The Truth Chapter 2

The Bursar floated gently down towards the lawn. 'You wanted me, Archchancellor?'

Ridcully waved a piece of paper at him. 'You were tellin' me the other day we were spendin' a ton of money with the engravers, weren't you?' he barked.

The Bursar got his mind up to something approaching the correct speed. 'I was?' he said.

'Breakin' the budget, you said. Remember it distinctly.'

A few cogs meshed in the jittery gearbox of the Bursar's brain. 'Oh. Yes. Yes. Very true,' he said. Another gear clonked into place. 'A fortune every year, I'm afraid. The Guild of Engravers--'

'Chap here says,' the Archchancellor glanced at the sheet, 'he can do us ten copies of a thousand words each for a dollar. Is that cheap?'

'I think, uh, there must be a mis-carving there, Archchancellor,' said the Bursar, finally managing to get his voice into the smooth and soothing tones he found best in dealing with Ridcully. That sum would not keep him in boxwood.'

'Says here' - rustle - 'down to ten-point size,' said Ridcully.

The Bursar lost control for a moment. 'Ridiculous!'


'Sorry, Archchancellor. I mean, that can't be right. Even if anyone could consistently carve that fine, the wood would crumble after a couple of impressions.'

'Know about this sort of thing, do you?'

'Well, my great-uncle was an engraver, Archchancellor. And the print bill is a major drain, as you know. I think I can say with some justification that I have been able to keep the Guild down to a very--'

'Don't they invite you to their annual blow-out?'

'Well, as a major customer of course the University is invited to their official dinner and as the designated officer I naturally see it as part of my duties to--'

'Fifteen courses, I heard.'

'--and of course there is our policy of maintaining a friendly relationship with the other Gui--'

'Not including the nuts and coffee.'

The Bursar hesitated. The Archchancellor tended to combine wooden-headed stupidity with distressing insight.

The problem, Archchancellor,' he tried, 'is that we have always been very much against using movable type printing for magic purposes because--'

'Yes, yes, I know all about that,' said the Archchancellor. 'But there's all the other stuff, more of it every day... forms and charts and gods know what. You know I've always wanted a paperless office--'

'Yes, Archchancellor, that's why you hide it all in cupboards and throw it out of the window at night.'

'Clean desk, clean mind,' said the Archchancellor. He thrust the leaflet into the Bursar's hand.

'Just you trot down there, why don't you, and see if it's just a lot of hot air. But walk, please.'

William felt drawn back to the sheds behind the Bucket next day. Apart from anything else, he had nothing to do and he didn't like being useless.

There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty.

The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: 'What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!

And at the other end of the bar the world is full of the other type of person, who has a broken glass, or a glass that has been carelessly knocked over (usually by one of the people calling for a larger glass), or who had no glass at all, because they were at the back of the crowd and had failed to catch the barman's eye.

William was one of the glassless. And this was odd, because he'd been born into a family that not only had a very large glass indeed but could afford to have people discreetly standing around with bottles to keep it filled up.

It was self-imposed glasslessness, and it had started at a fairly early age when he'd been sent away to school.

William's brother Rupert, being the elder, had gone to the Assassins' School in Ankh-Morpork, widely regarded as being the best school in the world for the full-glass class. William, as a less-important son, had been sent to Hugglestones, a boarding school so bleak and spartan that only the upper glasses would dream of sending their sons there.

Hugglestones was a granite building on a rain-soaked moor, and its stated purpose was to make men from boys. The policy employed involved a certain amount of wastage, and consisted in William's recollection at least of very simple and violent games in the healthy outdoor sleet. The small, slow, fat or merely unpopular were mown down, as nature intended, but natural selection operates in many ways and William found that he had a certain capacity for survival. A good way to survive on the playing fields of Hugglestones was to run very fast and shout a lot while inexplicably always being a long way from the ball. This had earned him, oddly enough, a reputation for being keen, and keenness was highly prized at Hugglestones, if only because actual achievement was so rare. The staff at Hugglestones believed that in sufficient quantities 'being keen' could take the place of lesser attributes like intelligence, foresight and training.

He had been truly keen on anything involving words. At Hugglestones this had not counted for a great deal, since most of its graduates never expected to have to do much more with a pen than sign their names (a feat which most of them could manage after three or four years), but it had meant long mornings peacefully reading anything that took his fancy while around him the hulking front-row forwards who would one day be at least the deputy-leaders of the land learned how to hold a pen without crushing it.

