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A Borogravian Duo In Ankh Morpork

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Newcomers to Ankh-Morpork are frequently warned about organised crime1 upon arrival at the coaching station next to the Ankh-Morpork post office.

Some listen. Some don’t.

Those that don’t read the instructional pamphlets provided to tourists to the fair metropolis are usually left with a practical and salutory lesson about the big city. In this specific case, the key word of that previous sentence is ‘usually’.


 

Sober Reck2 preferred ‘easy’ targets – particularly tourists.

Such as the two women walking out of the coaching station. He was pretty sure they’d arrived in one of the coaches from one of those small, mountainous countries, and while women tended to be more cautious when it came to the warnings issues by the Ankh-Morpork Guild of Tourism3, these two were not displaying the little ribbon which indicated they’d paid their dues to the various Guilds of the city to travel as fearlessly as one dared in Ankh-Morpork.

Sober’s plan was simple enough. As they went down towards Short Street, he’d stumble as he went past and cut the money pouch off the shorter and thinner one with the odd brown bead necklace, then, when her companion turned, cut the strings of her pouch, too. Slip away through the crowds, find another target.

The first few moments worked fine – the stumble and bump. But when he tried to cut the first woman’s pouch, he was shocked to find surprisingly strong fingers around his wrist. “Cutpurse,” she said, and smiled. Her teeth were sharp.

Sober was considered a decent enough thief in the Guild. Not one of the really good ones, his instructors said, but adequate. He’d never make a Master – not quite fast enough with his fingers, and not very good at thinking on his feet.

He didn’t look for the Black Ribbon, or try to use his membership in the Guild to reason with the vampire. He didn’t think. He just reacted.

He kicked out.

Unfortunately for him, Polly Perks – like her companion Maladicta – was a trained soldier in the Borogravian army, rather more accustomed to wartime brutality than your average Morporkian tourist.

She kicked him firmly in the socks. Or, at least, the place where there would have been socks if he hadn’t been a man.


 

Things were simpler during a war, Polly thought as the may lay sprawled in the street, moaning. You were never left wondering what to do with your opponents. That wasn’t your concern.

“The shoulder looks bad,” Maladicta observed. “I told you we should have brought Igorina with us.”

Polly gave her colleague a look. “You could hold his body while I put the arm back in.”

They knew how to do that much, at least – simple field medicine. Although what they were supposed to do with him afterwards was a mystery.

“That Man Is Blocking The Street.” The words were not pronounced so much as rumbled out.

Polly looked up. And up. And up. Into eyes of fire in a stone face that looked like one of the roughs of carved dolls that the older soldiers made at their tables in the Duchess.

She’d heard of golems, via the occasional Ankh-Morpork Times news-sheet that occasionally filtered through the ranks – dog-eared and very tattered by the time they reached the small-but-growing squad of women she now commanded. She’d never seen one before, though. There were none in Borogravia – like so many other things, they were considered an Abomination unto Nuggan.

She’d certainly never imagined one in a blue gingham dress.

The golem was regarding them with a blank face that still managed to convey disapproval.

Polly scrabbled for an explanation. “Uh. He tried to rob us.”

“Does he have a licence on him?” A woman stepped out from behind the golem and huffed to the scent of tobacco so strong, Polly could smell it. “Oh, it’s just Sober.”

Maladicta frowned. “A licence?”

Polly stared. “Sober?”

The woman surveyed them, top to toe. Beneath the grey silk of her skirts, Polly had the impression she was tapping her foot. “You’d be tourists, right? From the mountains? Didn’t you read the booklet? Did you at least pay Tourist Insurance?”

“Didn’t see the need,” Maladicta said shortly.

They’d both looked through the tourist booklet and although the advice from the Ankh-Morpork Council Of Independent Tourism had been to buy the Guild Insurance, Polly had been deeply suspicious. It sounded like a racket and the funds provided for them this trip were rather limited.

“Well,” the woman regarded the still-groaning man without sympathy, “the Guild won’t be happy about it, but it’s Sober, and he should know better than to go around preying on tourists.”

“He Is Causing A Public Nuisance, Miss Dearheart,” rumbled the golem.

“He is a public nuisance,” said Miss Dearheart briskly. “But you’re right. Pick him up and we’ll return him to the Guild.”

“And This Incident Must Be Reported To The Watch.”

Polly and Maladicta exchanged a look. “We were on our way to Pseudopolis Yard when this happened,” Polly said.

“Oh, you were, were you?” Miss Dearheart eyed them. “Business with the City Watch?”

“Yes.”

Polly didn’t see the need to elaborate that they’d been sent to Ankh-Morpork to observe how the AM Watch managed its women. Which was to say that the Generals and high-ranking officers of Borogravia were at a loss to work out how to integrate the growing number of females joining the army. 4

Letters had been written. Polly and Maladicta hadn’t seen any of them. Clacks had been sent back – again, nothing they had any hand in. But Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had agreed to allow four Borogravian officers to observe his Watch with the purpose of seeing how an integrated workforce worked.

Neither Polly nor Maladicta knew what had happened to the two male officers that were supposed to come along, but they had a letter to present to Commander Vimes (or one of his Captains) at Pseudopolis Yard, and they were going to Pseudopolis Yard to present it.

Miss Dearheart had a waiting look about her.

“Sergeant Polly Perks,” Polly said. “Borogravian army.”

“Corporal Maladicta, same.”

“I didn’t think Borogravia—” Miss Dearheart blinked. “You were the ones in The Times?”

“Yes.”

Polly waited for the questions, the curiosity, the avidity. They were the usual reactions. None came.

“Interesting,” was all she said. “Adora Belle Dearheart.”

She seemed to be waiting for them to say something. Polly looked at Maladicta who shrugged. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Miss Dearheart blinked. “Apparently. Well, we’d better do as Gladys says. She likes things to be orderly and proper – it follows their sense of what’s right, you see.”

Gladys was already picking the man up, ignoring his screams of pain, which everyone else was also ignoring.

Ankh-Morpork was a strange place.

“Um. Do you mind if we—?” Polly indicated the man’s shoulder.

“This is Ankh-Morpork. Nobody will care about him screaming anyway.”

“We’ll care,” Maladicta said.

“If you must.”

“We must.” Polly spoke with certainty but she felt apologetic. Miss Dearheart had the crisp incision of a person who had places to be and things to do and as few of them as possible involved people. There was something almost sock-like about it. “It might make him a bit quieter.”

It did. Mostly because the thief fainted clean away.


 

As it turned out, the Thieves’ Guild wasn’t all that far away – just around the corner on Broadway. Polly imagined this had a significant impact on Miss Dearheart’s willingness to allow Gladys to take the man there.

“At least we have a guide to Pseudopolis Yard, now.” Maladicta murmured as they carefully crossed Broadway in front of the Patrician’s Palace. The square in front of the Palace was milling with people – men and women, human and...not.

Polly wasn’t one to judge, considering her closest companion and friend was a vampire (Temperance League, of course), and her squad of soldiers included an Igor and had once included a troll, but this crowd and diversity were more than she’d ever encountered – even at the height of the war. It was almost too much to take.

People glanced at them, curious, but nobody stopped them and asked what was going on. As though a golem in a blue dress carrying an unconscious man slung over its – her – shoulder was nothing.

Well, this was Ankh-Morpork. Perhaps golem in a blue dress carrying an unconscious man slung over her shoulder wasn’t anything to these people?

The Thieves’ Guild was an impressive building of white marble, with columns and a dome on top inside a iron-fenced yard with a locked gate. 5.

“Is there anyone in today?” Polly asked. It seemed very quiet from the outside. Although that could have been only in comparison to the buildings beside and across the street from it.

“Yes.” Maladicta frowned a little at the gates. “Are we allowed in?”

“The problem isn’t getting inside.” A young woman appeared beside them in the street. “The problem is getting out with all your valuables! Hi, I’m Steff. Oh, I see you’ve got Sober. Plying the tourist trade again, was he?”

Polly tried not to stare. She’d never seen a person with such dark skin before. Not up close. “Yes?”

“The Masters won’t be happy about that – he’s been warned once before. It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just that he doesn’t think--”

“She’s a thief, too, you know,” said Miss Dearheart sharply, but the young woman had already ducked away, grinning.

Her cheerful call of, “Too late,” was lost in the crowds that swallowed her up as Maladicta lunged but was blocked by an over-large gentleman who shoved her back with a muffled curse and no apparent concern for his safety as he continued on.

Maladicta caught her heel on the street kerb and managed to pull herself upright through sheer nimbleness, but she was looking very much as though she was about to go bats. Polly caught her arm. “Too late now.”

“I could get her!”

“We’re due at the Pseudopolis Yard Watch House—”

Abruptly, Polly remembered that their letter of reference had been in her beltpouch. Which now, thanks to Steff-the-thief, was gone.

Maladicta scowled. “Now it’s too late.”

Polly turned on Miss Dearheart. “You should have warned us earlier!”

“And you should have paid the Tourist Guild Insurance. This isn’t your little country up in the mountains, this is Ankh-Morpork. We do things differently here. And,” she added as a door opened and two men stumped out and down the path, “it looks like we have an answer.”

They moved briskly – a big man in a workman’s coat, and an older man in a slightly worn frock coat.

“We Are Returning One Of Your Guild,” Gladys informed the men as she dumped the thief into the arms of the big man. “He Was Plying The Tourist Trade And Has A Dislocated Shoulder That We Have Relocated For Him.”

“Ah, Sober. Was he operating legally?”

Legally?” Maladicta questioned. “He tried to rob us! And that other girl stole our purses!”

“You pay the Guild, you don’t get stole from,” said the other man, rather kindly. With his beard and the tilt of his head, he looked like an idealised old gentleman, a little down on his luck. Which was probably the point. “We could sell you some now, to ensure that the process is not repeated.”

“With what money?” Polly indicated the cut strings of her purse.

“Ah, yes, a problem indeed. But perhaps we could negotiate—”

“I think,” Miss Dearheart interjected, “that wouldn’t be wise right now. These ladies are on their way to the City Watch. Where, I believe, they implied they have business.”

The man sniffed as he closed the gate on them. “Old Stoneface knows how the city runs. As do you, Miss Dearheart.”

Miss Dearheart grimaced as the man turned away and made his slow and patient way behind his colleagues.

“You’re known to the Thieves’ Guild?” Polly asked as they started back out in to the busy street.

Miss Dearheart smiled. It was only a little forced. “My fiancée is in the public eye a great deal. As a result, I’m quite well-known.” From the way she said it, Polly guessed she was fond of her fiancée, if about as enthused by her fame as Polly and Maladicta were about theirs.

“Mr. Lipwig Is The Postmaster General, And The Master Of The Mint. His Methods Are Sometimes Questionable But He Has A Good Heart.”

“He assures me he keeps it safely in a jar back in Uberwald.” The smile was faint and thin.

“Like an Igor?”

“Well, not quite self-made. Possibly Patrician-made.”

There was probably a deeper meaning to this, but Miss Dearheart didn’t explain as they crossed a bridge the balustrade of which was lined with stone hippos. One of them had been split in two from top to bottom, and various tourists were having iconographs taken with it.

Polly watched with some interest. Iconographs weren’t commonly seen in Borogravia6, although they’d heard about them and she was curious.

However she was almost immediately diverted by Maladicta who nudged her arm. “Look at those women!”

The two women were elderly, stately, and quite well-dressed. One was tall and thin, the other was short and round. They were given a wide berth as they crossed the bridge – although one or two tourists were a little slow to get out of the way. Polly noticed that the men in particular were very careful around them.

“The Agony Aunts.” Miss Dearheart had seen them looking. “Enforcers for the Guild of Seamstresses.”

Polly watched the two women as they sailed through the crowd.

“Why would Seamstresses need enforcers?” Then she got a look at Miss Dearheart’s expression and hazarded a guess. “So...not seamstresses, then?”

“There’s an old joke which goes, ‘In the last city census, there were 972 women whose employment was listed as ‘seamstress’ - and only two needles among the lot of them. Hem-hem!’” At their stares, one shoulder lifted in a shrug. “I never said it was a good joke.”

On reflection, it probably wasn’t any worse than being a Cheesemonger of the Ins-and-Outs.

They made their way through the crowds, following Gladys’ tall, blue-gingham-dressed form. It seemed that, whatever she’d said about Miss Dearheart, Gladys wasn’t exactly unknown either. People mostly ignored her steadily-walking form. There were one or two wary glances at her, before their gaze dropped to rest on Miss Dearheart – who’d lit up a cigarette and was smoking like a badly-lit fire beneath a pot of scubbo.

Looking around , Polly considered Ankh-Morpork very different to PrinceMarmadukePiotreAlbertHansJosephBernhardtWilhelmsberg, which had been...quiet. Brittle with fragile peace and the nervousness of people who’d seen too much war to trust a treaty.

Somehow, Polly doubted anything in Ankh-Morpork was nervous. And even if it was, it would be with a brazen, ‘what are you looking at’ kind of nervousness that usually ended with someone’s teeth stuck in the stool, and a lot of groaning men.

Up ahead, the gilt and marble facade of the Ankh-Morpork Opera House rose high above Pseudopolis Yard – one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, day or night.

It was certainly busy enough right now, full of carts and carriages and pedestrians.

“Who’s that?”

Polly tried not to stare at the woman whose face looked...well...terrible. And she was wearing a big black, pointy hat that read Boffo’s Joke Emporium, 4, Tenth Egg St, A-M.

“Mrs. Proust?” Miss Dearheart barely turned as the elderly woman ambled by, a big black handbag held in front of her, a slight smile on her face. “She runs Boffo’s.”

“She looks—” Polly broke off, uncertain if it was appropriate to say in Ankh-Morpork7.

“Like a witch? She runs a Joke Emporium. It’s rumoured she really is a witch. It’s said that if you throw a rock at her shop window, it catches the rock and throws it back at you.”

“What?”

“Nobody’s tried it, though.”

“I can’t imagine why, if she’s a witch,” Maladicta muttered, fingering her coffee bean necklace.

The Watch House wasn’t a fancy building – neat and briskly businesslike, with the arms of the Watch above the peaked doorway. People of all sizes, shapes, and types were coming and going through the house – most of them seemed to be policemen, although a handful were dressed like civilians.

Polly paused beside the low spiked fencing that seemed to be there for nothing more than show – an odd attempt to pretty up a very functional building. She took a deep breath and, with a glance at Maladicta and walked inside.


 

“All those years coming up with Abominations,” Maladicta muttered as Miss Dearheart argued with the duty officer, “and Nuggan never mentioned bureacracy.”

“I think bureacracy is an Abomination unto everyone,” Polly noted as she looked through the paperwork. “Apparently if we pay the Guilds’ Tourist Insurance, we might get ‘any personal items of a non-valuable nature’ back.”

“So if they can’t sell it, we have to pay to get it back?”

“Yes.”

“Do you even have any money left?”

“No.” Polly gave Maladicta a long, level look, but didn’t ask the reciprocal question. Since Maladicta had phrased it that way, she didn’t have to. Oh, it wouldn’t be the money they’d been given by Borogravian High Command – it would be Maladicta’s own money. Which was a wrestling point for Polly. But it would be better than no money at all.

There was a cough in front of them, and they both looked up into the smiling face of Captain Angua.

“Sergeant, Corporal.”

“Captain.”

“Is it just the two of you? I thought the clacks said four.”

“The other two didn’t turn up at the coach station, so...” Polly shrugged. “We were due to come down, so we came.”

“Right. Well, we’ll get a clacks sent up to see what happened. In the meantime, we’d probably better get you set up. Come this way. I’ll take it from here, Constable Bregescousin. We’ll use Carrot’s office,” she tells the duty officer, who just nods. “Thanks for your help, Miss Dearheart.”

“Always a pleasure to assist the City Watch,” comes the reply, before her gaze rests on Polly and Maladicta. “Nice to meet you.”

“Thank you. And Gladys, too.”

Gladys had chosen to remain outside while the three women came indoors. There was a golem in the Watch, but according to Gladys The Office Became Crowded When There Are Too Many People Who Are Not Immediately Needed, And My Statement Can Be Given At A Later Date. Golems had good memories and they didn’t lie, although Miss Dearheart noted that couldn’t keep them from omitting a truth, or phrasing something in a deceptive manner.

They followed Angua out the back and along a corridor.

“Congratulations on your promotion.”

“Thanks. And welcome to the city. I hear you’ve been having a bit of trouble with the Guilds.”

“If by ‘a bit of trouble’, you mean we objected to the profiteering and had all our things stolen,” Maladicta noted as they were led into a large room full of lockers, “then, yes, we’ve had a bit of trouble.”

“You can put your packs in here for the moment,” Angua indicated the lockers. “Pick one. We’ll get you set up here at HQ and then take you around to settle you in your quarters.”

