'I will kill the first man that moves,' said Ahmed. 'Then the second man that moves will kill you, traitor!' shouted the Prince. 'They'll have to move very fast,' said Carrot, drawing his sword. 'Any volunteers to be the third man?' said Vimes. 'Anyone?' General Ashal moved, but only very gently, holding up a hand. The bodyguards relaxed slightly. 'What was that... lie you uttered about a murder?' he said. 'Have you gone mad, Ashal?' said the Prince. 'Oh, sire, before I can disbelieve these pernicious lies, I do need to know what they are.'
'Vimes, you have gone insane,' said Rust. 'You can't arrest the commander of an army!'
'Actually, Mr Vimes, I think we could,' said Carrot. 'And the army, too. I mean, I don't see why we can't. We could charge them with behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, sir. I mean, that's what warfare is.' Vimes's face split in a manic grin. 'I like it.'
'But in fairness our – that is, the Ankh-Morpork army – are also–'
'Then you'd better arrest them too,' said Vimes. 'Arrest the lot of 'em. Conspiracy to cause an affray,' he started to count on his fingers, 'going equipped to commit a crime, obstruction, threatening behaviour, loitering within tent, loitering within tent, hah, travelling for the purposes of committing a crime, malicious lingering and carrying concealed weapons.'
'I don't think that one–' Carrot began. 'I can't see 'em,' said Vimes. 'Vimes, I order you to come to your senses this minute!' roared Lord Rust. 'Have you been out in the sun?'
'That's one count of offensive behaviour to his lordship as well,' said Vimes. The Prince was still staring at Vimes.
'You seriously think that you can arrest an army.?' he said. 'Perhaps you think you have a bigger army?'
'Don't need one,' said Vimes. 'Power at a point, that's what Tacticus says. And here it's the one right on the end of Ahmed's crossbow. That wouldn't frighten a D'reg, but you... I reckon you don't think like them. Tell your men to stand down. I want the order to go out right now.'
'Even Ahmed would not shoot his prince in cold blood,' said Prince Cadram. Vimes snatched the crossbow. 'I wouldn't ask him to!' He took aim. 'Give that order!' The Prince stared at him. 'Count of three!' shouted Vimes. General Ashal leaned down and whispered something to the Prince. The man's expression stiffened and he glanced back at Vimes again. 'That's right,' said Vimes. 'It runs in the family.'
'It would be murder!'
'Would it? In wartime? I'm from Ankh–MorporkAren't I supposed to be at war with you? Can't be murder if there's a war on. That's written down somewhere.' The general leaned down and whispered. 'One,' said Vimes. Now there was a hurried argument. 'Two. 'Myprincewishesmetosay–' the general began. 'All right, slow down,' said Vimes. 'If it makes you any happier, I will send out the order,' said the general. 'Let the messengers leave.' Vimes nodded and lowered the bow. The Prince shifted uneasily. 'And the Ankh–Morpork army will stand down as well,' said Vimes. 'But, Vimes, you're on our side–' Rust began. 'Bloody hell, I'm going to shoot someone today and it could just be you, Rust,' Vimes snarled. 'Sit?' Lieutenant Hornett tugged at his commander's jacket. 'May I have a word?' Vimes heard them whispering, and then the young man left. 'All right, we are all disarmed,' said Rust. 'We are all “under arrest”. And now, commander?'
'I ought to read them their rights, sir,' said Carrot. 'What are you talking about?' said Vimes. 'The men out there, sir.'
'Oh. Yeah. Right. Do it, then.' Oh gods, I arrested an entire battlefield, Vimes thought. And you can't do that.
But I've done it. And we've only got six cells back at the Yard, and we keep the coal in one of them. You can't do it. Was this the army that invaded your country, ma'am? No, officer, they were taller than that... How about this one? Im not sure – get them to march up and down a bit... Carrot's voice could be heard outside, slightly muffled: 'Now... can you all hear me? You gentlemen in the back there? Anyone who can't hear me, please raise... all right, has anyone got a megaphone? Some cardboard I could roll up? In that case I'll shout... '
'What now?' said the Prince. 'I'm taking you back to Ankh-Morpork–'
'I don't think so. That would be an act of war.'
'You are making a mockery of the whole business, Vimes!' said Lord Rust. 'So long as I'm doing something right, then.' Vimes nodded at Ahmed. 'Then you can answer for your crime here, sire,' he said. 'In what court?' said the Prince. Ahmed leaned closer to Vimes. 'What was your plan from here on?' he whispered. 'I never thought we'd get this far!'
'Ah. Well... it has been interesting, Sir Samuel.' Prince Cadram smiled at Vimes. 'Would you like some coffee while you are considering your next move?' he said. He gestured to an ornate silver pot on the table. 'We've got proof,' Vimes said. But he could feel the world dropping away. The point about burning your boats is that you shouldn't be standing on them when you drop the match. 'Really? Fascinating. And to whom will you show this proof, Sir Samuel?'
'We'll have to find a court.'
'Intriguing. A court in Ankh–Morpork, perhaps? Or a court here?'
'Someone told me that the world watches,' said Vimes. There was silence except for the muffled sounds of Carrot, outside, and the occasional buzz of a fly. '...bingeley–bingeley beep... ' The Dis–organizer's voice had lost its chirpy little edge, and sounded sleepy and bewildered. Heads turned. '...Seven eh em... Organize Defenders at River Gate ... Seven twenty–five... Hand–to– Hand Fighting in Peach Pie Street... Seven forty–eight eight eight... Rally Survivors in Sator Square... Things To Do Today: Build Build Build Barricades...' He was aware of surreptitious movement behind him, and then slight pressure. Ahmed was standing back to back with him. 'What is that thing talking about?'
