Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Chapter Twelve


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 readers. In this article, we’ll cover Chapter Twelve of House of Chains by Steven Erikson (HoC).

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.

From Malazan fans, keep an eye on the site later today for a Malazan-specific giveaway!

Chapter Twelve


Cutter watches as Darist arms himself for battle. Darist tells him they probably won’t survive the Edur’s attack, saying five Edur ships survived the storm and two have reached the shore. He adds there would have been more, but a Malazan fleet “happened upon them by chance . . . Your human kin did well—far better than the Edur no doubt anticipated . . . There was a skilled mage among the humans—the exchange of sorcery was impressive.” When Cutter complains the Andii didn’t help, Darist says they haven’t left the island for decades and doesn’t answer when Cutter asks why. Darist picks up his sword and Cutter says it looks like it would snap in contact with a heavier weapon. Darist replies it won’t: “There are many names for this particular sword . . . Its maker called it Vengeance. T’an Aros, in our language. But I call it K’orladis . . .Grief.” Cutter asks who made it and Darist answer it was Rake, “before he found one more suited to his nature.” Darist asks if Cutter plans to fight and when Cutter says “yes,” Darist wonders why since it isn’t his fight. Cutter replies that Rake and the Andii fought for Genabackis even though it wasn’t their battle either, which makes Darist smile. They climb up and out of the hall into ruins. Darist informs Cutter that the buildings were constructed by the Edur and were in ruins when the Andii arrived. They cross to a courtyard and await the Edur. Cutter asks if Vengeance/Grief is invested, and Darist says, “The power of Grief lies in the focused intent in its creation. The sword demands a singular will in its wielder. With such a will, it cannot be defeated.” He also implies he doesn’t have that kind of will. A group of Edur arrive and attack and Darist and Cutter hold them off (Darist takes some major wounds) until they are relieved by a group of young Andii and Apsalar. Apsalar tells Cutter she found the Andii hiding at Darist’s (Andarist’s) command. Darist tells her now the young ones will die, “for the Edur will now hunt them down in earnest, the old hatred, rekindled once more.” Apsalar answers that the Throne has to be protected. Darist angrily says, “if he truly wants it protected, then he can come here and do it himself.” Apsalar asks who the “he” is and Cutter tells her Rake, Darist’s brother.


Cutter thought Darist’s expression was confirmation enough that Darist is Rake’s younger brother. He learns that the youths are Rake’s grandchildren (by different mothers). Darist is badly wounded, and Cutter is impressed he was able to fight on as he did. Cutter says he’s surprised by the Andii youths, and by their lack of training in fighting. Apsalar worries Darist’s overprotectiveness may doom them, and her words have, to Cutter, a sense of harsh judgment. He muses he had though, based on his experience with Rallick Nom that “a singular capacity to inflict death engendered a certain wisdom—of the fragility of the spirit, of its mortality” but he senses none of that in Apsalar. He thinks she took no pleasure in killing the Edur, though she “had not intended” that they died slowly, and thinks it’s as if she were trained as a torturer, though Dancer was not one. He worries the ugly aspect is part of her own personality. Saying Cutter is in no shape to fight, Apsalar suggests he find the Malazan survivors on the island and ask their help. Cutter agrees to go.


