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Feet of Clay
It's murder in Discworld! -- which ordinarily is no big deal. But what bothers Watch Commander Sir Sam Vimes is that the unusual deaths of three elderly Ankh-Morporkians do not bear the clean, efficient marks of the Assassins' Guild. An apparent lack of any motive is also quite troubling. All Vimes has are some tracks of white clay and more of those bothersome "clue" things that only serve to muck up an investigation. The anger of a fearful populace is already being dangerously channeled toward the city's small community of golems -- the mindless, absurdly industrious creatures of baked clay who can occasionally be found toiling in the city's factories. And certain highly placed personages are using the unrest as an excuse to resurrect a monarchy -- which would be bad enough even if the "king" they were grooming wasn't as empty-headed as your typical animated pottery.
384 pages; ISBN 9780061807022
It a warm spring night when a fist knocked at the door so hard that the hinges bent.
A man opened it and peered out into the street. There was mist coming off the river and it was a cloudy night. He might as well have tried to see through white velvet.
But he thought afterwards that there had been shapes out there, just beyond the fight spilling out into the road. A lot of shapes, watching him carefully. He thought maybe there'd been very faint points of light ...
There was no mistaking the shape right in front of him, though. It was big and dark red and looked like a child's clay model of a man. Its eyes were two embers.
"Well? What do you want at this time of night?"
The golem handed him a slate, on which was written:
WE HEAR YOU WANT A GOLEM.
Of course golems couldn't speak could they?
"Hah. Want, yes. Afford, no. I've been asking around but it's wicked the prices you're going for these days . . ."
The golem rubbed the words off the slate and wrote:
TO YOU, ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS.
"You're for sale?"
The golem lurched aside. Another one stepped into the fight.
It was also a golem, the man could see that. But it wasn't like the usual lumpen clay things that you occasionally saw. Ibis one gleamed like a newly polished statue, perfect down to the detailing of the clothes. It reminded him of one of the old pictures of the city's lungs, all haughty stance and imperious haircut. In fact, it even had a small coronet molded on to its head.
"A hundred dollars?" the man said suspiciously. "What's wrong with it? Who selling it?"
NOTHING IS WRONG. PERFECT IN ALL DETAIL NINETY DOLLARS.
"Sounds like someone wants to get rid of it in a hurry. . ."
GOLEM MUST WORK GOLEM MUST HAVE A MASTER.
"Yeah, right, but you hear stories ... Going mad and making too many things, and that."
NOT MAD. EIGHTY DOLLARS.
"it looks ... new," said the man, tapping the gleaming chest. "But no one's making golems any more, that's what's keeping the price up beyond the purse of the small business-" He stopped. "Is someone making them again?
"I heard the priests banned making 'em years ago. A man could get in a lot of trouble."
"Who's doing it?"
"Is he selling them to Albertson? Or Spadger and Williams? It's hard enough competing as it is, and they've got the money to invest in new plant-"
The man walked around the golem. "A man can't sit by and watch his company collapse under him because of unfair price cutting, I mean to say . .
"Religion is all very well, but what do prophets know about profits, eh? Hmm . . ." He looked up at the shapeless golem in the shadows. "Was that thirty dollars I just saw you write?"
"I've always liked dealing wholesale. Wait one moment." He went back inside and returned with a handful of coins. "Will you be selling any to them other bastards?"
"Good. Tell your boss it's a pleasure to do business with him. Get along inside, Sunny Jim."
The white golem walked into the factory. The man, glancing from side to side, trotted in after it and shut the door.
Deeper shadows moved in the dark. There was a faint hissing. Then, rocking slightly, the big heavy shapes moved away.
Shortly afterwards, and around the comer, a beggar holding out a hopeful hand for alms was amazed to find himself suddenly richer by a whole thirty dollars.*
The Discworld turned against the glittering backdrop of space, spinning very gently on the backs of the four giant elephants that perched on the shell of Great A'Tuin the star turtle. Continents drifted slowly past, topped by weather systems that themselves turned gently against the flow, like waltzers spinning counter to the whirl of the dance. A billion tons of geography rolled slowly through the sky.
People look down on stuff like geography and meteorology, and not only because they're standing on one and being soaked by the other. They don't look quite like real science. But geography is only physics slowed down and with a few trees stuck on it, and is full of excitingly fashionable chaos and complexity. And summer isn't a time. It's a place as well. Summer is a moving creature and likes to go south for the winter.
Even on the Discworld, with its tiny orbiting sun tilting over the turning world, the seasons moved. In Ankh-Morpork, greatest of its cities, spring was nudged aside by summer, and summer was prodded in the back by autumn.
Geographically speaking, there was not a lot of difference within the city itself, although in later spring the scum on the river was often a nice emerald green. The mist of spring became the fog of autumn, which mixed with fumes and smoke from the magical quarter and the workshops of the alchemists until it seemed to have a thick, choking fife of its own.
And time moved on.
Autumn fog pressed itself against the midnight windowpanes.
Blood ran in a trickle across the pages of a rare volume of religious essays, which had been tom in half
'There had been no need for that, thought Father Tubelcek.
A further thought suggested that there had been no need to hit him either. But Father Tubelcek had never been very concerned about that sort of thing. People healed, books didn't. He reached out shakily and tried to gather up the pages, but slumped back again.
The room was spinning.
The door swung open. Heavy footsteps creaked across the floor-one footstep at least, and one dragging noise.
Step. Drag. Step. Drag.
Father Tubelcek tried to focus. "You?" he croaked.