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26.12.2018

The Weasel stood up and stretched. The sun was well up now, and the city below them was wreathed in mists and full of foul vapours. Also gold, he decided. Even a citizen of Morpork would, at the very point of death, desert his treasure to save his skin. Time to move.

The little man called Twoflower appeared to be asleep. The Weasel looked down at him and shook his head.

“The city awaits, such as it is,” he said. “Thank you for a pleasant tale, Wizard. What will you do now?”

He eyed the Luggage, which immediately backed away and snapped its lid at him.

“Well, there are no ships leaving the city now,” giggled Rincewind. “I suppose we’ll take the coast road to Quirm. I’ve got to look after him, you see. But look, I didn’t make it-“

“Sure, sure,” said the Weasel soothingly. He turned away and swung himself into the saddle of the horse that Bravd was holding. A few moments later the two heroes were just specks under a cloud of dust, heading down towards the charcoal city.

Rincewind stared muzzily at the recumbent tourist. At two recumbent tourists. In his somewhat defenceless state a stray thought, wandering through the dimensions in search of a mind to harbour it, slid into his brain.

“Here’s another fine mess you’ve got me into,” he moaned, and slumped backwards.

“Mad,” said the Weasel.

Bravd, galloping along a few feet away, nodded.

“All wizards get like that,” he said. “it’s the quicksilver fumes. Rots their brains. Mushrooms, too “

“However-” said the brown-clad one. He reached into his tunic and took out a golden disc on a short chain. Bravd raised his eyebrows.

“The wizard said that the little man had some sort of golden disc that told him the time,” said the Weasel.

“Arousing your cupidity, little friend? You always were an expert thief, Weasel.”

“Aye,” agreed the Weasel modestly. He touched the knob at the disc’s rim, and it flipped open.

The very small demon imprisoned within looked up from its tiny abacus and scowled. “It lacks but ten minutes to eight of the clock,” it snarled. The lid slammed shut, almost trapping the Weasel’s fingers-

With an oath the Weasel hurled the time-teller far out into the heather, where it possibly hit a stone. Something, in any event, caused the case to split; there was a vivid octarine flash and a whiff of brimstone as the time being vanished into whatever demonic dimension it called home.

“What did you do that for?” said Bravd, who hadn’t been close enough to hear the words.

“Do what?” said the Weasel. “I didn’t do anything. Nothing happened at all. Come on – we’re wasting opportunities! “

Bravd nodded. Together they turned their steeds and galloped towards ancient Ankh, and honest enchantments.

The Sending of Eight

Prologue

The Discworld offers sights far more impressive than those found in universes built by Creators with less imagination but more mechanical aptitude. Although the disc’s sun is but an orbiting moonlet, its prominences hardly bigger than croquet hoops, this slight drawback must be set against the tremendous sight of Great A’Tuin the Turtle, upon Whose ancient and meteor-riddled shell the disc ultimately rests. Sometimes, in His slow journey across the shores of infinity, He moves His countrysized head to snap at a passing comet.

But perhaps the most impressive sight of all – if only because most brains, when faced with the sheer galactic enormity of A’Tuin, refuse to believe it- is the endless Rimfall, where the seas of the disc boil ceaselessly over the Edge into space. Or perhaps it is the Rimbow, the eight-coloured, worldgirdling rainbow that hovers in the mistladen air over the Fall. The eighth colour is octarine, caused by the scatter-effect of strong sunlight on an intense magical field.

Or perhaps, again, the most magnificent sight is the Hub. There, a spire of green ice ten miles high rises through the clouds and supports at its peak the realm of Dunmanifestin, the abode of the disc gods. The disc gods themselves, despite the splendour of the world below them, are seldom satisfied. It is embarrassing to know that one is a god of a world that only exists because every improbability curve must have its far end; especially when one can peer into other dimensions at worlds whose Creators had more mechanical aptitude than imagination No wonder, then, that the disc gods spend more time in bickering than in omnicognizance.

On this particular day Blind Io, by dint of constant vigilance the chief of the gods, sat with his chin on his hand and looked at the gaming board on the red marble table in front of him. Blind Io had got his name because, where his eye sockets should have been, there were nothing but two areas of blank skin. His eyes, of which he had an impressively large number, led a semi-independent life of their own. Several were currently hovering above the table.

The gaming board was a carefully-carved map of the disc world, overprinted with squares. A number of beautifully modelled playing pieces were now occupying some of the squares. A human onlooker would, for example, have recognized in two of them the likenesses of Bravd and the Weasel. Others represented yet more heroes and champions, of which the disc had a more than adequate supply. Still in the game were Io, Offler the Crocodile God,

Zephyrus the god of slight breezes, Fate, and the lady. There was an air of concentration around the board now that the lesser players had been removed from the Game. Chance had been an early casualty, running her hero into a full house of armed gnolls (the result of a lucky throw by Offler) and shortly afterwards Night had cashed his chips, pleading an appointment with Destiny. Several minor deities had drifted up and were kibitzing over the shoulders of the players.

Side bets were made that the Lady would be the next to leave the board. Her last champion of any standing was now a pinch of potash in the ruins of still-smoking Ankh-Morpork. and there were hardly any pieces that she could promote to first rank.

Blind Io took up the dice-box, which was a skull-various orifices had been stoppered with rubies, and with several of his eyes on the lady he rolled three fives. She smiled This was the nature of the Lady’s eyes: they were bright green, lacking iris or pupil, and they glowed from within.

The room was silent as she scrabbled in her box of pieces and, from the very bottom, produced a couple that she set down on the board with two decisive clicks. The rest of the players, as one God, craned forward to peer at them.

“A wenegad wiffard and tome fort of clerk,” said Offler the Crocodile God, hindered as usual by his tusks. “Well, weally! ” With one claw he pushed a pile of bone-white tokens into the centre of the table.

The Lady nodded slightly. She picked up the dicecup and held it as steady as a rock, yet all the Gods could hear the three cubes rattling about inside.

And then She sent them bouncing across the table.

A six. A three. A five.

Something was happening to the five, however.

Battered by the chance collision of several billion molecules, the die flipped onto a point, spun gently and came down a seven.

Blind Io picked up the cube and counted the sides. “Come on,” he said wearily, “play fair.”

2. The Sending of Eight

The road from Ankh-Morpork to Quirm is high, white and winding, a thirty-league stretch of potholes and half-buried rocks that spirals around mountains and dips into cool green valleys of citrus trees, crosses liana-webbed gorges on creaking rope bridges and is generally more picturesque than Picturesque. That was a new word to Rincewind the wizard (Being Unseen University failed.) It was one of a number he had picked up since leaving the charred ruins of Ankh-Morpork. Quaint was another one. Picturesque meant -he decided after careful observation of the scenery that inspired Twoflower to use the word -that the landscape was horribly precipitous. Quaint, when used to describe the occasional village through which they passed, meant fever-ridden and tumbledown.

Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant “idiot”.

As they rode leisurely through the thyme-scented bee-humming air, Rincewind pondered on the experiences of the last few days. While the little foreigner was obviously insane, he was also generous and considerably less lethal than half the people the wizard had mixed with in the city-Rincewind rather liked him. Disliking him would have been like kicking a puppy.

Currently Twoflower was showing a great interest in the theory and practice of magic.

“It all seems, well, rather useless to me,” he said. “I always thought that, you know, a wizard just said the magic words and that was that. Not all this tedious memorising.”

Rincewind agreed moodily. He tried to explain that magic had indeed once been wild and lawless, but had been tamed back in the mists of time by the Olden Ones, who had bound it to obey among other things the Law of Conservation of Reality; this demanded that the effort needed to achieve a goal should be the same regardless of the means used. In practical terms this meant that, say, creating the illusion of a glass of wine was relatively easy, since it involved merely the subtle shifting of light patterns. On the other hand, lifting a genuine wineglass a few feet in the air by sheer mental energy required several hours of systematic preparation if the wizard wished to prevent the simple principle of leverage flicking his brain out through his ears.

He went on to add that some of the ancient magic could still be found in its raw state, recognisable- to the initiated – by the eightfold shape it made in the crystalline structure of space-time. There was the metal octiron, for example, and the gas octogen. Both radiated dangerous amounts of raw enchantment.

“It’s all very depressing,” he finished.

“Depressing?”

Rincewind turned in his saddle and glanced at Twoflower’s Luggage, which was currently ambling along on its little legs, occasionally snapping its lid at butterflies. He sighed.

“Rincewind thinks he ought to be able to harness the lightning,” said the picture-imp, who was observing the passing scene from the tiny doorway of the box slung around Twoflower’s neck. He had spent the morning painting picturesque views and quaint scenes for his master, and had been allowed to knock off for a smoke.

“When I said harness I didn’t mean harness, snapped Rincewind. “I meant, well I just meant that -I dunno, I just can’t think of the right words. I just think the world ought to be more sort of organised.”

“That’s just fantasy,” said Twoflower.

“I know. That’s the trouble.” Rincewind sighed again. It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows.

There was a faint sound, hardly louder than the noise of the bees in the rosemary by the road. It had a curiously bony quality, as of rolling skulls or a whirling dicebox. Rincewind peered around. There was no-one nearby.

For some reason that worried him.

Then came a slight breeze, that grew and went in the space of a few heartbeats. It left the world unchanged save in a few interesting particulars. There was now, for example, a five-metre tall mountain troll standing in the road. It was exceptionally angry. This was partly because trolls generally are, in any case, but it was exacerbated by the fact that the sudden and instantaneous teleportation from its lair in the Rammerorck Mountains three thousand miles away and a thousand yards closer to the Rim had raised its internal temperature to a dangerous level, in accordance with the laws of conservation of energy. So it bared its fangs and charged.