The L-Space Web: Books: Synopses

The Colour of Magic

Written by Ed

Part One - The Colour Of Magic

On a hilltop, two figures watch as the great city of Ankh-Morpork burns to the ground. They are two barbarians: the burly Bravd the Hublander and the devious Weasel. They are debating who started the fire and how much damage will be done when they notice a couple of horses coming down the track towards them, followed by some sort of animal. Bravd goes to apprehend the two escapees, on general principals, but is disappointed to find that the leader is only the failed wizard, Rincewind. With him is a strange little man, Twoflower, and behind them the animal comes into view...a box on legs?

Rincewind and Twoflower have not eaten, and so Bravd and the Weasel agree to share some food with them in exchange for a story. Thus, Rincewind settles down to tell them of how he met Twoflower and how the city was burned down.


The scene now moves back some days, when a ship comes up the river Ankh. A strange looking man, with a psychedelic shirt and apparently four eyes (i.e. spectacles) disembarks. He pays the Captain of the ship with gold, attracting the attention of the beggar Blind Hugh and the thief Cripple Wa. Wa leaves to consult the president of the Thieves' Guild, Ymor.

Blind Hugh goes to meet the stranger-who cannot speak Morporkian-and manages to ingratiate himself to him and leads him to Ankh-Morpork's principal tavern, the Broken Drum. Hugh nearly faints as the stranger's Luggage gets up and walks after him.

In the Drum, all eyes turn to look at the stranger, except those of Rincewind the wizard, who is watching the Luggage. He recognises the magical chest as made of sapient pearwood, an extremely rare and magical substance very seldom seen on this continent. Rincewind notices that the stranger, with only a home made phrase bok to help him, is having trouble communicating with the landlord, Broadman. Rincewind goes to him and eventually recognises the little man's language, and they soon get talking. Rincewind helps the little man, introduced as Twoflower, order a room to sleep in. Twoflower tells Rincewind a little about himself; he comes from the Counterweight Continent, a small continent that nonetheless counterbalances the Disc due to its volume of gold. Gold being a rare mineral in Ankh-Morpork, Twoflower refuses to believe that he is, by Rincewind's standards, insanely rich. Twoflower gives Rincewind some gold coins, employing him as a guide and interpreter. Twoflower then goes to his room to rest. Rincewind is to meet with him at midday. However, Rincewind is nervous about being associated with someone so rich yet so naïve, and flees the tavern, intending to buy a horse and escape the city.

Escaping on a horse, he is caught by the Patrician of the city, who has been exchanging messages by albatross with the emperor of the Agatean Empire in the Counterweight Continent. The Agateans are very powerful, and to avoid trouble the Patrician orders Rincewind to protect Twoflower so that he leaves the city with a good report.


Rincewind returns to the Drum to find a vicious bar fight in full flow-a common occurrence. Sidling through the damage, he finds Twoflower's room and wakes him. The little man is, strangely, delighted to hear of the bar fight; apparently it is one of the things he wants to see. Once it is over, they go down and Twoflower takes out his iconograph: a picture making device unknown in Ankh-Morpork, which uses a tiny imp to paint pictures of what it sees.

They have lunch at the Plaza of Broken Moons, where Twoflower explains his job: he is an inn-sewer-ants (insurance) salesman. Their pleasant day comes to an abrupt end when Twoflower is suddenly abducted. Rincewind is menaced by Stren Withel, the thief Ymor's right-hand-man, but is saved by the Luggage.

Rincewind's first thought is, again, escape. However, the Luggage does not seem to like that idea and the picture-imp persuades him to rescue Twoflower. It is on this noble quest that Rincewind has his first of many meetings with Death...who apparently has an appointment with Rincewind that night!

Eventually, Rincewind arrives at Ymor's headquarters and menaces a guard into telling him the location of Twoflower; again, at the Broken Drum.


Meanwhile, the Patrician has had new instructions from the Agatean Empire's Grand Vizier. Twoflower must be killed, so as not to upset the Empire's strict propaganda-based regime.


Rumour of Twoflower has spread, and the citizens of Ankh-Morpork are eager to capitalise on his wealth. Representatives from the Guilds of Thieves, Assassins and Merchants are descending on the Drum, where Twoflower is unwisely selling fire inn- sewer-ants to Broadman. Rincewind arrives as a fight breaks out between the Guild members. He finds and rescues Twoflower. In the cellar Broadman, with insurance on his mind, sets a match to his stock of candles and oil...

As Rincewind and Twoflower escape the city on newly-bought horses, the fire is already spreading from the Drum and consuming the city.


