'Did you know that all of the orcs were hunted down after the war? All of them, children too,' Nutt said.

And people don't say things like that in a romantic situation, thought Glenda. But it still is, she added.

'But they were forced,' she replied. 'They had children. Okay?' Should I tell him about the magic mirror? she wondered. Would it make things better? Or worse?

'They were very bad times,' said Nutt.

'Well, look at it like this,' said Glenda. 'Most of the people who talk about orcs now don't know what they're on about, but the only orc they are ever going to see is you. You making beautiful candles. You training the football team. That will mean a lot. You'll show them that orcs don't go around pulling people's heads off. That'll be something to be proud of.'

'Well, in fairness, I have to say that when I think of the amount of radial force that must have been necessary to effectively unscrew a human head against its owner's wishes, I am a little impressed. But that's now, sitting here with you. Then, I wanted to go up to the hills. I think that's how we must have survived. If you didn't keep away from humans you died.'

'Yes, that's a very good point,' said Glenda, 'but I think you should keep it to yourself for now.' She noticed a surprised owl, lit up briefly by the coach's lamps.

Then she said, keeping her eyes straight ahead, 'The thing about the poem... '

'How did you know, Miss Glenda?' said Nutt.

'You talk about kindness a lot.' She cleared her throat. 'And under the circumstances, I think Glenda is sufficient.'

'You were kind to me,' said Nutt. 'You are kind to everybody.'


Glenda swiftly put aside a vision of Mr Ottomy and said, 'No, I'm not, I'm shouting at everyone all the time!'

'Yes, but it's for their own good.'

'What do we do now?' Glenda said.

'I have no idea. But can I tell you something very interesting about ships?'

It wasn't exactly what Glenda had expected, but somehow it was one hundred per cent Nutt. 'Please tell me the interesting thing about ships,' she said.

'The interesting thing about ships is that the captains of ships have to be very careful when two ships are close together at sea, particularly in calm conditions. They tend to collide.'

'Because of the wind blowing, and that?' said Glenda, thinking: In theory this is a romantic-novel situation and I am about to learn about ships. Iradne Comb-Buttworthy never puts a ship in her books. They probably don't have enough reticules.

'No,' said Nutt. 'In fact, to put it simply, each ship shields the other ship from lateral waves on one side, so by small increments outside forces bring them together without their realizing it.'

'Oh! It's a metaphor?' said Glenda, relieved. 'You think we're being pushed together.'

'It's something like that,' said Nutt. They rocked as the coach hit a particularly nasty pothole.

'So, if we don't do anything we'll just get closer and closer?'

'Yes,' said Nutt.

The coach jumped and rattled again, but Glenda felt as if she was travelling over very thin ice. She'd hate to say the wrong thing.

'You know Trev said that I'd died?' Nutt continued. 'Well, that was true. Probably. Ladyship said that we were made from goblins for the Evil Emperor. The Igors did it. And they put in something very strange. It's a part of you that isn't quite a part of you. They called it the Little Brother. It's tucked in deep inside and absolutely protected and it's like having your own hospital with you all the time. I know that I was hit very hard, but the Little Brother kept me alive and simply cured things again. There are ways to kill an orc, but there are not many of them and anyone trying them out on a living orc is not going to have very much time to get it right. Does that worry you at all?'

'No, not really,' said Glenda. 'I don't really understand it. I think it's more important just to be who you are.'

'No, I don't think I should be who I am, because I am an orc. But I have some plans in that direction.'

Glenda cleared her throat again. 'This thing with the ships... Does it happen quite quickly?'

'It starts quite slowly, but it's quite quick towards the end,' said Nutt.

'The thing is,' said Glenda, 'I mean, I can't just walk away from my job, and there's old ladies I go and visit, and you'll be busy with the football... '

'Yes. I think we should be doing the things we should be doing, and it's the last training day tomorrow, which is actually today now,' said Nutt.

'And I've got to make a lot of pies.'

'It's going to be a very busy time for both of us,' said Nutt solemnly.

'Yes. Um, er, do you mind me saying... in your lovely poem... the line "The crypt's a handsome place to be, but none I think leave after tea" didn't quite - '

'Didn't quite work? I know,' said Nutt. 'I feel rather bad about that.'

'Oh, please don't! It's a wonderful poem!' Glenda burst out, and felt the ripples in the calm sea.

The rising sun managed to peek around the vast column of smoke that forever rose from Ankh-Morpork, City of Cities, illustrating almost up to the edge of space that smoke means progress or, at least, people setting fire to things. 'I think we're going to be so busy that we're not going to have much time for... ourselves,' said Glenda.

'I quite agree,' said Nutt. 'Leaving things alone would definitely be our wisest move.'

Glenda felt light as air as the coach trundled down Broad Way, and it wasn't just from lack of sleep. That stuff about boats, I really hope he doesn't think it's all about ships.

There was a crowd outside the university when they arrived, just as yesterday, but it seemed to have a different complexion now. People were staring at her and Nutt, and there was something wrong with the way they were looking.

She reached over to the mound that was Trev, pretended not to hear a girlish giggle and said, 'Trev. Could you, er, have a look at this. I think there's going to be trouble.'

Trev, very tousled, stuck his head out and said, 'Hmm, me too. Let's all nip in around the back.'

'We could stay on and get off at the Post Office,' said Glenda.

'No,' said Trev. 'We 'aven't done anythin' wrong.'

As they dismounted from the coach a small boy said to Nutt, 'Are you the orc, mister?'

'Yes,' said Nutt, as he helped Glenda down. 'I am an orc.'

'Cool! Have you ever twisted someone's head off?'

'I don't believe so. I am sure I would have remembered,' said Nutt.

This got if not applause then a certain amount of approval from some of the bystanders. It's his voice, thought Glenda. He sounds posher than a wizard. You can't imagine a voice like that with its hands around somebody's head.

At this point the back gate opened and Ponder Stibbons came hurrying through. 'We saw you from the Hall,' he said, grabbing Nutt. 'Come in quick. Where have you all been?'

'We 'ad to go to Sto Lat,' said Trev.

'On business,' said Juliet.

'Personal,' said Glenda, daring Ponder to object. 'Is there something wrong?'

'There was something in the paper this morning. We have not been having a very nice time,' said Ponder, towing them into the relative safety of the undercrofts.

''ave they been sayin' somethin' nasty about Mister Nutt?' said Trev.

'Not exactly,' said Ponder. 'The editor of the Times came round, in person, and was knocking on the door to see the Archchancellor at midnight. He wanted to know all about you.' This was said directly to Nutt.

'I bet it was bloody Ottomy that told them,' growled Glenda. 'What have they done?'

'Well, of course, you know there was all that trouble over the Medusa in the Watch a little while ago,' Ponder began.

'Yes, but you wizards sorted that out,' said Trev.

'But no one likes being turned into stone, even if it's just for half an hour.' Ponder sighed. 'The Times has done one of their thoughtful pieces. I suppose it isn't too bad. It quoted the Archchancellor, who says that Mister Nutt is a hardworking member of the university staff and there have been no incidents of anyone's leg being torn off.'

'They put it like that?' said Glenda, wide-eyed.

'Oh, you know the sort of thing if you read the papers a lot,' said Ponder. 'I seriously think they think that it's their job to calm people down by first of all explaining why they should be overexcited and very worried.'

'Oh, yes, I know they do that,' said Glenda. 'How would people get worried if they weren't told how to be?'

'Well, it wasn't all that bad,' said Ponder, 'but a few of the other papers have picked it up as well and some of the facts have become... elastic. The Inquirer said Nutt is training the football team.'

'That's true,' said Glenda.

'Well, actually it's me. I am merely delegating the task to him. I hope that's understood? Anyway, they did a cartoon about it.'

