Disclaimer: Discworld and all the characters living there are the property of Terry Pratchett and I'm therefore not paid for this but this interpretation of the Watch gorgon is mine.
Sorry it took so long to post this chapter but I wasn't satisfied with the first versions and, most important, I've had a lot of work to do for college, but it is here now.
Follow the following links if you want to see what Iskandra looks like: (just add http:/ /zoccu. deviantart before, I don't know why but each time I try to insert an internet link on either it doesn't accept it or it only accept half of the link)
or if you want an insight on what could (and I stresses the "could", everything is likely change) happen in the rest of the story:
I hope you'll enjoy it.
"The commander Vimes is here, my Lord."
"Oh, tell him to come in then, Drumknot."
"Commissioner Vimes, do you know why you are here ?"
"I think yes, sir," grumbled Vimes
"I've heard a more... special than usual applier wishes to join the Watch, I just wondered if you would let her join ?"
Vimes vaguely remembered Thumb telling him something about some new applier weirder than usual this morning when he finally came back from some manhunt, then asking him if he wanted to see the file, just to be given the usual answer: "later" (1).
He didn't bother asking the Patrician how he knew of it, the damn man always knew everything, after all these years it wasn't a surprise anymore.
"I think not."
"And why that ?" asked the Patrician as he steepled his fingers.
"Because gorgons aren't watchmen material."
"But, if I'm not mistaken, you used to say the same about vampires, and the sergeant von Humpeding is, and I quote you, one of your best agents, am I wrong ?"
"Some vampires can apparently restrain themselves in front of humans and not attack them," answered Vimes calmly, emphasizing on the italics. "But gorgons just can't stop themselves from turning everything they look at into stone, that's how their eyes work."
"She's wearing sunglasses, so this won't happen."
"And what if they get broken or if she lose them in front of people because of, let's say, a gust of wind ?"
"Such a thing has very few chances to occur, commissioner. So will you accept this young lady ?"
"Still no, it's way too risky."
"So you still refuse to let this young woman join in. Well, Lord Selachii and Lord Rust will be relieved at least."
"What do you mean ?" exclaimed Vimes drily
"When they heard about a gorgon joining the Watch, they were worry about such a dangerous creature threatening honest citizens like them. They also hoped the commander of the City Watch would take the good decision for once and reject her. They will be glad when they hear about your decision, I guess."
Now he was trapped, thought Vimes as he was gritting his teeth, he was perfectly aware that the Patrician was manipulating him, the bloody bastard knew him too well. But if there was one thing he hated more than being manipulated as if he was some pawn on a play of Thud chest by Vetinari, it was giving any pleasure to the aristocrats of this city, or worst: having anything in common with them.
"So Vimes, what do you say about the gorgon ?"
"I say that she'll go in King's Way for her first patrol," simply answered Vimes before leaving, smiling in anticipation at the idea of the faces the "honest citizens" of the area will make.
A gust of wind blew in Ankh-Morpork, raising numerous pages of the Times that covered the streets of the city, one of those hit the Gorgon, who was doing her best to keep her hood on her head as she was facing the wind, right in the face, she took it away from her face before finding refuge in a narrow alleyway where the wind didn't pass.
She was sure she had seen something interesting on this paper before it blinded her, she passed her fingers under each word, reading aloud like many people who aren't used to read do, before finally finding what had struck her attention, a classified ad saying: New in town ? All alone, without any relatives or friends ? You're a vampire, a werewolf, an undead or any other unusual creature ? Then you're welcome in Mrs Cake's boarding house. Reasonable prices.
She read the prices that followed, then proceeded to count the money she had left: just enough for one month. She really hoped she would get the job. Too bad she hadn't been able to take enough of this Morporkian money she had inherited from her aunt before leaving the swamp. These considerations brought back some memories of her aunt, who often came back from the city where she had decided to live among humans (2), learning everything she had learned among them to her only relative interested in the subject, aka Iskandra, much to the disapproval of her mother, among other concepts unknown to gorgons: reading, writing, both in Ephebian and in Morporkian, and money, she used Morporkian coins mainly in her explanations since they were the most used in the various cities of the Disc. Her aunt had wanted so much to go to Ankh-Morpork some day, hoping to be accepted for what she is there given the city's reputation of tolerance, but because of some tragic accident she never had the occasion contrary to her. To get rid of the dark memories that were coming in her mind, Iskandra decided to rather focus on the search for this boarding house for monsters, she could learn a lot from those who, despite the fact the humans feared them, had succeeded in living among them.
"Mr Thumb, may I see your files ?" asked Vimes immediately as he entered into Pseudoplis Yard.
"You want to see the appliants' files ?" repeated a dumbfounded Victor Thumb: it was the first time the commissioner asked it. "Well, they are in your office, as usual."
Vimes thought about the sea of papers covering his desk and the floor and realized he would never find these damn files.
"But, if you really want to see them immediately I can show you the copies I made of it," proposed Tumb as he drew the files from a very well organized ring binder with files classified in themes, years, alphabetical order, and so on.
Hearing this, Vimes thought he should thank the god of paperwork, assuming there was one (3), for Thumb's over developed sense of organization.
"You want information about a specific recruit ?"
"Yes, a gorgon,"precised Vimes
"Oh yes, I remember her well," said Victor, breaking the silence as he was looking for the file. "Here she is," he finally said as he handed the file to Vimes.
"Iskandra... Ephebe... green skin...," read Vimes. "She didn't mention where she lived ?"
"No, sorry sir."
Not a problem after all, thought Vimes, there was only one place in Ankh-Morpork where such a tenant would be accepted anyway, and it was...
… Mrs Cake's boarder house, Elm Street.
She had finally found it.
Before the gorgon could even knock the door opened on a dark corridor:
"Oh, Miss Iskandra, I was waiting for you. Come in dear."
"Mrsss Cake I presssume ? Where are you ? I can't sssee you," asked the gorgon as she peered into the corridor to see where the voice came from.
"I'm here, just look down, dear. And please take off this hood, I've seen far stranger things than snakes instead of hair, even though you are the first gorgon among my lodgers.
She obeyed and looked down to see apples, bananas, pine apples, lemons, oranges... all black, and under this pile of fruit was a very tiny old lady.
Iskandra was about to ask the elderly how she could know all this about her but Mrs Cake called her daughter before the gorgon could even emit one single hiss:
"Yes, Mum ?" asked her more beautiful and much taller daughter as she appeared.
"You remember the new lodger I've told about ? Well, she's arrived. So be a dear and show her her room."
"With pleasure, Mum."
"I would have done that myself, but I have quite a busy day today: I plan to pay a visit to the high priest of Io, the Omnians, the priest of Offler, the priestess of Anoia and many others," precised the tiny old lady to the young gorgon. "Oh, and don't worry for breaking the damn thing, it was ugly anyway," she added before leaving
"Your mother ssseemsss to be a very religioussss perssson," noticed the puzzled gorgon
"Oh yes, she's very interested in religions (4). Follow me, Iskandra, that's it ?" asked Ludmilla as she went upstairs.
"Yesss. By the way, how did your mother know all that ? My name, the fact I wasss coming..."
"She is a medium, she sometimes just can't refrain from seeing things, that's all."
"Ssso you're the only one normal here ? By humansss' ssstandardsss I mean."
"Well, most of the month we can say that I guess. Here is your flat, the number 13," she said as she stopped in front of a door with this number on. "And your keys."
"Lisssten, about the rent..."
"I know, Mum already told me you that you would have only enough to pay for one month, it's okay."
"I sssee. By any chanccce, did your mother tell you ifff I got a job or sssomething like that ?" asked Iskandra hopefully
"No, sorry, she told me nothing about that."
Of course, it giving precise and useful information instead of such things as "I knew you were coming", "I know who you are", incredibly vague information you could interpret in various ways or worst: pure gibberish would have been too much to ask from a seer, thought the young gorgon. Being from Ephebe, a country with ancient seer's tradition she should have known better (5).
"Now excuse me but I have to go make some commissions. Do you need anything ?" asked the medium's daughter before leaving
Then, she entered in the small apartment, the first thing she did was to take off her sunglasses since she was all alone for one, gods, these things hurt, she thought as she massaged her nose right where the glasses had left a mark.
As she was proceeding to take off the sheets Mrs Cake had put on the few furniture in the room to protect them from dust, she wondered what the old lady meant by "don't worry about breaking the damn thing", she hadn't break anything though. She almost caused the fall of a little vase as she took off the sheet covering the bedside table at that moment and she remembered what Ludmilla had told her about the fact her mother couldn't help but see the future sometimes. Thinking of her landlady's daughter, Iskandra briefly wondered what kind of creature this young human who seemed so normal could be, but returned to her first wondering about the thing she was supposed to break in a more or less distant future, a thing that wasn't that vase obviously.
Then, she uncovered the last furniture and suddenly fell unconscious on the floor.
When she regained consciousness, about twenty minutes later, Iskandra, cautiously keeping her eyes closed, groped for her sunglasses on the bedside table until she found them, relying for some minutes on her snakes' eyesight, which she, like any gorgons, avoided as much as she could since the snakes didn't only saw the world in heat of waves but on top of it were numerous and didn't stop moving, which made her feel dizzy quickly.
When she finally the glasses them and put them back on her nose, she opened her eyes to see her reflection on the mirror, but this time it did nothing to her, and she didn't see it much time anyway since she threw the mirror on the floor, breaking it into thousands pieces, a quite ugly mirror anyway.
As you've seen gorgons can be threatened by her own eyesight but it doesn't petrify them, not literally, don't you think it would have been hard for the poor hero to cut a statue's head after showing her adversary what she looked like with his shield ? They avoided mirrors (6). because they fell unconscious for some minutes or more, but the heroes who used mirror-shields had never mentioned that fact to the poets for some reason.
Suddenly, she heard someone knocking at the door.
"Mrsss Cake ? I've jussst realizzzed what you meant earlier and I'm sssorry, I will pay off for that when I have a job, I promissse," she said as she was trying to open the door, her hand still trembling from rage and fear.
She finally succeeded to open after checking one last time that she hadn't forgotten her sunglasses. But instead of her tiny old tenant was standing a corpse in amour who said:
"Well, good new for you then, Iskandra, that's your name right ?"
"Who are you ?"
"Agent Reg Shoe, I'm also your neighbor next-door, and I'm here to tell you that you're accepted as a new recruit in the Watch, congratulation !" he added as he extended a hand whose fingers had been apparently sewed back more than once.
"But I've been told I would have to come back in two daysss to know that," pointed out a surprised Iskandra as she accepted the handshake.
"Well, the commissioner has personally accepted you, it sound like a good start to me. What happened here ?" he asked noticing the remains of the mirror.
"Jussst a little accccident."
"Oh, good then."
He looked at his hands when he noticed the gorgon was staring at them and saw that he was holding what looked like a transparent greenish glove and noticed the hand the young woman had extended him was of a green lighter than the rest of her skin.
"Oh sorry, usually I am the one who loses some bits," he apologized
"No need to apologizzze, it'sss jussst dead ssskin. My ssskin is sssloughing you sssee ?"
"Oh, just like snakes. That makes sense after all. You want it back ?" asked the zombie as he extended the old skin to her
She took the translucid skin and unceremoniously it into a bin near the door.
"Can we go now that you've taken care of it ?"
"Jussst wait a sssecond," she said as she took the second most important accessory for better interactions with the other species after the sunglasses before closing the door.
"What are you doing ? Don't put this damn hood on !" ordered the zombie as he quickly pulled it down, getting bitten in the process by the snakes that realized in frustration that it didn't seem to hurt him. "You shouldn't be ashamed of what you are, you're one of us after all, and therefore you have to fight for your rights too !"
"But I'm not assshamed," protested the young woman, wondering the undead meant by "one of us", a monster probably. "I jussst didn't want to ssscare people.
A complete failure then: through the black glasses she could see everyone running away from her as they left Elm Street for more populated streets in the city. Nice start to change her race's dreadful reputation.
"You better get used to it anyway, since you're going to be seen by everyone during your patrols."
"About that, I thought it would be better to hide what I am until I become a watchman. You know, with the uniform they would be lesss ssscared, at leassst I hope ssso, since it inssspiresss ressspect from humansss from what I've heard."
If Iskandra had met Nobby he would have burst in laugh at the very idea of the watch uniform inspiring respect, but fortunately she had instead met Reg Shoe who didn't think the the idea was ridiculous, not even one little bit.
Colon, as he was about to welcome the new recruits for the City Watch, was still thinking about what the boss had said earlier about a recruit who would be the first representative of her species in the Watch and still couldn't believe it, it had to be a joke, he had asked him if it was one but he said no on a very serious tone. A gorgon, why did it have to be a gorgon ? And no, contrary to what you could reasonably think, Sergeant Colon wasn't so terrified at this idea because of the eyes-turning-people-into-statues-business, alright it was also a little because of that, but because of what stood for hair in this species: he was terribly afraid of snakes.
But he noticed with relief that there was no gorgon among the new recruits.
At least until Reg came in, followed by a girl who would have looked perfectly normal if it wasn't for the green skin and... snakes... lots of snakes looking and hissing at him...
"Just in time for the welcoming of the new recruits, I feared we might be late. Here's the new recruit the commissioner told us about, Iskandra. Iskandra this is sergeant Colon, one of the oldest member of the City... You look awfully pale, even paler than me, you're sure you're alright ?" the zombie asked Colon who nodded weakly as he was trying to ignore the snakes, then Reg talked to the new recruits, still surprised to see they were still flesh and bones and no stone and, well, stone: "And let me introduce to you, my future colleagues, Iskandra who, as you've noticed, is the first of her species to come in our city and as thus, respecting the tradition, decided to join the Watch, so you will treat her with respect."
Before leaving Reg turned towards Iskandra, who had a darker shade of green on her face at the moment, probably the gorgon's equivalent for blushing, and said:
"And if you have any trouble you come and tell me, undeads have to stick together after all."
"Undeadsss ?" repeated the young gorgon. "Wait... you think gorgonsss are undead ? Why ?"
Her species had been qualified with various names, mostly insulting ones, but she had never heard that one. Well, the agent who asked her all that questions didn't count, sure he had assumed she was a vampire or a zombie but it was just because of her skin-color, he didn't know she was a gorgon at the moment.
"Well, since, from what I've heard, the heroes could still use your... heads to turn people into stone, I thought you could be considered as undead since you can still do that," explained the zombie, sounding a bit embarrassed when he mentioned the decapitation
"I don't know ifff it'sss enough to be consssidered as undead, it'sss maybe just a reflexxxe that lassst shhhortly after death."
"Anyway, undead or not, if you need help, just call me, now I have to go. Good training !"
Well, at least she had found a friend, thought Iskandra, sure Reg had some weird ideas but he'd been nice and seemed to have already accepted her, contrary to her future colleagues who choose to remain as far away from her as possible, but she wasn't expecting them to accept her easily anyway, it would have been a bit naive to think such a thing.
"Er... sir... sergeant, when do we begin the training ?" asked one of the new recruits
"Well... Er... go get your uniforms immediately, right this way," managed to answer Colon after realizing he hadn't said anything to the recruits for five minutes
After they all went into the armory, the sergeant felt a little less nervous, first because the gorgon wasn't in sight for a few minutes and, most important, because the helmet will hide the damn snakes.
"Aaaa - ttention !" shouted Colon at the rank of new recruits now all in uniform. "Well, you have your armor now, but that's not enough to make you watchmen, oh no, you must also swear the oath," he said as he was distributing the coins to the recruits, satisfied as he inspected the uniform, until he noticed something wrong with the agent at the end of the rank.
"... Recruit... er...," finally managed to say Colon as he was doing his best to avoid fixing the dreaded reptiles.
The snakes were hissing and moving more and more.
"Recruit Iskandra, can you tell me why your helmet isn't on your head ?"
"I I tried to put it on but..."
"No excuse, just put it on. Immediately !"
"Asss you wishhh," replied the gorgon as she tried to put on her helmet.
But, the snakes caught the helmet before it could even touch her head and they immediately threw it at Colon.
"... And so they threw the helmet at sergeant Colon's face ?" asked Vimes to the new recruit in front of him
"Yesss, but they missssed him, fortunately. I'm really sssorry commissioner, I tried to tell the sssergeant that my snakes would not appreciate it but he wouldn't lisssten."
She hadn't even begun her training and she had already caused an accident, way to go for a first impression. To make it worse, she was explaining what exactly happened to the commissioner, her future boss thus, which was looking at her right into the eyes, the first human knowing she was a gorgon that she hadn't seen displaying fear, except of course Reg Shoe, who was a zombie, and the Cakes who were used to see monsters.
"Does this kind of accident happen frequently with your hai... er snakes ?"
"They're quite rebelliousss, it'sss been hard already to get them used to the hood, you know."
Indeed, having undisciplined hair was a real problem for gorgons contrary to human females: when snakes stand for hair they didn't only refuse to be combed, they also attacked viciously anything they could reach. A problem that could cost her her job and, most important, her chance to prove that her species could live among other races without being a menace.
"Discipline them a little more then. Oh, and don't put an helmet on."
"Sssso... doesss that mean I'm ssstaying ?"managed to ask a stunned Iskandra
"Yes," answered Vimes, hoping he won't have to regret his decision. "Just don't let any other accident happen agent...," he went through some papers scattered on the messy desk, finally found the one he was looking for and read: "... Iskandra."
"Yessssir, thank you sssir, thank you ssso much," said the gorgon with relief before leaving the office.
Now that this problem was solved, which he sincerely hoped so, Vimes had to deal with another: find a substitute for Colon, who was still in shock after the accident and appeared to have been strangely more frightened by the snakes than by their owner and her petrifying gaze, this fear of snakes had been confirmed by Nobby.
It started well with this new recruit to say the least.
Once the formation given by agent Detritus (7) finished, the new agents were ready for their very first patrol, each would go with an experimented agent as a tutor.
The agents charged to take the rookies under their wings were chosen at random, some who didn't hide well enough their relief when they realized they weren't paired (8) with the new first-member-of-her-species-to-join-the-City-Watch, received a glance from the commissioner that persuaded them to hide it better.
Captain Angua von Uberwald was the agent in charge of this particular new recruit, who hadn't said a word since they had begun their patrol, quite uneventful so far moreover, so she decided to break the silence.
"So Iskandra, do you like it in Ankh-Morpork ?"
"How are things going with the others ?"
She knew what was going to be the answer, since from what she had heard the gorgon, even if there had been no accident after that business with Colon, the other recruits didn't talk to her or watched her. But a conversation just to briser la glase was mostly made of question you already knew the answers to.
"Better. They don't run away anymore, they just avoid me."
Angua had to admit, with a little shame, that she wasn't completely at ease with the gorgon, not that she looked frightening, she had seen creatures looking far worse from humans' standards and the girl could look perfectly human, if it wasn't for her skin tone and the the snakes on her head, and she had to admit, contrary to her she was lucky: she could easily pass for human most of the month since very few people were able to notice the subtle differences between a werewolf and a human being.
"Excccept for the trollsss," added the gorgon
It made sense the trolls weren't afraid of her, what could creature already made of stone have to fear from another with a petrifying gaze ?
"But I underssstand them, I guesss they'll be usssed to me in some month."
"But not unrealissstic. I think I have my chancesss sssince ssspeciesss that used to predate on humansss are accccepted asss agentsss, now. Like the agent von Humpeding, I heard there wasss alssso a werewolfe among them but I don't know who he isss yet."
Well, you'll find out in two days for the night watch, thought Angua. It was also funny to see how people always supposed the werewolf of the Watch was a man.
"And there'sss a creature I can't identify in the Watch. Lookss like sssome kind of monkey."
"Oh, that's just Nobby"
"Oh. Never heard of thisss ssspeciesss before."
"I'm afraid you've misunderstood, it's his name and he's a human."
"Really ?" exclaimed the gorgon, her eyes probably wide-opened in astonishment behind her glasses.
"At least that's what his papers say."
"That'sss weird. But ssso hisss quessstion."
"What question ?" asked Angua, slightly worried about what Nobby could have asked to the new recruit
"Well, he asssked me if, sssince sssnakes ssstand for hair on my head, sssnakes alssso ssstand for other hairsss elsewhere on the body. He alssso sssaid sssomething about how difficult it mussst be to put deodorant if the sssnakes persssissst in ripping the deodorant can from your hand and puncturing it. What didhe mean by that and what isss deodorant anyway ?"
Damn Nobby, only him could ask such a thing and of course she had to be the one who give an answer to the gorgon. Just great.
But fortunately for Angua, a cry for help about a theft freed her from answering this embarrassing questions.
Angua had a lot of difficulty to convince the thief, once caught, that he could open his eyes and risked nothing. But he didn't open them, following them until the watch with Angua as a guide dog.
When the thief entered, eyes still closed, in the cell, the commissioner began to see some advantages about having this new recruit among them.
Unfortunately, when the criminals got accustomed to the gorgon's presence, like most citizens of Ankh-Morpork who have the amazing capacity to get used to pretty much everything, it ceased to be an advantage but this didn't change much since she had become a good agent, she executed her duty and most important: no accident happened, so Rust and the other honest citizens living in the posh districts where Iskandra and Angua were mostly patrolling. They could only complain about her presence.
(1) Which in the Morporkian / Samuel Vimes dictionary meant "never" concerning paperwork.
(2) The only gorgon on the Disc for what we know who had quite peaceful interactions with humans, under cover of course, none of these Ephebians knew there was a gorgon among them. You're wondering how a snakes-headed creature who can literally petrify you managed to blend among humans ? Well, you'll know all that in the next chapter.
(3) Such a god exist, his name is Mr. Smith (Yes, the bureaucrats who invented him hadn't much imagination), on Dunmanifestin he classifies and organizes everything the other gods find extremely boring or complicated and his temples have the most sadistic and complicated administrative procedure on the Disc.
(4) To all the priests in Ankh-Morpork's great displeasure: don't ask them about the dreaded Mrs Cake.
(5) Ephebe is indeed renowned on the Discworld as a country whose main production, except philosophers, are seers, and both were quite difficult to understand and seemed to permanently live in an other plan of reality. Their most famous seer, the Pythie of Ephebe either just screamed "Aaaaaaah Hugh Arg Aaaaaah !", which made absolutely no sense, except of course for the interprets of the temple paid by the clients (*). But when she was in a good mood she just gave incredibly vague information you could interpret in many ways, the most well-known example for it is an ephebian tyrant who asked the priestess what would happen if he triggered war against Tsort: she answered a great empire would fall, he decided it meant his enemy's empire was the one to fall. Guess what happened ? His empire was reduced to dust by the other guy. The descendants of the defeated tyrant asked their ancestor's money back but the advocates of the temple retorted that their client had never told precisely which empire would fall.
(*) Though it would make sense for the aliens of the planet Zjchvdfj, in fact they would be surprised to see that some crazy old woman from a world they don't suspect the mere existence has predicted all their history in their language, even if she had a very strong accent.
(6) And clear water second some people, which would explain why they live in swamps where the water looks more like mud than anything, if this is true then a gorgon has nothing to fear about the Ankh: the only river where you can't see your reflection, and also walk upon if you have really good shoes and walk quite fast.
(7) He had replaced sergeant Colon, who had been sent to see a shrink to deal about his fear of snakes since he will have to see an agent with a head full of them everyday.
(8) Not what you think you dirty-minded people !
And that's the end of the second chapter !
I'll post chapter 3 when I'll be satisfied with the gorgon's backstory, I've changed it recently again. And this fic should be short, initially I had thought about a crime story involving Iskandra but it didn't work and so I choose to give up this solution for the story.
In the next chapter: the citizens accidentally turned into stone in Unseen Academicals and Iskandra's backstory.
PS: For those who have read this chapter earlier, I apologize for the presentation, but the spaces between paragraphs that I had made haven't been included for some reason when I uploaded the document, but I just fixed it now.