The last continent, p.41
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       The Last Continent, p.41

         Part #22 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 41

 

  Really? Better start catching up, then, Mister Stibbons. Still . . . nice little place youve got here . . . archchancellor. Ridcully pronounced the word very carefully in order to accentuate the lower case a. Archchancellor Rincewind gave him a fraternal nod. Thank you.

  For a colony, of course. I daresay you do your best.

  Why, thank you, Mustrum. Id be happy to show you our tower later on.

  It does look rather small.

  So people say.

  Rincewind, Rincewind . . . name rings a faint bell . . . said Ridcully. We came looking for Rincewind, Archchancellor, said Ponder, patiently. Is he? Done well for himself, then. Fresh air made a man of him, I see.

  No, sir. Ours is the skinny one with the bad beard and the floppy hat, sir. You remember? The one sitting over there. Rincewind raised a hand diffidently. Er. Me, he said. Ridcully sniffed. Fair enough. Whats that thing youre playing with, man? Rincewind held up the bullroarer. It came with you out of the cave, he said. What were you doing with it?

  Oh, some toy the Librarian found, said Ponder. All sorted out, then, said Ridcully. I say, this beers good, isnt it? Very drinkable. Yes, Im sure theres a lot we can learn from one another, archchancellor. You from us rather more than us from you, of course. Perhaps we could set up a student exchange, that sort of thing?

  Good idea.

  You can have six of mine in exchange for a decent lawnmower. Ours has broken.

  The Arch— the archchancellor is trying to say that getting back might be rather hard, sir, said Ponder. Apparently things ought to have changed now were here. But they havent.

  Your Rincewind seemed to think that bringing you blokes here would make it rain, said Bill. But it hasnt. . . . whumm . . .

  Oh, do stop playing with that thing, Rincewind, said Ridcully. Well . . . Bill, its obvious, isnt it? As more experienced wizards than you, we naturally know plenty of ways of making it rain. No problem there. . . . whumm . . . Look, lad, take that thing outside, will you? The Librarian was sitting at the top of the tin tower, with a leaf over his head. Something odd, see? said Rincewind, dangling the bullroarer from its string. Ive only got to wiggle my hand a bit and it swings right round.

  . . . ook . . . The Librarian sneezed. . . . awk . . .

  Er . . . now youre some sort of large bird . . . said Rincewind. You are in a bad way, arent you? Still, once I tell them your name . . . The Librarian changed shape and moved fast. There was a very short period of time in which a lot happened. Ah, said Rincewind calmly when it seemed to be over. Well, let us start with what we know. I cant see. The reason I cant see is that my robe is hanging over my eyes. From this I can deduce that I am upside down. You are gripping my ankles. Correction, one ankle, so obviously you are holding me upside down. We are at the top of the tower. This means . . . He fell silent. All right, lets start again, he said. Lets start by me not telling anyone your name. The Librarian let go. Rincewind dropped a few inches on to the planks of the tower. You know, that was a really mean trick you just did, he said. Ook.

  Well say no more about it, shall we? Rincewind looked up at the big, empty sky. It ought to be raining. Hed done everything he was supposed to do, hadnt he? And all that had happened was that the Faculty of UU was down there being condescending about everything. It wasnt even as if they could do a rainmaking spell. For one of those to work you needed some rain around to start with. In fact,

  it was prudent to make sure that some heavy-looking clouds were being blown in your direction. And if it wasnt raining then probably those terrible currents they talked about were still around, too. It wasnt a bad country. They were big on hats. They were big on big hats. He could save up and buy a farm on the Never-Never and watch sheep. After all, they fed themselves and they made more sheep. All you had to do was pick the wool off occasionally. The Luggaged probably settle down to being a sheepdog. Except . . . that there wasnt any more water. No more sheep, no more farms. Mad, and Crocodile Crocodile, the lovely ladies Darleen and Letitia, Remorse and his horses, all those people whod shown him how to find the things you could eat without throwing up too often . . . all drying up, and blowing away . . . Him, too. GDAY. Ook?

  Oh, no . . . Rincewind moaned. THROAT A BIT PARCHED? Look, youre not supposed to— ITS ALL RIGHT, I HAVE AN APPOINTMENT DOWN IN THE CITY. THERES BEEN A FIGHT OVER THE LAST BOTTLE OF BEER. HOWEVER, LET ME ASSURE YOU OF MY PERSONAL ATTENTION AT ALL TIMES. Well, thank you. When its time to stop living, I will certainly make Death my number one choice! Death faded. The cheek of him, turning up like that! Were not dead yet, shouted Rincewind to the burning sky. Theres lots we could do! If we could get to the Hub we could cut loose a big iceberg and tow it here and thatd give us plenty of water . . . if we could get to the Hub! Where theres hope theres life, Ill have you know! Ill find a way! Somewhere theres a way of making rain! Death had gone. Rincewind swung the bullroarer menacingly. And dont come back!

  Ook! The Librarian gripped Rincewinds arm, and sniffed the air. Then Rincewind caught the smell too.

  Rincewind spoke a fairly primitive language, and it had no word for that smell you get after rain other than that smell you get after rain. Anyone trying to describe the smell would have to flounder among words like moisture, heat, vapour and, with a following wind, exhalation. Nevertheless, there was the smell you get after rain. In this burning land, it was like a brief jewel in the air. Rincewind whirled the piece of wood again. It made noise out of all proportion to the movement, and there was that smell again. He turned it over. It was still just a wooden oval. There werent any markings on it. He gripped the end of the string and whirled the thing experimentally a few more times. Did you notice that when it did this— he began. It wouldnt stop. He couldnt lower his arm. Er . . . I think it wants to be spun, he said. Ook!

  You think I should?

  Ook!

  Thats very helpful. Oooh— The Librarian ducked. Rincewind spun. He couldnt see the wood now because the string was getting longer with each turn. A blur curved through the air some way from the tower, getting further away with each spin. The sound of it was a long-drawn-out drone. When it was well out over the city it exploded in a thunderclap. But something still whirled on the end of the line, like a tight silver cloud, throwing out a trail of white particles that made a spiral that sped out wider and wider. The Librarian was flat on his face with his hands over his head. Air roared up the side of the tower, carrying dust, wind, heat and budgerigars. Rincewinds robe flapped around his chin. Letting go was unthinkable. He wasnt even sure if he could, until it wanted him to. Thin as smoke now, the spiral drifted out into the heat haze.

  (. . . and out over the red desert and the unheeding kangaroos, and as the tail of it flew out over the coast and into the wall of storms the warring airs melted peacefully together . . . the clouds stopped their stately spin around the last continent, boiled up in confusion and thunderheads, reversed their direction and began to fall inwards . . . ) And the string whipped out of Rincewinds hand, stinging his fingers. The bullroarer flew away, and he didnt see it fall. This may have been because he was still pirouetting, but at last gravity overcame momentum and he fell full length on the boards. I think my feet have caught fire, he muttered. The dead heat hung on the land like a shroud. Clancy the stockman wiped the sweat off his brow very thoroughly, and wrung out the rag into an empty jam tin. The way things were going, hed be glad of it. Then, carrying the tin with care, he climbed back down the windmills ladder. The bores fine, boss, theres just no bloody water, he said. Remorse shook his head. Look at them horses, he said. Look at the way theyre lying down, willya? Thats not good. This is it, Clancy. Weve battled through thick and thin, and this is too thick altogether by half. We may as well cut their poor bloody throats for the meat thats on em— A gust of wind took his hat off for him, and blew a lash of scent across the wilted mulga bushes. A horse raised his head. Clouds were pouring across the sky, rolling and boiling across each other like waves on a beach, so black that in t
he middle they were blue, lit by occasional flashes. What the hells that? said Clancy. The horse stood up awkwardly and stumbled to the rusted trough under the windmill. Under the clouds, dragging across the land, the air shimmered silver. Something hit Remorses head. He looked down. Something went plut in the red dust by his boot, leaving a little crater. That is water, Clancy, he said. Its bloody water dropping out of the bloody sky! They stared at one another with their mouths open as, around them, the storm hit and the animals stirred and the red dust turned into mud which spattered them up to their waists. This was no ordinary rainstorm. This was The Wet.

  As Clancy said later, the second best bloody thing that happened that day was that they were near high ground. The best bloody thing was that, with all the corks on their hats, they were able to find the bloody things later on. Thered been debate about having this years regatta in Dijabringabeeralong, given the drought. But it was a tradition. A lot of people came into town for it. Besides, the organizers had discussed it long and hard all the previous evening in the bar of the Pastoral Hotel and had concluded that, no worries, shell be right. There were classes for boats pulled by camels, boats optimistically propelled by sails and, a high spot of the event, skiffs propelled by the simple expedient of the crew cutting the bottoms out, gripping the sides and running like hell. It always got a good laugh. It was while two teams were trotting upriver in the semi-final that the spectators noticed the black cloud pouring over Semaphore Hill like boiling jam. Bushfire, said someone. Bushfired be white. Come on . . . That was the thing about fire. If you saw one, everyone went to put it out. Fire spread like wildfire. But as they turned away there was a scream from the riverbed. The teams rounded the bend neck and neck, carrying their boats at a record-breaking speed. They reached the slipway, collided in their efforts to get up it, made it to the top locked together, and collapsed in splinters and screams. Stop the regatta! panted one of the coxes. The river . . . the river . . . But by then everyone could see it. Around the bend, travelling slowly because it was pushing in front of it a huge logjam of bushes, carts, rocks and trees, was the flood. It thundered past and the mobile dam slid on. scything the river bottom free of all obstruction. Behind it foaming water filled the river from bank to bank. They cancelled the regatta. A river full of water made a mockery of the whole idea. The universitys gates had burst open and now the angry mob was in the grounds and hammering on the walls.

  Above the din, the wizards searched feverishly through the books. Well, have you got something like Maxwells Impressive Separator? said Ridcully. Whats that do? said Archchancellor Rincewind. Unmixes two things, like . . . sugar and sand, for example. Uses nannys demons.

  Nano-demons, possibly, murmured Ponder wearily. Oh, like Bonza Charlies Beaut Sieve? Yeah, weve got that.

  Ah, parallel evolution. Fine. Dig it out, man. Archchancellor Rincewind nodded at one of the wizards, and then broke into a grin. Are you thinking about it working on salt? he said. Exactly! One spell, one bucket of seawater, no more problem . . .

  Er, thats not exactly true, said Ponder Stibbons. Sounds perfect to me, man!

 
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