As promised, here's the last chapter (and fast just for Metal EB, who needs her fix, you addict!). You'll see in a few moments that it's important for you to keep in mind what kind of shoes the men wear. Ivycreeper – I neglected my fanfic duties because I was writing stuff I hope to get paid for one day. Waves – I'm not a plushie person, but I'd make an exception for a Vetinari plushie. Good to see you again, Zela. And Drakyndra – welcome to the club. Thanks to all of you for the reviews. I lied at the start of the last chapter – I said a Havvie/Hanna story will be next, but instead, I'll put up the long promised serious (i.e. not comic) Vetinari romance. But first, enjoy the rest of the comedy!
4. Bad Kitty
Esk squinted up at Granny. She was grown up now and she was a wizard of some grade that didn't exist before she arrived at Unseen University, but Granny was tall and no amount of magic was going to get Esk taller than her shoulder.
Granny and Nanny had been in Ankh-Morpork half an hour. It was dark already. The coach was delayed by the usual crushed wheels, muddy passes and highwaymen that were a part of long distance travel. Of course, nothing was stolen from the witches. The highwaymen decided to choose a new profession when Granny glared at them out the coach window with one raised eye brow, her pointy hat in her lap.
It was Granny's decision to go to the Disc's foremost university of magic to chat with Esk. It'd been a long time since they saw the girl, but that wasn't the real reason Granny wanted to see her. The witch towered over Esk, her arms folded, her nose in the air.
"This place got clothes pins, don't it?" she asked, surveying the grounds with distaste.
Esk looked at Nanny Ogg, who was busy grinning at a large poster she'd pulled off a wall around the corner. It had a man in black leather with a tambourine in his hand.
"Sure, we have clothes pins, Granny," said Esk.
"Please, if you will, get me one clothes pin. Please."
"Just…get me a clothes pin. Please."
Esk considered using magic for the errand, but she decided to sprint to the drying room instead. When she returned, the witches were exactly in the same spot just inside the university gates. Granny thanked her for the clothes pin and proceeded to snap it onto her nose. She sighed.
"Watch out or you'll start a new fashion," said Nanny.
Esk leaned toward her. "What's the--"
Nanny rubbed her nose. "The smell, you see. It don't bother me, but it looks like Ankh-Morpork is even ranker than it was last time we was here."
"A disgrace," said Granny. "If the persodal hygiede of the Patriciad is adythig like this city, I dever wat to beet hib."
Nanny held up the poster.
"We thought you could tell us where this Bongo's Song Pit is."
Esk coloured. "I wouldn't know."
Granny blinked at her.
"Really, I wouldn't." Esk adjusted her wizard hat uncomfortably.
Nanny rolled up the poster.
"Now Esk, be sensible. Just tell us where it is."
"I don't go to those kind of places." She looked from Nanny to Granny. Neither looked convinced. "Really, I don't. I'm a…wizard. Wizards don't go to…those kind of places."
Nanny sucked on a tooth for a moment. "You got a choice. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Which one do you want?"
GREE-BO! GREE-BO! GREE-BO! GREE-BO!
Bongo's Song Pit was so packed that the trolls that served as bouncers were routinely bouncing back into the streets the frantic, screaming, sobbing women who were too late to squeeze in. There wasn't any room to dance. There wasn't any room to breathe. Tickets for Greebo and the Tomcats were going for a hundred a pop and the place was still jumping.
As usual, the Tomcats were on stage already tuning their instruments but there was no sign of Greebo. The crowd was getting restless.
GREEBO! GREEBO! GREEBO!
The patched dark blue curtain off the stage was always open. Bongo never bothered to close it because he'd never put on the type of show classy enough to require it. The curtain was gathered stage right. It hung there without interest except for the four pairs of shoes sticking out from under it. Elegant black slippers, flashy black boots, sensible brown loafers and massive brown sandals.
The loafers were at the crack in the curtain. A hand sliced by paper cuts pulled it aside a fraction.
"There she is! I see her! Look at her! She's…she's…"
A pale, blue-veined hand twitched the curtain back into place.
"Calm down, Drumknott."
"Do you see what she's wearing, milord? She shouldn't be able to wear that in public!"
"It is against the law, but I won't tell you which one," said a deep, peevish voice.
"Let me have a look." After a good deal of squeeching, the black boots took a turn at the front.
GREEBO! GREEBO! GREEBO!
"Er…Carrot? I wouldn't look out there if I were you."
The curtain billowed a little. The sandals were at the crack in the curtain.
"Oh I've seen her wear that before." There was a long pause. "I don't think you should look out there again, sir."
"Bloody hell I shouldn't."
"I didn't mean--"
There was a shuffling of feet behind the curtain and bulges in the fabric that signalled elbows in use. A high-pitched whistle blared out.
"Something interesting, Sir Samuel?"
"I don't know if you should tell him, sir."
A black slipper tapped the floor impatiently. "Tell me what, captain?"
The curtain was pinched shut.
"Commander, kindly step aside."
"I don't think--"
The slippers took over the place at the crack in the curtain. A pale hand made a tiny opening. Slowly, the fingers curled around the fabric. And squeezed.
GREEBO! GREEBO! GREEBO!
"I think you should let go of the curtain now."
There was a pause.
"Slowly release your hand, sir. We don't want to rip anything, do we? Nice and slow. Yes, that's right. See? A lot better now."
"I'm sure in all the excitement Miss Stein just forgot the rest of her clothes, sir."
"I was just trying to help him, sir. He's looking a little--"
"I am fine, captain. Thank you for your concern."
There was another general shuffling of feet behind the curtain. The brown loafers were at the front again. The occupant let out an anguished sigh.
"Cheery! What has got into… Oh…my…"
There was no answer. The black boots kicked a loafer. "I said, what? What?"
The loafers backed away from the edge of the curtain. The black boots took the front.
There followed a string of the most filthy, abominable and creative curses the others had ever heard. It was loud too, but the crowd was even louder.
"Lady Sybil, milord. It looks like she's not wearing any--"
"I deduced that by Sir Samuel's reaction, Drumknott."
"Can I look again, sir?"
"No, Carrot, you can't. If any of you make one gods damn move toward this curtain, I'll--"
THERE HE IS!
The shrieking that started at this anonymous announcement topped anything any of the men behind the curtain had ever heard except in battle (which only half had been in) or in torture (which three quarters of them were familiar with). The exception, of course, was that the screaming had no relation to terror at all. It was something wild, deep and completely out of control.
"So let me get this straight," said Nanny Ogg. "You dumped this Simon lad a while back for somebody named…" she nearly choked, "…Ponder?"
"No!" Esk looked panicky. "It's just a rumour but it isn't true. I swear. It's not."
Nanny had the gift of picking up lurid rumour immediately in any situation, even at the lonely gates of Unseen University.
"That ain't what the graffiti on the wall over there said," she said.
"About where I found this poster. Now, I know you know where this Bongo's is, and Granny here knows it…"
Granny nodded sternly.
"…so I think you should just own up, Esk. Otherwise, I might have to paint the town red. With the words Esk loves Ponder. In spray paint. I think I got a can around here somewhere." Nanny started rummaging in the wondrous storage area known as her knickers.
"All right!" cried Esk. She told what she had to in order to save her wizardly reputation. It was the only thing to do to get out from under Granny's disapproving and amused squint.
All four of them were peering out of the curtain now, looking out vertically, their heads arranged tallest to smallest like a totem pole: Carrot, Vetinari, Vimes, Drumknott. This is what they saw:
Greebo striding onto the stage, stopping at the microphone, showing his fangs to the crowd and giving his tambourine a rakish shake.
Another shake on the tambourine.
"I am heeeeeeerrrrrrrre!"
This was obvious, but the crowd seemed to have been waiting for this opportunity to move beyond hysterics into the realm of pure, unadulterated mass frenzy. Women fainted. There was widespread weeping. Hair was pulled out, blouses pulled up.
