Men at Arms Page 38


'But . . . someone shot at Detritus. And killed the beggar girl.'

'Yes.'

Angua sat down beside him.

And it couldn't have been Edward . . .'

'Hah!' Carrot undid his breastplate and pulled off his mail shirt.

'So we're looking for someone else. A third man.'

'But there's no clues! There's just some man with a gonne! Somewhere in the city! Anywhere! And I'm bred!'

The springs went glink again as Carrot stood up and staggered over to the chair and table. He sat down, pulled a piece of paper towards him, inspected a pencil, sharpened it on his sword and, after a moment's thought, began to write.

Angua watched him in silence. Carrot had a short-sleeved leather vest under his mail. There was a birthmark at the top of his left arm. It was crown-shaped.

'Are you writing it all down, like Captain Vimes did?' she said, after a while.

'No.'

'What are you doing, then?'

'I'm writing to my mum and dad.'

'Really?'

'I always write to my mum and dad. I promised them. Anyway, it helps me think. I always write letters home when I'm thinking. My dad sends me lots of good advice, too.'

There was a wooden box in front of Carrot. Letters were stacked in it. Carrot's father had been in the habit of replying to Carrot on the back of Carrot's own letters, because paper was hard to come by at the bottom of a dwarf mine.

'What kind of good advice?'

'About mining, usually. Moving rocks. You know. Propping and shoring. You can't get things wrong in a mine. You have to do things right.'

His pencil scritched on the paper.

The door was still ajar, but there was a tentative tap on it which said, in a kind of metaphorical morse code, that the tapper could see very well that Carrot was in his room with a scantily clad woman and was trying to knock without actually being heard.

Sergeant Colon coughed. The cough had a leer in it.

'Yes, sergeant?' said Carrot, without looking around.

'What do you want me to do next, sir?'

'Send them out in squads, sergeant. At least one human, one dwarf and one troll in each.'

'Yessir. What'll they be doing, sir?'

'They'll be being visible, sergeant.'

'Right, sir. Sir? One of the volunteers just now . . . it's Mr Bleakley, sir. From Elm Street? He's a vampire, well. technic'ly, but he works up at the slaughterhouse so it's not really—'

'Thank him very much and send him home, sergeant.'

Colon glanced at Angua.

'Yessir. Right,' he said reluctantly. 'But he's not a problem, it's just that he needs these extra homogoblins in his bio—'

'No!'

'Right. Fine. I'll, er, I'll tell him to go away, then.'

Colon shut the door. The hinge leered.

'They call you sir,' said Angua. 'Do you notice that?'

'I know. It's not right. People ought to think for themselves, Captain Vimes says. The problem is, people only think for themselves if you tell them to. How do you spell “eventuality”?'

'I don't.'

'OK.' Carrot still didn't look around. 'We'll hold the city together through the rest of the night, I think. Everyone's seen sense.'

No they haven't, said Angua in the privacy of her own head. They've seen you. It's like hypnotism.

People live your vision. You-dream, just like Big Fido, only he dreamed a nightmare and you dream for everyone. You really think everyone is basically nice. Just for a moment, while they are near you, everyone else believes it too.

From somewhere outside came the sound of marching knuckles. Detritus' troop was making another circuit.

Oh, well. He's got to know sooner or later . . .

'Carrot?'

'Hmm?'

'You know . . . when Cuddy and the troll and me pined the Watch – well, you know why it was us three, don't you?'

'Of course. Minority group representation. One troll, one dwarf, one woman.'

'Ah.' Angua hesitated. It was still moonlight outside. She could tell him, run downstairs, Change and be well outside the city by dawn. She'd have to do it. She was an expert at running away from cities.

'It wasn't exactly like that,' she said. 'You see, there's a lot of undead in the city and the Patrician insisted that—'

'Give her a kiss,' said Gaspode, from under the bed.

Angua froze. Carrot's face took on the usual vaguely puzzled look of someone whose ears have just heard what their brain is programmed to believe doesn't exist. He began to blush.

'Gaspode!' snapped Angua, dropping into Canine.

'I know what I'm doin'. A Man, a Woman. It is Fate,' said Gaspode.

Angua stood up. Carrot shot up too, so fast that his chair fell over.

'I must be going,' she said.

'Um. Don't go—'

'Now you just reach out,' said Gaspode.

It'd never work, Angua told herself. It never does. Werewolves have to hang around with other werewolves, they're the only ones who understand . . .

But . . .

On the other hand . . . since she 'd have to run anyway . . .

She held up a finger.

'Just one moment,' she said brightly and, in one movement, reached under the bed and pulled out Gaspode by the scruff of his neck.

'You need me!' the dog whimpered, as he was carried to the door. 'I mean, what does he know? His idea of a good time is showing you the Colossus of Morpork! Put me—'

The door slammed. Angua leaned on it.

It'll end up just like it did in Pseudopolis and Quirm and—

Angua?' said Carrot.

She turned.

'Don't say anything,' she said. And it might be all right.'

After a while the bedsprings went glink.

And shortly after that, for Corporal Carrot, the Disc-world moved. And didn't even bother to stop to cancel the bread and newspapers.

