The Light Fantasy
'I'm sorry,' said Rincewind. 'I never really met trolls before.'
'We're a dying race,' said Kwartz sadly, as the party set off under the stars. 'Young Jasper's the only pebble in our tribe. We suffer from philosophy, you know.'
'Yes?' said Rincewind, trying to keep up. The troll band moved very quickly, but also very quietly, big round shapes moving like wraiths through the night. Only the occasional flat squeak of a night creature who hadn't heard them approaching marked their passage.
'Oh, yes. Martyrs to it. It comes to all of us in the end. One evening, they say, you start to wake up and then you think "Why bother?" and you just don't. See those boulders over there?'
Rincewind saw some huge shapes lying in the grass.
'The one on the end's my aunt. I don't know what's she's thinking about, but she hasn't moved for two hundred years.'
'Gosh, I'm sorry.'
'Oh, it's no problem with us around to look after them,' aid Kwartz. 'Not many humans around here, you see. I know it's not your fault, but you don't seem to be able to spot the difference between a thinking troll and an ordinary rock. My great-uncle was actually quarried, you know.'
'Yes, one minute he was a troll, the next he was an ornamental fireplace.'
They paused in front of a familiar-looking cliff. The scuffed remains of a fire smouldered in the darkness.
'It looks like there's been a fight,' said Beryl.
'They're all gone!' said Rincewind. He ran to the end of the clearing. 'The horses, too! Even the Luggage!'
'One of them's leaked,' said Kwartz, kneeling down. 'That red watery stuff you have in your insides. Look.'
'Is that what it's called? I've never really seen the point of it.'
Rincewind scuttled about in the manner of one totally at his wits' end, peering behind bushes in case anyone was hiding there. That was why he tripped over a small green bottle.
'Cohen's linament!' he moaned. 'He never goes anywhere without it!'
'Well,' said Kwartz, 'you humans have something you can do, I mean like when we slow right down and catch philosophy, only you just fall to bits —'
'Dying, it's called!' screamed Rincewind.
'That's it. They haven't done that, because they're not here.'
'Unless they were eaten!' suggested Jasper excitedly.
'Hmm,' said Kwartz, and, 'Wolves?' said Rincewind.
'We flattened all the wolves around here years ago,' said the troll. 'Old Grandad did, anyway.'
'He didn't like them?'
'No, he just didn't used to look where he was going. Hmm.' The trolls looked at the ground again.
'There's a trail,' he said. 'Quite a lot of horses.' He ooked up at the nearby hills, where sheer cliffs and dangerous crags loomed over the moonlit forests.
'Old Grandad lives up there,' he said quietly.
There was something about the way he said it that made Rincewind decide that he didn't ever want to meet Old Grandad.
'Dangerous, is he?' he ventured.
'He's very old and big and mean. We haven't seen him about for years,' said Kwartz.
'Centuries,' corrected Beryl.
'He'll squash them all flat!' added Jasper, jumping up and down on Rincewind's toes.
'It just happens sometimes that a really old and big troll will go off by himself into the hills, and – um – the rock takes over, if you follow me.'
Kwartz sighed. 'People sometimes act like animals, don't they? And sometimes a troll will start thinking like a rock, and rocks don't like people much.'
Breccia, a skinny troll with a sandstone finish, rapped on Kwartz's shoulder.
'Are we going to follow them, then?' he said. 'The legend says we should help this Rincewind squashy.'
Kwartz stood up, thought for a moment, then picked Rincewind up by the scruff of his neck and with a big gritty movement placed him on his shoulders.
'We go,' he said firmly. 'If we meet Old Grandad I'll try to explain . . .'
Two miles away a string of horses trotted through the night. Three of them carried captives, expertly gagged and bound. A fourth pulled a rough travois on which the Luggage lay trussed and netted and silent.
Herrena softly called the column to a halt and beckoned one of her men to her.
'Are you quite sure?' she said. 'I can't hear anything.'
'I saw troll shapes,' he said flatly.
She looked around. The trees had thinned out here, there was a lot of scree, and ahead of them the track led towards a bald, rocky hill that looked especially unpleasant by red starlight.
She was worried about that track. It was extremely old, but something had made it, and trolls took a lot of killing.
She sighed. Suddenly it looked as though that secretarial career was not such a bad option, at that.
Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn't take you seriously until you'd actually killed them, by which time it didn't really matter anyway. Then there was all the leather, which brought her out in a rash but seemed to be unbreakably traditional. And then there was the ale. It was all right for the likes of Hrun the Barbarian or Cimbar the Assassin to carouse all night in low bars, but Herrena drew the line at it unless they sold proper drinks in small glasses, preferably with a cherry in. As for the toilet facilities . . .
But she was too big to be a thief, too honest to be an assassin, too intelligent to be a wife, and too proud to enter the only other female profession generally available.
So she'd become a swordswoman and had been a good one, amassing a modest fortune that she was carefully husbanding for a future that she hadn't quite worked out yet but which would certainly include a bidet if she had anything to say about it.
There was a distant sound of splintering timber. Trolls had never seen the point of walking around trees.
She looked up at the hill again. Two arms of high ground swept away to right and left, and up ahead was a large outcrop with – she squinted – some caves in it?
Troll caves. But maybe a better option than blundering around at night. And come sunup, there'd be no problem.
She leaned across to Gancia, leader of the gang of Morpork mercenaries. She wasn't very happy about him. It was true that he had the muscles of an ox and the tamina of an ox, the trouble was that he seemed to have the brains of an ox. And the viciousness of a ferret. Like most of the lads in downtown Morpork he'd have cheerfully sold his granny for glue, and probably had.
'We'll head for the caves and light a big fire in the entrance,' she said. Trolls don't like fire.'
He gave her a look which suggested he had his own ideas about who should be giving the orders, but his lips said, 'You're the boss.'
Herrena looked back at the three captives. That was the box all right – Trymon's description had been absolutely accurate. But neither of the men looked like a wizard. Not even a failed wizard.
'Oh, dear,' said Kwartz.
The trolls halted. The night closed in like velvet. An owl hooted eerily – at least Rincewind assumed it was an owl, he was a little hazy on ornithology. Perhaps a nightingale hooted, unless it was a thrush. A bat flittered overhead. He was quite confident about that.
He was also very tired and quite bruised.
'Why oh dear?' he said.
He peered into the gloom. There was a distant speck in the hills that might have been a fire.
'Oh,' he said. 'You don't like fires, do you?'
Kwartz nodded. 'It destroys the superconductivity of our brains,' he said, 'but a fire that small wouldn't have much effect on Old Grandad.'
Rincewind looked around cautiously, listening for the sound of a rogue troll. He'd seen what normal trolls could do to a forest. They weren't naturally destructive, they just treated organic matter as a sort of inconvenient fog.
'Let's hope he doesn't find it, then,' he said fervently.
Kwartz sighed. 'Not much chance of that,' he said. They've lit it in his mouth.'
'It'sh a judgeshment on me!' moaned Cohen. He tugged ineffectually at his bonds.
Twoflower peered at him muzzily. Gancia's slingshot had raised quite a lump on the back of his head and he was a little uncertain about things, starting with his name and working upwards.
'I should have been lisshening out,' said Cohen. 'I should have been paying attenshion and not being shwayed by all this talk about your wosshnarnes, your din-chewers. I mussht be getting shoft.'
He levered himself up by his elbows. Herrena and the rest of the gang were standing around the fire in the cave mouth. The Luggage was still and silent under its net in a corner.
'There's something funny about this cave,' said Bethan.
'What?' said Cohen.
'Well, look at it. Have you ever seen rocks like those before?'
Cohen had to agree that the semi-circle of stones around the cave entrance were unusual; each one was higher than a man, and heavily worn, and surprisingly shiny. There was a matching semi-circle on the ceiling. The whole effect was that of a stone computer built by a druid with a vague idea of geometry and no sense of gravity.
'Look at the walls, too.'
Cohen squinted at the wall next to him. There were veins of red crystal in it. He couldn't be quite certain, but it was almost as if little points of light kept flashing on and off deep within the rock itself.
It was also extremely drafty. A steady breeze blew out of the black depths of the cave.
'I'm sure it was blowing the other way when we came in,' whispered Bethan. 'What do you think, Twoflower?'
'Well, I'm not a cave expert,' he said, 'but I was just thinking, that's a very interesting stalag-thingy hanging from the ceiling up there. Sort of bulbous, isn't it?'
They looked at it.
'I can't quite put my finger on why,' said Twoflower, 'but I think it might be a rather good idea to get out of here.'
'Oh yesh,' said Cohen sarcastically, 'I shupposhe we'd jusht better ashk theesh people to untie ush and let us go, eh?'
Cohen hadn't spent much time in Twoflower's company, otherwise he would not have been surprised when the little man nodded brightly and said, in the loud, slow and careful voice he employed as an alternative to actually speaking other people's languages: 'Excuse me? Could you please untie us and let us go? It's rather damp and drafty here. Sorry.'
Bethan looked sidelong at Cohen.
'Was he supposed to say that?'
'It'sh novel, I'll grant you.'
And, indeed, three people detached themselves from the group around the fire and came towards them. They did not look as if they intended to untie anyone. The two men, in fact, looked the sort of people who, when they see other people tied up, start playing around with knives and making greasy suggestions and leering a lot.
Herrena introduced herself by drawing her sword and pointing it at Twoflower's heart.
'Which one of you is Rincewind the wizard?' she said. There were four horses. Is he here?'
'Um, I don't know where he is,' said Twoflower. 'He was looking for some onions.'
'Then you are his friends and he will come looking for you,' said Herrena. She glanced at Cohen and Bethan, then looked closely at the Luggage.
Trymon had been emphatic that they shouldn't touch the Luggage. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but Herrena's curiosity could have massacred a pride of lions.
She slit the netting and grasped the lid of the box.
'Locked,' she said eventually. 'Where is the key, fat one?'
'It – it hasn't got a key,' said Twoflower.
'There is a keyhole,' she pointed out.
'Well, yes, but if it wants to stay locked, it stays locked,' said Twoflower uncomfortably.
Herrena was aware of Gancia's grin. She snarled.
'I want it open,' she said. 'Gancia, see to it.' She strode back to the fire.
Gancia drew a long thin knife and leaned down close to Twoflower's face.
'She wants it open,' he said. He looked up at the other man and grinned.
'She wants it open, Weems.'
Gancia waved the knife slowly in front of Twoflower's face.
'Look,' said Twoflower patiently, 'I don't think you understand. No-one can open the Luggage if it's feeling in a locked mood.'
'Oh yes, I forgot,' said Gancia thoughtfully. 'Of course, it's a magic box, isn't that right? With little legs, they say. I say, Weems, any legs your side? No?'
He held his knife to Twoflower's throat.
'I'm really upset about that,' he said. 'So's Weems. He doesn't say much but what he does is, he tears bits off people. So open – the – box!'
He turned and planted a kick on the side of the box, leaving a nasty gash in the wood.
There was a tiny little click.
Gancia grinned. The lid swung up slowly, ponderously. The distant firelight gleamed off gold – lots of gold, in plate, chain, and coin, heavy and glistening in the flickering shadows.
'All right,' said Gancia softly.
He looked back at the unheeding men around the fire, who seemed to be shouting at someone outside the cave. Then he looked speculatively at Weems. His lips moved soundlessly with the unaccustomed effort of mental arithmetic.
He looked down at his knife.
Then the floor moved.
'I heard someone,' said one of the men. 'Down there. Among the – uh – rocks.'
Rincewind's voice floated up out of the darkness.
'I say,' he said.
'Well?' said Herrena.
'You're in great danger!' shouted Rincewind. 'You must put the fire out!'
'No, no,' said Herrena. 'You've got it wrong, you're in great danger. And the fire stays.'
'There's this big old troll —'
'Everyone knows trolls keep away from fire,' said Herrena. She nodded. A couple of men drew their swords and slipped out into the darkness.
'Absolutely true!' shouted Rincewind desperately. 'Only this specific troll can't, you see.'
'Can't?' Herrena hesitated. Something of the terror in Rincewind's voice hit her.
'Yes, because, you see, you've lit it on his tongue.'
Then the floor moved.
Old Grandad awoke very slowly from his centuries-old slumber. He nearly didn't awake at all, in fact a few decades later none of this could have happened. When a troll gets old and starts to think seriously about the universe it normally finds a quiet spot and gets down to some hard philosophising, and after a while starts to forget about its extremities. It begins to crystallise around the edges until nothing remains except a tiny flicker of life inside quite a large hill with some unusual rock strata.
Old Grandad hadn't quite got that far. He awoke from considering quite a promising line of inquiry about the meaning of truth and found a hot ashy taste in what, after a certain amount of thought, he remembered as being his mouth.
He began to get angry. Commands skittered along neural pathways of impure silicon. Deep within his sili-caceous body stone slipped smoothly along special fracture lines. Trees toppled, turf split, as fingers the size of ships unfolded and gripped the ground. Two enormous rock-slides high on his cliff face marked the opening of eyes like great crusted opals.
Rincewind couldn't see all this, of course, since his own eyes were daylight issue only, but he did see the whole dark landscape shake itself slowly and then begin to rise impossibly against the stars.
The sun rose.
However, the sunlight didn't. What did happen was that the famous Discworld sunlight, which as has already been indicated travels very slowly through the Disc's powerful magical field, sloshed gently over the lands around the Rim and began its soft, silent battle against the retreating armies of the night. It poured like molten gold across the sleeping landscape – bright, clean and, above all, slow.
Herrena didn't hesitate. With great presence of mind she ran to the edge of Old Grandad's bottom lip and jumped, rolling as she hit the earth. The men followed her, cursing as they landed among the debris.
Like a fat man trying to do press-ups the old troll pushed himself upwards.
This wasn't apparent from where the prisoners were lying. All they knew was that the floor kept rolling under them and that there was a lot of noise going on, most of it unpleasant.
Weems grabbed Gancia's arm.
'It's a herthquake,' he said. 'Let's get out of here!'
'Not without that gold,' said Gancia.
'The gold, the gold. Man, we could be as rich as Creosote!'
Weems might have had a room-temperature IQ, but he knew idiocy when he saw it. Gancia's eyes gleamed more than gold, and he appeared to be staring at Weems' left ear.
Weems looked desperately at the Luggage. It was still open invitingly, which was odd – you'd have thought all this shaking would have slammed the lid shut.
'We'd never carry it,' he suggested. 'It's too heavy,' he added.
'We'll damn well carry some of it!' shouted Gancia, and leapt towards the chest as the floor shook again.
The lid snapped shut. Gancia vanished.
And just in case Weems thought it was accidental the Luggage's lid snapped open again, just for a second, and a large tongue as red as mahogany licked across broad teeth as white as sycamore. Then it slammed shut again.
To Weem's further horror hundreds of little legs extruded from the underside of the box. It rose very deliberately and, carefully arranging its feet, shuffled around to face him. There was a particularly malevolent look about its keyhole, the sort of look that says 'Go on – make my day . . .'
He backed away and looked imploringly at Twoflower.
'I think it might be a good idea if you untied us,' suggested Twoflower. 'It's really quite friendly once it gets to know you.'
Licking his lips nervously, Weems drew his knife. The Luggage gave a warning creak.
He slashed through their bonds and stood back quickly.
'Thank you,' said Twoflower.
'I think my back'sh gone again,' complained Cohen, as Bethan helped him to his feet.
