The jolting had stopped. Chubby was really annoyed now. Really, really annoyed.
There was a rustling noise. A piece of sacking moved aside and there, staring at Chubby, was another male dragon.
It looked annoyed.
Chubby reacted in the only way he knew how.
Carrot stood in the middle of the street, arms folded, while the two new recruits stood just behind him, trying to keep an eye on both approaching marches at the same time.
Colon thought Carrot was simple. Carrot often struck people as simple. And he was.
Where people went wrong was thinking that simple meant the same thing as stupid.
Carrot was not stupid. He was direct, and honest, and good-natured and honourable in all his dealings. In Ankh-Morpork this would normally have added up to “stupid” in any case and would have given him the survival quotient of a jellyfish in a blast furnace, but there were a couple of other factors. One was a punch that even trolls had learned to respect. The other was that Carrot was genuinely, almost supernaturally, likeable. He got on well with people, even while arresting them. He had an exceptional memory for names.
For most of his young life he'd lived in a small dwarf colony where there were hardly any other people to know. Then, suddenly, he was in a huge city, and it was as if a talent had been waiting to unfold. And was still unfolding.
He waved cheerfully at the approaching dwarfs.
“'Morning Mr Cumblethigh! 'Morning, Mr Stronginthearm!”
Then he turned and waved at the leading troll. There was a muffled “pop” as a firework went off.
“'Morning, Mr Bauxite!”
He cupped his hands.
“If you could all just stop and listen to me—” he bellowed.
The two marches did stop, with some hesitation and a general piling up of the people in the back. It was that or walk over Carrot.
If Carrot did have a minor fault, it lay in not paying attention to small details around him when his mind was on other things. So the whispered conversation behind his back was currently escaping him.
“—hah! It was too an ambush! And your mother was an ore–”
“Now then, gentlemen,” said Carrot, in a reasoned and amiable voice, “I'm sure there's no need for this belligerent manner—”
“—you ambush us too! my great-great-grandfather he at Koom Valley, he tell me!”
“—in our fair city on such a lovely day. I must ask you as good citizens of Ankh-Morpork—”
“—yeah? you even know who your father is, do you?”
“—that, while you must certainly celebrate your proud ethnic folkways, to profit by the example of my fellow officers here, who have sunk their ancient differences—”
“—I smash you head, you roguesome dwarfs!”
“—for the greater benefit of—”
“—I could take you with one hand tied behind my back!”
“—the city, whose badge they are—”
“—you get opportunity! I tie BOTH hands behind you back!”
“—proud and privileged to wear.”
It dawned on Carrot that hardly anyone was paying any attention to him. He turned.
Lance-Constable Cuddy was upside down, because Lance-Constable Detritus was trying to bounce him on the cobbles by his helmet, although Lance-Constable Cuddy was putting the position to good effect by gripping Lance-Constable Detritus around the knee and trying to sink his teeth into Lance-Constable Detritus' ankle.
The opposing marchers watched in fascination.
“We should do something!” said Angua, from the guards' hiding place in the alley.
“Weeell,” said Sergeant Colon, slowly, “it's always very tricky, ethnic.”
“Can put a foot wrong very easily,” said Nobby. “Very thin-skinned, your basic ethnic.”
“Thin-skinned? They're trying to kill one another!”
“It's cultural,” said Sergeant Colon, miserably. “No sense us tryin' to force our culture on 'em, is there? That's speciesist.”
Out in the street, Corporal Carrot had gone very red in the face.
“If he lays a finger on either of 'em, with all their friends watching,” said Nobby, “the plan is, we run away like hell—”
Veins stood out on Carrot's mighty neck. He stuck his hands on his waist and bellowed:
“Lance-Constable Detritus! Salute!”
They'd spent hours trying to teach him. Detritus' brain took some time to latch on to an idea, but once it was there, it didn't fade away fast.
His hand was full of dwarf.
So he saluted while holding Lance-Constable Cuddy, swinging him up and over like a small angry club.
The sound of their helmets meeting echoed off the buildings, and it was followed a moment later by the crash of them both hitting the ground.
Carrot prodded them with the toe of his sandal.
Then he turned and strode towards the dwarf marchers, shaking with anger.
In the alleyway, Sergeant Colon started to suck the rim of his helmet out of terror.
“You've got weapons, haven't you?” snarled Carrot at a hundred dwarfs. “Own up! If the dwarfs who've got weapons don't drop them right this minute the entire parade, and I mean the entire parade, will be put in the cells! I'm serious about this!”
The dwarfs in the front row took a step backwards. There was a desultory tinkle of metallic objects hitting the ground.
“All of them,” said Carrot menacingly. “That includes you with the black beard trying to hide behind Mr Hamslinger! I can see you, Mr Stronginthearm! Put it down. No-one's amused!”
“He's going to die, isn't he,” said Angua, quietly.
“Funny, that,” said Nobby. “If we was to try it, we'd be little bits of mince. But it seems to work for him.”
“Krisma,” said Sergeant Colon, who was having to lean on the wall.
“Do you mean charisma?” said Angua.
“Yeah. One of them things. Yeah.”
“How does he manage it?”
“Dunno,” said Nobby. “S'pose he's an easy lad to like?”
Carrot had turned on the trolls, who were smirking at the dwarfs' discomfiture.
“And as for you,” he said, “I shall definitely be patrolling around Quarry Lane tonight, and I won't be seeing any trouble. Will I?”
There was a shuffling of huge oversized feet, and a general muttering.
Carrot cupped his hand to his ear.
“I couldn't quite hear,” he said.
There was a louder mutter, a sort of toccata scored for one hundred reluctant voices on the theme of “Yes, Corporal Carrot.”
“Right. Now off you go. And let's have no more of this nonsense, there's good chaps.”
Carrot brushed the dust off his hands and smiled at everyone. The trolls looked puzzled. In theory, Carrot was a thin film of grease on the street. But somehow it just didn't seem to be happening…
Angua said, “He just called a hundred trolls ‘good chaps’. Some of them are just down off the mountains! Some of them have got lichen on them!”
“Smartest thing on a troll,” said Sergeant Colon.
And then the world exploded.