The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

Amber Out of Quayth

A Novelette in the [Witch World Saga] by Andre Norton


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:
[Spell of the Witch World] (1972) Published by DAW, PB, 0-451-UQ100-1, $0.95, 159pg ~ cover by Jack Gaughan


For five years, Ysmay had been the Chatelaine of their small Hold of Uppsdale.  Now, though, her brother Gyrerd has returned from the war with Alizon, bringing with him a new bride (Annet), who dislikes Ysmay intensely.  Ysmay's father and other brother Ewald were killed during the war, and Gyrerd is disinclined to lessen his holdings by providing a dowry for Ysmay, so she is trapped as the disregarded drudge in the stillroom.  At the Fair at Fyndale, a "trader" has lots of jewelry made from amber, which Annet covets.  When she finds out that Ysmay has some amber jewelry made from the Uppsdale mine, which had been sealed off by a rockslide, Annet becomes determined to get it.  The mine is Ysmay's, her dowry from her grandmother.  Annet's covetousness, Gyrerd's parsimony, and Ysmay's desperate desire to escape, lead to her betrothal and wedding to the merchant, in return for his reopening the amber mine.  Once back at the merchant's keep, Ysmay discovers that her new husband is actually a sorcerer, working black magic with her amber.  He actually keeps the former Lord and Lady of the Keep imprisoned in columns of synthetic amber.  He needed Ysmay's amber so he could use the real amber to create his synthetic amber, which is what all his amber is, including that imprisoning the Lord and Lady.  Ysmay finds a tiny amber amulet hidden in the weave of a tapestry in her chamber, and uses that to free the real owners of the castle. ~ SL

Timeline Points:

  1. p104. Chapter 1
  2. p104. 'Bees droned in the small walled garden, working to store their harvest before the coming of the Ice Dragon.'1 'For five years, she [Ysmay] had worn those keys.'2 'In the end news came that the war in High Hallack was done, the invaders driven into the sea, or hunted like winter wolves to their snarling deaths. Men returned to their homes—some men.'3 'Among them not her father, nor her brother Ewald—they were long lost. But Gyrerd had ridden home with a ragged tail of the hold's menie. And with him Annet, who was daughter of Urian of Langsdale, now his bride and lady.'
  3. p106. Annet: "Yes—a fair, sister! Such a fair as they had in the old days! A rider from Fyndale brings the news." Ysmay: 'Dimly she could remember the last fair in Fyndale. Through the mist of years, that memory had taken on a golden glory.'4
  4. p108. 'They left Uppsdale at dawn. At nooning they were at the south gate of the dale where they feasted on cold food. That night they reached the outer rim of Fyndale itself in company with anothe party, the Lord of Marchpoint5, his lady, daughter, and their following.' Later, the Lady Dairine (Marchpoint's daughter) mentions how her parents had met at this fair in times before the War and how their betrothal was held at Midwinter Feast.6
  5. p109. The next day they reach the fair. There are ten merchants' flags and Annet thinks some may be from Ulmsport.7
  6. p110. 'It was hot in the booth, even though the front was looped up.' Hylle arrives at the fair. 'His men were shorter than most Dalesmen and, in the unusual bulk of clothing they had upon them, looked squat, clumsy, though they worked with speed and assurance…In spite of the heat, the workers wore their head hoods pulled well down…'8
  7. p112. Gyrerd mentions Hyle's name and that he's selling amber. Ysmay thinks that he must be on his way to Ulmsport.9 'Fifty years ago, amber had brought riches to Uppsdale. But that was before a fall of rock had sealed the source.'
  8. p113. Chapter 2
  9. p113. Hylle welcomes Ysmay, Gyrerd, and Annet to his tent and shows off his amber wares.
  10. p115. 'a talisman of Thunder Shield'
  11. p116. When asked about the amber in Uppsdale, Gyrerd mentions that: "My father, when it was sure war would come, needed treasure for weapons. He brought in a man used to the iron mines of the South Ridges, paying well for his opinion. But the fellow swore no skill could shift that rock fall."
  12. p118. (The next day) Ysmay and Annet return to buy and they encounter Ninque who offers to tell their fortunes by "A reading of pins on the Stone of Esinore, or, if you fancy, the foretelling of what the Elder Gods have written on your hands."
  13. p119.'He [Hylle] picked up a box of fragrant pinsal wood, slid off its lid. Within was a cylinder of amber, a small pillar of golden light. Caught within if for the centuries was a winged creature of rainbow beauty…Ysmay could not be sure whether the creature within was a small bird or a large insect, for it was new to her, perhaps something which had long gone from the living world.'
  14. p121. Gyrerd tells Annet and Ysmay of Hylle's intentions to not only reopen the amber mine but to also marry Ysmay.
  15. p122. Chapter 3
  16. p122. 'All the lamps in the great hall were alight, for it was close to winter and shadows were thick. But Gyrerd did not scant on his sister's wedding feast…' Ysmay is married to Hylle.
  17. p123. 'On the morrow, before the breath of the Ice Dragon frosted the ground into iron, his [Hylle's] workers would try to reopen what rocks had closed.'
  18. p126. Hylle tries to reopen the amber mine but has little success.
  19. p127. 'During the war the High Lords had sought any allies they could raise, and so had treated with the Were-Riders from one of those unknown sections [north and west]. In the end the Were-Riders had retired again in that direction.'10
  20. p127. 'For the space of two days they were in tilled land, spending the night at Moycroft, now a ruin, abandoned during the war for lack of manpower. But by the third day they were well into the unknown…To Ysmay's reckoning they were going more north than west, angling back towards the sea.'
  21. p128. They pass through a strange wood for a day, one with lichens, an unpleasant smell, and a feeling of being watched. After that Ysmay looses track of the days.11
  22. p129. Ysmay has lost her sense of direction, but by midday they pass near the sea and a wide section of ledge with three stone chairs. Turning inland from this they soon arrive at Quayth.
  23. p132. Chapter 4
  24. p132. 'Yet this was the eve of Midwinter Day. in all the holds of the Dales there would be preparation for feasting. Why should men not rejoice at the shortest day of the frigid winter when tomorrow would mean the slow turn to spring?'12
  25. p133-134. Ysmay finds the amber snake embedded in some curtain hangings under the embroidery. It comes alive and attaches to her wrist. Though she first tries to rid herself of it, she eventually sees it as beneficial.
  26. p136. The amber snake provides a vision of the chamber where Broc and Yaal are held captive in amber.
  27. p141. Chapter 5
  28. p141. Ysmay enters the star tower in search of the captives.
  29. p143. She comes across many captives in amber. "Those of the outer star were not human but a mixture of weird forms. The second star held more humanoid figures, half of them small, squat, wearing tunics like men. Their bodies were thick, wide of shoulder, arms long, out of proportion. From their fingers and toes protruded long curved claws, closer to the talons of some bird or animal than to human nail. Their faces-these surely had kinship with Ninque's people."
  30. p144-145. Ysmay views not only Hylle's instuments for Dark but also the new amber from Uppsdale on another table.
  31. p145. "This was a fateful night, one of the four within the year when certain powers were loosed for good or ill."
  32. p148. At dusk of the next day Hylle and his men return and Hylle brings Ysmay to the star tower.
  33. p150. Chapter 6
  34. p150. Hylle: "Her [Yaal the Far-Thoughted's] rule was old before your people arose from root-grubbing savages."13
  35. p152-153. Though bound in a magic circle of amber, Ysmay managess to first free Broc and then Yaal. Broc fights Hylle's creature.
  36. p154. Yaal confronts Hylle and prevents him from summoning someone.
  37. p156. Yaal refers to the amulet of Gunnora as being that of Rathonna.
  38. p158. Hylle defeated by his own magic. 'Dawn and a new day. Ysmay leaned against the outer wall of the star tower. It was hard to believe that she could breathe the fresh winter air after the fumes of the tower and it's stench of evil. That she had survived the night past was a miracle. For the moment she was content with that alone.' Yaal and Broc welcome Ysmay and plan to restore Quayth.


Sorcerer's Notes:

This story probably takes place during later summer to winter of the Year of the Unicorn since the Were-Riders were mentioned as having left which happened in the last days of the Year of the Hornet/beginning of the Year of the Unicorn.


The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Legacy from Sorn Fen

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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