"He doesn't say. But... ah, yes. He wants us to fly directly towards the sun." Leonard gave them one of his bright smiles. It faced three blank stares. "It will mean allowing one or two individual dragons to flare for a few seconds, to bring us around, and then-"
"The sun," said Rincewind. "It's hot; said Carrot. "Yes, and I am sure we're all very glad of that," said Leonard, unrolling a plan of the Kite. "Ook!"
"He said. "And this boat is made of wood!"" said Rincewind. "All that in one syllable?"
"He's a very concise thinker! Look. Stibbons must have made a mistake. I wouldn't trust a wizard to give me directions to the other side of a very small room!"
"He does seem to be a bright young man, though," said Carrot. "You'll be bright, too, if you're in this thing when it hits the sun," said Rincewind. "Incandescent. I expect."
"We can point the Kite if we're very careful how we operate the port and starboard mirrors." said Leonard thoughtfully. "There may be a little trial and error..."
"Ah, we seem to have the hang of it." said Leonard. He turned over a small eggtimer. "And now, all dragons for two minutes ..."
"I ssuppose he'll ttell uss ssoon wwhat happens nnext?" shouted Carrot, while behind them dungs tinkled and creaked. "MMr Sstibbonss hhas ttwo ththousand yyears of uuniversity eexpertise bbehind hhim!" yelled Leonard, above the din. "Hhow mmuch of ththat hhas iinvolved ssteering fflying sships wwith ddragons?" screamed Rincewind. Leonard leaned against the tug of home-made gravity and looked at the eggtimer. "Aabout wwwwwone hhundred sseconds!"
"Ah! Iiit'ss ppractically aaa ttradition, tthenn!" Erratically, the dragons stopped flaming. Once again, things filled the air. And there was the sun. But no longer circular. Something had clipped its edge. "Ah," said Leonard. "How clever. Gentlemen, behold: the moon!"
"We're going to hit the moon instead?" said Carrot, "is that better?"
"My feelings exactly." said Rincewind. "Ook!"
"I don't think we're going so very fast," said Leonard. "We're only just catching it up. I think Mr.Stibbons intends that we land on it." He flexed his fingers. "There's some air there, I'm sure of it." he went on. "Which means there is probably something we can feed to the dragons. And then, and this is very clever thinking, we ride on the moon until it rises over the Disc, and all we need to do is drop down lightly." He kicked the release on the wing levers. The cabin raided to the spinning of the flywheels. On either side, the Kite spread its wings. "Any questions?" he said. "I'm trying to think of all the things that could go wrong," said Carrot. "I've got to nine so far." said Rincewind. "And I haven't started on the fine detail." The moon was getting bigger, a dark sphere eclipsing the light of the distant sun. "As I understand it." said Leonard, as it began to loom in the windows, "the moon, being much smaller and lighter than the Disc, can only hold on to light things, like air. Heavier things, like the Kite, should hardly be able to stay on the ground."
"And that means ... ?" said Carrot. "Er .. . we should just float down," said Leonard. "But holding on to something might be a good idea ..." They landed. It's a short sentence, but contains a lot of incident. There was silence on the boat, apart from the sound of the sea and Ponder Stibbons's urgent muttering as he tried to adjust the omniscope. "The screams..." murmured Mustrum Ridcully, after a while. "But then they screamed a second time, a few seconds later." said Lord Vetinari. "And a few seconds after that? said the Dean. "I thought the omniscope could see anywhere," said the Patrician, watching the sweat pour off Ponder. "The shards, er, don't seem stable when they're too far apart, sir," said Ponder. "Uh ... and there's still a couple of thousand miles of world and elephant between them ... ah ..." The omniscope flickered, and then went blank again.
"A good wizard, Rincewind." said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. "Not particularly bright, but, frankly, I've never been quite happy with intelligence. An overrated talent, in my humble opinion." Ponder's ears went red. "Perhaps we should put a small plaque up somewhere in the University," said Ridcully. "Nothing garish, of course."
"Gentlemen, are you forgetting?" said Lord Vetinari. "Soon there will be no University."
"Ah. Well, a small saving there, then."
"Hello? Hello? Is there anyone there?" And there was. fuzzy but recognisable, a face peering out of the omniscope. "Captain Carrot?" Ridcully roared. "How did you get that damn thing to work?"
"I just stopped sitting on it, sir."
"Are you all right? We heard screams!" said Ponder. "That was when we hit the ground, sir? "But then we heard screams again."
"That was probably when we hit the ground for the second time, sir? "And the third time?"
"Ground again, sir. You could say the landing was a bit...tentative...for a while there." Lord Vetinari leaned forward. "Where are you?"
"Here, sir. On the moon. Mr.Stibbons was right. There is air here. It's a bit thin, but it's fine if your plans for the day include breathing? "Mr Stibbons was right, was he?" said Ridcully, staring at Ponder. "How did you work that out so exactly. Mr Stibbons?"
