Aug 31 2012 1:30pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter Ten

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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Ten 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.

Chapter Ten


Hedge, wandering through the realm “where the dead went,” comes across the skeleton of a dragon, the third he’d seen, all the bones covered in what looked like black, smoky glass that ran like water off the bones and onto the ground. He argues with the “wind” as he walks, believing it to be the remains of some forgotten god. The wind try to get him to despair and give up, getting him to admit that children number greatest among the fallen. But Hedge says he continues on because that’s what soldiers do.


Hedge comes across tracks and the wind tells him a T’lan Imass walks a few leagues ahead of him. Hedge smells snow and ice ahead.


Twilight, Varat Taun, and the Senior Assessor have ridden out from Letheras. Taun looks forward to being posted with his family, worries about Twilight’s softness in that assignment, wonders if she’s cowardly then dismisses the thought, thinks nowhere will be safe when Icarium faces Rhulad. He then thinks of how he and Veed survived and now Veed, whom he sees as a brother, has stayed behind. He tells Twilight he is going back, that maybe he and Veed can do something. The monk says he will return as well. Twilight rides on with her company.


Trull, Onrack, and Quick Ben have crossed the Shadow lake. Trull remarks on how the lake floor has been oddly even and wonders if it’s a grand concourse and Onrack says a similar-sized one—K'Chain Che'Malle—takes up the entire southeast peninsula of Stratem. When Trull bemoans being outclassed by his companions, Onrack informs him he is Knight of Shadow and points out the Eres’al has taken interest in him. Quick Ben decides to try a gate, telling them he thinks the Abyss is swallowing Shadow, that the realm is dying, “with every border an open wound.” Onrack says “other forces of his soul” are awakening with his memories and wonders what a warrior is to do when peace is at hand. Quick Ben disappears.


Quick Ben feels for weak spots in the surrounding area and senses the realm aware of him and thinks it feels almost feminine. He passes through ill air then to a valley with a miniature forest and huge dragonflies—a primordial tundra. He returns to the others.


Ballant, owner of the Harridict Tavern thinks he’s falling in love with Shurq Elalle and bemoans the cheap foreigners costing him good tavern money. Shurq tells Pretty some of the foreigners remind her a bit of Iron Bars’ Crimson Guard. Ballant tells her the foreigners have been meeting privately with Brullyg Shake (whom Shurq can’t get in to see) and then waste time at the tavern. Shurq Elalle realizes they’re waiting for something and they’re the ones who saved the island from the ice, giving them power over Brullyg. When she wonders if Brullyg is even alive still, Ballant tells her he’s been seen and she comes up with a plan to get in to Brullyg’s chamber


Ruin’s group have been climbing higher for days in the Bluerose Mountains, noting what’s been left behind by the dying glaciers: water, ice, sporing mold, decayed vegetation and animals. The migrating glaciers and the remnant magic of Omtose Phellack in them are threatening the Andii refuge and Seren wonders what Clip’s mission is as they move toward the heart of the Phellack ritual. She fears the mission will end in blood. Seren tells Udinaas Clip has taken her role as guide and Fear asks her not to leave. When she asks why, Udinaas tells her it’s because Fear thinks her betrothed to Trull. When he tells Fear Trull is dead and Rhulad lacks honor, Seren has to pull Fear off of Udinaas. When she tells Udinaas not to do it again if he “values his life,” Udinaas says all of them have a death wish. But when Kettle says she doesn’t want to die, Udinaas turns away in grief. Fear tells Seren Trull was “blind to his own truth” when he gave Seren the sword and Seren says Trull is dead, and thinks she is as well.


Clip and Ruin don’t get along.


Toc, riding with Redmask’s Awl army, recalls his earlier life and Anaster’s as well, thinking how this new body which had fed on human flesh still “knows hunger and desire” when it walks battlefields. He wonders how Redmask ended up with K'Chain Che'Malle bodyguards and wonders as well what sort of redemption he expects from Redmask. He wishes Tool were with him and thinks the world that keeps trying to make him a soldier can go fuck itself.


An Elder tells Redmask he should have killed Toc. The Elder says he is the last one of the Awl who was there before Redmask was expelled, saying “I know what she meant to you and I know why” and adding that Redmask should fear him and listen to him, as he is the voice of the Awl and he will not allow them to be betrayed. When Redmask says nothing, the Elder tells him he only has to fear if he plans evil, otherwise Redmask and the Elder can work together to defeat the Letherii. Forced to say something, Redmask says yes, “an end to the Letherii . . . Victory for the Awl.”


Stayandi (Abasard’s sister) recalls leaving the city for their settlement on the plains, the slaughter by the K'Chain Che'Malle, Abasard’s death, and how she had fled for days/weeks. She is adopted by wolves for a while then wakes alone to find the wolves had run off rather than face a hunter wearing wolf pelts and with a white painted face. He crouches down to her and when he leaves, she follows.


