Dearest Grand Mother and, Grandfather

I am writing to tell you that as I am at last Six Teene, Mother and Father have, permitted me to join the Watch!!! I have the Rank of, Lance-Constable and my paye is to be six dolars a month! I will be patrolling along Short street tomorrow morning, which is Troll New Yeare and also the Battel of Koom Valley Day. Father says that this is a Very Grate Responsibilitie, as the Patrician relies upon we of the Watch to keep the Pease between, the Various Ethnic Groups of our Faire City. Uncle Nobby says it is a greate responsibilitie too, on account of, we could all get our heads ripped of. Hope that you are welle and, that Aunt Olaf has managed, to get ridde of the Beard-Lice. I muste now clean my Armor for, tomorrow's Parade, so no more at present from

your loveing granddaughter,


P.S. Thank you for the tinne of axe polishe and the Candied Ratte.

* * *

"Lance-Constable Delphine Sibyl von Ɯberwald Ironfoundersdaughter!"

"Here, Sergeant!"

"Repeat after me! I [recruit's name] do solemnly swear by [recruit's deity of choice] to uphold laws and ordinances of city of Ankh-Morpork, serve public trust and uphold laws of his/her (delete whichever is inapplicable) Majesty (name of reigning monarch) without fear, favour or thought of personal safety. Gods save da King/Queen (delete whichever is inapplicable) ... and I do what I told or else I get my goohulog head kicked in."

"... head kicked in, sir!"

"Right, you 'orrible little woman - er... Captain Carrot...?"

"I told you, Sergeant Anthracite. Del is to be treated exactly the same as any other recruit. Please continue."

"Right. You 'orrible woman. You follow me! Today we patrol mean streets of city of Ankh-Morpork! You don't like it, you tough banana! Mama ain't here to hold your hand no more!"

"Yes she is, she's just in the next room helping Commander Vimes with the daily rep-"

"You shut up! You follow me now before I feed you to Corporal Drull!"

"I mean, granted, she prob'ly wouldn't actually hold my actual hand, she'd probably tell me to shut up and stop being so bloody soppy, but I expect I could get her to pat me on the shoulder a bit, I mean, if I was really upset..." "Hut! Hut! Hut!"

Captain Carrot of the City Watch suppressed a sigh as the two figures marched snappily out of the Watch-House door and off down the corridor.

"Happens to everyone, don't it, sir?" The comfortable bulk of Sergeant. Colon appeared sympathetically in the doorway. "One day they're darling little angels playing with their Victor and Ginger dolls, before you can turn around they're biting your head off one minute and demanding fifty dollars for a dress for their coming-out ball the next..."

Carrot looked momentarily confused. "Coming out of what?"

* * *

This is what Del Ironfoundersdaughter looked like as a young woman: if she'd been befriended and given a dazzling make-over by the most popular girl in school, she might have managed to come out of it looking like an unattractive gawk who'd never get to date the captain of the football team. At the age of thirteen, Del had found a copy of 'Misftrefs Apollonia's Guide To Moddern Ettiquete and Hostessery' lying around in one of her Aunt Sybil's spare bedrooms. She'd spent an instructive afternoon with it, and had eventually arrived at the conclusion that well-brought-up young ladies were generally expected to run to, well, a little more chest, and a quite a lot less shoulder. Moreover, they were supposed to inherit things like lands and jewels and summer-houses in the country from their fathers - a height of six foot one, a square jaw and a punch that could make most trolls seriously think about getting about their lawful business hadn't really been mentioned.

Since that day, Del hadn't bothered much about the whole 'being a young lady' business. She had, however, bothered quite a good deal about learning to run very fast, kick very hard and hit things with a variety of sharp objects in a very unpleasant manner. As a result, it was remarkable how few people in Ankh-Morpork made remarks along the lines of, oh such a nice personality and what a shame she doesn't take after her mother and she's a lovely girl really once you get to know her. Now she strode down Short Street towards the cheering crowd of trolls, dwarfs and humans-who-just- enjoyed-a-good-three-day-weekend, marching proudly behind Sergeant Anthracite and Corporal Dwarrows with her newly-polished breastplate gleaming in the early morning sun.

* * *

"Were they - did they accidentally get caught in something, Sergeant?"

"No, Carrot, it's more like a... girly thing. Where they put on the white dress, and there's a bloody great expensive party and they walk in and get Presented to Society - our Ermentrude had hers the year before you joined the Watch, if I remember."

"So... they come INTO the room..."

"And it's called a coming-out party, yes."

"I see. Thankyou, Sergeant Colon."

