Dassem Ultor [Dah-ss-ehm OOlt-or] was once First Sword of the Malazan Empire[1] and the Supreme Commander of the Malazan military forces. His retinue of bodyguards was known as Dassem's First Sword.

The First Sword developed the Malazan Military tactical doctrine which was used for decades.[2] His style of command, which allowed soldiers to think and argue, was said to have made them the best army the world had ever seen.[3] Dassem was loved and worshipped by his army. He led from the front of every battle and "soldiers shoved each other aside just for the chance to fight near him." This earned him rivals amongst the Empire's leadership.[4]

Dassem was also a fierce and accomplished fighter. Temper mentioned that Skinner was the only Crimson Guardsman reported to have survived a clash with him.[5] Even Whiskeyjack's superb swordsmanship was only able to delay Dassem's eventual victory when they practice sparred, according to Dujek Onearm.[6]

He was dusky skinned with grey shot black curled hair cut short, with deep blue incongruous eyes. His features were even with crisscrossed scars.[7]

He sported the nut-brown features of his Dal Honese heritage and had the capacity for great gentleness and humanity while also being an efficient slayer.[8]

During his time as the First Sword, he wore a helmet with black horsehair plume and a long surcoat of burgundy and grey with the Imperial sceptre at his chest [9]

Dassem was reputed to have made a deal with Hood and to have been appointed Knight of Death by the King of High House Death.[10]


Dassem, formerly a Dal Hon sword fighter, joined Kellanved's family in Malaz City. Under his leadership as First Sword, the Malazan Army went on to conquer Quon Tali, Seven Cities, and a part of Genabackis.

During a rebellion on Seven Cities, Dassem had killed the Holy Protector of an unnamed city and assigned Whiskeyjack to run down the Protector's escaped cabal of mages. The chase across the Holy Desert Raraku by Whiskeyjack's cobbled together collection of soldiers led to the forging of the Bridgeburners.[11]

At some point Dassem became the Knight of High House Death.[12]

Dassem attended the most recent Chaining of the Crippled God sometime after the birth of the Bridgeburners.[13] There he decried the injustice and cruelty meted on the Fallen One. Due to his taking the title of First Sword, the Logros T'lan Imass cast out Onos T'oolan and decided to follow Dassem. Although this was done without his knowledge, Hood decided to strike at the T'lan Imass through Dassem by taking his daughter for the Chaining. The First Sword was broken by Hood's act.[14]

War Council by Shadaan

War Council by Shadaan
Fictional meeting of (left to right): Brys Beddict the Finadd of the First Empire, Dassem Ultor the Malazan original First Sword, Krughava of the Perish, Onos T'oolan First Sword of the Imass, Fear Sengar, the Edur Warleader, and the Mortal sword of Treach, Gruntle.

By the time of the Siege of Y'Ghatan, Dassem had already made up his mind to somehow leave the army and pursue his vow of vengeance against Hood and find his daughter.[15]

Although no details are available, when Hood was done using her, Dassem was able to retrieve his daughter, and bring her viciously wounded body to Tremorlor before he cursed the god and vowed vengeance.[16] He also renounced his title of Knight of (High House) Death.[17]

Not long after that, Dassem Ultor was reportedly killed at the Siege of Y'Ghatan,[18] leaving Surly, leader of the Claw, next in line of succession.[19] Dujek Onearm and Hairlock were amongst the Emperor's old guard present on that day.[20]

After Ultor's death, "his men were pulled down fast".[21]

In Deadhouse GatesEdit

Fiddler, Crokus Younghand, Apsalar, Icarium, Mappo Runt, and Iskaral Pust discovered the body of Dassem's daughter in Tremorlor, the Azath house in Raraku. Dressed in underclothes and crisscrossed with vicious wounds, she lay at the base of one of the House's tower stairs. She appeared to have been placed there only moments before.

Apsalar recognized her from Cotillion's mortal memories as Dassem's daughter. She said that the "First Sword had recovered her after Hood was done using her, and brought her here." This was years ago, before Dassem broke his vow to Hood and cursed the god of death he once served.[22]

In Memories of IceEdit

While meeting in Callows with Lady Envy, K'rul lamented the loss of their ally, Dassem, against the threat of the Crippled God. K'rul recalled how Dassem had been broken when Hood had taken his daughter at the Time of the Chaining. Envy pondered whether her own refusal to attend the Chaining had led to Hood's use of Dassem's daughter as a substitute. K'rul concluded that only Hood knew, but the issue was complicated by the fact that Dassem as Dessembrae had grown to rival Hood's power. Dassem's fall had other consequences, leading a mortal empire to the brink of chaos and opening the way for a new occupancy of the Shadow Throne.[23]

Later, when Quick Ben momentarily had Hood under his control, he demanded the god honour the spirit of an agreement Hood had made with Trake, the Barghast gods, and Talamandas. The god seethed when Quick Ben hoped that he had learned from he mistakes he made with Dassem Ultor.[24]

Picker and Blend recalled Spindle's disastrous time as the captain of a company of Sappers. One sapper stumbled on his own weapon causing the entire company to go up. Afterwards, Dassem broke up the Empire's sappers so they were no longer together in large specialist units.[25]

In House of Chains Edit

Under the guise of "Traveller", he was shown to be in the company of a group of Malazans, including Hawl. Later he guarded Drift Avalii and the Throne of Shadow and came to wield the sword named Vengeance after Andarist's death.[26]

In Night of Knives Edit

Dassem ultor the first sword by luztheren

Dassem Ultor the Frst Sword by Luztheren

Temper, a former member of Dassem's personal bodyguard, recalled Dassem's final days as the Malazan First Sword of Empire. At the Siege of Y'Ghatan, Dassem personally engaged the city's champion, Surgen Ress, whose combat prowess was only matched by his own. Temper witnessed Dassem get struck by a bolt thrown or fired from somewhere within their own lines. This caused the Dassem's First Sword to fight a desperate retreat, losing most of their members to either Surgen or the Seven Cities Infantry. Temper then fought Surgen to a standstill while Ferrule and Dassem retreated, until they were relieved by the Malazan Regulars.[27]

That night, a comatose Dassem was rescued by Temper and Ferrule, the only two survivors of the First Sword, and Temper forced Dassem to come out of his coma by placing him in immediate danger. Once awakened, the Claws left by Surly to dispose off Dassem were quickly killed by Dassem himself and the three quickly made good their escape. The three then made their way to Aren, and then on Dassem's insistence, parted ways, Dassem saying that he intended to 'Head west'.[28]

Later on, Temper heard the official version of their 'death', that the three of them had died in a night raid by fanatical Holy city Falah'd, who withdrew to the city taking Dassem's body with them.[29]

In Return of the Crimson Guard Edit

Traveller - From the edge by Shadaan

'Traveller and Ereko' Interpretation by Shadaan

Ereko recalled Traveller's arrival at the Stormwall. He was said by the Stormguard to have been a Malazan deserter who attempted to break the blockade on Korel and was only stopped when his ship was set on fire. As Traveller was chained to the wall, Ereko heard the Queen of Dreams say that the man would bring Ereko's deliverance.[30] He acquitted himself well against the unearthly Stormriders, long outliving others placed on the wall at the same time. Once, Ereko was horrified to see him cast aside his weapon and converse with one of the Riders. That night Ereko broke his chains, retrieved Traveller's cold numbed body, and carried him on his shoulder as he swam to shore.[31]

The Crimson Guard Avowed Stoop told Kyle that Skinner had once fought Dassem to a standstill. This event had happened during the Malazan invasion of the Guard lands on Stratem shortly before the Duke had disappeared.[32][33]

The pair worked their way south to Stratem, where they began constructing a boat at the village of Canton's Landing. There they defended the villagers from the "grey raiders", two ships of Tiste Edur warriors. Traveller slew all of them except for the young witch Sorrow, who was appalled and fascinated to recognize him. She addressed him as the "Revealed One", sought his guidance, and claimed his presence proved "Everything was a lie! I -- my life -- all is bereft of meaning! I am empty!...I will return to my people and all the ancient lies will be cast down. I will bring this new truth to them." Fearing for her life for revealing such truth, Traveller instead advised her to travel north as a pilgrim.[34]

Traveller and Ereko by PLUGO

Ereko and Traveller by PLUGO

Once the boat was completed, it was nearly stolen by the Crimson Guard deserters Kyle, Badlands, Stalker, and Coots. The six reached an agreement to travel together when Kyle stated that they were headed for the Dolmens of Tien on Jacuruku, a location that left Ereko feeling gut-punched and filled with emotion.[35] On Jacuruku, they were attacked by the Thaumaturg Jhest Golanjar, who attempted to trap Traveller within a prison of D'riss beneath the sand. However, Ereko the Thel Akai, a child of the Earth, was able to counter the magery and retrieve Traveller alive.[36] The encounter left Traveller weakened, feverish, and more susceptible to the whispered anguish of his sword.[37]

At the Dolmens of Tien, the group found a dessicated corpse where Kyle hoped to find imprisoned Crimson Guard leader K'azz D'Avore. Then the High King Kallor challenged Ereko and Traveller was forced to bow to his friend's wishes, allowing the Thel Akai to be killed. Afterwards, Traveller challenged the sneering Kallor to a duel of their own. He astonished the High King, impaling him upon Vengeance before the Crippled God rescued his servant. Traveller felt the sting of Kyle's rebuke for allowing Ereko to die.[38]

They then tried to travel to Quon Tali but were swept by a storm into the Shadow Realm where Kyle accompanied Traveller to a meeting with Shadowthrone and Cotillion. Shadowthrone offered to help Traveller find Hood, in return for Dassem going back to Quon Tali and helping the Malazans fight off Skinner and the Crimson Guard. The group then split off, Traveller making his own way to Tali, while the others journeyed through Shadow.[39]
Skinner vs Dassem

Interpretation of the fight between Skinner and Dassem by Malazan Empire Forum thread

At the Battle of the Plains, Traveller reunited with his friends and former guard, Temper and Ferrule, to fight the renegade Skinner and his Crimson Guard Avowed. Skinner's armor was magically impenetrable, but Dassem was able to fend him off and delivered a serious wound under the helm. At that point, Skinner and his Avowed retreated into their Warren. Dassem, too, disappeared, having forestalled Skinner's forces, forcing them to flee.[40]
Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Dassem Ultor.

In Toll the Hounds Edit

Lord of Tragedy Dassem Ultor by Shadaan

Interpretation of Dassem Ultor by Shadaan

Dassem Ultor, still in the guise of Traveller, reached the coast of Genabackis, near Morn. He met Samar Dev and later, Karsa Orlong and travelled with them to Darujhistan. There, he attacked and killed Anomander Rake, for standing between him and his vengeance upon Hood.[41] He was also revealed to be Dessembrae, the Lord of Tragedy.

Significant plot details end here.

In Orb Sceptre ThroneEdit

Dassem had retreated to a monastery in the Mengal Mountains where he and a few others lived a harsh but very simple life.[42] He was the subject of a search by the Seguleh who wanted to find the person who had beaten the Seventh (a position previously held by Anomander Rake) so that they could offer that position to him. When they found Dassem, they tried to convince him to come back with them. However, refusing to become a part of other's game, Dassem refused. Nevertheless, as the Seguleh made to leave to Darujhistan, Dassem was finally convinced that he was needed and traveled to Darujhistan.[43]

Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Dassem Ultor.
There, Dassem Ultor witnessed the duel and death of the Seguleh Second, and was offered the mask of First of the Seguleh, which he accepted. He then negotiated with the attacking Moranth, and struck a truce, leading the Seguleh back to Morn in his capacity as their leader.[44]
Significant plot details end here.

In Dancer's LamentEdit

Young Dassem by Corporal Nobbs

Young Dassem by Corporal Nobbs


Karsa Orlong: "You hide your name."
Traveller: "What I hide only begins with my name, Karsa Orlong."
―When Karsa Orlong met Traveller[src]
"He was an odd man, she decided, quiet, self-contained, a man used to being alone. Yet beneath it all was a current of... yes... mayhem, as if it was his own solitude that kept the world safe."
―Samar Dev, thoughts regarding Traveller[src]
"My life is now my own...It can no longer be taken by anyone."

Notes and references Edit

  1. Gardens of the Moon, Prologue, UK MMPB p.4
  2. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.611
  3. Memories of Ice, Chapter 23, US SFBC p.811
  4. Night of Knives, Chapter 4, US TPB p.164
  5. Night of Knives, Chapter 1, UK HB p.22
  6. Memories of Ice, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.978
  7. House of Chains, Chapter 12
  8. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1, Chapter 2, UK PB p.40
  9. Night of Knives, Chapter 4, Transworld Digital ebook p.261/263
  10. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.133
  11. Memories of Ice, Chapter 8, US SFBC p.299-306
  12. Gardens of the Moon, Glossary
  13. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.114
  14. Memories of Ice, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.276
  15. 'It can't be that easy.'
    'Easy!' The First Sword's black eyes blazed and Temper jerked back a step. Dassem passed one gauntleted hand across his eyes as if wiping away a vision of horror. His long black hair, plaited back and tied at his neck, lashed in the wind like the horsetail plume at the helmet under his arm. He shaded his gaze to scan the battle. 'He made a mistake,' he whispered aloud.
    Temper wondered: was this meant to be overheard?
    'All that has ever mattered to me has been taken. I have nothing left to lose...'
  16. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20
  17. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 4, UK MMPB p.133
  18. Gardens of the Moon, Prologue, UK MMPB p.4
  19. Night of Knives, Chapter 3, UK HB p.90
  20. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.69
  21. Gardens of the Moon, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.114
  22. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 20, US HC p.519
  23. Memories of Ice, Chapter 7, US SFBC p.272-277
  24. Memories of Ice, Chapter 18, US SFBC p.655-656
  25. Memories of Ice, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.766
  26. House of Chains, Chapter 12
  27. Night of Knives, Chapter 4
  28. Night of Knives, Chapter 4
  29. Night of Knives, Chapter 4
  30. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1, Chapter 2, UK PB p.43
  31. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1, Chapter 2, UK PB p.79-81
  32. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 2, UK PB p.90
  33. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4
  34. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 1 Chapter 4, UK PB p.160-162
  35. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2, Chapter 1, UK PB p.280
  36. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2, Chapter 4, UK PB p.380-390
  37. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2, Chapter 5, UK PB p.429-430
  38. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2, Chapter 5, UK PB p.433-443
  39. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 2, Chapter 5
  40. Return of the Crimson Guard, Book 3, Chapter 2
  41. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 23
  42. Orb Sceptre Throne, Prologue
  43. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 14
  44. Orb Sceptre Throne, Chapter 20, UK HB p.175/176
List of abbreviationsPaginationsHow to reference an article

See also Edit

  • Malazan Military – The tactics that Dassem used became a standard operating procedure for the Malazan forces.

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