The story over and the food eaten, Rincewind and Twoflower take their leave of Bravd and the Weasel and ride off into the night.

Part Two - The Sending Of Eight

In Dunmanifestin, home of the Gods, a game is being played with the fates of men...Rincewind and Twoflower, to be precise. There are two major players: Lady Luck, controlling Rincewind and Twoflower, and Fate, controlling an altogether more disturbing being...


Rincewind and Twoflower ride leisurely along the wooded path to Chirm, with Rincewind explaining about the nature of magic and why he is a failed wizard: he once looked at the Octavo, the most powerful magical text in the world, while a student at Unseen University. There, one of the eight great spells of the book had leaped into his mind and thwarted his attempts to learn any other spell.

At this point the God Offler unveils his final move in the game, and sends a huge troll to attack them. Rincewind manages to kill it, through luck (get it?) more than anything else, but not before it causes Twoflower's horse to bolt.


Some time later, Rincewind is stuck in a tree. He has been chased there after his horse was killed by an angry bear (made angry by Twoflower's panicking horse) and he was chased by a pack of wolves (angry for the same reason as the bear). Now he is stuck in the branches. On one end of his branch is a huge hornet' nest, while on the other end is a large snake. Death appears again, trying to persuade Rincewind to let go, but the wizard refuses. His branch starts to break, dislodging the hornets nest and dropping it into the wolf pack. Suddenly a pair of green arms emerge from the tree trunk and pull Rincewind inside.


Twoflower has meanwhile found a stone plaque advertising the temple of one Bel- Shamharoth. He sets off to find it.


Rincewind finds himself in the domain of dryads. They seem initially friendly, but soon turn nasty when they tell him that he damaged the tree. They tell him that his friend has found the temple of Bel-Shamharoth (which Rincewind knows to be the single most dangerous place on the Disc) as has Hrun the Barbarian, who has followed the Luggage inside. The dryads intend to sacrifice him, but when they see one of the eight great spells in his head they teleport him away into the temple. He meets Twoflower, where he explains the importance of not mentioning the number eight.

Eventually they find the central chamber and Hrun, who is attempting to lever up a large octagonal stone slab on the floor. Rincewind tries to tell him the importance of not mentioning the number eight, but Hrun's magical talking sword Kring, confused, says it. Immediately Bel-Shamharoth, a hideous monster from the Dungeon Dimensions, is released from under the slab and attacks. Although Hrun manages to hold it off for a time, he is fighting a losing battle until Twoflower's salamanders flare off. They are photographic accessories; magical creatures that absorb the Octarine (the magical colour) light of the world, flaring off the other colours. The Flash of light, made brighter by the magical nature of the temple, kills the creature. The temple, hitherto unaffected by time, ages thousands of years within minutes and Hrun rescues Rincewind and Twoflower as the temple collapses to dust. Rincewind and Twoflower employ him as a bodyguard in exchange for pictures of himself.

Part Three - The Lure Of The Wyrm

After many weeks travelling together, Rincewind, Twoflower and Hrun have stumbled into an area with a very high magical field, noticeable by the unpredictability of tossing coins, the tendency of bushes to talk and walk about, and also by a huge upside-down mountain, the Wyrmberg. As they talk, a flock of flying creatures depart from the mountain and descend towards them. As they get closer, they are revealed to be huge, mythical dragons. The trio run for the safety of the woods, but they are not fast enough...


Rincewind wakes up in the woods, with a huge dragon and its rider nearby. He inches away from it and escapes, and finds the sword Kring, which is jammed in a tree. He frees it, but they are found by the dragon rider, whose name is K!sdra. Threatening him with Kring, Rincewind learns that Twoflower and Hrun are prisoners in the Wyrmberg. K!sdra takes Rincewind there on his dragon, Bronze Psepha.

They arrive in the main arena, where people walk on the roof of a huge cavern by means of rings in the roof and hooked boots. Rincewind finds he has to fight Lio!rt, the dragon lord, at the top of the cavern, upside-down with the hookboots. Unfortunately, Lio!rt also has a magic sword and Rincewind loses, falling towards the ground far below...

Cut to Twoflower's cell, where he and Hrun are discussing dragons. Twoflower is excited, but Hrun refuses to believe they exist. Soon, the dragon lady Liessa enters with a proposal for Hrun; she is fighting her two brothers, Lio!rt and Laertes, for control of the Wyrmberg. Hrun will fight them; if he wins, he will wed Liessa and become lord of the domain. He accepts, and is led from the cell.

