Although Lord Vetinari first appears in Sourcery, Guards! Guards! is the first book in which he plays a significant role (spending the entire book, apart from two scenes, as a yellowish lizard in a bottle has a way of making one something of a minor character). I here present all of His Lordship's scenes in Guards! Guards! for your reading pleasure.
Warning: the scenes below include the climactic scene of the book. The phrase "spoiler warning" is something of an understatement.
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|First||Being his Lordship's first scene, in which he confers with the recently-arrested head of the Thieves' Guild, and the history of the Guild of Theives, Burglars, and Allied Trades.|
|Second||Discoursing about His Lordship's history as Patrician, and his interaction with Vimes in the alley.|
|Third||CMOT Dibbler's thoughts on the Patrician.|
|Fourth||Being a conversation between Vimes and the Dragon-Hunters, and the Patrician's luncheon meeting about the dragon.|
|Fifth||Being a summary of the Patrician's form of democracy, from Colon's point of view.|
|Sixth||In which the Patrician is incarcerated|
|Seventh||In which the Patrician relaxes.|
|Eighth||Being a brief description of the Palace|
|Ninth||Being a comparison of Gloaters and Non-Gloaters, and the Patrician's position therein.|
|Tenth||In which Vimes joins the Patrician in the Dungeon, and learns to appreciate the greatness that is Lord Vetinari|
|Eleventh||In which Vimes breaks out, while the patrician reads.|
|Twelfth||In which the Patrician leaves the dungeon.|
|Thirteenth||Being an account of the chase between Wonse and the Patrician, and the final showdown of the book.|
|Fourteenth||In which the appropriate trouser of time is chosen, and His Lordship explains his philosophy on good and evil to Captain Vimes.|
|Fifteenth||In which the Watch request an appropriate reward for their efforts.|
Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, put his hand over his eyes.
'He did what?'
'I was marched through the streets,' said Urdo van Pew, currently President of the Guild of Thieves, Burglars and Allied Trades. 'In broad daylight! With my hands tied together!' He took a few steps towards the Patrician's severe chair of office, waving a finger.
'You know very well that we have kept within the Budget,' he said. 'To be humiliated like that! Like a common criminal! There had better be a full apology,' he said, 'or you will have another strike on your hands. We will be driven to it, despite our natural civic responsibilities,' he added.
It was the finger. The finger was a mistake. The Patrician was staring coldly at the finger. Van Pew followed his gaze, and quickly lowered the digit. The Patrician was not a man you shook a finger at unless you wanted to end up being able to count only to nine.
'And you say this was the one person?' said Lord Vetinari.
'Yes! That is - ' Van Pew hesitated.
It did sound weird, now he came to tell someone.
'But there are hundreds of you in there,' said the Patrician calmly. 'Thick as, you should excuse the expression, thieves.'
Van Pew opened and shut his mouth a few times. The honest answer would have been: yes, and if anyone had come sidling in and skulking around the corridors it would have been the worse for them. It was the way he strode in as if he owned the place that fooled everyone. That and the fact that he kept hitting people and telling them to Mend their Ways.
The Patrician nodded.
'I shall deal with the matter momentarily,' he said. It was a good word. It always made people hesitate. They were never quite sure whether he meant he'd deal with it now, or just deal with it briefly. And no-one ever dared ask.
Van Pew backed down.
'A full apology, mark you. I have a position to maintain,' he added.
'Thank you. Do not let me detain you,' said the Patrician, once again giving the language his own individual spin.
'Right. Good. Thank you. Very well,' said the thief.
'After all, you have such a lot of work to do,' Lord Vetinari went on.
'Well, of course this is the case.' The thief hesitated. The Patrician's last remark had barbs on it. You found yourself waiting for him to strike.
'Er,' he said, hoping for a clue.
'With so much business being conducted, that is.'
Panic took over the thief's features. Randomized guilt flooded his mind. It wasn't a case of what he had done, it was a question of what the Patrician had found out about. The man had eyes everywhere, none of them so terrifying as the icy blue ones just above his nose.
I, er, don't quite follow...' he began.
'Curious choice of targets.' The Patrician picked up a sheet of paper. 'For example, a crystal ball belonging to a fortune teller in Sheer Street. A small ornament from the temple of Offler the Crocodile God. And so on. Gewgaws.'
'I am afraid I really don't know -' said the head thief. The Patrician leaned forward.
'No unlicensed thieving, surely?' he said. [footnote: One of the remarkable innovations introduced by the Patrician was to make the Thieves' Guild responsible for theft, with annual budgets, forward planning, and, above all, rigid job protection. Thus, in return for an agreed average level of crime per annum, the thieves themselves saw to it that unauthorized crime was met with the full force of Injustice, which was generally a stick with nails in it.]
'I shall look into it directly!' stuttered the head thief. 'Depend upon it!'
The Patrician gave him a sweet smile. 'I'm sure I can,' he said. 'Thank you for coming to see me. Don't hesitate to leave.'
The thief shuffled out. It was always like this with the Patrician, he reflected bitterly. You came to him with a perfectly reasonable complaint. Next thing you knew, you were shuffling out backwards, bowing and scraping, relieved simply to be getting away. You had to hand it to the Patrician, he admitted grudgingly. if you didn't, he sent men to come and take it away.
When he'd gone Lord Vetinari rang the little bronze bell that summoned his secretary. The man's name, despite his handwriting, was Lupine Wonse. He appeared, pen poised.
You could say this about Lupine Wonse. He was neat. He always gave the impression of just being completed. Even his hair was so smoothed-down and oiled it looked as though it had been painted on.
'The Watch appears to be having some difficulty with the Thieves' Guild,' said the Patrician. 'Van Pew has been in here claiming that a member of the Watch arrested him.'
'What for, sir?'
'Being a thief, apparently.'
'A member of the Watch?' said the secretary.
'I know. But just sort it out, will you?'
The Patrician smiled to himself.
It was always hard to fathom Lord Vetinari's idiosyncratic sense of humour, but a vision of the red-faced, irate head thief kept coming back to him.
One of the Patrician's greatest contributions to the reliable operation of Ankh-Morpork had been, very early in his administration, the legalizing of the ancient Guild of Thieves. Crime was always with us, he reasoned, and therefore, if you were going to have crime, it at least should be organized crime.
