Fri
May 20 2011 12:02pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapter 17

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 17 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 Seventeen

SCENE 1

Toc is fevered and delirious in the cave and clutches of the K’Chain Matron. He dreams of wolves, “hunting, not to feed, but to deliver something else . . . the quarry fled when it saw him . . . as they closed in to deliver . . . the quarry vanished.” Meanwhile, the Matron is always breaking his bones when embracing him, bones which heal quickly though not evenly so he is malformed. He’s also visited by the Seer who gives him news that Envy’s group is trapped, “swallowed in ice,” while the Malazan army is too late and Capustan fallen. Then later, the Seer comes and says his defenses are being sorely tested—“they are not mortal beasts”—so they are leaving, heading north. Toc shifts to a POV outside the city as Envy’s group attacks and he watches Tool, Baaljagg and Garath defeat Kell hunters, and Garath get badly wounded but then he’s ripped out of the vision as the Seer takes him and the Matron via warren from Outlook to Coral. Envy assaults the warren and Toc blacks out.

SCENE 2

Paran looks over Capustan from a hillside. He sees it fallen and thinks only the Crimson Guard might have made a difference, that otherwise “mercenaries were less than worthless.” He hopes Humbrall Taur’s children are still alive. Trotts arrives and Paran tells him it could be worse—there’s fire but no firestorm and Trotts says the Bridgeburners saw one in Seven Cities once. Trotts describes Taur’s plans for disposition of the clans and tells Paran Hetan and Cafal are alive, the bones protected by sorcery. When Paran chafes at the pace, Trotts says he has been given leave to lead his “clan” at his own speed and so the Bridgeburners will be first into the city. Paran thinks how his pain is worse—he’s throwing up blood now—and also how he has been pushing away Silverfox’s questing thoughts. They prepare to enter with the 37 Bridgeburners.

SCENE 3

The Bridgeburners edge up to the city, Paran once again pushing away Silverfox’s presence, though he is beginning to wonder if it is indeed Silverfox he feels. They prepare to punch through a group of infantry with Spindle leading the sappers in their use of munitions. After they use cussers, Paran runs with the squad toward the city, horrified by the devastation: “The hand of vengeance stayed cold only so long. Any soul possessing a shred of humanity could not help but see the reality behind cold deliverance, no matter how justified it might have at first seemed . . . Destroyed lives. Vengeance yielded a mirror to every atrocity, where notions of right and wrong blurred and lost all relevance . . . we are their match in calculated brutality.” They enter the city and seeing the cost of the siege to the Pannions, Paran thinks “I should revise my estimation of the Grey Swords.” They head toward the glowing Thrall, having to climb a slope of corpses to pass one street. As Paran thinks how the Grey Swords have humbled the Bridgeburners with the evidence of the courage and unyielding nature, they realize the slope of bodies was constructed as a siege ramp, ending just below the roofline of a building. Gruntle calls down to them and when Hedge says “I like the paint,” referring to Gruntle and his squad’s stripes, Gruntle says it isn’t paint. As the Malazans climb to the roof via ladders Gruntle’s squad sends down, Paran notes that Picker is in pain, but she says Mallet can’t help her when Paran suggests it. On the roof, Gruntle tells Picker she has something for him and he reaches out for her torcs, which she says have been getting tighter and tighter. She tells him Treach is insane and Gruntle says he is dead and ascended into godhood. He takes the torcs and puts them on. Paran, looking at him, thinks “A beast resides within him, an ancient spirit, reawakened,” and notes that Gruntle is a combination of himself and Treach, not merely a vessel: “[Gruntle’s] power . . . was born as much from a natural air of command as from the beast hiding within him—for that beast preferred solitude. its massive strength had somehow been almost subsumed by that quality of leadership. Together, a formidable union.” He also realizes Gruntle is important and Paran meeting him “is no accident.” Gruntle tells them Stonny is dying in a tent and when Mallet goes to heal her, Paran warns him how the last time almost killed him. But Mallet says the Barghast spirits are helping him, that “someone’s taken a personal interest.” As he communes with the spirits he speaks of how Stonny has wounded flesh and spirit and he’ll need to heal both, then comments on how the Barghast spirits will sacrifice so many to save her. He then mentions “threads” that the spirits see in her, Gruntle, and Paran, but says he cannot see them. Mallet and the spirits heal her to Gruntle’s shock.

SCENE 4

The White Face defeat the Pannion reinforcements and enter the city, routing the Tenescowri and pressing back the Pannion rearguard. Picker watches from the rooftop, wondering about the others, if they’re even alive. She thinks Paran’s condition doesn’t bode well. Stonny arrives and asks Picker if she is sworn to Trake, because of the torcs. Picker says no and realizes what has Stonny confused is how Gruntle ended up transformed into what he is. Gruntle says she doesn’t recognize him, he’s “cold, inhuman” like a tiger. Picker points out he fought for Stonny, but Stonny says that was just his excuse. Picker says it isn’t just Gruntle but his men as well, and says Treach may have shaped all this and Picker had a role to play as well. Stonny says she won’t worship Trake; she’s sworn to another god. Picker says maybe Stonny’s god found it all useful: “We [humans] ain’t the only ones who sometimes walk in step, or even work together to achieve something of mutual benefit—without explaining a damned thing to the rest of us . . . It’s deadly attention when it’s a god’s.” Saying that makes her realize others are keeping secrets and she asks Paran if he’s heard from Silverfox. He says she’s alive and that confirms Picker’s suspicion and she thinks it is a bad decision: “the last time us Bridgeburners was kept in the dark, that dark swallowed damn near every one of us.” He tells her Dujek and Silverfox are only three leagues away and they know the Pannions are being driven toward them. Picker wonders how tight the bond is between Paran and Tattersail and why he’s kept it secret. She’s angry as is Antsy who upbraids him “speaking for all the Bridgeburners” because they’ve been fighting and dying and not knowing what was happening with the rest, and if Paran had been killed they would not have known at all. Antsy draws his sword and when Picker tells him to stop, Paran says “I’ll make it easier” and turns his back on Antsy. Picker is horrified that Paran is hurting so bad he wants to die. Mallet tells Antsy to stop and Picker yells at him for also keeping secrets, as he spent a lot of time talking with Quick Ben. Mallet says Paran has been pushing Silverfox away so they aren’t actually talking like Picker thinks, and she’s wrong if she thinks the Bridgeburners are being singled out for betrayal again; Paran simply isn’t talking to anyone, “and if you had as many holes burned through your guts as he does, you’d be pretty damned tight-lipped yourself.” Picker realizes she screwed up.

SCENE 5

Paran is barely paying attention, “assailed by the pressure of Silverfox’s presence.” He wants to die, wants it over. He feels her close and senses her power, “that was so much more than just Tattersail. Making its relentless desire to break through his defenses much deadlier of purpose . . . This isn’t Tattersail at all. It’s Nightchill. Bellurdan. One or both.” Suddenly he has a vision of a card—Obelisk—”a leaning monolith . . . now of green stone. Jade. Towering above wind-whipped waves—no, dunes of sand. Figures, in the monolith’s shadow. Three . . . Ragged, broken, dying. Then, beyond . . . the furred hoof of a god stepped onto mortal ground. Terror. Savagely pulled into the world . . . Fener was as good as dead . . . like a babe on an altar. All that was required was a knife and a willful hand.” He wants to step away from the knowledge, from the “choices being demanded of him.” He realizes that as Fener has fallen, another has been pushed into his place, “mortals sworn to one, swear them now to another? Are we to be shoved—flicked—around like pebbles on a board?” He grows angry and his anger drives his pain away: “you wanted my attention. You’ve got it. Listen and listen well, Nightchill—whoever . . . Maybe there have been Masters of the Deck before . . . whom you could pluck and pull to your bidding. Hood knows, maybe you’re the one—you and your Elder friends—who selected me . . . But if so, oh, you’ve made a mistake. A bad one. I’ve been a god’s puppet once before. But I cut those strings . . . ask Oponn . . . I walked into a cursed sword to do and I swear I’ll do it again—with far less mercy in my heart—if I get so much as a whiff of manipulation.” At first he senses amusement from the presence, but his anger at that response draws out the beast/hound in him and the amusement quickly changes to alarm. He tells it “I’m taking a step forward. Between you and every mortal like me. I don’t know what that man Gruntle had to lose, to arrive where you wanted him . . . is pain your only means of making us achieve what you want? . . . until you can show me another way—something other than pain or grief—I’ll fight you. We have our lives . . . and they are not for you to play with. Not Picker’s life, nor Gruntle’s or Stonny’s.” He threatens Nightchill (assuming it’s her) with him riding down their connection with the blood of a Hound of Shadow and also with calling the rest of them along: “because in the sword Dragnipur, two Hounds of Shadow returned to the Warren of Darkness. Returned Nightchill. Do you grasp my meaning? They were going home. And I can call them back . . . Two souls of untamed Dark.” Nightchill finally answers him, telling him he has “no idea what you threaten . . . My brother’s sword hides far more secrets than you can comprehend.” But Paran tells her, “Worst than that Nightchill. The hand now wielding Dragnipur belongs to Darkness. Anomander Rake . . . the pathway has never been so straight, so direct . . Should I tell him what happened . . .” When she says Rake would kill him Paran says don’t be so sure and then demands she show him this vast struggle she says justifies their treatment of mortals and when she says it would drive him insane he calls her a “patronizing bitch.” Angered, she tells him he’s so sure the gods only use pain, but “appearances deceive. When he mockingly asks if keeping mortals ignorant is supposed to be mercy she says yes, actually. But, he says, the Master of the Deck cannot be ignorant. She answers “in time” they will. He asks who she means and she answers herself, K’rul, “the surviving Elder Gods,” but not Draconus, who can now only “act indirectly, for he is chained within the very sword he created.” Paran realizes he spoke to Draconus in Dragnipur and Nightchill tells him Draconus has been changed by his time in the sword; his cruelty has been “blunted.” When Paran asks if she wants him to free Draconus she says yes and when Paran says he wouldn’t do that and let Draconus go after Rake for the sword, she says Draconus will not battle Rake for Dragnipur since to free Draconus the sword must be shattered. Paran says no way, since that would mean freeing everybody in the sword, but Nightchill says he needn’t decide now, and Draconus may have to figure out some way to not allow the rest out. She tells him they are not as cruel as he thinks and he says he’s skeptical of that claim and thinks she wants vengeance still. She agrees, but says only against “the one who voiced” her ancient curse (Kallor). He asks what Nightchill has done with Tattersail and she says nothing; “we shall not harm her . . . there is honor within her. And integrity.” The conversation breaks off suddenly as Mallet puts his hand on Paran’s shoulder, saying they’d thought they’d lost Paran there. Paran orders them to the Thrall. Gruntle is going with them.

