Pratchett, Terry - Strata by Pratchett Terry

Pratchett, Terry - Strata by Pratchett Terry

Author:Pratchett, Terry
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 2006-01-09T17:30:55+00:00

* * *

She did not dream.

Silver shook her awake before midnight. Kin yawned and staggered to her feet.

'Anything been happening?' she mumbled.

Silver considered. 'I think an owl hooted about an hour ago, and there were some bats.

Apart from that, it has been pretty quiet.'

Silver lay down. Within a few minutes deep snores told Kin she was on her own.

The moon was high, but still too red. The stars had taken on that deep light that always comes around midnight. Grass, heavy with dew, rustled as she walked away from the dying fire.

Even now there was still some light on the sunset rim, a green glow that just managed to delineate the boundary between disc and sky. Moths hummed past her face, and there was a smell of crushed thyme.

Later, she wondered if she had dozed on her feet. But the moon was still up and the --

call it the west -- was still a line of faint luminosity. Yet the music came pouring down the hillside confidently, as though it had been there all the time.

It trilled, then soared into a few bars of evocative melody. Evocative of what, Kin could not decide -- perhaps of things that never were, but which ought to have been. It was distilled music.

The fire was a sullen eye between the two sleeping figures. Kin started to climb the bare hill, leaving darker footprints in the damp grass.

A picture came into her mind of the music as a living thing, coiling around the hill and disappearing into the hushed forest. She told herself she could always turn back if she wanted to, and walked on.

She saw the elf on a mossy stone at the top of the hill, outlined against the afterglow.

It sat crosslegged, hunched over the pipes, intent upon the music.

Inside the woman who stood entranced, another Kin Arad, imprisoned in the corner of the mind, hammered on the consciousness: (It's an insect! Don't listen! It looks like a cross between a man and a cockchafer! Look at the antennae! Those things aren't ears!) The music stopped abruptly.

'No--' said Kin.

The triangular head turned round. For a moment Kin looked into two narrow, glittering eyes that were greener than the light behind them. Then there was a hiss and a patter of feet over the turf. A little later, there was a rustle in the forest. Then the night closed in again, like velvet.

At dawn they rose above the forest and headed hub-wards, leaving long curling trails in the rising mists.

On the horizon a pillar of smoke loomed like the finger of judgement. It was so thick it cast a shadow.

'I don't know what effect it has on the natives, but it terrifies me,' said Kin. 'We should have blown up the ship in the air, Marco.'

'Their planet hit us,' he said testily. 'It is their responsibility.'

The forest gave way to fields, striped with crops. A distant man, walking behind a plough drawn by ant-sized oxen, fell on his knees as their shadow passed over him.


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