And so the Guild had been encouraged to come out of the shadows and build a big Guildhouse, take their place at civic banquets, and set up their training college with day-release courses and City and Guilds certificates and everything. In exchange for the winding down of the Watch, they agreed, while trying to keep their faces straight, to keep crime levels to a level to be determined annually. That way, everyone could plan ahead, said Lord Vetinari, and part of the uncertainty had been removed from the chaos that is life.
And then, a little while later, the Patrician summoned the leading thieves again and said, oh, by the way, there was something else. What was it now? Oh, yes...
I know who you are, he said. I know where you live. I know what kind of horse you ride. I know where your wife has her hair done. I know where your lovely children, how old are they now, my doesn't time fly, I know where they play. So you won't forget about what we agreed, will you? And he smiled.
So did they, after a fashion.
And in fact it had turned out very satisfactorily from everyone's point of view. It took the head thieves a very little time to grow paunches and start having coats-of-arms made and meet in a proper building rather than smoky dens, which no-one had liked much. A complicated arrangement of receipts and vouchers saw to it that, while everyone was eligible for the attentions of the Guild, no-one had too much, and this was very acceptable - at least to those citizens who were rich enough to afford the quite reasonable premiums the Guild charged for an uninterrupted life. There was a strange foreign word for this: inn-sewer-ants. No-one knew exactly what it had originally meant, but Ankh-Morpork had made it its own.
The Watch hadn't liked it, but the plain fact was that the thieves were far better at controlling crime than the Watch had ever been. After all, the Watch had to work twice as hard to cut crime just a little, whereas all the Guild had to do was to work less.
And so the city prospered, while the Watch had dwindled away, like a useless appendix, into a handful of unemployables who no-one in their right mind could ever take seriously.
The last thing anyone wanted them to do was get it into their heads to fight crime. But seeing the head thief discommoded was always worth the trouble, the Patrician felt.
Back to the Top
You need a special kind of mind to rule a city like Ankh-Morpork, and Lord Vetinari had it. But then, he was a special kind of person.Back to the Top
He baffled and infuriated the lesser merchant princes, to the extent that they had long ago given up trying to assassinate him and now merely jockeyed for position amongst themselves. Anyway, any assassin who tried to attack the Patrician would be hard put to it to find enough flesh to insert the dagger.
While other lords dined on larks stuffed with peacocks' tongues, Lord Vetinari considered that a glass of boiled water and half a slice of dry bread was an elegant sufficiency.
It was exasperating. He appeared to have no vice that anyone could discover. You'd have thought, with that pale, equine face, that he'd incline towards stuff with whips, needles and young women in dungeons. The other lords could have accepted that. Nothing wrong with whips and needles, in moderation. But the Patrician apparently spent his evenings studying reports and, on special occasions, if he could stand the excitement, playing chess.
He wore black a lot. It wasn't particularly impressive black, such as the best assassins wore, but the sober, slightly shabby black of a man who doesn't want to waste time in the mornings wondering what to wear. And you had to get up very early in the morning to get the better of the Patrician; in fact, it was wiser not to go to bed at all.
But he was popular, in a way. Under his hand, for the first time in a thousand years, Ankh-Morpork operated. It might not be fair or just or particularly democratic, but it worked. He tended it as one tends a topiary bush, encouraging a growth here, pruning an errant twig there. It was said that he would tolerate absolutely anything apart from anything that threatened the city [footnote: And mime artists. It was a strange aversion, but there you are. Anyone in baggy trousers and a white face who tried to ply their art anywhere within Ankh's crumbling walls would very quickly find themselves in a scorpion pit, on one wall of which was painted the advice: Learn The Words.], and here it was...
He stared at the stricken wall for a long time, while the rain dripped off his chin and soaked his clothes. Behind him, Wonse hovered nervously.
Then one long, thin, blue-veined hand reached out and the fingertips traced the shadows.
Well, not so much shadows, more a series of silhouettes. The outline was very distinct. Inside, there was the familiar pattern of brickwork. Outside, though, something had fused the wall in a rather nice ceramic substance, giving the ancient flettons a melted, mirror-like finish.
The shapes outlined in brickwork showed a tableau of six men frozen in an attitude of surprise. Various upraised hands had quite clearly been holding knives and cutlasses.
The Patrician looked down silently on the pile of ash at his feet. A few streaks of molten metal might once have been the very same weapons that were now so decisively etched into the wall.
'Hmm,' he said.
Captain Vimes respectfully led him across the lane and into Fast Luck Alley, where he pointed out Exhibit A, to whit...
'Footprints,' he said. 'Which is stretching it a bit, sir. They're more what you'd call claws. One might go so far as to say talons.'
The Patrician stared at the prints in the mud. His expression was quite unreadable.
'I see,' he said eventually. 'And do you have an opinion about all this, Captain?'
The captain did. In the hours until dawn he'd had all sorts of opinions, starting with a conviction that it had been a big mistake to be born.
And then the grey light had filtered even into the Shades, and he was still alive and uncooked, and had looked around him with an expression of idiot relief and seen, not a yard away, these footprints. That had not been a good moment to be sober.
'Well, sir,' he said, 'I know that dragons have been extinct for thousands of years, sir --'
Vimes plunged on. 'But sir, the thing is, do they know? Sergeant Colon said he heard a leathery sound just before, just before, just before the, er... offense.'
'So you think an extinct, and indeed a possibly entirely mythical, dragon flew into the city, landed in this narrow alley, incinerated a group of criminals, and then flew away?' said the Patrician. 'One might say, it was a very public-spirited creature.'
'Well, when you put it like that --'
'If I recall, the dragons of legend were solitary and rural creatures who shunned people and dwelt in forsaken, out of the way places,' said the Patrician. 'They were hardly urban creatures.'
'No, sir,' said the captain, repressing a comment that if you wanted to find a really forsaken, out of the way place, then the Shades would fit the bill pretty well.
'Besides,' said Lord Vetinari, 'one would imagine that someone would have noticed, wouldn't you agree?'
The captain nodded at the wall and its dreadful frieze. 'Apart from them, you mean, sir?'
'In my opinion,' said Lord Vetinari, 'it's some kind of warfare. Possibly a rival gang has hired a wizard. A little local difficulty.'
