Fri
Dec 23 2011 3:30pm
Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Midnight Tides, Chapter Eleven

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 Eleven 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.

Note: Due to Amanda’s heavy involvement in her new job (yay, Amanda!) she will be adding her posts in the discussion section in the next few days. This will be our last post in the reread this year. We’ll see you all again on January 4th. Enjoy the holidays!

Chapter Eleven

SCENE ONE

Udinaas sits overlooking the water, thinking of how Feather Witch had run away at the House of the Dead rather than help him. He thinks too of the pain Rhulad will feel when/if the coins are removed and the inevitability of his eventual madness. He realizes it is the sword that has brought Rhulad back, and that it has claimed Rhulad rather than Mosag as the Warlock King had planned. Thinking of the possibility of the Edur being torn apart by this, he wonders if he had made a mistake bringing Rhulad back from madness when he first woke.

SCENE TWO

Buruk is nervous over what is happening and thinks Mosag should simply kill Rhulad (again) and be done with it. The Edur have gathered in the citadel and the slaves, Seren assumes, are at a casting by Feather Witch. She wonders where Hull has disappeared to. She and Buruk speculate over the provenance of the sword. Buruk analyzes what he sees as Seren’s “despair” and thinks it stems from her sensitivity and from watching Hull rushing toward disaster. Seren thinks she is tired of words.

SCENE THREE

In the citadel, Tomad and Mosag have been debating. They wait now for Rhulad to release the sword, but Rhulad claims it as his own instead, telling a stricken Mosag “he gave it to me,” telling the Edur it is the one who “rules” them now, the one Mosag made a pact with though Mosag planned to betray it. He tells Mosag to kneel to him, then, when Mosag hesitates, he calls Binadas to him and heals him. Trull questions him and Rhulad pledges to give the Edur an Empire. He reveals that the shadow wraiths are Andii, killed by Edur. The Edur souls fled this world as they never belonged here. He promises to lead them home. To Trull’s dismay, Fear kneels, then Mosag and his sorcerers.

SCENE FOUR

Udinaas wades out into the water and just as he thinks how easy it would be to let himself go he feels claws ripping into him lifting him free and tossing him up on the beach. He figures the Wyval didn’t want him to kill himself. He thinks Mosag has only two choices — kill Rhulad or surrender to him, though he can’t imagine what would force that. Hulad arrives and tells him Feather Witch could not cast the tiles because the Holds “were closed,” which frightened her. They note the arrival of the delegation from Lether, and the lack of an Edur welcome.

SCENE FIVE

The Lether delegation arrives to be met by Seren and Buruk, who tell them the Edur are preoccupied. Seren tells them what happened. First Eunuch Nifadas makes reference to having Gerun Eberict sent to possibly “have a word with” Hull. Seren tells Nifadas she thinks Rhulad will replace Mosag as leader of the Edur. As she talks to Nifadas, Seren thinks she has apparently made her choice as to sides.

SCENE SIX

The wraith, Wither, wakes Udinaas and tells him to go the citadel to tell the Edur of the Lether delegation’s arrival. Wither says it and the Wyval agree he must make himself indispensable to Rhulad. Wither wonders if he truly wants Feather Witch, then brings up Menandore’s rape of Udinaas, telling him “the bitch has designs . . . [and] no love for Edur or Andii.” Udinaas arrives inside the citadel to see all the Edur kneeling to Rhulad. He tells Rhulad of the delegation and Rhulad tells him to bring them to meet the Edur’s ruler. Udinaas goes to tell the delegation and they follow him back. The delegation is shocked when Udinaas informs them that Rhulad has declared himself emperor and that the Edur have kneeled to him. Inside, the Prince and Mosag tangle over the illegal harvesting and its consequences, with Mosag getting the better of it. Nifadas interrupts to call an end to discussions for the night.

SCENE SEVEN

Trull, watching all that happened this night, feels the world shattered. Rhulad calls Fear forward and asks for the “gift” of Mayen. Trull wants to intervene, but Rhulad stops him and Fear gives up his right to Mayen. Mayen accepts with a “familiarity” that shocks Trull and Fear, but then Trull notes what he sees as “horror” on her face. He takes it as a message to the Edur to “Withstand. Suffer. Live. .. There will, one day, be answer to this.” Trull sees the Edur in an endless fall and wonder what answer could be given.

SCENE EIGHT

Udinaas tells Seren about Mayen and when she says the Edur are now ruled by a tyrant, he tells her she should tell the delegation to prepare for war.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eleven

We have a lot of scenes, references throughout the series to shores, to boundary areas, to those places where borders become murky or are sharply delineated. So much so that I’d say it’s a thematic pattern throughout — this way of visually or linguistically pointing to these lines between two states of action, of belief; between who one once was and who they are now, or between who one is and who one could be. Where things comes together or move apart. So we have Udinaas here on the beach and later, we’ll have Rhulad resurrected on a beach.

And of course, as the language makes clear, the beach has its own imagistic symbolism. It is not only where things come together or move apart, it is also a symbol of cycles (the tides), of uncertainty (the shifting sands beneath the feet), of vastness (the ocean), of dissolution and reshaping (eternal erosion), of inevitability (those tides again), of return and memory (the repository for all that drifts ashore), of humility (humanity so small in comparison), of “endings and beginnings": It’s one of those great multi-layered symbols and Erikson makes good consistent use of it throughout.

Speaking of symbols, I like how Udinaas gives us directly that metaphor of Rhulad “trapped in a prison of gold” as akin the to the Letherii, as it is such a direct and clear metaphor presenting it as more subtle or as a “puzzle” for the reader to tease out would seem a bit much.

If Udinaas is correct, or close to correct, that Rhulad must already be on the road to madness thanks to that journey back from the dead, what will it mean for him to die again and again, as we’ve already been told will happen (by those lines of the shadows to Paran: “led by the one who has been slain a hundred times” and by the Crippled God’s “your next death.”)

Seren’s first section in this chapter returns us to one of the more common themes of the series—the idea of cycles, of the birth-death-rebirth, of memory lying underfoot, of the inevitability of an ending. It’s interesting how desperately she wishes for such a “long view,” for the way she assumes it must bring a “calm wisdom.” Certainly we’ve seen that from some long-lived ascendants, but not all. And there runs the risk of being “too” calm perhaps, too removed or aloof. Does Seren confuse that with wisdom, or, as Buruk seems to imply, does she confuse that “long view” with “indifference”?

Hull isn’t getting a lot of encouraging assumptions about his future from those who know him, is he?

We’ve seen the seeds of Trull’s shorning all along in this book, but here there seems little doubt about where this is going, even had we not already known. His fear, his dread, his objections, Rhulad’s reference to him as the “weakest” of them, his anger when Trull dares to object to Mayen. It’s all heading down a single road.

So does the Wyval have plans for Udinaas, or does it need Udinaas for sentience or both? And it’s an interesting alliance between the wraith and the Wyval — is it one of convenience or is there a deeper connection, is it permanent or moment-to-moment, is the alliance in Udinaas’ interest? All questions left unanswered so far.

I love that contrast between Prince Quillas and the First Eunuch — Nifadas wading out while the Prince is carried, Nifadas standing in the rain while Quillas is under a two-servant umbrella, Nifadas knowing immediately why Mosag hadn’t simply cut the sword from Rhulad’s hand, the First Eunuch’s easy acceptance of the lack of a greeting contrasted to the Prince’s sense of insult. I wish Erikson had let us just get it rather than have Seren tell us the distinction of power between them.

I also like how Seren is revealed yet again as so incredibly observant in her detail with regard to the sword. Observant as she is, however, it is Udinaas who sees the ghosts around her, ghosts “she doesn’t even see.” What is the attraction?

