The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

Voice of Memory

A Novella in the [Witch World Saga] by M. E. Allen


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


Sibley, a deaf-mute young woman from High Hallack, is kidnapped by slavers while walking alone on the beach. Aboard the smugglers ship, a young man named Herol with unusual cat-like eyes is put in charge of her and she communicates with him using a writing slate and lip reading. He begins learning the sign language that her foster father developed for her and they quickly become friends. He reveals that had managed to escaped the Horning of the Old Race in Alizon in the ship and the captain made him an indentured crewman. They begin to plan ways of escaping and Sibley offers a green stone armband as a possible bribe to get them ashore. It's a relic of the Old Ones she had received as a cherished gift from her foster sister and Herol reacts to it, as he has the blood of the Old Ones. A storm blows up when they learn they are approaching Alizon. Sibley urges Herol to escape before they get too close and pushes the armband on him to use to buy passage home. He reluctantly accepts it and clutches it to his chest. When the storm dies down she finds him unconscious, the colour of the armband drained to white. He discovered he can use the magic in the armband to direct the storm to blow them south, close to Estcarp. Over the day the armband regains it's colour and they form a plan to escape. Herol uses the armband again to make a wind to blow them to shore. When the ship runs aground during the night, Sibley lashes herself and the unconscious Herol to a spar and heaves them overboard to escape. They are washed ashore by the incoming tide. With the tide still rising, Sibley desperately tries to wake Herol to get him to safety. In her panic to draw him from his trance, she flashes back to when she was a toddler witnessing the murder of her nurse and foster brother at the hands of robbers- the cause of her deaf, mute condition. Her urgent need to save his life finally breaks through her trauma induced disability and she calls him back to consciousness. Escaping the sea together, he is amazed to hear her speak and she reveals she can hear again too.

Timeline Points:

  1. p5. Sibley writes: "…And on this day, did Logrin, brother to Lady Alyss, died, having completed his fifty-third year, and some three months and also two days." 'When Lady Alyss's elder brother died six years ago, Master Logrin had filled half a page of the commonplace book recording Geran's bravery on the battlefield.' 'Logrin had noted every raid by the Alizon…'
  2. p6. 'Sibley paused at one entry written nearly eighteen years earlier: "For fostering, Sibley from Ithrypt. The girl is some two years of age and seems completely without hearing; she makes no cry." [That makes her about 20 years old] 'Her mother, the youngest daughter of the lord of Ithrypt, died bearing a bastard daughter. She never named the father of her infant.1 'When Sibley was less than two, robbers killed her nurse…2
  3. p7. Sibley was 13 when 'neighbor's young son asked permission to court her.' but didn't when he found out she was deaf & mute. Ten years ago Sibley became friends with Jenneth who was 12 then. [Sibley would have been around 10] 'But Jenneth had left three years ago to marry a widowed lord…' [Sibley would have been 17] Jenneth sends her the jade armlet.
  4. p9. Sibley calls upon Neave that the raiders don't hear her.3
  5. p10. 'Many of the men were dark—were they from Alizon?4
  6. p13. Herol: "I was born about there near Kalaven Port…"
  7. p14. Herol: "My father was off a Sulcar ship, my mother a chandler's daughter. My father wintered with us each year, and when my mother died—I was eight—he took me to sea with him." "But, little maid, you're not to let them know I'm of High Hallack. They think I'm Sulcar, and that suits me."5
  8. p15. "Herol. But they call me Woldor, a good Sulcar name, or Boy."
  9. p16-17. Herol: '"Less than a week ago, the horn was sounded thrice against the Old Race. I have the blood of the Old Ones in me." He pointed to his eyes. "These let me see in the dark, but in Alizon it would be taken as a mark of the Old Race." He paused. "I was in Alizon when it happened, drinking wine with my father and a merchant, a friend of his near the docks. Suddenly there was a hue and cry in the streets. Before I could make out the cause, my father had pushed me out the back door. He was—he died in the street trying to bar the front door."6
  10. p19. Herol: "and over there, hidden in the fog, are the Long Sisters. The wind is driving us onto them." "But we may get washed over The Hands, the low bit that joins the two big reefs. If so we'll be driven onto the shore." 'She [Sibley] had never heard of the Long Sisters: they must be off the Alizon coast.'
  11. p21. Herol: "I have a plan: we were blown off course, almost as far south as Estcarp." "Yes, but they won't hunt the Old Race, it would be like killing their own people." "Both Estcarp and High Hallack stand against Kolder and Alizon."7
  12. p22. 'It was only the fifth morning she [Sibley] had woken on the ship…'
  13. p23. Herol: "When you're outlawed in your own land, it's hard to find a safe bay, and I'll be driving him [Captain Estban] away from one he likes."8
  14. p26. 'Sooner or later someone would come onto the beach, and be they Alizon, witches or moss wives, Sibley would be glad to see them.' (It's possible they heard tales of the moss wives in High Hallack from the Sulcar. That might place this after Warlock of the Witch World.)


Sorcerer’s Notes:
This isn't the first time a cat-eyed race has appeared in the short stories. In Fenneca both she and her father are described with similar eyes (referred to as having 'nearly' circular pupils) and red-blonde hair. Neither of these are associated with the Old Race at all, though.
Some of this story seems very odd. Cat is made mention as being of the blood of the Old Ones and yet the folks of EstcarpArvon and Escore do not have green cat-like eyes. Author M. E. Allen has alternately used the Old Race and Old Ones interchangeably here and conflated the two.  While in theory Alizon raiders could still harry the Dales coasts, it seems unlikely they'd bother given how far away the Dales are. Still, Alizon is known for nursing its grudges. All the same, there's no way Cat could be mistaken for a Sulcar with his eyes.

1. This cannot be referring to Yngilda since she's the only daughter of Lady Islaugha and her husband and Joisan not only is an only sibling but has kids with Kerovan in Arvon. Maybe the youngest daughter of someone else that's taken lordship of Ithdale?
2. Since the "robbers" weren't called Hounds, her nurse and foster brother's murder may have happened in either the Year of the Hornet or the Unicorn in the unrest after the War.
3. Neave tends to be a goddess in Arvon. She's never been mentioned in High Hallack before, though Gunnora has.
4. Not likely, as Alizon men are usually platinum blond.
5. The Sulcar are known for their blonde hair and blue or sea-green eyes. While it's not technically impossible that one of his ancestors could have had Old Blood, it's certainly not a mark of the Old Race nor would those of Alizon be likely not to notice his weird eyes and think him a witch of some kind. In any case the Sulcar aren't exactly friends of Alizon either.
6. Horning in Alizon? When? The Horning in Alizon may have taken place just after the Turning which would certainly have put them into a panic seeing what that did to Karsten. Considering there probably weren't many of the Old Race (or any foreigners for that matter) living in Alizon to begin with, it may have been more of a ceremonial gesture than an actual hunt. The few people affected would probably have been, like Herol (aka "Cat"), in the port cities. Considering Sibley is about 20 in this story and was "less than two" when the robbers killed her nurse and foster brother, that brings this story pretty close to the time of the Turning. References to the Moss Wifes would place this after Warlock of the Witch World sometime.
7. Kolder still in Alizon?
8. Which land is Estban from? Karsten maybe, going by Sibley's description? Or Gorm even?

The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Were-Flight

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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