'Could be linked to all this strange thieving, sir,' volunteered Wonse.
'But there's the footprints, sir,' said Vimes doggedly.
'We're close to the river,' said the Patrician. 'Possibly it was, perhaps, a wading bird of some sort. A mere coincidence,' he added, 'but I should cover them over, if I were you. We don't want people getting the wrong idea and jumping to conclusions, do we?' he added sharply.
Vimes gave in.
'As you wish, sir.,' he said, looking at his sandals.
The Patrician patted him on the shoulder.
'Never mind,' he said. 'Carry on. Good show of initiative, that man. Patrolling in the Shades, too. Well done.'
He turned, and almost walked into the wall of chain mail that was Carrot.
To his horror, Captain Vimes saw his newest recruit point politely to the Patrician's coach. Around it, fully-armed and wary, were six members of the Palace Guard, who straightened up and took a wary interest. Vimes disliked them intensely. They had plumes on their helmets. He hated plumes on a guard.
He heard Carrot say, 'Excuse me, sir, is this your coach, sir?' and the Patrician looked him blankly up and down and said, 'It is. Who are you, young man?'
Carrot saluted. 'Lance-constable Carrot, sir.'
'Carrot, Carrot. That name rings a bell.'
Lupine Wonse, who had been hovering behind him, whispered in the Patrician's ear. His face brightened. 'Ah, the young thief-taker. A little error there, I think, but commendable. No person is above the law, eh?'
'No, sir,' said Carrot.
'Commendable, commendable,' said the Patrician. 'And now, gentlemen -'
'About your coach, sir,' said Carrot doggedly, 'I couldn't help noticing that the front offside wheel, contrary to the -'
He's going to arrest the Patrician, Vimes told himself, the thought trickling through is brain like an icy rivulet. He's actually going o arrest the Patrician. The supreme ruler. He's going to arrest him. This is what he's actually going to do. The boy doesn't know the meaning of the word 'fear'. Oh, wouldn't it be a good idea if he knew the meaning of the word 'survival' ...
And I can't get my jaw muscles to move.
We're all dead. Or worse, we're all detained at the Patrician's pleasure. And as we all know, he's seldom that pleased.
It was at this precise moment that Sergeant Colon earned himself a metaphorical medal.
'Lance-constable Carrot!' he shouted. 'Attention! Lance-constable Carrot, abou-uta turna! Lance-constable Carrot, qui-uck marcha!'
Carrot brought himself to attention like a barn being raised, and stared straight ahead with a ferocious expression of acute obedience.
'Well done, that man,' said the Patrician thoughtfully, as Carrot strode stiffly away. 'Carry on, captain. And do come down heavily on any silly rumours about dragons, right?'
'Yes, sir,' said Captain Vimes.
The coach rattled off, the bodyguard running alongside.
Behind him, Captain Vimes was only vaguely aware of the sergeant yelling at the retreating Carrot to stop.
'Dragon hunters, Cap'n. The Patrician announced a reward of fifty thousand dollars to anyone who brings him the dragon's head. Not attached to the dragon, either; he's no fool, that man.'Back to the Top
'He's not married,' Vimes volunteered. 'And he hasn't got a daughter.'Back to the Top
They turned and looked him up and down. He could see the disdain in their eyes. They probably got through dozens like him every day. 'Not got a daughter?' said one of them. 'Wants people to kill dragons and he hasn't got a daughter?'
Vimes felt, in an odd way, that he ought to support the lord of the city. 'He's got a little dog that he's very fond of,' he said helpfully. ...'A small wire-haired terrier, I think,' said Vimes.
The hunter thought about this for some time. 'Nah,' he said eventually, and hurried off after the others.
'He's got an aunt in Pseudopolis, I believe,' Vimes called after him.
There was no response. The captain of the Watch shrugged, and carried on through the throng to the Patrician's palace...
...where the Patrician was having a difficult lunchtime.
'Gentlemen!' he snapped. 'I really don't see what else there is to do!'
The assembled civic leaders muttered amongst themselves.
'At times like this it's traditional that a hero comes forth,' said the President of the Guild of Assassins. 'A dragon slayer. Where is he, that's what I want to know? Why aren't our schools turning out young people with the kind of skills society needs?'
'Fifty thousand dollars doesn't sound much,' said the Chairman of the Guild of Thieves.
'It may not be much to you, my dear sir, but it is all the city can afford,' said the Patrician firmly.
'If it doesn't afford any more than that I don't think there'll be a city for long,' said the thief.
'And what about trade?' said the representative of the Guild of Merchants. 'People aren't going to sail here with a cargo of rare comestibles just to have it incinerated, are they?'
'Gentlemen! Gentlemen!' The Patrician raised his hands in a conciliatory fashion. 'It seems to me,' he went on, taking advantage of the brief pause, 'that what we have here is a strictly magical phenomenon. I would like to hear from our learned friend on this point. Hmm?'
Someone nudged the Archchancellor of Unseen University, who had nodded off.
'Eh? What?' said the wizard, startled into wakefulness.
'We were wondering,' said the Patrician loudly, 'what you were intending to do about this dragon of yours?'
The Archchancellor was old, but a lifetime of survival in the world of competitive wizardry and the byzantine politics of Unseen University meant that he could whip up a defensive argument in a split second. You didn't remain Archchancellor for long if you let that sort of ingenuous remark whizz past your ear.
'My dragon?' he said.
'It's well known that the great dragons are extinct,' said the Patrician brusquely. 'And, besides, their natural habitat was definitely rural. So it seems to me that this one must be mag-'
'With respect, Lord Vetinari,' said the Archchancellor, 'it has often been claimed that dragons are extinct, but the current evidence, if I may make so bold, tends to cast a certain doubt on the theory. As to habitat, what we are seeing here is simply a change of behaviour pattern, occasioned by the spread of urban areas into the countryside which has led many hitherto rural creatures to adopt, nay in many cases to positively embrace, a more municipal mode of existence, and many of them thrive on the new opportunities thereby opened to them. For example, foxes are always knocking over my dustbins.'
He beamed. He'd managed to get all the way through it without actually needing to engage his brain.
'Are you saying,' said the assassin slowly, 'that what we've got here is the first civic dragon?'
'That's evolution for you,' said the wizard, happily. 'It should do well, too,' he added. 'Plenty of nesting sites, and a more than adequate food supply.'
Silence greeted this statement, until the merchant said, 'What exactly is it that they do eat?'
The thief shrugged. 'I seem to recall stories about virgins chained to huge rocks,' he volunteered.
'It'll starve round here, then,' said the assassin. 'We're on loam.'
'They used to go around ravening,' said the thief. 'Dunno if that's any help…'
'Anyway,' said the leader of the merchants, 'it seems to be your problem again, my lord.'
Five minutes later, the Patrician was striding the length of the Oblong Office, fuming.
'They were laughing at me,' said the Patrician. 'I could tell!'
'Did you suggest a working party?' said Wonse.
'Of course I did! It didn't do the trick this time. You know, I really am inclined to increase the reward money.'
'I don't think that would work, my lord. Any proficient monster slayer knows the rate for the job.'
'Ha! Half the kingdom,' muttered the Patrician.
'And your daughter's hand in marriage,' said Wonse.
'I suppose an aunt isn't acceptable?' the Patrician said hopefully.
'Tradition demands a daughter, my lord.'
The Patrician nodded gloomily.
'Perhaps we can buy it off,' he said aloud. 'Are dragons intelligent?'
'I believe the word traditionally is "cunning", my lord.' Said Wonse. 'I understand they have a liking for gold.'
'Really? What do they spend it on?'
'They sleep on it, my lord.'
'What, do you mean in a mattress?'
'No, my lord. On it."
The Patrician turned this fact over in his mind. 'Don't they find it rather knobbly?' he said.
'So I would imagine, sir. I don't suppose anyone has ever asked.'
'Hmm. Can they talk?'
'They're apparently good at it, my lord.'
The Patrician was thinking: if it can talk, it can negotiate. If it can negotiate, then I have it by the short - by the small scales, or whatever it is they have.
'And they are said to be silver tongued,' said Wonse. The Patrician leaned back in his chair.
'Only silver?' he said.
There was the sound of muted voices in the passageway outside and Vimes was ushered in.
'Ah, Captain,' said the Patrician, 'what progress?'
'I'm sorry, my lord?' said Vimes, as the rain dripped off his cape.
'Towards apprehending this dragon,' said the Patrician firmly.
'The wading bird?' said Vimes.
'You know very well what I mean,' said Vetinari sharply.
'Investigations are in hand,' said Vimes automatically.
The Patrician snorted. 'All you have to do is find its lair,' he said. 'Once you have the lair, you have the dragon. That's obvious. Half the city seems to be looking for it.'
'If there is a lair,' said Vimes.
Wonse looked up sharply.
'Why do you say that?'
'We are considering a number of possibilities,' said Vimes woodenly.
'If it has no lair, where does it spend its days?' said the Patrician.
'Inquiries are being pursued,' said Vimes.
'Then pursue them with alacrity. And find the lair,' said the Patrician sourly.
'Yes, sir. Permission to leave, sir?'
'Very well. But I shall expect progress by tonight, do you understand?'
He [Sergeant Colon] was also pretty sure that unless they came up with something about this dragon very soon then the Patrician was going to be unhappy. And when the Patrician was unhappy, he became very democratic. He found intricate and painful ways of spreading that unhappiness as far as possible. Responsibility, the sergeant thought, was a terrible thing. So was being horribly tortured. As far as he could see, the two facts were rapidly heading towards one another.Back to the Top
Lord Vetinari had been locked up in his own dungeons. He hadn't put up much fight, apparently. Just smiled at everyone and went quietly.Back to the Top
Something major was happening in the palace. There was the occasional crash of a floor or thump of a falling ceiling…In his rat-filled dungeon, behind a door with more locks than a major canal network, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork lay back and grinned in the darkness. Back to the Top
It never had been what you might call a select palace. The Patrician had always felt that if you made people comfortable they might want to stay.Back to the Top
Vimes said nothing. Wonse was a gloater. You always stood a chance with gloaters. The old Patrician had never been a gloater, you could say that for him. If he wanted you dead, you never even heard about it. Back to the Top
Vimes landed in damp straw and also in pitch darkness, although after a while his eyes became accustomed to the gloom and he could make out the Walls of the dungeon.Back to the Top
It hadn't been built for gracious living. It was basically just a space containing all the pillars and arches that supported the palace. At the far end a small grille high on the wall let in a mere suspicion of grubby, second-hand light.
There was another square hole in the floor. It was also barred. The bars were quite rusty, though. It occurred to Vimes that he could probably work them loose eventually, and then all he would have to do was slim down enough to go through a nine-inch hole.
What the dungeon did not contain was any rats, scorpions, cockroaches or snakes. It had once contained snakes, it was true, because Vimes' sandals crunched on small, long white skeletons.
He crept cautiously along one damp wall, wondering where they rhythmic scraping sound was coming from. He rounded a squat pillar, and found out.
The Patrician was shaving, squinting into a scrap of mirror propped against the pillar to catch the light. No, Vimes realized, not propped. Supported, in fact. By a rat. It was a large rat, with red eyes.
The Patrician nodded to him without apparent surprise.
'Oh,' he said. 'Vimes, isn't it? I heard you were on the way down. Jolly good. You had better tell the kitchen staff-' and here Vimes realized that the man was speaking to the rat - 'that there will be two for lunch. Would you like a beer, Vimes?'
'What?' said Vimes.
'I imagine you would. Pot luck, though, I am afraid. Skrp's people are bright enough, but they seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to labels on bottles.'
Lord Vetinari patted his face with a towel and dropped it on the floor. A grey shape darted from the shadows and dragged it away down the floor grille.
The he said, 'Very well, Skrp. You may go.' The rat twitched its whiskers at him, leaned the mirror against the wall, and trotted off.
'You're waited on by rats?' said Vimes.
'They help out, you know. They're not really very efficient, I'm afraid. It's their paws.'
'But, but, but,' said Vimes, 'I mean how?'
'I suspect Skrp's people have tunnels that extend into the University,' Lord Vetinari went on. 'Although I think they were probably pretty bright to start with.'
At least Vimes understood that bit. It was well known that thaumic radiations affected animals living around the Unseen University campus, sometimes prodding them towards minute analogies of human civilization and even mutating some of them into entirely new and specialized species, such as the .303 bookworm and the wallfish. And, as the man said, rats were quite bright to start with.
'But they're helping you?' said Vimes.
'Mutual. It's mutual. Payment for services rendered, you might say,' said the Patrician, sitting down on what Vimes couldn't help noticing was a small velvet cushion. On a low shelf, so as to be handy, were a notepad and a neat row of books.
'How can you help rats, sir?' he said weakly.
'Advice. I advise them, you know.' The Patrician leaned back. 'That's the trouble with people like Wonse,' he said. 'They never know when to stop. Rats, snakes, and scorpions. It was sheer bedlam in here when I came. The rats were getting the worst of it, too.'
And Vimes thought he was beginning to get the drift.
'You mean you sort of trained them?' he said.
'Advised. Advised. I suppose it's a knack,' said Lord Vetinari modestly.
Vimes wondered how it was done. Did the rats side with the scorpions against the snakes and then, when they were beaten, invite the scorpions to a celebratory slap-up meal and eat them? Or were individual scorpions hired with large amounts of, of, whatever it was scorpions ate, to sidle up to selected leading snakes at night and sting them?
He remembered hearing once about a man who, locked up in a cell for years trained little birds and create a sort of freedom. And he thought of ancient sailors, shorn of the sea by old age and infirmity, who spent their days making big ships in little bottles.
Then he thought of the Patrician, robbed of his city, sitting cross-legged on the grey floor in the dim dungeon and recreating it around him, encouraging in miniature all the little rivalries, power struggles and factions. He thought of him a sombre, brooding statue amid paving stones alive with slinking shadows and sudden, political death. It had probably been easier than ruling Ankh, which had larger vermin who didn't have to use both hands to carry a knife.
There was a clink over by the drain. Half a dozen rats appeared, dragging something wrapped in a cloth. They rathandled it past the grille and, with great effort, hauled it to the Patrician's feet. He leaned down and undid the knot.
'We seem to have cheese, chicken legs, celery, a piece of rather stale bread and a nice bottle, oh, a nice bottle apparently of Merckle and Stingbat's Very Famous Brown Sauce. Beer, I said, Skrp.' The leading rat twitched its nose at him. 'Sorry about this, Vimes. They can't read, you see. They don't seem to get the hang of the concept. But they're very good at listening. They bring me all the news.'
'I see you're very comfortable here,' said Vimes weakly.
'Never build a dungeon you wouldn't be happy to spend the night in yourself,' said the Patrician, laying out the food on the cloth. 'The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that.'
'We all thought you had built secret tunnels and suchlike,' said Vimes.
'Can't imagine why,' said the Patrician. 'One would have to keep on running. So inefficient. Whereas here I am at the hub of things. I hope you understand that, Vimes. Never trust any ruler who puts his faith in tunnels and bunkers and escape routes. The chances are that his heart isn't in the job.'
He's in a dungeon in his own palace with a raving lunatic in charge upstairs, and a dragon burning the city, and he thinks he's got the world where he wants it. It must be something about high office. The altitude sends people mad.
'You, er, you don't mind if I have a look around, do you?' he said.
'Feel free,' said the Patrician.
Vimes paced the length of the dungeon and checked the door. It was heavily barred and bolted, and the lock was massive.
Then he tapped the walls in what might possibly be hollow places. There was no doubt that it was a well-built dungeon. It was the kind of dungeon you'd feel good about having dangerous criminals put in. Of course, in those circumstances you'd prefer there to be no trapdoors, hidden tunnels or secret ways of escape.
These weren't those circumstances. It was amazing what several feet of stone did to your sense of perspective.
'Do guards come in here?' he demanded.
'Hardly ever,' said the Patrician, waving a chicken leg. 'They don't bother about feeding me, you see. The idea is that one should moulder. In fact,' he said, 'up 'til recently I used to go to the door and groan a bit every now and then, just to keep them happy.'
'They're bound to come in and check, though?' said Vimes hopefully.
'Oh, I don't think we should tolerate that,' said the Patrician.
'How are you going to prevent them?'
Lord Vetinari gave him a pained look.
'My dear Vimes,' he said, 'I thought you were an observant man. Did you look at the door?'
'Of course I did,' said Vimes, and added, 'sir. It's bloody massive.'
'Perhaps you should have another look?'
Vimes gaped at him, and then stamped across the floor and glared at the door. It was one of the popular dread portal variety, all bars and bolts and iron spikes and massive hinges. No matter how long he looked at it, it didn't become any less massive. The lock was one of those dwarfish-made buggers that it'd take years to pick. All in all, if you had to have a symbol for something totally immovable, that door was your man.
The Patrician appeared alongside him in heart-stopping silence.
'You see,' he said, 'it's always the case, is it not, that should a city be overtaken by violent civil unrest, the current ruler is thrown into the dungeons? To a certain type of mind that is so much more satisfying than mere execution.'
'Well, okay, but I don't see -' Vimes began.
'And you look at this door and what you see is a really strong cell door, yes?'
'Of course. You've only got to look at the bolts and-"
'You know, I'm really rather pleased,' said Lord Vetinari quietly.
Vimes stared at the door until his eyebrows ached. And then, just as random patterns in cloud suddenly, without changing in any way, become a horse's head or a sailing ship, he saw what he'd been looking at all along.
A sense of terrifying admiration overcame him.
He wondered what it was like in the Patrician's mind. All cold and shiny, he thought, all blued steel and icicles and little wheels clicking along like a huge clock. The kind of mind that would carefully consider its own downfall and turn it to advantage.
It was perfectly normal dungeon door, but it all depended on your sense of perspective.
blklankIn this dungeon the Patrician could hold off the world.
All that was on the outside was the lock.
All the bolts and bars were on the inside.
The Patrician laid back. A couple of rats dragged a cushion under his head....
'Things are rather bad outside, I gather,' he said.
'Yes,' said Vimes bitterly. 'You're right. You're the safest man in the city.'
He wedged another knife in a crack in the stones and tested his weight carefully, while Lord Vetinari looked on with interest. He'd managed to get six feet off the floor and up to a level with the grille.