"I, er ..." Ponder felt the eyes of the wizards on him. "I-" He stopped. "It was a lucky guess, sir." The wizards relaxed. They were extremely uneasy with cleverness, but lucky guessing was what being a wizard was all about. "Well done, that man," said Ridcully, nodding. "Wipe your forehead. Mr Stibbons. you've got away with it again."
"I've taken the liberty of asking Rincewind to take a picture of me planting the flag of Ankh-Morpork and claiming the moon on behalf of all the nations of the Disc, your lordship. Carrot went on. "Very ... patriotic," said Lord Vetinari. "I may even tell them."
"However. I can't show you this on the omniscope be, cause, shortly afterwards, something ate the flag. Things here .. . aren't entirely what you'd expect, sir." They were definitely dragons. Rincewind could see that. But they resembled swamp dragons in the same way that greyhounds resembled those odd yappy little dogs with lots of Zs and Xs in their name. They were all nose and sleek body, with longer arms and legs than the swamp variety, and they were so silvery that they looked like moonlight hammered into shape. And ... they flamed. But it was not from the end that Rincewind had hitherto, associated with dragons. The strange thing was, as Leonard said, that once yon stopped sniggering about the whole idea it made a lot of sense. It was so stupid for a flying creature to have a weapon which stopped it dead in midair, for example. Dragons of all sizes surrounded the Kite, watching it with deer-like curiosity. Occasionally one or two would leap into the air and roar away, but others would land to join the throng. They stared at the crew of the Kite as if they were expecting them to do tricks, or make an important announcement.
There was greenery, too. except that it was silver. Lunar vegetation covered most of the surface. The Kite's third bounce and long slide had left a trail through it. The leaves were- "Hold still, will you?" Rincewind's attention was drawn to his patient as the Librarian struggled; the problem with bandaging an orangutan's head is knowing when to stop. "It's your own fault," he said. "I told you. Small steps, I said. Not giant leaps." Carrot and Leonard bounced around the side of the Kite. "Hardly any damage at all," said the inventor as he drifted down. "The whole thing took the shock remarkably well. And we're pointing slightly upwards. In this ... general lightness, that should be quite sufficient to allow us to take off again, although there is one minor problem- Shoo, will you?" He waved away a small silver dragon that was sniffing at the Kite, and it took off vertically on a needle of blue flame. "We're out of food for our dragons," said Rincewind. "I've looked. The fuel bunker broke open when we landed for the first time."
"But we can feed them some of the silver plants, can't we?" said Carrot. "The ones here seem to do very well on them."
"Aren't they magnificent creatures?" said Leonard as a squadron of the creatures sailed overhead. They turned to watch the flight, and then stared beyond it. There was possibly no limit to how often the view could amaze you. The moon was rising over the world, and elephant's head filled half the sky. It was ... simply big. Too big to describe. Wordlessly, all four voyagers climbed a small mound to get a clear view, and they stood in silence for some time. Dark eyes the size of oceans stared at them. Great crescents of ivory obscured the stars. There was no sound but the occasional click and swish as the iconograph imp painted picture after picture. Space wasn't big. It wasn't there. It was just nothing and therefore, in Rincewind's view; nothing to get humble about. But the world was big, and the elephant was huge. "Which one is it?" said Leonard, after a while. "I don't know." said Carrot. "You know, I'm not sure I ever really believed it before. You know about the turtle and the elephants and everything. Seeing it all like this makes me feel very ... very ..."
"Scared?" suggested Rincewind. "No."
"No." Beyond the Rimfall, the continents of the world were coming into view under swirls of white cloud. "You know ... from up here ... you can't see the boundaries between nations," said Carrot, almost wistfully. "Is that a problem?" said Leonard. "Possibly something could be done."
"Maybe huge, really huge buildings in lines, along the frontiers," said Rincewind. "Or ... or very wide roads. You could paint them different colours to save confusion."
"Should aerial travel become widespread." said Leonard, "it would be a useful idea to grow forests in the shape of the name of the country, or of other areas of note. I will bear this in mind."
"I wasn't actually sugges-" Carrot began. And then be stopped, and just sighed.
They went on watching, unable to tear themselves away from the view. Tiny sparkles in the sky showed where more flocks of dragons were sweeping between the world and the moon. "We never see them back home," said Rincewind. "I suspect the swamp dragons are their descendants, poor little things," said Leonard. "Adapted for heavy air."
"I wonder what else lives down here that we don't know about?" said Carrot. "Well, there's always the invisible squid-like creature that sucks all the air out of-" Rincewind began, but sarcasm did not carry very well out here. The universe diluted it. The huge, black, solemn eyes in the sky withered it. Besides, there was just... too much. Too much of everything. He wasn't used to seeing this much universe all in one go. The blue disc of the world, unrolling slowly as the moon rose, looked outnumbered, "It's all too big." said Rincewind. "Yes."
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