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 part three of chapter twenty-four 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.
Gall tells Hanavat he will die in this battle and she says she knows, but she refuses to flee. When he says he was weak, she points out he “walks the same ground” as the rest of them and he gave them his courage and cunning, gifts he can use today in the spirit of Coltaine and the Wickans. She tells him she is proud of him.
Faradan Sort warns her soldiers of the Pure’s voice power, though she doesn’t know how they’ll stop it.
Sister Freedom is confident and begins to speak. The Seven attack her and as she fights she orders her army to charge. Blistig decides to fight and fight—they won’t get him! Lostara, Ruthan Gudd, and Henar stand with Tavore as they are flayed by Brother Aloft’s voice, which neither Tavore’s residual Otataral effects nor Gudd’s ice serve as protection against. Badalle steps forward and calls forth the shards, the FA god, which descends upon the Aloft and devours him. Badalle sends the shards away.
Gall orders a charge, though he must turn from helping Tavore.
Faradan leads her soldiers in after the Khundryl charge.
A group of regulars that Tavore named pull out of line to go help her: Ordinary Gray, Grid Ffan, Could Howl, Hare Ravage, Sample, and a few others.
Kindly orders Pores back to guard the children at the camp.
Lesser Watered Trissin laughs to see only four standing in front of her soldiers, with only another dozen Malazans coming in support. Unable to get through to Tavore to get her to retreat into the phalanx, Ruthan orders a charge, shocking the hell out of Trissin. The regulars run up to try and help. Trissin watches her Kolansii get pushed back and order them to surround the small group. She is killed by the regulars’ mages (illusionists). Several regulars fall defending a wounded Henar until Lostara can reach him. They all try to head back to the phalanx. Lostara calls for Cotillion to possess her again, but gets nothing.
Gall is mortally wounded and lying on his back as he hears the Malazans chanting “Khundryl! Khundryl! Khundryl!” Sister Freedom steps forward over Gall to face the last of the Seven-Nom Kala. Gall hears her tell Nom Kala to surrender. He somehow drags himself to his feet (purposely ripping apart his own intestines to do so) and stabs Freedom from behind with his dying breath. Nom Kala steps forward and kills Freedom.
As Banaschar watches, the army is crumbling, though the three Fists Kindly, Sort, and Blistig continue to fight. Pores and Hanavat joins him and he says he’s sorry about Gall. He asks about the baby’s name, and she tells him she hadn’t thought there was a point until now. They watch the Bonehunters die.
Paran reaches the ridge to see the battle and is shocked at the losses. He orders a charge, wondering if Tavore still lives.
High Watered Melest is shocked by the arrival of another army and orders them destroyed.
Paran pulls out a card and tells Mathok to charge through the portal.
Ruthan Gudd is shocked by the sudden arrival of Mathok and thousands of warriors through a new portal. As are the Kolansii.
Tavore wanders a dozen or so steps off from the ranks, the enemy no longer before them. Lostara goes to join her but Henar pulls her back. Tavore stands alone, looks up to the sky, and howls a “cry of anguish that… held nothing human… When her voice gave out, all could see that cry continuing in the stretched contortion of her face. Silent now, she gave nothing to the sky, and in that nothing, there was everything.” Paran can’t believe that had been Tavore’s cry. He moves toward her, wondering what the watching soldiers could still possibly want from her. Tavore feels Paran rushing her and thinking it an enemy, whirls to kill him but he catches her wrist and tells her it’s him. She stares at him, and then breaks down crying in his arms, telling him, “I lost her. Oh Ganoes, I lost her!” He holds her and realizes as he looks at the soldiers they now had what they’d been waiting for, as they too drop to their knees, “surrendering to whatever was left inside of them
Mathok kills High Watered Melest, ending the battle.
Hellian fights with her last soldier, Maybe where Rumjugs and Sweetlard had been guarding (both are down). Corabb yells a warning about the breach and rushes to protect the Crippled God’s chained body, joined by Shortnose. The Crippled God watches the “savage, desperate defence from the two Malazans.” He senses Brother Grave has figured out the CG is here at the hilltop and that the Forkrul Assail “can wound me, can feed on my power for all time—and none could challenge him. He will unleash my poison on the world.” Shortnose is killed and then Corabb, though each took down a lot of Kolansii and held long enough for Fiddler to arrive to kill the two remaining enemy. He looks up and sees more coming and calls for Hedge. Hedge pulls his last cusser and rushes the group of Kolansii, but is tackled by Fiddler. The munition flies down but is a dud. Nefarias Bredd joins them and gives them cover while they return to the marines. Fiddler yells at Hedge for nearly killing himself again the same way as last time. They check their soldiers—Fiddler has about twenty marines left while Hedge has only Rumjugs and Sweetlard, whom Fiddler calls “Bridgeburners.”
Fiddler rests for a moment, thinking they won’t be able to push back the last assault with only 20 soldiers. Someone asks, “So, who are we fighting for again?” and is answered by, “Everyone.” To which the questioner replies, “No wonder we’re losing.” The soldiers break out into contagious laughter.
Cuttle, lying down the slope dying, hears the laughter and thinks back to his childhood and play battles and the innocence and beauty and love and he thinks, “You should have seen our last stands. They were something. They were something.”
The Crippled God listens to the laughter and now he thinks:
I will remember this. I will set out scrolls and burn upon them the names of these Fallen. I will make of this work a holy tome, and no other shall be needed.
Hear them! They are humanity unfurled, laid out for all to see—if one would dare look!
There shall be a book and it shall be written by my hand. Wheel and seek the faces of a thousand gods! None can do what I can do! Not one can give voice to this holy creation!
But this is not bravado. For this, my Book of the Fallen, the only god worthy of its telling is the crippled one. The broken one. And has it now always been thus?
I never hid my hurts.
I never disguised my dreams.
And I never lost my way.
And only the fallen can rise again.
And as he listens to them laugh, “suddenly the weight of those chains was as nothing. Nothing.”
The Forkrul Assail listen to the laughter and in the immortal words of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, wonder, “Who are those guys?” They prepare to advance and at the sudden silence, Brother Grave rejoices at the fact that those guys “know it is over!” High Watered Hagraff wishes to celebrate with him, but is prevented by the sudden appearance of an arrow in his shoulder.
Heading into his slaved soldiers, Grave feels, “like a black current beneath the stone of his will, emotions that had nothing to do with the desire to destroy the enemy now opposing them. They were in awe.” Annoyed, he tells them to destroy the enemy. Having not read the earlier parts of the book, he then says he will claim the Crippled God and “none will be able to oppose me.” Having been summoned by said claim, Quick Ben tosses him a blast of wizardry, driving him back into two blades, “Compliments of Kalam Mekhar.”
Quick Ben kills a few hundred Kolansii. The survivors scatter and he and Kalam run for the hilltop.
Hedge points out the arrival of Quick Ben and Kalam. Fiddler wonders why they’re running, since the Kolansii fled, until he looks up.
Apsal’ara enters through a portal, leading Nimander and his people. Above her soars Korabas, fighting dragons. Apsal’ara turns to flee, but the warrens are gone, destroyed by Korabas. She thinks she has brought Nimander in only to meet Korabas and T’iam. Another rift opens and five dragons fly through: Desra, Skintick. Korlat. Silanah. Nimander. They are drawn into the storm above, and as Apsal’ara watches, the “goddess of the Eleint had begun to manifest.” She runs for the nearby hilltop.
Quick Ben arrives and tells them all to say inside the ring formed by D’rek. Fiddler asks if D’rek can protect them and Quick Ben says, “Didn’t you plan this?” Fiddler replies, “Plan? What fucking plan?” Korabas’ blight strikes the remaining Kolansii, who are vaporized.
That farewell between Gall and Hanavat is really special, when you consider the depths to which he fell, and the loss of any purpose to his life. And here Hanavat tells him that she is proud. That choked me a little, because she was waiting for so long to see her husband returned to himself after the failed charge of the Khundryls.
Faradan’s memories of her time against the Stormriders—the bitter cold and deadly foe—are a good reminder that many of these soldiers have been through so many conflicts. It sort of defies imagination that they are ready and willing to take up arms again, especially facing this massed army against them and probable death.
