(This has a secondary post title of “Blogging Malazan with a Maine Coon Cat on My Face.”)
Chapter One, continued
A recruiting sergeant in a backwater near the killing field looks up to see a girl in front of him. No more than twelve, but with old eyes. She has a specific assignment preference: the Genabackan campaign, under High Fist Dujek Onearm’s command. Her name? “Sorry. My name is Sorry.”
Ganoes Paran travels an old and forlorn thoroughfare toward Gerrom, a small trading settlement. It’s deserted, but not corpse-strewn…until he reaches the Constabulary full of suffocated men. The track Lorn talked about is being erased, bit by bit.
He reflects. It’s a massive step up career-wise to be absorbed into Lorn’s detail. He believes himself to be a hard and confident man now, but he certainly hasn’t lived by the old command of “live quietly.” As he contemplates, he chances upon a green-clothed man in the road, wielding a single long-knife. His beringed fingers hold up a clay jug. He offers a drink before informing Ganoes that he’s to be escorted back to Lorn…after a feast and a drink. The man is called Topper, he’s a Claw (assassin-bodyguard) of Laseen, and he once slaughtered the royal line (in total) of Unta.
They banter, and then we get our first view of a Warren, a magical path.
[Paran] sighed, fighting off a sudden chill. Within he could see a grayish pathway, humped on either side by low mounded walls and vaulted overhead by impenetrable ocher-hued mist. The air swept past into the portal like a drawn breath, revealing the pathway to be of ash as invisible currents stirred and raised spinning dust-devils.
It’s Ganoes’ first warren too. They travel through the warren in hours what would take days otherwise. They pop out in Unta (Ganoes’ city of origin), pass through a magical void…and end up in front of the Empress on her throne of twisted bone. He gives his report to Lorn in her tower, the Tower of Dust. He’s reassigned, but the hunt for the burst of sorcery will continue.
Unta is unchanged, except for his formerly noble role within it. At his family’s home, he finds his father’s man Gamet, as well as his sisters. His sister Tavore is severe and uncompromising. His family’s hall is smaller than he remembered.
(A nice grace note here — Ganoes’ youngest sister Felisin is also mentioned, and as we move to Chapter Two, we see that Felisin is the author of the poetry that begins the next chapter.)
We’re now in the 1163rd year of Burn’s Sleep. Two years have passed.
A sorceress called Tattersail observes the carnage of a battle just past, by the fallen city of Pale. Her emblem of command in the 2nd Army’s wizard cadre is stained and scorched. She can still sense the sorcery recently unleashed; something waits in the silence.
A voice says, “They’re coming,” and she turns to see a fellow wizard called Hairlock on the ground, destroyed from the hips down. Only his sorcery keeps him briefly alive. The two exchange sharp words: Hairlock is certain he can escape death; Tattersail is not. They’re interrupted by the arrival of three men and a woman searching for a particular person. A few words reveal that the new arrivals are the Ninth Squad in the 2nd Army — they’re Bridgeburners, and the sergeant among them is Whiskeyjack, a legend. All the Bridgeburners are legends.
Tattersail is the last wizard left standing — but the Bridgeburners have their own mage with them, a tall, slender man called Quick Ben. Whiskeyjack only has thirty men, given the siege just ended. He had fourteen hundred that morning. Their siege tunnels gave way, and instead of getting help, the High Mage (and Tattersail’s boss) Tayschrenn stopped them.
(to be continued!)