- "A damned legend, the finest killer the Claw ever had--and lost."
Kalam Mekhar [kah-lam meh-kar] was an assassin, originally from Seven Cities, who had been among the Claw's best before a falling out. He was black-skinned and described as moving effortlessly despite his girth. Other descriptions noted him as being tall and broad shouldered, big and almost bear-like in appearance, but in possession of a certain grace. He had dark eyes.
As a former member of the Claw, Kalam possessed an advanced inner discipline of mind and body. He could staunch his own bleeding wounds with his thoughts alone. He could also decrease his body temperature to a level indiscernible from cobble or stone to prevent detection by those with enhanced sight.
In Gardens of the Moon
Kalam was Corporal of the 9th Squad of the Bridgeburners under Sergeant Whiskeyjack. After the battle at Pale, Kalam was present when Quick Ben shifted the soul of Hairlock into a puppet - Tattersail thought that the soldier looked like someone who had come to like killing.
Kalam pulled some strings and ascertained that someone high up in the Empire had the Bridgeburners marked.
Kalam admitted to Tattersail of being afraid when they were waiting for Hairlock who might be tracked by Hounds of Shadow. Her admission of having been sat on a pillow for the last two hours made both of them laugh.
Kalam and his squad were sent on deployment to Darujhistan. They were airlifted by Moranth Quorl to the northern shore of Lake Azur. Before crossing the Lake via fishing boat supplied by the Moranth, Whiskeyjack told them that he had changed the official plan as that would get them all killed. He divided the squad into two teams, one to be led by Kalam, the other one by the Sergeant himself. With Kalam were Quick Ben and Sorry. Kalam told Whiskeyjack that he was concerned about morale in the squad as well as the forthcoming crossing. Quick Ben arrived and told Whiskeyjack and Kalam about a meeting he just had with Hairlock and a plan he had come up with. This left the sergeant and Kalam looking shaken. Kalam and Quick Ben's amusement at the others getting the boat ready was cut short when Whiskeyjack told them to help.
Tattersail was of the opinion that the way Kalam and Quick Ben were trying to take the responsibility from Whiskeyjack's shoulders was their way of expressing their love for the Sergeant.
Kalam and Quick persuaded Whiskeyjack that they would be better off with Sorry on the Sergeant's team and continued their mission of making contact with the local thieves and assassins without her. The task of offering a contract to them proved difficult as the Guild had gone to ground following the recent attacks of which Kalam and Quick were unaware. In their closest attempt at a meeting, the pair were ambushed by a dozen Tiste Andii night-hunters. Kalam was able to incapacitate two, Jekaral and Boruld, but was himself severely wounded and barely escaped with his life.
On the night of the Gedderone Fête, Kalam and the other Bridgeburners posed as guards at Lady Simtal's estate. There they finally made contact with Vorcan Radok, Mistress of the Assassins' Guild. Kalam successfully negotiated a contract with Vorcan to eliminate the mages of the city's T'orrud Cabal, the city's true rulers.
After the gathering was attacked by the Jaghut Tyrant Raest, Fiddler and Hedge raced away to set off their charges, but were stopped in their tracks by the appearance of the demon Lord of Galayn. The delay saved the city as it gave time for Quick Ben and Kalam to stop the plan that would have unknowingly touched off the city's enormous gas reserves.
When the Bridgeburners broke off from the Malazan Empire to join High Fist Dujek Onearm's mutinous forces, Kalam did not go with them. Instead, he and Fiddler announced that they would escort Apsalar back to her home in Itko Kan but would rejoin the others if they could. They left on a tradecraft making for Dhavran and onboard that ship, Kalam witnessed Crokus Younghand throwing Oponn's coin into Lake Azur.
In Deadhouse Gates
Kalam, Fiddler,Crokus and Apsalar had taken passage as crew on a Blue Moranth trader from Genabackis to the imperial port of Karakarang. They then travelled on the Tano pilgrim route from Karakarang across the Talgai Mountains down to Rutu Jelba, all the time trying to keep a low profile. Sailing along the Ehrlitan coast, Kalam poked fun at Fiddler who was suffering from seasickness.
Kalam acquired the Book of Dryjhna from the spy Mebra in Ehrlitan and set off on his own for Raraku to bring the holy book to the seeress Sha'ik, and touch off the Whirlwind rebellion. Although Fiddler argued that this was a betrayal of their fellow soldiers, he was resigned to the fact that Kalam's "old blood calls" and the rebellion would "add another crack in Laseen's crumbling control."
Kalam delivered the book, but unbeknownst to him he had been followed by Lostara Yil and the Red Blades who assassinated Sha'ik before she could complete her ritual. Ignorant of these events, Kalam headed south towards Aren in order to book passage on a ship to the Imperial capital. Fiddler and the others would follow by the original route.
Along the way he rescued a Malazan soldier and his family from bandits pursuing them after the fall of the Orbal garrison to the rebellion. Keneb, his wife, Selv, their children, and Selv's sister, Minala, then joined Kalam on his journey. During this time, a strong attraction developed between Minala and the assassin. When the group stumbled upon a rebel camp where Korbolo Dom had crucified thirteen hundred Malazan children, Kalam used up one of Quick Ben's 'gifts' which opened a passage into the Imperial Warren. Kalam and Keneb's family members then travelled through the Imperial Warren with the goal of getting to Aren in less than the three months that it would take to reach them by travelling overland.
It transpired that it had been Kalam's intention to seek out the Azath House Tremorlor and use its gate to travel instantaneously and undetected to the Deadhouse in Malaz City. From there it would be a short trip to Unta where he hoped to assassinate the Empress in revenge for the attacks on the Bridgeburners. Quick Ben would serve as Shaved Knuckle in the Hole through an ensorcelled rock that Kalam could use to summon the mage once they were in the halls of the palace. The company of a formerly possessed fishergirl with the skills of an immortal assassin would only improve their chances. After the Empress' death, Quick Ben and Kalam "had someone in mind" to succeed her.
Upon arriving in Aren, Kalam only said good-by to Minala who was unhappy about his abrupt departure. Kalam told her to keep his stallion. Through intermediaries, the assassin had been offered a place aboard the Ragstopper by a man called Salk Elan, who claimed to be a merchant and fellow ally of Mebra, but revealed himself to be something more when he helped the assassin repel an attack by pirates.
A voyage that should have taken days seemed to last for weeks. Kalam was forced to use up the ensorcelled stone given to him by Quick Ben as a communication tool of last resort. The mage determined that Kalam and the ship were prisoners of a Mockra mage before their link was severed. The ship finally made port at Malaz City (not Unta) where Salk Elan revealed himself to be a Claw by the name of Pearl. He paralyzed the assassin with his mind magic, before stabbing him in the side and tossing him overboard.
The wounded Kalam made his way to shore where he was hunted in the streets of Malaz City by several Hands of the Claw. But the assassin turned the game around on the Claws, ambushing and killing three full Hands. When the Claw finally ran him to ground, he was saved by Minala who had followed him all the way from Aren on another ship along with Kalam's stallion.
Kalam ultimately confronted the Empress in Mock's Hold, or at least a projection of her using a rotting corpse as a vessel. But when the Empress explained the truth about Dujek's rebellion and the events on Genabackis, the assassin abandoned the idea of killing her. Kalam was soon reunited with Fiddler, Apsalar, and Crokus who had successfully travelled to Malaz City through the Deadhouse. Then Shadowthrone brought Kalam and Minala into Shadow to serve as the surrogate mother and father for thirteen hundred children brought into their custody by the demon Apt.
In Memories of Ice
While performing a reading of the Deck of Dragons near Pale, the Bridgeburner mage, Spindle, drew the Assassin's card of High House Shadow. It took a moment for him to recognise Kalam's face on the card. This gave him and the other Bridgeburners an insight into Kalam and Fiddler's true mission.
A conversation between Whiskeyjack and Dujek revealed that Quick Ben had never been serious in the attempt to assassinate Empress Laseen. Aware of the true motivations behind her actions, he nevertheless sent Kalam against her because only a face to face meeting with the Empress would have convinced the former Claw that she was not their enemy.
After the Battle of Black Coral, Quick Ben and Ganoes Paran visited the tomb of the Bridgeburners within the throne room of Moon's Spawn. Quick Ben left a pebble behind in case he and Kalam wanted to visit later.
