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Men at Arms

Men at Arms

Men at Arms 35

Page 35

 

  Yes, but only back in Elm Street. This is my only uniform.

  You have to put some clothes on when youre human ?

  Yes.

  Why? I would have thought a nude woman would be at home in any company, no offence meant.

  I prefer clothes.

  Gaspode sniffed at the dirt.

  Come on, then, he sighed. Wed better catch up Foul Ole Ron before your chainmail becomes a bottle of Bearhuggers, yes?

  Angua looked around. The scent of Foul Ole Ron was practically tangible.

  All right. But lets be quick about it.

  Wolfbane? You didnt need daft old herbs to make your life a problem, if you spent one week every month with two extra legs and four extra nipples.

  There were crowds around the Patricians Palace, and outside the Assassins Guild. A lot of beggars were in evidence. They looked ugly. Looking ugly is a beggars stock in trade in any case. These looked uglier than necessary.

  The militia peered around a corner.

  Theres hundreds of people, said Colon. And loads of trolls outside the Day Watch.

  Wheres the crowd thickest? said Carrot.

  Anywhere the trolls are, said Colon. He remembered himself. Only joking, he added.

  Very well, said Carrot. Everyone follow me.

  The babble stopped as the militia marched, lumbered, trotted and knuckled towards the Day Watch House.

  A couple of very large trolls blocked the way. The crowd watched in expectant silence.

  Any minute now, Colon thought, someones going to throw something. And then were all going to die.

  He glanced up. Slowly and jerkily, gargoyle heads were appearing along the gutters. No-one wanted to miss a good fight.

  Carrot nodded at the two trolls.

  Theyd got lichen all over them, Colon noticed.

  Its Bluejohn and Bauxite, isnt it? said Carrot.

  Bluejohn, despite himself, nodded. Bauxite was tougher, and merely glared.

  Youre just the sort I was looking for, Carrot went on.

  Colon gripped his helmet like a size #10 limpet trying to crawl up into a size #1 shell. Bauxite was an avalanche with feet.

  Youre conscripted, said Carrot.

  Colon peeked out from under the brim.

  Report to Corporal Nobbs for your weapons. Lance-Constable Detritus will administer the oath. He stood back. Welcome to the Citizens Watch. Remember, every lance-constable has a fieldmarshals baton in his knapsack.

  The trolls hadnt moved.

  Aint gonna be inna Watch, said Bauxite.

  Officer material if ever I saw it, said Carrot.

  Hey, you cant put them in the Watch! shouted a dwarf from the crowd.

  Why, hello, Mr Stronginthearm, said Carrot. Good to see community leaders here. Why cant they be in the militia?

  All the trolls listened intently. Stronginthearm realized that he was suddenly the centre of attention, and hesitated.

  Well . . . youve only got the one dwarf, for one thing . . . he began.

  Im a dwarf, said Carrot, technically.

  Stronginthearm looked a little nervous. The whole issue of Carrots keenly embraced dwarfishness was a difficult one for the more politically minded dwarfs.

  Youre a bit big, he said lamely.

  Big? Whats size got to do with being a dwarf? Carrot demanded.

  Um . . . a lot? whispered Cuddy.

  Good point, said Carrot. Thats a good point. He scanned the faces. Right. We need some honest, law-abiding dwarfs . . . you there . . .

  Me? said an unwary dwarf.

  Have you got any previous convictions?

  Well, I dunno . . . I suppose I used to believe very firmly that a penny saved is a penny earned—

  Good. And Ill take . . . you two . . . and you. Four more dwarfs, yes? Cant complain about that, eh?

  Aint gonna be inna Watch, said Bauxite again, but uncertainty modulated his tone.

  You trolls cant leave now, said Detritus. Otherwise, too many dwarfs. Thats numbers, that is.

  Im not joining any Watch! said a dwarf.

  Not man enough, eh? said Cuddy.

  What? Im as good as any bloody troll any day!

  Right, thats sorted out then, said Carrot, rubbing his hands together. Acting-Constable Cuddy?

  Sir?

  Hey, said Detritus, how come he suddenly full constable?

  Since he was in charge of the dwarf recruits, said Carrot. And youre in charge of the troll recruits, Acting-Constable Detritus.

  I full acting-constable in charge of the troll recruits?

  Of course. Now, if you would step out of the way, Lance-Constable Bauxite—

  Behind Carrot, Detritus drew a big proud breath.

  Aint gonna—

  Lance-Constable Bauxite! You horrible big troll! You standing up straight! You saluting right now! You stepping out of the way of Corporal Carrot! You two troll, you come here! Wurn . . . two-er . . . tree . . . four-er! You in the Watch now! Aaargh, I cannot believe it what my eye it seeing! Where you from, Bauxite?

  Slice Mountain, but—

  Slice Mountain! Slice Mountain? Only . . . Detritus looked at his fingers for a moment, and rammed them behind his back. Only two-er things come from Slice Mountain! Rocks . . . an . . . an . . . he struck out wildly, other sortsa rocks! What kind you, Bauxite?

  What the hells going on here?

  The Watch House door had opened. Captain Quirke emerged, sword in hand.

  You two horrible troll! You raise your hand right now, you repeat troll oath—

  Ah, captain, said Carrot. Can we have a word?

  Youre in real trouble, Corporal Garret, snarled Quirke. Who do you think you are?

  I will do what I told—

  Dont wanna be inna—

  Wham!

