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The golems go - True worth - At work: servants of a higher truth - Back in trouble again - The beautiful butterfly - The insanity of Vetinari - Mr Bent wakes up - Mysterious requirements
THINGS WERE GETTING HEATED in the conference room. This, to Lord Vetinari, was not a problem. He was a great believer in letting a thousand voices be heard, because this meant that all he actually needed to do was listen only to the ones that had anything useful to say, 'useful' in this case being defined in the classic civil service way as 'inclining to my point of view'. In his experience, it was a number generally smaller than ten. The people who wanted a thousand, etc., really meant that they wanted their own voice to be heard while the other 999 were ignored, and for this purpose the gods had invented the committee. Vetinari was very good at committees, especially when Drumknott took the minutes. What the Iron Maiden was to stupid tyrants, the committee was to Lord Vetinari; it was only slightly more expensive, far less messy, considerably more efficient and, best of all, you had to force people to climb inside the Iron Maiden.
He was just about to appoint the ten noisiest people on to a Golem Committee that could be locked in a distant office when a Dark Clerk appeared, apparently out of a shadow, and whispered something in Drumknott's ear. The secretary leaned down towards his master.
'Ah, it would appear that the golems have gone,' said Vetinari cheerfully, as the dutiful Drumknott stepped back.
'Gone?' said Adora Belle, trying to see across to the window. 'What do you mean, gone?'
'Not here any more,' said Vetinari. 'Mr Lipwig, it seems, has taken them away. They are leaving the vicinity of the city in an orderly fashion.'
'But he can't do that!' Lord Downey was enraged. 'We haven't decided what to do with them yet!'
'He, however, has,' said Vetinari, beaming.
'He shouldn't be allowed to leave the city! He is a bank robber! Commander Vimes, do your duty and arrest him!' This was from Cosmo.
Vimes's look would have frozen a saner man. 'I doubt if he's going far, sir', he said. 'What do you wish me to do, your lordship?'
'Well, the ingenious Mr Lipwig appears to have a purpose,' said Vetinari, 'so perhaps we should go and find out what it is?'
The crowd made for the door, where it got stuck and fought itself.
As it piled out into the street, Vetinari put his hands behind his head and leaned back with his eyes shut. 'I love democracy. I could listen to it all day. Get the coach out, will you, Drumknott?'
'That is being done at this moment, sir.'
'Did you put him up to this?'
Vetinari opened his eyes. 'Miss Dearheart, always a pleasure,' he murmured, waving away the smoke. 'I thought you had gone. Imagine my delight at finding you have not.'
'Well, did you?' said Adora Belle, her cigarette noticeably shortening as she took another drag. She smoked as if it was a kind of warfare.
'Miss Dearheart, I believe it would be impossible for me to put Moist von Lipwig up to anything that could be more dangerous than the things he finds to do of his own free will. While you were away he took to climbing high buildings for fun, picked every lock in the Post Office and took up with the Extreme Sneezing fraternity, who are frankly insane. He needs the heady whiff of danger to make his life worth living.'
'He never does that sort of thing when I'm here!'
'Indeed. Can I invite you to ride with me?'
'What did you mean by saying "indeed" like that?' said Adora Belle suspiciously.
Vetinari raised an eyebrow. 'By now, if I have been adept at judging the way your fiance thinks, we should be going to see an enormous hole...'
We're going to need stone, thought Moist as the golems dug. Lots of stone. Can they make mortar? Of course they can. They're the Lancre army knife of tools.
It was fearful, the way they could dig, even in this worn-out, hopeless soil. Dirt was fountaining into the air. Half a mile away, the Old Wizarding Tower, a landmark on the road to Sto Lat, brooded over an area of scrub and desolation that was unusual on the heavily farmed plains. A lot of magic had been used here once. Plants grew twisty or not at all. The owls that haunted the ruins made sure their meals came from some distance away. It was the perfect site. No one wanted it. It was a wasteland, and a wasteland shouldn't be allowed to go to waste.
What a weapon, he thought, as his golem horse circled the diggers. They could collapse a city in a day. What a terrible force they would be in the wrong hands.
Thank goodness they are in mine...
The crowd was keeping its distance, but was also getting bigger and bigger. The city had turned out to watch. To be a true citizen of Ankh-Morpork was to never miss a show. As for Mr Fusspot, he was apparently having the time of his life standing on the horse's head. There's nothing a small dog likes more than a high place from which to yap madly at people... No, actually, there was, and the chairman had managed to wedge his toy between a clay ear and a paw, and stopped barking to growl every time Moist made a tentative grab at it.
He looked round to see Sacharissa hurrying towards him, waving her notebook. How does she do it? he wondered, watching her as, dirt raining around her, she scurried past lines of digging golems. She's even here before the Watch.
'You have a golem horse, I see,' she shouted as she reached him. 'It looks beautiful.'
'It's rather like riding a flowerpot that you can't steer,' said Moist, having to yell to make himself heard over the noise. 'The saddle could use some padding, too. Good, though, aren't they? Notice how they keep jinking all the time, just like the real thing?'
'And why are the golems burying themselves?'
'I ordered them to!'
'But they are immensely valuable!'
'Yes. So we should keep them safe, right?'
'But they belong to the city!'
'They were taking up a lot of room, don't you think? I'm not claiming them, in any case!'
'They could do wonderful things for the city, couldn't they?' More people were arriving now, and gravitating towards the man in the golden suit because he was always good value for money.
'Like embroil it in a war or create an army of beggars? My way's better!'
'I'm sure you are going to tell us what it is!' shouted Sacharissa.
'I want to base the currency on them! I want to make them into money! Gold that guards itself! You can't fake it!'
'You want to put us on the golem standard?'
'Certainly! Look at them! How much are they worth?' shouted Moist, as his horse reared very convincingly. 'They could build canals and dam floods, level mountains and make roads! If we need them to, they will! And if we don't, then they'll help to make us rich by doing nothing! The dollar will be so sound you could bounce trolls off it!'
The horse, with an astonishing grasp of public relations, reared again as Moist pointed at the labouring masses.
'That is value! That is worth! What is the worth of a gold coin compared to the dexterity of the hand that holds it?' He replayed that line in his head and added: 'That would make a good strapline on page one, don't you think? And it's Lipwig with a G!'
Sacharissa laughed. 'Page one is already crowded! What's going to happen to these things?'
'They stay here until cool heads decide what to do next!'
'And what are they guarding the city from right now, exactly?'
'One last thing, Moist. You are the only one who knows the secret of the golems, yes?'
'Inexplicably, this seems to be the case!'
'Why is this?'
'I suppose I'm just a very persuasive person!' This got another laugh.
'Who just happens to command a huge unstoppable army? What demands are you going to make?'
'None! No, on second thoughts a coffee would be nice. I didn't have any breakfast!' That got a much bigger laugh from the crowd.
'And do you think the citizens should be glad it's you in the saddle, as it were?'
'Hell, yes! Trust me!' said Moist, dismounting and lifting a reluctant Mr Fusspot from his perch.
'Well, you should know about that, Mr Lipwig.' This got a round of applause. 'You wouldn't care to tell us what happened to the gold from the bank, would you?'
' 'e's wearin' it!' shouted a wag in the crowd, to cheering.
'Miss Cripslock, your cynicism is, as ever, a dagger to my heart!' said Moist. 'I intended to get to the bottom of that today, but "best-laid plans" and all that. I just don't seem to be able to clear my desk!'
Even this got a laugh, and it wasn't very funny.
'Mr Lipwig? I want you to come with me...' Commander Vimes shoved his way through the crowd, with other watchmen materializing behind him.
'Am I under arrest?'
'Hell, yes! You did leave the city!'
'I think he could successfully argue, commander, that the city has come with him.'
All heads turned. A path cleared itself for Lord Vetinari; paths do for men known to have dungeons in their basements. And Adora Belle hobbled past him, threw herself at Moist and started beating on his chest, shouting: 'How did you get through to them? How did you make them understand? Tell me or I'll never marry you again!'
'What are your intentions, Mr Lipwig?' said Vetinari.
'I was planning to hand them over to the Golem Trust, sir,' said Moist, fending off Adora Belle as gently as possible.
'But not the golem horses, sir. I'll bet they are faster than any flesh-and-blood creatures. There are nineteen of them, and if you'll take my advice, sir, you'll give one to the king of the dwarfs, because I imagine he's a bit angry right now. It's up to you what you do with the others. But I'd like to ask for half a dozen of them for the Post Office. In the meantime, the rest of them will be safe under ground. I want them to be the basis of the currency, because - '
'Yes, I couldn't help overhearing,' said Vetinari. 'Well done, Mr Lipwig, I can see you've been thinking about this. You have presented us with a sensible way forward, indeed. I have also been giving the situation much thought, and all that remains is for me - '
'Oh, no thanks are necessary - '
' - to say arrest this man, commander. Be so good as to handcuff him to a sturdy officer and put him in my coach.'
'What? said Moist.
'What?' screamed Adora Belle.
'The directors of the Royal Bank are pressing charges of embezzlement against you and the chairman, Mr Lipwig.' Vetinari reached down and picked up Mr Fusspot by the scruff of his neck. The little dog swung gently back and forth in the Patrician's grasp, wide eyes open wider in terror, his toy vibrating apologetically in his mouth.
'You can't seriously blame him for anything,' Moist protested.
'Alas, he is the chairman, Mr Lipwig. His paws are on the documents.'
'How can you do this to Moist after what's just happened?' said Adora Belle. 'Hasn't he just saved the day?'
'Possibly, although I'm not sure who he has saved it for. The law must be obeyed, Miss Dearheart. Even tyrants have to obey the law.' He paused, looking thoughtful, and continued: 'No, I tell a lie, tyrants do not have to obey the law, obviously, but they do have to observe the niceties. At least, I do.'
'But he didn't take - ' Adora Belle began.
'Nine o'clock tomorrow, in the Great Hall,' said Vetinari. 'I invite all interested parties to attend. We shall get to the bottom of this.' He raised his voice. 'Are there any directors of the Royal Bank here? Ah, Mr Lavish. Are you well?'
Cosmo Lavish, walking unsteadily, pushed his way through the crowd, supported on one arm by a young man in a brown robe.
'You have had him arrested?' said Cosmo.
'One uncontested fact is that Mr Lipwig, on behalf of Mr Fusspot, did formally take responsibility for the gold.'
'Indeed he did,' said Cosmo, glaring at Moist.
'But in the circumstances I feel I should look into all aspects of the situation.'
'We are in agreement there,' said Cosmo.
'And to that end I am arranging for my clerks to enter the bank tonight and examine its records,' Vetinari went on.
'I cannot agree to your request,' said Cosmo.
'Fortunately, it was not a request.' Lord Vetinari tucked Mr Fusspot under his arm, and went on: 'I have the chairman with me, you see. Commander Vimes, conduct Mr Lipwig into my coach, please. See that Miss Dearheart is escorted safely home, will you? We shall sort things out in the morning.'
Vetinari looked at the tower of dust that now enveloped the industrious golems, and added: 'We've all had a very busy day.'
Out in the back alley behind the Pink PussyCat Club the insistent, pumping music was muffled but still pervasive. Dark figures lurked...
'Dr Hicks, sir?'
The head of the Department of Post-Mortem Communications paused in the act of drawing a complicated rune amongst the rather less complex everyday graffiti and looked up at the concerned face of his student.
'Is this exactly legal under college rules, sir?'
'Of course not! Think of what might happen if this sort of thing fell into the wrong hands! Hold the lantern higher, Goatly, we're losing the light.'
'And whose hands would that be, sir?'
'Well, technically ours, as a matter of fact. But it's perfectly all right if the Council don't find out. And they won't, of course. They know better than to go around finding things out.'
'So it is illegal, technically?'
'Well now,' said Hicks, drawing a glyph which flamed blue for a moment, 'who among us, when you get right down to it, can say what is right and what is wrong?'
'The College Council, sir?' said Barnsforth.
Hicks threw down the chalk and straightened up.
'Now listen to me, you four! We are going to insorcize Flead, understand? To his eternal satisfaction and the not inconsiderable good of the department, believe me! This is a difficult ritual but if you assist me you'll be Doctors of Post-Mortem Communications by the end of term, understand? Straight As for the lot of you and, of course, the skull ring! Since you so far have managed to turn in one-third of an essay between you all, I would say that is a bargain, wouldn't you, Barnsforth?'
The student blinked in the force of the question, but natural talent came to his aid. He coughed in a curiously academic way, and said: 'I think I understand you, sir. What we are doing here goes beyond mundane definitions of right and wrong, does it not? We serve a higher truth.'
'Well done, Barnsforth, you will go a long way. Everyone got that?
Higher truth. Good! Now let's decant the old bugger and get out of here before anyone catches us!'
A troll officer in a coach is hard to ignore. He just looms. That was Vimes's little joke, perhaps. Sergeant Detritus sat beside Moist, effectively clamping him into his seat. Lord Vetinari and Drumknott sat opposite, his lordship with his hands crossed on the silver-topped cane and his chin resting on his hands. He watched Moist intently.
There was a rumour that the sword in the stick had been made with the iron taken from the blood of a thousand men. It seemed a waste, thought Moist, when for a bit of extra work you could get enough to make a ploughshare. Who made up these things, anyway?
But with Vetinari it seemed possible, if a bit messy.
'Look, if you let Cosmo - ' he began.
'Pas devant le gendarme,' said Lord Vetinari.
'Dat mean no talkin' in front o' me,' Sergeant Detritus supplied helpfully.
'Then can we talk about angels?' said Moist, after a period of silence.
'No, we can't. Mr Lipwig, you appear to be the only person able to command the biggest army since the days of the Empire. Do you think that is a good idea?'
'I didn't want to! I just worked out how to do it!'
'You know, Mr Lipwig, killing you right now would solve an incredibly large number of problems.'
'I didn't intend this! Well... not exactly like this.'
'We didn't intend the Empire. It just became a bad habit. So, Mr Lipwig, now that you have your golems, what else do you intend to do with them?'
'Put one in to power every clacks tower. The donkey treadmills have never worked properly. The other cities can't object to that. It will be a boon to ma - to people-kind and the donkeys won't object either, I expect.'
'That will account for a few hundred, perhaps. And the rest?'
'I intend to turn them into gold, sir. And I think it will solve all our problems.'
Vetinari raised a quizzical eyebrow. 'All our problems?'
The pain was breaking through again but was somehow reassuring. He was becoming Vetinari, certainly. The pain was good. It was a good pain. It concentrated him, it helped him think.
Right now, Cosmo was thinking that Pucci really should have been strangled at birth, which family folklore said he had tried to achieve. Everything about her was annoying. She was selfish, arrogant, greedy, vain, cruel, headstrong and totally lacking in tact and the slightest amount of introspection.
Those were not, within the clan, considered to be drawbacks in a person; one could hardly get rich if one bothered all the time about whether what one was doing was wrong or right. But Pucci thought she was beautiful, and that grated on his nerves. She did have good hair, that was true, but those high heels! She looked like a tethered balloon! The only reason she had any figure at all was because of the wonders of corsetry. And, while he'd heard that fat girls had lovely personalities, she just had a lot, and all of it was Lavish.
On the other hand, she was his age and at least had ambition and a wonderful gift for hatred. She wasn't lazy, like the rest of them. They spent their lives huddled round the money. They had no vision. Pucci was someone he could talk to. She saw things from a softer, female perspective.
'You should have Bent killed,' she said. 'I'm sure he knows something. Let's hang him from one of the bridges by his ankles. That's what Granddaddy used to do. Why are you still wearing that glove?'
'He's been a loyal servant of the bank,' said Cosmo, ignoring the last remark.
'Well? What's that got to do with it? Is there still something wrong with your hand?'
'My hand is fine,' said Cosmo, as another red rose of pain bloomed all the way to his shoulder. I'm so close, he thought. So close! Vetinari thinks he has me, but I have him! Oh, yes! Nevertheless... perhaps it was time to start tidying up.
'I will send Cranberry to see Mr Bent tonight,' he said. 'The man is of no further use now I have Cribbins.'
'Good. And then Lipsbig will go to prison and we'll get our bank back. You don't look well, you know. You are very pale.'
'As pale as Vetinari?' said Cosmo, pointing at the painting.
'What? What are you talking about? Don't be silly,' said Pucci. 'And there's a funny smell in here, too. Has something died?'
'My thoughts are unclouded. Tomorrow will be Vetinari's last day as Patrician, I assure you.'
'You're being silly again. And ever so sweaty, I might add,' said Pucci. 'Honestly, it's dripping off your chin. Pull yourself together!'
'I imagine the caterpillar feels it is dying when it begins to turn into a beautiful butterfly,' said Cosmo dreamily.
'What? What? Who knows? What's that got to do with anything?' Pucci demanded. 'That's not how it works in any case, because, listen, this is very interesting: the caterpillar dies, right, and goes all mushy, and then a tiny bit of it, like a kidney or something, suddenly wakes up and eats the caterpillar soup, and that's what comes out as the butterfly. It's a wonder of nature. You've just got a touch of flu. Don't be a big baby. I have a date. See you in the morning.'
She flounced out, leaving Cosmo alone except for Cranberry, who was reading in the corner.
It occurred to Cosmo that he really knew very little about the man. As Vetinari, of course, he would soon know everything about everybody.
'You were at the Assassins' School, weren't you, Cranberry?' he said.
Cranberry took the little silver bookmark from his top pocket, placed it carefully on the page, and closed the book. 'Yes, sir. Scholarship boy'
'Oh, yes. I remember them, scuttling about all the time. They tended to get bullied.'
'Yes, sir. Some of us survived.'
'Never bullied you, did I?'
'No, sir. I would have remembered.'
'That's good. That's good. What is your first name, Cranberry?'
'Don't know, sir. Foundling.'
'How sad. Your life must have been very hard.'
'The world can be so very harsh at times.'
'Would you be so good as to kill Mr Bent tonight?'
'I have made a mental note, sir. I will take an associate and undertake the task an hour before dawn. Most of Mrs Cake's lodgers will be out at that time and the fog will be thickest. Fortunately, Mrs Cake is staying with her old friend Mrs Harms-Beetle in Welcome Soap tonight. I checked earlier, having anticipated this eventuality.'
'You are a craftsman, Cranberry. I salute you.'
'Thank you, sir.'
'Have you seen Heretofore anywhere?'
'I wonder where he's got to? Now go off and have your supper, anyway. I will not be dining tonight.
'Tomorrow I will change,' he said aloud, when the door had shut behind Cranberry.
He reached down and drew the sword. It was a thing of beauty.
In the picture opposite, Lord Vetinari raised an eyebrow and said: 'Tomorrow you will be a beautiful butterfly.'
Cosmo smiled. He was nearly there. Vetinari had gone completely mad.
Mr Bent opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling.
After a few seconds this uninspiring view was replaced by an enormous nose, with the rest of a worried face some distance beyond it.
Mr Bent blinked and refocused and looked up at Miss Drapes, a shadow against the lamplight.
'You had a bit of a funny turn, Mr Bent,' she said, in the slow, careful voice people use for talking to mental patients, the elderly, and the dangerously armed.
