Fri
Oct 12 2012 12:00pm

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

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen on Tor.com: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter Twenty-OneWelcome 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 Twenty-One 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.

 

Chapter Twenty-One

SCENE ONE

Fiddler and Gesler’s squads have gotten separated. Fiddler believes they’re being herded toward a large army. They stop outside a village and Bottle uses a cat to figure out what’s going on. He tells Fiddler marines are holding the town and they can enter.

SCENE TWO

Hellian’s group is in the tavern, having been joined there earlier by Gesler’s squad (badly wounded). Fiddler’s squad enters. Hellian tells them how they’ve been successful – kill the officials, lawyers, and those with money. The other locals, mostly Indebted, loot, party, then leave.

SCENE THREE

Fiddler marvels at Hellian’s success.  Gesler and Stormy argue over how things are going.

SCENE FOUR

Koryk’s group tries to get Smiles to get rid of her singular trophies (as opposed to the fingers and toes the rest of them carry). They wonder how they’re going to get to Letheras and then besiege it.

SCENE FIVE

Bottle warns the marines hundreds of Edur are coming.

SCENE SIX

Beak has been exhausting himself using his “candles” to protect his group. The marines have been linking up with Keneb but Sort worries those far ahead may be lost. Sort and Beak meet up with Keneb, who decides it’s time to change tactics and now make a fast, hard push for the capital. Sort tells Beak to sleep/rest, but he tells her he can’t, the “candles, they won’t go out . . . It’s too late.” She tells him it’s okay “to die alongside your comrades.” He agrees, calling them his friends.

SCENE SEVEN

Thom Tissy tells Keneb the soldiers are ready for him. Keneb orders the march.

SCENES EIGHT through TWELVE

The marines in the village fight the Edur. Bowl, Lutes, Tavos Pond are killed, Stormy wounded.

SCENES THIRTEEN through EIGHTEEN

Sergeant Primly’s squad arrives at the village, with Badan Gruk, Skulldeath, Nep Furrow, Toothy, and others. They decide to fight rather than go around. The individual soldiers get ready, including Neller, who has a sword that “howls like a wild woman every time I hit something with it.”

SCENES NINETEEN through TWENTY-TWO

The marines continue to fight in the village and are saved by Primly’s group.

SCENE TWENTY-THREE

The 3rd and 4th get together after the Edur retreat. Sands, Uru Hela, and Hanno are added to the list of dead. Fiddler says they’ll wait a while and see if Keneb catches up.

SCENE TWENTY-FOUR

Smiles tells Koryk she’s going to make Skulldeath hers and needs Koryk to lie as Skulldeath is saving himself for royalty. She adds she’s getting birth control herbs from Bottle. Bottle tells Koryk the herbs are to make change a man who prefers men into one who prefers women and explains the etymological origins of Skulldeath’s name.

SCENE TWENTY-FIVE

Skulldeath overhears Hellian call herself Queen of Kartool.

SCENE TWENTY-SIX

Quick recaps a bit of what’s been going on with Tavore to Hedge and says he thinks Tavore is going after the Crippled God. Hedge wonders just how much manipulating of things Shadowthrone and Cotillion have done.

SCENE TWENTY-SEVEN

Hostille Rator tells Trull the Bentract’s Bonecaster had sacrificed herself to save the “illusion” of the Refugium, but her spirit is now failing. He and the others had turned away from the Gathering, called by her need. Hostille says the Refugium is an illusion, one he and his companions cannot give in to for when it dies they return to what they were. Rud rejects the idea that the Refugium and the Bentract are but memory/illusion. Onrack says he will stand with Rud, but does not answer when Rud asks if he believes. Hostille says Onrack can’t face returning to being T’lan and so will happily die here. Trull says he will stand with Onrack, out of friendship. Hostille, saying he and his companions have been shamed, offers their allegiance to Ulshun Pral and Rud. Onrack tells Trull the world will not die, nor must they if they are careful.

SCENE TWENTY-EIGHT

Quick tells Hedge the Finnest of Scabandari is here in the Refugium.

