sam_storyteller: (Discworld: Watch)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-09 08:30 am
Entry tags:

The Mare; PG-13.

Note: This comes after Night Watch in the book chronology and The Policeman's Ball in my fanfiction timeline. I should note that boots with teeth, which I thought was a terrifically original idea when I first came up with it, appears in the TP book "The Last Hero". So much for ever having an original thought in my life. If it's not the ancient Greeks, it's bloody Terry Pratchett.
Summary: Everyone dreams.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.

In Ankh-Morpork, city of one hundred thousand souls and, as the Patrician will tell you, ten times that many people, the sun has set. The Ankh is a gloomy black shade*, and the denizens of the night have emerged to ply their trade. Once upon a time, Commander Sam Vimes would have been out amongst them, or, if you went back past the fairy-tale start to the grim blood-spattered story underneath, he would have been out below them, as they stepped over him in the gutter.

* Which is not, truth be told, all that different from the daytime, when it is merely a cheerful black shade.

But those days are gone. Now he sleeps at night, in the big house on the hill.

Well, when we say 'sleep'...



They were coming to get him. They were going to jump up and bite --


Vimes growled and twitched as he woke, exclaiming something in the sticky-mouthed tongue of the not-fully conscious. Next to him, his wife murmured a sleepy question mark.

The darkness of the room was oppressive and his heart raced; he could feel the adrenaline of pure fear pumping through his veins. He pushed himself up on his elbows, and tried to see light, shape, anything in his bewilderment.

"Blimey," he said, though not very loudly, in case They were still around.

"Wossrong?" Sybil muttered. "S'samwake?"

"Hm?" he asked, still not confident that he was fully out of the dream.

"Sam 'wake?" she repeated.

"Don't think so," he replied, wiping sweat from his cheeks. "I'll check."

He hesitated before sliding out of bed, and lit the lamp on the nightstand. It threw flickering shadows on the walls. He looked carefully in the corners of the bedroom. When had he seen Them last?

This is ridiculous, a little voice told him. You're the Commander of the Watch.

Tell Them that.

Sam, in the nursery, was indeed asleep, the footies on his little pajamas twisted. He set them straight, and reached out to stroke his son's downy head.

They would never hurt his Sam. Even They wouldn't stoop that low. But he couldn't be sure -- the dream had been so real, he might even be dreaming now --

Good gods, Sam Vimes. Get a grip on yourself, man. It was a dream.

He left Sam and walked back into the bedroom. He made a careful circuit around the slippers at the edge of the bed. Climbed into bed. Blew out the lamp.


"Gods, Sybil!" he said, flinching. Her voice had been loud and sudden in the dark room. She rolled over to look at him.

"What's wrong?" she asked, apparently now quite awake enough to wonder what was going on.

"Nightmare," he muttered. She looked sympathetic.

"Dragon again?"

"No," he answered. Now the fear and paranoia was fading. To be replaced by embarassment.

"Running naked in Sator Square?"

"That's not really a nightmare. It's just disturbing."

"I agree." She closed her eyes. "So?"

He curled up under the blanket. "Boots."


"With teeth."

"Boots with teeth, Sam?"


"You had a nightmare about boots with teeth?"

"My boots. They had teeth and they were going to eat me."

There was a stifled snort of laughter from the other side of the bed.

"It's not funny!"

"Sorry, Sam," she said. The end of the sentence came out in a giggle.

"You aren't."

"I am, dear," she said, stroking his shoulder. "I'm sure it was very frightening."

"Stupid boots," he mumbled.

"Really boots with teeth?"

"No, Sybil, not really, I just made that up."

"Cranky," she said softly. "What do you think it means?"

"How should I know?" he asked.

"Well, it was your dream."

"I don't want to think about it."

"Oh, I know!"

"Sybil -- "

"You're scared of your job," she said triumphantly. He put one hand over his eyes.

"Go back to sleep, Sybil."

"No, really, Sam. Think about it. Your boots are a symbol of the job, right? You're scared that your job is going to eat you alive."


"Are you listening, Sam?"

"No," he said sleepily. "G'night."

"Sweet dreams, dear."

"Wmrflm," he answered, and slid back into sleep.


There is no doubt it is late. You can tell. The Patrician himself is considering turning in for the night. The rest of the people who do their business in the daylight are already safe in their beds. The Patrician, who does business both by day and by night, has made sure of this safety.


He sat, staring out at the darkened city, the peace broken only by an occasional scream. It was his favorite time of the, well, of the day. When the worries of the daytime office were over, and he could really think about things. There were no guild leaders importuning him with their petty little arguments, there were no supernatural phenomenae to zip tightly back up into the Dungeon Dimensions. If crime was occurring, it was occurring in the dark, and only to other people who lurked in the dark, who karmically probably deserved it anyway.

The glow around the High Energy Magic building was quite pretty.

He was just about to sign the last paper of the day, lay it in a pile for Drumknott to collect early next morning, put his pen in the stand, and walk down the hall to his bedroom. He had got as far as the pen-stand when there was a knock at the door.

It wasn't Drumknott; he had a very distinctive, quite clerklike knock. It sounded like Vimes.

Which was ridiculous. Even if Vimes was out at this time of night, which he conceded was a distinct possibility, what could possibly be important enough --

The door opened. Vetinari reached quite quickly for the stiletto in his desk drawer --

"Evening, sir," Vimes said, letting himself inside. Vetinari raised an eyebrow. He knew better than to ask why the Commander was there, or what he wanted; it was futile to reprimand him for entering without an invitation. So he simply waited.

Vimes coughed. "Sorry about the hour, sir. Word's just come down."

"Word, Vimes?"

"Yes, sir." The Commander looked regretful. "Sorry, sir."

He produced a slim pair of handcuffs. Vetinari regarded them with some little degree of concern.

"If you come quietly, sir..." Vimes said. Vetinari could see, now, two large trolls lurking in the hallway. Perhaps now was an appropriate time to begin asking questions.

"What word, Vimes?" he asked. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Got to put you under arrest, sir," said Vimes. "It's the revolution, lordship."

"What revolution?"

"Erm, the new one. It's all right. Not going to chop your head off or anything. Just have to escort you out of the city."

"Out? Of the city?"

"Exile," Vimes said. "I hear Quirm is pretty nice -- "

"Now see here, Vimes, you can't simply exile me. I am the Patrician," Vetinari snapped.

"Well, Lordship, not really. Not anymore."

"I beg your pardon."

Vimes had the grace to look uncomfortable. "Council voted me in, sir."

Vetinari felt a slow, dim horror creep over him.

And then he woke up.


Ah yes. Even the Patrician sleeps, now, though fitfully.

And so we pull back from the Palace, where Drumknott will, the next morning, wonder why his master is slightly surly over the slice of dry toast and glass of lukewarm water that is his breakfast, and the Commander -- still mildly uncomfortable in his boots -- will wonder why Vetinari stares at him so continually.

Not too far back, however; it is not a great distance from the Patrician's Palace to Pseudopolis Yard, where Angua is twitching in her, yes, in her basket.

She dreams wolf dreams, but also tinged with that oh-so-human insecurity which is the stuff that nightmares are made of...


Carrot sat in his bed, a candle burning in a saucer nearby*, and concentrated on the paper on his lap. He checked to make sure his pencil was sharp. And he wrote.

* Carrot was the highest-paid copper in the city, after his Commander, but old habits died hard and he liked to make the candles last, since their cost came out of the Watch budget and he did try to do right by the city. It would make you want to give him a sharp ding around the ear, but he was, after all, Carrot.

Dear Mumme and Dad,

Well, as we say in the Watch it, is three o'clock and all is Welle. The waether at, the moment is very Dark, but if the sun were up it would notte be three o'clock it would be, morning and all would be Breakfast, so there you have it.

I had a Verry funny dream tonighte, it was, alle about being back in the Mine with all the family and I was a Dwarf, a short Dwarf I mean, I, was not any taller than mumme, ha ha. I do notte think I want to have the, dream again it made me miss Ankh-Morpork although of course I would be glad to come back, to the mine Someday to pay a Visit.

He stopped his intense concentration on his literary endeavours when he heard Angua whine in her basket. She had a larger, rather better one at her flat, but she sometimes liked to stay up at the Watch house when it was a full moon. Carrot's room was, as far as things went, the logical choice. After all, he knew about the Werewolf Issue and had never minded it. Plus he was accustomed to -- anyway, well-experienced in -- seeing her naked. Which is important, in a would-be basket host.

Now he looked over, and saw her legs twitching. Her lips curled up over her teeth every so often. Once in a while, she whimpered.

Bogeymen do not sleep, but if they did, their nightmares would be filled with blankets. One would think that such a humdrum thing -- indeed, something Angua carries about with her during the daytime, for defence against aggressive Biers customers -- would hold no threat for a werewolf, but all undead are connected through a little line of terror that runs through the reptilian hindbrain of human children everywhere. The deeply-embedded fear of anything that creeps or crawls in the night has fostered, in the nocturnal creepers and crawlers, a likewise deep fear of the childrens' main defensive weapons. First and foremost amongst those weapons is the fleecy blue blanket. Second only to the blanket is the teddy-bear-missing-one-glass-eye, a powerful defensive talisman.

Werewolves were no exception.

Carrot thought, charitably, that she was probably chasing raccoons or, this being Ankh-Morpork, unlicenced thieves.

In reality, she was running.

Running from the one-eyed teddy bear that was going to throw a fleecy blanket over her head and make her disappear.

Carrot folded the letter to be finished later, placed it and the pencil on the bedside table, and blew out the candle. He was asleep by the time Angua woke, whining, and pulled herself up out of the wicker bed. She trotted across the floor and licked Carrot's hand where it hung over the edge of the mattress. Finally, she nosed along the bedspread, until she came to an empty place near the pillow.

The springs creaked as she jumped onto the bed, turned around three times with only a minimum of embarrassment, and lay down on the blankets, with a happy little sigh.


Yes...the lights in the High Energy Magic building are still burning. The glow is like a beacon in the night; or possibly it is the loneliest thing in the world, to see a workroom lit when all work should be done for the day. Ponder Stibbons is asleep across the workbench where Hex's new parts are being assembled.

But this is not his nightmare.

This is the dream of a man for whom fear is a ground level from which to measure all experience. A man like this has no end of bad dreams...


Rincewind was uniquely prepared for fear. He'd spent most of his life afraid. Even if there wasn't actually anything to be afraid of, a unique mixture of pessimism and cowardice kept him constantly on a fine highwire of terror from which he never, ever looked down.

So he was ready for the dream. At least, he thought he was. He had it at least once a week.

Great gaping horrible Dungeon Dimension monsters were going to come out of that little tear right there in the fabric of reality, which for some reason always opened right over the breakfast table, in the dream. He never actually got to see what was for breakfast, either, which was beginning to irritate him.

And then he'd scream and run and at some point the Luggage would lumber its way through the dream and usually around that point he woke up.

So he took a deep breath, forgetting once again to see what the dream-breakfast was composed of, and prepared himself to scream. He tried to push the chair back away from the table --

The demons began pouring through into Reality. Rincewind, however, was badly distracted.

Something was wrong with the dream.

He couldn't push his chair back.

He couln't run.

He looked down in horror and then he did scream.

Rincewind had no legs.


The screams wake Mustrum Ridcully, but only briefly; all the wizards are used to Rincewind's nightmares, and barely even give it a second thought anymore. He rolls over, mumbles "but I haven't studied for any exam" and goes back to sleep.

Nearby, in the light, airy halls of the Assassins' Guild, very few of the older students are asleep. They prowl the halls, gliding silkily out onto the rooftops to chase each other through the city.

The Masters, who are well past the age of nighttime games in the dark Ankh-Morpork streets and alleys, are almost all in bed. Perhaps one or two still burn the midnight oil, grading papers or chaperoning some young students on their first ventures into the city. For the most part, however, they sleep in soft beds, in rich rooms.