SCENE 6

Itkovian stands atop the palace tower, exhausted, knowing the battles are winding down and the Pannion will soon be driven fully off. The Capan recruit, Velbara, is with him. Itkovian says they will head for the Thrall. He wonders at how a surviving Gidrith, “sworn to Hood follows my command.” And he feels something has happened, leaving him feeling hollow and “incomplete . . . as if I had surrendered my faith . . . I am . . . emptied as if I await renewal.”

SCENE 7

As they prepare to head out, Itkovian listens to the silence of the city and thinks “Dear Fener, find for me the victory in this . . . a city has been killed.” As they move through the corpse-strewn streets, he muses on how “what the Pannions had delivered had in turn been delivered upon them. We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss . . . From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion. They meet a group of Barghast also heading to the Thrall, who praise Itkovian for the strength and bravery of the Grey Swords. As they walk, Itkovian notes Gruntle’s building and how it hadn’t been touched by fire and realizes it is packed (literally) with dead. The Barghast leader says they fled from it, and that the only similar thing they’d come across was an estate guarded by animated corpses. Itkovian thinks how “The Reve of Fener voiced the truth of war. It spoke true of the cruelty that humanity was capable of unleashing on its own kind . . . insisted the glory to be found was not to be a blind one, rather a glory born of solemn, clear-eyed regard.” Regard, he thinks, that is failing him, though he swears to himself he will assume the burden. he would redeem the dead, though he worries that his redemption can only come from his god but he cannot find Fener, his realm “seems empty.” And he wonders “who will embrace me?” They enter the plaza and meet the Bridgeburners and Gruntle’s group also coming. Itkovian realizes at the sight of Gruntle that “we are replaced.” The Masked Council and Keruli appear as well. Gruntle tells Itkovian “it is done,” but Paran says not so fast, that while the Grey Swords have lost their god, a “path has been prepared.” He is interrupted though by the appearance of Humbral Taur. Before Paran can continue, Itkovian tells him to wait so he can punish Rath’Fener. When Itkovian says he will invoke Fener’s Reve, the priest says only a Mortal Sword can and Gruntle, who knows of the betrayal, says he’ll do it then. Rath’Trake tells Itkovian that without Fener, the punishment will be especially harsh and suggests mere execution. But Itkovian refuses, though Rath’ Trake says “his soul will be torn apart. Where they (the priest’s hands) will go, there are no creatures of mercy.” Itkovian cuts of Rath’ Fener’s hands, which disappear. Paran says with Fener gone, “he cannot bless you. With what you take upon yourself, there is nowhere for it to go, no way to ease the burden.” Itkovian says he knows. Paran continues that there is another way though, and Rath’ Trake says the Tiger of Summer will welcome them, but Itkovian says no. Paran says this moment was foreseen by Elder gods and they would want the Grey Swords to do this, but Itkovian refuses, saying “I am not yet done.” Rath’ Fener’s body suddenly spasms and “alien script swarmed his flesh as the unknown claimant made its mark, claiming possession of the man’s mortal soul. Words that darkened like burns.” The priest is being tortured, his skin boiling, but he is not dying. Itkovian steps forward and asks the priest if he will accept Itkovian’s embrace and Rath’ Fener, knowing what that would mean to Itkovian, pulls away out of mercy, but Itkovian picks him up: “I see you recoil and know it for your final gesture. One that is atonement . . . I assume your pain . . I free your soul to Hood, to death’s solace.” All of the priest’s life goes before Itkovian’s vision so that Itkovian understands him fully and he takes his pain and grief but “suddenly, beyond the pain, a mutual awareness—an alien presence, immense power. Not malign, yet profoundly different. From that presence, confusion, anguish. Seeking to make of the unexpected gift of a mortal’s two hands something of beauty . . . yet that man’s flesh could not contain that gift. Horror within the storm . . . and grief.” And so Itkovian opens himself to take that presence’s grief as well: “even gods weep. Commend yourself then to my spirit. I will have your pain.” But it is too much for Itkovian: he felt his soul dissolving . . . there was, beneath the cold faces of gods, warmth. Yet it was sorrow in darkness, for it was not the gods themselves who were unfathomable. It was mortals. As for the gods—they simply paid. We [mortals] are the rack upon which they are stretched.” The alien god manages to extract itself but Itkovian is still overwhelmed by Rath’ Fener’s pain and the pain of the entire city “as his embrace was forced ever wider . . . Not one he would turn away. Souls in the tens of thousands, lifetimes of pain, loss, love, and sorrow . . . Memories of piteous, pointless ends . . . I must atone. I must give answer to every death . . . to free the souls to find their way to the feet of countless gods, or Hood’s own realm, or indeed to the Abyss itself . . . Reach gods! Redeem them, sir [Itkovian]! you are the bringer of peace, the redeemer of the fallen. . . without you death is senseless and the denial of meaning is the world’s greatest crime to its children.” The others watch as Itkovian is overwhelmed, as he drops to his knees, stops breathing. Paran shakes him and Itkovian draws breath again, “such weight! Why? God, you all watched. You witnessed . . . but did not step forward. You denied my cry for help. Why?” Paran tells him he can feel it; the city has been “cleansed.” And Itkovian thinks “I am not yet done.”

SCENE 8

As Gruntle watches, he feels the fog that has been around him lifting and notes how he has changed. He is terrified by the coldness of the killer in him, and tells Trake “you could’ve at least asked.” He recognizes his group are now followers, “sworn” to him, but is thankful Stonny is not, sworn to Keruli’s god instead. Stonny fills him in on what’s been happening and mentions she’s surprised at him, as she never took him for the worshipping type. He says he isn’t and Trake made a bad choice. When she assumes Buke is dead, Gruntle points out the sparrowhawk overhead and explains. They’re interrupted by Rath’Trake who is shocked and disturbed by Gruntle’s noted lack of reverence for their god—Gruntle calls him the “Whiskered One” and says he’ll be the Mortal Sword as a “hobby.” Paran overhears and laughs: “it never goes how you think it should, does it priest? That’s the glory of us humans, and your new god had best make peace with that.”

SCENE 9

Blend tells Picker what seems to have happened and says Paran’s power and attitude will be good for them. Taur and Trotts and the Barghast begin moving to the Thrall’s gate to meet their gods.

SCENE 10

The sparrowhawk watches everything, sees the Pannions retreating, the city being slowly cleaned up, Barghast heading to the Thrall. It keeps its distance, which is what keeps it sane, “vast dramas of death and desperation were diminished almost into abstraction . . . the sheer muddiness of humanity, all diminished, the futility reduced to something strangely manageable. Burned out buildings. The tragic end of innocents. Wives, mothers, children . . . No closer. Ever again.” It heads further skyward—”there was pain the gifts of the Elder Gods. But sometimes, there was mercy.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Seventeen:

“What the soul can house, flesh cannot fathom.” I believe this is a direct reference to Itkovian and his position as the Shield Anvil.

