|“||Every man has his excuses, and the more vile the man becomes, the more touching the story has to be. What is my story now, I wonder?||”|
–Sand dan Glokta, The Blade Itself
Sand dan Glokta was a former champion swordsman and dashing war-hero of the King's Own, before being captured and tortured for years by the Gurkish. As a shunned cripple, he turns from tortured to torturer, becoming an Inquisitor in the King's Inquisition. A major point of view character in The First Law trilogy, and an important supporting character in The Age of Madness trilogy.
A former brave and dashing cavalry officer in the King's Own, Colonel Sand dan Glokta was considered a rising star in The Union, destined for great things, possibly even a future candidate for Lord Marshal. His victory in The Contest gained him the reputation as the greatest swordsman of his generation. He was loved and respected by all, and notorious as a womaniser.
Glokta's meteoric rise was brought to an abrupt halt during the First Gurkish War, some nine years before the start of the trilogy. In Kadir, he led a heroic but suicidal cavalry charge against the insurmountable Gurkish defenders of a bridge. He may have saved the rest of the Union Army, but it led to the deaths of his entire regiment, and his own capture. In Sharp Ends, we see these events, with Colonel Glokta in his prime. He is arrogant and reckless; envied by men and loved by women. Looking for a real challenge, he goaded his only true friend Collem West into a fight, and then infuriated at losing, demanded a rematch; a rematch destined never to happen. Voluteering to lead the suicidal charge, he ordered West to remain to watch the camp, partly through pertulance and partly through respect needing someone competent; a decision that saves his life.
Glokta was imprisoned in the dungeons under the Gurkish Emperors' palace, where he endured unimaginable torture. After two years, he was released in an exchange of prisoners, alive but a broken cripple; one of the few prisoners to survive for so long in such cruel conditions. Back in Adua, Glokta spent some time convalescing at his mother’s house. During this time, he was shunned by his old friends who once worshipped him, including Collem West, or so he thought. West had in fact visited twice, but his mother turned him away without telling him, because she disapproved of the lowborn man. This caused Glokta grow bitter and deeply cynical.
With few options available to a cripple, a year after his return, Glokta joined the King's Inquisition. He was sent to Angland to run a penal mining colony, where he made few friends in the Inquisition, and developed particular hatred of Superior Goyle. Nevertheless, during his three years in Angland, production was doubled. So he was brought back to Adua, to work under Superior Kalyne as an Inquisitor in the House of Questions, where the organization is more interested in gaining political favour than the security of The Union. He investigates cases of treason, corruption, and dissent, extracting confessions from the accused through torture, aided in his work by his two Practicals; Severard and Frost.
Sand dan Glokta is only thirty-five, but his visit to the Emperor's prisons has left him severely crippled, appearing far older, and in constant physical pain. Most notable of his multiple disabilities is his useless left leg, which is prone to spasms of intense pain; possibly the result of muscle death or simply repeated breakages. He walks with a hunch, limping and leaning heavily on a cane, wincing with every step; stairs are his bitter enemy.
He needs to piss sitting down, and must be helped getting out of bed by his elderly servant Barnam, often after losing control of his bowels. Half his teeth have been removed, but where the teeth were removed above, they were left below, so that he cannot eat solid foods. Instead, he eats soup and porridge. He describes every day as its own little hell.
He dresses in the Inquisitions traditional black, and broad-brimmed hat.
Before he was captured, Sand dan Glokta was a bold, clever, and dashing golden-boy, yet overly-arrogant and reckless. He is now a cripple cast aside by polite society; his former achievements - winning The Contest, heroically saving the Union Army – are treated like they never happened.
He is bitter, self-pitying, and cynical through and through, but also possess a very sharp tongue and wit, often mocking his own condition; he views steps as his arch-enemies and chairs as his greatest allies.
He often asks himself why he turned to torture, having been tortured himself, but rarely comes up with a satisfactory answer. Despite this, he carries on regardless. In fact, his choice isn't wholly motivated by evil, but by pragmatism; there are few options available in The Union to a cripple, and his experience has given him an superb insight into how to break people.
He is highly intelligent and devious, with a cunning ability to out-think his opponents. He always knows when he's being lied to. Throughout the series, his determined and ruthless nature means he’s more than capable and willing to do abhorrent things when they need to be done, yet not out of amoral sadism, but to achieve his goals; from torturing a false confession, to merciless slaughter. He’s messed up, to put it mildly, but he does sometimes show mercy; it usually comes back to bite him.
Perhaps Glokta's greatest asset is his lack of fear. He does not fear death, and even would dearly like someone to kill him, since it would release him from his life of pain, and make him stop what he does. Despite this, he cannot stand to lose.
Ardee: Because you’re a ruthless, plotting, bitter, twisted, self-pitying villain? You asked.
Glokta: The question was meant to be rhetorical.
The Blade Itself
Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta’s story begins with the interrogation of Salem Rews, a member of the merchant Guild of Mercers, who has been evading the King’s taxes. The Guild has paid bribes to avoid prosecution, so when his boss, Superior Kalyne, finds out about Glokta’s overzealous investigation, he informs the Inquisition’s leadership. Glokta’s interrogation is interrupted by Arch Lector Sult, the head of the Inquisition and one of the most powerful men in The Union. Sult actually encourages Glokta to continue his investigation of the Mercers, and to expand it to include Sepp dan Teufel – the Master of the Royal Mints.
After torturing a false confession out of the Master of the Royal Mints, Glokta finds himself drawn deeper into Sult’s scheming. Glokta learns that Sult wanted Teufel removed as a candidate for the vacant Lord Chancellor seat on the Closed Council, in order to promote his own preferred candidate. Now Sult wants Glokta destroy the Mercers, so he can take their resources as his own and also weaken the nobles.
However, Glokta’s investigation leads only to a slew of dead bodies; the Mercers are ruthlessly cleaning house. An operation is concocted to use Salem Rews to trap the assassin. The assassin named Carpi leads Glokta to a high ranking Mercer called Hornlach, and finally the high treason of the Guild is laid bare. Glokta is ordered to arrest everyone at the Mercers Headquarters; however he is unable to prevent Magister Kault, the overall head, from committing suicide. Before he hangs himself, Kault implicates other culprits—the banking house Valint & Balk and members of the Closed Council.
The Arch Lector rejects Glokta request to extend his investigation to Valint & Baulk. Instead, he tasks Glokta with proving that the Magus Bayaz, who has recently arrived in Adua, is a fraud. When a break-in and an unusual explosion occurs in the Magus’ chamber, Glokta takes the opportunity to meet Bayaz. However, the Magus proves to be a wily character, who dares Glokta to prove he is a phony.
At the University, Glokta tries to find a mundane explanation for the explosion in Bayaz’ chamber. However, the Adeptus Chemical is unable produce any meaningful results. So Glokta turns to the Adeptus Historical. The old man knows quite a bit about the Magus, The Seed, and Kanedias, but Glokta focuses on one simple fact; the real Bayaz has the only key to the House of the Maker. Glokta leaves the University satisfied, with the kernel of a plan.
One night, Glokta is woken by an icy cold and mysterious figure in his room demanding The Seed. Then she simply disappears, leaving Glokta puzzled whether it was a dream or not. The next day, the Inquisitor investigates a mauled body found near Bayaz’ chamber; mauled by human bites. However, his new boss, Superior Goyle, arrives and throws his weight around - dismissing it as merely a dog attack.
Glokta is in the crowd as Bremer dan Gorst and Jezal dan Luthar meet in the final of The Contest. Glokta watches in shock as the arrogant young noble impossibly rallies and eventually wins. In the crowd, he spots Bayaz working hard at some unseen purpose, and becomes convinced that Jezal and Bayaz have somehow cheated.
The Arch Lector and Glokta contrive a plan to discredit Bayaz at Jezal’s victory banquet. During the dinner, Sult challenges the Magus directly to prove his identity by producing the key to the House of the Maker. Bayaz casually removes a key from his robe, and promises tomorrow he will open the ever closed House.
Inquisitor Glokta accompanies Bayaz with Jezal and Logen Ninefingers to the House of the Maker. Glokta’s beliefs are shaken by the experience: the crippling sense of dread outside; the bizarre clockwork of the door; the massive creepy space within; and the Houses ability to warp time and space. Although, Glokta is still skeptical by the Magus, Bayaz is impressed by the Inquisitor’s astute mind and candor.
At night, Glokta gets a visit from his former friend Collem West, who asks him a favour; to watch over his sister Ardee while he is at war in Angland. Bitterness rises in Glokta - where was West when he was broken and alone after the Gurkish war? Glokta is rocked when West reveals that he did visit him, but was turned away by his disapproving mother. The pair renew their former friendship, bonding over their shared self-loathing.
At his next meeting with the Arch Lector, Sult explains that Superior Davoust of Dagoska has disappeared. With the situation in the city deteriorating, Glokta is appointed the new Superior of Dagoska. To Glokta's chagrin, Sult attaches Vitari to his Practicals, who he believes intends to spy for the Arch Lectory.
Before They Are Hanged
Sand dan Glokta arrive in Dagoska with his Practicals. He’s tasked to investigate the disappearance of his predecessor Superior Davoust, root out traitors in the city council, and defend the city at all cost from the Gurkish who are preparing for the Battle of Dagoska. They are met at the dock by Inquisitor Harker, who leads Glokta through the city Dagoska to seat of government. Walking through the city, Harker provides a running commentary filled with ignorant bigotry for the native Dagoskans.
Superior Glokta first assesses the state of the investigation into the death of his predecessor, but finds that Harker has simply brutalized the native sevants. He releases the only survivor, Shickel, and dismisses Harker for his incompetence. Next he meets Dagoska’s ruling council: Lord Governor Vurms, Carlot dan Eider of the Guild of Spicers, General Vissbruck, Korsten dan Vurms, and Haddish Kahdia the speaker for the natives. They’re less than thrilled to learn that Glokta now has full authority in the city.
With the Gurkish blockading the city by land, massively outnumber the defenders, Superior Glokta make a deal with Kahdia for concessions to the natives, in exchange for troops and workers to repair the cities deplorable defences. There is also a mercenary company in the city led by Nicomo Cosca, although he has a history of betrayal.
The situation in the city is soon improved, the outer wall is fixed, and the moat is ready to be flooded. However, the ruling council is now deep in debt. The situation seems dire until a man named Mauthis from Valint & Balk walks into Glokta’s office carrying a million marks in silver, gold, and gems. Glokta can have the money in return for unspecified future favours for the clandestine banking house. With no other choice, the Superior agrees.
Soon Glokta gets a visit by the Magus Yulwei who warns him that the Battle of Dagoska is about to begin. Before the bombardment begins, Shabbed al Islik Burai, an ambassador from the Gurkish, arrives to offer terms. After the meeting, Glokta takes him into custody, and tortures him into admitting that the Union's traitors are Vurms and Eider. The Superior manages to have them arrested, when Cosca switches sides thanks to Glokta's newfound wealth.
Glokta interrogates Carlot dan Eider, who admits to conspiring to hand over the city to the Gurkish, but only to stop the inevitable bloodshed. When Davoust discovered their plot, she told the Gurkish, and he disappeared the next day; she does not know who the assassin is. Glokta, moved by her noble motives, has a crisis of faith and allows Practical Frost to usher Eider onto a ship for Westport and freedom.
In his room, Glokta observes the Gurkish catapults pound the city. When his servant Shickel steps into the room, he waves her back, admitting he’s expecting a visit from the Gurkish assassin. She ignores him and the Superior realizes that Shickel is the Gurkish assassin. As she moves to kill Glokta, she admits to killing Davoust and eating him. Before she can strike, Severard, Vitari, and Frost descend on her. After breaking bones that won’t stay broken, they wrap Shickel in layers of heavy chain. Glokta has someone new to question.
Beneath the palace, Glokta observes his Practicals torturing Shickel. Though the torture has no effect, she chooses to tell her story anyway. She admits to being an Eater, and explains a little of their different gifts. She’s disgusted with herself, but she cannot stop, not least because Khalul’s will is inevitable. As she finishes her story, the Superior orders them to burn Shickel; if she wants to die, Glokta is happy to oblige.
Soon, Arch Lector Sult orders Glokta back to Adua, leaving Vissbruck in charge with orders to fight to the last man. However, Glokta urges them to surrender at the earliest opportunity. Preparing to leave, Vitari begs the Superior to take her with him. Again demonstrating a weakness for vulnerable women, Glokta agrees. Soon, Glokta, Frost, Severard, and Vitari are rowing across the bay, leaving Dagoska and the war behind.
Back in Adua, rather than going directly to the Arch Lector, Glokta first visits Ardee West. He finds her apartments empty of furniture. Ardee explains that a man named Fallow came to collect on her father’s debts. Glokta has Frost track him down and explain to him who he has offended. Fallow immediately fills the house with expensive if gaudy new furniture, but Ardee still pays him back with gusto, kicking him in the face, until he crawls away.
Glokta heads to his meeting with Sult. Expecting an angry, if not deadly reception, Glokta is surprised to find Sult pleased. Dagoska was always going to fall, but by delaying the inevitable for months, Sult was able to undermine High Justice Marovia. Not to mention, Magister Eider’s treason has given him leave to dissolve the Guild of Spicers, adding their trade rights to the Inquisition’s coffers. Sult dubs Glokta co-Superior of Adua with Goyle.
