Fri
Apr 13 2012 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: The Bonehunters, Chapter Eight

The 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 Eight 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.

Chapter Eight

SCENE ONE

Paran rides through plague-ridden Seven Cities and thinks back to when Kruppe visited him in the Darujhistan Azath House and suggested he come here and do so quickly to deal with problems, some of which have already “hatched.” As he passes a barrow, a Jaghut female — Ganath — frees herself. She tells him one of her bindings has been broken and she needs to repair it, but then senses a nearby sea and decides to take a bath first. Paran is heading there and so the two go together.

SCENE TWO

Apsalar rides through yet another village wiped out by plague. She sense great death from Y’Ghatan and decides to travel there via Shadow warren.

SCENE THREE

In the Imperial Warren, Kalam, Stormy, and Quick Ben climb out of the pit to find Cotillion has left them a feast. Quick Ben and Kalam worry over things until Stormy tells them they think too much, if they face something too big to fight they should find something bigger than them to do the fighting, and they should know that Shadowthrone and Cotillion always win because they never fight fair.

SCENES FOUR through NINE

We pass through several vignettes involving various soldiers as they deal with their near-death experience. None of them can sleep and one thinks it is because they all want to wait to see the sun which they never thought they’d see again.

SCENE TEN

At the Raraku Sea, Paran tells Ganath he is the Master of the Deck and she compares him to the old Master of the Tiles — the Errant. She adds his worshipers kept him drinking blood and so to try and deny them the Errant became the god of change whose enemy was stagnation. She warns Paran he too will be worshiped and will lose his innocence. Paran calls forth an army of the dead then calls out the Bridgeburners amongst them, including Hedge. He tells them he wants them to summon from their side the Deragoth so they can deal with Dejim.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eight

Usually after events as explosive as that in the Malazan novels, I’m preparing to read a short but sweet epilogue and then have a week or so break to digest what I’ve experienced. As in, usually that would have been the end of the book. Makes me wonder what Erikson can possibly do to top it in this book...

Anyway, Chapter Eight, and a rather ominous inclusion at the start of the chapter: “Darker plains lie beyond.” Really?

The observation from Paran about the fact that the future is likely to happen without any efforts from him to shape it is immediately followed by a concrete example of this as he then observes the track of the plague sent by Poliel.

If Poliel is gaining power from all that poisoned blood and death, it begs the question why she hasn’t done this before? Because she didn’t have a suitable ally?

A little deliberate misdirection by Erikson? “Assuming, of course, that such a greater scheme existed.” We have a few more books yet — I’m thinking there probably is a greater scheme!

Hmm, having picked out the order/chaos quote from the previous chapter, we now see this: “This war among the gods would implode into a maelstrom of chaos.” So who do we know who would welcome chaos, who would foster it? Because I’m thinking they’ve got a lot to answer for in the current situation.

So lovely to see Kruppe again, it has been a while since we’ve encountered his particular brand of humour. Here we see him chirpily entering an Azath House to have breakfast alongside the current Master of the Deck of Dragons and an Undead Jaghut Tyrant.

I am having to get used to Kruppe again though — the fact that you almost gloss over his words because of the tone and miss items that are crucial. I can try and pick things out of what he’s saying, but I’m sure I’m being offered red herrings and misdirections all the way through. Like this: “Hood, at the very centre of things, oh yes, and that is why you must hasten, forthwith, to Seven Cities.” I mean, how about Hood as a bad guy? Someone who is generating conflict in order to present himself with more power through death?

And is Y’Ghatan the shell that Kruppe refers to when he says: “One particularly large shell is about to be broken, and will have broken by the time you arrive, which means it is as good as broken right now...” Or is this to do with Icarium, or some other thing we’ve seen hints of so far?

Finally this: “Even the gods cast shadows, Master of the Deck. But what do shadows cast?” Is Kruppe worried about what Cotillion and Ammanas are up to? Or maybe Edgewalker?

It is very sweet that Paran was so pleased to see Apsalar on his travels.

Oh, hang on. The breaking of the shell must be Dejim Nebrahl, surely?

Heh, this meeting between Paran and Ganath comes closest to traditional travelogue fantasy — a chance encounter and then a reason for traveling on today. (Although this reason — having a bath — must be one of the most prosaic!)

I know plague is never fun, never attractive, but Erikson’s seems to be plague on speed — brains cooking in the skull and flesh growing gelatinous at the joints. Just. Not. Nice.

Some nice little reminders here that Apsalar is not as she once was — even without the possession. Obviously she has the use of the Shadow warren, but she also senses the great tragedy at Y’Ghatan and Curdle and Telorast remark on the fact that she has not contracted the plague at all. Apsalar is definitely robust!

