Fri
Mar 14 2014 12:00pm

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Dust of Dreams, Chapter Thirteen

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 thirteen 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.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE

Silchas Ruin speaks to Rud of Draconus, how “power was drawn to him like slivers of iron to a lodestone… Draconus was indeed neutral. He would use any and every Tiste Andii to further his ambitions… at the very core of his desire, there was love… Consort to Mother Dark—he laid claim to that title… Who were we to challenge? Mother’s children had by then ceased to speak with her.” He tells Rud they will travel tonight so Rud can see things that will help him decide “the side you will take in the war awaiting us,” adding that his mother chose a mortal father for “a good reason. Unexpected strengths come from such mating; the offspring often exhibit the best traits from both.” Rud wonders what will happen if he chooses differently from Ruin, and Ruin replies that one of them will then die, though he warns him that the Refugium is at risk if the war is lost and that no seal, including the one on Starvald Demelain, is perfect. He returns to his earlier tale, saying that Draconus may have been a true Eleint or something else, that he only “wore the skin of a Tiste Andii for a time,” though they never found out why, once Anomander Rake killed Draconus, which Ruin says was inevitable. He wonders if Rake regrets it, though he himself does not: “Draconus was a cold, cold bastard—and with the awakening of Father Light, ah well, we saw then the truth of his jealous rage.” Rud says he should go home to defend the Refugium, but Ruin says he can do more with him. He tells him his true name—Ryadd Eleis, which means “Hands of Fire,” evidence that Rud’s mother, Menandore, “cherished you, but she also feared you.” He brings the discussion to an end, saying Korabas awaits, the Otataral Dragon. He wants to convince Rud that the two of them should not try to prevent others from freeing her. They veer and enter the Imperial Warren.

SCENES TWO—FOUR

Sandalath Drukorlat and Withal (along with the three Nachts) have arrived via the Rashan warren on the island only to find the Shake have disappeared through a gate, after having killed the witches and warlocks she wanted to question. She complains about Blind Gallan, about not knowing if Nimander and the other went with the Shake, and about the Shake not only listening to Gallan but believing him. Knowing it takes Andii blood to open the road and royal Andii blood to keep it open, she thinks they must have bled someone, probably Yan Tovis, dry. Sandalath says the wound (the gate) is still thin enough for her to open and warns Withal to have a weapon ready. After Withal takes care of some personal business (Sandalath makes sure he washes his hand afterward), they enter the Road, only to be immediately attacked. Withal’s horse is decapitated, he falls to the ground (glad he took care of “business”), hears some fighting, then Sandalath rushes to him aghast at all the blood. He tells her he’s close to having had enough, then is shocked to see the three Nachts (now looking like enormous, hulking black-skinned Venath demons—Sandalath thinks they might be Soletaken or D’ivers) beating the hell out of a dead Forkrul Assail. Sandalath thinks the Shake are all dead and the FA was going to exit the gate to kill anyone still there. She says the Jaghut must have found a way to “chain the wild forces of Soletaken and D’ivers,” then suggests hurrying on to confirm the Shake’s death then getting out of there. After she worries aloud about Nimander and the others, Withal tells her not to underestimate them.

SCENE FIVE

Badalle thinks how she can her mind out, ride “the fuzzy backs of capemoths, or the feathered tips of vultures’ wings.” She flies into a “host of beautiful, terrible words… Tales, yes, of the fallen. There was no pain in this place… Worries dwindled… She could be an adult here… Nothing would ever change and what changes came would never tough her adultness, her perfect preoccupation with petty extravagance and indulgences. The adults knew such a nice world, didn’t they? And if the bony snake of their children (the adults’) now wandered dying in a glass wilderness, what of it? The adults don’t care. .” She thinks of the adults’ “murderous legacy… Great inventions beneath layers of sand… proud monuments not even spiders could map, palaces empty as caves… broken all that remained of some unknown civilization’s most wondrous chalice.” She thinks how adults “have no room in their heads for a suffering column of dying children, nor the heroes among them.” She speaks to Saddic: “So many fallen… I could make them into a book ten thousand pages long. And people will read it, but only so far as their private borders, and that’s not far. Only a few steps.” Saddic tells her no one will hear it, the “one long scream of horror,” and she sadly agrees, but reminds him, “I am Badalle, and all I have is words.” She (I think here) imagines this conversation with Saddic: that Rutt will deliver hold into the arms of an adult, that Saddic will see the “last colour… burn [ing] bright in a dying child’s eyes. See it, must this once, before you turn away.” And Saddic says he will when he is grown up, but not until then, when he has “done away with these things… and freedom ends.”