Now he started to hack at the mortar around the bars.
The Patrician watched him for a while, and then took a book off the little shelf beside him. Since the rats couldn't read the library he'd been able to assemble was a little baroque, but he was not a man to ignore fresh knowledge. He found his bookmark in the pages of Lacemaking Through the Ages, and read a few pages.
After a while he found it necessary to brush a few crumbs of mortar off the book, and looked up.
'Are you achieving success?' he inquired politely.
Now there was a shallow hole in the mortar near the middle bar. It wasn't much, Vimes knew, but it was a start.Back to the Top
'You don't require assistance, by any chance?' said the Patrician.
'As you wish.'
[at this point, the Librarian appears, and the longest arms of the law rescue Vimes]
The Patrician sighed and, carefully marking his place, laid aside his book. To judge from the noise there seemed to be an awful lot of excitement going on out there. It was highly unlikely any palace guards would be around, which was just as well. The guards were highly-trained men and it would be a shame to waste them.Back to the Top
He would need them later on.
He padded over to the wall and pushed a small block that looked exactly like all the other small blocks. No other small block, however, would have caused a section of flagstone to grind ponderously aside.
There was a carefully chosen assortment of stuff in there - iron rations, spare clothes, several small chests of precious metals and jewels, tools. And there was a key. Never build a dungeon you couldn't get out of.
The Patrician took the key and strolled over to the door. As the wards of the lock slid back in their well-oiled grooves, he wondered, again, whether he should have told Vimes about the key. But the man seemed to have got so much satisfaction out of breaking out. It would probably have been positively bad for him to have told him about the key. Anyway, it would have spoiled his view of the world. He needed Vimes and his view of the world. Lord Vetinari swung the door open and, silently, strode out into the ruins of his palace.
Lupine Wonse scurried along the ruined corridors of the palace, The Summoning of Dragons under one arm, the glittering royal sword grasped uncertainly in one hand.…
He halted, panting, in a doorway.
Not a lot of his mind was currently in a state sane enough to have proper thoughts, but the small part that was still in business kept insisting that it couldn't have seen what it had seen or heard what it had heard.
Someone was following him.
And he'd seen Vetinari walking through the palace. He knew the man was securely put away. The lock was completely unpickable. H remembered the Patrician being absolutely insistent that it be an unpickable lock when it was installed.
There was movement in the shadows at the end of the passage. Wonse gibbered a bit, fumbled with the doorhandle beside him, darted in, slammed the door and leaned against it, fighting for breath.
He opened his eyes.
He was in the old private audience room. The Patrician was sitting gin his old seat, one leg crossed on the other, watching him with mild interest.
'Ah, Wonse,' he said.
Wonse jumped, scrabbled at the doorhandle, leapt into the corridor, and ran for it until he reached the main staircase, rising now through the ruins of the central palace like a forlorn corkscrew. Stairs – height – high ground – defense. He ran up them three at a time.
All he needed was a few minutes of peace. Then he'd show them.
The upper floors were more full of shadows. What they were short on was structural strength. Pillars and walls had been torn out by the dragon as it built its cave. Rooms gaped pathetically on the edge of the abyss. Dangling shreds of wall-hanging and carpet flapped in the wind from the smashed windows. The floor sprang and wobbled like a trampoline as Wonse scurried across it. He struggled to the nearest door.
'That was commendably fast,' said the Patrician.
Wonse slammed the door in his face and ran, squeaking, down a corridor.
Sanity took a brief hold. He paused by a statue. There was no sound, no hurrying footsteps, no whirr of hidden doors. He gave the statue a suspicious look and prodded it with the sword.
When it failed to move he opened the nearest door and slammed it behind him, found a chair and wedged it under the handle. This was one of the upper state rooms, bare now of most of its furnishings, and lacking its fourth wall. Where it should have been was just the gulf of the cavern.
The Patrician stepped out of the shadows.
'Now you have got it out of your system-' he said.
Wonse spun around, sword raised.
'You don't really exist,' he said. 'You're a - a ghost, or something.'
'I believe this is not the case,' said the Patrician.
'You can't stop me! I've got some magic stuff left, I've got the book!' Wonse took a brown leather bag out of his pocket. 'I'll bring back another one! You'll see!'
'I urge you not to,' said Lord Vetinari mildly.
'Oh, you think you're so clever, so in-control, so swave, just because I've got a sword and you haven't! Well, I've got more than that, I'll have you know,' said Wonse triumphantly. 'Yes! I've got the palace guards on my side! They follow me, not you! No-one likes you, you know. No-one ever liked you.'
He swung the sword so that its needle point was a foot from the Patrician's thin chest.
'So it's back to the cells for you,' he said. 'And this time I'll make sure you stay there. Guards! Guards!'
There was the clatter of running feet outside. The door rattled, the chair shook. There was a moment's silence, and then door and chair erupted in splinters.
'Take him away!' screamed Wonse. 'Fetch more scorpions! Put him in … you're not the –'
'Put the sword down,' said Vimes, while behind him Carrot picked bits of door out of his fist.
'Yeah,' said Nobby, peeing around the captain. 'Up against the wall and spread 'em, motherbreath!'
'Eh? What's he supposed to spread?' whispered Sergeant Colon anxiously.
Nobby shrugged, 'Dunno,' he said. 'Everything, I reckon. Safest way.'
Wonse stared at the rank in disbelief.
'Ah, Vimes,' said the Patrician. 'You will-'
'Shut up,' said Vimes calmly. 'Lance-constable Carrot?'
'Read the prisoner his rights.'
'Yes sir.' Carrot produced hi notebook, licked his thumb, flicked through the pages.
'Lupine Wonse,' he said, 'AKA Lupin Squiggle Sec'y PP—'
'Wha?' said Wonse.
'—currently domiciled in the domicile known as The Palace, Ankh-Morpork, it is my duty to inform you that you have been arrested and will be charged with –' Carrot gave Vimes an agonized look – 'a number of offenses of murder by means of a blunt instrument, to whit, a dragon, and many further offenses of generalized abetting, to be more specifically ascertained later. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to be summarily thrown into a piranha tank. You have the right to trial by ordeal. You have the –'
'This is madness,' said the Patrician calmly.
