The wizard frowned, pulling his hat down further over his eyes. Where was all that light coming from?
"Gerroff," he muttered, as something tugged at his hat.
"You really are not a morning person, are you?" Something jabbed at his shoulder. "Wake up now, we haven't much time."
Frowning, Rincewind rolled over, and found himself face-to-face with... oh. So that was where the light was coming from.
It has been said that the most powerful force in all of Creation is Love: able to transcend life and death, more powerful than Time itself, and as unpredictable as any great power can be. In point of fact, the hierarchy of Great Powers can be rather dynamic. There exist, for example, worlds wherein Love is such a powerful force that nothing can hope to gainsay it. There are other worlds in which it is decidedly a lesser power, unable to triumph over even such mutable things as rail schedules.*
Experts in such things agree that there are six elements that comprise all matter on the Disc. The four most notable are Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Surprise, the fifth element, helps to keep those smarty-pants Alchemists on their curly toes. Notability aside, however, the most common element making up the Disc is Narrativium, which permeates everything and ensures the smooth** working of the Disc according to the laws of Narrative Causality.
Due to a large amount of extradimensional influence, however, a heretofore unknown seventh element was creeping into the Disc's makeup, subtly (and in other cases, not so subtly) altering the narrative flow of the stories that make up the Disc's inhabitants. Assassinations were down this week. Bar brawls were at an all-time low. Arguments, while still happening, were more minor and less likely to result in participants needing a separate casket for the extremities no longer geographically associated with their torsos.
Were anyone studying this new element, they would be chagrined to discover that not only did it already have a name, but that one of the foremost experts in its nature was currently sharing a magically cobbled together shelter with a notoriously inept wizard. It is quite fortunate that no one was aware of this change to the balance of elemental power on the Disc, if only because it prevented anyone from naming this element Get-Alongingness.
It was due to this new element that the Luggage, which it must be noted not only raised hostility to an art form, but would be considered a Grand Master in that art, was feeling uncharacteristically companionable. It was also due to this element, combined with the already prevalent (and noted) effects of Narrativium, that certain natives of the Disc found themselves inexorably drawn towards each other, will they or nil they.
* Such worlds, it should be noted, can be identified by the lack of fingles in their creation. Natives of those worlds, sadly, are mostly unaware of this singular lack, having been born in worlds that never had fingles. Despite this lack of basis for comparison, it has been said by One who has cause to know that they were at their cores aware that something was missing, merely lacking the experience and vocabulary to define the missing wossnames.
** Again, the word "smooth" is used guardedly at best. A better choice of words would perhaps be "cobbled together" or, in fact, "not so much smooth as not-at-all-smooth-but-certainly-interesting".
The Librarian did not often feel restless. When he did, it was usually a sort of short-term restlessness, something that could be sorted out by a circumspect visit to the Patrician's private menagerie of a night. Consequently, it took some time for him to take note of the feeling driving him to inspect the stacks yet again.
Whole great swaths of Unseen University had frozen over, now. Those not caught in the preternatural cold front had taken shelter among the books of the University's Library, letting the unearthly magical radiation of the many grimoires, spell-books, and tomes warm their poor bones. Over the desk where the Librarian was wont to curl up with a blanket and a banana or two was a sign, which had never been needed before.
* No Smoking
* No Spellcasting.
** Not Even Pernicus' Persistente Lyght
*** Seriousely, it 'tis notte worthe it.
* NO SMOKING
The Librarian patrolled the stacks once more, noting that the rules were, for a change, being obeyed. He had neither cause nor care to realize that this change was due to the introduction of a new element to the Disc, which we will definitely not be referring to as Get-Alongingness. He also did not realize that it was due to this new element that he felt compelled to wonder where his sometime assistant had gotten himself off to.
It was definitely due to this element that he felt the need to go find out.
Rincewind had encountered deities before. In point of fact, he had even encountered this particular deity before. She just hadn't looked so... quadrupedal. Due to that, and his inability to recall certain crucial facets of his education*, he almost didn't recognize Her.
"Erm," he said, trying to remind himself that it was rude to stare. It helped that she was radiating what would have been a soft warm light, had they not been enclosed in a dome of glittering whiteness, which reflected the warm light, amplified it, and turned it into an all-ecompassing blaze of glory. "I beg your pardon?"
"Ah good," the decidedly equine deity said. "You're awake."
Beside him, Star Swirl the Bearded began to stir. "Mrrf," the pony grunted, pulling his hat down over his eyes as well. "Turn out that ruddy light," he muttered.
"I..." Rincewind was overcome with a staggering - and, for him, horrifying - sense of familiarity. "Erm..." He shrugged. There was nothing for it but to ask. "Have we met?"
The glowing equine grinned, and Rincewind noted the warm, friendly way that grin crinkled the corners of her eyes -- or at least the one eye not obscured by a flowing pastel mane. He felt he could get lost in those eyes, which were green without white or iris, and that was when recognition hit him.
"Lady!" Several expressions vied for control of his face at one time. First, there was the expression that said "please do not smite me O Mighty Smiter," which was a chagrined frown. Second, a warm, slighly nervous grin that contrived to ameliorate the negative effects of the first expression. Third, a terrified sort of grimace that said, in pure Rincewind, "I'm going to die. I don't want to die. I have so much not-dying yet to do." Fourth, an apologetic sort of smile which contrived to brush off the other three expressions.
As these all raced towards Rincewind's face at the same time, some part of his brain became aware of an impending collision in the motor control nerves around his mouth and eyes. He tried gamely to prioritize these expressions and avert a disaster, but, alas, too late. His face tried to make all four expressions at once, and ended up with something entirely impossible to communicate. If his expression represented a sentiment, that sentiment was "gflrghuggah." Realizing that nonverbal communications would not do in this situation, Rincewind attempted to make up for that lack with a more proper greeting.
"Gflrghuggah," he said, then covered his face with his hands. Shame and fear. Ah, there was a familiar expression, and one he could rely on again and again.
The Lady, for Her part, chuckled warmly. "Do relax, Rincewind," She said, "and introduce Me to your friend."
* That is to say, virtually all of it.
Rincewind looked over at Star Swirl the Bearded, who was gaping open-mouthed at this resplendent vision of equine beauty.
"Ahem," said Rincewind. "Star Swirl the Bearded," he said, "may I present the Lady."
"Enchanted," Star Swirl said factually. "Lady what, may I ask?"
Rincewind panicked. "No! No, no, that's, erm... We do not ever refer to Her by name."
The Lady chuckled again. "Indeed," She said. "I am the one god of the Disc who is not called upon by name. I am She of the Million-to-One Chance, and all the other Chances as well. I have no temple, but you may find Me where ever a roll of the dice decides the future."
"Oh," said Star Swirl matter-of-factly. "You mean Lu--"
Rincewind had never tackled a pony before, so he can be forgiven if his desperate need to do so now caused him to forget that this particular pony had something of a hard, bony protrusion from the forehead. He did, however, note, that taking a unicorn to the armpit is, at the very least, painful and not to be recommended. "So," he said, "erm..." How did one broach the subject, he wondered? "What, erm... brings You here?"
The Lady forewent chuckling this time, and simply laughed. "Oh, my, you are entertaining, Rincewind. As to why I am here, things are afoot that I felt you and your new friend should be made aware of."
"You mean the sudden cold front in Ankh-Morpork?"
The Lady nodded. "Not merely in Ankh-Morpork, I should say. In fact, due to a grave miscalculation on the part of one of My opponents, the phenomenon is spreading quite rapidly."
Star Swirl frowned. "I was beginning to suspect as much," he said. "When Rincewind here said it was supposed to be summer--"
"Summer Two," corrected the wizard.
"It's Windigoes, isn't it?"
The Lady nodded. "Much as it pains Me to admit it," She said, "even We gods are finding it... difficult to deal with the incursion. Nothing seems to work."
Star Swirl blinked. "Well, erm... Have You tried, erm... being nice to each other?"
Rincewind stared at Star Swirl. The gods of the Disc were not, he wanted to say, noted for their congeniality. In point of fact, rather than an attitude of live-and-let-live, their basic modus operandi tended more towards live-and-oh-by-the-way-here's-a-nice-plague-to-be-getting-on-with.
"Ah," the Lady said, "I knew I was right when I chose you."
Rincewind, completely at a loss, merely stared back and forth between the goddess and the pony. As he did so, he found himself wondering at Her chosen avatar. Previously, when he and a friend had met the Lady, neither of them had been able to agree on any one thing about Her appearance, apart from the fact that She had been quite beautiful. This time, however, he was mortally certain that if he were to question Star Swirl about Her, the two of them would be able to describe her exactly.
"It's elementary," Star Swirl was saying. "Though they can be downright pernicious at the right - or rather, the wrong - times, Windigoes are fortunately vulnerable to the most common of the five elements that comprise the world."
Rincewind raised a polite finger in objection, realized that there was a good chance he was wrong, and hastily shut his mouth.
"Many scholars of alchemy," continued Star Swirl, undeterred, "believe the world to be formed of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. While this is true for the most part, each of these elements contains at its core a fifth element, which allows them to interact with each other in order to form the fundamental building blocks of reality."
This was all sounding very familiar to Rincewind, who had completely failed to stay awake through quite a similar lecture during his time as a student of Unseen University.
"Without Harmony," said Star Swirl, "Fire consumes Earth, Water douses Fire, and so on. With Harmony, Fire and Earth can combine to form, for example, rubies."
Rincewind had never heard of an Element of Harmony before.* Things were beginning to make a terrible sort of sense to him, which had that familiar feeling of inevitability about it. "And if there weren't such a thing as the Element of Harmony?" he asked, knowing that the answer was as inevitable as it was terrible, much like the rest of his life.
