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The Deck of Dragons

Page history last edited by Eloth 6 years, 5 months ago

The Deck of Dragons


The Deck of Dragons is a set of wooden cards used for divination. Those capable of using the Deck for divination purposes are called Readers, Talents or Adepts. In common usage, 'Reader' refers to someone with enough talent or skill to divine the future using the Deck of Dragons to a greater or lesser degree (or at least convincingly pretend to do so), while 'Talent' usually refers to someone with little or no formal training that possesses a natural ability to use the Deck (such as Fiddler). Finally, an Adept is someone with surpassing skill and/or talent with the Deck of Dragons, able to glean far more information from a reading than lesser readers - for example, the cards often appear animate to an Adept and are sometimes used as a conduit by Ascendants during a reading (see Tattersail's reading for Tayschrenn in Gardens of the Moon). 

Each card within the deck has its own aspect and title, as well as a relation to other cards. During a reading or other usage of the Deck, these cards represent personages and actions related to events in the present or near future. 


Many of the cards are based on and carry the same name as roles within the High Houses of the Pantheon. These cards' aspect is similar to the nature of the role within the High House. For example, if The Assassin of Shadow card is correlated to a person during a reading, then he or she may hold that position in the near future.  These positions are not permanent.

There is no single Deck of Dragons. Decks from certain regions frequently include cards aspected to local gods and Ascendants. Likewise, readings of the Deck are context-specific and will not be the same across the world unless referring to global events. 
The Deck has a Master.  The Master is the only person who can create and sanction new cards.

Known Cards from the Deck of Dragons


Cards of High House Life

  • King of Life
  • Queen of Life
  • Champion of Life
  • Priest of Life
  • Herald of Life
  • Soldier of Life
  • Weaver of Life


Cards of High House Death

  • King of Death
  • Queen of Death
  • Knight of Death
  • Magi of Death
  • Herald of Death
  • Soldier of Death
  • Spinner of Death
  • Mason of Death
  • Virgin of Death



Cards of High House Light

  • King of Light
  • Queen of Light
  • Champion of Light
  • Priest of Light
  • Captain of Light
  • Soldier of Light
  • Seamstress of Light
  • Builder of Light                    Hurl
  • Maiden of Light


Cards of High House Dark

  • King of Dark
  • Queen of Dark
  • Knight of Dark
  • Magi of Dark
  • Captain of Dark
  • Soldier of Dark
  • Weaver of Dark
  • Mason of Dark


Cards of High House Shadow

  • King of Shadow
  • Queen of Shadow
  • Assassin of Shadow
  • Magi of Shadow
  • Hound of Shadow
  • Knight of Shadow 


Cards of the House of Chains

  • King in Chains
  • Consort in Chains
  • Reaver in Chains
  • Knight in Chains
  • The Seven of the Dead Fires
  • Herald in Chains
  • Cripple in Chains
  • Leper in Chains
  • Fool in Chains 


Cards of High House War


  • Lords of War
  • Hunter
  • Guardians of the Dead
  • Mercenary 




Master of the Deck










The Apocalyptic


The City (custom card used by Tiserra)

The Tyrant (custom card used by Tiserra)


Readings of the Deck 


Tattersail's Readings

Tattersail is a skilled and experienced Adept.  During the events of Gardens of the Moon, she performs several readings.   


The first reading is shortly after the Enfilade of Pale, with the company of the newly soul-shifted Hairlock.

Her second is a few days later, at the behest of Tayschrenn who is blocked in his own efforts to read the Deck.   

Her third reading is a complete layout of the Deck in an effort to sense the motivations of all the players surrounding the coming convergence in Darujhistan.


Iskaral Pust's Reading

In Deadhouse Gates, Pust performs a reading of the Deck foreshadowing the renewal of Sha'ik. 


The Ladro Keep Reading

In Deadhouse Gates, Kalam trys to avoid a reading of the Deck while sheltering from a sandstorm in Ladro Keep.


Fiddler's Games

Fiddler's readings of the Deck take a similar form to card games, with Fiddler as the dealer issuing cards to players. 


The first such game to appear in the series is in Darujhistan during the events of Gardens of the Moon.

Later, in the Bonehunters, Fiddler deals another game at the request of Adjunct Tavore before the Bonehunters return to Malaz City.

He deals another game at Tavore's behest in Letheras during Dust of Dreams, though it is dissimilar to his usual style and is more of a reading than a game.








From Steven Erikson: 'you also have questions about roles in the Deck of Dragons. Are they filled all the time? Probably, somewhere, with individuals in certain scenarios assuming the archetypes as required. (Q and A with malazanempire No 1 (2003))



Silverfox and Paran Re: The Deck of Dragons and the Azath:

Silverfox: ‘The Deck of Dragons. A kind of structure, imposed on power itself. Who created it? No-one knows. My belief – Tattersail’s belief – is that each card is a gate into a warren, and there were once many more cards than there are now. There may have been other Decks – there may well be other Decks . . .I said no-one knows who created the Deck of Dragons. Yet there is another entity equally mysterious, also a kind of structure, focused upon power itself. Think of the terminology used with the Deck of Dragons. Houses . . . Houses of Dark, of Light, of Life and Death . . .Think of the word “Finnest”. Its meaning, as the T’lan Imass know it, is “Hold of Ice”. Long ago, among the Elder races, a Hold was synonymous with a House in its meaning and common usage, and indeed, synonymous with Warren...Where resides a Jaghut’s wellspring of power? In a Finnest...Tremorlor is Trellish for “House of Life”...an Azath House in Seven Cities. In Malaz City in your own empire, there is the Deadhouse – the House of Death . . .'

Ganoes Paran: 'You believe the Houses of the Azath and the Houses of the Deck are one and the same.’

Silverfox: 'Yes. Or linked, somehow. Think on it!’


Ganoes Paran: 'Wait! Kellanved and Dancer went into Deadhouse – why didn’t they take that aspect – the aspect of the House of Death?'

Silverfox: 'I’ve thought about that myself, and have arrived at one possibility. The realm of Death was already occupied, Paran. The King of High House Death is Hood. I believe now that each Azath is home to every gate, a way into every warren. Gain entry to the House, and you may . . . choose. Kellanved and Dancer found an empty House, an empty throne, and upon taking their places as Shadow’s rulers, the House of Shadow appeared, and became part of the Deck of Dragons. Do you see?’


Ganoes Paran: 'What of the Deck’s Unaligned?’

Silverfox: 'Failed aspects? The imposition of chance, of random forces? The Azath and the Deck are both impositions of order, but even order needs freedom, lest it solidify and become fragile.’

MoI, UK Trade, p.117-9




See also: The Deck of Dragons Project  


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