Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter 23 (part 1) 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.
Remember we’re splitting Chapter 23! This first post will cover scenes 1-6, ending with Kruppe’s, “Hear naught until meaning itself disperses . . . ” The second post (next Wednesday) will pick up at scene 7, with Picker staring out, “on the black waters of Ortnal’s Cut.”
Chapter 23 (Part 1):
Paran and Picker await the return of a scouting group into Setta. Quick Ben joins them and tells Paran Twist’s infection is worsening and he’ll probably only live a few weeks. Antsy reports Setta is empty save for big piles of human bones from feasts and huge condor’s nests on the towers. Paran says they’re bypassing Maurik (which had been the plan) and heading for Coral. Antsy says the sappers are worried about being undersupplied with munitions, especially since Quick Ben sent a bunch to Fiddler. Picker says if what they have isn’t enough, more won’t make much difference. Paran dismisses the group to prepare. Twist arrives and asks Paran if he blessed the Barghast gods. Paran says not yet, but he “acknowledges their place in the pantheon.” When asked why he wants to know, Twist says he wants to know what will happen to his soul. Paran asks what caused the split between Barghast and Moranth, and Twist says the Moranth do not fear or resist change and the Barghast must come to accept that change and growth are necessary for life. He says they have to learn what the Moranth did long ago when rather than fight the Tiste Edur they spoke to them, and learned they were as lost, as tired of war, as ready for peace as the Moranth. Paran asks who the Edur are and Twist explains the “Children of the Shattered Warren. A fragment had been discovered in the vast forest of the Moranth that would become our new homeland. Kurald Emurlahn, the true face of Shadow . . . The last of them are gone now from Moranth Wood, long gone, but their legacy is what has made us as we are . . . We did not slay the Tiste Edur. In Barghast eyes, that is our greatest crime.” When Moranth wonders if the Elder spirits—the newly become gods—feel the same way, Paran says they’ve had a lot of time to think: “Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. The heart of wisdom is tolerance, I think.” Twist replies that Paran, then, must be proud. He adds that he thinks the Malazan Empire is “wise” and he wishes it and Paran well. As he watches Twist leave, Paran thinks to himself: “Tolerant. Maybe. Keep that word in mind, Ganoes—there’s a whisper that it will prove the fulcrum in what’s to come.”
Kruppe rides (or is carried by his mule) into the Barghast tent. Hetan asks if he’s noticed something odd about the Malazan numbers, that they seem to be pretending there are more soldiers in the camps than there really are. She also tells Kruppe that she plans on bedding him soon, and then gives him some advice on his mule: “Settle in that saddle as if it were a horse, for it believes itself to be so . . . Its eyes never rest—have you not noticed? This is the most alert beast this world has ever seen, and don’t ask me why.”
The two marines who had been watching Silverfox ask to rejoin their company and Whiskeyjack says no. When they leave, Artanthos remarks that Dassem’s command style—letting soldiers think, question, argue—sometimes comes back to bite you. Whiskeyjack answers it is why the Malazan armies are the best. Looking at the army, Whiskeyjack realizes they are tired from too many forced quick marches and he’ll have to pace them for Coral. He reports to Dujek the army is tired. The two discuss how the army is dividing—by tonight they’ll each command (separately) roughly half the army. When Whiskeyjack says he’s the one who should fly out tonight due to the risk involved, Dujek says Whiskeyjack is and has always been more important to the army. He tells Whiskeyjack that Seven Cities is in full rebellion and that the Adjunct is going with an army but it will be too late for the Malazans already there. Laseen, he adds, has only two commanders who know anything about Seven Cities and one veteran army—so she knows Dujek is the one to risk in the Pannion war. Whiskeyjack is shocked Laseen might send the Host to Seven Cities and Dujek replies that if the Adjunct falls, what choice does she have? He adds Laseen wants Whiskeyjack to command it while she either thinks Dujek won’t survive the Pannion war or perhaps she’ll send him to the campaign in Korel, which isn’t going well. Whiskeyjack reiterates his intention to retire and when Dujek fondly mocks Whiskeyjack’s vision of domestic bliss and asks if Korlat would settle for that, Whiskeyjack says it’s her idea. Dujek says fine, he’ll take the army to Seven Cities. He asks if Whiskeyjack will share “one last meal” with him and when both realize how that sounds, explains he meant, “One last meal before I leave, I meant.”
Paran flies over the approach to Coral, thinking on their task to figure out the Seer’s preparations and deal with them, “and once that’s done, it’ll be time for me and Quick Ben . . . “ His thought is interrupted by the discovery of some dead creature on the river bank. Paran at first takes the corpse as a Tiste Andii, but upon examination Quick Ben says he doesn’t thinks so as his skin is too pale. He says the death looks like something caused by a spell of Serc that uses huge pressure to burst the body from the inside out. The Moranth captain identifies the corpse as a Tiste Edur. The captain and Quick Ben agree on several points: the Edur he didn’t die in this spot, didn’t drown and wasn’t killed by sorcery. The Moranth says the Blue Moranth are seafolk and sometimes bring up fish from deep trenches that arrive dead already from the change in pressure. He says the Edur died from the opposite—killed by suddenly appearing in a place of great pressure. Quick Ben agrees and says there is a nearby deep trench in the middle of the river. Paran says that means the Edur opened a warren and stepped into the trench, which seems a complicated way to commit suicide. Quick Ben points out Paran is assuming the Edur intended to appear in the trench or was the one who opened the warren, saying one way to kill someone is to shove them through a portal into a bad place—he thinks the Edur was murdered that way, most likely by a High Mage of Ruse—the Path of the Sea. He calls it the hardest warren to master and says there isn’t a true Ruse High Mage in all the empire. The Moranth says they have none either. Paran interrupts that he just got a hunch that the Edur was killed by another Edur. The three discuss the warren of Shadow. The Moranth says it was broken and “lost to mortals” to which Quick Ben, says “never found you mean.” They agree where Shadowthrone and Cotillion are—Meanas—is “naught but a gateway”, prompting Paran to say, “If a shadow could cast a shadow, that shadow would be Meanas . . . Shadowthrone rules the guardhouse?” Paran says that’s a “disturbing” idea, and thinks, “The Hounds of Shadow—they are the guardians of the gate . . . But the warren is also shattered. Meaning that gate might not lead anywhere. Or maybe it belongs to the largest fragment. Does Shadowthrone know the truth?” Quick Ben says he understands why Paran finds it disturbing: “The Tiste Edur are active once more . . . returning to the mortal-world—perhaps they’ve reawakened the true Throne of Shadow and maybe they’re about to pay their new gatekeeper a visit. Paran wonders if it means “another war in the pantheon.” He moves off and puts himself back in the Azath map room. He decides he wants not the Deck of Dragons but the “Elder Deck, the Deck of Holds.” He transports to the Throne of Shadow and is surprised to find it is in his own world: “A small, tattered fragment of Kurald Galain and the Tiste Edur have come to find it. They’re searching, crossing the seas, seeking this place.” Shadows tell him “The wandering isle. Wanders not. Flees. Yes! The Children are corrupted, the souls of the Edur are poisoned! Storms of madness we elude! Protect us!” Paran realizes he is on Drift Avalii and says he thought there were Tiste Andii there. The Shadows say they’ve left: “Sworn to defend! Spawn of Anomander Rake—gone! Leaving a blood trail, leading the Edur away with the spilling out of their own lives—oh, where is Anomander Rake? They call for him, they call and call! They beg his help! . . . The Edur have sworn to destroy Mother Dark. You must warn him! Poisoned souls, led by the one who has been slain a hundred times, oh, ware this new Emperor of the Edur, this Tyrant of Pain, this Deliverer of Midnight Tides!” Paran pulls himself out, back to the map chamber, then into Dragnipur. He calls out for Draconus who joins him. Paran says he meant to find Rake and Draconus says Paran found Rake’s sword instead. When Paran says he talked to Nightchill but doesn’t have time to discuss it—he has to talk to Rake—Draconus agrees and says Paran needs to explain the truth to Rake—that Rake is “too merciful to wield Dragnipur. The situation is growing desperate.” Paran asks what he means and Draconus says: “Dragnipur needs to feed.” Too many that pull the wagon are failing and being thrown into the wagon, which makes the burden heavier and slower: “Tell Rake—he must take souls. Powerful ones, preferably. And he must do so soon.” He tells Paran to use his Master’s vision to see what pursues the wagon. Paran sees “Chaos . . . a storm such as he had never seen before. Rapacious hunger poured from it . . . Lost memories. Power born from rendered souls. Malice, and desire, a presence almost self-aware, with hundreds of thousands of eyes fixed on the wagon . . . so eager to feed.” Draconus tells him: “Darkness has ever warred against Chaos . . . ever retreated. And each time that Mother Dark relented—to the Coming of Light, to the Birth of Shadow—her power has diminished, the imbalance growing more profound. Such was the state . . . in those early times . . . Chaos approached the very gate to Kurald Galian itself. A defense needed to be fashioned. Souls were required . . . Chaos hungers for the power in those souls—for what Dragnipur has claimed . . . such power will make it stronger . . . sufficient to breach the Gate. Look to your mortal realm . . . civilization-destroying wars, civil wars, pogrom, wounded and dying gods— . . . your kind progress . . . on the path forged by Chaos. Blinded by rage, lusting for vengeance, those darkest of desires . . . Memories—of humanity, of all that is humane—are lost.” Paran says how can Draconus want Paran to shatter the sword. Draconus answers he has realized over time he spent in the sword that he had made a “grave error.” He says he believed “only in Darkness could the power that is order be manifested. I sought to help Mother Dark—for it seemed she was incapable of helping herself. She would not answer, she would not even acknowledge her children . . . we could not find her . . . Before the Houses, there were Holds. Before Holds, there was wondering . . . but not wandering but migration. A seasonal round—predictable, cyclical. What seemed aimless, random, was in truth fixed, bound to its own laws. A truth—a power—I failed to recognize.” He tells Paran breaking the sword will return the Gate to its migration, to “what gave it strength to resist Chaos.” The sword forced the Gate of Darkness to flight for eternal, but if the souls in the sword weaken/diminish, it cannot flee. He says Rake needs to send more souls to bide time to shatter Dragnipur. He says he’s learned something else as well since he forged the sword: “Just as Chaos possess the capacity to act in its own defense, to indeed alter its own nature to its own advantage in its eternal war, so too can Order. It is not solely bound to Darkness.” Paran guess he’s referring to the Azath Houses and the Deck an Draconus says “The Houses take souls and bind them in place. Beyond the grasp of Chaos.” When Paran says what’s it matter then if Darkness falls, Draconus replies: “Losses and gains accumulate, shift the tide, but not always in ways that redress the balance. We are in an imbalance that approaches a threshold. This war . . . may come to an end. What awaits us all, shout that happen . . . well, mortal, you have felt its breath, there in our wake.” He says Paran must tell Rake this, assuming he is still carrying the sword, which makes Paran wonder what is implied by that idea. Paran goes back to the Azath and tries to find Rake but cannot. He falls unconscious.
He awakes to find Mallet taking care of him. Quick Ben tells Paran they’ve seen several Condors searching, Paran says they aren’t looking for the Malazans; they’re searching for Moon’s Spawn. When Quick asks how you hide something the size of Moon’s Spawn, Paran tells him he sought Rake through the deck and couldn’t find him; he thinks they’ve lost the Andii, that Rake is gone.
The other half of the Malazan army passes through Setta. Hetan makes it clear she has been bedding Kruppe for several days. Kruppe says he can’t take much more.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter 23 (Part 1):
Twist of the Black Moranth—certainly a mysterious, shadowy character whom we have encountered a few times now in the periphery of other events where we’re more concerned with the major players. And now we’re reminded that his story is far from ordinary and worth more than a few legends! Now, is Erikson laying the groundwork and raising our attention in Twist for further revelations later? Or is he merely reminding us that every character in the series has a story worth knowing, whether we’re told it or not?
And straight away in this chapter the Malazans are demonstrating that the Seer has entirely underestimated them, what with the fact they’re aware of what might be keeping watch for them!
Now, I’ve been getting more and more curious about this: does Blend have magic? Or is she just clever about staying unobtrusive. Sometimes I think the ability is mage-bred and she’s using warrens, but the fact that Erikson hasn’t mentioned a specific warren where she’s concerned suggests not. I do like the way she analyses each of the soldiers by the sounds they make as they creep through the wood—unless she is just faking that knowledge to get one up over Paran?
Paran grunted. “She almost had me there.”
Picker glanced over. “She thinks she’s done just that.”
It is lovely to see that certain parts of the Bridgeburners are now accepting Paran, despite all the strangeness associated with him. “Damn, I think you’re our captain now. Finally, we found a good one.” This also implies that only the captains approved by the Bridgeburners will stay in charge (which, to be fair, we have already seen earlier in this book and in Gardens of the Moon).
Nice signpost from Erikson that Twist’s infection is going to become an issue at some point soon. If this has been mentioned before, then it must have been a really minor point, because I can’t recall Twist’s infection being a big plot point before.
There is a small moment in the debrief as well where Quick Ben interestingly defers to Paran—just for show in public or genuine?
Picker saw Paran glance at Quick Ben.
The wizard scowled. “I forgot to have a word with Hedge. Sorry. I’ll get right on it.”
Cairns? Another tiny hint to something that might be important later?
In the conversation between Twist and Paran the Moranth says that the Barghast need to grow—but we have seen a suggestion already that, now that the Barghast gods have been accepted as part of the pantheon, their people will be forced to adjust and change to their presence. In the same chat we see two of the recurring themes from the series: perspective and tolerance.
And more information about the Tiste Edur... Children of the Shattered Warren, hmm? I thought they were children of the Mother Dark, related to the Tiste Andii? It sounds like they are entirely separate here. “Kurald Emurlahn, the true face of Shadow”? Do they have any connection then to Shadowthrone and Cotillion? Are they able to command the Tiste Edur?
FABULOUS scene between Hetan and Kruppe. *grins* She is more than a match for him in terms of eloquence, isn’t she? Even though she professes to want to stop his mouth! I note that they mention the distinct lack of Malazans still around—they are aware that some of the Malazans are somewhere else. The bit I like the most from this sequence and read a couple of times over was this:
“Now, stop clenching that mule with your knees—the beast hates it. Settle in that saddle as if it was a horse, for it believes itself to be so. It notes how everyone else rides, notes how the horses carry their charges. Its eyes never rest—have you not noticed? This is the most alert beast this world has ever seen. And don’t ask me why.”
I am SO curious about what the Malazans are intending—and whether their temporary allies know the whole of the plan. I’m sure some of the cleverer first time readers among you will be smug in the knowledge that you’ve guessed what will happen, but I’m terrible at piecing clues together... Hmm, maybe this wasn’t the series for me to do a public read of. *grins*
“You ain’t been paying attention,” Dujek said. “We’ve been peeling off without a hitch every night since the divide. Do the roll call, Whiskeyjack, you’re six thousand short.”
Another hint of danger and tragedy ahead: “So, share one last meal with me?” Does it seem to you that Whiskeyjack had been involved in more than his fair share of these exchanges? I don’t want Whiskeyjack to die! *wails* We can even play here the “spot the corpse” game... You know? When you watch a war movie, hear a man pilot talk about how this is his last mission and he’ll be shipping back to his sweetheart once he’s done? And that’s the fella who bites the big one...? Anyone else seeing a resemblance with Whiskeyjack describing the sweet little mountain fastness with black picket fence he’ll be sharing with Korlat once he resigns from the war?
“It’ll be time for me and Quick Ben...” to do what? *curious*
Really nice circling of the points by Quick Ben, the Moranth and Paran when they find the body of the Tiste Edur, trying to realise how it came to be there. Sounds like we have some serious intelligence and logical thinking amongst those standing there. And certainly we’re seeing again Quick Ben deferring to Paran and recognising his new abilities.
I can’t help but laugh at the idea of Shadowthrone being a glorified gatekeeper, and that the real realm of Shadow and Throne of Shadow has not been found by mortal! Looks like I realised the connection, but got it entirely the wrong way around....
Ouch! Lots of information flooded to us by the shadows who greet Paran—and not a lot that will end up being fun, I’m sure. The souls of the Tiste Edur have been poisoned; the Tiste Andii guarding them have tried to lead them astray by sacrificing their lives, and cry out for Anomander Rake to help them, but he finds himself invested in the events on Genabackis; the Tiste Edur are being “led by the one who has been slain a hundred times, oh, ‘ware this new Emperor of the Edur, this Tyrant of Pain, this Deliverer of Midnight Tides!”
Uh, I’ll have more to say on the Draconus/Paran chat, but I just wanted to pull out this self-mocking reference which made me giggle: “If we were living in one of those bad fables with some dimwitted farmboy stumbling on a magical sword...”
You know, when I said I had more to comment on with regards to their chat, I... uh... don’t... It harks back to those earlier conversations in previous novels where I read it and only managed to understand a few words. Hmm, the only bit I think I’m really grasping is that either Anomander Rake has to kill more souls for the sword or the sword has to be shattered—is that about right?
And then the most hideous news of all! *gasps* People, Anomander Rake has been lost! I’m distraught!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter 23 (Part 1):
The scene with Paran, Blend, and Picker, besides opening the chapter with some light humor, is a good way to show how Paran has become one of the gang. It’s a direct echo of the earlier scene between Hedge and Trotts—if you recall when Hedge told Trotts “almost had me” when Trotts told him he’d eat him as a means of honoring him.
Twist. That poem is such a tease as well as evincing a truth in the Malazan series—we only see a tiny bit of all the stories taking place in this universe and Twist is a great example of just that. As was Circle Breaker, and Bauchelain and Broach (though at least Erikson did give us some of their own story).
The big condors nesting up top. Remember that.
Change is a running theme in this series—this idea that change is necessary to life, that status quo leads to stagnation leads to death, or at least a kind of life-in-death. The Barghast, as Twist tells Paran, are a blunt example of this, something we heard earlier from Talamandas—how they could not grow without the wisdom of their ancestors/gods. But we see it in other ways as well. Think of Icarium—a microcosmic, individual example of what the Barghast exemplify as an entire people. Someone who does not remember his past and so is doomed to never learn from it, never grow. Then look at the Malazan Empire and its seeming acceptance of new peoples, new ways of thinking, the way they adapt and assimiliate. Consider how the ages-old pantheon is being shaken up—the fall of Fener, the rise of Treach, the rise of the House of Chains. This isn’t to say all change is good—we’ll see some direct examples of that—but in general, change = life appears to be a major concept. Something to think of when one considers attitudes toward the Chained God. Or toward Chaos.
The Empire’s method of accepting diversity gets praised directly by Twist—after Paran tells him “the heart of wisdom is tolerance, I think.” It’s a good rule of thumb for someone with the power of Paran, and a good means of figuring out which way he might turn when certain decisions arise. Tolerance, empathy, willingness to accept change—these are indeed the “fulcrum” of much of what will ensue.
The Edur have been mentioned before by Cafal, and now we get a bit more on them—Children of the Shattered Warren—Kurald Emurlahn, the “true” face of shadow—that one word will get elaborated upon soon. As for relation to Mother Dark—well, you can’t have shadow without darknes, right? And what else would one need? There’s probably a reason the Edur are starting to pop up in conversation.
Twist’s injury, by the way, Amanda, was mentioned earlier by Paran, who looked at him and thought, “in a year this man will be dead—he’d need a god’s healing touch to save him and how likely is that?”
That damned mule.
Yeah, Amanda, those ominous overtones are really piling up around Whiskeyjack. And I’d say we’re not only being led by the nose to what may eventually happen with him, but we’ve been given some decent clues as to how it may happen. Any guesses? ‘Course, this could also be setting us up for a twist. Or perhaps a Twist.