Cutter travels through the forest which is built upon the ruins of a great city. He finds a cave (Apsalar had discovered the Malazan earlier). He calls out to the Malazans inside and a group come out. He tells them of the Edur, their attack, and asks their help, saying the Edur are after something that could doom the Malazan Empire and “all of humanity.” When they scoff, he tells them it’s the Throne of Shadow. The Dal Honese man startles at this while one of the woman, horribly burned, says, “True words . . . a fleet set out on a search . . . and now they’ve found it. Ammanas and Cotillion are about to be usurped, and what of it?” She’s angered they fought the Edur for the Throne, losing ships, people, and probably her own life. Another woman declares it isn’t their fight, but the Dal Honese, called Traveler by the women tells them “the Throne must not be claimed by the Edur . . . the lad speaks without exaggeration when he describes the risks . . . The Warren of Shadow is now human-aspected . . . and it well suits our natures. This battles is ours—we face it now or we face it later.” When one woman, the Captain/Commander asks if he claims this in the name of the Empire, he answers “More than you know.” Cutter asks if the burned woman is a sorcerer and the captain says yes, but she’s dying and is about to add more when they hear a distant noise and Cutter yells “they’ve attacked again, with magic this time—follow me.” Cutter reaches the courtyard, spotting a group of Edur coming up from the coast. Leaving them to the Malazans, he heads into the courtyard to see a line of Edur warrior and four Edur mages sending out waves of magic to attack Darist, who stood alone with Apsalar unconscious at his feet and behind him the scattered bodies of the young Andii. Darist is horribly wounded, bones visible through his chest, but he stands before the magic, Grief white hot and keening. Cutter calls for Blind. The Hound appears, but one of the Edur mages says something and Blind “cowered.” Shadows suddenly appear in the courtyard then Cotillion is there, wielding his rope and killing the four sorcerers in a blink, then the dozen plus Edur warriors as well. It all took “four breaths.” Cotillion starts to yell at Blind, then sees the Hound trembling and dismisses it. Cutter tells him the Malazans need help, but Cutter says, “No they don’t.” Darist finally falls and Cotillion tells Cutter “When he’s done out there, guide him to this sword. Tell him its names.” He vanishes. As Cutter is bent over Apsalar, Traveler walks in carrying a broken sword, the only Malazan survivor. When Cutter looks out he sees 50+ Edur corpses. Traveler reaches for Darist’s sword and Cutter tells him “it is named Vengeance or Grief. You can choose which best suits you.” Traveler asks if Cutter wants it, and Cutter replies, “It demands its wielder possesses a singular will. I am not for that sword, no, I think, will I ever be.” Traveler names it Vengeance, then asks who Darist was. Cutter gives his name (but not his relation to Rake) and says he guarded the Throne and now it has no guard. Traveler says he will stay for a while, help tend the wounded and bury the dead. Cutter says he’ll help, but Traveler tells him there’s no need; Cotillion killed all the Edur on the ships as well, and so Cutter and Apsalar can take a small boat and supplies and head out. Apsalar starts to waken and Traveler says it’s time for them to go. Cutter sees sorrow in his eyes for the first time and again offers to help bury the dead, but Traveler says it won’t be the first time he’s buried companions. As Cutter turns to go, carrying Apsalar, Traveler says, “Thank your god, mortal, for the sword.”


Kalam is examining the well shaft Kindly went down and asks what drove the Captain to go down there. Cord points out there’s “something lying on the bottom, maybe twice a man’s height in depth . . . Looks like a man all in armor, lying spread-eagled.” Cord doesn’t like Kalam’s attitude and Kalam pulls rank on him, tells him Kindly and the lieutenant aren’t coming back and he’s taking them out. Kalam is left alone and lowers a stone down to the figure to measure depth and the creature’s true size. The figure yanks on the rope and Kalam is pulled downward into the underground river. He’s grabbed by the rotting creature, which mentally speaks to Kalam: “The other two eluded me, but you I will have. I am so hungry.” Kalam stabs it with both his long knives and the creature throws him upward, back into the chamber above. Cord runs in and asks what happened. Kalam, seeing the river below is running red with blood, tells Cord to stop using the well.


The others join Kalam and help pry his knives out of his hands—the grips had scorched his palms with cold. Kalam and Ebron the mage discuss the history of B’ridys. Kalam says the fortress had been a monastery of a long extinct cult—the Nameless Ones. Ebron says the “Tanno cult claims a direct decent from the cult of the Nameless Ones. The Spiritwalkers say their powers, of song and the like, arose from the original patterns that the Nameless Ones fashioned in their rituals.” Kalam says the Nameless ones used to chain demons and he and Ebron realize that anyone drinking the water tainted with the creature’s blood: “The demon takes that person’s [or animal’s] soul and makes the exchange. Freedom.” They also realize that once it’s free, it will come after Kalam and both agree the others need to get far away from Kalam. Kalam tells them of Tavore’s march from Aren and tells them she could use their veteran experience. He adds he’ll be heading for Raraku. He tells them the demon told him their two officers got away, then they all leave.


Kalam exits the fortress. As he travels west, he hears the distant scream of an enkar’al (a huge winged reptile). He heads for the Whirlwind, getting abraded as he nears it. He’s attacked by the demon—possessed enkar’al, It toys with him, causing Kalam to lose consciousness at one point. He awakens and when it asks if it’s ready to play again, he says it broke his back. When it nears to attack, he shoves rocks and sand down its throat while stabbing it with a dagger. He crawls to his serpent dagger and kills the demon/enkar’al, then passes out.


The enkar’al that drank the blood of the demon was “exchanged”—the demon possessed the enkar’al body while the enkar’al soul entered the body back in the fortress, a pureblood Toblakai that had been possessed by the demon long ago. The wolf gods on the Beast Throne, in need of a champion, calm the soul and speak to it, offering a time of service in exchange for later reward of “rejoin [ing] its kin in the skies of another realm.” The enkar’al agrees.


