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See also: Magic and Holds

"The Warrens of Magic dwelt in the beyond. Find the gate and nudge it open a crack. What leaks out is yours to shape. Open yourself to the Warren that comes to you - that finds you. Draw forth its power - as much as your body and soul are capable of containing - but remember, when the body fails, the gate closes."

A diagram of how the major warrens and holds relate to each other.

The most commonly understood definition of Warren was a realm from which mages, priests, shamans, and the like, who might use magic, drew their power. "Warren" could refer to either the physical other-world that could be travelled to, or to the form of magic which could be shaped by someone who could channel a Warren.

Structurally these Warrens were divided into two classes, the Elder Warrens, which were associated with a particular race, and the Paths, which were those Warrens most commonly accessed by humans and which were derived from K'rul's blood. However, not all realms described as Warrens fit that description; The Abyss was named a Warren but seemed to be used only as a means of travel rather than a source of power. It is also possible that there was a difference on how some Warrens like the Abyss were created.

Human magic needed no rituals, motions, or words to be cast. All that was required was access to a Warren. Most mages were born with a natural affinity towards a specific Warren, although some were able to draw on more than one. Extremely rare was a mage who could call on every Warren as Beak was able to do.

When a mage wished to use magical power, he or she opened themselves to a Warren (most could only access one or two) by willing into being a portal through which the magical energy flowed. Initially it was a case of opening themselves to the Warren that would come, that would find them. Drawing as much power as body and soul could contain, the wielder had to remember that the gate would close should the body fail.[1] The draw of power had to be carefully managed as it was all too easy to channel too much and destroy oneself.[2] The skills to access the Warrens could be taught, but it was much more common for someone to just be born with the Talent.[3]

Sorcery had a magical signature and adepts were able to discern different users.[4]

Types of Warrens[]

The Paths[]

The Paths were those Warrens which were most easily accessible to human mages and priests and used as a source of power.

  • Aral Gamelain — The Path of Demons
  • Denul — The Path of Healing
  • D'riss — The Path of Stone
  • Hood's Path — The Path of Death
  • Meanas — The Path of Shadow and Illusion
  • Mockra — the Path of the Mind
  • Rashan — The Path of Darkness
  • Ruse — The Path of the Sea
  • Serc — The Path of the Sky
  • Telas — The Path of Fire
  • Tennes — The Path of the Land
  • Thyr — The Path of Light

Additionally there was Fener's Warren, which could be channelled like the other Paths and was said to border Chaos itself.

Elder Warrens[]

Realms which were mostly used by some of the older races. Some of these Warrens were also described as Holds.

According to Imperial Adjunct Lorn, the Warrens of the Imass (T'lan Imass) were similar to those of the Jaghut and the Forkrul Assail i.e. Elder, that is to say, blood-, and earthbound.[5]

Other Warrens[]


  • Adept - mostly used to specifically describe those able to interpret the Deck of Dragons, not all magic users were Adepts in that sense.[11][12] The term was however also used to describe someone good at using magic in a more general way.[13]
  • Gate - term used to describe openings in and out of a Warren
  • High Ward - stronger form of protective spell[14]
  • Talent - someone capable of accessing magic
  • Touched - the common slang for anyone who knew the Warrens[15]
  • Ward - a spell of protective magic
  • Weaving - combining the efforts of several mages to achieve a stronger effect[16]

Effects of Warren usage[]

Effects of Warren usage on the user[]

Initially, opening up to a Warren and feeling the power might sweep away a user's fatigue or fear,[17] however, using Warrens was physically tiring. After the last battle at Pale, Tattersail felt as if she had been beaten with clubs for the last two hours.[18]

Effects on mages of exposure to other Warrens[]

When a Warren bristling with extreme power was being unveiled, a practitioner might experience a warning, like a bitter taste on the tongue for example. These instances, where power would arrive groaning and deadly, always indicated the arrival of a god on mortal soil.[19]

When the Hound, Gear, attacked Tattersail's High Wards, she could feel the cracks streak outwards and the fissures reaching through her arms and chest with a snapping sound instantly replaced by spurting blood.[20] Tattersail surmised that it was Hairlock's subsequent unleashing of the Warren of Chaos which then left her weakened and with a fever as Chaos was diametrically opposed to her own Warren, if one thought of Warrens as being structured.[21] [22]

Users might also be sensitive to the use of less powerful magic by others and experience sensory reactions.

