It is an undeniable truth: give evil a name and everyone's happy. Give it two names and…why, they're even happier.
Intrepid necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent, and modest personifications of evil, have a lot to answer for and answer they will. Known as the Nehemoth, they are pursued by countless self-professed defenders of decency, sanity, and civilization. After all, since when does evil thrive unchallenged? Well, oftenbut not this time.
Hot on their heels are the Nehemothanai, avowed hunters of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. In the company of a gaggle of artists and pilgrims, stalwart Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise, pious Well Knight Arpo Relent, stern Huntsman Steck Marynd, and three of the redoubtable Chanter brothers (and their lone sister) find themselves faced with the cruelest of choices. The legendary Crack'd Pot Trail, a stretch of harsh wasteland between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God, has become a tortured path of deprivation.
Will honor, moral probity, and virtue prove champions in the face of brutal necessity? No, of course not. Don't be silly.
About the Author
Steven Erikson is an archaeologist and anthropologist and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His Malazan Book of the Fallen series, including The Crippled God, Dust of Dreams, Toll the Hounds and Reaper's Gale, have met with widespread international acclaim and established him as a major voice in the world of fantasy fiction. The first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon, was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award. The second novel, Deadhouse Gates, was voted one of the ten best fantasy novels of 2000 by SF Site. He lives in Canada.
Read an Excerpt
“There will always be innocent victims in the pursuit of evil.”
The long years are behind me now. In fact, I have never been older. It comes to a man’s career when all of his cautions—all that he has held close and private for fear of damaging his reputation and his ambitions for advancement—all in a single moment lose their constraint. The moment I speak of, one might surmise, arrives the day—or more accurately, the first chime after midnight—when one realizes that further advancement is impossible. Indeed, that caution never did a thing to augment success, because success never came to pass. Resolved I may be that mine was a life gustily pursued, riches admirably attained and so forth, but the resolution is a murky one nonetheless. Failure wears many guises, and I have worn them all.
The sun’s gilded gift enlivens this airy repose, as I sit, an old man smelling of oil and ink, scratching with this worn quill whilst the garden whispers on all sides and the nightingales crouch mute on fruit-heavy branches. Oh, have I waited too long? Bones ache, twinges abound, my wives eye me from the shadows of the colonnade with black-tipped tongues poking out from painted mouth, and in the adjudicator’s office the water-clock dollops measured patience like the smacking of lips.
Well I recall the glories of the holy cities, when in disguise I knelt before veiled tyrants and god-kissed mendicants of the soul, and in the deserts beyond the crowded streets the leather-faced wanderers of the caravan tracks draw to the day’s end and the Gilk guards gather in shady oases and many a time I traveled among them, the adventurer none knew, the poet with the sharp eyes who earned his keep unraveling a thousand tales of ancient days—and days not so ancient, if only they knew.
They withheld nothing, my rapt listeners, for dwelling in a desert makes a man or woman a willing audience to all things be they natural or unnatural; while I, for all the wounds I delivered, for all the words of weeping and the joys and all the sorrows of love and death that passed my tongue, smooth as olives, sweetly grating as figs, I never let a single drop of blood. And the night would draw on, in laughter and tears and expostulations and fervent prayers for forgiveness (eyes ashine from my languid explorations of the paramour, the silk-drenched beds and the flash of full thigh and bosom) as if the spirits of the sand and the gods of the whirlwinds might flutter in shame and breathless shock—oh no, my friends, see them twist in envy!
My tales, let it be known, sweep the breadth of the world. I have sat with the Toblai in their mountain fastnesses, with the snows drifting to bury the peeks of the longhouses. I have stood on the high broken shores of the Perish, watching as a floundering ship struggled to reach shelter. I have walked the streets of Malaz City, beneath Mock’s brooding shadow, and set eyes upon the Deadhouse itself. Years alone assail a mortal wanderer, for the world is round and to witness it all is to journey without end.
