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Five Hogswatch Presents

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I.

The package is tied with a gold ribbon, and its card proclaims Happy Hogswatch From Moist von Lipwig in gold ink.

Drumknott unties the ribbon and opens the rather handsome oak box.

"Well?" His Lordship has given up the pretense of reading a file. "What is it?"

"Pencils." There must be a hundred, each with Rufus Drumknott embossed on the side. In gold letters, naturally. "I expect he'll have them all off me by next Hogswatch."

"No doubt," His Lordship says. "And then give them back again." He smiles. "I knew he was the right man to run the bank."

 

II.

"Happy Hogswatch, dear," Sam says, fishing in his coat pocket for something crumpled in a page from the Times. "Sorry, I couldn't find any wrapping paper."

Sybil opens the folds, smudging her fingertips with ink, and discovers a dragon. It's about three inches long, made of cheap earthenware, with a weirdly upturned snout and unhealthily yellow eyes.

She can picture Sam pausing his weary homeward plod to buy it at one of those shops that sell everything a person might need at five o'clock in the morning.

"Oh Sam," she says. "It's lovely."

They're definitely taking a holiday this year.

 

III.

"You off home, Fred?" Nobby asks.

"Yeah. Got the grandkids coming round later. I'll need all me energy." Maybe that Jason will have learnt some manners by now, and maybe little Katie won't sick up her dinner. "What about you?"

"Me? Ah, you know. Can't stand Hogswatch. I'm having a long lie-in, maybe get some dwarf food from the take-away." Nobby turns a dog-end round in his fingers, sighs, lets it drop.

"Lucky man," Fred says.

"Yeah."

"Listen, I'm not so tired, really. What do you say to a pint?"

"All right."

"My shout."

"Really?" Nobby grins. "Happy Hogswatch, mate."

 

IV.

The undead are coming. The Bursar sees them in the shadows. It's going to be terrible.

Something hairy touches his hand. He shrieks.

"Ook."

"Librarian," says the Bursar, trying not to shake. He doesn't want the shadows to know he's afraid. "What a surprise. You'd better hide."

Holding his hand, the Librarian takes him round a lot of dark corners to a little room that feels safe. There are two stockings hung by the chimney.

"What - are you waiting for the Hogfather?"

"Ook."

"And surely the undead won't come on Hogswatch eve?"

"Ook."

"Oh," says the Bursar. "Oh, how wonderful."

 

V.

"I don't know what to say." Carrot has gone as red as the box he's holding.

"Happy Hogswatch?" Angua suggests.

"Well, yes, but . . . dwarfs don't celebrate Hogswatch. Nothing against it, of course, but it's just so human. Seasons and the sun and all."

"So you've never had a Hogswatch present?"

"No. Angua -"

"One important part of the celebration is opening the present."

"Angua, I didn't get you anything."

"Never mind. You weren't to know." Angua looks at his wide blue eyes, the pale spot on his lower lip where he's bitten it nervously. "Did anyone ever tell you about mistletoe?"