Oh, now that he’s suddenly centre stage I am realising what amuses you all about Stormy. Those little speeches of his, where he explains all to Quick Ben and Kalam — breaks everything down to its simplest form — are absolutely great! I especially love this: “Second, the adjunct wanted to know all ‘bout them and where they’re going and all that. Well, the sky keeps ain’t going nowhere, and we already know what’s inside ‘em, so we done our job.” Awesome.

Also, Stormy very effectively reminds Quick Ben and Kalam that Shadowthrone and Cotillion are likely to come out on top, because they “never fight fair.” Interesting stuff.

And finally we come to the survivors of the crawl below Y’Ghatan. I love how Erikson settles us into good humour — the bit with Bottle and the rat biting him — and then suddenly throws in something like this that makes you go absolutely still: “No one had lit a fire. Funny, that, in a sick way.”

It is interesting to wonder whether Koryk is right and some god pulled them all out of almost-certain death. Which god? There are a large number of people there, representing a few different gods. Who is watching over them? And maybe not so much watching over them but ensuring another god doesn’t get them instead. I guess if the war between the gods is starting, then each god will be trying to find as many allies/supporters as possible.

Ha! What a great line: “He’s a Bridgeburner. And gods run when they see a Bridgeburner.”

And another here: “If soldiers thought too much about what they’re doin’, they wouldn’t fight no more.”

In these little snippets, going from soldier to soldier amongst those rescued by Sort and Sinn, there is a rising feeling that these soldiers are not going to break down and give in. They’re talking about walking to join the army, about saving the world, about feeling invincible, about knowing the Adjunct had been forced to leave them. This reflects an army that is more tempered steel than base metal, or certainly is developing that way.

Nice to hear sort of confirmation that Paran fits the same role as the Errant — but at the same time a little terrifying, having seen what he did and how he behaved in the last book. Paran still has so much humanity and we’re essentially told here by the Jaghut that he is going to lose this innocence. He is an ascendant and will become a god as he continues in this role. How very awful to hear something so stark and realise what your future will hold.

So Paran has contracted the Bridgeburners to bring the Deragoth back in order to bring down Dejim Nebrahl. Ooh! Just noticed the fact that Paran says: “Dejim Nebrahl is now free of its geas” — as in, it’s completed the task it was freed to do; kill Mappo Runt. But we didn’t see his body?

Remind me, the Deragoth are the Hounds of Darkness? So two of them won’t be around to come back and hunt, because Karsa killed them. I wonder if that will drag Karsa into this fight?

Anyhow, I really appreciated the structure and pacing of this chapter. It felt like the first scenes after an intermission in the theatre — a quick recap of where everyone was and getting ready to push the story forward again.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eight

That is an ominous close to that opening to the chapter. Note as well we get introduced to some Jaghut before we meet a Jaghut, and actually, we meet that Jaghut herself here in the opening.

Also note the idea of “sorrow untold, unless witnessed,” a word we haven’t heard for a while.

I too miss Kruppe — his humor, his style of language. Always a pleasure when he appears. And the image of him walking by Raest for breakfast is a great intro to his arrival.

Not a bad guess about Hood, Amanda. At his point I’ll just say you did pick out a key line and that Hood is in fact a central player in all this.

Dejim would be my guess as well for the already-broken shell, though it isn’t tough to see that the breaking open of plague might also qualify here.

The encounter between Ganath and Paran is a pretty humorous one. I like her quick-witted response “Freedom needs an excuse?” and his as-quick-witted response “Something, or someone, was imprisoned and, like you just now, it seeks freedom?”

Yeah, Stormy does cut right to it, doesn’t he? And I love that little rant on Shadowthrone and Cotillion, the way he tears through all the hints and obscurities and teasings, shadows, and just says it all clear, succinct, and so matter-of-factly. He’s funny throughout this entire scene, but his humor couldn’t help but be colored a bit darker for me as I think of his return and learning about Truth.

And as we often get, a little reminder of other characters and events — Karsa, the Tiste Edur, Rhulad’s fleets going out in search of a champion. Quick Ben should have a bad feeling about them.

The rat ritual is a wonderful bit — you’re all set to go “awww” as they reverently and respectfully touch the rat, than you’re cracking up a the biting (which has a Malazan army edge to it), then you’re all set to go “awww” again when Bottle says she wouldn’t bite him, then you’re cracking up when she does.