The Matron is hideous, isn’t she? I weep for Toc—seriously, did Erikson have something against this guy? Was it a case of seeing how much pain and terror you can put one character through? [Bill: Oh you just wait.] I wonder who the characters are that Toc sees as he dreams? Are they his memories or the memories of the wolf within him?

Speaking of a guy dreaming of wolves: give me Toc over Perrin any day. *grins wolfishly* [Bill: Funny, but I had the same thought.]

The quarry in his dreams—that would be the Mhybe, correct?

Hmm, somehow I thought that the Matron was controlling the Seer but from this comment it sounds as though the reverse is true... “...and dear Mother here—oh, is that horror I see in her eyes? Some sanity still resides in her rotted brain, it seems. How unfortunate...for her.”

A link between Toc and Tool in the future? “His bones are well, his flesh is not. My flesh is well, my bones are not. Are we brothers?”

After the way that the Grey Swords gave up their lives so selflessly and heroically, it is terrible to hear Paran’s rather sneery thoughts about mercenaries. “With the lone exception of Prince K’azz D’Avore’s Company of the Avowed, mercenaries were less than worthless as far as the captain was concerned. Tough talk and little else.” I do hope that his impression of the Grey Swords improves!

Trotts is so damn casual and laid back, isn’t he? And he seems to take particular pleasure in riling up Paran—although I would perhaps have picked a different time to tease were I Trotts!

Maybe it’s just me, but were I throwing up acidic bile and blood I might approach a healer to see if they could do something. Typical man, with all that pride! *winks*

Ack, I can’t take the fact that Trotts is now commander of the Bridgeburners seriously—just because the Malazans have allied with the Barghast (uneasily) Trotts has to be warchief? Paran is certainly taking it seriously enough, but he seems to be running away willingly from all his responsibilities right now.

There are some lovely moments as the Bridgeburners discuss tactics. I love the fact that Antsy is a completely different character as soon as battle is upon him: “This is fightin’, ain’t it? Now answer my question, soldier.” I also like that Hedge—clumsiness extraordinaire—has broken the lobber that Fiddler made him.

*grins* “I thought you were a mage [...] I am, Captain. And I’m a sapper, too. Deadly combination, eh?”

Isn’t it cool the way that, in times preparing for fights, the Bridgeburners speak in a sort of shorthand? They’ve worked together for so long that they have no need to speak at length about their battle plan. I appreciate the way that Erikson retains this shorthand in the dialogue; it makes you feel as though you’re peeping into the everyday lives of the soldiers.

“If swords clash...it will be my first. After all this time, my first battle...”

Wow, now that didn’t occur to me. Gods, Paran seems like a true veteran at this stage, what with the knowledge he is carrying and what he has gone through. This is terribly sad somehow....

Those sappers are KER-AZY!

This made me pause: “He felt himself shutting down inside, even as he slipped and staggered through the human ruin... shutting down as he had once before, years ago, on a road in Itko Kan.” How many years ago was that? Was it actual years or is it just that Paran feels as though it has been years?

I absolutely love this line and feel its resonance for our own time: “Vengeance yiekded a mirror to every atrocity, where notions of right and wrong blurred and lost all relevance.”

“Gods,” Paran muttered, “the Pannions paid dearly.” I think I should revise my estimation of the Grey Swords.

FINALLY.

And now I’m deeply sad: “These soldiers humble us all. A lesson... for the Bridgeburners around me. This brittle, heart-broken company. We’ve come to a war devoid of mercy.”

Ha, this meeting between Gruntle’s squad and the Bridgeburners is fraught with meaning and foreshadowing. What is the link between Stonny and Paran and Gruntle? Why is it that Mallet is given the power—and the necessary sacrifices - to bring Stonny back from the brink? I like the fact that Gruntle’s innate character and authority has affected the Tiger within him—the beast is solitary, but Gruntle is gathering people around him. Neat use of the word “converging” here to describe both squads—apt, don’t you think? And that last line from Antsy made me smile fiercely: “Hello, Capustan. The Bridgeburners have arrived.”

Another comment on the fragility of the Bridgeburners: “Not a single clash of blades yet. Good. We ain’t as tough as we used to be, never mind Antsy’s bravado.” So much is being made of their new vulnerability that it must be building to something?

Well, here, it did lead to something immediately—Picker’s innate distrust of being left in the dark and secrets surrounding the Bridgeburners, after the events of Pale and the betrayal that occurred. Mallet’s quiet pronouncement that Paran is ill and not talking to anyone makes Picker see such shame in herself—and realisation that neither she nor the rest of the company have recovered much at all from the situation at Pale.

Ooh, through Paran’s eyes we’re seeing the events from Deadhouse Gates, with Felisin and her crew, aren’t we? Fener’s appearance in the mortal realm must be due to the betrayal he has suffered: “Fener was as good as dead. A god trapped in the mortal realm was like a babe on an altar.”

It is interesting that Paran finally recognises that Nightchill is more than what she has been represented to him—he sees her as one of the Elder Gods, and someone who is attempting to manipulate him. It’s great that this has stirred his defiance—I’ve not been enjoying the sad and quiet Paran much at all. Mostly because I know what his character is capable of.

And how! Look at Paran taking a stand here: “I’m taking a step forward. Between you and every mortal like me.” What amuses me is that Paran states this because he doesn’t want to be manipulated anymore—but Nightchill has manipulated him into action whereas before he was holding himself aloof from proceedings.

This intrigues me: “...two Hounds of Shadow returned to the Warren of Darkness.” Does this mean that the Hounds were never originally of Shadow, and were stolen for use by Shadowthrone? Does this mean High House Dark actually has the use of them? Curious.

Paran also shows a fairly deep understanding of Anomander Rake—a knowledge he didn’t have before, I don’t think. Where has he gained this knowledge? Also, Paran reflects the same respect and almost reluctant liking for Rake as the latter showed for him previously.

I love the way here that Nightchill tries to play the “Need to Know” card, but Paran isn’t having any of it, and states that if he is to become the Master of the Deck he cannot stay ignorant. I can sort of see both points of view here—definitely Paran’s, since he cannot act effectively without having full knowledge, but also Nightchill’s, since a battle does require people to only know the parts of it they can influence and keeping knowledge restricted is handy in the event someone falls into the enemy’s hands.

Huh! Draconus was the hooded figure to walk alongside Paran within Dragnipur. I’m going to have to haul out my tattered copy of Gardens of the Moon in order to re-read that particular passage! (In fact, I might have to do a skim read of GotM after Memories of Ice to really cement some of what is going on in my mind....)

I’m surprised to find that I actually like Nightchill. She has been built up to someone who is now to be feared and disliked; someone who might take over Silverfox as opposed to Tattersail. But she seems a strong and reasoned voice, confining her thoughts of vengeance towards Kallor: “The one who voiced that curse is the sole focus of my desire for vengeance.” I also appreciate that Nightchill feels respect towards Tattersail: “There is honour within her. And integrity. Rare qualities, for one so powerful.”

Here again we have links between Hood and Fener’s followers: “A Gidrath sworn to Hood, yet he follows my command without hesitation. Simple expedience, one might reasonably conclude. Notions of rivalry dispensed with in the face of the present extremity. Yet... I find myself mistrusting my own explanations.” What is Hood up to?

Poor Prince Jelarkan—he will become one of those almost nameless people by the end of this series who it would have been good to see more of, had war not swept him away into death: “A young prince who had loved his people, now joined to their fate.”

Itkovian is an awesome viewpoint to follow through the decimated city of Capustan. His compassion, and his raison d’etre (to take on the grief of the world) lends extra resonance to the passages where he looks at what has become of a lively city. “A soul hardened beyond humanity was the only defence, and for Itkovian that price was too high.”

I like the point Erikson makes where he details the fact that at some point the spiral of hate and vengeance must end in order to make recovery happen: “We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss, to drag ourselves free of the descending spiral. From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion.”

Itkovian is brave. He feels the absence of Fener, but is determined to go on until he is done. Only... “I am not yet done. I accept this. And when I am? Who awaits me? Who shall embrace me?” Who will take in the soul of Itkovian? Is Hood aiming for him too? On top of this weakening of his resolve, Itkovian is then faced by the Mortal Sword of Trake and thinks: “We... we are replaced.” How heartbreaking for a man of faith that he faces the death of his own god.

