Malazan Empire: What comes after death for the Crimson Guard - Malazan Empire

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What comes after death for the Crimson Guard Spoilers for all boks up to Assail

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 02:00 PM





Something has been nagging me about the Crimson Guard and the vow after reading Assail.

Shimmer dies... twice? She goes to the afterlife a couple of times at least anyway. While she was there she talks with a Bretheren who suggests that dying is a choice. So is choosing to come back. However he also implies that the dead Crimson Guard will be coming back.

Here's a passage from the ending where Shimmer talks with Smokey:


After a time, she asked: "How long have you known?"
"We didn't really know," he answered while he scratched at his patchy beard. "We suspected."
"Yet you said nothing."
"We would not burden the living."
"In which I no longer number," she observed and was surprised by the lack of bitterness in her voice.
"Yet you could return, as before. The option remains for you." She halted. "Why just me? Why not any of you?"
He stopped with her, rubbed his chin ferociously, his gaze lowered. "Not just you, Shimmer. K'azz was the first to discover this."
Though she understood that she was not breathing in this place, Shimmer felt her breath catch and her chest tighten in dread - old habits. "What do you mean?" she asked, slowly.
Still unable to match her gaze, he said, "He died long ago, Shimmer. When Skinner and Cowl buried him alive - he died. Yet he did not die. He discovered the truth of the Vow then. Eventually, he clawed his way free."
He drew a heavy breath - perhaps merely in a gesture to put her at ease. "I'm sorry. Anyway," and he shrugged, "had to happen some time. And we are coming back. Slowly. Eventually, we will return."
She nodded her understanding. "I see. Like the T'lan Imass."

Skipping to the next page of the conversation


"As before. Do you wish to return?"
"Return? You mean... I may? I can?"
For some reason she felt terribly unworthy of this gift. Unwilling to pursue it, as if it would be an insult to all the Bretheren who had come here before her. "Why me? Why not the others?"
He raised a hand as if to calm her. "I understand, Shimmer. Do not worry yourself. Some choose not to. Some do. In time, they will.

What bothers me about this is that Smokey seems to be saying that not only CAN you come back. You WILL come back. Death is not permanent for the Crimson Guard. As though the Vow will actually make a dead Crimson Guardsman come back to life whether he wants to or not.

What about Petal who is lying on the bottom of the sea? Well, I guess he can just walk back, but what about others? What about a Guards man who died 50 years ago and has been buried all this time? Will he come back? What about Skinner or Guardsmen who's bodies were burned to ash? Surely, a Guardsman who's body is destroyed does not come back... right?

If they WILL come back, why was Kazz the first? Why hasn't more returned? Why aren't they rising constantly?

What makes me more curious is Silver fox and Kazz talk of a Crimson Guard summoner:


... "You understand that I am not the summoner for you?"
"Yes. We understand. We must await ours."

Why do they need a summoner? They seem to be able to chose death when recieving mortal wounds. Or is this misunderstood? If they die, do their souls just linger in the realm where the Bretheren walk? Meaning until somehow a summoner is created/born or the empire was beaten and Kazz made King/emperor, their souls are unable to pass on?

The ambiguity of the information we are given is typical but it does make you wonder.

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Posted 05 September 2014 - 06:48 PM

I'm thinking that eventually they will turn to undead skeletons and be able to "semble" like the TI do. K'azz is already losing flesh in the brief time he's been back. So yah even the burned ones, and the ones at the bottom of the ocean, etc will all be brought back eventually. I don't know how close this vow is to the Imass's, but we always wondered how it went in the early years for them, and this might be a hint. They initially appeared (or were) alive and wasted away into undead (or died of battle wounds along the way, a kind of shortcut).

One thing lost in all this is the disappointment (or variety of feelings, perhaps) of the CG after RotCG and the loss to the Empire. Personal reflection from members of the CG woulda been nice in this regard.
They came with white hands and left with red hands.

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