Rincewind the Wizard was running in terror for his life. This was, as anyone who knew him could attest, no new event. The wizard was often running in terror for his life. In fact, among many people who knew him (or at least knew of him), it was said that if Rincewind wasn't afraid, there was nothing to be afraid of. Death had stared Rincewind in the back of the rapidly-fleeing head too many times to count. What was one more?
The problem, this time, was not Rincewind's fault. It seldom was, in fact. Here it was, a good two weeks into what should be a typical Ankh-Morporkian summer, and there had been a rime of frost on everything.
It was unnatural, people said.
And there was Rincewind, quietly minding his own business in his usual spot in the Mended Drum, nursing what could be referred to as a beer if one were feeling particularly generous, quietly and horrifyingly aware of the way people were looking at him. And of the fact that he had "Wizzard" written in large, glittery letters on his hat.
And if there was one thing Rincewind knew, apart from the fastest egress from any particular location -- he had raised the survival instinct to an almost artistic level, some said -- it was that when unnatural things began occurring, wizards quite quickly became targets.
This in and of itself would not be a problem for most wizards. Rincewind, however, was not most wizards. In point of fact, when, at one point, he had risen to the challenge of defeating a Sourceror armed with a half-brick in a sock, it could be argued that his weapon had more magical potential than he had. And it hadn't been a particularly magical half-brick.*
And so it was that, while the heads of the Eight Orders of Wizardry met to discuss the unseasonable weather in the lofty towers of Unseen University, the lowliest member of that University's faculty fled through the streets of Morpork, navigating more by memory and scent than sight, as the city was going by in a blur.
Left at the fishmonger's stall, he told himself as the stench of dead fish actually managed to improve the general atmosphere**. Left again, no, right at the Temple of Small Gods. Ah, to travel the open road, he thought. No one trying to kill him, the safety and boredom of a long trek, that would do a body good.
Getting caught by the pursuing (and, thankfully, slowly dissipating) crowds, he decided, would not.
* The sock, being one of his, had had a weapons-grade stench about it, but even less magical potential than the half-brick. Even so, it could still be argued that the sock had more magical potential than Rincewind.
** Citizens of Ankh-Morpork referred to the atmosphere about the city as "air with character." Others preferred the phrases "dear gods what died?" or, more succinctly, "yech."
It was peculiar about the weather, Rincewind found himself thinking as he walked away from the city, and no mistake. To call it unseasonably cold would have been an understatement of a nearly world-shaking nature.
"Good gods, it's unseasonably cold," he muttered, and while the world failed to shake, his shivering nearly made up for it. Grimacing, he pulled his battered robe around himself tighter, and set off grimly away from the city and, he hoped, trouble. He had no idea where he was going -- it was his considered opinion that when running away, one should never waste time worrying about where to run to -- but it had to be better (and, indeed, warmer) than here.
He was surprised, after a time, to find he didn't have the road to himself after all. Ahead of him, just cresting a hill, was an odd little silhouette. (There was an even odder silhouette approaching behind him, but he expected that one eventually, it hardly counted, and anyway, it was best not to think about it.) Based on the shape of the hat, his first thought was that it was another wizard. The problem was, he thought, that he'd never heard of a dwarf wizard before. Nor did he see anything resembling a staff.
The silhouette waved and called out to him. Shrugging, he picked up the pace and went to meet him.
There is a frequently mentioned theory that for every possible outcome of every possible event, there is a universe in which that outcome took place. Some refer to these as parallel universes, despite the term being grossly inaccurate. Even more inaccurately, some refer to these as parallel dimensions.
The fact is that they are neither universes nor dimensions. Neither are they parallel. They are, in fact, tangential offshoots along the probability and possibility axes of the single universe (often inaccurately referred to as a multiverse) in which all things exist.
None of this is important at this time, and it is only tangentially relevant to the situation at hand. What is relevant, however, is that due to the disconnect between these realities, their chronology is often discontinuous. Which is to say that time in one reality has no bearing on time in another.
Really clever wizards have postulated that this discontinuity could be used to effectively travel through time, as once you have exited one reality, your point of reentry to it is completely open. The disc has lost more really clever wizards in attempts at this temporal sleight-of-hand than to any other means, barring the natural, healthy competition for promotion within the wizardly community.
Wizards who put more stock in wisdom than cleverness say that this is all just as well and it's no more than what they deserve for mucking about with causality, the young whipper-snappers.
The only bearing any of this has on Rincewind and Star Swirl the Bearded, however, is the rather odd coincidence that at the exact moment that Rincewind was waving to one pony, another pony was introducing herself to a recently deceased Morporkian pie seller. Compounding the coincidence, she greatly resembled the Earth-pony Chancellor (from whom she was several generations descended) Puddinghead, and was close friends with a direct descendent of his own apprentice, Clover the Clever (with whom her friend also shared an uncanny resemblance).
In point of fact, the cross-connections that could be made between Rincewind, Star Swirl the Bearded, and Pinkie Pie were so convoluted that it would take an entire team of wizards, twelve pasta chefs, and an incredibly patient vole* to work them all out.
