Nov 30 2011 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Midnight Tides, Chapter Five

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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Five of Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson (MT).

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 Five


Udinaas speaks to the wraith haunting him. It tells him to call it Wither, and says it was once a Tiste Andii, murdered and tossed aside, and then came ice, then it was torn loose to serve its killers—Tiste Edur, followers of Bloodeye the betrayer. Udinaas realizes that all the shadow wraiths must be Tiste Andii and thinks they will be allies. Wither guides him to dig up an arrowhead and tells him he must “resurrect it,” refusing to say why.


Buruk’s group nears the Edur village and Binadas notes the smoke from a funeral. He moves ahead of them. Hull asks Seren what she will do when they reach the Edur. She doesn’t answer, but warns him the Edur may listen to him but not follow his advice. She suspects Hull’s death is being plotted in Lether. Hull asks what she was like as a child and her list of transgressions surprises him. They discuss compassion and injustice. He tells her that her assumptions on his plans are wrong and asks she not stand in his way. As they near the village, they note more shadow wraiths than usual and Hull says it is an army. On the trail ahead of them, they see Silchas Ruin as an “apparition.” He tells them a dragon made this trail, “kin of my betrayer.” He says the dragon was innocent but mortals are not. A horde of mice sweeps down the trail. Silchas disappears, as do the mice. Buruk tells Seren and Hull all the Holds are awakening and he wonders about the Seventh Closure prophecy. Seren thinks she can save neither Hull nor “any of us.”


The Warlock King’s preparations for war—making arms, training an army of Edur—has begun. Fear is Weapons Master and will lead the army in battle. Fear tells Trull they will leave the next day on Mosag’s quest. Trull thinks his brothers are somehow different and he worries for the future.


Udinaas sleeps and finds himself in a world of ice. He sees bodies of K’Chain Che’Malle, Edur, Andii in the ice. He flees and passes herd animals, huge-wolves, horned beasts—all frozen mid-act. He realizes this was an act of sorcery. He enters a portal and sees in a place of freezing cold a tall many-jointed figure surrounded by tusked corpses. He sees a human child’s footprints leading out of the chamber. Backtracking them, he passes behind the tall figure and sees its head had been caved in from behind. The footprints indicate the child has simply appeared behind the figure. He follows the footprints through the doorway and hears battle sounds, but sees nothing. He finds himself flying on leather wings—he is a Locqui Wyval, one of many flying. Silchas Ruin appears in dragon form. He knows he will not witness the betrayal. He wakes back home and tells Wither he traveled to where Wither was killed. Wither says it wants to escape and needs Udinaas help, telling him not to worry about the Edur; Wither will deal with them.


Mayen enters the Sengar household and Trull notes what he thinks is unease on Fear’s part (though born of what is unclear) and lust on Rhulad’s part. They speak of the brothers’ journey into the ice-fields. Binidas refers to old sorcery there and a tribe of hunters who live on the ice. Trull wonders why Mosag chose them, with Fear as Weapon’s Master and Binidas one of the best sorcerers. Mayen and Uruth speak of spirits walking at night and the wraiths fleeing them. Uruth says she fears the “tide of change . . . will sweep us away,” which angers Tomad, who believes the Edur ride the rising tide. They agree there will be war. Tomad upbraids Rhulad for speaking foolishly and wonders what “dread knowledge” causes him to strut around. Rhulad says Mosag will sacrifice an Edur to set off the fleet and when he names Menandore, Udinaas drops a plate. Uruth sees his hands are cracked and bleeding and another slave says those wounds weren’t there a minute ago. Uruth uses magic to see if Udinaas is possessed and declares he is not. Udinaas passes out and Mayen tells Feather Witch to help him; he is dragged away. Mayen and Uruth spar over Udinaas’ treatment. Tomad tells Rhulad he’s heard nothing of Mosag reinstating the ancient ways of sacrifice.


Udinaas tells Feather Witch Uruth found nothing when she looked for the Wyval. Feather Witch argues it must have just hid, but Udinaas says it is gone. He says, however, he has an ally in him: a shadow wraith and he plans to “repay debts.”


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Five

So this Shadow Wraith is whose heart Udinaas heard? Wither, the Tiste Andii. Wither is not a very positive sounding name, but then Erikson’s naming convention usually bears no relation to the character of the person so named. Which is actually unusual. Most fantasy authors will use more spiky consonants when they name their bad guys — a multitude of z’s, for sure — whereas Erikson just seems to apply names to no real import to them. I wonder how he went about naming his characters?

It’s very strange — nothing that Udinaas has said or done has indicated that he feels himself to truly be a slave. “I am more than a slave, Wither, as you well know.”

Udinaas doesn’t overly question Wither’s declaration that the Edur betrayed the Andii rather than the other way around, as the Edur report. Maybe because he doesn’t care much about which race killed which eons ago!

Hmm, a blade of iron with sorcerous investment? I have filed, Bill!

Binadas must have been feeling terrible about seeing that smoke and not knowing which of his villages — if any — had died. The Edur would never give the Letherii slaves these same rites of funeral, would they? So he knows for sure that it is one of his own kind. I like the fact that Seren understands this and shows the empathy to send him ahead.

She shows the same depth of perception when she says: “We are all like soldiers, crouching behind the fortifications we have raised.” That whole armour thing again... People hiding behind facades.

I like this question Erikson poses through Seren’s introspection: “How much could be stripped from a people before they began stripping away themselves?”

Hmm, I think it says something about the relationship between Hull and Seren that he believes that she was zealous and well-behaved as a child, while she was, in actuality, a child with little innocence. I am not quite sure what is intended when she says: “My enemy was not authority, although perhaps it seemed so. It was childhood itself. The lowered expectations of adults, the eagerness to forgive. It sickened me.” All I do know is that Seren seems to have a lot of bitterness in her past.

I feel sorry for Seren, when Hull says he cannot trust her. There is so much tension and unspoken words between these two. Not helped by Buruk’s rather callous words about love!

The shadow wraiths absolutely creep me out — especially since there was a hint that these wraiths are possibly Tiste Andii souls, haunting their betrayers.

“Are they truly the ancestors of the Edur?”

His gaze snapped to her, feverish. “Of course. What else could they be?”

Famous last question...

And now Silchas Ruin makes his appearance! (Which Buruk doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by...) Is he referring to himself when he talks about the dragon, or is this someone else?

In this conversation between Ruin and Seren, there are a number of references to the small, the defenceless and the meaningless. “All of us, here in your wake, we are as nothing [...] a multitude of tiny selves [...] And the tiny creatures that fed on them [...] You would deliver countless small deaths?” This seems to be a deliberate emphasis on how little these personalities can truly have an effect on events around them.

Owls and crows again. Will these be used as symbols throughout the novel, in the same way that capemoths and bloodflies were used in Deadhouse Gates?

I’m sure there are many — including Trull here — who would rather un-know a secret than be forced to act upon it. Especially when possible treason is involved.

Fear’s appointment as Weapons Master for Hannan Mosag’s army — honour? Or way to get rid of one of the pesky Sengar individuals? And is Rhulad’s reaction jealousy? Or is it more that he’s now thinking about lonely Mayen, in need of company in his brother’s absence?

Trull doubts himself constantly. It must be exhausting to be him. A life of paranoia, mistrust, and yet the inability to speak out about any of it. “And so the fault is mine, within me. I need to remain mindful of that.”

The first scene of slaughter in Udinaas’ dreamscape is the remains of the battle we saw between the K’Chain Che’Malle and the Tiste races from the Prologue, I would guess, but that second scene of slaughter is unknown. Unless it is thanks to the ice that Gothos brought into being — did it have an effect on another part of the world? Is this an example of how events in one place can influence those in another?

Lots of set-up in that dreamscape. I’m just wondering something as well... That sorcerous piece of metal that Wither had Udinaas retrieve — would that be part of Silchas Ruin’s swords? Scattered to the four winds? Is Udinaas going on a bit of a trek to retrieve the remainder and restore the swords?

Have I mentioned that I really don’t like Mayen? And I’m not that fond of Rhulad either. There will be trouble with those two, mark my words. Although it looks as though Mayen has her own secrets and desires. Is it her who has put the fear of ancient sacrifice into Rhulad’s mind? She is certainly pleased to see him clash with his father. She is a manipulative so-and-so, isn’t she?

And so ends a chapter that is mostly set-up for future events, but no less entertaining for that.


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Five

Thank God Udinaas told Wither no more rhymes.

We see some of Udinaas’ strength when he tells Wither not to call him slave.

Well, I think we can imagine that the ensorcelled arrowhead may play a role down the line once it is “resurrected.”

That’s quite the smooth movement, to go from Udinaas’ “I shall not be the hand of your vengeance” to the storyline involving Hull Beddict, of whom Seren worries that he will try and use the Edur as the hand of his own such vengeance.

It’s interesting now that we’ve been told what the shadow wraiths are, that they linger in the pyre flames long after mourners have left. Are they dancing in joy at the death of another Edur?

“How much could be stripped from a people before they began stripping away themselves?” This is yet another one of those oh-so poignant lines that has such painful echoes in our own human history.

If compassion, as I’ve argued before, is one of the most important themes of this series, then Seren’s judgment of the Letherii—that they believe is an a luxury none can afford—is a pretty severe indictment in the series’ context. It’ll be interesting to see which Letherii, if any, prove the exception to this.

Seren’s self-pondering as to whether she’ll “make any effort” to save Hull when the expected time comes is a bit of a surprise coming as it does so soon after Tehol’s near-certainty that she would protect him. Does Tehol know her better than she does herself?

Her past revelations also come as somewhat a surprise, complicating her character nicely.

It’s interesting—her revulsion at the ease with which adults would forgive her, forgive children. We’ll have to see how this plays out in acts to come.

That’s a little foreboding, Hull’s declaration that he, not the Edur, will be “the sword” in whatever he plans.

Nice little bit of uncertainty in the description of Seren wiping the “rain” from her face after we’re told via Buruk’s lines that she looked “besieged.” Rain? Or tears?

It doesn’t do much for the reader’s view of Hull that he sounds so certain when he proclaims the shadow wraiths are the Edur’s ancestors: “Of course. What else could they be?”

Add another great cinematic scene with the arrival of Ruin and the mice horde.

“You would deliver countless small deaths? In the name of what? Convenience?” Seems yet another indictment of modern day culture/civilization, for all that it the line is delivered amidst a forest trail.

So Ruin, according to Buruk’s secretive past tile reading, is associated with “Barrow and Root”—tiles in the Hold of the Azath. And we know he was carried to one, that the Azath House in Lether is dying, that what lies in its grounds are growing restless. It seems Ruin may not be long for the either the Barrow or the Root...

Note that this is the second time someone of Lether has questioned just what the Seventh Closure prophecy means, has questioned just who the new ruler of a rebirthed Empire will be.

I’m sure I don’t need to say it, but file that scene with the tall figure and dead Jaghut and missing child. The “too many joints” is a clue as to what that tall figure is by the way.

And we know the ensorcelled ice Udinaas travels through is Gothos’ sorcery, asked to “preserve” by Mael, a place where “time has ceased.”

More via Udinaas on the dangers of certainty.

That’s a bit more info on Silchas Ruin: “who fed in the wake of his brother—fed on Tiam’s blood, and drank deep. Deeper than Anomander Rake by far. Darkness and chaos. He would have accepted the burden of godhood had he been given the chance.” What effect does drinking more of Tiam’s blood have? Who/What is Tiam? What is the connection to “darkness and chaos?” All good questions...

So far Mayen has simply been a placeholder. An object of lust for Rhulad supposedly, an object of betrothal for Fear, an object of mistrust for Trull. I like how she, like Seren earlier (but much more so as she was a blank slate to now), becomes much more rich in this chapter, more complex and starts to fill out into a character in her own right—the way she enters the home appearing to know how she is regarded, the way she stands up to Uruth, drives conversation at the table, her seemingly odd reaction to Rhulad being chastened by Tomad. Much better having her as a full character than merely a catalyst for Trull’s actions and thoughts.

Remember that tribe that hunts on the ice.

Rhulad is also made more complex, with the revelation of his feelings, of why he feels restrained, of his fears as to possibly being sacrificed (shades of Agamemnon and Iphigenia).

This chapter doesn’t do a lot with plot. But it fleshes out several characters—Seren, Rhulad, Mayen—and teases us with some hints at things to come: the magic arrowhead, Udinaas’ desire for payback, Wither’s desire to escape, Hull making himself “the sword,” Ruin seemingly getting close to his own escape, etc.

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.

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

Tricia Irish
1. Tektonica
This book, more than any others, seemed to comment on our present state of "civilization".....the delusions, the greed, the desire for revenge, the disregard for "small" lives. I really felt the author both the Edur and Letherii sections. Anyone else?
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
The shades of the past are returning. In this case we have the two particular shades--Wither and Ruin (good names for shades) communicating with people.
Something to think on at this point in the story is what is causing the shades to become so active now after some hundreds of thousands of years.
Something to note is that ice of Gothos' making.
Iris Creemers
3. SamarDev
Amanda, your comment on Wither's name finally brought me to my dictionary to look what it really meant :-). As you say, not so cheerful...

In HoC (ch. 2, post 46) Abalieno posted a quote in one of SE's interviews, in which he elaborated about his choice of names. Nice to read.
Robin Lemley
4. Robin55077
The opening poem to this chapter felt awkward to me. Not because of the words of the poem iteself, but because of the notation that it was "compiled by Tiste Andii scholars of Black Coral."

At the time of the events in this chapter, Malazans & Co. have not yet marched on (possibly not yet heard of) the Pannion and thus, "Black Coral" does not yet exist. I know that Midnight Tides is Trull's telling of his story, but the mention of Black Coral here just doesn't feel right to me.

Did it strike anyone else this way?
Gerd K
5. Kah-thurak
The Poems often feature a past or future perspective on the themes in the chapter they open. I dont think this is really something special here. In Gardens of the Moon you can even find a Kallor Quote out of Memories of Ice...
Robin Lemley
6. Robin55077
@ Amanda
"Wither, the Tiste Andii. Wither is not a very positive sounding name, but then Erikson’s naming convention usually bears no relation to the character of the person so named."
I had a different experience with this name. I thought it was a very good choice of name for a wraith. I see the word "wither" as "becoming less" than a thing was originally (i.e. plants wither and then die). In that sense, Wither as a name for a wraith fits perfectly to me as the wraith is now far "less" substantial than it was.

I'm sure I probably am not explaining this very well, but hopefully my meaning gets through.

Robin Lemley
7. Robin55077
@ 5. Kah-thurak

You are absolutely correct and I generally don't have any feeling about the source one way or the other. However, for some reason, this one feels awkward to me on every read. Awkward enough to stop me each time I read it. I don't know what is different about this one, or why it tends to break the flow for me. I was just wondering if anyone else experienced the same thing, with this or with some other example.

karl oswald
8. Toster
There's a good bit of misdirection going on in chis chapter, when Udinaas talks to featherwitch about his 'guests'. Amanda wondered if the heart Udinaas heard was the wraiths, but this wraith has just appeared. unless the wraith was hanging around since they wyval attack, which is entirely possible, you might look to the wyval for the heartbeat. our edur-shade-that's-really-an-andii-shade, has a different role to play, as will out.
Mieneke van der Salm
9. Mieneke
Who is mother Dark's youngest child that Wither followed? Rake or Andarist or Silchas Ruin or a Tiste Andii we haven't met (yet)? I'm guessing Ruin, correct?

The figures in the tower Udinaas finds I take to be K'Chain and Jaghut, but who is the child, is that Kettle?

I agree with Amanda! What's with Mayen? What's her angle? Is she just a vain young woman jostling for position or something more malicious?

I liked Udinaas in the beginning but I'm not so sure about him any more! He just seems to become a bit creepy.
Gerd K
10. Kah-thurak
Mother Dark had three sons (interesting how often Erikson works with threes of siblings, isnt it? I guess these will feature prominently in The Forge of Darkness). Rake, Andarist and Silchas Ruin. I am not sure if it is explicitly stated anywhere which is the youngest (Rake is the oldest), but I would go with Ruin too.
Amir Noam
11. Amir
Mieneke @9:
The bodies that Udinass finds in the tower are indeed Jaghut ("tusked"), but the other figure is not K'Chain, as it is not described as "reptilian".

The key hint about the identity of this figure is that it has "too many joints"...
12. Alt146
@1 most of the books from here on out have something to say about the way modern society operates, although in this book it definitely the most direct, and given the current financial crisis definitely the one that resonates the most.

I remember the first time I read this book that I found myself siding more with the Letherii story than the Edur one, partly because Tehol and Bugg are Letherii and partly because of Ruin's betrayal and the enslavement of the Andii wraithes. This time through I have a lot more empathy for the Edur - they largely live in ignorance of the sins of their ancestors (whether that was a good move by whoever started keeping the betrayal a secret is debatable, but it was very much a merciful one) and the way they operate at the moment has a lot to do with Hannan Mosag.

What is a bit weird is comparing the Edur to the Moranth. We know from MoI that the Moranth were originally Barghast and their soceity was changed due to their making peace with a group of Edur. There doesn't seem to be anything about these Edur that would have led to the Moranth being the strange race that they are - any thoughts?
Brian R
13. Mayhem
@12 Comparing these Edur to the Moranth is a bit of a red herring.
To limit spoilers, I'll avoid details, but later in the series we encounter several different groups of Edur, and they are *completely* different to each other, in every way possible. I suspect it comes down to the sundering of Emurlahn - some groups went one way, some went another, and while Scabandari may have had the largest group, he definitely didn't lead them all. The small group that ended up in Cloud Forest may well have been those that specialised in alchemy or even just middle class manufacturing types.
Contrast them with the Andii - there are at least four major groups out there - Rake leads one, Andarist had another, Silchas Ruin led a third to destruction, and there is a fourth we will encounter soon enough.

Besides which, there are far greater secrets to do with the Barghast that we learn of eventually...
Mieneke van der Salm
14. Mieneke
Kah-turak @10: Thanks, glad I didn't miss out on a son. And you're right, another threesome. Threesomes are not just an Erikson thing though, are they? They're a tried and true literary device, whether in characters (as SE does) or in giving stuff three adjectives as often happened in medieval texts.

Amir @11 Oh! *lightbulb* They're Fork'rul Assail (sp?)!! If not then I'm clueless ;-)
Alan Miller
15. AlanM

"Have I mentioned that I really don’t like Mayen? And I’m not that fond of Rhulad either. There will be trouble with those two, mark my words."

File. :)
Alan Miller
16. AlanM

Agreed on Forkrul Assail. They are described as having too many joints etc...
Chris Hawks
17. SaltManZ
Yep, "too many joints" is generally code for Forkrul Assail. (Though early in the series Jaghut are often described as having hands with too many joints.)
Sydo Zandstra
18. Fiddler
SaltManZ @17:

(Though early in the series Jaghut are often described as having hands with too many joints.)

Maybe that's why Jaghut are green; they can't handle smoking pot.. ;)
19. A Guy named Karl
Fiddler @18: Awesome, man. Just awesome.
Tabby Alleman
20. Tabbyfl55
@15. Understatement of the re-read. : )
Etienne Begemann
21. NacMacFeegle
Busy with my own re-read and a bit stumped on a few things:

I've finished TCG and (unless I'm mistaken) the arrow head that Udenaas retrieves never featured ever again. I assume (Ha ha - making an ass out of u & me = assume) that the arrow would then be necessary for Wither's possible "return" as with a certain ring (trying not to spoil)- OR to keep him hidden from the other wraiths as well as Mosag - Any thoughts?

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