of the low table, tucking his feet beneath him.
The woman spoke in a low, musical voice. “I am Egwina. I am the valla. I am the keeper of secrets. I am the teller of truths. I speak for the Wyrd, the three goddesses of fate. I speak for past, for present, for future. What is it you wish to know?”
“Today I woke with a dream I have had for many years.
And today I fi ght a battle. I have two questions.”
“Ask your questions, then, warrior, and I will see what we can learn.”
“First. Today I stand at the crossroads. What path do I take?” Slowly the woman reached out a hand and laid it gently on Havgan’s arm. After a moment, she gripped his arm convul- sively, then snatched her hand away. She rubbed one hand with
the other, as though to slough off whatever she had felt.
“Yes,” she said in a strained voice. “You stand at the crossroads today. There are those among us who have dreamed of this.”
“What do you mean?” Havgan asked coolly. But his heart was beating wildly.
She gazed at him, still rubbing her hand. “You are powerful, warrior. The more so because you know not what you can do.”
In a fl ash, Havgan reached out and grabbed her wrists in
a grip of iron. “You will tell me nothing about that. Do you understand? No words of what I can do, or I will kill you.” His voice was deathly quiet.
She shrank back, but he did not loose his hold. “Do you un- derstand?” he asked again. She nodded, and he slowly released
her. “My reading. Read the runes for me. Answer my ques- tion. And only that question. Now.”
She swallowed hard, then lifted a golden bowl to the table. “Choose three runes—one for the past, one for the present, one for the future,” she said, her voice low and subdued. “Close your eyes and choose one piece. The fi rst piece is for the past.” Havgan plunged his hand into the bowl and picked out a small piece of wood, with a rune marked on it outlined in gold,
and laid it gently on the tabletop.
The valla leaned forward and studied the rune. In a trem- bling voice she said, “This is chalk , the dead man’s rune. It is a sign of barrenness, of emptiness, of hopes and dreams that have turned to ashes. This has been your life up to now.”
As though , he thought bitterly, I needed runes to tell me that . But he said nothing.
“Now choose the next rune, the rune for the present,” she went on.
Again, Havgan choose a piece of carved wood and laid it on the table. “Ah,” the seeress said, with relief. “You have chosen ansuz . This is truly a momentous rune. It means that you will soon experience the divine. The God himself will send a mes- sage to you, a signal from his Holy Presence.”
“A signal to show the way to take at the crossroads?”
“So it would seem, warrior.” Her voice sounded more con- fi dent now. “Choose the last rune, the rune for the future. We shall see where the signal will take you.”
Havgan chose the last rune and laid it down. The valla, glancing at it, took a ragged breath but said nothing.
“What does this one mean?” Havgan demanded, startled out of his calm demeanor.
“This is gar . It is a symbol of power.” She raised her head, and he knew she was staring at him. “It is a symbol of royalty,” she whispered.
Havgan was stunned. Royalty? Power? But how? The Coranian Empire had an emperor, secure on his throne. And yet, the emperor had only one child—a daughter. The idea that came to him seemed farfetched beyond belief. And yet, he felt power here from the seeress. If that is what she saw. . .
He interrupted his own musing. “Now answer my second question. For many years I have had a dream that will not leave me. My question is, who is the woman who stands on the rocks?” “For such a question we must use the runes of Achtwan,
the Great Wheel of Existence. These runes are powerful, and a seid with them can be dangerous.” She paused, then tilted her head challengingly. “A seid with these runes
The Wizard of Starship Poseiden