With Dagoska now fallen to the Gurkish, the Emperor sends an envoy to Adua to negotiate peace, Ambassador Tulkis. That night, Crown Prince Raynault is found brutally murdered in the palace. Ordered to find the culprit, Glokta notices a piece of white cloth clutched in Raynault’s hand. Glokta recognizes it; a clue too obvious to ignore or to trust. In the interrogation room, the Inquisitor confronts Tulkis. Despite Glokta suspecting the man is innocent, under pressure from the Arch Lector, he obtains the man's confession.
However, the truth is something Glokta cannot ignore, and he orders Severard continue the investigation. However, Glokta soon get a visit from Mauthis of Valint & Balk. He orders Glokta to immediately stop his private investigation into the Prince’s death. Taken aback, Glokta realizes he is bought and paid for, and agrees.
Last Argument of Kings
With both heirs to the throne dead, the next High King of the Union must be be elected in Open Council. Superior Sand dan Glokta is charged with bribing and threatening the Arch Lector's way to victory. He visits nobles whose vote he can influence, but each time Harlen Morrow has been there first on behalf of High Justice Marovia. Eventually, Morrow lures Glokta to a slaughterhouse near the Four Corners, under the pretence of coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement, but intent on killing the cripple. Unfortunately, Morrow has sorely underestimated the Inquisitor. Glokta's Practicals promptly kills Morrow and his assassins, and feed him to the pigs.
In the meantime, Glokta learns that Jezal dan Luthar is back in Adua, and has started a relationship with Ardee West. When he fails to deter Ardee from the foolish dalliance, he instead confronts Jezal. He demands that Jezal either marry Ardee or break it off entirely, else a third option will emerge that involves Glokta’s bag of tricks. Jezal turns the threat back around, responding angrily that of course he intends to marrying Ardee.
Meanwhile, Sult still doesn't have enough votes to influence the election. Glokta proposes a radical plan; to throw their votes in with Sult's enemy Marovia. Glokta makes the offer to the High Justice who agrees if a suitable candidate presents themselves. Impressed by Glokta Marovia suggests he find a new master.
Glokta is in the Open Council for the election of the new High King. However, Bayaz interupts the polling and reveals the existence of an illegitimate son of King Guslav, none other than Colonel Luthar. Glokta tries to warn Sult that Bayaz has planned this all along, but the Arch Lector throws his votes behind the young fool. Glokta watches forlornly as the Union nobles elect King Jezal the First.
However, Jezal soon proves to be less malleable than expected, and the Arch Lector orders Glokta to look into Bayaz and whether Jezal is truly Guslav’s bastard. Glokta arrests and tortures Brother Longfoot into revealing all he knows about Bayaz’s journey and The Seed. Glokta tries to ask the Adeptus Historical about The Seed, but is interrupted by Superior Goyle, and ordered to leave and not come back. Finally, Glokta meets Ferro Maljinn, who he bonds with over their hatred of the Gurkish, and Glokta learns a little more.
However, the investigation comes to an end when Glokta gets another visit from Mauthis of Valint & Balk. Soon both the Arch Lector and Valint & Balk become frustrated with Glokta’s lack of progress in their conflicting investigations. Glokta wonders how they both know so much. Between a rock and a hard place, Glokta turns to High Justice Marovia. Although Marovia would be willing to help him, he demands proof of Sult’s treason.
Even with Adua under siege by the Gurkish in the Battle of Adua, Sult refuses to end his machinations, now intent on getting rid of Glokta. Glokta gathers Ardee with Nicomo Cosca and his ragtag mercenaries, and heads to the dilapidated mansion. While Cosca deals with the Practicals sent to kill him, Glokta takes Severard down below. After torturing him, Severard admits that he spied for Valint & Balk, but not the Arch Lector. Confused, Glokta meets eyes with Frost and realises it was him. When Frost turns on Glokta, Ardee hears the commotion, and with her help and a blade hidden in his cane, they kill his former assistant.
With the roads blocked by the Gurkish, Glokta has Brother Longfoot lead them through the sewers to the House of Questions. There they find Goyle and torture him into confessing that Sult is at the University conducting demonic incantations with Silber to contact The Other Side.
When taking Goyle's confession to Marovia proves a dead end, they head to the University. Inside, they find it protected by Practicals, led by Vitari. As things seem destined to end in violence, Glokta bluffs her with threats to her children who he claims to have in custody. Vitari and her Practical stand aside without a fight. In the room behind the black riveted door, they find the demonic incantation in progress. Reluctant to cross the salt, Nicomo Cosca kills Silber with his throwing knife. The incantation ends to everyone’s relief, and Sult is arrested with the others for high treason against his Majesty the King.
With the Gurkish siege ended, Glokta returns home exhausted, only to find Bayaz waiting. Bayaz admits to owning Valint & Balk. He offers Glokta the Arch Lector’s ring and complete power over the Closed Council; Glokta has a new master.