So smug, Sister Freedom: “They were all about to die and nothing they did would prevent that.”
It is always a momentary shock when we see how powerful the Forkrul Assail are—even without using their Voice. I mean, the seven T’lan Imass would seem pretty damn undead and indestructible to most foes, but Freedom just batters them around as though they are nothing. And then another immediate example of just how nasty these Forkrul Assail are, as the regulars with Lostara and the Adjunct are shredded by the power of Akhrast Korvalain.
This scene with Badalle calling upon the D’ivers version of the ancient god of the Forkrul Assail, in order to destroy Brother Aloft, is one of those parts of the story that has been gently and gradually built up—from seeing the Shards and watching the Snake children eat them, from watching Badalle use her own words as power, from learning that the locusts are actually part of a god that was rejected. It’s moments like that when the skill of this storyteller really comes home to you.
It was pretty special seeing a POV from the regulars of the Malazan force—especially those regulars that Tavore named. Suddenly we’re watching their skills and their tenacity and they have most definitely become witnessed.
It seems as though the Lesser Watered are just as arrogant as their pure brethren: “They would sweep past these fools, and then wheel round to close on the flank from behind.”
Oh Ffan! I would have liked to see much, much more of you—I think we could have been friends: “Find their fucking commander and hit the fucker with all you fucking got, you fucking got it?”
It’s peculiar and done very well when we see the four from Trissin’s POV—the ice-clad soldier, the dancer, the tall soldier and the commander—especially when we’re able to watch how scary they appear to those facing them.
Ha, that moment of illusion from the regular mages is funny—but also could feasibly not be illusion, considering they’ve already had the manifestation of a god on this battlefield!
Where is Cotillion and what is he doing that, even in these desperate moments, he is not willing to join with Lostara? Or is it more than he believes now is the time for the mortals to do their thing?
Oh Warleader Gall… This one is an affecting death, because we’ve seen what it took to get this man on his feet again and willing to do battle. We saw his child born, and know that he leaves behind a widow, who loved him well. But what a way to go! Holding in his intestines as he shocks Sister Freedom with his final blow—that is a hero’s way to die, surely?
You know, I’m pleased that, when it came down to it, even with his fierce dislike of Tavore, Blistig here is one of the Fists that refuses to fall. He might be doing it for all the wrong reasons, but he is certainly holding up his side of the soldier’s bargain.
Paran’s arrival is a proper Gandalf moment, isn’t it? Massing for the charge just as the army they come to rescue reaches the point where they are going to succumb to defeat? Although first we think that they are but the remnants of a force who have come here to die as well, until Paran opens that gate and the Bonehunters are saved.
And, once again, Tavore’s words about being unwitnessed prove false: “Those are fellow Malazans dying down there! Look on them! All of you, look on them!”
That meeting between the Paran siblings is brutal. I don’t know what is being loosed from Tavore as she lets out that cry—I don’t know what is happening there—but I had a real heart in mouth moment when I thought she might kill her brother. That would have broken her, I think. Who is the ‘her’ that she refers to? Is it their other sister? Or is it T’amber? Is she finally giving into the grief of losing the person she loved above all others? It is so very, very bittersweet, this reunion.
Oh Corabb! It seems special to have, of all people, the Crippled God witness his death and mark his bravery as he fell. He was truly a Malazan soldier in that moment, as he held back the Kolansii to allow Fiddler to bring some backup.
Man, I thought that was going to be Hedge going down again in battle, although I was amused by the fact his last cusser is a dud—just seems somehow typical for Hedge.
“Listen, you ain’t hiding another cusser, are you?”
“No. Hood take me, I been carrying that one for bloody ever. And all that time, it was a dud!”
And that moment where Fiddler refers to Hedge’s last soldiers as Bridgeburners is a really special thing to see—after all the times he has refused to see them as such.
Oh, that moment of laughter. The part that touched me the most was when Cuttle listened to them, and then thought back to his childhood and then peacefully went into death. That was quiet and dignified and so sad.
And so, after all these pages, we see the true meaning of the series name, as the Crippled God decides to witness these deaths, these fallen.
