He woke as usual at 4:30 AM, performed his morning ablutions and dressed in his black suit. He hesitated a moment when reaching for his black robe. Oftentimes he would wear the one with the slightly dusty black and slightly frayed hem, but not today. Today was time for contemplation and respect, and his best robe. As he finished the last button he walked to the large window and surveyed Ankh-Morpork, murky, fetid, glorious. Without false modesty he could say that he’d bettered it more than he’d even hoped. It was richer because he’d opened the city to immigrants of every species and nationality. Stabler, too, because of its multi-vital culture. Even though dwarfs and trolls maintained their own enclaves, and chilly relationships, there was no open fighting. Dwarf manufacturing and troll labor meshed well.
Now second-generation Ankh-Morporkian troll craftspeople and artists were carving statues and having wine and shale parties for new galleries. Even troll hairdressers, he’d heard. Coffeehouses, pastries, and curry made Klatchians acceptable neighbors. Genuan music, Quirmian theater, brilliant Howondoland tapestries, and much more enriched the city’s culture.
For we have boldly fought with cash
We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes
We own all your generals - touch us and you'll lose!
It was frivolous for an anthem, he’d always thought, but true to the city’s steaming mercantile heart. He breakfasted, small slices of bread as always, but accompanied by the most excellent tea on the Disc. It was one of the careful indulgences he allowed. Today marked the end of the brief spasm of revolution 30 years ago. When he arrived in the office, a lilac plume was waiting on his desk, in a little tube of water which would keep it fresh. He pinned it to his robe, thought of his role in that week, and the mystery at the end of it. Then he shut his thoughts of the past and reviewed the morning news.
The first meeting today was with the Dockworkers, Fishmongers, Pelagic Purveyors,and Restauratuers.
“The purveyors and restaurant owners are cheating us. We’re moving three times as much fish with no increase in pay. They have sweetheart deals to make each other bigger profits, and we’re just like a machine to move cargo from one to the other.” The Dockmaster led off with belligerence.
“But you make profits with other cargoes don’t you?”said the Pelagic Purveyor representative with a sniff.
“Yes, but the other trades have negotiated increases with us,” said the Dockmaster. “Wood, stone, coffee and chocolate beans, spices, they all agreed two years ago to new arrangements.”
“And we don’t get the fish in we used to,” said Miss Verity Pushpram, Fishmonger-in-Chief. “Your large vessels scoop up the bigger harvests, and leave little for the small operators. Then the next season, there’s not even as many fish and mussels as before, because you’ve taken too many, but you can go out to deeper waters and get more.”
Two different arguments, thought Vetinari. Why was Miss Pushpram even here? He thought for a second. The Dockmaster was looking at her with a bemused expression and she glared at him with her wide-set left eye. Ah. She’d thrown over Nobby Nobbs again, and taken up with the Dockmaster. She must have insisted that she come today.
The Dockmaster looked away from her and toward the Chief of Restauratuers. “You pay us the same as ten years ago,” he said wearily. “Even though there are five times as many fish and chips shops,” the Chief glared “and other restaurants as then, and you do ten times the volume you did then.”
“But—” said the Purveyor, and Vetinari left them to it. An astute wag had commented once that he seemed to be dragged and pushed by many factions, but had in fact chained them together and let them pull each other to exhaustion. He wrote from time to time on a clean page, apparently taking notes, but actually preparing for the next meeting.
The lilac scent poured over him. Thirty years ago, he thought, Madam was convinced Snapcase was the man to serve the city. Well, no, what she’d actually said was “I think he’s a scheming self-serving fool. But he’s the best there is at the moment.” A true revolutionary, but with clear eyes.
She’d demanded his help and he’d given it, not only for filial duty, but the thrill of it all. He’d been such a romantic then. She’d moved to Ankh-Morpork from Genua and taken the house on Easy Street several months ago. He’d never been sure when she decided that a revolution would best achieve her financial interests, just as he had never learned exactly when the Assassins’ Guild’s Master Dr. Follett entered the conspiracy. At seventeen he’d not considered much beyond the intricacies of the part he played.
“I want you to watch John Keel. I may need him.”
“The new watchman from Pseudopolis? How—” and she flicked his ear.
“He’s a contradiction, and I don’t like contradictions. Rosie told me that the Aunts watched the thieves who attacked him take expensive armor from him. Gilt, and fit for a general, they said. He ran from them to UU, was arrested and beaten in the cells of the Treacle Mine Road Watch House, and became its sergeant-at-arms the next day.”
She’d told him that the morning before she took the midday meal at the Guild, chatting eagerly to Dr. Follett, charming him. Probably checking up on details of the week in code phrases. Dr. Follett loved his codes, and Madam would have loved playing a game, right at the high table of the Assassins’ Guild.
