“Things are going well outside,” he said. “Shame you aren’t all out there, eh? Still, the truth’s important too, right? And that’s what this tribunal is for, no doubt about it. It must be important, the truth, else you wouldn’t be here, am I right? ‘course I am.”
Jackrum finished the cut, palmed the stuff into his mouth and got it comfortable in a cheek, while the sounds of battle filtered through from outside. Then he turned and walked towards the major who had just spoken. The man cringed a little in his chair.
“What’ve you got to say about the truth, Major Derbi?” said Jackrum conversationally. “Nothing? Well, then, what shall I say? What shall I say about a captain who turned and ran sobbing when we came across a column of Zlobenians, deserting his own men? Shall I say that ol’ Jackrum tripped him up and pummeled him a bit and put the fear of… Jackrum into him, and he went back and ‘twas a famous victory he had that day, over two enemies, one of them being in his own head. And he came to ol’ Jackrum again, drunk with battle, and said more’n he ought…”
“You bastard,” said the major softly.
“Shall I tell the truth today… Janet?” said Jackrum.
The sounds of battle were suddenly much louder. They poured into the room like the water rushing to fill a hole in the ocean floor, but all the sound in the world could not have filled that sudden, tremendous silence.
Jackrum strolled on towards another man. “Good to see you here, Colonel Cumabund!” he said cheerfully. “O’ course, you were only Lieutenant Cumabund when I was under your command. Plucky lad you were, when you led us against that detachment of Kopelies. And then you took a nasty sword wound in the fracas, or just above, and I got you through with rum and cold water, and found that plucky you might be, but lad you weren’t. Oh, how you gabbled away in your feverish delirium… Yes, you did. That’s the truth… Olga.”
He stepped round the table and started to stroll along behind the officers; those he passed stared woodenly ahead, not daring to turn, not daring to make any movement that would attract attention.
“You could say I know something about all of yez,” he said. “Quite a lot about some of you, just enough about most of you. A few of you, well, I could write a book.” He paused just behind Froc, who stiffened.
“Jackrum, I–” he began.
Jackrum put a hand on each of Froc’s shoulders. “Fourteen miles, sir. Two nights, ‘cos we lay up by day, the patrols were that thick. Cut about pretty dreadful, you were, but you got better nursing from me than any sawbones, I’d bet.” He leaned forward until his mouth was level with the general’s ear, and continued in a stage whisper: “What is there left about you that I don’t know? So… are you really looking for the truth… Mildred?”
– on truths |
Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment