Jun 3 2011 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapter 21

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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter 21 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.

Chapter Twenty One


The Bridgeburners exit Capustan—“first in, last out.” Silverfox tells Paran her mother has gone missing, as have Coll and Murillio. When Paran asks why she doesn’t use her Ay or T’lan Imass to look, she says she has sent them across the river but refuses to say why. When she accuses Coll and Murillio of “kidnapping” her mother, Paran says kidnapping implies taking away from someone, and since Silverfox abandoned the Mhybe, it can’t be kidnapping. Their conversation gets testier and Paran tells her to give up the guilt, learn to forgive, adding: “I love you still, but with your death . . . I convinced myself that what you and I had . . . was of far vaster and deeper import than it truly was. Of all the weapons we turn upon ourselves, guilt is the sharpest, Silverfox. It can carve one’s own past into unrecognizable shapes, false memories leading to beliefs that sow all kinds of obsessions.” Silverfox says Paran has changed so much she no longer recognizes him, while he replies “I find you all too recognizable.” Returning to the conversation’s topic, he tells her not to worry, that Coll and Murillio probably took it upon themselves, since she wouldn’t, to try and help the Mhybe. She says by taking her they have “sealed her doom . . . my mother is trapped in a nightmare—within her own mind, lost, terrified. Hunted!” When Paran wonders if the true mercy would be to let the Mhybe’s life end, Silverfox refuses: “She is my mother . . . I will not abandon her!” As she leaves, Paran wishes she would simply tell them what her plans are so they don’t continually think she is betraying the Mhybe. He believes Tattersail has lost to Nightchill, and that Silverfox has “become colder than the T’lan Imass you now command.”


Itkovian watches the barges transporting soldiers. He comes across an artist painting and speaking to a large green toad. The artist introduces himself as Ormulogun of Li Hen, Imperial historical artist: “The old Emperor . . . Artists with every army! On every campaign!” He introduces the toad—his critic—as Gumble. Ormulogun is shockingly insightful with regard to Itkovian, saying, “His bones may well be iron, their burden that of a hundred thousand foundation stones, or souls to be more precise . . . though I capture all he is on the canvas . . . in that image you will see that Itkovian is not yet done.” Gumble then speaks, telling Itkovian “I speak on behalf of the tongue-tied multitudes, otherwise known as . . . the rabble. An audience, understand, wholly incapable of self-realization or cogent articulation, and thus possessors of depressingly vulgar tastes when not apprised of what they trulylike, if only they knew it.” Itkovian asks why Ormulogun, as Imperial artist, is painting the outlawed Dujek, and the response is that the outlawry must be recorded, and besides, what else would he do? He then mocks the “so called community” of artists in Pale and their “so-called styles of expression.” When he demands if Gumble saw anything good in Pale, Gumble says a single mosaic, which, since the artist was dead, Gumble could praise “effusively.” Ormulogun calls Gumble a leech and vulture, and Gumble replies he is happy that whatever god it was made him a toad and not an artist. Itkovian leaves them to their arguing and continues down to the river. He plans on going with Brood, Kallor, and Korlat to the city of Lest. He finds the military organization muddled at best, and prefers the “far clearer” hierarchy of the Malazan group, with Dujek clearly in charge, seconded by Whiskeyjack, Taur, and Twist. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Whiskeyjack, who asks if he saw Silverfox and the two marines. Itkovian says they passed him some time ago. The two marines arrive and say Silverfox lost them by riding into a hillside. He sends them back to cross, then privately offers his hand to Itkovian: “Among the soldiers of the Empire . . . where the worn gauntlet is for war and nothing other than war, to remain gauntleted when grasping the hand of another, in peace, is the rarest of gestures.” Itkovian says he understands the significance and that he is honored. Whiskeyjack says he wishes Itkovian were riding with the Malazans so he could get to know him better and when Itkovian says, “we will meet at Maurik,” Whiskeyjack nods and says “until then.” But as he rides off, Itkovian, looking at him, has a grim feeling it is the last time he will see him.


Quick Ben has been using his warrens to help transport due to the lack of barges. Kruppe, after telling Quick he plans on traveling with the Malazan group, says he is impressed by the wizard’s mastery of so many warrens, as well as how “pristine” the warrens are. He calls Quick’s use of magic a “bold challenge” to the Chained God. Talamandas, invisible (allegedly) on Quick Ben’s soldier, has been complaining that Quick is making himself a target, too noticeable. When Quick Ben tells him to be quiet, Kruppe wonders why Quick Ben is being so harsh to him [Kruppe], and Quick says he was just talking to himself, and will continue to do so. “Thinking out loud,” he tells Talamandas he is purposely being noticeable in order to “kick the hornet nests.” Kruppe then hints he sees Talamandas on Quick’s shoulder, though he doesn’t make it clear if that is what he means. The two marines arrive, and then Whiskeyjack, whom Quick Ben has been waiting for as the last of the group.


Coll and Murillio are continuing what has been a daylong, futile, search in Capustan for a priest that can help the Mhybe. They are suddenly attacked by Broach, who knocks out Murillio and sends sorcery toward Coll. Before the magic can strike, it vanishes and a strange figure steps between Coll and Broach. Broach tells him “I can sense the fist of Hood, coiled there in your lifeless chest. He’s kept you here. Wandering.” The stranger corrects Broach, telling him “Not wandering . . . hunting.” Broach objects he and Bauchelain haven’t really taken all that many souls from Hood, and all he is looking for here is the old woman in the wagon. The unknown warrior tells Broach: “Not for you . . . Her spirit awaits. And those of her gathered kin. And the beasts whose hearts are empty . . . You are to release the undead who guard your compound. You and the one named Bauchelain are to leave the city. This night . . . Or I shall descend upon you and claim your souls.” Broach leaves and the undead warrior tells Coll “you are to have my master’s protection . . . the Temple of Hood has been prepared.” When Coll objects that the Mhybe needs help, the warrior tells him it’s the kind of help Coll cannot give. The warrior—now identified in the text as The Knight of Death—tells Coll he does not sleep, cannot remember it. He adds that the Mhybe will not awaken and so the two of them “will have need of each other. Soon.” The Knight reveals he cannot release the swords from his hands and asks Coll if he thinks Broach was right, that he is dead. Coll says yes, he thinks that is true. He asks if the Knight has a name and the Knight says he has forgotten it, but he thinks he was not from this continent. The only thing he recalls of his life was that “I once stood within fire . . . there was pain. Yet I held on . . . I believe I was, I think, sworn to defend a child’s life. But the child was no more. It may be . . . that I failed.” When he thinks perhaps one day his memories will fully return, Coll thinks to himself that the fact they have not is evidence of Hood’s mercy, “For I think there was nothing easy in your life. Or in your death. And it seems he does possess mercy, for he’s taken you far away from all that you once knew, for if I’m not mistaken . . . never mind that strange skin, you’re a Malazan.”


On the other side of the river, Gruntle joins Itkovian on the march, saying it looks like the Seer is using a scorched earth defense. Itkovian replies it’s the smart thing to do. When Gruntle wonders if Dujek and Brood realize how many armies the Seer has, Itkovian says it’s true they’ll find the Seer well prepared, but his end is near, based on what he observed. He tells Gruntle, “Cities and governments are but the flowering head of a plant whose stalk is the commonality whose roots are within the earth, drawing the necessary sustenance that maintains the flower.” The Tenescowri—the commonality—are uprooted, dying, cannibalistic, living in a land that was wasted before the Seer needed to do so as defense—“thus, while the flower still blazes its color, it is in fact already dead.” He believes the cities they all march toward are probably empty, that the Seer has concentrated his forces in Coral, where the defenders will have to also turn cannibal, and in fact, he thinks the Tenescowri were “created for that eventual purpose—as food for the soldiers.” Gruntle says that what Itkovian describes is an empire never meant to sustain itself, or even, if as Itkovian suggests, it might do so via conquest and expansion, would be alive “only on its outer, ever-advancing edges, spreading out from a dead core, a core that grew with it.” When Gruntle thinks the division of forces seems kind of pointless, and that the Malazans will be doing a lot of useless marching, Itkovian says there may have been unvoiced reasons for splitting the army in two, such as less unity than presented, or to avoid a clash of strong wills/egos. He further predicts that the attack at Coral won’t last long, will be a single attempt to overwhelm rather than a patient siege. Stonny comes up and tells them to move along.


Picker watches Detoran drag Hedge into her tent and after some back and forth about it with Blend, muses on how so many of the Bridgeburners have been demoted, starting with Whiskeyjack—Detoran once was a Master Sergeant, Mallet led a healer’s cadre, Spindle captained a company of sappers. Blend says, “None of us is what we once was.” Picker replies she was thinking they were all “losers.” Paran joins them and tells them the Black Moranth have found Setta abandoned and filled with dead. Picker wonders why they’re still marching there and Paran says, “Because we’re not marching to Lest.” He informs them Picker is promoted to lieutenant and will command the Bridgeburners in Paran’s absence. He tells her to keep the Bridgeburners together, “no matter what happens.”


Whiskeyjack meets with Dujek in the command tent. Dujek tells him Artanthos delivered “the orders” to Paran and that the captain “will get the Bridgeburners ready—ready for what they won’t know.” When Dujek seems to under-esteem Paran, Whiskeyjack interrupts and says, “With the loss of Tatter—of Silverfox, I mean, the captain’s value to us can’t be underestimated. No, not just us. The Empire itself . . . Within him is the power to reshape the world . . . maybe there’s no chance of Laseen ever regaining the man’s favor, but at the very least she’d be wise to avoid making the relationship worse.” They both agree, though, that Laseen is probably aware of this already. Dujek says he is worried about not having Quick Ben around (he is going with Paran) and Whiskeyjack answers that “what the wizard has in mind, I agree with him that the less Brood and company know of it the better . . . the wizard’s madness has saved our skins more than once. Dujek apologizes, and says he’s so anxious due to the power of what they’re dealing with: “It was Brood and Rake and the Tiste Andii—and the damned Elder Gods, as well—who were supposed to step into the Crippled God’s path. They’re the ones with countless warrens and frightening levels of potency—not us, not one mortal squad wizard and a young noble born captain who’s already died once. Even if they don’t mess things up, look at the enemies we’ll acquire.” Whiskeyjack says that’s only if their allies don’t understand what they are trying to do and Dujek says “we’re the Malazans, remember? Nothing we do is ever supposed to reveal a hint of our long-term plans—mortal empires aren’t supposed to think that far ahead. And we’re damned good at following that principle, you and I . . . Laseen inverted the command structure for a reason.” Whiskeyjack says it was to ensure “the right people would be there at the ground level when Shadowthrone and Cotillion made their move,” and says all of that should be told to Quick and all the Bridgeburners. But Dujek says no to the latter and that the former probably already figured it out, and when Whiskeyjack asks why Quick Ben sent Kalam after Laseen, Dujek says Kalam needed to be convinced in person by the empress. When Whiskeyjack bemoans his stupidity, Dujek continues to lay it all out:

“We knew the Crippled God was getting ready to make a move. We knew the gods would make a mess of things. Granted, we didn’t anticipate the Elder Gods getting involved . . . [but] we knew trouble was coming from more than one direction—but how could be have guessed that . . . the Domin was in any way related to . . . the Crippled God? . . . I don’t think it was entirely chance that it was a couple of Bridgeburners who bumped into that agent of the Chained God [Munug] . . . nor that Quick Ben was there . . . Laseen has always understood the value of tactical placement . . . The Crippled God’s warren wanders—it always has . . . And we caught him . . . As for Paran, there’s a certain logic there as well. Tayschrenn was grooming Tattersail in the role of Mistress of the Deck . . . when that went wrong, there was a residual effect—straight to the man closest to her at the time. Not physically, but certainly spiritually . . . the only truly thick-witted player was Bellurdan Skullcrusher . . . What happened between him and Tattersail . . . ranks as one of the worst foul-ups in imperial history. That the role of Master of the Deck fell to a Malazan and not to some Gadrobi herder . . . Oponn’s luck played into our hands there.”

Whiskeyjack interrupts to say now he’s worried: “We’re playing shadowgames with the Lord of Shadow, rattling the chains of the Crippled God, and now buying Brood more time without him even knowing it, whilst at the same time defying the T’lan Imass.” Dujek says they’ve got no choice, “It’s up to us to keep Laseen’s head above water—and through her the Malazan Empire. If Brood swings his hammer...”

