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Midnight tides

A Tale of the

Malazan Book of the Fallen

STEVEN ERIKSON

To Christopher Porozny

Acknowledgements

Deepest appreciation to the old crew, Rick, Chris and Mark, for the advance comments on this novel. And to Courtney, Cam and David Keck for their friendship. Thanks as always to Clare and Bowen, to Simon Taylor and his compatriots at Transworld; to Steve Donaldson, Ross and Perry; Peter and Nicky Crowther, Patrick Walsh and Howard Morhaim. And to the staff at Tony’s Bar Italia for this, the second novel fuelled by their coffee.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

THE TISTE EDUR

Tomad Sengar, patriarch of the Sengar Bloodline

Uruth, matriarch of the Sengar Bloodline

Fear Sengar, Eldest Son, Weapons Master of the Tribes

Trull Sengar, Second Son

Binadas Sengar, Third Son

Rhulad Sengar, Fourth and Youngest Son

Mayen, Fear’s Betrothed

Hannan Mosag, Warlock King of the Six Tribes Confederacy

Theradas Buhn, Eldest Son of the Buhn Bloodline

Midik Buhn, Second Son

Badar, an unblooded

Rethal, a warrior

Canarth, a warrior

Choram Irard, an unblooded

Kholb Harat, an unblooded

Matra Brith, an unblooded

LETHERII SLAVES AMONG THE TISTE EDUR

Udinaas

Feather Witch

Hulad

Virrick

THE LETHERII
In the Palace

Ezgara Diskanar, King of Letheras

Janall, Queen of Letheras

Quillas Diskanar, Prince and Heir

Unnutal Hebaz, Preda (Commander) of Letherii army

Brys Beddict, Finadd (Captain) and King’s Champion, youngest of the Beddict brothers

Moroch Nevath, a Finadd bodyguard to Prince Quillas Diskanar

Kuru Qan, Ceda (Sorceror) to the King

Nisall, the King’s First Concubine

Turudal Brizad, The Queen’s First Consort

Nifadas, First Eunuch

Gerun Eberict, Finadd in the Royal Guard

Triban Gnol, Chancellor

Laerdas, a mage in the Prince’s retinue

In the North

Buruk the Pale, a merchant in the north

Seren Pedac, Acquitor for Buruk the Pale

Hull Beddict, Sentinel in the north, eldest among the Beddict brothers

Nekal Bara, a sorceress

Arahathan, a mage

Enedictal, a mage

Yan Tovis (Twilight), Atri-Preda at Fent Reach

In the City of Letheras

Tehol Beddict, a citizen in the capital, middle among the Beddict brothers

Hejun, an employee of Tehol

Rissarh, an employee of Tehol

Shand, an employee of Tehol

Chalas, a watchman

Biri, a merchant

Huldo, an establishment proprietor

Bugg, Tehol’s servant

Ublala Pung, a criminal

Harlest, a household guard

Ormly, Champion Rat Catcher

Rucket, Chief Investigator, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Bubyrd, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Glisten, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Ruby, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Onyx, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Scint, Rat Catchers’ Guild

Kettle, a child

Shurq Elalle, a thief

Selush, a Dresser of the Dead

Padderunt, assistant to Selush

Urul, chief server in Huldo’s

Inchers, a citizen

Hulbat, a citizen

Turble, a citizen

Unn, a half-blood indigent

Delisp, Matron of the Temple Brothel

Prist, a gardener

Strong Rall, a cut-throat

Green Pig, an infamous mage of old

OTHERS

Withal, a Meckros weaponsmith

Rind, a Nacht

Mape, a Nacht

Pule, a Nacht

The One Within

Silchas Ruin, a Tiste Andii Eleint Soletaken

Scabandari Bloodeye, a Tiste Edur Eleint Soletaken

Gothos, a Jaghut

Rud Elalle, a child

Iron Bars, a soldier

Corlo, a mage

Halfpeck, a soldier

Ulshun Pral, an Imass

PROLOGUE

The First Days of the Sundering of Emurlahn

The Edur Invasion, the Age of Scabandari Bloodeye

The Time of the Elder Gods

FROM THE TWISTING, SMOKE-FILLED CLOUDS, BLOOD RAINED DOWN. The last of the sky keeps, flame-wreathed and pouring black smoke, had surrendered the sky. Their ragged descent had torn furrows through the ground as they struck and broke apart with thunderous reverberations, scattering red-stained rocks among the heaps of corpses that covered the land from horizon to horizon.

The great hive cities had been reduced to ash-layered rubble, and the vast towering clouds above each of them that had shot skyward with their destruction – clouds filled with debris and shredded flesh and blood – now swirled in storms of dissipating heat, spreading to fill the sky.

Amidst the annihilated armies the legions of the conquerors were reassembling on the centre plain, most of which was covered in exquisitely fitted flagstones – where the impact of the sky keeps had not carved deep gouges – although the reassertion of formations was hampered by the countless carcasses of the defeated. And by exhaustion. The legions belonged to two distinct armies, allies in this war, and it was clear that one had fared far better than the other.

The blood mist sheathed Scabandari’s vast, iron-hued wings as he swept down through the churning clouds, blinking nictitating membranes to clear his ice-blue draconean eyes. Banking in his descent, the dragon tilted his head to survey his victorious children. The grey banners of the Tiste Edur legions wavered fitfully above the gathering warriors, and Scabandari judged that at least eighteen thousand of his shadow-kin remained. For all that, there would be mourning in the tents of the First Landing this night. The day had begun with over two hundred thousand Tiste Edur marching onto the plain. Still… it was enough.

The Edur had clashed with the east flank of the K’Chain Che’Malle army, prefacing their charge with waves of devastating sorcery. The enemy’s formations had been assembled to face a frontal assault, and they had proved fatally slow to turn to the threat on their flank. Like a dagger, the Edur legions had driven to the army’s heart.

Below, as he drew closer, Scabandari could see, scattered here and there, the midnight banners of the Tiste Andii. A thousand warriors left, perhaps less. Victory was a more dubious claim for these battered allies. They had engaged the K’ell Hunters, the elite bloodkin armies of the three Matrons. Four hundred thousand Tiste Andii, against sixty thousand Hunters. Additional companies of both Andii and Edur had assailed the sky keeps, but these had known they were going to their own deaths, and their sacrifices had been pivotal in this day’s victory, for the sky keeps had been prevented from coming to the aid of the armies on the plain below. By themselves, the assaults on the four sky keeps had yielded only marginal effect, despite the Short-Tails being few in number – their ferocity had proved devastating – but sufficient time had been purchased in Tiste blood for Scabandari and his Soletaken draconean ally to close on the floating fortresses, unleashing upon them the warrens of Starvald Demelain, and Kuralds Emurlahn and Galain. The dragon swept downward to where a jumbled mountain of K’Chain Che’Malle carcasses marked the last stand of one of the Matrons. Kurald Emurlahn had slaughtered the defenders, and wild shadows still flitted about like wraiths on the slopes. Scabandari spread his wings, buffeting the steamy air, then settled atop the reptilian bodies.