In the seventeenth and penultimate part of Feet of Clay, Vimes confronts the perpetrator of chaos. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
GOD, WHAT A SPECTACLE. It’s now clear to me how Pratchett probably wanted both of these conversations to mirror one another. Dragon and Vetinari speak to Vimes through subtext; they rarely, if ever, come outright with what they mean. Instead, Vimes is meant to infer what is stated, though he himself is far more blunt. The results of both conversations are fascinating to me, so LET’S DISCUSS THIS.
Dragon King of Arms
Much like Vimes, the reader has, at this point in the book, practically everything to piece this mystery together. Yet this was a great way to communicate why we still needed just a bit more:
He didn’t have any evidence. No real evidence at all. He’d had an interview with an almost incoherent Corporal Nobbs, who hadn’t really seen anything. He had nothing that wouldn’t burn away like the fog in the morning. All he’d got were a few suspicions and a lot of coincidences, leaning against one another like a house of cards with no card on the bottom.
And the Dragon was that final piece. How did he glue this story together into a coherent whole? So, with the newly reformed Dorfl (YES YES YES YES, I LOVE THAT PRATCHETT DID NOT ACTUALLY KILL HIM OFF), Vimes goes off to make his last arrest in this case. Initially, Dragon is utterly nonplussed by Vimes and his theory. (I do mean the North American usage of the word “nonplussed,” for the record. It means literally the opposite pretty much every where else. THANKS, ENGLISH.) That’s unsurprising; there’s no reason why Dragon needs to admit to anything, and with a lack of any real evidence implicating him, Dragon isn’t going to admit the truth.
Yet prior to the arrest, I could still see what Vimes was doing: tying up the loose ends for himself and, in that act, doing the same thing for the reader. I needed Vimes to confront Dragon about the Easy murders, and lord, that exchange was horrifying:
“To start with, complicity in the murders of Mrs. Flora Easy and the child William Easy.
“I am afraid those names mean nothing to me.”
Vimes finger twitched on the bow’s trigger. “No,” he said, breathing deeply. “They probably don’t.”
Which is the whole reason this is so upsetting for Vimes. These deaths don’t mean anything to Dragon. They were senseless murders committed for a senseless reason. What reason is that? Well, not just to poison Vetenari in order to test run Nobby as a possible king; I figured that out not too long before this. Here, Pratchett introduces a completely new motivation for Dragon’s actions: breeding. Yeah, there’s a reason Dragon has been so involved with heraldry; he wants the purest bloodlines to drink from. Yes, it’s important that he and many others wanted a king that they could control, which they thought they’d found in Nobby. Nobby was in the Watch, he fit the legends, and Dragon was able to fake his heraldry to convince others. (Though I find it hilarious that Vimes never truly believed that Nobby was a nob.)
Dragon was the person to go to about royal marriage or perfect family bloodlines, and he has been quietly manipulating people to view him as the authority on the subject. (I still think he’s drinking their blood somehow, but it’s left unsaid.) Thus, it’s enraging to him that everything is so much less neat these days. How could Sybil Ramkin marry Samuel Vimes? How could Carrot be with a werewolf??? It’s scandalous to him, isn’t it? HOW DARE THE BLOODLINES BE MIXED.
Thus, I found it immensely satisfying that Vimes used Dragon’s own idea against him. Look, we don’t even know if Vimes actually had Cheri dip the wicks of the candles in holy water. (I suspect that the line about Dragon looking at the candles is confirmation that Vimes just wanted to trick Dragon, rather than actually do what he threatened.) All that matters is that Dorfl – Who Now Speaks With Lots of Authority – heard it all, and is the perfect person to arrest Dragon.
Yet the whole thing makes Vimes more introspective than I anticipated. It’s a very satisfying thing to read, though, because Vimes’ prejudice against vampires is put front-and-center in the text. He hates them, and that’s no secret. Yet he consciously chooses to not act out the dark things he things. He recognizes that as a Watchman, he plays a special role in society. He has responsibilities others don’t, and that matters:
Only crimes could take place in darkness. Punishment had to be done in the light. That was the job of a good Watchman, Carrot always said. To light a candle in the dark.
And what a fitting metaphor for a story where even candles were suspect.
I believe I’ve commented on this before, but the Patrician is largely an unchanging character within this world. I say largely because it’s not like he doesn’t make tiny changes. They’re just a lot more subtle than the development we get for pretty much everyone else. His decision to let Vimes figure out how he’d been poisoned, despite figuring it out himself, shows a sympathy that was honestly surprising to me. He kinda does like Vimes in a unique way, doesn’t he? I wouldn’t say that they’re like… friends or anything. But Vimes suits him and his purposes, and he does offer something to Vimes in return.
I just love whenever these two talk because their conversations are so layered. And I know I’ve said that before, and that technically makes this repetitious, but GUESS WHO CARES not me. Vimes is aware he’s mostly being used to serve the Patrician’s ends, but he also has the satisfaction of his conscience and the ability to say no to Vetinari without immediately being executed. Vimes gets a small pleasure from that. I mean, I would, too!
ALSO: VIMES BURNT DOWN THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ARMS. BY “ACCIDENT.” AND SAVED ALL THE HERALDRY ANIMALS AND TOOK THEM TO HIS HOUSE. AND PISSED OFF THE DRAGON KING OF ARMS. AND PRACTICALLY EVERY GUILD HOUSE. AND HE DOESN’T CARE BECAUSE HE FOUND JUSTICE FOR THE EASY FAMILY AND STOPPED DRAGON FROM INSTALLING A KING IN ANKH-MORPORK. Commander Vimes: overachiever, smug bastard, and overall champion of people. Bless his heart.
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