Respect the Speaker
by Cpt. Kex — 2017.09.28
This post contains major spoilers regarding the story of Shin Malphur. If you’re not familiar with Shin’s story and would like to read about it, check out the Shin Malphur category page on Ishtar Collective.
Man with the Golden Gun. The Renegade. The legendary Shin Malphur has gone by several names and titles throughout his long life. With the release of For Every Rose, A Thorn we found out two more of those names: Zyre Orsa, and Dredgen Vale, one of the original Shadows of Yor. Shin’s account of how he became one of the Shadows of Yor may call into question his reliability as a narrator, particularly in relation to Dredgen Yor. If you’re familiar with Shin’s story, you’ll know that he believed that Yor’s motivation for his actions was to teach Shin to walk the line between the Light and the Dark. Does Shin have a good reason to think that, or could he have completely misunderstood Yor’s motives? Shin’s involvement with the Shadows, especially their plan to trap those who would fall to the Darkness, also raises questions about how Shin should be perceived. Should he still be viewed as a hero, albeit a renegade? Or has he been revealed to be someone who is not so heroic after all? This post aims to address such questions. Bear in mind that although parts of my post are based on evidence from the lore, other parts are speculation and not confirmed.
When reading Shin’s accounts, it’s worth noting that everything he says about Dredgen Yor’s motives and beliefs is based solely on his word. He provides barely any concrete evidence to support his claims that Yor believed in him; that all the death and destruction Yor caused was a “terrible means to an end”1; that Yor was trying to push him towards the path between the Light and the Darkness; that Yor believed that the powers of both the Light and the Darkness need to be used; and so forth. Shin never mentions that Yor actually said any of these things to him, or that he read about them in Yor’s writings or in any other records about Yor he may have found. Nor do we have any records of Yor talking about believing in Shin etc. From what Shin says, he only met Yor twice in his life: the first time when he was a boy in Palamon; and the second time when he finally found Yor and killed him. If Yor said anything to Shin when they first met, then Shin does not mention it, nor do we have a record of any conversation between them on that occasion. In Ghost Fragment: The Last Word 4, Shin recounts what happened on the day he killed Yor, including what Yor said to him.2 There is nothing in that conversation which even hints that everything Yor did was because he believed Shin could walk the thin line between Light and Darkness. Of course, Shin may not have provided an accurate account of what Yor said, but if there was going to be a place for Yor to mention anything about the motives and beliefs Shin claims he had, that would have been the prime occasion for it.
One of the claims Shin makes is that Yor knew that strength and confidence alone are not enough to defeat “the terrors of the dark”, and that’s why he gave Jaren Ward the first shot.3 The problem with this claim, in addition to the general issues with Shin’s claims mentioned previously, is that Shin didn’t witness what transpired between Jaren and Yor when they met. Nor did he hear what, if anything, they said to each other so he cannot know if Yor said anything that would suggest that he gave Jaren the first shot. All he heard was gunshots in the distance - shots from the Last Word first, then Thorn.4 But from these gunshots alone it doesn’t necessarily follow that Yor let Jaren shoot first. It’s possible that they had a stand-off and Jaren’s reflexes were faster than Yor’s so he was able to shoot Yor first. Or perhaps Jaren caught Yor off guard and shot him when he wasn’t expecting it. A similar reason could also explain why Yor never shot Shin. He shot Yor mid-sentence, while he was still talking. Shin claims that Yor never even tried to shoot him, but maybe he was planning to do so after he’d finished talking. Perhaps Yor was caught by surprise as he didn’t expect Shin to shoot him while he was talking.
On the other hand, Shin may be correct that Yor never planned to shoot him, but if that’s the case, then there are other possible explanations for why Yor never tried to shoot Shin aside from the reasons Shin gives. Indeed, there are more plausible explanations for Yor’s actions in general than the motives Shin attributes to him. One possible explanation is that rather than trying to push Shin towards the path between Light and Darkness, Yor may have actually been attempting to corrupt Shin and to lead him into falling to the Darkness, as happened to Yor. There are a few hints that this may have been Yor’s true intentions. In Ghost Fragment: Thorn 4, Jaren’s ghost and Yor have the following exchange:
[u.1:3.0] Hide behind whatever titles you wish, it is all still a façade. No force of nature would play such games.