SCENE SIX

Kalyth dreams of the underworld of death, the “very beginning of things” where the world began and where life ceased. A group sits nearby on horses, as they ride nearer, she sees they are dead and wearing army uniforms. One (Whiskeyjack) tells her “Your Reaper’s time is coming to an end. Death shall surrender his face. “ After he is interrupted by Mallet, Dujek says: “You don’t even belong here yet. We’re waiting for the world to catch up—Learn patience.” Whiskeyjack continues, “Where one yields we shall stand in his stead.” When one soldier—Cage—complains that Death was a god and they’re just “a company of chewed-up marines,” Whiskeyjack says it’s true that “we’re no gods, and we’re not going to attempt to replace him… We’re Bridgeburners and we’ve been posted to Hood’s Gate, one last posting… It’s what we do.” When Kalyth asks what they want of her, he address her as Destriant, saying it is due to her role that she must “consort with the likes of us—in Hood’s—your Reaper’s stead… We will become the new arbiters, for as long as is necessary… we shall be more than the Reaper ever was. We are not distant. Not indifferent. You see, unlike Hood, we remember what it was to be alive… We are here, Destriant. When no other choice remains, call upon us.” When she tells him this is not the death she expected, he replies, “No . . We are the Bridgeburners. We shall sustain. Not because we were greater in life than anyone else. Because, Destriant, we were no different… Do we suffice?” She answers that she no longer fears death as she once did. Whiskeyjack tells her she will find her Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil, that a time will come when she must lead the K’Chain Che’Malle rather than follow them, for she is their last hope for survival. When she wonders if they are worth preserving due to their alieness, Whiskeyjack tells her that is not her judgment, and they are no more alien to her than she is to them. She agrees and they disappear in the snow.

SCENE SEVEN

She wakes to her K’Chain Che’Malle around her, save for Kor Thuran, who is dead, and Gu’Rull, who has disappeared. She wonders momentarily if the assassin killed Kor Thuran, then realize that Kor Thuran died defending them, that they are hunted. Despite the K’Chain Che’Malle’s fear, she feels a new sense of assurance after her “dream.” She tells them “if they find us, they find us. We cannot run from ghosts… We drive south” in search of their quest’s goal.

SCENE EIGHT

Sag’Churok thinks how Kor Thuran’s only flaw had been to be young and in the wrong place at the wrong time. He, and the other K’Chain Che’Malle, believe their quest has already failed and they will all die this die, no matter Kalyth’s strange new-found and unexpected confidence/strength. He believes Gu’Rull is also dead, as they cannot mind contact him. He senses the approaching enemy and when Kalyth notes all the K’Chain Che’Malle looking west, she calls upon the Guardians (the Bridgeburners) to help. Sag’Churok sends Rythok to slow the enemy and he runs off. The others head south, furious at the suicide mission. The feels Rythok’s death soon afterward. Before dying, he strikes something armoured, biting into the flesh beneath, then is killed by a massive axe. Sag’Churok is humbled by how Kalyth weeps at Rythok’s death. He prepares to do as Rythok did, but Kalyth forbids it, telling him she has prayed and “they said they would answer.” He tells her to continue the quest, that he will buy them time, and finally, “This is not your war. This is not your end—it is ours.” But before he can leave fourteen dead Jaghut appear. Sag’Churok considers it impossible that they would be allies, for “as all know, Jaghut stand alone.” Kalyth tells the Jaghut she had expected familiar faces and they say Hood wouldn’t want them or he would have summoned them, but he knew they would not have come because he “abused our goodwill… at the first chaining. He knew enough to face away from us at the next one… Instead he abused you, child of the Imass. And made of one his deadliest enemy. We yield him no sorrow… He will stand alone. A Jaghut in solitude.” Turning to her companions, the Jaghut swordswoman warns Kalyth she will learn nothing from the K’Chain Che’Malle, for they are cursed to repeat their mistakes, “again and again, until they have destroyed themselves and everyone else.” Kalyth responds that humans seem to have learned it all already from the K’Chain Che’Malle, even if the humans knew the source. The Jaghut laugh at that, then tell her to flee, for her enemy will face the “last soldiers of the only army the Jaghut ever possessed.” They also ask that if she sees Hood, she tells him “how his soldiers never faltered. Even in his moment of betrayal. We never faltered.” When Sag’Churok says he will stay, worried that the Jaghut are not enough, the Jaghut speaker tells him they will suffice, but he can stay and watch, for being as arrogant almost as the K’Chain Che’Malle, they’d like an audience. Another, though, says he believes Sag’Churok has been “humbled.” Before leaving, Kalyth orders Sag’Churok not to die, to watch only and return to them and report. As they wait, the Jaghut swordswoman asks, “Is not Iskar Jarak a worthy leader?” and the others all agree he is, then reveal that Whiskeyjack had told them to “pretend they [they enemy] are T’lan Imass.” They all laugh, and continue to do so during the ensuing battle, as Sag’Churok watches, then leaves once he is sure the Jaghut would win. He thinks: “Jaghut. Though we shared your world, we never saw you as our foe. Jaghut, the T’lan Imass never understood—some people are simply too noble to be rivals. But perhaps it was that very nobility they so despised. Iskar Jarak… How did you know precisely what to say to your soldiers?” He moves on, thinking he will never forget that laughter, how it will always gives him strength, and he believes he understand what cheered Kalyth so.