Glenda put a hand over her eyes. She hated cartoons in newspapers. 'Was it a football team of orcs?' she said.

Ponder's look was almost admiring. 'Yes,' he said. 'And they did an article about raising important questions about Vetinari's open-door policy, while saying at the same time that rumours that Mister Nutt had to be chained down were quite likely false.'

'What about the Tanty Bugle?' said Glenda. 'They never write anything unless it's got blood and horrible murder in it.' She paused and then added, 'Or pictures of girls without their vests on.'

'Oh, yes,' said Ponder. 'They did a rather grainy picture of a young lady with enormous melons.'

'D'you mean - ' Trev began.

'No, they were just enormous melons. The green ones. Slightly warty. She won a contest for growing them, apparently, but in the caption it said that she's worried that she won't be able to sleep easily in her bed now that orcs are coming into the city.'

'Is Lord Vetinari doing anything about this?'

'I haven't heard,' said Ponder. 'Oh, and Bu-bubble want to interview Mister Nutt. What they call a lifestyle piece.' He said the words as if trying to hold them at arm's length.

'Have people turned up for training?' said Nutt calmly.

'Oh, yes. The ground is heaving.'

'So we'll go and train them,' said Nutt. 'Don't worry, I won't twist anybody's head off.'

'No, don't make jokes,' said Glenda. 'I think this could be terribly bad.'

'We know something's going on with the teams,' said Ponder. 'And there were lots of fights during the night.'

'About what?'

'About who's going to play us.' Ponder stopped and looked Nutt up and down. 'Commander Vimes is back in town and would like to lock you up,' he said. 'Only in protective custody, of course.'

'You mean put him somewhere where they can all find him?' said Glenda.

'I would say that the chances of a mob breaking into Pseudopolis Yard are remote,' said Ponder.

'Yes, but you're locking him up. That's what it would be. He'd be locked up and coppers chat like everyone else. The orc would be locked up in prison and if people don't know why, they'll make it up, that's how people are. Can't you wizards do something?'

'Yes,' said Ponder. 'We can do practically anything, but we can't change people's minds. We can't magic them sensible. Believe me, if it were possible to do that, we would have done it a long time ago. We can stop people fighting by magic and then what do we do? We have to go on using magic to stop them fighting. We have to go on using magic to stop them being stupid. And where does all that end? So we make certain that it doesn't begin. That's why the university is here. That's what we do. We have to sit around not doing things because of the hundreds of times in the past it's been proved that once you get beyond the abracadabra, hey presto, changing-the-pigeons-into-ping-pong-balls style of magic you start getting more problems than you've solved. It was bad enough finding ping-pong balls nesting in the attics.'

'Ping-pong balls nestin'?' said Trev.

'I don't want to talk about it,' said Ponder glumly.

'I remember when one of you gentlemen got hungry in the night and cast a spell for a baked potato,' said Glenda.

Ponder shuddered. 'That was the Bursar,' he said. 'He really does get confused about the decimal point.'

'I remember all those wheelbarrows,' said Glenda, slightly amused at Ponder's discomfort. 'Days and days it took to get them all out. I heard we were feeding every beggar in the city and every pig farm out as far as Sto Lat for weeks.'

Ponder nearly gave a harrumph. 'Well, yes, there's an example of why we have to be careful.'

'But there's still going to be a match tomorrow and I would like to conclude my training programme,' said Nutt.

'Ah, there's another problem. You know Lord Vetinari is allowing the Hippo to be used for the game? Well, some of the teams are doing their training there now. You know, a bit of a kick-about, and so on. It's all about who will be playing Unseen Academicals.'

'But that's the other side of the city,' said Glenda.

'Commander Vimes has said the Watch will provide an escort,' said Ponder. 'Just for protection, you know?'

'Whose?' said Glenda. 'You can see what's going on here. People will see Mister Nutt as the problem.'

'Oh, it's all fun and games until someone loses a head,' said a voice behind Glenda. She recognized that voice and it always sounded as if it was trying to put its hand up her jumper.

