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 of Chapter Sixteen 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.
Apologies about the lack of post on Friday—Bill has now started a month of fairly intermittent posting, and I had an unscheduled medical thing to sort. As I say, Bill is going to be in and out until Wednesday 7th August, doing various fun things with his family on vacation. I will be doing the chapter recaps and posting alone—Bill has said that he will try and drop in here and there to make comments, but we shouldn’t rely on it. And, indeed, he should be enjoying his holiday!
The undead dragon that escaped arrives at Kallor’s camp. The dragon tells him “You cannot feel my pain,” and “I have dreamt of a throne.” When Kallor expresses surprise the dragon would take a master, the dragon replies, “Because you do not understand... You think to make yourself the King in Chains. Do not mock my seeking a master.” Kallor tells the dragon, “The Crippled God’s days are numbered... Yet the throne shall remain.” The dragon and Kallor discuss the Jaghut, the dragon musing on how they only went to war once. Kallor said the Jaghut should have exterminated the Imass, but the dragon replies he’s referring to an older war, one that some of the Eleint joined in beside the Jaghut armies, an image which humbles even Kallor. The dragon says they failed, telling Kallor:
Grieve for the Jaghut... for the chains that bind all life... Know, for ever in your soul that the Jaghut fought the war no other has dared to fight... Think of them High King. The sacrifice they made for us all. Think of the Jaghut, and an impossible victory won in the heart of defeat. Think, and then you will come to understand all that is to come... The Jaghut’s only war, their greatest war, was against Death itself.
The dragon flies off, with Kallor thinking “Bless you, bless you all,” and that he owes Gothos an apology. Kallor, crying, wonders about a dead dragon choosing The Crippled God as master, and then recalls a Kellanved quote: “A throne is made of many parts, any one of which can break, to the king’s eternal discomfort.” Kallor thinks he’d learned long ago it wasn’t enough to simply sit on a throne.
Endest muses on the beginnings of things, of purity and time and aspects of Darkness, Life, Light, etc., believing the Age of Purity was merely a myth and those aspects were “nothing more than the raw materials for more worthy elaborations... transformation was only possible as a result of admixture. For creation to thrive, there must be an endless succession of catalysts.” He thinks that belief was what drove Rake to all his decisions. He recalls the coming of light, a sun, remembers Andarist covered in blood with horror on his face, thinking “Do not look so betrayed, damn you! He is not to blame. I am not to blame.” Memories continue to flood him: Shadow born; “the knowing half-smile of Silchas Ruin on the dawn when he walked to stand beside Scabandari, as if he knew what was to come;” Shadow shattered and pieces drifting; Andarist broken; Ruin gone; Rake alone. He chooses to believe in Rake’s belief in him.
Draconus drags Apsal’ara out from under the wagon and asks if, “when the time comes to fight,” she will be on his side. When she asks why, he tells her he’s impressed by how she’s been working ceaselessly to escape and he would have those few he “admires” by his side at the end. She notes it’s been said will is the only weapon that can fight against chaos and they both agree she has lots of that. She wonders if he is gathering a group of similarly strong-willed ones, a “core of resistance. Of stubborn will... To win through to the other side.” She asks if there even is another side and when he says he doesn’t know, she tells him, “All my life I have chosen to be alone... I will face oblivion in the same way. I must—we all must. It does nothing to stand together, for we each fall alone.” He apologizes to her and she walks back to her spot on the wagon, thinking:
Draconus... You made this sword, but the sword is only a shape given to something far beyond you... You just made it momentarily manageable... Rake understands... More than you ever did. Then you ever will. The world within Dragnipur must die... This is the greatest act of mercy imaginable. The greatest sacrifice... You [Rake] give us chaos. You give us an end to this.
She thinks how neither she nor Draconus would do what Rake does.
Ditch awakens to Kadaspala trying to tattoo his face, after having done half his body. He tells Kadaspala he refuses to be part of this and crawls away, with Kadaspala complaining he is “necessary” and warning he’s summoned Draconus. Draconus arrives and breaks Ditch’s spine so he can’t crawl away, then tosses him back to where Kadaspala needed him. Ditch bemoans his inability to heed lessons or take to heart the truth of people like Draconus and Rake who “do what they have to do when it needs doing.” Kadaspala resumes the tattooing.
Kedeviss takes pleasure in how the mountains and nature are reducing structures into ruins, finding “a secret delight in impermanence, in seeing arrogance taken down.” They’d crossed a dead lake filled with shipwrecks of all sorts and she ponders how Andii would learn to “Take no chances. Dream of nothing, want less,” while humans would try to figure out ways to better the odds for next time. Kedeviss tells Nimander she doesn’t trust Clip and when he agrees, she says she plans to confront him. He wonders if they should all do it together, but she tells him only if she fails. She wonders if Nimander knows how like Rake he has become, how strong.
