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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-09 07:05 am
Entry tags:

The Carving Lesson; PG.

Notes: Set after 'The Night Watch' (but also before. It's all very quantum.) This follows "Schoolboy" in my fanfiction chronology.
Summary: John Keel leaves Sam Vimes a legacy.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.

***

Only one had been maintained. The marble headstone on that one was shiny and moss-free, the turf was clipped, the stone border was sparkling. Moss had grown over the wooden markers of the other six, but it had been scraped off the central one, revealing the name: JOHN KEEL. And carved underneath, by someone who had taken some pains, was: How Do They Rise Up. --The Night Watch

"Ain't worth tuppence, if you arsk me," said Fred Colon. "Dyin' coz they couldn't be bothered to tell the soldiers the coop was over. Ain't worth tuppence."

He was on his third pint, as were most of the rest of the Night Watch, except young Sam, who hadn't yet developed a taste for the stuff. He was drinking lemonade, which on any other night would have earned him his share of teasing, but not tonight, not after the funeral. The mascot that Keel had picked up -- it gave its name as Nobby -- was having the same, and wolfing down a bowl of suspicious-looking stew. He'd threatened to sit in Harga's House of Ribs forever, otherwise.

"It's all politics," Sam said vaguely. The sight of seven new graves, all in a line, had badly unnerved him. "I thought politics was diplomacy and such. But it's just the big men pissing on the little ones, ain't it, Corp? Specially the ones that have to carry swords and badges."

Corporal Colon was impressed. It was the longest speech he'd ever heard the quiet, impressionable Sam make. "Your mother teach you language like that?" he asked. Sam blushed to the tips of his ears. "But I reckon yer right, lad. One Watchman's job is pretty much like another. Soldiers too, prob'ly."

"Ain't such a bad life," Nobby's voice squeaked. "Free meal an' armour an' all."

"Goin' to be a Watchman, Nobby?" Colon asked.

"Yassir."

"You stick by Fred Colon, he'll show you the ropes. Taught young Sam here everything he knows."

Sam opened his mouth to mention John Keel, then stopped himself. A Watchman doesn't let on what he's thinking, young Sam. It was Keel's voice that echoed in his head, John Keel, whom he'd seen buried today. He shut his mouth.

Seven graves, with wooden markers. All right, Reg Shoe wasn't a Watchman, but he suspected that he'd have made a good one*, and Mr. Shoe had done his fair share for the Revolution.

*A suspicion which, like Reg, would come back to haunt him.

"Think I'll go," he said suddenly. Colon had been saying something about joining up a regiment from Quirm, where the cavalry didn't run people down in the street, and Nobby had been listening as he subtly stole the spoon. Both of them, along with about half the Day Watch, looked at him. "Think I'll go," he repeated, almost defiantly. He laid a dollar on the counter. "That's for the drinks and the stew, and don't you nick it, Nobby," he said sharply. The boy shook his head.

There, he thought. That's the dodgy dollar taken care of, anyhow.

He wasn't sure what he meant to do, as he walked out into the dying light. The funeral had been at noon, a time he was already unused to rising at, and then the coppers -- only coppers at the funeral, he thought with wonder, and a few Seamstresses -- had gone to Harga's for a drink.

In a bare week, he'd seen a revolution, a torture house, and seven graves in a line. All because some sod somewhere thought he ought to be Patrician instead of some other sod, and both were a bit mad.

He struck out for the Patrician's Palace, but barely got ten feet before he changed his mind. If he was going to do something stupid, he wanted to have that image in his mind again, of seven wooden markers in a row.

The dark was falling by the time he reached Small Gods, and if the deacon even saw him, he paid him no mind. Sam stood and stared at the graves.

All the little angels rise up high, he thought, and understood what Keel had said about it being a soldier's song.

"We needed you," he said quietly, to Keel. "How'm I supposed to learn anything now? You proved that Knock's a fool and Quirke's a crook, and I know I'm slow, but I can't just go back to the Watch now. Who'm I supposed to learn from? Why should I even be in the Watch? Why'd you stay a Watchman so damn long, if you knew all of this?"

The grave didn't answer, of course. That was the point. Keel wasn't ever going to answer again.

Sam carried a knife in his boot, left over from his days as a street-gang boy. He'd left his sword and truncheon and bell back at the Watch house, so it was his boot he went for when something did happen.

A hand reached up out of the soil next to Keel's. Sam swore, grabbed at his boot, and nearly wet himself as he fell backwards. He stared in horror as the greying fingers waggled helplessly.

"Here, lad, help a man up," a muffled voice said. "They've done and buried me alive, so they have."

Sam stared, wide eyed.

"Are you deaf, or just stupid?" the voice continued. "Look, just grab my hand -- "

"Mr. S-shoe?" Sam stammered.

"Give the boy a prize! Listen, I've got a mouthful of dirt and my clothes are a wreck, please pull me up!"

Sam, trembling, grabbed the cold grey fingers and tugged. After a few minutes of struggling and shouted orders from below the dirt, a head and shoulders emerged. Sam gazed with a sort of fascinated terror on Reginald Shoe -- zombie.

"You'd think someone would learn to take a pulse around here," Reg said, dusting himself off. "Just lucky I was able to get through the coffin roof, and that's a fact."

"M-maybe you..." Sam felt a hysterical giggle coming on, and suppressed it. "Maybe you ought to...take your own pulse..."

"Are you daft?" Reg blinked. "I'm glad you were around. Where's everyone gone?"

Sam's head spun. "Drinking at the pub," he managed. "On account of you and them others being dead."

"M'not dead," Reg said confidently, turning to where Sam had gestured, noticing the other markers. "Fit as a fiddle. Never felt better."

"Mr. Shoe, you'd best just take that pulse," Sam insisted.

"Listen, Constable, this is ridicul..." Reg trailed off as he tried to locate a pulse on either wrist. "Blimey, no wonder they buried me. I must have deep veins."

"You're a zombie!" Sam blurted.

"Nonsense. Don't you have to get made a zombie? Besides, that's old hoodoo from Genua, a bright young lad like yourself ought to know better."

Reg's worried face belied his calm assurances as he continued to search for a pulse. Finally, he threw up his hands.

"Well! If this doesn't just take the cake! Me, a zombie. Who'd have thought it."

"Does it hurt?" Sam asked.

"Course not. I don't suppose you did this, Sam?"

Sam shook his head vigorously. "I was just...up to visit the graves," he said lamely.

"Not much of a burial, was it?" Reg asked sadly. "Bit of sandy turf and a wooden head-marker? Have to see about getting a proper headstone."

"We did a whip-round, but burying seven's a bit expensive. Did what we could," Sam added rebelliously.

"I'm sure you did." Reg patted the boy's shoulder.

"Do you suppose they're all zombies?" Sam asked. Having Keel and Nancyball and Coates and the rest back, even as zombies, would be better than the row of graves.

"Dunno. Suppose we'd best wait around a bit, see if they need any help," Reg said brightly, seating himself on his own grave-marker. Sam sat on the ground, realizing with a shiver that he was sitting on John Keel's grave.

"Been gone long?" Reg asked, as Sam toyed with the knife he'd pulled.

"Nah. Day an' a half. Had you up the morgue for a little while, then here."

"Amazing how things get back to normal."

"Nothing much normal anymore," Sam mumbled. Reg inspected the names on the other graves.

"Sorry to see your sergeant gone."

"Me too." Sam stabbed at the still-soft wood. A few splinters came away. All the little angels rise up, rise up...

"Snapcase is Patrician, eh?"

"Seems that way."

"Could be worse."

Sam dragged the knife in the shallow groove he'd made. It looked a bit like an H. They continued that way, Reg asking questions and Sam hacking at the grave-marker, until the sun was well and truly down.

"Hadn't you better be getting on?" Reg asked finally. "S'pose your shift starts soon."

"S'pose it does," Sam agreed, still stabbing doggedly at the wood. He wasn't a talent at this, but he got better as he went along.

"Good life, in the Watch?"

"Not really."

"Going to stick with it?"

"Might do." Sam started on the final U. The curvy bits were the hard part. "Watch needs a few good men."

"Think they'd take a zombie?"

"Doubt it," Sam said, without thinking. Then he glanced at Reg. "Sorry. They're not much on the undead, I reckon."

"Ah well, it's the same way all over." Reg's eyes gleamed in the moonlight. "Always got to be someone lower in the ranking."

"Ain't anyone lower than lance-constable. We're the bottom of the heap," muttered Sam, sullenly.

"Dunno about that. Mr. Keel seemed to take a shine to you," Reg nodded amiably.

"Maybe." Sam stabbed out the beginning of a P.

"I don't think anyone else is coming up tonight, lad," Reg said, as kindly as he knew how.

"Oh aye," Sam answered. "I know." He'd known, in a way, ever since Reg had come up. It would have been too good to be true.

Who do I learn from now? he asked Keel, silently. Who's going to teach me how to stay alive?

He heard Keel's voice in his head again, as he had in the pub. Think for yourself, boy. Knock's a fool, but he's still alive, isn't he?

Only coz he draws desk duty all the time.

But he had to stay alive to get to Sergeant. Watch how he does it. Don't be like him, but watch him. Everyone has something to teach you. Sometimes they teach you what not to do.

