The Tor

"Reflect" on Stephen Donaldson's other epic fantasy

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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

Right after that dramatic reunion, King Joyse, Princess Elega, and Prince Kragen enter into a long discussion about what has happened to each of them, and on what they plan to do, involving Terisa, Geraden, Barsonage, and Norge in that discussion as it went on for some minutes.

Ribuld puts the Tor to his bed, with the help of the Tor's physician.

Then Joyse and Kragen make battle plans involving the Congery and their respective armies. As the discussion wears on, Geraden's face frequently telegraphs uneasiness. The King asks him why he looks so uncomfortable. Geraden answers that he and Terisa don't know how to use their talents in the upcoming battle, that he feels they should be doing something else somewhere else, but he doesn't know what. King Joyse calmly replies that he and Terisa are the only judges of what they can and cannot do, and that they know their talents for Imagery best and will think of something in good time (to which Master Barsonage agrees). The King soon dismisses everyone to get a few hours' sleep.

The Tor's involvement in the story continues the following morning, as he wakes up after the battle has started and the Congery has unleashed its weapon of two mirrors on the opposite sides of the Esmerel valley that together create and erase a chasm at will.

When the Tor woke up--gasping, as he always did these days at the great, hot pain in his side--the rumble [from Eremis, Gilbur, or Vagel translating a rockslide to fill the Congery's chasm] hadn't started yet. Outside his tent, the valley was strangely quiet. That disconcerted him: he was expecting combat. The relative silence sounded like an omen of disaster, an indication that bloodshed and death had lost their meaning.

Opening his eyes, he saw from the hue of the canvas overhead that day had dawned. He was alone in the tent, except for Ribuld, who dozed against the tentpole with his head nodding on his knees. An experienced veteran, Ribuld could probably sleep on a battlefield, if he were left alone.

Silence outside: only a few shouts from time to time; the mortal sounds of catapult arms against their stops. And a few daring or obvious birds, following their calls among the rocks. The Tor knew all the birds of his Care. He would be able to identify each call, if he listened closely enough. For the sake of his sons, who had grown up in more peaceful times than he had, he had become avid at birding.

But there should have been a battle going on. Strange--

The Congery. Of course. Master Barsonage had promised to translate that crevice somewhere.

Must be quite a sight--clefts in the ground out of nowhere; the fate of Mordant depending on Imagery as well as swords.

"Ribuld," said the old lord, "help me up."

Not loud enough: Ribuld didn't move.

"Ribuld, help me up. I want to see what is happening."

I want to strike a blow for my son and my Care and my King in this war.

Ribuld jerked up his head, blinked the sleep out of his eyes. Alert almost at once, he rose and came to the cot where the Tor sprawled. "My lord," he murmured, "the King says you've got to rest. He commands you to rest."

Speaking softly around his pain, the Tor replied, "Ribuld, you know me. Did you believe I would obey such a command?"

The guard shifted his feet uncomfortably. "I'm supposed to make sure you do."

The Tor managed a thin chuckle. "Then let him execute us both when this war is done. We will share the block with Master Eremis for our terrible crimes. Help me up."

Slowly, a grin tightened Ribuld's scar. "As you say, my lord. Disobeying a King is always a terrible crime. Anybody fool enough to do that deserves what he gets."

Bracing himself on the sides of the cot, Ribuld helped the lord roll into a sitting position.

Agony threatened to burst the Tor's side. He took a moment to absorb the pain; then, hoping he didn't look as pale as he felt, he said, "Some wine first, I think. After that, mail and my sword."

May it please the stars that I am able to strike one blow for my son and my Care and my King.

Ribuld produced a flagon from somewhere. The sound of catapults came again, followed by cries and curses, yells for physicians. May it please the stars-- Some time passed before the Tor realized that he was staring into the flagon without drinking.

Gritting his courage, he swallowed all the wine. Before he could lapse into another stupor, he motioned for his undershirt and mail.

With gruff care, Ribuld helped him to his feet, helped him into his leathers and mail and cloak, helped him belt his ponderous and unusable sword around his girth below the swelling in his side. Several times, the old lord feared that he would lose consciousness and fall; but each time Ribuld supported him until his weakness went away, then continued dressing him as if nothing had happened.

"If I had a daughter," the Tor murmured, "who obeyed me better than the lady Elega obeys her father, I would order her to marry you, Ribuld."

Ribuld laughed shortly. "Be serious, my lord. What would a boozing old wencher like me do with a lord's daughter?"

"Squander her inheritance, of course," retorted the Tor. "That would be the whole point of marrying her to you. To give you that opportunity."

This time Ribuld's laugh was longer; it sounded happier.

"Now," grunted the lord when Ribuld was done with his belt, "let us go out and have a look at the field of valor."

He managed two steps toward the tentflaps before his knees failed.

"My lord," Ribuld murmured repeatedly, "my lord," while the Tor's head filled up with black water and he lost his vision in the dark, "give this up. You need rest. The King told you to rest. You'll kill yourself."

Precisely what I have in mind, friend Ribuld.

"Nonsense." Somehow, the Tor found his voice and used it to lift his mind above the water. "I only want to watch King Joyse justify the trust we have placed in him. I want to watch him bring High King Festten and Master Eremis to the ruin they deserve.

"A horse to sit on. So I can see better. Nothing more."

Ribuld's eyes were red, and his face seemed congested in some way, as if he understood--and couldn't show it. "Yes, my lord," he said through his teeth, "I'd like to watch that myself."

Carefully, he helped the Tor upright again.

Together, they reached the tentflaps and went out into the shadowed morning.
A couple stone's-throws of distance away, the Tor and Ribuld see the backs of Joyse, Elega, Kragen, Terisa and Geraden being consumed with attention to the Cadwals threatening the Congery. The Cadwals are gathering to invade the rocks where the Masters are translating the chasm. The Tor uses their distraction to get Ribuld to grab two horses for them to ride out into battle. Both have cheerfully determined they will sacrifice themselves to help turn the battle. The Tor momentarily focuses on the battle and on his king's response to it. King Joyse is snapping to Prince Kragen, "Reinforcements. Where in all this rout is Norge? The Masters must be reinforced." Ribuld brings the Tor a bay horse, and the old lord lunges upon it and positions himself properly in the saddle.

Then by translation, an avalache of rocks pours down from open air to fill the chasm the Congery had created. Such a translation must be from Eremis or Gilbur or Vagel, for their allies the Cadwals move closer to the rapidly-filling chasm like they expected this development. The translated rock avalanche moves smoothly back and forth over most of the canyon, methodically filling up much of it. A third of the chasm is now able to be crossed by the Cadwal cavalry and infantry, so those Cadwals quickly begin charging over the rocky debris. During a vulnerable moment for the forces of Mordant and Alend, when both Norge and Kragen are struggling to rally and organize their soldiers, the Cadwal charge could cause of lot of damage very quickly.

And it is in just that moment that the Tor rushes to give all he can to the defense of his people, his country and his King! :yeehaa:
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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

Aside from his previous pitiful scenes of extreme drunkenness, this moment is the one scene where the Tor does something I don't like that much--whipping his horse for not doing what it simply could not do--yet I understand the Tor's urgency behind the actions, for he and Ribuld desperately need to stop the Cadwal assault on the Masters long enough for the King's reinforcements to arrive.
The Tor saw the Cadwals as he rode, lashing his horse for more speed than it could give him. He had forgotten his pain: he had forgotten loss. He only knew that he was too late to help beak the first shock of the assault. Norge had hundreds of archers and bowmen hidden around the Masters. And the Masters had mirrors. That would have to be enough, until help should come.

It wasn't enough; it was never going to be enough. Already there were a thousand Cadwals in the valley, two thousand. More came as fast as they could across the chasm.

Forgetting all the things he couldn't do, the Tor unsheathed his longsword.

In the rocks ahead, he saw Master Barsonage. The mediator had climbed to his signaling-place above the mirrors. He looked small and doomed there, his chasuble fluttering. As if he had lost his mind, he yelled through the Cadwal battle howl, waved a blue cloth wildly at the opposite wall.

The Tor didn't understand what happened next until it was over; but somehow. by luck or inspiration, Master Barsonage achieved his aim.

Both Masters ceased their translation at the same moment.

The chasm blinked out of existence.

Now there was solid ground where the avalanche had fallen. Stone and soil occupied the space which the rockfall had filled.

In the convulsion, the Tor's horse stumbled, nearly lost its footing. With a spasm like an eruption, the closed earth spat the entire rockfall straight into the air.

Without transition, the battle howl changed to screams and chaos. Hundreds of Cadwals died in the blast while they tried to cross the vanished chasm; hundreds more were crushed by the rejected rock as it plunged back to the round. blocking the valley from wall to wall. Granite thunder and groaning swallowed the sound of wardrums.

Unfortunately, the High King still had as many as two thousand men inside the valley--men still charging to kill the Masters, shatter the mirrors. And King Joyse's reinforcements were still too far away.

The Castellan's archers recovered their wits enough to begin shooting. But their arrows were too few, and the Cadwals were well armored. Men with swords swarmed up into the rock, fighting to reach the Masters.

Master Barsonage had scuttled downward, vanished into a gap the Tor couldn't see. That movement told the Cadwals exactly where their target was. Spared the necessity of searching, they surged ahead.

With Ribuld beside him, the Tor crashed against the rear of the Cadwal force.

His sword was heavy: his whole body was heavy weighted with pain and bereavement. He hacked at the Cadwals from side to side, once on the left, once on the right, back and forth; and each blow seemed to shear helmets and heads, breastplates and leather. His horse plunged, stumbled, scrambled forward--somehow he kept his balance. His sword was his balance, his life; up and down, side to side, hacking with all its strength, while his belly filled up with blood.

Above him, the Cadwals who reached the Masters' position seemed to be disappearing.

The Masters are mostly busy in their enclaves of elevated gaps between the rocks on both the east and west sides of the Esmerel valley. In one enclave, Master Barsonage and Master Harpool are performing translations at a desperately rapid pace--Barsonage doing it standing wide-eyed with a sweat breaking out over his face, and Harpool standing behind his mirror with eyes shut as if sleeping. But Harpool is continuously mumbling the string of syllables that enables his mind to keep his mirror open so that every Cadwal warrior charging at him would be whisked away. Barsonage is grimly concentrating on trying to do the same with his own mirror. Both trust that the hastiness of the Cadwals makes them easily translated before they can do them harm, and so far they've been correct.

Near them, the young Master responsible for operating one of the two mirrors that translate the great chasm is resting with his mirror leaned over him on a snow-packed floor.

The mirrors are the Congery's only weapons in this battle, and thus need to be protected at all costs. Because of this, Master Barsonage finds himself translating foes away at a feverishly unrelenting pace when his instinct is to flinch away from all of the soldiers and spears and swords that keep coming his way.

From his lookout point, Master Barsonage sees that the reinforcements to protect them are still to far away to shield the Congery from the Cadwal charge, too late to rescue the Masters. Barsonage also sees that the Tor and Ribuld likewise have no chance whatsoever to stop the Cadwals from swarming over the Congery's rock-shielded enclaves and killing all the Masters.

But this time, you can be sure that the Tor sure isn't going to give it up just like that! He's going to give it everything he has, and Ribuld, too!
:luke: :luke:
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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

The Tor went on fighting anyway, long after he had lost his strength and his balance and even his reason. A blow for his son. A blow for his Care. And now a blow for King Joyse. Then back to the beginning again. A blow for everyone he had ever loved, everyone who had ever died.

For some reason, there was a knife stuck in his leg. It was a big knife; really, quite a big knife. He couldn't tell whether it hurt him or not, but it seemed to catch his leg in a way he couldn't escape, so that he had no choice except to fall off his horse.

He dreaded that fall. It was a long way to the ground, and his swollen side couldn't endure an impact like that. Luckily, however, he managed to land on the man who stuck him; that was one less Cadwal to worry about. Now all he had to do was roll onto his back. He knew he didn't have the strength to stand again; but from the ground he would be able to cut at the legs of the men around him.

He rolled onto his back.

Unluckily, he had lost his sword. He didn't have anything left to fight with.

Ribuld stood over him.

Gripping his own blade with both fists, the guard fought for both of them: blows on all sides; spurts and splashes of blood; chips of armor, iron sword-shards. Ribuld's scar burned as if his life were on fire in his face. and his teeth snapped at the air.

Someone shouted, "My lor Tor! Watch out!"

The voice was familiar, but the old lord couldn't place it. It was too recent: it belonged to someone he hadn't known long enough to remember.

Then a swordpoint came right through the center of Ribuld's chest, driven like a spear from behind.

Oh, well. The stars had granted the Tor his last wish. And King Joyse had said, You have not betrayed me. That was enough.

