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 seven of Dust of Dreams.
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.
The Errant walks through the flooded tunnels, thinking about the fact that events are unfolding and that not all of them are responding to him as he’d like. He also contemplates Feather Witch and the fact that her soul is not around where he expected it to be. He walks out and onto the ocean floor, down the length of a vast skeleton. He ends up at an Azath on the floor of this ocean, and is greeted on entry by a Forkrul Assail who calls him Errastas and invites him to come within. This Forkrul Assail is called, variously, Setch, Sechul Lath and Knuckles, and turns out to be an Elder God. The Errant tries to reform his alliance with Knuckles, assuring him that the Forkrul Assail have found new power and made new alliances, and have a chance in the war that is coming. The Errant announces his attention to summon the Clan of Elders, those who have survived. He says that he is Master of the Tiles, and so they must obey.
In the tower of the Azath, walking through a realm that is a part of Emurlahn, is Kilmandaros. She is greeted by Osserc, who is hiding in the realm like a big old coward because Edgewalker is waiting at the single remaining portal to this realm to kill him. Apparently Edgewalker is angry at Osserc.
Stormy wakes with a howl (or possibly a scream—it is debated) from a dream in which black clouds on the horizon advance in broken lines. He and Gesler discuss the possible meaning while keeping guard over Hellian, who is facedown and drunk on the table.
Bottle wakes, apparently to words uttered by Faradan Sort, which leads him to think that Faradan Sort has been given information by another member in the squad. And he thinks it might be Smiles. And all this is just so much comedy before Bottle realises that Quick Ben is speaking to him mind to mind and wants Bottle to join him at the Cedance. There they discuss the fact that, despite the Warrens being introduced in a big way to the Letherii, the Tiles are still awake—and a big old dragon is front and centre. Bottle and Quick Ben talk about Mael: his presence with Tehol and his motivations for being there. The Quick Ben says he is going to get the Adjunct to elevate Bottle to High Mage, and Bottle convinces Quick Ben to keep him with Fiddler’s squad as his shaved knuckle in the hole.
Sandalath tells Withal that she wants to leave the Bonehunters, to go in search of the Shake and find out what they know and how they’re connected to the Tiste Andii.
Telorast and Curdle check that Banaschar is passed out from drink before discussing the fact that they think they have lost their “pet” to the Errant. They discuss whether to kill the pet or the Errant, and are probably coming down on the side of the Errant when Banaschar interjects the fact that the Errant enjoys manipulating fate and that they have to use the same method to trap him. Banaschar confirms he is still of D’rek and has been manipulating the Errant himself.
The Malazans think rather unkindly on the skills of the Letherii, as they play the war-game. The Bonehunters are overconfident, but Fiddler has warned that the Letherii are commanded by Brys Beddict, who is a pretty sharp chap and has also seen them in action so would be familiar with ways to beat them. The Letherii ambush the Malazans and take down 300 of them, but, in turn, lose 800 to Keneb’s counter-strike. Both Keneb and Brys are happy with the lessons learnt and consider each other with new respect.
Faradan Sort enters Kindly’s office to find him looking in bemusement at a mountain of hair. She asks him if he has found Sinn and Grub yet, and he says that they need to get Quick Ben involved, if the two mages are worth finding. Faradan Sort emphasises their usefulness.
Kisswhere and Sinter are playing the bones with Badan Gruk—all three of them cheating merrily—when Pores approaches them (or it could be Kindly) and tells them to present themselves at his office to show if they have gained weight. They plan to cause more trouble.
Sandalath tells Withal that the Adjunct is fine with them leaving, and then tells him that the Nacht can’t come with them. He explains that he thinks they came from Mael and it isn’t exactly an option to send them back.
Sinn and Grub explore one of the new Warrens, which, frankly, isn’t very inviting, what with burned bodies and tumbledown buildings. Grub doesn’t like it at all, and his fear of Sinn is growing. They encounter ghostly figures who see them as real.
The Errant approaches Kilmandaros and tells her that he has come to speak of dragons.
The Errant comes across a little bit as a whiny teenager during this whole scene, what with thinking that he is unable to manipulate all events that he would like to, and then trying to convince his old mate to bully up with him against the mortals who he believes deserves striking down. I really don’t like him much at all, especially with his whole sense of entitlement—“I’m Master of the Tiles, blah blah blah.” Even his flicker of remorse about Feather Witch just doesn’t seem enough to make him a character that seems possible to redeem.
Lots of stuff about Knuckles and the Forkrul Assail given to us here: the fact that he seems to be their Elder God, that they apparently did nasty things to the Errant in the name of Justice, the fact that Knuckles created Oponn (who are the Warren equivalent of the Tiles’ Errant, right?), and, interestingly, mention of the Forkrul Assail having made new alliances in preparation for war…
Who is this ‘she’, the one that is still asleep? The one that the Errant thinks: “He could grant her a few more moments of rest” about?