'Pepe? What the hell are you doing here?'

'And how did you get in?' Ponder demanded. 'The Watch are all around this place.'

Pepe barely gave him a glance. 'And who are you, smart boy?'

'I run this university!'

'Then I should go away and run it, because you're not going to be any good around here.'

'Is this每person每known to you, miss?' Ponder demanded.

'Er, yes. He, er, designs clothes.'

'I am a fashionista,' said Pepe. 'I can do things with clothing that you wouldn't think were possible.'

'I'd believe that, at least,' said Trev.

'And I know a thing or two about riots and mobs.'

An idea struck Glenda and she whispered to the irate Ponder, 'Very big in dwarf circles, sir. Knows a lot of influential people.'

'So do I,' said Ponder. 'Actually, I am one,' he wailed. 'But I had to do the training myself yesterday and I couldn't remember all of the things Mister Nutt comes up with so I had them running on the spot, which I don't think is very helpful.'

'There's somethin' goin' bad,' said Trev. 'I know about this city. I'll go and check a few things out. It's not as if you really need me.'

'I do,' said Juliet.

Trev hesitated, but Nutt had shown him how to do this. He extended a hand and blew her a kiss as he went through the door.

'Did you see that?' said Juliet. 'He blew me.'

Glenda looked at Pepe, whose eyes were turned up so far in his head that she could see the whites每although they were red.

A short while later, when most of the UU squad headed for the Hippo with Glenda and Juliet trailing after them like camp followers, half a dozen watchmen appeared from the various places that they had selected for a quiet smoke and fell in after them, trying to make it look as if they all just happened to be strolling in the same direction.

Trev was right, Glenda thought. It is going bad.

Trev had not gone very far when his street sense told him he was being followed. He jinked in and out of a few alleys and waited at the next corner to confront the follower... The follower who wasn't there. The alley behind him was empty all the way to the last street. He realized this at the same time as someone pressed what definitely felt like a knife to his neck.

'Cor, this takes me back and so it does,' said a voice. 'I reckon I can still remember every back alley in this place.'

'I know you, it's Pepe, isn't it? You're a dwarf?' said Trev, trying not to turn round.

'Sort of a dwarf,' said Pepe.

'But I don't have no argument with you, do I?' said Trev.

Something small and shiny appeared on the edge of Trev's vision. 'Sample piece of moonsilver,' said Pepe's voice. 'I could do more damage with a broken champagne bottle每and I have, believe you me. I wouldn't threaten a bloke like you with a knife, not with that little girl doting on you like she is. She seems very happy with you and I'd like to keep her happy.'

'Somethin's goin' down on the street,' said Trev.

'What, the whole street? Sounds like fun.'

'Somethin's gone wrong, 'asn't it?' said Trev.

Only now did Pepe enter his field of view. 'Not really my problem at all,' he said. 'But there're some kinds of people I just don't like. I've seen too many of 'em, bullies and bastards. If you want to learn athletics very quickly, be born around here with a talent for design and maybe a few other little preferences. Lord Vetinari has got it all wrong. He thought he could take on the football and it's not working. It's not like the Thieves' Guild, see. He had it easy with the Thieves' Guild. That's because the Thieves' Guild is organized. Football ain't organized. Just because he's won over the captains don't mean that everyone's going to meekly get into line after them. There was fights all over the place last night. Your chums with their shiny new football and their shiny new jerseys are going to get creamed tomorrow. No, worse than creamed每cheesed.'

'I thought you were just someone who made clothes?' said Trev.

'Just. Someone. Who. Made. Clothes. Just someone?! I am not anyone. I am Pepe and I don't make clothes. I create gorgeous works of art that just happen to require a body to show them off as they should be seen. Tailors and dressmakers make clothes. I forge history! Have you heard about micromail?'

'Got yer. Yep,' said Trev.

'Good,' said Pepe. 'Now, what have you heard about micromail?'

'Well, it doesn't chafe.'

'It's got one or two other little secrets, too... ' said Pepe. 'Anyway, I can't say I've got any time for the wizards, myself. Snooty lot. But it's not going to be a game out there tomorrow, it's going to be a war. Do you know a bloke called Andy? Andy Shank?'

Trev's heart sank. 'What's he gotta do with it?'

'I just heard the name, but I reckon I know the type. Lord Vetinari has done what he wanted. He's broken the football, but that's leaving a lot of sharp bits, if you get my meaning.'

'The Watch'll be there tomorrow,' said Trev.

'What's this? What's this? A street face like you being glad that the Watch is going to be anywhere?'

'There'll be a lot of people watching.'

'Yeah, won't that be fun?' said Pepe. 'And, you know, there's people in this city that would watch a beheading and hold their kiddies up for a better view. So I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm not going to give you an edge, the last thing you'll want to see tomorrow is an edge. I'll give you something that's much better than an edge. After all, you're Dave Likely's lad.'

'I'm not playing,' said Trev. 'I promised my ol' mum.'

'You promised your old mum?' said Pepe. There wasn't even any attempt to hide the disdain. 'And you think that makes any difference, do you? You've got a star in your hand, lad. You'll play, all right, so I'll tell you what I'll do. You come along and see me round the back entrance of Shatta, sorry about that, it sounds better in Dwarfish, and kick on the door round about midnight. You can bring a chum with you if you like, but you better bloody well come.'

'Why do I 'ave to kick the door?' said Trev.

'Because you'll have a bottle of best brandy in each hand. Don't thank me. I'm not doing it for you. I'm protecting my investment and, on the way, that means protecting yours as well. Off you go, boy. You're late for training. And me? I'm a soddin' genius!'

Trev noticed more watchmen around as he headed onwards. They could be absolute bastards if they felt like it, but Sam Vimes had no use for coppers that couldn't read the streets. The Watch was jumpy.

Carter used to live in his mum's cellar until she rented it out to a family of dwarfs, and now he lived in the attic, which baked in the summer and froze in the winter. Carter survived because the walls were insulated with copies of Bows & Ammo, Back Street Pins, Stanley Howler's Stamp Monthly, Giggles, Girls and Garters, Golem Spotter Weekly, and Fretwork Today. These were only the top layer. In self-defence against the elements, he glued old copies over the larger cracks and holes in the roof. As far as Trev knew, Carter had never persevered beyond a week with any of the hobbies indicated by his rather embarrassing library except, possibly, the one notoriously associated with the centrefolds of Giggles, Girls and Garters.

Mrs Carter opened the door to him and indicated the stairs with all the hearty welcome and hospitality that mothers extend to their sons' no-good street friends. 'He's been ill,' she announced, as if it were a matter of interest rather than concern.

This turned out to be an understatement. One of Carter's eyes was a technicolor mess and there was a livid scar on his face. It took some time for Trev to find this out because Carter kept telling him to go away, but since the ramshackle door was held shut with a piece of string, the application of Trev's shoulder had seen to that, at least.

Trev stared at the boy, who shrank back into his unspeakably dreadful bed as if he was expecting to be hit. He didn't like Carter. No one liked Carter. It was impossible. Even Mrs Carter, who in theory at least should entertain some lukewarm affability to her son, didn't like Carter. He was fundamentally unlikeable. It was a sad thing to have to say, but Carter, farting or otherwise, was a wonderful example of charisntma. He could be fine for a day or two and then some utterly stupid comment or off-key joke or entirely inappropriate action would break the spell. But Trev put up with him, seeing in him, perhaps, what Trev might have been had he not been, in fact, Trev. Maybe there was a bit of Carter the Farter in every bloke at some time in his life he had thought, but with Carter it wasn't just a bit, it was everything.

'What 'appened?' Trev said.


'This is Trev. I know about nothin' 'appenin'. You need to get to the hospital with that.'

'It's worse than it looks,' Carter moaned.

