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 Part One of Chapter Eight 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.
Samar Dev and Traveller continue behind Karsa and the thought of a Toblakai sends “Pangs of regret and pain through Traveller, for reasons he kept to himself.” Samar tells the story of Rhulad and Karsa, speculating Karsa killed the Emperor and spoke to the Crippled God. Traveller guesses Karsa replaced Rhulad, but Samar doubts it. Traveller declares if Karsa has Rhulad’s sword he will have to give it to Traveller to destroy or fight Traveller for it. She notes Traveller is hardly the first to turn against the Crippled God, but Traveller says he hasn’t been against him, nor has he any wish to be against him now, but “he goes too far.”
Once, the Captain had been imprisoned and staked out on the plain, fed to ants, but he’d managed to survive, though he thinks the ants are still in his head, joined there by river spirits that had conjoined with him, healing him but also becoming “restless, uncivil guests.” For the past seven years he’s been the “nomadic tyrant of the Lamath Plains,” sitting the throne of this two-story carriage drawn by 1000 slaves (500 at a time) and using his two hundred cavalry and hundreds of horsed scouts as protectors/raiders, a full kingdom on the move. He receives a report from a scout of another raiding party slain. Karsa appears and cuts the chain yoking the slaves to the carriage, declaring them free. The Captain feels his spirits flee and tells his men to invite Karsa to dinner as his guest. Knowing he is dying now without the spirits, and sensing tonight will be his last, he calls Karsa his heir.
Desra suggests Aranatha look at Clip, though Nimander doesn’t understand why. Kallor gropes Aranatha and to his and the others’ great surprise, she tosses him through the air, leaving Kallor “shaken” and with bruised ribs, while Aranatha stands there, “something dark and savage blazing from her eyes.” As Nimander looks on, she asks him if he can “feel her now.”
Endest recalls the great black river of Kharkanas, Dorssan Ryl, the madness that fell at the abandonment of Mother Dark. He then remembers a much more recent event: Rake, yesterday, looking at a tapestry depicting Silchas Ruin (I’m assuming it’s Ruin from the white skin and two swords—but am happy to entertain other theories, what with the black eyes and backstabbing). Rake told Endest “He did not mean it… There was a cabal… They used him badly.” Endest asked permission to visit a nearby river that is said to be similar to Dorssan Ryl and Rake gives it, saying only Endest needs to return in a month’s time, but also warning him against despondency. Endest is now packing, ready to go.
Rake tells Spinnock he needs him to make a journey, saying he’ll need “as long perhaps, as you can manage,” an implication which dismays Spinnock at first, as his thoughts go to the Redeemer’s priestess Salind and to Seerdomin. Rake adds that whatever Spinnock plans to do about Seerdomin’s problem, he should “hurry.” Rake muses on the Redeemer and wonders “is his ability to forgive truly endless… I cannot but wonder at a god so willing to assume the crimes and moral flaws of its followers while in turn demanding nothing—no expectation of a change in behavior, nor threat of punishment… absolution is not the same as redemption… He takes on the task of redemption for all who come to him… But he does not expect the same of his people… He appears to possess no expectations whatsoever.” But Spinnock suggests Itkovian “leads by example,” though he admits he doesn’t think any of the Redeemer’s followers have considered this. Rake speculates, “If the Redeemer cannot deny, then he is trapped in a state of imbalance,” and wonders “what would be needed to redress that imbalance.” Spinnock, in his mind, replies, “A man who refuses,” and thinks how Rake has led him to an important realization and a resolution to not fail in his task. Rake tells Spinnock to give his regards to the priestess and Spinnock heads off to the High Priestess (which is not the one Rake was referring to; he meant Salind).
Spinnock thinks how since the strange force that “trembled through Kurald Galain,” all the priestesses had been frantically bedding male Andii (and even some humans according to rumor), but had found no answers. He thinks of Salind and then of Korlat and Whiskeyjack, noting that Whiskeyjack had at least been a human who’d lived much of his life (and he still wonders what Korlat might have done once Whiskeyjack got old) while Salind was all too young. The High Priestess is angered at how Rake treats Spinnock, how Spinnock is so willing to die for Rake, and she tells him Rake’s attempts to “hold on to some meaning, some purpose” via engaging the Andii in “the struggles of lesser folk” is misguided, and says Rake knows it too. She says the Temples chooses instead to hope for the “rebirth of our Gate, the return of Mother Dark,” though she admits they also fail in this. Spinnock realizes then what priestess Rake meant and asks the High Priestess her thoughts on the Redeemer Cult. She replies it is young and this time is dangerous as “nothing has been formulated, no doctrine—and all religions need such things.”
Salind is tired of being a High Priestess and of feeling she can do nothing for her god, is upset at how Gradithan is preying on her people, and bemoans her “failure” with regard to Seerdomin. She questions the cult, the roles of empathy and compassion, the speed with which righteousness becomes judgment and then turns oppressive and even violent. She wants to scream, “Absolution is not enough” but knows they will look to her for answers then. Spinnock arrives and discovers she is fevered and when he offers to help, she asks what about the others, and he responds he’ll bring healers to the pilgrims. She tells him Salind is not her name and of her past, that that she is a Child of the Dead Seed (the reason she is one of the only ones that has not been raped). She adds she is sick because the Redeemer is and Spinnock, saying he’s not surprised, picks her up.
Spinnock tells the others Rake will send healers, then heads out, wondering why Rake, who must know of all this, hasn’t done anything and then wonders whom Rake expects to deal with it. Recalling Rake’s “regards,” Spinnock decides “I will attend to her, because within her lies the answer,” though he doesn’t know what the question is.
Monkrat, a bald priest of the Undying God, (“a priest of some unknown god somewhere to the south—Bastion perhaps”), speaks to Gradithan (a former Urdo in the Pannion army) and says now that Spinnock has taken Salind away—the Redeemer’s eyes and ears—they can do whatever they want. Gradithan tells his lieutenant to “get word to our friends in the city. It’s all taken care of at the Barrow.” He looks on the tower and its “dragon edifice” and thinks, “soon it would all come down. Nice and bloody, like.”
Silanah is described as “Sleepless, all-seeing protector and sentinel… possessed of absolute, obsidian-sharp judgment… And terrible in wrath… Mercy in compassion, no dragon lives.”
It would be interesting to know whereabouts in Anomander’s life this section of Fisher’s poem covers—I wonder if anyone has taken all of the Fisher sections (having read the entire series) and worked out which part of Anomander’s life they’re talking about? Perhaps that is taking obsession with a series too far... Fisher does tell the melancholy of Anomander’s life, especially this part: “While nothing is left but this shielded stranger/Standing against the wind’s eternal moans/ But this is your hero who must stand....”
We have two enormous wagons that might leave corpses beside its track in this story already, thanks to the wagon within Dragnipur and the wagon that is used by the Trygalle Trade Guild. So it seems that it should be one of these, when in fact it a more mundane wagon—one being used by the Captain who leads the slavers.
I do like Samar Dev’s understatement when she says of Karsa: “He dislikes slavers.”
When Samar Dev tells Traveller about the sword that drove Rhulad Sengar mad, I do wonder if his sweat and dry mouth are to do with the fact that he carries a sword that might send him that way. Or is he rather thinking about Dragnipur?
I neglected to think about the fact that Samar currently has no idea what happened to Karsa—only that the Emperor died and he didn’t. She doesn’t know whether he’s taken the sword that drove Rhulad mad, which, knowing Karsa, must be absolutely terrifying her. I do like that she actually does know that Karsa would definitely not have replaced the Emperor. I also like that Traveller realises that there is way more to this than just a horse, but it gentle enough not to go into that with Samar Dev.
Erikson neatly tells the story of the Captain, and builds up the idea of his life effectively—but I’m not keen on it. It just feels full of loopholes and had me wondering too much about how it worked. He has this wandering kingdom through these grasslands, but, honestly, who would stay there knowing about him? Who is he gaining slaves from, having driven off the tribes that used to be there? Why does he have this massive wagon pulled by four or five hundred slaves? It seems an unnecessary conceit to include him.
Karsa has killed SIXTY LIGHT CAVALRY?!
So the Captain wants Karsa to be his heir? Good luck with that, if it involves any sort of slavery... I wonder what relevance there is to these spirits having taken the Captain over and now deserting him as Karsa approaches?
