By the time Lance-Constable Bluejohn of the Watch and two other trolls had forcibly prised open the gates against the pressure of bodies, the noise was just one great hammer of sound. The troll officers opened a path for them with the forethought and delicacy that has made police crowd control such a byword. It led to a fenced-off and heavily guarded area, in the centre of which was the Archchancellor formerly known as Dean, the entire team of Ankh-Morpork United and His Grace the Duke of Ankh, Commander of the City Watch, Sir Samuel Vimes, with a face like a bad lunch. 'What the hell are you clowns proposing to do to my city?' he demanded and looked up at Vetinari in his box in the middle of the stand. He raised his voice. 'I've been grafting like mad this last month on getting the KV Accord sorted out and it turns out that just when the dwarfs and the trolls are shaking hands and being jolly good pals, you lot are starting another KV of your very own.'
'Oh, come now, Sam,' said Ridcully. 'It's only a jolly day out.'
'People are queueing up at the gates,' said Vimes. 'The actual city gates. How much of this is magical?'
'None, Sam, as far as we're aware. There will be no magic used during the game, this has been discussed and agreed and the D - ' Ridcully swallowed hard. 'The Archchancellor of Brazeneck University is making himself responsible for thaumic damping of the stadium.'
'Then let me tell you this,' said the commander. 'None of my men will set a foot on the field of play, no matter what happens. Do I make myself clear?'
'As crystal, Sam.'
'Sorry, Archchancellor, for now I am Commander of the City Watch, not Sam, if it's all the same to you,' said Vimes. 'The whole damn city is an accident waiting to - no, an accident that already has happened and anything that goes bad will get worse very quickly. I'm not going to have it said that the Watch were the problem. Honestly, Mustrum, I really would have expected better from you.'
'That will be Archchancellor,' said Ridcully coldly.
'As far as I'm concerned,' said Vimes, 'this is a scuffle between rival gangs. Do you know what my job is, Archchancellor? It's to keep the peace, and for two pins, I'd arrest the whole boiling of ya, but his lordship won't have it.'
Ridcully coughed. 'May I extend my congratulations, sir, on the very good work you have been doing in Koom Valley.'
'Thank you,' said Vimes. 'And so I suspect you can imagine how cheerful I am to see you involved in another kind of war.' The commander turned to Archchancellor Henry. 'Nice to see you again, sir, it's good to see that you've moved up in the world. I'm formally telling you that I am laying down the law, here, and as the referee, you have to pick it up. Inside these lines it's football¨Cstep over the line and it's me.' He turned back to Ridcully. 'Mind how you go, Archchancellor.'
He departed, watchmen falling into place behind him.
'Well, now, I suspect the good commander has a lot on his mind these days,' said Archchancellor Henry, brightly. He pulled out his watch. 'I would like to speak to the team captains.'
'Well, I know I'm one of them,' said Ridcully.
A man stepped forward from the ranks of United.
'Joseph Hoggett, of the Pork Packers, as it happens. Captain, for my sins.'
Hoggett held out his hand to Ridcully and, to his credit, hardly winced when it was taken in a firm handshake.
'Well, gentlemen,' said the former Dean. 'I am sure you know the rules, we've been through them often enough. I want a good clean game. One long, er, peep from my whistle means that I am interrupting play for an infringement or injury or for some other reason at that point known only to myself. One even longer peep, which I suppose will be more of a parrp, will mean the end of one half and time for refreshment, after which the game will recommence. During the interval, I believe that there will be a marching display by the Ankh-Morpork accordion band, but I suppose these things are sent to try us. May I remind you gentlemen that you change ends at the half-time. Also, please impress on your team that the goal they are aiming for should not be behind them. If I see any serious infringement, that player will be removed from the pitch. A considerably longer parrp, which as far as I am concerned will continue until I am out of breath, will mark the end of the game. May I also remind you, as Commander Vimes has reminded us, that within these four, rather sticky lines of chalk, I am a wielder of power second only to the gods themselves, and then only perhaps. If at any time it becomes clear that the rules themselves are impractical, I will change them. When I blow the whistle, I shall raise my staff and unleash a spell which will prevent any further magic being used within these hallowed lines until the close of play. Is that understood?'
'Yes, sir,' said Mr Hoggett.
'Mustrum?' said the former Dean, in a meaningful voice.
'Yes, yes, all right,' grumbled Ridcully. 'You are making the most of your little moment, aren't you? Let's get on with it, shall we?'
'Gentlemen, would you please form up your teams for the singing of the National Anthem. Mister Stibbons, I believe you have found me a megaphone, thank you very much.' He raised the horn to his lips and shouted through it, 'Ladies and gentlemen, be upstanding for the National Anthem.'
