"God o' Stuff," said Hamish. "What stuff?" Hamish shrugged. He hadn't survived all this time by being unnecessarily imaginative. "Just... things, y"ken," he said. "Lost things, mebbe. Things lyin' aroound?" The Silver Horde turned to the minstrel, who nodded after some thought. "Could work," he said, at last. Evil Harry moved on to Boy Willie. "Willie, why have you got a tomato on your head and a carrot in your ear?" Boy Willie grinned proudly. "You'll love this one," he said. "God of Bein" Sick."
"It's been done." said the minstrel, before Evil Harry could reply. "Vometia. Goddess in Ankh-Morpork. thousands of years ago. "To give an offering to Vometia" meant to-"
"So you'd better think of something else, growled Cohen. "Oh? And what are you going to be, Harry?" said Willie. "Me? Er ... I'm going to be a Dark God," said Evil Harry. "There's a lot of them around-"
"Here, you never said we could be demonic, said Caleb. "If we can be demonic, I'm blowed if I'm gonna be a stupid cupid."
"But if I'd said we could be demons you'd all have wanted to be demons." Harry pointed out. "An' we'd have been arguing for hours. Besides, the other gods're goin' to smell a rat if a whole bunch of dark gods turn up all at once."
"Mrs McGarry hasn't done a thing? said Truckle. "Well. I thought if I could borrow Evil Harry's helmet I could slip in as a Valkyrie maiden," said Vena. "Good sensible thinkin'," said Evil Harry. "There's bound to be a few of them around."
"And Harry won't need it because in a minute he's going to make an excuse about his leg or his back or something and how he can't come in with us," said Cohen, in a conversational voice. "On account of him havin' betrayed us. Right. Harry?" The game was getting more exciting. Most of the gods were watching now. Gods enjoy a good laugh, although it has to be said that their sense of humour is not subtle. Blind Io, the elderly chief of the gods, said, "I suppose there is no harm they can do us?"
"No," said Fate, passing the dice box. "If they were very intelligent, they would not be heroes." There was the rattle of a die, and one flew across the board and then began to spin in the air, tumbling faster and faster. Finally it vanished in a puff of ivory. "Someone has thrown uncertainty, said Fate. He looked along the table. "Ah ... my Lady ..."
"My lord." said the Lady. Her name was never spoken, although everyone knew what it was; speaking her name aloud would mean that she would instantly depart. Despite the fact that she had very few actual worshippers, she was nevertheless one of the most powerful of the deities on the Disc, since in their hearts nearly everyone hoped and believed that she existed. "And what is your move, my dear?" said Io. "I have already made it." said the Lady. "But I've thrown the dice where you can't see them."
"Good, I like a challenge," said Io. "In that case-"
"If I may suggest a diversion, sir?" said Fate smoothly. "And that is?"
"Well, they do want to be treated like gods." said Fate. "So I suggest we do so..."
"Are you thaying we thould take them theriouthly?" said Offler. "Up to a point. Up to a point."
"Up to which point?" said the Lady. "Up the the point, madam, where it ceases to amuse," On the veldt of Howondaland five the N'tuitif people, the only tribe in the world to have no imagination whatsoever. For example, their story about the thunder runs something like this: "Thunder is a loud noise in the sky, resulting from the disturbance of the air masses by the passage of lightning." And their legend "How the Giraffe Got His Long Neck" runs: "In the old days the ancestors of Old
Man Giraffe had slightly longer necks than other grassland creatures, and the access to the high leaves was so advantageous that it was mostly long-necked giraffes that survived, passing on the long neck in their blood just as a man might inherit his grandfather's spear. Some say, however, that it is all a lot more complicated and this explanation only applies to the shorter neck of the okapi. And so it is." The N'tuitif are a peaceful people, and have been hunted almost to extinction by neighbouring tribes, who have lots of imagination, and therefore plenty of gods, superstitions and ideas about how much better life would be if they had a bigger hunting ground. Of the events on the moon that day, the N'tuitif said: "The moon was brightly lit and from it rose another light which then split into three lights and faded. We do not know why this happened. It was just a thing." They were then wiped out by a nearby tribe who knew that the lights had been a signal from the god Ukli to expand the hunting ground a bit more. However, they were soon defeated entirely by a tribe who knew that the lights were their ancestors, who lived in the moon, and who were urging them to kill all non-believers in the goddess Glipzo. Three years later they in turn were killed by a rock falling from the sky. as a result of a star exploding a billion years ago. What goes around, comes around. If not examined too closely, it passes for justice. In the shaking, rattling Kite, Rincewind watched the last two dragon pods drop from the wings. They tumbled alongside for a moment, broke up, and fell away. He stared at the levers again. Someone, he thought rnuzzily, really should be doing something with them, shouldn't they? Dragons contrailed across the sky. Now they were free of the pods, they were in a hurry to get home. The wizards had created Thurlow's Interesting Lens just above the deck. The display was quite impressive. "Better than fireworks," observed die Dean. Ponder banged on the omniscope. "All, it's working now," he said, "but all I can see is this huge-" More of Rincewind's face than a giant nose became visible as he drew back. "What levers do I pull? What levers do I pull?" he screamed. "What's happened?"
"Leonard's still out cold and the Librarian is pulling Carrot out of all the junk and this is definitely a bumpy ride! We've got no dragons left! What are all these dials for? I dunk we're falling! What shall I do?"
"Didn't you watch how Leonard did it?"
"He had his feet on two pedals and was pulling all the levers all the time!"
"All right, all right, I'll see if I can work out what to do from his plans and we can talk you down!"
"Don't! Talk me Up! Up is where we want to stay! Not down!"
"Are any of the levers marked?" said Ponder, scrabbling through Leonard's sketches. "Yes, but I don't understand them! Here's one marked "Troba"!" Ponder scanned the pages, covered in Leonard's backwards writing. "Er ... er ..." he muttered. "Do not pull the lever marked "Troba"!" snapped Lord Vetinari, leaning forward. "My lord!" said Ponder, and went red as Lord Vetinari's gaze fell upon him. "I'm sorry, my lord, but this is rather technical, it is about machinery., and it would perhaps be better if those whose education had been more in the field of the arts did not..." His voice faded under the Patrician's stare. "This one's got a normal label! It's called "Prince Haran's Tiller"!" said a desperate voice from the omniscope.
Lord Vetinari patted Ponder Stibbons on the shoulder. "I quite understand," he said. "The last thing a trained machinery person wants at a time like this is well-meant advice from ignorant people. I do apologise. And what is it that you intend to do?"
"Well I, er, I .. ."
"As the Kite and all our hopes plunge towards the ground. I mean," Lord Vetinari went on. "I, er, I, let's see, we've tried ..." Ponder stared at the omniscope, and at his notes. His mind had become a huge, white, sticky field of hot fluff. "I imagine we have at least a minute left," said Lord Vetinari. "No rush."
"I, er, perhaps we, er ..." The Patrician leaned down towards the omniscope. "Rincewind, pull Prince Haran's Tiller," he said. "We don't know what it does-" Ponder began. "Do tell me if you have a better idea," said Lord Vetinari. "In the meantime, I suggest that the lever is pulled." On the Kite. Rincewind decided to respond to the voice of authority. "Er ... there's a lot of clicking and whirring,.." he reported. "And ... some of the levers are moving by themselves ... now the wings are unfolding ... we're sort of flying in a straight line, at least... quite gently, really ..."
"Good. I suggest you apply yourself to waking up Leonard," said the Patrician. He turned and nodded at Ponder. "You yourself have not studied the classics, young man? I know Leonard has."
"Well... no, sir."
"Prince Haran was a legendary Klatchian hero who sailed around the world on a ship with a magical tiller," said Lord Vetinari. "It steered the ship while he slept. If I can be of any further help, don't hesitate to ask." Evil Harry stood frozen with terror as Cohen advanced across the snow, hand raised. "You tipped off the gods, Harry," said Cohen. "We all heard yez." said Mad Hamish. "But it's okay, Cohen added. "Makes it more interestin'." His hand came down and slapped the small man on the back. "We thought: That Evil Harry, he may be dumber'n a thick brick, but betrayin' us at a time like this ... well, that's what we call nerve, said Cohen. "I've known a few Evil Dark Lords in my time. Harry, but I'd def'nit'ly give you three great big goblins' heads for style. You might have never made it into the, you know, big Dark Lord league, but you've got... well, Harry, you've definitely got the Wrong Stuff."
"We likes a man who sticks to his siege catapults," said Boy Willie. Evil Harry looked down and shuffled his feet, his face a battle between pride and relief. "Good of you to say that, lads," he mumbled. "I mean, you know, if it was up to me I wouldn't do this to yer, but I got a reputation to--"
"I said we understand," said Cohen. "It's just like with us. You see a big hairy thing galloping towards you, you don't stop to think: Is this a rare species on the point of extinction? No, you hack its head off. 'Cos that's heroing. am I right? An'you see someone, you betray 'em, quick as wink, 'cos that's villaining," There was a murmur of approval from the rest of the Horde. In a strange way. this too was part of the Code. "You're letting him go?" said the minstrel.
"Of course. You haven't been paying attention, lad. The Dark Lord always gets away. But you'd better put in the song that he betrayed us. That'll look good."
"And ... er ... you wouldn't mind saying I fiendishly tried to cut your throats?" said Harry. "All right," said Cohen loftily. "Put in that he fought like a black- hearted tiger." Harry wiped a tear from his eye. "Thanks, lads." he said. "I don't know what to say. I won't forget this. This could turn things right round for me."
"But do us a favour and see the bard gets back all right, though, will you?" said Cohen. "Sure." said Evil Harry. "Um .. . I'm not going back," said the minstrel. This surprised everyone. It certain surprised him. But life had suddenly opened two roads in front of him. One of them led back to a life singing songs about love and flowers. The other could lead anywhere. There was something about these old men that made the first choice completely impossible. He couldn't explain it. That was just how it was. "You've got to go back-" said Cohen. "No, I've got to see how it ends," said the minstrel. "I must be mad, but that's what I want to do."
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