Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least not with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly regarded of the leaders they didn't have.
"Hoofbeats?" said Nanny Ogg. "No-one would come up
here this time of night."
Magrat peered around timidly. Here and there on the moor were huge standing stones, their origins lost in time, which were said to lead mobile and private lives of their own. She shivered.
"What's to be afraid of?" she managed.
"Us," said Granny Weatherwax, smugly.
The witches meet
obvious," said Granny. "I'll grant
you it's obvious. Trouble is, just because
things are obvious doesn't mean they're true."
come from, we don't allow witches," said the duchess sternly. "And we
don't propose to allow them here…Put matters in hand."
"Yes, my love."
Matters in hand. He'd put matters in hand all right. If he closed his eyes he could see the body tumbling down the steps. Had there been a hiss of shocked breath, down in the darkness of the hall? He'd been certain they were alone. Matters in hand! He'd tried to wash the blood off his hand. If he could wash the blood off, he told himself, it wouldn't have happened. He'd scrubbed and scrubbed. Scrubbed till he screamed.
Duke Felmet and his wife
didn't care much about what people knew and even less for what they
thought, and lived in a new, knick-knack crammed cottage in the
middle of Lancre town itself and at the heart of her own private
empire. Various daughters and daughters-in-law came in to cook and
clean on a sort of rota. Every flat surface was stuffed with
ornaments brought back by far-travelling members of the family. Sons
and grandsons kept the log-pile stacked, the roof shingled, the
chimney swept; the drinks cupboard was always full, the pouch by her
rocking chair always stuffed with tobacco. Above the hearth was a
huge pokerwork sign saying "Mother." No tyrant in the whole history
of the world had ever achieved a domination so complete.
Nanny Ogg's house
Granny was left alone. She felt embarrassed, as one always does when
left alone in someone else's room, and fought the urge to get up and
inspect the books on the shelf over the sideboard or examine the
mantelpiece for dust. She turned the crown round and round in her
hands. Again, it gave the impression of being bigger and heavier than
it actually was.
She caught sight of the mirror over the mantelpiece and looked down at the crown. It was tempting. It was practically begging her to try it for size. Well, and why not? She made sure that the others weren't around and then, in one movement, whipped off her hat and placed the crown on her head.
It seemed to fit. Granny drew herself up proudly, and waved a hand imperiously in the general direction of the hearth.
"Jolly well do this," she said. She beckoned arrogantly at the grandfather clock. "Chop his head off, what ho," she commanded. She smiled grimly.
And froze as she heard the screams, and the thunder of horses, and the deadly whisper of arrows and the damp, solid sound of spears in flesh. Charge after charge echoed across her skull. Sword met shield, or sword, or bone-- relentlessly. Years streamed across her mind in the space of a second. There were times when she lay among the dead, or hanging from the branch of a tree; but always there were hands that would pick her up again, and place her on a velvet cushion . . .
Granny very carefully lifted the crown off her head--it was an effort, it didn't like it much--and laid it on the table.
"So that's being a king for you, is it?" she said softly. "I wonder why they all want the job?"
Granny tries on the crown of Lancre
complexities of the marital relationship were known to Granny only
from a distance, in the same way that an astronomer can view the
surface of a remote and alien world, but it had already occurred to
her that a wife to Vitoller would have to be a very special woman
with bottomless reserves of patience and organizational ability and
"Mrs Vitoller," she said eventually, "may I make so bold as to ask if your union has been blessed with fruit?"
The couple looked blank.
"She means--" Nanny Ogg began.
"No, I see," said Mrs Vitoller, quietly. "No. We had a little girl once."
A small cloud hung over the table. For a second or two Vitoller looked merely human-sized, and much older. He stared at the small pile of cash in front of him.
"Only, you see, there is this child," said Granny, indicating the baby in Nanny Ogg's arms. "And he needs a home."
The Vitollers stared. Then the man sighed.
"It is no life for a child," he said. "Always moving. Always a new town. And no room for schooling. They say that's very important these days." But his eyes didn't look away.
Mrs Vitoller said, "Why does he need a home?"
"He hasn't got one," said Granny. "At least, not one where he would be welcome."
The silence continued. Then Mrs Vitoller said, "And you, who ask this, you are by way of being his--?"
"Godmothers," said Nanny Ogg promptly. Granny was slightly taken aback. It never would have occurred to her.
Vitoller played abstractly with the coins in front of him. His wife reached out across the table and touched his hand, and there was a moment of unspoken communion. Granny looked away. She had grown expert at reading faces, but there were times when she preferred not to.
"Money is, alas, tight--" Vitoller began.
"But it will stretch," said his wife firmly.
"Yes. I think it will. We should be happy to take care of him."
Granny nodded, and fished in the deepest recesses of her cloak. At last she produced a small leather bag, which she tipped out on to the table. There was a lot of silver, and even a few tiny gold coins.
"This should take care of--" she groped-- "nappies and suchlike. Clothes and things. Whatever."
"A hundred times over, I should think," said Vitoller weakly. "Why didn't you mention this before?"
"If I'd had to buy you, you wouldn't be worth the price."
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax find a home for the baby
swung open. The duchess filled the doorway. In fact, she was nearly
the same shape.
"Leonal!" she barked.
The Fool was fascinated by what happened to the duke's eyes. The mad red flame vanished, was sucked backwards, and was replaced by the hard blue stare he had come to recognize. It didn't mean, he realized, that the duke was any less mad. Even the coldness of his sanity was madness in a way. The duke had a mind that ticked like a clock and, like a clock, it regularly went cuckoo.
The fool, the Duke, and the duchess
No fire had
been lit under the copper for ten years. Its bricks were crumbling,
and rare ferns grew around the firebox. The water under the lid was
inky black and, according to rumor, bottomless; the Ogg grandchildren
were encouraged to believe that monsters from the dawn of time dwelt
in its depths, since Nanny believed that a bit of thrilling and
pointless terror was an essential ingredient of the magic of
Nanny Ogg's washhouse
said Granny. "What can I do about it? It's no good you coming to me.
He's the new lord. This is his kingdom. I can't go meddling. It's not
right to go meddling, on account of
I can't interfere with people ruling. It has to sort itself out, good
or bad. Fundamental rule of magic, is that. You can't go round ruling
people with spells, because you'd have to use more and more spells
all the time." She sat back, grateful that long-standing tradition
didn't allow the Crafty and the Wise to rule. She remembered what it
had felt like to wear the crown, even for a few seconds.
Lancre implores Granny to meddle
grumbling actors awoke from the spell and wandered back to the shafts
of the lattys Vitoller beckoned to the dwarf and put his arm around
his shoulders, or rather around the top of his head.
"Well?" he said. "You people know all about magic, or so it is said. What do you make of it?"
"He spends all his time around the stage, master. It's only natural that he should pick things up," said Hwel vaguely.
Vitoller leaned down.
"Do you believe that?"
"I believe I heard a voice that took my doggerel and shaped it and fired it back through my ears and straight into my heart," said Hwel simply. "I believe I heard a voice that got behind the crude shape of the words and said the things I had meant them to say, but had not the skill to achieve. Who knows where such things come from?"
Tomjon speaks his first words
man," said Nanny, "you will oblige me by shutting up."
"Madam! I am a king!"
"You are also dead, so I wouldn't aspire to hold any opinions if I was you. Now just be quiet and wait, like a good boy."
Against all his instincts, the king found himself obeying. There was no gainsaying that tone of voice. It spoke to him across the years, from his days in the nursery. Its echoes told him that if he didn't eat it all up he would be sent straight to bed.
Nanny and the ghost of King Verence
a witch, are you?" he said, fumbling awkwardly with his pike.
"Of course not. Do I look like one?"
The guard looked at her occult bangles, her lined cloak, her trembling hands and her face. The face was particularly worrying. Magrat had used a lot of powder to make her face pale and interesting. It combined with the lavishly applied mascara to give the guard the impression that he was looking at two flies that had crashed into a sugar bowl. He found his fingers wanted to make a sign to ward off the evil eyeshadow.
"Right," he said uncertainly. His mind was grinding through the problem. She was a witch. Just lately there'd been a lot of gossip about witches being bad for your health. He'd been told not to let witches pass, but no-one had said anything about apple sellers. Apple sellers were not a problem. It was witches that were the problem. She'd said she was an apple seller and he wasn't about to doubt a witch's word.
A guard at Lancre castle
stared at him. She hadn't faced anything like this before. The man
was clearly mad, but at the heart of his madness was a dreadful cold
sanity, a core of pure interstellar ice in the centre of the furnace.
She'd thought him weak under a thin shell of strength, but it went a
lot further than that. Somewhere deep inside his mind, somewhere
beyond the event horizon of rationality, the sheer pressure of
insanity had hammered his madness into something harder than
'If you defeat me by magic, magic will rule," said the duke. "And you can't do it. And any king raised with your help would be under your power. Hag-ridden, I might say. That which magic rules, magic destroys. It would destroy you, too. You know it. Ha. Ha."
Granny's knuckles whitened as he moved closer.
"You could strike me down," he said. "And perhaps you could find someone to replace me. But he would have to be a fool indeed, because he would know he was under your evil eye, and if he mispleased you, why, his life would be instantly forfeit. You could protest all you wished, but he'd know he ruled with your permission. And that would make him no king at all. Is this not true?"
Granny looked away. The other witches hung back, ready to duck.
"I said, is this not true?"
"Yes," said Granny. "It is true . . ."
The witches face Duke Felmet
happened to the rule about not meddling in politics?" said Magrat,
watching her retreating back.
"Ah," said Nanny. She took the girl's arm. "The thing is," she explained, "as you progress in the Craft, you'll learn there is another rule. Esme's obeyed it all her life."
"And what's that?"
"When you break rules, break 'em good and hard," said Nanny, and grinned a set of gums that were more menacing than teeth.
Nanny and Magrat
Aliss] never sent the castle to sleep," said Granny. "That's just an
old wives' tale," she added, glaring at Nanny. "She just stirred up
time a little. It's not as hard as people think. Everyone does it all
the time. It's like rubber, is time. You can stretch it to suit
Magrat was about to say, that's not right, time is time, every second lasts a second, that's what it's for, that's its job . . .
And then she recalled weeks that had flown past and afternoons that had lasted forever. Some minutes had lasted hours, some hours had gone past so quickly she hadn't been aware they'd gone past at all . . .
"But that's just people's perception," she said. "Isn't it?"
"Oh, yes," said Granny, "of course it is. It all is. What difference does that make?"
Granny and Magrat
whirled away in the buffeting wind, clinging tightly to a broomstick
which now, she feared, had about as much buoyancy as a bit of
firewood. It certainly wasn't capable of sustaining a full-grown
woman against the beckoning fingers of gravity.
As she plunged down towards the forest roof in a long shallow dive she reflected that there was possibly something complimentary in the way Granny Weatherwax resolutely refused to consider other people's problems. It implied that, in her considerable opinion, they were quite capable of sorting them out by themselves.
thought: Nanny said look at him properly. I'm looking at him. He just
looks the same. A sad thin little man in a ridiculous jester's
outfit, he's practically a hunchback.
Then, in the same way that a few random bulges in a cloud can suddenly become a galleon or a whale in the eye of the beholder, Magrat realised that the Fool was not a little man. He was at least of average height, but he made himself small, by hunching his shoulders, bandying his legs and walking in a half-crouch that made him appear as though he was capering on the spot.
I wonder what else Gytha Ogg noticed? she thought, intrigued.
Magrat and Verence, the fool
[Granny] looked down at a landscape of sudden death and jagged
beauty, and knew it was looking back at her, as a dozing man may
watch a mosquito. She wondered if it realised what she was doing. She
wondered if it'd make her fall any softer, and mentally scolded
herself for such softness. No, the land wasn't like that. It didn't
bargain. The land gave hard, and took hard. A dog always bit deepest
on the veterinary hand.
Granny flies over Lancre
In his dreams gods rose and fell, ships moved with cunning and art across canvas oceans, pictures jumped and ran together and became flickering images; men flew on wires, flew without wires, great ships of illusion fought against one another in imaginary skies, seas opened, ladies were sawn in half, a thousand special effects men giggled and gibbered. Through it all he ran with his arms open in desperation, knowing that none of this really existed or ever would exist and all he really had was a few square yards of planking, some canvas and some paint on which to trap the beckoning images that invaded his head.
Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.
Hwel the dwarf dreams
happened to not meddling?" she [Magrat] said.
"Well, see, all this not meddling business is fine in the normal course of things," she said. "Not meddling is easy when you don't have to. And then I've got the family to think about. Our Jason's been in a couple of fights because of what people have been saying. Our Shawn was thrown out of the army. The way I see it, when we get the new king in, he should owe us a few favours. It's only fair."
"But only last week you were saying--" Magrat stopped, shocked at this display of pragmatism.
"A week is a long time in magic," said Nanny. "Fifteen years, for one thing. Anyway, Esme is determined and I'm in no mood to stop her."
"So what you're saying," said Magrat, icily, "is that this 'not meddling' thing is like taking a vow not to swim. You'll absolutely never break it unless of course you happen to find yourself in the water?"
"Better than drowning," Nanny said.
Nanny Ogg and Magrat
subsided into unaccustomed, troubled silence, and tried to listen to
the prologue. The theatre worried her. It had a magic of its own, one
that didn't belong to her, one that wasn't in her control. It changed
the world, and said things were otherwise than they were. And it was
worse than that. It was magic that didn't belong to magical people.
It was commanded by ordinary people, who didn't know the rules. They
altered the world because it sounded better.
turned slowly in her seat to look at the audience. They were staring
at the performance, their faces rapt. The words washed over them in
the breathless air. This was real. This was more real even than
reality. This was history. It might not be true, but that had nothing
to do with it.
Granny had never had much time for words. They were so insubstantial. Now she wished that she had found the time. Words were indeed insubstantial. They were as soft as water, but they were also as powerful as water and now they were rushing over the audience, eroding the levees of veracity, and carrying away the past.
That's us down there, she thought. Everyone knows who we really are, but the things down there are what they'll remember--three gibbering old baggages in pointy hats. All we've ever done, all we've ever been, won't exist any more.
Whoever wrote this Theatre knew about the uses of magic. Even I believe what's happening, and I know there's no truth in it.
Weatherwax was often angry. She considered it one of her strong
points. Genuine anger was one of the world's great creative forces.
But you had to learn how to control it. That didn't mean you let it
trickle away. It meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a
working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just
when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny
pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard stream of wrath power the
turbines of revenge.
something here, he [Death] thought, that nearly belonged to the gods.
Humans had built a world inside the world, which reflected it in
pretty much the same way as a drop of water reflects the landscape.
And yet . . . and yet . . .
Inside this little world they had taken pains to put all the things, you might think they would want to escape from--hatred, fear, tyranny, and so forth. Death was intrigued. They thought they wanted to be taken out of themselves, and every art humans dreamt up took them further in.
Death visits the theatre
frighten me, wyrd sisters," said the duchess.
Granny stared her in the eye for a few seconds. She gave a grunt of surprise.
"You're right," she said. "We really don't, do we . . ."
"Do you think I haven't studied you? Your witchcraft is all artifice and illusion, to amaze weak minds. It holds no fears for me. Do your worst."
Granny studied her for a while.
"My worst?" she said, eventually. Magrat and Nanny Ogg shuffled gently out of her way.
The duchess laughed.
"You're clever," she said. "I'll grant you that much. And quick. Come on, hag. Bring on your toads and demons, I'll . . ."
She stopped, her mouth opening and shutting a bit without any words emerging. Her lips drew back in a rictus of terror, her eyes looked beyond Granny, beyond the world, towards something else. One knuckled hand flew to her mouth and she made a little whimpering noise. She froze, like a rabbit that has just seen a stoat and knows, without any doubt, that it is the last stoat that it will ever see.
"What have you done to her?" said Magrat, the first to dare to speak. Granny smirked.
"Headology," said Granny, and smirked. "You don't need any Black Aliss magic for it."
"Yes, but what have you done?"
"No-one becomes like she is without building walls inside their head," she said. "I've just knocked them down. Every scream. Every plea. Every pang of guilt. Every twinge of conscience. All at once. There's a little trick to it."
She gave Magrat a condescending smile. "I'll show you one day, if you like."
Magrat thought about it. "It's horrible," she said.
"Nonsense," Granny smiled terribly. "Everyone wants to know their true self. Now, she does."
Granny, Magrat, and the Duchess
gawping idiots!" she said. "You're so weak. You really think that people
are basically decent underneath, don't you?"
The crowd on the stage backed away from the sheer force of her exultation.
"Well, I've looked underneath," said the duchess. "I know what drives people. It's fear. Sheer, deep-down fear. There's not one of you who doesn't fear me. I can make you widdle your drawers out of terror, and now I'm going to take--"
At this point Nanny Ogg hit her on the back of the head with the cauldron.
"She does go on, doesn't she?" she said conversationally, as the duchess collapsed. "She was a bit eccentric, if you ask me."
The Duchess and Nanny Ogg
bound to be truthful," she said. "But there's no call to be
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 only
being able to count to nine.
Van Pew meets with the Patrician
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, simply relieved 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.
Van Pew, Head of the Thieves' Guild
Patrician disliked the word 'dictator.' It affronted him. He never
told anyone what to do. He didn't have to, that was the wonderful
part. A large part of his life consisted of arranging matters so that
this state of affairs continued.
Of course, there were various groups seeking his overthrow, and this was right and proper and the sign of a vigorous and healthy society. No-one could call him unreasonable about the matter. Why, hadn't he founded most of them himself? And what was so beautiful was the way they spent nearly all their time bickering with one another.
Human nature, the Patrician always said, was a marvelous thing. Once you understood where its levers were.
Lord Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork
amazing, this mystic business. You tell them a lie, and then when you
don't need it any more you tell them another lie and tell them
they're progressing along the road to wisdom. Then instead of
laughing they follow you even more, hoping that at the heart of all
the lies they'll find the truth. And bit by bit they accept the
The Supreme Grand Master reflects
dragon's] eyes were the size of very large eyes, coloured a
smouldering red and filled with an intelligence that had nothing to
do with human beings. It was far older, for one thing. It was an
intelligence that had already been long basted in guile and marinated
in cunning by the time a group of almost-monkeys were wondering
whether standing on two legs was a good career move. It wasn't an
intelligence that had any truck with, or even understood, the arts of
It wouldn't play with you, or ask you riddles. But it understood all about arrogance and power and cruelty and if it could possibly manage it, it would burn your head off. Because it liked to.
Vimes sees the dragon
stupid, sometimes. They thought the Library was a dangerous place
because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what
made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be
was the simple fact that it was a library.