Downey looked up as someone rapped, softly, on his door. His hand strayed down to a sharp row of knives, just below his first desk drawer.

He was relatively safe in the Guild, since killing your superiors was not only against the rules, but the height of Bad Form. Still, you never knew.

"It's Teppic, sir," came a voice from the other side. Downey relaxed, but only slightly.

"Come in, Teppic," he called. The door opened, and the slim, dark- haired Traps and Deadfalls Master put his head in.

"Busy, sir?" he asked. "Only I saw the light on..."

"Just catching up the paperwork. Seems to be more of it every damn day. Have a seat. Help yourself to a drink, you know where they're kept."

A student, on hearing a similar offer, would have politely declined; but there was a certain live-and-let-live attitude amongst the senior staff, and these two had known each other most of their adult lives. Downey's younger brother had been a prefect when Teppic was a student, and they'd been fellow teachers under Dr. Cruces for years before Downey's promotion.

Teppic poured himself a liberal glass of brandy, and held it up to offer some to Downey, who nodded curtly.

"I hope this isn't business, Tep," he said, accepting the drink. "If it is, I'm going to recommend you for a vacation. Nobody should be thinking of work at this hour."

"You are," Teppic pointed out. Downey noted that he was in his pajamas. Black, of course. No self-respecting Assassin would wear anything else.

"I'm the Guild Master," Downey sighed. "I'm paid to think about work at one in the morning. What's on your mind?"

"Dunno, really. Couldn't sleep," Teppic said, taking a healthy mouthful of his brandy. "Well. I did sleep."

"Spit it out, Tep," Downey said with a grin. "I won't laugh."

"No, I don't think you will," Teppic said seriously.

"It's not any of the students, is it? Nobody's in trouble?" Downey thought for a minute. "More than usual, I mean?"


"Not thinking of freelancing, are you?"

Teppic shook his head. "I'm too old to start that sort of thing."

Downey recalled the old rumour that Teppic had never actually inhumed anyone. Well, any person. Apparently he'd been quite vicious with some of the architecture in his native Djelibeybi. It had been a telling point when the Guild hired him on as an instructor. And Teppic was good at teaching, unlike so many of the others. His boys loved him, and if they survived the final, often spoke glowingly of him at alumni gatherings.

"It's not anything so monumental as all that," Teppic added, waving a hand calloused from years of climbing ropes and dangling by fingertips from fourth-story balconies. "Just a dream, that's all."

"A dream?"

"Nightmare, really."

"Let's hear it, then."

Teppic set the brandy snifter on Downey's big, elegant desk, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Listen, back when old Cruces was head of the Guild, he took you down into the museum, right?"

"Of course. Eventually. I think I was about thirty. By George, wasn't I scared. Dead of night, down in that dim little closet, and Cruces saying all those things about 'this is what we loathe, beware of this, this could destroy us', and I believed it all -- "

" -- who didn't? -- "

" -- well, obviously you know, then. The one-shot and the poison gas and the..." Downey trailed off suddenly. "You too?" he demanded.

"Me too what?"

"The gonne. You had a nightmare about the gonne, didn't you?"

Teppic's face was a mask of fearful relief. "You have that dream?"

"It talks to me!"

"Yes! I had to go dig it up, and then once I did it talked to me and -- "

" -- and then it sort of makes you do things, doesn't it?" Downey looked like he was about to burst into tears, which, considering he was the head of a guild whose members were paid to kill people, was something to mark on a calendar.

"It tells me to," Teppic mumbled. "All sorts of terrible things."

"I always get a cold sweat," Downey admitted. "Were you here when Cruces...?"

"I was on sabbatical. But I heard about it, of course. Is it..." Teppic looked hesitant. "Sir, is it true nobody knows where it went?" he asked.

"I wish it wasn't," Downey admitted. "I have my suspicions, of course, but we don't really know. Vetinari might. He isn't telling." He saw Teppic's inquiring look. "There were Watchmen here when the gonne was seen last. Maybe they have it. I wouldn't put it past Vimes to keep it around out of spite. Or maybe they gave it back to Vetinari. He had it in the first place."