Sybil, Hanna, Angua and Cheery were in a tight circle together, a collective little ball of potential energy waiting to explode. There was a lack of undergarments among them or, in the case of Hanna, a lack of over garments. The women were clutching each other in the manner of comrades trying to hold each other back from doing something they'd regret.
The Tomcats started up a cord. It winged through the club, shooting excitement into a crowd that a moment ago looked like it couldn't take any more.
Greebo started singing.
The men behind the curtain examined him closely. Drumknott was the first to make a comment.
"He's not so…"
Greebo's hips started up.
By then, there was a whole lot of jigglin' goin' on. The floor shook. With the exception of the men behind the curtain, not one person in the Song Pit kept his or her feet on the ground.
Vimes watched in shock as Sybil, his brick solid, sensible wife, lost all sense of propriety. She was shaking all over, shimmying from hips to shoulders and back again. And that in a black leather dress that was cut both low and high at the same time. She appeared to be wearing a dog collar. With spikes.
Angua's hair whipped around to the beat of the drums, her whole head bobbing with it. She wore tight blue trousers that hugged her low for Carrot's taste and a strip of fabric that was wrapped around her chest in a futile attempt to cover up her mobile bits. This didn't really bother Carrot. It was the way she had her mouth open, howling with everyone else though she was still in human form. It just wasn't right.
There was a stunned look on Drumknott's face, but it wasn't just that Cheery had located a very short skirt made of chain mail spaced out far too much to really cover anything. It was the bells. Those little bells that some cat owners hung around the necks of their pussies. A half dozen were curled into Cheery's beard, tied off with red ribbon. When she threw herself around to the music, she sounded like a Hogswatch sleigh.
And then there was Hanna. Lord Vetinari had expected a short dress or something slinky or something see through. He'd seen her wear all of these before. But what got him clutching his walking stick until his knuckles were white was the corset. It was mustard yellow with black trim and had been…altered. It was decidedly…conical. With glittery, dangling…things at the appropriate (or from the Patrician's perspective, very inappropriate) places. Hanna had her bare arms in the air and she was wriggling like a trout swimming upstream.
Greebo flexed his muscles and strutted to the edge of the stage, his boots tapping the floor, his tambourine slamming against his hip.
"Singin' the blues while the lady cats cry…"
Every lady in the house belted out a monumental scream.
"I wish I could be as carefree and wild…" Greebo spun around and carried the microphone down on one knee, right in front of Sybil. His voice dropped, his fingers snapping the beat. "…cause I got cat class and I got cat style…"
This is where things went boing.
Sybil threw her arms around Greebo's neck.
Vimes let out a cry of fury and launched himself toward the stage. He plowed through sweating, screaming women, who fell upon him in hopes of preventing him from reaching their idol.
Captain Carrot, upon seeing his commander in danger, leapt out from behind the curtain to his rescue.
By then, Sybil was in Greebo's arms and oblivious to the fact that her husband was trying to extricate himself from the audience without having to punch any of the women in the face. He managed to climb over the footlights without setting himself on fire, but before he could take a swing at Greebo, one of the Tomcats brought his bass down on his back.
At which point Carrot, on stage now too, swiped said Tomcat off his feet and prepared to relieve him of his weapon. Another Tomcat appeared, the drummer this time, and poked Carrot under the arm with one of his drumsticks. Carrot let out a yell of pain and the Tomcat laughed, angering Angua enough for her to leap on stage and deliver a devastating right upper cut.
The guitarist swung his instrument into Angua's arm, she staggered over the bassist, who was still groaning about his knees on the floor, and Cheery grabbed her axe from its sling on her back and bounced up on stage, her teeth bared.
Bongo's Song Pit was in an uproar, most of the audience under the assumption that this was a Watch raid. People scurried back and forth, screeching, joining in on minor scuffles amongst themselves, some heading for the exits. Bongo himself appeared on stage and tried to appeal for calm but the demon had hightailed it out of the microphone at the first sign of trouble.
Sybil was collapsed in a bundle of cords in the back of the stage while Vimes and Greebo circled one another. Or rather, Greebo danced around grinning and licking his lips while Vimes polished his right knuckles in preparation for the real action.
The guitarist jumped out of the grasp of Carrot, who was back on his feet and not happy about his wound from the drummer, and the guitar was swung again, a great arch that crashed into Cheery and knocked her on top of the bassist.
Drumknott wriggled out of Lord Vetinari's grasp and raced up to the stage, running on adrenalin, the fact that he didn't know how to fight completely forgotten. He picked up Cheery's axe and confronted the guitarist, who'd raised his instrument over her for the final blow.
Drumknott's appearance was the sign to Hanna that she was doomed. As soon as Vimes and Carrot had appeared, she'd allowed the little "uh-oh" in her mind to slide away. A Watch raid wasn't the end of the world. At least he wasn't there.
But she'd still had the presence of mind to ease her way toward the wings, dodging projectiles, pushing back when someone pushed her.
Drumknott. If he was there, it was perfectly possible that…
A bar stool arched through the air and Hanna ducked. It crashed into the stage.
…no, he couldn't possibly be there. It wasn't his kind of place. He'd never show up, he always sent the Watch to do his dirty work, no matter how hard she'd been on him the past week, he'd never…
She looked around frantically for a place to hide. There was a blue curtain off the stage that looked promising. She moved toward it.
The drummer flung his sticks like throwing stars at Carrot and Angua but they ducked and fell upon him, taking turns thumping him over the head. Drumknott stepped heroically over Cheery, swung her axe at the guitarist, it slipped out of his hand, sliced through the air and embedded itself into the wall a few inches over Sybil's head. She screamed angrily, but not at the axe. Greebo had Vimes by the neck and both were trying to be the first to knee the other in the vitals. Sybil pulled the axe out of the wall and took a threatening stance.
"Let go of my husband," she said in a low tone that was a thin line from snapping.
Hanna slipped behind the blue curtain. She'd been watching the brawl through the crack for a full minute before she noticed she wasn't alone. She didn't turn around. She didn't want to look. It was a good thing she didn't. She might have misinterpreted the fact that Lord Vetinari was undressing. His outer robe at least. Hanna stayed silent and stared at the curtain and didn't move until she felt the black fabric drape over her shoulders. Her arms and hands were swallowed up in the sleeves so the Patrician buttoned up the robe himself. A loud crash from the direction of the stage made him wince but otherwise, he didn't look angry. Rather pleased, actually.
On stage, Vimes was attempting to punch Greebo in the mouth again while at the same time urging his wife to calm down. She was trembling, the axe handle splitting in her fists.
"Put the axe down, Sybil. Put it down." Greebo swiped at Vimes with his finger nails and Vimes kicked him savagely in the ankle. "That's a girl, Sybil. You can do it. Just put the axe down."
Sybil didn't move.
"Are you all right, Sam?"
Greebo brought his tambourine down on Vimes' head and got a right jab at the jaw as pay back.
"I'm fine, Sybil. Just fine. Put down the axe."
At that moment, a blaring, high-pitched voice with a country accent boomed out over the chaos:
"GREEBO! BAD KITTY!"
Everyone in Bongo's Song Pit froze. There was deep, utter silence.
Skirts flying, Nanny Ogg angrily waddled up to the stage, followed by Granny Weatherwax, who was staring around her with disapproval. Nanny put her fists on her hips.
"Bad kitty! Bad! Look what yer doing!"
Greebo let go of Vimes and slithered up to the edge of the stage.
"Naaaannnnnyyyyy," he whined.
"You come down here right now. Nanny has had enough, you hear me?"
Greebo had his head down and was peering side to side as if looking for an escape route. Nanny pointed to the floor at her feet.
"You listen to your Nanny. You come down here right now."
"Rooowwwwrrrrrl," said Greebo. He leapt off the stage, landing elegantly, then hunched over so that his head was below Nanny height.
"You should be ashamed of yerself, worrying your Nanny like that," she said.
"Sorrrrryyyy, Naaaaannnnnyyyy." He rubbed his head against her chest.
