The Hazards of Tradition

A tale of Ankh-Morpork

When a person does something regularly it becomes habit. Habit sometimes grows, sometimes wilts and is forgotten, like a weed. The strong habits that are lucky become traditions, commemorated by feasts and celebrations and are generally merely a good excuse for an annual piss up. Both traditions and habit breed routine, and routine breeds...order. There happens to be a certain type of being that loves order. On Roundworld, this being manifests itself as nothing more malign and dangerous than a common or garden Health and Safety inspector, or 'One of those irritating nosy sods who works for OF-whatsit'. Annoying and pointless, yes, but not actually harmful, except possibly to the blood pressure of those who encounter them. However on the Discworld, the presence of such beings is far more powerful, and indescribably more dangerous...

So dear reader, read on.

They levitated if that was the right word to describe their positioning in mid air beside the mended drum. The screams, battle cries and swear words issuing from the Drum suggested that its clientele were in the freestyle stage of the nightly bar room brawl. The figures turned to watch a battleaxe fly through the door and hit the far wall, its dwarfish owner still very much attached to it. The figures turned to each other.

One said, this is the epitome of what the universe has become. Chaos.

One said, we must end it.

One said, How?

One said, I think we should find a human agent.

One said, no, remember what happened the last time?

The Auditors (for it was they) gathered in silent recollection. Then...

One said, did you say I?

One said, of course I di-bugger!

It vanished in a puff of blue flame.

The robes remained silent for a long while, as the fetid miasma that even the extremely optimistic person without a sense of smell (1) would have serious misgivings about calling mist or fog, though would not hesitate to call it lethal. It had even been harvested on particularly thick nights as a cheap alternative to masonry. (3) The robes watched as the dwarf and the battleaxe which dwarfed him further still, got up and charged back into the fray bellowing "".(4) Finally the one of the robes spoke.

It said, humans usually find inventive ways of destroying themselves. Why don't we wait until one develops a suitable method?

The other robes, without moving or doing anything in particular to show their thoughts on the matter, agreed. They faded into the background. The moon rose slowly, giving everything a monochrome tone. Otto Chriek looked out of his window and thought he had reached heaven. This was disabused rather sharply when The Smell joined him in viewing the city of Ankh-Morpork in perfect monochrome.

"Oh bugger off vill you." He snapped at The Smell which moved off, offended. Otto sighed and reached for a handkerchief with which to clean up the wax which was running out of his ears.

Several weeks later, Commander Vimes proceeded through Short Street with Captain Carrot on what was his first night time patrol for weeks, and he was savouring it. The smells, sights and sounds took him down memory lane, back to the times when he could actually be a copper, not deal with endless, and worryingly sentient piles of paperwork, which were still growing despite Sergeant Pessimal's best efforts. He jolted out of his trip down memory to avoid proceeding into Sweetheart lane. He sighed inwardly. When he had been wearing his old worn boots with paper thin soles he could follow a beat in his sleep. Mind you, at that time he had not had to worry about domestic issues such as young Sam beating Lord Rust's son into a pulp after the boy had pulled Anna von Lipwig's hair and punched her at the playgroup. He smiled as he reminisced about the sight Adora Belle Lipwig nee Dearhart advance on Lord Rust in full battle mode wearing her pointiest heels and with Sybil in full auxiliary support, with Moist Von Lipwig hovering helpless in the background, occasionally sending terrified glances to Vimes who was leaning against an iron bollard, and for once Vimes felt sorry for the man. Apparently after Rust had said that he didn't see what was wrong about it, he had his...erm, manhood severely damaged by said heels, then nailed to the nearest wall upside down by his ears. It turned out that Adora Belle had used her high heels to perform this extraordinary feat of social vigilantism.

His happy memory was interrupted by Captain Carrot.


"Yes Carrot?" Vimes guessed what it was with a sinking feeling in the privacy of his own head. This was going to be very difficult indeed. He started a mental countdown: T-10, T-9, T-8, T-7...

"How did you know...?"

...T-6, T-5, T-4...

"How did I what, Carrot?

...T-3, T-2, T-1...

"Ummm" Carrot was blushing furiously by this point "errrrrrrrmm, howdidyouproposeto LadySybilsir?

Ankh-Morpork, we have lift off. (4)

(1)not that this mattered. The miasma of Ankh-Morpork formed a coat of the Gods only knew (2) what on any unfortunate pedestrian who encountered it.

(2) And demons, and Death and HEX. Possibly.

(3) But a temporary one. Bloody Stupid Johnson once constructed what was later known as the Dissolving Tower of Brindisi. It burnt off in the midday sun, killing the all the unpopular civic dignitaries and royalty who were inspecting it. Johnson was immediately accorded national hero status and a statue of him resides in the main piazza of Brindisi itself. It was not long after this episode that Sybil Vimes nee Ramkin's grandfather shot him in leg with a crossbow, reportedly saying as he took aim, "I am not having that bloody walking disaster come anywhere near my house with one of his damned inventions". Eloquence was, unsurprisingly, not one of the late Lord Ramkin's chief talents.

(4) The campaign for equal heights later used this as an example of substandard treatment of dwarfs throughout the city.

(5) This was the preferred form of countdown was used by Leonard of Quirm before the Kite took off, but it was scrapped early on.