SCENE NINE

Sinn kills a dinosaur.

SCENE TEN

Grub thinks this has been a mistake, but Sinn says they can’t leave the trail now (“It’s as if we’re walking the track of someone’s life, and it was a long life… [one that’s] given shape to the mess at the far end where we started from”). She asks where Grub came from, and when he tells her about Duiker saving him in the Chain of Dogs and putting him in Keneb’s arms outside Aren, and how he remembers it all, she tells him he remembers it because the Chain of Dogs made him: It build you up out of sticks and dirt… filled you with everything that happened. The heroes who fought and then died. . It took all of that and that became your soul.” She compares it to what made her—when Kalam found her hiding with bandits: “He carved things on to my soul and then he left. And then I was made a second time—I was added on to. At Y’Ghatan, where I found the fire that I took inside me.” When he says she was born to a mother just like him, she wonders why they are so different then, to which he has no answer. She runs off and then sends a huge ball of flame at him. Just before it gets to him he raises the ground and trees into its path. Sinn reappears and tells him, “It doesn’t matter Grub. You and me—we’re different.”

SCENE ELEVEN

The ghost (Icarium) feels “his people were failing… pulling apart.” He recalls being on board a ship, sacrifices to an Elder God, and his own laughter, “Cruel as a demons,” as the sailors turned to him, seeing “a monster in their midst.” He remembers, even as he wonders if the memories are indeed his, how the propriation, the blood, merely fed his power, recalls a tribe, “corpses cooling… and the stains of spite on my hands,” being betrayed by a wife and so “all would die.” Sulkit arrives where the “others” are and for a moment, as the drone looks at him, Icarium thinks, “You can see me… And all at once he could feel something—my own body—… and then it was gone.” Sulkit exits and several follow him. Nappet says they’ve seen someone walking on the plain toward the city. After a fight amongst the others, Icarium thinks (though again, recall his lack of clarity as to whether these are his memories): “What drove me to such slaughter? They were kin. Companions… My wife, she wanted to hurt me—why? What had I done? Gorim’s sister? That was meaningless… I’ll never forget the look in her eyes—her face—when I took her (the wife’s) life. [or] why she looked like the one betrayed. Not me… She had to know I wasn’t the kind of man to let that pass. I got my pride. And that’s why they all had to die.” Then, “You blink, you lose that time forever. You can’t even be sure how long that blink lasted… [or] what you see now is the same as what you saw before… You tell yourself that… How long was that blink? Gods below, it was fucking eternity.”

 

Amanda’s Reaction

This is an intriguing scene between Silchas Ruin and Rud Elalle and, as well, a timely reminder that they are part of this story. I like that Erikson does this—just when we’re getting focused on things like the Bonehunters, the Barghast, the Letherii and how they’re proceeding, he pulls us back to a couple of characters that we have been neglecting a little. It’s the same storytelling method as the one Bill mentions—that passing reference to the jade spears in the sky. Such subtle reminders.

So, Draconus—still one of the most enigmatic characters of the series. We’ve seen him from the POV of other people, we’ve spent some time with him trapped within Dragnipur, but we still don’t really know him at all. I did enjoy Silchas’ thought of not being able to engage with him because he was the Consort of Mother Dark: “What son would not challenge his mother’s lover—new lover, old lover, whatever-”

Rud Elalle is definitely being talked up in terms of importance here:

“To witness is to approach comprehension, and you will need that, when you decide.”

