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"Witness!"
―Karsa Orlong[src]

Karsa Orlong was a young warrior of the Uryd tribe of the Teblor who lived on the Laederon Plateau on the northern edge of the continent of Genabackis.[3]

He was the son of Synyg Orlong and the grandson of Pahlk Orlong. Although already into his eightieth year when he set out from his village, given the long lifespan of the Teblor, Karsa was still considered a youngster within his tribe.[4]

Karsa was a giant of a man, over seven feet tall, heavily muscled, his flat, broad face tattooed like shattered glass, his teeth filed, and his hair tied into a braid that hung down the left side of his chest. He wore a cloak of Bhederin hide over an armoured vest that appeared to be made of clam shells. Above his loincloth was a wide belt decorated with shriveled ears. He carried a two-handed Ironwood sword with a stone pommel and wooden grip. His friend Leoman thought him seventeen years old and the slayer of forty-one enemies.[5][6]

"His tribe made few distinctions. There was kin, and those who were not kin were the enemy."
―Leoman of the Flails explaining Karsa Orlong's behavior as a young warrior[src]

In Deadhouse GatesEdit

Awakening the Whirlwind

Awakening the Whirlwind, Toblakai, Sha'ik and Leoman, by Grimhilde

Known as Toblakai, Karsa was an escaped slave and fanatically loyal warrior in the Apocalypse in the Holy Desert Raraku. Alongside Leoman, he served as a bodyguard to Sha'ik Elder, who had been appalled by her visions of the warrior's future.[7][8] In this he failed, as a Red Blade sniper assassinated Sha'ik as she opened the Book of Dryjhna. The two bodyguards drove off the attackers and remained with Sha'ik's body.[9]

They guarded the corpse and the book for weeks, gaunt and dazed from hunger, until the arrival of Felisin Paran and Heboric. Leoman named the girl Sha'ik Reborn. To Karsa Orlong's dismay, Heboric recognized that Karsa suffered because he was chained to the spirit of each person he had killed.[10]

"Tortured spirits writhe in this bastard's shadow—every man, woman and child that he's killed. Tell me, Toblakai, did those children beg to live?"
―Heboric challenging Karsa Orlong about his past[src]

The barbarian and historian grew to despise each other, with Heboric baiting Karsa and Karsa struggling to obey Felisin's command not to murder him. When Felisin instructed the Toblakai to open the Book of Dryjhna, tears were brought to his eyes by the beauty he saw within its pages.[11] Karsa and Leoman led Felisin to the Whirlwind camp at the Raraku oasis where Karsa remained her bodyguard.[12]

In House of ChainsEdit

Leaving the Teblor LandsEdit

Karsa orlong by merlkir

Karsa from House of Chains by Merlkir

Karsa's grandfather, Pahlk Orlong, was a famed warrior who had, centuries before, gone into the lowlands from the Laederon Plateau and slain many "children", as the Teblor called lowlanders. Karsa grew up on these stories, and believed that was how a true Teblor warrior was to behave. Karsa's father, Synyg, did not approve of this mindset, for he knew Pahlk's exploits to be lies and twistings of the truth. However, no one else knew this, and so Karsa organised a raid in honour of both his grandfather and Urugal the Woven, one of the Teblor gods known as The Seven Faces in the Rock.[13]

Karsa orlong by araiwein

Karsa fighting 'children' by Araiwein

In 1159 BS,[14] Karsa took the role of Warleader and left home with his comrades Bairoth Gild and Delum Thord as well as his father's mount, Havok. The trio raided, murdered, and raped their way through Sunyd and Rathyd lands as they traveled to Silver Lake, the same place where Pahlk had had his escapades.[15] Along the way, his group encountered and freed the Forkrul Assail known as Calm from beneath a massive slab. Calm attacked Karsa, throwing him to the ground and striking Delum Thord as the Teblor attempted to defend his Warleader. The Forkrul Assail escaped and Delum Thord was left with severe brain damage, reducing him to a child-like state. Bairoth and Karsa argued bitterly over Karsa's responsibility for their fallen companion.[16]

