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 Four of The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (TB).
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.
Mappo and Icarium explore a crevice in a recently uncovered area of desert and find a K’Chain Che’Malle sky keep. Icarium explores a wrecked flier in a lake and finds a K’Chain Short-tail corpse. He thinks a Jaghut arrived to make sure nobody escaped, saying the lake is Omtose Phellack ice and also blood. They decide to explore the keep, though Mappo is worried what Icarium will find.
Cutter’s group reaches an old monastery of D’rek, Worm of Autumn. The priests and animals are all dead.
Felisin asks if Scillara will take care of her; says she feels she’s getting more child-like, and Scillara says she’ll try. They discuss Greyfrog signing to Felisin, her mother, and Karsa’s killing of Bidithal.
A portal opens and an armored Seguleh rider appears, both horse and rider looking dead. He yells at Hood for diverting him, saying he was “on the trail” then tells Cutter everybody in this realm is dead. Heboric calls him Soldier of High House Death and the Soldier salutes him as Treach’s Destriant. The Soldier talks of the Tyrant in Darujhistan, the Seguleh, the Cabal, then says he’s seen enough — “she’s made her position clear” — and exits in search of Skinner, leaving his spear behind.
Icarium and Mappo find a passageway in the keep and discover a central tower with a broken bridge leading toward it. Gravity seems neutralized in the area. They find another bridge and cross. Inside they find a huge cruciform of black wood with a dragon impaled on it via an iron spike. Icarium identifies it as Sorrit, whose aspect was Serc, the warren of the sky.
Apsalar travel Shadow with Telorast and Curdle, arriving at Urko’s place. Inside is a headless skeleton akin to a T-rex, along with three smaller size reconstructed bodies the size of crows. Telorast and Curdle possess the bodies. Urko mistakes Apsalar for Dancer’s daughter, drugs her, then gives her the antidote when she says Dancer possessed her which infuriates him. She realizes Cotillion knows something, which is why he wanted Urko “shaken up.” Urko says she can believe Cotillion when he tells her he’ll leave her alone once she’s done. She leaves.
Taralack Veed follows Dejim Nebahl as it tracks its prey.
Scillara suffers from morning sickness as Greyfrog watches; she thanks him for keeping her secret. Scillara and Cutter talk and he reveals Shadowthrone or Cotillion gave him the job of escorting the group. She’s not happy two gods (Treach and ST) are interested in the group. She deduces a woman is involved as well somehow.
Gregfrog tells Scillara Felisin likes Cutter. He adds the others are having bad dreams and says there is danger approaching.
Leoman and Corabb and the army arrive outside Y’Ghatan. The Falah’d (Vedor) rides out to welcome them, making clear he assumes they are moving on. Leoman tells him they’ll make their stand there and when Vedor laughs Leoman kills him, claiming rule for his own. The ranking officer of Y’Ghatan is Captain Dunsparrow, a Malazan, and he names her his Third, behind only Corabb. She names him the new Falah’d. They ride into the city.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Four
Hmm, the snippet that begins Chapter Four gives a very wild picture of K’rul — someone who is happy for any possibility to exist, as long as they are numerous and varied. So someone who isn’t concerned with good or bad — truly the elemental force that Cotillion referred to when talking about Elder Gods.
It is funny how a stark landscape creates the reaction of curiosity in Icarium. Does anyone else feel that, despite all his potential for violence, Icarium is actually very childlike? He has a natural curiosity, he gambolled like a child in the new sea of Raraku and he is willing to be led by the parental figure of Mappo. Because of his lack of memories, I guess he lives very much in the moment as a child would do.
Heh. I’m sure Icarium isn’t alone in looking at his best mate and wishing they were of the opposite sex so that a “complete” relationship could flourish (y’know, for those who want relationships with the opposite sex!) Thing is, he would lose so much of the relationship with Mappo if this was true. Amusing exchange between them about it, anyhow!
And here is the flipside of Icarium’s curiosity — Mappo’s feeling of dread about Icarium discovering what he shouldn’t And, oh boy, the tragic nature of Mappo’s existence writ large in this quote: “Yes, time. Delays. Follow where he will lead, Mappo Runt. You can do naught else. Until...until what? Until he finally failed. And then, another would come, if it was not already too late, to resume the grand deceit.”
Since it is being mentioned so very clearly and referenced this early, I imagine that maybe I should not get too attached (more than I already am) to Mappo....