Lacking in pasta chefs, we shall simply move on.
* It is a little-known fact that voles are exceptional at navigating the many diverse courses of transtemporal reality, which quite resemble the complex burrows the creatures live in. Their powers of comprehension, however, leave something to be desired.
It wasn't the first time Rincewind questioned his sanity. There was the time he'd most emphatically not encountered those talking trees. There was also the thing with the talking rocks, but as those had turned out to be trolls, that was all right. Well, apart from the repeated near-death-experiences that accompanied it. Those hadn't been all right at all.
This was, however, the first time he had ever encountered a pony that was:
* Wearing a robe and wizard's hat (with bells on, no less)
* Bearded, and
* Asking for help.
So he found himself in one of those awkward internal dialogues, questioning his sanity (which steadfastly refused to have anything to do with this situation and therefore wouldn't answer). After a few minutes of this fruitless activity, he realized the pony was looking at him expectantly, and had in fact just asked him a question.
"Erm?" he said, helpfully.
"I said," the pony repeated, "I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to the Unicorn Kingdom from here. It's just that I've lost my way, you see."
Rincewind had traveled all over the Disc in the course of his varied (and harried) life, and even traveled to another world no less than three times (possibly four). Nevertheless...
"Never heard of it," he said. "Sorry," he felt compelled to add.
Star Swirl sighed, looking momentarily forlorn. "Oh well," he said. "No sense getting depressed about it." There is a certain inevitability to life, Rincewind had observed in the past, so it was with a dawning sense of horror that he heard the odd creature continue on to say, "this could be an adventure!"
Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully stood at the head of a great, intricate octogram in the heart of Unseen University. Around him, the seven other heads of the magical orders of the Disc. Before him, a task he had sincerely hoped would not come up. The preparations had taken the better part of an hour - normally, they took several, but it was cold and people were in a hurry. The words remained to be said, however, and he looked around at the assembled wizards.
"Look," he said, "are we quite sure we're agreed on this?"
"Oh yes," one of the assembled wizards said. "No question." The others muttered reassuringly.
"It's just that, well, one gets the sense that, well... He doesn't appreciate being bothered."
"My ale froze this morning," said another wizard glumly. "Solid."
The Archchancellor sighed, and began the invocation of the Rite of AshkEnte. There was the familiar thickening of the atmosphere in the octogram, the darkening of all colours save octarine*, the... confetti and party streamers?
"Surprise!" There, in the center of the octogram, besides the expected anthropomorphic personification, was a most peculiar sight: a jubilant, somehow pink, pony.
Do forgive her, said Death. She is new.
"Hi!" the enthusiastic apparition said, grabbing Ridcully's hand between two startlingly warm and solid hooves and shaking enthusiastically. "I'm Pinkie Pie! I'm so happy to meet you! I've got a new part-time job and it's been loads and loads and loads of fun, but I was really kind of hoping I would get to meet some live people and now here you are! And here I am! This is going to be so great! We'll play pin-the-tail-on-the-pony and we'll dance and--"
Pinkie, Death said patiently. Let the man speak.
"Sorry," the pink pony said, her ears drooping.
"O Foul an--"
Please, Death said, holding up a bony hand imploringly. My patience is, as you can see, already strained. Traditions aside, may we skip the "foul creature" nonsense and get to the point?
"Ahem," said Ridcully after a moment. "Of course. I, erm... Am I to understand you have replaced your traditional pale mount for this creature?"
It is, said Death, a long story.**
"We were, erm, wondering," said Ridcully, thrown off his stride by the unexpected appearance of Pinkie Pie, combined with the breach of tradition embodied in Death's request to skip the formalities of the Rite, "what you could tell us about, erm... the sudden onset of cold weather."
Am I to understand, said Death, that you summoned me here for that?
"Well," said Ridcully, "well, yes, to be perfectly honest."
That is unfortunate.
I find myself at a loss to answer, you see. Whatever is happening is outside of my experience.
"But," said Ridcully, "you're... well, you're supposed to know the past and future as well as the present."
This is true.
"You're supposed to know, well, everything."
This, alas, said Death, is not.
"Wait a minute," interrupted Pinkie Pie. "You mean like really really really cold weather that's, like, out of nowhere?"
"Yes," said one of the assembled wizards, "exactly!"
"And no matter what you do, it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse?"
"So far," admitted Ridcully.
"Oooh! Oooh! I know what it is! Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!"
In the sky far above Ankh-Morpork, invisible to the freezing citizens below, an equine shape loomed over the bifurcated city and gorged itself on the inherent disharmony of the large city. The Windigo snorted a blizzard in its contentment, and settled down to really make a mess of things.
* Octarine, for the uninitiated, is the eighth colour, the colour of magic. It is invisible to most people, and comprised of all other colours, but wizards, whose eyes have the necessary octagons to perceive it, often describe it as being a sort of greenish purplish yellow.
** But a good one. It can be found here.