Upon reaching Silver Lake, Karsa and his party found a small, fortified town instead of the farm his grandfather had raided.[17] During the attack on this town, Delum Thord and Havok were killed and Bairoth Gild and Karsa were both captured. Bairoth was slain and Karsa was soon after delivered into the hands of Silgar, a priest and slaver. The young Teblor soon discovered the truth behind Pahlk's raid. Pahlk had arrived at a farm on Silver Lake half starved, and had been taken in and nursed back to health by lowlanders. He had then shamelessly slaughtered his hosts and returned in triumph to the Teblor lands.[18]

Knight of Chains by Ylva Ljungqvist

Knight of Chains by Ylva Ljungqvist

Karsa met fellow slave, Torvald Nom, within Silgar's slave pens and declared the Malazan Empire his sworn enemy for capturing him.[19] The two organised an escape, but both were soon recaptured by members of Captain Kindly's Ashok Regiment. The Malazans confiscated the slaves and arrested Silgar, planning to bring them to Seven Cities to serve in the Otataral mines. After weeks of being chained to a wagon bed for transport to the sea, Karsa was dispirited and physically broken. Only the attentions of Torvald Nom kept him alive as their captors' ship crossed Seeker's Deep. Through the intercession of the Teblor gods and the magic of the Crippled God, their ship was wrecked and the pair were pulled to freedom within the flooded fragment of Kurald Emurlahn known as the Nascent.[20] During their time in this realm, Karsa and Torvald discovered and boarded the Silanda, slaying the Tiste Edur on board.[21] They met up with other survivors from the wrecked Malazan ship in the Nascent, including Silgar. The priest opened a gate to return them to the normal world just off the shore of Seven Cities, near Ehrlitan.[22]

Karsa and Torvald Nom left the slavers behind on the beach, and stumbled across the refuge of a Napan who called himself Keeper and dabbled in archaeology.[23] At one point during the visit, Keeper floored Karsa with a single punch.[24]

Karsa and Nom later left for Ehrlitan[25] and were soon re-enslaved by Silgar and a band of Arak tribesmen. The tribesmen were later attacked by their Gral rivals, seemingly killing Nom and scattering Karsa and the others. The group was recaptured by Malazan forces after their arrival in Ehrlitan, Silgar claiming Karsa as a slave he had recaptured.[26] The suspicious Malazans imprisoned both Silgar and Karsa, and Karsa wound up with a tattoo on his face marking him as an escaped slave.[27] Torvald Nom soon returned to Karsa's surprise, along with agents of House Nom, to free his friend. The Teblor and his cellmate, Leoman, fled alone into the Pan'potsun Odhan where they were once again pursued by Silgar and his agents. Karsa ambushed Silgar, cut off his hands and feet, and carried him off as his prisoner to Sha'ik's camp in Raraku.[28]

Later on Karsa learned of his true racial identity as a Thelomen Toblakai, from whom the Teblor people were descended.[29]

RarakuEdit

Karsa & Felisin Younger by Dejan-delic

Karsa and Felisin Younger by Dejan Delic

Some of Karsa and Leoman's time in Raraku was described in Deadhouse Gates [see above].

Amidst the political intrigue of Sha'ik's camp, Karsa became a protector to Sha'ik Reborn's adopted daughter, Felisin Younger[30] and became close friends with Leoman. In the stone forest on the oasis' outskirts, the Teblor carved images of his friends Bairoth and Delum from the petrified trees. He also carved images of his people's gods, the Seven Faces in the Rock. This allowed Urugal and the others to manifest within the glade and push Karsa to journey to the Jhag Odhan to secure their freedom.[31]

Travels in the Jhag OdhanEdit

Eventually, Karsa Orlong left the Holy Desert to go in search of a Jhag horse on the Jhag Odhan. This move was also one his false gods desired.[32] He was accompanied by the spirits of Bairoth and Delum, who offered him advice along the way.[33]

Karsa Orlong by Sam Burley

Karsa Orlong by Sam Burley (official artwork)

In the mountains to the west of Raraku, he encountered Icarium, the Jhag known as the Slayer of the Ten Thousand, and his companion, Mappo. The Trell invited Karsa to eat at their campfire and spoke of Convergences while preparing for the inevitable clash between Icarium and Karsa. Icarium and Karsa came to blows and Icarium shattered Karsa's Ironwood blade at the hilt. The Teblor furiously knocked out the Jhag with a punch to the face. Mappo ended the battle by striking Karsa in the back of the head with his mace. As both combatants still lived, Mappo was pleased with the results.[34]

To speed his way to the Jhag Odhan, the ghost of Delum Thord showed Karsa how to travel through the Warrens of Tellann and Omtose Phellack. He found an imprisoned Jaghut named Aramala in a tower in this realm, and freed her, in return getting advice on how to find a Jhag horse as well as information regarding the true nature of the Teblor gods.[35]

Shortly thereafter, Karsa Orlong finally met his gods in the flesh within a cavern housing the bones and weapons of fallen T'lan Imass. Urugal and the Seven were revealed to be disgraced T'lan Imass who were shattered in battle millennia earlier and imprisoned within a tomb in Teblor lands. Once reunited with their weapons stored in the cavern they would now be free. The Seven revealed to Karsa that he was not just their pawn in their plans to regain physical form and freedom, but Karsa had also been made into the Knight of Chains by their benefactor, the Crippled God. Karsa rejected the title as well as an offer to become the eighth Teblor god.[36]

Day 24 chop by shadaan

Karsa attacks 'Siballe by Shadaan

Within the cavern, Karsa carved an immense Imass sword of flint. He convinced the souls of Delum Thord and Bairoth Gild to take their place within the sword as a refuge from Hood. Then the seven Unbound T'lan Imass invested the weapon with Tellann to make it unbreakable. Karsa named the sword Bairoth Delum in honour of his friends.[37][38]

Now rearmed and faced with manifestations he could attack, Karsa shrugged off the facade of doing as the Unbound told him. He cut down 'Siballe the Unfound, to whom the Teblor sacrificed their imperfect children, and drove the other six off, warning them to never return to his people. Karsa stowed 'Siballe's still conscious head in his pack, declaring he would one day lead her foundlings, and left the cavern behind. On his way out, he ran into the Tiste Edur warrior, Trull Sengar, and his T'lan Imass companion, Onrack. Karsa was not in a mood to kill them, and so casually tossed the lucky pair aside.[39]

Karsa journeyed further into the Jhag Odhan where he met Cynnigig. The Jaghut had been sent by Amarala to aid Karsa in finding his new mount. Cynnigig brought the Teblor to Phyrlis, who summoned a herd she assumed to number a dozen. Instead ten to fifteen thousand Jhag horses appeared. Phyrlis attributed this to the smell of Blood-oil in Karsa's blood. From the massive gathering, Karsa chose a young stallion he named Havok.[40][41]

Return to RarakuEdit

Karsas pets by slaine69

Karsa's pets by slaine69

Karsa returned to the Raraku Oasis on the eve of the Battle of Raraku between Sha'ik Reborn's Army of the Apocalypse and Adjunct Tavore Paran's Malaz 14th Army.[42] Karsa defended Felisin Younger from Kasanal and his assassins before seeking out and slaying his own enemies in Sha'ik's camp, including Bidithal, Febryl, and Silgar. Heboric and Korbolo Dom evaded his search.[43] While exacting his vengeance, Karsa encountered two of the Deragoth, the Hounds of Darkness. Briefly assisted by Leoman, Karsa butchered the terrifyingly powerful Hounds with impressive skill and single-mindedness. He tied the Hounds' heads to his horse, and joined Leoman at the ridge overlooking the coming battle.[44][45] After Sha'ik Reborn was killed in single combat by Adjunct Tavore, the remains of the Army of the Apocalypse scattered and retreated to Y'Ghatan. Karsa bid Leoman farewell, then approached Adjunct Tavore and pronounced that the Malazans were no longer his sworn enemy. The Malazans were puzzled by the declaration, but were relieved not to face the massive Teblor in battle.[46]