Not an auspicious start to the rule of Rhulad — the taking of Mayhen as wife. Not to mention his paranoia that Trull had purposely abandoned him to the Jheck. As much as I do think there is room to pity Rhulad, like most of Erikson’s characters, there’s a mixed bag to him and it’s pretty impossible not to despise him for this act for all that we’ve been set up for it. Though I like how it comes after we’d been questioning as readers, as Trull himself had been, whether Trull’s suspicions were just or not.

Mayen, on the other hand, is rising up in readers’ estimations perhaps, something that began earlier as we saw her start to claim some mantle of independence and power — first with that dinner at the Sengar household and then when she blesses the Nerak.

So who will give answer to Rhulad? We know it won’t happen for a while, and we know many will fail, based on all the deaths he has coming. But certainly we’ve seen some candidates that might have the power to do so: Karsa, Icarium, Rake, Quick Ben to name a few.

Knowing that Rhulad will rule for some time, it’s no surprise then to end on such a bleak note.


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. She is the editor of young adult SF imprint Strange Chemistry.

18 comments
Rob Munnelly
1. RobMRobM
Big techical oopsie - the Chapter 11 summary is proper but below that is Bill's analysis of Chapter 10 (posted days ago). Need to add the proper Chapter 11 analysis.
MDW
2. MDW
Note: Due to Amanda’s heavy involvement in her new job (yay, Amanda!) she will be adding her posts in the discussion section in the next few days.

That's what you said last week.

I like Bill's analysis, but this reread really needs Amanda's newbie enthusiam. That's what makes it the best series on Tor.com.
Chris Lough
3. TorChris
Proper commentary is in now. Sorry about the delay, folks.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
Rhulad's taking of Mayen is one of the reason's I don't think tragic is quite right for him. Cursed, doomed, nuts, egomaniacal, damaged, certainly, but not really tragic in a classical sense.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
@Bill:Yes, the shore is certainly a recurring theme. We'll see a lot more of it and other edge cases before we're done.
Bill Capossere
6. Billcap
Hey all,
Apologies to all for the screw up on the commentary--that was all on me. Tor was scrambling to get it fixed but I hadn't noticed in the cut and paste/Google doc etc. that somehow the 11 commentary got pasted over by the 10 commentary then misread Chris' first message to me about it (his message was clear--my reading of it not so much). Luckily, my dropbox had a version with the 11 still intact as all my other forms had it missing. Sorry 'bout that--crazy holiday hectic days

Shalter--I'd agree on the Rhulad as not tragic in the classical sense in that he has no distance to fall, a la Macbeth say. If one uses that definition, I think you're absolutely right. If one uses "tragic"merely as a synonym for "sad," one might have something. I do find it sad, pitiful, unlucky, etc. but tragic might be lending him a bit much gravitas

And we'll certainly see some more shore soon
Tricia Irish
7. Tektonica
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Especially Bill and Amanda, for duty above and beyond!

May the holidays bring you good food, drink, and the company of good friends and loved ones.
Mieneke van der Salm
8. Mieneke
@ Shalter and Bill: This scene with Udinaas also reminded me powerfully of the fact that prehistoric man thought of these border places as mystical and holy. I read The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (which is a crime novel deaturing a forensic archeologist) set in an imaginary saltmarsh, though based on the real-life Norfolk Seahenge, in which she explains about this phenomenon and about the fact that these places aren't just used for burials but for (human) sacrifices as well. Something that also occors in the series, although in this case it is mostly voluntary. Well, you might say the Mhybe started out volunteering, I think she'd disagree with that assessment at the end of MoI. Could that connection be intentional? Or won't we find the (self)sacrifice in MT?

I loved Nifadas' manner with Seren. I think I like that man. One question though, Ithought he was old, but he doesn't come across like that 'wading through the water'. Mistake on my part or misunderstanding?

