Malazan Reread of the Fallen

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

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 Twenty-One 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.

Chapter Twenty-One


Febryl heads toward a meeting with Reloe. He thinks how the world is “plunging into chaos” but also how “the past was not dead. It merely slept. The perfect, measured resurrection of old patterns could achieve a rebirth.” He recalls his service to the Holy Falah’d Enqura in the Holy City of Ugarat during a time of renaissance when its eleven great schools were rediscovering lost knowledge and beginning to open up a new world. But the Malazan invasion had destroyed all that, though it had been Febryl himself—under order of the Falah’d—who had destroyed the knowledge: burning all the texts and crucifying the scholars (those they didn’t kill themselves) so that the Malazans got nothing. Febryl considers that act his “last gesture of loyalty, of pure unsullied courage.” Afterward, his parent had disowned him and he killed them and their servants with sorcery, magic that left him “old beyond his years, wrinkled and withered, his bones brittle and bent.” His appearance so changed, he was able to evade the search set for him by the Holy Falah’d. He thinks “unforgivable” though he is unsure to which act he applies the word: the destruction of all that knowledge (even other Falad’han, along with the Malazans, had considered it “the foulest deed of all), the murder of his parents, the evasion of the Holy Falah’d? The problem was Sha’ik knew all of it, and “no possessor of his secrets would be permitted to live. He refused to be so vulnerable . . . And so she must be removed.” Thus his plotting with the Malazans, though he knows Dom’s plans go far beyond the Whirlwind toward imperial power. He knows as well that Mallick Rel, now heading toward Aren to surrender himself and be brought before the Empress, is part of that plotting. He imagines Rel will “announce an extraordinary reversal of fortunes in Seven Cities. Korbolo Dom had been working in her interests all along . . . Pormqual would be made the singular focus for the debacle of Coltaine’s death and the slaying of the High Fist’s army. The Jhistal would slip through . . . Dom had agents in the palace in Unta.” But Febryl believes he will outwit them as each of the conspirators lie to each other. He meets Reloe and four of Dom’s assassins. Reloe is anxious for Febryl to immediately open a path for them, but Febryl says Reloe needs to know more about it, explaining: “The goddess was a spirit once . . . But what kind of spirit? One that rides the desert winds, you might think. But you are wrong . . . Raraku holds the bones of countless civilizations, leading back to the First Empire, the empire of Dessimbelackis. And still further . . . The First Empire of Dessimbelackis was not the first. That belonged to the T’lan Imass. There was little, it is true, that you or I might recognize as being ‘Imperial.’ No cities. No breaking of the ground . . . There was a throne of course, upon which was meant to sit a mortal—the progeny race of the T’lan Imass . . . Alas, humans viewed empire differently. And their vision did not include T’lan Imass. Thus, betrayal. Then war. An unequal contest, but the T’lan Imass were reluctant to annihilate their mortal children. And so they left.” Reloe picks up the history, noting the T’lan Imass returned with the Soletaken/D’ivers ritual, then asks if the goddess of the Whirlwind is T’lan Imass, though he points out her rage is unlike them. Febryl says that’s true, “unless she had reason. Memories of a betrayal, perhaps from her mortal life. A wound too deep to be eradicated by the Ritual of Tellann.” Reloe inquires if the Ritual still binds her and Febryl answers no, “She broke those chains long ago and has reclaimed her soul—Raraku’s secret gifts are those of life and death . . . It returned to her all that she had lost—perhaps even the rebirth of her rage. Raraku remains the deepest mystery of all, for it holds its own memories, of the sea, of life’s very own waters. And memories are power.” Reloe tells him to open the path and as he begins to do so, Febryl thinks how the Malazans will owe him and so Seven Cities will be freed of Malazan troops and influence and “our civilization shall flower once more.”


L’oric senses the approach of something “bestial and wild with power . . . Ancient wars, such is the feel of this, as of enmity reborn, a hatred that defies millennia.” He feels that none in the oasis are the target, but they are in the way of it. In his tent, he finds “The Whirlwind’s rage had never before been so fierce . .. . The final clash of wills was fast approaching. This was, in truth, a convergence, and the currents had trapped other powers, pulling them along with relentless force. And behind it all, the whispers of a song.” He thinks he should run, take Felisin and maybe Heboric and do so quickly, but his curiosity holds him—”truths [would be] revealed and he would know them. I came to Raraku because I sense my father’s presence, somewhere close.” He wonders what the Queen of Dreams meant when she’d said Osric was “lost,” and thinks how “Kurald Thyrllan had been born of violence, the shattering of Darkness. The Elder Warren had since branched off in many directions, reaching to within the grasp of mortal humans as Thyr. And before that, in the guise of life-giving fire, Tellann . . . a powerful presence here in Seven Cities, obscure and buried deep perhaps, but pervasive . . . Whereas Kurald Thyrllan has been twisted and left fraught by the shattering of its sister warren. There were no easy passages into Thyrllan.” He decides, then, to try Tellann. He dons Liosan armor and sword, though “He despised fighting. Unlike his Liosan kin, he was averse to harsh judgment, to the assertion of a brutally delineated world-view that permitted no ambiguity. He did not believe order could be shaped by a sword’s edge. Finality, yes, but finality stained with failure.”


L’oric reaches Karsa’s grove and find Felisin asleep. He faces the seven faces of the Teblor “gods” and realizes their spirits were gone and the grove was not sacred to something else. The “gods” had left behind a trail though, that he thinks he can use to enter the Tellann Warren. He enters and finds himself beside a huge lake, realizing quickly “I am in the wrong place, or the wrong time. This is Raraku’s most ancient memory.” He startles a hyena the size of a bear then heads off down the path it left as it ran away. He comes across the humanoid corpse the hyena had been feeding on: “As tall as a normal man [with] a pelt of find dark hair . . . Sloped forehead, solid chinless jaw, a brow ridge so heavy it formed a contiguous shelf over the deep-set eye sockets . . . More ape-like than a T’lan Imass. The skull behind the face is smaller as well. Yet it stood taller by far, more human in proportion. What manner of man was this?” He moves on, though he has no place in mind to get to. He believes he has found not Tellann but “what lay beneath Tellann . . . Toblakai’s glade was not a place freshly sanctified by the giant warrior . . . It had, at the very beginning, belonged to Raraku, to whatever natural power the land possessed.” He sees a herd of huge cattle-like creatures suddenly panic and stampede, then hides as he sees what caused the panic: “Seven hounds, black as midnight, of a size to challenge the wild antlered cattle . . . And flanking them, like jackals flanking a pride of lions, a score or more of the half-human creatures such as the one he had discovered at the lakeshore. They were clearly subservient, in the role of scavengers to predators. No doubt there was some mutual benefit to the partnership, though L’oric could imagine no real threat in this world to those dark hounds. And there was no doubt in his mind, those hounds did not belong here. Intruders. Strangers to this realm, against which nothing in this world can challenge. They are the dominators, and they know it.” He then notices three K’Chain Che’Malle tracking the hounds and thinks “Not of this realm either, if my father’s thoughts on the matter are accurate. He was Rake’s guest for months in Moon’s Spawn, delving its mysteries. But the K’Chain Che’Malle cities lie on distant continents. Perhaps they only recently arrived here, seeking new sites for their colonies, only to find their dominance challenged. The hounds and semi-humans appear not to notice the K’Chain, who follow them after they disappear into a basin. Suddenly the K’ell Hunters are attacked, two of them falling quickly to the hounds while the third runs away, unpursued. L’oric heads away, but then sees the hounds and humans look in his direction, then follow him. A dragon swoops down, grabs him in its talons and lifts him into the sky, carrying him far out to sea to an island tower where it deposits him. L’oric faces the dragon and tells it “Father, I’ve been looking for you.”


