"Er... "cos he won"t let me put a foot wrong, sir?" said Brick, as if reading it off a card.
"An" Brick here"s got something else to say to you, haven"t you, Brick?" said the maternal Detritus. "Go on, tell Mister Vimes."
Brick looked down at the table. "Sorry I tried to kill you, Mrs Vimes," he whispered.
"Well, we"ll see about that, shall we?" said Vimes, for something better to say. "By the way, I think you meant Mister Vimes, and I prefer it if only people who"ve fought alongside me call me Mister Vimes."
"Well, technic"ly Brick has fought-" Detritus began, but Vimes put down his coffee mug firmly. His ribs were aching.
"No, "in front of" is not the same thing as "alongside"; sergeant," he said. "It really isn"t."
"Not really his fault, sir, it was more a case o" mis-takeniden-tity" Detritus protested.
"You mean he didn"t know who I was?" said Vimes. "That didn"t seem to-"
"Nosir. He didn"t know who he was, sir. He thought he was a bunch o" lights and fireworks. Trust me, sir, I reckon I can make something o" this one. Please? Sir, he was out o" his brain on Big Hammer and still he was walkin" about!"
Vimes stared at Detritus for a moment and then looked back at Brick.
"Mr Brick, tell me how you got into the mine, will you?" he said.
"I told the other polisman-" Brick began.
"Now you tell Mister Vimes!" growled Detritus. "Right now!"
It took a little while, with pauses for bits of Brick"s mind to shunt into position, but Vimes assembled it like this:
The wretched Brick had been cooking up Scrape with some fellow gutter trolls in an old warehouse in the maze of streets behind Park Lane, had blundered down into the cellar looking for a cool place to watch the display, and the floor had given way under him. By the sound of it he"d fallen a long way, but to judge from the troll"s natural state he probably floated down like a butterfly. He"d ended up in a tunnel "like a mine, y"know, wi" all wood holdin" the roof up" and had wandered along it in the hope that it would lead back to the surface or something to eat.
He didn"t start to worry until he came out into a far grander tunnel and the word "dwarfs" finally reached a bit of his brain with nothing to do but listen.
A troll in a dwarf mine goes on the rampage. It was one of those givens, like a bull in a china shop. But Brick seemed refreshingly free of hatred towards anyone. Provided the world supplied enough things beginning with "S" to make his head go "bzzz!" - and the city had no shortage of these - he didn"t much care about what else it did. Brick, down in the gutter, had dropped below even that horizon. No wonder Chrysoprase"s shakedown hadn"t corralled him. Brick was something you stepped over.
It might even have occurred to Brick, standing there in the dark with the sound of dwarf voices in the distance, to be afraid. And then he"d seen, through a big round doorway, one dwarf hold up another and hit it over the head. It was cave-gloomy, but trolls had good night vision and there were always the vurms. The troll hadn"t made out details and was not particularly looking for them. Who cared what dwarfs did to one another? So long as they didn"t do it to him, he didn"t see a problem. But when the dwarf that had done the bashing started to shout, then there was a problem, large as life.
A big metal door right by him had slammed open and hit him in the face. When he peered out from behind it, it was to see several armed dwarfs running past. They weren"t interested in what might
be behind the door, not yet. They were doing what people do, which is run towards the source of the shouting. Brick, on the other hand, was interested only in getting as far away from the shouting as possible, and right here was an open door. He"d taken it, and run, not stopping until he was out in the fresh night air.
There had been no pursuit. Vimes wasn"t surprised. You needed a special kind of mind to be a guard. One that was prepared to be in a body that stood and looked at nothing very much for hours on end. Such a mind did not command high wages. Such a mind, too, would not be likely to start a search by looking in the tunnel it had just arrived by. It would not be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
And so, aimlessly, without intent, malice or even curiosity, a wandering troll had wandered into a dwarf mine, spotted a murder through a drug-raddled perception, and wandered out again. Who could plan for anything like that? Where was the logic? Where was the sense?
Vimes looked at the watery, fried-egg eyes, the emaciated frame, the thin dribble of gods-knew-what from a crusted nostril. Brick wasn"t telling lies. Brick had enough trouble dealing with things that weren"t made-up.
"Tell Mister Vimes about the wukwuk," Detritus prompted.
"Oh, yeah," said Brick. "Dere was dis big wukwuk in der cave."
"I think I"m missing a vital point here," said Vimes.
"A wukwuk is what you make wi" charcoal an" nitre an" Slab," said the sergeant. "All rolled up in paper like a cigar, you know? He said it was-"
"We call dem wukwuks "cos dey looks like ... you know, a wukwuk," said Brick, with an embarrassed grin.
"Yes, I"m getting the picture," said Vimes wearily. "And did you try to smoke it?
"Nosir. It was big," said Brick. "All rolled up in their cave, jus" by the manky of tunnel I fell into."
Vimes tried to fit this into his thinking, and left it out for now. So
... a dwarf did it? Right. And, at that moment, he believed Brick, although a bucket of frogs would make a better witness. No sense in pushing him further right now, anyway.
"Okay," he said. He reached down and came up with the mysterious stone that had been left on the floor of the office. It was about eight inches across, but curiously light. "Tell me about Mr Shine, Brick. Friend of yours?"
"Mr Shine is everywhere!" said Brick fervently. "Him diamond!" "Well, half an hour ago he was in this building," said Vimes. "Detritus?"
"Sir?" said the sergeant, a guilty look spreading across his face. "What do you know about Mr Shine?" said Vimes. "Er ... he a bit like a troll god ..: Detritus muttered.
"Don"t get many gods in here, as a rule," said Vimes. "Someone"s
pinched the Secret of Fire, have you seen my golden apple? It"s
amazing how often we don"t see that sort of thing in the crime
book. He"s a troll, is he?"
"Kinda like a ... a king," said Detritus, as if every word was being dragged from him.
"I thought trolls didn"t have kings these days," said Vimes. "I thought every clan ruled itself."
"Right, right," said Detritus. "Look, Mister Vimes, he Mr Shine, okay? We don"t talk about him much." The troll"s expression was a mixture of misery and defiance.
Vimes decided to go for a weaker target. "Where did you find him, Brick? I just want to-"
"He came callin" to help you!" snarled Detritus. "What you doin, Mister Vimes? Why you go on askin" questions? Wi" the dwarfs you have pussy feet, must not upset "em, oh no, but what you do if dey was trolls, eh? Kick down der door, no problem! Mr Shine bring you Brick, give you good advice, an" you talk like he bein" a bad troll! I"m hearin" now where Captain Carrot, he tellin" the dwarfs he the Two Brothers. You fink that make me happy? We know dat lyin" of dwarf lie, yes! We groan at it lyin" yes! You want to see Mr Shine, you show humble, you show respect yes!"
This is Koom Valley again, thought Vimes. He"d never seen Detritus this angry, at least at him. The troll was just there, reliable and dependable.
At Koom Valley, two tribes had met, and no one blinked.
"I apologize," he said, blinking. "I didn"t know. No offence was meant."
"Right!" said Detritus, his huge hand thumping on the table.
The spoon jumped out of Brick"s empty soup bowl. The mysterious rock ball rolled across the table, with an inevitable little trundling noise, and cracked open on the floor.
Vimes looked down at two neat halves. "It"s full of crystals," he said. Then he looked closer. There was a piece of paper in one glittering hemisphere.
He picked it up and read:
Pointer & Pickles, Crystals, Minerals & Tumbling Supplies,
No. 3 Tenth Egg Street, Ankh-Morpork.
Vimes put this down carefully and picked up the two pieces of the stone. He pushed them together, and they fitted with the merest hairline crack. There was no sign that any glue had ever been used.
He looked up at Detritus. "Did you know that was going to happen?" he said.
"No," said the troll. "But I fink Mr Shine did."
"He"s given me his address, sergeant."
"Yeah. So maybe he want you to visit," Detritus conceded. "Dat is a honour, all right. You don"t find Mr Shine, Mr Shine find you."
"How did he find you, Mr Brick?" said Vimes.
Brick gave Detritus a panicky look. The sergeant shrugged.
"He pick me up one day. Gimme food," Brick mumbled. "He show me where to come for more. He tole me t"keep off"f the stuff, too. But..."
"Yes ... ?"Vimes prompted.
Brick waved a pair of scarred, knobbly arms in a gesture that said, far more coherently than he could, that there was the whole universe on one side and Brick on the other, and what could anyone do against odds like that?
And so he"d been handed over to Detritus, Vimes thought. That evened the odds somewhat.
He stood up and nodded to Detritus. "Should I take anything, sergeant?"
The troll thought about this. "No," he said, "but maybe dere"s some finkin" you could leave behind."
I should be in charge of the mine raid, thought Vimes. We might be starting a war after all, and I"m sure people would like to think that someone high up was there when it happened. So why do I think it"s more important that I see the mysterious Mr Shine?
Captain Carrot had been busy. The city dwarfs liked him. So he"d done what Vimes could not have done, or at least done well, which was take a muddy dwarf necklace to a dwarf home down in New Cobblers and explain to two dwarf parents how it had been found. Things had happened quite fast after that, and another reason for the speed was that the mine was shut. Guards and workers and dwarfs seeking guidance on the path of dwarfdom had turned up to be met with locked doors. Money was owing, and dwarfs got very definite about things like that. A lot of the huge body of dwarf lore was about contracts. You were supposed to get paid.
No more politics, Vimes told himself. Someone killed four of our dwarfs, not some crazy rabble-rouser, and left them down there in the dark. I don"t care who they are, they"re going to be dragged
into the light. It"s the law. All the way to the bottom, all the way to the top.
But it"s going to be done by dwarfs. Dwarfs will go to that well, and dig out that mud again, and bring up the proof.
He walked into the main office. Carrot was there, along with half a dozen dwarf officers. They looked grim.
"All set?" said Vimes.
"Yes, Sir. We"ll meet the others at Empirical Crescent."
"You"ve got enough diggers?"
"All dwarfs are diggers, sir," said Carrot solemnly. "There"s timber on the way, and winching gear too. Some of the miners joining us helped dig that tunnel, sir. They knew those lads. They"re a bit bewildered and angry."
"I"ll bet. They believe us, then, do they?" said Vimes.
"Er ... more or less, sir. If the bodies aren"t there, though, we"re going to be in trouble."
"Very true. Did your lads know what they were digging for?"
"No, Sir. They just got orders from the dark dwarfs. And different squads dug in different directions. A long way in different directions. As far as Money Trap Lane and Ettercap Street, they think."
"That"s a big slice of the city!"
"Yessir. But there was something odd."
"Do go on, captain," said Vimes. "We"re good at odd."
"Every so often everyone had to stop work and the foreign dwarfs listened at the walls with a big, er, thing, like an ear trumpet. Sally found something like that when she was down there."
"They were listening? In soggy mud? Listening for what? Singing worms?"
"The dwarfs don"t know, sir. Trapped miners, they thought. I suppose it makes sense. A lot of the digging is through old stonework, so I suppose it"s possible that other miners could be trapped somewhere that"s got air."
"Not to last for weeks, though, surely? And why dig in different directions?"
"It"s a puzzle, sir, there"s no doubt about it. But we"ll get to the bottom of it soon enough. Everyone"s very keen."
"Good. But play down the Watch side, will you? This is a bunch of concerned citizens trying to find their loved ones after a reported mining disaster, okay? The watchmen are just helping them out."
"You mean "remember I"m a dwarf" sir?"
"Thank you for that, Carrot. Yes, exactly," said Vimes. "And now I"m off to see a legend with a name like a can of polish."
As he went out, he noticed the Summoning Dark symbol. The Pink PussyCat Club drinks menu had been put with some care on a shelf by the window, where it got maximum light. It glowed. Maybe this was because Frosted Hot Lips Rose had been designed to be seen across a crowded bar in poor light, but it seemed to float above the oh-so-funny sticky cocktail names like Just Sex, Pussy Galore and No Brainer, making them look faded and unreal.
Someone - several ones, by the look of it - had lit candles in front of it, for when night came.
It mustn"t be kept in the dark, Vimes thought. I wish I wasn"t.
Pointer & Pickles was dusty. Dust was the keynote of the shop. Vimes must have passed it a thousand times; it was that kind of shop, the kind you walked past. Dust and dead flies filled the little window, which nevertheless offered dim views of large lumps of rock, covered with dust, beyond.
The bell over the door gave a dusty jangle as Vimes entered the gloomy interior. The noise died away, and there was a definite
feeling that this marked the end of the entertainment for today. Then a distant shuffling was born in the heavy silence. It turned
out to belong to a very old woman who appeared, at first sight, to
be as dusty as the rocks she, presumably, sold. Vimes had his
doubts even about that. Shops like this one often looked upon the
selling of merchandise as in some way a betrayal of a sacred trust.
