Tonight we continue the Small Gods bookclub, as Mike S recaps the third section of the book. Mike S recapped the first section here and James K recapped the second section here. The complete list of sections can be found here. If you’re reading a different edition, post a comment giving its first and last pages, and I’ll add it to the spreadsheet. If you must comment on anything past what we’ve read so far (the first three sections), please rot13 it to avoid spoilers. If you’d like to volunteer to recap future sections, please say so.
That’s all the boilerplate stuff. Let’s get started.
From “Anyone could go to the Place of Lamentation” to “Fri’it set out”.
There are many paths to Om. First class can run into a bit of money, but for life’s steerage passengers, there’s the Place of Lamentations. Om himself (in turtle form), crawls over to it, and finds a crowd of people petitioning him for favor, eyes raised to the heavens, with no idea that he’s actually underfoot. In fact, he’s kicked around mercilessly. He’d be quite willing to grant all their prayers, if only they’d cut it out, but like all people who aren’t Brutha, they can’t hear him, so he remains a soccer ball. And that was before the eagle came back.
Brutha arrives at Vorbis’s, where a hood is put over his head and he’s escorted into some inner sanctum, first being spun around a few times to disorient him. Vorbis and two of him underlings interrogate him, and establish, to Vobris’s deep satisfaction and the henchmen’s grudging admission, that Brutha has an eidetic memory: anything he’s scene for even a brief moment is stored and locked away forever. Also, no comprehension of anything beyond his senses, especially politics. He is told to accompany Vorbis to Ephebe, and of course accepts that. He is also told to forget this meeting, which is both impossible and nonsensical. (He has even less conception of forgetting than of politics.) But he has just enough sense to agree to that too.
Brutha goes back to the garden, to instruct Lu-tze on what to do there in his absence. Lu-tze shows Brutha the bonsais he’s made. Not trees: bonsai mountains. Small rocks you can pick up in your hand that seem to weigh millions of pounds and have snow atop their four-inch elevations. Unfortunately, Brutha is called away from this amazing scene by Om’s psychic bellow.
Back at the Place of Lamentations, the eagle is circling the statue Om is hiding under. The pilgrims all take this as a sign and crowd around, which is the cue for the arrival of the Omnian avatar of one of the Discworld’s great personifications: CMOT Dibbler, named for this favorite description of striking a bargain which is slightly less to his favor than he’d like: “I’m cuttin’ me own throat!” Dibbler is the man who, wherever a crowd gathers, is there to sell barely edible snacks, drinks that would only improve by being dishwater, and substances that are almost, but not entirely, completely unlike meat “onna stick!”, for highly negotiable prices that suggest just how cheaply he must have come by all of it. This version is named, appropriately enough, Cut-Me-Own-Hand-Off Dhblah, and he has all the chutzpah of the original, for example calling it a miracle when the flies he was trying to pass of as currants fly away.
As Dhblah works the crowd, Brutha comes running frantically to meet Om’s call. He briefly gets mixed up with the Cenobiarch’s processions, but fortunately that results in only a brief roughing up, and he’s able to rescue Om. Brutha is considerably less awed by Om than by Vorbis, and can have quite a normal conversation with him, pointing out that it’s not offensive to call a god a turtle when he looks exactly like a turtle. As Brutha carries Om away, he runs across Dhblah, and they talk a bit. It’s a confusing conversation, because Dhblah isn’t aware that Om (i.e. the turtle) is part of it, and interprets everything Butha says to Om as intended for him. But he’s affable enough to let “Shut up!” roll off him. Dhblah also knows all about the secret mission to Ephebe, because he’s the sort of person who knows more or less everything that’s going on in the world. He probably tried to cater it.
Brutha tells Om about the mission to Ephebe, and what a godly man Vorbis is. Om is not fooled a bit; he knows a torturer when he hears about one. Brutha recites the justifications he’s learned: the hierarchy is infallible, the tortured are better off for being purified, this life is a shadow and what matters is the next. Om points out what hogwash this is, but Brutha truth believes. And Om realizes the truth of his situation:
Gods are sustained by faith.
A god with no believers fades away.
Om was brought back to full consciousness, after years of being completely a turtle, by Brutha’s belief.
And among the teeming thousands in the Citadel, Brutha is the only one that believes.
Maybe the only one on the Discworld.
Om commands Brutha to take him along to Ephebe. Because he doesn’t dare to be away from him.
Fri’it, a bit drunk, realizes that in his long military career, he’s liked most of the places he’d been far more than he likes Omnia. Ephebe in particular was a lovely place, and he has no wish to see it conquered. He realizes what he has to do. He fumbles for his sword, and then for the door. But the door opens before he gets to it, and of course it’s Vorbis.
Brutha, having packed Om with the rest of his kit, arises before dawn for the mission to Ephebe. He has a conversation with a grizzled soldier saddling up a camel, consisting of Brutha’s pieties and the soldier’s “Bugger off!” Vorbis arrives, orders that Brutha be given a mule to ride, and announces to all that they’ll proceed without Genera Fri’it.
Fri’it is in a strange state. He can’t pick objects up. Not because he’s drunk, but because his hands pass through them. Death, who has the same job as Dream’s sister without being in any way as charming or attractive, clues him in. Fri’it must walk the desert, all alone with his beliefs. Which, on reflection, he can do. He’s done worse. And so he sets out.
Tune in next week for section 4 – from “It was a small mule and Brutha had long legs” to “They were known for it”.