'But where'd we get false beards at this time of night?' said a wizard doubtfully.
The Lecturer beamed, and reached into his pocket. 'We don't have to,' he said. 'That's the really clever bit: I brought some wire with me, you see, and all you need do is break two bits off, twiddle them into your sideburns, then loop them over your ears rather clumsily like this,' he demonstrated, 'and there you are.'
The Chair stared.
'Uncanny,' he said, at last. 'It's true! You look just like someone wearing a very badly-made false beard.'
'Amazing, isn't it?' said the Lecturer happily, passing out the wire. 'It's headology, you know.'
There were a few minutes of busy twanging and the occasional whimper as a wizard punctured himself with wire, but eventually they were ready. They looked shyly at one another.
'If we got a pillow case without a pillow in it and shoved it down inside the Chair's robe so the top was showing, he'd look just like a thin man making himself tremendously fat with a huge pillow,' said one of them enthusiastically. He caught the Chair's eye, and went quiet.
A couple of wizards grasped the handles of Poons' terrible wheelchair and started it rumbling over the damp cobbles.
'Wassat? What's everyone doing?' said Poons, suddenly waking up.
'We're going to play solid burghers,' said the Dean.
'That's a good game,' said Poons.
'Can you hear me, old chap?'
The Bursar opened his eyes.
The University sanitarium wasn't very big, and was seldom used. Wizards tended to be either in rude health, or dead. The only medicine they generally required was an antacid formula and a dark room until lunch.
'Brought you something to read,' said the voice, diffidently.
The Bursar managed to focus on the spine of Adventures with Crossbow and Rod.
'Nasty knock you had there, Bursar. Been asleep all day.'
The Bursar looked blearily at the pink and orange haze, which gradually refined itself into the Archchancellor's pink and orange face.
Let's see, he thought, exactly how did I
He sat bolt upright and grabbed the Archchancellor's robe and screamed into the big pink and orange face: 'Something dreadful's going to happen!'
The wizards strolled through the twilight streets. So far the disguise was working perfectly. People were even jostling them. No-one ever knowingly jostled a wizard. It was a whole new experience.
There was a huge crowd of people outside the entrance to the Odium, and a queue that stretched down the street. The Dean ignored it, and led the party straight up to the doors, whereupon someone said 'Oi!'
He looked up at a red-faced troll in an ill-fitting military-looking outfit that included epaulettes the size of kettle-drums and no trousers.
'Yes?' he said.
'There are a queue, you know,' said the troll.
The Dean nodded politely. In Ankh-Morpork a queue was, almost by definition, something with a wizard at the head of it. 'So I see,' he said. 'And a very good thing, too. And if you will be so good as to stand aside, we'd like to take our seats.'
The troll prodded him in the stomach.
'What you fink you are?' he said. 'A wizard or something?' This got a laugh from the nearest queuers.
The Dean leaned closer.
'As a matter of fact, we are wizards,' he hissed.
The troll grinned at him.
'Don't come the raw trilobite with me,' he said. 'I can see your false beard!'
'Now listen-' the Dean began, but his voice became an incoherent squeak as the troll picked him up by the collar of his robe and propelled him out into the road.
'You get in queue like everyone else,' he said. There was a chorus of jeers from the queue.
The Dean growled and raised his right hand, fingers spread-
The Chair grabbed his arm.
'Oh, yes,' he hissed., 'That'd do a lot of good, wouldn't it? Come on.'
'To the back of the queue!'
'But we're wizards! Wizards never stand in line for anything!'
'We're honest merchants, remember?' said the Chair. He glanced at the nearest click-goers, who were giving them odd looks. 'We're honest merchants,' he repeated loudly.
He nudged the Dean. 'Go on,' he hissed.
'Go on what?'
'Go on and say something merchanty.'
'What sort of thing is that?' said the Dean, mystified.
'Say something! Everyone's looking at us!'
'Oh.' The Dean's face creased in panic, and then salvation dawned. 'Lovely apples,' he said. 'Get them while they're hot. They're luvverly . . . Will this do?'
'I suppose so. Now let's go to the end-'
There was a commotion at the other end of the street. People surged forward. The queue broke ranks and charged. The honest merchants were suddenly surrounded by a desperately-pushing crowd.
'I say, there is a queue, you know,' said the Honest Merchant in Recent Runes diffidently, as he was shoved aside.
The Dean grabbed the shoulder of a boy who was ferociously elbowing him aside.
'What is going on, young man?' he demanded.
'They're a-coming!' shouted the boy.
The wizards, as one man, looked upwards.
'No, they're not,' said the Dean, but the boy had shaken himself free and disappeared in the press of people.
'Strange primitive superstition,' said the Dean, and the wizards, with the exception of Poons, who was complaining and flailing around with his stick, craned forward to see.
The Bursar met the Archchancellor in a corridor.
'There's no-one in the Uncommon Room!' screamed the Bursar.
'The Library's empty!' bellowed the Archchancellor.
'I've heard about that sort of thing,' the Bursar whimpered. 'Spontaneous something-or-other. They've all gone spontaneous!'
'Calm down, man. Just because-'
'I can't even find any of the servants! You know what happens when reality gives way! Even now giant tentacles are probably-'
There was a distant whumm . . . whumm noise, and the sound of pellets bouncing off the wall.
