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Coltaine was the leader of the Wickan Crow clan. Around forty years of age, he was described as having a lean, expressionless lined face with deep brackets around a thin, wide mouth, and squint tracks at the corners of his dark, deep-set eyes. He wore his hair in oiled braids which hung down past his shoulders, knotted with crow-feather fetishes. He was tall, wearing a battered vest of chain over a hide shirt, a crow-feather cloak hanging from his broad shoulders down to the backs of his knees.
He wore a rider's leggings, laced with gut up the outer sides to his hips. A single horn-handled long-knife jutted out from under his left arm. He carried a black feathered round shield on his left arm. 
Coltaine originally united the Wickan clans in an uprising against the Malazan Empire. That uprising failed, but somehow the then Emperor, Kellanved, managed to persuade Coltaine to pledge loyalty to the Malazan Empire. He became the first Wickan Fist in the Malazan military.
Coltaine was known to isolate himself from his people with a stoicism beyond the Wickan norm. But they followed his orders without question. He was a supremely talented commander and possessed an uncanny knowledge beyond understanding. The Wickans followed him in awe.
Like others of the old Emperor's commanders, Coltaine had been side-lined by Laseen. A change in the political situation however led to him being recalled from the backwaters of Quon Tali to take command of the 7th Army on Seven Cities. His presence was initially unwelcomed by his own officers as many had fought against him on the Wickan frontier.
Coltaine's arrival at Hissar was observed by Mallick Rel, chief advisor to High Fist Pormqual, the historian Duiker, and an unnamed captain of the 7th. The Wickans looked to be on the verge of causing a riot when, at a bellowed command by Coltaine, order was restored within less than a minute. The Fist earned Mallick's enmity by allowing Bult to deliberately insult and dismiss him from the 7th's command council.
The Fist immediately began training the Malaz 7th Army in guerrilla tactics with his Wickan warriors. When the Whirlwind began its rebellion, this training proved prescient, allowing the army to escort and protect the tens of thousands of refugees accompanying them to Aren. Along the way, he successfully led the vastly outnumbered army in battle against the various tribes and city legions who sought to kill them.
When the Fist struck and bloodied the near-Ascendant Gesler's nose at Vathar Crossing, his warlocks Nil and Nether gasped in recognition that Coltaine himself appeared to be on the path to Ascendency.
Coltaine succeeded in bringing the majority of refugees to safety within the walls of Aren. But he and his soldiers were forced to make a final doomed stand outside the city's gates. High Fist Pormqual, with Mallick Rel at his side, refused to authorize a sortie to aid the Wickan Fist. When the last of Coltaine's soldiers fell, enemy commander Korbolo Dom had the Fist crucified as ten thousand Malazan soldiers watched and were broken by their own helplessness. Dom's High Mage Kamist Reloe then used his powers to prevent an uncountable number of crows from retrieving the Fist's soul for reincarnation.
Aren Guard commander Blistig called for his best archer, Squint. With uncanny aim, the man fired an arrow from the wall into Coltaine's head, killing him. The crows then descended upon the dead Fist, covering his body, and when they flew off again he was gone. The Chain of Dogs was at an end.
Coltaine's sacrifice was completely misunderstood and ignored in the Malazan homeland. Instead he was known as the "fiend Coltaine", who along with his "traitorous Wickans" had led the Seven Cities rebellion himself.
His rebirth was expected by the Wickan elders, and it soon came to pass. During tensions on the Wickan Plains, a group of Crow elders and children sought refuge in the Malazan border fort commanded by Lieutenant Rillish Jal Keth. The fort was soon besieged by angry Malazan settlers determined to exterminate the Crow. Rillish refused to turn over the Wickans, but as the fort fell to the invaders the Wickan elders conducted a bloody ritual to open a magic gateway for the soldiers and children to escape. As the group travelled further into Wickan lands for safety, Rillish noticed a child carried upon a travois, doted on and surrounded by the other children. They were soon joined by the twins Nil and Nether late of the Malaz 7th Army, who kissed the boy and studied him in wonder. Rillish doubted the claims that the child was Coltaine reborn until, moved by the Wickan's plight, he offered to resign his Malazan commission.
- "I offer my resignation. Do you, Nil or Nether, as senior officers, accept?"
A roar as the crowd of enraged elders surged inward, raised blades flashed orange in the afternoon light. A clot of dirt struck Rillish's chest. Both twins threw their arms up for silence, shouting down the crowd.
"Yes," sounded a piping voice that cut through the din like a whistle. The elders were silenced instantly, almost as if abashed. The twins stared down, astonished."
"Accepted," said the toddler, grinning up at Rillish.
It occurred to Rillish then that in the view of many, the twins were not the senior officers present."
- ―Coltaine speaks
- "Coltaine rattles slow
across the burning land.
The wind howls through the bones
of his hate-ridden command.
Coltaine leads a chain of dogs
ever snapping at his hand.
Coltaine's fist bleeds the joumey home
along rivers of red-soaked sand.
His train howls through his bones
in spiteful reprimand.
Coltaine leads a chain of dogs
ever snapping at his hands."
- ―'Coltaine', a marching song of the Bonehunters
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.53
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.40
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, US HC p.53
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 19, US HC p.510
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.51
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 13, US HC p.348
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.428
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 3, US HC p.91
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.52
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, US HC p.39
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.50-53
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.73-80/82
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.430
- ↑ Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 22, UK MMPB p.858
- ↑ Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, US HC p.64
- ↑ Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 3, US HC p.329
- ↑ House of Chains, Chapter 11
- ↑ Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 5, US HC p.224-225
- ↑ Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2 Chapter 1, US HC p.277