"You can make that bit up," said Vena. "No, ma'am," said the minstrel. "I don't think I can. I don't think this is going to end in any way that I could make up. Not when I look at Mr Cohen there in his fish hat and Mr Willie as the God of Being Sick Again. No, I want to come along. Mr Dread can wait for me here. And I'll be perfectly safe, sir. No matter what. Because I'm absolutely certain that when the gods find they're under attack by a man with a tomato on his head and another one disguised as the Muse of Swearing they're really, really going to want the whole world to know what happened next." Leonard was still out cold. Rincewind tried mopping his brow with a wet sponge. "Of course I watched him," said Carrot, glancing back at the gently moving levers. "But he built it. so it was easy for him. Um ... I shouldn't touch that, sir ..." The Librarian had swung himself into the drivers seat and was sniffing the levers. Somewhere underneath them, the automatic tiller clicked and purred. "We're going to have to come up with some ideas soon," Rincewind said. "It won't fly itself for ever."
"Perhaps if we gently ... I shouldn't do that, sir-" The Librarian gave the pedals a cursory glance. Then he pushed Carrot away with one hand while the other unhooked Leonard's flying goggles from their hook. His feet curled around the pedals. He pushed the handle that operated Prince Haran's Tiller and, far under his feet, something went thud. Then, as the ship shook, he cracked his knuckles, reached out, waggled his fingers for a moment, and grabbed the steering column. Carrot and Rincewind dived for their seats. The gates of Dunmanifestin swung open, apparently by themselves. The Silver Horde walked inside, keeping together, peering around suspiciously. "You better mark our cards for us, lad." whispered Cohen, looking around the busy streets. "I wasn't expecting this."
"Sir?" said the minstrel. "We expected a lot of carousing in a big 'all," said Boy Willie. "Not... shops. And everyone's different sizes!"
"Gods can be any size, I reckon," said Cohen, as gods burned towards them. "Maybe we could ... come back another time?" said Caleb.
The doors slammed behind them. "No," said Cohen. And suddenly there was a crowd around them. "You must be the new gods," said a voice from the sky. "Welcome to Dunmanifestin! You'd better come along with us!"
"Ah, the God of Fish," said a god to Cohen, falling in beside him. "And how are the fish, your mightiness?"
"Er ... what?" said Cohen. "Oh ... er ... wet. Still very wet. Very wet things."
"And dungs?" a goddess asked Hamish. "How are things?"
"Still lyin' aroond!"
"And are you omnipotent?"
"Aye, lass, but there's pills I'm takin' f'r it!"
"And you're the Muse of Swearing?" said a god to Truckle. "Bloody right!" said Truckle desperately. Cohen looked up and saw Offler the Crocodile God. He wasn't a god who was hard to recognise, but in any case Cohen had seen him many times before. His statue in temples throughout the world was a pretty good likeness, and now was the time for a man to reflect on the fact that so many of those temples had been left a good deal poorer as a result of Cohen's activities. He didn't, however, because it was not the kind of thing he ever did. But it did seem to him that the Horde was being hustled along. "Where're we off to, friend?" he said. "To watch the Gameth, your fithneth." said Offler. "Oh, yeah. That's where yo- we play around with u- mortals, right?" said Cohen. "Yes, indeed," said a god on the other side of Cohen. "And currently we've found some mortals actually attempting to enter Dunmanifestin."
"The devils, eh?" said Cohen pleasantly. "Give 'em a taste of hot thunderbolt, that's my advice. It's the only language they understand."
"Mostly because it's the only language you use," mumbled the minstrel, eyeing the surrounded gods. "Yes, we thought something like that would be a good idea," said the god. "I'm Fate, by the way."
"Oh, you're Fate?" said Cohen, as they reached the gaming table. "Always wanted to meet you. I thought you were supposed to be blind?"
"How about if someone stuck two fingers in yer eyes?"
"Just my little joke."
"Ha. Ha," said Fate. "I wonder, O God of Fish, how good a player you are?"
"Never been much of a gambler." said Cohen, as a solitary dice appeared between Fate's fingers. "A mug's game."
"Perhaps you would care for a little .. . venture?" The crowd went silent. The minstrel looked into Fate's bottomless eyes, and knew that if you played dice with Fate the roll was always fixed. You could have heard a sparrow fall. "Yeah." said Cohen, at last. "Why not?" Fate tossed the die on to the board. "Six," he said, without breaking eye contact. "Right," said Cohen. "So I've got to a get a six too, yeah?" Fate smiled. "Oh. no. You are, after all. a god. And gods play to win. You, O mighty one, must throw a seven."
"Seven?" said the minstrel. "I fail to see why this should present a difficulty," said Fate, "to one entitled to be here." Cohen turned the die over and over. It had the regulation six sides.
"I could see that could present a difficulty," he said, "but only for mortals, o' course." He tossed the die up in the air once or twice. "Seven?" he said. "Seven," said Fate. "Could be a knotty one." said Cohen. The minstrel stared at him, and felt a shiver run down his spine. "You'll remember I said that, lad?" Cohen added. The Kite banked through high cloud. "Ook!" said the Librarian happily. "He flies it better than Leonard did!" said Rincewind. "It must come more ... easily," whispered Carrot. "You know ... what with him being naturally atavistic."
"Really? I've always thought of him as quite good-natured. Except when he's called a monkey, of course." The Kite turned again, curving through the sky like a pendulum. "Ook!"
""If you look out of the left window you can see practically everywhere"." Rincewind translated. "Ook!"
""And if you look out of the right window, you can see-" Good grief!" There was the Mountain. And there, glittering in the sunlight, was the home of the gods. Above it, just visible even in the brilliant air, was the shimmering misty funnel of the world's magical field earthing itself at the centre of the world. "Are you, er, are you much of a religious man yourself?" said Rincewind as clouds whipped by the window. "I believe all religions do reflect some aspect of an eternal truth, yes," said Carrot. "Good wheeze." said Rincewind. "You might just get away with it"
"And you?" said Carrot. "We-ll... you know that religion that thinks that whirling round in circles is a form of prayer?"
"Oh, yes. The Hurtling Whirlers of Klatch."
"Mine is like that, only we go more in ... straight lines. Yes. That's it. Speed is a sacrament."
"You believe it gives you some sort of eternal life?"
"Not eternal, as such. More ... well, just more, really. More life. That is," Rincewind added, "more life than you would have if you did not go very fast in a straight line. Although curving lines are acceptable in broken country." Carrot sighed. "You're just a coward really, aren't you?"
"Yes, but I've never understood what's wrong with the idea. It takes guts to run away, you know. Lots of people would be as cowardly as me if they were brave enough." They looked out of the window again. The mountain was nearer. "According to the mission notes," said Carrot, thumbing through the sheaf of hastily written research notes that Ponder had thrust into his hand just before departure. "a number of humans have entered Dunmanifestin in the past and returned alive."
"Returned alive per se is not hugely comforting." said Rincewind. "With their arms and legs? Sanity? All minor extremities?"
"Mostly they were mythical characters," said Carrot, uncertainly. "Before or after?"
"The gods traditionally look favourably on boldness, daring and audacity," Carrot went on. "Good. You can go in first."
"Ook," said the Librarian. "He says we'll have to land soon," said Carrot. "Was there some position we're supposed to get into?"
"Ook!" said the Librarian. He seemed to be fighting the levers. "What do you mean, "lie on your back with your arms folded across your chest"?"
"Didn't you watch what Leonard did when he landed us on the moon?"
"And that was a good landing," said Rincewind. "Oh well, shame about the end of the world, but these things happen, eh?" WOULD YOU LIKE A PEANUT? I AM AFRAID IT IS A LITTLE HARD TO GET THE PACKET OPEN. A ghostly chair hung in the air next to Rincewind. A violet flaring round the edge of his vision told him that he was suddenly in a little private time and space of his own. "So we are going to crash?" he said. POSSIBLY. I'M AFRAID THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE IS MAKING MY JOB VERY DIFFICULT. HOW ABOUT A MAGAZINE? The Kite curved around and began to glide gently towards the clouds aroud Cori Celesti. The Librarian glared at the levers, bit one of two of them, tugged the handle of Prince Haran's Tiller and then swung himself back along the cabin and hid under a blanket. "We're going to land in that snowfield." said Carrot, slipping into the pilot's seat. "Leonard designed the ship to land in snow, didn't he? After all-" The Kite did not so much land as kiss the snow. It bounced up into the air, glided a little further, and touched down again. There were a few more skips, and then the keel was running crisply and smoothly over the snowfield. "Outstanding!" said Carrot. "It's just a walk in the park!"
"You mean people are going to mug us and steal all our money and kick us viciously in the ribs?" said Rincewind. "Could be. We're heading directly towards the city. Have you noticed?" They stared ahead. The gates of Dunmanifestin were getting closer very quickly. The Kite breasted a snowdrift and sailed on. "This is not the time to panic," said Rincewind. The Kite hit the snow, rebounded into the air and flew through the gateway of the gods. Halfway through the gateway of the gods. "So ... seven and I win." said Cohen. "It comes down showin' seven and I win, right?"
"Yes. Of course," said Fate. "Sounds like a million-to-one chance to me." said Cohen. He tossed the die high in the air, and it slowed as it rose, tumbling glacially with a noise like the swish of windmill blades. It reached the top of its arc and began to fall. Cohen was staring fixedly at it, absolutely still. Then his sword was out of its scabbard and it whirled around in a complex curve. There was a snick and a green flash in the middle of the air and ... ... two halves of an ivory cube bounced across the table. One landed showing the six. The other landed showing the one. One or two of the gods, to the minstrel's amazement, began to applaud. "I think we had a deal?" said Cohen, still holding his sword. "Really? And have you heard the saying "You cannot cheat Fate"?" said Fate. Mad Hamish rose in his wheelchair. "Ha' ye heard the sayin' "Can yer mither stitch, pal"?" he yelled. As one man, or god, the Silver Horde closed up and drew its weaponry. "No fighting!" shouted Blind Io. "That is the rule here! We've got the world to fight in!"
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