20,258
26.12.2018

The inside of the Mended Drum is now legendary as the most famous disreputable tavern on the Disc-world, and such a feature of the city that, after recent unavoidable redecorations, the new owner spent days recreating the original patina of dirt, soot and less identifiable substances on the walls and imported a ton of pre-rotted rushes for the floor. The drinkers were the usual bunch of heroes, cut throats, mercenaries, desperadoes and villains, and only microscopic analysis could have told which was which. Thick coils of smoke hung in the air, perhaps to avoid touching the walls.

The conversation dipped fractionally as the two guards wandered in, and then rose to its former level. A couple of cronies waved to Nobby.

He realised that Carrot was busy.

“What you doin’?” he said. “And no talkin’ about mothers, right?”

“I’m taking notes,” said Carrot, grimly. “I’ve got a notebook.”

“That’s the ticket,” said Nobby. “You’ll like this place. I comes here every night for my supper.”

“How do you spell ‘contravention’?” said Carrot, turning over a page.

“I don’t,” said Nobby, pushing through the crowds. A rare impulse to generosity lodged in his mind. “What d’you want to drink?”

“I don’t think that would be very appropriate,” said Carrot. “Anyway, Strong Drink is a Mocker.”

He was aware of a penetrating stare in the back of his neck, and turned and looked into the big, bland and gentle face of an orangutan.

It was seated at the bar with a pint mug and a bowl of peanuts in front of it. It tilted its glass amicably towards Carrot and then drank deeply and noisily by apparently forming its lower lip into a sort of prehensile funnel and making a noise like a canal being drained.

Carrot nudged Nobby.

“There’s a monk-” he began.

“Don’t say it!” said Nobby urgently. “Don’t say the word! It’s the Librarian. Works up at the University. Always comes down here for a nightcap of an evening.”

“And people don’t object?”

“Why should they?” said Nobby. “He always stands his round, just like everyone else.”

Carrot turned and looked at the ape again. A number of questions pressed for attention, such as: where does it keep its money? The Librarian caught his gaze, misinterpreted it, and gently pushed the bowl of peanuts towards him.

Carrot pulled himself to his full impressive height and consulted his notebook. The afternoon spent reading The Laws and Ordinances had been well spent.

"Who is the owner, proprietor, lessee, or landlord of these premises?” he said to Nobby.

“Wassat?” said the small guard. “Landlord? Well, I suppose Charley here is in charge tonight. Why?” He indicated a large, heavy-set man whose face was a net of scars; its owner paused in the act of spreading the dirt more evenly around some glasses by means of a damp cloth, and gave Carrot a conspiratorial wink.

“Charley, this is Carrot,” said Nobby. “He’s stopping along of Rosie Palm’s.”

“What, every night?” said Charley.

Carrot cleared his throat.

“If you are in charge,” he intoned, “then it is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest.”

“A rest of what, friend?” said Charley, still polishing.

“Under arrest,” said Carrot, “with a view to the presentation of charges to whit l)(i) that on or about 18th Grune, at a place called the Mended Drum, Filigree Street, you did a) serve or b) did cause to serve alcoholic beverages after the hours of 12 (twelve) midnight, contrary to the provisions of the Public Ale Houses (Opening) Act of 1678, and l)(ii) on or about 18th Grune, at a place called the Mended Drum, Filigree Street, you did serve or did cause to serve alcoholic beverages in containers other than of a size and capacity laid down by aforesaid Act, and 2)(i) that on or about 18th Grune, at a place called the Mended Drum, Filigree Street, you did allow customers to carry unsheathed edge weapons of a length greater than 7 (seven) inches, contrary to Section Three of said Act and 2)(ii) that on or about 18th Grune, at a place called the Mended Drum, Filigree Street, you did serve alcoholic beverages in premises apparently unlicensed for the sale and/or consumption of said beverages, contrary to Section Three of the aforesaid Act.”

There was dead silence as Carrot turned over another page, and went on: “It is also my duty to inform you that it is my intention to lay evidence before the Justices with a view to the consideration of charges under the Public Foregatherings (Gambling) Act, 1567, the Licensed Premises (Hygiene) Acts of 1433, 1456, 1463, 1465, er, and 1470 through 1690, and also-” he glanced sideways at the Librarian, who knew trouble when he heard it coming and was hurriedly trying to finish his drink-“the Domestic and Domesticated Animals (Care and Protection) Act, 1673.”

The silence that followed held a rare quality of breathless anticipation as the assembled company waited to see what would happen next.

Charley carefully put down the glass, whose smears had been buffed up to a brilliant shine, and looked down at Nobby.

Nobby was endeavoring to pretend that he was totally alone and had no connection whatsoever with anyone who might be standing next to him and coincidentally wearing an identical uniform.

“What’d he mean, Justices?” he said to Nobby. “There ain’t no Justices.”

Nobby gave a terrified shrug.

“New, is he?” said Charley.

“Make it easy on yourself,” said Carrot.

“This is nothing personal, you understand,” said Charley to Nobby. “It’s just a wossname. Had a wizard in here the other night talking about it. Sort of bendy educational thing, you know?” He appeared to think for a moment. “Learning curve. That was it. It’s a learning curve. Detritus, get your big stony arse over here a moment.”

Generally, about this time in the Mended Drum, someone throws a glass. And, in fact, this now happened.

Captain Vimes ran up Short Street-the longest in the city, which shows the famous Morpork subtle sense of humour in a nutshell-with Sergeant Colon stumbling along behind, protesting.

Nobby was outside the Drum, hopping from one foot to another. In times of danger he had a way of propelling himself from place to place without apparently moving through the intervening space which could put any ordinary matter transporter to shame.

“ ‘E’s fighting in there!” he stuttered, grabbing the captain’s arm.

“All by himself?” said the captain.

“No, with everyone!” shouted Nobby, hopping from one foot to the other.

“Oh.”

Conscience said: There’s three of you. He’s wearing the same uniform. He’s one of your men. Remember poor old Gaskin.

Another part of his brain, the hated, despicable part which had nevertheless enabled him to survive in the Guards these past ten years, said: It’s rude to butt in. We’ll wait until he’s finished, and then ask him if he wants any assistance. Besides, it isn’t Watch policy to interfere in fights. It’s a lot simpler to go in afterwards and arrest anyone recumbent.

There was a crash as a nearby window burst outwards and deposited a stunned fighter on the opposite side of the street.

“I think,” said the captain carefully, “that we’d better take prompt action.”

“That’s right,” said Sgt Colon, “a man could get hurt standing here.”

They sidled cautiously a little way down the street, where the sound of splintering wood and breaking glass wasn’t so overpowering, and carefully avoided one another’s eyes. There was the occasional scream from within the tavern, and every now and again a mysterious ringing noise, as though someone was hitting a gong with their knee.

They stood in a little pool of embarrassed silence.

“You had your holidays this year, Sergeant?” said Captain Vimes eventually, rocking back and forth on his heels.

“Yessir. Sent the wife to Quirm last month, sir, to see her aunt.”

“Very nice at this time of year, I’m told.”

“Yessir.”

“All the geraniums and whatnot.”

A figure tumbled out of an upper window and crumpled on the cobbles.

“That’s where they’ve got the floral sundial, isn’t it?” said the captain desperately.

“Yessir. Very nice, sir. All done with little flowers, sir.”

There was a sound like something hitting something else repeatedly with something heavy and wooden. Vimes winced.

“I don’t think he’d of been happy in the Watch, sir,” said the sergeant, in a kindly voice.

The door of the Mended Drum had been torn off during riots so often that specially-tempered hinges had recently been installed, and the fact that the next tremendous crash tore the whole door and doorframe out of the wall only showed that quite a lot of money had been wasted. A figure in the midst of the wreckage tried to raise itself on its elbows, groaned, and slumped back.

“Well, it would seem that it’s all-” the captain began, and Nobby said: “It’s that bloody troll!”

“What?” said Vimes.

“It’s the troll! The one they have on the door!”

They advanced with extreme caution.

It was, indeed, Detritus the splatter.

It is very difficult to hurt a creature that is, to all intents and purposes, a mobile stone. Someone seemed to have managed it, though. The fallen figure was groaning like a couple of bricks being crushed together.

“That’s a turnup for the books,” said the sergeant vaguely. All three of them turned and peered at the brightly-lit rectangle where the doorway had been. Things had definitely quietened down a bit in there.

“You don’t think,” said the sergeant, "that he’s winning, do you?”

The captain thrust out his jaw. ‘ ‘We owe it to our colleague and fellow officer,“ he said, ”to find out."

There was a whimper from behind them. They turned and saw Nobby hopping on one leg and clutching a foot.

“What’s up with you, man?” said Vimes.

Nobby made agonised noises.

Sergeant Colon began to understand. Although cautious obsequiousness was the general tenor of Watch behaviour, there wasn’t one member of the entire squad who hadn’t, at some time, been at the wrong end of Detritus’s fists. Nobby had merely tried to play catch-up in the very best traditions of policemen everywhere.

“He went and kicked him inna rocks, sir,” he said.

“Disgraceful,” said the captain vaguely. He hesitated. “Do trolls have rocks?” he said.

“Take it from me, sir.”

“Good grief,” Vimes said. “Dame Nature moves in strange ways, doesn’t she.”

“Right you are, sir,” said the sergeant obediently.

“And now,” said the captain, drawing his sword, “forward!”

“Yessir.”

“This means you too, Sergeant,” the captain added.

“Yessir.”

It was possibly the most circumspect advance in the history of military manoeuvres, right down at the bottom end of the scale that things like the Charge of the Light Brigade are at the top of.

They peered cautiously around the ravished doorway.

There were a number of people sprawled across the tables, or what remained of the tables. Those who were still conscious looked unhappy about it.