  • Calot's eyes watered[23]
  • Gear's hackles would stiffen[24]
  • Tattersail would get a migraine headache[23]
  • Tiste Andii mages could sniff the opening of a small rent through which Oponn's coin dropped at the feet of Crokus[25]
  • Baruk's head was pounding with blood, lancing him with pain and he felt an enormous pressure upon the arrival by Warren of Anomander Rake.[26] He also had a headache when Oponn resisted his Warren and destroyed the wax imprint of the coin. Baruk used healing tea to combat headaches.[27]

Reactions might be worse when the Warrens in question were anathema to each other.[23]

Visual perceptions[]

Tattersail perceived Quick Ben's sorcery as bleeding a strange, swirling flavor.[28] On another occasion he emerged from a swirling cloud which held a strange spicy scent.[29]

When Hairlock attacked Gear, a wave of grey light struck the Hound and a miasma churned into Tattersail like pestilence. The chaotic Warren radiated from Hairlock in visible pulses of grainy grey shot through with black.[30]

When Crone approached Darujhistan, the emanation of sorcery she detected among the estates was described as aquamarine.[31]

Uses of Warren magic[]

Travelling by Warren[]

Warrens were frequently used by characters for travelling.[32] When the Hound Gear exited a Warren, it was described as a savage parting of the fabric and his arrival heralded by two muted thunderclaps.[33] When Gear left, the opening of the Warren was again described with a fabric analogy, the term used being 'a dark rift opened around him with the sound of tearing burlap'.[34]

Once within the Warren, the mage visualized specific details of the intended destination and as they physically traveled they were brought closer to their goal. The farther a destination in the real world, the longer the trip required within the Warren.[35] Additionally, the "primordial elements asserted an intractable consistency across all Warrens. Land to land, air to air, water to water." For example, if one entered a Warren by ship, then one journeyed through the Warren by sea. Entered by foot or on horseback, then travel would be by land.[36]

It was possible to travel to a moving ship, although few were able to manage this difficult task.[37]

The Warrens of Chaos were the miasmic paths between the Warrens.[38] A mage travelling through Chaos would weaken the other Warrens allowing the mage to break in and out of them at will, as shown by Hairlock.[39]

Protection and preservation[]

Warrens were used to set protective wards, both for people[40] as well as property.[41] A Warren could be used to set a sealing spell.[42] But wards were susceptible to physical forces. A sufficiently powerful force, such as a Moranth munition, was capable of shattering a ward by eliminating the pattern the magic depended on.[43]


"...Yath had sat as well, staff across his lap, struggling to weave the commingled contributions of the participants into one seamless flow of channeled power to be held, coalesced and distilled, then released in one awesome revelation of willed intent..."
Yathengar weaves[src]

Multiple mages accessing their Warrens together to produce an effect beyond the ability of a single mage were said to be "weaving".[16] Generally, this required a period of preparation or ritual and was not performed off the cuff. Participants did not have to all be accessing the same Warren, but at least one mage was required to weave the work of the others into a cohesive effect.[44] Examples included the Pannion Domin mage cadre preparing for battle at the Siege of Coral[16] and the mages who combined their skills to guide an entire ship through the Warren of Serc in Return of the Crimson Guard.[44]

Magic weapons[]

According to Ceda Kuru Qan, the use of sorcery to invest weapons with magical power was fraught with difficulty. Iron itself resisted magical imposition. Additionally, sorcery thrived on flaws, "whether structural in the physical sense, or metaphorical in the thematic sense." Consequently, the better forged an iron weapon the more difficult it was to enchant it. A failed result was a weapon whose investment refused to function and which was then considered cursed.[45]

Day to day usage[]

Warrens might be used for mundane tasks such as opening windows.[46]

Warrens and Hold magic[]

"Unlike the sorcery that prevailed on this continent until recently, Preda, magic everywhere else exists in a more formalized state.  The power, so raw here, is elsewhere refined, aspected, organized into something like themes, and these themes are what we call warrens.  Many are accessible to mortals and gods alike; others are –"  and he glanced at Bugg – "Elder.  Some are virtually extinct, or inaccessible due to ignorance or deliberate rituals of sealing.  Some, in addition, are claimed and ruled over by elements either native to those warrens, or so fundamentally related to them as to make the distinction meaningless." ―Quick Ben • DoD


Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Warrens.
"... when we draw upon the power of the warrens, we draw your very blood."
―Lady Envy[src]

It transpired the Warrens ran through K'rul's flesh. Any mage traveling through the Warrens was traveling through the arteries and veins of K'rul.[47] The power of Warrens was his blood.[48] The twin chambers of the heart were Kurald Galain and Starvald Demelain.[49] Only a handful of entities knew the truth about the Warrens, amongst them Anomander Rake, Draconus, Osric, and Envy.[50]

K'rul created the Warrens with the help of the Eleint, and each Warren was aspected to an Eleint. Once the work was complete, the Eleint "were compelled to return to Starvald Demelain. As the sources of sorcery, they could not be permitted to interfere or remain active across the realms, lest sorcery cease to be predictable, which in turn would feed Chaos—the eternal enemy in this grand scheme." Some aspects were shared with the Soletaken Eleint, forcing the Eleint to share power.[51] Within each aspected dragon was "the heart of the warren itself, its well-fount of power."[52]

K'rul was unlikely to have had any hand in the creation of the Elder Warrens. For instance Draconus gifted the Tiste Andii their darkness.

Aspected Eleint and Soletaken Eleint by Warren (work in progress)
Warren Eleint Soletaken Eleint
Kurald Emurlahn Ampelas[53]
Meanas Eloth[53]
Mockra Eloth[53]
Otataral Korabas[54]
Serc Sorrit[55] Osserc[56]
Telas Silanah[57]
Thyr Eloth[53] Olar Ethil[58]

In Memories of Ice[]

After being bound to Burn's flesh during the Chaining, the Crippled God became a virulent poison inside her. Burn's Warren was a pathway to all the other Warrens which first began seeing the effects of the Chained One's infection on Genabackis. Rife with Chaos, magic became unpredictable and dangerous.[59][60] Access to the Warrens became difficult and mages risked becoming incapacitated with a raving fever.[61][62] Some Warrens, such as the Barghast Warren[63] and Tellann,[64] did not seem to be affected, while others, such as Hood's Path, were temporarily safe through the efforts of the associated Elder Gods.[65] Ultimately, Burn's fever was broken and slowed by the unveiling of Omtose Phellack within her realm.[66]

In Midnight Tides[]

The use of an Omtose Phellack ritual by the Jaghut, Gothos, in Lether during ancient times had sealed the land and prevented the evolution of magic on the western part of the continent.[67][68][69] Whereas in other places these Holds would evolve into the more refined magic form of warrens, sorcery in western Lether remained based on Holds.[69] Crimson Guard mage Corlo was unable to access any warrens during the two years he and the rest of Iron Bars' squad were stuck in Lether. When the Tiste Edur army invaded, their enslaved Tiste Andii wraiths brought with them enough of Kurald Galain for Corlo to open a gate.[70]

In Reaper's Gale[]

Under the influence of a Demon spirit-god's lust and ambition, the Errant sought to initiate a war between the Holds and the Warrens to reclaim his own waning power back. Ceda Kuru Qan warned the god that to do so would be to wage war on K'rul. The Errant disagreed, claiming the war would involve only his children who were not pleased that the Elder God had returned.[71]

Significant plot details end here.

In The Bonehunters[]

The Eleint, Ampelas, revealed that K'rul's blood, from which the Warrens had been shaped, was growing sickly.[72] Cotillion sought allies against the Crippled God, stating that the god was poisoning the Warrens.[73]

In Fall of Light[]

(Information needed)


  • Authors Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont devised the Warren-based magic system during their days fleshing out the Malazan world in role-playing games. When asked how the pair got the idea for how magic worked, Erikson stated, "We learned early on to keep it mysterious and mysterious it shall remain."[75] Erikson has argued that when an author defines all the rules of magic "you've lost the purpose of magic in fantasy because the original purpose of magic in fantasy is to invoke a sense of wonder and mystery. And so, once you've explained it all, you've lost it. So, we made a point of never explaining the magic. As you may have noticed."[76]
  • Esslemont suggests Malazan readers "should dispense with the mechanical approach to magic, they shouldn't take a sort of D&D system approach to magic" where abilities and limitations are clearly defined. He says what the two authors "wanted to explore was magic as power. So, it's something that you can grasp and all that you make of it, well, what can someone make of power? It's on that sort of idea, you're granted access, and what you make of it is up to you." He likens magic to music in the real world, which is available to everyone, but not everyone is a professional musician.[77]
  • Erikson has said the magic system in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is inspired by shamanism in the real world. Shamans "interact with what they perceive as the non-physical realms in very unique ways...that is kind of what we're echoing with the have magic users, but each one finds their own path. There is a structure, the extent to which each user of magic understands that structure is up in the air, and it's different for different people. I would suggest that Quick Ben has a better understanding of magical structure than, say, Bottle."[78]
  • The Malazan series is intended to take place in a world where sexism does not exist. To accomplish this, the magic system is designed to be egalitarian — something anyone can reach — preventing gender-based hierarchies of power resembling those of the real world.[79]
"There were many faces to chaos, to the realm between the realms, and this path they had taken, Taralack Veed reflected, was truly horrific. Defoliated trees rose here and there, broken-fingered branches slowly spinning in the chill, desultory wind, wreaths of smoke drifting across the blasted landscape of mud and, everywhere, corpses. Sheathed in clay, limbs jutting from the ground, huddled forms caked and half-submerged. In the distance was the flash of sorcery, signs of a battle still underway...Up ahead, the Edur warrior Ahlrada Ahn called out a rest, and Taralack Veed sank down against the sloped, sodden wall of a trench, stared down at his legs, which seemed to end just beneath his knees, the rest invisible beneath an opaque pool of water reflecting the grey sludge of sky...The trench they had been trudging along debouched onto a muddy plain, the surface chewed by horse hoofs and cart wheels and the craters of sorcerous detonations. Here, the reek of rotting flesh hung like a mist. Gravestones were visible here and there, pitched askew or broken, and there was splintered wood – black with sodden decay – and thin white bones amidst the dead still clothed in flesh...Perhaps half a league away ran a ridge, possibly a raised road, and figures were visible there, in a ragged line, marching towards the distant battle, pikes on their backs."
―The Bonehunters, Chapter 24[src]

