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Veteran foruma
Svedok stvaranja istorije

Ne tece to reka,nego voda!Ne prolazi vreme,već mi!

Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
Close to the Edge
It had been a long time in the making. Now it was almost completed, and the slaves hacked away at the last clay remnants of the mantle.
   Where other slaves were industriously rubbing its metal flanks with silver sand it was already beginning to gleam in the sun with the silken organic sheen of young bronze. It was still warm even after a week of cooling in the casting pit. The Arch-astronomer of Krull motioned lightly with his hand and his bearers set the throne down in the shadow of the hull.
   Like a fish, he thought. A great flying fish. And of what seas?
   “It is indeed magnificent,” he whispered. “A work of true art.”
   “Craft,” said the thickset man by his side. The Arch-astronomer turned slowly and looked up at the man’s impassive face. It isn’t particularly hard for a face to look impassive-when there are two golden spheres where the eyes should be. They glowed disconcertingly.
   “Craft, indeed,” said the astronomer, and smiled
   “I would imagine that there is no greater craftsman on the entire disc than you, Goldeneyes. Would I be right?”
   The craftsman paused, his naked body—naked at least, were it not for a toolbelt, a wrist abacus and a deep tan—tensing as he considered the implications of this last remark. The golden eyes appeared to be looking into some other world.
   “The answer is both yes and no,” he said at last Some of the lesser astronomers behind the throne gasped at this lack of etiquette, but the Arch astronomer appeared not to have noticed it.
   “Continue,” he said.
   “There are some essential skills that I lack. Yet I am Goldeneyes Silverhand Dactylos,” said the craftsman. “I made the Metal Warriors that guard the Tomb of Pitchiu, I designed the Light Dams of the Great Nef, I built the Palace of the Seven Deserts. And yet—” he reached up and tapped one of his eyes, which rang faintly, “when I built the golem army for Pitchiu he loaded me down with gold and then, so that I would create no other work to rival my work for him, he had my eyes put out.”
   “Wise but cruel,” said the Arch-astronomer sympathetically.
   “Yah. So I learned to hear the temper of metals and to see with my fingers. I learned how to distinguish ores by taste and smell. I made these eyes, but I cannot make them see.
   “Next I was summoned to build the Palace of the Seven Deserts, as a result of which the Emir showered me with silver and then, not entirely to my surprise, had my right hand cut off.”
   “A grave hindrance in your line of business,” nodded the Arch-astronomer.
   “I used some of the silver to make myself this new hand, putting to use my unrivalled knowledge of levers and fulcrums. It suffices. After I created the first great Light Dam, which had a capacity of 50,000 daylight hours, the tribal councils of the Nef loaded me down with fine silks and then hamstrung me so that I could not escape. As a result I was put to some inconvenience to use the silk and some bamboo to build a flying machine from which I could launch myself from the top-most turret of my prison.”
   “Bringing you, by various diversions, to Krull,” said the Arch-astronomer. “And one cannot help feeling that some alternative occupation—lettuce farming, say—would offer somewhat less of a risk of being put to death by instalments. Why do you continue in it? Goldeneyes Dactylos shrugged.
   “I’m good at it,” he said.
   The Arch-astronomer looked up again bronze fish, shining now like a gong in the noontime sun.
   “Such beauty,” he murmured. “And unique. Come, Dactylos. Recall to me what it was that I promised should be your reward?”
   “You asked me to design a fish that would swim through the seas of space that lie between the worlds,” intoned the master craftsman. “In return for which– in return—”
   “Yes? My memory is not what it used to be,” purred the Arch-astronomer, stroking the warm bronze.
   “In return,” continued Dactylos, without much apparent hope, “you would set me free, and refrain from chopping off any appendages. I require no treasure.”
   “Ah, yes. I recall now.” The old man raised a blueveined hand, and added, “I lied.”
   There was the merest whisper of sound, and the goldeneyed man rocked on his feet. Then he looked down at the arrowhead protruding from his chest, and nodded wearily. A speck of blood bloomed on his lips.
   There was no sound in the entire square (save for the buzzing of a few expectant flies) as his silver hand came up, very slowly, and fingered the arrowhead.
   Dactylos grunted.
   “Sloppy workmanship,” he said, and toppled backwards.
   The Arch-astronomer prodded the body with his toe, and sighed.
   “There will be a short period of mourning, as befits a master craftsman,” he said. He watched a bluebottle alight on one golden eye and fly away puzzled… “That would seem to be long enough,” said the Arch-astronomer, and beckoned a couple of slaves to carry the corpse away.
   “Are the chelonauts ready?” he asked.
   The master launchcontroller hustled forward.
   “Indeed, your prominence,” he said.
   “The correct prayers are being intoned?
   “Quite so, your prominence.”
   “How long to the doorway?”
   “The launch window,” corrected the master launchcontroller carefully. “Three days, your prominence. Great A’Tuin’s tail will be in an unmatched position.”
   “Then all that remains,” concluded the Arch-astronomer, “is to find the appropriate sacrifice.”
   The master launchcontroller bowed.
   “The ocean shall provide,” he said.
   The old man smiled. it always does,” he said.
   “If only you could navigate”
   “If only you could steer—”
   A wave washed over the deck. Rincewind and Twoflower looked at each other. “Keep bailing!” they screamed in unison, and reached for the buckets.
   After a while Twoflower’s peevish voice filtered up from the waterlogged cabin.
   “I don’t see how it’s my fault,” he said. He handed up another bucket, which the wizard tipped over the side.
   “You were supposed to be on watch,” snapped Rincewind.
   “I saved us from the slavers, remember,” said Twoflower.
   “I’d rather be a slave than a corpse,” replied the wizard. He straightened up and looked out to sea. He appeared puzzled.
   He was a somewhat different Rincewind from the one that escaped the fire of Ankh-Morpork six months before. More scarred, for one thing. And much more travelled. He had visited the Hublands, discovered the curious folkways of many colourful peoples—invariably obtaining more scars in the process—and had even, for a never-to-be-forgotten few days, sailed on the legendary Dehydrated Ocean at the heart of the incredibly dry desert known as the Great Nef. On a colder and wetter sea he had seen floating mountains of ice. He had ridden on an imaginary dragon. He had very nearly said the most powerful spell on the disc. He had-
   –there was definitely less horizon than there ought to be.
   “Hmm” Said Rincewind.
   “I said nothing’s worse than slavery,” said Twoflower. His mouth opened as the wizard flung his bucket far out to sea and sat down heavily on the waterlogged deck, his face a grey mask.
   “Look, I’m sorry I steered us into the reef, but this boat doesn’t seem to want to sink and we’re bound to strike land sooner or later,” said Twoflower comfortingly. “This current must go somewhere.”
   “Look at the horizon,” Said Rincewind, in a monotone.
   Twoflower squinted.
   “It looks all right,” he said after a while.
   “Admittedly, there seems to be less than there usually is, but—”
   “That’s because of the Rimfall,” said Rincewind.
   “We’re being carried over the edge of the world.”
   There was a long silence, broken only by the lapping of the waves as the foundering ship spun slowly in the current. It was already quite strong.
   “That’s probably why we hit that reef,” Rincewind added. “we got pulled off course during the night.”
   “Would you like something to eat?” asked Twoflower. He began to rummage through the bundle that he had tied to the rail, out of the damp.
   “Don’t you understand?” snarled Rincewind. “We are going over the Edge, godsdammit!”
   “Can’t we do anything about it?”
   “Then I can’t see the sense in panicking,” said Twoflower calmly.
   “I knew we shouldn’t have come this far Edgewise,” complained Rincewind to the skye “I wish—”
   “I wish I had my picture-box,” said Twoflower, “but it’s back on that slaver ship with the rest of the Luggage and—”
   “You won’t need luggage where we’re going,” said Rincewind. He sagged, and stared moodily at a distant whale that had carelessly strayed into the rimward current and was now struggling against it.
   There was a line of white on the foreshortened horizon, and the wizard fancied he could hear a distant roaring.
   “What happens after a ship goes over the Rimfall?” said Twoflower.
   “Who knows?”
   “Well, in that case perhaps we’ll just sail on through space and land on another world.” A faraway look came into the little man’s eyes. “I’d like that,” he said.
   Rincewind snorted.
   The sun rose in the sky, looking noticeably bigger this close to the Edge. They stood with their backs against the mast, busy with their own thoughts. Every so often one or other would pick up a bucket and do a bit of desultory bailing, for no very intelligent reason.
   The sea around them seemed to be getting crowded. Rincewind noticed several tree trunks keeping station with them, and just below the surface the water was alive with fish of all sorts. The current must be teeming with food washed from the continents near the Hub. He wondered what kind of life it would be, having to keep swimming all the time to stay exactly in the same place. Pretty similar to his own, he decided. He spotted a small green frog which was paddling desperately in the grip of the inexorable current. To Twoflower’s amazement he found a paddle and carefully extended it towards the little amphibian, which scrambled onto it gratefully. A moment later a pair of jaws broke the water and snapped impotently at the spot where it had been swimming.
   The frog looked up at Rincewind from the cradle of his hands, and then bit him thoughtfully on the thumb. Twoflower giggled. Rincewind tucked the frog away in a pocket, and pretended he hadn’t heard.
   “All very humanitarian, but why?” said Twoflower. “It’ll all be the same in an hour.”
   “Because,” said Rincewind vaguely, and did a bit of bailing. Spray was being thrown up now and the current was so strong that waves were forming and breaking all around them. It all seemed unnaturally warm. There was a hot golden haze on the sea.
   The roaring was louder now. A squid bigger than anything Rincewind had seen before broke the surface a few hundred yards away and thrashed madly with its tentacles before sinking away. Something else that was large and fortunately unidentifiable howled in the mist. A whole squadron of flying fish tumbled up in a cloud of rainbow-edged droplets and managed to gain a few yards before dropping back and being swept in an eddy.
   They were running out of world. Rincewind dropped his bucket and snatched at the mast as the roaring, final end of everything raced towards them.
   “I must see this” said Twoflower, half falling and half diving towards the prow.
   Something hard and unyielding smacked into the hull, which spun ninety degrees and came side on to the invisible obstacle. Then it stopped suddenly and a wash of cold sea foam cascaded over the deck, so that for a few seconds Rincewind was under several feet of boiling green water. He began to scream and then the underwater world became the deep clanging purple colour of fading consciousness, because it was at about this point that Rincewind started to drown.
   He awoke with his mouth full of burning liquid and, when he swallowed, the searing pain in his throat jerked him into full consciousness. The boards of a boat pressed into his back and Twoflower was looking down at him with an expression of deep concern. Rincewind groaned and sat up.
   This turned out to be a mistake. The edge of the world was a few feet away.
   Beyond it, at a level just below that of the lip of the endless Rimfall, was something altogether magical.
   Some seventy miles away, and well beyond the tug of the rim current, a scow with the red sails typical of a freelance slaver drifted aimlessly through the velvety twilight. The crew—such as remained were clustered on the foredeck, surrounding the men working feverishly on the raft.
   The captain, a thickset man who wore the elbowturbans typical of a Great Nef tribesman, was much travelled and had seen many strange peoples and curious things, many of which he had subsequently enslaved or stolen. He had begun his career as a sailor on the Dehydrated Ocean in the heart of the disc’s driest desert. [8]. The captain had never before been really frightened. Now he was terrified.
   “I can’t hear anything,” he muttered to the first mate. The mate peered into the gloom.
   “Perhaps it fell overboard?” he suggested hopefully. As if in answer there came a furious pounding from the oar deck below their feet, and the sound of splintering wood. The crewmen drew together fearfully, brandishing axes and torches.
   They probably wouldn’t dare to use them, even if the Monster came rushing towards them. Before its terrible nature had been truly understood several men had attacked it with axes, whereupon it had turned aside from its single-minded searching of the ship and had either chased them overboard or had—eaten them? The captain was not quite certain. The Thing looked like an ordinary wooden sea chest. A bit larger than usual, maybe, but not suspiciously so. But while it sometimes seemed to contain things like old socks and miscellaneous luggage, at other times—and he shuddered—it seemed to be, seemed to have… He tried not to think about it. It was just that the men who had been drowned overboard had probably been more fortunate than those it had caught. He tried not to think about it. There had been teeth, teeth like white wooden gravestones, and a tongue red as mahogany…
   He tried not to think about it. It didn’t work. But he thought bitterly about one thing. This was going to be the last time he rescued ungrateful drowning men in mysterious circumstances. Slavery was better than sharks, wasn’t it? And then they had escaped and when his sailors had investigated their big chest—how had they appeared in the middle of an untroubled ocean sitting on a big chest, anyway?—and it had bitt… He tried not to think about it again, but he found himself wondering what would happen when the damned thing realized that its owner wasn’t on board any longer…
   “Raft’s ready, lord,” said the first mate.
   “Into the water with it,” shouted the captain, and “Get aboard!” and “Fire the ship!”
   After all, another ship wouldn’t be too hard to come by, he philosophised, but a man might have to wait a long time in that Paradise the mullahs advertised before he was granted another life. Let the magical box eat lobsters.
   Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.
   “What the hell is that?” demanded Rincewind.
   “It’s beautiful,” said Twoflower beatifically.
   “I’ll decide about that when I know what it is, said the wizard.
   “It is the Rimbow,” said a voice immediately behind his left ear, “And you are fortunate indeed to be looking at it. From above, at any rate.” and the voice was accompanied by a gust of cold and fishy breath, Rincewind sat quite still.
   “Twoflower?” he said.
   “If I turn around, what will I see?”
   “His name is Tethis. He says he’s a sea troll. This is his boat. He rescued us,” explained Twoflower
   “Will you look around now?”
   “Not just at the moment, thank you. So why aren’t we going over the Edge, then?” asked Rincewind with glassy calmness.
   “Because your boat hit the Circumfence,” said the voice behind him (in tones that made Rincewind imagine submarine chasms and lurking Things in coral reefs).
   “The Circumfence?” he repeated.
   “Yes. It runs along the edge of the world,” said the unseen troll. Above the roar of the waterfall Rincewind thought he could make out the splash of oars. He hoped they were oars.
   “Ah. You mean the circumference,” said Rincewind. “The circumference makes the edge of things.”
   “So does the Circumfence,” said the troll.
   “He means this,” said Twoflower, pointing down Rincewind’s eyes followed the finger, dreading what they might see…
   Hubwards of the boat was a rope suspended a few feet above the surface of the white water. The boat was attached to it, moored yet mobile, by a complicated arrangement of pulleys and little wooden wheels. They ran along the rope as the unseen rower propelled the craft along the very lip of the Rimfall. That explained one mystery—but what supported the rope?
   Rincewind peered along its length and saw a stout wooden post sticking up out of the water a few yards ahead. As he watched the boat neared it and then passed it, the little wheels clacking neatly around it in a groove obviously cut for the purpose. Rincewind also noticed that smaller ropes hung down from the main rope at intervals of a yard or so.
   He turned back to Twoflower.
   “I can see what it is,” he said, “But what is it?”
   Twoflower shrugged. Behind Rincewind the sea troll said, “Up ahead is my house. We will talk more when we are there. Now I must row.”
   Rincewind found that looking ahead meant that he would have to turn and find out what a sea troll actually looked like, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to do that yet. He looked at the Rimbow instead. It hung in the mists a few lengths beyond the edge of the world, appearing only at morning and evening when the light of the Disc’s little orbiting sun shone past the massive bulk of Great A’tuin the World Turtle and struck the Disc’s magical field at exactly the right angle.
   A double rainbow corruscated into being. Close into the lip of the Rimfall were the seven lesser colours, sparkling and dancing in the spray of the dying seas.
   But they were pale in comparison to the wider band that floated beyond them, not deigning to share the same spectrum. It was the King Colour, of which all the lesser colours are merely partial and wishy-washy reflections. It was octarine, the colour of magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself. But Rincewind always thought it looked a sort of greenish-purple.
   After a while a small speck on the rim of the world resolved itself into a eyot or crag, so perilously perched that the waters of the fall swirled around it at the start of their long drop. A driftwood shanty had been built on it, and Rincewind saw that the top rope of the Circumfence climbed over the rocky island on a number of iron stakes and actually passed through the shack by a small round window. He learned later that this was so that the troll could be alerted to the arrival of any salvage on his stretch of the Circumfence by means of a series of small bronze bells, balanced delicately on on the rope.
   A floating stockade had been built out of rough timber on the hubward side of the island. It contained one or two hulks and quite a large amount of floating wood in the form of planks, baulks and even whole natural tree trunks, some still sporting green leaves. This close to the Edge the disc’s magical field was so intense that a hazy corona flickered across everything as raw illusion spontaneously discharged itself.
   With a last few squeaky jerks the boat slid up against a small driftwood jetty. As it grounded itself and formed a circuit Rincewind felt all the familiar sensations of a huge occult aura—oily, bluish-tasting, and smelling of tin. All around them pure, unfocused magic was sleeting soundlessly into the world.
   The wizard and Twoflower scrambled onto the planking and for the first time Rincewind saw the troll.
   It wasn’t half so dreadful as he had imagined. Umm, said his imagination after a while.
   It wasn’t that the troll was horrifying. Instead of the rotting, betentacled monstrosity he had been expecting Rincewind found himself looking at a rather squat but not particularly ugly old man who would quite easily have passed for normal on any city street, always provided that other people on the street were used to seeing old men who were apparently composed of water and very little else. It was as if the ocean had decided to create life without going through all that tedious business of evolution, and had simply formed a part of itself into a biped and sent it walking squishily up the beach. The troll was a pleasant translucent blue colour. As Rincewind stared a small shoal of silver fish flashed across its chest.
   “It’s rude to stare,” said the troll. Its mouth opened with a little crest of foam, and shut again in exactly the same way that water closes over a stone.”
   “Is it? Why?” asked Rincewind. How does he hold himself together, his mind screamed at him. Why doesn’t he spill?
   “If you will follow me to my house I will find you food and a change of clothing,” said the troll solemnly. He set off over the rocks without turning to see if they would follow him. After all, where else could they go? It was getting dark, and a chilly damp breeze was blowing over the edge of the world. Already the transient Rimbow had faded and the mists above the waterfall were beginning to thin.
   “Come on,” said Rincewind, grabbing Twoflower’s elbow. But the tourist didn’t appear to want to move.
   “Come on,” the wizard repeated.
   “When it gets really dark, do you think we’ll be able to look down and see Great A’tuin the World Turtle?” asked Twoflower, staring at the rolling clouds.
   “I hope not,” said Rincewind, “I really do. Now let’s go, shall we?”
   Twoflower followed him reluctantly into the shack. The troll had lit a couple of lamps and was sitting comfortably in a rocking chair. He got to his feet as they entered and poured two cups of a green liquid from a tall pitcher. In the dim light he appeared to phosphoresce, in the manner of warm seas on velvety summer nights. Just to add a baroque gloss to Rincewind’s dull terror he seemed to be several inches taller, too.
   Most of the furniture in the room appeared to be boxes.
   “Uh. Really great place you’ve got here,” said Rincewind. “Ethnic.”
   He reached for a cup and looked at the green pool shimmering inside it. It’d better be drinkable, he thought. Because I’m going to drink it. He swallowed.
   It was the same stuff Twoflower had given him in the rowing boat but, at the time, his mind had ignored it because there were more pressing matters. Now it had the leisure to savour the taste.
   Rincewind’s mouth twisted. He whimpered a little. One of his legs came up convulsively and caught him painfully in the chest.
   Twoflower swirled his own drink thoughtfully while he considered the flavour.
   “Ghlen Livid,” he said. “The fermented vul nut drink they freeze-distil in my home country. A certain smokey quality… Piquant. From the western plantations in, ah, Rehigreed Province, yes? Next year’s harvest, I fancy, from the colour. May I ask how you came by it?”
   “All things drift into the Circumfence in time,” said the troll, gnomically, gently rocking in his chair. “My job is to recover the flotsam. Timber, of course, and ships. Barrels of wine. Bales of cloth. You.”
   Light dawned inside Rincewind’s head.
   “It’s a net, isn’t it? You’ve got a net right on the edge of the Sea!”
   “The Circumfence,” nodded the troll. Ripples radiating across his chest.
   Rincewind looked out into the phosphorescent darkness that surrounded the island, and grinned inanely.
   “Of course,” he said. “Amazing! You could sink piles and attach it to reefs and—good grief! The net would have to be very strong.”
   “It is,” said Tethis.
   “It could be extended for a couple of miles, if you found enough rocks and things,” said the wizard.
   “Ten thousands of miles. I just patrol this length.”
   “That’s a third of the way around the disc!”
   Tethis sloshed a little as he nodded again. While the two men helped themselves to some more of the green wine, he told them about the Circumfence, the great effort that had been made to build it, and the ancient and wise Kingdom of Krull which had constructed it several centuries before, and the seven navies that patrolled it constantly to keep it in repair and bring its salvage back to Krull, and the manner in which Krull had become a land of leisure ruled by the most learned seekers after knowledge, and the way in which they sought constantly to understand in every possible particular the wondrous complexity of the universe, and the way in which sailors marooned on the Circumfence were turned into slaves, and usually had their tongues cut out. After some interjections at this point he spoke, in a friendly way, on the futility of force, the impossibility of escaping from the island except by boat to one of the other three hundred and eighty isles that lay between the island and Krull itself, or by leaping over the Edge and the high merit of muteness in comparison to for example, death.
   There was a pause. The muted night-roar of the Rimfall only served to give the silence a heavier texture.
   The rocking chair started to creak again. Tethis seemed to have grown alarmingly during the monologue.
   “There is nothing personal in all this,” he added. “I, too, am a slave. If you try to overpower me I shall have to kill you, of course, but I won’t take any particular pleasure in it.”
   Rincewind looked at the shimmering fists that rested lightly in the troll’s lap. He suspected they could strike with all the force of a tsunami.
   “I don’t think you understand,” explained Twoflower. “I am a citizen of the Golden Empire. I’m sure Krull would not wish to incur the displeasure of the Emperor.”
   “How will the emperor know?” asked the troll.
   “Do you think you’re the first person from the Empire who has ended up on the Circumfence?”
   “I won’t be a slave,” shouted Rincewind. “I’d– I’d jump over the Edge first!” He was amazed at the sound in his own voice.
   “Would you, though?” asked the troll. The rocking chair flicked back against the wall and one blue arm caught the wizard around the waist. A moment later the troll was striding out of the shack with Rincewind gripped carelessly in one fist.
   He did not stop until he came to the Rimward edge of the island. Rincewind squealed.
   “Stop that or I really will throw you over the edge,” snapped the troll. “I’m holding you, aren’t I? Look.”
   Rincewind looked.
   In front of him was a soft black night whose mist-muted stars glowed peacefully. But his eyes turned downwards, drawn by some irresistible fascination.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
It was midnight on the Disc and so, therefore, the sun was far, far below, swinging slowly under Great A’Tuin’s vast and frosty plastron. Rincewind tried a last attempt to fix his gaze on the tips of his boots, which were protruding over the rim of the rock, but the sheer drop wrenched it away.
   On either side of him two glittering curtains of water hurtled towards infinity as the sea swept around the island on its way to the long fall. A hundred yards below the wizard the largest sea salmon he had ever seen flicked itself out of the foam in a wild, jerky and ultimately hopeless leap. Then it fell back, over and over, in the golden underworld light.
   Huge shadows grew out of that light like pillars supporting the roof of the universe. Hundreds of miles below him the wizard made out the shape of something, the edge of something-
   Like those curious little pictures where the silhouette of an ornate glass suddenly becomes the outline of two faces, the scene beneath him flipped into a whole, new, terrifying perspective. Because down there was the head of an elephant as big as a reasonably-sized continent. One mighty tusk cut like a mountain against the golden light, trailing a widening shadow towards the stars. The head was slightly tilted, and a huge ruby eye might almost have been a red super-giant that had managed to shine at noonday.
   Below the elephant-Rincewind swallowed and tried not to think-Below the elephant there was nothing but the distant, painful disc of the sun. And, sweeping slowly past it, was something that for all its city-sized scales, its crater-pocks, its lunar cragginess, was indubitably a flipper.
   “Shall I let go?” suggested the troll
   “Gnah,” said Rincewind, straining backwards.
   “I have lived here on the Edge for five years and I have not had the courage,” boomed Tethis. “Nor have you, if I’m any judge.” He stepped back, allowing Rincewind to fling himself onto the ground.
   Twoflower strolled up to the rim and peered over.
   “Fantastic,” he said. “If only I had my picture box.”
   “What else is down there? I mean, if you fell off, what would you see?”
   Tethis sat down on an outcrop. High over the disc the moon came out from behind a cloud, giving him the appearance of ice.
   “My home is down there, perhaps,” he said slowly. “Beyond your silly elephants and that ridiculous turtle. A real world. Sometimes I come out here and look, but somehow I can never bring myself to take that extra step… A real world, with real people. I have wives and little ones, somewhere down there…” He stopped, and blew his nose. “You soon learn what you’re made of, here on the Edge.”
   “Stop saying that. Please,” moaned Rincewind. He turned over and saw Twoflower standing unconcernedly at the very lip of the rock. “Gnah,” he said, and tried to burrow into the stone.
   “There’s another world down there?” said Twoflower, peering over. “Where, exactly?”
   The troll waved an arm vaguely. “Somewhere,” he said. “That’s all I know. It was quite a small world. Mostly blue.”
   “So why are you here?” said Twoflower.
   “Isn’t it obvious?” snapped the troll. “I fell off the edge!”
   He told them of the world of Bathys, somewhere among the Stars, where the seafolk had built a number of thriving civilisations in the three large oceans that sprawled across its disc. He had been a meatman, one of the caste which earned a perilous living in large, sail-powered land yachts that ventured far out to land and hunted the shoals of deer and buffalo that abounded in the stormhaunted continents. His particular yacht had been blown into uncharted lands by a freak gale. The rest of the crew had taken the yacht’s little rowing trolley and had struck out for a distant lake, but Tethis, as master, had elected to remain with his Vessel. The storm had carried it right over the rocky rim of the world, smashing it to matchwood in the process.
   “At first I fell,” said Tethis, “but falling isn’t so bad, you know. It’s only the landing that hurts, and there was nothing below me. As I fell I saw the world spin off into space until it was lost against the stars.”
   “What happened next?” said Twoflower breathlessly, glancing towards the misty universe.
   “I froze solid,” said Tethis simply. “Fortunately it is something my race can survive. But I thawed out occasionally when I passed near other worlds. There was one, I think it was the one with what, I thought was this strange ring of mountains around it that turned out to be the biggest dragon you could ever imagine, covered in snow and glaciers and holding its tail in its mouth—well, I came within a few leagues of that, I shot over the landscape like a comet, in fact, and then I was off again. Then there was a time I woke up and there was your world coming at me like a custard pie thrown by the Creator and, well, I landed in the sea not far from the Circumfence widdershins of Krull. All sorts of creatures get washed up against the Fence, and at the time they were looking for slaves to man the way stations, and I ended up here.” He stopped and stared intently at Rincewind. “every night I come out here and look down.” he finished “and I never jump. Courage is hard to come by, here on the Edge.”
   Rincewind began to crawl determinedly towards the shack. He gave a little scream as the troll picked him up, not unkindly, and set him on his feet.
   “Amazing,” said Twoflower, and leaned further out over the Edge. “There are lots of other worlds out there?”
   “Quite a number, I imagine,” said the troll.
   “I suppose one could contrive some sort of, I don’t know, some sort of a thing that could preserve one against the cold,” said the little man thoughtfully. “Some sort of a ship that one could sail over the Edge and sail to far-off worlds, too. I wonder…”
   “Don’t even think about it!” moaned Rincewind.
   “Stop talking like that, do you hear?”
   “They all talk like that in Krull,” said Tethis. “Those with tongues, of course,” he added.
   “Are you awake?”
   Twoflower snored on. Rincewind jabbed him viciously in the ribs.
   “I said, are you awake?” he snarled.
   “We’ve got to get out of here before this salvage fleet comes!”

   The dishwater light of dawn oozed through the shack’s one window, slopping across the piles of salvaged boxes and bundles that were strewn around the interior. Twoflower grunted again and tried to burrow into the pile of furs and blankets that Tethis had given them.
   “Look, there’s all kinds of weapons and stuff in here,” said Rincewind. “He’s gone out somewhere. When he comes back we could overpower him and—and—well, then we can think of something. How about it?”
   “That doesn’t sound like a very good idea,” said Twoflower. “Anyhow, it’s a bit ungracious isn’t it?”
   “Tough buns,” snapped Rincewind. “This is a rough universe.”
   He rummaged through the piles around the walls and selected a heavy, wavy-bladed scimitar that had probably been some pirate’s pride and joy. It looked the sort of weapon that relied as much on its weight as its edge to cause damage. He raised it awkwardly.
   “Would he leave that sort of thing around if it could hurt him?” Twoflower wondered aloud.
   Rincewind ignored him and took up a position beside the door. When it opened some ten minutes later he moved unhesitatingly, swinging it across the opening at what he judged was the troll’s head height. It swished harmlessly through nothing at all and struck the doorpost, jerking him off his feet and on to the floor.
   There was a sigh above him. He looked up into Tethis’ face, which was shaking sadly from side to side.
   “It wouldn’t have harmed me,” said the troll, “but nevertheless, I am hurt. Deeply hurt.” He reached over the wizard and jerked the sword out of the wood. With no apparent effort he bent its blade into a circle and sent it bowling away over the rocks until it hit a stone and sprang, still spinning, in a silver arc that ended in the mists forming over the Rimfall.
   “Very deeply hurt,” he concluded. He reached down beside the door and tossed a sack towards Twoflower.
   “It’s the carcass of a deer that is just about how you humans like it, and a few lobsters, and a sea salmon. The Circumfence provides,” he said casually.
   He looked hard at the tourist, and then down again at Rincewind.
   “What are you staring at?” he said.
   “It’s just that—” said Twoflower.
   “—compared to last night—” said Rincewind.
   “You’re so small,” finished Twoflower.
   “I see, said the troll carefully.”Personal remarks now.” He drew himself up to his full height, which was currently about four feet. “Just because I’m made of water doesn’t mean I’m made of wood, you know.”
   “I’m sorry,” said Twoflower, climbing hastily out of the furs.
   “You’re made of dirt,” said the troll,”but I didn’t pass comments about things you can’t help, did I? Oh, no. We can’t help the way the Creator made us, that’s my view, but if you must know, your moon here is rather more powerful than the ones around my own world.”
   “The moon?” said Twoflower.”I don’t under—”
   “If I’ve got to spell it out,” said the troll. testily, “I’m suffering from chronic tides.”
   A bell jangled in the darkness of the shack. Tethis strode across the creaking floor to the complicated devices of levers, strings and bells that was mounted on the Circumfence’s topmost strand where it passed through the hut.
   The bell rang again, and then started to clang away in an odd jerky rhythm for several minutes. The troll stood with his ear pressed close to it.
   When it stopped he turned slowly and looked at them with a worried frown.
   “You’re more important than I thought,” he said.
   “You’re not to wait for the salvage fleet. You’re to be collected by a flyer. That’s what they say in Krull.” He shrugged. “And I hadn’t even sent a message that you’re here, yet. Someone’s been drinking vul nut wine again.”
   He picked up a large mallet that hung on a pillar beside the bell and used it to tap out a brief carillon.
   “That’ll be passed from lengthman to lengthman all the way back to Krull,” he said. “Marvellous really, isn’t it?”

   It came speeding across the sea, floating a man-length above it, but still leaving a foaming wake as whatever power that held it up smacked brutally into the water. Rincewind knew what power held it up. He was, he would be the first to admit, a coward, an incompetent, and not even very good at being a failure; but he was still a wizard of sorts, he knew one of the Eight Great Spells, he would be claimed by Death himself when he died and he recognized really finely honed magic when he saw it.
   The lens skimming towards the island was perhaps twenty feet across, and totally transparent. Sitting around its circumference were a large number of black-robed men, each one strapped securely to the disc by a leather harness and each one staring down at the waves with an expression so tormented, so agonising, that the transparent disc seemed to be ringed with gargoyles.
   Rincewind sighed with relief. This was such an unusual sound that it made Twoflower take his eyes off the approaching disc and turn them on him.
   “We’re important, no lie,” explained Rincewind.
   “They wouldn’t be wasting all that magic on a couple of potential slaves.” He grinned.
   “What is it?” said Twoflower.
   “Well, the disc itself would have been created by Fresnel’s Wonderful Concentrator,” said Rincewind, authoritatively. “That calls for many rare and unstable ingredients, such as demon’s breath and so forth, and it takes at least eight fourthgrade wizards a week to envision. Then there’s those wizards on it, who must all be gifted hydrophobes—”
   “You mean they hate water?” said Twoflower.
   “No, that wouldn’t work,” said Rincewind.”Hate is an attracting force, just like love. They really loathe it, the very idea of it revolts them. A really good hydrophobe has to be trained on dehydrated water from birth. I mean, that costs a fortune in magic alone. But they make great weather magicians. Rain clouds just give up and go away.”
   “It sounds terrible,” said the water troll behind them.
   “And they all die young,” said Rincewind, ignoring him. “They just can’t live with themselves.”
   “Sometimes I think a man could wander across the disc all his life and not see everything there is to see,” said Twoflower. “And now it seems there are lots of other worlds as well. When I think I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel,” he paused, then added, “well, humble, I suppose. And very angry, of course.”
   The flyer halted a few yards hubward of the island, throwing up a sheet of spray. It hung there, spinning slowly. A hooded figure standing by the stubby pillar at the exact centre of the lens beckoned to them.
   “You’d better wade out,” said the troll. “It doesn’t do to keep them waiting. It has been nice to make your acquaintance.” He shook them both, wetly, by the hand. As he waded out a little way with them the two nearest loathers on the lens shied away with expressions of extreme disgust.
   The hooded figure reached down with one hand and released a rope ladder. In its other hand it held a silver rod, which had about it the unmistakable air of something designed for killing people. Rincewind’s first impression was reinforced when the figure raised the stick and waved it carelessly towards the shore. A section of rock vanished, leaving a small grey haze of nothingness.
   “That’s so you don’t think I’m afraid to use it,” said the figure.
   “Don’t think you’re afraid?” said Rincewind. The hooded figure snorted.
   “We know all about you, Rincewind the magician. You are a man of great cunning and artifice. You laugh in the face of Death. Your affected air of craven cowardice does not fool me.”
   It fooled Rincewind. “I—” he began, and paled as the nothingness-stick was turned towards him. “I see you know all about me,” he finished weakly, and sat down heavily on the slippery surface. He and Twoflower, under instructions from the hooded commander, strapped themselves down to rings set in the transparent disc.
   “If you make the merest suggestion of weaving a spell,” said the darkness under the hood, “you die. Third quadrant reconcile, ninth quadrant redouble, forward all!”
   A wall of water shot into the air behind Rincewind and the disc jerked suddenly. The dreadful presence of the sea troll had probably concentrated the hydrophobes’ minds wonderfully, because it then rose at a very steep angle and didn’t begin level flight until it was a dozen fathoms above the waves. Rincewind glanced down through the transparent surface and wished he hadn’t.
   “Well, off again then,” said Twoflower cheerfully. He turned and waved at the troll, now no more than a speck on the edge of the world.
   Rincewind glared at him. “Doesn’t anything ever worry you?” he asked.
   “We’re still alive, aren’t we?” asked Twoflower. “And you yourself said they wouldn’t be going to all this trouble if we were just going to be slaves. I expect Tethis was exaggerating. I expect it’s all a misunderstanding. I expect we’ll be sent home. After we’ve seen Krull, of course. And I must say it all sounds fascinating.”
   “Oh yes,” said Rincewind, in a hollow voice. “Fascinating.” He was thinking: I’ve seen excitement, and I’ve seen boredom. And boredom was best.

   Had either of them happened to look down at that moment they would have noticed a strange v-shaped wave surging through the water far below them, its apex pointing directly at Tethis’ island. But they weren’t looking. The twenty-four hydrophobic magicians were looking, but to them it was just another piece of dreadfulness, not really any different from the liquid horror around it. They were probably right.
   Sometime before all this the blazing pirate ship had hissed under the waves and started the long slow slide towards the distant ooze. It was more distant than average, because directly under the stricken keel was the Gorunna Trench—a chasm in the Disc’s surface that was so black, so deep and so reputedly evil that even the krakens went there fearfully, and in pairs. In less reputedly evil chasms the fish went about with natural lights on their heads and on the whole managed quite well. In Gorunna they left them unlit and, insofar as it is possible for something without legs to creep, they crept; they tended to bump into things, too. Horrible things.
   The water around the ship turned from green to purple, from purple to black, from black to a darkness so complete that blackness itself seemed merely grey by comparison. Most of its timbers had already been crushed into splinters under the intense pressure.
   It spiralled past groves of nightmare polyps and drifting forests of seaweed which glowed with faint, diseased colours. Things brushed it briefly with soft, cold tentacles as they darted away into the freezing silence.
   Something rose up from the murk and ate it in one mouthful.
   Some time later the islanders on a little rimward atoll were amazed to find, washed into their little local lagoon, the wave-rocked corpse of a hideous sea monster, all beaks, eyes and tentacles. They were further astonished at its size, since it was rather larger than their village. But their surprise was tiny compared to the huge, stricken expression on the face of the dead monster, which appeared to have been trampled to death.
   Somewhat further rimward of the atoll a couple of little boats, trolling a net for the ferocious free-swimming oysters which abounded in those seas, caught something that dragged both vessels for several miles before one captain had the presence of mind to sever the lines.
   But even his bewilderment was as nothing compared to that of the islanders on the last atoll in the archipelago. During the following night they were awakened by a terrific crashing and splintering noise coming from their minute jungle; when some of the bolder spirits went to investigate in the morning they found that the trees had been smashed in a broad swathe that started on the hubmost shore of the atoll and made a line of total destruction pointing precisely Edgewise, littered with broken lianas, crushed bushes and a few bewildered and angry oysters.

   They were high enough now to see the wide curve of the Rim sweeping away from them, lapped by the fluffy clouds that mercifully hid the waterfall for most of the time. From up here the sea, a deep blue dappled with cloud-shadows, looked almost inviting. Rincewind shuddered.
   “Excuse me,” he said. The hooded figure turned from its contemplation of the distant haze and raised its wand threateningly.
   “I don’t want to use this,” it said.
   “You don’t?” said Rincewind.
   “What is it, anyway?” said Twoflower.
   “Ajandurah’s Wand of Utter Negativity,” said Rincewind. “And I wish you’d stop waving it about. It might go off,” he added, nodding at the wand’s glittering point. “I mean, it’s all very flattering, all this magic being used just for our benefit, but there’s no need to go quite that far. And—”
   “Shut up.” The figure reached up and pulled back its hood, revealing itself to be a most unusually tinted young woman. Her skin was black. Not the dark brown of Urabewe, or the polished blue-black of monsoon-haunted Klatch, but the deep black of midnight at the bottom of a cave. Her hair and eyebrows were the colour of moonlight. There was the same pale sheen around her lips. She looked about fifteen, and very frightened.
   Rincewind couldn’t help noticing that the hand holding the wand was shaking, this was because a piece of sudden death, wobbling uncertainly a-mere five feet from your nose, is very hard to miss. It dawned on him—very slowly, because it was a completely new sensation—that someone in the world was frightened of him. The complete reverse was so often the case that he had come to think of it as a kind of natural law.
   “What is your name?” he said, as reassuringly as he could manage. She might be frightened, but she did have the wand. If I had a wand like that, he thought, I wouldn’t be frightened of anything. So what in Creation can she imagine I could do?
   “My name is immaterial,” she said.
   “That’s a pretty name,” said Rincewind. “Where are you taking us, and why? I can’t see any harm in your telling us.”
   “You are being brought to Krull,” said the girl. “And don’t mock me, hublander. Else I’ll use the wand. I must bring you in alive, but no-one said anything about bringing you in whole. My name is Marchesa, and I am a wizard of the fifth level. Do you understand?”
   “Well, since you know all about me then you know that I never even made it to Neophyte,” said Rincewind. “I’m not even a wizard, really.” He caught Twoflower’s astonished expression, and added hastily, “Just a wizard of sorts.”
   “You can’t do magic because one of the Eight Great Spells is indelibly lodged in your mind,” said Marchesa, shifting her balance gracefully as the great lens described a wide arc over the sea. “That’s why you were thrown out of Unseen University. We know.”
   “But you said just now that he was a magician of great cunning and artifice,” protested Twoflower.
   “Yes, because anyone who survives all that he has survived—most of which was brought on himself by his tendency to think of himself as a wizard—well, he must be some kind of a magician,” said Marchesa. “I warn you, Rincewind. If you give me the merest suspicion that you are intoning the Great Spell I really will kill you.” She scowled at him nervously.
   “Seems to me your best course would be to just, you know, drop us off somewhere,” said Rincewind.
   “I mean, thanks for rescuing us and everything, so, if you’d just let us get on with leading our lives I’m sure we’d all—”
   “I hope you’re not proposing to enslave us,” said Twoflower.”
   Marchesa looked genuinely shocked. “Certainly not! Whatever could have given you that idea? Your lives in Krull will be rich, full and comfortable—”
   “Oh, good,” said Rincewind.
   “—just not very long.”

   Krull turned out to be a large island, quite mountainous and heavily wooded, with pleasant white buildings visible here and there among the trees. The land sloped gradually up towards the rim, so that the highest point in Krull in fact slightly overhung the Edge. Here the Krullians had built their major city, also called Krull, and since so much of their building material had been salvaged from the Circumfence the houses of Krull had a decidedly nautical persuasion.
   To put it bluntly, entire ships had been mortic artfully together and converted into buildings. Triremes, chows and caravels protruded at strange angles from the general wooden chaos. Painted figureheads and hublandish dragonprows reminded the citizens of Krull that their good fortune stemmed from the sea; barquentines and carracks lent a distinctive shape to the larger buildings. And so the city rose tier on tier between the blue-green ocean of the Disc and the soft cloud sea of the Edge, the eight colours of the Rimbow reflected in every window and in the many telescope lenses of the city’s multitude of astronomers.
   “It’s absolutely awful,” said Rincewind gloomily.
   The lens was approaching now along the very lip of the rimfall. The island not only got higher as it neared the Edge. It got narrower too, so that the lens was able to remain over water until it was very near the city. The parapet along the edgewise cliff was dotted with gantries projecting into nothingness. The lens glided smoothly towards one of them and docked with it as smoothly as a boat might glide up to a quay. Four guards, with the same moonlight hair and nightblack faces as Marchesa, were waiting. They did not appear to be armed, but as Twoflower and Rincewind stumbled on to the parapet they were each grabbed by the arms and held quite firmly enough for any thought of escape to be instantly dismissed.
   Then Marchesa and the watching hydrophobic wizards were quickly left behind and the guards and their prisoners set off briskly along a lane that wound between the ship-houses. Soon it lead downwards, into what turned out to be a palace of some sort, half-hewn out of the rock of the cliff itself. Rincewind was vaguely aware of brightly-lit tunnels, and courtyards open to the distant sky. A few elderly men, their robes covered in mysterious occult symbols, stood aside and watched with interest as the sextet passed. Several times Rincewind noticed hydrophobes—their ingrained expressions of self-revulsion at their own body-fluids was distinctive—and here and there trudging men who could only be slaves. He didn’t have much time to reflect on all this before a door was opened ahead of them and they were pushed, gently but firmly, into a room. Then the door slammed behind them.
   Rincewind and Twoflower regained their balance and stared around the room in which they now found themselves.
   “Gosh,” said Twoflower ineffectually, after a pause during which he had tried unsuccessfully to find a better word.
   “This is a prison cell?” wondered Rincewind aloud.
   “All that gold and silk and stuff,” Twoflower added. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
   In the centre of the richly decorated room, on a carpet that was so deep and furry that Rincewind trod on it gingerly lest it be some kind of shaggy, floor-loving beast, was a long gleaming table laden with food. Most were fish dishes, including the biggest and most ornately-prepared lobster Rincewind had ever seen, but there were also plenty of bowls and platters piled with strange creations that he had never seen before. He reached out cautiously and picked up some sort of purple fruit crusted with green crystals.
   “Candied sea urchin,” said a cracked, cheerful voice behind him. “A great delicacy.”
   He dropped it quickly and turned around. An old man had stepped out from behind the heavy curtains. He was tall, thin and looked almost benign compared to some of the faces Rincewind had seen recently.
   “The puree of sea cucumbers is very good too,” said the face, conversationally. “Those little green bits are baby starfish.”
   “Thank you for telling me,” said Rincewind weakly.
   “Actually, they’re rather good,” said Twoflower, his mouth full. “I thought you liked seafood?”
   “Yes, I thought I did,” said Rincewind. “What’s this wine—crushed octopus eyeballs?”
   “Sea grape,” said the old man.
   “Great,” said Rincewind, and swallowed a glassful. “Not bad. A bit salty, maybe.”
   “Sea grape is a kind of small jellyfish,” explained the stranger. “And now I really think I should introduce myself. Why has your friend gone that strange colour?”
   “Culture shock, I imagine,” said Twoflower. “What did you say your name was?”
   “I didn’t. It’s Garhartra. I’m the Guestmaster, you see. It is my pleasant task to make sure that your stay here is as delightful as possible.” He bowed. “If there is anything you want you have only to say.”
   Twoflower sat down on an ornate mother-of-pearl chair with a glass of oily wine in one hand and a crystallised squid in the other. He frowned.
   “I think I’ve missed something along the way,” he said. “First we were told we were going to be slaves—”
   “A base canard!” interrupted Garhartra.
   “What’s a canard?” said Twoflower.
   “I think it’s a kind of duck,” said Rincewind from the far end of the long table. “Are these biscuits made of something really nauseating, do you suppose?”
   “—and then we were rescued at great magical expense—”
   “They’re made of pressed seaweed,” snapped the Guestmaster.
   “—but then we’re threatened, also at a vast expenditure of magic—”
   “Yes, I thought it would be something like seaweed,” agreed Rincewind. “They certainly taste like seaweed would taste if anyone was masochistic enough to eat seaweed.”
   “—and then we’re manhandled by guards and thrown in here—”
   “Pushed gently,” corrected Garhartra.
   “—which turned out to be this amazingly rich room and there’s all this food and a man saying he’s devoting his life to making us happy,” Twoflower concluded. “What I’m getting at is this sort of lack of consistency.”
   “Yar,” said Rincewind. “What he means is, are you about to start being generally unpleasant again? Is this just a break for lunch?”
   Garhartra held up his hands reassuringly.
   “Please, please,” he protested. “It was just necessary to get you here as soon as possible. We certainly do not want to enslave you. Please be reassured on that score.”
   “Well, fine,” said Rincewind.
   “Yes, you will in fact be sacrificed,” Garhartra continued placidly.
   “Sacrificed? You’re going to kill us?” shouted the wizard.
   “Kill? Yes, of course. Certainly! It would hardly be a sacrifice if we didn’t, would it? But don’t worry—it’ll be comparatively painless.”
   “Comparatively? Compared to what?” said Rincewind. He picked up a tall green bottle that was full of sea grape jellyfish wine and hurled it hard at the Guestmaster, who flung up a hand as if to protect himself.
   There was a crackle of octarine flame from his fingers and the air suddenly took on the thick, greasy feel that indicated a powerful magical discharge. The flung bottle slowed and then stopped in mid-air, rotating gently.
   At the same time an invisible force picked Rincewind up and hurled him down the length of the room, pinning him awkwardly halfway up the far wall with no breath left in his body. He hung there with his mouth open in rage and astonishment.
   Garhartra lowered his hand and brushed it slowly on his robe.
   “I didn’t enjoy doing that, you know,” he said.
   “I could tell,” muttered Rincewind.
   “But what do you want to sacrifice us for?” asked Twoflower. “You hardly know us!”
   “That’s rather the point, isn’t it? It’s not very good manners to sacrifice a friend. Besides, you were, um, specified. I don’t know a lot about the god in question, but He was quite clear on that point. Look, I must be running along now. So much to organise, you know how it is,” the Guestmaster opened the door, and then peered back around it. “Please make yourselves comfortable, and don’t worry.”
   “But you haven’t actually told us anything!” wailed Twoflower.
   “It’s not really worth it, is it? What with you being sacrificed in the morning,” said Garhartra. “It’s hardly worth the bother of knowing, really. Sleep well. Comparatively well, anyway.”
   He shut the door. A brief octarine flicker of balefire around it suggested that it had now been sealed beyond the skills of any earthly locksmith.

   Gling, clang, tang went the bells along the Circumfence in the moonlit, rimfall-roaring night.
   Terton, lengthman of the 45th Length, hadn’t heard such a clashing since the night a giant kraken had been swept into the Fence five years ago. He leaned out of his hut, which for the lack of any convenient eyot on this Length had been built on wooden piles driven into the sea bed, and stared into the darkness. Once or twice he thought he could see movement, far off. Strictly speaking, he should row out to see what was causing the din. But here in the clammy darkness it didn’t seem like an astoundingly good idea, so he slammed the door, wrapped some sacking around the madly jangling bells, and tried to get back to sleep.
   That didn’t work, because even the top strand of the Fence was thrumming now, as if something big and heavy was bouncing on it. After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, and trying hard not to think of great long tentacles and pond-sized eyes, Terton blew out the lantern and opened the door a crack.
   Something was coming along the Fence, in giant loping bounds that covered metres at a time. It loomed up at him and for a moment Terton saw something rectangular, multi-legged, shaggy with seaweed and—although it had absolutely no features from which he could have deduced this—it was also very angry indeed.
   The hut was smashed to fragments as the monster charged through it, although Terton survived by clinging to the Circumfence; some weeks later he was picked up by a returning salvage fleet, subsequently escaped from Krull on a hijacked lens (having developed hydrophobia to an astonishing degree) and after a number of adventures eventually found his way to the Great Nef, an area of the Disc so dry that it actually has negative rainfall, which he nevertheless considered uncomfortably damp.
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Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
“Have you tried the door?”
   “Yes,” said Twoflower. “And it isn’t any less locked than it was last time you asked. There’s the window, though.”
   “A great way of escape,” muttered Rincewind, from his perch halfway up the wall. “You said it looks out over the Edge. Just step out, eh, and plunge through space and maybe freeze solid or hit some other world at incredible speeds or plunge wildly into the burning heart of a sun?”
   “Worth a try,” said Twoflower. “Want a seaweed biscuit?”
   “When are you coming down?”
   Rincewind snarled. This was partly in embarrassment. Garhartra’s spell had been the little-used and hard-to-master Atavarr’s Personal Gravitational Upset, the practical result of which was that until it wore off Rincewind’s body was convinced that “down” lay at ninety degrees to that direction normally accepted as of a downward persuasion by the majority of the Disc’s inhabitants. He was in fact standing on the wall.
   Meanwhile the flung bottle hung supportless in the air a few yards away. In its case time had well, not actually been stopped, but had been slowed by several orders of magnitude, and its trajectory had so far occupied several hours and a couple of inches as far as Twoflower and Rincewind were concerned. The glass gleamed in the moonlight. Rincewind sighed and tried to make himself comfortable on the wall.
   “Why don’t you ever worry?” he demanded petulantly. “Here we are, going to be sacrificed to some god or other in the morning, and you just sit there eating barnacle canapes.”
   “I expect something will turn up,” said Twoflower.
   “I mean, it’s not as if we know why we’re going to be killed,” the wizard went on.
   You’d like to, would you?
   “Did you say that?” asked Rincewind.
   “Say what?”
   Twoflower gave him a worried look.
   “I’m Twoflower,” he said. “surely you remember?”
   Rincewind put his head in his hands.
   “It’s happened at last,” he moaned. “I’m going out of my mind.”
   Good idea, said the voice. It’s getting pretty crowded in here.
   The spell pinning Rincewind to the wall vanished with a faint “pop.” He fell forward and landed in a heap on the floor.
   Careful—you nearly squashed me.
   Rincewind struggled to his elbows and reached into the pocket of his robe. When he withdrew his hand the green frog was sitting on it, its eyes oddly luminous in the half-light.
   “Yes?” said Rincewind.
   Put me down on the floor and stand back.
   The frog blinked.
   The wizard did so, and dragged a bewildered Twoflower out of the way.
   The room darkened. There was a windy, roaring sound. Streamers of green, purple and octarine cloud appeared out of nowhere and began to spiral rapidly towards the recumbent amphibian, shedding small bolts of lightning as they whirled. Soon the frog was lost in a golden haze which began to elongate upwards, filling the room with a warm yellow light. Within it was a darker, indistinct shape, which wavered and changed even as they watched. And all the time there was the high, brain-curdling whine of a huge magical field…
   As suddenly as it had appeared, the magical tornado vanished. And there, occupying the space where the frog had been, was a frog.
   “Fantastic,” said Rincewind.
   The frog gazed at him reproachfully.
   “Really amazing,” said Rincewind sourly. “A frog magically transformed into a frog. Wondrous.”
   “Turn around,” said a voice behind them. It was a soft, feminine voice, almost an inviting voice, the sort of voice you could have a few drinks with, but it was coming from a spot where there oughtn’t to be a voice at all. They managed to turn without really moving, like a couple of statues revolving on plinths.
   There was a woman standing in the pre-dawn light. She looked—she was—she had a—in point of actual fact she…
   Later Rincewind and Twoflower couldn’t quite agree on any single fact about her, except that she had appeared to be beautiful (precisely what physical features made her beautiful they could not, definitively, state) and that she had green eyes. Not the pale green of ordinary eyes, either these were the green of fresh emeralds and as iridescent as a dragonfly. And one of the few genuinely magical facts that Rincewind knew was that no god or goddess, contrary and volatile as they might be in all other respects, could change the colour or nature of their eyes…
   “L—”he began. She raised a hand.
   “You know that if you say my name I must depart,” she hissed. “surely you recall that I am the one goddess who comes only when not invoked?”
   “Uh. Yes, I suppose I do,” croaked the wizard, trying not to look at the eyes. “You’re the one they call the Lady?”
   “Are you a goddess then?” said Twoflower excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to meet one.”
   Rincewind tensed, waiting for the explosion of rage. Instead, the Lady merely smiled.
   “Your friend the wizard should introduce us,” she said.
   Rincewind coughed. “Uh, yar,” he said. “This is Twoflower, Lady, he’s a tourist—”
   “—I have attended him on a number of occasions—”
   “And, Twoflower, this is the Lady. Just the Lady, right? Nothing else. Don’t try and give her any other name, okay?” he went on desperately, his eyes darting meaningful glances that were totally lost on the little man.
   Rincewind shivered. He was not, of course, an atheist; on the Disc the gods dealt severely with atheists. On the few occasions when he had some spare change he had always made a point of dropping a few coppers into a temple coffer somewhere, on the principle that a man needed all the friends he could get. But usually he didn’t bother the Gods, and he hoped the Gods wouldn’t bother him. Life was quite complicated enough.
   There were two gods, however, who were really terrifying. The rest of the gods were usually only sort of large-scale humans, fond of wine and war and whoring. But Fate and the Lady were chilling.
   In the Gods’ Quarter, in Ankh-Morpork, Fate had a small, heavy, leaden temple, where hollow-eyed and gaunt worshippers met on dark nights for their predestined-and fairly pointless rites. There were no temples at all to the Lady, although she was arguably the most powerful goddess in the entire history of Creation. A few of the more daring members of the Gamblers’ Guild had once experimented with a form of worship, in the deepest cellars of Guild headquarters, and had all died of penury, murder or just Death within the week. She was the Goddess Who Must Not Be Named; those who sought her never found her, yet she was known to come to the aid of those in greatest need. And, then again, sometimes she didn’t. She was like that. She didn’t like the clicking of rosaries, but was attracted to the sound of dice. No man knew what She looked like, although there were many times when a man who was gambling his life on the turn of the cards would pick up the hand he had been dealt and stare Her full in the face. Of course, sometimes he didn’t. Among all the gods she was at one and the same time the most courted and the most cursed.
   “We don’t have gods where I come from,” said Twoflower.
   “You do, you know,” said the Lady.”Everyone has gods. You just don’t think they’re gods.”
   Rincewind shook himself mentally.
   “Look,” he said. “I don’t want to sound impatient, but in a few minutes some people are going to come through that door and take us away and kill us.”
   “Yes,” said the Lady.
   “I suppose you wouldn’t tell us why?” said Twoflower.
   “Yes,” said the Lady. “The Krullians intend to launch a bronze vessel over the edge of the Disc. Their prime purpose is to learn the sex of A’tuin the World Turtle.”
   “Seems rather pointless,” said Rincewind.
   “No. Consider. One day Great A’tuin may encounter another member of the species chelys galactica, somewhere in the vast night in which we move. Will they fight? Will they mate? A little imagination will show you that the sex of Great A’tuin could be very important to us. At least, so the Krullians say.”
   Rincewind tried not to think of World Turtles mating. It wasn’t completely easy.
   “So,” continued the goddess, “they intend to launch this ship of space, with two voyagers aboard. It will be the culmination of decades of research. It will also be very dangerous for the travellers. And so, in an attempt to reduce the risks, the Arch-astronomer of Krull has bargained with Fate to sacrifice two men at the moment of launch. Fate, in His turn, has agreed to smile on the space ship. A neat barter, is it not?”
   “And we’re the sacrifices,” said Rincewind.
   “I thought Fate didn’t go in for that sort of bargaining. I thought Fate was implacable,” said Rincewind.
   “Normally, yes. But you two have been thorns in his side for some time. He specified that the sacrifices should be you. He allowed you to escape from the pirates. He allowed you to drift into the Circumfence. Fate can be one mean god at times.”
   There was a pause. The frog sighed and wandered off under the table.
   “But you can help us?” prompted Twoflower.
   “You amuse me,” said the Lady. “I have a sentimental streak. You’d know that, if you were gamblers. So for a little while I rode in a frog’s mind and you kindly rescued me, for, as we all know, no-one likes to see pathetic and helpless creatures swept to their death.”
   “Thank you,” said Rincewind.
   “The whole mind of Fate is bent against you,” said the Lady. “But all I can do is give you one chance. Just one, small chance. The rest is up to you.”
   She vanished.
   “Gosh,” said Twoflower, after a while. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a goddess.”
   The door swung open. Garhartra entered, holding a wand in front of him. Behind him were two guards, armed more conventionally with swords.
   “Ah,” he said conversationally. “You are ready, I see.”
   Ready, said a voice inside Rincewind’s head.
   The bottle that the wizard had flung some eight hours earlier had been hanging in the air, imprisoned by magic in its own personal time-field. But during all those hours the original mana of the spell had been slowly leaking away until the total magical energy was no longer sufficient to hold it against the Universe’s own powerful normality field, and when that happened Reality snapped back in a matter of microseconds. The visible sign of this was that the bottle suddenly completed the last part of its parabola and burst against the side of the Guestmaster’s head, showering the guards with glass and jellyfish wine.
   Rincewind grabbed Twoflower’s arm, kicked the nearest guard in the groin, and dragged the startled tourist into the corridor. Before the stunned Garhartra had sunk to the floor his two guests were already pounding across distant flagstones.
   Rincewind skidded around a corner and found himself on a balcony that ran around the four sides of a courtyard. Below them, most of the floor of the yard was taken up by an ornamental pond in which a few terrapins sunbathed among the lily leaves.
   And ahead of Rincewind were a couple of very surprised wizards wearing the distinctive dark blue and black robes of trained hydrophobes. One of them, quicker on the uptake than his companion, raised a hand and began the first words of a spell.
   There was a short sharp noise by Rincewind’s side. Twoflower had spat. The hydrophobe screamed and dropped his hand as though it had been stung.
   The other didn’t have time to move before Rincewind was on him, fists swinging wildly. One stiff punch with the weight of terror behind it sent the man tumbling over the balcony rail and into the pond, which did a very strange thing; the water smacked aside as though a large invisible balloon had been dropped into it, and the hydrophobe hung screaming in his own revulsion field.
   Twoflower watched him in amazement until Rincewind snatched at his shoulder and indicated a likely looking passage. They hurried down it, leaving the remaining hydrophobe writhing on the floor and snatching at his damp hand. For a while there was some shouting behind them, but they scuttled along a cross corridor and another courtyard and soon left the sounds of pursuit behind. Finally Rincewind picked a safe looking door, peered around it, found the room beyond to be unoccupied, dragged Twoflower inside, and slammed it behind him. Then he leaned against it, wheezing horribly.
   “We’re totally lost in a palace on an island we haven’t a hope of leaving,” he panted. “And what’s more we—hey!” he finished, as the sight of the contents of the room filtered up his deranged optic nerves.
   Twoflower was already staring at the walls.
   Because what was so odd about the room was, it contained the whole Universe.

   Death sat in His garden, running a whetstone along the edge of His scythe. It was already so sharp that any passing breeze that blew across it was sliced smoothly into two puzzled zephyrs, although breezes were rare indeed in Death’s silent garden. It lay on a sheltered plateau overlooking the Disc world’s complex dimensions, and behind it loomed the cold, still, immensely high and brooding mountains of Eternity.
   Swish! went the stone. Death hummed a dirge, and tapped one bony foot on the frosty flagstones.
   Someone approached through the dim orchard where the nightapples grew, and there came the sickly sweet smell of crushed lilies. Death looked up angrily, and found Himself staring into eyes that were black as the inside of a cat and full of distant stars that had no counterpart among the familiar constellations of the Realtime universe.
   Death and Fate looked at each other. Death grinned—He had no alternative, of course, being made of implacable bone. The whetstone sang rhythmically along the blade as He continued His task.
   “I have a task for you,” said Fate. His words drifted across death’s scythe and split tidily into two ribbons of consonants and vowels.
   I have tasks enough this day, said Death in a voice as heavy as neutronium, the white plague abides even now in Pseudopolis and I am bound there to rescue many of its citizens from his grasp. Such a one has not been seen these hundred years. I am expected to stalk the streets, as is my duty.
   “I refer to the matter of the little wanderer and the rogue wizard,” said Fate softly, seating himself beside Death’s black-robed form and staring down at the,distant, multifaceted jewel which was the Disc universe as seen from this extra-dimensional vantage point.
   The scythe ceased its song.
   “They die in a few hours,” said Fate. “It is fated.”
   Death stirred, and the stone began to move again.
   “I thought you would be pleased,” said Fate.
   Death shrugged, a particularly expressive gesture for someone whose visible shape was that of a skeleton.
   I did indeed chase them mightily. Once, he said, but at last the thought came to me that sooner or later all men must die.Everything dies in the end. I can be robbed but never denied, I told myself. Why worry?
   “I too cannot be cheated,” snapped Fate.
   So I have heard, said Death, still grinning.
   “Enough!” shouted Fate, jumping to his feet. “They will die!” He vanished in a sheet of blue fire.
   Death nodded to Himself and continued at His work. After some minutes the edge of the blade seemed to be finished to His satisfaction. He stood up and levelled the scythe at the fat and noisome candle that burned on the edge of the bench and then, with two deft sweeps, cut the flame into three bright slivers. Death grinned.
   A short while later he was saddling his white stallion, which lived in a stable at the back of Death’s cottage. The beast snuffled at him in a friendly fashion; though it was crimson-eyed and had flanks like oiled silk, it was nevertheless a real flesh-and-blood horse and, indeed, was in all probability better treated than most beasts of burden on the Disc. Death was not an unkind master. He weighed very little and, although He often rode back with His saddlebags bulging, they weighed nothing whatsoever.

