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Someone's Dog

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The room stinks, and the dog whines apologetically as Vetinari approaches the basket. Gods, he's been sick all over the blankets and the old slipper he used to fondly gnaw at, which lately he just sniffs.

"Out," says Vetinari, and Wuffles leans up on two trembling front legs. The back ones will not lift him. He whines again and lies back down, curled small in shame. Kneeling, Vetinari rubs the dog's head and scratches lightly behind his ears. Wuffles sighs and licks Vetinari's wrist once with a dry tongue.

It was wrong to leave him alone, even with a footman coming in every hour to check on him. Should have done the day's work here in the bedroom. Even the meetings. It might have made the damned Guilds less turbulent, too.

Vetinari rings for Drumknott. "Fetch someone to clear away the mess, and have the kitchen send up some warm broth. And then . . . then you can go."

"Yes, sir. Shall I send for the kennel master?"

"No." The man's diets and potions have worked for a long time, after a fashion. But nothing can be put off forever.

The professional impassivity of Drumknott's face briefly falters, or perhaps it's just a trick of the candlelight. "I'm sorry."

Vetinari nods and turns to look out of the window. It's a fine clear night, and he is not the sort of sentimental man who would think it ought to be raining. So he only thinks it once.

After the servants have come and gone, he wads up a heavy cloak and settles Wuffles into it, two layers of good Lancre wool between the dog's old bones and the floor. Then he opens up the most concealed of the five secret compartments in his writing desk and removes a pair of tiny bottles.

In his years as Patrician he's devised many stratagems. Escapes routes are among them. This is the escape of last resort, although not, tonight, for him.

Six drops from one bottle and eleven from the other go into Wuffles's broth. "Go on, drink it all up. And then you'll feel better." Wuffles noses the bowl and groans like a tired man told to get up and work. "Go on now, Wuffles." Hearing his name, the dog's ears twitch, and he drinks.

Vetinari's hand is shaking as he strokes Wuffles's back. This is the first time he's killed someone who trusted him.

When the bowl is empty, the wearisome duty performed, the dog lays his head on Vetinari's ankle. Already, his breathing is getting slower.

"Good boy," says Vetinari. "Good boy."