A hat full of sky, p.19
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.19

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 19


  Here, get off! said Brian, pushing him away. There was a groan from Annagramma. She opened her eyes, saw Tiffany and tried to scramble to her feet and back away, which meant that she went backwards like a spider. Please dont do that to me! Please dont! she shouted. Tiffany ran after her and pulled her to her feet. I wouldnt do anything to you, Annagramma, she said happily. Youre my friend! Were all friends! Isnt that nice please please stop me . . . You had to remember that pictsies werent brownies. In theory, brownies would do the housework for you if you left them a saucer of milk. The Nac Mac Feegle . . . wouldnt. Oh, theyd try, if they liked you and you didnt insult them with milk in the saucer. They were helpful. They just werent good at it. For example, you shouldnt try to remove a stubborn stain from a plate by repeatedly hitting it with your head. And you didnt want to see a sink full of them and your best china. Or a precious pot

  rolling backwards and forwards across the floor while the Feegles inside simultaneously fought the ground-in dirt and each other. But Miss Level, once shed got the better china out of the way, found she rather liked the Feegles. There was something unsquashable about them. And they were entirely unamazed by a woman with two bodies, too. Ach, thats no thin, Rob Anybody had said. When we wuz raidin for the Quin, we once found a world where there wuz people wi five bodies each. All sizes, ye ken, for doin a kinds of jobs.

  Really? said both of Miss Level. Aye, and the biggest body had a huge left hand, just for openin pickle jars.

  Those lids can get very tight, its true, Miss Level had agreed. Oh, we saw some muckle eldritch places when we wuz raiding for the Quin/ said Rob Anybody. But we gave that up for she wuz a schemin, greedy, ill-fared carlin, that she was!

  Aye, and it wuz no because she threw us oot o Fairyland for being completely pished at two in the afternoon, whatever any scunner might mphf mphf. . . said Daft Wullie. Pished? said Miss Level. Aye . . . oh, aye, it means . . . tired. Aye. Tired. Thats whut it means, said Rob Anybody, holding his hands firmly over his brothers mouth. An ye dinnae ken how to talk in front o a lady, yah shammerin wee scunner!

  Er . . . thank you for doing the washing up, said Miss Level. You really didnt need to . . .

  Ach, it wasnae any trouble, said Rob Anybody cheerfully, letting Daft Wullie go. An Im sure all them plates an stuff will mend fine wi a bit o glue. Miss Level looked up at the clock with no hands. Its getting late, she said. What exactly is it you propose to do, Mr Anybody?


  Do you have a plan?

  Oh, aye! Rob Anybody rummaged around in his spog, which is a leather bag most Feegles have hanging from their belt. The contents are usually a mystery, but sometimes include interesting teeth. He flourished a much-folded piece of paper. Miss Level carefully unfolded it. “PLN”? she said. Aye, said Rob proudly. We came prepared! Look, its written doon. Pee El Ner. Plan.

  Er . . . how can I put this. . . ? Miss Level mused. Ah, yes. You came rushing all this way to save Tiffany from a creature that cant be seen, touched, smelled or killed. What did you intend to do when you found it? Rob Anybody scratched his head, to a general shower of objects. I think mebbe youve put yer finger on the one weak spot, mistress, he admitted. Do you mean you charge in regardless?

  Oh, aye. Thats the plan, sure enough, said Rob Anybody, brightening up.

  And then what happens?

  Weel, genraly people are tryin tae wallop us by then, so we just mak it up as we gae along.

  Yes, Robert, but the creature is inside her head! Rob Anybody gave Billy a questioning look. Robert is a heich-heidit way o sayin Rob, said the gonnagle, and to save time he said to Miss Level: That means kinda posh.

  Ach, we can get inside her heid, if we have to, said Rob. Id hoped tae get here afore the thing got to her, but we can chase it. Miss Levels face was a picture. Two pictures. Inside her head! she said. Oh, aye, said Rob, as if that sort of thing happened every day. No problemo. We can get in or oot o anywhere. Except maybe pubs, which for some reason we ha trouble leavin. A heid? Easy.

