Kiskatia Silamon Tenesh, commonly known as Kiska, was an inhabitant of Malaz City on Malaz Island. Her sailor father died at sea and her mother was a seamstress. Growing up in the city's Mouse Quarter she was desperate to escape its squalor and dreamed of becoming a part of the Imperial service. She spent her days practicing the spycraft and intelligence gathering she assumed would be impressive to the Claw. Kiska knew the city's streets and alleys like few others and kept careful tabs on the local criminal element for Sub-Fist Pell.
Early in her youth she broke into the shop of Agayla. The witch caught her in the act, but instead of punishing her became her mentor. Kiska called Agayla "Auntie", and the witch often had her hands full trying to protect the impetuous and head-strong young woman.
Although she claimed to have no magical talent, she did admit to the latent ability to sense when it was being employed by others. Additionally, the mage Corinn noted that Kiska's resistance to magic was "unusually strong" and thought her naturally receptive to Thyr, the Path of Light.
During her Malaz City days she carried a hilted long-knife, throwing spikes, daggers, and a crossbow. Her specialized equipment included cord-soled slippers, a length of cord, needles, and cloths soaked in unguents.
Later in her career, she dressed in a loose cloak and travelling jacket over her shirt, vest, trousers, and armour. Her weapon of choice was a long black metal staff with a retractable blade designed and built for her by the Moranth. When not in use it could be broken down into smaller sections and hidden on her person. She also carried multiple throwing knives hidden throughout her clothing.
In Night of Knives
As a young adult, Kiska witnessed the riots in the Mouse Quarter triggered by the Imperial Regent's outlawing of magery on the island. Kiska was drawn into the violence and forced to defend herself against three soldiers before Agayla was able to lock her up and keep her safe within her shop.
Later, during the night of the Shadow Moon in 1154 BS, Kiska became entangled in the opposing ambitions of Kellanved and Dancer, Surly, Tayschrenn, and the Shadow cult. Suspicious of Tayschrenn's arrival by Imperial vessel in the harbour, she followed the High Mage and soon faced cult assassins, Edgewalker, Hounds of Shadow, Bridgeburners, and members of the Claw.
Despite the High Mage's attempts to rid himself of her presence for her own safety, Kiska doggedly remained involved in the night's critical events. Ultimately, her persistence and promising raw talent impressed Tayschrenn and she convinced him and his bodyguard Hattar to take her with them back to the Imperial capital at Unta.
In The Bonehunters
In 1164 BS, Kiska and Hattar accompanied Tayschrenn as bodyguards to a secret meeting in Seven Cities outside the camp of Adjunct Tavore Paran's 14th Army. Also present were Dujek Onearm, Quick Ben, Kalam Mekhar, and Fiddler. Kiska appeared to be between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, with her hair cut short in the imperial fashion. Her body was lithe and athletic beneath tight silks, and her eyes were watchful. Pearl recognised Kiska from the ridgeline where he and Lostara Yil were spying for Empress Laseen.
After the events of Night of Knives Kiska spent the next decade working for the Empire. In Unta she was trained as a Claw, but ultimately left the order to take a position as Tayschrenn's bodyguard. When the Crimson Guard invaded the capital she ached to be involved, but Tayschrenn forbid it. Instead she merely "kept an eye on things" during the attack and reported her observations back to the High Mage. She suspected she had witnessed Empress Laseen take part in the battle.
During the Battle of the Plains, she defended the mage against three rogue Crimson Guard Veils, but was unable to prevent him from being drawn into the warren of Chaos through the rent created by Yathengar 'ul Amal and his ritual. She was left shattered by her failure to protect Tayschrenn.
Blaming herself, she went back to Malaz Island hoping to make a deal with the guardian of the Deadhouse in order to try and go after Tayschrenn. Agayla intervened and brought the issue to her patron, the Queen of Dreams. T'riss tasked her agent Jheval with accompanying Kiska, and sent them on a trail into Shadow. There, the pair were hunted by Hounds of Shadow and temporarily trapped within a small cave. Kiska revealed to Jheval that she had done well in the Claw, and had even been offered her own Hand. But she was disillusioned by the organization's pettiness and corruption so left them to become Tayschrenn's bodyguard. With Tayschrenn, she travelled the world and into Shadow.
After they eluded the Hounds they were joined by Warran, a Shadow priest. Their path took them to the site of a Chaos Whirl, where they discovered a Tiste Liosan encampment as well as Jheval's old acquaintance L'oric. L'oric revealed Jheval's true identity to be Leoman of the Flails, the Seven Cities villain of Y'Ghatan and enemy of the Malazan Empire. Kiska was horrified and L'oric ordered the trio imprisoned.
Warran rescued Kiska from imprisonment and she escaped into the Whorl where she found Leoman again. She had further reason to distrust him when they discovered the Whorl's creator Yathengar, the insane Seven Cities mage, inside. Leoman humoured the mage and his plans for a new rebellion against the Malazans long enough for he and Kiska to pass through the Whorl.
Afterwards, she awoke on a strange beach that Leoman coined the Shores of Creation. Leoman was satisfied to be in a place out of reach of his enemies, but with Tayschrenn nowhere in sight, Kiska felt more of a failure than ever.
In Orb Sceptre Throne
Kiska travelled to a place called the Shores of Creation with Leoman and found Tayschrenn there, who did not recognize her at first. She then travelled with Tayschrenn to Darujhistan. Along the way, the High Mage was impressed by Kiska's knowledge regarding the Warrens and questioned why she had never pursued the study of magic, particularly Thyr. Kiska responded that it was "too much effort" and that she preferred to act.
Towards the end, Topper offered to take her back into the Claw, and although she strongly hinted that she would come back, she told him she had some business to take care of first. With Leoman in mind, she went back to check on him (while he was still resting on the shores of creation).
Notes and references
- Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US PB p.200
- Night of Knives, Chapter 2, US TPB p.50
- Night of Knives, Chapter 1, US TPB p.32
- Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US PB p.200
- Night of Knives, Chapter 3, US PB p.86-88
- Night of Knives, Chapter 1, US PB p.32
- Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US PB p.197
- Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US TPB p.224/228
- Night of Knives, Chapter 1, US TPB p.34
- Night of Knives, Chapter 2, US TPB p.55
- Night of Knives, Chapter 3, US TPB p.132-133
- Stonewielder, Chapter 5, UK TPB p.225
- Stonewielder, Chapter 9, UK TPB p.459
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 2, UK PB p.314
- The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.103-104
- Night of Knives, Chapter 3, US PB p.103-105
- Night of Knives, Epilogue, US PB p.269
- Stonewielder, Chapter 1, UK TPB p.78
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 2, UK PB p.316
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 2, UK PB p.291
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 2, UK PB p.315
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 3, UK PB p.656
- Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 4, UK PB p.667
- Stonewielder, Chapter 2, UK TPB p.117
- Stonewielder, Chapter 1, UK TPB p.78
- Stonewielder, Chapter 3, UK TPB p.144
- Stonewielder, Chapter 4, UK TPB p.186
- Stonewielder, Chapter 10, UK TPB p.522-523
- Stonewielder, Chapter 11, UK TPB p.546-549
- Stonewielder, Epilogue, UK TPB p.628
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 17
- Orb Sceptre Throne, Epilogue
- A Conversation with Malazan series authors Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont