Oct 5 2012 3:00pm

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

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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Nineteen 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 spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

Just a note that Amanda is traveling for work yet again—Frankfurt Book Fair this time—and so will be adding comments later, as she can.


Chapter Nineteen


Seren Pedac thinks back on her time with Hull, believing she had “used/raped/killed” him, done so via her need for a hero and purity and then her tearing him down via reality and cynicism. Believing she kills what she loves, she thinks it good that Trull is dead, and begins to let her love for him bloom, as she is no longer a threat to him. Fear and she spar over just what Trull meant by giving her the sword, and he tells her that he once gave up a love and now he will defend her for his brother’s love until he the day he dies. Udinaas talks of Mother Dark taking Father Light as husband and says he wonders about those three brothers: Andarist, Anomander, Silchas. He wonders if maybe the rift between them and Mother Dark wasn’t her marriage to Father Light but learning who their father was. He warns her the myths and tales are untrustworthy, they distort and pare down, preferring “manageable numbers.” He tells her Andarist is dead and she wonders how he knows, what he learns in his nightmares and decides, calling it self-defense, to use Mockra on him later to learn his secrets, though she considers it a “rape” of his mind.


Udinaas now sees Silchas Ruin “in a new light,” as one of many aggrieved children, ones involved in long wars. He wonders where the Children of Light are then thinks it a good thing they’re not around. He sees Ruin and Clip on one side and Fear and Scabandari on the other and worries things won’t end well. He doesn’t trust his night visions, unsure of whose they really were, and refusing to give in to them. Seren asks Clip why there is light in this realm of Kurald Galain/Darkness. He tells her they walk a road, a gift from Father Light, Kurald Liosan. Udinaas says he knows where the road ends but explains he won’t tell Seren because it might keep her alive in “what’s to come.” Udinaas brings up that they are being tracked by Menandore and Clip realizes she wants Scabandari’s finnest for herself. Ruin tells them the Tiste were the very first children, rising in realms that were “elemental.” Udinaas mocks the argument and Clip’s belief that “nothing preceded Darkness,” asking about Nothing and Chaos, and Fire/Light. Ruin walks away but then, unseen by anyone save Udinaas, who turns to listen more. Fear says the Kechra (K’Chain Che’Malle) “bound all that exists to time, thus assuring the annihilation of everything,” but he doesn’t see that as chaos. Clip says, “Chaos pursues,” that Mother Dark scattered it but it seeks ever to become one again. Udinaas says she must have had allies, been helped by betrayal, but then says since Mother Dark herself had to be born of something, there must have been an even earlier betrayal within Chaos. Fear asks how Udinaas Menandore was after them and he begs off the question, thinking maybe he shouldn’t have revealed that “this useless slave does not walk alone.”


Seren uses Mockra to enter Udinaas’ mind when he sleeps. She finds him in a blasted, hot realm. A dragon passes overheard, then Feather Witch appears. She tells him Menandore merely uses him as a weapon, then informs him of her status as Destra Irant to the Errant and tells him he should be T’orrued Segul and that with him and her and the about-to-found Mortal Sword, the Errant will rise to domination once more. The Edur will be destroyed, Lether rise, and the two of them will be rich and powerful. Udinaas shocks her by saying he’s already sent the Errant away, and Menandore as well. She reaches for him and he shoves her aside, saying he’s done with rapes, then walks toward Seren Pedac (there in serpent form).


Seren wakes to Udinaas’ hand around her throat. He tells her if she ever enters his mind again he’ll kill her. Fear throws him aside and Seren tells him to stop, that it was her fault and Udinaas had the right. Udinaas tells Ruin to make it light and when he tries to pretend it’s night Udinaas insists. Clip warns Udinaas he knows too much. Kettle watches all this tumult and whispers, “What they do to each other” to Wither, who replies, “It is what it is to live.”


Venitt Sathad sits at a bar in Drene following a night of riots, which still continue. The mob had stormed Factor Letur Anict’s estate but been forced back. Orbyn Truthfinder joins him and tells him that the Factor has set assassins against Brohl Handar in the army sent after Redmask. The two discuss the financial collapse, the inevitable awakening of the Edur, the fall of the Liberty Consign, the Malazan invasion, and the Bolkando Conspiracy becoming real. Orbyn says he knows what Venitt does for Rautos and knows he’ll be going to the Factor soon. Venitt agrees, and says that because the Overseer Handar isn’t around, the Factor will have to be the one to restore order and Venitt expects Orbyn and his agents to help. Orbyn realizes to his dismay that Venitt has some sympathy for the mob, believing it to actually be “just.” Venitt tells him he will sacrifice his people, the Patriotist agents, to the people’s rage. Orbyn says Venitt may be too late and Venitt thinks Tehol and Bugg have caused this collapse and, recalling his own Indebted nature, thinks they have nothing to fear from him – the assassin of Rautos Hivanar. He hopes the two take “the bastard down.”