Pust finds Kalam (he says he’s been looking for him) and tells him “you have something for me, something to deliver. A bone whistle? A small bag, perchance? Given to you in a shadowy realm by an even shadowier god? A bag, you fool, filled with dusky diamonds?” Kalam replies “You’re the one, are you?” and reaches for the bag but then passes out again, just after seeing the azalan demon behind Pust.


Kalam awakens feeling healed, though stiff. Pust appears, tells Kalam to be quiet because his wife is hunting him (Pust), then disappears. Mogora appears right after, saying, “the bastard was here, wasn’t he?” She mentions veering and Kalam figures out from what Pust had said she’s Soletaken/spiders. She leaves, Pust reappears.


Severed from his vow, Onrack can no longer see his kin’s “ghost-shapes;” he can see only their physicality: “Withered corpses. Ghastly. Devoid of majesty. Duty and courage had been made animate, and this was all the T’lan Imass were, and had been for hundreds of thousands of years. Yet, without choice, such virtues as duty and courage were transformed into empty, worthless words. Without mortality, hovering like an unseen sword overhead, meaning was without relevance, no matter the nature—or even the motivation—of the act.” He thinks he is seeing what all non-T’lan Imass see when they look upon his race: “An extinct past refusing to fall to dust. Brutal reminders of rectitude and intransigence, of a vow elevated insanity.” He wonders how this is or should make him feel, and then wonders when it last was that feeling even mattered to him. Trull mentions that he is surprised Onrack doesn’t flee his kin who want to dismantle him once they reach their realm and Onrack says that is what the renegades he hunted did, and now he understands them. Trull points out though they did not simply flee but found someone else to serve, an option not available to Onrack unless he serves the Liosan. “Or you,” Onrack says, adding that Monok Ochem would see that as a crime similar to that of the renegades. Onrack tells Trull he’s the one who should flee, but Trull says Monok told him they need only a drop or two of his blood for the portal ritual. Onrack says that’s true, if all goes well, but points out that Seneschal Jorrude is not a sorcerer but a warriorpriest and to use Kurald Thyrllan, he must “kneel before his power,” rather than command it as sorcerers do. He explains the assumption is that the power is benign, but if the power has been usurped, one may not be able to tell, “and then you become a victim, a tool, manipulated to serve unknown purposes.” He goes on to say that Osseric is “lost. Osric as humans know him . . . Thus, the hand behind the seneschal’s power is probably not Osseric, but some other entity, hidden behind the guise and the name of Osseric. Yet these Tiste Liosan proceed unaware . . . [they are] in pursuit of trespassers who passed through their fiery warren . . . Kurald Thyrllan is not a sealed warren. It lies close to our own Tellann—for Tellann draws from it. Fire is life and life is fire. Fire is the war against cold . . . our salvation. Bonecasters have made use of Kurald Thyrllan . . . For it seemed there were no Tiste Liosan. Monok Ochem considers this now . . . Where are these Liosan from? . . . Why are they now awakened to resentment? What does the one hidden behind the guise of Osseric seek?” Trull asks him to stop; it’s all too much. Silent now, Onrack muses on the two Hounds he’d freed. He feels they are no longer in the Nascent and thinks of them as “shadow and spirit reunited . . . As if each were shaped of two distinct powers, two aspects chained together.” He wonders if he had merely “unleashed” them rather than “freed” them. “Shadow from Dark. That which is cast from that which has cast it.” He looks on his own shadows and wonders if there is “tension between him and them . . . Silent kin of mine. You precede. You follow . . . Your world finds its shape from my bone and flesh. Yet your breadth and length belong to Light. You are the bridge between worlds, you cannot be walked. No substance then. Only perception.” Monok asks what Onrack is thinking and he tells the bonecaster he remains “bound to your path . . . The renegade kin must be found. They are our shadows. I now stand between you and them and so I can guide you . . . Destroy me and you shall lose an advantage.” Monok asks if he is bargaining for “persistence” and Onrack answers he is, and then refuses to tell Monok what path the renegades took until “it becomes relevant.” The Tellann warren is readied and Jorrude says he’ll begin his prayers and thus prove that Osric is not lost to the Liosan. When Trull says he wants Onrack to be the one to draw his blood, Jorrude says it should be him instead as “blood lies at the heart of Osric’s power,” a statement that startles Monok. Trull says it’ll be Onrack or nobody and reveals he’s holding a pair of munitions; Monok tells Jorrude to back down and he does, though angrily. The “godfire” appears and they all enter the ritual’s circle. Onrack can sense the approach of the “outermost layers of disguise” of whatever is passing for the Liosan’s god. Onrack gives Trull his knife and tells him to cut himself when Onrack gives the order, saying he doesn’t want to be distracted during the crossing. As the fire grows, Onrack wonders again at what being is behind it: “if these Liosan were any indication, it found sustenance from purity, as if such a thing was even possible. Intransigence. Simplicity. The simplicity of blood, a detail whispering of antiquity, of primeval origins. A spirit, then, before whom a handful of savages once bowed. There had been many such entities once, born of the primitive assertion of meaning to object, meaning shaped by symbols and portents, scratchings on rock faces and in the depths of caves . . . but tribes died out . . . The secret language of the scratchings . . . all lost, forgotten. And with that fading away. . so too the spirits themselves dwindled, usually into oblivion. That some lingered was not surprising to Onrack . . . What was new . . . was the sense of pathos. In the name of purity, the Liosan worship their god. In the name of nostalgia, the god worships what was and shall never again return.” Jorrude cuts himself and Onrack tells Trull to do the same and a gate tears open with tunnels reaching from it, chaos between tunnels. Blood is spraying from Trull’s hand. Onrack sees Ibra Gholan, Olar Shayn, and Haran Epal vanish down a tunnel of fire while the Liosan rush to Jorrude unconscious body. Onrack drags Trull close and grabs Trull’s bloody hand, then swears service to Trull, pledging to defend his life. Then they move into a tunnel. Monok veers into his Soletaken form—a giant ape—and pursues, but then vanishes in a surge of chaos. Onrack and Trull land on ground back in their home realm and Onrack says they have to leave as the T’lan Imass will pursue, even if only Monok remains. Trull asks where the others went and Onrack tells him they went into Kurald Thyrllan to kill the Liosan god.


Pearl and Lostar Yill are moving through bones and armor scraps—the remains of an army buried in ash inside the Imperial Warren. Pearl says last time he passed this same way there were no ruins, bones, or the pit. He adds he’s found a portal (“a lively one”), but it’s down in the pit. He leaves it to her if they look for a more accessible one, but she chooses the pit. She asks if he knows who the dead soldiers are and he says no, but he can tell they fought in the ash, so they were either survivors of whatever calamity caused the devastation or they were intruders afterward. They fall down a sandslide into the pit, Lostara ending up next to an edge. Pearl cast a magical light and they see “An X-shaped cross, tilting over them, as tall as a four-story building. The glint of enormous, pitted spikes. And nailed to the cruciform—a dragon. Wings spread, pinned wide. Hind limbs impaled. Chains wrapped about its neck, holding its massive wedge-shaped head up as if staring skyward to a seas of stars marked here and there with swirls of glowing mist.” Pearl points out it is enclosed in a “pocket warren, a realm unto itself.” Lostara says it could also be sealing an entranceway and Pearl thinks she may be right. He tells her the dragon is aspected: “Otataral. Her aspect is otataral, woman. This is an otataral dragon.”


Pearl uses magic to free them from the sandslide and they examine the dragon. Pearl tells her it’s still alive and when Lostara asks who could have done this, he says whoever they were should be thanked: “this thing devours magic. Consumes warrens.” When Lostara objects, saying all the old stories say dragons are the “essence of sorcery,” he responds: “Nature always seeks a balance. Forces strive for symmetry. This dragon answers every other dragon that ever existed, or ever will.” Lostara asks what the Imperial Warren was before it was turned to ash, but he doesn’t answer. They head deeper down toward the gate, which Pearl assumes was used by whoever nailed the dragon onto the cross.


They reach the gate, which Pearl identifies as “The Elder Warren from which Thyr derived . . . Kurald something. Tiste. Not Edur, not Andii.” He points out dragon tracks, at least six, and says that solves the question about who could chain/crucify a dragon. The step through the gate “into a realm of gold fire,” that was, “for the moment, survivable” though it sears their lungs. In front of them is a pillar shaped like a pyramid, carved with the names of those who chained the Otataral Dragon. A wall of flame heads for them and Pearl, reacting, slips on a trail of blood. They run around the pillar into a cavern splattered in blood and with pieces of a T’lan Imass scattered around. Pearl grabs the head then uses his warren to send them home. Pearl tells the head if it answers his questions, he’ll find it a nice view. Olar Shayn identifies himself and tells Pearl, when asked about what he was doing, that he and his kin killed “a false god.” Pearl asks if this ledge is a good enough spot and Olar says yes. Pearl secures him a spot and he and Lostara prepare to pick up the hunt for Felisin.


