Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen Series #3)by Steven Erikson
The ravaged continent of Genabackis has given birth to a terrifying new empire: the Pannion Domin. Like a tide of corrupted blood, it seethes across the land, devouring all. In its path stands an uneasy alliance: Onearm's army and Whiskeyjack's Bridgeburners alongside their enemies of old--the forces of the Warlord Caladan Brood, Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii mages, and the Rhivi people of the plains.
But ancient undead clans are also gathering; the T'lan Imass have risen. For it would seem something altogether darker and more malign threatens this world. Rumors abound that the Crippled God is now unchained and intent on a terrible revenge.
Marking the return of many characters from Gardens of the Moon and introducing a host of remarkable new players, Memories of Ice is both a momentous new chapter in Steven Erikson's magnificent epic fantasy and a triumph of storytelling.
“Vast in scope, almost frighteningly fecund in imagination, and rich in sympathy, his work does something that only the rarest of books can manage: it alters the reader’s perceptions of reality.” – Stephen R. Donaldson
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
The Spark and the Ashes
Five mages, an Adjunct, countless Imperial
Demons, and the debacle that was Darujhistan,
all served to publicly justify the outlawry
proclaimed by the Empress on Dujek Onearm
and his battered legions. That this freed
Onearm and his Host to launch a new
campaign, this time as an independent military
force, to fashion his own unholy alliances which
were destined to result in a continuation of the
dreadful Sorcery Enfilade on Genabackis, is,
one might argue, incidental. Granted, the
countless victims of that devastating time
might, should Hood grant them the privilege,
voice an entirely different opinion. Perhaps the
most poetic detail of what would come to be
called the Pannion Wars was in fact a precursor
to the entire campaign: the casual, indifferent
destruction of a lone, stone bridge, by the
Jaghut Tyrant on his ill-fated march to
IMPERIAL CAMPAIGNS (THE PANNION WAR)
1194 – 1195, VOLUME IV, GENABACKIS
IMRYGYN TALLOBANT (B. 1151)
Memories are woven tapestries hiding hard walls—tell me, my friends, what hue your favoured thread, and I in turn, will tell the cast of your soul …
LIFE OF DREAMS
ILBARES THE HAG
1164th Year of Burn’s Sleep (two months after the Darujhistan Fete) 4th Year of the Pannian Domin Tellann Year of the Second Gathering
The bridge’s Gadrobi limestone blocks lay scattered, scorched and broken in the bank’s churned mud, as if a god’s hand had swept down to shatter the stone span in a single, petty gesture of contempt. And that, Gruntle suspected, was but a half-step from the truth.
The news had trickled back into Darujhistan less than a week after the destruction, as the first eastward-bound caravans this side of the river reached the crossing, to find that where once stood a serviceable bridge was now nothing but rubble. Rumours whispered of an ancient demon, unleashed by agents of the Malazan Empire, striding down out of the Gadrobi Hills bent on the annihilation of Darujhistan itself.
Gruntle spat into the blackened grasses beside the carriage. He had his doubts about that tale. Granted, there’d been strange goings on the night of the city’s Fete two months back – not that he’d been sober enough to notice much of anything – and sufficient witnesses to give credence to the sightings of dragons, demons and the terrifying descent of Moon’s Spawn, but any conjuring with the power to lay waste to an entire countryside would have reached Darujhistan. And, since the city was not a smouldering heap – or no more than was usual after a city-wide celebration – clearly nothing did.
No, far more likely a god’s hand, or possibly an earthquake – though the Gadrobi Hills were not known to be restless. Perhaps Burn had shifted uneasy in her eternal sleep.
In any case, the truth of things now stood before him. Or, rather, did not stand, but lay scattered to Hood’s gate and beyond. And the fact remained, whatever games the gods played, it was hard-working dirt-poor bastards like him who suffered for it.
The old ford was back in use, thirty paces upriver from where the bridge had been built. It hadn’t seen traffic in centuries, and with a week of unseasonal rains both banks had become a morass. Caravan trains crowded the crossing, the ones on what used to be ramps and the ones out in the swollen river hopelessly mired down; while dozens more waited on the trails, with the tempers of merchants, guards and beasts climbing by the hour.
Two days now, waiting to cross, and Gruntle was pleased with his meagre troop. Islands of calm, they were. Harllo had waded out to a remnant of the bridge’s nearside pile, and now sat atop it, fishing pole in hand. Stonny Menackis had led a ragged band of fellow caravan guards to Storby’s wagon, and Storby wasn’t too displeased to be selling Gredfallan ale by the mug at exorbitant prices. That the ale casks were destined for a wayside inn outside Saltoan was just too bad for the expectant innkeeper. If things continued as they did, there’d be a market growing up here, then a Hooddamned town. Eventually, some officious planner in Darujhistan would conclude that it’d be a good thing to rebuild the bridge, and in ten or so years it would finally get done. Unless, of course, the town had become a going concern, in which case they’d send a tax collector.
Gruntle was equally pleased with his employer’s equanimity at the delay. News was, the merchant Manqui on the other side of the river had burst a blood vessel in his head and promptly died, which was more typical of the breed. No, their master Keruli ran against the grain, enough to threaten Gruntle’s cherished disgust for merchants in general. Then again, Keruli’s list of peculiar traits had led the guard captain to suspect that the man wasn’t a merchant at all.
Not that it mattered. Coin was coin, and Keruli’s rates were good. Better than average, in fact. The man might be Prince Arard in disguise, for all Gruntle cared.
‘You there, sir!’
Gruntle pulled his gaze from Harllo’s fruitless fishing. A grizzled old man stood beside the carriage, squinting up at him. ‘Damned imperious of you, that tone,’ the caravan captain growled, ‘since by the rags you’re wearing you’re either the world’s worst merchant or a poor man’s servant.’
‘Manservant, to be precise. My name is Emancipor Reese. As for my masters’ being poor, to the contrary. We have, however, been on the road for a long time.’
‘I’ll accept that,’ Gruntle said, ‘since your accent is unrecognizable, and coming from me that’s saying a lot. What do you want, Reese?’
The manservant scratched the silvery stubble on his lined jaw. ‘Careful questioning among this mob had gleaned a consensus that, as far as caravan guards go, you’re a man who’s earned respect.’
‘As far as caravan guards go, I might well have at that,’ Gruntle said drily. ‘Your point?’
‘My masters wish to speak with you, sir. If you’re not too busy – we have camped not far from here.’
Leaning back on the bench, Gruntle studied Reese for a moment, then grunted. ‘I’d have to clear with my employer any meetings with other merchants.’
‘By all means, sir. And you may assure him that my masters have no wish to entice you away or otherwise compromise your contract.’
‘Is that a fact? All right, wait there.’ Gruntle swung himself down from the buckboard on the side opposite Reese. He stepped up to the small, ornately framed door and knocked once. It opened softly and from the relative darkness within the carriage’s confines loomed Keruli’s round, expressionless face.
‘Yes, Captain, by all means go. I admit as to some curiosity about this man’s two masters. Be most studious in noting details of your impending encounter. And, if you can, determine what precisely they have been up to since yesterday.’
The captain grunted to disguise his surprise at Keruli’s clearly unnatural depth of knowledge – the man had yet to leave the carriage – then said, ‘As you wish, sir.’
‘Oh, and retrieve Stonny on your way back. She has had far too much to drink and has become most argumentative.’
‘Maybe I should collect her now, then. She’s liable to poke someone full of holes with that rapier of hers. I know her moods.’
‘Ah, well. Send Harllo, then.’
‘Uh, he’s liable to join in, sir.’
‘Yet you speak highly of them.’
‘I do,’Gruntle replied. ‘Not to be too immodest, sir, the three of us working the same contract are as good as twice that number, when it comes to protecting a master and his merchandise. That’s why we’re so expensive.’
‘Your rates were high? I see. Hmm. Inform your two companions, then, that an aversion to trouble will yield substantial bonuses to their pay.’
Gruntle managed to avoid gaping. ‘Uh, that should solve the problem, sir.’
‘Excellent. Inform Harllo thus, then, and send him on his way.’
The door swung shut.
As it turned out, Harllo was already returning to the carriage, fishing pole in one massive hand, a sad sandal-sole of a fish clutched in the other. The man’s bright blue eyes danced with excitement.
‘Look, you sour excuse for a man – I’ve caught supper!’
‘Supper for a monastic rat, you mean. I could inhale that damned thing up one nostril.’
Harllo scowled. ‘Fish soup. Flavour—’
‘That’s just great. I love mud-flavoured soup. Look, the thing’s not even breathing – it was probably dead when you caught it.’
‘I banged a rock between its eyes, Gruntle—’
‘Must have been a small rock.’
‘For that you don’t get any—’
‘For that I bless you. Now listen. Stonny’s getting drunk—’
‘Funny, I don’t hear no brawl—’
‘Bonuses from Keruli if there isn’t one. Understood?’
Harllo glanced at the carriage door, then nodded. ‘I’ll let her know.’
Gruntle watched him scurry off, still carrying his pole and prize. The man’s arms were enormous, too long and too muscled for the rest of his scrawny frame. His weapon of choice was a two-handed sword, purchased from a weaponsmith in Deadman’s Story. As far as those apish arms were concerned, it might be made of bamboo. Harllo’s shock of pale blond hair rode his pate like a tangled bundle of fishing thread. Strangers laughed upon seeing him for the first time, but Harllo used the flat of a blade to stifle that response. Succinctly.
Sighing, Gruntle returned to where Emancipor Reese stood waiting. ‘Lead on,’ he said.
Reese’s head bobbed. ‘Excellent.’
The carriage was massive, a house perched on high, spoked wheels. Ornate carvings crowded the strangely arched frame, tiny painted figures capering and climbing with leering expressions. The driver’s perch was canopied in sun-faded canvas. Four oxen lumbered freely in a makeshift corral ten paces downwind from the camp.
Privacy obviously mattered to the manservant’s masters, since they’d parked well away from both the road and the other merchants, affording them a clear view of the hummocks rising on the south side of the road, and, beyond it, the broad sweep of the plain.
A mangy cat lying on the buckboard watched Reese and Gruntle approach.
‘That your cat?’ the captain asked.
Reese squinted at it, then sighed. ‘Aye, sir. Her name’s Squirrel.’
‘Any alchemist or wax-witch could treat that mange.’
The manservant seemed uncomfortable. ‘I’ll be sure to look into it when we get to Saltoan,’ he muttered. ‘Ah,’ he nodded towards the hills beyond the road, ‘here comes Master Bauchelain.’
Gruntle turned and studied the tall, angular man who’d reached the road and now strode casually towards them. Expensive, anklelength cloak of black leather, high riding boots of the same over grey leggings, and, beneath a loose silk shirt – also black – the glint of fine blackened chain armour.
‘Black,’ the captain said to Reese, ‘was last year’s shade in Darujhistan.’
‘Black is Bauchelain’s eternal shade, sir.’
The master’s face was pale, shaped much like a triangle, an impression further accented by a neatly trimmed beard. His hair, slick with oil, was swept back from his high brow. His eyes were flat grey – as colourless as the rest of him – and upon meeting them Gruntle felt a surge of visceral alarm.
‘Captain Gruntle,’ Bauchelain spoke in a soft, cultured voice, ‘your employer’s prying is none too subtle. But while we are not ones to generally reward such curiosity regarding our activities, this time we shall make an exception. You shall accompany me.’ He glanced at Reese. ‘Your cat seems to be suffering palpitations. I suggest you comfort the creature.’
‘At once, master.’
Gruntle rested his hands on the pommels of his cutlasses, eyes narrowed on Bauchelain. The carriage springs squeaked as the manservant clambered up to the buckboard.
Gruntle made no move.
Bauchelain raised one thin eyebrow. ‘I assure you, your employer is eager that you comply with my request. If, however, you are afraid to do so, you might be able to convince him to hold your hand for the duration of this enterprise. Though I warn you, levering him into the open may prove something of a challenge, even for a man of your bulk.’
‘Ever done any fishing?’ Gruntle asked.
‘The ones that rise to any old bait are young and they don’t get any older. I’ve been working caravans for more than twenty years, sir. I ain’t young. You want a rise, fish elsewhere.’
Bauchelain’s smile was dry. ‘You reassure me, Captain. Shall we proceed?’
They crossed the road. An old goat trail led them into the hills. ‘The caravan camp this side of the river was quickly lost to sight. The scorched grass of the conflagration that had struck this land marred every slope and summit, although new green shoots had begun to appear.
‘Fire,’ Bauchelain noted as they walked on, ‘is essential for the health of these prairie grasses. As is the passage of bhederin, the hooves in their hundreds of thousands compacting the thin soil. Alas, the presence of goats will spell the end of verdancy for these ancient hills. But I began with the subject of fire, did I not? Violence and destruction, both vital for life. Do you find that odd, Captain?’
‘What I find odd, sir, is this feeling that I’ve left my wax-tablet behind.’
‘You have had schooling, then. How interesting. You’re a swordsman, are you not? What need you for letters and numbers?’
‘And you’re a man of letters and numbers – what need you for that well-worn broadsword at your hip and that fancy mail hauberk?’
‘An unfortunate side effect of education among the masses is lack of respect.’
‘Healthy scepticism, you mean.’
‘Disdain for authority, actually. You may have noted, to answer your question, that we have but a single, rather elderly manservant. No hired guards. The need to protect oneself is vital in our profession—’
‘And what profession is that?’
They’d descended onto a well-trodden path winding between the hills. Bauchelain paused, smiling as he regarded Gruntle. ‘You entertain me, Captain. I understand now why you are well spoken of among the caravanserai, since you are unique among them in possessing a functioning brain. Come, we are almost there.’
They rounded a battered hillside and came to the edge of a fresh crater. The earth at its base was a swath of churned mud studded with broken blocks of stone. Gruntle judged the crater to be forty paces across and four or five arm-lengths in depth. A man sat nearby on the edge of the rim, also dressed in black leather, his bald pate the colour of bleached parchment. He rose silently, for all his considerable size, and turned to them with fluid grace.
‘Korbal Broach, Captain. My … partner. Korbal, we have here Gruntle, a name that is most certainly a slanting hint to his personality.’
If Bauchelain had triggered unease in the captain, then this man – his broad, round face, his eyes buried in puffed flesh and wide full-lipped mouth set slightly downturned at the comers, a face both childlike and ineffably monstrous – sent ripples of fear through Gruntle. Once again, the sensation was wholly instinctive, as if Bauchelain and his partner exuded an aura somehow tainted.
‘No wonder the cat had palpitations,’ the captain muttered under his breath. He pulled his gaze from Korbal Broach and studied the crater.
Bauchelain moved to stand beside him. ‘Do you understand what you are seeing, Captain?’
‘Aye, I’m no fool. It’s a hole in the ground.’
‘Amusing. A barrow once stood here. Within it was chained a Jaghut Tyrant.’
‘Indeed. A distant empire meddled, or so I gather. And, in league with a T’lan Imass, they succeeded in freeing the creature.’
‘You give credence to the tales, then,’ Gruntle said. ‘If such an event occurred, then what in Hood’s name happened to it?’
‘We wondered the same, Captain. We are strangers to this continent. Until recently, we’d never heard of the Malazan Empire, nor the wondrous city called Darujhistan. During our all too brief stay there, however, we heard stories of events just past. Demons, dragons, assassins. And the Azath house named Finnest, which cannot be entered yet, seems to be occupied none the less – we paid that a visit, of course. More, we’d heard tales of a floating fortress, called Moon’s Spawn, that once hovered over the city—’
‘Aye, I’d seen that with my own eyes. It left a day before I did.’
Bauchelain sighed. ‘Alas, it appears we have come too late to witness for ourselves these dire wonders. A Tiste Andii lord rules Moon’s Spawn, I gather.’
Gruntle shrugged. ‘If you say so. Personally, I dislike gossip.’
Finally, the man’s eyes hardened.
The captain smiled inwardly.
‘This is what you wanted to show me, then? This … hole?’
Bauchelain raised an eyebrow. ‘Not precisely. This hole is but the entrance. We intend to visit the Jaghut tomb that lies below it.’
‘Oponn’s blessing to you, then,’ Gruntle said, turning away.
‘I imagine,’ the man said behind him, ‘that your master would urge you to accompany us.’
‘He can urge all he likes,’ the captain replied. ‘wasn’t contracted to sink in a pool of mud.’
‘We’ve no intention of getting covered in mud.’
Gruntle glanced back at him, crooked a wry grin. ‘A figure of speech, Bauchelain. Apologies if you misunderstood.’ He swung round again and made his way towards the trail. Then he stopped. ‘You wanted to see Moon’s Spawn, sirs?’ He pointed.
Like a towering black cloud, the basalt fortress stood just above the south horizon.
Boots crunched on the ragged gravel, and Gruntle found himself standing between the two men, both of whom studied the distant floating mountain.
‘Scale,’ Bauchelain muttered, ‘is difficult to determine. How far away is it?’
‘I’d guess a league, maybe more. Trust me, sirs, it’s close enough for my tastes. I’ve walked its shadow in Darujhistan – hard not to for a while there – and believe me, it’s not a comforting feeling.’
‘I imagine not. What is it doing here?’
Gruntle shrugged. ‘Seems to be heading southeast—’
‘Hence the tilt.’
‘No. It was damaged over Pale. By mages of the Malazan Empire.’
‘Impressive effort, these mages.’
‘They died for it. Most of them, anyway. So I heard. Besides, while they managed to damage Moon’s Spawn, its lord remains hale. If you want to call kicking a hole in a fence before getting obliterated by the man who owns the house “impressive”, go right ahead.’
Korbal Broach finally spoke, his voice reedy and high-pitched. ‘Bauchelain, does he sense us?’
His companion frowned, eyes still on Moon’s Spawn, then shook his head. ‘I detect no such attention accorded us, friend. But that is a discussion that should await a more private moment.’
‘Very well. You don’t want me to kill this caravan guard, then?’
Gruntle stepped away in alarm, half drawing his cutlasses. ‘You’ll regret the attempt,’ he growled.
‘Be calmed, Captain.’ Bauchelain smiled. ‘My partner has simple notions—’
‘Simple as an adder’s, you mean.’
‘Perhaps. None the less, I assure you, you are perfectly safe.’
Scowling, Gruntle backed away down the trail. ‘Master Keruli,’ he whispered, ‘if you’re watching all this – and I think you are – I trust my bonus will be appropriately generous. And, if my advice is worth anything, I suggest we stride clear and wide of these two.’
