Location: Fantasy Books » Terry Pratchett
from The Colour of Magic
roared through the bifurcated city of Ankh-Morpork. Where it licked the
Wizards' Quarter it burned blue and green and was even laced with strange
sparks of the eighth color, octarine; where its outriders found their
way into the vats and oil stores all along Merchant Street it progressed
in a series of blazing fountains and explosions; in the streets of the
perfume blenders it burned with a sweetness; where it touched bundles
of rare and dry herbs in the storerooms of the drugmasters it made men
go mad and talk to God.
By now the
whole of downtown Morpork was alight, and the richer and worthier citizens
of Ankh on the far bank were bravely responding to the situation by feverishly
demolishing the bridges. But already the ships in the Morpork docks-laden
with grain, cotton and timber, and coated with tar-were blazing merrily
and, their moorings burnt to ashes, were breasting the river Ankh on the
ebb tide, igniting riverside palaces and bowers as they drifted like drowning
fireflies toward the sea. In any case, sparks were riding the breeze and
touching down far across the river in hidden gardens and remote rickyards.
from the merry burning rose miles high, in a wind-sculpted black column
that could be seen across the whole of the Discworld.
It was certainly
impressive from the cool, dark hilltop a few leagues away, where two figures
were watching with considerable interest.
of the pair was chewing on a chicken leg and leaning on a sword that was
only marginally shorter than the average man. If it wasn't for the air
of wary intelligence about him it might have been supposed that he was
a barbarian from the Hubland wastes.
was much shorter and wrapped from head to toe in a brown cloak. Later,
when he has occasion to move, it will be seen that he moves lightly, catlike.
The two had
barely exchanged a word in the last twenty minutes except for a short
and inconclusive argument as to whether a particularly powerful explosion
had been the oil bond store or the workshop of Kerible the Enchanter.
Money hinged on the fact.
Now the big
man finished gnawing at the bone and tossed it into the grass, smiling
go all those little alleyways," he said. "I liked them."
the treasure houses," said the small man. He added thoughtfully,
"Do gems bum? I wonder. 'Tis said they're kin to coal."
the gold, melting and running down the gutters," said the big one,
ignoring him. "And all the wine, boiling in the barrels."
were rats," said his brown companion.
I'll grant you."
was no place to be in high summer."
too. One can't help feeling, though, a-well, a momentary-"
off, then brightened. "We owed old Fredor at the Crimson Leech eight
silver pieces," he added. The little man nodded.
silent for a while as a whole new series of explosions carved a red line
across a hitherto dark section of the greatest city in the world. Then
the big man stirred.
who started it."
swordsman known as the Weasel said nothing. He was watching the road in
the ruddy light. Few had come that way since the Deosil Gate had been
one of the first to collapse in a shower of white-hot embers.
But two were
coming up it now. The Weasel's eyes, always at their sharpest in gloom
and half-light, made out the shapes of two mounted men and some sort of
low beast behind them. Doubtless a rich merchant escaping with as much
treasure as he could lay frantic hands on. The Weasel said as much to
his companion, who sighed.
status of footpad ill suits us," said the barbarian, "but, as
you say, times are hard and there are no soft beds tonight. "
his grip on his sword and, as the leading rider drew near, stepped out
onto the road with a hand held up and his face set in a grin nicely calculated
to reassure yet threaten.
pardon, sir" he began.
reined in his horse and drew back his hood. The big man looked into a
face blotched with superficial burns and punctuated by tufts of singed
beard. Even the eyebrows had gone.
off," said the face. "You're Bravd the Hublander, aren't you?"
aware that he had fumbled the initiative.
go away, will you?" said the rider. "I just haven't got time
for you, do you understand?"
around and added: "That goes for your shadow-loving fleabag partner,
too, wherever he's hiding."
stepped up to the horse and peered at the disheveled figure.
it's Rincewind the wizard, isn't it?" he said in tones of delight,
meanwhile filing the wizard's description of him in his memory for leisurely
vengeance. "I thought I recognized the voice."
and sheathed his sword. It was seldom worth tangling with wizards, they
so rarely had any treasure worth speaking of.
talks pretty big for a gutter wizard," he muttered.
don't understand at all," said the wizard wearily. "I'm so scared
of you my spine has turned to jelly, it's just that I'm suffering from
an overdose of terror right now. I mean, when I've got over that then
I'll have time to be decently frightened of you."
pointed toward the burning city.
been through that?" he asked.
rubbed a red-raw hand across his eyes. "I was there when it started.
See him? Back there?" He pointed back down the road to where his
traveling companion was still approaching, having adopted a method of
riding that involved falling out of the saddle every few seconds.
started it," said Rincewind simply.
from The Light Fantastic
The sun rose
slowly, as if it wasn't sure it was worth all the effort.
day dawned, but very gradually, and this is why.
encounters a strong magical field it loses all 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 gray 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.
no other world was carried through the starry infinity on the backs of
four giant elephants, who were 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 archaeologists
and give them silly ideas.
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'Tuim of the great slow
sad flippers and star-polished carapace, laboring through the galactic
night under the weight of the Disc. As large as worlds. As old as Time.
As patient as a brick.
the philosophers have got it all wrong. Great A'Tuin is in fact having
a great time.
is the only creature in the entire universe that knows exactly where it
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
to find out in about two months, and then they're really going to worry
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.
as the great dark shape drifts past like an endless tortoiseshell hairbrush,
the results of the latest effort are just coming into view.
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 astronomerpriests
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
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.
has been one thousand percent successful.
all the evidence that he may be the Disc's last tourist as well, he is
enjoying the view.
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,
terrorized, chased and hanging from high places with no hope of salvation
or, as is now the case, dropping from high places.
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
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 halfbrick.
furnishing in the room was a lectern of 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.
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.
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.
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...
This is a
story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where
it comes from and why, although it doesn't pretend to answer all or any
of these questions.
It may, however,
help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man.
Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic,
tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters
get totally beyond the author's control. They might.
it is primarily a story about a world. Here it comes now. Watch closely,
the special effects are quite expensive.
A bass note
sounds. It is a deep, vibrating chord that hints that the brass section
may break in at any moment with a fanfare for the cosmos, because the
scene is the blackness of deep space with a few stars glittering like
the dandruff on the shoulders of God.
Then it comes
into view overhead, bigger than the biggest, most unpleasantly armed starcruiser
in the imagination of a three-ring filmmaker: a turtle, ten thousand miles
long. It is Great A'Tuin, one of the rare astrochelonians from a universe
where things are less as they are and more like people imagine them to
be, and it carries on its meteorpocked shell four giant elephants who
bear on their enormous shoulders the great round wheel of the Discworld.
As the viewpoint
swings around, the whole of the world can be seen by the light of its
tiny orbiting sun. There are continents, archipelagos, seas, deserts,
mountain ranges and even a tiny central ice cap. The inhabitants of this
place, it is obvious, won't have any truck with global theories. Their
world, bounded by an encircling ocean that falls forever into space in
one long waterfall, is as round and flat as a geological pizza, although
without the anchovies.
A world like
that, which exists only because the gods enjoy a joke, must be a place
where magic can survive. And sex too, of course.
He came walking
through the thunderstorm and you could tell he was a wizard, partly because
of the long cloak and carven staff but mainly because the raindrops were
stopping several feet from his head, and steaming.
It was good
thunderstorm country, up here in the Ramtop Mountains, a country of jagged
peaks, dense forests and little river valleys so deep the daylight had
no sooner reached the bottom than it was time to leave again. Ragged wisps
of cloud clung to the lesser peaks below the mountain trail along which
the wizard slithered and slid. A few slot-eyed goats watched him with
mild interest. It doesn't take a lot to Interest goats.
he would stop and throw his heavy staff into the air. It always came down
pointing the same way and the wizard would sigh, pick it up, and continue
his squelchy progress.
walked around the hills on legs of lightning, shouting and grumbling.
disappeared around the bend in the track and the goats went back to their
else caused them to look up. They stiffened, their eyes widening, their
strange, because there was nothing on the path. But the goats still watched
it pass by until it was out of sight.
a village tucked in a narrow valley between steep woods. It wasn't a large
village, and wouldn't have shown up on a map of the mountains. It barely
showed up on a map of the village.
It was, in
fact, one of those places that exist merely so that people can have come
from them. The universe is littered with them: hidden villages, windswept
little towns under wide sides, isolated cabins on chilly mountains, whose
only mark on history is to be the incredibly ordinary place where something
extraordinary started to happen. Often there is no more than a little
plaque to reveal that, against all gynecological probability someone very
famous was born halfway up a wall.
between the houses as the wizard crossed a narrow bridge over the swollen
stream and made his way to the village smithy, although the two facts
had nothing to do with one another. The mist would have curled anyway:
it was experienced mist and had got curling down to a fine art.
was fairly crowded, of course. A smithy is one place where you can depend
on finding a good fire and someone to talk to. Several villagers were
lounging in the warm shadows but, as the wizard approached, they sat up
expectantly and tried to look intelligent, generally with indifferent
didn't feel the need to be quite so subservient.
at the wizard, but it was a greeting between equals, or at least between
equals as far as the smith was concerned. After all, any halfway competent
blacksmith has more than a nodding acquaintance with magic, or at least
likes to think he has.
bowed. A white cat that had been sleeping by the furnace woke up and watched
is the name of this place, sir?" said the wizard.
Ass," he said.
repeated the blacksmith, his tone defying anyone to make something of
with a story behind it," he said at last, "which were circumstances
otherwise I would be pleased to hear. But I would like to speak to you,
smith, about your son."
one?" said the smith, and the hangers-on sniggered. The wizard smiled.
have seven sons, do you not? And you yourself were an eighth son?"
face stiffened. He turned to the other villagers.
right, the rain's stopping," he said. "Piss off, the lot of
you. Me and -- " he looked at the wizard with raised eyebrows.