Whiskeyjack complains it’s left up to the arm she nearly decimated at Pale, which Dujek says “was an accident, and while you didn’t know it at the time, you know it now. Tayschrenn ordered them to remain in the tunnels because he thought it was the safest place.” But Whiskeyjack says, “seemed more like someone wanted us to be a collateral fatality.” Then thinks to himself, “No, not us. Me. Damn you, Dujek, you lead me to suspect you knew more of that than I’d hoped . . . I hope I’m wrong.” When he brings up Darujhistan, Dujek says it was just miscommunication due to Pale, that everyone was rattled by Pale. He says he learned later that Tayschrenn didn’t know then who Nightchill was, but thought she was aiming to get Dragnipur, along with Bellurdan, who seemed to be her pawn. Laseen wouldn’t allow that, and when Nightchill killed A’Karonys (who had told Tayschrenn he suspected Nightchill), then Tayschrenn hit her. He adds that all these screw-ups seemed to begin when the Tlan Imass slaughtered the people of Aren, which Dujek says was ordered not by Laseen but by Shadowthrone to “wreak vengeance on Laseen, to shake her grip on the empire.” Dujek then tells Whiskeyjack he thinks maybe they don’t know as much as they think they do, but Whiskeyjack says Quick Ben is pretty smart and has probably figured out a lot. He tells Dujek Quick is still “willing” and has also made it clear he has a lot of faith in Paran, whom he says is unpredictable based on a host of factors: walking inside Dragnipur, being used by Oponn, having the blood of a Hound of Shadow in him. He says Laseen shouldn’t assume she can “use him.” When Dujek asks if Whiskeyjack likes Paran, Whiskeyjack says he admires his “resilience, his ability to examine himself with a courage that his ruthless, and most of all for his inherent humanity.” He also confesses his desire to retire after this war, a desire Dujek says he’d expected. When Whiskeyjack wonders if Laseen will let him, Dujek says they shouldn’t let her make the decision. Whiskeyjack asks if he should drown like Crust and Urko, or be seen killed then have his body vanish like Dassem. He adds one day he’ll force the truth about them from Duiker. Dujek asks if Quick Ben has heard from Kalam and Whiskeyjack says not that he knows of. As he rises to leave (noting his aching leg) he asks about the Black Moranth and Dujek says they’ll arrive in two days. Before he leaves, Dujek tells him Tayschrenn wants to apologize and has been waiting for the “proper moment.” They say good night.


Korlat is waiting outside Whiskeyjack’s tent and they enter together. Whiskeyjack asks if she’s found Silverfox and she tells him no; Silverfox travels paths Korlat didn’t even know existed. Korlat was escorted back by two Ay, creatures she confesses disturb her greatly, even more than the T’lan Imass do: “There is, within the T’lan Imass, an emptiness . . . Within these wolves, I see sorrow. Eternal sorrow.” As she speaks, Whiskeyjack thinks what she sees in the Ay is the same he sees in her—“it is the reflection—the recognition—that has shaken you so.” She tells him when she watched them fall into dust, “I don’t know why, but that disturbed me more than anything else.” His response is only inside his mind: “Because it is what awaits all of us. Even you.” He tells her forget it and come to bed, especially as it will be awhile before they can do this again. She says Crone has returned from scouting and then stops before saying more that she clearly wanted to. Whiskeyjack guesses it is about how the cities in the Domin are all empty, and yet the armies are dividing and marching separately anyway, though neither would admit why. Whiskeyjack wonders where Moon’s Spawn is (the Moranth have been searching for it), if the Malazans will arrive to find Coral taken and the Seer killed by Dragnipur. And he thinks then that the Malazans have their own secrets, such as their plan to send Paran and the Bridgeburners ahead and “a lot more than that.” He tells Korlat she matters more to him than anyone or anything and she tells him not to apologize for what has yet to happen. The scene closes by flash-forwarding: “Later, Whiskeyjack would think back on his words, and wish they had been cleaner,—devoid of hidden intent.”


Paran watches Quick Ben finish a conversation with Haradas (the Trygalle mage). When Quick Ben rejoins him, Paran tells him “the sappers will howl,” and Quick responds that he’ll talk to Hedge: “After all, Fiddler’s closer than a brother to him, and with the mess that Fid’s got into (the events at the close of DG) he needs all the help he can get. The only question is whether the Trygalle can deliver the package in time.” Paran asks if it was more than munitions and Quick Ben says yes, he added a little something due to the desperation of the situation in Seven Cities. Kruppe joins them, having “overheard,” and tells them the people of Darujhistan would like to contribute. He drops a ball that releases a bhok’arala messenger from Baruk. Quick Ben says he’d be happy to accept, but has to wonder what motivates Baruk. The Bhok’arala spits out “Great! Danger! Azath! Icarium! More! Coltaine! Admire! Allies! Yes!” They are interrupted by a female rider who asks to speak with Paran in private. She is the Destriant of the Grey Swords and wants to claim Anaster to let Itkovian take his pain. At first Paran says the Malazans won’t release him to torture, and when she explains what she wants to do, while admitting Anaster will think it is torture because he feels he has nothing but his pain, Paran says she can have him with “his blessing.” She staggers physically at that, telling Paran “There was weight to your use of that word . . . you would be well advised to, uh, exercise caution in the future.” As she leaves, Paran thinks to himself: “Take it as a warning and nothing more. You did nothing to Anaster—you don’t even know the man. A warning, and you’ll damn well heed it.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty One:

“First in, last out”—well, that absolutely sums up everything about the Bridgeburners, doesn’t it? Their sense of duty; the grim nature of their role in the various wars taking place; the honourable way they deal with everything....

I’m afraid I haven’t a clue about the poem though! With most of them I have an inkling of what they might be about, but I need serious help with this one... The mask and daub references did make me think of the Seguleh, but I’m probably not going in the right direction there.

It is interesting how Paran observes on the fact that the next rain will remove the marks from the palace in Capustan—but we’ve been told by Erikson (and, of course, we’re aware ourselves) that there will be lasting effects from the siege.

Statements like these make me fear for the Bridgeburners, especially after the references to their vulnerability: “Behind them, the soldiers of the seven squads had lost all cohesion; the company marched in no particular order [...] None the less, there was something strangely ephemeral about them.”

Wow, this conversation is bitter between Paran and Silverfox, isn’t it? Dark tangled emotions thanks to the death of Tattersail and the new role that Paran now holds. I do appreciate someone finally giving Silverfox an earful about what her actions towards the Mhybe have looked like to those not in on the plan. He reads the actions of Coll and Murillio very astutely—and I do love this, since it has echoes back to the fact that he and Coll spent that time with each other in Gardens of the Moon, and developed a mutual respect. It gives a suggestion that friendships and associations continue “behind the scenes” rather than just cropping up whenever Erikson has need of them.

Again, in this conversation, I’m seeing yet more of Silverfox’s adolescent attitude, with the way in which she shouts, “No! She is my mother, damn you! And I will not abandon her!”

Hmm, a toad that speaks? Do you know what is funny? A lot of what Erikson presents to us—gods, ascendants, strange races—are given such strong foundations that they feel natural and “right,” whereas this overtly magical speaking toad comes across a little “wrong.” Do you know what I mean? I might be nitpicking on a personal level there. *grins*

We’re given a lot of information about Kellanved that makes me think, madness aside, he might have actually been a bloody good Emperor. He wanted records to be kept of what occurred, such as with this artist and with the historian Duiker. Although it does say something of the historian in Erikson that he is presenting the idea of primary sources being provided by the “victors,” and hence becoming some form of propaganda.

It seems odd that a random artist would have the ability to see the way that Ormulogen is able to... I’m not quite on board with this character—he does seem a little gimmicky for my tastes. He almost belongs in another, more quirky, fantasy. Saying that, I do like the double meaning in the line, “ that image you will see that Itkovian is not yet done.”

When Ormulogun says, “I found myself on the wrong continent!” does he mean that he wants to be involved in the Seven Cities events?

“He forgot to look at Ormulogen’s canvas.”

Damn! I wanted to know what he was painting!

Gosh, I can see why Whiskeyjack reprimands the marine for indirectly making light of the defence of Capustan in front of Itkovian, describing the painting where Dujek came to the rescue of the Capustan defenders... After Itkovian’s strength, resolve and, ultimately, guilt over the way that Capustan went down, it seems poor form. Equally, though, having been brought up in a military background, I’ve seen similar mocking many times, and I agree with Whiskeyjack when he says, “Well, they’re only like that with people they respect, though it’s often taken as the opposite, which can lead to all sorts of trouble.”

Nice little scene between Whiskeyjack and Itkovian—one of those that, despite the dread implications of the final couple of lines, leaves you smiling and feeling the comradeship and the ultimate respect between these two men. Also reinforces the fabulousness of Whiskeyjack. *smiles*

“Kruppe is impressed with your prowess—such a dance of warrens rarely if ever before witnessed by humble self. And each one pristine! As if to say faugh! to the foolish one in chains! Such a bold challenge!”

Kruppe’s needling is always fun.

And, after a sterling but serious scene between Whiskeyjack and Itkovian, we now have the brilliance of Quick Ben and Kruppe face to face. These two genius men. Both with plans and secrets and cunning. Some excellent quotes as well: “Hold to your unassailable self-confidence—aye, some might well call it megalomania, but not Kruppe, for he too is in possession of unassailable self-confidence, such as only mortals are capable of and then rightfully but a mere handful the world over.”

So... the House of Death is stirring back to power, with the appearance of this mysterious Knight of Death. He couldn’t come at a more opportune moment, with Coll and Murillio at the mercy of Korbal Broach—definitely not something you’d want! Also, the Knight of Death has power enough to command Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to release their victims and leave the city of Capustan—does this show that Hood is on the ascendancy?

Hood wants the Mhybe—what for? With the awareness of Silverfox? This mysterious Knight gives an indication of her role: “Thus, one who does not sleep...and, here in this wagon, one who will not awaken. I believe, Coll of Darujhistan, that we will have need of each other. Soon. This woman and I.”

Oh Baudin! Oh dear Gods! Hood has taken him, hasn’t he? Stood in fire, protected Felisin, the child? *cries a little*

“Only half listening to Gruntle and Stonny exchanging insults like a husband and wife who had known each other far too long...”

Does this give an indication of the future? I’d love to see them together!

Haha! I dislike the conversation between Gruntle and Itkovian, but only because of the subject matter—cannibalism, pointless marching and a dead empire. Thank the Lord for Stonny, with this laugh-out-loud quote: “I’m glad someone here understands the subtle nuances of high civilization. Now move your damned horse or what you ain’t used for far too long will get introduced to the toe of my shiny new boot.”

This line saddens me: “Last fire left among the Bridgeburners.” What tragedy is going to encompass them? Anyone else getting a really bad feeling about their fate? Paran has picked a second, and his only request is for Picker to keep the Bridgeburners together. Then that last eerie scene showing their tents “revealing its own kind of peace.” I’m SO scared for them right now.

Wait, WHAT?! What the what is going on in this conversation between Whiskeyjack and Dujek?? They’ve known all along that the Crippled God would cause issues? They’re still on the warpath with Shadowthrone. (He’s been a little quiet in this novel hasn’t he? What’s up with that?) Tattersail was being groomed by Tayschrenn to be Mistress of the Deck?? What on earth are the long term plans of the Malazan Empire? What have Laseen and Dujek cooked up between them? Why are they keeping Quick Ben, of all people, in the dark? I just don’t get this conversation AT ALL... Just when I thought I was keeping everything straight admirably, this just goes and turns most of it on its head. *sighs*

Nice to see the scene from this side where Quick Ben packages up the “stuff” for Fiddler, something we’ve already seen. Also, interesting to see Baruk willing to plunge back into the fray. I liked Baruk and I hoped to see more of him—lots of power in that one.

And then that intriguing last scene—did Paran do anything to Anaster by giving his blessing to the enterprise of taking away Anaster’s sorrow? Did he maybe give him something to live for?


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty One:

File: “...he [Paran] watched them walk the road, veiled in dust, like figures in a sub-bleached threadbare tapestry. The march of armies, he reflected, was timeless.”

I mentioned earlier that I found the lack of communication with regard to Silverfox’s plan troubling as a reader, and clearly Paran does as a participant! I have to confess, I just don’t understand the need for the secrecy. Not to mention the lack of communication with the Mhybe herself. I can accept her trapped in her own mind, and needing to get out herself, but it still seems a leap to the lack of communication. It’s one of the few times I feel the characters are being manipulated unnaturally by the author for plot purposes.

What a dark characterization of Silverfox we get from Paran at the close of this scene: “...colder than the T’lan Imass you now command.” But of course, that darkness is predicated upon an assumption of the T’lan Imass as “cold.” But is that assumption correct?

I’ve mentioned a few times how I sometimes wish Erikson would be a bit less blunt. I confess that while I at times find Ormulogun and Gumble funny (we will see more of them), they’re a bit too on the nose for me most of the time. Even as I think I agree with much of what Erikson says through them about critics, popular art, etc. So yes Amanda, I do find them a bit “wrong,” though more in terms of style than tone. Save for the frog part—demon who looks like one, yes (Wait for it, by the way.); just a frog, not so much. Two things I do like about this scene, though, are the mention of Li Heng (more to come) and Ormulogun’s true insight/ability to see.

I like Itkovian’s musing on how the northern city-states kept feuding even when facing a common enemy—a nice metaphor for how our combative natures are so often self-destructive and work against simple logic and self-interest.

Two of my favorite characters face to face and what a great moment when Whiskeyjack offers his gauntleted hand to Itkovian. A bit ominous though, I’d say—his seeming need to do this now, and his wish that he could get to know Itkovian better (as if something would prevent him from doing so). Here again, I wish we had dropped that last paragraph though—it doesn’t really do anything for my view of Itkovian and I would have preferred subtlety of tone from the prior pages rather than have Itkovian state so baldly what I’m feeling as a reader but don’t know for sure.

Now the scene between Quick Ben and Kruppe, like nearly all scenes with these two, the two premiere minds in the area, is more to my liking. I love the contrast in style and attitude. The humor as Kruppe evades all attempts to keep secrets from him. The little dig of “megalomania.” The way Kruppe acknowledges he shares that quality (certainly not a flaw in his mind).

Here’s an important line: “Her spirit awaits. And those of her gathered kin. And the beasts whose hearts are empty.” So the Mhybe is one obviously. Her gathered kin would be the Rhivi, but we’re talking spirits here, so the Rhivi spirits to be more precise. And the beasts whose hearts are empty we know from prior usage of the term “beasts” typically refers to the Wolf gods—their hearts empty perhaps from long absence. But the Wolf gods, we know from Norul’s demand of Silverfox, are also linked to the Ay—which brings us back to the Mhybe via her dreams. The Mhybe, the Rhivi Spirits, the Wolf gods, and the Ay. The dreamworld. And let’s not forget that the Ay are to “deliver” something and the Ay are also linked to a “gift” from Silverfox. And later that Hood is involved in the preparations. Hold those connections.

Good old Coll. Clearly a bit outclassed by the, ahem, Knight of Death, but still willing to fight to protect his charge.

It’s a moving few moments then with the Knight as we learn he cannot release his swords, observe his newfound awareness that he is dead (or kinda dead), hear his regret over the realization (a universal one I’d say) that his life passed before he knew what he truly had, and then that line that hits the reader like a bolt—and what a good authorial choice to keep it simple—a single sentence, a simple sentence, subject-verb, no punctuation, no clauses, nearly completely monosyllabic: “I once stood in fire.”

Oh no, we sense. And then the reveal: “I was, I think, sworn to defend a child’s life.” And that would have been bad enough; we really don’t want to hear more, but then the heartbreaking line: “...but the child was no more. It may be that I failed.” Oh Baudin. Coll is right—what a mercy of Hood to not let him remember the details; if only he didn’t remember as much as he did. And let’s remember this as well—that Hood does in fact show mercy. Let’s not make too many assumptions about the God of Death.

I like that simile of the haze hanging like a “mourner’s veil” over this wasteland.

And then the extended metaphor with the plant imagery. And what a horrifying thought Itkovian has, that the Tenescowri’s entire purpose was to be as food for the soldiers in Coral. I wonder, though, whose thinking that is. To me, it appears more the strategy of the Crippled God, as the Seer seems annoyed and surprised to have to retreat to Coral.

I enjoyed Picker’s summation of how so many Bridgeburners have been demoted, starting at the top with Whiskeyjack. One can almost hear her channeling Bill Murray, “We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! . . . So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us—we’re soldiers...” Save her tone is hardly inspirational.

So let’s see. We’ve got hints that Whiskeyjack will never see Itkovian again. Now we’ve got Paran picking a second in command to lead in his absence and telling Picker, “Keep them [the Bridgeburners] together, no matter what happens. Together.” Starting to feel a little ominous round here.

And then we get Picker and Blend stepping out of the “dying embers” to be “swallowed by darkness . . . no movement was visible, the stars casting their faint silver light down on the camps of the Bridgeburners. The oft-patched tents were colorless in the dull, spectral glow. A scene that was ghostly and strangely timeless. Revealing its own kind of peace.” Hmm. Dying. Embers. Darkness. Silver light. Colorless. Spectral. Glow. Ghostly. Timeless. Its own kind of peace. I don’t know, but these words all point in one direction for me. Anyone care to comment? I’ll also remind you of Paran’s observation at the start of the chapter, and the “ephemeral” and also “timeless” nature of the Bridgeburners. And of a certain Tanno.

Okay, and now we come, I have to admit, to one of my least favorite scenes in this entire series—the conversation between Whiskeyjack and Dujek. Why one of my least favorite?

1) Far too talky—long paragraphs of exposition and explanation

2) Exposition and explanation focused on events of the past rather than focused on events of the future or focused on revealing character.

3) Not just focused on the past, but seemingly rewriting or at the very least, re-imagining the past—but not in the subtle, concise, pleasurably revelatory fashion we’ve seen happen on occasion. Instead, it’s done in almost professorial mode, with lectures. One almost imagines Dujek putting together a Keynote/PowerPoint and standing at a lectern.

4) I’m not saying Steven didn’t have much of this planned; only he knows for sure. And certainly we’ve uncovered an amazing amount of linkage and foreshadowing throughout. But all I can comment on is my response as a reader. And as a reader, I responded to way too much of this conversation with the sense that things were being shoehorned into place clumsily to take care of possible contradictions, gaps, questionable motivations, etc.

So here’s a place where, rather than lay out my complaints one by one, line by line (or at least paragraph by paragraph), I’m going to throw this out to you guys for a free-for-all. What did you think of this scene? What, if anything, bothered you, annoyed you, made you go “huh” or “really” or “wait a minute” or “but didn’t...” or “c’mon!” or “that seems a bit of a stretch.” Did you like this scene? And have a reaction more akin to my own?

Luckily, the bad taste gets washed out by a nice scene between Korlat and Whiskeyjack—the mix of consolation and love and regret and deception. It feels very real (unlike the prior one for me). If I were nitpicking, I’d say again I would have liked fewer bald statements. When Korlat is talking about being disturbed by the Ay, I wish Erikson had let the reader get that it is the reflection of her own “eternal sorrow” she is reacting to, or at least, put a bit more space between her statement and Whiskeyjack’s explanatory thought. Or maybe just stopped with his first sentence, “You see in their eyes, dear lover, what I see in yours.” To be clear here, I don’t think this is a forced or clumsy explanation; I absolutely believe these are the thoughts Whiskeyjack would have and just so bluntly and clearly. I just would rather they not be shared with us, or not shared so immediately. The same holds true when she says how seeing them fall into dust disturbed her the most, then Whiskeyjack gives us the immediate reason: Because it is what awaits all of us.” I’d like the reader to feel that in themselves first. Maybe just give us a moment of silence, or a gesture, before we get the thought. Minor quibbles though.

Back to the ominous tone with the flash-forward at the close.

Here we get a reminder that we’ve got some major events going on with out main characters over on the other continent. We’ve had a few already—references to Duiker, Baudin’s appearance, Paran seeing the Heboric/Felisin/Baudin trio. Here, though, we get an actual intersection of plot and action as Quick Ben puts together the package that we’ve already seen delivered.

Gotta like the Destriant’s honesty to tell Paran that what they propose to do with Anaster he would consider “torture.” And gotta like as well Paran’s immediate decision to turn Anaster over.

Remember Paran telling Cafal he didn’t know “how to” bless? Well, here he goes accidentally blessing either the Destriant or the action with Anaster. He may be Master of the Deck, but he clearly hasn’t mastered the Master part. One can only wonder what Raest would say about this moment. However, let’s file away this “blessing” ability of Paran. The man is starting to come into his own, into his power, and into some respect by his peers and by those we as readers like and respect a lot, such as Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben.

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

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to, as well as reviews for her own site (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

1. Greyhawk

I really am enjoying your and Amanda's reread. I am only a book ahead in my first read and so this approach of avoiding major spoilers has worked well for me. Don't really have much time to join in the conversation normally, but I agree that Whiskeyjack and Dujek's conversation was a little off. For me as a reader I felt there was a little authorial revision going on to allow Erickson to play out his interconnected web story in a way he hadn't fully developed in the earlier books. I could be wrong, Erickson clearly had a lot of story lines anticipated in this series, but that is how this sequence felt to me.
Tai Tastigon
2. Taitastigon

So here’s a place where, rather than lay out my complaints one by one, line by line (or at least paragraph by paragraph), I’m going to throw this out to you guys for a free-for-all. What did you think of this scene?

Kinda funny, having read the whole cycle and knowing how it turns out, rereading this conversation with care I find it, most of all, odd. Talky, yes. Too much !shazaam! twist-within-the-twist, yes. But mostly very odd, because it seems at odds with what we are presented afterwards as the cycle progresses. I got this flash today, asking myself, does Dujek really, really know what he is talking about ? We know that SE plays with perceptions...
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
I actually enjoyed WJ's and Dujek's conversation. I liked the way it made me rethink past events in a different light, and didn't feel at all like retconning. However, I have a problem connecting all the implications to the latter half of the series; it makes it seem like Shadowthrone and/or Laseen have concocted this intricate scheme against the Crippled God, but I don't see that later events bear this out.

Amanda, I also loved how the friendship between Paran and Coll is subtlely highlighted. And Gumble bugs me, too. Giant, talking, magical ravens powered by the Crippled God's life force? Sure. Talking frog art critic that hangs out with the army? Um...not feeling it. Dunno why, though.
4. djk1978
As promised in the ch.20 thread I re-read ch. 21 prior to this posting so I actually know what I'm talking about.

1. Silverfox and Paran's discussion: I actually don't agree with Bill on the idea that Silverfox's plan for the Mhybe being secret is an author contrivance for plot purposes. It fits the rest of her character. She is secretive about everything. Remember that while the reader may have a slight inkling of what she plans for the T'lan Imass and T'lan Ay no one else does. Why is Kallor so perturbed, for example. So while I see Bill's point it does fit her character.

2. Ormologun and Grumble sort of confused me too when they appeared. They show up again later though.

3. Oh Baudin. Out of the frying pan and into the fire? Or vice versa perhaps? It's a bittersweet fate to be sure, to be serving Hood.

4. Dujek and Whiskeyjack had a bit of a revisionist feel to it, on re-read. I didn't think of it the first time. But there's a large gap between the writing of GotM and MoI and maybe the direction of the story changed a bit? Only Erikson would know for sure. On first read though, all I thought was, "oh so that's what happened".

5. And I'm confused, who did Paran really bless? Anaster or the Destriant? I can't go on without spoiling but I'm left with that question. Or was it simply the action of what the Destriant would do with Anaster?
Tai Tastigon
5. Taitastigon

Just continuing: The oddest part is the reinterpretation of Pale. May have been the way Dujek told it, but SE never builds up to it. It comes as too surprising, especially considering that SE tends to build up certain arcs/connections way in advance and carefully over a long time. To me, a stylistic *ouch*. Funny that, in my opinion, he repeats that same *ouch* in a similar structural fashion in DoD/tCG.
Tai Tastigon
6. Taitastigon
Salt @3

However, I have a problem connecting all the implications to the latter half of the series; it makes it seem like Shadowthrone and/or Laseen have concocted this intricate scheme against the Crippled God, but I don't see that later events bear this out.

Exactly. I especially don´t see the connection with Laseen in this. Kinda funny, I always liked MoI best as a single-book read within the cycle, but something always nagged me. This may have been it. In terms of arc cohesiveness, I absolutely prefer Vols. 4 -10, seen as a single work, by now.
Tai Tastigon
8. Taitastigon

“First in, last out”—well, that absolutely sums up everything about the Bridgeburners, doesn’t it? Their sense of duty; the grim nature of their role in the various wars taking place; the honourable way they deal with everything....

A great line, against which the following will be pitched: *Last in, looking around*...;0)

Re Bridgeburners: Really a very interesting piece of work that SE does with the BBs. Definitely file the following away re BBs: Reality vs. Legend, what holds ? We will get different angles right to the end of tCG on that.

