Thud!


Chapter 9




He nudged the skull-necklaced, graffiti-ornamented, lichencovered, huge-club-dragging troll marching stoically alongside him. "Resplect, bro!" he said, clenching a scabby fist. "Why"nt you go and ghuhgyerself, Brick, you little piece of coprolite ...the troll muttered. "Right off!" said Brick. The main office was packed but Vimes fought his way through by shoving and shouting until he reached the duty desk, which was under siege. "It looks worse than it is, sir!" shouted Cheery, over the din. "Detritus and Constable Bluejohn are in the Cham right now, along with all three golem officers! We"ve started putting the line in place! Both the mobs are too busy getting themselves worked up!" "Good work, sergeant!" Cheery leaned down and lowered her voice. Vimes had to hang on to the tall desk to stop himself being carried away by the throng. "Fred Colon"s signing up the Specials in the old lemonade factory, sir. And Mr de Worde of the Times is looking for you." "Sorry, sergeant, didn"t catch that last bit!" said Vimes loudly. "The lemonade factory, right? Okay!" He turned round, and almost tripped over Mr A. E. Pessimal, who was holding a neat clipboard. "Ah, your grace, there"re just a few small matters I"d like to discuss with you," said the gleaming little man. Vimes"s mouth dropped open. "And you think this is a good time, do you?" he managed, as he was jostled by an officer carrying a bundle of swords. "Well, yes, I"ve turned up a number of little financial and procedural problems," said A. E. Pessimal calmly, "and I think it"s vitally important that I understand exactly what-" Vimes, grinning horribly, grabbed him by the shoulder. "Yes! Right! Absolutely!" he shouted. "My dear Mr Pessimal, what have I been thinking of? You should understand! Come with me, please!" He half dragged the bewildered man out through the back door, lifted him out of the way of a trundling cart as he negotiated the crowded yard, and hustled him into the old factory yard, where the Specials were being kitted up. Technically, they were the Citizens" Militia but, as Fred Colon had remarked, it was "better to have them in here pissing themselves than outside pissing on you". The special constables were men - mostly - who could be a copper in times of dire need but were generally disqualified from formal Watch membership by reason of shape, profession, age or, sometimes, brain. A lot of the professionals didn"t like them, but Vimes had lately taken the view that when push came to shove it was better to have your fellow citizens shoving alongside you and, that being the case, you might as well teach them how to hold a sword right, lest the arm they clumsily removed was yours. Vimes pulled A. E. Pessimal through the press of bodies until he found Fred Colon, who was handing out one-size- doesn"t-fitanybody helmets. "New man for you, Fred," he said loudly. "Mr A. E. Pessimal, plain A. E. if he ever makes friends. He"s the government inspector. Kit him out, full fig, and don"t forget the riot shield. A. E. here wants to understand coppering, so he"s kindly volunteered to be an actingconstable on the barricades with us." Over the top of A. E. Pessimal"s head he gave Fred a big wink. "Oh, er, right," said Fred, and his face, in the flickering light of the flares, acquired the innocent smile of one about to make someone"s life a little pot of bubbling dread. He leaned over the trestle table. "Know how to use a sword, Acting-Constable Pessimal?" he said, and dropped a helmet on the man"s head, where it spun. "Well, I didn"t exactly-" the inspector began, as a very elderly sword was shoved across the planks, followed by a heavy truncheon. "A shield, then? Any good with a shield?" said Fred, pushing a large such item after the sword. "Actually, I didn"t mean-"said A. E. Pessimal, trying to hold both the sword and the truncheon and dropping both, and then the sword and the truncheon and the shield and dropping all three. "Any good at running a hundred yards in ten seconds? In this?" Fred went on. A ragged chain mail coat dropped slowly off the table like a parcel of snakes and landed on A. E. Pessimal"s bright little shoes. "Uh, I don"t think-" "Standing still and going to the toilet really, really quickly?" said Fred. "Oh well, you"ll learn soon enough." Vimes turned the man round, picked up 35lb of rust-eaten chain mail and