Later, Karsa cast the remains of 'Siballe's body into the water of Raraku's new inland sea, granting her a final oblivion. He then set off westward into the wastes, declaring that he would one day be worthy to lead Teblor such as his friends, Bairoth and Delum.[47]

In The BonehuntersEdit

Karsa orlong by dejan delic

Karsa Orlong by dejan-delic

Karsa Orlong on his way back to his people, the Teblor in northwestern Genabackis, encountered the witch Samar Dev in the Ugarat Odhan of Seven Cities. She had broken her foot in an accident and was in danger of dying from thirst. Karsa requested that Samar Dev accompany him to Ugarat, her home city, as he needed supplies and wanted to remain beneath notice. Although Karsa attacked a few guards and did some plain speaking, Samar Dev persuaded the authorities to leave him alone. It helped that he was already notorious in the area (by his nom de Guerre, "Toblakai") for his exploits as Sha'ik's bodyguard.[48]

Being told that a Malazan garrison was holding out in the nearby Moraval Keep, Karsa chose to go and talk to them.[49] He found no Malazans, but he did encounter a K'Chain Nah'ruk (which had been imprisoned in the Keep but which had broken free) and Karsa killed it after a ferocious fight.[50] However, the locals were still suspicious of him and Karsa decided to leave with Samar Dev.[51]

Karsa and Samar Dev, having planned an extended journey westward from Ugarat,[52] eventually found themselves crossing a land of evergreen forests, exposed bedrock, and scattered lakes to the west of Yath Alban.[53] There they came across the tribe of the Anibar who were beset by enemies. Their leader, Boatfinder, requested that Karsa slay their enemies for them. The Anibar had a legend that the wielders of swords of birth-stone (which was the type of stone Karsa's sword was made of) would defend them in a time of great slaying. Karsa insisted on Boatfinder coming along on the quest.[54]

Karsa meets the edur by slaine69

Karsa meets the Edur by slaine69

While travelling with the Anibar, Boatfinder told Samar and Karsa more of the legends of his people, including their revered hero, Iskar Jarak.[55] The three of them eventually found the enemy of the Anibar, Tiste Edur whose fleets were scouting the world to collect champions to fight their Emperor, Rhulad Sengar. After initially killing a large number of the Tiste Edur, Karsa was persuaded by Samar to speak with them, instead. Hearing about the challenge, he decided to accompany them back to the Letherii Empire, as did Samar Dev.[56]

During the journey Karsa and Samar Dev witnessed a deadly sorcerous clash between the Edur fleet and the Malazan Imperial fleet.[57]

Karsa was pleased when he discovered that Icarium Lifestealer was amongst the other challengers on board as he was keen to continue their previous interrupted fight when they got to the Letherii Empire.[58]

Spoiler warning: The following section contains significant plot details about Karsa Orlong.

In Reaper's GaleEdit

Karsa by Corporal Nobbs

Karsa by Corporal Nobbs

Upon the arrival of Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev in Letheras, the capital of the Letherii Empire, Karsa caused a stir when he threw a guard six or more paces because he was annoyed by the contemptuous tone and the list of do's and don'ts the man was giving him.[59] He also soon after likely killed someone who dared touch his sword.[60]

Whilst waiting for his duel with the Emperor, Rhulad Sengar, Karsa engaged in practice bouts with some of the other challengers, including a Seguleh, all of whom he defeated easily.[61]

Karsa was visited by Ublala Pung and gave him the command to gather the Tarthenal living on the Islands in the Draconean Sea and bring them to him. Ublala then told Karsa that he knew the secret of the Emperor. Karsa made Samar leave the room before he listened to what Ublala had to say.[62]

Encountering Lifestealer in the city, Karsa first knocked down Icarium's companion, the Gral, Taralack Veed, but then chose not to fight the Jhag because Icarium gave his word that Karsa should be first to face the Emperor and because Karsa recognized that whilst Icarium was half Jaghut, the other half was Toblakai.[63]