   “All those worlds!” said Twoflower. “It’s fantastic!”
   Rincewind grunted, and continued to prowl warily around the star-filled room. Twoflower turned to a complicated astrolabe, in the centre of which was the entire Great A’Tuin-Elephant-Disc system wrought in brass and picked out with tiny jewels. Around it stars and planets wheeled on fine silver wires.
   “Fantastic!” he said again. On the walls around him constellations made of tiny phosphorescent seed pearls had been picked out on vast tapestries made of jet-black velvet, giving the room’s occupants the impression of floating in the interstellar gulf. Various easels held huge sketches of Great A’Tuin as viewed from various parts of the Circumfence, with every mighty scale and cratered pock-mark meticulously marked in. Twoflower stared about him with a faraway look in his eyes.
   Rincewind was deeply troubled. What troubled him most of all were the two suits that hung from supports in the centre of the room. He circled them uneasily.
   They appeared to be made of fine white leather, hung about with straps and brass nozzles and other highly unfamiliar and suspicious contrivances. The leggings ended in high, thick-soled boots, and the arms were shoved into big supple gauntlets. Strangest of all were the big copper helmets that were obviously supposed to fit on heavy collars around the neck of the suits. The helmets were almost certainly useless for protection a light sword would have no difficulty in splitting them, even if it didn’t hit the ridiculous little glass windows in the front. Each helmet had a crest of white feathers on top, which went absolutely no way at all towards improving their overall appearance.
   Rincewind was beginning to have the glimmerings of a suspicion about those suits.
   In front of them.was a table covered with celestial charts and scraps of parchment covered with figures. Whoever would be wearing those suits, Rincewind decided, was expecting to boldly go where no man—other than the occasional luckless sailor, who didn’t really count—had boldly gone before, and he was now beginning to get not just a suspicion but a horrible premonition.
   He turned round and found Twoflower looking at him with a speculative expression.
   “No—began Rincewind, urgently. Twoflower ignored him.
   “The goddess said two men were going to be sent over the Edge,” he said, his eyes gleaming, “and you remember Tethis the troll saying you’d need some kind of protection? The Krullians have got over that. These are suits of space armour.”
   “They don’t look very roomy to me,” said Rincewind hurriedly, and grabbed the tourist by the arm, “so if you’d just come on, no sense in staying here—”
   “Why must you always panic?” asked Twoflower petulantly.
   “Because the whole of my future life just flashed in front of my eyes, and it didn’t take very long, and if you don’t move now I’m going to leave without you because any second now you’re going to suggest that we put on—”
   The door opened.
   Two husky young men stepped into the room. All they were wearing was a pair of woollen pants apiece. One of them was still towelling himself briskly. They both nodded at the two escapees with no apparent surprise.
   The taller of the two men sat down on one of the benches in front of the seats. He beckoned to Rincewind, and said:
   “?Tyo yur atl ho sooten gatrunen?”
   And this was awkward, because although Rincewind considered himself an expert in most of the tongues of the western segments of the Disc it was the first time that he had ever been addressed in Krullian, and he did not understand one word of it. Neither did Twoflower, but that did not stop him stepping forward and taking a breath.
   The speed of light through a magical aura such as the one that surrounded the Disc was quite slow, being not much faster than the speed of sound in less highly-tuned universes. But it was still the fastest thing around with the exception, in moments like this, of Rincewind’s mind.
   In an instant he became aware that the tourist was about to try his own peculiar brand of linguistics, which meant that he would speak loudly and slowly in his own language.
   Rincewind’s elbow shot back, knocking the breath from Twoflower’s body. When the little man looked up in pain and astonishment Rincewind caught his eye and pulled an imaginary tongue out of his mouth and cut it with an imaginary pair of scissors.
   The second chelonaut—for such was the profession of the men whose fate it would shortly be to voyage to Great A’Tuin—looked up from the chart table and watched this in puzzlement. His big heroic brow wrinkled with the effort of speech.
   “?Hor yu latruin nor u?” he said.
   Rincewind smiled and nodded and pushed Twoflower in his general direction. With an inward sigh of relief he saw the tourist pay sudden attention to a big brass telescope that lay on the table.
   “! Sooten u!” commanded the seated chelonaut. Rincewind nodded and smiled and took one of the big copper helmets from the rack and brought it down on the man’s head as hard as he possibly could. The chelonaut fell forward with a soft grunt.
   The other man took one startled step before Twoflower hit him amateurishly but effectively with the telescope. He crumpled on top of his colleague.
   Rincewind and Twoflower looked at each other over the carnage.
   “All right!” snapped Rincewind, aware that he had lost some kind of contest but not entirely certain what it was. “Don’t bother to say it. Someone out there is expecting these two guys to come out in the suits in a minute. I suppose they thought we were slaves. Help me hide these behind the drapes and then, and then—”
   “—e’d better suit up,” said Twoflower, picking up the second helmet.
   “Yes,” said Rincewind. “You know, as soon as I saw the suits I just knew I’d end up wearing one. Don’t ask me how I knew—I suppose it was because it was just about the worst possible thing that was likely to happen.”
   “Well, you said yourself we have no way of escaping,” said Twoflower, his voice muffled as he pulled the top half of a suit over his head. “Anything’s better than being sacrificed.”
   “As soon as we get a chance we run for it,” said Rincewind. “Don’t get any ideas.”
   He thrust an arm savagely into his suit and banged his head on the helmet. He reflected briefly that someone up there was watching over him.
   “Thanks a lot,” he said bitterly.

   At the very edge of the city and country of Krull was a large semicircular amphitheatre, with seating for several tens of thousands of people. The arena was only semi-circular for the very elegant reason that it overlooked the cloud sea that boiled up from the Rimfall, far below, and now every seat was occupied. And the crowd was growing restive. It had come to see a double sacrifice and also the launching of the great bronze space ship. Neither event had yet materialised.
   The Arch-astronomer beckoned the Master Launchcontroller to him.
   “Well?” he said, filling a mere four letters with a full lexicon of anger and menace. The Master Launchcontroller went pale.
   “No news, lord,” said the Launchcontroller, and added with a brittle brightness, “except that your prominence will be pleased to hear that Garhartra has recovered.”
   “That is a fact he may come to regret,” said the Arch-astronomer.
   “Yes, lord.”
   “How much longer do we have?”
   The Launchcontroller glanced at the rapidly-climbing sun.
   “Thirty minutes, your prominence. After that Krull will have revolved away from Great A’Tuin’s tail and the Potent Voyager will be doomed to spin away into the interterrapene gulf. I have already set the automatic controls, so—”
   “All right, all right,” the Arch-astronomer said, waving him away. “The launch must go ahead. Maintain the watch on the harbour, of course. When the wretched pair are caught I will personally take a great deal of pleasure in executing them myself.”
   “Yes, lord. Er—”
   The Arch-astronomer frowned. “What else have you got to say, man?”
   The Launchcontroller swallowed. All this was very unfair on him, he was a practical magician rather than a diplomat, and that was why some wiser brains had seen to it that he would be the one to pass on the news.
   “A monster has come out of the sea and it’s attacking the ships in the harbour,” he said. “A runner just arrived from there.”
   “A big monster?” said the Arch-astronomer.
   “Not particularly, although it is said to be exceptionally fierce, lord.”
   The ruler of Krull and the Circumfence considered this for a moment, then shrugged.
   “The sea is full of monsters,” he said. It is one of its prime attributes. Have it dealt with. And-Master Launchcontroller?”
   “If I am further vexed, you will recall that two people are due to be sacrificed. I may feel generous and increase the number.”
   “Yes, lord. The Master Launchcontroller scuttled away, relieved to be out of the autocrat’s sight.
   The Potent Voyager, no longer the blank bronze shell that had been smashed from the mould a few days earlier, rested in its cradle on top of a wooden tower in the centre of the arena. In front of it a railway ran down towards the Edge, where for the space of a few yards it turned suddenly upwards.
   The late Dactylos Goldeneyes, who had designed the launching pad as well as the Potent Voyager itself, had claimed that this last touch was merely to ensure that the ship would not snag on any rocks as it began its long plunge. Maybe it was merely coincidental that it would also, because of that little twitch in the track, leap like a salmon and shine theatrically in the sunlight before disappearing into the cloud sea.
   There was a fanfare of trumpets at the edge of the arena. The chelonauts’ honour guard appeared, to much cheering from the crowd. Then the whitesuited explorers themselves stepped out into the light.
   It immediately dawned on the Arch-astronomer that something was wrong. Heroes always walked in a certain way, for example. They certainly didn’t waddle, and one of the chelonauts was definitely waddling.
   The roar of the assembled people of Krull was deafening. As the chelonauts and their guards crossed the great arena, passing between the many altars that had been set up for the various wizards and priests of Krull’s many sects to ensure the success of the launch, the Arch-astronomer frowned. By the time the party was halfway across the floor his mind had reached a conclusion. By the time the chelonauts were standing at the foot of the ladder that led to the ship—and was there more than a hint of reluctance about them?—the Arch-astronomer was on his feet, his words lost in the noise of the crowd. One of his arms shot out and back fingers spread dramatically in the traditional spell-casting position, and any passing lip-reader who was also familiar with the standard texts on magic would have recognized the opening words of Vestcake’s Floating Curse, and would then have prudently run away.
   Its final words remained unsaid, however. The Arch-astronomer turned in astonishment as a commotion broke out around the big arched entrance to the arena. Guards were running out into the daylight, throwing down their weapons as they scuttled among the altars or vaulted the parapet into the stands.
   Something emerged behind them, and the crowd around the entrance ceased its raucous cheering and began a silent, determined scramble to get out of the way.
   The something was a low dome of seaweed, moving slowly but with a sinister sense of purpose. One guard overcame his horror sufficiently to stand in its path and hurl his spear, which landed squarely among the weeds. The crowd cheered then went deathly silent as the dome surged forward and engulfed the man completely.
   The Arch-astronomer dismissed the half-formed shape of Vestcake’s famous Curse with a sharp wave of his hand, and quickly spoke the words of one of the most powerful spells in his repertoire: the Infernal Combustion Enigma.
   Octarine fire spiralled around and between his fingers as he shaped the complex rune of the spell in mid-air and sent it, screaming and trailing blue smoke, towards the shape.
   There was a satisfying explosion and a gout of flame shot up into the clear morning sky, shedding flakes of burning seaweed on the way. A cloud of smoke and steam concealed the monster for several minutes, and when it cleared the dome had completely disappeared.
   There was a large charred circle on the flagstones, however, in which a few clumps of kelp and bladderwrack still smouldered.
   And in the centre of the circle was a perfectly ordinary, if somewhat large, wooden chest. It was not even scorched. Someone on the far side of the arena started to laugh, but the sound was broken off abruptly as the chest rose up on dozens of what could only be legs and turned to face the Arch-astronomer. A perfectly ordinary if somewhat large wooden chest does not, of course, have a face with which to face, but this one was quite definitely facing. In precisely the same way as he understood that, the Arch-astronomer was also horribly aware that this perfectly normal box was in some indescribable way narrowing its eyes.
   It began to move resolutely towards him. He shuddered.
   “Magicians!” he screamed. “Where are my magicians?”
   Around the arena pale-faced men peeped out from behind altars and under benches. One of the bolder ones, seeing the expression on the Arch-astronomer’s face, raised an arm tremulously and essayed a hasty thunderbolt. It hissed towards the chest and struck it squarely in a shower of white sparks.
   That was the signal for every magician, enchanter and thaumaturgist in Krull to leap up eagerly and, under the terrified eyes of their master, unleash the first spell that came to each desperate mind. Charms curved and whistled through the air.
   Soon the chest was lost to view again in an expanding cloud of magical particles, which billowed out and wreathed it in twisting, disquieting shapes. Spell after spell screamed into the melee. Flame and lightning bolts of all eight colours stabbed out brightly from the seething thing that now occupied the space where the box had been.
   Not since the Mage Wars had so much magic been concentrated on one small area. The air itself wavered and glittered. Spell ricocheted off spell, creating short-lived wild spells whose brief half-life was both weird and uncontrolled. The stones under the heaving mass began to buckle and split. One of them in fact turned into something best left undescribed and slunk off into some dismal dimension. Other strange side-effects began to manifest themselves. A shower of small lead cubes bounced out of the storm and rolled across the heaving floor, and eldritch shapes gibbered and beckoned obscenely; four-sided triangles and double-ended circles existed momentarily before merging again into the booming, screaming tower of runaway raw magic that boiled up from the molten flagstones and spread out over Krull. It no longer mattered that most of the magicians had ceased their spell casting and fled—the thing was now feeding on the stream of octarine particles that were always at their thickest near the Edge of the Disc. Throughout the island of Krull every magical activity failed as all the available mana in the area was sucked into the cloud, which was already a quarter of a mile high and streaming out into mind-curdling shapes; hydrophobes on their seaskimming lenses crashed screaming into the waves, magic potions turned to mere impure water in their phials, magic swords melted and dripped from their scabbards.
   But none of this in any way prevented the thing at the base of the cloud, now gleaming mirrorbright in the intensity of the power storm around it, from moving at a steady walking pace towards the Arch-astronomer.
   Rincewind and Twoflower watched in awe from the shelter of Potent Voyager’s launch tower. The honour party had long since vanished, leaving their weapons scattered behind them.
   “Well,” sighed Twoflower at last, “there goes the Luggage.” He sighed.
   “Don’t you believe it,” said Rincewind. “sapient pearwood is totally impervious to all known forms of magic. It’s been constructed to follow you anywhere. I mean, when you die, if you go to Heaven, you’ll at least have a clean pair of socks in the afterlife. But I don’t want to die yet, so let’s just get going, shall we?”
   “Where?” said Twoflower.
   Rincewind picked up a crossbow and a handful of quarrels. “Anywhere that isn’t here,” he said.
   “What about the Luggage?”
   “Don’t worry. When the storm has used up all the free magic in the vicinity it’ll just die out.”
   In fact that was already beginning to happen. The billowing cloud was still flowing up from the area but now it had a tenuous, harmless look about it. Even as Twoflower stared, it began to flicker uncertainly.
   Soon it was a pale ghost. The luggage was now visible as a squat shape among the almost invisible flames. Around it the rapidly cooling stones began to crack and buckle.
   Twoflower called softly to his luggage. It stopped its stolid progression across the tortured flags and appeared to be listening intently; then, moving its dozens of feet in an intricate pattern, it turned on its length and headed towards the Potent Voyager. Rincewind watched it sourly. The Luggage had an elemental nature, absolutely no brain, a homicidal attitude towards anything that threatened its master, and he wasn’t quite sure that its inside occupied the same space-time framework as its outside.
   “Not a mark on it,” said Twoflower cheerfully, as the box settled down in front of him. He pushed open the lid.
   “This is a fine time to change your underwear,” snarled Rincewind. “In a minute all those guards and priests are going to come back, and they’re going to be upset, man!”
   “Water,” murmured Twoflower. “The whole box is full of water!”
   Rincewind peered over his shoulder. There was no sign of clothes, moneybags, or any other of the tourist’s belongings. The whole box was full of water.
   A wave sprang up from nowhere and lapped over the edge. It hit the flagstones but, instead of spreading out, began to take the shape of-a foot. Another foot and the bottom half of a pair of legs followed as more water streamed down as if filling an invisible mould. A moment later Tethis the sea troll was standing in front of them, blinking.
   “I see,” he said at last. “You two. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.”
   He looked around, ignoring their astonished expressions.
   “I was just sitting outside my hut, watching the sun set, when this thing came roaring up out of the water and swallowed me,” he said. “I thought it was rather strange. Where is this place?”
   “Krull,” said Rincewind. He stared hard at the now closed luggage, which was managing to project a smug expression. Swallowing people was something it did quite frequently, but always when the lid was next opened there was nothing inside but Twoflower’s laundry. Savagely he wrenched the lid up. There was nothing inside but Twoflower’s laundry. It was perfectly dry.
   “Well, well,” said Tethis. He looked up.
   “Hey!” he said. “Isn’t this the ship they’re going to send over the Edge? Isn’t it? It must be!”
   An arrow zipped through his chest, leaving a faint ripple. He didn’t appear to notice. Rincewind did. Soldiers were beginning to appear at the edge of the arena, and a number of them were peering around the entrances.
   Another arrow bounced off the tower behind Twoflower. At this range the bolts did not have a lot of force, but it would only be a matter of time…
   “Quick!” said Twoflower. “Into the ship! They won’t dare fire at that!”
   “I knew you were going to suggest that,” groaned Rincewind. “I just knew it!”
   He aimed a kick at the Luggage. It backed off a few inches, and opened its lid threateningly.
   A spear arced out of the sky and trembled to a halt in the woodwork by the wizard’s ear. He screamed briefly and scrambled up the ladder after the others.
   Arrows whistled around them as they came out on to the narrow catwalk that led along the spine of the Potent Voyager. Twoflower led the way, jogging along with what Rincewind considered to be too much suppressed excitement.
   Atop the centre of the ship was a large round bronze hatch with hasps around it. The troll and the tourist knelt down and started to work on them.

   In the heart of the Potent Voyager fine sand had been trickling into a carefully designed cup for several hours. Now the cup was filled by exactly the right amount to dip down and upset a carefully-balanced weight. The weight swung away, pulling a pin from an intricate little mechanism. A chain began to move. There was a clonk…

   “What was that?” said Rincewind urgently. He looked down.
   The hail of arrows had stopped. The crowd of priests and soldiers were standing motionless, staring intently at the ship. A small worried man elbowed his way through them and started to shout something.
   “What was what?” said Twoflower, busy with a wing-nut.
   “I thought I heard something,” said Rincewind.
   “Look,” he said, “we’ll threaten to damage the thing if they don’t let us go, right? That’s all we’re going to do, right?”
   “Yah,” said Twoflower vaguely. He sat back on his heels. “That’s it,” he said. “It ought to lift off now.”
   Several muscular men were swarming up the ladder to the ship. Rincewind recognized the two chelonauts among them. They were carrying swords.
   “I—” he began.
   The ship lurched. Then, with infinite slowness, it began to move along the rails.
   In that moment of black horror Rincewind saw that Twoflower and the troll had managed to pull the hatch up. A metal ladder inside led into the cabin below. The troll disappeared.
   “We’ve got to get off,” whispered Rincewind.
   Twoflower looked at him, a strange mad smile on his face. “Stars,” said the tourist. “Worlds. The whole damn sky full of worlds. Places no-one will ever see. Except me.” He stepped through the hatchway.
   “You’re totally mad,” said Rincewind hoarsely, trying to keep his balance as the ship began to speed up. He turned as one of the chelonauts tried to leap the gap between the Voyager and the tower, landed on the curving flank of the ship, scrabbled for an instant for purchase, failed to find any, and dropped away with a shriek.
   The Voyager was travelling quite fast now. Rincewind could see past Twoflower’s head to the sunlit cloud sea and the impossible Rimbow, floating tantalisingly beyond it, beckoning fools to venture too far…
   He also saw a gang of men climbing desperately over the lower slopes of the launching ramp and manhandling a large baulk of timber on to the track, in a frantic attempt to derail the ship before it vanished over the Edge. The wheels slammed into it, but the only effect was to make the ship rock, Twoflower to lose his grip on the ladder and fall into the cabin, and the hatch to slam down with the horrible sound of a dozen fiddly little catches snapping into place. Rincewind dived forward and scrabbled at them, whimpering.
   The cloud sea was much nearer now. The Edge itself, a rocky perimeter to the arena, was startlingly close.
   Rincewind stood up. There was only one thing to do now, and he did it. He panicked blindly, just as the ship’s bogeys hit the little upgrade and flung it sparkling like a salmon, into the sky and over the Edge.
   A few seconds later there was a thunder of little feet and the Luggage cleared the rim of the world, legs still pumping determinedly, and plunged down into the Universe.
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The End
   Rincewind woke up and shivered. He was freezing cold.
   So this is it, he thought. When you die you go to a cold, damp, misty freezing place. Hades, where the mournful spirits of the Dead troop forever across the sorrowful marshes, corpse-lights flickering fit fully in the encircling-hang on a minute…
   Surely Hades wasn’t this uncomfortable? And he was very uncomfortable indeed. His back ached where a branch was pressing into it, his legs and arms hurt where the twigs had lacerated them and, judging by the way his head was feeling, something hard had recently hit it. If this was Hades it sure was hell-hang on a minute…
   Tree. He concentrated on the word that floated up from his mind, although the buzzing in his ears and the flashing lights in front of his eyes made this an unexpected achievement. Tree. Wooden thing. That was it. Branches and twigs and things. And Rincewind, lying in it. Tree. Dripping wet. Cold white cloud all around. Underneath, too. Now that was odd.
   He was alive and lying covered in bruises in a small thorn tree that was growing in a crevice in a rock that projected out of the foaming white wall that was the Rimfall. The realization hit him in much the same way as an icy hammer. He shuddered. The tree gave a warning creak.
   Something blue and blurred shot past him, dipped briefly into the thundering waters, and whirred back and settled on a branch near Rincewind’s head. It was a small bird with a tuft of blue and green feathers. It swallowed the little silver fish that it had snatched from the Fall and eyed him curiously.
   Rincewind became aware that there were lots of similar birds around.
   They hovered, darted and swooped easily across the face of the water, and every so often one would raise an extra plume of spray as it stole another doomed morsel from the waterfall. Several of them were perching in the tree. They were as iridescent as jewels. Rincewind was entranced.
   He was in fact the first man ever to see the rimfishers, the tiny creatures who had long ago evolved a lifestyle quite unique even for the Disc. long before the Krullians had built the Circumfence the rimfishers had devised their own efficient method of policing the edge of the world for a living.
   They didn’t seem bothered about Rincewind. He had a brief but chilling vision of himself living the rest of his life out in this tree, subsisting on raw birds and such fish as he could snatch as they plummeted past.
   The tree moved distinctly. Rincewind gave a whimper as he found himself sliding backwards, but managed to grab a branch. Only, sooner or later, he would fall asleep…
   There was a subtle change of scene, a slight purplish tint to the sky. A tall, black-cloaked figure was standing on the air next to the tree. It had a scythe in one hand. Its face was hidden in the shadows of the hood.
   I have come for thee, said the invisible mouth, in tones as heavy as a whale’s heartbeat.
   The trunk of the tree gave another protesting creak, and a pebble bounced off Rincewind’s helmet as one root tore loose from the rock.
   Death Himself always came in person to harvest the souls of wizards.
   “What am I going to die of?” said Rincewind.
   The tall figure hesitated.
   Pardon? it said.
   “Well, I haven’t broken anything, and I haven’t drowned, so what am I about to die of? You can’t just be killed by Death; there has to be a reason,” said Rincewind.
   To his utter amazement he didn’t feel terrified any more. For about the first time in his life he wasn’t frightened. Pity the experience didn’t look like lasting for long.
   Death appeared to reach a conclusion.
   You could die of terror, the hood intoned. The voice still had its graveyard ring, but there was a slight tremor of uncertainty.
   “Won’t work,” said Rincewind smugly.
   There doesn’t have to be a reason, said Death, I can just kill you.
   “Hey, you can’t do that! It’d be murder!”
   The cowled figure sighed and pulled back its hood. Instead of the grinning death’s head that Rincewind had been expecting he found himself looking up into the pale and slightly transparent face of a rather worried demon, of sorts.
   “I’m making rather a mess of this, aren’t I?” it said wearily.
   “You’re not Death! Who are you?” cried Rincewind.
   “Death couldn’t come,” said the demon wretchedly. “There’s a big plague on in Pseudopolis. He had to go and stalk the streets. So he sent me.”
   “No-one dies of scrofula! I’ve got rights. I’m a wizard!”
   “All right, all right. This was going to be my big chance,” said Scrofula, “but look at it this way—if I hit you with this scythe you’ll be just as dead as you would be if Death had done it. Who’d know?”
   “I’d know!” snapped Rincewind.
   “You wouldn’t. You’d be dead,” said Scrofula logically.
   “Piss off,” said Rincewind.
   “That’s all very well,” said the demon, hefting the scythe, “but why not try to see things from my point of view? This means a lot to me, and you’ve got to admit that your life isn’t all that wonderful. Reincarnation can only be an improvement—uh.”
   His hand flew to his mouth but Rincewind was already pointing a trembling finger at him.
   “Reincarnation!” he said excitedly. “So it is true what the mystics say!”
   “I’m admitting nothing,” said Scrofula testily. “It was a slip of the tongue. Now-are you going to die willingly or not?”
   “No,” said Rincewind.
   “Please yourself,” replied the demon. He raised the scythe. It whistled down in quite a professional way, but Rincewind wasn’t there. He was in fact several metres below, and the distance was increasing all the time, because the branch had chosen that moment to snap and send him on his interrupted journey towards the interstellar gulf.
   “Come back!” screamed the demon.
   Rincewind didn’t answer. He was lying belly down in the rushing air, staring down into the clouds that even now were thinning.
   They vanished.
   Below, the whole Universe twinkled at Rincewind. There was Great A’Tuin, huge and ponderous and pocked with craters. There was the little Disc moon. There was a distant gleam that could only be the Potent Voyager. And there were all the stars, looking remarkably like powdered diamonds spilled on black velvet, the stars that lured and ultimately called the boldest towards them…
   The whole of Creation was waiting for Rincewind to drop in. He did so. There didn’t seem to be any alternative.

   The shape and cosmology of the disc system are perhaps worthy of note at this point. There are, of course, two major directions on the disc: Hubward and Rimward. But since the disc itself revolves at the rate of once every eight hundred days (in order to distribute the weight fairly upon its supportive pachyderms, according to Reforgule of Krull) there are also two lesser directions, which are Turnwise and Widdershins. Since the disc’s tiny orbiting sunlet maintains a fixed orbit while the majestic disc turns slowly beneath it, it will be readily deduced that a disc year consists of not four but eight seasons. The summers are those times when the sun rises or sets at the nearest point on the Rim, the winters those occasions when it rises or sets at a point around ninety degrees along the circumference. Thus, in the lands around the Circle Sea, the year begins on Hogs’ Watch Night, progresses through a Spring Prime to its first midsummer (Small Gods’ Eve) which is followed by Autumn Prime and, straddling the half-year point of Crueltide, Winter Secundus (also known as the Spindlewinter, since at this time the sun rises in the direction of spin). Then comes Secundus Spring with Summer Two on its heels, the three quarter mark of the year being the night of Alls Fallow—the one night of the year, according to legend, when witches and warlocks stay in bed. Then drifting leaves and frosty nights drag on towards Backspindlewinter and a new Hogs’ Watch Night nestling like a frozen jewel at its heart.
   Since the Hub is never closely warmed by the weak sun the lands there are locked in permafrost. The Rim, on the other hand, is a region of sunny islands and balmy days. There are, of course, eight days in a disc week and eight colours in its light spectrum. Eight is a number of some considerable occult significance on the disc and must never, ever, be spoken by a wizard.
   Precisely why all the above should be so is not clear, but goes some way to explain why, on the disc, the Gods are not so much worshipped as blamed.
   Although in Trob the last word in fact became “a thing which may happen but once in the usable lifetime of a canoe hollowed diligently by axe and fire from the tallest diamondwood tree that grows in the noted diamondwood forests on the lower Slopes of Mount Awayawa, home of the firegods or so it is said.”
   Wizards, even failed wizards, have in addition to rods and cones in their eyeballs the tiny octagons that enable them to see into the far octarine, the basic colour of which all other colours are merely pale shadows impinging on normal four-dimensional space. It is said to be a sort of fluorescent greenish-yellow purple
   Being Unseen University failed.
   Eight was also the Number of Bel-Shamharoth, which was why a sensible wizard would never mention the number if he could avoid it. Or you’ll be eight alive, apprentices were jocularly warned. Bel-Shamharoth was especially attracted to dabblers in magic who, by being as it were beachcombers on the shores of the unnatural were already half-enmeshed in his nets. Rincewind’s room number in his hall of residence had been 7a. He hadn’t been surprised
   During his life they had appeared to others to be eight-faceted and eerily insectile.
   Owing to the density of the magical field surrounding the disc, light itself moved at sub-sonic speeds; this interesting property was well utilized by the Sorca people of the Great Nef, for example, who over the centuries had constructed intricate and delicate dams, and valleys walled with polished silica, to catch the slow sunlight and sort of store it. The Scintillating reservoirs of the Nef, overflowing after several weeks of uninterrupted sunlight, were a truly magnificent sight from the air and it is therefore unfortunate that Twoflower and Rincewind did not happen to glance in that direction.
   Water on the disc has an uncommon fourth state, caused by intense magic combined with the strange desiccating effects of octarine light it dehydrates, leaving a silvery mildue like free-flowing sand through which a well-designed hull can glide with ease. The Dehydrated Ocean is a strange place, but not so strange as its fish.
   Plants on the disc, while including the categories known commonly as annuals, which were sown this year to come up later this year, rieanuals, sown this year to grow next year, and perennials, sown this year to grow until further notice, also included a few rare re-annuals which, because of an unusual four-dimensional twist in their genes, could be planted this year to come up last year. The Vul nut vine was particularly exceptional in that it could flourish as many as eight years prior to its seed actually being sown. Vul nut wine was reputed to give certain drinkers an insight into the future which was, from the nut’s point of view, the past. Strange but true.
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
The Light Fantastic

« Poslednja izmena: 24. Avg 2005, 00:41:33 od Makishon »
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Zodijak Taurus
Pol Žena
Poruke 18761
Zastava Srbija
The sun rose slowly, as if it wasn’t sure it was worth all the effort.
   Another Disc day dawned, but very gradually, and this is why.
   When light encounters a strong magical field it loses ail sense of urgency. It slows right down. And on the Discworld the magic was embarrassingly strong, which meant that the soft yellow light of dawn flowed over the sleeping landscape like the caress of a gentle lover or, as some would have it, like golden syrup. It paused to fill up valleys. It piled up against mountain ranges. When it reached Cori Celesti, the ten mile spire of grey stone and green ice that marked the hub of the Disc and was the home of its gods, it built up in heaps until it finally crashed in great lazy tsunami as silent as velvet, across the dark landscape beyond.
   It was a sight to be seen on no other world.
   Of course, no other world was carried through the starry infinity on the backs of four giant elephants, who A’ere themselves perched on the shell of a giant turtle. His name—or Her name, according to another school of thought—was Great A’Tuin; he—or, as it might be, she—will not take a central role in what follows but it is vital to an understanding of the Disc that he—or she—is there, down below the mines and sea ooze and fake fossil bones put there by a Creator with nothing better to do than upset archeologists and give them silly ideas.
   Great A’Tuin the star turtle, shell frosted with frozen methane, pitted with meteor craters, and scoured with asteroidal dust. Great A’Tuin, with eyes like ancient seas and a brain the size of a continent through which thoughts moved like little glittering glaciers. Great A’Tuin of the great slow sad flippers and star-polished carapace, labouring through the galactic night under the weight of the Disc. As large as worlds. As old as Time. As patient as a brick.
   Actually, the philosophers have got it all wrong. Great A’Tuin is in fact having a great time.
   Great A’Tuin is the only creature in the entire universe that knows exactly where it is going.
   Of course, philosophers have debated for years about where Great A’Tuin might be going, and have often said how worried they are that they might never find out.
   They’re due to find out in about two months. And then they’re really going to worry...
   Something else that has long worried the more imaginative philosophers on the Disc is the question of Great A’Tuin’s sex, and quite a lot of time and trouble has been spent in trying to establish it once and for all.
   In fact, as the great dark shape drifts past like an endless tortoiseshell hairbrush, the results of the latest effort are just coming into view.
   Tumbling past, totally out of control, is the bronze shell of the Potent Voyager, a sort of neolithic spaceship built and pushed over the edge by the astronomer-priests of Krull, which is conveniently situated on the very rim of the world and proves, whatever people say, that there is such a thing as a free launch.
   Inside the ship is Twoflower, the Disc’s first tourist. He had recently spent some months exploring it and is now rapidly leaving it for reasons that are rather complicated but have to do with an attempt to escape from Krull.
   This attempt has been one thousand per cent successful.
   But despite all the evidence that he may be the Disc’s last tourist as well, he is enjoying the view.
   Plunging along some two miles above him is Rincewind the wizard, in what on the Disc passes for a spacesuit. Picture it as a diving suit designed by men who have never seen the sea. Six months ago he was a perfectly ordinary failed wizard. Then he met Twoflower, was employed at an outrageous salary as his guide, and has spent most of the intervening time being shot at, terrorised, chased and hanging from high places with no hope of salvation or, as is now the case, dropping from high places.
   He isn’t looking at the view because his past life keeps flashing in front of his eyes and getting in the way. He is learning why it is that when you put on a spacesuit it is vitally important not to forget the helmet.
   A lot more could be included now to explain why these two are dropping out of the world, and why Twoflower’s Luggage, last seen desperately trying to follow him on hundreds of little legs, is no ordinary suitcase, but such questions take time and could be more trouble than they are worth. For example, it is said that someone at a party once asked the famous philosopher Ly Tin Weedle ‘Why are you here?’ and the reply took three years.
   What is far more important is an event happening way overhead, far above A’Tuin, the elephants and the rapidly-expiring wizard. The very fabric of time and space is about to be put through the wringer.
   The air was greasy with the distinctive feel of magic, and acrid with the smoke of candles made of a black wax whose precise origin a wise man wouldn’t inquire about.
   There was something very strange about this room deep in the cellars of Unseen University, the Disc’s premier college of magic. For one thing it seemed to have too many dimensions, not exactly visible, just hovering out of eyeshot. The walls were covered with occult symbols, and most of the floor was taken up by the Eightfold Seal of Stasis, generally agreed in magical circles to have all the stopping power of a well-aimed half brick.
   The only furnishing in the room was a lectern dark wood, carved into the shape of a bird—well, to be frank, into the shape of a winged thing it is probably best not to examine too closely—and on the lectern, fastened to it by a heavy chain covered in padlocks, was a book.
   A large, but not particularly impressive, book. Other books in the University’s libraries had covers inlaid with rare jewels and fascinating wood, or bound with dragon skin. This one was just a rather tatty leather. It looked the sort of book described in library catalogues as ‘slightly foxed’, although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved and possibly beared as well.
   Metal clasps held it shut. They weren’t decorated, they were just very heavy—like the chain, which didn’t so much attach the book to the lectern as tether it.
   They looked like the work of someone who had a pretty definite aim in mind, and who had spent most of his life making training harness for elephants.
   The air thickened and swirled. The pages of the book began to crinkle in a quite horrible, deliberate way, and blue light spilled out from between them. The silence of the room crowded in like a fist, slowly being clenched.
   Half a dozen wizards in their nightshirts were taking turns to peer in through the little grille in the door. No wizard could sleep with this sort of thing going on—the build-up of raw magic was rising through the university like a tide.
   ‘Right,’ said a voice. What’s going on? And why wasn’t I summoned?’
   Galder Weatherwax, Supreme Grand Conjuror of the Order of the Silver Star, Lord Imperial of the Sacred Staff, Eighth Level Ipsissimus and 304th Chancellor of Unseen University, wasn’t simply an impressive sight even in his red nightshirt with the hand-embroidered mystic runes, even in his long cap with the bobble on, even with the Wee Willie Winkie candlestick in his hand. He even managed to very nearly pull it off in fluffy pompom slippers as well.
   Six frightened faces turned towards him.
   ‘Um, you were summoned, lord,’ said one of the under-wizards.
   ‘That’s why you’re here,’ he added helpfully.
   ‘I mean why wasn’t I summoned before?’ snapped Galder, pushing his way to the grille.
   ‘Um, before who, lord?’ said the wizard.
   Galder glared at him, and ventured a quick glance through the grille.
   The air in the room was now sparkling with tiny flashes as dust motes incinerated in the flow of raw magic. The Seal of Stasis was beginning to blister and curl up at the edges.
   The book in question was called the Octavo and, quite obviously, it was no ordinary book.
   There are of course many famous books of magic. Some may talk of the Necrotelicomnicon, with its pages made of ancient lizard skin; some may point to the Book of Going Forth Around Elevenish, written by a mysterious and rather lazy Llamaic sect; some may recall that the Bumper Fun Grimoire reputedly contains the one original joke left in the universe. But they are all mere pamphlets when compared with the Octavo, which the Creator of the Universe reputedly left behind—with characteristic absent-mindedness—shortly after completing his major work.
   The eight spells imprisoned in its pages led a secret and complex life of their own, and it was generally believed that —
   Galder’s brow furrowed as he stared into the troubled room. Of course, there were only seven spells now. Some young idiot of a student wizard had stolen a look at the book one day and one of the spells had escaped and lodged in his mind. No-one had ever managed to get to the bottom of how it had happened. What was his name, now? Winswand?
   Octarine and purple sparks glittered on the spine of the book. A thin curl of smoke was beginning to rise from the lectern, and the heavy metal clasps that held the book shut were definitely beginning to look strained.
   ‘Why are the spells so restless?’ said one of the younger wizards.
   Galder shrugged. He couldn’t show it, of course, but he was beginning to be really worried. As a skilled eighth-level wizard he could see the half-imaginary shapes that appeared momentarily in the vibrating air, wheedling arid beckoning. In much the same way that gnats appear before a thunderstorm, really heavy build-ups of magic always attracted things from the chaotic Dungeon Dimensions—nasty Things, all misplaced organs and spittle, forever searching for any gap through which they might sidle into the world of men [1].
   This had to be stopped.
   ‘I shall need a volunteer,’ he said firmly.
   There was a sudden silence. The only sound came from behind the door. It was the nasty little noise of metal parting under stress.
   ‘Very well, then,’ he said. ‘In that case I shall need some silver tweezers, about two pints of cat’s blood, a small whip and a chair —’
   It is said that the opposite of noise is silence. This isn’t true. Silence is only the absence of noise. Silence would have been a terrible din compared to the sudden soft implosion of noiselessness that hit the wizards with the force of an exploding dandelion clock.
   A thick column of spitting light sprang up from the book, hit the ceiling in a splash of flame, and disappeared.
   Galder stared up at the hole, ignoring the smouldering patches in his beard. He pointed dramatically.
   To the upper cellars!’ he cried, and bounded up the stone stairs. Slippers flapping and nightshirts billowing he other wizards followed him, falling over one another in their eagerness to be last.
   Nevertheless, they were all in time to see the fireball of occult potentiality disappear into the ceiling of the room above.
   ‘Urgh,’ said the youngest wizard, and pointed to the floor.
   The room had been part of the library until the magic had drifted through, violently reassembling the possibility particles of everything in its path. So it was reasonable to assume that the small purple newts had been part of the floor and the pineapple custard may once have been some books. And several of the wizards later swore that the small sad orang outang sitting in the middle of it all looked very much like the head librarian.
   Galder stared upwards. ‘To the kitchen!’ he bellowed, wading through the custard to the next flight of stairs.
   No-one ever found out what the great cast-iron cooking range had been turned into, because it had broken down a wall and made good its escape before the dishevelled party of wild-eyed mages burst into the room. The vegetable chef was found much later hiding in the soup cauldron, gibbering unhelpful things like The knuckles! The horrible knuckles!’
   The last wisps of magic, now somewhat slowed, were disappearing into the ceiling.
   ‘To the Great Hall!’
   The stairs were much wider here, and better lit. Panting and pineapple-flavoured, the fitter wizards got to the top by the time the fireball had reached the middle of the huge draughty chamber that was the University’s main hall. It hung motionless, except for the occasional small prominence that arched and spluttered across its surface.
   Wizards smoke, as everyone knows. That probably explained the chorus of coffin coughs and sawtooth wheezes that erupted behind Galder as he stood appraising the situation and wondering if he dare look for somewhere to hide. He grabbed a frightened student.
   ‘Get me seers, farseers, scryers and withinlookmen!’ he barked. ‘I want this studied!’
   Something was taking shape inside the fireball. Galder shielded his eyes and peered at the shape forming in front of him. There was no mistaking it. It was the universe.
   He was quite sure of this, because he had a model of it in his study and it was generally agreed to be far more impressive than the real thing. Faced with the possibilities offered by seed pearls and silver filigree, the Creator had been at a complete loss.
   But the tiny universe inside the fireball was uncannily—well, real. The only thing missing was colour. It was all in translucent misty white.
   There was Great A’Tuin, and the four elephants, and the Disc itself. From this angle Galder couldn’t see the surface very well, but he knew with cold certainty that it would be absolutely accurately modelled. He could, though, just make out a miniature replica of Cori Celesti, upon whose utter peak the world’s quarrelsome and somewhat bourgeois gods lived in a palace of marble, alabaster and uncut moquette three-piece suites they had chosen to call Dunmanifestin. It was always a considerable annoyance to any Disc citizen with pretensions to culture that they were ruled by gods whose idea of an uplifting artistic experience was a musical doorbell.
   The little embryo universe began to move slowly, tilting...
   Galder tried to shout, but his voice refused to come out.
   Gently, but with the unstoppable force of an explosion, the shape expanded.
   He watched in horror, and then in astonishment, as it passed through him as lightly as a thought. He held out a hand and watched the pale ghosts of rock strata stream through his fingers in busy silence.
   Great A’Tuin had already sunk peacefully below floor level, larger than a house.
   The wizards behind Galder were waist deep in seas. A boat smaller than a thimble caught Galder’s eye for a oment before the rush carried it through the walls and away.
   To the roof!’ he managed, pointing a shaking finger skywards.
   Those wizards with enough marbles left to think with and enough breath to run followed him, running through continents that sleeted smoothly through the solid stone.
   It was a still night, tinted with the promise of dawn. A crescent moon was just setting. Ankh-Morpork, largest city in the lands around the Circle Sea, slept.
   That statement is not really true.
   On the one hand, those parts of the city which normally concerned themselves with, for example, selling vegetables, shoeing horses, carving exquisite small jade ornaments, changing money and making tables, on the whole, slept. Unless they had insomnia. Or had got up in the night. as it might be, to go to the lavatory. On the other hand, many of the less law-abiding citizens were wide awake and, for instance, climbing through windows that didn’t, t belong to them, slitting throats, mugging one another, listening to loud music in smoky cellars and gener,erally having a lot more fun. But most of the animals were asleep, except for the rats. And the bats, too, of course. As far as the insects were concerned...
   The point is that descriptive writing is very rarely entireliy accurate and during the reign of Olaf Quimby II is Patrician of Ankh some legislation was passed in a determined attempt to put a stop to this sort of thing and introduce some honesty into reporting. Thus, if a legend said of a notable hero that ‘all men spoke of his prowess’ any bard who valued his life would add hastily ‘except for a couple of people in his home village who thought he was a liar, and quite a lot of other people who had never really heard of him.’ Poetic simile was strictly limited to statements like ‘his mighty steed was as fleet as the wind n a fairly calm day, say about Force Three,’ and any loose talk about a beloved having a face that launched a thousand ships would have to be backed by evidence that the object of desire did indeed look like a bottle of champagne.
   Quimby was eventually killed by a disgruntled poet during an experiment conducted in the palace grounds to prove the disputed accuracy of the proverb The pen is mightier than the sword,’ and in his memory it was amended to include the phrase ‘only if the sword is very small and the pen is very sharp.’
   So. Approximately sixty-seven, maybe sixty-eight per cent, of the city slept. Not that the other citizens creeping about on their generally unlawful occasions noticed the pale tide streaming through the streets. Only the wizards, used to seeing the invisible, watched it foam across the distant fields.
   The Disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailors who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.
   But there was still a limit even to Galder’s vision in the mist-swirled, dust-filled air. He looked up. Looming high over the University was the grim and ancient Tower of Art, said to be the oldest building on the Disc, with its famous spiral staircase of eight thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight steps. From its crenelated roof, the haunt of ravens and disconcertingly alert gargoyles, a wizard might see to the very edge of the Disc. After spending ten minutes or so coughing horribly, of course.
   ‘Sod that,’ he muttered. ‘What’s the good of being a wizard, after all? Avyento, thessalousl I would fly! To me, spirits of air and darkness!’
   He spread a gnarled hand and pointed to a piece of crumbling parapet. Octarine fire sprouted from under his nicotine-stained nails and burst against the otting stone far above.
   It fell. By a finely calculated exchange of velocities Ga.cer rose, nightshirt flapping around his bony legs. Higher and higher he soared, hurtling through the pale night like a, like a—all right, like an elderly but powerful wizard being propelled upwards by an expertly judged thumb on the scales of the universe.
   He landed in a litter of old nests, caught his balance, and stared down at the vertiginous view of a Disc dawn.
   At this time of the long year the Circle Sea was almost on the sunset side of Cori Celesti, and as the daylight sloshed down into the lands around Ankh-Morpork the shadow of the mountain scythed across the landscape like the gnomon of God’s sundial. But nightwards, racing the slow light towards the edge of the world, a line of white mist surged on. There was a crackling of dry twigs behind him. He turned to see Ymper Trymon, second in command of the Order, who had been the only other wizard able to keep up.
   Galder ignored him for the moment, taking care only to keep a firm grip on the stonework and strengthen his personal spells of protection. Promotion was slow in a profession that traditionally bestowed long life, and it was accepted that younger wizards would frequently seek advancement via dead men’s curly shoes, having previosly emptied them of their occupants. Besides, there was something disquieting about young Trymon. He didn’t smoke, only drank boiled water, and Galder had the nasty suspicion that he was clever. He didn’t smile often enough, and he liked figures and the sort of organisation charts that show lots of squares with arrows pointing:o other squares. In short, he was the sort of man who could use the word ‘personnel’ and mean it.
   The whole of the visible Disc was now covered with a shmmering white skin that fitted it perfectly.
   Galder looked down at his own hands and saw them covered with a pale network of shining threads that ollowed every movement.
   He recognised this kind of spell. He’d used them himself. But his had been smaller—much smaller.
   ‘It’s a Change spell,’ said Trymon. The whole world is being changed.’
   Some people, thought Galder grimly, would have had the decency to put an exclamation mark on the end of a statement like that.
   There was the faintest of pure sounds, high and sharp, like the breaking of a mouse’s heart.
   ‘What was that?’ he said.
   Trymon cocked his head.
   ‘C sharp, I think,’ he said.
   Galder said nothing. The white shimmer had vanished, and the.first sounds of the waking city began to filter up to the two wizards. Everything seemed exactly the same as it had before. All that, just to make things stay the same?
   He patted his nightshirt pockets distractedly and finally found what he was looking for lodged behind his ear. He put the soggy dogend in his mouth, called up mystical fire from between his fingers, and dragged hard on the wretched rollup until little blue lights flashed in front of his eyes. He coughed once or twice.
   He was thinking very hard indeed.
   He was trying to remember if any gods owed him any favours.
   In fact the Gods were as puzzled by all this as the wizards were, but they were powerless to do anything and in any case were engaged in an eons-old battle with the Ice Giants, who had refused to return the lawnmower.
   But some clue as to what actually had happened might be found in the fact that Rincewind, whose past life had just got up to a quite interesting bit when he was fifteen, suddenly found himself not dying after all but hanging upside down in a pine tree.
   He got down easily by dropping uncontrollably from branch to branch until he landed on his head in a pile of pine needles, where he lay gasping for breath and wishing he d been a better person.
   Somewhere, he knew, there had to be a perfectly logical connection. One minute one happens to be dying, having dropped off the rim of the world, and the next one is upside down in a tree.
   As always happened at times like this, the Spell rose up in his mind.
   Rincewind had been generally reckoned by his tutors to be a natural wizard in the same way that fish are natural mountaineers. He probably would have been thrown out of Unseen University anyway—he couldn’t remember spells and smoking made him feel ill—but what had really caused trouble was all that stupid business about sneaking into the room where the Octavo was chained and opening it.
   And what made the trouble even worse was that no-one could figure out why all the locks had temporarily become unlocked.
   The spell wasn|t;sa demanding lodger. It just sat there like an old toad at the bottom of a pond. But whenever Rincewind was feeling really tired or very afraid it tried to get itself said. No-one:knew what would happen if one of the Eight Great Spells was said by itself, but the general Agreement was that the best place from which to watch the effects would be the next universe.
   It was a weird thought to have, lying on a heap of pine needles after just falling off the edge of the world, but Rincewind had a feeling that the spell wanted to keep him alive.
   ‘Suits me,’ he thought.
   He sat up and looked at the trees. Rincewind was a city wizard and, although he was aware that there were various differences among types of tree by which their nearest and dearest could tell them apart, the only thing he knew for certain was that the end without the leaves on fitted nto the ground. There were far too many of them, arranged with absolutely no sense of order. The place hadn’t been swept for ages.
   He remembered something about being able to tell where you were by looking at which side of a tree the moss grew on. These trees had moss everywhere, and wooden warts, and scrabbly old branches; if trees were people, these trees would be sitting in rocking chairs.
   Rincewind gave the nearest one a kick. With unerring aim it dropped an acorn on him. He said ‘Ow.’ The tree, in a voice like a very old door swinging open, said, ‘Serves you right.’
   There was a long silence.
   Then Rincewind said, ‘Did you say that?’
   ‘And that too?’
   ‘Oh.’ He thought for a bit. Then he tried, ‘I suppose you wouldn’t happen to know the way out of the forest, possibly, by any chance?’
   ‘No. I don’t get about much,’ said the tree.
   ‘Fairly boring life, I imagine,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been anything else,’ said the tree.
   Rincewind looked at it closely. It seemed pretty much like every other tree he’d seen.
   ‘Are you magical?’ he said.
   ‘No-one’s ever said,’ said the tree, ‘I suppose so.’
   Rincewind thought: I can’t be talking to a tree. If I was talking to a tree I’d be mad, and I’m not mad, so trees can’t talk.
   ‘Goodbye,’ he said firmly.
   ‘Hey, don’t go,’ the tree began, and then realised the hopelessness of it all. It watched him stagger off through the bushes, and settled down to feeling the sun on its leaves, the slurp and gurgle of the water in its roots, and the very ebb and flow of its sap in response to the natural tug of the sun and moon. Boring, it thought. What a trange thing to say. Trees can be bored, of course, beetles do it all the time, but I don’t think that was what he was trying to mean. And: can you actually be anything else? In fact Rincewind never spoke to this particular tree again, but from that brief conversation it spun the basis of the first tree religion which, in time, swept the forests of the world. Its tenet of faith was this: a tree that was a good tree, and led a clean, decent and upstanding life, could be assured of a future life after death. If it was very good indeed it would eventually be reincarnated as five thousand rolls of lavatory paper.
   A few miles away Twoflower was also getting over his surprise at finding himself back on the Disc. He was sitting on the hull of the Potent Voyager as it gurgled gradually under the dark waters of a large lake, surrounded by trees.
   Strangely enough, he was not particularly worried. Twoflower was a tourist, the first of the species to evolve on the Disc, and fundamental to his very existence was the rock-hard belief that nothing bad could really happen to him because he was not involved; he also believed that anyone could understand anything he said provided he spoke loudly and slowly, that people were basically trustworthy, and that anything could be sorted out among men of goodwill if they just acted sensibly.
   On the face of it this gave him a survival value marginally less than, say, a soap herring, but to Rincewind’s amazement it all seemed to work and the little man’s total obliviousness to all forms of danger somehow made danger so discouraged that it gave up and went away.
   Merely being faced with drowning stood no chance. Twoflower was quite certain that in a well-organised society people would not be allowed to go around getting drowned.
   He was a little bothered, though, about where his Luggage had got to. But he comforted himself with the nowledge that it was made of sapient pearwood, and ought to be intelligent enough to look after itself...
   In yet another part of the forest a young shaman was undergoing a very essential part of his training. He had eaten of the sacred toadstool, he had smoked the holy rhizome, he had carefully powdered up and inserted into various orifices the mystic mushroom and now, sitting crosslegged under a pine tree, he was concentrating firstly on making contact with the strange and wonderful secrets at the heart of Being but mainly on stopping the top of his head from unscrewing and floating away.
   Blue four-side triangles pinwheeled across his vision. Occasionally he smiled knowingly at nothing very much and said things like ‘Wow’ and ‘Urgh.’
   There was a movement in the air and what he later described as ‘like, a sort of explosion only backwards, you know?’, and suddenly where there had only been nothing there was a large, battered, wooden chest.
   It landed heavily on the leafmould, extended dozens of little legs, and turned around ponderously to look at the shaman. That is to say, it had no face, but even through the mycological haze he was horribly aware that it was looking at him. And not a nice look, either. It was amazing how baleful a keyhole and a couple of knotholes could be.
   To his intense relief it gave a sort of wooden shrug, and set off through the trees at a canter.
   With superhuman effort the shaman recalled the correct sequence of movements for standing up and even managed a couple of steps before he looked down and gave up, having run out of legs.
   Rincewind, meanwhile, had found a path. It wound about a good deal, and he would have been happier if it had been cobbled, but following it gave him something to do.
   Several trees tried to strike up a conversation, but Rincewind was nearly certain that this was not normal behaviour for trees and ignored them.
   The day lengthened. There was no sound but the murmur of nasty little stinging insects, the occasional crack of a falling branch, and the whispering of the trees discussing religion and the trouble with squirrels. Rincewind began to feel very lonely. He imagined himself living in the woods forever, sleeping on leaves and eating... and eating... whatever there was to eat in woods. Trees, he supposed, and nuts and berries. He would have to...
   There, coming up the path, was Twoflower—dripping wet, but beaming with delight. The Luggage trotted along behind him (anything made of the wood would follow its owner anywhere and it was often used to make luggage for the grave goods of very rich dead kings who wanted to be sure of starting a new life in the next world with clean underwear).
   Rincewind sighed. Up to now, he’d thought the day couldn’t possibly get worse.
   It began to rain a particularly wet and cold rain. Rincewind and Twoflower sat under a tree and watched it.
   ‘Why are we here?’
   ‘Well, some say that the Creator of the Universe made the Disc and everything on it, others say that its all a very complicated story involving the testicles of the Sky God and the milk of the Celestial Cow, and some even hold that we’re all just due to the total random accretion of probability particles. But if you mean why are we here as opposed to falling off the Disc, I haven’t the faintest idea. It’s probably all some ghastly mistake.’
   ‘Oh. Do you think there’s anything to eat in this forest?’
   ‘Yes,’ said the wizard bitterly, us.’
   ‘I’ve got some acorns, if you like,’ said the tree helpfully.
   They sat in damp silence for some moments.
   ‘Rincewind, the tree said—’
   ‘Trees can’t talk,’ snapped Rincewind. ‘It’s very important to remember that.’
   ‘But you just heard—’
   Rincewind sighed. Took,’ he said. It’s all down to simple biology, isn’t it? If you’re going to talk you need the right equipment, like lungs and lips and, and—’
   ‘Vocal chords,’ said the tree.
   ‘Yeah, them,’ said Rincewind. He shut up and stared gloomily at the rain.
   ‘I thought wizards knew all about trees and wild food and things,’ said Twoflower reproachfully. It was very seldom that anything in his voice suggested that he thought of Rincewind as anything other than a magnificent enchanter, and the wizard was stung into action.
   ‘I do, I do,’ he snapped.
   ‘Well, what kind of tree is this?’ said the tourist. Rincewind looked up.
   ‘Beech,’ he said firmly.
   ‘Actually—’ began the tree, and shut up quickly. It had caught Rincewind’s look.
   ‘Those things up there look like acorns,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Yes, well, this is the sessile or heptocarpic variety,’ said Rincewind. The nuts look very much like acorns, in fact. They can fool practically anybody.’
   ‘Gosh,’ said Twoflower, and, What’s that bush over there, then?’
   ‘But it’s got thorns and red berries!’
   ‘Well?’ said Rincewind sternly, and stared hard at him. Twoflower broke first.
   ‘Nothing,’ he said meekly. ‘I must have been misinformed.’
   ‘But there’s some big mushrooms under it. Can you eat them?’
   Rincewind looked at them cautiously. They were, indeed, very big, and had red and white spotted caps. They were in fact a variety that the local shaman (who at this point was some miles away, making friends with a rock) would only eat after first attaching one leg to a large stone with a rope. There was nothing for it but to go out in the rain and look at them.
   He knelt down in the leafmould and peered under the cap. After a while he said weakly, ‘No, no good to eat at all.’
   ‘Why?’ called Twoflower. ‘Are the gills the wrong shade of yellow?’
   ‘No, not really...’
   ‘I expect the stems haven’t got the right kind of fluting, then.’
   ‘They look okay, actually.’
   ‘The cap, then, I expect the cap is the wrong colour,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Not sure about that.’
   ‘Well then, why can’t you eat them?’
   Rincewind coughed. It’s the little doors and windows,’ he said wretchedly, ‘it’s a dead giveaway.’
   Thunder rolled across Unseen University. Rain poured over its roofs and gurgled out of its gargoyles, although one or two of the more cunning ones had scuttled off to shelter among the maze of tiles.
   Far below, in the Great Hall, the eight most powerful wizards on the Discworld gathered at the angles of a ceremonial octogram. Actually they probably weren’t the most powerful, if the truth were known, but they certainly had great powers of survival which, in the highly competitive world of magic, was pretty much the same thing. Behind every wizard of the eighth rank were half a dozen eventh rank wizards trying to bump him off, and senior wizards had to develop an inquiring attitude to, for example, scorpions in their bed. An ancient proverb summed it up: when a wizard is tired of looking for broken glass in his dinner, it ran, he is tired of life.
   The oldest wizard, Greyhald Spold of the Ancient and Truly Original Sages of the Unbroken Circle, leaned heavily on his carven staff and spake thusly:
   ‘Get on with it, Weatherwax, my feet are giving me gyp.’
   Galder, who had merely paused for effect, glared at him.
   ‘Very well, then, I will be brief —’
   ‘Jolly good.’
   We all sought guidance as to the events of this morning. Can anyone among us say he received it?’
   The wizards looked sidelong at one another. Nowhere outside a trades union conference fraternal benefit night can so much mutual distrust and suspicion be found as among a gathering of senior enchanters. But the plain fact was that the day had gone very badly. Normally informative demons, summoned abruptly from the Dungeon Dimensions, had looked sheepish and sidled away when questioned. Magic mirrors had cracked. Tarot cards had mysteriously become blank. Crystal balls had gone all cloudy. Even tealeaves, normally scorned by wizards as frivolous and unworthy of contemplation, had clustered together at the bottom of cups and refused to move.
   In short, the assembled wizards were at a loss. There was a general murmur of agreement.
   ‘And therefore I propose that we perform the Rite of AshkEnte,’ said Galder dramatically.
   He had to admit that he had hoped for a better response, something on the lines of, well, ‘No, not the Rite of AshkEnte! Man was not meant to meddle with such things!’
   In fact there was a general mutter of approval.
   ‘Good idea.’
   ‘Seems reasonable.’
   ‘Get on with it, then.’
   Slightly put out, he summoned a procession of lesser wizards who carried various magical implements into the hall.
   It has already been hinted that around this time there was some disagreement among the fraternity of wizards about how to practise magic.
   Younger wizards in particular went about saying that it was time that magic started to update its image and that they should all stop mucking about with bits of wax and bone and put the whole thing on a properly-organised basis, with research programmes and three-day conventions in good hotels where they could read papers with titles like ‘Whither Geomancy?’ and The role of Seven-League Boots in a caring society.’
   Trymon, for example, hardly ever did any magic these days but ran the Order with hourglass efficiency and wrote lots of memos and had a big chart on his office wall, covered with coloured blobs and flags and lines that no-one else really understood but which looked very impressive.
   The other type of wizard thought all this was so much marsh gas and wouldn’t have anything to do with an image unless it was made of wax and had pins stuck in it.
   The heads of the eight orders were all of this persuasion, traditionalists to a mage, and the utensils that were heaped around the octogram had a definite, no-nonsense occult look about them. Rams horns, skulls, baroque metalwork and heavy candles were much in evidence, despite the discovery by younger wizards that the Rite of AshkEnte could perfectly well be performed with three small bits of wood and 4 cc of mouse blood.
   The preparations normally took several hours, but the combined powers of the senior wizards shortened it considerably and, after a mere forty minutes, Galder chanted the final words of the spell. They hung in front of him for a moment before dissolving.
   The air in the centre of the octogram shimmered and thickened, and suddenly contained a tall, dark figure.
   Most of it was hidden by a black robe and hood and this was probably just as well. It held a long scythe in one hand and one couldn’t help noticing that what should have been fingers were simply white bone.
   The other skeletal hand held small cubes of cheese and pineapple on a stick.
   WellL? said Death, in a voice with all the warmth and colour of an iceberg. He caught the wizards’ gaze, and glanced down at the stick.
   I was at a party, he added, a shade reproachfully.
   ‘O Creature of Earth and Darkness, we do charge thee to abjure from—’ began Galder in a firm, commanding voice. Death nodded.
   Yes, yes I know all that, he said. Why have you summoned me?
   ‘It is said that you can see both the past and future,’ said Galder a little sulkily, because the big speech of binding and conjuration was one he rather liked and people had said he was very good at it.
   that is absolutely correct.
   Then perhaps you can tell us what exactly it was that happened this morning?’ said Galder. He pulled himself together, and added loudly, ‘I command this by Azimrothe, by T’chikel, by—’
   ‘I mean about the Octavo,’ said Galder coldly.
   ‘Hold on, hold on,’ said Galder. He scratched his chin. ‘Are we talking about the one inside the head of Rincewind? Tall thin man, bit scraggy? The one—’
   Galder frowned. It seemed a lot of trouble to go to. Everyone knew that when a wizard died all the spells in h:s head would go free, so why bother to save Rincewind? The spell would just float back eventually.
   Any idea why?’ he said without thinking and then, remembering himself in time, added hastily, ‘By Yrriph and Kcharla I do abjure thee and—’
   ‘Speak up there!’ demanded Greyhald Spold.
   ‘Shut up!’ said Galder.
   ‘No, him. Daft old—’
   ‘I heard that!’ snapped Spold, ‘You young people—’ He stopped. Death was looking at him thoughtfully, as if he was trying to remember his face.
   ‘Look,’ said Galder, ‘just repeat that bit again, will you? The Disc will be what?’
   ‘Hang on,’ said Galder hurriedly. ‘By Cheliliki and Orizone and so forth, what do you mean, destroyed?’
   ‘That’s all you can tell us?’
   ‘But Hogswatchnight is only two months away!’
   ‘At least you can tell us where Rincewind is now!’ Death shrugged. It was a gesture he was particularly well built for.
   What is he doing there?’
   Galder nodded distractedly. He had been thinking wistfully of the banishment ritual, which started ‘Begone, foul shade’ and had some rather impressive passages which he had been practising, but somehow he couldn’t work up any enthusiasm.
   ‘Oh, yes,’ he said. Thank you, yes.’ And then, because it’s as well not to make enemies even among the creatures of night, he added politely, ‘I hope it is a good party.’
   Death didn’t answer. He was looking at Spold in the same way that a dog looks at a bone, only in this case things were more or less the other way around.
   ‘I said I hope it is a good party,’ said Galder, loudly.
   He vanished, leaving only a cocktail stick and a short paper streamer behind.
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There had been an unseen observer of all this. It was of course entirely against the rules, but Trymon knew all about rules and had always considered they were for making, not obeying.
   Long before the eight mages had got down to some serious arguing about what the apparition had meant he was down in the main levels of the University library.
   It was an awe-inspiring place. Many of the books were magical, and the important thing to remember about grimoires is that they are deadly in the hands of any ibrarian who cares about order, because he’s bound to stick them all on the same shelf. This is not a good idea with books that tend to leak magic, because more than one or two of them together form a critical Black Mass. On top of that, many of the lesser spells are quite particular about the company they keep, and tend to express any objections by hurling their books viciously across the room. And, of course, there is always the half-felt presence of the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions, clustering around the magical leakage and constantly probing the walls of reality.
   The job of magical librarian, who has to spend his working days in this sort of highly charged atmosphere, is a high-risk occupation.
   The Head Librarian was sitting on top of his desk, quietly peeling a orange, and was well aware of that.
   He glanced up when Trymon entered.
   ‘I’m looking for anything we’ve got on the Pyramid of Tshut,’ said Trymon. He had come prepared: he took a banana out of his pocket.
   The librarian looked at it mournfully, and then flopped down heavily on the floor. Trymon found a soft hand poked gently into his and the librarian led the way, waddling sadly between the bookshelves. It was like holding a little leather glove.
   Around them the books sizzled and sparked, with the occasional discharge of undirected magic flashing over to the carefully-placed earthing rods nailed to the shelves. There was a tinny, blue smell and, just at the very limit of hearing, the horrible chittering of the dungeon creatures.
   Like many other parts of Unseen University the library occupied rather more space than its outside dimensions would suggest, because magic distorts space in strange ways, and it was probably the only library in the universe with Mobius shelves. But the librarian’s mental catalogue was ticking over perfectly. He stopped by a soaring stack of musty books and swung himself up into the darkness. There was the sound of rustling paper, and a cloud of dust oated down to Trymon. Then the librarian was back, a slim volume in his hands.
   ‘Oook,’ he said.
   Trymon took it gingerly.
   The cover was scratched and very dog-eared, the gold of its lettering had long ago curled off, but he could just make out, in the old magic tongue of the Tsort Valley, the words: Iyt Gryet Teymple hyte Tsort, Y Hiystory Myistical.
   ‘Oook?’ said the librarian, anxiously.
   Trymon turned the pages cautiously. He wasn’t very good at languages, he’d always found them highly inefficient things which by rights ought to be replaced by some sort of easily understood numerical system, but this seemed exactly what he was looking for. There were whole pages covered with meaningful hieroglyphs.
   ‘Is this the only book you’ve got about the pyramid of Tsort?’ he said slowly.
   ‘You’re quite sure?’
   Trymon listened. He could hear, a long way off, the sound of approaching feet and arguing voices. But he had been prepared for that, too.
   He reached into a pocket.
   ‘Would you like another banana?’ he said.
   The forest of Skund was indeed enchanted, which was nothing unusual on the Disc, and was also the only forest in the whole universe to be called—in the local language—Your Finger You Fool, which was the literal meaning of the word Skund.
   The reason for this is regrettably all too common. When the first explorers from the warm lands around the Circle Sea travelled into the chilly hinterland they filled in the blank spaces on their maps by grabbing the nearest native, pointing at some distant landmark, speaking very clearly n a loud voice, and writing down whatever the bemused man told them. Thus were immortalised in generations of atlases such geographical oddities as Just A Mountain, I Don’t Know, What? and, of course, Your Finger You Fool.
   Rainclouds clustered around the bald heights of Mt. Oolskunrahod (‘Who is this Fool who does Not Know what a Mountain Is’) and the Luggage settled itself more comfortably under a dripping tree, which tried unsuccessfully to strike up a conversation.
   Twoflower and Rincewind were arguing. The person they were arguing about sat on his mushroom and watched them with interest. He looked like someone who smelled like someone who lived in a mushroom, and that bothered Twoflower.
   ‘Well, why hasn’t he got a red hat?’
   Rincewind hesitated, desperately trying to imagine what Twoflower was getting at.
   ‘What?’ he said, giving in.
   ‘He should have a red hat,’ said Twoflower. ‘And he certainly ought to be cleaner and more, more sort of jolly. He doesn’t look like any sort of gnome to me.’
   ‘What are you going on about?’
   ‘Look at that beard,’ said Twoflower sternly. ‘I’ve seen better beards on a piece of cheese.’
   ‘Look, he’s six inches high and lives in a mushroom,’ snarled Rincewind. ‘Of course he’s a bloody gnome.’
   ‘We’ve only got his word for it.’
   Rincewind looked down at the gnome.
   ‘Excuse me,’ he said. He took Twoflower to the other side of the clearing.
   ‘Listen,’ he said between his teeth. ‘If he was fifteen feet tall and said he was a giant we’d only have his word for that too, wouldn’t we?’
   ‘He could be a goblin,’ said Twoflower defiantly.
   Rincewind looked back at the tiny figure, which was industriously picking its nose.
   ‘Well?’ he said. ‘So what? Gnome, goblin, pixie—so what?’
   ‘Not a pixie,’ said Twoflower firmly. ‘Pixies, they wear these sort of green combinations and they have pointy caps and little knobbly antenna thingies sticking out of their heads. I’ve seen pictures.’
   Twoflower hesitated, and looked at his feet. ‘I think it was called the "mutter, mutter, mutter." ‘
   ‘The what? Called the what?’
   The little man took a sudden interest in the backs of his hands.
   ‘The Little Folks’ Book of Flower Fairies,’ he muttered.
   Rincewind looked blank.
   ‘It’s a book on how to avoid them?’ he said.
   ‘Oh no,’ said Twoflower hurriedly. It tells you where to look for them. I can remember the pictures now.’ A dreamy look came over his face, and Rincewind groaned inwardly. There was even a special fairy that came and took your teeth away.’
   ‘What, came and pulled out your actual teeth—?’
   ‘No, no, you’re wrong, I mean after they’d fallen out, what you did was, you put the tooth under your pillow and the fairy came and took it away and left a rhinu piece.’
   ‘Why what?’
   ‘Why did it collect teeth?’
   ‘It just did.’
   Rincewind formed a mental picture of some strange entity living in a castle made of teeth. It was the kind of mental picture you tried to forget. Unsuccessfully.
   ‘Urgh,’ he said.
   Red hats! He wondered whether to enlighten the tourist about what life was really like when a frog was a good meal, a rabbit hole a useful place to shelter out of the rain, and an owl a drifting, silent terror in the night. Moleskin trousers sounded quaint unless you personally had to remove them from their original owner when the vicious little sod was cornered in his burrow. As for red hats, anyone who went around a forest looking bright nd conspicuous would only do so very, very briefly.
   He wanted to say: look, the life of gnomes and goblins is nasty, brutish and short. So are they.
   He wanted to say all this, and couldn’t. For a man with an itch to see the whole of infinity, Twoflower never actually moved outside his own head. Telling him the truth would be like kicking a spaniel.
   ‘Swee whee weedle wheet,’ said a voice by his foot. He looked down. The gnome, who had introduced himself as Swires, looked up. Rincewind had a very good ear for languages. The gnome had just said, ‘I’ve got some newt sorbet left over from yesterday.’
   ‘Sounds wonderful,’ said Rincewind.
   Swires gave him another prod in the ankle.
   ‘The other bigger, is he all right?’ he said solicitously.
   ‘He’s just suffering from reality shock,’ said Rincewind. You haven’t got a red hat, by any chance?’
   ‘Just a thought.’
   ‘I know where there’s some food for biggers,’ said the gnome, ‘and shelter, too. It’s not far.’
   Rincewind looked at the lowering sky. The daylight was draining out of the landscape and the clouds looked as if they had heard about snow and were considering the idea. Of course, people who lived in mushrooms couldn’t necessarily be trusted, but right now a trap baited with a hot meal and clean sheets would have had the wizard hammering to get in.
   They set off. After a few seconds the Luggage got carefully to its feet and started to follow.
   It turned carefully, little legs moving in a complicated pattern, and appeared to look up.
   ‘Is it good, being joinery?’ said the tree, anxiously. ‘Did it hurt?’
   The Luggage seemed to think about this. Every brass handle, every knothole, radiated extreme concentration.
   Then it shrugged its lid and waddled away.
   The tree sighed, and shook a few dead leaves out of its twigs.
   The cottage was small, tumbledown and as ornate as a doily. Some mad whittler had got to work on it, Rincewind decided, and had created terrible havoc before he could be dragged away. Every door, every shutter had its clusters of wooden grapes and half-moon cutouts, and there were massed outbreaks of fretwork pinecones all over the walls. He half expected a giant cuckoo to come hurtling out of an upper window.
   What he also noticed was the characteristic greasy feel in the air. Tiny green and purple sparks flashed from his fingernails.
   ‘Strong magical field,’ he muttered. ‘A hundred milli-thaums [2] at least.’
   ‘There’s magic all over the place,’ said Swires. ‘An old witch used to live around here. She went a long time ago but the magic still keeps the house going.’
   ‘Here, there’s something odd about that door,’ said Twoflower.
   Why should a house need magic to keep it going?’ said Rincewind. Twoflower touched a wall gingerly.
   ‘It’s all sticky!’
   ‘Nougat,’ said Swires.
   ‘Good grief! A real gingerbread cottage! Rincewind, a real—’
   Rincewind nodded glumly. Yeah, the Confectionary School of Architecture,’ he said. ‘It never caught on.’
   He looked suspiciously at the liquorice doorknocker.
   ‘It sort of regenerates,’ said Swires. ‘Marvellous, really. You just don’t get this sort of place nowadays, you just an’t get the gingerbread.’
   ‘Really?’ said Rincewind, gloomily.
   ‘Come on in,’ said the gnome, ‘but mind the doormat.
   The great Disc spun slowly under its toiling sun, and daylight pooled in hollows and finally drained away as night fell.
   In his chilly room in Unseen University Trymon pored over the book, his lips moving as his finger traced the unfamiliar, ancient script. He read that the Great Pyramid of Tsort, now long vanished, was made of one million, three thousand and ten limestone blocks. He read that ten thousand slaves had been worked to death in its building. He learned that it was a maze of secret passages, their walls reputedly decorated with the distilled wisdom of ancient Tsort. He read that its height plus its length divided by half its width equalled exactly 1.67563, or precisely 1,237.98712567 times the difference between the distance to the sun and the weight of a small orange. He learned that sixty years had been devoted entirely to its construction.
   It all seemed, he thought, to be rather a lot of trouble to go to just to sharpen a razor blade.
   And in the Forest of Skund Twoflower and Rincewind settled down to a meal of gingerbread mantlepiece and thought longingly of pickled onions.
   And far away, but set as it were on a collision course, the greatest hero the Disc ever produced rolled himself a cigarette, entirely unaware of the role that lay in store for him.
   It was quite an interesting tailormade that he twirled expertly between his fingers because, like many of the wandering wizards from whom he had picked up the art, he was in the habit of saving dogends in a leather bag and rolling them into fresh smokes. The implacable law of verages therefore dictated that some of that tobacco had been smoked almost continuously for many years now. The thing he was trying unsuccessfully to light was, well, you could have coated roads with it.
   So great was the reputation of this person that a group of nomadic barbarian horsemen had respectfully invited him to join them as they sat around a horseturd fire. The nomads of the Hub regions usually migrated Rimwards for the winter, and these were part of a tribe who had pitched their felt tents in the sweltering heatwave of a mere –3 degrees and were going around with peeling noses and complaining about heatstroke.
   The barbarian chieftain said: What then are the greatest things that a man may find in life?’ This is the sort of thing you’re supposed to say to maintain steppe-cred in barbarian circles.
   The man on his right thoughtfully drank his cocktail of mare’s milk and snowcat blood, and spoke thus: The crisp horizon of the steppe, the wind in your hair, a fresh horse under you.’
   The man on his left said: The cry of the white eagle in the heights, the fall of snow in the forest, a true arrow in your bow.’
   The chieftain nodded, and said: ‘Surely it is the sight of your enemy slain, the humiliation of his tribe and the lamentation of his women.’
   There was a general murmur of whiskery approval at this outrageous display.
   Then the chieftain turned respectfully to his guest, a small figure carefully warming his chilblains by the fire, and said: ‘But our guest, whose name is legend, must tell us truly: what is it that a man may call the greatest things in life?’
   The guest paused in the middle of another unsuccessful attempt to light up.
   ‘What shay?’ he said, toothlessly.
   ‘I said: what is it that a man may call the greatest things in life?’
   The warriors leaned closer. This should be worth hearing.
   The guest thought long and hard and then said, with deliberation: ‘Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.’
   Brilliant octarine light flared in the forge. Galder Weatherwax, stripped to the waist, his face hidden by a mask of smoked glass, squinted into the glow and brought a hammer down with surgical precision. The magic squealed and writhed in the tongs but still he worked it, drawing it into a line of agonised fire.
   A floorboard creaked. Galder had spent many hours tuning them, always a wise precaution with an ambitious assistant who walked like a cat.
   D flat. That meant he was just to the right of the door.
   ‘Ah, Trymon,’ he said, without turning, and noted with some satisfaction the faint indrawing of breath behind him. ‘Good of you to come. Shut the door, will you?’
   Trymon pushed the heavy door, his face expressionless. On the high shelf above him various bottled impossibilities wallowed in their pickle jars and watched him with interest.
   Like all wizards’ workshops, the place looked as though a taxidermist had dropped his stock in a foundry and then had a fight with a maddened glassblower, braining a passing crocodile in the process (it hung from the ceiling and smelt strongly of camphor). There were lamps and rings that Trymon itched to rub, and mirrors that looked as though they could repay a second glance. A pair of seven-league boots stirred restlessly in a cage. A whole library of grimoires, not of course as powerful as the Octavo but still heavy with spells, creaked and rattled their chains as they sensed the wizard’s covetous glance on them. The naked power of it all stirred him as nothing else could, but he deplored the scruffiness and Galder’s sense of theatre.
   For example, he happened to know that the green liquid bubbling mysteriously through a maze of contorted pipework on one of the benches was just green dye with soap in it, because he’d bribed one of the servants.
   One day, he thought, it’s all going to go. Starting with that bloody alligator. His knuckles whitened...
   ‘Well now,’ said Galder cheerfully, hanging up his apron and sitting back in his chair with the lion paw arms and duck legs, ‘You sent me this memmy-thing.’
   Trymon shrugged. ‘Memo. I merely pointed out, lord, that the other Orders have all sent agents to Skund Forest to recapture the spell, while you do nothing,’ he said. ‘No doubt you will reveal your reasons in good time.’
   ‘Your faith shames me,’ said Galder.
   The wizard who captures the spell will bring great honour on himself and his order,’ said Trymon. The others have used boots and all manner of elsewhere spells. What do you propose using, master?’
   ‘Did I detect a hint of sarcasm there?’
   ‘Absolutely not, master.’
   ‘Not even a smidgeon?’
   ‘Not even the merest smidgeon, master.’
   ‘Good. Because I don’t propose to go.’ Galder reached down and picked up an ancient book. He mumbled a command and it creaked open; a bookmark suspiciously like a tongue flicked back into the binding.
   He fumbled down beside his cushion and produced a little leather bag of tobacco and a pipe the size of an incinerator. With all the skill of a terminal nicotine addict he rubbed a nut of tobacco between his hands and tamped it into the bowl. He snapped his fingers and fire flared. He sucked deep, sighed with satisfaction...
   ... looked up.
   ‘Still here, Tryrnon?’
   ‘You summoned me, master,’ said Trymon levelly. At least, that’s what his voice said. Deep in his grey eyes was the faintest glitter that said he had a list of every slight, every patronising twinkle, every gentle reproof, every knowing glance, and for every single one Galder’s living brain was going to spend a year in acid.
   ‘Oh, yes, so I did. Humour the deficiencies of an old man,’ said Galder pleasantly. He held up the book he had been reading.
   ‘I don’t hold with all this running about,’ he said. ‘It’s all very dramatic, mucking about with magic carpets and the like, but it isn’t true magic to my mind. Take seven league boots, now. If men were meant to walk twenty-one miles at a step I am sure God would have given us longer legs... Where was I?’
   ‘I am not sure,’ said Trymon coldly.
   ‘Ah, yes. Strange that we could find nothing about the Pyramid of Tsort in the Library, you would have thought there’d be something, wouldn’t you?’
   The librarian will be disciplined, of course.’
   Galder looked sideways at him. ‘Nothing drastic,’ he said. ‘Withold his bananas, perhaps.’
   They looked at each other for a moment.
   Galder broke off first—looking hard at Trymon always bothered him. It had the same disconcerting effect as gazing into a mirror and seeing no-one there.
   ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘strangely enough, I found assistance elsewhere. In my own modest bookshelves, in fact. The journal of Skrelt Changebasket, the founder of our order. You, my keen young man who would rush off so soon, do you know what happens when a wizard dies?’
   ‘Any spells he has memorised say themselves,’ said Trymon. ‘It is one of the first things we learn.’
   ‘In fact it is not true of the original Eight Great Spells. By dint of close study Skrelt learned that a Great Spell will simply take refuge in the nearest mind open and ready to receive it. Just push the big mirror over here, will you?’
   Galder got to his feet and shuffled across to the forge, which was now cold. The strand of magic still writhed, though, at once present and not present, like a slit cut into another universe full of hot blue light. He picked it p easily, took a longbow from a rack, said a word of power, and watched with satisfaction as the magic grasped the ends of the bow and then tightened until the wood creaked. Then lie selected an arrow.
   Trymon had tugged a heavy, full-length mirror into the middle of the floor. When I am head of the Order, he told himself, I certainly won’t shuffle around in carpet slippers.
   Trymon, as mentioned earlier, felt that a lot could be done by fresh blood if only the dead wood could be removed—but, just for the moment, he was genuinely interested in seeing what the old fool would do next.
   He may have derived some satisfaction if he had known that Galder and Skrelt Changebasket were both absolutely wrong.
   Galder made a few passes in front of the glass, which clouded over and then cleared to show an aerial view of the Forest of Skund. He looked at it intently while holding the bow with the arrow pointing vaguely at the ceiling. He muttered a few words like ‘allow for wind speed of, say, three knots’ and ‘adjust for temperature’ and then, with a rather disappointing movement, released the arrow.
   If the laws of action and reaction had anything to do with it, it should have flopped to the ground a few feet away. But no-one was listening to them.
   With a sound that defies description, but which for the sake of completeness can be thought of basically as ‘spang!’ plus three days hard work in any decently equipped radiophonic workshop, the arrow vanished.
   Galder threw the bow aside and grinned.
   ‘Of course, it’ll take about an hour to get there,’ he said. Then the spell will simply follow the ionised path back here. To me.’
   ‘Remarkable,’ said Trymon, but any passing telepath would have read in letters ten yards high: if you, then why not me? He looked down at the cluttered workbench, when a long and very sharp knife looked tailormade for what he suddenly had in mind.
   Violence was not something he liked to be involved in except at one remove. But the Pyramid of Tsort had been quite clear about the rewards for whoever brought all right spells together at the right time, and Trymon was not about to let years of painstaking work go for nothing because some old fool had a bright idea.
   ‘Would you like some cocoa while we’re waiting?’ said Galder, hobbling across the room to the servants’ bell.
   ‘Certainly,’ said Trymon. He picked up the knife, weighing it for balance and accuracy. ‘I must congratulate you, master. I can see that we must all get up very early in the morning to get the better of you.’
   Galder laughed. And the knife left Trymon’s hand at such speed that (because of the somewhat sluggish nature of Disc light) it actually grew a bit shorter and a little more massive as it plunged, with unerring aim, towards Galder’s neck.
   It didn’t reach it. Instead, it swerved to one side and began a fast orbit—so fast that Galder appeared suddenly to be wearing a metal collar. He turned around, and to Trymon it seemed that he had suddenly grown several feet taller and much more powerful.
   The knife broke away and shuddered into the door a mere shadow’s depth from Trymon’s ear.
   ‘Early in the morning?’ said Galder pleasantly. ‘My dear lad, you will need to stay up all night.’
   ‘Have a bit more table,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘No thanks, I don’t like marzipan,’ said Twoflower. ‘Anyway, I’m sure it’s not right to eat other people’s furniture.’
   ‘Don’t worry,’ said Swires. The old witch hasn’t been seen for years. They say she was done up good and proper by a couple of young tearaways.’
   ‘Kids of today,’ commented Rincewind.
   ‘I blame the parents,’ said Twoflower.
   Once you had made the necessary mental adjustments, the gingerbread cottage was quite a pleasant place. Residual magic kept it standing and it was shunned by such local wild animals who hadn’t already died of terminal tooth decay. A bright fire of liquorice logs burned rather messily in the fireplace; Rincewind had tried gathering wood outside, but had given up. It’s hard to burn wood that talks to you.
   He belched.
   ‘This isn’t very healthy,’ he said. ‘I mean, why sweets? Why not crispbread and cheese? Or salami, now—I could just do with a nice salami sofa.’
   ‘Search me,’ said Swires. ‘Old Granny Whitlow just did sweets. You should have seen her meringues —’
   ‘I have,’ said Rincewind, ‘I looked at the mattresses...’
   ‘Gingerbread is more traditional,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘What, for mattresses?’
   ‘Don’t be silly,’ said Twoflower reasonably. Whoever heard of a gingerbread mattress?’
   Rincewind grunted. He was thinking of food—more accurately, of food in Ankh-Morpork. Funny how the old place seemed more attractive the further he got from it. He only had to close his eyes to picture, in dribbling detail, the food stalls of a hundred different cultures in the market places. You could eat squishi or shark’s fin soup so fresh that swimmers wouldn’t go near it, and —
   ‘Do you think I could buy this place?’ said Twoflower. Rincewind hesitated. He’d found it always paid to think very carefully before answering Twoflower’s more surprising questions.
   ‘What for?’ he said, cautiously.
   ‘Well, it just reeks of ambience.’
   ‘What’s ambience?’ said Swires, sniffing cautiously and wearing the kind of expression that said that he hadn’t done it, whatever it was.
   ‘I think it’s a kind of frog,’ said Rincewind. ‘Anyway, you can’t buy this place because there isn’t anyone to buy t from—’
   ‘I think I could probably arrange that, on behalf of the forest council of course,’ interrupted Swires, trying to avoid Rincewind’s glare.
   ‘– and anyway you couldn’t take it with you, I mean, you could hardly pack it in the Luggage, could you?’ Rincewind indicated the Luggage, which was lying by the fire and managing in some quite impossible way to look like a contented but alert tiger, and then looked back at Twoflower. His face fell.
   ‘Could you?’ he repeated.
   He had never quite come to terms with the fact that the inside of the Luggage didn’t seem to inhabit quite the same world as the outside. Of course, this was simply a byproduct of its essential weirdness, but it was disconcerting to see Twoflower fill it full of dirty shirts and old socks and then open the lid again on a pile of nice crisp laundry, smelling faintly of lavender. Twoflower also bought a lot of quaint native artifacts or, as Rincewind would put it, junk, and even a seven-foot ceremonial pig tickling pole seemed to fit inside quite easily without sticking out anywhere.
   ‘I don’t know,’ said Twoflower. ‘You’re a wizard, you know about these things.’
   ‘Yes, well, of course, but baggage magic is a highly specialised art,’ said Rincewind. ‘Anyway, I’m sure the gnomes wouldn’t really want to sell it, it’s, it’s—,’ he groped through what he knew of Twoflower’s mad vocabulary—‘it’s a tourist attraction.’
   ‘What’s that?’ said Swires, interestedly.
   ‘It means that lots of people like him will come and look at it,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Because—’ Rincewind groped for words—‘it’s quaint. Urn, oldey worldey. Folkloresque. Er, a delightful example of a vanished folk art, steeped in the traditions of an age long gone.’
   ‘It is?’ said Swires, looking at the cottage in bewilderment.
   ‘All that?’
   ‘Fraid so.’
   ‘I’ll help you pack.’
   And the night wears on, under a blanket of lowering clouds which covers most of the Disc—which is fortuitous, because when it clears and the astrologers get a good view of the sky they are going to get angry and upset.
   And in various parts of the forest parties of wizards are getting lost, and going around in circles, and hiding from each other, and getting upset because whenever they bump into a tree it apologises to them. But, unsteadily though it may be, many of them are getting quite close to the cottage...
   Which is a good time to get back to the rambling buildings of Unseen University and in particular the apartments of Greyhald Spold, currently the oldest wizard on the Disc and determined to keep it that way.
   He has just been extremely surprised and upset.
   For the last few hours he has been very busy. He may be deaf and a little hard of thinking, but elderly wizards have very well-trained survival instincts, and they know that when a tall figure in a black robe and the latest in agricultural handtools starts looking thoughtfully at you it is time to act fast. The servants have been dismissed. The doorways have been sealed with a paste made from powdered mayflies, and protective octograms have been drawn on the windows. Rare and rather smelly oils have been poured in complex patterns on the floor, in designs which hurt the eyes and suggest the designer was drunk or from some other dimension or, possibly, both; in the very centre of the room is the eightfold octogram of Witholding, surrounded by red and green candles. And in the centre of that is a box made from wood of the curly-fern pine, which grows to a great age, and it is lined with red silk and yet more protective amulets. Because Greyhald Spold knows that Death is looking for him, and has spent many years designing an impregnable hiding place.
   He has just set the complicated clockwork of the lock and shut the lid, lying back in the knowledge that here at last is the perfect defence against the most ultimate of all his enemies, although as yet he has not considered the important part that airholes must play in an enterprise of this kind.
   And right beside him, very close to his ear, a voice has just said: DARK IN HERE, ISN’T IT?
   It began to snow. The barleysugar windows of the cottage showed bright and cheerful against the blackness.
   At one side of the clearing three tiny red points of light-glowed momentarily and there was the sound of a chesty cough, abruptly silenced.
   ‘Shut up!’ hissed a third rank wizard. They’ll hear us!’
   ‘Who will? We gave the lads from the Brotherhood of the Hoodwink the slip in the swamp, and those idiots from the Venerable Council of Seers went off the wrong way anyway.’
   ‘Yeah,’ said the most junior wizard, ‘but who keeps talking to us? They say this is a magic wood, it’s full of goblins and wolves and —’
   ‘Trees,’ said a voice out of the darkness, high above. It possessed what can only be described as timbre.
   ‘Yeah,’ said the youngest wizard. He sucked on his dogend, and shivered.
   The leader of the party peered over the rock and watched the cottage.
   ‘Right then,’ he said, knocking out his pipe on the heel of his seven league boot, who squeaked in protest. ‘We rush in, we grab them, we’re away. Okay?’
   ‘You sure it’s just people?’ said the youngest wizard, nervously.
   ‘Of course I’m sure,’ snarled the leader. ‘What do you expect, three bears?’
   ‘There could be monsters. This is the sort of wood that 45 has monsters.’
   ‘And trees,’ said a friendly voice from the branches. ‘Yeah,’ said the leader, cautiously.
   Rincewind looked carefully at the bed. It was quite a nice little bed, in a sort of hard toffee inlaid with caramel, but he’d rather eat it than sleep in it and it looked as though someone already had.
   ‘Someone’s been eating my bed,’ he said.
   ‘I like toffee,’ said Twoflower defensively.
   ‘If you don’t watch out the fairy will come and take all your teeth away,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘No, that’s elves,’ said Swires from the dressing table. ‘Elves do that. Toenails, too. Very touchy at times, elves can be.’
   Twoflower sat down heavily on his bed.
   ‘You’ve got it wrong,’ he said. ‘Elves are noble and beautiful and wise and fair; I’m sure I read that somewhere.’
   Swires and Rincewind’s kneecap exchanged glances.
   ‘I think you must be thinking about different elves,’ the gnome said slowly. ‘We’ve just got the other sort around here. Not that you could call them quick-tempered,’ he added hastily. ‘Not if you didn’t want to take your teeth home in your hat, anyway.’
   There was the tiny, distinctive sound of a nougat door opening. At the same time, from the other side of the cottage, came the faintest of tinkles, like a rock smashing a barley sugar window as delicately as possible.
   ‘What was that?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Which one?’ said Rincewind.
   There was the clonk of a heavy branch banging against the window sill. With a cry of ‘Elves!’ Swires scuttled across the floor to a mousehole and vanished.
   ‘What shall we do?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Panic?’ said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry sabre-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying ‘What a magnificent brute!’ and ‘Here, pussy.’
   ‘There’s a cupboard,’ said Twoflower, pointing to a narrow door that was squeezed between the wall and the chimneybreast. They scrambled into sweet, musty darkness.
   There was the creak of a chocolate floorboard outside. Someone said ‘I heard voices.’
   Someone else said, ‘Yeah, downstairs. I think it’s the Hood winkers.’
   ‘I thought you said we’d given them the slip!’
   ‘Hey, you two, you can eat this place! Here, look you can —’
   ‘Shut up!’
   There was a lot more creaking, and a muffled scream from downstairs where a Venerable Seer, creeping carefully through the darkness from the broken window, had trodden on the fingers of a Hoodwinker who was hiding under the table. There was the sudden zip and zing of magic.
   ‘Bugger!’said a voice outside. They’ve got him! Let’s go!’
   There was more creaking, and then silence. After a while Twoflower said, ‘Rincewind, I think there’s a broomstick in this cupboard.’
   Well, what’s so unusual about that?’
   This one’s got handlebars.’
   There was a piercing shriek from below. In the darkness a wizard had tried to open the Luggage’s lid. A crash from the scullery indicated the sudden arrival of a party of Illuminated Mages of the Unbroken Circle.
   ‘What do you think they’re after?’ whispered Twoflower.
   ‘I don’t know, but I think it might be a good idea not to find out,’ said Rincewind thoughtfully.
   ‘You could be right.’
   Rincewind pushed open the door gingerly. The room was empty. He tiptoed across to the window, and looked own into the upturned faces of three Brothers of the Order of Midnight.
   ‘That’s him!’
   He drew back hurriedly and rushed for the stairs.
   The scene below was indescribable but since that statement would earn the death penalty in the reign of Olaf Quimby II the attempt better be made. Firstly, most of the struggling wizards were trying to illuminate the scene by various flames, fireballs and magical glows, so the overall lighting gave the impression of a disco in a strobelight factory; each man was trying to find a position from which he could see the rest of the room without being attacked himself, and absolutely everyone was trying to keep out of the way of the Luggage, which had two Venerable Seers pinned in a corner and was snapping its lid at anyone who approached. But one wizard did happen to look up.
   ‘It’s him!’
   Rincewind jerked back, and something bumped into him. He looked around hurriedly, and stared when he saw Twoflower sitting on the broomstick—which was floating in mid-air.
   ‘The witch must have left it behind!’ said Twoflower. ‘A genuine magic broomstick!’
   Rincewind hesitated. Octarine sparks were spitting off the broomstick’s bristles and he hated heights almost more than anything else, but what he really hated more than anything at all was a dozen very angry and bad-tempered wizards rushing up the stairs towards him, and this was happening.
   ‘All right,’ he said, ‘but I’ll drive.’
   He lashed out with a boot at a wizard who was halfway through a Spell of Binding and jumped onto the broomstick, which bobbed down the stairwell and then turned upside down so that Rincewind was horribly eye to eye with a Brother of Midnight.
   He yelped and gave the handlebars a convulsive twist.
   Several things happened at once. The broomstick shot orward and broke through the wall in a shower of crumbs: the Luggage surged forward and bit the Brother in the leg: and with a strange whistling sound an arrow appeared from nowhere, missed Rincewind by inches, and struck the Luggage’s lid with a very solid thud. The Luggage vanished.
   In a little village deep in the forest an ancient shaman threw a few more twigs on his fire and stared through the smoke at his shamefaced apprentice.
   ‘A box with legs on?’ he said.
   ‘Yes, master. It just appeared out of the sky and looked at me,’ said the apprentice.
   ‘It had eyes then, this box?’
   ‘N—,’ began the apprentice and stopped, puzzled. The old man frowned.
   ‘Many have seen Topaxci, God of the Red Mushroom, and they earn the name of shaman,’ he said. ‘Some have seen Skelde, spirit of the smoke, and they are called sorcerers. A few have been privileged to see Umcherrel, the soul of the forest, and they are known as spirit masters. But none have seen a box with hundreds of legs that looked at them without eyes, and they are known as idio—’
   The interruption was caused by a sudden screaming noise and a flurry of snow and sparks that blew the fire across the dark hut; there was a brief blurred vision and then the opposite wall was blasted aside and the apparition vanished.
   There was a long silence. Then a slightly shorter silence. Then the old shaman said carefully, ‘You didn’t just see two men go through upside down on a broomstick, shouting and screaming at each other, did you?’
   The boy looked at him levelly. ‘Certainly not,’ he said.
   The old man heaved a sigh of relief. Thank goodness for that,’ he said. ‘Neither did I.’
   The cottage was in turmoil, because not only did the wizards want to follow the broomstick, they also wanted to prevent each other from doing so, and this led to several regrettable incidents.The most spectacular, and certainly the most tragic, happened when one Seer attempted to use his seven league boots without the proper sequence of spells and preparations. Seven league boots, as has already been intimated, are a tricksy form of magic at best, and he remembered too late that the utmost caution must be taken in using a means of transport which, when all is said and done, relies for its effectiveness on trying to put one foot twenty-one miles in front of the other.
   The first snowstorms of winter were raging, and in fact there was a suspiciously heavy covering of cloud over most of the Disc. And yet, from far above and by the silver light of the discworld’s tiny moon, it presented one of the most beautiful sights in the multiverse.
   Great streamers of cloud, hundreds of miles along, swirled from the waterfall at the Rim to the mountains of the Hub. In the cold crystal silence the huge white spiral glittered frostily under the stars, imperceptibly turning, very much as though God had stirred His coffee and then poured the cream in.
   Nothing disturbed the glowing scene, which —
   Something small and distant broke through the cloud layer, trailing shreds of vapour. In the stratospheric calm the sounds of bickering came sharp and clear.
   ‘You said you could fly one of these things!’
   ‘No I didn’t; I just said you couldn’t!’
   ‘But I’ve never been on one before!’
   ‘What a coincidence!’
   ‘Anyway, you said– look at the sky!’
   ‘No I didn’t!’
   ‘What’s happened to the stars?’
   And so it was that Rincewind and Twoflower became the first two people on the Disc to see what the future held.
   A thousand miles behind them the Hub mountain of Cori Celesti stabbed the sky and cast a knife-bright shadow across the broiling clouds, so that Gods ought to have noticed too—but the Gods don’t normally look at the sky and in any case were engaged in litigation with the Ice Giants, who had refused to turn their radio down.
   Rimwards, in the direction of Great A’Tuin’s travel, the sky had been swept of stars.
   In that circle of blackness there was just one star, a red and baleful star, a star like the glitter in the eyesocket of a rabid mink. It was small and horrible and uncompromising. And the Disc was being carried straight towards it.
   Rincewind knew precisely what to do in these circumstances. He screamed and pointed the broomstick straight down.
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 Galder Weatherwax stood in the centre of the octogram and raised his hands.
   ‘Urshalo, dileptor, c’hula, do my bidding!’
   A small mist formed over his head. He glanced sideways at Trymon, who was sulking at the edge of the magic circle.
   ‘This next bit’s quite impressive,’ he said. ‘Watch. Kot-b’hai! Kot-sham! To me, o spirits of small isolated rocks and worried mice not less than three inches long!’
   ‘What?’ said Trymon.
   That bit took quite a lot of research,’ agreed Galder, especially the mice. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes...’
   He raised his arms again. Trymon watched him, and licked his lips distractedly. The old fool was really concentrating, bending his mind entirely to the Spell and hardly paying any attention to Trymon.
   Words of power rolled around the room, bouncing off the walls and scuttling out of sight behind shelves and jars. Trymon hesitated.
   Galder shut his eyes momentarily, his face a mask of ecstacy as he mouthed the final word.
   Trymon tensed, his fingers curling around the knife again. And Galder opened one eye, nodded at him and sent a sideways blast of power that picked the younger man up and sent him sprawling against the wall.
   Galder winked at him and raised his arms again.
   ‘To me, o spirits of—’
   There was a thunderclap, an implosion of light and a moment of complete physical uncertainty during which even the walls seemed to turn in on themselves. Trymon heard a sharp intake of breath and then a dull, solid thump.
   The room was suddenly silent.
   After a few minutes Trymon crawled out from behind a chair and dusted himself off. He whistled a few bars of nothing much and turned towards the door with exaggerated care, looking at the ceiling as if he had never seen it before. He moved in a way that suggested he was attempting the world speed record for the nonchalant walk.
   The Luggage squatted in the centre of the circle and opened its lid.
   Trymon stopped. He turned very, very carefully, dreading what he might see.
   The Luggage seemed to contain some clean laundry, smelling slightly of lavender. Somehow it was quite the most terrifying thing the wizard had ever seen.
   ‘Well, er,’ he said. ‘You, um, wouldn’t have seen another wizard around here, by any chance?’
   The Luggage contrived to look more menacing.
   ‘Oh,’ said Trymon. ‘Well, fine. It doesn’t matter.’
   He pulled vaguely at the hem of his robe and took a brief interest in the detail of its stitching. When he looked up the horrible box was still there.
   ‘Goodbye,’ he said, and ran. He managed to get through the door just in time.

