|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|
Laseen sent Tavore
Rushing across the seas
to clasp Coltaine’s hand
And closing her fingers
She held crow-picked bones.
Kalam Mekhar fights for his life in the dark streets of Malaz City. He has already dispatched one group of the Claw and more are converging on his location. Using his knowledge of their techniques, he quickly ambushes another trio of hunters. He kills two of the assassins almost instantaneously, but is wounded in the process and loses track of the third. He slows his bleeding and hides, only leaving his cover when a Malazan ratter reveals his location with its barks.
Bursting from cover, he attacks the remaining assassin only to realize that a third Hand has arrived on the scene. He is saved only by the surprise intercession of the vicious dog and the arrival of Minala on horseback. As Minala fires her Marine-issue crossbow, Kalam pulls himself into the saddle behind her and the two escape. Minala informs him that Empress Laseen is at Mock's Hold and she races in that direction.
The four remaining travelers in the Azath Warren, Fiddler, Apsalar, Crokus, and Rellock, fall through the darkness, finally crashing to a flagstone floor. Fiddler realizes they are in the Deadhouse after recognizing the scent of Malaz Bay. Seeing a light, they descend to the House's main floor where they find a Jaghut in the main room. The guardian notes the group's failure to imprison Icarium in the grounds of Tremorlor and states that Mappo has walked at his charge's side for too long. Friendship should not supersede duty.
The Jaghut Gothos reveals that Icarium is his son. Icarium had once attempted to free his father from the Azath without realizing Gothos was content in his solitude. The Jhag wounded a Warren in the process leaving himself damaged and without memory. Ever since, the Elders of the Nameless Ones had selected Watchers to monitor the Jhag. After one such guardian took his own life, the were in desperate need of a replacement. They had convinced Mappo to be Icarium's companion by destroying the Trell's settlement and family and blaming it on the Jhag. Ultimately, the Azath had worked for a long time to prepare Icarium for capture at Tremorlor and Mappo had failed it.
Gothos apologizes for his disappointment and says he had such hopes for his son's capture. He asks the group to leave indicating that a healing draught is near the exit door for those that need it. Fiddler drinks to heal his wounds and the group leaves the House. The streets are dark and unnaturally quiet. Apsalar recognizes the signs of Claw sorcery. Fiddler suggests they head to the tavern Smiley's, but they are interrupted by the appearance of the demon Apt and Panek. Panek reveals that Kalam has gone to seek the Empress at Mock's Hold and offers to lead them there safely past the Claw through Shadow.
Kalam and Minala ride the stairs up Mock's Cliff when they are swallowed by a Warren. Within moments they find themselves within the Old Keep of Mock's Hold. They dismount and Minala explains how she followed Kalam from Aren, finally swimming to shore with her horse once the ship was stopped in the bay. When Kalam demands to know why she would do such a thing, she is angered by assassin's obtuseness. Surprised by the breach of their open secret, Kalam is forced to acknowledge their feelings and admit that he is "not subtle".
Determined to assassinate the Empress, Kalam opens a door from behind which he senses great sorcery. Beyond is a room filled with unnatural darkness. The voice of the Empress invites him inside and he enters. She startles the assassin by demanding to know why he has come to kill her. Kalam angrily accuses her of outlawing Dujek Onearm, attempting to murder Whiskeyjack and the Bridgeburners, assassinating Dassem Ultor, Dancer, and Emperor Kellanved, as well as possessing the faults of incompetence, ignorance, and betrayal.
Laseen asks if she is permitted a defense against the charges. Kalam agrees, planning to use the time to attempt to locate her position within the room. The Empress reveals that Dujek's outlawing is a sham. Recognizing the rising threat of the Pannion Domin, Dujek needed a way to turn their current enemies into allies. The High Fist convinced the Empress that outlawing his forces would allow him to join forces with Caladan Brood and his Rhivi and Barghast as well as Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii against a common enemy. Additionally the Crimson Guard would no longer be a threat. Other than Dujek and the Empress, only High Mage Tayschrenn knew of the plan, and he was to serve as Dujek's Shaved Knuckle in the Hole. The decimation of the Bridgeburners was unintended and she apologizes for the High Mage's misguided efforts.
While Kalam considers her words, the Empress also freely admits to ending the rule of Kellanved and Dancer. She claims their elimination was a reluctant necessity committed with anguish for the benefit of the Malazan Empire. She likewise disposed of Dassem Ultor as an ambitious rival who served Hood and whose intentions would have led to civil war. She claims she has made grievous errors in judgment during her rule, but she has no regrets regarding the choices she made regarding these men. Sensing that Kalam has finally located her, she asks the assassin if Dassem would have let him approach this close to reason with him.
Kalam accepts her argument and sheathes his knife, audibly surprising Laseen. He makes to depart and she warns that she cannot recall the Claw. As a former Claw, he says he understands that the Claw deal with their own and returns to Minala. Afterwards, the darkness disperses from the room and Topper appears from a Warren. The "Empress" is in actuality a corpse from which projects Laseen's voice. Laseen tells Topper she can not afford to lose Kalam, but Topper argues the night will only result in a clearing of the Claw's deadwood. Besides, he has his lieutenant Pearl to vent his frustration on.
Making their way out of the keep, Minala and Kalam take Captain Aragan hostage before they are attacked by twenty Claw assassins. The attack is interrupted by the sorcerous appearance of Apt, Fiddler, Apsalar, and the others. Kalam admits to a surprised Fiddler that he did not kill the Empress as Apt brings them all back into Shadow.
Apt brings the group into the presence of Shadowthrone where Fiddler names him as former Emperor Kellanved. The giggling man promises to reward his former subjects at the behest of Apt. Apsalar extracts a promise to send her, Crokus, and Rellock back to her home in Itko Kan while breaking all associations with Shadowthrone, Dancer, or any other Ascendant. Shadowthrone offers to return Fiddler to the Bridgeburners, but the sapper refuses. He has decided to re-enlist with the troops headed to Seven Cities to assist Adjunct Tavore Paran against the rebellion. To Kalam and Minala, Shadowthrone offers a place in his realm taking care of the crucified children that Apt rescued.