The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

The Root of All Evil

A Short Story in the [Witch World Saga] by Sharon Green


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


Merilan feels compelled to understand the nature of evil and is drawn to wander Escore seeking it, as she has not experienced it in any significant way in her sheltered life. Her soon to be brother-in-law Derand and a group of his men riding Renthans catch up to her, determined to return her home to be married. They stop for the night amongst stone pillars with glowing blue runes on them. When Derand impatiently orders Merilan to join the group by the campfire, she turns from gazing out into the night contemplating her misfit nature, to fall down an unexpected hole. A metal slide gently deposits her in a room below ground with a marble floor, filled with glowing blue carved figures on the walls, and more runes. Between two slim, silver pillars is a softy glowing blue cloud that draws her to it with a feeling of peace. Ignoring Derand's demands to come away, Merilan touches it. She has awakened the adept Baelialt who explains he placed himself in spell sleep until men had destroyed the root of all evil. When Derand tells him the struggle between good & evil continues, Baelialt decides to return to his spell, but Merilan suggests that he would sleep on forever because there is no such thing, as evil is subjective. Thinking she'd offended the adept, Derand throws her on his mercy and seeks to leave with his men. Baelialt is affronted by his attitude and that Merilan was never allowed to learn magic as she has the Gift. He suggests he removes the men's skill with weapons and the ability to learn them again, to right the injustice. Upset at being unable to debate the difference, they draw their weapons to attack but are frozen place by a spell. Baelialt asks Merlian if she really believes there is no such thing as evil. She says she has not found it and he explains that the root of it is fear. As she has been afraid, she doesn't understand how that could be. He explains that "Fear becomes true evil when it rules the one it resides in, making that one view happenings and others only in its light." Enraptured by her insight into the discussion, Baelialt invites Merilan to marry him. She would be delighted but believes they should stay and dig out the root of evil by countering fear with understanding. For to leave when one could stay and aid would be an act of evil - fears are always greater when one is alone. He agrees to stay and bring understanding to those ruled by fear, together.

Timeline Points:

  1. Set in Escore
  2. p118. 'They had had so difficult a time with the wise women of Estcarp…' "They" are the Old Race from Karsten who followed Kyllan into Escore after Three Against the Witch World.
  3. p123/124. Return of adept Baelialt.


Sorcerer's Note:
Since Escore seems less populated by evil, this is probably sometime after The Gate of the Cat.

The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Earthborne

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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