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 Two of Blood Follows.
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.
Returning from his “interview” with Bauchelain, Emancipor runs into a huge man who seems to start to fling some sorcery at him but then stops, giggles, and says, “he’s marked for me.” Emancipor continues on, spotting a cloaked person, seemingly a female, rushing down the other pavement, being followed by a man in armour. He sees a “commotion” ahead, hears a scream and heads around whatever is happening.
Guld is at the crime scene where Lordson Hoom, a noble, “had died ignobly, with most of his inside strewn and smeared halfway down the alley.” Guld sent tracking dogs off and also sent messages to the king and to Stul Ophan. Much to his dismay, the woman who was on the scene (the scream Emancipor heard) is the king’s only child, Princess Sharn, and “if the rumours are true, a real dark piece of work in her own right.” He begins his questioning of her by saying it’s obvious she and Hoom were having a secret affair, though luckily for her tonight’s assignation was mistimed, allowing her to arrive just after the murder. He asks where her handmaid is, but then Ophan arrives and tells her not to answer, sending her off to see the king. After she leaves, Guld warns Ophan that although he understands the king’s desire to bury his daughter’s involvement, that he shouldn’t interfere again in his investigation, adding that the king’s fear is “nothing compared to the city’s.” Examining the scene, Ophan tells Guld the killer used “high sorcery” to muffle the sound or smell and to obliterate the carriage horse’s memory. They’re interrupted by the arrival of Mortal Sword to the Sisters, Tulgord Vise, who alleges the killer must be associated with Hood. Ophan, though, argues a necromancer isn’t necessarily associated with Hood and in fact, Hood usually doesn’t like them. Guld informs Vise the killer isn’t so much interested in “death” as in collecting organs “vital to life.” Vise asks about the souls, though, and Ophan says they’ve been destroyed or, perhaps stolen, which is even more difficult. Guld warns Vise off of interfering or killing the murderer, saying the city needs to see him “writhe on the hooks.” Vise almost draws his sword, but Ophan stops him by pointing out the guards’ crossbows locked on him and he leaves. Ophan tells Guld the level of sorcery means the killer is a foreigner, as no local mages have this ability. One of the guards tells Guld about Bauchelain’s notice and how the man who read it (Emancipor) called himself “Hood’s Herald.” Guld decides to check it out after he goes to the king. The dog master returns and informs him the dogs found “a woman’s trail, or a man’s, or both, or neither. One or two, then a third, heavy.”
At home, Emancipor bemoans his nagging wife and his two whiny kids that have been sent home with mange, meaning an expensive trip to an alchemist to cure it and time spent trapping the pigeons his wife blames for the mange. Musing on the kids, he stops to itch an old thought — that the kids had been born when he’d mostly been at sea and that neither really looks like him. He exits.
The king, in his private meeting with Guld, had “babbled,” revealed his own fear, and told Guld “more about the precious Princess Sharn that he’d care to [know].” He joins the corporal at post with Bauchelain’s notice and the guardsman tells him it’s associated with two foreigners who came in recently from Korel and who have hired the coachman for Merchant Baltro, the recent victim of the murderer. They head over to question the foreigners.
The Sorrowman’s doorman tells Guld one of the foreigners has never left the room and the other does so rarely, especially after hiring the new manservant. They go up to the room, and Emancipor steps out, shuts the door behind him, and refuses to let them in. Guld is dismayed to note that Emancipor is a veteran — ”damned veterans. I hate dealing with veterans — they don’t buckle,” and so sets up a false confrontation to allow Emancipor to save face and avoid getting arrested, hurt, or killed. Bauchelain lets Guld in and submits to questioning, telling him he arrived three weeks ago, he is a sorcerer, Broach is a eunuch, that he is researching odd properties of the local slate used for the ancient tombs. He’s a bit pedantic and evasive on whether he is a necromancer or not. Guld leaves. Outside the room, he orders his guard to keep an eye on the place, then asks the hostelier how Broach left the room, but the hostelier says he’s never left, nor has he ever eaten.
Bauchelain reassures Emancipor that he and Broach like him, adding he has “foreseen a long acquaintance with him.” Bauchelain tells him as well he finds it “peculiar” that he cannot “find an image” of Emancipor’s wife in his mind; he can just hear her voice. They stare for a while at each other, then Bauchelain turns away, saying he wants Emancipor to book passage east for two days from now. When Bauchelain asks about Guld, Emancipor tells him the sergeant is famous and has never failed at solving a murder. Bauchelain says he doesn’t want Emancipor to “unduly alarm” Guld with their early departure, and Emancipor replies he won’t say a thing.
Guld goes to the tavern where one of his guards has tailed the foreigner he’s seen at the murder sites. Also in the tavern is a hooded figure with a longbow and scarred hands. Guld questions the foreigner about why he’s hanging around murder scenes, and the stranger answers he’s just seeing the sights. When Guld implies the foreigner might be the killer, the stranger says if he is a killer, he doesn’t do it that way. When asked why he’s in Moll, the foreigner says he’s just passing through and might be leaving tomorrow or not. When Guld rises to leave and points out the foreigner has left some bread, the stranger says it’s for the gods. When Guld asks, “What if they’re not hungry?” the foreigner says they always are.
Emancipor tells Kreege and Dully he needs a ship sailing that night or the morning and they run through several possibilities, with Dully settling on the Suncurl, which draws a weird reaction from Kreege. Dully says it’s out of Stratem and he and Kreege had done some work on it at the docks, and had “swung them a good price on iron nails.” Kreege agrees it’s a good choice and then asks if Subly found what she needed at the apothecary’s. Emancipor doesn’t remember telling them about that, but thinks he must have just forgotten doing so, then thinks how “Kreege dotes on our youngest lad—guess it’s a natural concern. Guess he’s just a nice, caring man, is Kreege.”
Guld goes to Mercy Blackpug’s shop—she’s the old witch with the dolls. Inside he finds a younger, prettier woman who identifies herself as Mercy and the old woman as her sisters Mince. When Guld is skeptical the two could be sisters, Mercy explains that Mince “eats no meat, no fish. Only vegetables. And herbs. She drinks no alcohol. Smokes no durhang… [or] rustleaf. She is celibate, an early riser… jogs… every day” and is only a year older than Mercy’s thirty-six. She adds she, unlike her sister, “imbibes in all manner of vices.” Guld says he wants to know why she’s loitering at the murder scenes, and Mercy says to try and use the fear to make converts. Mercy explains her dolls are made of the skin of criminals, ordered “Mostly by relatives of the dead… Mementos of the departed.” He leaves and runs into Mince, who warns him off of Mercy, who vices will be the “death” of him. When she says Mercy knows “Moll’s most secret and vice-ridden lairs,” Guld wonders if she also knows how goes there and decides to go back and question Mercy, even if it takes “hours.”
Guld finds the two best rat-hunters, Birklas Punth and Blather Roe, picnicking on top of Knoll Barrow the largest in the city and one which had been looted and uniquely found wholly empty. Guld has used their knowledge of the city’s underworld in the past, and so is willing to accept their “peculiarities.” When Birklas drops that “even Whitemane himself hides” from the killer, Guld demands to know if such a Soletaken creature—Whitemane—really exists. They assure him he does, “an unprepossessing man when in that shape, but once he’s veered, the most intimidating of rats… Ruler of the Furred Kingdom.” They speculate if Whitemane himself or his runners or guards have seen the killer. Guld says he wants to know about Hoom and the princess.
Stul Ophan joins Guld atop Sekarand’s tower. Guld says he thinks he has his man, though he feels he missed something. He explains how both Ophan and the dogs must have picked up the scent of a eunuch. He says he know him, but hasn’t found him, though he thinks someone else has, then notes, “she’s on the move” and rushes out, telling Ophan to go home.
Guld thinks of what he learned from his questions and his meeting with the king: Hoom and Sharn both had a taste for blood and pain, but Hoom was not “advanced” enough. His killer, however, had shown Sharn “how wonderfully far things could be taken,” and she’d sent her handmaiden on the killer’s trail. The handmaiden was returning and now she and the Princess would lead Guld and his men right to the killer. As he heads toward the meeting, he thinks Sharn is making a dangerously horrible mistake. He arrives at the Fishmonger’s Round, where Bauchelain’s notice was posted. The handmaiden enters, moving toward the post, followed by the Princess, and too late Guld realizes the crow perched atop the post is Broach. Before he can yell a warning, he’s knocked on the head from behind by the foreigner with the scimitar, who apologies as he disarms him and explains he must allow this killing so he can get “both”—“Broach [will] be vulnerable, enough to call for help. And then my long hunt ends.” He reassures Guld that the sergeant will get what left of them to “appease the mob.”
As the incapacitated Guld watches, Broach shifts into his human form and kills the handmaiden while “Princess Sharn groaned as in ecstasy.” As Broach approaches Sharn, the hunter raises his crossbow but is frozen, unable to shoot. Bauchelain appears and speaks to the hunter, saying, “Steck Marynd, you are a stubborn one… What a wasted life, this maniacal pursuit. How many years since that unfortunate crossing of our paths.” He suggests Marynd retire, grateful that Bauchelain has yet again spared his life, though he warns this is the last time, adding it hasn’t been mercy but “indifference” to the “minor irritation” Marynd has been that has kept him alive.
Bauchelain tells Broach to leave the Princess be; the handmaiden needs to be enough. When Broach whines of being deprived of “begetting,” Bauchelain replies he has enough now and they need to quickly leave. Broach suggests killing all those here who have figured out he’s the killer and then the city will be theirs. Bauchelain, however, says the city will be “plunged into violent chaos,” and “Steck’s death is not be by our hand… He will live many years yet, unfortunately.” Finally, he says he respects Guld too much to kill the princess, adding they’ve added another enemy to their list as well—Tulgord Vise, who has sworn a blood vow and “blooded by the Sisters” is approaching with some power. They hear his horse pounding away as it nears, and Bauchelain sighs, then says it’s too bad they forgot to ward the horse. He casts a spell, there’s an animal scream followed by a crash and a “crunch” as Vise ends up headfirst in a barrow.
Just then Whiteman exits the barrow and Bauchelain calls up a demon who grabs the rat an swallows it. Bauchelain tells him to spit it out immediately, which it does. He order the demon to pick it up and go back to his trunk, but is interrupted by the two rat-hunters, who make both Broach and Bauchelain nervous, much to Guld’s confusion. Birklas dismisses Bauchelain’s demon, saying he and Blather like things in Moll as they are, and that Bauchelain and Broach have “upset things.” Broach tells Bauchelain the two smell like a barrow, and Birklas explains that it took them “some time” to exit the Knoll, much longer than their predecessors that had been buried in the lesser burrows and who had used the rats. He orders Bauchelain and Broach out of the city, and Bauchelain agrees, saying they were just leaving anyway. When Guld berates Bauchelain for killing his men, the sorcerer assures him he did no such thing; they’re just wandering confused.
The two sorcerers leave, Sharn is indignant that Broach was going to kill her, Marynd goes unconscious, and the rat-hunters exit the area. Guld looks at the dead handmaiden and Mince from the alley yells out, “See what comes of a life of vice?”
Emancipor wakes aboard the Suncurl. He opens one of the trunks and finds Broach’s “begetting”: “heaped and throbbing and twitching, sewn one organ to another, each alive and no doubt retaining souls in a torturous prison from which escape was impossible… only to a mind twisted beyond sanity could such a a monstrosity be deemed a child.” He stumbles on deck, green, and Bauchelain thinks he’s seasick and offers to try and treat him. He points out Broach, a crow amidst the seagulls, and calls him “tireless,” then changes subjects to saying he has “sensed something awry with this ship… there’s the oddity of the nails,” and the fact the captain won’t say where they’re going. He worries as well that the effect of the nails on his wards might allow the “child” to escape. Emancipor bursts out in hysterical, despairing laughter, startling the gulls and Broach, meaning the gulls all burned to death. Bauchelain asks Emancipor to “restrain your odd mirth,” as Broach looks, “agitated, very agitated indeed.”