[u.1:3.1] The cannon. You wish to tempt the boy. To spur him on and fuel his rage. There is intent there. The actions of a man, monstrous, mad or otherwise… you are nothing more.
[u.2:3.4] And what value does your conclusion bring, flawed as it may be?
[u.1:3.2] That a hurricane can only be weathered, not stopped. Not redirected. A force of nature is uncaring and without intent, but a man…
[u.1:3.3] A man is none of those things.
[u.1:3.4] A man can be killed.
[u.2:3.6] And there it is…
[u.1:3.5] There what is…?
[u.2:3.7] A sliver of hope.
Despite Yor’s earlier claim that he offered the Last Word to Shin as merely a “gift” and a “memento”, this exchange suggests that Yor may have actually given the Last Word as a way of giving Shin hope that he could kill Yor. An earlier exchange between Yor and Jaren’s ghost also hints that Yor’s intentions towards Shin may not have been noble:
[u.1:1.8] The boy?
[u.1:1.9] You’d end him as well?
[u.2:2.0] If it comes to that… We’ll see.
[u.1:2.0] I won’t let you have the child.
[u.2:2.1] Been long enough now, think maybe he’s a man.
[u.1:2.1] You cannot have him.
[u.2:2.2] Not yet.
[u.1:2.2] I won’t let you.
[u.2:2.3] That you could stop me is an amusing thought.
There are other hints that Shin may be incorrect in believing that Yor wanted him to walk the thin line between Light and Darkness. In Ghost Fragment: Thorn 3, Yor tells his ghost that the Light “is nothing but a crutch”.5 He believed that the person he had become was “better”, that he was “already more than the rest”. Yor also says to his ghost, “It’s been sometime since you saw me as worthy of walking among those I once called brother and sister. Yet… anymore, I feel as though I am worthy of so much more.” Similarly, in Ghost Fragment: Thorn 4, Yor says that he was “all that is right” and “all that is good”.2 This exchange with Jaren’s ghost suggests that Yor did not have any faith in the Light:
[u.1:1.2] Is that where your faith lies, in steel?
[u.2:1.4] Not for some time. My steel is only an extension. My faith is in the shadow.
[u.1:1.3] Then my Light is an affront to all you are. I am your truest enemy.
[u.2:1.5] One of many.
If Yor’s faith was in the shadow, not the Light, then why would he have thought that Shin should walk the path between Light and Darkness? Why would Yor have thought that the powers of both the Light and the Darkness need to be used to fight against threats if he believed that the Light is nothing but a crutch? Considering that Yor thought that the person he had become was better, that he was more worthy than other guardians, and that he was “all that is good” and “all that is right,’’ it’s more likely that if he was trying to push Shin in a particular direction, it would have been towards the same path he had taken that led to him falling to the Darkness and becoming corrupted.
One way for Yor to push Shin towards the path of the Darkness and corruption could have been to tempt Shin into giving into his anger and hatred. This could explain why Yor gave Shin the Last Word: as a way to spur him on to getting revenge. (This could be one of the few claims about Yor which Shin may have been correct about.) In the case of Rezyl Azzir becoming corrupted, it’s interesting to note that he was plagued by fear and despair before he became Dredgen Yor.6 7 Such feelings may have made Azzir more susceptible to corruption. Similarly, Shin felt not only anger but also pain and sadness for everything he’d lost. In III: A Fire Inside, Shin describes what he felt as “loss, followed by a hole so big you can’t fill it with anything but retribution.”8 These feelings of anger, pain, and loss could have increased the likelihood of Shin becoming corrupted.
Another possible explanation for Yor’s actions is that he may have given Shin the Last Word as a way of giving Shin the tantalising hope of being able to use it to get vengeance for all the people Yor had killed, only for that hope to be taken away at the last moment if Shin couldn’t kill him. Taking away hope like that is the sort of thing that Yor would have relished, as mentioned in Ghost Fragment: Thorn 3:
[u.2:5.6] If I am being honest, I care only to give hope to the frightened, huddled masses so that when I come upon them they will have more to lose. Their pain will be greater. Their screams more pure.
[u.2:5.7] Nothing dies like hope. I cherish it.