'What do we do with this man?' said Bethan.
'We take hish knife and tell him to bugger off,' said Cohen. 'Right?'
'Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!' said Weems, and bolted towards the cavemouth. For a moment he was outlined against the grey pre-dawn sky, and then he vanished. There was a distant cry of 'aaargh'.
The sunlight roared silently across the land like surf. Here and there, where the magic field was slightly weaker, tongues of morning raced ahead of the day, leaving isolated islands of night that contracted and vanished as the bright ocean flowed onwards.
The uplands around the Vortex Plains stood out ahead of the advancing tide like a great grey ship.
It is possible to stab a troll, but the technique takes practice and no-one ever gets a chance to practise more than once. Herrena's men saw the trolls loom out of the darkness like very solid ghosts. Blades shattered as they hit silica skins, there were one or two brief, flat screams, and then nothing more but shouts far away in the forest as they put as much distance as they could between themselves and the avenging earth.
Rincewind crept out from behind a tree and looked around. He was alone, but the bushes behind him rustled as the trolls lumbered after the gang.
He looked up.
High above him two great crystalline eyes focussed in atred of everything soft and squelchy and, above all, warm. Rincewind cowered in horror as a hand the size of a house rose, curled into a fist, and dropped towards him.
Day came with a silent explosion of light. For a moment the huge terrifying bulk of Old Grandad was a breakwater of shadow as the daylight streamed past. There was a brief grinding noise.
There was silence.
Several minutes passed. Nothing happened.
A few birds started singing. A bumblebee buzzed over the boulder that was Old Grandad's fist and alighted on a patch of thyme that had grown under a stone fingernail.
There was a scuffling down below. Rincewind slid awkwardly out of the narrow gap between the fist and the ground like a snake leaving a burrow.
He lay on his back, staring up at the sky past the frozen shape of the troll. It hadn't changed in any way, apart from the stillness, but already the eye started to play tricks. Last night Rincewind had looked at cracks in stone and seen them become mouths and eyes; now he looked at the great cliff face and saw the features become, like magic, mere blemishes in the rock.
'Wow!' he said.
That didn't seem to help. He stood up, dusted himself off, and looked around. Apart from the bumble bee, he was completely alone.
After poking around for a bit he found a rock that, from certain angles, looked like Beryl.
He was lost and lonely and a long way from Home. He —
There was a crunch high above him, and shards of rock spattered into the earth. High up on the face of Old Grandad a hole appeared; there was a brief sight of the Luggage's backside as it struggled to regain its footing, and then Twoflower's head poked out of the mouth cave.
'Anyone down there? I say?'
'Hey!' shouted the wizard. 'Am I glad to see you!'
'I don't know. Are you?' said Twoflower.
'Am I what?'
'Gosh, there's a wonderful view from up here!'
It took them half an hour to get down. Fortunately Old Grandad had been quite craggy with plenty of handholds, but his nose would have presented a tricky obstacle if it hadn't been for the luxuriant oak tree that flourished in one nostril.
The Luggage didn't bother to climb. It just jumped, and bounced its way down with no apparent harm.
Cohen sat in the shade, trying to catch his breath and waiting for his sanity to catch up with him. He eyed the Luggage thoughtfully.
'The horses have all gone,' said Twoflower.
'We'll find 'em,' said Cohen. His eyes bored into the Luggage, which began to look embarrassed.
'They were carrying all our food,' said Rincewind.
'Plenty of food in the foreshts.'
'I have some nourishing biscuits in the Luggage,' said Twoflower. 'Traveller's Digestives. Always a comfort in a tight spot.'
'I've tried them,' said Rincewind. They've got a mean edge on them, and —'
Cohen stood up, wincing.
'Excushe me,' he said flatly. 'There'sh sHomething I've got to know.'
He walked over to the Luggage and gripped its lid. The box backed away hurriedly, but Cohen stuck out a skinny foot and tripped up half its legs. As it twisted to snap at him he gritted his teeth and heaved, jerking the Luggage onto its curved lid where it rocked angrily like a maddened tortoise.