The Unseen University Library
paused, and looked at them. The head assassin said later that he had
looked into the eyes of many men who, obviously, were very near
death, but he had never looked into eyes that were so clearly and
unmistakably looking back at him from the slopes of Hell. He hoped he
would never, he said, ever have to look into eyes like that
"I am referring," said Wonse, each word coming slowly to the surface like bubbles in some quicksand, "to the matter of … the king's … diet."
There was a terrible silence. They heard the faint rustle of wings behind them and the shadows in the corners of the hall grew darker and seemed to close in.
"Diet," said the head thief, in a hollow voice.
"Yes," said Wonse. His voice was almost a squeak. Sweat was dripping down his face. The head assassin had once head the word "rictus" and wondered when you should use it correctly to describe someone's expression, and now he knew. That was what Wonse's face had become; it was the ghastly rictus of someone trying not to hear the words his own mouth was saying.
"The precise nature of the meal--" the head thief began, almost choking on the words. "Are we talking about young maidens here?"
"Sheer prejudice," said Wonse. "The age is immaterial. Marital status is, of course, of importance. And social class. Something to do with the flavour, I believe." He leaned forward, and now his voice was pain-filled and urgent and, they felt, genuinely his own for the first time. "Please consider it," he hissed. "After all, just one a month! In exchange for so much! …"
The silence purred at them as Wonse talked. They avoided one another's faces, for fear of what they might see mirrored there. Each man thought: one of the others is bound to say something soon, some protest, and then I'll murmur agreement, not actually say anything, I'm not as stupid as that, but definitely murmur very firmly, so that the others will be in no doubt that I thoroughly disapprove, because at a time like this it behooves all decent men to nearly stand up and be almost heard…
But no-one said anything. The cowards, each man thought.
The city leaders meet.
going through his [the head assassin's] mind were Wonse's last words,
as he shook the secretary's limp hand. He wondered if anyone else had
heard them. Unlikely … they'd been a shape rather than a sound. Wonse
had simply moved his lips around them while staring fixedly at the
assassin's moon-tanned face.
The assassin shivered. Why him? As far as he could see there was only one kind of help he was qualified to give … He wondered what was happening to Wonse that made any alternative seem better…
The guild leaders leave the meeting
up his finger-spread hands in a concil-iatory fashion. "Of course, of
course," he said. "But there are ways and ways, you know. Ways and
ways. All the roaring and flaming, you see, you don't need it . .
Foolish ape! How else can I make them do my bidding ?
Wonse put his hands behind his back.
"They'll do it of their own free will," he said. "And in time, they'll come to believe it was their own idea. It'll be a tradition. Take it from me. We humans are adaptable creatures."
The dragon gave him a long, blank stare.
"In fact," said Wonse, trying to keep the trembling out of his voice, "before too long, if someone comes along and tells them that a dragon king is a bad idea, they'll kill him themselves."
The dragon blinked.
For the first time Wonse could remember, it seemed uncertain.
"I know people, you see," said Wonse, simply.
The dragon continued to pin him with its gaze.
If you are lying ... it thought, eventually.
"You know I can't. Not to you."
And they really act like this?
"Oh, yes. All the time. It's a basic human trait."
Wonse knew the dragon could read at least the upper levels of his mind. They resonated in terrible har-mony. And he could see the mighty thoughts behind the eyes in front of him.
The dragon was horrified.
"I'm sorry," said Wonse weakly. "That's just how we are. It's all to do with survival, I think."
There will be no mighty warriors sent to kill me? it thought, almost plaintively.
"I don't think so."
"Not any more. They cost too much."
But I will be eating people!
He felt the sensation of the dragon rummaging around in his mind, trying to find a clue to understanding. He half-saw, half-sensed the flicker of random images, of dragons, of the mythical age of reptiles and--and here he felt the dragon's genuine astonishment--of some of the less commendable areas of human history, which were most of it. And after the astonishment came the baffled anger. There was practically nothing the dragon could do to people that they had not, sooner or later, tried on one another, often with enthusiasm.
You have the effrontery to be squeamish, it thought at him. But we were dragons. We were supposed to be cruel, cunning, heartless, and terrible. But this much I can tell you, you ape - the great face pressed even closer, so that Wonse was staring into the pitiless depths of his eyes - we never burned and tortured and ripped one another apart and called it morality.
Wonse and the Dragon
yourself," said the little man primly. "But I reckon one person a
month is pretty good compared to some rulers we've had. Anyone
remember Nersh the Lunatic? Or Giggling Lord Smince and his
There was a certain amount of mumbling of the "he's got a point" variety.
"But they got overthrown!" said Colon.
"No they didn't. They were assassinated."
"Same thing," said Colon. "I mean, no-one's going to assassinate the dragon. It'd take more than a dark night and a sharp knife to see it off, I know that.''
I can see what the captain means, he thought. No wonder he always has a drink after he thinks about things. We always beat ourselves before we even start. Give any Ankh-Morpork man a big stick and he'll end up clubbing himself to death.
The citizens discuss the dragon/king's diet
you, dragon, the human spirit is--"
They never found out what it was, or at least what he thought it was, although possibly in the dark hours of a sleepless night some of them might have remembered the subsequent events and formed a pretty good and gut-churning insight, to whit, that one of the things sometimes forgotten about the human spirit is that while it is, in the right conditions, noble and brave and wonderful, it is also, when you get right down to it, only human.
The dragon/king hears a citizen dissenting
can't give me my job back."
"I can!" said Wonse. "I can, and you needn't just be captain--"
"You can't give me my job back," repeated Vimes. "It was never yours to take away. I was never an officer of the city, or an officer of the king, or an officer of the Patrician. I was an officer of the law. It might have been corrupted and bent, but it was law, of a sort. There isn't any law now except: 'you'll get burned alive if you don't watch out'. Where's the place in there for me?"
Vimes and Wonse
thought, " added the captain sarcastically, "you'd have thought that
the king is hardly going to want other dragons dead, is he? They're
probably distant relatives or something. I mean, it wouldn't want us
to go around killing its own kind, would it?''
"Well, sir, people do, sir," said the guard sulkily.
"Ah, well," said the captain. "That's different." He tapped the side of his helmet meaningfully. "That's 'cos we're intelligent."
The palace guards
remembered hearing once about a man who, locked up in a cell for
years, trained little birds and created 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
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 as 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.
Vimes meets the Patrician in the dungeon
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
"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."
Vimes and the Patrician
[palace guards] bound to come in and check, though?" said Vimes
"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 a perfectly normal dungeon door, but it all depended on your sense of perspective.
In 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.
dragon] been arrested, he thought, as he pushed his way forward.
Personally I would have preferred it to drop in the sea, but it's
been arrested and now we've got to deal with it or let it go
He felt his own feelings about the bloody thing evaporate in the face of the mob. What could you do with it? Give it a fair trial, he thought, and then exe-cute it. Not kill it. That's what heroes do out in the wilderness. You can't think like that in cities. Or rather, you can, but if you're going to then you might as well burn the whole place down right now and start again. You ought to do it ... well, by the book.
That's it. We tried everything else. Now we might as well try and do it by the book.
Anyway, he added mentally, that's a city guard up there. We've got to stick together. Nobody else will have anything to do with us.
Vimes, when Carrot arrests the dragon
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
"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--
The Patrician meets Lance-constable Carrot
give you some advice, Captain," he [the Patrician] 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.
"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. …"
Vimes and the Patrician
A couple of
women were moving purposefully among the boxes. Ladies, rather. They
were far too untidy to be mere women. No ordinary women would have
dreamed of looking so scruffy; you needed the complete
self-confidence that comes with knowing who your
great-great-great-great-grandfather was before you could wear clothes
like that. But they were, Vimes noticed, incredibly good clothes, or
had been once; clothes bought by one's parents, but so expensive and
of such good quality that they never wore out and were handed down,
like old china and silverware and gout.
Vimes squinted at the card as the women crunched off down the drive, carrying nets and ropes.
It said: Brenda, Lady Rodley. The Dower House, Quirm Castle, Quirm. What it meant, he realized, was that strid-ing away down the path like an animated rummage stall was the dowager Duchess of Quirm, who owned more country than you could see from a very high mountain on a very clear day. Nobby would not have approved. There seemed to be a special land of poverty that only the very, very rich could possibly afford . . .
That was how you got to be a power in the land, he thought. You never cared a toss about whatever anyone else thought and you were never, ever, uncertain about anything.
Vimes at Lady Ramkin's house
[Sergeant Colon ] said something else," she said. "What was it, now?
Oh, yes: 'It's a million to one chance'," said Lady Ramkin, "I think
he said, 'but it might just work'.''
She smiled at him.
And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at. She couldn't do worse, but then, he couldn't do better. So maybe it balanced out. She wasn't getting any younger but then, who was? And she had style and money and common-sense and self-assurance and all the things that he didn't, and she had opened her heart, and if you let her she could engulf you; the woman was a city.
And eventually, under siege, you did what Ankh-Morpork had always done--unbar the gates, let the conquerors in, and make them your own.
How did you start? She seemed to be expecting something.
He shrugged, and picked up his wine glass and sought for a phrase. One crept into his wildly resonating mind.
"Here's looking at you, kid," he said.
Vimes and Lady Ramkin
"No, but I
mean, there's nothing special about having an ancient sword," said
Carrot. "Or a birthmark. I mean, look at me. I've got a birthmark on
"My brother's got one, too," said Colon. "Shaped like a boat."
"Mine's more like a crown thing," said Carrot.
"Oho, that makes you a king, then," grinned Nobby. "Stands to reason."
"I don't see why. My brother's not an admiral," said Colon reasonably.
"And I've got this sword," said Carrot.
He drew it. Colon took it from his hand, and turned it over and over in the light from the flare over the Drum's door. The blade was dull and short, and notched like a saw. It was well-made and there might have been an inscription on it once, but it had long ago been worn into indecipherability by sheer use.
"It's a nice sword," he said thoughtfully. "Well-balanced."
"But not one for a king," said Carrot. "Kings' swords are big and shiny and magical and have jewels on and when you hold them up they catch the light, ting."
"Ting," said Colon. "Yes. I suppose they have to, really."
"I'm just saying you can't go round giving people thrones just because of stuff like that," said Carrot. "That's what Captain Vimes said."
"Nice job, mind," said Nobby. "Good hours, king-ing."
"Hmm?" Colon had momentarily been lost in a little world of speculation. Real kings had shiny swords, obviously. Except, except, except maybe your real real king of, like, days of yore, he would have a sword that didn't sparkle one bit but was bloody efficient at cutting things. Just a thought.
"I say kinging's a good job," Nobby repeated. "Short hours."
"Yeah. Yeah. But not long days," said Colon. He gave Carrot a thoughtful look.
"Ah. There's that, of course."
"Anyway, my father says being king's too much like hard work," said Carrot. "All the surveying and assaying and everything." He drained his pint. "It's not the kind of thing for the likes of us. Us-" he looked proudly- "guards. You all right, Sergeant?"
"Hmm? What? Oh. Yes." Colon shrugged. What about it, anyway? Maybe things turned out for the best. He finished the beer. "Best be off," he said. "What time was it?"
"About twelve o'clock," said Carrot.
Carrot gave it some thought. "And all's well?" he said.
"Right. Just testing."
"You know," said Nobby, "the way you say it, lad, you could almost believe it was true."
The Guard relaxing
suddenly dawned on the late Windle Poons that there was no such thing
as somebody else's problem, and that just when you thought the world
had pushed you aside it turned out to be full of strangeness. He knew
from experience that the living never found out half of what was
really happening, because they were too busy being the living. The
onlooker sees most of the game, he told himself.
It was the living who ignored the strange and wonderful, because life was too full of the boring and mundane.
The late Windle Poons
considered his options. The chicken had focused one beady eye on him.
Chickens are a lot more stupid than humans, and don't have the
sophisticated mental filters that prevent them seeing what is truly
there. It knew where it was and who was looking at it.
He looked into its small and simple life and saw the last few seconds pouring away.
He'd never killed. He'd taken life, but only when it was finished with. There was a difference between theft and stealing by finding.
NOT THE CLEAVER, he said wearily. GIVE ME THE CHICKEN.
He turned his back for a moment, then handed the limp body to Miss Flitworth.
"Well done." she said, and went back to the kitchen.
He swivelled round.
The small child of the house was watching him with the most penetrating gaze he had ever seen.
"You are a skelington, aren't you," she said. "l can tell, because of the bones."
YOU ARE MISTAKEN, SMALL CHILD.
"You are. People turn into skelingtons when they're dead. They're not supposed to walk around afterwards."
HA. HA. HA. WILL YOU HARK AT THE CHILD.
"Why are you walking around, then?"
Bill Door looked at the old men. They appeared engrossed in the sport.
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT, he said desperately, IF YOU WILL GO AWAY, I WILL GIVE YOU A HALF-PENNY.
"I've got a skelington mask for when we go trickle-treating on Soul Cake Night," she said. "It's made of paper. You get given sweets."
Bill Door made the mistake millions of people had tried before with small children in slightly similar circumstances. He resorted to reason.
LOOK, he said, IF I WAS REALLY A SKELETON, LITTLE GIRL, I'M SURE THESE OLD GENTLEMEN HERE WOULD HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT.
She regarded the old men at the other end of the bench.
"They're nearly skelingtons anyway," she said. "I shouldn't think they'd want to see another one."
He gave in.
I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT YOU ARE RIGHT ON THAT POINT.
Death and a child
Belief is one of the most powerful organic forces in the multiverse. It may not be able to move mountains, exactly. But it can create someone who can.
walked back home thoughtfully.
There was a light on in the farmhouse kitchen, but he went straight to the barn, climbed the ladder to the hay-loft, and lay down.
He could put off dreaming, but he couldn't escape remembering.
He stared at the darkness.
After a while he was aware of the pattering of feet. He turned.
A stream of pale rat-shaped ghosts skipped along the roof beam above his head, fading as they ran so that soon there was nothing but the sound of the scampering.
They were followed by a . . . shape.
It was about six inches high. It wore a black robe. It held a small scythe in one skeletal paw. A bone-white nose with brittle grey whiskers protruded from the shadowy hood.
Bill Door reached out and picked it up. It didn't resist, but stood on the palm of his hand and eyed him as one professional to another.
Bill Door said: AND YOU ARE --?
The Death of Rats nodded.
I REMEMBER, said Bill Door, WHEN YOU WERE A PART OF ME.
The Death of Rats squeaked again.
Bill Door fumbled in the pockets of his overall. He'd put some of his lunch in there. Ah, yes.
I EXPECT, he said, THAT YOU COULD MURDER A PIECE OF CHEESE?
The Death of Rats took it graciously.
Bill Door remembered visiting an old man once - only once - who had spent almost his entire life locked in a cell in a tower for some alleged crime or other, and had tamed little birds for company during his life sentence. They crapped on his bedding and ate his food, but he tolerated them and smiled at their flight in and out of the high barred windows. Death had wondered, at the time, why anyone would do something like that.
I WON'T DELAY YOU, he said. I EXPECT YOU'VE GOT THINGS TO DO. RATS TO SEE. I KNOW HOW IT IS.
And now he understood.
He put the figure back on the beam, and lay down in the hay.
DROP IN ANY TIME YOU'RE PASSING.
Bill Door stared at the darkness again.
Sleep. He could feel her prowling around. Sleep, with a pocketful of dreams.
He lay in the darkness and fought back.
still in there," said Miss Flitworth. "Is that what he said?"
Flames curtained every upper window.
"There's got to be some way," said Miss Flitworth. "Maybe we could find a ladder--"
WE SHOULD NOT.
"What? We've got to try. We can't leave people in there!"
YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, said Bill Door. TO TINKER WITH THE FATE OF ONE INDIVIDUAL COULD DESTROY THE WHOLE WORLD.
Miss FIitworth looked at him as if he had gone mad.
"What kind of garbage is that?"
I MEAN THAT THERE IS A TIME FOR EVERYONE TO DIE.
She stared. Then she drew her hand back. and gave him a ringing slap across the face.
He was harder than she'd expected. She yelped and sucked at her knuckles.
"You leave my farm tonight, Mr. Bill Door," she growled. "Understand?" Then she turned on her heel and ran towards the pump.
Some of the men had brought long hooks to drag the burning thatch off the roof. Miss Flitworth organized a team to get a ladder up to one of the bedroom windows but, by the time a man was persuaded to climb it behind the steaming protection of a damp blanket, the top of the ladder was already smouldering.
Bill Door watched the flames.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the golden timer. The firelight glowed redly on the glass. He put it away again.
Bill Door reached back into his pocket and took out the timer again. Its hissing drowned out the roar of the flames.
The future flowed into the past, and there was a lot more past than there was future, but he was struck by the fact that what it flowed through all the time was now.
He replaced it carefully.
Death knew that to tinker with the fate of one individual could destroy the whole world. He knew this. The knowledge was built into him.
To Bill Door, he realized, it was so much horse elbows.
OH, DAMN, he said. And walked into the fire.
Mrs. Flitworth and Death/Bill Door
BECAUSE SOMETHING IS A METAPHOR DOESN'T MEAN IT CAN'T BE REAL.
Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it's wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.
KNOW THERE IS NO GOOD ORDER EXCEPT THAT WHICH WE CREATE...
THERE IS NO HOPE BUT US. THERE IS NO MERCY BUT US. THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS JUST US.
ALL THINGS THAT ARE, ARE OURS. BUT WE MUST CARE. FOR IF WE DO NOT CARE, WE DO NOT EXIST. IF WE DO NOT EXIST, THEN THERE IS NOTHING BUT BLIND OBLIVION.
AND EVEN OBLIVION MUST END ONE DAY. LORD, WILL YOU GRANT ME JUST A LITTLE TIME? FOR THE PROPER BALANCE OF THINGS. TO RETURN WHAT WAS GIVEN. FOR THE SAKE OF PRISONERS AND THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS.
LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?
…as is generally the case around the time a prophet is expected, the Church redoubled its efforts to be holy. This was very much like the bustle you get in any large concern when the auditors are expected, but tended towards taking people suspected of being less holy and putting them to death in a hundred ingenious ways. This is considered a reliable barometer of the state of one's piety in most of the really popular religions. There's a tendency to declare that there's more backsliding around than in the national toboggan championships, that heresy must be torn out root and branch, and even arm and leg and eye and tongue, and that it's time to wipe the slate clean. Blood is generally considered very efficient for this purpose.
what your skills, there was a place for you in the Citadel.
And if your skill lay in asking the wrong kinds of questions or losing the righteous kind of wars, the place might just be the furnaces of purity, or the Quisition's pits of justice.
A place for everyone. And everyone in their place.
things to suggest to a thinking man that the Creator of mankind had a
very oblique sense of fun indeed, and to breed in his heart a rage to
storm the gates of heaven.