Moments before he moved beyond sight of the crater, he saw Bauchelain and Korbal Broach turn their backs on him – and Moon’s Spawn. They stared down into the hole for a brief span, then began the descent, disappearing from view.
Sighing, Gruntle swung about and made his way back to the camp, rolling his shoulders to release the tension that gripped him.
As he reached the road his gaze lifted once more, southward to find Moon’s Spawn, hazy now with distance. ‘You there, lord, I wish you had caught the scent of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, so you’d do to them what you did to the Jaghut Tyrant – assuming you had a hand in that. Preventative medicine, the cutters call it. I only pray we don’t all one day come to regret your disinterest.’
Walking down the road, he glanced over to see Emancipor Reese, sitting atop the carriage, one hand stroking the ragged cat in his lap. Mange? Gruntle considered. Probably not.
The huge wolf circled the body, head low and turned inward to keep the unconscious mortal within sight of its lone eye.
The Warren of Chaos had few visitors. Among those few, mortal humans were rarest of all. The wolf had wandered this violent landscape for a time that was, to it, immeasurable. Alone and lost for so long, its mind had found new shapes born of solitude; the tracks of its thoughts twisted on seemingly random routes. Few would recognize awareness or intelligence in the feral gleam of its eye, yet they existed none the less.
The wolf circled, massive muscles rippling beneath the dull white fur. Head low and turned inward Lone eye fixed on the prone human.
The fierce concentration was efficacious, holding the object of its attention in a state that was timeless – an accidental consequence of the powers the wolf had absorbed within this warren.
The wolf recalled little of the other worlds that existed beyond Chaos. It knew nothing of the mortals who worshipped it as they would a god. Yet a certain knowledge had come to it, an instinctive sensitivity that told it of … possibilities. Of potentials. Of choices now available to the wolf, with the discovery of this frail mortal.
Even so, the creature hesitated.
There were risks. And the decision that now gnawed its way to the forefront had the wolf trembling.
Its circling spiralled inward, closer, ever closer to the unconscious figure. Lone eye fixing finally on the man’s face.
The gift, the creature saw at last, was a true one. Nothing else could explain what it discovered in the mortal man’s face. A mirrored spirit, in every detail. This was an opportunity that could not be refused.
Still the wolf hesitated.
Until an ancient memory rose before its mind’s eye. An image, frozen, faded with the erosion of time.
Sufficient to close the spiral.
And then it was done.
His single functioning eye blinked open to a pale blue, cloudless sky. The scar tissue covering what was left of his other eye tingled with a maddening itch, as if insects crawled under the skin. He was wearing a helm, the visor raised. Beneath him, hard sharp rocks dug into his flesh.
He lay unmoving, trying to remember what had happened. The vision of a dark tear opening before him – he’d plunged into it, was flung into it. A horse vanishing beneath him, the thrum of his bowstring. A sense of unease, which he’d shared with his companion. A friend who rode at his side. Captain Paran.
Toc the Younger groaned. Hairlock. That mad puppet. We were ambushed. The fragments coalesced, memory returning with a surge of fear. He rolled onto his side, every muscle protesting. Hood’s breath, this isn’t the Rhivi Plain.
A field of broken black glass stretched away on all sides. Grey dust hung in motionless clouds an arm’s span above it. Off to his left, perhaps two hundred paces away, a low mound rose to break the flat monotony of the landscape.
His throat felt raw. His eye stung. The sun was blistering overhead. Coughing, Toc sat up, the obsidian crunching beneath him. He saw his recurved horn bow lying beside him and reached for it. The quiver had been strapped onto the saddle of his horse. Wherever he’d gone, his faithful Wickan mount had not followed. Apart from the knife at his hip and the momentarily useless bow in his hand, then, he possessed nothing. No water, no food. A closer examination of his bow deepened his scowl. The gut string had stretched.
Badly. Meaning I’ve been … away … for some time. Away. Where? Hairlock had thrown him into a warren. Somehow, time had been lost within it. He was not overly thirsty, nor particularly hungry. But, even if he had arrows, the bow’s pull was gone. Worse, the string had dried, the wax absorbing obsidian dust. It wouldn’t survive retightening. That suggested days, if not weeks, had passed, though his body told him otherwise.
He climbed to his feet. The chain armour beneath his tunic protested the movement, shedding glittering dust.
Am I within a warren? Or has it spat me back out? Either way, he needed to find an end to this lifeless plain of volcanic glass. Assuming one existed …
He began walking towards the mound. Though it wasn’t especially high, he would take any vantage point that was available. As he approached, he saw others like it beyond, regularly spaced. Barrows. Great, I just love barrows. And then a central one, larger than the rest.
Toc skirted the first mound, noting in passing that it had been holed, likely by looters. After a moment he paused, turned and walked closer. He squatted beside the excavated shaft, peered down into the slanting tunnel. As far as he could see – over a man’s height in depth – the mantle of obsidian continued down. For the mounds to have showed at all, they must be huge, more like domes than beehive tombs. ‘Whatever,’ he muttered. ‘I don’t like it.’
He paused, considering, running through in his mind the events that had led him to this … unfortunate situation. The deathly rain of Moon’s Spawn seemed to mark some kind of beginning. Fire and pain, the death of an eye, the kiss that left a savagely disfiguring scar on what had been a young, reputedly handsome face.
A ride north onto the plain to retrieve Adjunct Lorn, a skirmish with Ilgres Barghast. Back in Pale, still more trouble. Lorn had drawn his reins, reviving his old role as a Claw courier. Courier? Let’s speak plain, Toc, especially to yourself. You were a spy. But you had been turned You were a scout in Onearm’s Host. That and nothing more, until the Adjunct showed up. There’d been trouble in Pale. Tattersail, then Captain Paran. Flight and pursuit. ‘What a mess,’ he muttered.
Hairlock’s ambush had swatted him like a fly, into some kind of malign warren. Where I … lingered I think. Hood take me, time’s come to start thinking like a soldier again. Get your bearings. Do nothing precipitous. Think about survival, here in this strange, unwelcome place …
He resumed his trek to the central barrow. Though gently sloped, it was at least thrice the height of a man. His cough worsened as he scrambled up its side.
The effort was rewarded. On the summit, he found himself standing at the hub of a ring of lesser tombs. Directly ahead, three hundred paces beyond the ring’s edge yet almost invisible through the haze, rose the bony shoulders of grey-cloaked hills. Closer and to his left were the ruins of a stone tower. The sky behind it glowed a sickly red colour.
Toc glanced up at the sun. When he’d awoken, it had been at little more than three-quarters of the wheel; now it stood directly above him. He was able to orientate himself. The hill lay to the northwest, the tower a few points north of due west.
His gaze was pulled back to the reddish welt in the sky beyond the tower. Yes, it pulsed, as regular as a heart. He scratched at the scar tissue covering his left eye-socket, winced at the answering bloom of colours flooding his mind. That’s sorcery over there. Gods, I’m acquiring a deep hatred of sorcery.
A moment later, more immediate details drew his attention. The north slope of the central barrow was marred by a deep pit, its edges ragged and glistening. A tumble of cut stone – still showing the stains of red paint – crowded the base. The crater, he slowly realized, was not the work of looters. Whatever had made it had pushed up from the tomb, violently. In this place, it seems that even the dead do not sleep eternal. A moment of nervousness shook him, then he shrugged it off with a soft curse. You’ve known worse, soldier. Remember that T’lan Imass who’d joined up with the Adjunct. Laconic desiccation on two legs, Beru fend us all. Hooded eye-sockets with not a glimmer or gleam of mercy. That thing had spitted a Barghast like a Rhivi a plains boar.
Eye still studying the crater in the mound’s flank, his thoughts remained on Lorn and her undead companion. They’d sought to free such a restless creature, to loose a wild, vicious power upon the land. He wondered if they’d succeeded. The prisoner of the tomb he now stood upon had faced a dreadful task, without question – wards, solid walls, and armspan after armspan of compacted, crushed glass. Well, given the alternatives, I imagine I would have been as desperate and as determined. How long did it take? How malignly twisted the mind once freed?
He shivered, the motion triggering another harsh cough. There were mysteries in the world, few of them pleasant.
He skirted the pit on his descent and made his way towards the ruined tower. He thought it unlikely that the occupant of the tomb would have lingered long in the area. I would have wanted to get as far away from here and as fast as was humanly possible. There was no telling how much time had passed since the creature’s escape, but Toc’s gut told him it was years, if not decades. He felt strangely unafraid in any case, despite the inhospitable surroundings and all the secrets beneath the land’s ravaged surface. Whatever threat this place had held seemed to be long gone.
Forty paces from the tower he almost stumbled over a corpse. A fine layer of dust had thoroughly disguised its presence, and that dust, now disturbed by Toc’s efforts to step clear, rose in a cloud. Cursing, the Malazan spat grit from his mouth.
Through the swirling, glittering haze, he saw that the bones belonged to a human. Granted, a squat, heavy-boned one. Sinews had dried nut-brown, and the furs and skins partially clothing it had rotted to mere strips. A bone helm sat on the corpse’s head, fashioned from the frontal cap of a homed beast. One horn had snapped off some time in the distant past. A dust-sheathed two-handed sword lay nearby. Speaking of Hood’s skull …
Toc the Younger scowled down at the figure. ‘What are you doing here?’ he demanded.
‘Waiting,’ the T’lan Imass replied in a leather-rasp voice.
Toc searched his memory for the name of this undead warrior. ‘Onos T’oolan,’ he said, pleased with himself. ‘Of the Tarad Clan—’
‘I am now named Tool. Clanless. Free.’
Free? Free to do precisely what, you sack of bones? Lie around in wastelands?
‘What’s happened to the Adjunct? Where are we?’
‘Which question is that an answer to, Tool?’
Toc gritted his teeth, resisting the temptation to kick the T’lan Imass. ‘Can you be more specific?’
‘Adjunct Lorn died in Darujhistan two months ago. We are in the ancient place called Morn, two hundred leagues to the south. It is just past midday.’
‘Just past midday, you said. Thank you for the enlightenment.’ He found little pleasure in conversing with a creature that had existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and that discomfort unleashed his sarcasm – a precarious presumption indeed. Get back to seriousness, idiot. That flint sword ain’t just for show. ‘Did you two free the Jaghut Tyrant?’
‘Briefly. Imperial efforts to conquer Darujhistan failed.’
Scowling, Toc crossed his arms. ‘You said you were waiting. Waiting for what?’
‘She has been away for some time. Now she returns.’
‘She who has taken occupation of the tower, soldier.’
‘Can you at least stand up when you’re talking to me.’ Before I give in to temptation.
The T’lan Imass rose with an array of creaking complaints, dust cascading from its broad, bestial form. Something glittered for the briefest of moments in the depths of its eye-sockets as it stared at Toc, then Tool turned and retrieved the flint sword.
Gods, better I’d insisted he just stay lying down. Parched leather skin, taut muscle and heavy bone … all moving about like something alive. Oh, how the Emperor loved them. An army he never had to feed, he never had to transport, an army that could go anywhere and do damn near anything. And no desertions — except for the one standing in front of me right now.
How do you punish a T’lan Imass deserter anyway?
‘I need water,’ Toc said after a long moment in which they simply stared at each other. ‘And food. And I need to find some arrows. And bowstring.’ He unstrapped his helmet and pulled it clear. The leather cap beneath it was soaked through with sweat. ‘Can’t we wait in the tower? This heat is baking my brain.’ And why am I talking as if I expect you to help me, Tool?
‘The coast lies a thousand paces to the southwest,’ Tool said. ‘Food is available there, and a certain seagrass that will suffice as bowstring until some gut can be found. I do not, alas, smell fresh water. Perhaps the tower’s occupant will be generous, though she is less likely to be so if she arrives to find you within it. Arrows can be made. There is a saltmarsh nearby, where we can find bone reed. Snares for coast birds will offer us fletching. Arrowheads … Tool turned to survey the obsidian plain. ‘I foresee no shortage of raw material.’
All right, so help me you will. Thank Hood for that. ‘Well, I hope you can still chip stone and weave seagrass, T’lan Imass, not to mention work bone-reed – whatever that is – into true shafts, because I certainly don’t know how. When I need arrows, I requisition them, and when they arrive they’re iron-headed and straight as a plumb-line.’