Every time I think that Erikson has reached the pinnacle of what he is able to achieve with his writing, he shows me something more. This scene with Itkovian opening himself to the grief of an unknown god who has claimed the hands of Rath’Fener; allowing his gift to embrace all the fallen souls of Capustan—this scene is something else. Haunting and deeply profound. I’m left unutterably moved by what I feel I have witnessed. Erikson’s clear writing gives everything such a clear picture in my mind and I have the same thought as Paran: “The lone, kneeling figure seemed—to the captain’s eyes—to encompass the exhaustion of the world, an image that burned into his mind, and one that he knew would never leave him.”

Awww, poor Gruntle! “Dammit, you could’ve at least asked.” It does bring to the fore that fact that gods use mortals with horrible casualness.

Hahahahahaha, I LOVE Gruntle! And how fabulous to have him back to relative normality:

“I’m a caravan guard captain, and damned good at it. When I’m sober, that is.”

“You are the master of war in the name of the Lord of Summer—”

“We’ll call that a hobby.”

And what a beautifully sweet note to end the chapter on—after a quick blast of humour that refreshed my palate, as it were, we see Buke reflecting on the fact that the gift of distance for him was one of mercy from the gods.

I think this here has been my very favourite chapter to date. And my homework is reading that exchange again between Paran and Draconus! *grin*

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Seventeen:

Toc is dreaming in the same world as the Mhybe, but now as readers we get what is happening to her from the perspective of the hunting wolves rather than the quarry Mhybe. And from this POV we get that the Myybe’s fear is unjustified. The wolves are hunting not to feed but to “deliver,” and when they cannot, they are upset at their failure—expressing it in “mournful howls.” What will they deliver to the Mhybe? From whom?

Hmm, you called the Matron “hideous” Amanda and she is that, but hideous in a grotesque or gothic way perhaps than in an “evil” way. “Embrace.” Like “armor” it’s a word that appears and reappears. Itkovian embraces. The Matron embraces. It’s difficult for a reader to see that link and separate the good guy and the bad, “evil”reptile. It gets harder obviously with the maternal imagery, twisted and “hideous” as it is, surrounding the Matron and Toc—she embraces him, she licks him clean when he fouls himself. Yes, she breaks his bones, but not out of malice. And we’re given further reason to sympathize with her when the Seer shows up and refers to the “horror” in her eyes and mocks the little bit of “sanity” left to her. We’ve seen Erikson turn things around with the Imass, the Jaghut, and we’ve got a glimpse here of some complexities with regard to the K’Chain.

Did anybody really think for a second that Baaljagg and Garath fled? Didn’t think so.

Note how Toc has moved from calling Tool his friend to his brother. This ability to transcend race, species, cities, cultures, etc. is a key counterweight to the horrors we see humanity (loose term) propagate. Cruelty and Empathy. Atrocity and Compassion. Our twin poles.

We’ve seen a contrast between nature and action before and we get that here as well, with the death and horror of Capustan contrasted to the humus, the warm air, the “fecundity.” Once again, the world, life, spins on regardless of the horrors we inflict one each other.

File away these lines:

  • “I’ve heard tales of of firestorms”
  • “Aye. We saw one from afar in Seven Cities once”
  • Paran’s lines: “The hand of vengeance stayed cold only so long. Any soul possessing a shred of humanity could not help but see the reality behind cold deliverance, no matter how justified it might have at first seemed . . . Bodies twisted in postures no one unbroken could achieve. Destroyed lives. Vengeance yielded a mirror to every atrocity, where notions of right and wrong blurred and lost all relevance . . . we are their match in calculated brutality.”

A few comments on this:

The effect of violence, even justified violence, on those who perpetrate it is something we’ve seen examined before, especially in Deadhouse Gates. As is the idea of brutality on both sides. I don’t think what Erikson is offering up here is a relativist view—the idea that both sides are equally horrific regardless of intent. Intent does count for something after all. But I think (and obviously this is my interpretation) what is happening here is he is requiring clear sight—one cannot hide true ugliness underneath the veil of intent. Nor does intent “cleanse” you. It reminds me a bit of The Untouchables and Sean Connery’s awakening to Costner of how one “gets” Capone and of Costner’s statement to the judge at the end how he has become what he hunted. Or you know, the Star Trek episode with Lincoln telling Kirk and Spock we must match the villains’ brutality. Cuz if I can’t get a decent Star Trek reference into a biweekly multi-year blog what good am I?

This is also a good revelation for someone who will soon be in the position of power that Paran will be. The question will be what will that power do to Paran, if anything.

It’s also a paragraph that should bring to mind what we just read a little while ago with regard to Gruntle, whose fighting is both cold and vengeful.

Finally, I like how concrete Erikson is here, with the twisted bodies. No letting the reader off the hook with abstract hypotheticals.

What a great metaphor—that siege ramp of the dead. How many times have you read in a book of a force climbing over its own dead? How much more of a nightmare is it to add the calculation of “fashioning” the dead into a siege ramp, a construct?

I wonder what it costs Gruntle, to tell Hedge, “It’s not paint.”

What makes Stonny so important that the Barghast spirits will “sacrifice so many” for her? Who has taken the “personal interest”? We know she’s linked to Keruli and K’rul. Mallet tells us as well she is connected to Gruntle and to Paran—the “threads” the spirits can see but he cannot.

I love Antsy’s reaction to Stonny’s healing. And I can’t help but hear it in the vein of Spinal Tap’s “Hello Cleveland!”

One of the aspects that make this series a notch above some others is that it respects its history. What I mean by that is it doesn’t have things happen then completely forget about them or pretend that the repercussions of the event only exist for a few days. So here we get Picker and the Bridgeburners still affected by the events at Pale. Pale resonates throughout these books in sundry ways, as it should. One doesn’t simply walk away from that event and forget it in a few days, or “move on”—it changes those involved and it haunts not just their memories but their actions and reactions as well for a long time to come.

It’s a nice inkling that we’re no longer dealing with Tattersail (which we’ve had hints of earlier) when Paran describes her closeness as “if she strode a bridge of bones stretching from her to where he now stood.”

And then his vision of Fener being pulled down. Here is a line to file away:

“Fener was as good as dead . . . like a babe on an altar. All that was required was a knife and a wilful hand.”

But who would kill a god? File.

I love how Nightchill’s first response to the anger that sweeps over Paran (negating his pain, by the way) is “cold amusement” and how quickly that turns to “sudden alarm when we get that inner Hound in Paran. Which makes his choice of words—“collared”—all the more appropriate. And his next lines—”taking a step forward between you and every mortal like me” is a nice echo of what Picker had just spoke of to Stonny—that Gruntle had stepped between Stonny and the Pannions. You can’t help but be swept up in Paran’s fierce protectiveness, his anger at manipulation, his reclaiming of lives. But, in usual Malazan fashion, we’re given indications the Elder Gods are not so simplistically manipulative, that there may indeed be mercy behind what they do, something we’re more willing to accept since we’ve seen how “compassion” plays a role in K’rul’s thoughts now.

Paran has some cryptic thoughts on the Hounds of Shadow in this scene, when he tells Nightchill that when he freed them in Dragnipur they returned “home” to Darkness. Something that isn’t too important here but to file away as we gradually learn more about the Hounds—both of Shadow and of Darkness.

Another line that is a bit more self-evidently important for the future: “to free Draconus, the sword must be shattered.” Cue organ music: Dunh dunh dunh!

Boy, if anything gives the sense that “victory” is a tainted term in this war, it’s that image of Prince Jelarkan back on his throne, his removed skin stitched back together, his body half-eaten, his death’s grin getting bigger as the skin dehydrates. Just wow.

Playing off of that image is the sound, or more precisely, the lack of it that Itkovian notices as they prepare to head to the Thrall—a once lively city now silent.

Once again, we get echoes of earlier ideas and themes: the cycle of violence, the “matched brutality” and the counterweight of compassion: “what the Pannions had delivered had in turn been delivered upon them. We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss.. . . From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion.” Have I mentioned how important that word is yet?

I like how Itkovian’s future redemption of Rath’Fener and then the city/god (and he is not yet done) is foreshadowed by his approach through the city: “He was recoiling like a caged animal cruelly prodded on all sides. Escape was denied to him, yet that denial was self-imposed, a thing born of his conscious will . . . He must assume this burden, no matter the cost . . . He would be the redemption.” At this point, it seems mere metaphor or religious abstract mumbo-jumbo. But in fantasy, mumbo-jumbo can carry some serious reality, and metaphor can be made literal.

And how tragic is the thought process that leads him to an emptiness where his god is supposed to be and that aching refrain: Who will embrace me? Who will embrace me?

I love how Rath’Fener is hoist upon his own pretentious deceptions—his claim to being Destriant that will save him from the Reve but only if he can call upon his Destriant power to call upon Fener.

