A hat full of sky, p.20
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.20

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 20


  Ach, this ones alive, right enough, said the Feegle. Told yez! Thats a weasel skull ye owe me! Miss Level blinked one set of eyes, and then froze in horror. What happened to me? she whispered. The Feegle in front of her was replaced by the face of Rob Anybody. It was not an improvement. How many fingers am I holdin up? he said. Five, whispered Miss Level. Am I? Ah, well, ye could be right, yed have the knowin o the countin, said Rob, lowering his hand. Yeve had a wee bittie accident, ye ken. Youre a wee bittie dead. Miss Levels head slumped back. Through the mist of something that wasnt exactly pain, she heard Rob Anybody say to someone she couldnt see: Hey, I wwzbreakin it tae her gently! I did say “wee bittie” twice, right?

  Its as though part of me is . . . a long way off, murmured Miss Level. Aye, youre aboot right there, said Rob, champion of the bedside manner. Some memories bobbed to the surface of the thick soup in Miss Levels mind. Tiffany killed me, didnt she, she said. I remember seeing that black figure turn round and her expression was horrible- That wuz the hiver, said Rob Anybody. That was no Tiffany! She was fightin it! She still is, inside! But it didnae remember you ha two bodies! We got tae help her, mistress! Miss Level pushed herself upright. It wasnt pain she felt, but it was the . . . ghost of pain. How did I die? she said, weakly. There was, like, an explosion, an smoke an that, said Rob. Not messy, really.

  Oh, well, thats a small mercy, anyway, said Miss Level, sagging back. Aye, there was just this, like, big purple cloud o, like, dust, said Daft Wullie. Wheres my . . . I cant feel. . . wheres my other body?

  Aye, that was what got blown up in that big cloud, right enough, said Rob. Good job ye has a spare, eh?

  Shes all mithered in her heid, whispered Awfly Wee Billy. Take it gently, eh?

  How do you manage, only seeing one side of things? said Miss Level dreamily to the world in general. How will I get everything done with only one pair of hands and feet? Being in just one place all the time . . . how do people manage? Its impossible She shut her eyes. Mistress Level, we need ye! shouted Rob Anybody into her ear. Need, need, need, murmured Miss Level. Everyone needs a witch. No one cares if a witch needs. Giving and giving always . . . a fairy godmother never gets a wish, let me tell you Mistress Level! Rob screamed. Ye cannae pass oot on us noo!

  Im weary, whispered Miss Level. Im very, very pished.

  Mistress Level! Rob Anybody yelled. The big wee hag is lying on the floor like a dead person, but shes cold as ice and sweatin like a horse! Shes fightin the beast inside her, mistress! An shes losin! Rob peered into Miss Levels face, and shook his head. Auchtahelweit! Shes swooned! Cmon, lads, lets move her! Like many small creatures, Feegles are immensely strong for their size. It still took ten of them to carry Miss Level up the narrow stairs without banging her head more than necessary, although they did use her feet to push open the door to Tiffanys room. Tiffany lay on the floor. Sometimes a muscle twitched. Miss Level was propped up like a doll. Howre we gonna bring the big hag roound? said Big Yan. 1 heard where ye has to put someones heid between their legs, said Rob, doubtfully. Daft Wullie sighed, and drew his sword. Sounds a wee bit drastic tae me, he said, but if someone will help me hold her steady- Miss Level opened her eyes, which was just as well. She focused unsteadily on the Feegles and smiled a strange, happy little smile. Ooo, fairies! she mumbled. Ach, noo shes ramblin, said Rob Anybody. No, she means fairies like bigjobs think they are, said Awfly Wee Billy. Tiny wee tinkly creatures that live in flowers an fly aroound cuddlin butterflies an that.

  What? Have they no seen real fairies? Theyre worsen wasps! said Big Yan. We havnae got time for this! snapped Rob Anybody. He jumped onto Miss Levels knee. Aye, maam, wes fairies from the land o- He stopped and looked imploringly at Billy. Tinkle? Billy suggested. Aye, the land o Tinkle, ye ken, and we found this puir wee -

  - princess, said Billy. Aye, princess, whos been attacked by a bunch o scunners-

  - wicked goblins, said Billy. - yeah, wicked goblins, right, an shes in a bad way, so we wuz wonderin if ye could kinda tell us how tae look after her -

  - until the handsome prince turns up on a big white horse wi curtains roound it an wakes her with a magical kiss, said Billy. Rob gave him a desperate look, and turned back to the bemused Miss Level. Aye, what ma friend Fairy Billy just said, he managed. Miss Level tried to focus. Youre very ugly for fairies, she said. Aye, well, the ones you genrally see are for the pretty flowers, ye ken, said Rob Anybody, inventing desperately. Were more for the stingin nettles and bindweed an Old Mans Troosers an thistles, OK? It wouldna be fair for only the bonny flowers tae have fairies noo, would it? Itd probly be against the law, eh? Noo, can ye please help us wi this princess here before them scunners-

  - wicked goblins- said Billy. Aye, before they come back, said Rob. Panting, he watched Miss Levels face. There seemed to be a certain amount of thinking going on. Is her pulse rapid? murmured Miss Level. You say her skin is cold but shes sweating? Is she breathing rapidly? It sounds like shock. Keep her warm. Raise her legs. Watch her carefully. Try to remove . . . the cause . . . Her head slumped. Rob turned to Awfly Wee Billy. A horse wi curtains roond it? he said. Where did ye get all that blethers?