It says something about Kallor that he is completely indifferent to Kedeviss, after Nimander has observed that people either fear or love her after coming under her regard!
It seems a bit weird that Nimander is feeling such attraction for both Kedeviss and Aranatha—since it is a recent happening, I’m wondering if it is as a result of the events with the Dying God? Or perhaps more that as he is forced into leadership, he is feeling more affection for his people?
Eep! Aranatha is a pretty creepy character at this point, with her sudden strength unveiling, plus her innocent smiles. “Can you feel me now, Nimander?” Has she been taken over by something, seriously? She just doesn’t seem the same as she was in previous books—although perhaps it’s just that we’re spending more time with her. It’s certainly clear that she doesn’t like Kallor!
So did Endest kill that woman he loved who had been driven mad by the loss of Mother Dark, or did she just leave? His thoughts are confused. I wonder if he is in denial of what he did.
This presents a soulless, depressing look at Anomander’s life: “Kharkanas was virtually an empty city after they’d gone. Anomander Rake’s first lordship over echoing chambers, empty houses. There would be many more.”
Now... this discussion between Anomander and Endest—putting it together with some of the comments you wonderful guys made after I talked about the Tyrant—I think that Anomander is thinking about him now:
“He did not mean it,” said Anomander Rake.
But he did. “Your ability to forgive far surpasses mine, Lord.”
“The body follows the head, but sometimes it’s the other way round. There was a cabal. Ambitious, hungry. They used him, Endest, they used him badly.”
“They paid for it.”
It is a striking similarity between Itkovian and Anomander Rake: “He could forgive everyone but himself.” I especially feel this, knowing that Anomander is reflecting greatly on his past and wondering about the decisions that he made.
I’m a little confused by these thoughts that Spinnock has (I know it’s probably something we’ve already seen, and this will be another occasion where seven or eight of you point out my bad memory, with the subtext of “Duh, Amanda, can you not remember anything you read?!”): “This is what I do and will do. Until my end. She is young, so young—oh, there’s no point in thinking about... about any of that. About her at all.” [Bill: The “she” is Salind].
A very interesting chat between Anomander and Spinnock, about the Redeemer. Have they hit on the fact that Itkovian—as the Redeemer, one who cannot deny his followers—needs Seerdomin? That he is the balance, the redress?
Spinnock and I feel the very same way about Anomander: “My love for you and the compassion you so delicately unveil leads me into this willingness, to storm without hesitation what you would have me storm, to stand for as long as needed, for it is what you need.” I just find Anomander a character beyond compare.
I find it distinctly offputting, this rampant sex in the form of worship on the part of the priestesses. It seems so corrupt—even though I guess there are been many cultures who use sex as a way of giving thanks and appreciation? Maybe this is my very white Christian background enforcing my views?
Oh! Is it Salind that Spinnock was thinking about before? I’m guessing it might be so since he thinks about her in the same sequence of thoughts as Korlat and Whiskeyjack. Immortality does not lend itself to relationships with those who are mortal: “...in a terribly short span of years, Korlat would have seen her beloved descend into decay, his back bent, hands atremble, memory failing.”
Does Anomander feel that the cult of the Redeemer and Itkovian himself might be able to bring about the return of Mother Dark? It would require forgiveness, for sure.
I don’t think I properly made the connection that Salind is the child of one of those Dead Seed seekers that so shocked me when we read about them. What a terrible place to come from—how very lonely, with every hand turned against you. That might be why the Redeemer reaches out to her—and what can make a god sick? What is ailing Itkovian?
Well, we’ve now met the equivalent of the anti-Christ—the anti-Seerdomin, Gradithan. Not a pleasant individual.
Ha, I like the dark humour in Gradithan believing the dragon to be a mere edifice, rather than a living breathing creature, and thinking: “Aye, soon it will all come down. Nice and bloody, like.” Yes, I do believe that when the dragon comes down things might well get bloody.
I’m assuming that Traveller’s “pangs of regret and pain” that are in response to hearing that Karsa is a Toblakai comes from his experience with Ereko, whom I’m guessing that reminds him of. Anyone have a different take?
I like this idea of how even these small chance encounters will live on in stories, in this case of how “Master of the Wolf-Horses” met a driven woman and they chased a demon.
