Foreword: This is one of the Desk Drawer stories. It is loosely
based on someone else's idea. It is half-baked. All in all, it's my take
on what could have happened in the alternate reality mentioned in Jingo,
which definitely is not good. I was afraid even to think about that alternative,
so it's been written without much thinking. There.
(And damn whoever suggested writing a story from Lord Vetinari's point of view '-)
Disclaimers: Discworld, everybody and everything related belong to Terry Pratchett, who manages to write even AU into his novels. The blinking world concept belongs to Messrs. Oldie. And the innuendo... What innuendo?
by Miss Malice
The city burned. And though it often did so in its eventful history, there was finality to this fire. A feeling of ultimate destruction. It just was in the air (as they say).
So was he, in a way. When your head lies neatly beside your body, and that is on another continent, it's always hard to say where and how you are.
Well, he was home.
Something above exploded in a shower of sparks that flew right through him, setting, as it seemed, fire to the air itself. To his senses, limited now to sight, hearing, and the sixth one, roaring fire felt like a rather pleasant spiritual tingle. He stretched out an arm and for a few seconds watched confused flames dance on his fingertips.
It rained ashes, dust, and some more fire.
His unsubstantial self floated down a street. A group of soot-covered citizens walked towards and, eventually, through him. Walked, with empty eyes and stunned expressions of those who have just seen it all.
Yes, that would be the end, then. Of course, something would go on. It would be big, if only a big site of fire for a start, and it might, eventually, become great. In a way it would certainly be fascinating. Only it would never be the same. The wretched, the magnificent place had a spirit, and that spirit was going up in flames and down in ashes, trodden on by the unsuspecting invaders.
The clever ones understood that, didn't they, a week ago, when they had only started to win. His memory of a hand absently traveled to his memory of the neck. Public executions can serve an example, but this one had been served with a short temper...
The world around refused to fade away. He stopped for a while to admire the burning palace. A part of him found the idea of a ghost of a man haunting a ghost of a house oddly amusing. The other part, the one responsible for the steady pull binding his soul, thought it would be interesting to stay. And the third part... The third part, acutely aware of all things unaccomplished and broken, kept reminding him that he was dead tired.
There was a subtle shift, a silken whisper of almost-but-not-quite reality. The world blinked.
"You were right, you know," he addressed the apparent void. "It was a Woman of a city."
They flickered out of the shades and stood beside him in their shining battered armor. The Crown and the Sword, indeed, the former being incredibly sad beneath his regal calm, the latter... well, disgruntled. What, his burning eyes seemed to inquire, are we, and especially you, sir, doing here instead of enjoying our personal hells?
He shrugged. "It is... symbolic. This is, I suppose, the way History is being properly made."
"Yes," said the Crown, never taking his eyes off the impressive panorama. "What happened?"
"Something I happened to be late to prevent."
Invisible wind ruffled their hair. War, in all senses, stank.
"We might still have won," grimly cut in the Sword of Justice.
The remains of the roof caved in.
"Oh, you mean we would not have lost."
Above the smouldering sea of black, red and gray they silently shared the experience. It was simply down to having to know.
"Oh," they said, because sometimes the word's worth it.
"It was a good plan," they said.
"I am sorry," they said, and stared suspiciously at each other...
...And the world blinked again. History, apparently, has been baked well.
They were History.
Red-hot reality flooded back to where they non-existed a split second ago.
On the seamy side of it, where the standard laws of time and space did not quite apply, said laws were nevertheless violated by a hand landing heavily on a shoulder. Some blue sparks cracked.
"And what happened to you?" What you happened to finally be unable to slither your way out of.
He explained, with one classic gesture.
"Yes. Personally I would have preferred it done by you."
He smiled. "To be sure I deserved it."
The world squeezed its eyes tightly shut and shook its head...
In the hell of the palace an apparition stood on the cracked steps. It sported ghostly glasses and a noose on its thin neck. Through the broken lenses it watched History making one final point. Then it smiled faintly, adjusted the memory of the glasses on the memory of the face - and faded away.