The last continent, p.37
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       The Last Continent, p.37

         Part #22 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 37

 

  Good idea, said Rincewind, eyeing the spider-webs. New brewery? Looks pretty old to me . . .

  Neilette rattled a door. Locked, she said. Come on, well find another one. Look, its the new brewery because we built it to replace the one over the river. But it never worked. The beer went flat, or something. They all said it was haunted. Everyone knows that, dont they? We went back to the old brewery. My dad lost nearly all his money.

  Why?

  He owned it. Just about broke his heart, that did. He left it to me, she tried another door, because, well, he never got on with Noelene, what with the, well, you know, or rather, obviously you dont . . . but it ruined the business, really. And Roo Beer used to be the best there was.

  Cant you sell it? The site, I mean.

  Here? A place where beer goes flat within five seconds? Cant give it away. Rincewind peered up at the big metal vats. Perhaps it was built on some old religious site, he said. That sort of thing can happen, you know. Back home there was this fish restaurant that got built on a— Neilette rattled another unbudging door. Thats what everyone thought, she said. But apparently Dad asked all the local tribes and they said it wasnt. They said it wasnt any kind of sacred site. They said it was an unsacred site. Some chief went to prison to see the prime minister and said, Mate, your mob can dig it all up and drop it over the edge of the world, no worries. "

  Why did he have to go to prison?

  We put all our politicians in prison as soon as theyre elected. Dont you?

  Why? It saves time. She tried an unrelenting handle. Damn! And the windows are too high . . . The ground trembled. Metal jangled, somewhere in the darkness. Dust moved in strange little waves across the floor. Oh, not again, said Neilette. Now not only the dust moved. Tiny shapes scuttled across it, flowed around Rincewinds feet and sped under the locked door. The spiders are leaving! said Neilette. Fine by me! said Rincewind. This time the tremor made the wall creak. Its never been this bad, Neilette muttered. Find a ladder, well give the windows a go.

  Above them a ladder parted company from the wall and folded itself into a metal puzzle on the floor. This may not seem a good time to ask, said Rincewind, but are you a kangaroo, by any chance? Far above them metal creaked and went on creaking, in a long-drawn wail of inorganic pain. Rincewind looked up, and saw the dome of the brewery gently dissolve into a hundred falling pieces of glass. And, dropping through the middle of it, some of its lamps still burning, the grinning shape of the Roo Beer kangaroo. Trunkie! Open up! Neilette yelled. No— Rincewind began, but she grabbed him and dragged him and in front of him was an opening lid . . . The world went dark. There was wood underneath him. He tapped it. very carefully. And wood in front of him. And w— Excuse me.

  Were inside the Luggage?

  Why not? Thats how we got out of Cangoolie last week! Yknow, I think it may be a magic box.

  Do you know some of the things that have been inside it?

  Letitia kept her gin in it, I know that. Rincewind felt upwards, gingerly. Maybe the Luggage had more than one inside. Hed suspected as much. Maybe it was like one of those conjurors boxes where, after youd put a penny in, the drawer miraculously slid around and it had gone. Rincewind had been given one of those as a toy when he was a kid. Hed lost almost two dollars before he gave up and threw the thing away . . . His fingers touched what might have been a lid, and he pushed upwards. They were still in the brewery. This came as some relief, considering where you might end up if you got into the Luggage. There was still the bowel-disturbing rumble, punctuated by clangs and tinkles as bits of rusted metal crashed down with lethal intent. The big kangaroo sign was well alight.

  In the smoke that rose from it were some pointy hats. That is, the curls swirling and billowing around holes in the air looked very much like the three-dimensional silhouettes of a group of wizards. Rincewind stepped out of the Luggage. Oh, no, no, no, he mumbled. I only got here a couple of months ago. Its not my fault! They look like ghosts, said Neilette. Do you know them?

  No! But theyre all mixed up with these earthquakes! And something called The Wet, whatever that was! Thats just some old story, isnt it? Anyway, Mister Wizard, it might have escaped your notice that the place is filling up with smoke! Which way did we come in? Rincewind looked around desperately. Smoke obscured everything. Has this place got cellars? he said. Yeah! I used to play Mothers and Mothers with Noelene in them when we were kids. Look for hatches in the floor! And it was three minutes later that the ancient wooden hatchcover in the alley finally gave way under the Luggages insistent pounding. Several rats poured out, followed by Rincewind and Neilette. No one paid them any attention. A column of smoke was rising over the city. Watchmen and citizens were already forming a bucket chain and men with a battering ram were trying to break open the brewerys main doors. Were well out of that, Rincewind observed. Oh, boy, yes.

  Hey, whats going on? Wheres the bloody water gone? The cry came from a man working the handle of a pump out on the street, just as the pump gave a groan and the handle went limp. A watchman grabbed his arm. Theres another one in the yard over there! Gei a wiggle on, mate! A couple of men tried the other pump. It made a choking noise, spat out a few drops of water and some damp rust, and gave up. Rincewind swallowed. I think the waters gone, he said, flatly. What do you mean, gone? said Neilette. Theres always water. Huge great seas of it underground!

  Yes, but . . . it doesnt get filled up much, does it? It doesnt rain here.

  There you go aga— She stopped. Whats it you know? Youre looking shifty, Mister Wizard. Rincewind stared glumly up at the tower of smoke. There were twirling, tumbling sparks in it, rising in the heat and showering down over the city. Everything will be bone dry, he thought. It doesnt rain here. It— Hang on . . . How do you know Im a wizard? he said. Its written on your hat, she said. Badly.

  You know what a wizard is? This is a serious question. Im not pushing a prawn.

  Everyone knows what a wizard is! Weve got a university full of the useless mongrels!

  And you can show me where this is, can you?

  Find it yourself! She tried to stride off through the milling crowd. He ran after her. Please dont go! I need someone like you! As an interpreter!

  What do you mean? We speak the same language!

  Really? Stubbies here are really short shorts or small beer bottles. How often do newcomers confuse the two? Neilette actually smiled. Not more than once.

  Just take me to this university of yours, will you? said Rincewind. I think I can feel a Famous Last Stand coming on. There was a brief scream of metal overhead and a windmill fan crashed down into the street. And wed better be quick, he added. Otherwise all therell be to drink is beer. The Bursar laughed again as a series of little charcoal dots extended their legs, formed up and marched down the stone and across the sand in front of him. Behind him the trees were already loud with birdsong— And then, sadly, with wizards as well. He could hear the voices in the distance and, while wizards are always questioning the universe, they mainly direct the questions at other wizards and dont bother to listen to the answers.

  —certainly saw no trees when we arrived.

  Probably we didn t see them because of the rain, and the Senior Wrangler didnt see them because of Mrs Whitlow. And get a grip onyourself, will you, Dean? Im sure you re getting young again! No ones impressed!

  I think I must just be naturally youthful. Archchancellor.

  Nothing to be proud of there! And please, someone, stop the Senior Wrangler getting a grip on hims— Oh, looks like someones had a picnic The painter seemed engrossed in his work, and paid them no attention at all. Im sure the Bursar went this way— A little red mud coloured a complex curve and there, as if it had always been there, was a creature with the body of a giant rabbit, the expression of a camel and a tail that a lizard would be proud of. The wizards appeared around the rock just in time to see it scratch its ears. Ye gods, whats that?

  Some sort of rat? said the Chair of Inde
finite Studies. Hey, look, Bursars found one of the locals The Dean ambled across to the painter, who was watching the wizards with his mouth open. Good morning, fellow. Whats that thing called? The painter followed the pointing finger. Kangaroo? he said. The voice was a whisper, on the very cusp of hearing, but the ground trembled. Kangaroo, eh? That might not be what its called, sir, said Ponder. He might just be saying, “I dont know. ”

  Cant see why not. He looks the sort of chap you find in this sort of place, said the Dean. Deep tan. Shortage of trousers. The sort of fellow whod know what the wildlife is called, certainly.

  He just drew it, said the Bursar. Oh, did he? Very good artists, some of these chaps.

  Hes not Rincewind, is he? said Ridcully, who seldom bothered to remember faces. I know hes a bit on the dark side, but a few months in the sund bake anyone. The other wizards drew together and looked around for any nearby sign of mobile rectangu- larity. No hat, said Ponder, and that was that.

  The Dean peered at the rock wall. Quite good drawings for native art, he said. Interesting . . . lines. The Bursar nodded. As far as he could see, the drawings were simply alive. They might be coloured earth on rock, but they were as alive as the kangaroo thatd just hopped away. The old man was drawing a snake now. One wiggly line. I remember seeing some of these palaces the Tezumen built in the jungle, said the Dean, watching him. Not an ounce of mortar in the whole place and the stones fit together so well you couldnt stick a knife between them. Hah, they were about the only things the Tezumen didn t stick a knife between, he added. Odd people, really. Very big on wholesale human sacrifice and cocoa. Not an obvious combination, to my mind. Kill fifty thousand people and then relax with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Excuse me, I used to be quite good at this. To the horror even of Ridcully the Dean took the piece of frayed twig out of the painters hand and dabbed it gently on the rock. See? A dot for the eye, said the Dean, handing it back. The painter gave him a sort of smile. That is, he showed his teeth. Like many other beings on astral planes of all kinds, he was puzzled by the wizards. They were people with the family- sized self-confidence that seems to be able to get away with anything. They generated an unconscious field which said that of course they should be there, but no one was to worry or fuss around tidying up the place on their account and just get on with what they were doing. The more impressionable victims were left with the feeling that they had clipboards and were awarding marks. Behind the Dean a snake wriggled away. Anyone feel anything odd? said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. My fingers tingled. Did any of you do any magic just then? The Dean picked up a burnt wig. The painters mouth dropped open as the wizard drew a scratching line on the stone. I think you might be offending him, said Ponder. Nonsense! A good artist is always prepared to learn, said the Dean. Interesting thing, these fellows never seem to get the idea of perspective— The Bursar thought, or received the thought: thats because perspective is a lie. If I know a pond is round then why should I draw it oval? I will draw it round because round is true. Why should my brush lie to you just because my eye lies to me? It sounded like quite an angry thought. Whats that youre drawing, Dean? said the Senior Wrangler. What does it look like? A bird, of course.

 
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