Redmask tells Toc one of the scouts found tracks of a dozen skilled men on foot, non-Letherii. When Redmask announces the battle with the Letherii will occur three leagues from their camp, Toc says he will stay and guard the train. Redmask assigns a young Awl named Torrent to stay there as well. Angry, Torrent tells Toc to tend to the smallest children and leave Torrent alone. When Toc reminds Torrent of how he and the Awl had abandoned the Grey Swords and threatens him, Torrent says Toc is cursed. Toc thinks he has a point.


Redmask speaks with several Awl about the upcoming battle. Natarkas says he doesn’t like the “new way of fighting. I see little honour in it.” Redmask agrees but says it is necessary.



Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Ten

It’s great to see Hedge again, both because I love him as a character and because it reminds me of what’s to come

I so like the voice of the wind/god here, both in style and content. “Your kind loves borders. Thresholds, divisions, delineations.” So true in so many ways. One of which, I’d say, includes a way of reading this in terms of that theme I keep returning to because it speaks so strongly to me—empathy. Because what is empathy but the ability to see beyond borders, to step past thresholds, to erase divisions and delineations? I like how the wind notes Hedge’s “irreverence,” a trait shared by so many of our characters and one which makes them so likable so often.

And how sad is the answer to the question: who numbers greatest among the fallen—children. We have seen a heavy focus on children throughout this series, and that focus will sharpen much more as we go forward. And how sad is it that Hedge knows, and that he connects it to how all must kill the child within them (innocence and perhaps more), and how moving the idea that despite that crushing admission, he marches on. And we will see that concept, as so often occurs, made literal.

Here is a conversatio to consider:

Your breath is getting cold.

Because you’re walking the wrong way . . .

Hood’s secret revealed at last . . .

Dragons with ribcages punched in. Hmmm.

And what T’lan Imass is Hedge trailing? Hmmm

We see that erasing of delineations mentioned above in Varat Taun’s sense that Veed—the “barbarian” (a word which itself means foreign or “other”)—has now become his “brother” via shared experience.

I don’t know why, but I love that line when Trull says “I hate it when everyone knows more than me.” Something about it just cracks me up, part of it I think is that this great epic hero feels so clueless so often.

That’s an interesting reaction from QB at the announcement that Trull is Knight of Shadow.

So often in this series we see one scene echo another and here’s another example of it. Just after we get Hedge refusing to give up life in the ease of dissolution promised to him by the wind and speaking of spitting in it/a god’s eye, we get Quick Ben tell Trull and Onrack that “life stays stubborn until it has no choice but to give up, and even then it’s likely to spit one last time in the eye of whatever’s likely killed it.”

That’s certainly an interesting imagery surrounding Quick Ben’s exit from the shadow realm—a feminine feel, a pushing through (or out), the sound of swishing blood

And where does he end up? Who might they meet there if anyone? Consider the tundra and that might be a clue.

So the foreigners are becoming a bit of a plot point here. We had the mysterious introduction of their ship, and now we get some very muddy sort of quasi-details. They remind Shurq of the Crimson Guard folks, they share some language with the Crimson Guard, they’re having private meetings with the Shake leader, or maybe they’re holding him prisoner. They have some powerful mages. They’re waiting for something. There’s a lot presented there to obviously get us wondering and a bit nervous, but it’s nicely vague enough to keep tension and make us really want to see that next keg delivery.

And from there we go to more questionable motivation, as we jump to Ruin’s group and Seren’s suspicions that Clip has ulterior motives. And a foreboding that the journey will end in blood.

I mentioned how so many scenes echo earlier ones in action or imagery or language and we see another example here with Udinaas and his metaphor:

“Our souls might as well be trapped in a haunted keep. Sure, we built it—each of us—with our own hands, but we’ve forgotten half the rooms . . . ” It’s a slightly different take on it than Veed’s earlier use of the house/rooms metaphor, but still the idea of how we don’t even know ourselves, sometimes merely unaware, sometimes purposely unwilling to look.

This group has been on the edge for so long, as we’ve commented on—always sniping at one another—but still Fear’s sudden violence against Udinaas is a bit of a surprise. As is Udinaas’ insight into their shared despair, their shared desire he thinks for death. Save for Kettle, whose plaintive “I don’t want to die” nails Udinaas like a stake through the heart. Remember his earlier line about grieving “innocence when we kill her.”

So what do you think, is Clip’s “Shall we continue onward and upward” mere geography, or a sly dig at the Narnia line?

That’s a good question by Toc—if we have a K’ell Hunter, the elite guard of a Matron, do we also have a Matron somewhere? Somewhere out in those mysterious eastern lands maybe?