Are these magic pouches in which he secures his shoulder pack (Mappo)? Else I can’t see how a pack can be worked thus: “Mappo then, with some effort, pushed the shoulder pack into this last one. Tightened the strings. He stuffed that pouch into the next smaller and followed by forcing that one into the small belt-pouch, which he tied at his waist.” I know, in the grand scheme of things, this little section is just not that important, but it made me go “huh” so I am duly reporting my “huh” to you chaps and chapesses!
Has Erikson ever used anything like “man-heights” before this book? I thought he worked with things like feet and inches and stuff like that! This really jarred at me as I read.
Hmm, we’ve seen on a number of occasions that those who people this world should beware disturbing rocks for fear of what might have been trapped beneath them!
He could “smell cold ice”? Jaghut then?
Oooh! The buried machinery and the sky keep all whispers K’Chain Che’Malle instead! Rather dangerous for Icarium and Mappo to be investigating — or is it dangerous for whatever might be trapped down there with them? I like how Icarium recognises his own pieces of machinery — but, with the gaps in his memory, how can he? Some signature piece that he uses?
Interesting that the tales Mappo have heard “said little of who or what had opposed them,” them being the K’Chain Che’Malle. So much warfare and peoples have come and gone, and the tales faded with them. It feels so genuine and real reading this series, knowing we’re coming in at just one point in a very rich history. Also, the only peoples Mappo can conceive of competing with the K’Chain Che’Malle are implied to be the Jaghut, the Forkrul Assail and the Elder Gods. No mention of the three Tiste people.
Okay, so the stumpy tail thing implies that this isn’t usual with the K’Chain Che’Malle, so we’re looking at something similar, possibly related, but different. Did Icarium learn his mechanical skills from these people?
Very interested in Heboric’s mutterings here and something I am going to file! “Autumn awaits, and the seasons are askew, twisting to avoid all the unsheathed knives. Yet the prisoners of the jade, they are forever trapped. There, in their own arguments. Disputes, bickering, the universe beyond unseen — they care not a whit, the fools. They wear ignorance like armour and wield spite like swords. [...] So it’s a broken world, why should I care about that?” WHO is trapped in the JADE STATUES?
Ouch. Cutter really is starting to change, with his uncaring attitude to the dead in the monastery!
Hmm, is this another temple/religious place of D’rek that has had everyone within it killed? Who wants to commit such vengeance against D’rek? It’s a “she,” from what Heboric says. He also says the word “spite” in his tirade — just a coincidence?
Do you suppose that followers of the Worm of Autumn would appreciate the fact that their flesh upon death is left seething with worms?
So Greyfrog is aware that Scillara is pregnant (I think we already knew that) — why isn’t he telling anyone about it? Why isn’t she? The fact that Felisin is looking for mothering from Scillara — a person wondering whether to sell her own unborn child — is so very sad. But it might also provide the means for Scillara discovering her maternal instinct. I do hope so. These two broken women so need to have something good in their futures.
A very interesting scene showing the Soldier of Hood and High House Death, on the trail of Skinner (who we saw mentioned as being a rather amazing fighter amongst the Crimson Guard/Avowed). But Hood has now ensured (so a god meddling in the world of mortals AGAIN) that Cutter is going to head for Darujhistan thanks to what he heard. Love that the soldier is one of the Segulah, but, as pointed out, a rather garrulous version of such.
Now... what to make of the names/connections between the Segulah, the Tyrant and the T’orrud Cabal in Darujhistan? What the hell is going on there?
The machinery and the sky keeps of the K’Chain Che’Malle seem to demonstrate an ability with technology that is absent from this world and other races. It almost feels like something at the level of our technology put into the Malazan world, with mechanical flyers and forcefields protecting chambers. What do you think as to how advanced the technology is?
Awww, Icarium wanting to fly is much like Hopper the wolf from the Wheel of Time.
A dragon! Dead! Who killed the dragon? What is impaling dragons and preventing the warren from being used? At least, I guess that is what happens when you kill the dragon aspected to a warren? And such danger in Icarium remembering things like this...
And a quick switch to Curdle and Telorast bickering about the throne they sensed. I wish that Apsalar would pay more attention and pin them down about it. She’s too uncaring about the bigger picture right now — she’s just doing her job for Cotillion in order to find her version of peace.
And again she doesn’t press the ghosts after this exchange:
“That thread of Shadow felt...wrong,” she said.
“Oh yes [...] It’s sickly. All the outer reaches are. Poisoned, rotting with chaos. We blame Shadowthrone.”