William left with a good report, which tended to be the case with pupils that most of the teachers could only vaguely remember. Afterwards, his father had faced the problem of what to do with him.

He was the younger son, and family tradition sent youngest sons into some church or other, where they couldn't do much harm on a physical level. But too much reading had taken its toll. William found that he now thought of prayer as a sophisticated way of pleading with thunderstorms.

Going into land management was just about acceptable, but it seemed to William that land managed itself pretty well, on the whole. He was all in favour of the countryside, provided that it was on the other side of a window.

A military career somewhere was unlikely. William had a rooted objection to killing people he didn't know.

He enjoyed reading and writing. He liked words. Words didn't shout or make loud noises, which pretty much defined the rest of his family. They didn't involve getting muddy in the freezing cold. They didn't hunt inoffensive animals, either. They did what he told them to. So, he'd said, he wanted to write.

His father had erupted. In his personal world a scribe was only one step higher than a teacher. Good gods, man, they didn't even ride a horse! So there had been Words.

As a result, William had gone off to Ankh-Morpork, the usual destination for the lost and the aimless. There he'd made words his living, in a quiet sort of way, and considered that he'd got off easily compared to brother Rupert, who was big and good natured and a Hugglestones natural apart from the accident of birth.

And then there had been the war against Klatch...

It was an insignificant war, which was over before it started, the kind of war that both sides pretended hadn't really happened, but one of the things that did happen in the few confused days of wretched turmoil was the death of Rupert de Worde. He had died for his beliefs; chief among them was the very Hugglestonian one that bravery could replace armour, and that Klatchians would turn and run if you shouted loud enough.

William's father, during their last meeting, had gone on at some length about the proud and noble traditions of the de Wordes. These had mostly involved unpleasant deaths, preferably of foreigners, but somehow, William gathered, the de Wordes had always considered that it was a decent second prize to die themselves. A de Worde was always to the fore when the city called. That was why they existed. Wasn't the family motto Le Mot Juste? The Right Word In The Right Place, said Lord de Worde. He simply could not understand why William did not want to embrace this fine tradition and he dealt with it, in the manner of his kind, by not dealing with it.

And now a great frigid silence had descended between the de Wordes that made the winter chill seem like a sauna.

In this gloomy frame of mind it was positively cheering to wander into the print room to find the Bursar arguing the theory of words with Goodmountain.

'Hold on, hold on,' said the Bursar. 'Yes, indeed, figuratively a word is made up of individual letters but they have only a,' he waved his long fingers gracefully, 'theoretical existence, if I may put it that way. They are, as it were, words partis in potentia, and it is, I am afraid, unsophisticated in the extreme to imagine that they have any real existence unis et separata. Indeed, the very concept of letters having their own physical existence is, philosophically, extremely worrying. Indeed, it would be like noses and fingers running around the world all by themselves--'

That's three 'indeeds', thought William, who noticed things like that. Three indeeds used by a person in one brief speech generally meant an internal spring was about to break.

'We got whole boxes of letters,' said Goodmountain flatly. 'We can make any words you want.'

That's the trouble, you see,' said the Bursar. 'Supposing the metal remembers the words it has printed? At least engravers melt down their plates, and the cleansing effect of fire will--'

' 'scuse me, your reverence,' said Goodmountain. One of the dwarfs had tapped him gently on the shoulder and handed him a square of paper. He passed it up to the Bursar.

'Young Caslong here thought you might like this as a souvenir,' he said. 'He took it down directly from the case and pulled it off on the stone. He's very quick like that.'

The Bursar tried to look the young dwarf sternly up and down, although this was a pretty pointless intimidatory tactic to use on dwarfs since they had very little up to look down from.

'Really?' he said. 'How very...' His eyes scanned the paper.

And then bulged.

'But these are... when I said... I only just said... How did you know I was going to say... I mean, my actual words...' he stuttered.

'Of course they're not properly justified,' said Goodmountain.

'Now just a moment--' the Bursar began.

William left them to it. The stone he could work out - even the engravers used a big flat stone as a workbench. And he'd seen dwarfs pulling paper sheets off the metal letters, so that made sense, too. And what the Bursar said had been unjustified. It wasn't as if metal had a soul.

He looked over the head of a dwarf who was busily assembling letters in a little metal hod, the stubby fingers darting from box to box in the big tray of type in front of him. Capital letters all in the top, small letters all in the bottom. It was even possible to get an idea of what the dwarf was assembling, just by watching the movements of his hands across the tray.

'M-a-k-e-$-$-$-I-n-n-Y-o-u-r-e-S-p-a-r-e-T-y-m--' he murmured.

A certainty formed. He glanced down at the sheets of grubby paper beside the tray.

They were covered with the dense spiky handwriting that identified its owner as an anal-retentive with a poor grip.

There were no flies on C.M.O.T. Dibbler. He would have charged them rent.

With barely a conscious thought, William pulled out his notebook, licked his pencil and wrote, very carefully, in his private shorthand:

'Amzg scenes hv ocrd in the Ct with the Openg o t Prntg Engn at the Sgn o t Bucket by G. Goodmountain, Dwf, which hs causd mch intereƒt amng all prts inc. chfs of commerƒe.'

He paused. The conversation at the other end of the room was definitely taking a more conciliatory turn.

'How much a thousand?' said the Bursar.

'Even cheaper for bulk rates,' said Goodmountain. 'Small runs no problem.'

The Bursar's face had that warm glaze of someone who deals in numbers and can see one huge and inconvenient number getting smaller in the very near future, and in those circumstances philosophy doesn't stand much of a chance. And what was visible of Goodmountain's face had the cheerful scowl of someone who's worked out how to turn lead into still more gold.

'Well, of course, a contract of this size would have to be ratified by the Archchancellor himself,' said the Bursar, 'but I can assure you that he listens very carefully to everything I say.'

I'm sure he does, your lordship,' said Goodmountain cheerfully.

'Uh, by the way,' said the Bursar, 'do you people have an Annual Dinner?'

'Oh, yes. Definitely,' said the dwarf.

'When is it?'

'When would you like it?'

William scribbled: 'Mch businƒs sms likly wth a Certain Educational Body in t Ct,' and then, because he had a truly honest nature, he added, 'we hear.'

Well, that was pretty good going. He'd got one letter away only this morning and already he had an important note for the next--

--except, of course, the customers weren't expecting another one for almost a month. He had a certain feeling that by then no one would be very interested. On the other hand, if he didn 't tell them about it, someone would be bound to complain. There had been all that trouble with the rain of dogs in Treacle Mine Road last year, and it wasn't as if that had even happened.

But even if he got the dwarfs to make the type really big, one item of gossip wasn't going to go very far.


He'd have to scuttle around a bit and find some more.

On an impulse he wandered over to the departing Bursar.

'Excuse me, sir,' he said.

The Bursar, who was feeling in a very cheerful mood, raised an eyebrow in a good-humoured way.

'Hmm?' he said. 'It's Mr de Worde, isn't it?'

'Yes, sir. I--'

I'm afraid we do all our own writing down at the University,' said the Bursar.

'I wonder if I could just ask you what you think of Mr Good-mountain's new printing engine, sir?' said William.


'Er... Because I'd quite like to know? And I'd like to write it down for my news letter. You know? Views of a leading member of Ankh-Morpork's thaumaturgical establishment?'

'Oh?' The Bursar hesitated. 'This is the little thing you send out to the Duchess of Quirm and the Duke of Sto Helit and people like that, isn't it?'

'Yes, sir,' said William. Wizards were terrible snobs.

'Er. Well, then... you can say that I said it is a step in the right direction that will... er... be welcomed by all forward-thinking people and will drag the city kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.' He watched eagle-eyed as William wrote this down. 'And my name is Dr A.A. Dinwiddie, D.M.(7th), D.Thau., B.Occ., M.Coll., B.R That's Dinwiddie with an o.'

'Yes, Dr Dinwiddie. Er... the Century of the Fruitbat is nearly over, sir. Would you like the city to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the Century of the Fruitbat?'


William wrote this down. It was a puzzle why things were always dragged kicking and screaming. No one ever seemed to want to, for example, lead them gently by the hand.

'And I'm sure you will send me a copy when it comes out, of course,' said the Bursar.

'Yes, Dr Dinwiddie.'

'And if you want anything from me at any other time, don't hesitate to ask.'

'Thank you, sir. But I'd always understood, sir, that Unseen University was against the use of movable type?'

'Oh, I think it's time to embrace the exciting challenges presented to us by the Century of the Fruitbat,' said the Bursar.

'We... That's the one we're just about to leave, sir.'

