Fan Fiction : Discworld : How André got His Badge Back

How André got His Badge Back

Paul Catlow plc1723 at yahoo.co.uk


Prologue

This sort of ties up a loose end left dangling at the end of Maskerade and ties it into where Sam and Sybil spent his holidays at the end of The Fifth Elephant.

As an aside, with nothing to do with the theme of this story except incidentally, when I was background-reading for this story – just to check that the events of Carpe Jugulum happened after Maskerade and before those of The Fifth Elephant - it opened up an intriguing sidelight into the motivations of Lady Margolotta. She must have been aware of the de Magpyr family's schemes to attack and conquer Escrow and Lancre. Was this another reason to tie Vimes' attention exclusively to the evildoings of the werewolf/dwarf plotters, so that vampire territorial expansion could be given more of a free hand? (we, the Vampires, grow in power at the expense of the werewolves… )

Of course, when the witches defeat the vampires, Lady Margolotta , who has never left Überwald, can deny all knowledge…


The coach rumbled on, widdershins and rimwards out of Überwald, through the forest road. The gradient of the road grew steeper on the far side of Escrow, and Sam Vimes checked to ensure his crossbows were loaded with plain wooden bolts, the pointy end of which had been steeped in an essence of garlic and crushed lemon. Escrow had stunk of Vampire: the locals seemed to have come out of some recent trauma in the same way a sleeper awakes from a dark oppressive nightmare, and Sam had not been surprised to see the half-healed puncture marks on many a neck.

"We're not stopping here", he had decided. "Something bad happened here. And recently 1"

Although this meant driving on through the night and sleeping as they could in the coach (Sam insisted on the second coachman keeping aerial watch for vampires), Sybil accepted this uncomplainingly: she'd heard about the old-time vampires, outside the control of Lady Margolotta and certainly not in any way Black Ribboners. The river Smale passed them by: from Vimes' memory of the map, the next one would be the Lancre.

Carrot's home beat, Vimes recalled. He came out of Copperhead.

Even so, it was around midday when the coach finally climbed up into the really high country in the lower Ramtops. Sam was relieved to find the bridge over the river: Lancre Town should be on the other side and there was an inn there, wasn't there?

They passed the dozing troll with a cry of "Diplomatic Immunity!", and clattered on into the village on the other side, pulling to a halt in what passed for a village square. Vimes dismounted, gratefully, and helped Sybil down from the coach.

"How very rustic!" she murmured, taking in the scene about her. A collection of cottages, built in the vernacular style, with a larger building that Vimes' unreformed boozer's nose recognized as an inn. Over there, a blacksmith's forge and a general stores. One of the cottages seemed somehow brighter and neater and better-tended than the rest, with a well-groomed garden, immaculate picket fence, fresh whitewash and a generally prosperous air about it: Vimes wondered which local worthy it belonged to, his policeman's senses placing it as that of a skilled worker whose services were much sought-after. The nameplate by the garden gate identified it as Tir- Nanny Ogg. The mental card-reference system threw up a picture of Neville Ogg, a midnight roofing contractor who was known to the Watch: he wondered if there was a connection.

But looming over all was the massive grey bulk of a castle. Vimes' knowledge of Lancre was sketchy: he knew it was a kingdom, he knew that Copperhead mountain stood on top of deposits of octiron and more mundane metals that were valued greatly in Ankh-Morpork; he vaguely knew it was one of those places where a human king ruled everything above ground, and a Dwarf king ruled everything below: and Carrot came from round these parts. Recent experience, however, had led him to associate castle with either werewolf or vampire.

"Sir?" said the coachman. Vimes shook himself awake.

"Try the inn over there. We need somewhere to park the coach and stable the horses. Could do with a drink and a late breakfast for all of us, I think. And then rooms for the night."

Vimes supervised his party to the inn, which he noted was called The Goat and Compasses. A reasonably skillfully drawn inn-sign showed a picture of a goat drawing a circle.

Within ten minutes, the innkeeper was roused to help un-hitch the horses and tend to their needs; his wife showed Vimes and Lady Sybil to a table and provided some passably good coffee. The only occupant of the inn was a short, fat jolly lady nursing a nameless pint and smoking a foul pipe.

"How-do!" she said, hoisting her tankard in welcome. "Just arrived in town?"