Trev cracked. 'Are you bloody stupid? That cut's a quarter of an inch from your eye!'

'It was my fault,' Carter protested. 'I upset Andy.'

'Yeah, I can see where that'd have been your fault,' Trev said.

'Where were you last night?' said Carter.

'You wouldn't believe me.'

'Well, it was a bloody war, that's what it was.'

'I found it necessary to spend a little time down the Lat. There was fightin', wasn't there?'

'The clubs 'ave signed up to this new football and some people ain't 'appy.'

Trev said, 'Andy?' and looked at the livid, oozing scar again. Yep, that looked like Andy being unhappy.

It was hard to feel sorry for someone as basically unlikeable as Carter, but just because he had been born with Kick Me Up The Arse tattooed on to his soul was no reason for doing it. Not to Carter. That was like pulling wings off flies.

'Not just Andy,' said Carter. 'There's Tosher Atkinson and Jimmy the Spoon and Spanner.'

'Spanner?' said Trev.

'And Mrs Atkinson.'

'Mrs Atkinson?'

'And Willy Piltdown, Harry Capstick and the Brisket Boys.'

'Them? But we hate them. Andy hates them. They hate Andy. One foot on their turf and you get sent home in a sack!'

'Well, you know what they say,' said Carter. 'My enemy's enemy is my enemy.'

'I think you got that wrong,' said Trev. 'But I know what you mean.'

Trev stared at nothing, utterly aghast. The subjects of that litany of names were Faces. Hugely influential in the world of the teams and, more importantly, among the supporters. They owned the Shove. Pepe had been right. Vetinari thought the captains were in charge and the captains were not in charge. The Shove was in charge and the Faces ran the Shove.

'There's going to be a team put together for tomorrow and they'll try to get as many of them in as possible,' Carter volunteered.

'Yeah, I heard.'

'They're going to show Vetinari what they think of his new football.'

'I didn't hear the name of the Stollops there,' Trev said.

'I hear their dad's got them doing choir practice every night,' said Carter.

'The captains did sign up,' said Trev, 'so it'll look bad for them. But 'ow much do you think Andy and his little chums care 'bout that?' He leaned forward. 'Vetinari's got the Watch, though, 'asn't he? And you know about the Watch. Okay, so there's some decent bastards among 'em when you get 'em by theirselves, but if it all goes wahoonie-shaped they've got big, big sticks and big, big trolls and they've not got to bother too much about who they hit because they're the Watch, which means it's all legal. And, if you get 'em really pissed off, they'll add a charge of damaging their truncheons with your face. And talking of faces, exactly 'ow come you're a quarter-inch away from being a candidate for a white stick?'

'I told Andy I didn't think it was a good idea,' said Carter.

Trev couldn't hide his surprise. Even that much bravery was alien to Carter. 'Well, as it 'appens, it might be a blessin' in disguise. You just stay here in bed and you won't end up stuck between the Old Sam and Andy.'

He stopped because of a rustling noise.

Since Carter glued pages of his used magazines to the walls with flour-and-water paste, the attic was home to some quite well fed mice, and for some reason, one of them had just gnawed its way to freedom via the chest of last year's Miss April, thus giving her a third nipple, which was, in fact, staring at Trev and wobbling. It was a sight to put anyone off their tea.

'What're you goin' to do?' said Carter.

'Anything I can,' said Trev.

'You know Andy's out to get you? You and that weird bloke.'

'I'm not afraid of Andy,' said Trev. As a statement, this was entirely true. He was not frightened of Andy. He was mortally terrified to his boots and back again, with a visceral fear that dripped off his ribs like melting snow.

'Everyone's afraid of Andy, Trev. If they're smart,' said Carter.

'Hey, Fartmeister, I'm Trevor Likely!'

'I think you're goin' to need a lot more than that.'

I am going to need a lot more than that, thought Trev, travelling at speed across the city. If even Pepe knew there was something on the boil, then surely the Old Sam would know too? Oops.

