Welcome to the Malazan Reread 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 Twenty-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.
Karsa, Traveller and Samar Dev don’t stop for the night on their way to Darujhistan. The city is aglow in the distance and Samar can feel the pressure in her head. Traveller is completely obsessed and not aware that they are even with him. Finally, in order to keep up, Karsa and Samar ditch Havok and head onwards on foot. Samar wants to leave Traveller to it, but Karsa says that he plans to guard Traveller’s back. She asks who will be watching their back, and Karsa indicates the bear god that has returned.
Kallor heads towards Darujhistan, thinking on the nature of convergence and compassion. He arrives at a crossroads where four torches are set on high poles. Spinnock Durav awaits him, and tells Kallor that he cannot let the High King pass: “Darujhistan...is not for you.” Kallor tries very hard to avoid fighting with Spinnock, but can’t do so and they begin to fight.
The group of Tiste Andii come to a stretch of black water that Clip says he can use, that the power rising from it is pure Kurald Galain, and can form a Gate to take them to Black Coral. Nimander worries that he hasn’t had enough time to plan and sort out what they’ll do, and thinks that he has no choice but to act alone, since there will only be one chance to take Clip out before they cause him to suspect anything. The Gate comes out of the water and Clip rushes through. Before Nimander can follow, Nenanda darts through. As the others go after him, they find that Clip has slit Nenanda’s throat, that he knew everything and wanted to kill Nimander instead. Clip heads off into the darkness and leaves Nimander alone and wandering through the dar, suspecting that Skintick and the others didn’t make it through the Gate. The voice of Phaed in his head tells him to stop the self-pity and says the others are also wandering lost, and that shouting for each other won’t get them back together, that there are layers in the place. Phaed also reveals that Nimander and the others have Eleint blood and that Clip doesn’t know and Andarist told them to suppress it. Nimander doesn’t know how to access the Eleint power, and then realises his hands are stained with the blood of dragons, which brings Aranatha to him.
Salind feels the Dying God coming, and thinks that she is going to be the fist that will close around the soul of the Redeemer.
Salind lies on the floor of Gradithan’s hut, leaking saemankelyk from her eyes and other places. Gradithan looks upon her with lust and Monkrat watches with disgust. Monkrat sees as Gradithan feeds her more saemankelyk, watches as the god appears in her eyes. The ex-Bridgeburner leaves the hut as Salind convulses, and Spindle approaches him, saying “It’s time.” Monkrat asks what for, and Spindle says they need to get the children out of there. Monkrat is reluctant and Spindle tells him some home truths about the role of a soldier and the manner in which justice should be dispensed. Spindle forces Monkrat to look at himself and what he’s become. They were both taught the words by Dassem Ultor, and Monkrat remembers them. He decides to do the right thing.
Seerdomin stands ready in front of the Redeemer, who seems to have lost all will and desire to fight. As Seerdomin wonders what he is doing there, Itkovian starts to wonder if he can help the Dying God, which absolutely staggers Seerdomin. “You cannot heal what does not want healing!” The Redeemer knows that the Dying God wants him partly because of Salind’s influence. Itkovian tells Seerdomin to find the true Salind within herself, and implores him to do it for Spinnock Durav’s sake. Seerdomin realises in a flash that his friend has fallen in love, and so goes forth to try and bring Salind back.
Picker stops falling endlessly, and stands within this mysterious realm watching as a crazy wagon lunges through the place where she now is.
Endest Silann stands alone and feels alone, questioning why Anomander Rake has to be the one to carry the burden. Silanah sits and waits and watches the camp, but the waiting is almost over.
Traveller, Karsa and Samar Dev arrive at the wall devastated by the Hounds. Samar Dev is still feeling overwhelmed by the pressure in her head. Karsa tells her to raise walls in her mind, to try and withstand “the one who had arrived.” Karsa can feel him blazing. Samar manages to push the presence out and they both set out after Traveller into Darujhistan. As they do so, they catch a glimpse of the sky and see that the moon has shattered.
Chillbais tracks Traveller, quivering with terror thanks to all of the events of the evening. However, it is Traveller who is giving him the real cobble-wobbles. He can feel that Traveller is exerting a malignant will. And, explicitly, Chillbais thinks: “He is here! He is here! Dassem Ultor is here!”