The remains of the audience looked at one another in confusion. This wasn't supposed to be how Greebo acted. He was a man's man, well, a ladies man, but that meant he was his own boss, totally confident, totally open, a little wild, just dangerous enough to be spicy. He wasn't supposed to be this…domesticated.
He pawed at Nanny and tried to make purring sounds.
"We're going home," said Nanny, "and there's no fish for you for a whole month." He whined against her chest and she softened, patting his hair. "Oh, maybe just two weeks. Poor Greebo." She led him away and he followed, docile, the silent crowd parting for them.
Granny Weatherwax went up on stage, ran a critical eye over Sybil, Vimes, Cheery, Drumknott, Carrot, Angua and the Tomcats, then turned toward the audience. She corrected the position of her pointy hat and removed the clothes pin from her nose.
"In case you city folk don't recognize the pointy hat, I'm a witch and I got something to say," she said. "You should all be ashamed of yerselves. Look at you! Dressing like harem girls from forn parts. Just look at you!" She pointed at a woman, who of course looked behind her. "You ain't even got a petticoat on. What respectable lady don't go round in a petticoat? I got three, in case yer wondering, that's how respectable I am. Do you think throwing yer clothes around for a vicious, dirty-minded creature like Greebo going to make you happy? I got goats with more sense than that!"
She glared at the audience.
"And another thing. I know every one of you has a father or a brother or a husband or a gentleman friend, and not one of'm acts like Greebo did. I'll tell ye why. It ain't just cause they don't have the witching potion. It's cause they're civilized. You know how many generations it took to get'm that way?"
"A lot, that's how many. A lot of work has gone into making men bearable enough to live with. Now, I don't live with any, they're still not that bearable, but most are good enough for you. So go home to yer men and be happy with what ye got. If you don't got one, be happy with that too. I am."
She paused, staring out over the crowd. The women were looking sheepish.
"Go home. That's what I'm doin. I'm taking the next coach out of this city. I cain't stand the smell."
Head up, nose re-plugged, Granny Weatherwax marched out of the Song Pit.
Early the next morning…
Rufus Drumknott and Cheery Littlebottom greeted the day with two large mugs of hot coffee at Giblet's Deli after a night of talking. No hips were involved.
Captain Carrot and Sergeant Angua were still sleeping on a cot in one of the crash rooms at Pseudopolis Yard. Carrot snored. Angua didn't mind.
In Ankh, Lady Sybil Ramkin Vimes hefted a shovel over her shoulder as she went to her private dragon pens to do the morning rounds. She'd just begun to muck out a stall when Sam Vimes said from the stable door, "You need a hand?"
She piled the first load onto the cart. "There's another shovel in the corner."
They spent the next hour in the romantic pursuit of excrement transport. But at least they were in it together. Literally. By the end, Vimes' shiny new black boots weren't so shiny anymore.
In the Palace garden, Hanna Stein – still in the Patrician's robe -- slept on the chair he used when he worked outside. She was awakened by the rustle of paper. Lord Vetinari sat in her chair a few feet away, browsing patiently through a stack of papers on his lap. There was a small table beside him with a coffee pot, milk pitcher and two china cups. When Hanna stretched and yawned, Vetinari set his work aside and lifted the pot.
"Good morning, Hanna. Half milk, I presume?" He poured. "I'm afraid the croissants will be a little late. In the meantime, perhaps I could explain the main features of the diplomatic code I've been using for confidential Uberwald dispatches. I expect you will learn it quickly; It is arch-demoniacal for people wishing to crack it but merely fiendish for those of us who know the key." He sipped his coffee.
"Is this my punishment?" sighed Hanna. "Learning some silly code?"
"Oh my dear lamb," he said, "learning is never a punishment. It is an exciting process of discovery. From now on, I plan to excite you to the very best of my ability."
He smiled slyly over his cup.
A coach rumbled out of the Hubwards Gate. The olfactory nerves of Granny Weatherwax relaxed – along with the rest of her – as soon as the Ankh-Morpork suburbs were behind her. She settled back to sleep a spell. Nanny Ogg had dropped off as soon as Greebo climbed onto her lap, wrapped his tail around his paws and purred himself to sleep.