THE LAST HERO
People think that it is strange to have a turtle ten thousand miles long and an elephant more than two thousand miles tall, which just shows that the human brain is ill-adapted for thinking and was probably originally designed for cooling the blood. It believes mere size is
There's nothing amazing about size. Turtles are amazing, and elephants are quite astonishing. But the fact that there's a big turtle is far less amazing than the fact that there is a turtle
‘Ah, well, life goes on,’ people say when someone dies. But from the point of view of the person who has just died, it doesn't. It's the universe that goes on. Just as the deceased was getting the hang of everything it's all whisked away, by illness or accident or, in one case, a cucumber. Why this has to be is one of the imponderables of life, in the face of which people either start to pray… or become really, really angry.
Some of them could even dream it…
The creature now seeking out a particular building below was a trained Pointless Albatross and, by the standards of the world, was not particularly unusual.1 It was, though, pointless. It spent its entire life in a series of lazy journeys between the Rim and the Hub, and where was the point in that?
This one was more or less tame. Its beady mad eye spotted where, for reasons entirely beyond its comprehension, anchovies could be found. And someone would remove this uncomfortable cylinder from its leg. It seemed a pretty good deal to the albatross and from this it can be deduced that these albatrosses are, if not completely pointless, at least rather dumb.
Not at all like humans, therefore.
Flight has been said to be one of the great dreams of Mankind. In fact it merely harks back to Man's ancestors, whose greatest dream was of falling off the branch. In any case, other great dreams of Mankind have included the one about being chased by huge boots with teeth. And no one says
Three busy hours later Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, was standing in the main hall of Unseen University, and he was impressed. The wizards, once they understood the urgency of a problem, and then had lunch, and argued about the pudding, could actually work quite fast.
Their method of finding a solution, as far as the Patrician could see, was by creative hubbub. If the question was, ‘What is the best spell for turning a book of poetry into a frog?’, then the one thing they would
Now something stood in the centre of the hall. It looked, to the arts-educated Patrician, like a big magnifying glass surrounded by rubbish.
‘Technically, my lord, an omniscope can see anywhere,’ said Archchancellor Ridcully, who was technically the head of All Known Wizardry.2
‘How extremely useful.’
‘Yes, everyone says that,’ said Ridcully, kicking the floor morosely. ‘The trouble is, because the blasted thing can see
‘Twenty past one, for example,’ said the Patrician.
‘Among others, indeed. Would you care to have a look, my lord?’
Lord Vetinari advanced cautiously and peered into the big round glass. He frowned.
‘All I can see is what's on the other side of it,’ he said.
‘All, that's because it's set to
‘Well, if I do
‘And these we call
‘I think not, sir,’ said the wizard. ‘It takes a moment to realise what you're seeing. It helps if you hold up your hand…’
Lord Vetinari gave him a severe look, but essayed a little wave.
‘Oh. How curious. What is your name, young man?’
‘Ponder Stibbons, sir. The new Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, sir. You see, sir, the trick isn't to
‘Inadvisably, sir.’ said Ponder smoothly, as if hoping that he could avoid the problem by driving straight through it. ‘Anyway… I think we can get it to the right area, sir. The power drain is considerable; we may have to sacrifice another gerbil.’
The wizards began to gather around the device.
‘Can you see into the future?’ said Lord Vetinari.