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«Lords And Ladies», Terry Pratchett

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Authors Note

 

By and large, most Discworld novels have stood by themselves, as complete books. It helps to have read them in some kind of order, but it is not essential.

This one is different. I can't ignore the history of what has gone before. Granny Weatherwax first turned up in Equal Rites. In Wyrd Sisters she became the unofficial head of a tiny coven consisting of the easy-going, much-married Nanny Ogg and young Magrat, she of the red nose and unkempt hair and tendency to be soppy about raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens.

And what took place was a plot not unadjacent to a play about a Scottish king, which ended with Verence II becoming king of the little hilly, forested country of Lancre.

Technically, this shouldn't have happened, since strictly speaking he was not the heir, but to the witches he looked like being the best man for the job and, as they say, all's well that ends well. It also ended with Magrat reaching a very tentative Understanding with Verence. . . very tentative indeed, since both of them were so shy they immediately forgot whatever it was they were going to say to one another whenever they met, and whenever either of them did manage to say anything the other one misunderstood it and took offence, and both of them spent a lot of time wondering what the other one was thinking. This might be love, or the next best thing.

In Witches Abroad the three witches had to travel half-way across the continent to face down the Godmother (who had made Destiny an offer it couldn't refuse).

This is the story of what happened when they arrived home.

NOW READ ON . . .

 

Now read on . . .

When does it start?

There are very few starts. Oh, some things seem to be beginnings.

The curtain goes up, the first pawn moves, the first shot is fired[?] but that's not the start. The play, the game, the war is just a little window on a ribbon of events that may extend back thousands of years. The point is, there's always something before. It's always a case of Now Read On.

Much human ingenuity has gone into finding the ultimate Before.

The current state of knowledge can be summarized thus:

In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded.

Other theories about the ultimate start involve gods creating the universe out of the ribs, entrails, and testicles of their father[?]. There are quite a lot of these. They are interesting, not for what they tell you about cosmology, but for what they say about people. Hey, kids, which part do you think they made your town out of?

But this story starts on the Discworld, which travels through space on the back of four giant elephants which stand on the shell of an enormous turtle and is not made of any bits of anyone's bodies.

But when to begin?

Thousands of years ago? When a great hot cascade of stones came screaming out of the sky, gouged a hole out of Copperhead Mountain, and flattened the forest for ten miles around?

The dwarfs dug them up, because they were made of a kind of iron, and dwarfs, contrary to general opinion, love iron more than gold. It's just that although there's more iron than gold it's harder to sing songs about. Dwarfs love iron.

And that's what the stones contained. The love of iron. A love so strong that it drew all iron things to itself. The three dwarfs who found the first of the rocks only got free by struggling out of their chain-mail trousers.

Many worlds are iron, at the core. But the Discworld is as coreless as a pancake.

On the Disc, if you enchant a needle it will point to the Hub, where the magical field is strongest. It's simple.

Elsewhere, on worlds designed with less imagination, the needle turns because of the love of iron.

At the time, the dwarfs and the humans had a very pressing need for the love of iron.

And now, spool time forward for thousands of years to a point fifty years or more before the ever-moving now, to a hillside and a young woman, running. Not running away from something, exactly, or precisely running toward anything, but running just fast enough to keep ahead of a young man although, of course, not so far ahead that he'll give up. Out from the trees and into the rushy valley where, on a slight rise in the ground, are the stones.


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