Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, Chapters 8 and 9

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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 Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 of Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (MoI).

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 forum thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

Another fair warning! Grab a cup of tea before you start reading—these posts are not the shortest!

Chapter Eight

SCENE 1

Gethol walks across a landscape of bones, complaining about the unpredictability and insolence of humans. He recognizes that now he is “broken” Hood has discarded him. He opens his Omtose Phellack warren as he tells Hood “I know you now . . . who—what—you are. Delicious irony, the mirror of your face.” Inside the warren, he senses its weakness due to the millennia of T’lan breaches and attacks, and knows Omtose, like the Jaghut, is dying. He comes across a fissure, “sweet with decay and disease”, an “invitation” from the Crippled God. He enters it.

SCENE 2

Gethol arrives at the tent of the Crippled God, but demands the God remove the tent as Gethol will not “crawl.” The CG tells Gethol it was Gethol’s desire for vengeance, his “personal desire” that disappointed Hood and in Hood’ s mind threatened Hood’s “meticulous plans.” Gethol recognizes immediately that the CG is poisoning Burn and the CG agrees, saying it will one day kill her and the world will die, telling Gethol “these chains must be broken.” Gethol scoffs at the idea he might help the CG, saying he was there at the Chaining and besides, all worlds die. The CG says Gethol is the weak link, however, having failed Hood now and also when “your brother Gothos called upon you.” The CG then reveals his cards, informing Gethol he plans to “join the game” and offers Gethol the position of Herald, and the possibility of higher, King even. When Gethol warns him the Deck will resist and his House will be “assailed,” the CG says the Deck’s maker “is dust” and thus no one can control it, offering up the resurrected House of Shadows as proof. Gethol agrees.

SCENE 3

Murillio, Coll, Kruppe, and Quick Ben are playing a game of bones and Kruppe has won every throw, to Quick’s amazement (not because Kruppe is winning but because he can’t figure out how Kruppe is cheating). Korlat arrives and tells Whiskeyjack Rake would like to see him. Rake tells WJ he is contemplating “the nature of happenstance” and of people who find themselves thrown together for a while and whose lives are therefore changed, no matter how brief the contact. Whiskeyjack tells Rake he doesn’t fear change. Rake continues by saying the tension, the rivalries, etc. among the alliance are clear, but despite that Rake feels a sense of hope. When asked why, Rake brings up Paran, whom he simply “likes.” After some silence, WJ suggests Rake is a bit curious about Quick Ben and goes on to tell the story of how he met him. Quick was a “middling wizard” working for a Seven Cities Protector, one of a 12-mage cadre. The city was taken, Dassem killed the Holy Protector, and the cadre fled into the desert, chased across the entire desert by Whiskeyjack’s thrown together squad of 70 leftovers (including Fiddler, Hedge, Picker—first time under WJ) guided by Kalam, recently recruited into the claw. They come across a corpse at a time as they continue, each one strangely shriveled:

Kebharla: “more a scholar than a mage”
Renisha: High Meanas
Keluger: Septime priest of D’riss, the Worm of Autumn
Narkal: warrior mage sworn to Fener
Ullan: Soletaken priestess of Soliel
Set’alahd Crool: Jhag half-blood whose sword was blessed by an unknown ascendant
Etra: mistress of Rashan
Birith’erah: mage of Serc warren of sky
Gellid: witch of Tennes

As they went on, the squad was tempered, changed by Raraku, “annealed” (a word used to also refer to Stormy et. al “annealed” in the warren of fire aboard Silanda). Finally they come across Quick Ben sitting alone awaiting them. He tells Whiskeyjack he and his men have been changed by the Holy Desert, that Raraku “has burned the bridges of their pasts . . . and they are yours, heart and soul.” Whiskeyjack reveals he’s known for some time that Kalam and Quick had been conspiring, but he was “curious” as to what had been happening with the mages. He asks if their souls “clamor” within Quick Ben and wonders what was the end planned for? Quick Ben says the clamor has “subsided” as being a ghost within is still better than dying. He tells Whiskeyjack the end was only for survival, that they hadn’t thought the squad would make it and now he and Kalam would follow Whiskeyjack if he’ll have them. Whiskeyjack will, but says Surly will take them and Quick says only if she knows. They join the squad and the first engagement was the retaking of G’danisban where the squad of 70 plus Quick and Kalam “crushed” 400 warriors in a night. Even Rake is somewhat stunned at the tale and appreciates that Whiskeyjack told it despite Rake specifically asking for it. Whiskeyjack refers to the same “instinct” Rake had mentioned earlier, implying he “likes” Rake and trusts him. Rake says he was impressed by how WJ defended Silverfox and WJ says he was equally so that Rake stood down. Rake says Kruppe still has him wondering and Whiskeyjack basically says yeah, good luck with that. Rake says he’ll keep his distance from Quick until he leaves so as not to make Quick nervous. He says he enjoyed the evening and maybe he can share some of his own stories sometimes (he has a “few” he says). Before Whiskeyjack leaves he also says Silverfox has nothing to fear from him and he’ll rein in Kallor. Whiskeyjack leaves realizing he’s made a friend this night.

SCENE 4

Crone asks Rake if it is wise to make a friend of a “short-lived mortal,” reminding him of his past “tragic” experience with such. Rake’s answer: “one can find precious value in brevity” is vaguely mysterious enough to frustrate Crone and she flies off in a huff once Rake tells her to bring Kallor to him. Rake tells Korlat he is leaving for a while to seek “Silannah’s comfort” and tells her to protect Silverfox and keep a watch on Kallor. He wants to be called if Kallor “errs” but tells Korlat not to hesitate in bringing the “full force” of the Tiste Andii on him if needed. Korlat wonders at that, saying such hasn’t been done for a long time, but Rake says why risk not using enough power. Korlat agrees, but is still troubled at the idea of 1100 Tiste Andii joining warrens when it took only 40 of them at the Chaining to “destroy the Crippled God’s entire realm—granted, a nascent realm . . . Eleven hundred . . . we risk devastating this continent.” Rake says use restraint if it turns out to be needed, but he doubts Kallor will risk anything.

SCENE 5

The Mhybe dreams herself young in the tundra world Silverfox had been born in (Telann), watching large beasts and coming across footprints, a dream she finds torture when she awakes in her broken, old self. She begs the Rhivi spirits to take her life. Kruppe arrives bearing a gift. He tells her that while extending the caverns/tunnels below Darujhistan, rough-hewn chambers were discovered with ancient artwork and rough altars on which were found copper ornaments (anklets, torcs, etc) to ease pain. The Mhybe is touched, but starts to explain while copper heals, it doesn’t work on age, but Kruppe interrupts. He tells her scholars examined the altars, paintings, etc. and says it has been confirmed that these belonged to the original Rhivi spirits—once mortal, perhaps the first band of Rhivi (the same ones the Mhybe just named as she asked them to take her life). The Mhybe wonders in her mind how Kruppe knew she needed such a gift this morning especially. Before leaving, Kruppe tells her not to discount dreams. The Mhybe wonders “whose path did I cross last night.”

SCENE 6

The scene shifts to Picker and Antsy’s squad getting dropped off by Twist’s Black Moranth at the foot of the Barghast Mountains. Antsy starts to blame Paran and Picker tells him to cool that kind of talk. Paran tells them Quick Ben has been delayed and that Antsy’s squad is to remain to escort him to catch up to the rest of them who are leaving with Trotts. Blend appears and tells them she overheard Paran and Trotts discussing how Trotts once held some kind of high Barghast rank and he’s going to try and get the White Face Barghast to ally with them against the Pannion, though it might involve Trotts having to do personal combat challenges.

SCENE 7

Paran, looking at his group, recalls Whiskeyjack saying the Bridgeburners would be retired after the war, how rituals are needed to help usher the soldier back to the “normal” world, and wonders what “does he or she become?” He worries about what will happen when they meet the Barghast and thinks perhaps a quick death would be a blessing.

SCENE 8

Quick Ben is moving through warrens, finding them “infected” and “corrupted.” He says it has the feel of the Crippled God but logic would argue it’s a defense by the Pannion, which leads him to think the two are connected. He shifts to Hood’s warren (or along the edge of it) and finds it is resisting the infection better. He comes across a bound sticksnare, the spirit (named Talamandas) of the White Face Barghast that Bauchelain and Korbal had loosed and then bound. Talamandas tells Quick Ben the necromancers would have dragged from him secrets of his people, such as that the Barghast came from the seas and were in fact once T’lan Imass that failed to arrive in time for the Ritual. Isolated, they changed. Quick asks what Talamandas would do if Quick Ben freed him and Talamandas says he would try to free the First Family spirits because the ancient bindings have kept them from ascending into true gods and thus the Barghast themselves are not changing/ascending, are stagnating since the ancestors cannot give them guidance; he wants to help the Barghast survive. Quick asks if survival is a right or a privilege and when Talamandas says the latter, Quick frees him.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Eight:

Hood is a harsh taskmaster! Gethol fails in his bid to entice Fener’s followers into the service of Hood, manages to get himself injured, and is thence discarded from Hood’s service. I’m distinctly glad that Hood is not my boss at work #inane.

This is something that interests me—and possibly has implications for the future, especially considering Gethol is being tempted by the Crippled God: “I know you, now, Hood. I know who—what—you are. Delicious irony, the mirror of your face.” We also learn there that the Jaghut warren is dying through two causes—both the intrusions of the Imass, and the disease of the Crippled God towards all the warrens.