'I thought I told you to shut up!' snapped Vimes, spinning around and shaking a finger under the Patrician's nose.
'Tell me, Sarge,' whispered Nobby, 'do you think we're going to like it in the scorpion pit?' '—say anything, er, but anything you do say will be written down, er, here, in my notebook, and er, may be used in evidence –'
Carrot's voice trailed into silence.
Wonse made no signal. There was no scream or cry. He just rushed at the Patrician, sword raised.
Options flickered across Vimes' mind. In the lead came the suggestion that standing back would be a good plan, let Wonse do it, disarm him afterwards, let the city clean itself up. Yes. A good plan.
And it was therefore a total mystery to him why he chose to dart forward, bringing Carrot's sword up in a half-baked attempt at blocking the stroke…
Perhaps it was something to do with doing it by the book.
There was a clang. Not a particularly loud one. He felt something bright and silver whirr past his ear and strike the wall.
Wonse's mouth fell open. He dropped the remnant of his sword and backed away, clutching The Summoning. 'You'll be sorry,' he hissed. 'You'll all be very sorry!'
He started to mumble under his breath.
Vimes felt himself trembling. He was pretty certain he knew what had zinged past his head, and the mere thought was making his hands sweat. He'd come to the palace ready to kill and there'd been this minute, just this minute, when for once the world had seemed to be operating properly and he was in charge of it and now, now all he wanted was a drink. And a nice week's sleep.
'Oh, give up!' he said. 'Are you going to come quietly?'
The mumbling went on. The air began to feel hot and dry.
Vimes shrugged. 'That's it, then,' he said, and turned away. 'Throw the book at him, Carrot.'
Vimes remembered too late.
Dwarfs have trouble with metaphors.
They also have a very good aim.
The Laws and Ordinances of Ankh and Morpork caught the secretary on the forehead. He blinked, staggered, and stepped backwards.
It was the longest step he ever took. For one thing, it lasted the rest of his life.
After several seconds they heard him hit, five storeys below.
After several more seconds their faces appeared over the edge of the ravaged floor.
'What a way to go,' said Sergeant Colon.
'That's a fact,' said Nobby, reaching up to his ear for a dog-end.
'Killed by a wossname. A metaphor.'
'Dunno,' said Nobby. 'Looks like the ground to me. Got a light, Sarge?'
'That was right, wasn't it, sir?' said Carrot anxiously. 'You said to—'
'Yes, yes,' said Vimes. 'Don't worry.' He reached down with a shaking hand, picked up the bag Wonse had been holding, and tipped out a pile of stones. Every one had a hole in it. Why? He thought.
A metallic noise behind him made him look around. The Patrician was holding the remains of the royal sword. As the captain watched, the man wrenched the other half of the sword out of the far wall. It was a clean break.
'Captain Vimes,' he said.
'That sword, if you please?'
Vimes handed it over. He couldn't, right now, think of anything else to do. He was probably due for a scorpion pit of his very own as it was.
Lord Vetinari examined the rusty blade carefully.
'How long have you had this, Captain?' he said mildly.
'Isn't mine, sir. Belongs to Lance-constable Carrot, sir.'
'Me, sir, your graciousness,' said Carrot, saluting.
The Patrician turned the blade over and over slowly, staring at it as if fascinated. Vimes felt the air thicken, as though history was clustering around this point, but for the life of him he couldn't think why. This was one of those points where the Trousers of Time bifurcated themselves, and if you weren't careful you'd go down the wrong leg –
--and the Patrician handed the sword to Carrot.Back to the Top
'Very well done, young man,' he said. 'Captain Vimes, I suggest you give your men the rest of the day off.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Vimes. 'Okay, lads. You heard his lordship.'
'But not you, Captain. We must have a little talk.'
'Yes, sir?' said Vimes innocently.
The rank scurried out, giving Vimes sympathetic and sorrowful glances.
The Patrician walked to the edge of the floor and looked down.
'Poor Wonse,' he said.
'Yes, sir.' Vimes stared at the wall.
'I would have preferred him alive, you know.'
'Misguided, yes, but a useful man. His head could have been of further use to me.
'The rest, of course, we could have thrown away.'
'That was a joke, Vimes.'
'The chap never grasped the idea of secret passages, mind you.'
'That young fellow. Carrot, you called him?'
'Keen fellow. Likes it in the Watch?'
'Yes, sir. Right at home, sir.'
'You saved my life.'
'Come with me.'
He stalked away through the ruined palace, Vimes trailing behind, until he reached the Oblong Office. It was quite tidy. It had escaped most of the devastation with nothing more than a layer of dust. The Patrician sat down, and suddenly it was as if he'd never left. Vimes wondered if he ever had.
He picked up a sheaf of papers and brushed the plaster off them.
'Sad,' he said. 'Lupine was such a tidy-minded man.'
The Patrician steepled his hands and looked at Vimes over the top of them.
'Let me give you some advice, Captain,' he said.
'It may help you make some sense of the world.'
'I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,' said the man. 'You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.'
He waved his thin hand towards the city and walked over to the window.
'A great rolling sea of evil,' he said, almost proprietorially. 'Shallower in some places, of course, but deeper, oh, so much deeper in others. But people like you put together little rafts of rules and vaguely good intentions and say, this is the opposite, this will triumph in the end. Amazing!' He slapped Vimes good-naturedly on the back.
'Down there,' he said, 'are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don't say no. I'm sorry if this offends you,' he added, patting the captain's shoulder, 'but you fellows really need us.'
'Yes, sir?' said Vimes quietly.
'Oh, yes. We're the only ones who know how to make things work. You see, the only thing the good people are good at is overthrowing the bad people. And you're good at that, I'll grant you. But the trouble is that it's the only thing you're good at. One day it's the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it's everyone sitting around complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no-one's been taking out the trash. Because the bad people know how to plan. It's part of the specification, you might say. Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world. The good people don't seem to have the knack.'
'Maybe. But you're wrong about the rest!' said Vimes. 'It's just because people are afraid, and alone—' He paused. It sounded pretty hollow, even to him.
He shrugged. 'They're just people,' he said. 'They're just doing what people do. Sir.'
Lord Vetinari gave him a friendly smile.
