'Have you been hit on the head with something?' said Stronginthearm. 'Because, if so, I'd like it to drop on me.'

'Well, it's spreading the dream, isn't it?' said Glenda, carefully arranging the samples in her suitcase. 'It's a bit more important than I thought.'

She made fourteen more successful calls before calling it a day, posted the orders through Stronginthearm's letterbox and, with a light case and uncharacteristically light heart, went back to work.

Ridcully turned the corner and there, right in front of him, was... His mind spun as it sought for the correct mode of address: 'Archchancellor' was out of the question, 'Dean' too obvious an insult, 'Two Chairs' ditto with knobs on, and 'ungrateful, backstabbing, slimy bastard' took too long to say. What the hell was the bastard's name? Great heavens, they'd been friends since their first day at UU... 'Henry!' he exploded. 'What a pleasant surprise. What brings you here to our miserable and sadly out-of-date little university?'

'Oh, come now, Mustrum. When I left, the lads were pushing back the boundaries of knowledge. It's been a bit quiet since, I gather. By the way, this is Professor Turnipseed.'

There appeared from behind the self-styled Archchancellor of Brazeneck, like a moonlet moving out of the shadow of a gas giant, a sheepish young man who instantly reminded Ridcully of Ponder Stibbons, although for the life of him he couldn't make out why. Perhaps it was the look of someone permanently doing sums in his head, and not just proper sums either, but the sneaky sort with letters in them.

'Oh, well, you know how it is with boundaries,' Ridcully mumbled. 'You look at what's on the other side and you realize why there was a boundary in the first place. Good afternoon, Turnipseed. Your face is familiar.'

'I used to work here, sir,' said Turnipseed sheepishly.

'Oh yes, I recall. In the High Energy Magic Department, yes?'

'A coming man, our Adrian,' said the former Dean, proprietorially. 'We have our own High Energy Magic Building now, you know. We call it the Higher Energy Magic Building, but I stress that this is only to avoid confusion. No slight on good old UU is intended. Adopt, adapt, improve, that's my motto.'

Well, if you adapted it then it's now grab, copy and look innocent, Ridcully thought, but carefully. Senior wizards never rowed in public. The damage was apt to be appalling. No, politeness ruled, but with sharpened edges.

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'I doubt there will be any confusion, Henry. We are the senior college, after all. And of course I am the only Archchancellor in these parts.'

'By custom and practice, Mustrum, and times are changing.'

'Or being changed, at least. But I wear the Archchancellor's Hat, Henry, as worn by my predecessors down the centuries. The Hat, Henry, of supreme authority in the affairs of the Wise, the Cunning and the Crafty. The hat, in fact, on my head.'

'It isn't, you know,' said Henry cheerfully. 'You are wearing the everyday hat that you made yourself.'

'It would be on my head if I wanted it to be!'

Henry's smile was glassy. 'Of course, Mustrum, but the authority of the Hat has often been challenged.'

'Almost correct, old chap. In fact, it is the ownership of the Hat that has, in the past, been disputed, but the Hat itself, never. Now, I note that you yourself are wearing a particularly spiffy hat of a magnificence that goes beyond the sublime, but it is just a hat, old boy, just a hat. No offence meant, of course, and I am sure that in another millennium it will have become weighted with dignity and wisdom. I can see that you have left plenty of room.'

Turnipseed decided to make a run for the lavatories right now, and with a muted apology pushed past Ridcully and sped away.

Oddly enough, the sudden lack of an audience lowered the tension rather than increased it.

Henry pulled a slim packet out of his pocket. 'Cigarette? I know that you roll your own, but Verdant and Scour make these specially for me and they are rather fine.'

Ridcully took one, because a wizard, however haughty, who would not accept a free smoke or a drink would be in his coffin, but he took care not to notice the words 'Archchancellor's Choice' in garish type on the packet.

As he handed the packet back, something small and colourful dropped out on to the floor. Henry, with an agility unexpected in a wizard so far up the main sequence as described in the well-known Owlspring/Tips Diagram, reached down quickly and snatched it up, muttering something about 'not letting it get dirty'.

'You could eat your dinner off these floors,' said Ridcully sharply, and probably would, he added to himself.

'Only the collectors get so annoyed if there is a speck of dust on them and I give mine to the butler's little boy,' Henry went on blithely. He turned the pasteboard over and frowned. 'Notable Wizards of our Time, No. 9 of 50: Dr Able Baker, BC (Hons), Fdl, Kp, PdF (escrow), Director of Blit Studies, Brazeneck. I'm sure he's already got this one.' He dropped it into a waistcoat pocket. 'Never mind, good for swapsies.'

Ridcully could assess things quite fast, especially when fuelled by banked fires of rage.

'The Wizla tobacco, snuff and rolling paper company,' he said, 'of Pseudopolis. Hmm, clever idea. Who's in this from UU?'

'Ah. Well, I have to admit that the Assembly and people of Pseudopolis are rather... patriotic in their outlook - '

'I think the word is "parochial", don't you?'

'Harsh words, considering that Ankh-Morpork's the smuggest, most self-satisfied city in the world.' This was self-evidently true, so Ridcully decided he hadn't heard it.

'You on one of these cards, then?' he grunted.

'They insisted, I'm afraid,' said Henry. 'I was born there, you see. Local boy and all that.'

'And no one from UU,' said Ridcully flatly.

'Technically no, but Professor Turnipseed is in there as the inventor of Pex.' As Henry said it, guilt and defiance fought for space in the sentence.

'Pex?' said Ridcully slowly. 'You mean like Hex?'

'Oh, no, not at all like Hex. Certainly not. The principle is quite different.' Henry cleared his throat. 'It's run by chickens. They trigger the morphic resonator, or whatever it's called. Your Hex, as I recall, utilizes ants, which are far less efficient.'

'How so?'

'We get eggs we can eat.'

'That doesn't sound all that different, you know.'

'Oh, come now. They are hundreds of times bigger! And Pex is in a purpose-built room, not strung haphazardly all over the place. Professor Turnipseed knows what he is doing, and even you, Mustrum, must acknowledge that the river of progress is fed by a thousand springs!'

'And they didn't all rise in bloody Brazeneck!' said Ridcully.

They glared at one another. Professor Turnipseed poked his head around the corner and pulled it back very quickly.

'If we were the men our fathers were, we'd be throwing fireballs by now,' said Henry.

'The point is taken,' said Ridcully. 'Although, I must point out, our fathers were not wizards.'

'That's right, of course,' said the former Dean. 'Your father was a butcher, as I recall.'

'That's right. And your father owned a lot of cabbage fields,' said Ridcully.

There was a moment's silence and then the former Dean said, 'Remember the day we both turned up at UU?'

'We fought like tigers as I recall,' said Ridcully.

'Good times, when you come to remember them,' said the Dean.

'Of course, we've all passed a lot of water over the bridge since then,' said Ridcully. There was another pause and he added, 'Fancy a drink?'

'I don't mind if I do,' said the former Dean.

'So you are trying to play football?' said Henry as they progressed majestically towards the Archchancellor's office. 'I did see something about it in the paper, but I thought it was a joke.'

'Why, pray?' said Ridcully as they began to walk across the Great Hall. 'We have a fine sporting tradition, as well you know!'

'Ah yes, tradition is the scourge of endeavour. Be sensible, Mustrum. The leopard may change his shorts, but I think he'd have a job getting into the ones he wore forty years ago. Oh, I see that you still have Mister Stibbons here?'

'Er... ' began Ponder, looking from one to the other.

Ponder Stibbons had once got one hundred per cent in a prescience exam by getting there the previous day. He could see a little storm cloud when it was beginning to grow.

'How's the football going, lad?'

'Oh, it seems to be going very well, Archchancellor. Good to see you again, Dean.'

'Archchancellor,' purred the former Dean. 'I wonder how good you would be against my university.'

'Well, we have a pretty nifty team built here,' said Ridcully, 'and, while it is our intention to play our first game against a local side, I would take great pleasure in showing Brazeneck a thing or two on the field.' By now they were almost in the middle of the Great Hall and their presence, not unexpectedly, had stopped play.

'Archchancellor, I really feel that it might be a good idea to - ' Ponder began, but his voice was drowned out by the roar of approval that rang out from all sides around the Great Hall.

'And the prize would be?' said Henry, smiling at the crowd.

'What?' spluttered the Archchancellor. 'What prize?'

'We picked up a few rowing trophies when we were lads, didn't we?'

'I believe the Patrician has got something planned for the league, yes.'

'I think that refreshments will be laid out in the Blue refectory shortly,' said Ponder with a kind of desperate, sweaty cheerfulness. 'There will, of course, be cake, but also, I believe, an interesting assortment of curries.'

