Authors: Jack L. Chalker
This is the climactic book in the Changewinds saga, which
began with When the Changewinds Blow (Ace, 1987) and
continued with Riders of the Winds (Ace, 1988). Unlike a
series, this is the final part of a single continuous narrative,
and is intended to be read after the first two to create a single
novel in three volumes.
In the second volume, concessions were made to provide a
measure of recap and rationale for those who came in late;
little such is provided in this volume, since it would at this
point take a very long time to explain. If you have not read
the prior volumes, buy this one now, so you'll have it, then
check where you found it and buy the other two. A good,
intelligent, businesslike bookstore or newsstand will have
them; if not, order them or change bookstores. If you found
this at a small newsstand or rack that simply can't have the
space to put everything, buy it here and then drop by the
nearest bookstore for the others, which the nice folks at Ace
have tried to insure will have them.
If you must, be aware that you're going to be thrown
full-blown into the long and involved climax of a major
plot. You might still have a good time, but you'll never
get it all reading just this one. Those of you who have
been reading right along with us will pick it up rather easily—
I've provided enough for you to get back in the groove, I
think. You've been lulled for over two hundred thousand
words into a rather small and private story of two people
caught in another world at just the wrong time, but now
that which has only been hinted at is to be fully seen, the
nil Sack L. Chalker
questions fully answered, and now the Changewinds will
truly Mow. It is the time for armies and swords and sorcery
and much more, for literally anything might happen when
die Changewinds blow. ...
Jack L. Chalker
Seizing Destiny's Threads
She was a short young woman, in no more than her early
twenties but far older in the eyes, where it revealed damage to
the spirit. She was not conscious of what her eyes showed,
although it drew the attention of all others, she was dressed
in a full-length blue satin robe without belt to conceal the
chubbiness that only she thought was important.
She stood on the balcony of the castle looking not at the
vast forests and high mountains beyond, but rather at the sky,
where clouds seemed to swirl and dance in unnatural combi-
nations for her amusement, as indeed they did. They had
always done her bidding, first with her mother's help, and
then, after the Akhbreed bastards had slain her mother, fully
in command herself of the weather and storms that most
others, even powerful wizards, found impossible to control.
Her mastery over these clouds and this weather and the
strangeness with which the sky moved terrified most who
could see it, even those who lived in the region and were now
used to her experiments, pranks, and moods, but, to her, at
least, something was very wrong.
The clouds suddenly stopped their wild movements and
began to sort themselves out into more normal patterns as the
natural conditions were allowed to reassert their influence
upon the patterns. She uttered a mild curse of frustration
under her breath, turned, and stalked back inside her rooms,
but she did not remain there. Instead, she went to the door,
where guards with beaked faces and hands resembling birdlike
travesties of her hands stood guard in crimson uniforms, pikes
at the ready.
She went down the winding stairs as rapidly as her robe,
2 jack L. Chalker
slippers, wd dignity would allow and then stalked down a
hallway that was the only unguarded one in the entire castle.
It had no need to be; he who lived and worked on this level
was one to be protected from rather than the other way
•round, and only she of any of them would dare even enter
this one level without first asking permission.
Klittichom, Horned Demon of the Snows, master sorcerer
of the Akhbreed, was in his study working as he usually did
on his magic box. No one else there understood what the box
was or what it did; it was one of those great magical things
that only the Akhbreed sorcerers had or understood, although
it looked somewhat like a mechanical device, with a lot of
little buttons all clumped together, on each of which was a
different magical symbol none but the Akhbreed could deci-
pher, but which Klittichom used with rapidity to create his
spells and do whatever else it was that sorcerers of his rank
The magic was in the square, barely the thickness of a
hand, on which strange symbols like those on the buttons but
grouped almost as if they were, well, words—occasionally
with small pictures of unknowable things—would appear in
bright blue against a metallic gray background.
A tiny little alarm sounded and a small red light wept, on
just above the buttons, and Klittichom cursed and sighed, and
for perhaps the millionth time since he himself had arrived
unexpectedly on this strange world of Akahlar, he wished at
least he'd had an extra battery charger. It had taken him a
good two years after setting up here just to rig a way to adapt
the localized and unstable current used in the Akhbreed cas-
tles for basic electricity so that it would recharge the damned
The woman burst into the room at just that moment—always
the worst moment, he grumbled to himself, when he was in
the foulest mood. She alone could get away with it and know
he would check his considerable wrath, although he had fried
people with a glance or turned them into stone for less
effrontery than this. It wasn't out of any love or respect for
the woman, or any relationship, either. She wasn't all that
bright, really, which was to his advantage, but he needed her
as he needed his magic box and all his other tools of power,
and she knew it.
WAR OF THE MAELSTROM 3
"You might try knocking," he said acidly.
"This is serious," responded the Storm Princess sourly, in
a surprisingly deep, almost mannish voice. "It has happened
again. First the dizziness, then the sudden weakening of
power and control. It was intermittent, but stronger than any
of the last times. I have not felt such a lack of control since
control passed to me upon the murder of my mother. Some-
thing is very, very wrong, wizard. Dangerously wrong at this
He tried not to betray the fact that he was as concerned
about this as she was by maintaining a calm and clinical tone.
"Yes, I have been increasingly concerned about these lapses
of yours and I have been trying to analyze what is causing
"It's that girl! The one you have failed after all this time to
locate, let alone kill. She invades my sleep and creeps in
comers of my mind."
"Your twin, in fact," he responded, nodding. "1 agree
that she is at the root of this, but not in the way you think.
