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23 June 2009 @ 12:07 am
Birthday Discworld Fic for Silvercobwebs!  

A very Happy Birthday to silvercobwebs! This is a little Discworld ficlet just for you, I hope you enjoy it. It’s my first time writing for Fred and Nobby, so fingers crossed I do them justice.

Big thanks to aeron_lanartfor easing my paranoia ;-).

Disclaimer: Discworld, Nobby and Fred all belong to the genius of Terry Pratchett, I’m just borrowing them for a while, no harm intended, no profit made.

A Soft Day’s Night

Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs were on watch at the main gate of Ankh Morpork. They did this as little as humanly possible, because if anything disastrous was likely to happen at any of the gates, it was bound to happen at the main gate and when they were on duty[1]. But, every now and then, they were rostered to gate duty and unable to bribe/bully/cajole a rookie into swapping with them. This was just such a night.

It was pouring with rain, the kind of heavy rain that assaulted the unwary and only mad dogs and Watchmen went out in, which actually made it quite pleasant for the two Watchmen, huddled for warmth under the lean-to that served as a guard house with nothing to do but watch the rain and smoke. It was twelve o’clock and all was well[2] when Nobby took a drag on his cigarette and then spoke.


“Yes, Nobby?” replied Sergeant Colon without coughing. This was no mean feat as he was simultaneously taking a draw on the damp dog end that hung from his bottom lip whilst rolling his next between his fingers.

“D’you ever wonder why?” Nobby asked in a voice that was all too innocent coming from Corporal Nobby Nobbs.

“Why what?” Fred asked, with a sinking feeling that he knew where this was going.

“Just why. Y’know; why are we here? Why is the world flat? Stuff like that,” Nobby replied.

Fred took a deep drag on his fag end before tossing it into the little stream that had formed at the edge of the road. He watched it dance on the currents for a moment as the light from the embers was put out by the rain. He had no idea why Nobby was asking these questions. Over the thirty years they’d known each other, Nobby had never previously shown any sign of being <i>philosophical</i>, except possibly at closing time.

“Oh. Sometimes, Nobby. On a dark, wet watch like this one, the mind can’t help but wander.”

“What do you do?”

“That’s what scumble was invented for.”

Nobby was silent for a few moments, presumably digesting what Fred had said. Fred pulled out his matchbook and lit the cigarette he had just rolled before beginning work on another. Nobby was just staring out into the street, a blank, glassy look in his eyes that was beginning to worry Fred.

“I just think that stuff is best left to priests and wizards, Nobby. There’s no point the likes of us thinking about questions like that because it’ll drive you nuts, and even if we did find the answer, how would we know?” Fred explained with a grin as he expertly licked the end of the paper to seal the roly and placed it behind his ear. Nobby looked up at him and nodded thoughtfully, and then grinned.

“And who’d believe us if we told ‘em?”


Fred leaned back, satisfied that he’d successfully avoided a potential disaster. It didn’t do for people like Nobby to start philosophising. It gave them ideas, and morals. Nobby was a good Watchman precisely because he didn’t have any. He thought the same kind of sneaky that criminals did, which made him the perfect man to catch them[3]. If he started agonising over the whys of the universe, he’d be no good to anyone.

“Lot of energy coming off the University tonight,” Nobby commented. Fred followed his gaze in the direction of the Unseen University and nodded.

The tower of Unseen University was the tallest building in Ankh Morpork, and visible from almost any spot. The area around it was always lit with an octarine glow from the excess magic that permeated the place, but tonight it radiated from the High Energy Magic building in waves.

“That’ll be that High Energy Magic lot again, I expect. We only need to worry if it starts shooting off purple lightning,” Fred pointed out.

At that moment, a large white horse and rider came galloping through the gate[4], which was not an unusual occurrence if you’ve been in the Watch as long as Nobby and Fred.

“He seemed in a hurry,” Nobby commented.

Fred was about to answer, but was forestalled by a loud explosion coming from the direction of the University.

“Ah,” they both said in unison.

They went back to standing in silence, the only sound the thump of the rain on the corrugated roof.

“Sarge…” Nobby began. Fred just murmured. “Is it me, or has He put on weight again?”

“See, that right there, Nobby, is one of those questions not to ask,” Fred pointed out sagely.

“Fair enough,” Nobby answered and lapsed back into easy silence. After a few moments he added, “Wonder if Throat’s about. I’m starving, could just go for a sausage-inna-bun. Want one?” Nobby asked. Fred shuddered and shook his head. “Okay, Sarge, be back in a jiff[5].”

With that, Nobby sloped off into the shadows with the deceptive speed of the self-preservationist. Nobby wasn’t a coward, but he could always put on a fair turn of speed if called on[6].

It was this drive for self-preservation that left Fred utterly bewildered to Nobby’s penchant for C.M.O.T Dibbler’s sausage-inna-bun. Like all coppers, Fred had a cast-iron colon (if you’ll pardon the pun), but Dibbler’s sausage could rust such a constitution at thirty paces. It was allegedly pig, although if it was then Fred thought someone ought to double check who the father was. It wasn’t food, it was biological warfare.

