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Authors: Terry Pratchett

Snuff

BOOK: Snuff
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Dedication

For Rob . . . for in between his days off.

For Emma . . . for helping me understand goblins.

And for Lyn . . . for always.

BEGIN
READING

T
he goblin
experience of the world is the cult or perhaps religion of Unggue. In short, it is a
remarkably complex resurrection-based religion founded on the sanctity of bodily
secretions. Its central tenet runs as follows: everything that is expelled from a
goblin's body was clearly once part of them and should, therefore, be treated with
reverence and stored properly so that it can be entombed with its owner in the
fullness of time. In the meantime the material is stored in unggue pots, remarkable
creations of which I shall speak later.

A moment's distasteful thought will tell us
that this could not be achieved by any creature, unless in possession of great
wealth, considerable storage space and compliant neighbors.

Therefore, in reality, most goblins observe
the Unggue Had—what one might term the common and lax form of Unggue—which
encompasses earwax, finger- and toenail clippings, and snot. Water, generally
speaking, is reckoned as not unggue, but something which goes through the body
without ever being part of it: they reason that there is no apparent difference
in the water before and after, as it were (which sadly shines a light on the
freshness of the water they encounter in their underground lairs). Similarly
feces are considered to be food that has merely undergone a change of state.
Surprisingly, teeth are of no interest to the goblins, who look on them as a
type of fungus, and they appear to attach no importance to hair, of which, it
has to be said, they seldom have very much.

At this point, Lord Vetinari, Patrician of
Ankh-Morpork, stopped reading and stared at nothing. After a few seconds,
nothing was eclipsed by the form of Drumknott, his secretary (who, it must be
said, had spent a career turning himself into something as much like nothing as
anything).

Drumknott said, “You look pensive, my lord,” to
which observation he appended a most delicate question mark, which gradually
evaporated.

“Awash with tears, Drumknott, awash with
tears.”

Drumknott stopped dusting the impeccably shiny black
lacquered desk. “Pastor Oats is a very persuasive writer, isn't he, sir…?”

“Indeed he is, Drumknott, but the basic problem
remains and it is this: humanity may come to terms with the dwarf, the troll and
even the orc, terrifying though all these may have proved to be at times, and
you know why this is, Drumknott?”

The secretary carefully folded the duster he had
been using and looked at the ceiling. “I would venture to suggest, my lord, that
in their violence we recognize ourselves?”

“Oh, well done, Drumknott, I shall make a cynic of
you yet! Predators respect other predators, do they not? They may perhaps even
respect the prey: the lion may lie down with the lamb, even if only the lion is
likely to get up again, but the lion will not lie down with the rat. Vermin,
Drumknott, an entire race reduced to vermin!”

Lord Vetinari shook his head sadly, and the
ever-attentive Drumknott noticed that his lordship's fingers had now gone back,
for the third time that day, to the page headed “Unggue Pots” and he seemed,
quite unusually, to be talking to himself as he did so…

“These are traditionally crafted by the goblin
itself, out of anything from precious minerals to leather, wood or bone. Among
the former are some of the finest eggshell-thin containers ever found in the
world. The plundering of goblin settlements by treasure hunters in search of
these, and the retaliation by the goblins themselves, has colored human-goblin
relationships even to the present day.”

Lord Vetinari cleared his throat and continued, “I
quote Pastor Oats again, Drumknott:
‘I must say that
goblins live on the edge, often because they have been driven there. When
nothing else can survive, they do. Their universal greeting is, apparently,
“Hang” which means “Survive.” I know dreadful crimes have been laid at their
door, but the world itself has never been kind to them. Let it be said here that
those who live their lives where life hangs by less than a thread understand the
dreadful algebra of necessity, which has no mercy and when necessity presses in
extremis, well, that is when the women need to make the unggue pot called “soul
of tears,” the most beautiful of all the pots, carved with little flowers and
washed with tears.' ”

Drumknott, with meticulous timing, put a cup of
coffee in front of his master just as Lord Vetinari finished the sentence and
looked up. “ ‘The dreadful algebra of necessity,' Drumknott. Well, we know about
that, don't we?”

“Indeed we do, sir. Incidentally, sir, we have
received a missive from Diamond King of Trolls, thanking us for our firm stance
on the drugs issue. Well done, sir.”

“Hardly a concession,” Vetinari observed, waving it
away. “You know my position, Drumknott. I have no particular objection to people
taking substances that make them feel better, or more contented or, for that
matter, see little dancing purple fairies—or even their god if it comes to that.
It's their brain, after all, and society can have no claim on it, providing
they're not operating heavy machinery at the time. However, to sell drugs to
trolls that actually make their heads explode is simply murder, the capital
crime. I am glad to say that Commander Vimes fully agrees with me on this
issue.”

“Indeed, sir, and may I remind you that he will be
leaving us very shortly. Do you intend to see him off, as it were?”

The Patrician shook his head. “I think not. The man
must be in terrible turmoil, and I fear that my presence might make things
worse.”

Was there a hint of pity in Drumknott's voice when
he said, “Don't blame yourself, my lord. After all, you and the commander are in
the hands of a higher power.”

H
is Grace, the Duke of
Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, was feverishly
pushing a pencil down the side of his boot in order to stop the itching. It
didn't work. It never did. All his socks made his feet itch. For the hundredth
time he considered telling his wife that among her sterling qualities, and they
were many, knitting did not feature. But he would rather have chopped his foot
off than do so. It would break her heart.

They were dreadful socks, though, so thick, knotted
and bulky that he had had to buy boots that were one and a half times bigger
than his feet. And he did this because Samuel Vimes, who had never gone into a
place of worship with religious aforethought, worshipped Lady Sybil, and not a
day went past without his being amazed that she seemed to do the same to him. He
had made her his wife and she had made him a millionaire; with her behind him
the sad, desolate, penniless and cynical copper was a rich and powerful duke.
He'd managed to hold on to the cynical, however, and a brace of oxen on steroids
would not have been able to pull the copper out of Sam Vimes; the poison was in
too deep, wrapped around the spine. And so Sam Vimes itched, and counted his
blessings until he ran out of numbers.

Among his curses was doing the paperwork.

There was always paperwork. It is well known that
any drive to reduce paperwork only results in extra paperwork.

Of course, he had people to do the paperwork, but
sooner or later he had, at the very least, to sign it and, if no way of escape
presented itself, even read it. There was no getting away from it: ultimately,
in all police work, there was a definite possibility that the manure would hit
the windmill. The initials of Sam Vimes were required to be on the paper to
inform the world that it was
his
windmill, and therefore
his
manure.

But now he stopped to call through the open door to
Sergeant Littlebottom, who was acting as his orderly.

“Anything yet, Cheery?” he said,
hopefully.

“Not in the way I think you mean, sir, but I think
you'll be pleased to hear that I've just had a clacks message from Acting
Captain Haddock down in Quirm, sir. He says he's getting on fine, sir, and
really enjoying the avec.”
*

Vimes sighed. “Anything else?”

“Dead as a doorknob, sir,” said the dwarf, poking
her head around the door. “It's the heat, sir, it's too hot to fight and too
sticky to steal. Isn't that wonderful, sir?”

Vimes grunted. “Where there are policemen there's
crime, sergeant, remember that.”

“Yes, I do, sir, although I think it sounds better
with a little reordering of the words.”

“I suppose there's no chance at all that I'll be let
off?”

Sergeant Littlebottom looked concerned. “I'm sorry,
sir, I think there's no appeal. Officially Captain Carrot will relieve you of
your badge at noon.”

Vimes thumped his desk and exploded. “I don't
deserve this treatment after a lifetime of dedication to the city!”

“Commander, if I may say so, you deserve a lot
more.”

Vimes leaned back in his chair and groaned. “You
too, Cheery?”

“I really am very sorry, sir. I know this is hard
for you.”

“To be forced out after all this time! I begged, you
know, and that doesn't come easy to a man like me, you can be sure.
Begged!”

There was a sound of footsteps on the stairs. Cheery
watched as Vimes pulled a brown envelope out of his desk drawer, inserted
something into it, licked it ferociously, sealed it with a spit and dropped it
on his desk, where it clanged. “There,” he said, through gritted teeth. “My
badge, just like Vetinari ordered. I put it down. It won't be said they took it
off me!”

Captain Carrot stepped into the office, ducking
briefly as he came through the door. He had a package in his hand and several
grinning coppers were clustered behind him.

“Sorry about this, sir, higher authority and all
that. If it's any help I think you've been lucky to be let off with two weeks.
She was originally talking about a month.”

He handed Vimes the package and coughed. “Me and the
lads had a bit of a whip-round, commander,” he said with a forced
grin.

“You know, I prefer something sensible like Chief
Constable,” said Vimes, grabbing the package. “Do you know, I reckoned that if I
let them give me enough titles I'd eventually get one I could live
with.”

Vimes tore open the package and pulled out a very
small and colorful bucket and spade, to the general amusement of the
surreptitious onlookers.

“We know you're not going to the seaside, sir,”
Carrot began, “but…”

“I wish it was the seaside,” Vimes complained. “You
get shipwrecks at the seaside, you get smugglers at the seaside and you get
drownings and crime at the flaming seaside! Something interesting!”

“Lady Sybil says you're bound to find lots to amuse
yourself with, sir,” said Carrot.

Vimes grunted. “The countryside! What's to amuse you
in the countryside? Do you know why it's called the countryside, Carrot? Because
there's bloody nothing there except damn trees, which we're supposed to make a
fuss about, but really they're just stiff weeds! It's dull! It's nothing but a
long Sunday! And I'm going to have to meet nobby people!”

“Sir, you'll enjoy it. I've never known you to take
even a day off unless you were injured,” said Carrot.

“And even then he worried and grumbled every
moment,” said a voice at the doorway. It belonged to Lady Sybil Vimes, and Vimes
found himself resenting the way his men deferred to her. He loved Lady Sybil to
distraction, of course, but he couldn't help noticing how, these days, his
bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich had become, not as it had been traditionally,
a
bacon
, tomato and lettuce and had in fact
become a
lettuce
,
tomato
and
bacon
sandwich. It was all about health, of course. It was a
conspiracy. Why did they never find a vegetable that was bad for you, hey? And
what was so wrong with onion gravy anyway? It had onions in it, didn't it? They
made you fart, didn't they? That was good for you, wasn't it? He was sure he had
read that somewhere.

Two weeks
holiday
with every meal overseen by his wife. It didn't bear
thinking about, but he did anyway. And then there was Young Sam, growing up like
a weed and into everything. A holiday in the fresh air would do him good, his
mother said. Vimes hadn't argued. There was no point in arguing with Sybil,
because even if you thought that you'd won, it would turn out, by some magic
unavailable to husbands, that you had, in fact, been totally
misinformed.

At least he was allowed to leave the city wearing
his armor. It was part of him, and just as battered as he was, except that, in
the case of the armor the dents could be hammered out.

BOOK: Snuff
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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