|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|
To this day it remains easy to ignore the fact that the Aren High Command was rife with treachery, dissension, rivalry and malice… The assertion that [the Aren High Command] was ignorant of the undercurrents in the countryside is, at best naive, at worst cynical in the extreme...The Sha'ik Rebellion
Duiker wanders from the heart of Hissar to the edge and notes that with the Year of Dryjhna approaching, there is a continued increase of secretive symbols daubed on all the cities' walls. He is frustrated that his warnings to the Malazan High Command about the importance of understanding these signs seem to be going unheard. The historian enters a newly established trader's camp outside the city, successfully posing as a Dosin Pali native, and witnesses a Circle of Seasons where a seer gives the following Prophecy:
- Two fountains of raging blood! Face to face. The blood is the same, the two are the same and salty waves shall wash the shores of Raraku. The Holy Desert remembers its past!
Having given the prophecy, the Seer collapses dead to the ground. Shaken, Duiker withdraws and spots a man in a cloak who seems to be watching him. The historian hurries back to the Imperial compound nearby and makes his way to a meeting with the new Fist, Coltaine. Also present are the priest Mallick Rel, Kulp, and another Wickan officer, Bult. Bult and Coltaine relate a tale from the Wickan rebellion, when Bult had stabbed Duiker with a lance, and Dujek had slashed his face open with a sword in return, while Bult's horse had bitten Dujek's arm, which later had to be amputated, giving rise to the name Onearm whilst Bult was left with a scarred face for life.
Sormo E'nath arrives, a boy carrying the soul of a great Wickan Warlock, whom Laseen had put to death in the aftermath of the Wickan Rebellion. He reveals he was the figure who had been following Duiker. Sormo and Duiker agree they witnessed something of great power and Duiker states his belief that rebellion is imminent, a notion which Mallick Rel dismisses. Rel passes on High Fist Pormqual orders that Admiral Nok is to leave with the Sahul Fleet for Aren as soon as possible whilst the 7th Army is to march to Aren overland to be inspected before its final stationing. Bult points out that this would be a retreat in such times, and dismisses Rel from the council, mocking him. Duiker points out that Rel basically governs Seven Cities from Pormqual's shadow then gives some historical background information about Empress Laseen and her old circle of allies, most of whom have since vanished. Coltaine appoints Duiker to his staff after which the council concludes. Kulp and Duiker find an empty room and discuss the events. The mage confirms to Duiker that Sormo really is the powerful Warlock he claims to be, and Duiker asks for Kulp's help to rescue Heboric from the Otataral mines.
In Ehrlitan, Fiddler stands reflecting on the city's past while watching Red Blades ride past. The Red Blades are hated by their fellow Seven Cities natives, for they have sworn absolute loyalty to Laseen, and are carrying out a violent crackdown on followers of Dryjhna. They have just killed a few dozen natives, and the area is in chaos. Fiddler spots a hunchbacked pimp rushing into an alleyway with two girls, snatched from one of the victims and follows the man. He is still disguised as a Gral and the pimp is all too keen to sell the girls to him, especially once Fiddler takes out his long-knife. He escorts the girls back to their home, and though initially suspicious, the family are very relieved to see the girls safe. Fiddler is invited in to share a meal and meet the girls' grandfather, which he accepts.
The grandfather is a Tanno Spiritwalker, who sees through Fiddler's disguise immediately, even as far as knowing him for a Bridgeburner after a few questions. Upon hearing Fiddler's plan to journey overland to Aren, the Spiritwalker cautions him, and explains about a convergence of D'ivers and Soletaken, called the Path of Hands. Once it is clear that Fiddler will not be deterred by the danger, the Spiritwalker says he will instead give him protection. He offers to sing the story of the Bridgeburners, for a Tanno's song has great power, even the potential for ascendancy and it would only need a moments contact, but Fiddler recoils at the thought of the Spiritwalker reading his memories in order to know the song so instead, accepts a conch shell, invested with songs of Raraku's past as well as the Spiritwalker's own "Songs of Power". As they say goodbye, the Spiritwalker lays his hands on Fiddler's shoulder and thanks him again, identifying himself as Kimloc. As he walks away, Fiddler realises that the last Malazan to talk to this infamous Spiritwalker was Dujek Onearm, eleven years previous, negotiating the surrender of Karakarang to Malazan forces.
Fiddler returns to the others, and they all agree that rebellion isn't far away, from all the symbols on walls. Other symbols are appearing though, seeming to indicate the direction of the Pan'potsun Odhan, where Fiddler and his group are heading. They are symbols of the Path of Hands.
Later at night, Kalam is sneaking about the city. He visits a man named Mebra, who owes a debt to the Bridgeburners. He demands to know the secret symbols he will need for safe passage across the Odhan, to which Mebra reluctantly tells him the only symbol he needs is that of the Whirlwind. Kalam asks of all the other new symbols he has seen, and Mebra says they are meaningless, only to hide the Whirlwind one from any Malazan observers.
Before Kalam leaves, he notices Mebra has possession of the Holy Book of Dryjhna, which is destined to begin the rebellion once Sha'ik has it. Kalam says he will take the Book to Sha'ik in Raraku in order to guarantee his own safe passage, and though Mebra would rather Kalam take him as a hostage rather than the book, he has no real choice but to tell him the signs he must leave to show other warriors of the Apocalypse what he carries.
Once Kalam has left, Commander Tene Baralta of the Red Blades emerges to congratulate Mebra on fooling Kalam, and says the Red Blades will follow Kalam all the way to Sha'ik, and destroy her. Mebra suggests that they let Kalam live so he can torture him to extract information on his true intentions, as Mebra suspects that Kalam, a master assassin, is headed towards Malaz City.
Mappo and Icarium stand at the bottom of a cliff between Raraku and the Pan'potsun Odhan, having spied a Tower, almost unreachable in a fissure some way up it. Mappo is injured as they were attacked by D'ivers Leopards, who soon realised their mistake as Icarium killed them all. Mappo worried that Icarium might have gone too far, but was relieved when Icarium stopped keening and moved on, seemingly calm. Once they find the tower, they decide they will try to rest and gain supplies. Another Soletaken follows them, and Icarium readies for it to arrive while Mappo searches for an ascent. As Mappo returns, Icarium faces a massive Plains Bear, clearly reluctant to approach. The Soletaken sembles into his human form before approaching. Mappo knows him as Messremb, and they greet each other as friends. Messremb tells how they have become the bane of those who walk the Path of Hands, and Icarium expresses regret at this. Once he leaves, they return to look for a way up to the tower. Eventually a man riding a mule approaches along the cliff, and says he has been expecting them. He also falls off his mule, which disappears into a cave.
Eventually, after much shouting, a servant appears carrying wine, and reveals that the man is Iskaral Pust, High Priest of Shadow. They wait a long time for a way to ascend to the tower, which is called Tesem, previously a temple of the Queen of Dreams. Many Bhoka'rala gradually appear, and one of them lets down a rope from a window of the tower. The servant climbs up, before pulling up Iskaral Pust after him. Before the other two ascend also, Mappo notes that Pust is extremely powerful, and they should be careful. Icarium asks why he has blood on his sword, saying he recalls no fight, and Mappo lies by saying they were attacked in the night and he borrowed Icarium's sword while he slept.