'Of course, of course,' he said. 'You have to believe that, I appreciate. Otherwise you'd go quite mad. Otherwise you'd think you're standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of Hell. Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death. I quite understand.' He looked at his desk, and sighed. 'And now,' he said, 'there is such a lot to do. I'm afraid poor Wonse was a good servant but an inefficient master. So you may go. Have a good night's sleep. Oh, and do bring your men in tomorrow. The city must show its gratitude.'
'It must what?' said Vimes.
The Patrician looked at a scroll. Already his voice was back to the distant tones of one who organizes and plans and controls.
'Its gratitude,' he said. 'After every triumphant victory there must be heroes. It is essential. Then everyone will know that everything has been done properly.'
He glanced at Vimes over the top of the scroll.
'It's all part of the natural order of things,' he said.
After a while he made a few pencil annotations to the paper in front of him and looked up.
'I said,' he said, 'that you may go.'
Vimes paused at the door.
'Do you believe all that, sir?' he said. 'About the endless evil and the sheer blackness?'
'Indeed, indeed,' said the Patrician, turning over the page. 'It is the only logical conclusion.'
'But you get out of bed every morning, sir?'
'Hmm? Yes? What is your point?'
'I'd just like to know why, sir.'
'Oh, do go away, Vimes. There's a good fellow.'
Colon ripped off a textbook salute for the first time in his life.
'All present and correct, sah!' he barked.
'Very good, sergeant,' said Vimes coldly. He turned to the Patrician and raised an eyebrow politely.
Lord Vetinari gave a little wave of his hand.
'Stand easy, or whatever it is you chaps do,' he said. 'I'm sure we needn't wait on ceremony here. What do you say, Captain?'
'Just as you like, sir,' said Vimes.
'Now, men,' said the Patrician, leaning forward, 'we have heard some remarkable accounts of your magnificent efforts in defence of the city…'
Vimes let his mind wander as the golden platitudes floated past. For a while he derived a certain amount of amusement from watching the faces of the Council. A whole sequence of expressions drifted across them as the Patrician spoke. It was, of course, vitally important that there be a ceremony like this. Then the whole thing could be neat and settled. And forgotten. Just another chapter in the long and exciting history of eckcetra, eckcetra. Ankh-Morpork was good at starting new chapters.
His trawling gaze fell on Lady Ramkin. She winked. Vimes's eyes swivelled front again, his expression suddenly as wooden as a plank.
'… token of our gratitude,' the Patrician finished, sitting back.
Vimes realized that everyone was looking at him.
'Pardon?' he said.
'I said, we have been trying to think of some suitable recompense, Captain Vimes. Various public-spirited citizens –' The Patrician's eyes took in the Council and Lady Ramkin, 'and, of course, myself, feel that an appropriate reward is due.'
Vimes still looked blank.
'Reward?' he said.
'It is customary for such heroic endeavour,' said the Patrician, a little testily.
Vimes faced forward again. 'Really haven't thought about it, sir,' he said. 'Can't speak for the men, of course.'
There was an awkward pause. Out of the corner of his eye, Vimes was aware of Nobby nudging the sergeant in the ribs. Eventually Colon stumbled forward and ripped of another salute. 'Permission to speak, sir,' he muttered.
The Patrician nodded graciously.
The sergeant coughed. He removed his helmet and pulled out a sheet of paper.
'Er,' he said. 'The thing is, saving your honour's presence, we think, you know, what with saving the city and everything, or sort of, or, what I mean is… we just had a go, you see, man on the spot and that sort of thing… the thing is, we reckon we're entitled. If you catch my drift.'
The assembled company nodded. This was exactly how it should be.
'Do go on,' said the Patrician.
'So we, like, put our heads together,' said the sergeant. 'A bit of a cheek, I know…'
'Please carry on, Sergeant,' said the Patrician. 'You needn't keep stopping. We are well aware of the magnitude of the matter.'
'Right, sir. Well, sir. First, it's the wages.'
'The wages?' said Lord Vetinari. He stared at Vimes, who stared at nothing.
The sergeant raised his head. His expression was the determined expression of a man who is going to see it through.
'Yes, sir,' he said. 'Thirty dollars a month. It's not right. We think—' he licked his lips and glanced behind him at the other two, who were making vague encouraging motion – 'we think a basic rate of, er, thirty-five dollars? A month?' He stared at the Patrician's stony expression. 'With increments as per rank? We thought five dollars.'
He licked his lips again, unnerved by the Patrician's expression. 'We won't go below four,' he said. 'And that's flat. Sorry, your Highness, but there it is.'
The Patrician glanced again at Vimes's impassive face, then looked back at the rank.
'That's it?' he said.
Nobby whispered in Colon's ear and then darted back. The sweating sergeant gripped his helmet as though it was the only real thing in the world.
'There was another thing, your reverence,' he said.
'Ah.' The Patrician smiled knowingly.
'There's the kettle. It wasn't much good anyway, and then Errol et it. It was nearly two dollars.' He swallowed. 'We could do with a new kettle, if it's all the same, your lordship.'
The Patrician leaned forward, gripping the arms of his chair.
'I want to be clear about this,' he said coldly. 'Are we to believe that you are asking for a petty wage increase and a domestic utensil?'
Carrot whispered in Colon's other ear.
Colon turned two bulging, watery-rimmed eyes to the dignitaries. The rim of his helmet was passing through is fingers like a millwheel.
'Well,' he began, 'sometimes, we thought, you know, when we has our dinner break, or when it's quiet, like, at the end of a watch as it may be, and we want to relax a bit, you know, wind down…' His voice trailed away.
Colon took a deep breath.
'I suppose a dartboard would be out of the question--?'
The thunderous silence that followed was broken by an erratic snorting.
Vimes's helmet dropped out of his shaking hand. His breastplate wobbled as the suppressed laughter of the years burst out in uncontrollable eruptions. He turned his face to the row of councilors and laughed and laughed and laughed until the tears came.
Laughed at the way they got up, all confusion and outraged dignity.
Laughed at the Patrician's carefully immobile expression.
Laughed for the world and the saving of souls.
Laughed and laughed, and laughed until the tears came.
Nobby craned up to reach Colon's ear.
'I told you,' he hissed. 'I said they'd never wear it. I knew a dartboard'd be pushing our luck. You've upset 'em all now.'