men at arms (discworld #15) - Page 28

'Fighting?' said Carrot. 'Why?'

Quirke shrugged.

'Who knows?'

'Let me think now,' said Vimes. 'It could be something to do with a wrongful arrest. It could be something to do with some of the more restless dwarfs just needing any excuse to have a go at the trolls. What do you think, Quirke?'

'I don't think, Vimes.'

'Good man. You're just the type the city needs.'

Vimes stood up.

'I'll be going, then,' he said. 'I'll see you all tomorrow. If there is one.'

The door slammed behind him.

This hall was huge. It was the size of a city square, with pillars every few yards to support the roof. Tunnels radiated off it in every direction, and at various heights in the walls. Water trickled out of many of them, from small springs and underground streams.

That was the problem. The film of running water over the stone floor of the hall had wiped away traces of the footprints.

A very large tunnel, almost blocked with debris and silt, led off in what Cuddy was pretty sure was the direction of the estuary.

It was almost pleasant. There was no smell, other than a damp, under-a-stone mustiness. And it was cool.

'I've seen big dwarf halls in the mountains,' said Cuddy, 'but I've got to admit this is something else.' His voice echoed back and forth in the chamber.

'Oh, yes,' said Detritus, 'it's got to be something else, because it's not a dwarf hall in the mountains.'

'Can you see any way up?'


'We could have passed a dozen ways to the surface and not known it.'

'Yes,' said the troll. 'It's a knotty problem.'



'Did you know you're getting smarter again, down here in the cool?'


'Can you use it to think of a way out?'

'Digging?' the troll suggested.

There were fallen blocks here and there in the tunnels. Not many; the place had been well built . . .

'Nah. Haven't got a shovel,' said Cuddy.

Detritus nodded.

'Give me your breastplate,' he said.

He leaned it up against the wall. His fist pounded into it a few times. He handed it back. It was, more or less, shovel shaped.

'It's a long way up,' Cuddy said doubtfully.

'But we know the way,' said Detritus. 'It's either that, or stay down here eating rat for rest of your life.'

Cuddy hesitated. The idea had a certain appeal. . .

'Without ketchup,' Detritus added.

'I think I saw a fallen stone just a way back there,' said the dwarf.

Captain Quirke looked around the Watch room with the air of one who was doing the scenery a favour by glancing at it.

'Nice place, this,' he said. 'I think we'll move in here. Better than the quarters near the Palace.'

'But we're here,' said Sergeant Colon.

'You'll just have to squash up,' said Captain Quirke.

He glanced at Angua. Her stare was getting on his nerves.

'There'll be a few changes, too,' he said. Behind him, the door creaked open. A small, smelly dog limped in.

'But Lord Vetinari hasn't said who's commanding Night Watch,' said Carrot.

'Ho, yes? Seems to me, seems to me,' said Quirke, 'that it's not likely to be one of you lot, eh? Seems to me it's likely the Watches'll be combined. Seems to me there's too much sloppiness around the place. Seems to me there's a bit too much of a ragtag.'

He glanced at Angua again. The way she was looking at him was putting him off.

'Seems to me—' Quirke began again, and then noticed the dog. 'Look at this!' he said. 'Dogs in the Watch House!' He kicked Gaspode hard, and grinned as the dog ran yelping under the table.

'What about Lettice Knibbs, the beggar girl?' said Angua. 'No troll killed her. Or the clown.'

'You got to see the big picture,' said Quirke.

'Mister Captain,' said a low voice from under the table, audible at a conscious level only to Angua, 'you got an itchy bottom.'

'What big picture's this, then?' said Sergeant Colon.

'Got to think in terms of the whole city,' said Quirke. He shifted uneasily.

'Really itchy,' said the sub-table voice.

'You feeling all right, Captain Quirke?' said Angua.

The captain squirmed.

Trickle, prickle, prickle,' said the voice.

'I mean, some things are important, some ain't,' said Quirke. 'Aargh!'



'Can't hang around here talking to you all day,' said Quirke. 'You. Report to me. Tomorrow afternoon—'

Trickle, prickle, prickle—'

'Abouuut face!'

The Day Watch scurried out, with Quirke hopping and squirming in, as it were, the rear.

'My word, he seemed anxious to get away,' said Carrot.

'Yes,' said Angua. 'Can't think why.'

They looked at one another.

'Is that it?' said Carrot. 'No more Night Watch?'

It's generally very quiet in the Unseen University library. There's perhaps the shuffling of feet as wizards wander between the shelves, the occasional hacking cough to disturb the academic silence, and every once in a while a dying scream as an unwary student fails to treat an old magical book with the caution it deserves.

Consider orang-utans.

In all the worlds graced by their presence, it is suspected that they can talk but choose not to do so in case humans put them to work, possibly in the television industry. In fact they can talk. It's just that they talk in Otang-utan. Humans are only capable of listening in Bewilderment.

The Librarian of Unseen University had unilaterally decided to aid comprehension by producing ar.

Orang-utan/Human Dictionary. He'd been working on it for three months.

It wasn't easy. He'd got as far as 'Oook.'[23]

He was down in the Stacks, where it was cool.

And suddenly someone was singing.

He took the pen out of his foot and listened.