Vimes grinned back. "Long drive out of Überwald. We didn't fancy Escrow. At least nobody's been biting your neck!"

"Not for a while now. More's the pity! " she replied, with a dirty laugh. "Seriously, we had a vampire problem here too. Took a hell of a fight to kick the bloodsucking buggers out. Escrow copped it worse, though. No witches there. Then, anyway". She paused, swigged, and asked "Staying long?"

"We were hoping there'd be rooms here." Lady Sybil said.

"Well", the small fat lady said, scrutinizing Sybil, "I can see you're gentry, m'lady. That coat-of-arms thing on your coach is a dead giveaway. Tell you what I'll do. I'll get our Shawn to give you an introduction up the Castle, see if the King'll put you up."

She hopped off her bar-stool, walked to the door, put her head out, and bellowed "SH-AAAA-WWWN!" in a surprisingly loud, penetrating voice.

"He'll be here quick, if he knows what's good for him" she said, resuming her bar-stool. "By the way, I'm Gytha Ogg. Witch."

"Sybil Ramkin. Duchess"

"Sam Vimes." He was aware of a silent expectant prompt. "Knight. Commander of the Watch." The silent prompt grew more expectant. "OK, Duke of Ankh-Morpork". Sybil nodded, approvingly.

Running footsteps came to the door of the inn. They belonged to a dishevelled-looking guard in battered chain-mail, faded tabard and helmet askew. Vimes nodded: it had become a hobby to assess the potential of the town guard in these small villages. Colon-lite, he thought. Simple country lad, could learn the ropes by pairing him up with an experienced man, but never Nobby! Keen, and that excuses a lot. Looks like he's made some effort to shine his helmet. But he handles that halberd like he's had experience of using it.

"Yes, our mam?"

"This is the Duchess of Ankh. Take your helmet off, boy, show respect! She's just arrived in town. You're to take her best regards up the castle to the King, right? Tell Verence the Duchess and Duke of Ankh-Morpork are in town."

"Do take one of our visiting cards to His Majesty." Sybil said, passing one to Shawn. "And a dollar for your trouble. Thank you so much, private!"

"Ma'am" Shawn said, respectfully doffing his helmet, having met the sort of woman upon whom ma'am-dom is automatically conferred. He saluted (Smartly, too, thought Vimes), about-turned, and set off for the castle at the double.

"He's one of your Watchmen?" Vimes asked Mrs Ogg. She laughed.

"The only one we've got! Past kings have kept bigger armies, but Verence doesn't want the expense. He thinks a professional nucleus is enough. If it needs it, we call out the citizenry. Our Shawn's the professional nucleus, you could call him. We've been glad for him twice, recently. Once with… them… . and once with the bloody vampires who tried to take the country over."

The way she said "them", Vimes reflected. As if there's something out there that's worse than bloody vampires"

Mrs Ogg looked over and grinned a big friendly grin, as if she'd read his thoughts. Vimes was reminded that she was a witch: before setting out from Bonk, Carrot had hem'd, and asked if he'd ever had any dealings with witches before. Then advised him, in all seriousness, that in Lancre and the area, they were held in high regard and not even wizards cared to stick around for very long, sir, do you see what I'm saying? Treat them with respect, sir.

Vimes felt that he was glimpsing what Carrot had been hinting about: he sensed the jolly little woman sitting at the table with Sybil and himself had a mind like a beartrap.

"Yes, Mr Vimes, there are worse things than bloody vampires!"

"Werewolves?"

"Not round here no more. Mr Pantlet, over in Cruel Springs, has a touch of it in the family, but he reckons when he gets it bad, it's a saving on sheepdogs as he can be his own. I was thinking of something different there."

Shawn returned, with a clatter.

"King says as how he'd be pleased to see you, ma'am. He'd be honoured to put you up for your stay, but one question – you're not vampires, are you?"

Vimes burst into loud delighted laughter.

"Course not, but I don't blame him for asking! He's not a bloody werewolf, by any chance?"

"SAM!"


"How is Carrot, by the way?" Queen Magrat inquired.

The four of them, along with Nanny Ogg, who'd tagged along out of interest, were sitting in the castle solar, taking afternoon tea and looking out over the Lancre panorama. Vimes privately thought the King and Queen were a little bit over-awed to be in the presence of Sybil Ramkin, a woman who had nobility written all the way through her for more generations than you could count. This had led to Sybil gently putting her hosts (who, technically, socially outranked her) at their ease in their own castle, which was an interesting situation.

