But the dwarfs and the trolls ... they fight it again for real. Like, perhaps, if they fight it enough times they"ll get it right?
Now there was a hole in the track in front of him, half blocked with the winter"s debris, but still managing to swallow a whole streamlet. It poured, foaming, into the depths. There was a booming noise, far below. When he knelt down and touched the water, it was so cold it stung.
"Yes, watch out for sinkholes, commander," said Bashfullsson. "This is limestone. Water wears it away quite quickly. We"ll probably see some much bigger ones. Often they"re hidden by rotting debris. Watch where you tread."
"Don"t they get blocked up?"
"Oh, yes, sir. You"ve seen the size of the rocks that roll down here." "It must be like a giant game of billiards!"
"Something like that, I expect," said Bashfullsson carefully.
After ten minutes, Vimes sat down on a log, pulled off his helmet, took out a big red handkerchief and wiped his forehead.
"It"s getting hotter," he said. "And everywhere in this bloody place looks the same- Ow!" He slapped at his wrist.
"The midges can be a bit extreme, sir," Cheery volunteered. "It"s said that when they bite extra hard, there"s a storm coming.
They both looked up at the mountains. There was a yellow haze at the far end of the valley, and clouds between the peaks.
"Oh, good," said Vimes. "Because it feels like that bite went to the bone."
"I wouldn"t worry too much, commander," said Cheery. "The big Koom Valley storm was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence."
"It certainly is a lifetime if you were caught in it," said Vimes. "This damn place is getting to me, I don"t mind admitting it."
By now the rest of the squad had caught up. Sally and Detritus were visibly suffering from the heat. The vampire sat down in the shade of a big rock without saying anything. Brick lay down by the icy stream and stuck his head in it.
"I"m afraid I"m not much help here, sir," said Angua. "I can smell dwarf, but that"s about it. There"s just too much damn water everywhere!"
"Maybe we won"t need your nose," said Vimes. He unslung the tube that contained Sybil"s sketch, unrolled the drawing and pinned the ends together.
"Give me a hand with this, will you, Cheery?" he said. "Everyone else, get some rest. And don"t laugh."
He lowered the circlet of mountains over his head. There was a cough from Angua, which he pretended to ignore.
"Okay," said Vimes, turning the stiff paper to get the mountains lined up just above their pencilled outlines. "That"s Copperhead over there and Cori Celesti over there ... and they line up pretty well against the drawing. We"re practically on top of it already!"
"Not really, commander," said Bashfullsson, behind him. "They"re both almost four hundred miles away. They"d look pretty much the same from anywhere in this part of the valley. You need to look at the nearer peaks."
Vimes turned. "Okay. What"s that one that looks really sheer on the left-hand side?"
"That is The King, sir," said Cheery. "He"s about ten miles away."
"Really? He looks closer.
Vimes found the mountain on the drawing. "And that small one over there?" he said. "The one with two peaks?"
"I don"t know the name, sir, but I can see the one you mean."
"They"re too small and too close together. .: Vimes muttered.
"Then walk towards them, sir. Mind where you"re putting your feet. Only tread on bare rock. Keep off any pile of debris. The grag is right. It could be over an old sinkhole and you might drop right through."
"O-kay. About halfway between them is that funny-shaped little outcrop. I"ll head directly for it. You watch where I"m putting my feet too, will you?"
Trying to keep the paper level, stumbling on rocks and splashing through icy rivulets, Vimes walked the lonesome valley....Damn and blast!"
Vimes peered over the top of his ring of paper. "I"ve lost The King. That damn great ridge of boulders is in the way. Hold on ... I can see that mountain with the chunk taken out of it. .
It looked so simple. It would have been simple if Koom Valley had been flat and not littered with rubbish like the ten-pin bowling alley of the gods. In some places they had to backtrack because a rampart of tangled, stinking, gnat-infested timber blocked the way. Or the barrier was a wall of rocks the length of a street. Or a wide, mist-filled, thundering cauldron of white water that elsewhere would have a name like The Devil"s Cauldron but here was nameless because this was Koom Valley and for Koom Valley there just weren"t enough devils and they didn"t have enough cauldrons.
