When Vetinari forces Vimes into the world of the Guarding Dark, Sybil must find a way to bring them back safely. Uncover the secret to the age old mystery of how the Patrician survives with so little sleep.
The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork was not a man who put any stock in the occult. Early in his life, he had dismissed wizard magic as nonsense. He had been right, of course, but witch magic was another thing entirely.
During his Grand Sneer with the Assassins Guild, Vetinari gleaned some insightful information from a woman just before he ticked her name of his to do list. She told him how very little of a witch's power came from magic. It lit a spark in his mind that opened up a world of opportunities.
Young Vetinari studied a variety of witch abilities, but one stuck out to him as particularly useful: borrowing. The ability to send his mind into an animal and watch the world through its eyes held limitless possibilities. He devoted much of his time studying the concepts and attempting to create his own personal version that used the nonmagic involved. The result was the seemingly contradictory ability of borrowing himself. When activated, the technique initiated a condensed version of sleep that cut his need for rest considerably. Over the years, he had honed this skill to near perfection, but everything came with a cost.
A remnant of magic apparently took a personal affront to tardiness. It was not a forgiving spell. Vetinari promised himself he would never allow it to happen again.
He broke his promise.
The events of the last week had taken him up to the four day mark. Vetinari gambled his time and lost. There are things that even the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork can miss, and a fifth day had long since ended before he was in a place secure enough to spend his sentence. However, in these advanced circumstances, safety was more complicated than normal.
Vetinari massaged his temples as he sat alone in the Ramkin family library. The exhaustion was unbearable. He prided himself on his ability to push past pain. Mind over matter was old hat, but this ordeal had piled on so much matter that his mind was caught in an avalanche. Coupled with the knowledge of what he was going to do, Vetinari decided that one avalanche wasn't enough.
Vimes knocked awkwardly on the door like someone not sure if he should knock before entering a room in his own house.
Vetinari didn't answer.
Vimes came in anyway.
Vetinari vaguely noticed the thinly veiled confusion on the commander's face. It was obvious that he had no idea as to what to do when the most powerful man in the city was sitting on his couch grimacing in pain.
"Sir?" he asked.
"Ah, Vimes, I need your assistance with something." Vetinari put on a mask of nonchalance thinner than a wet paper bag. "Would you be so kind as to hold out your hand?"
Vimes was a suspicious bastard by nature. At face value, the request seemed innocent enough. That is, if you could make yourself believe that Vetinari was capable of doing anything innocent. Hesitantly, Sam Vimes held out his left hand instead of his right just in case he ended up losing it.
Vetinari firmly grasped Vimes' outstretched hand.
The Patrician suddenly collapsed with all the grace of a drunken flamingo. He pulled Vimes to the ground not bothering to avoid an obtrusive end table.
"What the hell?" Vimes said rubbing the fresh bruise on his chin. "You had better…"
Vimes shuddered as a violent pain shot up his arm and spread out across his body. It seemed to be absorbing all the tension in his muscles and leaving a burning ache behind in a combo that chiropractors would kill to learn.
"Sybil!" Vimes called out to his wife and tried to pry the man's fingers off his hand. He could feel his muscles relaxing against his will. "Wake up, damn it!"
Vetinari's face contorted as if he was trying to show every expression at the same time. He mumbled something softly, attempting to answer.
"Don't make me break your arm!" shouted Vimes.
In the grand tradition of Ankh-Morpork, Vimes resorted to brute force. He braced his feet on Vetinari's torso and pulled back. In any other situation, this move would dislocate some poor sap's shoulder. In this case, he had all the effect of a four year old whining in a candy store. Vimes found himself growing weaker with each passing second and when Sibyl arrived, he had all but passed out.
"Make him… let go." Vimes choked.
Vetinari's eyes snapped open.
"Don't you dare let go!" He commanded, but his voice lacked its normal keen edge. Heat exploded behind his eyes and his vision bubbled like he was looking through boiling wax. He clenched his teeth in pain. This was no time for pride.
Vimes had never seen the Patrician in such a state. Even after being poisoned, Vetinari had still retained his dignity. But now, he lay on the floor beside him tense with agony. Vimes had always secretly wanted to see the Patrician crack, to see that passive face and subtle grin wiped away. But, not like this.
"What is this? You can't just—" Sybil said.
"I need help. I need sleep."
"What am I supposed to do about that?"
"No matter what, don't let go." Vetinari rasped. His voice was almost inaudible.
Weariness ravaged Vimes' body. With the final remnants of his energy he turned to his wife. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was the confused face of Sybil.
"I'll be here." She whispered.