dropped it into his arms, causing A. E. Pessimal to bend double. "I"ll introduce you to some of the citizens who will be fighting alongside you tonight, shall I?" he said, as the little man hobbled after him. "This is Willikins, my butler. No sharpened pennies in your cap tonight, Willikins?" "No, sir," said Willikins, staring at the struggling A. E. Pessimal. "Glad to hear it. This is Acting-Constable Pessimal, Willikins." Vimes winked. "Honoured to meet you, acting-constable, sir," said Willikins gravely. "Now that sir is with us I am sure the miscreants will just melt away. Has sir by any chance gone sir-on-one with a troll before? No? A little advice, sir. The important thing is to get in front of them and dodge the first blow. They always leave themselves open and sir may then step smartly forward and select sir"s target of choice." "Er, what if ... if I"m not in front of one when it tries to hit me?" A. E. Pessimal said, hypnotized by the description and dropping the sword again. "What if it is in fact behind me?" "Ah, well, I am afraid that in that case sir has to go back and start all over again, sir: "And, er, how do I do that? "Being born is traditionally the first step, sir," said Willikins, shaking his head. Vimes gave him a nod and moved the trembling Pessimal on through the chattering crowd, while the fine rain fell and the mists rose and the torches flickered. "Good evening, sir!" said a cheerful voice and there, yes, was Special Constable Hancock, an amiable bearded man with an amiable smile and more cutlery about his person than was good for Vimes"s mental health. That was the trouble with some of the Specials. They really got into it. They bought their own gear and it was always better than Watch issue. Some of them clanged even more than dwarfs, with patent handcuffs and complicated nightsticks and comfy padded helmets and pencils that wrote underwater and, in the case of Special Constable Hancock, two curved Agatean swords strapped across his back. Those who"d dared to venture into the training yard when he was using them said they looked rather impressive. Vimes had heard that an Agatean ninja could give a fly a shave and a haircut in mid-flight, but this didn"t make him feel any better. "Oh, hello ... Andy," he said. "I think-" "Captain Carrot"s had a word with me," said Special Constable Hancock, giving him a huge wink. "I"ll see to it!" "Oh, good," said Vimes, horribly aware that he"d put himself in a tricky position vis a vis suggesting that maybe one sword might be enough. "Er ... You"ll be up against the trolls, at least to start with," he said. "Just remember that there"s our people around you, will you? Remember Special Constable Piggle, eh?" "But in fairness it was a clean cut, sir!" said Hancock. "Igor said he"d never done such an easy re-attachment!" "Nevertheless, it"s truncheons only tonight, Andy, unless I give any other order, okay?" "Understood, Commander Vimes. I"ve just got a new truncheon, as a matter of fact." Some sixth sense made Vimes say: "Oh, really? May I see?" "Right here, sir. Hancock pulled out what looked to Vimes like two truncheons, joined together with a length of chain. "They"re Agatean numknuts, sir. No sharp edges at all." Vimes gave them an experimental swing and hit his own elbow. He handed them back quickly. "Rather you than me, lad. Still, I suppose they"ll make a troll stop and think." Mr Pessimal was staring in horror, not least because wayward wood had just missed him. "Oh, this is Mr Pessimal, Andy," said Vimes. "He"s finding out how we do things. Mr Hancock is one of our ... keenest special constables, Mr Pessimal." "Nice to meet you, Mr Pessimal!" said Hancock. "If you need any catalogues, I"m your man!" Vimes moved on quickly, just in case the man drew those swords again, and ran up against a slightly more reassuring figure. "And here we have Mr Boggis," he said. "Good to see you. Mr Boggis is president of the Guild of Thieves, Mr Pessimal." Mr Boggis saluted proudly. He had accepted a chain mail jacket from Fred, but no power in the world would have parted him from his brown bowler hat. Any power nevertheless inclined to try would in any case have to contend with the narrow-eyed, stony-jawed men on either side of him, who had eschewed any weapons or armour. One of them was cleaning his fingernails with a cut-throat razor. In a strange but