“Brys, how big do you want to make your escort?"
"Two brigades and two battalions, sire."
"Is that reasonable?" Tehol asked, looking around.
"I have no idea," Janath replied. "Bugg?"
"I'm no general, my Queen."
"We need an expert opinion, then," said Tehol. "Brys?”
“Aye.' It's a good word, I think. More a whole attitude than a word, really. With lots of meaning in it, too. A bit of 'yes' and a bit of 'well, fuck' and maybe some 'we're all in this mess together'. So, a word to sum up the Malazans.”
“In war everyone loses. This brutal truth can be seen in the eyes of every solider in every world.”
“Giving advice to a child is like flinging sand at an obsidian wall. Nothing sticks. The brutal truth is that we each suffer our own lessons—they can’t be danced round. They can’t be slipped past. You cannot gift a child with your scars—they arrive like webs, constricting, suffocating, and that child will struggle and strain until they break. No matter how noble your intent, the only scars that teach them anything are the ones they earn themselves.”
“My flesh is stone. My blood rages hot as molten iron. I have a thousand eyes. A thousand swords. And one mind.
I have heard the death-cry. Was she kin? She said as much, when first she touched me. We were upon the ground. Far from each other, and yet of a kind.
I heard her die.
And so I came to mourn her, I came to find her body, her silent tomb.
But she dies still. I do not understand. She dies still—and there are strangers. Cruel strangers. I knew them once. I know them now. I know, too, that they will not yield.
Who am I?
What am I?
But I know the answers to these questions. I believe, at last, that I do.
Strangers, you bring pain. You bring suffering. You bring to so many dreams the dust of death.
But, strangers, I am Icarium.
And I bring far worse.”
“Is there anything more worthless than excuses?
“Don't worry. I am like most people. I can keep my eyes and still see nothing.”
“It is your cowardice that offends us, Warleader.’
‘I refuse your challenge, Bakal. As I did that of Riggis, and as I will all others that come my way-until our return to our camp.’
‘And once there? A hundred warriors shall vie to be first to spill your blood. A thousand. Do you imagine you can withstand them all?’
Tool was silent for a moment. ‘Bakal, have you seen me fight?’
The warrior bared his filed teeth. ‘None of us have. Again you evade my questions!’
‘I have a question for you, Bakal.’
‘Ah! Yes, ask it and hear how a Barghast answers what is asked of him!’
‘Can the Senan afford to lose a thousand warriors?”
“Against attackers, your surest defence is cold iron. Against defenders, often the best tactic is to sheathe your weapon and refuse the game. Reserve contempt for those who have truly earned it, but see the contempt you permit yourself to feel not as a weapon, but as armour against their assaults. Finally, be ready to disarm with a smile, even as you cut deep with words.’ ‘Passive.’ ‘Of a sort, yes. It is more a matter of warning off potential adversaries. In effect, you are saying: Be careful how close you tread. You cannot hurt me, but if I am pushed hard enough, I will wound you. In some things you must never yield, but these things are not eternally changeless or explicitly inflexible; rather, they are yours to decide upon, yours to reshape if you deem it prudent. They are immune to the pressure of others, but not indifferent to their arguments. Weigh and gauge at all times, and decide for yourself value and worth. But when you sense that a line has been crossed by the other person, when you sense that what is under attack is, in fact, your self-esteem, then gird yourself and stand firm.”
“When robbed, the rich cry out for protection and prosecution. When stealing, they expect the judiciary to look the other way.”
“The beast that was civilization ever faced forward, and in making its present world it devoured the world to come. It was an appalling truth that one’s own children could be so callously sacrificed to immediate comforts, yet this was so and it had always been so.”
“In my lifelong study of the scores of species of ants to be found in the tropical forests of Dal Hon, I am led to the conviction that all forms of life are engaged in a struggle to survive, and that within each species there exists a range of natural but variable proclivities, of physical condition and of behaviour, which in turn weighs for or against in the battle to survive and procreate. Further, it is my suspicion that in the act of procreation, such traits are passed on. By extension, one can see that ill traits reduce the likelihood of both survival and procreation. On the basis of these notions, I wish to propose to my fellow scholars at this noble gathering a law of survival that pertains to all forms of life. But before I do so, I must add one more caveat, drawn from the undeniable behavioural characteristics of, in my instance of speciality, ants. To whit, success of one form of life more often than not initiates devastating population collapse among competitors, and indeed, sometimes outright extinction. And that such annihilation of rivals may in fact be a defining feature of success.
Thus, my colleagues, I wish to propose a mode of operation among all forms of life, which I humbly call-in my four-volume treatise-‘The Betrayal of the Fittest’.
Sixth Day Proceedings
Address Of Skavat Gill
Unta, Malazan Empire, 1097 Burn's Sleep”
“Some roads, once set out upon, reveal no possible path but forward. Every other track is blocked by snarls of thorns, steaming fissures or rearing walls of stone. What waits at the far end of the forward path is unknown, and since knowledge itself may prove a curse, the best course is simply to place one foot in front of the other, and think not at all of fate or the cruel currents of destiny.”
“A man does not marry a girl, nor a woman. He marries a promise, and it shines with a bright purity that is ageless. It shines, in other words, with the glory of lies. The deception is self inflicted. The promise was simple in its form, as befitted the thick-headedness of young men, and in its essence it offered the delusion that the present moment was eternal; that nothing would change; not the fires of desire, not the flesh itself, not the intense look in the eye.”
“He is strong enough to stand exposed, revealing all that is vulnerable within him. He is brave enough to invite you ever closer. If you hurt him, he will withdraw, as he must, and that path to him will be thereafter for ever sealed. But he begins with the gift of himself. What the other does with it defines the future of that particular relationship.”
“But the world had its layers. To the simple it offered simplicity. To the wise it offered profundity. And the only measure of courage worth acknowledging was found in accepting where one stood in that scheme—in hard, unwavering honesty, no matter how humbling.”
“Take a thousand soldiers. Four hundred will stand in a fight but do nothing. Two hundred will run given the chance. Another hundred will get confused. That leaves three hundred you can count on. Your task in commanding that thousand is all down to knowing where to put that three hundred.”
“Ever had a child, Silchas? I thought not. Giving advice to a child is like flinging sand at an obsidian wall. Nothing sticks. The brutal truth is that we each suffer our own lessons—they can’t be danced round. They can’t be slipped past. You cannot gift a child with your scars—they arrive like webs, constricting, suffocating, and that child will struggle and strain until they break. No matter how noble your intent, the only scars that teach them anything are the ones they earn themselves.”
“Perhaps some wine will wash things clean,’ suggested Bugg.
‘Won’t hurt. Pour us some, please. You, guard, come and join us—standing there doing nothing must be a dreadful bore. No need to gape like that, I assure you. Doff that helm and relax—there’s another guard just like you on the other side of that door, after all. Let him bear the added burden of diligence. Tell us about yourself. Family, friends, hobbies, scandals—’
‘Sire,’ warned Bugg.
‘Or just join us in a drink and feel under no pressure to say anything at all. This shall be one of those interludes swiftly glossed over in the portentous histories of great and mediocre kings. We sit in the desultory aftermath, oblivious to omens and whatever storm waits behind yonder horizon. Ah, thank you, Bugg—my Queen, accept that goblet and come sit on my knee—oh, don’t make that kind of face, we need to compose the proper scene. I insist and since I’m King I can do that, or so I read somewhere. Now, let’s see . . . yes, Bugg, stand right over there—oh, massaging your brow is the perfect pose. And you, dearest guard—how did you manage to hide all that hair? And how come I never knew you were a woman? Never mind, you’re an unexpected delight—ow, calm down, wife—oh, that’s me who needs to calm down. Sorry. Women in uniforms and all that. Guard, that dangling helm is exquisite by the way, take a mouthful and do pass judgement on the vintage, yes, like that, oh, most perfect!
‘Now, it’s just occurred to me that we’re missing something crucial. Ah, yes, an artist. Bugg, have we a court artist? We need an artist! Find us an artist! Nobody move!”
