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 the first half of Chapter Twenty-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.
A quick note on our schedule for the next couple of weeks:
Friday 2/24: 2nd half of Chapter Twenty-Five
Wednesday 2/29: Epilogue and Comments on the whole book
Friday 3/2: Steven’s Q&A thread
Wednesday 3/7: Break
Friday 3/9: Break
Wednesday 3/14: Begin Bonehunters
All set? Good!
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part One
Shurq worries about Gerun Eberict going after Tehol and Kettle’s silence. She finds Ublala in the crypt and he says he has to go because of the Seregahl (the Tarthenal gods). Before leaving, he tells her he loves her, which makes her think he believes he isn’t coming back. She gets Harlest out of his sarcophagus and tells him they have to go to a cemetery.
Rhulad is still screaming after being reborn and Trull says Udinaas needs to be hunted down. Mosag tells Rhulad Udinaas has betrayed him, as some predicted, and only Rhulad’s kin can be trusted. Rhulad interrupts and says they are “nothing” to him. Fear tries to interrupt, but Rhulad stops him and orders Mosag against the watching Letherii soldiers. Uruth tells Trull Mayen has run away and he orders Theradas and Midik Buhn to find her and doesn’t object when Theradas says they will kill Udinaas if they find him. Mosag’s sorcery wipes out the Letherii soldiers and watching civilians, even those inside buildings, until Rhulad orders it done, telling Mosag his “secret god is so eager. Rhulad decrees this a “day of suffering” and orders them on to the Eternal Domicile. Trull realizes he is lost to them.
Iron Bars arrives at the Azath to find the Seregahl. He attacks and wounds one. He informs them he killed the Pack already and that gives them a bit of pause. They move to attack and he smiles.
Bugg heads toward the Azath, hoping Iron Bars didn’t foolishly go in on his own. He senses a “convergence” and begins running in the other direction.
Eberict is told by one of his killers that they’ve killed two of Tehol’s bodyguard brothers. Mayen comes running down the street and they give chase. A group of Edur attack and as his men take them on, Eberict continues on Mayen’s trail. Though his focus is Tehol, he plans on capturing Mayen then raping and killing her later. He closes on her.
The last bodyguard tells Tehol Eberict has killed his brothers and is on his way. They head for the warehouse across the street for better defense.
Just before Eberict grabs Mayen, she stabs herself in the chest with her knife. Before he can react, Eberict is grabbed by a mixed Nerek/Tarthenal who tells him he’s doing this for what “Eberict did to her,” then proceeds to kill Eberict slowly. The mixed blood is Unn, relation of the grandmother (Urusan) whose funeral Bugg presided over earlier in the book — the woman killed by Eberict because she was begging for coin.
Tehol sees Mayen stepping toward him before she falls. Edur warriors appear and kill the last brother bodyguard, then don’t believe Tehol when he tells her he didn’t kill Mayen. They start to beat him horribly.
Hull, from not too far away, sees the beating and worried begins to head toward them when he is interrupted by one of Buruk’s Nerek servants. The Nerek tells Hull he has been “judged” for choosing to side with Rhulad and betrayal. He continues, saying Hull’s heart is “poisoned, because forgiveness is not within you.” Hull is stabbed to death from behind as the Nerek weeps.
Chalas steps out of the shadows and tries to tell the Edur he saw what happened, that Mayen stabbed herself. He covers Tehol and they begin to beat him as well. At the end, a skull is stomped hard enough to kill.
The Errant feels Mosag’s sorcery and nudges it down into the deep swamp where it could do no more harm. He senses Mosag didn’t feel his manipulation of the sorcery and notes Mosag’s wrecked flesh. He watches the Edur warriors head off after Mayen and “grieves” in his knowledge of where that action will lead. Using his power, he watches Iron Bars fighting the Seregahl, marveling at Iron Bar’s ability while knowing he can’t last much longer. He heads toward the Eternal Domicile where he expects a convergence/sequence of tragic events. He believes his nudging is over and that all he has to do, he hopes, is observe.
Ublala finds Corlo outside the Azath helping Iron Bars. Ublala tells Corlo the Tarthenal pray to the gods to stay away. He heads in to help Iron Bars.
Udinaas has been cut to pieces as he’s crossed the city, killing 30 or more Soletaken and a half-dozen Edur, and is kept alive only by the Wyval and the Wraith. They approach the Azath and enter and head to the “barrow of the Master” and dig down, the Wyval crawling free of Udinaas’ body.
Kettle, sitting on the bank of the swamp still, sees the Wyval vanish into the water. Udinaas’ body lies on the bank, a wreck and the wraith hovering over it asks Kettle for help. The wraith tells Kettle a drop or two of her blood will revive him. When Kettle asks if it would not do the same for the Wraith, it tells her “do not tempt me.” Kettle agrees.
Iron Bars is having trouble, then Ublala shows up and “the odds were getting better.”
Bugg finds the Edur stomping on Chalas and Tehol and kills thirteen of them instantly and violently. The last is Theradas whom Bugg tells, “I am sending [you] home. Not your home. My home.” Theradas disappears through a portal into water and is killed by the pressure (and I’ll point out here that we have met Theradas before this novel. Anyone? Bueller?). Bugg senses his cry (as Mael) had been heard around the world, and noted. He kneels and picks up one of the bodies, then walks away.
The Edur stand before the entrance to the Eternal Domicile, Trull thinking of the poisonous nature of power, of arrogance and certitude that had infected the Letherii and will infect the Edur. He believes had Udinaas been there earlier, it could have been avoided. Mosag tells Rhulad he senses someone or something ahead and tells Rhulad he and his K’risnan will lead.
Brys sees the movement of the Edur toward them. He is joined by Brizad who tells him the Edur are right behind, that Moroch Nevath is dead, and that Gerun Eberict “pursues a women.” Asked by Brys who he is, Brizad replies “a witness.” The Ceda stands and when Brizad compliments his actions today and Brys says the Ceda has done nothing, Brizad responds that not only has he dealt with the sea-demon, but he has prepared for this moment so that all the power of the Cedance will pass through him. Mosag tells the Ceda to step aside as Lether has fallen. The Ceda says it is irrelevant. When Mosag mocks him, the Ceda asks him to find his sea-demon, which infuriates Mosag. The Ceda’s sorcery strikes.
Trull watches as only Mosag and Binadas live to try and fight off the Ceda. Binadas is knocked down in a spray of blood and Fear pulls him back. Mosag fights on alone.
As Brys and Brizad watch, the Ceda’s power seems to be winning, and Brys foresees Mosag dying and then the Cedance killing the entire Edur race.
Trull watches Mosag become even more deformed as he pushes against the Ceda’s power, his grey chaotic sorcery moving closer to the Ceda.
The Ceda knocks aside Mosag’s sorcery and the Cedance’s white flame sweeps toward Mosag.
Fear shouts something to Trull, who watches Mosag failing. Trull realizes Fear is telling him to kill the Ceda with his spear or else all the Edur will die. Trull, though he wishes not to, throws his spear and hits the Ceda.
Brys steps forward, but Brizad tells him the Ceda is dead.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Five, Part One:
Dust is a word we’ve seen so often now — in relation to the T’lan Imass, the name of one of the novels in the Malazan series, and those columns of dust we saw in the previous chapter. It’s also been spoken about when considering Raraku. I think we can all agree that it isn’t usually used in a friendly manner.
Tehol has really set himself up to be this helpless sort, hasn’t he? I mean, most people are considering his fate to be fairly forlorn and take their time looking after him — but we’ve seen flashes of that towering intellect and ability to get himself out of trouble. Also, you know, he has a god as a manservant and Bugg seems entirely content to work under Tehol — that says a lot about the man, as far as I am concerned.
Kettle built a little family around herself as a dead child — as she returns to life and we learn more about what inhabits her, she seems to be losing that support. Forkrul Assail is likely to close a lot of doors to her, I’d have thought?
Ahh! I sometimes forget that Ublala has Tarthenal blood! His reaction here suggests that the Tarthenal gods are now free enough to touch their followers. Sweet that he declares love to Shurq, non?
The treachery of a slave... It is so awful to know that these events now were because of one Feather Witch trying to buy her freedom with a Wyval, for, if Udinaas had not been infected, he would have been free to help Rhulad in his moment of madness. I do love that these incidental occurrences (or not-so-incidental, in the whole Wyval thing) are all tied into the tapestry of the Malazan books. Everything links so seamlessly with everything else.
I feel sorry for Udinaas, if he is caught by the Edur. After all, what he does is prompted by that within him, because Silchas Ruin needs help to escape the Azath and help destroy the Tarthenal gods....
Also, I can’t help but contemplate on the differences between the two sets of three brothers as we embark on this final showdown. After that one warm moment, the Edur brothers are now being ripped apart, Rhulad saying: “You are all as nothing to us. Liars, cheats, betrayers! All of you!” I mean, he is going mad, but still... On the other hand, the Letherii brothers seem to have managed to retain some sort of bond, what with Brys sending bodyguards to help Tehol and Hull seeking the forgiveness of his youngest brother.
Huh! Are we seeing here where people like Karsa and Bellurdan came from in this quote? “Tartheno Toblakai. Hood-damned Fenn.” Since we know how easily (?) Karsa took down a Hound of Darkness, I can quite see why Iron Bars would be feeling a mite trepidatious....
This is a fantastic scene where Iron Bars faces off against the five Seregahl — from the moment where the one whose eye he puts out shakes himself and stands to join the fray again to this quote, which gave me a genuine belly laugh: “Well, I’ve already killed a god today,” Iron Bars said “If I’d known this was going to be a day for killing gods, I might have paced myself better.”
Hmm, I’m not sure quite everyone would agree with this! “Good things came of being nice to a Jaghut, something the T’lan Imass never understood.”
Oh man, and then we see Bugg reflect on the fact that Iron Bars should have only gone in against the Seregahl in support, not on his own! Just after watching him kick off against them....
Now there was some misdirection! When Erikson used the word “brothers” at the start of this scene with Eberict, I thought it was the Beddict brothers. *breathes sigh of relief* I could absolutely believe it of Erikson to have the Beddicts die offscreen — the same as we came in right at the end of a siege before now.
Gerun Eberict really is a foul little man. That is all. It’s rare that I’m actively glad a character dies in a book, but I’d say this occasion counts.
Shock follows shock follows shock. My god, the Edur’s treatment of Tehol... That scene as he gets beaten! Immediately followed by Hull’s death. Oh god! I mean, I knew things really weren’t going to end well for many of the people I’ve followed, but Hull... No chance to make amends, to seek forgiveness. At least he never saw that it was his brother being kicked to death. Small mercies. It isn’t clear here whether Tehol actually dies. I have not read further yet. I am keeping my fingers so firmly crossed that he survives.
I admire Chalas very much here.
How true is this: “A most egregious error was in the offing...”
Hmm, I know the Errant is more of the subtle manipulation type but he seems to be doing bugger all right now about anything...
Oh! Well, now this just causes everything to make more sense — the Tarthenal pray for their gods to stay away! Geez, just what does that say about them?!
Now we lose Udinaas. It’s carnage, this chapter....
Or do we? Wither really doesn’t want Udinaas to die, does he? And that is a powerful moment when Wither turns down the chance of life in order to allow Udinaas to take it.
It’s really odd seeing the Avowed’s curse taking effect here and bringing life/energy back to his limbs as Iron Bars watches Ublala take on his own gods. You know something? Even though he has a bit part in this tale, I have a really warm affection for Ublala — he’s so innocent-seeming and so sensitive. A good example of how a peripheral figure can worm their way into your affections.
So Mael steps out of the shadows and back into the game, thanks to Bugg’s grief over Tehol’s death. I guess it is death? But I’m very much of the “don’t be convinced until you’ve seen a body” party by now, after five Malazan novels!
I love this quote:
His roar had been heard, he knew. Upon the other side of the world, it had been heard. And heads had swung round. Immortal hearts had quickened.
I’m sincerely glad that someone knew what the Ceda had achieved for them in the battle for Letheras, and told Brys of it. And I fiercely like that moment where Kuru Qan asks Hannan Mosag to seek for his sea demon, and the latter discovers what has been done. Very cool.
Even with all the titanic battles featuring sorcery we’ve already seen, this one takes them all — the battle between Hannan Mosag and Kuru Qan. This is simply amazing, a primal struggle using godlike powers. And I think I hate Trull a little bit for what he did. I know that he was defending his own people, his family. But I also know how much he questions the war that his people became embroiled in. I know he disliked the motivations behind invading the Letherii lands. So to see him here kill the Ceda is somehow... disappointing.
Which is a foul taste to have as we leave the re-read at this point until Friday....
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Five, Part One:
This chapter begins with a nice job of reminding us/preparing us for the convergence of events to come: Eberict going after Tehol, Tehol’s bodyguard brothers, Kettle absent at the Azath because she’s waiting on Silchas, the Tarthenal gods and Iron Bars. It’s a nice concise introduction. I do like that little bit of comic relief with Harlest’s “Aarrgh! Hiss!...” Partially because it is funny, but also because I know we don’t get a lot to smile out from here on in.
As one can see by that sudden shift to “a pool of darkening blood.” Or the froth on Rhulad’s mouth. Or the “blood-smeared gold, matted bear fur, sword-blade threaded through bits of human meat and intestines.”
You’re right, Amanda, on the contrast between the brothers Sengar and Beddict. This sundering of the Sengar brothers is made all the more poignant by that scene we just witnessed earlier where we saw the potential of their relationship, what could have been. Though of course we’ve always known where it was going. What I find interesting and had forgotten is that while this is the beginning of the final sundering, the first drawn sword that comes between two of them comes between Rhulad and Fear, not Rhulad and Trull or even Fear and Trull.
And what is in those mysterious sacks?
I do like how the metaphors are piling up: the way Mosag and K’risnan are becoming more misshapen, the references to addiction, slavery, betrayal.
