We don't die by Shadaan

Blues, Iron Bars, K'azz D'Avore, Shimmer and Corlo by Shadaan

The Crimson Guard were a famous mercenary company commanded by the deposed Prince K'azz D'Avore.[1][2] Avowed enemies of the Malazan Empire, they first appeared in the Malazan Book of the Fallen as allies of Caladan Brood stationed on the continent of Genabackis.[3]

The Guard opposed the Malazan Empire on four continents. This force handed the Malazan Empire its first major defeat, successfully defending Stratem from invasion.

The Crimson Guard wore a silver dragon sigil and crimson cloaks and their native tongue was Talian.[4] They were also known to wear blood-red tabards over their armour.[5]

They were called Isturé or Isturé Forlan Edegashby by the Thaumaturgs of Jacuruku.[6][7]

The Vow Edit

The Crimson Guard - C I V I L W A R final 2

'Civil War', a book cover simulation by Corporal Nobbs

The Crimson Guard was created by a vow sworn in the 1066th year of Burn's Sleep by six hundred of K'azz' original followers. These Avowed gained unnaturally long life, strength, speed, and regenerative attributes in return for their oath. The vow was often compared to the ritual of the T'lan Imass as both the ritual and vow were inspired by a desire to reach a goal. Emperor Kellanved had once tried to set his undead legions against the Guard but was refused. The T'lan Imass claimed it would be wrong to oppose such a vow as the one the Guard had taken.[8]
"We gather here on this day in the sight of one another to swear a binding oath. What we here swear is unrelenting and unending opposition to the Malazan Empire for so long as it shall endure. To never abandon or turn away from such opposition. To this cause all gathered here must give their individual agreement and binding commitment. Those of you who know doubt, or who feel unable to pledge yourselves utterly to this cause, are free to go. Nay, are encouraged to go. And all without rancour or ill-feelings...So...this is my Vow. This is what I here pledge and what I, in turn, ask of anyone who would choose to follow me."
  • see Avowed for a list of known Avowed.

The Goal Edit

K'azz had been removed from his ancestral home on Quon Tali by the invasion of the Malazan Empire. Some time after this, the vow was made. Though the exact words of the vow were not recorded, it was implied that the vow would end either when K'azz reclaimed his kingdom, or when the Malazan Empire was finally destroyed. Any Avowed who died joined the "Brethren" who accompanied the Guard as Ghosts - of a sort - and aided them with communications.

Structure Edit

The Crimson Guard was divided into four companies, each of which contained a number of "blades" or squads. Notable in the books were the Ninth Blade and the Sixth Blade.

Companies Edit


From its earliest beginnings, the Crimson Guard "possessed a cadre of mages second to none" and the Guard welcomed mages to its ranks.[9] The Guard's mages derived their powers from a variety of Warrens, but all by necessity had "some familiarity with the healing magics of Denul."[10] Some Guard mages were as proficient with traditional weapons of war as any of their non-magically talented comrades. The Guard's weaponmaster Blues, for example, was both one of the its most powerful mages and its preeminent finesse swordsman.[11][12][13]

Recruitment Edit

It was possible to voluntarily join the Crimson Guard, although newcomers were by definition not part of the original Vow and it was unknown if they received any of its benefits. However, they were trained as formidable fighters. Greymane appeared to have voluntarily joined the Guard for a time.

Replenishing the ranks of the Guard was also achieved through "inductions" — essentially press gangs. Slaves were often purchased and given the apparent choice to join up or be set free, however, those who did not join up were not in fact set free.[14] There were three known rounds of "inductions" since the original formation of the Guard.

The Diaspora Edit

The Malazan Empire did not forget the Guard's opposition on Quon Tali and sent forty thousand men accompanied by Kellanved, Dassem Ultor, Dancer, and Tayschrenn against the Guard lands on Stratem. The overwhelming number of Malazans bypassed the Guard's coastal fortresses, attacking in the east, west, and south. Communication lines were cut, K'azz D'Avore disappeared, and Skinner personally fought Dassem to a standstill. The Malazans were halted, but the Guard was broken and a Diaspora was ordered to preserve it.[15] The Guard broke up into individual companies tasked with finding the Duke and recruiting new members. When the Diaspora was to end it was agreed that they would all gather at Fortress Haven and unite under Skinner's leadership.[16][17]

In Gardens of the MoonEdit

During the Malazan Empire's attempts to conquer Genabackis, Caladan Brood led a unified force of Tiste Andii, Crimson Guard, Rhivi, Mott Irregulars, Barghast and soldiers from the remaining Free Cities against them. Under his command, they managed to bog down and decimate High Fist Dujek Onearm's Malaz 5th Army at Blackdog Forest over a period of four years.[18]

In Memories of IceEdit

The Crimson Guard withdrew from Brood's Host during the Pannion War to attend to internal matters.[19]

In The BonehuntersEdit

After the Pannion War, Dujek's forces were recalled to Seven Cities to put down the Whirlwind rebellion and Brood's alliance broke up. The Rhivi and Barghast returned to their lands while the Tiste Andii settled in Black Coral. Meanwhile, the Crimson Guard, who had remained in the north, vanished to parts unknown.[20]

In Toll the HoundsEdit

It was revealed that during the time the Guard had been allies of Caladan Brood, Brood's second-in-command, Kallor, had never actually met the Guard's commander, K'azz D'Avore, face to face.[21] Further, the man claiming to be D'Avore at the time was revealed to be an imposter.[22]