I like how Toc sees that concept, “they mysterious eastern lands” as a necessity of the tribes (or really every culture). That place of danger and mystery where they can dump every fear and bogeyman, and then send their as-yet-unproven hero out into so they can have their adventures and come back forged. But let’s not forget we’ve seen this tale already told by Udinaas and it didn’t end well. And Toc himself gives us two possible endings: delivery or annihilation. Which one will it be for Redmask and the Awl?

And what the heck does Redmask have planned for those gutted myrid stuffed with a local tuber? Part of the “new ways” of fighting that lack all honor it would appear. And if so, what sort of hint, if any, does that give us as to which of those two possible conclusions we’ll come to?

And more questions arise. What does this Elder know of Redmask? What did he witness? Why the emphasis not on what the “she” meant to Redmask but “why”? (remember we learned earlier about Redmask’s sister being taken by the Factor and then killing herself before she could be exchanged for some Awl herds). What secret is so deadly that the knowledge is like “a dagger hovering over your [Redmask’s] heart”?

It’s a nice move from that scene, which reminds us of a young girl, a sister, stolen from a camp, a camp slaughtered, to Stayandi—a young girl, a sister, who had to flee a slaughtered camp.

And whom does she leave with? We’ve seen white faced folks before... And it’s kinda interesting this scene is sandwiched by Toc scenes.

Note the connections made between Toc and the children

That’s the second chapter that’s ended with a reference to a dirge. Never a good sign...

In lots of ways this chapter is a bit of a catch the breath, take a look back and set up a look ahead. We get little brief reminders and recaps of past events scattered throughout. And we get some clear set up scenes as pieces are moved about the table—Shurq planning on seeing what’s going on with the foreigners and Brullyg, Redmask’s new fighting methods, Stayandi and some white-faced folk, Hedge’s trip, Quick Ben’s trip, etc. It has a slightly less urgent feel than the last chapter, where things felt, as mentioned, like they were coming to a quick boil. We’ve stepped back a bit here and slowed things down. Will the pace still slow, or is this just the calm before a storm?

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

David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
Clip and Ruin don’t get along.
I admit. The brevity of that section, and the accuracy of it, made me laugh pretty hard.
Brian R
2. Mayhem
Yep, that one is up there with 'Karsa fights the lizard' in great descriptions.
Thomas Jeffries
3. thomstel
I vote that all such future chapters with Clip be summarized as such:

"Clip and *insert character* don’t get along."

It's kinder than dwelling on his shenanigans. Make it so!
Darren Kuik
4. djk1978
A matron near Sag'Churok? Hmmm. :)

You know, if we had a few hints before, the scene with Stayandi should really put the reader on alert about what's going on in the Awl'dan. Not going to say more than that.
5. Tufty
That’s certainly an interesting imagery surrounding Quick Ben’s exit from the shadow realm—a feminine feel, a pushing through (or out), the sound of swishing blood.
Changing warrens with a blood motif would normally make one think of K'rul, but the "feminine" aspect doesn't really jive with that...

Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
Hedge's trip is fantastic & I agree that it melds well with QB.

Having fun at Chicon, of interest here, I chatted with Amanda and Glen Cook. Plan on doing some more of that.
karl oswald
8. Toster
You Lady-Blessed bastard shalter! so jealous over here!

so here are our foreigners, and yes, they are quite intriguing, but i love most the way SE gives us the POV of Ballant, the innkeeper. his only one in the entire series, but i feel like i know the damn guy already. him and his wife, the pragmatism of running a bar on a prison island, his adoration of shurq. this is what SE is so genius at. Ballant is less than a footnote in this story, but i always remember him. i'll never forget ballant the innkeeper, because he feels as real and fully-fleshed as any other character in the books.
Kenneth La Rocque
9. kjtherock
Tufty @5

I always thought Quick Ben managed to get the attention of Mother Dark.
10. TobiOgre
I don’t know why, but I love that line when Trull says “I hate it when everyone knows more than me.”

As a new reader to the books, I'd say: Hey, that's exactly how I feel right now...about...well,...kind of everything!

(Hello everybody!
It's amazing how much Amanda notices on her first reading, compared to her I feel like a blind stupid idiot. ;D
Maybe part of my inattention(?) is based on the fact that I'm German, and Eriksons English is much more sophisticated than, e.g.,George R.R. Martins'. Hence, it was quite soothing to see that even some of you native speakers had to look up terms like "Thalassocracy".)
Amanda Rutter
13. ALRutter
Chapter Ten

This One God, this Stealer of Life, Slayer and Reaper – are those latter not some of the names by which Icarium has been known? Would that give a good reason as to why our Cabalhii monk of chapter nine went running as soon as he heard the name?

