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Cotillion, also called The Rope,[3] was the companion of Shadowthrone and the Patron God of Assassins.[4] Ammanas sometimes called him 'old friend'.[5]

Cotillion was tall (taller than Ammanas)[6] with dark hair, at times worn straight and loose, also described as almost ragged. Another time it was described as 'a shock of black hair cut short'.[7] His features were described as plain and even, although he had a strange hatch pattern of scars below his right eye. Karsa Orlong judged Cotillion to be pale as if unfamiliar with sunlight and with eyes that shifted colour in sunlight, blue to grey, to green and perhaps even brown, reflecting a cascade of indecision that matched his expression on that occasion.[8]

He was usually garbed in gray or black, tightly wrapped around his limbs, with a hood loosely covering his head. He wore black leather gloves.[9] He wore light leather armour, deer-hide leggings, and well-worn boots. Cotillion's weapons of choice included a coiled length of rope and a plain knife, which he kept on either hip.[10]

He was not known to lie or betray his word.[11]

In Gardens of the Moon[]

The Rope - Interpretation by slaine69

As part of a plot to gain revenge on Empress Laseen and to cause the collapse of the Empire she ruled but had never earned,[12] Cotillion possessed a young fisher girl from a village off the coast of Itko Kan.[13] Meanwhile, Shadowthrone sent the Hounds of Shadow to kill every possible witness in the area, including an entire regiment of the Itko Kanese 8th Cavalry. The girl, named Sorry by Cotillion,[14] joined Onearm's Host on Genabackis[15] eventually ending up with the Bridgeburners.[6]

Adjunct Lorn and Captain Ganoes Paran set out to investigate the Itko Kan Massacre. Paran traveled to Pale where Cotillion, in his guise as Sorry, murdered him[12] to draw Lorn into the fray[16] and to stop Paran from interfering in Sorry's work. As Cotillion approached Paran, an icy wind washed over the captain.[17] Paran revived only due to Oponn's intervention.[18]

Cotillion accompanied the Bridgeburners to Darujhistan where he sought out the Coinbearer, the agent of the meddling Oponn. His attention first focused on Kruppe, who he followed to the Phoenix Inn. There he discovered his true quarry, Crokus Younghand.[19]

Cotillion followed Crokus into the Gadrobi Hills, but before he could murder the young man, he was forced to relinquish his hold on Sorry after Shadowthrone was threatened by Anomander Rake.[20] He and the Hound Rood later tracked down Ganoes Paran after Simtal's Gedderone Fête. Cotillion admitted his plan with Sorry had been flawed and he would have to try something new against the Empress. Paran offered him the sword, Chance, and Cotillion accepted.[21]

In Deadhouse Gates[]

Sorry, now known as Apsalar, traveled with Fiddler, Kalam, and Crokus to Seven Cities. There she experienced memories from the life of the god who had possessed her. From her account, they managed to work out Shadowthrone and Cotillion's true identities.[22]

Interpretation of Cotillion by Aranict

From his memories, she said Cotillion was an assassin who had not killed for coin, but for more honourable reasons. Cotillion saw himself as a man who fixed things in the most brutally efficient manner for the greater need. In fact, the assassin possessed some measure of sympathy for Laseen, who herself had made a calculated decision against Kellanved and Dancer for what she perceived as the best interest of the Empire.[23]

Later Cotillion met the demon Apt and her adopted child Panek in the Shadow Realm. Introducing himself as Uncle Cotillion he expressed regret that the boy remembered his crucifixion and assured him that the punishment had not been the boy's fault. Cotillion was stunned to discover that the boy was able to see walls, trees, and other parts of the old places of the Shadow Hold that he could not. He asked the boy to teach him what he saw. Then he admitted to Apt that when he Ascended "it was to escape the nightmares of feeling...Imagine my surprise that I now thank you for such chains". When the boy asked him if he had any children, Cotillion revealed that he had a daughter of sorts. But they had a falling-out and she would need to forgive him for them to be reconciled.[24]

In Memories of Ice[]

Cotillion by Efirende

Ganoes Paran told Silverfox that it was rumoured that Emperor Kellanved and Dancer had found a way into the Deadhouse in Malaz City. She shocked Paran by revealing that the pair had then ascended and taken control of High House Shadow as Shadowthrone and Cotillion. A thirst for vengeance explained why the two Ascendants had been trying to destroy a mere mortal such as Laseen. Silverfox theorised that although the Deadhouse was aspected to Death, Hood already occupied the position of King of High House Death. Since every Azath House led to every gate and Warren, Kellanved and Dancer had chosen Shadow as that House and throne had been empty. Afterwards, the House of Shadow had taken its place in the Deck of Dragons.[25]

