Guards! Guards!

Pratchett, Terry

They were accidentally setting foot in it now. Not very reliably. It had been a trying night, and they had been steadying their nerves. They were now so steady that all four were relying on the other three to keep them upright and steer.

“This wall assaulted me,” he declared. “Hah! Think you’re tough, eh! Well, ’m a ofisler of, of, of the Law, I’ll have you know, and we don’ take any, any, any.” He blinked slowly, once or twice. “What’s it we don’ take any of, Sar’nt?” he said. “Chances, sir?” said Colon.

Vimes finished the bottle. It didn’t have any effect. There were some types of sobriety that you just couldn’t budge.

He appeared to have no vice that anyone could discover. You’d have thought, with that pale, equine face, that he’d incline toward stuff with whips, needles, and young women in dungeons. The other lords could have accepted that. Nothing wrong with whips and needles, in moderation. But the Patrician apparently spent his evenings studying reports and, on special occasions, if he could stand the excitement, playing chess.

The Patrician stopped his pacing. “The Watch? The Watch? My dear chap, the Watch are a bunch of incompetents commanded by a drunkard. It’s taken me years to achieve it.

But it worked. It spun along cheerfully like a gyroscope on the lip of a catastrophe curve. And this, the Patrician firmly believed, was because no one group was ever powerful enough to push it over. Merchants, thieves, assassins, wizards—all competed energetically in the race without really realizing that it needn’t be a race at all, and certainly not trusting one another enough to stop and wonder who had marked out the course and was holding the starting flag.

There was an awkward silence. “Maybe people have seen weird things,” said Captain Vimes. “Or perhaps there have been unexplained fires. Or footprints. You know,” he finished, desperately, “signs of dragons.” “You mean, like, piles of gold what have been slept on,” said the sergeant. “And virgins being chained to rocks,” said Nobbs, knowingly.

He buckled on his breastplate, screwed his sparkling helmet onto his head, and strode toward the door. Then he remembered his responsibilities. He went back to the desk, found a scrap of paper, and painstakingly wrote: Out Fighting Crime. Pleass Call Again Later. Thankyou. And then he went out onto the streets, untarnished and unafraid.

“Have another drink, not-Corporal Nobby?” said Sergeant Colon unsteadily. “I do not mind if I do, not-Sgt. Colon,” said Nobby. They were taking inconspicuosity seriously.

He couldn’t help remembering how much he’d wanted a puppy when he was a little boy. Mind you, they’d been starving—anything with meat on it would have done.

Some sort of magic?” He spat the word. He’d make use of magic, means to an end, end justifies means and so forth, but to go around believing it, believing it had some sort of moral force, like logic, made him wince.

“Disgusting, really, her livin’ in a room like this. She’s got pots of money, sarge says, she’s got no call livin’ in ordinary rooms. What’s the good of not wanting to be poor if the rich are allowed

“Disgusting, really, her livin’ in a room like this. She’s got pots of money, sarge says, she’s got no call livin’ in ordinary rooms. What’s the good of not wanting to be poor if the rich are allowed

“Disgusting, really, her livin’ in a room like this. She’s got pots of money, sarge says, she’s got no call livin’ in ordinary rooms. What’s the good of not wanting to be poor if the rich are allowed to go around livin’ in ordinary rooms? Should be marble.”

In short, it was the room of a woman who never expected that a man would ever see the inside of it.

“We’ve got to find it in its lair,” said Lady Ramkin. “No bloody flying newt sets fire to my city,” said Vimes. “Just think of the contribution to dragon lore,” said Lady Ramkin. “Listen, if anyone ever sets fire to this city, it’s going to be me.”

Lady Ramkin’s bosom rose and fell like an empire.

“Right you are. No problem. We were just going anyhow. No big dragons here, right enough. Sorry you’ve been troubled.” “Oh, no,” said Lady Ramkin triumphantly. “You don’t get away that easily!” She reached up onto a shelf and produced a tin box. It had a slot in the lid. It rattled. On the side was the legend: The Sunshine Sanctuary for Sick Dragons. The initial whip-around produced four dollars and thirty-one pence. After Captain Vimes gestured pointedly with the dragon, a further twenty-five dollars and sixteen pence were miraculously forthcoming.

Sgt. Colon said we have gone Up in the World and has told Nobby not to try to sell the furnishings. Going Up in the World is a metaphor, which I am learning about, it is like Lying but more decorative.

Nobby says it is a flea-ridden moron because it won 18d off him playing Cripple Mr. Onion, which is a game of chance with cards which I do not play,

I have told Nobby about the Gambling (Regulation) Acts, and he said Piss off, which I think is in violation of the Decency Ordinances of 1389 but I have decided to use my Discretion.

moment the rank felt as though they had just returned from

They felt, in fact, tremendously bucked-up, which was how Lady Ramkin would almost certainly have put it and which was definitely several letters of the alphabet away from how they normally felt.

Throat, removing a very hot toasting fork from the tiny frying pan on his tray and applying it gently to the buttock of a large woman in front of him. “Stand aside, madam, commerce is the lifeblood of the city, thank you very much.

“I’ve always thought,” said the monarchist, pulling out a pipe and beginning to fill it with the ponderous air of one who is going to deliver a lecture, “that one of the major problems of being a king is the risk of your daughter getting a prick.” There was a thoughtful pause. “And falling asleep for a hundred years,” the monarchist went on stolidly. “Ah,” said the others, unaccountably relieved.

