|House of Chains|
|Faces in the Rock|
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2|
|Chapter 3||Chapter 4|
|Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
|Chapter 7||Chapter 8|
|Chapter 9||Chapter 10|
|Chapter 11||Chapter 12|
|Chapter 13||Chapter 14|
|Chapter 15||Chapter 16|
|Chapter 17||Chapter 18|
|House of Chains|
|Chapter 19||Chapter 20|
|Chapter 21||Chapter 22|
|Chapter 23||Chapter 24|
|Chapter 25||Chapter 26|
Woe to the fallen
in the alleys of Aren…
Blistig and Gamet
Fist Gamet of Adjunct Tavore Paran's Malaz 14th Army observes as Commander Blistig sends his soldiers bursting into a tavern. The Fist serves as the Adjunct's liaison with the survivors of the Chain of Dogs. Soon Blistig's soldiers reappear carrying a drunken Squint, the archer who killed Coltaine to end his suffering. Gamet complains about the lack of discipline among the Aren soldiers. Blistig reminds him of the anger among his soldiers at being forced by High Fist Pormqual's orders to stand by and watch Coltaine and the Chain of Dogs get slaughtered by their pursuers just outside the walls of Aren. Blistig also voices some doubts concerning the newly promoted Gamet's leadership abilities, to which Gamet reminds him that he is a 23-year veteran of the Fourth Army and the Wickan Wars. Before parting, Gamet informs Blistig that Adjunct Tavore has called a meeting of all commanders that night.
A transport vessel carrying new recruits to the 14th Army approaches Aren. Aboard, a new Malazan recruit named Strings stands at the rail and watches Aren grow closer, thinking how little it has changed since he last saw it. He is soon joined by the arrogant nobleborn Lieutenant Ranal, who hints at his suspicions that Strings is a Malazan deserter based on his age and the recruiting officer's insistence that Strings be promoted to Sergeant. Strings replies by saying he has met plenty of deserters and they all have their different reasons for leaving but share one thing in common — deserters do not end up putting themselves back into enlistment lines. Strings wanders back to his fellow Marines where he is approached by new recruit Koryk, a Seti half-blood. Koryk asks how he got his name, to which Strings replies that the tale is too long. It is revealed to the reader, however, that Strings used to go by the name of Fiddler.
Lostara Yil, a captain of the Red Blades, awaits someone in Dancer's Tavern. She has received an unsigned message to meet there, but she irritatedly suspects it is from Pearl. Pearl arrives with a bottle of wine of his own vintage and invites her to a meeting that night with Adjunct Tavore. The Adjunct has approved his request that she serve as his aide for an official matter, and the meeting will allow both of them to learn the details. Lostara is enraged to be taken away from the Red Blades until Pearl informs her the mission requires a knowledge of Seven Cities as well as an unquestioned loyalty to the Malazan Empire. Under further questioning, Pearl excitedly admits he has no idea what the mission entails.
All but Tavore arrive early to the meeting of the 14th Army's leadership. Present are Gamet, Admiral Nok, Commander Tene Baralta of the Red Blades, and Blistig. As Gamet waits for the Adjunct to arrive, his doubts rekindle. He knows that his promotion to Fist of her army was not based on merit but more on her familiarity with him in the role of administrator of House Paran. He fears she plans to use him in an identical manner as a Fist. Tavore arrives and immediately begins reorganising the leadership of the Fourteenth Army. Fist Gamet will lead the 8th Legion. Blistig and Baralta are each promoted to Fist and they are put in charge of the 9th and 10th Legions, respectively. The survivors of the Chain of Dogs will have their units dissolved and they will be reassigned and dispersed throughout the three legions. Nok is to detach Commander Alardis from his flagship to take over command of the Aren Guard. Announcing she will review the troops in three days, she dismisses Blistig, Baralta, and Nok, however she orders the latter to remain available for a private meeting later that evening. She remains alone with Gamet and they talk together, speculating about how the previous meeting attendees will organise their forces.
Nil, Nether, and Temul then enter the room. Tavore informs the two dispirited and bedraggled mages that the Fourteenth Army lacks mages so they must serve. They try to refuse, telling her that the warlock spirits within them are silent. She tells them they will have to find a means of reawakening them. Tavore informs Temul that he is to serve as captain of the forty remaining Wickans, who will be attached to her personal entourage as bodyguards. They are then dismissed.
Tavore takes Gamet into a different room and asserts, "in this room, the Empress is not present." Subsequently, Pearl and Lostara enter. When Pearl mentions he is on the outs with both the Empress and Topper, Tavore hints that he would then possibly be available for a more "private enterprise." Lostara is made uneasy by this trend in the conversation, but the Adjunct assures her that nothing that follows will impugn the Red Blade's honour. But Gamet too is worried. Tavore asks Pearl about the Talon, forcing him to admit the group still exists despite the Claws' attempts to eradicate it. She piques Pearl's interest by suggesting the Talon has been working for the nobility, offering the name of Baudin as an example. But she believes Baudin's mission has gone terribly wrong. At this, Gamet connects the dots and lets slip the name, "Felisin." Pearl asks when Tavore lost contact, and Tavore states that it was the night of the uprising at Skullcup. She offers Pearl and Lostara a scroll with more details and contacts, asking them to "Find Felisin. Find my sister."