During the Pannion War, Dujek Onearm tried to put Empress Laseen's recent actions into context for Whiskeyjack. The average Malazan soldier believed that Whiskeyjack had been stripped of his rank to eliminate a potential rival to the throne.[26] But Laseen had purposefully inverted the command structure so that "the right people would be there at ground level when Shadowthrone and Cotillion made their move."[27]

In House of Chains[]

Interpretation of Apsalar, Cotillion and Crokus by Puck

Cotillion personally met with the Red Blade, Lostara Yil, asking of her a favor that would benefit the Malazan Empire and Laseen in turn.[28]

Cotillion by Dejan Delic

Cotillion sent Cutter and Apsalar to Drift Avalii in order to protect the Throne of Shadow.[29] He arrived in the nick of time to save Cutter from the Tiste Edur, displaying amazing skill with his Rope and killing the rest of the Edur, then dismissing the cowering Blind, who had for some reason, been tamed and dismissed by the Edur, in disgust. He told Cutter to give the sword, Vengeance to Traveller and later sent the two to Iskaral Pust's temple. He and Shadowthrone stayed behind to mourn the loss of Hawl, who had died in the fight with the Tiste Edur. They then discussed their next move.[30]

Apsalar asked him to stay away from Cutter and agreed to do his work herself in order to prevent Crokus from becoming a killer, to which Cotillion agreed.

In The Bonehunters[]

The gods began taking sides in the conflict with the Crippled God and Shadowthrone set himself and Cotillion on a risky and treacherous path. A convergence was coming with Shadowthrone at its center.[31] Cotillion noted his friend looked particularly insubstantial as his resources were stretched thin.[32]

Cotillion and Apsalar by Cadmean

Cotillion gave Apsalar a list of people to assassinate to settle old scores and clean house before the struggle to come.[33][34] The god visited her in Ehrlitan where he was unsettled to learn that the Nameless Ones had already eliminated her latest target, Mebra, who had been poised to take over the Cult of Rashan.[35] Cotillion was genuinely concerned for Apsalar and assured her that once her mission was complete, her service to Shadow would be over.[36]

Edgewalker unexpectedly joined a wary Cotillion as the god made his way to where the Eleint, Ampelas, Eloth, and Kalse, were imprisoned in Shadow. The god dangled the possibility of freedom for the trio in return for their allegiance in the coming war. He used the discussion that followed to trick the Eleint into revealing that the Crippled God was working through Shadow because its sundering made it weak. His objective achieved, he left the raging dragons to their fate. Edgewalker expressed his grudging respect for Cotillion, and the god revealed that the need for allies was real. Cotillion and Shadowthrone had their hands full protecting the Throne of Shadow and the First Throne, and even the Hounds could not be fully trusted given the mastery the Tiste Edur displayed over them. Edgewalker floated the possibility that he would consider an alliance.[37]

Later, Kalam called for Cotillion's aid while barely clinging to the rocky side of a K'Chain Che'Malle Skykeep in the Imperial Warren. Cotillion amused himself by appearing in the air nearby eating an apple. Then the god lowered Kalam safely to the ground where Quick Ben and Stormy were supposed to be waiting. Instead both men had been swallowed up by a crack in the ground. The god and assassin were able to retrieve the injured men and Kalam noted Cotillion's sly regard toward the High Mage before the god departed.[38] Afterwards, the three men discovered Cotillion had left them a table with a full banquet of rich food.[39]

Cotillion appeared amidst the raging inferno of the Last Siege of Y'Ghatan to pull Lostara Yil from certain death in the fire,[40] and took her to a secret temple of Rashan, a league and a half from the city. When she awoke several days later, he warned her that a time would come when she would be forced to choose between the Adjunct and the Empire. He assuaged any fears that she might be in his debt by naming her rescue payment for having once seen her shadow dance in Ehrlitan.[41]

Shadowthrone decided to intervene in the Nameless Ones' plans for Icarium and Mappo Runt, but sent Iskaral Pust too late to stop the cult from nearly killing the Trell and substituting the more pliable Taralack Veed as Icarium's new companion. Cotillion arrived at where the unconscious Mappo was recuperating under Mogora's ministrations and recognised her as "one of Ardata's". In response, she veered into a mass of spiders and scuttled into hiding.[42] He returned later accompanied by the Hounds of Shadow when Mappo awoke. Cotillion told Mappo that as mortals, he and Shadowthrone had spent years mapping all the world's Azath Houses 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.[43]

In doing so, they learned that the Azath were repositories for the Lost Elementals, which gave the Houses their power. 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. He told the Trell the gods were marching toward a convergence beyond comprehension, but not to give up hope.[44]

Shadowthrone was drawn into Ganoes Paran's scheme to eliminate Dejim Nebrahl, servant of the Nameless Ones, as well as the goddess Poliel, who was allied with the Crippled God and spreading the Bluetongue Plague across Seven Cities. The god of Shadow used the opportunity to lure Quick Ben into the otataral enfused killing zone in G'danisban where the powerless High Mage could be killed by the Hounds of Shadow. But Apsalar chose to spare Quick Ben, performing a Shadow Dance that kept the Hounds at bay while Quick Ben escaped. The Hounds were unable to see their attacker, but recognised the style of fighting dance as Cotillion's. When Cotillion later found the Hounds licking their wounds in Shadow, Baran growled at his touch while the others stared on in suspicion. Cotillion protested his innocence to an angered Shadowthrone.[45]

Cotillion visited the cavern where Minala and the children of the Company of Shadow had been protecting the First Throne. Some of the children had grown to become young men and women, but Cotillion saw that even they were "too young in truth to be soldiers". Many had died horribly at the hands of Tiste Edur raiders, and Cotillion berated himself for not making the time to check on Minala and the children sooner. Minala confronted him about the losses. Cotillion could not offer much assistance, but he asked Shadowthrone to heal the many injured children. He also lambasted Monok Ochem and the other T'lan Imass for their prideful refusal to send further reinforcements. When the god pondered ways to strengthen the First Throne's power to enforce compliance, the Bonecaster cut off the discussion.[46]

While Cutter followed Cotillion's commands to protect Felisin Younger, his group was ambushed by the Crippled God's servants, The Unbound. Cotillion found the site of the deadly attack, but lost contact with the young thief and could not determine whether he was alive or dead. He met with Apsalar to inform her and apologised for his complacency, revealing that he and Shadowthrone had hoped to guide Felisin in her new role as the Sha'ik Reborn. While comforting Apsalar, he swore to find Cutter.[47]

Cotillion returned to the chamber of the Throne of Shadow in the aftermath of the Edur assault that had included Icarium among the attackers. He found Trull tending Quick Ben amidst the carnage and admitted that he and Shadowthrone had sent the High Mage to assist them. If the Eres'al had not intervened to incapacitate the raging Jhag, the god would have stepped in to face him next. He cursed the Nameless Ones' for their intention to send Icarium against Emperor Rhulad Sengar and promised Trull that the decimated Company of Shadow's service was over. Trull later saw him sitting alone with his head in his hands.[48]

In Reaper's Gale[]

Cotillion and Shadowthrone brought Quick Ben, Trull Sengar, Onrack T'emlava, Minala, and the other survivors of the defence of the First Throne to Shadow to recuperate. The god addressed Quick Ben as Ben Delat, which Quick Ben said was a version of his name he had not used in a long time. The two discussed the nature of Shadow and the Azath Houses and Cotillion was impressed by Quick Ben's knowledge. Quick Ben still seethed over Shadowthrone's decision to pull him away from aiding Kalam in Malaz City. Although, Shadowthrone had afterwards placed Kalam in an Azath House to heal, Cotillion withheld from Quick Ben the god's true motivation for saving his life. The High Mage demanded Cotillion provide him access to a gate to return to leave Shadow. Cotillion agreed, but warned that reality on the other side of the gate would remain unresolved until they passed through. The nature of their destination would be determined by themselves. Trull demanded Cotillion summon Shadowthrone back to provide a better explanation of what awaited them, but Ammanas was no more help.[49][50]

The three eventually found themselves in the Refugium, along with the ghost of Hedge. Menandore did not appreciate the interference of the "pathetic mortals", although they were likely the help Shadowthrone had promised her against her Soletaken kin. Instead, she temporarily allied with Sukul Ankhadu and Sheltatha Lore to kill the intruders. In the conflict with Quick Ben and Hedge, both Menandore and Sheltatha were killed. Without the interference of the Soletaken, Silchas Ruin was to plant the seed of an Azath House near the Gates of Starvald Demelain. The resulting House rooted the Refugium in reality and took control of the twelve gates. Afterwards, Quick Ben speculated that this had been Shadowthrone and Cotillion's plan all along as the Azath's control of the gates meant the two gods now had full access to them.[51]

In Toll the Hounds[]

The Rope by Ylva Ljungqvist

Shadowthrone and Cotillion met Traveller and provided him with supplies and the Hounds as guides. They also confronted Karsa Orlong and warned him to stay out of Traveller's way.