A human would have decided they couldn't believe their ears. Orangs are more sensible. If you won't believe your own ears, whose ears will you believe?

Someone was singing, underground. Or trying to sing.

The chthonic voices went something like this:

'Dlog, glod, Dlog, glod—'

'Listen, you . . . troll! It's the simplest song there is. Look, like this “Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold”?'

'Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold—'

'No! That's the second verse!'

There was also the rhythmical sound of dirt being shovelled and rubble being moved.

The Librarian considered matters for a while. So . . . a dwarf and a troll. He preferred both species to humans. For one thing, neither of them were great readers. The Librarian was, of course, very much in favour of reading in general, but readers in particular got on his nerves. There was something, well, sacrilegious about the way they kept taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He liked people who loved and respected books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian's opinion, was to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be.

The muffled voices seemed to be getting closer.

'Gold, gold, gold—'

'Now you're singing the chorus!'

On the other hand, there were proper ways of entering a library.

He waddled over to the shelves and selected Hump-tulip's seminal work How to Kille Insects. All 2,000 pages of it.

Vimes felt quite light-hearted as he walked up Scoone Avenue. He was aware that there was an inner Vimes screaming his head off. He ignored him.

You couldn't be a real copper in Ankh-Morpork and stay sane. You had to care. And caring in Ankh-Morpork was like opening a tin of meat in the middle of a piranha school.

Everyone dealt with it in their own way. Colon never thought about it, and Nobby didn't worry about it, and the new ones hadn't been in long enough to be worn down by it, and Carrot . . . was just himself.

Hundreds of people died in the city every day, often of suicide. So what did a few more matter?

The Vimes inside hammered on the walls.

There were quite a few coaches outside the Ramkin mansion, and the place seemed to be infested with assorted female relatives and Interchangeable Emmas. They were baking things and polishing things. Vimes strolled through, more or less unregarded.

He found Sybil out in the dragon house, in her rubber boots and protective dragon armour. She was mucking out, apparently blissfully unaware of the controlled uproar in the mansion.

She looked up as the door shut behind Vimes.

'Oh, there you are. You're home early,' she said. 'I couldn't stand the fuss, so I came out here. But I'll have to go and change soon—'

She stopped when she saw his expression. 'There's something wrong, isn't there?'

'I'm not going back,' said Vimes.

'Really? Last week you said you'd do a full watch. You said you were looking forward to it.'

Not much gets past old Sybil, Vimes thought.

She patted his hand.

'I'm glad you're out of it,' she said.

Corporal Nobbs darted into the Watch House and slammed the door behind him.

'Well?' said Carrot.

'It's not good,' said Nobby. 'They say the trolls are planning to march to the Palace to get Coalface out. There's gangs of dwarfs and trolls wandering around looking for trouble. And beggars. Lettice was very popular. And there's a lot of Guild people out there, too. The city,' he said, importantly, 'is def'nitely a keg of No.1 Powder.'

'How do you like the idea of camping out on the open plain?' said Colon.

'What's that got to do with it?'

'If anyone puts a match to anything tonight, it's goodbye Ankh,' said the sergeant morosely. 'Usually we can shut the city gates, right? But there's hardly more'n a few feet of water in the river.'

'You flood the city just to put out fires?' said Angua.


'Another thing,' said Nobby. 'People threw stuff at me!'

Carrot had been staring at the wall. Now he produced a small, battered black book from his pocket, and started to thumb through the pages.

'Tell me,' he said, in a slightly distant voice, 'has there been an irretrievable breakdown of law and order?'

'Yeah. For about five hundred years,' said Colon. 'Irretrievable breakdown of law'n'order is what Ankh-Morpork is all about.'

'No, I mean more than usual. It's important.' Carrot turned a page. His lips moved silently as he read.

'Throwing stuff at me sounds like a breakdown in law and order,' said Nobby.

He was aware of their expressions.

'I don't think we could make that stick,' said Colon.

'It stuck all right,' said Nobby, 'and some of it went down my shirt.'

'Why throw things at you?' said Angua.

'It's 'cos I was a Watchman,' said Nobby. 'The dwarfs don't like the Watch 'cos of Mr Hammerhock, and the trolls don't like the Watch 'cos of Coalface being arrested, and people don't like the Watch 'cos of all these angry dwarfs and trolls around.'

Someone thumped at the door.

'That's probably an angry mob right now,' said Nobby.

Carrot opened the door.

'It's not an angry mob,' he announced.


'It's an orang-utan carrying a stunned dwarf followed by a troll. But he is quite angry, if that's any help.'

Lady Ramkin's butler, Willikins, had filled him a big bath. Hah! Tomorrow it'd be his butler, and his bath. And this wasn't one of the old hip bath, drag-it-in- front-of-the-fire jobs, no. The Ramkin mansion collected water off the roof into a big cistern, after straining out the pigeons, and then it was heated by an ancient geyser[24] and flowed along drumming, groaning lead pipes to a pair of mighty brass taps and then into an enamelled tub. There were things laid out on a fluffy towel beside it -huge scrubbing brushes, three kinds of soap, a loofah.

Willikins was standing patiently beside the bath, like a barely heated towel rail.

'Yes?' said Vimes.