The singing of the National Anthem was always a ragged affair, the good people of Ankh-Morpork feeling that it was unpatriotic to sing songs about how patriotic you were, taking the view that someone singing a song about how patriotic they were was either up to something or a Head of State.
An additional problem today lay in the acoustics of the arena, which were rather too good, coupled with the fact that the speed of sound at one end of the stadium was slightly off beat compared with the other end, a drawback exacerbated when both sides tried to recover the gap.
These acoustical anomalies did not count for much if you were standing next to Mustrum Ridcully, as the Archchancellor was one of those gentlemen who will sing it beautifully, correctly enunciated and very, very loudly.
'"When dragons belch and hippos flee, my thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee,"' he began.
Trev noticed, to his surprise, that Nutt was standing stiffly to attention. His own mouth operating on automatic, he looked along the massed rank of Ankh-Morpork United. About fifty-fifty, he thought. Half of them decent old cloggers and half of them Andy and his chums. His gaze lighted on Andy just as he thought that and Andy flashed him a little smile and pointed a finger briefly. But I'm not playing, Trev thought, because of my old mum. He glanced down at the palm of his hand, no star there, he was sure of that. Anyway, he thought, staring at the opponents, when it all goes bad the referee is a wizard, after all.
'"Let others boast of martial dash, for we have boldly fought with cash,"' roared the crowd at various pitches and speeds.
I mean, Trev thought, he wouldn't switch off his own magic, would he?
'"We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes."'
I mean, he really wouldn't do that, would he? The only person who could stop it if it all went wrong wouldn't have made a mistake like that?
'"We own all your generals¨Ctouch us and you'll lose."'
Yes, he has done! He has done just that!
'"Morporkia! Morporkia! Morporkia owns the day,"' Trev shouted to quell his own rising panic. He has done that, we all saw him! He's kept his own staff inside the field where you can't do magic. He looked at Andy and Andy nodded. Yes, he had worked it out as well.
'"We can rule you wholesale. Touch us and you'll pay."'
It is considered in the Sto Plains that only scoundrels know the second verse of their national anthem, since anyone spending time memorizing that would be up to no good purpose. The Ankh-Morpork national anthem, therefore, had a second verse that was deliberately written as ner ner ners and the occasional coherent word desperately trying to stay afloat, on the basis that this is how it would sound in any case. Trev listened to it with even more agony than usual.
But everyone joined in cheerful unison for the last line, which everybody knew, '"We can rule you wholesale, credit where it's due."'
Glenda, one arm as far across her bosom as it would go, risked a look at what would still probably be called the Royal Box, just as Vetinari raised the gold-ish coloured urn and a cheer went up. Ankh-Morpork was not particularly keen on cheering the Patrician but it would cheer money any day of the week. Yet it seemed to Glenda that there was some strange harmonic to the cheer, coming up from under the ground itself, as if the place was one huge mouth... Then the feeling went away. And the day came back.
'Gentlemen? Team players to their places,' said the Archchancellor of Brazeneck, haughtily.
'Er, can I have a word with you, sir?' said Trev, sidling up as quickly as possible.
'Ah, yes. Dave Likely's boy,' said the former Dean. 'We are about to play football, Mister Likely, I'm sure you've noticed.'
'Yes, sir, well, er, but... '
'Do you know of any good reason why I should hold up the game?' the referee demanded.
Trev gave up.
Henry produced a coin from his waistcoat pocket. 'Mustrum?' he said.
'Heads,' said the Archchancellor, and he turned out to be wrong.
'Very well, Mister Hoggett... and who has the ball?'
Nutt picked the ball out of the air and handed it over. 'Me, sir.'
'Ah, you are the coach for the Academicals.'
'Yes, but a player as well should it become necessary.'
'Gentlemen, you will see that I am placing the ball in the centre of the pitch.' It's true that the Archchancellor formerly known as Dean did rather relish the occasion. He took a few steps back, paused for dramatic effect, produced a whistle from his pocket and flourished it. He gave a blow that only a man of that size could give; his face began to twitch and go red. He raised his megaphone to his lips and shouted, 'ANY BOY WHO HAS NOT BROUGHT HIS KIT WILL PLAY IN HIS PANTS!' followed by Ponder Stibbons shouting, 'I want to know who gave that to him!'
The crowd roared and you could hear the laugh going away in the distance, rolling down the streets as every listener in the crowded city passed it on, bringing back such memories that at least two people started to forge letters from their mother.
In his goal, the Librarian swung himself to the top of his posts to get a better look. In his goal, Charlie Barton, goalkeeper for United, methodically lit his pipe. And the man with the biggest problem within the ground that day apart possibly from Trev, was the editor of the Times, Mr William de Worde, who had not trusted any underling with the reporting of this unique, most prestigious occasion, but wasn't at all sure how it should be done.