A quick explanation from the Crippled God about why Gethol was so summarily dismissed: “Your temper endangered Hood’s meticulous plans, you see that, do you not? It was this that so…disappointed the Lord of Death. His Herald must be obedient.” It does sort of beg the question what Hood’s long term aims are? Why is it that he needs the support of those who follow Fener? What is he trying to achieve?

Ooh, Gethol is brother to Gothos, who we have already met! And Gethol was present at the Chaining of the Crippled God as well, and is the weak link… We’re seeing an awful lot of the people now who were present at that Chaining—seeing their motivations, their desires and which side they might fall.

Hmm, interesting… We gain a new Master of the Deck in the form of Paran, just as the Crippled God decides to bring forward a House of Chains. Coincidence? I think not! But it seems as though the Crippled God is as yet unaware of Paran:

“The Deck of Dragons will resist you, Chained One. Your House will be…assailed.”

“It was ever thus. You speak of the Deck as an entity, but its maker is dust, as we both know. There is no-one who can control it. Witness the resurrection of the House of Shadows.”

This gives me a few additional questions/thoughts… Did the Crippled God have a House previously? If so, which? Who is the maker of the Deck of Dragons, and is he/she really gone? Could this be Draconus? And, finally, was the resurrection of the House of Shadow a complete accident? Would it not have happened had there been someone in control of the Deck at the time?

It’s strange, but I somehow see Quick Ben as being above playing at dice with the regular troops. Because he’s so very mysterious and goes off on his own a lot, it is humorous now seeing him interact with the other Bridgeburners. I adore the jousting between Kruppe and Quick—brilliantly played. *grins* And Kruppe must be something very odd and slippery indeed for Quick Ben not to be able to pin him down, and ascertain the source of his power.

“Warrens suddenly abound, licking the air with invisible flames, aaii! Kruppe withers beneath such scrutiny—mercy, Kruppe begs you, malicious mage!”

Quick Ben is definitely trying to find out who or what Kruppe is, but I picked this out because of the use of the word “flames”—is it only me who thinks of dragons at that point?

After having seen the Crippled God form the House of Chains, we now hear why he was able to, even with Paran’s new role: “No pattern has formed, by way of sincerest assurance, for the principal in question has fled from his appointed role. Said flight naught but an illusion, of course, though the enforced delay in self-recognition may well have direst consequences.”

Another quick mention of Whiskeyjack’s bad leg: “He rose slowly, favouring his bad leg.”

I know that we’ve talked about Rake holding the position of Knight of Dark, but is this the first time it’s been said so explicitly? Erikson here uses that description directly.

I love here how Rake approaches the subject of Quick Ben so obtusely—and some of the descriptions of Rake still have me breathless: “Rake’s veiled eyes sharpened on Whiskeyjack’s for a moment, then casually slid away once more. […] The extraordinary eyes found the commander once again, a contact just as brief as the first.”

Ahh! Here, this must be the very beginnings of the Bridgeburners, yes? “Seventy soldiers rode at his back, a cobbled-together collection of marines, engineers, infantry and cavalry; each from squads that had effectively ceased to exist. Three years of sieges, set battles and pursuits for most of them. They were what Dassem Ultor judged could be spared, and, if necessary, sacrificed.”

*giggles* Oh, this is priceless! Seeing the origins of Fiddler’s name—and a mention that his hunches “ain’t missed yet.”

Okay, does this tell us who might be the other souls within Quick Ben? Strikes me that the dessicated remains of each mage indicate that their “life source” or soul has been taken in by the others to sustain them and keep them moving. We have so far: Kebharla (a delver of mysteries); two other corpses not given names; Renisha (High Meanas); Keluger (Septime Priest of D’riss); Narkal (sworn to Fener and aspirant to the god’s Mortal Sword); Ullan (Soletaken priestess of Soliel); Set’alahd Crool (Jhag half-blood—whose sword has been ablaze with the blessing of some unknown ascendant); Etra (mistress of Rashan warren); Birith’erah (mage of the Serc warren); Gellid (witch of the Tennes warren)… That there is eleven names—add in the “original” Quick Ben and that makes twelve… Heh, we’re still not given everything, are we? But at least we know now why Quick Ben is so familiar with the rules of the Fener religion!

And here is the real formation of the Bridgeburners: “The hunters were embraced in silence, now. Raraku’s silence. Tempered, honed, annealed under the sun. The horses beneath them were their match, lean and defiant, tireless and wild-eyed.”

You know something? This section where Whiskeyjack tells some of the mystery of Quick Ben is SO MUCH MORE rewarding, coming as it does three books into the series, than if we had had it all info-dumped within the first novel to ensure all the readers that needed hand-holding could keep up. Knowing the characters, knowing the mysteries, makes this extraordinarily powerful stuff….

Quick Ben = originally a mage of Meanas.

And here: “He was never much, sir. I doubt he’ll be able to muster a defence.” Yeah, maybe before he suddenly gained all that extra magical power and knowledge.

Hahaha, unbelievable! Kalam leading Whiskeyjack and his assorted nobodies to a death in Raraku, and communicating all the time with Adaephon Delat—and yet Whiskeyjack survives. Not only survives, but cottons onto their game and is curious enough to let it continue. Just brilliant, perfect stuff.

Awwww, Whiskeyjack revealed Quick’s secrets to Rake as a demonstration of trust and a formation of true friendship. This whole sequence has been awesome, I cannot tell you how much. And it ends on such a lonely, but hopeful note: “Gods below, I have made a friend this night. When did I last stumble on such a gift? I cannot remember. Hood’s breath, I cannot.”

This here makes me sad: “Anomander Rake watched the old man limp away down the track.” When did Whiskeyjack get old? I’m also saddened by the fact that Crone brings up the idea of an immortal trying to befriend a mortal—most of us will have watched Highlander. Who wants to live forever?

Interesting that Rake seeks comfort with Silanah. This is the dragon that he took blood from in order to become a dragon Soletaken, correct? [Bill: Dragon yes. That one, no.] Does this mean a link always remains? Or does he consider it spending time with his own kind? Is Rake ever in danger of losing himself?

Wh…..aaaa….t?! That indication of the power of the Tiste Andii is phenomenal: “At the Chaining, there were but forty of us, yet we destroyed the Crippled God’s entire realm—granted, a nascent realm. None the less, Lord. Eleven hundred…we risk devastating this entire continent.”

The Mhybe’s dream is excruciatingly painful—to be that which you are no longer, to have something which you have no longer, is no doubt something we’ve all experienced during our dreams. Personally, soon after the end of my last relationship, I had one dream where it was as though the break-up had never happened, and was crushed all over again when I awoke, so I feel The Mhybe’s pain in this instance and can entirely empathise.

“Who walks my dreamscape this time?” Heh, it seems we’ll soon experience a dreamworld as crowded as Tel’aran’rhiod!

This is a tremendously sweet scene between The Mhybe and Kruppe, and I am glad to see some abate in her misery. Also intrigued by the fact he calls her Holy Vessel and asks her to maintain faith—is she on the path to ascend? Or is he merely honouring the sacrifice she made with his words?

Umm, I’m not sure I like Antsy all that much. Right now I just find him annoying—his speech patterns, his panic at what is happening. After the generally calm demeanour of the Bridgeburners and their stoicism, he seems so out of place. I don’t find him humorous. Anyone else, or is this just me? [Bill: He may grow on you. Or not.]

This next quote? My dad was a member of the Armed Forces for 22 years and I’ve seen this in action: “Yet, when it’s done, what is the once-soldier? What does he or she become? An entire future spent walking backward, eyes on the past—its horrors, its losses, its grief, its sheer heart-bursting living?”

Still confused about ascendants and gods! See, he is called the Crippled God, but then Quick Ben thinks, “That bastard ascendant may well be chained, his body broken, but I can feel his hand—even here—twitching at invisible threads.”

And, finally, a deeply intriguing end to the chapter—where we find that the Barghast are a lost branch of the T’lan Imass, and that they have failed to develop and grow as a race due to the fact that their Elders were restrained by the rituals conducted by the Barghast. I suspect that Quick Ben has gained an ally in the form of Talamandas—and what happy coincidence that the Bridgeburners are about to try and gain the help of the White Faces and Quick Ben frees an elder spirit of that clan. *grins*

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Eight:

That’s a great image, the landscape of bones. I also like how Erikson isn’t satisfied with the visual but offers up as well the auditory, with the slope “clattering” beneath Gethol as he walks. Once again, we get one of the frequent refrains in the book: those darned humans not doing the expected.

It probably needn’t be said, but yes, those lines about Gethol knowing Hood are meant to point us toward certain lines of thought regarding Hood, or at least, prepare us for certain revelations to come regarding the God of Death. We’ll leave it there for now.

A subtle reminder of our book’s title as Gethol walks through Omtose Phellack, “through the frozen memories,” i.e. memories of ice.

The “invitation” from the Crippled God is certainly an appropriate one: it “breaks” the warren in the form of a fissure, is “sweet with decay and disease,” has “bruised and pocked” the veins of ice. And from the beginning of the book and his new Deck cards, we know the CG seeks the “flawed,” a description that Gethol certainly fits thanks to his recent encounter with that pesky mortal.

