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.[2]

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.

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.[3][4]

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 • Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15

In Deadhouse GatesEdit

Awakening the Whirlwind

Awakening the Whirlwind. Toblakai, Sha'ik and Leoman. Interpretation 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 visons of the warrior's future.[5][6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

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 • Deadhouse Gates/Chapter 15

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.[9] Karsa and Leoman led Felisin to the Whirlwind camp at the Raraku oasis where Karsa remained her bodyguard.[10]

In House of ChainsEdit

Leaving the Teblor LandsEdit

Karsa orlong by merlkir

Interpretation of Karsa from House of Chains by Merlkir

His 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 organized a raid in honor of both his grandfather and his god, Urugal the Woven.

Karsa orlong by araiwein

Interpretation of Karsa fighting 'children' by Araiwein

In 1159 BS,[11] Karsa took the role of Warleader and left home with his comrades Bairoth Gild and Delum Thord to raid through Sunyd and Rathyd lands and finally, to arrive at the same place where Pahlk had had his escapades. Along the way, his group encountered and freed the Forkrul Assail known as Calm. Calm attacked Karsa, seeing the influence of the Teblor gods on him, but Karsa was barely injured, as Delum Thord defended him and received severe brain damage in the attempt, becoming reduced to a child-like state. Upon reaching the lowlands, Karsa and his party found a small, fortified town instead of the farm his grandfather had raided. During the attack on this town, Delum Thord was killed and Bairoth Gild and Karsa were both captured. Bairoth was slain and Karsa was soon after sold into slavery, and lost his faith in his gods.

After weeks of being chained to a wagon bed for transport to the sea, Karsa and his companion, Torvald Nom, found freedom in the fragment of Kurald Emurlahn known as the Nascent. During their time in this realm, Karsa and Torvald boarded the Silanda, and slew the Tiste Edur on board. They met up with other survivors from the slaving ship that had been wrecked in the Nascent, and returned to the normal world with them, arriving just off the shore of Seven Cities, near Ehrlitan.

Karsa and Torvald Nom left the slavers behind on the shore, and stumbled across the refuge of a Napan who called himself Keeper and dabbled in archaeology. At one point during the visit, Keeper floored Karsa with a single punch.[12]

They later left for Ehrlitan and were soon re-enslaved by the very same slaver, Silgar. The group was captured by Malazan forces after their arrival in Ehrlitan, Silgar claiming Karsa as a slave he had recaptured. Both Silgar and Karsa were then imprisoned, and Karsa wound up with a tattoo on his face marking him as an escaped slave. Karsa and his cellmate later escaped, and fled into the Pan'potsun Odhan.

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


Karsa & Felisin Younger by Dejan-delic

Karsa and Felisin Younger Interpretation by Dejan Delic

Some of Karsa and Leoman's time in Raraku was described in Deadhouse Gates.

Karsa became a protector to Sha'ik Reborn's adopted daughter, Felisin Younger.[13]

Travels in the Jhag OdhanEdit

Eventually, Karsa Orlong left the Holy Desert Raraku. He had been persuaded to go in search of a Jhag horse, and thus went west into the Jhag Odhan. This move was also one his false gods desired.

On his way to the Jhag Odhan, on the advice of the ghost of Delum Thord, he decided to travel through the Warren of Tellann. 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 and also learning about who she was and how she had been captured, something that might have pertained to his own questions regarding the nature of the Teblor gods.[14]

Knight of Chains by Ylva Ljungqvist

Knight of Chains by Ylva Ljungqvist

Along his journey, he encountered and fought Icarium, the Jhag known as the Slayer of the Ten Thousand, and Karsa's ironwood sword was destroyed. Neither Icarium nor Karsa were slain, as both were knocked unconscious (Icarium by Karsa, Karsa by Mappo) in the clash.

Shortly thereafter, Karsa Orlong finally met his gods in the Jhag Odhan, who turned out to be T'lan Imass which were shattered in battle millennia earlier. They revealed to him that he was not just their pawn in their plans to regain physical form, but Karsa had also been made into the Knight of Chains. In a Tellann-infused sacred cavern, the seven Unbound T'lan Imass helped Karsa Orlong create an unbreakable sword of stone, into which the souls of Delum Thord and Bairoth Gild went, infusing it with bloodthirst. Karsa, now rearmed and faced with manifestations he could attack, shrugged off the facade of doing as the Unbound told him, and drove six of them off, further destroying the seventh, 'Siballe the Unfound. 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 the pair luckily survived.[15]

Slightly later on, Karsa met Cynnigig, a Jaghut, and his sister Phyrlis, who helped Karsa obtain the Jhag horse he set out to collect in the first place. Karsa then turned around and rode back into the Holy Desert.

Karsas pets by slaine69

Karsa'a pets Interpretation by slaine69

Upon arriving back in the Oasis at the time of the final battle in which the Army of the Apocalypse was crushed, Karsa proceeded to kill several members of the camp with whom he had issues, though he could not find all of his targets. While running around the camp, Karsa encountered two of the Hounds of Darkness, known as Deragoth, who had returned to life, and butchered them with frightening ease. He tied the Hounds' heads to his horse, and sped off into the desert at dawn. When he encountered the Malazan forces, he pronounced that they were no longer his sworn enemy. At least one soldier felt relieved by this (quite arrogant) declaration.

Karsa then set off, vowing to return home and claim the army the Unbound T'lan Imass had set aside for him and use that force to raise his people from the level to which they had sunk.

In The BonehuntersEdit

Karsa orlong by dejan delic

Interpretation of Karsa Orlong by dejan-delic

Karsa, then on his way back to his people, encountered the witch Samar Dev in the Ugarat Odhan. 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 for his exploits as Sha'ik's bodyguard.

Being told that a Malazan garrison was holding out in nearby Ladro Keep, Karsa chose to go and talk to them. He found a K'Chain Nah'ruk and killed it after a ferocious fight. However, the locals were still suspicious of him and Karsa decided to leave with Samar Dev.

During their travels 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.[16]

Karsa meets the edur by slaine69

Karsa meets the Edur Interpretation by slaine69

While travelling with the Anibar, Boatfinder told Samar and Karsa more of the legends of his people.[17] They eventually found the enemy of the Anibar, Tiste Edur whose fleet was scouting the world to collect champions for their Emperor, Rhulad Sengar. After initially killing a large number of them, Karsa was persuaded by Samar to speak with them. Hearing about the challenge, he decided to accompany them.[18]

During the journey they witnessed the clash between the Edur fleet and the Malazan Imperial fleet.[19]

Karsa was pleased when he discovered that Icarium Lifestealer was amongst the other challengers as he was keen to continue their previous interrupted fight.[20]

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

In Reaper's GaleEdit

Karsa by Corporal Nobbs

Karsa von Corporal Nobbs

Upon their arrival in Letheras, 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.[21] He also soon after likely killed someone who dared touch his sword.[22]

Whilst waiting for his engagement with the Emperor, Karsa engaged in practice bouts with some of the other challengers, including a Seguleh, all of whom he defeated easily.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]

Finally, Karsa met Rhulad Sengar and managed to create a blood ritual that created a portal that brought him into The Crippled God's realm. There, he killed Rhulad's spirit. Refusing to take the cursed sword that made Rhulad immortal, Karsa left the realm thanks to a portal of fire that had suddenly appeared.[26]

In Toll the HoundsEdit

Karsa the toblakai by slaine69

Interpretation of Karsa by slaine69

The portal took Karsa to the continent of Genabackis and the region of the Lamatath Plain. Samar Dev managed to follow him there through Warrens with the Jhag horse. She had met Traveller en route and they travelled together on the trail of Karsa. Upon hearing that Karsa slew Rhulad and might now be in possession of the sword, Traveller warned Samar that he would challenge the Toblakai if that was the case.[27]

Karsa in the meantime was challenging the Captain of the self-proclaimed Skathandi kingdom, a bandit and slave trader who was a cripple who had survived 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 spirits fled and the man, realizing that now his wounds were bleeding again, 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.[28]

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.[29]

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

Toblakai proved his might by stopping 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 on his original quest.

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

Significant plot details end here.

In The Crippled GodEdit

Karsa orlong by seraph777-d5kb6br

Karsa Orlong Interpretation by seraph777

Whilst in Darujhistan, Karsa Orlong at last persuaded Samar Dev to invite him into her bed. He made a brief appearance in the streets of Darujhistan outside the temple of Fener. As Gesler and Stormy called on the boar god to manifest at the Spire, Karsa entered Fener's temple and destroyed one of the god's tusks enshrined there. The artifact's destruction resulted in Fener's death. Having manifested in the clouds above the Spire, the Ascendant's blood rained down on the combatants of the Battle of the Spire, returning life to the T'lan Imass and Jaghut warriors present, so that their races would continue to walk the world.


"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]


Fan art galleryEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. House of Chains, Chapter 25, UK MMPB p.966
  2. House of Chains, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB
  3. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.132/134
  4. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.407
  5. House of Chains, Dramatis Personae, UK MMPB
  6. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15, US HC p.411
  7. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 5, US HC p.134-136
  8. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 15
  9. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 16, US HC p.433
  10. Deadhouse Gates, Chapter 18
  11. House of Chains, Chapter 1, UK MMPB p.32
  12. House of Chains, Chapter 3, UK MMPB p.223-234
  13. House of Chains, Chapter 7, UK MMPB p.351/352
  14. House of Chains, Chapter 14
  15. House of Chains, Chapter 17
  16. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK HB p. 587-589
  17. The Bonehunters, Chapter 12, UK HB p.590-595
  18. The Bonehunters, Chapter 16, UK MMPB p.802-810
  19. The Bonehunters, Chapter 18, UK MMPB p.883-890
  20. The Bonehunters, Epilogue, UK MMPB p.1197/1198
  21. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 7, UK BCA edition p.170
  22. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 9, UK BCA edition p.226
  23. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 11, UK BCA edition p.306-310
  24. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 11, UK BCA edition p.320-322
  25. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 15, UK BCA edition p.469-471/479
  26. Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24
  27. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, UK HB p.249-252
  28. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 8, UK HB p.255-258/298-301
  29. Toll the Hounds, Chapter 10, UK HB p.356/358
  30. Read for Pixels 2016 Interview at 53:45
  31. Read for Pixels 2016 Interview at 55:35
  32. Read for Pixels 2016 Interview See 1:47:49
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