  I will do what I told—

  Just the man on the spot, captain, said Carrot cheerfully.

  Well, man on the spot, Im the senior officer here, and you can damn well—

  Interesting point, said Carrot. He produced his black book. Im relieving you of your command.

  —otherwise I get my goohuloog head kicked in.

  —otherwise I get my goohuloog head kicked in.

  Wha—? Are you mad?

  No, sir, but Im choosing to believe that you are. There are regulations laid down for this eventuality.

  Where is your authority? Quirke stared at the crowd. Hah! I suppose youll say this armed mob is your authority, eh?

  Carrot looked shocked.

  No. The Laws and Ordinances of Ankh-Morpork, sir. Its all down here. Can you tell me what evidence you have against the prisoner Coalface?

  That damn troll? Its a troll!

  Yes?

  Quirke looked around.

  Look, I dont have to tell you with everyone here—

  As a matter of fact, according to the rules, you do. Thats why its called evidence. It means “that which is seen”.

  Listen! hissed Quirke, leaning towards Carrot. Hes a troll. Hes as guilty as hell of something. They all are!

  Carrot smiled brightly.

  Colon had come to know that smile. Carrots face seemed to go waxy and glisten when he smiled like that.

  And so you locked him up?

  Right!

  Oh. I see. I understand now.

  Carrot turned away.

  I dont know what you think youre— Quirke began.

  People hardly saw Carrot move. There was just a blur, a sound like a steak being thumped on a slab, and the captain was flat on the cobbles.

  A couple of members of the Day Watch appeared cautiously in the doorway.

  Everyone became aware of a rattling noise. Nobby was spinning the morningstar round and round on the end of its chain, except that because the spiky ball was a very heavy spiky ball, and because the difference between Nobby and a dwarf was species rather than height, it was more a case of both of them orbiting around each other. I
f he let go, it was an even chance that the target would be hit by a spiky ball or an unexploded Corporal Nobbs. Neither prospect pleased.

  Tut it down, Nobby, hissed Colon, I dont think theyre going to make trouble . . .

  I cant let go, Fred!

  Carrot sucked his knuckles.

  Do you think that comes under the heading of “minimum necessary force”, sergeant? he asked. He appeared to be genuinely worried.

  Fred! Fred! Whatll I do?

  Nobby was a terrified blur. When you are swinging a spiky ball on a chain, the only realistic option is to keep moving. Standing still is an interesting but brief demon- stration of a spiral in action.

  Is he still breathing? said Colon.

  Oh, yes. I pulled the punch.

  Sounds minimum enough to me, sir, said Colon loyally.

  Fredddd!

  Carrot reached out absent-mindedly as the morning-star rocketed past and caught it by the chain. Then he threw it against the wall, where it stuck.

  You men in there in the Watch House, he said, come out now.

  Five men emerged, edging cautiously around the prone captain.

  Good. Now go and get Coalface.

  Er . . . hes in a bit of a bad temper, Corporal Carrot.

  On account of being chained to the floor, volunteered another guard.

  Well, now, said Carrot. The thing is, hes going to be unchained right now. The men shuffled their feet nervously, possibly remembering an old proverb that fitted the occasion very well. [26] Carrot nodded. I wont ask you to do it, but I might suggest you take some time off, he said.

  Quirm is very nice at this time of year, said Sergeant Colon helpfully. Theyve got a floral clock.

  Er . . . since you mention it . . . Ive got some sick leave coming up, one of them said.

  I should think thats very probable, if you hang around, said Carrot.

  They sidled off as fast as decency allowed. The crowd hardly paid them any attention. There was still a lot more mileage in watching Carrot.

  Right, said Carrot. Detritus, you take some men and go and bring out the prisoner.

  I dont see why— a dwarf began.

  You shut up, you horrible man, said Detritus, drunk with power.

  You could have heard a guillotine drop.

  In the crowd, a number of different-sized knobbly hands gripped a variety of concealed weapons.

  Everyone looked at Carrot.

  That was the strange thing, Colon remembered later. Everyone looked at Carrot.

  Gaspode sniffed a lamp-post.

  I see Three-legged Shep has been ill again, he said And old Willy the Pup is back in town.

  To a dog, a well-placed hitching post or lamp is a social calendar.

  Where are we? said Angua. Foul Ole Rons trail was hard to follow. There were so many other smells.

  Somewhere in the Shades, said Gaspode. Sweethear Lane, smells like. He snuffled across the ground. Ah here he is again, the little . . .

  ullo, Gaspode . . .

  It was a deep, hoarse voice, a kind of whisper wit? sand in it. It came from somewhere in an alley.

  os yer fwiend, Gaspode?

  There was a snigger.

  Ah, said Gaspode. Uh. Hi, guys.

  Two dogs emerged from the alley. They were huge. Their species was indeterminate. One of them was jet black and looked like a pit bull terrier crossed with a mincing machine. The other . . . the other looked like a dog whose name was almost certainly Butch. Both sop and bottom set of fangs had grown so large that he appeared to be looking at the world through bars. He was also bow-legged, although it would probably be a tad if not terminal move for anyone to comment on Gaspodes tail vibrated nervously.

  These are my friends Black Roger and —

  Butch? suggested Angua.

  How did you know that? A lucky guess, said Angua.

  The two big dogs had moved around so that they were e either side of them.

  Well, well, well, said Black Roger. Whos this, then? Angua, said Gaspode. Shes a —