They Are Back. And This Time They're Going To Try And Get It Right!
Contains moderate swearing, some sexual content and allusions, including homosexuality. Attitudes may be expressed about gay characters which reflect the full spectrum of opinion expressed in 2000's Britain,or indeed Australia, and which are almost certainly paralleled anywhere where gay people exist. If you like your humour to be PC, this is not your sort of short story.
Spoilers to the plots of "Maskerade, "Moving Pictures", "The Last Continent" "The Fifth Elephant" and Thud!" As the story deals with Moving Pictures, it has been rated 15. (Patrician's Advisory Classification System).
You have been advised.
This piece of fanfic emerged out of private speculation concerning what one of my favourite Discworld characters, who has starred in only one book, chose to do next. I didn't want to lose him, so I rescued him from the end of Moving Pictures for this "sequel". Call it Moving Pictures II: They're back! Or similar movie cliché.
If anyone is offended or put out by my fleshing out the character of André, from Maskerade, I'm sorry but I can't help that. A friend of mine who is never, ever, wrong about these things gave me a flash of inspiration one day, and after turning her ideas over in my head, I realized she was very probably right. This is what I wrote on the relevant Pratchett and Discworld Wiki discussion page:
Not that it matters (well, not that it matters for the wrong reasons, I hope these are the right ones), but a woman I know, who is a bit of a "fag-hag" by her own admission, gave me back the copy of Maskerade that I'd loaned her and said "I'd bet you anything that André is gay.", and asked if it had ever occured to me on reading the book. It hadn't, but I know her gaydar is never wrong, and on re-reading it, there all manner of things that would make more sense if the character of André were homo rather than heterosexual. That he doesn't write off Agnes because she's a plain and unattractive woman, for instance, and that he actively appreciates being in her company; that he appreciates Christine's style and presence while being able to see further into her than a straight male could (ie, he isn't blinded by her looks), and that he is irresistibly drawn to the iredeemably high-camp world of musicals.
It would also add to the load of random casual cruelty that the world has chosen to dump on Agnes Nitt's head from a very great height, were she to become aware that the only man to take a deeper personal interest in her for some time, one who appreciates her for her intellect and Great Personality, turns out to be the sort of chap who on a night out might head for the Blue Cat Club rather than the Pink PussyCat Club... only to be expected, really, as Agnes also attracted a most unsuitable male in Carpe Jugulum.
As a policeman he'd be an odd-man-out, and therefore natural for undercover work, as in a very real sense he would have been acting an undercover role all his life…
This is just a thought, but reading André as a straight-acting gay does appear to make a lot of sense in the mad world of opera!!!--AgProv 13:07, 27 November 2007 (CET)
So for her thoughts on André, this piece of fanfic has to be dedicated to Pamela J.A.
The reader will also note that I fought a mighty inner battle to prevent a key scene between Angua von Überwald and Sally von Humpedink descending into a, hem, different, genre of fanfic. I don't think I'm ready to start writing that sort of slash fiction yet, and in any case I didn't want to give an impression that Sally or Angua are anything other than hetero. There isn't even a subtext justifying any other treatment, although I note Terry Pratchett himself nearly steered them into a naked mud-fight in Thud! (I suspect TP was making a point about the existence of slash fiction there, and having a sly dig at the sort of minds that create it). It is fair to assume that two close girlfriends might be touchy-feely in a strictly non-sexual sense, though, and Sally's sense of mischief might extend to very ostensibly "washing the dog" after she's been rolling in mud…
Where possible I have tried, for preference, to flesh out minor characters who are actually mentioned in the Pratchett canon, although some invention of new ones, such as the two female Troll officers in the Watch, is inevitable. The Blue Cat Club "exists" in Ankh-Morpork, as does its owner Mr Harris. In the canon, only as a footnote used to illustrate the broad-mindedness of Rosie Palm as head of the Seamstresses' Guild: she welcomes Mr Harris not only to Guild membership but also to its council, on the grounds that un-natural acts are only natural.
Pratchett has acknowledged in passing that homosexuality exists on the Disc, like any other phenomena or practice the human race has evolved, and that this is generally accepted. The two city hippopotami, Roderick and Keith, are said to have an arrangement of their own, for instance. And in Maskerade, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax have a moment of uncharacteristic doubt about the gender of a beautician who has just been working on Granny. Then there's Pepe in Unseen Academicals, who deals with his own (presumed) queer-basher in a very direct way. As the core value of the Discworld books is tolerance - so many of the books deal with the tragic or even horrific results of what happens when this value is lost - I hope have treated it in the same way.
I see this piece as setting the scene for a longer novel-length adventure involving the characters: I only have vague inklings as yet of where it will go, but Holy Wood may be involved. Look upon this as an extended prologue.
Finally, in keeping with Discworld, I have added footnotes and made sure there are ample potential annotations and sly references. Enjoy!
AgProv (Paul Catlow) (A.A. Pessimal) June 2008.
Chapter 1: The New Recruit
Street fights were a nasty thing to get embroiled in. Generally the Watch preferred to do what it always did in these circumstances: lurk discreetly in a neighbouring alley, passing round a cigarette and discussing what they'd be doing on their next grandmother's funeral, until the sounds of fighting had diminished enough for them to move in and arrest the unconscious and unlucky. But just sometimes, there was no alternative than to get in there and apply a little of what Commander Vimes described as "preventative violence", in this case to stamp heavily on the incident before it ceased to be a mere pub brawl, and escalated to the status of city-wide riot.
The new recruit to the Watch sweated slightly in his ill-fitting tunic and chain mail and wondered whether he'd made a good career move. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the mass of the troll, roaring and bucking and trying to throw the ludicrously tiny figure of Pessimal off its back. He shuddered, then paid full attention to the Dwarf, screaming a battle-cry and racing at him, the double-bladed axe held poised for a menacing swing which would come in at roughly neck-height.
I'd better time this just right, he thought, I won't get a second chance.
He forced himself to stand absolutely still as the dwarf battle-charged him. Then, at the last possible instant, he swung to one side and extended a leg. Unable to stop, the dwarf piled into his extended limb, and flew helmet-over-boots across the cobbles in a crashing fall weighted with his own momentum.
The new recruit had always believed that maintaining a physically fit body was a lot less effort than dragging round rolls of fat and flab. As he thought of himself as fundamentally lazy, this was entirely in keeping with his philosophy of life. Regaining his balance and assuring himself his dwarf was semi-conscious and groaning, he looked around himself. The troll had failed to dislodge Pessimal, who was now hefting his Watch sword and bringing it down, pommel-first, on the back of the troll's head.
Well, good luck, the new recruit thought. At best you'll irritate it a bit more, and make more work for Detritus and Dorfl when they get round to rescuing you.
Then Pessimal's sword pommel struck, just so. The Troll stopped struggling to dislodge the irritant on its back - in fact, it stopped dead. A look of puzzlement crossed its face for a moment, then with an avalanche noise, it slumped to its knees and then crashed face-first on the cobbles. Pessimal leapt off its back and shouted "How do you like them apples, huh?", in his shrill reedy voice.
"How did you…"
"There's a spot on the back of the neck. Not very well-known, but one of my friends at the Palace is a Dark Clerk. He showed me where to hit. Now shall we assist His Grace?"
"Yes, sergeant" said the New Recruit, and they ran to the sound of the cannon, or rather, the sound of Sergeant Detritus methodically punching his way through a group of lichen-encrusted New Trolls In Town. He was assisted by Constable Dorfl, who without any apparent effort had grabbed a troll in each huge hand and had banged their heads together, intoning "A Short Sharp Shock Is Sometimes Called For In These Circumstances".
To his consternation, the new Watchman saw a troll adopt the submissive posture as Pessimal passed by: trolls may not be the world's fastest thinkers, but a five-foot tall seven-stone human who can lay out a mountain troll is not, to the uncomplicated troll mind, a human to annoy. No, the problem was the small mobile dwarfs.
"You done good, A.E." Detritus rumbled, by way of encouragement. Pessimal acknowledged this with a wave, as he and the new watchman plunged into the melee where, he could now see, a group of Watchmen were being beset by three times their number of Dwarfs. He saw Commander Vimes punch one of his assailants into submission and kick another where Dwarfs find a kick to be most embarrassing, but what was he doing about the one behind him… he heard Sergeant Littlebottom shout Mr. Vimes! Watch out! And saw Vimes begin to turn, but the battleaxe was beginning to descend towards his back, propelled by dwarven battle-fury.
Absently pounding his clenched fist on the helmet of a dwarf running at him, the new recruit saw Vimes would not evade the blow in time. A moment of crystal-clear tranquility washed over him and the street-fight receded slightly. Old, long-forgotten, syllables came unbidden to his mouth:
Eryngea Floeara est! Ffiat flora!
There was an octarine glitter around the dwarf assailing Vimes. Time slowed slightly. The battleaxe in the dwarf's hands suffered a wobbly moment of existential confusion, blurred… and became a bunch of flowers. Vimes' expression hardened, and he looked directly at the new watchman with body language that said "you'd better have a good explanation for that", and then turned to his dwarf.
"Planning to ask me out, were you?" he said to a suddenly bashful dwarf holding nothing more deadly than a mixed bouquet. "You're nicked, chummy!".
And then it was over, with groaning trolls and semi-conscious dwarfs sprawling in the street , and Lance-Constable Swires headbutting a recumbent troll whilst intoning "I'm claiming ye, ye great lump of granite that y'are, ye thing ye!"
"No…please… get it off me! Please…I can't stand no more… " moaned the semi-conscious troll.
"Get this lot cleared up" Vimes said, curtly, to Detritus and Littlebottom. "Call the catch-wagons round from Chitterling Street, disarm 'em, load 'em on, book 'em, get 'em into the cells. Swires, I think you can stop that now!"
The gnome constable saluted his acknowledgement, and Detritus rumbled "It am like that ting, they do in Agatea, where they tie you up and drip water on you, one drop at a time on der head. That don't work on trolls apart from grow a stalactite on der head if it go on for long enough, but it drive humans Bursar, right? Dat gernome, he find a way to make der Agatean Water Torture work on trolls!" The huge troll shuddered.
Vimes nodded. "Mr. Pessimal, when you've finished beating up three-ton mountain trolls, I'd like you to get back to the Yard and start a report for Drumknott to put before His Lordship about tonight's little business? That is, after all, what I employ you for. And for the rest of you - well done. I want the message going out to the slow learners that this isn't going to be tolerated in an age of what the Diamond King has called gugalaaah - is that right, Detritus? And what the Low King Rhys is pleased to call kak'hulobh'at khreda'z. That pronounced right, Cheery? Damn it, there isn't a decent Morporkhian word for the concept, but Captain Carrot assures me the Überwaldeans call it glasnost and Lord Vetinari, if you ask him, will go on for some time about Quirmian being the language of international diplomacy and eventually tell you it's called déténte. Either way, it means the Dwarfs and the Trolls are looking for peace, and it's our job to stamp on the ones who think in the old ways. Got it?"2 (2)
Vimes looked around him for a moment or two, and his eyes fell on the new Watchman, who tried to look relaxed and nonchalant after his first real fight in Watch service.
"And you, mister, I'll see in my office first thing in the morning".
All across the infinite Multiverse, there is a standard pattern to job interviews. The candidate, who is trying to look confident and not to sweat too much, is seated in an uncomfortable chair in front of a panel of between three and five interviewers, all of whom are smiling benignly whilst preparing to launch the killer question. While a handful of enlightened worlds have outlawed this practice under the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause, they still remain standard practice everywhere else.
That morning, several weeks prior to the streetfight, in a light and airy upper chamber at the Patrician's Palace, saw such an interrogation taking place. The candidate is a well-built young man in his early thirties, with an intelligent cast to his face, clean-shaven with just the hint of a moustache to his top lip, and with well-tended short black hair. His default expression is a slight smile, which suggests to onlookers that he is a lot more intelligent than he cares to reveal. (Actually, he's just covering up his nervousness). And, as Sergeant Angua von Überwald could not help but notice, he is a very good-looking man who appears to exude a quiet, confident, charisma. But it fell to her to ask the killer question:-
"So, why do you want this job?"
"The advertisement in the Ankh-Morpork Times appealed to me. It was the way it was phrased, really: The Ankh-Morpork City Watch is looking for a different kind of recruit. We need people with the aptitude to carry out special duties and who have the potential to be more than just policeman" That rather aroused my curiosity, really, as nothing more was said about the nature of the special duties, nor the qualities you're looking for in the applicant". (He very carefully omitted the part of the advert that talked about "accelerated promotion is possible for the right person").
The blonde sergeant smiled, which made her look less, for want of a better word, hungry.
"Well, that's a good start" she said. "But curiosity on its own isn't enough."
"I agree" he said, "which is why I went out to find out more about the job and the sort of person you're looking for. It's interesting that you only advertised in the Times, in the Ankh-Morpork Review of Books, in the Literary Gazette, all the more intellectual papers. If all you wanted was a street copper, the sort of street-smart type with a practical intelligence, but who nevertheless reads with his right fingertip, then that's the last place you'd put a recruitment advert. And you'd interview them at Pseudopolis Yard, not the Patrician's Palace. So you're looking for a potential copper with more… cerebral… skills. And the position is one the Palace is taking a direct interest in. That much is obvious."
The hard-bitten police commander sitting to her left said nothing, but nodded. The interviewee wondered where he'd picked up the jagged scar on his face that bisected one eye.
"You're doing well so far." said the blonde sergeant. "What else did you find out?"
"I took a look at the current table of organization for the City Watch. Or at least, the publicly available one. Now the Watch currently has a strength of one hundred and thirty-five officers of all ranks. It's subdivided into various divisions - street police divided among the section houses, the Training School, the River Police, the intelligence and admin section, Forensics, et c. Now here's the funny thing. Even allowing for current vacancies , I cannot make the numbers assigned to the various named departments add up to one hundred and thirty five. The named subdivisions only add up to one hundred and twenty-five officers. And this table of organization says there should be three officers of captain's rank, but only one is named. Allowing for a second captain's position being held in abeyance, there's a third police captain, or equivalent rank, to be accounted for here." He paused, and surveyed his five interviewers, allowing his gaze to rest on the red-haired captain with the friendly honest face that didn't deceive him for an instant.
"So this leads me to believe there is a police department which is not publicly listed, which is not publicly acknowledged, and whose existence is concealed from the public, perhaps for very good reasons, and this is the department you're recruiting for. "
Commander Vimes nodded again, and exchanged a look with the red-haired captain.
"And one reason why it doesn't have a captain," Vimes said "is that it's not nearly big enough for one yet. And we want to take our time appointing somebody, to be sure they're right for the job. You… that is, the successful applicant - will start at the bottom like any other copper and do your - his - their… time on the street as a lance-constable to get the hang of things before we transfer you - that is, the successful candidate - to this hypothetical department."
"I read up on the history of the City Watch. I think I can make an informed guess as to the nature of this special department and why it's so sensitive an issue. I'm being interviewed for my suitability for the Cable Street Particulars. Am I right?"
"Dead right". said Vimes, lighting a cigar. He took a long draw and exhaled happily. "You know, these things work up an incredibly high temperature at the red end. You'd be surprised." He handed the cigar to the candidate. "You win the cigar for damn good reasoning and good digging to get the right information. That's the biggest part of what I'm looking for - intelligent persons who can find things out, think clearly about things, and join the dots. Now we're going to go down to the cells and do an interrogation. Keep it hot, as a lighted cigar is an investigating officer's friend. You'd be amazed how many people confess after you've stubbed it out on them a few times."
"WHAT?" the candidate yelped, leaping up from his seat and dropping the cigar onto himself. "You're going to order me to… you mean torture is STILL part of the job? I thought that went out with Captain Swing!"
Vimes and his two officers exchanged looks and smiles.
"It looks as if we've got our man, Mr. Vimes" said the red-haired captain.
"I agree" said the blonde sergeant. "I can smell his horror at the idea of having to torture people for a living."
"I can also smell his burning trousers" said Vimes, passing him the water jug. "Put yourself out before you put a cigar burn in YOUR tender parts, mr… Tugelbend. Sorry I had to put you through that, but I had to be sure. Welcome to the Watch."
"Hmm, interesting" Lord Vetinari said, steepling his fingers. "Tugelbend. I've seen that face before. But I'm sure it didn't have that name at the time. That business with the moving pictures some years ago. I recall an actor of the name of…Victor Maraschino. Do we have a file, Drumknott?"
"I'm certain we have several, my lord"
Vimes did not look up from the file on his desk for some time. Then he said "You may go, Sergeant Detritus". "Sir" said the troll, and knuckled out of the office. Victor heaved a sigh of relief. He'd had to do with Detritus before: the troll's first reaction on seeing him in Watch uniform had been "I'm sure I've seen you somewhere before. Holy Wood, where I met my Ruby. Dat's it. You was in der clicks then. So was I! Funny how life should have brought us both to der Watch. One of dem co-incidence t'ings."
Even so, Victor had those past memories of Detritus escorting him into the presence of Throat Dibbler - long ago, but just too near for comfort on that morning when Sergeant Detritus had loomed up and rumbled "Der Commander will see you now. I'm to escort you up."
Victor stood at unease as Vimes scrutinized him for some moments. Behind and to one side, the red-haired captain, who gave him a friendly wink.
"Let's look at the facts here, Probationary Lance-Constable Tugelbend. Last night we broke up a fight between some old-school dwarfs and trolls who've heard that there's a peace process going on between their races, but who are determined not to have anything to do with it. At one point in the evening, there was a dwarf coming up behind me who was set on putting some extra ventilation in my helmet. Only he discovered that all of a sudden he wasn't holding a battle-axe any more, but a bunch of flowers. Now we can suppose that this was an extremely forgetful, or perhaps confused, dwarf who ran out of the house having picked up a bunch of flowers and not a battleaxe. But this rather founders on eyewitness accounts that are unanimous that he was, in fact, in possession of a battleaxe up until the moment it spontaneously chose to become a bunch of flowers. And at that exact moment, Probationary Lance-Constable Tugelbend, you were seen to point a finger at him and spontaneously recite a couple of words which Sergeant Pessimal, who is a very well-read fellow, recognized as the Old Latatian for "let there be flowers".
I myself had at that moment a slightly tinny taste in my mouth, which Archchancellor Ridcully assures me is the dead giveaway for there having been a discharge of magic in the area. Co-incidence?"
"Good, a honest answer. I'm pleased to hear that. Captain Carrot, I thought I asked you to do the background checks and find out exactly where Tugelbend here was educated?"
Carrot coughed, delicately. "No, sir. In point of fact, your exact words were "this is a clever, educated young bugger. I wouldn't put it past the Assassins' Guild to try to slip one of theirs through the net to get a spy in the Watch. You can make me a happy man by being able to assure me that Tugelbend was not educated at the Assassins' School". In accordance with your instructions, sir, I was able to reassure you Tugelbend has never attended the Assassins' Guild. You did not explicitly ask me to tell you that Victor Tugelbend was educated first at Hugglestones' Academy(3) 3, where in his own words he "learnt to handle a sword a bit", and then at Unseen University. Sir".
Vimes sighed, deeply and painfully.
"So you didn't tell me. Great. What have I always said about using magic in police procedures, Carrot?"
"That it's tricky stuff and it'll turn round and bite you if you're not careful, sir".
"And refresh me on my opinion concerning having a wizard in the Watch, Carrot?"
"Never in a million years, not till Hell freezes over, not if he came as a free gift, sir. Although in strict factual terms, Probationary Lance-Constable Tugelbend is not a wizard, as he never graduated from Unseen University. That's why I omitted to tell you Tugelbend was a student at Unseen, as I considered it would prejudice your opinion of an otherwise outstanding candidate. And according to reliable information, sir, the deepest and least hospitable part of Hell is in fact fro-"
"Never graduated. This gets better and better. OK, Tugelbend, explain why you were an undergraduate wizard for … ten, eleven years?... and never graduated. It normally takes three, doesn't it? In your own words. No hurry."
Victor explained his past - the legacy, the endless study to ensure he got no less than 80% in his final exams and no more than 87%, so as to preserve the income that supported the undemanding life of a student wizard, and the day when it all changed, when Moving Pictures came to town…
Vimes winced. "Ye gods, I remember. Some bloody clown from Howondaland came knocking on the city gates with a thousand elephants he claimed Throat Dibbler had ordered. When we got through all the bad jokes about Throat going into jumbo-sized portions, guess which group of long-suffering City employees had to clear the business up and get those lads packing back across the continent with their thousand elephants? Guesses? Anyone? And believe me, a thousand elephants on our city streets take a lot of clearing up, let me tell you! At least Nobby had the bright idea to sell it all to Harry King, so that was an unexpected bonus." Vimes toyed with an unlit cigar. "It beggared Throat, as Vetinari himself said it'd be a very good idea if he dug deep into his pocket, thanked those lads for their trouble, and paid their necessary expenses to take the whole damn lot back home again. So much for his profits in moving pictures!" 4(4)
"Yes, the Patrician was very specific about that." agreed Carrot. "I remember I got the order to find Mr Dibbler and escort him to the Palace with all due speed."
"But back to the matter in hand" said Vimes. "What it boils down to is that you are not a graduate wizard. But because of the amount of study you put in, so as to be able to carry on taking the piss and living off this legacy, you built up a knowledge of magic rivaling that of, ooh lets's take a random selection, the Dean, the Senior Wrangler, or even Archchancellor Ridcully himself. Am I right?"
"Broadly, yes". agreed Victor.
"And now you're working for me. And last night you used that knowledge of magic to save my life. Which makes it tricky as I know the Archchancellor has some very firm ideas about who's entitled to use magic in his city. I.E., my lad, not you, as you are not a qualified graduate wizard. By your own admission you didn't turn up at all for your last final exam, and therefore washed right out of the University. You've never tried to re-enrol?"
"No, sir. No point, really. I lost the legacy the moment I washed out".
Vimes groaned. "Just for the record, you can call me MISTER Vimes, ok? You earned it last night."
He paused, and composed himself.
" Look, I'll be level with you. Mustrum Ridcully is favourably disposed towards the Watch, partly because my wife lays on the sort of big dinners he likes, and partly because he recognizes we've got a job to do that we do as well and fairly as we can and which makes life easier for everyone, or so he says. I've already broken my own rule about not using magic in Watch business, because a few months ago a situation cropped up where we had no alternative but to ask Mustrum for professional assistance. I asked for it and he provided it(5)5. So I can't easily throw you off the force because you used magic in Watch time last night. And if my wife discovered I'd sacked a copper for saving my life she'd give me hell, so your job's safe."
Vimes paused and took another deep drag of his cigar.
"But Mustrum Ridcully will not like it if I employ an unlicenced wizard in Watch uniform chucking spells all over the place. So I'm going to have a word with him about you, do what he suggests, OK? It might mean you have to go back to college for a while and sit that gods-damned exam again, WITHOUT any piss-taking this time - and then - Gods help me - the Watch has its first and I hope only licenced wizard. Now get out on patrol, Lance-Constable. Oh, and if circumstances permit, warn me first if you intend to use magic. Clear? "
Tugelbend saluted, about-turned smartly, and left the office. The door closed behind him.
"Good call, sir" said Carrot, approvingly. Vimes glared.
"It's like the situation with the bloody vampire all over again." he said. "Funny how I run the Watch, but I keep getting over-ruled, outflanked and manouevred into employing people I swore I'd never let into Watch uniform in a million years".
"Politics, sir. His Lordship was hinting just the other week that you might want to think again about Watch policy on recruiting wizards."
"But that was only to get a dig back at us after poaching Pessimal from his staff. Ah well, at least it keeps Mustrum Ridcully on side. What was it he said… I know your opinion, Sam, and I respect it, even though some might say you're a bloody fool for it."
"And Tugelbend is very mentally stable, sir. If we take a wizard of our choice, we can carry on politely saying "no" to the Dean whenever he tries to join the Specials."
"That's true. Ah well, let's see how young Victor shapes up on the streets. He's still only a probationary".
"I believe he's already making a mark, sir. The lads seem to like him. However…"
Lance-constable Tugelbend had not been in the Watch for very long when he recognized, uneasily, a pattern was emerging. By nature a shy man, he'd been somewhat disconcerted when the vampire had suddenly appeared at his side and greeted him with "Well, hel-lo! I see you're walking alone, or at least I hope you are!" Victor recalled a few vampire movies had been made at Holy Wood, and the standard plot came to his uneasy mind - Boy (vampire) meets Girl (human), but never for very long, as either the human party dies prematurely, or a combination of sunlight, religious imagery, and a sharpened stake, had done for the vampire party.
"Hey, it's alright, I don't bite!" the vampire had reassured him. "well, not very much, anyway. I'm Sally. You must be the new man? Cheery owes me a favour, I'll see if she can sort out the roster so we can go on patrol together. Night shift, obviously! There's so much I can show and give to you if you patrol with me tonight. Or any night!" 6(6). Then she'd grinned, toothily, and said "About Watch business, naturally!", deliberately stroking his face and sashaying away across the room, taking care to blow him a kiss.
That had been his first introduction to Lance Constable von Humpeding, in front of a room full of Watchmen who were trying to conceal their sniggers, with varying degrees of success. Mysteriously, a sharpened stake, a hammer, and a page ripped out of an anatomy textbook, had appeared in his locker by the next day.
And then Ruby had turned up, ostensibly for a quick chat to her husband Detritus. Victor noted that the other male trolls in the Watch changed attitude and demeanour when she was around: talk was more muted, and everyone appeared to be showing the sort of guarded, careful, interest that human males might display if a truly beautiful woman walked in, but one who were known to be married to the biggest, hardest, fighter in town, of the sort who might fix you with a steady unblinking stare and intone "lookin' at my woman, were you?"
"Hello, boys" she boomed, looking at Constable Bauxite, who suddenly bloomed a deep, rose-quartz red about the chest and face. "Is Detritus about, or my boy Brick?" Bauxite burbled something incomprehensible along the lines of "nhgggh…".
Then she spotted Tugelbend, and boomed, delightedly, "VICTOR!" and physically picked him up in both massive hands. Victor winced: the standard troll method of acknowledging a friend she hadn't seen in years was a joyously robust punch to the head, and he fervently hoped she'd remember he was merely human and respond accordingly. Then again, a hug from a two-ton female troll could be just as destructive…
"Let me look at you! You is looking well, Victor! Detritus said you'd joined the Watch!"
Her head approached him at speed and Victor winced, screwing his eyes closed for the inevitable. Her polished troll lips brushed his forehead, and he found himself being gently set down again. Victor felt himself the centre of wryly jealous looks from a circle of male trolls. "Hey, we live among humans, we learn what's right for the humans we like!" she said.
This time the note in his locker was a crudely-drawn picture of a troll, with the back of the neck ringed, and an instruction to "hit here. If in doubt, ask Pessimal".
And then there was Precious Jolson. He'd been partnered to her for a routine learning patrol around the city centre, and they'd left the Yard to a muted cascade of wolf-whistles and sniggers that had left her bright red from the neck up. She walked, he noticed, with that slightly hunched-over quality all truly big people seem to have, as if her body language was one of apology for taking up so much valuable space. Old Sergeant Colon had quietly said to him to "treat her right, lad. When she's confident you'll never have a better guarding your back". Fred should know, he thought, as Precious was one of his first-choice partners when Nobby Nobbs was unavailable 7(7). Fred had described her as "quite chatty when she gets to know you", so Victor was surprised to find her conversation appeared to consist of occasional monosyllables. Otherwise, Precious towered a clear eight inches over him, she was at least half as wide again in the shoulders, and like many girls fated to have larger figures, she'd been given a head of good hair and attractively chiseled features. "All she needs now is a boyfriend of about six foot ten", Victor thought, reflectively, as he sought for a question that could not just be answered with a "yes" or a "no". "But there aren't many of those about. Most men feel happier if they don't have a girlfriend who can look down and tell you if a bald patch is starting. Or one who isn't physically capable of throwing you through a wall."
"I hear your father works in catering, Precious?"
The red tide beached somewhere around her cheekbones.
"Yes." There was a brief painful pause, and then a rush of words:-
Oh dear, thought Victor, recognizing the symptoms. Still, he now knew why Fred liked partnering her on patrol. To change the subject, he gleaned that she'd first started helping out in the family business around age six, where, in an environment where time costs money, her ability to help deliverymen unload fifty-pound flour sacks quickly had been considered a useful asset. She could physically lift a cooking range to allow for the kitchen porter to sweep and mop underneath it; at age fifteen she'd joined the Ankh-Morpork Athletics Club to allow her physical strength an outlet. One day, the male members had humoured her by allowing her to have a go at throwing that hammer thing. She'd got into the little chalk circle, crouched, and spun, built up a speed , as she'd seen the men do, then let go of the handle, and watched as it came to rest far further away than any of the men had been able to throw it….
Victor, recognizing the sort of misfit designed by Nature to end up in an institution like the Watch, nodded sympathetically, especially about her hobby of breeding cage-birds. "There are some lovely new species coming over from XXXX!" and a dissertation on the various colours and habits and gregariousness of the budgerigar - apparently a Fourecksian native word for "picks up swear words very, very, quickly". 8(8)
He wasn't surprised to find a stepladder propped up against his locker this time.
Lady Sybil's charity matinée for the Sunshine Sanctuary for Sick Dragons was proceeding as well as these things generally do. Various luminaries of the City were milling around the Ramkin House, drawn for the usual sorts of reasons. People of a certain social standing always attend each other's social functions. It gives them something to do, they can be seen as philanthropists who give generously to good causes, and they can catch up on the latest society scandals. They can also be iconographed for the Times and for its latest magazine offshoot, Hi!, proving to the hoi-polloi who buy the wretched thing that they are discerning people of wealth and substance and influence. Hence, thought Vimes sourly, that bloody vampire Chriek posing people for "Seen at the Charity Fund-Raiser hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Ankh at Ramkin Manor".
Vimes had given strict instructions to Willikins and a couple of reliable footmen to keep a close eye on Lord Downey, and tell me if he looks as if he's sizing the place up for entry and exit routes. Oh, and watch Boggis around any small portable items of high value, as old habits die hard.
"Indeed, sir" the old butler had said, gravely. "I have taken the liberty of watching His Lordship closely, and he seems to be covertly paying attention to the access routes to the undercroft. If you recall, the entry method favoured by those dwarfen gentlemen who made the last assassination attempt. Shall I weaken a few tunnel supports so that they collapse on an intruder at the merest touch?"
"Thank you, Willikins" Vimes said, gratefully. "You consider the small details admirably, as always".
"Perhaps a plank or two studded with rusty nails in the appropriate places, sir?".
"As you see fit, Willikins. If you could see the Dean and the Senior Wrangler get another cart-load of vol-au-vonts and cocktail fancies? We seem to be running out"
"Right away, sir. While the rest of the university party are distracted by the buffet table, I have arranged for the Archchancellor to speak to you, discreetly, down by the ornamental lake."
On the pretext of "Must circulate to the outside marquee, dear, got to show the flag", Vimes escaped to the garden. After a fervent handshake with Harry King that left his right arm feeling numb, he discreetly made his way round the side of the house to the lake. He liked Harry King - for one thing, he was always grateful to be invited to nobby do's like this, unlike some of the supercilious buggers. It also disconcerted the likes of Lady Selachii, which was no bad thing, and he knew Sybil didn't make any distinction between Lady Selachii and Mrs King, she was as natural to one as she was to the other, and Harry loved her for it. Harry King's usual return for Sybil's open-heartedness was to ensure his boys co-operated with the Watch, and where possible told them things: to Vimes, a society invitation extended to the Kings was worth an army of a thousand occasional informers, without whom the Watch would be that much deafer and blinder. Must make sure young Tugelbend gets to know these things, he thought, as he tried to flap some life back into his frozen limb.
"Ah, there y'are, Sam!" came the unmistakeable booming voice of Mustrum Ridcully. "What's this delicate matter y'wanted my advice on, hey?"
Vimes winced. He turned to see Ridcully, perched on the wall of the ornamental lake, cheerfully feeding bread rolls to the hippopotami. "I see not everything found its way back to the College of Heralds after the fire, then".
Roderick reared up on both hind legs and caught the bready missile with an appreciative unnnngh noise. Vimes grinned.
"Well, Roderick and Keith really settled in here and didn't want to go back. So we have this arrangement. If they're needed officially, one of the heralds comes over here with his drawing kit. Seems to work."
"And I did hear about that student assassin who thought the best place to wait was in the lake with a breathing tube, so all he needed to do was pop up when you passed by, and take a shot." said Ridcully. "Bad move. I hear these chaps are terrifically territorial."
"If three tons of hippo don't want you in their lake…" said Vimes, with a slight smile.
"Right. Bugger off, you fellas, that's your lot." Ridcully made a dismissive gesture, and the hippos ambled off towards their mud wallow. The wizard and the watchman reflectively watched them go.
"Puts me in mind of the Dean and Wrangler." Ridcully mused. "Only friendlier. Right, Sam. How can magic not help the Watch this time, in this conversation we aren't having?"
"It's like this." Vimes began and explained the situation. "And as it crosses your area of jurisdiction, so to speak, you need to know, if only as a courtesy."
"Tugelbend, Tugelbend". muttered the Archchancellor. "The very first damn' problem I had to deal with. " Then he threw back his head and roared "BUR - SARRRRR!!!"
Vimes nearly choked on his cigar when the slight figure of Dr Dinwiddie, clutching a paper plate of buffet food, hovered into view. From approximately thirty feet up.
"Student wizard, name of Tugelbend. Refresh my memory."
"Tugelbend, Victor. He unaccountably failed his final exams eight times, but on six occasions by the very narrowest of margins. On the fourth attempt, he actually passed, but appealed against passing, quoting an examiner's error. On the final occasion he quite simply didn't turn up, which neatly solved the problem as it gave the university the opportunity to simply expel him. We learnt afterwards, Archchancellor, that it was all due to an over-indulgent bequest from a relative that set up a trust fund, enabling Tugelbend to live in some comfort while a student. So he took very good care to remain a student."
"Hmmmph. So he stayed a student wizard for nearly eleven years, by my count. But to keep consistently scorin' no less than eighty and no more than eighty-seven, he must have had to put in some damn' good studyin'. For eleven years."
Ridcully paused. "Well, there's our problem, Sam. Nobody studies wizardry that intensively for that long without soaking so much of it up that it starts to leak. Can't help noticin', though, that by yr'own account, when it leaked it saved your life! Eryngeas' Surprisin' Bouquet. Good application of spellcraft there, that man."
"Perhaps, Archchancellor, we could rectify the situation? After all, Tugelbend was of some considerable assistance when the Moving Pictures business went nasty. That could go a long way towards awarding him a degree?" The Bursar had spiraled down to earth now.
Vimes remembered. It had been in the bad old days of the four-man Night Watch: he'd taken one look, conferred with Carrot, Colon and Nobby, and made the command decision that fifty-foot tentacled inter-dimensional monsters roaming the streets were outside their jurisdiction and should be left to the relevant professionals. Seeing the wizards were already on the case, the Watch had gratefully regrouped to investigate those reports of a herd of a thousand elephants that was approaching the city, and to locate one C.M.O.T. Dibbler, with whom the Patrician had already signaled an intention to have a quiet meaningful chat.
"Hmmm… performing a service of benefit to wizardry and by extension to all mankind" mused Ridcully. "I mean, fair's fair. That's how Rincewind scraped through, and the man doesn't have a magical bone in his body. Here, we're talking about a young fella of considerable magical talent, who was unlucky seven times in his Finals, and, well, the stress of the exam room must have got to him on the eighth. One of those fellows who doesn't perform well in exam rooms, but shows genius in the practical. And then Sam can have his first qualified and licenced wizard in the Watch, as we've been askin' for many years, and everybody's happy! Oh, and Bursar… somebody behind you."
The Bursar turned and looked into a gaping mouth the size of a small toolshed, lined with huge yellow teeth. A tongue the size of an armchair flicked out, and delicately took the entire buffet plate out of the Bursar's hand.
"Oh my… hello Mr Wuggle… millennium, hand and shrimp"
The Bursar fell back into Vimes' arms, stiff as a plank.
"Naughty boy, Keith!" Ridcully admonished. "Right hand front robe pocket, Sam. It's a green bottle, labelled "Dried Frog Pills".
"Morning Prayers"(9) is that moment in a Watchman's day when he or she is briefed by the Duty Officer on what the day holds 9. If they don't belong to an established team, or if they're new, this is where they're assigned a partner and a beat for the day. Whether the Watchman gets an easy beat or not is in the gift of the Duty Officer, and the thirty or so officers gathered in the briefing room at the Yard were expectantly silent as Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom climbed up to the podium to address them.
Tugelbend listened with half an ear, and reflected on the last few years. The night of the Things was still a memory that could crawl out of the black pit of sleep to trouble his dreams. Worst, the Patrician had invited Ginger and himself to a little chat early the next day, the gist of which had been an appreciation that you were, ah, inadvertently involved in what might have been the total destruction of this city. Clearly no blame attaches to either of you, as you were the unwitting tools of powerful occult forces as well as the earthly greed of others - that reminds me, Drumknott, has Mr Dibbler been located yet? And Archchancellor Ridcully has praised the part you played in getting the situation back under control again, which is quite laudable. But as you are now two of the most recognizable faces in this city, and as it was the degree of public belief in your screen personae that precipitated this event, I consider it would be beneficial to all concerned if the two of you, of your own free will, chose to leave the city and seek your fortunes elsewhere. Did Mr Dibbler pay you? Ah, how remiss of him. Drumknott, how much money has so far been recovered from the ruins of the Odium? Capital. I'm sure we can spare a couple of hundred dollars each to speed this young couple's departure from our city. Put them on the coach for… Genua, I think, and charge the tickets to mr Dibbler. Exile? Whatever makes you think I'm exiling you? Oh dear, no, you misunderstand me. You are free to return when everyone here has forgotten your faces, and now - don't let me detain you.
"Lance-constable Tugelbend - at her request, you're partnered with Sergeant von Überwald." This led to the inevitable sniggers, low calls of "Woof - WOOF!" and a poor imitation of a wolf howling. Victor sighed with resignation, wondering what was going to end up in his locker this time. The dwarf sergeant pounded on his - her - desk-top and shouted for quiet. "You'll be on a general orientation patrol at the Sergeant's discretion and act as mobile back-up to any beats requiring assistance." The dwarf looked up, paused, and then sprang to attention and threw up a salute.
"Watch Commander in the room! Stand up! Atten - SHUN!"
"Thank you, Sergeant Littlebottom" said Vimes, moving to the front. "At ease. Just pretend I'm not here. Tugelbend - catch!"
Victor caught the rolled scroll, noting it was wrapped in red ribbon. He cautiously unrolled it and saw, to his consternation, it was a graduation diploma from Unseen University. Signed by the Archchancellor and conferring the degrees of B.F. and on Victor Tugelbend. A smaller, less ornate, scroll tucked inside confirmed his right to practice magic within and without the city of Ankh-Morpork, under the auspices of the U.U.
"They'll be formally conferred on you at the next Convivium, and apparently Ridcully says he can sort you out a half-decent staff from University stock. Don't say I don't do things for my Watchmen. They're yours, you earned them, take them, and Gods I hope this is the right thing to do". 10(10)
Well, thought Victor, this kills all hope of getting the legacy re-instated and going back to a nice quiet student life…
"And…" Vimes added, with a nasty little smile, "you are now Watch liaison officer with the University. Can't think of a better duty for the first wizard in the Watch!"
"So you nearly destroyed the City and dragged it into the Dungeon Dimensions - but you didn't mean to?" Angua said, suppressing a smile. "You naughty thing. Of course, this business with the Moving Pictures was just before I arrived in this city, so all I know is what people have told me. Did mr Vimes tell you about the elephants? I thought, knowing him then, that any elephants he saw would be pink and insubstantial ones, but apparently a thousand of them, real ones, got into the city. Nobby and Fred were so keen to go and find Throat Dibbler to tell him his elephants had arrived, cash on delivery, that of course they left the gate open. An accident waiting to happen, really."
Victor was more at his ease with the blonde sergeant, whose voice still had a slight, but pleasant, trace of Überwald. Her hungry look still disconcerted him, though: if anything he was relieved to find out that she and Captain Carrot were an acknowledged couple, which took one possible complication out of patrolling with her. In a funny sort of way, she reminded him of Ginger: a painful memory jabbed at him, and he wondered what she was doing now, after they'd split up on Fourecks.
"The Alchemists' Guild usually just manages to blow its own premises up. Which is disconcerting for everyone, except the Gamblers' Guild just opposite." Angua said. Noting his slightly puzzled look, she added, helpfully, " 'Doc' Pseudopolis won the last sweepstake on when and what time of day it would blow up. All members put into the pot and the longer it goes between explosions, the bigger the win. So the Alchemists went one better and very nearly destroyed the whole city. And you were a part of that!"
She laughed, delightedly "And Vetinari exiled you from the city".
"At least until people forgot."
"Which you'll find is the case in this city. A year or two ago, Music With Rocks In was the big thing. It took over. This rather sweet young man from Llamedos who played some sort of guitar couldn't go anywhere without hordes of fans trying to tear his clothes off. And now it's all forgotten. Apparently he's working in a fish shop in Quirm now, and his horn player guts rats at Gimlet's delicatessen. So I doubt if any of the people who went wobbly over your clicks are ever going to remember you now."
They were on the outskirts of the City, upriver and downwind. A high fence loomed up, and the noise of activity could be heard from the other side. Periodically, something large and heavy slammed into the fence, making it shake.
"Just got to call in here. Watch business" she said.
Victor noted the sign over the door; Harry King. Taking the piss since 1969 had been indifferently painted over and replaced with Harry King. Extracting nature's bounty since 1969. But the original letters were still fairly visible underneath…
Angua confidently opened the gate and stepped inside. Victor followed, closing the gate behind him, then his bladder turned to ice. Six or seven silent loping shapes were converging on the two Watchmen. As they drew nearer, a low visceral growl erupted. Victor measured the distance back to the gate. He realized, with a sinking stomach, that he wouldn't be able to get there before the Lipwigzer dogs did. And they wouldn't just take the piss, they'd also have the bladder that was temporarily containing it. If it didn't make an escape bid of its own first…. But Angua didn't seem concerned at all? Victor felt the magic welling up. Tonsilflingers' Temporary Transition? This would cause seven pounds of earth to fountain up from the packed ground in front of each dog, and temporarily convert to seven raw steaks, to distract them… OK, they'd turn back to earth again, but by then he'd be long gone and the dogs would have appalling constipation…
"It's OK" said Angua, reassuringly. Then something funny happened to the dogs. The ones that had got too close to Angua started to cringe and back off. One that was halfway to a leap tried to convert the spring in its back legs into a hasty retreat. Another decided to investigate the area underneath its own tail and started industriously licking. The biggest and hardest Lipzwiger tried to brave it out and carried on growling at Angua, although less confidently than before. Then she growled back, ending the growl with as "Hmmm?" To Victor's consternation, the huge guard dog crumpled into a submissive whimper. Angua nodded and walked on without a backward glance. Victor followed, although a couple of the dogs were recovering from whatever it was and were paying him beady-eyed attention.
How in the seven Hells did she manage that? Victor gibbered to himself, following her into the office.
Harry King himself, all cigar and bonhomie, was walking tall among his desk clerks. He smiled, welcomingly.
"Morning, sergeant! Professional call?"
"Yes, but yours rather than mine. Mr Vimes asked me to drop by to settle the Watch account with you."
"Take the lady's money, Jenkins. City Watch account." And, less curtly "It's either you, miss, or the golem, or one of the trolls. Daft buggers couldn't hurt a troll, but it doesn't stop 'em tryin'. Your boy's white as a sheet, by the way. First time out?"
"First time he's met your dogs, Mr King. Funny, I've never had a second of trouble with them!"
"No, I should imagine you haven't."
He dropped his voice.
" Word on the street is that the Bandits' Guild have had a falling-out. There's a faction who are planning a go at the mail coach when it does the bullion run to Borogravia. They're intending to let it get twenty miles outside the city, then they'll turn it over. Look for Stone Killer Marfleet in the Shades, word is, he's getting the gang together. Thank Lady Sybil for me for the kind invitation the other day, miss? Mrs King was well made up!"
"And that's how it works" Angua explained later. "The Watch makes friends and they tell us things. We can't do our job without information, and people give us information for lots of reasons. When you get into it, eighty percent of your job is going to be sitting at a desk processing, evaluating and analyzing information. You'll be in the warm, near a kettle, solving problems, while we are out in all weathers."
Which suits me fine, Tugelbend told himself. Once I'd worked that out, this looked like the ideal job for me!
"And here's one for you to solve. Worked out who the werewolf in the Watch is yet?" She gave him a poker look, edged with just a little mischief.
"Well", began Tugelbend, "everyone thinks it's Nobby Nobbs. Or they claim he is, and they tell me he is, which is a different story. I doubt that. If Nobby was a were-anything…. Well, did you ever meet an extraordinary dog called Gaspode? Nobby would be hard-put to manage a Gaspode, let alone a wolf."
Angua laughed, a low pleasant sound.
"We've got another mutual friend, then. Gaspode's still around town, ducking and diving and living on his wits. So if not Nobby, then who?"
She gave him a smile and a look through narrowed, amused eyes.
Well, you wear your Watch badge on a choker collar around your neck. You subdued seven of the most vicious dogs on the Disc just by standing there and growling at them. But on the other hand, this is another test, right? They keep the identity of the Watch werewolf an operational secret. She's checking out how well I can keep confidences.
"Miss, my inquiries are proceeding and as yet I have not conclusively identified the werewolf, but when I know the identity of the Watchwoman in question, I'll be sure you're the first to know I've found out!"
Angua laughed, delightedly.
"Good answer, Victor, good answer. Now indulge me. Vetinari threw you both out of the city and you spent a few years in exile. Where did you go to and what have you been doing?"
(1)Refer to Guards! Guards! where it is revealed that the alternating high-and-low-pitched war yodel is a Dwarfen speciality.
(2)Vimes is referring to events covered in more detail in Thud!
(3)OK, so Moving Pictures doesn't explicitly tell us where Victor went to school. But he has clearly received a good general education, "can handle a sword a bit" (swordsmanship is a Hugglestones' speciality) and by inference comes from a middling-well-off family who can afford the fees. Why not Hugglestones?
(4)CLICK, CLICK, CLICK… This is a loose end from Moving Pictures : 1,000 elephants waiting expectantly at the gates of Ankh, while Colon and Nobbs argue about who gets to tell Dibbler. As a thousand elephants cannot be ignored, this is the sort of loose end that begs to be tidied up… so I did.
(5) In Thud!, Vimes is forced to ask for magical assistance so as to get to Koom Valley and prevent a war.
(6) Sally, by some mysterious resonance across the Multiverse, is quoting a song by Roundworld goth-rockers the Blue Öyster Cult, in which a lonely lady vampire makes it clear she'd quite like a boyfriend who shares her interests.
(7) Precious Jolson is Colon's occasional street partner in Thud!, where we are told that girl's got the muscles of a troll on her, and that's a fact. I've filled in some of the gaps about her with likely detail. The physical description is based on memories of Eastern Bloc discus-throwers and shot-putters at Olympics past, who combined bodies to make Charles Atlas weep with stunningly pretty faces.
(8) We asked Professor Bruce Brucesson, Professor of Linguistics at Bugarup University, to verify this. "G'day, sport. The name of your common budgie is in fact an abo word, derived from the phrase 'bugger - eager', or "keen to use words your granny doesn't approve of". Well, that's your bluenosed pommie grannie, that is, mine used to cuss like a bushman with his donger caught in the kedgeree. He's a clever little bastard, your budgie, who'll quite happily learn to swear like a drop-bear that's just landed arse-first onto a wizzard's pointy hat" And so on and so forth. On Roundworld, Geoff Capes was a twenty-stone man-mountain who putted shotts for Great Britain, went on to contend in The World's Strongest Man, looked like Banjo Lilywhite's bigger and more evil brother… and bred budgies as a hobby.
(9) It's well-named, as at the start of a shift that promises to be gruelling, there isn't a Watchman who hasn't thought something along the lines of Oh Gods, help me get through today in one piece.
(10)This echoes Granny Weatherwax in Equal Rites when she gives the staff to Esk.