They say that light moves slower on the Discworld due to the high concentration of magic in the atmosphere. If this were true, then the same could be said of time, especially inside the hallowed walls of UU during nap time. The buildings themselves seemed to slump as many of their inhabitants snoozed and dozed in welcoming armchairs, in their comfortable beds, and in locked studies (you could never be too careful).
All was peaceful.
All was calm.
The lazy sunny afternoon was abruptly interrupted by a sudden noise.
By itself it only caused a wizard or two in the closest proximity to stir momentarily and then drift back off to sleep.
But it was not by itself.
It sounded again, this time louder.
Several wizards emerged from their chambers, bleary-eyed and annoyed at whatever had awoken them. However, their annoyance was not a patch on the anger that they were about to witness. In the expansive Archchancellor’s office, Mustrum Ridcully chalked his cue and lined up his shot. He leaned down over his desk-cum-pool table, the day’s paperwork – and the day’s before that, pushed on to the floor with not a second thought. He closed one eye and pulled back, ready to strike.
The echoing noise caused Ridcully to completely miss his shot and, what was worse, to rip a several-inch long gouge in the once pristine baize. The Librarian, Ridcully’s opponent of the day, winced as he saw the Archchancellor’s eyes widen, never a good sign.
‘Buggeration!’ spat Ridcully, standing up straight. He looked at his now ruined pool table, then at the Librarian, and then around in the general direction that the noise had emanated from.
The latest noise was enough to move some of the pool balls. The Librarian caught Ridcully’s glare and shrugged.
‘What the devil is going on?’ Ridcully threw his cue down on to the table and stormed out of his office, heading in the direction of the noise. A number of other senior wizards were in the corridors, seemingly waiting for Ridcully to appear and shout at whatever was causing such a racket. Say what you will about Mustrum Ridcully, but he was good at shouting at things.
‘Archchancellor!’ said the Dean, puffing as he trotted fatly up to Ridcully. ‘We…’
‘Out of the way, man!’ said Ridcully, impatiently. ‘Someone’s in for a bloody roasting when I get my hands on ‘em!’
‘Yes, Archchancellor,’ said the Dean, dutifully, inwardly relieved that the matter was now not his problem anymore. ‘We, um, we believe it’s coming from the front door.’
The Archchancellor growled.
‘Well, whoever’s knocking on my door better be ready,’ he said. ‘I was damn well winnin’ that game!’ The Dean looked at Ridcully, puzzled, and then at the Librarian. The orang-utan gave a slight nod to indicate that this was indeed true. More senior wizards joined the throng that followed Ridcully as he strode purposefully towards the main entrance hall, eager to see him tear a strip off of whoever was making all the noise.
By the time Ridcully approached the massive double doors he had a good portion of the faculty following him, at a respectable distance so as to minimise the risk of them getting bellowed at.
Ridcully’s moustache bristled, and he stuck out his chest and clenched his fists.
‘Right!’ He took hold of the large iron door handles and flung the doors open with an impressive display of strength. ‘Just what do you think…?’
There was no one there.
Well, that wasn’t strictly true.
As Ridcully scanned his eye-line for the culprit he felt something hard bump into the side of his leg.
It was the Luggage.
The ambulatory trunk padded slowly but determinedly past the baffled Archchancellor, who watched it go with a frown. The Luggage looked battered and bruised. Not least of which, sticking out of its lid were several arrows.
‘What in blazes?’ was all the Archchancellor could manage.
‘Um, that’s…’ began the Dean, eager as always to be as helpful as he could.
‘Wait, I know that box!’ said Ridcully, snapping his fingers. ‘Seen it about the place. Belongs to that chap…what’s his name…Breakwind?’
‘Um, Rincewind, sir,’ said the Dean, quietly.
‘Right, Rincewind. Well, where is he? I thought this damned thing was supposed to follow its owner to the ends of the earth.’
‘I think it has.’ The Lecturer in Recent Runes stepped forward and knelt down besides the Luggage. It had stopped in the middle of the entrance hall and was sitting there making everyone feel rather uncomfortable.
‘What do you mean, man?’ barked Ridcully.
‘These arrows,’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. ‘The vanes suggest Howondaland.’ He stood up and looked around at his colleagues with a grim expression.
‘Well,’ said the Dean. ‘Rincewind did get about a lot, as I recall.’
‘Not always by choice, from what I remember,’ said the Senior Wrangler, nodding.
‘So the man had a soft spot for forn parts,’ said Ridcully, impatiently. ‘That doesn’t explain why his soddin’ suitcase is making such a din. And just where is he anyway? Man should mind his luggage.’
‘Luggage, sir,’ said the Dean.
Um…Archchancellor…’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes, as he bent down again towards the Luggage.
‘What?’ The Lecturer in Recent Runes stood back up with one of the arrows in his hand. Attached to the business end was a scrap of material, scruffy and most definitely blood-stained. Ridcully was handed the arrow, material and all, and, turning it over in his hands he could quite clearly make out two Zs picked out in shabby sequins. Some of them had come away, but there was no mistaking it.