Polly glanced at Maladicta, who asked, “We get quarters?”

“We imagined that the Corporal in particular would have certain...preferences. And there are some parts of town that are more suitable for coppers to stay in than others.” Angua smiled. “I think the Commander likes you – he grumbled at the request, but signed the paperwork.”

“He grumbled?”

“He’d have vetoed it flat out if he didn’t.”

Once their packs were put away, Angua led them around the back of the room to a second corridor. “The Commander’s office is up here – he’s out overseeing a small incident at the Treacle Mine Road offices...”

“He seems to take a personal interest in what’s going on in the Watch.”

“He likes being a copper,” Angua said as they climbed the stairs. “He wouldn’t give it up if they paid him. That’s his office there for when you want to see him, and his door really is open at all times – except when it’s closed. This is the office I share with Captain Carrot. You’ll meet him. Everyone does.”

That last was said with an odd touch of both fondness and resignation. Polly looked at Maladicta who shook her head ever so slightly. Something to ask later, then.

They took the seats – slightly more comfortable than the ones downstairs – and waited as Angua seated herself behind the desk.

“The Commander decided the easiest way for you to learn about how an integrated workforce operates is to actually be part of it. It would have been better if we’d had some of your officers with us – then they could have the experience, too, but we’ll deal with that when they turn up. You won’t be members of the Watch, exactly, more like...add-ons. You don’t have the authority to search, question, or arrest – although any assistance you care to give the Watch constables you’ll be assigned to will be generally acceptable.”

She looked at Maladicta. “You’re wearing the Black Ribbon – make sure it stays on and visible at all times, just in case. There are meetings if you need—”

“Unnecessary.”

“Well, if you change your mind there are other members of the League around. Don’t talk to the press – that’s The Ankh-Morpork Times, the Morporkian Olds And News, and The Daily Ankh, although the Times is the worst offender according to the Commander. If anyone offends you then you bring it to me or Captain Carrot and let us deal with it – and by offends, we mean personally, specific, and deliberate, not if they just have a habit you don’t like. The Watch is made of a lot of people and their customs: what they do is their business, if it doesn’t involve you, let it go.

“You’ll be paid quarter-wages while you’re working here – the money that we’re not paying you is going into your quarters, and your Guild Insurance. Coppers need to be fully paid up with the Guilds so they can do their job. It’s not a nice system, no,” she said when Maladicta scowled. “But it works for the city and keeps the civic peace. Any questions?”

“Is this a prepared speech?” Polly asked before she could quite stop herself.

Angua smiled. It seemed to be a genuine grin of amusement, without the teeth that a werewolf could show. “Not quite, but I’ve probably heard the Commander give it often enough that it has the ring of it. Anything else?”

“No.”

“No.”

“Then welcome to Ankh-Morpork.”


 

 

 

1. There are rules about thievery in Ankh-Morpork. The Patrician is very definite on that point.

He is nearly as definite on this matter as the Thieves’ Guild, who are quite content to observe the Patricians rules regarding random thievery, and to ensure that the relieving of unnecessary monetary burdens is properly undertaken by licenced personnel.

Trained to make the process of having everything of value on your person stolen as simple and painless as it can be, these licensed personnel are, if not courteous and considerate, brisk and businesslike about their work. It isn’t personal, after all.

2. Sober Reck was not, as contradictory irony would usually suggest, a reckless drunk. Not the most practical cosh in the roll, said his instructors, but a man who presented acceptably when cleaned up, and who could steal a purse off an unsuspecting tourist nine times out of ten. In the Thieves’ Guild, this isn’t a compliment.

3. Believed to be much the same as the Ankh-Morpork Thieves’ Guild in some parts, based on their prices.

4. Or, at least, to integrate the growing number of females joining the army as females.

5. The Thieves’ Guild took theft very seriously. Especially from them.

6. Yet another Abomination unto Nuggan. Then again, Borogravians had gotten rather better at ignoring the Abominations in the last few years – and even not feeling guilty about them.

7. It certainly wouldn’t be appropriate back home – apart from being an Abomination, there seemed to be a great suspicion of old women and the things they did – which was mostly just the things that old women did: reminisce about old times, criticise a great deal of the current times, and compare grandchildren. Which old men do, too – but it’s different when women do it.