Eric Page 2

The wizards stared into the magic octogram, which remained empty. After a while the circle of robed figures began to mutter amongst themselves. “We must have done something wrong.” “Oook.” “Maybe He is out.” “Or busy...” “Do you think we could give up and go back to bed?”

WHO ARE WE WAITING FOR, EXACTLY? The Bursar turned slowly to the figure beside him. You could always tell a wizard's robe; it was bedecked with sequins, sigils, fur and lace, and there was usually a considerable amount of wizard inside it. This robe, however, was very black. The material looked as though it had been chosen for its hard-wearing qualities. So did its owner. He looked as though if he wrote a diet book it would be a bestseller.

Death was watching the octogram with an expression of polite interest.

“Er,” said the Bursar. “The fact is, in fact, that, er, you should be on the inside.” I'M SO SORRY. Death stalked in a dignified way into the centre of the room and watched the Bursar expectantly.

I HOPE WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY OF THIS “FOUL FIEND” BUSINESS AGAIN, he said. “I trust we are not interrupting any important enterprise?” said the Bursar. TO SOMEBODY. “Er. Er. The reason, o fou - sir, that we have called you here, is for the reason -” IT IS RINCEWIND. “What?” THE REASON YOU HAVE SUMMONED ME. THE ANSWER IS: IT IS

RINCEWIND. “But we haven't asked you the question yet!” NEVERTHELESS THE ANSWER IS: IT IS RINCEWIND. “Look, what we want to know is, what is causing this outbreak of... oh.” Death pointedly picked invisible particles off the edge of his scythe. The Archchancellor cupped a gnarled hand over his ear. “What'd he say? Who's the fella with the stick?” “It's Death, sir. You know.”

“Tell him we don't want any,” said the old wizard, waving his stick.

The Bursar sighed. “We summoned him, Archchancellor.”

“Is it? What'd we go and do that for? Bloody silly thing to do.”

The Bursar gave Death an embarrassed grin. He was on the point of asking him to excuse the Archchancellor on account of his age, but realised that this would in the circumstances be a complete waste of breath.

“Are we talking about the wizard Rincewind? The one with the -” the Bursar gave a shudder - “horrible Luggage on legs? But he got blown up when there was all that business with the sourcerer*, didn't he?” (*The Bursar was referring obliquely to the difficult occasion when the University very nearly caused the end of the world, and would in fact have done so had it not been for a chain of events involving Rincewind, a magic carpet and a half-brick in a sock. (See Sourcery.) The whole affair was very embarrassing to wizards, as it always is to people who find out afterwards that they were on the wrong side all along, and it was remarkable how many of the University's senior staff were now adamant that at the time they had been off sick, visiting their aunt, or doing research with the door locked while humming loudly and had had no idea of what was going on outside. There had been some desultory talk about putting a statue up to Rincewind but, by the curious alchemy that tends to apply in these sensitive issues, this quickly became a plaque, then a note on the Roll of Honour, and finally a motion of censure for being improperly dressed.)


“Can he do that?”


“That isn't likely to happen, is it?” said the Bursar anxiously. People who have it on record that they were visiting their aunt for two months are always nervous about people turning up who may have mistakenly thought that they weren't, and owing to some trick of the light might have believed they had seen them doing things that they couldn't have been doing owing to being at their aunt's.


TO ONE CHANCE. “Oh,” said the Bursar, intensely relieved. “Oh dear. What a shame.” He brightened up considerably. “Of course, there's all the noise. But, unfortunately, I expect he won't survive for long.”


“No! No, of course not,” said the Bursar hurriedly. “Right. Well, many thanks. Poor chap. What a great pity. Still can't be helped. Perhaps we should be philosophical about these things.”

PERHAPS YOU SHOULD. “And we had better not keep you,” the Bursar added politely. THANK YOU. “Goodbye.” BE SEEING YOU. In fact the noise stopped just before breakfast. The Librarian was the only one unhappy about it. Rincewind had been his assistant and his friend, and was a good man when it came to peeling a banana. He had also been uniquely good at running away from things. He was not, the Librarian considered, the type to be easily caught.

There had probably been an unusual conjunction of circumstances. That was a far more likely explanation.

There had been an unusual conjunction of circumstances. By exactly a million to one chance there had been someone watching, studying, looking for the right tools for a special job.

And here was Rincewind.

It was almost too easy.

So Rincewind opened his eyes. There was a ceiling above him; if it was the floor, then he was in trouble.

So far, so good. He cautiously felt the surface he was laying on. It was grainy, woody in fact, with the odd nail-hole. A human sort of surface.

His ears picked up the crackle of a fife and a bubbling noise, source unknown.

His nose, feeling that it was being left out of things, hastened to report a whiff of brimstone. Right, so where did that leave him? Lying on a rough wooden floor in a firelit room with something that bubbled and gave off sulphurous smells. In his unreal, dreamy state he felt quite pleased at this process of deduction. What else? Oh, yes. He opened his mouth and screamed and screamed and screamed.

This made him feel slightly better. He lay there a bit longer. Though the tumbled heap of his memories came the recollections of mornings in bed when he was a little boy, desperately subdividing the passing time into smaller and smaller units to put off the terrible moment of getting up and having to face all the problems of life such as, in this case, who he was, where he was, and why he was.

“What are you?” said a voice on the edge of his consciousness. “I was coming to that,” muttered Rincewind. The room oscillated into focus as he pushed himself up on his elbows.

“I warn you,” said the voice, which seemed to be coming from a table, “I am protected by many powerful amulets.”

“Jolly good,” said Rincewind. “I wish I was.”

Details began to distil out of the blur. It was a long, low room, one end of which was occupied by an enormous fireplace. A bench all down one wall contained a selection of glassware apparently created by a drunken glassblower with hiccups, and inside its byzantine coils coloured liquids seethed and bubbled. A skeleton hung from a hook in a relaxed fashion. On a perch beside it someone had nailed a stuffed bird. Whatever sins it had committed in life, it hadn't deserved what the taxidermist had done to it.

Rincewind's gaze swept across the floor. It was obvious that it was the only sweeping the floor had had for some time. Only around him had space been cleared among the debris of broken glass and overturned retorts for

A magic circle.

It looked an extremely thorough job. Whoever had chalked it was clearly aware that its purpose was to divide the universe into two bits, the inside and the outside.

Rincewind was, of course, inside.

“Ah,” he said, feeling a familiar and almost comforting sense of dread sweep over him.

“I adjure and conjure thee against all aggressive acts, o demon of the pit,” said the voice from, Rincewind now realised, behind the table.

“Fine, fine,” said Rincewind quickly. “That's all right by me. Er. It isn't possible that there has been the teeniest little mistake here, could there?”


“Right!” said Rincewind. He looked around him desperately. “How?”

“Don't you think you can lure me to my doom with thy lying tongue, o fiend of Shamharoth,” said the table. “I am learned in the ways of demons. Obey my every command or I will return thee unto the boiling hell from which you came. Thou came, sorry. Thou came'st, in fact. And I really mean it.”

The figure stepped out. It was quite short, and most of it was hidden by a variety of charms, amulets and talismans which, even if not effective against magic, would have protected it against a tolerably determined sword thrust. It wore glasses and had a hat with long sidepieces that gave it the air of a short-sighted spaniel.

It held a sword in one shaking hand. It was so heavily etched with sigils that it was beginning to bend.

“Boiling hell, did you say?” said Rincewind weakly.

“Absolutely. Where the screams of anguish and the tortured torments -”

“Yes, yes, you've made your point,” said Rincewind. “Only, you see, the thing is, in fact, that I am not a demon. So if you would just let me out?”

“I am not fooled by thy outer garb, demon,” said the figure. In a more normal voice it added, “Anyway, demons always lie. Well-known fact.”

“It is?” said Rincewind, clutching at this straw. “In that case, then - I am a demon.”

“Aha! Condemned out of your own mouth!”

“Look, I don't have to put up with this,” said Rincewind. “I don't know who you are or what's happening, but I'm going to have a drink, all right?”

He went to walk out of the circle, and went rigid with shock as sparks crackled up from the runic inscriptions and earthed themselves all over his body.

“Thou mays'nt - thou maysn't - thou mays'n't -” The conjurer of demons gave up. “Look, you can't step over the circle until I release you, right? I mean, I don't want to be unpleasant, it's just that if I let you out of the circle you will be able to resume your true shape, and a pretty awful shape it is too, I expect. Avaunt!” he added feeling that he wasn't keeping up the tone.

“All right. I'm avaunting. I'm avaunting,” said Rincewind, rubbing his elbow. “But I'm still not a demon.”

“How come you answered the conjuration, then? I suppose you just happened to be passing through the paranatural dimensions, eh?”

“Something like that, I think. It's all a bit blurred.” “Pull the other one, it has got bells on.” The conjurer leaned his sword against a lectern

on which a heavy book, dripping bookmarks, lay open. Then he did a mad little jig on the floor. “It's worked!” he said. “Heheh!” He caught sight of Rincewind's horrified gaze and

pulled himself together. He gave an embarrassed cough, and stepped up to the lectern. “I really am not -” Rincewind began. “I had this list here somewhere,” said the figure. "Let's see, now. Oh, yes. I command

you - thee, I mean - to, ah, grant me three wishes. Yes. I want mastery of the kingdoms of the world, I want to meet the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, and I wan to live forever." He gave Rincewind an encouraging look.

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