The Sorcerer's Conspectus:

A comprehensive view of Andre Norton's Witch World

by Lotsawatts

Dragon Scale Silver

 A Novella 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


A small boat is driven ashore by a storm to the village of Wark in the Dales of High Hallack.  The two passengers in it were out of Estcarp, fleeing from the war aboard a Sulcar ship that foundered in the storm. Aufrica, the village healer and wisewoman takes them in and helps to heal the man of his terrible head wound.  Almondia, the woman is witch-trained, though she had given it up when she fled with her husband, Truan.  One night she and Aufrica go to a place of the Old Ones in the hills above Wark, and there the Lady Almondia works magic that transforms a crudely carved wooden goblet into one of shining silver.  Sharing the wine in it with Truan, and making love to him, results in the birth of twins, boy and girl, Elyn and Elys.  However, the strain of the pregnancy and birth kills Almondia, leaving Truan and Aufrice to raise the children.  Truan treats Elys more as a boy than a girl, and teaches both children arms-play.  Aufrica teaches Elys what she can of the old powers.  When the children are grown, the war comes to High Hallack, and Truan and Elyn go off to war.  But not until Elyn persuades Elyn to share a cup of wine with her out of their mother's cup.  This goblet will then tell Elys if Elyn nears death, so she may rescue him.  He gets caught in a trap of the Evil, and Elys does rescue him. This is the beginnings of Elys and Jervon, who later become companions of Joisan and Kerovan in the Gryphon series. ~ SL

Timeline Points:

