The Fifth Elephant Chapter 1

Author: Terry Pratchett

Series: Discworld #24

Genres: Fantasy , Humorous

They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle.

They say that the elephants, being such huge beasts, have bones of rock and iron, and nerves of gold for better conductivity over long distances.

They say that the fifth elephant came screaming and trumpeting through the atmosphere of the young world all those years ago and landed hard enough to split continents and raise mountains.

No one actually saw it land, which raised the interesting philosophical question: when millions of tons of angry elephant come spinning through the sky, and there is no one to hear it, does it - philosophically speaking - make a noise?

And if there was no one to see it hit, did it actually hit?

In other words, wasn"t it just a story for children, to explain away some interesting natural occurrences?

As for the dwarfs, whose legend it is, and who mine a lot deeper than other people, they say that there is a grain of truth in it.

On a clear day, from the right vantage point on the Ramtops, a watcher could see a very long way across the plains. If it was high summer, they could count the columns of dust as the ox trains plodded on, at a top speed of two miles an hour, each pair pulling a train of two wagons carrying four tons apiece. Things took a long time to get anywhere, but when they did, there was certainly a lot of them. To the cities of the Circle Sea they carried raw material, and sometimes people who were off to seek their fortune and a fistful of diamonds.

To the mountains they brought manufactured goods, rare things from across the oceans, and people who had found wisdom and a few scars.

There was usually a day"s travelling between each convoy. They turned the landscape into an unrolled time machine. On a clear day you could see last Tuesday.

Heliographs twinkled in the distant air as the columns flashed messages back and forth, about bandit presence, cargoes and the best place to get double egg, treble chips and a steak that overhung the plate all round.

Lots of people travelled on the carts. It was cheap, it beat walking, and you got there eventually.

Some people travelled for free.

The driver of one wagon was having problems with his team. They were skittish. He"d expect this in the mountains, where all sorts of wild creatures might regard the oxen as a travelling meal, but here there was nothing more dangerous than cabbages.

Behind him, down in a narrow space between the loads of cut lumber, something slept.

It was just another day in Ankh-Morpork...

Sergeant Colon balanced on a shaky ladder at one end of the Brass Bridge, one of the city"s busiest thoroughfares. He clung by one hand to the tall pole with the box on top of it, and with the other he held up a home-made picture book to the slot in the front of the box.

"And this is another sort of cart," he said. "Got it?"

"s," said a very small voice from within the box.

"O-kay," said Colon, apparently satisfied. He dropped the book and pointed down the length of the bridge.

"Now, you see those two markers what has been painted across the cobbles?"


"And they mean... ?"

"If-a-cart-g"s-tween-dem-in-less"na-minute-"s-goin-too-fas"," the little voice parroted.

"Well done. And then you... ?"


"Taking care to show... ?"


"And if it"s night-time you... ?"


"Well done, Rodney. And one of us will come along every day and collect your pictures. Got everything you want?"

"What"s that, sergeant?"

Colon looked down at the very large, brown, upturned face, and smiled.

"Afternoon, All," he said, climbing ponderously down the ladder. "What you"re looking at, Mister Jolson, is the modern Watch for the new millenienienum... num."

"s a bit big, Fred," said All Jolson, looking at it critically. "I"ve seen lots of smaller ones."

"Watch as in City Watch, All."

"Ah, right."

"Anyone goes too fast around here and Lord Vetinari"ll be looking at his picture next morning. The iconographs do not lie, All."

"Right, Fred. "cos they"re too stupid."

"His lordship"s got fed up with carts speeding over the bridge, see, and asked us to do something about it. I"m Head of Traffic now, you know."

"Is that good, Fred?"

"I should just think so!" said Sergeant Colon expansively. "It"s up to me to keep the, er, arteries of the city from clogging up, leadin" to a complete breakdown of commerce and ruination for us all. Most vital job there is, you could say."

"And it"s just you doing it, is it?"

"Well, mainly. Mainly. Corporal Nobbs and the other lads help, of course."

All Jolson scratched his nose. "It was on a similar subject that I wanted to talk to you, Fred," he said.

"No problem, All."

"Something very odd"s turned up outside my restaurant, Fred."

Sergeant Colon followed the huge man around the corner. Fred usually liked All"s company because, next to All, he was very skinny indeed. All Jolson was a man who"d show up on an atlas and change the orbit of small planets. Paving stones cracked under his feet. He combined in one body - and there was plenty of room left over - Ankh-Morpork"s best chef and its keenest eater, a circumstance made in mashed potato heaven. Sergeant Colon couldn"t remember what the man"s real first name had been; he"d picked up the nickname by general acclaim, since no one seeing him in the street for the first time could believe that it was all Jolson.

There was a big cart on Broad Way. Other traffic was backed up trying to manoeuvre around it.

"Had my meat delivered at lunchtime, Fred, and when my carter came out..." All Jolson pointed to the large triangular construction locked around one wheel of the cart. It was made of oak and steel, with yellow paint sloshed over it.

Fred tapped it carefully. "I can see where your problem is, right here," he said. "So how long was your carter in there?"

"Well. I gave him lunch..."

"And very good lunches you do, All, I"ve always said. What was the special today?"

"Smitten steak with cream sauce and slumpie, and black death meringue to follow," said All Jolson.

There was a moment of silence as they both pictured this meal. Fred Colon gave a little sigh.

"Butter on the slumpie?"

"You wouldn"t insult me by suggesting I"d leave it off, would you?"

"A man could linger a long time over a meal like that," said Fred. "The trouble is, the Patrician, All, gets very short about carts parking on the street for more than ten minutes. He reckons that"s a sort of crime."

"Taking ten minutes to eat one of my lunches isn"t a crime, Fred, it"s a tragedy," said All. "It says here "City Watch - $15 removal", Fred. That"s a couple of days" profits, Fred."

"Thing is," said Fred Colon, "it"ll be paperwork, see? I can"t just wave that away. I only wish I could. There"s all them counterfoils on the spike in my office. If it was me running the Watch, of course... but my hands are tied, see..."

The two men stood some way apart, hands in pockets, apparently paying little attention to one another. Sergeant Colon began to whistle under his breath.

"I know a thing or two," said All, carefully. "People think waiters ain"t got ears."

"I know lots of stuff, All," said Colon, jingling his pocket change.

Both men stared at the sky for a while.

"I may have some honey ice cream left over from yesterday - "

Sergeant Colon looked down at the cart.

"Here, Mister Jolson," he said, in a voice of absolute surprise. "Some complete bastard"s put some sort of clamp on your wheel! Well, we"ll soon see about that."

Colon pulled a couple of round, white-painted paddles from his belt, sighted on the Watch House semaphore tower peeking over the top of the old lemonade factory, waited until the watching gargoyle signalled him, and with a certain amount of verve and flair ripped off an impression of a man with stiff arms playing two games of table tennis at once.

"The team"ll be along any minute - ah, watch this..."

A little further along the street two trolls were carefully clamping a hay wagon. After a minute or two one of them happened to glance at the Watch House tower, nudged his colleague, produced two bats of his own and, with rather less elan than Sergeant Colon, sent a signal. When it was answered the trolls looked around, spotted Colon and lumbered towards him.

"Ta-da!" said Colon proudly.

"Amazing, this new technology," said All Jolson admiringly. "And they must"ve been, what, forty or fifty yards away?"

"s"right, All. In the old days I"d"ve had to blow a whistle. And they"ll arrive here knowin" it was me who wanted "em, too."

"Instead of having to look and see it was you," said Jolson.

"Well, yeah," said Colon, aware that what had transpired might not be the brightest ray of light in the new dawn of the communications revolution. "Of course, it"d have worked just as well if they"d been streets away. On the other side of the city, even. And if I told the gargoyle to, as we say, "put" it on the "big" tower over on the Tump they"d have got it in Sto Lat within minutes, see?"

"And that"s twenty miles."

"At least."

"Amazing, Fred."

"Time moves on, All," said Colon, as the trolls reached them.

"Constable Chert, who told you to clamp my friend"s cart?" he demanded.

"Well, sarge, dis morning you said we was to clamp every - "

"Not this cart," said Colon. "Unlock it right now, and we"ll say no more about it, eh?"

Constable Chert seemed to reach the conclusion that he wasn"t being paid to think, and this was just as well because Sergeant Colon did not believe trolls gave value for money in that department. "If you say so, sarge..."

"While you"re doing that, me and All here will have a little chat, right, All?" said Fred Colon.

"That"s right, Fred."

"Well, I say chat, but I"ll be mostly listenin", on account of having my mouth full."

Snow cascaded from the fir branches. The man forced his way through, stood fighting for breath for a moment, and then set off across the clearing at a fast trot.

Across the valley he heard the first blast on the horn.

He had an hour, then, if he could trust them. He might not make it to the tower, but there were other ways out.

He had plans. He could outwit them. Keep off the snow as much as you can, double back, make use of the streams... It was possible, it had been done before. He was sure of that.

A few miles away sleek bodies set out through the forest. The hunt was on.

Elsewhere in Ankh-Morpork, the Fools" Guild was on fire.

This was a problem, because the Guild"s fire brigade consisted largely of clowns.

And this was a problem because if you show a clown a bucket of water and a ladder he knows only one way to act. Years of training take over. It"s something in the red nose speaking to him. He can"t help himself.

Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch leaned against a wall and watched the show.

"We really must put that proposal for a civic fire service to the Patrician again," he said. Across the street a clown picked up a ladder, turned, knocked the clown behind him into a bucket of water, then turned again to see what the commotion was, thus sending his rising victim into the bucket again with a surprising parping noise. The crowd watched silently. If it was funny, clowns wouldn"t be doing it.

"The Guilds are all very much against it," said Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, his second in command, as the clown with the ladder had a bucket of water poured down his trousers. "They say it"d be trespass."

The fire had taken hold in a first-floor room.

"If we let it burn it"d be a blow for entertainment in this city," said Carrot earnestly.

Vimes looked sideways at him. That was a true Carrot comment. It sounded as innocent as hell, but you could take it a different way.

"It certainly would," he said. "Nevertheless, I suppose we"d better do something." He stepped forward and cupped his hands.

"All right, this is the Watch! Bucket chain!" he shouted.

"Aw, must we?" said someone in the crowd.

"Yes, you must," said Captain Carrot. "Come on, everyone, if we form two lines we"ll have this done in no time at all! What d"you say, eh? It might even be fun!"

And they did it, Vimes noted. Carrot treated everyone as if they were jolly good chaps and somehow, in some inexplicable way, they couldn"t resist the urge not to prove him wrong.

And to the disappointment of the crowd the fire was soon put out, once the clowns were disarmed and led away by kind people.

Carrot reappeared, wiping his forehead, as Vimes lit a cigar.

"Apparently the fire-eater was sick," he said.

"It"s just possible we might never be forgiven," said Vimes as they set off on patrol again. "Oh, no... what now?"

Carrot was staring upwards, towards the nearest clacks tower.

"Riot in Cable Street," he said. "It"s All Officers, sir."

They broke into a run. You always did for an All Officers. The people in trouble might well be you.

There were more dwarfs on the streets as they got nearer, and Vimes recognized the signs. The dwarfs all wore preoccupied looks and were walking in the same direction.

"It"s over," he said, as they rounded a corner. "You can tell by the sudden increase of suspiciously innocent bystanders."

Whatever else the emergency had been, it had been a big one. The street was strewn with debris, and a fair amount of dwarfs. Vimes slowed down.

"Third time this week," he said. "What"s got into them?"

"Hard to say, sir," said Carrot. Vimes shot him a glance. Carrot had been raised by dwarfs. He also, if he could possibly avoid it, never told a lie.

"That isn"t the same as I don"t know, is it?" he said.

The captain looked awkward.

"I think it"s... sort of political," he said.

Vimes noted a throwing axe buried in a wall.

"Yes, I can see that," he said.

Someone was coming along the street, and was probably the reason why the riot had broken up. Lance-Constable Bluejohn was the biggest troll Vimes had ever met. He loomed. He was so big that he didn"t stand out in a crowd because he was the crowd; people failed to see him because he was in the way. And, like many overgrown people, he was instinctively gentle and rather shy and inclined to let others tell him what to do. If fate had led him to join a gang, he"d be the muscle. In the Watch, he was the riot shield. Other watchmen were peering around him.

"Looks like it started in Gimlet"s Delicatessen," said Vimes, as the rest of the Watch moved in. "Get a statement off Gimlet."

"Not a good idea, sir," said Carrot firmly. "He didn"t see anything."

"How do you know he didn"t see anything? You haven"t asked him."

"I know, sir. He didn"t see anything. He didn"t hear anything, either."

"With a mob trashing his restaurant and scrapping in the street outside?"

"That"s right, sir."

"Ah. I get it. There"s none so deaf as those that won"t hear, are you saying?"

"Something like that, sir, yes. Look, it"s all over, sir. I don"t think anyone"s seriously hurt. It"ll be for the best, sir. Please?"

"Is this one of those private dwarf things, captain?"

"Yes, sir - "

"Well, this is Ankh-Morpork, captain, not some mine in the mountains, and it"s my job to keep the peace, and this, captain, doesn"t look like it. What"re people going to say about rioting in the streets?"

"They"ll say it"s another day in the life of the big city, sir," said Carrot woodenly.

"Yes, I suppose they would, at that. However - " Vimes picked up a groaning dwarf. "Who did this?" he demanded. "I"m not in the mood for being messed around. Come on, I want a name!"

"Agi Hammerthief," muttered the dwarf, struggling.

"All right," said Vimes, letting him go. "Write that down, Carrot."

"No, sir," said Carrot.

"Excuse me?"

"There is no Agi Hammerthief in the city, sir."

"You know every dwarf?"

"A lot of them, sir. But Agi Hammerthief is only found down mines, sir. He"s a sort of mischievous spirit, sir. For example, "Put it where Agi puts the coal," sir, means - "

"Yes, I can guess," said Vimes. "You"re telling me that that dwarf just said this riot was started by Sweet Fanny Adams?" The dwarf had disappeared smartly around a corner.

"More or less, sir. Excuse me a moment, sir." Carrot stepped across the street, pulling two white-painted paddles out of his belt. "I"ll just get a line of sight on a tower," he said. "I"d better send a clacks."


"Well, we"ve kept the Patrician waiting, sir, so it"d be good manners to let him know we"re late."

Vimes pulled out his watch and stared at it. It was turning out to be one of those days... the sort that you got every day.

It is in the nature of the universe that the person who always keeps you waiting ten minutes will, on the day you are ten minutes tardy, have been ready ten minutes early and will make a point of not mentioning this.

"Sorry we"re late, sir," said Vimes as they entered the Oblong Office.

"Oh, are you late?" said Lord Vetinari, looking up from his paperwork. "I really hadn"t noticed. Nothing serious, I trust."

"The Fools" Guild caught fire, sir," said Carrot.

"Many casualties?"

"No, sir."

"Well, that is a blessing," said Lord Vetinari carefully. He put down his pen.

"Now... what do we have to discuss... ?" He pulled another document towards him and read it swiftly.

"Ah... I see that the new traffic division is having the desired effect." He indicated a large pile of paper. "I am getting any amount of complaints from the Carters" and Drovers" Guild. Well done. Do pass on my thanks to Sergeant Colon and his team."

"I will, sir."

"I see in one day they clamped seventeen carts, ten horses, eighteen oxen and one duck."

"It was parked illegally, sir."

"Indeed. However, a strange pattern seems to emerge."


"Many of the carters say that they were not in fact parked but had merely halted while an extremely old and extremely ugly lady crossed the road extremely slowly."

"That"s their story, sir."

"They know she was an old lady by her constant litany on the lines of "Oh deary me, my poor old feet," and similar expressions."

"Certainly sounds like an old lady to me, sir," said Vimes, his face wooden.

"Quite so. What is rather strange is that several of them then report seeing the old lady subsequently legging it away along an alley rather fast. I"d discount this, of course, were it not for the fact that the lady has apparently been seen crossing another street, very slowly, some distance away shortly afterwards. Something of a mystery, Vimes."

Vimes put his hand over his eyes. "It"s one I intend to solve quite quickly, sir."

The Patrician nodded and made a short note on the list in front of him.

As he went to move it aside he uncovered a much grubbier, much-folded scrap of paper. He picked up two letter knives and, using them fastidiously, unfolded the paper and inched it across the desk towards Vimes.

"Do you know anything about this?" he said.

Vimes read, in large, round, crayoned letters:

DeEr Cur, The CruEL t to HOMLIss DoGs In thIs CITY Is A DIssGrays,

WaT arE The WaTCH Do Ing A BouT ITZ

SiNeD The LeAK AgyANsct CrUle T To DoGs."

"Not a thing," he said.

"My clerks say that one like it is pushed under the door most nights," said the Patrician. "Apparently no one is seen."

"Do you want me to investigate?" said Vimes. "It shouldn"t be hard to find someone in this city who dribbles when he writes and spells even worse than Carrot."

"Thank you, sir," said Carrot.

"None of the guards report noticing anyone," said the Patrician. "Is there any group in Ankh-Morpork particularly interested in the welfare of dogs?"

"I doubt it, sir."

"Then I shall ignore it pro tem," said Vetinari. He let the soggy letter splash into the wastepaper basket.

"On to more pressing matters," he said briskly. "Now, then... What do you know about Bonk?"

Vimes stared.

There was a polite cough from Carrot. "The river or the town, sir?" he said.

The Patrician smiled. "Ah, captain, you have long ago ceased to surprise me. Yes, I was referring to the town."

"It"s one of the major towns in Uberwald, sir," said Carrot. "Exports: precious metals, leather, timber and of course fat from the deep fat mines at Schmaltzberg - "

"There"s a place called Bonk?" said Vimes, still marvelling at the speed with which they"d got here from a damp letter about dogs.

"Strictly speaking, sir, it"s more correctly pronounced Beyonk," said Carrot.

"Even so - "

"And in Beyonk, sir, "Morpork" sounds exactly like their word for an item of ladies" underwear," said Carrot. "There"s only so many syllables in the world, when you think about it."

"How do you know all this stuff, Carrot?"

"Oh, you pick it up, sir. Here and there."

"Really? So exactly which item of - "

"Something extremely important will be taking place there in a few weeks," said Lord Vetinari. "Something which, I have to add, is vital to the future prosperity of Ankh-Morpork."

"The crowning of the Low King," said Carrot.

Vimes stared from him to the Patrician, and back again.

"Is there some kind of circular that goes around which doesn"t get as far as me?" he said.

"The dwarf community has been talking about little else for months, sir."

"Really?" said Vimes. "You mean the riots? Those fights every night in the dwarf bars?"

"Captain Carrot is correct, Vimes. It will be a grand occasion, attended by representatives of many governments. And from various Uberwald principalities, of course, because the Low King only rules those areas of Uberwald that are below ground. His favour is valuable. Borogravia and Genua will be there, without a doubt, and probably even Klatch."

"Klatch? But they"re even further from Uberwald than we are! What are they bothering to go for?"

He paused for a moment and then added: "Hah. I"m being stupid. Where"s the money?"

"I beg your pardon, commander?"

"That"s what my old sergeant used to say when he was puzzled, sir. Find out where the money is and you"ve got it half solved."

Vetinari stood up and walked over to the big window, with his back to them.

"A large country, Uberwald," he said, apparently addressing the glass. "Dark. Mysterious. Ancient..."

"Huge untapped reserves of coal and iron ore," said Carrot. "And fat, of course. The best candles, lamp oils and soap come ultimately from the Schmaltzberg deposits."

"Why? We"ve got our own slaughterhouse, haven"t we?"

"Ankh-Morpork uses a great many candles, sir."

"It certainly doesn"t use much soap," said Vimes.

"There are so many uses for fats and tallows, sir. We couldn"t possibly supply ourselves."

"Ah,"said Vimes.

The Patrician sighed. "Obviously I hope that we may strengthen our trading links with the various nations within Uberwald," he said. "The situation there is volatile in the extreme. Do you know much about Uberwald, Commander Vimes?"

Vimes, whose knowledge of geography was microscopically detailed within five miles of Ankh-Morpork and merely microscopic beyond that, nodded uncertainly.

"Only that it"s not really a country," said Vetinari. "It"s - "

"It"s rather more what you get before you get countries," said Carrot. "It"s mainly fortified towns and fiefdoms with no real boundaries and lots of forest in between. There"s always some sort of feud going on. There"s no law apart from whatever the local lords enforce, and banditry of all kinds is rife."

"So unlike the home life of our own dear city," said Vimes, not quite under his breath. The Patrician gave him an impassive glance.

"In Uberwald the dwarfs and trolls haven"t settled their old grievances," Carrot continued, "there are large areas controlled by feudal vampire or werewolf clans, and there are also tracts with much higher than normal background magic. It is a chaotic place, indeed, and you"d hardly think you were in the Century of the Fruitbat. It is to be hoped that things will improve, however, and Uberwald will, happily, be joining the community of nations."

Vimes and Vetinari exchanged looks. Sometimes Carrot sounded like a civics essay written by a stunned choirboy.

"Well put," said the Patrician at last. "But until that joysome day Uberwald remains a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma."

"Let me see if I"ve got this right," said Vimes. "Uberwald is like this big suet pudding that everyone"s suddenly noticed, and now with this coronation as an excuse we"ve all got to rush there with knife, fork and spoon to shovel as much on our plates as possible?"

"Your grasp of political reality is masterly, Vimes. You lack only the appropriate vocabulary. Ankh-Morpork must send a representative, obviously. An ambassador, as it were."

"You"re not suggesting I should go to this affair, are you?" said Vimes.

"Oh, I couldn"t send the Commander of the City Watch," said Lord Vetinari. "Most of the Uberwald countries have no concept of a modern civil peacekeeping authority."

Vimes relaxed.

"I"m sending the Duke of Ankh instead."

Vimes sat bolt upright.

"They are mostly feudal systems," Vetinari went on. "They set great store by rank - "

"I"m not being ordered to go to Uberwald!"

"Ordered, your grace?" Vetinari looked shocked and concerned. "Good heavens, I must have misunderstood Lady Sybil... She told me yesterday that a holiday a long way from Ankh-Morpork would do you the world of good..."

"You spoke to Sybil?"

"At the reception for the new President of the Tailors" Guild, yes. I believe you left early. You were called away. Some emergency, I understand. Lady Sybil happened to mention how you seemed to be, as she put it, constantly on the job, and one thing led to another. Oh dear, I do hope I haven"t caused some marital misunderstanding..."

"I can"t leave the city now of all times!" said Vimes desperately. "There"s so much to do!"

"That is exactly why Sybil says you ought to leave the city," said Vetinari.

"But there"s the new training school - "

"Ticking over nicely now, sir," said Carrot.
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