At the whistle, he'd managed: The United chief, should I say chief? There must be a better word for him, but I can sort that out in the office, does not actually appear to know what to do next. Archchancellor Ridcully (BF, No, no, I'll fill that in later) has kicked the ball hard towards, well, actually it has hit Jimmy Wilkins, formerly of the Miners, who seems uncertain as to what to do with it. No, no, he's picked it up! He's picked up the ball! The referee, who is the former Dean of Unseen University, has called him over for what I imagine is to be a refresher course in the rules of this new game of football.
A megaphone, thought de Worde, that's what I need, an extremely big megaphone so I can tell everyone what's going on. The ball has been handed to, let me see, number sixty-nine, oh yes, the multi-talented Professor Bengo Macarona, who according to the regulations, the new rules, is allowed what is known as a free kick from where the infringement took place and it's, and here comes, Bengo Maca - sorry, Professor Bengo Macarona for Unseen Academicals and - oh my word! It has gone right down the pitch at shoulder height, making a noise like a partridge (check with Nature Notes correspondence on whether I have the correct simile). The ball has hit Mr Charlie 'Big Boy' Barton in the stomach with such force as to carry him into the back of the net! What a display! And this would appear to be a goal! At least one goal, I should think! And the crowd are on their feet, though technically most of them were there already, anyhow [he wrote conscientiously, with a journalist's well-known desire to get things right]. And yes, they are celebrating the hero of the moment and the refrain coming from the lips of the Academicals' supporters in their unique patois seems to be: 'One Makaronah, there's only one Makaronah, one Makaro-naah.' No, no. Something seems to be happening; Macarona has left the pitch and is talking animatedly to the crowd. He appears to be haranguing them. Those he has been talking to look subdued.
At this point, one of the editor's assistants hurried over with a brief digest of what had transpired on the other side of the pitch. De Worde wrote quickly, hoping that his home-made shorthand would not fail him: With that hot-blooded resolve that is so lovably typical of the native Genuan, Professor Macarona is apparently insisting that any celebratory chanting should include his full name and full list of honours and is helpfully writing them down. There also appears to be a bit of a hiatus around United's goal as some of Charlie Barton's team mates help him find his pipe and also, it transpires [the editor of the Times liked the word transpire], the other half of the pork pie it transpired he had been eating at the time the goal was scored. It appears that, not unlike many of us, he had underestimated the speed of the new ball. And now the ball appears to be back in the centre of the pitch where there is another argument going on.
'But they've just scored a goal!' said Mr Hoggett.
'Yes, quite so,' said the former Dean, wheezing gently. 'That means that they get to kick off next.'
'That means we don't, but we've just lost a goal!'
'Yes, but that's what the rules say.'
'But that's not fair, we want a kick, they kicked it last.'
'But it's not about the kicks, Mister Hoggett, it's what you do with them.' And Archchancellor Ridcully runs towards the ball. He turns swiftly and has kicked the ball towards his own goal!
The editor wrote furiously: Almost all of United's team are running up to take advantage of this strange faux pas, not entirely cognisant [the editor liked that word, too, it was so much better than aware] but the famous Librarian of Unseen University has just -
He stopped, blinked and grabbed one of his assistants who had turned up with a full list of Bengo Macarona's honours and pushed him down in the chair.
'Write down everything that I say!' he shouted. 'And I hope your shorthand is better than mine, and if it isn't you'll be sacked in the morning. This is insane!' They did it on purpose, I'll swear they did it on purpose. He kicked the ball directly at his own goalkeeper, knowing, I swear, that he could take advantage of the Librarian's renowned upper body strength to throw the ball almost the entire length of the pitch. And there is Bengo Macarona, more or less unnoticed by his opponents, heading towards the missile while United have streamed away from their citadel, like the ill-fated Maranids during the first Prodostian war [the editor liked to think of himself as a classicist].
'I've never seen anything like it!' he shouted at his almost deafened assistant. 'They've got United all in the wrong place.' And there goes Macarona. The ball appears to be attached to his feet. And there ahead of him appears to be the only member of the luckless United squad that knows what's going on. Mr Charles 'Big Boy' Barton, who nevertheless is staggering out of the goalmouth, like the Giant Octopal, upon seeing the hordes of the Mormidons.
The editor fell silent, forgetting everything as the ground between the two men shortened by the moment. 'Oh, no!' he said.
There was a huge cheer from the crowd. 'What happened?' said the assistant, pencil poised.
'Didn't you see it? Didn't you see it?' said the editor. His hair was dishevelled and he looked like a man nearing madness. 'Macarona ran round him! I don't know how the ball stayed at his feet.'
'Do you mean he dodged past him, sir?' said the assistant.
The noise of the crowd would have been incandescent had it been visible. 'Another goal,' said the editor slumping. 'Two goals in as many minutes! No, he didn't dodge him, he ran around him! Twice! And I'll swear, ended up going faster.'
'Ah, yes,' said the assistant, still writing. 'I went to a lecture about that sort of thing, once. It was about how things don't hit the world turtle, sir. It was like a slingshot effect, he may have picked up additional speed as he rounded the goalkeeper's enormous girth, sir.'
'And listen to the crowd roar!' said the editor. 'And write it down.'
'Yes, sir, that would be: One Professor Macarona D. Thau (Bug), D. Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D. Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D. Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies), there's only one Professor Macarona D. Thau (Bug), D. Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D. Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D. Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies), there's only oooonnnnnnne Professor Bengo Macarooonaah D. Thau (Bug), D. Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D. Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D. Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies), oooonnnnnnnly one Professor Bengo Macaroooonaaaah D. Thau (Bug), D. Maus (Chubb), Magistaludorum (QIS), Octavium (Hons), PHGK (Blit), DMSK, Mack, D. Thau (Bra), Visiting Professor in Chickens (Jahn the Conqueror University (Floor 2, Shrimp Packers Building, Genua)), Primo Octo (Deux), Visiting Professor of Blit/Slood Exchanges (Al Khali), KCbfJ, Reciprocating Professor of Blit Theory (Unki), D. Thau (Unki), Didimus Supremius (Unki), Emeritus Professor in Blit Substrate Determinations (Chubb), Chair of Blit and Music Studies (Quirm College for Young Ladies). But wouldn't he be off-the-side, sir?'
'That would indeed appear to be the complaint of the luckless warriors of United,' said the editor. 'They are clustering around the referee and what would I give to be a fly on that wall?'
'There is no wall, sir.'
'It would seem - ' and the editor stopped dead. 'Who is that?'
'What is that, sir?'
'Look over there at the stands! The upper-class stands, I might add, to which we were not invited.'
The sun usefully took this opportunity to appear from behind the clouds and the bowl of the Hippo seemed to fill with light.
'That's the micromail girl, sir,' said the assistant.
Even some of the protesting United team were looking up at the stands now. She hurt the eyes, but they were dragged towards it again.
'I've got her picture on my bedroom wall,' said the assistant. 'Everyone has been looking for her.' He coughed. 'They say it doesn't chafe, you know.'
Now, all the footballers on the field, bar the unfortunate Charlie Barton, who was having a dizzy spell, were clustered around the referee, who said, 'I repeat; it was a perfectly acceptable goal. A trifle unkind and showy, perhaps, but nevertheless entirely within the rules. You've watched the Unseen lads training. The game moves about. It doesn't send you a clacks to tell you what's happening next.'
A voice a little lower down said, 'It is an elementary mistake to believe that even the most doughty keeper of the net can single-handedly defend against the full might of the opposing team.' This was Nutt.
'Mister Nutt, you are not supposed to tell them that sort of thing,' said Ridcully.
Mr Hoggett looked downcast. A man betrayed by team, history and expectations. 'I can see we've got a lot to learn,' he said.
Trev pulled Nutt off to one side. 'And this is where it all goes bad,' he said.
'Oh, come now, Mister Trev. We're doing very well. Bengo is, anyway.'
'I'm not watching him. I'm watching Andy and Andy is watchin' Bengo. They're bidin' their time. They're lettin' the poor old buggers get into a hell of a fix and then they'll just take over.'
And then Trev was given a short lesson in why wizards are wizards.
'I have a modest proposal and I wonder if you will hear me out, referee. While we at Unseen University are absolute novices, we have had rather more time to get to grips with the new football than our current opponents have. Therefore, I propose to give them one of our goals,' said Ridcully.
'You can't do that, sir!' said Ponder.
'Why, is it against the rules?' Ridcully's tone deepened and became noticeably more pompous. 'I ask you, are good sportsmanship, fellowship and generosity against the rules, pray?' By the end of the sentence, his voice was audible nearly to the very back of the stadium.
'Well, of course there is nothing against it, sir. There isn't a rule stopping you washing your laundry during the middle of the game-and that is because no one would do it.'
'Right. Mister Hoggett? One of our goals is now yours. We are, as it were, level.'
Hoggett, transfixed, looked around at his fellow players, 'Well, er, if you insist, sir.'
'Wouldn't dream of taking no for an answer,' said Ridcully expansively.
'What in the world made him do that?' said the editor of the Times, as an exhausted runner brought him the news.
'It was a very generous gesture.'
'Why did you do it?' said Ponder to Ridcully.
'I am totally transparent, Stibbons. Generous to a fault, that's me. It's not my fault that they do not know they are inferior and this will play on their minds for the rest of the game.'
'That's rather... cunning, sir.'
'Yes, it is, isn't it? I'm rather proud of it. And once again, we get to kick first. No wonder this is such a popular game.'
'That was a remarkable piece of psychology there,' said Nutt to Trev as they walked back to the sidelines. 'Somewhat cruel, possibly, but clever.'
Trev said nothing. There was the shrill call of the whistle for the game to resume, followed instantly by the referee screaming, 'A LITTLE BIT OF HAIL WON'T HURT YOU, BOY, IT'S HEALTHY AND WILL DO YOU GOOD.'
'That's magic,' said Trev. 'Should that be happening?'
'No,' said Ponder Stibbons behind him. 'It's just possession.'
'Yes, the game is all about possession, Mister Trev,' said Nutt.
Trev looked up again at the stand. There was the shining shape of Juliet, only a few feet away from Vetinari himself and flanked by Glenda and Pepe. She could be a goddess. It's never going to happen, is it? he said to himself. Not her and a boy from the candle vats.
Not really going to happen. Not now.
And then Bengo screamed and it seemed as though every voice in the stadium joined in one communal 'OOOOOH!'
And the whistle blew again.
'What happened, sir?' said the editorial assistant.
'Can't exactly be sure. They got the ball to Macarona again and then he collided with a couple of United players and they all ended up in a heap.'
Nutt, the first to reach the stricken Macarona, looked up at Trev gravely. 'Both patellas dislocated,' he said. 'We'll need a couple of men to take him down to the Lady Sybil.'
The former Dean looked around at the clustered footballers. 'So, what happened here, Mister Shank?' he said as perspiration dripped off his chin.
Andy momentarily lifted a finger to his forelock.
'Well, sir, I was rushing forward according to the rules to tackle Mister Macarona and I had no idea at all that Jimmy the Spoon, here, had got exactly the same idea and was coming from a different direction and suddenly we were all there together going arse over tip, if you would excuse my Klatchian.'
The look on Andy's face was transparent. He was lying. He knew he was lying. He knew everyone else knew he was lying and he didn't care. In fact, he rather enjoyed the situation. Andy's boots looked heavy enough to moor a boat.
'They got 'im like the meat in a sandwich, sir,' Trev complained to the referee.
'Can you substantiate that, young man?'
'Well, you can see what's happened to the poor bugger.'
'Yes, but do you have any evidence of collusion?'
Trev went blank and Nutt supplied in a whisper, 'Can you prove it was a set-up?'
'Can anyone?' said the referee, looking around the players. No one could. Trev wondered how many might, were it not for the fact that Andy was standing there, innocent as a shark. 'I am the referee, gentlemen, and I can only referee what I see and I saw nothing.'
'Yes, because they made sure of that,' said Trev. 'Anyway, listen to the crowd. They all saw it!'
'Look! They've got boots on them that could strip bark,' Ridcully protested.
'Yes, indeed, Mustrum, I mean, sorry, captain, but as yet there are no rules about which boots should be worn and at the very least these are the boots that have been traditionally worn for the game of foot-the-ball.'
'But they are man traps!'
'I can certainly see what you are getting at, but what would you like me to do?' said Henry. 'I have a suspicion that if I cancel this match at this point you and I would not get out of here alive, because even if we ourselves did escape the wrath of the crowd, we would by no means escape the wrath of Vetinari. The game will continue. Unseen Academicals can play a substitute and I will, let me see - ' He pulled out a notebook. 'Ah, yes, I will award a free kick at the very point where this unfortunate incident took place. And may I add that I will look askance at any future "incidents". Mister Hoggett, I trust that you will make this clear to your team.'
'Blow that for a game of soldiers!' Trev yelled. 'They just took out our best player an' you're gonna let 'em walk away grinning?'
But the referee was, after all, the former Dean. A man used to head-to-head confrontations with Mustrum Ridcully. He gave Trev a chilly look and turned very deliberately to the Archchancellor and said, 'And I trust you, too, captain, will impress upon your team that my decisions are final. There will be a five-minute interlude for you to do this and can some of you fellows take poor Professor Macarona off the field and see if you can find some quack to look at him.'
A voice behind him bellowed, 'You have one right here, sir.' They turned. A figure slightly larger than life, wearing a top hat and carrying a small bag, nodded at them.
'Doctor Lawn,' said Ridcully. 'I wouldn't have expected to see you here.'
'Really?' said the doctor. 'Wouldn't have missed it for the world. Now some of you men drag him over to that corner and I'll take a look at him. I'll send my bill to you, shall I, Mustrum?'
'Wouldn't you like to take him somewhere nice and quiet?' said the referee.
'No fear! I want to keep my eye on the play.'
'They're gettin' away with it,' said Trev, as he walked back to the line. 'Everyone knows they're gettin' away with it.'
'We still have the rest of the team, Mister Trev,' said Nutt, lacing up his boots. He had, of course, made them himself. They looked like foot gloves. 'And me of course, I am the first substitute. I promise that I will do my best, Mister Trev.'
Thus far, it had been a rather boring afternoon for the Librarian after his one little moment in the sun. It really was rather dull between the goal posts and he was getting hungry and so was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a large banana in front of the goal. It was later agreed that, in a footballing context, mysteriously appearing fruit should have been greeted with a certain amount of caution. But he was hungry, it was a banana and the metaphysics were sound. He ate it.
Glenda, up in the stand, wondered if she was the only one to have seen the startlingly yellow fruit in its trajectory and then saw, looking up at her from the crowd, with a big grin on her face, Mrs Atkinson, mother of Tosher, himself something of an unguided weapon. Anyone who had ever been in the Shove knew her as a perpetrator of all kinds of inventive assaults. She had always got away with it because no one in the Shove would hit an old lady, especially one standing next to Tosher.
'Excuse me,' said Glenda, standing up. 'I've got to get down there right now.'
'Not a chance, love,' said Pepe. 'It's shoulder-to-shoulder. A Shove and a half.'
'Look after Juliet,' said Glenda. She leaned forward and tapped on the shoulder of the nearest man. 'I've got to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. Mind if I jump?'
He looked past her at the glittering figure of Juliet and said, 'Not at all, if you get your girlfriend to give me a big kiss.'
'No, but I'll give you one.'
'Er, don't trouble yourself, miss, but come on then, give me your hand.'
It was a reasonably fast descent, as she was passed from hand to hand, accompanied by ribaldry, much genial horseplay and a definite feeling of satisfaction on Glenda's part that she was wearing her biggest and most impenetrable pants.
Elbowing and kicking people out of the way, she reached the goal just as the banana was consumed in one gulp and stood panting helplessly in front of the Librarian. He gave her a wide smile, looked thoughtful for a moment and went over backwards.
High up in the stand, Lady Margolotta turned to Vetinari. 'Is that part of the game?'
'I fear not,' he said.
Ladyship yawned. 'Well, it relieves the boredom, at least. They've spent far more time arguing than playing.'
Vetinari smiled. 'Yes, madam. It does look as if football is very much like diplomacy: short periods of fighting followed by long periods of negotiation.'
Glenda prodded the Librarian. 'Hello? Are you all right?' All she could hear was a gurgling. She cupped her hands, 'Man - er, someone down, here!'
To another chorus of boos, and, because this was Ankh-Morpork, cheers, the travelling committee, which was what the game had now become, hastened over to the Unseen Academicals' goal.
'Someone threw a banana and I saw who did it and I think it's poisoned,' said Glenda, all in one breath.
'He's breathing very heavily,' said Ridcully. The comment was unnecessary as the snores were making the goal rattle.
He crouched down and put his ear to the Librarian's chest. 'I don't think he's been poisoned,' he said.
'Why's that, Archchancellor?' said Ponder.
'Because if anyone has poisoned our Librarian,' said Ridcully, 'then, although I am not, by nature, a vindictive man, I will see to it that this university hunts down the poisoner by every thaumic, mystic and occult means available and makes the rest of their life not only as horrible as they can imagine it, but as horrible as I can imagine it. And you can depend on it, gentlemen, that I have already started work on it.'
Ponder looked around until he saw Rincewind. 'Professor Rincewind. You were, I mean you are, his friend, can't you stick your fingers down his throat or something?'
'Well, no,' said Rincewind. 'I am very attached to my fingers and I like to think of them as attached to me.'
The noise of the crowd was getting louder. They were here to see football, not a debate.
'But Doctor Lawn is still here,' Rincewind volunteered. 'He makes a living out of sticking his hand in things. He's got the knack.'
'Ah, yes,' said the referee. 'Perhaps we can impose upon him to take another patient.' He turned to Ridcully. 'You must play your other substitute.'
'That would be Trevor Likely,' said the Archchancellor.
'No!' blurted out Trev. 'I promised my ol' mum.'
'I thought you were part of the team?' said Ridcully.
'Well, yes, sir, sort of... helpin' out and all that... I promised my ol' mum, sir, after Dad died. I know I was down on the list, but who would have thought it would have turned out like this?'
Ridcully stared at the sky. 'Well, it seems to me, gentlemen, that we cannot ask a man to break a promise made to an old mum. That would be a crime more heinous than murder. We will have to play with ten men. It appears that we will have to go without.'
Up in his ramshackle box, the editor of the Times picked up his notebook and said, 'I'm going down there. It's ridiculous to sit up here like this.'
'You're going on the pitch, sir?'
