The chapter begins with an epigraph by Felisin.
Two years have past and a sorceress by the name of Tattersail surveys the aftermath of a battle against Pale. The siege is finally over. Empty armor where men and women once stood littered the battle field. An army of Moranth, allies of Malazan, marches to claim their share of blood. A wizard, Hairlock, talks with her from the ground. He’s crushed from the rib down and his entrails are on display. Four soldiers approached them. One of them is our old friend from the prologue, the commander of the Bridgeburners. This time we’re given his name – Whiskeyjack. Another one of the four, Quick Ben, sees to Hairlock. We learn that seven is all there is left of Whiskeyjack’s men, thirty five overall where once they numbered fourteen hundred. Four collapsed tunnels did most of them in, while the High Mage Tayschrenn, Tattersail’s master, prevented two of the survivors from helping those who are trapped in the tunnels.
Now we move to a flashback. Tattersail wakes up next to Calot, who she’s been sleeping with for the last four months, mainly to ease the boredom of the siege or so she tells herself. They are summoned by Hairlock. On their way there, she looks over Moon’s Spawn, the Tiste Andii’s mountain fortress floating above Pale. (Picture above) Even Laseen’s undead army, the T’lan Imass, could not defeat it. The Tiste Andii’s legions commanded by Caladan Brood joined the Crimson Guard mercenaries and have kept the Malaz 5th Army at bay for four years. Tattersail’s cadre stood no chance against their might, so the siege had grounded to a halt. Except for the Bridgeburners who kept tunneling. Tattersail and Calot reach the tent and are put off by the strong sense of magic coming from Hairlock. High Fist Dujek Onearm soon joins them. He reports that the Empress has sent a Claw to assassinate Pale’s wizards and the assault on Moon’s Spawn starts today. High Mage Tayschrenn reveals himself and tells them the plan. Hairlock has some reservations but they argue. Hairlock once fought against Malazan and was forced to serve or die. He and Dujek were at Pan’potsun where the Empire’s First Sword was murdered. Dujek confirms that the plan is to proceed. And as they leave to prepare, they realize that the archmage in Moon’s Spawn is the legendary Anomander Rake, the Mane of Chaos. Four High Mages and a single cadre will not stand a chance against someone like him. Tayschrenn is betting that Rake will break his pact and leave, based on historical evidences. The plan is going ahead, by the Empress orders, whether the rest of them like it or not.
The next scene shows the start of the plan. Tattersail and her cadre assembles on the battlefield. Tayschrenn was closer to the wall and the three other High Mages, Nightchill, Belludran and A’Karonys, stood on the center hill. All three of the High Mages were long time veterans of the army, leading companies of Adept during the Emperor’s reign. Hairlock seems to have figured something out, but he’s not sharing. Moon’s Spawn stops it’s rotation as it prepares to face the invaders. The attack begins as Tayschrenn sends a wave of golden flame towards Moon’s Spawn. A black cloud of great ravens enshrouds the flying fortress. Tayschrenn attacks again and Anomander retaliates with a black wave of his own. The High Mage is pushed back and in the ensuing flash of power, the men around the area are killed. In the resulting chaos, Hairlock gets cut in half and Calot is burnt into ashes, with attacks coming from the plains. A Kenryll’ah demon rises from beneath the three High Mages and kills Nightchill. Belludran kills it, and then A’Karonys is killed by ethereal wings of ice. Chunks of Moon’s Spawn are blown off and fall to the city of Pale down below. And then the Moon retreats. Tayschrenn is alive but down. Bellurdan clutches the scattered limbs of Nightchill and wails. Tattersail looks away and curses Tayschrenn. The siege of Pale was finally won at the expense of Dujek’s army and four mages.
We return to the present day as Tattersail watches Quick Ben prepare to do a ritual. She observes the rest of the crew. Kalam is a soldier who she deduces is a man who’s murder an art but she’s not entirely sure what to make of the girl. Quick Ben mutters words over Hairlock while setting a wrapped object on his torso. Hairlock and Tattersail discuss the attacks that brought him down and killed Calot. They surmised that it was Tayschrenn’s plan to get them killed, though Tattersail does not understand why. Hairlock tells Quick Ben to use her, but she’s not sure what she’s used for. Hairlock draws his last breath and Tattersails thinks that whatever magic Quick Ben was doing had failed. Quick Ben however passes the wrapped object to Tattersail and tells her to unwrap it in her tent, away from Tayschrenn’s eyes. The girl is not happy that Quick Ben has kept her out and Tattersail detects fear in Quick Ben. Tattersail reluctantly accepts the wrapped object and before she leaves, she asks the girl her name, to which the girl replies Sorry.
Whiskeyjack and the others have a discussion after Tattersail leaves. Sorry is certain that they have drawn attention on themselves. Whiskeyjack is not sure what to make of Sorry and watches Tattersail navigate the killing field. Ravens circled over her because of what she’s carrying. They discuss about the possibility that someone within the Empire wants the Bridgeburners dead as they watch their Moranth allies sack the city. Whiskeyjack mentions that they have new orders from the Empire, their next stop is the legendary city of Darujhistan. He orders Kalam to gather the rest of the survivors and meet outside the High Fist’s tent to prepare.
In the camp, Tattersail walks pass survivors and wonders if she could have done something to help them. She thinks about how the name of the 2nd Army is strike through on the list of active armies. Soldiers had come to her in the battlefield to see shelter from the chaos of magic, but she could do nothing to help them without risking herself. They had been comrades during the siege. Favors traded within the 2nd Army kept everyone alive. She reaches her tent and her Deck of Dragons catches her sight. She hasn’t used it in a long time. She sets aside the package and wonders aloud if she should use it, something have kept her away from it despite it calling out to her. It might have foretold Calot’s death and that might have been the reason why. She thought about refusing the Deck once before, and Mock’s throat was opened the night before Dancer and the man who would one day become Emperor stole her lover’s Hold. She sees a pattern in that. The package moves and she opens it to a familiar face and voice. Hairlock’s soul has been transferred onto a marionette. He talks her into drawing the cards. She draws a Knight of Dark and then Oponn, the two-faced Jester of Chance. She observes the card and sees the coin spinning. Hairlock doesn’t see it and pushes her to draw the third card, but she chooses to hold. She leaves the tent and thinks about Knight of Dark being something violent yet this time there was a hint of salvation. With Oponn, the Knight could be either friend or foe or neither. As she walks towards the command tent, she hears the coin spinning in her head.
This Felisin who wrote the epigraph does seem to be Felisin, sister to Ganoes. She was born in 1146. In the year 1161, Ganoes is 19 years old and he’s her older brother. Which would mean she’s four years younger than Ganoes.
Oh yay, another time skip! This time we’re told its two years.
Here’s the interesting thing about Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners. We’re told in the Prologue that they were of the Third Army. Now it’s the Second Army. Did a restructuring of the army happened after Laseen took the throne?
That’s a bunch of new characters. Tattersail, the Bridgeburners, the other mages, etc. A lot of info to digest. So I’m sensing that Dujek and the others did not survive the battle? I think we’ll find out soon enough. Though Tattersail’s survival, and Hairlock’s might mean that Rake did ran off after all. Oh, and Anomander Rake is the guy on the cover of the Subterranean Press book. Looks pretty epic. He’s in a poem and what not after all. As far as I can tell, this guy is pretty much a legend. Makes me wonder about Tistii Andei lifespans. And the thing about the Malazan Empire absorbing enemy soldiers into their own ranks reminds me a lot of the Roman Empire and Mongol Empire. The later bit the dust because of it. Well technically the Romans didn’t use their enemy soldiers as much as Germanic barbarians that had never set foot in Rome and were loyal only to their commanders. The Mongols on the other hand had great success doing this. Jebe, one of Genghis’s Dogs of War used to be his enemy. Anyway, I digressed.
What’s the deal with Sorry? I take it she’s the girl taken from Itko Kan. Which would mean that she’s pretty dangerous and vital to the plot. Is she already the tool of a god? Would be interesting to see how her story develops. There’s also the question about Tayschrenn as his plans. Is he working for the Empress or against her? Seems kind of a risky move to kill off a few high mages if he’s not.
The chapter begins with an epigraph talking about a forgotten people taken from Gothos’ Folly by Gothos.
Ganoes is aboard an imperial trireme. Topper emerges from the Imperial Warren. The first time Ganoes has since the man in two years. He reports to Ganoes that Sorry is with Whiskeyjack’s squad. Apparently Ganoes regrets not taking the commander’s advice. Ganoes is to take command of the Bridgeburners and Topper warns him that Sorry might have corrupted the crew and possibly the rest of the armies at Genabackis. Ganoes is told that failure is not an option but the Claws are unable to harm the girl because she is protected by a god. They are to take Darujhistan and Dujek Onearm is to be dealt with as Laseen is feeling threatened by him. Topper leaves after the commands are given.
In the next city we are at the port city of Genabaris during the Season of Currents. An agent is watching an officer wondering if he’s the one he’s supposed to retrieve. The officer looked like a noble and though a captain, no one saluted him. He surmised that the Adjunct must be slightly off in the head and approaches the officer. They make contact and the agent changes his thought. The agent informs the officer that he will be riding with a Green Quorl to Cloud Forest, swap to Black and get to Pale. When the officer is confused by all of it, the agent informs him that Quorls are animals that fly.
In the next scene, Tattersail is stopped by a marine in the Empire headquarters in Pale. The marine brings her to Bellurdan who is barely alive and next to him, in a burlap sack is Nightchill’s remains. It’s been five days since the battle. Tattersail offers healing, but he declines. The outer scars reflect his inner scars at Nightchill’s demise. He declares that he will mend and when the time is right he will rise a barrow for Nightchill and that Tayschrenn has given him permission to take leave. Tattersail begins to talk about theories of Tayschrenn’s betrayal but Bellurdan refuses to listen. Bellurdan believes that Kellanved is mad and Tayschrenn protected them from him. They talk about the history of the Emperor and how he surrounded himself with the right people but knew someone from within will kill him. And they wondered how he had not been able to prevent his death. Tattersail begs to leave for her meeting with Tayschrenn but not before she casts a spell to mask the stench of Nightchill’s corpse.
Next we join Whiskeyjack in Pale as he speaks with Kalam and Quick Ben. Kalam remarks that the city stinks and Whiskeyjack mentions that the last time he saw the walls, it was covered with armored figures and mages. Kalam tells him that rumors says a captain from Unta has been sent to cut their throats. There has been four captains in three years. Whiskeyjack observes the city. The 5th and 6th army has almost been broken by Caladan Brood and his Crimson Guard. The only intact army is Moranth’s Black. The Green is used for transport and the legendary Gold is nowhere in sight. There are hills outside the city for the dead but 1300 Bridgeburners were already buried beneath with no marker for them. It irked Whiskeyjack that there had been no rescue attempt save by the survivors. Tayschrenn had sent an officer delivering commiserations and the officer was later found garroted. Kalam had suggested that it was the work of a Claw done to discredit the Bridgeburners. Whiskeyjack has his doubts. Quick Ben thinks Sorry’s pure evil. Kalam wonders if she’s a Claw and magic has made her look younger. Whiskeyjack dismisses Sorry and wonders why the Empress would want them dead. They reason that it is the memory of the Emperor she wants to kill and since her position is tenuous, she’s no longer patient enough to wait for them to die off. Hairlock is their way in, planning to turn the tables against Laseen and do some “cleaning” of their own. Fiddler and Sorry approach and they get ready to move and possibly greet their new captain. In the meantime, Whiskeyjack thinks to himself that he knows more than the other two men about their mission.
Next, we see Tattersail standing behind Tayschrenn as he watches the Bridgeburners approach. Tattersail glance over to them and recognizes four out of five. Tayschrenn asks for a reading. He mentions the spinning coin and her breath gets caught. Her eyes are shut as she feels an Ascendant reaching through her to give the reading. She draws five cards, the last being an unaligned Crown and represents Darujhistan. The Ascendant leaves her then and the reading is ended. Tayschrenn is impressed by the reading but not the message. She interprets the message for him but does not reveal that signs point that Sorry is the Virgin of House Death. She spots the marine from before and sends him to arrange a meeting with Whiskeyjack.
