A hat full of sky, p.14
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.14

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 14

 

  Hah! said Annagramma. Not even she will believe that! Its all a fix, anyway. Theyll all applaud Mistress Weatherwax. She always wins, whatever she does. She just messes up peoples minds. She just fools them into thinking shes good. She wouldnt last five minutes against a wizard. They do real magic. And she dresses like a scarecrow, too! Its ignorant old women like her who keep witchcraft rooted in the past, as Mrs Earwig points out in chapter one! One or two girls looked uncertain. Petulia even looked over her shoulder.

  Urn, people do say shes done amazing things, Annagramma, she said. And, urn, they say she can spy on people miles away-

  Yes, they say that, said Annagramma. Thats because theyre all frightened of her! Shes such a bully! Thats all she does, bully people and mess up their heads! Thats old witchcraft, that is. Just one step away from cackling, in my opinion. Shes half cracked now, they say.

  She didnt seem cracked to me.

  Who said that? snapped Annagramma. Everyone looked at Tiffany, who wished she hadnt spoken. But now there was nothing for it but to go on. She was just a bit old and stern, she said. But she was quite . . . polite. She didnt cackle.

  Youve met her?

  Yes.

  She spoke to you, did she? snarled Annagramma. Was that before or after you kicked out the Fairy Queen?

  Just after, said Tiffany, who was not used to this sort of thing. She turned up on a broomstick, she added. I am. telling the truth.

  Of course you are, said Annagramma, smiling grimly. And she congratulated you, I expect.

  Not really, said Tiffany. She seemed pleased, but it was hard to tell. And then Tiffany said something really, really stupid. Long afterwards, and long after all sorts of things had happened, shed go la la la! to blot out the memory whenever something reminded her of that evening. She said: She did give me this hat. And they said, all of them, with one voice: What hat? Petulia took her back to the cottage. She did her best, and assured Tiffany that she believed her, but Tiffany knew she was just being nice. Miss Level tried to talk to her as she ran upstairs, but she bolted her door, kicked off her boots and lay down on the bed with the pillow over her head to drown out the laughter echoing inside. Downstairs, there was some muffled conversation between Petulia and Miss Level and then the sound of the door closing as Petulia left. After a while there was a scraping noise as Tiffanys boots were dragged across the floor and arranged neatly under the bed. Oswald was never off duty. After another while the laughter died down, although she was sure itd never go completely. Tiffany could feel the hat. At least, she had been able to feel it. The virtual hat, on her real head. But no one could see it, and Petulia had even waved a hand back and forth over Tiffanys head and encountered a complete absence of hat. The worst part - and it was hard to find the worst part, so humiliatingly bad had it been - was hearing Annagramma say, No, dont laugh at her. Thats too cruel. Shes just foolish, thats all. I

