- "I am the House
imprisoning in my birth
so locked in each chamber
some trembling enraged
And these roots of stone
spread the deepest cracks
in parched ground
holding for ever the dream
of fruit, ah, pilgrims
come to my door
and starve ..."
- ―Azath (ii.iii)
Azath Houses [Ah-Zath] grew where untamed magic ran wild. They were said to arise where unchained power threatened life. They were the ultimate prisons in which Ascendants, or other beings of great power, were buried in the House's yard but kept alive there indefinitely. They required a Guardian or Keeper to be there to greet guests and, in dire cases, protect them.
Azath Houses tended to be similar in design, their fronts featuring squat, asymmetrical two-story towers framing a shadowed entrance. People could travel between Warrens in Azath Houses, but very few could open the door from the outside so as to enter the House. Silverfox said, "... each Azath is home to every gate, a way into every Warren." According to Mappo, "It's said the Azath bridge the realms — every realm. It's said that even time itself ceases within their walls."
There were instances when Azath Houses died. One was torn apart by Icarium Lifestealer; which destroyed his capacity to retain memories. Another House was destroyed in The Elder Age by Osserc and others, as part of an experiment. Still another Azath House died in the Fall of the Crippled God.
- 1 Interior
- 2 In Gardens of the Moon
- 3 In Deadhouse Gates
- 4 In Memories of Ice
- 5 In House of Chains
- 6 In Midnight Tides
- 7 In The Bonehunters
- 8 In Reaper's Gale
- 9 In Toll the Hounds
- 10 In Dust of Dreams
- 11 In The Crippled God
- 12 In Night of Knives
- 13 In Return of the Crimson Guard
- 14 In Stonewielder
- 15 In Blood and Bone
- 16 Traveling between Houses
- 17 Known Azath Houses
- 18 Quotes
- 19 Notes and references
Azath Houses shared similar interior layouts. The front door of the House opened into a dimly lit hallway that reached a T-intersection after five paces. Directly ahead was a set of double doors leading to the House's main room. To the right and left were hallways seven paces long leading to several doors. One door in each hallway facing the front of the House, opened onto the first floor of each tower. Within the towers were spiral stairs leading both up and down.
The left hallway often contained an alcove which displayed a massive ten-foot-tall suit of resplendent scale armour framed by two double-bladed axes. The armour either contained, or was possessed by, a sentient creature as it could speak through its closed great helm.
An Azath House's main room contained a stone fireplace that blazed without the presence of any visible fuel. The fire's edges revealed it as a small portal that opened into a Warren of ceaseless fire.
In Gardens of the Moon
An Azath House arose from the spot where the Finnest of the Jaghut Tyrant, Raest, was planted in the gardens of Coll's estate in Darujhistan. The Finnest attempted to assault the young Azath but it was defended by Onos T'oolan and Ganoes Paran. The Finnest and Raest were later both imprisoned in the House.
In Deadhouse Gates
Fiddler, Apsalar, and Crokus traveled to the legendary Azath House, Tremorlor, in the heart of the Holy Desert Raraku. Tremorlor was under assault by Soletaken and D'ivers in search of the Path of Hands. It was revealed that all Azath Houses contained a gate that led to all the other Houses. The three used this gate to reach the Azath Warren and to travel to the Deadhouse Azath House in Malaz City.
In Memories of Ice
Raest became the Guardian of the Finnest House. When Ganoes Paran arrived there in spirit form, the Jaghut revealed that the Azath had chosen Paran as the 'Master of the Deck'. He led Paran six or seven levels down one of the tower stairs into darkness. Paran continued on alone and reached a vast concourse of tiles resembling cards in the Deck of Dragons. He found many unrecognisable and thought them to be Lost Houses or forgotten Unaligned. By concentrating on the image carved into different tiles, he was able to visit the Beast Hold and to observe the sleeping Burn.