“Decide what?”

“The side you will take in the war awaiting us, among other things.”

With that and knowing that his true name means “hands of fire,” it seems that Ryadd Eleis has a large part of play.

And what is this all about, this that Silchas Ruin says about Korabas, the Otataral Dragon: “They will free her, and that we cannot stop. I mean to convince you that we should not even try.” Why does Silchas Ruin think that the Otataral Dragon should be freed?

Ha, I love this:

“There had been more and more of this lately. Incomprehensible expostulations, invisible sources of irritation and blistering fury. Face it, Withal, the honeymoon’s over.”

Hmm, I’m starting to get a rather ominous feeling about Blind Gallan, and this road of his, after Sandalath’s words about him! “Bah! If it’s been me doing the blinding, I wouldn’t have stopped there. I would have scooped out his entire skull.”

Oh, these Nachts. They make me giggle all the time—even now that they’ve been veered into Venath demons. You know what they remind me of most? The minions from Despicable Me. I find the Nacht terribly cute, especially with things like this:

“The Venath demons had evidently decided they were done with the destruction of the Forkrul Assail, as they now bounded up the road a few paces to then huddle round the club and examine the damage to their lone weapon.”

And, hmm, anyone else feeling that these Forkrul Assail are being shown to be not that effective—not as loners, anyway. We’ve yet to see them fighting together, I guess. It’s just that first Yeden took one down with ease, and now the Nacht have beaten one to death. They seem to die very easily.

Does Badalle have the same ability as Bottle then, to ride the bodies of animals?

I’m unsure about the Snake. We’re given little snippets, but it’s so hard to care because they aren’t personal to us. I wonder if that is what is intended by Erikson, actually. We’re perfectly willing to extend our compassion to the characters in this series that become known to us—as the Chain of Dogs. But here, with this Snake, we’re not spending time with them, we’re just being told about them, and so we struggle to bring our compassion to them. The same could be said about real life.

Oh, how I love this scene where Kalyth is in the place beyond, and meets with Whiskeyjack and other members of the Bridgeburners. We learn that they have taken one last posting, to stand at Hood’s Gate. I do like what Whiskeyjack says here: “We are the Bridgeburners. We shall sustain. But not because we were greater in life than anyone else. Because, Destriant, we were no different.”

Whiskeyjack tells Kalyth “Against the cold that slays, you must answer with fire.” We’ve just seen Rud Elalle referred to as “hands of fire.” We’ve seen Sinn deeply associated with fire. Are one or both of these going to end up Mortal Sword or Shield Anvil?

And I also love the way that Whiskeyjack tries to give Kalyth some perspective:

“But are they worth preserving?”

“That judgment does not belong to you.”

“No-no, I’m sorry. They are so… alien.”

“As you are to them.”

Erikson has taught us over and over again during this series that we should never just accept our first impression of people, that we should grow to know them before it is possible to judge. Here it is the K’Chain Che’Malle that we are starting to comprehend. Their attitude towards Kalyth is changing and hers to them, in this beautiful scene where she realises that Rythok has been sent to die and weeps for his death. And Sag’Churok is humbled, especially when he remembers that he didn’t offer the same courtesy to Redmask.

Interesting that we now know Gunth Mach has the capability to become a Matron, and carries the seed of Sag’Churok.

Ahhhhh! A whole squad of undead Jaghut! How tremendous.

This doesn’t sound familiar to me:

“A Caste. Fifty. Forty-nine now. Four wield Kep’rah, weapons of sorcery. A Crown commands them, they flow as one.”

And, oh, a wonderful reminder of Erikson’s stunning writing:

“The sound was carved into his very hide; it rode the swirls of his soul, danced light on the heady flavours of his relief and wonder. Such knowing amusement, both wry and sweet, such a cruel, breathtaking sound. I have heard the dead laugh.”

This is an interesting idea that Erikson explores—the idea that time and change moved slower in the beginning times: “We’re back in the age where everything was raw. Unsettled. But maybe not, maybe we’re from the raw times. But here, I think, you could stay for ten thousand years and nothing would change, nothing at all. Long ago, time was slower.”

What a fabulous scene where Sinn yells at Grub that they are different and then forces him to use his own power against her fire. These two most certainly ARE different.