SCENE TWENTY-NINE

Ruin’s group arrives at a massive gate, wrecked on one side. Thanks to Udinaas, Seren realizes Clip is an assassin. They all enter the gate and see hundreds of dead dragons under a sky with three suns. Clip welcomes them to Starvald Demelain.

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-Two

It’s an interesting decision on Erikson’s part, this collecting of trophies by the Bonehunters, and I’m curious how people react to this and what you think Erikson is doing with it. From my view it “grays” up our “heroes.” It seems to me that this sort of thing should discomfit a reader. In some works (especially film works), I’d think this was meant to show how “tough” these folks are. But in this series, I’m thinking it is meant to make us wonder just a bit about what war does to people, and not in a macho, tough-them-up way.

I think Erikson did a great job with the agony of those in the field and especially those in leadership positions with regard of their mates in the field. In this particular case, I’m talking about Fiddler making the decision to not go after the sounds of fighting surrounding Gesler’s group. Think about what that does to someone – to hear that, to hear the screaming, and to consciously decide (for all the logical reasons) to not go help. And I like how we get the other side at the end – the conscious decision to go in and do what you can rather than taking the safe way around.

From the uncomfortable and wrenching to the comic via our favorite drunk, Hellian. Then some more actual relief, beyond the comic, as we get the news that Gesler’s squad has arrived already and then Fiddler’s group arrives.

And you have to love that it’s Hellian, “our drunk liberator,” who has been the best of them all at figuring out what to do, how to use the economic resentment for the Malazan’s purpose.

This chapter zigs and zags, doesn’t it? From that anguished opening with Fiddler to the comedy of Hellian (including pratfalls) to the mix of comic dialogue and harsh reality amongst the squad as they know death is staring them down to poor Beak’s exhaustion and the description of the three butchered squads he and Sort had found:

The silent howl of death roiling in the air, that cold fire that was the breath of every field of battle. A  howl frozen like shock into the trees, the trunks, the branches and the leaves. And in the ground underfoot, oozing like sap, and lily, his sweet bay, didn’t want to take a single step into that clearing and Beak knew why.

And then we get this sense of foreboding from Beak:

“It’s hot,” he muttered. And now, all at once, he could suddenly see where all this was going, and what he would need to do.

And this: 

“I’d dampen it down Beak, lest you burn right up.”

And this:

I want you on a stretcher Beak . . . sleeping . . .”

“I can’t sir . . . I really can’t. The candles, they won’t go out. Not any more. They won’t go out.” Not ever Captain, and it isn’t that I don’t love you because I do and I’d do anything you asked. But I just can’t and I can’t even explain. Only, it’s too late.

He wasn’t sure what she saw in his eyes . . . but the grip of her hand on his arm loosened, became almost a caress.

And this:

“It’s all right, Beak, to die alongside your comrades. It’s all right. Do you understand me?”

“Yes sir, I do. It is all right, because they’re my friends . . . And that’s why no one needs to worry, Captain.”

And from the quiet, aching,  heartbreaking Beak to the quietly moving and inspiring conversation between Thom Tissy and Keneb and then into the action itself, fierce and disgusting and consequential, as we lose several characters, including Tavos Pond, who has been with us for several books. And by the end we have several others lost as well. And this is just the skirmishing....

As mentioned earlier, I like how we’ve done a bit of a 180 from the start of this chapter, with a squad having to be abandoned to whatever fight they’re in to a squad hearing fighting and deciding to enter the fray.

Something to file away – swords that howl.

I like how Erikson takes his time with Pravalak here, makes this character come alive for us so it matters to us what happens to him. And it also increases our suspense a bit, as we’ve seen Erikson introduce characters with this sort of lengthy background and internal thought before just to kill them off in a page or two – is this in store for Pravalak?  And how much more moving is it to get the loss of Kisswhere in this fashion – the aftereffect and regret and the “almost could have been” rather than in the moment itself? 

We get a similar lengthy intro of Skulldeath and note the focus on his youth at the end. Once again, as readers, we have to fear for what’s to come.

Along with the suspense of what will happen to the new folks, based on prior experience, these cutaways serve to increase the suspense with our old friends. Don’t give me new people, we yell, tell us what’s going on at the village!

And then we zig again, after the fierce action and the suspense and the listing of the lost, back to some more relief via Smiles and Koryk and Bottle and Skulldeath.

