The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

The Key of the Keplian

4th Novel in the [Witch World: The Turning Series] by Andre Norton

This book was written solely by Lyn McConchie but set in Andre Norton’s Witch World, hence marketed as collaboration.

key of the keplian 1995 60220 5


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:

(1995) Published by Warner Aspect, PB, 0-446-60220-5, $5.50, 293pg ~ cover by Kevin Johnson


In Arizona, an old Navajo dies, leaving his half-Indian granddaughter alone, but not to the mercy of the social workers. He has made up a pack for her and given her a map of a long-forgotten trail.  She takes that trail, which apparently leads only to a steep drop-off of a cliff, pursued by the meddling social worker in a helicopter.  She sees a Gate; they see a cliff.  When she leaps through, she winds up in a desolate part of Karsten, uninhabited since Duke Pagar's Horning of the Old Race.  There she finds and befriends an old man of the Old Race, who teaches her the language of her new world, and a few little magic tricks, and gives her a talisman, a small pendant in the form of a black horse with sapphire eyes.  When he dies, she begins to wander the countryside, looking for a place to call home.  In her journeys, she comes across a village where a Keplian mare and her new-born foal are being tortured.  She rescues them and takes them with her, eventually finding a hidden valley where they can make their home.  After a time, she discovers her pendant contains the spirit of the first Keplian stallion, who had been created by "good" mages to be their friend. ~ SL

Timeline Points:

