Sunday, April 18, 2010

81 The men in pointy hats

In the furthest reaches of reality, in deep space just a dust mote away from total confabulation, flies great AT'uin the space turtle. eyes the size of planets rimmed with frost, a shell pocked by a thousand craters. Standing atop AT'uin, four giant elephants carry the Discworld. Both world in its own right and mirror of worlds...

If one were to look closer, down past the eccentric orbit of this strange world's relatively tiny dwarf sun and moon, (making up in proximity what they lack in size), down through the cloud cover, down into the heavy magical field of the Ramtop mountains South of Cori Celestii, the home of the gods, in the century of the eloquent Fruit-Elk, one might notice a tiny figure crouched under a rain-logged canopy of coniferous trees and exploding pine cones (I did say a heavy magical field, didn't I?) and if one listened very carefully, one might notice that the tiny figure was very young, crying and wearing a pointy hat.

Also, very definitely, it was a boy.


Why didn't they let me?


Elsewhere, the annual witch trials were over and, uncharacteristically, Granny Weatherwax was happy.

"Esme, you know better than to show, don't you?" Nanny Ogg said reproachfully.
"Boys are for wizardry if they've any craft at all!" said Granny Weatherwax with the certainty of lead striking gelatin.
"But he said he didn't want to be a wizard, he wanted to be a witch!" said Magrat, impulsively, immediately wishing she hadn't.

Granny Weatherwax fixed them both with a sapphire stare that would melt the Scone of Stone as if it were butter.

"There's ways for them and ways for us!" then she stomped off and soon vanished on her broom a head above Nanny's own.

Nanny shook her head, Esme had always been bull-headed but this time Nanny was secretly in agreeement, no boy had ever been a witch in the history of the disc, it was as though the magic knew who had the knack for balance and who had the knack for force.

Boys, as a rule, had a knack for force.

Magrat was the one who broke the silence.

"We should have let him stand the trials! We're not wizards! We're supposed to be fair!"

Nanny suppressed a twinge at the words, Nanny agreed with Esme on principle but Magrat was right, she knew it. But she'd clean her own hearth before admit it, Magrat might be Queen of Lancre, but she was still the most junior member of the Wyrd as far as Nanny was concerned.

Under the conifers, the rain began to abate, the tiny figure cocked his head and pointy hat to one side, aware with a sense he had no words for, that something had made a decision. His eyes dried, he blinked twice...

Are you ready to be taught. It was not a sound, it was not even words, it was a tectonic shift.

Bell, for that was his name, nodded in affirmation, eyes suddenly dry.

The disc moved.

On her broom, Granny Weatherwax suddenly lost her balance, her broom canted suddenly before she could right it. She gritted her teeth and turned her broom towards the foothills of the ramtops.

She found Bell sitting under the exploding pines. He didn't seem to notice her presence. He had a look on his face she'd last seen on Grebo, Nanny's cat. It made her shudder. After several (alright, two) failed attempts to get him out of his reverie gently, she braced herself for the blow back and rapped him sharply on the head.

"...you, you didn't let me--"
"That's enough of that, young Bell, son of Steven, you're my curse now."
"What? What d'you mean?" said Bell thickly, still reeling from the sharp knock of the broomstick she had administered. "I dreamt I was a mountain..."
"Never you mind that nonsense!" Granny was not to be argued with. "Just hear this, you're my debt, understand? for something done years before, I'll say this once and hear it well!"
Bell nodded in awe, sometime during this exchange he had realized who he was addressing. I mean, who hadn't heard of Granny Weatherwax? The most powerful witch and head of the most powerful coven of the Ramtops, some said the the whole disc?
"I'll teach you till the day you ask me why!" Granny rarely bothered repeating herself and didn't bother now.
Bell nodded, not daring to say anything.
Granny, disgusted with herself, told him to get behind him on her broomstick and together they flew, a yard above the ground, to her cottage.

Bell didn't know whether to bless his luck or curse it.

Granny was merciless.

But the memory of the mountains accepting him comforted him.

Meanwhile, Granny schemed how to explain this to Nanny Ogg and Magrat, especially given the fact that, in her heart of hearts, she knew they needn't any explanation at all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

82 Relaxing in the sunshine of an artificial star

Oliphant had been persuaded by his uncle to take a much needed vacation, it was not the sort of thing that most people needed persuasion to undertake but Oliphant was different. He worked as a trans-dimensional waveform speculator, basically a kind of arbitrage broker between dimensions and he enjoyed his work. His uncle was valiant however and soon persuaded Oliphant to put his business away and retire for a fortnight to the perpetual warmth of a climate controlled asteroid he had purchased two years ago in orbit around Smegmellion, an artificial star in the Oomphalos sector.

Oliphant recalled a pleasant weekend he had spent there when his uncle had just purchased the property so he allowed himself to be persuaded. Soon he was reclining on a chaise longue made of energy fields on his uncles' private asteroid. A perfect combination of traditional and modern cocktail ingredients swirling in a crystal glass in one hand and a smoking spider from Xaxis in the other. Later, after a dinner of Nebula crabs and assorted crustaceans he decided he would have a walk around the manicured lawns of the asteroid and see what the robots were up to. His uncle hired robots exclusively for his garden. He was a traditionalist, claimed the new self-maintaining lawns made of nanofloroborg made his feet itch. He preferred real lawn and unaugmented flora. Oliphant considered it an affectation since all the varieties in the garden had themselves been engineered to within an inch of cyborg status themselves. It was so difficult for the previous generation to understand the value of today's trends, mused Oliphant

His uncle, despite his protestations to the contrary, had not been on the asteroid in quite some time, on the surface it looked casually lived in but Oliphant knew the telltale signs of habitation and neither the house nor the asteroid showed any of them, not a single memory module had been accessed from the house library in the past 6 months. Oliphant guessed that his uncle was having a vicarious vacation through him since if anyone logged more time on the job than Oliphant it was his uncle.

His mind wandering, he didn't pay attention to where he went and soon found himself in the Versailles replica section by one of the largest fountains. It was amusing to him that his uncle would have gone to the trouble to recreate this relic when in his estimation, the gardens of Isis on Krkkrk were far more spectacular but he had to hand it to his uncle, wherever he created one of these conceits from his youth he created them with a verisimilitude that went beyond mere adoration and came at fantasy from the other side by engaging in a serious competition with the original referents.

When he surprised the two robots making love under a hedge he excused himself with a minimum of fuss, perhaps later he would invite them into the house. The chrome red model had been quite fanciful.

Bless uncle and his minor perversions!