L’oric tells his father, back in Liosan form, how the Queen of Dreams had thought him lost and Osric replies, “I am. Or rather, I was. Further, I would remain so.” When L’oric asks if Osric trusts her, his father answers yes, but his trust is “purer by her ignorance.” Osric asks what L’oric is doing there and L’oric says he doesn’t even know where he is, and that he was looking for “truths.” Osric calls his tower an observation point to spot the K’Chain Che’Malle skykeeps as they near the area. L’oric makes the connection to Osric’s studies of Moon’s Spawn and asks what he’d learned that Rake had overlooked. Osric says lots, noting that Moon’s Spawn had shown evidence of being attacked and breached and mentions how he and Rake had discovered it in a glacier that had carried it a thousand leagues from the crash site. L’oric asks if Osric is saying Moon’s Spawn was one of the skykeeps where they are and Osric answers yes, adding three have appeared during his stay there and all were destroyed by the Deragoth—”The Hounds of Darkness. The seven beasts that Dessimbelackis made pact with—and oh, weren’t the Nameless Ones shaken by that unholy alliance? The seven beasts, L’oric, that gave the name to Seven cities . . . The Seven Holy Cities of our time are not the original ones, of course. Only the number has survived.” L’oric asks what happened to the Deragoth, “Why are they here and not there?” Osric replies he doesn’t know, though he wonders if it had to do with the collapse of the First Empire. Questioned as to which warren they’re now in, Osric tells L’oric it isn’t a warren at all, but “a memory. Soon to end, I believe, since it is shrinking . . . Raraku’s [memory].” L’oric changes the subject to the semi-humans. Osric calls them “the Deragoth’s only act of domestication” and when L’oric declares they aren’t human or even T’lan Imass, Osric says “they will be, one day” describing how he’s also seen them in partnership with wolf packs, their taller vision supplementing the wolves’ hearing and smell. While the wolves are in charge, Osric believes that will eventually change, though the relationship between the Deragoth and semi-humans will not, “because something is about to happen. Here in this trapped memory. I only hope that I will be privileged to witness it.” L’oric wonders if the Deragoth are the children of Mother Dark and Osric say no, “they have that stench about them, but in truth I have no idea. It just seemed an appropriate name.” When L’oric corrects his translation of Tiste Andii, Osric says he’s just like his mother, whom he couldn’t stand the company of past three days (the feeling was mutual). When L’oric wants to know how long his father could stand his only son’s company, Osric answers “three bells” rather than three days. L’oric tells him before he leaves that Osric probably should know that the Liosan and Thyrllan warren have lost their protector and “pray for your return.” Osric tells him to just get another familiar, but L’oric says it isn’t that easy then gets angry, asking if Osric has no sense of responsibility to the Liosan who worship him. But Osric argues they worship themselves and he just happens to be “a convenient figurehead,” adding that Kurald Thyrllan really isn’t vulnerable despite appearances. L’oric, though, wonders if he can be so sure if the Deragoth do turn out to be servants of Darkness. Osric is silenced then heads out as L’oric follows. Osric takes his dragon form, “Like Anomander Rake, Osric was more dragon than anything else. They were kin in blood, if not in personality.” L’oric wishes he knew his father better, as well as wishing he liked him. When Osric reaches out a talon, L’oric says he’d rather ride his back, but Osric just ignores him.


Osric flies toward mountains, landing at the edge of the memory. “There were things near the faded edge of the memory” and Osric explained that various creatures—”demons mostly” appear near the “verge.” They stop before one such, “dog-sized and reptilian, with four hands similar to an apes. A wide, flat head with a broad mouth, two slits for nostrils, and four liquid, slightly protruding eyes in a diamond pattern.” L’oric mentally communicates with it and it understands both him and the bargain L’oric offers: “A partnership, a binding of spirits. Power from you, power from me. In exchange for my life. Uneven bargain. Position devoid of clout.” L’oric says he’ll save it anyway and the demon says save him and then they can talk of an alliance. L’oric says fine and when Osric worries that without a binding L’oric might be betrayed, L’oric says he’ll risk it. The demon is excited that L’oric has a father that is an eleint (dragon). It gives his name as Greyfrog.


L’oric and Greyfrog return to Raraku via portal, with L’oric wishing he’d asked more questions of Osric and thinking his long-anticipated meeting with him had seemed mere “distraction” to his father: “Osric’s interest was with Osric. His own pursuits.” Greyfrog says he smells raw meat and is hungry and as they head off to find food, L’oric explains there are rules about what Greyfrog can kill and not kill.