And the flies stung and the sun shone and the rotting wood and damp air and lack of wind created a sticky, swamp-like miasma that seemed to weaken the muscles. No wonder they fought at the other end of the valley, Vimes thought. There was air and wind up there. At least you"d be comfortable.
Sometimes they"d come out into a clear stretch that looked like the scene that Methodia Rascal had painted, but the nearby mountains didn"t quite match up, and it was off again into the maze. You had to detour, and then detour around the detour.
At last Vimes sat down on a bleached, crumbling log and put the paper aside.
"We must"ve missed it," he said, panting. "Or Rascal didn"t get the mountains quite right. Or maybe even a slice of mountain fell off in the last hundred years. It could have happened. We could be twenty feet away from whatever it is we"re looking for and still miss it." He slapped a gnat off his wrist.
"Cheer up, sir, I think we"re fairly close," said Cheery.
"Why? What makes you think that?" said Vimes, wiping his brow.
"Because I think you may be sitting on the painting, sir. It"s very dirty, but that looks like rolled-up canvas to me."
Vimes stood up quickly and inspected the log. One corner of what he"d taken to be yellow-grey bark peeled back to reveal paint on the other side.
"And those timbers over there-" Cheery began, but stopped because Vimes had raised a finger to his lips.
There were indeed some long thin pine saplings lying near by, stripped of all branches. They would have gone unnoticed if it weren"t for the presence of the rolled-up painting.
They did just what we did, Vimes thought. It was probably easier, if they had enough dwarfs to hold up the painting; the mountains would be properly coloured, not just pencil lines, and it would be more accurate on the bigger canvas. They could take their time, too. They thought they were well ahead of me. All they were worried about was some bloody mystic symbol.
He drew his sword and beckoned Cheery to follow him.
There"s not just dark dwarfs here, then, he thought, creeping around the nearby rocks. They wouldn"t have stood out here in daylight. So let"s see how many stayed on guard ...
None, as it turned out. It was something of an anticlimax. Beyond the rocks was the spot that X would have marked, if there had been an X.
They must have been really confident, Vimes realized. By the look of it, they"d moved tons of rock and stricken timber, and there were the crowbars to prove it.
Right now would be a really good time for Angua and the others to catch us up, he decided.
In front of them was a hole about six feet wide. A steel bar had been laid across it, bedded into two freshly chiselled grooves, and from the bar a stout rope disappeared into the depths. From far below came the thunder of dark waters.
"Mr Rascal must"ve been a brave man to stand here," said Vimes. "I expect it was a plugged hole a hundred years ago," said Cheery. "I"ll tell you what," said Vimes, kicking a pebble into the dark.
"Pretend I"m a city man who doesn"t know a bloody thing about caves, why don"t you?"
"It"s what you get when a hole gets blocked, sir," said Cheery patiently. "Mr Rascal probably just had to climb down on to a plug of debris."
This is the place.
So ... this is where he found the talking cube, Vimes thought. Ignoring Cheery"s protests, because he was the commander around here, he swung down on to the rope and lowered himself a few feet.
There, tucked under the lip of the hole, a stubby piece of iron was rusted into the rock. A few links of equally rusted chain hung from it.
It sang in its chains ...
"There was a note about the thing being in chains," he said. "Well, there"s some chain here, and what could be the stub of a knife!" "Dwarf steel, sir!" said Cheery reproachfully. "It does last." "It could last all that time?"
"Oh yes. I expect the sink became a fountain for a while after Rascal"s day, and forced the blockage out. That sort of thing happens all the time in Koom Va- Er, what are you doing, sir?"
Vimes was staring down into the darkness. Below, unseen, dark waters churned. So ... the messenger climbed up this hole, he thought. Where to hide the cube safely? There could be trolls up above? But a fighting dwarf would have a dagger, certainly, and they love chains. Yes ... here would be a good place. And he"d be back soon, anyway ...
"Old men climbed down this?" he said, staring down the rope into the dark.
"Old dwarfs, sir. Yes. We"re strong for our size. You"re not going down, are you, sir?"
There"s a side tunnel down there ...
"There must be a side tunnel down there," said Vimes. Thunder rumbled, far up in the mountains.
"But the others will be here soon, sir! Aren"t you rushing things?"
Don"t wait for them.
"No. Tell them to follow me. Look, we"ve lost time. I can"t hang around all day."
Cheery hesitated and then pulled something out of a pouch on her belt.
"Then at least take these, sir," she said. He grabbed the little package as it fell. It was surprisingly heavy.
"Waxed matches, sir, they don"t get wet. And the wrapping will burn like a torch for at least four minutes. There"s a small loaf of dwarf bread, too."
"Well ... thank you," said Vimes, to the worried round shadow against the yellow sky. "Look, I"ll see if there"s any light down there, and if there isn"t, I"ll come straight back. I"m not that daft."
He let himself slide down the rope. There was a knot every couple of feet. The air was winter cold after the heat of the valley. Fine spray came up from below.
There was a tunnel, well above the cauldron. He could make himself believe there was light in the distance, too. Well, he wasn"t stupid. He needed to Let go...
His hands loosened their grip. He didn"t even have time to swear before the water closed over him.
Vimes opened his eyes. After a while, moving his arm slowly because of the pain, he found his face and checked that his eyelids were, indeed, open.
Which bits of his body weren"t aching? He checked. No, there seemed to be none. His ribs were carrying the melody of pain, but knees, elbows and head were all adding trills and arpeggios. Every time he shifted to ease the agony, it moved somewhere else. His head ached as if someone was hammering on his eyeballs.
He groaned, and coughed up water.
Gritty sand was under him. He could hear the rush of water somewhere near by, but the sand under him was merely damp. And that didn"t seem right.
He risked turning over, a process that extracted a considerable amount of groan.
He could remember the icy water. There had been no question of swimming. All he"d been able to do was roll himself into a ball as the water threw and scraped and banged him through the bagatelle board of Koom Valley. He"d gone over an underground waterfall once, he was sure, and had managed to suck a breath before being whisked onward. And then there was depth, and pressure, and his life started to unroll before his eyes, and his last thought had been please, please, can we skip the bit with Mavis Trouncer ...
And now he was here on an invisible beach, totally out of the water? But this place surely didn"t have tides!
So someone was somewhere in the blackness, watching him. That was it. They"d pulled him out and now they were watching him ...
He opened his eyes again. Some of the pain had gone, leaving stiffness as payment. He had a feeling that time had passed. The darkness pressed in on all sides, thick as velvet.
He rolled back with more groans, and this time managed to push himself on to his hands and knees.
"Who"s there?" he mumbled, and, very carefully, got to his feet.
Being upright seemed to shake his brain into gear again.
"Anyone there?" The darkness swallowed the sound. Anyway, what would he have done if something had said, "Yes!"?
He drew his sword and held it out in front of him as he shuffled forward. After a dozen steps it clinked against rock.
"Matches," he mumbled. "Got matches!"
He found the wax bundle and, working his clammy fingers slowly, drew out one match. Scraping the wax off the head with his thumb, he struck it against the stone.
The glare hurt his eyes. Look, quick! Flowing water, smooth sand, hand- and footprints coming out of the water, one set only? Yes. Walls looked dry, small cave, darkness over there, way out ...
Vimes limped towards the oval entrance as quickly as he could while the match spat and fizzed in his hand.
There was a bigger cave here, so big that the blackness in it seemed to suck all the light from the match, which scorched his fingers and died.
The heavy darkness closed in again, like curtains, and now he knew what the dwarfs meant. This wasn"t the darkness of a hood, or a cellar, or even of their shallow little mine. He was a long way below the ground here, and the weight of all that darkness bore down on him.
Now and again a drop of water went plink into some unseen pool.
Vimes staggered onwards. He knew he was bleeding. He didn"t know why he was walking, but he did know that he had to.
Maybe he"d find daylight. Maybe he"d find a log that had been washed in here, and float his way out. He wasn"t going to die, not down here in the dark, a long way from home.
A lot of water was dripping in this cavern. A lot of it was going down his neck right now, but there were plinks on every side. Hah, water trickling down your neck and odd noises in the shadows ... well, that"s when we find out if we"ve got a real copper, right? But there were no shadows here. It wasn"t light enough.
Perhaps that poor sod of a dwarf had wandered through here. But he had found a way out. Maybe he knew the way, maybe he had a rope, maybe he was young and limber ... and so he"d got out, dying on his feet, and tucked the treasure out of the way, and then went down the valley, walking through his grave. That"s how it could take people. He remembered Mrs Oldsburton, who went mad after her baby died, cleaning everything in the house, every cup, wall, ceiling and spoon, not seeing anybody or hearing anything, just working all day and all night. Something in the head went click and you found something to do, anything, to stop yourself thinking.
Best to stop thinking that the way out the dwarf had found had been the one Vimes had dropped in by, and he had no idea where that was now.
Maybe he could simply jump back in the water, knowing what he was doing this time, and maybe he"d make it all the way down to the river before the turbulent currents battered him to death. Maybe he
Why the hell had he let go of that rope? It had been like that little voice that whispers "Jump" when you"re on a cliff edge, or "Touch the fire"
. You didn"t listen, of course. At least most people didn"t, most of the time. Well, a voice had said "Let go, and he had ...
He shuffled on, aching and bleeding, while the dark curled its tail around him.
"He"ll be back soon, you know," said Sybil. "Even if it"s at the very last minute." Out in the hall, a big grandfather clock had just stopped chiming half past five.
"I"m sure he will," said Bunty. They were bathing Young Sam.
"He"s never late," Sybil went on. "He says if you"re late for a good reason you"ll be late for a bad one. And it"s only half past five, anyway.!
"Plenty of time," Bunty agreed.
"Fred and Nobby did take the horses up to the valley, didn"t they?" said Sybil.
"Yes, Sybil. You watched them go," said Bunty. She looked over Sybil"s head to the gaunt figure of her husband, who was standing in the hall doorway. He shrugged hopelessly.
"Only the other day he was running up the stairs as the clocks were striking six," said Sybil, calmly soaping Young Sam with a sponge shaped like a teddy bear. "The very last second. You wait and see."
He wanted to sleep. He"d never felt this tired before. Vimes slumped to his knees, and then fell sideways on to the sand.
When he forced open his eyes he saw pale stars above him, and had once again the sensation that there was someone else present.
He turned his head, wincing at the stab of pain, and saw a small but brightly lit folding chair on the sand. A robed figure was reclining in it, reading a book. A scythe was stuck in the sand beside it.
A white skeletal hand turned a page.
"You"ll be Death, then?" said Vimes, after a while.
AH, MISTER VIMES, ASTUTE AS EVER. GOT IT IN ONE, said Death, shutting the book on his finger to keep the place. "I"ve seen you before."
I HAVE WALKED WITH YOU MANY TIMES, MISTER VIMES.
"And this is it, is it?"
HAS IT NEVER STRUCK YOU THAT THE CONCEPT OF A WRITTEN NARRATIVE IS SOMEWHAT STRANGE? said Death.
Vimes could tell when people were trying to avoid something they really didn"t want to say, and it was happening here. "Is it?" he insisted. "Is this it? This time I die?"
"Could be? What sort of answer is that?" said Vimes.
