May 31 2013 12:00pm

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Toll the Hounds, Chapter Twelve (Part Two)

Malazan Reread on Toll the Hounds Steven EriksonWelcome to the Malazan Re-read of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twelve 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.

A few notes: Amanda is off in NYC for Book Expo America (Have fun Amanda!) and thus will miss the next two or three posts. So Amanda misses less, and since this is one of our longer chapters, we’re going to split this one and Bill will be commenting solo today and Friday. We’ll also be splitting Chapter Thirteen (one of the two longest ones left, along with Seventeen). Going forward, Chapter 17 definitely will be split, while Chapters 15 and 18 may be as well; they are long, but sometimes the split is determined as much by what happens as by how many pages. Finally, fair warning that Bill will be hit and miss as we near the end as he’ll be driving to Alaska, then around central Alaska, then back from Alaska (assuming the grizzlies have behaved themselves).




Nimander’s group, carrying Clip, sneak through the city to arrive at the altar building, where they are faced by armed mobs trying to herd them inside. They enter the building and Nenanda and Kedeviss hold the doorway.


Following the others, Desra feels her “entire body surging with life” after they cut down the priests inside the temple, feeling herself and the others unleashed.


Skintick can’t wait until he finds a life of peace.


Nenanda and Kedeviss kill scores, but are pushed into the building.


Skintick goes to help and Nimander takes Clip’s body forward further into the building. He, Desra, and Aranatha enter the altar room and Nimander feels himself pulled out of the present place and then he hears a child singing.


Seerdomin goes after Salind, thinking Spinnock should have denied her rejection of his help, though he understands the Andii have a different sense of things: “what was avoided one day could be addressed later, decades, millennia, ages later. In their eyes nothing changed. Nothing could change. They were a fallen people. The dream of getting back up had faded to dust.” He thinks he’ll save Salind and bring her back to Spinnock—“one can be saved and that should be good enough.” He is knocked out by Gradithan from behind.


They drag Seerdomin’s unconscious body to the Sacred Tent, past the Redeemer’s once-worshippers now caught in kelyk. Gradithan thinks how “The Dying God was more important than Black coral . . . than the Redeemer . . . The Dying God’s song was a song of pain, and was not pain the curse of mortality?” Inside the tent, Salind dances and Gradithan can taste the sacrifice from far away “closing on the threshold.”


Itkovian/The Redeemer tells Seerdomin he is dying, bleeding into his brain. He explains Seerdomin must fight Salind, pointing to a storm of blackness under which was a giant dancing figure, saying, “It is her need . . . for answers. What more can a god fear, but a mortal demanding answers.” He asks Seerdomin to defend him. Seerdomin asks if Itkovian is worth it, and Itkovian replies, “Worth the sacrifice you must make? No, I do not think so.” When Seerdomin asks if Itkovian will beg to be saved, Itkovian responds, “Will you?” Thinking he never has, Seerdomin rises to face Salind.


Rake finds Spinnock in the tavern and says it is time. He considers telling Rake of his love for Salind, of what is happening, but knows Rake would then not send him to do what he needs him to do, so Spinnock simply accedes to the request. Rake tells him “It is all right to fail, friend. I do not expect the impossible of you.”


Skintick tries to follow where Nimander and the others went. He understands that “surrender is what kelyk offers. The blood of the Dying God delivers escape from everything that matters. The invitation is so alluring, the promise so entrancing. Dance! Al around you the world rots. Dance! . . . Dance in the dust of your dreams. I have looked into your eyes and I have seen that you are nothing. Empty.”


Nimander finds himself in a seemingly infinite room of light and air filled with dolls—on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, many broken. He notes the dolls’ similarities to the scarecrows and realizes they were “versions.” The Dying God says, “On the floor of the Abyss . . . are the fallen. Gods and goddesses . . . . junk of existence . . . All broken, more broken than me . . . Am I a god now? I must be. I ate so many of them . . . their power . . . I first met him on the floor—he was exploring he said . . . The machine was broken, but I didn’t know that. I rode its back, up and up. But then . . . we fell a long way. We were terribly broken, both of us. When they dragged me out. Now I need to make a new version . . . And you have brought me one [Clip].” Nimander thinks the Dying God must be one of the dolls and begins to cut them apart. The Dying God mocks the attempt, saying he will soon be gone thanks to the “river of blood” Nimander’s group has given him, which will open a gate and “take me away from here, bring me back. All the way back. To make her pay for what she did!”


