In its first appearance it was described as a two-handed sword with a silver dragonskull pommel and an archaic crosshilt. Baruk estimated that the wooden scabbard was a full six and a half feet long. Another description spoke of a long, silver-hilted bastard sword, with an inky-black blade that absorbed all light.
When drawn from its sheath, the sword groaned awake, emitting chains of smoke and filling the air with the sounds of creaking wheels and a chorus of hopeless moaning. Even sheathed, it emanated terror. A normally non-fatal wound, caused by Dragnipur, could lead to death whilst blood on the blade boiled and turned to ash.
The sword was a Warren containing the Gate of Darkness. This gate was held within an immense wooden wagon, with wheels as tall as a man. It was drawn by chains linked to the souls of all individuals who have been slain with Dragnipur. The cart was endlessly pursued by the forces of Chaos.
In Gardens of the Moon
In one of his dreams, Kruppe was told by the Elder God K'rul that the sounds of a wagon, wheels, chains and slaves which he could hear were in fact those of the sword Dragnipur which was forged in Darkness and chained those it slew to the world which existed before the coming of light. K'rul warned that its wielder was now amongst them and Kruppe had a vision of his Deck of Dragons and the image of the Knight of High House Darkness. K'rul told Kruppe that when it was first forged, none could withstand Dragnipur but he did not know if that was still the case.
Rake used the sword to slay the Hounds of Shadow, Doan and Ganrod. Ganoes Paran touched the blood of one of the slain Hounds and felt himself drawn into the sword's warren after them. Unlike the other prisoners of the sword, Paran was not chained to the wagon. With the reluctant help of Oponn, he freed Doan and Ganrod from their chains, then escaped himself.
In Memories of Ice
119,736 years before Burn's Sleep, Draconus, K'rul, and the Sister of Cold Nights punished Kallor for his evil deeds by laying a curse upon him. Kallor then in turn cursed the three of them. He told Draconus that "what you create shall be turned upon you". After they left Kallor, Draconus told the other two about a sword he was forging. He said he had been working on the weapon since the time of All Darkness and that his effort was finally nearing completion. He noted that the sword was invested with a power that possessed "a finality". A surprised K'rul counseled him to "make alterations in the final shaping" in light of Kallor's curse, and Draconus promised to think on it.
The touching of the Hound's blood and his subsequent foray into Dragnipur left their mark on Paran. He felt that, although he had escaped the world of the sword, he could feel its chains about him, drawing ever tighter, an expectation for him to become something...
When Paran again entered the warren of the sword, Draconus told him about the origin and purpose of Dragnipur and explained the pressing need to shatter the sword. He said that when he made the sword, his understanding of the Gate of Darkness had been flawed.
- "[…] Chaos approached the very Gate to Kurald Galain itself. A defense needed to be fashioned. Souls were…required… […] Mortal, I have had time to think. To recognize the grave error I have made. I had believed, Ganoes Paran, in those early times, that only in Darkness could the power that is order be manifested. I sought to help Mother Dark […] Before the Houses, there were Holds. Before Holds there was wandering. […] Not wandering, but migration. A seasonal round — predictable, cyclical. What seemed aimless, random, was in truth fixed, bound to its own laws. […] Dragnipur has bound the Gate of Darkness to flight, for eternity […] "
When souls in Dragnipur became too exhausted to pull the wagon, they were stacked on the wagon top in a pile. The result was an unsustainable demand for new souls to pull the ever-increasing load in the flight from Chaos. There were two options: taking new souls by killing with the sword, or shattering the sword to release the Gate of Darkness to its natural migration patterns.
At one point, Ganoes confided the details of his escape from the sword to Whiskeyjack. The Bridgeburner warned him to keep this knowledge from Anomander Rake. The sword's prison was meant to be inescapable. Ganoes' escape was an alarming precedent and Rake could be "an unpredictable bastard."
In Toll the Hounds
Anomander Rake killed Hood, drawing him into the sword. Rake then forced Traveller into a fight and contrived that the man kill him with Dragnipur. Thus Rake himself was drawn into the sword, where he confronted Chaos with Hood and the Legions of the Dead, sacrificing himself so that Mother Dark would return and take the Gate of Darkness back to where it belonged, with the Tiste Andii, thus ending the reason for Dragnipur's existence.
In Blood and Bone
- Jacinth: "There is nothing that walks this world that can defeat Skinner."
- Golan: "So he fears nothing?"
- Jacinth: "...he fears plenty. There was one blade he was wary of - but it has since been destroyed."
- Golan: "Ah, well. All creation feared that sword."
- ―comments between Jacinth and the Thaumaturg, Golan, about Skinner and Dragnipur[src]
In a 2020 interview, author Steven Erikson said that the sword's theft of souls meant for Hood's Realm was a point of anger for Hood. Additionally, the sword's power was such that even a God risked imprisonment from its blade.
Notes and references
- Steven Erikson described the appearance of the sword during a 'Question and Answer' session: No inlay, no pattern welding, no watermarking, just a long straight-edged black blade with a tapering point, probably a single dorsal spine flanked by ferules. A couple inches above the plain cross-hilt, the blade tapers to a narrower base (typical for most long-swords). The grip allows for one or two hands, the pommel a silver weighted ball (if I recall correctly), not even polished. Your challenge would be getting the blade black enough, so that it seems to swallow light and make the eye fall into it. 
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.211
- The black weapon seemed almost invisible, as if it swallowed all light that found it. • Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 24
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.453
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 5
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 15, UK MMPB p.472
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 15
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 23, UK MMPB p.971
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 13, UK MMPB p.424/427/436/437/441
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 13, UK MMPB p.441
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 15, US HC p.331-332
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 15, UK MMPB p.476-482
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 24, US HC p.475-476
- Memories of Ice, Prologue, UK MMPB p.40/41
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.65
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.93/94
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 23, UK MMPB p.970-974
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 23
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 4
- Toll the Hounds, Epilogue, UK HB p.921/922
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Prologue
- Blood and Bone, Chapter 5, US HC p.180
- Gardens of the Moon - Chatting with Steven Erikson, part 2 - See 30:30
- Gardens of the Moon - Chatting with Steven Erikson, part 2 - See 37:10