Thief of time, p.6
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       Thief of Time, p.6

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 6

 

  Ive got glaciation, said Lu-Tze, ignoring this. At last. See, master? Its only an inch long, but already its carving its own little valley. Magnificent, isnt it?

  Yes, yes, very good, said the novice, being kind to an underling. Isnt this the garden of Lu- Tze?

  You mean, Lu-Tze who is famous for his bonsai mountains? The novice looked from the line of plates to the little wrinkled smiling man. You are Lu-Tze? But youre just a sweeper! Ive seen you cleaning out the dormitories! Ive seen people kick you! Lu-Tze, apparently not hearing this, picked up a plate about a foot across on which a small cinder cone was smoking. What do you think of this, master? he said. Volcanic. And it is bloody hard to do, excuse my Klatchian. The novice took a step forward, and leaned down and looked directly into the sweepers eyes. Lu-Tze was not often disconcerted, but he was now. You are Lu-Tze?

  Yes, lad. I am Lu-Tze.

  The novice took a deep breath and thrust out a skinny arm. It was holding a small scroll. From the abbot. . . er, venerable one! The scroll wobbled in the nervous hand. Most people call me Lu-Tze, lad. Or “Sweeper”. Until they get to know me better, some call me “Get out of the way”, said Lu-Tze, carefully wrapping up his tools. Ive never been very venerable, except in cases of bad spelling. He looked around the saucers for the miniature shovel he used for glacial work, and couldnt see it anywhere. Surely hed put it down just a moment ago? The novice was watching him with an expression of awe mixed with residual suspicion. A reputation like Lu-Tzes got around. This was the man who had - well, who had done practically everything, if you listened to the rumours. But he didnt look as though he had. He was just a little bald man with a wispy beard and a faint, amiable smile. Lu-Tze patted the young man on the shoulder in an effort to put him at his ease. Let us see what the abbot wants, he said, unrolling the rice paper. Oh. You are to take me to see him, it says here. A look of panic froze the novices face. What? How can I do that? Novices arent allowed inside the Inner Temple!

  Really? In that case, let me take you, to take me, to see him, said Lu-Tze. You are allowed into the Inner Temple? said the novice, and then put his hand over his mouth. But youre just a swee- Oh. . .

  Thats right! Not even a proper monk, let alone a dong, said the sweeper cheerfully. Amazing, isnt it?

  But people talk about you as if you were as high as the abbot!

  Oh, dear me, no, said Lu-Tze. Im nothing like as holy. Never really got a grip on the cosmic harmony.

  But youve done all those incredible-

  Oh, I didnt say Im not good at what I do, said Lu-Tz:e, ambling away with his broom over his shoulder. Just not holy. Shall we go?

  Er . . . Lu-Tze? said the novice, as they walked along the ancient brick path. Yes?

  Why is this called the Garden of Five Surprises?

  What was your name back in the world, hasty young man? said Lu-Tze. Newgate. Newgate Ludd, ven- Lu-Tze held up a warning finger. Ah?

  Sweeper, I mean.

  Ludd, eh? Ankh-Morpork lad?

  Yes, Sweeper, said the boy. The suddenly dejected tones suggested he knew what was coming next. Raised by the Thieves Guild? One of “Ludds Lads”? The boy formerly known as Newgate looked the old man in the eye and, when he replied, it was in the singsong voice of someone whod answered the question too many times. Yes, Sweeper. Yes, I was a foundling. Yes, we get called Ludds Lads and Lasses after one of the founders of the Guild. Yes, thats my adopted surname. Yes, it was a good life and sometimes I wish I still had it. Lu-Tze appeared not to hear this. Who sent you here?

  A monk called Soto discovered me. He said I had talent.

  Marco? The one with all the hair?

  Thats right. Only I thought the rule was that all monks were shaved.

  Oh, Soto says he is bald under the hair, said Lu-Tze. He says the hair is a separate creature that just happens to live on him. They gave him a field posting really quickly after he came up with that one. Hard-working fellow, mark you, and friendly as anything provided you dont touch his hair. Important lesson there: you dont survive in the field by obeying all the rules, including those relating to mental processes. And what name were you given when you were enrolled?

  Lobsang, ven- uh, Sweeper.

  Lobsang Ludd?

  Er. . . yes, Sweeper.

  Amazing. So, Lobsang Ludd, you tried to count my surprises, did you? Everybody does. Surprise is the nature of Time, and five is the number of Surprise.

  Yes, Sweeper. I found the little bridge that tilts and throws you into the carp pool. . .

  Good. Good.

  . . . and I have found the bronze sculpture of a butterfly that flaps its wings when you breathe on it. . .

  Thats two.

  Theres the surprising way those little daisies spray you with venomous pollen. . .

  Ah, yes. Many people find them extremely surprising.

  And I believe the fourth surprise is the yodelling stick insect.

  Well done, said Lu- Tze, beaming. Its very good, isnt it?

  But I cant find the fifth surprise.

  Really? Let me know when you find it, said Lu-Tze. Lobsang Ludd thought about this as he trailed after the sweeper. The Garden of Five Surprises is a test, he said, at last. Oh, yes. Nearly everything is. Lobsang nodded. It was like the Garden of the Four Elements. Every novice found the bronze symbols of three of them - in the carp pond, under a rock, painted on a kite - but none of Lobsangs classmates found Fire. There didnt appear to be a fire anywhere in the garden. After a while Lobsang had reasoned thus: there were in fact five elements, as they had been taught. Four made up the universe, and the fifth, Surprise, allowed it to keep on happening. No one had said that the four in the garden were the material four, so the fourth element in the Garden could be Surprise at the fact that Fire wasnt there. Besides, fire was not generally found in a garden, and the other signs were, truly, in their element. So hed gone down to the bakeries and opened one of the ovens, and there, glowing red hot below the loaves, was Fire. Then. . . I expect that the fifth surprise is: there is no fifth surprise, he said. Nice try, but no cylindrical smoking thing, said Lu- Tze. And is it not written, “Oo, you are so sharp youll cut yourself one of these days”?

  Um, I havent read that in the sacred texts yet, Sweeper, said Lobsang uncertainly. No, you wouldnt have, said Lu-Tze. They stepped out of the brittle sunlight into the deep cold of the temple, and walked on through ancient halls and down stairways cut into the rock. The sound of distant chanting followed them. Lu-Tze, who was not holy and therefore could think unholy thoughts, occasionally wondered whether the chanting monks were chanting anything, or were just going aahaaahahah. You could never tell with all that echo.

  He turned off the main passage and reached for the handles of a pair of large, red-lacquered doors. Then he looked behind him. Lobsang had stopped dead, some yards away. Coming?

  But not even dongs are allowed in there! said Lobsang. You have to be a Third Djim ting at least!

  Yeah, right. Its a short-cut. Come on, its draughty out here. With extreme reluctance, expecting at any moment the outraged scream of authority, Lobsang trailed after the sweeper. And he was just a sweeper! One of the people who swept the floors and washed the clothes and cleaned the privies! No one had ever mentioned it! Novices heard about Lu-Tze from their very first day - how hed gone into some of the most tangled knots of time and unravelled them, how hed constantly dodged the traffic on the crossroads of history, how he could divert time with a word and used this to develop the most subtle arts of battle. . . . . . and here was a skinny little man who was sort of generically ethnic, so that he looked as if he could have come from anywhere, in a robe that had once been white before it fell to all those stains and patches, and the sandals repaired with string. And the friendly grin, as if he was constantly waiting for something amusing to happen. And no belt at all, just another piece of string to hold his robe closed. Even some novices got to the level of grey dong in their first year! The dojo was busy with senior
monks at practice. Lobsang had to dodge aside as a pair of fighters whirled past, arms and legs blurring as each sought an opening, paring time into thinner and thinner slivers- You! Sweeper! Lobsang looked round, but the shout had been directed at Lu-Tze. A ting, only just elevated to the Third Djim by the fresh look of his belt, was advancing on the little man, his face red with fury. What for are you coming in here, cleaner of filth? This is forbidden! Lu-Tzes little smile didnt change. But he reached in his robe and brought out a small bag.

  s a short-cut, he said. He pulled a pinch of tobacco and, while the ting loomed over him, began to roll a cigarette. And theres dirt everywhere, too. Ill certainly have a word with the man who does this floor.

  How dare you insult! screamed the monk. Back to the kitchens with you, sweeper! Cowering behind Lu-Tze, Lobsang realized that the entire dojo had stopped to watch this. One or two of the monks were whispering to one another. The man in the brown robe of the dojo master was watching impassively from his chair, with his chin on his hand. With great and patient and infuriating delicacy, like a samurai arranging flowers, Lu-Tze marshalled the shreds of tobacco in the flimsy cigarette paper.

  No, I reckon Ill go out of that door over there, if you dont mind, he said. Impudence! Then you are ready to fight, enemy of dust? The man leapt back and raised his hands to form the Combat of the Hake. He spun round and planted a kick on a heavy leather sack, hitting it so hard that its supporting chain broke. Then he was back to face Lu-Tze, hands held in the Advancement of the Snake. Ai! Shao! Hai-eee- he began. The dojo master stood up. Hold! he commanded. Do you not want to know the name of the man you are about to destroy? The fighter held his stance, glaring at Lu-Tze. I dont need to know name of sweeper, he said. Lu-Tze rolled the cigarette into a skinny cylinder and winked at the angry man, which only stoked the anger. It is always wise to know the name of a sweeper, boy, said the dojo master. And my question was not addressed to you. Tick Jeremy stared at his bed sheets. They were covered in writing. His own writing. It trailed across the pillow and onto the wall. There were sketches, too, scored deeply into the plaster. He found his pencil under the bed. Hed even sharpened it. In his sleep, hed sharpened a pencil! And by the look of it hed been writing and drawing for hours. Trying to draw a dream. With, down one side of his eiderdown, a list of parts. It had all made absolute sense when hed seen it, like a hammer or a stick or Wheelbrights Gravity Escapement. It had been like meeting an old friend. And now. . . He stared at the scrawled lines. He had been writing so fast hed ignored punctuation and some of the letters, too. But he could see some sense in there. Hed heard of this sort of thing. Great inventions sometimes did arise from dreams and daydreams. Didnt Hepzibah Whitlow have the idea of the adjustable pendulum clock as a result of his work as the public hangman? Didnt Wilframe Balderton always say that the idea for the Fish Tail Escapement came after hed eaten too much lobster? Yes, it had all been so clear in the dream. By daylight, it needed a bit more work. There was a clatter of dishes from the little kitchen behind his workshop. He hurried down, dragging the sheet behind him.

  I usually have- he began. Toatht, thur, said Igor, turning away from the range. Lightly browned, I thuthpect.

 
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