Categories > Books > Discworld1 Reviews
For fifteen years Lancre was pulled out of time. This is the story of one left behind in the outside world.
At first she didn't think anything of it. Her family had their work, and Granny had her witching, and, well, no one that she'd known in Lancre had been all that fond of writing to begin with, so it was a little amazing that letters had come as steadily as they had since she'd started studying at Unseen University.
Her birthday came and passed again, the only gifts she received being from Simon and a small bag of candy from Archancellor Cutangle, which Esk knew he was only doing because he was fond of Granny and Granny (as far as she ever showed that she cared for anyone) was fond of Esk. But there were many bandits on the route from Lancre to Ankh-Morpork, and if everyone had sent their gifts together they could easily have been stolen before reaching her.
But another year passed, and then another, and by then she'd gotten worried.
When she finally decided to leave one summer, no longer able to just sit in the University without knowing what was happening back in her home, Simon tried convincing her to stay. Cutangle was dead by then, murdered by one of his colleges who was in turn killed himself, and each time the Archancellor changed there was a fight over whether to allow her to continue staying at the school. If she just left for weeks there was no way she could be sure her place would still be there for her when she came back.
She secretly agreed with him, but it didn't matter. Family, even family with stupid, piggy, brothers, was more important than her studies. So he had come with her instead, saying that it was the only way to try keeping them fair when they decided whether or not to throw her out, since they would have to give him the same punishment that they gave to her for committing the same crime. That was what he /said/, but Esk was past seventeen by then and knew what it meant when a man looked at a woman a certain way. They were both wizards, which made even the possibility of anything happening doubly forbidden, but Esk was a pragmatic soul, and, well, he'd said himself that they might not be wizards for much longer. There was no sense in pushing him away as long as she didn't pull him closer until (if) that happened.
When they reached Lancre, or where Lancre should have been, it was the first time she'd cried in years. There was the taste of magic in the air, and nothing else but forest. She threw her own magic at whatever spell it was she felt, more reckless with her wizardry than she'd been since she was a child, but nothing she did would break it. Because of it she couldn't even see whether her home was destroyed, or disappeared, or if it was just all the people who had disappeared, or what. And it was that not knowing that had caused her to break down, Simon crouching down next to her on the forest floor, tightly holding her hands in his and not knowing what, if anything, he should do.
They took their time returning to Ankh-Morpork. When she finally reached it she was almost twenty, and she knew every way that she could touch him to make him gasp, and pant, and groan her name. They were both wizards, which made what had happened between them doubly forbidden, but she couldn't bring herself to care when it was being a wizard that had caused her to be far away from home when whatever had happened happened, unable to even try helping Granny stop it.
At the University she found that not only the Archancellor, but almost the entire senior teaching staff had changed since she'd left, those she still knew too busy looking for knives coming at them from behind every corner to speak up on her behalf even if they'd wanted to. So, with little ceremony, they were expelled from the University. She thought that it was a good thing that neither of them were the sort of soppy fools who'd make it obvious to everyone who saw them what had happened between them, because that would only have made it worse. At least The Librarian had come up to them as they were leaving, pressing a few course books into her hands and making it clear, in his own apeish way, that if they wanted to continue their studies on their own he would provide them with more in the future. But that if they ever harmed a single page he'd twist their arms around their backs, and it didn't matter that Esk was a girl. She wasn't quite sure, even with her old training as a witch, how he'd managed to communicate that so clearly in ooks, but it made her very glad that she'd always remembered to bring bananas for him when she went to the library. She somehow doubted he'd be being so kind if they hadn't.
She was twenty-four when she was called into The Patrician's office. She'd never before been so aware of how rural her upbringing was, even after over a decade of living in the city, as she was when she was standing in front of the man who ran it. He gave her, and Simon, an offer that she knew she would be very unwise to refuse. There was a place in his palace for a wizard or two without ties to the University. If they took it, not only would they be well paid for doing what they were born to do and have access to any magical materials or devices that they needed instead of having to scrounge around for second hand junk, but they would also be safely under Lord Vetinari's protection if they wished to move their relationship out from behind closed doors and the wizards at the University objected with it.
Simon wanted to know how he knew about them, and whether he intended to make them some sort of magical assassins or anything else shady like that. Esk wanted to know where to sign.
Esk was twenty-eight, two years married and two months pregnant, when Simon came home with mail that had apparently been dropped off at the University by mistake, even though they hadn't lived there in close to a decade. She set aside the spellwork she was doing for Vetinari and tore the brown paper off of the first of the packages he set down for her.
She was twenty-eight, but the gifts that she opened, her face crumbling more and more with each one, had been lovingly picked out or created for a thirteen-year-old girl's birthday.