Ganoes reaches the outskirts of Pale. The ruin city is already being rebuilt. He recalls rumors of what has happened here. And thinks to himself that his information is badly outdated. The Moranths hadn’t been helpful either. Some say the group he was to control – the Bridgeburners – didn’t even exist anymore. A Claw brings him a horse and Ganoes thinks that he hasn’t had a friend in two years. The Claws haven’t been good companions with the exception of the one at Genabaris. He asked the new Claw about the Bridgeburners, and he tells him that only five squads remain and then he leads the way. Ganoes thinks that this Claw is different from the others. He also thinks that it was no coincidence that most of the 2nd, 5th and 6th Armies were from the Seven Cities. The Claw warns that Whiskeyjack is a well-liked man, even if he pretends otherwise. He recounts Whiskeyjack’s history to Ganoes, mentioning that most in the 2nd still remember those days. He’s warned the people back in Malaz of potential mutiny of the Bridgeburners but they have ignored his advices. The Claw also mentions that he’s the only surviving Claw in the area, his officer having been garroted two days ago. He also warns Ganoes that the army is under Tayschrenn’s command in name, but they really follow Dujek. Ganoes feels he’s being asked to do the impossible. Lead a rebellious group to a dangerous mission in a situation where an insurrection by the Empire’s finest commander could happen against a High Mage carving up his niche in the Free Cities. The Claw comforts him by saying everyone here is out of their depth and ask him to send word to Toc the Younger (him) if Ganoes needed help, and then he leaves Ganoes.
Ganoes thinks about how his time in the noble court prepared him for the deception ahead, and how he’s slowly become used to being used by the Adjunct. How she’s molded him into something for herself. He thought about the young man in him shrinking, the old him getting smaller and smaller and eventually disappearing. He wondered if he would even care. He goes to the old Pale Noble Guard’s barracks and finds Picker. He asks her where the Ninth Squad is and she says they’re gone. Her sergeant, Antsy, is out playing cards with Hedge, who’s from the Ninth. When Picker learns who he is, she tells him to go home and lick the Empress feet. Part of Ganoes wonders if he should skewer her or laugh. He is interrupted by the opening door and the returning Antsy, who proceeds to complain. Picker introduces them and Ganoes asks him where Whiskeyjack is. He tells him where he might find the Ninth and Ganoes leaves. Picker bets that Ganoes will be killed in two days, with Rockface having bet twenty already.
Ganoes finds the Bridgeburners in Knobb’s Inn. He sees a man dealing cards and surmised that he is a Barghast. The only Barghast in the Bridgeburners is part of the Ninth. He struggles through the crowd to reach them. The man across the table from the Barghast introduces himself as Hedge and introduces the rest of the Ninth and tells him Whiskeyjack is out and will be back soon. Ganoes sits with them and asks Mallet, the healer, what the life expectancy of a Bridgeburner officer is. He replies two campaigns, and tells him to follow Whiskeyjack’s advices and he might make it. Mallet asks him about what he’s heard and Ganoes replies that the mortality rate is so high because officers end up with a knife in their back. When the room turns silent, Ganoes remarks that he’s inclined to believe the rumor and if he’s to be stabbed, he hope he has earned it. He leaves and tells them to send the sergeant his way. As he leaves, he feels insignificant. All the arrogance drilled into the noble’s youth has fled. He knows that his ascend to officer has been through favor and not merit. And realize here, court influences don’t mean a thing. As he walks the streets of Pale, he is assaulted. He is stabbed in the chest and again in the side. And he falls of a wall. Darkness closes in on him and all he feels is regret. He hears a man speak. And a girl replies. They are Ammanas and Cotillion from the first chapter. Cotillion warns Ammanas not to get distracted and their target is Laseen and the collapse of the Empire she rules but never earned. Cotillion identifies Ganoes as a man sent by Lorn and that killing him would draw Lorn out. As the conversation faded and the two leave, Ganoes hears the sound of a spinning coin.
Topper: “The Empress expects obedience of her servants and demands loyalty.”
Ganoes: “Any reasonable ruler would have the expectation and the demand the other way round.”
Pale’s gutters still ran red from the hour of retribution. Once the burial shifts were through, there’d be a few more hills outside the city’s walls. Big ones.
…his path … had been an easy procession marked by winks and nods. …here, Paran realized, nobody cared one whit about court influences and mutually favorable deals. Those short-cuts swelled his chances of dying, and dying fast.
I wonder if that epigraph has something to do with the Tiste Andii. Seems they might be a “legendary” people with how Tattersail and the others treated Anomander Rake.
I’ve really taken a shine to Ganoes. He regrets being a soldier, and he’s now sent to deal with Sorry and possibly his old mentor Whiskeyjack. Surely Ganoes now regrets standing out at Itko Kan and having the eye of the Adjunct on him. And he is conflicted about a few things, wondering if the Empire is the Empress or an entity of its own. With the Empire at such a young age, it is interesting to see this issue. I wonder if there has been an Empire so intertwined with its ruler that it falls apart after the ruler’s death. The Macedonian Empire comes to mind.
