Thief of time, p.37
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       Thief of Time, p.37

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 37

 

  Obvious, when you think about it, said Lu-Tze, as much to himself as to Ronnie. Then he turned in his seat and stuck out his hand. Pleased to meet you, he said. Let me guess your name. And said it. Susan had been unusually inexact. To call Wienrich and Boettcher chocolate makers was like calling Leonard of Quirm a decent painter who also tinkered with things, or Death not someone youd want to meet every day. It was accurate, but it didnt tell the whole story. For one thing, they didnt make, they created. Theres an important difference. [17] And, while their select little shop sold the results, it didnt do anything so crass as to fill the window with them. That would suggest. . . well, over-eagerness. Generally, W&B had a display of silk and velvet drapes with, on a small stand, perhaps one of their special pralines or no more than three of their renowned frosted caramels. There was no price tag. If you had to ask the price of W&Bs chocolates, you couldnt afford them. And if youd tasted one, and still couldnt afford them, youd save and scrimp and rob and sell elderly members of your family for just one more of those mouthfuls that fell in love with your tongue and turned your soul to whipped cream. There was a discreet drain in the pavement in case people standing in front of the window drooled too much. Wienrich and Boettcher were, naturally, foreigners, and according to Ankh-Morporks Guild of Confectioners they did not understand the peculiarities of the citys tastebuds. Ankh-Morpork people, said the Guild, were hearty, no-nonsense folk who did not want chocolate that was stuffed with cocoa liquor, and were certainly not like effete la-di-dah foreigners who wanted cream in everything. In fact they actually preferred chocolate made mostly from milk, sugar, suet, hooves, lips, miscellaneous squeezings, rat droppings, plaster, flies, tallow, bits of tree, hair, lint, spiders and powdered cocoa husks. This meant that according to the food standards of the great chocolate centres in Borogravia and Quirm, Ankh-Morpork chocolate was formally classed as cheese and only escaped, through being the wrong colour, being defined as tile grout. Susan allowed herself one of their cheaper boxes per month. And she could easily stop at the first layer if she wanted to. You neednt come in, she said, as she opened the shop door. Rigid customers lined the counter. Please call me Myria.

  I dont think I-

  Please? said Lady LeJean meekly. A name is important. Suddenly, in spite of everything, Susan felt a brief pang of sympathy for the creature. Oh, very well. Myria, you neednt come in.

  I can stand it.

  But I thought chocolate was a raging temptation? said Susan, being firm with herself. It is. They stared up at the shelves behind the counter. Myria . . . Myria, said Susan, speaking only some of her thoughts aloud. From the Ephebian word myrios, meaning “innumerable”. And LeJean as a crude pun of “legion” . . . Oh dear.

  We thought a name should say what a thing is, said her ladyship. And there is safety in numbers. I am sorry.

  Well, these are their basic assortments, said Susan, dismissing the shop display with a wave of her hand. Lets try the back room- Are you all right?

  I am fine, I am fine . . . murmured Lady LeJean, swaying. Youre not going to pig out on me, are you?

  We. . . I. . . know about will-power. The body craves the chocolate but the mind does not. At least, so I tell myself. And it must be true! The mind can overrule the body! Otherwise, what is it for?

  Ive often wondered, said Susan, pushing open another door. Ah. The magicians cave. . .

  Magic? They use magic here?

  Nearly right. Lady LeJean leaned on the door frame for support when she saw the tables. Oh, she said. Uh . . . I can detect. . . sugar, milk, butter, cream, vanilla, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, raisins, orange peel, various liqueurs, citrus pectin, strawberries, raspberries, essence of violets, cherries, pineapples, pistachios, oranges, limes, lemons, coffee, cocoa-

  Nothing there to be frightened of, right? said Susan, surveying the workshop for useful weaponry. Cocoa is just a rather bitter bean, after all.

  Yes, but. . . Lady LeJean clenched her fists, shut her eyes and bared her teeth, put them all together and they make-

  Steady, steady. . .

  The will can overrule the emotions, the will can overrule the instincts- the Auditor intoned. Good, good, now just work your way up to the bit where it says chocolate, okay?

  Thats the hard one!

  In fact it seemed to Susan, as she walked past the vats and counters, that chocolate lost some of its attraction when you saw it like this. It was the difference between seeing the little heaps of pigment and seeing the whole picture. She selected a syringe that seemed designed to do something intensely personal to female elephants, athough she decided that here it was probably used for doing the wiggly bits of decoration. And over here was a small vat of cocoa liquor. She stared around at the trays and trays of fondant cremes, marzipans and caramels. Oh, and here was an entire table of Soul Cake eggs. But they werent the hollow-shelled, cardboard tasting presents for children, oh, no - these were the confectionery equivalent of fine, intricate jewellery. Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement. One of the statue-like workers bent over her tray of Praline Dreams was shifting almost imperceptibly. Time was flowing into the room. Pale blue light glinted in the air. She turned and saw a vaguely human figure hovering beside her. It was featureless and as transparent as mist, but in her head it said, Im stronger. You are my anchor, my link to this world. Can you guess how hard it is to find it again in so many? Get me to the clock. . . Susan turned and thrust the icing syringe into the arms of the groaning Myria. Grab that. And make some kind of. . . of sling or something. I want you to be carrying as many of those chocolate eggs as possible. And the cremes. And the liqueurs. Understand? You can do it! Oh, gods, there was no alternative. The poor thing needed some kind of morale boost. Please, Myria? And thats a stupid name! Youre not many, youre one. Okay? Just be. . . yourself. Unity. . . thatd be a good name. The new Unity raised a mascara-streaked face. Yes, it is, its a good name. . . Susan snatched as much merchandise as she could carry, aware of some rustling behind her, and turned to find Unity standing to attention holding, by the look of it, a bench-worth of assorted confectionery in. . . . . . a sort of big cerise sack. Oh. Good. Intelligent use of the materials to hand, said Susan weakly. Then the teacher within her cut in and added, I hope you brought enough for everybody. * * * You were the first, said Lu-Tze. You basically created the whole business. Innovative, you were.

  That was then, said Ronnie Soak. Its all changed now.

  Not like it used to be, agreed Lu-Tze.

  Take Death, said Ronnie Soak. Impressive, Ill grant you, and who doesnt look good in black? But, after all, Death. . . Whats death?

  Just a big sleep, said Lu-Tze. Just a big sleep, said Ronnie Soak. As for the others. . . War? If wars so bad, why do people keep doing it?

  Practically a hobby, said Lu-Tze. He began to roll himself a cigarette. Practically a hobby, said Ronnie Soak. As for Famine and Pestilence, well. . .

  Enough said, said Lu-Tze sympathetically. Exactly. I mean, Famines a fearful thing, obviously-

  -in an agricultural community, but youve got to move with the times, said Lu-Tze, putting the roll-up in his mouth. Thats it, said Ronnie. Youve got to move with the times. I mean, does your average city person fear famine?

  No, he thinks food grows in shops, said Lu-Tze. He was beginning to enjoy this. He had eight hundred years worth of experience in steering the thoughts of his superiors, and most of them had been intelligent. He decided to strike out a little. Fire, now: city folk really fear fire, he said. Thats new. Your primitive villager, he reckoned fire was a good thing, didnt he? Kept the wolves away. If it burned down his hut, well, logs and turf are cheap enough. But now he lives in a street of crowded wooden houses and everyones cooking in their rooms, well- Ronnie glared. Fire? Fire? Just a demi-god! Some little tea-leaf pinches the flame from the gods and suddenly hes immortal? You call that training and experience? A spark leapt from Ronnies fingers and ignited the end of Lu-Tzes cigarette. And as for gods-

>   Johnny-come-latelys, the pack of em, said Lu-Tze quickly. Right! People started worshipping them because they were afraid of me, said Ronnie. Did you know that?

  No, really? said Lu-Tze innocently. But now Ronnie sagged. That was then, of course, he said. Its different now. Im not what I used to be.

  No, no, obviously not, no, said Lu-Tze soothingly. But its all a matter of how you look at it, am I correct? Now, supposing a man- that is to say a-

  Anthropomorphic personification, said Ronnie Soak. But Ive always preferred the term “avatar”. Lu-Tzes brow wrinkled. You fly around a lot? he said. That would be aviator.

  Sorry. Well, supposing an avatar, thank you, who was perhaps a bit ahead of his time thousands of years ago, well, supposing he took a good look around now, he might just find the world is ready for him again. Lu-Tze waited. My abbot, now, he reckons you are the bees knees, he said, for a little reinforcement. Does he? said Ronnie Soak suspiciously. Bees knees, cats pyjamas and dogs. . . elbows, Lu-Tze finished. Hes written scrolls and scrolls about you. Says you are hugely important in understanding how the universe works.

  Yeah, but. . . hes just one man, said Ronnie Soak, with all the sullen reluctance of someone cuddling a lifetimes huge snit like a favourite soft toy. Technically, yes, said Lu-Tze. But hes an abbot. And brainy? He thinks such big thoughts he needs a second lifetime just to finish them off! Let a lot of peasants fear famine, I say, but someone like you should aim for quality. And you look at the cities, now. Back in the old days there were just heaps of mud bricks with names like Ur and Uh and Ugg. These days theres millions of people living in cities. Very, very complicated cities. Just you think about what they really, really fear. And fear. . . Well, fear is belief. Hmm? There was another long pause. Well, all right, but. . . Ronnie began. Of course, they wont be living in em very long, because by the time the grey people have finished taking them to pieces to see how they work there wont be any belief left.

  My customers do depend on me. . . Ronnie Soak mumbled. What customers? Thats Soak speaking, said Lu-Tze. Thats not the voice of Kaos.

  Hah! said Kaos bitterly. You havent told me yet how you worked that one out.

  Because Ive got more than three brain cells and youre vain and you painted your actual name back to front on your cart whether you knew it or not and a dark window is a mirror and K and S are still recognizable in a reflection even when theyre back to front, thought Lu- Tze. But that wasnt a good way forward. It was just obvious, he said. You sort of shine through. Its like putting a sheet over an elephant. You might not be able to see it, but youre sure the elephants still there.

  Kaos looked wretched. I dont know, he said. Its been a long time-

  Oh? And I thought you said you were Number One? said Lu-Tze, deciding on a new approach. Sorry! Still, I suppose its not your fault youve lost a few skills over the centuries, what with one thing and-

  Lost skills? snapped Kaos, waving a finger under the sweepers nose. I could certainly take you to the cleaners, you little maggot!

  What with? A dangerous yoghurt? said Lu-Tze, climbing off the cart. Kaos leapt down after him. Where do you get off, talking to me like that? he demanded. Lu-Tze glanced up. Corner of Merchant and Broad Way, he said. So what? Kaos roared. He tore off his striped apron and his white cap. He seemed to grow in size. Darkness evaporated off him like smoke. Lu-Tze folded his hands and grinned. Remember Rule One, he said. Rules? Rules? Im Kaos!

 
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