Yes, just what is it that Quick Ben and Paran are up to?
Well, I mentioned earlier there’s probably a reason the Tiste Edur are popping up in conversation, and now we have one popping up literally. Which makes it even more likely there’s a reason. Hmm, progression is: mention Edur, explain who Edur are, show a dead Edur... what might come next? Hmmmmm.
And it turns out he was probably murdered. By being tossed into a deep water. By another Edur. Who are corrupted, poisoned. And chasing after the throne. File.
Ruse, by the way, will play a role in an Esslemont book eventually.
So earlier, Amanda, you asked if Shadowthrone could command the Edur, now we get an explanation—that Shadowthrone’s “shadow realm” is actually Meanas—a shadow of true shadow—that seems to belie that possibility.
Drift Avilii. File.
Tiste Andii dying to protect the throne. File.
Kin of Anomander Rake. File.
An Edur Emperor who has been slain a hundred times. File.
Midnight Tides. Hmm, book title—think one should file?
A few pieces to maybe put together. The Edur are “poisoned”—that’s a word we usually see associated with a particular personage in these early books. The Edur are on the sea. Paran thinks, “They’re searching, crossing the seas.” They are inhuman. We’ve seen these words used earlier in the book.
We’ve come across this sort of sideways glance off another story before—remember the Imass chasing the rebels on the Silanda. Here’s another one of those intersections. or is it the same one? Hmmm.
Okay, lots of info in this Paran-Draconus conversation. A few things:
One: I like the growth we’re seeing in Paran. Notice how quickly and confidently he speaks to Draconus—an Elder God after all—when he tells him “Yes, I’ve spoken with Nightchill . . . don’t press me . . .” The almost off-the-cuff I can barely bother to mention it to you is a far cry from the Paran earlier.
Two: It’s interesting that shortly after we see Rake’s “mercy” evidenced by his using Dragnipur to kill the sorcerous Women of the Dead Seed, Draconus says Rake is “too” merciful and needs to use Dragnipur more. More precisely, he wants Rake to use the sword on “powerful” souls. File that. And when you’re filing that—remember he used that sword on a powerful Imperial demon. What/who would be more powerful than that?
Three: So this soul-sucking sword, which seems like such an evil artifact, turns out to have been forged as a defensive tool. Draconus had felt the universe was becoming unbalanced, with Mother Dark being weakened by the “Coming of Light,” the “Birth of Shadow” (must resist bad sexual pun must resist). And so he forges Dragnipur, traps the Gate of Darkness in it and uses the souls he kills to pull the Gate/Wagon so it always stays ahead of Chaos that pursues it. But Chaos is catching up. And this is mirrored in the outer world in the form of war, murder, etc.
Four: Gods are fallible in Erickson’s world, and it turns out Draconus screwed up. And he’s had a long time to realize it. I kind of like this idea on several levels. One, just that gods can screw up. Two, that it was an error of arrogance and narrow-mindedness—thinking that only Darkness could manifest/protect order. Three—that the screw-up is the screw-up of an adolescent—thinking that one knows better than the parent, that the parent’s inaction is evidence of weakness or timidity (more of the child-parent theme, by the way, that runs repeatedly throughout this book). Four—that one could also call it the arrogance of modernity, or at least, technological modernity—this idea that we either look down on or are oblivious to the workings of nature and think we can “improve” on them or “fix” them. Draconus didn’t see that the natural, cyclical migration was in itself a power. Instead, he had to “make” something. That seems to me to be a mistake we often make in our own world
Five: Killing powerful souls is only a stopgap.
Six: Order has protectors beyond Darkness: The Houses of Azath and the Deck. An imposition of order. A sealing away of souls from Chaos’ reach.
Seven: That big tease... “if” Rake is still carrying the sword. Huh?
Eight: The same line you pointed out Amanda—the “dimwitted farmboy stumbling on a magic sword” Or you can fill in sword with anything—ring, amulet, tome, etc. There’s a shot at a big chunk of epic fantasy, eh?
Hmm, maybe I’ll start referring to it as “the old thrash and oof” :)
Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.
Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.