Dec 12 2012 1:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Return of the Crimson Guard, Chapter Three, Part Two

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen on Return of the Crimson Guard, Chapter Three Part TwoWelcome 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 the second half of Chapter Three of Return of the Crimson Guard (RotCG).

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 will be adding her bit in the comments, as she’s in the midst of traveling. Also, our splitting point for Chapter IV will be ending Part One at “They know lad. They know. Word’s bein’ spread,” and beginning Part Two at “The Imperial Council was convened in new quarters...” The split is roughly halfway through; in my print version the two scenes are separated by asterisks.


Chapter Three Part Two


Sunny and Hurl tail Storo out of the inn, while Silk the mage and Jalor and Rell are also following, though less obviously. Hurl realizes Storo is going to meet the pirates he’d told them he’d started out with, a group outlawed by Laseen. She worries the pirates might turn Storo and Sunny shows her he’s wearing a bevy of cussers and the like. They follow Storo into a warehouse and hide so as to eavesdrop on his conversation with a trio who are clearly Old Guard. One, Orlat, presses Storo for an answer and when Storo says they already know his answer, Orlat says he is “sorry it has to be that way.” The two others disappear and six veterans step beside Orlat as Rell steps up beside Storo. Sunny and Hurl are surprised by one of Orlat’s men, but Silk sends him “elsewhere.” While Rell holds off four soldiers, Sunny and Hurl, with some help from Jalor, escape the “sent elsewhere” guy and the female mage that had been with Orlat earlier, then set off munitions to open an exit. Storos’ squad retreats to a river launch while Shaky covers them. After they get away, Storo tells them Fist Rheena is dead and there’s been a coup in the city. He says Orlat told him the Seti and Tali and other old kingdoms were rebelling and that many of the Malazan garrisons, undermanned, had probably turned to the Old Guard, adding he himself had served under Urko. Marveling at Silk’s seeming newfound magical abilities/strength, Sunny wonders if he is a Claw, but he says he’s from Li Heng and so he “pulls more out of myself here than anywhere.” They’re met by an old woman healer named Liss, who refers to them as “loyalists,” and calls Hurl “Builder.” She has an odd reaction to Rell though, hissing at him and muttering something Sunny can’t catch. Leaving Liss behind, they head to the palace, evading gates thanks to Silk’s arrangements, which makes Hurl think Silk might even be “more than” a Claw. Storo says they enter the place, control the old Protectoress’ Throne Room (the City Temple), then meet the garrison in the morning. When Sunny asks if Silk will get them into the palace via Imperial Warren, Silk replies no one can enter the City Temple by Warren and they’ll use the secret passage instead.


Silk leads them into the sewers and they find a statue of a jackal: “Ryllandaras. The White Jackal of Winter. Quon’s Curse. The man-jackal First Hero who rampaged for centuries across these central plains rendering them all but impassable but for the intercession of the tribes who worshipped him—the Old Seti.” When Sunny says Kellanved or the Emperor slew him, Silk responds “that’s one version of things,” and describes how long ago, when Hen was one of the most powerful independent city-states, Ryllandaras and the Seti were its chief enemies. The statue is an entrance to a hidden passage.


Hurl tells Silk he’s revealed himself as a city mage back when Kellanved came and Silk doesn’t argue. Silk says this passage was never used because “she wouldn’t flee...and abandon her city,” the “she” being “Shalmanat. Protectress of Li Heng for millennia. Some said since its first founding as a caravan crossroads. Slain by Kellanved—or Dancer to be precise.” Silk admits he had known something was in the wind and Silk realizes it had been Silk who had put together much of the squad and she wonders if he’s also influenced where they were posted. They enter the temple, filled with white, and Rell kills four guards almost instantaneously. They defeat another squad then run into a magistrate—Plengyllen—who having heard of the coup runs from them, calling them assassins.


Storo’s squad continues to take on Orlat’s men, while the garrison mostly stays out of it. Near dawn, they reach the marshaling grounds to find Orlat and fifty men there waiting. When Orlat tells Storo to surrender, they have no idea who they were up against, Storo says it’s the other way around, then sends Rell, whom he’s been keeping back, forward.


After Rell kills or wounds almost half his soldiers, Orlat calls on his two mages, who advance in a wave of Thyr fire magic. Rell refuses to leave and the others retreat down the hallway. Silk appears and faces down the mages, calling them ignorant for using Thyr, “a degenerate warren. Bastard child of incestuous union,” and then calls upon Kurald Liosan. Hurl is flattened by light and whiteness and sees the two mages and Orlat and his soldiers incinerated.


