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 Two of Toll the Hounds (TtH).
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.
Note: something unexpected came up and Amanda won’t be posting today, though she will catch up to us in the comments. She sends her apologies.)
SCENES ONE AND TWO
Kruppe reacts to the arrival in Darujhistan of various powers. Near Quip’s Bar, a Trygalle Trade Guild carriage arrives with several surviving shareholders: Faint, Reccanto Ilk, Sweetest Sufferance, Glanno Tarp, and the High Mage Master Quell. They enter Quip’s.
Mallet joins Kruppe after having spent the night healing Murillio. He tells Kruppe Murillio is physically healed, but he has concerns about Murillio’s mental state. Mallet leaves, but before he does so, Kruppe promises he’ll find out who put the contract out on the Malazans. After Mallet leaves, Meese wonders if it might have been the Empire, but Kruppe tells her the Empire has a pair of its own assassins in the embassy, so that doesn’t make sense.
Scorch and Leff wait at the docks to see if anyone on their list tries to make a run for it.
SCENES FIVE AND SIX
Gruntle leads a caravan of kelyk (with animated dead guards/drivers) into the city. He tells the merchant who hired him (Sirik) they were attacked by a hundred Dwell raiders and he was the only one who survived, adding he doesn’t know why the dead obeyed his orders. He gets his money and leaves, dreading facing acolytes and a self-proclaimed High Priestess of Trake at his home. He passes by the Trade Guild carriage and thinks how crazy those people are, but then reconsiders in light of his own recent experience, which had gained him relatively little financially.
Torvald Nom lands at the quays and is jumped by Leff and Scorch, his old compatriots, as he’s on their list of debtors. He tells them he’s going to clear his debt and gets them to give him a day to do so, at which point he’ll help them. He heads for home, Moranth alchemicals secreted in his raincape.
The city’s largest ironmonger, Humble Measure, recalls how his adopted father had treasonously tried to open the gates of his home city of One Eye Cat to the Malazan invaders and been executed for his troubles. After seeing his mother and sisters raped and murdered, Humble Measure had been saved by a member of the Crimson Guard and then (after the city fell anyway to the Empire) eventually set free. He’d made his way from there to Pale (taken by the Empire) and then to Darujhistan, the last place left of his father ironmonger business. Here he swears the Empire will not win and he has a plan to stop them, one based on a secret he’d discovered in the centuries-old records of his father’s business. He receives a report that his contract on the Malazans had failed, and he thinks they’ll have to do better next time.
SCENES NINE AND TEN
Spite’s ship lands at the wharfs, crewed by bhok’arala. Cutter chafes at Spite’s argument that anyone disembarking should wait until dusk. She warns him the city has changed and is “poised on the very edge of great danger,” to which he replies he knows and that’s why he’s anxious to leave. Mappo says he plans on leaving to start after Icarium, Pust and Mogora spar, Cutter complains, Barathol says he looks forward to being anonymous in the city, Spite whines about being almost eternal. They all head out in various ways into the ship.
Barathol offers to go with Mappo, but Mappo says he must do it alone, adding he plans on taking shorter, more dangerous paths. They discuss possibilities for Barathol—a blacksmith, a caravan or estate guard. They make their goodbyes.
Pust and Mogora spar some more. Pust decides to visit the Shadow temple. The Mule changes sex.
To Cutter’s relief, Scillara says she’ll tag along with Barathol and Chaur. Scillara thinks how Cutter has changed her; she no longer has her old confidence.
Rallick Nom is awakened by Raest inside the Azath House. Raest tells him Vorcan has escaped, then Rallick leaves.
A bird’s eye view of the city gives us a glimpse of many of the characters going about their business.
That’s a heavy focus on sacrifice in that poem.
Well, you have to know if you’re going to have a Trygalle Trade Guild carriage arrive, you’re sure to see it again later. And there aren’t a lot of people looking to leave this city, which leaves us with only a few possibilities for how this carriage is going to be employed, at least originally.
What do people think so far of these zoom out sort of narratives we get here at the start and at the end of this chapter? Personally, I like both the big picture sense and the lyricism.
So Mallet thinks Murillio’s depression is going to hold back his healing, but Kruppe says his “ministrations” will lead to an end to Murillio’s depression. We’ll have to see.
Kruppe also promises he’ll get to the bottom of this contract out on the Malazans. This one seems a bit more direct than dealing with Murillio. After all, Kruppe has his magic, his powerful contacts (Baruk, K’rul), and let’s not forget his role as the Eel.
Speaking of Kruppe’s contacts, that’s an interesting bit of info he lets drop—a pair of assassins in the Malazan embassy. Keeps the reader wondering just what/who are they there for?
Now this is simply a great reintroduction of Gruntle here. I love this slow approach into the city—the charred wagons, the tattered gauntlets and hood, the “strangely feline eyes,” the shanties like “nests of some oversized carrion bird,” the refugees rising like “ghosts,” and then that great first reveal of the living-dead driver who eventually picks up his “escort of three crows.”
I do want to note one trivial detail here. Back in Coral the humans were drinking “Bastion kelyk” and here Gruntle is bringing in a shipment to Darujhistan. File this.
And I already mentioned the Guild carriage would have to play a role and it’s probably no coincidence that Gruntle walks right by it, thinking a) he’s not making much money as a guard and b) those Trygalle horses are pretty good the way they aren’t scared of him. Hmmmm….
And another old friend connects with a current storyline, as Torvald meets Leff and Scorch and says he’ll help them once he gets his debt squared away. And what might he do with those Moranth containers he’s so worried about breaking?
We’re being introduced to a lot of storylines here, and now comes another: Humble Measure, revealed here to be the source of the contract on the Malazans. A man with an abiding hatred for and grudge against the Empire, a man who doesn’t plan on stopping with the one failed attempt, and a man who found a 600-year-old secret that he plans to use to ensure the Empire will not take this city. One thing I really like about this storyline is the way it shows how events from long, long ago (for the reader) continue to echo down the years and ripple through the narrative. I can think of very few authors who do this as frequently or as well as Erikson—events have effects beyond the first careen in this series, like life, they keep bouncing around, knocking things askew, rebounding, knocking more things askew, which in turn bound off in other directions and knock more things around and on it goes. Think how Pale, for instance, which pretty much happens offstage for us, has had such long-range impact on so many characters/plots already. And here we are thousands of pages later and it continues to do so. I love that about this series. Note too how Humble Measure, despite his attempt to murder characters we love, isn’t made wholly unsympathetic as he’s introduced as a man who has seen his mother and sisters raped, his father executed.
And now more old friends: a shipload of them. I don’t have a lot to say about these few scenes beyond the fact I like the efficiency with which Erikson reminds us of their traits and goals (Cutter’s youth and impatience, Mappo’s need to catch up to Icarium, etc.) and also to point out we have yet another expression, via Spite, of the way being long-lived isn’t all life in endless paradise (and even if it is, even paradise may pale).
Jaghut humor. Big fan. And it will only get better.
I love the close of this chapter, the big picture view of all these characters moving throughout the city setting, the lyricism of the language. I mentioned back in the prologue that there was a focus on arrivals and waiting for arrivals, for meetings, and we see it here as well. These characters aren’t yet being moved into place; they’re just being moved onto the narrative board. We’ve got the arrivals (though not all); we have yet to get the meetings.