The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts


 A Novella in the [Witch World Saga] by Mary H. Schaub


See Also: [Martinez ~ Glossary] [Martinez ~ Races] [Schlobin ~ Survey] [Coulson's Index]

[Expanded Reading Order] [Bibliography Page] [Read it Here[Return to Contents]


Edition Used for Analysis:
[Tales of the Witch World 3] (1989) Published by TOR, PB, 0-812-54757-8, 978-0-812-54757-3, $3.95, 343pg ~ cover by Victoria Poyser


Parven gets his master’s permission to go looking for more magic lore while his master travels on business but what he is really after is treasure. He copies an old map from his master’s library and goes off on his quest. He finds an ancient ruin and descends into it’s depths when he reaches the main chamber he decides to save his torch and light some candles that he finds and goes about exploring the chamber. The floor has red markings on it forming a pattern that for some reason he is inclined to trace with his steps. Before he can realize what is happening he suspended off the floor in the middle and has become opaque. He is trapped and can’t move a finger. After thinking on the problem he sends out a mental call for help to anyone who can hear him.

Many days travel away Merreth is sleeping in the abbey that she was left at as a baby and is bolted awake by the calling. She has no idea who or what the message is but she is sure she must answer it. She gets permission from the Abbess to pursue the action and travels off to find the sender of this message. On the way there at a very remote tavern she asks the stable boy if he may someone she can hire as a guide for the road has ended and turned into deer path. Rymple the stable boy convinces her that he is her best hope for a guide and they continue on. After much searching they the ancient ruin and can tell someone entered it recently so they descend down the stairs and find the chamber but only Merreth can see a vague outline of Parven suspended in the middle of the chamber. They do eventually free Parven and the chamber immediately starts to self destruct and all three of just barely escape. At the camp that night they decide that since none of them has a family and no reason to return that they would team and be a family.

Timeline Points:

  1. p323. 'Merreth had herself been something of an unexpected traveler, for nearly eighteen years earlier, at the turn of the Year of the Crowned Swan, she had been a foundling abandoned at the Abbey's door.' 'The Abbess at that time might have known or suspected something about Merreth's origins, but she died of a fever when the child was about a year old, and left no instructions other than that Merreth was to be cared for.1
  2. p324. 'Merreth was about fifteen on the winter day that the old blind wise woman [Willow] appeared at the Abbey's side gate, alone except for an equally elderly horse and a few hampers of dried herbs and parchments.' 'She [Willow] welcomed Merreth's request to learn about plants.'
  3. p325. Willow: "Let me arrange to speak with the Abbess, and do you come back before you depart. It is fitting that we should ask Gunnora's blessing upon your venture." Willow instantly sensed Merreth's discomfiture. "No, I do not mean a formal invocation service by the whole company of Dames; I suggest a quiet prayer by the two of us. It is my believe that Gunnora will hear an individual plea as well as a chorus, especially if the supplicant be sincere."2

1. That places this story after the Invasion of High Hallack (almost 18 years after the Year of the Crown Swan.) (see: The Crystal Gryphon)
2. Considering the fact that the Dames venerate the Flame, it would be strange for them to perform a "formal invocation service" to Gunnora! Mary H. Schaub seems to have gotten her religions mixed here. No wonder Merreth was uncomfortable with the idea! It's possible Willow meant for Merreth to ask the Abbess for the blessing of the Flame and her mention of Gunnora was a "speaking of blessings…" separate idea. Since the Wisewomen of High Hallack seem to have adopted Gunnora as their goddess it's fitting that Willow & Merreth would have a quiet prayer together, just the two of them. Still, this section is very awkwardly written.

The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Knowledge

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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