Torkom is a goblin. But he doesn’t always look like one.
Torkom’s role in this story is not large, but it is important. We meet him in chapter 1 and see him again only briefly in chapter 2. He is a fortune-teller, a merchant of predictions . . . and he deals in dark practices. Torkom owns one of the Dragon’s scales.
With it he gives Una a glimpse of her future. Not a scene from her future, so much as a glimpse of the future coming to her. When she agrees to let Torkom show her his wonders, he leads her into a perfumed tent, opens a secret box, and tells her to take hold of the “shield” she sees there. Una, demonstrating one of the great hallmarks of her character, trusts the dealer and does as he bids her.
And the Dragon momentarily storms her mind.
Thanks to Torkom, Una is plagued by dreams through much the rest of the story, nightmares of the Dragon and his Dark Sister as they search for her. But what does Torkom hope to gain from all of this?
“My lady must pay,” he said. “My lady must pay for the vision.” He lifted her hand toward his face, licking his lips as she drew her fingers toward his mouth. Her ring gleamed in the rose-colored light, reflecting back into his white eyes. “Worth so much,” the fortune-teller said. “Worth so great a price—”
Torkom recognizes the value of Una’s ring. He realizes what it represents. And perhaps he too knows that the Dragon seeks it? Who can say. Either way, Torkom is more than happy to accept any payment that will give him control over his clients . . . as we will see demonstrated yet again in Moonblood, so watch for the return of the charlatan Faerie dealer!
Do we know any more practical information about Torkom, however? He calls himself, “Torkom of Arpiar.” Later in the story, Felix mentions Arpiar, calling it the kingdom of goblins. So Torkom is a goblin after all, though his face doesn’t always reflect this truth. Why the half-hearted disguise, we must wonder? It’s not a very useful one, considering it only works in little flashes. Is Torkom disguising a face that is truly beautiful and it keeps slipping through the cracks? Or is he wearing an ancient beautification spell that hardly works anymore, so we only see flashes of beauty?
And for some reason, Torkom does not want to return to Arpiar, the land of his birth. See what Prince Aethelbald says to him:
“If you dare lure another into your lair, Torkom, I will personally see you returned to Arpiar. And this time you will not leave.”
This threat works a swift result on the ugly dealer. He bows them out of his tent and tries no more to wrest Una’s ring from her. The damage is already done, however. Una’s dreams are forever more plagued, and on many dark nights she suffers burns on her hands from where she grabbed the Dragon scale . . . burns that she forgets by the next morning.
Torkom has his own name for Prince Aethelbald. “Eshkhan,” he calls him. This means very little to us in the storyline of Heartless . . . but watch for it in Veiled Rose. The person who uses that name for the Prince of Farthestshore must have some connection to Arpiar and the kingdom of goblins.
And the strange enchantments which are either disguising beauty or ugliness. Which? We do not know.
Thank you, Torkom, for lending an air of mystery and creepiness to the opening of Heartless! We look forward to seeing you again come Moonblood.