Blood and Bone is the fifth novel by Canadian author Ian Cameron Esslemont. It is set in the world of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, a ten-volume epic fantasy series by Esslemont's friend and colleague Steven Erikson. Esslemont and Erikson co-created the Malazan world in the 1980s.
In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted yet another expedition to tame the neighbouring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity whom some name the Queen of Witches, and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata. Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs -- but it was the voices out of that land's forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers mount an invasion of the neighboring jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission. To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail whom his men call, the Grey Ghost. This warleader takes the tribes on a raid like none other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands. While word comes to K'azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer... none other than Ardata herself.
This novel is dedicated to the memory of my father, John Roy Esslemont, 1934–1989.
You are greatly missed.
It is with gratitude that I acknowledge my time at the University of Minnesota, where I was encouraged to pursue my interest in nineteenth-century travel writing, colonial texts, and the myths of imperialism. I hope to return to this rich material some day. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
|Blood and Bone|
|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|
Since she was a child, growing up in a Jacuruku jungle village, Saeng has been able to see the spirits of the dead. She comes from a lineage of priestesses of the Sky and the Sun, the region's original faith. Her brother Hanu is her protector from physical dangers, and as her powers grow she casts spiritual protections over him. When recruiters for the Thaumaturgs, the country's rulers, come to the village her protections are detected and Hanu is taken.
In Haven Province on Stratem, Shimmer, the acting governor in the absence of K'azz and Blues, sees an unknown ship dock. From it come servants of Ardata, Rutana and Nagal, sent to bring the Crimson Guard to Jacuruku where Ardata's lands are threatened by the Disavowed Skinner. K'azz is summoned. When he arrives he is persuaded to agree to go by the information that the Dolmens of Tien are under threat.
A vessel commanded by a man known as Warleader arrives in Jacuruku.
Refugees arrive at Saeng's village, fleeing a Thaumaturg army. That night she encounters a yakshaka, a giant Thaumaturg guard modified by magery; she realises it is her brother Hanu. He warns her of approaching danger. Together they flee, to search for the ancient Great Temple of her faith.
Murk and Sour, two minor Untan mages, and some Malazan mercenaries have been hired by Sister Spite. They have landed in Jacuruku near the Dolmens of Tien. Spite sends Murk and Sour to scout, then she attempts to ward the Dolmen.
The Thaumaturg army, commanded by General Golan, is marching eastwards to attack the lands belonging to Ardata, their traditional enemy. With them are Skinner and his forty Disavowed. The Disavowed mage Mara is told by a messenger that the Chained God, with whom Skinner made a pact, is getting impatient. Golan hears that one of his yakshaka is missing. He sends Pon-lor, a junior Thaumaturg officer, back along their trail to try to locate him.
Warleader has organised a meeting of the quarrelsome Adwami tribes of the South West desert lands. For a share of the spoils he will lead them in an attack on the Thaumaturgs. The meeting is interrupted by the arrival of a Shaduwam priest of Agon; because of philosophical differences they are hereditary enemies of the Thaumaturg mages and he comes to offer their services in exchange for a quarter of any captives, whom they will sacrifice. The shaduwam are despised and the offer is declined. Afterwards Prince Jatal, in charge of the contingent of one of the larger tribes, sees a light in the distance. Accompanied by Scarza, Warleader's lieutenant, he investigates and finds a shaduwam human sacrifice, performed to curse the tribes.
The Thaumaturg army is advancing ponderously through the Gangrek Mounts. On the fourth night the flank is attacked by a monster. Skinner is sent by General Golan to kill it, and easily does so.
Saeng and Hanu reach an apparently deserted village. The villagers have been captured by a bandit troop led by Kenjak Ashevajak, and will be sold into slavery. Saeng lets herself be captured. That night she summons power and spirits. The bandits flee.
The Adwami army led by the Warlord advances, though in some disorder due to tribal rivalries. Prince Jatal scouts ahead and encounters Princess Andanii, whose tribe is a traditional enemy of his. They talk; she seems to be proposing an alliance, if not more.
Kenjak Ashevajak has lost most of his bandit supporters and wishes to revenge himself on Saeng. He approaches Pon-lor and his detachment in disguise and tells him where he can find a witch and their missing yakshaka.
K'azz, Shimmer & the Crimson Guard detachment have arrived at Jacuruku. Their ship travels up a river, propelled by the power of Ardata. On both banks is the jungle of Himatan, said to be half of the mortal realm and half of the spirit realm, and they seem to be travelling in a dream or nightmare. When a village appears, the ship's crew jump overboard to try to reach it and escape the dream state, despite Rutana's warning that the villagers may be cannibals.
Murk and Sour have managed to detach all but two of the chains. Spite enters the prison and manages to take a casket containing the fragment, but is then caught by the remaining chains and is unable to extricate herself. Murk and Sour take the fragment inland through the jungle of Himatan.
The Chained God is aware of the theft of his fragment. He again sends his messenger to Skinner, and this time transports the Disavowed to the Dolmens where they encounter the trapped Sister Spite but refuse to help her.
In a dream, Saeng meets Citravaghra, a leopard-headed beast-god, brother to Fener and Togg. He tells her that she is not only a witch but also priestess and mage. A catastrophe is approaching, and she might either ensure or avert it.
The Abbess of Tali's monastery of the Queen of Dreams, is summoned to their Contemplation Pool which has started glowing: the Queen is arriving. She emerges from the Pool, collects a Seguleh guard who has been waiting outside the monastery, then summons an enchanted ship and departs for Jacuruku.
The invading Adwami tribes have reached the Ghetan plains, meeting little resistance. Warleader shows Prince Jatal a man who has been altered by the Thaumaturg mages: inhumanly strong, but blinded and mindless, he is fettered to a mill. That night Princess Andanii comes in disguise to Prince Jatal's tent.
Murk and Sour and the Malazan mercenaries travel through the jungle. When Murk enters his Warren he sees the fragment of the Shattered God as an innocent young girl who calls herself Celeste. An Artorallah demon appears and binds Murk but, with a stamp of her foot, Celeste repels the demon and releases him.
The Crimson Guard are still travelling up the river. Most of the time they in a dream-state. Shimmer realises they have eaten nothing for days and are weakening. They land, and Shimmer is attacked by jackal-men. To her surprise she is rescued by a magical blast from one of her dead Brethren, Smoky. When she later asks K'azz how this is possible he evades the question.
Saeng and Hanu are in the Gangrek Mounts. Hanu disappears into a sink-hole; Saeng follows him down and finds him unconscious in a riverbed. The waters rise and they are both swept away. Saeng regains consciousness on a bank. They meet Old Man Moon and his offspring Ripan. Moon carries Hanu to his home and offers to cure his concussion in exchange for an unspecified service.
The Thaumaturg army is descending from the Gangrek Mounts, travelling slowly through the thick undergrowth. They come to a clearing full of white flowers; scouts who entered it have not returned. Being an adept, Golan investigates the glade himself. He sees that under the flowers the ground is covered with decaying corpses which are being consumed by the plants, and realises that this must be the White Plague that he had heard of. He retreats and orders the flowers to be burnt.
Skinner and the two Disavowed mages have been transported by the messenger priest to a sea-shore; there are many wrecked ships nearby. The messenger says that one contains another fragment of the Shattered God. They reach it by raft, and are attacked first by crab-like men, then by an automaton powered by the fragment. Skinner fights it and both fall into the sea. He later emerges dragging the broken automaton and the messenger extracts the fragment.
Pon-lor and his detachment are being led by Kenjak Ashevajak to Fortress Chanar, where he claims the bandit warlord Khun-sen is still active. When they arrive they are attacked by the inhabitants, petrified by a Thaumaturg curse. Pon-lor removes the curse and the attackers die. Pon-lor finds only four of his troop survive.
Old Man Moon explains to Saeng what service he requires for healing her brother: she must add to his already-extensive tattoos. The Moon, his patron, was recently damaged in an 'accident'; the new tattoos will help heal this. She does so, finding it unexpectedly draining. She asks him about the impending catastrophe that the leopard-god has mentioned; he points west where the light of one of the unearthly jade Visitors was shining and suggests it might be to do with that. In the morning Moon and Ripan have disappeared, but Hanu has recovered, and they continue their journey through the jungle.
Progress becomes even slower for the Thaumaturg army. Their heavy supply wagons cope badly with the soft ground, and men continue to be lost to the jungle; the jungle's essence, Himatan, recognises them as foreign to it. One night they are attacked by swarms of poisonous biting insects. Golan demands that the Disavowed mages repel the swarms; one does, summoning an immensely powerful wind which blows them away but also flattens the camp.
