|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|
This path's a dire thing,
the gate it leads to
is like a corpse
over which ten thousand
their fruitless claims.
Trout Sen'al' Bhok'arala
Kalam and Salk Elan stand on the deck of the Ragstopper. The ship heads toward Malaz Island, which is now a blurred smudge on the horizon. Elan speaks of the birthplace of the Malazan Empire in romantic terms. Kalam assures him it is "a pigsty by the sea" and a "rotten, festering bug-ridden swamp." The ship's captain remains indisposed.
Elan admits to admiring Kalam and reveals that he knows of the assassin's plans for Empress Laseen. Kalam denies this claim and demands to know what sorcery affects the ship. Elan says his searches have found nothing, but he theorizes someone is tracking them to make certain of their cargo.
Kalam admits that he has contacts waiting within Malaz City and Elan startles him by suggesting they await at Smiley's, the infamous tavern once owned by the former Emperor. The assassin corrects him. His contacts will meet them at the Deadhouse.
Iskaral Pust scrabbles to open Tremorlor's door unsuccessfully. Mappo Runt fails as well. The Hounds of Shadow charge to rejoin Fiddler and the others at the door to the Azath House even as the massive cloud of D'ivers Bloodflies sweeps towards them.
Suddenly Icarium awakes and begins to rage. Mappo attempts to restrain him even as the Azath House's yard comes to life and tries to pull the Hounds and D'ivers into its prison. Now Fiddler too frantically tries to pry open the door and fails. The Bloodflies are almost upon them and Icarium's anger is a palpable pressure. The Bhok'aral, Moby, clambers down Fiddler's arm, his shape seeming to shift and blur, and with a touch the familiar opens the door.
The group rushes inside and Icarium's anger evaporates. Fiddler notes that all are accounted for except the Hounds, who Pust says have made their escape. The D'ivers has been taken by Tremorlor. Moby is nowhere to be found and Pust angrily claims that Moby is a Soletaken seeking the prize of the Path of Hands. Apsalar assures them that the prize is not to be found here.
They begin to explore the inside of the House and find the withered body of the House's previous Keeper, a Forkrul Assail. According to her stolen memories, Apsalar notes that the layout of the House is nearly identical to the Deadhouse in Malaz City. Moby soon returns to Crokus' arms just before a merchant's bell is heard from outside the House.
Fiddler opens the outside door revealing a yard buried with tangled roots and humped earth. Outside the gate stands Karpolan Demesand of the Trygalle Trade Guild. He delivers a package of Moranth munitions to Fiddler from Quick Ben then makes a hasty retreat.
Back inside Tremorlor, Apsalar explains that Moby is in fact a Soletaken, and a very large demon in its true form. It sought the prize of Ascendancy, but instead trembles at the realization that it has been chosen as the House's new guardian. Further searching of the House finds the corpse of Dassem Ultor's daughter, left here by Dassem Ultor himself before he broke his vow to Hood.
Finally, they discover the portal that will take them to the Deadhouse. Crokus tearfully says goodbye to Moby and promises to visit. Once they leave, Moby approaches a suit of armour in the House's hallway which welcomes him to the House, pleased that its solitude is over.
Sanimon and the Geleen Plain
Since the debacle at Sanimon, an enraged Korbolo Dom has launched incessant attacks on the Chain of Dogs. The running battle has lasted over forty hours as Coltaine continues to push southwards. His soldiers are dropping dead from exhaustion. Only five thousand fighting men and women remain.
On the Geleen Plain, Coltaine makes a decision. Duiker will lead the refugees to Aren. Accompanying him will be the last warlocks, Nil and Nether, as well as a troop made up of the youngest Wickan soldiers. The rest of the army will remain behind to hold back the Army of the Apocalypse. Duiker does not want to leave his fellow soldiers, but he will do his duty. The Wickan children are all the army has left.
Duiker says his goodbyes to Captain Lull, Coltaine, and the others. Corporal List sends his regards through Lull, giving up the opportunity to accompany the historian. "I have found my war," is the message. As Duiker mounts his horse, his nameless marine hands him a scrap of cloth and asks him to wait a while before reading it.
Duiker leads his group south. The Wickan youths are outraged to be sent away. Coltaine has gambled on the reaction of the local Kherahn Dhobri tribe which has so far held back from the fighting. A pair of tribal elders approaches Duiker and agrees to honour their treaties with the Malazan Empire. They will take payment to allow the refugees passage. They will also provide food and healing, and escort the group to Balahn village. The gamble has paid off.
That night at camp, the Kherahnal attend to the refugees offering painful emotional release to those no longer familiar with gestures of kindness. Nether tells Duiker that they have lost their linkage with Coltaine. He lives, but they do not know his fate.
Nethpara and Pullyk Alar inform Duiker that the Council of Nobles has come to a separate agreement with the Kherahnal to purchase horses for their members. They plan to ride on ahead. Tumlit, who might have opposed the plan, has died unexpectedly. Duiker forbids their departure and Pullyk attempts to challenge him to a duel. The historian slaps him down unconscious with the flat of his blade and Nethpara says he will not forget Duiker's actions.
