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Characters / Malazan Book of the Fallen - Azathanai, Gods & Ascendants

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This is a list of characters associated with the pantheons from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. Please beware of spoilers. If you haven't finished the series you're probably best off not reading past the character descriptions.

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    Azathanai in general 
Mother Dark: These are the truths of being. "Without ground, there can be no sky." So spoke the Azathanai in the dust of their quarries.

A race of godlike beings, sometimes referred to as Elder Gods, who are the beings responsible for life in the world. They hold power over a specific domain, like primordial darkness or the sea, or spend their time creating new races for various purposes.
  • The Maker: Many if not most of the Azathanai created races of their own, either as servants or experiments or simply because they could. The Kharkanas Trilogy goes into more detail on which species was created by what Azathanai, with Draconus being most prominent in the books as the creator of the Tiste people.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The Azathanai can be credited for creating most of the known races in the Malazanverse. Some still have some connection to whatever race they created, but some simply don't care anymore or think their creations deserve what they get.
  • Pantheon Sitcom: The Azathanai are a rather quirky lot, and not all on the best of terms. It's especially obvious in Fall of Light, where K'rul and Skillen Droe meet several of their brethren on their journey. Of special note is the meeting with Mael, who refuses to part the sea for their passage, because Skillen once polluted his seas to make a flying mountain without asking first. Their marital squabbles and various offspring of the legitimate and illegitimate kind also make for fun reading.
  • Powers That Be: The Azathanai are the oldest authorities the Malazan world knows so far, responsible for the creation of the world and all life on it.
  • The Power of Creation: Azathanai make things. Amongst their hobbies are the creation of different races, magic systems or flying mountains.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: They don't seem to have a fixed physical form, so they can change their appearance at will. Skillen Droe for example takes the form of a flying raptor, while K'rul seems to change his gender every few hundred years.


Errastas: 'K'rul deserves the fate awaiting the gods — his was the cruellest betrayal of all.'

An Elder God and Azathanai. He is also called the Maker of Paths, because he shaped elder magic into the much easier to use form of Holds and Warrens, to make it accessible to everyone. At the start of the main series he is more than a thousand years gone and many humans only remember him by his ancient temple in Darujhistan: K'rul's Belfry.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: K'rul has a penchant of giving too freely, even powerful things that should not be trifled with. The first thing the Tiste do with his newly-created magic system is exploit it to see how many people they can kill with it. K'rul just wanted equal opportunity magic for all.
    "... K’rul, who answered worship with generosity. Who, assailed by prayers written in spilled blood, gave answer to them. But the power he surrendered was not intended only for those who worshipped him. He has given it freely, to everyone."
  • Body Horror: Elder God K'rul crafted the currently used form of magic with his blood and these Paths of Magic, known as the Warrens, are described as running through his veins. So when the Warrens are poisoned in Memories of Ice, opening them occasionally causes boatloads of blood to come pouring out.
  • Dream Walker: K'rul appears in Kruppe's dreams, because he can't fully manifest in the real world at the beginning of the Series. He uses him as a connection to everyday mortal life in the waking world, informs him of happenings far away and even steers him to influence the power players in the city. He also uses his dreams to organize the complicated rebirth/soulmeld of Silverfox, which involves not only dream walking, but Time Travel aswell.
  • God Was My Copilot: In Memories of Ice he takes on the identity of the merchant Keruli to involve himself more in the happenings of Darujhistan without putting himself in the line of fire of other Ascendants who might recognize him.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: As an Elder God he is not worshipped by many in current times, which leads to his apparent weakness compared to the newer gods of the setting. By the start of the series he is presumed dead, or at least inactive, for millennia — what gets his attention is the accidental spilling of blood in his temple, which counts as a blood sacrifice to summon him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: He surrendered practically all his power when he cursed the tyrant king Kallor on Jacuruku. Interestingly, he originally planned to just stop Kallor with the help of his brethren, but when it became obvious that Kallor anticipated their arrival and dealt with his entire population the Caligula-way, he cursed him instead, unaware that the death of an entire population could power Kallor's retaliation well enough that he himself would be cursed to fade from public memory.
  • In the Hood: In Gardens of the Moon he only appears as a cloaked figure with long and sinuous fingers, emphazising the fact that he can't fully materialise outside of his temple or Kruppe's dreams.
  • Karmic Death: When he, Sister of Cold Nights/Nightchill and Draconus cursed Kallor with immortality, he was cursed right back to fade from human memory —meaning, he also lost all his power, since Elder Gods are powered by the beliefs of their followers.
  • Mentor Archetype: K'rul chose Kruppe of all people to confide in, visiting him in his dreams, giving well-meaning advice and even fighting off the Jaghut Tyrant for a while.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In The Kharkanas Trilogy he sets out to create a new magic system that can be used by everyone, creating the opportunity for younger, mortal races to see eye to eye with Azathanai and Elder Gods. However, this new magic promptly makes the already fairly violent Tiste civil war into a powered conflict, with just a handful of mages on each side able to obliterate masses of people.
  • Older and Wiser: As an Elder God who hasn't been active for a few millennia, K'rul may not be up to date with the running Malazan war effort, but he has the knowledge to aid his human proteges when the empire tries to set free an age-old Jaghut Tyrant in Darujhistan. He specifically aids Kruppe in assembling the people needed to fight back.
  • Sex Shifter: In the prequel, The Kharkanas Trilogy, it is revealed that Elder God K'rul is able to change his sex at will, and does so every other century or so. He also can and did become pregnant at least once. It's not too surprising as all Azathanai are shapeshifters, but K'rul seems to be the only one able and/or willing to shift between sexes.


Kilmandaros: 'Rake once said to me that Draconus was a man of great honour. Before the betrayal. Before his day of rage. I believe him.'

An Elder God, the Suzerain of Night, Consort to Mother Dark, and an Azathanai. He was killed with his own sword, Dragnipur, by Anomander Rake, and has been trapped in there ever since.
In The Kharkanas Trilogy, he posed as a Tiste for a while, having his own household and small personal army at Dracon's Hold. He was the lover of Mother Dark herself, much to the chagrin of the Tiste noble houses.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Since Azathanai don't have one fixed physical form, as they can shapeshift at will. So, when he poses as a Tiste to be able to live among them they accept him as one of them.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Of primordial darkness. He is even called the Suzerain of Night.
  • Cool Sword: He forged Dragnipur at the first forge and with the Hammer of Burn, that later becomes Caladan Brood's signature weapon. Dragnipur is made to trap the souls of all it cuts, leaving them chained to a humongous wagon that houses the gate to Darkness as it flees the pursuing forces of Chaos.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: He is the personification of primordial darkness, but actually a pretty decent guy, if he isn't bullied into having to ditch his love interest, that is.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When he has reason to show humor, he does. Especially in his interactions with Ublala Pung.
    Ublala: I've met gods before. They collect chickens.
    Draconus: We possess mysterious ways indeed.
  • The Dreaded: Many characters who knew him before his imprisonment in Dragnipur shudder at the thought of him returning to the world. When his return spontaneously wipes out entire armies of Barghast, we find out that it is a justified fear.
  • God Couple: With Mother Dark, after he gifted the Terondai (a "folding of Night") to her, making her the effective Goddess of Darkness, instead of just the ruler of the Tiste peoples.
  • God in Human Form: He lives among the Tiste and poses as one himself, despite being their creator. He also doesn't have his whole power in this form, as he put a part of his soul away into a Finnest.
  • Ham and Deadpan Duo: With Ublala Pung of all people, in Dust of Dreams. While Ublala is being his usual cheerfully boisterous self, Draconus remains the reserved Deadpan Snarker.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: He gets to find out exactly how well his newly forged sword Dragnipur does its job when he winds up getting his soul trapped in it himself. Although that was partially Kallor's fault.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: He goes to great lengths for Mother Dark, even if some of his attempts are misguided. Being as powerful as he is, though, means that even minor slip-ups like the wrong gift can have dire consequences. It seems he would be willing to damn the whole of Kurald Galain if it meant being with his beloved. Only his sense of honour keeps him in check.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Terondai he commissioned from Errastas needed a blood sacrifice, but nobody bothered to tell him that. When he finds out that he indirectly killed Hood's wife Karish, he is rather horrified.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: With a side of I Have Many Names. If 'Draconus' doesn't sound impressive enough, given the importance of dragons in the setting, then his title 'Suzerain of Night' surely will.
  • Older and Wiser: Apparently, spending several hundred thousand years suffering a Fate Worse than Death mellowed him out a bit. All who knew of his legendary cruelty feared his return to the world, but among the first things he does when he comes back is making friends with the mentally challenged Ublala Pung.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Doesn't pay much attention to his kids, and named his three daughters Envy, Spite, and Malice (if he had a fourth, she would apparently be named Venom). On the other hand, their mother, Olar Ethil, urges him to kill them, so...
    • His son Arathan has lived the first 17 years of his young life alone in a tower of Dracon's Keep, rarely seeing his father and being relentlessly bullied by his three younger sisters. Draconus does seem to care about him, and his appreciation of Arathan slowly grows over the course of Forge of Darkness.
  • Soul Jar: Has put a part of his soul into a Finnest before The Kharkanas Trilogy. The general idea is that he used it to put the cruel and malevolent part of his soul inside it.
  • Weredragon: Draconus can turn into a giant black dragon, although his particular Soletaken form is described as 'darkness with wings' instead of a normal draconic form.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: It is quite obvious in the Kharkanas Trilogy that Draconus has some kind of affection towards Mother Dark, what with him officially being her Consort. However, he hasn't got the mechanics of love down quite as well as one would assume considering their realm-spanning romance. He is more seen stumbling around trying to make grand gestures of affection that ultimately backfire into Love Ruins the Realm and ends up presenting more of a creator's love towards his creation thing rather than interpersonal affection.

