Havelock Vetinari owned the largest cattle outfit in the neighborhood, and also, in a less official but still very real sense, the entire town of Two Horse River. Not the buildings, though he did own a fair few of those, but the town. Mayors and councillors might come and go, often with nests well feathered in the interim, but everyone knew who was really in charge.
Sam Vimes certainly knew, which was one of the reasons he spent so much of his working day, not to mention a fair amount of his off-time, in conference with his good friend Jimkin Bearhugger. Occasionally he would surface to see if anything had happened that required the sheriff to put in an appearance, and usually he was disappointed. Vetinari had made it known he liked the town quiet, and nobody wanted to cross him, either because they were awed by his money or because they'd heard the rumors about his feats of gunslinging in his younger days. Contemplating the fact that Vetinari could keep the peace more effectively without apparently lifting a finger than a sheriff working hard generally inspired Vimes to reach for the next bottle of Bearhugger's.
And so things went on, until the day the Copperhead Kid rode into town.
"You've got to admit," Fred said, looking around the crowded shop, "even if you don't like the changes the new boss has made, they seem to be working."
Sam scowled. "Just because a thing is popular doesn't make it right, Fred."
"I have to admit," said Vetinari, "that my condition has occasionally proven useful, although not always in ways I would have expected. You have heard it said: The man must have eyes in the back of his head? Take it from me, they're not as effective as one might think. All that hair in the way."
Captain Vetinari paused by the table where the first mate was sorting through the captives' confiscated belongings. He picked up one of the swords, examined the hilt closely, then slid it out of its sheath and gave a similar examination to the blade.
"Wolfe,"¹ he said, "Whose sword was this? No, don't tell me: it was the young lieutenant with the red hair. I can see the family resemblance, now I think to look for it."
"Resemblance, Cap'n? To who?"
"There was a man once – this was well before you joined us – who briefly united several of the pirate crews in these waters into a fleet pledged to mutual aid and support and all that kind of thing. Not a bad idea, in principle, but it became obvious that it wasn't going to work long-term around the time our visionary decided that being Commodore of the Fleet wasn't good enough for him, and it was Pirate King or nothing. This was his sword."
"And now this Pirate King's son is an officer in the King's navy?"
"I always did suspect he secretly came of a respectable family. I expect they told the boy his father had been a brave sailor in foreign waters and left the details vague. After all, there wasn't any chance of the man himself showing up to contradict them."
"What happened to him?"
"Bo's'n Vimes tells it with much more flair than I would. Ask him the next time he has a few drinks in him."
* * *
¹ "Wolfe" was not the name the mate's mother had called him, but the old lady was thousands of miles away in England, and under a headstone besides, and whoever heard of a ruthless pirate called "Wonse"?
The laws governing Space Colony AM-2564 were very strict. The laws governing most space colonies were strict in any case – ordinary everyday habits such as neglecting to close a window take on a new significance when the air outside is poisonous or, as it may be, non-existent – but the governor of AM-2564 was stricter still. Most space colonies weren't situated in the vicinity of a wormhole that occasionally disgorged horrifying creatures with tentacles or enormous leathery wings.
In the circumstances, many people felt that perhaps it was unwise of the governor to allow Professor Ridcully's study group to reside in the colony. The governor took the view that since they would undoubtedly be offering insult to the fabric of reality regardless, better to have them do it somewhere where a sensible eye could be kept on them.
Born Another Gender
If she had been born in the Ramtops, they would have called her a witch. She'd have been a good witch (or, at least, good at being a witch, which is not necessarily the same thing), and if she'd lived anywhere near Esme Weatherwax the unspoken web of inter-witch politics would have never been the same again.
But she was born in Ankh-Morpork, and into a noble family what's more, so a promising career went begging. The worst of it was that Ankh-Morpork didn't seem to have any other careers to offer a young woman with a keen mind and an unprepossessing face – none, anyway, that she was willing to entertain.
That, she had decided, was going to have to change.
"That will be all," said the headmaster, and turned his attention back to the paperwork on his desk.
Downey scowled. It hadn't escaped his notice that the Head hadn't actually said what he was going to do about the upstart Vimes. He opened his mouth to say so–
"Still here, Prefect?" said the headmaster, without looking away from his papers. "I don't wish to detain you." He glanced up. "But I will if I have to."
Downey took his meaning.
"If there is an arsonist at work, Vimes," said the Fire Chief, "that is for Quirke's shift to deal with, and so it is no concern of yours in either case. Am I making myself clear?"
Some people say that Vetinari's a vampire. I don't believe it, myself; I know he looks the part, but he's not the type who would look the part – too unsubtle.
I do believe that he knows everything that goes on in this city. Getting him to share what he knows, now, that's the trick.
Samuel gazed lovingly into his new wife's eyes. "To think," he said, "that we should never have met if I hadn't angered that veterinarian."