"There have been armies. Burdened with names, the legacy of meetings, of battles, of betrayals. The history behind the name is each army’s secret language - one that no-one else can understand, much less share. The First Sword of Dassem Ultor - the Plains of Unta, the Grissian Hills, Li Heng, Y’Ghatan. The Bridgeburners - Raraku, Black Dog, Mott Wood, Pale, Black Coral. Coltaine’s Seventh - Gelor Ridge, Vathar Crossing and the Day of Pure Blood, Sanimon, the Fall."
Some of you share a few of those - with comrades now fallen, now dust. They are, for you, the cracked vessels of your grief and your pride. And you cannot stand in one place for long, lest the ground turn to depthless mud around your feet.
Among us, among the Bonehunters, our secret language has begun. Cruel in its birth in Aren, sordid in a river of old blood. Coltaine’s blood. You know this. I need tell you none of this. We have our own Raraku. We have our own Y’Ghatan. We have Malaz City.
In the civil war on Theft, a warlord who captured a rival’s army then destroyed them - not by slaughter; no, he simply gave the order that each soldier’s weapon hand lose its index finger. The maimed soldiers were then sent back to the warlord’s rival. Twelve thousand useless men and women. To feed, to send home, to swallow the bitter taste of defeat. I was… I was reminded of that story, not long ago. We too are maimed. In our hearts. Each of you knows this.
And so we carry, tied to our belts, a piece of bone. Legacy of a severed finger. And yes, we cannot help but know bitterness.
The Bonehunters will speak in our secret language. We sail to add another name to our burden, and it may be it will prove our last. I do not believe so, but there are clouds before the face of the future - we cannot see. We cannot know.
The island of Sepik, a protectorate of the Malazan Empire, is now empty of human life. Sentenced to senseless slaughter, every man, child and woman. We know the face of the slayer. We have seen the dark ships. We have seen the harsh magic unveiled.
We are Malazan. We remain so, no matter the judgement of the Empress. Is this enough reason to give answer? No, it is not. Compassion is never enough. Nor is the hunger for vengeance. But, for now, for what awaits us, perhaps they will do. We are the Bonehunters, and sail to another name. Beyond Aren, beyond Raraku and beyond Y’Ghatan, we now cross the world to find the first name that will be truly our own. Shared by none other. We sail to give answer. There is more. But I will not speak of that beyond these words: “What awaits you in the dusk of the old world’s passing, shall go… unwitnessed.” T’amber’s words.
They are hard and well might they feed spite, if in weakness we permit such. But to those words I say this, as your commander: we shall be our own witness, and that will be enough. It must be enough. It must ever be enough.”
-Tavore’s speech to the Bonehunters as they sail away from Malaz City, Malazan Books of the Fallen by Steven Erikson