‘I have not lost the skills, soldier—’
‘Since the Adjunct never properly introduced us, I am named Toc the Younger, and I am not a soldier, but a scout—’
‘You were in the employ of the Claw.’
‘With none of the assassin training, nor the magery. Besides which, I have more or less renounced that role. All I seek to do now is to return to Onearm’s Host.’
‘A long journey.’
‘So I gathered. The sooner I start the better, then. Tell me, how far does this glass wasteland stretch?’
‘Seven leagues. Beyond it you will find the Lamatath Plain. When you have reached it, set a course north by northeast—’
‘Where will that take me? Darujhistan? Has Dujek besieged the city?’
‘No.’ The T’lan Imass swung its head round.‘She comes.’
Toc followed Tool’s gaze. Three figures had appeared from the south, approaching the edge of the ring of barrows. Of the three, only the one in the middle walked upright. She was tall, slim, wearing a flowing white telaba such as were worn by highborn women of Seven Cities. Her black hair was long and straight. Flanking her were two dogs, the one on her left as big as a hill-pony, shaggy, wolf-like, the other short-haired, dun-coloured and heavily muscled.
Since Tool and Toc stood in the open, it was impossible that they had not been seen, yet the three displayed no perturbation or change of pace as they strode nearer. At a dozen paces the wolfish dog loped forward, tail wagging as it came up to the T’lan Imass.
Musing on the scene, Toc scratched his jaw. ‘An old friend, Tool? Or does the beast want you to toss it one of your bones?’
The undead warrior regarded him in silence.
‘Humour,’ Toc said, shrugging. ‘Or a poor imitation. I didn’t think T’lan Imass could take offence.’ Or, rather, I’m hoping that’s the case. Gods, my big mouth …
‘I was considering,’ Tool replied slowly. ‘This beast is an ay, and thus has little interest in bones. Ay prefer flesh, still warm if possible.’
Toc grunted. ‘I see.’
‘Humour,’ Tool said after a moment.
‘Right.’ Oh. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. Surprises never cease.
The T’lan Imass reached out to rest the tips of its bony fingers on the ay’s broad head. The animal went perfectly still. ‘An old friend? Yes, we adopted such animals into our tribes. It was that or see them starve. We were, you see, responsible for that starvation.’
‘Responsible? As in overhunting? I’d have thought your kind was one with nature. All those spirits, all those rituals of propitiation—’
‘Toc the Younger,’ Tool interrupted, ‘do you mock me, or your own ignorance? Not even the lichen of the tundra is at peace. All is struggle, all is war for dominance. Those who lose, vanish.’
‘And we’re no different, you’re saying—’
‘We are, soldier. We possess the privilege of choice. The gift of foresight. Though often we come too late in acknowledging those responsibilities …’ The T’lan Imass’s head tilted as he studied the ay before him, and, it seemed, his own skeletal hand where it rested upon the beast’s head.
‘Baaljagg awaits your command, dear undead warrior,’ the woman said upon arriving, her voice a lilting melody. ‘How sweet. Garath, go join your brother in greeting our desiccated guest.’ She met Toc’s gaze and smiled. ‘Garath, of course, might decide your companion’s worth burying – wouldn’t that be fun?’
‘Momentarily,’ Toc agreed. ‘You speak Daru, yet wear the telaba of Seven Cities …’
Her brows arched. ‘Do I? Oh, such confusion! Mind you, sir, you speak Daru yet you are from that repressed woman’s empire — what was her name again?’
‘Empress Laseen. The Malazan empire.’ And how did you know that? I’m not in uniform …
She smiled. ‘Indeed.’
‘I am Toc the Younger, and the T’lan Imass is named Tool.’
‘How apt. My, it is hot out here, don’t you think? Let us retire within the Jaghut tower. Garath, cease sniffing the T’lan Imass and awaken the servants.’
Toc watched the burly dog trot towards the tower. The entrance, the scout now saw, was in fact via a balcony, probably the first floor – yet another indication of the depth of the crushed glass. ‘That place doesn’t appear very habitable,’ he observed.
‘Appearances deceive,’ she murmured, once again flashing him a heart-stuttering smile.
‘Have you a name?’ Toc asked her as they began walking.
‘She is Lady Envy,’ Tool said. ‘Daughter of Draconus – he who forged the sword Dragnipur, and was slain by its present wielder, Anomander Rake, lord of Moon’s Spawn, with that selfsame sword. Draconus had two daughters, it is believed, whom he named Envy and Spite—’
‘Hood’s breath, you can’t be serious,’ Toc muttered.
‘The names no doubt amused him, as well,’ the T’lan Imass continued.
‘Really,’ Lady Envy sighed, ‘now you’ve gone and ruined all my fun. Have we met before?’
‘No. None the less, you are known to me.’
‘So it seems! It was, I admit, over-modest of me to assume that I would not be recognized. After all, I’ve crossed paths with the T’lan Imass more than once. At least twice, that is.’
Tool regarded her with his depthless gaze. ‘Knowing who you are does not answer the mystery of your present residency here in Morn, should you look to pursue coyness, Lady. I would know what you seek in this place.’
‘Whatever do you mean?’ she asked mockingly.
As they approached the tower’s entrance a leather-armoured masked figure appeared in the gaping doorway. Toc stopped in his tracks. ‘That’s a Seguleh!’ He spun to Lady Envy. ‘Your servant’s a Seguleh!’
‘Is that what they’re called?’ Her brow wrinkled. ‘A familiar name, though its context escapes me. Ah well. I have gleaned their personal names, but little else. They happened by and chanced to see me – this one, who is called Senu, and two others. They concluded that killing me would break the monotony of their journey.’ She sighed. ‘Alas, now they serve me.’ She addressed the Seguleh. ‘Senu, have your brothers fully awakened?’
The short, lithe man tilted his head, his dark eyes flat within the slits of his ornate mask.
‘I’ve gathered,’ Lady Envy said to Toc, ‘that gesture indicates acquiescence. They are not a loquacious lot, I have found.’
Toc shook his head, his eyes on the twin broadswords slung under Senu’s arms. ‘Is he the only one of the three to acknowledge you directly, Lady?’
‘Now that you mention it … Is that significant?’
‘Means he’s on the bottom rung in the hierarchy. The other two are above conversing with non-Seguleh.’
‘How presumptuous of them!’