Then it's high time we embraced them, don't you think?'

'Good point, sir.'

'And now I must fly,' said the Bursar. 'Except that I mustn't.'

Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, poked at the ink in his inkwell. There was ice in it.

'Don't you even have a proper fire?' said Hughnon Ridcully, Chief Priest of Blind lo and unofficial spokesman for the city's religious establishment. I mean, I'm not one for stuffy rooms, but it's freezing in here!'

'Brisk, certainly,' said Lord Vetinari. 'It's odd, but the ice isn't as dark as the rest of the ink. What causes that, do you think?'

'Science, probably,' said Hughnon vaguely. Like his wizardly brother, Archchancellor Mustrum, he didn't like to bother himself with patently silly questions. Both gods and magic required solid, sensible men, and the brothers Ridcully were solid as rocks. And, in some respects, as sensible.

'Ah. Anyway... you were saying?'

'You must put a stop to this, Havelock. You know the... understanding.'

Vetinari seemed engrossed in the ink. 'Must, your reverence?' he said calmly, without looking up.

'You know why we're all against this movable type nonsense!'

'Remind me again... Look, it bobs up and down

Hughnon sighed. 'Words are too important to be left to machinery. We've got nothing against engraving, you know that. We've nothing against words being nailed down properly. But words that can be taken apart and used to make other words... well, that's downright dangerous. And I thought you weren't in favour, either?'

'Broadly, yes,' said the Patrician. 'But many years of ruling this city, your reverence, have taught me that you cannot apply brakes to a volcano. Sometimes it is best to let these things run their course. They generally die down again after a while.'

'You have not always taken such a relaxed approach, Havelock,' said Hughnon.

The Patrician gave him a cool stare that went on for a couple of seconds beyond the comfort barrier.

'Flexibility and understanding have always been my watchwords,' he said.

'My god, have they?'

'Indeed. And what I would like you and your brother to understand now, your reverence, in a flexible way, is that this enterprise is being undertaken by dwarfs. And do you know where the largest dwarf city is, your reverence?'

'What? Oh... let's see... there's that place in--'

'Yes, everyone starts by saying that. But it's Ankh-Morpork, in fact. There are more than fifty thousand dwarfs here now.'

'Surely not?'

'I assure you. We have currently very good relationships with the dwarf communities in Copperhead and Uberwald. In dealings with the dwarfs I have seen to it that the city's hand of friendship is permanently outstretched in a slightly downward direction. And in this current cold snap I am sure we are all very glad that bargeloads of coal and lamp oil are coming down from the dwarf mines every day. Do you catch my meaning?'

Hughnon glanced at the fireplace. Against all probability, one lump of coal was smouldering all by itself.

'And of course,' the Patrician went on, 'it is increasingly hard to ignore this new type, aha, of printing when vast printeries now exist in the Agatean Empire and, as I am sure you are aware, in Omnia. And from Omnia, as you no doubt know, the Omnians export huge amounts of their holy Book of Om and these pamphlets they're so keen on,'

'Evangelical nonsense,' said Hughnon. 'You should have banned them long ago,'

Once again the stare went on a good deal too long.

'Ban a religion, your reverence?'

'Well, when I say ban, I mean--'

'I'm sure no one could call me a despot, your reverence,' said Lord Vetinari severely.

Hughnon Ridcully made a misjudged attempt to lighten the mood. 'Not twice at any rate, ahaha,'

'I'm sorry?'

'I said... not twice at any rate... ahaha.'

'I do apologize, but you seem to have lost me there.'

'It was, uh, a minor witticism, Hav-- my lord.'

'Oh. Yes. Ahah,' said Vetinari, and the words withered in the air. 'No, I'm afraid you will find that the Omnians are quite free to distribute their good news about Om. But take heart! Surely you have some good news about Io?'

'What? Oh. Yes, of course. He had a bit of a cold last month, but he's up and about again.'

'Capital. That is good news. No doubt these printers will happily spread the word on your behalf. I'm sure they will work to your exacting requirements.'

'And these are your reasons, my lord?'

'Do you think I have others?' said Lord Vetinari. 'My motives, as ever, are entirely transparent.'

Hughnon reflected that 'entirely transparent' meant either that you could see right through them or that you couldn't see them at all.

Lord Vetinari shuffled through a file of paper. 'However, the Guild of Engravers has put its rates up three times in the past year.'

'Ah. I see,' said Hughnon.