In The Crippled God[]

Cotillion spoke with Ampelas, Kalse and Eloth who were chained in Shadow Realm and offered them freedom in exchange for their help. He began to despair about the Bonehunters' fate and was chastised by Shadowthrone for his lack of faith.

Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Cotillion.

After Korabas was chained, Cotillion appeared behind the Crippled God and stabbed him in the back, sending him back to his followers.

Significant plot details end here.

In Night of Knives[]

Interpretation of Dancer by Spindrift

The book described the events of the night of Dancer and Kellanved's disappearance. During the night of the Shadow Moon in 1154 BS, both Kellanved and Dancer had returned to Malaz City after having disappeared from the human realm for two years, during which time Laseen had assumed the role of the steward of the Empire. In these years, the two had been exploring the Azath Houses. Upon their return they were targeted by Laseen for assassination at Mock's Hold. Laseen used Otataral powder to counter Kellanved's magery, forcing Dancer to protect them both against dozens of the Claw including Possum and Topper. The two managed to retreat out of the window, seemingly falling out over a cliff and into the sea to their deaths.[52]

In reality, Dancer and Kellanved had used Laseen to stage their deaths. They went to the Deadhouse, an Azath house on the island, and ascended to High House Shadow and took control of its Throne as Ammanas and Cotillion.[53] It has been theorized that Shadow was wandering over the physical realm like another layer of reality and that the night of the Shadow Moon was the convergence of the physical locations of Shadowkeep and the Deadhouse. In this way, they could ascend from the Deadhouse to the Shadow House.

Temper: "You two mean to retake the throne?"
Dancer: "We're not here for a lark; you know that. But even from the beginning we didn't want such an unwieldy entity. A kingdom, an Empire. These are just symbols. Kellanved and I see much further. We've always been after greater things."
Temper and Dancer in Mock's Hold[src]

In Return of the Crimson Guard[]

Cotillion - The Rope by Shadaan

Shadowthrone and Cotillion pulled Traveller, Kyle, and their companions into the Shadow realm. Once they were in Shadowkeep, Shadowthrone proposed to help Traveller find his "quarry" in return for "a mere service." Before he could elaborate, he detected an emergence from Kyle's sword which was revealed to be Osserc. A Hound of Shadow arrived and a confrontation seemed inevitable until Hethe, Shadowthrone's monkey-like servant, defused it. Osserc departed and Traveller bid Kyle farewell. He had accepted Shadowthrone's offer without revealing what it was.[54] Soon after, Traveller appeared near Li Heng during the Battle of the Plains to defeat Skinner whose Crimson Guard threatened the existence of the Malazan Empire.[55]

In Stonewielder[]

Cotillion met Shadowthrone at the site of the Tiste Liosan Army of Light's victory over the Chaos Whorl in Kurald Emurlahn. He complained that Shadowthrone was wasting his time monitoring the situation and that they were too busy to waste time on what was never a threat.[56]

In Dancer's Lament[]

Long before he cofounded the Malazan Empire, Cotillion was a young assassin named Dorin Rav. He was born in a village near Cullis, which was part of the city-state of Tali.

(Information needed)

In Deadhouse Landing[]

(Information needed)

In Kellanved's Reach[]

(Information needed)

In The God is Not Willing[]

(Information needed)

Empire History[]

Cotillion was named Dancer during his mortal life, prior to ascendancy, and was the Master-Assassin and the bodyguard of Emperor Kellanved before his ascension. He was the Emperor's chief advisor.[57] Dancer's name was derived, at least in part, due to his ability to perform the Shadow Dance, which was an expression of the martial art of assassination although the connection was lost in some places where the dance was practised.[58]

Key figures of the Warren of Shadow (Rashan and Meanas).
Interpretation by Shadaan (clockwise from the left) Gear, Cotillion, Shadowthrone, Edgewalker, Shan and Apsalar

Back when Kellanved was running a tavern on Malaz Island, Dancer and Kellanved partnered with the aim of taking over the island's criminal organizations and overthrowing the local pirate ruler, Mock. They employed a young boy, Dujek. Nok, Hawl, and Amaron - all Napans - were in hiding on the island after Nap was conquered by Unta, but were discovered by Dujek and taken to his new employers. The scheme expanded further after Dancer bolstered their numbers by recruiting other Napan refugees who had fled their island, such as Cartheron and Urko Crust and Surly. Shortly thereafter, Toc the Elder, Dassem Ultor, Tayschrenn, and Duiker also joined. With this family, Kellanved and Dancer conquered Malaz Island.

