Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: The Crippled God, Chapter Twenty-two

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 twenty-two 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 is sick and will try to add her comments once she recovers.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENE ONE

Calm senses the approach of Korabas and is horrified, knowing it may mean the death of all the Forkrul Assail. She believes, though, if the Eleint fail to stop Korabas, Icarium will at least avenge the Forkrul. As she walks toward Icarium’s keeping spot (three days away), she is met by two T’lan Imass who seek to bar her way but are quickly destroyed.

SCENE TWO

Kilmandaros flees Draconus’ wrath to no avail. Sechul Lath tries to defend her, knowing it will cost him his life to stand against Draconus. He’s right (and it doesn’t take long).

SCENE THREE

Shadowthrone convinces Draconus to leave the “whole mess” in Kolanse alone.

SCENE FOUR

Draconus having departed, Cotillion expresses his fear the Bonehunters are dead. Shadowthrone tells him not to worry, then discusses his mommy issues.

SCENE FIVE

The Twins arrive to say farewell to their father, Sechul Lath. Before he dies, he hears them discussing how Draconus will find Errastas as well, and how they might guide Errastas to the gate and then “give him a nudge.”

SCENE SIX

Korabas flies in torment and bitterness, with the Eleint quickly closing in behind her.

SCENE SEVEN

Paran and the Host find a Forkrul Army, including some Perish, holding the pass before them. While he makes his plans, Quick Ben and Kalam discuss the two different ways in which Paran and Tavore both get the loyalty of their followers: “Tavore asks because for her that’s what’s needed. But her brother, he just expects.” Quick tells Kalam that Korabas is attracted by the smell of otataral. Kalam is not happy.

SCENE EIGHT

Silchas Ruin and Tulas Shorn discuss coming events—the Eleint, Korabas, Draconus, the possibility that this is all part of some long-range plan by Rake. Ruin believes freeing Korabas is part of some “higher purpose” set in motion by Rake and Shadowthrone, along with other gods such as Hood. They decide to trust in Rake and the others and defend Korabas against the Eleint, though they are sure it will cost them their lives.

SCENE NINE

Olar Ethil senses the oncoming battle between Korabas and the Eleint and doesn’t like the idea. Telorast and Curdle leave her. Torrent is eating this up.

SCENE TEN

Telorast and Curdle head for the oncoming Storm, thinking devious and humble thoughts.

SCENES ELEVEN–THRITEEN

Kalam and Quick Ben infiltrate the FA/Perish camp, kill Brother Serenity and some others. Kalam is badly wounded, but is healed by the Champion of the Wolves—an enkar’l/Toblakai mix. They report to Paran that the Perish have seemingly turned, though they did not see Krughava among them. Paran tells them he wants them to hed for Tavore ASAP after the Host gets through the past and warn her about the Perish.

SCENE FOURTEEN

Erekala, the Perish leader, meets with a half-dozen Watered who have been disturbed greatly by the loss of Serenity. One of them tells Erekala that another Hold manifested in the camp last night, one which Sister Reverence felt she recognized, though the Watered know no more than that. Erekala thinks the FA should have anticipated “the attention of the other Elder Gods.” He dismisses them and heads to the viewing platform, wondering if this appearance of the Malazans is part of some long-range plan by Laseen and the Empire, a chilling thought.

SCENES FIFTEEN–NINETEEN

Paran gives his sappers the “special” Moranth munitions he’s held back from them (so he thought). They wreak incredible havoc/slaughter among the FA and some of the Perish, though Paran orders them to stop before engaging the Perish.

SCENES TWENTY–TWENTY-TWO

Quick Ben and Kalam meet with Erekala to negotiate surrender. Kalam tells Erekala what he just witnessed was the future of war: “the old way of fighting is on its way out.” He goes on, giving Erekala hope by explaining: “This is how it’ll be. Fuck all the animals—they’ll all be gone. But we’ll still be here. We’ll still be killing each other, but this time in unimaginable numbers… And it won’t end. It’ll never end.”

SCENE TWENTY-THREE

Korabas and the Eleint storms battle.