'Yes. At least that way I can see what's happening.'
'I don't think the referee will allow that, sir!'
'You're not going to play, Trev?' said Glenda.
'I told you! How many times do I need to tell people? I promised my ol' mum!'
'But you are part of the team, Trev.'
'I promised my ol' mum!'
'Yes, but I am sure she'd understand.'
'That's easy for you to say. We'll never know, will we?'
'Not necessarily,' said a voice cheerfully.
'Oh, hello, Doctor Hix,' said Glenda.
'I couldn't help overhearing your conversation, and if Mister Likely could tell me where his mother is buried, and the referee was to give us a little leeway in regard to time, well it could be possible that I - '
'Don't you put a shovel anywhere near my ol' mum!' Trev screamed, tears rolling down his face.
'I'm sure we all understand, Trev,' said Glenda. 'It's always difficult with old mums,' and she added, not really thinking what she was saying, 'and I think Juliet will understand.'
She took him by the hand and towed him off the pitch. Trev had been right. It was all going wrong. The buoyant certainties of the beginning of the game were fading.
'You gave away a goal, sir,' said Ponder as he and Ridcully lined up for the next encounter.
'I have great faith in Mister Nutt in goal,' said Ridcully. 'And I'll show them what happens to people who try to poison a wizard.'
The whistle blew.
'GET DOWN AND GIVE ME TWENTY! I'm sorry, gentlemen, I don't quite know why I said that... '
What happens to people who try to poison a wizard, at least in the short run, is that they have an advantage in a game of football. The absence of Professor Macarona was a deadly blow. He had been the pillar around which the university strategy had been built. Emboldened, United went for the kill.
Even so, the editor of the Times thought, as he lay down at the very edge of the pitch alongside his iconographer, the wizards were just about managing to hold their own. He scribbled as fast as he could, trying hard to ignore the gentle shower of pie wrappings, banana skins, empty greasy pea bags and the occasional beer bottle being tossed on to the pitch. And who is that with the ball now? He glanced at the little crib-sheet of numbers he had managed to jot down. Ah, right. United had broken into the UU side of the field and there was Andy Shank, an unpleasant man by all accounts and... surely that wasn't a normal footballing procedure. Other players had lined up around him. So he was running in the middle of a group of bodyguards. Even the other team members themselves did not seem to know what was going on, but Mr Shack nevertheless managed a creditable strike at the goal, which was expertly snatched out of the air by... Mister Nutt. He glanced at his crib-sheet, ah yes, the orc, and added in his notebook: 'who is clearly adept at grasping big round objects'. But then he felt ashamed and crossed it out. Despite where we are lying, he said to himself, we are not the gutter press.
Nutt danced back and forth outside his goal, trying to find someone who looked in a position to be able to do something with a ball.
'Can't hang around all day, Orc,' said Andy, staying in front of him. 'Got to let it go soon, Orc. Not much help for you now, is there, Orc? They say you've got claws. Show us your claws, Orc. That will bust your ball.'
'I believe that you are a man with unresolved issues, sir.'
Nutt dropkicked the ball over Andy's head and somewhere in the mob that fought for it there was a crunch, which was followed by a yell, which was followed by the whistle and the whistle was followed by the chant. It began somewhere in the region of Mrs Atkinson, but spread oh so quickly: 'Orc! Orc! Orc! Orc! Orc! Orc! Orc!'
Ridcully got to his feet, standing unsteadily. 'The buggers have got me, Henry,' he yelled, in a voice that could hardly be heard over the chant. 'Kneecap! Bloody kneecap!'
'Who did it?' the referee demanded.
'How should I know? It's a bloody mess, just like the old game! And can't you get them to stop that bloody chant? That's not the sort of thing we want to hear.'
Archchancellor Henry raised his megaphone. 'Mister Hoggett?'
The captain of United pushed his way through the rabble, looking very sheepish.
'Can't you control your fans?'
Hoggett shrugged. 'Sorry about that, sir, but what can you do?'
Henry looked around the Hippo. What could anyone do? It was the mob. The Shove. No one was in charge. It hadn't an arse to kick, a wrist to be slapped or even an address. It was just there and it was shouting because everybody else was.
'Well, then can you at least control your team?' he said. To his surprise Mr Hoggett looked down.
'Not entirely, sir. Sorry about that, sir, it's how things are.'
'One more incident of this kind and I will cancel the match. I suggest you leave the field of play, Mustrum. Who is the substitute captain?'
'Me!' said Ridcully, 'but under the circumstances I appoint Mister Nobbs as my deputy.'
'Not Nobby Nobbs?' exclaimed the former Dean.
'No relation,' said Bledlow Nobbs very quickly.
'Well, that was a good choice at least,' said Trev, sighing. 'Nobbsy is a clogger at heart.'