Bobbi had never appreciated how much craft he’d used to watch Keel. He’d been experimenting with camouflage secretly outside the Guild for a couple of years—they would have expelled him if they knew. He’d prowled the rooftops of the city, and loved the knowledge of its secrets. When he explored, it was all like a feast—lovers and families, criminals and victims (though he had played vigilante a few times, no one knew of it.) The screams from taverns, fragrant scents from bakeries and eateries, odors from privies, chimneys, alchemists—dozens more private worlds. All the drama fascinated him. Plays on a stage had never moved him much, with their predictable structure. These unscripted scenes satisfied him more. Most of all he loved the upper world’s many hidden places. Several thickets of chimneys would enclose a secret space, invisible from the ground and from most of the surrounding rooftops.
When he reached Treacle Mine Road Watch House that evening, he heard Keel’s voice for the first time. The man’s voice had originated in Cockbill Street, but had overlays of wealthier tones. Strange for a sergeant.
“…Yes, we know about Dolly Sisters and we don’t like it any more than you do. And we’ve heard about Dimwell Street and we don’t like that either. And that’s all I’ve got to say tonight.”
He saw the killer as soon as he peered around the chimney of the Watch House. He hadn’t known he’d needed the tiny crossbow, but he was always prepared when he reconnoitered. A murderer hidden on the roof of the Watch House—he hadn’t predicted that. Keel must have an extraordinary talent for making enemies, he’d thought. He’s only been here two days. It had taken valuable seconds to reach him, but as Keel’s challenge was reaching its end,
“Now . . .anyone who still wants to take a swing at a copper can step right up, if they want to. I’ve got my uniform off. We’ll have a go, here and now…”
The little crossbow dart performed better than advertised. It entered just above the killer’s ear and had gone several inches into the brain. He wasn’t pleased that it had been so close though. The man was at the point of launching his bolt when Vetinari killed him, altering the trajectory, and causing the bolt to pass over Keel’s shoulder instead of entering his body. The killer’s body slithered onto the ground and he’d exited as noiselessly as he’d come.
He reported to Bobbi:
“I can’t believe what I saw. I thought he was a thug. And he is a thug. You can see his muscles thinking for him. But he overrules them moment by moment. I think I saw a genius at work, but . . .”
“But he’s just a Sergeant, Madam.”
Don’t underestimate him on that account, she’d said.
“Every other Watch House was attacked tonight. Oh, Swing’s people egged it on, but it was malice and stupidity that did the most damage, But not in Treacle Mine Road. No. Keel opened the doors and let the street inside. I wish I knew more about him. I’m told that in Pseudopolis he was considered to be slow, thoughtful, sensible. He certainly seems to have blossomed here.”
She’d collected Keel a few hours later, and grilled him. Near the end of the conversation, when he’d said he wanted a lot of things, but she couldn’t give them to him, she struck with the speed of a snake.
“How would you like to be back in command?”
He applauded mentally, silent in his corner. She’d used Rosie’s information about his armor, plus what he’d delivered to her earlier, and deduced the one thing Keel wanted. He could smell the shock radiating from Keel, and the rush of desire that followed it. Not the usual desire his aunt engendered, either. Vetinari could see that Keel wanted command of the City Watch as much as a man wanted anything—but then a few seconds later, Keel had slumped with a worn, hopeless expression.
He wants command, but won’t take it. Why? What matters more to him than the city he’d defended brilliantly tonight. Defused a mob by a mug of cocoa and an open door. Who does that? How did he even think to do it?
That was the moment he’d become obsessed with John Keel.
As the voices in the room rose in accusatory declarations, he roused from his memories. “Ah, gentlemen and lady, I believe that you can mutually benefit each other. I suggest the Pelagic Purveyors double their payments to the Dockworkers, and you, Dockmaster, create faster means to unload shipments. I am in possession of some detailed sketches (and thank you Leonard, even if I did have to erase the mountain-moving device from the corner) for larger cranes and nets which will speed the work. I am sure that the cost of construction can be defrayed by the Restaurateurs.”
The men glared at him while he turned to Miss Pushpram. “Dear lady, the depletion of fish and seafood from coastal waters is concerning. I have read scientific papers which show that stocks can be increased by improving the oceanic region. New habitat preparations seem to be effective, and can possibly be created economically from shell debris, barrel fragments, and broken timbers. I’ll put you in touch with the authors.”
Miss Pushpram smiled. Everyone else frowned. He rose from his chair. “Please do let me know how all the plans get on. Your cooperation will mean the freshest catches from fish and chips (the restaurateur glowered again) to grilled swordfish. Your customers will all thank you.”