“Why not? We hate him.”
Is it that Apsalar doesn’t care to know? Or is it that she thinks she won’t get a straight or truthful answer? [Bill: I think a little of both.]
Ah! Urko again! Nice to see him. Now I can see to an extent why people were so vehement about there being no romance between Apsalar and Cotillion, what with Urko seeing her as Cotillion’s daughter.
I absolutely love the scene where Telorast and Curdle jump into those little bony skeletons and begin hopping about on the tabletop!
It’s really great seeing another perspective of Dancer, from the point of view of one of his Malazan peers: “I’m not surprised he’s the Patron of Assassins. He was the most feared killer in the empire. More than Surly, who was just treacherous. Or Topper, who was just cruel. I suppose those two still think they won. Fools. Who now strides among the gods, eh?”
Clear mention that we’re likely to see a lot of the old guard who drowned: “We all made the pact...to drown.”
It’s nice that Apsalar gains confirmation that, despite the fact a god is involved (or an ascendant), she will still be able to vanish once everything is done — that Cotillion will keep his word. Of course, that does rely on Cotillion being around when everything is done!
I’m not sure I caught the subtleties in the exchange between Urko and Apsalar where she conveys that Dancer wanted Urko shaken up some. Is his shifty gaze just because he knows that Cotillion is essentially making it clear that Urko can’t hide away forever? Not quite sure exactly what is going on there.
Why is Taralack Veed an outlawed Gral? What did he do to earn that?
Ha, loving his very specific number of avowed enemies.
He’s not exactly a charmer, is he?
I am really disturbed by Scillara’s thoughts about her child. I’m hoping that this perspective gets entirely turned around by the end of her story, and that she finds benefits of being with child. The fact that she is feeling contentment is promising.
Scillara certainly sees more than Cutter — she recognises the fact that a woman has put him in his state, and she is the first to query the fact that at least two gods are currently pushing them around. I’m not too sure about the fact that Scillara is expressing an interest in Cutter, although it might let him recover from the effect that Apsalar had on him.
I’m glad that Cutter is a little bit repulsed by the idea of Felisin being attracted to him. I can’t help but see her as a child.
What on earth does Greyfrog mean here? And is it about Scillara? “Greyfrog is already Sentinel Circler to soft-curved, large-breasted goddess-human.” Goddess? [Bill: Yes, I think he’s talking about Scillara.]
Anyone else now getting worried about lifting up any rocks? Honestly, the amount of things kept under rocks in the Malazan world and the various continents makes it seem as though you turn up any rock and find something... Bit over-used for me.
And so Leoman enters Y’Ghatan. Let the games begin.
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Four
I’m kind of partial to a god who loves “possibility,” as opposed to those who prefer to close possibilities down.
Though as usual, it comes with some grayness — that whole “blood was his nectar” bit.
Yet another scene to add to the “the past will out” theme that runs throughout the series
Speaking of “layers” — that line by Icarium when he examines the rock has its own layering to it: “Immense pressures . . . And then, violence.” Let ‘s just say, wait for it.
What a knife edge poor Mappo walks, indulging Icarium’s curiosity as his friend, while always fearing as his “guide.” A sharp edge nicely represented by the sharp-edged cliffs they walk. And then later “That was a precipice they had both clung to not so long ago.” Though that tension is cut so nicely with that great repartee about Mappo being a woman.
Well Amanda, let’s just say you’re right to worry about Mappo. The Nameless One’s ritual gave us pretty strong hints as to who was going to be targeted. And you’ve already met the “another would come.”
Mappo’s Magical Pouch is apparently a warren — the fabled endless bag of D & D adventurers everywhere! Back in Deadhouse Gates, Pust is with Icarium and Mappo and speculates it might be “another fragment [of the shattered Emurlahn] trapped within it.”
Yes, “ice” always carries some weight every time we see it in this series. Jaghut indeed.
Good job with the stubby tail and Icarium. We’ll learn more about the distinction between short-tails and long-tails. Enough to say now that the distinction is highly important. And yes, there are some questions about Icarium and K’Chain.
Again, we get one of those signature Erikson moves as we change scenes, in this case we move from fissured, broken desert rock to “parched, broken wasteland. And a reminder of where we started — a D’rek temple. I like how this is a bit of a running mystery below the plot proper — you can almost see it as a trailer for an Agatha Christie movie: “WHO is killing the priests of D’rek?!” Note the similarity of “rot” to the other scene from the beginning.
So here we have another Heboric and Felisin journey turning into a nightmare. Both parallels and contradictions arise. Hard to imagine, for instance, Felisin Elder asking to be taken care of, though one wonders at how different things might have gone had she. Or know someone was trying.
As for why Greyfrog is keeping it a secret, it seems just a) general respect and b) especial respect for a mother-to-be.
And another running question that is easy to lose track of in the page-to-page plot: what is Heboric going to do at the statue? What will be the effects? Can he free those in the jade statues? Should he? What would that mean?
That just a great visual (cinematic?), the appearance of Hood’s Soldier — arriving out of a portal at full gallop; exposed muscles, bones, tendons on both horse and rider; the horse rearing; weapons a-plenty, armor a-flying. Would love to see that on-screen. And to hear his threat to eat frog-legs merely out of “spite.”
Cotillion’s war between gods is repeated with the Soldier’s “The pantheon is riven.”
I could tell you about the Seguleh, Tyrant, the Cabal, and Darujhistan, Amanda, as I’ve read Orb, Sceptre, Throne, but then I’d have to kill you. But we’ll get there. We’ll get there....
Speaking of cinema, you can almost see the camera panning over to the Soldier’s spear and lingering there with the requisite important music. What will happen with this spear? Was it truly accidental? Will it be needed against the Tyrant? Will Cutter take it there? Will it matter to the Soldier when/if he meets Skinner? And will we get to see that meeting?
The K’Chain technology is in fact “not of this world” as their arrival was a seeming “invasion.” And wouldn’t you like to read that story? But what we do get from this is the Tyrant appears destined to return and the Seguleh are his army. The phrasing doesn’t make it clear though — are they being “held in readiness” for/by the Tyrant and to deal with this eventual return?
Who doesn’t love the idea of miserly Icarium?
Funny how you got the “Awww” reaction from the flight conversation. I get the “that’s so sad” reaction, with poor Mappo saying such dreams are for children only. This struck me as so sorrowful.
It’s been a while since we’ve had discussion of “balance” so it’s nice to get this reminder from their conversation regarding the K’Chain:
Between order and chaos. An inner dichotomy, conflicting impulses.
The contradictions evident in all intelligent life . . .
And back to some more layered language. When Mappo grabs Icarium off the bridge where gravity seems to be neutralized, he tells him “You weighed nothing, when I had you in my grip. As light as a mote of dust.” Think of that — Icarium as no longer, for a few quick moments only, no longer a burden to Mappo. If only that had lasted longer....
I like how the “spiked ball of iron” in Mappo’s hand is echoed by the iron spike impaling the dragon.
Still lots of info to come on the dragon, and not too far off, so we can hold off on that discussion a bit. I will say though that our shift from the dragon to Shadow isn’t as jarring as it may first appear.
That’s our second reference early on to Apsalar being Imass. Are we just getting more worldbuilding background or are we being set up for something?
I always did love the “we all drowned story” — just so silly.
Even back then, we learn, even as the most feared killer of them all, it appears Dancer was “sensitive.”
Glad you liked the scene with Telorast and Curdle possessing the bodies Amanda; you’ll be seeing lots more of them in those bodies.
I like how immediately protective Urko is of her, (despite the drugging), how angry he is that Dancer would corrupt her by teaching her assassination. Then even angrier that he possessed her. But despite that, he is positive Cotillion can be trusted to keep his word. Which tells us a lot about him (though I’d say nothing we wouldn’t already guess).
Urko does eventually rouse himself, though I’m not sure I’d say we could see coming what’s coming from him.
Poor Veed — live by the charm of the viper, die by the charm of the viper I guess (not literally die of course).
Clearly, the rustleaf does not come with a warning about smoking it and pregnancy....
I find it the “evil, demon” child that makes her feel happy funny, but wonder if it smacks at all of a man’s perspective on pregnancy — that “dreamy, pleasant state . . . blissful stupidity.” Anyone?
“Full of life” Get it? Get it?
I guess it takes a woman to recognize the effects of a woman, huh?
If only Scillara knew of Hood’s Soldier, she’d count that as three gods interested in them.
Maybe I’m misreading this, but I find the “demon’s” or “monster’s” view “signifier of higher intelligence, acknowledgment of community interests” a bit ironic considering all the human lack of such acknowledgment.
“Our new city,“ Corabb said grinning. ”We shall defend it with our lives."
Leoman shot him an odd look . . .
Misgivings indeed. Misgivings indeed.....
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.