The same goes for the BB rub-out at Pale. Whiskeyjack says here it was because of him, but as with everything, we get different viewpoints as we progress.
9. parabola
I wanted to mention that I started the series back when you started maybe the second volume of the re-read, as a result of your re-read, and I absolutely devoured them! Thanks for introducing them to me!
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
Just a quick note on the WJ/Dujek discussion (more later). As with every discussion, I read this with a grain (or block) of salt. Just because Dujek is saying it does not mean it is entirely true.
Tai Tastigon
11. Taitastigon
shal @10

I´ll go with *block* of salt on this one. Either a brilliant red herring of a not-so connected one-armed man or an authorial *bleep*, IMHO.
Edward Morland
12. random_gerbil
I didn't feel that the revelations came totally out of the blue/ as a retcon, we've seen games within games in the Malazan empire before and with what we know about Kellanved the idea of the Empire as his piece in the war of the gods fits. What does stand out is how it's so plainly stated at odds with how much of the exposition we get in this series occurs and Dujek's view of Lasseen. The conflict between this view of her as a machiavelian presence in control as compared to that of someone clinging on to what remains of the Empire with the Old Guard gone which we get at other times is one of the things I'm still not sure about in this series.

As to Ormulogun and Gumble while they stand out a bit I've grown used to Erikson's occasional foray into almost outright comedy and it's a nice break from the grimmer bits which overwise abound.
Dustin George-Miller
13. dustingm
I agree with others who have been cautioning against taking everything in the Dujek/Whiskeyjack conversation at face value. It is a little "expositiony" compared to the spoonfulls Erikson normally gives us (often several books later), but if there's one thing that I've learned about an Erikson story is that his narrators are not always reliable. They may THINK they are, but that doesn't mean they really are...
14. djk1978
Taitastigon @7: That's what I thought too. I just have problems reconciling that with future events. But I have problems in the same way if it's Anaster.
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
From Deadhouse Gates we have Cotillion speaking through Apsalar:

“Not by Kellanved’s command!” she retorted. “Who ordered the T’lan Imass into Aren? I shall tell you. Surly, the commander of the Claw, the woman who took upon herself a new name—”
“Laseen.” Fiddler eyed the young woman quizzically. “I have never before heard that assertion, Apsalar. There were no written orders—none found, in any case—”
“I should have killed her there and then,” Apsalar muttered.
“To find out what happened. I…I argued with Surly. No one else was in the room. Just Surly and…and me.

This account has several differences from the one Dujek just related. Note that Apsalar is recalling a memory of Dancer. The massacre of Aren happened before the assension of Kellanved and Dancer. While we often say the timeline doesn't matter, in this case it very much does.
Second, Dancer recalls arguing with Surly on exactly this point.
I tend to believe Dancer on this. I think Laseen has purposefully lied to Dujek on this in order to get him on her side.
If we take Dancer's as the correct account, then the rest of what Dujek is saying is fact is certainly cast in a shadowy light.
Tai Tastigon
16. Taitastigon
djk @14: Let me know once we get there. I don´t see the problem right now, mostly because I never looked at it.
Tai Tastigon
17. Taitastigon
shal @15

Isn´t that issue picked up in tCG again, with yet another angle ? Crap, I don´t know whose words to trust anymore.
Steven Halter
19. stevenhalter
@Bill:I also really liked that we get to see Quick completing the deal with the Trygalle and get info from Baruk via a
bhok’arala. That was a very neat tying together of DG & MoI.
I thought that was interesting in that it is in the same chapter where Whiskeyjack and Dujek's chat is disruptive of the continuity. So in the same chapter we get doubts and then we get confirmations.
Hugh Arai
20. HArai
djk1978@14: My reading was that Paran blessed the idea of taking Anaster to Itkovian. Which I thought was a necessary preparation for the events I think you're referring to. Definitely bring it up when we get there, I'm curious what you're having trouble reconciling.

shalter@15: I think in all these cases we need to look at both "who can know what truly happened" and "who might want to conceal what truly happened". For example, I believe that Dancer believed it was Surly and not Kellanved who ordered the massacre at Aren. Mostly because Apsalar had no stake in concealing the truth of that memory. However, I wouldn't put it past Kellanved to have given the order and then denied/concealed it from Dancer. It's clear that although they work as partners they both have their own agendas. So although the "Dancer version" isn't an intentional lie, can we say with certainty Dancer knows what really happened?

As for Pale, I believe Rake when he says there was in-fighting including demons amongst the Malazans. He had no reason to lie to Baruk, and he would definitely know if he'd summoned demons or not. We know from Tattersail's PoV that she wasn't personally a part of the in-fighting, but again because of that all we have is what she "thinks" happened. Tayschrenn should definitely know what his part was but has obvious motives to conceal it. Ditto Nightchill (via Silverfox) . Based on his death (and how he died) I don't think Calot was involved. That leaves A'Karonys who we never got a PoV or position statement from, Bellurdan who believed Tayschrenn, and Hairlock who claimed Tayschrenn was at fault but had obvious reasons to try to manipulate both Tattersail and the Bridgeburners.

When you add in the fact that several of the people involved appear to be the sort that can say things like "preemptive self-defense" with a straight face, personally I think it's possible none of them know what "the truth of Pale" was.
Steven Halter
21. stevenhalter
HArai:Yes, the Pale situation is very tricky and hard to work out. I think parts of that story are probably correct. Knowing Rake, though, I don't think Nightchill was as big a threat to take Dragnipur as Dujek seems to think.
In the Aren situation we have (essentially) a first hand account from Dancer arguing with Surly pre-ascension. Dujek gives us a second hand (at least) account arguing for Aren to have been caused by Shadowthrone, post ascension. I'm going with Dancer on this one.
Joe Long
22. Karsa
@10 that was my reading as well. "nothing is as it appears"...however, it did seem clumsy to me. it was amost as if an editor got to put some text in in an attempt to do something or other. that was what was jarring -- not what was said, but how it was said.
Joe Long
23. Karsa

take this one as another example:

What a dark characterization of Silverfox we get from Paran at the close of this scene: “...colder than the T’lan Imass you now command.” But of course, that darkness is predicated upon an assumption of the T’lan Imass as “cold.” But is that assumption correct?

he is saying "colder than the T'lan Imass"...but not how cold they are...e.g. it is reletive, not absolute.
Hugh Arai
24. HArai
shalter@21: Oh, I go with Dancer too. To me, that specific one was probably a lie by Laseen to secure Dujek's loyalty : in part playing on his fears of Kellanved's insanity and in part keeping him from blaming her for Aren. Dujek doesn't seem the sort to forgive someone the sort of massacre Aren apparently was.

I don't know how much of a threat to Rake Nightchill might actually have been, but we do know from her recent "link" to Paran she is very much interested in retrieving and breaking Dragnipur. That could have easily looked like a power play to Tayschrenn.

The big hole in Tayschrenn's story, as recounted by Dujek at least, is that Dujek says "And even then, Tayschrenn only hit her when she took out A'Karonys". In Tattersail's PoV Nightchill gets torn apart by a demon, then A'Karonys gets icecubed. But even here, the story is told second hand, this isn't a direct quote of Tayschrenn. Tayschrenn could have originally told Dujek "I only killed Nightchill after she went after A'Karonys." There was an immense amount of sorcery flying around, Tattersail could easily miss an unsuccessful or non-fatal attack on A'Karonys by Nightchill and the rest of Tayschrenn's story hangs together.

All those possibilities... isn't it great? :)
karl oswald
25. Toster
tossing in my two cents on ormulogun and gumble, i didn't get the same sense of oddness from these two as many others. i simply suspect that ormulogun, while a good painter, is also something of a conjurer, and somewhat insane, leading him to conjure up a toad that can represent his own criticisms. iskaral pust loves to screw with peoples heads with his mules, why shouldn't another crazy person like it?
pat purdy
26. night owl
At first I puzzled over the k of Death, I felt that we had met him earlier, Duh! " I stood in fire "- of course Baudin!

It would seen that Shadowthrone was in kahoots with Lassen to have her take over the empire, and then he unleashes the Tlan Imass on Aren. From an earlier section, only Shadowthrone had control over them. Am I right??? What I'm confused about is when the massacre

This last chunky dialogue between WJ and Dujek seemed a "round-up" of a lot of threads, but I agree that it's again, a persons POV.

Darn, Drat - I want to conjour up something, at the top of my list is a maid!
27. Jordanes
I believe Laseen/Dujek's version. Why? Because Laseen didn't have access to the First Throne and so couldn't command the T'lan Imass. It seems to me that Dancer was deceived by Kellanved in this.

As for Pale, I think we should just accept that the who killed whom in what order confusion is a GotMism - i.e. something that only occurs in the much earlier written first book which has had to be altered/discarded since for the sake of plot progression. From the way that Tayschrenn is characterised in all the books after GotM, I would believe the version we've just been given, that he killed Nightchill because she was a threat and that he genuinely did not want to harm the Bridgeburners.

As for Laseen, never has there been a more misunderstood character in the Malazanempire books, in my opinion. To me, she is aware of all the things which Dujek's tells us, but her first priority was, is, and always will be the the Malazan Empire. She usurped Kellanved because he clearly did not hold the Empire's interests at heart any longer. She has suffered because of the defection of much of the Old Guard, and she has to contend with gods attempting use the Empire as a pawn in their plots. The events at the end of the Bonehunters to me really put across the insane difficulties she finds herself in, and how she always tries to do what she must in orde to ensure the continued existence of the Empire, no matter how unpalatable her decisions.
28. Abalieno
I'm three chapters behind but I wanted to join this conversation since I'm paying attention especially to work kinks out of overreaching plots.

In a way this stuff is the kind I love: tables being turned and plot suddenly requiring to be reconsidered as a whole in light of some revelations. The problem here is very similar to the "reveal" at the confrontation between Kalam and Laseen in book 2. It comes out all at the sudden and it's not given a lot of "preparation". They are overreaching links to the overall plot that actually aren't much discussed.

I'm interested in going down in details, because these kind of things can only be analyzed by narrowing down what are the parts that aren't perfectly smooth, and then see if there can be plausible explanations.

One kink I can work out. There's a problem with Kalam's "plan" in DG that is never addressed directly but that is addressed at least a couple of times indirectly, and so it should be taken as true. The intention is there, but for some weird reason it's never spelled exactly. This "plan" is: Kalam's mission in DG was to kill Laseen in order to replace her on the throne. With Whiskeyjack.

The mission has an important point: that Whiskeyjack wouldn't know ANY of this. Because, similarly to Paran, he would have never accepted that kind of position if not once it was an obligatory choice, after the fact. Quick Ben and Kalam basically planned to drag Whiskeyjack right on the throne. Telling him as late as possible.

This was an entirely hidden plan. Only Quick Ben and Kalam knew. Whiskeyjack doesn't know, Dujek doesn't know. But it is Tayschrenn and Laseen who had doubts, including the first book. Laseen had inverted the command structure right at the beginning because WJ was next and so the closest threat for the throne. WJ and his squad HAVE enmity toward Laseen at this stage. Tayschrenn exaggerates this, becoming as paranoid as the Empress and screwing up in a number of occasion (then righted by the arrival at Pale of the Adjunct Lorn).

Dujek can't tell any of this. The problem is not the Bridgeburners (whose "faith" is confirmed in the confrontation between Laseen and Kalam), but it's WJ. Dujek can't tell him he's a problem, and probably Dujek doesn't even know.

A crucial point is that Dujek is naive on this field and he doesn't know how to move. He's a master of battlefield and tactics, but not of politics and hidden agendas. Especially during the events in GotM, with Tayschrenn taking over the command, he's left completely impotent. He's the one who's kept in the dark the most and he only gets back in his position with the arrival of Lorn who "chastises" Tayschrenn and tells him to step back. The crucial point I was saying is that ALL that Dujek knows has been told him by Tayschrenn:

If I hadn't cornered Tayschrenn after, we still wouldn't (know nothing of what was really going on)

Dujek had to corner Tayschrenn after all the screw ups. And Tayschrenn told him all that, probably mostly true, but still possibly partial, and still Tay's point of view.

The interpretation at Pale seems to work for me. That Nightchill and Bellurdan were on something is possible. It's coherent at least with this book since we've seen some chapters back Nightchill pressuring Paran in regards to Rake's sword. She asks Paran to shatter the sword in order to free Draconus. So here's the place:

From what I learned later, Tayschrenn didn't know at the time who Nightchill really was, but he knew she was closing in on Rake's sword. Her and Bellurdan, who she was using to do her research for her. It looked like a play for power, a private one, and Laseen wasn't prepared to permit that. And even then, Tayschrenn only hit her when she took out A'Karonys - the very High Mage who came to Tayschrenn with his suspicions about her. When I said Bellurdan killing Tattersail was the worst foul-up in Malazan history, that day at Pale runs a close second.

"Who Nightchill really was" is Sister of Cold Nights, obviously. She was indeed probably closing on Rake's sword, if we accept what she says to Paran in this book. "It looked like a play for power" may be so, we don't even know if she has hidden intentions. The part "only hit her when" is probably wholly excuse made up by Tayschrenn, manipulating Dujek.

