‘Did you do that?’ he demanded.
‘Stand aside, oaf,’ said the wizard, three words which in the opinion of Ardrothy gave him the ongoing life expectancy of a glass cymbal.
‘I hates wizards,’ said Koble. ‘I really hates wizards. So I am going to hit you, all right?’
He brought his fist back and let fly.
The wizard raised an eyebrow, yellow fire sprang up around the shellfish salesman, there was a noise like tearing silk, and Koble had vanished. All that was left was his boots, standing forlornly on the cobbles with little wisps of smoke coming out of them.
No-one knows why smoking boots always remain, no matter how big the explosion. It seems to be just one of those things.
It seemed to the watchful eyes of Ardrothy that the wizard himself was nearly as socked as the crowd, but he rallied magnificently and gave his staff a flourish.
‘You people had better jolly well learn from this,’ he said. ‘No-one raises their hand to a wizard, do you understand? There are going to be a lot of changes around here. Yes, what do you want?’
This last comment was to Ardrothy, who was trying to sneak past unnoticed. He scrabbled quickly in his pie tray.
‘I was just wondering if your honourship would care to purchase one of these finest pies,’ he said hurriedly. ‘Full of nourish-’
‘Watch closely, pie-selling person,’ said the wizard. He stretched out his hand, made a strange gesture with his fingers, and produced a pie out of the air.
It was fat, golden-brown and beautifully glazed. just by looking at it Ardrothy knew it was packed edge to edge with prime lean pork, with none oft hose spacious areas of good fresh air under the lid that represented his own profit margin. It was the kind of pie piglets hope to be when they grew up.
His heart sank. His ruin was floating in front of him with short-crust pastry on it.
‘Want a taste?’ said the wizard. ‘There’s plenty more where that came from.’
‘Wherever it came from,’ said Ardrothy.
He looked past the shiny pastry to the face of the wizard, and in the manic gleam of those eyes he saw the world turning upside down.
He turned away, a broken man, and set out for the nearest city gate.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that wizards were killing people, he thought bitterly, they were taking away their livelihood as well.
A bucket of water splashed into Rincewind’s face, jerking him out of a dreadful dream in which a hundred masked women were attempting to trim his hair with broadswords and cutting it very fine indeed. Some people, having a nightmare like that, would dismiss it as castration anxiety, but Rincewind’s subconscious knew being-cut-to-tiny-bits-mortal dread when it saw it. It saw it most of the time.
He sat up.
‘Are you all right?’ said Conina, anxiously.
Rincewind swivelled his eyes around the cluttered deck.
‘Not necessarily,’ he said cautiously. There didn’t seem to be any black-clad slavers around, at least vertically. There were a good many crew members, all of them maintaining a respectful distance from Conina. Only the captain stood reasonably close, an inane grin on his face.
‘They left,’ said Conina. ‘Took what they could and left.’
‘They bastards,’ said the captain, ‘but they paddle pretty fast!’ Conina winced as he gave her a ringing slap on the back. ‘She fight real good for a lady,’ he added. ‘Yes!’
Rincewind got unsteadily to his feet. The boat was scudding along cheerfully towards a distant smear on the horizon that had to be hubward Klatch. He was totally unharmed. He began to cheer up a bit.
The captain gave them both a hearty nod and hurried off to shout orders connected with sails and ropes and things. Conina sat down on the Luggage, which didn’t seem to object.
‘He said he’s so grateful he’ll take us all the way to Al Khali,’ she said.
‘I thought that’s what we arranged anyway,’ said Rincewind. ‘I saw you give him money, and everything.’
‘Yes, but he was planning to overpower us and sell me as a slave when he got there.’
‘What, not sell me?’ said Rincewind, and then snorted, ‘Of course, it’s the wizard’s robes, he wouldn’t dare-’
‘Um. Actually, he said he’d have to give you away,’ said Conina, picking intently at an imaginary splinter on the Luggage’s lid.
‘Give me away?’
‘Yes. Um. Sort of like, one free wizard with every concubine sold? Um.’
‘I don’t see what vegetables have got to do with it.’
Conina gave him a long, hard stare, and when he didn’t break into a smile she sighed and said, ‘Why are you wizards always nervous around women?’
Rincewind bridled at this slur. ‘I like that!’ he said, ‘I’ll have you know that – look, anyway, the point is, I get along very well with women in general, it’s just women with swords that upset me.’ He considered this for a while, and added, ‘Everyone with swords upset me, if it comes to that.’
Conina picked industriously at the splinter. The Luggage gave a contented creak.
‘I know something else that’ll upset you,’ she muttered.
‘The hat’s gone.’
‘I couldn’t help it, they just grabbed whatever they could-’
‘The slavers have made off with the hat?’
