The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers

BOOK: The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers
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As it was no god, devil or demon, the Hermit Crab lacked the skill to create organic form and process
ex nihilo,
and instead adapted what it found to hand. The first living organism it encountered was a crab of the type which is known to the Hindrix-Prodorgotz system of taxonomy as Thorbakrodomon Rantharchardaliz. Therefore the Hermit Crab adapted the biology of this animal for its own purposes, and dwelt thus thereafter on the shores of Jod.

Thousands of years passed.

During those millennia, the Hermit Crab slowly changed and adapted the form it had learnt. In nature, Thorbakrodomon Rantharchardaliz grows to no great size. A typical specimen will have a carapace which is scarcely a finger-length across at maturity. However, the Hermit Crab found it inconvenient to remain at this size, since it was often attacked by seagulls. These it obliterated, thanks to those powers to modulate probability which it still retained from its earlier mode of existence. However, seagulls remained a danger, since even the Hermit Crab had to (and has to) sleep sometimes.

Hence the Hermit Crab increased in size until the depredations of seagulls were no longer a danger. However, increased size brought it to the attention of humans, who proved even more of a nuisance than the seagulls had been.

Many tragedies ensued...

Also by Hugh Cook

 

THE WIZARDS AND THE WARRIORS

THE WORDSMITHS AND THE WARGUILD

THE WOMEN AND THE WARLORDS

THE WALRUS AND THE WAR WOLF

THE WICKED AND THE WITLESS

and published by Corgi Books

 

THE WISHSTONE AND THE WONDERWORKERS

 

A CORGI BOOK o 552 13536 4

Originally published in Great Britain by Colin Smythe Limited

PRINTING HISTORY

Colin Smythe edition published 1990

Corgi edition published 1990

Copyright © Hugh Cook 1990

Conditions of sale

1. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade
or otherwise,
be lent, re-sold, hired
out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

2. This book is sold subject to the Standard Conditions of Sale of Net Books and may not be re-sold in the UK below the net price fixed by the publishers of the book.

This book is set in 10/1 ipt Baskerville by Kestrel Data, Exeter

Corgi Books are published by Trans world Publishers Ltd.,

61-63 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, London W5 5SA, in Australia by Transworld Publishers (Australia) Pty. Ltd., 15-23 Helles Avenue, Moorebank, NSW 2170, and in New Zealand by Transworld Publishers (N.Z.) Ltd., Cnr. Moselle and Waipareira Avenues, Henderson, Auckland.

Made and printed in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berks.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Also by Hugh Cook

THE WISHSTONE AND THE WONDERWORKERS

FOREWORD

AN OPENING EDITORIAL NOTE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

AFTERWORD

FOREWORD

 

Mighty are the labours of the redactors of Odrum, and merciless is their diligence. As it endured redaction in the dungeons of Odrum, the Text which follows became encumbered by a full two million words of explication and interpolation. In the interests of convenience, readability and sanity, most of this overgrowth has been cut away.

The enormity of the labours expended by Odrum upon this Text boggles the imagination. Upon the foundation of this historical account there was erected a terrifying redactatorial monument complete with an elaborate apparatus of footnotes, screeds of etymological speculation and hundreds of thousands of words of textual analysis.

Only a few (a very few) of the comments by some of the more prominent redactors have been left to give a faint indication of the flavour of the Text in its redacted form. The rest of Odrum’s additions have been soundlessly elided. Which is only fair, since Odrum’s scholars were equally ruthless in their abbreviation of the Originator’s writings.

Common sense tells us that the reader needs no editorial help to understand a straightforward history such as this. Even so, a few words to explicate the Hermit Crab are in order. Drax Lira, Redactor Major of Odrum, plainly misunderstood and grossly underestimated this entity. The Originator of the Text knew better, yet never learnt of the Crab’s origins. In fact, the Originator knew not even the Hermit Crab’s name.

As it happens, the Hermit Crab originated in the fires of the local star. It belonged to a race of creatures which are not formed from flesh as we understand it, but instead exist as dynamic, highly localised modulations of probability. As a result of a theological dispute, the Hermit Crab was forced to flee from its fellows. Since to stay was to die, it abstracted itself from the inferno which had served it as a home for the better part of seventy million years, and fled into the unutterably cold wastelands of outer space.

At length, it reached a planetary surface. It was sick and injured by the time it made landfall on the shores of Jod, and therefore had no time for the fifty thousand years of careful thought and diligent analysis which would have been advisable under the circumstances. Instead, it had an urgent need to embody what was left of its life processes in corporeal form, lest those processes be altogether extinguished.

You must understand that the Hermit Crab was and is entirely lacking in divinity. Like us, it was and is mortal. In its original form, it was fit only for life in the seas of a sun. Therefore it found the shores of Jod entirely inimical, and was forced to evolve with extreme rapidity in order to survive.

As it was no god, devil or demon, the Hermit Crab lacked the skill to create organic form and process
ex nihilo,
and instead adapted what it found to hand. The first living organism it encountered was a crab of the type which is known to the Hindrix-Prodorgotz system of taxonomy as Thorbakrodomon Rantharchardaliz. Therefore the Hermit Crab adapted the biology of this animal for its own purposes, and dwelt thus thereafter on the shores of Jod.

Thousands of years passed.

During those millennia, the Hermit Crab slowly changed and adapted the form it had learnt. In nature, Thorbakrodomon Rantharchardaliz grows to no great size. A typical specimen will have a carapace which is scarcely a fingerlength across at maturity. However, the Hermit Crab found it inconvenient to remain at this size, since it was often attacked by seagulls. These it obliterated, thanks to those powers to modulate probability which it still retained from its earlier mode of existence. However, seagulls remained a danger, since even the Hermit Crab had to (and has to) sleep sometimes.

The soft-bodied castle crabs which live in discarded seashells can never risk growing beyond the size of the available armour. However, the Hermit Grab suffered no such limitation, since it was a true crab with its own exoskeleton which it could shed at will whenever it wished to enlarge itself. Hence it was able to increase its size until the depredations of seagulls were no longer a danger. However, increased size brought it to the attention of humans, who proved even more of a nuisance than the seagulls had been.

Many tragedies ensued in the long years before the Hermit Crab managed to learn the local languages, and to modify its anatomy so that it could vocalize its simple and understandable demands (for peace and quiet and an adequate source of nutrition). After that, life went more smoothly. And the Hermit Crab had the leisure in which to contemplate further changes to its organic structure.

Any form would have been a burden to the Hermit Crab, for, in its previous mode of existence it had enjoyed freedoms which we can scarcely comprehend. Imagine yourself reincarnated as a paving stone, and enduring several millennia of such entrapment. This will give you a measure of what the Hermit Crab had to suffer.

However, while any form would inevitably have been hard to endure, the Hermit Crab realized its frustrations would at least be diminished if it could assume human shape. It would gain freedoms of action and intercourse which were totally impossible while it remained trapped within a crab’s carapace.

Unfortunately, attempts by the Hermit Crab to modify its structure further always failed. First forms are like first languages: once learnt, they are near impossible to unlearn. In the end, the Hermit Crab realized it could not learn a second form without freeing itself of the first. It would have to step away from its flesh and (briefly, at least) exist once more as a disembodied modulation of probability in an environment totally unsuited to such a mode of existence. In theory, this was possible; if it decided to abandon
crab-flesh for human, it had at least a 3 per cent chance of success. And a 97 per cent chance of dying a swift and painful death.

BOOK: The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers
4.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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