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Page history last edited by Eloth 9 years, 5 months ago


The Bridgeburners


"…Grimacing, Whiskeyjack twisted further to survey his soldiers. The array of faces could have been carved from stone. A company, culled from the army’s cast-offs, now a bright, hard core. ‘Gods,’ he whispered under his breath, ‘what have we made here?" - the reminiscences of Whiskeyjack from Memories of Ice.




The Bridgeburners are a legendary and elite branch of the Malazan Military. They were formed as part of the Malazan 3rd Army, and are part of the Malazan 2nd Army, when we first meet them during the siege of Pale.   The Malazan Second Army was merged with the Fifth and Sixth, to stand as the Fifth, during the events in GoTM.


There were only 39 survivors from fourteen hundred, after the siege, due to collapses of the tunnels that they tried to dig under the city. The division became an assault team during the Pannion War. They took part in a daring assault on the city of Coral, where according to the official Malazan records, the remainder of the division was lost.  In actuality, there were a few survivors of Coral, and Dujek Onearm recorded them as dead, and let them leave the army as reward for their service.





"Crossing it had etched the souls of the three companies that would come to be called the Bridgeburners. We could imagine no other name. Raraku burned our pasts away, making all that came before a trail of ashes."- thoughts of Kalam Mekhar, assassin.


 Without a rebellion on the Seven Cities subcontinent years after the initial Malazan conquest, the Bridgeburners would never have existed. Whiskeyjack gives an extensive account on the formation of the Bridgeburners while talking with Anomander Rake


"Well, the city the Protector was holed up in was breached, the walls sundered, slaughter in the streets, the madness of battle gripped us all. Dassem struck down the Holy Protector - Dassem and his band of followers he called his First Sword - they chewed their way through the enemy ranks. The Protector's cadre, seeing the death of their master and the shattering of the army, fled. Dassem ordered my company in pursuit, out into the desert. Our guide was a local, a man recently recruited into our own Claw..." (MoI, 263-4)


That guide was Kalam Mekhar. He led them through the Holy Desert of Raraku, in pursuit of the cadre, which didn't split up as it was expected to. The trail to the cadre led into the heart of Raraku. The leader of the company was Whiskeyjack. According to Whiskeyjack, following him was a rag-tag collection of 70 soldiers, a collection of marines, engineers, infantry and cavalry. They were soldiers Dassem Ultor deemed able to be spared, sacrificed even, a collection of soldiers from different squads which were effectively dead. Nobody predicted these soldiers would form the core of one of the most elite companies in the Malazan Military.


While pursuing the renegade mages, the squad came across shriveled, old bodies which appeared to have been dead for years, though that was impossible. Whiskeyjack and Kalam suspected magic. Though the mages they were chasing were on foot and without provisions, they led a chase which exhausted the soldiers. Had not the mages led the company to one hidden spring after another, they surely would have died in Raraku. 


Every mage except one had perished during the chase. The men began to realize the desert had changed them. Their pursuit finally led to a natural amphitheatre where Quick Ben sat atop a boulder. This was their encounter:


“     Whiskeyjack said nothing. He angled his mount past the assassin, approached the wizard.

     ‘One question,’ the wizard asked, his voice barely a whisper yet carrying clearly across the amphitheatre.


     ‘Who in Hood’s name are you?’

     Whiskeyjack raised a brow. ‘Does it matter?’

     ‘We have crossed Raraku entire.’ the wizard said. ‘Other side of these cliffs is the trail leading down to G’danisban. You chased me across the Holy Desert…gods, no man is worth that, not even me!’


     ‘There were eleven others in your company, wizard.’

     Adaephon Delat shrugged ‘I was the youngest – the healthiest – by far. Yet now, finally, even my body has given up. I can go no further.’ His dark eyes reached past Whiskeyjack ‘Commander, your soldiers…’

‘What of them?’

     ‘They are more…and less. No longer what they once were. Raraku, sir, has burned the bridges of their pasts, one and all – it’s all gone.’ He met Whiskeyjack’s eyes in wonder. ‘And they are yours. Heart and soul. They are yours.’ …

     ‘…The game we played Whiskeyjack? Only one of survival. At first. We didn’t think you’d make it, to be perfectly honest. We thought Raraku would come to claim you – I suppose she did, in a way, though not in a way I would have anticipated. What you and your soldiers have become…’ He shook his head.

‘What we have become,’ Whiskeyjack said ‘you have shared. You and Kalam...’


     …Grimacing, Whiskeyjack twisted further to survey his soldiers. The array of faces could have been carved from stone. A company, culled from the army’s cast-offs, now a bright, hard core. ‘Gods,’ he whispered under his breath, ‘what have we made here?’


     The first blood-letting engagement of the Bridgeburners was the retaking of G’danisban – a mage, an assassin, and seventy soldiers who swept into a rebel stronghold of four hundred desert warriors and crushed them in a single night.” (MoI, 236-8)


Nok P 60 – Temper – the badge of the Bridgeburners, the very regiment of the man downstairs (Ash), Once of the Third Army.  An army that Dassem, with Temper at his side, had led in Falar and the Seven Cities.


After Raraku


Following the retaking of G'danisban, the Bridgeburners continued to serve in Seven Cities and Quon Tali. More soldiers were added and the company grew into a march larger unit, possibly a Legion.


Whiskeyjack was reassigned to a ranking position in the 3rd Army and command of the Bridgeburners went to Korbolo Dom.



The Mouse Quarter Riots



Shortly after the fall of Dassem Ultor at Y'Ghatan and the end of the Seven Cities campaign, the Bridgeburners were recalled to Malaz Island by Surly, the Imperial Regent. Surly also removed Whiskeyjack from the 3rd Army and returned him to command of the Bridgeburners. While in Malaz City, the Bridgeburners were ordered to enforce a new Imperial law prohibiting sorcery. Riots from the practitioners of magic living in the Mouse Quarter of the city sparked conflicts with inexpeienced soldiers and military mages. The recruits' retribution was unnecessarily violent. In the aftermath of the riots, the entire quarter of the city was burned and swept clean.


Days after the Riots, the Bridgeburners and other forces departed Malaz Island for northern Genebackis and the beginning of the Genebackan campaign.



The Genebackan Campaign


Now thousands strong, the Bridgeburners were a major component of the Malazan forces throughout the invasion of Genebackis. However, with Laseen's successful coup for the Imperial Throne months after the Mouse Quarter Riots, they were assigned a long list of difficult and bloody offensives across Genebackis. Such conflicts include the conquest of Nathilog, Mott Wood and a protracted campaign in Blackdog Forest.


Attached to the 2nd Army, the Bridgeburners gradually progressed south and were eventually part of the nearly three-year long Siege of Pale. By this point the Bridgeburners had been thinned to an undermanned Division of the 2nd Army, approximately 1400 strong. Near the beginning of the siege, the Bridgeburners were ordered to tunnel under the walls of the city, a task that was clearly impossible - the valley around Pale was a glacial dump consisting of solid rock so deep the 2nd's cadre mages had difficulty finding its bottom. The Bridgeburners spent the following three years futilely burrowing through the grounds beneath the Malazan encampment.


The sorcerous enfilade of Pale in 1163 caused the collapse of four of the five tunnels housing the Bridgeburners. While it has been argued that High Mage Tayschrenn believed the tunnels would ensure their safety, his actions instead resulted in the deaths of all but a few dozen Bridgeburners.


The surviving members remained with the 2nd Army in newly-conquered Pale and were assigned a new commander - Captain Ganoes Paran - shortly thereafter. Paran, like many nobleborn Bridgeburner commanders before him, was knifed in the back the very night he took command.


A special assignment was given to the Bridgeburners' Ninth Squad, commanded by the oft-demoted Whiskeyjack, now a Sergeant. While the rest of the Bridgeburners remained in Pale, the Ninth Squad covertly infiltrated the last Free City, Darujhistan. Their mission was to plant Moranth munitions and hire the local Assassin's Guild to kill the city's rulers. These would destabilize the city in preparation for a Malazan takeover. However, the mission was also designed to result in the deaths of the squad. Specifically, the Imperial command wanted Whiskeyjack and Sorry to die, Whiskeyjack for the perceived rivalry he posed to Laseen and Sorry because she was an avatar of Cotillion poised to kill Laseen or otherwise disrupt the Empire.


The Ninth Squad's mission coincided with another plot by Laseen, acted out by Adjunct Lorn and the T'lan Imass Onos T'oolan. While the Ninth Squad was within Darujhistan, Adjunct Lorn freed the Jaghut Tyrant Raest in the hills outside the city and then proceeded to plant the Jaghut's Finnest near the Ninth Squad. It was hoped that the Tyrant would kill the Ninth Squad while reclaiming its Finnest and would then weaken Anomander Rake in combat. The Ninth Squad was apprised of the Adjunct's plan by Captain Paran, who was saved from death by Oponn. After numerous engagements with various powers, the Tyrant was ensnared by an Azath House before it could reclaim its Finnest and the Ninth Squad departed Darujhistan.



The Pannion War


Shortly after the Ninth Squad departed Darujhistan, Dujek Onearm and the 2nd, 6th and possibly 5th armies were outlawed from the Malazan Empire. These armies merged into a single Malazan force under Dujek and were known collectively as Onearm's Host, a term retained from before the outlawry. Onearm's Host allied itself with it's former opponents, Caladan Brood and Anomander Rake, and together they began anew campaign against the Pannion Domin, a religious nation to the south. Whiskeyjack was appointed Dujek's second-in-command and Captain Paran took charge of the remaining Bridgeburners and later promoted Picker to Lieutenant and his second-in-command.


As Onearm's Host marched towards the city of Capustan, the Bridgeburners were flown by the Moranth to the lands of the Barghast on the east coast of Genebackis. Their mission was to enlist the help of the White Face Barghast. By defeating the son of the White Face's leader, Humbrall Taur, the Barghast Bridgeburner Trotts was able to convince the Barghast to march south and join the war against the Pannion Domin.


The Bridgeburners reached Capustan with the Barghast, before Onearm's Host did. They had a few brief skirmishes with Pannion soldiers defending the conquered city, but suffered no losses. With the arrival of Onearm's Host, the Bridgeburners briefly rejoined the 2nd Army, but, shortly after the Host continued traveling south, they were dispatched with some Black Moranth to scout the cities and regions en route to Coral.


Arriving near Coral, the Bridgeburners were joined by elements of Onearm's Host, also airlifted by the Black Moranth. These forces took control of a fortified hill outside the city constructed by the Pannions as a defensive fort in preparation for the looming battle. The Malazan forces were engaged by Pannion forces attempting to retake the fort but repelled the attack.


The following night, the Malazans, staged another airlift directly into Coral. The Bridgeburners' objective was to infiltrate the city's inner fortress and eliminate the Pannion Seer. Opposed in the streets by undead K'Chain Che'malle Kell Hunters, the Malazan forces suffered heavy losses. Once inside the Pannions' fortress they no longer faced the undead K'Chain Che'malle, but continued to suffer losses from overwhelming numbers of Pannion soldiers. Quick Ben and Captain Paran succeeded in abducting the Pannion Seer and removing the threat of the K'Chain Che'malle Matron. A remaining handful of Bridgeburners, lead by Lieutenant Picker, joined forces with Lady Envy, were healed and escaped the fortress.





In the aftermath of the Battle of Coral, the bodies of the Bridgeburners who fell were recovered and interred in Moon's Spawn, along with Whiskeyjack, Twist and the two marines who had defended Silverfox against Kallor. Defended from looters by Tiste Andii sorcery, the flying tomb was sent out above the sea, eventually to fall and sink to the ocean floor.


Aside from Quick Ben, the surviving Bridgeburners - Paran, Picker, Antsy, Mallet, Blend, Bluepearl and Spindle - were officially logged as fallen by Dujek and retired to Darujhistan, where Picker, Antsy and Blend opened K'rul's Bar at the site of the former temple. Quick Ben was promoted to High Mage and departed to assist the Malazan forces in the Whirlwind Rebellion on Seven Cities. Captain Paran, Master of the Deck of Dragons, took up residency in the Finnest House and later departed for Seven Cities. Spindle also later departed Darujhistan on a pilgrimage to the site of the Redeemer.




The motto of the Bridgeburners is "First in, last out." It is a tradition of the Bridgeburners that, when fighting alongside other Malazan forces, the Bridgeburners enter an enemy city or encampment before the other Malazan forces and are the last to depart.


Extraneous Abilities and Ascension


The original Bridgeburners who traversed Raraku gained various abilities from the desert, especially longevity. The surviving original members, such as Fiddler and Picker, have not aged as rapidly as normal humans and may have other special attributes.


While in Ehrlitan, the sapper Fiddler encountered the Tanno Spiritwalker Kimloc and made physical contact with the mystic. This passed to Kimloc the memories of Fiddler's life, and from this Kimloc made a song for the Bridgeburners. Since Tanno songs are cyclical in nature, the song did not take effect until Fiddler and Kalam journeyed to Raraku, birthplace of the Bridgeburners, for the Battle of Raraku during the Whirlwind Rebellion.


Furthermore, Gaoes Paran, Master of the Deck of Dragons, blessed all the Bridgeburners, living and dead, following the Battle of Coral. Combined with Kimloc's Tanno song, the Bridgeburners ascended as a group. The effects of this ascension are unclear. The dead Bridgeburners manifested as ghosts (but still capable of killing living people) at the Battle of Raraku and later manifested once more when Ganoes Paran visited Raraku. However, both these feats were performed by other dead armies, so it is likely that this is an effect of Raraku and not of the Bridgeburners' ascension. There has not been a discernible affect upon the living ex-Bridgeburners aside from hearing the Tanno song during the Battle of Coral.


In exchange for assistance in releasing the Deragoth, Ganoes Paran created a new card in the Deck of Dragons for the Bridgeburners - Guardians of the Dead, in High House War.


Notable Members 


Captain Ganoes Paran


9th Squad

Sergeant Whiskeyjack

Corporal Kalam Mekhar, a male assassin, formerly a Claw

Quick Ben, a male mage with access to twelve warrens

Fiddler, a male sapper (aka, Strings)

Hedge, a male sapper

Mallet, a male healer

Trotts, a male Barghast soldier

Apsalar/Sorry, a female assassin, possessed by Cotillion


7th Squad

Sergeant Antsy, red-faced man with an enormous handlebar mustache

Corporal Picker, female soldier who delivered Treach's torcs to Gruntle. Later promoted to Lieutenant and second to Captain Paran.

Blend, a female soldier who has raw but pure talent to become unnoticeable by others

Detoran, a large, female soldier

Spindle, a male mage and sapper whose warren disrupts animals when he unveils it


Squad Unknown

Sergeant Bucklund

Corporal Aimless

Toes, a necromancer, collector of toes to keep the ghost following him off-balance.

Shank, a Seti ritualist

Bluepearl, a Napan mage of Ruse

Mulch, a soldier

Runter, a soldier


Story, a soldier

Liss, a soldier

Dasalle, a soldier


Lieutenant Ash, an ex-Bridgeburner who deserted in Malaz City

Corinn, a former Bridgeburner squad-mage who deserted in Malaz City


Quotes and Sources



The Bridgeburners: a legendary elite division of the Malazan 2nd Army

NoK, UK mmpb, Glossary



"...a silver brooch: a bridge of stone, lit by ruby flames. A Bridgeburner."

GotM, UK Trade p.3, UK mmpb p.4


Bridgeburners sigil (from NoK p.46)

An arched bridge a background of licking flames (tattoo)


"...a few showed on their uniforms the flame emblem of the Bridgeburners."

GotM, UK Trade, p.89 


"The Bridgeburners hadn't shown themselves much over the past three years. Since the siege began, they'd been assigned the task of undermining Pale's massive ancient walls. That order had come straight from the capital, and it was a cruel joke of appalling ignorance: the whole valley was a glacial dump, a rock pile plugging a crevice that reached so far underground even Tattersail's mages had trouble finding its bottom."

GotM, US HC, p.60-1


"Bridgeburners. They’d been the old Emperor’s élite, his favourites, but since Laseen’s bloody coup nine years ago they’d been pushed hard into every rat’s nest in sight. Almost a decade of this had cut them down to a single, under-manned division. Among them, names had emerged. The survivors, mostly squad sergeants, names that pushed their way into the Malazan armies on Genabackis, and beyond. Names, spicing the already sweeping legend of Onearm’s Host. Detoran, Antsy, Spindle, Whiskeyjack. Names heavy with glory and bitter with the cynicism that every army feeds on."

GotM, UK Trade p.42-3, UK mmpb p.56


"Crossing it (Raraku) had etched the souls of the three companies that would come to be called the Bridgeburners. We coulde imagine no other name. Raraku burned our pasts away, making all that came before a trail of ashes."

DG, UK MMPB, p.199


"'We numbered fourteen hundred this morning, Sorceress.'


'And now?'

The girl's shrug was almost careless. 'Thirty, maybe thirty-five. Four of the five tunnels fell in completely. We were in the fifth and dug our way out.'"

- Sorry explaining the destruction of the Bridgeburners

GotM, US HC, p.61


"There would be nothing to mark the thirteen hundred dead Bridgeburners, though...his audience of thirty-nine stone-faced soldiers looked on without a word."

GotM, US HC, p.89


'The Bridgeburners are remembered here in Seven Cities. A name that is cursed, yet admired all the same. You were honourable soldiers fighting in a dishonourable war. It is said the regiment was honed in the heat and scorched rock of the Holy Desert Raraku, in pursuit of a Falah'd company of wizards.'

- Kimloc

DG, UK mmpb, p.93


'They were of a kind, then

the histories writ large

in tattooed tracery

the tales a tracking

of old wounds

but something glowed hard

in their eyes – those

flame-gnawed arches,

that vanishing span,

they are their own past

each in turn destined

to fall in line

on the quiet wayside

beside the river

they refuse to name . . .

The Bridgeburners (IV.i)

Toc the Younger (b.1141)'

GotM MMPB, p. 126


" 'I remember Korbolo Dom,' Kalam muttered.

'Thought you might. He was Whiskeyjack's replacement, wasn't he?'

'For a time. After Raraku. A superb tactician, but a little too bloodthirsty for my tastes. For Laseen, too, which was why she holed him in Halaf.'

'And promoted Dujek instead.' The captain laughed. "  - Kalam and Keneb

DG, UK mmpb, p. 371


" 'Captain, are you planning to make a new card in the Deck of Dragons?'

Paran studied the ghost for a long time, then he said, 'In many of the Houses, the role of Soldier already exists-'

'But not unaligned soldiers, Captain. Not...us.'

'You say you have a long road ahead, sapper. How do you know that? Who is guiding you?'

'I got no answer to that one, Captain. That's why we figured - our payment for this bargain - that you constructing a card for us would, well, be like shaking a handful of wheat flour over an invisible web.' " 

-- Hedge and Paran discuss creating the Bridgeburners' card, Guardians of the Dead

BH, UK mmpb, p.535


" 'And in that House there's a card called the Mercenary, and another - done by a different hand - that I think is named something like Guardians of the Dead, and it shows ghostly soldiers standing in the middle of a burning bridge...'

A moment of silence, then Gesler: 'Recognize any faces, Fid?' " 

-- Fiddler and Gesler on the dead Bridgeburner's card

BH, UK mmpb, p.879



Malazan Empire

Comments (3)

Imperial Historian said

at 11:35 pm on Feb 3, 2009

Can you check, but I'm pretty sure all the bridgeburners in darujhistan have equal shares in kruls bar, not just picker blend and antsy.

Have you got a reference for korbolo dom being in charge of the BB's I don't remember that.

I've made a start but linking all the names to the appropriate articles should probably be done as well, for at least the first time a name appears.

D'rek said

at 2:38 am on Feb 5, 2009

Partners: Not 100% sure on that one, I think it's from Paran misspeaking in the epilogue of MoI where he states Picker has only one partner, but then TtH says that at least those 3 are partners in it. I suppose the other two could be as well. I'll edit that part out I guess until we know for sure.

The Korbolo Dom reference comes from HoC whilst Gesler and Fiddler are talking about their military pasts. I don't have HoC at the moment, though, so I can't quote it directly.

More names have been linked, I ran out of time before...

D'rek said

at 5:43 am on Feb 19, 2009

Finally found that Korbolo quote. Hurray.

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