“Miss Dearheart to see you sir,” Drumknott said quietly as the clicking of heels on the stone floor got louder.
“Oh?” said Vetinari, coolly tapping the pile of paper in front of him on the desk so the edges were straight. It didn’t really work. The Printer’s Guild’s brass paper fasteners had a tendency to bend into odd dimensions when someone tried to put them through more than fifteen sheets.
Drumknott opened the door before Adora could do so herself.
“Good afternoon, Miss Dearheart. To what do I owe this pleasure?” Vetinari sounded almost sincere. He liked Adora. That kind of devastatingly cynical competence didn’t come around everyday. He paused. “I’m not going to thank you for not smoking.”
Adora glowered at him.
Drumknott muttered something about smoke being bad for the bank chairman, who was currently curled up under the patrician’s chair, wrinkly chin resting on his foot.
Adora didn’t point out that smoke rises or that it had never bothered the dog previously. Come to think of it, nothing seemed to bother Mr. Fusspot at all.
“How are the Golems going?” Something in the construction and inflection reminded Adora that Morporkian was not actually one of Vetinari’s first languages.
“They’re doing well.” They looked at each other in silence for a few seconds. Finally Vetinari raised one eyebrow and Adora said “Not everyone I care about is a Golem... And not everyone can healed with a tube of clay... And Moist doesn’t take days off...”
“He could. He’s not bad at delegating.”
“You know what it’s like,” she said. Drumknott caught her eye and a knowing look passed between them. “And besides, you made him like this.”
“Dear Miss Dearheart,” Vetinari said, taking a calculated risk, “I think you’ll find Mr. Lipwig made himself the way that he is.”
“Give him time off. Appoint a deputy. He’s having a hard time and you’re just—“ Adora faltered. The patrician was doing sad eyebrows. His brows bent upward like inquisitive caterpillars investigating the center of his forehead.
“Does two weeks sound reasonable?” he suggested. “Thank you,” she said, feeling slightly on the back foot. She didn’t like when that happened.
“Lancre? Why are we going to Lancre?” Moist frowned.
Adora shrugged. “Never been to Lancre. Thought we ought to.”
“It’s not much of a tourist destination.”
“Yes,” she said happily, “That’s what makes it so good. No one will know who we are.”
“But I like people knowing who I am,” Moist protested, “I’ve put a lot of effort into being me.”
“Is that why you keep putty and stage make up around for disguises?”
“What are you trying to do? Find the Brass Neck Monster and skewer it with your shoe?”
Adora slipped a finger inside Lipwig’s red gold colored cravat and stroked his throat. “Maybe.” He moaned softly. “And the mountain air is good for you.”
“I’m not ill.”
“I know, but I feel bad about the smoke.”
“Really?” Moist said, astonished.
“I was smoking before I was fired from the bank, you know. You didn’t precipitate a tragic backstory— Not really.”
“How did you know I worried about that?”
She smiled at him.
“I don’t really talk in my sleep, do I?”
“You’re quite cute, you know that.”
Adora put her arm around him.
“All those times sharing rooms in inns when I was in disguise— Sometimes sharing beds—“
“Do you dream in disguise?”
“I’m always me on the inside.”
“The stage lost a fine actor when you ended up on the path you did,” she mused.
Moist shrugged. “I doubt I had the patience to memorize lines.”
Adora rolled her eyes. “Do you know how long you spent designing the latest stamp for the Merchant’s Guild?”
“Are we taking a coach all the way hubwards?”
“We could rent a shiny black one from a friend.”
“I’d rather not.” Moist shivered.
“One of the old mail coaches, then. You haven’t left the city in months.”
“Well, you know what they say: when one is tired of Ankh-Morpork, they are tired of— Well, you know.”
It was a relatively long journey, following the River Ankh hubwards. Adora had offered to drive the whole way and Moist had stared at her like she had gone mad.
“I’m just a bit burnt out, I’m not an invalid. Besides, driving helps me relax and I can’t sleep in a coach.”
“If only there were some way of traveling this distance without having to drive.”
“With beds and a restaurant,” said Moist ponderously.
“What? While you’re traveling?”
“Sure. That way you wouldn’t have to stop.”
“That’s a bit fanciful, don’t you think?” asked Adora.
“I love fanciful.”
“As long as you’re the one doing the fancying, golden boy.”
“Wow,” Moist said, staring out to the horizon.
“What is it?”
“It’s just that usually when I’m driving a coach out of a major metropolitan area, I’m on the run from the law.”
“Old Vimes isn’t going to be bothering us."
“And I suppose bandits know better.”
“I’ll keep you safe, don’t worry,” Adora said, clicking her heels, watching her fiancé’s sunshine smile.
“I took ballet,” he said, thoughtfully.
“In Uberwald. I was just a kid, I wasn’t very good at it. I was better with horses.”
“Did you do lifts?”
“I was thirteen and definitely not strong enough.”
“Probably didn’t make anything easier for you.” Adora poked at his arm.
“Don’t do that, I’m driving!”
“Sorry. You were probably a cute kid.”
“You were probably a terrifying one,” Moist said, swinging the coach around a tight turn as the road climbing up into the mountains grew narrower.
“You haven’t got problems with heights, have you?”
“It really depends.” He shifted his grip further up the reins, wishing he had brought warmer gloves.
“When they say most of the land in the Ramtops is vertical, they do mean it.” Adora observed. Just then one of the coach wheels caught on something and went around like someone had decided pi was three. It made a strange noise. “That didn’t sound good.”
They kept going, a bit more slowly. Adora fought the impulse to take the reins out of Moist’s hands. It a few minutes it became clear something really had gone wrong. A sharp stone had lodged in the thin rubber rim of the wheel and evidently done some quaffing and carousing while staying there. The wooden spokes of the wheel were splintering.
A cold fog was rolling in, except fog in the Ramtops didn’t roll in, it exclusively rolled up and down. This particular fog was making a stately climb up the mountain, reflecting on its days closer to the coast when it had been a young ingenue of a fog. As visibility collapsed to a few feet, Moist and Adora became horrible aware of how similar the edge where the narrow road dropped off was to a sheer cliff face. Similar enough for the storytellers of the Disc to refer to it as “a sheer cliff face.”
Moist pulled as close as possible to the inside of the road and climbed down to attempt to calm the agitated horses.
“I can see why you like them. They’re always a bit more nervous than you are.”
“Come on. I’m not that much of a mess,” he said, making eye contact with one of the horses and slowly offering it a carrot which was alarmingly close to being frozen.
“What do we do? Unhitch and ride to the next town for a spare wheel?" “In this fog? We’d fall right down the mountain. And it’s the Ramtops. We don’t know where the next town is.”
“You’re shivering, slick,” Adora said gently, as he opened the side door of the coach to get more blankets for the horses. His nose and ears were getting red from the cold.
“What are you gonna do about it?” he said, half flirtatiously.
Someone was yelling at them. Someone hovering six feet in the air on a broomstick. She was speaking Lancre, which is a similar language to Morporkian, but faster with more “ae” sounds.
“Get oot o the road! Coud you no see a am tryin tae flee here? Isna ony respect for witches these days…"
“Sorry!” Adora called up to her. “The coach is broken down.”
Granny Weatherwax frowned and switched languages. “Chan eil Morporkian agam*.”
Moist, smirking slightly, climbed up onto the driving bench to look over the top of the coach and said “Kannst du uns bitte helfen? Wir wollen nach Lancre gehen.” He said it in such a way that even if you didn’t understand the words you knew what he meant.
Esme sighed and indicated that they were to follow her on horseback. There was a wheelwright in the village of Lancre and the one in the shiny gold coat looked like he needed something hot to drink. He reminded her of those Theatre people. There was a marked difference between headology and wearing something flimsy to look like a sheet of gold foil. Perhaps even a markèd difference.
Typically one couldn’t get tea in tavern, but witches in the Ramtops could generally get what they wanted when they wanted it.
Moist asked the innkeeper how much danger of theft the coach was in, describing its location just erroneously enough for him to think he was being totally accurate. Adora gave him a strange look.
“Are you planning something?” she whispered.
“Just trying to make sure our stuff is safe.”
“You don’t want to do that by telling people where it is, laddie.” Moist raised an eyebrow at Adora as if to say you were right, they really don’t know who we are.
Eventually someone offered them a small horse-drawn cart to go retrieve their trunks at what would have been a modest fee by urban standards. Adora occasionally had to remind herself that they could now afford things like that without worrying about it.
Once their trunks were up in their room, Moist stretched out on the bed. It was somewhat uncomfortable and reminded him of his pile of letters. It was a comforting sensation.
“How are you doing?” Adora asked him.
“Better. But I feel weird when you’re worrying over me.”
“You’d do the same,” she pointed out.
“Yes, but you’re you.”
“How’s the bed?”
“Lumpy. I think it’s got straw in it.”
Moist squashed the pillow so it was even lumpier and yawned. “I used to not sleep when I was a kid. I’d sit up all night because of that line in the prayer ‘if I die before I wake.’ I thought I might die if I fell asleep.”
“And you’d think about soldiers polishing their cohorts,” Adora said, smiling so much it almost hurt. How was he so cute?
“I’d get headaches. Sometimes I’d black out. It was pretty bad.”
“Well you’re not going to die while you’re sleeping, I won’t let you.”
“Vetinari was wrong, you know. About angels,” Moist said, closing his eyes.
“Gods, you’re so sweet. You spent twelve years as a confidence trickster and you’re still so sweet.”
“There are some people who have so much faith in humanity but hate interacting with people and others who despair at the state of mankind but love people individually.”
Adora said nothing, waiting for him to continue.
“I don’t know where I fall in terms of that, it’s just an observation.”
“I love you.”
*"I don’t speak Morporkian” Clearly a lie, but why would she be talking to people from Forn Parts