But now see me in this refuge, cooled by the trickling fountain, and the tales I recount upon these crackling sheets of papyrus, they are the heavy fruits awaiting the weary traveler in yonder oasis. Feed then or perish. Life is but a search for gardens and gentle refuge, and here I sit waging the sweetest war, for I shall not die while a single tale remains to be told. Even the gods must wait spellbound.
Listen then, nightingale, and hold close and sure to your branch. Darkness abides. I am but a chronicler, occasional witness and teller of magical lies in which hide the purest truths. Heed me well, for in this particular tale I have my own memory, a garden riotous and overgrown yet, dare I be so bold, rich in its fecundity, from which I now spit these gleaming seeds. This is a story of the Nehemoth, and of their stern hunters, and too it is a tale of pilgrims and poets, and of me, Avas Didion Flicker, witness to it all.
There on the pilgrim route across the Great Dry, twenty-two days and twenty-three nights in a true season from the Gates of Nowhere to the Shrine of the Indifferent God, the pilgrim route known to all as Cracked Pot Trail. We begin with the wonder of chance that should gather in one place and at one time such a host of travelers, twenty-three days beyond the Gate. And too the curse of mischance, that the season was unruly and not at all true. Across the bleak wastes the wells were dry, the springs mired in foul mud. The camps of the Finders were abandoned, their hearth-ashes cold. Our twenty-third day, yet we still had far to go.
Chance for this gathering. Mischance for the straits these travelers now found themselves in. And the tale begins on this night, in a circle round a fire.
What is a circle but the mapping of each and every soul?
Copyright © 2009 by Steven Erikson
Table of Contents
"There will always be innocent victims in the pursuit of evil.",
The Travellers Are Described,
A Recounting of the Twenty-third Night,
A Recounting of the Twenty-fourth Day,
A Recounting of the Twenty-fourth Night,
A Recounting of the Twenty-fifth Day,
Also by Steven Erikson,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series took the fantasy world by storm when Gardens of the Moon was published in 1999, leading to a 10-novel epic fantasy series, several additional novels written by Ian Esslemont, and a number of novellas. Earlier this year, Crack'd Pot Trail, a tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, hit the shelves, offering a strangely compelling narrative concept in an over-embellished, long-winded package.Using the backdrop of the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas, Crack'd Pot Trail follows the Nehemothanai and their artist/pilgrim companions as they continue their hunt of the infamous Bauchelain and Korbal Broach (a less-than-reputable pair, to say the least). Stuck traversing the wasteland of the Crack'd Pot Trail with dwindling resources, the artists are pitted against themselves in a feat of narrative prowess: whoever tells the worst tale may become the next meal. The question becomes: Who can play the narrative game with cunning and skill, and who will flounder in a sea of their own artistic deficiencies?Crack'd Pot Trail does two interesting things:It draws upon a rich history of larger narratives told through artists weaving miniature tales. It provides a meant-to-be-humorous, if not disturbing, scenario involving cannibalism and artists.The first of these will become obvious to anyone familiar with Boccaccio's The Decameron or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (among other stories, new and old). Erikson plays with the narratives-within-a-narrative to examine the nature of the artist as a complex subject -- that is that rather than showing a series of people telling stories, Erikson challenges the nature of the story by deconstructing their origins and their tellers. What Crack'd Pot Trail does well lies in its ability to expose the boundaries of authorship, which may interest non-traditional fantasy readers more than those who come to fantasy for an adventure (this may also be specific to the Malazan readership, since Erikson's work has often been cited as a participant in the nihilistic overthrow of fantasy -- whatever that means).Erikson, however, explores these questions in a written style which reads as authentic, but comes off as exceedingly convoluted and linguistically excessive. The result is that much of the book is difficult to read, often at the expense of the narrative (within a narrative). Sentences are bloated to a degree that they often have to be re-read in order to capture details or meanings. Such details could easily have been said with greater strength if Erikson wrote with more concision. For example:Suffice it to say