Warleader and the Adwami tribes arrive at the Thaumaturg southern capital, Isana Pura. Most of the troops take control of the main part of the city while Warleader and his mercenaries, commanded in theory by Jatal and Andanii, storm the central Thaumaturg precincts where most of the treasures are likely to be found. However when they do so they find it deserted with most of the inhabitants dead or dying; they have been overcome by Shaduwam priests of Agon who have secretly accompanied the Adwani. Against Jatal's advice the Warleader and tribal leaders decide to continue on to the capital, Anditi Pura.
Murk, Sour and the Malazan mercenaries are deep in the jungle and running out of supplies. They become aware that they are being watched. That night a patrol vanishes and is later found butchered. The next day they meet a delegation of the locals who, after some discussion, invite them to their village.
Pon-lor's troops are dying from wounds and sickness. Finally only one remains as they try to find Kenjak Ashevajak. However he finds them, the guard is killed and Pon-lor captured. He could use his powers to escape but prefers to wait; they are taking him towards the witch and the missing yakshaka, which is where he wants to go.
Shimmer remembers the circumstances of the swearing of their Vow. She becomes lost in her memories and Stoop has to help her return out of the dream.
Warleader and the Adwami tribes travel towards the Thaumaturg capital, Anditi Pura. One evening Prince Jatal decides to question Warleader. On his way to him, he notes that the Visitor seems to be shining more brightly than ever. He asks Warleader about the despised Shaduwam priests; Warleader confirms that he has made an alliance of convenience with them and they will attack the Anditi Pura mages.
Murk, Sour and the leaders of the Malazan mercenaries stay the night in the the jungle village. While they are there, the rest of the mercenaries are attacked by other locals, half-bird monsters. Later Murk goes to talk with one of these; they attacked because they consider them intruders and were defending their territory. Murk talks to Celeste about the attack, which she had not recognised as one. She has detected an entity far more complex than herself, and wishes to investigate it. The mercenaries realise they won't be able to pass through the jungle and decide to retreat back to the coast.
Saeng and Hanu meet an insane Thaumaturg adept, one of those cursed with madness as a punishment for straying from orthodoxy. He takes them to a native village. That night while they are eating, Saeng asks about the jade glow of the Visitor and is told it is the Judgement of the High King Kallor, which will fall that night devastating everything. The village and villagers disappear, and she realises they were all ghosts from the distant past. She then has a vision of the fall of the Visitor and the destruction it would cause.
Spite finally manages to free herself from the prison in the Dolmens.
The Thaumaturg army is fast losing labourers and troops to sickness. They arrive at a wide river. Golan orders rafts to be built.
Warleader and the Adwami tribes encounter their first significant resistance. At first they see only a roadblock manned by peasants, who they easily overcome. However they are then attacked by yakshakas and Thaumaturg mages. That the Adwani win is largely due to Warleader, who appears immune to the mages' arts and slaughters them all. Prince Jatal is despondent that Princess Andanii is avoiding him, and realises she is now seeing Warleader.
The ship carrying K'azz and the Avowed appears to run aground. However the obstruction is not a sandbar as they first thought, but an enormous serpent wider than the ship. Rutana persuades it to depart.
Kenjak Ashevajak's bandits have captured Saeng and Hanu, the witch and yakshaka that they have been pursuing. However the bandits are attacked by natives and in the confusion the captives escape, though Saeng is pierced by a poisoned arrow. Pon-lor also escapes and follows them.
Spite has entered the jungle in pursuit of the fragment of the Shattered God. Himatan is aware of her and she is attacked by monsters, and then swallowed by an enormous Worm of Autumn. She destroys the worm from the inside and continues her search.
Saeng wakes to find that her arrow wound has been healed by Pon-lor. She tells him about her vision that the Visitor will soon arrive and devastate the region, and claims it is part of a plan by the high-ranking Thaumaturg mages. Pon-lor does not believe her. They fight briefly, then she and Hanu depart to search for the Great Temple of Light. Pon-lor follows their trail.
The Shattered God's priest has returned to Skinner and demanded he retrieves the fragment carried by the Malazans. He transports them near to it and they attack, but are detected by Murk and Sour who first hide the fragment and then transport it into the Shadow warren. However the priest can still sense the fragment and follows. Edgewalker, the warren's guardian, prevents Skinner taking the fragment and expels his party from Shadow. Murk speaks again to Celeste and explains that the priest can sense her. She decides to investigate the complex entity that she has perceived; while she is doing so she should be hard to locate. When Murk and Sour report back, the mercenaries realise that Skinner will continue to hunt them, and so change direction towards his enemy, Ardata.
