A hat full of sky, p.18
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       A Hat Full of Sky, p.18

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 18

 

  Dont they? Oh, well, I expect thats why its expensive. There was plenty of other stuff. Shambles hung from the ceiling, much prettier and more interesting than the working ones that Tiffany had seen. Since they were made up complete, then surely they were dead, just like the ones Miss Level kept for orna- mentation. But they looked good - and looking good was important. There were even stones for looking into. Crystal balls, said Annagramma as Tiffany picked one up. Careful! Theyre very expensive! She pointed to a sign, which had been placed thoughtfully amongst the glittering globes. It said: Lovely to look at Nice to hold If you drop it You get torn apart by wild horses Tiffany held the biggest one in her hand and saw how Zakzak moved slightly away from his counter, ready to rush forward with a bill if she dropped it. Miss Tick uses a saucer of water with a bit of ink poured into it, she said. And she usually borrows the water and cadges the ink, at that.

  Oh, a fundamentalist/ said Annagramma. Letice -thats Mrs Earwig - says they let us down terribly. Do we really want people to think witches are just a bunch of mad old women who look like crows? Thats so gingerbread-cottagey! We really ought to be professional about these things.

  Hmm, said Tiffany, throwing the crystal ball up into the air and catching it again with one hand. People should be made to fear witches.

  Well, er, certainly they should respect us, said Annagramma. Urn . . . I should be careful with that, if I was you . . .

  Why? said Tiffany, tossing the ball over her shoulder. That was finest quartz! shouted Zakzak, rushing around his counter. Oh, Tiffany, said Annagramma, shocked but trying not to giggle. Zakzak rushed past them to where the shattered ball lay in hundreds of very expensive fragmen- - did not lie in very expensive fragments. Both he and Annagramma turned to Tiffany. She was spinning the crystal globe on the tip of her finger. Quickness of the hand deceives the eye, she said. But I heard it smash! said Zakzak. Deceives the ear, too, said Tiffany, putting the ball back on its stand. I dont want this, but - and she pointed a finger - Ill take that necklace and that one and the one with the cats and that ring and a set of those and two, no, three of those and - what are these?

  Um, thats a Book of Night, said Annagramma nervously. Its a sort of magical diary. You write down what youve been working on . . . Tiffany picked up the leather-bound book. It had an eye set in heavier leather on

  the cover. The eye rolled to look at her. This was a real witchs diary, and much more impressive than some shamefully cheap old book bought off a pedlar. Whose eye was it? said Tiffany. Anyone interesting?

  Er, I get the books from the wizards at Unseen University, said Zakzak, still shaken. Theyre not real eyes, but theyre clever enough to swivel around until they see another eye. It just blinked, said Tiffany. Very clever people, wizards, said the dwarf, who knew a sale when he saw one. Shall I wrap it up for you?

  Yes, said Tiffany. Wrap everything up. And now can anyone hear me? show me the clothes department. . . . . . where there were hats. There are fashions in witchery, just like everything else. Some years the slightly concertinad look is in, and youll even see the point twisting around so much its nearly pointing at the ground. There are varieties even in the most traditional hat (Upright Cone, Black), such as the Countrywoman (inside pockets, waterproof), the Cloudbuster (low drag coefficient for broomstick use), and, quite importantly, the Safety (guaranteed to survive 80% of falling farmhouses). Tiffany chose the tallest upright cone. It was more than two feet high and had big stars sewn on it. Ah, the Sky Scraper. Very much your Look, said Zakzak, bustling around and opening drawers. Its for the witch on the way up, who knows what she wants and doesnt care how many frogs it takes, aha. Incidentally, many ladies like a cloak with that. Now, we have the Midnight, pure wool, fine knit, very warm, but - he gave Tiffany a knowing look - we currently have very limited supplies of the Zephyr Billow, just in, very rare, black as coal and thin as a shadow. Completely useless for keeping you warm or dry but it looks fabulous in even the slightest breeze. Observe- He held up the cloak and blew gently. It billowed out almost horizontally, flapping and twisting like a sheet in a gale. Oh, yes, breathed Annagramma. Ill take it, said Tiffany. I shall wear it to the Witch Trials on Saturday.

  Well, if you win, be sure to tell everyone you bought it here, said Zakzak. When I win I shall tell them I got it at a considerable discount, said Tiffany. Oh, I dont do discounts, said Zakzak, as loftily as a dwarf can manage. Tiffany stared at him, then picked up one of the most expensive wands from the display. It glittered. Thats a Number Six, whispered Annagramma. Mrs Earwig has one of those!

  I see its got runes on it, said Tiffany, and something about the way she said it made Zakzak go pale. Well, of course, said Annagramma. Youve got to have runes.

  These are in Oggham, said Tiffany, smiling nastily at Zakzak. Its a very ancient language of the dwarfs. Shall I tell you what they say? They say “Oh What A Wally Is Waving This”.

  Dont you take that nasty lying tone with me, young lady! said the dwarf. Whos your mistress? I

  know your type! Learn one spell and you think youre Mistress Weatherwax! Im not standing for this kind of behaviour! Brian. There was a rustling from the bead curtains that led to the back of the shop and a wizard appeared. You could tell he was a wizard. Wizards never wanted you to have to guess. He had long flowing robes, with stars and magical symbols on them; there were even some sequins. His beard would have been long and flowing if indeed hed been the kind of young man who could really grow a beard. Instead, it was ragged and wispy and not very clean. And the general effect was also spoiled by the fact that he was smoking a cigarette, had a mug of tea in his hand and a face that looked a bit like something that lives under damp logs. The mug was chipped and on it were the jolly words You Dont Have to Be Magic to Work Here But It Helps!!!!!

  Yeah? he said, adding reproachfully, I was on my tea break, you know.

  This young . . . lady is being awkward, said Zakzak. Throwing magic about. Talking back and being smart at me. The usual stuff. Brian looked at Tiffany. She smiled. Brians been to Unseen University, said Zakzak with a so there smirk. Got a degree. What he doesnt know about magic could fill a book! These ladies need showing the way out, Brian.

  Now then, ladies, said Brian nervously, putting down his mug. Do what Mr Stronginthearm says and push off, right? We dont want trouble, do we? Go on, theres good kids.

  Why do you need a wizard to protect you, with all these magical amulets around the place, Mr Stronginthearm? said Tiffany sweetly. Zakzak turned to Brian. Whatre you standing there for? he demanded. Shes doing it again! I pay you, dont I? Put a fluence on em, or something!

  Well, er . . . that one could be a bit of an awkward customer . . . Brian said, nodding towards Tiffany. If you studied wizardry, Brian, then you know about conservation of mass, dont you? she said. I mean, you know what really happens when you try to turn someone into a frog?

  Well, er . . . the wizard began. Ha! Thats just a figure of speech! snapped Zakzak. Id like to see you turn someone into a frog!

  Wish granted, said Tiffany, and waved the wand. Brian started to say, Look, when I said Id been to Unseen University I meant- But he ended up saying, Erk. Take the eye away from Tiffany, up through the shop, high, high about the village until the landscape spreads out in a patchwork of field, woods and mountains. The magic spreads out like the ripples made when a stone is dropped in water. Within a few miles of the place it makes shambles spin and breaks the threads of curse-nets. As the ripples widen the magic gets fainter, although it never dies, and

  still can be felt by things far more sensitive than any shamble . . . Let the eye move and fall now on this wood, this clearing, this cottage . . . There is nothing on the walls but whitewash, nothing on the floor but cold stone. The huge fireplace doesnt even have a cooking stove. A black tea kettle hangs on a black hook over what can hardly be called a fire at all; its just a few little sticks huddling together. This is the house of a life peeled to the core. Upstairs, an old woman, a
ll in faded black, is lying on a narrow bed. But you wouldnt think she was dead, because there is a big card on a string around her neck which reads: I Aint Dead . . . and you have to believe it when its written down like that. Her eyes are shut, her hands are crossed on her chest, her mouth is open. And bees crawl into her mouth, and over her ears, and all over her pillow. They fill the room, flying in and out of the open window, where someone has put a row of saucers filled with sugary water on the sill. None of the saucers match, of course. A witch never has matching crockery. But the bees work on, coming and going . . . busy as bees. When the ripple of magic passes through, the buzz rises to a roar. Bees pour in though the window urgently, as though driven by a gale. They land on the still old woman until her head and shoulders are a boiling mass of tiny brown bodies. And then, as one insect, they rise in a storm and pour away into the outside air, which is full of whirling seeds from the sycamore trees outside. Mistress Weatherwax sat bolt upright and said: Bzzzt! Then she stuck a finger into her mouth, rootled around a bit and pulled out a struggling bee. She blew on it and shooed it out of the window. For a moment her eyes seemed to have many facets, just like a bee. So, she said. Shes learned how to Borrow, has she? Or shes been Borrowed! Annagramma fainted. Zakzak stared, too afraid to faint. You see, said Tiffany, while something in the air went gloop, gloop above them, a frog weighs only a few ounces but Brian weighs, oh, about a hundred and twenty pounds, yes? So, to turn someone big into a frog youve got to find something to do with all the bits you cant fit into a frog, right? She bent down and lifted up the pointy wizards hat on the floor. Happy, Brian? she said. A small frog, squatting on a heap of clothes, looked up and said, Erk! Zakzak didnt look at the frog. He was looking at the thing that went gloop, gloop. It was like a large pink balloon full of water, quite pretty really, wobbling gently against the ceiling.

  Youve killed him! he mumbled. What? Oh, no. Thats just the stuff he doesnt need right now. Its sort of. . . spare Brian.

  Erk, said Brian. Gloop went the rest of him. About this discount- Zakzak began hurriedly. Ten per cent would be- Tiffany waved the wand. Behind her, the whole display of crystals rose in the air and began to orbit one another in a glittering and above all fragile way. That wand shouldnt do that! he said. Of course it cant. Its rubbish. But I can, said Tiffany. Ninety per cent discount, did I hear you say? Think quickly, Im getting tired. And the spare Brian is getting . . . heavy.

  You can keep it all! Zakzak screamed. For free! Just dont let him splash! Please!

  No, no, Id like you to stay in business, said Tiffany. A ninety per cent discount would be fine. Id like you to think of me as . . . a friend Yes! Yes! I am your friend! Im a very friendly person! Now please put him baaack! Please! Zakzak dropped to his knees, which wasnt very far. Please! Hes not really a wizard! He just did evening classes there in fretwork! They hire out classrooms, that sort of thing. He thinks I dont know! But he read a few of the magic books on the quiet and he pinched the robes and he can talk wizard lingo sos youd hardly know the difference! Please! Id never get a real wizard for the money I pay him! Dont hurt him, pleaseV Tiffany waved a hand. There was a moment even more unpleasant than the one which had ended up with the spare Brian bumping against the ceiling, and then the whole Brian stood there, blinking. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! gasped Zakzak. Brian blinked. What just happened? he said. Zakzak, beside himself with horror and relief, patted him frantically. Youre all there? he said. Youre not a balloon?

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll