The Civilian Assistant: 14/2

The Other Riot

Vimes saw the dejected Fellowship of the Ring booked into custody. He made a mental note not to forget to ask about these bloody Black Riders who, without so much of a word of introduction, had taken it upon themselves to bloody well knock the Deosil Gates down, injuring one of his Watchmen. It was conclusive proof that they'd actually existed, after all, and hadn't just been dreamed up by those pint-sized vandals in the cells. Vimes wondered if there was an inverse relationship between height and propensity to anger and violence – ie, the shorter you got, the madder you got. Look at the bloody Feegle, for instance. And the tallest, largest, life forms, like for e.g. Ents and Golems, tended towards gentleness and pacifism. Precious Jolson, for instance, who just looked like bad news. If provoked she could scowl a troll into backing down, and back home in Howondaland she'd petted leopards as if they were housecats – the leopards had had the sense not to get riled at this – but Vimes knew her spare-time passion for exotic cagebirds, both her home collection and at the Zoo. If directed to patrol the Zoo, she'd interpret this selectively as meaning the Aviary. (1)

OK, so the Deosil Gate had been held on by one hinge and an elastic band and desperately needed repair. But Vimes still had an uneasy feeling that Vetinari was going to get sarcastic about this.

"You could have fought them off, Aragorn. I don't understand." the halfling called Frodo Dragosson Baggins had said. The tall Ranger had shaken his head.

"These people are the Law in these parts. You cannot interfere with a servant of the Law. It is against the Ranger code."

"Don't see why." grumbled Sam Gamgee, the little fat one. "When he tried to enforce Last Orders at the Green Dragon, did Justin the Hayward, he got himself a punch in the eye and thrown in the pond, he did!"

There had been a strange moment when Carrot, back from the Palace, had looked Arathornsson in the eye. Both had involuntarily stepped back, as if recognising a peer.

"It is given to me to know things and to see further than other Men." Arathornsson had said, portenteously. "In this place you should be King. How may I serve the King of this land?"

The escorting Watchmen had the sense to drag their captive towards the cells, really quickly. Carrot shook his head, puzzled.

"I'm glad not many people were around to hear that, and they're all Watchmen." Vimes said. "We can put that little outburst down to mental instability, I think. Anyone believing in the manifest destiny of Kings has got to beat least a little bit four-twenty-one. (A) Now tell me where we are with the other thing, and I'll brief you on that bunch of headcases I've just sent to the cells. Deal?"

The Other Thing had begun earlier that morning. Goatbergers' publishers had been taking out big adverts in the Times to announce a new range of novels aimed at the growing Troll community in Ankh-Morpork. Vimes had paid little attention, judging it another cash-in attempt to try to attract something of the Silicon Solvem, the Lichen Lira, the Dolomite Dollar, the free income a rapidly upmobile Troll community was getting from its many jobs and careers in the City. More and more trolls were becoming literate, too, although Vimes still inwardly speculated that a novel for Trolls would necessarily have to include lots of pictures and very short words. Therefore he had judged that only a token Watch presence was necessary for the book launch at the publishers on Brewer Street.

Inspector Pessimal had not been so sure and had suggested to Vimes that the two Watchmen he'd sent down to Brewer Street should be reinforced. Although doubtful, Vimes knew better than to dismiss another born copper's intuition, and sent Constables Bauxite and Flint to assist. After all, they were trolls policing an event aimed at trolls.

Bauxite and Flint had looked at each other, nodded, and followed orders with just enough hesitation to get Vimes wondering. Well, he thought, it's an easy assignment. And just round the corner, too. It'll all be over by mid-day and they can stroll back for lunch, the Yard's only five minutes walk away.

Sometimes, even a copper with Sam Vimes' street experience can get it wrong.

The roar of noise grew steadily and was audible even from the Yard. Reports started coming in concerning a big disturbance on Brewer Street. Constable Bauxite, clearly shaken, came running back to the Yard. He looked like he'd been trampled on.

"Dey're out of control, sir!" he reported, wide eyed and shaken.

"Who are?" Vimes demanded. He'd been dealing with miss Maccalariat's increasingly imperative demands for assistance with tricky case files.

"It ugly, sir!" Bauxite said. A frightened troll is not a comforting sight. It leads the thoughtful onlooker to wonder what is out there which has caused a ton of silicon muscle to start, almost literally, excreting rectangular building things. Other troll officers had stopped and were listening intently. They did not seem surprised and seemed gloomy and resigned. Vimes wondered, once again, why he seemed to be the last to be informed. Something was going on. And he didn't know about it. This worried him. He tried to tune into a low conversation in Trollish going on; Trollish was another of those languages a policeman needed to pick up a smattering of, although he was aware that his command of the language was patchy and full of street-slang. He couldn't hold a conversation with, for instance, the Diamond king or even Prince Carborundum, his Ambassador to Ankh-Morpork, in pidgin street Troll. He'd learnt something similar on his visit to Überwald a year or two back: the clerk-Assassin Inigo Skimmer had saved his bacon, when he'd used street-dwarfish on an affronted Dwarf Army colonel with several hundred axes to back him up.(2)

"Aaoograha hoa agroohoahaa' acrhrooa alohana..."

Vimes painfully reassembled this in his head. "She...singular... who it is imperative to avoid... no; they, feminine plural, who must be avoided... whose fearsome feet and fists cannot be stopped in their... forward motion as of stones tipping to begin the avalanche... "

An icy and frightening thought hit Vimes. Carrot had also been listening and he paled too.

"Carrot. Aaoograha hoa. Isn't that their word for that witch from Lancre way? I remember you told me once."

Carrot nodded.

"Only I don't think they're talking about Mistress Weatherwax, sir. They're using the plural."

Vimes groaned.

"More than one? The last time those bloody witches visited Goatberger, they took him for thousands. Admittedly he owed it to them, but..." (3)

Carrot shook his head. His normally good-natured face had taken on an aspect of worried concern.

"I don't think it's witches, sir. Something worse than that."

"Something worse than witches, Carrot?" Vimes queried.

"Something nearer and more immediate, sir." Carrot said.

He would have added more, but a delegation of troll officers had formed. These now included a very battered-looking Constable Flint. The delegation, by common consent, was headed by Sergeant Detritus, who threw up a very smart salute.

"Permission to go on a grandmother's funeral, sir?" Detritus asked. The trolls behind him nodded, soundlessly beseeching Vimes, who blinked.

"What, all of you? All your grandmothers died at once? On the same day? And anyway, old trolls don't die as such. They lie down and consider questions of ontology and epistemology, don't they?"

Detritus saluted again. Vimes noticed that his sergeant, normally unflappable, looked especially worried. This was rare.

It am Constable Norite's grandmother, sir. She very popular and well-loved troll. It only right we all pay respects."

Vimes considered. It was an elegant way out of it if his troll officers were otherwise at risk of disobeying a direct order or refusing to do their duty. Something had spooked them. He had an idea that he'd very soon find out what it was. And he wasn't going to push things by giving an order he was sure they'd refuse. He nodded.

"Ok then, grandmothers' funeral it is." The trolls nodded thanks, then about-turned and ran for the door. Vimes called after them "By the way, if Norite's granny was so well loved that you've all got to be there, then where are Officers Jade and Smoked Obsidian?"

The two troll policewomen were conspicuous by their absence.

"They down at Goatbergers', sir. Policing the...thing... and negg-o-tee-ate-ing... with them."

"Who are them?" Vimes called.

He sighed.

"Carrot, round up the golems."

"Sir. By the way, thanks Cheery, message just in via Omniscope Control."

"Irina. Hmm."

Vimes took the omniscope fragment that Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom was anxiously holding up to him. A voice both nearby and distant spoke out of the air.

Sir, we need lots of back-up! Urgently! Big incident on Brewer Street. Looks like Goatbergers is being wrecked! From up here it looks like a Hell of a mess, and there are Watchmen in there!