    Errastas / The Errant 

I am the Errant. By my hand, every fate is turned. All that seems random is by my design. This is an immutable truth. It has ever been. It shall ever be.

Also known as the Master of the Tiles, the Betrayer and the Great Deceiver, Errastas is an Elder God known for his trickery and malice. He is the son of Kilmandaros and the brother of Sechul Lath. He spent time at the Letherii court and used his influence on the queen to have a hand in steering the politics of Letheras.
  • Affably Evil: Errastas is intentionally easy on the eyes and rather friendly, when he's not backstabbing people or trying for the destruction of all existence.
  • Ambition Is Evil: He sees a chance to take advantage of K'rul's newly created magic in The Kharkanas Trilogy and he takes it, even if that means killing off Hood's wife and screwing over Draconus himself. Later, in the main series, he then makes a bid for world domination, all consequences be damned. The Errant doesn't do small goals.
  • The Chessmaster: Farseeing enough to prepare a specific trap for fellow Elder God Mael to keep him out of the action when he is most needed in Reaper's Gale.
  • Depraved Bisexual: As Turudal Brizad his official occupation is to be the First Consort of the queen, but he also shares the bed with other male servants and his own son, who, at least, doesn't know that he is his son.
  • Jerkass: He didn't have to make Sirryn Kanar stab a defenceless Trull in the back, he just felt like it, because the Letherii conquest didn't go his way.
  • Jerkass Gods: While Errastas has been laying low and limited himself to small, petty things like political manipulation, incest and homicide, once he decides to up his game again, he's right back to mass slaughter and trying to end the world and rule over the remains. He also feels that he has the sole right to govern over magic as Master of the Tiles —hearing that he has been succeeded by a Master of the Deck immediately inspires him to new heights.
  • Karma Houdini: He doesn't get any comeuppance in the main series, nor the prequel, despite being responsible for plenty of suffering on all fronts - not least of all his bid to destroy the world. Although he ends the series with several rather nasty beings intent on chasing him down...
  • Manipulative Bastard: Errastas greatly enjoys causing mischief. The reader first encounters him in Letheras, where he has been laying low for decades to steer the politics in the city and especially in the palace, playing a major role in the instigation of the upcoming war with the Edur. The Kharkanas Trilogy shows that he is not above playing Azathanai for fools, either, using Draconus' request for a Terondai as a means to get a foot into the door of K'rul's new free-for-all magic system.
  • The Omniscient: The Tiles of the Holds are a working divination system; being the Master of the Tiles, which is to say the master of said divination system, grants Errastas a kind of omniscience very useful to his Chessmaster-y plans.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": When people refer to him as an Elder God they usually speak of The Errant. The Korelri also know him as the Great Deceiver.
  • Time Abyss: He was around by the time The Kharkanas Trilogy takes place and is still alive and kicking during the main series, making him older than many of the current gods of the setting and witness to the rise and fall of entire civilizations.
  • Walking Spoiler: It is difficult to talk about Errastas in a non-spoiler context, since he mainly operates in the latter half of the series and then turns out to be one of the more active players in the End of the World as We Know It. Come the last books he hardly has any scenes that are not Wham Episodes.


A goddess worshipped by the Forkrul Assail, embodying destruction and desecraton.

  • Berserk Button: She hates dragons. And places of worship. And badmouthing Anomander Rake. Perhaps it is unsurprising that a goddess like her would have so many.
  • Hidden Depths: She has a great respect for Anomander Rake, and even strikes the Errant for speaking ill of him.

    Sechul Lath 

The son of Kilmandaros, also known as "Knuckles." Sechul Lath was once the "Lord of Chance and Mischance," but has now abandoned those responsibilities to Oponn.

  • Lady Luck: He once fulfilled the role of Oponn — his children — in the Malazan pantheon.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: He reacts with horror to the release of the Otataral Dragon, clearly regretting the scheme as it finally comes to fruition.
  • Suicide by Cop: He stands in front of Draconus when the latter is on the verge of killing Kilmandaros, knowing that he has no chance of standing against him, saying he has nothing to live for if his mother is killed. Draconus slays him effortlessly.


An Elder Goddess known as the Queen of Spiders or the Queen of Witches. She is secretive, rarely interacting with even her fellow Elder Gods, and rules over the jungle of Himatan in Jacuruku.

  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: She simply doesn't understand humans well at all, which explains her confusion at why the Obviously Evil Skinner betrayed her trust.
  • Exact Words: She promised Skinner that no one would be able to "take" the gift of armor she gave to him. However, this doesn't mean that she can't trick Skinner into willingly "returning" it.
  • Mysterious Employer: To the Crimson Guard in Blood and Bone. She manages to persuade K'azz to lead an expedition to Jacuruku due to his fear of the shard of the Crippled God being freed form the Dolemns of Tien, ultimately offering K'azz a position at her side and taking advantage of the situation to kil Skinner.
  • Time Master: Those who visit Himatan are frequently struck by strange visions of the past and future, implied to be due to the strange properties it exhibits as Ardata's domain. It indeed turns out that Ardata is preventing the normal passage of time within Himatan, and the Queen of Dreams even makes a mission into the jungle to confront her and force her to allow time to pass normally within it.

    Olar Ethil 

    Caladan Brood 


... see Bugg in Letheras



Rancept: 'Her face is polished wood, a deep brown that seems to hold gold in its depths.'

Burn, also known as 'The Sleeping Goddess', 'Lady of the Earth' or 'The Great Mother Goddess', is an elder deity that is said to dream the world in her eternal sleep. Her sleep is used as the basis of the Genabackan calendar system (i.e 1161st year of Burn's Sleep), though she has most likely been asleep for a lot longer.
Popular belief has it that the world will end should she awaken, an event that can come to pass should Caladan Brood decide to make use of the hammer she gifted to him. The Warren associated with Burn is Tennes, the 'Path of the Land'.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Caladan Brood's warhammer, aptly named Burn's Hammer, is an implement she gave him, so he can awaken her, if he so wishes. Luckily, he is aware what him wielding the hammer will do and he treats his responsibility accordingly.
  • Barrier Maiden: Goes hand in hand with Cosmic Keystone. As long as Burn is sleeping, she dreams existence into reality. You really shouldn't harm Burn, if you like having a world in which to live.
  • Cosmic Keystone: Burn's body being poisoned by the alien presence of the Crippled God is a very pressing issue once Quick Ben learns about it. All life is supposed to be destroyed when she awakens — nobody knows what will happen if she dies.
  • Genius Loci: Burn is the world; sleeping, but otherwise sentient and very much alive.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality: Burn dreams existence into reality and her body seems to literally be the world the characters live on. Consequences of her being hurt can be felt across the entire planet.
  • Mother Earth: Burn is very literally the world the characters walk on and appropriately enough referred to as the 'Mother Goddess'.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Burn dreams reality into existence, meaning no existence without Burn sleeping, meaning awakening Burn will end everything in one go.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: Since she dreams existence, Burn's Pain is supposedly the source of earthquakes, when the sleep of the goddess is disturbed or she is in pain.


The God of Death, and (an undead) Jaghut.


Kulp: 'Anger a High Priest and his foul-tempered god might well cock one red eye in your direction. Are you prepared for that risk?’

Fener, also known by the name of Tennerock, is the god of war in the Malazan world. His official titles include: The Boar of Summer, The Boar of War, The Boar of Five Tusks and the Tusked Sower of War. He takes the physical form of a humongous boar. His five tusks serve as a symbol for his religion and are named Hate, Love, Laughter, War and Tears. His cult has been outlawed by Laseen, so there is no official worship of him in the Malazan-conquered regions of the world, though there are religious mercenary companies who fight in his name.
  • Blood Knight: We don't see Fener in action onscreen, but conversations about him suggest that he is rather irritable and fond of bloodshed. And of course, you know, the god of war.
  • Full-Boar Action: Fener, the five-tusked Boar of Summer, is the pre-eminent War God at the start of the series. He is a gigantic boar, possibly hinting at a Soletaken connection from his former life. The cults worshipping him take his tusks as their insignia.
  • God in Human Form: After his fall from godhood he runs around somewhere in Letheras and appears in a humanoid form, not as a boar.
  • God Is Dead: He is pulled from godhood in Deadhouse Gates and as such effectively dead for his followers, but he is alive somewhere on the planet, in human form. Then his death comes true at the very end of the series, when Karsa kills Fener and his blood blesses the undead T'lan Imass while they are fighting.
  • Illegal Religion: Laseen crushed his cult after she became empress, and the only people we see worshipping Fener are either non-Malazans or Malazans who are willing to take the risk and worship him anyway.
  • Kill the God: On the receiving end from Karsa Orlong towards the end of The Crippled God. Fener's been on a downward spiral ever since Heboric inadvertently yanked him out of the heavens, really.
  • Walking the Earth: It is implied Fener is wandering the continents after his fall. The next time we see him pop up he's in Letheras.
  • War God: Fener is 'The Boar of War'. He is worshipped by the Grey Swords, a religious mercenary company from southern Genabackis, and the odd Malazan soldier who doesn't take the outlawing of his cult too seriously.

    Our Lady the Blessed Savior 

A local deity worshipped in Korel.

  • Achilles' Heel: The Lady's physical form is found in three fragments of the Crippled God. One of these is found in a lake called "the Hole", one is kept in a remote Stormguard fortress called the Sky Tower, and the last is kept in the Cloister in Banith before being moved to the caves of Thol when the Malazans take the city. Destroying these fragments would destroy the Lady.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The exact nature of the Lady is unclear. While the Lady is made of several fragments of the Crippled God, it isn't clear if she is a native deity which merged with them while exploiting them for power, or simply those fragments developing a consciousness independent from the "main" Crippled God.
  • Anti-Magic: The Lady can suppress magic across the entirety of the Lands of Fist, granting exemptions to mages who are loyal to her. The only individuals able to use warren magics despite these prohibitions are the indigenous people of Korel, who use are said to be beneath her notice and use a variation of the Elder Tellann warren, and the people of Mare, who use Ruse, a warren which draws its powers from the seanote .
  • Arch-Enemy: To the Stormriders, who have spent over four thousand years assaulting the Stormwall so they can kill her.
  • Bad Boss: She slaughters the staff of the Cloister in Banith for angering her. That's not even getting into how she manipulates the Stormguard into sacrificing themselves against the Stormriders in order to to provide blood sacrifice.
  • Demonic Possession: She possesses others, especially young girls, when making herself physically present in Korel.
  • Home Field Advantage: While the biggest obstacle to successful Malazan invasions of Korel has been the Marese fleet, the Lady rendering their mages worthless is also a major headache.
  • Human Sacrifice: The true purpose of the Stormwall is to provide blood sacrifices that protect her from the Stormriders. The mysterious murders in Banith are also performed by servants of the Lady at the Cloister for an unknown purpose.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Despite being thousands of years old, the Lady is ultimately a deeply petulant entity, a fact emphasized by the fact she manifests herself in Korel by possessing young girls.
  • Super Empowering: She is capable of granting a boon known as "the Lady's Grace" to her followers, which appears as a blue aura and greatly enhances their strength.

High House Chains

    The Crippled God — WARNING: Major Spoilers ahead 

Silchas Ruin: 'The god is fallen. He crouches now, seeding devastation. Rise and fall, rise and fall, and with each renewal the guiding spirit is less, weaker, more tightly chained to a vision bereft of hope.'

An alien deity that was called down through a kind of wormhole by human mages who wanted to get rid of Kallor's despotic rule long before the series' start. The mage's plan backfired and they were killed when the Crippled God's body hit the earth, wrecking continent-wide destruction and leaving a crippled foreign deity stranded in their world. Several Ascendants came together to make sure that this alien deity would not cause further problems, and chained him where he landed. Since then the Crippled God has tried to break free of his predicament and take revenge on those who got him into this position by any means necessary.
  • And I Must Scream: He's been trapped and tortured for hundreds of thousands of years at the start of the series, chained down alone in an alien world and separated from his followers.
  • Big Bad: About as close to one as the series gets, being responsible for (or at least involved in) most of the major conflicts across the various storylines. Subverted in that he's treated with considerable sympathy, particularly in the later books, and in the end the protagonists end up having to save him when his plots get Hijacked by the Forkrul Assail.
  • Black Cloak: He usually covers himself in dark-coloured rags, rather than an actual cloak, but the look is very similar. He mainly uses the rags to hide his malformed body, but still forgoes a proper cloak since he made imperfection and sickness his motto.
  • The Corrupter: The Crippled God specialises in bringing out the worst in people, typically offering them exactly what they want in exchange for their inclusion in his House of Chains. He has taken up the cause of recruiting 'broken' individuals that can emphathise with him, but if the victim isn't broken already he has no problem breaking them.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Crippled God usually offers the people that come to him what they really wish for, but he always takes something in return.
    • The artisan Munug is cured of several painful tumors between his legs, but gets paralyzed from the waist down afterwards.
    • Rhulad receives a weapon that makes him much, much stronger the longer he uses it and effectively hands him the rule over his people and a position as emperor on a silver platter, but in turn Rhulad has to suffer through many a death and subsequent resurrection, which does absolutely nothing good for his sanity.
  • Disabled Deity: The Crippled God is a severe case of Wound That Will Not Heal from the fall that brought him into the realm he is now chained in. He cannot physically move and spends his time in a tent plotting The End of the World as We Know It, and likes to collect worshippers and paws which are, like him, imperfect or disabled in some way. Millennia of pain haven't done his state of mind much good either.
  • Dysfunction Junction: He picks his followers deliberately controversially. The Crippled God desires every member of his House to be as flawed, mentally and/or physically, as he is.
  • Evil Cripple: The Crippled God is the closest thing to an overall Big Bad of the rather non-linear series. As his name suggests, to say he's not in prime physical condition would be an unbelievable understatement: he was pulled into the mortal world by a spell, crashed into the planet like a meteor, and his body was torn to pieces in the process, leaving him only what crippled remnant of it he can conjure into coherence within a pocket realm. He's spent the millennia since in constant agony, and he's extremely ruthless, manipulative, and spiteful because of it. However, it gradually becomes apparent that he's a deconstruction, as he's played with great sympathy and it becomes increasingly clear that he is not inherently evil, but rather lashing out in hurt and desperation, trying to do anything to improve his situation and that the local Abusive Precursors hijacked his powers sometime before the last book. It becomes the chief objective of the series in that last two books to actually free him and send him home to his own dimension.
  • Eviler than Thou: Ends up being a pawn of the Forkrul Assail, when they try to use his chained heart to power their justice agenda.
  • Freudian Excuse: The Fall did not do good things to his sanity. The fact that most of the pantheon has periodically gotten together and chained him up for, from his perspective, no real reason didn't help either. Even some of the characters in-series recognize that his wanton destruction of the world is more akin to someone lashing out in hurt and desperation, than an act of evil itself.
  • God of Evil: Deconstructed. He's more like a god of suffering, and that suffering includes his own. While he's initially presented as causing it, in the end after the Bonehunters risk everything to save him from the Assail and succeed, he ends up becoming the god who has sympathy for those who suffer.
  • Hidden Villain: For the first two and a half books there are mentions of him in background events from long ago, but it isn't until Memories of Ice that reader and characters realize that there is someone behind the Pannion Domin.
  • Humans Are Flawed: The Crippled God uses this as a premise for his cults of salvation. Unfortunately, rather than delivering the message that mortals can overcome their flaws to do good, the religion is a worship of suffering and degradation.
  • I Have Many Names: The Crippled God, the Fallen God, the Chained One. But his real name is Kaminsod.
  • Kick the Dog: His penchant for making lopsided deals and preference of 'broken' individuals means that his followers don't have the best of time in his service. The worst example being the teen-aged Rhulad Sengar, who gets to experience thousands of deaths to become a stronger champion.
  • Mad God: His Fall and subsequent chainings destroyed his sanity as well as most of his body, and this is implied to be the reason for most of his malicious acts. This is true. When his sanity is restored near the end of the last book, he proves to be one of the most benevolent and empathic deities in the whole series and expresses regret over his previous actions.
  • The Man Behind the Man: To so many different villains, with the Pannion Seer being a particularly spectacular example. He really tried any tactic he could get his hands on.
  • Narrator All Along: Ultimately revealed as the narrator in The Crippled God. This turns out to be a Justified Trope, as it's described that he penned the series so that those who sacrificed their lives to free him would not be forgotten. The title of the series, naturally, relates to this.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: He's slowly poisoning Burn in Memories of Ice, who is responsible for reality existing. Whether he genuinely wants her dead or is hoping that someone will free him in order to prevent this isn't known for most of the series. It's the latter.
  • Physical God: Like many other Ascendants in the series. Some of the implications of this trope are defied, however; thanks to his crippling and chaining, his physical form is actually very weak. Withal - who, aside from being an incredibly skilled smith, is a vanilla mortal - is able to shove him over and collapse his tent on him at the end of Midnight Tides, and the Crippled God can't do anything about it but flail helplessly and shriek threats. It is then doubly defied in the last two books, which reveal that that wasn't actually the real body of the Crippled God, but one he managed to make for himself, and his real body is shattered and strewn across the planet, with his heart being chained to the Spite in Kolanse and being used as a source of power by various other gods.
  • Powerful and Helpless: In many ways he's one of the most powerful gods of the pantheon, especially because he comes from a different world and his powers follow different rules from everyone else's. But with his body largely destroyed and then chained, he can't wield most of that power directly; he's got to work through subtle, long-ranging effects (like poisoning Burn and the Warrens) or through empowered proxies (like the Pannion Seer or Rhulad Sengar). His actual body is nearly helpless.
  • Red Right Hand: The evil god is the crippled one. Go figure.
  • Sadistic Choice: His poisoning of Burn in Memories of Ice. The best case scenario is someone setting him free to end the poisoning, which would leave him free to do as he pleases and possibly take revenge on civilization as it is. The worst case scenario is the slow death of the entire world.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Chained in place to the sleeping goddess Burn, though his spirit can move around inside a Warren and has appeared in several places around the world. Ultimately subverted when he is freed and turns out to act more in the manner one would expect of a Sealed Good in a Can. Freeing him seems to have undone the madness that led to most of his actions prior to his freedom, and it certainly stops his poisoning of Burn which had been causing many of the world's problems. He's also immensely grateful to the people who freed him; ending hundreds of thousands of years' worth of torture will do that to a god.
  • Start of Darkness: He was just a foreign god who fell to earth as the result of a trap meant for Kallor. And went stark raving mad as a result of his torture and imprisonment in this foreign world.
  • Tragic Villain: He's the direct or indirect cause of a majority of the central conflicts in the series, but the narration never lets the reader forget that, at heart, he's a tormented victim of circumstances before anything else.
  • Vader Breath: Has to constantly inhale incense in order to keep his lungs clear. Even then, his breathing is still ragged and wheezing.
  • Walking Spoiler: The Crippled God's very existence is largely glossed over for two or so books after he is introduced in Gardens of the Moon in a secton which suggests the information given may be unreliable, as if he has little importance to the plot — though the fact that the final volume is titled after him already is a Late-Arrival Spoiler. But actually he is highly important and his story-arc is among those most heavy in Character Development. As a result, it's ultimately very difficult to even discuss the Fallen One without revealing that he's insane as a result of hundreds of thousands of years of torture, ultimately redeems himself, and is the narrator of the entire series.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Fall left him crippled, agonised and totally insane. He seems to be out to destroy the world in order to make the pain go away. It's very hard not to feel bad for him on some level; especially after his plans get taken over by the Forkrul Assail, who are basically using his heart as a catalyst for their destructive plans, he turns into more of a straight-up Woobie.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: None of the injuries from the Fall have healed. Not one in a hundred thousand years.

    Rhulad Sengar 

Rhulad Sengar

The youngest scion of House Sengar, a noble family of the Hiroth Tiste Edur.

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Before the horror show began.
  • Artifact of Doom: Mystically linked to one.
  • Axe-Crazy: Becomes progressively so over the course of Midnight Tides, thanks to his multiple deaths and the Crippled God's string-pulling.
  • Back from the Dead: Over and over and over again.
  • BFS: The aforementioned Artifact of Doom.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Rhulad is a much more layered character than his Annoying Younger Sibling behaviour lets on at first, however it takes a serious horror show for that to surface. By the time he starts trying to get his shit together it's way too late and he can't help himself slipping back into his old persona again and again.
  • Blessed with Suck: Rhulad Sengar has a magical sword that brings him back to life any time he dies, as well as granting supernatural strength and other magical abilities. Unfortunately, the sword was a gift from the Crippled God, who never does a good turn for anyone without cost; Rhulad can't physically put the sword down, his resurrections are incredibly physically and mentally agonizing (leading to Sanity Slippage), and the first time around he was dead for several days and had already been dressed for burial before he came back — which, in his culture, involves having searing-hot gold coins ritually burned into the flesh to cover the entire body. When Rhulad resurrected, the coins stayed attached. Add in the Trauma Conga Line that ensues after Rhulad becomes the Emperor of the Tiste Edur, and it's small wonder he ends up half-mad and completely miserable, immortality or not.
  • Body Horror: Covered in half-melted gold coins from a Tiste Edur death rite. Some of them fall out, but that just leaves him with horrific burn scars instead.
  • The Caligula: Deconstructed. We're treated to a blow-by-blow account of his descent into madness, and it's treated as tragedy rather than menace.
  • Cool Sword: Subverted. It's the Artifact of Doom that keeps bringing him back.
  • Deal with the Devil: In Midnight Tides, Rhulad Sengar receives a weapon from the Crippled God that makes him much, much stronger the longer he uses it and effectively hands him the rule over his people and a position as emperor on a silver platter, but in turn Rhulad has to suffer through many a death and subsequent resurrection, which does absolutely nothing good for his sanity.
  • Death Seeker: Gee, I wonder why?
  • The Dragon: As The King in Chains, he fulfills this role with regards to the Crippled God.
  • The Emperor: Of the Letherii Empire and the Tiste Edur.
  • Evil Overlord: Deconstructed. Rhulad didn't particularly want to be a tyrant (and we see several instances of him at least trying to rule fairly and justly), but the Sanity Slippage brought about by his Trauma Conga Line and the Crippled God's influence means he ends up there anyway. Of course, by the time Reaper's Gale rolls around he's too insane to do much ruling at all, leaving people like Hannan Mosag, Triban Gnol, and Karos Invictad to carry out their own agendas in his name.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Rhulad Sengar is introduced as POV character Trull Sengar's kid brother and his most remarkable feature is being something of a glory hound. After inadvertently acquiring an Artifact of Doom, dying and coming Back from the Dead, and making a bargain with the Crippled God, Rhulad finds himself well on the way to becoming the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, ruler of the second most powerful empire in the world. Of course, the Crippled God's gifts always come tainted, as Rhulad soon learns...
  • Giving the Sword to a Noob: In the fifth volume, Midnight Tides, Rhulad Sengar gets his hands on the sword of the Crippled God. He is utterly incompetent in using its powers for the good, no matter how much he tries. Of course, it's subverted because the Crippled God intended for that to happen and deliberately staged it so that Rhulad would get it. Hannan Mosag, the one whom the sword was supposedly actually meant for, would have been quite competent and thus not as easily manipulated as Rhulad Sengar.
  • Glory Seeker: Initially. By the time he learns the lesson it's too late, though.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Deconstructed with Rhulad Sengar. Every inch of his skin is studded with gold coins which were burned into his flesh, leaving what little skin remains visible horribly scarred. Additionally, the mass of gold is so heavy it has turned what used to be a Long-Haired Pretty Boy into a hulking monster. And all that while the Tiste Edur don't even care about gold and only use it in burial rituals to mock their wealth-worshipping neighbouring nation.
  • Healing Factor: Can heal any injuries, save those inflicted on him by the funeral rites after his first death.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Which got him linked to the Artifact of Doom in the first place.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Due to being too young and too proud, Rhulad is prone to misjudging people. He considers Trull a coward, but trusts people who are only in it for their own benefit.
  • I Have Many Names: Rhulad Sengar, The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, The King in Chains.
  • Immortality Hurts: Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, doesn't bear physical scars from his deaths (though, to be fair, he is already scarred so badly it would be difficult to tell anyway), but every time he gets resurrected by his sword, his psyche breaks more and more. In Reaper's Gale, the results are noticed by several people around him and it is utterly pitiful.
  • Killed Off for Real: When Karsa finally kills his soul.
  • Lust: Lusted after his brother Fear's wife, who toyed with his emotions as a game. This results in a very nasty Love Triangle once he becomes The Emperor.
  • Mood-Swinger: Comes with the increasing insanity.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Emperor of a Thousand Deaths.
  • Neck Snap: How he meets his second death at the hand of Letherii soldier Iron Bars. He gets over it.
  • Pet the Dog: His attempt at returning Mayen, his wife, to his brother, Fear, whom she genuinely loves. Also, his forcing Mayen to stop beating her slave, Feather Witch.
  • Pride: One of Rhulad's major sins before becoming The King In Chains. He was convinced he was far superior to everyone, including his brothers Fear and Trull.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Subverted. He forces his brother's wife to marry him, and has his way with her, and somehow, it just makes him all the more pathetic and pitiable.
  • Resurrective Immortality: In Midnight Tides, Rhulad Sengar returns from the dead after being killed, thanks to the cursed sword in his hand at the time. This begins a path of dying and being resurrected again and again. Since the whole dying thing is agonizing and mind-warping, and the process of returning is even worse, this ends up being a case of being Blessed with Suck. This also gains him the title of the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths.
  • Sanity Slippage: Gradually loses his mind as each new resurrection takes its toll on him.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Not that this was his intention. He threw his mom and dad in prison. The jail promptly flooded.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Initially. His first death pretty much shatters his ego though.
  • Trauma Conga Line: His brother is murdered by Karsa, his bride kills herself, his parents are drowned in his dungeon, his people are scheming against him, he's slowly going mad, and that's without getting into the horror show that is his curse.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Emperor Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, is Blessed with Suck by way of an Artifact of Doom which resurrects him every time he dies, creating a Trauma Conga Line of Immortality Hurts. As he slowly sinks into madness he becomes obsessed with death.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: His power doesn't get along with sanity, to say the least.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: It's hard to not to sympathise with Rhulad, after his mind starts to slowly break apart because of his deaths and resurrections... and the deaths of his loved ones, which he is largely too absorbed with his own misery to prevent. Also Udinaas, the only person he maybe could call a friend, betrays him — or so he thinks. The fact that he has a powerful Artifact of Doom and rules an empire is little consolation.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: No matter how many times he dies, the wounds from his first death will not heal. And then there's those damn coins from his first funeral.

    High King Kallor 

... see Genabackis

    Karsa Orlong / Toblakai 

Bairoth Gild: 'I pray that doubt comes to you, that it tempers you with its wisdom. Those heroes in our legends, Karsa Orlong, they were terrible, they were monsters, for they were strangers to uncertainty.'

A young Toblakai warrior hailing from the Teblor plateau in northern Genabackis. Karsa sets out from his tribe with two of his friends to find glory and continue the old Teblor tradition of fighting and pillaging the villages of 'Children' in the lowlands. He serves as the Warleader of the little party.Through a series of unforeseen events, he turns up in Seven Cities years later as one of Sha'ik's bodyguards in the Army of the Whilrwind, where he is nicknamed Toblakai.
  • Anti-Hero: Karsa is a Nominal Hero, more or less, or an Unscrupulous Hero on a good day. He has a sense of justice, but with the way he grew up that doesn't mean it's a relatable one, nor does it bode well for civilization, which he regards as the root of all evil.
  • Barbarian Hero: Karsa Orlong is what happens when this trope meets a whole lot of Deliberate Values Dissonance and gets dropped into a more traditional fantasy setting. Karsa's not "evil" per say, and certainly sees himself as a Barbarian Hero, but his casual attitude towards rape, murder, and theft do not make him popular with a lot of people in universe. And oh yeah, he thinks that wiping out civilisation is the best way to save humanity from itself. Word of God says that he is a very deliberate deconstruction of the "barbarian fantasy".
  • BFS: Karsa Orlong, a seven-foot-tall Barbarian Hero, has a sword that looks tall for even his size and which is made of magically reinforced flint. And that's actually his second BFS. The first one was made of wood and imbued with a special oil known as blood oil which made the edge particularly strong and sharp.
  • Blood Knight: While Karsa Orlong mellows out some during the course of the series, he begins it as straight-up obsessed with combat, bloodshed and glory. He arrogantly derides his companion Bairoth Gild for advising caution when they are about to ambush the warriors of a rival tribe and charges straight in. Even as he sees more of the world and learns to think before acting, he never stops charging right into battle for battle's sake. He also wants to end civilazation as it is and has no compunctions about the bloodshed that would cause.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Karsa uses his bodily might to great effect when fighting and he isn't shy about his prowess either, preferring to provoke his opponent and demonstrating his superiority through verbal abuse and stroking of his own ego.
  • Catchphrase: He is fond of telling anyone watching him to 'Witness!' —usually followed by something very badass or just plain insane.
  • The Champion: The Crippled God wants Karsa to be his Knight of High House Chains, effectively making him his champion. The problem is, that Karsa is fairly unwilling to take up the mantle and sabotages this endeavor whenever he can. In the end of Reaper's Gale he even kills Rhulad, the Crippled God's other champion candidate.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Amongst thousands of challengers he is the fist to manage killing the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths who was supposed to be unkillable. Though he had help figuring out what the problem was, and Samar Dev at hand, who had the souls trapped in her knife help transport him to the Warren where he could kill Rhulad before he was revived by his sword again.
  • The Dragon: The Crippled God wants him to be his Knight of Chains. An interesting case, since Karsa really doesn't want the position and is fighting the Crippled God's influence whenever he can.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He may have started out believing that there is nothing wrong with rape, but he is nonetheless completely appalled when he finds out about Bidithal's paedophilia, and ultimately kills him. This effectively solidifies his transition from a Villain Protagonist to an Anti-Villain (he ultimately ends up an Anti-Hero). In The Bonehunters, he mentions that he hasn't raped anyone in years, so it's quite possible that seeing the effects of sexual abuse on Felisin Younger cured him of these tendencies.
  • Fish out of Water: Anytime he approaches a remotely civilized location:
    • In House of Chains there are the Children he wanted to pillage, but it turns out that the Teblor legends omitted that these supposed 'Children' are normal-sized humans who have learned a thing or two since being bothered by Teblor the last time and are now pretty effective at not only fighting off three of them, but also managing to capture Karsa.
    • He has no idea that there is such a thing as a 'Malazan Empire' that has conquered most of the known world. As soon as he has contact with a Malazan garrison, he immediately expresses his dislike of them, since they tend to establish their hated civilization everywhere they go.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He starts out as unambiguously villainous. Even at the end of his character arc he is far from entirely sympathetic, but arguably becomes either an Anti-Villain or a dark Anti-Hero. Some of this is arguably due to the narrative setting him against people who are unambiguously more villainous (Pedophile Priests, slavers, etc.), but some of it is due to Character Development, as his internal narrative makes it plain that he is re-examining the core beliefs that shaped him into the villain he was initially.
  • Hellish Horse: Karsa sets out into the Jhag Odhan to get himself a Jhag horse, a gigantic breed the Jaghut cultivated to be carnivorous and especially aggressive. He names his steed Havok, after his father's late destrier.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Not a straight example as he doesn't hate women, but he does believe them to be inferior, and holds them in deep contempt, initially believing that rape is totally okay. His interactions with Samar Dev and various other women seem to be improving him for the better, although it's hard to tell completely; nonetheless, he delivers a massive Pay Evil unto Evil moment to Bidithal for his paedophilia and abuse of Felisin Younger, which appalls him.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Karsa Orlong is a Blood Knight and a deconstruction of the Barbarian Hero from a race known as the Teblor, while Samar Dev is a slim and short human Hot Witch and engineer. Karsa having little social graces and bordering on a He-Man Woman Hater who learns his lesson would bring his courtship of Samar into humorous territory if it wasn't a deliberate deconstruction of Bigger Is Better in Bed. Karsa is acutely aware of that, but somehow, between books, they manage to become a couple.
  • Inherent in the System: Karsa believes slavery and exploitation are inherent in society. His solution? Burn it down.
  • Interspecies Romance: Deconstructed with the Teblor Karsa Orlong and the slim and short human Hot Witch and engineer Samar Dev. Karsa falls in love with her in Reaper's Gale, but is acutely aware that he's almost twice as tall and several times as wide as she is and there is a limit to Bigger Is Better in Bed. This being Karsa, his solution is to threaten her with that to drive her away yet somehow keep her around anyway, but somehow, between books, they manage to become a couple anyway, only for Karsa to leave soon again to pursue his civilization-destroying ambitions despite Samar's pleas to stay.
  • Karmic Death: Karsa kills the paedophile Bidithal by ripping off his privates and stuffing them down his throat.
  • Kill the God: In addition to Rhulad Sengar in Reaper's Gale, who was more or less the vessel of the Crippled God, he also kills Fener, facilitating his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Made of Iron: Ultra badass Karsa Orlong is made of metphorical iron. In The Bonehunters, he gets repeatedly mauled, cut, stabbed and bitten by a giant monster, and ultimately walks away with a slight wince and the scowl he always wears. This is somewhat by Karsa being far more than a mortal human.
  • Nominal Hero: Karsa Orlong is just about as anti as a hero can get. Being a deconstruction of the Proud Warrior Race Guy and Barbarian Hero, Karsa aims to improve the world... by slaughtering millions of people and smashing civilization back to barbarism.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Karsa fills a muscular frame and is well over seven feet tall, which contrasts with most characters he meets —though this is a racial trait, as the Teblor stem from the Thelomen Toblakai who were themselves descendants of the Thel Akai, the original race of giants in The Kharkanas Trilogy.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Karsa Orlong, a Villain Protagonist and walking Barbarian Hero deconstruction, is not an innocent boyscout himself, but he is quite fond of dishing out karmic deaths to paedophiles and slavers indiscriminately, since he finds their practices appalling. When he learns that the High Mage Bidithal raped Felisin Younger, he rips off his privates and shoves them down his throat.
  • Present Absence: In the Witness Trilogy, as various factions are seeking him - including his son Rant.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Teblor are a Proud Warrior Race, and he starts as one of the proudest. Even as he moves away from their customs, he doesn't lose his relish for combat, though he is not averse to learning from other people and cultures as time goes on.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: On occasion Karsa comes across as a worryingly competent (and very big) child throwing a tantrum. However, being only around 80 years old amongst the long-lived Teblor he's barely more than a teenager, justifying occasional childish behaviour somewhat. His size and strength do make this a big problem for many people who make him mad unknowingly.
  • Refusal of the Call: The Crippled God is searching for a champion and outfits Barbarian Hero Karsa Orlong, whom he has chosen for the role, with spiritual advisors and some nifty weaponry for his role. But, while Karsa has no problem with going on adventures and raping and pillaging and whatnot, he really resents doing it on the Crippled God's orders and even actively works against him.
  • Tattooed Crook: The broken-glass tattoos on his face that denote his past as a slave.
  • Values Dissonance: Both in-universe (with the rest of the cast that is) and with the fans. Karsa Orlong grew up with his warrior tribe far from civilazation and as a result has a rather bizarre view on many things society generally sees as acceptable. Erikson deliberately wrote a large part of House of Chains from his perspective. Karsa does get better as he undergoes Character Development.
  • Villain Protagonist: His perspective starts out as unambiguously villainous, which was done deliberately. However, he undergoes a substantial amount of Character Development and arguably becomes either an Anti-Villain or a very dark Anti-Hero.


A Jaghut servant of Hood who becomes the Herald of High House Chains.

High House Shadow

    Shadowthrone / Ammanas 

Iskaral Pust: 'Shadowthrone... uh... my worthy Lord of Shadow... is thinking. Yes! Thinking furiously! Such is the vastness of his genius that he can outwit even himself!'

Shadowthrone, also called Ammanas, is the Ruler of the Realm of Shadow, a fragment of Kurald Emurlahn, and serves as the King of High House Shadow in the Deck of Dragons. Together with his right-hand-man Cotillion he is relatively new to his position and one of, if not the newest god in the pantheon by the start of the series. Shadowthrone has a reputation for farsightedness and pettiness, and is known to be a competent schemer.
  • Black Cloak: Wears one, which befits his status as King of High House Shadow.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Feared emperor, chessmaster usurper of High House Shadow, all around Manipulative Bastard... and deathly afraid of his mother (and all women), apparently. Has some shades of Cloud Cuckoo Lander as well, what with his undeniable cunning paired with questionable sanity and odd choices of personnel.
  • The Chessmaster: The series begins when he sets his revenge plans in motion, and he keeps the position of resident reigning champion of long-term plans up to the end of the series, culminating in the freeing of the Crippled God, which needed decades, if not centuries to plan and involved a big chunk of the pantheon and the mortal players in the world.
  • Deal with the Devil: Shadowthrone is not averse to strike a deal with Quick Ben in Gardens of the Moon. What he didn't expect was that he wasn't the devil in this deal, and he certainly didn't expect to be screwed over by Quick Ben for the second time.note 
  • Deity of Human Origin: Emperor Kellanved and his right-hand man Dancer found a way to the unoccupied Throne of Shadow and ascended upon gaining power over it, becoming Shadowthrone and Cotillion, the God of Shadows and the Patron God of Assassins, respectively.
  • The Emperor: Before his ascension he was Emperor Kellanved, instigator and ruler of the Malazan Empire.
  • Evil Overlord: The Malazan Empire's founder Kellanved is a subversion. Kellanved was a mage first and emperor second and saw ruling as being a stepping stone to other, more esoteric forms of power, which he acquired when he ascended to become the god Shadowthrone.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Inverted. Ammanas' voice is very high-pitched and cold.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Shadowthone can be rather friendly, when he's not yelling in exasperation or gives deadpan sarcastic commentary, though the patina is thin and he can go from calm and threatening to shrieking mad in seconds.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Before he ascended to be the new Lord of Shadow, he started off as a bar owner and middling criminal. Then he took some levels in badass when he planned the conception of the continent-spanning Malazan Empire as Emperor Kellanved. Well, and then there is the whole 'new god' thing.
  • Giggling Villain: As mysterious as he appears, his laugh is not cut out to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies, being described as reed-thin and giggling.
  • Hellhound: Shadowthrone commands the seven Hounds of Shadow, who serve him because he is the new lord of their realm. For his part, he just knows that they showed up one day, and that they mostly do what he tells them to.
  • In the Hood: His cloak is described as looking like a living shadow, making the rather scrawny and bent Shadowthrone into an imposing figure.
  • Laughably Evil: A Magnificent Bastard he might be, but his quirks also make him a pretty funny one. Like the fact that he has a very dry sense of humor concerning his mommy-issues.
    Cotillion: 'I am well aware of your long-standing fear of the swaying sex.'
    Shadowthrone: 'I blame my mother.'
  • Manipulative Bastard: Shadowthrone has a tendency towards making others think that they have beat him or planned around him when they are in fact just playing to his tune. A large part of this seems to come from an ability to play on the expectations and desires of other characters in a way that corresponds with his current scheme. Notably, he manipulated actors on a global stage for years to achieve his desire of freeing the Crippled God. He also preferred to not take the Throne of Shadow he held for himself for the simple reason that it was easier to maneuver if no one thought that he actually possessed it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Would you mess with a guy named 'Shadowthrone'?
  • Physical God: He specifically aimed for godhood when he and Cotillion, then still known as Kellanved and Dancer, searched the Azath houses for ways to ascend.
  • The Reveal: Before his ascension he was known as Emperor Kellanved, the supreme ruler of the Malazan Empire, who became the new Lord of Shadow after he was assassinated by Laseen.
  • Revenge: He and Cotillion have a bone to pick with Laseen for killing them and usurping the throne of the Malazan Empire they built. Though this might be a case of Early-Installment Weirdness in the case of Gardens of the Moon, since them getting killed was their steppingstone to ascend and their big revenge plan is not addressed again further down the line...
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Malazan Emperor Kellanved was a powerful sorcerer who researched and travelled in his quest to become a god. He succeeded. Before launching his extraordinary plan and forging his empire (magnificently so — for around 90 years or so), he apparently used to run a bar for a while.
  • Underestimating Badassery: A running theme is that almost everyone is quick to dismiss Shadowthrone for a variety of reasons, from thinking they have outwitted him to branding him a largely powerless usurper to a single piece of Shadow. In practice they tend to end up doing exactly what he wants more often than not.

    Cotillion / The Rope 

Hood: 'The same can be said for Cotillion, for the patron of assassins well comprehended that just as certain individuals deserve a knife through the heart, so too do certain... ideas.'

The Patron of Assassins and right-hand-man of Shadowthrone. Cotillion is among the first characters introduced in the series when he possesses the young girl called Sorry in the beginning of Gardens of the Moon.
Shadowthrone and he are the mysterious new lords of the long-inactive realm of Shadow, mostly characterized by their ambition and daring, compared to the more established gods of the setting. He is also known as The Rope, because of his unique choice of weapon.
  • Anti-Villain: While his methods might be questionable —being the Patron of Assassins and all—, his goals are far less nasty, culminating in seeing through his and Shadowthrone's plan to heal and free the Crippled God and send him back to his homeworld in The Crippled God.
  • The Champion: As Assassin of High House Shadow he serves as the champion to Shadowthrone, taking on the more physical obstacles compared to Shadowthrone's preference of scheming and use of obfuscating magic.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Emperor Kellanved and his right-hand man Dancer found a way to the unoccupied Throne of Shadow and ascended upon gaining power over it, becoming Shadowthrone and Cotillion, the God of Shadows and the Patron God of Assassins, respectively.
  • Demonic Possession: He takes over Sorry's body in the beginning of Gardens of the Moon to spy on the Malazan Empire from within.
  • The Dragon: Cotillion is the fighter to Shadowthrone's mage and often acts as his champion if there is need for physical combat. While Cotillion is also seen acting in his own interests, he also enforces Shadowthrone's plans.
  • In the Hood: Cotillion is described as wearing a hooded cloak. Since he is the Patron God of Assassins, it comes with the occupation. Additionally, unlike his companion Shadowthrone, Cotillion has retained his human features upon becoming a god and wants to remain unrecognizable to anyone who may have known him when he was mortal.
  • Knows the Ropes: An alternative name for the Patron God of Assassins, Cotillion, is "the Rope", which is his chosen weapon. The way its use is described in battle is reminiscent of a variably long whip, although him being the Patron of Assassins a garrotte is another possible use for it. Justified considering Cotillion is a Physical God and has shadow magic at his disposal to aid with his rope's efficiency.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Rope, Patron of Assassins doesn't exactly sound like he's a cuddly fellow.
  • Parental Substitute: Mostly motivated by guilt, he seems to be trying to become one to Sorry/Apsalar, as a means of making up for what he put her through.
  • Pet the Dog: Cotillion tries to alleviate some of Sorry's fear right before he possesses her, reassuring her that the experience won't be that bad. The further into the series you get, the more he seems to recover his compassion and humanity, often helping out Apsalar and obviously regretting his treatment of her.
  • Physical God: In (mortal) life, he and Shadowthrone aimed specifically for godhood, specifically seeking out ways to ascend, and eventually found one by examining the Deadhouse in Malaz City.
  • Professional Killer: Cotillion is the Patron of Assassins. Prior to his ascension to godhood he was Dancer, the founder of the imperial Talon, the Emperor's own coven of assassins.
  • The Reveal: He was formerly known as Dancer, Emperor Kellanved's companion, and ascended alongside his master.
  • Revenge: Like Shadowthrone, Cotillion seeks revenge on Laseen for killing them and usurping the throne of the Malazan Empire they built. Though this might be a case of Early-Installment Weirdness in the case of Gardens of the Moon, since them getting killed was their steppingstone to ascend and their big revenge plan is not addressed again further down the line...
  • Shipper on Deck: He seems to want Cutter and Apsalar to be happy. It's just that, well, try as he might to be a kind father figure, he's not the god of happy endings, he's the god of murdering people in the face, so while his approval is well-meaning, he doesn't necessarily make the situation better.

    Sorry / Apsalar 

Quick Ben: 'I never believed in pure evil before Sorry showed up. But you're right, she's awfully young.'