Salind and Seerdomin fight.


Aranatha joins Nimander and speaks to the Dying God, saying she will summon him. She says she knows he spoke to Hairlock on the floor of the Abyss, and that “She discarded you . . . The fragment of you that was left afterwards. Tainted, child-like, abandoned . . . You were the part of her that she did not want.” She summons him by name: “Husband, blood sworn to Nightchill . . . Bellurdan Skullcrusher, I summon you.” A puppet appears in her hand but does not speak. When Nimander wonders if she really has him, she shrugs. Nimander then wonders what the Dying God meant when he said to her, “I know you know—and it is too late.”


Nimander’s group has killed all the humans or they’ve fled. Clip wakes and they tell him where they are. Nimander looks at Clip with suspicion, but says it’s time to go. Clip is not very grateful.


Salind retreats and Itkovian tells Seerdomin he held long enough, that Seerdomin had help. He asks if Seerdomin will stay, as he may need him again, and adds he’s been lonely. Seerdomin replies “As long as I can you will have someone to speak to.” Itkovian tears up.


Monkrat and Gradithan look at Seerdomin’s corpse, then Gradithan tells the mage to get more kelyk.


Silanah stirs, but Rake tells her, “not this time, my love . . . Soon. You will know . . . I will not restrain you next time.” He senses Endest’s arrival (with one “most difficult” task left him) and Spinnock’s departure.


Kallor walks on toward a “throne, a new throne, one that he deserved. He believed it was taking shape, becoming something truly corporeal. Raw power . . . I am the High King of Failures, am I not? Who else deserves the Broken Throne? Who else personifies the misery of the Crippled God?” He senses an upcoming convergence as well. He thinks he will defeat the curse at last by destroying civilization: “I vow to take it all down . . . I will make a place where no fall is possible.”


Bill’s Reaction

Here’s an interesting tidbit off the start of this section: the Andii moved through Bastion “with Aranatha’s quiet power embracing them.”

The storyline with the Dying God is really an excellent little subgenre of horror in this novel and this scene in Bastion would be great on the big screen I’m thinking—very Village of the Damned/Children of the Corn

Amidst all the gods in this book, and in this series, and what we’ve seen of their acts, and what their believers force on them, this little bit of Skintick’s passage makes me wonder if this mightn’t be the ideal kind of prayer/worship: “He prayed none the less. Not to a god or goddess, but to some unknown force at ease with the gift of mercy. No, Skintick prayed for peace. A world of calm.”

And this following bit seems to get at the heart of humanity: “Paradise belonged to the innocent. Which was why it was and would ever remain empty. And that is what makes it a paradise.” Ouch.

It is easy to see how Seerdomin would read the Andii as he does, and easy to see how some, perhaps many would be this way: “a creature of centuries and what was avoided one day could be addressed later—decades, millennia, ages later. In their eyes, nothing changed. Nothing could change. They were a fallen people. The dream of getting back up had faded to dust.” Spinnock himself, Korlat, all speak of this problem with the Andii, of ennui and despair. But we know Rake is not like this, though he might take the long-term view of things (and of plans). But as Crone says, he means to topple a stone or two, and that is certainly change.

I like how there are all these little details of description and imagery and action as Seerdomin heads to the barrow that on their own are mere background, but add up to a sense of illness and increase suspense/tension. A rat scurries out, which is of course expected in a place like this, but we have already been set up to associate rats with Monkrat’s possible presence. The camp smoke wanders up like a “serpent.” The ground under his feet is not solid. He says, “everything was on fire,” but he walks in dampening rain.

All throughout this series we’ve talked about how godhood is a two-way street. And we see that here as well with Salind and the Redeemer where, as he puts it, “What more can a god fear, but a mortal demanding answers?” And here we have Seerdomin, who only a few pages ago had rejected the possibility that he fights for the Redeemer, doing just that—the one who asked nothing of the god versus the one who asks everything of him.

Speaking of running series themes, it’s been quite a while since we’ve talked about certainty versus uncertainty, but it is The Redeemer’s acceptance of uncertainty, his rejection of certainty, that makes him worth fighting for in Seerdomin’s mind—it’s the god most human that is worth defending.

From there (with a quick stop-off to remind us that A) Rake is great and B) Spinnock is great and C) Spinnock is probably on a one-way trip) to the certainty the Dying God offers: “dissolution,” “surrender,” “escape from everything that matters.” Probably a sign this is not the way to go.