On many occasions this might have worked, but the two senior wizards had locked glares and would not so much as blink, even for a slice of Ploughman's Pie.

'But we men of craft are not interested in such paltry baubles as cups and medals, are we?' said Henry. 'For us it's huge great big baubles or nothing, is that not right, Mustrum?'

'You are after the Hat,' said Ridcully flatly. The air between them was humming.

'Yes, of course.'

There followed the menacing silence of a clash of wills, but Ponder Stibbons decided that as he was, technically, twelve important people at the university, he formed, all by himself, a committee, and since he was therefore, de facto, very wise, he should intervene.

'And your stake, Dea - Sir, would be... ?'

Ridcully turned his head slightly and growled, 'He doesn't have to have one. I have rather walked into this... '

There was a stirring from the more senior wizards, and Ponder heard a whispered phrase. 'Dead man's pointy shoes?'

'No, I forbid it!' said Ponder.

'You forbid it?' said Henry. 'You are but a chick, young Stibbons.'

'The accumulated votes of all the posts I hold on the University Council mean that I do, technically, control it,' said Ponder, trying to stick out a skinny chest that was never built for sticking, but still buoyed up and awash with righteous rage and a certain amount of terror about what might happen when it ran out of steam.

The contenders relaxed a little more in the presence of this turning worm.

'Didn't anyone notice that you were getting all this power?' said Ridcully.

'Yes, sir, me. Only I thought it was responsibility and hard work. None of you ever bother with details, you see. Technically, I have to report to other people, but usually the other people are me. You have no idea, sirs. I'm even the Camerlengo, which means that if you drop dead, Archchancellor, from any cause other than legitimate succession under the Dead Man's Pointy Shoes tradition, I run this place until a successor is elected which, given the nature of wizardry, will mean a job for life, in which case the Librarian, as an identifiable and competent member of the senior staff, will try to discharge his duties, and if he fails, the official procedure is for wizards everywhere to fight among themselves for the Hat, causing fire, destruction, doves, rabbits and billiard balls to appear from every orifice and much loss of life.' After a short pause he continued. 'Again. Which is why some of us get a little worried when we see powerful wizards squabbling like this. To conclude, gentlemen, I have spoken at some length in order to give you time to consider your intentions. Somebody has to.'

Ridcully cleared his throat. 'Thank you for your input, Stibbons. We shall discuss this matter further. Definitely something that needed to be said. These aren't the old days, after all.'

'Your point is taken,' said Henry, 'except that, technically, these are going to be somebody else's old days.'

Ponder's chest was still going up and down.

'A very good point,' said Ridcully.

'I believe I heard mention of a curry?' said Henry, with equal care. It was like listening to two ancient dragons talking to each other with the help of an even older book of etiquette written by nuns.

'It's a long time until lunch. I tell you what, why don't you accept the hospitality of my university? I believe we have left your room exactly as it was, although I understand some quite amazing things have crawled out under the door. And perhaps you might like to stay on for tomorrow's banquet?'

'Oh? Are you having a banquet?' said Henry.

'Indeed so, and I would be delighted if you would accept, old boy. We'll be entertaining some of the solid citizenry. Salt-of-the-earth fellows, you understand. Wonderful people if you don't watch them eat, but quite good conversationalists if you give them enough beer.'

'Funnily enough, I find that works with wizards too. Well, I must accept, of course. I haven't been to a banquet in ages.'

'You haven't?' said Ridcully. 'I thought you would have a banquet every night.'

'We have a limited budget, you know,' said the Archchancellor of Brazeneck. 'It's a governmental grant thing, you see.'

The wizards fell silent. It was as if a man had just told you his mother had died.

Ridcully patted him on the hand. 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' He paused at the doors of the Hall and turned back to Ponder. 'We will be having some high-level discussions, Stibbons. Keep them on their toes! The lads will help! Find out what football wants to be!'

The older members of the faculty exhaled as the two heads left. Most of them were old enough to recall at least two pitched battles among factions of wizards, the worst of which had only been brought to a conclusion by Rincewind, wielding a half-brick in a sock...

Ponder looked across at Rincewind now, and he was hopping awkwardly on one leg, trying to put a sock back on. He thought it better not to comment. It was probably the same sock.

The Chair of Indefinite Studies slapped Ponder on the back. 'Well done, lad. Could have been a nasty incident there.'

