Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Copyright © 1989 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

Far below, the sea sucked on the shingle as noisily as an old man with one tooth who had been given a gobstopper.

The reason that wizards didn’t rule the Disc was quite simple. Hand any two wizards a piece of rope and they would instinctively pull in opposite directions. Something about their genetics or their training left them with an attitude towards mutual co-operation that made an old bull elephant with terminal toothache look like a worker ant.

It was that cusp of the night that marks the turning point of Ankh-Morpork’s busy day, when those who make their living under the sun are resting after their labours and those who turn an honest dollar by the cold light of the moon are just getting up the energy to go to work. The day had, in fact, reached that gentle point when it was too late for housebreaking and too early for burglary.

When the figure spoke, its husky voice came from the depths of a black velvet hood, lined with fur.

“Psst,” it said.

“Not very,” said Rincewind, who was in a state of mind where he couldn’t resist it, “but I’m working on it.”



Of course, Ankh-Morpork’s citizens had always claimed that the river water was incredibly pure in any case. Any water that had passed through so many kidneys, they reasoned, had to be very pure indeed.

“My father always said that it was pointless to undertake a direct attack against an enemy extensively armed with efficient projectile weapons,” she said.

Rincewind, who knew Cohen’s normal method of speech, gave her a look of disbelief.

“Well, what he actually said,” she added, “was never enter an arse-kicking contest with a porcupine.”



[...] in the middle of the teeming city someone had cleared a vast space, walled it off, and planted a garden so romantically natural that it looked as real as a sugar pig.

“It looks like someone has taken twice five miles of inner city and girdled them round with walls and towers,” he hazarded.

Note (Hal’s):
That’s a brief allusion to Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”

— end note

He had a horrible feeling that he was falling in love.

He was sure he had all the symptoms. There were the sweaty palms, the hot sensation in the stomach, the general feeling that the skin of his chest was made of tight elastic. There was the feeling, every time Conina spoke, that someone was running hot steel into his spine.



It is a well-known and established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most realy great discoveies are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There’s a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slopping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer’s head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the lift, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.*

This is thought of as something wonderful. It isn’t. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time, travelling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss.

Even worse, most of the ones that hit the exact cerebral target hit the wrong one.

* Although, possibly, quicker. And only licensed to carry fourteen people.

Abrim laughed. It wasn’t a nice sound. It sounded as though he had had laughter explained to him, probably slowly and repeatedly, but had never heard anyone actually do it.

And then Nijel uttered the battle cry that Rincewind would never quite forget to the end of his life.

“Erm,” he said, “excuse me. . . .”


Battle Cries

The desert rimwards of Al Khali is bisected by the river Tsort, famed in myth and lies, which insinuates its way through the brown landscapes like a long damp descriptive passage punctuated with sandbanks. And every sandbank is covered with sunbaked logs, and most of the logs are the kind of logs that have teeth, and most of the logs opened up one lazy eye at the distant sounds of splashing from upstream, and suddenly most of the logs had legs. A dozen scaly bodies slipped into the turbid waters, which rolled over them again. The dark waters were unruffled, except for a few inconsequential V-shaped ripples.

The city was under the rule of sourcery . . . martial lore.
The truth isn’t easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap, and much more difficult to find. . . .



“If we get a chance,” whispered Rincewind to Nijel, “we run, right?”

“Where to?”

“From,” said Rincewind, “the important word is from.”

“I’m not going to ride on a magic carpet!” he hissed. “I’m afraid of grounds!”

“You mean heights,” said Conina. “And stop being silly.”

“I know what I mean! It’s the grounds that kill you!”

The astro-philosophers of Krull once succeeded in proving conclusively that all places are one place and that the distance between them is an illusion, and this news was an embarrassment to all thinking philosophers because it did not explain, among other things, signposts. After years of wrangling the whole thing was then turned over to Ly Tin Wheedle, arguably the Disc's greatest philosopher,* who after some thought proclaimed that although it was indeed true that all places were one place, that place was very large.

And so psychic order was restored. Distance is, however, an entirely subjective phenomenon and creatures of magic can adjust it to suit themselves.

They are not necessarily very good at it.

* He always argued that he was.



He explained—although “explained” is probably too positive a word, and in this case really means failed to explain but at some length—that it was perfectly possible to travel across the world in a small lamp being carried by one of the party, the lamp itself moving because it was being carried by one of the people inside it, because of a) the fractal nature of reality, which meant that everything could be thought of as being inside everything else and b) creative public relations. The trick relied on the laws of physics failing to spot the flaw until the journey was complete.

The trouble with gods was that if they didn’t like something they didn’t just drop hints, so common sense suggested that it was unwise to put the gods in a position where they had to decide.



What a Morpork citizen liked to have on his side was odds of about twenty to one, but failing that a sockful of half-brick and a dark alley to lurk in was generally considered a better bet than any two magic swords you cared to name.

It didn’t look like the kind of snow that whispers down gently in the pit of the night and in the morning turns the landscape into a glittering wonderland of uncommon and ethereal beauty. It looked like the kind of snow that intends to make the world as bloody cold as possible.



“We’ve just got to resist them, that’s all there is to it. That’s what we’re here for.”

“But it won’t make any difference,” she said.

“It will to me. If we’re going to die anyway, I’d rather die like this. Heroically.”

“Is it heroic to die like this?” said Conina.

I think it is,” he said, “and when it comes to dying, there’s only one opinion that matters.”



text checked (see note) August 2022

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