‘Don’t you take that tone with me! I wasn’t having a quiet sleep at the time-’
Rincewind waved his hands frantically. ‘Nonono, don’t get excited, I wasn’t taking any tone – I want to think about this…’
‘The captain says they’ll probably go back to Al Khali,’ he heard Conina say. ‘There’s a place where the criminal element hang out, and we can soon-’
‘I don’t see why we have to do anything,’ said Rincewind. ‘The hat wanted to keep out the way of the University, and I shouldn’t think those slavers ever drop in there for a quick sherry.’
‘You’ll let them run off with it?’ said Conina, in genuine astonishment.
‘Well, someone’s got to do it. The way I see it, why me?’
‘But you said it’s the symbol of wizardry! What wizards all aspire to! You can’t just let it go like that!’
‘You watch me.’ Rincewind sat back. He felt oddly surprised. He was making a decision. It was his. It belonged to him. Noone was forcing him to make it. Sometimes it seemed that his entire life consisted of getting into trouble because of what other people wanted, but this time he’d made a decision and that was that. He’d get off the boat at Al Khali and find some way of going home. Someone else could save the world, and he wished them luck. He’d made a decision.
His brow furrowed. Why didn’t he feel happy about it?
Because it’s the wrong bloody decision, you idiot.
Right, he thought, I’ve had enough voices in my head. Out.
But I belong here.
You mean you’re me?
You can’t let the hat be destroyed. It’s the symbol …
… all right, I know …
… the symbol of magic under the Lore. Magic under the control of mankind. You don’t want to go back to those dark Ians …
… What? …
Do I mean aeons?
Right. Aeons. Go back aeons to the time when raw magic ruled. The whole framework of reality trembled daily. It was pretty terrible, I can tell me.
How do I know?
Gosh. Have I got one of those?
Well. A part of one.
Yes, all right, but why me?
In your soul you know you are a true wizard. The word ‘Wizard’ is engraved on your heart.
‘Yes, but the trouble is I keep meeting people who might try to find out,’ said Rincewind miserably.
‘What did you say?’ said Conina.
Rincewind stared at the smudge on the horizon and sighed.
‘Just talking to myself,’ he said.
Carding surveyed the hat critically. He walked around the table and stared at it from a new angle. At last he said: ‘It’s pretty good. Where did you get the octarines?’
‘They’re just very good Ankhstones,’ said Spelter. ‘They fooled you, did they?’
It was a magnificent hat. In fact, Spelter had to admit, it looked a lot better than the real thing. The old Archchancellor’s hat had looked rather battered, its gold thread tarnished and unravelling. The replica was a considerable improvement. It had style.
‘I especially like the lace,’ said Carding.
‘It took ages.’
‘Why didn’t you try magic?’ Carding waggled his fingers, and grasped the tall cool glass that appeared in mid-air. Under its paper umbrella and fruit salad it contained some sticky and expensive alcohol.
‘Didn’t work,’ said Spelter. ‘Just couldn’t seem, um, to get it right. I had to sew every sequin on by hand.’ He picked up the hatbox.
Carding coughed into his drink. ‘Don’t put it away just yet,’ he said, and took it out of the bursar’s hands. ‘I’ve always wanted to try this-’
He turned to the big mirror on the bursar’s wall and reverently lowered the hat on his rather grubby locks.
It was the ending of the first day of the sourcery, and the wizards had managed to change everything except themselves.
They had all tried, on the quiet and when they thought no-one else was looking. Even Spelter had a go, in the privacy of his study. He had managed to become twenty years younger with a torso you could crack rocks on, but as soon as he stopped concentrating he sagged, very unpleasantly, back into his old familiar shape and age. There was something elastic about the way you were. The harder you threw it, the faster it came back. The worse it was when it hit, too. Spiked iron balls, broadswords and large heavy sticks with nails in were generally considered pretty fearsome weapons, but they were nothing at all compared to twenty years suddenly applied with considerable force to the back of the head.
This was because sourcery didn’t seem to work on things that were instrinsically magical. Nevertheless, the wizards had made a few important improvements. Carding’s robe, for example, had become a silk and lace confection of overpoweringly expensive tastelessness, and gave him the appearance of a big red jelly draped with antimacassars.
‘It suits me, don’t you think?’ said Carding. He adjusted the hat brim, giving it an inappropriately rakish air.
Spelter said nothing. He was looking out of the window.
There had been a few improvements all right. It had been a busy day.
The old stone walls had vanished. There were some rather nice railings now. Beyond them, the city fairly sparkled, a poem in white marble and red tiles. The river Ankh was no longer the silt-laden sewer he’d grown up knowing, but a glittering glassclear ribbon in which – a nice touch – fat carp mouthed and swam in water pure as snowmelt.
From the air Ankh-Morpork must have been blinding. It gleamed. The detritus of millennia had been swept away.
It made Spelter strangely uneasy. He felt out of place, as though he was wearing new clothes that itched. Of course, he was wearing new clothes and they did itch, but that wasn’t the problem. The new world was all very nice, it was exactly how it should be, and yet, and yet – had he wanted to change, he thought, or had he only wanted things rearranged more suitably?