Anybody else think the “meticulous plans” Hood feels were threatened by Gethol’s anger go a bit beyond poaching the Grey Swords from Fener?

It’s an interesting tone/phrasing from the Crippled God when he discusses his poisoning of Burn—less villainous ranting than one might expect. And an oddly passive voiced “these chains must be broken” phrasing. In the context of all life’s destruction, there are certainly several ways to read how that line is delivered.

It’s a nice tease, that cutting off the CG as he’s about to relate Gethol’s earlier failure “when your brother Gothos called upon you—” Called upon him for what? To do what? And that Gothos gets around in this series, doesn’t he?

Amanda, you’re right that the CG doesn’t know about Paran yet. It isn’t often we readers get to feel superior with regard to our knowledge of what’s going on in these books, so it’s a nice feeling to be reading the CG’s so-assured “there is no one who can control [the Deck]” even as we’re raising a collective hand and going “hmmmm, sir? Umm, there’s this Malazan guy…”

The CG’s means of convincing Gethol to join him is a bit depressing, eh? The whole, look at me, think of how my House will take in the broken and the failed. Now look at the world out there and tell me there aren’t a hell of a lot of those. Hard to argue with that point. As Gethol realizes once he thinks about it a bit.

It’s a nice transition from that landscape of bones we were just at a few pages ago and the tossing of the bones in the game that opens this scene. Kind of funny to see Quick Ben, the character whose mysteries drive all us readers up the wall, to be so befuddled and frustrated by Kruppe. Quick’s cry that Kruppe is “slippery” should remind us of his alias back in Darjhistan: the Eel. Serves Quick right—how’s it feel buddy?

As Amanda points out, yet another reference to Whiskeyjack’s leg. They certainly are piling up. Just saying….

I really enjoyed this scene between Rake and Whiskeyjack, the easy sense of camaraderie between the two, the way it goes unspoken but clear. And how Rake is so concisely characterized by “Rake is fine,” after WJ calls him “lord.” And the way that beyond all the entanglements of alliance and diplomacy and shared goals and geopolitics and all, it comes down to that instinct of “do I like someone?”

I also enjoyed a smile at Rake’s smile when Whiskeyjack says, “I hope you can be patient” before he launches into his story. Somehow I think Rake has that quality (and that WJ knows that of course). And of course, the story that makes up the bulk of the scene is just so intriguing for the amount of information we get regarding Quick Ben. For instance, as Amanda says, we see just why it is Quick could stun the Grey Swords with his knowledge of their titles and workings—helps to have a warrior mage sworn to Fener rattling around inside of you. It’s just another example of how if we display some of that “patience” WJ mentions with regard to story, we’ll get not all but lots of answers to mysteries that arise. I also like the catch-all out Erikson builds into his character by having one of those souls inside him being a “scholar”—so anytime Quick dredges something up unrelated to those other souls inside him we can always just say, well, Kebharla must have looked that up sometime. Finally, as Amanda says, despite the listing of names, we’re still not told everything. Grr.

Beyond the info on Quick Ben, I’m with Amanda on how it is also wonderful to see Fiddler and Hedge and Whiskeyjack’s first meeting, Fiddler with the Holy Protector’s helmet and Hedge naming him Fiddler. As a rereader, it’s just a great fond chuckle kind of moment to see these old friends we’ve spent so much time with getting together the first time.

And a few other notes. Recall Temper was in that First Sword. The way Whiskeyjack mentions names we don’t know: the mages Tesormalandis, Stumpy, which lends the book that sense of an entire world again, the idea that we’re seeing only slivers of what goes on. How the Bridgeburners were cobbled together from leftovers, something we’ll see a lot of in this series. The way the name “Bridgeburners” arrives. The image of Fiddler as “young” and a “lad.” Kalam calling all of the Bridgeburners “so young.” Hedge putting a fist through the fiddle: Hedge and Fiddler, oh so good a storyline. The clever communications method employed by Kalam and Quick and Fiddler figuring it out. Whiskeyjack going on out of simple “curiosity” —I love that about him. The image left to the imagination of the newly-created Bridgeburners storming G’danisban. Rake being impressed. The way Rake says he’ll “instruct” Kallor—which is good and all, Kallor has shown he will back down face to face with Rake, but does anyone think he’s the sort to take to being “instructed” as if he were a recalcitrant child? Whiskeyjack’s “gift” of friendship.

We see that Whiskeyjack’s belief that he made a friend this night isn’t a misreading on his part, that Rake feels that way as well. And then we get good ‘ol Crone pointing out the inherent problem with that. We know how that friendship will end most likely. And we’ve gotten some hints in this chapter.

We get some important set ups here in this relatively brief scene. The idea of the Andii merging their power together and the force that would create. And the idea being planted that Kallor may not stay leashed. You’re right Amanda, that Chaining also keeps getting fleshed out, as here we get that Rake wasn’t alone there, but was joined by a group of Andii including Korlat. And the Jaghut mentioned earlier. We’ll continue to get more on that.

This section ends and begins with a focus on dreams, and they will play a very large role by the end of the book. It’s interesting the Rhivi pieces appear like flint, were “shaped, worked, to mirror a heritage.” I’m assuming that heritage was the Imass—anyone see it differently? As usual, we were set up for this earlier when the Mhybe mentioned how the copper ornaments she wore were not working.

I like how Kruppe feels an affinity for Manek, yes, in regards to the trickster aspect (though I admit to not really seeing Kruppe so much in that vein), but I think more so for the “great heart”; Kruppe is a character who is so often a reminder of compassion’s necessity and gifts.

The scene with Paran’s ruminations on soldiering is another example of those moments that for me distinguish this series—the willingness to slow the action (or bring it to a screeching halt) and allow for some meditative moments. How does the soldier who has been one his/her own life return to the real world? A world of “solicitude and calm” that worms into their “safe prison of cold control”—the thing that has kept them sane in an insane world of death and pain and grief and horror—and leaves them vulnerable or, to use one of Erikson’s favorite words, un-armored. How does he or she move forward and turn away from a past filled with all that grief and horror? It’s no surprise that an anthropologist writer goes to the idea of ritual—the way rituals connect us to certain truths and paths or help usher us through or on to other ones: “The ritual is a turning around, a facing forward, a gentle and respectful hand like a guide on the shoulder.” Think of the rituals surrounding death—all the ways they’re meant to reconnect the griever to the social world and life.

The poisoning of the warrens, and Hood’s resisting it somewhat better, will obviously have some effect on tactics and plot, so something to keep an eye on. As is yet another reference to a connection between the Crippled God and the Pannion Seer. That’s an interesting piece of info, that the Barghast are descended from Imass—we’ll have to see how that plays out. I’ll say that the past history of the Barghast will play a major role in this series.

I like again the anthropology/archaeology look at how long-lost traditions get their start. In this case, the trees on the barrows coming from the tradition of burying the dugouts (a piece of info setting us up for a future event).

I like as well the concept of an entire culture stagnating without the guidance of their ancestor spirits. I don’t think this is exactly what Erikson was going for, but it reminds me of the “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” (substitute “learn from” for “remember”).

The relationship between Talamandas and Quick, which begins with some mutual respect I think as Talamandas answers Quick’s question regarding survival being a right or a privilege, is just beginning here and is going to be a true pleasure to watch unfold. And it ends in this section with the same question we all have for Quick Ben: “who are you?”

Chapter Nine

SCENE 1

Toc and Envy’s group are nearing the border of the Pannion, the city of Bastion. Toc notes Envy is a bit different since she’s returned (after her discussion with K’rul, which Toc doesn’t know about). Envy mentions how the Imass have outlasted their gods and asks Toc how he imagines the afterlife. Toc wonders what the point is—the soul passes through and Hood or someone decides what to do with it. And Envy asks what if they do nothing with it, if it wanders purposeless. He answers the Imass seem to have a purpose—killing Jaghut. When Envy asks what if none are left, Toc says ask Tool. She says she did and he doesn’t know if any are left. She tells Toc to consider what would it mean for the T’lan Imass if the war is over and he thinks “A second Ritual of Gathering . . . an end to the T’lan Imass.” And Envy says, and what if no spirit waits to embrace those “weary” souls? Toc says he hopes she is wrong because Tool is his friend. Envy informs Toc that the Summoner of the Gathering is with the Malazan army, then implies they march toward a Jaghut: “like a white-hot knife through ice, we thrust to the heart . . . of frozen timeless soul.” A Kell Hunter appears and the Seguleh move to take it on, a test of their abilities. They, um, pass. Tool is shaken by Mok’s abilities, thinking he could not have done what Mok did, and he wants to challenge him immediately, as “the First Sword of the T’lan Imass must be without equal” (this coming after a conversation on “arrogance”). Envy puts Mok to sleep to forestall the duel.

SCENE 2

As they enter inhabited areas, Envy’s group takes steps to be less visible. Tool goes to dust and Envy casts illusions over the “dogs.”

