She was a tall, lithely muscled woman with large and pendulous breasts and wide, full hips. She had a fine umber-hued pelt with long, shaggy hair reaching below her shoulders. The hair on her belly was downy and paler than the rest of her. Her face, which was far more human than ape, had a solid brow, prominent flaring cheekbones, beautiful dark brown eyes, and a broad, full-lipped mouth. It was filled with expression. Her movements were as graceful as a deer's, full of careful and watchful motion. Her body showed obvious signs of childbirth in her past.
She spoke a glottal language filled with clicks and stops and loud barking grunts.
In House of Chains
The Eres'al appeared suddenly before Trull Sengar as he, Onrack, Monok Ochem, and Ibra Gholan exited the warren of Tellann on their way to the First Throne. Trull shouted as everything went dark and time folded in on itself. When Onrack could see again, they were in the crevasse of the First Throne and Trull was unconscious. He observed smears of blood and three parallel cuts below the Tiste Edur's belly button and determined they were left by the Eres'al. The Bonecaster, Monok Ochem, confirmed that the Eres had stolen Trull's first seed, although her reasons were unfathomable as he said the Eres had minds of beasts. The sorcery the Eres'al projected was a barely formed warren on the edge of oblivion that temporarily sent Trull's mind elsewhere.
The Eres'al appeared later within the Tanno Spiritwalker song for the Bridgeburners playing within Fiddler's blood. As Adjunct Tavore Paran's 14th Army made preparations to face Sha'ik Reborn's Army of the Apocalypse, Fiddler found himself nearly overcome by voices in his skull and fire in his limbs. Bottle moved to help him and discovered the Eres'al amongst the other spirits. The mage and witch shared minds granting Bottle some knowledge of her people before the witch granted Fiddler the mercy of silence. Fiddler soon recovered his senses.
In Midnight Tides
Acquitor Seren Pedac and Hull Beddict discussed the creation myths of the Nerek people of Lether. Hull said the Nerek believed they were all born of a single mother who was the thief of fire and who walked through time. Her journeys were to satisfy a need that consumed her but which she never understood. She took within her a sacred seed that led to the birth of a girl through which all of the Nerek were born.
When the Kingdom of Lether embarked on the subjugation of the Nerek, they made sure to destroy the Nerek holy sites to weaken their connection to their goddess and their spirits. The Letherii exploited the Nerek's weaknesses so that the goddess never truly awoke and defended her people. After their subjugation, the Nerek lost their dreams and the knowledge of the old paths that made travel swift.
The merchant Buruk the Pale brought a group of Nerek Indebted to guide his wagons over the mountains into the lands of the Tiste Edur. At the Hiroth village of the Warlock King, they suffered and starved while awaiting an official welcome from the Edur. Seren Pedac convinced the Edur noblewoman, Mayen, to provide a welcome, but Mayen instead blessed their presence and inadvertantly sanctified the ground below them. This seemed to awaken the Eres'al to her people's plight to some degree. When the Letherii destroyed the Hiroth village with devastating sorcery, the Nerek that huddled on consecrated ground survived. At the same time, dreams returned to one of the Nerek youths and he could once again walk the ways between worlds.
In Letheras, Silchas Ruin probed the memories of the undead girl, Kettle, in search of her origins. Nerek witches had told Kettle that Eres was her mother, and Silchas Ruin promised to discover who her father was:
- Kettle: "I guess this Eres was my real mother."
- Silchas Ruin: "Yes."
- Kettle: "And soon you will know who my father is."
- Silchas Ruin: "I will know his blood, yes. At the very least."
- Kettle: "I wonder if he's still alive."
- Silchas Ruin: "Knowing how Eres plays the game, lass, he might not even be your father yet. She wanders time, Kettle, in a manner no-one else can even understand, much less emulate. And this is very much her world. She is the fire that never dies. She will choose— or has chosen— with great deliberation. Your father was, is, or will be someone of great importance."
- ―Silchas Ruin talking with Kettle about her mother[src]
In The Bonehunters
Outside Y'Ghatan, Bottle had a waking vision of the heavily pregnant Eres'al approaching him across a grass covered savannah of long ago. She gripped his wrist and placed his hand on her belly and Bottle sent his sense questing into her womb. He sensed that the Eres'al's child was a counter-balance to an abomination in her distant future. To make the once-innocent, but now corrupted, intruder from another realm a part of this world, one of its kind must be born through her. The Eres'al was chosen as the last innocent ancestor of the human line.
The father of the child was a Tiste Edur, and the child would be the only pure candidate for a new Throne of Shadow commanding a healed Kurald Emurlahn. Bottle felt that the Eres'al was putting her faith in him and praying to him as if he were a god. The mage was ashamed and refused to participate. But the much physically stronger woman held him down and forced him to relent. When he accepted her faith, there was a flash of light and she was gone.
Later, Quick Ben reluctantly asked Bottle's assistance in a divination he was struggling with. Bottle was half asleep, but quickly deciphered the ritual's meaning, determining that Quick Ben's sister, Torahaval Delat, was in danger and Shadowthrone was involved. As Bottle slipped back into sleep, Quick Ben realised that the Eres'al had been working through him, working magic that went back to the birth of awareness.
After the Last Siege of Y'Ghatan, the 14th Army was extracted from Seven Cities by Admiral Nok and the Malazan Imperial Fleet. Before they had even left the Kokakal Sea they were ambushed by the Third Edur Imperial Fleet. Nearly a hundred Tiste warlocks sent a wall of Chaos magic down upon the Malazans. High Mage Quick Ben responded with an illusory counterattack of Elder Magic that was bolstered by Bottle. The Eres'al took control of Bottle to turn the illusion into reality, saving Quick Ben and the entire fleet. As she returned Bottle's will, she could not resist manipulating him causing him to ejaculate. Nil and Nether recognised the Eres'al's actions, but kept the knowledge to themselves.
For a time she was with Spite, Mappo Runt, and Iskaral Pust as they crossed the Otataral Sea by ship. Mappo saw a mud-brown haze that smelled of the savannah surround Spite, then the woman seemed to argue with the air. Pust laughed saying "she" feared no one and was bending a furious Mael to her will. The god of the sea sputtered with outrage, not willing to be dragged into the war among the gods, but unable to stop her. Unlike Mael, she chose to be present and focused on one place at a time. Afterwards, Spite was sorry to see her leave. When she returned to the Adjunct's fleet, a strong wind began to push the ships far faster than any mortal vessel was capable on its own. Bottle noted that the eerie wind was pushing them through Mael's realm and there was nothing the god could do about it. But the mage worried that the Eres'al knew that time was short.
The wind did not let up until the Adjunct's fleet was two hours from Malaz Island. The Adunct's fleet travelled to Malaz City where Empress Laseen awaited Tavore in Mock's Hold. The Adjunct defied the Empress and refused to make scapegoats of her Wickan and Khundryl troops. She attempted to flee back to her ships with Kalam Mekhar and T'amber, her aide and lover, at her side. The three fought their way through dozens of Claw assassins, with T'amber displaying supernatural strength, swordsmanship, and endurance. She singlehandedly fought entire Hands of Claws, tossing them through the air while shrugging off multiple stab wounds to the chest and torso. She finally fell at the Centre Docks when one of twenty Claws thrust a sword into her back and out her chest.
Grub brought Lostara Yil to the docks where they saw a golden glow rise from T'amber's corpse. It coalesced into a naked, furred woman who bent over the body and kissed its forehead in thanks. Nearby, the T'lan Imass, Legana Breed, kneeled in respect. Grub said the Eres'al had used T'amber a lot, but she had no choice. The 14th Army was going to war. Then the apparition vanished and Grub warned Lostara that she must never tell the Adjunct what she saw.
The Eres'al travelled to the site of the T'lan Imass First Throne, which was defended against the Crippled God's Tiste Edur by Trull Sengar, Onrack T'emlava, and Minala's Company of Shadow. The Eres'al had observed the Throne's defenders with compassion for some time and she arrived just when they needed her most. The Edur had brought Icarium, who fell into a rage and began slaying friend and foe alike. Even Quick Ben, unwittingly sent to help the defenders by Shadowthrone, fell before the Jhag's wrath. But the Eres'al stepped in to touch Icarium's right hip, knocking him unconscious. She softly stroked the Jhag's forehead before departing in a golden glow that saved the gravely injured Onrack with its healing light.
In Reaper's Gale
Onrack informed a surprised Trull that the Edur warrior had taken on the role of Knight of Shadow within High House Shadow. The T'lan Imass pondered for a moment the possibility that it was the Eres'al's doing, but he discarded the idea as he could not determine the nature of her claim within the realm of Shadow. Onrack did note it was obvious the Eres'al had taken an interest in his friend.
The Eres'al also continued to maintain an interest in Bottle such that he developed an unfortunate reputation as a chronic masturbator amongst the Bonehunters. But by the time the Bonehunters made landfall in Lether, she was gone.
- Kettle recalled travelling with five Nerek witches who told her she was "a true child of the Eres," seemingly implying that her mother was the Eres'al. The father may have been Trull Sengar, who was raped for his seed by the time traveling Eres'al long after Kettle's birth. This seemed to be confirmed when the pregnant Eres'al visited Bottle, and he sensed the child's father was a Tiste Edur.
- Alternately, it has been speculated that Bottle may be the father of Kettle as a result of the time travelling Eres'al raping him for his seed, though she was already pregnant the first time he met her and there was no indication of intercourse, beyond his erection after she left. In 2020 a fan asked if "Bottle is Kettle's father via the Eres'al" and Erikson replied, "Yes, I think so." The resemblance of the names "Bottle" and "Kettle"--both in appearance and in function (something that holds water)--may be another clue that they were related. (Though perhaps it merely references the altercation between the pregnant Eres'al and Bottle, in which she seems strangely awed by/enamored with him, if also seemingly angry. It's possible she named the child to honor him. And perhaps "kettle" is the closest analog to "bottle" in her language.)
- When asked who Kettle's father was, on the "Not A TSACast" podcast in May of 2020, Erikson said, "I probably [knew] at the time. I can't remember now."
- "In the oldest, most fragmentary of texts, will be found obscure mention of the Eres’al, a name that seems to refer to those most ancient of spirits that are the essence of the physical world. There is, of course, no empirical means of determining whether the attribution of meaning—the power inherent in making symbols of the inanimate—was causative, in essence the creative force behind the Eres'al; or if some other mysterious power was involved, inviting the accretion of meaning and significance by intelligent forms of life at some later date.
In either case, what cannot be refuted is the rarely acknowledged but formidable power that exists like subterranean layers in notable features of the land; nor that such power is manifested with subtle yet profound efficacy, even so much as to twist the stride of gods—indeed, occasionally sufficient to bring them down with finality…"
- ―Preface to the Compendium of Maps
Kellarstellis of Li Heng
Notes and references
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.227
- House of Chains, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.747
- House of Chains, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.745
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.248-250
- House of Chains, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.747-748
- House of Chains, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.755-758
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.430
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.416
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.545
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.220-226
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.447
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.96
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.248-250
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 15, US SFBC p.606-608
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.725-733/739-740
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 19, US SFBC p.760-761
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 19, US SFBC p.766/770
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 22, US SFBC p.837
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.897-908
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.915-916/920/925-930/947-949
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.950-951
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.700-701
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.973-977
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 10, US HC p.256
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 14, US HC p.394-395
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 22, US HC p.687
- Deadhouse Gates: A Chat with Steven Erikson, Part 1 - Claudia Iovanovici - See 9:20
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.539-542
- House of Chains, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.747-748
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US MMPB p.300
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US MMPB p.300-301
- Amalgam Podcast - See 1:08:25
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US MMPB p.301
- Not A TSACast: Fireside Conversations with Steven Erikson Ep#3 podcast - See 1:46:50