  1. p1. Chapter 1:
  2. p3. Eleeri is not quite 16.
  3. p15-16. 'Eleeri reached the rock guardians and, still running with all her fading strength, plunged through. A flash of chill, a flare of light, and she was still running, but on green, ankle-high grass. She halted, stared wildly about her, and then her legs gave way and she sprawled onto soft turf. Behind her was nothing: no rocks, and mountains only far off in the distance.'
  4. p17. Chapter 2:
  5. p17. 'The mountains drew her as they loomed in the distance. By her calculation it was some twenty miles before she would strike the foothills. She'd skirt them and continue east; there was something in that direction which seemed to draw her.'
  6. p18. 'Slowly out of the heat haze buildings began to appear.' [summertime] 'Something bad had happened here, and that not so very long ago.' 'Whatever had happened here had occurred within the last year.'
  7. p19. 'Perhaps six months, more than four or five for sure.'
  8. p20. 'A week later she was still skirting the mountains, but they had turned in a curve to the east, so it was now in that direction she travelled.' 'No two places destroyed at the same time. It meant that either war swept often over this land or there were some exceptionally efficient and unpleasant bandit bands out here somewhere' 'By now she was well east and, from the strong breeze, she knew she was traveling toward a sea. She crested a small hill to face that wind. It blew salt air in her nostrils, a promise of fish, driftwood fires, and salt to replenish her small supply. All these were hers in another day. She stood, staring out over the gray waters, wondering who sailed them and in what sort of ships.'
  9. p21. 'Farther on the mountains seemed to close in towards the shore. They could prevent her continuing North-East. Yet that was the way she was drawn.' 'She did not wish to take to the higher mountains above the foothills she now traversed. Those mountain heights had a strange look to them. The land there looked almost as if it had been wrung out and dried that way.' 'She had continued to follow the seashore and was not surprised to see a river flowing into the salt water ahead.' 'She… turned to follow upriver.' 'She headed deeper to the mountains with every step.'
  10. p27. 'Once Karsten had been rich, thinly populated but at peace. But then invaders came and persuaded the ruler to attack some section of his people. A Horning the Ruler had called it, thrice horned to death and destruction.' 'Cynan had rallied his kin to gather all and flee. In Escarp, those who survived the pursuit had scattered. Grieving for those slain, the old warrior had slipped back across the mountains to hunt a different prey.' 'He had gone back then to seek out other fugitives and with them he had travelled again to Escarp, where distant relatives held their lands.' 'He had almost determined to go back when… Eleeri was unsure of her understanding at this point. Cynan appeared to be saying that witches had changed the mountains to trap the Karsten army.' [The Turning] 'But when she looked at these mountains, she feared this was no superstition.' 'Weeks passed and became months as she stayed with the old man. Winter would be on them soon…'
  11. p28. Cynan: "You may be no witch, you say you have no power, but you look like one of the race. Gray eyes, black hair. Your cheekbones are high and your chin more pointed than blunt. You are slender, as we tend to be. I know you are not of our blood, but from he outside and to one who may have only heard a description, you appear to be of Estcarp."
  12. p30. Cynan: "It [The Horning] was all a long time ago." "You are not the first to enter these lands through a gate. Long before you came Simon Tregarth. He wed a woman of the gift and much power." (see: Witch World & Web of the Witch World)
  13. p31. Cynan: "At one birth she bore three children, two boys and a girl." "There to the east there is a very ancient land over-mountain, Escore." (see: Three Against the Witch World) "Generations ago, Escore was our land, in part. We shared it with many creatures, and other races, too. But adepts rose." (see: Futures Yet Unseen)
  14. p32. Cynan: "For more than thirty years now the people of this land have looted and been looted in turn."1
  15. p33. Cynan: "To the north and east the land is empty. It is to the west and south, along the seacoast where traders still come, that people are to be found." Eleeri: "If I return along the mountain edge to the west and cross north, then I'll be in Escarp."
  16. p34. Eleeri: "Our river—if I followed that, I would arrive in time in this land?" Escore.
  17. p35. Chapter 3:
  18. p44. Cynan: "My people worship Gunnora. She is the Lady of fruit, grain, and fertility. Lady of love and laughter. In her name we celebrate the change of a girl into womanhood. The amber pieces you showed me are of great worth. They contain seeds and could be sold as amulets of her symbol. I think they do not come to you by accident. Guard them well."2
  19. p45-47. An Old Ones shrine to Gunnora: a marble five point star with pillars at each point. Eleeri is blessed by Gunnora.
  20. p48. 'Spring began to shift into early summer.' Eleeri prepares to leave.
  21. p51. Cynan gives Eleeri a pendant. 'It dangled from her hand, carved from some black stone with bright ruby eyes inset in the tiny arrogant head. A loop of silver was attached to a lock of flowing mane and through that, the plaited cord Eleeri twisted in her fingers. It was a horse, yet not quite a horse: there was something in the stance that betrayed intelligence.'
  22. p54. Chapter 4:
  23. p55. 'Days slipped into weeks as she moved through the mountains… But there was a growing sense that drew her always to the northwest.'
  24. p56. Eleeri stops villagers from killing a Keplian mare and foal.
  25. p60. Eleeri: "Are there other villages to the north?" Villager: "That way is the forest of the Mosswomen." A finger swung then to the north-east. "That way are the mountains again. Between those there is the river." "You are between the mountains and the sea."
  26. p72. Chapter 5:
  27. p77. '…they were nearing Grey Ones territory'. They've been following the river. According to the map it runs mostly north-west.
  28. p86. Eleeri turns 17. She, Tharna, and Hylan cross the river and head north into the mountains.
  29. P88. Chapter 6:
  30. p90. 'From the north and a little west there came a sudden wrenching pull.' The eyes in the horse pendant she received from Cynan change from red to blue.
  31. p94. Eleeri's pendant becomes a spirit Keplian stallion with blue eyes and he shows them the entrance to the valley.
  32. p103. Chapter 7:
  33. p106. Eleeri & Tharna rescue a colt and 2 fillies from Grey Ones.
  34. p110 'Eleeri marked her eighteenth birthday and taught the foals to enjoy celebrating their own.'
  35. p118. Chapter 8:
  36. p119. 'Years were passing. She was almost 20; her heart cried for a mate.' 'She remembered her first trip to the lake keep, two days' ride down the stream and along the lakeshore. Originally, many long generations ago, it had been lovingly built. Then it was abandoned during the adept wars. Later, those who lived there now had given it new life.'
  37. p122. Lord Jerrany & Lady Mayrin.
  38. p124. Lord Jerrany's mother wed shortly before The Horning in Estcarp. She is of the House of the Bear's-Kin as was Cynan.
  39. P128. 'But Escore, too, warred.' (see: The Warding of Witch WorldTrey of Swords, & possibly The Gate of the Cat)
  40. p131. Mayrin: "I"ve talked about Romar, my brother. He went from us into the lands to the east many months ago now. Nor has he returned. I fear for him."
  41. p132. 'She guessed that Romar would have been sixteen when the limning was done.'
  42. p133. 'This likeness must have been made ten years ago or more. From what her friend had said during the past week, Eleeri could piece some things together. Romar must be about twenty-seven now, Jerrany some three years older. She bit back a sound of contempt. Mayrin's father must have been an idiot. Fancy expecting a boy of sixteen to confront one who was older, more experienced, and his best friend as well. Twenty-seven—about six years older than Eleeri was now.'
  43. p135. Chapter 9:
  44. p142. Eleeri discovers the armoury in her keep.
  45. p148. Eleeri visits Jerrany & Mayrin again.
  46. p151. 'Many years ago, a different Dark lord dwelling there had tried to seize the mind and heart of a witchmaid—the daughter of Simon Tregarth.' (see: Warlock of the Witch World)
  47. p153. Chapter 10:
  48. p153. 'Over the weeks, things settled to quiet again, but no one in keep or canyon was deceived.'
  49. p159. Eleeri rides Hylan for the first time, fleeing rasti and Grey Ones.
  50. p162-163. Eleeri rides Tharna for the first time and deeply bonds with her.
  51. p164. Eleeri dreams of Romar and gives him the Nemunuh word "Tsukup" (experienced warrior) as a name he could safely call her by.
  52. p167. Chapter 11:
  53. p.167-168. Eleeri dreams of Romar again.
  54. p170. Eleeri asks Romar about his capture and the Dark Tower.
  55. p172. Eleeri is followed by a tracker of the Old Race.
  56. p176-177. Eleeri encounters the Guardian of the Dead.
  57. p179. Description of Old Race man who hunted Eleeri: 'His face, too, had been thin with strong cheekbones, his body lean in the rough closing. The wide-open eyes had been the gray of slate, and the hair black.'
  58. p180-181. Eleeri asks the guardians of the valley for assistance helping free Romar.
  59. p182. Chapter 12:
  60. p183. Eleeri, Tharma & Hylan are allowed to enter the mist barrier in the valley.
  61. p184. The pendant becomes a spirit Keplian again.
  62. p185. The guardians of the valley reveal their past.
  63. p186. 'They created others. Meddled in the stuff of life to find friends who might stand with them. Called on powers and ancient names for aid. That aid was given. Keplian came to walk with them as friends and companions at need. To fight beside them, to stand against the Dark at the side of Light.' Eleeri: "Then how…" 'She was shown. Saw the enemy as he crafted an answer. The Keplian had come from power which was neutral, but it could be twisted, changed. This he did, yet what had been created for the Light could not be turned to Dark save by its own will. The race were of the shadow by his evil, but of the Dark by theirs alone. Those who chose differently could turn again to that which had created them.'
  64. p187. The guardians' created a portal to evacuate their son and daughter but their enemy warped the portal and their daughter ended up in Cornwall, UK on Earth, and become Eleeri's ancestor. This took place before the first Turning as Romar's family were in Estcarp and Karsten until Kyllan brought them back to Escore.3
  65. p190. The guardians show that Romar was descended from their son.
  66. p191. The guardians, Eleeri's ancestors, had used the last of their magics to open the portal for Eleeri and their bodies dissolve.
  67. p193. Eleeri dreams of Romar again and they plan his rescue while his captor seeks to attack the Light.
  68. p197. Chapter 13:
  69. p202. Theela & Shenn trace the runes in the valley and their eyes turn blue.
  70. p205. Jerrany: "We can expect no help from the valley or its lady. I have been sending information all along to Dahaun. She knows all that we know of you, Eleeri. And I have written of the spread of evil into these parts where it was not before." "For a start, the valley can't help because they are already fighting elsewhere. The evil has grown strong near the Forest of the Mosswomen and it is taking most of their strength to protect the outlying stronghold and keeps in that direction."4
  71. p206. 'True, Mayrin was ten years older than Eleeri…'
  72. p210. Eleeri introduces the 4 Keplians to Jerrany and Mayrin.
  73. p212. Chapter 14:
  74. p219. Eleeri opens a door in her keep she'd never discovered before and gets 'old damp clay.'
  75. p224. They enter the hidden door to the Dark Tower.
  76. p225. Chapter 15:
  77. p227. They find a shrine to a neutral Old One in the base of the Dark Tower.
  78. p231-232. They encounter the 'fetch'.
  79. p235-238. Eleeri deals with phantoms from her past in a hallway of illusion.
  80. p240. Chapter 16:
  81. p244. Mayrin uses a tiny carved lizard hair ornament and the help of her husband and Eleeri to animate it to seek out Romar.
  82. p248. Jerrany: "Time is different in the tower. I wondered how it was that our fighters still held its attention. But see the sun: less than an hour has passed since we entered. Perhaps only half of that. Our men swore to hold for at least an hour, two if they could."
  83. p249. The spirit Keplian from Eleeri's neclace: *It is the last one to serve he who dwells here. It is my ancient enemy. Yours is the task to face he who dwells here, to free his slaves. Mine is the facing of this servant and his final defeat. Long have I waited. Let me go now so that I may rejoin my kin-friends and be at peace.* He causes a roomful of Thas to flee from his Light.
  84. p250. The spirit Keplian fights his Dark counterpart.
  85. p252. The evil Keplian is defeated and "Pehnane" creates a burst of light as he goes to join his beloved friends. Jerrany's warriors and their Keplian allies cease fighting the rasti and withdraw to safety.
  86. p253. The 3 reach Romar at last and find a room full of 6 Romars.
  87. p256. Chapter 17:
  88. P257. They break the illusion of the 6 Romars.
  89. p260. They find a hall of windows that face out into different worlds.
  90. p262-263. 'They were an unholy amalgam of toad and human, but, she reflected as she fought, swords cleaving the enemy until the last of them had fallen.'5
  91. p263. 'A man confronted them now. A man. But not quite a man, for his eyes glowed red fire in the handsome face, his proportions somehow no longer quite those of humanity. He was well enough looking, Eleeri thought. Short in stature, no more than five and a half feet at most, but well-muscled, and his movements as he leaned forward were supple. His face could have been called handsome, if one ignored the fleshy lips, the bland coldness in the eyes. Already lines of petulance were starting to show, around the mouth. It was the face of one who is usually secure in his own esteem, and self-indulgent to his own whims and appetites. He was clad in a smooth silken material, designed and cast to show his lithe strength, and open almost to the waist in front. Eleeri could not quite say what was wrong with his shape; perhaps the arms were a little too long, the legs a touch too short.'
  92. p264. The Dark lord sends them into a "shadow world which is half in our world and half in nothingness."
  93. p266. They free a person caught in brambles: 'He was male, but not quite human. His eyes were round and his ears long, with what looked like tufts of furry feathers atop them. His hands were three-fingered and stubby.'
  94. p267. They find Romar.
  95. p268. Chapter 18:
  96. p270. 'To Eleeri it appeared as if a coyote had turned to study her with amusement as it left. She knew not what the others might have seen, but in her heart she smiled. The trickster came in many guises, as Far Traveler had always said. But they had dealt fairly and so been treated well in return. That was as it should be, as all legends told.'
  97. P271. Eleeri creates a figure from the clay to hold Romer's spirit as they take the gate out of the shadowland.
  98. p272. They confront the Dark lord again.
  99. p278. Romar's spirit rejoins his body.
  100. p281. The Dark lord is slain.
  101. p286. Chapter 19:
  102. p290. Romar proposed to Eleeri and she accepts.
  103. p291. The Dark Tower begins to collapse.
  104. p292. Romar had been gone almost a year.
  105. p293. 'Thus this story is recorded in the records of Lormt, where word came many months later. Strange things come out of the ruined lands of Karsten since the turning. This tale is one more. Nor is it likely to be the last. For when powers stir deeply, old secrets rise again.'