Sorry is a recruit in Whiskeyjack's squad. She is awfully young and awfully unsettling, possessing the abilities and ruthlessness of a seasoned assassin, going so far as scaring Kalam, a former Claw. She used to be a fisher girl in Itko Kan, but due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time once, she has found herself in the service of High House Shadow and a vessel for the Patron of Assassins. After the possession is ended, she takes on the name Apsalar yet, due to having no other skills, remains in the employ of High House Shadow.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: After being freed from Cotillion's possession, she exhibits a brief period of almost childlike innocence as her last memories are from her life in a fishing village and the memories of her time as a cold-blooded killer have yet to resurface again.
  • Brainwash Residue: Aside from some leftover memories and skills from being possessed by the Patron of Assassins, Apsalar also retains some other things like movement patterns — Urko Crust at first assumes her to be Cotillion's daughter despite looking nothing like him, simply based on how she walks.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Apsalar leaves Cutter in order to keep him from following in her footsteps and becoming an assassin after realising how far he's already gone down that path for her sake.
  • Broken Bird: She seems to be coping quite well with having been possessed by Cotillion and being unable to go back to her life as a fisher girl, but the fact that she keeps pushing Cutter away while at the same time showing occasional glimpses of breaking down tells another story.
  • Dance Battler: From The Bonehunters on, Apsalar is able to employ the Shadow Dance, a technique developed within the Cult of Rashan which enables the dancer to use shadow magic for fighting and assassination. In her case, the ability comes from having been possessed by Cotillion, the Patron God of Assassins.
  • Dark Action Girl: Though she's one of the more prominent characters, she's perceived as pure evil by some characters at first, and even later she remains an assassin who works for High House Shadow. Thanks to the skills inherited from Cotillion and the Shadow Dance, Apsalar is able to take down entire Hands of the Claw.
  • Demonic Possession: Divine possession by the Patron God of Assassins, who for the duration is in complete control her. Apsalar carries around the scars of having been possessed by Cotillion for most of the rest of the series, and the latter spends much of it trying to make it up to her.
  • Doomed Hometown: Though not actually destroyed, all the villagers of the fishing village she grew up at and the nearby town were killed by Shadowthrone and Cotillion to cover up her disappearance and subsequent possession.
  • The Dreaded: As Sorry. Quick Ben jumps whenever she's around (or even worse — not around), Kalam becomes nervous and even Whiskeyjack, always the one who tries to see the best in people, has to admit that Sorry makes him uncomfortable. During their time in Darujhistan, the entire squad is constantly on edge with fear of Sorry killing someone unasked and endangering their mission, and yet, nobody wants to actually have her at their quarters either.
  • Emotionless Girl: Upon their first meeting in Gardens of the Moon, Tattersail describes Sorry as 'young, pretty as an icicle and looking as warm to the touch' and immediately has a feeling that something's wrong with the girl. Sorry doesn't seem to care and remains cold and distant until her possession by Cotillion is ended.
  • Ghost Memory:
    • Even after her possession by Cotillion ends, Apsalar — after a short stint as Amnesiacs are Innocent — retains some of his personal memories (as mortal and Ascendant) and skills as an assassin. The memories feel like her own to her and at first she speaks of events from before she was born as if they'd happened to her personally.
    • Additionally, she also retains some scattered memories of Riggalai the Seer, the old wax-witch that tried to protect her from Cotillion's possession.
  • Grand Theft Me: It is implied by Riggalai that Cotillion's possession would have completely annihilated the fisher girl's spirit, so deeply was it suppressed, had the old witch not intervened and shielded the girl within her own mind. Thus, while the Cotillion controls Sorry completely, enough of her is left to return when the possession is ended.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: While she retains memories of Cotillion's life as Dancer, Apsalar does lose all memories of what Cotillion did while he controlled her body.
  • Little Miss Badass: Sorry exemplifies this trope. In the first book, she joins the most badass squad in the Bridgeburners while still in her teens and leaves a trail of blood in her wake on the way there. Her presence and uncanny competence when it comes to killing make Professional Killer Kalam Mekhar queasy and the squad mage Quick Ben jump at shadows. Of course, she's also possessed by the Patron God of Assassins.
  • Loss of Identity: She remembers quite a bit of her life pre-possession, but clearly isn't that girl anymore, not to mention that she has memories which aren't even hers while she still cannot remember her own name.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The name Sorry is chosen by Cotillion when he possesses her and enlists her in the Malazan Army. It is his way to express how he feels about using the girl for his own means.
    • However, when she has a chance to choose her own name, she averts the trope by just asking Crokus to give her a name he likes. He can't think of anything and proposes the name of the Goddess of Thieves and she takes it because she likes the sound of 'Apsalar'.
  • Mysterious Waif: Sorry is a young Emotionless Girl who shows up out of nowhere and knows more than a recruit ever should. She mostly keeps to herself, lets an occasional comment slip and seems to have some kind of agenda. Deconstructed because aside from teenage thief Crokus who is enthralled by her, everyone is creeped out, even the assassin and the mage of the squad. The war-hardened soldiers refuse to accept her into the squad or even see her as human and get nervous when she hasn't been seen for a certain time. Sorry is in fact a fisher girl displaced from her home, possessed by the Patron God of Assassins and turned into a Psycho for Hire. Cotillion eventually is made to withdraw from the possession, leaving behind a girl with a mix of memories of both a fisher girl and a Professional Killer. She loses her Mysterious Waif appeal, but finally draws people to her who are willing to help her return home.
  • One-Man Army: Thanks to the Shadow Dance, in The Bonehunters Apsalar is able to fight her way through upwards of a hundred Claw, leaving only red mist behind.
  • Professional Killer: As Sorry, later renamed Apsalar, she works as an assassin for High House Shadow. In fact, she used to be possessed by Cotillion, the Patron God of Assassins, who left behind a big chunk of his own skills and memories and effectively turned what used to be an innocent fisher girl into a Psycho for Hire. Apsalar still occasionally works as an assassin when in need of money as of The Bonehunters.
  • Psycho for Hire: Sorry poses as one while infiltrating the Malazan Army, to better discourage closer scrutiny of her persona. She scares Quick Ben, Whiskeyjack, and even former Claw Kalam, she's so damn creepy.
  • Psycho Knife Nut: Knives are Sorry's weapons of choice. Quick Ben and Kalam recall an incident in which instead of killing a man, she basically mutilated him until even seasoned killer Kalam could not watch any longer and had to step in and kill the poor sod. She retains her preference for knives even after the possession ends.
  • Waif-Fu: Thanks to Demonic Possession resulting in the skills of a trained assassin, and later the Shadow Dance, this less than twenty years old, asian looking note  girl is a potential One-Man Army.

    Iskaral Pust 

'No, better keep that thought unspoken! Cultured conversation has been rediscovered and used with guile and grace. Look upon them, Iskaral Pust, they are won over one and all.'

Iskaral Pust is a quirky High Priest of Shadow living in the abandoned monastery Tesem in Seven Cities. His only roommates are a manservant that can turn into a mule and a large number of the resident flying mini-monkeys bhoka'rala, who seem to worship him as their god.He has a severe dislike of the spiders that roam his home and is usually seen chasing them with his trusty broom and getting quite agitated when the bhoka'rala get in the way of his hunt. As a High Priest he serves Shadowthrone directly, usually playing the errant boy, whenever the Lord of Shadow is in need of mortal help.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Pust's very first scene has him interrupting his own 'epic' monologue by falling off of his mule, then proceeds to almost fail to climb the rope to his own frontdoor. Then it turns out that he's a High Priest of Shadow, serving one of the more magnificent schemers of the pantheon. By the end of Deadhouse Gates it is revealed that he successfully managed to cheat all shapeshifters on the continent out of their chance at godhood by creating a fake Path of Hands to steer them around his monastery, which hides the gate they were looking for.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Pust is known to make comments like 'she's falling for my clever scheme' right in the face of the person he is trying to manipulate. And then acts like he didn't.
  • Evil Genius: The only reason Shadowthrone keeps him around. His results reinforce this decision; if something needs to be done, Pust will somehow manage to do it, obstacles notwithstanding. He even manages to become The Magus of High House Shadow, personally appointed to the task by Shadowthrone himself, simply by merit alone.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: It's really hard to tell if Pust is faking his absolutely erratic dialogue and cripplingly clumsy behaviour, or if he just happens to be both rather bright and totally nuts.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Despite his craziness, tendency towards accidentally stabbing himself in the foot, and an ego the size of some small countries, Iskaral Pust is actually quite bright, and at times, surprisingly effective. A High Priest of Shadow is a big deal — and he's outwitted his fair share of god-like Ascendants like the ancient Ryllandaras.
  • Talkative Loon: The usual reaction characters have to Pust is stunned silence, since he just won't stop babbling nonsense, interspersed with important information. Even Shadowthrone, his personal patron deity, can't shut him up during an audience.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Pust's dialogue is half conversation and half inner monologue, all thrown at the people talking to him. It is most likely part of his tactic of making people underestimate him.