'Thank you, sir.'

'I'm sorry we seem to have loaded you down a bit. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate.'

'I'm sure it wasn't, too, sir. Very little around here is.' Ponder sighed. 'I'm afraid that unthinking delegation and prevarication and procrastination are standard practice here.' He looked expectantly at the remaining members of the Council. He wanted to be disappointed, but knew he wouldn't be.

'A very bad state of affairs indeed,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.

The Chair looked grave. 'Hm... '

So go on, thought Ponder, say it. I know you're going to, you just won't be able to stop yourself, you really won't -

'I think, Stibbons, that you should sort it out when you have a moment,' said the Chair.

'Bingo!'

'I beg your pardon, Stibbons?'

'Oh, nothing, sir, not really. I was just pondering, as it were, on the unchangeable nature of the universe.'

'I'm glad somebody is. Keep it up.' The Lecturer in Recent Runes looked around and added, 'It all seems to have quietened down. That curry sounds amusing.'

There was a general movement towards the doors on the part of those wizards who were well endowed with years, gravitation or both, but the scratch match went on among those less magnetically attracted to knives and forks.

Ponder sat down, his clipboard balanced on his lap. 'I don't have the faintest idea what I'm doing here,' he declared to the world around him.

'May I be of some worth, sir?'

'Mister Nutt? Oh, well, it's very kind of you, but I don't think that your skill with a candle can be of much - '

'In games of this nature there are three classes of things to be considered: one, the rules of the game in all their detail; two the correct skills, actions and philosophies required for success, and three, an understanding of the real nature of the game. May I continue?'

'Huh,' said Ponder, in that slight daze that overcame everyone hearing a Nutt lecture for the first time.

'Got a fine jaw on him, ain't he?' said Trev. 'He can say the long words where the likes of you an' me would 'ave to stop for a rest 'alfway through! Me, anyway,' he trailed off.

'Er, do continue, Mister Nutt.'

'Thank you, sir. As I understand it, the purpose of this game is to score at least one more goal than your opponents. But our two teams just ran around, with everyone trying to kick the ball at once. Oh, goals were scored, but only opportunistically. As in chess, you must secure the king, your goal. Yes, you are going to say that you have the custodian of the goal, but he is only one man, figuratively speaking. Every ball he saves shames the team members who let the opponents get so close. Yet at the same time, they must maximize their chances of getting the ball into the opposing goal. This is a problem I will have to address. I have mentioned chess, but this game, and particularly the ease with which the ball takes flight, means that the activity can go from one end of the play to the other in seconds, just as one dwarf piece can upset the whole board in a game of Thud.'

He smiled up at their expressions and added, 'You know, this game is surely one of the simplest. Any little boy knows how to play it... and yet playing it optimally requires superhuman talents.' He thought for a moment and added, 'Or possibly subhuman. Certainly the willing sublimation of the ego, which takes us into the realms of the metaphysical. So simple and yet so complex. You know, this is wonderful. I am quite thrilled!'

The ring of silence around him was not ominous, but the air choked with bafflement. Finally, the wizard Rincewind said, 'Er, Mister Nutt, I thought you told us we just had to get the ball between the pointy hats?'

'Professor Rincewind, you run very well, but you don't do anything with it. Professor Macarona, you attempt to score as soon as you get the ball irrespective of anything else that is happening. Dr Hix, you cheat and foul constantly - '

'Excuse me, skull ring,' Hix intervened. 'I am required to attempt to break the rules, under college statutes.'

'Within acceptable limits,' Ponder added quickly.

'Bledlow Nobbs (no relation), you have a furiously powerful kick,' Nutt continued, 'but you don't seem to care where the ball goes so long as it gets there. All of you have strengths and weaknesses and it might be possible to make use of both of them. That is, if you want to win. But for now, a good exercise would be to get a lot more of these balls and learn how to control them. Running while kicking the ball ahead of you simply means that you will lose it to an opponent. You must learn to keep it at your feet. You were all looking down to check that you had the ball. Gentlemen, if you need to check that you still have the ball, you either do not have it or you will lose it in the next fraction of a second. Now, if you will excuse me, Mister Trev and I will get into trouble if we don't get the chandelier back up soon.'

The spell broke.

'What?' said Ponder. 'I mean, what? Stay there, Mister Nutt!'

Nutt immediately hunched and stared at his feet in their clumsy shoes. 'I am sorry if I have transgressed in any way. I was only seeking worth.'

