Lorn's personality development
This a personal treatise regarding Lorn and her personality which I have been fascinated about since the first time I read about it. This means that there are going to be personal opinions and comments in this section. If you want to discuss more about it, you can comment below. Also, I will be using real developments and events to corroborate this piece. Also I'm going to compare and analogize with characters across the series, so SPOILER ALERT for the entire series.
We start with some background on Lorn's past. We recall that she had an extremely tough childhood. Her parents and her brother died leaving her an orphan and completely alone. She was adopted by the Claw , whose tenets and indoctrination scheme (no matter the double standards of its members and its founder, Laseen ) can to an extent, be analogized with Hitler's SS (just an analogy, we do have instances of good Claw members). Growing up in that environment, a child can only learn the moral values and characteristics of an indoctrinated stone cold killer, who has completely submitted to the wishes of the Empire without question (that those wishes reflect the wishes of the Empress does not make a distinction to anyone concerned...Christopher Nolan in 'Equilibrium', anyone?). It is at some point after this period that she becomes Adjunct to the Empress (her age is close enough to Ganoes') and we come to the events in Gardens of the Moon.
While she effectively plays the role of a person who is used to massacres, we need to remember that her mask is different from her true character. She lets slip this mask for just a moment, and Ganoes observes the scared girl behind the mask. More, she is taken by surprise by what she thinks is naivety on Ganoes' part when he reveals that he wants to use his connections as a nobleman to make to the rank of a fist, despite the fact that the empire has ruthlessly culled the nobility to counter its influence. The relevance to this discussion being that when Paran and Lorn discuss this, she is surprised to find him straight-forward and honest about his intentions, showing that she is used to veiled intentions and plans. His honesty catches her by surprise, to the point that she takes him on her own staff (that may not be the only reason of course, but it is one). When Paran has investigated and reported to the Empress, he goes to Lorn's chambers, and walks in on her dressing, and she brushes aside his embarrassment, since she doesn't feel any such thing. This is relevant because despite holding such a high rank, she seems to have lost all notions of privacy and personality (the qualities of having personal emotions) during her time with the Claw. Also why this is important is that she has amazingly not been trapped by power, money and influence quite unlike Pearl- who seems to enjoy everything to the point of making everything a joke, and unlike Topper, who, although unerringly loyal to Laseen, does seem to possess a unique personality that makes him so different (remember Kalam alluding to Topper being a lecherous drinker and a sycophant in The Bonehunters?). We also observe her room to be completely impersonal with very few personal implements and mostly Napan furniture. While all odds seem to be stacked against her having her own personality, she does laugh at the joke Paran makes when he says he wouldn't earn as many laughs the next time. This strikes as being unique to her because just a few moments ago his joke of his stallion being more intelligent than himself was met with wryness by Laseen and his antics were met with anger by Topper.
Moving on to the next point, we go back to the events on the Rhivi Plain where Lorn and the marines are ambushed by the Barghast. In the process, Lorn gets injured but manages to survive. There are two interesting moments in her meeting with Toc that strike as particularly relevant to this essay, the first is when she observes with some surprise about Toc's career choice: "There was nothing pleasant, or proud in being a Claw. Only efficiency and fear." She has been thinking about his father and how he was one of the best 'soldiers'. In her mind then, there is a wide distinction between the Soldiers who fought battles much more honestly in an upfront and honest fashion, while the Claws are, though not to be reviled, but even so only efficient and to some extent cruel (fear is only bred by harmful cruelty on the part of the Claw. Temper seems to recall that the modus operandi of the Claw was not to leave any witnesses behind as a part of their fear tactics). The other incident is even more striking in terms of her personality. She talks regretfully of losing her stallion to the Barghast Shaman and Toc observes genuine sorrow in the Adjunct, when he has had a picture of a cold blooded monster painted in his head. This in itself shows quite an amount of character development since now we know she is capable of a relationship with something living.
The next instant of Lorn's outburst of emotions is even more amazing. She seems to have bottled up her emotions very well regarding the deaths of her family. The thing that triggers the recall is the name Tattersail , that she seems to associate with the actions of the mage cadre that night in the Mouse Quarter. Perhaps she has heard someone mention Tattersail's name in a negative light, accusing her of incompetency, perhaps it was something else that made an indelible impression on her, but she seems to associate all the mistakes that happened that night to Tattersail, for whom it had been her first command. It seemingly doesn't matter to Lorn that Laseen herself was responsible for the edict that started off the massacre. She seems to have repressed that fact, since she was taken in and cared for by Laseen's Claw. She also doesn't seem to care that it is Whiskeyjack's green recruits who had lost control and used excessive force. And yet her method of gaining revenge (had she had any) is haphazard to say the least, something that comes up at the spur of the moment. She challenges a woman who is resigned to her death. More, when Dujek and Tayschrenn take responsibility bringing themselves to blame, and ask her to become the Adjunct once again, she lets it flow over her and lets the Adjunct's personality take control. The thing about revenge is, it's always about what you can do about whatever indignation you have faced. As examples, Coll lacks the resources to take on Simtal, and he is emotionally broken by her, so he doesn't do anything about it. Kalam believes in himself and thinks he is skilled enough to take on Laseen and so he does to give answer to the percieved betrayal of the Bridgeburners. What makes Lorn's character so tragic is that though she possesses the resources to take vengeance on people who she holds responsible: be it Dujek or Whiskeyjack or Tattersail; that she blames Tattersail is in itself irrelevant. What matters is she has allowed the identity of the Adjunct to take over her personal vendetta, even her personality, and she lets the Adjunct win again. Since she was brought up by the Claw, she could have facilitated Tayschrenn and gone out of her way to take out the old guard, or whom-ever she felt was responsible for her family's deaths. Instead she takes Dujek's words to heart and never re-visits the issue again. No wonder Toc says he has just witnessed an execution of Lorn by the Adjunct. I would have to quote Toc on this:
"Toc felt his heart pounding hard against his chest. He'd just witnessed an execution. The woman named Lorn had risen from the turgid mists of the past, risen to right A wrong, to find justice and in that last act reclaim its life—and she had been denied. Not by the words of Dujek or Tayschrenn, but by the thing known as the Adjunct.
'Of course,' she said, removing her hand from her sword. 'Please enter, Sorceress Tattersail, and dine with us.'
The flat tone of her voice told Toc that her invitation had not cost anything—and this horrified him, shook him to his very core. A quick glance showed a similar response from Tayschrenn and Dujek, though the latter veiled it."
It is at this time that we suspect that after all the trauma that she has been through and nothing that has mended the damage in anyway, she has developed a split personality, one of the Adjunct and the other, Lorn. And currently Lorn is submissive to the Adjunct.
From this point onwards, all her interactions that reveal her character are with Onos. The meat of the article now begins: when she starts having the doubts about her work and develops emotions regarding not just her own choices (which, to be fair, have been forced on her) but about what she works to achieve. One of the best ways in which humans can see their follies is when they are forced to confront their history. What better way to show Lorn why the Empress is wrong in more ways than one, than by introducing an age old, analytical human like creature who has seen all kinds of idiocies perpetrated by their kind? Although the following conversation is far too oft-quoted, there is more truth to it than anyone gives it credit.
“Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?' The Imass shrugged before replying. 'I think of futility, Adjunct.' 'Do all Imass think about futility?' 'No. Few think at all.' 'Why is that?' The Imass leaned his head to one side and regarded her. 'Because Adjunct, it is futile.”
Why this conversation matters is, the sense of futility about anything is paralyzing to say the least. Its what drives people to insanity and suicide. When someone comes to the realization that what they're doing is futile, it all becomes irrelevant. This, more than anything else, frees Lorn to think about what it is that she's truly trying to achieve and where it stands in a more general perspective. It gives her an age old perspective and wisdom on power ; no matter how long someone holds it, everything is consigned, one way or the other to history and it all dissipates and goes away.
What gives their conversations so much depth is the fact that Tool has seen so much, not just about human nature, but about human history, that Lorn is left struggling to comprehend what he says. More, he is an expert on human expressions, having seen all kinds; that Lorn denies this is irrelevant, what is relevant is that later on, when he sees her struggle, he is capable of doing something about it, and this is very important to this topic. That he can see what humans (Lorn in this case) is thinking of, is evidenced here:
'In my years among humans,' Tool said, beside her, I have come to recollect the passing of emotions in body and expressions. Adjunct, you have worn a frown the past two days. Is this significant?'
