Welcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Two of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
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.
Endest Silann, castellan in the palace of Black Coral and once a High Mage, walks through the city. He recalls the day he and Rake first set foot on this world, then the day he held back the water from Moon’s Spawn, long enough to do what needed to be done, though it destroyed his power. As he fights off painful pressure in his chest, he thinks he should have stayed with Moon’s Spawn when Rake sent it away to crash, both of them (he and the keep) having died that day it rose from the sea.
Spinnock Durav and the former Seerdomin of the Pannion play (as they often do) an ancient Andii game of strategy known as Kef Tanar, a game inspired by the succession wars of the Andii First Children. Spinnock wins and as the two converse afterward, he thinks how Seerdomin’s burden of sorrow makes him more similar to the Andii, and reflects how the human’s ability to hold back despair, something the Andii have been unable to do, makes him necessary to Spinnock. Spinnock wonders if, in fact, it is all that is keeping him alive. Seerdomin tells Spinnock he has lately seen Rake standing every night on the keep wall looking out to sea, something he finds unnerving. Spinnock says Rake prefers solitude, but Seerdomin doesn’t buy it, and he wonders if Rake is chafing at having become mere “administrator.” Spinnock replies he doesn’t know what Rake is feeling, having not spoken to him in centuries, adding he’s only one almost-incompetent soldier, a claim Seerdomin is suspicious of.
Clip leads Nimander’s group through Kurald Galain to a resting point. Skintick tells Nimander he’s suspicious of Clip’s claims and wonders if they should just leave Clip to his own “dramatic accounting” with Rake, though he also wonders if their group hasn’t earned a place among a community of Andii. Aranatha joins them and says Clip had told her they’ve exited the warren further south than he’d hoped, that there had been “layers of resistance.” The three head for a look at the sea then return.
Clip likes seeing how angry Nenanda gets, thinking he can shape him, unlike Nimander, whom he considers far too sensitive and destined to be destroyed by the realities of the world. He dismisses the others as well, save Destra. He toys with his chain and thinks how it has been fashioned by the combined powers of the Andii in the refuge, “miniature portals . . . [a] cacophony of souls residing within these rings was now all that remained of those people.”
On his way back from the game at the Scour and seeing Silanah curled about the tower, Spinnock recalls when Silanah had been unleashed in Mott Wood, and how she’d been struck by Cowl, leading to Rake’s fury and subsequent hunting down of Cowl. He wonders who had finally yielded in the great battle that ensued. He thinks as well of Silanah laying the trap for Raest, joined by the Soletaken Andii of Moon’s Spawn, and wonders if he is alone in feeling uncomfortable with the alliance between the Andii and the Eleint, recalling how Rake himself had warred against them: “when such creatures broke loose from their long-standing servitude to K’rul; when they had sought to grasp power for themselves.” He doesn’t know, though, why Rake chose to oppose them, nor why Silanah later joined Rake. Entering the palace, he passes a chamber marked by the invisible sun as an homage to Mother Dark, a place Spinnock considers the “heart” of Kurald Galain, “in this realm’s manifestation of the warren.” He meets with Rake and reports on what he found on Assail, his mission for Rake, saying he doesn’t see a need for Rake to travel there, that the “madness there seems quite self-contained.” He makes it clear he chafes at not being used by Rake to do more, and Rake tells him the time will come, until then “Play on, my friend. See the king through, until . . .” Spinnock exits, meeting Endest Silann on his way to talk to Rake.
At a restaurant in Coral, three humans complain about Rake and the Andii, talk of rising against them, discuss masterminds and meetings. They exit and Seerdomin, who had been nearby listening, follows.
Under Silanah’s eye, pilgrims make their way to the grave of the Redeemer (Itkovian).
I sense that Fisher’s poem about Anomander is probably closer to the truth than that proffered by Dillat’s Dark and Light. Certainly the quiet melancholy of this poem fits with what we know of the Knight of Darkness.
The opening image of this chapter is a powerful one—the black city shrouded in gloom, lost to darkness, with a crimson dragon staring down at it from atop a spired tower. That’s the sort of image that I would love to see grace a book cover.
