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a passage to quote

From The Paths of the Dead by Steven Brust. A small spoiler regarding Khaavren's character in this book is involved here.

"...I tell you that you are in pain."

"In pain?"

"Yes, my dear host. Your soul has been hurt from what you perceive as a failure, and this causes you discomfort. I know this pain, because it is a twin to my own."

"I beg your pardon, but, even if what you say is true - and I don't deny it - I fail to see how this relates to our conversation."

"You do not?"

"Not in the least, I assure you."

Well, I will explain it."

"Very well, I will continue to listen while you do so."

"Here it is, then: There is one thing that pain, whether of the body or the soul, always does."

"And that is?"

"It draws the sufferer's attention inward."

"You think so?"

"Believe me, Count; in my work, I have seen many people in pain, and the one thing they have in common is that it is very difficult for them to consider what is going on around them, because pain in the body or suffering in the soul invariably pulls the mind to itself; it is when we are not in pain that we are able to see clearly outside ourselves."

Khaavren considered this carefully; Daro, we should add, remained utterly silent, but listened to Tevna with her whole attention. At length, Khaavren said, "Well, you may be right."

"I am convinced that I am. And, if I am right -"

"Well, if you are?"

"Then you must permit me to continue."

"Very well, continue then."

"Here, then, is the rest: Because you are in pain, you are unable to look clearly at all that occurs around you, and, because of this, you have missed a vital fact."

"Ah! I have missed a fact?"

"I believe so."

"And a vital fact?"


"Well, what is this vital fact that I have missed?"

"You wish me to tell you?"

"I should like nothing better."

"Here it is, then: The events that are happening in the world, if your wife the Countess is correct, are bigger than you."

"Well, but I do not disagree with that."

"You do not?"

"Not at all."

"But, you perceive, if they are bigger than you, than, my dear kinsman, your own pain, and your own desires, are suddenly less important than they were."

"How, less important?"

"Indeed. They matter to you, and those who love you, but go no further than that. You have been asking what you could do in the great events that are now stirring, and have found that you could do nothing. But that is because your suffering has caused you to phrase the question in the wrong way."

"I have phrased the question wrongly?"

"That is my opinion."

"By asking what I could do, I have asked the wrong question?"


"But then, will you tell me what I ought to have asked?"

"I will do so at this very instant, if you wish."

"I am most anxious to hear it."

"Then I will tell you."

"And you will be right to do so."

"Here it is then: Instead of asking what you could do, you ought to have been asking what needs to be done."

Khaavren considered this for a moment, then said, "The difference, you perceive is very subtle."

"Perhaps it is subtle, but I believe it is important."

"You think so?"

"More than important, it is vital."

"You believe, then, that were I to look at matters differently, I would reach a different conclusion?"


"I suspect that you would cease worrying about your infirmities, and, instead, you would set out to do what must be done."


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March 2017