she was the first to set out from the Gates of Nowhere and her manservant Mister Must Ambertroshin, seated on the high bench of the carriage, his face shielded by a broad woven hat, uttered his welcome to the other travelers with a thick-volumed nod, and in this generous instant the conveyance and the old woman presumed within it became an island on wheels round which the others clustered like shrikes and gulls, for as everyone knows, no island truly stays in one place (16).Or:Apto rubbed at his face as if needing to convince himself that this was not a fevered nightmare (as might haunt all professional critics), and I do imagine that, given the option, he would have fled into the wastes at the first opportunity, not that such an opportunity was forthcoming given Steck Marynd and his perpetually cocked crossbow which even now rested lightly on his lap (he'd done with his pacing by this time) (41).Or this paragraph:Is there anything more fraught than family? We do not choose our kin, after all, and even by marriage one finds oneself saddled with a whole gaggle of relations, all gathered to witness the fresh mixing of blood and, if of proper spirit, get appalingly drunk, sufficient to ruin the entire proceedings and to be known thereafter in infamy. For myself, I have always considered this gesture, offered to countless relations on their big da
Crack¿d Pot Trail by Steven Erikson is a sort of fantasy that blends the Canterbury Tales with the Donner Party. A group of travellers have banded together to hunt down to criminal necromancers, and as they traverse the Cracked Pot Trail towards the temple of the Indifferent God, in search of these criminals, they slowly run out of food. The artists: the minstrels, the poets, and the bards, must play of vicious game of storytelling survivor to live another day.Meanwhile, the incongruous mixture of characters begin to mix in volatile, sometimes explosive, ways.This novella is set in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, an epic fantasy series based on a fork of AD&D, which eventually incorporated GURPS to help it grow beyond the limitations of those wizards on the coast. As such, it is strongly influenced more by the works of Gygax and Arneson than of Tolkien, painting a bitter world in which the characters wheel and deal in order to survive, versus a more positive world where good overcomes significant odds to conquer evil.In the end, though, I found that I was annoyed by the narrator of this story. Whether it was how Erikson actually wrote or not, I¿m unsure, as this is my first time reading of Malazan. The particular annoyance was in the narrator¿s forced flowery prose, giving the impression that the person telling you the story was more interested in hearing it come out of his own mouth than actually make it entertaining to the listener, which may have been an intentional choice by the author. Nevertheless, it annoyed me.It wasn¿t all bad, though. There were parts that were rather funny (unfortunately, it was during the parts when our otherwise wordy narrator was anything but).If you are a fan of bleak fantasy, possibly the plethora of D&D-based books, or other D&D-inspired/inspiring books, like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and their ilk, then maybe you¿ll like Crack¿d Pot Trail. Otherwise, if you¿re more interested in clearly defined good versus evil roles, and good overcoming evil, then you may want to look elsewhere.
What a romp.
Well it is not really nearly as good as the ten book Fallen series, or the other Korbal stories. But, reading this reaffirms my thinking that Erikson is probaby te best writer out there. Even though this one was a bit ponderous to get through, i don't think anyone but Steve could pull it off...that being said,10 bucks for a very limited read? Eriksons strangely psychotic Malazan world grips me every time, nontheless.
Are you joking? This book is far and away the worst of the series for any number of reasons. Look down your noses at the 'dumb' folks reading the rest of the Malazan series if you want but this is complete tripe. I am positive this was an exercise in creative writing or 'pretend you were writing the Canterbury Tales part II' or something as this hardly qualifies for a Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. To say otherwise is to deny the obvious fact that they only show briefly and at the end of the book.
It's a good book, very short for the story told, and I don't think it was explained enough which would be the norm for Erikson's books because then usually the sequel explains a bit more, but for this one there is no sequel so I was left with a feeling of "what in the world just happened?". Still glad I read it, it satisfied my Malazan ache but the book in itself wasn't satisfying.