Swordmistress of Chaos

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Book: Swordmistress of Chaos by Robert Holdstock, Angus Wells Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Holdstock, Angus Wells
Tags: Fantasy, Adult
actions of individuals. It so happens that you stand astride a watershed in the stream of life. You are both blessed and cursed, for upon your actions depends the shaping of the future, and that is something you cannot deny or escape.’
    ‘But if I do nothing?’ The enormity of the mission described by that soundless voice frightened her. ‘What then?’
    ‘How can you do nothing? Each step you take, each breath you draw, is an action. You are outlaw. You lust for revenge upon Karl ir Donwayne. Will you give that up? Will you forsake your outlawry? Find some desert cave and become hermit? No. You are what you are, and you will, by your very nature, act out your part. The how of the matter is for your deciding.’
    ‘Tell me,’ she asked. ‘What should I do?’
    ‘There is a balance in the affairs of the world that may be tipped to either side. This is a young world, like a growing child, it flexes its muscles, striving to define its destiny. It can grow great or petty, a good world or a thing of confusion: the destination results from its early shaping. A child, growing, must learn for itself what fire is; the munificence and the danger of water; that some things are painful, others good. It cannot be told, for experience of the elemental matters is the only way to know them. And only through knowing them and understanding them may a child grow straight and healthy. A child can be told that one thing is forbidden to the touch, another not; but until it understands that difference of its own volition, it cannot, truly, comprehend the difference.
    ‘Just so is this world. There are those who would shape it for their own ends, create an order that will bring them to dominance as they subjugate others to their will. That is wrong. As metals are melted, blended to forge the finest steel, so must this world be shaped. Order, for now, is wrong. There is a need for chaos, as the steel needs the furnace.
    ‘You, Raven, are that furnace; the catalyst of history. You are one of this world’s pivot points; and upon you rests the destiny of the future.’
    ‘What must I do?’ Her voice was quiet, humble.
    ‘Be yourself, act as you feel you must. Listen always to the advice of your greatest helpers: the man and the bird.’
    ‘And Donwayne,’ she asked. ‘What of him? Is he denied me?’
    ‘We cannot say. That you seek him is accepted, for only with the cooperation of the focus point may matters be properly guided. Therefore seek Donwayne, though the finding may be long.
    ‘Now he rests in Karhsaam, a favoured captain of the Altan’s growing army. To reach him, you must win equal favour with the Altan. That favour may be won through the bringing of the Skull of Quez.
    ‘Find the Skull and You may have Donwayne.’
    The Voice that was not a voice died away, and slowly Raven grew conscious of the chamber. Spellbinder was poised on the far side of the floating stone, his hands still resting upon the pulsing surface. The concentration of light that had centred on her eyes faded away, until it was no more than another vein in the strange rock. And the rock itself faded, dulling, until it was no more than a chunk of stone large as two tall big men, poised at the centre of the egg-like chamber.
    She shook her head as though clearing it of mind-mist, and faced Spellbinder.
    ‘Did you heat it?’
    ‘No.’ He moved away from the stone. ‘The message was for you; no other.’
    ‘How does a stone speak?’ She recalled his earlier comments upon the thing. ‘You said it was no more than a star thing, not a prophet.’
    Spellbinder shrugged: ‘The words were not necessarily those of the rock itself. The stone may act as a linkage between minds, passing thoughts from one to the other.’
    ‘Whose minds?’ Raven was quick to see the flaw in his explanation. ‘Your hands were upon the stone. Were they your words that filled my mind?’
    ‘No.’ Spellbinder’s voice was definite. ‘I was, perhaps, the link with other

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