SCENE 3

They enter a temple inside the Pannion town. Inside they find bodies hanging from hooks. The priest tells them the temple master, Seerdomin Kahlt, awaits them, as does a dinner. Envy tells Kahlt the masked three are Seguleh, a name Kahlt recognizes. He considers them arrogant and says they’ll learn when they have to fight Seerdomin rather than unarmed priests. He asks if they’ve come to beg forgiveness and before Envy can answer, Toc replies they are seeking to deliver a message to the Seer in person. Kahlt says that may be allowed, but it’s not his call, and then leaves. Envy says they’ll probably be attacked at night. They’re escorted to their bedrooms and Toc falls asleep. He’s awakened by a scream and soon Baaljagg crashes in through the door. They’re joined in the hall by Garath and then eventually by Envy, who tells Toc Senu and Thurule are dealing with Kahlt and the soldiers that haven’t been taking care of yet while Garath will destroy the temple. Toc says the Seer will send an army after them and Envy says he’ll have to respond in some fashion. Toc says he doesn’t match up to this group, not being a Seguleh, a near-ascendant Ay, a dog that appears as strong as a Hound of Shadow, a T’lan Imass, or a witch. Envy almost compels him but decides against it. Tool appears and says K’ell Hunters are coming.

SCENE 4

They come to a crossroads and Envy gives a history mini-lesson based on the writing on the crossroads’ posts. She tells them the Pannion Domin seems to have been a colony of the Genostel archipelago, a group of seafarers halfway across the world whose “glory waned centuries ago.” Toc says they were clearly conquered and Envy says that’s always the way: “a civilization flowers, then a horde of grunting savages with close-set eyes show up and step on it. Malazan Empire take note.” Toc then quotes Kellanved’s words to “never ignore the barbarians,” then wryly informs Envy Kellanved was killed by a civilized woman with close-set eyes. They head toward Bastion. As they continue, Toc wonders how the Pannion is managing to feed their armies and expansion and cities with such an empty countryside. Envy says perhaps they’ll learn in Bastion. Toc challenges Envy for the real reason she’s doing what she’s doing and coercing/manipulating them all into joining her. She rejects that she is manipulating or coercing any of them and Toc doesn’t buy it, flustering her until she says “he’s just like Rake.” Pleased at having an upper hand for once, Toc relaxes and starts to relate his story, beginning with his birth, his mother being Cartheron Crust’s sister.

SCENE 5

They enter Bastion, which smells of death and fire and they realize the Pannion’s are eating their own dead. Three priests meet them and offer to guide them. They relate how Bastion was the site of the first “Embrasure” 14 years ago, where the Seer “returned from the Mountain, speaking the Words of Truth, and the power of those words rippled forward.” A caravan was killed (“rewarded”) and the first Child of the Dead Seed born nine months later—Anaster, who now leads an army of Tenescowri, along with his mother, toward Capustan. The group comes across Anaster and a mob and as chaos ensues, Toc leaves the group to “join” the Tenescowri since it’s heading for the Malazan army.

 

Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Nine:

Esslee Monot dismisses the notion of the K’Chain Che’Malle. Oh dear….

Pfft, still not liking Envy, with her “darling’s” and the way she acts with Toc.

There is a new closeness between Toc and Baaljagg, I note.

I just adore hearing Toc’s thoughts—firstly his musings on the old Emperor: “…the Emperor was a tyrant…I think. Then again, maybe not. Despotic, sure, and monomaniacal, even slightly insane…” and then his observations of Mok’s new adornments: “Hood’s breath, does the man even know? If I was Senu or Thurule, would I dare tell him?” Just brilliant!

And then a very interesting discussion on the T’lan Imass—the fact that they haved outlived their gods and that their war with the Jaghut might be over (the only thing left to sustain them). What next for them? Everything is currently building towards the Second Gathering….

Then a paragraph which is pretty much the distillation of everything we have said regarding “sides” in a war: Unhuman creatures sworn to genocide. Brutal, deadly, implacable. Relentless beyond all reason. Toc nodded towards the T’lan Imass ahead of them. “Because he’s my friend, Lady Envy.”

Mention of the fact that the Pannion Seer either is or has connections to the Jaghut: “Like a white-hot knife through ice, we thrust to the heart…of a frozen, timeless soul.”

Wow, just wow—now we see the true strength and skill of the Seguleh—others have struggled to take down the K’Chain Che’Malle, but Mok just slices this one apart with ease, and with maybe a little nonchalance. I love how Toc then tries to convince Tool that he could have done as much.

Ugh, ugh, ugh—something about Envy and her flirtations repels me. She is so manipulative, so cruel. I suspect this is going to be one of those characters who just rubs me the wrong way no matter what she does. [Bill: Imagine her and Antsy together….]

And ahhh, an immediate picture of how delightful the Pannion Seer and his (her?) followers are—murdering the villagers who have assisted building a temple. Not the first atrocity, I suspect….

“No respect is accorded mindless animals within the Domin.” Bah, we’ve seen some beasts with fine minds in the series so far.

Lady Envy really is as subtle as a brick through a window, isn’t she?

