A hat full of sky, p.13
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.13

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 13

 

  could think the same way. It would be impossible to have an argument with her. Tiffany had to stop herself from saying The sky is green just to see how long it would take for Petulia to agree. But she liked her. You couldnt not like her. She was restful company. Besides, you couldnt help liking someone who couldnt make a broomstick turn corners. It was a long walk through the woods. Tiffany had always wanted to see a forest so big that you couldnt see daylight through the other side, but now shed lived in one for a couple of weeks it got on her nerves. It was quite open woodland here, at least around the villages, and not hard to walk though. Shed had to learn what maples and birches were, and shed never before seen the spruces and firs that grew higher up the slopes. But she wasnt happy in the company of trees. She missed the horizons. She missed the sky. Everything was too close. Petulia chattered nervously. Old Mother Blackcap was a pig-borer, cow-shouter and all-round veterinary witch. Petulia liked animals, especially pigs because they had wobbly noses. Tiffany quite liked animals too, but no one except other animals liked animals as much as Petulia. So . . . whats this meeting about? she said, to change the subject. Urn? Oh, its just to keep in touch/ said Petulia. Annagramma says its important to make contacts.

  Annagrammas the leader, then, is she? said Tiffany. Um, no. Witches dont have leaders, Annagramma says.

  Hmm, said Tiffany. They arrived at last at a clearing in the woods, just as the sun was setting. There were the remains of an old cottage there, now covered mostly in brambles. You might miss it completely if you didnt spot the rampant growth of lilac and the gooseberry bushes, now a forest of thorns. Someone had lived here once, and had a garden. Someone else, now, had lit a fire. Badly. And they had found that lying down flat to blow on a fire because you hadnt started it with enough paper and dry twigs was not a good idea, because it would then cause your pointy hat, which you had forgotten to take off, to fall into the smoking mess and then, because it was dry, catch fire. A young witch was now flailing desperately at her burning hat, watched by several interested spectators. Another one, sitting on a log, said: Dimity Hubbub, that is literally the most stupid thing anyone has ever done anywhere in the whole world, ever. It was a sharp, not very nice voice, the sort most people used for being sarcastic with. Sorry, Annagramma! said Miss Hubbub, pulling off the hat and stamping on the point. I mean, just look at you, will you? You really are letting everyone down.

  Sorry, Annagramma!

  Um, said Petulia. Everyone turned to look at the new arrivals. Youre late, Petulia Gristle! snapped Annagramma. And whos this?

  Urn, you did ask me to call in at Miss Levels to bring the new girl, Annagramma, said Petulia, as if shed been caught doing something wrong.

  Annagramma stood up. She was at least a head taller than Tiffany and had a face that seemed to be built backwards from her nose, which she held slightly in the air. To be looked at by Annagramma was to know that youd already taken up too much of her valuable time. Is this her?

  Um, yes, Annagramma.

  Lets have a look at you, new girl. Tiffany stepped forward. It was amazing. She hadnt really meant to. But Annagramma had the kind of voice that you obeyed. What is your name?

  Tiffany Aching? said Tiffany, and found herself saying her name as if she was asking permission to have it. Tiffany? Thats a funny name, said the tall girl. My name is Annagramma Hawkin.

  Um, Annagramma works for- Petulia began. - works with, said Annagramma sharply, still looking Tiffany up and down. Urn, sorry, works with Mrs Earwig, said Petulia. But she- 1 intend to leave next year, said Annagramma. Apparently, Im doing extremely well. So youre the girl whos joined Miss Level, are you? Shes weird, you know. The last three girls all left very quickly. They said it was just too strange trying to keep track of which one of her was which.

  Which witch was which, said one of the girls cheerfully. Anyone can do that pun, Lucy Warbeck, said Annagramma without looking round. Its not funny, and its not clever. She turned her attention back to Tiffany, who felt that she was being examined as critically and thoroughly as Granny Aching would check a ewe she might be thinking of buying. She wondered if Annagramma would actually try to open her mouth and make sure she had all her teeth. They say you cant breed good witches on chalk, said Annagramma. All the other girls looked from Annagramma to Tiffany, who thought: Ha!, so witches dont have leaders, do they? But she was in no mood to make enemies. Perhaps they do, she said quietly. This did not seem to be what Annagramma wanted to hear. You havent even dressed the part, said Annagramma. Sorry, said Tiffany. Urn, Annagramma says that if you want people to treat you like a witch you should look like one, Petulia said. Hmm, said Annagramma, staring at Tiffany as if shed failed a simple test. Then she nodded her head. Well, we all had to start somewhere. She stood back. Ladies, this is Tiffany. Tiffany, you know Petulia. She crashes into trees. Dimity Hubbub is the one with the smoke coming out of her hat, so that she looks like a chimney. Thats Gertruder Tiring, thats the hilariously funny Lucy Warbeck, thats Harrieta Bilk, who cant seem to do anything about the squint, and then thats Lulu Darling, who cant seem to do anything about the name. You can sit in for this evening. . . Tiffany, wasnt

  it? Im sorry youve been taken on by Miss Level. Shes rather sad. Complete amateur. Hasnt really got a clue. Just bustles about and hopes. Oh, well, its too late now. Gertruder, Summon the Worlds Four Corners and Open the Circle, please.

  Er . . . said Gertruder, nervously. It was amazing how many people around Annagramma became nervous. Do I have to do everything around here? said Annagramma. Try to remember, please! We must have been through this literally a million times!

  Ive never heard of the worlds four corners, said Tiffany. Really? Theres a surprise, said Annagramma. Well, theyre the directions of power, Tiffany, and I would advise you to do something about that name, too, please.

  But the worlds round, like a plate, said Tiffany. Urn, you have to imagine them, Petulia whispered. Tiffany wrinkled her forehead. Why? she said. Annagramma rolled her eyes. Because thats the way to do things properly.

  Oh.

  You have done some kind of magic, havent you? Annagramma demanded. Tiffany was a bit confused. She wasnt used to people like Annagramma. Yes, she said. All the other girls were staring at her, and Tiffany couldnt help thinking about sheep. When a dog attacks a sheep, the other sheep run away to a safe distance and then turn and watch. They dont gang up on the dog. Theyre just happy its not them. What are you best at then? snapped Annagramma. Tiffany, her mind still full of sheep, spoke without thinking. Soft Nellies, she said. Its a sheep cheese. Its quite hard to make . . . She looked around at the circle of blank faces and felt embarrassment rise inside her like hot jelly. Urn, Annagramma meant what magic can you do best, said Petulia kindly. Although Soft Nellies is good, said Annagramma with a cruel little smile. One or two of the girls gave that little snort that meant they were trying not to laugh out loud but didnt mind showing that they were trying. Tiffany looked down at her boots again. T dont know, she mumbled, but I did throw the Queen of the Fairies out of my country.

  Really? said Annagramma. The Queen of the Fairies, eh? How did you do that?

  Im . . . not sure. I just got angry with her. And it was hard to remember exactly what had happened that night. Tiffany recalled the anger, terrible anger, and the world . . . changing. Shed seen it clearer than a hawk sees, heard it better than a dog hears, felt its age beneath her feet, felt the hills still living. And she remembered thinking that no one could do this for long and still be human. Well, youve got the right boots for stamping your foot, said Annagramma. There were a few more half-concealed giggles. A Queen of the Fairies, she added. Im sure you did. Well, it helps to dream.