Billet," said the wizard.
and Mr. Billet have things to talk about." He waved his hammer vaguely
and, one after another, craning over their shoulders in case the wizard
did anything interesting, the audience departed.
This is the
bright candlelit room where the life-timers are stored -- shelf upon shelf
of them, squat hourglasses, one for every living person, pouring their
fine sand from the future into the past. The accumulated hiss of the falling
grains makes the room roar like the sea.
This is the
owner of the room, stalking through it with a preoccupied air. His name
But not any
Death. This is the Death whose particular sphere of operations is, well,
not a sphere at all, but the Discworld, which is flat and rides on the
back of four giant elephants who stand on the shell of the enormous star
turtle Great A'Tuin, and which is bounded by a waterfall that cascades
endlessly into space.
have calculated that the chance of anything so patently absurd actually
existing are millions to one.
have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of
across the black and white tiled floor on toes of bone, muttering inside
his cowl as his skeletal fingers count along the rows of busy hourglasses.
finds one that seems to satisfy him, lifts carefully from its shelf and
carries it across to the nearest candle. He holds it so that the light
glints off it, and stares at the little point of reflected brilliance.
gaze from those twinkling eye sockets encompasses the world turtle, sculling
through the deeps of space, carapace scarred by comets and pitted by meteors.
One day even Great A'Tuin will die, Death knows; now, that would be a
But the focus
of his gaze dives onwards towards the bluegreen magnificence of the Disc
itself, turning slowly under its tiny orbiting sun.
Now it curves
away towards the great mountain range called the Ramtops. The Ramtops
are full of deep valleys and unexpected crags and considerably more geography
than they know what to do with. They have their own peculiar weather,
full of shrapnel rain and whiplash winds and permanent thunderstorms.
Some people say it's all because the Ramtops are the home of old, wild
magic. Mind you, some people will say anything.
adjusts for depth of vision. Now he sees the grassy country on the turnwise
slopes of the mountains.
Now he sees
a particular hillside.
Now he sees
Now he sees
a boy, running.
Now he watches.
Now, in a
voice like lead slabs being dropped on granite, he says: Yes.
no doubt that there was something magical in the soil of that hilly, broken
area which -- because of the strange tint that it gave to the local flora
-- was known as the octarine grass country. For example, it was one of
the few places on the Disc where plants produced reannual varieties.
are plants that grow backwards in time. You sow the seed this year and
they grow last year.
specialized in distilling the wine from reannual grapes. These were very
powerful and much sought after by fortune-tellers, since of course they
enabled them to see the future. The only snag was that you got the hangover
the morning before, and had to drink a lot to get over it.
growers tended to be big, serious men, much given to introspection and
close examination of the calendar. A fanner who neglects to sow ordinary
seeds only loses the crop, whereas anyone who forgets to sow seeds of
a crop that has already been harvested twelve months before risks disturbing
the entire fabric of causality, not to mention acute embarrassment.
It was also
acutely embarrassing to Mort's family that the youngest son was not at
all serious and had about the same talent for horticulture that you would
find in a dead starfish. It wasn't that he was unhelpful, but he had the
kind of vague, cheerful helpfulness that serious men soon learn to dread.
There was something infectious, possibly even fatal, about it. He was
tall, red-haired and freckled, with the sort of body that seems to be
only marginally under its owner's control; it appeared to have been built
out of knees.
On this particular
day it was hurtling across the high fields, waving its hands and yelling.
and uncle watched it disconsolately from the stone wall.
I don't understand:" said father Lezek, "is that the birds don't
even fly away. I'd fly away, if I saw it coming towards me."
The human body's a wonderful thing. I mean, his legs go all over the place
but there's a fair turn of speed there."
the end of a furrow An overfull woodpigeon lurched slowly out of his way.
heart's in the right place, mind:' said Lezek, carefully.
'Course, 'tis the rest of him that isn't."
clean about the house. Doesn't eat much," said Lezek.
I can see that."
sideways at his brother, who was staring fixedly at the sky.
hear you'd got a place going up at your farm, Hamesh," he said.
Got an apprentice in, didn't I?"
said Lezek gloomily, "when was that, then?"
said his brother, lying with rattlesnake speed. "All signed and sealed.
Sorry. Look, I got nothing against young Mort, see, he's as nice a boy
as you could wish to meet, it's just that --"
I know," said Lezek. "He couldn't find his arse with both hands."
at the distant figure. It had fallen over. Some pigeons had waddled over
to inspect it.
not stupid, mind," said Hamesh. "Not what you'd call stupid
a brain there all right:" Lezek conceded. "Sometimes he starts
thinking so hard you has to hit him round the head to get his attention.
