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The Wickans were plains warriors from the Wickan Plains of northeast Quon Tali known for their expert horsemanship. Conquered by the Malazans, they were often seen as primitive and "less than human", standing in the way of profitable exploitation of their lands.[1] Nevertheless, those Wickans who joined the Malazan Military provided remarkable service and leadership.

Wickan breed horses were regarded highly by those who were knowledgeable about horses and the saying was that Wickan blood (presumably that of horses given context) was supposed to 'smell of iron'.[2]


Wickan society was divided into clans. Most well known were the Crow, Foolish Dog, and Weasel. Their demographics tended to the very young and very old. Those of middle age had "all gone away to fight in foreign wars [for the Malazan Empire] and precious few had returned.[3]

Horses were central to their culture and herds were often with large encampments. They were treated as members of the family and so were not bought and sold as goods.[4] Wickan children rode horses from before they could walk.[5] They practised charging with spears and standing upon their bare backs in feats of acrobatics. Camps were alive with the sounds of exulting war cries and ululating singing.[6]

They lived in painted yurts. Their possessions could be packed into covered carts when necessity or religious pilgrimage required it. They made use of flags and pennants as decorative items.[7]

Wickans were characterized by black hair, dark eyes, and tanned skin. They often wore their hair in braids and adorned their bodies in black tattoos. Some clans threaded their skin or covered themselves in blue paint. In extreme cases, they filed their teeth to sharp points.[8][9][10][11] The Crow clan engaged in blue tattooing with intricate geometric designs on their entire body, including the face.[12]

Their craftspeople produced blankets, clay pots, and beaten copper amulets and wristlets.[13][14] Their clothes were fashioned from natural or tradeable materials, such as leather, cloth, crow feathers, and woven horsehair.[15][16] Elders wore prayer blankets.[17]

In times of war, they wore spiked skull caps, leather armour stitched with black iron scales, and gloves. Wickans carried lances, horn bows, and long-knives.[18][19] They were known to take scalps as combat trophies.[20]

Wickans believed that crows carried within them the greatest of Wickan souls and returned to their people to await each new birth. This way the power of their elders was preserved through reincarnation.[21]

Wickan law allowed those victimised by violence to seek redress through blood cleansing, a trial by combat.[22]

Somewhere on the western Wickan Plains were the sacred Golden Hills, an area of deep defiles and streams surrounding a high broad plateau where the Wickans could safely gather in large numbers.[23]

Sacred spaces open to the sky were known as kheror.[24]


Wickans with access to supernatural powers were known as warlocks (female warlocks were sometimes called witches). Warlocks had access to the warrens but also knew "the old ways, the sorceries of the land, of life spirits and totem beasts".[25] A Warlock's final years of life were known as their Time of Iron, the years when their power was at its greatest. This time was marked by a ritual drinking of mare's blood.[26] Warlock's were treated with a deliberate casual indifference by their fellow Wickans, both as a sign of respect and to avoid contact with the spirit world.[27] Warlocks were few in number after Empress Laseen's purges, and most who remained were children.


Wickan healers were known as horsewives. In addition to providing expert care to their beloved animals, horsewives treated human ailments using powders, herbs, and elixirs.[28][29][30]


See also: Wickan cattle-dog

This Wickan breed was famous for its ferocity and adaptation to plains life.


A sample of the Wickan language (translation unknown):

Rillish Jal Keth: "Wan ma Su?"
Wickan girl (pointing): "Othre."
―Rillish looking for Su[src]


"Wise words are like arrows flung at your forehead. What do you do? Why, you duck, of course. This truth a Wickan knows from the time he first learns to ride."


For much of their history, the Wickans engaged in fractious fighting between clans. Coltaine united the Wickan clans in an uprising against the Malazan Empire under Emperor Kellanved. The uprising failed but Kellanved somehow managed to acquire Coltaine's loyalty.[31]

Nil revealed to Duiker that the Emperor had won their support by shaming the clans, mocking their petty squabbles and pointless feuds. He said he need only sit back and watch the already faltering Wickan alliance to see the end of the rebellion. His words and the offer of unity with the Empire were met with gratitude and gained their loyalty.[32]

During the first year of Empress Laseen's reign, called the short-haired woman by Bult, she ordered all Wickan warlocks to be executed. Many died on the walls of Unta, however unbeknownst to the Empress, their souls were collected by crows, eleven for Sormo E'nath alone, and given to newborn babies.[33]

The Empress encouraged Malazan citizens to settle and cultivate Wickan lands resulting in unrest on the empire's frontier.[34] The Malazan military maintained several outposts in the region to assist the settlers and keep the peace.

Known clans[]

Known Wickans[]

Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Wickan.

In Deadhouse Gates[]

Empress Laseen placed Coltaine (now a Fist) in charge of the Malaz 7th Army on Seven Cities. He was accompanied by members of the Crow, Weasel, and Foolish Dog Clans as well as his people's greatest warlocks. But when the continent broke out into widespread rebellion, the Wickan Fist was abandoned by High Fist Pormqual and the local Malazan command. He was forced to march across the continent to the Malazan stronghold at Aren while escorting tens of thousands of refugees and fighting the armies of the Apocalypse who greatly outnumbered him. This march became famous as the Chain of Dogs.

In the end, the majority of refugees reached safety in Aren, but Coltaine and his men were massacred within site of the city's gates. Instead of celebrating the Wickans' act of heroism, Coltaine and his people were cursed for their imagined treachery.

In The Bonehunters[]

The Malazan Empire was weakened by the twin setbacks of the Whirlwind revolution and Bluetongue Plague in Seven Cities. High Fist Pormqual and his army had been humiliatingly slaughtered at Aren by the Army of the Whirlwind. Dujek Onearm and his 5th Army had died or disappeared. And with the population of Seven Cities devastated by plague, there was no one to harvest the subcontinent's crops. The Empire faced starvation.[36]

Empress Laseen and her newly risen advisor, Mallick Rel, settled on the Wickans as the scapegoats and solutions for both problems. Coltaine and his Wickans were blamed as connivers and traitors who led Pormqual and his soldiers to their deaths. Therefore the old covenants with the tribes could be set aside so that the Empire could seize the Wickan Plains to plant crops and slaughter the herds. An unofficial pogrom led by a crusading army of ten thousand citizens—mostly rabble with veterans among them—would eradicate the "ignorant and backward people" who now held the lands. The Empire's professional armies made no attempt to intervene.[37][38][39][40]

The disorder even reached Malaz Island where Wickans were forced to flee as violent purges struck Malaz City. Wickans were dragged from their homes and slain while their homes and businesses were looted and set aflame.[41][42] Mallick used Mockra magic and his Black Glove to inflame the citizenry when Adjunct Tavore Paran's fleet carrying the 14th Army arrived in Malaz City so that the Adjunct could meet with the Empress at Mock's Hold. When the Adjunct was presented with the plan against the Wickans and told that she must order her loyal Wickan troops to disarm and disembark to face the mob, she refused and took her army renegade.[43] She released her Wickan veterans—inclduing Fist Temul and the sorcerers Nil and Nether—to return to defend their homeland.[44]

In Return of the Crimson Guard[]

Tensions between the Wickans and Malazan settlers reached their boiling point during the Malazan civil war. Settlers felt so emboldened by their hatred of the Wickans that they besieged the Malazan border fort commanded by Rillish Jal Keth in an attempt to seize the Wickans hiding inside.[45] The return of Coltaine reborn, along with veteran sorcerers Nil and Nether, meant the Wickans had the leadership to take advantage of the Malazan Empire's temporary weakness to force a renegotiation of treaties.[46]

With advice from the sympathetic Rillish, the Wickans raided the towns north of Unta in large numbers. On the verge of entering the capital, they decided they instead needed to make a more notable and lasting effort to enhance their bargaining position.[47] Nil and Nether brought a force of one thousand Wickans 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.[48]The Wickan elder Su took advantage of new Emperor Mallick Rel's precarious position to renegotiate treaties with the Empire that were more favourable to the Wickans.[49]

Significant plot details end here.


"These Wickan riff-raff have squatted on the plains long enough. All this good land uncultivated. Wasted."
―Malazan settler[src]

Notes and references[]

  1. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.84
  2. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 9, UK MMPB p.277/278
  3. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p. 331-332
  4. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.83
  5. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 4, US HC p.118
  6. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.329
  7. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.83
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.37
  9. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.87
  10. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.249
  11. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 13, US HC p.351-352
  12. The Bonehunters, Chapter 16, US SFBC p.666
  13. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 5, US HC p.199
  14. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.331
  15. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 5, US HC p.199
  16. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 1, US HC p.268/277
  17. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.83
  18. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.37,39-40
  19. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.87
  20. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.258
  21. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, US HC p.54-55
  22. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.84
  23. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.329
  24. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 4, US HC p.118
  25. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.255
  26. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, US HC p.58
  27. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 12, US HC p.314
  28. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.249
  29. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.403
  30. Deadhouse Gates, Epilogue, US HC p.597
  31. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.51
  32. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 10, US HC p.263
  33. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.75/76
  34. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.84
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 Deadhouse Gates, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB p.18
  36. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.899-901
  37. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.901-902
  38. The Bonehunters, Chapter 22, US SFBC p.830/891
  39. The Bonehunters, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.827
  40. The Bonehunters, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.681
  41. The Bonehunters, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.680-681
  42. The Bonehunters, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.827
  43. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.887/897-907
  44. The Bonehunters, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.954
  45. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4, US HC p.156
  46. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.328-334
  47. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 5, US HC p.474
  48. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 2, US HC p.575/617
  49. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3 Chapter 4, US HC p.670
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