They left. His next meeting was in ten minutes, but since it was with Dr. Downey, he could wait an extra ten minutes. Downey thought he still held a grudge. He didn’t; it was simply amusing to let him fret over his rash schoolboy decision to destroy something presumably irreplaceable. Vetinari would never tell him about the extra copies of Some Observations on the Art of Invisibility. They were displayed in his office bookcase, bound in their secure concealment of Anecdotes of the Great Accountants, vol.3. Neither of them had ever commented on the tiger-striped reprisal for Downey’s mischief, either.
Bobbi hadn’t even noticed that he had hidden in the corner while she was in conference with Keel. He was pleased that he’d surprised her. She reviewed her plans for the party with him.
“I believe you’ll get your diversion,” she’d said.
“Yes, I believe so too.” He’d spoken with certainty, though his heart beat fast at what she’d planned. Bold, dramatic, secure in her power: everything he loved about her. Even when she’d tried to make him feel like a boy he was only amused.
She’d patted him on the knee.
“There,” she’d said. “Your auntie thinks of everything.” She stood up. “I’d better go and entertain my guests. I am a very entertaining person. By tomorrow night Lord Winder will not have very many friends.”
The next three appointments after Downey had been similar to the first, and now he was about to start a City Committee. He thrived on the challenges of making opposing parties more opposed with a few murmured words, until they built to a high rage where he could pose the solutions. Someday this might stop being fun.
A clerk came with urgent news; the watchman, Stronginthearm, had been murdered. Vetinari had been careful with his informants. He’d never suborn an officer; it was dangerous and unworthy of him. But it was amazing how coppers gossiped on their ways into and out of the Watch Houses, and never seemed to see his army of irregulars. Boys playing in the street were invisible, especially when they’d been dressed to be more invisible with changes of clothes and moved frequently between locations. He’d arranged for worn-out clothes to be hidden in sealed locations across the city where parents couldn’t find and sell them. It was astonishingly easy to alter appearance merely by changing a cap. The boys themselves were nondescript, all about the same age and size, with only brown or black hair color. The numbers in front of each Watch House changed daily.
When the boys were large enough to take other jobs, they would have a few dollars as pension, and a few more if they could bring in a newcomer to be trained. He had only to send a dark clerk to murmur about secrets once in a while. A few more talented boys were now clerks themselves, after he’d arranged for their education.
Vimes and Carrot came to the meeting a few minutes late, of course, as they should.
“Ah Vimes, he said, “I thought you might late. In the circumstances I dismissed the committee.” He had a few points to discuss with Vimes which didn’t need the committee, and had started when Drumknott came in with an urgent message for Vimes.
“It’s off the clacks!” Vimes yelled. “We’ve got Carcer cornered in New Hall! I’ve got to get down there now!
He asked Vimes why he needed to go on the chase himself.
“Because if I don’t y’see, some poor sod who’s been trained by me to do the right thing is going to try to arrest the bugger. Carrot, get on it right now. Carcer needs an arrow in his leg just to get his attention. You shoot first—"
“—and ask questions later?” Vetinari said.
“There’s nothing I want to say to him.”
After Vimes left Vetinari pondered names. He hadn’t known the leader of the bullies who’d attacked the lilac boys, but after the man ran away he made it his business to find out. Never in the intervening years had any information come to him. He’d known the Watch was pursuing this mass-murderer with the same name, but it couldn’t have been the same man. That man had been mid-forties—he’d be middle seventies by now, and couldn’t be running around the city. Possibly someone who wanted the same name as a notorious criminal? Carcer had only been in Ankh-Morpork briefly before the revolution, and only a few people had known his name. But Vimes and the Watch had him cornered now.
The storm was sweeping in fast from the mountains, and now it had started to hail. Vetinari listened to its pounding. It should clear shortly, though his next meeting would be put back a few minutes. There, now it had, though the ugly black color of the clouds hadn’t dissipated. The lightning was worse. It was now octarine, a color he’d never seen before. It’s carrying magic, he thought, as cold rage rose in him. Magic to play bloody hell with my city.
Then he received an urgent message for the second time that day. Commander Vimes and Carcer had fallen though the dome of the library—what was Vimes doing up there himself? Surely he had competent officers now, even if he felt he had to attend this crime in person. But he wasn’t reasonable when an officer had been killed. Now he and Carcer had fallen through the dome and hadn’t been seen since. They hadn’t been killed, they hadn’t fallen onto a gallery; they had disappeared.
“They don’t know how far back in time. They don’t know where, but that he’d been displaced in space, as well. I asked them if they could set any estimate, and they said no. They said he could even have gone forward.” Drumknott reported. “Ponder Stibbons is working on it, and I dared not disturb him.”