A moment later, someone slammed a rock down on his head and brought all his losses to an end.

Him and Ribuld being martyrs made them more endearing for this reader, and in the Tor's case I already liked him a lot before reading to this point in the story.

The voice that shouted, "My lor Tor! Watch out!" belongs to Master Barsonage. The mediator's warning triggers the young Master of the chasm mirror to wake up in panic and translate the chasm back to the Masters on the valley's other side. His act kills those other Masters on the valley's far side and also slays a line of Cadwal soldiers, but a dying Cadwal accidentally breaks the neck of the young Master with his heavy sword hilt as he falls. The young Master falls into his mirror and breaks it.

The cessation of the chasm's translation from one direction leaves enough rock-filled portions of the canyon for the High King's forces to manage to ride across. Master Barsonage covers his face with his hands when he witnesses so many more Cadwals riding rapidly across the rocks toward them.

When King Joyse's reinforcements reach the Congery's hiding place, they find and rescue Masters Barsonage and Harpool and their mirrors. The bodies of the Tor and Ribuld, who sacrificed themselves to save the Congery, are gathered up and brought back to King Joyse's pennon.

King Joyse looked at the Tor's body; he started to speak. Nevertheless he couldn't: he was breathing too hard. As if the sight of his friend's crushed head hit him harder than he was expecting, dealt him a blow for which he thought he was braced and now found he wasn't, not braced at all despite the fact that he must have seen this moment coming, his chest began to heave, and he fought for air urgently, in great gasps. To stifle the sound, he clamped his hands over his mouth, against the sides of his nose; but he couldn't restrain his harsh respiration, his labor against grief.
Seeing as how his policies have been part of what ultimately cost the Tor, King Joyse is as close to despair in this moment than he ever is in the story. Only the distraction of the Termigan showing up with Myste and Darsint snaps him out of it.

HAIL TO THE TOR! He suffered greatly from what seemed to his King's belligerent unconcern for the kingdom and for his lost son. Yet his response to that suffering was making contributions to the war to preserve the world from tyranny and renegade Imagery, contributions that made all the difference!!! HAIL!!!
:Hail: :Hail: :Hail:
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The Tor

Post by IrrationalSanity »

Thank you, for your amazing quotes and analysis. Mordant's Need is almost as much the Tor's story as Terisa and Gereden's.
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But I love my wife more!

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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

You are very welcome, IrrationalSanity!!! :D And I agree with you that the Tor is one of the most important characters in the story, just maybe slightly less so than Terisa, Geraden, Master Eremis, and King Joyse.
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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

The Tor made his life count right up unto its very end, when he valiantly gave all to purchase the victory that ushers peace into the world!
King Joyse turned away to address everyone within earshot.

"Nyle has suffered," he announced in a tone both grim and elated, sorry and glad. "Do you hear me? He s not a traitor. He has suffered as the Perdon suffered, and as the Tor suffered, and Castellan Lebbick, because his love is strong and he did not understand."

As he spoke, his voice carried farther and farther, until it reached the walls and the armies, the men of Mordant and Alend and Cadwal throughout the valley.

"A great many good men have suffered and died, among them Master Quillon, who served my purposes when I could risk them with no one else, and Castellan Norge, who served Orison and Mordant and all of you with his life. And with their pain they have purchased a victory which we could not have granted otherwise.

"Remember that they were hurt for us! Remember that we have freedom and victory and life because of them!

"And because all of you fought like heroes!

"Now the world is ours, and we must heal it. From this day, let us make our world a place of peace."

When he finished, the cheering went on for a long time.

...And he leaves behind a protected and valued Care in the care of trusted family.

After the Castellan and his lady, the lords of the Cares were arranged in an order of precedence which depended solely on the parts they--or their predecessors--had played in the King's war. First were the Tor, the Perdon, and the Termigan; next, the Fayle and the Domne; last, the Armigite.

The new Tor was one of the old lord's younger sons--in fact, the only one of his sons who wanted the position.

The Tor has left his Care and his world in good hands. :read: :hearts:
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The Tor

Post by Cord Hurn »

I loved making this thread dedicated to the Tor, even though it took me three years and three months to post his whole story! I appreciate the all the responses to this thread, and hope Kevin's Watch readers in the future will feel welcome and ENCOURAGED to post their thoughts on such an awesome Donaldson character! :cross:
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