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‘She’
Impressions of Chapter 14 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer
© 2019 James LaFond
APR/1/19
Reading from pages 90-94 of Shadow & Claw
Terminus Est
“…when a gift is deserved, it is not a gift but a payment. The only true gifts are such as you now receive.”
Master Palaemon, scholar of the two guild masters, liked Severian for his scholarship and gifts him his very own executioner’s sword, presented as a female mate to the male wielder, with an edge for beheading men and one for beheading women, and a beautiful inscription, “This is the line of division.”
The sword is also likened to a snake who writhes when she is raised, due to the fact that the blade is impregnated with some kind of heavy liquid metal. It is as large as a staff in its scabbard and will be the torturer’s badge of office, talisman and burden. Throughout the story Severian panics whenever separated from his sword and its possession puts him in peril as often as its service rescues him from it.
Soon in trouble with authorities on the bridge so large it is treated as a military municipality, for fear of causing a riot over his antique costume, Severian is regaled by a minor official about the art of ruling millions:
“Disturbances cannot be tolerated because disturbances cannot be extinguished.”
The author then inserts a humorous piece of workplace violence that clues the reader in to the fact that the torturers have a martial skill set.
Diction of note
-hydrargyrum, a liquid metal heavier than iron
-quaesitor, a judicial official
-Moira,
-paterissa,
-flambeaux
-externs
-lochage
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