This is a fine horror sequence—the uneasy dinner, the lack of other inhabitants, the drugged (magicked sleep), and then moans and cries from outside the bedchamber. But what horrifies me most is the change in Garath—a Hound? “The gentle pet was gone this night, and in its place Garath had become a slayer of the highest, coldest order.”

I do think that Toc underestimates himself some when he says this: “Lady, I’m no Seguleh. I’m not an ay on the edge of ascendancy. I’m not a T’lan Imass. I’m not a dog that can stare eye-to-level-eye with a Hound of Shadow! And I’m not a witch who can boil men alive with a snap of her fingers!”

Oho! It sounds as though Garath could be recruited into the ranks of the Hounds of Shadow, but is a little reluctant about the idea. *grins*

Nice to see Toc resisting Envy’s charms as well! I like the comparison with Rake.

*chokes* Alright, chalk up a further atrocity in the form of eating their own dead. I guess it does remove that pesky problem of trying to sustain an ever-expanding army.

An army of hundreds, and Toc worries that none will be left alive to proceed towards the Malazans after the wrath of Baaljagg, Garath, the Seguleh, Tool and Envy herself. Ye gods, there is some firepower… A truly explosive end to the chapter!

 

Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Nine:

I like the little characterization we get of Dujek via Toc’s memories: “the old High Fist despised tyranny.” As well as how, in usual Erikson fashion, such a declarative statement immediately gets shaded in complexity: “which is ironic, since the Emperor was a tyrant . . . I think. Then again, maybe not.” Also nice coming after Quick’s freeing of Talamandas: the world writ large and the world writ small.

We’ve had hints earlier about one possible outcome of the Second Gathering, and here it comes a little more bluntly—the idea that it may lead to the “end” of the T’lan Imass. Recall what the Grey Swords were told, that the T’lan Imass might be of “less value” at the completion of the Gathering. Here, I’d point you to the line about no spirits “waiting to embrace all those weary, so very weary souls.” Remember that one.

While we’ve got the file cabinet drawer open in this area:

  • “a frozen, timeless soul”
  • “if I stay with these people, I am a dead man”
  • “the power of your stone arrows”

I like Toc’s interior monologue as they enter the Pannion: “Unfamiliar faces, gauging regard . . . The natural effects of society. Do we all possess a wish to remain unseen, unnoticed? Is the witnessing of our actions by others are greatest restraint?” It’s a common cultural concept—that we behave differently knowing the eyes of our friends and family are on us. Would we give in to our baser or more cowardly/selfish desires/acts if those eyes weren’t on us? Who are we when we’re at home, unwitnessed? What stays the hand in public may not work in private. What happens to those who travel in the Heart of Darkness where those eyes and societal rules and strictures and comforts aren’t around? Keep an, ahem, eye on this idea of witnessed and unwitnessed; it will stay with us throughout the series all the way to the very, very end.

When Envy tells Toc jokingly, “then again, we could embrace the faith—do you think we’ll convince him” little does she know that this is what Toc will in fact end up doing (kinda).

More substantively, another bitter twist of observation regarding humanity: “have you ever noticed how language can be twisted to mask brutality?” This came up at least in DG if you recall, the way we have to demonize an enemy, make him “inhuman.” This broadens the idea a bit, the way we refuse to hold a mirror up to ourselves (as we’d hate what we saw) by distorting the vision through naming it something else (“collateral damage” etc.) Language is the “mask we wear,” to hide our acts not only from others but ourselves. It’s an interesting contrast with the Seguleh as Envy points out.

“Well-trained” beasts indeed. Envy’s got some nicely dry lines throughout this section to help break up some of the darker plot events and musings. Sorry Amanda, I kinda like Envy.

Darker musings such as “It’s always the way, isn’t it? A civilization flowers, then a horde of grunting savages with close-set eyes show up and step on it.” Cycles of history—Envy and Duiker would get along well I think. And we get yet another sign of Kellanved’s wisdom: “never ignore the barbarians.” And more dry wit with Toc’s observation that he was killed by a civilized woman with close-set eyes.

Poor Toc. Hard not to empathize with his feelings of inadequacy surrounded by the company he keeps after all: First Sword of the T’lan Imass, a trio of Seguleh (including the 3rd), seemingly ascendant or near-ascendant creatures, and Lady Envy. He reminds me a bit of Xander in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Of course, Xander ended up saving the world all by himself one season, so perhaps Toc shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss himself. What a horrible choice though—to join that army of cannibals. This is not going to be a pleasant journey….


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.

Amanda Rutter contributes reviews and a regular World Wide Wednesday post to fantasyliterature.com, as well as reviews for her own site floortoceilingbooks.com (covering more genres than just speculative), Vector Reviews and Hub magazine.

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