Bivatt and Handar are pursuing Redmask’s army. Handar wonders about the cairns they pass, with faces painted white and odd offerings. Bivatt seems to know something but won’t tell. The Letherii catch up to Redmask at Q’uson Tapi, an old salt lake.


Bivatt has made a connection between the cairns and the fleet of war canoes she’d found earlier. Two days earlier she had seen one of the cairn makers watching her and she thinks they are not alone on this plain, fearing that maybe Redmask has made alliance with these strangers. She expects, otherwise, to be able to use Letherii sorcery to wipe out Redmask at Q’uson Tapi, where magic will not be suppressed.


Toc watches as the Awl dismantle the wagon and make walkways and platform in preparation for the final battle. Torrent and Toc exchange barbs.


Redmask recalls killing the Elder who had known the truth of his past, thinking he’d enjoyed the killing but now the face haunts him. As the rain begins to fall, he thinks of his victory tomorrow, the glorious opportunity given to him by his K’Chain Che’Malle.


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Nineteen

I’ll just say about the Toc poem – it’s pretty explicit. You’ve been warned.

Reading Seren’s little opening monologue about waiting to be swept off her feet by some tall male hero saving her from her life, one could argue it as a stereotypical view of women; a diminishing one as well. But one of the things that writing on such a huge canvas does is allow Erikson to give us a full spectrum of characters. Were Seren the only female in the story, or one of only a handful, one might make that argument. But it’s kind of hard to do that in this universe where we have clearly seen our share of women who are not at all waiting for Prince Charming. Some are their own heroes of their lives, some are heroes of others’ lives, some would chop up Prince Charming and have him for dinner (literally).

It’s a little discomfiting to me, the analogy Seren makes with regard to the various “rape” images in this scene – her own rape of course, her “rape” of Hull, her “rape” of Udinaas. We use that metaphor all the time, of course, “rape of the land,” etc. But coming from one who has suffered actual, physical rape, it still makes me wince a bit. Even as I acknowledge that physical rape has given her the prism through which she sees the world, leading her down that path of thought rather than away from it.

Anyone else think this is a somewhat ominous line? “It was safe, wasn’t it . . . that old dream shining anew. Safe, because Trull was dead. No harm, none at all.”

Once again, I like the sharpness of Udinaas’ mind – his recognition of what a blind minnow means. He’s a smart guy, that Udinaas.

It’s been a while since my last Forge of Darkness reference, so I’ll just say how, well, innnnnnteresting it is to read Udinaas’ questions and speculations about the Andii history – the rift between Mother Dark and the brothers, the way “history” may be wrong, the idea of what came before Mother Dark, and so. Veeeerrrry innnnnteresting.

One really does get a sense this group is walking into it, hm? Fear swearing to protect Seren before he dies, Kettle suddenly grown silent, Udinaas’ hints of “what is to come.” As Seren says, it appears “something terrible was coming.”

Lots of self-justification from Seren upon this realization of something bad coming. “I have a right to protect myself. Defend myself.” And then note how she refers to Udinaas at the end: “I will have your secrets, Slave.” Always easier to justify mistreatment when one can dehumanize the other. Not Udinaas, but “slave.”

And a nice move from that to Udinaas himself, thinking, “He’d been a slave, but he was a slave no longer.” Doesn’t particularly bode well for what Seren has planned, I’d say.

I have to say, Seren’s form as “serpent” is a bit too on the nose for me.

Did anyone think Feather Witch running her hands through “her wild, burnished hair,” or her “sultry voice” was going to work on Udinaas? Didn’t think so.

And again, I love Udinaas’ puncturing insight: “Where is your flesh hiding right now . . . Some airless, stinking hovel that you have proclaimed a temple.” Bullseye!

And what a crushing ending to this scene, Kettle’s so, so sad line—“what they do to each other”—and then even sadder, Wither’s response, “It is what it is to live, child.” And then, piling on the sad, Kettle’s foreshadowing, “It made all that she knew was coming a little easier to bear.”

And here’s an example of a character who has been barely a blip on the page—Venitt Sathad—and yet, he comes so alive in this scene and you have to love the way he chooses side in this. Last chapter we saw Janath asking Tehol why he was doing what he was doing. And we get a nice answer in Venitt here: “Take the bastards down. Every damned one of them. Take them all down.”

