The color of magic, p.26
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       The Color of Magic, p.26

         Part #1 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 26

  the most powerful spell on the disc. He had

  -there was definitely less horizon than there ought to be.

  “Hmm” Said Rincewind.

  “I said nothing’s worse than slavery,” said Twoflower. His mouth opened as the wizard flung his bucket far out to sea and sat down heavily on the waterlogged deck, his face a grey mask.

  “Look, I’m sorry I steered us into the reef, but this boat doesn’t seem to want to sink and we’re bound to strike land sooner or later,” said Twoflower comfortingly. “This current must go somewhere. ”

  “Look at the horizon,” Said Rincewind, in a monotone.

  Twoflower squinted.

  “It looks all right,” he said after a while.

  “Admittedly, there seems to be less than there usually is, but-“

  “That’s because of the Rimfall,” said Rincewind.

  “We’re being carried over the edge of the world. ”

  There was a long silence, broken only by the lapping of the waves as the foundering ship spun slowly in the current. It was already quite strong.

  “That’s probably why we hit that reef,” Rincewind added. “we got pulled off course during the night. ”

  “Would you like something to eat?” asked Twoflower. He began to rummage through the bundle that he had tied to the rail, out of the damp.

  “Don’t you understand?” snarled Rincewind. “We are going over the Edge, godsdammit!”

  “Can’t we do anything about it?”

  “No!”

  “Then I can’t see the sense in panicking,” said Twoflower calmly.

  “I knew we shouldn’t have come this far Edgewise,” complained Rincewind to the skye “I wish-“

  “I wish I had my picture-box,” said Twoflower, “but it’s back on that slaver ship with the rest of the Luggage and-“

  “You won’t need luggage where we’re going,” said Rincewind. He sagged, and stared moodily at a distant whale that had carelessly strayed into the rimward current and was now struggling against it.

  There was a line of white on the foreshortened horizon, and the wizard fancied he could hear a distant roaring.

  “What happens after a ship goes over the Rimfall?” said Twoflower.

  “Who knows?”

  “Well, in that case perhaps we’ll just sail on through space and land on another world. ” A faraway look came into the little man’s eyes. “I’d like that,” he said.

  Rincewind snorted.

  The sun rose in the sky, looking noticeably bigger this close to the Edge. They stood with their backs against the mast, busy with their own thoughts. Every so often one or other would pick up a bucket and do a bit of desultory bailing, for no very intelligent reason.

  The sea around them seemed to be getting crowded. Rincewind noticed several tree trunks keeping station with them, and just below the surface the water was alive with fish of all sorts. The current must be teeming with food washed from the continents near the Hub. He wondered what kind of life it would be, having to keep swimming all the time to stay exactly in the same place. Pretty similar to his own, he decided. He spotted a small green frog which was paddling desperately in the grip of the inexorable current. To Twoflower’s amazement he found a paddle and carefully extended it towards the little amphibian, which scrambled onto it gratefully. A moment later a pair of jaws broke the water and snapped impotently at the spot where it had been swimming.

  The frog looked up at Rincewind from the cradle of his hands, and then bit him thoughtfully on the thumb. Twoflower giggled. Rincewind tucked the frog away in a pocket, and pretended he hadn’t heard.

  “All very humanitarian, but why?” said Twoflower. “It’ll all be the same in an hour. ”

  “Because,” said Rincewind vaguely, and did a bit of bailing. Spray was being thrown up now and the current was so strong that waves were forming and breaking all around them. It all seemed unnaturally warm. There was a hot golden haze on the sea.

  The roaring was louder now. A squid bigger than anything Rincewind had seen before broke the surface a few hundred yards away and thrashed madly with its tentacles before sinking away. Something else that was large and fortunately unidentifiable howled in the mist. A whole squadron of flying fish tumbled up in a cloud of rainbow-edged droplets and managed to gain a few yards before dropping back and being swept in an eddy.

  They were running out of world. Rincewind dropped his bucket and snatched at the mast as the roaring, final end of everything raced towards them.

  “I must see this” said Twoflower, half falling and half diving towards the prow.

  Something hard and unyielding smacked into the hull, which spun ninety degrees and came side on to the invisible obstacle. Then it stopped suddenly and a wash of cold sea foam cascaded over the deck, so that for a few seconds Rincewind was under several feet of boiling green water. He began to scream and then the underwater world became the deep clanging purple colour of fading consciousness, because it was at about this point that Rincewind started to drown.

  He awoke with his mouth full of burning liquid and, when he swallowed, the searing pain in his throat jerked him into full consciousness. The boards of a boat pressed into his back and Twoflower was looking down at him with an expression of deep concern. Rincewind groaned and sat up.

  This turned out to be a mistake. The edge of the world was a few feet away.

  Beyond it, at a level just below that of the lip of the endless Rimfall, was something altogether magical.

  Some seventy miles away, and well beyond the tug of the rim current, a scow with the red sails typical of a freelance slaver drifted aimlessly through the velvety twilight. The crew - such as remained were clustered on the foredeck, surrounding the men working feverishly on the raft.

  The captain, a thickset man who wore the elbowturbans typical of a Great Nef tribesman, was much travelled and had seen many strange peoples and curious things, many of which he had subsequently enslaved or stolen. He had begun his career as a sailor on the Dehydrated Ocean in the heart of the disc’s driest desert. (Water on the disc has an uncommon fourth state, caused by intense magic combined with the strange desiccating effects of octarine light) it dehydrates, leaving a silvery mildue like free-flowing sand through which a well-designed hull can glide with ease. The Dehydrated Ocean is a strange place, but not so strange as its fish. ) The captain had never before been really frightened. Now he was terrified.

  “I can’t hear anything,” he muttered to the first mate. The mate peered into the gloom.

  “Perhaps it fell overboard?” he suggested hopefully. As if in answer there came a furious pounding from the oar deck below their feet, and the sound of splintering wood. The crewmen drew together fearfully, brandishing axes and torches.

  They probably wouldn’t dare to use them, even if the Monster came rushing towards them. Before its terrible nature had been truly understood several men had attacked it with axes, whereupon it had turned aside from its single-minded searching of the ship and had either chased them overboard or had - eaten them? The captain was not quite certain. The Thing looked like an ordinary wooden sea chest. A bit larger than usual, maybe, but not suspiciously so. But while it sometimes seemed to contain things like old socks and miscellaneous luggage, at other times -and he shuddered -it seemed to be, seemed to have… He tried not to think about it. It was just that the men who had been drowned overboard had probably been more fortunate than those it had caught. He tried not to think about it. There had been teeth, teeth like white wooden gravestones, and a tongue red as mahogany…

  He tried not to think about it. It didn’t work. But he thought bitterly about one thing. This was going to be the last time he rescued ungrateful drowning men in mysterious circumstances. Slavery was better than sharks, wasn’t it? And then they had escaped and when his sailors had investigated their big chest - how had they appeared in the middle of an untroubled ocean sit
ting on a big chest, anyway? - and it had bitt… He tried not to think about it again, but he found himself wondering what would happen when the damned thing realized that its owner wasn’t on board any longer…

  “Raft’s ready, lord,” said the first mate.

  “Into the water with it,” shouted the captain, and “Get aboard!” and “Fire the ship!”

  After all, another ship wouldn’t be too hard to come by, he philosophised, but a man might have to wait a long time in that Paradise the mullahs advertised before he was granted another life. Let the magical box eat lobsters.

  Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.

  “What the hell is that?” demanded Rincewind.

  “It’s beautiful,” said Twoflower beatifically.

  “I’ll decide about that when I know what it is, said the wizard.

  “It is the Rimbow,” said a voice immediately behind his left ear, “And you are fortunate indeed to be looking at it. From above, at any rate. ” and the voice was accompanied by a gust of cold and fishy breath, Rincewind sat quite still.

  “Twoflower?” he said.

  “Yes?”

  “If I turn around, what will I see?”

  “His name is Tethis. He says he’s a sea troll. This is his boat. He rescued us,” explained Twoflower

  “Will you look around now?”

  “Not just at the moment, thank you. So why aren’t we going over the Edge, then?” asked Rincewind with glassy calmness.

  “Because your boat hit the Circumfence,” said the voice behind him (in tones that made Rincewind imagine submarine chasms and lurking Things in coral reefs).

  “The Circumfence?” he repeated.

  “Yes. It runs along the edge of the world,” said the unseen troll. Above the roar of the waterfall Rincewind thought he could make out the splash of oars. He hoped they were oars.

  “Ah. You mean the circumference,” said Rincewind. “The circumference makes the edge of things. ”

  “So does the Circumfence,” said the troll.

  “He means this,” said Twoflower, pointing down Rincewind’s eyes followed the finger, dreading what they might see…

  Hubwards of the boat was a rope suspended a few feet above the surface of the white water. The boat was attached to it, moored yet mobile, by a complicated arrangement of pulleys and little wooden wheels. They ran along the rope as the unseen rower propelled the craft along the very lip of the Rimfall. That explained one mystery but what supported the rope?

  Rincewind peered along its length and saw a stout wooden post sticking up out of the water a few yards ahead. As he watched the boat neared it and then passed it, the little wheels clacking neatly around it in a groove obviously cut for the purpose. Rincewind also noticed that smaller ropes hung down from the main rope at intervals of a yard or so.

  He turned back to Twoflower.

  “I can see what it is,” he said, “But what is it?”

  Twoflower shrugged. Behind Rincewind the sea troll said, “Up ahead is my house. We will talk more when we are there. Now I must row. ”

 
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