Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Copyright © 2008 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

Chapter 1
The Plague

“You know, Mr. Black, I thought I knew all of the Magna Carta, but I’ve never heard of these clauses,” said Sir Geoffrey.

“No, sir,” said the Gentleman of Last Resort patiently. “That is because they are in the ratified version. You don’t think barons who could hardly write their names could come up with a complete set of sensible rules for the proper running of a large country for the rest of history, do you? Their clerks put together the full working Magna Carta a month later. It’s several times bigger, but it is foolproof. Unfortunately, the French have a copy.”


Magna Carta

“She is a lady indeed, although my limited experience of her suggests that she is also a mixture of the warrior queen Boadicea without the chariot, Catherine de’ Medici without the poisoned rings, and Attila the Hun without his wonderful sense of fun. Do not play cards with her, because she cheats like a Mississippi bustout dealer, keep sherry away from her, do everything she says, and we might all live.”
Chapter 2
The New World

“You didn’t want to be a warrior?”

“Never. It takes a woman nine months to make a new human. Why waste her effort?”



Chapter 4
Bargains, Covenants, and Promises

There had to be one coconut tree on every tiny island, by law, so that if someone was shipwrecked, then at least he’d have some shade to sit in.*

*The lonesome palm (Cocos nucifera solitaria) is common over most of the Pelagic, and is unusual in that an adult tree secretes a poison in its root that is deadly only to other palms. Because of this it is not unusual to find only one such palm on the smaller islands and a thousand cartoons are, therefore, botanically correct.

Her mother had been alive then, and had suggested a pony, but her father had laughed and bought her a beautiful telescope, saying: “Of course she should watch the stars! Any girl who cannot identify the constellation of Orion just isn’t paying attention!” And when she started asking complicated questions, he took her along to lectures at the Royal Society, where it turned out that a nine-year-old girl who had blond hair and knew what the precession of the equinoxes was could ask hugely bearded famous scientists anything she liked. Who’d want a pony when you could have the whole universe? It was far more interesting and you didn’t have to muck it out once a week.



the Equinoxes

He believed in rational thinking and scientific inquiry, which was why he never won an argument with his mother, who believed in people doing what she told them, and believed it with a rock-hard certainty that dismissed all opposition.
You had to find water and food and shelter and a weapon, people said. And they thought that was all you had to have, because they took for granted the most important thing. You had to have a place where you belonged.



They didn’t know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you’ve got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you’re alive, when you really shouldn’t be.



Chapter 7
Diving for Gods

They wanted an answer. It would be nice if it was the right answer, but if it couldn’t be, then any answer would do, because then we would stop being worried . . . and then his mind caught alight.

That’s what the gods are! An answer that will do! Because there’s food to be caught and babies to be born and life to be lived and so there is no time for big, complicated, and worrying answers! Please give us a simple answer, so that we don’t have to think, because if we think, we might find answers that don’t fit the way we want the world to be.



“You shout and stamp and yell that there are no gods, and then you shake your fist at the sky and revile them for not existing! You need them to exist so that the flames of your denial will warm you in your self-righteousness! That’s not thinking, that’s just a hurt child screaming in pain!”



Chapter 8
It Takes a Lifetime to Learn How to Die

He preached as if he had a flaming sword in his hand. Bats fell out of the rafters. The organ started up by itself. The water sloshed in the font. All in all, it was very unlike the sermons of the Reverend Fleblow-Poundup, who on a fine day could get through a mumbled service in half an hour, with his butterfly net and collecting jar leaning against the pulpit.

When they had got home, her grandmother had stood in the hallway, taken a deep breath, and said, “Well!” And that was that. Normally people tended to be very quiet in the parish church. Perhaps they were afraid of waking God up in case He asked pointed questions or gave them a test.



“She says safe is not sure. Sure not safe. There is just do, or do not do.”
Chapter 9
Rolling the Stone
Daphne had read in one of her books about the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean islands that “with a few regrettable examples, the larger and more fearsome the spider is, the less likely it is to be venomous.” She didn’t believe it. She could see Regrettable Examples everywhere, and she was sure that some of them were drooling.



“Perhaps things can be true in special ways?” she suggested.

“No. People say that when they want to believe lies,” Mau said flatly. “And they usually do.”



“Why are you so much smarter than us?”

“I don’t think we are, really. I think it’s just that you have to learn to make things when it’s cold for half the year. I think we got our empire because of the weather. Anything was better than staying at home in the rain. I’m pretty certain people looked out of the window and rushed off to discover India and Africa.”



“I don’t think he believes in his gods, but he believes in belief.”



Chapter 11
Crimes and Punishments
Cox was, in fact, contagious. Where his shadow fell, old friendships snapped and little wars broke out, milk soured, weevils fled from every stale ship’s biscuit and rats queued up to jump into the sea.
Chapter 12
Cannon and Politics

There was one of those pauses that are icy-cold and red-hot at the same time. It was stuffed with soundless words, words that should not be said, or said another time, or in a different way, or could be said or needed to be said but couldn’t be said, and they would go on tumbling through the pause forever, or until one of them fell out—

“Ahem,” said Daphne, and all the other words escaped forever. Much later, and many times, she wondered about what might have happened if she hadn’t chosen a word that clearly belonged to her grandmother.

There was one right way of firing a cannon, and lots of wonderfully explosive ways of getting it wrong.



“Should he tell them the truth? Should he tell them that all I’ve got is a few things I know and a handfull of guesses and a big hope, and that we are so weak, and that if I am wrong, those of us not dead by sunset on the day the Raiders attack will wish they were? That will only make them fear. If a lie will make us strong, a lie will be my weapon.” He sighed. “People want lies to live by. They cry out for them.”



“How can he rise up every morning and decide to be him?”

“I think that if you could understand him, you’d be him. That’s what he does. He turns people into creatures like himself.”



Chapter 13
They had the well-fed, important, careful look of people who took care not to be at the top. A lot of government people like them had dined at the Hall. They had learned over the years that the top was not a happy or safe place to be. One rung down, that was the place for a sensible man. You advised the king, you had a lot of power, in a quiet kind of way, and you didn’t get murdered anything like as often. And, if the ruler started to get funny ideas and became a bit of an embarrassment, you just . . . took care of things.

“He’s got two guns and you’ve got one spear. You’ll run out of spear before he runs out of gun!”

“Yes, but his gun will run out of bang before my knife runs out of sharp,” said Mau.



Chapter 14

Hadn’t every boy dreamed of this? To stand in front of the enemy? And they were all here together, under the white-hot sun, all the lies, all the fears, all the terrors, all the horrors that the wave had brought, all here and in mortal form. Here he could beat them.

And all that mattered was this: If you don’t dare to think you might, you won’t.



“I think that if Imo wants a perfect world, he wants it down here,” he said. [...]

This one? It’s far from perfect! said Locaha.

“It’s a little more perfect today. And there will be more days.”

They saw that the perfect world is a journey, not a place.

text checked (see note) May 2009

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