‘Look after the dead’, said the priests, ‘and the dead will look after you.’
Wise words in all probability, but a tall order when, like Teppic, you have just become the pharaoh of a small and penniless country rather earlier than expected, and your treasury is unlikely to stretch to the building of a monumental pyramid to honour your dead father.
He’d had the best education money could buy of course, but unfortunately the syllabus at the Assassin’s Guild in Ankh-Morpork did not cover running a kingdom and basic financial acumen…
Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the wind screen of his car and hadn’t bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces.
This is the gulf between universes, the chill deeps of space that contain nothing but the occasional random molecule, a few lost comets and …
. . . but a circle of blackness shifts slightly, the eye reconsiders perspective, and what was apparently the awesome distance of interstellar wossname becomes a world under darkness, its stars the lights of what will charitably be called civilization.
For, as the world tumbles lazily, it is revealed as the Discworld – flat, circular, and carried through space on the back of four elephants who stand on the back of Great A’tuin, the only turtle ever to feature on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, a turtle ten thousand miles long, dusted with the frost of dead comets, meteor-pocked, albedo-eyed. No one knows the reason for all this, but it is probably quantum.
Much that is weird could happen on a world on the back of a turtle like that.
It’s happening already.
The stars below are campfires, out in the desert, and the lights of remote villages high in the forested mountains. Towns are smeared nebulae, cities are vast constellations; the great sprawling city of Ankh Morpork, for example, glows like a couple of colliding galaxies.
But here, away from the great centres of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar towards the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.
The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.
The energy streaming up from their paracosmic peaks may, in chapters to come, illuminate many mysteries: why tortoises hate philosophy, why too much religion is bad for goats, and what it is that handmaidens actually do.
It will certainly show what our ancestors would be thinking if they were alive today. People have often speculated about this. Would they approve of modern society, they ask, would they marvel at present-day achievements? And of course this misses a fundamental point. What our ancestors would really be thinking, if they were alive today, is: ‘Why is it so dark in here?’
In the cool of the river valley dawn the high priest Dios opened his eyes. He didn’t sleep these days. He couldn’t remember when he last slept. Sleep was too close to the other thing and, anyway, he didn’t seem to need it. Just lying down was enough – at least, just lying down here. The fatigue poisons dwindled away, like everything else. For a while.
Long enough, anyway.
He swung his legs off the slab in the little chamber. With barely a conscious prompting from his brain his right hand grasped the snake-entwined staff of office. He paused to make another mark on the wall, pulled his robe around him and stepped smartly down the sloping passage and out into the sunlight, the words of the Invocation of the New Sun already lining up in his mind. The night was forgotten, the day was ahead. There was much careful advice and guidance to be given, and Dios existed only to serve.
Dios didn’t have the oddest bedroom in the world. It was just the oddest bedroom anyone has ever walked out of.
Pyramids is our BOTM for January 2022, and is available in ebook for just 99p throughout January 2022.
Buy your copy here: