Barathol Mekhar was the blacksmith and nominal head of a tiny hamlet of a mere eighteen residents living in the scatter of hovels at a crossroads of the Tapur Road and a trail leading into the Path'apur Mountains in Seven Cities, about three days' trek north was the city of Ahol Tapur. He was the only resident not born there and had lived in the hamlet for eleven years at the time of his first appearance in the Malazan books. He had not been talkative in all the years there.
He had deep, almost onyx-black skin, dark eyes, and curled, military-looking scarification on his cheeks. His hands and huge forearms displayed puckering blade-cut scars. He was known as a man of few words and shared virtually no opinions, therefore perfectly suited to his role as the hamlet's unofficial leader.
Barathol possessed some armour which he kept under lock, hidden in a trunk behind some hide bolts in the smithy. A round-shield, a camailed, grille-faced helm with quilted padding as well as some chain mail. The iron-scaled gauntlets reached up to his forearm and ended in a hinged elbow-cup where they were fastened just above the joint and the underside of the sleeves held a single iron-black notched bar which stretched from wrist to cup. The trunk also contained a heavy double-bladed axe. Its haft was encased in strips of iron with a looping chain at the weighted pommel. To carry the axe in a fight, Barathol slipped his right hand through the chain loop and twisted it twice before grapping the haft. The blades of the axe were made of Aren steel and the honed edges gleamed silver. From the top of the axe, a three-pronged punch-spike jutted out, edged like a crossbow quarrel. He was of the same height as L'oric.
Barathol seemed to be the self-appointed protector of Chaur.
In The Bonehunters
Five strangers appeared near the village whom Barathol identified as T'lan Imass and he asked for his armour and weapons to be brought out to him. He told the other villagers that the strangers might only be after him. but the T'lan Imass seemingly had not lingered and the villagers thought them gone. Months later however, a small travelling party was ambushed near the hamlet by the undead warriors. Barathol oversaw the clean-up and was amazed that two of the travellers had survived, one of them a pregnant woman. Then the mage L'oric turned up, who knew the victims, and a tense dialogue ensued between him and Barathol. They established that the target had been Felisin Younger, who had apparently had been kidnapped by The Unbound, the Crippled God's T'lan Imass servants.
Back at the inn, when L'oric heard and recognised Barathol's name, the two men almost came to blows. It turned out that Barathol had been stationed at Aren when the Malazans besieged the city and it was rumoured that he had opened the gate to let them in. He told L'oric that in fact, he had opened it to flee the city on the fastest horse and that at that point the T'lan Imass, who needed no open door in any case, had already begun their slaughter inside the city. Barathol had then fled along Aren Way to Karashimesh and had killed all those who had pursued him who apparently had been the only other survivors. When the T'lan Imass had come to the hamlet, Barathol first thought they had come for him.
Hayrith soon guessed that Barathol intended leaving the village with the surviving travellers and told him to his face that the appearance of L'oric and the subsequent disclosures had 'scorched' him. She reluctantly advised him to flee the continent because once word got out about his identity, he would likely be hunted. Barathol then spoke with the traveller Scillara, who had given birth to a baby girl but did not want to keep her. She told him that the other survivor, Cutter, would want to take the remains of their dead companion, Heboric, with them.
Barathol observed Chaur holding the baby, making faces and cooing sounds at it. When L'oric upset Chaur by taking the child away from him, Barathol made a sarcastic comment to the mage, who had not even noticed Chaur crying. "A question... how old do they have to get before you lose all sympathy for them?" Barathol then diverted Chaur by telling him that he would need his help digging up a body.
Barathol left the hamlet with Cutter and Scillara who were going to take Heboric's body to its final resting place on Otataral Island. Chaur caught up with them soon after they had left and Barathol let him stay with the group, knowing that Chaur was too stubborn to return. The smith attached Chaur's travelling pack to the mule and gave him his boots as Chaur was barefoot, and unlike the rest of them, would have to walk for the time being.
They came to a village on the coast, empty and depopulated by the Bluetongue Plague, where Cutter found a carrack, Sanal's Grief. They loaded it with their supplies and when they were under sail, Chaur held onto the steering oar and laughed with joy whenever the bow pitched down and there was spray. The innocence of his joy gave much needed comfort to his shipmates.