Clip thinks he senses Rake keeping him at bay, and he wonders why Rake is forcing him this longabout path. He believes the Liosan were right about judgment being “unequivocal,” and considers mercy a flaw, as is doubt. He thinks justice and punishment must be pure and plans to make it so, using the Tiste Andii to “deliver justice upon this world. Upon every god and ascendant who ever wronged us, betrayed us, scorned us.” And he thinks too of Rake’s betrayal; of Mother Dark; of the Andii left in the Andara; of Nimander and his kin; of Clip himself.
A witch meets with the Andii High Priestess to tell her the Redeemer Cult has become corrupted, explaining about saemankelyk and the Dying God and saying outlaws have made addicts of the cultists, including Salind. The witch warns the corruption could spread (offending the High Priestess with the implication the Andii are just like humans) and asks for help, specifically Spinnock Durav. The High Priestess brings her to a chamber of power, telling her, “By entering here, you have drawn Kurald Galain into your body... The sorcery is now within you.” When asked why she’s done this, the High Priestess said she’d sensed the Witch’s weak heart and ascertained she’d die on the way back. The witch surprised the High Priestess by saying she’d known that, that she’d hoped her sacrifice would have been worth saving Salind. The High Priestess tells the witch Spinnock is gone, adding that humans always make the mistake of thinking they need to “bargain” with the Andii instead of simply asking. The witch, realizing she’s been healed, thanks the High Priestess (playing by her own rules) and asks her to help Salind. The High Priestess refuses, saying the Temple believes neither Salind nor the Redeemer need help yet, though they will act if they have to, adding it’s been hard restraining Silanah.
Karsa rejoins Samar and Traveller. She tells Karsa she once lived a civilized life with all its benefits, but he says “birds sing of imprisonment” and points out her life was isolated from the reality outside her house as well as what it took to proved her civilization’s benefits. The undead dragon arrives then sembles into Edur form, introducing himself as Tulas Shorn. He tells them he doesn’t recall his death, then refers to Samar as a priestess of Burn. Samar slaps down Traveller and Karsa for their belligerent reaction and invites Tulas Shorn to their fire. Tulas tells Samar Burn is sick and the illness must be purged or the goddess dies. Samar, frustrated by his assumptions, tells him she has no idea where to start. He says the illness comes from the pain of the Crippled God and says he doesn’t know if that pain, both physical and spiritual, can be mended. Samar calls the CG “anathema to the likes of me,” and Tulas talks about the courage of knowing a stranger’s pain, a courage beyond himself and most others. They sleep and in the morning, Tulas is gone, as are their horses (save for Havoc). Traveller thinks Tulas was slowing them down for Hood’s purposes.
Tulas, who has seen “far too much death,” had taken the horses and dropped them off leagues distant with other horses. He flies away, thinking that too many “animals were made to bow in servitude to a succession of smarter, crueler masters.” He senses the Hounds of Shadow (calling them “My Hounds”) and flies toward them, wondering if they would remember him, “The first master, the one who had taken them raw and half-wild and taught them the vast power of a faith that would never know betrayal.”
SCENES TEN & ELEVEN
The Trygalle Trade Guild carriage makes its typical entrance.
In the tower atop the coastal cliff where the carriage landed (in a town called Reach of Woe), a Jaghut sighs “not again,” and his dozen reptilian servants begin “a wailing chorus” which wends its way down into a crypt where “three women, lying motionless on stone slabs, each opened their eyes... and began shrieking.”
Gruntle and the others sit in the tavern in Reach, the conscious ones wondering why everyone went into the cellar and shut a suspiciously thick door. Gruntle and Mappo look at each other, realizing what they’d thought was the storm was in fact “terrible, inhuman voices, filled with rage and hunger.”
I have totally experienced the same as Kallor being woken here at the start of the chapter... I have woken nose to nose with my cat. Undead dragon, cat requiring food NOW... yes, that is totally the same thing! Amazing visual to kick off the chapter.
Well, well, well... This undead dragon has much to reveal, doesn’t it? And enough to move Kallor to tears, not something I would ever have believed possible, and an absolutely lovely full-circle with the start of the chapter when Kallor shows such disinterest.
We’ve been hearing much about why Hood and his armies might be on the march—and now we hear about a time when the Jaghut armies rose up against Death, and the futility of such a battle. Does this mean, as well, that many of Hood’s army are Jaghut, from that time when they were forced to take sides?
And then this final point that I find utterly intriguing: “And he would wonder, with growing unease, at the dead Eleint who, upon escaping the realm of Death, would now choose the Crippled God as its new master.”
Endest Silann is haunted by his past, isn’t he? Every little hint that we see about Kharkanas, and about what Anomander did to cause him to stand alone, makes me wonder about the Lord of Darkness. We’ve seen the good side of Anomander—but we never knew him before his endless years, before he learnt the patience of the long game. When he turned his back on Mother Dark and she rejected the Tiste Andii, is this what created Shadow? We’ve seen how the creation and then breaking of Shadow has reverberated through the course of these books—was Anomander the inadvertent cause of all these events?