   Rincewind opened his eyes. Not that it helped much. It just meant that instead of seeing nothing but blackness he saw nothing but whiteness which, surprisingly, was worse.
   ‘Are you all right?’
   Rincewind sat up. He appeared to be on a rock speckled with snow, but it didn’t seem to be everything a rock ought to be. For example, it shouldn’t be moving.
   Snow blew around him. Twoflower was a few feet away, a look of genuine concern on his face.
   Rincewind groaned. His bones were very angry at the treatment they had recently received and were queuing up to complain.
   ‘What now?’ he said.
   You know when we were flying and I was worried we might hit something in the storm and you said the only thing we could possibly hit at this height was a cloud stuffed with rocks?’
   ‘How did you know?’
   Rincewind looked around, but for all the variety and interest in the scene around him they might as well have been in the inside of a pingpong ball.
   The rock underneath was—well, rocking. He ran his hands over it, and felt the scoring of chisels. When he put an ear to the cold wet stone he fancied he could hear a dull, slow thumping, like a heartbeat. He crawled forward until he came to an edge, and peered very cautiously over it.
   At that moment the rock must have been passing over a break in the clouds, because he caught a dim but horribly distant view of jagged-edged mountain peaks.
   They were a long way down.
   He gurgled incoherently and inched his way backwards.
   ‘This is ridiculous,’ he told Twoflower. ‘Rocks don’t fly. They’re noted for not doing it.’
   ‘Maybe they would if they could,’ said Twoflower. ‘Perhaps this one just found out how.’
   ‘Let’s just hope it doesn’t forget again,’ said Rincewind. He huddled up in his soaking robe and looked glumly at the cloud around him. He supposed there were some people somewhere who had some control over their lives; they got up in the mornings, and went to bed at night in the reasonable certainty of not falling over the edge of the world or being attacked by lunatics or waking up on a rock with ideas above its station. He dimly remembered leading a life like that once.
   Rincewind sniffed. This rock smelt of frying. The smell seemed to be coming from up ahead, and appealed straight to his stomach.
   ‘Can you smell anything?’ he said.
   ‘I think it’s bacon,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘I hope it’s bacon,’ said Rincewind, ‘because I’m going to eat it.’ He stood up on the trembling stone and tottered forward into the clouds, peering through the wet gloom.
   At the front or leading edge of the rock a small druid was sitting crosslegged in front of a small fire. A square of oilskin was tied across his head and knotted under his chin. He was poking at a pan of bacon with an ornamental sickle.
   ‘Um,’ said Rincewind. The druid looked up, and dropped the pan into the fire. He leapt to his feet and gripped the sickle aggressively, or at least as aggressively as anyone can look in a long wet white nightshirt and a dripping headscarf.
   ‘I warn you, I shall deal harshly with hijackers,’ he said, and sneezed violently.
   ‘We’ll help,’ said Rincewind, looking longingly at the burning bacon. This seemed to puzzle the druid who, to Rincewind’s mild surprise, was quite young; he supposed here had to be such things as young druids, theoretically, it was just that he had never imagined them.
   ‘You’re not trying to steal the rock?’ said the druid, lowering the sickle a fraction.
   ‘I didn’t even know you could steal rocks,’ said Rincewind wearily.
   ‘Excuse me,’ said Twoflower politely, ‘I think your breakfast is on fire.’
   The druid glanced down and flailed ineffectually at the flames. Rincewind hurried forward to help, there was a fair amount of smoke, ash and confusion, and the shared triumph of actually rescuing a few pieces of rather charred bacon did more good than a whole book on diplomacy.
   ‘How did you get here, actually?’ said the druid. ‘We’re five hundred feet up, unless I’ve got the runes wrong again.’
   Rincewind tried not to think about height. ‘We sort of dropped in as we were passing,’ he said.
   ‘On our way to the ground,’ Twoflower added.
   ‘Only your rock broke our fall,’ said Rincewind. His back complained. Thanks,’ he added.
   ‘I thought we’d run into some turbulence a while back,’ said the druid, whose name turned out to be Belafon. That must have been you.’ He shivered. ‘It must be morning by now,’ he said. ‘Sod the rules, I’m taking us up. Hang on.’
   ‘What to?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Well, just indicate a general unwillingness to fall off,’ said Belafon. He took a large iron pendulum out of his robe and swung it in a series of baffling sweeps over the fire.
   Clouds whipped around them, there was a horrible feeling of heaviness, and suddenly the rock burst into sunlight.
   It levelled off a few feet above the clouds, in a cold but bright blue sky. The clouds that had seemed chillingly distant last night and horribly clammy this morning were now a fleecy white carpet, stretching away in all directions; a few mountain peaks stood out like islands. Behind the rock the wind of its passage sculpted the clouds into transient whirls. The rock—
   It was about thirty feet long and ten feet wide, and blueish.
   ‘What an amazing panorama,’ said Twoflower, his eyes shining.
   ‘Um, what’s keeping us up?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Persuasion,’ said Belafon, wringing out the hem of his robe.
   ‘Ah,’ said Rincewind sagely.
   ‘Keeping them up is easy,’ said the druid, holding up a thumb and squinting down the length of his arm at a distant mountain, The hard part is landing.’
   ‘You wouldn’t think so, would you?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Persuasion is what keeps the whole universe together,’ said Belafon. ‘It’s no good saying it’s all done by magic.’
   Rincewind happened to glance down through the thinning cloud to a snowy landscape a considerable distance below. He knew he was in the presence of a madman, but he was used to that; if listening to this madman meant he stayed up here, he was all ears.
   Belafon sat down with his feet dangling over the edge of the rock.
   ‘Look, don’t worry,’ he said. ‘If you keep thinking the rock shouldn’t be flying it might hear you and become persuaded and you will turn out to be right, okay? It’s obvious you aren’t up to date with modern thinking.’
   ‘So it would seem,’ said Rincewind weakly. He was trying not to think about rocks on the ground. He was trying to think about rocks swooping like swallows, bounding across landscapes in the sheer joy of levity, zooming skywards in a—
   He was horribly aware he wasn’t very good at it.

