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Men at Arms

Men at Arms

Men at Arms 37

Page 37

 

  Good grief, said Angua, when they had put several streets between them and the crowd of dogs. Hes mad, isnt he?

  No, mads when you froth at the mouf, said Gaspode. Hes insane. Thats when you froth at the brain.

  All that stuff about wolves—

  I suppose a dogs got a right to dream, said Gaspode.

  But wolves arent like that! They dont even have names!

  Everyones got a name.

  Wolves havent. Why should they? They know who they are, and they know who the rest of the pack are. Its all . . . an image. Smell and feel and shape. Wolves dont even have a word for wolves! Its not like that. Names are human things.

  Dogs have got names. Ive got a name. Gaspode. Smy name, said Gaspode, a shade sullenly.

  Well . . . I cant explain why, said Angua. But wolves dont have names.

  The moon was high now, in a sky as black as a cup of coffee that wasnt very black at all.

  Its light turned the city into a network of silver lines and shadows.

  Once upon a time the Tower of Art had been the centre of the city, but cities tend to migrate gently with time and Ankh-Morporks centre was now several hundred yards away. The tower still dominated the city, though; its black shape reared against the evening sky, contriving to look blacker than mere shadows would suggest.

  Hardly anyone ever looked at the Tower of Art, because it was always there. It was just a thing. People hardly ever look at familiar things.

  There was a very faint clink of metal on stone. For a moment, anyone close to the tower and looking in exactly the right place might have fancied that a patch of even blacker darkness was slowly but inexorably moving towards the top.

  For a moment, the moonlight caught a slim metal tube, slung across the figures back. Then it swung into shadow again as it climbed onwards.

  The window was resolutely shut.

  But she always leaves it open, Angua whined Must have shut it tonight, said Gaspode. Theres a lot of strange people about.

  But she knows about strange people, said Angua. Most of them live in her house!

  Youll just have to change back to human and smash the window.

  I cant do that! Id be naked!

  Well, youre naked now, aint you?

  But Im a wolf! Thats different!

  Ive never worn anything in my whole life. Its never bothered me.

  The Watch House, muttered Angua. Therell be something at the Watch House. Spare chainmail, at least. A sheet or something. And the door doesnt shut properly. Come on.

  She trotted off along the street, with Gaspode whimpering along behind her.

  Someone was singing.

  Blimey, said Gaspode, look at that.

  Four Watchmen slogged past. Two dwarfs, two trolls. Angua recognized Detritus.

  Hut, hut, hut! You without doubt the horriblest recruits I ever see! Pick up them feet!

  I never done nuffin!

  Now you doin somefin for the first time in your horrible life, Lance-Constable Coalface! It a man life in the Watch!

  The squad rounded the corner.

  Whats been going on? said Angua.

  Search me. I might know more if one of em stops for a widdle.

  There was a small crowd around the Watch House in Pseudopolis Yard. They seemed to be Watchmen, too. Sergeant Colon was standing under a flickering lamp, scribbling on his clipboard and talking to a small man with a large moustache.

  And your name, mister?

  SILAS! CUMBERBATCH!

  Didnt you used to be town crier?

  THATS RIGHT!

  Right. Give him his shilling. Acting-Constable Cuddy? One for your squad.

  WHOS ACTING-CONSTABLE CUDDY? said Cumberbatch.

  Down here, mister.

  The man looked down.

  BUT YOURE! A DWARF! I NEVER—

  Stand to attention when youre talking to a super-ierierior officer! Cuddy bellowed.

  Aint no dwarfs or trolls or humans in the Watch, see, said Colon. Just Watchmen, see? Thats what Corporal Carrot says. Of course, if youd like to be in Acting-Constable Detritus squad—

  I LIKE DWARFS, said Cumberbatch, hurriedly. ALWAYS HAVE. NOT THAT THERE ARE ANY IN THE WATCH, MIND, he added, after barely a seconds thought.

  You learn quick. Youll go a long way in this mans army, said Cuddy. You could have a field-marshals bottom in your napkin any day now. AAAAaabbbb-wut tn! Hut, hut, hut—

  Fifth volunteer so far, said Colon to Corporal Nobbs, as Cuddy and his new recruit pounded off into the darkness. Even the Dean at the University tried to join. Amazing.

  Angua looked at Gaspode, who shrugged.

  Detritus is certainly clubbing em into line, said Colon. After ten minutes theyre putty in his hands. Mind you, he added, after ten minutes anythings putty in them hands. Reminds me of the drill sergeant we had when I was first in the army.

  Tough, was he? said Nobby, lighting a cigarette.

  Tough? Tough? Blimey! Thirteen weeks of pure misery, that was! Ten-mile run every morning, up tc our necks in muck half the time, and him yelling a blue streak and cussin us every living moment! One time he made me stay up all night cleaning the lawies with a toothbrush! Hed hit us with a spiky stick to get us out of bed! We had to jump through hoops for that man, we hated his damn guts, wed have stuck one on him if any of us had the nerve but, of course, none of us did. He put us through three months of living death. But . . . yknow . . . after the passing-out parade . . . us looking at ourselves all in our new uniforms an all, real soldiers at last, seein what wed become . . . well, we saw him in the bar and, well . . . I dont mind telling you . . . The dogs watched Colon wipe away the suspicion of a tear.