Fan art gallery[]

Notes and references[]

  1. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.78
  2. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.747
  3. Night of Knives, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.74 statement by Temper
  4. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.194
  5. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.277
  6. Midnight Tides, Chapter 3
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Gardens of the Moon, Glossary, UK MMPB p.707
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Glossary, UK MMPB p.938
  9. The Bonehunters, Glossary
  10. Memories of Ice, Chapter 11
  11. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.110
  12. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.295
  13. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 11, US HC p.265
  14. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.165
  15. Night of Knives, Chapter 1
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Memories of Ice, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.865
  17. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.164/165
  18. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.78
  19. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.78/79
  20. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.165
  21. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.168
  22. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.279/282
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.63
  24. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.161
  25. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 5, UK MMPB p.187
  26. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.209
  27. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 7, UK MMPB p.250-252
  28. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.135
  29. Gardens of the Moon,Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.146
  30. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.166
  31. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.194
  32. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.31
  33. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.160/161
  34. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.167
  35. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.332
  36. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 11, US HC p.280
  37. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.94
  38. Gardens of the Moon, Glossary, UK MMPB p.709
  39. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.127
  40. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.165
  41. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.198
  42. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.103
  43. House of Chains, Chapter 9, US SFBC p.376-377
  44. 44.0 44.1 Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 3
  45. Midnight Tides, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.394
  46. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 6, UK MMPB p.198 - example
  47. Memories of Ice‎, Chapter 7
  48. Memories of Ice‎, Chapter 7
  49. Memories of Ice‎, Chapter 7
  50. Memories of Ice, Chapter 7, UK MMPB p.327
  51. The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.77-79
  52. The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.232
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 53.3 The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.77
  54. House of Chains, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.472
  55. The Bonehunters, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.167
  56. The Bonehunters, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.231
  57. The Crippled God, Chapter 19
  58. The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.79
  59. Memories of Ice, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.74
  60. Memories of Ice, Chapter 5, US SFBC p.201-202
  61. Memories of Ice, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.382
  62. Memories of Ice, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.560
  63. Memories of Ice, Chapter 11, US SFBC p.400
  64. Memories of Ice, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.729
  65. Memories of Ice, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.884
  66. Memories of Ice, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.967-968
  67. Midnight Tides, Prologue, US SFBC p.24-25
  68. Midnight Tides, Chapter 20, US SFBC p.602-604
  69. 69.0 69.1 Midnight Tides, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.621-622
  70. Midnight Tides, Chapter 16, US HC p.404
  71. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 11, US HC p.282-288
  72. The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.77
  73. The Bonehunters, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.79
  74. Blood and Bone, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.518
  75. Steven Erikson Reddit AMA 2015.
  76. An Evening with Steven Erikson by Nerdaí Irish Nerds - See 37:10
  77. Spoiler Talk: Night of Knives with Ian C. Esslemont and Philip Chase - A Critical Dragon - See 9:30/12:30
  78. Books with Brittany - see 32:00
  79. Ten Very Big Books podcast See 42:50
  80. Not A TSACast: Fireside Conversations with Steven Erikson Ep#3 podcast - See 1:30:00
  81. The Bonehunters, Chapter 24, US SFBC p.958-959
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