. I don't know if it's his thought processes that we get to share, or the circumstances of the character's story, or what...but man oh man is it some great writing and characterization. The fact that evil and good can be juxtaposed for many other characters to provide that level of depth, with Itkovian (and to only a smaller extent Brukhalien and Karnadas) it seems a much more difficult challenge than the others due to the wholeheartedly honest and virtuous nature that he possesses.
Robin Lemley
4. Robin55077
A few initial thoughts on this chapter:

1. We often mention the cinematic quality of SE's writing. Like Bill, I would not wish to see Gruntle's "building" on the big screen, but it is so powerfully written that when I think of MOI, this is the scene that always first comes to my mind, this building, filled to bursting with the dead of the Pannion. There is a scene coming up where people who were not in Capustan during the battle come upon this building and their reaction to seeing it. Absolutely powerful, descriptive writing.

2. The fact that Hood himself comes to collect Brukhalian. As we read the series, we realize that Hood rarely collects souls himself. After all, he is a busy god. Throughout the series we see a few times where Hood himself goes to collect a soul, and each time, simply the fact that Hood takes that task upon himself adds huge significance to the soul he is collecting. What an honor shown to Brukhalian by Hood.

3. Itkovian's line, “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.” Although I only saw the true power of these lines on re-read, even on my initial read, I felt that this was where you first saw the truth of exactly what "Shield Anvil" means.

Mortal Sword, Destriant, Shield Anvil. Of the three, Shield Anvil was the hardest concept for me to grasp. Mortal Sword, the weapon....Destriant, the priest/mage, Shield Anvil, a mortal soul who's sole purpose is to bear the grief.....oh poor Itkovian. Amanda stated that Itkovian is a hero...you have no idea.

:-)
karl oswald
5. Toster
Capustan, Capustan. The Siege of Capustan . Best read at night with low illumination, I find. To up the creep factor. It's one of those sieges that should probably have an epic poem written about it. Fisher?

Just everything about it, Itkovian carpeting the graveyard with corpses of cannibals. Gruntle, the Mortal Sword of Trake, filling an entire building with mangled flesh. The betrayal, retaking the palace, 'I am not yet done.'

It's all so well presented and realistically fleshed out. anyone interested should make their way over to malazanempire.com, where the member Corporal Nobbs has posted a beautiful 3D model of capustan. here's the link (some of the cities in the thread are from later in the series, FYI): http://forum.malazanempire.com/index.php?showtopic=21324
ksh1elds555
6. ksh1elds555
Re: Hood collecting Brukhalian's soul. Not to be too spoilerish, but Hood is another instance where SE outdoes the typical "lord of death" trope. In a later novel, he has a prominent presence and I thought is one of the most intriguing characters. Hood personally coming for a soul, is indeed an honor, as stated by Robin55077.
And Itkovian only gets better from here-he is far from done!.... in fact he might be in my top 5 favorites of this series.
Tricia Irish
7. Tektonica
What a powerful chapter! Horrific. There is so much horror and despair in this book that I am amazed that it's one of my two favorites of SEs. Perhaps that is because of the incredible intimacy SE gives us with the characters. And because of the intimacy, we get empathy. Extraordinary writing.

I assumed that Hood coming for Brukhalian in person was an honor.

I love the way Erikson states throughout the books that a god's power derives from his worshipers. In other words, a god is only as powerful as the number, and faithfulness of his worshipers. (thus the fading of Fener.)

It's an interesting comment on what's going on in our world right now, with various religious factions waxing and waning. Does the God change? Or just his/her ability to influence the world? Our world has some pretty aggressive gods right now. :-(

And Itkovian is amazing. What a heart!
Thomstel@3: I agree that Itkovian should be a cliche, but he's so NOT. Perhaps it is his total commitment to his beliefs? He is the most Holy of all the folks we meed in Wu, imho, and yet he is totally human. The Gray Swords are so honorable. QB needs to reassess.

Toster@5: Yikes! If I read the siege of Capustan at night, I'd never fall asleep, or if I did, it would be a night of tossing and dreaming troubled thoughts!

And....when do we get some comic relief?
Pirmin Schanne
8. Torvald Nom
Perhaps Brukhalian shares a certain penchant with the King of High House Death, and this affinity is a reason for his special treatment.
Jozefine Propper
9. Onderduikboot
@Bill totally agree with your POV about the battle scenes. In most books I find them crude and fragmented, but here the battle scenes are very detailed and incredibly rich and they seem to flow naturally. As stated before: the first time I was too hurried because I wanted to read the outcome. But now I can't get enough.

I'm still confused about where the dead go. As far as they're really dead anyway. There seem to be "afterworlds" for the different species. Some are collected in realms with family spirits close to the world of the living, some go to the realm of their god and then again some go through Hood's gate. And then again sometimes people are deserted by their gods and seem to go nowhere. I don't see any structure yet. Can anyone enlighten me? But being greeted at the Gate by Hood himself is the greatest honour.

@ Shalter 2. Yes, what a great observation. The balance between the calm acquiescent honour of the Grey Swords, whose god is falling in power, compared to the ferocious adolescent surge of Gruntle and his Trakians! The empathy of experience vs the "rucksichlose" black-and-white Sturm und Drang of the young. It's precisely this diversity and change in pace that wins me over for the battle-scenes. Though I must give Gruntle that he seems to have his doubts as soon as his battle-fury leaves him.
Hugh Arai
10. HArai
@ Amanda:
Itkovian is to provide the revenge on Rath’Fener, and Nilbanas pronounces himself “calmed” at the news—what is it about Itkovian that leaves him with this feeling?

Amanda, I see others in the comments have preceded me, but in this case it's simple: Nilbanas knows Itkovian and the lengths Itkovian will go to to carry out his responsibilites as he sees them. I'd be comforted too. "I am not yet done". Such a simple phrase, with such a weight attached.
Steven Halter
11. stevenhalter
Onderduikboot@9: Like many things in Malazan, the afterlife is varied depending on a number of things:
Where you live can make a difference in where you go (we'll see this later),
Who you worship can make a difference,
Your power can make a difference,
By what you are killed can make a difference (for example by Dragnipur), ...
Baring other intervening circumstances, most people end up in Hood's realm. As seen above, there are quite a few other circumstances.
Tricia Irish
12. Tektonica
Onderduikboot@9 and shalter@11:

Where you go after you die certainly depends on all the things you mentioned, shalter. I would add that it could be another comment on religion, both in Malazan and perhaps in RL too, in that What you Believe dictates what happens to you after you die. This seems to indicate that people in Wu have a lot of free will, as opposed to a determinist pov.

I wonder what goes on in Hoods realm after one passes through???
Julian Augustus
13. Alisonwonderland
Torvald @8:
Perhaps Brukhalian shares a certain penchant with the King of High House Death, and this affinity is a reason for his special treatment.

So far, we've seen Hood come down from his realm to personally collect the soul of a mortal, and in both cases it is when the dying man has expired in circumstances of extreme heroism, while doing their duty; Baudin in his heroic defence of Felisin, and now Brukhalian. I don't think affinity with HHD has anything to do with it.
Joe Long
14. Karsa
it is not too much of a spoiler to say that prior to hood, the souls just sort of "hung around" and were collected by whomever felt the obligation or responsibility (e.g. the god you worshipped). but when Hood took over (and we find out why/how) he took on the mantel of collecting souls.

@12 I loved the conversation in the book when the characters talked about this! :)
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
Tektonica@12:Although, we'll also see cases where what people believe doesn't quite match up with what they get. :-0
B T
16. amphibian
@ Robin, 4:

Mortal Sword, Destriant, Shield Anvil. Of the three, Shield Anvil was the hardest concept for me to grasp. Mortal Sword, the weapon....Destriant, the priest/mage, Shield Anvil, a mortal soul who's sole purpose is to bear the grief.....oh poor Itkovian. Amanda stated that Itkovian is a hero...you have no idea.

I suspect that you are slightly off about what the Shield Anvil's role is. The role is never explictly defined as "Shield Anvil: does dis, dat and the other thing." so do not take my speculation as gospel.