I don’t have a lot of “insight” into this chapter thanks to the fact that so much is action/plot oriented, but I do like the structure of it – the back and forth in characters and settings and emotions is highly effective I thought.

Meanwhile, back in the Refugium, some things clear up while others, well, not so much. The not so much would be just what Shadowthrone, Cotillion, and Tavore are planning, and just how much those first two are manipulating events and with just how much foresight. I don’t think this conversation between Hedge and Quick clears anything up, nor do I think it is supposed to. I think it mostly gives the reader a few items to think about amidst past, present, and perhaps future chaos – was there ever a plan, is there a plan, and if yes to either, is it on track or not? Just a file away moment I’d say at this point.

What does become a bit more clear are the sides, at least to the characters themselves. Trull and Onrack align themselves firmly, and, once again, heartbreakingly, with each other. That isn’t news to us but it clears up some things with those in the Refugium. And Rud clearly has some staunch allies in whatever his plans are to protect the Bentract and their home. He seems to have picked up some via the other three T’lan Imass as well, but at this point, perhaps we should just say “seems,” since who knows how sincere this is.

And is anyone else not looking forward to that moment, should it come, of Onrack walking out of this place and returning to T’lan?  The longer this goes on, the more wrenching the anticipation of that becomes I’d say. Who can blame him for being happy to die there?

I should keep a running list and then actually see how my “favorite lines” stack up one against the other, but this back and forth is certainly one of my favorites:

“You surrender your life to defend an illusion?”

“That, Bonecaster, is what we mortals delight in doing.”

Talk about a succinct yet sharp evocation of what it means to be human... I absolutely love that line.

Sadly, this is also all too often a truism:

“You bind yourself to a clan, to a tribe, to a nation or an empire, but to give force to the illusion of a common bond, you must feed its opposite—that all those not of your clan, or tribe, or empire, do not share that bond.”

Maybe someday....

I like how we don’t know how funny Clip’s line is: “That doesn’t mean we’re about to jump into a pit of dragons” is until the end. When, of course, all those corpses make it not so much “funny.”

No, not funny at all. But still, a great chapter ending. Kind of a mean one, too.

The pawns are being moved into place. Easy to miss in all the action, but we get a sense of how near the end we are:  the marines are only a day from the capital. Not a lot of room left for movement. That sense of an ending is increased by Keneb’s gathering of the squads and the quick march (leaving us to wonder where Tavore is at this point geographically and time-wise), the marines’ sense that they are being herded toward a final showdown, the relatively large battle scene in the village, and Beak’s ominous thoughts. Meanwhile, we’ve got alliances forming in the Refugium and Ruin’s group taking one large step on the way there, something Rud has told us will not be long in coming. And let’s not forget Menandore and her sisters. And back in Lether, Rhulad is quickly moving down the line of champions toward Karsa and Icarium. While out in the Empire, things are falling apart quickly. The end, as they say, is nigh. Or, as my Kindle says, the end is 20% farther along....

 


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 forfantasyliterature.com.

29 comments
Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
I really like the Hellian sections:
Unaccounatably dizzy,
... and then
Our drunk liberator, our bloodthirsty goddess – what in Hood’s name do all those people think when they first see her?
Pure gold. Both from the change of pace and the perfectness of Hellian's "plan".
Abyss
2. Abyss
One of the great subtle bits about this chapter occurs when the Malazans are engaged against the Edur and Primly's group charges in. Most of Primly's group are dark skinned, and the Edur freak out, thinking they are their legendary Andii enemies.
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
Hedge and Quick's talk is intriguing in its hints, but I agree that we don't really get told anything. The confirmation that Hedge can at least sense Fid is pleasant at this point.
I could really picture the horror as Kettle & co walk through the gate and see acres of dead dragons.
Julian Augustus
4. Alisonwonderland
One of the things that baffled me was cleared up in this chapter, though it raised another question. I always wondered how perpetually drunk Hellian could guide her troops safely through the most horrific situations ( such as Y'Ghatan) while other squads led by clear-eyed experienced sergeants get decimated. A partial answer is provided in this chapter: Hellian is protected by an ascendant. The question is, who? We are told the ascendant appears as 'a Kanese woman'. Anybody have any idea who this goddess is? Is The Lady (Oponn) Kanese?
David Thomson
5. ZetaStriker
Wasn't there a Goddess of Wine in Midnight Tides?
Eric Desjardins
6. SirExo
Hellian has been able to lead her squads safely because she has been so far ahead of the rest of the marines. Meaning that she gets to the next town/tavern before they know what is hitting them, and as it was said in this chapter the freed indeted are happy to help them afterwards.