Corporal Carrot awoke around four a.m., that secret hour known only to the night people, such as criminals, policemen and other misfits. He lay on his half of the narrow bed and stared at the wall.

It had definitely been an interesting night.

Although he was indeed simple, he wasn't stupid, and he'd always been aware of what might be called the mechanics. He'd been acquainted with several young ladies, and had taken them on many invigorating walks to see fascinating ironwork and interesting civic buildings until they'd unaccountably lost interest. He'd patrolled the Whore Pits often enough, although Mrs Palm and the Guild of Seamstresses were trying to persuade the Patrician to rename the area The Street of Negotiable Affection. But he'd never seen them in relation to himself, had never been quite sure, as it were, where he fitted in.

This was probably not something he was going to write to his parents about. They almost certainly knew.

He slid out of bed. The room was stifling hot with the curtains drawn.

Behind him, he heard Angua roll over into the hollow left by his body.

Then, with both hands, and considerable vigour, he threw open the curtains and let in the round, white light of the full moon.

Behind him, he thought he heard Angua sigh in her sleep.

There were thunderstorms out on the plain. Carrot could see lightning flashes stitching the horizon, and he could smell rain. But the air of the city was still and baking, all the hotter for the distant prospect of storms.

The University's Tower of Art loomed in front of him. He saw it every day. It dominated half the city.

Behind him, the bed went glink.

'I think there's going to be—' he began, and turned.

As he turned away, he missed the glint of moonlight on metal from the top of the tower.

Sergeant Colon sat on the bench outside the baking air of the Watch House.

There was a hammering noise from somewhere inside. Cuddy had come in ten minutes before with a bag of tools, a couple of helmets and a determined expression. Colon was damned if he knew what the little devil was working on.

He counted again, very slowly, ticking off names on his clipboard.

No doubt about it. The Night Watch had almost twenty members now. Maybe more. Detritus had gone critical, and had sworn in a further two men, another troll and a wooden dummy from outside Corksock's Natty Clothing Co.[27] If this went on they'd be able to open up the old Watch Houses near the main gates, just like the old days.

He couldn't remember when the Watch last had twenty men.

It had all seemed a good idea at the time. It was certainly keeping the lid on things. But in the morning the Patrician was going to get to hear about it, and demand to see the superior officer.

Now, Sergeant Colon was not entirely clear in his own mind who was the superior officer at the moment. He felt that it should be either Captain Vimes or, in some way he couldn't quite define, Corporal Carrot. But the captain wasn't around and Corporal Carrot was only a corporal, and Fred Colon had a dreadful apprehension that when Lord Vetinari summoned someone in order to be ironical at them and say things like 'Who's going to pay their wages, pray?' it would be him, Fred Colon, well and truly up the Ankh without a paddle.

They were also running out of ranks. There were only four ranks below the rank of sergeant. Nobby was getting stroppy about anyone else being promoted to corporal, so there was a certain amount of career congestion taking place. Besides, some of the Watch had got it into their heads that the way you got promoted was to conscript half a dozen other guards. At Detritus' current rate of progress, he was going to be High Supreme Major General by the end of the month.

And what made it all strange was that Carrot was still only a—

Colon looked up when he heard the tinkle of broken glass. Something golden and indistinct crashed through an upper window, landed in the shadows and fled before he could make out what it was.

The Watch House door slammed open and Carrot emerged, sword in hand.

'Where'd it go? Where'd it go?'

'Dunno. What the hell was it?'

Carrot stopped.

'Uh. Not sure,' he said.

'Carrot?'

'Sarge?'

'I should put some clothes on if I was you, lad.'

Carrot stayed looking into the pre-dawn gloom.

'I mean, I turned around and there it was, and—'

He looked down at the sword in his hand as if he hadn't realized that he was carrying it.

'Oh, damn!' he said.

He ran back to his room and grabbed his britches. As he struggled into them, he was suddenly aware of a thought in his head, clear as ice.

You are a pillock, what are you? Picked up the sword automatically, didn't you? Did it all wrong! Now she's run off and you'll never see her again!

He turned. A small grey dog was watching him intently from the doorway.

Shock like that, she might never Change back again said his thoughts. Who cares if she's a werewolf? That didn't bother you until you knew! Incident'ly, any biscuits about your person could be usefully thrown to the small dog in the doorway, although come to think of it the chances of having a biscuit on you right now are very small, so forget you ever thought it. Blimey, you really messed that up, right?

. . thought Carrot.

'Woof woof,' said the dog.

Carrot's forehead wrinkled.

'It's you, isn't it?' he said, pointing his sword.

'Me? Dogs don't talk,' said Gaspode, hurriedly. 'Listen, I should know. I am one.'

'You tell me where she's gone. Right now! Or . . .'

'Yeah? Look,' said Gaspode gloomily, 'the first thing I remember in my life, right, the first thing, was being thrown into the river in a sack. With a brick. Me. I mean, I had wobbly legs and a humorously inside-out ear, I mean, I was fluffy. OK, right, so it was the Ankh. OK, so I could walk ashore. But that was the start, and it ain't never got much better, J mean, J walked ashore inside the sack, dragging the brick. It took me three days to chew my way out. Go on. Threaten me.'

Prev Next