The mugs for example. The inquisitors stopped work twice a day for coffee. Their mugs, which each man had brought from home, were grouped around the kettle on the hearth of the central furnace which incidentally heated the irons and knives.
They had legends on them like A Present From the Holy Grotto of Ossory, or To The World's Greatest Daddy.
And there were the postcards on the wall. It was traditional that, when an inquisitor went on holiday, he'd send back a crudely colored woodcut of the local view… And there was the pinned-up tearful message from Inquisitor First Class Ishmale "Pop" Quoom, thanking all the lads for collecting no fewer than seventy-eight obols for his retirement present and the lovely bunch of flowers for Mrs. Quoom…
And it all meant this: that there are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
Vorbis loved knowing that. A man who knew that, knew everything he needed to know about people.
up knowing that Om's eyes were on him all the time, especially in
places like the privy, and that demons assailed him on all sides and
were only kept at bay by the strength of his belief and the weight of
grandmother's cane, which was kept behind the door on those rare
occasions when it was not being used… He knew all the Laws and the
Songs. Especially the Laws.
The Omnians were a God-fearing people.
They had a great deal to fear.
course, no one could possibly doubt the wisdom of a war to further
the worship and glory of the Great God."
"No. None could doubt it," said Fri'it, who had walked across many a battlefield the day after a glorious victory, when you had ample time to see what winning meant. The Omnians forbade the use of all drugs. At times like that the prohibition hit hard, when you dared not go to sleep for fear of your dreams.
Drunah and Fri'it
…everyone recognized Vorbis the exquisitor. Something about him projected itself on your conscience within a few days of your arrival at the Citadel. The God was merely to be feared in the perfunctory ways of habit, but Vorbis was dreaded.
It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong… It is used. And one of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual.
Because if this was not the case, then human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing big stupid grins… They'd say "Wow!" a lot. And no one would do much work.
do anything you wanted to," said Brutha.
Om looked up at Brutha.
He really believes, he thought. He doesn't know how to lie.
The strength of Brutha's belief burned in him like a flame.
And then the truth hit Om like the ground hits tortoises after an attack of eagles.
…the thing about Brutha's flame of belief was this: in all the citadels, in all the day, it was the only one the god had found.
Brutha the novice and Om
When the least they could do to you was everything, then the most they could do to you suddenly held no terror.
remembered a story from his childhood…. It was about what happened
when you died…the journey of your soul.
They said: you must walk a desert…
"What is this place?" he said hoarsely.
THIS IS NO PLACE, said Death.
"What is at the end of the desert?"
…with your beliefs…
The memory stole over him: a desert is what you think it is. And now, you can think clearly.
There were no lies here. All fancies fled away. That's what happened in all deserts. It was just you, and what you believed.
What have I always believed?
That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.
You couldn't get that on a banner. But the desert looked better already.
Fri'it and Death
first man to hear the voice of Om, and who gave Om his view of
humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different
ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have
For sheep are stupid and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent and have to be led.
never talk about glorious victories. That's because they're the ones
who see what the battlefield looks like afterwards. It's only the
losers who have glorious victories."
…onto a calm sea.
The storm still raged, but only around a widening circle with the ship in the middle. The lightning, stabbing the sea, surrounded them like the bars of a cage.
Brutha fished his God out of the seaweed.
"You said you couldn't do anything!" he said accusingly.
"That wasn't m--" Om paused. There will be a price, he thought. It won't be cheap. It can't be cheap. The Sea Queen is a god. I've crushed a few towns in my time. Holy fire, that kind of thing. If the price isn't high, how can people respect you?
"I made arrangements," he said.
Brutha and Om
looked at a woman filling a jug from a well. It did not look like a
very military act.
He was feeling that strange double feeling again. On the surface were the thoughts of Brutha, which were exactly the thoughts that the Citadel would have approved of. This was a nest of infidels and unbelievers, its very mundanity a subtle cloak for the traps of wrong thinking and heresy. It might be bright with sunlight, but in reality it was a place of shadows.
But down below were the thoughts of the Brutha that watched Brutha from the inside.
Vorbis looked wrong here. Sharp and unpleasant. And any city where potters didn't worry at all when naked, dripping wet old men came and drew triangles on their walls was a place Brutha wanted to find out more about.
They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the
sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what
impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water!… As if
the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and
time and enzymes, wasn't a thousand times more impressive and
happened all the time…
negotiations were not going well.
"You attacked us!" said Vorbis.
"I would call it preemptive defense," said the Tyrant. "We saw what happened to Istanzia and Betrek and Ushistan."
"They saw the truth of Om!"
"Yes," said the Tyrant. "We believe they did, eventually."
"And now they are proud members of the Empire."
"Yes," said the Tyrant. "Web believe they are. But we like to remember them as they were. Before you sent them your letters, that put the minds of men in chains."
"That set the feet of men on the right road," said Vorbis.
"Chain letters," said the Tyrant. "The Chain Letter to the Ephebians. Forget Your Gods. Be Subjugated. Learn to Fear. Do not break the chain--the last people who did woke up one morning to find fifty thousand armored men on their lawn."
Vorbis sat back.
"What is it you fear?" he said. "Here in your desert, with your…gods? Is it not that, deep in your souls, you know that your gods are as shifting as your sand?"
"Oh yes," said the Tyrant. "We know that. That's always been a point in their favor. We know about sand. And your god is a rock--and we know about rock."
Deacon Vorbis and the Tyrant
an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave" said Vorbis.
"So I understand," said the Tyrant. "I imagine that fish have no word for water."
Deacon Vorbis and the Tyrant
people made all these books about things, and they weren't
sure. But he'd been sure, and Brother Nhumrod had been
sure, and Deacon Vorbis had a sureness you could bend horseshoes
around. Sureness was a rock.
Now he knew why, when Vorbis spoke about Ephebe, his face was gray with hatred and his voice was tense as a wire. If there was no truth, what was there left? And these bumbling old men spent their time kicking away the pillars of the world, and they'd nothing to replace them with but uncertainty. And they were proud of this?
Brutha listens to Didactylos the philosopher
shouldn't do this," said Brutha wretchedly. "All this…" His voice
"I know about sureness," said Didactylos. Now the light, irascible tone had drained out of his voice. "I remember, before I was blind, I went to Omnia once. This was before the borders were closed, when you still let people travel. And in your Citadel I saw a crowd stoning a man to death in a pit. Ever seen that?"
"It has to be done," Brutha mumbled. "So the soul can be shriven and--"
"Don't know about the soul. Never been that kind of philosopher," said Didactylos. "All I know is, it was a horrible sight."
"The state of the body is not--"
"Oh, I'm not talking about the poor bugger in the pit," said the philosopher. "I'm talking about the people throwing the stones. They were sure all right. They were sure it wasn't them in the pit. You could see it in their faces. So glad it wasn't them that they were throwing just as hard as they could."
Brutha and Didactylos
the worst thing about Vorbis isn't that he's evil, but that he makes
good people do evil. He turns people into things like himself. You
can't help it. You catch it off him.
mind atheists, if they were deep, hot, fiery atheists like Simony,
who spend their whole life not believing, spend their whole life
hating gods for not existing. That sort of atheism was a rock. It was
found water. Water in the desert."
"Nothing miraculous about that," said Om. "There's a rainy season near the coast. Flash floods. Wadis. Dried-up river beds. You get aquifers," he added.
"Sounds like a miracle to me," croaked Brutha. "Just because you can explain it doesn't mean it's not still a miracle."
Brutha and Om in the desert.
there isn't anything else I can do. I couldn't just leave him
"Yes you could," said Om.
"To die in the desert?"
"Yes. It's easy. Much easier than not leaving him to die in the desert."
"This is how they do things in Ethics, is it?" said Om sarcastically.
"I don't know. It's how I'm doing it."
Brutha and Om in the desert.
taken enough time to bury their dead had also drawn a symbol in the
sand of the mound. Brutha half-expected it to be a turtle, but the
desert wind had not quite eroded the crude shape of a pair of
"I don't understand that," said Om. "They don't really believe I exist, but they go and put something like that on a grave."
"It's hard to explain. I think it's because they believe they exist," said Brutha. "It's because they're people, and so was he."
Brutha and Om in the desert.
this philosophy?" roared Didactylos, waving his stick.
Urn cleaned pieces of the sand mold from the lever.
"Well…natural philosophy," he said.
The stick whanged down on the Moving Turtle's flanks.
"I never taught you this sort of thing!" shouted the philosopher. "Philosophy is supposed to make life better!"
"This will make it better for a lot of people," said Urn, calmly. "It will help overthrow a tyrant."
"And then?" said Didactylos.
"And then what?"
"And then you'll take it to bits, will you?" said the old man. "Smash it up? Take the wheels off? Get rid of all those spikes? Burn the plans? Yes? When it's served its purpose, yes?"
"Well--" Urn began.
"Aha what? What if we do keep it? It'll be a…a deterrent to other tyrants!"
"You think tyrants won't build 'em, too?"
"Well…I can build bigger ones!" Urn shouted.
Didactylos sagged. "Yes," he said. "No doubt you can. So that's all right, then. My word. And to think I was worrying. And now…I think I'll go and have a rest somewhere…"
He looked hunched up, and suddenly old.
Didactylos and Urn
watched them go… And then he was alone again.
But he thought: Hold on. I don't have to be. I'm a bishop. At least I can watch. Om's gone and soon the world will end, so at least I might as well watch it happen.
Sandals flapping, Brutha set off toward the Place.
Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where the kings don't expect them to be.
right, then he pushed through the line of guards what was holding the
crowd back and stood right in front of the doors, and they weren't
sure what to do about bishops, and I heard him say something like, I
carried you in the desert, I believed all my life, just give me this
Cut-Me-Own-Hand-Off Dhblah, on Brutha.
could take in the scene. There was the staff of Ossory, and Abbys's
cloak, and the sandals of Cena. And, supporting the dome, the massive
statues of the first four prophets. He'd never seen them. He'd heard
about them every day of his childhood.
And what did they mean now? They didn't mean anything. Nothing meant anything, if Vorbis was Prophet. Nothing meant anything, if the Cenobiarch was a man who'd heard nothing in the inner spaces of his own head but his own thoughts.
Brutha enters the temple
Urn pushed his way through the crowds, with Fergmen trailing behind. That was the best and the worst of civil war, at least at the start--everyone wore the same uniform. It was much easier when you picked enemies who were a different color, or at least spoke with a funny accent. You could call them "gooks" or something. It made things easier.
"We have to
Simony clenched his fingers in anger.
"Look…listen… We died for lies, for centuries we died for lies." He waved a hand towards the god. "Now we've got a truth to die for!"
"No. Men should die for lies. But the truth is too precious to die for."
Brutha and Simony
to explain," said Brutha. "But I think it's got something to do with
how people should behave. I think…you should do things because
they're right. Not because gods say so. They might say something
different another time."
Brutha thinks of commandments.
doesn't matter now," said Simony.
The flat tones of his voice made Urn follow the eyes of the crowd.
There was another iron turtle there--a proper model of a turtle, mounted on a sort of open gridwork of metal bars in which a couple of inquisitors were even now lighting a fire. And chained to the back of the turtle--
"I don't know what happened. He hit Vorbis, or didn't hit him. Or something. Enraged him anyway. Vorbis stopped the ceremony, right there and then."
Urn glanced at the deacon. Not Cenobiarch yet, so uncrowned. Among the Iams and bishops standing uncertainly in the open doorway, his bald head gleamed in the morning light.
"Come on then," said Urn.
"Come on what?"
"We can rush the steps and save him!"
"There's more of them than there are of us," said Simony.
"Well, haven't there always been? There's not magically more of them than there are of us just because they've got Brutha, are there?"
Simony grabbed his arm.
"Think logically, will you?" he said. "You're a philosopher, aren't you? Look at the crowd!"
Urn looked at the crowd.
"They don't like it." Simony turned. "Look, Brutha's going to die anyway. But this way it'll mean something. People don't understand, really understand, about the shape of the universe and all that stuff, but they'll remember what Vorbis did to a man. Right? We can make Brutha's death a symbol for people, don't you see?"
Urn stared at the distant figure of Brutha. It was naked, except for a loincloth.
"A symbol?" he said. His throat was dry.
"It has to be."
He remembered Didactylos saying the world was a funny place. And, he thought distantly, it really was. Here people were about to roast someone to death, but they'd left his loin-cloth, out of respectability. You had to laugh. Otherwise, you'd go mad.
"You know," he said, turning to Simony. "Now I know Vorbis is evil. He burned my city. Well, the Tsorteans do it sometimes, and we burn theirs. It's just war. It's all part of history. And he lies and cheats and claws power for himself, and lots of people do that, too. But do you know what's special? Do you know what it is?
"Of course," said Simony. "It's what he's doing to--"
"It's what he's done to you."
"He turns other people into copies of himself."
Simony's grip was like a vice. "You're saying I'm like him?"
"Once you said you'd cut him down," said Urn. "Now you're thinking like him."
"So we rush them, then?" said Simony. "I'm sure of--maybe four hundred on our side. So I give the signal and a few hundred of us attack thousands of them? And he dies anyway and we die too? What difference does that make?"
Urns face was gray with horror now.
"You mean you don't know?" he said.
Some of the crowd looked round curiously at him.
"You don't know?" he said.
Urn and Simony
several dozen gods watching the beach.
He [Om] said, to the occult world in general, "There's people going to die down there."
A Tsortean God of the Sun did not even bother to look around.
"That's what they're for," he said.
"Ah, yes, said Om. "I forgot that, for a moment." He…turned to the little Goddess of Plenty.
"What's this, love? A cornucopia? Can I have a look? Thanks."
Om emptied some of the fruit out. Then he nudged the Newt God.
"If I was you, friend, I'd find something long and hefty," he said.
"Is one less than fifty-one?" said P'Tang-P'Tang.
"It's the same," said Om, firmly. He eyed the back of the Tsortean God's head.
"But you have thousands," said the Newt God. "You fight for thousands."
Om rubbed his forehead. I spent too long down there, he thought. I can't stop thinking at ground level.
"I think," he said, "I think, if you want thousands, you have to fight for one." He tapped the Solar God on the shoulder. "Hey, sunshine?"
When the God turned around, Om broke the cornucopia over his head.
Om visits Cori Celesti
produced a flask from somewhere.
"Will you go to hell if you have a drop of spirit?" he said.
"So it seems," said Simony, absently. Then he noticed the flask. "Oh, you mean alcohol? Probably. But who cares? I won't be able to get near the fire for the priests. Thanks."
Simony and Borvorius, huddling under the Moving Turtle
appeared, transparent and shimmering in and out of focus. The sun
glinted off a hint of golden curls, and wings, and lyres.
When they spoke, they spoke in unison, their voices drifting ahead or trailing behind the others, as always happens when a group of people are trying to faithfully repeat something they've been told to say.
What the gods said was heard by each combatant in their own language, and according to his own understanding. It boiled down to:
I. This is Not a Game.
II. Here and Now, You are Alive.
stood up, without a second glance at his corpse.
"Hah. I wasn't expecting you," he said.
Death stopped leaning against the wall.
HOW FORTUNATE YOU WERE.
"But there's still such a lot to be done…"
YES. THERE ALWAYS IS.
Brutha followed the gaunt figure through the wall where, instead of the privy that occupied the far side in normal space, there was…
The light was brilliant, crystalline, in a black sky filled with stars.
"Ah. There really is a desert. Does everyone get this?" said Brutha.
"And what is at the end of the desert?"
Brutha considered this.
Death grinned and stepped aside.
What Brutha had thought was a rock in the sand was a hunched figure, sitting clutching his knees. It looked paralyzed with fear.
"Vorbis?" he said.
He looked at Death
"But Vorbis died a hundred years ago!"
YES. HE HAD TO WALK IT ALL ALONE. ALL ALONE WITH HIMSELF. IF HE DARED.
"He's been here for a hundred years?"
POSSIBLY NOT. TIME IS DIFFERENT HERE. IT IS…MORE PERSONAL.
"Ah. You mean a hundred years can pass like a few seconds?"
A HUNDRED YEARS CAN PASS LIKE INFINITY.
The black-on-black eyes stared imploringly at Brutha, who reached out automatically, without thinking…and then hesitated.
HE WAS A MURDERER, said Death. AND A CREATOR OF MURDERERS. A TORTURER. WITHOUT PASSION. CRUEL. CALLOUS. COMPASSIONLESS.
"Yes. I know. He's Vorbis," said Brutha. Vorbis changed people. Sometimes he changed them into dead people. But he always changed them. That was his triumph.
"But I'm me," he said.
Vorbis stood up, uncertainly, and followed Brutha across the desert.
Death watched them walk away.
Lords and Ladies
have here is not a nice girl, as generally understood. For one thing,
she's not beautiful. There's a certain set to the jaw and arch to the
nose that might, with a following wind and in the right light, be
called handsome by a good-natured liar. Also, there's a certain glint
in her eye generally possessed by those people who have found that
they are more intelligent than most people around them but who
haven't yet learned that one of the most intelligent things they can
do is prevent said people ever finding this out.
re: a young Granny Weatherwax
[Magrat] got up early and packed her possessions…the set of magical
knives, the mystic colored cords, the assorted grails and crucibles,
and a box full of rings, necklaces, and bracelets heavy with the
hermetic symbols of a dozen religions. She tipped them all into a
sack…There was the statutory pointy hat…Into the sack with it…the
small cauldron in the inglenook…Into the sack with that, and then tie the neck with
On the way up to the palace she crossed the bridge over Lancre Gorge and tossed the sack into the river.
It bobbed for a moment in the strong current, and then sank.
She'd secretly hoped for a string of multi-colored bubbles, or even a hiss. But it just sank. Just as if it wasn't anything very important.
re: Magrat Garlick gives up witching for queening
Weatherwax] Borrowed. You had to be careful. It was like a drug. You
could ride the minds of animals and birds…steering them gently,
seeing through their eyes.
But there was a price. No one asked you to pay it, but the very absence of demand was a moral obligation. You tended not to swat. You dug lightly. You fed the dog. You paid. You cared; not because it was kind or good, but because it was right. You left nothing but memories, you took nothing but experience.
looked at the shadows. There are a lot of shadows in a forest at
"Ain't you scared?" she said.
Granny cracked her knuckles.
"No. But I hope it is."
"Ooo, it's true what they say. You're a prideful one, Esmerelda Weatherwax."
"Who says that?"
"Well, you did. Just now."
"I wasn't feeling well."
Other people would probably say: I wasn't myself. But Granny Weatherwax didn't have anyone else to be.
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
the chalk on the floor then?" said Nanny Ogg
"Um, it's a magic circle," said Perdita. "Um, hello, Mrs. Ogg. Um. It's to keep bad influences away…"
Granny Weatherwax leaned forward slightly.