OK: and then we meet the Dying God himself. It’s too bad we’re missing Amanda on this one because I would have liked to have seen her first reader impression of this scene. So this is my take-away from it—I’ll be curious where we agree/disagree/go “huh?” together.

  • The Dying God is a part of Bellurdan that was cast off by Tattersail/Nightchill/Silverfox.
  • I say “a part” because back in Memories of Ice Silverfox herself says she has Bellurdan in her.
  • The cast-off part ended up on the floor of the Abyss.
  • There he met our old friend Hairlock, where he got the idea for puppets.
  • He also ate a bunch of other gods or parts of gods, gaining their power.
  • He desires vengeance on (I assume) Silverfox.
  • He hitched a ride out of the Abyss on a broken machine.
  • The worshippers have been constructing him a body in the temple, but Clip will suit him better.
  • He plans on riding the river of blood from all the killing the Andii are doing of his worshippers to rejuvenate himself (and maybe to the Redeemer to eat him as well?)
  • He recognizes Aranatha, who summons him by his true name, though there is some question as to whether or not she actually got him.

Thoughts? Additions? Clarifications? Rejections?

Note Nimander’s look of suspicion at Clip.

Meanwhile, back at the big fight scene in the Barrow, the silencing of the Dying God seems to have, at least for now, delinked Salind. Giving Seerdomin and Itkovian/Redeemer a moment of simple empathy and company, a lessening of loneliness. Which may be the most basic, most “good,” faith of them all—one where neither side asks anything of the other save presence and acknowledgement.

Monkrat doesn’t seem so keen on being “saved”, does he? File that away.

“Kallor walked an empty road.” Yes. Yes, yes he does.

He’s a bit of a palate cleanser, he is, after all the mysticism and philosophy and deep religious debate. Blunt, clear-cut, straightforward. I have to chuckle at the “Kallor alone turns his back on civilization,” coming as it does not so far after Karsa and Traveller have had their own discussions on that matter. Oh Kallor, always thinking he’s so uniquely special.

And we’re told yet again that we’re heading for a huge convergence. After all that’s happened, and all that’s been set up, hard to believe we’re only at the halfway point in this book (48% to be precise, according to my Kindle). That’s a lot of pre-converging....

Just a reminder that we’ll be splitting Chapter Thirteen next week as well.

1. Tufty
Yup, 3 or 4 of these 'young' Tiste Andii just slaughtered wave after wave of frenzied humans, so many that the bodies stacking up form barriers of flesh. That's not scary at all :P


Following from Wednesday's conversation on the Redeemer's religion...
“surrender is what kelyk offers. The blood of the Dying God delivers escape from everything that matters. The invitation is so alluring, the promise so entrancing. Dance! Al around you the world rots. Dance! . . . Dance in the dust of your dreams. I have looked into your eyes and I have seen that you are nothing. Empty.”
I think this is beginning to show the similarity and contrast between the Redeemer and Dying God religions. Redemption versus surrender. In both cases you put aside what came before. In the former case, you ask the god for redemption and he has no choice to withold it. In the latter case, the god invites you to surrender and you have no choice to resist.
Sanne Jense
2. Cassanne
I one, the god takes all the power for himself, in the other the god refuses all power for himself. Neither works out very well... Is it about balance? The give and take, not just give or take? I love how Erikson makes me think and look at things from all sides.
3. endymion
the fight between seerdomin and salind was really well done, and despite being one of the strands leading up to the big convergance, really stuck with me
4. Jordanes
Anyone else feel that the reveal of the Dying God's identity was a bit 'meh'? It just felt overly convoluted to me. A piece of Bellurdan from Silverfox meets Hairlock in the Abyss and then gets a ride on a K'Chain machine which then crash lands and hurts him (despite him being either incorporeal or on a different plane of existence).

I remember when I first read this, when Nimander gets to the room with the hundreds of puppets, my immediate thought was, 'Oh my god, Hairlock's back!!!'. But no, it was kinda sorta but not really related. Perhaps just my own opinion, but to me it would have made more sense to have the crazy mage-puppet who had been torn to pieces by Hounds make a return as an insane, broken god.
Brian R
5. Mayhem

Using the crazy mage might make more sense from a Power point of view, but the history of the Dying God is almost demanded from a balance point of view in the story.

The key to the Dying God is the underlying idea of rejection - of nihilism and abandonment. This comes from the makeup of the god, from Hairlock, who was cast aside by QB when no longer useful, from Bellurdan, those fragments deemed not needed by Silverfox, and from all those other fragments of gods and chaos which had been discarded in the past.

