Nil was a Wickan warlock[1] and the twin brother of Nether. He had long unkempt black hair,[2] and spoke with a reedy voice.[3]

He sometimes carried a feather-bedecked, knobbed club.[4]

In Deadhouse GatesEdit

Nil was around nine or ten years old[5] when he served in Sormo E'nath's cadre of mages. He traveled to Hissar on Seven Cities to support Coltaine, the newly appointed Wickan Fist of the Malaz 7th Army. When the Whirlwind rebellion drove the Fist out of Hissar, he became one of Coltaine's Chain of Dogs.

Nil joyfully summoned a horde of undead warriors to battle Kamist Reloe's army of the Apocalypse at the Battle of Sekala Crossing. Then once the River Sekala had been safely forded Nil, Nether, and Sormo unleashed the spirits of the land to destroy the Semk tribal god.[6] Later Nil and another young warlock led a mission to assassinate a Tithansi Warleader with Duiker, Lull, and a squad of Sialk Marines only to discover he was the Semk godling returned. The other warlock was killed while Nil was stricken unconscious and had to be brought back to camp on a travois.[7]

At the Battle of Gelor Ridge he and Nether performed a ritual on the horses of the Foolish Dog Clan which allowed them to charge uphill at an unnaturally high speed and strike Reloe's elite infantry legions.[8] Afterwards, the twins' skin was pale, their hands were stained black. and they were confined to bed for days.[9]

When the Fist bloodied the near-Ascendant Gesler's nose at Vathar Crossing both Nil and Nether gasped in recognition that Coltaine himself was on the path to Ascendency.[10]

Sormo was killed at the Battle of Vathar Crossing leaving Nil and Nether the army's sole remaining warlocks.[11] After the Battle of Sanimon, Coltaine sent the twins and the refugees ahead of the army along with Duiker and an escort of Wickan youths. They arrived at the gates of Aren without major incident.[12]

Nil and Nether stood safely on the walls of Aren as Coltaine and the last of his soldiers were cut down on the plain below. Nil collapsed in Nether's arms and then lay on the ground, curled and motionless in grief.[13]

In House of ChainsEdit

Both Nil and Nether were broken by their experience on the Chain of Dogs. Nil allowed his deer-hide tunic to become scarred and worn, and both twins went about dirty and barefoot.[14] When Adjunct Tavore Paran arrived in Aren with the Malaz 14th Army, neither wanted to accompany the punitive expedition against the Army of the Whirlwind. Their magic was no longer strong. They could speak to spirits, but no longer compel them. But as the Adjunct had few mages, she refused to let them return home, holding them to Coltaine's last command and advising them to find a way to awaken the warlock spirits inside themselves.[15][16]

As the army retraced the Chain of Dogs' steps in reverse, Nil and Nether spent their time attempting to communicate with the spirit of Sormo E'nath. Fiddler found the two facing each other over a bronze bowl near the site of Vathar Crossing. A swarm of yellow butterflies engulfed the Bridgeburner, speaking into his ear. Nil and Nether were heartbroken that the warlock's only contact had been with a stranger, and they demanded to know if Sormo had a message for them. Fiddler concluded that the presence he felt was not Sormo's.[17]

By the time the army arrived at Raraku, Nil had grown taller and more feral in appearance with wild, unbraided hair. He dressed only in a loincloth and green and black body-paint.[18] He and his sister confirmed that the Adjunct was right to suspect that the warrior spirits of the desert resisted the Whirlwind Goddess' attempt to feed on the land's memories.[19]

On the eve of the Battle of Raraku, the boy, Grub, awoke Nil and Nether and brought them to the ridge overlooking the next day's battlefield. From there they observed the spirits of the land, Pormqual's fallen, and the fallen Malazans and Wickans of the Chain of Dogs destroy the Dogslayers in their trenches. They later told the Adjunct that their grief had blinded them to the spirits of the fallen that had joined with the army as it retraced Coltaine's steps. Nil also told her that Fist Gamet had joined the spirits in their attack.[20][21]

In The BonehuntersEdit

After the Battle of Raraku, Leoman led the Army of the Apocalypse westward towards Y'Ghatan and the 14th Army followed. In the Lato Odhan, Nil and Nether conducted a ritual to travel beyond Hood's Gate seeking Wickans who had died during the Chain of Dogs. The effort was similar to the magic of the Tanno Spiritwalkers and one they had performed before. According to Bottle, the ritual was relatively safe as the pair were pretty sneaky and unlikely to attract attention.[22]

But the mage was forced to chase after them and found Nil and Nether confronted by an angry lich. The lich screamed and tossed them about before disappearing. Nil revealed that the angry spirit was their mother. She had scolded Nil, telling him to "stop moping and grow up", while advising Nether to "take a husband and get pregnant."[23] Before they could leave Hood's Realm they were approached by the ghost of Bult with a dozen Wickan cattle-dogs. The warrior warned "we don't belong here".[24]

At the Last Siege of Y'Ghatan, Nil and Nether stood at Adjunct Tavore's side observing the battle.[25] They were powerless to stop the firestorm unleashed by Leoman because the earth spirits were trapped and dying by the flames just as the Malazan army was. But they sensed something of great power was about to be born. Nether was the first to identify it as Sinn, an unrealised High Mage. Sinn's efforts, along with the army's gathered witches and warlocks, were enough to free hundreds from the fire.[26] Afterwards, Nil was exhausted by the sorcery he had grown to hate. He told the Adjunct that Leoman had been spirited away by the Queen of Dreams and that the land's spirits, driven insane by agony, cursed the Malazans for the crimes of Y'Ghatan. He declared that Y'Ghatan would never rise again and both Wickans reported that Poliel's plague was at the army's heels.[27]

The 14th Army hurriedly marched to the shore of the Kokakal Sea to board Admiral Nok's transports and return to Quon Tali. The entire fleet soon faced destruction at the hands of the Third Edur Imperial Fleet but for the intervention of Bottle and the Eres'al. Nil teased his sister for her romantic interest in the young mage, and both agreed to keep the Eres'al's involvement a secret.[28]

Adjunct Tavore's fleet was redirected to Malaz City by order of Empress Laseen so that she and the Empress could meet in Mock's Hold. The Adjunct soon discovered that the Empress had reached a political settlement with Mallick Rel and Korbolo Dom that would raise both men to power while condemning the Wickans and Khundryl Burned Tears as scapegoats for the Empire's failures in Seven Cities. Mallick specifically called for Pearl to send his Claws to kill Nil and Nether. Nil and Nether had remained aboard Tavore's docked flagship, the Froth Wolf, while Balm, Fiddler, and Gesler's squads organised to defend it against an angry mob. During the fighting on the docks, both Nil and Nether honoured the soldiers defending them with a bow.[29][30]

Tavore refused to deliver her loyal troops up to slaughter and instead took the entire army renegade. She relieved Nil, Nether, Temul, and the other Wickans from duty so that they could return to their homeland and defend it from the planned Malazan pogrom.[31] Shadowthrone lamented the ill treatment of his loyal Wickans with Tayschrenn. But the High Mage argued that with Nil and Nether, the Wickans were not as vulnerable as he feared.[32]

In Return of the Crimson GuardEdit

An older and more seasoned teen Nil returned home to the Wickan Plains with Nether to lead their people during the Malazan civil war. Rising tensions between Wickans and Malazan settlers led to murder and violence. Over seventy Wickan elders and children took shelter at the Malazan border fort commanded by Lieutenant Rillish Jal Keth before a settler mob surrounded and besieged it. Rillish refused to turn the Wickans over to the mob, and after several weeks the fort fell. Only a suicidal ritual conducted by the Wickan elders to open a magic gateway allowed the soldiers and children to escape.[33]

The Wickan children led the soldiers to the sacred Golden Hills where they were found by Nil and Nether. They revealed that one of the rescued children was Coltaine reborn, and they were determined to take advantage of the chaos Malazan civil war to invade Unta province and force a renegotiation of the Wickan treaties. A moved Rillish joined them as their military adviser.[34]

After sacking D'Avig and Fortress Jurda, Nil and Nether decided they instead needed to make a more notable and lasting effort to strengthen their bargaining position.[35][36] The sorcerers, Rillish, and a force of one thousand Wickans travelled by warren to Li Heng where they proved to be the decisive factor in the Empire's victory over the Crimson Guard at the Battle of the Plains.[37]

When the mad mage Yathengar opened a Chaos rent upon the field, Nil and Nether joined the Crimson Guard and Malazan forces that attempted to close it. They only succeeded in getting wounded and were dragged out of harm's way by the disapproving Wickan mage Su, the elder cousin of their grandmother.[38][39] Su, with Nil and Nether in tow, later confronted new Emperor Mallick Rel and appeared to gain Imperial concessions regarding the Wickan lands.[40]


Rillish: "You are far too young to be so cynical."
Nil: "My sister and I are far from young, Lieutenant."
―Rillish and Nil[src]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Deadhouse Gates, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.18
  2. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 5, US HC p.473
  3. House of Chains, Chapter 15, US SFBC p.540
  4. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.262
  5. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.259
  6. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.262/272-275
  7. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.312-320
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.360
  9. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.422
  10. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.430
  11. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19, US HC p.504
  12. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.525533
  13. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.544-547
  14. House of Chains, Chapter 5, US SFBC p.235
  15. House of Chains, Chapter 5, US SFBC p.235-236
  16. House of Chains, Chapter 19, US SFBC p.634
  17. House of Chains, Chapter 15, US SFBC p.540-541
  18. House of Chains, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.753
  19. House of Chains, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.754
  20. House of Chains, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.799
  21. House of Chains, Chapter 26, US SFBC p.832-833
  22. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.142-143
  23. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.143-144
  24. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US SFBC p.144-146
  25. The Bonehunters, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.292
  26. The Bonehunters, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.306/321-322
  27. The Bonehunters, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.347-349
  28. The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.739-740
  29. The Bonehunters, Chapter 22
  30. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.897-907/912
  31. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.897-907/953
  32. The Bonehunters, Epilogue, US SFBC p.983
  33. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 5, US HC p.224-225
  34. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.328-334
  35. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 4, US HC p.373
  36. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 5, US HC p.426/474
  37. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 2, US HC p.575/617
  38. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 3, US HC p.650-652
  39. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 4, US HC p.667
  40. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 4, US HC p.670
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