Finally, Karsa fought and killed Rhulad Sengar - having managed to evoke, with help, a complex blood ritual that (after the duel) created a portal that brought him into The Crippled God's realm. There, he destroyed Rhulad's spirit, thus giving the Tiste Edur peace. Refusing to take the cursed sword that would have made Rhulad immortal, Karsa left the realm thanks to a portal of fire that had suddenly appeared.[64]

In Toll the HoundsEdit

Karsa and Samar Dev by Dejan Delic

Karsa and Samar Dev by Dejan Delic

The portal took Karsa Orlong to the continent of Genabackis in the region of the Lamatath Plain. Samar Dev managed to follow him there from Letheras in Lether through Warrens with his Jhag horse, Havok. She had met Traveller en route and they travelled together on the trail of Karsa.[65][66] Upon hearing that Karsa had slain Rhulad and that Karsa might now be in possession of the sword, Traveller warned Samar that he would challenge the Toblakai if that was the case.[67]

Karsa in the meantime was challenging 'The Captain' of the self-proclaimed 'Skathandi' (raiders of the Lamatath Plain) kingdom - a bandit and slaver who was a cripple who had survived being almost fatally tortured by giving himself over to river spirits. Karsa had already taken out several raiding parties when he at last caught up with the train of the leader. At the sight of Karsa, The Captain's river spirits fled and the man, realizing that now his wounds were bleeding again and he would soon die, declared Karsa his heir. Karsa told him that he would have none of it, that instead the slaves would all be freed and The Captain's kingdom would sink without trace. The Captain then died and Karsa dispersed everyone.[68]
Karsa the toblakai by slaine69

Karsa by slaine69

Samar Dev and Traveller caught up with Karsa soon after and there was a moment of weighing up between the men. As Karsa had not kept the sword, there was no fight and the three agreed to travel together to Darujhistan.[69]

Karsa witnessed the clash between Anomander Rake and Traveller, ending with the former's death.[70]

Toblakai was one of the people who stopped the newly awakened Hounds of Light from taking Rake's sword, Dragnipur. He was aided by the Knight of Death and, lastly, by his daughters. The two girls were the result of the rape of a mother and her daughter which Karsa had committed when setting out as a very young warrior on his original quest.[71][72]

Karsa decided to remain in Darujhistan after Picker relayed a message to him from Hood. Karsa was told that he was needed to help kill a god.[73]

Significant plot details end here.

In The Crippled GodEdit

Karsa orlong by seraph777-d5kb6br

Karsa Orlong by seraph777

Whilst in Darujhistan, Karsa Orlong at long last persuaded Samar Dev to invite him into her bed.[74]

Later, after being alerted by Picker that the time (that Karsa had been awaiting) had finally come,[75] Karsa went into Darujhistan to the temple of Fener. As Gesler and Stormy called upon Fener to manifest at the Spire in Kolanse (located on the eastern coast of the far-off Lether continent), Karsa entered Fener's temple and, with his flint sword, destroyed the boar god's tusk (which had been enshrined there). The artifact's destruction by Karsa resulted in Fener's death. Fener manifested in the clouds above the Spire, and, as an result of Karsa's act, Fener's blood rained down upon the combatants of the Battle of the Spire - amongst other effects, returning life to the T'lan Imass and undead Jaghut warriors present - which was a boon to those of them who survived the battle.[76]

QuotesEdit

"You plan to hunt down this Soletaken? I take it that in your tribe you are nearing the end of the average expected lifespan, assuming your kin are as stupid as you. Well, I for one will not grieve your death."
―A foolhardy Heboric pressing his luck with Karsa[src]

