Ascendants were individuals who had transcended death. In the time of the First Empire they had been called First Heroes. Ascendants could become gods if they gained sufficient following among mortals, but they were not gods by default. Those without worshippers were considered unchained, or Unaligned in the language of the Deck of Dragons. Gods who lost their worshippers remained ascendant, but were effectively emasculated unless worship was somehow renewed.
Ascendants possessed some sort of power — be it sorcery, personality, or something else — that gave them an unusual degree of efficacy. Their strength of will meant that when they acted, the results rippled through everything. They were more or less immortal, but could be killed. They had access to magic, even if they were not mages prior to their ascension. But ascendancy had its drawbacks. Ascendants began to see things differently and think differently. Power drew power like a force in nature and a confluence of energies. Ascendents drew the interest of other ascendants, gods, and powers, which was not something to take lightly. Seven Cities was one of two continents which were especially unhealthy places to be an ascendant. The other was not revealed.
Ganoes Paran theorised that ascendancy was "a natural phenomenon, an inevitable probability." He believed enough pressure from a mass of people caused ascendants to arise as heroes, and over generations to become gods representing some long-lost golden age. A large number of ascendants living at the same time might cause difficult and unsettled conditions, but eventually the numbers would shake themselves out.
In a 2020 interview, author Steven Erikson said "quite often...in the books if somebody is striving for ascendancy, trying to achieve it, they won't get it...It basically...it needs to arrive as a direct and inevitable consequence of their nature." On the other hand, Erikson has also said it is possible for ascendency to happen "simply because somebody is in a particular place at a particular time...there are forces beyond sort of one's individual will that can act upon an individual. The question then is what do they do with it."
- Anomander Rake
- Caladan Brood
- Iskar Jarak
- Sheltatha Lore
- Sukul Ankhadu
Ascendants listed in the Glossary of Gardens of the Moon
Notes and references
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 10
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.439-440
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.255
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.137
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, US HC p.108
- Ten Very Big Books podcast - Deadhouse Gates (See 21:40)
- Interview with Steven Erikson, Best-Selling Author and Archaeologist - Systems Change Alliance - See 28:50
- Gardens of the Moon, Glossary, UK MMPB p.705
- Deadhouse Gates, Glossary