“‘…to uphold the Laws and Ordinances of the city of Ankh-Morpork, serve the public trust comma and defend the subjects of His stroke Her bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket Majesty bracket name of reigning monarch bracket…’”
Angua tried to look at a point behind Carrot's ear. On top of everything else, Detritus' patient monotone was already several dozen words behind everyone else.
“‘…without fear comma favour comma or thought of personal safety semi-colon to pursue evildoers and protect the innocent comma laying down my life if necessary in the cause of said duty comma so help me bracket aforesaid deity bracket full stop Gods Save the King stroke Queen bracket delete whichever is inappropriate bracket full stop.’”
Angua subsided gratefully, and then did see Carrot's face. There were unmistakable tears trickling down his cheek.
“Er… right… that's it, then, thank you,” said Sergeant Colon, after a while.
“—pro-tect the in-no-cent com-ma–”
“In your own time, Lance-Constable Detritus.”
The sergeant cleared his throat and consulted the clipboard again.
“Now, Grabber Hoskins has been let out of jail again, so be on the look out, you know what he's like when he's had his celebratory drink, and bloody Coalface the troll beat up four men last night—”
“—in the cause of said du-ty com-ma–”
“Where's Captain Vimes?” demanded Nobby. “He should be doing this.”
“Captain Vimes is… sorting things out,” said Sergeant Colon. “'S'not easy, learning civilianing. Right.” He glanced at his clipboard again, and back to the guardsmen. Men… hah.
His lips moved as he counted. There, sitting between Nobby and Constable Cuddy, was a very small, raggedy man, whose beard and hair were so overgrown and matted together that he looked like a ferret peering out of a bush.
“—me brack-et af-ore-said de-it-y brack-et full stop.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “What're you doing here, Here'n'now? Thank you, Detritus—don't salute—you can sit down now.”
“Mr Carrot brings me in,” said Here'n'now.
“Protective custody, sarge,” said Carrot.
“Again?” Colon unhooked the cell keys from their nail over the desk and tossed them to the thief. “All right. Cell Three. Take the keys in with you, we'll holler if we need 'em back.”
“You're a toff, Mr Colon,” said Here'n'now, wandering down the steps to the cells.
Colon shook his head.
“Worst thief in the world,” he said.
“He doesn't look that good,” said Angua.
“No, I mean the worst,” said Colon. “As in ‘not good at it’.”
“Remember when he was going to go all the way up to Dunmanifestin to steal the Secret of Fire from the gods?” said Nobby.
“And I said ‘but we've got it, Here'n'now, we've had it for thousands of years,’” said Carrot. “And he said, ‘that's right, so it has antique value’.”4
“Poor old chap,” said Sergeant Colon. “OK. What else have we got… yes, Carrot?”
“Now, they've got to take the King's Shilling,” said Carrot.
“Right. Yes. OK.” Colon fished in his pocket, and took out three sequin-sized Ankh-Morpork dollars, which had about the gold content of seawater. He tossed them one at a time to the recruits.
“This is called the King's Shilling,” he said, glancing at Carrot. “Dunno why. You gotta get give it when you join. Regulations, see. Shows you've joined.” He looked embarrassed for a moment, and then coughed. “Right. Oh, yeah. Loada roc—some trolls,” he corrected himself, “got some kind of march down Short Street. Lance-Constable Detritus—don't let him salute! Right. What's this about, then?”
“It Troll New Year,” said Detritus.
“Is it? S'pose we got to learn about this sort of thing now. And says here there's this gritsuc—this dwarf rally or something—”
“Battle of Koom Valley Day,” said Constable Cuddy. “Famous victory over the trolls.” He looked smug, insofar as anything could be seen behind the beard.
“Yeah? From ambush,” grunted Detritus, glowering at the dwarf.
“What? It was the trolls—” Cuddy began.
“Shut up,” said Colon. “Look, it says here… says here they're marching… says here they're marching up Short Street.” He turned the paper over. “Is this right?”
“Trolls going one way, dwarfs going the other?” said Carrot.
“Now there's a parade you don't want to miss,” said Nobby.
“What's wrong?” said Angua.
Carrot waved his hands vaguely in the air. “Oh, dear. It's going to be dreadful. We must do something.”
“Dwarfs and trolls get along like a house on fire,” said Nobby. “Ever been in a burning house, miss?”
Sergeant Colon's normally red face had gone pale pink. He buckled on his sword belt and picked up his truncheon.
“Remember,” he said, “let's be careful out there.”
“Yeah,” said Nobby, “let's be careful to stay in here.”
To understand why dwarfs and trolls don't like each other you have to go back a long way.
They get along like chalk and cheese. Very like chalk and cheese, really. One is organic, the other isn't, and also smells a bit cheesy. Dwarfs make a living by smashing up rocks with valuable minerals in them and the silicon-based lifeform known as trolls are, basically, rocks with valuable minerals in them. In the wild they also spend most of the daylight hours dormant, and that's not a situation a rock containing valuable minerals needs to be in when there are dwarfs around. And dwarfs hate trolls because, after you've just found an interesting seam of valuable minerals, you don't like rocks that suddenly stand up and tear your arm off because you've just stuck a pick-axe in their ear.
It was a state of permanent inter-species vendetta and, like all good vendettas, didn't really need a reason any more. It was enough that it had always existed.6 Dwarfs hated trolls because trolls hated dwarfs, and vice versa.
The Watch lurked in Three Lamps Alley, which was about halfway down Short Street. There was a distant crackle of fireworks. Dwarfs let them off to drive away evil mine spirits. Trolls let them off because they tasted nice.
“Don't see why we can't let 'em fight it out amongst themselves and then arrest the losers,” said Corporal Nobbs. “That's what we always used to do.”
“The Patrician gets really shirty about ethnic trouble,” said Sergeant Colon moodily. “He gets really sarcastic about it.”
A thought struck him. He brightened up a little bit.
“Got any ideas, Carrot?” he said.
A second thought struck him. Carrot was a simple lad.
“Sort this lot out, will you?”
Carrot peered around the corner at the advancing walls of trolls and dwarfs. They'd already seen each other.
“Right you are, sergeant,” he said. “Lance-Constables Cuddy and Detritus—don't salute!–you come with me.”
“You can't let him go out there!” said Angua. “It's certain death!”
“Got a real sense o'duty, that boy,” said Corporal Nobbs. He took a minute length of dog-end from behind his ear and struck a match on the sole of his boot.
“Don't worry, miss,” said Colon. “He—”
“Lance-Constable,” said Angua.
“Lance-Constable,” she repeated. “Not miss. Carrot says I don't have any sex while I'm on duty.”
To the background of Nobby's frantic coughing, Colon said, very quickly, “What I mean is, lance-constable, young Carrot's got krisma. Bags of krisma.”
“Bags of it.”