And so Broach steps onto the page for the first time, and he is certainly a creepy, creepy guy, what with his appearance, and his soft giggles, and the palpable threat that he offers with sorcery and with physical damage. He does make me shudder.
Especially when we move to another scene of violent murder. This is where having seen Broach before in the main series lets us know who the culprit is. Based on the publication dates, I don’t think there would be many readers of these novellas who hadn’t already read about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach in the main series, so any mystery about the murders is sort of lost, surely? Unless there really is a mystery and Broach didn’t do it!
Guld becomes an even more impressive character here, where he dissects exactly what the princess had been up to and was willing to detain her, then also shows willing to question the king in the same manner. “The king is one man—his fear is nothing compared to the city’s fear.”
If it wasn’t Broach that committed the murder, then the fact they are now looking for someone able to perform “high sorcery, Guld, the highest” is a concern.
A Mortal Sword? Like we’ve seen with respect to the Wolves and Trake? “Mortal Sword to the Sisters”—who might these be?
How easy it is to dislike Tulgord Vise, with his quick dismissal of Ophan’s knowledge about how necromancers are disavowed by the followers of Death, and then name drops the fact that he crossed swords with Hood’s Herald. And did he really? As far as I remember, Hood’s Herald has been either Gethol or Toc the Younger.
Heh, I like the very dark humour of the horse suddenly collapsing in death and the guardsmen firing off their crossbows because of such itchy fingers on the triggers. I doubt Tulgord Vise knew how close he came to death with one wrong move.
Well, this is as clear as mud, isn’t it? “By their tuck they found a woman’s trail, or a man’s, or both, or neither. One, or two, then a third, heavy I’d say, that last one, with brine and sword-oil, or so the dogs danced, anyway.”
Emancipor’s home life doesn’t get any better, the more we hear about it, does it? Particularly the idea that he is raising another man’s children—possibly.
It’s interesting that Erikson chooses not to show us the encounter between the king and Guld, and brushes past it in favour of continuing the story. I wonder if this was an active choice with it being a novella and therefore supposed to be shorter in length, or whether this scene just didn’t have enough potential for development or progression of plot/characters. Saying that, I wonder how easy or hard Erikson found it writing in such a short form compared to the main Malazan novels?
Hmm, the fact that the two foreigners (Bauchelain and Korbal) have hired the man-servant of one of the victims does tend to point the finger at them somewhat, doesn’t it?
I like this scene where Emancipor faces down Guld at the door to his new employer’s room. I like Emancipor’s quiet determination to do a good job in order to stay employed, I like Guld’s noting about the fact he is a veteran and behaves like one, and I like that Guld comes up with a compromise that aids both of them. It’s well written.
The sparring in the dialogue between Guld and Bauchelain is fun to read—I do like the fact that no one actually seems to know where Korbal is, although that does put him squarely as suspect number one, surely!
I’m not sure what is going on here where Bauchelain tells Emancipor that he can’t find an image of Subly in his mind, that her voice is there, but he cannot see her within Emancipor. Why the long moment where they just look at each other?
Haha, love this:
“Moll’s not much, but it’s got more to offer than alleys with dismembered corpses.”
The man paused. “Does it now?”
And this is also brilliant, albeit rather sad on Emancipor’s behalf: “Kreege dotes on our youngest lad—guess it’s a natural concern. Guess he’s just a nice, caring man, is Kreege.”
What fabulous descriptive work and imagery we get at the idea of Doll Street! That sounds so incredibly creepy and chilling. And made of human skin… Even more terrifying. “Not leather, after all, rather, something more like pigskin, poorly tanned and wrinkled around the stitches.”
Yeah, sure, Guld just wants to “question” Mercy… I’m sure it will take hours!
Well, these two ratcatchers are another fun duo to add to Erikson’s repertoire. I can’t help but feel there is more to them than seems to be on the surface, what with the way that they speak and the knowledge that they have about things like Whitemane. They certainly do seem to have eyes everywhere in the city.