If only more thought as Brohl Handar does: “The world is harsh enough. It does not need our deliberate cruelties.”

So the mystery, if it was much of one, of the murdered Elder is solved. Not much surprise there. What is a bit more surprising is that Redmask is haunted by it. Not the first mention, by the way, of ghosts and hauntings in this book. And we’ll see more going forward.

And here are some interesting lines to file away regarding that Elder:

Words that held terrible truths, truths that would destroy Redmask, would destroy any chance he had of leading the Awl to victory” What did the Elder know?

Here’s a bit more to file:

Is that [his weapons] now Awl enough? Am I not more Awl than any other among the Renfayar? Among the warriors gathered here?

I’m not so sure I’d want to swear by “the lizard eyes of the K’Chain Che’Malle.” Just sayin’.

You can really get a sense of things rushing toward the end in all these plot lines. All that foreshadowing and all those ominous lines in the Ruin group. Tehol’s scheme not playing out in reality out in the outskirts. The Malazans cutting through the Letherii defense. Bivatt catching up to Redmask. The actual physical appearance, as opposed to just signs, of a White Face. And we’ve had that word “convergence” show up. We’re getting there....

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

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Yeah, with this chapter it becomes increasingly clear the Andii history may not be exactly what it has been hinted at. Of course, that's hardly surprising for something mostly mythological. It is interesting to compare FoD and this scene.

@Bill:It occurred to me that if any of your students ever complain about doing book reports you can just reply that you are doing the world's longest one. :-)
Tricia Irish
2. Tektonica
As for Seren Pedac here.....Her wishing for "prince charming" seems a bit of a character 180. She is a pretty tough lady, and has been through a lot. I took her wish to be "saved" as exhaustion. "How much more of this do I have to take?"

You are illuminating a lot of little plot threads for me, Bill. I can see that two reads isn't going to be enough though!
Chris Hawks
3. SaltManZ
Also worth noting about Redmask: "Last of the Renfayar elders, who knew, yes, knew well my father and all his kin, and the children they called their own." I missed that the first time through, that's for sure.

I just finished Forge of Darkness (awesome!) and wow, it really changes how I see a lot of this stuff.
Brian R
4. Mayhem
The Awl and the Letherii here are a such bunch of nasty small minded little people, it almost makes me look forward to what is to happen. And poor Toc caught up in the middle of it once more.

Also consider the implications .. the Awl have assembled to face their enemies yet have slaughtered most of their herds. Regardless of outcome, the Awl will face annihilation once winter hits.

Between the tragedy of Seren's group and the bleakness of the Awl plotline, Venitt comes off as a breath of fresh air, yet his story is almost as nasty as the others. There is a certain kind of .. satisfaction .. though that the reader takes from the idea of reciprocity.

I particularly like the biting comment at the end ...
Orbyn, have you found a truth?
it comes with such an undertone of ... well, that's a first.
karl oswald
5. Toster
@ Tek

isn't seren referring to her younger self when she speaks of wanting a prince charming? she grew out of that as hull's flaws were revealed by her pushing the 'hero' persona on him then cutting him apart. right now i don't think that's what she wants. as we can see, what she wants isn't all that clear.

have to agree with the rest about udinaas' guesses and speculation. comparing FoD and his little tale is mind-blowing enough from outside the pages, imagine how unsettled silchas ruin is in-world, hearing this mortal who was a slave laying out the half-truths and lies in his own history. it's no wonder he can't stand to be seen listening.
Tricia Irish
6. Tektonica
Thanks Toster....that's good to know, as I was just responding to Bills synopsis of the chapter. I am 1 1/2 chapters behind in my own reading, due to a vacation. I didn't remember Seren Pedac being such a "girl" about men. I'm glad it was her younger self thinking about being saved ;-)
Keel Curtis
7. captaink
Reading this alongside FoD helped me realize who Father Light is. Unless Steve is misleading me on purpose, of course.