1. 30 years since the Kolder arrived & The Horning? It's confusing because he just spoke of The Turning and the wars of succession to become Duke earlier in the same paragraph. If it's been 30 years since The Horning, this story begins 6 years after The Turning.
2. It seems the Old Race remembers Gunnora in  & Karsten &Estcarp? She's never been mentioned there before, only in High Hallack & Arvon.
3. It's interesting that Simon Tregarth's family is originally from Cornwall as well. For some reason they don't mention Mayrin, Romar's twin sister as a descendant of their son. Which makes me wonder if Simon Tregarth may be descended from their daughter as well, just not a "direct line" which may imply Eleeri has a direct matrilineal descent from her, where Simon does not?
4. Could this be a reference to The Gate of the Cat? Was there a battle against the Dark near the Forest of the WW: Races - Moss Wifes written about somewhere? Three years after the triplets entered EscoreMilk from a Maiden's Breast takes place near the Forest of the Moss Wifes. But this story takes place a good 8 years or so after that, if Eleeri is 21 at this point (This story begins 6 years after The Turning when Eleeri was 16).
5. Kaththea & Kemoc had begun to turn into toad people in Warlock of the Witch World and we had seen toad people similar to this in Zarsthor's Bane. One wonders if they may have some connection to The Toads of Grimmerdale.

The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: The Magestone

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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