very definite way they looked much more dangerous than Special Constable Hancock. "And also Vinny "No Ears" Ludd and Harry "Can"t Remember His Nickname" Jones, I see," Vimes went on. "You"ve brought your bodyguards, Mr Boggis?" "Vinny and Harry like to get out in the fresh air, Mister Vimes," said Mr Boggis. "And you"ve got your own bodyguard, then?" He beamed down on A. E. Pessimal and then grinned at Vimes. "You have to watch them little bantam fighters, Mister Vimes, they can have the nose off"f your face quicker"n wink. I can tell a killing cove when I see one, eh? Best of luck to you, Mr Pessimal!" Vimes bustled the astonished man away before Mr Boggis was killed on the spot by the God of Over-Acting, and almost walked into the one Special who could be guaranteed not to talk too much. "And here, Mr Pessimal, here we have the University Librarian," he said. "Good man in a melee, eh?" "But that- that"s not a man! That"s an orangutan, Pongo pongo, native of BhangBhangduc and nearby islands!" "Ook!" said the Librarian, patting A. E. Pessimal on the head and handing him a banana skin. "Well done, A. E.!" said Vimes. "Not many people get that right!" And so Vimes dragged the inspector back through the crowd of damp, armoured men, introducing him right and left. Then he pushed him into a corner and, to faint stunned protestations, dragged the mail shirt over his head. "You stick close behind me, Mr Pessimal," he said, as the man tried to move. "It could get a bit sticky later on. The trolls are up in the plaza and the dwarfs are down in the square, and both of "em are drinking up enough courage to have a good scrap. That"s why we"ll be lining up in the Cham, right between "em, the thin brown streak, haha. The dwarfs favour battle-axes, the trolls go in for clubs. Our weapon of first resort will be our truncheons, and our weapon of last resort is our feet. That is to say, we"ll run like hell." "But, but, you have swords!" A. E. Pessimal managed. "We have swords, acting-constable. Yes, that is a fact, but poking holes in citizens is Watch brutality, and we don"t want any of that now, do we? Let"s get going; I wouldn"t like you to miss anything." He harried the man again, out into the street and the stream of watchmen heading for the Cham. Apart from them, the street was empty. Ankh-Morpork people had an instinct for staying indoors when there were too many battle-axes and spiky clubs out there. The Cham was simply a very, very wide road, once intended for ceremonial parades, a hangover from the days when the city had much to be ceremonious about. Drizzle filled it now and did not do much more than wet the pavements and reflect the light of the flares along the barricades. Barricades ... well, that"s what they were called on the Watch inventory. Ha! Lengths of wood painted in black and yellow stripes and mounted on trestles were not barricades, not to anyone who"d been behind a real one, which was built of rubbish and furniture and barrels and fear and bowel-knotting defiance. No, these simple things were the physical symbol of an idea. It was a line in the sand. It said: thus far, and no further. It said: this is where the law is. Step over this line and you"ve gone beyond the law. Step over this line, with your massive axes and huge morningstars and heavy, heavy spiky clubs, and we few, we happy few, who stand here with our wooden truncheons, we"ll ... we"ll ... ... well, you just better not step over the line, okay? The yellow and black edges of the Law had been set about twelve feet apart, giving plenty of room for two lines of watchmen standing back to back, facing outwards. Vimes dragged Mr Pessimal into the centre of the Cham, between the lines, and let him go. "Any questions?" he said, as latecomers jostled past them to take up their positions. The little man stared towards the distant plaza, where the trolls had lit a big fire, and then turned to look the other way, at the square, where the dwarfs had lit several fires. There was the sound of distant singing. "Oh, yes, we"ll get the singing first. At this point it"s all about getting the blood pounding, you see," Vimes added helpfully. "Songs about heroes, great victories, killing your enemies and drinking out of their warm skulls, that sort of thing." "And then, er, they"ll attack us?" said A. E. Pessimal. "Well, not as such," Vimes conceded. "They"ll try