In House of Chains
According to a comment made by Cotillion, Kalam and Minala were now married. Minala and Apt had taken on the task of training the thirteen hundred rescued children who they had been tending in the Shadow Realm and molding them into the Company of Shadow. Smarting from a marital dispute, Kalam accepted an offer from Cotillion to return to the world to help the god determine who or what was threatening the god's claim to Shadow. Surprising himself, he realised he had grown to like Cotillion.
After leaving the Shadow Realm, Kalam made his way first to G'danisban where he purchased a pair of heavily ensorcelled long-knives from a shopkeeper selling relics from the Chain of Dogs. He paid for the weapons with a large number of unusual diamonds.
Setting out for Raraku, Kalam came upon the renegade Malazan soldier, Irriz, and his Seven Cities rebels staking out the ancient cliff-side fortress of B'ridys. Trapped inside were the Malazan soldiers of the Ashok Regiment's Second Company under Captain, Kindly, and Lieutenant Pores. Kalam allied himself with a young Malazan girl, Sinn, to free them, but prevented her from poisoning the renegades with Tralb and gave mercy to three guards who had already taken the vicious poison. Several of the besieged soldiers then appeared and it transpired that they were not actually stuck but remained in the fortress by choice. Kalam bargained that their mage would destroy the poisoned water and in exchange, he would catch Irriz for them. Kalam awoke one of the diamonds given to him by Cotillion which turned out to be an Azalan demon who eliminated the entire enemy camp in less than a minute and also captured Irriz.
Kalam negotiated with Sergeant Cord who was in charge of the Ashoks as their commanders had disappeared whilst exploring the fortress. Initially following Cord's orders, Kalam soon pulled rank, reclaiming his old title of Clawleader of a Hand. He then accidentally half-released an ancient demon from the bottom of a well in the Fortress. As the demon would be pursuing him once completely freed, which would not take long, Kalam parted company with the Ashoks. He headed for the saving wall of the Whirlwind but the demon, now in the shape of an Enkar'al, caught up with him and tossed him about like a rag doll to the point that Kalam believed for a moment that he had broken his back. The demon was fooled by that and came too close which enabled Kalam to kill it after which he fell unconscious.
Kalam awoke to find Iskaral Pust, who had been led to the assassin by the Azalan demon, hovering over him. Kalam gave Pust the rest of the diamonds as he seemed to be the intended recipient then passed out again. He awoke in Pust's abode where he encountered Mogora.
After Kalam's recovery, Pust summoned the Azalan demon to surreptitiously carry the Bridgeburner through the raging Whirlwind into Raraku. Making his way to the oasis camp of Sha'ik Reborn and the Army of the Apocalypse, he crossed paths with the ghosts of Tanno and an ancient army crossing the desert. Amidst a ruined city, he was stalked by two Deragoth, narrowly escaping only by using his whistle to release all of the Azalan demons in the diamonds that still remained in his possession. The same whistle freed the demons from the diamonds he had traded in G'danisban causing chaos all around that city.
Kalam infiltrated Sha'ik's camp, where Cotillion gave the assassin another of the acorns with which he could summon Quick Ben. The Bridgeburner confronted Bidithal within his temple, and discovered that the High Mage served the Crippled God, who was attempting to steal Raraku's fragment of Kurald Emurlahn to form the heart of his new House of Chains. Bidithal's shadow-wraiths swarmed Kalam, and Cotillion himself appeared to help slay them. Bidithal escaped during the fighting, but Kalam was satisifed he had identified the threat to Shadow.
Kalam made his way to Korbolo Dom's camp where he was surprised to be helped inside by Ash and other Bridgeburner ghosts. Cornered and outnumbered within Korbolo Dom's tent by Kamist Reloe and Dom's assassins, the Bridgeburner brought Quick Ben to his side. Kamist died screaming in a sizzling web of Quick Ben's death magic while Kalam dispatched the assassins. The two then confronted Korbolo Dom, striking him unconscious and taking him prisoner. They deposited Dom with the Claw, Pearl, who Kalam struck to the ground in payment for their last encounter in Malaz City. Then the two Bridgeburners located Fiddler amongst the Malaz 14th Army for a heartfelt reunion.
In The Bonehunters
Kalam and Quick Ben remained with the 14th Army in service to Adjunct Tavore Paran after the Battle of Raraku. Now a High Mage, Quick Ben postulated that Tavore wanted the assassin to secretly create a squad of assassins loyal to her. Kalam was uncomfortable with the idea as well as with the presence of Pearl amongst Tavore's aides.
