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Mort passed night watchmen, whose job now appeared to consist of ringing bells and shouting the name of the Princess, but a little uncertainly, as if they had difficulty remembering it. He ignored them, because he was listening to voices inside his head which went:
She's only met you once, you fool. Why should she bother about you?
Yes, but I did save her life.
That means it belongs to her. Not to you. Besides, he's a wizard.
So what? Wizards aren't supposed to – to go out with girls, they're celebrate… .
They're not supposed to youknow… .
What, never any youknow at all? said the internal voice, and it sounded as if it was grinning.
It's supposed to be bad for the magic, thought Mort bitterly.
Funny place to keep magic.
Mort was shocked. Who are you? he demanded.
I'm you, Mort. Your inner self.
Well, I wish I'd get out of my head, it's quite crowded enough with me in here.
Fair enough, said the voice, I was only trying to help. But remember, if you ever need you, you're always around.
The voice faded away.
Well, thought Mort bitterly, that must have been me. I'm the only one that calls me Mort.
The shock of the realisation quite obscured the fact that, while Mort had been locked into the monologue, he had ridden right through the gates of the palace. Of course, people rode through the gates of the palace every day, but most of them needed the things to be opened first.
The guards on the other side were rigid with fear, because they thought they had seen a ghost. They would have been far more frightened if they had known that a ghost was almost exactly what they hadn't seen.
The guard outside the doors of the great hall had seen it happen too, but he had time to gather his wits, or such that remained, and raise his spear as Binky trotted across the courtyard.
'Halt,' he croaked. 'Halt. What goes where?'
Mort saw him for the first time.
'What?' he said, still lost in thought.
The guard ran his tongue over his dry lips, and backed away. Mort slid off Binky's back and walked forward.
'I meant, what goes there?' the guard tried again, with a mixture of doggedness and suicidal stupidity that marked him for early promotion.
Mort caught the spear gently and lifted it out of the way of the door. As he did so the torchlight illuminated his face.
'Mort,' he said softly.
It should have been enough for any normal soldier, but this guard was officer material.
'I mean, friend or foe?' he stuttered, trying to avoid Mort's gaze.
'Which would you prefer?' he grinned. It wasn't quite the grin of his master, but it was a pretty effective grin and didn't have a trace of humour in it.
The guard sagged with relief, and stood aside.