There was a distant bellowing as the herd approached.
Eventually the first troll said, very slowly, because it had been working this out for a long time. 'What do you get, right, what do you get if, you cross . . . a mountain with a elephant?'
It never got an answer.
The yetis had been right.
When five hundred crude two-elephant bobsleighs crested the ridge ten feet away at sixty miles an hour, their strapped-on occupants trumpeting in panic, they never saw the yetis until they were right on top of them.
Victor got only two hours' sleep but got up feeling remarkably refreshed and optimistic.
It was all over. Things were going to be a whole lot better now. Ginger had been quite nice to him last night - well, a few hours ago -and whatever it was in the hill had been well and truly buried.
You got that sort of thing sometimes, he thought, as he poured some water into the cracked basin and had a quick wash. Some wicked old king or wizard gets buried and their spirit creeps about, trying to put things right or something. Well-known effect. But now there must be a million tons of rock blocking the tunnel, and I can't see anyone doing any creeping through that.
The unpleasantly alive screen surfaced briefly in his memory, but even that didn't seem so bad now. It had been dark in there, there had been lots of moving shadows, he had been wound up like a spring in any case, no wonder his eyes had played tricks on him. There had been the skeletons, too, but even they now lacked the power to terrify. Victor had heard of tribal leaders up on the cold plains who'd be buried with whole armies of mounted horsemen, so that their souls would live on in the next world. Maybe there was something like that
here, once. Yes, it all seemed much less horrifying in the cold light of day.
And that's just what it was. Cold light.
The room was full of the kind of light you got when you woke up on a winter's morning and knew, by the light, that it had snowed. It was a light without shadows.
He went to the window and looked out on a pale silver glow.
Holy Wood had vanished.
The visions of the night fountained up in his mind again, as the darkness returns when the light goes out.
Hang on, hang on, he thought, fighting the panic. It's only fog. You're bound to get fog sometimes, this close to the sea. And it's glowing like that because the sun's out. There's nothing occult about fog. It's just fine drops of water floating in the air. That's all it is.
He dragged his clothes on and threw open the door to the passage and almost tripped over Gaspode, who had been lying full length in front of the door like the world's most unwashed draught excluder.
The little dog raised himself unsteadily on his front paws, fixed Victor with a yellow eye and said, 'I jus' want you to know, right, that I ain't lyin' in front of your door 'cos of any of this loyal-dogprotectin'-his-master nonsense, OK, it's jus' that when I got back here-'
'Shut up, Gaspode.'
Victor opened the outer door. Fog drifted in. It seemed to have an exploratory feel to it; it came in as if it had been waiting for just this opportunity.
'Fog's just fog,' he said aloud. 'Come on. We're going to Ankh-Morpork today, remember?'
'My head,' said Gaspode, 'my head feels like the bottom of a cat's basket.'
'You can sleep on the coach. I can sleep on the coach, if it comes to that.'
He took a few steps into the silvery glow, and was almost immediately lost. Buildings loomed vaguely at him in the thick clammy air.
'Gaspode?' he said hesitantly. Fog's just fog, he repeated. But it feels crowded. It feels like that, if it suddenly went away, I'd see lots of people watching me. From outside. And that's ridiculous, because I am outside, so there's nothing outside of outside. And it's flickering.
'I expect you'll be wantin' me to lead the way,' said a smug voice by his knee.
'It's very quiet, isn't it?' said Victor, trying to sound nonchalant. 'I expect it's the fog muffling everything.'
'O'corse, maybe gharstely creatures have come up out o' the sea and murthered every mortal soul except us,' said Gaspode conversationally.
Something loomed up out of the brightness. As it got closer it got smaller, and the tentacles and antennae that Victor's imagination had been furnishing became the more-or-less ordinary arms and legs of Soll Dibbler.
'Victor?' he said uncertainly.
Soll's relief was visible. 'Can't see a thing in this stuff,' he said. 'We thought you'd got lost. Come on, it's nearly noon. We're more or less ready to go.'
'Good.' Fog droplets had condensed on Soll's hair and clothing. 'Er,' he said. 'Where are we, exactly?'
Victor turned around. His lodgings had been behind him.
'The fog changes everything, doesn't it?' said Soll unhappily. 'Er, do you think your little dog can find his way to the studio? He seems quite bright.'
'Growl, growl,' said Gaspode, and sat up and begged in what Victor at least recognized as a sarcastic way.
'My word,' said Soll. 'It's as if he understands, isn't it?'
Gaspode barked sharply. After a second or two there was a barrage of excited answering barks.
'Of course, that'll be Laddie,' said Soll. 'What a clever dog!'
Gaspode looked smug.
'Mind you, that's Laddie in a nutshell,' said Soll, as they set off towards the barking. 'I expect he could teach your dog a few tricks, eh?'
Victor didn't dare look down.
After a few false turns the archway of Century of the Fruitbat passed overhead like a ghost. There were more people here; the site seemed to be filling up with lost wanderers who didn't know where else to go.
There was a coach waiting outside Dibbler's office and Dibbler himself stood beside it, stamping his feet.
'Come on, come on,' he said, 'I've sent Gaffer ahead with the film. Get in, the pair of you.'
'Can we travel in this?' said Victor.
'What's to go wrong?' said Dibbler. 'There's one road to AnkhMorpork. Anyway, we'll probably be well out of this stuff when we leave the coast. I don't see why everyone's so nervy. Fog's fog.'
'That's what I say,' said Victor, climbing into the coach.
'It's just a mercy we finished Blown Away yesterday,' said Dibbler. 'All this is probably just something seasonal. Nothing to worry about at all.'
'You said that before,' said Soll. 'You said it at least five times so far this morning.'
Ginger was hunched on one seat, with Laddie lying underneath it. Victor slid along until he was next to her.
'Did you get any sleep?' he whispered.
'Just an hour or two, I think,' she said. 'Nothing happened. No dream or anything.'
'Then it really is over,' he said. 'I wasn't sure.'
'And the fog?' she demanded.
'Sorry?' said Victor guiltily.
'What's causing the fog?'
'Well,' said Victor, 'as I understand it, when cool air passes over warm ground, water is precipitated out of-'
'You know what I mean! It's not like normal fog at all! It - sort of drifts oddly,' she finished lamely. 'And you can nearly hear voices,' she added.
'You can't nearly hear voices,' said Victor, in the hope that his own rational mind would believe him. 'You either hear them or you don't. Listen, we're both just tired. That's all it is. We've been working hard and, er, not getting much sleep, so it's understandable that we think we're nearly hearing and seeing things.'
'Oh, so you're nearly seeing things, are you?' said Ginger triumphantly. 'And don't you go around using that calm and reasonable tone of voice on me,' she added. 'I hate it when people go around being calm and reasonable at me.'
'I hope you two lovebirds aren't having a tiff?'
Victor and Ginger stiffened. Dibbler clambered up into the opposite seat, and leered encouragingly at them. Soll followed. There was a slam as the driver shut the carriage door.
'We'll stop for a meal when we're halfway,' said Dibbler,. as they lurched forward. He hesitated, and then sniffed suspiciously.
'What's that smell?' he said.
'I'm afraid my dog is under your seat,' said Victor.
'Is it ill?' said Dibbler.
'I'm afraid it always smells like that.'
'Don't you think it would be a good idea to give it a bath?'
A mutter on the edge of hearing said: 'Do you think it would be a good idea to have your feet bitten right orf?'
Meanwhile, over Holy Wood, the fog thickened . . .
The posters for Blown Away had been circulating in AnkhMorpork for several days, and interest was running at fever pitch.
They'd even got as far as the University this time. The Librarian had one pinned up in the fetid, book-lined nest he called home, and various others were surreptitiously circulating among the wizards themselves.
The artist had produced a masterpiece. Held in Victor's arms, against the background of the flaming city, Ginger was portrayed as not only showing nearly all she had but quite a lot of what she had not, strictly speaking, got.
The effect on the wizards was everything that Dibbler could possibly have hoped for. In the Uncommon Room, the poster was passed from hand to shaking hand as if it might explode.
'There's a girl who's got It,' said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. He was one of the fattest wizards, and so overstuffed that he seemed to be living up to his title. He looked as though horsehair should be leaking from frayed patches. People felt an overpowering urge to rummage down the side of him for loose change.
'What's “It”, Chair?' said another wizard.
'Oh, you know. It. Oomph. The old way-hey-hey.'
They watched him politely and expectantly, like people awaiting the punch line.
'Good grief, do I have to spell it out?' he said.
'He means sexual magnetism,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes, happily. 'The lure of wanton soft bosoms and huge pulsating thighs, and the forbidden fruits of desire which-'
A couple of wizards carefully moved their chairs away from him.
'Ah, sex,' said the Dean of Pentacles, interrupting the Lecturer in Recent Runes in mid-sigh. 'Far too much of it these days, in my opinion.'
'Oh, I don't know,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. He looked wistful.
The noise woke up Windle Poons, who had been dozing in his wheelchair by the fire. There was always a roaring fire in the Uncommon Room, summer or winter.
'Wassat?' he said.
The Dean leaned towards an ear.
'I was saying', he said loudly, 'that we didn't know the meaning of the word “sex” when we were young.'
'That's true. That's very true,' said Poons. He stared reflectively at the flames. 'Did we ever, mm, find out, do you remember?'
There was a moment's silence.
'Say what you like, she's a fine figure of a young woman,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes defiantly.
'Several young women,' said the Dean.
Windle Poons focused unsteadily on the poster.
'Who's the young feller?' he said.
'What young feller?' said several wizards.
'He's in the middle of the picture,' said Poons. 'He's holding her in his arms.'
They looked again. 'Oh, him,' said the Chair, dismissively.
'Seems to me I've, mm, seen him before,' said Poons.
'My dear Poons, I hope you haven't been sneaking off to the moving pictures,' said the Dean, grinning at the others. 'You know it's demeaning for a wizard to patronize the common entertainments. The Archchancellor would be very angry with us.'
'Wassat?' said Poons, cupping a hand to his ear.
'He does look a bit familiar, now that you mention it,' said the Dean, peering at the poster.
The Lecturer in Recent Runes put his head on one side.
'It's young Victor, isn't it?' he said.
'Eh?' said Poons.
'You know, you could be right,' said the Chair of Indefinite Studies. 'He had the same type of weedy moustache.'