"Oh, he's doing absolutely jolly well, isn't he, Sam? Deputy Head of the Watch, advisor to Havelock, and with a young woman who is an absolute rock, a gem of a woman. Minor nobility from Überwald, Graphin and Delphine, Angua von Überwald, of the Bonk von Überwalds. You must have met them?"

Verence coughed, nervously. "Hilda and Unity von Überwald represented the family at our wedding," he said. "They thanked me afterwards for laying on Elves to hunt and said they hadn't had so much fun at a wedding in years."

"Not that it was planned, of course" Nanny Ogg said. "Worked out for the best, anyhow.".

"I miss Carrot" Magrat said, wistfully. "Before I married Verence, I was village witch at Copperhead. You have to admit, he stood out among the Dwarfs."

"You can say that again!" Vimes agreed.

"His father used to give him as many jobs as he could that were above ground. I hardly ever used to see him without a bandage on his head. You know, the King came to see me and asked what I could suggest to stop Carrot banging his head so much in the mines? I thought about it, and I said… "

Nanny Ogg laughed.

"You give him three choices, girl. You wasn't in a good mood that day, were you? You said… ." And the two witches recited them together:

"One: dig higher tunnels as he isn't four foot tall. Two: chop his legs off. Three: give him some protective helmet to wear underground, padded leather or something like that!"

"Carrot got the helmet. It spared him a few headaches after that!"

Sam and Sybil joined in the laughter. Verence cleared his throat and said

"There's just one little thing, Sir Samuel. It bothers me slightly. Are you by any chance related to the Vimes who killed the last king in Ankh?"

Sam grinned, savouring the moment.

"Damn, you blew my cover, your majesty. Can I send your butler to fetch my axe from the coach? I might as well do you now"

"SAM!"

Verence blinked, and then relaxed and grinned. "Oh… I say… that was a joke, wasn't it? I'd be delighted to send Spriggins to fetch your axe. While we're waiting, you could read a book. I could re-read Pune's Essay On A Form of Wit 2, perhaps."

"Several times" agreed Nanny Ogg.

Over dinner, Sam grew quietly exasperated with several things about the service, not least being Spriggins, the geriatric butler. Sybil saw the problem at once.

"Oh dear, this won't do. Let's be informal, shall we?"

By a sort of unspoken democracy, the five of them re-arranged things so that they were in a small group at one end of the immense dining table.

"Take the night off, Mr Spriggins? We'll serve ourselves". Sybil eased the dismissal with a handful of dollars, and Spriggins gratefully retired for the night.

Vimes observed Queen Magrat as she carefully arranged the high chair just so, next to her own place.

A young maid, on cue, brought the Heir Apparent to the Throne of Lancre in for her evening meal. Vimes was reminded that very soon, a child would be arriving to take over the smooth running and routines of his own life. It was a frightening thought. Queen Magrat, a woman who seemed to have blossomed into a sort of unique winsome attractiveness, as if motherhood had brought out something that had been latent all her life, settled down to feed the infant princess, Nanny Ogg assisting with gushes of "Oooh, isn't she luvverley, isn't she the little beauty!", and Sybil watching as if she were carefully taking notes for the Day.

Nanny looked at Sybil, and smiled. "I make you four, five months gone, my lady?"

"Well, yes, that's about right!"

"You'll have a big bonny son, my lady. That's as near to a promise as I can give!"

"Nanny, she might not have wanted to know that" said Magrat. "Some mothers like to be surprised on the day!"

"No, that's alright!" Sybil reassured her. "Mrs Cake in Ankh-Morpork knew it was going to be a son. I've known for ages!"

"Evadne Cake, runs the boarding house on Elm Street?" asked Nanny. "Damn good practical witch, there. Oh, she wouldn't call herself one, but she's as good as, and that's a compliment!"

"You've visited the city, Mrs Ogg?" Vimes asked.

"Oh, plenty of times! Me and Esme were last there for the opera a little while back. Stayed at Rosie's. Very hospitable house!"

"Rosie… Palm's?" asked Vimes, his head spinning slightly.

