3,111
26.12.2018

Ripples of paradox spread out across the sea of causality.

Possibly the most important point that would have to be borne in mind by anyone outside the sum totality of the multiverse was that although the wizard and the tourist had indeed only recently appeared in an aircraft in mid-air, they had also at one and the same time been riding on that aeroplane in the normal course of things. That is to say: “while it was true that they had just appeared in this particular set of dimensions, it was also true that they had been living in them all along. It is at this point that normal language gives up, and goes and has a drink.

The point is that several quintillion atoms had just materialized (however, they had not. See below) in a universe where they should not strictly have been. The usual upshot of this sort of thing is a vast explosion but, since universes are fairly resilient things, this particular universe had saved itself by instantaneously unravelling its spacetime continuum back to a point where the surplus atoms could safely be accommodated and then rapidly rewinding back to that circle of firelight which for want of a better term its inhabitants were wont to call The Present. This had of course changed history – there had been a few less wars, a few extra dinosaurs and so on – but on the whole the episode passed remarkably quietly.

Outside of this particular universe, however, the repercussions of the sudden double-take bounced to and fro across the face of The Sum of Things, bending whole dimensions and sinking galaxies without a trace.

All this was however totally lost on Dr Rjinswand, 33, a bachelor, born in Sweden, raised in New Jersey, and a specialist in the breakaway oxidation phenomena of certain nuclear reactors. Anyway, he probably would not have believed any of it.

Zweiblumen still seemed to be unconscious. The stewardess, who had helped Rjinswand to his seat to the applause of the rest of the passengers, was bering over him anxiously.

“I radioed ahead,” she told Rjinswand “there’ll be an ambulance waiting when we land Uh, it says on the passenger list that you’re a doctor”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” said Rincewind hurriedly, it might be a different matter if he was a Magnox reactor of course.

“Is it shock of some kind?”

“I’ve never-“

Her sentence terminated in a tremendous crash from the rear of the plane. Several passengers screamed. A sudden gale of air swept every loose magazine and newspaper into a screaming whirlwind that twisted madly down the aisle.

Something else was coming up the aisle.

Something big and oblong and wooden and brassbound. It had hundreds of legs. If it was what it seemed – a walking chest of the kind that appeared in pirate stories brim full of ill-gotten gold and jewels – then what would have been its lid suddenly gaped open.

There were no jewels. But there were lots of big square teeth, white as sycamore, and a pulsating tongue, red as mahogany.

An ancient suitcase was coming to eat him.

Rjinswand clutched at the unconscious Zweiblumen for what little comfort there was there, and gibbered. He wished fervently that he was somewhere else…

There was a sudden darkness.

There was a brilliant flash.

The sudden departure of several quintillion atoms from a universe that they had no right to be in anyway caused a wild imbalance in the harmony of the Sum Totality which it tried frantically to retrieve, wiping out a number of subrealities in the process. Huge surges of raw magic boiled uncontrolled around the very foundations of the multiverse itself, welling up through every crevice into hitherto peaceful dimensions and causing novas, supernovas, stellar collisions, wild flights of geese and drowning of imaginary continents. Worlds as far away as the other end of time experienced brilliant sunsets of corruscating octarine as highly-charged magical particles roared through the atmosphere. In the cometary halo around the fabled Ice System of Zeret a noble comet died as a prince flamed across the sky.

All this was however lost on Rincewind as, clutching the inert Twoflower around the waist, he plunged towards the Disc’s sea several hundred feet below. Not even the convulsions of all the dimensions could break the iron Law of the Conservation of Energy, and Rjinswand’s brief journey in the plane had sufficed to carry him several hundred miles horizontally and seven thousand feet vertically.

The word “plane” flamed and died in Rincewind’s mind.

Was that a ship down there?

The cold waters of the Circle Sea roared up at him and sucked him down into their green, suffocating embrace. A moment later there was another splash as the luggage, still bearing a label carrying the powerful travelling rune TWA, also hit the sea.

Later on, they used it as a raft.

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