 

Bill’s Reaction

We haven’t been saying much at all about the openings to chapters, but I’ll just point out re this one that we’re getting a heck of a lot about humanity’s devastating impacts on animals (or should I say “beasts”) in this book, ratcheting up what has been a running concept. One might wonder why…

I like how those jade slashes keep slipping in as these single-lines in the background. It’s nicely done to keep reminding us of their existence.

Hmm, Draconus. Must. Not. Reference. Forge of Darkness.

Well, of course a few things to keep in mind is one, we’re getting a biased narration re Draconus here; Silchas Ruin clearly has a point of view on the guy. And second, he admits there is a lot he does/did not know about Draconus. So as is usual, the question arises as to how much of this is taken as “true”? (not to mention the long passage of time in between). The phrase “he wore the skin” is an interesting one, implying as it does that Draconus can take a multitude of forms. That line of Ruin’s, where he wonders if Rake regrets killing Draconus, has such force behind it coming after the events of Toll the Hounds:

‘Consider this,’ said Hood, ‘a request for forgiveness.’

Draconus stared. ‘What? Who asks my forgiveness?’

So things not looking good for the Refugium. And what happens if that gate opens?

So Silchas Ruin is on the “Free Willy,” um “Free Korabas” team (not in actually freeing her, but as in not stopping the others from freeing her). One has to wonder why.

And tell me Rud doesn’t stand in for the reader here: “You give me too little.” Sigh.

That’s an interesting closing detail about the fire—“eating the last of itself. Until nothing was left.” Wonder if it is meant to parallel anything.

How many stump forests have we seen in this series? I’ve started to lose count.

It seems Sandalath and Yeddan would have some agreement over Blind Gallan, though of course Sandalath here is speaking from personal experience with the guy and Yeddan is speaking from more general experience. Both come to the same conclusion: “They make the past—their version of it—into a kind of magic potion… Sip this friends, and return to the old times, when everything was perfect.” You know, when they walked barefoot through snow, uphill both ways, to Tiste Andii school.

That’s an interesting question Withal asks—does Sandalath have royal Andii blood?

I’m laughing out loud even on my second time through this scene with the two of them (second time this week, not second time over all). Poor Withal. Yes, there was indeed a time you could take as damned well long as you pleased going to the bathroom. Wait till (if) you have kids, sucka. (I absolutely love her making him wash his hands afterward).

And then talk about a rude interruption of the light-hearted tone… A decapitated horse will do that for you (The Godfather to the contrary). But it’s a relatively short lived interruption, as Sandalath’s sudden shift in response is back to some humor, as is the revelation about the Nachts, about which it’s always seemed there was more than meets the eye.

It’s interesting that with all the build-up we’ve had of the Forkrul Assail, so far they aren’t faring so well in this book. Are we being prepared or are we being set up?

So if Badalle can send her mind out, can ride the wings of capemoths or vultures, remember who else is flying around in this book.

And this in her monologue should certainly echo:

“Her mind was free. Free to make beauty with a host of beautiful, terrible words… diving into midnight depths where broken thoughts fluttered down, where the floor fashioned vast, intricate tales. Tales, yes, of the fallen.”

What book are we reading again? Also, I love how this image echoes that walk we took on the ocean floor earlier with the Errant:

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.

From that echo we move into the crushingly sad paragraph of how it all drops away for her up there—no pain, no lacerated feet, etc. And then onto the tragically infuriating paragraph about the adults and their “perfect preoccupation with petty extravagances and indulgences” (great poetic sound quality in that line by the way—that elevated lyricism is both so appropriate to a character whose power is words and one of the reasons I like Badalles parts so much, outside of theme/content), their Ozymandias moments, their utter indifference to the deaths and suffering of children, their destruction and poisoning of the world and the world’s non-human inhabitants. Indifference, the polar opposite of Empathy.

And then back to the fallen: “So many fallen. I could make them into a book ten thousand pages long.” Hmm, how long is this series?

But will people listen? Saddic says no. But c’mon. Look at how we’ve eradicated childhood hunger, poverty, and oh wait.

You know, as much as I like lots of these new characters, love some of them in fact, it’s just such a thrill to go back to see those that were “lost,” such as Whiskeyjack, Mallet, and the others. A thrill tinged with a funny sadness. Funny because even though they’re dead-but-not-dead, there’s still somehow a sense of loss. And that speaks I think to how full and rich these creations are. And that richness continues with the easy banter, the comradeship, the love displayed even after death. These are what remain.