In House of Chains
The Jaghut, Cynnigig, took Karsa Orlong to the tree/Jaghut that was Phyrlis. She had been killed by the T'lan Imass when she was just a baby, and they had spitted her on a stick in the grounds of a dying Azath House, the very same that Icarium had tried to destroy in his efforts to free his father. Miraculously, the Azath House took what it could of Phyrlis' lifespirit and was reborn and in turn the wood's lifespirit kept the child alive. Phyrlis had disguised well the foundations which had survived, the walls of the House, and the cornerstones - all under a cloak of soil.
In Midnight Tides
After invading the Malazan world as allies, Scabandari Bloodeye turned on Silchas Ruin and entombed him in the Azath Tower that occupied the site that would one day become Letheras. Not long after, Menandore and Sukul Ankhadu conspired against Sheltatha Lore to imprison her in the same place.
Hundreds of thousands of years later, the Azath Tower was dying of old age and its Guardian was Kettle, a young undead girl it had chosen in its desperation. Before it perished, it made a bargain with the imprisoned Ruin, guaranteeing his freedom if he killed the more dangerous residents bound in the yard. After the Azath Tower perished, it gradually became the site of a newly born Hold of Death.
In The Bonehunters
The Nameless Ones were an ancient cult devoted to the Azath Houses, who considered themselves the "hands of the Azath". One of their duties was to provide the immensely powerful and amnesiac Jhag, Icarium, with a companion to watch over him. When Icarium's current companion, Mappo Runt, failed to maintain the terms of his vow to the cult, the Nameless Ones forcibly replaced the Trell with Taralack Veed and attempted to kill Mappo.
Veed told Icarium that the Jhag had damaged his memory when he long ago attempted to free his father, Gothos, from an Azath House. The experience had driven the Jhag into a rage that destroyed the House and shattered a Warren. As a result, a host of demonic entities seeking tyranny and domination were released from the House. Ironically, the destruction had been for nought as Icarium did not know that his father had entered the House willingly to become its Guardian. Ever since, the Nameless Ones had provided the damaged Jhag with a companion to temper and guide his fury.
Cotillion visited Mappo during his recuperation and provided much information regarding the Azath Houses and their connection to Icarium. Cotillion explained that when he and Shadowthrone were still the mortal rulers of the Malazan Empire they had spent years trying to map every Azath House across the realms in an attempt to master their power. The two eventually realised that such a task could not be achieved by a mortal spirit or within a mortal lifespan - which drove their ambition to become gods. In doing so, they learned that the Azath Houses were not only prisons and portals, but were also repositories for the Lost Elementals. These were the source of the Houses' power and Cotillion speculated they included such elements as life, death, dark, light, shadow, past, present, future, desire, deed, sound, silence, faith, and denial. The complexity of relationships between the elementals was perhaps unknowable by any but the Azath.
With this insight, Cotillion and Shadowthrone determined to leave this power to the Azath until they realised that the Azath's control was failing. Cotillion believed the Nameless Ones understood this truth as well, and their action to replace Mappo was a sign of desperation. Therefore both Cotillion and Shadowthrone sought to aid Mappo and Icarium to counter the Nameless Ones from committing an act that would further pitch the Azath towards chaos and dissolution. They had rescued Mappo and put him on the path to curing Icarium's condition to foil the cult's plans for the Jhag. Cotillion stated that Icarium's destruction of the House had burned an infection into the Jhag's soul that Mappo would need to expunge.
On the night that Adjunct Tavore Paran brought the 14th Army to Malaz City, Kalam Mekhar was gravely injured and poisoned by Pearl and the Claw. Shadowthrone employed three Wraiths of Shadow to carry the dying Bridgeburner to the Deadhouse's doorstep, then he rapped once on the door and hurriedly left the Deadhouse grounds. The god watched with impatience as the heavily armoured Guardian of the Deadhouse opened the door and slowly looked down at the body before dragging it inside by the scruff of its neck.
