|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|
The Day of Pure Blood
was a gift of the Seven
from their tombs of sand.
Fortune was a river
the glory a gift of the Seven
that flowed yellow and crimson
across the day.
Duiker recalls the staggering losses at the Battle of Vathar Crossing, a battle which locals will remember as the "Day of Pure Blood". Some twenty thousand refugees are dead, a disproportionate number of them children. Seven hundred soldiers of the 7th Army also perished. Only a dozen sappers and a score of marines still live. The Foolish Dog Clan can field less than five hundred fighters, and the other two Wickan clans are almost as badly mauled. Sormo E'nath, Coltaine's most powerful warlock, is dead.
The Vathar river runs red and black with blood for leagues, and it takes almost a week for the pallid, bloated bodies to completely wash out into the Dojal Hading Sea near Ubaryd. The natives of Seven Cities have little time to celebrate. A Malazan punitive fleet is on its way from Unta "commanded by a woman as hard as iron. What happened at Vathar Crossing was a whetstone to hone her deadly edge."
As the Chain of Dogs moves south through the Vathar Forest the Imperial Historian attempts to comfort the shaken Captain Lull. Amidst the trees, Duiker sees cairns and evidence of ancient T'lan Imass battles against the Jaghut.
When the march stops for the day, Corporal List brings Duiker to Coltaine, Bult, and Lull, who stand before the last of the sappers. The Fist wishes to honour these soldiers for their bravery at the river. He calls forth one of the sappers and rewards him with a promotion to sergeant. After an uncomfortable moment, one of the other sappers informs Coltaine that he has just demoted Captain Mincer! Mincer is only too happy to take the reduction in rank and to recommend Sergeant Bungle as his replacement. Coltaine struggles to maintain a straight face as he follows through on Mincer's recommendation. Bult and Mincer commiserate over their failed attempts to murder the lapdog, Roach, then Coltaine dismisses the sappers. Afterwards, Coltaine and the other officers can barely contain their mirth, and Duiker's exhaustion dissipates.
Before settling down for the night, List brings Duiker to a ruined Jaghut tower. He identifies it as the home of the Jaghut ghost that has attended his dreams. He recounts the war between T'lan Imass and the Jaghut that took place here involving the spirit's wife and children. Their ruminations are interrupted by the sight of a massive, golden-lit column rising in the north. Duiker recognises the sign of Sha'ik.
Kalam's journey by sea continues, now amidst a raging storm. A familiar trading vessel follows in their wake even as a strange luminescent green cloud rolls over them. Time no longer has any meaning and the assassin is unsure how much has passed since he left Aren. He suspects Salk Elan of sorcery, although the power to so thoroughly cloud the minds of the ship's crew seems too much for an associate of Mebra.
Kalam has no choice but to use his Shaved Knuckle in the Hole. He breaks the stone and is soon speaking to Quick Ben. The Bridgeburner mage is not in good spirits. Events back in Genabackis are not going well and he is being pushed to his limit. He is surprised that Kalam has made it into the royal palace as planned and even more surprised when the assassin reveals he is still at sea. Quick Ben reminds Kalam that this trick will work only once, but the assassin knows this already. He asks Quick Ben to seek out the source of the ship's problems and the mage quickly determines that it is due to a strong mind-clouding Warren. He asks about Fiddler and Kalam reveals that they agreed to travel on separate ways. The pair compare notes and conclude that the Path of Hands is wreaking havoc with the warrens. Fiddler's journey through Tremorlor now seems unlikely, but perhaps Sorry will make the difference. Their connection is cut off as Quick Ben tires and talks of having lost too much blood yesterday. Kalam is now on his own.
The assassin enters the Captain's quarters and finds Salk Elan already there. The man informs him that the storm has blown them off course. Instead of arriving at Unta, they will soon berth in Malaz City.
Icarium still lies unconscious and Mappo Runt can feel Tremorlor's desire to entrap the Jhag. More and more the Trell doubts the actions of the Nameless Ones. He vows that Tremorlor shall not take his friend. Fiddler says it is time to go. It is too dangerous to stay. Tremorlor's captives do not look upon nobodies like the sapper and the other humans with the same fearful respect as they do Icarium and Mappo.
Fiddler is in the lead. Mappo carries the Jhag while Apsalar, Rellock, and Crokus form a protective cordon around him. Iskaral Pust and the five Hounds of Shadow follow in the rear. Around them they can hear snarls and screams as the Azath House takes those Soletaken and D'ivers strong enough to have reached the maze's centre. The smell of spice and the sounds of battle herald the arrival of something powerful from around the bend behind them.
Pust curses when it is only Moby, one of the accursed Bhok'arala, who appears and alights on a relieved Crokus' shoulder. Fiddler realizes the familiar is much more than it seems. Mappo wonders how the magic in Kimloc's conch shell proved to be so powerful. He postulates that the Tanno Spiritwalker was aware of Fiddler's destination and provided a gift specifically aspected for use against their enemies within the maze.