'Hey, that's my Luggage!' said Twoflower. 'Why's he attacking my Luggage?'
'I think I know,' said Bethan quietly. 'I think it's because he's scared of it.'
Twoflower turned to Rincewind, open-mouthed.
'Search me,' he said. 'I run away from things I'm scared of, myself.'
With a snap of its lid the Luggage jerked into the air and came down running, catching Cohen a crack on the shins with one of its brass corners. As it wheeled around he got a grip on it just long enough to send it galloping full tilt into a rock.
'Not bad,' said Rincewind, admiringly.
The Luggage staggered back, paused for a moment, then came at Cohen waving its lid menacingly. He jumped and landed on it, with both his hands and feet caught in the gap between the box and the lid.
This severely puzzled the Luggage. It was even more astonished when Cohen took a deep breath and heaved, muscles standing out on his skinny arms like a sock full of coconuts.
They stood locked there for some time, tendon versus hinge. Occasionally one or other would creak.
Bethan elbowed Twoflower in the ribs.
'Do something,' she said.
'Um,' said Twoflower. 'Yes. That's about enough, I think. Put him down, please.'
The Luggage gave a creak of betrayal at the sound of its master's voice. Its lid flew up with such force that Cohen tumbled backwards, but he scrambled to his feet and flung himself towards the box.
Its contents lay open to the skies.
Cohen reached inside.
The Luggage creaked a bit, but had obviously weighed up the chances of being sent to the top of that Great Wardrobe in the Sky. When Rincewind dared to peek through his fingers Cohen was peering into the Luggage and cursing under his breath.
'Laundry?' he shouted. 'Is that it? Just laundry?' He was shaking with rage.
'I think there's some biscuits too,' said Twoflower in a small voice.
'But there wash gold! And I shaw it eat sHomebody!' Cohen looked imploringly at Rincewind.
The wizard sighed. 'Don't ask me,' he said. 'I don't own the bloody thing.'
'I bought it in a shop,' said Twoflower defensively. 'I said I wanted a travelling trunk.'
'That's what you got, all right,' said Rincewind.
'It's very loyal,' said Twoflower.
'Oh yes,' agreed Rincewind. 'If loyalty is what you look for in a suitcase.'
'Hold on,' said Cohen, who had sagged onto a rock. Wash it one of thoshe shopsh – I mean, I bet you hadn't noticed it before and when you went back again it washn't there?'
Twoflower brightened. 'That's right!'
'Shopkeeper a little wizened old guy? Shop full of strange shtuff?'
'Exactly! Never could find it again, I thought I must have got the wrong street, nothing but a brick wall where I thought it was, I remember thinking at the time it was rather —'
Cohen shrugged. 'One of those shops,' he said. That explainsh it, then.' He felt his back, and grimaced. 'Bloody horshe ran off with my linament!'
Rincewind remembered something, and fumbled in the depths of his torn and now very grubby robe. He held up a green bottle.
'That'sh the shtuff!' said Cohen. 'You're a marvel.' He ooked sideways at Twoflower.
'I would have beaten it,' he said quietly, 'even if you hadn't called it off, I would have beaten it in the end.'
'That's right,' said Bethan.
'You two can make yourshelf usheful,' he added. That Luggage broke through a troll tooth to get ush out. That wash diamond. Shee if you can find the bitsh. I've had an idea about them.'
As Bethan rolled up her sleeves and uncorked the bottle Rincewind took Twoflower to one side. When they were safely hidden behind a shrub he said, 'He's gone barmy.'
'That's Cohen the Barbarian you're talking about!' said Twoflower, genuinely shocked. 'He is the greatest warrior that —'
'Was,' said Rincewind urgently. 'All that stuff with the warrior priests and man-eating zombies was years ago. All he's got now is memories and so many scars you could play noughts-and-crosses on him.'
'He is rather more elderly than I imagined, yes,' said Twoflower. He picked up