|Chapter 1||Chapter 2|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 4|
|Chapter 6||Chapter 7|
|Chapter 8||Chapter 9|
|Chain of Dogs|
|Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 15||Chapter 16|
|Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20|
|Chapter 21||Chapter 22|
|Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
Ages unveiled the Holy Desert.
Raraku was once an ochre sea.
She stood in the wind
on the pride of a spire
and saw ancient fleets—
ships of bone, sails of bleached
hair, charging the crest
to where the waters slipped
beneath the sands
of the desert to come.
The column is laid as this from front to rear:
- Coltaine and a thousand riders of the Crow Clan at the vanguard.
- Wagons of seriously wounded and their caretakers.
- Almost one thousand members of the Seventh that are considered "walking wounded".
- Malazan nobles with carriages and wagons flanked on either side by ten companies of the Seventh infantry.
- Two hundred riders comprising the Seventh's surviving attachment of medium-equipped cavalry.
- The nearly fifty thousand refugees and livestock, flanked on each side by a column of loyal Hissari infantry and Marines.
- A south-facing guard comprised of five companies of the Seventh, numbering almost one thousand, and two 250 man patrols of Foolish Dog and other Wickans. Duiker and Corporal List accompanying.
- A north-facing guard comprised of five companies of the Seventh, numbering almost one thousand, and two 250 man Wickan patrols.
- A rearguard two-thirds of a league behind the others of one thousand riders from each Wickan clan, broken up into units of twelve or less.
Tithansi Raiders are constantly skirmishing with the Wickan rearguard, attacking the tail end of the column. They are under the leadership of a new and nameless commander within Kamist Reloe's Army of the Apocalypse.
Duiker contemplates the horror of the camp at night and the sounds of suffering livestock being slaughtered. He witnesses a baby dying in its mother's arms, and overhears a rumor that the nobles are kidnapping and eating babies at night. Captain Lull tells Duiker that they are going to sneak out that night and assassinate the Tithansi war leader that has been harassing their flank. Duiker is advised that he has been volunteered.
As they head out that night, Duiker reminisces on how Emperor Kellanved made him historian. He was an illiterate soldier at the time and the Emperor had him pulled from the ranks to have him taught by Toc the Elder. Also being taught was the young boy, Toc the Younger, who soon helped in Duiker's education.
The group is made up of Duiker, Lull, four of Lull's marines, Nil, another young warlock, and three squads of sappers. The sappers set off explosions to the northeast as a diversion while the others use a warlock-generated fog and water-logged tunnel to approach their target unobserved. At a small Tithansi camp they find several Tithansi soldiers as well as the Tithansi warleader and a Semk tribesman. The marines shoot at them with their crossbows killing two of the Tithansi soldiers and their warleader. An earth spirit conjured by a warlock attacks the others. The Semk tribesman seems impervious to their attacks and begins tearing the earth spirit apart. Nil falls into a catatonic state while the other young warlock is torn to pieces by sorcerous powers.
Duiker comes to the sickening realization that the Semk is possessed by the Semk tribal god (thought to have been killed by Sormo E'nath, Nil, and Nether), and that it is the true warleader. One of the female Marines, carries the unconscious Nil to safety while Duiker accompanies her fighting off Tithansi attacks. He is unexpectedly competent, and a spark of attraction develops between the two soldiers.
After crossing back over the picket line, a squad of sappers tells Duiker that even though they exploded two sharpers on the Semk, he just got back up. Nil is placed on a travois pulled by the Wickan cattle-dog Bent and sent to the healers. Duiker informs Lull that a Claw was present during the fighting as he noticed several Tithansi bodies embedded with the assassins' trademark throwing stars and knives.
Later, at a council of the Army's leaders, Sormo explains that a piece of the Semk god must have survived and been ingested and sealed within the Semk tribesman. Coltaine is rattled by Duiker's claims of a Claw presence among them. Duiker also advises Coltaine and the other leaders of the water that was found in the warlock tunnel just below the land's surface, ending the army's thirst. By dawn the camp is rejoicing as water is retrieved from pits dug throughout the camp.
Kulp, Heboric, and Felisin have been denied shelter in the Raraku desert for three days by the raging Whirlwind. They lack food and water, and Heboric is weakened by fever. Kulp finds some caves newly sculpted into a mesa by the blowing sand and informs his companions. Inside, they are protected from the winds and they stumble upon outcroppings and pillars of crystalline minerals.
Kulp scouts ahead and finds a large cavern heaped with stones too regular in shape to be natural. A large hole fills the ceiling, and opening his Warren, Kulp feels no sorcery. He informs Felisin that the hill is a buried city. The trio use Kulp's leather band and raincloak in an attempt to climb a quartzite column to reach the hole without success. In the end, Heboric uses his phantom hands to launch Kulp with supernatural strength upward through the hole from where he can pull the others along.
In this room, steps rise to a door leading to another room filled with hundreds of elderly human sculptures sprawled on the floor. Kulp warns Felisin not to touch the finely detailed and lifelike lime statutes as he senses sorcery. Heboric, his eyes blistered shut by the sandstorm, claims they are in the ruins of a city of the First Empire. Granted insight by his altered state, the priest says a gate had once been opened by the elders in this room in an attempt to give the Path of the Soletaken to their children as an alternative to Ascendancy. The "sculptures" were once alive, their current condition a consequence of alchemies that slowed aging and exposure to floods of mineral-rich water.
Following a tunnel, they come to a street with low residential buildings along its sides. More bodies are found, this time Soletaken and D'ivers in the act of "veering. Into something ... reptilian." Heboric explains that the ritual ran wild, claiming unreadied thousands and driving them into a killing madness. The discovery of a dismembered T'lan Imass leads Heboric to explain the kinship between the immortal undead warriors and the shapeshifters. These T'lan Imass came to set right the abomination of the opened gate.
They soon find a pool of water in the center of a still living garden. According to Heboric, the alchemies of the water will provide some benefit to them as it has the garden whose fruits have endured for nine thousand years.
Kalam, Minala, and Keneb and his family continue their trek through the Imperial Warren. Amidst the endless plain of ash and ruin, Minala fears they are lost and demands Kalam get them out. Kalam answers "Not yet" as he struggles to find an opening to Aren. Something is blocking his attempts.
Minala sees clouds ahead which tells Kalam that they have company. Smelling wood spice, Kalam's unease grows and he brings his crossbow out. They come to a pit whose strata of bone, ash, and ruined stone reveal a history of the fires that had once incinerated this land. At the bottom Kalam sees a ruined mechanism that reminds him of the Circle of Seasons created by Icarium in Darujhistan. Keneb remarks that a seer visiting the Orbal garrison had performed a reading from the Deck of Dragons that revealed Icarium was then present within the Pan'potsun Odhan.
The group continues south along a sunken road before making camp. Kalam has determined that the Soletaken and D'ivers sharing the Warren are all heading northward. Keneb sits with Kalam to explain the tension amongst the group. He reveals that Minala had been unhappily married to Colonel Tras back at the garrison. Unknown to Keneb or Selv, Tras had regularly beaten Minala before having the garrison healer remove evidence of her injuries. During the confusion of the Whirlwind rebellion someone had brought the colonel to a deserved end. Now Minala has wrapped herself about the family like armour, while Kalam has attempted the same with Minala and the rest. Kalam understands that Minala recognizes the assassin holds "daggers unseen".
Fiddler, Crokus, Icarium, Mappo, and Iskaral Pust attempt to follow the trail of Apsalar and Servant through the shrieking winds of sandstorm. Only the presence of the Jhag protects them from being attacked by the Soletaken and D'ivers moving through the area following the Path of Hands. The same can not be said for the desert warriors whom Fiddler, scouting their flank, sees consumed by a pack of giant spiders. The group comes upon the body of a Soletaken whose wounds bear the sign of Apsalar's passage. Mappo determines they are no more than an hour behind their quarry. Fiddler determines to stay close to the others and ponders whether Apsalar's father is a willing participant in the chase.
Imperial Warren and Samon Tel
Pearl informs Lostara Yil that they must temporarily abandon their pursuit of Kalam. The Empress has called and Pearl is the last surviving operative in Seven Cities. He also reveals that they are being tracked. He believes Kalam lacks discipline because of how long Kalam has been traveling in the warren without yet reaching Aren. He believes Kalam is not focusing and this is embarrassing for one so "weighty". Thus, he is disappointed in the man.
Pearl readies his throwing stars and knives before opening a portal near to where Coltaine's army crosses the desert. He and Lostara are to aid Coltaine without allowing the Fist's edge to be dulled, and Pearl warns Lostara to avoid a Semk demon. The pair soon find themselves within a skirmish amidst an unnatural fog, and Pearl begins killing Tithansi warriors. Suddenly, the Semk godling appears, killing Lostara's horse and tossing the two companions to the ground. The two are saved by the appearance of an Aptorian demon with a child riding its back. The Aptorian plunges its arm into the Semk's belly, tearing out a mass of flesh that radiates power. It tosses the object into the mists and the Semk stumbles after it. Pearl thanks the Aptorian before summoning a portal to whisk him and Lostara to safety.