"Er," he said, without moving his head, "what, precisely, am I talking to?"
"I'm a wossname. Tip of my tongue. Begins with a P."
Rincewind turned around slowly.
"You're a parrot?" he said.
Rincewind stared at the thing on the perch. It had one eye that glittered like a ruby. Most of the rest of it was pink and purple skin, studded with the fag-ends of feathers, so that the net effect was of an oven-ready hairbrush. It jiggled arthritically on its perch and then slowly lost its balance, until it was hanging upside down.
"I thought you were stuffed," said Rincewind.
"Up yours, wizard."
Rincewind ignored it and crept over to the window. It was small, but gave out on to a gently sloping roof. And out there was a real life, real sky, real buildings. He reached out to open the shutters - A crackling current coursed up his arm and earthed itself in his cerebellum.
He sat on the floor, sucking his fingers.
"He tole you," said the parrot, swinging backwards and forwards upside down. "But you wouldn't wossname. He's got you by the wossnames."
"But it should only work on demons!"
"Ah," said the parrot, achieving enough momentum to swing upright again, whereupon it steadied itself with the stubby remains of what had once been wings. "It's all according, isn't it. If you come in the door marked 'wossnames' that means you get treated as a wossname, right? Demon, I mean. Subject to all the rules and wossnames. Tough one for you."
"But you know I'm a wizard, don't you!"
The parrot gave a squawk. "I've seen 'em, mate. The real McWossname. Some of the ones we've had in here, they'd make you choke on your millet. Great scaly fiery wossnames. Took weeks to get the soot off the walls," it added, in an approving tone of voice. "That was in his granddad's day, of course. The kid hasn't been any good at it. Up to now. Bright lad. I blame the wossnames, parents. New money, you know. Wine business. Spoil him rotten, let him play with his wossname's old stuff, 'Oh, he's such an intelligent lad, nose always in a book'," the parrot mimicked. "They never give him any of the things a sensitive growing wossname really needs, if you was to ask me."
"What you mean love and guidance?" said Rincewind.
I was thinking of a bloody good wossname, thrashing," said the parrot. Rincewind clutched at his aching head. If this was what demons usually had to go through, no wonder they were always so annoyed.
"Polly want a biscuit," said the parrot vaguely, in much the same way as a human would say "Er" or "As I was saying", and went on, "His granddad was keen on it. That and his pigeons."
"Pigeons," said Rincewind "Not that he was particularly successful. It was all a bit trial and
"I thought you said great big scaly -
"Oh, yes. But that wasn't what he was after. He was trying to conjure up a succubus." It should be impossible to leer when all you've got is a beak, but the parrot managed it. "That's a female demon what comes in the night and makes mad passionate wossn -"
"I've heard of them," said Rincewind. "Bloody dangerous things."
The parrot put its head on one side. "It never worked. All he ever got was a neuralger."
"It's a demon that comes and has a headache at you."