Welcome to the Malazan Reread 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 sixteen of The Crippled God.
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: Amanda will be adding her comments in later.
Errastas, Sechul Lath, and Kilmandaros spar over the Elder god legacy and obligations to mortals. They worry if they are far enough away from the Otataral dragon and discuss how her release will wound K’rul at first and then kill him if she is not killed in time, at which point “the world shall be unmade. The death of sorcery and more.” Errastas says Korabas isn’t their problem any more—“her sister will have to deal with her.” Sechul Lath muses to himself on how they—“the drinkers of blood”— seek the past—“that invented realm of nostalgia, all the jagged edges smoothed away,” Kilmandaros tells them Draconus is waiting to harm her, but Errastas scorns the idea, saying not only will Draconus join T’iam to fight Korabas, but that Draconus also wouldn’t risk taking on Kilmandaros, not so soon after regaining his freedom. Plus, he adds, there are “more immediate threats” Draconus is about to learn of. Sechul Lath agrees. Errastas says lots of people have tried and failed to kill Korabas, saying even her imprisonment took centuries for Rake to plan and execute. Kilmandaros huffs Rake wasn’t alone, and Errastas replies scornfully Rake is dead and “there remains no one to match his insane obsessions.” Kilmandaros punches him, telling him to lay off Rake, “a man of integrity and honour” and one whom Errastas could never match,” adding his envy and resentment disgusts her. Errastas heals himself and they head out. Kilmandaros tells them Rake had once told her Draconus was a man of “great honour. Before the betrayal. Before his day of rage,” and she believes Rake, meaning she thinks Draconus will not fight Korabas, leaving that to T’iam, and instead seek her out to kill her for what she’s done. She admits to being frightened, and Sechul Lath is shocked into saying they should never have done this. They continue.
Tulas and Silchas Ruin meet. Ruin tells him he must have “evaded their bargain… between my brother and Hood.” They insult each other, then embrace, with Ruin saying “Against this not even Hood can stand. My friend.” They have a “too bad about the war where we tried to kill each other” moment. Shorn says he doesn’t even remember how he died, mentioning it could even have been Ruin, though Ruin says it wasn’t him; he even searched for Shorn afterward. They discuss how both have managed to not embrace the “curse of the Eleint” so far, though they know the “Storm will be a siren call.” They agree they will resist it together, will fight together, and will guard the other should they fall. Ruin tells Tulas “He [Rake] saw my grief. He joined with me in my search.” Shorn says he cannot speak of Rake yet, but he feels Ruin’s grief at his death. Ruin tells Shorn of Rud Elalle, saying if he could be trusted to control his Eleint side, he’d be there with them, and right now Ruin isn’t sure what will happen with him. They discuss that the Elder gods are involved, seeking a return of their power, though in Ruin’s mind they know the impossibility of it. Shorn argues that Lath (who “casts the die”) and Errastas (who “nudges the last tip) are rigging the game, but Ruin replies that the Elder Gods haven’t seen anyone cheat like humans, something he’s learned (rudely) since his return. The game, he thinks, is about to turn. Shorn asks where he got his Hust sword from and is dismayed when Ruin tells him it’s from Shadow. Ruin clarifies not from Edgewalker. At the mention of Edgewalker, Tulas and Ruin have a clear as crystal conversation about Tulas forgiving Rake, Rake having a huge, deadly secret, Rake perhaps killing Tulas to keep that secret. Tulas then tells Ruin the secret, explaining it twice to make sure Ruin understands exactly what it was (OK, he doesn’t do that, but would it have been so horrible if he had?) Ruin finally tells Shorn he got the sword from Shadowthrone, whom he calls “pompous.” But when Shorn hears the name, he thinks “Shadowthrone. Ahh, not as pompous as you might think,” and warns Ruin not to underestimate this new god. He points to the sword as a reason why, and is further dismayed when Ruin points out the dragon-patterned welding.
