Three years before the start of Midnight Tides, Shurq had been sentenced to a drowning in the canals of the city because of an unfortunate altercation which had left her then landlord dead (from a sudden defenestration) and a passerby also dead (having been landed on by the aforementioned landlord). This led to a charge of "Careless self-defence leading to the death of an innocent".
The fine was four hundred docks, halved because she was a woman. Although it was a relatively small fine, her finances were such that she was forced to opt for the "swim" in the canal. That swim should not technically have killed her, but circumstances once again conspired against her when a lupe-fish became entangled in the ropes tying her to the weights and she drowned. However, she had previously been cursed never to know death by one of the people from whom she had stolen and this resulted in her emerging from the Quillas Canal as an undead. The exact location of Shurq's re-emergence was just downstream of Windlow's Meatgrinders on the last day of Betrayer's Month.
Her undead flesh did not decay, but its pallor was noticeably unhealthy. Her listless, murky eyes were dull and their whites browned by the blood of burst vessels. Her deft reflexes were not diminished and her senses remained unchanged after her transformation.
After her death, she was shunned by the living and could no longer find work as a thief. Her condition also left her undesirable as a romantic partner and unable to feel sexual pleasure, leading her to spend time listening with longing below the windows of brothels. She eventually had her revenge on the one who cursed her and saw that the death was attributed to Finadd Gerun Eberict.
She looked after an undead orphan girl who she named Kettle. The girl, who referred to Shurq as Mother, lived on the grounds of the Azath Tower. Shurq's investigations failed to learn who had cursed the child and stolen her memories.
In Midnight Tides
Down on her luck and shunned by the living, Shurq struck a bargain with Tehol Beddict. In exchange for a "makeover" by Selush, a local dresser of the dead, she agreed to work on retainer as a thief for Tehol as he plotted to bring down the Letherii financial system. Tehol also promised to investigate the mystery of Kettle's origins.
Selush scoured, scraped, bleached, and disinfected Shurq's body and rubbed fragrant and preserving oils into her skin. She pumped all of the muddy canal water out of Shurq's lungs before infusing them with cinnamon and myrrh. Selush also "installed" a voracious ootooloo that reawakened Shurq's nerves to pleasurable feelings and brightened and reinvigorated her flesh. Shurq immediately began working in the Temple Brothel where her popularity with the clients quickly made enemies among the other women. Tehol removed her from the brothel and introduced her to the prodigious half-Tarthenal, Ublala Pung, to keep her satisfied.
Shurq's first job for Tehol was to rob the estate of Gerun Eberict. While Ublala kept the guards busy in a brawl by the estate's gate, Shurq quietly slipped inside. She made her way to the Finadd's quarters where she discovered his undead brother, Harlest Eberict, enslaved to serve as a watchman. Harlest was only too happy to disable the traps guarding his brother's treasures in return for Shurq's promise to have Selush give him fangs and talons.
Shurq's second job was to infiltrate the Tolls Repository and Royal Vaults, something no one had ever successfully accomplished. Tehol asked her to gather information regarding which lenders held the largest royal debt. She was also to determine the state of the royal treasury. Shurq completed her task by asking Kettle to recruit the crowd of ghosts gathering around the Azath Tower. Then Shurq brought them to the Toll Respository to terrorise the workers and guards into leaving while she did her work.
For her third task, she returned to spy on Gerun Eberict's estate to observe the long away Finadd's response to her theft. While climbing down from her rooftop perch she took a nasty fall and impaled her head on an iron bar. Selush removed the bar and patched the hole in her skull with a gem in a silver setting.
On the day of the Seventh Closure and the Tiste Edur invasion of the city, she and Harlest followed Ublala to the Azath Tower. Ublala and Harlest helped Iron Bars and Silchas Ruin dispatch the five Seregahl, the last of the Azath Tower's prisoners. Her presence no longer needed, Kettle requested Silchas Ruin take her with him on his travels. Ruin promised Shurq the child would be safe with him.
Shurq used her earnings to purchase a sleek, two-masted ship with the intention of becoming a pirate with Ublala and Harlest. She took on Iron Bars and his Crimson Guardsmen as additional crew. After saying farewell to Tehol, she set sail to take Shand, Rissarh, and Hejun to one of Tehol's island refuges before beginning her new career.
In Reaper's Gale
Piracy opened an entire new and unknown world to Shurq as she and her crew crossed the seas, capturing and pillaging merchant vessels. She lost her first ship, a galley from Letheras, to a Mare escort in Laughter's End before taking control of a new vessel named the Undying Gratitude. Skorgen Kaban served as her First Mate and she began an affair with a young sailor named Burdenar. She enjoyed her new profession and kept a tight rein on her crew, banning profanity while aboard.
Iron Bars and his men supported Shurq's pirating efforts in return for passage across the ocean to Jacuruku. Although she found the Guardsmen formidable allies during their time together, she was left uneasy by Iron Bars' distaste at serving as anyone's subordinate. She was careful to keep their goals aligned and avoid confrontation until they reached the Guards' destination. She deposited them on a stony beach on Jacuruku's eastern coast where, last she saw them, they were turning inland to face a dozen massively armoured figures descending upon them. Skorgen thought he heard the sound of blades clashing before the heavy rain obscured their view.
After twenty months at sea, the Undying Gratitude was becalmed west of the Draconean Isles when they came across an abandoned Tiste Edur vessel. They boarded in search of loot, finding signs of a battle and the lone corpse of an Edur, who had been tortured. All of the ship's logs and charts were missing, but its hold was still filled with valuable cargo--amphorae filled with blood for use in the Edur's sacred rites. Without realising she had stumbled on the work of the Bonehunters, Shurq concluded that the attackers had only sought information. Uneasy at the idea of being discovered by the nearby Edur fleet and blamed for the carnage, Shurq took on the ship's cargo, set the ship ablaze, and made haste toward Letheras to sell off their booty and load up on crew.
As they neared the mouth of the Lether River an Imperial fleet of Edur and Letherii ships appeared from the south-west at a converging angle. Shurq decided to change her course, heading in the direction of Fent Reach to avoid possibly losing her cargo to the Edur. No ship followed. When they reached Second Maiden Fort, they found the former prison isle besieged by an onrushing mass of ice and just made it into the safety of the harbour ahead of it. Shurq noted a strange foreign vessel also in port while port inspectors Brevity and Pithy took their anchoring fees.
While trapped on the island, Shurq and Skorgen frequented the Harridict Tavern whose proprietor Ballant was infatuated with her. There they observed some of the foreigners that had taken up residence on the isle. Shurq and Skorgen resorted to subterfuge to win an audience with Shake Brullyg, the island's ostensible ruler and an old acquaintance. They found him kept under secret house arrest by Sergeant Balm's squad, an advance team of the Bonehunters who were in the process of invading the Letherii Empire. Now Shurq and Skorgen were prisoners too.
Adjunct Tavore Paran interrogated Shurq on the Empire's internal politics and was surprised to learn that the Letherii were comfortable with their Edur occupiers. They would not rebel as required for the Malazan invasion to succeed, leaving the entire plan in jeopardy. Tavore recruited Shurq and her ship to guide her fleet to the mouth of the Lether River. Shurq was well paid in gold, but was kept aboard the Adjunct's flagship, the Froth Wolf, while Skorgen helmed the Undying Gratitude.
Unable to replenish the herbs that kept her scent fresh, Shurq's body began to smell unpleasant. She spent the voyage being pestered by Banaschar who sought to restore her body to life using the rituals of D'rek. Shurq was uninterested. She allowed him to focus his thoughts on her insides and he was horrified to discover the Ootooloo that filled her entire being. After the Bonehunters conquered Letheras and installed Tehol as emperor, Shurq regained control of her ship and requested an audience with him to discuss unrevealed matters.
In Dust of Dreams
In The Crippled God
- Shurq Elalle: "It’s a miserable existence. Day after day, night after night. One step in front of the other, on and on to nowhere in particular."
- Tehol Beddict: "And being dead has changed all that?"
- ―Shurq Elalle considering Tehol Beddict's job offer[src]
Notes and references
- Critical Conversations 04: Deadhouse Gates Chapter 19 with Steven Erikson - A Critical Dragon - As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 01:36:50
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 14, BCA edition p.442
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.137
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 3, US HC p.90
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.137-138/147
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.252
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.138
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.138/146
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.146
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.145
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.201
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.199
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.144-147
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.252-254
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.300-305
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.320
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.146
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.326-328
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.331-333
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.442-443
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.532-533/538-539
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.598-600
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.689
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.738/756
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.443
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.696
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.738
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.766
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 3, US HC p.88-92
- Reaper's Gale, Dramatis Personae
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 6, UK BCA HC p.137
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.757
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.193
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 13, US HC p.364
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.192-196
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 10, US HC p.260-261
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 13, US HC p.345-347/352-354
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 14, US HC p.408-410
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.615
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 20, US HC p.613
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 17, US HC p.517
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.613-615
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.756
- Reaper's Gale, Epilogue, US HC p.827
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 20, UK BCA edition, p.670