* * *

Behind the mirrors, it waited.

* * *

Del's parents had been quite straightforward with her about The Crown Thing. She'd always thought of it as rather like having psoriasis in the family, or an unfortunate nose, or a funny uncle who had to be kept in a quiet house in the country and visited every second Hogswatchnight. "We don't talk about it," Dad had told her on her eighth birthday, the day he'd explained about the birthmark on Del's upper arm.

Her mother had backed him up; one of the few things Del's parents actually agreed on. "The last thing this city needs is a king or a queen getting into the works of things and messing everyone around."

"We're just, sort of, you know, here. If the city ever needs us. When that happens - if it ever happens - you'll know, that's all. You'll know your duty, and you'll know what to do. Until that day comes, well, we just keep our heads down and try to live the best lives we can, you see?".

Del had nodded vaguely and wandered outside to play with her new toy Klatchian Fire-Engine. She hadn't really given the matter much thought since. Anyway, she'd always had the nagging suspicion that lost princesses were supposed to be, well, a lot more princessy. Small and delicate and always wearing floaty dresses and singing sad melancholy songs while sweeping out fireplaces or grotty old stables somewhere with a full backing chorus of sweet little animals and a single pathetic smudge of dirt on their dainty noses. She had a vague suspicion that fitting into glass slippers was probably involved somewhere. Lost princesses, even secret ones, certainly didn't clomp around the city in size 10-and-a-half copper- toed boots and breeches. They probably hadn't spend half their childhoods at Psuedopolis Yard, learning how to cheat at poker off their Uncle Nobby and clandestinely picking up all the words to the Hedgehog Song. They probably didn't beat their Uncle Detritus seven hours running at rock-paper- scissors. They probably -

"Ow! Aaargh! Buggrit - I mean - sorry!"

They probably didn't not-pay-attention and accidentally stub their toes on their commanding officers while on parade, either. Anthracite turned around to glare at Del. She was a medium-sized troll with dark, heavily polished features and deep-set gleaming black eyes, widely reputed to tenderly care for the Watch's new recruits as though they were her own children. Since her own children had run off back to the mountains as soon as they were old enough to move about in daylight and hadn't left forwarding addresses, recruits rarely saw this as a comforting truism.

"Corporal Dwarrows!"

"Yes, Sergeant Anthracite, sir!"

"What I do with clumsy recruit what can't even parade properly on first day?"

"Int'resting question, that, Sergeant. We could send her straight back to the Watch House." Corporal Dwarrows was grinning evilly behind her beard, which had been plaited and tied with strands of gold-coloured ribbon for the gala occasion.

"That true, Corporal. But then we short - er, I mean missing a Watchwoman. New Year-Koom Valley Day, we need one dwarf, one troll an' one human in each squad. Them rules." Anthracite grinned just as broadly as the dwarf, revealing pointy diamond teeth with ruby fillings.

"You know, Sergeant, the rules don't say that the squad of three has to stick together the whole time though. I really do think that perhaps what this young one needs is - "

The two of them held their hands up and chanted in gleeful unison -


* * *

It was in the costumes at the Disk theatre. It was in Mr. Blannick's Ladees and Gentilmenne's Bootery and Leather Outfitters. It was briefly in the Seamstresses' Guild, although not for long because it sped out again with an embarrassed expression on what would have been its face when it realised what all the hem-hem was actually about. It was in the rustle of the silks at Cosmopilite and Niece's dress shop. With an almost imperceptible flare and flicker, it sent sparks jumping from stitch to stitch, from thread to thread. It bounced into the window glass, and from house to house along the streets. It paused and rested in the mirror above the counter in a fashionable bar, then jumped to a customer's glass, to the window and out into the street again. Suddenly, it was alive, and it was everywhere.

* * *

"Good morning, parade-goers! This is Lance-Constable Del Ironfoundersdaughter of the City Watch! Could Mr. or Mistress Hammersmith of Number Twenty-Two the Shades please proceed to the Lost Children's Tent as quickly as possible. Mr. or Mistress Hammersmith. We have a young lost dwarf, aged twenty-one years, name of Jolly, who says that he can't find his mummy or daddy or Mr.Teddy, and that he misses Mr. Teddy very much. Mother or father of Jolly Hammersmith, to the Lost Children's tent. Thankyou."

* * *

Troll New Year and the Battle of Koom Valley Day, which jostle one another for space on the crowded Ankh-Morporkian social calendar, have long been an occasion of proud and colourful multi-ethnic celebration for the trolls and dwarfs of the city. Unfortunately, for many years what it was mostly a celebration OF was, basically, grabbing one's double-headed axe and/or drinking large amounts of ammonium sulphate, and going out to bash several varieties of organic byproduct out of the opposing species. Some years previously, the day had been the catalyst for a spectacular ethnic riot that had resulted in two severely concussed Watchmen and a nasty scolding from Corporal Carrot. During the tumultuous events that followed, which culminated in the shooting of the Patrician by a (probably) unaffiliated lunatic, the dwarf and troll elders of the city had sat down (in some cases, on several boxes) together to try and work out the logistics of the situation.

* * *

"Attention, parade-goers! This is Lance-Constable Ironfoundersdaughter, requesting that Mr. or Mistress Blatch of Holofernes Street report to the Lost Children's Tent, where their daughter Eleanora is awaiting collection. Repeat, Eleanora Blatch is waiting for collection at the Lost Children's Tent.

* * *

Finally, it had been decided that the previously unscheduled and ad-hoc marches staged by both communities would be replaced by a double formal parade up Short Street - trolls going one way, dwarfs going the other - accompanied by fully integrated inter-species patrols of the Watch to keep an eye on any unscheduled name-calling or making of rude gestures. Finally, both parades would meet in the middle of the street to enjoy speeches from community leaders on Working Together in Tolerance and Harmony, followed by a fun-fair, trash-n-more-trash market and games for the kiddies. Submissions from the occupants of Short Street to the effect that they'd really rather prefer the riot, thanks all the same, were almost universally unheeded.

* * *

"Attention, parade-goers! Lance-Constable Ironfoundersdaughter here. We have two young trolls at the Lost Children's Tent, Mica and Zirconia of Copperhead Mountain. They appear to be brother and sis - oh, sorry. They appear to be sisters. One is approximately five feet, seven inches tall, one approximately six feet, two inches. Both are carrying - ow, stop that - clubs. They seem to be quite distressed. Mother or father of Mica and Zirconia, to the Lost Children's Tent, as quickly as possible PLEASE."

* * *

The addition of a bouncy castle (specially reinforced for young trolls), a petting zoo and the ever-popular Dibbler's Catering Service (conveniently located next to the petting zoo) had cemented the popularity of Troll New Year-Koom Valley Day as what the Merchants' Guild tourism brochures called "A Daye of Funne for Moste of The Familye" and "A Parayde you Doe Notte Want to Miss". However, as any person who has ever had anything to do with organising any public event, particularly one involving large quantities of children, will tell you (provided that he or she is allowed to have visitors now and has managed to stop the insistent background whimpering), there is something in this world far more terrible than all-out- interspecies-warfare. More violent than the pitched (and doubly-ambushed) battle that had been fought long ago on that dreadful day at Koom. More fraught with ancient and terrible hatreds than the worst race riot in Ankh- Morpork's long and dark history.

The Lost Children's Tent.

* * *

"RIGHT, ATTENTION EVERYONE. OY! BLOODY WELL PAY ATTENTION! RIGHT. HAS ANYBODY SEEN TWO TROLLINGS, A LITTLE GIRL AND A BABY DWARF WANDERING AWAY FROM THE LOST CHILDREN'S TENT? Look, I've got three sets of parents here, and none of them are very happy - er, if anyone sees Jolly Hammersmith, Eleanora Blatch, or Mica and Zirconia of Copperhead Mountain, could they please bring them without delay to the - hey, give that back -"

"Er, is this thing on? Jolly? This is your MUMMY. Jolly, PLEASE come back to the nice lady at the tent now, Mummy and Daddy are VERY WORRIED..."


"Look, you'll have to give that speaker back, sir, it's official Watch property-"

"Hang on a minute! It's MY go! I haven't called our Elly yet!"

"Your attention, please. This is Lance-Constable - give the speaker BACK, please, Mistress Blatch - Lance-Constable Ironfoundersdaughter, er, urgently requesting Sergeant Anthracite and Corporal Dwarrows of the City Watch to the Lost Children's tent, please, Sergeant Anthracite - ow - look, just STOP IT - "

* * *

Almost but not quite out of earshot, in the front bar of the Bucket in Gleam Street, Anthra and Dwarrows toasted one another on a successful morning's work. They both had long and bitter experience with the Tent, which tended to be allocated to female officers because old sticklers like Vimes and Colon insisted (or claimed they insisted) that females were better suited to being the caring, sensitive face of the Watch.

They caringly and sensitively calculated at least another fifteen minutes of good solid drinking time before the crowd'd start trying to *seriously* set Del on fire.

... to be continued...