A reader is probably not caught up on the details and implications here fully, of what is being done to Rath’Fener, but the horror is made explicitly clear not just by the priest’s terror, but in the way that Rath’Trake tries to intervene, the way he is also horrified. Paran’s wish not to be involved, as well as Gruntle’s inhumanly cold acceptance of it area also obvious guides to the reader as to how to react. And then again, it’s turned on its head.

Paran’s humanity and empathy, two traits that will stand him in good stead as Master of the Deck, are laid bare when his concern is not simply for the priest, but that Itkovian has taken on a burden impossible to be relieved. Yet even he does not know how far Itkovian will take this.

Paran’s view regarding the “negotiation” is an interesting one, and it’d be even more interesting to see what he would have said were it not constantly interrupted by the Reve events. After all, here is a guy who just told off the Elder gods—they’re our lives dammit, not yours—trying to persuade Itkovian to be “embraced” (there is that word again) by Trake because “this was foreseen . . . by Elder powers . . . I am here to tell you what they would have you do . . .“ Then he gets cut off—one wonders how he would have continued. Would he have been neutral, told him it seemed best, told him to tell the Elders to go screw themselves?

Doubling of scenes/themes is a constant in this series—taking scenes and showing them from different views, paralleling actions or themes, taking an original and then later showing a mirror image, etc. Here we get a reenactment of what happened with Heboric—the cutting off of the hands as the ultimate punishment. With Heboric, the punishment was unjust, the hands are sent, but are anathema to Fener when he receives them (and starts the roll to his being pulled down). Here, the punishment is just, the hands are sent, but rather than the hands being poison to the recipient (Fener), there is no Fener to receive them anymore and now the new recipient (the alien presence) is poison to the sender.

And we see the burden Itkovian carries for redemption—he is both judge, punisher, and savior to Rath’Fener. He must take on the pain of the betrayer. And in typical Erikson fashion, we are granted the complexity of humanity, as not even Rath’Fener is all evil; even he is not so evil that he would give to Itkovian what Itkovian is asking for. Note this is not Anaster refusing because it would leave him empty; Rath’Fener refuses out of mercy for the man who just cut off his hands and sent him to worse (another mirrored scene, by the way). And in Itkovian’s redemption we get to see that Rath’Fener starts off “pure of heart” and so we get even with him a sense of tragedy—a wasted life, an alternative glimpsed. The self-knowledge of the priest that he was doomed either way but “he had gone too far from his faith . . .”, that echo of Macbeth’s line “I am in blood/Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” It takes a lot to make a reader feel something for a character like Rath’Fener—not simply a traitor, a petty little man, but a character whom we haven’t spent any time with, whom we’ve seen up to this point almost solely as despicable.

But Itkovian is “not yet done” because after Rath’ Fener comes the alien god—horrified, anguished, and grieving over what his gift (and what a great image that—“seeking to make of the unexpected gift of a mortal’s two hands something of beauty”) has done. And so Itkovian opens himself to that grief as well, a god’s grief. (File that idea away.) And so he learns what we’ve just heard Nightchill tell Paran: “there was, beneath the cold faces of gods, warmth.” Appearances then, perhaps, do deceive, as Nightchill said.

And then this line, the premise of which we’ve mentioned before and which will be laid out more explicitly later: “We [people] are the rack upon which they are stretched.” After all that self-righteous anger we cheered on when Paran grows angry with Nightchill and the Elder Gods, once again, our easy emotional responses are tweaked and twisted and made complex as a few pages later we are made to feel sympathy for those gods we just detested. And as mentioned, the relationship between gods and their worshipers is going to be very important going forward.

But even now Itkovian is “not yet done” since after Rath’Fener, after the alien god, comes the entire city of Capustan: “not one life’s history unworthy of notice . . . every death. Every death.” Just think of that burden—the entire lives, the entire weights of all those lives’ trauma and pain and grief and sorrow. Think of all that in a normal city on a normal day, then add the weight of what this city has just experienced. This is just simply a great scene I’d say, one of my favorites actually in the entire series. The action, the imagery, the language, the use of parallel structure and repetition, the use of space on the page. The use of those key Malazan words: “hold,” “witness,” “give answer,” “memories,” “gift,” “redeem,” “meaning,” “fallen”. These words all have echoes from earlier and will echo further. And believe it or not Amanda, he is “not yet done.”

It’s an interesting move to go from the epitome of compassion/empathy that is Itkovian to the cold inhumanity of Trake as Gruntle finally awakens from his god-fog and can look at himself: “The violence residing within him was that of a killer. Cold and implacable, devoid of compassion or ambiguity. And this realization terrified him.” And we’re back to Paran’s argument for simple dignity and respect: “dammit, you could’ve at least asked.”

After all this grief and resignation and horror etc., Stonny’s dialogue helps cut the tension a bit, especially when she finds out Buke is now Soletaken—it’s like great, the two drunk guys get turned into Soletaken and a god and what do I get (and in a smart move Erikson doesn’t let us ponder that question but zips us right into Gruntle’s banter).

And then even better is his attitude toward his god and the priest’s response to that attitude. I love Paran’s lines: “It never goes how you think it does . . . That’s the glory of us humans,” a version of which we’ve seen many times already and will again.

After all the angst of this chapter, we desperately needed the humor at the near-end with Gruntle and Stonny, Paran, Picker and Bend, but I don’t think humor would have been a good choice to end such a weighty chapter. We needed the break, but we don’t want that to be the lingering tone. And so we get this great close from Buke—the eye in the sky—that returns us both to horror and hope but with some distance so it’s less emotionally exhausting. And it ends on that note of hope, the metaphor of hope’s uplift made literal as fantasy can do. I love this close and this image of Buke, the many burdened by so much freed of both the Earth and his grief. It reminds me also of a more poetic farewell to Circle Breaker. Erikson can be grim, but he can give the occasional nice send-off here and there. He is after all the “god” of this universe—so he can give us both pain and mercy.


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.

39 comments
Emiel R
1. Capetown
"I wonder who the characters are that Toc sees as he dreams? Are they his memories or the memories of the wolf within him?"

Amanda, who else is dreaming about wolves pursuing something?
Chris Hawks
2. SaltManZ
Another great chapter. Antsy really gets some great lines, doesn't he? I LOVED "Hello, Capustan. The Bridgeburners have arrived." and the banter with Paran that ends with "Maybe we don't pretend at all." is just great.

Bill and Amanda, I haven't said before what a great pair the two of you make for this reread. Not only do we get the newbie and veteran persepctives, but it's really neat to read Amanda's emotional responses and then follow those up with Bill's well-done analysis. Keep up the great work, you guys.
Vanye
3. Vanye
Itkovian makes me cry. :P
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
Yes, this is another massive chapter. Paran's talk with Nightchill is illuminating and gives us some insight into the thoughts of the Elder gods. I'll note that Nightchill refers to Draconus as brother and K'rul as her other brother. This kind of implies they are a three part fami9ly unit of some sort. How other Elder gods might fit into this is a question to think about. Also nice to note that vengence against Kallor is a big motivator for her.
The Itkovian sections are very powerful. I had forgotten the alien god getting the hands aspect. Note that the crippled god is also referred to as an "Alien God" who gets pulled down.
Mieneke van der Salm
5. Mieneke
@Amanda:
And that last line from Antsy made me smile fiercely: “Hello, Capustan. The Bridgeburners have arrived.”
I had the image of the big stage at a rock concert and Antsy yelling in to the mike: "Are you READY!!?!"

Nightchill saying: "Rare qualities, for one so powerful." about Tattersail, does that suggest that most of the power in Silverfox is Tattersail's?

The Bridgeburners are such... the word I want to use in Dutch is ijzervreters, the closest I can think of in English is veterans, they can't just stand by and watch, can they?

The vision Paran has of Fener being pulled down, is Fener's Fall made possible by Rath'Fener's betrayal, or did it start earlier as Bill seems to suggest with Heboric's unjust punishment?

The situation at the palace before Itkovian and his band leave is just mind-numbing in its horror. And to think that it just gets worse from there. This chapter is so powerful and emotional that I really needed the laughter Gruntle's banter and turning his Mortal Swordness into a hobby. Erikson is a master in manipulting his readers' emotions. isn't he?

What had me grinning most at the end of the chapter? The fact that the Bridgeburner 'girls' are going to lay down the law and tell the men how it's going to be regarding Paran as captain :-D
Amir Noam
6. Amir
Mieneke @5:

Nightchill saying: "Rare qualities, for one so powerful." about Tattersail, does that suggest that most of the power in Silverfox is Tattersail's?


I don't know about that exatly, but remember that Tattersail was described as both (1) being powerful enough to be a High Mage (a position she had refused, so she can remain a cadre mage in the second army), and (2) a strong enough leader to be counted together with Dassem, Dujek and Whiskeyjack themselves.
Amir Noam
7. Amir
Bill:

It takes a lot to make a reader feel something for a character like Rath’Fener—not simply a traitor, a petty little man, but a character whom we haven’t spent any time with, whom we’ve seen up to this point almost solely as despicable.