“No.” He closed his eyes. He trusted Ponder more than any of the other wizards. A man who attempted to study magic scientifically was one he could communicate with. He used arcane terms, but behind them was the clear logic other wizards lacked. How far back in time had Vimes been blown? Days, years?
“They think Mr. Carcer went with him?”
“They’re not sure. They’re not sure of anything,” Drumknott growled.
No power he could command could alter these events; he had to wait like anyone else. His mind drifted back into its contemplation of the events of thirty years ago. Even he, who knew his emotions so finely, didn’t know every trick of the mind, and hadn’t realized that he was focusing there because he was trying to distract himself.
The day after Madam’s party he’d rested far into the morning. That might have surprised an observer who thought he’d be wrenched by apprehension for the job to come. He knew his body, and that he needed to be in peak condition: therefore rest. That evening just after dark he’d climbed the whiskey distillery overlooking the Palace. (That distillery had been destroyed the week after he took office.) He’d rested there waiting for hours, patient as a cat, and watched palace grounds below. Later he’d walked back through timetables and realized that Big Mary had been broken up about the same time.
Madam had played her part supremely well. At the Palace party, she’d carried out complex maneuvers separating Winder supporters from others. Winder’s supporters were in the minority, and even the waiverers were small in number. The great majority of guests at that event did not support the man, but they hadn’t realized the brilliance of her plan. Everywhere she couldn’t be, Dr. Follett, Chancellor of the Assassins’ Guild was helping her. It was probably Follett, Vetinari had decided later, who had sent a back-up assassin. The Honorable John Bleedwell saw the first guard on top of the distillery, and neutralized him. But he’d never seen the second and was now lying in his own blood. Vetinari had knocked out the second guard before he’d been seen, blindfolded, gagged, and tied him.
He’d eased himself through the hallways of the palace toward the main ballroom, and then hesitated. A messenger entered the ballroom, then came out quickly with two senior military commanders. The older men berated the sub-lieutenant messenger who’d tried to explain that the “unarmed civilians” resisting the army included 200 -pound butchers with hooks and flensing knives. He was also incapable of explaining that troops who’d expected to attack other fighters were stunned to find that civilians behind the barricades included old ladies using language old ladies shouldn’t.
Selachii ignored him. “Some backbone and a quick thrust. That’s what’s needed! Lance the boil!”
Madam followed them, and he listened to her skillfully encourage Lord Selachii to leave for the barricades. Lord Venturi tried to persuade him to stay and guard Lord Winder, but Selachii demanded. “How many guards does one fool need?” When he left, he took the half a regiment who had been idling in the Palace grounds.
Then he’d carried out the performance of his lifetime. Madam and he had argued. He wanted to find a way to Winder, inhume him quickly, and sneak out. She had argued that the only safe way in was through her cordons of secure opposers of his Lordship, and they’d planned together. The entrance of the grand cake would be his cue.
He’d taken several deep breaths before he entered. Madam had confidence in his being able to act so contrary to Guild laws, and he did as well, but he couldn’t deny nerves. Assassins didn’t walk in slowly and menace others. But he had. Even at this remove he could feel every one of those fifty steps. He’d come in hooded and masked. The conversation fell, but the party tides drifted away from Winder. She’d organized so well. Few people wanted to stop an assassin. The Winder supporters surrounded all the others, and with their silence no one inside the circles was speaking up.
He’d kept his gait to a stroll. Confident, unhurrying, he reached the two bodyguards and shot them simultaneously.
The figure reached both hands behind it. They came back up each holding a small pistol bow. There were a couple of small tic noises, and the bodyguards collapsed gently to the floor. It tossed the bows behind it, and kept coming Its footfalls made no sound.
Two, three, he thought. Those were the second and third men he’d killed that week.
Winder had been stuffing his fat mouth with cake when Vetinari had reached him. People chattered on. Somewhere someone had told a joke. There was laughter, perhaps a shade shriller than might normally be the case. The noise level rose again.
Winder asked whom he was. He hadn’t planned on saying anything. Most people outside the Guild didn’t know (or would have cared) that the Guild rule was to tell who had sent the Assassin and who the Assassin was. But he extemporized.
“Who sent yer?”
“I come from the city,” he’d said, drawing his sword.
“Who are yer?”
“Think of me as . . .your future.”
Then he’d drawn his sword back before plunging it into that now quaking belly. But he’d never got the chance, and remained disappointed. It was a loss, not to have personally taken the life he’d planned to for so long.
The man had had a heart attack, and swayed before falling.
The thing had been accomplished without his action. It annoyed him, and he was dramatic.
He'd said “BOO” to Winder and then pushed him over. He dropped his sword and then walked out as slowly as he’d come in, shutting the doors. If there had been any outcry or anyone racing toward him, he’d have run for it, but strangely, no-one had wanted to follow. His instincts outside the door fell in, and he legged it then, rushing to the small anteroom at the front of the Palace. Madam had told him to wait there, if no-one followed. He’d quickly stripped off the hood and mask, buried them deep in a planter she’d told him was there. He stayed in the corner behind a curtain, waiting all night in case Bobbi needed him. He’d treasured his performance, reviewed it in his mind, cast it up and down mentally as if tossing a prize. Surely an accomplishment enough for a lifetime, assassinating a patrician. No matter how many commissions he took after this, there could be no equal in satisfaction.
It took twenty minutes for Snapcase to enter the ballroom, and twenty-five for him to be sworn in.
Vetinari put together the timing later. Winder fell at the time that arrows whistled over the Cable Street barricade and John Keel’s hard-boiled egg was smashed. Sandra Battye had been on the barricade, and Keel told her to cut any rope she saw coming over. That was when a grapnel caught Nancyball and killed him where he stood. Reg Shoe gave steaks to men who surrendered and gave up their weapons. Grannies of the attackers stood on the parapet with megaphones shouting to them:
“I know you’re out there, our Ron! This is your Nan! You climb up one more time and you’ll feel the back of my hand! Our Rita sends her love and wants you to hurry home. Grandpa is feeling a lot better with that new ointment! Now stop being a silly boy!"
It worked. The area of the Republic had spawned many of the men of the regiment, and they couldn’t go against the family matriarch. They nipped around corners, dropped their weapons, and headed home. Then the regiments heard about Winder’s death, asked for a truce, and removed their dead and wounded. John Keel had stopped fighting as soon as he heard the news. As dawn came, the barricades came down. There was general amnesty—except for one man.
That was when the revolutionaries had been betrayed.
Madam hadn’t needed him in the night, but less than twelve hours later events had crumbled. Snapcase had been perfectly willing to pardon revolutionaries, but—not John Keel. She told him afterwards, her face still white with rage. “He said that a ruler couldn’t tolerate the existence of such a man. That a man who could achieve such things in a few days might do more in the future. “Who could be hostage to a mere sergeant. We do not need someone like Keel doing things his way.”
“And Snapcase wanted to keep the Particulars! He’d said nothing like that, nothing or we wouldn’t have brought him forward. When I think of it, Havelock, when I think of all the time and money and lives we gave to that man—"
That morning she hadn't said anything except to find Keel. "Do it now or feel an aunt's curse!" She’d sent him rushing through the city for Keel, when the streets were still in chaos. Barricades were coming down, as word of the general amnesty reached people, but it was taking a long time. People were arguing about the stupidest things. So and so brought a chair, not a sofa set. The streets were blocked, he couldn't move, and there were fights breaking out over furniture!
He had no idea where Keel might be. He’d been near Treacle Mine Road, at one time, though. People had told him of seeing the great barricade there, but there had been barricades on many streets in the Shades. At one point the revolution had held nearly a quarter of the city, including Shambling and Onion Gates. The areas where food came in—the animals, the eggs, the flour—all the dockyards had been held by the revolution too, with all the cargo—tobacco, spices, lumber, so much more—which hadn’t been delivered in the night. In another twenty-four hours it would have been clearing, but then—it had been impossible. The streets had been impassable.
Thus it was that he’d taken to the rooftops, climbing, running, jumping, desperately trying to find one man in multitudes. He was probably somewhere inside sleeping, he’d thought, resting from the battle he’d commanded the night before. No, Keel was a true leader. He’d never have relaxed until he made sure that amnesties had been carried out.
At last he came to Cable Street, and looked down into mean little Lobsneaks Alley. He squinted. A hundred yards away, two groups of men were fighting. Not even enough for a real skirmish; probably thirty altogether. They were dressed in the same uniforms, mostly watch uniforms, but—wait, one group had something waving from their helmets. Flowers? Why flowers? It would be years before he found out that they’d stolen the idea from some battle in history where mixed troops wore carrots to identify themselves.
And by all the gods! Keel was there, at the head of the lilac lads! Fighting hand to hand! He slipped down quickly from the roof, and dashed across, but by the time he was on the other side—things had changed. Neither leader was to be seen. Carcer had run away, as the coward he was.
He didn’t see Keel until almost on him. The dust churned up by the fight blocked his view. The man was lying face down, eyes staring. He had horrible wounds, and didn’t move at all when Vetinari shook him. Didn’t even blink. He’d had to blink a couple of times, then saw that the lilac lads had rushed on from their fallen leader, chasing the others . . .There was another dead man next to Keel, with a lilac plume and a fallen sword. He picked both up, jammed the lilac branch into his mouth, and caught up with the others.
