I an only two thirds of the way through the first book in this four-volume series, so if the answer to my question is dealt with later, I would be grateful if answerers could specify this, and offer non-spoiler details, please.
The work of the Guild of Torturers, to which the protagonist belongs, is obviously grim and disturbing. However, the reason as to why the society of Urth requires such a horrid guild are only hinted at.
It seems that victims are sent to the Torturers either as a form of punishment, or as a means of obtaining information. Yet in one instance, a prospective "client" outlines relatively minor crimes for which she has been committed:
"I paid bravos to fire her thatch. She lost a feather bed, a few sticks of furniature, and some clothes. Is that a crime for which I should be tortured?"
As if suffering were not enough, there are veiled hints through the early parts of the book that clients never leave the torturer's tower alive - that their torment is always to the death?
Yet in spite of their vile practice, Severian hints that they are well-respected as well as feared. Indeed he and the other guild members seem to feel no great guilt about what they do, in spite of being otherwise moral beings. I cannot now find the quote, but I seem to recall that on his trip to the archives, he suggests that his guild is seen as superior to that of the archivists: in other words that on Urth, torturers are seen as better than scholars.
What's been particularly bugging me is this quote:
"I was something worse than a slave (I mean in the eyes of the common people, who do not really understand the functions of our guild)"
Which hints that the purpose of the torturers goes beyond the stated ones of punishment and interrogation.
Are there any clues as to what these "functions" are? And do they explain the relative esteem the guild is held in, the severity of the punishments they are require to inflict for minor infractions, and the lack of conscience displayed by its otherwise apparently humanitarian members?