"Tell me, my dear," she said to Diamanda, "do you think it's working?"
She leaned further forward.
Diamanda leaned backward.
And then slowly leaned forward again.
They ended up nose to nose.
"Who's this?" said Diamanda, out of the corner of her mouth.
"Um, it's Granny Weatherwax," said Perdita. "Um. She's a witch, um…"
"What level?" said Diamanda.
Nanny Ogg looked around for something to hide behind. Granny Weatherwax's eyebrow twitched.
"Levels, eh?" she said. "Well, I suppose I'm level one."
"Just starting?" said Diamanda.
"Oh dear. Tell you what," said Nanny Ogg quietly to Perdita, "if we was to turn the table over, we could probably hide behind it, no problem."
But to herself she was thinking: Esme can never resist a challenge. None of us can. You ain't a witch if you ain't got self-confidence. But we're not getting any younger. It's like being a hired swordfighter, being a top witch. You think you're good, but you know there's got to be someone younger, practicing every day, polishing up their craft, and one day you're walkin' down the road, and you hears this voice behind you sayin': go for your toad, or similar.
Even for Esme. Sooner or later, she'll come up against someone faster on the craftiness than she is.
"Oh, yes," said Granny, quietly. "Just starting. Every day, just starting."
Nanny Ogg thought: but it won't be today.
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
does the winner get?" said Diamanda. There was just a trace of
uncertainty in her voice now…
"Oh, the winner gets to win," said Granny Weatherwax. "That's what it's all about. Don't bother to see us out. You didn't see us in."
Diamanda and Granny Weatherwax
sometimes there's a short cut. A door or a gate. Some standing
stones. A tree cleft by lightning, a filing cabinet. Maybe just a
spot on some moorland somewhere... A place where THERE is very nearly
If some people knew where such a spot was, if they had experience of what happens when here and there become entangled, then they might - if they knew how - mark such a spot with certain stones. In the hope that enough daft buggers would take it as a warning and keep away.
re: the Dancers
been up at the Stones, haven't you! Trying to hold back the
"Of course." said Granny. Her voice wasn't faint. She wasn't swaying. But her voice wasn't faint and she wasn't swaying, Nanny Ogg could see, because Granny Weatherwax's body was in the grip of Granny Weatherwax's mind.
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
duel was subsequently recorded in Birdwhistle's book Legends and
Antiquities of the Ramtops and went as follows:
"The duel beinge ninety minutes advanced, a small boy child upon a sudden ran across the square and stept within the magic circle, whereup he fell down with a terrible scream also a flash. The olde witch looked around, got out of her chair, picked him up, and carried him to his grandmother, then went back to her seat, whilom the young witch never averted her eyes from the Sunne. But the other young witches stopped the duel averring, Look, Diamanda has wonne, the reason being, Weatherwax looked away. Whereupon the child's grandmother said in a loude voice, Oh yes? Pulle the other onne, it have got bells on. This is not a conteft about power, you stupid girls, it is a contest about witchcraft, do you not even begin to know what being a witch IS?
"Is a witch someone who would look round when she heard a child scream?
"And the townspeople said, Yesss!"
re: Diamanda and Granny's duel
The universe doesn't much care if you tread on a butterfly. There are plenty more butterflies. Gods might note the fall of a sparrow, but they don't make any effort to catch them.
stood in front of no one," said Granny Weatherwax distantly. "I
camped on old Nanny Gripes' garden until she promised to tell me
everything she knew. Hah. That took her a week and I had the
"You mean you weren't Chosen?"
"Me? No. I chose," said Granny. The face she turned to Nanny Ogg was one she wouldn't forget in a hurry, although she might try. "I chose, Gytha Ogg. And I want that you should know this right now. Whatever happens. I ain't never regretted anything. Never regretted one single thing. Right?"
"If you say so, Esme."
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
didn't seem to be able to remember what it was like with the elves
around. Life was certainly more interesting then, but usually because
it was shorter. And it was more colourful, if you liked the colour of
blood. It got so people didn't even dare talk openly about the
You said: The Shining Ones. You said: The Fair Folk. And you spat, and touched iron. But generations later, you forgot about the spitting and the iron, and you forgot why you used those names for them, and you remembered only that they were beautiful.
Yes, there'd been a lot of witches in those days. Too many women found an empty cradle, or a husband that never came home from the hunt. Had been the hunt.
Elves! The bastards…and yet…and yet…somehow, yes, they did things to memory.
…we remember the elves for their beauty and the way they move, and forget what they were. We're like mice saying, "Say what you like, cats have got real style."
We only remembers that the elves sang. We forgets what it was they were singing about.
For all her life she'd [Nanny Ogg] walked at night through Lancre with no thought of carrying a weapon of any sort. Of course, for most of that time she'd recognizably been a witch, and any importunate prowler would've ended up taking his essentials away in a paper bag, but even so it was generally true of any woman in Lancre. Men, too, come to that.
Now she could sense her own fear.
The elves were coming back all right, casting their shadows before them.
listen to me. If you stay here, there's to be none of this stuff
anymore. Or you can go somewhere else and find a future, be a great
lady, you've got the mind for it. And maybe you'll come back in ten
years loaded down with jewels and stuff, and lord it over all us
stay-at-homes, and that will be fine. But if you stay here and keep
trying to call the…Lords and Ladies, then you'll be up against me
again. Not playing stupid games in the daylight, but real
witchcraft. Not messing around with moons and
circles, but the true stuff, out of the blood and the bone and out of
the head. And you don't know nothin' about that. Right?
And it don't allow for mercy."
Granny Weatherwax to Diamanda
brave of you, carrying her over your shoulder," said Nanny. "With
them elves firing arrows, too."
"And it meant less chance of one hitting me, too," said Granny.
Nanny Ogg was shocked.
"What? You never thought that, did you?"
"Well, she'd been hit already. If I'd been hit, too, neither of us'd get out." said Granny simply.
"But that's--that's a bit heartless, Esme."
"Heartless it may be, but headless it ain't. I've never claimed to be nice, just to be sensible."
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
in right now, Shawn Ogg."
Shawn saluted, slightly stunning himself with the butt of his spear.
"Right you are, Mistress Weatherwax."
"How did you do that?" said Nanny Ogg.
"Simple," said Granny. "He knows you wouldn't make his daft head explode."
"Well, I know you wouldn't, too."
"No you don't. You just know I ain't done it up to now."
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
You had to
repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That's what people never really understood, she told herself as she
stepped back into the kitchen. Magrat hadn't understood it, nor that
new girl. Things had to balance. You couldn't set out to be a good
witch or a bad witch. It never worked for long. All you could try to
be was a witch, as hard as you could.
lit on the little still-life by the door. There was a folded
nightshirt, a candlestick, and a small pillow.
As far as Verence had been concerned, a crown merely changed which side of the door you slept.
Oh, gods. He'd always slept in front of the door of his master. And now he was king, he slept in front of the door to his kingdom.
Magrat felt her eyes fill with tears.
You couldn't help loving someone as soppy as that.
Magrat in King Verence's bedroom
say 'if this didn't happen then that would have happened' because
you don't know everything that might have
happened. You might think something'd be good, but for all you know
it could have turned out horrible. You can't say 'If only I'd…'
because you could be wishing for anything. The point is,
you'll never know. You've gone past. So there's no use thinking of
it. So I don't."
Granny Weatherwax to Mustrum Ridcully
people might say this is important."
"No. It's just personal. Personal's not the same as important. People just think it is."
Mustrum Ridcully and Granny Weatherwax
before your god, bow before your king, and kneel before your man.
Recipe for a happy life, that is," said Nanny, to the world in
what, fortunately, many people didn't--chain-mail isn't much defense
against an arrow. It certainly isn't when the arrow is being aimed
between your eyes.
Shawn Ogg faces the elves
turned, the light caught the edge of something, and gleamed.
Magrat reached out.
Magrat's hands held a rusty iron helmet, with wings.
Magrat's hands closed on a well-endowed breastplate, with spikes.
A change had come over Magrat. It showed in her breathing. She'd been panting, with fear and exhaustion. Then, for a few seconds, there was no sound of her breathing at all. And finally it returned. Slowly. Deeply. Deliberately.
Greebo saw Magrat, who he'd always put down as basically a kind of mouse in human shape, lift the hat with the wings on it and put it on her head.
Magrat knew all about the power of hats.
In her mind's ear she could hear the rattle of the chariots.
The candlelight sparkled off her eyes.
Greebo drew back into the safety of his armor. He recalled a particular time when he'd leapt out on a vixen. Normally Greebo could take on a fox without raising a sweat but, as it turned out, this one had cubs. He hadn't found out until he chased her into her den. He'd lost a bit of one ear and quite a lot of fur before he'd got away.
The vixen had a very similar expression to the one Magrat had now.
Magrat and Greebo the cat in the armory
pressing in from the Hub. Magrat shivered.
This was something she'd never seen before.
It was true night.
Night had fallen in Lancre, and it was an old night. It was not the simple absence of day, patrolled by the moon and stars, but an extension of something that had existed long before there was any night to define it by absence. It was unfolding itself from under tree roots and inside stones, crawling back across the land.
Magrat's sack of what she considered to be essential props might be at the bottom of the river, but she had been a witch for more than ten years, and she could feel the terror in the air.
People remember badly. But societies remember well, the swarm remembers, encoding the information to slip it past the censors of the mind, passing it on from grandmother to grandchild in little bits of nonsense they won't bother to forget. Sometimes the truth keeps itself alive in devious ways despite the best efforts of the official keepers of information. Ancient fragments chimed together now in Magrat's head.
Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen…
From ghosties an bogles and long leggity beasties…
My mother said I never should…
We dare not go a-hunting, for fear…
And things that go bump…
Play with the fairies in the wood…
Magrat sat on the horse she didn't trust and gripped the sword she didn't know how to use while the ciphers crept out of memory and climbed into a shape.
They steal cattle and babies…
They steal milk…
They love music, and steal away musicians…
In fact they steal everything.
We'll never be as free as them, as beautiful as them, as clever as them, as light as them; we are animals.
What they take is everything.
And what they give you is fear.
Magrat rides through Lancre
ever rule again, back in the world," said Nanny. "There's too much
music. There's too much iron."
"Not the iron in the head."
The King snorted.
"Nevertheless…even that…one day…"
"One day." Nanny nodded. "Yes. I'll drink to that. One day. Who knows? One day. Everyone needs 'one day.' But it ain't today. D'you see? So you come on out and balance things up. Otherwise, this is what I'll do. I'll get 'em to dig into the Long Man with iron shovels, y'see, and they'll say, why, it's just an old earthworks, and pensioned-off wizards and priests with nothin' better to do will pick over the heaps and write dull old books about burial traditions and suchlike, and that'll be another iron nail in your coffin. And I'll be a little bit sorry about that, 'cos you know I've always had a soft spot for you. But I've got kiddies, y'see, and they don't hide under the stairs because they're frit of the thunder, and they don't put milk out for the elves, and they don't hurry home because of the night, and before we go back to them dark old ways I'll see you nailed."
Nanny speaks to the Elf King
wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.
abide elves. They smell wrong to him."
The Librarian flared his nostrils.
Magrat didn't know much about jungles, but she thought about apes in trees, smelling the rank of the tiger. Apes never admired the sleek of the fur and the burn of the eye, because they were too well aware of the teeth of the mouth.
"Yes," she said. "I expect they would."
Magrat, Ponder, and the Librarian
said Ponder, "the graveyards of full of people who rushed in bravely
"What'd he say?" said the Bursar, passing briefly through reality on his way somewhere else.
"I think he said, 'Sooner or later the graveyards are full of everybody,'" said Ponder.
Ponder, the Bursar, and the Librarian debate following Magrat
"…old I may
be, and hag I may be, but stupid I ain't. You're no kind of goddess.
I ain't against gods and goddesses, in their place. But they've got
to be the ones we make ourselves. Then we can take 'em to bits for
the parts when we don't need 'em anymore, see? And elves far away in
fairyland, well, maybe that's something people need to get 'emselves
through the iron times. But I ain't having elves here. You make us
want what we can't have and what you give us is worth nothing and
what you take is everything and all there is left for us is the cold
hillside, and emptiness, and the laughter of the elves."
unicorn] murdered old Scrope," said Nanny. "I wouldn't mind him
"Then shame on you woman," said Granny. "It's an animal. Animals can't murder. Only us superior races can murder. That's one of the things that sets us apart from animals."
not be killed," she [the Elf Queen] whispered. "I promise you that.
You'll be left alive, to dribble and gibber and soil yourself and
wander from door to door for scraps. And they'll say: there goes the
mad old woman."
"They say that now," said Granny Weatherwax. "They think I can't hear."
"But inside," said the Queen, ignoring this, "inside I'll keep just a part of you which looks out through your eyes and knows what you've become.
"And there will be none to help," said the Queen. She was closer now, her eyes pinpoints of hatred. "No charity for the mad old woman. You'll see what you have to eat to stay alive. And we'll be with you all the time inside your head, just to remind you. You could have been the great one, there was so much you could have done. And inside you'll know it, and you'll plead all the dark night long for the silence of the elves."
The Queen wasn't expecting it. Granny Weatherwax's hand shot out, pieces of rope falling away from it, and slapped her across the face.
"You threaten me with that?" she said. "Me? Who am becoming old?"
The Elf Queen and Granny Weatherwax
Feet of Clay
It was easy
being a vegetarian by day, It was preventing yourself becoming a
humanitarian by night that took the real effort.
Angua von Uberwald, werewolf
to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent
person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had
written, "Kings. What a good idea." Whoever had created humanity had
left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the
they want good government and justice for all, Vimes, yet what is it
they really crave, deep in their hearts? Only that things go on as
normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today."
was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a
slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you
invited to the very best social occasions.
hear his granny saying, "No-one's too poor to buy soap." Of course,
many people were. But in Cockbill Street, they bought soap just the
same. The table might not have any food on it but, by gods, it was
well scrubbed. That was Cockbill Street, where what you mainly ate
was your pride.
What a mess the world was in, Vimes reflected. Constable Visit had told him the meek would inherit it, and what had the poor devils done to deserve that?
Cockbill Street people would stand aside to let the meek through. For what kept them in Cockbill Street, mentally and physically, was their vague comprehension that there were rules. And they went through life with a quiet, distracted dread that they weren't quite obeying them.
People said that there was one law for the rich and one law for the poor, but it wasn't true. There was no law for those who made the law, and no law for the incorrigibly lawless. All the laws and rules were for those people stupid enough to think like Cockbill Street people.
because someone's a member of an ethnic minority doesn't mean they're
not a nasty small-minded little jerk…"
world was far too real to leave neat little hints. It
was full of too many things. It wasn't by eliminating the impossible
that you got at the truth, however improbable; it was by the much
harder process of eliminating the possibilities.
dangerous thoughts, he knew. They were the kind that crept up on a
Watchman when the chase was over and it was just you and him, facing
one another in that breathless little pinch between the crime and the
And maybe a Watchman had seen civilization with the skin ripped off one time too many and stopped acting like a Watchman and started acting like a normal human being and realized that the click of the crossbow or the sweep of the sword would make the world so clean…
And…you couldn't think like that because they gave you a sword and a badge and that turned you into something else and that had to mean there were some thoughts you couldn't think.
Only crimes could take place in darkness. Punishment had to be done in the light. That was the job of a good Watchman, Carrot always said. To light a candle in the dark.
couldn't say, "I had orders." You couldn't say, "It's not fair." No
one was listening. There were no Words. You owned yourself.
Not Thou Shalt Not. Say I Will Not.
Dorfl the golem
Also A Religious Position," Dorfl rumbled.
"No, it's not!' said Constable Visit. 'Atheism is a denial of a god."
"Therefore It Is A Religious Position," said Dorfl. "Indeed, A True Atheist Thinks Of The Gods Constantly, Albeit In Terms Of Denial. Therefore, Atheism Is A Form Of Belief. If The Atheist Truly Did Not Believe, He Or She Would Not Bother To Deny."
Dorfl and Constable Visit
According to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle, chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized.
sneered the sneer of a man who has never been truly imprisoned even
when he's been locked up.
Cohen talks to Rincewind
scowled. "Now, I've got nothing against slaves, you know, as slaves.
Owned a few in my time. Been a slave once or twice. But
where there's slaves, what'll you expect to find?"
Rincewind thought about this. "Whips?" he said at last.
"Yeah. Got it in one. Whips. There's something honest about slaves and whips. Well…they ain't got whips here. They got something worse than whips."
"What?" said Rincewind, looking slightly panicky.
"You'll find out."
Rincewind and Cohen the Barbarian
you sound a very educated man for a barbarian," said
"Oh, dear me, I didn't start out a barbarian. I used to be a school teacher. That's why they call me Teach."
"What did you teach?"
"Geography. And I was very interested in Auriental studies. But I decided to give it up and make a living by the sword."
"After being a teacher all your life?"
"It did mean a change of perspective, yes."
"But. . . well. . . surely . .. the privation, the terrible hazards, the daily risk of death . . ."
Mr. Saveloy brightened up. "Oh, you've been a teacher, have you?"
Rincewind meets Mr. Saveloy the barbarian
had always been on the bottom of the social heap. It didn't matter
what size heap it was. The top got higher or lower, but the bottom
was always in the same place. But at least it was an Ankh-Morpork
No-one bowed to anyone in Ankh-Morpork. And anyone who tried what he'd just tried in Ankh-Morpork would, by now, be scrabbling in the gutter for his teeth and whimpering about the pain in his groin and his horse would already have been repainted twice and sold to a man who'd be swearing he'd owned it for years.
He felt oddly proud of the fact.
Something strange welled up from the sludgy depths of his soul. It was, to his amazement, a generous impulse.
He slid off the horse and held out the reins. A horse was useful, but he was used to doing without one. Besides, over a short distance a man could run faster than a horse, and this was a fact very dear to Rincewind's heart.
"Here," he said. "You can have it. For the fish."
The wheelbarrow-pusher screamed, grabbed the handles of his conveyance and hurtled desperately away. Several people were thrown off, took one almost-look at Rincewind, also screamed, and ran after him.
Worse than whips, Cohen had said. They've got something here worse than whips. They don't need whips any more. Rincewind hoped he'd never find out what it was, if it had done this to people.
Rincewind meets peasants in the Empire
was not politically minded but there were some things he could work
out not because they were to do with politics but because they had a
lot to do with human nature. Nasty images moved into place like bad
The Empire had a wall around it. If you lived in the Empire then you learned how to make soup out of pig squeals and swallow spit because that's how it was done, and you were bullied by soldiers all the time because that was how the world worked. But if someone wrote a cheerful little book about . . .
. . . what I did on my holidays . . .
. . . in a place where the world worked quite differently . . .
