"Yes, I heard you'd settled down." said Cohen, dipping the ladle into the stew and tasting it. "Married an innkeeper, didn't you? Hung up your sword, had kids ..."
"Grandchildren," said Mrs McGarry. proudly. But then the proud smile faded. "One of them's taken over the inn, but the other's a paper-maker."
"Running an inn's a good trade," said Cohen. "But there's not much heroing in wholesale stationery. A paper cut's just not the same." He smacked his lips. "This is good stuff, girl."
"It's funny," said Vena. "I never knew I had the talent, but people will come miles for my dumplings."
"No change there, then, said Truckle the Uncivil. "Hur, hur. hur."
"Truckle," said Cohen, "remember when you told me to tell you when you were bein' too uncivil?"
"That was one of those times."
"Anyway," said Mrs McGarry, smiling sweetly at the blushing Truckle. "I was sitting around after Charlie died, and I thought, well, is this it? I've just got to wait for the Grim Reaper? And then ... there was this scroll..."
"What scroll?" said Cohen and Evil Harry together. Then they stared at one another. "Y'see," said Cohen, reaching into his pack. "I found this old scroll, showing a map of how to get to the Mountains and all the little tricks for getting past-"
"Me too," said Harry. "You never told me!"
"I'm a Dark Lord. Cohen," said Evil Harry patiently. "I'm not supposed to be Captain Helpful."
"Tell me where you found it, at least."
"Oh, in some ancient sealed tomb we was despoilin'."
"I found mine in an old storeroom back in the Empire," said Cohen. "Mine was left in my inn by a traveller all in black," said Mrs McGarry. In the silence, the minstrel said, "Um? Excuse me?"
"What?" said all three together. "Is it just me." said the minstrel, "or are we missing something here?"
"Like what?" demanded Cohen. "Well, these scrolls all tell you how to get to the mountain, a perilous trek that no one has ever survived?"
"So ... um ... who wrote the scrolls?" A few of the Discworld gods, passing the time, as they do. L to R: Sessifet, goddess of the afternoon, Offler the Crocodile-Headed. Flatulus (God of the winds), Fate. Urika (Goddess of saunas, snow and theatrical performances for fewer than 120 people). Blind Io (chief of the Gods, and general Thundering). Libertina (Goddess of the sea, apple pie, certain types of ice cream and short lengths of string), The Lady (don't even ask), Bibulous (god of wine and things on sticks). Patina (back, goddess of wisdom). Topaxi (front god of certain mushrooms, and also of great ideas that you forgot to write down and will never remember again, and of people who tell other people that "dog" is "god" spelled backwards and think this is in some way revelatory). Bast (back, god of things left on the doorstep or half-digested under the bed), and Nuggan (a local god, but also in charge of paperclips, correct things in the right place in small desk stationery-sets, and unnecessary paperwork). Offler the Crocodile looked up from the playing board which was, in fact, the world. "All right, who doth he belong to?" he lisped. "We've got a clever one here." There was a general craning of necks among the assembled deities, and then one put up his hand. "And you are ... ?" said Offler. "The Almighty Nuggan. I'm worshipped in parts of Borogravia. The young man was raised in my faith."
"What do Nugganiteth believe in?"
"Er ... me. Mostly me. And followers are forbidden to eat chocolate, ginger, mushrooms and garlic." Several of the gods winced. "When you prohibit you don't meth about, do you?" said Offler. "No sense in forbidding broccoli, is there? That sort of approach is very old-fashioned." said Nuggan. He looked at the minstrel. "He's never been particularly bright up till now. Shall I smite him? There's bound to be some garlic in that stew, Mrs McGarry looks the type." Offler hesitated. He was a very old god, who had arisen from steaming swamps in hot, dark lands. He had survived the rise and fall of more modem and certainly more beautiful gods by developing, for a god, a certain amount of wisdom. Besides, Nuggan was one of the newer gods, all full of hellfire and self- importance and ambition. Offler was not bright, but he had some vague inkling that for long-term survival gods needed to offer their worshippers something more than a mere lack of thunderbolts. And he felt an ungodlike pang of sympathy for any human whose god banned chocolate
and garlic. Anyway, Nuggan had an unpleasant moustache. No god had any business with a fussy little moustache like that. "No," he said, shaking the dice box. "It'll add to the fun." Cohen pinched out the end of his ragged cigarette, stuffed it behind his ear, and looked up at the green ice. "It's not too late to turn back," said Evil Harry. "If any-one wanted to, I mean."
"Yes it is," said Cohen, without looking around. "Besides, someone's not playing fair."
"Funny, really," said Vena. "All my life I've gone adventuring with old maps found in old tombs and so on, and I never ever worried about where they came from. It's one of those things you never think about, like who leaves all the weapons and keys and medicine kits lying around in the unexplored dungeons."
"Someone he setting a trap," said Boy Willie. "Probably. Won't be the first trap I've walked into." said Cohen. "We're going up against the gods, Cohen." said Harry. "A man does that, a man's got to he sure of his luck."