It may well be true that Nightchill attacked A'Karonys if he spied on her. Tayschrenn probably waited for an opportunity during the battle to kill her, and he got it.

The siege of Pale is a tangle of plot and we miss crucial PoVs since we don't have Laseen, we don't have Tay, Nightchill or A'Karonys. What we get is only Tattersail (who didn't know about anything), and the Bridgeburners (who were victims and suspicious about everything). In the case of the Bridgeburners the ambivalence was that Laseen's hostility was FOCUSED on Whiskeyjack:

No, not us. Me. Damn you, Dujek, you lead me to suspect you knew more of that than I'd hoped. Beru fend, I hope I'm wrong.

The problem is that Tayschrenn could never know how faithful were the Bridgeburners to Whiskeyjack, so a certain "collateral" was necessary to take HIM out.

And he was indeed a threat to Laseen, as Kalam went exactly on with that mission to replace her with WJ.

What we saw at Pale was Tayscrenn pressured on all fronts and panicking. It was a mess because he was cornered and leashed out.

The fact that he worked to have Tattersail as Mistress of the Deck is quite plausible. Tattersail had the great affinity with the deck that Tay exploits in GotM quite often. She has the right traits since she was also quite neutral and "unaligned" in respect to the other powers, also being constantly defiant. She is "right there", and Tay spares her during the siege.

Paran became what he is also as consequence of this relationship, which is exactly an example of "opportunity".

So where are the parts that do not work? Overall it seems to work.

The real problem with all this is that it suddenly surfaces in this scene to vanish again. A so huge plot of subterfuge and deep empire politics needed to be more on the front of the stage and play out. Instead in this way you need to work it OUT of the text, between the line. It's all inferred story that was certainly an interesting one to have dragged on the front. ESPECIALLY the hidden plan of putting WJ on the throne instead of Laseen. That one absolutely needed to be mentioned explicitly at least ONCE. It's a huge missing connection.

But then I guess this also makes this convoluted plot something unique. The way everything is inferred. It has is charm being put it that way, even if (the real problem) the text doesn't exactly encourage the reader to read deeper, since sometimes you either have missing pieces, or find loose parts.

Such a tangle of plot REQUIRES flawless execution of the smallest details and absolutely PERFECT planning ahead. While Erikson sometimes went for the potshot.

"Has Quick Ben heard from Kalam yet?"
"He's not told me so if he has."
"Where's your wizard right now?"
"I last saw him jawing with those Trygalle traders."

We KNOW he has (heard from Kalam), since he's organizing with the Trygalle. He wouldn't tell WJ because of the hidden plot. Which also gets problematic after all the reveals this side of the world (more impending matters than caring about who's on the throne).
29. Abalieno

From the way that Tayschrenn is characterised in all the books after GotM, I would believe the version we've just been given, that he killed Nightchill because she was a threat and that he genuinely did not want to harm the Bridgeburners.

The Bridgeburners were also a threat at that stage (pre-Pale).

Laseen had a problem with WJ specifically, not with the rest of the squad in general. Remember that at the time there was Sorry with them, and Laseen knew she was possessed by Shadowthrone. She (Laseen) definitely wanted Sorry out, as well as WJ. This makes the Bridgeburners a kind of acceptable "collateral".
Tai Tastigon
30. Taitastigon

Laseen had a problem with WJ specifically, not with the rest of the squad in general.

You are taking that at face value ? Problem is, it gets blown apart in tCG.
Tricia Irish
31. Tektonica
Amanda: Totally agree about the Talking Toad. I didn't find it funny...vaguely amusing maybe, but just out of place. It's not like there's a race of talking toads, or is it an art critic that was being punished by a mage for a critical review. Just kind of out of left field. It really removed me from this world, actually. A small thing, but odd for SE.
Toster@25: I like your idea about Ormulogan "conjuring" the Toad. That makes it funnier and nuttier.

btw: ormolu , finish used on metal to imitate gold. It is employed chiefly for furniture mountings. I just found that odd.....

I was very confused in the WJ/Dujek conversation. It seemed a bit of retconning to me and yet it didn't jibe with what I know from future books either? And it was so not SE's style! He is usually so much more subtle about info dumping?
Shalter@15: Good catch on the timeline and povs. I tend to stick with Dancer, as they were actually there, but Kell could've lied to Dancer? Wheels within wheels.....

It is interesting to get "history" from different povs. One can see why text books in RL often differ. ;-)

Harai@24: Tattersail/Nightchill info: Now that they are "merged" shouldn't "they" know the truth? But of course, Silverfox isn't talking.

Aba@28: Good summation! Cleared a few things up for me, thank you. But it sure doesn't make Laseen look good. Thinking only of the Empire? I don't think so. Mostly thinking about being the Empress. It's so odd to have her as such a powerful background person. We see so little of her, at least in the main books...I've yet to read more of Esslemont than we've read here.....and yet her actions drive much of the plot. Come to think of it, the CG is also mostly a background person and he drives the rest of the plot. Interesting device.
32. Abalieno
Another thing specifically of the battle at Pale.

There's something that CAN'T be retconning since it is already in GotM. Rake, to Baruk, talks about demons summoned. We see two demons used in the book, one by Quick Ben, who stole it from Tay, and another by Lorn, who got it from Tay.

So the idea is: demons = Tayschrenn

Who's that is ripped apart by demons? Nightchill. Hence one could say Nightchill was killed by Tayschrenn (and this, again, with info limited to GotM). And, btw, it is coherent with her "curse". She was cursed by Kallor to be betrayed, so it also means that Nightchill is going to be particularly paranoid about who is that may betray her. In this case it's A'karonys who's suspicious about her, and she may have figured out that part, and so tried to kill him. Even if it's this action that actually leads to the betrayal (which would be very curse-like).

Now A'karonys is killed by "ethereal wings of ice". It definitely doesn't look like Rake kind of magic, so who's this? Who do you think first when thinking about "ice" (well, beside Jaghuts)? It doesn't look that subtle.

Sister of Cold Nights

There's definitely the inconsistency of A'karonys being killed after Nightchill, but the scene is narrated about contemporary events. It could almost appear as deliberate misdirection done by Erikson.

It really wasn't needed and, again, that book would work better with some more exposition and a revision, but overall it "seems" to work.

Am I wrong here?

The real problem is that Tayschrenn seems to have killed Hairlock and Calot as well, probably attacking Tattersail too. And Tay himself also got killed the majority of the army (which is another big problem since it's utterly stupid to bring an army to a sorecery fight where they could only stand around while being killed, without ANY form of defense).
karl oswald
33. Toster
i don't think your reasoning is wrong at all, Ab. it's kind of like reading all the things that were between the lines in GotM.

the two problems you mention do exist. the first could be an attempt to leave tattersail bereft so he could 'groom' her. or even friendly fire, deflected by nightchill. whatever it was, that's what started the BB's plot.

ha, bring an army to a sorcery fight, but also a sky-keep battle. bad choice there for sure, but i guess they were trying to take pale at the same time. thank the gods rake doesn't know their true power.
Fabian Schaller
34. Aldric
Do we actually know which warren Belurdan used? The Telomen Toblakai also have a ... close relationship with Jaghut, as we see later. So he might have used ice magic and could have killed A'Krynos. Which actually would fit with the timeline of the events at Pale.

Toster@33: But who started the BB's plot? Dujek says it wasn't Laseen. But who else could want them dead? Is it all maybe a shadowy means to an end?
35. amphibian
There's also the fact that magic that doesn't immediately take place at the target takes a while to roll over there.

Possible explanation for a slightly askew scene in the very first Malazan book Erikson wrote: Nightchill could have launched the attack that killed A'Karonys from where she stood while Tayschrenn summoned the demons at Nightchill's location. So as Nightchill died, her will and magic held over long enough to kill A'Karonys.

We'll see later in the book how killing magic from both sides physically moves during a physical battle.
Steven Halter
36. stevenhalter
Jordanes@27:Since Kellanved was not Shadowthrone when Aren was destroyed the T'lan were still under "Malazan" orders. There are indications that they accepted commands from other's in the Malazan command structure as long as they thought Kel was in charge. So, Surly could have given the order.
Laseen may indeed be misunderstood. No POV scenes means that we don't get her side of things. However, the idea that she is selflessly doing everything she does for the good of the empire really doesn't track very well. It seems fairly clear that Whiskeyjack would have made a better ruler than Laseen. The number of mistakes she makes is amazing. She may have honestly thought that no one else could guide the Empire the way she could. It seems more likely that she is a poster child for the Dunning–Kruger effect. She is unskilled at rule, but not competent enough to judge this fact. She is also paranoid and given to panic. None of these are properties you want from a ruler.
Now, maybe someday SE will give us a clear indication that none of this is true. She really is in on everything, selfless and all. But, it seems doubtful.
Steven Halter
37. stevenhalter
I'd say that Tay took out NightChill in Pale and Nightchill took out A'Karonys. Whether Tay really thought the tunnels were a safe place is something we can't know at this point. Tay isn't stupid and it seems like knowing there might be chunks of mountain raining down from the sky might make the tunnels unstable. But, maybe he doesn't understand engineering at all.
Interesting how Pale echo's across the books.
Sydo Zandstra
38. Fiddler

The real problem is that Tayschrenn seems to have killed Hairlock and Calot as well, probably attacking Tattersail too.

I don't think that's a problem, but just a case of huge magical backlash instead. A lot of powerful stuff went on there, and Tayschrenn probably didn't see it coming.

But I do think this is exactly why Tayschrenn wanted the BB underground, to be safe from possible backlashes. So yes, I believe Tayschrenn here in saying he wasn't aiming for the BB...

As for posting activity, initially I thought the split would work out well for discussion, but I found out it doesn't work for me.

I live in Europe, so the posts are brought up early in the evening here. With the single malazan posts, reading took me a while and most often I posted on the next day. With posts on Wednesday and Friday, that means, replying to a Wednesday post is hardly worth the effort, because people are focusing on the Friday post already by then. I am not interested in discussions in such a setting.

That leaves the Friday posts, which give more time. But I am also not interested in joining HALF of the thing here.

I understand that TOR Marketing wants reread discussions on every day, but for me this is not working. But I guess TOR doesn't care much about non-US participants anyway, considering the changed contest policy. ( I order books on regularly, so I know this is about pocket money)
EDIT: I have no problem with TOR's stance on this BTW. TOR is a company after all, and I am not really in their customer target area.

I still read all the stuff in Malazan reread, because I love how Amanda and Bill are doing this, but in the current setting I just lost the drive to post much. Maybe I am the only one saying it. If not, you may take this to TOR, and maybe we can get back to the 'old' settings.

As for other rereads on series that aren't exactly new, I stopped reading past the reader's comments. Most of the series have a ridiculous spoiler policy considering how old the series are, and should not have been done by somebody who is doing a first read, IMO. Except for WoT, I guess, but I lost interest there (in the reread, I mean). I'm just sitting that series out: when the last WOT-book is published, I'll read it so I know what's on the infamous 'last page'.

BTW, the Forum option for spoilers discussion doesn't really work, since almost nobody posts there... ;)
karl oswald
39. Toster
Aldric @34 by BB's plot, i mean the plot that the WJ and co. started to figure out who wanted them dead.
Fabian Schaller
40. Aldric
Toster@39: And they figured out that it was Laseen. But Dujek believes it wasn't her. So who else could want them dead?

Fiddler@38: Or the death of Hairlock and Calot wasn't an accident. I think it was part of Tay's "grooming" of Tattersail to kill the rest of the mage cadre.

Shalter@36: What major faults did Laseen make up to this point? If we believe Dujek then almost all went according to her plan. I can think of only two things that went wrong. Tattesail died but with Paran still an Malazan became Master of the Deck. And then there was the death of Lorn at the end of GottM.

But what else went wrong? The rebelion in 7C? Maybe but we haven't seen the end of this. The culling of the nobility? The nobility with their bought commissions weakend the officer corps of the empire. So Laseen reacted. And at least the mob in the begining of DG loved her for it.

I think it is easy to blame Laseen. But she is empress of an empire that spans several continents and a various cultures. Then there is the constant threat of the end of the world via Brood's hammer. And several gods that try to dabble with her empire. And until now she held (most of) the empire togetehr. I actually think she is better suited to her position then WJ. Is WJ realy hard enough to rule an empire?
Sydo Zandstra
41. Fiddler
Or the death of Hairlock and Calot wasn't an accident. I think it was
part of Tay's "grooming" of Tattersail to kill the rest of the mage

Considering that it was Calot who saw it coming and saved Tattersail by shielding her, that seems quite risky from Tayschrenn's POV. And since Tayschrenn isn't the gambling type, and more of a log term planner instead, I don't think he set this up. Seems like a common magical backlash wave from the magical attacks around Nightchill to me.