Karsa and Samar Dev watch as Traveller pauses in the street and is approached by Cotillion, supported by a couple of Hounds. Karsa does not allow Samar Dev to eavesdrop on the conversation, saying that it isn’t for them to know. Whatever Cotillion is saying to Traveller is something that he doesn’t want to hear. Cotillion is forcing Traveller to make some sort of decision. Traveller cries out in sorrow and then proceeds, allowed past by Cotillion, who shows pain at what has happened. Samar Dev wishes desperately that Traveller would change his decision.
Hood arrives in Dragnipur, which is floundering into destruction before his arrival. The chaos army is charging the wagon. Ditch watches the descending heaven with terror that is not his terror, but the feelings of the teeny godling within him. Pearl weeps for the end of Dragnipur and the idea of all these enemies managing to work together. Draconus apologises for creating the sword, but Pearl is sorry for its ending. Apsal’ara watches as something strange starts to happen at the portal, the Gate at the centre of the wagon. She determines that she would rather try to use it to escape, even if it might destroy her.
Draconus watches as Hood arrives in Dragnipur—he says: “He is indeed a man of his word” as he materialises. We learn that Hood is here as the result of a bargain, a gamble agreed between Hood and Anomander. Draconus thinks that Hood on his own isn’t enough, that chaos will claim him, but Hood says: “surely you do not think I have come here alone?” Then the marching armies of the dead arrive. Hood says that they will fight of their own free will, and that this is all he will ask of them. Draconus asks who will claim the dead after this, and Hood says that the gods will have to see to their own.
Draconus watches as figures arrive, including the Second Seguleh. The Second moans about who they have to fight for, but Hood says that instead Iskar Jarak will lead the dead into battle. They start planning the battle, and then Hood tells Draconus to turn the wagon around.
I’m still not entirely sure what has caused this change in Traveller, this complete obsession, except that perhaps he has sensed this convergence occurring in Darujhistan. The thing that stuck out for me was this, though:
“And what if he found what he sought? What if he won through in his final battle—whatever that might be? What then for Traveller? It will kill him. His reason for living... gone.”
Samar Dev also thinks that she dare not bear witness to the scene that will follow—but it strikes me that, as well as being there to protect his back, Karsa is there to bear witness to what will happen with Traveller and whoever he is currently pursuing.
Also, we know that Traveller has been on the hunt for Hood after everything that happened. And, with what Samar Dev is thinking, well, I dread the moment that Traveller finds out Hood is already dead.
The will they, won’t they of Karsa and Samar Dev is pretty cute—despite all their protestations, there is obviously real feeling here for each other, shown by Karsa holding her as the blackness fills her mind.
Oh, and what’s with that darkness? It came about when Samar Dev particularly thought about who would be guarding their backs, so makes me wonder if someone is sending her a message?
This is possibly the first time that we’ve had an indication that this convergence in Darujhistan is just one tiny cog in a massive convergence:
“Too often scholars and historians saw the principle of convergence with narrow, truncated focus. In terms of ascendants and gods and great powers. But Kallor understood that the events they described and pored over after the fact were but concentrated expressions of something far vaster. Entire ages converged, in chaos and tumult, in the anarchy of Nature itself.”
I guess when you have lived for such a long time it will give you that sense of perspective.
It seems strange after seeing Hood’s fabulous display of compassion in the last chapter to read Kallor’s view on compassion and sympathy. “Compassion is not a replacement for stupidity. Tearful concern cannot stand in the stead of cold recognition.” He sees empathy as self-indulgence—anyone else agree?
Finally we see where Anomander Rake sent Spinnock Durav—and we get a sense of why they both said goodbye with such finality. I wouldn’t want to go up against Kallor!
This conversation between Kallor and Spinnock Durav is both revealing and impenetrable. And I HATE that Whiskeyjack was just an incidental death and nothing of import to Kallor. It was so massive to us readers that I can’t bear the idea that for Kallor it was an accident on the way to getting to Silverfox. The reference to her is what I find confusing: “It was Silverfox who needed to die, and that is a failure we shall all one day come to rue.” Why? Is that just Kallor’s view of the situation? Or is this something we should worry about?
I do like that Kallor shows regret here as he goes into battle with Spinnock Durav, but I wish that it would stay his hand instead of making him angry: “Does it occur, to any of you, what these things do to me?” And, heh, that seems like a rather self-indulgent thing to say, doesn’t it?
More references to darkness here, as we go back to Clip and the Tiste Andii: “black water, depthless, blood of darkness.” No real surprise then, that we hear Kurald Galain is present.
It’s pretty harsh, going from Nimander’s internal thoughts about how he needs to act alone before Clip suspects anything, to Nenanda’s swift death, to Clip revealing that he was completely aware that they were going to try and get rid of him. Nimander’s futile: “The god within you is a fool. My Lord will cut it down and you with it, Clip. You don’t know him. You don’t know a damned thing!” is heart-rending.
Oh, and the Eleint revelation was pretty damn cool! The idea that these Tiste Andii have the potential within them, dragon’s blood, but have never unleashed it because they were told not to by Andarist. And why were they not told? Is Nimander somehow part of the whole plan?
Hmm, seems like Aranatha has finally revealed herself to Nimander—that darkness motive? Thinking it has a lot to do with her! “He had looked into her eyes. He had seen it. That love. He had seen it. And more, he had understood.”
Just when it seems the Bridgeburners are no more, we get a vivid scene here between Monkrat and Spindle. It’s so telling the way that the scene begins with Monkrat knowing that Gradithan has raped Salind, and just slipping away out of the hut—to ending with Spindle forcing Monkrat to think about what he’s become and what he should be doing. I love that these soldiers’ talk about this rough form of justice, and Dassem Ultor’s words are so very moving:
“You are in a damned uniform but that’s not a licence to deliver terror to everyone—just the enemy soldier you happen to be facing. Do what is right, for that armour you wear doesn’t just protect your flesh and bone. It defends honour. It defends integrity. It defends justice.”
Honestly, that is on a level with Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day!
And it’s fantastic to me that of all the things that makes Seerdomin stand up and fight, it is learning that his friend is in love with this vessel for the Dying God—a vessel that still contains some element of Salind. This is just wonderful:
“But his friend had found love. Absurd, ridiculous love. His friend, wherever he was, deserved a chance. For the only gift that meant a damned thing. The only one.”
Again, I am really enjoying Karsa’s caring attitude towards Samar Dev, his way of looking after her. Also, anyone else overwhelmed by seeing Karsa say: “Someone is there, and that someone blazes. I—I cannot imagine such a being—”? Honestly, Karsa has produced pretty much a Gallic shrug at all of the many crazy things he’s faced, but this has truly shaken him.
So a couple of times people have mentioned that the moon is looking strange—here, we see that it has shattered. I’m intrigued by this wording: “...towards that devastated world, as if it was capable of smelling death across the span of countless leagues.” What on earth has happened to the moon? And why?
The section with Chillbais makes me snort with laughter and also feel pretty damn worried—the former feeling comes from the idea of this winged toad demon feeling aggrieved at the panic he generates in those already worried by what is happening. The latter comes from the fact that Chillbais has seen some crazy things happening tonight, but Traveller is the person who worries him. A god has manifested and been killed. The moon has shattered in the sky. But TRAVELLER is the person Chillbais is keeping an eye on and passing messages about...
Oh, I’m as nosy as Samar Dev because I would have given a lot to hear that conversation between Cotillion and Traveller. My suspicion is that Cotillion is revealing the death of Hood, which would certainly cause Traveller to hear the news as though receiving physical blows. What choice is Cotillion giving Traveller here? Once again we see Cotillion’s tremendous compassion:
“Cotillion watched him go, and she saw him lift a forearm to his eyes, as if he did not want the memory of this, as if he could wipe it away with a single, private gesture.”
And really appreciate that thought of Traveller dragging metaphorical chains as he walks through Darujhistan—creates a real bookend with those chains of Dragnipur that Anomander Rake also dragged. And then a really neat segue into Dragnipur... That Erikson is a clever writer, non?
*bows head* I’m honestly not sure how to assemble my thoughts on everything from where Hood arrives in Dragnipur. Oh gods! The moment where we learn where the armies of the dead have been marching—that is an unbelievable moment! And then where we sort of learnt that Anomander Rake kept challenging Seguleh in order to ensure that their power and strength was within Dragnipur/the Realm of the Dead—damn, how long has he been planning this? Talk about taking the long view... And this bit:
“We will harden the point. With Malazans. At the very tip, my Bridgeburners. Dujek on my left flank, Bult on the right with the Seventh and his Wickans. Brukhalian and his Grey Swords to the right of Bult”
...I just don’t have enough words. Everything that we’ve seen come to pass—all the deaths, all the skirmishes—have been partially building towards this. Damn. Just. Damn.
I think Amanda your quote is just what caused this change in Traveler—the seeming likelihood that his long mission (vengeance on Hood) was about to be fulfilled. Or at least, the opportunity would be there. It is no small thing to gain one’s life’s goal, especially if it is vengeance. It is even less a small thing to kill a god, let alone the god of Death. All of that, with all its possible ripples, along with all it calls up of the past (such as his daughter), is now what faces him.
Note that “genuine concern” in Karsa’s face when Samar Dev swoons at the power emanating from Darujhistan. Nice to see that kind of emotion now and then from Karsa.
Kallor here makes a nice contrast as he too heads toward a goal and its damn the consequences, full speed ahead with little thought or self-questioning. I’ve mentioned before too how he can be seen at times as an example of that great way that fantasy can make the metaphor literal. And we have that laid out for us here with his own realization of such:
“He knew the curse haunting him was no different from history’s own progression, the endless succession of failures, the puerile triumphs that had a way of falling over as soon as one stopped looking.”
It’s easy to read this:
“very few comprehended the disaster erupting all around them. No, they simply went on day after day with their pathetic tasks, eyes to the ground, pretending that everything was just fine”
as a commentary on our own willing blindness to much of what is happening in nature (much of it as a result of our own actions)—one needn’t list the litany of issues in the natural world.
His section on compassion/empathy is interesting. When he says some would “accuse Kallor of being a monster, devoid of compassion… but they would be wrong,” is it their philosophy that is wrong or the idea that Kallor lacks compassion? When he says “sympathy does not cancel out the hard facts of brutal, unwavering observation,” is he saying he has none, refuses to feel it, or that he has it but finds it purposeless? Is Kallor perhaps getting more complex here? Well, here are some words we don’t usually associate with him: “unease,” “dismay,” “struggling,” And then his regret over the death of Whiskeyjack. His attempts to save Spinnock’s life by dissuading him from this path (as Spinnock says, Kallor doesn’t understand). His question “Does it ever occur to any of you what these things do to me?” (Can he “stay his hand,” or is that his curse working?) And could anyone have thought of a less-expected line in this series than one about Kallor’s heart breaking?
As for “accidental,” Amanda. I don’t know about that, but it was always portrayed as unintended. As Kallor says, WJ “got in his way.” Now, whether Kallor could have simply backed off is another question…
With regard to his statement about Silverfox, it’s not necessarily mutually incompatible that it is both Kallor’s view and something we have to worry about. Kallor is obsessed, and obviously often unlikable, but he’s rarely stupid (though his obsession can perhaps blind him).
Yes, that is a bit of a revelation with Aranatha, one we’ve been primed for via all those earlier hints and one that comes appropriately enough in darkness.
I think Erikson runs a risk here with Monkrat. How far will we watch a character go, how low will we allow them, before we don’t accept the possibility of redemption? Knowing that Monkrat is aware of Gradithan’s rape of this girl (and of many others earlier), is it enough that he slips out? Is it enough that he does something worthwhile afterward? Considering this is a storyline involving someone called “The Redeemer,” it’s a pretty appropriate character question.
That is a great speech by Dassem and goes a long way toward explaining the Bridgeburners and our reaction to them (hate to say it Amanda, I’m not a big Pullman fan. Can I imagine maybe Branaugh doing this speech? Or Samuel Jackson?)
How wrenching is this scene where Seerdomin fights for his friend Spinnock, Spinnock whom we worry is not long for this world.
Look how much of this chapter deals with people finding reasons to fight, things to fight for. Seerdomin for his friend, Spindle giving Monkrat a sense of what he once stood for, Spinnock for Rake’s vision, and here the idea that when they have nothing true to fight for, nothing true to believe in, “when the blood on the hands is unjust blood, the would withers. Death becomes a lover.” Of course, there are many who believe that the blood they shed is in the name of something just, where some of us might disagree.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.