As if to underline this, she was carrying a club with a nail in it. When she was close enough for conversation, Vimes said, "I"ve come here to-"
"Do you believe in the healing power of crystals, young man?"
snapped the woman, raising the club threateningly.
"What? What healing power?" said Vimes.
The old woman gave him a cracked smile, and dropped the
"Good," she said. "We like our customers to take their geology
seriously. We"ve got some trollite in this week."
"Good, but in fact I-"
"It"s the only mineral that travels backwards in time, you know." "I"m here to see Mr Shine," Vimes managed. "Mr who?" said the old woman, putting a hand to her ear.
"Mr Shine?" said Vimes, confidence already draining out of him. "Never heard of him, dear."
"He, er, gave me this," said Vimes, showing her the two pieces of
"Amethyst geode, very nice specimen, I"ll give you seven dollars,"
said the old woman.
"Are you, er, Pickles or Pointer?" said Vimes, as a last resort.
"I"m Miss Pickles, dear. Miss Point-" She stopped. Her
expression changed, became slightly younger and considerably
"And I"m Miss Pointer, dear," she said. "Don"t worry about Pickles,
she just runs the body when I"ve got other things to do. Are you
Vimes stared. "Are you telling me you"re two people? With one body?"
"Yes, dear. It"s supposed to be an illness, but all I can say is we"ve always got along well. I"ve never told her about Mr Shine. Can"t be too careful. Come this way, do."
She led the way through the dusty crystals and slabs into the back of the shop, where there was a wide corridor lined with shelves. Crystals of all sizes sparkled down at him.
"Of course, trolls have always been of interest to geologists, being made of metamorphorical rock," said Miss Pointer/Pickles conversationally. "You"re not a rock hound yourself, commander?"
"I"ve had the occasional stone thrown at me," said Vimes. "I"ve never bothered to check what kind it was."
"Ha. Such a shame we"re on loam here," said the woman, as the sound of quiet voices drew nearer. She opened a door and stood aside. "I rent them the room," she said. "Do go in."
Vimes looked at the top few treads of a flight of stairs, heading down. Oh goody, he thought. We"re going underground again. But there was warm light coming up, and the voices were louder.
The cellar was large and cool. There were tables everywhere, with a couple of people at each one, bent over a chequered board. A games room? The players were dwarfs, trolls and humans, but what they had in common was concentration
. Unconcerned faces glanced towards Vimes, who had paused halfway down the stairs, and then looked back to the game in hand.
Vimes continued down to floor level. This had to be important, right? Mr Shine had wanted him to see it. People - men, trolls, dwarfs - playing games. Occasionally a couple of players would look up at one another, share a glance and shake hands. Then one of them would go off to a new table.
"What do you notice, Mister Vimes?" said a deep voice behind him. Vimes forced himself to turn slowly.
The figure sitting in the shadows beside the stairway was
shrouded entirely in black. He looked a good head taller than Vimes.
"They"re all young?" he ventured, and added: "Mr Shine?"
"Exactly! More youngsters tend to come along in the evenings, too. Do take a seat, sir."
"Why have I come to see you, Mr Shine?" said Vimes, sitting down.
"Because you want to find out why you have come to see me, "said the dark figure. "Because you"re wandering in the dark. Because Mister Vimes, with his badge and his truncheon, is full of rage. More full than usual. Take care of that rage, Mister Vimes."
Mystic, thought Vimes. "I like to see who I"m talking to," he said. "What are you?"
"You would not see me if I removed this hood," said Mr Shine. "As for what I am, I"ll ask you this: would it be true to say that Captain Carrot, while very happy to be a Watch officer, is the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork?"
"I have trouble with the term "rightful"," said Vimes.
"So I understand. It may well be that this is one reason why he hasn"t yet chosen to declare himself," said Mr Shine. "But no matter. Well, I am the rightful - excuse me - and indisputable king of the trolls."
"Really?" said Vimes. It wasn"t much of a reply, but the options at this point were limited.
"Yes. And when I say indisputable, I mean what I say, Mister Vimes. Hidden human kings have to resort to magic swords or legendary feats to reclaim their birthright. I do not. I just have to be. You are aware of the concept of metamorphorical rock?"
"You mean the way trolls look like certain types of rock?"
"Indeed. Schist, Mica, Shale, and so on. Even Brick, poor young Brick. No one knows why this is, and they have expended thousands of words in saying so. Oh, to hell with it, as you would say. You deserve a glimpse. Protect your eyes. I, Mister Vimes-"
A black-robed arm was extended, a black velvet glove removed. Vimes shut his eyes in time, but the inside of the lids blazed red.