'But it's not supposed to be about clogging,' said Glenda. 'And you know what?' she added, raising her voice against the steel roar of the crowd. 'Whatever the old Dean thinks he can't stop the game, now. This place would just blow up!'
'You think so?' said Trev.
'Listen,' said Glenda. 'Yes, I think you're right. You ought to get out of here.'
'Me? Not a chance.'
'But you could make yourself useful and get Juliet out. Get her as far as Vimesy and his lot. I bet they're waiting right outside the gates. Do it right now while you can still get down the steps. Won't get a chance once they start to play again.'
As he left, Glenda walked unheeded down the touchline, to the little area where Dr Lawn was standing guard over his patients.
'You know that little bag you brought with you, sir?'
'I think you're going to need a bigger bag. How's Professor Macarona?'
The professor was lying on his back, staring at the sky and wearing an expression of bland happiness. 'Sorted him out easily enough,' said the doctor. 'He won't be playing again any time soon. I've given him a little something to make him happy. Correction, I have given him a big something to make him happy.'
'And the Librarian?'
'Well, I got a couple of lads to help me turn him upside down and he's been throwing up a lot. He's still pretty groggy, but I don't think it's too bad. He's as sick as a parrot.'
'This wasn't how it was supposed to go, you know,' said Glenda out of a feeling that she should defend the bloody mess.
'It generally isn't,' said the doctor.
They turned as the noise of the nearby crowd changed. Juliet was coming down the steps glittering. The silence followed her like a lovesick dog. So did Pepe and the reassuring bulk of Madame Sharn, who might be a useful barricade in case the Hippo became a cauldron. Trev, tagging along behind them, seemed like an afterthought in comparison.
'All right, dear, what's this all about?' said Pepe.
'I ain't going,' said Juliet, 'not while Trev's in here. I ain't leaving without Trev. Pepe says he's going to win the match.'
'What have you been saying?' said Glenda.
'He'll win,' said Pepe, winking. 'He's got a star in his hand. You want to see him do it, missy?'
'What are you playin' at?' said Trev, angrily.
'Oh, I'm a bit of a conjurer, me. Or maybe a fairy godmother.' Pepe gestured around the arena. 'See that lot? Their ancestors screamed to see men killing one another and beasts tearing decent folks apart. Men with spears fighting men with nets and all that kind of ugly shite.'
'And they have cart-tail sales here every other Sunday,' added Glenda.
'It's always been the same,' said Pepe. 'It's one big creature. Never dies. Crying and screaming and loving and hating all down the generations and you can't tame it and you can't stop it. Just for you, young lady, and for the soul of Mister Trev, I'm going to throw it a bone. Won't take a mo'.'
His slim and slightly spidery form disappeared back up the steps just as the whistle blew. Glenda made out Bledlow Nobbs taking the kick, but Ridcully had made the mistake of thinking that a man who was as big as he was was as clever as he was. And there it was, it was the old game all over again. United were stampeding down the pitch, the old cloggers making way for Andy's army as they bore down against Nutt. The kick took him in the chest and lifted him into the back of the goal. The whistle blew and was followed by, 'DON'T TOUCH THAT, BOYO! YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE IT'S BEEN!' which was followed by, 'I really am very sorry about that, I don't know why it happens,' which was followed by... absolute silence.
Which was broken by one voice, 'Likely. Likely. Likely.' It started up in the stand, somewhere near where Pepe had gone.
The beast had forgotten the name 'Orc', but certainly remembered the name 'Likely', a name that had fed it so often, a name it had given birth to and eaten, a name that was football, the very heart of the beast. And here, on this broken field, it was a name to conjure with. 'LIKELY! LIKELY! LIKELY!' Hardly a grown man hadn't seen him. He was the legend. Even after all these years, it was a name that cut through other loyalties. You told your grandchildren about him. You told them how he lay there bleeding and maybe how you dipped your handkerchief in his blood and kept it for a souvenir.
'Likely,' intoned the baritone of Madame Sharn.
'Likely,' whispered Glenda and then 'LIKELY!' She could see the little figure running along the top of the stands, the chant tailing after it.
Tears streamed down Trev's face. Mercilessly, Glenda looked him in the eye. 'Likely! Likely!'
'But my ol' mum!' Trev wept.
Then Juliet leaned over and kissed him and for a moment, the tears were silver. 'Likely?'
Trev stood clutching and unclutching his hands as the chant went on, then he gave a sort of shrug. Then he took his battered tin can out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Glenda, before turning to face the pitch again. 'I'm sorry, Mum,' he said, taking off his jacket, 'but this is football. And I don't even have a jersey.'
'We thought of that,' said Glenda. 'When they were being made.' She pulled one out of the depths of her bag.