The Redeemer promotes acceptance - a world weary sage with a creed of tolerance and understanding with no judgement or expectation, yet also with no promises of anything else. Accept who you are, and move on.

The Dying God is the complete opposite - an angry child, with a creed of rejection of the world as it is, a judgement by the God that nothing external is needed any more. Surrender to oblivion, the ultimate in despair, yet also the seductive promise of escape from your burdens. Hence the drug usage, and no vision of the future.

It's the supremely selfless vs the ultimately selfish.
karl oswald
6. Toster
fantastic breakdown mayhem, it strikes the bones of this plotline for sure. the rejection of the world and the embrace of oblivion is exactly what the dying god is selling, being from oblivion itself. to talk about the identity of the dying god is not to talk so much about bellurdan (though his hatred gives it motivation) or hairlock or even whoever it ate on the floor of the abyss, but simply about oblivion and the surrender to it. skinticks thoughts in this chapter are a big indication of this. "dance in the dust of your dreams," and all that.

edit: also, i don't know if it's just me, but the only place i can find the link to this post is in the sidebar under 'recent comments'
7. Karlreadsthesebooks
I just love how things are connected in these books. Reapers Gale ends with Icarium splitting Letheras in a broken Kchain machine and it results in ride through the Abyss, absconding with Bellurdan and Hairlock, who upon crashing in Bastion, possesses the body of Clip, who we last saw in Lether taking the Rake-spawn through his chain gate to Genebackis. And he hardly even spells it out for us! We have to piece all that together! The audacity!

This book is amazing.
8. Jordanes
@7 Karl:

Heh, as neat as that would be, I don't think i've ever heard that theory before. Icarium's machine was built by himself long ago, not the K'Chain, and the description of it (a vast, city-wide network), doesn't match this one (which is more like a flying car, if you will).

@5 Mayhem:

Thanks for the breakdown, I think that is a very good way of looking at it, rather than focusing on the once-identity of a blast from the past (which, as you say, is not as important as the mental baggage which comes with them). I guess I'm just disappointed that it's not the mad puppet returns :P

@6 Toster:

It's not just you. The chapter did not appear on the 'latest posts' bit, and is not listed on the main Malazan reread page either. I think a lot of people might miss it as a consequence, at least until next Wednesday.
karl oswald
9. Toster
@8 Jordanes

shame. all you have to do is change the last word of the url from a 'one' to a 'two'

i do wanna revisit the machine though, because i can't remember if the machines other occupant or the nature of the machine itself has been much speculated on. icarium is a candidate, but as you say, the machine in letheras does not seem to resemble the machine which crashed in bastion. i don't see many other likely candidates around though, especially since, as i see it, icarium may have actually been in that area of existence post-RG. DoD spoiler it is said of k'rul that he walked into chaos to create the warrens. perhaps icarium's new warrens were created in the same way, with icarium stepping from letheras to chaos.

it's too bad that all the clues we have to speculate with come from the deranged mouth of some kind of half-living being infused with random pieces of gods and demons. for what it's worth, i don't think hairlock was the other person in the machine, or that icariums machine couldn't have looked k'chain che'malle to kallor.
Steven Halter
10. stevenhalter
I rather liked it that Bellurdan or at least a negative aspect of Belludan was a large composition of the Dying God. I was also bemused at the idea of all of this tattered flotsam of gods and things gathering about at the bottom of the Abyss. The negative cesspool at the base of reality/unreality.
Darren Kuik
11. djk1978
Only found this because of previous comment. Had no idea there had been a post on Friday else.

Tor folks?
Rajesh Vaidya
12. Buddhacat
@5Mayhem: Nice weave. I would add to it the forthcoming short-lived child-god-inna-sword which has similar existential thoughts for its brief life before doing its "deed" and dying, and Kadaspala's thoughts on it. (Whited for spoilery goodness.)
Amanda Rutter
13. ALRutter
Next little catch-up - I vow to be all caught up soon so that I can post with you guys! Miss it! Miss you!

Hmm, this seems telling: "Children of Darkness, with Aranatha's quiet power embracing them..." For one thing, that use of the word 'children' seems to be telling us something explicit. For another, Aranatha isn't hiding her newfound power at all now, is she?

This walk of the Tiste Andii through the horrors of Bastion is very atmospheric. The tension as I read is palpable.