One of their early successes against Mock occurred when Dancer tunneled into a natural cistern below the pirate's family estate in the city's Lightings District. This allowed him and Kellanved to abscond with Mock's entire fortune built over twenty years of piracy and bankroll their own early ventures in piracy between Malaz Island and Napan. It was known as the "Well of Plenty" to those in the know.[59]

During the rise of the Malazan Empire, Dancer created and headed the Talon, an assassin organization that predated the Claw.

Much later, during the Malazan invasion of Seven Cities, Dancer had journeyed to Aren to view the slaughter caused by the T'lan Imass. There he discovered the massacre had been ordered by the Clawmaster Surly and the two argued.[60]

After his ascension Cotillion had visited the Temple of Rashan at Ehrlitan, along with two others, likely Ben Adaephon Delat and Shadowthrone himself, to wipe out the cult of Shadow. Only two people, Lostara Yil and Bidithal, were spared.[61]

Those who abandoned their service to Ammanas faced retribution from Cotillion or one of Ammanas' disciples as "to begin the Path of Shadow and then to leave it is rewarded by the Rope."[62] Such a fate was somehow eluded by Quick Ben when he burned his vestments and left Shadow's service.[63]

Of her shared memories with Cotillion, Apsalar revealed that Dancer had only ever trusted two people in his life, Dassem and Kellanved. This was not true of the ascended Shadowthrone.[64]


A Cotillion is a type of real world dance and the name was likely a subtle clue to the connection between Cotillion and Dancer.



Cutter: "Do— do you regret what you did?"
Cotillion: "...Regret? Yes. Many, many regrets. One day, perhaps, you will see for yourself that regrets are as nothing. The value lies in how they are answered."
―Cutter questioning Cotillion before agreeing to an assassination[src]
Shadowthrone: "You are too sure of yourself."
Cotillion: "My confidence has gotten us where we are."
Shadowthrone: "As has my wariness and paranoia! At least I think so..."
―Shadowthrone and Cotillion[src]

Notes and references[]

  1. House of Chains, Glossary, UK MMPB p.1016
  2. Gardens of the Moon, Glossary, UK MMPB p.705
  3. House of Chains, Glossary, UK MMPB p.1016
  4. Deadhouse Gates, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.20
  5. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.17
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.16
  7. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 6, UK HB p.169
  8. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 14 UK HB p.525
  9. The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.744
  10. The God is Not Willing, Chapter 22, US HC p.436
  11. The Bonehunters, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.171
  12. 12.0 12.1 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.124
  13. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.19
  14. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.18
  15. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.32
  16. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.125
  17. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.123
  18. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.135-140
  19. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, US HC p.265-269
  20. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 15, UK MMPB p.474/483
  21. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 23, US HC p.461-462
  22. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.129-130
  23. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.438
  24. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.534-536
  25. Memories of Ice, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.145-146
  26. Memories of Ice, Chapter 15, US SFBC p.523
  27. Memories of Ice, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.770
  28. House of Chains, Chapter 8
  29. House of Chains, Chapter 6
  30. House of Chains, Chapter 12
  31. The Bonehunters, Chapter 1, US SFBC p.65
  32. The Bonehunters, Chapter 1, US SFBC p.71
  33. The Bonehunters, Chapter 1, US SFBC p.65
  34. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.108-109
  35. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.108-109
  36. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.109-110
  37. The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.72-81
  38. The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.259-264
  39. The Bonehunters, Chapter 8, US SFBC p.380-384
  40. The Bonehunters, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.306-307
  41. The Bonehunters, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.420-422
  42. The Bonehunters, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.422
  43. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.506-509
  44. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.509-510
  45. The Bonehunters, Chapter 15
  46. The Bonehunters, Chapter 17, US HC p.555-557/560/563
  47. The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.742-744
  48. The Bonehunters, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.976-977
  49. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.188-192
  50. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 10, US HC p.258
  51. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 23, US HC p.741
  52. Night of Knives, Chapter 4, US TPB p.203-209
  53. Night of Knives, Epilogue
  54. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 6, US HC p.487-493
  55. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 2, US HC p.620-622
  56. Stonewielder, Epilogue, UK TPB p.629
  57. Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p. xiii
  58. House of Chains, Chapter 8, UK MMPB p.392
  59. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.917
  60. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.129
  61. House of Chains, Chapter 8
  62. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 12
  63. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 12
  64. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.130
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