Page 22

'You will be killed if you go on the ship,' said Goriff behind him. 'I know that man.'

'You do? How?'

'He is feared in the whole of Klatch. That is 71–hour Ahmed!'

'Yes, why is–'

'You haven't heard of him? And he is a D'reg!' Mrs Goriff pulled at her husband's arm. 'D'reg?' said Angua. 'A warlike desert tribe,' said Carrot. 'Very fierce. Honourable, though. They say that if a D'reg is your friend he's your friend for the rest of your life.'

'And if he's not your friend?'

'That's about five seconds.' He drew his sword. 'Nevertheless,' he added, 'we can't let––'

'I have said too much. We must go,' said Goriff. The family picked up their bundles. 'Look, there might be another way to find out about him,' said Angua. She pointed at the carriage. A couple of lean, long–haired and extremely graceful dogs had been let out and were straining at their leashes as they led the way up the gangplank. 'Klatchistan hunting dogs,' she said. 'The Klatchian nobility are very keen on them, I understand.'

'They look a bit like–' Carrot began, and then the penny dropped. 'No, I can't let you go on there by yourself,' he said. 'Something would go wrong.'

'I stand a much better chance than you would, believe me,' said Angua quickly. 'They won't be leaving until the tide changes, in any case.'

'It's too dangerous.'

'Well, they are supposed to be our enemies.'

'I meant for you!'

'Why?' said Angua. 'I've never heard of werewolves in Klatch, so they probably don't know how to deal with us.' She undid the little leather collar that held her badge and handed it to Carrot. 'Don't worry,' she said. 'If the worst comes to the worst, I'll dive overboard.'

'Into the river?'

'Even the river Ankh can't kill a werewolf.' Angua glanced at the turgid water. 'Probably, anyway.' Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs had gone on patrol. They weren't sure why they were patrolling, and what they were supposed to do if they

saw a crime, although many years of training had enabled them not to see some quite large crimes. But they were creatures of habit. They were watchmen, so they patrolled. They didn't patrol with a purpose. They patrolled, as it were, in pure essence. Nobby's progress wasn't helped by the large, leatherbound book in his arms. 'A war'd do this place good,' said Sergeant Colon, after a while. 'Put some backbone in people. Everything's gone all to pot these days.'

'Not like when we were kids, sarge. 'Not like when we were kids indeed, Nobby.'

'People trusted one another in them days, didn't they, sarge?'

'People trusted one another, Nobby.'

'Yes, sarge. I know. And people didn't have to lock their doors, did they?'

'That's right, Nobby. And people were always ready to help. They were always in and out of one another's houses.'

'sright, sarge,' said Nobby vehemently. 'I know no-one ever locked their houses down our street.'

'That's what I'm talking about. That's my point.'

'It was 'cos the bastards even used to steal the locks.' Colon considered the truth of this. 'Yes, but at least it was each other's stuff they were nicking, Nobby. It's not like they was foreigners.'

'Right.' They strolled on for a while, each entangled in his own thoughts. 'Sarge?'

'Yes, Nobby?'

'Where's Nubilia?'


'It's got to be a place, I reckon. Pretty warm there, I think?'

'Ah, Nubilia,' said Colon. He invented desperately. 'Right. Yes. It's one of them Klatchian places. Yeah. Got lots of sand. And mountains. Exports dates. Why'd you want to know?'

'Oh... no reason.'


'Yes, sarge?'

'Why are you carrying that huge book?'

'Hah, clever idea, sarge. I saw what you said about that book of your great–grandad, so if there's any fighting I got this one off'f Washpot. It's The Book of Om. Five inches thick.'

'It's a bit big for a pocket, Nobby. It's a bit big for a cart, to be honest.'

'I thought I could make sort of braces to carry it. I reckon even a longbow could only get an arrow as far as the Apocrypha.' A familiar creak made them look up. A Klatchian's head was swinging in the breeze.

'Fancy a pint?' said Sergeant Colon. 'Big Anjie brews up some that's a treat.'

'Better not, sarge. Mr Vimes is in a bit of a mood.' Colon sighed. 'You're right.' Nobby looked up at the head again– It was wooden. It had been repainted many times over the centuries. The Klatchian was smiling very happily for someone who'd never have to buy a shirt ever again. 'The Klatchian's Head. My grandad said his granddad remembered when it was still the real one,' Colon said. 'Of course, it was about the size of a walnut by then.'

'Bit... nasty, sticking up a bloke's head for a pub sign,' said Nobby. 'No, Nobby. Spoils of war, right? Some bloke came back from one of the wars with a souvenir, stuck it on a pole and opened a pub. The Klatchian's Head. Teach ,em not to do it again.'

'I used to get into enough trouble just for nicking boots,' said Nobby. 'More robust times, Nobby.'

'You ever met a Klatchian, sarge?' said Nobby, as they began to pace the length of the quiet street. 'I mean one of the wild ones.'

'Well, no... but you know what? They're allowed three wives! That's criminal, that is.'

'Yeah, 'cos here's me and I ain't got one,' said Nobby. 'And they eat funny grub. Curry and that.' Nobby gave this some thought. 'Like... we do, when we're on late duty.'

'Weelll, yerss – but they don't do it properly–'

'You mean runny ear–wax yellow with peas and currants in, like your mum used to do?'

'Right! You poke around as much as you like in a Klatchian curry and you won't find a single piece of swede.'

'And I heard where they eat sheep's eyeballs, too,' said Nobby, international gastra–gnome. 'Right again.'

'Not decent ordinary stuff like lambs' fry or sweetbreads, then?'

'That's... right.' Colon felt that he was being got at in some say. 'Look, Nobby, when alls said and done they ain't the right colour, and there's an end to it.'

'Good job you found out, Fred!' said Nobby, so cheerfully that Sergeant Colon was almost sure that he meant it. 'Well, it's obvious,' he conceded. 'Er... what is the right colour?' said Nobby. 'White, of course!'

'Not brick–red, then? 'Cos you–'

'Are you winding me up, Corporal Nobbs?' "Course not, sarge. So... what colour am I?'

That caused Sergeant Colon to think. You could have found, somewhere on Corporal Nobbs, a shade appropriate to every climate on the disc and a few found only in specialist medical books. 'White's... white's a state of, you know... mind,' he said. 'It's like... doing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, that sort of thing. And washing regular.'

'Not lazing around, sort of thing.'


'Or... like... working all hours like Goriff does.'


'And you never see those kids of his with dirty clo–'

'Nobby, you're just trying to get me going, right?' You know we're better'n Klatchians. Otherwise, what's the point? Anyway, if we're going to fight 'em, you could get locked up for going around talking treachery.'

'Are you going to fight them, Fred?' Fred Colon scratched his chin. 'Well, as a hexperienced milit'ry man, I suppose I'll have to.. .'

'What' re you going to do? Join a regiment and go to the front?'

'We–ell... my fore–tay lies in training, so I reckon I'd better stay here and train up the new recruits.'

'Here at the back, you might say.'

'We all have to do our bit, Nobby. If it was down to me I'd be out there like a shot to give Johnny Klatchian a taste of cold steel.'

'Their razor–sharp swords wouldn't worry you, then?'

'I should laugh at them with scorn, Nobby.'

'But s'posing the Klatchians attack here? Then you'll be at the front and the front will be at the back.'

'I'll sort of try for a posting in the middle. . 'The middle of the front or––'

'Gentlemen?' They looked round to find that they had been followed by a man of medium height but with an extraordinary head. It wasn't that he had gone bald. He had quite a lot of hair, which was long and curly and reached almost to his shoulders, and his beard was large enough to conceal a small chicken. But his head had simply risen through his hair, like a kind of intrusive dome. He gave them a friendly smile. 'Am I by any change addressing the heroic Sergeant Colon and the–' The man looked at Nobby. Expressions of amazement, dread, interest and charity passed across his otherwise sunny countenance like storm–driven clouds. 'And the Corporal Nobbs?' he finished. 'That is us, citizen,' said Colon. 'Ah, good. I was very specifically told to find you. It's quite amazing, you know. No–one had even broken into the boathouse, although I must say I

did design the locks rather well. And all I've had to do is replace the leatherwork around the joints and grease it up... oh, do excuse me, I've got rather ahead of myself. Now... there was a message I had to give you... what was it now?... Something about your hands...'He reached down into the large canvas bag by his feet and pulled out a long tube, which he handed to Nobby. 'I do apologize about this,' he said, producing a smaller tube and handing it to Colon. 'I had to do things in such a hurry, there really was no time to finish it off properly, and frankly the materials are not very good–' Colon looked at his tube. It was pointed at one end. 'This is a firework rocket,' he said. 'Look, it's s got “A riot of coloured balls and stars” on it...'

'Yes, I do so apologize,' said the man, lifting a complex little arrangement of wood and metal out of the bag. 'May I have the tube back, corporal?' He took it and screwed the arrangement on to one end. 'Thank you... yes, I'm afraid that without my lathe and, indeed, my forge, I really have had to make do with what I could find lying around... Could I have the rocket back, please? Thank you.'

'They don't go properly without a stick,' said Nobby. 'Oh, in fact they do,' said the man. 'Just not very accurately.' He raised the tube to shoulder height and peered into a small wire grid. 'That seems about right,' he said. 'And they don't go along,' said Nobby. 'They just go up. 'A common misconception,' said Leonard of Quirm, turning to face them. Colon could see the tip of the rocket in the depths of the tube, and had a sudden image of stars and balls. 'Now, apparently you two have to step into this alley here and come with me,' said Leonard. 'I'm very sorry about this, but his lordship has explained to me at great length how the needs of society as a whole may have to overrule the rights of a particular individual. Oh, and I've just remembered. You have to put your hands up.' Sand had been spilled across the big table in the Rats Chamber. Lord Rust felt a sensation akin to pleasure as he surveyed it. There were the little square boxes for the towns and cities, and cut–out palm trees to indicate the known oasisies. And, although he was uneasy about the word 'oasisies', Lord Rust looked at it and saw that it was good. Especially since it was a map of Klatch and everyone knew that Klatch was sand anyway, which made it rather satisfying in an existential sort of way, although this sand here had been commandeered from the heap behind Chalky the troll's wholesale pottery and bore the occasional cigarette end and trace of feline incontinence that would probably not be found in the real desert, or certainly not to scale. 'Here would be a good landing area,' he said, pointing with his stick.

His equerry tried to look helpful. 'The EI Kinte peninsula,' he said. 'That's the closest point to us, sir.'

'Exactly! We can be across the straits in jig time.'

'Very good, sir,' said Leiutenant Hornett, 'but... you don't think the enemy might be expecting us there? It being such an obvious landing site?'

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.