The Fifth Elephant
These scenes were transcribed by the wonderful Katherine, to whom your humble webmistress is extremely grateful.
Warning: There be spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
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Scene the... First His Lordship's views on parking. Second His Lordship meets with Sir Samuel and Carrot; questions answered and an assignment given to Sir Samuel. Third Lady Morgolatta attempts to think like His Lordship. Fourth His Lordship's thoughts on Time; A visit to Leonard of Quirm, with elaboration of His Lordship's views on ciphers and a reference to His Lordship's Past. Fifth His Lordship grants Captian Carrot a vacation; A Conversation with Drumknott. Sixth His Lordship meets with [*shudder*] Acting-Captain Colon. Seventh His Lordship's age estimated. Eighth His Lordship's method of acquiring information speculated upon. Nineth His Lordship visits the strike; a discussion of cats and mice. Tenth His Lordship's teacher considered.
'The trouble is the Patrician gets very short about cart parking on the street for more than ten minutes. He reckons that's a sort of crime.'
Back to the Top
'Sorry we're late, sir,' said Vimes as they entered the oblong office.
'Oh, are you late?' said Lord Vetinari, looking up from his paperwork. 'I really hadn't noticed. Nothing serious, I trust.'
'The fools' guild caught fire, sir,' said Carrot.
'Well, that is a blessing,' said Lord Vetinari carefully. He put down his pen.
'Now… what do we have to discuss…?' he pulled another document towards him and read it swiftly.
'Ah… I see that the new traffic division is having the desired effect.' He indicated a large pile of paper. 'I am getting any amount of complaints from the carters' and drovers' guild. Well done. Do pass on my thanks to sergeant Colon and his team.'
'I will, sir.'
'I see in one day they clamped seventeen carts, ten horses, eighteen oxen and one duck.'
'It was parked illegally, sir.'
'Indeed. However, a strange pattern seems to emerge.'
'Many of the carters say that they were not in fact parked but had merely halted while an extremely old and extremely ugly lady crossed the road extremely slowly.'
'That's their story, sir.'
'They know she was an old lady by her constant litany on the lines of, "Oh deary me, my poor old feet," and similar expressions.'
'Certainly sounds like an old lady to me, sir,' said Vimes, his face wooden.
'Quite so. What is rather strange is that several of them then report seeing the old lady subsequently legging it away an alley rather fast. I'd discount this, of course, were it not for the fact that the lady has apparently been seen crossing another street, very slowly, some distance away shortly afterwards. Something of a mystery, Vimes.'
Vimes put his hand over his eyes. 'It's one I intend to solve quite quickly, sir.'
The Patrician nodded and made a short note on the list in front of him.
As he went to move it aside he uncovered a much grubbier, much-folded scrap of paper. He picked up two letter knives and, using them fastidiously, unfolded the paper and inched it across the desk towards Vimes.
'Do you know anything about this?' he said.
Vimes read in large, round, crayoned letters:
'DeEr Cur, The CruELt to HOMLIss DoGs In this CITy Is A DissGrays, WaT arE The WaTCH Do Ing A BouT IT? SiNeD The LeAK AgyANsct CrUle T To DoGs.'
'Not a thing,' he said.
'My clerks say that one like it is pushed under the door most nights,' said the Patrician. 'Apparently no one is seen.'
'Do you want me to investigate?' said Vimes. 'It shouldn't be hard to find someone in this city who dribbles when he writes and spells even worse than Carrot.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Carrot.
'None of the guards report noticing anyone,' said the Patrician. 'Is there any group in Ankh-Morpork particularly interested in the welfare of dogs?'
'I doubt it, sir.'
'Then I shall ignore it pro tem,' said Vetinari. He let the soggy letter splash into the wastepaper basket.
'On to more pressing matters,' he said briskly. 'Now then… What do you know about Bonk?'
There was a polite cough from Carrot. 'The river or the town, sir?' he said.
The Patrician smiled. 'Ah, Captain, you have long ago ceased to surprise me. Yes, I was referring to the town.'
'It's one of those major towns in Uberwald, sir,' said Carrot. 'Exports: precious metals, leather, timber and of course fat from the deep fat mines at Schmaltzberg-'
'There's a place called Bonk?' said Vimes, still marvelling at the speed with which they'd arrived from a damp letter about dogs.
'Strictly speaking, sir, it's more correctly pronounced Beyonk,' said Carrot.
'And in Beyonk, sir, "Morpork" sounds exactly like their word for an item of ladies' underwear,' said Carrot. 'There's only so many syllables in the world, when you come to think about it.'
'How do you know all this stuff, Carrot?'
'Oh, you pick it up here and there.'
'Really? So exactly which item of-'
'Something extremely important will be taking place there in a few weeks,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Something which, I have to add, is vital to the future prosperity of Ankh-Morpork.'
'The crowning of the Low King,' said Carrot.
Vimes stared from him to the Patrician, and back again.
'Is there some kind of circular that goes around which doesn't get as far as me?' he said.
'The dwarf community has been talking about little else for months, sir.'
'Really?' said Vimes. 'You mean the riots? Those fights every night in the dwarf bars?'
'Captain Carrot is correct, Vimes. It will be a grand occasion, attended by representatives of many governments. And from various Uberwald principalities, of course, because the Low King only rules those areas of Uberwald that are below ground. His favour is valuable. Borogravia and Genua will be there, without a doubt, and probably even Klatch.'
'Klatch? But they're even further away from Uberwald than we are! What are they bothering to go for?'
He paused for a moment and then added: 'Hah. I'm being stupid. Where's the money?'
'I beg your pardon, Commander?'
'That's what my old sergeant used to say when he was puzzled, sir. Find out where the money is and you've got it half solved.'
Vetinari stood up and walked over to the big window, with his back to them.
'A large country, Uberwald,' he said, apparently addressing the glass. 'Dark. Mysterious. Ancient…'
'Huge untapped reserves of coal and iron ore,' said Carrot. 'And fat, of course. The best candles, lamp oils and soap come ultimately from the Schmaltzberg deposits.'
'Why? We've got our own slaughterhouse, haven't we?'
'Ankh-Morpork uses many candles, sir.'
'It certainly doesn't use much soap,' said Vimes.
'There are so many uses for fats and tallows, sir. We couldn't possibly supply ourselves.'
'Ah,' said Vimes.
The Patrician sighed. 'Obviously I hope that we may strengthen our trading links with the various nations within Uberwald,' he said. 'The situation there is volatile in the extreme. Do you know much about Uberwald, Commander Vimes?'
Vimes, whose knowledge of geography was microscopically detailed within five miles of Ankh-Morpork and merely microscopic beyond that, nodded uncertainly.
'Only that it's not really a country,' said Vetinari. 'It's-'
'It's rather more what you get before you get countries,' said Carrot. 'It's mainly fortified towns and fiefdoms with no real boundaries and lots of forest in between. There's always some sort of feud going on. There's no law apart from whatever the local Lords enforce, and banditry of all kinds is rife.'
'So unlike the home life of our own dear city,' said Vimes, not quite under his breath. The Patrician gave him an impassive glance.
'In Uberwald the dwarfs and trolls haven't settled their own grievances,' Carrot continued, 'there are large areas controlled by feudal vampire or werewolf clans, and there are also tracts with much higher than normal background magic. It is a chaotic place, indeed, and you'd hardly think you were in the century of the Fruitbat. It is to be hoped that things will improve, however, and Uberwald will, happily, be joining the community of nations.'
Vimes and Vetinari exchanged looks. Sometimes Carrot sounded like a civics essay written by a stunned choirboy.
'Well put,' said the Patrician at last. 'But until that joysome day Uberwald remains a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma.'
'Let me see if I've got this right,' said Vimes. 'Uberwald is like this big suet pudding that everyone's suddenly noticed, and now with this coronation as an excuse we've all got to rush there with knife, fork and spoon to shovel as much on our plates as possible?'
'Your grasp of political reality is masterly, Vimes. You lack only the appropriate vocabulary. Ankh-Morpork must send a representative, obviously. An ambassador, as it were.'
'You're not suggesting I should go to this affair, are you?' said Vimes.
'Oh I couldn't send the Commander of the City Watch,' said Lord Vetinari. 'Most of the Uberwald countries have no concept of a modern civil peacekeeping authority.'
'I'm sending the Duke of Ankh instead.'
Vimes sat bolt upright.
'They are mostly feudal systems,' Vetinari went on. 'They set great store by rank-'
'I'm not being ordered to go to Uberwald!'
'Ordered, your grace?' Vetinari looked shocked and concerned. 'Good heavens, I must have misunderstood Lady Sybil… She told me yesterday that a holiday a long way from Ankh-Morpork would do you the world of good…'
'You spoke to Sybil?'
'At the reception for the new president of the tailors' guild, yes, I believe you left early. You were called away. Some emergency, I understand. Lady Sybil happened to mention how you seemed, as she out it, constantly on the job, and one thing led to another. Oh dear, I do hope that I haven't caused some sort of marital misunderstanding…'
'I can't leave the city now of all times!' said Vimes desperately. 'There's so much to do!'
'That is exactly why Sybil says you ought to leave the city,' said Vetinari.
'But there's the new training school-'
'Ticking over nicely now, sir,' said Carrot.
