Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job.
Death is the Grim Reaper of the Discworld, a black-robed skeleton with a scythe who ushers souls into the next world. He is also fond of cats and endlessly baffled by humanity. Soon Death is yearning to experience what humanity really has to offer, but to do that, he’ll need to hire some help.
It’s an offer Mort can’t refuse. As Death’s apprentice he’ll have free board, use of the company horse – and being dead isn’t compulsory. It’s a dream job – until Mort falls in love with Death’s daughter, Ysabell, and discovers that your boss can be a killer on your love life . . .
This is the bright candlelit room where the lifetimers are stored – shelf upon shelf of them, squat hourglasses, one for every living person, pouring their fine sand from the future into the past. The accumulated hiss of the falling grains makes the room roar like the sea.
This is the owner of the room, stalking through it with a preoccupied air. His name is Death.
But not any Death. This is the Death whose particular sphere of operations is, well, not a sphere at all, but the Discworld, which is flat and rides on the back of four giant elephants who stand on the shell of the enormous star turtle Great A’Tuin, and which is bounded by a waterfall that cascades endlessly into space.
Scientists have calculated that the chance of anything so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.
But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.
Death clicks across the black and white tiled floor on toes of bone, muttering inside his cowl as his skeletal fingers count along the rows of busy hourglasses.
Finally he finds one that seems to satisfy him, lifts it carefully from its shelf and carries it across to the nearest candle. He holds it so that the light glints off it, and stares at the little point of reflected brilliance.
The steady gaze from those twinkling eye sockets encompasses the world turtle, sculling through the deeps of space, carapace scarred by comets and pitted by meteors. One day even Great A’Tuin will die, Death knows; now, that would be a challenge.
But the focus of his gaze dives onwards towards the blue-green magnificence of the Disc itself, turning slowly under its tiny orbiting sun.
Now it curves away towards the great mountain range called the Ramtops. The Ramtops are full of deep valleys and unexpected crags and considerably more geography than they know what to do with. They have their own peculiar weather, full of shrapnel rain and whiplash winds and permanent thunderstorms. Some people say it’s all because the Ramtops are the home of old, wild magic. Mind you, some people will say anything.
Death blinks, adjusts for depth of vision. Now he sees the grassy country on the turnwise slopes of the mountains.
Now he sees a particular hillside.
Now he sees a field.
Now he sees a boy, running.
Now he watches.
Now, in a voice like lead slabs being dropped on granite, he says: YES.