  told you the old woman messes with peoples heads! Tiffanys First Thoughts were running around in circles. Her Second Thoughts were caught up in the storm. Only her Third Thoughts, which were very weak, came up with: Even though your world is completely and utterly ruined and can never be made better, no matter what, and you re completely inconsolable, it would be nice if you heard someone bringing some soup upstairs . . . The Third Thoughts got Tiffany off the bed and over to the door, where they guided her hand to slide the bolt back. Then they let her fling herself on the bed again. A few minutes later there was a creak of footsteps on the landing. Its nice to be right. Miss Level knocked, then came in after a decent pause. Tiffany heard the tray go down on the table, then felt the bed move as a body sat down on it. Tetulia is a capable girl, Ive always thought, said Miss Level, after a while. Shell make some village a very serviceable witch one day. Tiffany stayed silent. She told me all about it, said Miss Level. Miss Tick never mentioned the hat, but if I was you I wouldnt have told her about it anyway. It sounds the sort of thing Mistress Weatherwax would do. You know, sometimes it helps to talk about these things. More silence from Tiffany . . . Actually, thats not true, Miss Level added. But as a witch I am incredibly inquisitive and would love to know more. That had no effect either. Miss Level sighed and stood up. Ill leave the soup, but if you let it get too cold Oswald will try to take it away. She went downstairs. Nothing stirred in the room for about five minutes, then there was faintest of tinkles as the soup began to move. Tiffanys hand shot out and gripped the tray firmly. Thats the job of Third Thoughts: First and Second Thoughts might understand your current tragedy, but something has to remember that you havent eaten since lunch time. Afterwards, and after Oswald had speedily taken the empty bowl away, Tiffany lay in the dark, staring at nothing. The novelty of this new country had taken all her attention in the past few days, but now that had drained away in the storm of laughter, and homesickness rushed to fill in the empty spaces. She missed the sounds and the sheep and the silences of the Chalk. She missed seeing the blackness of the hills from her bedroom window, outlined against the stars. She missed . . . part of herself. . . But they d laughed at her. They d said, What hat? and theyd laughed even more when shed raised her hand to touch the invisible brim and hadnt found it. . . Shed touched it every day for eighteen months, and now it had gone. And she couldnt make a shamble. And she just had a green dress, while all the other girls wore black ones. Annagramma had a lot of jewellery, too, in black and silver. All the other girls had shambles, too, beautiful ones. Who cared if they were just for show? Perhaps she wasnt a witch at all. Oh, shed defeated the Queen, with the help of

  the little men and the memory of Granny Aching, but she hadnt used magic. She wasnt sure, now, what she had used. Shed felt something go down through the soles of the boots, down through the hills and through the years, and come back loud and roaring in a rage that shook the sky: . . . how dare you invade my world, my land, my life . . . But what had the virtual hat done for her? Perhaps the old woman had tricked her, had just made her think there was a hat there. Perhaps she was a bit cracked, like Annagramma had said, and had just got things wrong. Perhaps Tiffany should go home and make Soft Nellies for the rest of her life. Tiffany turned round and crawled down the bed and opened her suitcase. She pulled out the rough box, opened it in the dark and closed a hand around the lucky stone. Shed hoped that thered be some kind of spark, some kind of friendliness in it. There was none. There was just the roughness of the outside of the stone, the smoothness on the face where it had split, and the sharpness between the two. And the piece of sheeps wool did nothing but make her fingers smell of sheep, and this made her long for home and feel even more upset. The silver horse was cold. Only someone quite close would have heard the sob. It was quite faint, but it was carried on the dark red wings of misery. She wanted, longed for the hiss of wind in the turf and the feel of centuries under her feet. She wanted that sense, which had never left her before, of being where Achings had lived for thousands of years. She needed blue butterflies and the sounds of sheep and the big empty skies. Back home, when shed felt upset, shed gone up to the remains of the old shepherding hut and sat there for a while. That had always worked. It was a long way away now. Too far. Now, she was full of a horrible, heavy dead feeling, and there was nowhere to leave it. And it wasnt how things were supposed to go. Where was the magic? Oh, she understood that you had learn about the basic, everyday craft, but when did the witch part turn up? Shed been trying to learn, she really had, and she was turning into . . . well, a good worker, a handy girl with potions and a reliable person. Dependable, like Miss Level. Shed expected - well, what? Well. . . to be doing serious witch stuff, you know, broomsticks, magic, guarding the world against evil forces in a noble yet modest way, and then also doing good for poor people because she was a really nice person. And the people shed seen in the picture had rather less messy ailments and their children didnt have such runny noses. Mr We avails flying toenails werent in it anywhere. Some of them boomeranged. She got sick on broomsticks. Every time. She couldnt e
ven make a shamble. She was going to spend her days running around after people who, to be honest, could sometimes be doing a bit more for themselves. No magic, no flying, no secrets . . . just toenails and bogeys. She belonged to the Chalk. Every day, shed told the hills what they were. Every day, theyd told her who she was. But now she couldnt hear them.

