So I received an interesting tip, talking about the latest Qemu version, when it was mentioned that it isn’t the hardware that is at fault with Netware not running, but rather something in the emulated CPU.
Because, get this, Novell Netware runs in KVM.
I was taken back, all this time I thought it was something in the -M isapc definition that broke, but it’s the CPU! I even rebuilt Qemu with the TCG interpreter, and it too breaks. I even went one more crazy step, and installed with the ancient isadisk controller, and NE2000 on the ISA bus, and it works!
So for now my old copy of Netware I bought a million years ago lives in the cloud!