A VERY ACCURATE ONE. YOU SEE, YOU ARE HAVING A NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE, WHICH INESCAPABLY MEANS THAT I MUST UNDERGO A NEAR VIMES EXPERIENCE. DON"T MIND ME. CARRY ON WITH WHATEVER YOU WERE DOING. I HAVE A BOOK.
Vimes rolled over on to his stomach, gritted his teeth and pushed himself on to his hands and knees again. He managed a few yards before slumping back down.
He heard the sound of a chair being moved. "Shouldn"t you be somewhere else?" he said.
I AM, said Death, sitting down again.
"But you"re here!"
As WELL. Death turned a page and, for a person without breath, managed a pretty good sigh. IT APPEARS THAT THE BUTLER DID IT.
IT IS A MADE-UP STORY. VERY STRANGE. ALL ONE NEEDS DO IS TURN TO THE LAST PAGE AND THE ANSWER IS THERE. WHAT, THEREFORE, IS THE POINT OF DELIBERATEDLY NOT KNOWING?
It sounded like gibberish to Vimes, so he ignored it. Some of the aches had gone, although his head still hammered. There was an empty feeling, everywhere. He just wanted to sleep.
"Is that clock right?"
"I"m afraid it is, Sybil."
"I"ll just go outside and wait for him, then. I"ll have the book ready," said Lady Sybil. "He won"t let anything stop him, you know." "I"m sure he won"t," said Bunty.
"Although things can be very treacherous in the lower valley at this time of-" her husband began, and was fried into silence by his wife"s stare.
It was six minutes to six.
"Ob oggle oog soggle!"
It was a very little, watery sound, and came from somewhere in Vimes"s trousers. After a few moments, enough time to recollect that he had both hands and trousers, he reached down and with a strug gle freed the Gooseberry from his pocket. The case was battered and the imp, when Vimes had got the flap open, was quite pale. "Ob ogle soggle!"
Vimes stared at it. It was a talking box. It meant something. "Woggle soggle lob!"
Slowly, Vimes tipped the box up. Water poured out of it.
"You weren"t listening! I was shouting and you weren"t listening!"
the imp whined. "It"s five minutes to six! Read to Young Sam!" Vimes dropped the protesting box on his chest and stared up at the pale stars.
"Mus" read to Young Sam," he murmured, and shut his eyes. They snapped open again. "Got t" read to Young Sam!"
The stars were moving. It wasn"t the sky! How could it be the sky?
This was a bloody cave, wasn"t it?
He rolled over and got to his feet in one movement. There were more stars now, drifting along the walls. The vurms were moving with a purpose. Overhead they had become a glowing river.
Although they were flickering a little, the lights were also coming back on in Vimes"s head. He peered into what was now no longer blackness but merely gloom, and gloom was like daylight after the darkness that had gone before.
"Got to read to Young Sam. .: he whispered, to a cavern of giant stalactites and stalagmites, all gleaming with water, "... to read to Young Sam..."
Stumbling and sliding through shallow pools, running across the occasional patch of white sand, Vimes followed the lights.
Sybil tried not to look at the worried faces of her host and hostess as she crossed their hall. The minute hand on the grandfather clock was nearly on the 12, and trembling.
She threw open the front door. There was no Sam there, and no one galloping down the road.
The clock struck the hour. She heard someone step quietly beside her.
"Would you like me to read to the young man, madam?" said Willikins. "Perhaps a man"s voice would-"
"No, I"ll go up," said Sybil quietly. "You wait here for my husband. He won"t be long."
"He"ll probably be quite rushed."
"I shall usher him up without delay, madam." "He will be here, you know!"
"He will walk through walls!"
Sybil climbed the stairs as the chimes ended. The clock was a wrong clock. Of course it was!
Young Sam had been installed in the old nursery of the house, a rather sombre place full of greys and browns. There was a truly frightening rocking-horse, all teeth and mad glass eyes.
The boy was standing up in his cot. He was smiling, but it faded into puzzlement as Sybil pulled up a chair and sat down next to him.
