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SUMMARY: The Watch have to spend Hogswatch in the Ramtops. This is awkward for Colon, but even more awkward for Angua.


Sergeant Colon was not a happy man. He'd been put in temporary command of the Watch, and he remembered exactly how well that had worked out for him the last time around. Besides, it was nearly Hogswatch, and any respectable family man wanted to be at home with the kiddies for Hogswatch. That said kiddies were in their thirties by now was more or less irrelevant.

"Nobby?" he asked his second-in-command, who was loitering round the door of his office.

"Yes, sarge?"

"Remind me again why we're doing this?"

Nobby's brow may have wrinkled; he had a complexion to which the word `lumpy' might have been generously applied, so it was a little hard to tell.

"Well, the Patrician packed `em all off to the Ramtops, didn't he? `Cos of whatever they found in that new mine that just opened."

"Yes, I know that, Nobby. What I meant is, why send all those officers? Why leave just us?"

"Well, Carrot had to go `cos he's from up there. Inside knowledge, like. And ol' Vimes had to go `cos it's Official, and where he goes his wife goes too. And she wanted Detritus, on account of she thinks he's a good babysitter."

Both of them paused for a moment while their brains refused to process that mental image.

"What about Sergeant Angua? They could have left her with us. She's useful in a tight spot, is Angua, for all she's of the female persuasion."

"Well, sarge..." Nobby scratched behind his ear. "I reckon that's due to tradition, like."

"What tradition?"

"Well, Carrot's from up there, right? And he and Angua are walking out, so to speak. And it's nearly Hogswatch."

"What are you getting at?"

Nobby grinned at him.

"I reckon she's gone to meet the parents."

~

At that moment, it was a decision that Angua was regretting. She'd laughed when she first found out the dwarves used to call Carrot `Head Banger'. She was beginning to feel unkind for it. She'd certainly been grateful for the protection of her Watch-issue helmet as she followed him through the twisting passages of Shaft #3, intermittently knocking her head on the low ceiling and wincing in sympathy whenever he did the same. She had to hunch over to an uncomfortable degree; he'd practically walked at right angles.

That being said, she's probably been less uncomfortable then than she was now, sitting across from Carrot's parents.

It wasn't that they were rude. They'd greeted her happily enough when she'd arrived, and she'd done her best to respond in kind, telling them, "H'kak skredsh drroughog ghrad nimkt."* Carrot had hidden something behind his hand which might have been amusement or mortification, but they'd just smiled and waved her through the door.

Now, though, Carrot was chatting cheerfully in dwarfish and she felt rather isolated, despite him remembering, every now and then, to fill her in on what they were talking about. It was possible that this was because they were talking over the technicalities of the new mine shaft's structure. But then, it might also have been due to the fact that while one of his parents (she hadn't figured out which was his mother and which his father, yet; they looked very much alike, down to the matching braids in their beards) was clearly absorbed in Carrot's conversation, the other seemed to be much more interested in staring at her; or at least, at her breastplate.

Angua sighed, and told herself that she was lucky to have in-laws who were less likely to complain about her armour than her lack of beard; how many women could say that?

At length, Carrot left, absorbed in conversation but promising to be back soon. The dwarf who'd been staring at Angua scooted closer.

"Your armour...." he said.

Angua nodded, a little warily.

"The way it -" Here he gave up on words, and made a gesture which indicated, in any language, `curves'.

Angua nodded again, increasingly certain that this situation was going to get desperately awkward.

The dwarf leaned in close, voice dropping conspiratorially.

"Do you think there's one my size anywhere?"

Well, Angua considered, she was right. This was going to be awkward, and Carrot was not going to be happy.

On the other hand, she now knew what to get his mother for Hogswatch.

~

Lady Sybil Vimes, nee Ramkin, was a lady of leisure, and always had been. She was also well-educated, shrewd, an excellent negotiator, and fluent in dwarfish, and Lord Vetinari knew this because he was in the business of knowing things. And therefore, while officially Ankh Morpork's negotiator for a new trade agreement with the Ramtops was His Grace Sir Samuel Vimes, in reality it was his wife who was spending long hours every day in meetings with the dwarf leaders, being sweet and strident by turns. And that left Vimes free to do what he liked doing best.

"'Twas the night before Hogswatch," he intoned softly, "And all through the city The people were drinking, and that was a pity, Because if they'd looked up to the cold skies that night They might have seen a quite wonderful sight...."

Young Sam gurgled at him happily while he read, his blanket stuffed into his mouth. His first tooth was just beginning to peek out, and chewing everything in sight was still an unalloyed delight to him. Well, he probably wouldn't try to gnaw on Detritus's finger again, as he's done that afternoon, but anything else was fair game. Vimes scooped the boy up, and sat him on his knee; this was the exciting part.

"Come Tusker! Come Snouter! Come Grunter and Gouger!"

Abruptly, Vimes became aware that his wife was watching him from the door. He finished the poem (rules were rules; you always finished the story), and got up to greet her, his arms full of their wriggling son. She planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

"Well, they're a stubborn lot, but I think we've come to an understanding," she said at last. Vimes mentally added, an understanding that you're even more stubborn. Poor bastards didn't stand a chance. "Ankh-Morpork will have a five percent concession when buying from the new treacle mine, rising to ten percent on very large purchases. And Ankh-Morpork traders will have first refusal on distributing the product as far as Sto Lat." She smiled at him. "We're done, Sam. We can go home for Hogswatch."

Vimes was glad enough of that; but as he watched her take Young Sam from him and carry him back to the crib, he felt at home already.

________

* "He/she/it is pleasant a meeting place of you."
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