The fight scene - so few Andii against a huge swelling mass of rabid worshippers - is brilliantly done. I love the mention of casual grace, because this is the impression we have as they dance through the mayhem and destruction. I liked seeing the battle glimpsed from different Tiste Andii, from Desra feeling the power and force of battle to Skintick just praying for peace.

I confess I am finding the sections with Salind and Seerdomin the hardest to read in this book at the moment - both because they are quite dense with the weighty questions and considerations of compassion and religion and sacrifice, and because of the nature of their respective stories. Seerdomin and his unending pain from what he did. Salind and her desperate need for the Redeemer to accept her.

It's so wonderful to see this version of Itkovian - his quiet grace. I love that Seerdomin only decides to fight on Itkovian's behalf when he realises how humble this god is: "If not for your humility, Redeemer, I would walk away. If not for your...uncertainty, your doubts, your humanity."

I wonder how things would be different had Spinnock told Anomander of his love for Salind.

I thought it terribly real how Skintick recognises the seduction of kelyk and why people would give into it. On the face of it, it seems a stupid thing to become addicted to - it doesn't offer any pleasure. But then Skintick thinks on the fact that it offers an escape from reality. All addictions can be expressed so: the powerful allure of something that can be incredibly damaging.

Wow, the Dying God is formed of all those little rejected parts of gods and goddesses? All those times where people turned away from those they once worshipped? That is dark indeed.

And the Dying God is terribly creepy besides, what with all these little dolls that represent his attempts to try and create a body that will last. And he wants Clip, right? Was it his intention all along to get Clip to Bastion? And who is this 'she' that the Dying God wishes to pay back for what she did?

Oh my God! The Dying God is Bellurdan?! Now that is a name from the past. Let me try and recall... Oh, hang on! The 'she' who discarded the fragment is Silverfox, isn't it? "Children woke. There was great need. You were the part of her...that she did not want."

And, if the puppet that held the Dying God does not speak, I guess he has now fled into Clip.

I don't know whether to feel sorrow for Seerdomin. Has he truly died? Or will his soul now remain to help the Redeemer? Whichever way it is, I am glad that it seems Seerdomin has found some peace.

It seems incredible that we're seeing names like Hairlock and Bellurdan and Nightchill again - after so many books where they were absent... It makes you marvel at the sheer ambition and work that went into this series.
Sanne Jense
14. Cassanne
I suddenly wonder - are these discarded gods the same lot as the forgotten gods at the bottom of the ocean that Brys Beddict is connected to? There does seem to be a connection between sea-choas and being deep down in abysses. Or is it just an echo and are they otherwise unconnected?
Brian R
15. Mayhem

Nope, the gods in the ocean are lost and forgotten, but preserved by Mael in the hope that one day they might rise again. It goes along with the idea that to be a God is to have believers, yet once they are no longer believed in ... they no longer exist. Mael and the others preserve the names so that the forgotten ones shall not vanish into the abyss, each one remembering the names of the others, believing in each other ... the theme there is quiet melancholy and desperate hope.

What we see here are beyond that - they are the jetsam of the gods - portions of one once whole that have been deliberately cast aside, whether to preserve the whole, or because they were no longer required. They are Chaotic fragments cast up from the depths, and the theme is emphatically abandonment and negation. They are beyond feeling any hope, all they have now is hatred and madness.
16. Karlreadsthesebooks
I want to add this, even though its a bit late. I have just read a passage in Dust of Dreams that adds some weight to the belief that i espoused above re: the machine being of kccm origin and a connection Rautos Hivanar who was the Letheri guy that discovered the machine and was attempting to piece it back together before Icarium fired it up and went joyriding. Not being smug, just wanted to say that there is a connection, and its pretty good.
George A
17. Kulp
Huh? Bellurdan is the Dying God? I'm kinda with @4 on this, too convoluted for me. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to be hearing all these names from past books again, but it calls into question a lot of the things we "know." I was under the impression that Bellurdan was a part of Silverfox now. If we can retcon part of Bellurdan into the abyss, couldn't we go further than that? Maybe Whiskeyjack will show up as The Awesome God, or how about Trull coming back as The Sad God? Or maybe Mallet and Bluepearl didn't really die die, they are just in the abyss waiting for a flying KCCM car to fly them back to Krul's. Smarminess aside, this is the first time in this series I've felt this way, and maybe my mind will be changed by the end of the book.

Also, the way The Dying God's escape is described has me wondering if the machine that crashed into Bastion is the same "mountain" that buried the two Seguleh in Darujhistan?

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