'Worth?' said Ponder, looking at Trev for some kind of map of this new territory.

'That's how he talks, that's all,' said Trev. 'He 'asn't done anythin' wrong, so why shout at him like that? They were some bloody good ideas! You shouldn't pick on 'im just 'cos he's small and talks posh.'

Nutt seemed noticeably taller a little while ago, Ponder thought. Is he really just hunched up? 'I wasn't exactly shouting at him,' he said. 'I just wondered what he's doing dribbling candles! I mean, I know that's what he's doing, but why?'

'Ah, you have to have dribbled candles, sir,' said Bledlow Nobbs (no relation), 'and to my mind, the dribbling has been particularly fine just lately. Often, when I'm walking the corridors of a night, I think to myself - '

'Good heavens, man, he's erudite! He radiates learning! He's a polymath!' said Ponder.

'Are you saying he's too smart to be a candle dribbler?' said the bledlow, a militant look in his eye. 'You wouldn't want a stupid dribbler, would you? You'd get, like, manky dribbles all over the place.'

'I simply meant that - '

'... and blobs,' said the bledlow firmly.

'But you must admit that it is strange that - '

Probably everyone wants him dead.

Ponder stopped as the chasm of memory opened. 'That makes no sense. It can't be true!'

'Sir?'

He realized that all the footballers were staring at him. Ridcully had refused to say any more, and in Ponder's crowded mind he'd settled for believing that Nutt was on the run in some way. It was not unknown. Occasionally a novice wizard working in a small town might find it a good idea to hurry back for a swift refresher course in the safety of the university's hospitable stones until his little mistake had been rectified/forgotten/erased/caught and bottled. There had always been others given sanctuary for mysterious reasons. The politics of wizardry were either very simple, and resolved by someone ceasing to breathe, or as complex as one ball of yarn in a room with three bright-eyed little kittens.

But Nutt... What crime could he have done? And then you had to factor in that it was Ridcully who had allowed him to come here and indeed had put Ponder in this position. The sensible thing, therefore, was toCjust get on with it.

'I think Mister Nutt has some very good ideas,' he said carefully, 'and I think he should continue. Do carry on, Mister Nutt.'

Watching Nutt look up was like watching the sun rise, but a hesitant sun afraid that any moment the gods might slap it back down into the night, and hungry for reassurance that this would not be so.

'I am worthy?'

'Well, er... ' Ponder began, and saw Trev nodding frantically.

'Well, er, yes, it would seem so, Mister Nutt. I'm amazed at your insight in so short a time.'

'I have a talent for pattern recognition in developing situations.'

'Really? Oh. Good. Carry on, then.'

'Excuse me, I have a question, if you would be so good?'

Looks like a bag of second-hand clothes, talks like a retired theologian, Ponder thought. 'Ask away, Mister Nutt.'

'Can I carry on with the dribbling?'

'What? Do you want to?'

'Yes, thank you. I enjoy it and it does not take me long.'

Ponder glanced at Trev, who shrugged, made a face and nodded.

'But I have a favour to ask,' Nutt went on.

'I rather expected you would,' said Ponder, 'but I'm sorry to say that the budget this term means - '

'Oh no, I don't want any money,' said Nutt. 'I don't really spend it anyway. I just want Mister Trev in the team. He is very modest, but you should know that he is a genius with his feet. I cannot see how you could lose with him in the team.'

'Oh no,' said Trev, waving his hands and backing away. 'No! Not me! I'm not a footballer! I just kick tin cans around!'

'Thought that was at the heart and soul of foot-the-ball, isn't it?' said Ponder, who'd never been allowed to play in the street.

'I thought it was when early blokes kicked a dead enemy's head around,' Bledlow Nobbs (no relation) volunteered.

A throat was cleared. 'Unlikely in my opinion,' said Hix. 'Unless it's in a bag or some sort of metal brace, and then you have the problem of weight, because a human head comes in at around ten pounds, which is a pain in the foot, I should think. Scooping it out would work for a while, of course, but mind you wire the jaw, because no one wants to be bitten in the foot. I do have some heads on ice if anyone wants to experiment. It's amazing, but there are still those who leave their bodies to necromancy. There's some strange people out there.'

At this point, the head of the Department of Post-Mortem Communications realized that he was not taking his audience with him.

'There's no need to look at me like that,' he grumbled. 'Skull ring, remember? I have to know this wretched stuff.'

