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Karsa Orlong

Page history last edited by iksaxophone 7 years, 11 months ago

Karsa Orlong


Name: Karsa Orlong

Pseudonyms: Toblakai, Warleader.

Age: When we first see him he is eighty years old.

Race: Teblor, Thelomen Toblakai

Appearance: Gigantic and powerfully muscled. His face

is broad and flat, and tattooed with a shattered glass pattern.

He carries first a bloodwood sword, then an enormous flint one, and

wears upon is shoulders the hide of a white bear.

Warren: N/A

Further Info: He was once Sha'ik's bodyguard. Knight of High House Chains. Karsa Orlong's horse is Havok, see Jhag horse

Steven Erikson: "How powerful Karsa Orlong is compared to everyone else, and that's a harder question to answer. When it comes to attitude, he's a freight train. Sometimes that counts for more than raw power. It was sheer stubbornness that let him kill the Deragoth, or that's what I had hoped to portray in those scenes."(Q and A with malazanempire No 1 (2003))


Steven Erikson: "I think one tends to view the quintessential barbarian as someone with little more than strength and blind courage as assets, in the Conan style. I suppose in many ways Karsa was modelled on that, so that, outwardly, he comes across as big, mean and somewhat unwitting. Alas, lots of characters who encounter him think the same way, and pay for it later. I loved Howard's Conan, and Kull, and Bran, but at the same time a lot has changed in the genre, and with Karsa I wanted to riff on the original archetype, while at the same time keeping him appropriately non-verbal, often inarticulate. Which makes him easily under-estimated, whereas someone like Anomander Rake, with all his intellect and mystery, can be over-estimated (in comparison). Karsa killed the Deragoth because he was meaner, and far more stubborn than they were. It was a battle of wills, both bestial, perhaps, but the intent was for something primal, where the reader could witness (as did Kalam and QB) the sheer relentlessness of Karsa Orlong".(Q and A with malazanempire No 2 (2003))
     The constants of Toblakai/Karsa Orlong's character are a fierce resistance to submitting to authority, a murderous rage against those attempt to impose upon him their will, and frightening martial ability.




     Karsa Orlong is a Teblor warrior, of the Uryd tribe. His grandfather, Pahlk Orlong, was a famed warrior who had, centuries before, gone into the lowlands from the Laederon Plateau and slew many "children", as the Teblor call 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. As Warleader of his group, he and his comrades, Bairoth Gild and Delum Thord, raided through Sunyd and Rathyd lands raping and murdering along the way, to finally arrive at the same place where Pahlk 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 childlike 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 encountered the supposedly dead Napan Urko, who called himself Keeper and dabbled in archaeology. They left for Ehrlitan and were soon re-enslaved by the very same slaver, Silgar.

     The group was captured by Malazan forces after arrival in Ehrlitan, Silgar claiming Karsa as a slave he had recaptured. Both Silgar and Karsa were 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, whereupon Karsa was told of his true racial identity as a Thelomen Toblakai, from whom the Teblor people were descended. Karsa, known from this point on as Toblakai, goes with his cellmate, Leoman of the Flails, into the Holy Desert Raraku and becomes the loyal bodyguard to Sha'ik.


     Eventually, Karsa Orlong leaves the Holy Desert Raraku. Having been persuaded to go in search of a Jhag horse, he proceeds west into the Jhag Odhan. This move was also one his false gods desired. Along his journey, he encounters and fights Icarium, the Jhag known as the Slayer of the Ten Thousand, and Karsa's ironwood sword is destroyed. Neither Icarium nor Karsa is slain, as both are knocked unconscious in the clash.

Shortly thereafter, Karsa Orlong finally meets his gods in the Jhag Odhan, who prove to be T'lan Imass who were shattered in battle millennia earlier. They reveal to him that he was not just their pawn in their plans to gain power and become true ascendancts, but Karsa had also been made the Knight of Chains, a title the warrior refuted in a personal audience with the Chained God later. In a Tellann-infused sacred cavern, the seven Unbound T'lan Imass tell Karsa Orlong he cannot create a weapon from the vast flint pillar, to which he sneers and does so anyway (a theme constant with his character), and into it the souls of Delum Thord and Bairoth Gild go, his first followers and ultimately his only regret. Karsa, now rearmed and his elder gods proven false, shrugged off the facade of doing as the Unbound told him, and drove six of them off, further destroying the seventh, 'Siballe the Unfound. Karsa ultimately grants her the mercy of oblivion by throwing her animate head into the ocean. On his way out of the Imass cave, he encounters the Tiste Edur warrior Trull Sengar and his T'lan Imass companion, Onrack. Karsa was impressed by the nobility of Trull, and so did not slay the pair.

     A short time later, Karsa meets a Jaghut and her sister, who help Karsa obtain the Jhag horse he had set out to collect in the first place. Karsa then turns around and rides back into the Holy Desert.

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 scouring the camp, Karsa encounters two of the Hounds of Darkness, known as Deragoth and butchers them with frightening ease. Tying the Hounds' heads to his horse, Karsa speeds off into the desert at dawn, telling the Malazan forces that they are no longer his sworn enemy.