BTW, must have been quite a view for Rake...

I actually think she is better suited to her position then WJ. Is WJ realy hard enough to rule an empire?

I agree. And I don't think he is. Even in my first read of GotM, I got the impression that WJ is a tired veteran, whose only motivation to go on was keeping his squad and the other BB's alive. Plus, he isn't ruthless enough for the job.

Laseen is ruthless enough, as certain events in The Bonehunters show. Those events are despicable from the readers POV, but from Laseen's POV those actions are necessary to preserve the Empire as a whole. And although I don't like them, I can see the necessity there.
Jozefine Propper
42. Onderduikboot
Wow, these are exactly the kind of posts I joined for.
I love to read your opinions.

Considering Aren and the T'lan Imass:
If Kellanved was the only one able to command the T'lan, Dancer would know it. So I assume that the T'lan would listen to people in the chain of command thinking K. was in charge. Destroying Aren seems to me more in line with K.'s behavior (letting the Hounds hunt to cover his tracks).

On the other hand Laseen can be ruthless as well. If she ordered the attack by Taychrenn on Nightchill and the other mages. Killing half or more of her own army.
I loved the deduction: demons=Tayschrenn and Nightchill is Sister of the Cold Night and feathers of Ice.

With later books in mind I find it hard to see Laseen as the longterm conniving person thoroughly in control, she must be to have been able to do what Dujek seems to think.
I think Laseen took control of the Empire, losing all her old "friends" and the best of the army and navy, because she wants the best for the Empire and it isn't Kellanved, who anticipated this and uses it to ascend. (Did they plan it together?) But she is not good enough. She loses control. People with power lose their faith in her. And as times goes by she is more and more reacting to actions of others instead of controlling the field.
So yes, I think she feared WJ and I think she wouldn't mind if he died in Pale along with his supporters the BB's.
I'm not convinced Tay would comply. So maybe he tried to protect them.

I have the same problem as you have. The two chapters at two different days make it hard to keep up. And I'm finally first time reading Dust of Dreams, which is very distracting as well
Julian Augustus
43. Alisonwonderland
I found Dujek's explanation of the events, which was obviously told him by Tay, hard to believe. And for a very simple reason. The Master of the Deck is a position that comes with humongous power; the Master can even command the gods (or at least make decisions by which the gods must abide). It seems logical to me that the pattern (to use a concept from another series, or what passes for the structure of magic in the Malazan universe) throws up a Master when it is absolutely necessary for the survival of the universe itself, just as an azath arises to try and curb a power that is running around unchecked.

I find it completely illogical that Tayschrenn, or any individual, has the capability to choose who the Master must be. I don't know what combination of circumstances led the pattern to choose Paran as the Master (perhaps the fact that he has died and come back, is impossible to intimidate, has walked into Dragnipur and come back out, has the blood of the Hounds in him, has a contrary, independent mind, is least likely to want power for its own sake, etc.) may have something to do with his selection. But I refuse to accept Tay's claim that he was "grooming" somebody for the position (what presumption!), or that the position could have gone to some random Gadrobi herder. It doesn't make any sense. And for mainly that reason, I thought from the beginning that his whole story as told to Dujek was just self-serving BS. And what I have read so far in SE's and ICE's work seems to bear out my initial skepticism.
Hugh Arai
44. HArai
Tektonica@31: Silverfox theoretically knows what Tattersail and Nightchill did. But as you say Silverfox isn't talking and Nightchill is no more a disinterested party than Tayschrenn is. For that matter we don't even know if Nightchill shared the truth of her own actions with the other portions of Silverfox's personality.
Steven Halter
45. stevenhalter
Aldric@40:We don't have all the facts at hand to amke a decision about Laseen with complete certainty. SE has let us make up our own minds and story on that account. So, in a way whichever interpretation we most like is indeed the correct one.
That being said, I'll go with my interpretation a bit:
"But what else went wrong? The rebelion in 7C? "
Yes, the rebellion occuring at all was a big mistake on Laseen's part. Some competent supervision and preemptive action could have either mitigated the effects or prevented it in the most part. 7C is a very important source of food for the rest of the Empire. Allowing it to fall into decay denotes a big leadership mistake.
Then, the entirety of the Chain of Dogs was a problem that Laseen could have prevented or aisded. Note how easily Pearl was able to travel there through the Imperial Warren. Laseen could have sent competent leadership to Aren. She could have sent more specialists to aid the Chain. Mallick Rel's influence should not have been allowed to spread.
The culling of the nobility?
Again, a competent hand at the tiller of Empire would have been payinag attention to the nobles all along. The fact that Laseen let things fester until a culling was needed was her big mistake in that case.
Laseen's mode of operation seems to be to ignore things until it is way too late to do anything except engage in massive killing of her own troops, friends, or subjects. Not a good way to rule.

Would Whiskeyjack have been a better Emperor? Many of the people on the scene seem to have thought so. We shouldn't judge that he seems somewhat broken here after he has seen himself demoted, many friends and troopers killed, and the Empire tottering. We get to see his inner thoughts and in these we see questioning, but character. We don't get to see Laseen's inner thoughts so we don't know anything about her but what we see externally.
46. Jordanes
I have to say, I am loving this conversation on Laseen. She is easily one of the most unknowable characters in the Malaz world, and yet pivotal to events.

Having said that, I think more about her motivations, and her 'competence', can be detailed. First, I'd like to go into her relationship with Kellanved (this is something I would have posted when the NoK re-read was happening, but I wasn't around then - btw, that re-read should have been after Midnight Tides, in my opinion!) because I think this can reveal a lot about her view toward the Empire.

I do believe that, at first, Kellanved and Laseen were in cahoots when it came to his and Dancer's disappearance to travel the Azath/warrens and Laseen's taking over as Regent in their absence. I believe she knew, and was supposed to assist, with their intentions to ascend via the Deadhouse, but then changed her mind. Why do I think this?

1) Laseen knew when and where to go to meet up with Kellanved and Dancer, suggesting this was a pre-arranged meeting.

2) She enacted an edict against magery. This is often used as an argument for her incompetence, but I don't think it should be. As far as we know, this edict was only ever proclaimed on Malaz Isle, and not throughout the Empire. It led to a lot of the minor magical powers on the Isle being killed, and thus allowed the Stormriders to attempt to invade the island in order to make an attempt for the Throne of Shadow via the Azath House.

But what did that, in turn, allow? It allowed Kellanved and Dancer to take the Throne themselves, because as Edgewalker explicitly stated in NoK, Shadow would be too busy fending off the 'greater threat' of the Stormriders to do anything about them. So it's my belief that Laseen enacted this proclamation in express cooperation with Kellanved and Dancer in order to assist their bid to take over Shadow.

3) The original intent behind their meeting in Mock's Hold was, I think, for Laseen to kill Kellanved and Dancer (as she did, or attempted), BUT only as a feint, a pretence at usurpation. As we saw with Oleg, on a Shadow Moon the dead don't really die. Kell and Dancer would then take over Shadow, with Laseen continuing to act as Regent in an Empire specifically tied to Shadow and its new rulers - a god's mortal empire and its tool.

4) BUT, at some point after the edict against magery, Laseen changed her mind. Yes, I don't doubt this was at least in part because she had ambitions of her own, but I do also think she did it because she concluded that an empire tied a particular god or House (like House Shadow) would only draw the ire of the other gods, sooner rather than later. We've been told before that any overt, direct, meddling by gods in mortal affairs would result in drawing other ascendants, and chaos, devestation, dissolution. Laseen no longer wants to go along with Kell's plan. She comes to the pre-arranged meeting, but brings her Claw, and seeds the room with otataral. She wants to make sure that when Kell and Dancer stay dead when they die.

Unfortunately for her, they manage to escape the room by falling over the balcony, and things turn out as they do. But Laseen takes the throne, and makes it very clear that this Empire won't be tied to any god or House.

Both Kellanved and Dancer feel betrayed, even though they succeeded in their primary goal of ascendancy. Kellanved lashes out by commanding the T'lan Imass to slaughter the Aren rebels, which straight away works to destabilise Laseen's rule, and probably pushes forward the eventual wholescale Seven Cities rebellion. Dancer, on the other hand, tries his whole Sorry possession thing.

Regarding the Logros T'lan Imass, I really don't think any Malazan can command them aside from Kellanved. You need to sit on the First Throne, as he's the only one who did. Onos T'oolan is the only exception, but that is because he is clanless, tied to no one else in the Logros. And even Silverfox didn't understand his motivations. Indeed, you must wonder what part Laseen may have played in convincing Tool to cooperate.

Other criticisms levelled at Laseen have been her handling of the Seven Cities rebellion. But what resources did she actually have to handle it? Pormqual was the High Fist there, and did nothing against the increasing warning signs of the rebellion. Laseen could have replaced him with someone else, but look who was next to Pormqual - Mallick Rel. And, as we find out in the The Bonehunters, Mallick Rel has influence and dangerous power even in Unta. A lot of what happened in DG was orchestrated by Rel - Korbolo's defection, Pormqual's staying in Aren. So what did Laseen have left, with Dujek in Genabackis and Greymane in Korel? Coltaine and his Wickans. And she sent them over - and NOT to Aren, but Hissar. Away from Rel and Pormqual. To do what they could.

It's been said earlier she could have done more, with Pearl's assistance being cited as evidence. But as Pearl himself said, his help must be hidden, because otherwise Coltaine would expect it to come again, which it won't. There really is nothing more that Laseen's stretched resources can do.

I am not saying she doesn't make mistakes. Of course she does. She's also paranoid and mistrustful, but how many rulers aren't? She is, in the end, something that a lot of the major characters in MBotF don't entirely turn out to be - a thoroughly mortal woman with no special powers, aside from martial skills and her intellect. Her biggest mistake was allowing the nobility's inroads into the army, but even here, when she did realise how bad it had become - albeit too late - she was swift and thorough in the way she acted against it.

Would Whiskeyjack have made a better Emperor? We will never know. But we do know being absolute ruler isn't all roses, and WJ isn't exactly the most ruthless person out there. A great commander of armies yes, a leader of men. But an administrator? A legislator? A politician? In the end, we have WJ's own reaction: WJ stepped aside, bent knee to the Empress. He was willing to give her a chance, so he must have thought that she had the potential to do the job.

And what was the other alternative before WJ? Dassem Ultor. Like Laseen, an individual of driven ambition, as has been stated. But also first sworn to Hood, and then an enemy of Hood. Had he become emperor, would that not have also drawn the gods, especially Hood, against the Empire?

Finally, there is the situation with the Crippled God. As is made clear in this chapter, Dujek and co knew about the danger. Laseen knew too. Like with everything else, she wants to ensure the safety and success of the Malazan Empire (I'm not saying this is all wholly altruistic - it is HER empire after all). And, as we will see in the Bonehunters, beset by other problems within the empire (trying not to spoil here), her most dangerous enemy literally sitting right next to her (and boy does she know it) she acts to try and both ensure the Empire and to counter the Crippled God, but without directly, and dangerously, plunging the Empire into the fray.

We never get a POV from Laseen (as far as I remember) which renders her eternally fascinating. The closest we get, I think, is her conversations with Kalam in DG, and Urko in RotCG, of which I think this latter one is particularly revealing about this so mortal woman.
Fabian Schaller
47. Aldric
Shalter@45: I concur with yout that we can't be certain about Laseen.
She definitly isn't perfect but she has at least a plan. But most of that we see in BH and RotCG. But yeah, most of her actions can be either seen as risky but brilliant or as totally incompetent. But that makes her such a fascinating character.

I still don't belive that WJ would be a better emperor. The preemptive solution for the 7C rebelion would have been a massacre as stated by Fiddler or Kalam in DG. And they think Laseen isn't hard enough to order it. And I can't see WJ ordering it.

But there is a thing Lassen lacks that WJ has got and that is competent advisors. All the Old Guard left Laseen after her coup and I think she didn't expect that.

Jordanes@46: Maybe Laseen didn't change her mind? Maybe the falling out between Laseen and the gods of Shadow is just another feint. I think they all realized the risks of the empire being tied to Shadow and to avoid them they at least appear to be at "war".
Brian R
48. Mayhem
Ahh, *now* things get interesting in the comments again :)

Still thinking some of the motivations through, but one thing I wanted to point out - the Knight of Death is revealed to have been Baudin here, but he is also the Gidrath who was sworn to Hood who helped Itkovian earlier. The bent sword is the giveaway -
The lone Gidrath - his companion had died moments earlier - paced with head sunk low, shoulders hunched, back and forth along the wall behind the ranked mercenaries. A battered longsword was held in each hand, the one on the left bent by a wild swing that had struck a marble column two nights past.
and more interestingly
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.