'The whole carrier-pigeon network is a complete mess-'
'More or less sorted out, sir, now we've changed their feed. Besides, the clacks seems to be functioning very well.'
'We've got to get the River Watch set up-'
'Can't do much for a week or two, sir, until we've dredged up the boat.'
'The drains at the Chitterling street station are-'
'I've got the plumber working on it, sir.'
Vimes knew that he had lost. He had lost as soon as Sybil was involved, because she was always a reliable siege engine against the walls of his defences. But there was such a thing as going down fighting.
'You know I'm no good at diplomatic talk,' he said.
'On the contrary, Vimes, you appear to have amazed the diplomatic corps here in Ankh-Morpork,' said Lord Vetinari. 'They're not used to plain speech. It confuses them. What was it you said to the Istanzian ambassador last month?' He rifled through the papers on his desk. 'Let me see, the complaint is here somewhere… Oh, yes, on the matter of military incursions across the Slipnir river, you indicated that further transgressions would involve him, personally, that is to say the ambassador, and I quote "going home in an ambulance".'
'I'm sorry about that, sir, but it had been a long day and he was really getting on my-'
'Since when their armed forces have pulled back so far that they are nearly in the next country,' said Lord Vetinari, moving the paper aside. 'I have to say that your observation complied only with the general thrust of my view in the matter but was, at least, succinct. Apparently you also looked at the ambassador in a very threatening way.'
'It was only the way I usually look.'
'To be sure. Happily, in Uberwald you will only need to look friendly.'
'Ah, but you don't want me saying things like "How about selling us all your fat really cheap?" do you?' said Vimes desperately.
'You will not be required to do any negotiating, Vimes. That will be dealt with by one of my clerks, who will set up the temporary embassy and discuss such matters with his opposite numbers among the courts of Uberwald. All clerks speak the same language. You will simply be as ducal as you can. And, of course, you will take a retinue. A staff,' Vetinari added, seeing Vimes' blank look. He sighed. 'People to go with you. I suggest Sergeant Angua, Sergeant Detritus, and Corporal Littlebottom.'
'Ah,' said Carrot, nodding encouragingly.
'Sorry?' said Vimes. 'I think there must been a whole piece of conversation just then that I must have missed.'
'A werewolf, a troll and a dwarf,' said Carrot. 'Ethnic minorities, sir.'
'…but in Uberwald they are ethnic majorities,' said Lord Vetinari. 'All three officers come from there originally, I believe. Their presence will speak volumes.'
'So far it hasn't sent me a postcard,' said Vimes. 'I'd rather take-'
'Sir, it will show people in Uberwald that Ankh-Morpork is a multicultural society, you see?' said Carrot.
'Oh I see. "People like us". People you can do business with,' said Vimes glumly.
'Sometimes,' said Vetinari testily,' it really does seem to me that the culture of cynicism in the watch is…is…'
'Insufficient?' said Vimes. There was silence. 'All right,' he sighed, 'I'd better go off and polish the knobs on my coronet, hadn't I…?'
'The ducal coronet, if I remember my heraldry, does not have knobs on. It is decidedly…spiky,' said the Patrician, pushing across the desk a small pile of papers topped by a gold-edged invitation card. 'Good. I will have a…a clacks sent immediately. You will be more fully briefed later. Do give my regards to the Duchess. And now, please do not let me detain you further…'
'He always says that,' muttered Vimes as the two men hurried down the stairs. 'He knows I don't like being married to a duchess.'
Back to the Top
In a castle in Uberwald the vampire Lady Margolotta sat quietly, leafing through 'Twurp's peerage'.
It wasn't a very good reference book for countries this side of the Ramtops, there the standard work was the 'Almanac de Gothick', in which she, herself occupied almost four pages, [Footnote: Vampires evolve long names. It's something to do to pass the long years.] But if you needed to know who thought they were who in Ankh-Morpork it was invaluable.
Her copy was now bristling with bookmarks. She sighed and pushed it away.
Beside her was a fluted glass containing a red liquid. She took a sip and made a face. Then she stared at the candlelight, and tried to think like Lord Vetinari.
How much did he suspect? How much news got back? The clacks tower had only been up a month, and it was being roundly denounced throughout Bonk as an intrusion. But it seemed to be doing a good if stealthy local traffic.
Who would he send?
His choice would tell her everything, she was sure. Someone like Lord Rust or Lord Selachii…? Well, she'd think a lot less of him. From all that she had heard, and Lady Margolotta heard a lot of things, the Ankh-Morpork diplomatic corps as a whole could not find its backside with a map. Of course, it was good business for a diplomat to appear stupid, right up to the moment where he'd stolen your socks, but Lady Margolotta had met some of Ankh-Morpork's finest and no one could act that well.
The growing howling outside began to get on her nerves. She rang for her butler.