Are all dragons prone to this sudden need to remain motionless and on guard as Silannah is here? And is it Silannah or Silanah? I’m pretty sure back in Gardens of the Moon she just had the one “n.” Maybe the second “n” is what burdens her here?
I wonder how those humans who still live in Coral feel now that it is Black Coral and has survived the full unveiling of Kurald Galain? How they cope with the Night that sits on the city and the surrounding area? I wonder if this is a commentary on how people can get used to just about anything, and keep surviving—even thriving—under new conditions?
The description of Nightwater is just wonderful, with the idea that just about anything could be hiding in the murky depths. If you weren’t worried about deep seas, you would be after reading that! It sort of gives the idea of very deep seas on our world as well—where the strangest of predators can be found.
I have to confess a great excitement about reading more from the beginning of the Tiste Andii on this world—how and why they came to be here. Things like this only whet my appetite: “They stood facing a new world. His lord’s rage ebbing, but slowly, trickling down like the rain.” This also makes Endest very old, if he was there when the Tiste Andii first stepped into the world.
Wow, in less than a page Erikson manages to make me feel an absolutely searing pity for Endest—one who was once High Mage, but has tumbled so low because of the sacrifice he made for his Lord and people. That last part is utterly heartbreaking: “And he will smile and nod, and perhaps settle one hand on my shoulder. A gentle, cautious squeeze, light enough to ensure that nothing breaks. He will speak his gratitude. For the eels.”
It feels a little meta to have these gamers play the Malazan game, as written by the original players of the Malazan game! Also, did anyone think Risk or Warhammer when they first read about this game spreading amongst those who live in Black Coral?
The description of Spinnock almost seems to indicate a half-blood. He doesn’t sound at all like the other Tiste Andii we’ve seen.
The deploying of the Gate that allows the dragons to be freed in the game sounds a little ominous to me... Has echoes of Starvald Demelain, K’rul, and Icarium in it....
In just a few graceful passages, Erikson also has me appreciating another duo who I hope will feature in this novel—Seerdomin and Spinnock. I love the respect that Spinnock has for Seerdomin, in the fact that he is burdened by grief but somehow is holding back the despair. I particularly enjoy Spinnock’s self-analysis, his worry that he is sustaining himself through Seerdomin’s very human emotions. That also gives an indication of how it must be for Tiste Andii and humans to interact—that the Tiste Andii just don’t feel the same way that humans do. Having said that, we’ve seen some of them manage just fine—Whiskeyjack and Korlat, for instance—but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
We have a very clear warning here from Seerdomin that it is possible Anomander chafes against the administration and authority he is now forced to endure as leader of Black Coral. “The Son of Darkness, now is that a title for a bureaucrat? Hardly. Knight of Darkness to keep the thugs off the streets?” It’s a fair point, and therefore a worry that Anomander will seek trouble.
I enjoyed this perspective of the immortal lives experienced by the Tiste Andii: “It is the curse of a long life...that in eminence one both rises and falls, again and again.”
And the warning continues in the fact that Spinnock is relieved “...that no more talk of past deeds in distant fields of battle arose that might unhinge the half-truths and outright lies he had just uttered.” Sure, this could just be about Spinnock himself and his talent on the battlefield, but it could also relate to Spinnock’s insistence that Anomander Rake did not chafe in his new role. Especially when followed by the rather sarcastic: “Oh, the Knight of Darkness fought all manner of beasts and demons, did he not?”
Ah, Clip. Delighted to meet you again. Honest. (Sigh).
Poor Nimander. He is starting his self-loathing early in his Tiste Andii life, isn’t he? He won’t last for millennia if he gets loaded down so early with this. Have to confess, I remember Clip gathering up Nimander and his brethren, but I’m short on remembering the details as to where they came from. Were they with Traveller, way back when?
Anyone else think Clip might be a tad disappointed in this? “He has created a vast, portentous moment, the moment when he finally stands face to face with the Son of Darkness. He hears martial music, the thunder of drums, or the howl or horns sweeping round the high, swaying tower where this fated meeting no doubt will occur.” I appreciate the gentle mockery by Erikson towards classic epic fantasy novels, where the big showdown does often happen in a tower.
Hmm. The reader feels pity for Nimander and his struggle (or, at least, this reader does). Clip regards him with contempt and refers to him as pathetic. So wonderful to be back with this character....
I like the echo of Skintick, as Clip thinks “...no doubt discussing portentous decisions on things relevant only to them.” Clip has already recognised a similarity between them, but it is just fun to see their disdain for each other.
Hmm. The rings and chains that Clip uses... Here they seem to bear a slight resemblance to Dragnipur, what with the souls and the fact that they seem to hold the entrance to a Warren: “The cacophony of souls residing within these rings was now all that remained of those people, his pathetic family of misfits.”
Heh, Silanah is back to her one “n” later in this chapter. Feel bad now that I just highlighted a typo in my book!
Now that we’ve read Return of the Crimson Guard and seen just how brutal and effective only a handful of the Crimson Guard are, this is therefore all the more shocking: “Spinnock could well recall the last few times he had been witness to the dragon unleashed... drowned out every death-cry as countless unseen creatures died. Among them, perhaps a handful of Crimson Guard... Like using an axe to kill ants.” The relative power difference here is stupendous.
It’s also nice to see a little more of Cowl’s story fleshed out—the fact that he injured Silanah was what led to the mage storms at Pale, the fact that Anomander almost destroyed the world (again?) because of Cowl. And then this tidbit: “Had it been Cowl who first blinked? Bowing out, yielding ground, fleeing? Or had it been the Son of Darkness?”
It is of interest, as well, that the reasons for Anomander to oppose the Eleint when they sought to escape K’rul are not known. Nor is it known why he turned back to Silanah. Is he now okay with all Eleint? Or just this one? At what point did he drink the blood of Tiam in order to become Soletaken?
What did make Mother Dark turn from the Tiste Andii?
Ooh, and now hints that Spinnock has been on Assail—these are the events covered in Esslemont’s forthcoming book of the same name, yes?
Is it me, or does Anomander feel a ton more remote than when he was side by side with the Malazans? His melancholy is virtually palpable here.
And then a nice little hint of mutiny towards the Tiste Andii to end the chapter with... Although it seems Seerdomin is proving his loyalty towards the very same here.
Yes, that is a pretty melancholic tone in that poem on Anomander. The references to shackles and burdens are something to keep in mind as well (certainly long-running motifs in this series).
I’m with you on that opening image as a cover shot Amanda. It’s great as well to always picture this city, folks outside, people walking the streets, all with this dragon perched overhead. I also like that so many of the humans think her a mere statue, part of that ignorance and part of that not wanting to know the truth. One could also say that fits into the mode of self-delusion we’ve already seen earlier in the prologue. And one could even say as well it fits with all the talk in this series about gods: a more powerful creature gazing down on the mortals from above? Better to make it what we need it to be rather than what it is.
Nightwater—who knows what stirs in the depths....
We’ve heard before of the Andii’s battle with ennui, with despair, but this book brings it to the forefront more than the others I think, showing us how they retreat into isolation. Note how the rituals of society have grown scarce among them, and even the few remaining ones are seen as “ordeals” to be tolerated rather than moments to celebrate. We have that image of them as “smoke from a dying fire” which certainly calls up the picture of a race whose fires, passions, are grown low and seem on the edge of going out entirely. The Andii Endest sees “slip ghostly past”—this is a race of walking dead, little different it seems from the Imass as portrayed here, save they have skin.
Contrast that with Endest’s memory of his youth, note the language difference: “wild,” “storms,” ravaging,” “flaming rage.” This is the language of life and passion and, like the collapsed building he must lean on to rest, the Andii seem to have become a ruin of what they once were. Can anything stop this slide?
And as you say Amanda, how can one not feel pity for Endest not simply as a representative of the Andii but as an individual in his own right, that sense of failure, that awful sacrifice. And so we’re back to the language of despair: “collapse,” “the interred dead,” “like ashes.”