. . . then however fossilized the society there would always be some people who asked themselves dangerous questions like "Where's the pork?"
Rincewind stared glumly at the wall. Peasants of the Empire, Rebel! You have nothing to lose but your heads and hands and feet and there's this thing they do with a wire waistcoat and a cheese-grater . . .
Rincewind reads "What I Did On My Holidays"
father had taken him to a mountain top, when he was no more than a
lad, and explained to him the hero's creed and told him that there
was no greater joy than to die in battle.
Cohen had seen the flaw in this straight away, and a lifetime's experience had reinforced his belief that in fact a greater joy was to kill the other bugger in battle and end up sitting on a heap of gold higher than your horse. It was an observation that had served him well.
Wall completely surrounds the Agatean Empire. The word is
It is more than just a wall, it is a marker. On one side is the Empire, which in the Agatean language is a word identical with "universe". On the other side is - nothing. After all, the universe is everything there is.
… The Agatean word for foreigner is the same as the word for ghost, and only one brush stroke away from the word for victim.
The walls are sheer in order to discourage those boring people who persist in believing that there might be anything interesting on the other side. Amazingly enough there are people who simply won't take the hint, even after thousands of years. The ones near the coast build rafts and head out across lonely seas to lands that are a fable. The ones inland resort to man-carrying kites and chairs propelled by fireworks. Many of them die in the attempt, of course. Most of the others are soon caught, and made to live in interesting times.
But some did make it to the great melting pot called Ankh-Morpork. They arrived with no money - sailors charged what the market would bear, which was everything - but they had a mad gleam in their eye and they opened shops and restaurants and worked twenty-four hours a day. People called this the Ankh-Morpork Dream (of making piles of cash in a place where your death was unlikely to be a matter of public policy). And it was dreamed all the stronger by people who didn't sleep.
Cohen put a
little more pressure on the captain's neck.
"Now then, friend," he said. "You can have it the easy way, see, or the hard way. It's up to you."
"Blood-sucking pig! You call this the easy way?"
"Well, I ain't sweatin'."
"May you live in interesting times! I would rather die than betray my Emperor!"
It took the captain only a fraction of a second to realize that Cohen, being a man of his word, assumed that other people were too. He might, if he had time, have reflected that the purpose of civilization is to make violence the final resort, while to a barbarian it is the first, preferred, only and above all most enjoyable option. But by then it was too late. He slumped forward.
"I always lives in interestin' times," said Cohen, in the satisfied voice of someone who did a lot to keep them interesting.
Cohen enters Hunghung
Mr. Saveloy readjusted his sights. He'd thought that Civilization
could be overlaid on the Horde like a veneer. He had been
But the funny thing - he mused, as the Horde watched Caleb's painful attempts at conversation with a representative of half the world's humanity - was that although they were as far away as possible from the kind of people he normally mixed with in staff-rooms, or possibly because they were as far away as possible from the kind of people he normally mixed with in staffrooms, he actually liked them. Every one of them saw a book as either a lavatorial accessory or a set of portable firelighters and thought that hygiene was a greeting. Yet they were honest (from their specialized point of view) and decent (from their specialized point of view) and saw the world as hugely simple. They stole from rich merchants and temples and kings. They didn't steal from poor people; this was not because there was anything virtuous about poor people, it was simply because poor people had no money.
And although they didn't set out to give the money away to the poor, that was nevertheless what they did (if you accepted that the poor consisted of innkeepers, ladies of negotiable virtue, pickpockets, gamblers and general hangers-on), because although they would go to great lengths to steal money they then had as much control over it as a man trying to herd cats. It was there to be spent and lost. So they kept the money in circulation, always a praiseworthy thing in any society.
They never worried about what other people thought. Mr. Saveloy, who'd spent his whole life worrying about what other people thought and had been passed over for promotion and generally treated as a piece of furniture as a result, found this strangely attractive. And they never agonized about anything, or wondered if they were doing the right thing. And they enjoyed themselves immensely. They had a kind of honor. He liked the Horde. They weren't his kind of people.
Mr. Saveloy watches Caleb practice civilized speech with a woman
fetid sack Rincewind grimaced. He was already beginning to take a
dislike to the first speaker, as one naturally does with people
urging that you be put to death without delay. But when that sort of
person started talking about things being more important than people,
you knew you were in big trouble.
The People's Army captures Rincewind
me, will you?" he said, settling down a little. "I know about people
who talk about suffering for the common good. It's never bloody them!
When you hear a man shouting 'Forward, brave comrades!' you'll see
he's the one behind the bloody big rock and wearing the only really
arrow-proof helmet! Understand?"
He stopped. The cadre were looking at him as if he was mad. He stared at their young, keen faces, and felt very, very old.
"But there are causes worth dying for," said Butterfly.
"No, there aren't! Because you've only got one life but you can pick up another five causes on any street corner!"
"Good grief, how can you live with a philosophy like that?"
Rincewind took a deep breath. "Continuously!"
Rincewind and members of the People's Army
you call the things that grind corn?'
'Yes, but what do they grind corn with?'
'I don't know. Why should I know? Only peasants need to know that.'
'Yes, I suppose that says it all, really,' said Mr. Saveloy sadly.
Mr. Saveloy and Six Beneficent Winds
[Rincewind] wanted to say: how can you be so nice and yet so dumb?
The best thing you can do with the peasants is leave them alone. Let
them get on with it. When people who can read and write start
fighting on behalf of people who can't, you just end up with another
kind of stupidity. If you want to help them, build a big library or
something somewhere and leave the door open.
But this is Hunghung. You can't think like that in Hunghung. This is where people have learned to do what they're told. The Horde worked that one out.
The Empire's got something worse than whips all right. It's got obedience. Whips in the soul. They obey anyone who tells them what to do. Freedom just means being told what to do by someone different.
Rincewind and the People's Army
them vinegar-faced old baggages at the front?' whispered Cohen, who
was idly tossing a throwing knife into the air and catching it again.
'I wouldn't even set fire to them.'
'They're the wives of former Emperors,' hissed Six Beneficent Winds.
'We don't have to marry them, do we?'
'I don't think so.'
'Why're their feet so small?' said Cohen. 'I like to see big feet on a woman.'
Six Beneficent Winds told him. Cohen's expression hardened.
'I'm learning a lot about civilization, I am,' he said. 'Long fingernails, crippled feet and servants running around without their family jewels. Huh.'
The Silver Horde meets the Agatean court
some laughter. But it had an edge of nervousness. Mr. Saveloy
realized that the Horde weren't used to this. If a true barbarian
wanted to kill someone during a meal, he'd invite him in with all his
henchmen, sit them down, get them drunk and sleepy and then summon
his own men from hiding places to massacre them instantly in a
straight-forward, no-nonsense and honorable manner. It was completely
fair. The 'get them drunk and butcher the lot of them' stratagem was
the oldest trick in the book, or would have been if barbarians
bothered with books. Anyone falling for it would be doing the world a
favour by being slaughtered over the pudding. But at least you could
trust the food. Barbarians didn't poison
food. You never knew when you might be short of a mouthful
Lord Hong tries to poison the Silver Horde
Hah! When we kills people we do it there and then, lookin' 'em in the
eye, and we'd be happy to buy 'em a drink in the next world, no harm
done. I never knew a barbarian who cut up people slowly in little
rooms, or tortured women to make 'em look pretty, or put poison in
people's grub. Civilization? If that's civilization, you can shove it
where the sun don't shine!'
Cohen the Barbarian
rabbit squeaked nervously.
'And I'm afraid of the big inwisible wampire ghosts!' sobbed Favourite Pearl.
The soldiers around this particular campfire tried to comfort her but, unfortunately, there was no-one to comfort them.
'An' I heard they alweady et some men!'
One or two soldiers looked over their shoulders. There was nothing to be seen in the darkness. This wasn't, however, a reassuring sign.
The Red Army moved obliquely from campfire to campfire.
Rincewind had been very specific. He'd spent all his adult life - at least, those parts of it where he wasn't being chased by things with more legs than teeth - in Unseen University, and he felt he knew what he was talking about here. Don't tell people anything, he said. Don't tell them. You didn't get to survive as a wizard in UU by believing what people told you. You believed what you were not told.
Don't tell them. Ask them. Ask them if it's true. You can beg them to tell you it's not true. Or you can even tell them you've been told to tell them it's not true, and that is the best of all.
Because Rincewind knew very well that when the four rather small and nasty Horsemen of Panic ride out there is a good job done by Misinformation, Rumour and Gossip, but they are as nothing compared to the fourth horseman, whose name is Denial.
Rincewind spreads fear through the Agatean armies
leaned forward and patted Mr. Saveloy on the hand.
"It's the heroing, see," he said. "Who's ever heard of a hero running away? All them kids you was telling us about . . . you know, the ones who think we're stories . . . you reckon they'd believe we ran away? Well, then. No, it's not part of the whole deal, running away. Let someone else do the running."
"Besides," said Truckle, "where'd we get another chance like this? Six against five armies! That's bl-- that's fantastic! We're not talking legends here. I reckon we've got a good crack at some mythology as well."
"But . . . you'll . . . die."
"Oh, that's part of it, I'll grant you, that's part of it. But what a way to go, eh?"
Mr. Saveloy looked at them and realized that they were speaking another language in another world. It was one he had no key to, no map for. You could teach them to wear interesting pants and handle money but something in their soul stayed exactly the same.
"I'm going to join you," he said grimly.
"What, to fight?"
"Do you know how to handle a sword?" said Truckle.
"Er. I expect there's a manual, or something?"
"Manual? No. You hold the blunt end and poke the other end at people."
"Mr. Saveloy!" he [Six Beneficent Winds] shouted. "You know what's going to happen! Have you lost your senses?"
"Yes," said the teacher, "but I may have found some better ones."
He grinned to himself. The whole of his life, so far, had been complicated. There had been timetables and lists and a whole basket of things he must do and things he shouldn't do, and the life of Mr. Saveloy had been this little wriggly thing trying to survive in the middle of it all. But now it had suddenly all become very simple. You held one end and you poked the other into people. A man could live his whole life by a maxim like that. And, afterwards, get a very interesting afterlife--
Mr. Saveloy joins the Silver Horde as they head to battle
then," said Cohen. "I hate to say this, but perhaps we should talk
"No!" said Mr. Saveloy, and then stopped in embarrassment at the loudness of his own voice. "No," he repeated, a little more quietly. "You won't live if you surrender. You just won't die immediately."
Cohen scratched his nose. "What's that flag . . . you know . . . when you want to talk to them without them killing you?"
"It's got to be red," said Mr. Saveloy. "But look, it's no good you--"
"I don't know, red for surrender, white for funerals . . ." muttered Cohen. "All right. Anyone got something red?"
"I've got a handkerchief," said Mr. Saveloy, "but it's white and anyway--"
"Give it here."
The barbarian teacher very reluctantly handed it over.
Cohen pulled a small, worn knife from his belt.
He pulled the knife over his arm, and then clamped the handkerchief over the cut.
"There we are," he said. "Soon have a nice red flag."
The Horde nodded approvingly. It was an amazingly symbolic, dramatic and above all stupid gesture, in the finest traditions of barbarian heroing.
Cohen and Mr. Saveloy
look," said Cohen, waving the rather damp object on the end of his
"Yes," said Lord Hong. "We saw that little show. It may impress the common soldiers but it does not impress me, barbarian."
"Please yourself," said Cohen. "We've come to talk about surrender."
Mr. Saveloy noticed some of the lesser lords relax a little. Then he thought: a real soldier probably doesn't like this sort of thing. You don't want to go to soldier Heaven or wherever you go and say, I once led an army against seven old men. It wasn't medal-winning material.
"Ah. Of course. So much for bravado," said Lord Hong. "Then lay down your arms and you will be escorted back to the palace."
Cohen and Truckle looked at one another.
"Sorry?" said Cohen.
"Lay down your arms." Lord Hong snorted. "That means put down your weapons."
Cohen gave him a puzzled look. "Why should we put down our weapons?"
"Are we not talking about your surrender?"
Mr. Saveloy's mouth opened in a mad, slow grin.
Lord Hong stared at Cohen.
"Hah! You can hardly expect me to believe that you have come to ask us . . ."
He leaned from the saddle and glared at them.
"You do, don't you?" he said. "You mindless little barbarians. Is it true that you can only count up to five?"
"We just thought that it might save people getting hurt," said Cohen.
"You thought it would save you getting hurt," said the warlord.
"I daresay a few of yours might get hurt, too."
"They're peasants," said the warlord.
"Oh, yes. I was forgetting that," said Cohen. "And you're their chief, right? It's like your game of chess, right?"
"I am their lord," said Lord Hong. "They will die at my bidding, if necessary."
Cohen gave him a big, dangerous grin.
"When do we start?" he said.
"Return to your . . . band," said Lord Hong. "And then I think we shall start . . . shortly."
As the three returned to the Horde Mr. Saveloy was aware of a grinding sound. Cohen was wearing several carats off his teeth.
"'Die at my bidding,'" he said. "The bugger doesn't even know what a chief is meant to be, the bastard! Him and his horse."
"What do we do now?" said Mr. Saveloy. "Do we do a battle chant or something?"
"We just wait," said Cohen.
"There's a lot of waiting in warfare," said Boy Willie.
"Ah, yes," said Mr. Saveloy. "I've heard people say that. They say there's long periods of boredom followed by short periods of excitement."
"Not really," said Cohen. "It's more like short periods of waiting followed by long periods of being dead."
The Silver Horde faces the Agatean armies
looked like porcelain. It had been painted quite realistically. One
Sun Mirror seemed an ordinary sort of man. You would not have pointed
him out in a crowd as Emperor material. But this man, with his little
round hat and little round shield and little round men on little
round ponies, had glued together a thousand warring factions into one
great Empire, often using their own blood to do it.
Rincewind looked closer. Of course, it was just an impression, but around the set of the mouth and the look of the eyes there was an expression he'd last seen on the face of Ghenghiz Cohen.
It was the expression of someone who was absolutely and totally unafraid of anything.
Rincewind finds the emperor's tomb
we could do it without anyone getting hurt. By using our
"Can't. History don't work like that. Blood first, then brains."
"Mountains of skulls," said Truckle.
"There's got to be a better way than fighting," said Mr. Saveloy.
"Yep. Lots of 'em. Only none of 'em work."
The Silver Horde takes the city
Lord Hong," said the apparition, "but do you by any chance remember
Bes Pelargic? About six years ago? I think you were quarrelling with
Lord Tang? There was something of a skirmish. A few streets
destroyed. Nothing vary major."
Lord Hong blinked.
"How dare you address me!" he managed.
"It doesn't really matter," said Twoflower. "But it's just that I'd have liked you to have remembered. I got . . . quite angry about it. Er. I want to fight you."
"You want to fight me? Do you know who you are talking to? Have you any idea?"
"Er. Yes. Oh, yes," said Twoflower.
Lord Hong's attention finally focused. It had not been a good day.
"You foolish, stupid little man! You don't even have a sword!"
They both turned. Cohen threw his sword. Two-flower caught it clumsily and was almost knocked over by the weight.
Butterfly took her father's other arm.
"No good purpose will be served," she said. "Come on. We can find a better time?"
"He killed your mother," said Twoflower flatly.
"His soldiers did."
"That makes it worse. He didn't even know. Please get back, both of you."
Lord Hong drew his long sword. The blade gleamed.
"Do you know anything about fighting, clerk?"
"No, not really," said Twoflower. "But the important thing is that someone should stand up to you. Whatever happens to them afterwards."
Twoflower faces Lord Hong
The gods relaxed.
"A draw," he announced. "Oh, yes. You have appeared to win in Hunghung but you have had to lose your most valuable piece, is that not so?"
"I never sacrifice a pawn," said the Lady.
"How can you hope to win without sacrificing the occasional pawn?"
"Oh, I never play to win." She smiled. "But I do play not to lose…"
thought about Agnes. You needed quite large thoughts to fit all of
Lancre had always bred strong, capable women. A Lancre farmer needed a wife who'd think nothing of beating a wolf to death with her apron when she went out to get some firewood. And, while kissing initially seemed to have more charms than cookery, a stolid Lancre lad looking for a bride would bear in mind his father's advice that kisses eventually lost their fire but cookery tended to get even better over the years, and direct his courting to those families that clearly showed a tradition of enjoying their food.
Agnes was, Nanny considered, quite good-looking in an expansive kind of way; she was a fine figure of typical young Lancre womanhood. This meant she was approximately two woman-hoods from anywhere else.
Nanny also recalled her as being rather thoughtful and shy, as if trying to reduce the amount of world she took up.
But she had shown signs of craft ability. That was only to be expected. There was nothing like that not fitting in feeling to stimulate the old magical nerves; that was why Esme was so good at it. In Agnes's case this had manifested itself in a tendency to wear soppy black lace gloves and pale makeup and call herself Perdita plus an initial from the arse of the alphabet, but Nanny had assumed that would soon burn off when she got some serious witchcraft under her rather strained belt.
She should have paid more attention to the thing about music. Power found its way out by all sorts of routes. . .
Music and magic had a lot in common. They were only two letters apart, for one thing. And you couldn't do both.
[Agnes] woken up one morning with the horrible realization that she'd
been saddled with a lovely personality. It was as simple as that. Oh,
and very good hair.
It wasn't so much the personality, it was the 'but' that people always added when they talked about it. But she's got a lovely personality, they said. It was the lack of choice that rankled. No one had asked her, before she was born, whether she wanted a lovely personality or whether she'd prefer, say, a miserable personality but a body that could take size 9 in dresses. Instead, people would take pains to tell her that beauty was only skin-deep, as if a man ever fell for an attractive pair of kidneys.
…So she'd introduced Perdita. She'd heard somewhere that inside every fat woman was a thin woman trying to get out, so she'd named her Perdita. She was a good repository for all those thoughts that Agnes couldn't think on account of her wonderful personality. Perdita would use black writing paper if she could get away with it, and would be beautifully pale instead of embarrassingly flushed. Perdita wanted to be an interestingly lost soul in plum-coloured lipstick. Just occasionally, though, Agnes thought Perdita was as dumb as she was.
. . no. . . it's not like that. I mean, they're not bad. It's much. . .
worse than that."
"Worse than bad?!"
"They think they know what's best for everybody."
Agnes and Christine
looked out at the dull grey sky and the dying leaves and felt,
amazingly enough, her sap rising. A day ago the future had looked
aching and desolate, and now it looked full of surprises and terror
and bad things happening to people. . .
If she had anything to do with it, anyway.
In the scullery, Nanny Ogg grinned to herself.
"Did you see anything?" said Salzella.
"I saw a great creature with great flapping wings and great big holes where his eyes should be!!" said Christine.