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Three, Part Two

I like that little bit of local color Esslemont gives us the Sunny and Hurl tail Storo through the city—the taverns, whores, late night workers, the blacksmith’s hammering ringing out. And I liked as well how he moved us smoothly from that into a bit of characterization regarding Hurl.

Here’s an early reference to Rell’s skill: “that guy was just amazing...The young fellow would just look away all shamefaced whenever the subject of promotion or commendation came up.” Something to keep in mind (especially that latter part) as we see his skill later in this chapter.

Well, we had suspicions already this was an Old Guard meeting and “a gang outlawed by the Empress” would seem to confirm that.

It’s nice to see the Moranth alchemicals getting a bit broadened here, when Hurl uses them to open the locked door. You’d like to think the knowledge does get used in other ways beyond the stuff that blows other stuff up (though to be fair, there is a fair bit of nuance among the blow-up things). I also liked that throwaway line about the “engineering academy” and wouldn’t mind seeing a short story or two set in one of those.

Again, another nice bit of vivid detail, here as the two crawl across the crates: “They stank of tar and dust and bat droppings and trailed cobwebs...” Some visual, some odor, some tactile....

Another hint to what we’re about to see in regards to Rell: “Six veterans. This could give Rell a run for his money.” Implying of course that she wouldn’t be surprised if he takes them all on. And a bit later, “Rell never made a sound when he fought, ever.” Later on, she’ll muse that “In all the years campaigning together she’d yet to see him cut. There was something unnatural about that.”

“Plain squad mage.” I do so enjoy that tradition....

Two interesting tidbits with their meeting with the mage healer Liss: the way she calls Hurl “Builder” and her reaction to Rell (who’s becoming quite the mystery boy early on in this chapter.)

Speaking of mystery, Silk is also picking up some early airs of the same, first with the recognition that he’s seemingly more powerful than he’s ever shown, then the suspicion that he’s a Claw, then Liss telling him the two of them have “faded.” His might be an interesting perspective going forward, city mage of a once-proud city-state conquered by the Malazan Empire.

So we’ve had a few side references to Ryllandaras. Anyone thinking that stopping for a paragraph or two of more detail about this First Hero might be setting us up? Especially with Silk’s heavy-with-implication “That’s one version if it,” when Sunny says Dancer killed Ryllandaras. Just a few reminders from our earlier book regarding the name:

  • In Deadhouse Gates, Mappo and Icarium meet a Ryllandaras in the form of wolves.
  • Mappo: “Your brother Treach had it in mind that he killed you. Where was that chasm? Dal Hon? Or was it Li Heng? You were D’ivers jackals then, I seem to recall.”
  • Later, Kimloc, the Tanno Spiritwalker tells Fiddler: “the Emperor clashed with both Treach and Ryllandaras outside Li Heng. I was there.”
  • In House of Chains, Karsa meets the same wolf D’ivers, who tries to warn him off encountering Icarium.
  • In The Bonehunters, Heboric refers to Ryllandaras as “a Soletaken who escaped the slaughter.”
  • And finally, and perhaps most pertinent, in Memories of Ice, when Treach returns to himself, he recalls: We fled [the T’lan Imass], a handful of survivors. Ryllandaras, old friend—we fell out, clashed, then clashed again on another continent. He had gone the farthest, found a way to control the gifts—Soletaken and D’ivers both. White Jackal.

That’s a nice little hint by Esslemont of Silk’s move near the end of this chapter when they enter the temple and it’s so bright: “very white and bright—though no source of light was visible.” We had a hint earlier, when Silk uses white light again Orlat’s mage at the warehouse door, and in a bit we get him saving the captain from “some kind of shadow thing” via a “flash of blinding pure white light.”

Another little tidbit about Rell:

“I thought you had some kinda code...Ain’t that against your code, them being unarmed n’ all?”

“They were armed,” answer Rell...“they were just slow.”

This before a much fuller reveal of his abilities:

Hurl was astonished by his form, speed, and most of all, his ruthless surgical efficiency. He seemed to have been trained exactly how to cut for maximum disabling or plain maiming power...It was more a slaughter than a fight.

Speaking of a more full reveal, we now get Silk in full Kurald Liosan anger. And, as we’ve seen from the Liosan, condescension as well—note the “bastard practitioners of a degenerate warren...Retarded child...sad ignorance.” That a pretty good ending I’d say, for a chapter that was mostly skirmish.