-am diamond," said Mr Shine.
The glare faded a little. Vimes risked opening his eyes a fraction, and made out a hand, every flexing finger sparkling like a prism. The players glanced up, but they"d seen this before.
"Frost forms quite quickly," said Mr Shine. When Vimes dared to peek, the hand glittered like the heart of winter.
"You"re hiding out from jewellers?" he managed, taken aback.
"Ha! In fact this city is indeed a very good place for people who don"t wish to be seen, Mister Vimes. I have friends here. And I have talents. You"d find me quite hard to see if I wished to be unseen. I am also, frankly, intelligent, and intelligent all the time. I don"t need the Pork Futures Warehouse. I can regulate the temperature of my brain by reflecting all heat. Diamond trolls are very rare, and when we do appear, kingship is our destiny."
Vimes waited. Mr Shine, who was now pulling his glove back on, appeared to have an agenda. The wisest thing was to let him talk until it all made sense.
"And do you know what happens when we become king?" said Mr Shine, now safely shrouded once more.
"Koom Valley?" Vimes suggested.
"Well done. The trolls unite, and we have the same tired old war, followed by centuries of skirmishing. That is the sad, stupid history of the trolls and the dwarfs. And this time, Ankh-Morpork will be caught up in it. You know that the troll and dwarf population here has grown enormously under Vetinari:
"All right, but if you"re king, can"t you just make peace?"
"Just like that? It"ll need much more than that." The hood of the robe shook sadly. "You really know very little about us, Mister Vimes. You see us down on the plains, shambling around talkin" like dis. You don"t know about the history chant, or the Long Dance, or
stone music. You see the hunched troll, dragging his club. That"s what the dwarfs did for us, long ago. They turned us, in your minds, into sad, brainless monsters."
"Don"t look at me when you say that," said Vimes. "Detritus is one of my best officers!"
There was silence. Then Mr Shine said, "Shall I tell you what I think the dwarfs were looking for, Mister Vimes? Something of theirs. It is a thing that talks. And they found it and I think what it had to say directly caused five deaths. I believe I know how to find the secret of Koom Valley. In a few weeks, everyone will be able to. But by then, I think, it will be too late. You must solve it too, before the war sweeps up all of us."
"How do you know all this?" said Vimes.
"Because I"m magical," said the voice from the hood.
"Oh, well, if that"s the way you"re-" Vimes began.
"Patience, commander," said Mr Shine. "I just ... simplified. Accept, instead, that I am very ... smart. I have an analytical mind. I"ve studied the histories and lore of my hereditary enemy. I have friends who are dwarfs. Quite knowledgeable dwarfs. Quite ... powerful dwarfs, who wish for an end to this stupid feud as much as I do. And I have a love of games and puzzles. The Codex was not a terrible challenge."
"If it"s going to help me find the murderers of those dwarfs in the mine then you should tell me what you know!"
"Why trust what I say? I am a troll, I"m partisan, I might wish to direct your thoughts down the wrong path."
"Maybe you have already!" said Vimes hotly. He knew he was making a fool of himself; it only made him angrier.
"Good, that"s the spirit!" said Mr Shine. "Test all that I"ve told you! Where would we be if Commander Vimes relied on magic, eh? No, the secret of Koom Valley must be found by observation and questioning and facts, facts, facts. Possibly I"m helping you find them a little quicker than you might otherwise do. You just have to
think about what you know, commander. And, in the meantime, shall we play a little game?"
Mr Shine picked up a box by his chair and upended it over the table.
"This is Thud, Mister Vimes," he said, as little stone figures bounced over the board. "Dwarfs versus trolls. Eight trolls and thirty-two dwarfs, forever fighting their little battles on a cardboard Koom Valley." He began to place the pieces, black-gloved hands moving with un-trollish speed.
Vimes pushed back his chair. "Nice to meet you, Mr Shine, but all you are giving me is riddles and-"
"Sit down, commander." The quiet voice had a schoolteacher harmonic to it that folded Vimes"s legs under him. "Good," said Mr Shine. "Eight trolls, thirty-two dwarfs. Dwarfs always start. A dwarf is small and fast and can run as many squares as possible in any direction. A troll - because we"re stupid and drag our clubs, as everyone knows - can move only one square in any direction. There are other types of moving, but what do you see so far?"