Indeed, one of Erikson's strengths. Remember back in GotM when he made the readers feel empathy and sorrow for the demon Pearl, a character we've known for about 2-3 paragraphs.
Joe Long
8. Karsa
This is just simply a great scene I’d say, one of my favorites actually in the entire series. The action, the imagery, the language, the use of parallel structure and repetition, the use of space on the page. The use of those key Malazan words: “hold,” “witness,” “give answer,” “memories,” “gift,” “redeem,” “meaning,” “fallen”. These words all have echoes from earlier and will echo further. And believe it or not Amanda, he is “not yet done










Bill, this is a great paragraph!

the words you list all resonate with me. "witness" gives me chills.

The only scene that matches this one for power for me is the other Iktovian one. I feel the impact even when I read the summary. it just boggles the mind. it demonstrates that I have in ME the capacity to be moved by words on the page...but I can't think of any other place that has moved me like this work, this chapter (except for the one coming up)...and I've read literally thousands of books. I've sat here for minutes thinking about it and can't come up with anything else (some things close -- the ending of "Use of Weapons", but nothing like this...)
Amir Noam
9. Amir
It just occured to me that as Paran has the vision of Fener's Fall, he sees the jade obelisk, with three figures "Ragged, broken, dying". Unbeknownst to him, one of these three figures is his sister Felisin. The last he's heard about her, it was the update from Dujek that Felisin was sent to the Otataral mines.
Marcel Steffen
10. Rotzlucky
“Fener was as good as dead . . . like a babe on an altar. All that was required was a knife and a wilful hand.”


Regarding this line: How is it that the CG is such a menace. He was pulled down in a mortal world like Fener. Was shattered into pieces! And he was alien and therefore should have no worshippers.
But he's just chained multiple times in order to keep him benign. Why couldn't he just be stabed or buried under a stone. Why is it that no matter what happens to him, he always has the power to regain strength and threaten the world and even become a subject for worshippers?
Chris Hawks
12. SaltManZ
@10: I would guess it's because he's in pieces. I'm convinced there have been multiple chainings for that very reason. Chain a piece here, wait a few hundred/thousand years, find another piece, arrange another Chaining, etc. So the CG's invulnerable precisely because his power is so dispersed. (Recall what had to be done in book 10.)
Sydo Zandstra
13. Fiddler
@Rotzlucky:

I am not sure how far you have read the series, so I will white this out, in case it's a spoiler for you. Read at your own risk ;) Basically, no other gods benefit from the CG being gone.

The CG is chained, and other Gods feed on his power, like a bunch of drug addicts. I don't know why he needs to be rechained at times, but my guess is that the bonds weaken in time, or he gets angry enough to make the bonds weaker. Or even both.

.

Apart from this, I have some comments about the last few chapters, but I'll save them yet. :)

EDIT: Apparently the whiting out didn't work. However, I don't consider this to be a spoiler. It does shed some light on the CG's motivations, even in this book.

But if somebody considers this to be spoiling, say the word and I'll edit this post.
Edward Morland
14. random_gerbil
@Fiddler: While I've read all the books so it's not news to me I think going with the avoiding major spoilers policy you should probably hide it. It's big information on the role of the CG which we don't get for a while and I think that finding out exactly what's going on with regards to it/him is one of the big mysteries of the series so better not revealed.
Emiel R
15. Capetown
Fiddler you can white the text out by editing your post and then not clicking the preview button but just hitting 'post'.
Sydo Zandstra
16. Fiddler
@Capetown:

That was very helpful. Thank you :) And fixed.


@random_gerbil:

Regardless of anything, I disagree with you. What I said does not spoil the plot at all. Even if we get that information in later books, tell me how I have spoiled anything about where this story is going.
Edward Morland
17. random_gerbil
@Fiddler:

I'd agree that it doesn't give away events in the plot. However it does give away characters motivations and the slowly unfolding understanding of exactly why people are doing what they're doing is one of the things I enjoyed most on my read of the series. I've whited out specifics following but thank you for whiting it out and thus giving people the choice.

In this case it is the shift from villain to victim that at this point in the story I certainly did not forsee. Getiting this information now would certainly colour my view of later events in a way I wouldn't have wanted on my first read through.
Aeria Lynn
18. aeria_lynn
See, this is why I like these rereads. I totally missed the part about Itkovian embraced the foreign presence. Now a lot of things make much, much more sense.
Brian R
19. Mayhem
@10,12,13

I wrote a piece on this some time back for the ME forums.
Quoting sections in parts to limit spoilers to this book, it goes something like this.

The key is up until the creation and sanction of the House of Chains, he is entirely outside the system. Remember, one recurring theme in the books is the idea of Balance. The Crippled God by his very nature is external to the world, so pulls it out of balance.

Therefore since the other gods balance each other out, to have an effect on him and chain him down, they would need to gang up. Equally, they probably chain him rather than steal his power simply because no god would allow another to have access to the power and the various chainings are a compromise to keep all the power locked away from everyone. Each time it has happened in the past is when one group or another has either found a way to steal the power or a new fragment is found, and the others group up to prevent it by locking him down further.

Since the power of the Crippled God has been mostly locked away from use as part of the chaining, he has been forced to use whatever he can access from the world of Wu, and since all the easy to use stuff has been distilled into the Warrens and Holds and is already aspected to particular beings, he uses what he can draw from unaspected sources close to raw Chaos, which is the swirling grey evil stuff.
Finally, as he embodies Suffering, his power is also aspected towards pain and misery.

@13 Fiddler
I don't think you've spoiled anything badly yet. Man, this picking words carefully is tricky, isn't it.

@17 Random_gerbil
Might I suggest editing your whited out section to avoid disclosing motivations that are a definite spoiler at this stage of the read
Jozefine Propper
20. Onderduikboot
@Mayhem and @Fiddler
I love spoilers. I just use them as another clue and start looking for the details that hint at the thing the spoiler reveals. Just adds up to the fun.
Besides I can't resist reading the whited out sections.
Vanye
21. ksh1elds555
@ Karsa 8- You summed up my feelings of the impact the later Itkovian chapter exactly. And also how this series of books are the only books I've ever read that I feel such a strong emotional response. Everytime I read the "I am not yet done" statements, I get chills. Such a powerful book!!
Marcel Steffen
22. Rotzlucky
@12,13,19: Thanks for the answers. I'm currently half way through TtH. I've read your whited sections anyway and I also don't consider them as "harmful" spoilers. I learned from them pieces which I didn't learn from the book up to now, but these pieces don't spoil my reading experience. I'm as curious as I was before. :)

But that Fener is told being so helpless still irritates me, unless it's only exageration.
Bill Capossere
23. Billcap
Saltman@2
Thanks for the kind words--glad you're enjoying; we certainly are!

Mieneke "they can't just stand by and watch, can they?"
that's a great succinct description of them

Amir--that's a good connection to Pearl the demon--the way Erikson can so quickly and concisely get us to feel something for a character. I've read entire 400-600 page novels where I've felt less for a main character than some of Erikson's "minor" ones. Also a good thing to point out Felisin in his vision--I knew intellectually it was her but somehow wasn't thinking of the emotional impact of that on the reader.

Karsa, I know what you mean about "witness". Amazing what some of these single words can call up, especially on the reread side of things

Re the Crippled God/Chaining--I think you guys are fine, but it's nice you all edged to the side of caution. We'll talk about some of this next chapter anyway, including I think a few points you're tiptoeing around
M D
24. Abalieno
From Bill:

And from this POV we get that the Mhybe’s fear is unjustified. The wolves are hunting not to feed but to “deliver,”

Well, let's hope they don't deliver death ;)

I was thinking that this aspects reads like a ghost story. In some typical ghost stories the ghost isn't really a danger even if it produces a lot of scares, in many cases it's actually there to protect from something, as a benevolent intent. So usually the point is to actually confront it in order to understand why it's there and how to deal with it. Even in the case of the Mhybe there's a necessity, her own, that needs to be answered. But in order to do that she has to face and confront that fear. Come to terms with it, and also with herself.

By the way, was it Tool riding the Hound/Garath? It's a part of the story I don't remember and it's already odd seeing Tool riding something, even more weird that it is the hound instead of the ay. I guess they have some sort of link, then?

Not much to analyze about the part I read. It's not a case I say that the slower transitions in these books are those that move the plot the most :) In this case, and probably one reason why this book is one of the most appreciated, it's only halfway through and we are getting the "payoff" already. The Bridgeburners approaching Capustan makes a great scene with that typical "down in the trenches" style that reminds Glen Cook as well. The utter chaos at the explosion of the munitions, the mad race, then an eerie moment of calm, with the "zombies" trailing after them. A dead city in every possible sense. Even if the battle isn't over we get the impression that everything has been broken and left there, abandoned.

I think Bill interpreted it perfectly:

I don’t think what Erikson is offering up here is a relativist view—the idea that both sides are equally horrific regardless of intent. Intent does count for something after all. But I think (and obviously this is my interpretation) what is happening here is he is requiring clear sight—one cannot hide true ugliness underneath the veil of intent. Nor does intent “cleanse” you.

It's too easy and extremely frequent to see scenes "dressed up" with meaning and justifications. The story here on the wide level does it too: try to answer all that is going on, find some kind of motivation. It connects with the perception of history we got through Duiker. And there's also this necessity, in and out the books, to tell and hear stories in order to understand. A human necessity. But it can also be twisted as words deceive and are meant to put meaning where there is none, find a cause when there's only personal convenience.

Not "trusting" this pattern is something that Erikson does radically, instead of applying it selectively and conveniently. In fact the most visible example of this is not in Paran's thoughts in this chapter, but it is in the previous. In that excerpt where Erikson "challenged" the reader regarding the First Child of the Dead Seed:

Dare you step behind his eyes
even for a moment?

Do not dare judge him hard
lest you wear his skin.

And even more in general Erikson challenges and defies the boundaries themselves. While I liked both GotM and DG, it was with the novellas that Erikson got my unconditional appreciation, because it's there that I understood how this stance was radical. Always trying to see what's beyond the limited space, defying those limits and categories.

And again, it's "Fantasy" as a genre and the battle it fight for its legitimacy, since the genre itself is victim of categorization and prejudices. Erikson is probably the writer that learned the most the lesson, and applied it unconditionally. Many other writers just seem to rise walls elsewhere, instead of toppling them wherever they rise.
karl oswald
25. Toster
@Ab

as far as i know, it was Tool riding the Hound. why he chose the hound over baaljagg might have something to do with riding a god, over a hound of ... envy's, and what they both might have had to say about it.

good connections with the ghost story-like nature of the mhybe's experience, and the novellas and their wall-smashing natures. i agree that they showcase some of Erikson's best writing, because the stories keep to a rollicking pace, and are just pure comedic brilliance (among other things).

@Rotzlucky 10

and fener was in a completely different situation, he didn't get pulled out of another dimension, just his warren, which he was on the very edge of and weakened thanks to the state of his worship (wiped out in malazan armies, heboric handless, now rath'fener's betrayal, and of course, baudin picking the lock).

i don't know why the CG shattered when he entered the world, maybe cuz he came from outer-space? but because he did shatter, his power and being is kept alive. the ravens carry his magical potential, remember? other things might hold other parts of him.
Amir Noam
26. Amir
Tuesday quotes:

We are the defenders. And we still stand.
Amir Noam
27. Amir
'So long as you don't claw my back, your company is welcome.'
Paran nodded. 'I'm not the catty type - uh, sorry.'
'No need. If Trake ain't got a sense of humour that's his problem. Then
again, he must have, since he picked me as his Mortal Sword.'
Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
'Hardly', Rake replied. 'I mean to scare them witless. In person.'
Brian R
29. Mayhem
'I confess… to a certain… confusion. Do we possess some chronic flaw, Emancipor?'
Amir Noam
30. Amir
'You, a young man, are among old women, and there is nothing in the world more perilous!'
Vanye
31. David DeLaney
>But who would kill a god? File.

... file, _indeed_.

--Dave
M D
32. Abalieno
As I've said: after the slowness of the action scenes we get again the speed of introspection!

It's a great idea to "introduce" Paran's dream of consciousness with Picker's PoV. It creates a game of mirrors as Picker's forthright and rebellious attitude toward Paran is not unlike Paran's toward Nightchill and her manipulations. Both missing large chunks on the big picture they are caught within, but also not moving on certain principles. In Picker's case we get again an impression similar to GotM, where Paran was the stanger no one was trusting.

Her whole PoV helps again clarify situations and motivations (I said something similar in a comment to a scene in Chapter 15), while also moving the plot as we get to see what is happening around the city from the "vantage" point where the Bridgeburners and Gruntle's squad are. Especially, she offers a workable interpretation to what happened with the torcs. After she speculates that Trake may have organized the whole thing it's Stonny to suggest a better alternative. Trake has recently died and he didn't seem in the position to do a whole lot, but Stonny's newfound god, K'rul, has been actively engaged in a number of manipulations, probably setting up the replacement of Fener with Trake (and in this, apparently, cooperating with Hood). And it's definitely K'rul, through Keruli who has lead Gruntle directly to Capustan, even if this particular may be more consequence than cause (maybe someone else could have filled Gruntle's role).

So we get a good insight into motivations and also a scene that develops again characterization. With Paran's forced solitude becoming for the Bridgeburners a reason for suspicion, making him a stranger again, someone who doesn't fully belong to the company. And that's what prompts Picker to violate Paran's space, pressing with unrelenting questions. Again similar to the way Paran confronts Nightchill.

That scene is interesting because it offers insight in what is happening on a higher level, so it offers a "frame" for everything else, and in a series like this one the hint of a frame is precious. The fact that Heboric has caused Fener to "fall" in the mortal realm suddenly makes more sense and acquires more significance if we consider the excerpt that introduced the current section and that revealed Heboric was not one of the priests, but the Destriant. So a position of power (power that he still retained, even if cast out of the cult). It's also interesting that in the vision Paran called the giant jade statue (that we know is related to the Crippled God) "Obelisk". One of the unaligned? Obelisk is Burn. So why this kind of identification? Maybe Paran confuses the Jade statue with Burn because they are chained together? It's possible, as it's possible that the position in the deck is ambivalent and not specific of Burn. But I suspect there's more behind this parallel. Anyone has theories?

And what's Nightchill's purpose with this interference? It's her showing Paran the scene with Heboric, letting Paran know that Fener is now vulnerable. So does the transition from Fener to Trake also need to be sanctioned? It doesn't seem the case as Shadowthrone wasn't sanctioned by anyone.

Then Paran underlines how he "cut those strings", and it is because he is in this kind of "unaligned" position that he was probably picked for this role. He would still listen, but not being simply used: "Give me cause, and I'll come down it."

His declaration to Nightchill is one of those that set rules, without caring about cause:

Abyss take you, is pain your only means of making us achieve what you want? It seems so. Know this, then: until you can find another means, until you can show me another way - something other than pain and grief - I'll fight you.

But I think Paran here is also taking defense of two other characters: the Mhybe and Toc. No matter what their story will "mercifully" lead to, right now they've only known pain. Is this really necessary? Nightchill and K'rul on this level are equals. We suspect K'rul has "mercy", but with both Toc and the Mhybe he's following the exact same pattern that Nightchill is using with Paran: she keeps him ignorant. Toc and the Mhybe both suffer without knowing WHY. And both are again being lead through nothing but pain, with the very remote possibility of a greater cause (or at least we, as readers, have it).

So, again, Paran's challenge not only is a valid one, but also one we can use for our True world. What is the point of all this pain in the world? Is it truly necessary in some obscure way or it just can't be answered?

I completely side Paran's position. His fight is above all things and the only principle one can follow even in blindness (since again both him and us are blind to whatever reality and purpose may ultimately exist).

I'm utterly confused about the two hounds being Darkness hounds. It doesn't quite fit with House of Chains. I guess this is another aspect that needs more attention since it opens too many questions (like why Shadowthrone controls them, why they ended up as statues, and so on).

The rest of the scene seems to clarify that Nightchill didn't catch Paran's attention to "sanction" Trake's ascension, but to do something to free Draconus ("we need him"). Yet it doesn't flow too logically as Drakonus "sought to outwit a curse". But he didn't seem to succeed since he's still in there. And he "made use of" Paran within the sword. Nightchill tells Paran that Draconus can only be freed if the sword is destroyed, so what is that Draconus has figured out in the meantime? How does he plan to keep all other spirits trapped after the sword is shattered?

Another of Paran's comment probably frames the "war" even better than Nightchill's own description:

"The struggle before us is no different from a military campaign - incremental engagements, localized contests. But the field of battle is no less than existence itself. Small victories are each in themselves vital contributions to the pandemic war we have chosen to undertake - "
"Who is 'we'?"
"The surviving Elder Gods... and others somewhat less cognizant of their role."

Paran:

I'm beginning to think you all deserve each other.

P.S.
Also wanted to add that the "notion of mercy" and necessity of pain link back to the dialogue between Korlat and the Mhybe in chapter 15, which also frames it more at the human level.
M D
33. Abalieno
I was expecting to understand more clearly on a reread the scene between Itkovian and Rath'Fener, instead it was more confusing now than in the first go. A number of important details are hard to pinpoint and this adds to the confusion.