I think the Seren and co. storyline is where things get too flowery and philosophical for me. I mean, barely anything has actually happened so far this book. Some is fine, but here it is frequent and incredibly pessimistic to boot.
Brenda Alexander
8. endertek
Hi everyone -
I'm another lurker who has just caught up to the re-read. I've read through tCG, haven't read any ICE books yet, and have picked up GotM for the first time in 18 months. I've spent a month reading all the commentary by Amanda and Bill - love, love, love the insights of both. And I've read nearly all of the comments by all of you and the Q&A by SE. This is an amazing set of books. Since I'm so late to the review, but hope to be a steady participant from this point on, I was wondering how you would feel if I posed some questions and thoughts on books 1-6 in here - things I didn't see anyone else tackle? I was thinking of doing one entry for each of the books over the next 6 postings so as not to be a bore.... I know this is supposed to be commentary on the current chapter, but many of the characters and plot lines are still in play from the very start of the series....
9. Tufty
@endertek - go for it! But do the rest of us get to answer your questions or just Amanda and Bill?
10. Alt146
@endeIek you're also more than welcome to ask your questions over at the forums. Many of the people in the reread are also members there, plus a whole bunch of others who are very knowledgeable about the series.

In other news, I'm pretty sure this chapter is the point that SE starts to use conventional swear words a lot more, with Udinaas saying the F-word twice. Its a change lots of people are a bit unhappy about, although it does result in one of the best one-liners in the series later in the book.
Brian R
11. Mayhem
Feel free to throw in whatever questions/insights on the earlier books you have, we'd love to see them.
Bill Capossere
12. Billcap
I was actually just talking to one of my students about this and he just kept going back to "wait, how long have you been doing it? And when are you going to finish? How many books?" I'm pretty sure he walked away concerned he was paying all that tuition to be taught by the certifably insane . . .

Glad I'm contributing something to your read. And you're absolutely right, two is not enough. Nor three. I'm pretty sure four. Maybe five? Anyone? Buehler?

Yep--another good phrase to file away for later

"Satisfaction" is absolutely the word I was looking for and failing to find--thanks! And I agree--I love that closing line re Orbyn

Welcome and post away--can't wai to see your thoughts!
Darren Kuik
13. djk1978
Endertek, yes do post. Although you can post in the relevant chapter summaries, not everyone is subscribed to them so you might not get answers. I don't think anyone here would refuse to answer on the basis that it's not currently on topic.

Saltman, I agree, that line is important. It's been hinted at several times but not so strongly as here.

Bill, I think more than 2 is required. 2 suffices when you are part of this re-read because others help to catch things.
Kartik Nagar
14. BloodRaven
Couple of Guesses:

- Redmask is either a Letherii, or he has some K'Chain characteristics(similar to the Shake witches)
- The white people who came in the war canoes are Barghast(it think this is pretty straightforward to see), although how they have managed to hide themselves inspite of their huge numbers baffles me.
Amanda Rutter
15. ALRutter
Yay! Back from Frankfurt! Time to do a three chapter catch-up :-) Here's the first:

At the beginning of chapter nineteen - in the excerpt from "The Ashes of Ascension" - there is reference made to Saphinand, Bolkando, Ak'ryn and D'rhasilhani, which we've not seen before, right? And yet this excerpt is supposedly about the events in this book Reaper's Gale... Have I missed something?

As a young girl, I also believed in the fact that true love would come into my life and sweep me away. It did feel disappointing as I became an adult and realised that love was very different from the fairytale happy ending I had learned as a child (still amazing and rewarding, but not as easy and simplistic). I can understand Seren Pedac's thoughts here.

This particularly rings with chilling truth: "That had been the poison within her, the battle between the child's dream and the venal cynicism that has seeped into adulthood. And Hull had been both her weapon and her victim."

Her dark thoughts here - and her ongoing reaction to the rape she suffered - bode ill for her and Trull: "I am poison. Stay away. All of you, stay away." Or perhaps Trull is the one person who truly will act the hero, and lance the poison from her?

These thoughts here do seem to be darker than those she has been suffering recently - is that merely because we haven't really spent much time with her during the narrative and only seen her from other people's perspectives? Or is it something more, and either the Imass spear or the voice of Mockra is causing her additional trauma?

Ack! It's torture for me knowing that Trull *is* alive and wanting Seren Pedac to know it too.

Seren's observation of her companions, seeing how 'ungathered' they are, is an important one, I think. Despite their time spent together, they have not managed to grow close by events. They are still six individuals, not a group working together. Although then Fear does offer her this: "While I live, while I hold madness at baym Seren Pedac, I will protect and defend you, for a brother of mine set his sword into your hands."

Also, this is concerning: "She had succumbed to an uncharacteristic silence these past few days, and would not meet anyone's eyes."

Interesting discussion here about who the father of Andarist, Anomander and Silchas actually is. Would it be Father Light? And who is he? Funny how the three brothers go from dark to light in their features: "Andarist, like midnight itself. Anomander, with hair of blazing white. And here, Silchas, our walking bloodless abomination, whiter than any corpse but just as friendly."

