Although it has nothing much to do with the story, it is an interesting fact that, about five hundred miles away, a small flock, or rather in this case a herd, of birds were picking their way cautiously through the trees. They had heads like a flamingo, bodies like a turkey, and legs like a Sumo wrestler; they walked in a jerky, bobbing fashion, as though their heads were attached to their feet by elastic bands. They belonged to a species unique even among Disc fauna, in that their prime means of defence was to cause a predator to laugh so much that they could run away before it recovered. Rincewind would have been vaguely satisfied to know that they were geas.
Custom was slow in the Mended Drum. The troll chained to the doorpost sat in the shade and reflectively picked someone out of his teeth.
Creosote was singing softly to himself. He had discovered beer and wasn’t having to pay for it, because the coinage of compliments – rarely employed by the swains of Ankh – was having an astonishing effect on the landlord’s daughter. She was a large, good-natured girl, with a figure that was the colour and, not to put too fine a point on it, the same shape as unbaked bread. She was intrigued. No-one had ever referred to her breasts as jewelled melons before.
Absolutely,’ said the Seriph, sliding peacefully off his bench, ‘no doubt about it.’ Either the big yellow sort or the small green ones with huge warty veins, he told himself virtuously.
‘And what was that about my hair?’ she said encouragingly, hauling him back and refilling his glass.
‘Oh.’ The Seriph’s brow wrinkled. ‘Like a goat of flocks that grazes on the slopes of Mount Wossname, and no mistake. And as for your ears,’ he added quickly, ‘no pink-hued shells that grace the sea-kissed sands of-’
‘Exactly how like a flock of goats?’ she said.
The Seriph hesitated. He’d always considered it one of his best lines. Now it was meeting Ankh-Morpork’s famous literal-mindedness head-on for the first time. Strangely enough, he felt rather impressed.
‘I mean, in size, shape or smell?’ she went on.
‘I think,’ said the Seriph, ‘that perhaps the phrase I had in mind was exactly not like a flog of gits.’
‘Ah?’ The girl pulled the flagon towards her.
And I think perhaps I would like another drink,’ he said indistinctly, ‘and then – and then-’ He looked sideways at the girl, and took the plunge. Are you much of a raconteur?’
He licked his suddenly dry lips. ‘I mean, do you know many stories?’ he croaked.
‘Oh, yes. Lots.’
‘Lots?’ whispered Creosote. Most of his concubines only knew the same old one or two.
‘Hundreds. Why, do you want to hear one?’
‘If you like. It’s not very busy in here.’
Perhaps I did die, Creosote thought. Perhaps this is Paradise. He took her hands. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘it’s ages since I’ve had a good narrative. But I wouldn’t want you to do anything you don’t want to.’
She patted his arm. What a nice old gentleman, she thought. Compared to some we get in here.
‘There’s one my granny used to tell me. I know it backwards,’ she said.
Creosote sipped his beer and watched the wall in a warm glow. Hundreds, he thought. And she knows some of them backwards.
She cleared her throat, and said, in a sing-song voice that made Creosote’s pulse fuse. ‘There was a man and he had eight sons-’
The Patrician sat by his window, writing. His mind was full of fluff as far as the last week or two was concerned, and he didn’t like that much.
A servant had lit a lamp to dispel the twilight, and a few early evening moths were orbiting it. The Patrician watched them carefully. For some reason he felt very uneasy in the presence of glass but that, as he stared fixedly at the insects, wasn’t what bothered him most.
What bothered him was that he was fighting a terrible urge to catch them with his tongue.
And Wuffles lay on his back at his master’s feet, and barked in his dreams.
Lights were going on all over the city, but the last few strands of sunset illuminated the gargoyles as they helped one another up the long climb to the roof.
The Librarian watched them from the open door, while giving himself a philosophic scratch. Then he turned and shut out the night.
It was warm in the Library. It was always warm in the Library, because the scatter of magic that produced the glow also gently cooked the air.
The Librarian looked at his charges approvingly, made his last rounds of the slumbering shelves, and then dragged his blanket underneath his desk, ate a goodnight banana, and fell asleep.
Silence gradually reclaimed the Library. Silence drifted around the remains of a hat, heavily battered and frayed and charred around the edges, that had been placed with some ceremony in a niche in the wall. No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat.
Silence filled the University in the same way that air fills a hole. Night spread across the Disk like plum jam, or possibly blackberry preserve.
But there would be a morning. There would always be another morning.