Wed
Sep 28 2011 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Chapter Twenty

Malazan Reread on Tor.comWelcome 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 Twenty of House of Chains by Steven Erikson (HoC).

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

SCENE ONE

Cutter watches Apsalar move amidst the carnage left behind by Dancer at the Edur ships. He’s realized fighting swordsmen with knives isn’t the greatest idea, and so decides to learn the bow and use of long knives. He takes a bow from an Edur corpse and finds it harder than he had expected to string and draw. Apsalar tells him the sorcery on the ships is odd: “if this is Kurald Emurlahn, it is tainted in some way. Necromantically. Life and death magicks carved directly into the wood . . . As if warlocks and shoulder-women had done the consecrating.” She says the ship is like a temple and the blood spilled on it hasn’t desecrated it. She wonders if “even warrens can sink into barbarity” and then suggests the human warrens are “denigrations” of the Elder Warrens, saying “Even blood decays,” a phrase Cutter doesn’t understand the point of. As they prepare to leave, Cutter looks back and sees Traveler standing on a far strand with the surviving Malazan soldiers and the young Tiste Andii. As they push off, Apsalar says she thinks the group will commandeer the Edur dromon. When Cutters asks about protecting the Throne, she tells him there are shadow demons on the island now, seemingly sent by Dancer. Cutters asks why Dancer doesn’t just take the Throne into Shadow Realm, and she answers he would if he could, but Rake, when he sent his kind to protect it, also wove sorcery preventing it from being moved. Cutter says Shadowthrone only needs to “plant his scrawny arse on it,” then, and Apsalar replies “Thus ensuring that no one else could claim its power or the position of King of High House Shadow. Unless, of course, they killed Shadowthrone first. A god of courage and unassailable power might well plant his scrawny arse . . . But Shadowthrone did just that, once before, as Emperor Kellanved . . . He claimed the First Throne. The throne of the T’lan Imass . . . Fortunately, he has shown little interest in making use of his role as Emperor of the T’lan Imass.” Cutter says, “why bother? This way he negates the chance of anyone else finding and taking that throne, while his avoidance of using it himself ensures that no one takes notice he has it in the first place.” Apsalar admits she’d never thought of that and says it makes sense: “Unveiling power invites convergence, after all. It seems Shadowthrone has absorbed well his early residence in the Deadhouse. More so, perhaps, than Cotillion has.” Cutter agrees, calling it an “Azath tactic — negations serves to disarm,” then jokes that “Given the chance, [Shadowthrone would] probably plant himself on every throne in sight, then, with all the power accrued to him, he would do nothing with it.” But as he says it, first Apsalar then he realize what a coup that would be, “insane” an idea as it was: “All the games of the gods would be seriously curtailed. Crokus, have you stumbled onto the truth . . . Shadowthrone’s vast scheme. . His prodigious gambit to achieve absolute domination?” Cutter says Shadowthrone would have to be mad, that the whole thing is impossible to even consider. Apsalar tells him how Dancer and Shadowthrone disappeared for two years from the Empire, leaving it to Surly, adding though her vicarious memories are vague, she knows “both men were changed, irrevocably, by all that happened to them . . . Not just the play for Shadow Realm, which no doubt was central to their desires. Other things occurred, truths revealed, mysteries uncovered. One thing I know for certain, Cutter, is that for most of those two years, Dancer and Kellanved were not in this realm . . . I sense they were following a trail, one that wound through all the warrens and to realms where even the known warrens to not reach . . . the trail had something to do with the Houses of the Azath . . . They knew was Surly was planning for them. . . . Yet they returned nonetheless.” Cutter objects, saying that makes no sense, and she responds “Unless she proceeded to do precisely what they wanted her to do. After all, we both know the assassinations failed . . . the question then becomes what did that entire mess achieve?” Cutter answers “It left Surly on the Malazan throne . . . stripped from Kellanved his secular seat of power.. What if Kellanved and Dancer had returned and successfully reclaimed the imperial throne? But at the same time had taken over the Shadow Realm? Thus, there would be an empire spanning two warrens, an empire of Shadow . . . They [the gods] wouldn’t have stood for that . . . Ascendants of all kinds would have converged on the Malazan Empire . . .. Pounded the empire and the two men ruling it into dust.” Apsalar agrees, adding the two men hadn’t yet “consolidated their claim on the Shadow Realm” so wouldn’t have had the power to resist an attack. Cutter continues, “Right, so they orchestrated their own deaths and kept their identity as the new rulers of Shadow a secret for as long as they could . . . laying out the groundwork for a resumption of their grand schemes.” He says he’s lost as to what those plans are though. Apsalar picks up the discussion, saying “Cotillion recruited you to see to the true Throne of Shadow on Drift Avalii, the outcome of which could not have proved more advantageous to him and Shadowthrone. Darist dead, the sword Vengeance removed and in the hands of a darkly fated wanderer. The Edur expedition wiped out, the secret thus resurrected and likely to remain unviolated for some time,” though, she adds, Cotillion would probably have preferred not to intervene directly. Cutter informs her that he probably wouldn’t have had not the Hound Blind not balked at the Edur. She says that taught Dancer something else — he can’t count on the Hounds when they face the Edur — “their original masters.” They’re interrupted by a suddenly dark sky, “shadows rising on all sides, closing and swallowing them — a thunderous crash.”

SCENE TWO

Trull and Onrack encounter a large tortoise and banter about procreation and mating. They move on still tracking the renegades, from whom Onrack senses “a vague hint of chaos, of unknown warrens — or perhaps familiar ones twisted beyond recognition.” He goes through a list of Logros bonecasters trying to figure out which one is with the renegades, thinking it likely to be Logros because the renegades had come to Seven Cities, “to the very birthplace of the First Empire, in order to recover their weapons. And it was Logros who tasked with the holding of the homeland.” He asks Trull what he knows of the Nameless Ones and Trull says nothing. Onrack informs him that Logros had ordered the removal of the First Throne because the Nameless Ones were close to finding its location and knew that the T’lan Imass would have to “bow in service to the first mortal to seat himself on it.” Trull asks why Logros was so intent on denying the Nameless Ones and Onrack tells him “The Nameless Ones serve the Houses of the Azath. Logros believed that, had a priest of the cult taken the First Throne, the first and only command given to the T’lan Imass would be to voluntarily accept eternal imprisonment. We would have been removed from this world.” He adds the throne was moved to a continent south of Seven Cities where it was found by Kellanved. When Trull says that explains how the Malazan Empire got so powerful, Onrack tells him actually “The Emperor’s exploitation of our abilities was modest. Surprisingly constrained . . . The new Empress does not command us.” When Trull asks why Laseen doesn’t just sit on the throne, Onrack says she probably would if she knew where it was. Trull says the T’lan Imass are then free again, but Onrack replies, “There are other concerns. Kellanved was resident in a House of the Azath for a time,” which Trull takes as anxiety that Kellanved was a Nameless One or in contact with them. Trull asks why Kellanved wouldn’t have given the order that the Imass feared and also how Kellanved found the First Throne in the first place, but Onrack has no answer to either question. Trull wants to know what brought all this up and Onrack says he has a suspicion about where the renegades are heading, since some of them at least will know where the First Throne is. Trull says other T’lan Imass have probably figured that out, but Onrack says he shares a sense of freedom from the vow, a “certain liberation of thought” that makes him more likely than his kin to figure this out. He wants to wait for Monok Ochem and Ibra Gholan and tell them. Trull worries about this meeting, and points out Monok Ochem probably won’t like what Onrack did in repairing himself. Onrack agrees and Trull then asks what Onrack would do if he ordered him not to await his kin (based on Onrack’s earlier swearing of service to Trull). Onrack replies he understands Trull’s concern, but points out the renegades “serve the same master as do your kin. Should they lead one of your mortal kin to take the First Throne thus acquiring mastery over all of the T’lan Imass, do you imagine they will be as circumspect in suing those armies as was Emperor Kellanved? Trull surrenders the point, but wonders why the T’lan Imass don’t just sit on the throne themselves? Onrack says it must be a mortal, and what mortal could they trust? He does say, however, that the point will soon be moot, as a new, mortal bonecaster has arisen in a far-off land and has summoned the T’lan Imass. Trull asks if they want the new bonecaster to take the Throne and Onrack replies, “No. We want the summoner to free us all . . . from existence . . . Oddly enough, I find I do not share that sentiment anymore.” Trull guesses none who’ve escaped the vow would, and points out the bonecaster is therefore in some “grave danger.” Onrack says she is protected and when asked if he can resist her summons, says, “I am free to choose.” Monok and Ibra Gholan appear and Trull steps into Ibra’s path and tells him they should hear out Onrack before doing anything. Onrack tells them the renegades are leading their master to the First Throne to put a mortal on it and thus command the T’lan Imass, including the new bonecaster. He also offers to work with them to prevent that. Monok agrees immediately. Onrack asks how many guardians are set at the Throne and Monok says no, and there are no T’lan Imass at all on Quon Tali, saying this was “unanticipated” and all of Logros’ army is in Seven Cities. Onrack is shocked and asks why Logros hasn’t marched in answer to the summons. Monok says Logros sent representatives but is staying in Seven Cities “in anticipation of imminent need,” and the four of them are closest in any case to the renegades. Trull complains he needs a weapon and Ibra asks him what he uses. Trull answers spear and bow and Ibra says he’ll get one for him, but wonders why Trull didn’t take one from the caverns. Trull answers he isn’t a thief. Ibra then tells Onrack he chose well and Onrack thinks to himself, “I know,” before asking Monok if Logros knows who the renegade bonecaster is. Monok replies Tenag Illbaie, though he says probably under a different name. Onrack recalls Tenag’s pre-bonecaster name — Haran ‘Alle — and remembers his as loyal. Monok interrupts that Tenag failed against the Forkrul Assail in the L’aederon Wars and Onrack answers “as we in turn fail,” explaining when Monok asks how that they have failed because “We chose to see failure as disloyalty . . .Yet in our harsh judgment of fallen kin, we committed our own act of disloyalty. Tenag Illbaie strove to succeed in his task. His defeat was not by chance. Tell me, when have we ever triumphed in a clash with Forkrul Assail? Thus, Tenag Illbaie was doomed from the very beginning. Yet he accepted what was commanded of him. Knowing full well he would be destroyed and so condemned . . . these renegades are of our own making.” Ibra says “the it falls to us to deal with them,” but has no answer when Onrack asks what if they fail. As they prepare to move on via Tellann Warren, Monok asks Onrack where the rest of the body was that he used to repair himself. Onrack says it had been taken away, not does he know who destroyed it, though it made him “uneasy” because whoever did it had cut the body in half with a single blow.”

SCENE THREE

Lostara leads Pearl through the hills to where they killed Sha’ik Elder. Lostara thinks Pearl’s “smooth surface was wearing off, revealing unsightly patches that she found cause both for derision and a strange, insipid attraction . . . she had discovered a certain delicious appeal in flaws.” Pearl thinks how different things would have been had not Sha’ik’s bodyguards — Leoman and Karsa — kept the Red Blades from returning with Sha’ik’s head: “We’d likely not be here, for one thing. Felisin Paran would not have needed to cross all of Seven Cities seeking to avoid murder at the hands of frenzied rebels. Coltaine would be alive, closing the imperial fist around every smouldering ember before it rose in conflagration. And High Fist Pormqual would have been sent to the Empress to give an accounting of his incompetence and corruption. All but for that one obnoxious Toblakai.” They reach the spot and find the bodies of the Red Blades as well as Sha’ik’s corpse. Pearl wonders why the bodyguards waited there and Lostara suggest they waited for Sha’ik’s rebirth, mocking the idea. But Pearl points out the “rebirth did occur. The Whirlwind rose, to give focus — to provide a raging heart — for the rebellion.” Lostara though points to Sha’ik’s body and says clearly there was no rebirth. Pearl tells her she’s being purposely obtuse: “only one conclusion follows. The Sha’ik alive and well in the heart of Raraku is not the same Sha’ik. Those bodyguards found a replacement . . . younger in appearance . . . “ Lostara interrupts him and says she refuses to believe what he’s implying, arguing, “I don’t care how well it fits! Is that all we mortals are? The victims of tortured irony to amuse an insane murder of gods?” Pearl replies, “more like exquisite irony. You don’t think Felisin would leap at the chance to become such a direct instrument of vengeance against her sister? Against the empire that sent her to a prison mine? Fate may well present itself, but the opportunity must still be embraced, willfully, eagerly. There was less chance or coincidence in all this — more like the timely convergence of desires and necessities.” Lostara says they have to go back to Tavore, but Pearl says the Whirlwind is in their way, preventing travel by warren; they’ll have to penetrate it and cross through Raraku itself. Lostara asks about his hunt for the leader of the Talons and he says he thinks they’ll solve that problem soon too; “all things are converging nicely.” He faces the Whirlwind and says while Lostara’s Pardu blood means she won’t be noticed, his being quarter Tiste Andii might be an issue, telling her his mother was a “half-blood white-haired beauty” from Drift Avalii.

SCENE FOUR

Lostara and Pearl continue on, Lostara feeling “worn out and weathered” and jealous of Pearl’s “hale, unlined face.” She asks how he plans to avoid notice when they cross the Whirlwind and he tells her: “Rashan, Thyr, and Meanas. The perpetual war. This fragment of warren before us is not fully comprehended by the goddess herself. Not surprising, since she was likely little more than a zephyr spirit to being with.” After Lostara complains about his verbosity, he says, “fine, I intend to hide in your shadow.” As they continue to bicker, he points out to her that “you persist in fomenting a certain tension between us . . . a peculiar flirtation.” When she scoffs and responds with another attack, he says, “precisely as I was saying” which only infuriates her more.

SCENE FIVE

Lostara is surprised at how easy the crossing is. She turns to where Pearl is directly behind her, grabs him to kiss him, and the two begin disrobing.

SCENE SIX

Kalam wakes from a dream involving a song “rising to a roar that seemed to grip the throat of the world . . . And the voices within the song. Strange yet familiar. Like friends who never sang a word in their lives. Nothing to quell the spirit — no, these voices give music to war.” He heads out, passing petrified ships and relics of the past: “The Whirlwind had lifted the mantle of sands to reveal Raraku’s prehistory, the long-lost civilizations that had known only darkness of millennia. The scene was vaguely disturbing, as if whispering back to the nightmares that had plagued his sleep. And that damned song. The bones of sea-creatures crunched underfoot.” He stops when he sees a column of marching soldiers, some carrying wounded — an army of nearly six hundred carrying a standard made of a human ribcage with two skulls inside and antlers down the standard’s shaft. Watching, he realizes they are ghosts. He moves closer then hears someone say, ”He walks up from the sea . . .“ in an unknown yet understood language. Looking back he sees the depression he’d just walked across is now filled with water and has several damaged ships in it. He listens to a conversation:

”...Dessimbelackis throws endless legions at us and no matter how many we slaughter, the First Emperor finds more.“

”Not true, Lullsan. Five of the Seven Protectors are no more . . . And the sixth will not recover, now that we have banished the black beast itself.“

”I wonder, did we indeed drive it from this realm?“

”If the Nameless Ones speak true, then yes.“

”Your question, Kullsan, confuses me. Are we not marching from the city? Were we not just victorious?“

”Then why is our road lined with ghosts, Erethal?"

The conversation fades away and then as the last soldier passes, Kalam sees another ghost on the other side who tells him to listen to the soldiers, at which point Kalam realizes the ghost soldiers are singing a “variation” of his song. When Kalam addresses the ghost as a Tanno Spiritwalker, the ghost does not recognize the term, saying, “I am no priest. I am Tanno, the Eleventh and last Seneschal of Yaraghatan, banished by the First Emperor for my treasonous alliance with the Nameless Ones. Did you know what he would do? Would any of us have guessed? Seven Protectors indeed, but far more than that, oh yes, far more . . . I gave them a song, to mark their last battle. I gave them that at least.” When the ghost disappears, the land returns to normal. Kalam continues on, through the ruins of a city filed with old canals and bridges and potshards under his feet. He hears horses and, from a hiding spot, sees a group of Pardu, including a shaman. He watches what he assumes is the beginning of a ritual, and thinks these are not part of Sha’ik’s army. Suddenly two huge beasts arrive and attack the Pardu, quickly killing them then feeding on them: “As if darkness itself had taken form, only the shimmer of their sleek hides betrayed their presence . . . These were not Hounds of Shadow. If anything, they were larger, bulkier, massing more like a bear than a dog . . . the moved with savage grace, primal and deadly. Devoid of fear and supremely confident, as if this strange place they had come to was as familiar to them as their own hunting grounds.” One suddenly seems to sense Kalam’s hiding spot and comes at him fast, giving Kalam barely time to jump away and fling down his last few “smoky diamonds — his own cache, not Iskaral Pust’s.” Kalam blows the whistle and five demons rise and while three attack the Hound, the other two flank Kalam, moving toward the other Hound. Kalam runs while the sound of battle rages behind him. As he listens, he thinks, “My apologies Shadowthrone, but at least one of your demons should survive long enough to escape. In which case, you will be informed of a new menace unleashed on this world. And consider this — if there’s two of them, there’s probably more.” Meanwhile, the blowing of the whistle had released all the diamond demons: “countless smoky diamonds that had originated from a trader in G’danisban’s market round crumbled into dust — whether placed for safe-keeping in locked chests, worn as rings . . . And from the dust rose azalan demons, awakened long before their intended moment. But that suited them just fine. They had, one and all, appointed tasks that demanded a certain solitude . . . making it necessary to quickly silence every witness, which the azalan were pleased to do . . . For those that had appeared in the ruins of a city in Raraku, however, to find two creatures whose existence was very nearly lost to the demon’s racial memory, the moments immediately following their arrival proved somewhat more problematic . . . the five azalan were eventually driven off, battered and bleeding . . . And in the realm known as Shadow, a certain god sat motionless on his insubstantial throne. Already recovered from his shock, his mind was racing. Racing.”

SCENE SEVEN

Cutter and Apsalar suddenly crash into a chamber filled with bhok’arala and find Pust waiting for them (it’s his temple). Pust refers to “the extremity of what will be demanded of us in the days and nights to come.”

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter 20

[Just a quick note that Amanda has been and continues to be on vacation. I’ll be posting solo this week but Amanda will be back next week and will retroactively comment on these chapters upon her return. Meanwhile, you’re stuck with just jaded old me.]

The epigraph offers up an interesting take on the light-dark-shadow conflict — the idea that shadow simply hides and retreats then returns ever again (reminds me of a willow in the wind). Perhaps a hint not to count out that clever pair in Shadow’s realm.

I like how the name used to open is the killer’s name — The Rope, as opposed to Cotillion or Dancer, two names that don’t seem to match what we see on the ships.

We mentioned last time about how the image of Tavore prowling through the corpses was a parallel (perhaps) to the scene with Lorn doing the same at Itko Kan. And now here we have another female character walking through a pile of corpses coolly as she’s observed by a male who’s a bit less cool about the whole thing.

We’ve had the speculation before about the human warrens being the “children” of the Elder warrens. Here we get further theorizing that they are corrupted or “denigrated” versions. What I liked was Apsalar’s line “even blood decays” which Cutter doesn’t get at all and which Erikson doesn’t bother explaining, leaving it to the reader to recall the warrens are the blood of K’rul. While, as I’ve mentioned before, Erikson often does explain thing eventually, he also gives us moments like these where he has some high expectations of his readers, not expecting them to simply be passive readers.

We get an obviously interesting discussion of Shadowthrone’s possible plans and the thrones: “given the chance, he’d probably plant himself in every throne in sight, then, with all the power accrued to him, he would do nothing with it. Nothing at all.” I love how this comes as a double take, with him saying it half-jokingly then Apsalar realizing what he was saying and reacting and then Cutter seeing her reaction and responding to it. This idea of wielding power by not wielding power connects us to that epigraph as well, with shadow letting the other two (Dark and Light) fight it out while Shadow remains passive.

I will say it’s a bit convenient that Apsalar remembers that Cotillion and Kellanved were following the path of the Azath through warrens for two years, but doesn’t remember the details of what they found. Certainly a nice big tease for the future as the reader now really wants to know about that journey.

We’ve had the discussion regarding the death of Kellanved and Dancer back in our reread of Night of Knives, but that wasn’t out yet when this was written, so this is a nice succinct theory by Cutter and Apsalar over that night and their motivations and knowledge.

So a quick recap of this conversation:

The True Throne of Shadow is this one on Drift Avalii.

Rake has ensorcelled it so it cannot be moved.

Shadowthrone has sent demons to protect it.

Shadowthrone has not sat on the True Throne of Shadow.

Shadowthrone has sat on the First Throne of the T’lan Imass.

Shadowthrone, it is speculated, has chosen not to sit on the Throne of Shadow and has chosen restraint in his use of the T’lan Imass so as not to call attention to himself and not create the opportunity for convergence.

Cutter and Apsalar wonder if Shadowthrone’s plan might be to gain control of as many thrones as possible and simply not use them but prevent others from doing so.

Dancer and Kellanved spent two years traveling the warrens, the Azath, and other realms.

Dancer and Kellanved were well aware of Laseen’s plans to kill them on their return.

Cutter and Apsalar speculate their death and resulting sacrifice of the Malazan Throne removed the possibility of convergence over their holding a mortal throne and the First Throne and control of Shadow (or part of Shadow, or the “gateway” to Shadow, or a shadow of Shadow) and allowed them to continue scheming “bigger.”

Apsalar speculates recent events are just fine by Shadowthrone and Cotillion: Darist dead, Vengeance removed and put into the hands of a former confederate, the secret of the Throne kept, Shadowthrone in more direct control/guardianship over the True Throne of Shadow as opposed to Rake via the Tiste Andii.

The Edur are the original masters of the Hounds of Shadow and so ST and Cotillion cannot count on the Hounds against the Edur.

I love Onrack’s insightful line: “Nor was that loss solitary. They never are.” Loss begets loss. A nicely evocative line.

It’s a bit interesting to think that Logros had the First Throne of the T’lan Imass moved to prevent a mortal associated with the Nameless Ones claiming it and its move led to Kellanved claiming it — the law of unintended consequences strikes again. ‘Course, it worked out far better for the Imass as Kellanved, as mentioned several times, has been quite restrained in his ordering of the T’lan Imass while (in Logros’ view), the Nameless Ones would have ordered the T’lan Imass to surrender themselves to an Azath — not the oblivion that so desire but eternal imprisonment. But, plots within plots, there is also the fear that the Nameless Ones are agents of the Azath, Kellanved spent years trying to penetrate the secrets of the Azath; ergo, perhaps Kellanved is working with the Nameless Ones.

We get further evidence of the Vow as a curse upon the T’lan Imass, with Onrack’s realization that he his “freedom” from the vow allows him a more open and agile mind. One can also extrapolate from his point that Monok will not figure things out (re the renegades) because he is busy hunting “and the mind of a hunter is ever consumed by that quarry.” For what have the T’lan Imass been doing for millennia but act as the “hunter” as they tracked down Jaghut?

A small, understated line from Onrack when Trull asks if Onrack can resist Silverfox’s summons: “I am free to choose.” The most basic definition of “freedom” and a good guide at times in this series of who to root for in certain situations I’d say — who allows freedom to choose and who does not? Recall, for instance, how the T’lan Imass did not give the Ay that freedom when they put them into the ritual.

I like the back and forth that characterizes Trull when he “coolly” answers why he didn’t simply take a spear from the T’lan Imass caverns (“I am not a thief”) and the immediate respect his act (or lack of action) and tone garner him from Ibra.

It’s funny how commonsensical Onrack’s summary of the absurdity of labeling the renegades “failed” sounds, considering the thousands of years this has been going on

We’ve mentioned the idea of “don’t mess with mortals” and its several variations and I’ve said a lot of times how appealing that line is throughout the series. But here we get its polar opposite from Lostara and it’s a powerfully bleak counterpoint: “Is that all we mortals are? The victims of tortured irony to amuse an insane murder of gods?” (Like Pearl, I love that phrase “murder of gods”). Bleak it is, and on the surface if one accepts all the “coincidences” that had to put Felisin in that place at that time, it certainly seems this is not far from the truth. But I think Pearl has the right way of it when he says “You don’t think Felisin would leap at the chance . . . Fate may well present itself, but the opportunity must still be embraced.” He calls it a “convergence of desires and necessities.” And that word — “desires” — is what places free will into the mix. Even if the gods manipulate the pawns into place, they are, in the end, not pieces but people, and so have to choose — and that is, as Onrack and Trull just told us, the definition of freedom.

So at least some of those on Drift Avalii are Rake’s kin.

Pearl’s mother is a half-blood Andii from Avalii (with white hair).

Ergo...?

So we’ve seen Fiddler tormented by the Tanno song and now we see Kalam doing the same. And recall how it requires a Bridgeburner to return to Raraku — that won’t seem to be a problem.

Well, we’ve mentioned how the past is never really past in this series and here we have the past literally come “to life” and walk before us and Raraku’s ghosts move by Kalam, giving us a little taste of a few things:

One is a connection between Dessimbelackis and a beast and Seven and “far more than that.”

Another is simply the image of an army of ghosts (a “singing” army no less) — file.

Hmm, so Tanno, whom one assumes lent his name eventually to the Tanno spiritwalkers, was connected with the Nameless Ones.

An interesting parallel — the original Tanno giving that army a song for their “last battle.” What does this parallel mean for the Bridgeburners marked by Kimlok’s song?

The Hounds of Darkness “more like a bear than a dog.” More to come on the Hounds and their connections to Hounds of Shadow and Dessimbelackis.

I love that image of all those Azath demons appearing suddenly, thought their cool efficiency in ridding themselves of witnesses is chilling.

And the one of Shadowthrone, shocked, and then, already thinking about his views.

The players continue to converge. As the army marches closer, seen in the prior chapters, we’ve now got Kalam, Lostara, and Pearl all crossing the Whirlwind and aiming for Raraku. The big blow up is nearing. And now, via Onrack’s theory, we’re also given another possible battle — the renegade’s assumed attempt to attack the First Throne of the T’lan Imass. And we’ve got a truly random bit of chaos (normal chaos, not Crippled God chaos) in the form of those Hounds. Plus, let’s not forget Karsa has just gotten his horse and things are moving apace as well in Sha’ik’s camp. The game’s nearly afoot....


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.

30 comments
Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
I think this is the first chapter I've missed since I joined up near the start of GotM. I have an ironclad excuse, though: Jim Butcher's Ghost Story. I'll catch up with y'all next week.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
@Bill:Yes, I think the pieces are pretty much in place here.
It was interesting how Kalam is the only unpaired voice here. We have Cutter/Apsalar, On'rack/Trull, Pearl/Yostara and Kalam. I think that emphasized Kalam's journey through Raraku.
All the little details dropped and speculated upon in this chapter are great.
B H
3. Greyhawk
There is definitely a sense of the pieces failing into their final places. I also enjoyed the character speculation that provides a larger context against which to consider the conflicts we are witnessing.
Sydo Zandstra
4. Fiddler
Can't wait for Karsa to arrive... ;-) (and please, please, let Amanda be back by then :D )

I'd love to see that in a movie...


Not much more to say yet. I'm not a real fan of Cutter.
ksh1elds555
5. ksh1elds555
I was wondering as reading the chapter last night if the ghosts' talk of 7 guardians was a reference to Dessimbilackas... the ruler of the first empire that went crazy with the soletaken ritual? I always wondered with the d'ivers form of 7 hounds, how exactly he might be related to the Hounds of shadow or the hounds of darkness. I don't know if we find out truely or not, maybe they are some aspect of him left behind after the ritual. After re-reading this chapter, the whole significance of the thrones is starting to make more sense. And we get a really interesting take on Shadowthrone, choosing perhaps to NOT exercise power as a way to become more powerful. Who buys the line that he's really insane? Not by a long shot.
Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
kshe1lds555@7:There are the 7 guardians and there are the 7 holy cities with the 7 holy protectors. It seems there is a linkage there. I think the particular number of Dessimbelackis is probably related to that somehow.
The seven holy cities are: Aren, Karakarang, Ubaryd, Ehrlitan, Karashimesh, Yath Alban and Ugarat. Note that Tanno says: "I am Tanno, the Eleventh and last Seneschal of Yaraghatan"
Yaraghatan is Y'Ghatan where we have already seen Daseem have problems.
Iris Creemers
7. SamarDev
I like the way how Cutter and Apsalar quite casually might stumble on the truth about Shadowthrone's ambitions. Their conversation is a bit of a history-lesson, but sometimes it's just fine to get some backgroundinfo, even although (as Bill states) it is a bit convenient what knowledge Apsalar still possesses and what is lost to her.

Kalams hasty whistle is kind of 'outch!'. I wonder what tasks all those demons had and if they are able to fulfill them even though they're released too early. Poor people who happened to be wrong time wrong place...

And poor Cutter and Apsalar too. Back with Pust (and his bhok'arala) again. Nice touch to have a ship landing in the middle of the desert again, as loop with Apsalars father.

Lostara and Pearl do, well, love to hate or hate to love each other? :-)
Iris Creemers
8. SamarDev
@ Shalter 7
Sharp reading, Yaraghatan-Y'Ghatan. I defenitely missed that one...
Thomas Jeffries
9. thomstel
shalter@7:

I missed the base version of Y'Ghatan in that list as well until now. Nice!

Although it does throw off how I pronounce it in my head. I always hear "EE-GAH-TAN". With the base word having no "EE", I wonder if it should be "YAH-GAH-TAN"...
Sydo Zandstra
11. Fiddler
My instinct says EEH-GHA-TAAHN.

Also note that pronunciation of cities/tribes/people changes over the time. Which is finally a writer appreciating the evolvement of different languages here. :) Iskar Jarack anyone? ;)

Edit: whited out just in case.
Tricia Irish
12. Tektonica
Although not nearly as weighty as the rest of the meat in this chapter, I do like the tension/banter with Lostara and Pearl. A nice bit of tension reliever.

I love the way everyone is circling the Sha'ik wagon, in tighter and tighter spirals. SE does this so well. It's hard to put the book down!
Everything makes so much more sense on reread. I feel like I'm reading a new version of text with more info added!

Bill, thanks for pulling the wagon by yourself these 2 weeks. It's always a pleasure to read your thoughts. I look forward to Amanda's reactions upon her return too. (I can just picture her on vacation, off in a corner, reading furiously, ignoring everyone else. LOL...I hope not. )
Hugh Arai
13. HArai
ksh1elds555@5: A person can be charismatic, visionary, wise, subtle, pragmatic and insane. They aren't mutually exclusive. I would say Shadowthrone is all of the above. As well as vindictive, cynical, perceptive... the list goes on.
karl oswald
14. Toster
it's an interesting little connection to the earlier part of the onrack and trull storyline when monok ochem reveals that logros is massed in 7C holding itself ready in anticipation of 'imminent need'.

i think the need must be the deragoth, who we've just seen arrive in raraku. the deragoth released by onrack no less. if the deragoth threaten to massacre a city or something, i'll bet logros would be planning to step in. will the t'lan be needed? what a chilling thought if they had to be.

now here's a very pertinent question from kalam:

"Then why is our path lined with ghosts?"

More importantly, why is mine?
ksh1elds555
15. Jordanes
Dessimbelackis...is there a more mysterious character in all of MBotF? As far as I recall, we only ever see him 'on stage' once, and then only briefly (at least, in his human form ;) )

He appears to be a bit of a proto-Kellanved, but one who didn't quite manage to hold on to his sanity - perhaps because he didn't have a Dancer to support him?

@5 Dessimbelackis is related to the Deragoth in a very close way indeed...
Tricia Irish
16. Tektonica
Toster@14:

I forgot it was Onrak who released the Deragoth in that strange warren! Thanks for that.
Brian R
17. Mayhem
The Whirlwind had lifted the mantle of sands to reveal Raraku’s
prehistory, the long-lost civilizations that had known only darkness of
millennia

This is another of those subtler touches that I love about the series. Shai'ik raises a huge wall of sand to show off her newfound power.
We all lean back and go Wooooo!
Erikson then sits down and shows where the sand to make the wall comes from.
All the echoes of Raraku's past we see playing out from here on in are the result of the Whirlwind stripping away the layers above the surface, in a fashion which gently unearths without significantly damaging the artifacts - the archaeologists vacuum cleaner from god as it were.
Brian R
18. Mayhem
@5 & 6
I recall reading a passage that none of seven Holy Cities still standing are connected to the original seven cities, though some are built on or near the ruins of them. There is a moment when a character is exploring the ruins near Ehrlitan, where it talks of how a city and palace was (sacreligously?) built atop the remains and the ground under the city ... shrugged ... destroying the palace and the new city in an evening.
The original Seven Cities date back to a much earlier age, I always felt Icarium might have had something to do with their destruction though we have very little information on those times, and many of the passages conflict or are merging time periods.

Hmm, I wonder if Icarium and Dessimbelackis ever coexisted?
ksh1elds555
19. ksh1elds555
@Harai... yes you could be right, he could be insane... but to me if he is, it's in a very beguiling and entertaining kind of way. I know that by HoC, I really enjoyed every single scene where Shadowthrone showed up, and by the end of the series he became one of my absolute favorite characters.
karl oswald
20. Toster
@18 Mayhem

you did read that passage, in chapter 21 :D

a very informative chapter it is. plus, greyfrog!
Brian R
21. Mayhem
@20
Hah! Was trying to remember if it was in HoC or BH. A lot of the backstory is blurring together in my file cabinet.

Yay for greyfrog!
Sydo Zandstra
22. Fiddler
Tek @12:

Bill, thanks for pulling the wagon by yourself

:D

Sorry, couldn't resist...
ksh1elds555
25. djk1978
That wagon must be piled high if Bill's all that's left pulling.
ksh1elds555
26. djk1978
No post again today? That sucks. I know MBofF may not have the readership of Wheel of Time or A Song of Fire and Ice but for some of us, like me, Bill and Amanda's posts are the only reason I visit the site.

I don't mind if something comes up that prevents a post but a little transparency from Tor would be nice.
karl oswald
27. Toster
not to worry. seems it was just a little late
ksh1elds555
28. djk1978
A little. Don't I look silly now. :)
Bill Capossere
29. Billcap
"Bill, thanks for pulling the wagon by yourself"

best laugh of the week for me--thanks!


djk1978
you don't look silly at all--just passionate. Which is great. No complaints here about people getting upset at late or missing posts!

Mayhem
"A lot of the backstory is blurring together in my file cabinet"

join the club. Wasn't the paperless office supposed to take care of all that? Sometimes I find myself talking about something and then having to go back and check and lo and behold I've got to pull that from the post cuz it's from two books later . . .

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