'Search me. Sounds like it's in a different world, doesn't it... ?'
He could feel events racing towards a distant wall. Sweat filled his eyes. He couldn't remember when he'd last had a proper sleep. His legs twinged. His arms ached, pulled down by the heavy bow. '...bingeley... Eight oh two eh em, Death of Corporal Littlebottombottom... Eight oh three eh em... Death of Sergeant Detritus... Eight oh threethreethree eh em and seven seconds seconds... Death of Constable Visit... Eight oh three eh em and nineninenine seconds... Death of death of death of...'
'They say that in Ankh–Morpork one of your ancestors killed a king,' said the Prince. 'And he also came to no good end.' Vimes wasn't listening. '...Death of Constable Dorfl... Eight oh three eh em and fourteenteenteen seconds...' The figure in the throne seemed to take up the whole world. 'Death of Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson... beep...' And Vimes thought: I nearly didn't come. I nearly stayed in Ankh–Morpork. He had always wondered how Old Stoneface had felt, that frosty morning when he picked up the axe that had no legal blessing because the King wouldn't recognize a court even if a jury could be found, that frosty morning when he prepared to sever what people thought was a link between men and deity '... beep... Things To Do Today Today Today: Die...' The sensation flowed into his veins like fresh warm blood. It was the feeling that you got when the law ran out, and you looked into a mocking face on the other side of it and you decided that you couldn't go on living if you did not step over the line and do one clean thing– There was shouting outside. He blinked away the sweat. 'Ah... Commander Vimes…' said a voice somewhere back over the border. He kept his aching gaze sighted along the bow. 'Yes?' A hand darted down and grabbed the arrow out of its groove. Vimes blinked. His finger automatically squeezed the trigger. The string slammed back with a thunk. And the look on the Prince's face, he knew, would keep him warm on cold nights, if there were ever cold nights again. He'd heard them all die. But they weren't dead. And yet the damn thing had sounded so... accurate... Lord Vetinari dropped the arrow fastidiously, like a society lady who has had to handle something sticky. 'Well done, Vimes. I see you've got the donkey up the minaret. Good morning, gentlemen.' He gave the company a happy smile. 'I see I am not too late.'
'Vetinari?' said Rust, seeming to wake up. 'What are you doing here? This is a battlefield–'
'I wonder.' The Patrician gave him a very brief smile of his very own. 'Outside there seem to be a lot of men sitting around. Many of them seem to be having what I believe is known in military parlance as a brew–up. And Captain Carrot is organizing a football match.'
'He's what?' said Vimes, lowering the bow. Suddenly the world had to be real again. If Carrot was doing something as dumb as that, things were normal. 'Quite a large number of fouls so far, I'm afraid. But I wouldn't call it a battlefield.'
'Ankh-Morpork, I believe. By two hacked shins and a broken nose.' For the first time in ages Vimes felt a little pang of patriotism. Everything else in life was in the privy, but when it came to gouging and kicking he knew which side he was on. 'Besides,' Vetinari went on, 'I believe quite a large number of people are technically under arrest. And clearly a state of war is not, in practical fact, in being. It is merely a state of football. Therefore, I believe, I am, shall we say... back. Excuse me, sire, but this won't take a moment.' He held up a metal cylinder and began to unscrew the end. For some reason Vimes felt inclined to take a few steps away from it. 'What's that?'
'I thought this might become necessary,' said Vetinari. 'It took some preparation, but I am certain it will work. I hope they're readable. We did our best to keep the damp off them.' A thick roll of paper dropped out onto the floor. 'Commander, have you nothing you should be doing?' he added. 'Refereeing, perhaps?' Vimes picked up the roll and read the first few lines. 'Whereas... heretofore, etc, etc... City of Ankh-Morpork... Surrender?'
'What?' said Rust and the Prince together. 'Yes, surrender,' said Vetinari cheerfully. 'A little piece of paper and it's all over. I think you'll find it all in order.'
'You can't–' Rust began. 'You can't–' said the Prince. 'Unconditionally?' said General Ashal sharply. 'Yes, I think so,' said Vetinari. 'We give up all claim to Leshp in favour of Klatch, we withdraw all troops from Klatch and our citizens from the island, and as for reparations... shall we say a quarter of a million dollars? Plus various favourable trade arrangements, mostfavoured–nation status and so on and so on. It's all here. Feel free to read it at your leisure.' He passed the document over the head of the Prince and into the hands of the general, who flicked through the pages. 'But we haven't got–' Vimes began. Perhaps I did get killed, he thought. I'm on the other side, or someone hit me very hard on the head and this is all some kind of mirage 'It's a forgery!' snapped the Prince. 'It's a trick!'
'Well, sire, this man certainly does appear to be Lord Vetinari and these do seem to be the official seals of Ankh–Morpork,' said the general. “'Whereas... whereby... without prejudice... ratification within four days... way of trade”... yes, this does, I have to say, look genuine.'
'I won't accept it!'
'I see, sire. It does, though, appear to cover all the points which in your speech last week you–'
'I certainly wouldn't accept it!' Rust shouted. He waved a finger under Vetinari's nose. 'You'll be banished for this!' But we haven't got that money, Vimes repeated, but this time to himself. We're a very rich city, but we haven't got any actual money. The wealth of Ankh-Morpork is in its people, we're told. And you couldn't remove it with big pliers. He felt the wind change. And Vetinari watching him. And there was something about General Ashal. A certain hunger... 'I agree with Rust,' he said. 'This is dragging the good name of Ankh- Morpork in the mud. 'To his mild surprise he managed to say that without smiling. 'We lose nothing, sire,' General Ashal insisted. 'They withdraw from Klatch and Leshp–'