'A funny turn? I did something funny?' He raised his head from the pillow, and sniffed.
'You are wearing a necklace of garlic, Miss Drapes?' he said.
'It's... a precaution,' said Miss Drapes, looking guilty, 'against... colds... yes, colds. You can't be too careful. How do you feel, in yourself?'
Mr Bent hesitated. He wasn't certain how he felt. He wasn't certain who he was. There seemed to be a hole inside him. There was no himself in himself.
'What has been happening, Miss Drapes?'
'Oh, you don't want to worry about all that,' said Miss Drapes, with fragile cheerfulness.
'I believe I do, Miss Drapes.'
'The doctor said you weren't to get excited, Mr Bent.'
'I to the best of my knowledge have never been excited in my life, Miss Drapes.'
The woman nodded. Alas, the statement was so easy to believe.
'Well, you know Mr Lipwig? They say he stole all the gold out of the vault!...' And the story unfolded. It was in many places speculation both new and second-hand, and because Miss Drapes was a regular reader of the Tanty Bugle it was recounted in the style and language in which tales of 'orrible murder are discussed.
What shocked her was the way the man just lay there. Once or twice he asked her to go back over a detail, but his expression never changed. She tried to add excitement, she painted the walls with exclamation marks, and he did not budge.
' - and now he's banged up in the Tanty,' Miss Drapes said. 'They say he will be hanged by the neck until dead. I think hanged is worse than just being hanged.'
'But they cannot find the gold...' whispered Mavolio Bent, leaning back against the pillow.
'That's right! Some say it has been spirited away by dire accomplices!' said Miss Drapes. They say informations have been laid against him by Mr Lavish.'
'I am a damned man, Miss Drapes, judged and damned,' said Mr Bent, staring at the wall.
'You, Mr Bent? That's no way to talk! You, who've never made a mistake?'
'But I have sinned. Oh, indeed I have! I have worshipped false idols!'
'Well, sometimes you can't get real ones,' said Miss Drapes, patting his hand and wondering if she should call someone. 'Look, if you want absolution, I understand the Ionians are doing two sins for one this week - '
'It's caught me,' he whispered. 'Oh dear, Miss Drapes. There is something rising inside that wants to get out!'
'Don't you worry, we've got a bucket,' said Miss Drapes.
'No! You should go, now! This will be horrible!'
'I'm not going anywhere, Mr Bent,' said Miss Drapes, a study in determination. 'You're just having a funny turn, that's all.'
'Ha!' said Mr Bent. 'Ha... ha... haha...' The laugh climbed up his throat like something from the crypt.
His skinny body went rigid and arched as if it was rising from the mattress. Miss Drapes flung herself across the bed, but she was too late. The man's hand rose, trembling, and extended a finger towards the wardrobe.
'Here we are again!' Bent screamed.
The lock clicked. The doors swung open.
In the cupboard was a pile of ledgers, and something... shrouded. Mr Bent opened his eyes and looked up into those of Miss Drapes.
'I brought it with me,' he said, as if talking to himself. 'I hated it so much but I brought it with me. Why? Who runs the circus?'
Miss Drapes was silent. All she knew was that she was going to follow this to the end. After all, she'd spent the night in a man's bedroom, and Lady Deirdre Waggon had a lot to say about that. She was technically a Ruined Woman, which seemed unfair given that, even more technically, she wasn't.
She watched as Mr Bent... changed. He had the decency to do so with his back turned, but she closed her eyes anyway. Then she remembered that she was Ruined, and so there wasn't much point, was there?
She opened them again.
'Miss Drapes?' said Mr Bent dreamily.
'Yes, Mr Bent?' she said, through chattering teeth.
'We need to find... a bakery.'
Cranberry and his associate stepped into the room, and stopped dead. This was not according to the plan.
'And possibly a ladder,' said Mr Bent. He pulled a strip of pink rubber from his pocket, and bowed.