to attack the other bunch, and we"re in the way." "They won"t go around us, perhaps?" said A. E. Pessimal hopefully. "I doubt it. They won"t be in the mood for narrow alleys. They"ll be thinking in straight lines. Charge and yell, they"ll say, that"s the way." "Ah, there"s the university over there!" said A. E. Pessimal, as if noticing the huge bulk of Unseen University for the very first time. "Surely the wizards could-" -magic their weapons out of their hands, possibly leaving them with all their fingers? Magic them into the cells? Turn them all into ferrets? And what then, Mr Pessimal?" Vimes lit a cigar, cupping the match in his hand so that the flame made his face glow briefly. "Shall we follow where magic leads us? Wave a wand, eh, to find out who"s guilty, and what of? Magic men good? The innocent would have nothing to fear, d"you think? I wouldn"t bet tuppence, Mr Pessimal. Magic"s a little bit alive, a little bit tricky. Just when you think you"ve got it by the throat it bites you in the arse. No magic in my Watch, Mr Pessimal. We use good old-fashioned policing." "But there are lots of them, commander." "About a thousand altogether, I reckon," said Vimes placidly. "Plus who knows how many more out there who"ll whale in if we let it get out of hand. This is just the hotheads and the gangs right now." "B-but can"t you just, er, leave them to it? "No, Mr Pessimal, because that"d be what we in the Watch call "complete and utter bloody chaos" and it will not stop, and it will get bigger very quickly. We have to finish it right now, so-" There was a thud from the direction of the plaza. It was loud enough to echo around the buildings. "What was that?" A. E. Pessimal said, looking around hurriedly. "Oh, that was to be expected," said Vimes. Pessimal relaxed very slightly. "It was?" "Yes, it"s the gahanka, the troll war beat," said Vimes. "They say that within ten minutes of hearing it, you"re dead." Behind Pessimal, Detritus grinned, the torchlight turning his diamond teeth into rubies. "Is that true?" "I shouldn"t think so," said Vimes. "And now please excuse me for a while, Acting-Constable Pessimal. I"ll leave you in the good hands of Sergeant Detritus while I talk to my men . Stiffen their sinews, that sort of thing." He moved away quickly. He told himself he shouldn"t be doing this to the inspector, who was just a clerk in the wrong place and probably wasn"t a bad man. The trouble was, the trolls up in the plaza probably weren"t bad trolls, and the dwarfs down in the square probably weren"t bad dwarfs, either. People who probably weren"t bad could kill you. The troll beat boomed around the city as Vimes reached Fred Colon. "I see they"re giving us the of gahanka then, Mister Vimes," said the sergeant, with nervous cheerfulness. "Yep. They"ll be charging pretty soon, I expect: Vimes screwed up his eyes, trying to see figures around the distant glow. Trolls didn"t charge fast, but when they charged it was like a wall getting nearer. Extending a hand and shouting "Halt!" in a firm, authoritative voice probably would not be sufficient. "You thinking about another barricade, Mister Vimes?" said Fred. "Hmm?" said Vimes, dismissing the mental picture of himself laminated to the street. "Barricades, sir," Colon prompted. "More"n thirty years ago?" Vimes gave a curt nod. Oh yes, he remembered the Glorious Revolution. It hadn"t really been a revolution and had been glorious only if you thought an early grave was glorious. Men had died there, too, because of other men who, bar one or two, probably weren"t bad ... "Yes," he said. "And it seems like only yesterday." Every day, he thought, it seems like only yesterday. "Remember of Sergeant Keel? He pulled off a few tricks that night!" Sergeant Colon"s voice, like A. E. Pessimal"s, had a curiously hopeful tone. Vimes nodded. "I suppose you wouldn"t have one or two up your sleeve too, sir?" Fred went on, the hope now naked and unashamed. "You know me, Fred, always willing to learn," said Vimes vaguely. He strolled on, nodding to watchmen he knew, slapping others on the back, and trying not to get trapped in anyone"s gaze. Every face was in some way a reflection of the face of Fred Colon. He could practically see their thoughts, while the thud of five hundred clubs hitting the stone in unison banged on the eardrums like a hammer. You have got it sorted, haven"t you, Mister Vimes? We"re not really going to be stuck here like the meat in a sandwich, right? It"s a trick, yes? It is a trick, isn"t it? Sir? I hope it is, Vimes thought. But, one way or another, the Watch has to be here. That"s the bloody truth of it. Something had changed in the rhythm of the gahanka. You had to be listening, but some of the clubs were hitting the ground just ahead or just after the beat. Ah. He reached Cheery and Carrot, who were staring at the distant fires of the dwarfs. "We think we might be getting a result, sir," said Carrot. "I damn well hope so! What"s happening with the dwarfs?" "Not so much singing, sir," Cheery reported. "Glad to hear it." "We could handle them, though, couldn"t we, sir?" said Carrot. "With the golem officers on our side too? If it came to it?" Of course we couldn"t, Vimes"s mind supplied, not if they mean it. What we could do is die valiantly. I"ve seen men die valiantly. There"s no future in it. "I don"t want it to come to it, captain-" Vimes stopped. A deeper shadow had moved amongst the shadows. "What"s the password?" he said quickly. The shadowy figure, who was cloaked and hooded, hesitated. "Pathword? Ecthcuthe me, I"ve got it written down thome where-" it began. "Okay, Igor, come on in," said Carrot. "How did you know it wath me, thur?" said Igor, ducking under the barricade. "Your aftershave" said Vimes, winking at the captain. "How did it go?" Jutht ath you thaid, thur," said Igor, pushing his hood back. "Inthidentally, thur, I have thcrubbed the thlab well and my couthin Igor ith thtanding by to lend a hand. In cathe of any little acthidenth, thur. ..." "Thank you for thinking of that, Igor," said Vimes, as if Igors ever thought of anything else. "I hope it won"t be needed." He looked up and down the Chain. The rain was falling harder now. Just for once, the copper"s friend had turned up when he really needed it. Rain tended to dampen martial enthusiasm. "Anyone seen Nobby?" he said. A voice from the shadows said: "Here, Mister Vimes! Been here five minutes!" "Why didn"t you sing out, then?" "Couldn"t remember the password, sir! I thought I"d wait till I heard Igor say it!" "Oh, come on in. Did it work?" "Better"n you"d imagine, sir!" said Nobby, rain pouring down his cloak. Vimes stood back. "Okay, lads, then this is it. Carrot and Cheery, you head for the dwarfs, me and Detritus will take the trolls. You know the drill. Lines to advance slowly, and no edged weapons. I repeat, no edged weapons until it"s that or die. Let"s do this like coppers, okay? On the signal!" He hurried back up the line of barricades as fast as the stir ran along the ranks of the watchmen. Detritus was waiting stoically. He grunted when Vimes arrived. "Clubs have jus" about stopped, sir," he reported. "I heard, sergeant." Vimes took off his oiled leather cloak and hung it on the barricade. He needed his arms free. "By the way, how did it go in Turn Again Lane?" he said, stretch ing and breathing deeply. "Oh, wonnerful, sir," said Detritus happily. "Six alchemists an" fifty pound o" fresh Slide. In an" out, quick an" sweet, all banged up in the Tanty." "Didn"t know what"d hit "em, eh?" said Vimes. Detritus looked mildly offended at this. "Oh no, sir," he said, "I made sure they knew I hit "em." And then Vimes spotted Mr Pessimal, still where he had left him, his face a pale disc in shadows. Well, enough of that game. Maybe the little tit would have learned something, standing here in the rain, waiting to be caught between a couple of screaming mobs. Maybe he"d had time to wonder what it was like to spend your life going through moments like that. A bit harder than pushing paper, eh? "If I was you, I"d just wait here, Mr Pessimal," he said, as kindly as he could manage. "This might be a bit rough in parts." "No, commander," said A. E. Pessimal, looking up. "What?" "I have been paying attention to what has been said, and intend to face the foe, commander," said A. E. Pessimal. "Now see here, Mr Pessi- er, see here, A. E.," said Vimes, putting his hand on the little man"s shoulder. He stopped. A. E. Pessimal was trembling so much that his chain mail was faintly jingling. Vimes persevered. "Look, go on home, eh? This isn"t where you belong: He patted the shoulder a few times, totally nonplussed. "Commander Vimes!" snapped the inspector. "Er, yes?" A. E. Pessimal turned up to Vimes a