Sha’ik looks to the coming battle: “Vengeance had been her lifeblood for so long, now, within days, she would come face to face with her sister.” She believes she holds all the cards: a more experienced and larger army, familiar territory, Elder magic, better and more mages. But despite all that she remains “terrified . . . She wanted to run. The game was too hard, too fraught. Its final promise was cold—colder than she had ever imagined. Vengeance is a wasted emotion, yet I have let it consume me. I gave it like a gift to the goddess. Fragments of clarity—they were diminishing . . . as the hold of the Whirlwind Goddess tightened on her soul. My sister traded me for the faith of the Empress . . . all to serve her ambition . . . And I in turn have traded my freedom for the power of the Whirlwind Goddess so that I can deliver just vengeance against my sister. Are we, then, so different?” She realizes the goddess is keeping her from thinking overmuch. Bidithal arrives and the two banter about shadows. Bidithal says he was never a Meanas priest and Sha’ik responds, “No, here it was Rashan, ghost-child of Kurald Galain, yet the warren it claimed was, nonetheless, Shadow. We are both well aware that the distinctions diminish the closer one delves into the mysteries of the most ancient triumvirate.” She asks he sends shadows to spy on her and he replies that perhaps they are protectors. She wonders from what and he says he is near to learning “the precise nature of the threat,” though now he is more concerned with L’oric and Heboric, telling her “We are at the heart of a convergence and not just between us and the Malazans.” He notes that Heboric is a priest yet again, and when she starts to argue that Fener is gone, he interrupts to say it is Treach, not Fener, to whom Heboric is now connected. Sha’ik refuses to believe either Heboric would accept another god or that a god would choose Heboric, but he informs her that despite that, Treach has chosen Heboric as Destriant. She is silenced at first, then says where else would a god of war be then here, though she says she will think on the matter. Bidithal tries to convince her that a newly-powered Heboric can be a threat due to his “ambivalence to our cause,” but she doesn’t buy it. As for L’oric, Bidithal is suspicious over how L’oric has become “more elusive” and more “extreme” in his attempts to hide his comings and goings. Sha’ik says she has no concern over him and orders Bidithal to call off his shadows and focus on Febryl, Dom, and Reloe. He says fine and after a moment’s close look, she tells him to “be careful,” at which he “pales slightly” then nods and responds, “I am ever that.” She dismisses him and he leaves, thinking to himself he will not call off his shadows at all and looking forward to when “this fragment of shattered warren would become a realm unto itself. And the Whirlwind Goddess would see the need for a priesthood, a structure of power in the mortal world . . . and there would be no place for Sha’ik.” He turns his mind to the conspirators, suspecting that “Febryl’s alliance with the Napan and Kamist Reloe was but temporary . . . [holding] a hidden, final betrayal, one concluding in the mutual annihilation of every interest but his own. And I cannot pierce to the truth . . . I must side for Sha’ik, for it will be her hand that crushes the conspirators.” His thoughts are interrupted by the appearance of Febryl himself, who declares the moment is now for Bidithal to declare whether he will join the conspirators or stand aside. Bidithal asks if there is a third choice and Febryl says not if he means fighting against them. He informs Bidithal that his reward –whether he joins or just steps aside—will be a High Priest of the cult of the Apocalypse, “ensconced in a vast, rich temple . . . How would you shape such a cult? . . . you have already begun, Bidithal. We know all about your special children. Imagine . . . all of Seven Cities, honored to deliver you their unwanted daughters.” Bidithal tries to argue for more time, but Febryl says it’s too late, they’ve already begun, agents are in place, tasks have been given. Bidithal says he accepts so long as the cult is his alone to shape and Febryl says he guarantees it. When Bidithal asks about Dom and Reloe, Febryl replies “What worth their vows? The Empress had Korbolo Dom’s once. Sha’ik did as well,” to which Bidithal thinks, “As she had yours too, Febryl.” Febryl leaves and Bidithal realizes he truly had no third option, that Febryl had been dismissive of Bidithal’s shadows and would have killed him if he’d said no. He wonders what had made Febryl so confident. He heads back to his temple, thinking “You do not dismiss what you know nothing of . . . He felt vulnerable.”