My conception of the Shield Anvil is the person charged with keeping the soul of the company/worshippers. They both shield their companions from metaphysical, moral, magical and tangible danger and provide the hard spine that can sustain the company by alleviating the damage suffered from fighting wars and through adversity. The hammers of war, pain and suffering hammer the Grey Swords against the anvil that is Itkovian, and something stronger and far more deadly is forged from them.

It is almost a political role in that the Shield Anvil has to be aware of morale, of threats, of casualties and of how to get everyone to the next part of the journey. Assuaging grief is only a small part of what the theoretical Shield Anvil's job should encompass. However, there is so much pain and grief in this book that Itkovian's true heroism is not achieved on the battlefield.

Itkovian is perhaps unique in his actions as a Shield Anvil, as the others we see in future books do not act as he does. That uniqueness will come into play within this book and in the future. In fact, his heroism may come into question because of his hyper-compassionate nature, but in the end, readers should note that Erikson said this series is about compassion.
Emiel R
17. Capetown
It's been 10 years since I've read this book so I apologize if this is explained in later chapters, but did Hood try to entice the Grey Swords away from Fener to spare him from being made vulnerable by the deaths and betrayal that are happening now?

Also, Brukhalians defying Hood (and earning his respect by that) by punching Gethol in the face may also have something to do with the personal approach he receives when he dies.
Gerd K
18. Kah-thurak
@Capetown
I guess the reason why Hood wants the Grey Swords might be found in Toll the Hounds. If you assume he planned so far ahead. This may also be another reason for him to collect Brukhalian personally.
ksh1elds555
19. Jordanes
As others have commented, this chapter really shows off the cinematic qualities of SE's writing. I won't go over what others have said already, but I personally loved that pause, after Brukhalian has been killed, but the corpse is still kneeling. And then it seems the world stands still for a moment, all freezes - and Hood himself appears before Brukhalian. A moment, then gone, and suddenly the heavens open and a downpour comes to cleanse the day away.

Spectacular.
Amir Noam
20. Amir
I have to admit that I've never fully understood Brukhalian's decision to waslk into the trap, and thus throw away the lives of most of the remaining Grey Swords.

Sure, Rath'Fener invoked a religious command that can't be ignored, but we've been told repeatedly just how much Karnadas outranks Rath'Fener. It's as if the Pope would arrive incognito to a small vilage and be ordered by the local priest to go on a suicide mission.

I don't see why Brukhalian would feel compelled to obey - it was his choice, given Karnadas's presence.
Steven Halter
21. stevenhalter
Amir@20: I think that it is because Rath'Fener is sufficiently high in the priestly ranks of Fener that his order is essentially a blot upon Fener. Fener's power (and thus part of Fener) is being used as part of Rath'Fener's invocation.
Only by sacrificing himself (and the Grey Swords) can Brukhalian negate the meta-damage to Fener that resulted from Rath'Fener's order.
It's kind of like identity theft--in this case it is part of Fener's identity that is being abused.
karl oswald
22. Toster
and to tell the truth, i think the pannions just didn't want to go looking all over the damn city for the last of the grey swords. :p lazy cannibals.

boy, i love chapter 17 though.

His bones are well, his flesh is not. My flesh is well, my bones are not. Are we brothers?

'Hello Capustan, the Bridgeburners have arrived.'
Amir Noam
23. Amir
shalter @21:
Thanks, this explanation does make sense.
I was never into the whole "we must sacrifice ourselves, otherwise there would be no crime to be punished" thing.
Jozefine Propper
24. Onderduikboot
@Karsa 14
I'm reading DoD at the moment and I see what you mean. But I didn't consider the time prior to Hood. Makes more sense to me now.
Thanks!
Mieneke van der Salm
25. Mieneke
@ Amanda:
I will just say—I find it slightly odd that the Grey Swords respond to both men and women as “sir”!
I think that's normal within the military, though I thought only from inferior to superior not vice versa?
It is interesting that Brukhalian states that Fener will not be able to take revenge on Rath’Fener because the betrayal weakens him—the actions of his representative on the Masked Council make him vulnerable.
*Haz lightbulb moment* I think I just made a connection back to DG! But I think it'll be better to let it sit till the next chapter otherwise it might be a spoiler?!

Toster @5: Is it it bad that when you suggested Fisher write a poem about it my mind immediately flashed to the morose intern Mr Fisher from Bones?

Now for some of my own comments:
After Amir noting and Bill agreeing about the fact that Stonny's rape was never explicitely stated as such, the fact that it is stated so baldly in the scene with the Mothers of the Dead Seed (can't remember if they have an official name?) it actually made me pause in my reading. Could that have been intentional?

I wonder whether Brukhalian could have done as much damage as Gruntle did if the situations had been reversed. Or whether Gruntle always was the better swordsman even without Trake's influence.

I like that Erikson emphasises the courage and nobility of the Grey Swords and in this way their kinship with the Bridgeburners by letting Karnadas actually doing what Mallet was prepared to do, healing himself to death.

The juxtaposition of Gruntle doing what he does, seemingly, for love of Stonny and Brukhalian's, again seemingly, cold sacrifice of his friends and subordinates is huge. It actually made me dislike him for a moment, but then he went on to sacrifice himself in a way that is both glorious and such a waste! Erikson really took me on a rollercoaster ride with my feelings regarding Brukhalian.

One thing is sure, Itkovian just became one of my favourite characters of the series so far. What a heart!
Mieneke van der Salm
26. Mieneke
Quote time!

'I thought you were a mage,' Paran muttered as the man turned towards the waiting squads.
Spindle glanced back. 'I am, Captain. And I'm a sapper, too. Deadly combination, eh?'
'Deadly for us,' Antsy retorted. 'That and your damned hairshirt--'
*****
We are their match, the captain realized as he ran, in calculated brutality. But this is a war of nerves where no-one wins.
*****
'At your sides, soldiers. In your shadow lies honour.'
*****
And who shall save me?
*****
'We'll call that a hobby.'
Maggie K
27. SneakyVerin
This is hnads down my favorite chapter of Memories...which is my favorite book of the series. I was never one much for military scenes before having read this book, but the poignancy of Brukhalian riding to his death, giving courage to his men as they realize this as well...
How shall we enter the concourse? “With great joy, sir.”
“The Septarch deems himself clever, sir”. “And us stupid with honor” “Aye, we are that indeed, are we not, old friend?”

and the dance of life Nilbanis performs, spinning, even in death, his blood spinning as well...

I rarely cry reading, but this scene had me bawling
Pirmin Schanne
28. Torvald Nom
Alisonwonderland@13:
So far, we've seen Hood come down from his realm to personally collect the soul of a mortal, and in both cases it is when the dying man has expired in circumstances of extreme heroism, while doing their duty; Baudin in his heroic defence of Felisin, and now Brukhalian. I don't think affinity with HHD has anything to do with it.



Ahh, I didn't mean to imply an affinity from Brukhalian towards the House of Death (although probably most every soldier has such), but more an affinity felt by Hood towards these heroes, especially considering the success of their respective deeds.
M D
29. Abalieno
Read most but not all the chapter. Not much to add to comments of my own, the scenes here are mostly straightforward.

I see a pattern in the way the two threads are opposed: one (Itkovian) is descending, and the other (Gruntle) ascending. Even if neither is pleasant or reassuring. I especially liked how the (super)heroism of Gruntle is played down by Buke, who's more horrified than awed by the sight of his friend (who survived, after all).

I know that what happens to Gruntle has been criticized a number of times on forums as an example of D&D leveling characters. That kind of snarky criticism and one of the favorite arguments wielded by Erikson detractors. But I've never understood it because, beside the similarity on the surface, it's not the way ascendancy works in the series. Neither it is the case in this instance. Gruntle doesn't "level up" because he kills so many, and so racks "experience points". It seems actually he's picked long before the fight starts, and the only elements that seem to contribute to the transformation are Gruntle himself, from a side, sinking in the role without resisting it, and the blood on his arms that seems to be "absorbed".