Leoman led the Army of the Apocalypse westward towards Y'Ghatan and the 14th Army followed. Adjunct Tavore wanted to send some of her people ahead to reach the city first, so she sent Kalam and Quick Ben along with Gesler's squad. The group travelled via the Imperial Warren, but due to the problems with the Warrens travel was difficult and confusing. The sudden appearance of at least a dozen K'Chain Che'Malle Skykeeps in the air above led Quick Ben to immediately cancel the plan. He brought the group back to the Malazan world to report the news to the Adjunct.
Kalam accompanied Adjunct Tavore and her aide, T'amber, to Mock's Hold in Malaz City, Malaz Island, where they met with Empress Laseen and discovered that she had re-instated the ex-renegade, Korbolo Dom, as High Fist and had also appointed Mallick Rel to her inner circle. The Empress having betrayed Tavore, Kalam and the two women were left to battle for their lives in a harrowing chase back to the Froth Wolf (Tavore's flagship - which was located in the Malaz City harbour along with the Adjunct's fleet and the Malazan 14th Army and allies), while being ambushed/pursued by many Hands of Claw assassins under the leadership of Pearl.
Kalam decided to try buying Tavore and T'amber some time by leading some of the Claw Hands away from the two women. Kalam sent the Adjunct and T'amber to follow the bank of the south branch of the Malaz River to the city harbour, while he, himself, continued to the rooftops of the Mouse Quarter where he had a final showdown on the roof of an abandoned, derelict tenement with Pearl and two Hands of Claws. After slaying all but Pearl and one Claw assassin, Kalam was ultimately shot down from behind by Pearl with a quarrel (which with Pearl had specifically chosen to kill Kalam) poisoned with Kartoolian spider venom and was left to die in extended agony. Kalam had attempted to summon Quick Ben to his side as his shaved knuckle in the hole, but the mage's path was redirected by Shadowthrone to assist in the defence of the First Throne instead.
In Reaper's Gale
After Quick Ben, Minala, and the Company of Shadow defended the First Throne from Icarium and the Tiste Edur, Cotillion and Shadowthrone brought the survivors back to Shadow. Quick Ben still seethed with anger at Shadowthrone for pulling him away from helping Kalam in Malaz City. Cotillion assured him that Kalam would heal in the Deadhouse where the poison would become inert, but was careful not to reveal Shadowthrone's true reason for saving the assassin's life.
Hedge later theorised that the gods of Shadow had deliberately worked to keep Kalam out of the way to keep Quick Ben close and to make sure there was no one to guard the potentially dangerous High Mage's back. Quick Ben swore there would be trouble if Hedge was right.
In Toll the Hounds
In Dust of Dreams
In The Crippled God
A considerable time later, Kalam was awakened in the "Deadhouse" in Malaz City by Quick Ben and Minala. They then journeyed to Kolanse (located along the far eastern coast of the continent of Lether) via Warren to take part, at the side of Ganoes Paran, in the final war surrounding the Crippled God.
Kalam teamed up with Quick Ben to help the the brother and sister, Ganoes and Tavore Paran, in their fight against the Forkrul Assail in the northern part of Kolanse. Kalam and Quick Ben used their combined skills to assassinate the Forkrul Assail, both on and off the battlefield. Kalam and Quick Ben then reunited with Fiddler and Hedge and their Marine/Heavy infantry detachment (which was guarding the Crippled God's body) in the ultimate battle between the Bonehunters (and their allies) against the Forkrul Assail (and their allies).
Kalam had once served as a member of the Claw. Apsalar, drawing on her memories from her possession by Cotillion, related that Kalam had been a Falah'dan's Dagger and that after the Malazan invasion the Claw gave him command of a Hand. He was a master assassin.
As recounted in detail during a conversation between Whiskeyjack and Anomander Rake, Kalam played a key role in the journey across the Raraku desert that forged the Bridgeburners. During a Seven Cities rebellion that had originated in Aren, one of the Seven Holy Protectors was struck down and his rebellious mage cadre fled for Raraku. Whiskeyjack's cobbled together squad was ordered to pursue and given Kalam, a recent Claw recruit and local, as guide.
Kalam brought Whiskeyjack and his soldiers across the Raraku desert in pursuit of the twelve mages. The mages succumbed one by one until only the last one, Ben Adaephon, was left. When they caught up with him, he told Whiskeyjack and his soldiers that "Raraku, sir, has burned the bridges of their pasts, one and all – it’s all gone." Kalam was flushed out as a traitor who had been helping Quick Ben all along. Nevertheless, despite orders to the contrary, Whiskeyjack allowed the two to join his squad, letting Quick Ben live knowing that this was in contravention of the Emperor's order, while Kalam joined the squad knowing he would face Surly and the Claw's wrath if they found out.
- "Again and again, we cling to the foolish belief that simple solutions exist."
- ―Kalam Mekhar, explaining why he walked away instead of assassinating a high level target
- "I am sorry, Kalam Mekhar. But you… I cannot accept… your existence. I cannot…"
- ―Pearl after shooting Kalam with a poisoned quarrel
Fan art gallery
Notes and references
- House of Chains, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.350
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.686
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 11, UK MMPB p.447
- Critical Conversations 06: Poetry in Malazan with Steven Erikson - A Critical Dragon - As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 21:40
- Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.xii
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 20, US HC p.411
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.55
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.80
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.153
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.401
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.686
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK HB p.130/131 (example)
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.155
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 10, US HC p.258
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 17, UK HB p.735
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, US HC p.551
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.787/789-790
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.262
- Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.xii
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.103
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.106
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.133
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.153
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 8, UK MMPB p.258/264-266
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.298
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, UK MMPB p.363
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, UK MMPB p.374
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, UK MMPB p.379
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 13, US HC p.297-303
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, UK MMPB p.380/381/383/384
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.401
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.450-451
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 22, US HC p.459
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 23, US HC p.468
- Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 24, US HC p.481
- Gardens of the Moon, Epilogue, UK MMPB p.701/702
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.53-59
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, US HC p.68-71
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.92
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.131-136
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 9, US HC p.227-228/230-240
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 11, US HC p.299-301
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.331-337
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 8, US HC p.225
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.46
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 11, US HC p.301
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.93
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 11, US HC p.300
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 13, US HC p.363-367
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.391
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 17, US HC p.453/456-460/461-465
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19, US HC p.493-494
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.536-538
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 13, US HC p.368-369
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.395-396
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, US HC p.553-554
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.569-572
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.573-576/577-580/582-583/584
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 5, US SFBC p.179
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.770
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.987
- House of Chains, Chapter 6, US TPB p.207
- House of Chains, Chapter 6, US TPB p.206
- House of Chains, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.262-264
- House of Chains, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.344-347
- House of Chains, Chapter 9, US TPB p.272/273-284
- House of Chains, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.536-541
- House of Chains, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.541-545
- House of Chains, Chapter 12, UK MMPB p.547-549
- House of Chains, Chapter 16, US SFBC p.551-553
- House of Chains, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.666-668
- House of Chains, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.669-672
- House of Chains, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.744
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.783-784/787
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.789
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.792-794
- House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.814
- House of Chains, Chapter 26, US SFBC p.814/846
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.99/101-102
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.142/146-147
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 5, US SFBC p.193-194
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 22, US HC p.697
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.713-714
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.722-723
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.727/731/732/735-739/741/745-747/749
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.739-740/741
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.749
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.751-753
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.931-932
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US HC p.769-770
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.188-189
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 10, US HC p.258
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 8, US HC p.190-191
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 21, US HC p.656-658
- The Crippled God, Chapter 18, UK HB p.505-509
- The Crippled God, Chapter 24, US HC p.875-876/883-884
- Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p. xii
- Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.63
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 8, US SFBC p.299-300
- Memories of Ice, Chapter 8, US SFBC p.300-306
|Officers||Ganoes Paran • Ash|
|7th Squad||Antsy • Blend • Detoran • Picker • Spindle|
|9th Squad||Whiskeyjack • Fiddler • Hedge • Kalam • Mallet • Quick Ben • Sorry • Trotts|
|Others||Mulch (11th squad) • Bucklund (12th squad) • Aimless • Bluepearl • Cage • Corinn • Dasalle • Liss • Monkrat • Runter • Shank • Toes • Tormin • Story|