He sprinted quickly to the horse bus's rear platform and landed in the road before the conductor was anywhere near. If they didn't catch you on the bus then they couldn't catch you at all, and while they were issued with those big shiny choppers to deter non-paying passengers, everyone knew that a) they were too scared to use them and b) the amount of trouble they would get into if they actually whacked a respectable member of society did not bear thinking of.

He darted through the alley into Cockbill Street, spotted another bus plodding its way in the right direction, jumped on to the running board and held on. He was lucky this time. The conductor gave him a look and then very carefully did not see him.

By the time he reached the big junction known as Five Ways, he had travelled almost the width of the city at an average speed faster than walking pace and had hardly had to run very far at all. A near perfect result for Trev Likely, who wouldn't walk if he could ride.

And there, right in front of him, was the Hippo. It used to be a racetrack until all that was moved up to the far end of Ankh. Now, it was just a big space that every large town needs for markets, fairs, the occasional insurrection and, of course, the increasingly popular cart-tail sales, which were very fashionable with people who wanted to buy their property back.

It was full today, without even a stolen shovel to be seen. All over the field, people were kicking footballs about. Trevor relaxed a little. There were pointy hats in the distance and no one seemed to be doing any murder.

'Wotcher, howya doing?'

He adjusted his eyeline down a little bit. 'How's it goin', Throat?'

'I'm hearing you're kind of associated with Unseen Academicals,' said Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, the city's most enterprising but inexplicably least successful businessman.

'Don't tell me you've come to sell pies?'

'Nah, nah, nah,' said Dibbler. 'Too many amateurs here today. My pies aren't just knocked up out of rubbish for a load of drunken old football fans.'

'So your pies are for - ?' Trev left the question hanging in the air with a noose on the end of it.

'Anyway, pies are so yesterday,' said Dibbler dismissively. 'I am on the ground floor of football memorabilityness.'

'What's that, then?'

'Like genuine autographed team jerseys and that sort of thing. I mean, look here.' Dibbler produced from the large tray around his neck a smaller version of what one of the new gloing! gloing! footballs would be if it were about a half of the size and had been badly carved out of wood. 'See those white patches? That's so they can be signed by the team.'

'You're goin' to get them signed, are you?'

'Well, no, I think people would like to get that done themselves. The personal touch, you know what I mean?'

'So they're actually just painted balls of wood and nothin' else?' said Trev.

'But authentic!' said Dibbler. 'Just like the shirts. Want one? Five dollars to you, and that's cutting me own throat.' He produced a skimpy red cotton item and waved it enticingly.

'What's that?'

'Your team colours, right?'

'Two big yellow Us on the front?' said Trev. 'That's wrong! Ours has got two little Us interlocked on the left breast like a badge. Very stylish.'

'Pretty much the same,' said Dibbler airily. 'No one'll notice. And I had to keep the price down for the kiddies.'

He leaned closer. 'Anything you can tell me about the game tomorrow, Trev? Looks like the teams are putting together a tough squad. Vetinari's not going to get it all his own way for once?'

'We'll play a good game, you'll see,' said Trev.

'Right! Can't lose with a Likely playing, right?'

'I just help around the place. I'm not playin'. I promised my ol' mum after Dad died.'

Dibbler looked around at the crowded stadium of the Hippo. He appeared to have something else on his mind other than the need for the next dollar. 'What happens if your lot lose?' he said.

'It's only a game,' said Trev.

'Ah, but Vetinari's got his reputation based on it.'

'It's a game. One side wins, one side loses. Just a game.'

'A lot of people aren't thinking like that,' said Dibbler. 'Things always come out well for Vetinari,' he went on, staring at the sky. 'And that's the magic, see? Everyone thinks he always gets it right. What do you think will happen if he gets things wrong?'

'It's just a game, Throat, only a game... Be seein' you.' Trev wandered onwards. People were putting up tiers of wooden stands on one side of the arena, and because this was Ankh-Morpork, when two or more people gathered together thousands turned up just to wonder why.

And there was Mr Ponder Stibbons, sitting at a long table with some of the football captains. Oh, yes, the Rules Committee. There had been talk about that. Even with the rules written down, and half of them as old as the game itself, there were a few things that had to be made clear. He arrived in time to hear Ponder say, 'Look, you can't have a situation in the new game where people hang around right next to the other team's goal.'

'Worked all right before,' said one of the captains.

'Yes, but the ball flies. One really good kick would send it down half the length of the Hippo. If someone gets that right the goalkeeper wouldn't have a chance.'

'So, what you're saying,' said Mr Stollop, who had become a kind of spokesman for the captains, 'is that there's got to be two blokes from team A in front of a bloke from team B before he scores?'

'Yes, that's about right,' said Ponder stiffly, 'but one of them is the goalkeeper.'

'So, what happens if one of them fellers nips past him downfield before he kicks the ball?'

'Then he will be what is traditionally known as off his side,' said Ponder.

'Off his head, more like,' said one of the captains. And since this had the same shape as humour, it got a laugh. 'If that's true, you could end up with loads of blokes rushing past one another, all trying to get the other poor buggers into an unlawful position without any of the poor devils moving, right?'

'Nevertheless, we are standing by this rule. We have tried it out. It allows for free movement on the field. In the old game it wasn't unusual for players to bring their lunch and a copy of Girls, Giggles and Garters and just wait for the ball to come along.'

'Hello, Trev, how are you getting on?' It was Andy, and he was standing behind Trev.

There must be a thousand people here today, Trev thought in a curiously slow and blissful sort of way. And a lot of watchmen. I can see a couple of them from here. Andy isn't going to try anything right here, is he?

Well, yes, he might, because that's what made him Andy. The little bee that buzzed in his brain might bang against the wrong bit and he would carve your face off. Oh, yes, and there was Tosher Atkinson and his mum, strolling about as if out for a walk.

'Haven't seen you about much lately, Trev,' said Andy. 'Been busy, I suspect?'

'I thought you were lyin' low?' said Trev hopelessly.

'Well, you know what they say. Sooner or later all sins are forgiven.'

In your case, quite a bit later, Trev thought.

'Besides,' said Andy, 'I'm turning over a new leaf, ain't I?'

'Oh, yeah?'

'Got out of the Shove,' said Andy. 'Gotta put aside my scallywag ways. Time to fit in.'

'Glad to hear it,' said Trev, waiting for the knife.

'So I'm a key player for Ankh-Morpork United.' It wasn't a knife, but it had a rather similar effect. 'Apparently his lordship gave them the idea,' Andy said, still speaking in the same greasy, friendly tone. 'Of course, no one wants to be the team playing you wizards. So there is, like, a new one just for the occasion.'

'I thought you never played?' said Trev weakly.

'Ah, but that was in the bad old days before football was open to more individual effort and enterprise. See this shirt?' he said.

Trev looked down. He hadn't thought much about what the man was wearing, just that he was there.

'White with blue trim,' said Andy cheerfully. 'Very snazzy.' He turned around. The numeral 1 was on the back in blue with the name Andy Shank above it. 'My idea. Very sensible. Means we'll know who we are from the back.'

'And I told your wizards that your gentlemen ought to do the same,' said Mrs Atkinson, surely one of the most feared Faces who had ever wielded a sharpened umbrella with malice aforethought. Grown men would back away from Mrs Atkinson, otherwise grown men bled.

Just what we need, thought Trev. Our names on the back as well. Saves them having the trouble to go round the front before they stab.

'Still, I can't stand here chattin' all day with you. Got to talk to the team. Got to think about tactics.'

There will be a referee, thought Trev. The Watch will be there. Lord Vetinari will be there. Unfortunately, Andy Shank will be there, too, and Nutt wants me as his assistant and so I've got to be there. If it all goes wrong, the floor of the arena isn't going to be the place to be and I'll be in it.

Most Popular