On a non-Malazan note: I wanted to wish all of you a wonderful festive season, whichever holiday you celebrate and a fantastic 2012! see you all next year!!!
Amanda Rutter
10. ALRutter
I have posted my comments on Chapter Ten now, and Chapter Eleven will follow just as soon as I read it :-) Look out for it sometime this evening!
Amanda Rutter
11. ALRutter
Help! I have *no* idea about the poem at the beginning of Chapter Eleven - any clues from anyone else? Something that relates to future events?

I feel so sorry for Udinaas. He is truly being swept up in events that he doesn't want to be part of - most of them because he is a slave of the Edur. All he wants is the love of Feather Witch, and it seems further away than ever right now.

I honestly wouldn't blame him for seeking the oblivion of the sea - first of all his blood is tainted by that of a Wyval, then he is raped by Menandore, and now he is at the whim of a half-mad returned-from-the-dead Edur. It's not been a great few days for Udinaas!

Do we really think that Rhulad is going to submit to the Warlock King's authority?

How shocking and downright horrifying for the Edur that this dead son of theirs has come back to some semblance of life. How horrendous to watch him dragged from the place where he was prepared for burial by the brothers who were already mourning him.

It is interesting seeing Seren trying to take the long world view (that view that we've already seen Ascendants hold through their long lives and the death of all around them). Also interesting to see Buruk grope towards who might have given the sword to Rhulad and come up short. Mind, I'm sure that if we weren't already privy to the knowledge of the Crippled God and hadn't seen that scene involving Rhulad and the Crippled God, then we (well, I!) might be groping towards a similar conclusion... Just goes to show that wrong conclusions can be reached when a lack of knowledge (or long term world view!) is present...

I really enjoy Seren's introspection - especially here her bitter acceptance of the words that Buruk speaks; her realisation that words can cause as much war and pain as swords and spears.

This scene where Rhulad steals the power away from Hannan Mosag and sets himself up as Emperor of the Edur is magnificent. The edge of hysteria in Rhulad's voice, his mocking statement: "Die, Fear, and claw your way back. Then ask yourself if the journey has not changed you." All make this a very powerful scene, where the Edur turn from the idea of peace to the forging of an empire.

It is sometimes ineffective when Erikson writes two scenes one after another where a character muses on something that we already know has taken place i.e. Udinaas thinking: "Kill him, or surrender. And what could make Hannan Mosag surrender? [...] Chop off his hands, sever his head and crush it flat. Burn the rest into dusty ashes. Destroy the monstrosity, for Rhulad Sengar was truly a monster."

Now we have the ant's nest that is the Edur settlement being stirred up by the stick of the delegation's arrival. The First Eunuch shows much sense and knowledge - and quickly establishes which side Seren finds herself on. We're also shown here just how very observant and trustworthy Seren's eyes are, as she describes details about the sword Rhulad now holds - details that Buruk didn't spot.

There are now lots of currents in the prose, lots of depth, lots of things going on that I am not completely clear about but enjoying nonetheless. Like the fact Wither sends Udinaas to Rhulad, but the latter assumes it is his power calling him. And the way that Rhulad states: "There is no need for that, Udinaas. I am not offended by a man's back" as the slave tries to bow his way out of his presence. And the fact that Udinaas now claims the Edur as his master, and steps away from the Letherii.

Also, Rhulad has gained some real gravitas, hasn't he?

And now the delegation finally meet the Edur. I don't know why they let the Prince speak at all! He needs gagging, to be honest. This sparring - this setting out of diametrically opposed positions - is the familiar beginning to a negotiation, so there are no surprises here. This is merely the opening gambits. It intrigues me that Rhulad allows Hannan Mosag to speak, immediately after usurping power.

This is stark writing: "Brother to an emperor. It is Rhulad, yet it is not. I don't know him. And I know him all too well and, Daughter take me, I am frightened most by that." I believe Trull has the right of it.

And now Rhulad shows his true colours in demanding that Mayen become his empress. I haven't liked Mayen but... I pity her.