The scout grinned. ‘I’ve never seen one before – but I’ve heard plenty. Their homeland is an island south of here, and they’re said to be a private lot, disinclined to travel. But they are known of as far north as Nathilog.’ And Hood take me, aren’t they known.
‘Hmm, I did sense a certain arrogance that has proved entertaining. Lead us within, dear Senu.’
The Seguleh made no move. His eyes had found Tool and now held steady on the T’lan Imass.
Hackles rising, the ay stepped to one side to clear a space between the two figures.
‘Senu?’ Lady Envy enquired with honeyed politeness.
‘I think,’ Toc whispered, ‘he’s challenging Tool.’
‘Ridiculous! Why would he do that?’
‘For the Seguleh, rank is everything. If the hierarchy’s in doubt, challenge it. They don’t waste time.’
Lady Envy scowled at Senu. ‘Behave yourself, young man!’ She waved him into the room beyond.
Senu seemed to flinch at the gesture.
An itch spasmed across Toc’s scar. He scratched it vigorously, breathing a soft curse.
The Seguleh backed into the small room, then hesitated a moment before turning and leading the others to the doorway opposite. A curved hallway brought them to a central chamber in which a tightly wound staircase rose from the centre. The walls were unadorned, roughly pitted pumice. Three limestone sarcophagi crowded the far end of the room, their lids leaning in a neatly arranged row against the wall behind them. The dog Lady Envy had sent in ahead sat nearby. Just within the entrance was a round wooden table, crowded with fresh fruit, meats, cheese and bread, as well as a beaded clay jug and a collection of cups.
Senu’s two companions stood motionless over the table, as if standing guard and fully prepared to give their lives in its defence. Both were a match to their companion’s height and build, and similarly armed; the difference between each was evident only in their masks. Where Senu’s enamelled face-covering was crowded with dark-stained patterns, such decoration diminished successively in the other two examples. One was only slightly less marked than Senu’s, but the third mask bore naught but twin slashes, one on each gleaming white cheek. The eyes that stared out from the slits of this mask were like chips of obsidian.
The twin-scarred Seguleh stiffened upon seeing the T’lan Imass, took one step forward.
‘Oh really!’ Lady Envy hissed. ‘Challenges are forbidden! Any more of this nonsense and I shall lose my temper—’
All three Seguleh flinched back a step.
‘There.’ the woman said, ‘that’s much better.’ She swung to Toc. ‘Assuage your needs, young man. The jug contains Saltoan white wine, suitably chilled.’
Toc found himself unable to look away from the Seguleh wearing the twin-scarred mask.
‘If a fixed stare represents a challenge,’ Lady Envy said quietly, ‘I suggest, for the sake of peace – not to mention your life — that you refrain from your present engagement, Toc the Younger.’
He grunted in sudden alarm, tore his gaze from the man. ‘Good point, Lady. It’s only that I’ve never heard of … well, never mind. Doesn’t matter.’ He approached the table, reached for the jug.
Movement exploded behind him, followed by the sound of a body skidding across the room, striking the wall with a sickly thud. Toc spun round to see Tool, sword upraised, facing the two remaining Seguleh. Senu lay crumpled ten paces away, either unconscious or dead. His two swords were both halfway out of their sheaths.
Standing beside Tool, the ay named Baaljagg was staring at the body, tail wagging.
Lady Envy regarded the other Seguleh with eyes of ice. ‘Given that my commands have proved insufficient, I now leave future encounters in the T’lan Imass’s obviously capable hands.’ She swung to Tool. ‘Is Senu dead?’
‘No. I used the flat of my blade, Lady, having no desire to slay one of your servants.’
‘Considerate of you, given the circumstances.’
Toc closed one shaky hand on the jug’s handle. ‘Shall I pour one for you as well, Lady Envy?’
She glanced at him, raised one eyebrow, then smiled. ‘A splendid idea, Toc the Younger. Clearly, it falls to you and me to establish civility.’
‘What have you learned,’ Tool said, addressing her, ‘of the Rent?’
Cup in hand, she faced him. ‘Ah, you cut to the quick in all matters, I see. It has been bridged. By a mortal soul. As I am sure you are aware. The focus of my studies, however, has been on the identity of the warren itself. It is unlike any other. The portal seems almost … mechanical.’
Rent? That would be the red welt in the air. Uh.
‘You have examined the K’Chain Che‘Malle tombs, Lady?’
She wrinkled her nose. ‘Briefly. They are all empty, and have been for some time. Decades.’
Tool’s head tilted with a soft creak. ‘Only decades?’
‘Unpleasant detail, indeed. I believe the Matron experienced considerable difficulty in extricating herself, then spent still further time in recovering from her ordeal, before releasing her children. She and her brood made further efforts in the buried city to the northwest, though incomplete, as if the results proved unsatisfactory. They then appear to have departed the area entirely.’ She paused, then added, ‘It may be relevant that the Matron was the original soul sealing the Rent. Another hapless creature resides there now, we must presume.’
The T’lan Imass nodded.
During the exchange Toc had been busy eating, and was on his second cup of the crisp, cold wine. Trying to make sense of the conversation thus far was giving him a headache — he’d mull on it later. ‘I need to head north,’ he said round a mouthful of grainy bread. ‘Is there any chance, Lady, that you can furnish me with suitable supplies? I would be in your debt …’ His words trailed away at seeing the avid flash in her eyes.
‘Careful what you offer, young man—’
‘No offence, but why do you call me “young man”? You look not a day over twenty-five.’
‘How flattering. Thus, despite Tool’s success in identifying me – and I admit that I find the depth of his knowledge most disconcerting — the names the T’lan Imass revealed meant little to you.’
Toc shrugged. ‘Anomander Rake I’ve heard, of course. I didn’t know he took a sword from someone else – nor when that event occurred. It strikes me, however, that you may well be justified in feeling some animosity. towards him, since he killed your father – what was his name? Draconus. The Malazan Empire shares that dislike. So, in sharing enemies—’
‘We are perforce allies. A reasonable surmise. Unfortunately wrong. Regardless, I would be pleased to provide what food and drink you are able to carry, though I have nothing in the way of weapons, I’m afraid. In return, I may some day ask of you a favour — nothing grand, of course. Something small and relatively painless. Is this acceptable?’
