The End of Politics
The quiet leaked out of the palace grounds like a cold, heavy blanket, the city ground to a halt beneath the desolate wave of silence, as if Old Tom was ringing in the end of the Universe. Traders halted mid-holler and barking dogs suddenly seemed to think better of their wolf heritages and sit down in contemplation.
At the Watch House, Vimes’s pen stopped scratching signatures out on paperwork he didn’t really trust and definitely didn’t enjoy. He dropped the pen on the table, stood up, leaving the chair at the jaunty angle where its journey ended and went down the stairs and past the front desk. The watchmen were mute, Cheery watched him go without asking why, Carrot stood in the doorway like a statue, but one of those really good ones by Leonard of Quirm – with rippling muscles and an expression that you couldn’t quite place but which made you wonder why the Disc wasn’t a better place.
He proceeded along Lower Broadway and across the Brass Bridge, the feel of the cobbles through the paper thin soles he had somehow managed to acquire without Sybil finding out wasn’t giving him that warm comfortable feeling it should do.
He managed to get to the palace without anyone interrupting his journey to ask why the pigs hadn’t been rounded up after the cart accident in Sator Square, or what he was going to do about the one which had escaped into the Unreal Estate and was now floating merrily over the Butchers’ Guild and taunting the red-faced meat merchants.
The guards at the palace gates stood aside to let him through without threatening him with their halberds or proffering any sarcastic and misjudged comments about the men and women under his command.
He climbed the stairs and walked straight past the Oval Office, opening the door of the next room without knocking. The small bed at the far side of the room was shaded but the shape under the sheets was unmistakable. Drumknott was standing beside the bed, Vimes had always considered the clerk to have as much emotion as a stuffed herring but when the man’s face turned towards him it was clear that the deathly calm that was smothering the city had started in this room, and was deathly for a reason.
The walk across the minimal bedroom seemed to take much longer than the dimensions would have suggested but finally Vimes stood next to Drumknott and looked down to see the face he knew so well, only slightly paler post-mortem than it had been pre-mortem.
Vimes knew that no crime had been committed here, other than the one which ultimately lies in wait for any mortal being and sings with the swish of a scythe blade. He reached down and placed his fingers on the incumbent’s throat, an action which he had done more times than he wished to remember in the course of his duties, only this time the lack of any blood flow seemed to make his own pulse ring in his ears.
‘You know,’ Vimes said after catching his breath again, ‘people always said that he was a vampire, and I almost believed them. I guess it was just a good way for the city to avoid facing this possibility.’
In the corner of the room another conversation was taking place, but not one anyone would hear unless they were gifted in certain thaumic arts.
‘I expected you to be taller.’
I AM EXACTLY SEVEN FEET TALL, IS THAT NOT QUITE WELL ENDOWED IN THE SIZE DEPARTMENT?
There was an awkward silence, as if something was meant to be transpiring. ‘What happens now?’
The skeleton shrugged his shoulders, I WOULDN’T NORMALLY SAY, BUT I GET THE FEELING YOU ALREADY KNOW. GENERALLY THE NEWLY DECEASED MOVE ON TO WALK THE ENDLESS DESERT UNTIL THEY REACH THEIR PERSONAL IDEA OF THE AFTERLIFE. BUT YOU SEEM TO BE UNUSUALLY EXTANT.
‘Yes, I don’t think I’ll be doing that. There are so many places I’ve wanted to go but you know how it is what with one thing and another?’
NO, NOT REALLY.
‘I think I might go fishing.’
I WOULD SUGGEST GETTING AWAY FROM THE ANKH THEN!
To Death’s surprise, without moving a muscle Havelock Vetinari was suddenly not visible. Being of the omnicognisant variety Death knew he was still there but was having some difficulty placing his exact location, WELL, I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE.
“It’s a talent.’ Said the voice of Vetinari as Death resheathed his sword and mounted Binky for his next appointment.
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