So we’ve got a bit of mystery surrounding two seemingly pretty powerful characters: Silk and Rell. And an undermanned garrison holding a city against a coup. And let’s not forget our little mini-lesson in Ryllandaras.

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

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for

1. Tufty
This is a great little action section. I find it quite impressive how much Esselmont manages to squeeze into half a chapter. Tailing Storo, then the warehouse battle, the infiltration of the palace, fighting through the palace corridors and then the courtyard battle - these could easily have been spread along two or three chapters, but ICE squishes them down very effectively without losing their importance or making it feel rushed.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
I enjoyed this half of the chapter more than the first half. Esslemont does a very nice job once the action gets going. The
Ryllandaras bits were nice as a tie back to BotF as ill summarized above.
Sanctume Spiritstone
3. Sanctume
The details around the actions in combat is one of ICE's strong points. I often try to envision the scene with miniature gaming pieces, and observe along their gaming sessions.
- -
4. hex
I admit I was pretty confused about Ryllandaras vis à vis his forms, his having 'died' multiple times, and then him seemingly being in two places at once. Hard to keep the details of that one straight what with his multiple manifestations.
Keel Curtis
5. captaink
I'm a little proud of myself for remembering Rell's secret. At least, I think I do. ;)He and Silk are both little mysteries that we get to learn about. The Li Heng storyline is one of my favorites in this book. I think Esselmont can do Malazan marines and sappers just as well as Erikson.
Julian Augustus
6. Alisonwonderland
This book left me all confused about access to the Elder warrens. Based on Erikson's books I had the impression that only the non-human Tistes had access to their associated warrens (Kurald Liosan for the Liosan, Kurald Emurlahn for the Edur, and Kurald Galain for the Andii) while humans only had access to "human" versions of these warrens, Thyr, Maenas, Rashan. Yet, here we have Silk, a human, using Kurald Liosan, and later we will find another human, an old squad mage, who can "unveil" Kurald Galain. Is this an error, or is there an explanation specific to these cases, or have I simply misunderstood these warrens?
7. Tufty

They are special cases.

SPOILERS (whited out):

We don't really know for sure about Silk, but it seems his ability to use KL is tied to his being a mage of pre-conquest Li Heng. Given the stories of Shalmanat being the Protectress of Heng for millenia, it is quite possible Shalmanat was a Liosan or Kurald Liosan/Thyrllan-aspected Ascendent, and her mages learned to channel the elder warren of light through her.

As for Heuk, he is a priest, not a mage. He has no ability to wield elder magics himself, but can channel his god's power, and his god does have the ability to wield an elder warren.
karl oswald
8. Toster
so many good things about this half of the chapter. i love that hurl references hedge as a progenitor of the sapper tradition. i love how Ule keeps showing up until rell pierces the fool. i love all the little hints about silk and rell. i love how jalor says 'it is good to kill malazans again!' i also like the mention of shalmanat, the most famous 'madam-not-appearing-in-this-film.'

i also like the slight arrogance shown by silk toward the thyr practitioners - liosan attitude much?
Sanctume Spiritstone
9. Sanctume
@6 Bottle is human and can access Elder Magic via Eres. I though Eres is old school Elder, right? Or at least IIRC he mentions that kind of magic his grandmother uses.
10. Cassanne
So, does this perhaps imply that Shalmanat was a Tiste Liosan? Because Silk seems to be, at least he's acting like one (and we know they can disguise as humans) or perhaps he's a half-blood then.

@9 I believe what Bottle uses is even older, spirit magic, or land magic. Something like that. Because the Eres are even older than the Tiste. (No, I'm not sure of the respective ages, but perhaps that discussion should wait until after a Forge of Darkness read.)
Amanda Rutter
11. ALRutter
Okay guys, sorry about my brief absence! Here are my comments on the second half of chapter three:

So after the faint disappointment from the first part of this chapter, the second part opens splendidly. I really enjoyed the walk with Hurl and Sunny as they trail the captain. They are Malazan sappers to the core and Esslemont really got the tone, including amusing asides like "Their ages looked to Hurl to vary directly with their distance from the light" and nicely-handled hints of back story from various characters.

So these old cadre mages, including Orlat, are trying to recruit Storo to their ranks... And he is loyal to the Malazan Empire, it seems. My, this book is exploring well all of the variations of personnel within the Malazan forces. It's interesting to see who has aligned themselves with which faction.

Hmm, how come Hurl thinks that Rell would be a pretty good match for six veterans then? What is it about this "young fellow" that means he is able to do this?