"Mine's worked up to now," said Cohen. He reached out and touched the rock face in front of him. "It's warm."
"But it's got ice on!" said Harry. "Yeah. Strange, eh?" said Cohen. "It's just like the scrolls said. And see the way the snow's sticking to it? It's the magic. Well... here goes ..." Archchancellor Ridcully decided that the crew needed to be trained. Ponder Stibbons pointed out that they were going into the completely unexpected, and Ridcully ruled therefore that they should be given some unexpected training. Rincewind, on the other hand, said that they were heading for certain death, which everyone managed eventually with no training whatsoever. Later he said that Leonard's device would do, though. After five minutes on it, certain death seemed like a release. "He's thrown up again, said the Dean. "He's getting better at it, though," said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. "How can you say that? Last time it was a whole ten seconds before he let go!"
"Yes, but he's throwing up more, and it's going further," said the Chair as they strolled away. The Dean looked up. It was hard to see the flying device in the shadows of the tarpaulin-covered barge. Sheets were spread over the more interesting bits. There were strong smells of glue and varnish. The Librarian, who tended to get involved in things, was hanging peacefully from a spar and hammering wooden pegs into a plank. "It'll be balloons, you mark my words." said the Dean. "I've got a mental picture. Balloons and sails and rigging and so on. Probably an anchor, too. Fanciful stuff"
"Over in the Agatean Empire they have kites big enough to carry men," said the Chair. "Perhaps he's just building a bigger kite, then." In the distance Leonard of Quirm was sitting in a pool of light, sketching. Occasionally he'd hand a page to a waiting apprentice, who would hurry away. "Did you see the design he came up with yesterday?" said the Dean. "Had this idea that they might have to get outside the machine to repair it so - so he designed a sort of device to let you fly around with a dragon on your back! Said it was for emergencies!"
"What kind of emergency would be worse than having a dragon strapped to your back?" said the Chair of Indefinite Studies.
"Exactly! The man lives in an ivory tower!"
"Does he? I thought Vetinari had him locked up in some attic."
"Well, I mean, years of that is going to give a man a very limited vision, in my humble opinion. Nothing much to do but tick the clays off on the wall."
"They say he paints good pictures," said the Chair. "Well, pictures, said the Dean dismissively. "But they say that his are so good the eyes follow you round the room."
"Really? What does the rest of the face do?"
"That stays where it is, I suppose." said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. "To me, this does not sound good," said the Dean as they wandered out into the daylight. At his desk, while considering the problem of steering a craft in thin air, Leonard carefullv drew a rose. Evil Harry shut his eyes. "This does not feel good." he said. "It's easy when you get used to it." said Cohen. "It's just a matter of how you look at things." Evil Harry opened his eyes again. He was standing on a broad, greenish plain, which curved down gently to right and left. It was like being on a high, grassy ridge. It stretched off into a cloudy distance. "It's just a stroll," said Boy Willie, beside him. "Look, my feet aren't the problem here," said Evil Harry. "My feet aren't quarrelling. It's my brain."
"It helps if you think of the ground as being behind you," said Boy Willie. "No," said Evil Harry. "It doesn't." The strange feature of the mountain was this: once a foot was set on it, direction became a matter of personal choice. To put it another way, gravity was optional. It stayed under your feet, no matter which way your feet were pointing. Evil Harry wondered why it was affecting only him. The Horde seemed entirely unmoved. Even Mad Hamish's horrible wheelchair was howling along happily in a direction which, up until now, Harry had thought of as vertical. It was, he thought, probably because Evil Lords were generally brighter than heroes. You needed some functioning brain cells to do the payroll even for half a dozen henchmen. And Evil Harry's braincells were telling him to look straight ahead and try to believe that he was strolling along a broad, happy ridge and on no account to turn around, to even think about turning round, because behind him was gnh gnk gnk ... "Steady on!" said Boy Willie, steadying his arm. "Listen to your feet. They know what they're about." To Harry's horror, Cohen chose this moment to turn around. "Will you look at that view!" he said. "I can see everybody's house from up here!"
"Oh, no, please, no." mumbled Evil Harry, flinging himself forward and holding on to the mountain. "It's great, isn't it?" said Truckle. "Seein' all them seas sort of hanging right over you like- What's up with Harry?"
"Just a bit poorly," said Vena. To Cohen's surprise, the minstrel seemed quite at home with the view. "I came from up in the mountains," he explained. "You get a head for heights up there."
"I bin to everywhere I can see," said Cohen, looking around. "Been there, done that... been there again, done it twice ... nowhere left where I ain't been ..."
The minstrel looked him up and down, and a kind of understanding dawned. I know why you are doing this now, he thought. Thank goodness for a classical education. Now, what was the quote? ""And Carelinus wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer"," he said. "Who's that bloke? You mentioned him before," said Cohen. "You haven't heard of the Emperor Carelinus?"
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