And note how Kalyth at first so misreads Whiskeyjack, his eyes “bereft of all compassion,” but in watching him longer sees instead that he is “capable of holding, without flinching, the compassion of an entire world.” And that little interruptive phrase—without flinching—is what makes this an Erikson construction—because it is a tough compassion, a fierce compassion.

So I do love this idea of the God of Death—Hood—being replaced by the Bridgeburners, those who “remember what it was to be alive… [the] yearning, desperate need, the anguish.” But I found Whiskeyjack’s statement that they will be different because they are not “distant. Not indifferent” to be strange as that’s not my impression of Hood. Other impressions of that line?

So we know Kalyth’s quest will succeed—she’ll find the Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil. The question now become who will they be? Is Whiskeyjack’s line about “answer with fire” a clue?

And he leaves her with a final lesson in, no surprise, empathy:

‘They are so alien.’

‘As you are to them.’

Back in the “real” world, just as Erikson managed to overturn our viewpoint on the Jaghut (and others as well), he has done so fully for me with the K’Chain Che’Malle as well. And I think how Erikson sets this up for us, how it builds, is wonderfully constructed.

First Kor Thuran’s death, which we feel a bit for less because of Kor Thuran, whom we didn’t really know, but for its effect on the group.

Then our feelings are heightened by Rythok’s brave and selfless sacrifice and the burden (which we feel even if he does not) Sag’Churok has for ordering it.

Then our emotions are intensified again by Kalyth’s strong emotional response (and note how she stands in for the reader, for she too has made that journey in the viewpoint of the K’Chain Che’Malle). And by Sag’Churok’s realization that she has made that journey, that she “wept. For Rythok.”

And then our fear that Sag’Churok will soon make the same sacrifice. And his last words to be his admiration for Kalyth.

It’s all great. And then so wonderfully relieved by the arrival of the Jaghut warriors. Oh, give me a Jaghut any day. Or better yet, give me a dozen (plus two).

OK, it’s been kind of a mystery as to what was pursuing them (kind of), but the fact that Sag’Churok knows so much of the enemy that he knows what they call their military divisions and how many is a huge clue. And file that “Kep’rah, weapons of sorcery.”

OK, raise your hand if you want to see a short story or something detailing a chaining—the first, another? Here, I would say that when the Jaghut says Hood “abused you, child of the Imass. And made of one his deadliest enemy,” she is not speaking literally in the first half of that. In other words, is not referring to Kalyth but to humans (“child of Imass”) and is probably referring to what we’ve heard several times about—him taking Dassem’s daughter (who was human) and thus making Dassem his “deadliest enemy” who will follow him to the ends of the Earth, or at least to the end of Toll the Hounds.

Boy, I would have loved to have seen (and especially heard) that fight, but I get why we don’t—so as to keep the enemy a mystery. But still.

Remember where these warrens came from the Sinn and Grub are in, when she says “This trail… is as if we’re walking the track of someone’s life, and it was a long life.” A very, very, very long life.

Hmm, “my blood is one fire.” Yep, file that. Along with her description of how she is no longer the Sinn she once was, she was “added on to. At Y’Ghatan.” Where she took the fire inside.

And Grub shows her, and himself (and us) something there as well. I like the ambiguity of her “You and me—we’re different.” It can mean the two of them are different from everyone else. It could also mean that she and he are different from each other.

This part about the betrayed wife is perhaps a bit confusing, but remember that often (not always, but often) what is obscure is made more clear not too long afterward. So maybe just say to yourself, hmm, Icarium had a wife? Note here though that he is unsure all these memories are his. And note too that sense of a dialogue “Come find me.” And also that the one remembering is “walking still… on the plain” while the ghost (Icarium) is inside the city.

So we know Icarium has absorbed all these people and their memories/personalities (or absorbed their memories and then fractured/lost himself amidst them which is slightly different but it is unclear—at least to me—which is happening) and that has been this storyline. But now that he has felt his own body, the pain, the solidity, the reality of it, this might be a sign that this multiplicity is coming to an end.

And is that person “they” see coming the same as that person in Icarium’s head—the one who just said “I am walking still”?

Interesting, by the way, that “betrayal” comes up in this memory (multiple betrayals actually—we’ve had the Perish talk of betrayal, we’ve had Fiddler talk of it, we’ve seen Tool betrayed, there’s this scene: seems to be a running theme in this book…


Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.

15 comments
Jordanes
1. Jordanes
Amanda, nothing to say about Icarium's scene? These 'new' memories raise the hairs on my back every time I read that chapter. Can't wait!


I had more to say about this chapter but will have to post later.
Jordanes
2. Eoin8472
I love Eriksons use of circularity. The start of this "book" in Dust of Dreams, the Silchas/Rudd conversation, is a wonderfull example.

Bill, I think that while Whiskyjack does give Kaylth some powerful words, he is comitting his own sin by judging Hood here as being "compassionless". He may be dead, but unlike Deadsmell and that guard in Toll the Hounds, Whiskyjack may never have seen the depths of Hood's soul. Or maybe he lied to Kaylth to make her feel better about how lousy death is, even if there is a soulful arbiter there to guide her through it.

The undead Jaghut army are probably comitting a similiar error. Like Rake, I think Hood is willing to stand alone and take on burdens that no-one else wants. Burdens that may besmirch his reputation
Jordanes
3. kjtherock
Love the part where the jaghut mentions how Whiskeyjack told them to pretend the enemy they were too attack was Tillan Imas. Seeing again how similar soldier humour and Jaghut humour is. Also how fast "people" come to respect Whiskeyjack.
Jordanes
4. Tufty
@Amanda:
I’m unsure about the Snake. We’re given little snippets, but it’s so hard to care because they aren’t personal to us. I wonder if that is what is intended by Erikson, actually.
I absolutely think that that is exactly what Erikson means. It sounds like you “have no room in their heads for a suffering column of dying children, nor the heroes among them.” - exactly what Badalle is thinking of the potential adult readers of her own book of ten thousands pages that would be “one long scream of horror". Her and Saddic think that “people will read it, but only so far as their private borders, and that’s not far. Only a few steps.”


Badalle's PoV sections are certainly difficult to get into. It's an unrelenting torturous journey with very little happiness to be found anywhere for these children. And at the same time, Badalle's prose is very thick with poetry and metaphors. There's an excellent dissection by Erikson of one of the Badalle sections in his Life as a Human blog that I found amazing to read for all the subtleties writtein into Badalle's voice, but we haven't gotten to that scene yet and it could be spoilerific.

The poetic prose does make it harder to get drawn into these sections for a lot of readers, as well. On my first read-through I found it excruciating sometimes.

But as Badalle says: “I am Badalle, and all I have is words.”

So I challenge you to empathize with this little girl who has retreated into her imagination* in order to survive and stay sane. She doesn't have any big important plot devices going on to keep you interested, just her own tale of horror and sorrow. Just her words.



*Since everything with Badalle is mixed in metaphor, who's to say whether she can really wing away outside of her body like Bottle does. But I don't think so. I think she's just imagining the vista from far above and from within her blood, exploring the landscape in her mind, because its the only way for her to momentarily stop thinking about "aching joints, crusting flies upon split, raw lips; blackened, lacerated feet" etc. This sounds to me far more like imagination that magic soul-flying: "Her mind was free. Free to invent conversations. Free to assemble sharp knuckles of quartz into small boys walking beside her endless selves. Free to trap light and fold it in and in and in, until all the colours became one, and that one was so bright it blinded everyone and everything." and that part echoes the "Her mind was free" from earlier where things might have seemed a bit more literal.

**Yes, I am totally biased and strongly opinionated about this plotline of the book. When I first read through DoD, I'm sure I didn't feel nearly this strongly. Malazan makes you a better person :P
Rajesh Vaidya
5. Buddhacat
I think Badalle is slowly becoming an adept at some form of Mockra and (whited out) the D'rek warren, as the Worm adopts the Snake. and crawls towards the BH deep underground.
Thomas Jeffries
6. thomstel
I sure do miss Whiskeyjack. I'll take the (un)dead-but-still-awesome version here, as much as Erikson is willing to give!

As for Bill's question on Whiskeyjack's opinion of Hood being "indifferent". I believe he's talking about Hood's MO, not Hood as an individual.