Their journey across the Otataral Sea was interrupted by the appearance of a dozen suns plummeting from the sky. A hail of fiery debris destroyed their carrack, and Chaur grasped Heboric's wrapped corpse as it disappeared into the depths. He became entangled by the cloth and would have drowned if Barathol had not dived after him and found him by the sudden jade glow of Heboric's body. While Scillara and Cutter were spotted and carried to a nearby ship by Spite in her Soletaken Eleint form, Barathol swam to the ship with Chaur in his arms. Aboard ship, he held Chaur's limp form in his arms and began angrily issuing Chaur orders. The others were convinced he lost his mind until Chaur coughed up a lungful of water and regained consciousness. Barathol assured the bawling young man he was not angry, before he began weeping himself.
In Reaper's Gale
While contemplating his experiences as a soldier, Gesler recalled the slaughter at Aren and how the civilian populace would have been completely slaughtered if not for Barathol opening the gates as an avenue of escape. The Malazan soldiers could only stand and watch helplessly.
In Toll the Hounds
When Barathol Mekhar arrived in Darujhistan, he found it almost impossible to join the Guild of Blacksmiths as they refused to sponsor him, and he was too experienced a blacksmith (as well as being too old) to serve an apprenticeship. Barathol went ahead anyway and set up an independent smithy without the endorsement of the Blacksmiths' Guild. The Guild retaliated and had the smith arrested on account of using the incorrect drainage pipes for waste disposal. As it turned out, Barathol was to serve his sentence through a rehabilitation programme at the Eldra Iron Mongers where he would be able to earn his ticket as a blacksmith - after which the Guild would be forced to accept his membership.
In Orb Sceptre Throne
Barathol had opened a smithy on the Street of Whitesmiths in the Gadrobi district and had married Scillara. Her son had been given the name Chaur.
Barathol was re-united with the simpleton Chaur. Barathol and his family moved to a villa received from Kruppe as reward.
Smithing was his second career and he had formerly been an officer of the Red Blades. L'oric recalled that Barathol had killed the Fist of Aren and had been immediately arrested by his fellow Red Blades. The Red Blades considered the murder the first and deepest stain on their honour and it had fueled their zealotry ever since. He was beaten and stripped of his rank and sentenced to be crucified on the Aren Way, when the entire city of Aren rose up in his name against the Malazan garrison, ousting them. When the T'lan Imass marched into the city to pacify the rebellion and begin their slaughter, Barathol had been seen escaping through the north gate.
This act made Barathol made infamous and hated, for many believed it doomed Aren by opening the gates to allow the T'lan Imass in. But according to Barathol himself, he only opened the gates to escape once the T'lan Imass were already in the city. He noted mere city walls would not have stop the dust-shifting T'lan Imass in any case and that they had already begun the slaughter when he opened the gate and fled. He also mentioned that he had not been asked first whether he had wanted people to rebel in his name - inferring that it happened against his wishes.
Barathol left the city with a hoard of stolen coins and fought a running battle against angry pursuers all the way to Karashimesh. Ever since, he had been hated and cursed and lived in hiding from those who wanted to kill him for his crimes. L'oric sensed Barathol had long given up on humanity and his own place in it.
Notes and references
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB, p.686
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 11, UK MMPB, p.447
- The Bonehunters, Prologue, UK MMPB p.38-41
- The Bonehunters, Prologue, UK MMPB p.39
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.498
- The Bonehunters, Prologue, UK MMPB p.39-41
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.603
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.686
- The Bonehunters, Prologue, UK MMPB p.38-41
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.599-604
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.608/609
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.503
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.674-676
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.676-679
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 16, UK MMPB p.782/783
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 19, UK MMPB p.914/915
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.782-791
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 14, UK BCA edition p.425
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 3, US TPB p.83-85
- Descriptions as given in the "Dramatis Personae" of Toll the Hounds.
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 9, US TPB p.281
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 9, US TPB p.283
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 17, US TPB p.565
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 17, US TPB p.565/567
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 19, US TPB p.642-643
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 1, UK PB p.77/78
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Epilogue, UK TPB p.837/838
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.609
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.568
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.502
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.566