  Sorry, were talking about a real head here, are we? said Miss Level, horrified. What do you do, go in through the ears? Once again, Rob stared at Billy, who looked puzzled. No, mistress. Theyd be too small, he said, patiently. But we can move between worlds, ye ken. Were fairy folk. Miss Level nodded both heads. It was true, but it was hard to look at the assembled ranks of the Nac Mac Feegle and remember that they were, technically, fairies. It was like watching penguins swimming underwater and having to remember that they were birds. And? she said. We can get intae dreams, ye see . . . And whats a mind but another world o dreamin?

  No, I must forbid that! said Miss Level. I cant have you running around inside a young girls head! I mean, look at you! Youre fully-grow . . . well, youre men! Itd be like, like . . . well, itd be like you looking at her diary! Rob Anybody looked puzzled. Oh, aye? he said. We looked at her diary loads o times. Nae harm done.

  You looked at her diary? said Miss Level, horrified. Why? Really, she thought later, she should have expected the answer. "Cuz it wuz locked, said Daft Wullie. If she didnae want anyone tae look at it, whyd she keep it at the back o her sock drawer? Anyway, all there wuz wuz a load o words we couldnae unnerstan an wee drawings o hearts and flowers an that.

  Hearts? Tiffany? said Miss Level. Really? She shook herself. But you shouldnt have done that! And going into someones mind is even worse!

  The hiver is in there, mistress, said Awfly Wee Billy meekly. But you said you cant do anything about it!

  She might. If we can track her doon, said the gonnagle. If we can find the wee bitty bit o her thats still her. Shes a bonny fighter when shes roused. Ye see, mistress, a minds like a world itself. Shell be hidin in it somewhere, lookin oot through her own eyes, listenin wi her own ears, tryin to make people hear, tryin no to let

  yon beast find her . . . and itll be hunting her all the time, trying tae break her doon Miss Level began to look hunted herself. Fifty small faces, full of worry and hope and broken noses, looked up at her. And she knew she didnt have a better plan. Or even a PLN. All right, she said. But at least you ought to have a bath. I know thats silly, but it will make me feel better about the whole thing. There was a general groan. A bath? But we a had one no a year ago, said Rob Anybody. Up at the big dew pond for the ships!

  Ach, crivens! said Big Yan. Ye cannae ask a man tae take a bath again this soon, mistress! Therell be nothin left o us!

  With hot water and soap! said Miss Level. I mean it! Ill run the water and I. . . Ill put some rope over the edge so you can climb in and out, but you will get clean. Im a wi- a hag, and youd better do what I say!

  Oh, all reet! said Rob. Well do it for the big wee hag. But yere no tae peek, OK?

  Peek? said Miss Level. She pointed a trembling finger. Get into that bathroom now! Miss Level did, however, listen at the door. Its the sort of thing a witch does. There was nothing to hear at first but the gentle splash of water, and then: "This is no as bad as I thought!

  Aye, very pleasin.

  Hey, theres a big yellow duck here. Who re ye pointin that beak at, yer scunner- There was a wet quack and some bubbling noises as the rubber duck sank. Rob, we oughtae get one o these put in back in the mound. Verra warmin in the winter time.

  Aye, its no that good for the ship, havin tae drink oot o that pond after we ve been bathin. Its terrible, hearin a ship try tae spit.

  Ach, itll make us softies! Its nae a guid wash if ye dinnae ha the ice formin on yer held!