Of course, that explanation relies on the assumption that Yor didn’t believe Shin would be able to kill him, which may not have been the case. But considering that Shin was still young when Yor killed Jaren Ward and Yor had killed guardians who would have been far more powerful and skilled than Shin at that point, such as Jaren, it’s understandable why Yor may have underestimated Shin and thought that Shin wouldn’t be able to kill him. Perhaps he didn’t think that Shin would be able to master the Light well enough to be able to kill him. Then again, maybe Yor was getting tired of life and didn’t want to continue living but couldn’t kill himself for whatever reason, so he goaded Shin into doing the job for him. Or perhaps Yor was just playing games with Shin and the whole thing amused him. There are several possible explanations for Yor’s actions that are more plausible than the explanation Shin gives. It seems strange, at least on the face of it, that Shin would assume that Yor was trying to push Shin onto a path between the Light and the Darkness, particularly considering Yor never said anything to that effect to Shin. Not to mention Shin didn’t need the powers of the Darkness to kill Yor; all he needed was his Light.
If Shin has misunderstood Yor’s motives and Yor actually wasn’t trying to get Shin to walk the line between Light and Darkness, then where could Shin have come up with that idea? There’s a hint related to what may have made Shin think that Yor believed in him and so forth in III: A Fire Inside.8 After Palamon was destroyed, Shin was filled with feelings of pain and loss. Jaren “helped redirect that pain” by giving Shin “purpose” and teaching him “about vengeance”. He says that although “it felt good - like a fire inside”, in reality, “the ‘good’ was just a dulling of the pain - a covering up of the burden of my loss through the redirection of my focus.” For a long time, Shin was angry. He admits that after Jaren was killed, he “hated him for a good while.” In Shin’s words, “I was alone again. Lost. I had no direction. I felt abandoned—just me and the hole left by losing everything I knew.”
Shin spent decades hunting Dredgen Yor, first together with Jaren Ward, then by himself. He was “obsessed” and driven by rage and hatred towards Yor.9 In all those years, there was a single goal driving him: getting revenge by killing Yor. That desire for revenge may have been the only thing that gave his life purpose during that time. After many years, Shin found Yor and killed him, finally achieving his goal of revenge. But after the initial joy of getting revenge wore off, he may have come to the realisation that the one thing which had given his life purpose up to that point was no longer there. He didn’t have a goal driving him any longer. He couldn’t get revenge again - he’d already killed Yor. Shin may have felt lost and without direction, just as he did after Jaren’s death.
To make matters worse, revenge may have felt like a hollow victory to Shin. It most likely could not fill the aching hole left by the loss of so many people dear to him. Revenge could not bring back all the people he’d lost. It could not erase all the pain and suffering he’d experienced due to Yor’s actions. Nor could it douse the flames of hatred he felt towards Dredgen Yor. On the contrary, his hatred for Yor still burns to this day.9 Shin didn’t have any family or friends left. All he had was the Last Word and Jaren’s ghost, who he may not have been very close to considering that he mentions Jaren’s ghost “not believing in me.”8 He may have felt like his life was essentially without purpose, without direction. A purposeless life can often lead to a state of existential despair. It’s possible that this is what happened to Shin.
If this is indeed what happened, then perhaps, in an attempt to alleviate that sense of existential despair, Shin came up with the idea that Yor believed in him and was pushing him towards the path between Light and Darkness. Such a belief would have given Shin another goal to pursue: to do what Yor (supposedly) believed he could do, to walk the thin line between Light and Darkness. This would have given his life a renewed sense of purpose. Perhaps Shin also chose to believe that Yor caused so much death and destruction as a “terrible means to an end” because it was less painful to believe that all the pain and loss he had experienced at the hands of Yor was for a greater, noble purpose. Better to believe that than to admit that maybe the deaths of the people he knew and loved were, in the grand scheme of things, meaningless. That maybe there was no grand plan behind Yor’s actions, beyond perhaps a twisted game he enjoyed. Or perhaps Yor killed all those people simply because he could. Or if Yor had been trying to corrupt Shin, then maybe Shin didn’t want to admit that all the death and destruction Yor caused wasn’t just a “terrible means”, as Shin put it, but may also have been for a terrible end. Better to try to justify Yor’s actions as being the means to a righteous goal, although it requires quite a twisted logic to justify killing so many people as a means to an end.
It’s debatable whether Shin would think that he is a hero, but he does believe that he is “right” and “just”.1 (Funnily enough, this is very similar to what Yor said about how he is “all that is right” and “all that is good.”2) However, there are problems with Shin’s approach which suggest that he isn’t as heroic as he is often made out to be. It’s likely that there are guardians Shin has killed who would still be alive if they had never been tempted with the powers of the Darkness. While some guardians who fall to corruption after becoming involved with the Shadows of Yor may have been susceptible to corruption anyway, there would be others who may not have become corrupted in the first place if they knew nothing about the Darkness. Shin tempting guardians with the powers of the Darkness and killing those who fall into the abyss is akin to someone offering people an addictive drug and killing anyone who becomes addicted to the drug. Shin and the Shadows may not be fully to blame for guardians being corrupted by the Darkness, but they are at least partly responsible for tempting guardians to use those powers in the first place.
Shin is the sole judge, jury and executioner when it comes to deciding who is able to walk the thin line between the Light and the Darkness, and who has fallen into the abyss. He is not accountable to anyone. Even the Vanguard won’t stop him from killing those he considers too far gone down the path of the Darkness.10 If he makes a mistake and kills someone who hadn’t actually been corrupted by the Darkness, or who wasn’t likely to become corrupted, he won’t be punished. No one will exile him. He literally gets to decide who lives and who dies. That sort of power can be very easily misused, no matter how noble one’s intentions may be. What’s to stop him from killing anyone who gets in his way, or who disagrees with his methods, and Shin passing off their deaths as “necessary” for his cause? How we do know that he always makes the correct judgement when deciding who should die and who should be spared? The irony is that by culling those considered to be “weak”, Shin is doing what the sword logic and the philosophy of the Darkness demands: eradicating the weak. Shin may not realise it, but he’s doing exactly what the Darkness wants.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Shin tells our guardian only what he wants them to know. If he has been killing guardians who haven’t actually fallen to the Darkness, or those who would probably not have become corrupted, it’s unlikely that he would mention this to our guardian as it would paint him in a less than favourable light. There’s evidence in The Salt Mines entry11 that Shin may not have been above killing guardians who didn’t fall into either of the above categories. In this entry, the warlock Aunor, from the Praxic Order, finds Shin with two guardians he has taken hostage. Shin had already killed a third guardian before Aunor arrived and would have killed the other two hostages if she hadn’t intervened. Aunor describes the guardians who had been held hostage as “third-degree offenders” who were “consorting with the Darkness on a material level only, collecting and concealing illegal artifacts.” She says that the guardians would be rehabilitated and reeducated if necessary. Shin disagrees with her assessment, claiming that the guardians were “already addicted” and that “men like this will destroy you from within.”
Dabbling with the Darkness on a material level does not sound like the guardians were enough of a danger to warrant being killed. They may have become corrupted at a later point, as Shin seemed to believe was likely to happen, but it’s also possible that they may never have gone far enough to become corrupted. They could also have been dissuaded from following the path of the Darkness, such as through rehabilitation and reeducation, as Aunor mentioned. Interestingly, the Drifter has a different view of those guardians to both Aunor and Shin. He calls them “idiots chasing legends” and claims that they were “no danger to anyone but themselves.”12 Aunor, however, seems to think that they were enough of a danger to need to be put into custody. The different views of Shin, Aunor, and the Drifter regarding these guardians highlight the problem with having only one person, such as Shin, decide who lives and who dies. Shin may think that a guardian has fallen or is likely to fall to corruption and that the only way to deal with them is to kill them, but others may disagree that they are dangerous and need to be killed.
So, how do you view Shin Malphur? Do you see him as a hero helping to eliminate the threat of guardians who have fallen into the abyss and become corrupted by the Darkness? Or do you see him as a villain who murders guardians who may not have become corrupted in the first place if he hadn’t tempted them with the powers of the Darkness? Or do you see him as something in between, in the grey area between right and wrong? Regardless of how you view Shin, perhaps his story should serve as a warning to others, including our own guardian, of the potential dangers which may await those who choose the path of revenge. As the old saying goes, before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.