Malazan Book of the Fallen
The Malazan Empire was founded in 1058 Burn’s Sleep. In the decades leading up to the beginning of the campaign, the continent of Quon Tali had become embroiled in a series of power struggles between the feuding city-states, with the Kingdom of Unta establishing itself as a considerable military power on the continent. When Unta annexed the Napan Isles as a prelude for its planned invasion of Kartool Island, many refugees were displaced, some landing on Malaz Island to the southeast. At this time, Malaz Island was ruled by a cold-blooded pirate lord named Mock, whose formidable criminal organization controlled the whole island and had many contacts on the mainland. Mock sold many of the refugee Napans to the Untans, aside from a few who escaped with the help of factions on the island opposed to Mock.
Foremost of these factions were Kellanved and Dancer, a powerful mage and a master assassin from the mainland who had settled on Malaz Island and opened a bar. They recruited among the island’s criminal element and employed refugee Napans, offering them the chance to take revenge against Unta and liberate their homeland. Kellanved, Dancer, a boy working for them named Dujek, and Napan refugees Amaron, Hawl and Nok continued to expand their ‘family’, recruiting the Napan brothers Cartharon and Urko Crust, a Napan barmaid named Surly, a formidable Dal Honese sword fighter named Dassem Ultor, a soldier named Duiker plucked out to become a historian and a refugee high priest of D’rek from Kartool named Tayschrenn. With this family Kellanved overthrew Mock and his criminal organization and established himself as the supreme ruler of Malaz Island. Using the refugee Napans, hungry for vengeance against Unta, as the core of his military and magical forces, Kellanved led Malaz in a war against the mainland, against the odds seizing Unta and expanding across the continent of Quon Tali. The Napans were initially pleased, having used Kellanved to liberate the Napan Isles, but became disillusioned as the Napan Isles swapped the yoke of Unta for the yoke of the swiftly growing Malazan Empire.
Over the next century, the Malazan Empire sprawled across Quon Tali, eventually seizing control of the entire continent. The Empire’s trading fleets were soon growing rich from trading with Korel to the south-east, Seven Cities to the north and Genabackis to the north-east. Explorations of the landmass immediately to the west of Quon Tali (south-west of Seven Cities and part of the same landmass) were curtailed by the unrelenting hostile intransigence of the Shal-Morzinn Empire, whose formidable magical might gave even Kellanved pause. Instead the Malazan Empire expanded into Seven Cities, seizing control of the subcontinent in a bloody war. Around this time, the Emperor somehow gained control of the clans of the undead T’lan Imass. Despite the vast and formidable power of the undead army, Kellanved used the undead warriors sparingly. During one incident the Imass – apparently acting on the orders of Clawmaster Surly – believing the orders to come from Kellanved – brutally sacked the Holy City of Aren, slaughtering the inhabitants en masse. After this incident, Kellanved apparently did not use the overwhelming military might of the Imass again. By the war’s conclusion the subcontinent was subdued, but wore the Malazan yoke uneasily. A massive rebellion erupted some years later, a rebellion during which the Empire’s First Sword, Dassem Ultor, was lost at Y’Ghatan.
By 1154 Burn’s Sleep the Empire was conducting military incursions into both Genabackis and Korel. By this year Kellanved and Dancer had been missing for several years, having undertaken ambitious and extensive explorations of an unknown, but certainly magical nature. Upon their return late in this year, they were promptly assassinated by Surly, who named herself Laseen and took the royal throne herself. Many of the loyal old guard were demoted or scattered to distant parts of the Empire to reduce their threat to Laseen.
By 1163 Laseen’s control seemed secure, but in reality the Empire was badly overstretched, its armies on Korelri facing serious reversals, its army on Genabackis bogged down in a stalemated siege of the Free City of Pale and Seven Cities hungry for vengeance against the ‘Mezla’. It is at this point that the Malazan Book of the Fallen saga begins.
By 1163 Burn’s Sleep, the Malazan Empire extends across four continents: Quon Tali, Seven Cities, Genabackis and Korel, plus numerous surrounding islands. Although born in Malaz City, on Malaz Island off the south-eastern coast of Quon Tali, the Empire’s capital is Unta on the mainland’s eastern coast.
The Malazan Empire is aware of the existence of continents lying to the east of Korelri, including Assail (and presumably Jacuruku), but has made no further explorations or military adventures in those areas.
The Empire is ruled by the Empress Laseen, who rules through an extensive bureaucracy. The second in command is the Adjunct, who is seen as a direct extension of the Empress herself. Each continent is governed by a High Fist (Pormqual on Seven Cities, Dujek on Genabackis and Greymane on Korelri) who disseminates orders via the Fists. Fists are both military commanders of armies and also governors of cities and strongholds. Where possible the Malazans use local rulers, religions and customs to rule, creating a continuity of control from the pre-Imperial regime which should reduce the risk of natives banding together patriotically to eject the foreigners. In some areas, however, a more direct subjugation by force is necessary.
The Malazan imperial Military has often confronted numerically superior enemies and triumphed over them. The secret of its success lies in its superior organization, training, weapons, and tactics. Unlike almost all of its opponents (except some mercenary companies), the imperial military is a professional force. Despite its relatively small size (considering the size of its empire), it has a formidable and well earned reputation.
Malazan military formations include skirmishers, scouts, heavy and medium infantry, heavy cavalry, lancers, marines and sappers. Sappers are equipped with alchemical munitions, which originate from the Empire’s enigmatic allies, the Moranth of Genabackis. The Empire’s use of munitions, which no other nation possesses, has been of significant help in its ongoing wars. The Empire also uses crossbowmen, although as well as dedicated missile formations it also trains many regular infantry in the use of crossbows as well, allowing the infantry to rain fire on the enemy before closing to engage. Onearm’s Host also employs javelins which are thrown into the enemy ranks just before engaging them in melee.
The Malazan method of warfare favours large-scale field engagements. In guerrilla warfare situations, such as those that exist in Blackdog Forest and Mott Wood in northern Genabackis, or on the plains of Korelri, it is less effective.
It is widely believed that the Malazan Empire has control of at least one clan of the T’lan Imass, 20 000 undead warriors who are virtually impossible to kill without magical aid, do not require food or rest, and can turn into dust and travel vast distances quickly, even over seas. The Imass have not been used since the brutal sack of Aren.
The Empire employs powerful Mage cadres in battle, but with High Mages and even less powerful mages at a premium, not every engagement can count on magical support.