- "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 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 kept alive indefinitely. They required a Guardian or Keeper to be there to greet guests and, in dire cases, protect them.
Azath houses were all similar in design, their fronts featuring squat, asymmetrical two-story towers framing a shadowed entranceway. People could travel between warrens in Azath Houses, but very few could open the door and enter an Azath. 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 a few instances where Azath houses had 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. Another died in the Fall of the Crippled God.
The 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 upwards or downwards.
The left hallway also 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 a sentient creature as it was capable of speaking through its closed great helm.
The 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.
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.
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 travel to the Deadhouse in Malaz City.
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 observe the sleeping Burn.
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, 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 under a cloak of soil.
The Azath Tower in Letheras 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 one of its prisoners, Silchas Ruin, guaranteeing his freedom if he killed the more dangerous residents bound in the yard. After the tower perished, it gradually became the site of a newly born Hold of Death.
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. He explained that when he and Shadowthrone were still the mortal rulers of the Malazan Empire they had spent years mapping every Azath House across the realm in an attempt to master their power. They quickly 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 were not only prisons and portals, but were also repositories for the Lost Elementals. These were the source of the Houses' power and he 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.
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 awakened the Kettle House in the Refugium, anchoring the realm and sealing the gate to Starvald Demelain.
An Elder Azath Builder (called 'Elder'), a gigantic being (roughly 'four stories high'), was a mason who built Azath Houses. Elder was essentially a prisoner of the Jaghut, Gothos, as he was kept in an unnamed warren to which only Gothos normally had easy access. Nimander Golit and his party of Tiste Andii close kin and Kallor came upon a ruined tower that Gothos was then inhabiting, as the group was travelling to Bastion in central Genabackis. Having taken tea with Gothos, Nimander then accidently fell through a 'gate' inside the ruined tower and in so doing met the Elder in the Warren where Gothos had him trapped. The Elder and Nimander talked and Nimander learned that, although the Elder would build Azath Houses, each time Gothos always managed it so that he (and not the Elder) would vanish with the newly completed House - leaving the Elder behind. Nimander finally figured out a way to circumvent this practice of Gothos, however, and after the Elder proceeded to build a new Azath, this time the Elder vanished along with the House when it was finished. Thus, finally freeing the Elder Azath Builder, and allowing him to build Azath Houses where and when he pleased.
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.
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 failed and 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 desparate Kiska prepared to enter the grounds of the Deadhouse to offer her services to the Guardian in return for assistance in finding Tayschrenn. She was dissuaded by the timely arrival of Agayla.
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.
- Kettle House, Refugium (contained the gates to 12 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, previously 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 Nah'ruk and the Che'Malle.
- "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
- ↑ 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
- ↑ Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.448
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Memories of Ice, Chapter 5
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 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, 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
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.506-510
- ↑ Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, US TPB p.260-264/267-270/271-273/274
- ↑ Return of the Crimson Guard, Prologue, UK PB p.1-2
- ↑ Stonewielder, Chapter 1, UK TPB p.76-78
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, US HC p.554-558
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.573