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The Which Consists of Alfred CCLVI's Account of Zulkeh's Last Days in Goimr, the Events and Thoughts of Those Final Days, and His Decision and Departure. Taken From the First Chapters of the Great Chronicle of the Alfredae.

A Sublime Discourse on the Nature of Gravity. A Knock on the Door. The Wizard Is Summoned by the King!

It was Zulkeh's habit of the evening to instruct Shelyid in the art of wizardry and the lore of science. With the dwarf ensconced upon a stool in a corner of the study, the wizard would pace to and fro, expounding at length upon whatever subject struck his fancy. On this particular evening, Zulkeh had chosen to enlighten the dwarf upon the nature of gravity.

"So you see then, Shelyid," spoke the mage, "this question of gravity has gripped the mind of man since time immemorial. The great ancient philosopher Disquo was the first to provide a general answer to the question: Why do all objects rest where they do? His answer was of the piercing simplicity of all true genius.

" 'Because they belong there,' said Disquo, and no one has been able to refute this proposition since. This is because it is irrefutable, for 'tis clear to even the dullest intellect that all things exist in their place because they belong there. Indeed, it must be so, for if they did not belong there, they would be somewhere else. Is this clear?"

"Oh yes, master!" cried Shelyid.

"Good. We may continue. Following the destruction of ancient civilization for those reasons which I have on earlier occasions opened up to your understanding, Disquo's great truth disappeared in the chaos of barbarism. Only centuries later, after a passing semblance of culture had been resurrected under the aegis of the Ecclesiarchy, was the insight of Disquo revived, albeit in a form more suited to the needs of Religion. For it was then that the famed theologian St. Quinine brought forth Disquo's dictum anew, but now with the caveat that all things belong where they are because God wills it. This thesis was to dominate human thought for a millennium. It is, of course, utterly specious.

" 'How so?' you ask, groping in the dimness of your runtish intellect. It is self-evident. The true scientist understands by the nature of inquiry that such is designed to answer such questions as are posed through the examination of the question which is posed, and no other. Thus, the answer to the question: 'Why do objects rest where they do?' can only be scientifically answered by explaining why objects rest where they do. This Disquo had already done: 'Because they belong there.' To add to this truth the quibble that this is so because God wills it, adds nothing whatever to the investigation. If God exists, then 'tis rampant tautology to say that he causes all objects to belong where they are, for He is naturally the source of all objects, being and belonging. If God does not exist, then He has nothing to do with any of these. The revered saint's thesis thus merely posits the existence of God under the guise of explaining the nature of gravity. But it advances us no further than Disquo's formula. Indeed, it throws confusion over the problem. Is this clear, dwarf?"

"Oh yes, master!" cried Shelyid.

"Good. We may continue." A sudden frown enveloped the wizard's brow. Zulkeh peered fiercely at his apprentice, who shrank before his gaze.

"Misinterpret not my words," spoke the mage. "My intent is not to cast aspersions upon Religion, for such is necessary to discipline the passions of the common herd. In this task, the servants of Religion perform a most exemplary service. For this work they deserve all just credit and due, despite their superstitious habit of cloaking the Old Geister's immanence in all manner of frivolous and ridiculous trappings. Is this understood?"

"Oh yes, master!" cried Shelyid.

"Nevertheless," continued Zulkeh, "it is apparent, from the standpoint of the higher reason, that St. Quinine's contribution to the study of gravity is nought but a diversion. Even so, infinitely more sublime was Quinine's thinking to that of his historical successor, whose advent was but another symptom of the sad decline of science in the modern world.

"For know, Shelyid, that the most significant figure following Quinine to treat of this question—significant not, as I shall in a moment expose, for his contribution, but for the vulgar popularity which it has received among the plebeians—was Oldgram. Sir Oldgram, for such was he titled in the barbarous land whence he originated, invented what he pompously called the Law of Gravity, thereby arrogating to himself, before his time and without reason, an honor which is properly mine. This law, or rather, 'law' so-called (for it is nothing of the sort), states the following impudent proposition: to wit, that objects attract each other in direct proportion to their mass and in inverse proportion to their distance.

"This imbecility has long since swept the modern world, and it grieves me to relate that the Law of Gravity is today considered synonymous with the name of Oldgram. Yet so far from representing an advance of science, much less the formulation of an actual Law (most sublime of Theses), this outrage to all reason has rather dragged the level of scientific thought far below the stage earlier attained by Disquo, even in ancient times.

"For look you, gnome, what is the purpose of science?" demanded the wizard.

"I d-don't know, master," stammered Shelyid.

"An excellent response," spoke the wizard, patting the dwarf's head. "For it is only mete that a lowly apprentice should first learn science, then the higher truth of which it is the expression, and only at the last its purpose. But I will open up a small portion of this secret to your understanding."

Here Zulkeh struck a solemn pose. "The purpose of science, Shelyid, is to answer the question Why? Is this clear?"

"Oh yes, master!" cried Shelyid, pleased to be asked the normal question.

"With this understood, it is immediately apparent that Oldgram's proposition is sheer effrontery. Does Oldgram explain why objects rest where they do? By no means! He merely correlates the relationship of all objects to each other according to some crude ratio evident to the base senses.

"We may thus dismiss Oldgram as an importunate impostor, a parasitic empiricist, a flea upon the body of science. To the question 'why do objects rest where they do?' Disquo had already answered correctly—'because they belong there.' Neither the necessities of Religion nor the jackanapes of Oldgram have advanced the study a single inch beyond. It was left to me, and to me alone, to unravel the riddle. And this I have done according to that mode of subtle reasoning which is my wont and habitude. Is this clear, dwarf?"