 

Bill’s Response

Well, Calm is not so, um, “calm” over Korabas, is she? For all the Forkrul Assail are portrayed as cold-blooded, unfeeling fanatics of “justice,” it’s interesting how Erikson offers us up this character who feels, yes, “empathy” for another creature “doomed to an eternity of anguish and rage,” a creature who feels “such loneliness, the ordeal of existence.” And then gives us this as well—“Yes, Korabas, I could look into your eyes. Without flinching,” couched in the same language as has repeatedly been used to emphasize this idea of empathy and compassion. And of course, it’s also hard to read this description of Korabas and not think as well of the Crippled God, who has also been “doomed to an eternity [or near eternity so far] of anguish and rage” from the “moments of its creation”, if one defines his “creation” as his appearance in this world. One who has also suffered soul crushing loneliness.

Icarium versus Korabas—now that would be interesting…

Also interesting is Calm’s theory (who knows if we can trust it, though it certainly makes some sense) that Icarium is so tough because he isn’t actually “Icarium” when his rage is unleashed, but he is instead a portal to pure Chaos. Which makes Quick Ben’s stand against him all the more impressive, eh? It’s actually driving me crazy because this theory reminds me of someone/something else (not in this series) and I’m completely blanking on it.

And just as we’re thinking of Calm’s empathy, she up and goes with the whole—“That battled shall destroy the world. Good.” Sheesh.

And then she gets annoyingly interesting again, when she thinks of that destroyed world, one “scoured empty of meddling gods… We can give the inheritors true freedom… can watch them hang themselves. No gods to blame, no excuses.” Sound familiar? Noto Boll: “And in [the gods] absence, High Fist, will me manage things any better?” Paran: “No… But at least then we won’t have the option of blaming someone else.” Don’t you hate when the “evil” character says the same thing as the “good” character?

Then of course, there’s her method of dealing with the T’lan Imass. Well, so much for liking Calm…

Well, this is one way to clear some of the plot lines away before the big ending—have Draconus kill off a pair of Elder Gods. He is, as Shadowthrone says, “implacable,” isn’t he?

There’s always been something about Sechul I’ve liked in his scenes, and this endears him all the more—his defense of his mother, his acceptance of its futility and its inevitable end. Draconus allowing him the dignity of that ending (as quick as the “fight” was). And how can you not feel for the guy with his mother’s last thought—“My son. Even at the last you disappoint me.” Nice. I’m glad he got a decent send off from the kids…

Don’t you want to be a flea on the back of one of those Hounds to hear the conversation between Draconus and Shadowthrone? To hear how Shadowthrone “convinced” him to stay out of things with the Forkrul Assail? To hear Shadowthrone’s “audacity”?

Shadowthrone with a mother? The mind boggles, doesn’t it?

So probably at the end we’ll have a bit of discussion about who knew what when and who was in communication with whom etc. etc. We should remember this conversation about Tavore and the Bonehunters here, where neither Cotillion nor Shadowthrone seem to know just what is going on with them (that damn magic dampening thing).

Icarium vs. Korabas is one type of battle. The Twins vs. the Errant another—interesting in a wholly different sort of way. But who here does not want to see the Errant get his in some way or another?

That’s a pretty crushing POV from Korabas I’d say. What a horror, to exist only as negation, as destruction, and to not be oblivious to that but to know it, even to the depths of one’s soul. How aching that desire: “Leave me… To do a thing, a thing that does not destroy, but creates. Please, can I not be more than I am? Please.” I also like the existential nature of that cry. We are born from oblivion, we retain it somewhat in our childhood, but eventually we realize we have freedom, and with that freedom comes choice, every choice is to act, to do something (for good or ill and often both thanks to the complexity of the world we live in) and if we think of our existence and then non-existence on the grand scale—the absurdity of our lives, their brevity, their meaninglessness, then that “can I not be more than I am,” would seem to be the moment by moment need. Or maybe she’s just a really cool dragon.

I don’t know how I feel about the conversation about Tavore between Quick and Kalam (I did enjoy the prior banter with Paran and Boil, er Boll). It’s certainly in character for them, especially toward the end of all this, to have this conversation. But I prefer the mystery of Tavore without the analysis of Tavore, if that makes sense.