Air Policewoman Irena Politek angled her omniscope downwards to capture the scene in Brewer Street below. Vimes saw it on the relay, realised instantly, and cursed himself for being an idiot. He also ran for the door.

All officers! Now! Brewer Street! Cheery, clear out the canteen! Carrot, have you got those bloody golems? We'll need them!

Now it was all too clear. As Officers Dorfl, Kvetch and Nudnik lumbered down Brewer Street to join them, Vimes, Carrot and Cheery contemplated the scene in front of them. The sheer wall of sound was like a physical battering, for one thing. So many stones were in flight, although not aimed at the Watchmen, that the sky looked like a solid wall. And the worst of it was...

"Cheery, nobody's going to blame you if you sit this one out." Vimes said. "There are at least two hundred trolls there and they're all a bit excitable. Perhaps the last thing it needs right now are dwarfs."

Cheery Littlebottom shook her head. She looked terrified, but seemed determined to go on.

"You said it yourself, sir. There are no ethnicities in the Watch and nobody should be able to dictate what sort of Watchman attends a shout. I'm here. This is the job in front of me."

"And they're not just trolls, sir." Carrot said. "Have you noticed they're all female?"

It was true: the dense mass of trolls (4) in front of them all had a slightly less craggy and somewhat more feminine aspect to them. The telltale signs were there: well gardened lichen, a general indefinible sort of roundedness, the fact they were a little bit shorter than the males, interesting veins and protusions of semi-precious stones that males generally didn't have – and some were even wearing makeup and shoes. Vimes was prepared to bet that if any turned round, they'd display lips sanded and polished absolutely smooth, and painted interesting shades of the red spectrum. One troll was a very pleasing ultramarine blue colour all over, flecked and tiger-striped with gold. He'd seen her before...

"Lapislazuli, sir. Stylist at Conina's hair salon. Lazuli, for short." Carrot provided. "She's done Angua's hair before now."

Vimes nodded. The image of a troll hairdresser was hard to take in.

"She usually does other trolls, sir. But Conina uses her to do hairwashes and tints for human and Dwarf women, if the main salon's short-handed. Angua says she's got a surprisingly gentle touch."

The troll female with a gentle touch picked a lump of masonry out of the air that must have weighed twenty pounds, and effortlessly volleyed it up again. It narrowly missed a descending broomstick, which swerved to avoid it. The pilot steered it down to the Watch group.

"Sir!" said Witch Police Constable Irina Politek, urgently. "It's serious down there! There are four Watch members stuck right in the middle of that! They can't get out for all these trolls!"

"Goatbergers?" said Vimes. She nodded.

"Anyone hurt? If there is, I'm having that bugger, and sod the right to free publishing!"

"Not yet, sir." Irina said. "Visit and Nobby are hiding behind Smokey and Jade. They're holding the other trolls off and deflecting all the flying rock. But they're getting tired."

Vimes made an instant decision and jumped on the pillion, holding onto Irina very carefully. (5)

"Take me in there." he said. "Carrot, organise the golems..."

Carrot was already shouting orders to the three golems. This was an All Officers, Watchmen In Trouble. As Irina fired an almost vertical takeoff to get above the flying rocks, Vimes glimpsed the golems each taking a Watchman up in one arm and advancing.

"This could get tricky, Mr Vimes." Irina said at the top of the parabola. "I'm going to descend as quickly as..."

Vimes nearly screamed as the nose of the stick pointed down and the ground rushed up to meet him. This, he decided, would be added to his Top Ten Bad Things To Remember Just As He Fell Asleep. Not just the speed of the descent and the sudden hit of G-force, but the fact he was seemingly about to impact against two hundred angry trolls.

"... I can." she finished, as the broomstick levelled out. Constable Smoked Obsidian stepped forward and cleared a landing space, by the simple expedient of barging two trolls back into the crowd, allowing Irina to bring the broomstick in behind her. Vimes noted his two female Troll officers had elected to go where all his male trolls had feared to tread.

"No grandmother's funeral for you two, then?" he said, to lighten the mood.

Smokie effortlessly punched a flying brick back into the air.

"Not for us trolls, no!" she rumbled. "Troll females, you need other troll females to deal with dem. And dese not angry, sir. Dese just a bit over-excited."

Vimes nodded. He realised that anger seemed to be absent from the mob. Otherwise two hundred trolls would have rolled over everything in their path.

"So how do we deal with them?" Vimes asked, wishing he'd thought to issue shields. He watched the sky for more flying debris. Two heads poked out cautiously from around the front door of Goatberger's Publishing House. The facade was a complete mess: pockmarked by flying stone, every window broken, the door shattered and hanging off its hinges. The neighbouring buildings didn't look too healthy either. Excited and enthusiastic trolls were not accurate in their aim.

"Nobby. Visit." he said. "no injuries?"

"Not yet, sir!" said Nobby Nobbs. "We got Mister Goatberger and Mister Cropper here. And the author."

"They're all nicked, Nobby. See they don't escape!"

"Right away, sir! But I don't think anybody's going anywhere!"

"See to it they don't. Smokie, what the Hrlls happened here?"

The troll crowd was beginning to quieten down as the three Golems shouldered their way through, as respectfully as possible, intoning "Watch Officers On Duty. Do Not Offer Obstruction Or Resistance. Thank You. Have a Good And Law-Abiding Day!"

Bright trolls realised there was no contest in a battle of strength with a Golem. Besides, Trolls respected strength. The three Golems were each carrying a piggy-backing Watchman. Carrot, Cheery and Inspector A.E. Pessimal, he noted. Carrot was known to trolls as the only human who'd ever knocked out Detritus in a stand-up fight. Not any old troll. Detritus himself. (6) Pessimal, on his very first day out as a Watchman, had launched an insane and determined assault on a troll who was just about to beat Vimes' brains out with a club. (7) OK, so he hadn't won the fight: but it had saved Vimes' life, and trolls were not complicated thinkers. Their reasoning was that any human built like dat who is still desperate enough to fight a troll is a human just crazy enough to get it right next time, and who want to be dat troll when dat happen? And Cheery... well, any Dwarf who'd willingly walk into the middle of two hundred over-excited trolls on her own, well, dat Dwarf needed watchin', too. Besides, she was Watch, and you splatter a Watch dwarf, you got Detritus comin' to explain dat a regrettable ting to do. No sane troll want dat, however much you might hate dwarfs.

"Looks like it's calming down a bit, sir." Carrot said, cheerfully. Raised by Dwarfs – and one part of a Dwarf upbringing is that you're taught to not like trolls very much - he'd got his initial anti-troll sentiment out of the way after his fight with Detritus. They were now pretty much best friends, Detritus respectful and loyal to a human who'd thrown a killer punch that night outside the Mended Drum.

"Dere was a book-signing, sir." Smoked Obsidian said. Vimes reflected that this had been her day off. But Watch days off were conditional and if an off-duty Watchman saw a need to, or could not turn a blind eye, then they could go back on duty in seconds.

"I came down to buy book and meet der author. Maybe give her punch of appreciation, get her to put her mark in der book. But people got excited, dere was a stone thrown to thank der author, everyone started throwing stones, dis happened. Cultural, sir. So when Bauxite ran because him too scared to confront troll females when dey get excited – and dat, sir, is like ting to do with prunes..."


"Dat der word, sir! No male troll last five minutes here. Detritus, him special, he might last ten. But result der same. I talk wid Jade and we decide, we Watchwomen, we buddies, we go on duty, and we try to prevent bad tings happening."

Vimes made a mental note to authorise overtime for the two Watch trolls who'd stayed on duty when all else had fled. Hells, it had been their day off, too. Maybe advance Smokie to corporal. Hell's bells, she'd shown guts and initiative.