I didnt see any mentione of any acendants in the squads (other than a certain sergeant and corporal).
Sydo Zandstra
7. Fiddler
@Alisonwonderland:

IIRC, Oponn-Female was looking after Corabb.
Did we ever get confirmation that it was her indeed and not Oponn-Male, or was it just assumed to be her because we've seen her act before, on another male character?

Although most people think this is a sheer drunk's luck, I've always thought Hellian was guided by the other half of Oponn. The scene where she uses the lid of a beer keg as a shield resembles Corabb's scene with the Moranth munition under the helmet too much (in HoC).

(Errant, your replacement(s) are coming for you, buddy... ;-) )


About the Bonehunters collecting body parts, to me this is SE painting what being in a terrible stresfull situation (like a running war) can make people do and/or become. We see a lot of situations like that in, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I will not defend such atrocities, but when I hear people at home say 'I could never do such a thing' , I often ask them how they could know that, since they have never been in the same situation. These soldiers weren't monsters when they were sent out. And I think SE is showing us exactly that, through the POV's of those doing the bad stuff. This series is not only about compassion, but about empathy as well.

Speaking of empathy on our (the readers') part: Oh Beak...


Sinter and Kisswhere going missing: make some room in the filing cabinet...


That scene where Skulldeath shows his sword skills: classic case of 'the cavalry always comes in time...' Nicely written though.
(You could compare it with first seeing the scene where Yoda faces Count Dooku, too)
Brian R
8. Mayhem
I'm pretty sure the "Kanese woman" is Skim, one of the other sappers, because it later says that Primly took all the sappers with him, and she's not dark skinned like the Dal Honese.

I'm fairly certain there is no ascendant or blessing with the marines, other than Corabb's luck, though the lady's pull would certainly apply to some of what Hellian gets away with. Nonetheless, all the members of both squads insist she is a hellaciously good soldier when drunk, no matter how confused her mental behaviour shows up.
Her whole shtick reminds me a lot of Jacky Chan's Drunken Master - the drunker he gets the better he fights, until he goes that little bit too far and passes out.
Pirmin Schanne
9. Torvald Nom
Certainly not the Lord's push for Hellian - didn't see any case of bad luck there.
Brian R
10. Mayhem
@Fiddler & Bill
I'm with you on the collecting body parts. It's a sign of how the guerilla style of warfare is having a marked psychological impact on those who are practicing it - they are getting darker and nastier, and losing sight of what their goals are. Terror begets terror and a desire for vengeance leads to escalations.
More importantly, it's all set up to contrast with what happens in the next chapter.
Lee VanDyke
11. Cloric
And how much more moving is it to get the loss of Kisswhere in this fashion

I don't actually have copies of the books, I checked them out of the library as I read them since I just don't have the bookshelf space anymore, but I enjoy the reread to enhance my understanding of the story. That being said, I'm extremely confused by this line. (spoiler text)I have firm memories of Kisswhere in later books (of course, I've been known to be wrong) so perhaps someone would be so kind as to remind me how we "lost" Kisswhere in this chapter. Plzandthx.
Brian R
12. Mayhem
@Cloric Here's the relevant sections.

And Honey’s still got three cussers and half again all the sharpers
since Kisswhere left ‘em behind when she and Sinter went and—’

‘All right,’ Badan cut in, not wanting to hear again what had happened to Sinter and Kisswhere, since it had been Kisswhere who had been the reason for Sinter’s joining. Nothing good following a woman who was following another woman with worship in her eyes – even a sister – but that had been that and they were both gone now, weren’t they?

...

‘Bliss ‘em clay balls? Ya mad, tit-woman? Less time I done that—’
‘They blew up, aye. Sinter and Kisswhere. Into pieces but nice and quick, right?

