Thief of time, p.22
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       Thief of Time, p.22

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 22


  Theyve got torches, said Lu-Tze. Ha. Ha, said the yeti, and it said it, rather than laughed. Dats good. Torches show up aat night.

  Hah! Yes. Can you give us a lift? Its really important.

  You and daat whizzin kid I seein there? A patch of grey air at the edge of the clearing became Lobsang, out of breath. He dropped the broken branch hed been holding. The lad is called Lobsang. Im training him up, said Lu-Tze. Looks like you gotta hurry before you runnin out of things he dont knoow, said the yeti. Ha. Ha.

  Sweeper, what were you- Lobsang began, hurrying forward. Lu-Tze put his finger to his lips. Not in front of our fallen friends, he said. Im looking for Rule One to become a lot better respected in these parts as a result of this days work.

  But I had to do all the-

  We must be going, said Lu-Tze, waving him into silence. I reckon we can snooze quite happily while our friend here carries us. Lobsang glanced up at the yeti, and then back at Lu-Tze. And then back to the yeti. It was tall. In some ways it was like the trolls hed met in the city, but rolled out thin. It was more than twice as high as he was, and most of the extra height was skinny legs and arms. The body was a ball of fur, and the feet were indeed huge. If he couldve got out of the trap at any- he began. You are the apprentice, right? said Lu-Tze. Me, Im the master? Im sure I wrote that down somewhere. . .

  But you said you werent going to say any of those know-it-all-

  Remember Rule One! Oh, and pick up one of those swords. Well need it in a minute. Okay, yer honour. . . The yeti picked them up gently and firmly, cradled them in the crook of each arm, and strode away through the snow and trees. Snug, eh? said Lu-Tze after a while. Their wool is spun out of rock in some way, but its pretty comfy. There was no answer from the other arm. I spent some time with the yetis, said Lu-Tze. Amazing people. They taught me a thing or two. Valuable stuff. For is it not written, “We live and learn”? Silence, a kind of sullen, deliberate silence, reigned.

  Id think myself lucky if I was a boy your age actually being carried by an actual yeti. A lot of people back in the valley have never even seen one. Mind you, they dont come that close to settlements any more. Not since that rumour about their feet got around. Lu-Tze got the feeling that he was taking part in a dialogue of one. Something you want to say, is there? he said. Well, as a matter of fact, yes, there is, actually, said Lobsang. You let me do all the work back there! You werent going to do anything!

  I was making sure I had their full attention, said Lu-Tze smoothly. Why?

  So that you didnt have their full attention. I had every confidence in you, of course. A good master gives the pupil an opportunity to demonstrate his skills.

  And what would you have done if I hadnt been here, pray?

  Yes, probably, said Lu-Tze. What?

  But I expect I would have found some way to use their stupidity against them, said Lu-Tze. There generally is one. Is there a problem here?

  Well, I just. . . I thought . . . well, I just thought youd be teaching me more, thats all.

  Im teaching you things all the time, said Lu-Tze. You might not be learning them, of course.

  Oh, I see, said Lobsang. Very smug. Are you going to try to teach me about this yeti, then, and why you made me bring a sword?

  Youll need the sword to learn about yetis, said Lu-Tze. How?

  In a few minutes well find a nice place to stop and you can cut his head off. Is that all right by you, sir?

  Yaas. Sure, said the yeti. In the Second Scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised a story is written concerning one day when the apprentice Clodpool, in a rebellious mood, approached Wen and spake thusly: Master, what is the difference between a humanistic, monastic system of belief in which wisdom is sought by means of an apparently nonsensical system of questions and answers, and a lot of mystic gibberish made up on the spur of the moment?