'A civilization runs on words, your reverence. Civilization is words. Which, on the whole, should not be too expensive. The world turns, your reverence, and we must spin with it.' He smiled. 'Once upon a time nations fought like great grunting beasts in a swamp. Ankh-Morpork ruled a large part of that swamp because it had the best claws. But today gold has taken the place of steel and, my goodness, the Ankh-Morpork dollar seems to be the currency of choice. Tomorrow... perhaps the weaponry will be just words. The most words, the quickest words, the last words. Look out of the window. Tell me what you see.'

'Fog,' said the Chief Priest.

Vetinari sighed. Sometimes the weather had no sense of narrative convenience.

'If it was a fine day,' he said sharply, 'you would see the big semaphore tower on the other side of the river. Words flying back and forth from every corner of the continent. Not long ago it would take me the better part of a month to exchange letters with our ambassador in Genua. Now I can have a reply tomorrow. Certain things become easier, but this makes them harder in other ways. We have to change the way we think. We have to move with the times. Have you heard of c-commerce?'

'Certainly. The merchant ships are always--'

'I mean that you may now send a clacks all the way to Genua to order a... a pint of prawns, if you like. Is that not a notable thing?'

They would be pretty high when they got here, my lord!'

'Certainly. That was just an example. But now think of a prawn as merely an assemblage of information!' said Lord Vetinari, his eyes sparkling.

'Are you suggesting that prawns could travel by semaphore?' said the Chief Priest. I suppose that you might be able to flick them from--'

'I was endeavouring to point out the fact that information is also bought and sold,' said Lord Vetinari. 'And also that what was once considered impossible is now quite easily achieved. Kings and lords come and go and leave nothing but statues in a desert, while a couple of young men tinkering in a workshop change the way the world works.'

He walked over to a table on which was spread out a map of the world. It was a workman's map; this is to say, it was a map used by someone who needed to refer to it a lot. It was covered with notes and markers.

'We've always looked beyond the walls for the invaders,' he said. 'We always thought change came from outside, usually on the point of a sword. And then we look around and find that it comes from the inside of the head of someone you wouldn't notice in the street. In certain circumstances it may be convenient to remove the head, but there seem to be such a lot of them these days.'

He gestured towards the busy map.

'A thousand years ago we thought the world was a bowl,' he said. 'Five hundred years ago we knew it was a globe. Today we know it is flat and round and carried through space on the back of a turtle.' He turned and gave the High Priest another smile. 'Don't you wonder what shape it will turn out to be tomorrow?'

But a family trait of all the Ridcullys was not to let go of a thread until you've unravelled the whole garment.

'Besides, they have these little pincer things, you know, and would probably hang on like--'

'What do?'

'Prawns. They'd hang on to--'

'You are taking me rather too literally, your reverence,' said Vetinari sharply.


'I was merely endeavouring to indicate that if we do not grab events by the collar they will have us by the throat.'

It'll end in trouble, my lord,' said Ridcully. He'd found it a good general comment in practically any debate. Besides, it was so often true.

Lord Vetinari sighed. In my experience, practically everything does,' he said. That is the nature of things. All we can do is sing as we go,'

He stood up. 'However, I will pay a personal visit to the dwarfs in question,' He reached out to ring a bell on his desk, stopped, and with a smile at the priest moved his hand instead to a brass and leather tube that hung from two brass hooks. The mouthpiece was in the shape of a dragon.

He whistled into it, and then said, 'Mr Drumknott? My coach, please,'

'Is it me,' said Ridcully, giving the new-fangled speaking tube a nervous glance, 'or is there a terrible smell in here?'

Lord Vetinari gave him a quizzical look and glanced down.

There was a basket just underneath his desk. In it was what appeared to be, at first glance and certainly at first smell, a dead dog. It lay with all four legs in the air. Only the occasional gentle expulsion of wind suggested that some living process was going on.

'It's his teeth,' he said coldly. The dog Wuffles turned over and regarded the priest with one baleful black eye.

'He's doing very well for a dog of his age,' said Hughnon, in a desperate attempt to climb a suddenly tilting slope. 'How old would he be now?'

'Sixteen,' said the Patrician. 'That's over a hundred in dog years.'

Wuffles dragged himself into a sitting position and growled, releasing a gust of stale odours from the depths of his basket.

'He's very healthy,' said Hughnon while trying not to breathe. 'For his age, I mean. I expect you get used to the smell.'

