The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Four Sorcerers ~ Elwher, Metaldragon, Indagare & Lotsawatts

 


Short Story of Witch World

Legacy from Sorn Fen

  A Short Story in the [Witch World Saga] by Andre Norton

 

[Bibliography Page]

[Coulson's Index]

See Also: [Martinez ~ Glossary] [Martinez ~ Races] [Schlobin ~ Survey]

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[Expanded Reading Order]

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[Updated: 09/21/2019]

 

Edition Used for Analysis:
[Lore of the Witch World] (1980) Published by DAW, PB, 0-879-97560-1, 978-0-879-97560-9, No.400 #UJ1560, $1.95 ~ cover by Michael Whelan

 

Synopsis:

After the Invader's War, a landless man managed to rise to the Holding of the Gate of Klavenport and married the Lady there.  He was a hard man, but Lady Isbel managed to enforce a rule of charity.  One day Caleb came; he was missing one eye and lame enough in one leg to nearly fall over whenever he tried to take a full stride.  But he was willing and able to make himself useful around the Keep, mostly dealing with the gardens.  Higbold seldom bothered with the gardens, except to use them to scheme and plot with others where no one (he thought) could hear.  However, Caleb did overhear him plotting one night, and knew that rumors and gossip would get back to Higbold and Caleb's life would not be spared.  So he spoke privately with Lady Isbel, and left, taking all his belongings.  On the road alongside Sorn Fen, he came upon some drovers who were mistreating what looked like a human woman, but wasn't. Caleb drove them off and gave what succor he could to their victim.  He was rewarded by a bit of magic which repaired his crippled body and the burned-out shell of a formerly prosperous inn.  Higbold heard of Caleb's newfound prosperity and sent a female spy to tease out the reason.  She managed to steal a great ring, and turned it over to Higbold.  Caleb's inn burned shortly thereafter, and Higbold's grandiose plans to become King of High Hallack seemed on track.  However, Caleb has plans to retrieve the ring and does so, bringing Higbold down in the process. ~ SL

 

Sorcerer's Notes:

'It was after Invaders' War and those were times when small men, if they had their wits sharpened, could rise in the world—swiftly, if fortune favored them.' Higbold, an ambitious soldier, marries Lady Isbel of Klavenport Gate Keep. Caleb, a scarred & crippled soldier, becomes gardener at the Keep.1 Caleb overhears Higbold's plans to gain power in the Dales, informs Lady Isbel, and leaves Klavenport.2
Caleb tries to save a fey woman from Sorn Fen from rapists but is too late. She dies of her injuries. He travels around the Fen to tell them of her fate. 'Two nights did he camp so. What he did and with whom he spoke, why those came—who can tell? On the morning of the third day he turned his back on Sorn Fen and started toward the highway. It was odd but as he walked his lurching skip-step was not so evident, as if, with every stride he took, his twisted body seemed straighter. By the night of the fourth day he walked near as well as any man who was tired and footsore. It was then that he came to the burned-out shell of the Inn of the Forks.' 'It was built at a spot where two roads, one angling north, one south, met to continue thereon into Klavenport. But the day of it's glory passed before the Battle of Falcon Cut. For five winter seasons or more its charred timbers had been a dismal monument to the ravages of war, offering no cheer for the traveler.3
Caleb magically recreates the inn. 'Now there were more travelers up and down the western roads, for this was the season of trade with Klavenport.' Higbold hears of the inn and sends Elfra to seduce Caleb and learn his secret. 'The days passed. Time slid from summer into autumn. At length the Ice Dragon sent his frost breath over the land.' Elfra leaves & reports to Higbold, having stolen '…a ring of green stone curiously patterned with faint red lines as if veined with blood.' that grants wishes.4
Higbold uses the ring to do away with Elfra and burn down the Inn of the Forks. Caleb returns to Sorn Fen. Higbold uses the ring to manipulate others and plans to become king of High Hallack. Caleb disguises himself as a beast merchant and trainer of exotic cats. These cats look like miniature snow cats.5 These cats may be Old Ones.6 Higbold gives one of the cats to Isbel (who is taken with a mysterious wasting illness) and begins to have nightmares of losing the ring.7 One night the cat steals the ring. Higbold gathers a hunt to track down the cat.8
The hunt continues to the hut by the Fen where there is an invisible wall that holds back everyone but Higbold. Higbold confronts Caleb over the ring.9 Caleb mentions that the ring would only work for a limited time and that he intended to use it for good, while Higbold has used it for the last year for his own gain. Caleb als spoke to those in the Fen to set this trap for Higbold. Caleb gives him the ring and Higbold walks into the Fen, never to return.10 The hound master returns to Klavenport and informs Lady Isbel. She puts the affairs of the Keep into order then, 'When summer reached its height she rode forth before dawn…' and was never seen again. One can infer that she met up with Caleb and they found their happy ending in the mysterious Fens.11

Dales Mentioned
None

Places Mentioned
Klavenport – located on the Sea of Autumn Mists. It is a Gate Keep.
Sea of Autumn Mists – where Klavenport is located; somewhere to the south.
Sorn Fen – to the southwest of Klavenport
Inn of the Forks – A road running north and south met there. It was Abandoned sometime before the Battle of Falcon Cut, some five or more winters back. Caleb restores it with the power of the ring and Higbold destroys it again with that same power. It is about a day’s walk away from Sorn Fen.

Years Mentioned
None: After the Invader’s War12

People Mentioned
Higbold – He marries the Lady Isbel who is heiress to the dale. He aspires to rule all the Dales and uses the ring’s magic to help him achieve this goal, though he does not succeed.
Lady Isbel – Hall-born woman of Klavenport. She may have known Caleb from before.
Caleb – initially blind in one eye and having a limp, but after he gains the ring he regains his strait stance. He restores the Inn of the Forks by use of a magic ring he was given for easing the death of an Old One who had been raped and brutalized.
Elfra – a prostitute that Higbold sends to Caleb in hopes of finding out how he restored the in and became healed. She returns with the ring that Caleb was given and then is wished out of existence by Higbold before he destroys the Inn.

Miscellaneous
The ring is described as green with faint red lines like blood.
After the destruction of the Inn, Caleb makes a hut near the Fen and starts to sell small cats that look like miniature snow cats. They are tame, however, but they may be far more than they seem. At least one was, and stole the ring back from Higbold.


Footnotes:
1. p111
2. p112
3. p113
4. p114
5. p115
6. p116: "Suddenly he roused out of that nightmare, sneezing. The ring lay where he had coughed it forth. By it crouched the strange cat, its eyes glowing so that he would swear it was no cat, but something else, more intelligent and malignant, which had poured itself into the small cat's body."
7. p116
8. p117
9. p. 118-119
10. p119
11. p120
12. This story probably takes place during the Year of the Unicorn and goes through the Year of the Red Boar.

 


The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Silver May Tarnish


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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ April, 2019

Copyright ~ Elwher, Metaldragon, Indagare & Lotsawatts
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