  1. p7. 1 The Coming of the Far Strangers
  2. p9. 'For this was in the Year of the Salamander, before the great war of the invaders, and High Hallack was at peace, with law within it's borders, especially along the coast where the settlements dated from the early days.1
  3. p10. "We come from overseas," she [Almondia] continued. "But there is ill doing there, the hounds of war cry. There came a time when we must choose between death and flight." Almondia goes on to further describe their journey overseas.2
  4. p11. 'Omund made no report [of Almondia & Truan] to the Lord at Vestdale, and, since they had delivered the year's tax at Jurby, the Lord's men had no reason to visit Wark."3
  5. p13. 'There came a night in the first of autumn when she arose before the moon was to be seen.' (Almondia creates the dragon scale silver goblet and becomes pregnant with the twins almost a year after they arrived in High Hallack.)
  6. p16. 'But Truan became more than ever a part of the village. He went with Omund to Jurby for the year's tax and trading venture than for many years previous. Winter came and people stirred not far from their homes, except at Yule eve when they had the Year's End Feast, the women tossing ivy, the men holly on to the fires to bring luck for the Year of the Sea Serpent now beginning. Summer came after an early spring and there were babies in the village…'
  7. p17. Elyn and Elys. 'Thus were they named, and they grew well. But within four days after their coming the Lady Almondia closed her eyes and did not wake again.'
  8. p18. 2 Cup Spell
  9. p18. 'They came from Estcarp, though my father said nothing of their life there.' 'Aufrica believed she had set aside much of her power when she fled her native land with my father, the reason for that I was never to learn. But my mother was witch-born, sorceress trained…'
  10. p21. 'For in the Year of the Fire Troll the invaders came to High Hallack.' Elyn and Elys 14 or 15? Truan joins the forces at Vestdale, 'But he swore a binding oath that he would send for Elyn later…'
  11. p22-23. 'The Year of the Fire Troll passed, as we yet dwelt safe in our small clift pocket, we of Wark. But Omund made no year-end voyage to Jurby, for a small band of hard-used folk came over the hills to tell us Jurby had fallen to the enemy in a single night of red wrack and ravage. And that Vestdale Keep was now besieged.' Elyn: "There is bred in me that which I must answer, for a year I have been trapped here. Yet I was promise bound".4
  12. p24. 'That was an ill winter.' In the spring the people of Wark travel inland to escape the Hounds.
  13. p25. 'There were no longer named years for us, just the passing of seasons. In the third summer we found refuge at last.' 'We found a way into a small upland dale which had never been settled or visited…5 'It was midsummer of our second year in that pocket of earth…' Elys meets Jervon.
  14. p28. 'Three days ago Haverdale stood rearguard at the Ford of Ingra.' Pell (younger brother to the lord of Haverdale) dies. Jervon lives.
  15. p29. 3 Tarnished Silver
  16. p30. Jervon: "In the spring of this Year of the Gryphon they met with the Were-Riders of the wastes and those will fight hereafter with us."6 'Jervon, though he had appeared strong and ready to fight, took a fever from his ill-tended wound, and lay with wandering wits and burning flesh for some days.' 'The long summer became fall and still Jervon worked to restore skill to his hand.'
  17. p31. Jervon remembers having seen Elyn riding with Franklyn of Edale at the last muster of Inisheer. By this time Elyn has become Horn Leader and is handfasted to the Lady Brunissende, Franklyn's heiress.
  18. p37. The fourth day after talking with Jervon, Elys discovers Elyn is in trouble using the dragon scale silver cup. She has a vision of Elyn prying at a closed window and feels the presence of a Dark Old One. "So—south and west I must go. And soon, or, as I had warned Jervon, the snow would come to close the passes and there would be no traveling at all."
  19. p39. At dawn the next day she and Jervon will leave together.
  20. p40. 4 Coomb Frome
  21. p40. "Perforce we took the road which had brought Jervon as there was no other trace across the wilderness…It was a very old road…Which meant this was a way of the Old Ones." Jervon mentions that the road comes within a league of the Ford (of Ingra). It then loops from there towards the sea.
  22. p42. At noon they turn from the road to rest. Jervon tells Elys that he is the son of a lords third son but that his father took oath to the Lord of Dorn who was kin to his mother of the Lady Guida's household. His fatheer had intended to go north when Jervon was old enough, but the War came. "Dorn was in the path of the first inward thrst. They took the keep in five days, for they had weapons that spat fire and ate rock. I had ridden to Haverdale to beg help. We caught up with two survivors on the road three days later. Dorn was gone, erased as if it had never been."
  23. p43. After taking oath, Jervon stays with the lord of Haverdale. Jervon:"There was no one leader to whom all the Dale lords would rally. The Hounds had made sure of that-Remard of Dorn, Myric of Gastendale, Dauch, Yonan-all the men of promise were either wiped out with their holds and their followeres, or assassinated…We could only run, and perhaps hit, and then run again. We would have all been bleaching bones had not the Four Lords come out of the north and beat some order and sense into us…So there was the confederation and they made the pact with the Were-Riders… perhaps there would be an overrule of the Four -no, Three-for Skirkar is dead and he leaves no son to raise hold banner."7
  24. p44. By nightfall they arrive at a rocky place and sleep there the night. By the next day they arrive at the Ford and find a funeral pyre built by Haverdale. Jervon mentions that there is a traders' road there that swings south to Trevamper.
  25. p45. They ride on and camp in the thickets. When Elys checks the cup again she sees there's a black stain from the stem to the lower part of the bowl.
  26. p46-47. Elys uses the cup to scry and sees Elyn in the pillar trap. When she mentions the barred window Jervon remembers the tale of the Keep of Coomb Frome.
  27. p48. Elys and Jervon arrive at Coomb Frome and meet Elyn's wife, Lady Brunissende.
  28. p51. 5 The Curse of Ingaret
  29. p51. "I am Dame Wirtha-I am also Ulrica-" "…The House of Kantha Twice Born was overrun by the Hounds this year past…Also Kantha Twice Born had the Old Learning herself in her time…"
  30. p52-53. Wirtha/Ulrica relates the tale of the Curse - how the First of the House of Ingaret went into places of the Old Ones and from one brought back a wife. When they didn't have children he snuck out to have children and had two - a boy and a girl - by separate mistresses. When his Old One wife found out she Cursed him and left him. Ten years later he rode out and never returned.
  31. p54-55. Elys scrys again and then leaves the keep at dawn.
  32. p56. Jervon follows her and offers assistance.
  33. p57. They ride through the day and by night reach a ridge with two spires of rock.
  34. p58-59. They ride through a woods where the road winds and Jervon senses the awaiting presence.
  35. p59. 'We came at last from under the shadow of trees into moonlight. And there I saw what had been in the far-seeing-the spiral of pillars.'
  36. p60. 6 Field of Stone
  37. p60. While she's at first drawn in, Elys is later rebuffed when the Old One realizes she's not enspelled.
  38. p62. She reaches the heart of the spiral and sees twelve figures with Elyn being last. 'There was a circular block raised in the center and on it-' a figure of perfect feminine beauty appears with a silvery body and silvery hair, but her eyes are black.
  39. p65. Jervon arrives. While he's lured in by the Old One's magic he manages to resist her, which frustrates her.
  40. p68. Elys looks for the 'witch core' which allows the Old One to manifest.
  41. p69. The Old One summons a creature 'Wings which were flaps of mottled skin it had, and a horned head, and a sharply pointed snout. It was red as a leaping fire spark.' After an exhaustive search Elys realizes that the witch core must be under where the Old One is manifesting.
  42. p70. With Jervon's he;p they raise and toss the lid and Elys stabs the core with her sword.
  43. p71. 7 Silver Bright
  44. p71. Time overtakes the spiral pillars and all of the trapped men except Elyn crumble to dust and bones.
  45. p73. Coomb Frome is a day's ride from the pillars.
  46. p81. Jervon has found that the lord of Haverdale is dead. Elys and Jervon leave Coomb Frome and begin their travels.


