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High Fist
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  1. Excellent visualization of two battles in DG

    27 January 2022 - 02:57 PM

    https://www.youtube....qY7PsTpOfAFpISw

    The guy here posted recreations of the battles Sekala Crossing and Gelor Ridge from Chain of Dogs, and I think he does a wonderful job of visually explain those battles.
  2. Prologue to No Life Forsaken, Vol. 2

    25 December 2021 - 08:09 PM

    From Steven Erikson's Facebook page:

    In keeping with the season of gifts and whatnot, here is the first pass at the prologue for 'No Life Forsaken,' the second book in the Witness trilogy. Be well, everyone.
    Prologue
    “During the reign of Mallick Rel, the Jaghut invaded.”
    A Short History of the Malazan Empire
    Chapter Two
    Stulbus Infalaylan Trepvit
    Jhag Odhan, Malazan Border, Seven Cities Continent
    Observed by only a handful of lizards sunning on rocks, three Jaghut approached the ruins, one from the north, one from the west, and one from the southwest. They arrived at about the same time to stand in the rubble of what had once been not only a stately square tower, but also a manor and outbuildings and even part of a stone-built village flanking the side closest to the dry stream-bed.
    “So we’re agreed, then,” said the one from the north. “Cyan?”
    Cyan, who had come from the west, gravely nodded, and then shifted her cold, almost lifeless gaze to the one who had come from the southwest. “Cobal?”
    “I am not sure,” replied Cobal. “They seem … obscure.”
    “Obscure?” Cyan asked, near-hairless brows lifting, one long-fingered hand reaching up to stroke her gilded tusks. “Please explain, Cobal.”
    “Who will understand?” she asked. “Tell me that. Cyan? Indigg? An invitation to an absence of nuance, a bluntery well nigh belligerent in obstinacy.”
    “Bluntery?” Indigg repeated in a musing tone, and then she nodded. “I like that. May I use it, Cobal?”
    “That depends, Indigg.”
    “Upon what, if I may ask?”
    Cobal frowned at Indigg. “I foresee some clever trickery of connotation, as befits your habit.”
    Inviting innocence, Indigg blinked rapidly. “Have I just been insulted?”
    “To insult the habit,” intoned Cyan, “is to insult the habitant.”
    Gaze swiftly shifting to Cyan, Cobal said, “You would say that, as all who are properly cultured cannot help but detest the stench of the weed in that wretched pipe of yours.”
    Cyan sniffed, lifting her chin. “You mistake me for another. I imbibe no pipe.”
    “Hookah, then, thou pedantic bitch. My eyes water, my nose stings in the upper caverns—“
    “And voluminous caverns they are,” Indigg observed. “May we return to the matter at hand?”
    “Take back that comment on the size of my nose and perhaps we can, Indigg.”
    “Very well, Cobal, I retract my entirely accurate observation, as befits your sensitivity.”
    “Oh that was ameliorating. Thank you, Indigg.”
    “So,” said Cyan with a heavy, rather theatrical sigh, “are we agreed?”
    “I am agreeable,” said Indigg.
    “Be more precise,” snapped Cyan.
    “I am in agreement with you, dear Cyan. In this matter.”
    “Good. Thank you, Indigg. At last, Cobal,” Cyan continued, “we return to you. Does the subject remain obscure?”
    “After all this, how could it?” Cobal asked, looking down and kicking away a piece of rubble. “What happened here, anyway?”
    Indigg said, “I attempted to build a Civilization of One.”
    “Of one?” Cobal asked, and then nodded, “Ah, of course. One is the uppermost limit in order for a civilization to not tear itself apart. I understand. Why then these houses and the palace and whatnot? Why not simply the single glorious, appertaining tower of unsubtle pronouncement?”
    “I apprehended that a single building might be lonely.”
    “Attributing sentience to blind, senseless stone? How peculiar!”
    Indigg snorted. “No more peculiar than attributing sentience to creatures that live barely a century — if they’re lucky.”
    “Ah. Good point. Now, where was I?”
    “We have no idea,” hissed Cyan in some frustration. “The ruins of this civilization — all five buildings of it — or if we are at last agreed on the matter in question.”
    “Well,” ventured Cobal, “I did not receive my answer, did I? Indigg, what happened to your Civilization of One — unless you proved the original premise to be false? And, accordingly, even one person cannot sustain a civilization, should she get up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed?”
    Indigg looked around, evidently revisiting the events that saw the demise of her nascent experiment, and then she said, “Fucking Malazans.”
    “I find it agreeable,” Cobal said, eyes now on Cyan.
    “Finally! Blessed Laseen! As the locals might say. We are agreed, then, that these new names we have chosen for ourselves are to our liking.” And she she looked to the others for one last confirmation.
    Cobal nodded and smiled.
    Indigg seemed to consider for a moment, or, rather, reconsider, and the other two Jaghut stiffened. Then Indigg said, “I like these new names. They’re … colourful.”
    The three stood in silence for a time, and then began laughing, the laughter racing out among the rubble, the shattered blocks of stone, the broken-down walls, the stainless ochre potsherds that were all that remained of pots made but never used, the sound rising up into the dusty air above the wretched plain of yellow grass, cacti and thorny brush crowding the edges of the dry stream, startling birds in thickets and making the basking lizards start and lift head.
    And when at last the laughter fell away, the Jaghut who had come from the west turned to the Jaghut who had come from the north and asked, “Malazans in general, or one in particular?”
    And the Jaghut from the north sighed again, adding to it a bit of a frown to wrinkle her scaly brow. “A name I have learned to curse in singular fashion.”
    “Hmm?”
    She faced east, as if able to scan deep into the vast province of the Malazan Empire known as Seven Cities. And when she spoke the name, she enunciated every syllable most precisely. “Sergeant Bliss Rolly.”
    The Jaghut from the west grunted in commiseration. “Shall we hunt down and destroy this Sergeant Bliss Rolly?”
    To which the offended Jaghut visibly recoiled. “Are you mad?”
    “Oh! That formidable?”
    “Barely sentient! But for all that, dearest sister, I simply adored her. And shall I add admiration? Why not, for I do indeed admire her. No, no destruction, not at all.”
    “So why are we here, with our new names and all?”
    “I was thinking, sisters, about the possible creation of a Civilization of Three.”
    Of course, they laughed again. Longer, this time.
    From their flat rocks in the sun, the lizards scampered for the crevices and cracks and holes in the ground. It would be sunny again tomorrow, after all. For the moment, amidst all that uncanny, chilling laughter, better safe than sorry.
    *****
    Western Imperial Border, Seven Cities Continent
    Trust wasn’t the issue that made Corporal Kesp Bandan glance back again and again at the three soldiers riding behind him. Two were from his own squad after all. The other one had come from what was left of a different squad, but in the same company, meaning that he too wasn’t particularly unfamiliar. In fact, the very opposite since things had reached such a parlous state.
    The garrison outpost now consisted of elements of both the Fifth and Sixth Squads of the XXXI Legion’s Seventh Company of Marines. A troubling detail in and of itself. The Seventh was scattered across outposts all along the western border facing onto the grassy wastes of the Jhag Odhan. So when trouble brewed up every now and then, the outposts were on their own more often than not.
    Sixth squad had been mauled in a dust-up four months back, leaving barely a hand left alive. And since replacements weren’t coming any time soon, well, one had to make do.
    Even the company’s captain was usually somewhere leagues away, stamping out other fires or bitching with the Fist at the army’s headquarters in Panpot’sun. Not that Aunt Hagg was pleasing to have around, since she often made things worse and Kesp had a healthy aversion to things getting worse. Making the corporal’s presence in the Marines a bit of a mystery, granted, where bad stuff happening was pretty much expected, but that was a mystery he didn’t revisit very often. Too many blanks in his own past, the curse of head-injuries not even High Denul could remedy.
    So, not a matter of trust. Two sappers in a single squad was bad enough. Three was a damned death sentence, for themselves and everyone else. At the moment they were simply riding out onto the Jhag Odhan. It was the sappers’ calm, quiet, demeanour behind him that unnerved Kesp. The absence of conversation was especially worrying.