And that image of Moon’s Spawn might serve well as an analogy for the Andii themselves: once powerful, now fallen; once filled with life, now empty; once a home, now a tomb. Then again, perhaps Moon’s Spawn was also a symbol before it fell—aloof, removed, not touching the world—maybe losing it might be the best thing to happen to the Andii. We’ll have to see.
And yep, that’s a killer, heart-breaking line: “For the eels.”
The Andii despair is represented again by Spinnock Durav, who appears to be barely holding on (albeit one wonders how many centuries/millennia he’s been “barely holding on”) thanks to “feeding off” Seerdomin’s capacity to hold back his own despair. It’s an interesting quid pro quo (though unstated) these two men have: Spinnock needing Seerdomin to feel and Seerdomin needing the Andii Night to hide/conceal.
So. Despair atop despair atop despair. And then we get that image of Rake looking out over the water, “the twelfth bell tolling like a dirge in the gloom.” Well, that’s not portentous at all. Or depressing. But does anyone think Rake is giving in to despair? Anyone?
And admit it, a bunch of you are reading the details of that game and trying to figure out what it’s “really” telling us, aren’t you? C’mon, admit it.
That’s an interesting segue, from Rake as Knight of Darkness to “Darkness surrendered. But then, it always did.”
What Amanda, you don’t like Clip? He’s so charming!
Nimander’s group was on Drift Avalii with Andarist (yes, Traveller appeared there). They then went to Malaz City, got picked up there by Bottle/Tavore’s group and headed to Lether, then Phaed tried to kill Sandalath (Withal tossed her out a window). At the end of Reaper’s Gale, Clip finds them and tells Nimander he’ll take them to Rake.
Some revelations among the Andii in this scene. Nimander tormented by his memories and by self-doubt (despite his claims to uselessness though, note how quickly he sets aside his “self-pity” in order to help the others—does someone weak do this so quickly and so knowingly?). Skintick’s wisdom beneath the sarcasm—Clip hasn’t taken him in obviously. And Arantha hidden “iron” inside. Also, where is this “resistance” coming from preventing Clip from getting where he wants to via Kurald Galain? Also, their little side trip is a nice parallel image: the three of them looking over the sea coming just after the image of Rake looking out over the sea.
OK, so if Clip tells us that Nimander is “too sensitive,” “pathetic,” and easily “destroyed” by the world, I’m thinking that as a reader, I should pretty much be thinking the opposite. Because really, Clip has not so far impressed me with his wisdom and insight.
The same holds true for his “I am chosen” line. Plus, I tend to think those who really are chosen don’t say so themselves. Not the real chosen ones—they tend to have it thrust upon them. Have I mentioned there seems to be a hint of self-delusion wafting through these early chapters?
Cowl and Rake did have huge mage battles apparently Amanda, but the Pale magestorms were the sorcerous battles between Rake and Tayshrenn.
Yep Amanda, so many questions about dragons, about Rake, about dragons and Rake, about Tiam, Tiam and Rake... Mother Dark... But don’t you worry, they’ll all be answered completely. Yep, every single one, all laid out in clear-cut, down-the-line answers, nothing fuzzy, nothing still up in the air. I swear, when this series ends you won’t have one single unanswered question....
Hmm, and how often do you see Rake without Dragnipur?
Yes, Esslemont is working on the Assail novel—lots of folks can’t wait to see what’s up there.
So, this is an interesting note—Spinnock is not playing the game, Rake is. Hmm, Rake is playing a game. And hiding his part in it. Just saying....
And the game will be played on, to “see the king through. Until . . . [ellipsis Erikson’s]” Well, those three little dots, much like that earlier bell tolling like a dirge, is a bit ominous.
So now we’ve got both Endest and Spinnock feeling useless, feeling like they’ve either died (Endest) or are atrophying (Spinnock). Somehow, though, neither of these characters really seem to fit either characterization. We’ll see.
I do like that move from the three humans plotting against Rake and the Andii to Silanah high above. Yes, there’s a slight disconnect there. Just a little.
A reminder about that barrow that closes the chapter—we saw it created in Memories of Ice. It belongs to Itkovian. What then, is being “stirred awake”?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.