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 the second half of Chapter Seventeen 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.
Bill is going to be in and out until Wednesday 7th August, doing various fun things with his family on vacation. I will be doing the chapter recaps and posting alone (apologies in advance)—Bill has dropped in for this installment to make comments, but we shouldn’t rely on it. And, indeed, he should be enjoying his holiday!
Barathol and Scillara are talking about various matters, but beneath this chat are deeper feelings and confessions from both of them. Barathol is worried that Scillara might leave him in her wake as she moves onto someone else; he wants something more permanent. They talk about her feelings for Cutter, and she says she’s not broken-hearted. As they’re about to kiss, a delegation of City Guard come to take Barathol into custody for not following some more of their daft rules. Scillara hurries off to find an advocate, cursing her luck in men.
A truly scary saunter into the mind of Chaur, where his love and hate are described. Love that he feels when contented and with people he likes; hate that he feels and that has to find a way to escape. And this escape is through fists and fury against the guards, leaving Barathol devastated.
Some stuff that compounds how petty and nasty Gorlas is: “It’s my smile of indulgence.” Then a discussion about this discovery of red iron and the question of how Barathol got his hands on it—can he create it from ordinary iron? At the end of the section a cart approaches.
Murillio arrives at the mine with blisters and the intention of buying back Harllo. However, Gorlas recognises him and his part in the death of Turban Orr, and manipulates Murillio into calling him out for a duel. Murillio makes some barbed comments about Challice and her “popularity” just before they start the duel.
Krute tells Rallick Nom that he is going back to the Guild, and that Seba has asked him to take part in a new contract. He refuses to turn it down, even though Rallick offers to buy his retirement.
Rallick heads back towards the Phoenix Inn, knowing that he is ready to “stir things awake.”
Barathol drags Chaur away from the scene and, as pursuit begins, tells the childlike giant to make for the ship and Lady Spite. He then tries to stop the guards from capturing Chaur, but is beaten into unconsciousness then dragged off to gaol.
Kruppe talks on and on. Cutter ignores him. Kruppe tries to be less talky and to warn Cutter of something in his future. Cutter continues to ignore him and walks off, no doubt drawn back to Challice.
Bedek and Myrla meet the Prophet of the Crippled God, who blesses them and tells them that they are creatures that the Crippled God will welcome, while Harllo is not. Bedek dies from the crush of people, while Myrla suffers gangrene from the touch of the Prophet.
Gorlas and Murillio begin their duel, before which Murillio tries to give money to the foreman to buy Harllo but is turned down. In fact, Gorlas has now marked the name of Harllo, which possibly leaves the boy in a worse position. Gorlas strikes first blood in the duel and Murillio thinks it is over, but then Gorlas announces it was to the death and kills Murillio.
Gorlas tells the foreman that the body of Murillio should be shipped back to the Phoenix Inn. And then demands that Harllo is brought to him.
The ox takes Murillio’s body back to Darujhistan and reflects on life.
This is a very sweet conversation to start this section, between Barathol and Scillara. To those looking in, it would seem as though Scillara is bouncing from one person to another, while she feels as though she is seeking. She seems to have her heart set on Barathol, despite his caution and words of warning, and I worry a little about the outcome. I mean, she says she’s changed, but do people change so much? Will she find what she seeks in Barathol or will she indeed leave him in her wake? I wouldn’t want Barathol to get hurt.
In the meantime, he has his hands full with more spurious rules that are made up to try and put him out of business. Amusing, yes, but with a dark undertone—the determination to ensure that this outsider will not be able to conduct business.
This glimpse into the “simple” mind of Chaur is genuinely scary, and makes me think about psychopaths and those with no behavioural controls. This bit here: “His object called hate had a thing about blood” really makes me shudder—the idea that his hate is somehow separate from him, and that it lusts after the look and smell of blood.
I think the worst part of the section where Chaur destroys the guards is the final look on Barathol’s face as Chaur gives him “pleased, excited eyes,” as though he’s done a good thing.
Doing the summaries as well as giving my reaction to said summaries makes me realise just how clever Erikson is with his writing. See, in more simplistic books you can easily spot Chekov’s gun. You mark it and know it, and wait to see it again. While summarising the part with the foreman and Gorlas, I had no idea whether the red iron and the fact that Barathol possibly knows how to create it will be a factor in the remaining story or not. It keeps a reader attentive, for sure!
Oh damn… This duel between Murillio and Gorlas—the fact that Murillio has these blisters and a tired resignation about life. Well, it just doesn’t bode well in my mind. Besides, I suspect that Gorlas and Cutter have a face to face meeting in their future which means that Murillio is unlikely to survive this encounter. And it makes me sad, especially after his recent life has been so unfulfilled.
Also? Damn right about blisters: “To others, the affliction seemed trivial, a minor irritation—and when there were years between this time and the last time one had suffered from them, it was easy to forget, to casually dismiss just how debilitating they truly were.”
Again, this is a Nom I can get behind: Rallick’s attempt to remove Krute from the assassin showdown he intends to begin shows a compassionate nature.
This is darkly funny: “Chaur was bawling with all the indignant outrage of a toddler justly punished, astonished to discover that not all things were cute and to be indulged by adoring caregivers—that, say, shoving a sibling off a cliff was not quite acceptable behaviour.” I think it’s so disturbing because we know what Chaur did!