His granny taught him to read, see. I reckon it overheated his mind."
a man and he had eight sons. Apart from that, he was nothing more than
a comma on the page of History. It's sad, but that's all you can say about
But the eighth
son grew up and married and had eight sons, and because there is only
one suitable profession for the eighth son of an eighth son, he became
a wizard. And he became wise and powerful, or at any rate powerful, and
wore a pointed hat and there it would have ended ...
ended . . .
the Lore of Magic and certainly against all reason-except the reasons
of the heart, which are warm and messy and, well, unreasonable -- he fled
the halls of magic and fell in love and got married, not necessarily in
And he had
seven sons, each one from the cradle at least as powerful as any wizard
in the world.
he had an eighth son . . .
squared. A source of magic.
rolled around the sandy cliffs. Far below, the sea sucked on the shingle
as noisily as an old man with one tooth who had been given a gobstopper.
A few seagulls hung lazily in the updraughts, waiting for something to
And the father
of wizards sat among the thrift and rattling sea grasses at the edge of
the cliff, cradling the child in his arms, staring out to sea.
a roil of black cloud out there, heading inland, and the light it pushed
before it had that deep syrup quality it gets before a really serious
at a sudden silence behind him, and looked up through tear-reddened eyes
at a tall hooded figure in a black robe.
Red? it said. The voice was as hollow as a cave, as dense as a neutron
the terrible grin of the suddenly mad, and held up the child for Death's
son" he said. "I shall call him Coin."
A name as
good as any other said Death politely. His empty sockets stared down at
a small round face wrapped in sleep. Despite rumor, Death isn't cruel
-- merely terribly, terribly good at his job.
took his mother," said Ipslore. It was a flat statement, without
apparent rancor. In the valley behind the cliffs lpslore's homestead was
a smoking ruin, the rising wind already spreading the fragile ashes across
the hissing dunes.
It was a
heart attack at the end, said Death. There are worse ways to die, take
it from me.
out to sea. "And my magic could not save her," he said.
places where even magic may not go.
now you have come for the child?"
No. The child
has his own destiny. I have come for you.
The wizard stood up, carefully laid the sleeping baby down on the thin
grass, and picked up a long staff that had been lying there. It was made
of a black metal, with a meshwork of silver and gold carvings that gave
it a rich and sinister tastelessness; the metal was octiron, intrinsically
this, you know," he said. "They all said you couldn't make a
staff out of metal, they said they should only be of wood, but they were
wrong. I put a lot of myself into it. I shall give it to him."
He ran his
hands lovingly along the staff, which gave off a faint tone.
almost to himself, "I put a lot of myself into it."
It is a good
staff, said Death.
it in the air and looked down at his eighth son, who gave a gurgle.
wanted a daughter," he said.
Ipslore gave him a look compounded of bewilderment and rage.
son of an eighth son of an eighth son said Death, unhelpfully. The wind
whipped at his robe, driving the black clouds overhead.
does that make him?"
as you are well aware.
is his destiny?" shouted Ipslore, above the rising gale.
again. He was good at it.
make their own destiny. They touch the earth lightly.
on the staff, drumming on it with his fingers, apparently lost in the
maze of his own thoughts. His left eyebrow twitched.
he said, softly, "no. I will make his destiny for him."
quiet! And listen when I tell you that they drove me out, with their books
and their rituals and their lore! They called themselves wizards, and
they had less magic in their whole fat bodies than I have in my little
finger! Banished! Me! For showing that I was human! And what would humans
be without love?"
Death. Nevertheless --
They drove us here, to the ends of the world, and that killed her! They
tried to take my staff away!" Ipslore was screaming above the noise
of the wind.
I still have some power left, he snarled." And I say that my son
shall go to Unseen University and wear the Archchancellor's hat and the
wizards of the world shall bow to him! And he shall show them what lies
in their deepest hearts. Their craven, greedy hearts. He'll show the world
its true destiny, and there will be no magic greater than his."
No. And the
strange thing about the quiet way Death spoke the word was this: it was
louder than the roaring of the storm. It jerked lpslore back to momentary
back and forth uncertainly. "What?" he said.
I said No.
Nothing is Final. Nothing is absolute. Except me, of course. Such tinkering
with destiny could mean the downfall of the world. There must be a chance,
however small. The lawyers of fate demand a loophole in every prophecy...
from Wyrd Sisters
howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient
assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.
was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could
believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard
of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the
dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel's eye. It illuminated
three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked:
"When shall we three meet again?"
voice said, in far more ordinary tones: "Well, I can do next Tuesday."
fathomless deeps of space swims the star turtle Great A'Tuin, bearing
on its back the four giant elephants who carry on their shoulders the
mass of the Discworld. A tiny sun and moon spin around them, on a complicated
orbit to induce seasons, so probably nowhere else in the multiverse is
it sometimes necessary for an elephant to cock a leg to allow the sun
to go past.
this should be may never be known. Possibly the Creator of the universe
got bored with all the usual business of axial inclination, albedos and
rotational velocities, and decided to have a bit of fun for once.
be a pretty good bet that the gods of a world like this probably do not
play chess and indeed this is the case. In fact no gods anywhere play
chess. They haven't got the imagination. Gods prefer simple, vicious games,
where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight To Oblivion; a
key to the understanding of all religion is that a god's idea of amusement
is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.
the Discworld together -- magic generated by the turning of the world
itself, magic wound like silk out of the underlying structure of existence
to suture the wounds of reality.