Yet the people of Ankh Morpork kept buying them and, worse still, eating them, despite the health warnings the Patrician had forced Dibbler to put up. Fred suspected some people ate them <i>because</i> of the warnings[7].

A forlorn and empty-handed Nobby shuffled his way back under the lean-to a few moments later and shook of the rain from his helmet before resume his position next to Fred.

“He wasn’t there,” Nobby moaned, examining his tunic, probably in the hopes of finding food concealed there[8]. “Dolly said he’d gone home cos his buns had got soggy.”

“Here,” Fred said amiably, pulling an old and battered wooden hip flask from under his breastplate. “This’ll fill you up a bit.”

“Scumble? On duty?!” Nobby exclaimed, eyeing the flask as though it might explode[9].

“Don’t be daft; Mr. Vimes’d have our hides. It’s just Ramtops[10] whisky[11]; I keep it in the wooden flask to stop people nicking it. Nobody’s mad enough to risk carrying scumble, and you know what the Watch House is like. Anything that’s not nailed down…”

“Is free for the taking,” Nobby finished and gratefully took a swig from the proffered flask.

Fred did the same before replacing it in his uniform.

“No harm in a wee dram to keep out the cold,” Fred said.

“Practically medicinal,” Nobby concurred, nodding his head.

Fred and Nobby leaned back against the wall and both lit another cigarette. Fred took a deep long drag and let it out in a slow satisfied breath. All across Ankh Morpork, clocks began to chime the hour. One o’clock and all was well.


[1] Therefore, it was only logical to conclude that in avoiding gate duty they were actually being incredibly patriotic.
[2] Not that either one would actually declare that fact. They weren’t suicidal.
[3] Or avoid them if that’s what the occasion called for.
[4] It’s important to note that the gate was closed but the rider passed through it unhindered.
[5] A jiff is of course exactly equal to half a mo.
[6] Usually in exactly the opposite direction of the person calling him.
[7] It’s a Universal Truth that there will always be people (generally, though not exclusively, young) who are willing to try something because it might kill them, just for the adrenaline rush. These people are called morons.
[8] Of which there was a fair chance, providing the lice or rats hadn’t got to it first.
[9] Which is always a serious risk with scumble.
[10] Whisky is produced in several places across the Disc, even Fourecks, but it is generally those countries in the vicinity of the Ramtops that are known to produce the original and finest. There is debate amongst scholars as to the precise origins of the drink, most agree it was probably in actual fact Llamedos, but those who disagree have bigger weapons so they just say ‘Ramtops’.
[11] Legend has it that the name for whisky derives from the Dwarvish for ‘water of life’. This is incorrect. It derives from the habit of those unwary drinkers who, under the influence of the amber liquid, proclaim ‘was gae argh!’ as a dwarf axe finds itself buried in his skull.
Black Rook: cutiegrachonok on June 23rd, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's them:).

Lovely piece, I liked it:).
But, I don't want to be a pie,: librarianidontlikegravy on June 24th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

(I swear, Susan is currently top of my to-do list. It's just she's being bloody-minded and refuses to be written!)

Glad you liked it. :)
Kay: Death -- FANCY A CURRY?silvercobwebs on June 23rd, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much once again! Of course I love it, love Nobby getting all philosophical, and especially the footnotes regarding 'whisky' (whch was inspired *g*).

You are a brilliant, talented and incredibly generous friend. *hugs*
But, I don't want to be a pie,: pleased hamsteridontlikegravy on June 24th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)

Well, it helps to have someone fantastic to write for and act as inspiration. :)

I'm overjoyed that you like it *hugs*
(Deleted comment)
But, I don't want to be a pie,: pleased hamsteridontlikegravy on July 1st, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
rorunaroruna on June 29th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
that was wonderful.

Love these lines:
“Oh. Sometimes, Nobby. On a dark, wet watch like this one, the mind can’t help but wander.”
“What do you do?”
“That’s what scumble was invented for.”

and this one:
“Is it me, or has He put on weight again?”
But, I don't want to be a pie,: pleased hamsteridontlikegravy on July 1st, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much for popping by, and for commenting. I'm really pleased you enjoyed it so much. :)

The other Weird Al: Discworld - DEATHaeron_lanart on January 7th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
I just realised I never actually commented on this after you posted it. Stupid shifts. If I didn't tell you at the time, I love it, the footnotes as always adding another dimension to it - #11 giving me a particular grin - and I think you know I thought the "he's put on weight again" comment was wonderful.
But, I don't want to be a pie,: deathidontlikegravy on January 7th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
You did tell me at the time, which I'm intensely grateful for because I was nervous about posting a Discworld fic that I couldn't hide behind my crack!shield for (ie if it's rubbish it doesn't matter cos it's only crack!). But thanks for saying it again :)
jolinar_rosha: kirk loljolinar_rosha on January 8th, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
I missed this! Yay for your year in fic post!

Ah, Nobby... You gotta love him! And the footnotes were just hilarious! Lovely, funny fic!
But, I don't want to be a pie,: librarianidontlikegravy on January 8th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much hon! :)