One of these aspects escaping me is the way death is intended even before Fener's demise, including the role of Hood (and whatever happened before Hood). What kind of release are these gods offering when they "work"? And what's the difference when they do not work (in Fener's current case)? Is this answer consolatory or real? In the real world we know how to frame these questions, since uncertainty is what we have to "rely" on. But in the Malazan world the gods are real, and so also their answer to death may be real. How they concretely answer it then, and what happens when they don't?

What's the difference between a soul that passes Hood's gates, one that goes to Fener, and one that is refused by both? This side of "fiction" it's all about speculation, but in the Malazan world that barrier that divides life from death is gone, or at least much reduced (and so it's put into words and described, as opposed to our reality where it lays beyond words). What's the idea of afterlife in Malazan mythology?

Part of what I don't understand is how the Crippled God (if it's him) got at the receiving end. Fener falls and one would guess that his place is empty at least till someone claims it (maybe like the warren of Shadow and Shadowthrone). The CG didn't seem involved with Fener's fall, and actually couldn't be, as cooperation between CG and K'rul isn't in any way plausible.

Whatever should wait on the other side is hinted here and there:

"By the Abyss, Itkovian - there is no crime so foul to match what you're about to do! His soul will be torn apart! Where they will go, there are no creatures of mercy!

"They" refers to the hands? What kind of creatures are expected on the other side? Why no mercy, and what's in its place?

When Itkovian embraces Rath'Fener he perceives what we assume is the Crippled God beyond:

Seeking to make of the unexpected gift of a mortal's two hands... something of beauty. Yet that man's flesh could not contain that gift.
Horror within the storm. Horror... and grief.

Yet this description somewhat clashed with the harsh laughter typical of the CG. Or with the way he treated Munug. He seemed a cynic, that would find beauty in what was instead horribly twisted. His gifts are gifts of pain.

And why "the man's flesh could not contain that gift"? Is this Heboric he's speaking about? The gift would be about giving him back the hands, so why he can't receive them (and he does, he receives the "ghost hands", so I could say that his plan worked perfectly)? So why the grief for something that couldn't be done? What is that the CG attempted to do? What is that he actually obtained?

And then weeping? Is this truly the CG?

And again:

Then the sensation was gone, fleeing him as the alien god succeeded in extracting itself, leaving Itkovian with but fading echoes of a distant world's grief - a world with its own atrocities, layer upon layer through a long, tortured history.

I have my theories here, but I noticed no one brought this up, so it must have a very simple explanation that I'm missing entirely. What those lines mean to you?

For me, it links back to Paran calling the jade hand as "Obelisk". And the idea that the Crippled God isn't just one god, but a whole world embodied by the god, similar to Burn.

Also, could someone explain me this passage:

The Reve of Fener voiced the truth of war. It spoke true of the cruelty that humanity was capable of unleashing upon its own kind. War was played like a game by those who led others; played in an illusory arena of calm reason, but such lies could not survive reality, and reality seemed to have no limits. The Reve held a plea for restraint, and insisted the glory to be found was not to be a blind one, rather a glory born of solemn, clear-eyed regard. Within limitless reality resided the promise of redemption.

The first part is ok, but what is the meaning of the last line? "Reality seemed to have no limits" seems referring to what I quote below (the descending spiral, the horrors of reality have no limits), so where does redemption come from?

I'll tell one huge delusion I had on my first read. In this chapter some attention is drawn on a Gidrath solider sworn to Hood. It's obvious that this attention hid something and I had my theory. I noticed he wielded two longswords, one of which was bent (and he was also described as a huge guy). Spoilers are a bad thing and from glancing at the Dramatis Personae of future books I noticed there was a Harllo. Obviously, he wasn't dead, and it wasn't the first time a character returned. In this case I got a big man, sworn to Hood (who may have returned him to life), and wielded a bent sword (maybe bent when he tried to defend Gruntle from the attack of the K'ell hunter). I was absolutely convinced it was Harllo... And I was utterly wrong :)

Now wondering if this guy is instead a certain other character in DG... (and probably being horribly wrong again)

In any case, the fact that Hood, through this Gidrath warrior, is supporting Itkovian feeds the suspect that this transition from Fener to Trake is something that was anticipated and planned not just by K'rul, but by Hood as well (and again, it would be necessary to justify DG's Prologue and Hood's interest in Heboric).

Itkovian's thoughts before the more important scenes offer an important context:

We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss, to drag ourselves free of the descending spiral. From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion.

Gruntle's ascension was itself played as a descending spiral. We see him later snapping out of it, but there's again this idea that humanity is caught in between. I'm wondering what's Erikson's idea of compassion here specifically. How do you turn an horror like the siege of Capustan into compassion?

My interpretation comes from what is shown later, the way Itkovian tries to embrace Rath'Fener. Compassion seems to me strictly bound to forgiveness. The necessity to understand and then forgive. So an opposite idea from judgement, guilt or punishment (hence a view of afterlife as punishment or reward for what one has done during his mortal life). We may expect that Rath'Fener is going to pay, and maybe he does, but this seems more part of the consequence of mortal life than his ultimate destination. So is this form of compassion specific of Itkovian or it would be fashioned in a similar way if the soul was being received by Fener or Hood?
M D
34. Abalieno
Another obscure aspect I left out: what's Itkovian's gift?

The part I find weird is that he seems to "embrace" all the pain. He suffers for it and even dies from the pressure. But when Paran brings him back... the pain seems gone. More than embracing it, he seems to work like a portal. To where is unknown. But in the book the scene is not put that way. He didn't deliver those souls to someone else (or maybe ultimately to Hood?). So where have they gone?

It seems as if after enduring all that pain, all of it vanishes without leaving a trace. Including Itkovian. He isn't done but he also doesn't seem to carry that kind of burden he seemed to receive. He somewhat purified it, but again, where is it gone?

Or was it maybe that Itkovian was necessary so that those souls could be purified and released (where to?)? But then again, the pain couldn't have vanished after being momentary suffered by Itkovian. Is it really like a momentous thing that needs to be endure and then is gone?

I feel like I'm being too obtuse, though. I understand the point of these scenes and maybe I have this reductionist impulse to narrow down the concrete specifics when there isn't really a need to do that.
Vanye
35. Pugnax
@Abalieno 33
You are thinking so much into that part of the chapter that I think you are confusing youself. You made me unecessarily confused for a second there.

The first thing I would say is that I would not be so so quick to think that the alien being is The Crippled God. In fact that thought never came to my mind when reading this part. I am not saying it couldnt be, but don't base all of your assumptions on you relying on the the alien god being CG. I thinks its best just to RAFO

And secondly I refer you to Bills thoughts on the chapter. I think if you read his section on what happened with The Sheild Anvil you will get a much clearer idea of what happened. He explains it pretty perfectly.
Justin Thibodeau
36. Pugnax
@Abalieno
Also it is my belief that when Fener fell down to earth he was replaced by Trake. Hence all the talk about Trake ascending and also the fact that both gods are gods of war.

Also yeah, I think you are being too obtuse and need to take a step back and just read this book as it is. You are analyzing and over analyzing every detail to the point where the only conclusion one can come to is confusion. Don't get me wrong, I love discussing these books, but I think you are picking too many battles within yourself and only should worry about the important ones. Other than that I have enjoyed your posts and what you have had to say.
Justin Thibodeau
37. Pugnax
It is my belief that the Ghost Hands Heboric recieves are the same hands of Rath Fener. I come to this conclusion based on this paragraph:
Suddenly, beyond the pain, a mutual awareness - an alien presence. Immense power. Not malign, yet profoundly...different. From that presence: storm-tossed confusion, anguish. Seeking to make of the unexpected gift of a mortal's two hands...something of beauty. Yet that man's flesh could not ontain that gift
This also makes me believe that the foreign entity is definitely not CG, especially since it is explained that it's intentions are not malign just different.

So in my opinino, whoever this alien God is, it has something to do with the jade statues.
Iris Creemers
38. SamarDev
@ 35/36 Pugnax
for your info: Abalieno decided some time ago (in the first chapter of HoC) to stop following the reread. The tempo we are reading the books is too high for him, when he would keep trying to read and analyze them as thouroughly as he likes to do. His style of commenting has been discussed during this reread repeatingly, but it is of course his choice to delve this deep.
Abalieno announced he might catch up later (Reapers Gale), but now you know it is well possible he will not see your comments in the near/far future.
juanita heath
39. nanajade
re: Toc and Perrin as mentioned in Amanda's reaction. I was thinking Perrin vs Paran in regard to the acceptance of their given roles. (I am way behind everyone because it took me a year to get back to actually reading GotM and am now on MOI. Still tracking down the various books. :)

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