In Reaper's Gale
Discussing Shadow with Cotillion, Quick Ben observed that the House of Shadow was itself an Azath construct that had usurped the original gate of Kurald Emurlahn. The House existed both as its true physical manifestation and its cast shadow, forming a nexus where the two were indistinguishable. It had managed to accomplish this at a time when Kurald Emurlahn had been shattered and dying. Quick Ben wondered whether the Azath served as some kind of immune system to heal the fragmented Elder Warren. Cotillion also admitted that he and Kellanved had stumbled upon the use of the Azath Houses as gates with fixed exits and pathways between them.
Sukul retrieved Sheltatha from the grounds of the Azath Tower where Ruin had rebound her in his own magic. Sheltatha demanded Sukul help punish Menandore by imprisoning her in another Azath, but Sukul informed her that the dead tower had been the only Azath House in Lether.
Hannan Mosag cut the spirit of Bruthen Trana free of his body so that he could search the bottom of the ocean for Brys Beddict. Bruthen soon became lost on the ocean floor, unsure of what he sought, until he stumbled upon a blockish Azath House heaped on one side with detritus from the sea and surrounded by a yard of dead trees. A light shone from the upper window of one tower, drawing him in despite the current's attempt to push him off the path to his doom. At the door he was greeted by Knuckles, who brought him inside to share a drink with himself and Kilmandaros in one of the House's towers--the only place large enough to fit her enormous form. The inside of the tower was fifty paces across and appeared bigger inside than from without. Its ceiling disappeared into the shadows and raised dais in the room was heaped with silk, pillows, and furs. The Elder Goddess was attempting to discern a pattern in a casting of bones. She boasted that the Azath House had not been able to hold her despite the betrayal of Anomander Rake that had imprisoned her there. Knuckles eventually told Bruthen the thing the Tiste Edur was looking for was at the place of the Names of the Gods.
Before it died, the Azath Tower of Letheras had secretly implanted Kettle with the Azath's seed which had slowly returned her to life. Silchas Ruin was tasked with delivering the Azath's seed to the Refugium. Using Scabandari's Finnest, he stabbed Kettle in the chest and awakened the Kettle House in the Refugium, anchoring the realm and sealing the twelves Gates of Starvald Demelain. Quick Ben noted that putting the gates under the House's control meant giving Shadowthrone and Cotillion full access to them.
In Toll the Hounds
- "You are the mason, the maker of the [Azath] Houses.It is your task."
- ―Comment made to Elder by Nimander Golit
Elder — a gigantic entity roughly 'four stories high' — was a mason who built Azath Houses. Elder, at this time, was essentially a prisoner of the Jaghut, Gothos, and he was kept in a Warren-like place to which only Gothos normally had access. Nimander Golit and his party of Tiste Andii close kin and Kallor, while on their way to Bastion in central Genabackis, came upon the ruined tower in which Gothos was then living — a tower which had once been an Azath House. Having taken tea with Gothos, Nimander then accidentally fell through a 'gate' inside the ruined tower. The Tiste Andii encountered the trapped Elder in a Warren-like place full of hostile spirits. The Elder and Nimander talked and Nimander learned that Elder was not aware of any other Azath House builders like himself. Nimander then was told that, whenever Elder had built Azath Houses in the past, Gothos had always managed it so that he would vanish with each newly completed House — leaving Elder behind.
However, Nimander finally figured out a way to circumvent this practice of Gothos. Elder began to build a new Azath House with the help of Nimander. The gigantic builder: shaped raw stone into blocks with his bare fists; used rounded hammerstones; and wooden mallets wrapped in leather — producing blocks which fit cleverly together like an immense puzzle. When the final block was placed from the outside by Nimander, Elder — inside — vanished. Elder was finally free of Gothos, and thereafter was able to build Azath Houses when and where he pleased. After Elder's departure, Nimander was able to rejoin his travelling companions.
In Dust of Dreams
Icarium awakened an Azath House in the north of Kolanse using the Errant's eye beneath Kalse Uprooted at the tail-end of the battle between the K'Chain Nah'ruk and the K'Chain Che'Malle. This sealed the gate to the Imperial Warren through which the Nah'ruk Skykeeps were attacking.