"I'm afraid I just saw something white up in the ceiling," said Agnes. "Sorry."
She blushed, aware of how useless that sounded. Perdita would have seen a mysterious cloaked figure or something. . . something interesting. . .
Salzella smiled at her. "You mean you just see things that are really there?" he said. "I can see you haven't been with the opera for long, dear. But I may say I'm pleased to have a level-headed person around here for once-"
"Oh, no!" screamed someone.
"It's the Ghost!!" shrieked Christine, automatically.
"Er. It's the young man behind the organ," said Agnes. "Sorry."
"Observant as well as level-headed," said Salzella. "Whereas I can see that you, Christine, will fit right in here…
Bucket," he [Salzella] said, "this is opera.
Everyone is always on edge. Have you ever heard
of a catastrophe curve, Mr. Bucket?"
Seldom Bucket did his best. "Well, I know there's a dreadful bend in the road up by--"
"A catastrophe curve, Mr. Bucket, is what opera runs along. Opera happens because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong, Mr. Bucket. It works because of hatred and love and nerves. All the time. This isn't cheese. This is opera. If you wanted a quiet retirement, Mr. Bucket, you shouldn't have bought the Opera House. You should have done something peaceful, like alligator dentistry."
.s'pose I was to say to you, Gytha Ogg, your house is on fire, what's
the first thing you'd try to take out?"
Nanny bit her lip. "This is one of them personality questions, ain't it?" she said.
"Like, you try to guess what I'm like by what I say. . ."
"Gytha Ogg, I've known you all my life, I knows what you're like. I don't need to guess. But answer me, all the same."
"I reckon I'd take Greebo."
" 'Cos that shows I've got a warm and considerate nature," Nanny went on.
"No, it shows you're the kind of person who tries to work out what the right answer's supposed to be," said Granny. "Untrustworthy. That was a witch's answer if ever I heard one. Devious."
Nanny looked proud.
Nanny Ogg and Granny
"… you see,
it's fine for actors. There's plenty of parts for old men. Acting's
something you can do all your life. You get better at it. But when
your talent is singing or dancing. . . Time creeps up behind you, all
the. . .' He fumbled for a word, and settled lamely for 'Time. Time
is the poison. You watch backstage one night and you'll see the
dancers checking all the time in any mirror they can find for that
first little imperfection. You watch the singers. Everyone's on edge,
everyone knows that this might be their last perfect night, that
tomorrow might be the beginning of the end. That's why everyone
worries about luck, you see? All the stuff about live flowers being
unlucky, you remember? Well, so's green. And real jewelry worn on
stage. And real mirrors on stage. And whistling on stage. And peeking
at the audience through the main curtains. And using new makeup on a
first night. And knitting on stage, even at rehearsals. A yellow
clarinet in the orchestra is very unlucky, don't ask me why. And as
for stopping a performance before its proper ending, well, that's
worst of all. You might as well sit under a ladder and break
Salzella explains opera to Bucket
you: the show must go on."
"Why? We never said 'the cheese must go on!' What's so special about the show going on?"
Salzella smiled. "As far as I understand it," he said, "the. . . power behind the show, the soul of the show, all the effort that's gone into it, call it what you will. . . it leaks out and spills everywhere. That's why they burble about 'the show must go on.' It must go on. But most of the company wouldn't even understand why anyone should ask the question."
Salzella and Bucket
breathed out, slowly.
"Come and sit where I can see you. That's good manners. And let me tell you right now that I ain't at all afraid of you."
The tall, black-robed figure walked across the floor and sat down on a handy barrel, leaning its scythe against the wall. Then it pushed back its hood. Granny folded her arms and stared calmly at the visitor, meeting his gaze eye-to-socket.
I AM IMPRESSED.
"I have faith."
REALLY? IN WHAT PARTICULAR DEITY?
"Oh, none of them."
THEN FAITH IN WHAT?
"Just faith, you know. In general."
Death leaned forward. The candlelight raised new shadows on his skull.
COURAGE IS EASY BY CANDLELIGHT. YOUR FAITH, I SUSPECT, IS IN THE FLAME.
Granny leaned forward, and blew out the candle. Then she folded her arms again and stared fiercely ahead of her.
After some length of time a voice said, ALL RIGHT, YOU'VE MADE YOUR POINT.
Granny lit a match. Its flare illuminated the skull opposite, which hadn't moved.
"Fair enough," she said, as she relit the candle. "We don't want to be sitting here all night, do we? How many have you come for?"
Death shook his head.
"It could be the cow."
NO. THAT WOULD BE CHANGING HISTORY.
"History is about things changing."
Granny sat back.
"Then I challenge you to a game. That's traditional. That's allowed."
Death was silent for a moment.
THIS IS TRUE.
CHALLENGING ME BY MEANS OF A GAME IS ALLOWABLE.
HOWEVER. . . YOU UNDERSTAND THAT TO WIN ALL YOU MUST GAMBLE ALL?
"Double or quits? Yes, I know."
BUT NOT CHESS.
"Can't abide chess."
OR CRIPPLE MR. ONION. I'VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THE RULES.
"Very well. How about one hand of poker? Five cards each, no draws? Sudden death, as they say."
Death thought about this, too.
YOU KNOW THIS FAMILY?
"Are we talking or are we playing?"
OH, VERY WELL.
Granny picked up the pack of cards and shuffled it, not looking at her hands, and smiling at Death all the time. She dealt five cards each, and reached down. . .
A bony hand grasped hers.
BUT FIRST, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX - WE WILL EXCHANGE CARDS.
He picked up the two piles and transposed them, and then nodded at Granny.
Granny looked at her cards, and threw them down.
FOUR QUEENS. HMM. THAT IS VERY HIGH.
Death looked down at his cards, and then up into Granny's steady, blue-eyed gaze.
Neither moved for some time.
Then Death laid the hand on the table.
I LOSE, he said. ALL I HAVE IS FOUR ONES.
Granny Weatherwax and Death
was about to lie back when something in the darkness went:. . . ting.
It was a tuning fork.
And a voice said: "Christine. . . please attend."
She sat upright, staring at the darkness.
And then realization dawned. No men, they'd said. They'd been very strict about that, as if opera were some kind of religion. It was not a problem in Agnes's case, at least in the way they meant, but for someone like Christine. . . They said love always found a way and, of course, so did a number of associated activities.
Oh, good grief. She felt the blush start. In darkness! What kind of a reaction was that?
Agnes's life unrolled in front of her. It didn't look as though it were going to have many high points. But it did hold years and years of being capable and having a lovely personality. It almost certainly held chocolate rather than sex and, while Agnes was not in a position to make a direct comparison, and regardless of the fact that a bar of chocolate could be made to last all day, it did not seem a very fair exchange.
She felt the same feeling she'd felt back home. Sometimes life reaches that desperate point where the wrong thing to do has to be the right thing to do.
It doesn't matter what direction you go. Sometimes you just have to go.
Christine and Agnes switch rooms
well," said Granny, as they lurched away again, "it seems there's
just you and me, Gytha. And Señor Basilica, who doesn't speak
our language. Does he, Mr. Henry Slugg?"
Henry Slugg took out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. "Ladies! Dear ladies! I beg you, for pity's sake. . ."
"Have you done anything bad, Mr. Slugg?" said Nanny. "Took advantage of women who dint want to be took advantage of? Stole? (Apart from lead on roofs and other stuff people wouldn't miss.) Done any murders of anyone who dint deserve it?"
"He tellin' the truth, Esme?"
Henry writhed under Granny Weatherwax's stare.
"Oh, well, that's all right, then," said Nanny. "I understand. I don't have to pay taxes myself, but I know all about people not wantin' to."
"Oh, it's not that, I assure you," said Henry. "I have people to pay my taxes for me. . ."
"That's a good trick," said Nanny.
"Mr. Slugg's got a different trick," said Granny. "I reckon I know the trick. It's like sugar and water."
Henry waved his hands uncertainly. "It's just that if they knew. . ." he began.
"Everything's better if it comes from a long way away. That's the secret," said Granny.
Nanny Ogg, Henry Slugg, and Granny
Weatherwax was firmly against fiction. Life was hard enough without
lies floating around and changing the way people thought. And because
the theatre was fiction made flesh, she hated the theatre most of
all. But that was it-hate was exactly the right word. Hate is a force
of attraction. Hate is just love with its back turned.
She didn't loathe the theatre, because, had she done so, she would have avoided it completely. Granny now took every opportunity to visit the travelling theatre that came to Lancre, and sat bolt upright in the front row of every performance, staring fiercely. Even honest Punch and Judy men found her sitting among the children, snapping things like " 'Tain't so!" and "Is that any way to behave?" As a result, Lancre was becoming known throughout the Sto Plains as a really tough gig.
But what she wanted wasn't important. Like it or not, witches are drawn to the edge of things, where two states collide. They feel the pull of doors, circumferences, boundaries, gates, mirrors, masks. . .
. . .and stages.
stared at the tiny meal on Christine's tray. "Is that all you're
having for breakfast?"
"Oh, yes! I can just blow up like a balloon, dear!! It's lucky for you, you can eat anything!! Don't forget it's practice in half an hour!"
And she skipped off.
She's got a head full of air, Agnes thought. I'm sure she doesn't mean to say anything hurtful.
But, deep inside her, Perdita X Dream thought a rude word.
Christine and Agnes
leaned forward. "What in fact we would like you to do… Perdita… is
sing the role, indeed, but not, in fact… play the role."
Agnes listened while they explained. … It wasn't immoral. The show had to go on.
The ring of desperately grinning faces watched her.
I could just walk away, she thought. Walk away from these grinning faces and the mysterious Ghost. They couldn't stop me.
But there's nowhere to walk to except back.
"Yes, er, yes," she said. "I'm very. . . er. . . but why do it like this? Couldn't I simply take her place and sing the part?"
The men looked at one another, and then all started talking at once.
"Yes, but you see, Christine is. . . has. . . more stage experience-"
"-apparent lyrical ability-"
"-fits the costume-"
Agnes looked down at her big hands. She could feel the blush advancing like a barbarian horde, burning everything as it came.
"You. . .
you do know what kind of place this is, do you,
Esme?" said Nanny Ogg. She felt curiously annoyed. She'd happily give
way to Granny's expertise in the worlds of mind and magic, but she
felt very strongly that there were some more specialized areas that
were definitely Ogg territory, and Granny Weatherwax had no business
even to know what they were.
"Oh, yes," said Granny, calmly.
Nanny's patience gave out. "It's a house of ill repute, is what it is!"
"On the contrary," said Granny. "I believe people speak very highly of it."
"You knew? And you never told me?"
Granny raised an ironic eyebrow. "The lady who invented the Strawberry Wobbler?"
"Well, yes, but--"
"We all live life the best way we can, Gytha. And there's a lot of people who think witches are bad."
"Before you criticize someone, Gytha, walk a mile in their shoes," said Granny, with a faint smile.
"In those shoes she was wearin', I'd twist my ankle," said Nanny, gritting her teeth. "I'd need a ladder just to get in 'em." It was infuriating, the way Granny tricked you into reading her half of the dialogue. And opened your mind to yourself in unexpected ways.
"And it's a welcoming place and the beds are soft," said Granny.
"Warm too, I expect," said Nanny Ogg, giving in. "And there's always a friendly light in the window."
"Dear me, Gytha Ogg. I always thought you were unshockable."
"Shockable, no," said Nanny. "Easily surprised, yes."
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax
the aria, or at least a few bars of it. André stopped playing
and leaned his head against the piano, trying to stifle a laugh.
"Ahem," said Undershaft.
"Was I doing something wrong?"
"You were singing tenor," said Undershaft, looking sternly at André.
"She was singing in your voice, sir!"
"Perhaps you can sing it like, er, Christine would sing it?"
They started again.
"Kwesta!? Maledetta!!. . ."
Undershaft held up both hands. André's shoulders were shaking with the effort of not laughing.
"Yes, yes. Accurately observed. I daresay you're right. But could we start again and, er, perhaps you would sing it how you think it should be sung?"
They started again. . .
. . .and finished.
Undershaft had sat down, half-turned away. He wouldn't look round to face her.
Agnes stood watching him uncertainly. "Er. Was that all right?" she said.
André the pianist got up slowly and took her hand. "I think we'd better leave him," he said softly, pulling her towards the door.
"Was it that bad?"
"Not. . . exactly."
Undershaft raised his head, but didn't turn it towards her. "More practice on those Rs, madam, and strive for greater security above the stave," he said hoarsely.
"Yes. Yes, I will."
André led her out into the corridor, shut the door, and then turned to her.
"Now I've got to go." He gave her a weak little smile, and patted her hand. "And. . . I'm really sorry it's happening this way. Because… that was astounding."
Salzella. . . what is the difference between opera and madness?"
"Is this a trick question?"
"Then I'd say: better scenery…"
Bucket and Salzella
Weatherwax] closed her eyes.
This was when you started being a witch. It wasn't when you did headology on daft old men, or mixed up medicines, or stuck up for yourself, or knew one herb from another.
It was when you opened your mind to the world and carefully examined everything it picked up.
herself relax again. She sank into the seat as the aria washed over
her, and opened her mind once more. . .
Edges, walls, doors. . .
Once a space was enclosed it became a universe of its own. Some things remained trapped in it.
The music passed through one side of her head and out the other, but with it. came other things, strands of things, echoes of old screams. . .
She drifted down further, down below the conscious, into the darkness beyond the circle of firelight.
There was fear here. It stalked the place like a great dark animal. It lurked in every corner. It was in the stones. Old terror crouched in the shadows. It was one of the most ancient terrors, the one that meant that no sooner had mankind learned to walk on two legs than it dropped to its knees. It was the terror of impermanence, the knowledge that all this would pass away, that a beautiful voice or a wonderful figure was something whose arrival you couldn't control and whose departure you couldn't delay. It wasn't what she had been looking for, but it was perhaps the sea in which it swam.
She went deeper.
And there it was, roaring through the night-time of the soul of the place like a deep cold current.
As she drew closer she saw that it was not one thing but two, twisted around one another. She reached out. . .
Trickery. Lies. Deceit. Murder.
Mr. Ivy," she [Granny] said, leaping off [her broom]. "Upstairs, is
"In the barn," said Ivy, flatly. "The cow kicked her…hard."
Granny's expression stayed impassive.
"We shall see," she said, "what may be done."
In the barn, one look at Mrs. Patternoster's face told her how little that might be now. The woman wasn't a witch, but she knew all the practical mid-wifery that can be picked up in an isolated village, be it from cows, goats, horses or humans.
"It's bad," she whispered, as Granny looked at the moaning figure on the straw. "I reckon we'll lose both of them…or maybe just one…"
There was, if you were listening for it, just the suggestion of a question in that sentence. Granny focused her mind.
"It's a boy," she said.
Mrs. Patternoster didn't bother to wonder how Granny knew, but her expression indicated that a little more weight had been added to a burden.
"I'd better go and put it to John Ivy, then," she said.
She'd barely moved before Granny Weatherwax's hand locked onto her arm.
"He's no part in this," she said.
"But after all, he is the--"
"He's no part in this."
Mrs. Patternoster looked into the blue stare and knew two things. One was that Mr. Ivy had no part in this, and the other was that anything that happened in this barn was never, ever, going to be mentioned again.
When she [Mrs. Patternoster] had fled, Granny laid a hand on Mrs. Ivy's damp forehead.
As she moved her head, she caught sight of the moon through the unglazed window. Between the light and the dark…well, sometimes that's where you had to be.
Granny didn't bother to turn around.
"I thought you'd be here," she said as she knelt down in the straw.
"Do you know who you're here for?"
THAT IS NOT MY CHOICE. ON THE VERY EDGE YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND SOME UNCERTAINTY.
Granny felt the words in her head for several seconds, like little melting cubes of ice. On the very, very edge, then, there had to be…judgement.
"There's too much damage here," she said at last. "Too much."
A few minutes later she felt the life stream past her. Death had the decency to leave without a word.
When Mrs. Patternoster tremulously knocked on the door and pushed it open, Granny was in the cow's stall. The midwife saw her stand up holding a piece of thorn.
"Been in the beast's leg all day," she said. "No wonder it was fretful. Try and make sure he doesn't kill the cow, you understand? They'll need it."
Mrs. Patternoster glanced down at the rolled-up blanket in the straw. Granny had tactfully placed it out of sight of Mrs. Ivy, who was sleeping now.
"I'll tell him," said Granny, brushing off her dress. "As for her, well, she's strong and young and you know what to do. You keep an eye on her, and me or Nanny Ogg will drop in when we can. If she's up to it they may need a wet nurse up at the castle, and that may be good for everyone."
It was doubtful that anyone in Slice would defy Granny Weatherwax, but Granny saw the faintest gray shadow of disapproval in the midwife's expression.
"You still reckon I should've asked Mr. Ivy?" she said.
"That's what I would have done…" the woman mumbled.
"You don't like him? You think he's a bad man?" said Granny, adjusting her hat pins.
"Then what's he ever done to me, that I should hurt him so?"
was always choices…
There'd been that man down in Spackle, the one that'd killed those little kids. The people'd sent for her and she'd looked at him and seen the guilt writhing in his head like a red worm, and then she'd taken them to his farm and shoed them where to dig, and he'd thrown himself down and asked her for mercy, because he said he'd been drunk and it'd all been done in alcohol.
Her words came back to her. She'd said, in sobriety: end it in hemp.
And they'd dragged him off and hanged him in a hempen rope and she'd gone to watch because she owed him that much, and he'd cursed, which was unfair because hanging is a clean death, or at least cleaner than the one he'd have got if the villagers had dared defy her, and she'd seen the shadow of Death come for him, and then behind death came the smaller, brighter figures, and then--
In the darkness, the rocking chair creaked as it thundered back and forth.
The villagers had said justice had been done, and she'd lost patience and told them to go home, then, and pray to whatever gods they believed in that it was never done to them. The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.
She shuddered at a memory. Almost as horrible, but not quite.
The odd thing was, quite a lot of the villagers had turned up at his funeral, and there had been mutterings from one or two people on the lines of, yes, well, but overall he wasn't such a bad chap…and anyway, maybe she made him say it. And she'd got the dark looks.
Supposing there was justice for all, after all? For every unheeded beggar, every harsh word, every neglected duty, every slight…every choice… Because that was the point, wasn't it? You had to choose. You might be right, you might be wrong, but you had to choose, knowing that the rightness or wrongness might never be clear or even that you were deciding between two sorts of wrong, that there was no right anywhere. And always, always, you did it by yourself. You were the one there, on the edge, watching and listening. Never any tears, never any apologies, never any regrets… You saved all that up in a way that could be used when needed.
Granny Weatherwax reflects
didn't ask her!