Ah, I like the way that both Esslemont and Erikson have now poked fun at the idea of mages living in towers. Here we have:
“I’m not the best with heights, Sergeant. You’ll forgive me if I remain here, though it relieves me naught with the whole edifice swaying as it is.”
Guld opened his mouth to say something, then scowled and said instead, “You live in a damned tower!”
Ophan shrugged again. “It’s… expected of me. Isn’t it? I reside on the main floor, mostly.”
Ah, the hounds didn’t know if they followed the trail of a man or woman—but perhaps a eunuch would cause that confusion. I got there about a second before I read it from Guld’s own words.
So the dark foreigner is actually hunting Korbal Broach—I mean, I know he’s a killer with horrible appetites, but what might cause anyone to trail him and try to cause his death? Especially when they see things like how casually he kills the handmaid.
And then we hear from Bauchelain that this man has spent his life pursuing Broach, that he has been spared before by the two of them. Imagine spending your whole life doing something to have a man say: “‘Tis not mercy that stays my hands, sir. But indifference, alas. You are, after all, naught but a minor irritation.”
There are those Sisters again—and Tulgord Vise has been blessed by them so that he can face down Bauchelain. I’m probably being dense, but can’t figure out who they might be. All I can think about are the three Eleint/Tiste sisters, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t them!
The ratcatchers make Korbal Broach nervous?! See, there is definitely more to them than seems to be. Bauchelain is uneasy at their presence as well, and then Birklas makes a demon vanish!
Oh gods, Korbal Broach’s dreams of begetting are truly a nightmare… Suddenly Subly isn’t seeming too bad! And that moment when Emancipor starts laughing hysterically—perhaps a moment in there where he hopes that prophesied death will find him as he laughs.
This first foray into the novellas was brief, but entertaining and they have all the flavour of the main novels without some of the weightiness and gravity.
Yes, those giggles make Broach all the more creepy. Well beyond the size and the threat of sorcery.
You can see this is not your typical tale when Emancipor, at the sound of the woman screaming ahead, does not rush forward to help or at least to see what’s happening. Instead, he ducks into a side street that take him around whatever is happening. Not exactly the hero’s journey here.
The fact that one of our two title characters has left pieces of a person “strewn and smeared halfway down the alley” also points to this being not the same old same old. What is our readerly stance supposed to be toward this guy? Normally, we’d of course be rooting for Guld. And the scene with the Princess only makes his character more typically heroic—the doggedly insistent detective who will follow his leads no matter where they lead, who will brook no interference even if it might cost him his job (or his life). He’s obviously the one whose side we’re on. But then, we know Bauchelain and Broach aren’t apprehended, that no “justice” is done—which makes for an odd sort of tension here.
The Sisters, Amanda, appear to be Soliel and Poliel.
This scene works well as your typical police procedural scene, with several more clues dribbled out in the course of dialog: the high sorcery used to maintain silence, to obliterate the horse’s mind, the fact that the killer is collecting specific body parts, that the killer is a necromancer and a foreigner, that the killer is stealing souls as well as parts, and the muddy details regarding the dog’s scents.
It also works by serving up a few more complicating plot details to the mystery/procedural: will it lead high up the chain (to the Princess or king), will Vise become a problem, will the city explode in fear and violence?
A funny if tense moment with the horse collapsing and getting shot by six crossbows—I like the “sheepish” looks from the guards.
Also funny the way we get notice that Emancipor’s kids probably aren’t his. And I chuckled too at the line that the evidence, the “sufficient proof” that he was their father no matter the biology is their “contempt for him.”
I agree Amanda the scene outside Bauchelain’s room is well done. We’ve seen that sort of “oh shit” moment of recognizing a veteran before and I always like those moments, that instant grudging respect for the old soldiers that “don’t buckle.” It’s also a bit odd reading that about Emancipor who isn’t usually portrayed in this light in the novels.