This is a third of these vignette scenes and it makes for a nice triptych. We get the nerves and anxiety before the battle, then we get the little insights into homelands and backstories in the honey dreams, and now we get the post-survival and it’s filled with banter and relationships and most importantly life. The Fourteenth has gone through the classic hero journey — through the underworld and back out — they’ve faced death and faced it down. They’ve also gone through the classic birthing journey — before the battle much was made of nobody knowing what they had in the 14th — they were untested, untried. They were embryonic. Then they travel through dark tunnel into light and in these vignettes we get a sense of maturity, of fullness.

“What do you think we’re all gonna do now?”

“The Fourteenth? Don’t know, save the world, maybe.”

Just maybe.

After Ganath’s words, you can see why some Ascendants actively avoid becoming gods or gaining worshipers. It’s also an interesting perspective on what happened with the Errant, now that we’ve seen him in action. And also a good reminder there of the Forkrul Assail — never want to forget about them.

Another very visual, cinematic scene — the drawing forth of the dead from Raraku Sea. I’d love to see this on the big screen. Though what is problematic is the interior revelation we get so much of in this series. Paran’s musing on the just what these dead reveal, the way they are evidence of “our true roll, our progression of hatred and annihilation.” Man, we just got some “ain’t people great” scenes from the 14th and now Paran has to go bring us down. Man’s a buzz kill.

And here we get one of our themes laid out explicitly again “certitude is the enemy.”

You can almost here the organ music at the end of the chapter “...the Deragoth.” Da Da Duh! Cut to woman screaming silently with back of her hand over her mouth, eyes wide in horror. Yes, Amanda, you’re right on what the Deragoth are. And I am pretty sure we’ll have a lot more discussion on Paran’s plan here to sic the Deragoth on the Dejim when we go forward.

After the emotional depth and length of the prior chapter, we definitely needed this sort of chapter to ease us out.


Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

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.

31 comments
Brian R
1. Mayhem
Hundreds of thousands of ghosts, all joined in laughter, was a sound Ganoes Paran never, ever wanted to hear again.

I have to admit that the idea of the armies of the dead laughing in black humour is one of the creepiest images in a while. It really sends shivers down your spine.
Sydo Zandstra
2. Fiddler
Amanda said:

If Poliel is gaining power from all that poisoned blood and death, it begs the question why she hasn’t done this before? Because she didn’t have a suitable ally?

If you check the High House listings in HoC, you can see that Poliel is fulfilling the role of Consort in High House Chains at the moment, in the Deck of Dragons. There is a questionmark added, but it's a good hint... :)

I'd consider Poliel to be recruited by our Big Crippled Friend, doing something to suit his purposes. It will become clearer later, but the seeds were there.


It is interesting to wonder whether Koryk is right and some god pulled them all out of almost-certain death. Which god? There are a large number of people there, representing a few different gods. Who is watching over them?

If Koryk is right, I suggest to look at who led them out of the tunnels. Look for a God or Goddess there... ;-)


Ha! What a great line: “He’s a Bridgeburner. And gods run when they see a Bridgeburner.”

Yes, and would it surprise any of us if this were to be the case indeed? :D


Ooh! Just noticed the fact that Paran says: “Dejim Nebrahl is now free of its geas” — as in, it’s completed the task it was freed to do; kill Mappo Runt. But we didn’t see his body?

Not necessarily kill Mappo. Just taking him out so the new guide can be installed would be enough to satisfy the Nameless Ones' purposes...
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
@Amanda:
Makes me wonder what Erikson can possibly do to top it in this book...
:-) Wait for it ...
Gibberish
4. Gibberish
What makes me wonder the most in this chapter is the fact, that the azath allows kruppe (a very powerful being - remember caladan brood) to enter. Why doesnt the azath want to entomb him?
Emmet O'Brien
5. EmmetAOBrien
Gibberish@4: Because Kruppe is a different kind of power; not raw magic, smarts.

(I don't reckon Kruppe stays unshaken by Brood's hammer in MoI because he has some sort of magical force field; I reckon he's clever enough to look at the ground, deduce the geology, thence deduce which way it will split if hammered, and pick a place to stand he knows is safe.)
Gibberish
6. Gibberish
Hmm do you really think Kruppe is smarts only? Just because you dont see him do things doesnt mean he cant...
i mean...hes got a mule!
Gibberish
8. Gibberish
Lol bill :-)
because of your answer this came to my mind:

No one sees the things you do
Because I stand in front of you
But you drive me all the time
Put the evil in my mind

Used to sing and say my prayers
Live my life without a care
Now I have become a fool
Because I listened to the mule

How can I change when my mind is a friend
of a Lucifer hid in the ground
Just another slave for the mule


by The Mule by deep purple
Robin Lemley
9. Robin55077
Paran! I am always so happy when Paran shows back up in our story. One of my favorite characters in the series.
:-)
Robin Lemley
10. Robin55077
@ Amanda
"And is Y’Ghatan the shell that Kruppe refers to when he says: “One particularly large shell is about to be broken, and will have broken by the time you arrive, which means it is as good as broken right now...” Or is this to do with Icarium, or some other thing we’ve seen hints of so far?"
I always thought this was a reference to Poliel and the plague being released in Seven Cities.

:-)
Steven Halter
11. stevenhalter
The Errant having been the Master of the Holds and being worshipped with rivers of blood is certainly not a comforting thought to Paran. The acceptence of worshippers seems to have grave consequences--something to file for certain.
karl oswald
12. Toster
i like how this dry, undead humour of hedges comes before the dry, undead humour of fourteen other undead, who apparently began the trend. ;)

on another note, i'm looking at my copy of BH and marvelling at how much is left in it. for some reason, i'm only now realizing just how early the siege is! the entire second half of the book is a thrill ride! buckle up kiddos :)

this is what made it so hard to keep pace with the reread before, lol. damn SE for making such readable material!
Mieneke van der Salm
13. Mieneke
This chapter was a nice breather after the previous wild ride! That scene where Paran summons forth the Bridgeburners gave me shivers. I was wondering though: I'm assuming that Ganath's binding that was undone was part of those binding Dejim. Why doesn't Paran ask for her assistance in re-binding it?
Tricia Irish
14. Tektonica
This was a nice breather, indeed, with lots of good info too.

I, too, love it when Paran is on screen, Robin. ;-) He's the most "normal", or perhaps "modern", of all the characters, I think.

What I mean by that is, he's strattles many worlds; nobility, soldier/officer in the army, ascendent. Although not a mage, he certainly has some resources in that area too. He tends to bring disparate parts of the story together. And I love his inner dialogue. We don't get that from other characters much. Do we?

And he seems like an all-round good guy. He doesn't want to be worshiped, and seems depressed, if not alarmed, by what Ganath tells him about the Errant and his bloody followers. (And we know what all that has done to the Errant's ego through the centuries ;-)) Paran seems nicely worried by that future. He has claimed that he wants to remain "neutral" in all matters, and that he thinks that's why he was chosen to be MotD. Then Ganath tells him that was what the Errant set out to do too, and I think that gives Paran real pause.

Mieneke@13:
I thought Ganath's binding was the Ice that held the frozen Sky Keep of the K'chain che'malle, that Icarium and Mappo were investigating. Of course, I could be totally wrong about that. I thought the binding of Dejim was a very complicated, layered thing, which I thought was done by Draconus, and his various pals.....but again, I could be off base. Someone???
Robin Lemley
15. Robin55077
@ 14. Tektonica
"I thought Ganath's binding was the Ice that held the frozen Sky Keep of the K'chain che'malle, that Icarium and Mappo were investigating."
That is what I always thought as well. Dejim's binding was a lot of different wards and very specific bindings, not ice.

:-)
Steven Halter
16. stevenhalter
Robin@15&Tek@14:
I thought it was the Sky Keep binding also.
Rajesh Vaidya
17. Buddhacat
Yup, it was the Sky Keep binding. As Ganath goes to "repair the damage" later in the book, she gets quite the surprise too. Took me a long time to connect the two, but I think this "surprise" is what Spite is referring to when she is talking to Mappo on the little boat about alliance between the "godless." (whited out)
Amir Noam
18. Amir
While I understand Paran's reason for bringing the Deragoth after Dejim, this plan just seems... off to me.

A recurring theme in these books has been that ancient threats that once could almost not be opposed (e.g. Jaghut Tyrants) would meet their match against "normal" humans if they ever came back. Raest was the prime example in Gardens of the Moon (no longer any need to gather all non-Tyrant Jaghut and T'lan Imass together to bind him). And in the next chapter we'll also see how Dejim fairs pitted against a lone (yet powerful) mage.

In short, given this theme, I don't think that Dejim is as much a threat to the world as he might have been in ages past.
Iris Creemers
19. SamarDev
Apart from Stormy's speeches, I liked the meal Cotillion left for Quick, Kalam and Stormy. It's so surrealistic when they get out of that pit in the ash-warren. Kalam is staring (just as I did), while Stormy just sees the food (or rather, he starts with the wine). And remember: actually Cotillion announced a surprise, just two chapters (and a 140 pages...) ago.
'Cotillion, what did you tie the rope to?'
The god glanced over, smiled. 'A surprise. I must be going. Gentlemen...'
Those short snippets of the survivers are - again - building up so well all the characters. But it's no rambling, not all of it...
'So, what do you think we're all gonna do now?
'The Fourteenth? Don't know, save the world, maybe.'
Paran is always good. He has become Someone - Master of the Deck - but he remains to his humanity. Good to see the interaction with Hedge, and let's see how his idea tot set the Deragoth free work out. And not just for Dejim Nebrahl...
Iris Creemers
20. SamarDev
re modern versus old powers @ 18 Amir
I think you touched there something that was bugging me. Not very hard, but still, it feld weird that such a nasty, old creature has to be set free. It's not really into this series, where it is often more mind and manoevre that solve things that couldn't be solved otherwise before. Maybe something to ask SE?
Gerd K
21. Kah-thurak
@SamarDev
Have you allready read the Bonehunters or is this the first time through for you? Because I think the book kind of answers your question later on.
Darren Kuik
22. djk1978
I think it does too. For now though I think it would be fair to conclude that Ganoes is pretty new to his powers. I don't think he has a full grasp on what he can do yet and what might not be the best idea. He's very much learning on the fly.
Brian R
23. Mayhem
@20, 21, 22
Agreed. Lets just leave it at .. a nasty evil old creature has been unleashed, and those willing to do something about it haven't necessarily thought through all the consequences of intervening.

Just file what happens here for later in the series when similar situations arise.
Darren Kuik
24. djk1978
No one else for quotes yet?

Friend Cutter. Discomfort. Regretting the horns.
karl oswald
25. Toster
"What have you done with the moon?"
She crowed with manic laughter, "It's just my little ritual, darling. How do you like it?"

"You're one of Ardata's aren't you?"
She veered into a mass of spiders.

gotta love the hijinks in the next chapter :)
Tricia Irish
26. Tektonica
"Only fools think the past is invisible."

and.....the incomparable Pust:

"Now the adoration is complete! How could she not adore me! It must be near worship by now. That's why she followed me all the way. She can't get enought of me. It's the same with everyone - they just can't get enought of me......"
Mieneke van der Salm
27. Mieneke
@14, 15, 16 and 17: Ah, okay I didn't realise the skykeep bindings were broken, I thought they just killed the dragon, didn't know that would break the bindings as well.

Also, what happens if you flag a comment? I accidentally misclicked on my iPad while scrolling down the comments quickly and I flagged Kah-turak's post @21 and I can't find a way to undo it :-( I hope I don't get either of us into trouble!
Brian R
28. Mayhem
@27
From chapter 6.
‘Ah, then ... this ... was trapped here, drawn from Shadow—’
‘Snared by the Jaghut’s ice magic – yet the spilled blood, and perhaps the otataral, proved too fierce for Omtose Phellack, thus shattering the Jaghut’s enchantment.’

The dragon was crucified somewhere in the realm of shadow, which is known to move around. When that part of shadow moved near the location of the skykeep, the magic of the Jaghut pulled it into reality. But the blood broke the Jaghut binding, alerting Ganath, who is now stirring to go and do something about it.

For the other - Flagging a comment simply marks it for attention by the moderators. They then double check if it is appropriate/spam etc.
I expect the more flags a comment gets, the higher in the queue it goes, and in some systems if something gets lots of flags it gets pulled from the comments automatically and can only be reinstated by mod.
One off flags aren't likely to get you in any trouble - I know I've clicked it by mistake a time or two - it just adds a bit to the moderators work.
Mieneke van der Salm
29. Mieneke
Thanks Mayhem, both for the quote and the answers!
Gibberish
30. endertek
Two comments: Didn’t Lady Envy have something to do with calling on Poleil? She thought herself quite clever about this fact… Anyone remember why?

We learn how “young” Fiddler is – but then we learn that he and Whiskeyjack stole Dunsparrow from Hood’s temple as a baby – so basically, Fiddler is at least 18 years older that Dunsparrow who is an adult woman – remember that the tempering of the Bridge Burners in Raraku has given them youthful bodies – even Whiskeyjack didn’t feel old – this is something to be aware of too.
Gibberish
31. Addison
@28

I'm late to the party here (this is my first read-through), but the way I understood that section was that the dragon was flying around in Shadow, and they lured it to the location corresponding to where the ritual was in the 'real world', thus trapping it.

Once it was frozen, they(?) were able to impale it with the Otataral spike - this is what caused the ritual to break.

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