  Theres a big hoose near the Long Lake an they read stories tae their wee bairn an I go along an listen fra a mousehole, said Awfly Wee Billy. One day I snuck in and looked at the pichurs, and there was bigjobs called knits wi shields and armour and horses wi curtains-

  Weel, it worked, blethers though it be, said Rob Anybody. He looked at Tiffany. She was lying down, so he was about as high as her chin. It was like walking around a small hill. Crivens, it does me nae guid at all ta see the puir wee thing like this, he said, shaking his head. Cmon, lads, get that cover off the bed and put that cushion under her feet.

  Er, Rob? said Daft Wullie. Aye? Rob was staring up at the unconscious Tiffany. How are we goin taw get inta her heid? Theres got tae be somethin tae guide us in.

  Aye, Wullie, an I ken whut its gonna be, cuz Ive been usin mah heid for thinkin! said Rob. Yeve seen the big wee hag often enough, right? Well, see this necklet? He reached up. The silver horse had slipped around Tiffanys neck as she lay on the floor. It hung there, amid the amulets and dark glitter. Aye? said Wullie. It was a present from that son o the Baron, said Rob. An shes kept it. Shes tried tae turn hersel intae some kind of creature o the night, but somethin made her keep this. Itll be in her heid, too. Tis important tae her. All we need tae do is frannit a wheelstone on it and itll tak us right where she is. [If anyone knew what this meant, theyd know a lot more about the Nac Mac Feegles way of travelling. ] Daft Wullie scratched his head. But I thought she thought he was just a big pile of jobbies? he said. I seen her oot walkin, an when he comes ridin past she sticks her nose in th air and looks the other wa. In fact, sometimes I seen her wait aroond a full five-and-twenty minutes for him tae come past, just sos she can do that.

  Ah, weel, no man kens the workins o the female mind, said Rob Anybody loftily. Well follow the horse. From Fairies and How to Avoid Them by Miss Perspicacia Tick: No one knows exactly how the Nac Mac Feegle step from one world to another. Those who have seen Feegles actually travel this way say that they apparently throw back their shoulders and thrust out one leg straight ahead of them. Then they wiggle their foot and are gone. This is known as the crawstep, and the only comment on the

  subject by a Feegle is Its all in the ankle movement, ye ken. They appear to be able to travel magically between worlds of all kinds but not within a world. For this purpose, they assure people, they have feets. The sky was black, even though the sun was high. It hung at just past noon, lighting the landscape as brilliantly as a hot summer day, but the sky was midnight black, shorn of stars. This was the landscape of Tiffany Achings mind. The Feegles looked around them. There seemed to be downland underfoot, rolling and green. She tells the land what it is. The land tells her who she is, whispered Awfly Wee Billy. She really does hold the soul o the land in her heid Aye, so tis, muttered Rob Anybody. But theres nae creatures,
ye ken. Nae ships. Nae burdies.

  Mebbe . . . mebbe somethins scared them awa? said Daft Wullie. There was, indeed, no life. Stillness and silence ruled here. In fact Tiffany, who cared a lot about getting words right, would have said it was a hush, which is not the same as silence. A hush is what you get in cathedrals at midnight. OK, lads, Rob Anybody whispered. We dinnae ken what were goin tae find, so ye tread as light as eer foot can fall, unnerstan? Lets find the big wee hag. They nodded, and stepped forward like ghosts. The land rose slightly ahead of them, to some kind of earthworks. They advanced on it carefully, wary of ambush, but nothing stopped them as they climbed two long mounds in the turf which made a sort of cross. Man-made, said Big Yan, when they reached the top. Just like in the old days, Rob. The silence sucked his speech away. This is deep inside o the big wee hags head, said Rob Anybody, looking around warily. We dinnae know whut made em.

  I dinnae like this, Rob, said a Feegle. Its too quiet.

  Aye, Slightly Sane Georgie, it is that-

  You are my sunshine, my only su-

  Daft Wullie! snapped Rob, without taking his eyes off the strange landscape. The singing stopped. Aye, Rob? said Daft Wullie from behind him. Ye ken I said Id tell ye when ye wuz guilty o stupid and inna-pro-pre-ate behaviour?

  Aye, Rob, said Daft Wullie. That wuz another one o those times, wuz it?

  Aye. They moved on again, staring around them. And still there was the hush. It was the pause before an orchestra plays, the quietness before thunder. It was as if all the small sounds of the hills had shut down to make room for one big sound to happen. And then they found the Horse. Theyd seen it, back on the Chalk. But here it was, not carved into the hillside but spread out before them. They stared at it. Awfly Wee Billy? said Rob, beckoning the young gonnagle towards him. Youre a gonnagle, ye ken aboot poetry and dreams. Whats this? Whys it up here? It shouldnae

  be on the top o the hills!

  Serious hiddlins, Mr Rob, said Billy. This is serious hiddlins. I cannae work it out yet.

  She knows the Chalk. Whyd she get this wrong? Im thinkin aboot it, Mr Rob.

  You wouldnae care tae think a bit faster, would ye?

  Rob? said Big Yan, hurrying up. Hed been scouting ahead. Aye? said Rob gloomily. Yed better come and see this On top of a round hill was a four-wheeled shepherding hut, with a curved roof and a chimney for the pot-bellied stove. Inside, the walls were covered with the yellow and blue wrappers from hundreds of packets of Jolly Sailor tobacco. There were old sacks hanging up there, and the back of the door was covered with chalk marks where Granny Aching had counted sheep and days. And there was a narrow iron bedstead, made comfortable with old fleeces and feed sacks. Dye have the unnerstandin of this, Awfly Wee Billy? said Rob. Can ye tell us where the big wee hag is? The young gonnagle looked worried. Er, Mister Rob, ye ken Ive only just been made a gonnagle? I mean, I know the songs an a, but Im no verra experienced at this Aye? said Rob Anybody. An just how many gonnagles afore ye ha walked through the dreams o a hag?

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