And the scene also raises Guld in the eyes of the reader by his quickness of thought in coming up with the fake fight and his understanding of Emancipor’s position and his willingness to allow him to save face. The fight is also pretty humorous, with Emancipor doing a nice job of hamming it up—his “bellow,” the way he throws “a boot back to hammer the door, rattling it in its frame,” and how Guld is alarmed by how the corporal almost actually hurts Emancipor.
Emancipor is so suave and cool during his interrogation. Easy to forget he’s protecting the guy leaving strewn body parts around.
Yes, that moment about Emancipor’s wife is quite weird Amanda. I’m not sure what to make of it myself—it threw me too. Especially because it’s Bauchelain who breaks the stare down. Anyone? I don’t know if it’s something we’re supposed to get here or something that gets revealed later.
Yes, that exchange about Moll offering more than corpses is one of my favorites in the story too
I like as well the subtle menace of “If it’s what I do, I don’t do it that way” and “They’re always hungry, Sergeant.”
Well, I think we know where at least one of Emancipor’s kids comes from…
And what is so bad about the Suncurl?
Love the atmosphere of that doll shop and how it plays against the humor of the conversation—the underlying sexual tension, the broad satire on living the “good healthy” life and its effect (we’ll see more of that concept later), and Mercy’s line about “Every child should know terror”—nice parenting tip. My only quibble is “jogs” took me momentarily out of the story.
More complications. The two rat-hunters, who clearly are more than they appear. And the possibility of a Sole-taken getting involved in things, the “Ruler of the Furred Kingdom, Slayer of All Challengers…”
I loved that whole “Wizards have to live in a tower” mockery as well Amanda.
And again, Guld comes up big with his intelligent way of tracking the killer.
And perhaps we feel a little less sympathetic for “Hoomy” learning how he loved to give pain, but apparently not “seriously” enough for the Princess?
Stories behind stories here. Will we ever learn just what happened when Steck Marynd and these two crossed paths before? And again, we have some fun being poked at a standard trope—the vow of vengeance undertaken by the warrior who will not cease before he succeeds in killing those who wronged him “Allo, my name is Steck Marynd. You ‘fill-in-the-blank’ Prepare to die.”
And as bad as Bauchelain is, he comes across here again as so smooth, so suave, so reasonable (you’d had enough Broach, time to stop playing) it’s nearly impossible not to like the guy and be happy he gets away. Which is a bit discomfiting. Though our feelings are somewhat rewarded by how he hadn’t killed Guld’s guards.
And oh, how I love the “”alas, he forgot to bind his horse” line. Too funny as yet another fantasy trope goes down—head stuck in a barrow like a cartoon character.
I love too how after the buildup of Whiteman we get something “white and the size of a fat cat” that gets gobbled up, and then the stern talking to between Bauchelain and his demon.
And again, more stories behind stories. Just who are these rat-hunters? What powers were they when they were interred? Have they ingested the power of those who escaped the barrows before them by eating the rats? You know they’re good when even Broach is nervous and Bauchelain backs down. This is one of the aspects I so enjoy about the stories is the way they widen the world of the Malazan novels—not just by showing us other places but by emphasizing a point always made in the novels—that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg, that we’re seeing only a little of what is happening or has happened in this universe.
That would seem a suitably mournful, serious way to end the scene, with Guld looking at the corpse, but nope, gotta get some dark humor in there via Mince’s “See what comes of a life of vice?”
More foreboding about this ship—with references to its unknown destination and those iron nails, which if you recall Kreege mentioned giving the Suncurl a “good deal” on—one has to wonder just why they were such a bargain.
A good horror moment with the discovery of Broach’s “begetting.” Will we see more of this thing? Will it grow? Will it be put out of its misery? A nice way to add some ongoing future tension perhaps.
And yes, we maybe are being granted a vision as to just what it might mean that Emancipor dies laughing.
Brief but entertaining without being “weighty” is a nice description Amanda. It’s nice to be able to zip through a Malazan story and still have its incumbent dark humor, some serious asides perhaps, its sharp creation of character (I’d love to see more stories with Guld in Lamentable Moll), and all of taking just an hour or so. And a pair of good characters to give us this other portal in I’d say.
Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.