In Return of the Crimson GuardEdit

The Second Company, which had fought on Genabackis, was now on Bael fulfilling a contract against the warlock, Shen.[23] By some unknown signal, the various Guard companies and blades strewn across the Malazan world were summoned to return and reunite at Fortress Haven on Stratem, ending the Diaspora. The Second Company replenished its ranks with fresh recruits before returning, and Blues and Treat infiltrated the Malazan prison known as The Pit to acquire additional mages.[24][25]

As K'azz was still missing, overall command fell to Skinner who announced the time had come to march against their Malazan enemies. New recruit, Kyle, stumbled upon a suspicious meeting between Skinner and Cowl leading to Skinner's murder of Stoop. Kyle was falsely accused of the crime and fled from camp.[26]

Crimson Guard by PLUGO

Cole and Lean guarding the bridge by PLUGO

The Guard invaded Unta, the Malazan capital, and entered the Malazan Imperial Palace looking for Empress Laseen and Tayschrenn.[27] Unable to bring either to battle they withdrew, moving further into Quon Tali, sacking Cawn.[28] The Guard force of nearly one hundred Avowed officers, nine thousand Guard veterans, and fifteen thousand recruits from Bael, Stratem, and Cawn soon became embroiled in the Battle of the Plains. Fought near Li Heng, the battle was also a civil war between the Imperial armies of Laseen and the forces of the Talian League led by the remnants of the Old Guard.

About the same time, the missing K'azz was discovered and freed by the efforts of Ereko, Traveller, and Kyle. It transpired that Skinner and Cowl had betrayed K'azz at the time of the Diaspora and left their commander entombed at the Dolmens of Tien on the continent of Jacuruku. K'azz and his rescuers travelled via the Shadow Warren to the Quon Tali battlefield where the Guard was fracturing under divided loyalties. With K'azz's return, Shimmer rallied loyal Avowed against Skinner, who, broken by the Malazan forces and the renegade Greymane, retreated to the Crippled God's Warren with his traitor Avowed, now known as the Disavowed.[29]

It was assumed that Skinner and Cowl betrayed K'azz so that they could usurp the rule of the Malazan Empire once it was defeated. Doing so would allow them to fulfill the wording of the vow while retaining their power and immortality. About forty Avowed had joined Skinner. The other survivors of the battle, numbering just over twenty, remained loyal to K'azz.

In Blood and BoneEdit

Shimmer estimated there were less than seventy Avowed and nearly forty Disavowed still left alive.[30] Members of the Avowed and the Disavowed were brought together at the ruins of Jakal Viharn on the isle of Jacuruku. Skinner attempted to challenge K'azz for leadership of the Guard before being slain by Queen Ardata. With Skinner's death, the Disavowed rejoined their brethren. The Enchantress then informed K'azz that he and the Guard needed to travel to Assail for "answers".[31]

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

In AssailEdit

Shimmer led an expedition to Assail to rescue Cal-Brinn and the missing Fourth Company. The group was formed of many members of both the Avowed and the former Disavowed, working as one for the first time in many years.[32] Meeting Silverfox and Kilava Onass in the Salt Mountains, the Guard discovered that Kilava had been present at the invocation of their Vow. It had drawn on the same power of Tellann that had created the T'lan Imass. Therefore the Guard were, in essence, a tribe of T'lan Imass--the D'Avore T'lan Imass or the Red Clan.[33] They would continue to have physical form even after their deaths. Those who died could choose to come back. Silverfox could not redeem them as she could the other tribes. That task was for another. Many of the Guard died on Assail, but Cal-Brinn and the others were finally found and brought back home to Stratem.[34]

Significant plot details end here.

In Dancer's LamentEdit

(Information needed)

In Kellanved's ReachEdit

(Information needed)


In the eighth year of their conflict, the Crimson Guard was hired by the Free Cities to oppose the advance of the Malazan Imperium. They were allied with the Tiste Andii regiments of Moon's Spawn under the command of Caladan Brood and others.[35]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Gardens of the Moon, Glossary, UK MMPB p.704
  2. Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.xvi
  3. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, Book One Epigraph
  4. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 1, UK PB p.8
  5. Dancer's Lament, Chapter 12, US HC p.231
  6. Blood and Bone, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.70-72
  7. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 4, UK PB p.382
  8. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1, Chapter 2, UK PB p.45
  9. Dancer's Lament, Chapter 12, US HC p.235
  10. Assail (novel), Chapter 4, US HC p.133
  11. Assail (novel), Chapter 1
  12. Stonewielder, Chapter 12, UK TPB p.584
  13. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 1, UK Bantam Press edition p.265
  14. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, UK PB p.46
  15. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4, UK PB p.149-150/169
  16. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, UK PB p.90
  17. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4, UK PB p.148
  18. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.61/68
  19. Memories of Ice, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.95
  20. The Bonehunters, Chapter 13, US SFBC p.520
  21. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, UK HB p.280
  22. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 16, US PB p.532
  23. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 1
  24. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2
  25. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 4, UK PB p.391-403
  26. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4, UK PB p.191-192
  27. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 2, UK PB p.293-294
  28. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 4, UK PB p.364-365
  29. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 2
  30. Blood and Bone, Chapter 1, US HC p.47
  31. Blood and Bone, Chapter 15
  32. Assail (novel), Chapter 2
  33. Assail (novel), Chapter 15
  34. Assail (novel), Epilogue
  35. Gardens of the Moon, Epigraph Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.10
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