Shadow of the Torturer Chapters 25 to 27


Severian, Dorcas, and Agia eat together for what might be Severian's final meal. Severian receives a mysterious note, perhaps meant for Dorcas, and goes to fight the duel. He doesn't win, but doesn't die, and his opponent, who Agia knows, flees, lashing out at the crowd.


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    I was pretty much mystified by these chapters.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    I was pretty much mystified by these chapters.

    I'm actually feeling de-mystified by these three. After the last four, I though these were pleasantly straight forward and finally some strings are being drawn together. The note is a little mysterious, but it confirms the idea that she's been resurrected.

    The duel seems to have played out as predicted in our last discussion, with Severian getting killed, then being resurrected by the Claw of the Concilliator. Agia calls out the name of her brother after the fleeing challenger, which also confirms our suspicion that this was a set-up by the two of them from the beginning.

    There weren't even many words for the lexicon.

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    The main thing seemed to me that Agia (who had previously seemed to be an ally for Severian) turned out to be on the opposing side, and Dorcas (who we knew nothing about) seems to be on his side. For me that put a rather different complexion on Agia's repeated moves to seduce Severian (in a fairly low key way which he kept thinking was going to escalate). The perplexing thing about that was that Severian had indicated (with his future perspective, impeccable memory and what not) that he had had sexual relations with her... but now that seems pretty much off the table. Maybe they get it together later?

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    Agia, at times, seemed like an ally, or professed to be an ally. But as they travelled through the garden, she became increasingly annoyed when Severian interacted with other people, and tried to rush him along. It seemed to me at the time that she was worried someone would foil her plan. And she had only known him a day.

    Dorcas seemed to come out of nowhere in the last chapter and has latched on to Severian. He has, more or less, given birth to her, and she has no past that she can remember, so this seems like a natural evolution to me that she would latch on to him quite firmly.

    Severian, for his part, seems fickle - both women turn his head, though perhaps for different reasons. I've certainly known more than one man like this.

    I do think Severian had sexual relations with Agia. Remember how he skipped over the part where he dress got torn? He similarly skipped over sexual relations with Thecla, we think. In the tavern, he openly expresses and interest in her exposed breast, and she treats this as natural playfulness. There's a familiarity there that suggests they've had relations already.

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    What's Agia's plan? I agree that she's setting him up for some purpose, with the avern duel being the final step in the plan. But if, as seems likely, it's a way for her to get the Claw, it seems very convoluted. Did she really need such a dupe? Did she have to arrange the carriage race to get into the cathedral, and arrange it to happen after the challenge? (High risk: what would have happened in the duel if the dupe hadn't got the Claw?) Why, of all people, was Severian singled out to be the dupe? And what' the wider context, such as what would happen to the Claw once Agia had it, and how long has the shop been in existence (or what happened to its actual owner)?

    It also seems a strange coincidence that someone recognised Dorcas in that particular inn. That suggests there's more to her than meets the eye.

    I also liked that Severian quite convincingly lost the duel.

    And how come Severian hasn't mentioned the Claw? Surely he'd have noticed it on his person, especially since he bathed.

    Generally, I'm with @Apocryphal that these chapters did a lot to clarify the situation. I'm intrigued to see what Severian does next, now he knows that he was being set up to be a thief and murder victim. Does he pursue Agia? What does he do with the Claw? Does he continue on his purported mission to the distant town?

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    Thinking back to the episode at the alter, did Agia not slip the Claw, unnoticed, into Severian's pocket? My thinking is that she either planned to reclaim it from Severian's dead body when he lost the duel, or that she hoped all along that it would resurrect him as a way to mitigate the evil of their plan - but perhaps she imagined it would play out differently than it did.

    As for Dorcas, yes, its certainly - lots of coincidences. First, Severian meets her husband who has been actively looking for her body for years. Then he just happens to touch her when he falls in the water and resurrects her (of all the hundreds of dead people in the lake), then they just happen to say at an inn where she is recognized by a lost son or daughter. There's definitely more than meets the eye, here.

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    "Meanwhile," the innkeeper continued, "if you've yet the time, I could provide a basin of warm water and a sponge for this other young lady, and perhaps you might all enjoy a glass of Medoc and some biscuits?" p.154

    Medoc: easily inferred, a wine-growing region north of Bordeaux. Not one I'd heard of before.

    I... threw myself down beside Dorcas on a couch made of leather and the linked horns of lechwes and waterbucks. p.154

    Lechwes and waterbucks: also easily inferred - these are both African antelopes.

    The Sanguinary Field, of which all of my readers will have heard, though some, I hope, will never have visited it, lies northwest of the built sections of our capital of Nessus, between a residential enclave of city armigers and the barracks and stables of the Xenagie of the Blue Dimarchi. p.165

    Xenagie & Dimarchi: Almost all the results I find for these words are from pages devoted to Wolfe or Urth, and the rest provide no clarification. The Wolfe references reveal that a xenagie is a cavalry unity of 500, and a dimarchi is one of 1000.

    SENNET (title of chapter 26)

    The is probably the most interesting word in this batch. I was as first scouring the chapter for a character named Sennet, but there isn't one, nor in the earlier or next chapters. The word comes from Victorian stage direction and refers to an entrance or exit of a character from the stage, accompanied by a horn or cornet.

    Is this perhaps a reference to the ostler, Trudo, who seems to have made a disappearance in this chapter? Maybe that's too simplistic. The last sentence in the chapter is: "From somewhere far off, the silver voice of a trumpet called to the renascent stars."

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    @Apocryphal I agree that these chapters begin to add clarity and expose Agia for who / what she is. She is obviously taking Severian down a road of deceit and is executing a plan to gain something back and perhaps it is The Claw. I do like the twists and turns Wolfe take us on. Dorcas is a puzzle and the placement of the note was the event that exposed Agia for me and her rush to have Severian place it in the brazier and not read it. It also signaled the transition of Dorcas being a truer ally and Agia being an adversary to be managed by Severian. Thank you again for the Wolfe Lexicon entries for these chapters!

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    edited May 2019

    Given Wolfe's propensity for mis-spelling and not giving a crap, I assumed Sennet was Senet, the Egyptian board game. Seemed to suit what happened well enough!

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    @clash_bowley said:
    Given Wolfe's propensity for mis-spelling and not giving a crap, I assumed Sennet was Senet, the Egyptian board game. Seemed to suit what happened well enough!

    LOL - actually, I explored that for a time, too, before finding a meaning for Sennet. The latter portion of this book definitely evokes game pieces being moved about.

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    Yes, exactly! :smiley:

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