Hood's story is one that we get to see the edges of, but not in full. I'm wondering if it will be included in the Kharkanas books (I doubt the whole thing will be, it seems too large for that, and I seem to remember Erikson mentioning that he was going to have to shelve it to give the Tiste storylines his full regard). The mentions & hints seems to lead to something like this (trying to leave out FoD info here, apologies if I miss something):

- Something(s)/Someone(s) is Death, God of.
- Hood, as a Jaghut, gets his people (or a subset) to war with Death. Not fight it, cheat it, flee from it: full-on War with it. Reason for such a response?
- Hood (and his posse) win. Death is defeated.
- Hood takes on the role of God of Death. Don't know why (nature abhors a vacuum? realizes it was a mistake? etc.) and his people (at least the 14 warriors here), view it as a betrayal.
- Hood backs off and stops interfering with Death as a God. It just happens when it happens. Only truly exceptional people's deaths warrant his presence.
- Hood also adjusts the afterlife (or whichever realm approximates it) to the individual. See Paran's perception of the Gate to Hood's Realm vs. Beak's experience. A tough, gruesome front; with a just heart behind it?
- About where we are in the story, Hood's realized his aloofness wasn't maybe the best idea. Decides to change things up. Makes a deal with other Gods to make some major changes. Finds worthy successor(s).
- Awesomeness ensues. See the end of Toll the Hounds, and plenty more to come.
Darren Kuik
7. djk1978
@2 - totally agree with you. The Bridgeburners don't know Hood as well as they think. They probably mostly don't like him either.

@Tufty - brilliant post. I think you are spot on.
michael
8. worrywort
We do see the layers and layers of trash-compacted ancient dead at some point (TBH maybe?), and I think Hood is self-aware that he bit off more than any one invididual could chew (though, in his view, still necessary because nobody else was doing it, or whatever the case may be). Perhaps he was running on fumes for millennia until ST/Cots and Rake lit a fire under his butt some time within the MBOTF timeline.
Emiel R
9. Capetown
I so much love how in a few lines Erikson makes us care for (and in my case shed a manly tear for) a Bridgeburner (Cage) which was until now unknown for us. Well done.
Brian R
10. Mayhem
@Tufty

Speaking of his LifeAsAHuman work, he did a deconstruction of a passage from Forge of Darkness last year and I only noticed it recently. It is less of a spoiler than the previous since it goes into much more detail of how he constructs a sentence rather than the themes behind it.

http://lifeasahuman.com/2013/arts-culture/books/deconstructing-fiction-introduction/

His previous work "Notes on a Crisis" is superb insight into both how he approaches his work and the Malazan series itself, but is definitely spoiler territory until you finish the series.

Hmm, actually so is the above I guess. Not so much for the content, but for the way you start to analyse the work even more than we already do here.
Paul Boyd
11. GoodOldSatan
@ Amanda re:
“A Caste. Fifty. Forty-nine now. Four wield Kep’rah, weapons of sorcery. A Crown commands them, they flow as one.”
I, too, am concerned about my memory here. Are these terms new (foreshadowing teasers) or have we seen them before? That is, should I know, given these hints (or maybe others, overlooked), who the undead Jaghut fight?
michael
12. worrywort
The terms are new to the reader. The gist here is simply that they are not unknown to Sag'Churok for whatever reason. The rest is RAFO.
Meg K
13. KittenSwarm
Oh that section with Kaylth and the Bridgeburners, lovely! I'm really enjoying these segments with the K'Chain Che'malle. I thought having one of the advanced races be warrior-sorceror reptiles was such a brilliant idea early in the series, a real break from the traditional humanoids. They continue to be one of my favorite concepts or developments in MBotF.

The details of who are fighting the undead Jaghut seem to confirm my theory of the enemy that has appeared. I went into that more in my comments on Ch 12. Still just a theory for me since this is my first time through, but I'm getting more confident that my gut was right.
It's amazing how much my brain is engaged with this series and unraveling little clues and crumbs. The small hints and details feel rich and put purposefully, but not in an obvious way that screams "foreshadowing" like some series and the reveals don't feel cheap or for shock value. The detailed weaving of the story really is exercising my critical thinking.

Here we have the Otataral dragon mentioned again, confirming she was the who was referred to as needing to be freed chapters ago.

@Bill Thanks for the hint on where Grubb and Sinn are and what they are experiencing! I'll file that.

I'm going to go reread the last bit with Icarium. I did get the sense that those weren't *his* memories, but I think I missed some details.
Joe Long
14. Karsa
@13 -- they are his now! in the sense that all of the people that were around him when he created the warrens became part of him and those memories were theirs. and now they are his. does that make sense?
Paul Boyd
15. GoodOldSatan
That the ghost is starting to remember these memories directly is different than perceiving them as the thoughts of the others, indicates (hopefully) the beginning of a more complete sense of self-awareness for our dear tusked one. {ugh, poorly constructed sentence there, so two apologies; one for writing it, two for not spending the time to correct it.}

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