     At this time, Karsa vows to return home and claim the army the Unbound T'lan Imass had set aside for him, using this force to raise his people from the level to which they had sunk. Karsa, then on his way back to his people, encounters a human woman (the witch Samar Dev) in the desert who happens to be dying of thirst. He helps her and notes in passing that the reason that she is dying is because the self-powered carriage she built broke down.

He travels with her to her city, where people are immediately suspicious of him. Samar Dev persuades them to leave him alone. Learning of a castle into which people have disappeared, Karsa decides to find out what's inside. Here he finds a K'Chain Che'Malle (Nah'ruk) and kills it after a ferocious fight. However, the locals remain suspicious of him and Karsa decides to leave with Samar Dev.

     After a long journey they meet a Tiste Edur fleet on a mission to collect champions for their Emperor, Rhulad Sengar, who is the King in Chains. The Toblakai decides to go quietly for two reasons: To prove his might against the seemingly unkillable Emperor, and also because he discovers that Icarium Lifestealer is to challenge the Emperor as well.

     Arriving in Lether (the continent which the Edur have conquered), Karsa proves himself the strongest champion by beating all other challengers except Icarium, who doesn't duel. Though he meets the Jhag in the city, he doesn't fight him because he discovers that Icarium has Toblakai blood in his veins.

Finally Karsa meets Rhulad Sengar and manages to create a blood ritual that creates a portal that brings him into The Crippled God's realm. There he kills the Edur's spirit and refuses to take the cursed sword that made Rhulad immortal, and in doing so refuses to enter yet another gods service. He then leaves the realm thanks to a portal of fire that had suddenly appeared.

     In Toll the Hounds, we learn that the portal has brought him to Genabackis, where he meets again with Samar Dev, together with the man known as Traveler with whom he starts a friendship. Travelling together, they arrive in Darujhistan where Karsa witnesses the clash between Anomander Rake and Traveller, who is in truth Dassem Ultor. The duel ends with Rake's death.

Despite being deeply humbled by the duel, the Toblakai once again proves his might by stopping the newly awakened Hounds of Light from taking Rake's sword, Dragnipur. He is helped by the Knight of Death and, lastly, by the daughters he bore, by the rape of a mother and her daughter, that he committed when setting out on his original quest.

At the end of Toll the Hounds, Karsa decides to stay in the City also because the former Bridgeburner Picker has sent him a message from Hood telling him that he is needed to help kill a god.



Related Quotes


'A giant of a man...his face tattooed like shattered glass. A long single braid hung down the left side of his chest. The man wore a cloak of bhederin hide over a vest of armour made of clam shells. The wooden handle and stone pommel of a bladed weapon of some kind jutted from just under his left arm. The broad belt over the man's loincloth was oddly decorated with what looked...like dried mushroom caps of various sizes. He was over seven foot tall, yet muscled enough to seem wide, and his flat, broad face gazed down without expression...


"You fancy no mortal could get that close to you without you hearing him. You tell yourself it must have involved magic. You are wrong. My companion is Toblakai, an escaped slave from the Laederon Plateau of Genabackis. He's seen seventeen summers and has personally killed forty-one enemies. Those are their ears on his belt.'

DG, UK MMPB, p.200


"The Toblakai youth leaned on his two-handed ironwood sword. A battered bronze helm missing a cheek guard was on his head, his eyes hidden in the shadow of a slitted half-visor."

DG, UK mmpb, p.204



'Newly arrived to my eightieth year of life, finally a warrior in truth...'

- Karsa's age before leaving his tribe

HoC, UK MMPB, p.35


'Impossibly lithe for one of such bulk...'

DG, UK MMPB, p.205


'The giant savage sneered, revealing filed teeth.'I collect tokens of the people I kill. Tied here on my belt.

DG, UK MMPB, p.636


'His (Karsa's) tribe made few distinctions...There was kin and those who were not kin were the enemy.'

DG, UK MMPB, p.637


'Sha'ik saw far into his (Karsa's) future'...

'And what did she see?'...

'She would not say. Yet it...appalled her.'

DG, UK MMPB, p.642


'Tortured spirits writhe in this bastard's shadow - every man, woman and child that he's killed.'

- Heboric on Karsa's 'ghosts'''

DG, UK MMPB, p.636


'Karsa Orlong lived and breathed his grandfather's tales. They stood like a legion, defiant and fierce, before the pallid, empty legacy of Synyg - Pahlk's son and Karsa's father. Synyg, who had done nothing in his life, who tended his horses in his valley and had not once ventured into hostile lands. Synyg, who was both his father's and his son's greatest shame.'

HoC, UK MMPB, p.32


'Karsa's skill with the bloodwood blade far surpassed his years. He was counted among the finest warriors of the clan. While the Uryd disdained the use of the bow, they excelled with spear and atlatl, with the toothed-disc and the black rope, and Synyg had taught his son an impressive efficiency with these weapons as well.'

HoC, UK MMPB, p.33


"An apparition, tattered white fur riding the impossibly broad shoulders. A sword of flaked flint strapped to his back, the grip wrapped in hide. (...) A giant of a man who walked quiet as a desert cat, a nightmare vision, a hallucination."

BH, UK TPB, p.22


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