Rud and Udinaas communicate, with Udinaas telling him he’s at Seren Pedac’s and the Imass are hiding north of the city in a forest. When Rud tries to tells his father that Kilava sent them away because she won’t fight the gate’s opening, Udinaas says he figured as much—“I think it was her desire all along… I do not think Kettle’s mortal wounding came from the other side of Starvald Demelain.” He continues, saying the Azath and the finnest were strong, but something suddenly changed, something that “pushed the Imass back into the world of the living.” Rud is angered by that implication, but Udinaas tells him that world they left was only a dream, one “doomed to go round and round in never change… an abomination” in the eyes of nature. He tells him not to go after Kilava, that Onrack still loves her, and besides, Seren will find a safe place for the Imass anyway. Rud passes on Ruin’s suggestion that Udinaas should offer Seren the protection of the Imass, as her son is at great risk. Udinaas agrees.
Stavi tells Torrent Olar Ethil will kill them (he and Storii); she only wants Absi. Torrent tries to lie to them, but the twins know better, know things are close to “happening.” Torrent wanders from the fire and runs into dreaming Kruppe, who tells him Storri and Stavi are his children. Kruppe gives him a Rhivi bow and arrows then disappears.
Torrent returns to the fire. Olar Ethil is grouchy.
Tool turns to look at the thousand-plus T’lan Imass behind him and thinks, “This is what I will. And by that power alone a world can be destroyed. Or shaped anew… When I am done, dust shall be dust. Nothing more.” His followers accept that, and tell him they will not be freed by him yet. Rystalle Ev tells him she is unsettled by something, and Ulag Togtil says she has memories in her (perhaps her own, perhaps of other Imass) and she can feel something to the north, “the awakening of an old wound “ and what Tool seeks is threatened. Tool is mystified by the strength that allows them to resist him so well, and they tell him it is love, love they found in Tool’s thoughts. When he tells them that’s impossible, they dismiss his statement. He tells them to find her “memory” and if it is a threat, he will destroy it. They head north and Tool wonders what it is: Who would deny me… to find [destruction] in the place of my own choosing?” He knows he has drawn Tellann around him so tightly he has blinded himself to what lies beyond the wall. What he doesn’t know, and the other two do, is that he has actually summoned thousands of T’lan Imass.
Gruntle enters the cave where the Gate to Starvald Demelain is near to opening and Kilava tells him he should not be there: “Is this your god’s panic?… tell my child I will not permit your interference.” When he says Trake is dead, she tells him, “First Heroes were chosen, Mortal Sword, to become gods and so escape death. All that he surrendered that day on the Plains of Lamatath was his mortal flesh. But like any god, he cannot risk becoming manifest, and so he created you.” When she says he cannot stop the Eleint and thus he will die, Gruntle responds that what she really fears is his succeeding. When she replies she will not permit that, he says then they will have to fight as he’s seen in his dreams, but she interrupts to say she those were her attempts to warn him. He doesn’t buy that. She tells him again to leave, saying what will happen here is “necessary,” and he tells her, “It’s what we always hear… From generals and warlords and miserable tyrants. Justifying yet another nightmare epoch of slaughter. Of suffering, misery, and despair… We tell ourselves this is how it must be… I told Trake he chose wrongly. I was never a soldier—I despise war… all the sordid lies… you have seen a child of yours kneel to war… [and] still you want him to live, your First-Fucking Hero, to go on and on. Wars without end… I’m going to bring your son down—here and now… An end to the god of slaughter, of horror, of rape. The two fight.
Mappo enters Icarium’s city, Icarias. He senses Icarium feels threatened and worries he will wake to a rage that will take down gods as well as humans, and he thinks someone wants to use Icarium as a weapon. He hopes if he finds him first, tells him who he really is, “the truth of your history,” he could talk Icarium into killing himself by that knowledge. And then he will bury his friend and weep. In the city’s images, he sees the Snake children, recognizes Badalle as the one who banished the d’ivers. He witnesses Badalle and Saddic converse, and she tells him how she dreamt of Olar Ethil taking the kids and none of the adults doing anything. Mappo whispers “It wasn’t like that,” though he knows it was. He hears Badalle then in his head: “Ogre, I can’t save you, and you can’t save him. Not from himself. He is your Held, but every child wakes up… and it is what all of you fear the most.” She recites a poem: “The truth is every day/One of us among those/You walk away from/Dies/And there are more truths/In this world/Than I can count… Mappo flees the echo and the memory.
The three Elder gods spar over Gallan, his blinding and what effect it had or did not. Sechul Lath says he chooses to believe if he weeps long enough, “in the ashes—in the aftermath—will be something else… hope.” They are interrupted by the ground suddenly bleeding color, turning the color of “bone and ash” as Korabas awakens then explodes forth from the ground. Kilmandaros tells the others: “In every storm there is an eye, a place of stillness. Otas’taral means the Eye of Abnegation. And now… we have birthed a storm.” When Errastas yells now their opponents have no choice but to stop her, Sechul thinks, “Yes, please. Stop her.” The dragon heads northeast and “Where she passes, no life shall ever return. The stillness of matter becomes complete. She is the Eye… where all must die.” Sechul says they’ve gone too far, but Errastas says it’s too late—Korabas is the “heart of sorcery. Without the Eye there can be no magic.” But Kilmandaros says things aren’t so simple: “Now that she is freed, the Eleint must kill her… Their power is magical, and Korabas will kill all that magic depend upon.” She explains that Korabas’ magical immunity means the Eleint will have to fight her physically, requiring every Eleint—a storm—until “T’iam herself is awakened.” Errastas says they have to kill her, and Kilmandaros says if they do, “then the storm dies… What you [Errastas] seek is the death of all sorcery bound to laws of control… to create a realm where no mortal can hurt you… where blood is sacrificed in our name but in truth we have no power to intervene. You desire worship… where you need give nothing in return.” Errastas yells that he will see “them all destroyed. The meddling gods—I want our children dead! K’rul… will see there’s no other way… I have forced his hand… I will not be ignored!” Sechul Lath realizes that Korabas had been chained rather than killed because killing her would have destroyed the warrens. The other two tell him they care nothing about the heart of the Crippled God—he and the Forkrul Assail and all others who challenge Errastas will be dead by the time it all ends. When Sechul Lath asks how Errastas knows the Hold will be immune to Korabas (he sees now Errastas wanted to destroy the warrens, the Deck, the new Master and new gods), Errastas says it is because the Holds are Elder. It was K’rul negotiating with the Eleint that imposed order on the Old Magic’s chaos, that created the warrens, and now they have shattered that law of order. He finishes by saying the Elders are ascending to rule again, and notes that Ardata and Olar Ethil are probably scheming even as they speak. He leaves. Sechul despairs to Kilmandaros, but she tells him “it’s only a plan… Now more than ever the future is unknown.” He wonders if anyone can stop it and she gives several reasons why not. She asks if he’ll stay with her, and he replies he doesn’t want to see Draconus kill her.
While I can’t say I “like” Sechul Lath, there is something oddly appealing about his ambivalence in all this, his willingness to consider consequences, to see beyond words and actions a bit. And plus, anyone who annoys the Errant automatically moves a little upward in my eyes
Poor Errastas, Rake beats him even in dying. I recall being surprised by Kilmandaros’ punching him out here. Errastas really comes off as pretty poor in this chapter—petty, spiteful, envious.
Some of the insults I could have done without in specificity, but I do like the concept of the banter between Ruin and Shorn moving so suddenly from what seemed anger and tension to old friends deeply joyful at being reunited. And the whole “too bad about the war” moment just makes the reader want all the more to see just what happened back in those days (luckily we do get to see at least some of it thanks to the prequel trilogy).