Vimes tried to concentrate. It was hard. This was a game, it wasn"t real. Besides, the answer was so obvious that it couldn"t be the right one.
"It looks like the dwarfs must win every time," he ventured.
"Ah, natural suspicion, I like that. In fact, among the best players the bias is slightly in favour of the trolls," said Mr Shine. "This is largely because a troll can, in the right circumstances, do a lot of damage. How are your ribs, by the way?"
"All the better for you asking," said Vimes sourly. He"d forgotten them for twenty blessed minutes; now they ached again.
"Good. I"m glad Brick has found Detritus. He has a good brain if he can be persuaded to stop frying it every half an hour. Back to our game... advantages to either side do not matter, in fact, because a complete game consists of two battles. In one, you must play the dwarfs. In the other, you must play the trolls. As you may expect, dwarfs find it easy to play the dwarf side, which needs a strategy and mode of attack that comes easily to a dwarf. Something similar applies to the trolls. But to win you must play both sides. You must, in fact, be able to think like your ancient enemy. A really skilled player- Well, take a look, commander. Look towards the back of the room where my friend Phyllite is playing against Nils Mousehammer."
Vimes turned. "What am I looking for?" he said.
"Whatever you see."
"Well, that troll over there is wearing what looks like a large dwarf helmet. .
"Yes, one of the dwarf players made it for him. And he speaks quite passable dwarfish."
"He"s drinking out of a horn, like the dwarfs do. .."
"He had to have one made in metal! Troll beer would melt through ordinary horn. Nils there can sing quite a lot of the troll history chant. Look at Gabbro, over there. Good troll boy, but he knows all there is to know about dwarf battle bread. In fact, I believe that"s a boomerang croissant on the table next to him. Purely for ceremonial purposes, of course. Commander?"
"Hmm?" said Vimes. "What?" A slightly built dwarf at one of the tables was watching him with interest, as though he was some kind of fascinating monster.
Mr Shine chuckled. "To study the enemy you have to get under his skin. When you"re under his skin you start to see the world through his eyes. Gabbro is so good at playing from the dwarf viewpoint that his troll game is suffering, and he wants to go to Copperhead to learn from some of the dwarf thudmeisters there. I hope he does; they"ll teach him how to play like a troll. None of these lads here were out getting fighting drunk last night. And thus we wear down mountains. Water dripping on a stone, dissolving and removing. Changing the shape of the world, one drop at a time. Water dripping on a stone, commander. Water
flowing underground, bubbling up in unexpected places."
"I think you"re going to need a bit more of a gush," said Vimes. "I don"t think a bunch of people playing games is going to break down a mountain any time soon."
"It depends on where the drops fall," said Mr Shine. "In time they may wash away a valley, at least. You should ask yourself why you were so keen to get into that mine."
"Because there had been a murder!"
"And that was the only reason?" said the shrouded Mr Shine. "Of course!"
"And everyone knows what gossips dwarfs are," said Mr Shine. "Well, I am sure you will do your best, commander. I hope you find the murderer before the Dark catches up with them."
"Mr Shine, some of my officers have lit candles around that damn symbol!
"Good thinking, I"d say."
"So you really believe that it"s some kind of a threat? How come you know so much about dwarf signs, anyway?"
"I have studied them. I accept the fact of their existence. Some of your officers believe. Most dwarfs do, somewhere in their gnarly little souls. I respect that. You can take a dwarf out of the dark, but you can"t take the dark out of a dwarf. Those symbols are very old. They have real power. Who knows what old evil exists in the deep darkness under the mountains? There"s no darkness like it."
"You can take the mickey out of a copper, too," said Vimes.
"Ah, Mister Vimes, you have had a busy day. So much happening, so little time to think. Take time to reflect on all you know, sir. I am a reflecting kind of person."
"Commander Vimes?" The voice came from Miss Pickles/ Pointer, halfway up the stairs. "There is a big troll asking after you.
"What a shame," said Mr Shine. "That will be Sergeant Detritus. Not good news, I suspect. If I had to guess, I"d say that the trolls
have sent around the taka-taka. You must go, Mister Vimes. I"ll be seeing you again."
"I don"t think I"ll see you," said Vimes. He stood up, and then hesitated.
"One question, right? And no funny answers, if you don"t mind," he said. "Tell me why you helped Brick. Why should you care about a slushed-out gutter troll?"