"Where's the body?"
"Vapourised, sir"
"Vapourised? A body can do that?"
"Oh yes, sir"

As Fiddler said. File.
Lee VanDyke
13. Cloric
@12 Mayhem

Thanks, I think I remember now, and now I think I should change my previous post, to avoid spoilers for Amanda.
Amanda Rutter
14. ALRutter
Just to let you know - comments for chapter nineteen have been put into the relevant chapter :-)
Amanda Rutter
15. ALRutter
Comments for chapter twenty are now also up!
Julian Augustus
16. Alisonwonderland
Fiddler @7: Yes, it has always been clear to me as well that something or someone just had to be looking out for Hellian, considering how she's managed to survive till now, but there wasn't a hint about how in any of the books until now. And SirExo @6, that doesn't mean that whichever ascendant is looking out for Hellian has been in the Bonehunters all along.

For those who didn't get it, here's the scene to which Fiddler was referring:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Urb ran back from the Factor’s house as fast as he could, angling his shield to cover his right shoulder. The damned woman! Standing there with a damned cask lid with a flight of lances about to wing her way. Oh, her soldiers worshipped her all right, and so blind was that worship that not one of them could see all that Urb did just to keep the fool woman alive. He was exhausted and a nervous wreck besides and now – this time – it looked as if he would be too late.

Five paces from Hellian and out went a half-dozen lances, two winging to intercept Urb. Skidding as he pivoted round behind his shield, he lost sight of her. One lance darted past a hand’s width from his face. The other struck true against the shield, the iron head punching through to impale his upper arm, pinning it to his side. The impact spun Urb round and he staggered as the lance pulled at him, and, grunting, he slid down on his knees, the hard cobbles driving shocks up his legs. He slammed his sword-hand down – still clutching the weapon – to keep from pitching forward, and heard a knuckle crack.
At that instant, the world exploded white.

Four lances speeding Hellian’s way came close to sobering her up. Crouching, she lifted her flimsy, undersized shield, only to have it hammered from her hand in a splintering concussion that sent it spinning, the snapped foreshafts of two lances buried deep in the soaked, heavy, wonderful-smelling wood. Then her helm wastorn from her head with a deafening clang, even as she was struck a glancing blow on her right shoulder that ripped away the leather shingles of her armour. That impact turned her right round so that she faced up the street, and, upon seeing the clay bottle she had thrown away moments earlier, she dived towards it.
Better to die with one last mouthful—
The air above her whistled as she sailed through the air and she saw maybe a dozen lances flit overhead.
She slammed chest-first on the dusty cobbles, all breath punched from her lungs and stared, bug-eyed, as the bottle leapt of its own accord into the air. Then she was lifted by her feet and flipped straight over to thump hard on her back, and above her the blue sky was suddenly grey with dust and gravel, stone chips, red bits, all raining down.
She could not hear a thing, and that first desperate breath was so thick with dust that she convulsed in a fit of coughing. Twisting onto her side, she saw Urb maybe six paces away. The idiot had got himself skewered and looked even more stunned than usual. His face was white with dust except the blood on his lips from a tooth gash, and he was staring dumbly down the street to where all the Edur were – might be they were charging them now so she’d better find her sword—
She’d just sat up when a hand slapped her shoulder and she glared up at an unfamiliar face – a Kanese woman frowning intently at her. With a voice that seemed far away she said, ‘Still with us, Sergeant? You shouldn’t ever be that close to a cusser, you know.’
And then she was gone.
Hellian blinked. She squinted down the street and saw an enormous crater where the Edur had been. And body parts, and drifting dust and smoke.
And four more marines, two of them Dal Honese, loosing quarrels into a side street then scattering as one of them threw a sharper in the same direction.
Hellian crawled over to Urb.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just before this scene, Hellian had been trying to drink from what she thought was a clay bottle with wine in it. She thought the wine tasted terrible, so she threw it away just as a party of Edur charged at them. By rights, she should have dead. But it turns out the clay bottle was in fact a cusser, which exploded and turned all the Edur into mush, leaving Hellian relatively unharmed!!! Then, Hellian's ascendant protector showed up to check that she was okay, chided Hellian for being so close to a cusser explosion, and promptly vanished.

The question is, who is this ascendant looking out for Hellian? The only ascendant we've seen who does that sort of thing is The Lady (female Opponn twin), witness Paran and Corrabb. We've seen the twins a few times, but I don't remember a description of The Lady, or that she was Kanese in appearance. I wondered if it is, indeed, her, or whether it is a different ascendant.
Tricia Irish
17. Tektonica
I must be thick....I thought the phrase, "and then she was gone", indicated that she had run down the street to join her fellow soldiers.

So who is this mysterious 'asecendent" looking out for dear Hellion?? The Lady, really? She never appeared to Paran like that, did she?
Brian R
18. Mayhem
@Alison
Interesting. I read that scene completely differently.

I don't think the clay bottle is a cusser, it's just a bottle of bad wine. The cusser is thrown at the Edur by Primly's group of marines, who have arrived to save the day for Urb & Hellian, same as Skulldeath saves Smiles & Koryk. The person who shows up is one of the women from the 3rd company, best guess is Skim by description. Her and Honey talk about munitions immediately after we leave Hellian looking at her "shield".

The first row, about ten of them, halted and raised their lances.
‘Not fair!’ Hellian shouted, pulling her shield up and getting ready to duck behind it – oh, this wasn’t a shield at all. It was the lid of an ale cask, the kind with a handle. She stared at it. ‘Hey, I wasn’t issued this.’
next line, Badan and his men.
Three straight days and nights on the run from the river bank and now the sounds of fighting somewhere ahead.
...
‘So,’ Badan breathed, ‘do we go round this?’
...
‘Those are marines up there, and they’re in a fight.
...
‘Time to collect some trophies, then.’
Fifteen paces away, Honey nudged Skim. ‘Hey, beloved, looks like we get to toss sharpers today.’

We then cut back to the point of view of Hellian as you quote above. She's shellshocked, and not focussing clearly, but can see the four other members of the 3rd finishing off the job. Two are Dal Honese, so they'd be Strap Mull & Neller, and the one with a sharper is probably Honey. I'm almost certain that the Kanese woman who comes to check on Hellian is Skim because as best as I can tell everyone else in that group is male. Presumably she then quickly moves out of Hellian's line of sight and carries on fighting hence the sudden "and then she was gone" moment.

No need for the physical presence of an ascendant, although definitely a large chunk of Lady's push in Hellian's emerging unscathed.
Eric Desjardins
19. SirExo
As Mayhem has shown, there is no higher power other than good old moranth alchemy at play here. Also another reason that Hellian's survival is just because of her own skill/luck and not divine interferance/luck is that we have had thru two seperate books plenty of instances were we see her take care of buisness and trouble, but we have never had any connection of her and any accendants. If an accendant would decide that now would be the perfect time to show up to save her life, that would be a very sloppy DEM with no good justification. Erickson always sets things up when characters need to be saved by an intervening force. But as this is in chapter 21 out of 24, and there has been no set up of any connection between Hellian and any one else out of the Bonehunter's, I cannot agree with your theory on this matter.
Amanda Rutter
20. ALRutter
Okay, my comments for chapter twenty one!

The Malazans are doing well, aren't they? Pressing ever closer to the capital and only now getting to a point where someone on the opposing side is pulling together a unified response. Having said that, I'm so conscious of just how few Malazans there are, seeking to take down this empire - it's almost ridiculous that they're even trying.

A heartbreaking choice there - go to the aid of fellow soldiers or slip past in order to take the battle to the enemy somewhere else. Fiddler is the consummate professional, isn't he? But how much must it hurt after having lost his own Bridgeburners, to think about leaving behind others. "So I left 'em to it. And the detonations died away, but the screams continued, Hood take me."

And madness seems to be stalking the squad - this taking of grisly trophies (particularly those taken by Smiles - those are very gruesome) is something that seems to have come on only as they've spent more time on the frontline. "Gods below, look at these fools - how in Hood's name have we lasted this long?"

It's painful seeing Fiddler at a point where he's thinking about wanting to be dead. He's usually so gruff and so vital that you can't imagine him losing hope, but he's on the edge of it here. There couldn't have been a better time, I don't think, for these marines to have found a village being held by their own.

In the midst of Hellian's drunken observations is that wonderful greeting between Fiddler and Gesler. And then immediately the thoughts of depression about the aftermath of battle. Sharp observations for someone who is trying to hide in a bottle.

I think it's cool that Hellian, of everyone, is the one that manages to succeed in dodging the Edur and liberating the Letherii, all while completely inebriated. There is that one line which I particularly like: "And since Urb was adamant on who was leading whom, it really had been her." It shows that Urb feels at least some respect for this "drunken, ferocious marine".

Ahhhhh! I dread hearing Stormy say: "We're all damn near unscathed, given what we've been through. More living than dead in every squad here." Isn't that just asking for trouble? Cursing them to worse situations?

Oh, bless Beak... Not able to rest, knowing that the worst is yet to come. And then that mage teasing him, but her eyes softening when she realises that he is taking it literally. Beak is becoming a favourite.
And, oh, such a tragic story ahead - I can just sense it, especially with his magic flaring out of control: "The candles, they won't go out. Not any more. They won't go out."

*grins* "I got my target!" "By bouncing your quarrel off the cobbles and don't tell me that was a planned shot!"

Erikson is showing the darkly funny side of battle here in these little scenes that we're jumping to - the unintentional shots, Corabb tripping and somehow snarling up three of the enemy, Smiles' in convulsions of laughter. You can imagine that the tension of battle and the extreme adrenaline must cause hysterical laughter as well as screaming.

The Bonehunters are sustaining losses now... *sad* And some of these losses are people that we never really knew and will never get the opportunity to, like Sinter and Kisswhere.

What gives with this Letherii sword that howls like a wild woman every time it's used?

This quick glimpse into Skulldeath's past (the fact he is the last surviving male of the Futani royal line of the Gilani tribe) is just the latest reminder that we join these characters partway through their life - so partway through the 'conversation' - and so might never find out everything about them. I really like that. I like that it is so realistic.

Lucky Hellian - lucky, lucky Hellian!

Oooh, who is this mysterious and capable stranger who has rescued Koryk and Smiles? Skulldeath, really?

It's funny that Fiddler thinks this: "Ain't nobody waiting other side of Hood's Gate, unless it's to jeer" when we know that Hedge has gone beyond.

Poor Smiles! Looks like she's going to lose Skulldeath to Hellian - who is far from the Queen of Kartool!

A *very* interesting talk between Quick Ben and Hedge. Not a lot of trust between these two, is there? Hedge's pointed remark about not knowing who or what Quick Ben is shows that. I think it's good that he's throwing doubt on what Cotillion and Shadowthrone know and how much they are now using Quick Ben, especially keeping him close to them and part of their plans.

And Quick Ben keeps up that mysterious aura: "Just how long do all of those souls plan on hiding in there, Ben Adaephon Delat?" The wizard eyed him, and, predictably, said nothing.

This is a deeply powerful scene, as Trull faces Hostille Rator. The idea that Onrack is prepared to fight for the Bentract because he can't bear the thought of returning to his T'lan Imass form is truly heart-breaking. And then to learn that the price Onrack pays for his friendship with Trull is a soul that can never find peace... It's painful.

Looks like the showdown for the Finnest is going to be happening within this odd realm, if Quick Ben is correct!

Clip is very quick to play down the destruction of the gate, isn't he? And, if Udinaas is correct, we now learn that he is an assassin - which doesn't seem the right sort of occupation for a Mortal sword, if I'm honest.

NICE ending to the chapter - when I say nice, I mean shocking! All the dragons are dead? Starvald Demelain is dead?
Tricia Irish
21. Tektonica
I'm glad I wasn't the only one that didnt' sense an ascendent taking care of Hellion. I really thought I'd missed something.

Thanks Amanda! Glad to have you back. Hope Frankfort was fun and productive.

There are some new, rather important characters introduced here....note the suggestions, above, about the file cabinet ;-)
Abyss
22. Tufty
I believe that the Kanese woman Hellian saw was just Skim, and that the reason she has survived so far is due to Urb looking out for her, her being cold as ice when the fighting starts, and sheer luck (but not the intended blessing sort that Corabb has).