'Yeth, mithtreth?' said Igor, materializing out of the shadows.
'Go and tell the children of the night to make vonderful music somevhere else, vill you? I have a headache.'
Lady Margolotta yawned. It had been a long night. She'd think better after a good day's sleep.
As she went to blow out the candle she glanced again at the book. There was a marker in the V's.
But…surely even the Patrician couldn't know that much…
She hesitated and then pulled the bellrope above the coffin. Igor reappeared, in the way of Igors.
'Thos keen young men at the clacks tower vill be avake, von't they?'
'Send a clacks to our agent asking for everything about Commander Vimes of the Vatch, vill you?'
'Ith he a diplomat, mithtreth?'
Lady Margolotta lay back. 'No, Igor. He's the reason for diplomats. Close the lid, vill you?'
Back to the Top
Lord Vetinari stood at his window watching the semaphore tower on the other side of the river. All eight of the big shutters facing him were blinking furiously - black, white, black, white, black, white…
Information was flying into the air. Twenty miles behind him, on another tower on Sto Lat, someone was looking through a telescope and shouting out numbers.
How quickly the future comes upon us, he thought.
He always suspected the poetic description of Time like an ever-rolling stream. Time, in his experience, moved more like rocks…sliding, pressing, building force up underground and then, with one jerk that shakes the crockery, a whole field of turnips mysteriously slips sideways by six feet.
Semaphore had been around for centuries, and everyone knew that knowledge had a value, and everyone knew that exporting goods was a way of making money. And then, suddenly, someone realised how much money you could make by exporting to Genua by tomorrow things known in Ankh-Morpork today. And some bright young man in the street of Cunning Artificers had been unusually cunning.
Knowledge, information, power, words…flying through the air, invisible…
And suddenly the world was tap-dancing on quicksand.
In that case, the prize went to the best dancer.
Lord Vetinari turned away, took some papers from a desk drawer, walked to a wall, touched a certain area, and stepped quickly through the hidden door that noiselessly swung open.
Beyond was a corridor, lit by borrowed light from high windows and paved with small flagstones. He walked forward, hesitated, said, 'No, this is Tuesday,' and moved his descending foot so that it landed on a stone that in every respect appeared to be exactly the same as its fellows. [Footnote: Except that the ones around it were not good stones to tread on if it was a Tuesday.]
Anyone overhearing his progress along the passages and stairs might have caught muttered phrases on the lines of 'The moon is waxing…' and 'yes, it is before noon.' A really keen listener would have heard the faint whirring and ticking inside the walls.
A really keen and paranoid listener would have reflected that anything Lord Vetinari said aloud even when he thought he was alone might not be totally worth believing. Not, certainly, if your life depended on it.
Eventually he reached a door, which he unlocked.
There was a large attic room beyond, suddenly airy and bright and cheerful with sunlight from the windows in the roof. It seemed to be a cross between a workshop and a storeroom. Several bird skeletons hung from the ceiling and there were a few other bones on the worktables, along with coils of wire and metal springs and tubes of paint and more tools, many of them probably unique, than you normally saw in any one place. Only a narrow bed, wedged between a thing like a loom with wings and a large bronze statue, suggested that someone actually lived here. They were clearly someone who was obsessively interested in everything.
What interested Lord Vetinari right now was the device all by itself on a table in the middle of the room. It looked like a collection of copper balls balanced on one another. Steam was hissing gently from a few rivets, and occasionally the device went blup-
Vetinari looked around. A hand was waving desperately at him from behind an upturned bench.
And something made him look up, as well. The ceiling above him was crusted with some brownish substance, which hung from it like stalactites.
With quite surprising speed the Patrician was behind the bench. Leonard of Quirm smiled at him from underneath his home-made protective helmet.
'I do apologise,' he said. 'I'm afraid I wasn't expecting anyone to come in. I'm sure it will work this time, however.'
'What is it?' said Vetinari.
'I'm not quite sure, but I hope it's a-'
And then it was too noisy to talk.
Leonard of Quirm never dreamed he was a prisoner. If anything, he was grateful to Vetinari for giving him this airy workspace, and regular meals, and laundry, and protecting him from those people who for some reason always wanted to take his perfectly innocent inventions, designed for the betterment of mankind, and use them for despicable purposes. It was amazing how many of them there were - both the people and the inventions. It was as if all the genius of a civilization had funnelled into one head which was, therefore, in a constant state of highly inventive spin. Vetinari often speculated upon the fate of mankind should Leonard keep his mind on one thing for more than an hour or so.
The rushing noise died away. Blup.
Leonard peered cautiously over the bench and smiled broadly. 'Ah! Happily, we appear to have achieved coffee,' he said.