After a meeting of the Closed Council, Hoff pulls Glokta aside, and tells him that Ardee is pregnant with Jezal’s bastard, which could be used against the King’s position. His heart pounding, Glokta goes to Adree’s house and pulls out a ring with a colossal diamond. He must marry her to protect her and her unborn baby. Surprisingly, she agrees without protest; he was after all, the man of her dreams when she was young.
Later, Glokta notices that King Jezal and Queen Terez do not sleep in the same room, and offers to speak to the Queen. Glokta quickly realises that Countess Shalere and Terez are lovers. By threatening the Countess, he forces Terez to sleep with the King and bear him four royal offspring.
In the end, Glokta is in his office meeting with Lord Marshal West. As he leaves, his assistant Pike lingers behind. The scarred man springs at Glokta, and holds a knife at his throat. Recognition slowly washes over Glokta that this is Salem Rews. As Rews hesitates, Glokta gently coaxes him to release him, promising a far more suitable revenge. Glokta leads him to Sult's prison cell. Practical Pike show the prisoner the instruments, as Glokta gets to work.
Although never named, Sand dan Glokta is referred to a couple of times. In Best Served Cold, Carlot dan Eider expresses her fear of "the cripple", who really has control in The Union. In Red Country, now Superior Pike refers to the Arch Lector, and Nicomo Cosca comments "We are close friends, you know."
A Little Hatred
Sand dan Glokta is now a silver-haired, pale, and wrinkled old man, pushed around in a wheel-chair, designed by Honrig Curnsbick. Yet the Arch Lector’s mind is still as sharp as ever, and there is little that happens on the Closed Council without his approval.
Glokta freely admits that things in the Union have never been so bad. The slums boil over with disaffected labourers, and dissident groups like the Breakers and Burners. The fractious nobles rail against intrusions on their ancient rights and privileges. They were taxed heavily to fund the king’s wars in Styria, are enclosing common land to compensate, causing peasants to flood into the cities. It is a time of change, a time of chaos. Glokta now has his own Inquisitor Exempt, Vick dan Teufel, like he was for Sult; she even lives in his old rooms in the Agriont.
Glokta's "daughter", Savine, has grown up to be more like her ruthless step-father, than her dimwitted biological father; she’s even a reasonably capable swordswoman. He frequently reminds her to have nothing to do with Valint and Balk, or with Bayaz, “Whatever they ask for, whatever they offer, refuse, do you understand? Refuse and come to me at once”. Glokta's chief comfort in life is his wife, Ardee, and there seems to be a deep respect between the pair still.
The Trouble With Peace
With the ascension of King Orso, The Union remains plagued by troubles. A new threat is that the Aldermen of Westport may vote to cede from The Union. Arch Lector Glokta sends Inquisitor Teufel to the city who solved the problem with impressive efficiency.
Glokta is concerned too about his daughter Savine. She is a shadow of her former self since the Valbeck uprising and the revelation about her real father. He tries to talk to her as she wheels him to the House of Questions, but they are distracted by a tense exchange with Bayaz. He tries again at Savine's wedding to Leo dan Brock, In a bitter exchange, Glokta expresses his hope that she will one day understand why they didn’t tell her about her true father, and warns her once again to have nothing to do with the First of the Magi.
Later, King Orso receives an anonymous warning of a plot with "friends in the north" to overthrow the government, and confirms it via King Jappo of Styria. With his son-in-law and daughter clearly implicated, Arch Lector Glokta insists on resigning, and recommends Superior Pike as the new head of the Inquisition, and as simply as that, the 28-year-long era of Old Sticks is done.
At Ardee's suggestion, Glokta plans to retire to the countryside, and perhaps write a book about fencing. In truth, she does not want them to become sad ghosts haunting the halls where they were once powerful. Before leaving, he meets with Vick dan Teufel on the same park bench where he used to meet Sult. He wants to thank her for her loyal service, to which Vick reacts angrily. Glokta nods knowingly, and gives her one piece of advice; to forgive herself for betraying her brother’s prison revolt, in order to buy her own freedom. "After all… no one else will". Of course, his daughter's revolt ends in humiliating failure.
The Wisdom of Crowds
Glokta reunites with his daughter, queen Regent Savine. He admits to her that he was the Weaver and the whole plot was masterminded by him in order to free the Union from Bayaz and his banks. The meeting is interrupted by master Sulfur who tries to charge Glokta for his actions. After a bloody clash, he is eaten by Zuri and her brothers from the south. Savine agrees to listen to his advices in the future.