  Outside it began to rain, quite hard, and in the distance Tiffany heard the mutter of thunder. What would Granny Aching have done? But even folded in the wings of despair she knew the answer to that. Granny Aching never gave up. Shed search all night for a lost lamb . . . She lay looking at nothing for a while, and then lit the candle by the bed and swivelled her legs onto the floor. This couldnt wait until morning. Tiffany had a little trick for seeing the hat. If you moved your hand behind it quickly, there was a slight, brief blurriness to what you saw, as though the light coming through the invisible hat took a little more time. It had to be there . . . Well, the candle should give enough light to be sure. If the hat was there, everything would be fine and it wouldnt matter what other people thought. . . She stood in the middle of the carpet, while lightning danced across the mountains outside, and closed her eyes. Down in the garden the apple-tree branches flayed in the wind, the dreamcatchers and curse- nets clashing and jangling . . . See me, she said. The world went quiet, totally silent. It hadnt done that before. But Tiffany tiptoed around until she knew she was opposite herself, and opened her eyes again . . . And there she was, and so was the hat, as clear as it had ever been- And the image of Tiffany below, a young girl in a green dress, opened its eyes and smiled at her and said: We see you. Now we are you. Tiffany tried to shout See me not! But there was no mouth to shout. . . Lightning struck somewhere nearby. The window blew in. The candle flame flew out in a streamer of fire, and died. And then there was only darkness, and the hiss of the rain. Chapter 6 Hiver Thunder rolled across the Chalk. Jeannie carefully opened the package that her mother had given her on the day she left the Long Lake mound. It was a traditional gift, one that every young kelda got when she went away, never to return. Keldas could never go home. Keldas were home.

  The gift was this: memory. Inside the bag was a triangle of tanned sheepskin, three wooden stakes, a length of string twisted out of nettle fibres, a tiny leather bottle and a hammer. She knew what to do, because shed seen her mother do it many times. The hammer was used to bang in the stakes around the smouldering fire. The string was used to tie the three corners of the leather triangle to the stakes so that it sagged in the centre, just enough to hold a small bucket of water which Jeannie had drawn herself from the deep well. She knelt down and waited until the water very slowly began to seep through the leather, then built up the fire. She was aware of all the eyes of the Feegles in the shadowy galleries around and above her. None of them would come near her while she was boiling the cauldron. Theyd rather chop their own leg off. This was pure hiddlins. And this was what a cauldron really was, back in the days before humans had worked copper or poured iron. It looked like magic. It was supposed to. But if you knew the trick, you could see how the cauldron would boil dry before the leather burned. When the water in the skin was steaming, she damped down the fire and added to the water the contents of the little leather bottle, which contained some of the water from her mothers cauldron. Thats how it had always gone, from mother to daughter, since the very beginning. Jeannie waited until the cauldron had cooled some more, then took up a cup, filled it and drank. There was a sigh from the shadowy Feegles. She lay back and closed her eyes, waiting. Nothing happened except that the thunder rattled the land and the lightning turned the world black and white. And then, so gently that it had already happened before she realized that it was starting to happen, the past caught up with her. There, around her, were all the old keldas, starting with her mother, her grandmothers, their mothers . . . back until there was no one to remember . . . one big memory, carried for a while by many, worn and hazy in parts but old as a mountain. But all the Feegles knew about that. Only the kelda knew about the real hiddlin, which was this: the river of memory wasnt a river, it was a sea. Keldas yet to be born would remember, one day. On nights yet to come, theyd lie by their cauldron and become, for a few minutes, part of the eternal sea. By listening to unborn keldas remembering their past, you remember your future . . . You needed skill to find those faint voices, and Jeannie did not have all of it yet, but something was there. As lightning turned the world to black and white again she sat bolt upright. Its found her, she whispered . . . Oh, the puir wee thing! Rain had soaked into the rug when Tiffany woke up. Damp daylight spilled into the room. She got up and closed the window. A few leaves had blown in.

 
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