Legends I: Torre

Posted: March 18th, 2011 under Background.
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Instead of a snippet today, a background legend from Paksworld.   The origins are far enough back that it’s not possible to be sure where it originated, and many versions exist.    No spoilers here.

Torre’s Necklace.   Once there was a foolish and self-indulgent king who believed the gods would serve his need, since he was also generous.   The foolish king had a daughter less foolish than himself,  a princess not beautiful but brave and prudent, who was also generous but not in the ruinous way of her father.   Her name was Torre.   Year by year the foolish king  borrowed gold from the neighboring kingdom, trusting its king’s indulgence, for that king, with his eye on profit,  reassured him and encouraged him to borrow more , until half the kingdom’s worth lay in the debt.

When the princess reached her full growth,  she was not betrothed, for of those kings with sons, none wished to take on a kingdom half lost to debt.  Except for one: the king who held those letters.  He came, then, and demanded  the kingdom and Torre besides,  smiling a wolf’s smile as he stood in the hall of Torre’s father’s palace with his soldiers behind him.    Torre’s father begged and pled, to no avail, and Torre, watching, knew she could not let this thing happen, for she knew the neighboring kingdom to live in fear of this king, who treated his people badly.

So boldly she stood forth, and boldly she asked what that king would accept instead, and swore to perform any daring deed to ransom her father and her kingdom.   And the evil king laughed, but then bethought him that he could seem merciful at no risk to himself by setting her impossible tasks.  This he did, twelve of them, and then demanded that they be all performed in so short a time that not even one could be done.    Torre’s heart sank, but she would not show despair before him, and she looked him in the eye and said “I accept.”   The wicked king knew she could not perform the deeds, and yet he had her locked in her chamber, just for that last measure of security.

In the dark of night, and despite the wicked king’s guards on her chamber, Torre escaped out her window and down the vines that climbed the palace.   She had with her little enough–the supper she had not eaten, her sturdiest clothes, and her determination.  In the stable, where she expected to find her own horse, instead a strange horse stood in that stall, a horse as black as her own hair and eyes, and around its neck a string of lumps of coal.   Its eyes were bright as stars; its hooves shimmered, as if standing in a stream of running water and not on straw.   It bore no saddle or bridle, and when Torre would have fetched her own saddle, the horse was before her, blocking her from the tackroom.   So Torre, determined that death was better than giving up, dared to mount the strange horse and rode off into the night, and the wicked king’s anger, in the morning,  came hard upon those he blamed for her escape.

The deeds demanded were every one difficult and dangerous, and though the black horse bore Torre from place to place more swiftly than any mortal horse, it was Torre herself who faced heat and cold, hunger and thirst, danger from man and beast and monster, storms of wind and storms of rain, to achieve them.    Time passed, for her, and her skin bore the marks of sun and wind and time, the scars of injuries,  and her hair, once night-black, was streaked with gray.   And one by one, as she accomplished them, the coals on the horse’s necklace turned to jewels, blazing with the light of all stars together.

When all was done, and the black horse wore a necklace of these jewels, she returned to her home, where only the days required by the evil king had passed.   The black horse bore her up to the palace, and the guards fell back, astonished: they did not recognize the rider.

In the hall, where the evil king stood gloating over her father,  all eyes turned to the black horse and its jewels.  Torre slid from its back, with the sack in which she had carried proof of her deeds.   Still none recognized her, for they had in mind the princess she had been, and not the woman she had become.   She walked forward, and held out the sack.   “Here is the debt paid,” she said, “with the treasures you swore would wipe it out.”

“Who are you, old woman, to talk to me of debts?” the wicked king asked.

“I am Torre,” she said, and her father, hearing her voice, knew her, but wept at what she had become.  “Look, and see that the debt is paid in full.”  And she opened the strings of the sack, and turned it upside down, so the treasures of the universe fell out and everyone there was astonished, for nothing  so precious had been seen there before and gold itself appeared dull beside them.  Here was a leaf of the One Tree, and a dragon’s scale, and all other things the evil king had demanded.