Did anyone else have a chuckle at Traveller’s line “If your friend is smart, he won’t do anything overt. He’ll hide…” Just the thought of Karsa “hiding” was enough to make me laugh.
I mentioned last time how deft Erikson is at reminding us of past events and while this one is less subtle, it is still well-integrated into the plot in that of course Samar would have to explain to Traveller who they are following and offer up some context.
So I’d say there are several times in this series where one thinks, “Wouldn’t you like to see X face off against Y?” And here we have Traveller giving this semi-ultimatum about Karsa having to yield his sword (the assumption being he kept Rhulad’s) or else face Traveller. Now, the reader of course knows Karsa doesn’t have it, but I’m guessing there’s this momentary “oooohhhh” that flashes through most readers’ minds at this possibility. Anyone?
So Samar knows there are many who set themselves “as an enemy of the Crippled God.” But what’s interesting is that she has misread Traveller in this, which sort of calls up the question, are any other alleged enemies also not so starkly opposed?
This is an interesting precursor to Kallor later, this idea that things never change, as Traveller thinks: “it was ever the same… Animals remained just that… they fought, they killed, they died. Life was suffered until it was over and then, then what?” This has always been one of the running conflicts in the series I think—change vs. no-change. Think of how often we see change in the imagery of this series—pottery shards, ruins, reformed landscapes. And then we have so many long-lived, seemingly unchanging characters: T’lan Imass, the Andii, various Ascendants and gods. We have Chaos—the epitome of change. We have a chaining—an expression of non-change. At a very basic level, this is the war being fought it seems to me and it also would appear that characters like Cotillion and Shadowthrone, to name two, are fighting for change (Shadowthrone in his imagery is a nice visual representation as he is ever-changing). As is Rake, if one thinks back to Crone’s topple-a-rock speech.
Can’t you see the story of the Captain and the Carriage as its own novella at the least? This is one of those great sidespur tales that enrich the universe we move through—all these stories we get mere glimpses of, reminding us we’re taking a very narrow path through this world.
The captain stands here in opposition to that overriding theme of empathy/compassion: “Not his blood, not his adopted kin, not his responsibility.” He had a horrible past, for sure, and he is one of many characters in this novel (and the series) who have had such pasts. The question becomes, what does one do with that past, does one let it drive you along the same path to become what you hated, or do you take a different road?
While we’re here, reading about a huge carriage/wagon pulled by a large number of unhappy-to-be-there folks that hasn’t been stopped in a long time that suddenly is brought to a halt after a single individual shows up, well, just linger over that for a bit….
I understand what you’re saying re he Captain Amanda, but the people staying doesn’t really shock me. Think how people today refuse to leave their homes during hurricanes, etc. That’s leaving for a few days a home you’ve been in for a few decades. Then I think of Muley Graves from The Grapes of Wrath (I think that’s his name), who refused to leave his land despite the dust bowl and the banks taking his home. Or Bull, in the play/movie The Field, and his reaction when a priest asks nonchalantly—“can’t you find another field?”:
“Another field? Another field? Jesus, you’re as foreign here as any Yank. Another field? Are you blind?… my father and I, we had our breakfast, dinner, and tea, working in that field without a break in our work. And my mother brought us the meals. One day, one day my father sensed a drop of rain in the air and my mother helped us bring in the hay before it was too late… About the third day, I saw her fall back, keel over so to speak. I called my father, I run to her. My father kneeled beside her. He knew she... he knew she was dying. He said an act of contrition into her ear and he asked God to forgive her her sins. And he looked at me, and he said, ‘Fetch a priest.’ Fetch a priest... And I said, ‘Let’s—let’s bring the hay in first. Let’s bring the hay in first.’ My father looked at me with tears of pride in his eyes. He knew I’d take care of the land.”
Or think of the how the Native Americans stayed against all hope because that land had generations of their blood in it, had their spirits in it. So that aspect doesn’t surprise me. As for the wagon, my reading was it was the “restless river spirits” rather than some rational social or military theory—I saw it in the light that a river is always flowing, always moving, and so the wagon would do the same.
You’re not far off on Aranatha Amanda. More to file away:
- “As his shadow slipped over her she glanced up and smiled.”
- “The eyes… this time, were not at all vacuous.”
- “Her breath so warm and so strangely dark.”
- “something dark and savage blazing from her eyes.”
- “[Kallor] was somewhat shaken… keeping his distance from Aranatha.”
- “Can you feel me now, Nimander?”
I have an image here of Endest sitting there staring at his little finger asking Donald Sutherland, “so one tiny atom in my fingernail could be one little tiny universe?”
Another question about if anything ever changes, and another youth-vs-age debate. And while that can be as simple as one generation to the next, in this series’ context, it could also perhaps be read as one long-lived race vs. a short-lived race.
And then from his “One more betrayal was needed, to shatter the world once and for all,” Endest arrives at Rake staring at a tapestry with (I think—other ideas?) Silchas Ruin on it and Rake saying of Ruin (or whoever this figure is) “He did not mean it… They used him.” While we see the word “cabal” often associated with the Tyrant and Darujhistan, I think this is not one of the many Tyrant references.
Rake’s description of this hallway filled with tapestries of the past as a “gauntlet or recrimination” seems like it could be applied to much of this book. And this line, “the echoes [of the past] we imagine we hear, well, they deceive” could be applied to much of the “history” we’ve heard of (think of Scabandari and the Edur, for instance, the siege of Pale, the deep Andii history).
“So close” to what, hmm? First Rake tells Endest he must be back within a month and now he tells Spinnock he’ll have to travel soon.
And another story that could probably be a novella: Spinnock’s hunting of the dragon.
“As long as you can manage”—that doesn’t seem to bode well for Spinnock….
So, Rake, whom we have seen questions his own decisions from long ago, who bears the burden for so much, who bears so much blood and war and disruption, speaks here and has, apparently, had “long, careful condensation of thought” about how passive absolution is not enough; instead one needs redemption, which “demands an effort, one with implicit sacrifice and hardship.” This is, to Spinnock, “unusual.” And Rake has a plan that is soon to be set in motion. Dots. Dots. Dots.
Also, with all this talk of the Redeemer, and with his priestess making so many appearances, one would have to imagine we’re being set up for something involving this god.
And the Redeemer, according to Rake, needs “A man who refuses.” Who might that be….
I find Spinnock’s internal monologue with regard to Rake, his love for the man, his “to stand for as long as needed,” (file) his “the fire grows around you, yet you do not flinch. I will not fail you,” to be quite moving.
I also find it somewhat reassuring that Spinnock, who has known Rake I assume for centuries/millennia, can still misunderstand him.
I also like the thought that the “tragic tale of Korlat and Whiskeyjack” is told among the Andii. It’s also very like Erikson I think to not let that tale be a one-sided romanticized version—the grieving near-eternal lover ever chasing the near-immortal who killed her mortal love. Instead, Spinnock reminds us of the inevitable day that would have come between those two, Whiskeyjack and Korlat, and forces us to at least momentarily consider how that might have gone.
Does Rake indeed know his path of engagement is wrong? If so, might his new plan reflect this? Or does the High Priestess not fully comprehend Rake?
Here are my favorite words of this series, empathy and compassion, though in sadder fashion via Salind: “Empathy haunted her. Compassion opened wounds which only a hardening of the soul could in the future prevent.” We’ve seen this idea of “armour” before and it seldom seems to work out. Is that truly the only path for those who feel compassion, and is there another? Again, I think of Cotillion. But poor Salind, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, she is not in a good place.
Note how she parallels Rake’s own belief: “Absolution is not enough!”
“Can you live without answers? Because if you cannot, then most assuredly you will invent your own answers and they will comfort you. And all those who do not share your view will by their very existence strike fear and hatred into your heart.” Seems about as concise a summary of religious intolerance as I’ve seen.
And then here is Spinnock, speaking to her “with such, such compassion.” For all this talk of the Andii as drowning in ennui, in their long lifespans, it’s interesting how nearly all we see of individual ones are fairly dripping with compassion and empathy, even is some might need to be newly awakened to it.
How heartbreaking that “like a child”. And even more so the “Do not rape me,” that follows. One does have to wonder why Rake allows this, no matter what plan, no matter what distractions: what can outweigh the rape of children?
Anyone not hoping Silanah eats those rapers of children at the end of this scene? And eats them not slowly either….
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.