"Daddy has asked Mummy to read to you tonight, Sam," she announced brightly. "Won"t that be fun!"
Her heart did not sink. It could not. It was already as low as any heart could go. But it curled up and whimpered as she watched the little boy stare at her, at the door, at her again, and then throw back his head and scream.
Vimes, half limping and half running, tripped and fell into a shallow pool. He found he"d stumbled over a dwarf. A dead one. Very dead. So dead, in fact, that the dripping water had built a small stalagmite on him, and with a film of milky stone had cemented him to the rock against which he sat.
"Got to read to Young Sam," Vimes told the shadowy helmet earnestly.
A little way away, on the sand, was a dwarf"s battle-axe. What was going on in Vimes"s mind was not exactly coherent thought, but he could hear faint noises up ahead and an instinct as old as thought decided there was no such thing as too much cutting power.
He picked it up. It was covered with no more than a thin coat of rust. There were other humps and mounds on the cavern floor which, now that he came to look at them, might all be- No time! Read book!
At the end of the cavern the ground sloped up, and had been made treacherous by the dripping water. It fought back, but the axe helped. One problem at a time. Climb hill! Read book! And then the screaming started. His son, screaming. It filled his mind.
They will burn ...
A staircase floated in his vision, reaching endlessly upwards into darkness. The screaming came from up there.
Feet slithered. The axe bit into the milky stone. Weeping and cursing, sliding at every step, Vimes struggled to the top of the slope.
A new, huge cave spread out below. It was busy with dwarfs. It looked like a mine.
There were four of them only a few feet away from Vimes, whose vision was full of rocking lambs. They stared at this sudden, bloody, swaying apparition, which was dreamily waving a sword in one hand and an axe in the other.
They had axes, too. But the thing glared at them and asked: "Where"s ... my ... cow?"
They backed away.
"Is that my cow?" the creature demanded, stepping forward unsteadily. It shook its head sadly.
"It goes, "Baaaa!" it wept. "It is ... a sheep...
Then it fell to its knees, clenched its teeth and turned its face upwards, like a man tortured beyond his wits, and beseeching the gods of fortune and the tempest, screamed:
"That! Is!! Not!!! My!!!! Cow!!!!!"
The cry echoed around the cavern and broke through mere rock, so great was the force behind it, melted mere mountains, screamed across the miles ... And in the sombre nursery Young Sam stopped crying and looked around, suddenly happy but puzzled, and said, to his despairing mother"s surprise, "Co!"
The dwarfs backed away down the slope. Overhead, the vurms were still pouring in, outlining the invader against their greenwhite glow.
"Where"s my cow? Is that my cow?" it demanded, following them.
In every part of the cavern dwarfs had stopped work. There was hesitancy in the air. This was only one man, after all, and the thought in many minds was: what is someone else going to do about this? It had not yet progressed to: what am Igoing to do about this? Besides, where was the cow? There were cows down here?
"It goes, "Neigh!" It is a horse! That"s not my cow!"
Dwarfs looked at one another. Where was the horse, then? Did you hear a horse? Who else is down here?
The four guards had retreated to the cavern for advice and reorientation. There were a number of deep-downers there, clustered in frantic conversation and watching the approaching man.
In Vimes"s strobing vision there were fluffy bunnies, too, and quacky ducks...
He had dropped to his knees again, and was staring at the ground, and crying.
Half a dozen shrouded dark guards stepped out from the group. One of them carried, ahead of him, a flame weapon, and advanced on the figure cautiously. The flame of its little pilot light was the brightest thing in the cave.
The figure looked up, the light reflected red in its eyes, and growled: "Is that my cow?"
Then it threw the axe overarm, full at the guard. It struck the flame weapon, which exploded.
"It goes, "Hruuugh!""
"Hg!!" said Young Sam, as his mother hugged him and stared blankly at the wall.
Burning oil fountained across the dark. Some of it splashed on Vimes"s arm. He slapped at it. There was pain, intense pain, but he knew this only in the same way that he knew the moon existed. It was there, but it was a long way off and didn"t affect him very much.
"That"s not my cow!" he said, standing up.
He strode on now, over the burning oil, through red-edged smoke, past the dwarfs rolling desperately on the ground to put out the flames. He seemed to be looking for something.
Two more guards ran at him. Without appearing to notice them, Vimes crouched and whirled the sword around in a circle. A little
lamb rocked in front of his eyes.
A dwarf with greater presence of mind than the others had found a crossbow and was taking aim when he had to stop to brush away the bats streaming past him. He raised the bow again, looked round at a noise like two slabs of meat being slapped together, and was picked up and thrown across the cave by a naked woman. An astonished miner swung his axe at the smiling girl, who vanished in a cloud of bats.
There was a lot of yelling going on. Vimes paid it no attention. Dwarfs were running through the smoke. He merely slapped them aside. He had found what he was seeking.
"Is that my cow? It goes, "Mooooo!""
Picking up another fallen axe, Vimes started to run. "Yes! That"s my cow!"
The grags were behind a ring of guards, in a frantic huddle, but Vimes"s eyes were on fire and there were flames streaming from his helmet. A dwarf holding a flame-thrower threw it down and fled.
"Hooray, hooray, it"s a wonderful day, for I have found my cow!"
... and perhaps that, it was said later, was what did it. Against the berserker, there is no defence. They had sworn to fight to the death, but not to this death. The slowest four guards went down to the axe and the sword, the others scattered and ran.
And now Vimes paused in front of the cowering old dwarfs, raising the weapons over his head And halted, rocking like a statue
Night, for ever. But within it, a city, shadowy and only real in certain ways. The entity cowered in its alley, where the mist was rising. This could not have happened!
Yet it had. The streets had filled with ... things. Animals! Birds! Changing shape! Screaming and yelling! And above it all, higher than the rooftops, a lamb rocking back and forth in great slow motions, thundering over the cobbles ...
And then bars had come down, slamming down, and the entity had been thrown back.
But it had been so close! It had saved the creature, it was getting through, it was beginning to have control ... and now this ...
In the darkness, above the rustle of the never-ending rain, it heard the sound of boots approaching.
A shape appeared in the mist.
It drew nearer.
Water cascaded off a metal helmet and an oiled leather cloak as the figure stopped and, entirely unconcerned, cupped its hand in front of its face and lit a cigar.
Then the match was dropped on the cobbles, where it hissed out, and the figure said: "What are you?"
The entity stirred, like an old fish in a deep pool. It was too tired to flee.
"I am the Summoning Dark." It was not in fact a sound, but if it had been, it would have been a hiss. "Who are you?"
"I am the Watchman."
"They would have killed his family!" The darkness lunged, and met resistance. "Think of the deaths they have caused! Who are you to stop me?"
"He created me. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? Me. I watch him. Always. You will not force him to murder for you."
"What kind of human creates his own policeman?" "One who fears the dark."
And so he should," said the entity, with satisfaction.
"Indeed. But I think you misunderstand. I am not here to keep darkness out. I"m here to keep it in." There was a clink of metal as the shadowy watchman lifted a dark lantern and opened its little door. Orange light cut through the blackness. "Call me ... the Guarding Dark. Imagine how strong I must be."
The Summoning Dark backed desperately into the alley, but the light followed it, burning it.
And now," said the Watchman, "get out of town."
-and went down as a werewolf landed on his back.
Angua drooled. The hair along her spine stood out like a saw blade. Her lips curled back like a wave. Her growl was from the back of a haunted cave. All together these told the brain of anything monkey-shaped that movement meant death. And that stillness, while it also meant death, didn"t mean immediate, this-actualsecond death, and was there for the smart monkey option.
Vimes didn"t move. The growl knotted his muscles. Terror was in control.