Page 12


"We have separated the first dragons and everything is going well, sir," said Carrot. "No, it's not!" Rincewind shouted. "They want to go dow-!" Without turning his head. Carrot reached around behind Leonard and pulled Rincewind's hat down over his face. "The second-stage dragons will be about ready to burn now," said Leonard. "We had better get on, Mr Stibbons."

"Please take careful observations of all-" Ponder began, but Leonard had politely closed the case. "Now then." he said, "if you gentlemen will undo the clips beside you and turn the large red handles you should be able to start the process of folding the wings back in. I believe that as we increase speed, the impellers will make the process easier." He looked at Rincewind's blank face as the angry wizard freed himself from his hat. "We will use the rushing air as we fall to help us reduce the size of the wings, which we will not require for a while."

"I understand that." said Rincewind distantly. "I just hate it."

"The only way home is down, Rincewind," said Carrot, adjusting his seat belt. "And put your helmet on!"

"So if everyone would once again hold tight?" said Leonard, and pushed gently on a lever. "Don't look so worried, Rincewind. Think of it as a sort of... well, a magic carpet ride ..." The Kite shuddered. And dived ... And suddenly the Rimfall was under them, stretching to an infinite mist horizon, its rocky outcrops now islands in a white wall. The ship shook again, and the handle Rincewind had been leaning on started to move under its own power. There was no solid surface any more. Every piece of the ship was vibrating. He stared out of the porthole next to him. The wings, the precious wings, the things that kept you up, were folding gracefully in on themselves ... "Rincewind," said Leonard, a blur in his seat, "please ppull the bblack lleverr!" The wizard did so, on the basis that it couldn't make things worse. But it did. He heard a series of thumps behind him. Five score of dragons, having recently digested a hydrocarbon-rich meal, saw their own reflections in front of them as a rack of mirrors was, for a moment, lowered in front of their cages. They flared.

Something crashed and smashed, back in the fuselage. A giant foot pressed the crew back into their seats. The Rimfall blurred. Through red-rimmed eyes they stared at the speeding white sea and the distant stars and even Carrot joined in the hymn of terror, which goes: "Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhggggggg ..." Leonard was trying to shout something. With terrible effort Rincewind turned his huge and heavy head and just made out the groan: "Ttthe wwwhite lllever!" It took him years to reach it. For some reason his arms had been made out of lead. Bloodless fingers with muscles weak as string managed to get a grip and tow the lever back. Another foreboding thump rattled the ship. The pressure ceased. Three heads thumped forward. And then there was silence. And lightness. And peace. Dreamily, Rincewind pulled down the periscope and saw the huge fish section curving gently away from them. It came apart as it flew, and more dragons spread their wings and whirled away behind the Kite. Magnificent. A device for seeing behind you without slowing down? Just the thing no coward should be without. "I've got to get one of these," he murmured. "That seemed to go quite well, I thought," said Leonard. "I'm sure the little creatures will get hack, too. Flitting from rock to rock ... yes, I'm sure they will..."

"Er ... there's a strong draught by my seat-" Carrot began. Ah, yes ... it would be a good idea to keep the helmets handy," Leonard said. "I've done my best, varnishing and laminating and so forth ... but the Kite is not, alas, completely airtight. Well, here we are; well on our way," he added brightly. "Breakfast, anyone?"

"My stomach feels very-" Rincewind began, but stopped. A spoon drifted past, tumbling gently. "What has switched off the downness?" he demanded. Leonard opened his mouth to say: No, this was expected, because everything is falling at the same speed, but he didn't, because he could see this was not a happy thing to say. "It's the sort of thing that happens," he said. "It's ... er ... magic."

"Oh. Really? Oh." A cup bumped gently off Carrot's ear. He batted it away and it disappeared somewhere aft. "What kind of magic?" he said. The wizards were clustered around the piece of omniscope, while Ponder struggled to A picture exploded into view. It was horrible. "Hello? Hello? This is Ankh-Morpork calling!" The gibbering face was pushed aside and Leonard's dome rose slowly into view. "Ah, yes. Good morning," he said. "We are having a few ... teething troubles." From somewhere offscreen came the sound of someone being sick. "What is going on"?" bellowed Ridcully. "Well, you see, it's rather amusing ... I had this idea of putting food in tubes, you see, so that it could be squeezed out and eaten neatly in weightless conditions and, er, because we didn't tie everything down, er, I'm afraid my box of paints came open and the tubes got, er, confused, so what Mr Rincewind thought was broccoli and ham turned out to be Forest Green ... er."

"Let me speak to Captain Carrot, will you?"

"I'm afraid that is not entirely convenient at the moment," said Leonard, his face clouded with concern.

"Why? Did he have the broccoli and ham too?"

"No, he had the Cadmium Yellow." There was a yelp and a series of clangs somewhere behind Leonard. "On the brighter side, however. I can report that the Mk II privy appears to function perfectly" The Kite, in its headlong plunge, curved back towards the Rimfall. Now the water was a great tumbling cloud of mist. Captain Carrot hovered in front of a window, taking pictures with the iconograph. "This is amazing," he said. "I'm sure we'll find the answers to some questions that have puzzled mankind for millennia."