For sure this is the sort of stuff that can tick off certain readers and kill their suspension of disbelief. I'm personally somewhat in the middle, as I don't argue about what is going on or refuse it, but the over-the-top stuff also works for me like a veil and so these scenes are less visceral and effective because they also feel more artificial. Especially these where the characters behave less human-like and more like god-smitten (for example the way the Grey Swords go to their death).

Ah, it's also nice that Hood comes hidden in his cowl, as is the typical image of death, but one also wonders if it's not a nice trick used to not reveal his true identity ;)

The reason why he appears could either be for emphasis, as it could be something more. As someone pointed out it was the Grey Sword who attacked his "herald", and this also means that Hood was already interested in them and part of the manipulation that brought Fener down, replacing it with Trake. Remember the prologue of DG? He mocks Heboric, and this was long before this scene. So Hood was part of this manipulation, maybe along with K'rul.

I wonder: could Hood have appeared just to mock Brukhalian, knowing that his death was basically the finishing act of his god? What Hood is witnessing there is a switch in the pantheon he was planning and expecting, so maybe Hood was more interested in its own ends than to celebrate the heroism. He summons a suggestive rain, but one could still wonder...
M D
30. Abalieno
Finished the chapter. I think the excerpt at the beginning of chapter 17 is relevant for what follows as for what precedes it:

What the soul can house, flesh cannot fathom.

Especially with the last lines of the chapter:

"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.

Maybe a contrast, as one could interpret that line as ambivalent: the soul can be darker and more perverse than the pain that is implied in nature, as it can also elevate to embrace values that make men better, like in Itkovian example. It's like a pit that goes both ways, almost bottomless. Also implying the theme of the endless struggle that is life.

I've criticized the chapter in the previous comment but there are also high points. For example in the structure of the PoVs that enhances the effect. At the beginning of the chapter there are two scenes in succession, one with Itkovian, the other with Gruntle, both being "swarmed" in the battle. Itkovian barely makes it, while Gruntle has to "ascend" to the top of the house (and maybe inverted in what they represent as the human struggle).

The other two scenes are both external. We see the end of the Grey Swords through Iktovian's vision, sharing it with Rath'Fener, and then we see again Gruntle from Buke's PoV. They are "moments", like pictures taken, that have a lot of epicness. The external PoV is a way to mirror the future memory of these events.

The contrast is that Erikson's writing is so precise and essential in descriptions that the risk is that there's no time to let these events sink in the perception. The books are so ruthless and fast that one amazing event is replaced by another, and then another without much possibility to empathize with it and absorb it fully. I'm reading Janny Wurts at the moment and there's quite a bit of contrast since her writing has very slow and minute psychological development that makes every slight nuance feel like a major development (and they ARE usually a big deal).

I'm not saying that the latter is better (a rather slow, duller read that requires some dedication), but I sometimes feel that when Erikson accelerates the pacing, as to match a cinematographic style, he also loses something.
Steven Halter
31. stevenhalter
Abalieno@29: If you look closely, you will also see that Gruntle is descending (into savagery) as Itkovian ascends into a more refined moral state. Interesting parallels.

As you mentioned, it is fairly clear that Gruntle is not "leveling" up by killing people. He gains his power through the acceptence of the role of Mortal Sword of Trake.
ksh1elds555
32. endertek
Again - over a year late with this! But wanted to just put my thoughts on what a Shield Anvil is out there...

I think a Shield Anvil is someone who witnesses the life of the god's adherents and offers understanding and compassion for the life that was lived and the choices that were made and all the various consequences that comprise the person's life. In doing so, meaning is bestowed on that life. Without meaning, life is not worth living. So the Shield Anvil takes the pain and horror, the joy and elation and everything in between and in understanding and accepting it, he/she grants meaning. The soul can then rest in peace.

Think about it this way - does sharing a trouble - something you are worried about - and having the person you share with take the time to truly understand what you are going through - help you deal with the trouble and find peace with it even if you can't "fix" it? For me, yes! How much more would having someone understand and feel compassion for the entirety of your life grant you peace!
ksh1elds555
33. Drewbone
Oh my god. I am reading the books for the first time followed by these articles, and I think this is the first one so far where Amanda hasn't used "*grins*" in her write up. I am so happy I just had to make my first comment even though this article is years old.

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