Two things have traditionally puzzled vampire researchers. One is: why do vampires have so much power? Vampires’re so easy to kill, they point out. There are dozens of ways to despatch them, quite apart from the stake through the heart, which also works on normal people so if you have any stakes left over you don’t have to waste them. Clasically, they spent the day in some coffin somewhere, with no guard other than an elderly hunchback who doesn’t look all that spry, and should succumb to quite a small mob. Yet just one can keep a whole community in a state of sullen obedience…
The other puzzle is: why are vampires always so stupid? As if wearing evening dress all day wasn’t an undead giveaway, why do they choose to live in old castles which offer so much in the way of ways to defeat a vampire, like easily torn curtains and wall decorations that can readily be twisted into a religious symbol? Do they really think that spelling their name backwards fools anyone?
Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all the time and handed on the fight to their descendants. The chips on some shoulders had been passed down for generations. Some had antique value. A bloody good grudge, Lancre reckoned, was like a fine old wine. You looked after it carefully and left it to your children.
Oats had gone on to be fully ordained, but he’d progresed from Slightly Reverend to Quite Reverend a troubled young man. He’d wanted to discuss his findings with someone, but there were so many schisms going on that no one would stand still long enough to listen. The hammering of clerics as they nailed their own versions of the truth of Om on the temple doors was deafening, and for a brief while he’d even contemplated buying a roll of paper and a hammer of his own and putting his name on the waiting list for the doors, but he’d overruled himself.
‘Er… Hodgesaargh, you do know vampires suck people’s blood, do you?’
‘Yes, miss? They’ll have to queue up behind the birds for mine, then.’
‘And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
Oats sighed. ‘Many people find faith a great solace,’ he said. He wished he was one of them.
‘Really? Somehow I thought you’d argue.’
‘It’s not my place to tell ‘em what to believe, if they act decent.’
‘But it’s not something that you feel drawn to, perhaps, in the darker hours?’
‘No. I’ve already got a hot water bottle.’
‘I ain’t been vampired. You’ve been Weatherwaxed.’
‘Is it a true bird or is it something that exists within a—’
‘It’s a thing that is,’ said Granny sharply. ‘Don’t go spilling allegory all down your shirt.’
DOWN, BOY! DOWN, I SAY! WILL YOU STOP— LET GO! LET GO THIS MINUTE! ALL RIGHT, LOOK . . . FETCH? FETCH? THERE WE GO . . .
Death watched Scraps bound away.
He wasn’t used to this. It wasn’t that people weren’t sometimes glad to see him, because the penultimate moments of life were often crowded and complex and a cool figure in black came as something of a relief. But he’d never encountered quite this amount of enthusiasm or, if it came to it, this amount of flying mucus. It was disconcerting. It made him feel he wasn’t doing his job properly.