Shadow of the Torturer, chapters 28-31

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Severian recovers amongst the soldiers, who treat him with respect. It is revealed that the one who challenged Severian is Agia herself, as she and her brother wanted his sword- and her brother is the one who fought him. It is also revealed that the Claw of the Conciliator has been carried by Severian all along.

Severian and Dorcas make love, and she elects to accompany Severian to Thrax.

Severian performs his first execution- of Agia's brother, his challenger- guilty of attacking and in the process killing several members of the crowd watching the duel.

Comments

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    The first time I read this, many years ago, the fact that Severian possessed the Claw of the Conciliator was something that I missed, even though the textual clues are there in retrospect. Same with Agilus and Agia. So the revelations of these chapters were real revelations to me!

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    A bit of a let down for Agia, who rapidly descends from apparent equal and helper to would-be thief and conspirator. I guess what struck me about what Severian called justice was that Agilus got executed but Agia walked away, though both had conspired together and (arguably) both were equally guilty.
    The Severian-Dorcas relationship is also bizarre... surely Severian must have speculated just as we have that Dorcas is Cas, hence married already. But he seems blissfully unconcerned with possible impediments!
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    I don't think Severian is being completely honest with himself (or with the reader). His views on justice reflect his obedience to his upbringing. I don't get the impression the older Severian writing agrees with the younger Severian's thoughts- and I don't think the younger Severian is as unconflicted as he makes out.

    One thing not said immediately is that Severian was ill after the execution--we only find that out in conversation with Dorcas. In that conversation he puts it down essentially to stage fright, but when it comes down to it, I don't actually believe him.

    I like the way these last seven chapters present interesting developments, and also make an awful lot clear- pretty much everything involving the challenge and the duel. Though other mysteries remain.
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    @RichardAbbott - Agilus was executed for killing bystanders, which was not planned, and not part of the conspiracy between himself and Agia, therefore she was not punished. I have no idea if their conspiracy is an actual crime, or if Severian needs to file a complaint as he was the only one affected.

    As for Dorcas, why would he link Dorcas and Cas? The probability is so very remote that it most likely never occurred to him. The clues in the writing are him looking back on the past.

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    @Bill White - I had no clue either. I was intensely confused by what happened, and had to piece it together by re-reading.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > @RichardAbbott - Agilus was executed for killing bystanders, which was not planned, and not part of the conspiracy between himself and Agia, therefore she was not punished. I have no idea if their conspiracy is an actual crime, or if Severian needs to file a complaint as he was the only one affected.
    >

    I guess I was thinking from a natural justice perspective rather than a legalistic one... though everything to date would certainly support Severian and his whole culture as leaning towards the legalistic end of the spectrum.
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    I actually did notice the Agia slipped the claw into his pocket in the temple, but what completely eluded me was that the claw had the power of Resurrection, which I know because you guys pointed it out LOL.

    So, yes, much is revealed here. Dorcas certainly remains a mystery. I suspect the two performers/mountebanks will be back soon, but will read the next chapters on the weekend.

    In these chapters, Severian makes love to Dorcas - for the first time he mentions this openly. His affairs with Agia and Thecla were only hinted at. Why? Is it because Dorcas stays with him to the very end? Is Severian, the Autarch writer, still in a relationship with Dorcas, and so he never spills the beans on his other female partners? Time will tell, I guess.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I actually did notice the Agia slipped the claw into his pocket in the temple, but what completely eluded me was that the claw had the power of Resurrection, which I know because you guys pointed it out LOL.

    Yes, I'd have completely missed that as well going from just the text.

    @Apocryphal said:
    In these chapters, Severian makes love to Dorcas - for the first time he mentions this openly. His affairs with Agia and Thecla were only hinted at. Why? Is it because Dorcas stays with him to the very end? Is Severian, the Autarch writer, still in a relationship with Dorcas, and so he never spills the beans on his other female partners? Time will tell, I guess.

    When Severian visits Agilus and Agia in the cell, Agia's says, "Severian, I love you! I longed for you when we were together, and tried to give myself to you a score of times." OK, she's lying about the "love" part in an attempt to save her brother's life, but this speech suggests that Severian and Agia didn't have sex.

    And going back to the avern, I liked that it was a bit more interesting than just a botanical club. There's the comment that the heat from its wielder's hands opens the flower which then tries to attack and poison people. That's an interesting detail! It's just a shame that we didn't see it happen onstage during the duel.

    And what's going on with the vision of a floating phantom city? Is that some influence of the Claw, or did everyone see it?

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    I'm pretty sure the city is the cathedral of the Pellerines, heading for another destination. Though the "how" and "why" are unclear, as is who saw it (we only know Severian and Dorcas for certain; can we extrapolate? I'm not sure we can.)
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    I also agree with @NeilNjae that it's cool to see the Avern being far stranger and more dangerous than it first seemed.
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    @dr_mitch said:
    I also agree with @NeilNjae that it's cool to see the Avern being far stranger and more dangerous than it first seemed.

    And another way in which Agia was economical with the truth, presumably in order to at least immobilise Severian.

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    LEXICON

    For a moment I thought I was dreaming still: the cynocephalus was climbing upon the crenelations of the wall. p.169

    Cynocephalus: You probably already know this is a dog-headed man of medieval and older myth. St Christopher, patron saint of travellers, was sometimes said to be a cynocephalus. There's much speculation that the myth arose from the observation of baboons, and given the context that might be the meaning here.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynocephaly


    Chiliarch is mentioned often as a rank. It's Greek, meaning 'Commander of a Thousand'.


    ...though my money had been much depleted by the dinner we had never returned to the Inn of Lost Loves to enjoy, I was able to buy Dorcas a simar. p.174

    Simar: A woman's long dress or robe. Apparently also applied the gowns the pope and cardinals wear.


    ...a design had been scratched in the filthy stones. It might have been the snarling face of a Jurupari, or perhaps a map, and it was wreathed with letters. I did not know. I rubbed it away with my foot. p.178

    Jurupari: A Brazilian forest demon.


    In one scene, a group of carnifex flunkies accost Severian in order to, what, gush? Ask for a good show? One of them in particular, seems upset that someone stole his inflatable lover and he's hoping Severian will punish them. He makes quite a speech! p 180.

    "...I had a paracoita, a doll, you see, a genicon, so beautiful with her great pupils as dark as wells, her i-irises purple like asters or pansies blooming in summer, Master, whole beds of them, I thought, had b-been gathered to make those eyes, that flesh that always felt sun-warmed. Wh-wh-where is she now, my own scopolagna, my poppet?... Unman them, shave them clean below so their doxies may not know them, their lemans may rebuke them... W-without you, where are their nightmares, where are their restitutions, so long promised? Where are their chains, fetters, manacles, and cangues? Where are their abacinations, that shall leave them blind? Where are the defenestrations that shall break their bones, where is the estrapade that shall grind their joints? Where is she, the beloved whom I lost?"

    Paracoita: a blow-up sex doll.
    Genicon: an imagined or hallucinated sexual partner.
    Scopolagna: an attractive woman.
    Leman: a lover, especially illicit.
    Cangue: a punishment yoke, or pillory:

    Abacination: Blinding by holding a red-hot metal plate before the eyes.
    Defenstrations: I'm sure you know this already - the throwing of someone out a high window.
    Estrapade: Another torture device by which someone has their arms tied behind them by ropes, then are dropped from a high pole, bungee-style, such that their arms dislocate.

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    edited May 13

    This selection brought a lot to clarity. We know that Severian has Claw and it is what saved him in the duel as well as raised Dorcas from the dead. Her background / former life still remains a mystery. Agia's true character and that of her brother are revealed. Severian's upbringing does impact his perception of justice and duty but I did find his reaction of getting sick after the execution one of conflict inside of him affecting him physically. Lots of clues leading into these chapters but in the end indeed these confirmations were revelations for me too. As usual @Apocryphal, Thanks for the Lexicon! I found myself looking up those same words during my read. That explosion at the end of 31 was one heck of a way to go out and start the next phase of the story. I find myself having to remember the nature of both this world and the technology. It is so easy to get drawn into a traditional fantasy mindset and then Wolfe throws twists in to knock you out of it.

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    I just reread the last couple of pages before going on to the next section and noticed "Is it far to Thrax, Severian?" "A long way... at the foot of the first cataract."
    Now, the only river I can think of which is routinely divided into sections by cataracts is the Nile - 6 in all, with the first at Aswan and so nowadays integrated with the dam. The ancient Egyptian name was Swennett, Syene, neither of which looks much like Thrax. It was also regarded by mathematicians such as Eratosthenes as located under the tropic of Cancer, and that therefore the sun cast no shadow on the summer solstice (this is approximately true but not strictly exact).
    I guess we'll have to wait until we arrive at Thrax before we see if there's any connection.
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    All I can think about is Thrak Attack by King Crimson. Don't think there's any relation there... :open_mouth:

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    Now I'll have to listen to it and find out 😁
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    edited May 16

    This map is on the wikipedia page, and seems to have been included in an edition at one point. It puts Nessus somewhere near the Peru/Chile border - perhaps Nazca = Nessus. No river called Gyol or similar, but certainly plenty of possible cataracts as the rivers spill down from the mountains. Most of the animals mentioned so far have been South/Central American.

    BTW, apparently it'll be 5 billion years before our sun dims, so it's probably futile looking for place-names that have made the jump into the future LOL. That said, there's Ascia (USica?)

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    I'm looking out for clues about the South American location. I've picked up it's in the southern hemisphere (the reference to jungles in the North) and a little wildlife. Also the drink. But it doesn't yet seem definite going by the text, and I've noted no obvious landmarks.
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    Antofagasto is on the coast of Chile at the tropic of Capricorn, though nothing about that map really seems to correspond to the real location. But a lot can change in 5Billion years, I imagine.

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    Of course, in five billion years there will have been a lot of continental drift, with the creation and destruction of many supercontinents. There's also a prediction that the core will solidify in about three billion years, which will both halt tectonics and probably eliminate the earth's magnetic field (which will lead to increased radiation at the surface and the erosion of the atmosphere).

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    Well... In about 5 billion years the sun will go red giant, expanding dramatically. Even before that it will markedly brighten; in a mere 3 billion years it's due to get hot enough to boil off Earth's oceans.

    I don't think the sun here is following the present day stellar evolution model, for whatever reason. There's something artificial going on, though beyond the understanding of any character in the books we've come across so far (except maybe Father Inire).

    I also don't think we're dealing with billions of years, though it might be millions- though I fancy maybe it's as few as hundreds of thousands- or even just tens of thousands. After all, ten thousand years encompasses the entire history of civilisation, so that's still plenty. The latter wouldn't be enough for continental drift, though changing sea levels seem a certainty.

    Though another part of me wants the scale to be more sweeping. And I'm not sure if I'm applying science fiction logic where it doesn't fit.
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    On anything like those timescales we should probably include deliberate terraforming as a reshaper of land masses
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    That's true. Look at what's been done to the Moon, for instance.

    I think my hypothesis is that there has also been deliberate stellar forming, and that's what's now failing, meaning the Sun is growing dim.
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