What is that smell?
Me, said Mort, simply
Ah. The stables. Death paused, his hand on the spine of
And why do you think I directed you to the stables?
Mort hesitated. Hehad been thinking carefully, in between counting wheelbarrows. He'd wondered if it had been to coordinate his hand and eye, or teach him the habit of obedience, or bringhometo him the imporatance, on the human scale, ofsmall tasks,or make him realise that even great men must start at the bottom. None of the explanations seemed exactly right.
I think ... he began
Well, I think it was because you were up to your knees in horseshit,
to tell the truth.
Death looked at him for a long time. Mort shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
Absolutelly correct, snapped Death.
Clarity of thought. Realistic approach. Very important in a job like ours.
Are you dead Albert?
Me? Do I look dead? The old man snorted when Mort started to give
him a slow, critical look,
and you can stop that. I'm as alive as you are.
In a figurative sense, he said
What does it mean?
Well, it means no, said Cutwell
But you said -
That was advertising, said the wizard.
It's a kind of magic I've
been working on. What was it you were wanting, anyway? He leered suggestively.
A love philtre, yes? Something to encourage the young ladies
Is it possible to walk through walls? said Mort desperately. Cutwell
paussed with his hand already halfway to a large bottle full of sticky liquid.
Um, said Mort
I don't think so.
Then pick very thin walls, said Cutwell.
Better still, use the door
The one over there would be favourite, if you just come here to waste my
Princess Keli awoke.
There had been a sound like someone making no noise at all. Forget peas and mattrasses - sheer natural selection had established over the years that the royal families that survived longest were those whose members could distinguish an assassin in the dark by the nose he was clever enough not to make, because in court circles, there was always someone ready to cut the hair with a knife.
Keli slid quietly out of bed, felt her way towards the fireplace, located the bundle of matches by the faint light from the dying fire, struck one in a burst of sulphurous smoke, lit a candle, found the pile of the dismembered armour, pulled its sword from its scababard and then nearly swallowed her tongue.
Someone had just blown hot and wetly in her ear.
That's Binky, said the heap.
He is just trying to be friendly.
I expect he'd like some hay, if you've got any.
With royal self-control, Keli said.
This is the fourth floor.
It's a lady's bedroom. You'd be amazed at how many horses we don't get up here.
There were few ocean-going ships on the Disc. No captain liked to venture out of sight of a coastline. It was a sorry fact that ships that looked from a distance as though they were going over the edge of the world weren't in fact disappearing over th horizon, they were in fact dropping over the edge of the world.
She beat on the door with renewed vigour, yelling with all the power in her lungs.
A voice by her ear said,
It won't work. He 'eef very fstubborn.
She looked around slowly and met the impertinent gaze of the doorknocker. It waggled its metal eyebrows at her and spoke indistinctly through its wrought-iron ring.
I am Princess Keli, heir to the throne of Sto Lat, she said haughtily,
holding down the lid on her terror.
And I don't talk to door furniture.
Fwell, I,m just a doorknocker and I can talk to fwhoever I
please, said the gargoyle pleasantly.
And I can ftell you the fmaster
iff having a trying day and duff fnot fwant to be disturbed. But you could
ftry to use the magic word, it added.
Coming from and attractiff fwoman
it works nine times out of eight.
Yes, but it's how you do it. I shall die nobly, like Queen Ezeriel.
Mort's forehead wrnikled. History was a closed book to him.
She lived in Klatch and she had a lot of lovers and she sat on a snake
said Cutwell, who was winding up the crosbow.
She meant to! She was crossed in love!
All I can remember was that she used to take bath in asses' milk. Funny
thing, history, said Cutwell reflectively.
You become a queen, reign
for thirty years, make laws, declare war on people and the only thing you get
remmebered for is that you smelled like youghurt and were bitten in the —
She's a distant ancestor of mine, snapped Keli.