"Why should you care about some dead dwarfs?" said Mr Shine.
"Because someone has to!"
"Exactly! Goodbye, Mister Vimes."
Vimes hurried up the stairs and followed Miss Pickles/Pointer out into the shop. Detritus was standing among the mineral specimens, looking uncomfortable, like a man in a morgue.
"What"s happening?" said Vimes.
Detritus shifted uneasily. "Sorry, Mister Vimes, but I was the only one dat knew where-" he began.
"Yes, okay. Is this about the taka-taka?"
"How did you know about that, sir?"
"I don"t. What is the taka-taka?"
"It der famous war club of der trolls," said Detritus. Vimes, with the image of the peace club of the trolls downstairs still in his mind, couldn"t stop himself.
"You mean you subscribe and get a different war every month?" he said. But that sort of thing was wasted on Detritus. He treated humour as some human aberration which had to be overcome by talking slowly and patiently.
"No, sir. When der taka-taka is sent a-round the clans, it a summon-ing to war," he said.
"Oh damn. Koom Valley?"
"Yes, sir. An" I"m hearing dat der Low King and der Uberwald dwarfs is already on der way to Koom Valley, too. Der street is full of it."
"Er ... bingle bingle bingle ... ?" said a small and very nervous voice.
Vimes pulled out the Gooseberry and stared at it. At a time like this ...
"Well?" he said.
"It"s twenty-nine minutes past five, Insert Name Here," said the imp nervously.
"On foot, at this time of day, you will need to leave now to be home at six o"clock," said the imp.
"Der Patrician want to see you and dere"s clackses arrivin" and everythin"," said Detritus insistently.
Vimes continued to stare at the imp, which looked embarrassed.
"I"m going home," he said, and started walking. Dark clouds were rolling in overhead, heralding another summer storm.
"Dey"ve foun" der three dwarfs near der well, sir," said Detritus, lumbering after him. "Looks like it was other dwarfs what killed "em, sure enough. The ol grags have gone. Captain Carrot"s put guards on every exit he can find. .."
But they dig, Vimes thought. Who knows where all the tunnels go?
... and he wants permission to break open der big iron doors in Treacle Street," Detritus went on. "Dey can get at the last dwarf dat way."
"What are the dwarfs saying about it?" said Vimes, over his shoulder. "The living ones, I mean?"
"A lot of dem saw der dead dwarfs brought up," said Detritus. "I fink most of dem would hand him der crowbar."
Let"s hear it for the mob, Vimes thought. Grab it by its sentimental heart. Besides, the storm is beginning. Why worry about an extra raindrop?
"Okay," he said. "Tell him this. I know Otto will be there with his damn picture box, so when that door is wrenched open it"s going to be dwarfs doing it, okay? A picture full of dwarfs?"
"How is young Brick? Will he swear a statement? Does he understand about that?"
"I reckon he could, sir.
"In front of dwarfs?"
"He will if I ask him, sir," said Detritus. "Dat I can promise."
"Good. And get someone to put out a message on the clacks, to every city watch and village constable between here and the mountains. Tell them to look out for a party of dark dwarfs. They"ve got what they came for and they"re doing a runner, I know it."
"You want they should try to stop "em?" the sergeant asked.
"No! No one should try it! Say they"ve got weapons that shoot fire! Just let me know where they"re headed!"
"I"ll tell dem dat, sir."
And I"m going home, Vimes repeated to himself. Everyone wants something from Vimes, even though I"m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hell, I"m probably a spoon. Well, I"m going to be Vimes, and Vimes reads Where"s My Cow? to Young Sam at six o"clock. With the noises done right.
He went home at a brisk walk, using all the little shortcuts, his mind sloshing backwards and forwards like thin soup, his ribs nudging him occasionally to say, yes, they were still there and twingeing. He arrived at the door just as Willikins was opening it.
"I shall tell her ladyship you are back, sir," he called out, as Vimes hurried up the stairs. "She is mucking out the dragon pens."
Young Sam was standing up in his cot, watching the door. Vimes"s day went soft and pink.
The chair was littered with the favoured toys of the hour - a rag ball, a little hoop, a woolly snake with one button eye. Vimes pushed them on to the rug, sat down and took off his helmet. Then he took off his damp boots. You didn"t need to heat a room after Sam Vimes had taken his boots off. On the wall the nursery clock ticked, and with every tick and tock a little sheep jumped back and forth over a fence.