Scillara tries to think through a haze of durhang over what had just happened a few moments ago—Febryl telling Dom something about her master Bidithal. She barely recalls a time when her mind was clear, though she suspects those were relatively unpleasant times anyway and so no great loss. But she wishes she were more lucid so as to better serve Bidithal, and hopes perhaps by doing so she’ll be able to help with his “freeing” of the new girls. She sits up and, feeling the heaviness of her breasts, wonders if she is pregnant. She heads out of the tent but one of the guards this time follow her, telling her “Febryl has wearied of your spying. He wants Bidithal blind and deaf in this camp. It grieves me, Scillara. It does. Truly . . . It’s a mercy I think, and I will make it as painless as possible. For I liked you once.” As he speaks of having sex with her first, she tries to understand that he’s talking of killing her. As he rapes her, she grabs the knife he’d laid aside and stabs him, killing him as he orgasms. She rolls him off and sits up, thinking “I am a vessel ever filled, yet there’s always room for more. More durhang. More men and their seeds. My master found my place of pleasure and removed it. Ever filled, yet never filled up. There is no base to this vessel. This is what he has done. To all of us.” The other guard appears, punches her to near-unconsciousness, then drags her off to kill her and dispose of the body. He stops suddenly and a figure emerges and kills him, a figure with a strangely glowing (green) hand, “a hand taloned like a huge cat’s.” Her savior, Heboric, tells her he’s been looking for her, “or so I’ve just realized. Extraordinary, how single lives just fold into the whole mess, over and over again, all caught up in the greater swirl. Spinning round and round, and ever downward it seems. Ever downward. Fools, all of us, to think we can swim clear of that current.” He places his hand on her and heals her: “a tremble ran through her. That spread, coursing hot through her veins. .. along her throat, in her lungs, between her legs. The man grunted. ‘I thought it was just consumption . . . too much durhang. As for the rest, well, it’s an odd thing about pleasure. Something Bidithal would have you never know. Its enemy is not pain. No, pain is simply the path taken to indifference. And indifference destroys the soul. Of course, Bidithal likes destroyed souls—to mirror his own.’ . . . Sensations long lost flooded into her.” He tells her he’ll take her to his temple where she’ll be safe, adding he thinks he’ll need her help, though “the choice is yours. Nor will you have to surrender anything you don’t want to. And if you choose to simply walk away, that is fine as well. I will give you money and a supplies and maybe even find you a horse.” He introduces himself as Heboric, Destriant to Treach, the Tiger of Summer and the God of War. She says she’s sorry, but she’s “had my fill of priests,” but he says so has he.


Felisin and L’oric watch Greyfrog eat and L’oric introduces him as his new familiar. He tells her she needs to leave as soon as possible and he will follow as soon as he can. He adds he will send Greyfrog with her and, he hopes, one other. She says she’s ready to leave, that she no longer dreams of vengeance against Bidithal. When she asks if that is cowardly of her, he tells her Bidithal will be taken care of “in a manner befitting his crimes,” though he says it will not be by his hands: “There will be a convergence Felisin. With some unexpected guests. And I do not think anyone here will survive their company for long. There will be vast slaughter.” He will stay, however, for he still seeks answers. He leaves her with Greyfrog.


Heboric and L’oric meet, with Heboric making no attempt at hiding his nature as Treach’s Destriant, knowing it would be futile. They agree battle is soon and L’oric wants Heboric to take Felisin away tonight. Heboric agrees, though he says it won’t be tonight and that there will be a third—”a certain poetry to there being three of us.” Both agree that they will leave Bidithal to his fate.


Leoman and Corabb watch the Malazans. The two of them are exhausted from the non-stop harassment they’ve given to Tavore’s army, sufficient to bleed them but not turn them, though Corabb thinks given enough soldiers they could have.   They’re down to only 700 rebels left, and now the Malazans will be at the Whirlwind by dusk.  Leoman says they will pass through, there will be battle and “Korbolo Dom will command . . . you and I and likely Mathok shall  . . . watch . . . Our war is done.”  The two head into the Whirlwind.


Karsa has been riding back for some time and he nears Raraku, sensing the battle is nigh. He wants to be there, “not to kill Malazans but to guard Leoman’s back . . . there are those in camp who deserve only death. And I shall deliver it . . . I have tolerated the deceitful and the malicious for long enough. My sword shall now answer them.”  He speaks o Siballe who tells him he is with her in the House of Chains, he is the Knight of Chains and the Crippled God will “not expect you to kneel [will] issue no commands to his Mortal Sword, his Knight of Chains—for that is what you are, the role for which you have been shaped from the very beginning.”  Karsa refuses the role or another “false god” and says the Crippled God has much to answer for. She tells him the other gods chained him to dead ground and he has been twisted by his long torment. Karsa says he will break the god’s chains, and then he will kill him.


Bill’s Reaction to Chapter Twenty-One

“The past was not dead. It merely slept. The perfect, measured resurrection of old patterns could achieve a rebirth.”

“The past was not dead” could certainly serve as one of the 2-3 most basic of taglines for this series (“summarize Proust in fifteen seconds—you’re on . . .”) And even when the past is “dead” it often isn’t, you know, “dead dead”, something to keep in mind for the finale of this book. The second half of Febryl’s point is less solid, I’d say. It’s another appropriate line for this series and this book, but also has some echoes of the genre as a whole. We’ve already mentioned how much of this book is a “measured resurrection of old patterns”—Tavore retracing the path of Coltaine in both literal and less literal fashion. Heboric and Felisin beginning a move toward a journey that is in many way a retracing of Heboric’s first group journey, complete with a Felisin. And we’ve had characters in this book and others talk of the seeming compulsion we (people) have to keep tracing and retracing the same circular path, no matter that it brings us to self-destruction or misery.

I’ve said before that I think at least some of the goal of some of the characters in this series is to blow up (Moranth munitions anyone?) that repetitive zombie-like shuffle over the same old ground, so when Febryl starts talking of this, we’ve already been set up to see this as an unappealing goal. Though one that often strikes a chord in people as we always seem to have this sense that the past contains some sort of “golden age”—though typically it was gold for some and raw sewage for others. In genre terms, how many fantasy novels have Febryl’s hope as their own core? This idea of a restoration of the status quo so everything will turn up roses again at the return of the king, or the prince, or the princess, or the return of the magical artifact back to the mantle over the fireplace, or the Orb of Galumph back atop the Staff of Galuph, etc. So often fantasy is a glorified return to the static past—that is the plot’s goal—here, I’d argue, not so much.

Boy, that conflagration of texts hits me so hard in the gut every time I read it. As good old Kurtz would say “the horror, the horror” of all that knowledge going up in flames (not to mention of course the crucifixion of the scholars themselves). And of course, we’ve seen this far too many times in human history. Hard to feel any empathy for Febryl upon knowing he performed this act. Especially as he sees it as his last “unsullied” gesture, though perhaps not as clearly as he once did: “Three betrayals, or two? Was the destruction of all that knowledge . . . the foulest deed of all? . . . Three, not two?”

I like that little nod to Kellanved’s “lust for foreign secrets” and “thirst for knowledge”.

The veil of secrecy and mystery surrounding the Whirlwind Goddess is now starting to be torn apart. We’ve had several guesses as to her nature, including Pearl’s very recent reference to her as a small zephyr (an assumption Febryl points to as a common error—thinking her a spirit that rides the “desert winds.”) Now we’re told she is T’lan Imass, one who perhaps has “memories of a betrayal from her mortal life, a wound too deep to be eradicated by the Ritual of Tellann.” I’ll just say that we have been offered up so far one female T’lan Imass who was betrayed and emotionally wounded. The clues are there to figure this one out at this point.

Interesting take on the relationship between the T’lan Imass and humanity—with humans being called the “progeny” of the T’lan Imass and “their mortal children”, something that has been alluded to before. And while I’d like to argue against that ungrateful image of the humans viewing empire “differently” and that vision not having room for non-humans, well, it’s kinda hard not to nod in agreement with that concept.

The Tellann Ritual has taken its knocks repeatedly since we were first introduced to the concept, and here we get a common phrasing about being released from it akin to “breaking chains” (obviously an appropriate image for this book), but I’m not sure we’ve seen anything so succinctly harsh as being freed of the vow meaning “reclaiming” one’s “soul”. That’s a pretty strong indictment of the ritual.

“Raraku . . . holds its own memories of the sea, of life’s very own waters. And memories are power.” File.

“a hatred that defies millennia” File.

More from L’oric on the warrens—how the Elder Warren of Kurald Thyrllan branched or spawned Tellann for the T’lan Imass and then in turn Thyr for human usage.

I’m not sure, but I think this may be the first reference we’ve had to the shattering of Kurald Emurlahn having a destructive effect on other warrens as well as, in L’oric’s musings, the way it left Kurald Thyrllan “twisted” and “fraught” and with “no easy passages.”