Twoflower, all alone, wishes that he could find a dragon. He is rather surprised when one suddenly turns up in his cell, claiming that it has been summoned by him. He escapes from the cell and he and his dragon move off and find an old man in a throne room: Greicha the First, lord of the Wyrmberg. He is undead; he was killed by Liessa his daughter, but refuses to die until one of his children is sufficiently powerful enough to wrest control from the other two.

He explains that, in this magical environment, a strong imagination such as Twoflower's can summon dragons. He also explains that Rincewind is in danger, and Twoflower and his dragon go to the central chamber to rescue him. They arrive just as he falls from the roof, and catch him. Lio!rt goes to prepare for battle with Hrun.

On the great plateau on top of the Wyrmberg, Hrun is to fight the two dragon lords, Lio!rt and Laertes. As the challenged, the lords have choice of weapons: dragons, naturally. The fight is long and hard, but both brothers underestimate Hrun and are knocked out by him, the dragons vanishing as this happens. Liessa's battle won, Death comes to claim Greicha. However, suddenly Twoflower's dragon screams down and rescues Hrun. Liessa calls her own dragon to her, and gives chase.

In order to escape Liessa, Twoflower pushes his dragon higher and higher. Eventually, the air becomes too thin and Twoflower passes out, his dragon vanishing. This leaves Rincewind, Twoflower and Hrun falling back to the ground. Liessa rescues Hrun and leaves Rincewind and Twoflower to their fate. Suddenly, the extreme magical field shows another effect, ripping a hole in the fabric of reality and sucking the duo in. Rincewind appears on an aeroplane under siege, and accidentally apprehends a terrorist before reality suddenly returns to normal and deposits Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage into the Circle Sea.

Part Four - Close To The Edge

Rincewind and Twoflower, after many weeks at sea, are finally in mortal doom. Their ship has strayed into the Rim currents and is about to plunge over the edge. Storms rage around them, and in a moment of uncharacteristic humanity, Rincewind rescues a small frog. Suddenly, a huge wave rushes over them, and Rincewind is knocked out.


He wakes up on the same ship, which for some reason is still on the Disc. In fact, it is attached to some ropes and being towed along a fence on the very edge of the world towards a small rocky outcrop. There they meet Tethis, a Sea Troll from another world (who arrived on this world after falling from the edge of his own), who patrols the Circumfence [sic], a huge ten thousand mile long drift net built by the Kingdom of Krull in order to catch items falling over the edge. Tethis explains about himself and his job, and about how the Circumfence was built. The two travellers spend the night there.

Tethis receives a message stating that Rincewind and Twoflower are to be sent to Krull at once, and a powerful magical transport is laid on for them. Soon they are taken away on a huge, flying transparent Disc powered by hydrophobes; powerful wizards with an intense loathing for water. Rincewind wonders why they are so important to warrant transport as expensive as a skimmer.

They arrive in Krull and are locked in a fabulous room full of food. The guest master, Gahartra, tells them they are to be sacrificed. He then departs, having temporarily incapacitated Rincewind for trying to attack him, leaving them to themselves.

At that point the frog Rincewind rescued reveals its importance; it is the Lady Luck in disguise. She tells them that the Krullians have built a vessel capable of flying down into space and discovering the sex of Great A'Tuin the world turtle. The duo have been annoying Fate for a long time, so he has cut a deal with the Krullian Arch-Astronomer: if Rincewind and Twoflower are sacrificed to him, then he will grant good fortune to the mission.

The Lady helps them escape, and then disappears. While trying to escape the Krullian guards, they stumble into the room containing a model of the Disc, the mission and the ship, the Potent Voyager. It also contains the two space suits that the astro-chelonians will wear, and, aware that they have no other options, Rincewind and Twoflower disguise themselves in the suits. They then have to head to the launch platform.

They arrive to find a huge amphitheatre of spectators waiting for them to be launched into space. The Arch-Astronomer recognises them and is about to stop them when the Luggage arrives, having been following them for some time. This diverts his attention, and Twoflower hides in the ship. However, before Rincewind can climb in, the trapdoor shuts and the vessel begins to slide down the launch ramp. Rincewind has no choice but to hold on as he and the vessel are launched over the edge of the world.

Rincewind awakes in a tree projecting out from the Rimfall. Suddenly, one of Death's manservants arrives with orders to claim him, but as Rincewind is a wizard he hold the right of being claimed personally by Death. Before the demon can argue, the branch Rincewind is in snaps and he plunges down into the void...

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