He watched the three golems fanning out to create space and force the crowd back. The stone-throwing was slackening a lot now. He heard a Trollish phrase and painfully rebuild it in his head.

"Him {{front-of-head-resembles granite}} Vimes. Him go goohulog if trouble happen. Him employ {{Brute-Force-And-Ignorance}}, him married to {{noun indicates female}} Ruby."

And speaking of...

Two female trolls shouldered their way to the front of the crowd. Vimes recognised both. They might have been sisters; both radiated authority and presence. They stood in front of the silicon sisterhood, silently, arms folded, until their presence was registered. Both, in the troll female community, alpha trolls. And this was known. And respected. Then they spoke sternly to the crowd. There was no dead silence.

Smokie helpfully translated their words into Morporkian.

"Ruby, she wife of Detritus, she say to calm down, be sensible, go home and find a cold place, and then to read der book dat we have all come here to get. She not want to have to slap anybody. And Dolomita, she der female dat belong to Chrysophrase though they not married, she is his, what you call it, like black mammal dat burrow under short green oograh, makes mess..."

"His moll?" Vimes said. He knew Dolomita.

"Dat der bunny! His gangster's mole, she say, her troll not like disruption to der commercial life of der City, dis bad for business, and if tings bad for business, Detritus he get upset, and she do not want to deal with Chrysophrase when he get distressed by bad behaviour of other trolls, so can we all be good girls, go home, find coldest place where der head work best, and read book."

Thank you, Smokie." Vimes said, relieved. The troll crowd weas already fading away and the human inhabitants of Brewer Street were cautiously resurfacing. He wondered whether to offer Ruby and Dolomita Watch Special status. He knew it would piss off Chrysophrase if his woman joined the Watch, even as a volunteer part-timer. But troll women needed special handling, and he didn't have nearly enough troll women on the Watch...

Carrot? See to it Goatberger, Cropper and this lady author are cuffed and booked in, would you? Oh, and get me a copy of this bloody Book. Get the manuscripts too if you can. I don't think His Lordship is going to sanction a second edition, somehow. He'll be less sarcastic if he knows I've impounded all the copies, the proofs, and the manuscripts. A.E., put some sort of report together for the palace, will you? Damage caused to the value of, troll riot contained, no arrests possible. Thank you."

"And that's it?" Vimes said, later. "This is what caused all the bloody trouble? Soft pornography? Aimed at bloody trolls? Is that bloody man insane, Carrot? Inflame the passions of two hundred troll females and... Io, give me strength. What's this sodding steamy book called, anyway, Carrot?"

Captain Carrot coughed, nervously.

"Fifty Grades of Shale, sir."

Vimes grimaced.

"I suppose I'd better try to rad it myself, Carrot. Or at least skim it. It is written in Morporkian?"

"There are two editions, sir. One in Morporkian and one in troll runes. I'd get you the manuscript, but we gave it to Miss Maccalariat to catalogue and log in the evidence file and... well, Mr Pessimal's still trying to get it off her."

"Take me to her, Carrot."

It was worse than he thought. Miss Maccalariat was in a state of rigid catatonia, the offending manuscript held out at arm's length, as if she had been so unutterably shocked and disgusted by something she had read that it had sent her into a trance. Her jaw had dropped and her eyes widened behind her glasses, she still clenched the document in both hands, is if fully intending to remind herself later of what it was that had so badly shocked her in the first place.

A.E. Pessimal stood back frorm the desk and awaited orders.

"I'm afraid I was not able to retrieve it, sir." he said, apologetically.

"So you gave the Maccalariat a dirty book to read." Vimes said, breathing heavily."By all accounts, a seriously dirty book."

"I'm afraid so, sir." Carrot agreed. His face was unreadable.

"And it's made her go into shock. Badly."

"It would appear so, sir." Carrot's face now radiated honest innocence.

"And she is now in no position to hector, browbeat, impose, nag, enforce her not inconsiderable personality, nor to loom over, anyone in this building."

"That's what it looks like, sir."

Vimes grinned. There had to be some compensations to a day like this.