On the other hand, I love when they leave Tavore (and Paran) behind and turn to Korabas, and Kalam flips out at yet another Quick Ben scheme (especially as this comes so soon after he scoffed at Minala’s “he’s going to get you killed, you know” bit), and also brings Hedge into as well, with that great image of a sharper with Quick’s face on it.

I also really liked this conversation between Tulas Shorn and Silchas Ruin. It is interesting to me how much of this is coming down to people’s faith in one another. Quick Ben and Paran’s faith in Fiddler and Tavore. Brys’ faith in Tehol. Stormy and Gesler’s faith in Krughava. The Bonehunter’s faith in Tavore. Ruin’s faith in Rake. And then in Draconus. And then, of all people, in Shadowthrone (now that’s scary). I also like how he feels his way through to his conclusion, to his choice to act, to do something, and it is his faith in his brother that leads him there, slow step by slow step as he pieces it all together—Rake plus Shadowthrone plus Hood plus others. And I also like how his faith is not simply in Rake’s intelligence, his strategizing, but in his generosity, his compassion—his gifts that “make possible anything.” And after that POV from Korabas, you have to thrill at the thought of these two fighting to defend her. And of course, we have to get that sense of so many Eleint because who doesn’t love an underdog fight?

Shaved Knuckle in the Hole! Shaved Knuckle in the hole! Love that line.

We’ve seen this enkar’l before in the series—the one that heals Kalam. From our earlier reread (HoC)

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.

And some pertinent lines from the text itself

In the ancient fortress… On its lowermost level there was a single chamber… In the icy depths, chained by Elder sorcery to the bedrock, lay a massive, armoured warrior. Thelomen Toblakai, pure of blood, that had known the curse of demonic possession, a possession that had devoured its own sense of self… The demon was gone, fled with the outpouring of blood [thanks to Kalam]…and the river had swept it to freedom. To a distant waterhole, where a bull enkar’al – a beast in its prime – had been crouching to drink.

The enkar’al had been alone for some time – not even the spoor of others of its kind could be found anywhere nearby. Though it had not sensed the passage of time, decades had in fact passed since it last encountered its own kind.… But now its soul raged in a strange, gelid body… Something held it down, and imprisonment was proving a swift path to mindless madness… so it would have remained. Had the Beast Thrones stayed unoccupied. Had not the reawakened wolf gods known an urgent need…for a champion.

Their presence reached into the creature’s soul, calmed it with visions of a world where there were enkar’al in the muddy skies… A time of service, then. The reward – to rejoin its kin in the skies of another realm. Beasts were not strangers to hope, nor unmindful of such things as rewards.

Love how Quick tries to pretend it isn’t 20-20 hindsight with regard to the Perish turning, how Kalam calls him on it, and how Quick just as quickly give it up.

And I laughed out loud, again, with Quick Ben’s wry “You weave a fine tale Kalam.”

Reading this scene with the sappers before the “battle” (can one call it that even? I don’t think so) the first time, I’m pretty sure I found it very funny—the sappers with tears in their eyes at the munitions, Paran thinking he had cached away all the big ones, etc. But as a re-reader, knowing what was coming, it reads a whole different way—much darker, much more grim, much more depressing. And then, of course, one goes from knowing what is happening to the horror of it actually happening. And then, to nail it home, we get Kalam’s “negotiation” with the Perish—his promise to them that they will eventually get their way—that when the last of the beasts are gone, humanity will turn on itself for all eternity and this horrible slaughter will be visited upon the last beast standing. “The future,” indeed. How many times, one wonders, has someone stared into the abyss of what is coming—the first arrows confusing the whole out of the spearmen, the French knight at Agincourt realizing what the longbow had done, the people crouching “safely” behind their walls when the first cannon came up, the Polish cavalry charging the German tanks, and of course, the folks in Dresden, the mushroom clouds over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I hate this scene. I love this scene.

From there to Korabas and now we get the idea of what T’iam is—a swarm of Storms merging into one, kind of like Gruntle and his men merging into the Tiger I guess. And what a heartbreaking cry from Korabas—“Will you devour your child so wrong, so hated, so abandoned?… She had not asked to be born… Why do I deserve this? What have I done to desrve this?” Erikson is killing me at the end of this chapter. Killing me.


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 fantasyliterature.com.

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