The first man he saved was Fred Colon; the second Nobby Nobbs. He brought down two more attackers, his sword gutting them. Seven men he'd killed this week.
Finally the battle was over, and he ran back to Keel. The sergeant had been dead less than an hour, and now—his face was different, even when Vetinari had turned him over to see. Fuller? But faces fell after death. The hair color didn’t help, it was all clotted with dirt. The wounds looked different, older. He was so cold, though, that was the strangest thing. Sweaty from battle, in a warm morning, he would be barely below body temperature. He knew this. The Guild showed you dead animals, and had you feel how long temperature lasted. He shouldn’t have been anywhere near this cold. It was a mystery. He looked up. The lilac lads had come back for their leader, and here he was dressed in a black suit, not a watchman’s uniform. He rushed away from the alley, didn’t realize until two streets over that he still held a flower in his mouth. Several petals had clung to his suit, he found later, around the neck of his shirt or caught in his belt. He never told anyone, most especially not Madam, that he’d kept them.
After the debacle of the failed revolution, he’d had to leave town. Snapcase was killing any young Assassin whom he suspected of being Winder’s killer, on the grounds that anyone who’d terminated one Patrician could terminate another. It was several years before he returned. It had taken over a decade before he could end Snapcase’s life and take the Patricianship himself.
Samuel Vimes was pulled back to the present less than an hour after he’d disappeared. Vetinari listened to his runners throughout the day, as they reported on Vimes’s desperate passages through the city until he brought Dr. Mossy Lawn by broomstick to Ramkin Manor. They said that Vimes had been covered in mud and blood, but he could run well; the child was delivered safely. Vetinari kept to his usual schedule. He’d learn all the details later, and now he had a city to run. He finished the last appointment on time, and went where he’d wanted to be all day: the small cemetery at Small Gods. He settled in a dark corner of the cemetery, and might have dozed, which was the only explanation for the next occurrence.
Vimes appeared at the cemetery as dusk was fading into night, and Vetinari watched him. The man had been a young drip of a lance-constable during the revolution. By the time Vetinari had returned to Ankh-Morpork, Vimes was an alcoholic drifting through life. When Vetinari came to power, he quashed the Night Watch, closing Dolly Sisters and Dimwell, reducing forces everywhere else. What remained was the Palace Guard, who guarded the Palace and himself, while the Guilds managed crime. The last few members of the Watch languished at the Treacle Mine Road Watch House—Fred Colon, Nobby Nobbs, and the hopeless drunk Sam Vimes. Then after the dragon came, those pathetic old Watchmen, and their remarkable recruit Carrot, had fought against the dragon more than any of the Palace Guard, and he reconsidered. He increased the number of Watchmen, and re-opened other Watch Houses. Vimes married Sybil Ramkin, sobered up, and became the useful angry man of today. Vetinari had raised him up title by title, and now Sir Samuel Vimes, His Grace, the Duke of Ankh, and Commander of the Watch matched the highest lords of the city, with loud disdain for the aristocracy he’d joined. He was an efficient goad against them.
Now he commands the entire Watch, he thought, and still runs after criminals. Hopeless to change the man, to make him think of his own safety. Who would I put in his place? Not Carrot—the hidden king would ruin the city if he tried to oppose me. Angua, probably. There’s never been a woman Commander of the Watch, but she’d be a good one. I’d need another werewolf, though, and Angua would have to take time off to train one. He mused silently, focused inward. He had no intention of interfering with Vimes’ private observation of the day, and then—Carcer rose from a shadow Vetinari hadn’t seen and swept a sword which barely missed Vimes’s head.
He must have been here before I came, he thought, stunned. I looked, but not as I would have in younger days. I’ve come here year after year without observation; sneaked in without even one guard. I wanted to mourn in private. Even Reg hasn’t seen me. Carcer could have attacked me any moment, but he was waiting for Vimes. He watched the battle with rising horror. They’re too close. Vimes lost his sword, and I have my knives, but they’re too close together.
Then Vimes dragged himself upright by one of the lilac trees. Carcer said, “So who’s going to arrest me, Sergeant Keel or Commander Vimes?” It didn’t register, and then the man continued baiting Vimes.
“You’ve got a nice home to go to, Mr. Vimes. I mean, what’ve I got?”
Vimes glanced down for a second, and Vetinari rose to his feet, still silently, ready to move. Vimes was in trouble and he needed to protect him, but Carcer wasn’t finished.
“Whoops, sorry,” Carcer said. “I walked over your grave there. No offense meant.”