A lot of
it ends up in the Ramtop Mountains, which stretch from the frozen lands
near the Hub all the way, via a lengthy archipelago, to the warm seas
which flow endlessly into space over the Rim.
crackles invisibly from peak to peak and earths itself in the mountains.
It is the Ramtops that supply the world with most of its witches and wizards.
In the Ramtops the leaves on the trees move even when there is no breeze.
Rocks go for a stroll of an evening.
land, at times, seems alive ...
so does the sky.
was really giving it everything it had. This was its big chance. It had
spent years hanging around the provinces, putting in some useful work
as a squall, building up experience, making contacts, occasionally leaping
out on unsuspecting shepherds or blasting quite small oak trees. Now an
opening in the weather had given it an opportunity to strut its hour,
and it was building up its role in the hope of being spotted by one of
the big climates.
It was a
good storm. There was quite effective projection and passion there, and
critics agreed that if it would only learn to control its thunder it would
be, in years to come, a storm to watch.
roared their applause and were full of mists and flying leaves.
such as these the gods, as has already been pointed out, play games other
than chess with the fates of mortals and the thrones of kings. It is important
to remember that they always cheat, right up to the end ...
And a coach
came hurtling along the rough forest track, jerking violently as the wheels
bounced off tree roots. The driver lashed at the team, the desperate crack
of his whip providing a rather neat counterpoint to the crash of the tempest
only a little way behind, and getting closer-were three hooded riders.
such as this, evil deeds are done. And good deeds, of course. But mostly
evil, on the whole.
such as this, witches are abroad.
actually abroad. They don't like the food and you can't trust the water
and the shamans always hog the deckchairs. But there was a full moon breasting
the ragged clouds and the rushing air was full of whispers and the very
broad hint of magic.
clearing above the forest the witches spoke thus:
babysitting on Tuesday," said the one with no hat but a thatch of
white curls so thick she might have been wearing a helmet. "For our
Jason's youngest. I can manage Friday. Hurry up with the tea, luv. I'm
member of the trio gave a sigh, and ladled some boiling water out of the
cauldron into the teapot.
witch patted her hand in a kindly fashion.
said it quite well," she said. "Just a bit more work on the
screeching. Ain't that right, Nanny Ogg?"
useful screeching, I thought," said Nanny Ogg hurriedly. "And
I can see Goodie Whemper, maysherestinpeace, gave you a lot of help with
a good squint" said Granny Weatherwax.
witch, whose name was Magrat Garlick, relaxed considerably. She held Granny
Weatherwax in awe. It was known throughout the Ramtop Mountains that Miss
Weatherwax did not approve of anything very much. If she said it was a
good squint, then Magrat's eyes were probably staring up her own nostrils.
who like nothing better than a complicated hierarchy, witches don't go
in much for the structured approach to career progression. It's up to
each individual witch to take on a girl to hand the area over to when
she dies. Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches,
and they certainly don't have leaders...
the tortoise and the eagle.
is a ground-living creature. It is impossible to live nearer the ground
without being under it. Its horizons are a few inches away. It has about
as good a turn of speed as you need to hunt down a lettuce. It has survived
while the rest of evolution flowed past it by being, on the whole, no
threat to anyone and too much trouble to eat.
there is the eagle. A creature of the air and high places, whose horizons
go all the way to the edge of the world. Eyesight keen enough to spot
the rustle of some small and squeaky creature half a mile away. All power,
all control. Lightning death on wings. Talons and claws enough to make
a meal of anything smaller than it is and at least take a hurried snack
out of anything bigger.
And yet the
eagle will sit for hours on the crag and survey the kingdoms of the world
until it spots a distant movement and then it will focus, focus, focus
on the small shell wobbling among the bushes down there on the desert.
And it will leap . . .
And a minute
later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees
the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five
hundred feet above it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the
the eagle lets go.
always the tortoise plunges to its death. Everyone knows why the tortoise
does this. Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off. No one knows
why the eagle does this. There's good eating on a tortoise but, considering
the effort involved, there's much better eating on practically anything
else. It's simply the delight of eagles to torment tortoises.
But of course,
what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very
crude form of natural selection.
One day a
tortoise will learn how to fly.
takes place in desert lands, in shades of umber and orange. When it begins
and ends is more problematical, but at least one of its beginnings took
place above the snowline, thousands of miles away in the mountains around
One of the
recurring philosophical questions is:
a failing tree in the forest make a sound when there is no one to hear?"
something about the nature of philosophers, because there is always someone
in a forest. It may only be a badger, wondering what that cracking noise
was, or a squirrel a bit puzzled by all the scenery going upwards, but
someone. At the very least, if it was deep enough in the forest, millions
of small gods would have heard it.
happen, one after another. They don't care who knows. But history . .
. ah, history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it's
not history. It's just . . . well, things happening one after another.
And, of course,
it has to be controlled. Otherwise it might turn into anything. Because
history, contrary to popular theories, is kings and dates and battles.
And these things have to happen at the right time. This is difficult.
In a chaotic universe there are too many things to go wrong. It's too
easy for a general's horse to lose a shoe at the wrong time, or for someone
to mishear an order, or for the carrier of the vital message to be waylaid
by some men with sticks and a cash flow problem. Then there are wild stories,
parasitic growths on the tree of history, trying to bend it their way.
has its caretakers.
. . . well, in the nature of things they live wherever they are sent,
but their spiritual home is in a hidden valley in the high Ramtops of
the Discworld, where the books of history are kept.
books in which the events of the past are pinned like so many butterflies
to a cork. These are the books from which history is derived. There are
more than twenty thousand of them; each one is ten feet high, bound in
lead, and the letters are so small that they have to be read with a magnifying
say "It is written", it is written here.
fewer metaphors around than people think.
the abbot and two senior monks go into the cave where the books are kept.
It used to be the duty of the abbot alone, but two other reliable monks
were included after the unfortunate case of the 59th Abbot, who made a
million dollars in small bets before his fellow monks caught up with him.
it's dangerous to go in alone. The sheer concentratedness of History,
sleeting past soundlessly out into the world, can be overwhelming. Time
is a drug. Too much of it kills you.
Abbot folded his wrinkled hands and addressed Lu-Tze, one of his most
senior monks. The clear air and untroubled life of the secret valley was
such that all the monks were senior; besides, when you work with Time
every day, some of it tends to rub off.
place is Omnia," said the abbot, "on the Klatchian coast."
said Lu-Tze. "Young fellow called Ossory, wasn't there?"
must be . . . carefully observed," said the abbot. "There are
pressures. Free will, predestination . . . the power of symbols . . .
turning-point . . . you know all about this."
been to Omnia for, oh, must be seven hundred years," said Lu-Tze.
"Dry place. Shouldn't think there's a ton of good soil in the whole
you go, then," said the abbot.
take my mountains," said Lu-Tze. "The climate will be good for
from Lords and Ladies
read on ...
does it start?
are very few starts. Oh, some things seem to be beginnings. The curtain
goes up, the first pawn moves, the first shot is fired - but that's not
the start. The play, the game, the war is just a little window on a ribbon
of events that may extend back thousands of years. The point is, there's
always something before. It's always a case of Now Read On.
human ingenuity has gone into finding the ultimate Before.
current state of knowledge can be summarized thus: In the beginning, there
was nothing, which exploded.
Other theories about the ultimate start involve gods creating the universe
out of the ribs, entrails, and testicles of their father. There are quite
a lot of these. They are interesting, not for what they tell you about
cosmology, but for what they say about people. Hey, kids, which part do
you think they made your town out of?
this story starts on the Discworld, which travels through space on the
back of four giant elephants which stand on the shell of an enormous turtle
and is not made of any bits of anyone's bodies.
when to begin?
of years ago? When a great hot cascade of stones came screaming out of
the sky, gouged a hole out of Copperhead Mountain, and flattened the forest
for ten miles around?
dwarfs dug them up, because they were made of a kind of iron, and dwarfs,
contrary to general opinion, love iron more than gold. It's just that
although there's more iron than gold it's harder to sing songs about.
Dwarfs love iron.
that's what the stones contained. The love of iron. A love so strong that
it drew all iron things to itself. The three dwarfs who found the first
of the rocks only got free by struggling out of their chain-mail trousers.
worlds are iron, at the core. But the Discworld is as coreless as a pancake.
the Disc, if you enchant a needle it will point to the Hub, where the
magical field is strongest. It's simple.
on worlds designed with less imagination, the needle turns because of
the love of iron.
the time, the dwarfs and the humans had a very pressing need for the love
now, spool time forward for thousands of years to a point fifty years
or more before the ever-moving now, to a hillside and a young woman, running.
Not running away from something, exactly, or precisely running toward
anything, but running just fast enough to keep ahead of a young man although,
of course, not so far ahead that he'll give up. Out from the trees and
into the rushy valley where, on a slight rise in the ground, are the stones.
about man-height, and barely thicker than a fat man.
somehow they don't seem worth it. If there's a stone circle you mustn't
go near, the imagination suggests, then there should be big brooding trilithons
and ancient attar stones screaming with the dark memory of blood-soaked
sacrifice. Not these dull stubby lumps.
will turn out that she was running a bit too fast this time, and in fact
the young man in laughing pursuit will get lost and fed up and will eventually
wander off back to the town alone. She does not, at this point, know this,
but stands absentmindedly adjusting the flowers twined in her hair. It's
been that kind of afternoon.
knows about the stones. No one ever gets told about the stones. And no
one is ever told not to go there, because those who refrain from talking
about the stones also know how powerful is the attraction of prohibition.