Duiker's group arrives at the squalid village that marks the start of the Aren Way, the Malazan road that covers the final three leagues (10 miles) to Aren. The historian thanks the Kherahnal and promises that the Empress will hear of their actions. They warn that a large force approaches quickly from the north. Duiker gets the camp moving. He is determined to be in the city by dawn.
Duiker leads the refugees on a breakneck pace. Some die of exhaustion along the way. To the northeast, the appearance of a dust cloud indicates that whoever is following them is closing in. The group's vanguard spots the gates of aren ahead. They are closed. A thousand paces from the walls, which are crowded with soldiers, they begin to run. Duiker rides amongst the stragglers spurring them forward. Some are too tired to continue and sit down, giving up.
At last, the gates open, but no soldiers rush out to defend their flight. Only members of the Aren Guard appear at the gates to guide them inside, some running to carry stragglers the last few paces. Guard Captain Keneb finds Duiker and orders him to report to High Fist Pormqual immediately. The historian says the bastard will have to wait until he sees every last refugee inside the gates. Keneb apologizes that the soldiers have been unwillingly ordered to stay on the walls.
At last, all the survivors are inside but Duiker who pauses to look northward. Spotting the dust cloud reaching the closest of the barrow mounds that line the Aren Way he turns his horse about and rides inside. As he does so, a great cheer rises from the walls.
Apt and Panek are in the Shadow Realm studying the barren landscape. The boy asks, "Mother, is this home?" They are interrupted by the arrival of a tall, black-clad man, who strikes up a conversation. He warns Apt that her generous reshaping of the boy will scar him in the years to come. He now belongs to neither Shadow nor his normal world. The demon argues back in clicks and hisses.
The man introduces himself to the boy as Uncle Cotillion. The one-eyed boy informs Cotillion that even though he has two eyes the man does not see. In fact, when the man approached, he walked through a stone wall and trees as if he did not see them. Cotillion is astonished by the boy's sight. He has often wondered why the Hounds never run straight.
Cotillion asks what memories the boy has of his other world. Panek remembers angry soldiers gathering him and the other children, then punishing them with crucifixion for not doing what they were told. Cotillion assures the boy he was not at fault. "They hurt you because they could, because there was no one there who was capable of stopping them." Mother Apt and Uncle Cotillion will not let that happen again.
The god says he and the boy can teach each other. The boy can show him what he sees of "the Shadow Hold that was". Turning to Apt, Cotillion says he and Ammanas must think on the proposal regarding the other children that she has put before them. He complains to Apt that as an Ascendant he hoped "to escape the nightmares of feeling" and now she has chained him. The boy asks if Cotillion has children and the god admits to a daughter, but they have fallen out. Panek advises him to forgive her, but Cotillion says it is for her to forgive him.
Apt and Panek make ready to depart. She has debts to pay. Cotillion tells her to give Kalam his regards before disappearing into shadows. A puzzled Panek asks Apt if Cotillion thinks he now walks unseen.
The Ragstopper, Malaz Harbour
The Ragstopper drops anchor at midnight a hundred yards out from the Malaz City docks. From the deck, Kalam observes the old fortress of Mock's Hold hold and senses that someone of importance is there. He was never supposed to be here. The plan had been for Fiddler to travel via the Deadhouse and then meet Kalam in Unta.
As he ponders the sapper's chances, Kalam realizes he can no longer move. Salk Elan steps from the shadows, chuckling at Kalam's predicament and revealing himself to be Pearl of the Claw. He tells Kalam that although he truly admires him, the Claw have laws for those who abandon their service. Pearl tells Kalam that the Empress wants to speak with him, then sinks a blade into his side. It is not enough to kill him, but it will weaken him for the gauntlet of Claw assassins awaiting him in the city. Pearl pushes Kalam overboard where the water will dispel the mind magic paralyzing him.
Pearl turns away from the rail to finish the job of slaying the captain and his crew. He is interrupted by the arrival of Apt with Panek on her back. The Claw thanks the demon for her help with the Semk godling before realizing the demon is here to help Kalam. It lunges and sends him crashing across the deck with a dislocated shoulder. The Claw then releases a Kenryll'ah demon of his own. The demons battle as Pearl disappears by Warren.
As the ship shudders and shakes from the melee on deck, the captain awakes for what feels like the first time in months. Making his way topside to see the battle between the two demons, he orders the crew to abandon ship in their dories. Acting First Mate Palet grins and says, "Glad you're back, Carther--" before the captain angrily cuts him off. The captain reminds him where they are and that he was supposed to have "drowned" years ago.
The nearby trader vessel that has followed the Ragstopper all the way from Aren observes the sinking vessel. They are preparing to launch rescue boats when a woman on horseback plunges overboard in the dark. The captain, admiring her bravery and stupidity, orders the ship's mage to clear a path through the sharks in the harbour so that the woman can safely reach shore.