Most of the Thaumaturg army has now crossed the river, by raft or by swimming alongside ropes. Later Golan sees a labourer who is succumbing to a new sickness: he is being devoured from within by parasitic worms caught from contact with the river water. Soon after screams are heard throughout the camp as adult worms eat their way out of many labourers and soldiers.
Osserc continues his attempt to out-wait Gothos. They hear a noise from outside: one of the beings trapped beneath the Deadhouse has managed to claw his way to the surface and is escaping. Osserc sees that it is the Disavowed mage Cowl.
Warleader and the Adwami tribes attack the capital, Anditi Pura. The city itself offers no resistance, but the Inner City complex is well defended by yakshaka. Though many are killed, the mercenaries overcome them and the leaders enter the complex. Inside they find many dead Thaumaturg mages; as in Isana Pura they have been killed by Shaduwam priests of Agon. As they advance they are attacked by undead Thaumaturgs who are unstoppable by normal means, but Jatal discovers that cutting off their hands renders them harmless. They enter a maze of subterranean tunnels and continue to be attacked. Jatal finds Princess Andanii severely wounded, and tries to rescue her. However she dies; Jatal loses consciousness and is captured.
Jatal wakes and discovers he is one of many captives of the priests of Agon, who are sacrificing them one by one. However when it is his turn he is instead taken to Warleader, who is revealed as the leader of the Shaduwams. He extracts an arrow from his body, and Jatal sees it is one of Princess Andanii's; she hadn't betrayed him after all. Warleader commands that Jatal be allowed to live.
He wanders outside and is found and rescued by Scarza, Warleader's half-Trell lieutenant, who is angry that Warleader has betrayed his men and is determined to follow him for vengeance. They depart together.
K'azz and the Avowed finally arrive at Jakal Viharn and disembark. They find nothing but jungle and ruins, populated by a few villagers. They meet one of the locals, a woman with a variety of grotesque deformities. K'azz explains that she would have been born of shapechanger stock, caught halfway into a transformation from human to something else. K'azz also mentions that the Crimson Guards' task is not to fight but to bring back to the fold as many as possible of the Disavowed.
To Murk's surprise, Sour has 'gone native': he copies the native ways of adapting to the jungle and has developed expertise in finding food and medicinal plants. Both he and Murk detect the possible arrival of the Visitor, which would obliterate the land.
The Queen of Dreams and Ina reach a river; though the Enchantress has removed all her occult defences to prevent Ardata perceiving her as a threat, she is still able magically to create a boat and propel them up-river. Sister Spite detects their presence and arrives in dragon form, sinking the boat. She accepts the Enchantress's statement that she is just a sorceress and departs.
Jatal and Scarza have pursued Warleader for four days, but are still behind him. Jatal is consumed by self-recrimination about Princess Andanii.
Many labourers and troops of the Thaumaturg army died overnight. Golan learns that only eighteen hundred fit troops now remain.
The Disavowed are losing a running fight with large numbers of jungle monsters. Skinner gathers them to make a stand on a hill. Rutana arrives to taunt Skinner, telling him that he is to be replaced as Ardata's Consort by K'azz. She then turns herself into an enormous monster and attacks Skinner. After a while Skinner allows her to swallow him, then kills her from within and cuts himself free.
Pon-lor, sick and injured, wanders through the jungle. He has visions of a native village about to be destroyed by the fall of the Visitor and realises Saeng may have been right.
Ina's hand became infected in the river, and she is becoming increasingly weak. She and the Enchantress encounter the Malazan mercenaries and bargain with them: Sour is to attempt to heal Ina in exchange for the Enchantress's services. Sour realises the arm will need to be amputated. Murk speaks again to Celeste; she decides to seek union with the entity she has detected.
Shimmer wanders around the ruins and encounters Ardata. She learns that K'ass is to be offered Skinner's place as consort and realises that Ardata has little understanding of humans. Ardata also mentions that her realm holds together everything in it that was, is, or will be. Shimmer is escorted back to the others by Ardata's attendant, a young girl called Lek; Shimmer notices that she has distorted limbs.
