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 Six of Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson (RG).
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.
Shurq Elalle’s ship, laden with the cargo from the wrecked Edur ship, is heading home with over a hundred Edur/Letherii ships behind her—the two searching fleets. Worried some might chase them, they make plans to head for the “hold-out prison past Fent Reach.”
Venitt Sathad, on his way to Bluerose then Drene, stops by the inn to see the ancient mechanism being uncovered by Bugg’s crew. He notices that Rautos has uncovered an exact replica at a much smaller scale. Bugg tells him he has a few theories on its purpose, saying there are similar mechanisms elsewhere in the city. Venitt asks Bugg to get a message to Rautos Hivanar to come see this one and bring his artifacts, which Bugg says he would like to.
Atri-Preda Bivatt investigates the settlers killed by Redmask’s K’Chain Che’Malle. Brohl Handar asks if they’ll pursue and she tells him no, thinking how much more independent/confident he has gotten in his position. Handar tells her the Letherii are exterminating the Awl, not waging war on them and that they’ve lost the moral high ground. When she says she cares only about giving answer and victory, he replies the Letherii and the Awl will lose and only people like the Factor will win, calling her a slave. He says she lives in a dark world and when she asks if his shadows are any better, he has no answer.
Redmask leads his group to the Ganetok camp and faces off with the clan leader Hadralt, calling him a coward for abandoning the mercenaries to their deaths against the Letherii. Redmask calls his K’Chain Che’Malle and Hadralt’s champions step aside. It comes out that Hadralt poisoned his own father to become leader. Redmask informs him that the weapons he’s bought off the Letherii came from the Factor and are inferior, then realizes Hadralt knew that. He accuses Hadralt of making a deal to surrender then Hadralt is killed by his own. Redmask names himself leader and declares he will lead them in war.
Redmask’s squad discusses Redmask’s victory and the impending war.
On the way back to Drene, Brohl Handar recalls what he’d heard about how the Letherii conquest of Bluerose had been difficult due to a “complicated religion” and a “mysterious priesthood” that had yet to be fully wiped out. He worries about trouble in Bluerose and disruption of Drene’s supply route. He surprises Bivatt by telling her of trouble in the Bluerose mountains and the destruction of a garrison there, as well as showing he was aware of the Factor smuggling goods over those mountains. He asks about the war with the Awl and after Bivatt summarizes why the Letherii will win (while admitting Redmask might make the war longer and bloodier), he says he’ll ask for several thousand Edur troops and some K’risnan. She responds she’ll allow the Awl to surrender, then will scatter and enslave them. Brohl doesn’t like it but agrees to argue it after they kill Redmask.
Redmask has learned more about the mercenaries: They called themselves the Grey Swords, were sworn to the wolf deities, came to Lether due to prophecy, they sought the “Battlefield of the Gods,” and were led by a one-eyed man (Toc). When Redmask learns the one-eyed man is held captive in the Awl camp, he goes to meet him. Toc tells him his army sought the First Sword of the K’Chain Che’Malle and he’s surprised to find out it is a human.
A lone figure moves through the Bluerose Mountains. He finds a vantage point, waits until he sees movement in the pass, then heads down.
The figure is part Tiste-Andii and lives in Andara, a monastery refuge/place of exile led by the Onyx Wizards who follow the “Black-Winged Lord.” He’d been ordered out to watch over the pass. He now moves toward Ruin’s group, thinking Ruin is the “brother of my god.” Wither comes alongside him and they spar verbally.
Clip meets Ruin’s group and welcomes them (rudely) on behalf of the Onyx Order. He tells Ruin how Rake arrived after Ruin was betrayed and then lists the many reasons Rake didn’t kill all the Edur. Ruin opens a gate into Kurald Galain using a small chain he keeps flipping back and forth. They all enter the gate.
Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Six:
Oh, how true this extract is from ‘In Defence of Compassion’ and how it can be applied to life as we know it—societies neither operate under complete control or complete freedom, and clashes between the two lead to being “witness to brute stupidity and blood-splashed insensitivity.”
Hmm, most of the time I like the way that Erikson presents real world parallels, as with what I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but this talk of ice that is melting way to the north and the idea of the world being put under water is a teeny bit jarring and too real. Although I guess the ice here could be the Jaghut ice!
So I think people in the comments were leading me towards Icarium with reference to these mechanical secrets hidden beneath Letheras—extra intriguing considering Icarium is virtually at the door, non? I think we might find out what he originally made these for in this book....
“If only...” [...]
That last statement was little more than a whisper, and Venitt glanced back at Bugg as he crossed the courtyard on his way out. A peculiar thing to say.
Heh. Not for Bugg!
Seeing the mayhem and slaughter than can be caused by just two K’Chain Che’Malle makes me very nervous to see a full horde in action. Although I seem to recall that we have seen them in action and taken down by an incredibly elite group of people? Damn, this is something that I was worried about when starting the Malazan series—we’ve gone through a couple of years of the reread at this point and I have to admit that some of the clear details of the earlier books are becoming fuzzy. Surely I don’t need to do a reread of the reread?!
One of the few philosophical discussions between the Atri-Preda and Brohl Handar that I understand and appreciate (Bill’s the one for the philosophy!): The idea that the only true benefactor in times of war and extermination is the leader holding the purse strings and in control.
I’ve been watching WAY too much of the Olympics, including the dressage, because when Erikson writes, “Redmask nudged his horse onto the slope, gathering it into a collected canter...” all I can think about is what the horses in dressage looked like when performing collected canter as opposed to, say, extended canter. Just me? Anyhoo....
Whether you love him or hate him, you’ve gotta agree with Redmask’s verdict on Hadralt and his warriors, what with their betrayal of the Togg/Fandaray army, which I think we’re all inclined to like since we’ve seen decent representations of them in the past. But is that a mistake? To blindly believe all are good because some have been? I would say that there’s a chance Erikson might force me to rethink this!
Ha, and we’re then encouraged to think badly of Hadralt himself as well, when we learn that he poisoned his father. But I wonder how successful Redmask would have been in convincing the Awl if he hadn’t had those K’Chain Che’Malle standing next to him?
Hmm, I’m wondering whether the Atri-Preda should pay more attention to Brohl Handar when he talks about the Bluerose people and the effect that the mountains could have on supply routes....
And this just fills me with foreboding—never underestimate your enemy!
“We believe that the Awl could, at best, field perhaps eight or nine thousand warriors. Certainly not more than that. As an army, they are undisciplined, divisive due to old feuds and rivalries, and their style of combat is unsuited to fighting as a unit. So, easily broken, unprepared as they are for any engagement taking longer than perhaps a bell.”
I can see her eating her words, thanks to what we are privy to with Redmask and his allies.
A one-eyed champion of Togg? Oh yes, time to see Toc the Younger again! This is something interesting to think about: “A final war. They came seeking a place they called the Battlefield of the Gods.”
I’m a little unsure about what Toc says here: “So don’t tell me the mask fooled them. Please...” Does this mean that this Redmask is using the legend of the original Redmask, and has just donned the mask to take on the leadership of the Awl? Is this “person” not human? Whatever Redmask is, we now have it revealed that he is the First Sword of the K’Chain Che’Malle.
Clip of the Exiled is a very different type of Tiste Andii name than those we’ve heard before, and very deliberately so, considering he has rejected the past of his people. “Yes, I am a cauldron of failures. Nerek, Letherii - even D’rhasilhani.”
So, let me get this right. The Andara are those belonging specifically to Anomander Rake? So who were the Tiste Andii that he had with him during Gardens of the Moon? Did they belong to him as well?
I like this little snippet of what Anomander got up to:
“If our histories of that time are accurate,” Clip said, “then he was rather preoccupied. The sundering of Kurald Emurlahn. Rumours of Osserc in the vicinity, a mercurial dalliance with Lady Envy, arguments and a shaky alliance with Kilmandaros, and then, finally, Silanah, the Eleint who emerged at his side from Emurlahn at the closing of the gate.”