face wetter than the drizzle rightly accounted for. "I am an acting-constable, am I not?" "Well, yes, I know I said that, but I did not expect you to take it seriously. . "I am a serious man, Commander Vimes. And there is no place I would rather be now than here!" Acting-Constable Pessimal said, his teeth chattering. "And no time I"d rather be here than now! Let"s do this, shall we?" Vimes looked at Detritus, who shrugged his massive shoulders. Something was happening here, in the mind of a little man whose back he could probably break with one hand. "Oh, well, if you say so," he said hopelessly. "You heard the inspector, Sergeant Detritus. Let"s do this, shall we?" The troll nodded and turned to face the distant troll encampment. He cupped his hands and bellowed a string of trollish which bounced off the buildings. "Something we can all understand, perhaps?" said Vimes, as the echoes died away. A. E. Pessimal stepped forward, taking a deep breath. "C"mon if you think you"re hard enoughf he screamed wildly. Vimes coughed. "Thank you, Mr Pessimal," he said weakly. "I imagine that should do it." The moon was somewhere beyond the clouds but Angua didn"t need to see it. Carrot had once had a special watch made for her birthday. It was a little moon that turned right around, black side and white side, through every twenty-eight days. It must have cost him a lot of money and Angua now wore it on her collar, the one item of clothing that she could wear all month round. She couldn"t bring herself to tell him she didn"t need it. You knew what was happening. It was hard to know much else right now, because she was thinking with her nose. That was the problem with the wolf times: the nose took charge. Currently, Angua was searching the alleys around Treacle Street, spiralling out from the entrance to the dwarf mine. She prowled onward in a world of colour; smells overlaid on one another, drifting and persisting. The nose is also the only organ that can see backwards in time. She"d already visited the spoil heap on the waste ground. There was the smell of troll there. It had got out that way, but there was no point in following a trail that cold. Hundreds of street trolls wore lichen and skulls these days. But the foul oily stuff, that was a smell that was clinging to her memory. The little devils must have some other ways in, right? And you had to move the air around in a mine, right? So some trace of that oil would find its way out along with the air. It probably wouldn"t be strong, but she didn"t need it to be. A trace was all she needed. It would be more than enough. As she padded through the alleys, and leapt walls into midnight yards, she kept clenched in her jaws the little leather bag that was a friend to any thinking werewolf, such a creature being defined as one who remembers that your clothes don"t magically follow you. The bag held a lightweight silk dress and a large bottle of mouthwash, which Angua considered to be the greatest invention of the last hundred years. She found what she was looking for behind Broadway: it stood out against the familiar organic smells of the city as a tiny black ribbon of stench that left zigzags in the air as breezes and the passage of carts had dragged it this way and that. She began to move with more care. This wasn"t an area like Treacle Street; people with money lived here, and they often spent that money on big dogs and "Disproportionate Response" signs in their driveways. As it was, she heard the rattle of chains and the occasional whine as she slunk along. She hated being attacked by large ferocious dogs. It always left a mess and the mouthwash afterwords was never strong enough. The thread of stink was floating through the railings of Empirical Crescent, one of the city"s great architectural semi-precious gems. It was always hard to find people prepared to live there, however, despite the generally desirable nature of the area. Tenants seldom stayed for more than a few months before moving hurriedly, sometimes leaving all their possessions behind. [1] She sailed over the railing with silence and ease and landed on all [1] Empirical Crescent was just off Park Lane, in what was generally a high-rent district. The rents would have been higher still were it not for the continued existence of Empirical Crescent itself, which, despite the best efforts of the Ankh-Morpork