Indeed he should be mistrusting things - it looks as though Hood was taking steps to safeguard his investments in Capustan even if he wasn't going to inherit the Grey Swords after all. Now the question becomes was the man always Baudin, or was his body simply ... reused .. to house Baudin's spirit.
49. Jordanes
@ 48

Yes, the Gidrath being unusual was signalled a couple of times before it's revealed it's Baudin - not that anyone would have ever noticed on a first read, so subtle was it! From the description, bronzed skin but looks Malazan, provided by Coll, it does seem like it's Baudin's actual body - in fact, in the next book a couple of characters stumble on Baudin's remains...or what remains of the remains, and the description then strongly suggests that Baudin was taken, erm, body and soul :)

I remember reading the bit where it's told that the Grey Swords completed their sortie to the Gidrath outpost and managing to rescue a handful of Gidrath, and smiling as I thought that one of them would be Baudin :)

Also remember Itkovian wondering how the Gidrath managed to hold out far longer than he had expected, which prompts him into sending soldiers to try and rescue the survivors - perhaps they managed to hold out so long thanks in part to Baudin's presence.
Steven Halter
50. stevenhalter
Jordanes@46:It does seem like the meeting at Mock's Hold was somewhat prearranged. There was no other reason for K&D to go there. It is unclear what was supposed to happen there, but as you say the otataral (at the least) was almost certainly not in the plans.
I think that Laseen probably thinks she is acting for the good of the Empire. I just don't think she is a very good judge of goodness.
Steven Halter
51. stevenhalter
Aldric@47:Yes, the Old Guard leaving was a crucial blow against Laseen's reign. The reason for their leaving is another mistake of Laseen. It at least looked to many of the Old Guard that they were about to be eliminated and so many arranged their departure rather than wait for the axe.
Many of them knew Surly quite well and were not willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Emiel R
52. Capetown
So why were the swords fused to Baudins hands?
53. djk1978
@52: Maybe his hands were so destroyed in DG when he died that in order for him to be useful Hood made him into a human Kell Hunter?

@43: While I wouldn't say you were wrong in that Tay might be presumptuous to think he can determine who is the master/mistress of the deck it is equally difficult to rule that out when one considers just how vast the depth of magical knowledge he has. I believe even Quick Ben would have his hands more than full taking on Tayshrenn. He may well have been in a position to know a lot about the deck.

Regarding Laseen, I do think the lack of POV makes her hard to understand, but Esslemont does bring her a lot closer to the action. He adds a humanity to her that Erikson doesn't treat with much. I think she has found that becoming Empress was biting off a bit more than she can chew. I did discover more sympathy for her in RotCG. I do not think that WJ would have been a better emperor. He is a competent commander but I don't know if he is quite ruthless enough to rule a multi continental rebellious empire.
karl oswald
55. Toster
@52 likely becoz he stood in fire. hood probably put the swords in his hands as soon as he died. then sent him into battle again. crazy.
56. jgtheok
Glad to see the discussion heat up!

The "Dujek said Tay said A'Karonys said" infodump should provoke skepticism, particularly in a chapter prefaced with a poem about betrayal and the masks people present to each other. But the Malazans are clearly a lot more involved in the game being played out among the Ascendants than they've cared to reveal up to this point.

re Aren, could 'renegade' T'lan Imass have been involved? Would be interesting if all that paranoia and ill feeling had been sown by an outside force....
57. amphibian
Dassem Ultor would have been a terrible emperor. If he gained the throne after Hood took his daughter, he would have been so bad as to rival Kallor as his pursuit of his vendetta against Death consumed the empire. If he gained the throne before that, he'd have been like a more badass Conan the Barbarian, but completely dropping the ball on anything that didn't have to do with war.

My thinking is that it is a character trait of Laseen that she is always one step behind the break. She constantly reacts (violently) as the news flows in and never manages to get out in front of the onslaught of BIG EVENTS occurring. Her solution is generally to kill and eliminate problems - which makes the Kalam scene all the more strange.

Laseen has the command presence and the rhetoric skills to win over perhaps the single best assassin in the Malazan Empire who comes in trying to kill her. And yet there's a revolt in 7C, the Old Guard left her and there are doubts all up and down the military and populace about Whiskeyjack possibly being a better emperor.

It's like Laseen really needs the existence of TV and a flair for public performances, rather than doing awesome in the backroom dealing.
58. Abalieno
One should also remember that Laseen didn't take the Empire entirely because of greed (or that's how I understand it). Kellanved left the Empire for a number of years as he started exploring other, more interesting, venues.

So there was also a necessity for taking control of things. With or without Laseen things were spiraling down. I'm not sure there were many better alternatives on the plate.
Jozefine Propper
59. Onderduikboot
@Jordanes #46
Wow, your theory about Laseen is what I think happened, but with clear stated detailed arguments instead of my usual intuitive vague feelings...
I still have a lot to learn!
Emiel R
60. Capetown
@53 I missed the K'ell Hunter connection. Thanks!
Mieneke van der Salm
61. Mieneke
@ Amanda: Oh I never even thought of Baudin! Good catch!

@ Bill: I didn't like that scene either. Amanada had warned me about it, and I agree with the two of you, it's far more tell than show, something I haven't come to except from SE. It also made me go, Wait, WHAT? when Dujek casually reveals how much they already know and how much they truly are in cahoots with Laseen. I always thought that they were against her!

I understand why Hood would get involved in Capustan and would want K&B out, but why would he want to take in the Mhybe? Does he want to ensure her rise as one of the Wolf Gods, thus opposing Treach? Or is that a silly train of thought?

BTW Picker's deadpan "No thank you." after hearing of her promotion is classic!

I really like Whiskeyjack and Korlat together, but I'm afraid I'll be crying over them at some point in the series, won't I?

I think it was cool that we got to see some of the solutions for DG being set up by Quick Ben here. It gives us a) a little reminder of what is going on in the 7C and b) also clues us in on where we are timeline-wise.

And I wonder what consequences Paran's blessing will have. But that boy had better mind his words from now on!
Steven Halter
62. stevenhalter
jgtheok@56:That's a good call pointing out how the opening poem is about betrayal. There are many layers of betrayal to encounter in this chapter. THere are possible betrayals by and to Tay, Kel/ST, Laseen and Dujek. Who is being betrayed and who is betraying is a very interesting and shifting question.
The WJ/Dujek talk is a talk about betrayal. What the "true" betrayal is lurks unseen in the dark. Dujek is WJ's friend. WJ wants to believe Dujek is without complicity in the events at Pale.
63. Jordanes

"I understand why Hood would get involved in Capustan and would want K&B out, but why would he want to take in the Mhybe?"

Silverfox made some kind of deal with Hood, and he's following through on his part of the bargain (even though the matter's now been taken out of Silverfox's hands with Coll and Murilio's taking of the Mhybe). In the end, it comes down to a recurring theme in MBotF: Hood, the God of Death, knows mercy.
shirley thistlewood
64. twoodmom
Vague spoiler Somewhere I have read that Laseen was actually part of the Napnese royal family which Kellanved thought he had exterminated
65. ksh1elds555
Great discussion on the forum... I am learning so much from you all! I do have to agree with Bill that the long conversation between Dujek and WJ was a bit overdone and in fact, tiring to read. It was definitely a step away from SE's fluid and immensely enjoyable style. However, I liked the scene with Ormulogen and the frog. Upon a reread, I just connected the talking frog character with another "frog" in the next book, some sort of demon companion to the painter. I loved that character! And I found the lightness of the scene refreshing after so much heaviness. I didn't find the frog any more out of place than the bhokaral or any other magical creature we find in the book.
I can't recall from my reading, and I'm not quite half through with tCG, do we ever find out the deal with Hood and Dasem's daughter? I know he has a vendetta against him for harming her but I can't recall if there's an explanation for what happened.
Have a good weekend!
66. Abalieno

But what did that, in turn, allow? It allowed Kellanved and Dancer to take the Throne themselves, because as Edgewalker explicitly stated in NoK, Shadow would be too busy fending off the 'greater threat' of the Stormriders to do anything about them. So it's my belief that Laseen enacted this proclamation in express cooperation with Kellanved and Dancer in order to assist their bid to take over Shadow.

I will have to ask Erikson about this if we have another occasion. That's one of the loose parts in the plot. Though, if we accept that theory then we end up with more questions and other loose parts than those that can be pinpointed. So I'm not so persuaded of accepting this theory (nor it even surfaces in the books, so it's unlikely speculation).

Regarding the Logros T'lan Imass, I really don't think any Malazan can command them aside from Kellanved. You need to sit on the First Throne, as he's the only one who did. Onos T'oolan is the only exception, but that is because he is clanless, tied to no one else in the Logros.

There's troubling part during the Gathering with Silverfox where it's said that some clans returned under Malazan Empire's service. That also needs to be explained.

I'm still three chapters behind, so today I arrived at this:

"Dujek was displeased," he (Whiskeyjack) said.
"Dujek wants to keep his army alive." (Korlat)
His head snapped round.
Her eyes regarded him, cool and gauging.
"I have no interest in usurping his authority - "
"You just did, Whiskeyjack. Laseen's fear of you be damned, the natural order has reasserted itself. She could handle Dujek. That's why she demoted you and put him in charge. Gods, you can be dense at times!"
He scowled. "If I am such a threat to her, why didn't she - " He stopped, closed his mouth. Oh, Hood. Pale. Darujhistan. It wasn't the Bridgeburners she wanted destroyed. It was me.

Now, since this excerpt takes place before the scene of this chapter it may as well be considered obsolete and replaced by what we have here. But it could be as well interpreted as a fissure in WJ and Dujek friendship (and trust).

What we have in the scene in THIS chapter is Dujek offering, info-dump like, a number of justifications. Trying to convince WJ. Trying to regain his trust. This appears highly manipulative and, because of the "intensity" of the infodump, not so sincere. I perceive a great deal of guilt.

(yet it also sounds like a more complete explanation, so Erikson may have intended it to be closer to the truth than the previous doubts that WJ had)

Back to three chapters ago, now.
Tai Tastigon
67. Taitastigon
Aba @ 66

Boy, you SO have to read this thing to the very end (tCG). It is almost funny...
68. Jordanes
@66 Abalieno:

"I will have to ask Erikson about this if we have another occasion. That's one of the loose parts in the plot. Though, if we accept that theory then we end up with more questions and other loose parts than those that can be pinpointed. So I'm not so persuaded of accepting this theory (nor it even surfaces in the books, so it's unlikely speculation)."

I put it down to a recurring tendency in Esslemont's writing, which manifests in each of his books: Namely, the sense that I as the reader get that ICE feels that he's clearly explained something when in fact he's done nothing of the sort. It can get quite frustrating, like putting together a jigsaw with some of the pieces missing. There's far more inference you have to do with ICE's books, even following a re-read, simply because the pieces aren't anywhere, than you do with SE's.

I know that ICE hasn't finished his cycle, but they can't be viewed (I think, anyway) in the same way as MBotF. They are far more stand-alone novels, and as such could, and should, have a greater depth of explanation than they do. As I said, I actually get the feeling that ICE thinks he's actually done that, but in reality it's only obvious to him because he's the only one who knows exactly what he imagined!

@ 67 Taitastigon

"Boy, you SO have to read this thing to the very end (tCG). It is almost funny..."

Sigh, I too haven't yet read the Crippled God. It's been sitting on my shelf for months as I attempt to read the series (ICE included) from the beginning before starting it. Currently on The Bonehunters, so only about halfway there!
Amir Noam
69. Amir
djk1978 @53:
Nice link between Baudin's swords and the K'ell Hunters!
And another parallel: Gruntle was told by Rath'Trake that he was not to release his cutlasses until the war was over (which Gruntle, of course, ignored).

I remember completely missing the identity of the Knight of Death (Baudin) on my first read of the book, and then being shocked when I saw it spelled out the apendix (listing of the Ascendants and the Deck).

On this re-read, I immediately picked up on the Baudin hints (bronze skin, stood in fire, protected a child, looks Malazan), but I completely missed the connection with the "Gidrath" that followed Itkovian!
70. Abalieno
Amanda couldn't figure out the poem at the beginning of the chapter so I tried myself, but I don't seem to have figured out anything beside the appearance. The meaning should be all in the last two lines:

a sudden stranger to all you have known.
Such is betrayal.

It seems a poem about betrayal, hinting that probably it will be a theme that will appear or at least resonate in scenes of this chapter. The other lines seem to be musing on that same theme that I can't link to anything specific in the story. Betrayal can come from a friend, and it could come from a child. Both being unexpected for their nature (the trust in a friend and innocence in a child), and leading to the idea of being unknown and "stranger" (someone you fail to recognize). Since as I said this doesn't seem to directly connect explicitly with the plot I think Erikson's intent is just to have the idea stay with the reader so that it may play a role later.