Sorcerer's Notes:

Year Since the Betrayal

Year Name


Year of the Salamander

Almondia & Truan reach High Hallack near the beginning of the year. Almondia creates dragon scale silver cup and conceives the twins (autumn)

Year of the Sea Serpent

9 months later Elys & Elyn born (summer)8

Year of the Fire Troll

Invasion of High Hallack, Truan joins the war (spring), Elys & Elyn about 14 or 15

Year of the Leopard

Elyn joins the war, Elys and the people of Wark travel inland (spring)


(possible "2nd summer"? after leaving Wark)


'Third summer' Elys and the people of Wark settle in a small upland dale; Battle of Ford of Ingra approx 3 years after Year of the Fire Troll.


First summer since settling

Year of the Gryphon

Elys meets Jervon in the second summer since finding the inland dale. Later this year they save Elyn's life and begin their travels

Whether or not there is one or more years between that of the Salamander and that of the Sea Serpent is a bit hard to tell. The story doesn't tell us when Almondia & Truan actually arrived, just that it's sometime after the year's tax was paid, which seems to be at or near the end of the year. It's possible they washed up in Wark in winter, just after the beginning of the Year of the Salamander. If there is a long journey to Jurby or Vestdale Keep for the people of Wark, they may simply have decided to wait until spring to deliver the news of the wrecked ship and it's survivors. This would keep their arrival in the Year of the Salamander. Two months or so after paying the year's tax could still make it a recent event. This would keep the Year of the Salamander next to the Year of the Sea Serpent without an unnamed year in-between.

1. On the settlement of the coast of High Hallack. (see: Horn Crown)
2. Mention of "hounds of war" could imply an attempted invasion of Estcarp by the Hounds of Alizon. Considering the beginning of Witch World this is most likely, but it's around ten years before the Kolder invade Gorm. On the other hand Almondia is trained as a witch so it could be that rather than fleeing a war they're fleeing the Council and she doesn't want to mention that.
3. "Omund made no year-end voyage to Jurby" p.22
4. Truan joined the war in the spring of the Year of the Fire Troll. Elyn kept the promise he made to Truan for a year. This would make it spring of the Year of the Leopard according to The Crystal Gryphon.
5. This could either be the 3rd summer since the war began or since they left Wark. It isn't clear.
6. This story was written before Gryphon in Glory, so the reference to the Were-Riders joining the war here needs to be ignored because Jervon and Elys meet Joisan when Kerovan makes first contact with the Were-Riders shortly after the end of this story. (see:Year of the Unicorn) Further speculation on how this paradox can possibly be resolved can be found in the Lore of the Witch World "Sorcerer's Notes:" section.
7. Besides Imgry the other lords are only mentioned in Wolfhead - their names supplied as Savron and Wintof. However it only indicates the three, not the four.
8. The Gurps: Timeline misnames this the Year of the Bicorn.

The Sorcerer’s recommend that you read next: Of Ancient Swords and Evil Mist

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Formatted and Edited by Jay Watts ~ May, 2022

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