Ponder coughed politely. 'Mister, er, Likely, isn't it? Your colleague speaks very highly of you. Won't you join us?'

'Sorry, guv, but I promised my old mum that I'd never play football. It's a good way of gettin' your head caved in!'

'Trev Likely?' roared Bledlow Nobbs (no relation). 'Are you Dave Likely's lad? He - '

'Scored four goals, yeah, yeah, yeah,' said Trev. 'And then died in the street with the rain washing his blood down the gutter and someone's smelly overcoat over him. The Prince of Football?'

'Do we need a little talk, Mister Trev?' Nutt said urgently.

'No. No. I'm okay. Okay?'

'This isn't that kind of football, Trev,' said Nutt soothingly.

'Yeah, I know. But I promised my old mum.'

'Then at least show them your moves, Mister Trev,' Nutt pleaded. He turned to the players. 'You must see this!'

Trev sighed, but Nutt knew just how to wheedle. 'All right, if it shuts you up,' he said, and pulled a tin can out of his pocket, to much laughter.

'See?' he complained to Nutt. 'They just think it's a joke.'

Nutt folded his arms. 'Show them.'

Trev dropped the can on to his foot and with hardly any effort flicked it on to his shoulder, where it rolled around his neck to his other shoulder and, after a tiny pause, righted itself. He shrugged it on to his other foot, spun it into the air, and let it tumble and spin on the toe of his boot with a faint rattling noise.

Trev winked at Ponder Stibbons. 'Don't move, guv.'

The can sprang off the boot and up into the air, then, as it fell, he hit it with a roundhouse kick, driving it at Ponder. The people behind Ponder dived out of the way as it growled past his face and went into orbit, appearing for a moment to give him a silver necklace until it broke away and dropped into Trev's hand like a beached salmon.

In the silence, Ponder pulled his thaumometer out of his pocket and glanced at it.

'Natural background,' he said flatly. 'No magic involved. How did you do that, Mister Likely?'

'You just 'ave to get the hang of it, guv. Getting the spins is the thing, but if I 'ave to think too much it don't work.'

'Can you do it with a ball?'

'Dunno, never tried. But prob'ly no. Can't get the long spin and the short spin, see? But you ort to be able to get somethin' out of a ball.'

'But how would that help us?' said Hix.

'Mastery of the ball is everything,' said Nutt. 'The planned rule will, I think, allow the keeper of the goal to handle the ball. This is vital. There is, however, no explicit ban on nodding the ball, kneeing the ball or blocking the ball with the chest and letting it drop neatly on to the foot. Remember, gentlemen, this ball flies. It will spend a lot of time in the air. You must learn not to think just about the ground.'

'I feel sure that using the head would be considered illegal,' said Ponder.

'Sir, you presume a rule where there is none. Remember what I said about the real nature of the game.'

Ponder saw Nutt's little half-smile, and gave in. 'Mister Nutt, I am delegating the selection and training of our football team to you. You will report to me, of course.'

'Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. I will need the power to sequester team members from their normal duties when required.'

'Well, I suppose I must agree to that. Very well, I shall leave the team in your hands,' said Ponder, thinking: how many bags of old clothes use the word 'sequester' as if they're used to it? Still, Ridcully likes the little goblin, if that's what he is, and I've never seen the point of team games.

'May I also, sir, request a very small budget?'

'Why?'

'With all due respect to the exigencies of university finances,' said Nutt, 'I believe it is very necessary.'

'Why?'

'I wish to take the team to the ballet.'

'That's ridiculous!' Ponder snapped.

'No, sir, it's essential.'

The next day there was a piece in the Times about the mysterious disappearance of the fabulous 'Jewels', which made Glenda smile. They just haven't read their fairy stories, she thought as she left the house. If you want to find a beauty, you look for her in the ashes. Because Glenda was Glenda and would always irredeemably be Glenda to the core, she added: although the ovens in the Night Kitchen are scrupulously maintained at all times and all ashes are immediately disposed of.

To her surprise, Juliet stepped out of her doorway at almost the same time and looked as if she was almost awake. 'Do you think they'll let me in on the banquet?' she said as they waited for the bus.

Theoretically yes, Glenda thought, but probably no, because she was a Night Kitchen girl. Even though she was Juliet, she would be tarred by Mrs Whitlow as a Night Kitchen girl. 'Juliet, you shall go to the banquet,' she said aloud, 'and so shall I.'

'But I think Mrs Whitlow won't like that,' said Juliet.

Something was still bubbling inside Glenda. It had started in Shatta and lasted all day yesterday and there was still some left today. 'I don't care,' she said.

Juliet giggled and looked around in case Mrs Whitlow was hiding near the bus stop.

And I really don't care, Glenda thought. I don't care. It was like drawing a sword.

Ponder's office always puzzled Mustrum Ridcully. The man used filing cabinets for heavens' sake. Ridcully worked on the basis that anything you couldn't remember wasn't important and had developed the floor-heap method of document storage to a fine art.

Ponder looked up. 'Ah, good morning, Archchancellor.'

'Just had a look in at the Hall,' said Ridcully.

'Yes, Archchancellor?'

'Our lads were all doing ballet.'

'Yes, Archchancellor.'

'And there were some girls from the Opera House with those short dresses.'

'Yes, Archchancellor. They're helping the team.'

Ridcully leaned over and put huge knuckles either side of the paper Ponder was working on. 'Why?'

'Mister Nutt's idea, Archchancellor. Apparently they must learn balance, poise and elegance.'

'Have you ever seen Bledlow Nobbs try to stand on one leg? Let me tell you, it's an immediate cure for melancholy.'

'I can imagine,' said Ponder, not looking up.

'I thought the idea was to learn how to kick the ball into the goal.'

'Ah, yes, but Mister Nutt has a philosophy.'

'Does he?'

'Yes, sir.'

'They're runnin' about all over the place, I know that,' said Ridcully.

'Yes, Mister Nutt and Mister Likely are preparing a little something extra for the banquet,' said Ponder, getting up and opening the top drawer of a filing cabinet. The sight of filing cabinets opening tended to remind Ridcully that he should be elsewhere, but on this occasion the ruse failed to work.

'Oh, and I believe we have some fresh balls.'

'Mister Snorrisson knows an opportunity when he sees one.'

'So it's all going well, then?' said Ridcully, in a kind of mystified voice.

'Apparently so, sir.'

'Well, I suppose I'd better leave it alone,' said Ridcully. He hesitated, feeling at a bit of a loose end, and found another thread to pull. 'And how are those rules coming along, Mister Stibbons?'

'Oh, quite well, thank you, Archchancellor. I'm keeping in some of the ones from the street game, of course, to keep everybody happy. Some of them are quite strange.'

'Mister Nutt is quite a decent chap, it appears.'

'Oh yes, Archchancellor.'

'Very good idea of his to redesign the goal, I thought. Makes it more fun.'

'Aren't you going to train, sir?' said Ponder, pulling another document towards him.

'I am the captain! I do not need to train.' Ridcully turned to leave and stopped with his hand on the doorknob. 'Had a long chat with the former Dean last night. Decent soul at heart, of course,' he said.

'Yes, I understand the atmosphere in the Uncommon Room was very convivial, Archchancellor,' said Ponder. And expensive, he added to himself.

'You know young Adrian Turnipseed is a professor?'

'Oh, yes, Archchancellor.'

'You wanna be one?'

'Not really, Archchancellor. I think there should be one or two posts in this institution that I don't hold.'

'Yes, but they've just called their machine Pex! Hardly a great leap of ingenuity, is it?'

'Oh, there are some significant differences. I believe he's using chickens to generate the blit diametric,' said Ponder.

'Apparently so,' said Ridcully. 'Something like that, anyway.'

'Hmmm,' said Ponder. And it was quite a solid hmmm, possibly one you could moor a small boat to.

'Something wrong?' said Ridcully.

'Oh, er, not really, Archchancellor. Did the former Dean mention anything about the need to totally rebuild the morphic resonator to allow for the necessary changes in the blit/slood interface?'

'Shouldn't think so,' said Ridcully.

'Oh,' said Ponder, his face blank. 'Well, Adrian is bound to get round to that. He is very clever.'

'Yes, but it was all based on your work. You built Hex. And now they're putting out that he's some big clever clogs. He's even on a cigarette card.'

'That's nice, sir. It's good when researchers get recognition.'

Ridcully felt like a mosquito that was trying to sting a steel breastplate. 'Hah, wizardry has certainly changed since my day,' he said.

'Yes, sir,' said Ponder noncommittally.

'And by the way, Mister Stibbons,' said Ridcully as he opened the door, 'my day isn't over yet.'




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