Men at Arms Page 46


'I'm sorry? What new arrangements?'

Carrot unfolded a second, and rather larger, piece of paper.

'The Watch to be brought up to an establishment strength of fifty-six; the old Watch Houses at the River Gate, the Deosil Gate and the Hubwards Gate to be reopened and manned on a twenty-four hour basis—'

The Patrician's smile remained, but his face seemed to pull away from it, leaving it stranded and all alone in the world.

'—a department for, well, we haven't got a name for it yet, but for looking at clues and things like dead bodies, e.g., how long they've been dead, and to start with we'll need an alchemist and possibly a ghoul provided they promise not to take anything home and eat it; a special unit using dogs, which could be very useful, and Lance-Constable Angua can deal with that since she can, um, be her own handler a lot of the time; a request here from Corporal Nobbs that Watchmen be allowed all the weapons they can carry, although I'd be obliged if you said no to that; a—'

Lord Vetinari waved a hand.

'All right, all right,' he said. 'I can see how this is going. And supposing I say no?'

There was another of those long, long pauses, wherein may be seen the possibilities of several different futures.

'Do you know, sir, I never even considered that you'd say no?'

'You didn't?'

'No, sir.'

'I'm intrigued. Why not?'

'It's all for the good of the city, sir. Do you know where the word “policeman” comes from? It means “man of the city”, sir. From the old word polis.'

'Yes. I do know.'

The Patrician looked at Carrot. He seemed to be shuffling futures in his head. Then:

'Yes. I accede to all the requests, except the one involving Corporal Nobbs. And you, I think, should be promoted to Captain.'

'Ye-es. I agree, sir. That would be a good thing for Ankh-Morpork. But I will not command the Watch, if that's what you mean.'

'Why not?'

'Because I could command the Watch. Because . . . people should do things because an officer tells them. They shouldn't do it just because Corporal Carrot says so. Just because Corporal Carrot is . . . good at being obeyed.' Carrot's face was carefully blank.

An interesting point.'

'But there used to be a rank, in the old days. Commander of the Watch. I suggest Samuel Vimes.'

The Patrician leaned back. 'Oh, yes,' he said. 'Commander of the Watch. Of course, that became a rather unpopular job, after all that business with Lorenzo the Kind. It was a Vimes who held the post in those days. I've never liked to ask him if he was an ancestor.'

'He was, sir. I looked it up.'

'Would he accept?'

'Is the High Priest an Offlian? Does a dragon explode in the woods?'

The Patrician steepled his ringers and looked at Carrot over the top of them. It was a mannerism that had unnerved many.

'But, you see, captain, the trouble with Sam Vimes is that he upsets a lot of important people. And I think that a Commander of the Watch would have to move in very exalted circles, attend Guild functions . . .'

They exchanged glances. The Patrician got the best of the bargain, since Carrot's face was bigger. Both of them were trying not to grin.

'An excellent choice, in fact,' said the Patrician.

'I'd taken the liberty, sir, of drafting a letter to the cap— to Mr Vimes on your behalf. Just to save you trouble, sir. Perhaps you'd care to have a look?'

'You think of everything, don't you?'

'I hope so, sir.'

Lord Vetinari read the letter. He smiled once or twice. Then he picked up his pen, signed at the bottom, and handed it back.

'And is that the last of your dema— requests?'

Carrot scratched his ear.

'There is one, actually. I need a home for a small dog. It must have a large garden, a warm spot by the fire, and happy laughing children.'

'Good heavens. Really? Well, I suppose we can find one.'

'Thank you, sir. That's all, I think.'

The Patrician stood up and limped over to the window. It was dusk. Lights were being lit all over the city.

With his back to Carrot he said, 'Tell me, captain . . . this business about there being an heir to the throne . . . What do you think about it?'

'I don't think .about it, sir. That's all sword-in-a-stone nonsense. Kings don't come out of nowhere, waving a sword and putting everything right. Everyone knows that.'

'But there was some talk of . . . evidence?'

'No-one seems to know where it is, sir.'

'When I spoke to Captain . . . to Commander Vimes he said you'd got it.'

'Then I must have put it down somewhere. I'm sure I couldn't say where, sir.'

'My word, I hope you absent-mindedly put it down somewhere safe.'

'I'm sure it's . . . well guarded, sir.'

'I think you've learned a lot from Cap— Commander Vimes, captain.'

'Sir. My father always said I was a quick learner, sir.'

'Perhaps the city does need a king, though. Have you considered that?'

'Like a fish needs a . . . er . . . a thing that doesn't work underwater, sir.'

'Yet a king can appeal to the emotions of his subjects, captain. In . . . very much the same way as you did recently, I understand.'

'Yes, sir. But what will he do next day? You can't treat people like puppet dolls. No, sir. Mr Vimes always said a man has got to know his limitations. If there was a king, then the best thing he could do would be to get on with a decent day's work—'

'Indeed.'

'But if there was some pressing need . . . then perhaps he'd think again.' Carrot brightened up. 'It's a bit like being a guard, really. When you need us, you really need us. And when you don't . . . well, best if we just walk around the streets and shout All's Well. Providing all is well, of course.'

'Captain Carrot,' said Lord Vetinari, 'because we understand one another so well, and I think we do understand one another . . . there is something I'd like to show you. Come this way.'

