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Avas Didion Flicker was a poet, storyteller, adventurer, and world traveler. In his life he visited holy cities and knelt in disguise before veiled tyrants and god-kissed mendicants. He journeyed with desert caravans, earning his keep telling tales to rapturous audiences. He spoke with the Toblai in their mountain holds, stood on the shores of Perish, and walked the streets of Malaz City.[1]

At the end of his life he wrote in his colonnaded garden amidst fruit trees, nightingales, and many wives.[2]

Known Poems[]

"Where Ravens Perch"[3]

"Perched upon the stones of a bridge
The soldiers had the eyes of ravens
Their weapons hung black as talons
Their eyes gloried in the smoke of murder

To the shock of iron-heeled sticks
I drew closer in the cripple’s bitter patience
And before them I finally tottered
Grasping to capture my elusive breath

With the cockerel and swift of their knowing
They watched and waited for me
‘I have come,’ said I, ‘from this road’s birth,
I have come,’ said I, ‘seeking the best in us.’

The sergeant among them had red in his beard
Glistening wet as he showed his teeth
‘There are few roads on this earth,’ said he,
‘that will lead you to the best in us, old one.’

‘But you have seen all the tracks of men,’ said I
‘And where the mothers and children have fled
Before your advance. Is there naught among them
That you might set an old man upon?’

The surgeon among this rook had bones
Under her vellum skin like a maker of limbs
‘Old one,’ said she, ‘I have dwelt
In the heat of chests, among heart and lungs,

And slid like a serpent between muscles,
Swum the currents of slowing blood,
And all these roads lead into the darkness
Where the broken will at last rest.

‘Dare say I,’ she went on,‘there is no
Place waiting inside where you might find
In slithering exploration of mysteries
All that you so boldly call the best in us.’

And then the man with shovel and pick,
Who could raise fort and berm in a day
Timbered of thought and measured in all things
Set the gauge of his eyes upon the sun

And said, ‘Look not in temples proud,
Or in the palaces of the rich highborn,
We have razed each in turn in our time
To melt gold from icon and shrine

And of all the treasures weeping in fire
There was naught but the smile of greed
And the thick power of possession.
Know then this: all roads before you

From the beginning of the ages past
And those now upon us, yield no clue
To the secret equations you seek,
For each was built of bone and blood

And the backs of the slave did bow
To the laboured sentence of a life
In chains of dire need and little worth.
All that we build one day echoes hollow.’

‘Where then, good soldiers, will I
Ever find all that is best in us?
If not in flesh or in temple bound
Or wretched road of cobbled stone?’

‘Could we answer you,’ said the sergeant,
‘This blood would cease its fatal flow,
And my surgeon could seal wounds with a touch,
All labours will ease before temple and road,

Could we answer you,’ said the sergeant,
‘Crows might starve in our company
And our talons we would cast in bogs
For the gods to fight over as they will.

But we have not found in all our years
The best in us, until this very day.’
‘How so?’ asked I, so lost now on the road,
And said he, ‘Upon this bridge we sat

Since the dawn’s bleak arrival,
Our perch of despond so weary and worn,
And you we watched, at first a speck
Upon the strife-painted horizon

So tortured in your tread as to soak our faces
In the wonder of your will, yet on you came
Upon two sticks so bowed in weight
Seeking, say you, the best in us

And now we have seen in your gift
The best in us, and were treasures at hand
We would set them humbly before you,
A man without feet who walked a road.’

Now, soldiers with kind words are rare
Enough, and I welcomed their regard
As I moved among them, ’cross the bridge
And onward to the long road beyond

I travel seeking the best in us
And one day it shall rise before me
To bless this journey of mine, and this road
I began upon long ago shall now end
Where waits for all the best in us.
"
―Avas Didion Flicker
Where Ravens Perch[src]

In Crack'd Pot Trail[]

Flicker traveled on the Cracked Pot Trail across the Great Dry in order to attend The Century's Greatest Artist competition in Farrog. When the caravan ran out of food, the other well armed travelers decided their "useless" artistic companions would be more useful as meals. Every night Flicker and the others performed in competition for the right to live another day. Even though it appeared to be against his own self-interest, Flicker often assisted the other competitors when they seemed about to make a major mistake. He also took on the additional challenge of promising to redeem dancer Purse Snippet before the end of the trip.[4]

Relish Chanter had her eye on the Flicker, casting wanton glances his way, and engaged him in savage lovemaking one night when her bestial, protective brothers were asleep. Flicker's fellow artists Brash Phluster and Calap Roud witnessed the event and threatened to tell Tiny Chanter. But Flicker turned the tables. For his next story he told a tale of how Calap had seduced Relish, and before Calap could deny it he was murdered by an enraged Tiny.[5] Relish later admitted to Flicker that she felt trapped by her brothers and often thought of killing them to escape. Flicker offered a skeptical Relish the promise that he would find a way to release her.[6] On the final night of the pilgrimage Flicker convinced the Chanters that Calap had impregnated their sister. He also described a future in which the child would learn of its father's death at its uncles hands and seek bloody vengeance. Realizing they had failed to protect their sister and fearful of a kin-slaying vow the three agreed to release Relish from their control.[7]

Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Avas Didion Flicker.

As the pilgrim caravan came to the end of the Great Dry, Flicker told a story to the already agitated group of Nehemothanai and Chanters that hinted that their necromancer quarry were the true passengers in the Dantoc Calmpositis' carriage. Tiny and his brothers attacked and the carriage went out of control, dragging them and the Well Knight Arpo Relent and the Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise over a three hundred foot cliff to their apparent deaths.[8]

Fellow traveler Sardic Thew paid Flicker handsomely for the Dantoc's death, now revealed to be a carefully planned and artfully executed assassination. Of all the tools (knives, garrotes, poison) used in his murderous career, Flicker most preferred killing with the spoken word. Flicker turned to Purse Snippet now that she knew what he was, and asked her if by comparing herself to him, could she not find something worthy in herself.[9]

Significant plot details end here.

In The Fiends of Nightmaria[]

Avas Didion Flicker was one of the ultimate survivors of the dire events of Crack'd Pot Trail who had arrived safely at the city of Farrog. Flicker did not stay long in Farrog, however, and he apparently left Farrog with Relish Chanter. Where they went and how long they remained together was not reported. Although it was widely assumed that Relish had been more than willing to run off with Flicker, her brothers, especially Tiny Chanter, preferred to think that Relish had been "kidnapped" and forced to go with Flicker against her will.[10]

Quotes[]

"A tale is what it is. Must you have every detail relayed to you, every motivation recounted so that it is clearly understood? Must you believe that all proceeds at a certain pace only to flower full and fulsome at the expected time? Am I slave to your expectations, sir? Does not a teller of tales serve oneself first and last?"
―Avas Didion Flicker, talking to two other artists[src]

Trivia[]

  • Author Steven Erikson was asked "how closely do the views of Avas Didion Flicker on art in general and on his own art in particular represent your views on your work with Malazan and the relationship between your work and its general audience. Is Flicker a pure authorial insert...or do your opinions differ from his, and if so, by how much?" Erikson responded by pleading the Fifth. The author found the character "fun to write" but warned that Flicker was "full of shit sometimes" and the reader had to take everything the character said with a grain of salt. "Even more so than Kruppe...[Flicker was]...the most self-aware narrative voice I've ever used."[11]
  • In a September 2021 interview, Erikson said he was taking a few weeks off from writing Walk in Shadow to work on a murder mystery novella featuring Flicker. He said, "Flicker is the...greatest assassin ever...and the fact that nobody knows about it proves just how great an assassin he is. So it's that kind of a story." The novella will be in the spirit of the Midsomer Murders television show, which takes place in a fictional English county. "I've kind of taken that idea of an English estate, an ancestral pile, loaded it up with characters and I'm now proceeding to knock them all off. It's fun."[12]

Speculations[]

Since the fact that Flicker, near the end of his life (when he theoretically wrote the long ago history of what had happened to the caravan of travellers that became the story, Crack'd Pot Trail), mentioned that he then had many wives,[13] one could wonder if one of those wives was, in fact, Relish Chanter.

Notes and references[]

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