"The same! Esme and me are both Guild members. I'll show you my card when my arms aren't so full of Baby, who's a little googoogoo then…"

Vimes tried to imagine a woman with all the shape and wrinkles of a friendly prune being a Seamstresses' Guild member. He knew Rosie catered for some incredibly niche and marginal tastes, but even so, there was marginal, and there was marginal.

Maybe when she was younger. She looks like the sort of dirty-minded old lady who's been round the block quite a few times and doesn't care who knows.

Nanny looked into him and laughed again. "Honorary members, Sir Sam! Any Guild can award honorary memberships, right? We got ours because we're witches. We know a few skills between us. I catered a few small intimate parties for Rosie, nothing special, just good fresh food and a few herbs and spices."

Magrat's face looked disapproving for a few seconds. Vimes again suspected large pieces of the story were being omitted.

"And Esme's good at remedies, for what you might call occupational hazards. Better nor a doctor, Rosie said. So I got my membership for caterin', and Esme got hers for doctorin'."

There was a sudden scream of protest from the baby, and a flash of octarine light that resolved itself into a small fireball that slammed into the castle rafters with a thunk.

"Naughty! No! Bad!" Magrat remonstrated.

"Does… this sort of thing happen a lot with babies?" Vimes said, weakly, as the smell of scorched wood drifted down to them.. If this was some hitherto unsuspected hazard of fatherhood, He'd leave it to Sybil: she was the one with experience of unpredictable creatures that breathed fire, after all.

Sybil grinned, weakly. Nanny Ogg hastened to assure them.

"Ah, well, I'd better tell you. It's a sort of hereditary and induced witchcraft effect, right? Not only is Esmerelda here the daughter of a witch, she's named after the most powerful witch in the Ramtops. She's got it in the bone both ways round, and a wee babby capable of random magic is a wee bit of a problem. At the moment, we're putting her to bed in an octiron cot, which dampens it down a bit. But it needs some sort of permanent solution, some sort of guidance".

"We can't keep a nanny for five minutes." sighed Magrat. "The last one gave her notice in last Tuesday."

"Ah, I could help you there!" said Sybil. "Sam, you remember young Susan? Duchess of Sto Helit? She was over to dinner, if you recall. Said she thought she was coming to the end of her time at Frouts' School, you know Penny Frout, daft as a brush, some damn silly ideas about education? Susan said she'd welcome another governess job, maybe out of the city, for a year or two? With her being from Quirm College, you do what you can for old girls, I said I'd look out for her. With her temperament she'd be ideal for this! You know she only takes on the challenges and the interesting cases? She does jolly well with them, too!"

Nanny Ogg cackled.

"That Susan Sto Helit? Good choice, my lady, a damn good choice! Magrat, you've got your permanent nanny! I've met her – I'd give her a reference!"

Sybil smiled a contented smile, and went to the big window, which had a panoramic view of Lancre town and the surrounding area.

"This mountain air is so bracing!" she declared. "The city is just such a fug. So many scents on the breeze!"

"Being pregnant helps" Nanny Ogg observed. "It don't half sharpen up the old nasals."

"And I'm away from the… ."

Sybil sniffed. Then sniffed again.

"Sam? I'm sure I can smell dragon!"

Sam didn't doubt it: being away from Ankh-Morpork would sharpen up anyone's abused sinuses, and Sybil had been away from her dragons for nearly a fortnight now. Oh, she'd left pages of meticulous instructions for the stable-girls…

"It smells ill, poor thing. D'you keep dragons here, Magrat?"

"Well, no. But there's the Tockleys. They sent away to Ankh for a pedigree dragon."

Further questioning ascertained that the Tockleys were the first family in Lancre to own a pet dragon, and that they'd celebrated prosperity as yeoman farmers by acquiring what they thought was the appropriate status accessory.

"It's on Esme's patch. Apparently it's been a bit off its coal and things." said Nanny. "Esme's at a loss. She's never seen one that close up before."

"It fits. Damn silly people aren't buying a pet, they're buying a status symbol, and they don't have the first idea! That really annoys me!"

Sybil lapsed into furious thought. Sam saw his wife's face take on a thoughtful aspect.

"You keep referring to this Esme. She's another witch, is she?"

"You would be right in assuming so, m'lady!"

"And she'd be the informal general practitioner for any sick animals in her area. Hmm. Protocol."

"But you know all about dragons. Surely you could go in and do what's needed?" Sam inquired. His wife and two witches gave him furious looks. Verence winced.

"I might be the world's greatest authority on swamp dragons, Sam, but that still doesn't give me the right to march in there and go over the head of the local woman, make her look small and as if she doesn't know what she's doing! She'd have to invite me."

Nanny and Magrat visibly relaxed.

"That's very… wise, Lady Sybil" Magrat said, weakly.

"Not at all, merely good manners!"

"Tell you what" said Nanny, "I'll nip round to Esme's, ask if she's had dealings with a sick dragon, and tip her off there's a woman staying at the Castle, what she doesn't know about dragons you could write on the back of one of them new-fangled stamp things. If she's sensible, she'll let you assist."

"Jolly good!" said Sybil, briskly. "I'll just go and get my copy of Diseases of the Dragon, and we're all set!"


Sybil had gone off to tend the sick dragon in the company of Nanny Ogg.

At a loose end, Vimes had got into conversation with the guardsman, and had worked out Shawn Ogg was in fact the youngest son of the little witch. Shawn had expressed great interest in Vimes' being in charge of the City Watch, and in a shy rural way had asked a few intelligent questions. There's a bit more to this lad than meets the eye, Vimes had thought, and wondered about directing a selection of Burleigh and Stronginthearm's best weapons to the Lancre Royal Guard in the interests of establishing goodwill here too. But first, he needs sharpening up.

Vimes spent an enjoyable half-hour or so demonstrating and teaching some Ankh-Morpork streetfighting tricks to Shawn Ogg, who for all his apparent clumsiness soon got the hang of things. After the fifth or sixth time Shawn had landed in the dust, Vimes became aware of a large shadow blocking out the late evening sun.

"Is there any bother here, our Shawn?" a deep voice enquired. Vimes half-turned to see a large troll… no, he was human, but big enough to give Detritus trouble… . in a blacksmith's apron.

Shawn grinned. "Alright, our Jason! Commander Vimes here is learning me a few fighting tricks, that's all!"

The blacksmith grinned, and offered Vimes his hand. It felt like a leather sack full of walnuts. "You'll be young Carrot's boss in the big city, then? Pleased to meet you! How's our lad getting on? Nice young lad, Carrot. Eager to please. His dad allus used to send him up here with the coal delivery for the forge, saved on a horse, you see."


Meanwhile, Sybil has been introduced to Granny Weatherwax. It had been her first experience of broomsticks: Nanny Ogg had taken her up on the pillion and maintained a nice steady two hundred feet or so across to Bad Ass.

("Very smooth and enjoyable, Sam" she had remarked, later. "Could be jolly useful as a runabout for town, if you can fly straight over the traffic jams!"

"Hmmm." thought Vimes, sketching out a mental plan for expanding the Air Police, should broomsticks ever get to pose a traffic problem of their own. The bloody Klatchians already took the piss, what with flying carpets being negligiently handled in City airspace. Buggy Swires was furious: he'd once chased one down to ground level to make an arrest, only for the smug turbaned pilot to point out the Corps Diplomatique 3 insignia woven into the carpet's fabric. Then they'd complained to Vetinari about Watch harassment… Vimes scowled.

He reflected he'd heard from the Lancre witches that there was a sort of training scheme up for promising young girls. As the witches he'd met seemed to have their heads screwed on far better than most Wizards, Sam wondered if he couldn't recruit a couple of promising graduate witches as Watchwomen – bring your own broomstick, it's a woman's life in the Air Police! If nothing else, he could then promote Swires at least to Corporal, the man… gnome… . deserved it. And two or three could be very useful as fast response vehicles)

"It's got me flummoxed, Gytha, I don't mind you knowing it". Granny remarked. "Most creatures' innards have the decency to stay put and not move around all the time as if they're trying to reassemble themselves. With dragons, just when you think you've worked out which bit is which, off they dratted well goes, moving around again!"

Sybil coughed, deferentially.

"That is the way with swamp dragons, I'm afraid, Mistress Weatherwax." She said, mildly. "Although it's a jolly good sign there is a degree of internal relocation going on. Normally, it's a sign that the dragon is trying to get used to a new pattern of eating and an unfamiliar diet."