The evil king, astonished with the rest, was yet angry, and spurned the treasures with his booted foot, and said “If the debt be paid, you are still turned old and ugly and I have taken this king’s daughter.”   And here the stories diverge, for some say the wicked king fell dead at that moment, and some say it was when he reached to take the heart of a star, and some say he had his men gather the treasures and he left the hall safely with the treasures and did not die until much later.   But all say he was stricken, then or later, and left no sons.   In the same way, some say that Torre herself died that day, in her father’s arms, and then her body vanished, and some say she rode away on the black horse, no one knew where and maybe lived a long time in peace and maybe died soon.   Nothing is known of her life after that, if indeed she lived beyond that day.   Certain it is that her body was laid in no marked grave.

But all agree that the new constellation of stars appearing that night,  a bright ring, is Torre’s Necklace, proof that the impossible is possible with the gods’ aid, and a lasting memorial of her courage.  And all agree that Torre became the patron of young women in impossible situations,  a friend of the poor and the enemy of those who are cruel and merciless.

Unlike the followers of Gird or Falk,  Torre’s followers have no organization: there are no places of worship or recognition, no hierarchy of leaders, no regular gatherings.    She is mentioned in the rituals of Midsummer and (particularly) Midwinter in many places, but it is a mention only.   Yet she is recognized and loved, and a number of other tales about her exist across all Aarenis and the northern kingdoms.


  • Comment by Mike G. — March 18, 2011 @ 9:13 am


    Very nice, thanks!

    One typo:
    “and all other things the evil kind had demanded.”

    I assume that kind should be king?

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 9:24 am


    Yes, thanks for the catch. I’ll go fix it now.

  • Comment by PocketGoddess — March 18, 2011 @ 9:43 am


    Thank you, that was absolutely FANTASTIC. The wait for Kings has been rough, but you have been very generous with snipppets and other posts recently, and I appreciate that.

    Just a few more days now until the story continues!

  • Comment by Robert Conley — March 18, 2011 @ 10:27 am


    Thanks for sharing this. I always wondered about the details behind Torre, Camwyn, Falk and the others. If you share another of these legends, I would like to hear about Falk.

  • Comment by Rachel — March 18, 2011 @ 10:34 am


    Thank you so much for sharing this! It was wonderful to finally get Torre’s story, and the post heading suggests we’ll be getting more legends in the future.

    I second Robert in voting to hear about Falk next.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 10:41 am


    One of the reasons I held off so long was hoping that I’d finally find the old notebook, in which I had written it “in style.” But the time had come (the walrus tickling my neck with his whiskers said…)

  • Comment by Dave Ring — March 18, 2011 @ 11:48 am


    I’ve been hoping to hear Torre’s story for a long time. Thank you! Will we also get to hear more details on Camwyn someday?

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — March 18, 2011 @ 12:15 pm


    All the classic elements of a religious myth, and well-told besides. I admire your research and understanding of religious myth, and your writing.

    Perhaps some day there were be a Companion to Paks’ world, with lovely pieces like this?

  • Comment by Robert Conley — March 18, 2011 @ 12:16 pm


    “One of the reasons I held off so long was hoping that I’d finally find the old notebook”

    I sympathize, I have notes going back 30 years on my long running Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. But for every one I have, there is another loster. Just recently a whole poster size map that I hand drew got trashed because the laminate had a slight tear and water got into it.

    Luckily I have a scan and was redrawing it on my computer but still it stinks to lose something like that.

  • Comment by Kerry (aka Trouble) — March 18, 2011 @ 12:40 pm


    You can collect all these little legends and publish your own Silmarillion (but not by that name) – how cool that would be. Or is that what the missing notebook has within its pages?

  • Comment by Eir de Scania — March 18, 2011 @ 1:49 pm


    More background, thank you so very much!

    I love all the extra information this site provides, snippets as well as general information. It made reading *Kings* even better!

