|Return of the Crimson Guard|
|Chapter 1 (I)||Chapter 2 (II)|
|Chapter 3 (III)||Chapter 4 (IV)|
|Chapter 5 (V)|
|The Eternal Return|
|Chapter 6 (I)||Chapter 7 (II)|
|Chapter 8 (III)||Chapter 9 (IV)|
|Chapter 10 (V)||Chapter 11 (VI)|
|Fates and Chances|
|Chapter 12 (I)||Chapter 13 (II)|
|Chapter 14 (III)||Chapter 15 (IV)|
|Chapter 16 (V)|
The wise say that as vows are sworn, so are they reaped. I have found this to be true.Prince K'azz D'Avore
Founder of the Crimson Guard
1165th year of Burn's Sleep
11th year of Empress Laseen's reign
99th year of the Crimson Guard's Vow
For a year the Second Company of the Crimson Guard have been besieging the Spur, a tower of rock housing the fortress of the warlock Shen on the steppes of the Bael subcontinent of Assail. Kyle is a fairly recent recruit; a local plains tribesman and worshipper of the tribe's god Father Wind, the Guard bought him out of slavery to guide them across the steppes. While a terrible magical battle rages in the air around the top of the spire between Shen and Cowl, the Guard's premiere mage, the Guard scout Stalker comes up with a plan to dig into the Spur looking for a way inside. Breaking through the cellar floor of one of the buildings surrounding the Spur they discover a passage leading to a central staircase.
Greymane, a renegade Malazan Fist, leads a squad of the Guard inside. Kyle and Stalker form the group's rearguard, where they follow Ogilvy at the tail of the column. As they climb the long staircase they discover the withered corpse of a guardian revenant as well as a series of carvings related to the Wind god of Kyle's people. The column comes to a halt as the leading Guard are attacked by Shen, triggering explosions and sending battered bodies plummeting past Kyle's position. Stalker leaves Kyle in Ogilvy's hands as the squad's mage Smoky tries to respond with fire. Greymane ends the skirmish by stabbing the warlock through the chest with his two-handed sword. Shen retreats back up into the fortress.
At the top of the Spur, amidst a ferocious rainstorm, the Guard spreads out and Kyle is tasked to scout the fortress' rooms looking for Shen. Before he can begin, Smoky marks his tulwar with a totem of the Wind god. The Spur soon begins to shake violently and the Guard realize that Greymane has finished off Shen. Greymane returns to the company now gathered in the fortress' courtyard, a sheen of ice slowly melting from his armor.
The Guard are trapped atop the spire. The wooden basket that can be lowered by rope to the ground can not be used in the wind and Shen has destroyed the staircase. Meanwhile, Greymane and Smoky huddle together with Greymane stating, "He's awake. Be here any moment. Shen woke it before I could stop him, the filthy Warren-leech." Stoop approaches Kyle in the still raging thunder and rain, and tells him that Cowl and Smoky's fears have come true. Shen was bleeding his power off of a mighty Ascendant, a master of the Warren of Serc. Now the Ascendant is free and coming for the Guard.
The fortress doors burst open and the Ascendant is among them. Robed and pale as snow, he is unaffected by the churning storm. Smoky attempts to confine the magus within a circle of fire, but is easily rebuffed. Greymane resists Smoky's call to bring in Cowl to handle the situation, but the point is made moot as Cowl and the other Veil assassins arrive, informed by the Brethren. Kyle recognizes the Ascendant as one of his tribe's Blessed Ancestors, possibly even "Father Wind" himself, and is horrified to discover that Cowl, Isha, and Keitil plan to kill him. He runs toward the Ascendant, unsure of what to do and shouts, "Ancient One! Look out!" just as Cowl appears directly behind Father Wind. Cowl knifes the Ascendant and the world explodes in bright light and sound, Kyle's tulwar taking most of the blast and knocking him unconscious.
Kyle awakes to find Stoop looking over him, the storm over. Stoop says he mollified Cowl by explaining that Kyle had been exuberantly trying to claim the honor of killing the god for himself. Stoop admits that the Guard had taken the contract against Shen in a failed attempt to harness the power of the Ascendant against their enemies, the Malazan Empire. Kyle is consumed with rage at the Guard for killing his god and only his injuries prevent him from assaulting Stoop. He discovers that his tulwar, damaged by the god, is now covered in swirls of Wind markings along the entire blade on both sides. He names his sword "Tcharka, Gift of Wind. Nearby he spots Stalker with Coots and Badlands as he exhaustedly falls asleep.
The next morning, the Guard makes its way down the Spur using the wooden basket and rope. Kyle, his god killed by the Guard, now feels like those of the Guard around him whose eyes are dead and who can not be touched. He too can kill without feeling.