He led the way into the throne room, which was, empty at this time of day. As he hobbled across the wide floor he pointed ahead of him.

'I expect you know what that is, captain?'

'Oh, yes. The golden throne of Ankh-Morpork.'

And no-one has sat in it for many hundreds of years. Have you ever wondered about it?'

'Exactly what do you mean, sir?'

'So much gold, when even the brass has been stripped off the Brass Bridge? Take a look behind the throne, will you?'

Carrot mounted the steps.

'Good grief!'

The Patrician looked over his shoulder.

'It's just gold foil over wood . . .'

'Quite so.'

It was hardly even wood any more. Rot and worms had fought one another to a standstill over the last biodegradable fragment. Carrot prodded it with his sword, and part of it drifted gently away in a puff of dust.

'What do you think about this, captain?'

Carrot stood up.

'On the whole, sir, it's probably just as well that people don't know.'

'So I have always thought. Well, I will not keep you. I'm sure you have a lot to organize.'

Carrot saluted.

'Thank you, sir.'

'I gather that you and, er, Constable Angua are getting along well?'

'We have a very good Understanding, sir. Of course, there will be minor difficulties,' said Carrot, 'but, to look on the positive side, I've got someone who's always ready for a walk around the city.'

As Carrot had his hand on the door handle Lord Vetinari called out to him.

'Yes, sir?'

Carrot looked back at the tall thin man, standing in the big bare room beside the golden throne filled with decay.

'You're a man interested in words, captain. I'd just invite you to consider something your predecessor never fully grasped.'

'Sir?'

'Have you ever wondered where the word “politician” comes from?' said the Patrician.

And then there's the committee of the Sunshine Sanctuary,' said Lady Ramkin, from her side of the dining table. 'We must get you on that. And the Country Landowners' Association. And the Friendly Flamethrowers' League. Cheer up. You'll find your time will just fill up like nobody's business.'

'Yes, dear,' said Vimes. The days stretched ahead of him, just filling up like nobody's business with committees and good works and . . . nobody's business. It was probably better than walking the streets. Lady Sybil and Mr Vimes.

He sighed.

Sybil Vimes, née Ramkin, looked at him with an expression of faint concern. For as long as she'd known him, Sam Vimes had been vibrating with the internal anger of a man who wants to arrest the gods for not doing it right, and then he'd handed in his badge and he was . . . well, not exactly Sam Vimes any more.

The clock in the corner chimed eight o'clock. Vimes pulled out his presentation watch and opened it.

'That clock's five minutes fast,' he said, above the tinkling chimes. He snapped the lid shut, and read again the words on it: 'A Watch From, Your Old Freinds In The Watch'.

Carrot had been behind that, sure enough. Vimes had grown to recognize that blindness to the position of 'i's and 'e's and that wanton cruelty to the common comma.

They said goodbye to you, they took you out of the measure of your days, and they gave you a watch . . .

'Excuse me, m'lady?'

'Yes, Willikins?''

'There is a Watchman at the door, m'lady. The tradesman's entrance.'

'You sent a Watchman to the tradesman's entrance?' said Lady Sybil.

'No, m'lady. That's the one he came to. It's Captain Carrot.'

Vimes put his hand over his eyes. 'He's been made captain and he comes to the back door,' he said. 'That's Carrot, that is. Bring him on in.'

It was barely noticeable, except to Vimes but the butler glanced at Lady Ramkin for her approval.

'Do as your master says,' she said, gallantly.

'I'm no-one's mas—' Vimes began.

'Now, Sam,' said Lady Ramkin.

'Well, I'm not,' said Vimes sullenly.

Carrot marched in, and stood to attention. As usual, the room subtly became a mere background to him.

'It's all right, lad,' said Vimes, as nicely as he could manage. 'You don't need to salute.'

'Yes I do, sir,' said Carrot. He handed Vimes an envelope. It had the seal of the Patrician on it.

Vimes picked up a knife and broke the seal.

'Probably charging me five dollars for unnecessary wear and tear on my chainmail,' he said.

His lips moved as he read.

'Blimey,' he said eventually. 'Fifty-six?'

'Yes, sir. Detritus is looking forward to breaking them in.'

'Including undead? It says here open to all, regardless of species or mortal status—'

'Yes, sir,' said Carrot, firmly. 'They're all citizens.'

'You mean you could have vampires in the Watch?'

'Very good on night duty, sir. And aerial surveillance.'

'And always useful if you want to stake out somewhere.'

'Yes, sir?'

Vimes watched the feeble pun go right through Carrot 's head without triggering his brain. He turned back to the paper.

'Hmm. Pensions for widows, I see.'

'Yessir.'

'Re-opening the old Watch Houses?'

'That's what he says, sir.'

Vimes read on:

We consider particularly that, this enlarged Watch will need an expereinced man in charge who, is held in Esteem by all parts of soceity and, we are convinced that you should fulfil this Roll. You will therefore take up your Duties immediately as, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. This post traditionally carreis with it the rank of Knight which, we are minded to resurrect on this one occasion.

Hoping this finds you in good health, Yrs. faithfully

Havelock Vetinari (Patrician)

Vimes read it again.

He drummed his fingers on the table. There was no doubt that the signature was genuine. But . . .

Prev Next