“It was the last time I stood beside my brother, the last time he held my flank and I his. For a time, then . . .'and his voice fell away, 'we were happy.' Though Torrent knew nothing of these Wars of Shadow, nor the other players involved, he could not but hear the sorrow in Ruin's voice, and it stung him deep inside. Fucking regrets.”
“you see two rulers of a vast empire who just so happen to despise virtually every trait that empire possesses. The inequity, the cruel expression of privilege and the oppression of the dispossessed. The sheer idiocy of a value system that raises useless metals and meaningless writs above that of humanity and plain decency.”
“Cultures tend to invite the dominance of one over the other, as a means by which an individual succeeds and advances or, conversely, fails and falls. A culture dominated by attackers—and one in which the qualities of attacking are admired, often overtly encouraged—tends to breed people with a thick skin, which nonetheless still serves to protect a most brittle self. Thus the wounds bleed but stay well hidden beneath the surface. Cultures favouring the defender promote thin skin and quickness to take offence—its own kind of aggression, I am sure you see. The culture of attackers seeks submission and demands evidence of that submission as proof of superiority over the subdued. The culture of defenders seeks compliance through conformity, punishing dissenters and so gaining the smug superiority of enforcing silence, and from silence, complicity.”
“The key, I think, is to hold true to your own aesthetics, that which you value, and yield to no one the power to become the arbiter of your tastes. You must also learn to devise strategies for fending off both attackers and defenders. Exploit aggression, but only in self-defence, the kind of self-defence that announces to all the implacability of your armour, your self-assurance, and affirms the sanctity of your self-esteem. Attack when you must, but not in arrogance. Defend when your values are challenged, but never with the wild fire of anger. Against attackers, your surest defence is cold iron. Against defenders, often the best tactic is to sheathe your weapon and refuse the game. Reserve contempt for those who have truly earned it, but see the contempt you permit yourself to feel not as a weapon, but as armour against their assaults. Finally, be ready to disarm with a smile, even as you cut deep with words.”
“There exists an exchange of trust between the ruler and the ruled. Abuse that from either direction and all mutual agreements are nullified.”
“What must be understood is this: attackers attack as a form of defence. It is their instinctive response to threat, real or perceived. It may be desperate or it may be habit, or both, when desperation becomes a way of life. Behind the assault hides a fragile person.”
“The heavy infantry stood. The heavy infantry held the trench. Even as they died, they backed not a single step. The Nah’ruk clawed for purchase on the blood-soaked mud of the berm. Iron chewed into them. Halberds slammed down, rebounded from shields. Reptilian bodies reeled back, blocking the advance of rear ranks. Arrows and quarrels poured into the foe from positions behind the trench.
And from above, Locqui Wyval descended by the score, in a frenzy, to tear and rend the helmed heads of the lizard warriors. Others quickly closed to do battle with their kin, and the sky rained blood.”
“Never make a roadblock of yourself on trouble's road. No, make yourself a bridge instead, with stones slick as grease.”
“Generally speaking, people useless at everything else become academics”
“Justice without compassion was the destroyer of morality, a slayer blind to empathy.”
“In this world, all--men, women, and kings--must live for the present. We can only live for the future for God”
“Oh dear, is that a skunk?" Leonora asked.
"No," Alessandro gasped in horror. "No the smelly cat!"
"I've told you, Alessandro darling, they aren't cats."
"They look like cats. Like the big fluffy cat she's been stepped on and flattened to a big fluffy pancake cat," Alessandro argued.”
“They'd been played. By a tuba!”
“From the anarchists of tsarist Russia to the IRA of 1916, from the Irgun and the Stern Gang to the EOKA in Cyprus, from the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany, the CCC in Belgium, the Action Directe in France, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Red Army Faction again in Germany, the Rengo Sekigun in Japan, through to the Shining Path in Peru to the modern IRA in Ulster or the ETA in Spain, terrorism came from the minds of the comfortably raised, well-educated, middle-class theorists with a truly staggering personal vanity and a developed taste for self-indulgence.”
“We should adopt his principles and govern men as they are and not as what we'd like them to be.”
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