Gamet vividly remembers Unta on the night of The Cull of the nobility when he had only twelve guards to protect the Paran estate where Felisin was hiding after her parents had already been arrested and taken. Three of those guards had only been hired in the last few days, and uncertain of their loyalty, Gamet had dismissed them. But Baudin, calling himself Kollen, had refused to leave. His natural military bearing led Gamet to suspect the guard was in the employ of the Empress, but Baudin confided that he was working under Tavore's orders to keep Felisin safe. Gamet had been suspicious of Baudin's intentions as Tavore had done nothing to save her parents from the culling, to which the guard said that the Adjunct's options were limited, given the scrutiny she was under. He had told Gamet that Felisin was to spend a brief time in the Otataral mines with himself as her guardian, but that it was impossible to protect her from all harm. Baudin had then told Gamet to escort Felisin to a safe house on the Avenue of Souls. Gamet had grimaced knowing that meant Judgment's Round and the chains.
After Tavore and Gamet depart, Pearl and Lostara remain alone in the meeting room. Pearl is studying the scroll given by Tavore, but Lostara is initially refusing to do the job. Pearl says that is her choice, but he will have to kill her. She asks Pearl since when is he at the Adjunct's beck and call, to which he replies, "ever since she unequivocally reasserted her loyalty to the Empress." Lostara does not understand, so Pearl explains that the Talon have been working with the nobility to return the nobles to positions of power. Now that Tavore has taken on the role of Adjunct, she had just severed her old loyalties by giving up the Talons to the Claw. Once they find Baudin, they can then unravel the entire organisation. And if Pearl eliminates the Talon, he will be back in the good graces of the Empress and the Clawmaster. Lostara agrees to take the mission.
Tavore and Gamet meet with Nok at midnight. Nok informs Tavore that a certain transport ship she had previously asked about, the ship containing Pormqual's treasure, had sank in the Malaz City harbour with no survivors. Tavore is skeptical at Nok's suggestion that sharks ate everyone who went over the side, but the admiral knows of a dozen other ships in the same harbour that meet that example. Tavore interrupts with the name of the Twisted, Kellanved's flagship, which mysteriously disappeared the night after the assassinations of Kellanved and Dancer and allegedly sank, taking all aboard down with it. Before Nok can reply, Tavore interrupts and notes that only Nok and three others "are left" among the assassinated Emperor's original supporters—the other three being Tayschrenn, Dujek, and Whiskeyjack. The Adjunct bluntly asks of Nok why so many of the Emperor's people abandoned the Empress upon her ascension to the throne. Nok says the answer to her question lies in the history of how Kellanved's "family" came to be.
Nok points out how Kellanved started out with just one partner, Dancer. Then the pair hired several Napans displaced by the Kingdom of Unta's annexation of their homeland. With Nok, Ameron, Dujek, and Nok's wife Hawl, they set about knocking out the city's criminal element, who also happened to rule the entire island. As they succeeded, they recruited more "family" from the Napan refugees, including Crust, Urko, and Surly, and later non-Napans Toc the Elder, Dassem Ultor, Tayschrenn, and Duiker. The family's residency in the Deadhouse rewarded them with "longevity, immunity to most diseases, and...other things."
Unbeknown to Kellanved and Dancer at the time was the fact that the Napans among them were more than simple refugees. Surly was of the royal Napan line, while Crust and Urko had been captains of the Napan fleet. They used "the family" for ulterior motives—to crush the Untan hegemony. This ultimately culminated in Surly's betrayal of Kellanved and Dancer. Tavore understands this, but still doesn't know why it was Nok, Dujek, and Tayschrenn who stayed with Surly (now Laseen), but the other Napans abandoned her. Nok explains that, while they were not party to Laseen's betrayal, nobody would believe they were not, and to continue to serve Laseen was "complicity and damnation."
Strings enters the stables and meets the other recruits of the 4th squad, introducing himself as their sergeant. He asks their names, which are Tarr, Smiles, Bottle, and Koryk. Strings asks who their drill sergeant was and is surprised to find out it was Braven Tooth, whom he did not know was still alive. It was Braven Tooth who gave names to most of the Bridgeburners. A handful of soldiers enter the stable led by Gesler and Stormy. The other four are introduced as Truth, Tavos Pond, Sands, and Pella. When Strings introduces himself, Stormy comments on how he and Gesler should have changed their names too, hinting that they know who he is. Outside the stables, Strings admits to Gesler that he is Fiddler. They walk to a nearby tavern to swap stories, each guaranteeing theirs is the best.