Historical Preservation Society, had still not been pulled down. This was because it had been built by Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, better known to history as "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, a man who combined in one frail body such enthusiasm, self-delusion and creative lack of talent that he was, in many respects, one of the great heroes of architecture. Only Bloody Stupid Johnson could have invented the 13-inch foot and a triangle with three right angles in it. Only Bloody Stupid Johnson could have twisted common matter through dimensions it was not supposed to enter. And only Bloody Stupid Johnson could have done all this by accident. His highly original multi-dimensional approach to geometry was responsible for Empirical Crescent. On the outside it was a normal terraced crescent of the period, built of honey-coloured stone with the occasional pillar or cherub nailed on. Inside, the front door of No. 1 opened into the back bedroom of No.15, the ground-floor front window of No.3 showed the view appropriate to the second floor of No.9, smoke from the dining-room fireplace of No. 2 came out of the chimney of No.19. fours on what had once been a gravel path. Residents in the crescent seldom did much gardening, since even if you planted bulbs you could never be sure whose garden they"d come up in. Angua followed her nose to a patch of rampant thistles. Some mouldering bricks in a circle marked what must have been an old well. The oily stink was heavy here, but there was a fresher, far more complex smell that raised the hairs on Angua"s neck. There was a vampire down there. Someone had pulled away the weeds and debris, including the inevitable rotting mattress and decomposing armchair. [1] Sally? What would she be doing here? Angua pulled a brick out of the rotted edging and let it drop. Instead of a splash, there was a clear wooden thump. Oh well. She went back to human to get down; claws were fine, but some things were better done by monkeys. The sides were of course slimy, but so many bricks had fallen out over the years that the descent turned out to be easier than she"d expected. And it was only about sixty feet deep, built in the days when it was widely believed that any water that supported so many little whiskery swimming things must be healthy. There were fresh planks in the bottom. Someone - and surely it could only have been the dwarfs - had broken into the well down here and laid a couple of planks across it. They had dug this far, and stopped. Why? Because they"d reached the well? There was dirty water, or water-like liquid, just under the planks. The tunnel was a bit wider here, and dwarfs had been here - she sniffed - a few days ago, no more. Yes. Dwarfs had been here, had fished around, and had then all left at once. They hadn"t even bothered to tidy up. She could smell it like a picture. [1] It was okay to throw your rubbish into the garden, because it might not be your garden you were throwing it into. She crept forward, the tunnels mapping themselves in her nostrils. They weren"t nicely finished like the tunnels Ardent moved in. They were rougher, with lots of zigzags and blind alleys. Rough planks and baulks of timber held back the fetid mud of the plains, which was nevertheless oozing through everywhere. These tunnels weren"t built to last; they were there for a quick and definitely dirty job and all they had to do was survive until it was done. So ... the diggers had been looking for something, but weren"t sure where it was until they were within, what, about twenty feet of it, when they"d ... smelled it? Detected it? The last stretch to the well was dead straight. By then, they knew where they were going. Angua crept on, almost bending double to clear the low ceiling until she gave up and went back to wolf. The tunnel straightened out again, with the occasional side passage that she ignored, although they smelled long. The vampire odour was still an annoying theme in the nasal symphony, and it came close to drowning the reek of foul water oozing from the walls. Here and there, vurms had colonized the ceiling. So had bats. They stirred. And then there was another scent, as she passed a tunnel opening. It was quite faint, but it was unmistakably the whiff of corruption. A fresh death ...





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