And I love that, despite Chaur’s actions, Barathol still seeks to protect him and to put him into the care of another. That is the sort of protective care that I could see be very appealing to Scillara.
You know, if Kruppe really wants people to take heed of his words, then he should speak more clearly. But, I guess, if he speaks more clearly of warnings, then he would also speak clearly of things that people perhaps should not know. In any case, I can’t see Kruppe changing. It’s just that he seems so sad and can see a tragic ending to current events, but seems unable to do anything to prevent it.
This that Kruppe says fills me with great foreboding: “…this is a grave day, I am saying. A day of the misguided and the misapprehended, a day of mischance and misery. A day in which to grieve the unanticipated, this yawning stretch of too-late that follows fell decisions…” Does any of that sound cheerful?
You know, it is horrifying what has happened to Bedek and Myrla, but, to be honest, although I feel pity for their loss of Harllo, I never grew close to them as characters. I’m more intrigued by what this shows about the Crippled God—the fact that Harllo is lost to him, since he has knowledge within his soul. At least, I assume the Prophet talks about Harllo, but then I have my suspicion when re-reading the passage that the Prophet actually talks about Snell, since Harllo is not their true son. But, either way, the Crippled God will only accept those to him who are deserving of pity? Is that what this means?
See? Murillio’s storyline really wasn’t going anywhere good, was it? And now he’s dead. But, almost worse than that, he’s brought Harllo to the attention of Gorlas who is quite capable of using the boy ferociously. So all Murillio’s efforts were for less than nothing, which is a sad way to die.
Also, Gorlas? A complete dick.
So Scillara and Barathol seem to be moving toward something here. I like how this comes in fits and starts and awkwardness and misunderstandings and silences before it starts to make some movement—lends it a bit of reality. And I like the honesty of it as well. For instance, the way Scillara chooses not to try and pretend Barathol hasn’t a reason for phrasing things as he does. The problem, though, is that as readers we’ve got to now start getting nervous, as we know what often happens when good things start to seem to be around the corner.
This armor imagery is one we’ve seen from the very start in GoTM, beginning with Whiskeyjack. An oldie but a goodie…
And is this where things start to go bad—the arrest, Chaur’s violence, and the aftermath? We’ll have to see; it certainly doesn’t bode well.
This meeting between Gorlas and the foreman is another example of the contrasting forms of evil we’re presented with in this book. The foreman is the evil of indifference. Note how easily he glides over the deaths of the young children in the mine and moves immediately on the excitement of the find:
“How many losses this week?”
“Three. Average, sir, that’s average as can be. One mole in a cave-in, the others died of the greyface sickness. We got the new vein producing now. Would you believe, it’s red iron!”
Gorlas, meanwhile, is the more obvious and typically villainous evil—deliberate, premeditated, and calculated (although to be sure also full of indifference)—not only in his plans that are central to the plot of the novel, but his side plot to exploit the foreman’s illness.
And also, of course, in his manipulation of Murillio into the duel, his forcing it to be a duel to the death, his willingness to take advantage of Murillio’s disability. And though I hate this scene for its result, I like how the mundanity of something like blisters has an impact. I also like how this scene was set up for us by the earlier near-duel in the first half of the chapter (third time’s the charm?) Structurally, it’s also an effective move to take us away from this scene to build up the suspense.
The whole scene, heartbreaking as it is, is done quite well. It begins rooted in hope: Murillio will find Harllo and rescue him. He’ll bring him back to Stonny. Stonny’s heart (Stone—Stonny) will soften both toward Harllo and Murillio. The three of them will live happily ever after. Even further back, it’s rooted in our long-standing connection with and liking of Murillio for past events. Then at the start here, we get his sympathy for the animal, his pain, his resigned doing what he must. And then at the end, he thinks not of himself but of Harllo, both as he prepares for what he knows might be his soon-to-be-death: “I need to survive this. For Harllo.”—and at his actual death: “Oh Harllo, I am so sorry. So sorry—”
This was a grim chapter indeed
I don’t quite get Kruppe’s bit of ominous language with Cutter:
“This is a grave day… A day of the misguided and the misapprehended, a day of mischance and misery. A day in which to grieve the unanticipated.”
It sounds like it’s talking about what is going to happen today but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Anyone else a bit discomfited by these lines?
On the other hand, his lines when he tries to convince Cutter to turn away from the road he is mulling I find extremely powerful in their simplicity:
“There are paths that must not be walked. Paths where going back is impossible—no matter how deeply you would wish it, no matter how loud the cry in your soul. Dearest friend, you must—”
What I find most moving and powerful in this is the sentence structure—look at those lines again. Simple, direct statements, almost no polysyllabic words, no flights of fancy, no linguistic gymnastics. You would never think this was Kruppe if it were given out of context. Think of the effort that must take for him—think of the depth of feeling he must have to speak so simply.
Something he himself realizes and comments on both before and after. Though I have to say I like thinking of his following lines to be both Kruppe thinking of his conversation with Cutter and also Erikson commenting on writers and readers:
“Sad truth that a tendency towards verbal excess can so defeat the precision of meaning. That intent can be so well disguised in majestic plethora of nuance… that the unwitting simply skip on past—imagining their time to be so precious…”
And from this playfulness to the horrific ending of this scene with Bedek and Myrla. I recall how shocked I was at this result my first time through—not simply at the end result but the brutality and cruelty of it. Is this what happens when one puts all responsibility on the god?
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.