'Forget it, pal,' said Gaspode. 'Anyway, the only other way must be down those steps. They connect with the sea, right? All you have to do is swim down there and hope your lungs hold out.'

Laddie barked.


'Not you,' said Gaspode. 'I wasn't talking to you. Never volunteer for anything.'

Victor continued his burrowing among the rocks.

'I don't know,' he said, after a while, 'but it seems to me I can see a bit of light here. What do you think?'

He heard Gaspode scramble over the stones.

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'Could be, could be,' said the dog grudgingly. 'Looks like a couple of blocks have wedged up and left a space.'

'Big enough for someone small to crawl through?' said Victor encouragingly.

'I knew you were going to say that,' said Gaspode.

Victor heard the scrabble of paws on loose rock. Eventually a muffled voice said, 'It opens up a bit . . . tight squeeze here . . . blimey . . . '

There was silence.

'Gaspode?' said Victor apprehensively.

'It's OK. I'm through. An' I can see the door.'


Victor felt the air move and there was a scratching noise. He reached out carefully and his hand met a ferociously hairy body.

'Laddie's trying to follow you!'

'He's too big. He'll get stuck!'

There was a canine grunt, a frantic kicking which showered Victor with gravel, and a small bark of triumph.

'O'corse, he's a bit skinnier'n me,' said Gaspode, after a while.

'Now you two run and fetch help,' said Victor. 'Er. We'll wait here.'

He heard them disappear into the distance. Laddie's faraway barking indicated that they had reached the outside air.

Victor sat back.

'Now all we have to do is wait,' he said.

'We're in the hill, aren't we?' said Ginger's voice in the darkness.


'How did we get here?'

'I followed you.'

'I told you to stop me.'

'Yes, but then you tied me up.'

'I did no such thing!'

'You tied me up,' repeated Victor. 'And then you came here and opened the door and made a torch of some sort and went all the way into that - that place. I dread to think of what you'd have done if I hadn't woken you up.'

There was a pause.

'I really did all that?' said Ginger uncertainly.

'You really did.'

'But I don't remember any of it!'

'I believe you. But you still did it.'

'What - what was that place, anyway?'

Victor shifted in the darkness, trying to make himself comfortable.

'I don't know,' he confessed. 'At first I thought it was a temple. And it looked as though people used it for watching moving pictures.'

'But it looked hundreds of years old!'

'Thousands, I expect.'

'But look, that can't be right,' said Ginger, in the small voice of one trying to be reasonable while madness is breaking down the door with a cleaver. 'The alchemists only got the idea a few months ago.'

'Yes. It's something to think about.'

He reached out and found her. Her body was ramrod stiff and flinched at his touch.

'We're safe enough here,' he added. 'Gaspode will soon bring back some help. Don't you worry about that.'

He tried not to think about the sea slapping at the stairs, and the many-legged things that scuttled over the midnight floor. He tried to put out of his mind the thought of octopi slithering silently over the seats in front of that living, shifting screen. He tried to forget the patrons who had been sitting in the darkness while, above them, centuries passed. Perhaps they were waiting for the lady to come around with the banged grains and hot sausages.

The whole of life is just like watching a click, he thought. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it all out yourself from the clues.

And you never, never get a chance to stay in your seat for the second house.

Candlelight flickered in the University corridor.

The Bursar did not think of himself as a brave man. The most he felt happy about tackling was a column of numbers, and being good at numbers had taken him further up the hierarchy of Unseen University than magic had ever done. But he couldn't let this pass .

. . . whumm . . . whumm . . . whummwhummwhummWHUMM WHUMM.

He crouched behind a pillar and counted eleven pellets.

Little jets of sand puffed out of the bags. They were coming at two-minute intervals now.

He ran to the heap of sandbags and tugged at them.

Reality wasn't the same everywhere. Well, of course, every wizard knew that. Reality wasn't very thick anywhere on the Discworld. In some places it was very thin indeed. That was why magic worked. What Riktor thought he could measure was changes in reality, places where the real was rapidly becoming unreal. And every wizard knew what could happen if things became unreal enough to form a hole.

But, he thought, as he clawed at the bags, you'd need massive amounts of magic. We'd be bound to spot that amount of magic. It'd stand out like . . . well, like a lot of magic.

I must have taken at least fifty seconds so far.

He peered at the vase in its bunker.


He'd been hoping he might be wrong.

All the pellets had been expelled in one direction. Half a dozen sandbags had been shot full of holes. And Numbers had thought that a couple of pellets in a month indicated a dangerous build-up of unreality . . .

The Bursar mentally drew a line from the vase, through the damaged sandbags, to the far end of the corridor .

. . . whumm . . . whumm . . .

He jerked back, and then realized that there was no need to worry. All the pellets were being shot out of the ornamental elephant's head opposite him. He relaxed.

. . . whumm . . . whumm . . .

The vase rocked violently as mysterious machinery swung around inside it. The Bursar put his head closer to it. Yes, there was definitely a hissing sound, like air being squeezed

Eleven pellets slammed at high speed into the sandbags.