Another passage with nameless key characters. The agent works for Lorn, so he’s not a Claw, as I initially thought. And I’m thinking that the officer is Ganoes. And he needs to study up on the Moranth and Genabackis if he’s to survive his excursion here.
Damn, this was a chilling passage. The image of an emotionally and physically beaten mage, a once highly respected individual sitting in the corner of the streets with his lover’s corpse next to him is just so vivid. And all these talks about the Emperor makes him think that he’s not actually dead. If he’s alive, I wonder where he is. Probably plotting revenge against Laseen somewhere. Is he with Anomander Rake and the other Free Cities? Or is he part of the plot related to Sorry? Or maybe he’s in some other book.
Another harrowing sight to see. A blood soaked city, presumably still so after five days. So many bodies buried together that they form hills. Kalam’s sources seems well informed. I’m excited to see how Whiskeyjack would react when he meets Ganoes again. Would he even recognize him? And their distrust of Sorry. It’s bad to distrust your own teammate, especially when the Empire is out the get you. Granted I know Sorry is not part of the Empire and they don’t. At this point, I’m not sure what will happen, but I want the Bridgeburners, including Ganoes and Sorry to survive the end of this book.
These type of writing always intrigues me. The “prophecy” but not as blatant as the prophecy kind of thing. In this, it’s the card reading, and in Wheel of Time, it was Min’s viewings. They make it fun to speculate. I’m not one to speculate though, and since the series is finished, I think if I Googled it, I would just be greeted by spoilers. So I’m not going to be partaking in this one. Though my interpretation of it thus far is that Sorry is going to kill Tayschrenn, or maybe even Laseen, and she is controlled by the Rope/Assassin guy. Probably the god thing. Oponn might mean it’s not a sure thing, or that Tattersail has a role to play in it. And that it will happen in Darujhistan. Also, another Wheel of Time thing, the spinning coin in Tattersail’s head reminds me of the rolling dice in Mat’s.
Ah-hah! So Ganoes is the officer from before and that agent was a Claw. Reading the “summary” of the political tension here in Pale just shows how the poor guy is really out of his depth here. I’m seriously betting he’s regretting that Itko Kan thing now. That “summary” also shows me that shit is so going to hit the fan sometime in this book. There’s no way Dujek and the Bridgeburner don’t do something about Laseen. Also, I hope that Toc sticks around. As Ganoes said, he really is different from the other Claws. Oh, is his garroted officer the same as the one Whiskeyjack mentioned? That would mean they’re way off base in that one. I wonder if Ammaram and Cotillion are playing the two factions within the Empire right now.
Ah-hah! Ganoes does regret that meeting at Itko Kan. Brash, honest youth he says. Hah. Also, I’m confused. Is Picker and her Sergeant Bridgeburners? When Ganoes asks if she’s an average Bridgeburner, she says that average Bridgeburners are killed, but then says Hedge is not in her squad, and that he’s in the Ninth. Wouldn’t that mean the Ninth are Bridgeburners? Or is the Ninth one of the Bridgeburner squads and Ganoes is only going to take control of that one. Sounds weird to have a captain only control one squad. I’ve always figured that captains were in charge of a company which included many squads.
So Ganoes finally finds the Ninth… and dies? God I hope not. I’ve become so attached to him. Gah. This will teach me not to get so attached. At least it came early, unlike a certain other noble lord. I was just thinking that he might actually survive the Ninth, being aware of his shortcomings. And I take it that Cotillion has possessed the girl? Following my theory from before, is he the Rope/Assassin card? Feels too direct. Also, is he a god then? Since they seem to hint that Sorry was going to be possessed by one. Would that make Ammamas a god too? How has the old lady’s link affected the possession? Would his actions really draw Lorn out? How powerful is she? Also, what the heck, Ganoes. Don’t die on me, please.
There we go, the second part of the Reading Malazan series! If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I’ve been thinking about changing up the format a little. Since I write down my thoughts after each scene, it would make more sense if I ordered them up by scene. Especially when something I thought about in one scene is directly answered in a scene in the same chapter. Plus the chapters are SO long. I’ll just need to figure out the layout to present them in. Hopefully I get it done for the next Reading Malazan installment.