  Who re you callin a softie? There followed a lot more splashing and water started to seep under the door. Miss Level knocked. Come on out now, and dry yourselves off! she commanded. She could be back at any minute! In fact it wasnt for another two hours, by which time Miss Level had got so nervous that her necklaces jingled all the time. Shed come to witching later than most, being naturally qualified by reason of the two bodies, but shed never been very happy about magic. In truth, most witches could get through their whole life without
having to do serious, undeniable magic (making shambles and curse-nets and dreamcatchers didnt really count, being rather more like arts-and-crafts, and most of the rest of it was practical medicine, common sense and the ability to look stern in a pointy hat). But being a witch and wearing the big black hat was like being a policeman. People saw the uniform, not you. When the mad axeman was running down the street you werent allowed to back away muttering, Could you find someone else? Actually, I mostly just do, you know, stray dogs and

  road safety . . . You were there, you had the hat, you did the job. That was a basic rule of witchery: Its up to you. She was two bags of nerves when Tiffany arrived back, and stood side by side holding hands with herself to give herself confidence. Where have you been, dear?

  Out, said Tiffany. And what have you been doing?


  I see youve been shopping.


  Who with?


  Ah, yes, Miss Level trilled, completely adrift. 1 remember when I used to go out and do nothing. Sometimes you can be your own worst company. Believe me, I know- But Tiffany had already swept upstairs. Without anyone actually seeming to move, Feegles started to appear everywhere in the room. Well, that could ha gone better, said Rob Anybody. She looked so different! Miss Level burst out. She moved differently! I just didnt know what to do! And those clothes!

  Aye. Sparklin like a young raven, said Rob. Did you see all those bags? Where could she have got the money? / certainly dont have that kind of- She stopped, and both of Miss Level spoke at once. Oh, no -

  - surely not! She wouldnt -

  - have, would she?

  I dinnae ken whut yere talkin aboot, said Awfly Wee Billy, but whut she would dae isnae the point. Thats the hiver doin the thinkin! Miss Level clasped all four hands together in distress. Oh dear . . . I must go down to the village and check! One of her ran towards the door. Well, at least shes brought the broomstick back, muttered the Miss Level who stayed. She started to wear the slightly unfocused expression she got when both her bodies werent in the same place. They could hear noises from upstairs. I vote we just tap her gently on the heid, said Big Yan. It cannae give us any trouble if its gone sleepies, aye? Miss Level clenched and unclenched her fists nervously. No, she said. Ill go up there and have a serious talk with her!

  I told yez, mistress, its not her, said Awfly Wee Billy, wearily. Well, at least Ill wait until Ive visited Mr Weavall, said Miss Level, standing in her kitchen. Im nearly there . . . ah . . . hes asleep. Ill just eease the box out quietly . . . if shes taken his money Im going to be so angry-

  It was a good hat, Tiffany thought. It was at least as tall as Mrs Earwigs hat, and it shone darkly. The stars gleamed. The other packages covered the floor and the bed. She pulled out another one of the black dresses, the one covered in lace, and the cloak, which spread out in the air. She really liked the cloak. In anything but a complete dead calm, it floated and billowed as if whipped by a gale. If you were going to be a witch, you had to start by looking like one. She twirled in it once or twice, and then said something without thinking, so that the hiver part of her was caught unawares. See me. The hiver was suddenly thrust outside her body, Tiffany was free. She hadnt expected it. . . She felt herself to the tips of her fingers. She dived towards the bed, grabbed one of Zakzaks best wands and waved it desperately in front of her like a weapon. You stay out! she said. Stay away! Its my body, not yours! Youve made it do dreadful things! You stole Mr Weavalls money! Look at these stupid clothes! And dont you know about eating and drinking? You stay away! Youre not coming back! Dont you dare! Ive got power, you know! So have we, said her own voice, in her own head. Yours. They fought. A watcher would have seen only a girl in a black dress, spinning around the room and flailing her arms as if shed been stung, but Tiffany fought for every toe, every finger. She bounced off a wall, banged against the chest of drawers, slammed into another wall - - and the door was flung open. One of Miss Level was there, no longer nervous, but trembling with rage. She pointed a shaking finger. Listen to me, whoever you are! Did you steal Mr Weav-? she began. The hiver turned. The hiver struck. The hiver. . . killed. Chapter Secret Its bad enough being dead. Waking up and seeing a Nac Mac Feegle standing on your chest and peering intently at you from an inch away only makes things worse. Miss Level groaned. It felt as though she was lying on the floor.

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