He certainly looks confident, Vimes told himself. On the other hand, how does the ability to slay dragons fit you for kingship in this day and age?

Itym: Heavy draggon, but yet it can flye right welle; Itym: The fyre be main hot, yet issueth from ane living Thinge; Itym: The Swamp draggons be right Poor Thinges, yet this monstrous Form waxeth full mightily; Itym: From whence it cometh none knowe, nor wither it goeth, nor where it bideth betweentimes; Itym: Whyfore did it burneth so neatlie? He pulled the pen and ink toward him and, in a slow around hand, added: Itym: Can a draggon be destroyed into utterlye noethinge? He thought for a while, and continued: Itym: Whyfore did it Explode that noone may find It, search they greatly?

“If you would be so kind to accompany me to the Yard,” said Vimes, “I have reason to believe that you—” He hesitated. He wasn’t entirely certain what it was that he had reason to believe. But the man was clearly guilty. You could tell just by looking at him. Not, perhaps, guilty of anything specific. Just guilty in general terms.

the food was good solid stuff for a cold morning, all calories and fat and protein and maybe a vitamin crying softly because it was all alone.

“Have you got anything that isn’t too aristocratic for me to eat, then?” said Vimes sourly, and settled for a slice of plebeian fried bread and a proletarian steak

By the small portable sacrificial altar a tethered billy goat was peacefully chewing the cud and possibly thinking, in Goat: What a lucky billy goat I am, to be given such a good view of the proceedings. This is going to be something to tell the kids.

Now they are ringing the gongs, thought Vimes, but soon they will—they will—they will not be ringing the gongs. Not much of an aphorism, he thought, but he could work on it. He had the time, now.

People weren’t wasting their breath with screaming anymore. There was just this solid, deadly determination to be somewhere else.

He lapsed into the tortured silence of academia, his fingertip jerking slowly down the parchment.

Nobby darted out into the street. “Dragon on your vest!” he shouted. “If your old mum knew about this she’d turn in her vat, you goin’ around with a dragon on your vest!” Colon wandered back to the table and spread out

She touched him gingerly on his arm. It was like watching an industrial robot being expertly manipulated to grasp an egg gently.

There was an uncomfortable titter from the rest of the guards. “If you’d thought,” added the captain sarcastically, “you’d have thought that the king is hardly going to want other dragons dead, is he? They’re probably distant relatives or something. I mean, it wouldn’t want us to go around killing its own kind, would it?” “Well, sir, people do, sir,” said the guard sulkily. “Ah, well,” said the captain. “That’s different.” He tapped the side of his helmet meaningfully. “That’s ’cos we’re intelligent.”

“I see you’re very comfortable here,” said Vimes weakly. “Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself,” said the Patrician, laying out the food on the cloth. “The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that.”

“We all thought you had built secret tunnels and such-like,” said Vimes. “Can’t imagine why,” said the Patrician. “One would have to keep on running. So inefficient. Whereas here I am at the hub of things. I hope you understand that, Vimes. Never trust any ruler who puts his faith in tunnels and bunkers and escape routes. The chances are that his heart isn’t in the job.”

the gods faced eternity with the kind of minds that were at a loss to know what to do to pass a wet afternoon. They played games with the fates of men, it was said. Exactly what game they thought they were playing at the moment was anyone’s guess. But of course there were rules. Everyone knew there were rules. They just had to hope like Hell that the gods knew the rules, too.

“I mean, it’s a good job we’ve got a last desperate million-to-one chance to rely on, or we’d really be in trouble!” “Oh, yes,” said Nobby sadly. “Lucky old us.”

what if it’s not a million-to-one chance?” he said. Nobby stared at him. “What d’you mean?” he said. “Well, all right, last desperate million-to-one chances always work, right, no problem, but . . .well, it’s pretty wossname, specific. I mean, isn’t it?”

Carrot started to scribble furiously. When questioned, he explained at length about how you found the surface area of a dragon and then tried to estimate the chances of an arrow hitting any one spot. “Aimed, mind,” said Sergeant Colon. “I aim.” Nobby coughed. “In that case it’s got to be a lot less than a million-to-one chance,” said Carrot. “It could be a hundred-to-one. If the dragon’s flying slowly and it’s a big spot, it could be practically a certainty.” Colon’s lips shaped themselves around the phrase, It’s a certainty but it might just work. He shook his head.

Librarian pointed out, patiently. “What? Oh. Sorry.” Vimes lowered the ape, who wisely didn’t make an issue of it because a man angry enough to lift 300lbs of orangutan without noticing is a man with too much on his mind.

“This is it!” said Carrot. He glanced toward the Hub, in case any gods had forgotten what they were there for, and added, speaking slowly and distinctly, “It’s a million-to-one-chance, but it might just work!”

“Let’s be honest: the chances of a dragon the size of Errol beating something that big are a million-to-one.” There was one of those silences you get after one clear bright note has been struck and the world pauses. The rank looked at one another. “Million-to-one?” asked Carrot nonchalantly. “Definitely,” said Vimes. “Million-to-one.” The rank looked at one another again. “Million-to-one,” said Colon. “Million-to-one,” agreed Nobby. “That’s right,” said Carrot. “Million-to-one.” There was another high-toned silence. The members of the rank were wondering who was going to be the first to say it. Sergeant Colon took a deep breath. “But it might just work,” he said.