Have to confess, Silk creeps me out a bit. Which is so weird for me, because the last Silk I read about was the one from David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean series - and he is far from being creepy! I wonder if there is any homage to that character at all, or whether it was just a coincidental name?

Ack, this was a very confusing line - I thought Sunny had left the mortal coil: "A crack sounded as Sunny jumped - the release of a crossbow - then a crash of him lying dead flat on his back..."

I feel this sentence is deliberate when it comes to Rell: "Orlat's gaze was narrow as he watched Rell's form." What is there to watch?

I found the runty knife guy and his part in this pretty amusing - first being vanished to who knows where by Silk, then returning and getting through the smoke of a, uh, smoker to threaten Hurl and Sunny again and then getting a knife in his side. Suspect it isn't the last we've seen of him either.

It is very cool seeing sappers not being led by either Hedge or Fiddler and knowing that they are continuing traditions laid down by those two. Nice to see respect for the munitions as well: "Gods! Cussor tossing! No matter that it took more than a shock to set them off - the imagination did wonders."

So here we're looking at a rising by the Seti and Tali, and Laseen has managed to weaken the Malazan forces by sending them off to foreign escapades. And, at the same time, the Malazans are in two different groups - those for the Empire and those who have turned. Seems like a big mess, if you ask me!

This is interesting and haven't seen it mentioned explicitly before: "This is home turf for me. I pull more out of myself here than anywhere." Is this common to all mages, or is Silk a special case?

Why does Liss (who is a cool character!) call Hurl a Builder? There was a very deliberate capital there.

And more mystery about Rell, since Liss doesn't put her hands on him and seems to show this young lad the utmost respect.

Tis not the first time we've seen a small group of Malazans aiming to take on a whole organisation!

*grins* Poor Hurl with her delicate stomach... She doesn't seem so much like a sapper at this point.

Now Ryllandaras is a name I've definitely heard before - although I'm not convinced Dancer killed him and I can't remember the jackal aspect that clearly. I thought he was wolves when we saw him before?

Hmm, so Silk is now revealed to be far more than he first seemed. Not just a common mage, but one who was familiar with Ryllandaras and Shalmanat, the Protectress of Li Heng. It certainly seems as though he's been hand-picking a squad in preparation for this moment... Oh, and Hurl is definitely protesting too much that that smile of Silk's has no effect on her at all.

Seems like Rell doesn't seem to think they can succeed in their mission: "Rell unsheathed each of his two odd slim longswords, single-edged, slightly curved, and then threw the sheaths away into the dark. That gesture dried Hurl's mouth."

That camp stool is poignant, if it is in fact the throne of Li Heng.

Sometimes Esslemont is clumsy, with things like a dash in this sentence that highlights what the reader should be taking on: "It was also very clean and very white and bright - though no source of light was visible." There is no need for that dash, which means that Esslemont wants us to pay attention.

Eep! That Rell is a wee bit formidable - and he has a code. Something to bear in mind, methinks. Seems to imply that his swordsmanship is something he takes incredibly seriously.

Silk does seem to produce that blinding white light on a frequent basis, doesn't he?

Now this mind me smile lots, even in the midst of all the carnage caused by Rell: "All the while she stood behindRell, a cussor raised in one hand, with a look in her eye that she hoped promised utter annihilation the moment Rell should fall. She liked to think that put a bit of hesitation into their limbs."

And eep again! Look at Silk go, with his Kurald Liosan!

See, this half of the chapter was great. A swift read, with loads of entertaining bits and pieces, and hints of what is to come. Good stuff.
12. Jordanes
Hehe, love the "it is good to kill Malazans again!" from Jalor :D

As for my favourite Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Series, I think I'll have to go with Logros and Cal-Brinn. Though I assume we will finally meet Cal-Brinn in ICE's Assail novel, and maybe even Logros!
13. worrywort
As for "Builder", look to the Deck of Dragons.
14. Tabby
So I'm finally getting close to the leading edge of the re-read. Reading thru RotCG the first time and then the re-read, so now I'm more of an Amanda than a Bill. Although I'm way ahead of the pace in SE, having just finished DoD.

And since I haven't read past this point, I'm honestly guessing; but at this point I'm wondering if Rell is maybe that "second" Seguleh who went missing...
Joseph Ash
15. TedThePenguin
No, we see the Seguleh second in the Bonehunters, in the D'rek temple (enters/leaves via warren) he talks to Cutter and Herborec, and complains to Hood that he was hunting Skinner.
I think he is Hood's knight/soldier.

In other news... Seguleh (how the heck do you pronounce that??)

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