It had belonged to Rincewind.
An unpleasant silence befell the entrance hall. The Archchancellor stared at the material for a moment longer before realisation dawned.
Seemingly satisfied that its message had been conveyed, the Luggage rose on its many feet again and slunk off into the university proper. Wizards stepped quietly out of its way as it trudged away down a corridor. If it was possible for a piece of luggage to look forlorn then the Luggage was managing it quite effectively.
Back in the entrance hall, the silence was broken by a loud sniff coming from the Librarian. The great ape wiped his nose with a long and hairy forearm and looked at his assembled colleagues.
‘I’m…I’m sorry,’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. ‘I know he was your friend.’
‘Ook.’ The Librarian knuckled off sadly in the direction of the Library, leaving the remaining wizards standing in the entrance hall, trying not to meet each other’s gazes. Rincewind had never been what you would have called a popular wizard, and the unavoidable fact that the orang-utan and the walking box were quite possibly his only friends sat heavy in the stomachs of the gathered mages, especially the Dean’s, as he had more stomach to go around than anyone else. Finally, against all odds, it was the Archchancellor who broke the silence.
‘As I recall he was a bloody useless wizard, but a wizard he was nonetheless. I expect to see you all at the service.’
‘The service?’ The other senior wizards were now not sure if they were talking to the same Mustrum Ridcully that had been in the post the day before.
‘Yes, the service,’ said Ridcully, flatly. ‘Man was a wizard. Got to be done proper. It’s the lore.’
* * *
Dressed in what looked like his most sombre hunting attire, Ridcully stood silently and nodded quiet approval as the other senior wizards shuffled into view. Being a country lad at heart, the Archchancellor had insisted that a memorial service for the fallen Rincewind be held outside in the university grounds. Many of the senior wizards were not used to going outside, and they did their best to hide their distaste for natural light and fresh air as Ridcully cleared his throat for attention.
‘Brothers,’ he began. He noticed the Librarian, standing amongst the wizards with a black band around his upper left arm. ‘And apes. We are gathered here today to say farewell to our late comrade, Rincewind.’
There was a general shuffling of feet as the wizards acknowledged the Archchancellor’s words. There was another audible sniff as the Librarian fought for control of his emotions. Ridcully looked at his assembled staff and frowned.
‘Where’s the trunk?’ he asked. ‘I can’t see it missing something like this, what with its connection to the old boy and all.’
‘We…um…we can’t find it, Archchancellor,’ ventured the Dean.
‘What do you mean you can’t find it?’ asked Ridcully, incredulously. ‘It’s a damn walking box! Even in a place like this that’s unusual.’
‘It’s true, Archchancellor,’ said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. ‘No one has seen the Luggage since it arrived and left the entrance hall. We believe it may be in mourning.’
Despite the setting, Ridcully scoffed.
‘Hell of a thing when furniture goes off grieving.’ The remark was met with a polite cough but little else. Ridcully decided it was high time to get things started, box or no box.
‘Well, I can’t says as I had much to do with Rincewind, so why don’t you step up and say a few words?’ The Archchancellor was looking at the Librarian, who met his gaze and stepped forward. Ridcully stepped aside to allow the ape to eulogise his deceased friend. The Librarian closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and spoke from the heart.
That was it.
There was nothing else to say.
Missing a body for a proper burial, the university had chosen a quiet spot under one of the willow trees in the grounds as Rincewind’s final resting place, at least in spirit. The Librarian brought one long, muscular arm up in the air and in his fist was the arrow with the scrap of materials from Rincewind’s hat. He stuck the arrow firmly into the ground, the blood-stained material immediately catching the breeze. The orang-utan then knuckled off back towards the main university building without another sound.
Silence followed for a moment.
Ridcully asked the question.
‘What did he say?’
‘Roughly translated, Archchancellor,’ said the Senior Wrangler. ‘He said “goodbye my friend. May the next life be kinder to you than this one.”’
‘Hmmm,’ said Ridcully, nodding.
Definitely, there was nothing else to say.
* * *
Things continued on as normal at Unseen University, or at least as normal as they could do. The wizards carried on trying to avoid teaching as much as the students did learning. The Librarian…
The Librarian was shambling down one of the university’s lesser-used corridors. He stopped at a nondescript door and opened it. The ancient hinges creaked their complaint as a dusty and neglected storage cupboard was revealed. It was clear that this place had not been used in years.
In amongst the forgotten bric-a-brac lay a new inhabitant.
While everything else was covered in dust, the Luggage looked clean and scrubbed. The Librarian looked at it affectionately and stepped inside the cupboard. Producing a chamois leather, he proceeded to give the Luggage a once over. When he had finished he stepped back and laid a banana on the flagstones in front of it. Smiling sadly, he closed the door again and wandered off back to the Library. He didn’t often share his bananas, but this was different.
This was family.