Faust Eric
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

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Faust Eric

Copyright © Terry and Lyn Pratchett, 1990

No enemies had ever taken Ankh-Morpork. Well, technically they had, quite often; the city welcomed free-spending barbarian invaders, but somehow the puzzled raiders always found, after a few days, that they didn’t own their own horses any more, and within a couple of months they were just another minority group with its own graffiti and food shops.

The title, in impressively flickering red letters, was Mallificarum Sumpta Diabolicite Occularis Singularum, the Book of Ultimate Control. He knew about it. There was a copy in the Library somewhere, although wizards never bothered with it.

This might seem odd, because if there is one thing a wizard would trade his grandmother for, it is power. But it wasn’t all that strange, because any wizard bright enough to survive for five minutes was also bright enough to realise that if there was any power in demonology, then it lay with the demons. Using it for your own purposes would be like trying to beat mice to death with a rattlesnake.

Interestingly enough, the gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is important to shoot missionaries on sight.



Hell needed horribly-bright, self-centred people like Eric. They were much better at being nasty than demons could ever manage.

There might have been more efficient ways to build a world. You might start with a ball of molten iron and then coat it with successive layers of rock, like an old-fashioned gobstopper. And you’d have a very efficient planet, but it wouldn’t look so nice. Besides, things would drop off the bottom.

Pre-eminent amongst Rincewind’s talents was his skill in running away, which over the years he had elevated to the status of a genuinely pure science; it didn’t matter if you were fleeing from or to, so long as you were fleeing. It was flight alone that counted. I run, therefore I am; more correctly, I run, therefore with any luck I’ll still be.

But he was also skilled in languages and in practical geography. He could shout “help!” in fourteen languages and scream for mercy in a further twelve. He had passed through many of the countries on the Disc, some of them at high speed [...]

“It was only, you know, a hobby,” said the imp. “I thought, you know, it was the right thing, sort of thing. Death and destruction and that.”

“You did, did you?” said the King. “Thousands of more-or-less innocent people dying? Straight out of our hands,” he snapped his fingers, “just like that. Straight off to their happy hunting ground or whatever. That’s the trouble with you people. You don’t think of the Big Picture. I mean, look at the Tezumen. Gloomy, unimaginative, obsessive . . . by now they could have invented a whole bureaucracy and taxation system that could have turned the minds of the continent to slag. Instead of which, they’re just a bunch of second-rate axe-murderers. What a waste.”



The prayers of most religions generally praise and thank the gods involved, either out of general piety or in the hope that he or she will take the hint and start acting responsibly. The Tezumen, having taken a long hard look around their world and decided bluntly that things were just about as bad as they were ever going to get, had perfected the art of the plain-chant winge.



It was clear that points were being made. For example, how the economics of the kingdom depended on a buoyant obsidian knife industry, how the enslaved neighbouring kingdoms had come to rely on the smack of firm government, and incidentally on the hack, slash and disembowelling of firm government as well, and on the terrible fate that awaited any people who didn’t have gods. Godless people might get up to anything, they might turn against the fine old traditions of thrift and non-self-sacrifice that had made the kingdom what it was today, they might start wondering why, if they didn’t have a god, they needed all these priests, anything.



“There’s a door,” he whispered.

“Where does it go?”

“It stays where it is, I think,” said Rincewind.

“You must think we was born yesterday! All night nothing but sawing and hammering, the next thing there’s a damn great wooden horse outside the gates, so I think, that’s funny, a bloody great wooden horse with airholes.”

“Come on. Let’s run away.”

“Where to?”

Rincewind sighed. He’d tried to make his basic philosophy clear time and again, and people never got the message.

“Don’t you worry about to,” he said. “In my experience that always takes care of itself. The important word is away.”

The sergeant put on the poker face which has been handed down from NCO to NCO ever since one protoamphibian told another, lower-ranking protoamphibian to muster a squad of newts and Take That Beach. The captain was eighteen and fresh from the academy, where he had passed with flying colours in such subjects as Classical Tactics, Valedictory Odes and Military Grammar. The sergeant was fifty-five, and instead of an education he had spent about forty years attacking or being attacked by harpies, humans, cyclopses, furies and horrible things on legs. He felt put upon.



“We’re in the middle of the most famously fatuous war there has ever been [...]

Some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander and such great names as these. In fact, throughout the history of the multiverse people have said nice things about every cauliflower-eared sword-swinger, at least in their vicinity, on the basis that it is a lot safer that way. It’s funny how the people have always respected the kind of commander who comes up with strategies like “I want fifty thousand of you chappies to rush at the enemy,” whereas the more thoughtful commanders who say things like “Why don’t we build a damn great wooden horse and then nip in at the back gate while they’re all round the thing waiting for us to come out” are considered only one step above common oiks and not the kind of person you’d lend money to.

This is because most of the first type of commander are brave men, whereas cowards make far better strategists.



The consensus seemed to be that if really large numbers of men were sent to storm the mountain, then enough might survive the rocks to take the citadel. This is essentially the basis of all military thinking.

“Total nothing.” He hesitated. “There’s a word for it,” he said. “It’s what you get when there’s nothing left and everything’s been used up.”

“Yes. I think it’s called the bill,” said Eric.

Everyone who has found a hitherto unknown egg-whisk jamming an innocent kitchen drawer knows that raw matter is continually flowing into the universe in fairly developed forms, popping into existence normally in ashtrays, vases and glove compartments. It chooses its shape to allay suspicion, and common manifestations are paperclips, the pins out of shirt packaging, the little keys for central heating radiators, marbles, bits of crayon, mysterious sections of herb-chopping devices and old Kate Bush albums. Why matter does this is unclear, but it is evident that matter has Plans.

It is also apparent that creators sometimes favour the Big Bang method of universe construction, and at other times use the more gentle methods of Continuous Creation. This follows studies by cosmotherapists which have revealed that the violence of the Big Bang can give a universe serious psychological problems when it gets older.

The Universe came into being.

Any created-again cosmogonist will tell you that all the interesting stuff happened in the first couple of minutes, when nothingness bunched together to form space and time and lots of really tiny black holes appeared and so on. After that, they say, it became just a matter of, well, matter. It was basically all over bar the microwave radiation.

Seen from close by, though, it had a certain gaudy attraction.



“What’re quantum mechanics?”

“I don’t know. People who repair quantums, I suppose.”



“Multiple exclamation marks,” he went on, shaking his head, “are a sure sign of a diseased mind.”

No more policy statements, no more consultative documents, no more morale-boosting messages to all staff. This was Hell, but you had to draw the line somewhere.



text checked (see note) Oct 2010

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