TriviaEdit

Fan art galleryEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. House of Chains, Chapter 4, US TPB p.173
  2. House of Chains, Chapter 25, UK MMPB p.966
  3. House of Chains, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB
  4. House of Chains, Chapter 1, US TPB p.28/30
  5. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.132/134
  6. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.407
  7. House of Chains, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.411
  9. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.134-136
  10. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.407
  11. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.433
  12. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 18, US HC p.476-479
  13. House of Chains, Chapter 1, US TPB p.28-29
  14. House of Chains, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.32
  15. House of Chains, Chapter 1, US TPB p.35
  16. House of Chains, Chapter 2, US TPB p.64-70
  17. House of Chains, Chapter 2, US TPB p.81-82
  18. House of Chains, Chapter 2, US TPB p.83-110
  19. House of Chains, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.117-120
  20. House of Chains, Chapter 3, US TPB p.117-125
  21. House of Chains, Chapter 3, US TPB p.127-138
  22. House of Chains, Chapter 3, US TPB p.141-148/151
  23. House of Chains, Chapter 3, US TPB p.148-151
  24. House of Chains, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.223-234
  25. House of Chains, Chapter 3, US TPB p.154-155
  26. House of Chains, Chapter 4, US TPB p.158-161
  27. House of Chains, Chapter 4, US TPB p.161-164
  28. House of Chains, Chapter 4, US TPB p.167-169
  29. House of Chains, Chapter 4, US TPB p.173
  30. House of Chains, Chapter 7, UK MMPB p.351/352
  31. House of Chains, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.395
  32. House of Chains, Chapter 10, US TPB p.307-316
  33. House of Chains, Chapter 14
  34. House of Chains, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.506-511
  35. House of Chains, Chapter 14, US TPB p.400-405
  36. House of Chains, Chapter 14, US TPB p.407-410
  37. House of Chains, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.524-525
  38. House of Chains, Chapter 17, US SFBC p.577
  39. House of Chains, Chapter 17, US TPB p.444-449
  40. House of Chains, Chapter 17, US TPB p.451-457
  41. House of Chains, Chapter 21, US TPB p.549-551
  42. House of Chains, Chapter 24, US TPB p.600
  43. House of Chains, Chapter 25, US TPB p.602-604/608-609/616-618
  44. House of Chains, Chapter 25, US TPB p.619/626-631
  45. House of Chains, Chapter 26, US TPB p.635-636/642-643
  46. House of Chains, Chapter 26, US TPB p.647-648
  47. House of Chains, Chapter 26, US SFBC p.849-850
  48. The Bonehunters, Chapter 1, US HC p.39-41|49-52
  49. The Bonehunters, Chapter 1, US HC p.51
  50. The Bonehunters, Chapter 3, US HC p.103-110
  51. The Bonehunters, Chapter 5, US HC p.155-157/177-178
  52. The Bonehunters, Chapter 5, US HC p.156
  53. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, US HC p.389
  54. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK HB p.587-589
  55. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK HB p.590-595
  56. The Bonehunters, Chapter 16, UK MMPB p.802-810
  57. The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, UK MMPB p.883-890
  58. The Bonehunters, Epilogue, UK MMPB p.1197/1198
  59. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 7, UK BCA edition p.170
  60. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 9, UK BCA edition p.226
  61. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 11, UK BCA edition p.306-310
  62. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 11, UK BCA edition p.320-322
  63. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 15, UK BCA edition p.469-471/479
  64. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US TPB p.773-774/801-802/805-808/819-821
  65. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 6, US TPB p.192
  66. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, US TPB p.232-233
  67. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, UK HB p.249-252
  68. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, UK HB p.255-258/298-301
  69. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 10, UK HB p.356/358
  70. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 23, US TPB p.765-768
  71. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 23, US TPB p.775
  72. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 24, US TPB p.792-795/813/816-817
  73. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 24, US TPB p.817/818
  74. The Crippled God, Chapter 1, US HC p.22
  75. The Crippled God, Chapter 21, US HC p.612-613
  76. The Crippled God, Chapter 23, US HC p.748-750/756-762/771/780
  77. [1] Steven Erikson Facebook page (see comments)
  78. Read for Pixels 2016 Interview at 55:35
  79. Read for Pixels 2016 Interview See 1:47:49
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