What had she ever earned? The reward for toil had been more toil. If you dug the best ditches, they gave you a bigger shovel.
The darkness in the corners grew out into the room and began to tangle in her hair.
They didn't ask her!
She'd never, ever asked for anything in return. And the trouble with not asking for anything in return was that sometimes you didn't get it.
She'd always tried to face toward the light. She'd always tried to face toward the light. But the harder you stared into the brightness the harsher it burned into you until, at last, the temptation picked you up and bid you turn around to see how long, rich, strong, and dark, streaming away behind you, your shadow had become--
Granny Weatherwax's invitation to the baby shower is mislaid
know Magrat was going to call the baby Esme?" she said.
"Probably. It's amazing what she picks up."
"Maybe not tactful, when you think about it," said Agnes.
"What do you mean? I'd have been honored, if it was me."
"Perhaps Granny thought the name was being passed on. Inherited."
"Oh. Yes," said Nanny. "Yes, I can just imagine Esme workin' it up to that, when she's in one of her gloomy moods."
"My granny used to say if you're too sharp you'll cut yourself," said Agnes.
Nanny Ogg and Agnes
we'll not see the back of these vampires by going over to the
curtains and saying 'my, isn't it stuffy in here,' but there's got to
be some other way."
"And if there isn't?"
"Marry him," said Nanny firmly. Magrat gasped. The teapot rattled in her hand.
"You really haven't got any scruples, have you, Nanny," said Agnes.
"No," said Nanny, simply. "This is Lancre we're talkin' about. If we was men, we'd be talking about layin' down our lives for the country. As women, we can talk about laying down."
Nanny Ogg's take on politics and war
hoped that, just once, that Om would make himself known in some
obvious and unequivocal way that couldn't be mistaken for wind or a
guilty conscience. Just once, he'd like the clouds to part for the
space of ten seconds and a voice to cry out, "YES,
MIGHTILY-PRAISEWORTHY-ARE-YE-WHO-EXALTETH-OM OATS! IT'S ALL
COMPLETELY TRUE! INCIDENTALLY, THAT WAS A VERY THOUGHTFUL PAPER YOU
WROTE ON THE CRISIS OF RELIGION IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY!"
It wasn't that he lacked faith. But faith wasn't enough. He'd wanted knowledge.
Mightily Oats, priest of Om.
… will get up … presently," Granny panted. "Make sure…you know
well…what it is…"
"But you're not expecting me to behead--"
"I'm commandin' you, religious man! What do you really…believe? What did you…think it was all about? Singing songs? Sooner or later…it's all down to…the blood…"
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
that's what your holy men discuss, is it?"
"Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example."
"And what do they think? Against it, are they?"
"It's not as simple as that. It's not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray."
"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
"It's a lot more complicated than that--"
"No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
mainly I think she [his grandmother] was in favor of crushing Mrs.
Ahrim next door. … She thought the world would be a better place with
a bit more crushing and smiting."
"Not as much smiting and crushing as she'd like, though, I think," said Oats. "A bit judgmental, my grandmother."
"Nothing wrong with that. Judging is human."
"We prefer to leave it to Om," said Oats…
"Bein' human means judgin' all the time," said the voice behind him. "This and that, good and bad, making choices every day…that's human."
"And are you so sure you can make the right decisions?"
"No, but I do the best I can."
"And hope for mercy, eh?"
The bony finger prodded him in the back.
"Mercy's a fine thing, but judgin' comes first. Otherwise you don't know what you're bein' merciful about."
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
well to get a fire going in this murk," said Granny.
"I thank Om for it," said Oats.
He disappeared into the dripping shadows.
Granny flapped her skirts in front of the blaze to circulate some warm air, and something small and white flew up from the ashes, dancing in the fire and sleet.
She picked it up from the moss where it had landed.
It was a piece of thin paper; the charred corner of a page. She could just make out, in the red light, the words "…of Om … aid unto … Ossory smote…" The paper was attached to a burnt strip of leather binding.
She regarded it for a while, and then dropped it carefully into the flames as the sound of crackling twigs indicated Oats's return.
"Good thing you were able to get a fire going, all the same," she said, without turning around.
"I have always found that if I put my trust in Om a way will be found," said Oats, hurrying after her.
"I reckon Om helps those who helps themselves," said Granny.
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
Nitt] noticed the vampires taking up positions in a line in front of
the bell tower, about four or five feet apart.
Now, across the square, the people were beginning to form lines. A couple of small children pulled away from their parents' hands and chased one another up and down the lines of people, laughing.
And the suspicion bloomed slowly in Agnes like a great black, red-edged rose.
…Agnes felt the terror rising around her. And it was wrong, the wrong kind of terror, a numbing, cold, sick feeling that froze her where she stood. She had to do something, do anything, break its horrible grip--
…As the mayor turned back, he met Agnes's stare. She looked away, not wanting to see that expression. People were good at imagining hells, and some they occupied while they were alive.
They [the vampires] could move very fast. Even a scream wouldn't work. She might be able to get in one good wallop, and that would be it. And perhaps she'd wake up as a vampire, and not know the difference between good and evil. But that wasn't the point. The point was here and now, because here and now she did.
Vlad takes Agnes out to "dinner"
burned witches," said Granny. "Probably they burned some old ladies
who spoke up or couldn't run away. I wouldn't look for witches bein'
burned," she added, shifting position. "I might look for witches
doin' the burning, though. We ain't all nice."
about your little book of holy words…" she said, when she was farther
down the track.
There was a long pause before Oats replied.
"I can easily get another," he said levelly.
"Must be hard, not having your book of words."
"It's only paper."
"Terrible thing, having to burn all them words, though."
"The worthwhile ones don't burn."
"You're not too stupid, for all that you wear a funny hat," said Granny.
"I know when I'm being pushed, Mistress Weatherwax."
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
I'd seen him, really there, really alive, it'd be in me
like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two
hoots about people, who watched 'em like a father and cared for 'em
like a mother … well you wouldn't catch me sayin' things like 'there
are two sides to every question' and 'we must respect other people's
beliefs.' You wouldn't find me just being gen'rally nice in the hope
that it'd all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was
burning in me like an unforgivin' sword. And I did say burning',
Mister Oats, 'cos that's what it'd be. You say that you people don't
burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that's what true faith
would mean, y'see? Sacrificin' your own life, one day at a time, to
the flame, declarin' the truth of it, workin' for it, breathin' the
soul of it. That's religion. Anything else is
just … is just bein' nice. And a way of keepin' in touch with the
She relaxed slightly and went on in a quieter voice.: "Anyway, that's what I'd be, if I really believed. And I don't think that's fashionable right now, 'cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, 'oh deary me, we must debate this.' That's my two penn'orth Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don't chase faith, 'cos you'll never catch it." She added, almost as an aside, "But, perhaps, you can live faithfully."
Granny Weatherwax, to Mightily Oats
hadn't seen a mob like this before. Mobs, in her limited experience,
were noisy. This one was silent. Most of the town was in it, and to
Agnes's surprise they'd brought along many of the children.
It didn't surprise Perdita. They're going to kill the vampires, she said, and the children will watch.
Good, thought Agnes, that's exactly right.
Perdita was horrified. It'll give them nightmares!
No, thought Agnes. It'll take the nightmares away. Sometimes, everyone has to know the monster is dead, and remember, so that they can tell their grandchildren.
good man, Mister Oats?" said Granny, conversationally, as the echoes
died away. "Even without your holy book and holy amulet and holy
"Er…I try to be…" he ventured.
"Well…this is where you find out," said Granny. "To the fire we come at last, Mister Oats. This is where we both find out."
Granny prepares to release the phoenix
vampires. We can't help what we are."
"Only animals can't help what they are," said Granny.
Granny and Count Magpyr
old Count] only ever came around every few years and anyway if you
remembered about the garlic he wasn't a problem. He didn't expect us
to like him."
Count Magpyr screamed.
"You can't possible prefer that? He's a monster!"
"But he never made an appointment!" shouted Agnes, even louder. "I bet he never thought it was all just an arrangement!"
A villager, Agnes Nitt, and Count Magpyr
[Granny] nodded at the Count, who'd slowly raised his hands to the
red wound that ran all around his neck.
"It was a sharp axe," she said. "Who says there's no mercy in the world? Just don't nod, that's all. And someone'll take you down to a nice cold coffin and I daresay fifty years'll just fly past and maybe you'll wake with enough sense to be stupid."
"No. Fifty years to think about things, that's about right. People need vampires," she said. "They helps 'em remember what stakes and garlic are for."
"That's not enough!" said Piotr, stepping forward. "Not after all he--"
"Then when he comes back you deal with him yourself!" snapped Granny loudly. "Teach your children! Don't trust the cannibal just 'cos he's usin' a knife and fork! And remember that vampires don't go where they're not invited!"
Granny sentences Count Magpyr
imploringly at Agnes, and reached out to her.
"You wouldn't let them kill me, would you? You wouldn't let them do this to me? We could have … we might … you wouldn't, would you?"
The crowd hesitated. This sounded like an important plea. A hundred pairs of eyes stared at Agnes.
She took his hand. I suppose we could work on him, said Perdita. But Agnes thought about Escrow, and the queues, and the children playing while they waited, and how evil might come animal sharp in the night, or grayly by day on a list…
"Vlad," she said gently, looking deep into his eyes, "I'd even hold their coats."
Vlad Magpyr and Agnes Nitt
"I feel I
should thank you," said Oats, when they reached the spiral
"For helping you across the mountains, you mean?"
"The world is … different." Oats's gaze went out across the haze, and the forests, and the purple mountains. "Everywhere I look I see something holy."
For the first time since he'd met her, he saw Granny Weatherwax smile properly. Normally her mouth went up at the corners just before something unpleasant was going to happen to someone who deserved it, but this time she appeared to be pleased with what she'd heard.
"That's a start, then," she said.
Granny Weatherwax and Mightily Oats
The Fifth Elephant
family motto is Homo Homini Lupus. 'A man is a wolf
to other men'! How stupid. Do you think that they mean
that men are shy and retiring and loyal and kill only to eat? Of
course not! They mean that men act like men toward other men, and the
worse they are, the more they think they're really being like wolves!
Humans hate werewolves because they see the wolf in us, but wolves
hate us because they see the human inside--and I don't blame
Angua von Uberwald
You let 'em
know you know they've done something wrong, but you don't tell 'em
what it is, and you certainly don't tell 'em how much you know, and you
keep 'em off balance, and you just talk quietly, and--…--you keep the
threat in view but you never refer to it, oh no. Because there's
nothing you can do to them that their imagination isn't already doing
to themselves. And you keep it up until they break…
And it doesn't even leave a mark.
what you'll be wearing, Cheery?"
"But it's just…ordinary dwarf clothes. Trousers and everything."
"But Sybil said you'd got a fetching little green number and a helmet with a feather in it."
"You're free to wear whatever you want, you know that."
"Yes, sir. And then I thought about Dee. And I watched the king when he talked to you, and…well, I can wear what I like, sir. That's the point. I don't have to wear that dress. I can wear what I like. I don't have to wear something just because other people don't want me to."
Commander Vimes and Cheery
A sigh began. It grew louder and louder, a hurricane made up of the breath of the nation. It echoed back and forth among the rocks until it drowned out all other sounds.
Vimes had half expected the Scone to explode, or crumble, or flash red-hot. Which was stupid, said a dwindling part of himself--it was a fake, a nonsense, something made in Ankh-Morpork for money, something that had already cost lives. It was not, it could not, be real.
But in the roaring air he knew that it was, in the minds of all who needed to believe, and in a belief so strong that fact was not the same as truth…he knew that for now, and yesterday, and tomorrow, it was both the thing, and the whole of the thing.
I've got to know something…"
"That might happen to me. Have you ever thought about that? He was my brother, after all. Being two things at the same time, and never quite being one…we're not the most stable of creatures…"
"Gold and muck come out of the same shaft," said Carrot.
"That's just a dwarf saying!"
"It's true, though. You're not him."
"Well…if it happened…if it did…would you do what Vimes did? Carrot? Would it be you who picked up a weapon and came after me? I know you won't lie. I've got to know. Would it be you?"
A little snow slid down from the trees. The wolves watched. Carrot looked up for a moment, at the gray sky, and then nodded.
"Promise?" she said.
Angua and Carrot
become, in time, the ax of someone's grandfather," said the king,
lifting it out. "And no doubt over the years it will need a new
handle or a new blade and over the centuries the shape will change in
line with fashion, but it will always be, in every detail and
respect, the ax I give you today. And because it'll change with the
times, it'll always be sharp. There's a grain of Truth in that,
The Low King
wasn't moved by heroes or villains or even by policemen. It might as
well be moved by symbols. All he knew was, you couldn't hope to try
for the big stuff, like world peace and happiness, but you might just
about be able to achieve some tiny deed that'd make the world, in a
small way, a better place.
In fact he [the Bursar] was incurably insane and hallucinated more or less continuously, but by a remarkable stroke of lateral thinking his fellow wizards had reasoned that, in that case, the whole business could be sorted out if only they could find a formula that caused him to hallucinate that he was completely sane* (* This is a very common hallucination, shared by most people.)
are your reasons, my lord?"
"Do you think I have others?" said Lord Vetinari. "My motives, as ever, are entirely transparent."
Hughnon reflected that "entirely transparent" meant either that you could see right through them or that you couldn't see them at all.
Hughnon Ridcully meets with the Patrician
once considered impossible is now quite easily achieved. Kings and
lords come and go and leave nothing but statues in a desert, while a
couple of young men tinkering in a workshop change the way the world
"We've always looked beyond the walls for the invaders," he said. "We always thought change came from outside, usually on the point of a sword. And then we look around and find that it comes from the inside of the head of someone you wouldn't notice in the street. In certain circumstances it may be convenient to remove the head, but there seem to be such a lot of them these days."
William always told himself, he was no good at making things up;
anything that wasn't the truth simply unraveled for him. Even little
white lies, like "I shall definitely have the money by the end of the
week", always ended in trouble. That was "telling stories", a sin in
the de Worde compendium that was worse than lying; it was trying to
make lies interesting.
So William de Worde told the truth, out of cosmic self defense. He'd found a hard truth less hard than an easy lie.
William de Worde
negative qualities can reach a pitch of perfection that changes their
very nature, and Mr. Tulip had turned anger into an art.
It was not anger at anything. It was just pure, platonic anger from somewhere in the reptilian depths of the soul, a fountain of never-ending red-hot grudge; Mr. Tulip lived his life on that thin line most people occupy just before they haul off and hit someone repeatedly with a spanner. For Mr. Tulip, anger was the ground state of being. Pin had occasionally wondered what had happened to the man to make him as angry as that, but to Tulip the past was another country with very, very well-guarded borders. Sometimes Mr. Pin heard him screaming at night.
Mr. Tulip and Mr. Pin
like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get
uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things...well, new
things aren't what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog
will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don't want to know that a
man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like
that. In short, what people think they want is news,
but what they really crave is olds."
wondered why he always disliked people who said, "no offense meant."
Maybe it was because they found it easier to say "no offense meant"
than actually to refrain from giving offense.
William de Worde
not even sure there is enough news to fill a--" William began, and stopped.
That wasn't the way it worked, was it? If it was in the paper, it
was news. If it was news it went in the paper, and if it
was in the paper it was news. And it was the truth.
He remembered the breakfast table. "They" wouldn't let "them" put it in the paper if it wasn't true, would they?
William de Worde
vich does not kill us makes us stronk."
William caught Sacharissa's gaze. Her look said it all: we've hired him. Have we got the heart to fire him now? And don't make fun of his accent unless your Uberwaldean is really good, okay?
William and Sacharissa meet Otto, the vampire iconographer
could run round the world before the truth could get its boots on.
And it was amazing how people wanted to believe them.
William remembers his father's words
not been brought up to respect the Watch. They weren't our kind of
people. It was conceded that they were useful, like sheepdogs,
because clearly someone had to keep people in order, heavens knew,
but only a fool would let a sheepdog sleep in the parlor.
William's family and everyone they knew also had a mental map of the city that was divided into parts where you found upstanding citizens and other parts where you found criminals. It had come as a shock to them . . . no, he corrected himself, it had come as an affront to learn that Vimes operated on a different map. Apparently he'd instructed his men to use the front door when calling at any building, even in broad daylight, when sheer common sense said that they should use the back, just like any other servant.* The man simply had no idea.
* William's class understood that justice was like coal or potatoes. You ordered it when you needed it.
not been a nice day," he [Vimes] said. "And it's going to get a lot
worse. Why should I waste my time talking to you?"
"I can tell you one good reason," said William.
"Well, go on, then."
"You should talk to me so that I can write it down, sir. All neat and correct. The actual words you say, right down there on the paper. And you know who I am, and if I get them wrong you know where to find me."
"So? You're telling me that if I do what you want you'll do what you want?"
"I'm saying, sir, that a lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on."
William and Commander Vimes
busied himself in carefully scraping up Otto with two pages from his
notebook and depositing the dust in the bag the vampire used to carry
Then it dawned on him that he was alone - Otto probably didn't count at the moment - in the palace with Commander Vimes's permission to be there, if "the kitchens are over that way" could be parlayed into "permission". And William was good with words. Truth was what he told. Honesty was sometimes not the same thing.
what did you say to our Rene?" said a thickset man, putting down a
tray of hot loaves.
"Are you the baker?" said William.
The man gave him a look. "What does it look like?"
"I can see what it looks like," said William. There was another look, but this one had just a measure of respect in it. "I'm still asking the question," he went on.
"I'm the butcher, as it happens," said the man. "Well done. The baker's off sick. And who are you, askin' me questions?"
"Commander Vimes sent me down here," said William. He was appalled at the ease with which the truth turned into a something that was almost a lie, just by being positioned correctly.
William does some investigative reporting
waited. It looked, now, like a great big beast. Soon he'd throw a lot
of words into it. And in a few hours it would be hungry again, as if
those words had never happened. You could feed it, but you could
never fill it up.
felt the distinct unease of a well-educated man who has to confront
the fact that the illiterate man watching him could probably
out-think him three times over.
William speaks with Harry King
Character assassination. What a wonderful idea. Ordinary assassination only works once, but this one works every day.
you call them black humans that live in Howondaland?"
"I know what my father calls them," said William. "But I call them 'people who live in Howondaland'."
"Do you really? Well, I hear tell there's one tribe where, before he can get married, a man has to kill a leopard and give the skin to the woman? It's the same as that. A dwarf needs gold to get married."
"What. . . like a dowry? But I thought dwarfs didn't differentiate between--"
"No, no, the two dwarfs getting married each buy the other dwarf off their parents."
"Buy?" said William. "How can you buy people?"