My, what a story all that would make! Something we see in Forge of Darkness?
I can say, anyhow, that I like Clip very much, especially his irreverence and absolute cheek when it comes to Silchas Ruin. Look forward to seeing more of him!
Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Six
I don’t have anything to say about it, but I just really enjoy the opening phrase to this chapter: “dead pirates are better.” Sometimes you just have to love fantasy.
Not a lot happens in this opening scene, but there is a an interesting bit of flotsam floating just below the surface. We get a reminder that the fleets are returning with champions, (Karsa and Icarium though that isn’t mentioned here.) we get mention of that prison island holding out, and a reference to the sea spirits and the idea that “One day their names will rise from the water.”
The next scene also does nothing to advance plot, really, but it does emphasize the mechanism storyline. By now, the reader should be pretty certain this mystery is going to play a very important role.
Bivatt has a pretty honest and seeing eye when it comes to her own people, doesn’t she? In reference to Brohl’s comment on so many dead children:
“Overseer, we are no less thorough when slaying the Awl.”
She also seems pretty jaded by her experiences:
“I care nothing about justifications, nor moral high ground. I have been a soldier too long to believe such things hold any sway over our actions. Whatever lies in our power to do, we do.”
One wonders if she will maintain this attitude throughout. Will we see her perform atrocities? Stand by as she witnesses them? Or is she on the cusp of changing this attitude? Might she try and stop atrocities? It’s a nice set-up of character and adds some nice narrative tension. While it’s easy to root for Brohl’s side in this, I do like how Bivatt gets her own little dig in—the Edur “Empire” after all, has its own issues. As some of the Edur are learning.
I like the structuring of the confrontation between Redmask and Hadralt, the way Hadralt gets stripped away layer by layer. First the K’Chain Che’Malle take away his champions, then we learn how he poisoned his father, then he was buying bad weaponry, then he knew about the weapons and had cut a deal to surrender. I also liked the surprise, as a reader, of his own people killing him; I hadn’t seen that coming originally.
And it’s an interesting pivot from Redmask’s victory to the pretty grim discussion among his small group, especially Kraysos’ line that “He [Redmask] is the charging crest of a river of blood, and he shall flood these lands. And even as the Letherii drown it it, so shall we.”
Just as the mysterious mechanism is getting more and more emphasis, so is Bluerose. And for good reason as we see at the end of this chapter.
As we listen to Bivatt’s summary of the impending war, we can’t help but check off her misreadings:
- The Awl as divisive—we’ve just seen Redmask begin to unify them.
- Redmask prefers to “raid and ambush”—doesn’t sound like what Redmask is planning.
- Redmask won’t modify the Awl tactics—not what Redmask says.
What’s interesting to me though is she doesn’t mention anything about the fanged and taloned things that seemingly slaughtered these settlers. You’d think that would factor into her calculations a bit.
We now get confirmation of what we’d thought about that mercenary company—the Grey Swords sworn to Togg and Fanderary. But who cares? We’ve got Toc! I repeat, we’ve got Toc! (Let’s just skip that “unlucky” for now. For now.) Happy as we are to see Toc, what the heck is he doing seeking the First Sword of the K’Chain Che’Malle?
I hope nobody is annoyed yet by Clip’s chain whipping. Cause if you are, boy, are you in trouble....
Part of me loves and laughs at this line from Wither, “I believe you will fit right in with the ones you are about to meet.” Because he so will. And part of me groans and cringes. Because he so will.
But as fractious and annoying and petty as that group approaching is, we still get that sweet image of Udinaas not wanting to move for fear of waking the sleeping Kettle in his arms.
Wow—talk about history in a bottle. That’s an onrush of old info to remind us of things we may have forgotten and also a few new tidbits in there as well, such as Silanah emerging at Rake’s side from the closing of Emurlahn. (Or am I forgetting an earlier mention of this detail?)
That Clip walks a fine line, doesn’t he? How long will this go on? Just you wait....
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.