Toc felt his appetite draining away. He glanced at Tool, got no help from the undead warrior’s expressionless face. The Malazan scowled. ‘You have me at a disadvantage, Lady Envy.’
And here I was hoping we’d get past the polite civility to something more … intimate. Here you go again, Toc, thinking with the wrong brain—
Her smile broadened.
Flushing, he reached for his cup. ‘Very well, I agree to your proposal.’
‘Your equanimity is a delight, Toc the Younger.’
He almost choked on his wine. If I wasn’t a sword-kissed one-eyed bastard, I’d be tempted to call that a flirt.
Tool spoke. ‘Lady Envy, if you seek further knowledge of this Rent, you will not find it here.’
Toc was pleased to see the mild shock on her face as she swung to the T’lan Imass. ‘Indeed? It appears I am not alone in enjoying a certain coyness. Can you explain?’
Anticipating the response to that, Toc the Younger grunted, then ducked as she flashed him a dark look.
‘Perhaps,’ Tool predictably replied.
Hah, I knew it.
An edge came into her tone. ‘Please do so, then.’
‘I follow an ancient trail, Lady Envy. Morn was but one stop on that trail. It now leads northward. You would find your answers among those I seek.’
‘You wish me to accompany you.’
‘I care not either way,’ Tool said in his uninflected rasp. ‘Should you choose to stay here, however, I must warn you. Meddling with the Rent has its risks – even for one such as you.’
She crossed her arms. ‘You think I lack suitable caution?’
‘Even now you have reached an impasse, and your frustration mounts. I add one more incentive, Lady Envy. Your old travelling companions are converging on the very same destination – the Pannion Domin. Both Anomander Rake and Caladan Brood prepare to wage war against the Domin. A grave decision – does that not make you curious?’
‘You are no simple T’lan Imass,’ she accused.
Tool made no reply to that.
‘He has you at a disadvantage, it seems,’ Toc said, barely restraining his amusement.
‘I find impertinence disgustingly unattractive,’ she snapped. ‘Whatever happened to your affable equanimity, Toc the Younger?’
He wondered at his sudden impulse to fling himself down at her feet, begging forgiveness. Shrugging the absurd notion off, he said, ‘Badly stung, I think.’
Her expression softened to something doe-like.
The irrational desire returned. Toc scratched his scar, looked away.
‘I did not intend to sting you—’
Right, and the Queen of Dreams has chicken feet.
‘—and I sincerely apologize.’ She faced Tool again. ‘Very well, we shall all of us undertake a journey. How exciting!’ She gestured to her Seguleh servants. ‘Begin preparations at once!’
Tool said to Toc, ‘I shall collect materials for your bow and arrows now. We can complete them on the way.’
The scout nodded, then added, ‘I wouldn’t mind watching you make them, Tool. Could be useful knowledge …’
The T’lan Imass seemed to consider, then tilted his head. ‘We found it so.’
They all turned at a loud grunt from where Senu lay against the wall. He had regained consciousness, to find the ay standing over him, the beast licking with obvious pleasure the painted patterns on his mask.
‘The medium,’ Tool explained in his usual deadpan tone, ‘appears to be a mixture of charcoal, saliva and human blood.’
‘Now that,’ Toc muttered, ‘is what I call a rude awakening.’
Lady Envy brushed close to him as she moved towards the doorway, and cast him a glance as she passed. ‘Oh, I am looking forward to this outing!’
The anything but casual contact slipped a nest of serpents into Toe’s gut. Despite his thudding heart, the Malazan was not sure if he should be pleased, or terrified.
Copyright © 2001 by Steven Erikson
Meet the Author
Steven Erikson recently returned to Canada after living in the UK for a few years, and now lives in Winnipeg. He is an archaeologist and anthropologist and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Gardens of the Moon was his first fantasy novel and has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Memories of Ice is a very well done book that introduces some exciting new characters and continues the adventures left off in the first novel, Gardens of the Moon. This third book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series is a great continuation of the series and follows Dujek's outlawed army in their war against the fanatic Pannion Domin. If you enjoy the books by Rober Jordan or George RR Martin then this series is a fine example of epic fiction that I cannot recommend highly enough. It is however not a stand alone novel and builds heavily on the two books that preceed it so Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates are very much a prerequisite for this book.
I have not finished the book yet, but I am very disappointed with the Nook version, as it's obvious it was OCRed and then not proofread. Italics stop and restart randomly, punctuation is missing in droves, and worst of all, "Mom" is written instead of "Morn" in several places. An obvious lack of quality control means I can't recommend the Nook version from B&N.
Erikson's Malazan books count among my favorites these days. For readers who stick with him beyond the first book, rich treasures await. The stories are compelling and exciting, and the author skillfully, seamlessly weaves several satisfying subplots around the central story. Never a dull moment. I think he also successfully captures, in the Bridgeburners, that insultory esprit de corps found among men and women who fight for a living. If you've invested thus far in Erikson's series you're my kind of reader, and will not be disappointed by Memories of Ice.
Truly awe inspiring.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is amazing, if you are reading this review then you already know that, otherwise you wouldn't have made it to book three. What keeps this NOOK eBook from getting a five star rating from me are the punctuation and spelling errors, this is the worst I've seen from B&N so far, and it is little wonder that they lost out to the Kindle and other eReaders. I bought a damn NOOK, though, so I'll stick with it for now, should have done my homework, I guess. Anyway, kudos to Mr. Erikson, I am loving this series and cannot believe it took me this long to run across it.
Terrific, edge of your seat narrative of a world of war, sorcery and religions, where the past is never past; dormant, perhaps, but the soul and stuff of the present. Lots of characters; it's not always easy to keep them straight, especially since the characters change. Thick with believable and consistent details. The main relationships are of soldiers to their comrades and war. And the only thing I wished for were relationships and community outside the context of war. really, I'd give it 4.5 stars if such nuances were possible on the scale. Erikson knows how to tell a story and keep you turning the pages.
This is how a series of tense action, heartache, thrills, and terror should be written. The vastness of whats going on with the ease of remembering each part is amazing. Truley worth every dollar and more.
Excellent book ruined by ridiculous typos .
Top Notch...Excellent read.
I'm writing this without even finishing the book yet. No words can actually express my amazement with this series and this book. I would recommend it to anyone who has even a remote interest in fantasy. Pretty much perfect.