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 2:43 pm


    The missing notebook has LOT of good stuff in it. Side stories, legends, plus all the charts and maps and character lists and such. And some of it–in my memory at least–was beautifully written, whereas now all I recall are the facts.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 2:46 pm


    I hope so…if there’s time in between writing the actual books.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 2:47 pm


    There’s a little more (not much) on Camwyn in the book itself. Apparently (judging from another character in this book) much of Camwyn’s legend is, um, wrong. More on that would be a bad spoiler until after next week.

  • Comment by MaryW — March 18, 2011 @ 7:17 pm


    To find a missing notebook: rewrite the stories in it. Then the missing notebook will appear. At least that is my experience in non authorial matters.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 18, 2011 @ 8:29 pm


    MaryW. I hope you’re right, because I sure could stand to find those notebooks!!

  • Comment by Morrygan — March 20, 2011 @ 7:26 pm


    Check your desk! Just finished Oath, glad I don’t have to wait a year for the next one! 😀

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 20, 2011 @ 10:38 pm


    Morrygan: I hope it works for you!

  • Comment by Morrygan — March 21, 2011 @ 7:09 am


    If you meant your book – I’m sure it will – I’ve loved every one of your books so far. Just wish I could write like you, so there’d be more awesome stories out there to read!

    If you meant checking my desk for things lost – I’m afraid there’s no hope for that!

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 21, 2011 @ 8:25 am


    I’m not sure where the “check your desk” came from…I thought that was you. Brain-fog here. Maybe there’s an internet trickster dropping random instructions into various posts?

  • Comment by Morrygan — March 21, 2011 @ 10:31 am


    It was just a joke because of the photo that was posted somewhere of your desk, with its huge piles of everything everywhere. Sorry it didn’t come through better than that, it might have made you laugh! 😉

  • Comment by Morrygan — March 21, 2011 @ 10:33 am


    I’ve actually got a library degree with a focus on archives – makes me want to hire on as your personal archivist and work with you to get things organized and indexed.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 21, 2011 @ 10:45 am


    Ah….that hadn’t occurred to me, due to release-week-brain probably.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 21, 2011 @ 10:56 am


    Morrygan: I would probably drive you nuts. “This: keep it or toss it?”
    “Um….uh…let me see…oh, wait, see this little tiny note down in one corner? That’s important.”
    “Where should it go?”
    “It’s…I think it should go with the Vatta’s War…no, wait…with…no…but it’s some book or other, I know that…”

  • Comment by Morrygan — March 21, 2011 @ 11:40 am


    Oh no, I don’t think so, it would be such an amazing opportunity! Plus I don’t like throwing things away, you never know what might be important. Cross-referencing is a must in that situation.

    On a side note, I think I’m going to have to go back and start re-reading all your books again. I wish I could get them all on Kindle! I move around too much, plus I loaned my sister most of them.

  • Comment by arthur — March 23, 2011 @ 5:18 pm


    This is Arthur. WOW!!! I have wondered about Torre’s Ride, because it seems to be a tale from Aare, but it’s mentioned by the elves in the ‘scrolls of Luap’ that Paks finds in the Elven citadel. And as for what I said about Acrya… I realize she’s the sort to wait for years to strike, whereas Liart is the sort of ‘throw good money after bad’ villain. As for Torre… amazing!

  • Comment by filkferengi — March 25, 2011 @ 3:53 pm


    Excellent story! Anticipation is ramping nicely towards warp speed. It was very considerate of you to have a book coming out only a few weeks before our 20th anniversary; thanks!


  • Comment by Pete — March 27, 2011 @ 6:34 pm


    I thought I’d commented on this one, but when I came back to read it again, it looks like not. So:

    Torre’s Ride has been probably the background bit I’ve wanted to know about the most since I first read Divided Allegiance. Even just the little glimpses of the story given by the description of her window in the High Lord’s Hall are wonderful, and reading more here, it just gets better.’

    I really do hope you find that notebook with the full versions sometime. You do this sort of Archtypal/Mythical story better than just about anyone else I can think of, and I’m sure the “in character” version is just amazing.

  • Comment by Antoine — June 15, 2011 @ 4:09 am


    Good story, thanks!

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