The group finally approaches the walled yard of the Azath House, which Fiddler recognizes as a sister to the Deadhouse in Malaz City. They break into a run when four D'ivers Dhenrabi burst from the opening of a watery Warren portal. Fiddler recognizes the beast as part of the same dhenrabi he slew while crossing the Kansu Sea. The Hounds quickly engage the dhenrabi as a massive swarm of Bloodflies approaches from the distance. The rest of the party runs for the door of the House.
The cloud of death bears down on them as they learn that Tremorlor's door will not open.
On the edge of the Vathar Forest, List shows Duiker the boulder under which the body of the Jaghut ghost's five-year-old son lies. The T'lan Imass shattered his bones and then pinned the still living child under the massive rock. The ghost's pain is evident on List's face. Duiker asks if the Jaghut ever sought to reason with their attackers. List says there were attempts to differentiate the Jaghut from the Jaghut Tyrants, but that the Jaghuts' own arrogance and dismissal of the Imass proved their undoing. When the Jaghut responded with barriers of ice to deny the Imass movement and food, the Imass undertook a ritual to make themselves immortal and able to move like dust carried on the wind.
List and Duiker agree that the Chain of Dogs should leave the area as soon as possible and they go to inform Coltaine.
The Dry March
The Chain of Dogs begins their long march across the Nenoth Odhan. The plain is devoid of food and water, and the last of the train's cattle perishes during the crossing. The soldiers and refugees die of hunger and thirst while fending off constant attacks from the local Bhilard and Tregyn tribes. Korbolo Dom's Army of the Apocalypse, now swollen to five times the size of Coltaine's force with reinforcements from Tarxian, follows from a distance letting the tribes do their work. A third powerful tribe, the Khundryl, has yet to be encountered. Meanwhile new refugees from Bylan place additional drains on the Malazan army's scarce resources.
Lull rides up alongside Duiker to commiserate. His men are dying from thirst at an alarming rate. As the army makes camp for the night, the pair make for Coltaine's command tent where they find the Fist, Bult, Nil, Nether, Sulmar, and Chenned. Newly promoted Captain Bungle follows her predecessor's example and is nowhere to be found. The warlocks sense something approaching this night and Coltaine calls for the refugees to be kept close. They also prepare for tomorrow's battle despite having no water. It will be a slaughter.
Suddenly a charge passes through the air setting the camp's Wickan cattle-dogs to howling. The air rips open on the edge of camp and a massive fire-scorched carriage pulled by nine horses races into their midst. It is Karpolan Demesand and the Trygalle Trade Guild announcing that they come with food and fresh water as a gift from the people of Darujhistan who have heard of the army's exploits and their plight. Later, in private, Karpolan admits to Coltaine that he was sent by renegade High Fist Dujek Onearm with financial assistance from the T'orrud Cabal. Dujek's message is that the Empress cannot lose Coltaine. To this end Karpolan hands the Fist a smoky glass bottle on a chain and instructs him to wear it at all times.
At first, Coltaine cannot understand how an outlaw can make commands of him in the name of the Empress. Then it becomes clear that Dujek's rebellion is a ruse intended to allow him to make an alliance with the Empire's enemies against the Pannion Domin. Karpolan departs and the army rejuvenates itself on the supplies left behind. List tells Duiker that he feels blessed or god-touched.
At dawn, Coltaine kicks off the battle not waiting for the enemy forces to stir from their camps. He sends soldiers charging at the still awakening Bhilard and Tregyn tribes. Dom's troops soon began clashing with the Malazan rearguard while tens of thousands of newly arrived Khundryl begin advancing from the north and the south.
A group of Khundryl war chiefs directly approaches Coltaine's command position to parley. They inform the Fist that they have long awaited the day when it would be determined which of the tribes of the south odhans was the most powerful. Coltaine replies that the Wickans are beyond such tribal concerns as they are part of the Malazan Empire. Coltaine flings the bottle he received from Karpolan at Duiker. He would rather choose the manner of his death, and it is important that someone live to tell the tale of their sacrifice.
Coltaine's army is unable to punch through the Tregyn and Bhilard tribes and Dom's forces push the rearguard backwards into their own lines. Defeat is inevitable. But Coltaine's fortune turns when the Khundryl finally enter the fray. The southern mass of Khundryl charge into the Tregyn lines while the northern mass assaults Dom's flank. A third hidden Khundryl force approaches the battle through the valley to the south to launch an attack on the Bhilard.
Dom's force spends the next four hours driving back the Khundryl, but not before his Semk, Can'eld, and Tithansi allies are shattered and the Bhilard and Tregyn tribes are set to flight. Nearing dusk, a Khundryl war chief returns to Coltaine. The Fist congratulates him on proving the Khundryl as strongest of the odhan tribes, but the chief scoffs at his words. He raises his sword in salute and bellows, "The answer this day... The Wickans! The Wickans! The Wickans!"
- Critical Conversations 04: Deadhouse Gates Chapter 19 with Steven Erikson - A Critical Dragon - Steven Erikson discusses this chapter