She has the same power as you, but it is untrained, armed
only by emotion, and would be no match for you. No, it's
something else- A new factor has been added to the equation,
and. yes, you are right, our inability to nail her hide to the
wall is the root of our problem. Somehow she, or fate, or,
more likely Boolean, has come up with something we failed
to anticipate, some new equation that is challenging the neat
and ordered set we were dealing with. Do not be too hard on
me, my dear. I have killed you in a hundred worlds a hundred
times; it was inevitable that I'd miss at least one of you. The
problem was that there were too many of you in various
worlds of the outplane; our very attempt at insurance drew
attention to what we were doing and allowed Boolean to
finally figure it out. Forget recriminations. We must now deal
with what conditions we have."
"And just what are those conditions?" she demanded to
know. "Am I losing my powers or what? And, if so, what
comes of all our planning, all our schemes, all the blood and
hopes of our vast but fragmented army and the oppressed
people all this would liberate?"
He sighed. "You aren't losing your powers, but they are
being diluted, almost as if yet another version of you was—"
4 jack L. ChaSker
He snapped his fingers. "No! Blast me for a fool! It's so
obvious that it never once occurred to me! In spite of my
precautions the worst happened anyway! Blast!"
He was clearly angry as hel! with himself, and even she
grew a bit nervous when he was this way. He didn't like to
show that he still had a human side left to anyone. Under
normal circumstances she might have left him for a while to
coot down, but this was a unique circumstance. It was her
powers that were in question here, and her powers were all
She would never have believed that she had a near total
immunity from his true rages; at least, she would never have
believed why she did. He needed her very much, simply
because he needed someone he could talk to, rant and rave
to, just interact with, who wasn't so terrified of him that they
were clearly play-acting. The fact that she was neither smart
enough nor sophisticated enough to understand much of what
he discussed was actually a plus. Ignorance was often the
"You know what is causing this?" she prompted him,
trying to divert him from his anger.
"Yes, yes! It's obvious now! And Boolean probably had
nothing at all to do with it. I have kept you too sheltered, my
dear. Had I considered this threat I could have dealt with it,
but no more. That girl out there—Boolean's Storm Bitch—
she's gone and gotten herself pregnant!"
The Storm Princess looked surprised. "That is all it takes
to cause this? that she be pregnant? Why did I not hear of
this before? Out there, on her own, it was almost inevitable
sooner or later."
He sighed. "1—I thought not. When I sucked them down
to Akahlar I had them in the Maelstrom you created for me. I
was about to shove them into the storm when Boolean ap-
peared. He took me completely by surprise—I had no idea
until that moment that even he suspected what was going on,
nor certainly that he would have the skill, let alone the guts,
to tempt the Changewind. I had to draw my attention away
from the girls in order to block him. He actually challenged
me in there, knowing that if either of us so much as touched
the walls of the Maelstrom we would be consumed by the
Changewind. It took more skill and concentration to just
WAR OF THE MAELSTROM t)
remain there than even I thought possible. I refused, but
realized that so long as he was there and the danger so real I
had no chance to make a stab at the girls, who were being
drawn down and past me. I could have removed mem, but to
take my concentration off Boolean would have given him the
opening to destroy me. Still, with Boolean in the act, I knew
that there was at least a slim chance that our quarry might
elude us in Akahlar, where they could not be so easily
located. The flow of air from the storm is always an upward
spiral, as you know. I risked a small spell, down, below all of
us, figuring that Boolean would not notice such a minor thing
directed elsewhere than at him or the girls—and he did not.
The spell caught in the spiral and came up, lost in the
overwhelming blast of power coming from the storm's walls."
"Just—what did you do?" she asked him, not quite fol-
lowing all this.
"They looked so similar I couldn't tell which girl was
which," he replied. "Two terrified teenage girls pouring out
every emotion possible—it was confusing. As the resem-
blance struck me, though, I knew it would also strike Bool-
ean. 1 know how he thinks—now. I knew what he would do,
and I knew that one had to be in so many ways your dupli-
cate. He would inevitably make one look just like the other to
carry on the confusion, but it would be merely physical. I
knew that at their age and stage they would not be certain of
their own minds and feelings, and so I made them choose and
harden the extremes which conflicted within their natures. A
yin and a yang, as it were, so that they could be differenti-
ated. Our target would become a lover of women and gain no
pleasures from a man; the other, the false one, would tilt to
the other extreme. A simple system, and, yet, one Boolean
could do nothing about without negating the duplication as
well, and one that would make our quarry stand out in our
society and, not incidentally, would prevent the natural exper-
imentation that might have resulted in a pregnancy."
"With all that I have undergone I am yet a virgin, although
I do not know why I was not violated in those early days. I
have chosen celibacy, which she certainly has not."
"You weren't violated because it was your power that
interested everyone, and there was a great deal of fear that
virginity was a part of it. Needless, as it turns out. You are
6 Jack L. Chalker
celibate by choice because your nature makes you incapable
of desiring a man and you hide, as she did, from your
attraction to other women by denial. Yet your mother was
like that, and hers before her. It is a part of it.*'
"How could my mother have been thus?" she demanded
angrily. "She had me and her mother had her, and we were
not products of virgin births!"
"They carefully picked the fathers in elaborate rites, and
then stood for it in order to bear their heirs," he responded.
"The gift, or curse, of the Storm Princess included this
always, because one of such powers must be apart from
society, both above and different from its rules and conven-
tions, so as to never compromise that position of power. In
the absence of a Storm Prince, who does not exist, it was the
way to distance the paranormal from the normal, and as a part
of the gift itself it is an essential part of a Storm Princess's
makeup. But she had not yet fully realized or accepted her
different nature and was still experimental. I thought by
freezing it I would preclude a child."
She frowned. "Well, consider it now, because it is done.
Boolean must be laughing at you now. You can not deceive
the master deceiver."