It's just that going to the stones is not ... what we do. Especially if
we're nice girls.
what we have here is not a nice girl, as generally understood. For one
thing, she's not beautiful. There's a certain set to the jaw and arch
to the nose that might, with a following wind and in the right light,
be called handsome by a good-natured liar. Also, there's a certain glint
in her eye generally possessed by those people who have found that they
are more intelligent than most people around them but who haven't yet
teamed that one of the most intelligent things they can do is prevent
said people ever finding this out. Along with the nose, this gives her
a piercing expression which is extremely disconcerting. It's not a face
you can talk to. Open your mouth and you're suddenly the focus of a penetrating
stare which declares: what you're about to say had better be interesting.
the eight little stones on their little hill are being subjected to the
same penetrating gaze.
then she approaches, cautiously. It's not the caution of a rabbit about
to run. It's closer to the way a hunter moves.
puts her hands on her hips, such as they are.
a skylark in the hot summer sky. Apart from that, there's no sound. Down
in the little valley, and higher in the hills, grasshoppers are sizzling
and bees are buzzing and the grass is alive with micro-noise. But it's
always quiet around the stones.
here," she says. "Show me."
of a dark-haired woman in a red dress appears inside the circle. The circle
is wide enough to throw a stone across, but somehow the figure manages
to approach from a great distance.
people would have run away. But the girl doesn't, and the woman in the
circle is immediately interested.
Ankh-Morpork City Guard (Night Watch), sat down in his nightshirt, took
up his pencil, sucked the end for a moment, and then wrote:
Mum and Dad,
Well here is another fine Turnup for the Books, for I have been made
Corporal!! It means another Five Dollars a month plus also I have a
new jerkin with, two stripes upon it as well. And a new copper badge!
It is a Great responsibility! This is all because we have got new recruits
because the Patrician who, as I have formerly vouchsafed is the ruler
of the city, has agreed the Watch must reflect the ethnic makeup of
for a moment and stared out of the small dusty bedroom window at the early
evening sunlight sidling across the river. Then he bent over the paper
which I do not Fully understand but must have something to do with the
dwarf Grabpot Thundergust's Cosmetic Factory. Also, Captain Vimes of
who I have often written to you of is leaving the Watch to get married
and Become a Fine Gentleman and, I'm sure we wish him All the Best,
he taught me All I Know apart, from the things I taught myself. We are
clubbing together to get him a Surprise Present, I thought one of those
new Watches that don't need demons to make them go and we could inscribe
on the back something like 'A Watch from your Old Freinds in the Watch',
this is a pune or Play on Words. We do not know who will be the new
Captain, Sgt. Colon says he will Resign if it's him, Cpl. Nobbs -- "
out of the window again. His big honest forehead wrinkled with effort
as he tried to think of something positive to say about Corporal Nobbs.
is more suited in his current Roll, and I have not been in the Watch
long enough. So we shall just have to wait and See --"
as many things do, with a death. And a burial, on a spring morning, with
mist on the ground so thick that it poured into the grave and the coffin
was lowered into cloud.
A small greyish
mongrel, host to so many assorted doggy diseases that it was surrounded
by a cloud of dust, watched impassively from the mound of earth.
female relatives cried. But Edward d'Eath didn't cry, for three reasons.
He was the eldest son, the thirty-seventh Lord d'Eath, and it was Not
Done for a d'Eath to cry; he was - just, the diploma still had the crackle
in it - an Assassin, and Assassins didn't cry at a death, otherwise they'd
never be stopping; and he was angry. In fact, he was enraged.
having to borrow money for this poor funeral. Enraged at the weather,
at this common cemetery, at the way the background noise of the city didn't
change in any way, even on such an occasion as this. Enraged at history.
It was never meant to be like this.
have been like this.
across the river to the brooding bulk of the Palace, and his anger screwed
itself up and became a lens.
been sent to the Assassins' Guild because they had the best school for
those whose social rank is rather higher than their intelligence. If he'd
been trained as a Fool, he'd have invented satire and made dangerous jokes
about the Patrician. If he'd been trained as a Thief,* he'd have broken
into the Palace and stolen something very valuable from the Patrician.
he'd been sent to the Assassins . . .
he sold what remained of the d'Eath estates, and enrolled again at the
For the post-graduate
He got full
marks, the first person in the history of the Guild ever to do so. His
seniors described him as a man to watch - and, because there was something
about him that made even Assassins uneasy, preferably from a long way
In the cemetery
the solitary gravedigger filled in the hole that was the last resting
place of d'Eath senior.
aware of what seemed to be thoughts in his head. They went something like
*But no gentleman
would dream of being trained as a Thief
of a bone? No, no, sorry, bad taste there, forget I mentioned it. You've
got beef sandwiches in your wossname, lunchbox thingy, though. Why not
give one to the nice little doggy over there?
The man leaned
on his shovel and looked around.
mongrel was watching him intently.
It took Edward
d'Eath five months to find what he was looking for. The search was hampered
by the fact that he did not know what he was looking for, only that he'd
know it when he found it. Edward was a great believer in Destiny. Such
people often are.
library was one of the largest in the city. In certain specialized areas
it was the largest. These areas mainly had to do with the regrettable
brevity of human life and the means of bringing it about.
a lot of time there, often at the top of a ladder, often surrounded by
He read every
known work on armaments. He didn't know what he was looking for and he
found it in a note in the margin of an otherwise very dull and inaccurate
treatise on the ballistics of crossbows. He copied it out, carefully.
a lot of time among history books as well. The Assassins' Guild was an
association of gentlemen of breeding, and people like that regard the
whole of recorded history as a kind of stock book. There were a great
many books in the ...
A dark, stormy
night. A coach, horses gone, plunging through the rickety, useless fence
and dropping, tumbling into the gorge below. It doesn't even strike an
outcrop of rock before it hits the dried riverbed far below, and erupts
shuffled the paperwork nervously. Here was one from the girl aged six:
Did On our Holidys: What I did On my holidys I staid with grandad he has
a big White hors and a garden it is al Black. We had Eg and chips.'
oil from the coach lamps ignites and there is a second explosion, out
of which rolls - because there are certain conventions, even in tragedy
- a burning wheel.
paper, a drawing done at age seven. All in black. Miss Butts sniffed.
It wasn't as though the gel had only a black crayon. It was a fact that
the Quirm College for Young Ladies had quite expensive crayons of all
after the last of the ember spits and crackles, there is silence.
And the watcher.
and says to someone in the darkness:
YES. I COULD
HAVE DONE SOMETHING.
shuffled paper again. She was feeling distracted and nervous, a feeling
common to anyone who had much to do with the gel. Paper usually made her
feel better. It was more dependable.
had been the matter of ... the accident.
had broken such news before. It was an occasional hazard when you ran
a large boarding school. The parents of many of the gels were often abroad
on business of one sort or another, and it was sometimes the kind of business
where the chances of rich reward go hand in hand with the risks of meeting
knew how to handle these occasions. It was painful, but the thing ran
its course. There was shock, and tears, and then, eventually, it was all
over. People had ways of dealing with it. There was a sort of script built
into the human mind. Life went on.
But the child
had just sat there. It was the politeness that scared the daylights out
of Miss Butts. She was not an unkind woman, despite a lifetime of being
gently dried out on the stove of education, but she was conscientious
and a stickler for propriety and thought she knew how this sort of thing
should go and was vaguely annoyed that it wasn't going.
... if you would like to be alone, to have a cry-" she'd prompted,
in an effort to get things moving on the right track.
that help?" Susan had said.
have helped Miss Butts.
been able to manage was: "I wonder if, perhaps, you fully understood
what I have told you?"
had stared at the ceiling as though trying to work out a difficult problem
in algebra and then said, "I expect I will."
It was as
if she'd already known, and had dealt with it in some way. Miss Butts
had asked the teachers to watch Susan carefully. They'd said that was
hard, because ...
a tentative knock on Miss Butts's study door, as if it was being made
by someone who'd really prefer not to be heard.
to the present.
made no sound. The teachers had all remarked upon it. It was uncanny,
they said. She was always in front of you when you least expected it.
Susan," said Miss Butts, a tight smile scuttling across her face
like a nervous tick over a worried sheep. "Please sit down."
course, Miss Butts."
shuffled the papers.
. . "
sorry to say that it appears you have been missed in lessons again."
understand, Miss Butts."
leaned forward. She felt vaguely annoyed with herself, but ... there was
something frankly unlovable about the child. Academically brilliant at
the things she liked doing, of course, but that was just it; she was brilliant
in the same way that a diamond is brilliant, all edges and chilliness.
you been . . . doing it?" she said. "You promised you were going
to stop this silliness."
been making yourself invisible again, haven't you?"
So, rather less pinkly, did Miss Butts. I mean, she thought, it's ridiculous.
It's against all reason. It's - oh, no ...
her head and shut her eyes.
Miss Butts?" said Susan, just before Miss Butts said, "Susan?"
shuddered. This was something else the teachers had mentioned. Sometimes
Susan answered questions just before you asked them ...
still sitting there, are you?"
course, Miss Butts."
invisibility, she told herself. She just makes herself inconspicuous.
She... who ...
She'd written a little memo to herself against this very eventuality,
and it was pinned to the file.
You are interviewing
Susan Sto Helit. Try not to forget it.
If Miss Butts
concentrated, Susan was sitting in front of her. If she made an effort,
she could hear the gel's voice. She just had to fight against a pressing
tendency to believe that she was alone.
afraid Miss Cumber and Miss Greggs have complained," she managed.
always in class, Miss Butts."
you are. Miss Traitor and Miss Stamp say they see you all the time."
There'd been quite a staff room argument about that. "Is it because
you like Logic and Math and don't like Language and History?"
hesitated. There was no way the child could have left the room. If she
really stressed her mind, she could catch a suggestion of a voice saying
"Don't know, Miss Butts."