The first scene is Paran PoV and we see how he seems to share Itkovian's special kind of vision. In the previous chapter Itkovian was the PoV during the parley that allowed to pick many hidden nuances, even if many of those characters and situations were strangers to him. Paran has a similar insight, that he developed with his position as the Master of the Deck. A clearer vision of certain patterns. Here it's about the Bridgeburners, specific developments that will be clarified later and of which one discovers plenty of foreshadowing on a reread. Though the clarity of vision doesn't replace or compensate understanding, so it becomes only something Paran notices and describes, but does not truly understand. And nice brick-laying b Erikson.

The confrontation with Silverfox is one of those aspects that I think would need more "space". But in a book so dense with characters and plots the development is sudden and always staggering (off-putting, in a way). It's hard to follow the characters emotionally because everything changes so quickly and situations are turned. For its limits I think it's very well written and I also noticed how Silverfox tells Paran what Erikson told me during the DG reread :) When I was criticizing some plot structures through the Propp functions.

Has it not occurred to you that clinical examination of oneself is yet another obsession? What you dissect has to be dead first - that's the principle of dissection, after all.

And this makes me smile because just after this I noticed something that instead interprets really well the way I feel and what I'd say to Erikson myself:

Well, they're only like that with people they respect, though it's often taken as the opposite, which can lead to all sorts of trouble.

Maybe one day I wake up and discover I'm just a fictional character in the Malazan Book of the Fallen :) (so please be a merciful god! or just don't let wake up the Mhybe that is dreaming me)

Bill's doubts seep in me. In the sense that I'm also wondering at this point why the Mhybe HAS to suffer that way. Especially because Silverfox says she's well aware that the Mhybe has nightmares. So it's not mere unexpected consequence of whatever hidden plot:

My mother is trapped in a nightmare - within her own mind, lost, terrified. Hunted!

So why a better path wasn't sought? Even though, this reflects so well Nightchill. And Paran recognizes her right away:

And these machinations - whose? Not Tattersail, surely. No, this must be Nightchill.

I also want to point out that we see analyzed the consequences of a relationship that never happened in the book (back to Paran/Silverfox). In GotM it was pretty much "omitted", so we had to take it for granted. And it wasn't even a particularly spontaneous or plausible kind of relationship. So even in this book the relationship is told in great leaps, that for a reader are not easy at all to make, or handle.

I love post-modern self-aware derails so I absolutely love Ormulogun and Gumble. Oh, the playfulness! The cleverness made plain. Love this stuff. It doesn't fit so well with the struggle to make realistic stuff that realistic isn't, or the serious tone? Yet it's what makes these scenes brilliant. They do not play within the rules, but WITH the rules. They screw with glee. Ruthless.

Obviously I also loved Crack'd Pot Trail that is like an extended scene of that meta-linguistic playfulness.

Take it for what it is: a clever parody. And then think that the Malazan world is vast enough to be able to contain even these plays. A variety of styles that goes along a variety of characters and situations. Even surreal or over-the-top (the problem is when one finds surreal what was meant to be realistic, or laugh at something that was meant to be serious).

If it was dull and boring then the critics would be legitimate, adding more weight to a book that is already huge, but instead these scenes are great and fun to read on a number of levels. They are the gems in a book filled with awe. I'll just praise how it's done, and the courage Erikson had to do it.

Then, the more this is rubbed into the world, the better. Even the utter implausible should be "dressed". So "Ormulogun seraith Gumble" should hide something. It could be explained within the world and its rules. I like how it offers some insight and discussion about the history and the empire. I also noticed a play or contradiction: Ormulogun seems to have that special sight (or a different kind but still special or trained) that is shared by Itkovian and Paran. He shows a deep understanding of Itkovian. Yet all his works are then described pretty much as bullshit:

There's over eight hundred stretches in that wagon. Ten, eleven years' worth. Dujek here, Dujek there, Dujek even where he wasn't but should have been. He's already done one of the siege of Capustan, with Dujek arriving in the nick of time, tall in his saddle and coming through the gate. There's one White Face Barghast crouching in the gate's shadow, looting a dead Pannion. And in the storm clouds over the scene you'll make out Laseen's face if you look carefully enough -

I wonder if this is really all just part of the teasing to Itkovian or if there's some truth...

Kruppe and Quick Ben outwitting each other makes a nice scene. I like in particular the little interplay:

How about some more loudly uttered thoughts, Daru? The display is deliberate.

This is Quick Ben talking and describing what he's doing, but what he says recursively applies to the first line, and to Kruppe. "The display is deliberate". And Kruppe's "loudly uttered thoughts" are Kruppe's deliberate display he uses for misdirection.

And this is clever as Quick Ben deliberately avoided or misinterpreted Kruppe's question. That wasn't about Quick Ben's action, but of his talking aloud to Talamandas. That's a particular habit of Quick Ben, leapfrogging the question in order to shift the attention. Sleight of hand. But Kruppe isn't fooled, so he plays along with that misdirection, adds his own, and returns to the point:

In which case, poor ignorant bird would be witness to such potent plurality of cunning converse so as to reel confused if not mercifully constipated!

Quoting Amanda:

Also, the Knight of Death has power enough to command Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to release their victims and leave the city of Capustan—does this show that Hood is on the ascendancy?

Hasn't Hood already ascended long ago? It should actually prove that Hood is not a dormant player. We've seen him playing with Heboric in the CG prologue, sending his Herald to recruit the Grey Swords, getting Talamandas as Magi, and here it becomes more obvious that Hood is aware and part of Silverfox's plan.

I already speculated earlier in the reread that he's somewhat cooperating with K'rul, so possibly even with Burn and Shadowthrone. Surely he is an active player in the game. The fact that Hood commands Korbal Broach should be because KB practices necromancy, which should be a subset of Death domain.
71. amphibian
@Abalieno, 70:

Amanda is referring to Hood's power in comparison to the other gods. You sort of sense that and thus accidentally address it while trying to say something slightly different.
72. Abalieno
I finished the chapter but still not sure where the poem at the beginning fits. Maybe it's about Dujek and WJ discussion but I'm not so convinced that Dujek represents the "betrayer" in a so strictly blunt definition. There's also no link to the innocence of a child. Or it could be about Silverfox for the child part, but still, not so convinced of this possibility as well. Neither of the two situations are strictly about betrayal, or having it as the most relevant factor.

The scenes that are left are mostly set-up but always interesting (but I agree with some of Bill's remarks, in particular the Korlat/WJ scene). I like also how the relationship between Blend and Picker is hinted but left mostly out of the text. It works this way as it doesn't come heavily into play, it works less in WJ/Korlat and Silverfox/Paran cases as those are more explicit and still not having a lot of space to develop naturally.

And finally the last scene between Paran and the new Shield-Anvil, talking about Anaster, rises a lot of questions from my point of view. The reason is that I do not quite agree with Paran's choice. He is doubtful at first, but then certainty replaces those doubts as soon Anaster's feelings are explained.

"The man, Anaster, might well view what we seek for him as torture, but that is a fear born of ignorance. He will not be harmed. Indeed, my Shield Anvil seeks the very opposite for the unfortunate man."
"She would take the pain from him."
The Destriant nodded.
"That spiritual embrace - such as Itkovian did to Rath'Fener."
"Even so, sir."
Paran was silent a moment, then he said, "The notion terrifies Anaster?"
"Because he knows of nothing else within him. He has equated his entire identity with the pain of his soul. And so fears its end."
Paran turned towards the Malazan camp. "Follow me," he said.
"Sir?" she asked behind him.
"He is yours, Destriant. With my blessing."

This though, goes counter to some themes of the series and how they are dealt with. I'm not saying that I'd want to see Anaster punished, but I actually would like his dignity respected fully. I'd always be wary of judging someone, and more about making choices in his own place because I arrogantly think I know better.

The choice Paran makes here is way too similar to what I'd expect from Nightchill. That subjective sense of mercy. Making choices in reason of a greater good, or deeper knowledge. But we've seen in the series how the ideas of faith and mercy can be so very subjective and twisted and perverted. Gods imposing their choices for their own agenda. You can never nail with certainty what's "good" or "right". So the very basic ideal is that one should respect the other. Especially on the matter of "choice".

Imposing a choice on someone else is an act of violence, no matter how good willed it is. It's still personal bias imposed on others. It's still about a tyranny of point of view, and disrespect for who you have in front of you. So even in the extreme case of Anaster I'd respect his own choices. As in the case of the Mhybe she should have been made part of the process, and not just the plan being imposed on her, leaving her completely unaware and victim of it. Passive imposition is not an act of mercy.

The choice is a core point for me, and it's never something that can be imposed by someone else. "Salvation" can be offered, but not FORCED (and again, this rises questions in the case of the Shield-Anvil in general). It would negate itself. That's what I was expecting from Paran: respecting Anaster's own choices while trying to show him that he could still have a positive role. The choice is his to make.

Instead in that case Paran played the role of the god, thinking he would make a better one. Power used without scruples.
Kimani Rogers
73. KiManiak
I finished TCG, and I really liked it, but I needed to take a break from Malazan for awhile (still gotta read RotCG and Stonewielder, but I'm finished with the series proper) after recovering from the devouring of the entire series in a 5 and a 1/2 month span (I reallly want to do my series reread, and may attempt that after I finish a few other books -like A Wise Man's Fear- that I put off while I was reading Malazan).

I've been trying to (slowly) catch up with the reread posts and haven't really added to the comments (my 2 cents: Bill & Amanda you are doing an excellent job and shouldn't change how these posts are done unless you guys want to), but this is the one part in MoI where I had planned to comment since I first read this chapter 5 or so months ago.

I loved this book. I was incredibly engrossed in the series, and in the story at this particular point. But, when Dujek and Whiskeyjack have their "exposition conversation," it seemed so that it completely shocked me out of the story, to the point where I was contemplating an awkward attempt at a retcon as the rationale.

I've gotten through a good number of the comments (and plan to go through them all; I was just led to add my opinion now), and I see a lot of points similar to my perspective, so I won't expand so much on those.

However, I recall that 2 things immediately grabbed me when I was first reading this chapter that just seemed... wrong:
-Tayschrenn was "grooming" Tattersail?
-Tattersail was to be Master (Mistress) of the Deck?

I know that we were warned that the narrator can't always be trusted in the Malazan series, but practically everything I remember from GotM (from multiple perspectives, I believe) did not have Tayschrenn presented in a positive light when it came to his interactions with Tattersail (and the BB, for that matter). Actually, if I recall correctly the only time Tayschrenn appears to be "nice" to Tattersail is when Dujek, Tay, Tat, Toc and the Adjunct were having dinner. Even the Deck of Dragons reading interaction seemed... strained. Tat was the head of the battle mage cadre, but other than that she didn't appear to have any exceptional experiences or duties. She rejected becoming a High Mage of her own choice (as far as we know). How exactly was Tay grooming her? So, that was one reason for my issue with this "reveal."

The major reason had to do with Tat being groomed for the Master of the Deck position. I thought we were given indication (if not outright told) that the Master of the Deck was a new position/addition to the Deck. So, how could Tay be grooming Tat for something that they didn't know existed and/or wouldn't know that it would manifest in their lifetime? How could Tay even be qualified to groom someone for such a position? It seemed that circumstance, coincidence, convergence, or whatever led to a somewhat unpredictable creation of a Master, or arbiter for the Deck of Dragons, at this particular time. How could Laseen and Tay have anticipated that such a gathering of events would call for such an arbiter? How could they have anticipated that the Crippled God would try to create a new House that would seek sanction, at this particular time?

This portion, and the other revelations from Dujek, just seemed incredibly unlikely to me; and had to either be a twist/retcon attempt, or would later be proven to be erroneous information given to, or issued from, Dujek.

Anyway, that's my take on things, Bill. I hope to catch back up to the reread soon; I love the latter half of this book, and especially the last few chapters. I think you and Amanda are doing a great job, and I enjoy reading everyone's comments; even when I don't necessarily agree. Keep up the good work, folks.
74. DerekB
Bill, I do enjoy your insight. It is revealing of opportunities missed. However, this is now the nth post in a row where you mention your dislike for in-story characters or Erikson saying something at face value that you wish was left subtly exposed and available for insightful readers to discover. I must disagree with you on this, as I find characters realistically would arrive at certain revolations in real-time as we would. Erikson also must explain. He is, after all, writing a novel - not writing poetry :-). If the man weren't allowed his occasional explanations he may as well have just written: " superlative decay of the dead mind born" (or some such profound nonsense) and walked away leaving us all to come to our own isolated conclusions.

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