"Well," said Star Swirl the Bearded, "I'd say we'd be in a right fix. We would need to find a way to generate the Element, and preferably quickly."
"That... shouldn't be too difficult, right?"
"I've no idea," Star Swirl answered. "Pony magic depends on the presence of Harmony, though, and as I'm not without magic, that means there must be some around here somewhere."
The Lady, an enigmatic smile on Her fa-- muzzle -- merely watched this exchange.
Rincewind's mind was working harder than it had in a long time, taking new information and attempting to apply it to the information he'd already had. Pony magic depended, he thought, on an Element that modern Wizardry knew nothing of. There were two possibilities: either that element was so intrinsic to everything that they'd somehow overlooked it in centuries of study, or it never existed here.
Okay, he thought, tackle the first possibility. Narrativium, his mind reminded him. Oh, thanks, he thought. Right, narrativium was so ubiquitous as to be omnipresent. And yet it did not remain undiscovered for long. Consequently... there was no such thing as the Element of Harmony. At least, he concluded, not in his world, which was the only one he really cared about at the moment.
So, the second possibility loomed large in his mind. Pony magic, Star Swirl had said, relies on the presence of Harmony to function. Since Harmony was not native to this world, something somewhere must be generating it. Which meant that magic, pony magic, was flowing into a world that had never had it before. Which meant...
Sourcery. Specifically, pony Sourcery, Harmonious Sourcery. Horsery, he concluded, was as good a name as any. Somewhere out in the world was a pony Sourcerer. He looked at the Lady again, curiously. "That," he said, "is a new look for you."
The Lady smiled enigmatically. "Isn't it, though?" she said, then vanished, plunging the two of them into darkness.
* Sadly, more devastating to the stable emotional development of a universe than the early trauma of a Big Bang is the lack of certain nurturing Elements in that universe's creation and growth. The lack of an Element of Harmony in the foundation of a world can lead to war, famine, unfair taxes, short life spans, increased amounts of violence, and, in some extreme cases, the presence of areas in said worlds where even the brave remember pressing engagements elsewhere.
The river Ankh, which normally does not so much flow through the city of Ankh-Morpork as it does ooze, glittered beautifully in the frozen Summer air. It was breathtaking, though not nearly as much as the general chill, which would not only take one's breath away, but surreptitiously replace it with tiny shards of ice just out of sheer maliciousness. On one side, the proud city of Ankh, with its wealthy population and its stunning (or at least garish) architecture. There, protected by numerous spells, none of which were working well enough to suit him, Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of the Unseen University, made his hasty way from one frozen street to another in an effort to reach the offices of the Patrician to discuss the emergency vouchsafed to him by Death's rather unorthodox companion during the Rite of Ashk'Ente.
As the slippery footing, combined with the difficulty in breathing, will cause his journey to take longer than he anticipated, we leave him to his devices for now, and gaze across the frozen river at the city of Morpork, a city with a long history of less-than-moral-rectitude. Nestled deep in the dark alleys of Morpork is an even darker set of alleys, where none but the brave, suicidal, or desperate dare to tread. The dark maze of streets where, even in the height of the noonday sun, a combination of architecture and tradition ensure that there are far more shadows than even dimly lit areas, is known colloquially as The Shades.
The Shades is the sort of place that the lowliest dregs of humanity can look to and think "well, I may be murdering, raping scum, but at least I don't live in the Shades" and feel better about themselves. The Shades has few regular visitors, if only because most visitors find themselves quite expectedly and unsurprisingly deceased, usually within minutes of their first visit. It is not, in short, the sort of place one goes to, for example, catch up on the local gossip while getting a pedicure.
"An' then," the troll was saying, "Beryllia, you remember Beryllia, she's the one wot had that big to-do wif 'er 'usband about the job at the Widdershins Bridge..."
"Mmm-hmm," the pedicurist said, filing away at the lichen that stubbornly refused to lose its grip on her client's nails.
"Anyway, she says that Ole Granite-puss ack-tually saw Lias Bluestone down the Mended Drum, kin yer believe it?"
She could believe it, if only because she had no idea who Lias Bluestone was. "Do tell," she said dutifully.
"Yeh, an o' course Granite-puss sez he'd of got 'is autograph, but that Rincewind squashy went an' started a ruckus to do wif all the cold weather goin' on."
The file, a durable piece of equipment she'd bought from a stonemason once it became apparent whom her clientele was going to be, snapped. "I'm sorry," said Conina, "did you say Rincewind?"
Moments later, she was off down the street, headed for the tiny, ramshackle hovel she and her husband called "Home-for-lack-of-a-better-word", leaving a surly, and slightly wounded, troll in her wake. The sign in the door behind the troll read:
Hair, Nails, and Roguish Adventuer!
Hair $5, Nails $2,
Closed Until Furthur Note-us.