  I dont tell lies, mumbled Tiffany, but no one was listening. Sullen and upset, she watched the girls Open the Corners and Summon the Circle, unless shed got that the wrong way round. This went on for some time. It would have

  gone better if theyd all been sure what to do, but it was proba
bly hard to know what to do when Annagramma was around, since she kept correcting everyone. She was standing with a big book open in her arms. . . . now you, Gertruder, go widdershins, no, thats the other way, I must have told you literally a thousand times, and Lulu - wheres Lulu? Well, you shouldnt have been there! Get the shriven chalice - not that one, no, the one without handles . . . yes. Harrieta, hold the Wand of the Air a bit higher, I mean, it must be in the air, dyou understand? And for goodness sake, Petulia, please try to look a little more stately, will you? I appreciate that it doesnt come naturally to you, but you might at least show youre making an effort. By the way, Ive been meaning to tell you, no invocation ever written starts with “um”, unless Im very much mistaken. Harrieta, is that the Cauldron of the Sea? Does it even look like a Cauldron of the Sea? I dont think so, do you? What was that noise? The girls looked down. Then someone mumbled: Dimity trod on the Circlet of Infinity, Annagramma.

  Not the one with the genuine seed-pearls on it? said Annagramma in a tight little voice. Um, yes, said Petulia. But Im sure shes very sorry. Um . . . shall I make a cup of tea? The book slammed shut. What is the point? said Annagramma to the world in general. What. Is. The. Point? Do you want to spend the rest of your lives as village witches, curing boils and warts for a cup of tea and a biscuit? Well? Do you? There was a shuffling among the huddled witches, and a general murmur of No, Annagramma.

  You did all read Mrs Earwigs book, didnt you? she demanded. Well, did you? Petulia raised a hand nervously. Um- she began. Petulia, Ive told you literally a million times not to start. Every. Single. Sentence. With “Um” - havent I?

  Um- said Petulia, trembling with nervousness. Just speak up, for goodness sake! Dont hesitate all the time!

  Um-

  Petulia!

  Um- Really, you might make an effort. Honestly, I dont know whats the matter with all of you! I do, Tiffany thought. Youre like a dog worrying sheep all the time. You dont give them time to obey you and you dont let them know when theyve done things right. You just keep barking. Petulia had lapsed into tongue-tied silence. Annagramma put the book down on the log. Well, weve completely lost the moment, she said. We may as well have that cup of tea, Petulia. Do hurry up. Petulia, relieved, grabbed the kettle. People relaxed a little. Tiffany looked at the cover of the book. It read:

  The Higher MagiK by Letice Earwig, Witch Magic with a K? she said aloud. Magikkkk?

  Thats deliberate, said Annagramma coldly. Mrs Earwig says that if we are to make any progress at all we must distinguish the higher MagiK from the everyday sort.

  The everyday sort of magic? said Tiffany. Exactly. None of that mumbling in hedgerows for us. Proper sacred circles, spells written down, A proper hierarchy, not everyone running around doing whatever they feel like. Real wands, not bits of grubby stick. Professionalism, with respect. Absolutely no warts. Thats the only way forward.

  Well, I think- Tiffany began. I dont really care what you think because you dont know enough yet, said Annagramma sharply. She turned to the group in general. Do we all at least have something for the Trials this year? she asked. There were general murmurs and nods in the theme of yes. What about you, Petulia? said Annagramma. Im going to do the pig trick, Annagramma, said Petulia meekly. Good. Youre nearly good at that, said Annagramma, and pointed around the circle, from one girl to another, nodding at their answers, until she came to Tiffany. Soft Nellies? she said, to sniggering amusement. What are Witch Trials? said Tiffany. Miss Tick mentioned them, but I dont know what they are. Annagramma gave one of her noisy sighs. You tell her, Petulia, she said. You brought her, after all. Hesitantly, with lots of urns and glances at Annagramma, Petulia explained about the Witch Trials. Um, it was a time when witches from all over the mountains could meet up, and um see old friends and um pick up the latest news and gossip. Ordinary people could come along too, and there was a fair and um sideshows. It was quite an um big event. And in the afternoon all the witches that um wanted to could show off a spell or um something theyd been working on, which was very um popular. To Tiffany, they sounded like sheepdog trials, without the dogs or the sheep. They were in Sheercliff this year, which was quite close. And is there a prize? she asked. Um, oh no, said Petulia. Its all done in spirit of fun and good fellow- um, good sistership.

 
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