'Always the same direction,' the Bursar muttered.
'What direction is that, then?'
'The direction They'll be coming from! I think I'm going mad!'
'Now, now,' said the Archchancellor, patting him on the shoulder. 'You don't want to go around talking like that. That's crazy talk.'
Ginger stared, panic-stricken, out of the carriage window.
'Who are all these people?' she said.
'They're fans,' said Dibbler.
'But I'm not hot!'
'Uncle means that they're people who like seeing you in the clicks,' said Soll. 'Er. Like you a lot.'
'There's women out there too,' said Victor. He gave a cautious wave. In the crowd, a woman swooned.
'You're famous,' he said. 'You said you always wanted to be famous.'
Ginger looked out at the crowd again. 'I never thought it would be like this, though. They're all shouting our names!'
'We've put a lot of effort into telling people about Blown Away,' said Soll.
'Yes,' said Dibbler. 'We said it was the greatest click in the entire history of Holy Wood.'
'But we've been making clicks for only a couple of months,' Ginger pointed out.
'So what? That's still a history,' said Dibbler.
Victor saw the look in Ginger's face. Exactly how long was Holy Wood's real history? Perhaps there was some ancient stone calendar, down there on the sea bed, among the lobsters. Perhaps there was no way it could be measured. How did you measure the age of an idea?
'A lot of civic dignitaries are going to be there, too,' said Dibbler. 'The Patrician and the nobles and the Guild heads and some of the high priests. Not the wizards, of course, the stuck-up old idiots. But it'll be a night to remember right enough.'
'Will we have to be introduced to them all?' said Victor.
'No. They'll be introduced to you,' said Dibbler. 'It'll be the biggest thrill of their lives.'
Victor stared out at the crowds again.
'Is it my imagination,' he said, 'or is it getting foggy?'
Poons hit the Chair across the back of the legs with his stick.
'What's going on?' he said. 'Why's everyone cheering?'
'The Patrician's just got out of his carriage,' said the Chair.
'Don't see what's so wonderful about that,' said Poons. 'I've got out of carriages hundreds of times. There's no trick to it at all.'
'It's a bit odd,' the Chairman admitted. 'And they cheered the head of the Assassins' Guild and the High Priest of Blind Io, too. And now someone's rolled out a red carpet.'
'What, in the street? In Ankh-Morpork?'
'Wouldn't like to have their cleaning bill,' said Poons.
The Lecturer in Recent Runes nudged the Chair heavily in the ribs, or at least at the point where the ribs were overlaid by the strata of fifty years of very good dinners.
'Quiet!' he hissed. 'They're coming!'
'Someone important, by the look of it.'
The Chair's face creased in panic behind his false real beard. 'You don't think they've invited the Archchancellor, do you?'
The wizards tried to shrink inside their robes, like upright turtles.
In fact it was a far more impressive coach than any of the crumbling items in the University's mews. The crowd surged forward against the line of trolls and city guards and stared expectantly at the carriage door; the very air hummed with anticipation.
Mr Bezam, his chest so inflated with self-importance that he appeared to be floating across the ground, bobbed towards the carriage door and opened it.
The crowd held its collective breath, except for a small part of it that hit surrounding people with its stick and muttered, 'What's happening? What's going on? Why won't anyone tell me what's happening? I demand someone tell me, mm, what's happening?'
The door stayed shut. Ginger was gripping the handle as if it was a lifeline.
'There's thousands of them out there!' said Ginger. 'I can't go out there!'
'But they all watch your clicks,' pleaded Soll. 'They're your public.'
Soll threw up his hands. 'Can't you persuade her?' he said to Victor.
'I'm not even sure I can persuade myself,' said Victor.
'But you've spent days in front of these people,' said Dibbler.
'No I haven't,' said Ginger. 'It was just you and the handlemen and the trolls and everyone. That was different. Anyway, that wasn't really me,' she added. 'That was Delores De Syn.'
Victor bit his lip thoughtfully.
'Maybe you ought to send Delores de Syn out there, then,' he said.
'How can I do that?' she demanded.
'Well . . . why not pretend it's a click .
The Dibblers, uncle and nephew, exchanged glances. Then Soll cupped his hands around his face like the eye of a picture box and Dibbler, after a prompting nudge, placed one hand on his nephew's head and turned an invisible handle in his ear.
'Action!' he directed.
The carriage door swung open.
The crowd gasped, like a mountain breathing in. Victor stepped out, reached up, took Ginger's hand . . .
The crowd cheered, madly.
The Lecturer in Recent Runes bit his fingers in sheer excitement. The Chair made a strange hoarse noise in the back of his throat.
'You know you said what could a boy find to do that was better than being a wizard?' he said.
'A true wizard should only be interested in one thing,' muttered the Dean. 'You know that.'
'Oh, I know it.'
'I was referring to magic.'
The Chair peered at the advancing figures.
'You know, that is young Victor. I'll swear it,' he said.
'That's disgusting,' said the Dean. 'Fancy choosing to hang around young women when he could have been a wizard.'
'Yeah. What a fool,' said the Lecturer in Recent Runes, who was having trouble with his breathing.
There was a sort of communal sigh.