The vase recoiled back, in accordance with the famous principle of reaction. Instead of hitting a sandbag, it hit the Bursar.


He blinked. He took a step backwards. He fell over.

Because Holy Wood's disturbances in reality were extending weak but opportunist tendrils even as far as Ankh-Morpork, a couple of little bluebirds flew around his head for a moment and went 'tweet-tweet-tweet' before vanishing.

Gaspode lay on the sand and wheezed. Laddie danced around him, barking urgently.

'We're well out of that,' he managed, and stood up and shook himself.

Laddie barked and looked incredibly photogenic.

'All right, all right,' sighed Gaspode. 'How about if we go and find some breakfast and maybe catch up on our sleep and then we'll-'

Laddie barked again.

Gaspode sighed.

'Oh, all right,' he said. 'Have it your way. But you won't get any thanks, you know.'

The dog whizzed away across the sand. Gaspode followed at a more leisurely, ambling pace, and was very surprised when Laddie doubled back, picked him up gently by the scruff of the neck, and bounded off again.

'You're only doin' this to me 'cos I'm small,' Gaspode complained, as he swung from side to side, and 'No, not that way! Humans'll be no good at this time o' the morning. We want trolls. They'll still be up and about and they're dab hands at the underground stuff. Take the next right. We want the Blue Lias and - oh, bugger.'

It had suddenly dawned on him that he was going to be required to talk.

And in public.

You could spend ages carefully concealing your vocal abilities from people and then, bingo, you were on the spot and you had to talk. Otherwise young Victor and Cat Woman would be moulderin' down there forever. Young Laddie was going to drop him in front of someone and

look expectant and he'd have to explain. And afterwards spend his whole life as some sort of freak.

Laddie trotted up the street and into the smoky portals of the Blue Lias, which was crowded. He threaded his way through a maze of treetrunk legs to the bar, barked sharply, and dropped Gaspode on the floor.

He looked expectant.

The buzz of conversation stopped.

'Is that Laddie?' said a troll. 'What he want?'

Gaspode wandered groggily to the nearest troll and tugged politely at a trailing strip of rusty chain mail.

' 'Scuse me,' he said.

'He bloody intelligent dog,' said another troll, idly kicking Gaspode aside. 'I see him in click yesterday. He can play dead and count up to five.'

'That two more than you can, then.' This got a round of laughter.[23]

'No, shut up. I reckon', said the first troll, 'he trying to tell us something.'

'-'scuse me-'

'You only got to look at the way he leaping about and barking.'

'That right. I saw him in this click, he showing people where to find lost children in caves.'

'-'scuse me-'

A troll brow wrinkled. 'To eat 'em, you mean?'

'No, to bring 'em outside.'

'What, like for a barbecue sort of thing?'

'-'scuse me-'

Another foot caught Gaspode on the side of his bullet head.

'Could be he found some more. Look at the way he running back and forwards to the door. He one clever dog.'

'We could go look,' said the first troll.

'Good idea. It seem like ages since I had my tea.'

'Listen, you not allowed to eat people in Holy Wood. It get us bad name! Also Silicon Anti-Defamation League be down on you like a ton of rectangular building things.'

'Yeah, but could be a reward or something.'


'Right! Also, big improvement for troll image viz-ah-viz public relations if we find lost children.'

'And even if we don't, we can eat the dog, right?'

The bar emptied, leaving only the usual clouds of smoke, cauldrons of molten troll drinks, Ruby idly scraping the congealed lava off the mugs, and a small, weary, moth-eaten dog.

The small, weary, moth-eaten dog thought hard about the difference between looking and acting like a wonder dog and merely being one.

It said 'Bugger.'

Victor remembered being frightened of tigers when he was young. In vain did people point out that the nearest tiger was three thousand miles away. He'd say, 'Is there any sea between where they live and here?' and people would say, 'Well, no, but-' and he'd say, 'Then it's just a matter of distance.'

Darkness was the same thing. All dreadful dark places were connected by the nature of darkness itself. Darkness was everywhere, all the time, just waiting for the lights to go out. Just like the Dungeon Dimensions, really. Just waiting for reality to snap.

He held on tight to Ginger.

'You needn't,' she said. 'I've got a grip on myself now.'

'Oh, good,' he said weakly.

'The trouble is, so have you.'

He relaxed.

'Are you cold?' she said.

'A bit. It's very clammy down here.'

'Is it your teeth I can hear chattering?'

'Who else's? No,' he added hurriedly, 'don't even think about it.'

'You know,' she said, after a while, 'I don't remember anything about tying you up. I'm not even very good at knots.'

'These were pretty good,' said Victor.

'I just remember the dream. There was this voice telling me that I must wake the - the sleeping man?'

Victor thought of the armoured figure on the slab.

'Did you get a good look at it?' he said. 'What was it like?'

'I don't know about tonight,' said Ginger cautiously. 'But in my dreams it's always looked a bit like my Uncle Oswald.'

Victor thought of a sword taller than he was. You couldn't parry a slash from something like that, it'd cut through anything. Somehow it was hard to think of anything looking like an Oswald with a sword like that.

'Why's he remind you of your Uncle Oswald?' he said.

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