*grins* Hedge’s resignation with things falling from the sky amuses me: “Hood knew, enough strange objects had tumbled down from the low, impenetrable clouds during his long, meandering journey across this dire world.” And, truly, we have seen a large number of objects across the whole series falling from the sky – from dragons to jade statues to gods.

I suspect this little mention of three dragon carcasses that all are sheathed in “something like black, smoky glass” are going to be of importance. I also think otataral when I see this sort of thing, but I suspect Hedge would know what that looked like and so wouldn’t be unclear about what the dragons were coated with.

Has Hedge gone mad? This ‘voice of the wind’ stuff is a little crazy! Funny at times, but crazy.

I do like this, though, which brings to the fore the idea that we are reading the Book of the Fallen: “Among the fallen, among the dead, will you find more soldiers – more fighters than non-fighters? Will you find more men than women? More gods than mortals? More fools than the wise? Among the Fallen, my friend, does the echo of marching armies drown all else? Or the moans of the diseased, the cries of the starving?”

I am very glad that Twilight took the Mocker in her flight away from Letheras, and the showdown between Rhulad and Icarium. And you know something? The fact that everything seems so focused towards those two meeting makes me think that Erikson is going to do something that will make me go ‘oh!’

“The truth may be that Yan Tovis is a coward.” The truth may be, for me, that Yan Tovis is the most sensible one amongst them!

This might well be a chapter of madness. I just can’t see why Varat Taun would want to go back to a place where Icarium might be unleashed.
Ooh, so Trull has now been named the Knight of Shadow, thanks to him facing up against Icarium and defending the Throne.

I like both the point about Trull being unable to hide his grief at the frailty of life, and Quick Ben’s thought: “Life stays stubborn until it has no choice but to give up, and even then it’s likely to spit one last time in the eye of whatever’s killed it. We’re cruel in victory and cruel in defeat, my friends.”

If I were Shadowthrone I would maybe not feel it wise to anger Quick Ben so, especially since it seems that we know Quick Ben has angered Shadowthrone before, in his role as High Priest of Shadow. Sure, Kalam might be alive, but snatching Quick away from a situation where he was desperately needed hasn’t exactly endeared Shadowthrone to the mage.

*giggles* Ballant is as pretty as a picture, isn’t he? And I am amused by the manner of his wife’s demise. And in love with Shurq Elalle – what a situation to find himself in!

Seren Pedac has hay fever?! How prosaic!

“There will be blood.” I think that Seren’s thought here is prophetic.

I’m confused (and have probably forgotten something). Does Seren know that Trull giving her the sword signifies something specific? And, forgive me, is it a declaration of love? Of a plan to return? I never quite got this, I don’t think, I just enjoyed the scene when it happened. Certainly Fear knows the significance of it: “You see her as betrothed to your brother.” Well, that explains away some of my confusion!

Toc’s impression of what it was like to die and then live again shows a situation where it would not be desirable! Pain, and another body’s memories to contend with. “Toc wondered if any mortal soul had ever before staggered this tortured path.” To that, I would probably answer yes! I do also think that these few paragraphs help to demonstrate the depth of Erikson’s writing. No easy reincarnation for his characters. No emerging into a new body without any regard of what that would actually entail. Erikson very clearly shows the damage that can be created on the soul.

And ick! Toc desires the flesh of the dead because Anaster used to feast on it? That’s just nasty.

Toc thinks all my questions for me! Wounds in the sky. Where is the K’Chain Che’Malle matron? How does Redmask know their names? “What is it, then, about this story that I really do not like? How about all of it.”

Hmm, this sounds like a hint towards Redmask’s past: “I know what she meant to you, and I know why.” This old man has somehow cowed Redmask, with the threat of revealing his secret.

Poor Stayandi! Again, I love how something we’ve already seen directs the story, so, here the death of Abasard. Now we join his sister, as she dwells with wolf people (or wolves, not too clear on this, since our narrator is a little unreliable). Will be very interested to see the reveal of who she has ended up following.
Joseph Ash
14. TedThePenguin
so... I'm a year late, anyways, thanks for this re-read guys, it lets me get my fix of extra information while reading, without spoilers! :) and I really do appreciate your comments Amanda, I will catch up with the re-read soon enough to comment as things get posted realtime.

The black, smoky glass, its dragon blood. We've seen it before:
First in MT when Seren was crossing into/out of the Endur territory, it healed her both times, and the second time she heard conversations in it.
Then it gets explicetly described in the prologue of this book, at htis time we also learn that it can absorb wraiths/souls. So presumably that was what Seren heard back in MT.
Also early in this book we also have Wither talking about Dragon Blood, and Ruin warning him not to go near it (and Wither saying something about it being tempting, but I forget the wording).
I am sure this isnt the last we will hear of Dragon Blood either.

As for Redmask and the elder, it would be more effective if we had all of that discussion about Koryk and half bloods from BH interleaved with Redmask's storyline.

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