Whatever you believe, the wine bottle she was drinking definitely was not a cusser. One, cusser explode when exposed to air and she had the bottle open and was drinking it. Two, the bottle is still on the ground when the cusser explosion occurs and it bounces up into the air (she avoids lances by diving towards the bottle for a last drink).
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
I think there is more of something going on with Hellian than "mere" luck. I'm not sure though whether it is an external ascendent or an internal manifistation--Hellian could herself be in the process of ascending through (and while) her consumption of spirits. Power attracts power and a Dionysian revel works for the first part of the power.
Darren Kuik
24. djk1978
Nah, I never thought there was anything out of the ordinary going on with Hellian. I agree, the Kanese woman was more likely just Skim or some other random squad member. Hellian is the opposite of Balm (I think). Once the fighting starts she has rare abilities. And maybe she's a bit lucky, but this is the first time I've really thought she was extraordinarily so. Everyone is lucky sometimes right?
Keel Curtis
25. captaink
A great fun action chapter that quickly makes us forget the Edur heads stacked on a tavern table. I think our marines have gone a bit feral in this campaign. They are clearly damned effective though.

Put me on the side of Hellian just being incredibly lucky. I don't think any particular god or ascendant is looking out for her. Although she reminded me of the saying: "A special Providence takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States."
In any case, she's not a stupdendously lucky as Corabb, who does have Oponn's blessing.

And welcome back Amanda!
Bill Capossere
26. Billcap
I'm also in the non-supernatural help for Helian, especially as having such would dilute the character enjoyment for me.

as for the casualties and filing away, I'll just add that Erikson chooses his words very carefully as we've seen before. Something to pay attention to

Mayhem, that's an excellent flash forward point about the trophy collecting setting up what's to soon come
karl oswald
27. Toster
some great quotes in the next chapter:

To burn, fire needed fuel.

Now, at this moment, he was an Indebted.
Who had had enough.

"I'm taller now, stronger. I can save him, can't I?"
A long pause, and then the figure said, "Yes, Beak, you can save him."
Eric Desjardins
28. SirExo
Singular lives, yes they could be most ... singular.

Are we going to let the the Adjunct and all those salty soldiers of hers beat us there?
Emiel R
29. Capetown
re: the singing sword. I don't think is a reference to the sword we meet in a later book many seem to think about though the way it was manufactured looks to be alike (Compare the following quote with the description of said swords in FoD). Instead, it's probably a Letherii Blue Style sword like the one that Brys and the Ceda examine in MT:
The Ceda led him to the far wall, and Brys immediately saw a perfect weapon, long and narrow of blade, pointed and double-edged, modest hilt. ‘Letherü steel,’ he said, reaching for it. ‘Yes, in the Blue Style, which, as you well know, is the very earliest technique for Letherii steel. In some ways, the Blue Style produces finer steel than our present methods. The drawbacks lie in other areas.’

Brys tested the weight of the weapon. ‘The pommel needs to be replaced, but otherwise…’ Then he looked up. 'But it's cursed?'

'Only in so far as all Blue Style weapons are cursed. As you know, the blade’s core is twisted wire, five braids of sixty strands each. Five bars are fused to that core to produce the breadth and edge. Blue Style is very flexible, almost unbreakable, with one drawback. Finadd, touch the blade to any other here. Lightly, please. Go ahead.’

Brys did so, and a strange sound reverberated from the Blue Style sword. A cry, that went on, and on.

‘Depending on where on the blade you strike, the note is unique, although each will eventually descend or ascend to the core’s own voice. The effect is cumulative, and persistent.’ ‘Sounds like a dying goat.’

‘There is a name etched into the base of the blade, Finadd. Arcane script. Can you read it?’

Brys squinted, struggled a moment with the awkward lettering, then smiled. ‘Glory Goat. Well, it seems a mostly harmless curse. Is there any other sorcery invested in it?’
‘The edges self-sharpen, I believe. Nicks and notches heal, although some material is always lost. Some laws cannot be cheated.’
By the way, notice how the pile of Edur heads directly mirrors the pile of Andii heads aboard the Silanda.

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