So. To the third book and war.
Iris Creemers
12. SamarDev
Poor Udinaas. Good - sad - summing up of his last 'adventures'. Rhulad really played his audience, including his brother, well. Talking, steering to the moment Fear asks if he will bring them home. And (with a jump to the end of the chapter), let Fear promise he would give his brother / emperor everything. Of course Fear wouldn't expect this inappropriate demand...

Seren is doing well in the welcoming of the delegation. Funny she thinks of bowing in between the Prince and the First Euneuch as a way of offending none of them. We have already heard some things about the Prince, but his actions don't promise a good intellect and sensitivity to what is and isn't appropriate. Diplomacy is a profession either and he can still learn some. Where would it bring him?

Yes, off to war now...
Tai Tastigon
13. Taitastigon
And after rereading these first two books (again), what irritated me the first time around I now appreciate: This build-up which seems very slow, but is so incredibly systematic in terms of letting everything grow into one big, messy pile of sh*t ready to explode...
karl oswald
14. Toster
ye gods, this chapter. my adrenalin was up after rhulads ressurection, let me tell you, and his usurpation was even more mind-blowing. and SE tells it in such a gripping way. probably one of my favourite scenes in the series.

and you can see right away just how fragile rhulads state of mind is. the way he goes from monologue to solliloquy, his erratic mood. for me, here is where rhulad really becomes a unique character. here is where rhulad loses his cliche and embarks into one of SE's most succesful character arcs. equally as good as karsa to this point, or apsalar/onrack/coltaine/etc.

another immediate change is in rhulads loss of inhibitions. he just takes mayen, and expects absolute obedience. he receives it. very dangerous for someone who has just returned from the dead, i imagine. very dangerous for udinaas too - how important is he to rhulad?
MDW
15. BDG91
I have always thought Rhulad as pathetic rather than tragic because there isn't just one tragic flaw like some of Eriksons other characters (such as Trull and his need to question, which is of course not traditional a flaw but given the context Trull's story is made more tragic because of it) but a wide range of tragic flaws that are slowly amplified through out the story. Not only this but he never truly learns from his mistake and in a sense he has more relation to Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman than say Shakespear's tragic characters. If any of that makes sense haha
MDW
16. djk1978
@14: Why should Rhulad have any inhibitions at this point? We saw two things clearly when he was with the crippled god. One, the cost of increased power will be his death (although dying will be hard). Two, Rhulad shows ambition.

He already knows that he will probably be killed again and that he will return with more power from it. The question is whether his ambition is greater than a fear of dying or indeed returning from dying. At this point I don't think he is concerned about that.
Hugh Arai
17. HArai
And so we see again however much Trull may doubt himself, he saw clearly... or Rhulad would never have taken Mayen from Fear. Demanding Fear accept that is what keeps me from feeling really any pity for Rhulad at all.
MDW
20. endertek
HArai at #17 - perhaps you don't mean to put Fear's sacrifice ahead of Mayen's, but it seems that way from the way you worded this.

The way you say "or Rhulad would never have taken Mayen from Fear" presupposes that Mayen is an object that can be moved from one brother to another as a spoil of conquest. The idea that both Rhulad, Fear (and all the Edur for that matter) don't even think to challenge this demand leaves Mayen as a sacrificial lamb to their new god-king.

Fear presumably had the best possible position of anyone to argue against this and fight for his fiance. He was an older brother, a first sword, and the betrothed. Yet he doesn't fight. What message would this send to Mayen?

I guess I just wanted to point out that if anything turns off sympathy for Rhulad, it should be his treatment of Mayen foremost; Fear only secondarily.
Roger Dover
21. Upwood
As I asked me already in chapter 10, why are they all bowing to Rhulad whitout question? I know there will be clarification over time, but it makes absolute no sense at the moment. He is/was a young soldier and
speaks like a mad ruler. Why would they kneel to him? The words he spoke were not convincing too. As an Edur I would think he became insane. Of course Hanna Mosang has some more knowledge, but it was Fear who knelt first.

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