"See? Cultural misunderstanding once again, lad. It costs a lot of money to raise a young dwarf to marriageable age. Food, clothes, chain mail. . . it all adds up over the years. It needs repaying. After all, the other dwarf is getting a valuable commodity. And it has to be paid for in gold. That's traditional. Or gems. They're fine, too. You must've heard our saying 'worth his weight in gold'? Of course, if a dwarf's been working for his parents that gets taken into account on the other side of the ledger. Why, a dwarf who's left off marrying till late in life is probably owed quite a tidy sum in wages - you're still looking at me in that funny way"
"It's just that we don't do it like that. . ." mumbled William.
Goodmountain gave him a sharp look. "Don't you, now?" he said. "Really? What do you use instead, then?"
"Er . . . gratitude, I suppose," said William. He wanted this conversation to stop, right now. It was heading out over thin ice.
"And how's that calculated?"
"Well . . . it isn't, as such . . ."
"Doesn't that cause problems?"
"Ah. Well, we know about gratitude, too. But our way means the couple start their new lives in a state of . . . g'daraka . . . er, free, unencumbered, new dwarfs. Then their parents might well give them a huge wedding present, much bigger than the dowry. But it is between dwarf and dwarf, out of love and respect, not between debtor and creditor . . . though I have to say these human words are not really the best way of describing it. It works for us. It's worked for a thousand years."
"I suppose to a human it sounds a bit. . . chilly," said William.
Goodmountain gave him another studied look.
"You mean by comparison to the warm and wonderful ways humans conduct their affairs?" he said. "You don't have to answer that one."
Goodmountain and William
The best way to describe Mr. Windling would be like this: you are at a meeting. You'd like to be away early. So would everyone else. There really isn't very much to discuss, anyway. And just as everyone can see Any Other Business coming over the horizon and is already putting their papers neatly together, a voice says "If I can raise a minor matter, Mr. Chairman…" and with a horrible wooden feeling in your stomach you know, now, that the evening will go on for twice as long with much referring back to the minutes of earlier meetings. The man who has just said that, and is now sitting there with a smug smile of dedication to the committee process, is as near Mr. Windling as makes no difference. And something that distinguishes the Mr. Windlings of the universe is the term "in my humble opinion," which they think adds weight to their statements rather than indicating, in reality, "these are the mean little views of someone with the social grace of duckweed."
Windling] sniffed. "It's time for a change. Frankly, we could do with
a ruler who is a little more responsive to the views of ordinary
William glanced at Mr. Longshaft, the dwarf, who was peacefully cutting some toast into soldiers. Perhaps he hadn't noticed. Perhaps there was nothing to notice and William was being over sensitive. But years of listening to Lord de Worde's opinions had given him a certain ear. It told him when phrases like "the views of ordinary people," innocent and worthy in themselves, were being used to mean that someone should be whipped.
"How do you mean?" he said.
"The . . . city is getting too big," said Mr. Windling. "In the old days the gates were kept shut, not left open to all and sundry. And people could leave their doors unlocked."
"We didn't have anything worth stealing," said Mr. Cartwright.
"That's true. There's more money around," said Mr. Prone.
"It doesn't all stay here, though," said Mr. Windling. That was true, at least. "Sending money home" was the major export activity of the city, and dwarfs were right at the front of it. William also knew that most of it came back again, because dwarfs bought from the best dwarf craftsmen and, mostly, the best dwarf craftsmen worked in Ankh-Morpork these days. And they sent money back home. A tide of gold coins rolled back and forth and seldom had a chance to go cold. But it upset the Windlings of the city.
Mr. Longshaft quietly picked up his boiled egg and inserted it into an eggcup.
"There's just too many people in the city," Mr. Windling repeated. "I've nothing against . . . outsiders, heavens know, but Vetinari let it go far too far. Everyone knows we need someone who is prepared to be a little more firm."
There was a metallic noise. Mr. Longshaft, still staring fixedly at his egg, had reached down and drawn a smallish but still impressively axe-like axe from his bag. Watching the egg carefully, as if it was about to run away, he leaned slowly back, paused for a moment, then brought the blade round in an arc of silver.
The top of the egg flew up with hardly a noise, turned over in mid-air several feet above the plate, and landed beside the eggcup.
Mr. Longshaft nodded to himself and then looked up at the frozen expressions.
"I'm sorry?" he said. "I wasn't listening."
At which point, as Sacharissa would have put it, the meeting broke up.
Breakfast at Mrs. Arcanum's
The curious thing was, if the breakfast table jury was anything to go by, that denying stories like this only proved that they were true. After all, no one would bother to deny something if it didn't exist, would they?
you expect?" said Sacharissa, as if she was reading his thoughts.
"Did you think people would be marching in the streets? Vetinari
isn't a very nice man, from what I hear. People say he probably
deserves to be locked up."
"Are you saying people aren't interested in the truth?"
"Listen, what's true to a lot of people is that they need the money for the rent by the end of the week. Look at Mr. Ron and his friends. What's the truth mean to them? They live under a bridge!"
She held up a piece of lined paper, crammed edge to edge with the careful looped handwriting of someone for whom holding a pen was not a familiar activity.
"This is a report of the annual meeting of the Ankh-Morpork Caged Birds Society," she said. "They're just ordinary people who breed canaries and things as a hobby. Their chairman lives next door to me, which is why he gave me this. This stuff is important to him! My goodness, but it's dull. It's all about Best of Breed and some changes in the show rules about parrots which they argued about for two hours. But the people who were arguing were people who mostly spend their day mincing meat or sawing wood and basically leading little lives that are controlled by other people, do you see? They've got no say in who runs the city but they can damn well see to it that cockatoos aren't lumped in with parrots. It's not their fault. It's just how things are. Why are you sitting there with your mouth open like that?"
William closed his mouth. "All right, I understand--"
"No, I don't think you do," she snapped. "I looked you up in Twurp's Peerage. Your family have never had to worry about the small stuff, have they? They've been some of the people who really run things. This . . . paper is a kind of hobby for you, isn't it? Oh, you believe in it, I'm sure you do, but if it all goes wahoonie-shaped you'll still have money. I won't. So if the way it can be kept going is by filling it with what you sneer at as olds, then that's what I'll do."
"I don't have money! I make my own living!"
"Yes, but you were able to choose! Anyway, aristocrats don't like to see other toffs starving. They find them silly jobs to do for serious wages--"
She stopped, panting, and pushed some hair out of her eyes. Then she looked at him like someone who has lit the fuse and is now wondering if the barrel at the other end is bigger than they thought.
William opened his mouth, went to shape a word, and stopped. He did it again. Finally, a little hoarsely, he said: "You're more or less right--"
"The next word's going to be 'but,' I just know it," said Sacharissa.
William was aware that the printers were all watching. "Yes, it is--"
"But it's a big but. Do you mind? It's important! Someone has to care about the . . . the big truth. What Vetinari mostly does not do is a lot of harm. We've had rulers who were completely crazy and very, very nasty. And it wasn't that long ago, either. Vetinari might not be 'a very nice man,' but I had breakfast today with someone who'd be a lot worse if he ran the city, and there are lots more like him. And what's happening now is wrong. And as for your damn parrot fanciers, if they don't care about anything much beyond things that go squawk in cages then one day there'll be someone in charge of this place who'll make them choke on their own budgies. You want that to happen? If we don't make an effort all they'll get is silly . . . stories about talking dogs and Elves Ate My Gerbil, so don't give me lectures on what's important and what's not, understand?"
That . . .
burst of darkness had frightened Mr. Pin to his shrivelled soul. A
lot of memories had come pouring back, all at once.
Mr. Pin had made a lot of enemies, but that hadn't worried him until now because all his enemies were dead. But the dark light had fired off bits of his mind and it had seemed to him that those enemies had not vanished from the universe but had merely gone a long way away, from which point they were watching him. And it was a long way away only from his point of view - from their point of view they could reach out and touch him.
What he wouldn't say, even to Mr. Tulip, was this: they'd need all the money from this job because, in a flash of dark, he'd seen that it was time to retire.
Sacharissa looked a little disappointed. She'd been a respectable young woman for some time. In certain people, that means there's a lot of dammed-up disreputability just waiting to burst out.
...sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.
grabbed Goodmountain's shoulder. "I said come on!"
"My press! It's on fire!"
"Better it than us! Come on!"
It was said of the dwarfs that they cared more about things like iron and gold than they did about people, because there was only a limited supply of iron and gold in the world whereas there seemed to be more and more people everywhere you looked. It was said mostly by people like Mr. Windling.
But they did care fiercely about things. Without things, people were just bright animals.
bit of a waste, though," said William. "A waste of words, I
"Why? There's always more of them." Sacharissa patted him gently on the cheek. "You think you're writing words that'll last for ever? It's not like that. This newspaper stuff . . . that's words that last for a day. Maybe a week."
"And then they get thrown away," said William.
"Perhaps a few hang on. In people's heads."
William and Goodmountain
don't know what my father's friends are like. They are brought up to
give orders, they know that they're on the right side because if they
are on it then it must be the right side, by definition, and when
they feel threatened they are bare-knuckle fighters, except that they
never take their gloves off. They are thugs. Thugs and bullies,
bullies, and the worst kind of bully, because they aren't cowards and
if you stand up to them they only hit you harder. They grew up in a
world where, if you were enough trouble, they could have you . . .
disappeared. You think places like the Shades are bad? Then you don't
know what goes on in Park Lane!"
William De Worde
"I like Villiam. He was not brought up nice but he tries to be a nice person, vithout even cocoa and a singsong to help him. It is hard to go against your nature."
…he [William] took out his notebook and wrote: hlstns bggr than golf blls? and made a mental note to check one against a golf ball, just in case. Part of him was beginning to understand that his readers might have a very relaxed attitude about the guilt of politicians but were red hot on things like the size of the weather.
For most of
William's life Lord de Worde had been a distant figure staring out of
his study window, in a room lined with books that never got read,
while William stood meekly in the middle of acres of good but
threadbare carpet and listened to . . . well, viciousness mostly, now
that he thought about it, the opinions of Mr. Windling dressed up in
more expensive words.
The worst part, the worst part, was that Lord de Worde was never wrong. It was not a position he understood in relation to his personal geography. People who took an opposing view were insane, or dangerous, or possibly even not really people. You couldn't have an argument with Lord de Worde. Not a proper argument. An argument, from arguer, meant to debate and discuss and persuade by reason. What you could have with William's father was a flaming row.
Icy water dripped off one of the statues and ran down William's neck.
Lord de Worde used words with a tone and a volume that made them as good as fists, but he'd never used actual violence.
He had people for that.
you think happens to people when they die, Tulip?'
'I never worry about that --ing stuff.'
'Never --ing give it a thought. I've got my potato.'
Then Mr. Tulip found that he'd walked a few feet alone, because Mr. Pin had stopped dead.
'Oh, yeah. Keep it on a string round my neck.' Mr. Tulip tapped his huge chest.
'And that's religious?'
'Well, yeah. If you've got your potato when you die, everything will be okay.'
'What religion is that?'
'Dunno. Never ran across it outside our village. I was only a kid. I mean, it's like gods, right? When you're a kid, they say "that's God, that is". Then you grow up and you find there's --ing millions of 'em. Same with religion.'
'And it's all okay if you have a potato when you die?'
'Yep. You're allowed to come back and have another life.'
'Even if. . .' Mr. Pin swallowed, for he was in territory which had never before existed on his internal atlas, '. . . even if you've done things which people might think were bad?'
'Like chopping up people and --ing shovin' 'em off cliffs?'
'Yeah, that kind of thing
Mr. Tulip sniffed, causing his nose to flash. 'We-ell, it's okay so long as you're really --ing sorry about it.'
Mr. Pin was amazed, and a little suspicious. But he could feel things. . . catching up. There were faces in the darkness and voices on the cusp of hearing. He dared not turn his head now, in case he saw anything behind him.
You could buy a sack of potatoes for a dollar.
'It works?' he said.
'Sure. Back home people'd been doing it for hundreds of --ing years. They wouldn't be doing it if it didn't --ing work, would they?'
Mr. Tulip opened his eyes.
There was darkness around him, but with a suggestion of stars overhead behind an overcast sky. The air was still, but there was distant soughing, as of wind in dead trees.
He waited a while to see if anything would happen, and then said: 'Anyone --ing there?'
JUST ME, MR. TULIP.
Some of the darkness opened its eyes, and two blue glows looked down at him.
'The --ing bastard stole my potato. Are you --ing Death?'
JUST DEATH WILL SUFFICE, I THINK. WHO WERE YOU EXPECTING?
'Eh? For what?'
TO CLAIM YOU AS ONE OF THEIRS.
'Dunno, really. I never --ing thought. . .'
YOU NEVER SPECULATED?
'All I know is, you got to have your potato, and then it will be all right.' Mr. Tulip parroted the sentence without thinking, but it was coming back now in the total recall of the dead, from a vantage point of two feet off the ground and three years of age. Old men mumbling. Old women weeping. Shafts of light through holy windows. The sound of wind under the doors, and every ear straining to hear the soldiers. Us or theirs didn't matter, when a war had gone on this long . . .
Death gave the shade of Mr. Tulip a long, cool stare.
AND THAT'S IT?
YOU DON'T THINK THERE WERE ANY BITS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED?
. . . the sound of wind under the doors, the smell of the oil lamps, the fresh acid smell of snow, blowing in through the . . .
'And . . . if I'm sorry for everything . . .' he mumbled. He was lost in a world of darkness, without a potato to his name.
. . . candlesticks . . . they'd been made of gold, hundreds of years ago . . . there were only ever potatoes to eat, grubbed up from under the snow, but the candlesticks were of gold . . . and some old woman, she'd said: 'It'll all turn out right if you've got a potato
WAS ANY GOD OF SOME SORT MENTIONED TO YOU AT ANY POINT?
'No . . .'
DAMN. I WISH THEY DIDN'T LEAVE ME TO DEAL WITH THIS SORT OF THING, Death sighed. YOU BELIEVE, BUT YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN ANYTHING.
Mr. Tulip stood with his head bowed. More memories were trickling back now, like blood under a closed door. And the knob was rattling, and the lock had failed.
Death nodded at him.
AT LEAST YOU STILL HAVE YOUR POTATO, I SEE.
Mr. Tulip's hand flew to his neck. There was something wizened and hard there, on the end of a string. It had a ghostly shimmer to it.
'I thought he got it!' he said, his face alight with hope.
AH, WELL. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN A POTATO MIGHT TURN UP.
'So it's all going to be all right?'
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Mr. Tulip swallowed. Lies did not survive long out here. And more recent memories were squeezing under the door now, bloody and vengeful.
'I think it's gonna take more than a potato,' he said.
ARE YOU SORRY FOR EVERYTHING?
More unused bits of Mr. Tulip's brain, which had shut down long ago or had never even opened up, came into play.
'How will I know?' he said.
Death waved a hand through the air. Along the arc described by the bony fingers appeared a line of hourglasses.
I UNDERSTAND YOU ARE A CONNOISSEUR, MR. TULIP. IN A SMALL WAY, SO AM I. Death selected one of the glasses and held it up. Images appeared around it, bright but insubstantial as shadow.
'What are they?' said Tulip.
LIVES, MR. TULIP. JUST LIVES.- NOT ALL MASTERPIECES, OBVIOUSLY, OFTEN RATHER NAIF IN THEIR USE OF EMOTION AND ACTION, BUT NEVERTHELESS FULL OF INTEREST AND SURPRISE AND, EACH IN THEIR OWN WAY, A WORK OF SOME GENIUS. AND CERTAINLY VERY . . . COLLECTABLE. Death picked up an hourglass as Mr. Tulip tried to back away. YES. COLLECTABLE. BECAUSE, IF I HAD TO FIND A WAY TO DESCRIBE THESE LIVES, MR. TULIP, THAT WORD WOULD BE 'SHORTER'.
Death selected another hourglass. AH. NUGGA VELSKI. You WILL NOT REMEMBER HIM, OF COURSE. HE WAS SIMPLY A MAN WHO WALKED INTO HIS RATHER SIMPLE LITTLE HUT AT THE WRONG TIME, AND YOU ARE A BUSY MAN AND CANNOT BE EXPECTED TO REMEMBER EVERYONE. NOTE THE MIND, A BRILLIANT MIND THAT MIGHT IN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD, DOOMED TO BE BORN INTO A TIME AND PLACE WHERE LIFE WAS NOTHING BUT A DAILY, HOPELESS STRUGGLE. NEVERTHELESS, IN HIS TINY VILLAGE, RIGHT UP UNTIL THE DAY HE FOUND YOU STEALING HIS COAT, HE DID HIS BEST TO----
Mr. Tulip raised a trembling hand. 'Is this the bit where my whole life passes in front of my eyes?' he said.
NO, THAT WAS THE BIT JUST NOW.
THE BIT, said Death, BETWEEN YOUR BEING BORN AND YOUR DYING. NO, THIS . . . MR. TULIP, THIS IS YOUR WHOLE LIFE AS IT PASSED BEFORE OTHER PEOPLE'S EYES . . .
Death placed the final hourglass back on to the air, where it faded away. THERE, he said, WASN'T THAT INTERESTING? WHAT NEXT, MR. TULIP? ARE YOU READY TO GO?
The figure sat on the cold sand, staring at nothing. MR. TULIP? Death repeated. The wind flapped his robe, so that it streamed out a long ribbon of darkness.
'I . . . got to be really sorry . . . ?'
OH YES. IT IS SUCH A SIMPLE WORD. BUT HERE . . . IT HAS MEANING. IT HAS . . . SUBSTANCE.
'Yeah. I know.' Mr. Tulip looked up, his eyes red-rimmed, his face puffy. 'I reckon . . . to be that sorry, you got to take a --ing good run at it.'
'So . . . how long have I got?'
Death looked up at the strange stars.
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD.
'Yeah . . . well, maybe that'll --ing do it. Maybe there won't be no more world to go back to by then.'
I BELIEVE IT DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT. I UNDERSTAND REINCARNATION CAN TAKE PLACE ANYWHEN. WHO SAYS LIVES ARE SERIAL?
'You savin' . . . I could be alive before I was born?'
'Maybe I can find me and kill myself,' said Mr. Tulip, staring at the sand.
NO, BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER KNOW. AND YOU MAY BE LEADING QUITE A DIFFERENT LIFE.
'Good . . .'
Death patted Mr. Tulip on the shoulder, which flinched under his touch.
I SHALL LEAVE YOU NOW----
Th't's a good scythe you got there,' said Mr. Tulip, slowly and laboriously. That silverwork's craftsmanship if ever I saw it.'
THANK YOU, said Death. AND NOW, I REALLY MUST BE GOING. BUT I WILL PASS THROUGH HERE SOMETIMES. MY DOOR, he added, IS ALWAYS OPEN.
Pin, Tulip, and Death. And the Potato.