'What smell?' said Lord Vetinari.

'Ah. Yes. Indeed,' said Hughnon.

As Lord Vetinari's coach rattled off through the slush towards Gleam Street it may have surprised its occupant to know that, in a cellar quite near by, someone looking very much like him was chained to the wall.

It was quite a long chain, giving him access to a table and chair, a bed, and a hole in the floor.

Currently he was at the table. On the other side of it was Mr Pin. Mr Tulip was leaning menacingly against the wall. It would be clear to any experienced person that what was going on here was 'good cop, bad cop' with the peculiar drawback that there were no cops. There was just an apparently endless supply of Mr Tulip.

'So... Charlie,' said Mr Pin, 'how about it?'

'It's not illegal, is it?' said the man addressed as Charlie.

Mr Pin spread his hands. 'What's legality, Charlie? Just words on paper. But you won't be doing anything wrong.'

Charlie nodded uncertainly. 'But ten thousand dollars doesn't sound like the kind of money you get for doing something right,' he said. 'Not for just saying a few words,'

'Mr Tulip here once got even more money than that for saying just a few words, Charlie,' said Mr Pin soothingly.

'Yeah, I said, "Give me all the --ing cash or the girl gets it,"' said Mr Tulip.

'Was that right?' said Charlie, who seemed to Mr Pin to have a highly developed death wish.

'Absolutely right for that occasion, yes,' he said.

'Yes, but it's not often people make money like that,' said the suicidal Charlie. His eyes kept straying to the monstrous bulk of Mr Tulip, who was holding a paper bag in one hand and, in the other hand, a spoon. He was using the spoon to ferry a fine white powder to his nose, his mouth and once, Charlie would have sworn, his ear.

'Well, you are a special man, Charlie,' said Mr Pin. 'And afterwards you will have to stay out of sight for a long time.'

'Yeah,' said Mr Tulip, in a spray of powder. There was a sudden strong smell of mothballs.

'All right, but why did you have to kidnap me, then? One minute I was locking up for the night, next minute - bang! And you've got me chained up.'

Mr Pin decided to change tack. Charlie was arguing too much for a man in the same room as Mr Tulip, especially a Mr Tulip who was halfway through a bag of powdered mothballs. He gave him a big friendly smile.

'There's no point in dwelling on the past, my friend,' he said. 'This is business. All we want is a few days of your time, and then you end up with a fortune and - and I believe this is important, Charlie - a lifetime in which to spend it.'

Charlie was turning out to be very stupid indeed.

'But how do you know I won't tell someone?' he insisted.

Mr Pin sighed. 'We trust you, Charlie.'

The man had run a clothes shop in Pseudopolis. Small shopkeepers had to be smart, didn't they? They were usually sharp as knives when it came to making just the right amount of wrong change. So much for physiognomy, thought Mr Pin. This man could pass for the Patrician even in a good light, but while by all accounts Lord Vetinari would have already worked out all the nasty ways the future could go, Charlie was actually entertaining the idea that he was going to come out of this alive and might even outsmart Mr Pin. He was actually trying to be cunning. He was sitting a few feet away from Mr Tulip, a man trying to snort crushed moth repellant, and he was trying guile. You almost had to admire the man.

'I'll need to be back by Friday,' said Charlie. 'It'll all be over by Friday, will it?'

The shed that was now leased by the dwarfs had in the course of its rickety life been a forge and a laundry and a dozen other enterprises, and had last been used as a rocking-horse factory by someone who had thought something was the Next Big Thing when it was by then one day away from becoming the Last Big Flop. Stacks of half-finished rocking horses that Mr Cheese had

been unable to sell for the back rent still filled one wall all the way to the tin roof. There was a shelf of corroding paint tins. Brushes had fossilized in their jars.

The press occupied the centre of the floor, with several dwarfs at work. William had seen presses. The engravers used them. This one had an organic quality, though. The dwarfs spent as much time changing the press as they did using it. Extra rollers appeared, endless belts were threaded into the works. The press grew by the hour.

Goodmountain was working in front of several of the large sloped boxes, each one of which was divided into several dozen compartments.

William watched the dwarf's hand fly over the little boxes of leaden letters.

'Why's there a bigger box for the Es?'

' 'cos that's the letter we use most of.'

'Is that why it's in the middle of the box?'

'Right. Es then Ts then As...'

'I mean, people would expect to see A in the middle.'