    They rode at a leisurely pace. The thin wisp of smoke ahead was still a ways off. Obviously not a wildfire, but it was the dry season and not even the Wildings of the region risked cookfires out on the plain. Especially with this hot, gusting wind buffeting the knee-high yellow grasses on all sides. Someone out there was being stupid.
    Surmounting a low rise, the corporal suddenly reined in and wheeled his horse around. “All right,” he said, “let’s just make sure this encounter doesn’t blow up on us, understood?”
    The sappers halted, mounts in a row facing the corporal, the horses almost immediately dipping their heads to crop grass.
    “Sir?” Yell Rubb asked, brows lifting beneath his new leather skullcap: too buffed, too stiff, and just a bit too small for Yell’s rather small head, suggesting that the skullcap had been meant for a child. Although why a child would ever need one was a matter best left unexplored. A market stall purchase, no doubt, since these sappers were notorious for their buying crap in every crappy market along the entire border.
    “Was I unclear?” Kesp inquired.
    “We ain’t heavies, sir,” Yell replied, scowling.
    Lips pressing tight, Kesp Bandan studied the three men. All had their hair badly cut at roughly shoulder-length, ratty and bound with various strings. They wore woven hemp half-ponchos over chain vests over linen shirts, and leather-clad leggings suited for riding. Each bore a silver fiddle brooch clasping their half-ponchos.
    Sappers, in other words.
    He wondered how many munitions they had secreted beneath their clothes for this outing. The problem was, anticipating trouble usually brought trouble.
    Kesp said, “We’re heading over there to stamp out a small fire. Literally. Probably a cook-fire, with a handful of wretched nobodies gathered around it. They won’t be dangerous. Us showing up will terrify them. We’ll put them straight and then be on our way. Understood?”
    The three men studied him with blank expressions.
    *****
    The three Jaghut women sat around the campfire. Indigg was telling a story, since it was well known to all three that campfires invariably invoked the solemn duty of telling a story. She was well along in her tale, her audience gripped, or at least not yet nodding off, which was itself a triumph of oratory. Until at last she came to the tale’s conclusion.
    “… and the great millstone turned, in effect making all that had just happened utterly without significance, since it is bound to repeat, with minor variations, over and over again. As it has before and is doomed to do so again. And as for the peoples of this vast world and all their hoary, hallowed civilizations, why, nothing ever changes there, either. They still use the same mallets to crush each other’s skulls. The same spears. The same swords. It’s like their collective cultural intelligence is perpetually stunted, bankrupt, and otherwise nonsensically unrealistic.”
    “It repeats?” Cyan demanded. “Is that what you are saying?”
    “Just so.”
    “You just wasted half a night telling us a story of pointless, nihilistic idiocy that simply brought everyone and all the world back to where it started?”
    “Yes.”
    “Genius!” Cyan cried, leaning back to raise her hands. “I was duped! Deceived! Misled! Seduced into the belief of efficacy, of free will, all these characters — why, I saw not the strings plucking them this way and that! I swear it! What of you, Cobalt?”
    Who snorted at the question. “In my mind — so as to not interrupt, mind you — I saw all that was coming. Each and every time. The very predictability delighted me, since it proved how smart I am, so much smarter than everyone else, it goes without saying. In this manner, why, I was entertained and what other value doth story have?”
    “Indeed,” agreed Cyan. “Sheer escapades of bumbling this way and that, I was many times on the verge of breathless, very nearly excited, even occasionally almost amused. Why, I know you saw that I stirred not, not a single twitch to give anything away. No, I was the stoic audience, the stalwart sentinel of dispensation. Was it good? Was it not good? Have you skill? Have you no skill? Are you even worthy of living? All this power, cupped here in my hands!”
    “You are so very welcome, dearest audience,” murmured Indigg, with a shy batting of eyes. “I could not be more grateful.”
    Cyan’s gaze narrowed suspiciously on Indigg. “I sense something untoward in that statement. You could not be more grateful. Why? Why couldn’t you be more grateful?”
    “Because, darlings, thy faint praise damned, did it not?”
    “Well, I could have done better,” said Cobalt. “To begin with, why, I’d turn the great millstone the opposite way. Yes, you have it true. I would un-pluck every seed, denature sweet pollen’s fragrant invitation, and make of the tale a list of lists, a serried fathom’s worth of boxes scribed onto vellum, and then tick each one! Thus! Complete! Now, my friends, no other tale ever need be told, for I have completed the final one, the very final one. Where will you see it, you wonder? When will you hear or read it, you query? The tome, the scroll, the great volume of my genius?” She reached up and tapped the side of her hairless temple. “In here, and in here it shall remain, since none of you are worthy of it.”
    “Civilization is indeed fraught,” muttered Cyan, now unaccountably despondent. “To show love and delight by crushing the flower under the heel, and to then decry the colourless, lifeless meadow on all sides.”
    “The tale was not even mine,” added Indigg in a sorrowful tone.
    But now the sound of horse hoofs thumping the dry, cracked ground reached them, and all three fell silent to await uninvited visitors, which marked the extent of their incuriosity. Or mood, befouled as it now was.
    Four riders, three led by one, reined in a dozen or so paces away.
    Indigg scowled. “Malazans.”
    Cyan twisted round to observe them. “Which one is Sergeant Bliss Rolly?”
    “None.”
    “Oh,” said Cobalt. “Well, just how many Malazans are there?”
    “A few thousand at least,” said Indigg, scowling and rising to dust herself off now that the cloud of the Malazans’ arrival had blown past. “Or so I believe.”
    “Can they understand us?” Cyan asked. “Or do we but jabber to their ears?”
    “I’m sure they do,” said Indigg, “since we are speaking their native tongue.”
    “Are we?” Cobalt asked. “Your doing, Indigg?”
    “To facilitate matters, yes.”
    “Clever,” said Cyan, “but disturbing. Did not Gothos himself point out the founding principles of the horror that is civilization, and did he not begin with the sad development of common language? The very ability of one person to understand what another person is saying—”
    “And not saying,” added Cobalt.
    “—and not saying, indeed. Well, is that not where all the trouble begins?”
    But Indigg shook her head. “Upon the other side of the ledger, dear sisters, is a scribble, a doodle, a crow’s mindless scrabble through a puddle of paint. From either side, you see — comprehensibility versus babble— all manner of violence can obtain. Potentially, that is. Such was Gothos’ error, I contend. In short, Not-Civilization is as barbaric and vicious and horrendous as Civilization. Just less well-organized.”
    The lead Malazan spoke, “Kindly put out that fire. This is the dry season, after all, and with the wind as it is, the last thing we need is a wildfire.”
    “I may disagree,” said Indigg. She gestured with one hand in a mild sweeping motion. “Fire begets rejuvenation in lands like these. You may consider it the great millstone of nature, cyclical in form. Indeed, cyclical in very essence.”
    “But it’s not easy outrunning a wildfire, is it? And what of your homestead? Your herds of cattle? What of your land?”
    Indigg now looked around. “I see no such things, I’m afraid.”
    “The western border of the Malazan Empire is not marked by any physical feature, Jaghut. Not a river, or even range of hills. It’s grassland all the way into the various ranches and farms of the empire. Grass-fires won’t stop at such a border.”
    “The ill-demeanoured little man has a point,” Cyan observed.
    “Just not the one he thinks he’s making,” said Indigg.
    The Malazan sighed. “Just put out the fire.”
    Cobalt frowned across at Indigg. “Do enlighten me, Indigg. What inadvertent point was he making despite the point he’d intended to make?”
    “Why, that this side of Malazan Empire’s border is outside the Malazan Empire, and therefore not under the Malazan Empire’s jurisdiction. You know. Borders. That point.”
    “It’s a good one,” said Cyan, turning back to the Malazan soldier. “How say you, sir? Have we been invaded? Are we now at war?”
    At that the man visibly recoiled. “No! I mean, of course not! Look, just consider it being good neighbours. Wildfires are out of anyone’s control, and aye, they’ll happen and aye again, it’s probably healthy for the soil and whatnot.” He pointed at the campfire. “But that’s not an act of nature, is it?”
    “Actually,” said Cobalt, “I lit it using a lightning strike. Last night.”
    “You may also note,” added Cyan, “that’s it’s not burning anything. Rather, it’s but the semblance of a fire, and indeed also the semblance of a column of light grey smoke rising from it, by which Indigg here sought to summon you Malazans to us, and why, here you are. Clever Indigg.”
    The man took a few moments to work all this through. Being barely sentient. Then he said, “Our garrison outpost is less than a league to the east of here. You could simply have visited.”
    “Oh,” said Indigg, “we intend to. But we thought it best to have an escort. Namely, you and your three mysterious companions with their hands hidden beneath their strangely short cloaks.”
    The man they had been speaking with now twisted quickly round in his saddle and snapped, “At ease, you brainless oafs!”
    “They seem roughly mannered,” Indigg said in aside to her companions. “But it’s only occasionally relevant.”
    “Only occasionally, Indigg? How can one tell, then? In terms of relevance.”
    “This is what confounded me the first time,” Indigg said. “We can add it to our list of questions for Sergeant Bliss Rolly.”
    The Malazan swung back, expression somehow different. “Bliss Rolly? Did you say Bliss Rolly?”
    Indigg smiled, and then quickly wiped that smile from her face, since it seemed to have alarmed all four men. She had that effect for some reason, also baffling. “Yes. Sergeant Bliss Rolly. We’ve met, you see. A bit of a misunderstanding, for which I intend to apologize. Is she in the garrison outpost you spoke of?”
    “Uh, no, she isn’t. She’s — why, I don’t know where she is. But I can pass a message along. Your apology, that is. I can pass that along. Our empire has an excellent postal service.”
    “No, that won’t do,” said Indigg. “You shall escort us to Bliss Rolly.”
    “Can’t, I’m afraid,” said the man, who was now unaccountably sweating beneath his helmet. “We’re, uh, posted to this outpost.”
    “Then you will pass us along to the next outpost, and so on, until we stand before Sergeant Bliss Rolly.” Indigg turned to Cyan and Cobalt. “Does this not seem reasonable?”
    “It does.”
    “To me as well, Indigg. Perfectly reasonable.”
    “I’m afraid,” said the man, “that we can’t allow you Jaghut to cross the border, to come into the Malazan Empire.”
    “Why not?” Indigo asked.
    “Well, you can’t be controlled—”
    “Aha!” cried Cobalt. “I knew it!” She pointed a finger at Indigg. “What did I tell you about control? The second principle of the curse of civilization, said Gothos. We shall have no cooperation with this empire here. I say we invade.”
    “With flames and ruin?” Cyan asked, eyes lighting up. “How exciting!”
    One of the three shifty soldiers behind the spokesman now rode up to whisper with him in a quick, somewhat frantic exchange. The result of which seemed to defeat the spokesman, who now faced the Jaghut. “All right,” he said, “we’ll escort you to our captain. She can sort all of this out. But I should tell you, if you’re planning on killing Bliss Rolly, better think again. You don’t want us riled.”
    “Kill? Riled? Why, of course not,” explained Indigg. “In fact, we have a gift for her. Which, I now hereby announce, must be delivered directly into her hands. There, I have spoken.”
    The man grimaced and then shrugged and said, “I should tell you, we don’t think Rolly is anywhere on this continent.”
    Indigg waved a hand. “Continents come and go. We will find her.”
    The man leaned forward on his saddle. “But definitely not an invasion, right?” he asked. “And will you please put out that fire!”
    Indigg looked at Cyan, and then at Cobalt. “So,” she said, “we’re agreed then?”

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  1. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    28 Feb 2022 - 08:06
    and another one, hope it's a good one
  2. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    27 Feb 2021 - 20:48
    you guessed it
  3. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    28 Feb 2020 - 04:24
    and again
  4. Photo

    Tsundoku 

    28 Feb 2019 - 09:47
    happy birthday
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