"Well done, Carrot. No hurry in getting it off her. We don't want to tear the evidence, after all, and it is the only copy!"

(1) Vimes had a whole list of issues with officers sent out to the Zoo Watch-house. He'd insisted a new Watch-house be established in the vicinity, after the Assassins who dealt with security there had used lethal force against Agatean thieves trying to steal some of the animals. Vimes wanted both Assassins and Thieves of whatever nationality to be fully aware of who REALLY enforced the law, ie, not them. He was now aware, for instance, that Nobby Nobbs needed a laminated official statement to vouch for his being fully human, despite appearances, and that he was not an escaped exhibit. An inexperienced troll keeper had once put Nobby back in with the chimpanzees, despite his vocal protest. Nobby had been found a couple of hours later, having introduced several chimps to the pleasures of smoking. He was sitting on a branch partway up a tree, sharing a dimp with an equally disgruntled-looking chimp. Even though the troop had fully accepted Nobby as a member, Miss Smith-Rhodes had not been amused by the chimps being introduced to smoking. As well as Precious Jolson's partiality to the aviary, Vimes also had to take into account Angua von Überwald's tendency to sit by the Hubland Timber Wolves' enclosure talking to the inmates, and hearing their stories of life in captivity. On top of this, his Dwarf officers had a tendency to congregate in the Rodents and Rat House, pressing their collective nose up against the reinforced glass and salivating over the coypus and capybaras. Until these had arrived at the Zoo, Dwarfs had never seen so many calories running around on four legs before. To a Dwarf, a coypu was like a Hogswatch turkey. It was hard to select a detail to be trusted with patrolling the Zoo.

And then there was what had happened to Constable Visit, a Watchman who was inclined towards stopping outside the enclosure of an especially enthralling exhibit, and exclaiming on the munificent bounty of the Great God Om's creation. One day he had delivered a spontaneous and fervent sermon on how it was explicitly a creation by the Great god Om that had brought all this about, that everything had been called into being whole and unaltered by Om on the Third Day of Creation, and there should be none of this dangerous and un-Omly nonsense spoken about the lie of evolution. At this point zoo director Johanna Smith-Rhodes, who had pursed her lips at the inference that Evolution was a satanic deception, took several measured steps back. Assassin graduates are trained to recognise trouble. Others, seeing a retreating Assassin much as a Dwarf respects a canary in a coal mine, stepped back too, leaving Visit in the middle of a widening ring of free space. The lightning bolt, delivered by an entity later identified as the God of Evolution, did not kill Visit or seriously incapacitate him. The God of Evolution can get annoyed like any other deity, but He is liberal enough to abhor killing. His lightning bolts are designed to instruct rather than maim. With His loyal servants, the beetles, everywhere (especially in a Zoo boasting extensive etymological facilities), this God has a most efficient spy network in the Discworld. Creationism is high-risk advocacy on the Discworld. Visit recovered in time to be beseiged by trolls.

(A) Apologies - footnote (A) inserted on rewrite. I came across a Code 421 while doing Net research. It was too good not to use. Several American police forces use it as shorthand for "perpetrator appears to have mental health problems". This is elaborated upon with "421A", "421-double-A" and "421 triple-A" to denote degree of potentially dangerous insanity involved. to the Arizona Sheriff's Department, a "four-two-one-triple-A" denotes "absolutely completely nucking futjob".

(2) see the Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett.

(3) see Maskerade by Terry Pratchett.

(4) Never, even if seriously tempted, to be spoken as "a mass of dense Trolls". They may speak Trollish, but they listen in Human.

(5) If a witch invites you up on the pillion, you have to be sure which bits of the witch you are holding onto. Unless it's a witch of the Nanny Ogg school of thought and she's tacitly invited you, you've got to be careful. There is a strict etiquette to these things. Irina and Olga had very carefully instructed any possible pillion passengers, so as to prevent misunderstandings.

(6) see Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett.

(7) see Thud! by Terry Pratchett.