Suddenly all the pieces from today collided together. Vetinari had seen Sam Vimes grow up. John Keel was dead. Keel had appeared in Ankh-Morpork with no history, on the eve of the revolution, and died four days later. But today, with that hellish magic storm, Vimes had disappeared for a bit. Half an hour here—could it have been four days thirty years ago? Was that possible? Magic could do anything; that was why he hated it. In truth, he remembered, he had only seen Keel alive twice, on the same night, even though he heard about each movement. Rosie Palm and Sandra Battye had reported to Madam, but his mind had been focused on rehearsing Winder’s assassination. He’d found Keel down, during the heat of a battle, and couldn’t examine him until it was over. He was dead, even though he looked different in death and was too cold. He was dead, had been dead thirty years.
But tonight John Keel was alive, fighting Carcer, and Vetinari started to move out of the shadows to support him, until Vimes—Keel! finally slammed Carcer’s last knife out of his hand and tied him firmly.
“The city will kill you dead. The proper wheels'll turn. It’ll be fair, I’ll make sure of that. Afterward you won’t be able to say you didn’t have a fair trial. Won’t be able to say a thing, haha. I’ll see to that, too…”
The danger had passed, and Vetinari stepped out of the dark.
“Good evening, Your Grace.”
He’d rocked Vimes off balance, as he meant to, to give himself a few minutes to think. When they walked down the gravel path out of the cemetery, he said some of the things he’d kept hidden for years.
“You know, it has always crossed my mind that these men deserved a proper memorial of some sort.”
He had always wanted a memorial for the men he'd fought with. He’d never been able to talk to them, because no-one knew could know he'd been there. They fought with courage he’d never seen, and as a reward they’d been forgotten.
"Oh yes? Perhaps a tableau in bronze - all seven of them raising the flag, perhaps?" Vimes said.
"Bronze, yes." That would be nice, he thought. Something right in the middle of Sator Square. They deserved it.
"Really? And some kind of inspiring slogan, perhaps?"
"Yes, indeed. Something like, perhaps, 'They Did The Job They Had To Do?"
Vimes was furious with the idea of anyone remembering their poor little band.
“No—how dare you? How dare you? At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn't have to do and died doing it, and you can't give them anything. Do you understand? They fought for those who had been abandoned, they fought for one another, and they were betrayed. Men like them always are. What good would a statue be? It’d just inspire new fools to believe they’re going to be heroes. They wouldn’t want that. Just leave them be. Forever."
Vetinari's jaw clenched. Vimes was blinded by his fury over the wasted lives. But it had had never been about just them. He could walk on and never admit he knew the secret, but no. Vimes was Keel and he wanted the man to acknowledge it. He approached the subject in an oblique way, talking about the new deacon who wanted the graves dug up to make space in the cemetery. He’d called the lilac lads ‘ancient history,’ and Vetinari had squashed the idea.
“I was never very good at religious matters, but apparently he was filled with a burning desire to spread the good word to the benighted heathen.”
“I suggested Ting Ling.”
“That’s right on the other side of the world!”
And now for the pounce. “Well, a good word can’t be spread too far, Sergeant.”
"Well, at least it puts - " and the penny finally dropped.
He’d never seen Vimes shocked before, and would treasure this moment.
“You knew? You bloody well knew, didn’t you?”
“Not until, oh, a second ago. As one man to another, Commander, I must ask you: did you ever wonder why I wore the lilac?”
“Yeah. I wondered.”
“But you never asked.” (And If Vimes had asked, would he have told that little lad—who had been unconscious for the last moments of the battle, anyway, and why did I never ask about that? I suspect that Vimes was protecting his own future. A question for later.)
“No, I never asked. It’s a flower. Anyone can wear a flower.”
Then he finally got to tell the story to Keel, the one person he’d wished most could know it. Tell his part, yes. He’d killed four men in that alley, making seven that week, plus the attempt on Winder. He was young, he'd done what was required, and he didn't regret it. But every year as the lilac scent penetrated the air, he remembered the tidal wave of furious justice John Keel had poured over Ankh-Morpork and wished it was possible to tell him the story of how brave his band had been.
“I joined the fight. I snatched up a lilac bloom from a fallen man, and I have to say, held it in my mouth. I'd like to think I made some difference; I certainly killed four men, although I take no particular pride in that. They were thugs, bullies. No real skill. Besides, their leader had apparently fled, and what morale they had had gone with him. The men with the lilac, I have to say, fought like tigers. Not skillfully, I’ll admit, but when they saw their leader was down, they took the other side to pieces.”
Then he offered again, mildly, to memorialize the great hero of his youth, lost and now reincarnated in the angry man he’d helped create.