You never know how things will go/turn of course, but we’re getting some blunt expectations of future events from our characters in this chapter—Draconus hunting down Kilmandaros and trying to kill her, the Eleint storm forming, T’iam fighting Korabas, and Shorn and Ruin fighting side by side in dragon form.
Love that line from Silchas about how the Elder Gods don’t know the mess they’re stepping into trying to outcheat the master cheaters. And his dry reference to his own lesson in how the world has changed (from our earlier reread):
Fiddler blasts Ruin with a cusser that wounds the dragon’s chest and shreds its wings. As Ruin falls, Hedge hits him with another, sending him crashing into a building that collapses on top of him. Fiddler sees Hedge and Quick Ben and follows them. Ruin rises from the building terribly wounded and Quick Ben hits him with sorcery, driving Ruin back until finally he retreats. Fiddler calls after Ruin, “This ain’t your fight… Fucking dragon.”
And if humans in general are good cheaters, what must a “human” like Shadowthrone be like as a cheater?
More mystery around Edgewalker.
OK, speculation time. Line up the theories for Rake’s big secret, hinted at via Shorn’s internal thoughts:
“Edge—No, it cannot be—he could not have—Oh, wonders of the Abyss! … How did he manage it?… He said nothing, then, not even to his beloved brother. HE was true to this word. He held the secret close and not once yielded a single word… else it would be known by now.”
And his dialog:
Your brother … I forgive him—for all of it—for my anger now proved so, so misplaced… He spoke true! But how did he manage it…
That day, I remain convinced that it was not as it seemed—
Oh, indeed it was not… To tell you my friend would be to betray his last secret. I forgive him, yes, but I already fear that he would not forgive me, if he could. For my words. My rage. My stupidity. If I now yield is last secret, all hope for me is lost… It was to me that he vowed to say nothing, ever.
… A secret as dangerous as that?
Yes… You may have explained my demise. Your brother murdered me.
Interesting that Shorn, when Ruin says of Shadowthrone, “You warn me against someone you have never met?” doesn’t tell him he has in fact met Shadowthrone (and Cotillion) back a little ways ago (back in Toll the Hounds)
And a nice tease—just what does that dragon-pattern weave mean?
An interesting detail added to the mix here if Udinaas is correct, that Kilava purposely weakened Kettle’s Azath House as a means of forcing the Imass out of their stagnant world and into one of the living.
Nice to see Kruppe again, miss the bugger. Hard to imagine Chekhov’s bow and arrow won’t come into play at the end.
So there is love, like a glimmering stone, inside Tool’s dark thoughts, even if he himself does not see it. That would seem to be a small crack of potential light in the ominous grimness that has been his chapter, though we’ve had hints his story may turn. We’ll have to see. And another nice bit of mystery and suspense—what force to the north might try and prevent Tool from what he plans? And is that force “good” or “bad” (if one can use those terms amidst some of these shifting forces).
I’m going to hold off commenting on Kilava and Gruntle for now as we’ve just begun their clash, save to say I love Gruntle’s passionate speech toward the end on how the phrase “it is necessary” has justified so much death and slaughter.” And we can see Stonny still on his mind as he talks about killing his god, Trake, god of “rape.”
Mappo has become such a tragic figure. That scene where he faces Badalle and himself in his actions when Olar Ethil took the children is searing, as is that last image: “on all sides, his reflection. Forever trapped. Because the memory remains.”
Another great cinematic scene here at the end, with the rise of Korabas. The sweeping power of her “abnegation” is stunning even despite the build-up we’ve had of her I’d say.
Sechul Lath seems to have been playing a bit out of league on this one. And seems to have been a bit naïve.
We’re being set up for a heck of a close if all this talk of battle between a storm of Eleint and Korabas comes to pass. Though as Kilmandaros says, “it’s just a plan” Who knows if the game will turn still.