"Oh yes, master!" cried Shelyid instantly, for this was a question whose answer he had long since mastered.

"Excellent. To the question 'why do all objects rest where they belong?' or, to phrase it differently: 'why do all objects obey the Law of Gravity?' (properly so named only by myself) I have provided the following astonishing insight—because all objects contain graveness. Yes, Shelyid, graveness, the illusive essence of gravity which has hitherto escaped the ken of all mankind save myself.

"And thus we have it, Shelyid. The Law of Gravity, the true Law of Gravity discovered first—and so far only, I might add—by myself. The Law may be stated as follows: Objects come to rest where they do because all objects contain greater or lesser amounts of graveness and hence gravitate downward to the precise degree determined by the quantity of graveness present within them.

"Immediately we see that this keen postulate not only brings the problem of gravity into full accord with all rational cosmography, but sheds as well a broad beam of light upon the most diverse questions hitherto unanswered. To give just one example, from the field of ethnology: why, Shelyid, is it the custom to bury the dead?"

"I d-don't know, master," stammered the dwarf.

"Of course you don't!" exclaimed the mage. "How could you, without understanding the Law of Gravity? The reason is simple, my stupid but loyal apprentice. The dead are buried because it is only proper that the final end of life, which is a grave undertaking, should be death, which is graver still. And what more fitting place for the dead, therefore, than the grave?

"But with all these mysteries resolved," went on the wizard, "surely your mind has begun to grope at a related but contradictory problem. To wit, the gravitation of objects having been explained, why do certain objects rise?

"The answer to this question, Shelyid—whose discovery is also a monopoly of my genius—is to be found in the explication of the Law of Levity. What is the Law of Levity? The Law of Levity postulates that objects rise in accordance with the—"

At that moment the sorcerer's discourse was suddenly interrupted by a loud knocking on the door of the study.

"Shelyid!" spoke Zulkeh. "Someone is at the door."

"I know, master," muttered Shelyid, his anxious visage peering from behind the cabinet where he had instantly retreated at the sound of knocking.

"Then answer it, dolt!"

"But, master," whined the dwarf, "what if it's a stranger?"

"Bah!" oathed Zulkeh. "Who else would it be, cretin? I command you, open the door!"

"Yes, master," grumbled the runt. Shelyid inched from behind the cabinet and, apprehension writ plain upon his face, slowly approached and opened the door.

Now, the gentle reader is perhaps puzzled by the peculiar attitude evidenced by the misshapen apprentice toward this mundane task of opening a door in response to a knock. But the matter is, in truth, simple of explanation. We have already alluded most delicately to the dwarf's unfortunate nervous condition. By his nature, Shelyid greeted all events not strictly routine as incipient calamities. The attitude, common to the general run of mankind, that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, was incomprehensible to Shelyid. In the dwarf's mind, grass was not green to begin with. It was brown and coarse and grew only in rare clumps. Fences were not challenges to an audacious spirit, they were excellent constructs which served the salutary purpose of keeping at bay the monsters with which Shelyid's mind peopled the universe, according to them as well the fixed and unilateral purpose of doing him harm. So, far from finding his own clump of crabgrass inadequate and longing for other pastures, the dwarf found in fences the sole complaint that they were invariably too short, too flimsy, too low and too few.

Yet the gentle reader should not conclude that this outré world view was solely the product of Shelyid's fevered fantasies. Alas, no, the dwarf's weltschmerz was all too well grounded in brute fact. For Shelyid, as we have explained, was cursed not simply with a grotesque nervous condition but with an equally grotesque appearance. All too often had he been mistaken, at first sight, for some strange and loathsome beast—if not a vicious carnivore then at the least some disease-ridden creature escaped from the bowels of the earth, perhaps unnatural, certainly abnormal, a suitable object for curses and blows. More than once, opening the door of their abode to a stranger, had the pitiful gnome been greeted with a gasp and a boot.

Upon this occasion, however, his luck was better.

The door open, Shelyid and his master perceived in the dim entryway a small and wiry man, well dressed and bearing an air of self-importance. This worthy stared at the apprentice for some long moments and then, wrinkling his nose, looked to the wizard.

"Is the sorcerer Zulkeh present?" he inquired.

"I am he," spoke the mage.

"In that case, I have a message to deliver." He reached into his cloak and brought forth a letter, sealed with wax.

"Bring me the letter, Shelyid," spoke Zulkeh. The dwarf took the proffered missive and scurried to his master's side. Zulkeh broke the seal and examined the contents of the letter.

"This is a summons from King Roy, King of Goimr!" he exclaimed.

"Quite so," agreed the stranger. "You are to present yourself at the palace tomorrow morning following the eighth bell. See to it that you are prompt." He turned to go.

"Hold there!" spoke Zulkeh. "What is the King's purpose in summoning me to his side?"

The man inspected the wizard, his apprentice, and their lodgings. "That," he sneered, "is a good question," and strode off.

"Impudent rogue!" oathed the wizard. "King Roy would be well advised to dispense with his services!"

"But what could the King want with us, master?" queried Shelyid.

"As to the specifics of your question," responded Zulkeh, "I know not. But 'tis hardly strange that the King should call for me. Rather the contrary—'tis most apt that the mighty of the earth should flock to my side for counsel and sagacity. That they have never done so is but further proof of the decrepitude of these our modern times. In truth, it is King Roy who should come to me, not I to King Roy. But as I have always been a respecter of temporal authority, we shall answer his summons. And now, Shelyid, to bed."

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