Leonard walked over to the table and pulled a small lever on the device. A light brown foam cascaded into a waiting cup with a noise like a clogged drain.
'Different coffee,' he said. 'Very fast coffee. I rather think you will like it. I'm calling this the Very-Fast-Coffee-Machine.'
'And that's today's invention, is it?' said Vetinari.
'Well, yes. It would have been a scale model of a device for reaching the moon and other celestial bodies, but I was thirsty.'
'How fortunate.' Lord Vetinari carefully removed an experimental pedal-powered shoe-polishing machine from a chair and sat down. 'And I've brought you some more little…messages.'
Leonard almost clapped his hands. 'Oh, good! And I've finished the other ones you gave me last night.'
Lord Vetinari carefully removed a moustache of frothy coffee from his upper lip. 'I beg your-? All of them? You broke the ciphers on all those messages from Uberwald?'
'Oh, they were quite easy after I'd finished the new device,' said Leonard, rummaging through the piles of paper on a bench and handing the Patrician several closely written sheets. 'But once you realise that there are only a limited number of birth dates a person can have, and that people do tend to think the same way, ciphers are really not very hard.'
'You mentioned a new device?' said the Patrician.
'Oh, yes. The…thingy. It's all very crude at the moment, but it suffices for these simple codes.'
Leonard pulled a sheet off something vaguely rectangular. It seemed to Vetinari to be all wooden wheels and long thin spars which, he saw when he moved closer, were inscribed thickly with letters and numbers. A number of the wheels were not round but oval or heart-shaped or some other curious curve. When Leonard turned a handle, the whole thing moved with a complex oiliness quite disquieting in something merely mechanical.
'And what are you calling it?'
'Oh you know me and names, my lord. I think of it as the Engine for Neutralising of Information by the Generation of Miasmic Alphabets, [transcriber's note: ENIGMA - geddit?] but I appreciate that it does not exactly roll off the tongue. Er…'
'Er…It's not…wrong, is it - reading other people's messages?'
Vetinari sighed. The worried man in front of him, who was so considerate of life that he carefully dusted around spiders, had once invented a device that fired lead pellets with tremendous force and speed. He thought it would be useful against dangerous animals. He'd designed a thing that could destroy whole mountains. He thought it would be useful in the mining industries. Here was a man who in his tea break, would doodle an instrument for unthinkable mass-destruction in the blank spaces around an exquisite drawing of the fragile beauty of the human smile. With a list of numbered parts. And if you taxed him with it he'd say: ah, but such a thing would make war completely impossible, you see? Because no one would dare use it.
Leonard brightened up as a thought apparently struck him. 'But, on the other hand, the more we know about one another the more we will learn to understand. Now you asked me to construct some more ciphers for you. I'm sorry, my lord, but I must have misunderstood your requirements. What was wrong with the first ones I did?'
Vetinari sighed. 'I'm afraid they were unbreakable, Leonard.'
'It's hard to explain,' said Lord Vetinari, aware that what to him were the lucid waters of politics were so much mud to Leonard. 'These new ones you have are…merely devilishly difficult?'
'You specified fiendishly, sir,' said Leonard, looking worried.
'There does not appear to be a common standard for fiends, my lord, but I did some research in the more accessible occult texts and I believe these ciphers will be considered "difficult" by more than 96 percent of fiends.'
'They may verge on the diabolically difficult in places-'
'That is not a problem, I shall use them forthwith.'
Leonard still seemed to have something on his mind. 'It would be so easy to make them archdemonically diff-'
'But these will suffice, Leonard,' said Vetinari.
'My lord,' Leonard almost wailed, 'I really cannot guarantee that sufficiently clever people will be unable to read our messages!'
'But, my lord, they will know what you are thinking!'
Vetinari patted him on the shoulder. 'No, Leonard. They will merely know what is in my messages.'
'I really do not understand, my lord.'
'No, but on the other hand I cannot make exploding coffee. What would the world be like if we were all alike?'
Leonard's face clouded for a moment. 'I'm not sure,' he said, 'but if you'd like for me to work on the problem I may be able to devise a-'
'It was merely a figure of speech, Leonard.'
Vetinari shook his head ruefully. It often seemed to him that Leonard, who had pushed intellect into hitherto undiscovered uplands, had discovered there large and specialised pockets of stupidity. What would be the point of ciphering messages that very clever enemies couldn't break? You'd end up not knowing what they thought you thought they were thinking…
'There was one rather strange message from Uberwald, my lord,' said Leonard. 'Yesterday morning.'
'It was not ciphered.'
'Not at all? I thought everyone used codes.'
'Oh the sender and the recipient are code names, but the message is quite plain. It was a request for information about Commander Vimes, of whom you have often spoken.'
Lord Vetinari was quite still.
'The return message was mostly clear, too. A certain amount of…gossip.'
'All about Vimes? Yesterday morning? Before I-?'
'Tell me,' said the Patrician. 'This message from Uberwald. It yields no clue at all to the sender?'
Sometimes, like a ray of light through clouds, Leonard could be quite perceptive. 'You think you might know the originator, my lord?'
'Oh in my younger days I spent some time in Uberwald,' said the Patrician. 'In those days rich young men from Ankh-Morpork used to go on what we called the Grand Sneer, visiting far-flung countries and cities in order to see at first hand how inferior they were. Or so it seemed, at any rate. Oh, yes. I spent some time in Uberwald.'
It was not often that Leonard of Quirm paid attention to what people around him were doing, but he saw the faraway look in Lord Vetinari's eye.
'You have fond memories, lord?' he ventured.
'Hmm? Oh, she was a very…unusual lady but, alas, rather older than me,' said Vetinari. 'Much older, I have to say. But it was a long time ago. Life teaches us its small lessons and we move on.' There was that distant look again. 'Well, well, well…'
'And no doubt the lady is now dead,' said Leonard. He was not much good at this sort of conversation.
'Oh, I very much doubt that,' said Vetinari. 'I have no doubt she thrives.' He smiled. The world was becoming more…interesting. 'Tell me, Leonard,' he said. 'Has it ever occurred to you that one day wars will be fought with brains?'
Leonard picked up his coffee cup. 'Oh dear. Won't that be rather messy?' he said.
Vetinari sighed again. 'Not perhaps as messy as the other sort,' he said, trying the coffee. It really was rather good.
Back to the Top
The Patrician looked at the badge on his desk.
'…and well-trained men,' Carrot was saying, somewhere in front of him. 'After all, a few years ago there were only four of us in the Watch. Now it's functioning just like a machine.'
'Yes, although bits do go boing occasionally,' said Lord Vetinari, still staring at the badge. 'Could I invite you to reconsider, captain?'
'I've reconsidered several times, sir. And it's not captain, sir.'
'The watch needs you, Mister Ironfoundersson.'
'The watch is bigger than one man, sir,' said Carrot, still looking straight ahead.
'I'm not sure if it's bigger than sergeant Colon, though.'
'People get mistaken about old Fred, sir. He's a man with a solid bottom to his character.'
'He's got a solid bottom to his bottom, ca- Mister Ironfoundersson.'
'I mean he doesn't flap in an emergency, sir.'
'He doesn't do anything in an emergency,' said the Patrician. 'Except possibly hide. I might go so far as to say that the man appears to consist of an emergency in his own right.'
'My mind is made up, sir.'
Lord Vetinari sighed, sat back and stared up at the ceiling for a moment.
'Then all I can do is thank you for your services, captain, and wish you good luck in your future endeavour. Do you have enough money?'
'I've saved quite a lot, sir.'
'Nevertheless, it is a long way to Uberwald.'
There was silence.
'How did you know?'
'Oh, people measured it years ago. Surveyors and so forth.'
Vetinari sighed. 'I think the term is…deduction. Be that as it may - captain - I am choosing to believe that you are merely taking an extended leave of absence. I understand that you've never taken a holiday while you've been here. I'm sure you're owed a few weeks.'
Carrot said nothing.
'And if I was you, 'I'd begin my search for Sergeant Angua at the Shambling Gate,' Vetinari added.
After a while Carrot said quietly: 'Is that as a result of information received, my lord?'
Vetinari smiled a thin little smile. 'No. But Uberwald is going through some troubling times, and of course she is from one of the aristocratic families. I surmise that she has been called away. Beyond that, I cannot be of much help. You will have to follow, as they say, your nose.'
'No, I think I can find a much more reliable nose than mine,' said Carrot.
'Good.' Lord Vetinari went back to his desk and sat down. 'I wish you well in your search. Nevertheless, I'm sure we'll be seeing you again. A lot of people depend on you.'
'Good day to you.'
When Carrot had gone, Lord Vetinari stood up and walked across to the other side of the room, where a map of Uberwald was unrolled on a table. It was quite old, but in recent years any mapmakers who had wandered off the beaten track in that country had spent all their time trying to find it again. There were a few rivers, their courses mostly guesswork, and the occasional town or at least the name of a town, probably put in to save the cartographer the embarrassment of filling his chart with, as they said in the trade, MMBU. [Footnote: Miles and Miles of Bloody Uberwald]
The door opened and Vetinari's head clerk, Drumknott, eased his way in with the silence of a feather falling in a cathedral.
'A somewhat unexpected development, my lord,' he said quietly.
'An uncharacteristic one, certainly,' said Vetinari.
'Do you wish me to send a clacks to Vimes, sir? He could be back in a day or so.'
Vetinari was looking intently at the blind, blank map. It was, he felt, very much like the future; a few things were outlined, there were some rough guesses, but everything else was waiting to be created…
'Hmm?' he said.
'Do you wish me to recall Vimes, sir?'
'Good heavens, no. Vimes in Uberwald will be more amusing than an amorous armadillo in a bowling alley. And who else could I send? Only Vimes could go to Uberwald.'
'But surely this is an emergency, sir.'
'What else are we to call it, sir, when a young man of such promise throws away his career in for the pursuit of a girl?'
The Patrician stroked his beard and smiled at something.
There was a line across the map: the progress of the semaphore towers. It was mathematically straight, a statement of intellect in the crowding darkness of miles and miles of bloody Uberwald.
'Possibly a bonus,' he said. 'Uberwald has much to teach us. Fetch me the papers on the werewolf clans, will you? Oh, and although I swore I would never ever do this, please prepare a message for Sergeant Colon, too. Promotion, alas, beckons.
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At precisely eleven o' clock there was a smart rap on Lord Vetinari's door. The Patrician gave the woodwork a puzzled frown. At last he said: 'Come.'
Fred Colon entered with difficulty. Vetinari watched him for a few moments until pity overcame even him.
'Acting captain, it is not necessary to remain to attention at all times,' he said kindly. 'You are allowed to unbend enough for the satisfactory manipulation of a doorknob.'
Lord Vetinari raised a hand to his ear protectively. 'You may be seated.'
'You may be quieter, too.'
Lord Vetinari retreated to the protection of his desk. 'May I commend you on the gleam of your armour, acting captain-'
'Spit and polish, sah! No substitute for it, sah!' Sweat was streaming down Colon's face.
'Oh, good. Clearly you have been purchasing extra supplies of spit. Now then, let me see…' Lord Vetinari drew a sheet of paper from one of the small stacks in front of him.
'Now then, acti-'
'To be sure. I have here another complaint of over-enthusiastic clamping. I'm sure you know to what I refer.'
'It was causing serious traffic congestion, sah!'
'Quite so. It is well known for it. But it is, in fact, the opera house.'
'The owner feels that big yellow clamps at each corner detract from what I might call the tone of the building. And, of course, they do prevent him from driving it away.'
'Indeed. I think that this is a case where discretion might be advisable, acting captain!'
'Got to make an example to the others, sah!'
'Ah. Yes.' The Patrician held another piece of paper delicately between thumb and forefinger, as though it was some rare and strange creature. 'The others being…let me see if I can recall, some things do stick in the mind so…ah, yes…three other buildings, six fountains, three statues and the gibbet in Nonesuch street. Oh, and my own palace.'
'I fully understand you're parked on business, sah!'
Lord Vetinari paused. He found it difficult to talk to Frederick Colon. He dealt on a daily basis with people who treated conversation as a complex game, and with Colon he had to keep on adjusting his mind in case he overshot.'
'Pursuing the business of your recent career with, I have to admit, some considerable and growing fascination, I am moved to ask you why the Watch now appears to have a staff of twenty.'
'You had around sixty a little while ago I am sure.'
Colon mopped his face. 'Cutting out the dead wood, sah! Making the Watch leaner and fitter, sah!'
'I see. The number of internal disciplinary charges you have laid against your men' - and here the Patrician picked up a much thicker document - 'seems somewhat excessive. I see no fewer than one hundred and seventy-three offences of eyeballing, earlobing, and nostrilling, for example.'
'Nostrilling, acting captain?'
'Oh. And I see, ah yes, one charge of "making his arm fall off in an insubordinate way" laid against Constable Shoe. Commander Vimes has always given me glowing reports about this officer.'
''e's a nasty piece of work, sah! You can't trust the dead ones!'
'Nor, it would seem, most of the live ones.'
'Sah!' Colon leaned forward, his face twisted in a ghastly grimace of conspiratoriality. 'Between you and me, sir, Commander Vimes was a good deal too soft on them. He let them get away with too much. No sugar is safe, sah!'
Vetinari's eyes narrowed, but the telescopes on Planet Colon were far to unsophisticated to detect his mood.
'I certainly recall him mentioning a couple of officers whose time-keeping, demeanour, and all-round uselessness were a dreadful example to the rest of the men,' said the Patrician.
'There's my point,' said Colon triumphantly. 'One bad apple ruins the whole barrel!'
'I think there's only a basket now,' said the Patrician. 'A punnet, possibly.'
'Don't you worry about a thing, your lordship! I'll turn things around. I'll soon have them smartened up!'
'I am sure you have it in you to surprise me even further,' said Vetinari, leaning back. 'I shall definitely keep my eye on you as the man to watch. And now, acting captain, do you have anything else to report?'
'All nice and quiet, sah!'
'I would that it was,' said Vetinari. 'I was just wondering if there was anything going on involving any person in this city called' - he looked down at another sheet of paper - 'Sonky?'
Captain Colon almost swallowed his tongue. 'Minor matter, sah!' he managed.
'So Sonky is alive?'
'Er…found dead, sah!'
'Dear me. Many people would not consider that a minor matter, acting captain. Sonky, for one.'
'Well, sah, not everyone agrees with what he does, sah.'
'Are we by any chance talking about Wallace Sonky? The manufacturer of rubber goods?'
'Boots and gloves seem non-controversial to me, acting captain.'
'It's, er, the other stuff, sah! Colon coughed nervously. 'He makes them rubber wallies, sah.'
'Ah. The preventatives.'
'Lot of people don't agree with that sort of thing, sah.'
'So I understand.'
Colon drew himself to attention again. 'Not natural, in my view, sah. Not in favour of unnatural things.'
Vetinari looked perplexed. 'You mean, you eat you meat raw and sleep in a tree?'
'Oh, nothing, nothing. Someone in Uberwald seems to be taking an interest in him lately. And now he's dead. I wouldn't dream of telling the Watch their job, of course.'
He watched Colon carefully to see if this had sunk in.
'I said that it is entirely up to you to choose what to investigate in this bustling city,' he prompted.
Colon was lost in unfamiliar country without a map. 'Thank you, sah!' he barked.
Vetinari sighed. 'And now, acting captain, I'm sure there's' much that needs your attention.'
'Sah! I've got plans to-'
I meant, do not let me detain you.'
'Oh, that's all right, sir, I've got plenty of time-'
'Goodbye, Acting Captain Colon.'
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Lady Margolotta sighed. Vimes got the impression that he'd failed another test. 'I am rich, Sir Samuel. Vampires tend to be. Didn't you know? Lord Vetinari, I know, believes that information is currency. But everyvun knows that currency has always been information. Money doesn't need to talk, it merely has to listen.'
She stopped and sat watching Vimes, as if she'd suddenly decided to listen. Vimes moved uncomfortably under the steady gaze.
'How is Havelock Vetinari?'
'The Patrician? Oh…fine.'
'He must be quite old now.'
'I've never really been certain how old he is,' said Vimes. 'About my age, I suppose.'
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'This stuff…this stuff is spying! I wondered how Vetinari always seems to know so much!'
'Did you think it came to him in dreams, dear?'
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He turned at the sound of a coach pulling up and looked up at a door which had a crest consisting mainly of a black shield. And above that, looking out of the window, was the face of Lord Vetinari.
'Ah, none other than Corporal Nobbs,' said Lord Vetinari.
At this point Nobby would have given quite a lot to be anyone other than corporal Nobbs.
He wasn't sure whether, as a striker, he should salute. He saluted anyway, on the basis that a salute was seldom out of place.
'I gather you have withdrawn you labour,' Lord Vetinari went on. 'In your case, I am sure this presented a good deal of difficulty.'
Nobby wasn't certain about that sentence, but the Patrician seemed quite amiable.
'Can't stand by when the security of the city's concerned, sir,' he said, oozing affronted loyalty from every unblocked pore.
Lord Vetinari paused long enough for the peaceful, everyday sounds of a city on the brink of catastrophe to filter into Nobby's consciousness.
'Well, of course I wouldn't dream of interfering,' he said at last. 'This is guild business. I'm sure his grace will understand fully when he returns.' He banged on the side of the coach. 'Drive on.'
And the coach was gone.
Lord Vetinari sat back in his seat, smiling to himself.
'Er, did you mean that, sir?' said the clerk Drumknott, who was sitting opposite.
'Certainly. Make a note to have the kitchen send them down cocoa and buns around three o' clock. Anonymously, of course. It's been a crime-free day, Drumknott. Very unusual. Even the thieves' guild is lying low.'
'Yes, my lord. I can't imagine why. When the cat's away…'
'Yes, Drumknott, but mice are happily unencumbered by apprehensions of the future. Humans, on the other hand, are. And they know that Vimes will be back in a week or so, Drumknott. And Vimes will not be happy. Indeed, he will not. And when a commander of the watch is unhappy, he tends to spread it around with a big shovel.
He smiled again. 'This is the time for sensible men to be honest, Drumknott. I only hope Colon is stupid enough to let it continue.'
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'Havelock Vetinari would not have sent a fool to Uberwald.' More smoke, which writhed in the air. 'At least not a stupid fool.'
Vimes's eyes narrowed. 'You've met him, haven't you?'
'And taught him all he knows, right?'
She blew smoke down her nostrils and gave him a radiant smile.
'I'm sorry? You think I taught him?'
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