Can you imagine what it would be like as the commander of an army to have your near-defeated foe laughing as you make your final plans to assault them? That would be oddly terrifying, I think, and certainly have the effect of making Grave a little cross! And then especially when he realises his own soldiers—those supposed to be directed by the force of his Voice—are in awe of these Malazan heroes. Who wouldn’t be?
Now all three of these Forkrul Assail have been taken down, thanks to Kalam, Warleader Gall and seven T’lan Imass and Badalle. And they were all there because of Tavore—she pulled them together into this battle and gave them the determination to stand by her. That’s pretty cool.
Also, Kalam and Quick Ben are just badass.
And then the dragons arrive—Storms of them. I love that image of the Tiste Andii that we’re familiar with joining the battle with Silanah—the ebony dragons and that scarlet one among them. Anyone else starting to worry about this whole T’iam business? It has been mentioned enough times that I really don’t think I want to see it happen!
Wonderful exchange between Quick Ben and Fiddler, and it feels like they’ve all never spent a day apart:
“Didn’t you plan this?”
“Plan? What fucking plan?”
And hands up who is not going to stop reading at that point…!
One of the strengths of this series has been duos, as we’ve mentioned before. Some easy ones come to mind, like Tehol and Bugg, Mappo and Icarium, Quick Ben and Kalam. But the romantic ones also are often quite strong, albeit sometimes in different ways. Gall and Hanavat has been one of those, and I find their parting here to be quite moving. Their sorrow and grief and knowledge painting their farewell, but not ruling it.
I always enjoy these little moments before these big battles or smaller intense conflicts when one of the characters has to rid themselves of a relatively minor fear. In this case, Faradan Sort checking for scorpions. Because you know, that’s going to be what gets her killed today.
You had to know something was going to happen to wipe that smile off of Freedom’s face, but I like that it was the sudden appearance of the Seven. I felt bad for these guys; I’m pretty sure I’d thought they would fare better against Freedom than they did.
Here at last, Blistig’s stubbornness and bitterness will seemingly stand him in good stead.
That’s an edged (no pun intended, well, maybe a little) insight by Lostara when she thinks of her Shadow Dance as, “The dance of the world—this fucking, miserable, murderous world.” A sad statement that such a dance can be seen as a metaphor for the world as a whole.
So twice Lostara calls for Cotillion. Where is he?
Well, that was a kinda graphic ending for Brother Aloft.
Of all the many reasons why one is rooting for the Malazans here, I think Badalle adds yet another one. Not to protect her from the FA, but for the Malazans to live so this child does not have to become the scourge of vengeance. Can’t we spare her that, you want to say as a reader.
I like the small details embedded in this battle to make it more realistic and allow for us to envision how the undermanned Malazans might be standing as long as they do. For instance, the way the heavy infantry of the Kolansii are hampered by the steepness of the hill, by trying to avoid the fight between the Seven and Freedom, by the random scattering of boulders.
I also like how we see smart commanders at work—as both Gall and Faradan Sort see what will happen if the Kolansii can work their way to the open ground and form up again.
This is another moving moment, the regulars who were named by Tavore pulling out to go to her. And love those names!
And oh, how can you not love that charge by the fearsome foursome? Can’t you just see the face of Trissin as those four crazed sheathed in blood maniacs charge her forces? She’s already on the edge, no wonder she dies by illusion (hmm, one could say her illusion of an easy victory is what killed her… )
So, would anyone have been surprised if Erikson had killed off Henar here? Just curious.
Sad though to see the regulars named by Tavore start to fall. I’ve said it before, I don’t know an author who can wring sadness from the death of a minor barely-known character like Erikson in this series.
Or the death of a major character, like Gall. But just when you think he’s fading away, they pull him back in. Sheesh, really with the ripping apart his own intestines. OK, he’s worthy of standing with the Wickans I’d say. So glad he got to hear that chant before he died. Helping kill Freedom was a luxury; that chant was all.
Another in a slew of big screen oh please oh please oh please moments at the end here—the arrival of Paran, the charge of the Host, and then the from-the-portal charge of Mathok.
Well, I know we’re going to have some big talk about Tavore in our last whole-series posting, but I’m curious what folks think about this cry and meeting with Paran. I’m going to hold off on meaning for comments, but I do want to point out the parallels between this scene and the one where Tavore killed Felisin.
- Both characters are siblings obviously.
- In both, one character is pretty much out of it. Felisin had just been abandoned by the goddess and clearly Tavore is in a daze here.
- In both, one of the Parans walks quickly toward the other
- In both, Tavore is unaware of the other’s identity—She does not know it is Felisin in the armor and she does not know this is Ganoes approaching her
- In both, an army is watching.
- Both Parans that are not Tavore see their sister through visor slits:
- Felisin: “Beyond the mesh and through the slits of the visor, Tavore strode ever closer” and “through the visor’s slit, she stared up at her sister.”
- Paran: “Through the bars of his helm’s iron grille, she was directly ahead, a prisoner still.”
A prisoner of the army’s needs? Of her own internal drive and will? Of necessity? One could argue that for both of these scenes. With such parallels, a reader could be forgiven for thinking Erikson was going to do the unthinkable here and have Tavore kill her brother just as she had killed her sister—all unknowing. But instead, the scenes diverge. And rather than end in death, tragedy, isolation (Tavore alone, Felisin alone), ignorance, and the carrying of a burden alone, it ends in life, shared grief, knowledge, and “surrender.” The writer in me absolutely loves the craft in the way these two scenes are structured. Beyond the obvious emotion.
Then we get a mere moment’s respite of comedy with Maybe and Helian before we’re tossed into the action/emotion ringer yet again.
Oh, Corabb. He went out as he would have wanted, but still, you had to hope his luck would hold him to the end. That’s a lovely detail—his sweat falling on the Crippled God and running like tears down his face. And Shortnose’s smile as he falls.
Then another quick moment of relief—the dud, Nefarias Bredd’s appearance (but is it really him?), only to learn how many are left, and what that means for all the others.
And then, oh, how many times can I say, “one of my favorite moments.” But really. The laughter. One of my favorite moments. The epitome of bittersweet. Of laugh while it hurts. Of laugh rather than weep. And followed by the beautiful, simply beautiful moment with the dying Cuttle:
Childhood. The battles they fought… the sunny days of dust and sticks for swords and running this way and that, where time was nothing but a world without horizons—and the days never closed, and every stone felt perfect in the palm of the hand, and when a bruise arrived, or a cut opened red, why he need only run to his ma or da, and they would take his shock and indignation… and that disturbance would be gone… and ahead there was only the sun and the brightness of never growing up… You should have seen our last stands. They were something. There were something.
Tears your freaking heart out.
And this moment does not pass unwitnessed. For the Crippled God is there to see and hear it all. And he will record it in, what’s that, a Book of the Fallen? And what is the title of this series? Hmm, what does this mean…
And then I love the other effect the laughter has, this one on the listening Kolansii and High Watered Haggraf. “Who are these foreigners?” indeed.
I confess to a little confusion on this arrow. There seems to be an emphasis on it being a “Kolansii” arrow. Is it a retrieved one from the hilltop. Or is this from the actual Kolansii ranks, a sign that this laugher, this “awe” the soldiers feel is threatening the hold of the Forkrul Assail on them, something Grave himself references when he notes the “emotions that had nothing to do with a desire to destroy the enemy.” I admit, one would think there would have been more made of it had it come from their own ranks, which would seem to indicate it came from the hill. But I kind of like the idea of it coming from the Kolansii soldiers (who, I have to say, have really gotten the short end of the stick in these battles—forced to fight to the last soldier by the Voice—I’m a little surprised more wasn’t made of this amongst some of the characters).
Oh silly, silly Grave. Don’t you know what happens when folks in this series start talking about being unstoppable? They usually get stopped. Kalam and Quick Ben, ladies and gentlemen. They’ll be all week and twice on Sunday…
Well, here we are. Fiddler, Quick, and Kalam on the hilltop, Korabas above, T’iam manifesting. One god curled around, another god about to loose his chains. We’re almost there folks. Friday’s the end, Wednesday’s the book/series wrap, and then Steven will be joining us for Q and A.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.