In The Crippled God
In Night of Knives
Various forces converged on the Deadhouse in Malaz City on the night of the Shadow Moon. Jhenna, the Jaghut Guardian of the Deadhouse attempted to break out but was stalled by Temper and was captured. Kellanved and Dancer succeeded in gaining entry where others had failed and so ascended to High House Shadow.
In the Elder Age, the Child of Earth, Denuth, found an injured Liossercal at the site of a violent explosion. Denuth was soon horrified to realize that Liossercal had obtained his wounds in the act of destroying an Azath House. Liossercal argued that "Draconus is a fool. His conclusions flawed. Rigidity is not the answer". Instead, Liossercal claimed his own actions at the Azath House were for "exploring alternatives".
A desperate Kiska prepared to enter the grounds of the Deadhouse in Malaz City to offer her services to the Guardian in return for assistance in finding Tayschrenn. She was dissuaded by the timely arrival of Agayla.
In Blood and Bone
Traveling between Houses
Visitors to an Azath House were able to access the Azath Warren by climbing the stairs in one of the House's towers. Disappearing in a flash of light, they would then appear on an endless flat plain where the sky was pitch black. The only light came from the rhythmically pulsating glow of the hand-width mosaic tiles that decorated the floor. Observation of the tiles revealed that they displayed maps of the Malazan world and presumably every other world where Azath Houses existed. When it was time to arrive at the destination House a gaping black hole opened in the floor revealing that only an inch of tile stood between the traveler and oblivion. Passing through the hole brought one into a room in the new House identical to the one they departed from.
Known Azath Houses
- Azath Tower, Letheras cemetery, Guardian: Kettle.
- Deadhouse, Malaz City, Guardians: Jhenna, later Gothos, Jaghut.
- Finnest House, Darujhistan, Guardian: Raest, Jaghut Tyrant.
- House of Shadow, Shadow realm
- Kettle House, Refugium (contained the gates to twelve Warrens, including Kurald Galain and Starvald Demelain), now destroyed.
- Jhag Odhan House, Jhag Odhan, Destroyed by Icarium.
- Tremorlor (Odhanhouse), Holy Desert Raraku, Guardian: Moby, Soletaken bokharala, replacing an unknown Forkrul Assail.
- House under the sea, Mael's realm. Guardian: Sechul Lath.
- Unnamed Azath House, clutching Kalse Uprooted, on the site of the battle between the K'Chain Nah'ruk and the K'Chain Che'Malle.
- Unnamed Azath House, Korel, destroyed in the Fall of the Crippled God. Guardian unknown.
- "They are waning. We should let them go in peace."
- ―Tayschrenn, explaining why Azath Houses were not a matter for human investigation
Notes and references
- Ten Very Big Books podcast - Deadhouse Gates As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 48:02
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.458
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19, US HC p.516
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19, US HC p.498-499
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 4
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19
- House of Chains, Chapter 17
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Prologue, UK PB p.1-2
- Dust of Dreams, Chapter 19
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.448
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 5
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.516/519/521
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.574
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 21
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22
- House of Chains, Chapter 17
- Midnight Tides, Prologue
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 7, UK MMPB p.276-278
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.155-156
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.155-156
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.334
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.537
- The Bonehunters, Glossary
- The Bonehunters, Prologue, US SFBC p.30-31
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.266-267
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.398-401
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.493-494
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.506-510
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.954-956
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.190
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 5, US HC p.118
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 9, US HC p.215
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 15, US HC p.441-442
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 20, US HC p.584-591
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 23, US HC p.737-738/741-742
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, US TPB p.260-264/267-269/274
- Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, US TPB p.269-270/271-273/274
- Stonewielder, Chapter 1, UK TPB p.76-78
- Blood and Bone, Chapters 2, 10, 14
- Blood and Bone, Chapter 10
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, US HC p.554-558
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.573