Udinaas really is displaying some knowledge here, but I don't know how much to trust as being correct, like when he says that Andarist is dead. Is this all coming from the wraith Wither?

Seren Pedac really stands at a crossroads here, doesn't she? Is she going to use her newfound power in a good way or a bad way? It's worrying that she thinks: "I will have your secrets, slave. I will have those, and perhaps much, much more."

Another sly dig in Udinaas' thoughts towards certain fantasy books: "...those legends of old when the stalwart, noble adventurers simply went on and on, through one absurd episode after another..."

Udinaas' fevers each night and these things he learns - from Feather Witch? As a result of her interference?

This group of adventurers are oblivious of each other's abilities and secrets - there are so *many* secrets between them. It is very different from the scene we left between Trull, Onrack and Quick Ben as they start to share some of their secrets.

I do love Udinaas in this scene where he reveals that they are being tracked by someone else, who Silchas Ruin identifies as Sister Dawn. Some of his pronouncements and questions are exactly the kind of thing I would want to say! "Just what did you all do to each other all those millenia ago? Can't you kiss and make up?"

Ahhhhh! And suddenly one of those conversations where I feel as though every line is important, that I have to remember every part of it. Here it is Udinaas talking about what came before Darkness, and whether Chaos was the "Nothing" that Darkness imposed upon. The fact that Silchas Ruin might know very little about where he's come from. The fact that Mother Dark had to have been born from something. Lots of very important things here.

This chapter has an incredibly tense atmosphere, only aided by sentences like this "Slaves who might be masters, and somewhere ahead of them all, a bruised storm cloud overhead, filled with thunder, lightning, and crimson rain."

It strikes me that perhaps Seren Pedac should have tried someone else to infiltrate before she tried Udinaas - someone who clearly knows more than he should, and is suffering fevered dreams. I actually LOVE that Udinaas completely turns down Feather Witch - and not because he feels he's being protected by other people, but just because he doesn't want to be associated with her. Interesting as well that he sent the Errant away.

You know something? Udinaas' reaction of hurt and betrayal is something that I can get behind entirely - and surely Seren Pedac, of all people, shouldn't even contemplate the rape of another's mind, the stealing of their soul. We're seeing the bad side of Seren Pedac, unfortunately.

I'm glad to see some remorse from her, and it absolutely kills me to see those tears on his weathered cheeks.

Am slightly glad to move on from these tragic adventurers, although the town of Drene is not the place to go to for a lighter storyline! Here we see some of the effects of the economic collapse caused by Tehol - and we can see that there is most definitely a negative side of this plan: "The garrison has set out into the streets to conduct a brutal campaign of pacification that was indiscriminate at first, but eventually found focus in a savage assault on the poorest people of Drene." At least the poor fought back in this case.

And, interestingly, those rioting seem to realise that the Letherii are the true oppressors of their society, and leave the Edur alone.

Ahhh. And here is mention within the chapter of the Bolkando and their allies - a scheme of Letur Anict's.

And much more to Venitt Sathad than we might have thought, right? "I am Venitt Sathad. Indebted, born of Indebted, most skilled slave and assassin of Rautos Hivanar, and you, Tehol Beddict - and you, Bugg - need never fear me." Heh, that sentence sounds like it should have "...and I shall have my vengeance, in this life or the next..." somewhere included!

And then the last part of the chapter gives us a quick canter around the Awl, Brohl Handar and the Atri-Preda in the aftermath of the destructive battle they undertook.

Those cairns that they've seen - are these from the K'Chain Che'Malle?

This final battle - both the Letherii and the Awl once again feel that they can win it and destroy their enemy. I suspect there might be a twist to events.
Tricia Irish
16. Tektonica
Thanks for posting, Amanda. I hope Frankfort was fun and rewarding!

It certainly is a different side of Seren Pedac that we're getting here...and not a good one. It seemed, to me, out of character for her to invade Udinaas' dream like that. I was very surprised. And I don't understand her vision of herself as "poison", either.

Previously, I had seen her as thoughtful and open, considerate, and very ethical, even in a difficult position, guiding the Letherii to the Edur, while in love with an Edur. She seemed "removed", observant.

Maybe it was Mockra that has turned her attitude, or perhaps just the company she's been keeping, which is pretty toxic. So much anger! I understand where Udinaas is coming from, having been used in one way or another, by most everyone, but his anger, and mistrust, and venom is hard to read. In fact, I think this whole journey with this crew is my least favorite, perhaps, in all the books. (Not that I'm very fond of The Shake or the Awl line either.)

Thank goodness the Malazan's are back!

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