"Or maybe it's buried," Teppic whispered. "Maybe it really is out there just waiting for someone to dig it up."

"Now, that's hysteria talking," Downey said, a little too quickly. "It's just a piece of metal and wood, after all."

"Sure. Sure. Right you are," said Teppic. He sounded entirely unconvinced. "You suppose Cruces ever had the dream...?"

"I wouldn't know."

The two men sat in silence for a while, until Teppic cleared his throat.

"Well. Guess I'd better get my head down. Can't have the students getting a jump on me."

"Don't let it bother you too much. Even if it is out there somewhere, who would know?"

Teppic nodded, more to himself than for his Master's benefit, and stood to leave. "Thank you, sir."

"My door is always open," said Downey, already bending back to his paperwork. "Figuratively speaking, of course."

"Good night, sir."

"Good night, Teppic."

Downey, when he finally made his way to his own bed, made sure to leave a night-light on.

Just in case.


And is there anywhere scarier in the great city of Ankh-Morpork than the Guild of Assassins?

Perhaps a few.

The bedroom is severe, with the sort of impersonality that comes from an occupant who is far too busy to decorate, except by accident. The sleeper is normally severe, as well, but in her nightdress she looks kinder, and quite young. The black streak in her hair seems endearing, rather than frightening; three narrow red marks on her cheek are just barely visible.

But here, there is no unrest, there are no terrifying creatures out of the twisted subconscious. This woman dreams of fuzzy kittens, white horses, blue skies, and happy little children.

Why this particular woman should be so blessed by tritely cheerful dreams is a mystery, until we consider her...unusual family connections.


For Death, there is really no such thing as Time; still, to keep up appearances, he does occasionally spend a 'day' at what might loosely be called work, and returns regularly to his home in a little parasite dimension where Albert is perpetually frying something on the stove.

As Binkey trotted into the stables, Death noticed other fresh hoofprints; there was a welcoming whinney from something already occupying one of the stalls.

It turned out to be a little curly-haired shetland pony with razor-sharp teeth and bright burning red eyes. The nameplate on its bridle said "Fidget".

When you told your mother you wanted a pony, this is not the one you were thinking of.

There was a guest waiting for him at the cottage. Albert had served some of his horrible tea, which Death's guest was enjoying thoroughly.

GOOD EVENING, he said. The little man in the tweed suit stood and bowed pompously.

"Evenin', Death," he said calmly. He looked for all the world like a short, rotund businessman, possibly a Certified Accountant or maybe even an untalented personal injury lawyer. Except for his teeth, which were also sharpened to points. They looked as though they could bite clean through the teacup. "How's things?"

DEAD, said Death, who was not one to pay attention to the minor fads of language.

"Ahaha," said the little man, dutifully. "Just thought I'd stop by and say hallo. How long has it been, couple of hundred years?"


"Saw your granddaughter. Nice enough girl."


"Oh, no, I wouldn't do that to one of your friends," he continued. "Hah. Not that I have to worry much there, do I? No insult intended, of course."


"Nothing! Just a cuppa tea."


"Yes, they don't make night-mares like they used to. She's a good enough little thing, though, quite sturdy."


"Oh yes. And it's only going to get busier. I'm afraid I've got to be on my way. So nice to have seen you."


Even with other anthropomorphic personifications, Death had a way of making people uneasy.

YOU WILL NOT BOTHER SUSAN, he said, as Nightmares rose to go.

"Nah. There's better out there. Good day," he said, with the same funny bow.


Death seated himself behind his desk, once Nightmares was gone, and -- if possible -- his grin widened.

GOOD TO SEE HIM KEEPING BUSY, he said, to no-one in particular.


[identity profile] 2007-06-09 04:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Ooh, that was lovely:)

[personal profile] chironsgirl 2011-11-23 12:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, poor Susan! Fluffy kittens and happy children! Ghastly!