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"The Red Blades were, at this time, pre-eminent among those pro-Malazan organizations that arose in occupied territories. Viewing themselves as progressive in their embrace of the values of imperial unification, this quasi-military cult became infamous with their brutal pragmatism when dealing with dissenting kin..."
Lives of the Conquered, Ilem Trauth[src]

The Red Blades (or Red Swords)[1] were a fanatical company of Seven Cities natives who vowed absolute loyalty to the Malazan Empire.[2] They were newly formed around the time Lostara Yil left the Cult of Rashan. Rumour at the time had it that the Red Blades would become the deliverers of Malazan justice.[3]

Imperial Historian Duiker thought the Red Blades "the most loyal soldiers of the Empire I've ever known."[4] But Seven Cities natives preferred using the derogatory term Mezla'ebdin (Malazan lapdogs) to refer to them.[5]

Red Blades were cavalry soldiers who wore chain armour, sometimes interwoven with Otataral links as proof against sorcery. They also wore chain leggings and helmets with slitted visors and were equipped with swords, bows, and lances.[6]

Selected members of the Red Blades[]

In Deadhouse Gates[]

Felisin Paran, Baudin, and Heboric observed Red Blades (whom they called Red Swords) policing the crowds of Unta during The Cull. The Red Swords were present as Empress Laseen's political prisoners were driven in chains to the ships of the Otataral mines.[1]

Meanwhile, anticipating the Whirlwind uprising, the Red Blades conducted a systematic and violent crackdown on anyone they suspected of being followers of Dryjhna. In practice, this led to indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians in places like Ehrlitan.[7]

Commander Baria Setral brought his troops from Dosin Pali to Hissar for this purpose.[8] They later served valiantly under Fist Coltaine in the Chain of Dogs.[9]

Red Blade commander Tene Baralta led a squad in pursuit of the Whirlwind's leader Sha'ik. Using a copy of the Book of Dryjhna stolen from the vaults of Aren as bait, they found and assassinated her in the holy desert Raraku.[10][11]

But the Red Blades were betrayed in Aren by the treacherous Mallick Rel, who managed to convince High Fist Pormqual that they were not to be trusted. Commander Orto Setral and his troops were imprisoned during the subsequent fighting that saw the city nearly fall to the rebellion.[12]

In House of Chains[]

As soon as Pormqual had left the city, the Red Blades had been released from their imprisonment by Blistig, commander of the Aren Guard. Blistig had been alerted to Rel's treachery, an recruited the Red Blades to aid in the city's defense against Korbolo Dom's army.[13] Upon Adjunct Tavore's arrival in Aren shortly thereafter with the Malaz 14th Army, the Red Blades were eager to join the punitive expedition. Baria Setral's company of Red Blades had died with Coltaine and his Chain of Dogs.[13]

Ultimately, the Red Blades were incorporated into Tavore's army, though their existing command structure was maintained. Tene Baralta, now in overall charge of the Red Blades, was made Fist of the 10th Legion.[13]

It was also confirmed that Empress Laseen had brought a company of Red Blades to Unta to aid in the Cull. House Paran guard captain, Gamet, described their role as cruel killers who could not be corrupted by the allure of noble coin.[14]

In The Bonehunters[]

As Adjunct Tavore and the 14th Army clashed with the Army of the Apocalypse at the Battle of Raraku, Dujek Onearm and his troops reoccupied Ehrlitan. They remained in Ehrlitan nearly two months before departing and leaving a garrison behind.[15] Malazan control also saw the return of the Red Blades, who arrogantly patrolled the city streets on horseback keeping order with tulwars at ready.[16]

When L'oric encountered Barathol Mekhar, details were revealed about the Red Blades' involvement in the Aren Rebellion. Barathol had been a Red Blade officer who slew the Fist of Aren. He was arrested and scheduled for crucifixion on the Aren Way, and his crime was the first and deepest stain on the Red Blades' honour. His actions fueled the warrior sect's "extreme acts of zealotry ever since." Barathol's arrest led the people rose up in his name to slay the Malazan Garrison and drive the Red Blades out of the city. When the Logros T'lan Imass arrived to put down the rebellion, Barathol threw open the north gate and escaped. The T'lan Imass swept into the city killing thousands and Barathol was marked for death by his former companions.[17][18]

Tene Baralta's Red Blades went with Adjunct Tavore and the 14th Army to conduct the Siege of Y'Ghatan where their commander was severely disfigured in the resulting fires.[19] Afterwards they were brought back with the rest of newly christened Bonehunters to Malaz City by Admiral Nok's fleet. On the night the fleet entered the city harbour, Baralta seized the initiative and launched a longboat ahead of the Froth Wolf to secure the docks with Lostara Yil and the rest of his Red Blades.[20] Then they escorted Adjunct Tavore, T'amber, and Kalam Mekhar through an angry mob of citizens to a meeting with Empress Laseen at Mock's Hold.[21] Baralta used the meeting to request the Empress relieve the Red Blades of their conscription in the 14th Army.[22] Later that night, Lostara Yil murdered her former commander and left the Red Blades for good.[23]

Notes and references[]