3,116
26.12.2018

“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.