Golan senses the Thaumaturg mages creating a spell; it feels like the one created millennia ago against the High King Kallor, the one that devastated the continent. He hurries his remaining troops towards it.
The priest takes Skinner and the Disavowed to the Stormwall to retrieve a fragment of the Shattered God held there. After fighting Stormriders and Korelri they retrieve the fragment and are returned to the jungle. However Skinner kills the priest and keeps the fragment, relinquishing his position as King of Chains. Soon after Sister Spite arrives and takes the fragment; she intends to use its power to attack her sister Envy.
Saeng and Hanu reach the Great Temple but the whole Circle of Thaumaturg Masters is already there, creating a ritual. They find an entrance beneath the temple to the Alter of Light, the focus of the whole continent. A great pillar of power rises from it, and Saeng realises it is this that she must control to foil the Thaumaturg mages. But Kenjak Ashevajak and his remaining bandits arrive and wound Hanu. Kenjak is about to kill Saeng when Pon-lor appears and kills them. He tries to heal Hanu; Saeng attempts to control the power of the ritual.
Murk, Sour and the Malazan mercenaries arrive at Jakal Viharn. Murk uses his warren to scout, and finds Skinner and the Disavowed already there.
Osserc finally finds what he has been searching for in the Azath House: it is self-knowledge that he has needed. He leaves, and immediately senses a threat that involves his warren, Kurald Thyrllan.
The Circle of Thaumaturg Masters detect Saeng's interference with their ritual and teleport to the alter to prevent her. Pon-lor overcomes the first four to arrive but is nearly killed by the Prime Master, Surin; he is saved only when Hanu kills Surin. Saeng is then able to destroy the last four Masters before sinking into the ground, but is grabbed by Hanu and hauled to safety. They leave the temple, only to see what seems to be an enormous impact to the west, followed by the avalanche-like roar of gales that knock over giant trees and hurl stones and boulders. Pon-lor feels his mind fragmenting.
Ardata and her attendant appear to the Crimson Guard. K'azz goes to talk with her. While he is gone Skinner and the Disavowed arrive; the Avowed and Disavowed confront one another. Suddenly there is a flash in the west and the mages collapse; one says the Warrens were struck. Ardata and K'azz return. Ardata says that something strange and unexpected had happened, but the impact was now subsiding. Ardata asks Skinner to return to her side, but he refuses. Ardata then asks that he returns her gift, his invincible armour. He again refuses, reminding her that she had said that no one could take it from him. However Ardata asks the armour to return which it does, breaking into myriad spiders which devour Skinner's flesh before returning to her. The Enchantress arrives in her sorceress guise, together with Ina and the Malazan mercenaries. Ardata fails to recognise her. The Enchantress tells Ardata that she has come to discuss Lek, who is Ardata's daughter kept hidden because of her deformities; this is the reason that Ardata holds the past, present and future together. A magical confrontation begins and everyone else retreats, taking Lek with them. As they leave Shimmer sees Lek's appearance change between child, woman and crone. The fight intensifies, resulting in a devastating magical storm.
Jatal and Scarza should have been killed in the fires that followed the storm but took refuge in a stream, which is now dried up. Scarza claims that Warleader must have died, but Jatal is determined to continue the hunt.
Saeng wakes in the devastated temple grounds, and finds Hanu dead beside her. Pon-lor is alive but mindless. Saeng sends a summons to Old Man Moon, hoping he can heal the damage. He does, in exchange for more tattoos.
Murk and Sour search the ruins and find the Enchantress. She says that Ardata has released her hold and withdrawn from the world. She offers to transport the Malazans back to Aren, where they are no longer outlawed, and the Crimson Guard to Stratem. Lek and Ina will remain with her.
Celeste appears to Murk. She tells him that the Shattered God has been reassembled and translated into another existence. She is now just a shadow, left behind to explore that complex being called Himatan.
Jatal and Scarza find Warleader, much damaged but still alive. Jatal now understands that Warleader is Kallor and cannot die. He asks Kallor to kill him, hoping to join Princess Andanii in death, and Kallor does so.
Osserc's son L'oric finds his father unconscious, having been hurt while deflecting the threat he had detected. Sister Spite is there too, and together they take him to the border of Kurald Thyrllan, the Tiste Liosan warren, that Osserc had long ago caused to be sealed. Recognising Osserc, the Tiste unseal the warren and take him inside.
While it was being written, Blood and Bone held the working title of City in the Jungle.