I’m with you, Amanda, on the Iron Bars fight scene and especially that line, “If I’d known this was going to be a day for killing gods...“ I especially love that he killed a god the Tarthenal could not. I also enjoy that Iron Bars lets them think he killed the Pack on his own. And what a great closing line to the scene:
“Look,” one whined, "he’s smiling.”
That line from Bugg about the Jaghut reminds me of just how much our views on the Jaghut have been turned from how they were originally thought. Not a bad thing to recall as we move on through this series — the way things can get turned so around.
And that’s a great bit of suspense here, leaving us wondering what could worry Bugg so much that he’s willing to leave the Tarthenal gods — who have obviously been built up to be a major, major threat.
When Crillo talks about the one brother being “cut to pieces” with a grin, I didn’t remember what happened save that some of Gerun’s men died, and I thought “Boy, I really hope he’s one of them.”
Nice little set-up there with the line “it wouldn’t do to run into a company of Tiste Edur right now.” No. No it wouldn’t.
And boy is Erikson stacking the deck on how we feel about Eberict at this point. Not enough that he’s going after Tehol. Not enough that he wants to kill Mayen. Not even enough he wants to rape her first. But we get to listen in as he thinks of having “the lads have a go too.” Even worse, he’s going to give Crillo (Crillo!) first “go” as a reward for good behavior. Anyone going to be sorry when this guy gets it? Anyone? And we didn’t even get to the part where he’s completely psychotic about killing ugly people to beautify the city. Or the part where he abandons his men. Okay, how about now — anyone going to be sorry he gets it? How about when he mentions his poisoned sword? No? Shocker!
There are few scenes more difficult in this series to bear than this scene with Tehol getting stomped. There are some that are so sad, but I’m not sure there are many or any where the effect goes on for so many lines, where you’re wincing each and every time for so long.
And for first time readers, I’m curious — how many had forgotten completely about those two Nerek? I know I had by now the first time I read this. (Maybe even the second time as well.) And while I was pretty positive Hull wasn’t going to make it by the end, I didn’t expect it to come this way or so abruptly. I’m also curious what people think about the Nerek act here. After all, one could make the argument that Hull is doing them a favor. What do you all think of their judgment and their sentence and how it is carried out? On a larger scale (or maybe we can save this for our wrap-up) what you think of Hull generally as a character.
And it is sadness upon sadness, as what befalls Chalas is just heart-breaking. And it’s an interesting contrast/convergence here — one man killed for betrayal, one killed for loyalty.
While we’re on Chalas, I’d also say there’s something special about these books for me in how even the “redshirts” evoke grief. I feel terrible over Chalas’ death, despite the lack of page time he gets. I feel bad over the brother bodyguards’ deaths, despite the lack of page time and near-muteness. That kind of sorrowing over such minor characters is quite rare in my reading experience and I wonder what evokes it in Malaz. Part of it is Erikson’s ability to fill in a full-fleshed character in just a few words or paragraphs. And part of it I think is the immersion in such a detailed, lengthy world so that everyone feels a bit more real than in other works. And part of it I think is just the cumulative effect of so much focus on the “little man (and woman)” so that it just creates this resonance, this accretion of feeling associated to each and every character no matter how small. Any thoughts?
Enjoy this moment of the Errant doing good, when he diverts the malignant sorcery. Just saying.
So much violence and pain and death and suffering and cruelty in this chapter. And yet, balanced against that, so much that is glorious: Chalas’ sacrifice, the Wraith’s sacrifice, Tehol’s bodyguards’ sacrifice, Bugg’s grief, Iron Bars’ willingness to sacrifice.
As Odysseus once learned, do not anger a sea god. Never a good idea.
And who has heard that roar? And just pause on that closing image of the scene a while, Bugg walking away with Tehol in his arms. Just hold it and savor.
Glad you have a warm feeling for Ublala Amanda; he’s not done!
Trull’s thoughts upon entering the Eternal Domicile are a nice encapsulation of so many of the basic Malazan themes: the pitfall of “certainty” and the horrors that can ensue from it, the poisonous nature of power, the constant willful obliviousness to and ignoring of the past and the almost inevitable terrible result. And specific to this book, what has been intimated all along — that by winning the Edur will lose; they will become what they defeat or worse
Oh the Ceda. How can you as a reader not mourn his death? Yet hasn’t he been a tool that has allowed Lether to do what it has done? And if he wins, will the magic do what Brys says — wipe out every Edur, all of them? And is that right? Is that something to root for? But still, who doesn’t grieve for that funny old man?
And Amanda’s right; it’s hard not to hate Trull for doing what he does. Despite knowing the alternative. Despite knowing his own unwillingness.
And if only that foul taste would get washed out by what is to come....
By the way folks, we’ve been told that as in the past, Steven will be taking questions from folks regarding the book. He’ll be responding on March 2nd (at least that’s the plan) so think up those questions and keep checking for that thread!
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.