"Good. Can you get this frying pan off my back?" said Rincewind. "Urn," said Leonard. It was a sufficiently troubling syllable for the others to look at him. "We seem to be, er, losing air rather faster than I thought," said the genius. "But I'm sure the hull isn't any leakier than I allowed for. And we seem to be falling faster, according to Mr Stibbons. Uh ... it's a little difficult to piece it all together, of course, because of the uncertain effects of the Disc's magical field. Um ... we should be all right if we wear our helmets all the time ..."

"There's plenty of air nearer to the world, isn't there?" said Rincewind. "Can't we just fly into it and open a window?" Leonard stared mournfully into the mists that filled half of their view. "We are, er, moving very fast." he said, slowly. "And air at this speed ... air is ... the tiling about air ... tell me, what do you understand by the words "shooting star"?"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Rincewind demanded. "Um ... that we die an immensely horrible death"

"Oh, that," said Rincewind. Leonard tapped a dial on one of the tanks of air. "I really don't think my calculations were that wro-" Light exploded into the cabin. The Kite rose through tendrils of mist. The crew stared. "No one will ever believe us." said Carrot, eventually. He raised his iconograph towards the view and even the imp inside, which belonged to a species that was seldom impressed with anything, said ""Gosh!" in a tiny voice as it painted furiously. "I don't believe this," said Rincewind. "and I'm seeing it." A tower, an immensity of rock, rose from the mist. And looming over the mist, huge as worlds. the backs of four elephants. It was like flying through a cathedral, thousands of miles high. "It sounds like a joke," Rincewind babbled, "elephants holding up the world, hahaha ... and then you see it.. ."

"My paints, where are my paints .. . ?" mumbled Leonard. "Well, some of them are in the privy," said Rincewind. Carrot turned, and looked puzzled. The iconograph floated away, trailing small curses. "And where's my apple?" he said. "What?" said Rincewind, perplexed at the sudden subject of fruit. "I'd just started eating an apple, and I just rested it in the air ... and it's gone? The ship creaked in the glaring sunlight. And an apple core came tumbling gently through the air. "I suppose there are just the three of us aboard?" said Rincewind innocently. "Don't be silly," said Carrot. "We're sealed in!"

"So .. . your apple ate itself?" They looked at the jumble of bundles held in the webbing behind them.

"I mean, call me Mr Suspicious," said Rincewind, "but if the ship is heavier than Leonard thought, and we're using up more air, and food is vanishing-"

"You're not suggesting that there's some kind of monster floating around below the Rim that can bore into wooden hulls, are you?" said Carrot, drawing his sword. "Ah, I hadn't thought of that one," said Rincewind. "Well done."

"Interesting," said Leonard. "It would be, perhaps, a cross between a bird and a bivalve. Somewhat squid-like, possibly, using jets of-"

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, yes!" Carrot pulled out a roll of blankets and tried to look back along the cabin. "I think I saw something move," he said. "Just behind the air reservoirs ..." He ducked under a bundle of skis and disappeared into the shadows. They heard him groan. "Oh, no ..."

"What? What?" said Rincewind. Carrot's voice was muffled. "I've found a ... it looks like a ... skin ..." Ah, fascinating." said Leonard, sketching on his notepad. "Possibly, once aboard a hospitable vessel, such a creature would metamorphose into-" Carrot emerged, a banana skin kebabed on the end of his sword. Rincewind rolled his eyes. "I have a very definite feeling about this." he said. "So have I." said Carrot. It took them some time, but finally they pushed away a box of dishcloths and there were no more hiding places. A worried face looked out of the nest it had made. "Ook?"it said. Leonard sighed, laid aside his pad and opened up the omniscope's box. He banged on it once or twice, and it flickered and showed the outline of a head. Leonard took a deep breath. "Ankh-Morpork, we have an orangutan ..." Cohen sheathed his sword. "Wouldn't have expected much to be living up here." he said, surveying the carnage. "There's even less now," said Caleb. The latest fight had been over in the twinkling of an eye and the cleaving of a backbone. Any ... creatures that ambushed the Horde did so at the end of their lives. "The raw magic here must be huge." said Boy Willie. "I suppose creatures like this get used to living off it. Sooner or later something will learn to live anywhere."

"It's certainly doing Mad Hamish good," said Cohen. "I'll swear he's not as deaf as he was."

"Whut?"

"I SAID YOU'RE NOT AS DEAF AS YOU WERE, HAMISH!"

"There's no need to shout, mon!"

"Can we cook 'em. do you think?" said Boy Willie. "They'll probably taste a bit like chicken," said Caleb. "Everything does, if you're hungry enough."

"Leave it to me." said Mrs McGarry. "You get a fire going, and I'll make this taste more like chicken than ... chicken," Cohen wandered off to where the minstrel was sitting by himself, working on the remains of his lute. The lad had brightened up considerably as the climb progressed. Cohen thought. He had completely stopped whimpering. Cohen sat down next to him.

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***