'No,' she snapped. 'It isn't.'
Here is where he starts having an inkling of an idea about her internal struggle.
The aftermath of her next conversation with Tool is even more relevant. When Tool informs her of the ancient Warrens at play, she starts off by thinking later that night about the chalcedony flint tools used by the Imass, and that the humans had come from the Imass, inheriting the legacy of empire from them (in reference to the First Empire), and yet this legacy could be seen as a curse (SIDE NOTE: There are echoes of Karsa's anti-society philosophy here). She goes on to wonder if war is all there is, and this is important because it's all she's ever been exposed to. And for the first time we see explicit emotions from her, regarding someone else, something that almost amounts to empathy. She understands the relation we humans have with tyrants:
'Oh, Laseen,' she murmured, tears welling in her eyes, 'I know why we fear this Jaghut Tyrant.
Because he became human, he became like us he enslaved, he destroyed, and he did it better than we could.' She lowered She fell silent then, letting the tears roll down her cheeks, seep between her fingers, trickle along her wrists. Who wept from her eyes? she wondered. Was it Lorn, or Laseen?
Or was it for our kind? What did it matter? Such tears had been shed before, and would be again—by other like her and yet unlike her. And the winds would dry them all.
It has all the qualities of a person who is genuinely tired of trying to grasp every thread of power. And then there it is again, the struggle between Lorn and the extension of Laseen.
A keen observer would now try to differentiate between the Adjunct and the Empress. While the Adjunct has always been described as an extension to the Empress' will, the Adjuncts we see possess certain unique characterestics for themselves which belie the 'extension of Laseen's will' part, something of an anathema for a person's own unique character. and for Lorn, while there has probably not been much struggle before, we see it bubbling out now. Tavore has always had a distinct personality, and is a different case altogether and her case will not be discussed here.
Her next sentiments, presumably they're at the same physical place, are full of cynicism regarding human behavior. She observes that while the Imass committed genocide against the Jaghut, Malaz (not humans in general, but Malazans particularly) committed it against their own kind by waging incessant wars. This is the point where the similarities between what the Imass have done and what they, the Malazans are doing, is becoming eerily apparent. It is as if the Malazans are reproducing exactly the Imass' mistakes. Her failure to distinguish the genocide that Malaz has perpetrated, in contrast to humans in general (the seven cities natives are extremely bloodthirsty, and she knows that very well) is telling. It seems more relevant because she is engaged in self analysis, and whatever someone else's faults maybe, she turns the focus of her analysis to the entity that she owes loyalty to. For the first time, we see this aspect of self analysis, a step that is essential and absolutely vital to discovering one's own faults and weaknesses that define one's self, and ultimately make a human unique.
Here forthwith comes the part when Lorn starts losing her identity again, this time tragically, never to recover it again. Murillio has, at this point of time, injured Lorn though admittedly in a minor fashion. This has to a great extent made her recall her Claw training, and it is obvious that the Adjunct personality is now staging a comeback, because of the adversity and the fight that she has just gone through. Then and there, she starts flaying her own doubts regarding the Empress, taking those doubts to be weak points, as opposed to an internal struggle to find out what she wants for herself. Over the next few days, as she recalls the doubts that came over her, she would refer to them as her 'cracking', while in truth as we all know, she had only just begun a long journey towards self-discovery. Yet something that strikes as being rather unique about her fight that she has just had, is that when Crokus asks her to leave them alone, she actually does, ignoring the Claw modus operandi of no survivors. Claw members like Topper or Possum wouldn't have so much as hesitated in killing the entire group. That she herself was injured also plays a part in that decision, but as she herself reflects later on, it is certainly an odd decision on her part.
"Tool had given her more to think about than she could handle. The words the Imass had thrown at her feet, as if in afterthought, had reached into and grasped something deep within her and now would not let go. Emotions seeped into the Adjunct, clouding the world around her.
She'd abandoned sorrow long ago, along with regret. Compassion was anathema to the Adjunct."
Nothing can define the Adjunct's personality more than that last line, and nothing makes her character more tragic.
Yet now all these feelings swept through her in tides pulling her every which way. She found herself clinging to the title of Adjunct, and what it meant, as if it was a lifeline to sanity, to stability and control.
The only way of life she has known up until now has been that of an extension of Laseen's will, with the concerns of the empire more important, at every juncture, than her own. From this, we take a peek at Lorn's philosophy of what an Empire constitutes, and like she thinks "Control. The word rebounded in her thoughts, clipped, hard and sure. What was the heart of Empire, if not control?" From here, her struggle is with the control aspect of Human beings, her argument being that the Empire seeks to control as much as it can, and with it, take away as much of a person's persona, as much as influence events from the smallest of occurrences to the largest. Try to contrast this to Anomander's philosophy on certainity, while he is conversing with Baruk : Then it falls to others—to your Cabal, in fact. There's no certainty in this, Baruk. That seems a fact particularly galling to you humans. You'd better learn to accept it.
We can argue endlessly about the right philosophy to adopt towards uncertainty, and yet it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand because Lorn never discusses it with anyone. This brings us to another topic, that of approachability and friendship that the Imass can offer, as opposed to the kind of companionship that someone like Paran or even Toc could have offered. But more on that later. Right now, when the Imass offers help, he does so out of expediency, expelling any doubts of Tool offering any compassion. And yes, she does seem to catch on to the idea that as opposed to orders which are clear cut and brook nothing else, emotions are much different. "Was this the true nature of emotion? she wondered. The great defier of logic, of control—the whims of being human." When Tool expresses his concerns about releasing the Tyrant, he also states that he shares the Adjunct's ambivalence about releasing such a powerful entity that could much more harm and absolutely no good. Tool makes it clear that only the residual power of the Jaghut will set him free and he intends to get away from it all, and we come at a critical juncture for Lorn.
'Adjunct, you are welcome to accompany me.'
Lorn opened her mouth, but could think of no immediate reply so shut it again.
'I ask that you consider my offer, Adjunct. I shall journey in search of an answer, and I shall find it.'
Answer? To what? she wanted to ask. Yet something stopped her, a surge of fear that said to her: You don't want to know. Remain ignorant in this. 'Let's get on with it,' she grated.
And just like that, Lorn (as opposed to the Adjunct) throws away a very good opportunity to search for answers that she would like to get. Instead, she chooses to 'remain ignorant about it', that surge of fear being the fear of unknown possibilities that do not take the Empire into consideration (She has no idea his search is for answers to the Pannion Seer problem). Recall Tool observing Lorn's emotions over the past few days? This is his offer to Lorn to get her out of the moral quagmire and dilemma she is in. Here is also probably the answer to all the question that have sprouted in her off late, and yet she refuses to entertain any possibility of finding these answers.
Lets contrast this to at-the-time Adjunct Tavore 's actions, when it becomes clear to her that at the very least, the Wickan part of her 14th is being threatened with extermination. It is necessary to make a distinction for Lorn. Everyone grows up with a unique set of circumstances and influences that make them the person they are. What makes the character of the Adjunct Lorn so unique (and perhaps tragic) is that she never found the time to question her loyalties to the various entities. It is not in the interests of this essay to compare the two Adjuncts. Other than the fact that they come from entirely different backgrounds is the fact that Tavore understands to what extent her loyalty to the Empress goes to, and when the time comes, she chooses to side with the soldiers who depend on her. You could say that she is a soldier herself. Lorn is so deeply rooted in her loyalties, it is unfathomable for her to even think against the Empress. One might well ask about Tavore's treatment of Felisin and if that wasn't in complete accordance with the Empress' wishes over her own blood ties. And yet, the catch is Baudin , who is tasked to protect and bring back Felisin. Even later, she asks Lostara and Pearl to search for her, which means she cares for her blood (how delicate the irony that she wouldn't have to look far for vengeance). We digress from further analysis.
We now have Paran thinking over about his conversation about Morality with the Adjunct. He remembers a conversation he had once had with Lorn on this topic and how some philosophers thought that morality was absolute, not relative. "Just another hunt for certainty" had been the Adjunct's response. This is relevant because she never fully realized what she was saying, else she would never have had any doubts regarding how uncertain a human's life is, leave alone an Empire's. He does find it odd that Lorn has adopted Laseen's cynical regard of the world, wondering how far she has made herself an extension of Laseen. He realizes that he had only once seen Lorn out of the Adjunct's shell and that had been when she was shocked by the events at Itko Kan. We find Paran regretting the tough demeanor that he adopted at the massacre of Itko Kan that made her come back into her shell. "Too many regrets. Lost chances- and with each one passing the less human we all became, and the deeper into the nightmare of power we all sank."