Granny regarded Sybil Ramkin, who meekly allowed herself to be regarded. At length she grunted and nodded.

"I sees you is a woman of knowledge concerning dragons." Granny said. Sybil nodded, knowing when to be meek. "What if I let you assist on this case?"

"I'd be jolly pleased, Mistress Weatherwax!" Sybil said, humbly. Granny nodded.

"Shall we walk over to the Tockleys?" she said. And, to Sybil: "You can talk to me as we go. Maybe show me from that book of yourn what a dragon's insides should properly look like."

Sybil, thinking quickly, had turned a twenty-minute walk into a basic instruction session on the elementary health and welfare of the swamp dragon. Granny, a quick learner, either nodded carefully or asked the occasional intelligent question. Nanny Ogg walked alongside, saying nothing and absorbing new knowledge.

They arrived at the Tockleys'.

Everything about the layout of the farm shouted "newly-arrived prosperity!" A brand new farmhouse, larger and more spacious than the old, had been built almost alongside the old one: in the more traditional Lancre building style, this had been just left, looking sad and forgotten, while the new building, with no second storey and everything on the same level, with actual tiles on the roof, was now the focus of attention 4.

Nanny sniffed disapprovingly. "It'll leak like a bugger in winter." she said. "Say what you like, but the thatch on the ol' house'll still be keeping the rain out in five years' time. Them tiles'll need constant fixin' in a Lancre winter. And them bloody bungalow things. No style. And what goes on in the kitchen warms the bedrooms in a normal house. Well-known fact. They'll waste the heat out through the roof ."

"New money, Gytha. Seen it before. You gets sudden money, you feels impelled to spend it."

Nanny snorted. "You should know, Esme. Or should I say, Lady Esmerelda!"

Sybil, having acquired some of Sam's police genes by marriage, heard, raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. She squirreled away an association for possible use later.

"Blessins' upon this House!" Granny intoned the ritual greeting.

"Granny! Is it about poor little Toastie? Have you got a cure?"

Mrs Tockley looked worried. Granny looked grave. "I brung Gytha with me to take a look. And this is… Mrs Vimes… from Ankh-Morpork. She bin studyin' dragons. Go and make the tea for us? Four sugars, as usual!"

Sybil followed her nose to the dragon pen. Granny nodded. She knelt as elegantly as being five months pregnant could allow, and ran her hands over the sick dragon. Its breath condensed on the air. She flipped a finger through the condensate and sniffed the tip.

"Oh yes… butane. Typical of thermionic valve connection failure at the oesophagal hiatus"

Granny looked carefully blank. Nanny reached for her pipe.

"Mrs Ogg? Please do not smoke? I really mean it. It would be a lot better for everybody's welfare if you didn't strike that match?" Sybil said, in the same immediately serious tone of voice you reserve for asking somebody not to tap-dance in a nitro-glycerine factory.

Nanny forgot all thought of her usual "sod-you" attitude to being asked not to smoke; something in the harmonics of Sybil's voice must have reached her. She mumbled "sorry" and put pipe and matches away.

Sybil nodded. "Saw that happen at the University" she said. "Damn silly wizard should have known butane is an explosive gas. But he lit a ciggie anyway. I was annoyed, as a perfectly good dragon was lost, totally needlessly."

"And the wizard?" asked Nanny, in a slightly shaky voice.

"Oh, I daresay they scraped enough together to justify a coffin". She said, dismissively. "Now, Mistress Weatherwax. Come and rest your hands just here and here. I'll prop the book open to the page so you can see what the referent is in a healthy dragon. Now this is a fairly clearcut case of Hiatus Hernia in the upper quadrant. The dragon is seeking to establish a connection between the upper gut, here, and the lower compensating retrovented sub-ruminant first stomach, here. This is usually in response to a change of diet. What are the Tockleys feeding… " quick look under the tail "..him?"

"Looks like Copperhead best lignite, to me, with a bit of Lancre charcoal thrown in" said Nanny.

"Ah, that'll be it, then. Over-rich diet for a sneed. Get them to mix it half-and-half with some sub-prime surface-mined sublignum, if you could? And in the meantime, Mistress Weatherwax, just stroke your two hands together towards each other. What you'll be feeling under the surface of the skin are two fairly solid bits of natural piping that need to be brought together. If you're lucky, the one in your left hand will slide fairly naturally inside the lip of the one in your right hand… ah, well done! You'll know from dealing with other animals that sometimes Mother Nature needs a helping hand, and we have to jolly well get in there and provide it? Just gently massage now – Toastie here is going to like that, it's like tickling his tummy – and I'll just stand up, so"

Mrs Tockley came back in with a tray of tea to see Granny Weatherwax knelt in complete concentration at the side of a visibly healthier dragon, its scales already growing in iridescence, Diseases of the Dragon unheeded in the background and open to a page.

"Oh, Granny, you've worked a miracle!" she cried. Sybil whispered something to Nanny. Granny nodded, in deep satisfaction.

"Looks like I dint' need you two after all!" she said gravely.

"Mistress Weatherwax, I just knew there was something I could learn by observing you in practice!" Sybil said, with open-faced honesty.

"Mrs Tockley, I deal with dragons myself. Nanny Ogg here suggested I should come out and see how you deal with these things in Lancre. I'm really most impressed!"

Talk about ham acting, thought Nanny Ogg. But it's worked.

Granny straightened up, the hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth.

"Just give Toastie here a nice nourishin' drink of… ."

"Creosote" Sybil said, helpfully.

"Creosote. And he'll be right as ninepence. Is there four sugars in that?"

The three women returned to Granny Weatherwax's cottage.

Granny nodded, and said "I'm obliged to you, Lady Sybil, for your help and understandin'. I don't normally hold wi' book-learnin'" she nodded in the direction of Diseases of the Dragon, "but it occurs to me that book is backed with a lifetime of knowing' the practical stuff and not bein' scared to get your hands dirty."

The unspoken request hung in the air. Nanny Ogg said, brightly, "It occurs to me that we're only goin' to see more pet dragons in Lancre. Toastie there was only the first."

"Well", Sybil said, thoughtfully, "We might be able to come to a little arrangement here, Lady Esmerelda".

Granny's eyes flickered, just for an instant.

"I can trade you a copy of Diseases. But I'd want a little something in return."

A broad smile played on Nanny Ogg's face. "'Ere, dint' I here you say up the Castle that you just negociated with the Low King himself for Ankh-Morpork's fat and tallow supplies for the next ten years? Talk among the Dwarfs is that the diplomat from Ankh-Morpork drove a tough bargain. The lady diplomat from Ankh-Morpork."

Sybil smiled.

"I had a jolly interesting first night of Il Truccatore at the Opera House a few months ago." She said. "I went with some of the girls, Brenda Rodley and Olivette Selachii. Some jolly odd things were happening in the background, and Sam, my husband, asked me to keep my eyes peeled for anything I spotted. I heard that there was a mysterious Lady Esmerelda in town throwing money around like it was going out of fashion. And poor Mrs Plinge suddenly had an assistant who was helping her serve drinks. A Mrs Ogg, as I recall. And one of my husband's best undercover men got into terrible trouble with Sam because he lost his Watch badge. Poor André is still under unpaid suspension over that, which really isn't fair."

She held Granny Weatherwax's gaze with perfect honesty and the relaxed attitude of one who can keep it up all day, if necessary.

"It's a fair cop, Esme" Nanny Ogg said. This allowed Sybil to break the stare first, to save Granny's face. Granny went to uncover a plain battered wooden box, in which Nanny knew she kept her memoramomrabiliilia.

She rummaged, found something, shut the box, and put it away. Sybil picked up the book. They exchanged items.

Sybil looked at the back of the Watch badge, and read "Cable Street Particulars". She smiled. "That will do nicely!"

"Tell your husband I don't hold with the idea of secret policemen" Granny muttered.

"Oh, neither does he! It's one of Sam's more admirable points. We both remember what it was like the last time the city had… the other sort… of secret police. Sam's determined to do it for the right reasons this time".

Granny smiled, and put Diseases of the Dragon onto a shelf where she kept her most immediately accessible witching kit.

"What's young André doing for a living if he's bin suspended without pay? " Nanny asked. "Pleasant young lad, I thought."

"Oh, he's filling in. The Opera House use him as a musical producer at the moment. And there's a cabaret club in town he belongs to. They always find a space for a talented musical arranger. Though Sam wants him back where he belongs. This makes it so much easier all round."

Sybil smiled at the witches, and handed out two business cards.

"Tell you what else I'll do. The cards have my c-mail address on them. If you ever get a dragon problem you're not sure about, always feel free to c-mail me – reverse the charges, I'm happy to pay, as the dragons are the important thing – tell me about the case and the symptoms, and I'll c-mail you a reply by return. Be glad to help!"

"Can't say fairer than that!" Granny almost smiled.


Back at the Castle, the witches meet one more time. To Sam's trepidation, they deliver the standard three wishes to his unborn son.

"He will have a great destiny and much will be asked of him. And he will serve and protect and never betray the public trust." Magrat intoned.

"He will walk in the light and still see where the Dark is. He will not be deceived by what is in the Light nor allow fear of what is in the Dark to master him" said Nanny Ogg, her first choice having been vetoed firmly by Granny and Magrat. "I still think he'd be better off with a great big… "

"Nanny!"

"Health he will have from his parents. Wealth he will have from his parents. Happiness is for him to make for himself. Wisdom is his to find on his path. I see he will have a godfather who one day may present him a city to rule. And he will run with wolves. " said Granny. The others looked perplexed. "Look, I tells them how I sees them, alright?"

Sybil nodded. "That fits. Havelock asked me quietly if Sam might consent to his being godfather."

"Vetinari? He already is!" Sam said, absently. (Runs with Wolves? Carrot and Angua were hinting at their starting a family sometime. If the lad grows up with their kids… )

Sam changed the subject.

"Young Shawn's quite a promising lad, isn't he? Verence, if you ever want to round him off and you can spare him for a month or two, I think he'd benefit from being Watch-trained. I don't mind putting him through training. It'd make him more of an asset to you".

Shawn, standing guard at the entrance to the royal suite, reddened at the praise. Sam noticed how Verence looked to Nanny Ogg for approval.

"Oh, NO, No WAY!" she said, firmly.

"Ahhhh, Mam!" Shawn complained.

"My boy, a policeman? Step too far for an Ogg, is that!"

Sam sighed. It had been worth a thought.

He broached his other idea, expecting it to be similarly squelched. Instead, Granny Weatherwax nodded, and drew the other two into conversation.

"Well… there's Katyuschya Politek… Miss Tick found her over in Sto Helit. Good possible witch, practical skills, but she's a city girl. She won't flourish in the country. Maybe she could be one of Sir Sam's air police."

"Same for the Borogravian girl, Olga Romanoff. She's from a class that's used to bein' obeyed. Natural voice of authority there. Send her to the City too?"

Sam smiled.

A holiday in Lancre was turning out to be quite nice after all.


Epilogue: Pseudopolis Yard, Isle of Gods, Ankh-Morpork.

Commander Sam Vimes leant back in his chair and glared at the errant policeman on the other side of the desk.

He tossed the badge at him, almost negligiently.

"Don't ask how we got it back. Just thank Lady Sybil sometime. As of now, you're off suspension. Don't lose the gods-damn thing again!"

André looked at the badge in wonderment.

"May I ask… sir… "

"Yes?"

"Can you extend the suspension for another fortnight? We're just about gearing up for the dress rehearsal of Guys and Trolls, and… "

"Get out of my sight, Loudweather"

"Sir!"

  1. Refer to Carpe Jugulum. Go back to 1
  2. M. J-P Pune’s seminal dissertation on humour, a set book which students of Foolery and Clownery are expected to learn by rote. It has the same position at the Fools’ Guild that Woddeley’s Occcult Primer has at the University. The book has 167,000 tightly-packed words and is as big as a brick. Go back to 2
  3. Corps diplomatique: in London and other cities with a large ambassadorial contingent, a CD licence on a car is often a "get-out-of-jail-free card" allowing the user to park where they please, ignore double yellow lines and parking meters, drive like a maniac and generally act like the driver from hell, as it confers magical immunity from arrest by the Met. Much to the Met’s annoyance and infuriation. Go back to 3
  4. You see a lot of this sort of thing in rural Ireland, where the prosperity of the 1960's and 1970's caused a rash of bungalow-mania; old family homes were left to rot while uglylooking bungalows were hurriedly thrown up next door by farmers celebrating Common Market prosperity. See Maskerade, in which the witches spend like, er, royalty. Go back to 4

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