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Malazan Wiki

Topper was an assassin and Commander of the Claw[1] for the Malazan Empire. When the Clawmaster first appeared, he was wearing a faded tunic and linen leggings above green-dyed leather boots. He was fond of wearing shades of green and rings on all his fingers, above and below the knuckle. He usually chose to remain cloaked and hooded, carrying a single long-knife slung through a thin belt.

Topper was a half-blood, carrying both Tiste Andii and human bloodlines, and was described as having a long, light grey face with dark, strangely angled eyes and white hair. He was tall and lean, and looked to be in his early thirties. His voice was soft and the tone strangely melodic.[2][3] Kiska thought him "unusually tall...His hood was down, revealing long startling white hair, a dark face, hooked nose with a goatee and black glittering eyes".[4] Fist Gamet described Topper as having strange, angular features, skin the shade of coal-dust marble and a broad mouth that had the look of a perpetual half-smile.[5]

By 1161 BS, Topper had become Clawmaster, although Laseen retained overall control of the Claw.[6] He described himself as a Claw of unsurpassed skill,[6] however, there were those who surpassed his ability.[7]

For a time, Pearl was Topper's favoured lieutenant in the Claw.[8]


Topper was the assassin who decimated Unta's royal line. As he put it: he killed the King, Queen, sons and daughters, as well as their cousins, second cousins, and third cousins.[2]

In Gardens of the Moon[]

'Empress Laseen' Interpretation by Shadaan
Depicted in the background clockwise from left:
Tayschrenn, Possum, Topper and Lorn

After the Itko Kan Massacre, Topper escorted Ganoes Paran from near Gerrom to Unta by way of the Imperial Warren. Though he asserted that he was there at the bidding of the Adjunct who was impatient for Paran's report, it was assumed that he was there for some other purpose other than merely to guide the young soldier to Unta.[9]

Two years later, Topper tracked Paran to a ship sailing for Genabackis. There, he informed Paran that he had found the mysterious girl, Sorry, who was linked to the slaughter at Itko Kan which Paran had been investigating.[10]

Topper also told Paran that Sorry might have corrupted the Bridgeburners and possibly the entire Malazan 2nd and 3rd Armies on Genabackis. He told Paran that the Empress wanted High Fist Dujek Onearm disarmed and that there were additional threats which were already being seen to. Topper mentioned as well that dealing with Sorry had required an expansion of previous plans.[11]

In both encounters, the two men parted on bad terms, with Topper accusing Paran of being arrogant and discourteous.[12][13]

In Deadhouse Gates[]

Topper by Dejan Delic

Topper sent his Claw after Kalam Mekhar who was in Malaz City to assassinate Empress Laseen. After Kalam dispatched an entire Hand, he spoke to Topper through the corpse of one of the assassins. The pair shared threats before Kalam moved on.[14]

Kalam slew two more Hands before finally reaching the Empress' chamber at Mock's Hold. The two came to an agreement and Kalam departed without violence. Topper arrived shortly thereafter by warren to dispel the magic that revealed the "Empress" as only a corpse that she spoke through remotely. The Clawmaster admitted to Laseen that despite their détente, it was too late for him to call off the assassins who hunted Kalam. He rationalised the night's defeat as "a long-overdue winnowing of the brotherhood's weaker elements" and promised to channel his frustration on Pearl.[15]

In House of Chains[]

'Topper' Interpretation by DSNZAN

At the close of the Pannion War, Topper travelled to Genabackis via the Imperial Warren. There he spent a glum evening with Tayschrenn learning the fate of the Bridgeburners and the war effort. The High Mage and Clawmaster proceeded to get drunk.[16]

After reporting back to the Empress, Topper travelled by Warren to Seven Cities to meet with Adjunct Tavore Paran. He found her and the Malaz 14th Army a day's march north of Aren on their way to challenge the Whirlwind rebels. Topper informed Tavore that her brother was dead and that his status as a renegade had been a ruse. He also revealed that the Empress' original plan had been for Dujek and his Host to join Tavore in the north and assume command of their combined forces. But Dujek was broken and his army decimated. It would be some time before the High Fist would arrive, and his help likely negligible. It fell to the Adjunct to succeed alone.[17]

In the meantime, Topper offered advice on strategy which Tavore did not receive kindly, causing the man to depart with a scowl.[18]

In The Bonehunters[]

Urko Crust characterised Topper and Surly as inferior killers to Dancer, and he labelled Topper as cruel. He supposed the two fools thought they had won, but he pointed out that only one amongst those three walked among gods.[19]

At the time the 14th Army returned to Malaz City, Topper was missing in the Imperial Warren and presumed dead by Pearl and Kalam.[20][21] Pearl was the de facto Clawmaster in his place, but Empress Laseen offered the position to Kalam. Kalam asked the Empress if she assumed he would "settle back in Unta's West Tower, surrounding myself with whores and sycophants? Do you expect another Topper?" Ultimately, Kalam rejected the offer and Pearl was officially named to the position.[22]

In Night of Knives[]

Temper recollected that Topper had been present at the Siege of Y'Ghatan during Dassem Ultor's conquest of Seven Cities. When Dassem and his surviving First Sword bodyguards had been recuperating afterwards in the infirmary tent, Imperial Regent Surly saw her chance to eliminate one of the claimants for the Imperial throne. While speaking words of conciliation with Topper at her side, she had ordered Possum and Jade to assassinate Dassem, Temper, and Ferrule.[23]

In 1154 BS Topper travelled to Malaz City with Surly and a platoon of the Claw. On the night of the Shadow Moon he once again stood at Surly's side as she confronted the returned Emperor Kellanved and Dancer at Mock's Hold. A carefully laid trap that used otataral powder to deaden magic resulted in the pair's apparent suicidal leap from the height of the keep's central tower. Surly was now free to become Laseen, Empress of the Malazan Empire.[24]

In Return of the Crimson Guard[]

Topper, under the guise of the clothing-tattered Ragman, guarded the Imperial Warren from all trespassers in the time leading up to the Empress' showdown with the Talian League, rival Mallick Rel, and the Crimson Guard. Many Imperial messengers and Claw assassins fell to his blades.[25]

'Topper vs Cowl' Interpretation by Shadaan

Topper returned to Surly's side at the Battle of the Plains just in time to prevent the Crimson Guard mage Cowl from assassinating her.[26] The pair engaged in a running battle across the Warrens that ended on the grounds of the Deadhouse in Malaz City. Cowl allowed himself to be imprisoned by the house rather than be defeated by Topper.[27]

In Orb Sceptre Throne[]

Upon a request for assistance from Ambassador Aragan, Topper travelled to Darujhistan.[28]

He witnessed the meeting between Aragan and the Legate, and agreed with Aragan's assessment later on that it was time the Malazans pushed back the Legate. He then proceeded to K'rul's Bar where he offered the retired Bridgeburners an unofficial job to collect intelligence and involve themselves more directly as free agents. Upon agreeing that the Bridgeburners would be formally de-commisioned as a price for their services, Topper asked them to try to disrupt the wall that the Tyrant was building with the Moranth munitions they had while he provided them cover.[29]

He then went to investigate Spindle and Blend's reports about the man who had emerged from the well. He determined that the castings of sorcery about the corpse were elder and most probably Jaghut. However, due to his lack of knowledge, and the presence of several factors unknown to him, he left the corpse alone.[30]

He was on hand to witness the death of the Legate from a hidden location, and encountered Taya Radok in the throne room of Majesty Hall.[31] Holding her accountable for the death of Laseen, he pursued her all the way to the Varada Estate, where Taya sought protection from Topper with her mother. There, Topper agreed to let Vorcan take care of Taya and withdrew.[32]


Topper seemed to like the finer things. He used a silk handkerchief. When he offered Paran a repast in Gardens of the Moon, apart from food, he pulled out two crystal goblets and a corked jug which contained wine.[6]

Notes and References[]

  1. Gardens of the Moon, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.xiii
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.37
  3. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.581
  4. Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US TPB p.207
  5. House of Chains, Chapter 11, US HB p.500
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.38
  7. Night of Knives, Chapter 4
    He was beaten back by Dancer who fought other Claws at the same time, while protecting Kellanved
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.581
  9. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.37-41
  10. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.94/95
  11. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.95/96
  12. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.41
  13. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.94
  14. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, US HC p.554
  15. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 23, US HC p.580-581
  16. House of Chains, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.418/426
  17. House of Chains, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.424-425
  18. House of Chains, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.425-426
  19. The Bonehunters, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.171
  20. The Bonehunters, Chapter 22, US SFBC p.849
  21. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.903
  22. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.903
  23. Night of Knives, Chapter 4, US TPB p.170-174
  24. Night of Knives, Chapter 5, US TPB p.206-210
  25. Return of the Crimson Guard, Chapter 3
  26. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 4
  27. Return of the Crimson Guard, Epilogue
  28. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 10
  29. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 10
  30. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 12
  31. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 20
  32. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 21
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