Lots of tension here between Osserc and Kilmandaros. Heh, I wandered back to the Prologue for Reaper’s Gale in an effort to remind myself a bit about Kilmandaros and found this that I wrote as my reaction:
“So Kilmandaros is the Elder Goddess of the Forkrul Assail? And her children, according to Gothos, are losing their way. We’ve seen the Forkrul Assail on a couple of occasions now, and oblique references to them, and it makes me wonder whether what we’ve seen has been them directionless—and what it going to happen when they find their way again....”
Strikes me that we’re about to see them with a tad more direction.
Also, if Kilmandaros is connected to the Forkrul Assail, as is Knuckles, it seems that this is the ‘she’ he has in the Azath.
This—man, anyone who has ever seen a relationship fall apart in the worst way—this will certainly ring true:
“You no longer matter to me. I see your hurt and it amuses me. I see how you cannot let go of the very thing I have so easily flung away: the conceit that we still matter to each other.”
So it seems that Osserc and Kilmandaros were once close?
Why is Edgewalker so grumpy at Osserc, and hounding him to the point where he is now hiding? Damn, who the hell is Edgewalker, and how does he feature into this massive story. Nine books in and I still have absolutely no idea where he fits.
Since Stormy and Gesler are now a bit more special than they used to be, it seems we ought to pay attention to Stormy’s rather ominous dream—although I think we can all sense the black clouds advancing on these characters at this point!
The whole sequence with Bottle trying to pry into Smiles’ stuff, and then being told by Corabb he is looking at Cuttle’s box, is downright amusing. I also like the reasons behind Corabb being sent back to the bunkroom by Fiddler: “They’d only learn anything if we could use our weapons and kill a few hundred of them.” Yep, Fiddler is being so unreasonable trying to prevent this.
I like the fact that Erikson keeps us on track with other parts of the story—like the fact that Sinn and Grub are still missing. And reminds us of older stuff, like the Eres’al and the connection with Bottle.
Hmm, do you think we ought to be thinking about this dragon tile and paying attention to it, what with words like this: “But the brightest Tile of all lifted its own image above the flat surface, so that it floated, swirling, in three dimensions. A dragon, wings spread wide, jaws open.” We’ve seen other dragons so far in this book, including a K’Chain Che’Malle city created to look like one.
Bugg as Mael as turning out to be the worst kept secret in the world, what with exchanges like this:
“Your roads of the sea, Bottle,” said Quick Ben. “They make me think about Mael.”
“Well, hard not to think about Mael in this city, High Mage.”
“You know, then.”
We are seeing a lot of stuff regarding the sea in this chapter, what with Quick Ben and Bottle discussing both Mael, and the exodus of the Eres’al on boats, and Bottle’s theory about roads of the sea. Then Sandalath talks about the sea levels and the fact that the ice fields of Omtose Phellack are now melting. That’s another little addition to this vast stirring pot of story threads…
Is there anything sadder than Sandalath’s reply to Withal about why the Tiste Andii warred against the K’Chain Che’Malle? “Why? Because they were different.”
Another little set-up here in that Curdle and Telorast have been pointed at the Errant, and are now intending to use the heat of battle, the coming war with the Crippled God, to take him down. One thing that I’ve noticed in this series is that the actual presence of gods in their world does a great deal to keep worshippers from switching sides that much! Having the possibility of actual retribution must do a lot towards keeping them honest!
Another fab Bonehunter scene here, with the Malazans grumbling about the Letherii and then being out-wolved a little by Brys Beddict. Just great fun to read.
Awww. I want a Nacht please!
Somehow it seems especially foreboding after Sinn’s previous contact with fire that she has ended up in this Warren that has fire-burned bodies and destroyed buildings. It just seems that this won’t help her state of mind at all.
I can’t say I feel a lot of sympathy for the poor Errant who is finding events no longer “shifting to his touch, twisting to his will.” Although I do like how he is made more complex by his view of his killing of Feather Witch as a “mercy” and his confusion over being haunted by that killing, haunted by “a lapse of conscience, this tremor of remorse.”
And where has Feather Witch’s soul gone, one might wonder?
I’ve always found the portrayal of time in this series one of its best aspects, and so I love this passage:
Time lost its way here, wandering until the ceaseless rain of detritus weighed it down, brought it to its knees, and then buried it. Anything—anyone—could fall to the same fate. The danger, the risk, was very real. No creature of sentience could withstand this place for long. Futility delivered its crushing symphony and the dread music was eternal.
And it’s visually a great image, the Errant walking this ocean floor to come across the Azath house, the light in the tower glowing amidst the silk and murk.
Some interesting revelations in this conversation:
- Oponn (The Twins) seem to be the children of Sechul Lath, through his use of “my finest cast” to refer to them seems to imply that “children” might be more broadly defined
- The Forkrul Assail are Sechul Lath’s “mortal kin” and seem to have turned on the Errant at some point
- Sechul Lath and the Errant are long-time acquaintances, having been allied before, and being able, at least according to Sechul Lath, to remember a time of “innocence”
- That acquaintance/former alliance seemed to often involve visiting “misfortune” upon poor mortals
I love that closing line to this scene—“Mortals will eat anything”—and it’s a line about which one wonders if the Errant shouldn’t pay more attention to as he delivers it while plotting against said mortals (and upstart gods, a few of whom were recently mortal).
Hmm, so Osserc and Killy did the dastardly deed—and what, or who, one wonders, might have come of that union, if anyone did.
This may be more than a telling line about Osserc in a series whose focus and major argument has been so clear for so long: “Osserc then chuckled, the kind of laugh that cut into its victim, that shocked tight the throat. Dismissive, empty of empathy.”
Don’t you just want to know so much more about Edgewalker? I’d take an entire novella about him quite happily
That reminder of Kilmandaros aligning herself with Rake is an interesting reminder as we see her working with Sechul Lath and the Errant as well.
“Clouds on the horizon. Black, advancing in broken lines.” Lots of ominous omens dealing with the sky in this book. And a “howl” versus a “scream”—might that be important?
From dream 1 (Kilmandaros) to dream 2 (Stormy) to dream 3 (Bottle). And a nice balancing of humor after the seriousness of what’s come before, something Erikson almost always does well in the series, knowing when it’s time for a little light touch. I love both the set comic scene involving the gear box and the humor of the mysterious voice in Bottle’s head.
What I like about the bit about the Eres’al is how even eight books into the series and nearing the end, Erikson isn’t afraid to complicate things, to make characters (and thus readers) question what they “know” to this point. So we thought we’d had such a great big revelation when we put Holds and Tiles together with Warrens, that whole—wandering/migration—thing, and now Bottle asks a series of good if annoying complicating questions: “What about the roads of the sea? Where do they fit in? Or the siren calls of the wind?” And I like how it continues the theme of deep time, of layers, of how, as Bottle says, “There isn’t a place we step anywhere in this world that they haven’t stepped first. Humbling thought, isn’t it?” It also makes me think of how we once used to view Neanderthals—those dim-witted, slow-minded slope-browed folks who couldn’t hold a candle to the bright and fast minds of us Homo Sapiens. Then of course it turned out that they weren’t so dim—they had tool use and rituals and lasted longer than we thought and then, humbling horror of horrors, turns out we interbred. Gasp!
So what does this mean, that the Cedance is alive? Or that the tiles most prominent are that one with a “scatter of bones”, the empty throne, and brightest of all, a dragon. Probably want to file. Along perhaps with Bottle’s warning to “not take things too literally.”
“I am old husband. I remember the Saelen Gara… [who] lived in the forests. Until the forests died.” How many dead/killed/dying forests have we seen or heard of in this series? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…
Those are some thought-provoking theories about the Shake and the Andii and the Bluerose Andii and the K’Chain Che’Malle—we’ll have to see if any of them are borne out.
And how depressing a line is this by Sandalath when she is asked why the Andii fought against the K’Chain Che’Malle: “Why? Because they were different.” And also telling is that she is “startled” that he doesn’t see the obviousness of that reason.
Conspiracies versus conspiracies starting to form. The Errant is getting his old gang together it appears. And now Curdle, Telorast, and Banaschar speak of taking on the Errant.
And why indeed was Banashcar spared? When will D’rek find him?
Ahh, Nefarias Bredd.
This was another just greatly fun scene, with the back and forth over the map table, more reasons to love Fiddler, the realization that the Letherii were just a little bit better than the Malazans had assumed, and then the realization that the Malazans pulled a double-move on the Letherii. Though one has to wonder if the whole scene is played merely for fun. Or might there be a lesson to learn there, as Keneb says, about “Sometimes one’s tactics must prove brutal in the execution. Especially when the timing’s off and nothing can be done for it.”
Ahhh, Kindly and Pores.
Tell me this line doesn’t set off some real-world echoes: “A state that employs torture invited barbarism and deserves nothing better than to suffer the harvest of its own excesses.”
I think it’s pretty clear that Sinn is being set up to play a major role as we near the end here. We’ve had lots of scary build up with regard to her and this scene adds a bit to that ominous feeling, what with her sense (not necessarily unjustified) of anger/resentment over those new things people found to believe in, things it became all right “even to kill for. Or enslave people. Or keep them stupid and poor.” Her line that “fire is not the gift you think it is, Grub.” Sure, fire can be heat and warmth and light and the Promethean symbol of civilization, but we all know its other side as well. And then their encounter with the ghosts does nothing to lighten the mood, with her “harsh” laughter as the priest sees “what was real… The future is a desert! And a road! And no end to the stupid wars, the insane laughter… He believed his people are—hah!—chosen! They all do, don’t you see? They do, we do, everyone does! See our gift Grub?… The sanctuary of ignorance is shattered!… Is not our message divine? Yeah, she is not heading down a good path…
And that’s just a great description of Sechul at the end, such a contrast with how he has been seen prior to this moment: “the brilliant, confounding offerings of Sechul Lath, Lord of the Hold of Chance—the Toppler, the Conniver, the Wastrel of Ruin.”
And a good closing line: “I have come to speak of dragons.” Recall Heboric’s lines from earlier—-is this what he meant?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.