   The druids of the Disc prided themselves on their forward-looking approach to the discovery of the mysteries of the Universe. Of course, like druids everywhere they believed in the essential unity of all life, the healing ower of plants, the natural rhythm of the seasons and the burning alive of anyone who didn’t approach all this in the right frame of mind, but they had also thought long and hard about the very basis of creation and had formulated the following theory:
   The universe, they said, depended for its operation on the balance of four forces which they identified as charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.
   Thus it was that the sun and moon orbited the disc because they were persuaded not to fall down, but didn’t actually fly away because of uncertainty. Charm allowed trees to grow and bloody-mindedness kept them up, and so on.
   Some druids suggested that there were certain flaws in this theory, but senior druids explained very pointedly that there was indeed room for informed argument, the cut and thrust of exciting scientific debate, and basically it lay on top of the next solstice bonfire.

   ‘Ah, so you’re an astronomer?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Oh no,’ said Belafon, as the rock drifted gently around the curve of a mountain, I’m a computer hardware consultant.’
   ‘What’s a computer hardware?’
   ‘Well, this is,’ said the druid, tapping the rock with a sandalled foot.’Part of one, anyway. It’s a replacement. I’m delivering it. They’re having trouble with the big circles up on the Vortex Plains. So they say, anyway; I wished I had a bronze tore for every user who didn’t read the manual.’ He shrugged.
   ‘What use is it, then, exactly?’ asked Rincewind. Anything to keep his mind off the drop below.
   ‘You can use it to—to tell you what time of year it is,’ said Belafon.
   ‘Ah. You mean if it’s covered in snow then it must be winter?’
   ‘Yes. I mean no. I mean, supposing you wanted to know when a particular star is going to rise —’
   ‘Why?’ said Twoflower, radiating polite interest.
   ‘Well, maybe you want to know when to plant your crops,’ said Belafon, sweating a little, ‘or maybe—’
   ‘I’ll lend you my almanac, if you like,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘It’s a book that tells you what day it is,’ said Rincewind wearily. ‘It’d be right up your leyline.’
   Belafon stiffened. ‘Book?’ he said. ‘Like, with paper?’
   That doesn’t sound very reliable to me,’ said the druid nastily. ‘How can a book know what day it is? Paper can’t count.’
   He stamped off to the front of the rock, causing it to wallow alarmingly. Rincewind swallowed hard and beckoned Twoflower closer.
   ‘Have you ever heard of culture shock?’ he hissed.
   ‘What’s that?’
   ‘It’s what happens when people spend five hundred years trying to get a stone circle to work properly and then someone comes up with a little book with a page for every day and little chatty bits saying things like "Now is a good time to plant broad beans" and "Early to rise, early to bed, makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead," and do you know what the most important thing to remember about culture shock.’ Rincewind paused for breath, and moved his lips silently trying to remember where the sentence had got to, ‘is?’ he concluded.
   ‘Don’t give it to a man flying a thousand ton rock.’

   ‘Has it gone?’
   Trymon peered cautiously over the battlements of the Tower of Art, the great spire of crumbling masonry that loomed over Unseen University. The cluster of students nd instructors of magic, far below, nodded.
   ‘Are you sure?’
   The bursar cupped his hands and shouted.
   ‘It broke down the hubward door and escaped an hour ago, sir,’ he yelled.
   ‘Wrong,’ said Trymon. ‘It left, we escaped. Well, I’ll be getting down, then. Did it get anyone?’
   The bursar swallowed. He was not a wizard, but a kind, good-natured man who should not have had to see the things he had witnessed in the past hour. Of course, it wasn’t unknown for small demons, coloured lights and various half-materialised imaginings to wander around the campus, but there had been something about the implacable onslaught of the Luggage that had unnerved him. Trying to stop it would have been like trying to wrestle a glacier.
   It—it swallowed the Dean of Liberal Studies, sir,’ he shouted.
   Trymon brightened. ‘It’s an ill wind,’ he murmured. He started down the long spiral staircase. After a while he smiled, a thin, tight smile. The day was definitely improving.
   There was a lot of organising to do. And if there was something Trymon really liked, it was organising.

   The rock swooped across the high plains, whipping snow from the drifts a mere few feet below. Belafon scuttled about urgently, smearing a little mistletoe ointment here, chalking a rune there, while Rincewind cowered in terror and exhaustion and Twoflower worried about his Luggage.
   ‘Up ahead!’ screamed the druid above the noise of the slipstream. ‘Behold, the great computer of the skies!’
   Rincewind peered between his fingers. On the distant skyline was an immense construction of grey and black slabs, arranged in concentric circles and mystic avenues, aunt and forbidding against the snow. Surely men couldn’t have moved those nascent mountains—surely a troop of giants had been turned to stone by some...
   ‘It looks like a lot of rocks,’ said Twoflower.
   Belafon hesitated in mid-gesture.
   ‘What?’ he said.
   ‘It’s very nice,’ added the tourist hurriedly. He sought for a word. ‘Ethnic,’ he decided.
   The druid stiffened. ‘Nice?’ he said. ‘A triumph of the silicon chunk, a miracle of modern masonic technology—nice?’
   ‘Oh, yes,’ said Twoflower, to whom sarcasm was merely a seven letter word beginning with S.
   ‘What does ethnic mean?’ said the druid.
   ‘It means terribly impressive,’ said Rincewind hurriedly, ‘and we seem to be in danger of landing, if you don’t mind—’
   Belafon turned around, only slightly mollified. He raised his arms wide and shouted a series of untranslatable words, ending with ‘nice!’ in a hurt whisper.
   The rock slowed, drifted sideways in a billow of snow, and hovered over the circle. Down below a druid waved two bunches of mistletoe in complicated patterns, and Belafon skilfully brought the massive slab to rest across two giant uprights with the faintest of clicks.
   Rincewind let his breath out in a long sigh. It hurried off to hide somewhere.
   A ladder banged against the side of the slab and the head of an elderly druid appeared over the edge. He gave the two passengers a puzzled glance, and then looked up at Belafon.
   ‘About bloody time,’ he said. ‘Seven weeks to Hogswatchnight and it’s gone down on us again.’
   ‘Hallo, Zakriah,’ said Belafon. What happened this time?’
   ‘It’s all totally fouled up. Today it predicted sunrise three minutes early. Talk about a klutz, boy, this is it.’
   Belafon clambered onto the ladder and disappeared from view. The passengers looked at each other, and then tared down into the vast open space between the inner circle of stones.
   ‘What shall we do now?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘We could go to sleep?’ suggested Rincewind.
   Twoflower ignored him, and climbed down the ladder.
   Around the circle druids were tapping the megaliths with little hammers and listening intently. Several of the huge stones were lying on their sides, and each was surrounded by another crowd of druids who were examining it carefully and arguing amongst themselves. Arcane phrases floated up to where Rincewind sat:
   ‘It can’t be software incompatibility—the Chant of the Trodden Spiral was designed for concentric rings, idiot...’
   ‘I say fire it up again and try a simple moon ceremony...’
   ‘... all right, all right, nothing’s wrong with the stones, it’s just that the universe has gone wrong, right?...’
   Through the mists of his exhausted mind Rincewind remembered the horrible star they’d seen in the sky. Something had gone wrong with the universe last night.
   How had he come to be back on the Disc?
   He had a feeling that the answers were somewhere inside his head. And an even more unpleasant feeling began to dawn on him that something else was watching the scene below—watching it from behind his eyes.
   The Spell had crept from its lair deep in the untrodden dirtroads of his mind, and was sitting bold as brass in his forebrain, watching the passing scene and doing the mental equivalent of eating popcorn.
   He tried to push it back—and the world vanished...
   He was in darkness; a warm, musty darkness, the darkness of the tomb, the velvet blackness of the mummy case. There was a strong smell of old leather and the sourness of ancient paper. The paper rustled.
   He felt that the darkness was full of unimaginable horrors—and the trouble with unimaginable horrors was that they were only to easy to imagine...
   ‘Rincewind,’ said a voice. Rincewind had never heard a lizard speak, but if one did it would have a voice like that.
   ‘Um,’ he said. ‘Yes?’
   The voice chuckled—a strange sound, rather papery.
   ‘You ought to say "Where am I?" ‘ it said.
   ‘Would I like it if I knew?’ said Rincewind. He stared hard at the darkness. Now that he was accustomed to it, he could see something. Something vague, hardly bright enough to be anything at all, just the merest tracery in the air. Something strangely familiar.
   ‘All right,’ he said. ‘Where am I?’
   ‘You’re dreaming.’
   ‘Can I wake up now, please?’
   ‘No,’ said another voice, as old and dry as the first but still slightly different.
   ‘We have something very important to tell you,’ said a third voice, if anything more corpse-dry than the others. Rincewind nodded stupidly. In the back of his mind the Spell lurked and peered cautiously over his mental shoulder.
   ‘You’ve caused us a lot of trouble, young Rincewind,’ the voice went on. ‘All this dropping over the edge of the world with no thought for other people. We had to seriously distort reality, you know.’
   ‘And now you have a very important task ahead of you.’
   ‘Oh. Good.’
   ‘Many years ago we arranged for one of our number to hide in your head, because we could foresee a time coming when you would need to play a very important role.’
   ‘Me? Why?’
   ‘You run away a lot,’ said one of the voices. That is good. You are a survivor.’
   ‘Survivor? I’ve nearly been killed dozens of times!’
   ‘But try not to fall off the Disc again. We really can’t have that.’
   ‘Who are we, exactly?’ said Rincewind.
   There was a rustling in the darkness.
   ‘In the beginning was the word,’ said a dry voice right ehind him.
   ‘It was the Egg,’ corrected another voice. ‘I distinctly remember. The Great Egg of the Universe. Slightly rubbery.’
   ‘You’re both wrong, in fact. I’m sure it was the primordial slime.’
   A voice by Rincewind’s knee said: ‘No, that came afterwards. There was firmament first. Lots of firmament. Rather sticky, like candyfloss. Very syrupy, in fact—.’
   ‘In case anyone’s interested,’ said a crackly voice on Rincewind’s left, ‘you’re all wrong. In the beginning was the Clearing of the Throat—’
   ‘—then the word—’
   ‘Pardon me, the slime—’
   ‘Distinctly rubbery, I thought—’
   There was a pause. Then a voice said carefully, ‘Anyway, whatever it was, we remember it distinctly.’
   ‘Quite so.’
   ‘And our task is to see that nothing dreadful happens to it, Rincewind.’
   Rincewind squinted into the blackness. ‘Would you kindly explain what you’re talking about?’
   There was a papery sigh. ‘So much for metaphor,’ said one of the voices. ‘Look, it is very important you safeguard the Spell in your head and bring it back to us at the right time, you understand, so that when the moment is precisely right we can be said. Do you understand?’
   Rincewind thought: we can be said!
   And it dawned on him what the tracery was, ahead of him. It was writing on a page, seen from underneath.
   ‘I’m in the Octavo?’ he said.
   ‘In certain metaphysical respects,’ said one of the voices in offhand tones. It came closer. He could feel the dry rustling right in front of his nose...
   He ran away.

   The single red dot glowed in its patch of darkness. Trymon, still wearing the ceremonial robes from his inauguration as head of the Order, couldn’t rid himself of the feeling that it had grown slightly while he watched. He turned away from the window with a shudder.
   ‘Well?’ he said.
   ‘It’s a star,’ said the Professor of Astrology, ‘I think.’
   ‘You think?’
   The astrologer winced. They were standing in Unseen University ’s observatory, and the tiny ruby pinpoint on the horizon wasn’t glaring at him any worse than his new master.
   ‘Well, you see, the point is that we’ve always believed stars to be pretty much the same as our sun —’
   ‘You mean balls of fire about a mile across?’
   ‘Yes. But this new one is, well—big.’
   ‘Bigger than the sun?’ said Trymon. He’d always considered a mile-wide ball of fire quite impressive, although he disapproved of stars on principle. They made the sky look untidy.
   ‘A lot bigger,’ said the astrologer slowly.
   ‘Bigger than Great A’Tuin’s head, perhaps?’
   The astrologer looked wretched.
   ‘Bigger than Great A’Tuin and the Disc together,’ he said. ‘We’ve checked,’ he added hurriedly, ‘and we’re quite sure.’
   That is big,’ agreed Trymon. The word "huge" comes to mind.’
   ‘Massive,’ agreed the astrologer hurriedly.
   Trymon paced the broad mosaic floor of the observatory, which was inlaid with the signs of the Disc zodiac. There were sixty-four of them, from Wezen the Double-headed Kangaroo to Gahoolie, the Vase of Tulips (a constellation of great religious significance whose meaning, alas, was now lost).
   He paused on the blue and gold tilework of Mubbo the Hyaena, and turned suddenly.
   ‘We’re going to hit it?’ he asked.
   ‘I am afraid so, sir,’ said the astrologer.
   ‘Hmm.’ Trymon walked a few paces forward, stroking his beard thoughtfully. He paused on the cusp of Okjock the Salesman and The Celestial Parsnip.
   ‘I’m not an expert in these matters,’ he said, ‘but I imagine this would not be a good thing?’
   ‘No, sir.’
   ‘Very hot, stars?’
   The astrologer swallowed. ‘Yes, sir.’
   ‘We’d be burned up?’
   ‘Eventually. Of course, before that there would be discquakes, tidal waves, gravitational disruption and probably the atmosphere would be stripped away.’
   ‘Ah. In a word, lack of decent organisation.’
   The astrologer hesitated, and gave in. You could say so, sir.’
   ‘People would panic?’ ‘Fairly briefly, I’m afraid.’
   Hmm,’ said Trymon, who was just passing over The Perhaps Gate and orbiting smoothly towards the Cow of Heaven. He squinted up again at the red gleam on the horizon. He appeared to reach a decision.
   ‘We can’t find Rincewind,’ he said, ‘and if we can’t find Rincewind we can’t find the eighth spell of the Octavo. But we believe that the Octavo must be read to avert catastrophe—otherwise why did the Creator leave it behind?’
   ‘Perhaps He was just forgetful,’ suggested the astrologer.
   Trymon glared at him.
   ‘The other Orders are searching all the lands between here and the Hub,’ he continued, counting the points on his fingers, ‘because it seems unreasonable that a man can fly into a cloud and not come out...’
   ‘Unless it was stuffed with rocks,’ said the astrologer, in a wretched and, as it turned out, entirely unsuccessful attempt to lighten the mood.
   ‘But come down he must—somewhere. Where? we ask ourselves.’
   ‘Where?’ said the astrologer loyally.
   ‘And immediately a course of action suggests itself to us.’
   ‘Ah,’ said the astrologer, running in an attempt to keep up as the wizard stalked across The Two Fat Cousins.
   ‘And that course is...?’
   The astrologer looked up into two eyes as grey and bland as steel.
   ‘Um. We stop looking?’ he ventured.
   ‘Precisely! We use the gifts the Creator has given us, to whit, we look down and what is it we see?’
   The astrologer groaned inwardly. He looked down.
   ‘Tiles?’ he hazarded.
   ‘Tiles, yes, which together make up the...?’ Trymon looked expectant.
   ‘Zodiac?’ ventured the astrologer, a desperate man.
   ‘Right! And therefore all we need do is cast Rincewind’s precise horoscope and we will know exactly where he is!’
   The astrologer grinned like a man who, having tap-danced on quicksand, feels the press of solid rock under his feet.
   ‘I shall need to know his precise place and time of birth,’ he said.
   ‘Easily done. I copied them out of the University files before I came up here.’
   The astrologer looked at the notes, and his forehead wrinkled. He crossed the room and pulled out a wide drawer full of charts. He read the notes again. He picked up a complicated pair of compasses and made some passes across the charts. He picked up a small brass astrolobe and cranked it carefully. He whistled between his teeth. He picked up a piece of chalk and scribbled some numbers on a blackboard.
   Trymon, meanwhile, had been staring out at the new star. He thought: the legend in the Pyramid of Tsort says that whoever says the Eight Spells together when the Disc is in danger will obtain all that he truly desires. And it will be so soon!
   And he thought: I remember Rincewind, wasn’t he the cruffy boy who always came bottom of the class when we were training? Not a magical bone in his body. Let me get him in front of me, and we’ll see if we can’t get all eight—
   The astrologer said ‘Gosh’ under his breath. Trymon spun around.
   ‘Fascinating chart,’ said the astrologer, breathlessly. His forehead wrinkled. ‘Bit strange, really,’ he said.
   ‘How strange?’
   ‘He was born under The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars which, as you know, lies between The Flying Moose and The Knotted String. It is said that even the ancients couldn’t find anything interesting to say about the sign, which—’
   ‘Yes, yes, get on with it,’ said Trymon irritably.
   ‘It’s the sign traditionally associated with chess board makers, sellers of onions, manufacturers of plaster images of small religious significance, and people allergic to pewter. Not a wizard’s sign at all. And at the time of his birth the shadow of Cori Celesti—’
   ‘I don’t want to know all the mechanical details,’ growled Trymon. ‘Just give me his horoscope.’
   The astrologer, who had been rather enjoying himself, sighed and made a few additional calculations.
   ‘Very well,’he said. ‘It reads as follows: "Today is a good tine for making new friends. A good deed may have unforeseen consequences. Don’t upset any druids. You will soon be going on a very strange journey. Your lucky food is small cucumbers. People pointing knives at you are probably up to no good. PS, we really mean it about druids".’
   Druids?’ said Trymon. ‘I wonder...’

   ‘Are you all right?’ said Twoflower. Rincewind opened his eyes.
   The wizard sat up hurriedly and grabbed Twoflower by the shirt.
   ‘I want to leave here!’ he said urgently. ‘Right now!’
   ‘But there’s going to be an ancient and traditional ceremony I’
   ‘I don’t care how ancient! I want the feel of honest cobbles under my feet, I want the old familiar smell of cesspits, I want to go where there’s lots of people and fires and roofs and walls and friendly things like that! I want to go home!’
   He found that he had this sudden desperate longing for the fuming, smoky streets of Ankh-Morpork, which was always at its best in the spring, when the gummy sheen on the turbid waters of the Ankh River had a special iridescence and the eaves were full of birdsong, or at least birds coughing rhythmically.
   A tear sprang to his eye as he recalled the subtle play of light on the Temple of Small Gods, a noted local landmark, and a lump came to his throat when he remembered the fried fish stall on the junction of Midden Street and The Street of Cunning Artificers. He thought of the gherkins they sold there, great green things lurking at the bottom of their jar like drowned whales. They called to Rincewind across the miles, promising to introduce him to the pickled eggs in the next jar.
   He thought of the cosy livery stable lofts and warm gratings where he spent his nights. Foolishly, he had sometimes jibed at this way of life. It seemed incredible now, but he had found it boring.
   Now he’d had enough. He was going home. Pickled gherkins, I hear you calling...
   He pushed Twoflower aside, gathered his tattered robe around him with great dignity, set his face towards that area of horizon he believed to contain the city of his birth, and with intense determination and considerable absentmindedness stepped right off the top of a thirty-foot trilithon.
   Some ten minutes later, when a worried and rather contrite Twoflower dug him out of the large snowdrift at the base of the stones, his expression hadn’t changed.
   Twoflower peered at him.
   ‘Are you all right?’ he said. ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’
   ‘I want to go home!’
   ‘No, don’t try and talk me out of it, I’ve had enough, I’d like to say it’s been great fun but I can’t, and—what?’
   ‘I said okay,’ said Twoflower. ‘I’d quite like to see Ankh-Morpork again. I expect they’ve rebuilt quite a lot of it by now.’
   It should be noted that the last time the two of them had seen the city it was burning quite fiercely, a fact which had a lot to do with Twoflower introducing the concept of fire insurance to a venial but ignorant populace. But devastating fires were a regular feature of Morporkian life and it had always been cheerfully and meticulously rebuilt, using the traditional local materials of tinder-dry wood and thatch waterproofed with tar.
   ‘Oh,’ said Rincewind, deflating a bit. ‘Oh, right. Right then. Good. Perhaps we’d better be off, then.’
   He scrambled up and brushed the snow off himself.
   ‘Only I think we should wait until morning,’ added Twoflower.
   ‘Well, because it’s freezing cold, we don’t really know where we are, the Luggage has gone missing, it’s getting dark—’
   Rincewind paused. In the deep canyons of his mind he thought he heard the distant rustle of ancient paper. He had a horrible feeling that his dreams were going to be very repetitive from now on, and he had much better things to do than be lectured by a bunch of ancient spells who couldn’t even agree on how the Universe began —
   A tiny dry voice at the back of his brain said: What things?
   ‘Oh, shut up,’ he said.
   ‘I only said it’s freezing cold and—’ Twoflower began.
   ‘I didn’t mean you, I meant me.’
   ‘Oh, shut up,’ said Rincewind wearily. ‘I don’t suppose there’s anything to eat around here?’
   The giant stones were black and menacing against the dying green light of sunset. The inner circle was full of druids, scurrying around by the light of several bonfires and tuning up all the necessary peripherals of a stone computer, like rams’ skulls on poles topped with mistletoe, banners embroidered with twisted snakes and so on. Beyond the circles of firelight a large number of plains people had gathered; druidic festivals were always popular, especially when things went wrong. Rincewind stared at them.
   ‘What’s going on?’
   ‘Oh, well,’ said Twoflower enthusiastically, ‘apparently there’s this ceremony dating back for thousands of years to celebrate the, um, rebirth of the moon, or possibly the sun. No, I’m pretty certain it’s the moon. Apparently it’s very solemn and beautiful and invested with a quiet dignity.’
   Rincewind shivered. He always began to worry when Twoflower started to talk like that. At least he hadn’t said ‘picturesque’ or ‘quaint’ yet; Rincewind had never found a satisfactory translation for those words, but the nearest he had been able to come was ‘trouble’.
   ‘I wish the Luggage was here,’ said the tourist regretfully. ‘I could use my picture box. It sounds very quaint and picturesque.’
   The crowd stirred expectantly. Apparently things were about to start.
   ‘Look,’ said Rincewind urgently. ‘Druids are priests. You must remember that. Don’t do anything to upset them.’
   ‘Don’t offer to buy the stones.’
   ‘But I-’
   ‘Don’t start talking about quaint native folkways.’
   ‘I thought—’
   ‘Really don’t try to sell them insurance, that always upsets them.’
   ‘But they’re priests!’ wailed Twoflower. Rincewind paused.
   ‘Yes,’ he said. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?’
   At the far side of the outer circle some sort of procession was forming up.
   ‘But priests are good kind men,’ said Twoflower. ‘At home they go around with begging bowls. It’s their only possession,’ he added.
   ‘Ah,’ said Rincewind, not certain he understood. This would be for putting the blood in, right?’
   ‘Yes, from sacrifices.’ Rincewind thought about the priests he had known at home. He was, of course, anxious not to make an enemy of any god and had attended any number of temple functions and, on the whole, he thought that the most accurate definition of any priest in the Circle Sea Regions was someone who spent quite a lot of time gory to the armpits.
   Twoflower looked horrified.
   ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘Where I come from priests are holy men who have dedicated themselves to lives of poverty, good works and the study of the nature of God.’
   Rincewind considered this novel proposition.
   ‘No sacrifices?’ he said.
   ‘Absolutely not.’
   Rincewind gave up. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘they don’t sound very holy to me.’
   There was a loud blarting noise from a band of bronze trumpets. Rincewind looked around. A line of druids marched slowly past, their long sickles hung with sprays of mistletoe. Various junior druids and apprentices followed them, playing a variety of percussion instruments that were traditionally supposed to drive away evil spirits and quite probably succeeded.
   Torchlight made excitingly dramatic patterns on the stones, which stood ominously against the green-lit sky. Hubwards, the shimmering curtains of the aurora coriolis began to wink and glitter among the stars as a million ice rystals danced in the Disc’s magical field.
   ‘Belafon explained it all to me,’ whispered Twoflower. We’re going to see a time-honoured ceremony that celebrates the Oneness of Man with the Universe, that was what he said.’
   Rincewind looked sourly at the procession. As the druids spread out around a great flat stone that dominated the centre of the circle he couldn’t help noticing the attractive if rather pale young lady in their midst. She wore a long white robe, a gold torc around her neck, and an expression of vague apprehension.
   ‘Is she a druidess?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘I don’t think so,’ said Rincewind slowly.
   The druids began to chant. It was, Rincewind felt, a particularly nasty and rather dull chant which sounded very much as if it was going to build up to an abrupt crescendo. The sight of the young woman lying down on the big stone didn’t do anything to derail his train of thought.
   ‘I want to stay,’ said Twoflower. ‘I think ceremonies like this hark back to a primitive simplicity which—’
   Yes, yes,’ said Rincewind, ‘but they’re going to sacrifice her, if you must know.’
   Twoflower looked at him in astonishment.
   ‘What, kill her?’
   ‘Don’t ask me. To make the crops grow or the moon rise or something. Or maybe they’re just keen on killing people. That’s religion for you.’
   He became aware of a low humming sound, not so much heard as felt. It seemed to be coming from the stone next to them. Little points of light flickered under its surface, like mica specks.
   Twoflower was opening and shutting his mouth.
   ‘Can’t they just use flowers and berries and things?’ he said. ‘Sort of symbolic?’
   ‘Has anyone ever tried?’
   Rincewind sighed. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘No self-respecting High Priest is going to go through all the business with the trumpets and the processions and the banners and everything, and then shove his knife into a daffodil and a couple of plums. You’ve got to face it, all this stuff about golden boughs and the cycles of nature and stuff just boils down to sex and violence, usually at the same time.’
   To his amazement Twoflower’s lip was trembling. Twoflower didn’t just look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, Rincewind knew—he looked at it through a rose-tinted brain, too, and heard it through rose-tinted ears.
   The chant was rising inexorably to a crescendo. The head druid was testing the edge of his sickle and all eyes were turned to the finger of stone on the snowy hills beyond the circle where the moon was due to make a guest appearance.
   ‘It’s no use you—’
   But Rincewind was talking to himself.

   However, the chilly landscape outside the circle was not entirely devoid of life. For one thing a party of wizards was even now drawing near, alerted by Trymon.
   But a small and solitary figure was also watching from the cover of a handy fallen stone. One of the Disc’s greatest legends watched the events in the stone circle with considerable interest.
   He saw the druids circle and chant, saw the chief druid I raise his sickle...’
   Heard the voice.
   ‘I say! Excuse me! Can I have a word?
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The Disc’s little moon toiled across the sky. It shone by its own light, owing to the cramped and rather inefficient astronomical arrangements made by the Creator, and was quite crowded with assorted lunar goddesses who were not, at this particular time, paying much attention to what went on in the Disc but were getting up a petition about the Ice Giants.
   Had they looked down, they would have seen Rincewind talking urgently to a bunch of rocks.
   Trolls are one of the oldest lifeforms in the multiverse, dating from an early attempt to get the whole life thing on the road without all that squashy protoplasm. Individual trolls live for a long time, hibernating during the summertime and sleeping during the day, since heat affects them and makes them slow. They have a fascinating geology. One could talk about tribology, one could mention the semiconductor effects of impure silicon, one could talk about the giant trolls of prehistory who make up most of the Disc’s major mountain ranges and will cause some real problems if they ever awake, but the plain fact is that without the Disc’s powerful and pervasive magical field trolls would have died out a long time ago.
   Psychiatry hadn’t been invented on the Disc. No-one had ever shoved an inkblot under Rincewind’s nose to see if he had any loose toys in the attic. So the only way he’d have been able to describe the rocks turning back into rolls was by gabbling vaguely about how pictures suddenly form when you look at the fire, or clouds.
   One minute there’d be a perfectly ordinary rock, and suddenly a few cracks that had been there all along took on the definite appearance of a mouth or a pointed ear. A moment later, and without anything actually changing at all, a troll would be sitting there, grinning at him with a mouth full of diamonds.
   They wouldn’t be able to digest me, he told himself. I’d make them awfully ill.
   It wasn’t much of a comfort.
   ‘So you’re Rincewind the wizard,’ said the nearest one. It sounded like someone running over gravel. ‘I dunno. I thought you’d be taller.’
   ‘Perhaps he’s eroded a bit,’ said another one. ‘The legend is awfully old.’
   Rincewind shifted awkwardly. He was pretty certain the rock he was sitting on was changing shape, and a tiny troll—hardly any more than a pebble—was sitting companionably on his foot and watching him with extreme interest.
   ‘Legend?’ he said. ‘What legend?’
   ‘It’s been handed down from mountain to gravel since the sunset [3] of time,’ said the first troll. ‘ "When the red star lights the sky Rincewind the wizard will come looking for onions. Do not bite him. It is very important that you help him stay alive." ‘
   There was a pause.
   ‘That’s it?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Yes,’ said the troll. ‘We’ve always been puzzled about it. Most of our legends are much more exciting. It was more interesting being a rock in the old days.’
   ‘It was?’ said Rincewind weakly.
   ‘Oh yes. No end of fun. Volcanoes all over the place. It really meant something, being a rock then.There was none f this sedimentary nonsense, you were igneous or nothing. Of course, that’s all gone now. People call themselves trolls today, well, sometimes they’re hardly more than slate. Chalk even. I wouldn’t give myself airs if you could use me to draw with, would you?’
   ‘No,’ said Rincewind quickly. ‘Absolutely not, no. This, er, this legend thing. It said you shouldn’t bite me?’
   ‘That’s right!’ said the little troll on his foot, ‘and it was me who told you where the onions were!’
   ‘We’re rather glad you came along,’ said the first troll, which Rincewind couldn’t help noticing was the biggest one there. ‘We’re a bit worried about this new star. What does it mean?’
   ‘I don’t know,’ said Rincewind. ‘Everyone seems to think I know about it, but I don’t —’
   ‘It’s not that we would mind being melted down,’ said the big troll. That’s how we all started, anyway. But we thought, maybe, it might mean the end of everything and that doesn’t seem a very good thing.’
   ‘It’s getting bigger,’ said another troll. ‘Look at it now. Bigger than last night.’
   Rincewind looked. It was definitely bigger than last night.
   ‘So we thought you might have some suggestions?’ said the head troll, as meekly as it is possible to sound with a voice like a granite gargle.
   ‘You could jump over the Edge,’ said Rincewind. There must be lots of places in the universe that could do with some extra rocks.’
   ‘We’ve heard about that,’ said the troll. ‘We’ve met rocks that tried it. They say you float about for millions of years and then you get very hot and burn away and end up at the bottom of a big hole in the scenery. That doesn’t sound very bright.’
   It stood up with a noise like coal rattling down a chute, and stretched its thick, knobbly arms.
   ‘Well, we’re supposed to help you,’ it said. ‘Anything you want doing?’
   ‘I was supposed to be making some soup,’ said Rincewind. He waved the onions vaguely. It was probably not the most heroic or purposeful gesture ever made.
   ‘Soup?’ said the troll. ‘Is that all?’
   ‘Well, maybe some biscuits too.’
   The trolls looked at one another, exposing enough mouth jewellery to buy a medium-sized city.
   Eventually the biggest troll said, ‘Soup it is, then.’ It shrugged grittily. ‘It’s just that we imagined that the legend would, well, be a little more—I don’t know, somehow I thought—still, I expect it doesn’t matter.’
   It extended a hand like a bunch of fossil bananas.
   ‘I’m Kwartz,’ it said. ‘That’s Krysoprase over there, and Breccia, and Jasper, and my wife Beryl—she’s la bit meta-morphic, but who isn’t these days? Jasper, get off his foot.’
   Rincewind took the hand gingerly, bracing himself for the crunch of crushed bone. It didn’t come. The troll’s hand was rough and a bit lichenous around the fingernails.
   ‘I’m sorry,’ said Rincewind. ‘I never really met trolls before.’
   ‘We’re a dying race,’ said Kwartz sadly, as the party set off under the stars. ‘Young Jasper’s the only pebble in our tribe. We suffer from philosophy, you know.’
   ‘Yes?’ said Rincewind, trying to keep up. The troll band moved very quickly, but also very quietly, big round shapes moving like wraiths through the night. Only the occasional flat squeak of a night creature who hadn’t heard them approaching marked their passage.
   ‘Oh, yes. Martyrs to it. It comes to all of us in the end. One evening, they say, you start to wake up and then you think "Why bother?" and you just don’t. See those boulders over there?’
   Rincewind saw some huge shapes lying in the grass.
   ‘The one on the end’s my aunt. I don’t know what’s she’s thinking about, but she hasn’t moved for two hundred years.’
   ‘Gosh, I’m sorry.’
   ‘Oh, it’s no problem with us around to look after them,’ aid Kwartz. ‘Not many humans around here, you see. I know it’s not your fault, but you don’t seem to be able to spot the difference between a thinking troll and an ordinary rock. My great-uncle was actually quarried, you know.’
   ‘That’s terrible!’
   ‘Yes, one minute he was a troll, the next he was an ornamental fireplace.’
   They paused in front of a familiar-looking cliff. The scuffed remains of a fire smouldered in the darkness.
   ‘It looks like there’s been a fight,’ said Beryl.
   ‘They’re all gone!’ said Rincewind. He ran to the end of the clearing. ‘The horses, too! Even the Luggage!’
   ‘One of them’s leaked,’ said Kwartz, kneeling down. ‘That red watery stuff you have in your insides. Look.’
   ‘Is that what it’s called? I’ve never really seen the point of it.’
   Rincewind scuttled about in the manner of one totally at his wits’ end, peering behind bushes in case anyone was hiding there. That was why he tripped over a small green bottle.
   ‘Cohen’s linament!’ he moaned. ‘He never goes anywhere without it!’
   ‘Well,’ said Kwartz, ‘you humans have something you can do, I mean like when we slow right down and catch philosophy, only you just fall to bits —’
   ‘Dying, it’s called!’ screamed Rincewind.
   ‘That’s it. They haven’t done that, because they’re not here.’
   ‘Unless they were eaten!’ suggested Jasper excitedly.
   ‘Hmm,’ said Kwartz, and, ‘Wolves?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘We flattened all the wolves around here years ago,’ said the troll. ‘Old Grandad did, anyway.’
   ‘He didn’t like them?’
   ‘No, he just didn’t used to look where he was going. Hmm.’ The trolls looked at the ground again.
   ‘There’s a trail,’ he said. ‘Quite a lot of horses.’ He ooked up at the nearby hills, where sheer cliffs and dangerous crags loomed over the moonlit forests.
   ‘Old Grandad lives up there,’ he said quietly.
   There was something about the way he said it that made Rincewind decide that he didn’t ever want to meet Old Grandad.
   ‘Dangerous, is he?’ he ventured.
   ‘He’s very old and big and mean. We haven’t seen him about for years,’ said Kwartz.
   ‘Centuries,’ corrected Beryl.
   ‘He’ll squash them all flat!’ added Jasper, jumping up and down on Rincewind’s toes.
   ‘It just happens sometimes that a really old and big troll will go off by himself into the hills, and—um—the rock takes over, if you follow me.’
   Kwartz sighed. ‘People sometimes act like animals, don’t they? And sometimes a troll will start thinking like a rock, and rocks don’t like people much.’
   Breccia, a skinny troll with a sandstone finish, rapped on Kwartz’s shoulder.
   ‘Are we going to follow them, then?’ he said. ‘The legend says we should help this Rincewind squashy.’
   Kwartz stood up, thought for a moment, then picked Rincewind up by the scruff of his neck and with a big gritty movement placed him on his shoulders.
   ‘We go,’ he said firmly. ‘If we meet Old Grandad I’ll try to explain...’
   Two miles away a string of horses trotted through the night. Three of them carried captives, expertly gagged and bound. A fourth pulled a rough travois on which the Luggage lay trussed and netted and silent.
   Herrena softly called the column to a halt and beckoned one of her men to her.
   ‘Are you quite sure?’ she said. ‘I can’t hear anything.’
   ‘I saw troll shapes,’ he said flatly.
   She looked around. The trees had thinned out here, there was a lot of scree, and ahead of them the track led towards a bald, rocky hill that looked especially unpleasant by red starlight.
   She was worried about that track. It was extremely old, but something had made it, and trolls took a lot of killing.
   She sighed. Suddenly it looked as though that secretarial career was not such a bad option, at that.
   Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn’t take you seriously until you’d actually killed them, by which time it didn’t really matter anyway. Then there was all the leather, which brought her out in a rash but seemed to be unbreakably traditional. And then there was the ale. It was all right for the likes of Hrun the Barbarian or Cimbar the Assassin to carouse all night in low bars, but Herrena drew the line at it unless they sold proper drinks in small glasses, preferably with a cherry in. As for the toilet facilities...
   But she was too big to be a thief, too honest to be an assassin, too intelligent to be a wife, and too proud to enter the only other female profession generally available.
   So she’d become a swordswoman and had been a good one, amassing a modest fortune that she was carefully husbanding for a future that she hadn’t quite worked out yet but which would certainly include a bidet if she had anything to say about it.
   There was a distant sound of splintering timber. Trolls had never seen the point of walking around trees.
   She looked up at the hill again. Two arms of high ground swept away to right and left, and up ahead was a large outcrop with—she squinted—some caves in it?
   Troll caves. But maybe a better option than blundering around at night. And come sunup, there’d be no problem.
   She leaned across to Gancia, leader of the gang of Morpork mercenaries. She wasn’t very happy about him. It was true that he had the muscles of an ox and the tamina of an ox, the trouble was that he seemed to have the brains of an ox. And the viciousness of a ferret. Like most of the lads in downtown Morpork he’d have cheerfully sold his granny for glue, and probably had.
   ‘We’ll head for the caves and light a big fire in the entrance,’ she said. Trolls don’t like fire.’
   He gave her a look which suggested he had his own ideas about who should be giving the orders, but his lips said, ‘You’re the boss.’
   Herrena looked back at the three captives. That was the box all right—Trymon’s description had been absolutely accurate. But neither of the men looked like a wizard. Not even a failed wizard.
   ‘Oh, dear,’ said Kwartz.
   The trolls halted. The night closed in like velvet. An owl hooted eerily—at least Rincewind assumed it was an owl, he was a little hazy on ornithology. Perhaps a nightingale hooted, unless it was a thrush. A bat flittered overhead. He was quite confident about that.
   He was also very tired and quite bruised.
   ‘Why oh dear?’ he said.
   He peered into the gloom. There was a distant speck in the hills that might have been a fire.
   ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘You don’t like fires, do you?’
   Kwartz nodded. ‘It destroys the superconductivity of our brains,’ he said, ‘but a fire that small wouldn’t have much effect on Old Grandad.’
   Rincewind looked around cautiously, listening for the sound of a rogue troll. He’d seen what normal trolls could do to a forest. They weren’t naturally destructive, they just treated organic matter as a sort of inconvenient fog.
   ‘Let’s hope he doesn’t find it, then,’ he said fervently.
   Kwartz sighed. ‘Not much chance of that,’ he said. They’ve lit it in his mouth.’
   ‘It’sh a judgeshment on me!’ moaned Cohen. He tugged ineffectually at his bonds.
   Twoflower peered at him muzzily. Gancia’s slingshot had raised quite a lump on the back of his head and he was a little uncertain about things, starting with his name and working upwards.
   ‘I should have been lisshening out,’ said Cohen. ‘I should have been paying attenshion and not being shwayed by all this talk about your wosshnarnes, your din-chewers. I mussht be getting shoft.’
   He levered himself up by his elbows. Herrena and the rest of the gang were standing around the fire in the cave mouth. The Luggage was still and silent under its net in a corner.
   ‘There’s something funny about this cave,’ said Bethan.
   ‘What?’ said Cohen.
   ‘Well, look at it. Have you ever seen rocks like those before?’
   Cohen had to agree that the semi-circle of stones around the cave entrance were unusual; each one was higher than a man, and heavily worn, and surprisingly shiny. There was a matching semi-circle on the ceiling. The whole effect was that of a stone computer built by a druid with a vague idea of geometry and no sense of gravity.
   ‘Look at the walls, too.’
   Cohen squinted at the wall next to him. There were veins of red crystal in it. He couldn’t be quite certain, but it was almost as if little points of light kept flashing on and off deep within the rock itself.
   It was also extremely drafty. A steady breeze blew out of the black depths of the cave.
   ‘I’m sure it was blowing the other way when we came in,’ whispered Bethan. ‘What do you think, Twoflower?’
   ‘Well, I’m not a cave expert,’ he said, ‘but I was just thinking, that’s a very interesting stalag-thingy hanging from the ceiling up there. Sort of bulbous, isn’t it?’
   They looked at it.
   ‘I can’t quite put my finger on why,’ said Twoflower, ‘but I think it might be a rather good idea to get out of here.’
   ‘Oh yesh,’ said Cohen sarcastically, ‘I shupposhe we’d jusht better ashk theesh people to untie ush and let us go, eh?’
   Cohen hadn’t spent much time in Twoflower’s company, otherwise he would not have been surprised when the little man nodded brightly and said, in the loud, slow and careful voice he employed as an alternative to actually speaking other people’s languages: ‘Excuse me? Could you please untie us and let us go? It’s rather damp and drafty here. Sorry.’
   Bethan looked sidelong at Cohen.
   ‘Was he supposed to say that?’
   ‘It’sh novel, I’ll grant you.’
   And, indeed, three people detached themselves from the group around the fire and came towards them. They did not look as if they intended to untie anyone. The two men, in fact, looked the sort of people who, when they see other people tied up, start playing around with knives and making greasy suggestions and leering a lot.
   Herrena introduced herself by drawing her sword and pointing it at Twoflower’s heart.
   ‘Which one of you is Rincewind the wizard?’ she said. There were four horses. Is he here?’
   ‘Um, I don’t know where he is,’ said Twoflower. ‘He was looking for some onions.’
   ‘Then you are his friends and he will come looking for you,’ said Herrena. She glanced at Cohen and Bethan, then looked closely at the Luggage.
   Trymon had been emphatic that they shouldn’t touch the Luggage. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but Herrena’s curiosity could have massacred a pride of lions.
   She slit the netting and grasped the lid of the box.
   Twoflower winced.
   ‘Locked,’ she said eventually. ‘Where is the key, fat one?’
   ‘It—it hasn’t got a key,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘There is a keyhole,’ she pointed out.
   ‘Well, yes, but if it wants to stay locked, it stays locked,’ said Twoflower uncomfortably.
   Herrena was aware of Gancia’s grin. She snarled.
   ‘I want it open,’ she said. ‘Gancia, see to it.’ She strode back to the fire.
   Gancia drew a long thin knife and leaned down close to Twoflower’s face.
   ‘She wants it open,’ he said. He looked up at the other man and grinned.
   ‘She wants it open, Weems.’
   Gancia waved the knife slowly in front of Twoflower’s face.
   ‘Look,’ said Twoflower patiently, ‘I don’t think you understand. No-one can open the Luggage if it’s feeling in a locked mood.’
   ‘Oh yes, I forgot,’ said Gancia thoughtfully. ‘Of course, it’s a magic box, isn’t that right? With little legs, they say. I say, Weems, any legs your side? No?’
   He held his knife to Twoflower’s throat.
   ‘I’m really upset about that,’ he said. ‘So’s Weems. He doesn’t say much but what he does is, he tears bits off people. So open—the—box!’
   He turned and planted a kick on the side of the box, leaving a nasty gash in the wood.
   There was a tiny little click.
   Gancia grinned. The lid swung up slowly, ponderously. The distant firelight gleamed off gold—lots of gold, in plate, chain, and coin, heavy and glistening in the flickering shadows.
   ‘All right,’ said Gancia softly.
   He looked back at the unheeding men around the fire, who seemed to be shouting at someone outside the cave. Then he looked speculatively at Weems. His lips moved soundlessly with the unaccustomed effort of mental arithmetic.
   He looked down at his knife.
   Then the floor moved.
   ‘I heard someone,’ said one of the men. ‘Down there. Among the—uh—rocks.’
   Rincewind’s voice floated up out of the darkness.
   ‘I say,’ he said.
   ‘Well?’ said Herrena.
   ‘You’re in great danger!’ shouted Rincewind. ‘You must put the fire out!’
   ‘No, no,’ said Herrena. ‘You’ve got it wrong, you’re in great danger. And the fire stays.’
   ‘There’s this big old troll —’
   ‘Everyone knows trolls keep away from fire,’ said Herrena. She nodded. A couple of men drew their swords and slipped out into the darkness.
   ‘Absolutely true!’ shouted Rincewind desperately. ‘Only this specific troll can’t, you see.’
   ‘Can’t?’ Herrena hesitated. Something of the terror in Rincewind’s voice hit her.
   ‘Yes, because, you see, you’ve lit it on his tongue.’
   Then the floor moved.
   Old Grandad awoke very slowly from his centuries-old slumber. He nearly didn’t awake at all, in fact a few decades later none of this could have happened. When a troll gets old and starts to think seriously about the universe it normally finds a quiet spot and gets down to some hard philosophising, and after a while starts to forget about its extremities. It begins to crystallise around the edges until nothing remains except a tiny flicker of life inside quite a large hill with some unusual rock strata.
   Old Grandad hadn’t quite got that far. He awoke from considering quite a promising line of inquiry about the meaning of truth and found a hot ashy taste in what, after a certain amount of thought, he remembered as being his mouth.
   He began to get angry. Commands skittered along neural pathways of impure silicon. Deep within his sili-caceous body stone slipped smoothly along special fracture lines. Trees toppled, turf split, as fingers the size of ships unfolded and gripped the ground. Two enormous rock-slides high on his cliff face marked the opening of eyes like great crusted opals.
   Rincewind couldn’t see all this, of course, since his own eyes were daylight issue only, but he did see the whole dark landscape shake itself slowly and then begin to rise impossibly against the stars.
   The sun rose.
   However, the sunlight didn’t. What did happen was that the famous Discworld sunlight, which as has already been indicated travels very slowly through the Disc’s powerful magical field, sloshed gently over the lands around the Rim and began its soft, silent battle against the retreating armies of the night. It poured like molten gold [4] across the sleeping landscape—bright, clean and, above all, slow.
   Herrena didn’t hesitate. With great presence of mind she ran to the edge of Old Grandad’s bottom lip and jumped, rolling as she hit the earth. The men followed her, cursing as they landed among the debris.
   Like a fat man trying to do press-ups the old troll pushed himself upwards.
   This wasn’t apparent from where the prisoners were lying. All they knew was that the floor kept rolling under them and that there was a lot of noise going on, most of it unpleasant.
   Weems grabbed Gancia’s arm.
   ‘It’s a herthquake,’ he said. ‘Let’s get out of here!’
   ‘Not without that gold,’ said Gancia.
   ‘The gold, the gold. Man, we could be as rich as Creosote!’
   Weems might have had a room-temperature IQ, but he knew idiocy when he saw it. Gancia’s eyes gleamed more than gold, and he appeared to be staring at Weems’ left ear.
   Weems looked desperately at the Luggage. It was still open invitingly, which was odd—you’d have thought all this shaking would have slammed the lid shut.
   ‘We’d never carry it,’ he suggested. ‘It’s too heavy,’ he added.
   ‘We’ll damn well carry some of it!’ shouted Gancia, and leapt towards the chest as the floor shook again.
   The lid snapped shut. Gancia vanished.
   And just in case Weems thought it was accidental the Luggage’s lid snapped open again, just for a second, and a large tongue as red as mahogany licked across broad teeth as white as sycamore. Then it slammed shut again.
   To Weem’s further horror hundreds of little legs extruded from the underside of the box. It rose very deliberately and, carefully arranging its feet, shuffled around to face him. There was a particularly malevolent look about its keyhole, the sort of look that says ‘Go on—make my day...’
   He backed away and looked imploringly at Twoflower.
   ‘I think it might be a good idea if you untied us,’ suggested Twoflower. ‘It’s really quite friendly once it gets to know you.’
   Licking his lips nervously, Weems drew his knife. The Luggage gave a warning creak.
   He slashed through their bonds and stood back quickly.
   ‘Thank you,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘I think my back’sh gone again,’ complained Cohen, as Bethan helped him to his feet.
   ‘What do we do with this man?’ said Bethan.
   ‘We take hish knife and tell him to bugger off,’ said Cohen. ‘Right?’
   ‘Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!’ said Weems, and bolted towards the cavemouth. For a moment he was outlined against the grey pre-dawn sky, and then he vanished. There was a distant cry of ‘aaargh’.
   The sunlight roared silently across the land like surf. Here and there, where the magic field was slightly weaker, tongues of morning raced ahead of the day, leaving isolated islands of night that contracted and vanished as the bright ocean flowed onwards.
   The uplands around the Vortex Plains stood out ahead of the advancing tide like a great grey ship.
   It is possible to stab a troll, but the technique takes practice and no-one ever gets a chance to practise more than once. Herrena’s men saw the trolls loom out of the darkness like very solid ghosts. Blades shattered as they hit silica skins, there were one or two brief, flat screams, and then nothing more but shouts far away in the forest as they put as much distance as they could between themselves and the avenging earth.
   Rincewind crept out from behind a tree and looked around. He was alone, but the bushes behind him rustled as the trolls lumbered after the gang.
   He looked up.
   High above him two great crystalline eyes focussed in atred of everything soft and squelchy and, above all, warm. Rincewind cowered in horror as a hand the size of a house rose, curled into a fist, and dropped towards him.
   Day came with a silent explosion of light. For a moment the huge terrifying bulk of Old Grandad was a breakwater of shadow as the daylight streamed past. There was a brief grinding noise.
   There was silence.
   Several minutes passed. Nothing happened.
   A few birds started singing. A bumblebee buzzed over the boulder that was Old Grandad’s fist and alighted on a patch of thyme that had grown under a stone fingernail.
   There was a scuffling down below. Rincewind slid awkwardly out of the narrow gap between the fist and the ground like a snake leaving a burrow.
   He lay on his back, staring up at the sky past the frozen shape of the troll. It hadn’t changed in any way, apart from the stillness, but already the eye started to play tricks. Last night Rincewind had looked at cracks in stone and seen them become mouths and eyes; now he looked at the great cliff face and saw the features become, like magic, mere blemishes in the rock.
   ‘Wow!’ he said.
   That didn’t seem to help. He stood up, dusted himself off, and looked around. Apart from the bumble bee, he was completely alone.
   After poking around for a bit he found a rock that, from certain angles, looked like Beryl.
   He was lost and lonely and a long way from home. He —
   There was a crunch high above him, and shards of rock spattered into the earth. High up on the face of Old Grandad a hole appeared; there was a brief sight of the Luggage’s backside as it struggled to regain its footing, and then Twoflower’s head poked out of the mouth cave.
   ‘Anyone down there? I say?’
   ‘Hey!’ shouted the wizard. ‘Am I glad to see you!’
   ‘I don’t know. Are you?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Am I what?’
   ‘Gosh, there’s a wonderful view from up here!’
   It took them half an hour to get down. Fortunately Old Grandad had been quite craggy with plenty of handholds, but his nose would have presented a tricky obstacle if it hadn’t been for the luxuriant oak tree that flourished in one nostril.
   The Luggage didn’t bother to climb. It just jumped, and bounced its way down with no apparent harm.
   Cohen sat in the shade, trying to catch his breath and waiting for his sanity to catch up with him. He eyed the Luggage thoughtfully.
   ‘The horses have all gone,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘We’ll find ‘em,’ said Cohen. His eyes bored into the Luggage, which began to look embarrassed.
   ‘They were carrying all our food,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Plenty of food in the foreshts.’
   ‘I have some nourishing biscuits in the Luggage,’ said Twoflower. ‘Traveller’s Digestives. Always a comfort in a tight spot.’
   ‘I’ve tried them,’ said Rincewind. They’ve got a mean edge on them, and —’
   Cohen stood up, wincing.
   ‘Excushe me,’ he said flatly. ‘There’sh shomething I’ve got to know.’
   He walked over to the Luggage and gripped its lid. The box backed away hurriedly, but Cohen stuck out a skinny foot and tripped up half its legs. As it twisted to snap at him he gritted his teeth and heaved, jerking the Luggage onto its curved lid where it rocked angrily like a maddened tortoise.
   ‘Hey, that’s my Luggage!’ said Twoflower. ‘Why’s he attacking my Luggage?’
   ‘I think I know,’ said Bethan quietly. ‘I think it’s because he’s scared of it.’
   Twoflower turned to Rincewind, open-mouthed.
   Rincewind shrugged.
   ‘Search me,’ he said. ‘I run away from things I’m scared of, myself.’
   With a snap of its lid the Luggage jerked into the air and came down running, catching Cohen a crack on the shins with one of its brass corners. As it wheeled around he got a grip on it just long enough to send it galloping full tilt into a rock.
   ‘Not bad,’ said Rincewind, admiringly.
   The Luggage staggered back, paused for a moment, then came at Cohen waving its lid menacingly. He jumped and landed on it, with both his hands and feet caught in the gap between the box and the lid.
   This severely puzzled the Luggage. It was even more astonished when Cohen took a deep breath and heaved, muscles standing out on his skinny arms like a sock full of coconuts.
   They stood locked there for some time, tendon versus hinge. Occasionally one or other would creak.
   Bethan elbowed Twoflower in the ribs.
   ‘Do something,’ she said.
   ‘Um,’ said Twoflower. ‘Yes. That’s about enough, I think. Put him down, please.’
   The Luggage gave a creak of betrayal at the sound of its master’s voice. Its lid flew up with such force that Cohen tumbled backwards, but he scrambled to his feet and flung himself towards the box.
   Its contents lay open to the skies.
   Cohen reached inside.
   The Luggage creaked a bit, but had obviously weighed up the chances of being sent to the top of that Great Wardrobe in the Sky. When Rincewind dared to peek through his fingers Cohen was peering into the Luggage and cursing under his breath.
   ‘Laundry?’ he shouted. ‘Is that it? Just laundry?’ He was shaking with rage.
   ‘I think there’s some biscuits too,’ said Twoflower in a small voice.
   ‘But there wash gold! And I shaw it eat shomebody!’ Cohen looked imploringly at Rincewind.
   The wizard sighed. ‘Don’t ask me,’ he said. ‘I don’t own the bloody thing.’
   ‘I bought it in a shop,’ said Twoflower defensively. ‘I said I wanted a travelling trunk.’
   ‘That’s what you got, all right,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘It’s very loyal,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Oh yes,’ agreed Rincewind. ‘If loyalty is what you look for in a suitcase.’
   ‘Hold on,’ said Cohen, who had sagged onto a rock. Wash it one of thoshe shopsh—I mean, I bet you hadn’t noticed it before and when you went back again it washn’t there?’
   Twoflower brightened. ‘That’s right!’
   ‘Shopkeeper a little wizened old guy? Shop full of strange shtuff?’
   ‘Exactly! Never could find it again, I thought I must have got the wrong street, nothing but a brick wall where I thought it was, I remember thinking at the time it was rather —’
   Cohen shrugged. ‘One of those shops [5],’ he said. That explainsh it, then.’ He felt his back, and grimaced. ‘Bloody horshe ran off with my linament!’
   Rincewind remembered something, and fumbled in the depths of his torn and now very grubby robe. He held up a green bottle.
   ‘That’sh the shtuff!’ said Cohen. ‘You’re a marvel.’ He ooked sideways at Twoflower.
   ‘I would have beaten it,’ he said quietly, ‘even if you hadn’t called it off, I would have beaten it in the end.’
   ‘That’s right,’ said Bethan.
   ‘You two can make yourshelf usheful,’ he added. That Luggage broke through a troll tooth to get ush out. That wash diamond. Shee if you can find the bitsh. I’ve had an idea about them.’
   As Bethan rolled up her sleeves and uncorked the bottle Rincewind took Twoflower to one side. When they were safely hidden behind a shrub he said, ‘He’s gone barmy.’
   ‘That’s Cohen the Barbarian you’re talking about!’ said Twoflower, genuinely shocked. ‘He is the greatest warrior that —’
   ‘Was,’ said Rincewind urgently. ‘All that stuff with the warrior priests and man-eating zombies was years ago. All he’s got now is memories and so many scars you could play noughts-and-crosses on him.’
   ‘He is rather more elderly than I imagined, yes,’ said Twoflower. He picked up a fragment of diamond.
   ‘So we ought to leave them and find our horses and move on,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘That’s a bit of a mean trick, isn’t it?’
   ‘They’ll be all right,’ said Rincewind heartily. ‘The point is, would you feel happy in the company of someone who would attack the Luggage with his bare hands?’
   ‘That is a point,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘They’ll probably be better off without us anyway.’
   ‘Are you sure?’
   ‘Positive,’ said Rincewind.
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 They found the horses wandering aimlessly in the scrub, breakfasted on badly-dried horse jerky, and set off in what Rincewind believed was the right direction. A few minutes later the Luggage emerged from the bushes and followed them.
   The sun rose higher in the sky, but still failed to blot out the light of the star.
   ‘It’s got bigger overnight,’ said Twoflower. ‘Why isn’t anybody doing something?’
   ‘Such as what?’
   Twoflower thought. ‘Couldn’t somebody tell Great A’Tuin to avoid it?’ he said. ‘Sort of go around it?’
   ‘That sort of thing has been tried before,’ said Rincewind. Wizards tried to tune in to Great A’Tuin’s mind.’
   ‘It didn’t work?’
   ‘Oh, it worked all right,’ said Rincewind. ‘Only...’
   Only there had been certain unforeseen risks in reading a mind as great as the World Turtle’s, he explained. The wizards had trained up on tortoises and giant sea turtles first, to get the hang of the chelonian frame of mind, but although they knew that Great A’Tuin’s mind would be big they hadn’t realised that it would be slow.
   ‘There’s a bunch of wizards that have been reading it in shifts for thirty years,’ said Rincewind. ‘All they’ve found out is that Great A’Tuin is looking forward to something.’
   ‘Who knows?’
   They rode in silence for a while through a rough country where huge limestone blocks lined the track. Eventually Twoflower said, ‘We ought to go back, you know.’
   ‘Look, we’ll reach the Smarl tomorrow,’ said Rincewind. ‘Nothing will happen to them out here, I don’t see why —’
   He was talking to himself. Twoflower had wheeled his horse and was trotting back, demonstrating all the horsemanship of a sack of potatoes.
   Rincewind looked down. The Luggage regarded him owlishly.
   ‘What are you looking at?’ said the wizard. ‘He can go back if he wants, why should I bother?’
   The Luggage said nothing.
   ‘Look, he’s not my responsibility,’ said Rincewind. let’s be absolutely clear about that.’
   The Luggage said nothing, but louder this time.
   ‘Go on—follow him. You’re nothing to do with me.’
   The Luggage retracted its little legs and settled down on the track.
   ‘Well, I’m going,’ said Rincewind. ‘I mean it,’ he added.
   He turned the horse’s head back towards the new horizon, and glanced down. The Luggage sat there.
   ‘It’s no good trying to appeal to my better nature. You can stay there all day for all I care. I’m just going to ride off, okay?’
   He glared at the Luggage. The Luggage looked back.

   ‘I thought you’d come back,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘Shall we talk about something else?’
   ‘Yeah, well, discussing how to get these ropes off would be favourite,’ said Rincewind. He wrenched at the bonds around his wrists.
   ‘I can’t imagine why you’re so important,’ said Herrena. She sat on a rock opposite them, sword across her knees. Most of the gang laying among the rocks high above, watching the road. Rincewind and Twoflower had been a pathetically easy ambush.
   ‘Weems told me what your box did to Gancia,’ she added. ‘I can’t say that’s a great loss, but I hope it understands that if it comes within a mile of us I will personally cut both your throats, yes?’
   Rincewind nodded violently.
   ‘Good,’ said Herrena. ‘You’re wanted dead or alive, I’m not really bothered which, but some of the lads might want to have a little discussion with you about those trolls. If the sun hadn’t come up when it did—’
   She left the words hanging, and walked away.
   ‘Well, here’s another fine mess,’ said Rincewind. He had another pull at the ropes that bound him. There was a rock behind him, and if he could bring his wrists up—yes, as he thought, it lacerated him while at the same time eing too blunt to have any effect on the rope.
   ‘But why us?’ said Twoflower. ‘It’s to do with that star, isn’t it?’
   ‘I don’t know anything about the star,’ said Rincewind. ‘I never even attended astrology lessons at the University!’
   ‘I expect everything will turn out all right in the end,’ said Twoflower.
   Rincewind looked at him. Remarks like that always threw him.
   ‘Do you really believe that?’ he said. ‘I mean, really?’
   ‘Well, things generally do work out satisfactorily, when you come to think about it.’
   ‘If you think the total disruption of my life for the last year is satisfactory then you might be right. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve nearly been killed —’
   ‘Twenty-seven,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Twenty-seven times,’ said Twoflower helpfully. ‘I worked it out. But you never actually have.’
   ‘What? Worked it out?’ said Rincewind, who was beginning to have the familiar feeling that the conversation had been mugged.
   ‘No. Been killed. Doesn’t that seem a bit suspicious?’
   ‘I’ve never objected to it, if that’s what you mean,’ said Rincewind. He glared at his feet. Twoflower was right, of course. The Spell was keeping him alive, it was obvious. No doubt if he jumped over a cliff a passing cloud would cushion his fall.
   The trouble with that theory, he decided, was that it only worked if he didn’t believe it was true. The moment he thought he was invulnerable he’d be dead.
   So, on the whole it was wisest not to think about it at all.
   Anyway, he might be wrong.
   The only thing he could be certain of was that he was getting a headache. He hoped that the Spell was somewhere in the area of the headache and really suffering.
   When they rode out of the hollow both Rincewind and Twoflower were sharing a horse with one of their captors.
   Rincewind perched uncomfortably in front of Weems. who had sprained an ankle and was not in a good mood. Twoflower sat in front of Herrena which, since he was fairly short, meant that at least he kept his ears warm. She rode with a drawn knife and a sharp eye out for any-walking boxes; Herrena hadn’t quite worked out what the Luggage was, but she was bright enough to know that it wouldn’t let Twoflower be killed.
   After about ten minutes they saw it in the middle of the road. It’s lid lay open invitingly. It was full of gold.
   ‘Go round it,’ said Herrena.
   ‘But —’
   ‘It’s a trap.’
   ‘That’s right,’ said Weems, white-faced. ‘You take it from me.’
   Reluctantly they reined their horses around the glittering temptation and trotted on along the track. Weems glanced back fearfully, dreading to see the chest coming after him.
   What he saw was almost worse. It had gone.
   Far off to one side of the path the long grass moved mysteriously and was still.
   Rincewind wasn’t much of a wizard and even less of a fighter, but he was an expert at cowardice and he knew fear when he smelt it. He said, quietly, ‘It’ll follow you, you know.’
   ‘What?’ said Weems, distractedly. He was still peering at the grass.
   ‘It’s very patient and it never gives up. That’s sapient pearwood you’re dealing with. It’ll let you think it’s forgotten you, then one day you’ll be walking along a dark street and you’ll hear these little footsteps behind you—shlup, shlup, they’ll go, then you’ll start running and they’ll speed up, shlupshlupSHLUP—’
   ‘Shut up!’ shouted Weems.
   ‘It’s probably already recognised you, so —’
   ‘I said shut up!’
   Herrena turned around in her saddle and glared at them. Weems scowled and pulled Rincewind’s ear until it was ight in front his mouth, and said hoarsely, I’m afraid of nothing, understand? This wizard stuff, I spit on it.’
   ‘They all say that until they hear the footsteps,’ said Rincewind. He stopped. A knifepoint was pricking his ribs.

   Nothing happened for the rest of the day but, to Rincewind’s satisfaction and Weems’ mounting paranoia, the Luggage showed itself several times. Here it would be perched incongruously on a crag, there it would be half-hidden in a ditch with moss growing over it.
   By late afternoon they came to the crest of a hill and looked down on the broad valley of the upper Smarl, the longest river on the Disc. It was already half a mile across, and heavy with the silt that made the lower valley the most fertile area on the continent. A few wisps of early mist wreathed its banks.
   ‘Shlup,’ said Rincewind. He felt Weems jerk upright in the saddle.
   ‘Just clearing my throat,’ said Rincewind, and grinned. He had put a lot of thought into that grin. It was the sort of grin people use when they stare at your left ear and tell you in an urgent tone of voice that they are being spied on by secret agents from the next galaxy. It was not a grin to inspire confidence. More horrible grins had probably been seen, but only on the sort of grinner that is orange with black stripes, has a long tail and hangs around in jungles looking for victims to grin at.
   ‘Wipe that off,’ said Herrena, trotting up.
   Where the track led down to the river bank there was a crude jetty and a big bronze gong.
   ‘It’ll summon the ferryman,’ said Herrena. ‘If we cross here we can cut off a big bend in the river. Might even make it to a town tonight.’
   Weems looked doubtful. The sun was getting fat and red, and the mists were beginning to thicken.
   ‘Or maybe you want to spend the night this side of the water?’
   Weems picked up the hammer and hit the gong so hard that it spun right around on its hanger and fell off.
   They waited in silence. Then with a wet clinking sound a chain sprang out of the water and pulled taut against an iron peg set into the bank. Eventually the slow flat shape of the ferry emerged from the mist, its hooded ferryman heaving on a big wheel set in its centre as he winched his way towards the shore.
   The ferry’s flat bottom grated on the gravel, and the hooded figure leaned against the wheel panting.
   ‘Two at a time,’ it muttered.’ That’sh all. Jusht two, with horshesh.’
   Rincewind swallowed, and tried not to look at Twoflower. The man would probably be grinning and mugging like an idiot. He risked a sideways glance.
   Twoflower was sitting with his mouth open.
   ‘You’re not the usual ferryman,’ said Herrena. ‘I’ve been here before, the usual man is a big fellow, sort of —’
   ‘It’sh hish day off.’
   ‘Well, okay,’ she said doubtfully. ‘In that case—what’s he laughing at?’
   Twoflower’s shoulders were shaking, his face had gone red, and he was emitting muffled snorts. Herrena glared at him, then looked hard at the ferryman.
   ‘Two of you—grab him!’
   There was a pause. Then one of the men said, ‘What, the ferryman?’
   Herrena looked blank. This sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen. It was accepted that when someone yelled something like ‘Get him!’ or ‘Guards!’ people jumped to it, they weren’t supposed to sit around discussing things.
   ‘Because I said so!’ was the best she could manage. The two men nearest to the bowed figure looked at each ther, shrugged, dismounted, and each took a shoulder. The ferryman was about half their size.
   ‘Like this?’ said one of them. Twoflower was choking for breath.
   ‘Now I want to see what he’s got under that robe.’ The two men exchanged glances. ‘I’m not sure that—’ said one.
   He got no further because a knobbly elbow jerked into his stomach like a piston. His companion looked down incredulously and got the other elbow in the kidneys.
   Cohen cursed as he struggled to untangle his sword from his robe while hopping crabwise towards Herrena. Rincewind groaned, gritted his teeth, and jerked his head backwards hard. There was a scream from Weems and Rincewind rolled sideways, landed heavily in the mud, scrambled up madly and looked around for somewhere to hide.
   With a cry of triumph Cohen managed to free his sword and waved it triumphantly, severely wounding a man who had been creeping up behind him.
   Herrena pushed Twoflower off her horse and fumbled for her own blade. Twoflower tried to stand up and caused the horse of another man to rear, throwing him off and bringing his head down to the right level for Rincewind to kick it as hard as possible. Rincewind would be the first to call himself a rat, but even rats fight in a corner.
   Weems’ hands dropped onto his shoulder and a fist like a medium-sized rock slammed into his head.
   As he went down he heard Herrena say, quite quietly, ‘Kill them both. I’ll deal with this old fool.’
   ‘Roight!’ said Weems, and turned towards Twoflower with his sword drawn.
   Rincewind saw him hesitate. There was a moment of silence, and then even Herrena could hear the splashing as the Luggage surged ashore, water pouring from it.
   Weems stared at it in horror. His sword fell from his hand. He turned and ran into the mists. A moment later he Luggage bounded over Rincewind and followed him.
   Herrena lunged at Cohen, who parried the thrust and grunted as his arm twinged. The blades clanged wetly, and then Herrena was forced to back away as a cunning upward sweep from Cohen nearly disarmed her.
   Rincewind staggered towards Twoflower and tugged at him ineffectually.
   ‘Time to be going,’ he muttered.
   ‘This is great!’ said Twoflower. ‘Did you see the way he —’
   ‘Yes, yes, come on.’
   ‘But I want—I say, well done!’
   Herrena’s sword spun out of her hand and stood quivering in the dirt. With a snort of satisfaction Cohen brought his own sword back, went momentarily crosseyed, gave a little yelp of pain, and stood absolutely motionless.
   Herrena looked at him, puzzled. She made an experimental move in the direction of her own sword and when nothing happened she grasped it, tested its balance, and stared at Cohen. Only his agonised eyes moved to follow her as she circled him cautiously.
   ‘His back’s gone again!’ whispered Twoflower. ‘What can we do?’
   ‘We can see if we can catch the horses?’
   ‘Well,’ said Herrena, ‘I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, and there’s nothing personal about this, you understand.’
   She raised her sword in both hands.
   There was a sudden movement in the mists and the dull thud of a heavy piece of wood hitting a head. Herrena looked bewildered for a moment, and then fell forward.
   Bethan dropped the branch she had been holding and looked at Cohen. Then she grabbed him by the shoulders, stuck her knee in the small of his back, gave a businesslike twist and let him go.
   An expression of bliss passed across his face. He gave an experimental bend.
   ‘It’s gone!’ he said. ‘The back! Gone!’
   Twoflower turned to Rincewind.
   ‘My father used to recommend hanging from the top of a door,’ he said conversationally.

   Weems crept very cautiously through the scrubby, mist-laden trees. The pale damp air muffled all sounds, but he was certain that there had been nothing to hear for the past ten minutes. He turned around very slowly, and then allowed himself the luxury of a long, heartfelt sigh. He stepped back into the cover of the bushes.
   Something nudged the back of his knees, very gently. Something angular.
   He looked down. There seemed to be more feet down there than there ought to be.
   There was a short, sharp snap.

   The fire was a tiny dot of light in a dark landscape. The moon wasn’t up yet, but the star was a lurking glow on the horizon.
   ‘It’s circular now,’ said Bethan. ‘It looks like a tiny sun. I’m sure it’s getting hotter, too.’
   ‘Don’t,’ said Rincewind. ‘As if I hadn’t got enough to worry about.’
   ‘What I don’t understand,’ said Cohen, who was having his back massaged, ‘ish how they captured you without ush hearing it. We wouldn’t have known at all if your Luggage hadn’t kept jumping up and down.’
   ‘And whining,’ said Bethan. They all looked at her.
   ‘Well, it looked as if it was whining,’ she said. ‘I think it’s rather sweet, really.’
   Four pairs of eyes turned towards the Luggage, which was squatting on the other side of the fire. It got up, and very pointedly moved back into the shadows.
   ‘Eashy to feed,’ said Cohen.
   ‘Hard to lose,’ agreed Rincewind.
   ‘Loyal,’ suggested Twoflower.
   ‘Roomy,’ said Cohen.
   ‘But I wouldn’t say sweet,’ said Rincewind.
   ‘I shuppose you wouldn’t want to shell it?’ said Cohen.
   Twoflower shook his head. ‘I don’t think it would understand,’ he said.
   ‘No, I shupposhe not,’ said Cohen. He sat up, and bit his lip. ‘I wash looking for a preshent for Bethan, you shee. We’re getting married.’
   ‘We thought you ought to be the first to know,’ said Bethan, and blushed.
   Rincewind didn’t catch Twoflower’s eye.
   ‘Well, that’s very, er —’
   ‘Just as soon as we find a town where there’s a priest,’ said Bethan. ‘I want it done properly.’
   ‘That’s very important,’ said Twoflower seriously. ‘If there were more morals about we wouldn’t be crashing into stars.’
   They considered this for a moment. Then Twoflower said brightly, ‘This calls for a celebration. I’ve got some biscuits and water, if you’ve still got some of that jerky.’
   ‘Oh, good,’ said Rincewind weakly. He beckoned Cohen to one side. With his beard trimmed the old man could easily have passed for seventy on a dark night.
   ‘This is, uh, serious?’ he said. ‘You’re really going to marry her?’
   ‘Share thing. Any objections?’
   ‘Well, no, of course not, but—I mean, she’s seventeen and you’re, you’re, how can I put it, you’re of the elderly persuasion.’
   ‘Time I shettled down, you mean?’
   Rincewind groped for words. ‘You’re seventy years older than her, Cohen. Are you sure that —’
   ‘I have been married before, you know. I’ve got quite a good memory,’ said Cohen reproachfully.
   ‘No, what I mean is, well, I mean physically, the point is, what about, you know, the age difference and everything, t’s a matter of health, isn’t it, and —’
   ‘Ah,’ said Cohen slowly, ‘I shee what you mean. The strain. I hadn’t looked at it like that.’
   ‘No,’ said Rincewind, straightening up. ‘No, well, that’s only to be expected.’
   ‘You’ve given me something to think about and no mishtake,’ said Cohen.
   ‘I hope I haven’t upset anything.’
   ‘No, no,’ said Cohen vaguely. ‘Don’t apologishe. You were right to point it out.’
   He turned and looked at Bethan, who waved at him, and then he looked up at the star that glared through the mists.
   Eventually he said, ‘Dangerous times, these.’
   ‘That’s a fact.’
   ‘Who knows what tomorrow may bring?’
   ‘Not me.’
   Cohen clapped Rincewind on the shoulder. ‘Shome-timesh we jusht have to take rishks,’ he said. ‘Don’t be offended, but I think we’ll go ahead with the wedding anyway and, well,’ he looked at Bethan and sighed, ‘we’ll just have to hope she’s shtrong enough.’

   Around noon the following day they rode into a small, mud-walled city surrounded by fields still lush and green. There seemed to be a lot of traffic going the other way, though. Huge carts rumbled past them. Herds of livestock ambled along the crown of the road. Old ladies stomped past carrying entire households and haystacks on their backs.
   ‘Plague?’ said Rincewind, stopping a man pushing a handcart full of children.
   He shook his head. ‘It’s the star, friend,’ he said. ‘Haven’t you seen it in the sky?’
   ‘We couldn’t help noticing it, yes.’
   They say that it’ll hit us on Hogswatchnight and the seas will boil and the countries of the Disc will be broken nd kings will be brought down and the cities will be as lakes of glass,’ said the man. ‘I’m off to the mountains.’
   ‘That’ll help, will it?’ said Rincewind doubtfully.
   ‘No, but the view will be better.’
   Rincewind rode back to the others.
   ‘Everyone’s worried about the star,’ he said. ‘Apparently there’s hardly anyone left in the cities, they’re all frightened of it.’
   ‘I don’t want to worry anyone,’ said Bethan, ‘but hasn’t it struck you as unseasonably hot?’
   ‘That’s what I said last night,’ said Twoflower. ‘Very warm, I thought.’
   ‘I shuspect it’ll get a lot hotter,’ said Cohen. ‘Let’sh get on into the city.’
   They rode through echoing streets that were practically deserted. Cohen kept peering at merchants’ signs until he reined his horse and said, ‘Thish ish what I’ve been looking for. You find a temple and a priesht, I’ll join you shortly.’
   ‘A jeweller?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘It’s a shuprishe.’
   ‘I could do with a new dress, too,’ said Bethan.
   ‘I’ll shteal you one.’
   There was something very oppressive about the city, Rincewind decided. There was also something very odd.
   Almost every door was painted with a large red star.
   ‘It’s creepy,’ said Bethan. ‘As if people wanted to bring the star here.’
   ‘Or keep it away,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘That won’t work. It’s too big,’ said Rincewind. He saw their faces turned towards him.
   ‘Well, it stands to reason, doesn’t it?’ he said lamely.
   ‘No,’ said Bethan.
   ‘Stars are small lights in the sky,’ said Twoflower. ‘One fell down near my home once—big white thing, size of a house, glowed for weeks before it went out.’
   ‘This star is different,’ said a voice. ‘Great A’Tuin has climbed the beach of the universe. This is the great ocean of space.’
   ‘How do you know?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘Know what?’ said Rincewind.
   ‘What you just said. About beaches and oceans.’
   ‘I didn’t say anything!’
   ‘Yes you did, you silly man!’ yelled Bethan. ‘We saw your lips going up and down and everything!’
   Rincewind shut his eyes. Inside his mind he could feel the Spell scuttling off to hide behind his conscience, and muttering to itself.
   ‘All right, all right,’ he said. ‘No need to shout. I—I don’t know how I know, I just know —.’
   ‘Well, I wish you’d tell us.’
   They turned the corner.
   All the cities around the Circle Sea had a special area set aside for the gods, of which the Disc had an elegant sufficiency. Usually they were crowded and not very attractive from an architectural point of view. The most senior gods, of course, had large and splendid temples, but the trouble was that later gods demanded equality and soon the holy areas were sprawling with lean-to’s, annexes, loft conversions, sub-basements, bijou flatlets, ecclesiastical infilling and trans-temporal timesharing, since no god would dream of living outside the holy quarter or, as it had become, three-eighths. There were usually three hundred different types of incense being burned and the noise was normally at pain threshold because of all the priests vying with each other to call their share of the faithful to prayer.
   But this street was deathly quiet, that particularly unpleasant quiet that comes when hundreds of frightened and angry people are standing very still.
   A man at the edge of the crowd turned around and scowled at the newcomers. He had a red star painted on his forehead.
   ‘What’s—’ Rincewind began, and stopped as his voice seemed far too loud, ‘what’s this?’
   ‘You’re strangers?’ said the man.
   ‘Actually we know one another quite—’ Twoflower egan, and fell silent. Bethan pointed up the street.
   Every temple had a star painted on it. There was a particularly big one daubed across the stone eye outside the temple of Blind Io, leader of the gods.
   ‘Urgh,’ said Rincewind. ‘Io is going to be really pissed when he sees that. I don’t think we ought to hang around here, friends.’
   The crowd was facing a crude platform that had been built in the centre of the wide street. A big banner had been draped across the front of it.
   ‘I always heard that Blind Io can see everything that happens everywhere,’ said Bethan quietly. ‘Why hasn’t —’
   ‘Quiet!’ said the man beside them. ‘Dahoney speaks!’
   A figure had stepped up on the platform, a tall thin man with hair like a dandelion. There was no cheer from the crowd, just a collective sigh. He began to speak.
   Rincewind listened in mounting horror. Where were the gods? said the man. They had gone. Perhaps they had never been. Who, actually, could remember seeing them? And now the star had been sent —
   It went on and on, a quiet, clear voice that used words like ‘cleanse’ and ‘scouring’ and ‘purify’ and drilled into the brain like a hot sword. Where were the wizards? Where was magic? Had it ever really worked, or had it all been a dream?
   Rincewind began to be really afraid that the gods might get to hear about this and be so angry that they’d take it out on anyone who happened to have been around at the time.
   But somehow even the wrath of the gods would have been better than the sound of that voice. The star was coming, it seemed to say, and its fearful fire could only be averted by—by—Rincewind couldn’t be certain, but he had visions of swords and banners and blank-eyed warriors. The voice didn’t believe in gods, which in Rincewind’s book was fair enough, but it didn’t believe in people either.
   A tall hooded stranger on Rincewind’s left jostled him. He turned—and looked up into a grinning skuli nder a black hood.
   Wizards, like cats, can see Death.
   Compared to the sound of that voice, Death seemed almost pleasant. He leaned against a wall, his scythe propped up beside him. He nodded at Rincewind.
   ‘Come to gloat?’ whispered Rincewind. Death shrugged.
   ‘This is the future?’
   A FUTURE, said Death.
   ‘It’s horrible,’ said Rincewind.
   I’M INCLINED TO AGREE, said Death.
   ‘I would have thought you’d be all for it I’
   ‘Who are you talking to?’ said Twoflower. Several members of the congregation had turned around and were looking suspiciously at Rincewind.
   ‘Nobody,’ said Rincewind. ‘Can we go away? I’ve got a headache.’
   Now a group of people at the edge of the crowd were muttering and pointing to them. Rincewind grabbed the other two and hurried them around the corner.
   ‘Mount up and let’s go,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling that —’
   A hand landed on his shoulder. He turned around. A pair of cloudy grey eyes set in a round bald head on top of a large muscular body were staring hard at his left ear. The man had a star painted on his forehead.
   ‘You look like a wizard,’ he said, in a tone of voice that suggested this was very unwise and quite possibly fatal.
   ‘Who, me? No, I’m—a clerk. Yes. A clerk. That’s right,’ said Rincewind.
   He gave a little laugh.
   The man paused, his lips moving soundlessly, as though he was listening to a voice in his head. Several ther star people had joined him. Rincewind’s left ear began to be widely regarded.
   ‘I think you’re a wizard,’ said the man.
   ‘Look,’ said Rincewind, ‘if I was a wizard I’d be able to do magic, right? I’d just turn you into something, and I haven’t, so I’m not.’
   ‘We killed all our wizards,’ said one of the men. ‘Some ran away, but we killed quite a lot. They waved their hands and nothing came out.’
   Rincewind stared at him.
   ‘And we think you’re a wizard too,’ said the man holding Rincewind in an ever-tightening grip. ‘You’ve got the box on legs and you look like a wizard.’
   Rincewind became aware that the three of them and the Luggage had somehow become separated from their horses, and that they were now in a contracting circle of grey-faced, solemn people.
   Bethan had gone pale. Even Twoflower, whose ability to recognise danger was as good as Rincewind’s ability to fly, was looking worried.
   Rincewind took a deep breath.
   He raised his hands in the classic pose he’d learned years before, and rasped, ‘Stand back! Or I’ll fill you full of magic!’
   ‘The magic has faded,’ said the man. ‘The star has taken it away. All the false wizards said their funny words and then nothing happened and they looked at their hands in horror and very few of them, in fact, had the sense to run away.’
   ‘I mean it!’ said Rincewind.
   He’s going to kill me, he thought. That’s it. I can’t even bluff any more. No good at magic, no good at bluffing, I’m just a —
   The Spell stirred in his mind. He felt it trickle into his brain like iced water and brace itself. A cold tingle coursed down his arm.
   His arm raised of its own volition, and he felt his own mouth opening and shutting and his own tongue moving as a voice that wasn’t his, a voice that sounded old and dry, said syllables that puffed into the air like steam clouds.
   Octarine fire flashed from under his fingernails. It wrapped itself around the horrified man until he was lost in a cold, spitting cloud that rose above the street, hung there for a long moment, and then exploded into nothingness.
   There wasn’t even a wisp of greasy smoke.
   Rincewind stared at his hand in horror.
   Twoflower and Bethan each grabbed him by an arm and hustled him through the shocked crowd until they reached the open street. There was a painful moment as they each chose to run down a different alley, but they hurried on with Rincewind’s feet barely touching the cobbles.
   ‘Magic,’ he mumbled excitedly, drunk with power. ‘I did magic...’
   ‘That’s right,’ said Twoflower soothingly.
   ‘Would you like me to do a spell?’ said Rincewind. He pointed a finger at a passing dog and said ‘Wheeee!’ It gave him a hurt look.
   ‘Making your feet run a lot faster’d be favourite,’ said Bethan grimly.
   ‘Sure!’ slurred Rincewind. ‘Feet! Run faster! Hey, look, they’re doing it!’
   ‘They’ve got more sense than you,’ said Bethan. ‘Which way now?’
   Twoflower peered at the maze of alleyways around them. There was a lot of shouting going on, some way off.
   Rincewind lurched 6ut of their grasp, and tottered uncertainly down the nearest alley.
   ‘I can do it!’ he shouted wildly. ‘Just you all watch out —’
   ‘He’s in shock,’ said Twoflower.
   ‘He’s never done a spell before.’
   ‘But he’s a wiizard!’
   ‘It’s all a bit complicated,’ said Twoflower, running after Rincewind. ‘Anyway, I’m not sure that was actually him. it certainly didn’t sound like him. Come along, old fellow.’
   Rincewind looked at him with wild, unseeing eyes.
   ‘I’ll turn you into a rosebush,’ he said.
   ‘Yes, yes, jolly good. Just come along,’ said Twoflower soothingly, pulling gently at his arm.
   There was a pattering of feet from several alleyways and suddenly a dozen star people were advancing on them.
   Bethan grabbed Rincewind’s limp hand and held it up threateningly.
   ‘That’s far enough!’ she screamed.
   ‘Right!’ shouted Twoflower. ‘We’ve got a wizard and we’re not afraid to use him!’
   ‘I mean it!’ screamed Bethan, spinning Rincewind around by his arm, like a capstan.
   ‘Right! We’re heavily armed! What?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘I said, where’s the Luggage?’ hissed Bethan behind Rincewind’s back.
   Twoflower looked around. The Luggage was missing.
   Rincewind was having the desired effect of the star people, though. As his hand waved vaguely around they treated it like a rotary scythe and tried to hide behind one another.
   ‘Well, where’s it gone?’
   ‘How should I know?’ said Twoflower.
   ‘It’s your Luggage!’
   ‘I often don’t know where my Luggage is, that’s what being a tourist is all about,’ said Twoflower. ‘Anyway, it often wanders off by itself. It’s probably best not to ask why.’
   It began to dawn on the mob that nothing was actually happening, and that Rincewind was in no condition to hurl insults, let alone magical fire. They advanced, watching his hands cautiously.
   Twoflower and Bethan backed away. Twoflower looked around.
   ‘What?’ said Bethan, not taking her eyes off the advancing figures.
   ‘This is a dead end.’
   ‘Are you sure?’
   ‘I think I know a brick wall when I see one,’ said Twoflower reproachfully.
   ‘That’s about it, then,’ said Bethan.
   ‘Do you think perhaps if I explain—?’
   ‘I don’t think these are the sort of people who listen to explanations,’ Bethan added.
   Twoflower stared at them. He was, as has been mentioned, usually oblivious to personal danger. Against the whole of human experience Twoflower believed that if only people would talk to each other, have a few drinks, exchange pictures of their grandchildren, maybe take in a show or something, then everything could be sorted out. He also believed that people were basically good but sometimes had their bad days. What was coming down the street was having about the same effect on him as a gorilla in a glass factory.
   There was the faintest of sounds behind him, not so much a sound in fact as a change in the texture of the air.
   The faces in front of him gaped open, turned, and disappeared rapidly down the alley.
   ‘Eh?’ said Bethan, still propping up the now unconscious Rincewind.
   Twoflower was looking the other way, at a big glass window full of strange wares, and a beaded doorway, and a large sign above it all which now said, after its characters had finished writhing into position:
   ‘Skillet, Wang, Yrxle!yt, Bunglestiff, Cwmlad and Patel’
   ‘Estblshd: various’
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