  Wen considered this for some time, and at last said: A fish! And Clodpool went away, satisfied. Tick The Code of the Igors was very strict. Never Contradict: it was no part of an Igors job to say things like No, thur, thatth an artery. The marthter was always right. Never Complain: an Igor would never say But thatth a thouthand mileth away! Never Make Personal Remarks: no Igor would dream of saying anything like I thould have thomething done about that laugh, if I wath you. And never, ever Ask Questions. Admittedly, Igor knew, that meant never ask BIG questions. Would thur like a cup of tea around now? was fine, but What do you need a hundred virginth for? or Where do you ecthpect me to find a brain at thith time of night? was not. An Igor stood for loyal, dependable, discreet service with a smile, or at least a sort of lopsided grin, or possibly just a curved scar in the right place. [12] And, therefore, Igor was getting worried. Things were wrong, and when an Igor thinks that, they are really wrong. Great difficulty lay in getting this across to Jeremy without breaking the Code, though. Igor was increasingly ill at ease with someone so clearly stark, staring sane. Nevertheless, he tried. Her ladythip will be along again thith morning, he said, as they watched yet another crystal grow in its solution. And I know you know that, he thought, because youve smoothed your hair down with soap and put on a clean shirt. Yes, said Jeremy. I wish we had better progress to report. However, Im sure were nearly there now.

  Yeth, thatth very thtrange, ithnt it? said Igor, seizing the opening. Strange, you say?

  Call me Mithter Thilly, thur, but it theemth to me that were alwayth on the point of thuctheth when her ladythip payth uth a vithit, but when theeth gone we ecthperienth new difficultieth.

  What are you suggesting, Igor?

  Me, thur? Im not a thuggethtive perthon, thur. But latht time part of the divider array had cracked.

  You know I think that was because of dimensional instability!

  Yeth, thur.

  Why are you giving me that funny look, Igor? Igor shrugged. That is, one shoulder was momentarily as high as the other one. Goeth with the fathe, thur.

  Shed hardly pay us so handsomely and then sabotage the project, would she? Why would she do that? Igor hesitated. He had his back right up against the Code now. I am thtill wondering if thee ith all thee theemth, thur.

  Sorry? I didnt catch that.

  I wonder if we can trutht her, thur, said Igor patiently. Oh, go and calibrate the complexity resonator, will you? Grumbling, Igor obeyed. The second time Igord followed their benefactor shed gone to a hotel. Next day shed headed for a large house in Kings Way, where shed been met by an oily man whod made a great play of presenting her with a key. Igor had followed the oleaginous man back to his office in a nearby street where - because there are few things that are kept from a man with a face full of stitches - hed learned that shed just bought the lease for a very large bar of gold. After that, Igor had resorted to an ancient Ankh-Morpork tradition and paid someone to follow her ladyship. There was enough gold in the workshop, heavens knew, and the master took no interest in it. Lady LeJean went to the opera. Lady LeJean went to art galleries. Lady LeJean was living life to the fullest. Except that Lady LeJean, as far as Igor could determine, never visited restaurants and had no food delivered to the house. Lady LeJean was up to something. Igor could spot this easily. Lady LeJean also did not appear in Twurps Peerage or the Almanack de Gothic or any of the other reference books Igor had checked as a matter of course, which meant that she had something to hide. Of course, he had worked for masters who occasionally had a great deal to hide, sometimes in deep holes at midnight. But this situation was morally different for two reasons. Her ladyship wasnt his master, Jeremy was, and that was where his loyalty lay. And Igor had decided it was morally different. Now he reached the glass clock. It looked almost complete. Jeremy had designed a mechanism to go behind the face and Igor had got it made up, all in glass. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the other mechanism, which flickered away down behind the pendulum and took up a disconcertingly small amount of room now that it was assembled; quite a few of its parts were no longer sharing the same set of dimensions as the rest
of it. But the clock had a face, and a face needed hands, and so the glass pendulum swung and the glass hands moved and told normal, everyday time. The

  tick had a slightly bell-like quality, as though someone were flicking a wineglass with a fingernail. Igor looked at his hand-me-down hands. They were beginning to worry him. Now that the glass clock looked like a clock, they began to shake every time Igor came near it. Tick No one noticed Susan in the library of the Guild of Historians, leafing her way through a pile of books. Occasionally she made a note. She didnt know if her other gift was from Death, but shed always told the children that they had a lazy eye and a business eye. There were two ways of looking at the world. The lazy eye just saw the surface. The business eye saw through into the reality beneath. She turned a page. Seen through her business eye, history was very strange indeed. The scars stood out. The history of the country of Ephebe was puzzling, for example. Either its famous philosophers lived for a very long time, or they inherited their names, or extra bits had been stitched into history there. The history of Omnia was a mess. Two centuries had been folded into one, by the look of it, and it was only because of the mind-set of the Omnians, whose religion in any case mixed the past and future with the present, that it could possibly have passed unnoticed. And what about Koom Valley? Everyone knew that there had been a famous battle there, between dwarfs and trolls and mercenaries on both sides, but how many battles had there actually been? Historians talked about the valley being in just the right place in disputed territory to become more or less the preferred local pitch for all confrontations, but you could just as easily believe - at least you could if you had a grandfather called Death - that a patch that just happened to fit had been welded into history several times, so that different generations went round through the whole stupid disaster again and again, shouting Remember Koom Valley! as they did so. [13] There were anomalies everywhere. And no one had noticed. You had to hand it to human beings. They had one of the strangest powers in the universe. Even her grandfather had remarked upon it. No other species anywhere in the world had invented boredom. Perhaps it was boredom, not intelligence, that had propelled them up the evolutionary ladder. Trolls and dwarfs had it, too, that strange ability to look at the universe and think Oh, the same as yesterday, how dull. I wonder what happens if I bang this rock on that head? And along with this had come an associated power, to make things normal. The world changed mightily, and within a few days humans considered it was normal. They had the most amazing ability to shut out and forget what didnt fit. They told themselves little stories to explain away the inexplicable, to make things normal.

  Historians were especially good at it. If it suddenly looked as though hardly anything had happened in the fourteenth century, theyd weigh in with twenty different theories. Not one of these would be that maybe most of the time had been cut out and pasted into the nineteenth century, where the Crash had not left enough coherent time for everything that needed to happen, because it only takes a week to invent the horse collar. The History Monks had done their job well, but their biggest ally was the human ability to think narratively. And humans had risen to the occasion. Theyd say things like Thursday already? What happened to the week? and Time seems to go a lot faster these days, and It seems like only yesterday. . . But some things remained. The Monks had carefully wiped out the time when the Glass Clock had struck. It had been surgically removed from history. Almost. . . Susan picked up Grim Fairy Tales again. Her parents hadnt bought her books like this when she was a child. Theyd tried to bring her up normally; they knew that it is not entirely a good idea for humans to be too close to Death. They taught her that facts were more important than fancy. And then shed grown up and found out that the real fantasies werent the Pale Rider or the Tooth Fairy or bogeymen - they were all solid facts. The big fantasy was that the world was the place where the toast didnt care if it came butter side down or not, where logic was sensible, and where things could be made not to have happened. Something like the Glass Clock had been too big to hide. It had leaked out via the dark, hidden labyrinths of the human mind, and had become a folk tale. People had tried to coat it with sugar and magic swords, but its true nature still lurked like a rake in an overgrown lawn, ready to rise up at the incautious foot. Now someone was treading on it again, and the point, the key point, was that the chin it was rising to meet belonged to. . . . . . someone like me. She sat and stared at nothing for a while. Around her, historians climbed library ladders, fumbled books onto their lecterns and generally rebuilt the image of the past to suit the eyesight of today. One of them was in fact looking for his glasses. Time had a son, she thought, someone who walks in the world. There was a man who devoted himself to the study of time so wholeheartedly that, for him, time became real. He learned the ways of time and Time noticed him, Death had said. There was something there like love. And Time had a son. How? Susan had the kind of mind that would sour a narrative with a question like that. Time and a mortal man. How could they ever. . . ? Well, how could they?

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