Now we cut back to the final exchange between Tool and Lorn. Tool once again offers Lorn to accompany her though he knows she won't accept the offer. She finds her doubts vanishing when the time for action comes, something she has learnt from the Claw. Very unfortunate for the character Lorn has been developing. I'll just leave a quote from Gothos' folly here: In a war between fanatics and skeptics, the fanatics win every time. Here the fanatic would be the Adjunct and the skeptic, Lorn.
Nevertheless, she finds herself reminiscing about Paran and how she missed him. This brings us to the question asked earlier about if Paran would have helped her regain her identity better. Honestly, we can never know because it never happened. But the prospect of the Adjunct arguing the philosophy of control (as Lorn, not as Adjunct) with Paran is certainly appealing. The humanity in Paran is to a certain extent an anathema to the Adjunct's character, something the Adjunct has probably never experienced before. In a society that brooks no discussion about right or wrong (here represented by the Claw), where there are only orders and decisive action, freedom of expression is always missing. To Lorn (not the Adjunct), that would have served as a point of interest. And so for Steven Erickson, that is 'The road not taken'.
We are now in the final stretch and this is when Lorn has planted the Finnest in Simtal's garden and is now looking around at the all the revelers (the regular people of Darujhistan) celebrating the Gedderone fete out on the streets at the dawn of the new year. I feel that Erickson's own words in the books, along with the background information provided above, are enough for the reader to understand what happens to Lorn there:
She watched the sea of people, its tide of faces swirling past. The latent madness there made her uneasy, especially with the city's guards maintaining an aloof distance. She wondered at the taint of terror in that multitude of faces, and how almost every face seemed familiar.
Darujhistan blurred in her mind, becoming a hundred other cities, each rising out of her past as if on parade. joy and fear, agony and laughter—the expressions merged into one, the sounds coming to her no different from each other. She could distinguish nothing, the faces becoming expressionless, the sounds a roar of history without meaning.
Lorn passed a hand over her eyes, then staggered back a step and reeled into the alley's shadows behind her. She slid down one wall into a sagging crouch. A celebration of insignificance. Is that all we are in the end? Listen to them! In a few hours the city's intersections would explode.
Hundreds would die instantly, thousands to follow. Amid the rubble of shattered cobbles and toppled buildings would be these faces, locked in expressions somewhere between joy and terror.
And from the dying would come sounds, hopeless cries that dwindled in the passing of pain.
She'd seen them all before, those faces. She knew them all, knew the sound of their voices, sounds mired in human emotions, sounds clear and pure with thought, and sounds wavering in that chasm between the two.
Is this, she wondered, my legacy? And one day I'll be just one more of those faces, frozen in death and wonder.
Lorn shook her head, but it was a wan effort. She realized, with sudden comprehension, that she was breaking down. The Adjunct was cracking, its armour crumbling and the luster gone from its marbled grandeur. A title as meaningless as the woman bearing it. The Empress—just another face she'd seen somewhere before, a mask behind which someone hid from mortality.
'No use hiding,' she whispered, frowning down at the dead leaves and branches around her. 'No use.' A few minutes later she pushed herself upright once again. She brushed the dirt meticulously from her cloak. One task remained within her abilities. Find the Coin Bearer. Kill him, and take Oponn's Coin.
Make the god pay for its intrusion in Empire affairs—the Empress and Tayschrenn would see to that.
The task demanded concentration, fixing her senses upon one particular signature. It would be her last act, she knew. But she would succeed.
Death at the hands of failure was unthinkable. Lorn turned to the street.
Dusk crept from the ground and engulfed the crowds. Far off to the east thunder sounded, yet the air was dry, with no hint of rain. She checked her weapons. 'The Adjunct's mission,' she said quietly, 'is almost done.'