And that's it, is it?

Whatever keeps you on your feet, Vimes.


He stood and gave Reg a respectful salute. "Good to see you up and about, Mr. Shoe," he said. "Guess I'll go report for duty."

"I'll walk you as far as Treacle Mine Road," Reg said. He turned to the grave-marker Sam had been working on. "How Do They Rise Up. Yes, I guess that's about right."

For a long time afterward, whenever the voice of good sense and self-preservation spoke to Sam, it was in Keel's voice; slowly, over the years, the voice became his own.

***

"Sir?"

His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander of the Watch, Sir Samuel Vimes, looked up from his desk. "Yes, Reg?" he asked tiredly.

"Got the wages chitty," Reg said, holding out the clipboard. Vimes took it, scanned it, signed it. "All right, sir?" Reg asked uncertainly.

"Haven't slept well," Vimes yawned. "Young Sam's got the right idea for a Watchman, anyhow. Up all night, sleeps all day."

"So it is with the young 'uns, I'm told," Reg said sympathetically. "Get you a coffee 'fore I go off shift, sir?"

Vimes looked at him carefully. Reg Shoe, who'd once called him deaf, daft, and foolish, now called him Sir. How times do change, he thought. "Reg, do you remember when I helped you up, out at Small Gods?" he asked.

Reg looked panicked. This wasn't a normal question for the Commander. "Course, sir," he said. " 'You just better take your pulse, Reg Shoe!' you said. Not likely I'd forget that. Any particular reason, Mister Vimes?"

"Not really." Vimes shook his head, and stood up. "I'm almost off too, Reg. We'll get a drink at the Bucket."

"A drink?" Reg asked, worriedly, as he followed the Commander out the door.

"Just coffee," Vimes said, over his shoulder. Reg looked relieved. "Like to make sure nobody's gossiping about me."

"Well, it's all good gossip," said Reg loyally.

Vimes laughed. It was such an unusual occurrence that everyone in the Watch house froze.

Of course Keel's voice was his own, he thought, as they stepped out into the street, heading for the Bucket. He didn't die...he just took a thirty year vacation. Had to stay down a little longer than Reg, that's all.

How do they rise up...

END

[identity profile] miss-vanilla.livejournal.com 2005-09-20 04:32 am (UTC)(link)
that's an awesome last paragraph. the whole story is good, but the ending sealed it :)

[identity profile] andy-star.livejournal.com 2005-09-24 11:56 am (UTC)(link)
Discworld! Reading spree! Hooray!

Wasn't Colon a Sergeant after the glorious 25th, though?

(Anonymous) 2011-01-23 10:39 pm (UTC)(link)
As I recall it was a temporary promotion that "Keel" gave him, and it was likely he quickly got busted back down afterward.

~Def
true_masquerade: (david tennant smile)

[personal profile] true_masquerade 2011-02-09 01:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I love The Watch discworld novels with all my heart ♥ and you do them so well.

Fred and Nobby going off to join the regiments after The Glorious 25th of May... that fits perfectly. Is is canon, or you filling in the blanks? It explains how Nobby turned from child-guttersnipe into slightly-older-and-everso-slightly-more-fit-for-duty-guttersnipe. I always wondered if he stayed around running errands till he was old enough to join The Watch proper. But it makes sense that he went off to join in the army, following in the grand ole tradition of lying about your age... or sex... or humanity ;-P and that he followed Fred Colon :-)

"Well, it's all good gossip," said Reg loyally.
This is Reg all over :-)

Of course Keel's voice was his own, he thought, as they stepped out into the street, heading for the Bucket. He didn't die...he just took a thirty year vacation. Had to stay down a little longer than Reg, that's all.

How do they rise up...


And this is the perfect ending. Beautifully put,
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I love The Watch discworld novels with all my heart &hearts; and you do them so well.

Fred and Nobby going off to join the regiments after The Glorious 25th of May... that fits perfectly. Is is canon, or you filling in the blanks? It explains how Nobby turned from child-guttersnipe into slightly-older-and-everso-slightly-more-fit-for-duty-guttersnipe. I always wondered if he stayed around running errands till he was old enough to join The Watch proper. But it makes sense that he went off to join in the army, following in the grand ole tradition of lying about your age... or sex... or humanity ;-P and that he followed Fred Colon :-)

<i>"Well, it's all good gossip," said Reg loyally.</i>
This is Reg all over :-)

<i>Of course Keel's voice was his own, he thought, as they stepped out into the street, heading for the Bucket. He didn't die...he just took a thirty year vacation. Had to stay down a little longer than Reg, that's all.

How do they rise up...</i>

And <b>this</b> is the perfect ending. Beautifully put, <username=sam_storyteller>