“In memory of the late John Keel—”
“I warned you!"
Enough was enough. “You have never been the only one who remembered the lilac! You haven’t been back long enough to realize how many hundreds of lives Keel—you! affected in such a short time. You haven’t thought—you’re too close! No one is going to wear the lilac except those who fought that day—no one ever wears the medals another man won! But—do you remember Josh Gappy?”
“He smashed a bottle on the steps of the Treacle Mine Road Watch House, because he wanted to slash you with it! He cut his hand so badly he’d have lost it if you hadn’t brought Mossy Lawn to him as fast as you could. You moved him into the Watch House, and you invited people from the street in to witness that he was treated, not abused. The words reported to me were ‘you and you and you and you and you, too, lady, help Fred and Waddy take this young man inside. And you’re to stop with him, and we’ll keep the doors open, right? All you lot out here’ll know what’s going on. We’ve got no secrets here. Everyone understand?’ You don’t realize that ‘you and you and you and you, and you, too, lady’ all remember that more than anything else in their whole lives; I’ve heard them say so. A Watch House Sergeant not only drank cocoa in front of a frightened and angry crowd, he took extraordinary pains to make sure they were witnesses their neighbor wasn’t taken away and tortured.”
“. . . I did say that, didn’t I? Being nearly killed and then twisted back through time will make a person forget. Not to mention having to help my wife have our baby, and fight Carcer again on the same day.”
He wasn’t letting Vimes off that easily. “Yes, you said those things. You stood on tops of barricades and in the streets, telling everyone you were John Keel and in charge of things, and you have no idea how many mourned you. How could they forget you? Who do you think buried—you—and all the other men? All of these men had families, or at least friends, to take care of the bodies.”
He rolled over Vimes when he started to speak again. “The other Watchmen who didn’t fight—Waddy, Spatchcock, Leggy Gaskin, Curry, Evans, Pounce. Captain Tilden mourned, even though he was a tick and a wart, I’ve been told. All those people.”
“All those people. . .?” Vimes wondered out loud.
“Yes, even Mrs. Soupson, the yarn store owner, whose shop you crowded into. She even followed you to cheer you on and tell you what bad men the others were. The heggler.
“Whose cart was destroyed when both yours and Carcer’s men went over it.”
“. . .I remember the heggler.”
“The torture victims you saved from the Particulars? You’re too close to think about this, but whom do they owe their lives to? And you can’t believe that Rosie Palm and Sandra Battye kept quiet. Friends of these people. Friends of these friends. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people remember you. They kept their heads down like everyone else did under Snapcase, and by gods I wished I’d killed him too, when he granted amnesty to everyone else but you—”
He’d said more than he should have, being angry at Vimes. He wasn’t ashamed of having killed despicable Lord Winder, but he shouldn’t have mentioned it out loud even on a quiet street.
Vimes dropped his voice to a whisper. “It was you? No-one has ever said who killed Lord Winder.”
He dropped his voice even lower, not hissing, because hissing carried. “Yes, I did. I know you aren’t going to repeat that, and if I had killed Snapcase the next day, I’d probably have died then myself, and who knows what crony of Mad Lord Snapcase would be ruling today. It’s ancient history, my Lord, and has nothing to do except to tell you how much I hated Snapcase when he went after Keel. You. I say this, then. No public memorial for the seven men. The other graves will continue to molder; John Keel’s is the only headstone. But—in the memory of John Keel, I can give you back Treacle Mine Road.”
“. . .We could do with the space, it’s true.”
Vetinari wanted so much to talk to - Keel - again. He’d never told the entire story of those days, which were in some sense the formative days of his life. He wanted to drink in every moment of that time, and he pushed.
“I can see you like the sound of it already. And if you care to come along to my office tomorrow, we could settle—"
“There’s a trial tomorrow.”
“Ah, yes. Of course. And it will be a fair one.”
“It’d better be. I want this bastard to hang after all.”
They were every second falling back into the role of Watch Commander and Patrician.
“Well, then, afterward we could—"
“Afterward I’m going home to my family for a while.”
“Good!” he said, not missing a beat. They would talk of it, or they wouldn’t, and he was impossibly glad just to know that Sergeant Keel lived on, irascible bastard that Vimes could be at times. “Well said. You have a gift, I have noticed, for impressive oratory.”
(Thirty years ago, and I was privileged to hear John Keel. But I’m Sir Samuel’s boss now, and he needs to be reminded.)
“At this time, Commander, and in this place,” he warned gently.
“That’s sergeant-at-arms, thank you,” said Vimes. “For now.”
For now, and forever, thought Vetinari, two souls in one body. He’d need to keep them separate. My commander, my angry ally; my Sergeant—my hero.