Here, in my opinion the Adjunct is turning to nihilism. The fact that in the grand scheme of things, in history itself, what the people celebrate, what she does to harm them, in the end everyone is going to die. Then she wonders what she is doing herself, what her legacy is, and if death is the only legacy she leaves until she joins them in their death. Her doubts seem to her as her 'cracks', and she realizes that Laseen is just one person, hiding behind the mask of immortality. From this entire conversation in her mind, there is a distinct feeling that she doesn't really care anymore what comes after the mission. She is far too tired to plan ahead, instead she seems to give in to the fact that her role is almost or already done. Her only task remains the Coinbearer. We don't know whether she expects to die while completing the mission or she just wants to quit and get away from it all. Right now, all that matters to her is the completion of her tasks.
And now for the final act, She managed a stained smile. 'I don't know. Two women. Looked like … thieves. Thugs. Do you see… the irony, Ganoes Paran?' It is again very appealing that Steven Erickson might have saved Lorn to see what came out of her conversations with Paran.
Perhaps, in this essay I have over-analyzed certain aspects of the Adjunct, linking things where no link exists. Nevertheless, the argument is a really old one: where is the line that divides your own will and the will of the entity that holds your loyalty, at least the one that you work for? At what point does the cause you have been working for become your own and if it doesn't, what does it do to your humanity and/or character? Conversely, is it possible to align your own morality with a supervening entity, and to what extent is it right? And that particular question leads one into the mental machinations of a fanatic, who would accept someone else's will over his/her own.
The stories portrayed in so many TV shows and movies keep throwing parallels to this very question. For those of you who have watched Person of Interest, Burn Notice, Equilibrium (the list is really long) the question gets re-visited time and time again. Those of you who appreciate psychiatry would recall the Milgram Experiment , when regular volunteers were asked to torture people they didn't know (as part of an experiment) and the principle defense they offered to hold on to their belief system was that they were part of an experiment, and that the Professor leading the experiment had asked them to do it. During the Nuremberg , Auschwitz and Dachau trials after WW II, the principle defense of most of the Nazi war criminals was that they were simply following orders from higher up, even though it involved massacres of unimaginable scales. Even in the Malazan world, so many different characters respond to the same kind of tasks that require a terrific amount of loyalty to the Empire, with different attitudes. Dujek burning the public records to save the lives of nobility (especially the children) in Pale is a very good example. When it comes down to it, some of the other characters have shown immense personality and character to do what they want, and more, to do the right thing. Kalam has been a Claw for sometime before he joined the Bridgeburners, yet he found it in himself to cross three continents and try to assassinate Laseen to make her pay for her incompetence.
One comes across these dilemmas in the real world all too often. When one reads about the internal machinations of Dictatorships and such Governmental types, even democracies tend to employ a certain number of people who they need to work for them without questions asked (CIA, KGB, FSB, Jason Bourne and so on).
In the end, the story of Lorn is striking (to me at least, it is) because her struggles are the struggles of a woman who wants to recover her humanity by discovering her own unique identity as a person, which seems to be an anathema to absolutist regimes that demand utter loyalty, to the point where the person becomes part of an identity and an ideology espoused by the ruler(s). To discover ourselves is what makes each and every one unique, and this a part of everyone's struggles, not just in today's world, but through history.
Eventually, as the reader will realize, this theme of personality is repeated throughout the entire series, so I'm just going to leave off with a couple of quotes from some of my favorite characters:
'The first law of the multitude is conformity. Civilization is the mechanism of controlling and maintaining that multitude. The more civilized a nation, the more conformed its population, until that civilization's last age arrives, when multiplicity wages war with conformity. The former grows ever wilder, ever more dysfunctional in its extremities; whilst the latter seeks to increase its measure of control, until such efforts acquire diabolical tyranny.'
'I am sorry for that. Do not seek to find hope among your leaders. They are the repositories of poison. Their interest in you extends only so far as their ability to control you. From you, they seek duty and obedience, and they will ply you with the language of stirring faith. They seek followers, and woe to those who question, or voice challenge.
'Civilization after civilization, it is the same. The world falls to tyranny with a whisper. The frightened are ever keen to bow to a perceived necessity, in the belief that necessity forces conformity, and conformity a certain stability. In a world shaped into conformity, dissidents stand out, are easily branded and dealt with. There is no multitude of perspectives, no dialogue. The victim assumes the face of the tyrant, self-righteous and intransigent, and wars breed like vermin. And people die.'
- Silchas Ruin