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Men at Arms

Men at Arms

Men at Arms 39

Page 39

 

  Please? said Carrot.

  Gaspode scratched his ear.

  Maybe I could track her down, said Gaspode. Given the right, you know, encouragement.

  He waggled his eyebrows encouragingly.

  If you find her, Ill give you anything you want, said Carrot.

  Oh, well. If. Right. Oh, yes. Thats all very well, is if. What about something up front? Look at these paws, hey? Wear and tear. And this nose doesnt smell by itself. It is a finely tuned instrument.

  If you dont start looking right away, said Carrot, I will personally— He hesitated. Hed never been cruel to an animal in his life.

  Til turn the matter over to Corporal Nobbs, he said.

  Thats what I like, said Gaspode bitterly. Incentive.

  He presssed his blotchy nose to the ground. It was all show, anyway. Anguas scent hung in the air like a rainbow.

  You can really talk? said Carrot.

  Gaspode rolled his eyes.

  Course not, he said.

  The figure had reached the top of the tower.

  Lamps and candles were alight all over the city. It was spread out below him. Ten thousand little earthbound stars . . . and he could turn off any one he wanted, just like that. It was like being a god.

  It was amazing how sounds were so audible up here. It was like being a god. He could hear the howl of dogs, the sound of voices. Occasionally one would be louder than the rest, rising up into the night sky.

  This was power. The power he had below, the power to say: do this, do that . . . that was just something human, but this . . . this was like being a god.

  He pulled the gonne into position, clicked a rack of six bullets into position, and sighted at random on a light. And then on another one. And another one.

  He really shouldnt have let it shoot that beggar girl. That wasnt the plan. Guild leaders, that was poor little Edwards plan. Guild leaders, to start with. Leave the city leaderless and in turmoil, and then confront his silly candidate and say: Go forth and rule, it is your destiny That was an old disease, that kind of thinking. You caught it from crowns, and silly stories. You believed . . . hah . . . you believed that some trick like, like pulling a s ,ord from a stone was somehow a qualification for kingly office. A sword from a stone? The gonne was more magical than that. He lay down, stroked the gonne, and waited.

  Day broke.

  I never touched nuffin, said Coalface, and turned over on his slab.

  Detritus hit him over the head with his club.

  Up you get, soldiers! Hand off rock and on with sock! It another beautiful day inna Watch! Lance-Constable Coalface, on your feet, you horrible little man!

  Twenty minutes later a bleary-eyed Sergeant Colon surveyed the troops. They were slumped on the benches, except for Acting-Constable Detritus, who was sitting bolt upright with an air of official helpfulness.

  Right, men, Colon began, now, as you—

  You men, you listen up good right now! Detritus boomed.

  Thank you, Acting-Constable Detritus, said Colon wearily. Captain Vimes is getting married today. Were Koing to provide a guard of honour. Thats what we always used to do in the old days when a Watchman got wed. So I want helmets and breastplates bright and shiny. And cohorts gleaming. Not a speck of muck . . . wheres Corporal Nobbs?

  There was a dink as Acting-Constable Detritus hand bounced off his new helmet.

  Hasnt been seen for hours, sir! he reported.

  Colon rolled his eyes.

  And some of you will . . . Wheres Lance-Constable Angua? will personally— He hesitated. Hed never been cruel to an animal in his life.

  Ill turn the matter over to Corporal Nobbs, he said.

  Thats what I like, said Gaspode bitterly. Incentive.

  He presssed his blotchy nose to the ground. It was all show, anyway. Anguas scent hung in the air like a rainbow.

  You can really talk? said Carrot.

  Gaspode rolled his eyes.

  Course not, he said.

  The figure had reached the top of the tower.

  Lamps and candles were alight all over the city. It was spread out below him. Ten thousand little earthbound stars . . . and he could turn off any one he wanted, just like that. It was like being a god.

  It was amazing how sounds were so audible up here. It was like being a god. He could hear the howl of dogs, the sound of voices. Occasionally one would be louder than the rest, rising up into the night sky.

  This was power. The power he had below, the power to say: do this, do that . . . that was just something human, but this . . . this was like being a god.

  He pulled the gonne into position, clicked a rack of six bullets into position, and sighted at random on a light. And then on another one. And another one.

  He really shouldnt have let it shoot that beggar girl. That wasnt the plan. Guild leaders, that was poor little Edwards plan. Guild leaders, to start with. Leave the city leaderless and in turmoil, and then confront his silly candidate and say: Go forth and rule, it is your destiny.

  That was an old disease, that kind of thinking. You caught it from crowns, and silly stories. You believed . . . hah . . . you believed that some trick like, like pulling a sword from a stone was somehow a qualification for kingly office. A sword from a stone? The gonne was more magical than that. He lay down, stroked the gonne, and waited.

  Day broke.

  I never touched nuffin, said Coalface, and turned over on his slab.

  Detritus hit him over the head with his club.

  Up you get, soldiers! Hand off rock and on with sock! It another beautiful day inna Watch! Lance-Constable Coalface, on your feet, you horrible little man!

  Twenty minutes later a bleary-eyed Sergeant Colon surveyed the troops. They were slumped on the benches, except for Acting-Constable Detritus, who was sitting bolt upright with an air of official helpfulness.