It’s a bit interesting to me, L’oric’s self-estimation of himself as one averse to “harsh judgment.” Certainly in relation to the Liosan we’ve seen (and will see) this is true, but my memory is we see some self-righteous or perhaps merely priggish judgment from him coming up. Maybe I’m misremembering, or maybe this is the usual blind-to-one’s-own-flaws.

“He did not believe order could be shaped by a sword’s edge.” Hmm, seems to be a guiding principle of the T’lan Imass, as well as his Liosan kin, not to mention a good number of humans.

The scene way back in time (Raraku’s “oldest” memory) offers up a few tidbits to us. As usual, it’s yet another example of the past beneath, in this case, the past beneath the past, as L’oric aims for Tellann and gets what lies below Tellann instead.

We see the Deragoth, who obviously are going to play a major role in current events as well. Note they are called “intruders” into this realm by L’oric. And we get a more concrete connection between them and Dessimbelackis and between their name/number and the Seven Holy Cities.

We see a proto-human group as subservient scavengers—we’ll hear/see more about them in future books.

We finally meet Osric, who is about as indifferent to events in “real-time” as one could be, and is yet another example of one who is or could be worshipped as a god but prefers not to be.

I have to say, I’m kind of curious as to how the Deragoth are taking down the skykeeps. The K’Chain themselves, I can see (and we obviously did just see), but I’m not sure what Osric means when he says, “Three (skykeeps) have come in the time that I have been here. None survived the Deragoth.” Maybe it’s just shorthand for their crew?

One wonders if Osric’s mention of certain scholars’ “species-bound arrogance” is Erikson’s personal frustration at academic closed-mindedness.

Amidst all the backstory and complex plot points mentioned in this scene, I do love the understated humor set up by the prickly back and forth between father and son, and Osric’s “so like your mother” kind of lines.

Welcome to Greyfrog—he’ll be joining us for some time.

And to Scillara, whose story is just beginning. She has been, as she said, emptied. Emptied by Bidithal’s “fixing” of her, emptied by her Durhang usage, emptied by her mistreatment, emptied by her submission to the above. And what has “filled her” has been formless and insubstantive—the smoke of durhang, the seed of men—and because of that, there is no true filling. Now she has been saved and healed by Heboric, she’s been given a second chance, she’s been given a “base of her vessel”—will she choose to fill it and if so, with what?

The tragic aspect of Sha’ik/Felisin continues as the girl inside the goddess tries to fight for lucidity, tries for some self-examination, but ultimately fails.

Another reference to “indifference” as insidious and evil in its impact.

“There will be vast slaughter.” Yes. Yes, there will be.

So we have Karsa formally named Knight of Chains, but he clearly has some issues with the whole idea; this may be the tiger by the tail for the Crippled God.

Note the more sympathetic portrayal of the Crippled God, however: “They chained him [a phrased we are by now conditioned to react negatively to as readers], Karsa Orlong, to dead ground. He is broken. In eternal pain. He has been twisted by captivity [not only a more sympathetic portrayal but a semi-justifying one] and now knows only suffering.” Watch this as we move forward.

I’ve said in the last few posts how the pieces are moving into place, and in this chapter we’re staring to see the characters themselves beginning to feel this truth: Sha’ik feeling the nearness of her sister, L’oric feeling the approach of something, Bidithal here in his conversation warning Sha’ik that a convergence is coming, one that is far broader than the relatively simple Seven Cities-Malaz conflict.

This impending convergence is quickly emphasized by Febryl’s conversation with Bidithal, which makes clear we’re to the point of no return for many of these characters, that the pace is quickening so much that hangers-back will no longer be tolerated; people will have to make their choices and make them now. No more procrastination.

And choices are being made. Febryl has made his choice and his move to kill Scillara. Scillara has killed in turn, has chosen to live. Heboric has chosen to no longer be passive, and thus kills the guard, declaring himself forthrightly as Treach’s agent. L’oric wants Felisin out tonight. Corabb and Leoman our done and heading for Raraku. The Malazan army will arrive at dawn. Karsa has his horse and is moving toward the oasis, sensing the battle is “imminent,” and preparing to kill those who “deserve death” (an idea coming just after both L’oric and Heboric have separately argued to leave Bidithal to his “fate” which is “coming”—just saying…).

We are truly on the eve of battle here. Or really, eve of battles . . .

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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