'We put E.'

'But you've got more Ns than Us. And U is a vowel.'

'People use more Ns than you think.'

On the other side of the room Caslong's stubby dwarf fingers danced across his own boxes of letters.

'You can almost read what he's working on--' William began.

Goodmountain glanced up. His eyes narrowed for a moment.

' "... Make... more... money... inn... youre... Spare... Time..." ' he said. 'Sounds like Mr Dibbler has been back.'

William stared down at the box of letters again. Of course, a quill pen potentially contained anything you wrote with it. He could understand that. But it did so in a clearly theoretical way, a safe way. Whereas these dull grey blocks looked threatening. He could understand why they worried people. Put us together in the right way, they seemed to say, and we can be anything you want. We could even be something you don't want. We can spell anything. We can certainly spell trouble.

The ban on movable type wasn't exactly a law. But he knew the

engravers didn't like it, because they had the world operating just as they wanted it, thank you very much. And Lord Vetinari was said not to like it, because too many words only upset people. And the wizards and the priests didn't like it because words were important.

An engraved page was an engraved page, complete and unique. But if you took the leaden letters that had previously been used to set the words of a god, and then used them to set a cookery book, what did that do to the holy wisdom? For that matter, what would it do to the pie? As for printing a book of spells, and then using the same type for a book of navigation - well, the voyage might go anywhere.

On cue, because history likes neatness, he heard the sound of a carriage drawing up in the street outside. A few moments later Lord Vetinari stepped inside and stood leaning heavily on his stick and surveying the room with mild interest.

'Why... Lord de Worde,' he said, looking surprised. I had no idea that you were involved in this enterprise

William coloured as he hurried over to the city's supreme ruler. 'It's Mister de Worde, my lord.'

'Ah, yes. Of course. Indeed.' Lord Vetinari's gaze traversed the inky room, paused a moment on the pile of madly smiling rocking horses, and then took in the toiling dwarfs. 'Yes. Of course. And are you in charge?'

'No one is, my lord,' said William. 'But Mr Goodmountain over there seems to do most of the talking.'

'So what exactly is your purpose here?'

'Er...' William paused, which he knew was never a good tactic with the Patrician. 'Frankly, sir, it's warm, my office is freezing, and... well, it's fascinating. Look, I know it's not really--'

Lord Vetinari nodded and raised a hand. 'Be so good as to ask Mr Goodmountain to come over here, will you?'

William tried to whisper a few instructions into Gunilla's ear as he hustled him over to the tall figure of the Patrician.

'Ah, good,' said the Patrician. 'Now, I would just like to ask one or two questions, if I may?'

Goodmountain nodded.

'Firstly, is Mr Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler involved in this enterprise in any significant managerial capacity?'

'What?' said William. He hadn't been expecting this.

'Shifty fellow, sells sausages--'

'Oh, him. No. Just the dwarfs.'

'I see. And is this building built on a crack in space-time?'

'What?' said Gunilla.

The Patrician sighed. 'When one has been ruler of this city as long as I have,' he said, 'one gets to know with a sad certainty that whenever some well-meaning soul begins a novel enterprise they always, with some kind of uncanny foresight, site it at the point where it will do maximum harm to the fabric of reality. There was that Holy Wood moving picture fiasco a few years ago, yes? And that Music with Rocks In business not long after, we never got to the bottom of that. And of course the wizards seem to break into the Dungeon Dimensions so often they might as well install a revolving door. And I'm sure I don't have to remind you what happened when the late Mr Hong chose to open his Three Jolly Luck Take-Away Fish Bar in Dagon Street during the lunar eclipse. Yes? You see, gentlemen, it would be nice to think that someone, somewhere in this city, is engaged in some simple enterprise that is hot going to end up causing tentacled monsters and dread apparitions to stalk the streets eating people. So... ?'

'What?' said Goodmountain.

'We haven't noticed any cracks,' said William.

'Ah, but possibly on this very site a strange cult once engaged in eldritch rites, the very essence of which permeated the neighbourhood, and which seeks only the rite, ahah, circumstances to once again arise and walk around eating people?'

'What?' said Gunilla. He looked helplessly at William, who could only add:

They made rocking horses here.'

'Really? I've always thought there was something slightly sinister about rocking horses,' said Lord Vetinari, but he looked subtly disappointed. Then he brightened up. He pointed to the big stone on which the type was arranged.
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