  Right, men, Colon began, now, as you—

  You men, you listen up good right now! Detritus boomed.

  Thank you, Acting-Constable Detritus, said Colon wearily. Captain Vimes is getting married today. Were going to provide a guard of honour. Thats what we always used to do in the old days when a Watchman got wed. So I want helmets and breastplates bright and shiny. And cohorts gleaming. Not a speck of muck . . . wheres Corporal Nobbs?

  There was a dink as Acting-Constable Detritus hand bounced off his new helmet.

  Hasnt been seen for hours, sir! he reported.

  Colon rolled his eyes.

  And some of you will . . . Wheres Lance-Constable Angua?

  Dink. No-ones seen her since last night, sir.

  All right. We got through the night, were going to get through the day. Corporal Carrot says were to look sharp.

  Dink. Yes, sir!

  Acting-Constable Detritus?

  Sir?

  Whats that youve got on your head?

  Dink. Acting-Constable Cuddy made it for me, sir. Special clockwork thinking helmet.

  Cuddy coughed. These big bits are cooling fins, see? Painted black. I glommed a clockwork engine off my cousin, and this fan here blows air over— He stopped when he saw Colons expression.

  Thats what youve been working on all night, is it?

  Yes, because I reckon troll brains get too—

  The sergeant waved him into silence.

  So weve got a clockwork soldier, have we? said Colon. Were a real model army, we are.

  Gaspode was geographically embarrassed. He knew where he was, more or less. He was somewhere beyond the Shades, in the network of dock basins and cattle-yards. Even though he thought of the whole city as belonging to him, this wasnt his territory. There were rats here almost as big as he was, and he was basically a sort of terrier shape, and Ankh-Morpork rats were intelligent enough to recognize it. Hed also been kicked by two horses and almost run over by a cart. And hed lost the scent. Shed doubled back and forth and used rooftops and crossed the river a few times. Werewo
lves were instinctively good at avoiding pursuit; after all, the surviving ones were descendants of those who could outrun an angry mob. Those who couldnt outwit a mob never had descendants, or even graves.

  Several times the scent petered out at a wall or a low-roofed hut, and Gaspode would limp around in circles until he found it again.

  Random thoughts wavered in his schizophrenic doggy mind.

  Clever Dog Saves The Day, he muttered. Everyone Says, Good Doggy. No they dont, Im only doing it cos I was threatened. The Marvellous Nose. I didnt want to do this. You Shall Have A Bone. Im just flotsam on the sea of life, me. Whos a Good Boy? Shut up.

  The sun toiled up the sky. Down below, Gaspode toiled on.

  Willikins opened the curtains. Sunlight poured in. Vimes groaned and sat up slowly in what remained of his bed.

  Good grief, man, he mumbled. What sort of time dyou call this?

  Almost nine in the morning, sir, said the butler.

  Nine in the morning? What sort of time is that to get up? I dont normally get up until the afternoons got the shine worn off!

  But sir is not at work any more, sir.

  Vimes looked down at the tangle of sheets and blankets. They were wrapped around Ms legs and knotted together. Then he remembered the dream.

  Hed been walking around the city.

  Well, maybe not so much a dream as a memory. After all, he walked the city every night. Some part of him wasnt giving up; some part of Vimes was learning to be a civilian, but an old part was marching, no, proceeding to a different beat. Hed thought the place seemed deserted and harder to walk through than usual.

  Does sir wish me to shave him or will sir do it himself?

  I get nervous if people hold blades near my face, said Vimes. But if you harness the horse and cart Ill try and get to the other end of the bathroom.

  Very amusing, sir.

  Vimes had another bath, just for the novelty of it. He was aware from a general background noise that the mansion was busily humming towards W-hour. Lady Sybil was devoting to her wedding all the directness of thought shed normally apply to breeding out a tendency towards floppy ears in swamp dragons. Half a dozen cooks had been busy in the kitchens for three days. They were roasting a whole ox and doing amazing stuff with rare fruit. Hitherto Sam Vimes idea of a good meal was liver without tubes. Haute cuisine had been bits of cheese on sticks stuck into half a grapefruit.

  He was vaguely aware that prospective grooms were not supposed to see putative brides on the morning of the wedding, possibly in case they took to their heels. That was unfortunate. Hed have liked to have talked to someone. If he could talk to someone, it might all make sense.

  He picked up the razor, and looked in the mirror at the face of Captain Samuel Vimes.

  Colon saluted, and then peered at Carrot.

  You all right, sir? You look like you could do with some sleep.

  Ten oclock, or various attempts thereof, began to boom around the city. Carrot turned away from the window.

  Ive been out looking, he said.

  Three more recruits this morning already, said Colon. Theyd asked to join Mr Carrots army. He was slightly worried about that.

  Good.

  Detritus is giving em very basic training, said Colon. It works, too. After an hour of him shouting in their ear, they do anything I tell em.

  I want all the men we can spare up on the rooftops between the Palace and the University, said Carrot.

  Theres Assassins up there already, said Colon. And the Thieves Guild have got men up there, too.

  Theyre Thieves and Assassins. Were not. Make sure someones up on the Tower of Art as well—

  Sir?

  Yes, sergeant?

  Weve been talking . . . me and the lads . . . and, well . . .