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Auf dem Subkontinent Stratem, jenseits der südlichen bergkette von Korelri, gibt es eine riesige Halbinsel, die selbst die Götter nicht betreten. Und auf dieser Halbinsel befindet sich eine von einer Küste zur anderen reichende, ein Gebiet von Tausenden von Quadratlängen bedeckende, gewaltige Plaza. Ja liebe Leser, es gibt kein besseres Wort dafür. Stellt euch folgendes vor: so gut wie fugenlose Platten aus grauem, fast schwarzen Stein, an denen das Alter vollkommen spurlos vorüber gegangen ist. Gekräuselte Linien aus schwarzem Staub, kleine Dünen, die der klagende Wind angehäuft hat, sind alles, was die atemlose Monotonie unterbricht. Wer hat diese Steinplatten gelegt?
Sollten wir Gothos' altem Wälzer, seiner ruhmreichen "Narretei", Glauben schenken? Sollenw ir den den Erbauern dieser Plaza einen furchtbaren Namen geben? Wenn wir das tun müssen, dann lautet dieser Name K'Chain Che'Malle. Aber wer waren diese K'Chain Che'Malle? Eine Ältere Rasse, so behauptet zumindest Gothos. Ausgestorben noch vor dem Erscheinen der Jaghut, der T'lan Imass, der Forkrul Assail.
Ist das die Wahrheit? Oh, wenn sie es ist, dann wurden diese Steine vor einer halben Million Jahre - vielleicht auch noch früher - gelegt. Nach Ansichten dieses Chronisten ausgesprochener Unsinn.
Esslee Monot (der Zweifelnde)[src]
Toc the Younger walks with Lady Envy, noticing she seems more nervous since she visited Callows. Their conversation wanders to the T'lan Imass, and Lady Envy tells Toc that the Imass have outlived their gods. With the Jaghut all but wiped out, what would be left for them? The gathering might be the end of the T'lan Imass who would then have "not a single spirit waiting to embrace all those weary souls..." Toc hopes she is wrong because he considers Onos T'oolan his friend. This causes Tool to stop and stare.
As they march on, Envy tells Toc that they are approaching the Pannion Domin's lands from the South, while the Malazan army and their allies are approaching from the north. Toc is dubious as to their chances of survival, but Envy shrugs his doubts away. When an undead K'ell Hunter appears, Tool insists that the Seguleh test their efficacy as they are on the borders of the Pannion Domin's lands. The three Seguleh make short work of the hunter, with Mok effortlessly decapitating it. Tool is shaken by this, and declares he needs to fight Mok, as the First Sword of the T'lan Imass can't have an equal. Toc tries to reassure him, but the duel is only stopped when Envy knocks Mok unconscious. Tool says she only postpones the inevitable.
The party arrives at a small hamlet outside of Bastion in the Domin's territory with Tool traveling as dust and Baaljagg magically disguised as a dog. They are brought into the village's main compound by an emaciated priest of the Pannion and find the inner walls lined with impaled corpses. The priest tells them that the villagers and have been "delivered". Moving to a newly constructed Pannion temple, they find Seerdomin Kahlt in a dining hall with a meal prepared for them. He and Envy exchange veiled threats before he leaves them to their meal. As they eat, Envy tells Toc that the Pannion soldiers plan to kill them tonight, but tells Toc to go to bed anyway. Toc doesn't think he can sleep with such a certainty of violence.
Toc awakens to a scream, finding that he had slept after all, probably due to sorcery. He hears claws clicking and finds Baaljagg and Garath, who has now grown to an immense size. He finds Seerdomin Kahlt and several other soldiers drowned in a bath, having been boiled by Lady Envy's magic. The Seguleh, apart from Mok, have been killing the rest of the Pannion soldiers in the compound. Envy tells Toc to return to the compound as Garath destroys the temple. Envy says their next move is to go to Bastion, and Toc thinks he won't survive the trip. Envy then grabs Toc and pulls him into a kiss, but stops saying she'd rather he be "free". Reaching a crossroads, Toc tells Envy that he thinks searching out answers to the The Rent at Morn is just an excuse for her to entertain herself by manipulating her traveling companions. She protests her innocence, but Toc doesn't believe her. Envy becomes petulant, saying Toc is acting just like Anomander Rake. Toc offers to tell her about how his mother was Cartharon Crust's sister, and his father, Toc the Elder, was initially reluctant to claim him as his own, given Crust's temper.
Toc's party arrives at Bastion only to find its fields burned and its people gone. As they enter the city, they smell cooking meat and realize that the survivors of whatever happened are eating the dead. They are greeted by Pannion priests who tell them their lives are in peril, but that they'll try and help them survive "the Embrasure". One priest says that the Embrasure was first felt fourteen years ago when the Seer returned from the mountains. His words spread and the first Child of the Dead Seed was born nine months later. Upon Envy's inquiry, the priest reveals that the Children of the Dead Seed result when women rape nearly dead warriors on the battlefield who then die during the act. Anaster, called the Glorious First, has recently come of age and now leads the Tenescowri. Toc notices Envy's visible discomfort at this news. The priest says that all who didn't join the faith in Bastion were "rewarded" and then eaten by the Tenescowri. At that moment, a nearby mob appears to notice Toc's party. The priests flee, and the mob attacks. Envy directs Baaljaag and Garath to slaughter them and awakens Mok. Toc takes this moment to flee and join the Tenescowri, as they'll eventually meet with the Malazan army. As he runs, he feels Envy's sorcery erupt. He finds a group of the starving peasant army and joins his screams to theirs.