Draconus’ treatment of Apsal’ara here might give an indication of the difference in power between gods and ascendants—although you guys have often told me not to try and work out how A can be more powerful than B, yet weaker than C. *grins*
So Draconus is still fighting to beat the sword, to win through to the other side of Chaos by using the strong-minded among those trapped in the realm of Dragnipur. We see Apsal’ara’s arguments against it, her knowledge that the world within Dragnipur must die—and her thought that Anomander is right not to slay anymore, to let Chaos win. What would Chaos mean to Dragnipur—would the Warren hidden within Dragnipur then be released into the world as well?
Once again we see a very admiring thought about Anomander—the Lord of Darkness is being built up to something very special by those around him. Even those he killed:
“None other. None other but you, Anomander Rake. Thank the gods.”
Hmm, is Ditch completely mad, or are we going to see that the tattoo he’s creating has a fundamental role to come? “The apex and the crux and the fulcrum and the heart. He chose you. I chose you. Necessary! Else we are all lost, we are all lost, we are all lost.”
And here’s a thought... Ditch is very much on the side of Draconus, so I wonder if this huge tattoo, this pattern, is a way of holding back chaos? In which case, they are going against all of Anomander Rake’s wishes.
Oh my god! Draconus just snapped Ditch’s neck to keep him still! I find this terribly shocking, and it doesn’t enforce my good opinion of Draconus. Hmm, Apsal’ara thought she could see wisdom in Draconus’ eyes, but it seems sorely lacking here.
This could possibly be the way that Elder Gods think—using people in the here and now for a distant end result. But, somehow, I don’t feel as though all the Elder Gods would be so cruel.
It is so clear that Erikson has considered the ramifications for a people who have essentially lived forever. The thoughts of various of the Tiste Andii show this careful consideration as to how their long lives would affect them: “There was a secret delight in impermanence, in seeing arrogance taken down, whether in a single person or in a bold, proud civilization.”
Nimander is being built up a great deal, especially with such quotes as: “...and yet Nimander had grown into a true heir to Rake, his only failing being that he didn’t know it.” And you know something? An heir implies a passing of the one already in the role... That is a touch foreboding.
Who is preventing Clip from using his rings to open the warren of Darkness? He thinks it is Anomander, but I believe Anomander has absolutely no knowledge of Clip’s existence. Or, if he does know about him, just doesn’t care.
Hmm, this thought seems to imply that Clip is sharing his body with the Dying God: “I will take your people, and I will deliver justice. Upon this world. Upon every god and ascendant who ever wronged us, betrayed us, scorned us.”
Just as an aside... there have been many discussions recently about women being under-represented, from female authors to female characters within novels. And I constantly wonder why people do not talk up Erikson more when this happens. Sure, he is a male author, but we have here yet another example of a society where women hold high profile roles, with the High Priestess of Kurald Galain and the female temple guardian. They are mentioned casually, with no fanfare—this is just the way of things in Erikson’s world. The women are as strong and weak, as flawed and honourable as the men. I applaud him for that and wish more people would realise just how effective it can make a story.
It is interesting that Traveller seems to be slowing down Karsa and Samar Dev as they head towards Darujhistan. What is he heading towards that requires these moments of quiet contemplation and slowing of pace?
Karsa accuses Samar Dev of being constantly suspicious, and yet he is guilty of the same issue, especially when he thinks about civilizations. Sure, some of what he thinks is true, but there is also much to appreciate—although Karsa has gained some shades of grey, he is still much more black and white than many of the characters in this series. “The birds sing of imprisonment, Samar Dev. The soap is churned by indentured workers with bleached, blistered hands and hacking coughs. Outside your cool house with its pretty garden there are children left to wander in the streets.” (And it carries on in that vein!)
Huh! Why did I not think that the undead dragon (Tulas Shorn, as it turns out) might be Soletaken? That Shorn business—something like Trull Sengar being shorn from the Tiste Edur?
This is interesting—it reminds me of Itkovian, and presents yet another view of the Crippled God and the plight he faces: “It is an extraordinary act of courage to come to know a stranger’s pain. To even consider such a thing demands a profound dispensation, a willingness to wear someone else’s chains, to taste their suffering, to see with one’s own eyes the hue cast on all things—the terrible stain that is despair.”
Samar Dev would certainly not be the first reluctant priestess we’ve seen—someone taken by a god against their will. Is she truly Burn’s? And is it her role to heal the sleeping goddess?
I also appreciate the way that Erikson talks about horses. It makes me think that he is familiar with them—perhaps rides, even. His sympathy to their plight yoked to men moves me often. I love here that Tulas Shorn takes the two horses to a herd of their own, allowing them their freedom. And it establishes oh so neatly that Tulas Shorn is a beastmaster—and the original master of the Hounds of Shadow. Moments like that—neat and clever moments that require the building of the entire series to realise just what it means—are worth every hard section of these novels.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.