Amanda’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve:

Heh, I was getting used to the shorter chapters of 30 pages or so, and we’re back up to 50 odd! Never mind. *grins* Here we go….

Now I think we’re getting more to the crux of what these books might be about. After the mention of the ancient warrens of light, shadow and dark from a previous chapter, and finally meeting the light Tiste, we have this quote from Fisher: “Light, shadow and dark—this is a war unending.”

This description of Darist, where Cutter deems him to be elderly scholar rather than warrior, could partly be the delusion of youth looking at elders. We have also been given Duiker—soldier and historian—so we are familiar with the idea that more grizzled scholars can have a surprisingly martial bent.

The description of the armour is very beautiful. It’s funny—sometimes Erikson gives us details aplenty, and sometimes he leaves us to fill in the gaps.

The fact that Darist reminds Cutter a little of Anomander Rake, and that their quality of movement might be a racial trait just makes me think more about elves: “And there is a mindfulness to his every movement which I should recognize—for I last saw it on another Tiste Andii, an ocean away. A racial trait? Perhaps, but it whispers like a song of threat, sunk deep in the marrow of my bones.”

Strikes me I should be remembering the Malazan fleet that sunk to the depths while fighting the Tiste Edur—or haven’t we been told about them yet? [Bill: Nope—you’re okay in not remembering.] It is frighteningly cold to stand and watch humans give battle to Tiste Edur and not aid them at all because they wish solitude.

Hmm, is Darist the brother of Anomander Rake? “My brother.” He sheathed the sword, slipped his arms through the chain harness. […] “Before he found one…more suited to his nature.” Dragnipur?

That is a quite brilliant question concerning Cutter’s knives—if not for bloodshed (something he draws no pleasure from), why carry them? Cutter is reminding me a little bit right now of Perrin from The Wheel of Time, in terms of not wanting to totally embrace his violent side.

I wonder what causes Darist’s wry smile at the words that Rake and the Tiste Andii are participating in the battle for Genabackis.

It makes me grin a little, the idea of Cutter trying to rush up the ladder until he suddenly realises he might be going to his death and then tries to drag it out some.

Darist isn’t the most optimistic of souls, is he?

I’m guessing either that Darist is going to develop the “singular will” required to wield Grief, or someone else will take up the mantle, since that was so specifically mentioned.

The Tiste Edur are far more feral than the Tiste Andii and Tiste Liosan. “As tall as Darist, their skin a dusky pallor. Long brown hair, knotted and snarled with fetishes. Necklaces of claws and canines competed with the barbarity of their roughly tanned leather armour that was stitched with articulating strips of bronze.”

Wow, if Darist hasn’t the will to master Grief, then I dread to think what this sword would be capable of in the right (wrong?) hands! This is a brilliantly written fight, given a slightly otherworldly feel by the effects of Grief.

Hahaha! Now that startled me into the laughter—the idea of a decapitated Edur head causing Cutter to howl and hop with pain!

Nice to see Apsalar back—but, really, who didn’t expect to see her? I was rather dissatisfied with the way that Erikson kept hinting that she might have drowned when we all knew that she has more of a story ahead of her.

Hmm, interesting that Anomander Rake’s Draconian blood is something entirely separate from his being a Tiste Andii. For some reason, up until now I’d assumed that ALL Tiste Andii shared the Soletaken aspect, but clearly not, looking at Darist.

Apsalar is COLD. I mean, she was never a character to warm to much, although you did feel sorry for her and the treatment she’d received at the hands of Cotillion. But here she has dragged young Tiste Andii without fighting capabilities into a battle that is probably beyond them, and, when questioned about it, just says: “They were given a task.” And she is quick enough to dismiss Cutter: “You will prove a liability. I would not be distracted by protecting you.” And this about a young lad who has shown some rare ability with knives!

Traveler. You know something? In the Dramatis Personae at the beginning of House of Chains, Traveler is given no description. None. How very mysterious! Dal Honese. Understands the importance of the Throne of Shadows falling into the wrong hands. Is able to claim the battle against the Tiste Edur in the name of Malazan. And when Cutter asks about their being one of power amongst the Malazans, and then interrupts the answer, I’m pretty sure it would be in reference to Traveler.

Ha! The arrival of Blind and the command of the Tiste Edur to make the Hound cower is very interesting! I wonder if the Edur have true command over the Hounds of Shadow, while the Andii have command over the Hounds of Darkness, and some unspecified Hounds of Light might appear. Or perhaps not Hounds for them, but something equal to.

Woah! Cotillion is BAD ASS! That is some fight… In four breaths he manages to take down all the Tiste Edur that gave Darist and Apsalar so much trouble. Yeah, now I can see why he is the leader of the Assassins and not merely a follower. Wonderful visceral descriptions of his fighting as well—a true art-form.

Heh, methinks Blind is in trouble with his current master, non?

I just love Cotillion more and more. I ache to see him on the page, because he is an absolute scene stealer. His look of sorrow at the fall of Darist touched me deeply, because it is both so in character and so out of character for him as well.

The fact that Traveler has just as much skill with the blade—appearing unwounded when all those around him died—as Cotillion is also very intriguing. And I’m really pleased to see that, no matter how much Cutter has taken on his newer colder role, there is still something of Crokus within him: “I called those Malazans to their deaths. That captain—with the beautiful eyes…[…] And the question he asked came from a constricted throat.”

What vengeance does Traveler wish to take? Who is he? *burns with curiosity* From things he has said and done, I would say he’s either an Ascendant or a God, or maybe someone on the road to ascendancy, as Fiddler and Apsalar are. In fact, there are rather a number of characters in this novel who are heading that way, if you include Gesler’s lot as well… Maybe House of Chains is going to give us an indication of the different ways to complete Ascendancy?

Hmm, I think that Sergeant Cord might not have wanted the command of the Regiment… He certainly played a fine hand in manipulating Kalam to a point where he basically demanded to be in command.

Ha, that is so incredibly cinematic—where Kalam drops the rock onto the chest of the huge creature and then it ends up grabbing it. I could so see that in a film, with the tense music letting you know something was about to happen, but you jumping out of your skin anyway when the creature lashed out.

Cold… burned by cold. Jaghut?

Let me get this right. It isn’t actually Jaghut. It’s a demon that was chained by the Nameless Ones, and it will end up inside whoever drinks the tainted water, [Bill: It will exchange souls with whatever drinks the water.] and then that person [Bill: Or you know, large toothy flying reptile.] will be after Kalam. All present and correct? Yeah, I can see why he’d find an azalan demon handy right around now! And, y’know, Kalam did wish he could be back on his own, and he certainly has that wish. *grins*

This demon is actually terrifying. More than terrifying, with the casual ease that it throws around Kalam. Now, did Kalam’s back break and then heal because of his presence in Raraku where the process of ascendancy starts? Or was he merely using that as a feint to lure in the demon?

So Thelomen Toblakai is the massive man chained to the rock—and he now has an enkar’al soul within it. Which has been taken by the Wolf Gods to act as their champion. There is an enormous amount going on here, truly.

Ahhhh, Iskaral Pust! There is no one like him, is there? I LOVE seeing him again, with his verbosity and cunning and deceit. He is an amazing character. And he is the one that the diamonds were for! What does Cotillion want with Iskaral Pust? And hasn’t Pust been more the servant of Shadowthrone before now? Speaking of, what exactly is Shadowthrone doing while Cotillion moves in and out of the world, setting his light touch on events?

You know who Pust and his wife remind me of? The husband and wife in The Princess Bride who give Inigo Montoya the item that will revive Wesley! He’s hen-pecked and she’s shrill. [Bill: My exact thoughts!]

This is strange. The way that Onrack perceives his kin is actually very far from the way I perceive the T’lan Imass: “An extinct past refusing to fall to dust. Brutal reminders of rectitude and intransigence, of a vow elevated into insanity.” I know we’ve had very mixed messages about what the T’lan Imass are like, but I’ve seen those that are loyal, those that long to die, those that want to fulfil a task. All of the T’lan Imass characters have moved me in various ways.

The Tiste Liosan are about as far from the Tiste Edur as it is possible to be: “…the precision and diligence verging on the obsessive.”

Lots of information suddenly given to us in the conversation between Onrack and Trull—is a bit much for my tired brain to try and compute, in all honesty! All I can take is that Kurald Thyrllan is the warren of the Tiste Liosan and such people as Bonecasters have made use of it, and therefore created the enmity and vengeance felt by the Tiste Liosan. Also, no one knows where Osric is—except we might have a suspicion. I do adore the dry humour when Onrack says, “I think that I will revert to reticence.”

See, passages like this is where Erikson loses me a little bit. And I wonder whether I am the stupid reader! “As if each was shaped of two distinct powers, two aspects chained together. Onrack had unleashed those hounds, yet, on second consideration, perhaps not freed them. Shadow from Dark. That which is cast… from that which has cast it.” It makes my head ache!

Jorrude is a right arrogant bugger! These Tiste Liosan really rub me up the wrong way. [Bill: Join the club—membership is free and easy.]

Powerful scene, this one, with the flames and the blood and the ritual. I love the fact that these two mismatched but surprisingly similar companions are now bound together with a vow that cannot be sundered. And then our customary “dun dun duuuuuun” moment of each chapter—the fact that the T’lan Imass present have gone hunting the Liosan god.

Oh, how very true. *winks* “Like all men—you hate to say you don’t know and leave it at that. You have an answer to every question, and if you don’t you make one up.” [Bill: See, the reason for this is because back when we had first begun to communicate with language….]

A BLOODY CRUCIFIED DRAGON! Jesus! [Bill: no pun intended?] An OTATARAL DRAGON! [Bill: Do I really need to say file for this one?]

I deeply enjoy the barbed relationship between Pearl and Lostara Yil, though, ye gods, I would never trust him. Oh, I would give a lot to know the names of those who managed to crucify an otataral dragon. I’m sure they will be of great import in the future.

And now we find out that the T’lan Imass were pursuing a FALSE god into the warren of fire. Not Osric, who is elsewhere. So who has been using the Tiste Liosan and pretending to be their god?


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twelve:

It is a “beautiful” description of the armor as Amanda says. I’d also say it’s a bit ominous as well: with both the oil dripping down from it to pool below and the dark stains reminding me of blood.

More Edur fleets. We’ve seen one in the Nascent, K’rul referenced one sacking Callow in MoI. What are they doing out there at sea?

The wry smile from Darist I simply took as “Yeah, sounds like Rake.”

Darist reminds me a bit of Puddleglum (I think that was the name) from the Narnia book The Silver Chair. Or at least, he reminds me of my memory of Puddleglum.

You mentioned, Amanda, how the Edur are more “feral.” Consider the beauty and scope of the Edur ruins Darist and Cutter walk through and what that says about the Edur over time. Especially given the specific words associated with the current ones attacking: “knotted and snarled hair,” “claw and canines” necklaces, “barbarity,” “brutal,” “snarled,” “savage.” A sharp contrast to the language used in relation to the Andii.

I like the ways in which Erikson pulls us along to Darist being Rake’s brother—the sword, the response to the Andii fighting battles not their own, his fighting style.

This is, as Amanda points out, a nicely choreographed fight scene (including that bouncing Edur head—perhaps a little nod to those severed Andii heads we saw on the Silanda.)

As I mentioned before, I don’t fault Erikson for the Apsalar-might-be-dead tease because I never thought it actually was an Apsalar-might-be-dead tease.

So the Andii are all Rake’s kids (white hair was a clue), which hearkens back to a tiny little detail from one of our current characters: Pearl. Anyone recall it?

Apsalar is indeed quite cold in this scene. Is this the beginning of that removal from humanity and compassion that seems to go too often with the road to Ascendancy? Is it inevitable? Watch Cotillion. And soon.

Well, that’s an uplifiting description of the trees, eh? “The smooth, wet wood revealed that the fierce crimson turned black with death.” And a bit ominous for the future as well, at least for one character: “The wounded upright trees reminded Cutter of Darist—of the Tiste Andii’s black skin and the deep red cuts slashing through it”—this coming after mention of the fallen, dead trees.

Yes, certainly file all that info away about Traveler, Amanda.

I like his line about how Shadow is “well-suited” to human nature. I’d call that one of those lines that could sum up this entire series.

Well, we’ve been set up for the humans not having “complete” control of Shadow, and by implication the Shadow Hounds, for some time now. Too bad for Cutter it has to rear its head in concrete form now.

Okay, we’ve seen killing, and we’ve seen killing. And then there’s Cotillion. And we’re not even seeing his biggest act on this island.

And how’s this for a cinematic image: “The air was a mist of suspended blood around the patron god of assassins.”

Note how Cotillion knows that Traveler is dealing with the Edur. Speaks to some experience with him or knowledge of him.

I mentioned above to watch Cotillion with regard to emotion/compassion. Here’s the first sign (since I said that, not the first sign of compassion from Cotillion in the series): his face falling “as if with a sudden, deep sorrow.” Is this sorrow:

  1. at the passing of Darist?
  2. the sight of Apsalar, who is of course only there because of Cotillion?
  3. the thought of Traveler picking up the sword?
  4. two or all of the above
  5. the train from Chicago will pass the train from NYC in 11 hours 17 minutes?

What vengeance does Traveler seek? Whom has he buried? What is the sudden sorrow from Traveler—is it in reference to Apsalar, whom he is talking of? Why? And why would he refer to Cutter as “mortal”? Curiouser and curiouser….

More on the Tanno spiritwalkers. And the Nameless Ones. (A group not to forget by the way.)

I like the anticipation of Cord’s group meeting up with Tavore’s army—they could, as Kalam says, use some vets. Will they in fact meet up though?

I also like the tiny detail about how Kalam’s supplies were an actual burden and literal pain, and might actually kill him by slowing him down, but he needs them to survive. A nice reminder of realism in this world.

Admit it, forgot about those Wolf Gods, didn’t you? Hmm, why do they need a champion? And how’s this for a pretty scary one? Could be very effective in whatever they task it to do. Whose blood will it soon taste?

I, too, love Pust.

So that’s what’s it been this whole time “exuding” from Pust—”famosity.” Who knew?

Yes, Amanda, I had “Miracle Max” in my notes! Now, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get those two voice out of my head everytime I see these two together….

Onrack’s musings are yet another interesting angle from which to view the T’lan Imass and continues a multi-faceted approach to what at first might have seemed a simple or simplistic portrayal: the T’lan Imass as impressively persistent, willing to sacrifice all for good, for their goals. And yet we’ve had that possibility chipped away at time and time again and Onrack is yet another, ahem, tool, for doing so. Immortality in his mind robs the T’lan Imass of any true sense of courage, or maybe even any larger sense of meaning. And the all-encompassing vow that drives them robs them of choice which therefore robs them of “duty” as it robs the word of its meaning. This is a harsh realization to arrive at It also falls along the lines of Ascendancy—how do Ascendants in their immortality fight to retain not just these words but what these words actually represent? What does it mean to act without fear of death?

I like too not only the depth of his feelings but the meta-aspect of them—his questioning of what he is supposed to feel now that he feels this, his realization at how long it has been since feeling even mattered.

I agree with you, Amanda, that sometimes the abstractions, in this case the shadow/darkness/freedom musings of Onrack can make one’s head hurt. I’d love to spit out a few pithy phrases explaining just what he means, but, umm, well, I’d be doing what Lostara accuses all us menfolk are doing. Part of me wants to go along the path of Traveler’s line on how Shadow is “well-suited” as a realm to human nature. The idea that we are indeed shadow—we have within us both pure light and pure darkness, and every now and then perhaps one of us will evince nearly all one or all the other: pick your saint; pick your serial killer. But just about all of us are what happens when light and dark come together—shadow. We are the two halves chained together, never free of the other: at times the dark hating the light, at times the light hating the dark. Bad Kirk, good Kirk. Now, is that what Onrack is talking about now? Or what Erikson is evoking via Onrack or others? I have no idea….

Oh, I also think there’s a sub-plot in there on perception vs. reality and does one create the other or vice versa or are they an inseparable blend, but now my head is hurting and it is late and I have a class to prepare for in old sci fi that was so much easier than this stuff….

I love that dry response: “insubstantial.” Onrack, ladies and gentlemen! Every night this week and twice on Saturday. And don’t forget to tip your waitperson!

I also like his style of bargaining: “No.”

And Trull’s.

We’ve heard before of blood as part of those older gods—who is this one?

Tell me that isn’t an anthropologist speaking when we get the absolutely fantastic imagery of the ancient spirit, the “meaning shaped by symbols and portents, scratchings on rock-faces and in the depths of caves…” I love that passage and having just visited this summer Three Rivers Petroglyphs site, it really spoke to me. By the way, scratchings on cave walls just might play a role here and there… just saying.

As will gods and spirits who dwindle, usually into oblivion, or, on the other hand, those who would prefer not to do so.

I too like the repartee between Lostara and Pearl, though obviously men are taking a beating in it.

Otataral dragon. You know, when I first read this scene, I though “Wow, this is gonna play a major role.” I have to admit, I was shocked that Erikson never mentions it again. (I’m not fooling anyone, am I?)

I will say this, however: I ask you, really, what is the point of showing a chained living dragon?

How cheap is this: “Names . . . The names. the ones who imprisoned the Otataral Dragon!” And then not to give us any. Really? Not even one or two we already know of? That’s cold (ironically enough).

So who did the T’lan Imass kill? Or what? Where did the others chase it to? How will the Liosan react when they find out?

And of course, will Pearl and Lostara marry? And will Pust preside over the ceremony?

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

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


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