  . . . Me and Tonker Jackson and Hoggy Spuds waited for him in the alley and beat seven kinds of hell out of him, it took three days for my knuckles to heal. Colon blew his nose. Happy days . . . Fancy a boiled sweet, Nobby?

  Dont mind if I do, Fred.

  Give one to the little dog, said Gaspode. Colon did, and then wondered why.

  See? said Gaspode, crunching it up in his dreadful teeth. Im brilliant. Brilliant.

  Youd better pray Big Fido doesnt find out, said Angua.

  Nah. He wont touch me. I worry him. Ive got the Power. He scratched an ear vigorously. Look, you dont have to go back in there, we could go and—

  No.

  Story of my life, said Gaspode. Theres Gaspode. Give him a kick.

  I thought you had this big happy family to go back to. said Angua, as she pushed open the door.

  Eh? Oh, yes. Right, said Gaspode hurriedly. Yes. But I like my, sort of, independence. I could stroll back home like a shot, any time I wanted.

  Angua bounded up the stairs, and clawed open the nearest door.

  It was Carrots bedroom. The smell of him, a kind of golden-pink colour, filled it from edge to edge.

  There was a drawing of a dwarf mine carefully pinned to one wall. Another held a large sheet of cheap paper on which had been drawn, in careful pencil line, with many crossings-out and smudges, a map of the city.

  In front of the window, where a conscientious person would put it to take as much advantage as possible of the available light sos not to have to waste too many of the citys candles, was a small table. There was some paper on it, and a jar of pencils. There was an old chair, too; a piece of paper had been folded up and wedged under a wobbly leg.

  And that, apart from a clothes chest, was it. It reminded her of Vimes room. This was a place where someone came to sleep, not to live.

  Angua wondered if there was ever a time when anyone in the Watch was ever, really, off duty. She couldnt imagine Sergeant Colon in civilian clothes. When you were a Watchman, you were a Watchman all the time, which was a bit of a bargain for the city since it only paid you to be a Watchman for ten hours of every day.

  All right, she said. I can use a sheet off the bed. You shut your eyes.

  Why? said Gaspode.

&
nbsp; For decencys sake!

  Gaspode looked blank. Then he said, Oh, I get it. Yes, I can see your point, defnitely. Dear me, you cant have me looking at a naked woman, oh no. Oggling. Gettin ideas. Deary deary me.

  You know what I mean!

  Cant say I do. Cant say I do. Clothing has never been what you might call a thingy of dog wossname. Gaspode scratched his ear. Two metasyntactic variables there. Sorry.

  Its different with you. You know what I am. Anyway, dogs are naturally naked.

  Sore humans—

  Angua changed.

  Gaspodes ear flattened against his head. Despite himself, he whimpered.

  Angua stretched.

  You know the worst bit? she said. Its my hair. You can hardly get the tangles out. And my feet are covered in mud.

  She tugged a sheet off the bed and draped it around herself as a makeshift toga.

  There, she said, you see worse on the street every day. Gaspode?

  What?

  You can open your eyes now.

  Gaspode blinked. Angua in both shapes was OK to look at, but the second or two in between, as the morphic signal hunted between stations, was not a sight you wished to see on a full stomach.

  I thought you rolled around on the floor grunting and growing hair and stretching, he whimpered.

  Angua peered at her hair in the mirror while her night vision lasted.

  Whatever for?

  Does . . . all that stuff . . . hurt?

  Its a bit like a whole-body sneeze. Youd think hed have a comb, wouldnt you? I mean, a comb? Everyones got a comb . . .

  A really . . . big . . . sneeze?

  Even a clothes brush would be something.

  They froze as the door creaked open.

  Carrot walked in. He didnt notice them in the gloom, but trudged to the table. There was a flare and a reek of sulphur as he lit first a match and then a candle.

  He removed his helmet, and then sagged as if hed finally allowed a weight to drop on his shoulders.

  They heard him say: It cant be right!

  What cant? said Angua.

  Carrot spun around.

  Whatre you doing here?

  Your uniform got stolen while you were spying in the Assassins Guild, Gaspode prompted.

  My uniform got stolen, said Angua, while I was in the Assassins Guild. Spying. Carrot was still staring at her. There was some old bloke who kept muttering all the time, she went on desperately.

  Buggrit? Millennium hand and shrimp?

  Yes, thats right—

  Foul Ole Ron. Carrot sighed. Probably sold it for a drink. I know where he lives, though. Remind me to go and have a word with him when Ive got time.

  You dont want to ask her what she was wearing when she was in the Guild, said Gaspode, who had crept under the bed.

  Shut up! said Angua.

  What? said Carrot.

  I found out about the room, said Angua quickly. Someone called—

  Edward dEath? said Carrot, sitting down on the bed. The ancient springs went groing-groing-grink.

  How did you know that?

  I think dEath stole the gonne. I think he killed Beano. But . . . Assassins killing without being paid ? Its worse than dwarfs and tools. Its worse than clowns and faces. I hear Cruces is really upset. Hes got Assassins looking for the boy all over the city.

  Oh. Well. Id hate to be in Edwards shoes when they find him.

  Id hate to be in his shoes now. And I know where they are, you see. Theyre on his poor feet. And theyre dead.

  The Assassins have found him, then?

  No. Someone else did. And then Cuddy and Detritus did. If Im any judge, hes been dead for several days. You see? That cant be right! But I rubbed the Beano make-up off and took off the red nose, and it was definitely him. And the wigs the right kind of red hair. He must have gone straight to Hammerhock.